President Trump, speaking exclusively to Fox News' Chris Wallace in a wide-ranging interview, revealed what President Obama told him was the biggest challenge facing the U.S., discussed potential high-level departures from his administration and admitted that he actually enjoys calling on CNN reporter Jim Acosta.
"Actually I like to do it, but in many cases I don’t," Trump said, referring to his decision to call on Acosta during press conferences. In ruling that the administration temporarily has to restore Acosta's press pass on Fifth Amendment grounds, federal judge Timothy J. Kelly noted that Trump could simply choose to ignore Acosta. But Trump, speaking to Wallace, had another idea.
"I think one of the things we’ll do is maybe turn the camera off that faces them because then they don’t have any air time, although I’ll probably be sued for that and maybe, you know, win or lose it, who knows," Trump said. "I mean, with this stuff you never know what’s going to happen."
Calling Acosta "unbelievably rude to Sarah Huckabee, who’s a wonderful woman," Trump said his administration is currently formulating "rules and regulations" for White House reporters. "And if he misbehaves, we’ll throw him out or we’ll stop the news conference," the president added.
As President Donald Trump points to CNN's Jim Acosta, a White House aide takes the microphone from him during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Turning to another one of his frequent critics -- former President Barack Obama -- Trump took something of a victory lap, following news that some of the top candidates Obama had backed in the midterm elections had come up short.
"I won against President Obama and Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama in a great state called Georgia for the governor," Trump said, referring to Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams' top surrogates. "And it was all stacked against Brian [Kemp], and I was the one that went for Brian and Brian won." (Abrams acknowledged in a fiery speech this week that she would not win the race, but strongly suggested Republican Brian Kemp had prevailed because of voter suppression, and vowed a lawsuit.)
"Look at Florida," Trump continued. "I went down to Florida. [GOP Senate candidate] Rick Scott won and he won by a lot. I don’t know what happened to all those votes that disappeared at the very end. And if I didn’t put a spotlight on that election before it got down to the 12,500 votes, he would of lost that election, OK? In my opinion he would have lost. They would have taken that election away from him. Rick Scott won Florida."
But Trump also revealed that Obama had offered him some important guidance shortly after his election.
"I think North Korea’s been very tough because you know we were very close. When I took that over -- President Obama right in those two chairs, we sat and talked and he said that’s by far the biggest problem that this country has," Trump told Wallace. And I think we had real decision as to which way to go on North Korea and certainly at least so far I’m very happy with the way we went."
Turning to national security matters, Trump told Wallace that he has been briefed on the audio recording of journalist Jamal Khashoggi's apparent murder in Turkey, but said he hasn't listened to it, calling it a "suffering tape" that he was advised not to hear.
"You saw we put on very heavy sanctions, massive sanctions on a large group of people from Saudi Arabia," Trump said. "But at the same time we do have an ally and I want to stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good." He also said it "takes two to tango" to resolve the conflict in Yemen, where Iranian-backed insurgents are facing off against Saudi-backed forces, noting that "I want Saudi to stop, but I want Iran to stop also."
And the president sounded a note of regret for not visiting Arlington National Cemetary in Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day -- which Obama did every year while he was in office.
"I should have done that," Trump said. "I was extremely busy on calls for the country, we did a lot of calling, as you know. ... I probably, you know, in retrospect I should have and I did last year and I will virtually every year. But we had come in very late at night and I had just left, literally, the American cemetery in Paris and I really probably assumed that was fine and I was extremely busy because of affairs of state doing other things."
Trump said he has some plans to potentially visit U.S. troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Well, I think you will see that happen," the president said. "There are things that are being planned. We don’t want to talk about it because of -- obviously because of security reasons and everything else."
Explaining why he canceled a trip to visit a World War I memorial ceremony in Paris, Trump cited the weather and sharply criticized the media for making a "big deal" out of the situation.
"They said, 'Sir,' the Secret Service said, 'Sir, you cannot go. We are not prepared. You cannot go,'" Trump said. "Because it was supposed to be helicopter, but the helicopter couldn’t fly because of zero visibility."
President Donald Trump talks to FEMA Administrator Brock Long as he tours Paradise, Calif., California Gov. Jerry Brown and Paradise Mayor Jody Jones during a visit to a neighborhood impacted by the wildfires, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Calling media reports that he is bitter and resentful following the midterm elections nothing more than "disgusting fake news," Trump addressed some potential high-level departures from his administration.
On Department of Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump suggested he wants to see an improvement on border security.
"Well, I like her a lot. I respect her a lot," Trump said. "She’s very smart. I want her to get much tougher and we’ll see what happens there. But I want to be extremely tough. ... I like her very much, I respect her very much, I’d like her to be much tougher on the border -- much tougher, period." He added there's a "chance" she will continue in her role.
On Chief of Staff John Kelly, Trump said he will "move on" at some point.
"There are certain things I love what he does," the president said. "And there are certain things that I don’t like that he does -- that aren’t his strength. It’s not that he doesn’t do -- you know he works so hard. He’s doing an excellent job in many ways. There are a couple of things where it’s just not his strength. It’s not his fault, it’s not his strength. ... But John, at some point, is going to want to move on. John will move on."
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly takes questions from the media while addressing the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque - HP1EDAC1F1Q8V (REUTERS)
And on Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel, whom the White House announced would depart her role this week, Trump offered a blunt assessment.
"I met with Mira two days ago, and we’re going to move her around," Trump said. "She was with me for a long time, although I don’t know her. She’s really somebody I don’t know very well. But we’re going to move her around because she’s got certain talents. But, frankly, she is not -- she’ll never be put in the United Nations, let me put it that way. ... She’s not too diplomatic, but she’s talented."
Taking stock of the administration's progress after two years, Trump gave himself high marks -- literally.
"I think I’m doing a great job. We have the best economy we’ve ever had," the president said. "We’re doing really well. We would have been at war with North Korea if, let’s say, that administration continued forward.
"I would give myself, I would – look, I hate to do it, but I will do it, I would give myself an A+, is that enough?" he said. "Can I go higher than that?