Trump works the refs, hits the media, casts doubt on debates

Sean Spicer disagreed with his former boss.

Pam Bondi, now a White House official, disagreed with her current boss.

Spicer told me, and the former Florida attorney general told “Fox News Sunday,” that it was a good thing that James Comey was being interviewed on Fox.

“You were able to expose him,” Spicer said. “I don’t think he’d get the same tough questions that he does when he goes on MSNBC or CNN.”

In fact, Chris Wallace was widely praised for an aggressive interview that led the former FBI director to say he was “wrong” in defending the FISA process in light of the abuses, and at one point to say he was “sorry.” (Comey also said the suggestions that he had committed treason or might be headed to prison proved to be totally overblown.)

But this is what President Trump tweeted before the interview:

“Hard to believe that @FoxNews will be interviewing sleazebag & totally discredited former FBI Director James Comey, & also corrupt politician Adam ‘Shifty’ Schiff.” Fox is trying sooo hard to be politically correct…”

He went on: “Both Commiecast NBC & Fake News CNN are watching their ratings TANK. Fredo on CNN [his insulting nickname for Chris Cuomo] is dying. Don’t know why @FoxNews wants to be more like them…Only pro Trump Fox shows do well. Rest are nothing. How’s Shep doing?”

And yet, after the Wallace interview, the president said on Twitter: “So now Comey’s admitting he was wrong. Wow, but he’s only doing so because he got caught red handed…Where are the apologies to me and others, Jim?”

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Of course, Comey would have made no such admission if Fox had followed Trump’s advice and declined to book him.

I don’t know why Trump persists in saying that Fox News shouldn’t interview Democrats or presidential critics, that doing so is PC or trying to be more like its rivals. It’s a news network, of course we cover both sides. And of course the president prefers the “pro Trump” shows, but that’s the opinion side.

What he is doing here, quite simply, is working the refs.

Trump also took a shot at the latest Fox poll, which shows 50 percent of those surveyed favoring impeachment and removal, virtually unchanged from the last poll. He called the survey “ridiculous,” saying Fox polls are “always inaccurate,” heavily weighted toward Democrats: “Get a new pollster!” But other recent media surveys are within a few points of the Fox findings.

Trump also essentially confirmed a New York Times piece that he is weighing whether to skip the 2020 debates based on concern about the fairness of the moderators. I’d been told this months ago but figured he was just venting.

While saying he looks forward to debating whoever “stumbles across the finish line,” Trump said: “The problem is that the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates is stacked with Trump Haters & Never Trumpers. 3 years ago they were forced to publicly apologize for modulating my microphone in the first debate against Crooked Hillary.”

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For the record, the commission, which was formed in 1987 to take politics out of the debates, is co-chaired by former Republican and Democratic officials. Last time, it was ex-GOP Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf and former Clinton Press Secretary Mike McCurry. The panel did express regret for the microphone snafu. Trump says he might do the debates “directly” instead, but that would leave open the question of who would stage them, pay for them and pick the moderators. Again, working the refs.

Beyond these broadsides, the president—who last week set a personal record with 123 tweets and retweets in one day—is spraying other targets in particularly harsh terms.

He took a swipe at Greta Thunberg when the 16-year-old climate activist, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was named Time’s Person of the Year, saying she should work on her “anger management.”

He took a whack at Nancy Pelosi, who is orchestrating his impeachment, by saying of the 78-year-old speaker that “Nancy’s teeth were falling out of her mouth.”

Anyone who thinks either of these tweets is helpful to the president has lost all perspective.

I’m not one who thinks Trump should stay off Twitter. He’s created an alternative media channel. His supporters love his barroom-brawl style, which was the key to getting him elected.

So he’s free to work the refs, rip the media and insult his detractors. But sometimes, when you try to punch someone in the teeth, the detractors bite back.