Trump Reflects on Problematic Personnel Picks
In an interview aired Sunday, former president Donald J. Trump discussed his previous presidential personnel choices and how a potential next term would be different. Speaking to Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo, the 45th president addressed his plans not to participate in a Republican primary debate, his strong primary polling numbers, and the people he chose to both hire and fire while in office. Asked if he would do-over anything from his first term, Trump responded, “The mistake would be people.”
Trump criticized both his U.S. attorney general picks, William Barr and Jeff Sessions, calling Barr “weak and pathetic.” Sessions resigned after recusing himself from leading Russian collusion investigations, leading Trump to doubt the AG’s loyalty. Barr earned the former president’s ire for denigrating his claims that the 2020 presidential election was impacted substantially by voter fraud. Trump also blasted former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, saying, “I didn’t like him. He was incompetent.”
When asked why he picked these people for their respective positions, Trump responded, “Look, every president — you put somebody in, you think they’re good.” He explained that, when elected, he wasn’t intimately familiar with the political and administrative figures of Washington, D.C., having lived and worked in New York City his whole life:
“And then all of a sudden, I’m the President of the United States, and it’s like a different society. I was New York and you know, it was a different thing. So I didn’t know people, I became president. … I didn’t know the people. I know the people now better than anybody has ever known the people. I know the good ones, the bad ones, the dumb ones, the smart ones.”
Trump also recounted some of the decisions he made to oust people from their decisions, particularly former FBI director James Comey. Asked if he had fulfilled his 2016 pledge to “drain the swamp,” the former president responded, “I did. I fired Comey. I fired a lot of people — a lot of the people I had, I fired. I fired Comey very early. … If I didn’t fire Comey, I don’t think I would have been able to serve out my term because that was a plot.” However, Trump replaced Comey with Christopher Wray, who is now embroiled in controversy over politicizing the FBI. Trump admitted that choice was also “probably” a mistake. He lamented the weaponization of the FBI under Biden’s tenure, saying, “The FBI has become tremendously political. DOJ is weaponized. And FBI is weaponized, too.”
He continued to note the double standard in federal law enforcement’s treatment of Trump and its treatment of Biden: “The FBI has tremendous problems of credibility. The DOJ is weaponized like I’ve never seen before. I mean, they come after me on boxes and they can’t find drugs,” referring to the FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago home and recent allegations that law enforcement covered up reported cocaine use by President Joe Biden’s son Hunter in the White House. Last week, Wray defended the raid during a House Oversight Committee hearing.
Despite his previous personnel “mistakes,” Trump did hint at some potential future personnel choices. When asked about a running mate, the former president said he was potentially eyeing primary contender Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) for a position. “I think he’s a very good guy,” Trump said. “I mean, I could see Tim doing something with the administration, but he’s in — right now — campaigning… But Tim is a talented guy…”
Scott is a staunch conservative and has vocally opposed same-sex marriage, gender ideology, and abortion, pledging earlier this year to sign a 20-week abortion ban if he were elected president. Scott and Trump have dialogued before, especially on race relations, when Scott was critical of the president’s comments regarding events at a political rally in Charleston, S.C., and his Twitter posts regarding Black Lives Matter rioters.
Both Trump’s one-time advisor Jared Kushner and former Vice President Mike Pence have been criticized sharply by Trump’s supporters, with many labeling the pair yet another example of poor personnel. On Sunday, Trump also said that there are “other very talented people” running against him in the Republican primary, though he didn’t name them.
S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.