‘You Can’t Do That’: Watch the Most Stunning Exchanges from President Trump’s Interview With Axios’ Jonathan Swan


President Donald Trump sat down last week for an interview with Axios’ Jonathan Swan for what turned out to be a wild and fascinating back-and-forth with heated exchanges on a number of issues ranging from the coronavirus to Black Lives Matter.

You can watch the full interview above, via HBO, while below we have listed some of the key takeaways and wildest exchanges from the interview.

1. Defending the Tulsa rally (starting at the 5:10 mark)

Swan opened the interview talking about the coronavirus pandemic and specifically recalled how he spoke with Trump the day before the Tulsa rally. He repeatedly pressed Trump on the wisdom of doing that, noting that the president’s fans are very loyal and listen to him when he tells them they shouldn’t worry.

The president defended the rally, talked up how many people were there, and made a point of bringing up something “nobody talks about”: it set a Saturday ratings record for Fox News, something the president repeatedly emphasized to defend holding the rally despite public health concerns.

Trump also said he thinks thing are under control. Swan asked how when 1000 Americans are dying a day, and Trump said, “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.”

2. Covid-19 testing (starting at 9:25)

Swan asked specifically about coronavirus testing and when Trump can commit to every American getting the same kind of same-day testing he gets as the president.

Trump continued to tout U.S. testing cases and claimed, “And there are those that say you can test too much. You do know that.”

A stunned Swan asked, “Who says that?”

“Read the manuals, read the books,” Trump said.

“Manuals? what manuals?” Swan asked. “What books?”

3. “You can’t do that.” (starting at 13:00)

At one point during the exchange on testing, Swan told the president that deaths are going up. The president immediately brought up a chart to try and correct Swan to insist the U.S. is “lower than the world.”

Swan looked over the chart and said, “Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases. I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.”

The president actually responded by saying, “You can’t do that.”

“Why can’t I do that?” Swan asked.

The president continued to defend his statistics while Swan said it’s a perfectly reasonable line of questioning.

“You’re not reporting it correctly, Jonathan,” Trump said.

“I think I am,” Swan said as the president took out yet another chart.

4. The alleged Russian bounties (starting at 16:30)

This was the exchange that Axios previewed last week that shocked a lot of people. The president said “many people” called the Russian bounty reports fake news and said he never brought this up in his recent call with Vladimir Putin.

He claimed it didn’t reach his desk. Swan pointed out how the former commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has publicly said Russia’s supplying weapons to the Taliban. “Isn’t that enough to challenge Putin over the killings of U.S. soldiers?”

Trump started by saying, “We supplied weapons when they were fighting Russia too.”

“That’s a different era,” Swan responded.

5. “I honestly don’t understand…” (starting at 22:25)

Swan confronted Trump at one point about not accepting the election results, which set the president off on the issue of mail-in voting.

“I honestly don’t understand this topic with you,” Swan said. “The Republican party has an extremely well-funded vote-by-mail program.”

Holding up a piece of paper, Swan added, “Your campaign puts out emails telling people to vote by mail. Your daughter-in-law Lara Trump, she did robocalls in California saying it’s safe and secure, mail-in voting. The Republican won! That was an all-mail-in race!”

Trump pointed to “many court cases where we’re trying to end it” and invoked World War I and World War II to say people didn’t do mail-in voting then.

“We’ve had mail-in voting since the Civil War,” Swan said.

6. “I wish her well” part deux (starting at 25:40)

In which Trump only stood by wishing the Jeffrey Epstein associate and accused sex trafficker well.

7. Lincoln, Trump, and LBJ (starting at 34:00)

Swan spoke with Trump about Portland, the protests going on across the country, and Black Lives Matter, and throughout that portion of the interview Trump repeatedly touted what his administration has done for African-American.

At one point, he repeated something he’s said before, that “I’ve done more for the black community than anybody, with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.”

“You believe you did more than Lyndon Johnson, who passed the Civil Rights Act?” Swan asked.

“I think I did, yeah,” Trump said.

“How?” Swan asked. “How possibly did you…”

“I got criminal justice reform done. I got prison reform,” Trump said.

“Lyndon Johnson,” Swan repeated. “He passed the Civil Rights Act.”

“How has it worked out? If you take a look at what Lyndon Johnson did,” the president responded.

“You think the Civil Rights Act was a mistake?” Swan asked.

“Frankly, it took a long time,” Trump said, before continuing to tout his administration’s accomplishments.

8. “I don’t know John Lewis.” (starting at 35:24)

Swan ended the interview by asking the president to comment on what the legacy of civil rights legend John Lewis will be.

“I don’t know. I really don’t know. I don’t know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. I never met John Lewis, actually,’ the president said.

The president couldn’t say whether he found Lewis impressive, instead going back to how Lewis did not go to his inauguration or State of the Union speeches.

Swan tried to get Trump to comment on Lewis’ legacy instead of their personal relationship. Trump said, “He was a person who devoted a lot of energy and a lot of heart to civil rights, but there were many others also.” He added that he wouldn’t have any objection to the Edmund Pettus Bridge being renamed for Lewis.

Have a tip we should know? tips@mediaite.com

Filed Under:

Josh Feldman is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: josh@mediaite.com Follow him on Twitter: @feldmaniac