Axios reporter Jonathan Swan cornered President Donald Trump on multiple issues in a wide-ranging interview aired on HBO on Monday evening.
Clips of the interview have been circulating online and trending on Twitter. They show Swan pressing the president on the coronavirus crisis, the 2020 elections, foreign policy, and the anti-racism protests, among other topics.
Many users have created memes of Swan reacting to Trump’s answers and applauded the reporter for his unwavering questioning of the president.
The full interview and a comprehensive list of its noteworthy moments are below:
- On the coronavirus crisis taking 1,000 lives a day, 7:20:
Trump: Right now, I think it’s under control.
Swan: How? 1,000 Americans are dying a day.
Trump: They are dying. That’s true. It is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us.
Swan: You really think this is as much as we can control? 1,000 deaths a day?
Trump: First of all, we have done a great job. We’ve gotten the governors everything they needed. They didn’t do their job. Many of them didn’t and some of them did. … But the governors do it. We gave them massive amounts of material.
—Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) August 4, 2020
- On the seriousness of the virus, 8:35:
Swan: Even some of your own aides wonder whether you will stick to that message until Election Day. Whether in a week or two, you won’t say ‘right we got to reopen again. We can’t do this stuff anymore,’ that you’ll get bored of talking about the virus and go back to that sort of cheerleading.
Trump: No, I never get bored. I never get bored of talking about this. It’s too big of a thing.
Swan: So will you stick to that message?
Trump: It should’ve been stopped by China. It should’ve been stopped by China, and it wasn’t.
Swan: But now it’s here and you’re the president.
Trump: I think I’m very consistent. No, this is a very serious thing. We have 140,000 people at this moment. This is a very, very serious situation and what you have to do is handle it the best it can be handled. And again, I’m working with the governors.
- On addressing inadequate coronavirus testing, 10:00:
Trump: There are those that say you can test too much. You do know that.
Swan: Who says that?
Trump: Just read the manuals. Read the books. Read the books.
Swan: Manuals? What manuals? What books?
Trump: Let me explain. What testing does is it shows cases, it shows where there may be cases. Other countries test, you know when they test? They test when somebody’s sick. That’s when they test. And I’m not saying they’re right or wrong. Nobody’s done it like we’ve done it. We’ve gotten absolutely no credit for it but we’ve come up with so many different tests. The only thing that we have now is some people have to wait longer than we’d like them to.
Swan: It’s a big problem. … When do you think you’ll have it for everyone? What day?
Trump: I think you’ll have that relatively soon.
Swan: What does that mean?
Trump: I would much rather get back to you because I don’t want to have you write ‘in one month’, I didn’t make it, I missed it by a day and it’s a headline.
Swan: OK. That’s fine.
—Joel Lawson (@JoelLawsonDC) August 4, 2020
- On the US’ coronavirus death toll versus the rest of the world’s, 13:14:
Swan: You’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the US is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, et cetera.
Trump: You can’t do that.
Swan: Why can’t I do that?
Trump: You have to go by the cases.
Swan: … Well look at South Korea for example: 51 million population. 300 deaths. It’s crazy.
Trump: You don’t know that. You don’t know that.
Swan: You think they’re faking their statistics? South Korea? An advanced country?
Trump: I won’t get into that because I have a very good relationship with the country. But you don’t know that.
- On intelligence reports of Russia paying bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers, 16:27:
Swan: You had a phone call with Vladimir Putin on July 23. Did you bring up this issue?
Trump: No, that was a phone call to discuss other things. And frankly, that’s an issue that many people said was fake news. … But we had a call talking about nuclear proliferation, which is a very big subject. … We did not discuss that, no.
Swan: It’s because you don’t believe the intelligence, is that why?
Trump: … If it reached my desk, I would’ve done something about it. It never reached my desk. … I have so many briefings on so many different countries. But this one didn’t reach my desk.
Swan: Even if you don’t believe this particular piece of intelligence, and there is dispute in the intelligence community about it, your former head of forces in Afghanistan said, and this was when he was working for you, that Russia is supplying weapons to the Taliban. Isn’t that enough to challenge Putin over the killings of US soldiers?
Trump: Well we supplied weapons when they were fighting Russia too.
Swan: But that’s a different era.
Trump: I’m just saying we did that too. … I have heard that, but, again, it’s never reached my desk.
- On uncertainty around accepting the results of the 2020 election and mail-in voting, 22:22:
Swan: What does that actually look like as the sitting president? I mean it’s unprecedented.
Trump: Hillary Clinton never accepted them. She still doesn’t accept them.
Swan: She conceded on election night. She grumbled about it.
Trump: Grumbled? Grumbled? She wrote books about it. Don’t use the word ‘grumbled.’
Swan: … What does that look like, not accepting?
Trump: We have a new phenomena, called mail-in voting.
Swan: New? It’s been here since the Civil War. … It’ll be bigger this year because of the pandemic.
Trump: Bigger? Not bigger, massively bigger. So they’re going to send tens of millions of ballots to California, all over the place … You got millions of ballots going, nobody even knows where they’re going. You look at some of the corruption having to do with universal mail-in voting. Absentee voting is OK.
Swan: It’s the same thing.
Trump: … You could have a case where this election won’t be decided on the evening of November 3. This election could be decided two months later.
Swan: Absolutely. What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with the proper mailing count?
Trump: Lots of things will happen during that period of time, especially when you have tight margins. … Right now we have to live with it, but we’re challenging it in many courts.
- On offering well wishes to Jeffery Epstein associate Ghislane Maxwell, who is awaiting trial for child sex trafficking charges, 25:39:
Trump: First of all, I don’t know that. Her friend or boyfriend was either killed or committed suicide in jail. She’s now in jail. Yeah, I wish her well, I’d wish you well, I’d wish a lot of people well. Good luck. Let them prove somebody was guilty.
Swan: So you’re saying you hope she doesn’t die in jail?
Trump: Her boyfriend died in jail and people are still trying to figure out how did it happen … And I do wish her well. I’m not looking for anything bad for her. I’m not looking bad for anybody. And they took that and they made it such a big deal.
- On the federal law enforcement violence happening in Portland during protests, 26:44:
Trump: Here you go, the fake news. No, no. For 59 days these people were anarchists and agitators and some protesters. But these were anarchists. These people were beating the hell out of the city. They were beating up our federal buildings and our federal courthouse. We told the police to stop it.
Swan: Your inspector generals are investigating unconstitutional —
Trump: Excuse me, you’re trying now to blame law enforcement instead of anarchists. Instead of antifa.
Swan: … (Quoting Republican Sen. Rand Paul): “There is no place for federal troops or unidentified federal agents rounding people up at will.” What is your response to Senator Paul?
Trump: First of all, these are Homeland Security people. They’re securing a courthouse. Hopefully they have ICE in there. Do you know why they’re unmarked? Because these terrorists, these antifa people, these people that are anarchists and agitators, when they see the name on a uniform of a person, a policeman or law enforcement person, they find out where that person lives. And then they go and they scare the hell out of that person’s family. They do it for that reason. There’s nothing secret about this. … I think antifa should be investigated, not the law enforcement.
—Daniel Dale (@ddale8) August 4, 2020
- On systemic racism and police brutality, 32:40:
Swan: Do you believe though, Mr. President, that many police treat Black people differently from white people?
Trump: Well I hope not. I hope not. Certainly, the knee on the neck was a disgrace.
Swan: What does systemic racism mean to you?
Trump: Does anybody really answer that question accurately? Does anybody really know?
Swan: But what about not hope? What about analysis? What’s your cold-hearted view of it?
Trump: I have seen where there is a difference and I don’t want there to be a difference. I don’t like that there would be a difference. But with that being said, police have killed white people in a larger number.
Swan: But why do you think Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white men?
Trump: That I don’t know. But I don’t like it. Why? I don’t know why. But I don’t like it.
- On remembering the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, 35:23:
Swan: How do you think history will remember John Lewis?
Trump: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. I never met John Lewis, actually, I believe.
Swan: Do you find him impressive?
Trump: I can’t say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive. He didn’t come to my inauguration. He didn’t come to my State of the Union speeches. And that’s OK. That’s his right. And again, nobody has done more for Black Americans than I have. He should have come. I think he made a big mistake.
Swan: Taking your relationship with him out of it, do you find his story impressive? What he’s done for this country?
Trump: He was a person that devoted a lot of energy and a lot of heart to civil rights. But there were many others also.
Something is loading.