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President Donald Trump sat down with Fox’s Tucker Carlson for an interview on Wednesday that touched on a variety of topics, from the current Republican push on health care to his unsubstantiated allegations against former President Barack Obama. Here are some of the highlights along with some background on what's going on beneath the surface.
“I don't know where they got it. This guy's been following me for 25 years. He's — he's not much. And I don't know, I have no idea where they got it, but it's illegal, and you're not supposed to have it, and it's not supposed to be leaked.“
Background: Trump is referring to David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who published portions of Trump’s 2005 federal tax return that an unknown source mailed them to him. Trump notes they have a long history, which goes back to his casino days in Atlantic City. This is inconsistent with Trump’s initial response to the disclosure, though, in which he called Johnston “a reporter who nobody ever heard of.” As Trump notes, it is illegal to leak tax returns, but the courts have historically sided with the press in cases where outlets have published materials of public concern obtained illegally by others.
“The country's doing, right now, really well. The level of optimism is up highest it's been in 15 years. You see the kind of numbers coming out, it's amazing the enthusiasm.”
Background: Trump’s correct that there’s been a recent surge in consumer confidence, which hit its highest levels since 2001 last month. That said, few of Trump’s policies have taken effect and he inherited an economy with a record 75 months of consecutive job growth heading into 2017.
“A lot of things aren't consistent. But these are going to be negotiated. We've got to go to the Senate. We're going to see what happens in the Senate. Right now, we have five or six senators that look like maybe they're not going to — I'm talking about Republicans, because we're not going to get one Democrat to vote for it.”
Background: Pressed on why the House GOP’s health care bill cuts taxes for wealthy Americans and cuts benefits for older patients, Trump acknowledged that the legislation was not “consistent” with his campaign message although he did not detail his desired changes. Trump suggested in the same interview that some health care issues would be tackled in another “phase” after the House plan passed, but key Republicans are skeptical this is possible.
"On the airplanes, I saved $725 million, probably took me a half an hour if you added up all of the times. And we've saved a tremendous amount of money in government already, and that's just the beginning."
Background: Trump has regularly taken credit for pressuring Lockheed Martin to reduce the price of its F-35 fighter jet. While Lockheed has been happy to give Trump credit, news reports suggest he significantly overstated his role in talks as military leaders were already working with the company to lower costs by a comparable amount.
“I read in, I think it was January 20, a New York Times article where they were talking about wiretapping. There was an article, I think they used that exact term. I read other things. I watched your friend Bret Baier the day previous where he was talking about certain very complex sets of things happening, and wiretapping. I said, wait a minute, there's a lot of wiretapping being talked about."
Background: Trump was asked to explain why he issued a series of tweets that, without any evidence, directly accused Obama of ordering wiretap surveillance of Trump Tower.
But the reports Trump references don’t back up his accusation: The New York Times story he appears to cite, which NBC News has not confirmed, referred to “intercepted communications and financial transactions” between Russian officials and Trump associates, but made no mention of Trump Tower, no mention of Obama, and stated it was unclear if the findings even related to Trump or his campaign. In the case of Baier, he used the word “wiretap” while asking Speaker Paul Ryan to comment on unconfirmed reports from the site Heat Street from last year that referenced a possible investigation into Trump associates (which also made no mention of Obama).
“Don't forget, when I say wiretapping, those words were in quotes. That really covers, because wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff. But that really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that's a very important thing."
Background: Trump is echoing a recent claim from White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer that he used quotation remarks around “wire tapping” in two tweets because he did not mean a literal bug on his phone. One of Trump’s tweets mentioned an alleged plot to “tap my phones,” however. This does little to explain his broader accusation, still presented without evidence, that President Obama ordered surveillance of him and his campaign.
“Let's see whether or not I proved it. You looked at some proof. I mean, let's see whether or not I prove it. I just don't choose to do it right now. I choose to do it before the committee, and maybe I'll do it before the committee. Maybe I'll do it before I see the result of the committee. But I think we have some very good stuff. And we're in the process of putting it together, and I think it's going to be very demonstrative.”
Background: After previously suggesting in his interview that he relied on media reports for his accusation, Trump hints that he is accumulating his own evidence to present to Congress that will back up his claims. The top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff (R-CA) on the House Intelligence Committee told reporters they had seen no evidence to support Trump’s accusations.
“I want people that love our country. And many Muslims do. Many, many Muslims do. But it has been a hard process. If you look at Germany, what's happened. If you look at Sweden, what's happened. If you look at Brussels, take a look at Brussels, I mean look what's going on. Take a look at so many other places. It has been a very hard process. We are going to try very, very hard to make it work.”
Background: Trump, who frequently made false claims linking American Muslims to extremism during the campaign, expressed concern about whether assimilation was possible given difficulties in Europe. While some European countries have struggled to integrate Muslim residents, the scale and type of immigration is dramatically different in America, which has a smaller, more diverse, and more economically successful Muslim population. Opinion research and studies show that Muslim immigrants to the United States have largely followed in the footstep of other immigrant groups by quickly adopting an American identity.