Donald Trump sat down yesterday with two reporters from a far-right website called The Daily Caller, and early on in the interview, the president was asked about his search for Jeff Sessions’ permanent successor as the attorney general. Asked about possible nominees, Trump immediately insisted that his acting A.G., Matthew Whitaker, is “a very respected man.”
But as the president’s answer continued to unfold, Trump ended up accidentally telling the truth about what was on his mind.
“I knew [Matt Whitaker] only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.
“It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.
“He’s heading this whole big thing, he’s not Senate confirmed. So anyway….”
In case there’s any ambiguity, when Trump referenced the “investigation,” he was referring to the investigation into the Russia scandal. Mueller, of course, referred to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The Daily Caller’s question, however, had nothing to do with the scandal or the ongoing probe. The reporter asked about Whitaker and the search for a new attorney general nominee.
It was Trump who heard that question and immediately started connecting Whitaker’s appointment to the president’s belief that the Mueller investigation is “illegal.”
In other words, some of the White House’s critics have spent the last week making the case that Trump chose Whitaker because both Republicans oppose the special counsel’s probe. And yesterday, the president suggested that his critics are right, and that Whitaker’s appointment is about Mueller.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because Trump has incriminated himself the same way before. In an interview with NBC News’ Lester Holt last year, the president famously connected James Comey’s firing to the investigation into the Russia scandal.
More recently, Trump admitted to Fox News that the pre-election hush money in 2016 came directly from him.
It’s tempting to think professional interviewers got the president to admit something he didn’t intend to say, but in each of these instances, Trump simply blurted out incriminating thoughts that happened to be on his mind.
If his critics are lucky, the president will keep doing interviews like these.