The New York Times shook up the news cycle on Wednesday night by publishing an explosive interview with President Trump in which he expressed regret for his decision to name former Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
Trump rarely gives interviews to news organizations that he doesn’t consider friendly toward his administration and has slammed the Times as “failing” on a regular basis.
So political watchdogs were surprised to learn that he sat down with Times reporters Peter Baker, Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman for a revealing 50-minute conversation in the Oval Office. (“None of the reporters are available to discuss the backstory,” a Times spokesperson told TheWrap.)
Here are the five biggest takeaways from the conversation.
1. Trump regrets hiring Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Trump told the Times he would have never selected Sessions as attorney general if he had known that Sessions would recuse himself from the investigation into possible Trump campaign involvement in Russia meddling with the election.
“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” Trump told the Times. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks, Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair — and that’s a mild word — to the president.”
This has resulted in widespread speculation that Sessions, a former Alabama senator who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters in the presidential campaign, might step down.
2. The Times wasn’t going to allow Trump to question the final story
Trump has criticized the Times frequently, often calling the paper “failing” and complaining that the mainstream media doesn’t treat him fairly.
Well, the Times didn’t leave any room for error and decided to publish both the complete transcript and audio from the interview.
3. Hope Hicks remains a key member of the administration
White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks has kept a low profile in recent months, but the Times story reveals she is very much involved in the president’s inner circle.
She has been on Trump’s team since the Republican primaries and was his lone public relations guru for a large chunk of the campaign. She was the only aide who joined Trump during his interview with the Times, which is extremely telling in terms of her value in the eyes of the president.
4. Trump still doesn’t care for former FBI Director James Comey
Trump and Comey have had a public feud since the president abruptly fired Comey as FBI director in May, but the president added new allegations during the Times interview.
Trump told the reporters that just before the inauguration Comey pulled him aside after a briefing and told him about a former British spy’s dossier with scandalous claims about the incoming president, including the golden shower story. The FBI “has not corroborated the most sensational assertions” in the dossier that was eventually published by BuzzFeed, the Times noted.
Trump told that Times he feels that Comey told him about the dossier to imply he had something to hold over the president.
“In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump said. As leverage? “Yeah, I think so,” Trump said. “In retrospect.”
5. Trump will attack anyone
During the 50-minute interview, Trump attacked a variety of public figures.
In addition to Sessions and Comey, the president took shots at acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Special Counsel Robert Mueller and even Hillary Clinton.