President Donald Trump called in to Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” morning show on Thursday, criticizing Democrats and the Justice Department and calling former FBI Director James Comey “a leaker and a liar” in a wide-ranging interview.
Trump called in to the news show after his pick to head the Department of Veterans Affairs, White House physician Ronny Jackson, announced he would no longer pursue the post. Jackson and the president faced criticism after reports surfaced that the doctor was accused of overprescribing pills and crashing a government vehicle while drunk.
Trump blamed Democrats for the decision, insisting that lawmakers were dragging out the process and keeping “the best people in our country” from quickly taking positions.
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“I even told him a day or two ago, I saw this, where this was going," he said, telling the “Fox & Friends” hosts that Democrats were disappointed after failing to stop the nomination of former CIA Director Mike Pompeo as chief of staff.
"They thought they had him stopped. The Democrats are obstructionists, it’s horrible what they’re doing,” Trump said. “They’re not approving people. ... It’s a disgrace.”
Trump singled out Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, telling “Fox & Friends” that the senator from Montana will “have a big price to pay” with voters for the statements he’s made about Jackson.
"For Jon Tester to bring up stuff like 'candy man' and the kinds of things he was saying and then to say, 'Well, you know, these are statements that were made.' There is no proof of this," Trump said. "For him to be doing this to this man and his family, I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana. I don't think people in Montana — the admiral is the kind of person that they respect and admire — and they don't like seeing what's happened to him.”
The president added that Jackson has an unblemished record. Jackson, a U.S. Navy rear admiral, was appointed in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama to serve as physician to the president.
Trump hinted that he has a new nominee in mind for the post, but he declined to name the person, saying only that it was “somebody with political capabilities.”
He repeated his claim that the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election amounted to little more than a “witch hunt,” telling “Fox & Friends” that he had resolved to stay out of the probe but that he might change his mind.
“Because of the fact that they have this witch hunt going on with people in the Justice Department that shouldn't be there -- they have a witch hunt against the president of the United States going on -- I’ve taken the position, and I don't have to take this position, and maybe I'll change, that I will not be involved with the Justice Department,” Trump said. “It is all lies and it is a horrible thing that is going on, a horrible thing.”
The president also said memos written by Comey and leaked to the media last week included “a lot of phony stuff.”
"He didn't write those memos accurately," Trump said. He pointed specifically to Comey’s claims that the president told him on two occasions that he didn’t stay in Moscow overnight in 2013, around the time of the Miss Universe pageant.
“I went to Russia for a day or so -- a day or two -- because I own the Miss Universe pageant, so I went there to watch it,” Trump said. “He said I didn’t stay there a night. Of course I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but of course I stayed.”
The unusual call started with the president mentioning that Thursday is the birthday of his wife, first lady Melania Trump.
He praised her for hosting the first couple’s first state dinner and the visit by French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump said the meetings accomplished a lot and that Macron views Iran differently than he did before he walked into the Oval Office.