The Slatest

Trump Tells Mick Mulvaney to Leave Oval Office for Coughing During an Interview

Trump speaks in the Rose Garden.
President Trump speaks at an event at the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday
Jim Watson/Getty Images

President Donald Trump interrupted an interview in the Oval Office with ABC News that aired Sunday night to chastise his acting chief of staff for coughing.

“Let’s do that over, he’s coughing in the middle of my answer,” Trump said. “I don’t like that, you know, I don’t like that.”

He continued, shaking his head: “If you’re going to cough, please leave the room. You just can’t, you just can’t cough. Boy oh boy.”

Trump, a self-described germaphobe, was speaking during the second part of a lengthy interview with host George Stephanopoulos. At the time, Trump was talking about his “financial statement”—apparently a reference to his tax returns, which he has refused to make public in a break with presidential tradition. Trump has claimed in the past that he could not release them because they were under audit and that he didn’t need to, anyway, because the public does not care about them (public polling has indicated otherwise). The Internal Revenue Service, however, concluded in a memo that Congress could subpoena Trump for his taxes—Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has defied a congressional subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee for the president’s taxes—unless Trump invoked executive privilege. Last week, the Justice Department publicly backed Trump, arguing Mnuchin was right to refuse the subpoena because it served no “legitimate legislative purpose.”

Trump, speaking to Stephanopoulos said he “hoped” Congress “at some point … get it because it’s a fantastic financial statement.” At this point, the cough interrupted Trump’s thoughts, but he carried on: “Frankly, I’d like to have people see my financial statement because it’s phenomenal.”

“It’s up to you,” Stephanopoulos said.

“No, it’s not up to me,” Trump responded. “It’s up to lawyers, it’s up to everything else.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Trump also touched on, among other things, his re-election campaign (he said he plans to focus on health care); North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and nuclear testing (“He promised me he wouldn’t be testing. I think he’d like to meet again. And I think he likes me a lot.”); and polling (they “show I’m winning everywhere”). He said and repeated a number of lies and falsehoods (Hillary Clinton did not “conspire with Russia;” evidence says he did plan to fire Mueller, etc.). And he made one particularly strange claim about a previous president when he was complaining about what he sees as his own poor treatment by the press:

[T]hey do say Abraham Lincoln was treated really badly. I must say that’s the one. If you can believe it, Abraham Lincoln was treated supposedly very badly. But nobody’s been treated badly like me.