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Trump calls Harris a 'monster,' downplays his Covid-19 illness in freewheeling interview

The president, who had to twice be placed on supplemental oxygen, said he thinks his infection "would have gone away by itself" without treatment.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump points to reporters while on the Truman Balcony upon returning to the White House on Oct. 5, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP

President Donald Trump spent roughly an hour Thursday morning downplaying the severity of his Covid-19 infection, attacking Kamala Harris, accusing past and present political opponents of conspiring against him and demanding his administration begin indicting those rivals in an unrestrained interview with the Fox Business Network.

In his first live interview since he was diagnosed with the coronavirus, Trump spoke with the host Maria Bartiromo over the phone and said he is "almost not taking anything" anymore to treat the disease, before adding that he is going "a little bit longer on the steroid" treatment he was first given while hospitalized at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center over the weekend.

Doctors have said Trump is on the road to recovery, though the steroid therapy he was placed on, dexamethasone, is typically only given to patients with more severe cases.

Of this drug, Trump said, it "is a very easy thing to take."

The president, who had to twice be placed on supplemental oxygen, according to his medical team, also said he thinks his infection "would have gone away by itself" without treatment.

He also said, "I don't think I'm contagious at all," though he is still within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's isolation window following the onset of symptoms — Trump first became sick last Thursday and the CDC guidelines stipulate that people should isolate for 10 days from the point of showing systems and 20 days in severe cases.

Thursday night, the president's physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in a memo released by the White House that the president's condition is improving and suggested his vitals were within a normal range.

"Since returning home, his physical exam has remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness. Overall he's responded extremely well to treatment, without evidence on examination of adverse therapeutic effects," Conley said in the memo.

"Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday's diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President's safe return to public engagements at that time," Conley said.

Later in the day, Trump, for the second day in a row, was seen in the Oval Office and not the White House residence where he has been isolating. On Wednesday, Trump had gone there for a briefing on Hurricane Delta and on stimulus talks. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and social media director Dan Scavino were the only staffers with him in the Oval and Meadows told reporters afterward that they both wore full personal protective equipment.

Trump was joined again in The Oval Office on Thursday by Scavino and Meadows as well as son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner. All three were wearing "full PPE," according to a senior White House official.

Trump opened the interview by declining to participate in the second presidential debate after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that it would take place virtually in light of his Covid-19 diagnosis. Trump said he wouldn't "waste my time" at such an event and said if the debate is virtual, it would make it easier for a moderator to cut him off.

The president later referenced an event for Gold Star families he attended at the White House on Sept. 27, which took place one day after the ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination. A number of those in attendance at the Barrett event have since tested positive, including Trump and first lady Melania Trump. Meanwhile, a Coast Guard admiral in attendance at the Gold Star families gathering has since tested positive for the virus, and top military leaders are quarantining.

The event for the families of fallen soldiers had little masking or social distancing, White House photos showed. The White House said attendees were tested before entering. On Thursday, the president explained why he would not enforce social distancing rules at such an event and suggested there was a chance he contracted the virus from a Gold Star family member.

"They come within an inch of my face sometimes, they want to hug me and they want to kiss me, and they do," Trump said. "And frankly, I'm not telling them to back up, I'm not doing it."

So far, 23 people close to the White House and three Republican senators have tested positive for the virus in the days surrounding Trump first showing symptoms.

The president also spent much of the interview revisiting past attacks on 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and asking why she had not been "indicted," accusing political opponents past and present of cheating, and criticizing his own administration officials.

At one point, as Bartiromo sought to close the interview, Trump asked, "Why isn't Hillary Clinton being indicted?"

Much of the attention was also directed at his own administration officials. Of Attorney General William Barr, Trump said, "Bill has got to move" on the ongoing investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, adding his attorney general will either go down in history as the "greatest" of all time or it will be "a very sad situation."

He then said he's upset that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has not made public additional emails from the private server Clinton used, saying, "I'm not happy about him for" that.

Of FBI Director Christopher Wray, Trump said: "He's been disappointing." The president then expressed confusion why Wray "doesn't see the ballot thing as a problem." The president and his campaign have repeatedly lobbed unsubstantiated claims about widespread mail-in ballot fraud, even as the president and first lady have voted by mail and as his campaign promotes the process in key swing states.

In this interview, Trump again made reference to a story about mail-in ballots being "found in a river." White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, when asked last week about which river the ballots were found in, pointed to a story in Wisconsin. That episode did not involve a river or ballots — instead, trays of mail containing no ballots were discovered in a ditch.

The president repeatedly denigrated his current opponents, tripling down on claims that 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is mentally unfit and calling Harris, the California senator who is Biden's running mate, a "monster."

“And this monster that was onstage with Mike Pence, who destroyed her last night by the way, but this monster, she says, 'no no, there won’t be fracking,'" he said.

Harris later commented said the comment is "a reflection of immense immaturity when the president of the United States engages in name-calling."

When asked about polls that show Biden widening his lead over Trump after the first debate and the president's infection, Trump said, "I don't believe 'em," and pointed to boat parades in support of his candidacy.

Trump's nearly hourlong interview comes after he's posted a series of taped recordings of himself online in the days after leaving Walter Reed. After going mostly dark on Twitter over the weekend, the president engaged in a tweet and retweet frenzy Tuesday and Wednesday, posting more than 100 times.

The interview was merely the latest in which Trump speaks for an extended period of time on a Fox program. As the interview crossed the 40-minute mark, Bartiromo said, "Mr. President, I know you have to go."

The interview continued unabated for another 16 minutes.