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Trump’s unhinged Fox Business interview illustrates how Fox News normalizes Trump

Hours after news of Mueller’s testimony broke, Trump called Maria Bartiromo and melted down on live TV.

On Wednesday morning, hours after news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress in a public setting on July 17, President Donald Trump called in to Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show for a lengthy phone interview that was especially unhinged, even by his standards.

It was a surreal affair from start to finish. But even during its wildest moments, Bartiromo pretended to understand what Trump was talking about and acted as though he was making profound points. In that respect, it illustrated how Trump-friendly media — Fox News and Fox Business in particular — normalize an obviously abnormal president.

The tone was set immediately, as Trump conspiratorially ranted about “people [from the FBI] spying on my campaign” over Bartiromo’s attempts to get a question in.

Bartiromo, perhaps cognizant that Fox Business is ostensibly a business network, tried to steer things into a discussion of the administration’s ongoing trade negotiations with China, but Trump instead made a series of hyperbolic and false statements, including his familiar mischaracterization of how tariffs work.

“Europe treats us worse than China,” Trump said. “Europe is — you know, look, I come from Europe [Trump is actually from Queens, New York]. We come — you come from Europe, okay, you’re of the European nations. European nations were set up in order to take advantage of the United States.”

He attacked the trade policies of both China and the European Union, but he also sounded off on Vietnam, which he described as “almost the single worst abuser of everybody.” He indicated he’s considering levying tariffs on Vietnamese goods.

But Trump’s attacks weren’t limited to foreign governments. One day after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell delivered a speech in which he stressed the central bank’s independence, Trump — who has been angry with his handpicked chair for not cutting interest rates — trashed him.

“Here’s a guy — nobody ever heard of him before. And now, I made him, and he wants to show how tough he is, okay. Let him show how tough he is. He’s a — he’s a — he’s not doing a good job,” Trump said.

“I think the media got it wrong the other day when they basically said you said you wanted to demote him,” Bartiromo replied, ignoring Trump’s schoolyard taunts.

Trump also said the federal government is considering suing Google and Facebook over his misguided concerns about alleged censorship of conservatives.

“Look, we should be suing Google and Facebook and all that, which, perhaps we will,” he said, adding later, “They make it very hard for people to join me on Twitter ... I’m much hotter now than I was a number of months ago, okay, but all of a sudden, it stopped.”

Toward the end, the conversation turned to Mueller’s forthcoming testimony. Trump, clearly angered, yelled into the phone about alleged crimes he thinks Mueller committed during the course of his investigation, and again wouldn’t let Bartiromo get a question in.

Trump’s rant was completely disconnected from reality, but Bartiromo responded to it by saying, “it’s obvious what they were planning, sir.”

Bartiromo eventually did manage to ask Trump a question about the House passing a $4.5 billion funding bill to improve conditions for migrant children who are being housed in facilities near the border. But despite public outcry this week over reports that children are being denied access to soap and blankets — not to mention the fact that the administration had requested the supplemental funds — Trump indicated he may veto the bill because it doesn’t contain money for his border wall.

“I’m not happy with it because there’s no money for protection,” Trump said. “It’s like we’re running hospitals over there now.”

He then immediately turned to baselessly blaming Obama for his own administration’s harsh immigration policies. Bartiromo, as she and other Fox News personalities are wont to do, made no effort to push back on Trump’s obviously false claims. But the look on her face after the interview ended seemed to speak volumes.

Shortly after the interview ended, Bartiromo appeared on Fox News and pretended as though Trump’s performance was normal.

”The president is who is he, and that’s why he has his base and the loyal supporters that he has,” she said. “He’s not afraid to say — to tell it the way it is. And he was very straightforward and I think that’s why people like him.”

The Fox News host interviewing Bartiromo, Trace Gallagher, ended the segment by commending her for the “exceptional” conversation with the president.

The news moves fast. To stay updated, follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter, and read more of Vox’s policy and politics coverage.

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