As a public service to “60 Minutes,” I’m offering five tougher, more challenging questions, plus follow-ups, that Stahl could have asked Trump — but didn’t.
1. Mr. President, you spend much of your time on Twitter, and in interviews like this, attacking the so-called fake news. Yet you yourself seem to be a major purveyor of fake news: According to the Washington Post fact-checkers, you’ve made more than 5,000 false or misleading statements since entering the Oval Office. That’s around eight lies a day, isn’t it?
Follow-up: You say the Washington Post is “fake news,” but let’s take a couple of specific examples. You have said at recent rallies that you passed the Veterans Choice Program after “40 years” of waiting,” but it was passed under President Barack Obama in 2014, wasn’t it? And you tweeted on June 30 that you “never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the Immigration Bill, either GOODLATTE 1 or 2,” yet just three days earlier, you had tweeted, “House Republicans should pass the strong but fair immigration bill, known as Goodlatte II, in their afternoon vote today.” So, you lied, didn’t you?
2. Your former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, whom you have described as “a fine person” who you “always liked and respected,” admitted in court in August that he made hush money payments at your “direction.” Isn’t that an impeachable offense?
Follow-up: But you did lie about these payments, though, didn’t you? On Air Force One, in April, you told reporters that you had no knowledge of a $130,000 payment to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election, but then later admitted that you did. So, you weren’t telling the truth on Air Force One, were you?
3. Are you worried about reports from inside your administration that members of your own cabinet have considered removing you from office using the 25th Amendment?
Follow-up: Should we be worried about your mental health? You call yourself a “very stable genius,” but Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, has compared the White House to an “adult day care center” and said your behavior should “concern anyone who cares about our nation.” Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who you recently called “incredible,” has said she’s “worried” about your state of mind.
4. The New York Times produced a blockbuster report — 14,000 words in length, several months in the making, based on upward of 100,000 documents — which outlines how you helped your parents dodge millions of dollars worth of taxes and were involved in “instances of outright fraud.” Why shouldn’t we believe the in-depth Times reporting, given that you have refused to offer a response or rebuttal to any of the allegations made in that piece, other than to call it “boring“?
Follow-up: Why have you still not released your tax returns, as every other president since Richard Nixon has done? And why do you continue to falsely claim that you can’t do so because you’re under audit, when Nixon released his returns while under audit in 1973?
Follow-up: Will you apologize to the family of Heather Heyer for referring to her killer and his comrades as “very fine people”?
It is one of the great ironies of the Trump era. The president rails against a media he claims is “fake,” “dishonest,” and biased against him. “The press treats me so badly,” Trump whined to Stahl.
Yet it is this very same “fake news” liberal media that has, wittingly and unwittingly, helped him at every step of the way: failing to hold him to account, to ask tough questions, to challenge his lies, or, often, to even call them lies.
Who knows when Trump will sit down for another televised interview with a non-Fox News interviewer. It might be a few weeks or, more likely, several months. Stahl had a rare opportunity to put this scandal-plagued president on the defensive, to make him own his untruths, to hold his feet to the fire.
She blew it.