Donald Trump’s tweets often raise eyebrows, but as part of an attack on NBC News this morning, the president wrote, “When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!” In context, “they” appeared to refer to the network, not the Russians.
It’s been more than 15 months since Trump sat down with the “NBC Nightly News” anchor at the White House, and as best as I can tell, this morning was the first time the president has publicly accused Holt of “fudging” the “tape” of their interaction.
The accusation is bizarre – and like too many of Trump’s strange theories, he’s offered no proof – but it’s worth pausing to consider why the president would levy a charge like this one.
Let’s quickly review. On May 9, 2017, Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey, who was overseeing the investigation into the Russia scandal. Two days later, the president spoke with NBC News’ Lester Holt at the White House, and the interview included a now-legendary exchange:
HOLT: Monday you met with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein–
HOLT: Did you ask for a recommendation [on Comey]?
TRUMP: What I did is, I was going to fire [Comey]. My decision, it was not–
HOLT: You had made the decision before they came in the room.
TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey…. When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.
The president’s claims didn’t just contradict his own White House’s official line on Comey’s ouster, he also admitted that his decision was directly related to the investigation into the Russia scandal, reinforcing concerns that the president may have obstructed justice when he fired the FBI director.
It’s against this backdrop that Trump, more than a year later, has decided to accuse the NBC News anchor of “fudging” the “tape” of their interview.
A few questions come to mind:
* Why does Trump think the interview was manipulated in some unidentified way?
* If the president genuinely believes the recording was “fudged,” why did he say nothing for 15 months?
* Will he offer some kind of evidence to support his accusation?
* If the line from Trump’s lawyers is correct, and the president had the authority to fire Comey for any reason without raising obstruction concerns, why is he now raising questions about his own comments?
* As the president’s possible legal jeopardy comes into focus, why would Trump take this opportunity, unprompted, to remind everyone about the time he seemed to admit to obstruction of justice during a nationally televised interview?