When President Donald Trump told CBS News’ John Dickerson “I don’t stand by anything,” he was saying he stands by his claim that President Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the election, the White House translated Monday.
Once again, it fell to Press Secretary Sean Spicer to try to make sense of Trump’s chaos. Asked how Americans are supposed to “digest” Trump having said he does not stand by anything when asked if he still stands by his wiretap tweets, Spicer told reporters at Monday’s press briefing, “The point is he clearly stands by that.”
Hours later, TV news operations still were marveling over the remark and Trump’s abortion of the interview.
During the interview, broadcast on CBS This Morning, Trump appeared to become exasperated, retreating behind his Oval Office desk and abruptly ending the Q&A after Dickerson tripped him up with his own “fake news” rhetoric while discussing Trump’s wiretap claim.
It started when Dickerson asked Trump if Obama had given him any helpful advice.
“Well, he was very nice to me,” POTUS said of POTUS previous. “But after that, we’ve had some difficulties. So it doesn’t matter.”
He continued: “You know, words are less important to me than deeds, and you — you saw what happened with surveillance; everybody saw what happened with surveillance.”
When asked what he meant, Trump shot back, “You can figure that out yourself.”
He added, “He was very nice to me with words, but — and when I was with him — but after that, there has been no relationship.”
Dickerson asked, “But you stand by that claim about him?”
“I don’t stand by anything,” Trump shot back. “You can take it the way you want.”
But then he insisted, “Our side’s been proven very strongly. And everybody’s talking about it. And frankly it should be discussed. I think that is a very big surveillance of our citizens. I think it’s a very big topic. And it’s a topic that should be No. 1. And we should find out what the hell is going on.”
When Dickerson noted he had called Obama “‘sick’ and ‘bad’ because he had tapped you,” Trump again said, “You can take it any way you want.”
“But I’m asking you. Because you don’t want it to be fake news. I want to hear it from President Trump,” Dickerson insisted.
(Not coincidentally, earlier in the interview, Trump had told Dickerson, who hosts CBS’ Sunday Beltway show, that he calls the program Deface the Nation because it disseminates fake news at times.)
“You don’t have to ask me,” Trump shot back. Asked why not, Trump said, “because I have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.”
Dickerson again explained, “I want to know your opinions – you’re the president of the United States.”
“OK, it’s enough. Thank you. Thank you very much,” Trump reacted, walking away from Dickerson and standing behind his desk, signaling that the interview was over, as CBS News camera caught it for air.
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