President Donald Trump sat down for a wide-ranging interview with CBS set to air ahead of the Super Bowl on Sunday, and there’s a lot to unpack from the exchange.
Trump, who opted against giving a pregame interview last year, made several eyebrow-raising remarks during his interview with host Margaret Brennan, touching on topics including his plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and whether he would let his 12-year-old son play football.
Here are some of Trump’s most noteworthy comments:
On another government shutdown: We’ll ‘see what happens’
Trump refused to say he wouldn’t allow another partial government shutdown if Congress doesn’t agree to carve out $5.7 billion in a spending bill to fund his long-promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’re going to have to see what happens on Feb. 15th,” the president said, the date when temporary funding for various agencies expires. “I don’t take anything off the table. I don’t like to take things off the table.”
After a 35-day partial shutdown ― the longest such closure in U.S. history ― Trump agreed on Jan. 25 to reopen the government for three weeks while Congress negotiated border security. He has threatened to shut down the government again or declare a national emergency to secure funds for his border wall if the talks fail. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have slammed Trump’s threat to declare a national emergency to achieve his wall.
“You know there have been plenty of national emergencies called,” Trump told CBS. “And this really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers. … The only way you have a strong border is you need a physical barrier. You need a wall. And anybody that says you don’t, they’re just playing games.”
Pelosi is ‘very bad for our country’
Trump bashed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over her refusal to cave to his demand for the border wall money, which he repeatedly vowed Mexico would pay to build.
Asked what he learned about negotiating with her, Trump told CBS that she was “very rigid.”
“I think she is very bad for our country,” he said. “She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point.”
Brennan reminded Trump that Pelosi had offered $1 billion toward border security. He responded, without citing evidence, that Pelosi’s stance on the wall was costing the country billions of dollars and blamed “people like” her for “people dying all over the country.”
“She’s doing a terrible disservice to our country,” he said. “And on the 15th, we have now set the table beautifully because everybody knows what’s going on because of the shutdown. People that didn’t have any idea ― they didn’t have a clue as to what was happening. They now know exactly what’s happening. ”
Don’t ‘have to agree’ with intelligence officials on global threats
Trump on Wednesday undermined his intelligence officials once again, tweeting that they are “extremely passive and naive” and suggesting they “go back to school.”
His Twitter attack followed the release of intelligence agencies’ annual report on worldwide security threats, which determined the so-called Islamic State had not yet been totally defeated in Syria and found no evidence that Iran was close to producing a nuclear weapon. Trump has repeatedly claimed otherwise.
Asked if he agreed with the report’s findings on Iran, Trump said no.
“I disagree with them,” the president told CBS. “I have intel people, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree. … I want them to have their own opinion and I want them to give me their opinion. But, when I look at Iran, I look at Iran as a nation that has caused tremendous problems.”
He continued, “So when my intelligence people tell me how wonderful Iran is ― if you don’t mind, I’m going to just go by my own counsel.”
We have ‘very fast airplanes’ we can use if we see a resurgence of ISIS in the Middle East
Brennan grilled Trump about concerns from national security experts and lawmakers who warn the president’s decision to suddenly withdraw thousands of troops from Syria and Afghanistan could have grave consequences.
“The concern in here by your intelligence chiefs,” she said, “is that you could in that vacuum see a resurgence of ISIS, see a resurgence of terror groups like Al Qaeda ―”
Trump interrupted, “And you know what we’ll do? We’ll come back if we have to. We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I’m not leaving.”
“We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice,” he continued. “I mean I was there recently, and I couldn’t believe the money that was spent on these massive runways.”
Brennan called out Trump for ‘telegraphing your retreat’ in the Middle East.
“[You] campaigned saying that President Obama made a big mistake by telegraphing his military moves,” Brennan told the president. “You’re telegraphing your retreat.”
Trump bristled at her assertion. “I’m not telegraphing anything,” he claimed. “No, no, no. There’s a difference. … [Obama] showed tremendous weakness. But we didn’t have Syria whereas we had Iraq.”
On keeping troops in Iraq: ‘Well, we spent a fortune on building this incredible base’
Brennan asked Trump about his decision to keep American troops in Iraq, despite his saying going into Iraq was “one of the greatest mistakes” the U.S. has made.
“Well, we spent a fortune on building this incredible base,” the president responded. “We might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.”
Brennan, apparently taken aback by Trump’s response, responded, “Whoa, that’s news. You’re keeping troops in Iraq because you want to be able to strike in Iran?”
Trump replied that he simply wants “to be able to watch Iran.”
“We’re going to keep watching and we’re going to keep seeing and if there’s trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we’re going to know it before they do,” he added.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.