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Trump did his first TV interview since his Covid-19 diagnosis. It did not go well.

The president’s scattershot performance squandered any goodwill he may have garnered.

President Trump Arrives Back At White House After Stay At Walter Reed Medical Center For Covid
President Trump returns to the White House from Walter Reed medical center on Monday.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

One day after President Donald Trump posted a video on his Twitter account that raised more questions about his health than it answered, he called into Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show for his first live interview since he announced his positive test for the coronavirus nearly a week ago.

Trump sounded hoarse, but ultimately the interview will likely raise more questions about his mental than physical health. That’s because, over the course of an hour, Trump made comments that were nonsensical — even by his standards — about a variety of topics, including the coronavirus and how he possibly got it, and his desire that his political rivals be prosecuted for unspecified crimes just weeks out from the election.

The interview began with Trump announcing, “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate” and that he will pull out of next week’s scheduled second debate with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which is to be held remotely because of Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Trump clearly wanted people to believe that his reasons for doing so are about his objections to the format, but the rest of his public therapy session with Bartiromo suggested his team might also have concerns about the debate turning out to be even more of a debacle than his widely panned performance at the first debate last week.

“Remember this: When you catch it you get better, and then you’re immune”

As you’d expect, Bartiromo began by asking Trump a string of questions about his health and how he’s feeling after his hospitalization and at least two coronavirus-related health crises. Trump responded with wild boasts — “I‘m back because I’m a perfect physical specimen, and I’m extremely young,” he claimed — and dangerous lies.

Echoing the line he’s recently been pushing about how Americans shouldn’t let the coronavirus dominate their lives, Trump told Bartiromo, “Remember this: When you catch it you get better, and then you’re immune.”

But not everyone gets better. The coronavirus has killed 210,000 Americans and counting and has ruined the health of thousands of others who survived. Furthermore, there are documented cases of people being infected more than once, so it is not true that someone who gets Covid-19 ends up being “immune.”

As the White House refuses to say when Trump’s last negative coronavirus test occurred — fueling speculation that he may have exposed Biden to it at last week’s presidential debate — Trump suggested he might’ve gotten infected by Gold Star families at an event that took place the day after a reckless event nominating Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, which has been linked with a number of cases.

“I met with Gold Star families. I didn’t want to cancel that,” he said. “I can’t say, ‘Back up’ ... they wanna hug me and they wanna kiss me, and they do.”

Blaming military families for his coronavirus diagnosis is on brand for Trump, but there’s no reason to believe it’s true. And instead of doing robust contact tracing to determine the origins of the White House case cluster, the Trump administration has instead tried to sweep the whole issue under the rug and move on with campaigning as quickly as possible.

Regardless of how he got it, Trump wants people to believe he’s the first person in the world to contract the coronavirus and feel better less than a week later. Despite his haggard voice and sickly appearance in the Twitter video he posted Wednesday, Trump told Bartiromo he feels “perfect.” He said he hadn’t been tested for coronavirus recently but added, “I’m essentially very clean.”

Trump’s authoritarian rhetoric about Democrats is completely over the top

On the topic of Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, Trump’s analysis was basically limited to smearing Sen. Kamala Harris as a “communist” and “monster.” Without a shred of irony, Trump repeatedly made dark insinuations about Biden’s health, claiming at one point that the former vice president “won’t make it two months as president.”

But arguably even more unhinged was Trump’s repeated calls for Attorney General Bill Barr to bring charges against Biden, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton for unspecified crimes, just weeks before the presidential election.

“Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes — the greatest political crime in the history of our country — then we’ll get little satisfaction,” he said. “And that includes Obama and it includes Biden ... we have everything ... I say, Bill, we have plenty.”

Later, as Bartiromo tried to bring the interview to an end, Trump shouted, apropos of nothing, “Why isn’t Hillary Clinton being indicted?!”

To be clear, Trump is not making a credible accusation in saying that Biden, Obama, or Clinton actually committed crimes. But he appears to be trying to recreate October 2016, when he exploited the FBI’s renewed attention on the Clinton email investigation to damage her just enough to eke out his victory in the Electoral College.

The problem for Trump is that polls currently show him trailing Biden by about nine points nationally — a spread far wider than the lead Clinton enjoyed over Trump at a comparable point in the 2016 campaign. Instead of grappling with that reality, however, Trump told Bartiromo, “I don’t believe the polls” and touted MAGA boat parades and truckers.

“They have a boat thing, they have 5,000 boats, they have thousands of trucks all over the country. I don’t believe the polls,” he said.

While it might be tempting to surmise that Trump’s compromised health has resulted in his odd behavior since his coronavirus diagnosis — including a number of bizarre photo ops and incoherent, angry binges of posting on Twitter — the truth is all of this is more or less on brand for Trump.

For instance, during his interview with Bartiromo, Trump repeatedly made a total mess out of easy questions about what he hopes to accomplish in a second term. But mangling softball questions of that sort has been a staple of his Fox News interviews going back months.

To the extent that Trump’s interview with Bartiromo indicates he’s feeling better physically, that’s a good thing. But amid questions about the side effects of his ongoing Covid-19 treatments, he will need to do more to convince voters he is mentally and emotionally prepared for the rigors of the presidency — and the campaign trail.