On Wednesday night, Donald Trump sat down for his first network television interview since his swearing-in. President Donald Trump: The White House Interview had the President talking to David Muir in an hour-long special that showed Trump just as crowd-obsessed, angry, and combative as recent news reports have made it seem.
From the very beginning, Trump was at it with his patented hyperbole, claiming that, despite questions about his temperament, he can "be the most Presidential person ever, other than the great Abe Lincoln." But all that Presidential-ness, he said, might get in the way of him doing his job.
Again and again, Trump dodged specifics. He said of the wall he plans on building on the southern border that construction would start in "months." As for the thorny issue of who would pay, he was adamant that Mexico would reimburse the U.S. for the cost—even if the payment came in a form so confusing, no one could tell.
"There will be a payment," he said. "It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form."
He also failed to provide specifics about whether the children of undocumented immigrants would be deported. Despite talking about how he has "a big heart," he refused to provide reassurance of their status, saying only, "I'm going to tell you over the next four weeks."
When it came to his recent claims about millions of illegal votes in the recent election—claims that, it bears repeating again and again, are completely baseless and have been disavowed by politicians on all sides—Trump stuck to his guns.
"There are millions of [fraudulent] votes, in my opinion," he said. The only evidence he offered was a brief reference to a 2012 Pew study. However, Muir pointed out that the study's own author said he found no evidence of voter fraud. Trump, nonplussed, said that the author, David Becker, was now "groveling" for approval.
As for torture, Trump said that his defense secretary was against it, and he didn't know where his own CIA head stood. However, he did say that he talked to some anonymous intelligence agents who were convinced that waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation measures worked. Naturally, he provided no details on who these people were.
When the conversation turned to immigration, Trump grew even more combative and angry than he had previously been. When Muir asked if banning immigration from majority-Muslim countries might create more "anger" towards the U.S., the President turned dark and despondent.
"There's plenty of anger right now," he said. "How can you have more? [...] The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets."
And when Muir suggested that Trump's light-hearted comments in front of the CIA about taking Iraq's oil were ill-advised, Trump exploded.
"Wait, wait, can you believe that?" he asked, nearly yelling. "Who are the critics who say that? Fools. I don't call them critics. I call them fools. We should've taken the oil."
An inordinate amount of the second half of the interview was spent with Trump defending the crowd size at his inauguration, claiming (falsely) that it was the largest audience to watch an inauguration ever.
The show even ended with the President showing off a picture of the inauguration, pointing to the crowds and calling it, somewhat sadly, a "sea of love." And, in perhaps the interview's only note of poetry, it was a photo that had the wrong date.