In the wake of the release of Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff’s scathing tell-all on the dysfunction in President Donald Trump’s White House, top aide Stephen Miller went on CNN Sunday to defend the commander in chief — and it didn’t go so well.
Miller was interviewed on CNN’s State of the Union about his thoughts on the book, which paints an unflattering picture of the president and characterizes him as unfit for office. The book also contains a number of damning, on-the-record quotes from former adviser Steve Bannon, which led the president to describe his former ally as having “lost his mind.”
As expected, Miller was quick to stand by the president Sunday, slamming Bannon’s comments as “grotesque” and describing Trump as a “political genius.”
“The book is best understood as a work of very poorly written fiction,” Miller said Sunday. “The author is a garbage author of a garbage book. ... The betrayal of the president in the book is so contrary to reality, to the experiences of those who’ve worked with him, to my own experiences having spent the last two years working for him.”
The White House adviser also questioned the credibility of the book, calling the allegations it makes “nothing but a pile of trash” and saying that events covered in the book that he had first-hand knowledge of were “completely and totally fraudulent” as Wolff had portrayed them.
As host Jake Tapper continued questioning Miller about the book, however, things took a more combative turn.
When Miller was discussing how Trump defied the “political geniuses” who didn’t believe in his candidacy, Tapper pointed out that “the only person who has called himself a genius in the past week was the president.”
“Which happens to be a true statement,” Miller replied.
“I’m sure he’s watching this on TV and is very happy that you said that,” Tapper said about Trump, prompting Miller to call Tapper “condescending.”
Tapper then went on to bring up Trump’s much-maligned travel ban, sparking further controversy.
“I’m so glad you brought [the travel ban] up, because that’s one of the fake news items in the book,” Miller said. “I would happen to know better than you would, Jake, about how the travel ban was written.”
“Let me ask this question,” Tapper interjected, to which Miller replied: “No, because you have 24 hours of negative anti-Trump, hysterical coverage on this network that led, in recent weeks, to some spectacularly embarrassing false reporting.”
“I think the viewers right now can ascertain who’s being hysterical,” Tapper responded.
“No, the viewers are entitled to have three months [sic] of the truth, why don’t you just give me three minutes to give the truth about the Donald Trump that I know,” Miller said.
“Because it’s my show and I don’t want to do that,” Tapper said.
As Miller became further agitated, telling Tapper that “this isn’t a courtroom,” Tapper said, “Settle down, settle down. Calm down. I have a question for you about issues,” going on to ask if it was really the position of the Trump White House that Bannon had as little to do with Trump’s presidency as the administration now claims.
“I think that what the point is is that his role has been greatly exaggerated, whereas the president hasn’t gotten the due that he deserved on the movement that he put together to tap into the type of people whose life concerns don’t get a lot of attention on CNN,” Miller responded. “He tapped into a reality that is happening in this country that is not covered on this network. And I know you think I’m interrupting you, but frankly, the American people deserve to have two or three minutes of the truth. And here’s the truth: I’ve traveled with Donald Trump all across the country and the world. I would be with the president with a campaign plan with a rally in 20 minutes and he would be...”
“You’ve already made this point, Stephen,” Tapper interjected. “You’ve already said that. We let you say that at the top.”
The two then went on to discuss Trump’s letter firing former FBI Director James Comey before turning to Trump’s mental fitness for the presidency.
When asked whether he thinks that Trump’s Saturday tweets describing himself as “like really smart” and “a very stable genius” are helpful or hurtful to the notion that Trump is stable enough for the presidency, Miller took the opportunity to continue to hit back at CNN.
“Not only do I think helping, but I think in the toxic environment that you’ve created here ... which is a real crisis of legitimacy for your network, and we saw it, of course, with the extremely fake news you reported about the Don Jr. and Wikileaks story. That was a huge embarrassment for your network,” Miller said over Tapper’s objections. “Just like the huge embarrassment you had when you got the Comey testimony wrong.”
“Stephen, I’m trying to get to the issue of the president’s fitness, which a lot of people are...” Tapper responded.
“Well, I’m getting to the issue of your fitness,” Miller interjected. “But the president’s tweets absolutely reaffirm the plain-spoken truth: A self-made billionaire revolutionized reality TV and tapped into something magical that’s happening in the hearts of this country.”
“The president has an approval rating in the 30s. I don’t know what ‘magical’ you’re talking about,” Tapper responded.
The two continued to talk over each other as Miller reiterated his claims that CNN doesn’t “connect with and understand” Trump voters, leading Tapper to finally conclude: “Okay. You’re not answering the questions.”
“I get it, there is one viewer that you care about right now and you’re being obsequious ... to please him,” Tapper said as Miller continued to speak and attempt to reiterate his talking points. “I think I’ve wasted enough of my viewers’ time. Thank you, Stephen.”
Regardless of how the interview went in actuality, though, the “one viewer” that Tapper claimed Miller had in mind at least considered it to be a success.
“Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump administration,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”