In a wide-ranging interview with Fox News that aired Sunday, President Donald Trump doled out an employee evaluation of sorts for some of his administration’s top officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, whom the media have claimed he wants to fire.
“Well, I like her a lot, I respect her a lot, she’s very smart,” he said, before admitting that he’d like to see her “get much tougher” on border control issues, especially in light of the incoming caravan.
“I like her very much, I respect her very much, [but] I’d like her to be much tougher on the border — much tougher, period,” he continued, adding there’s a “chance” she’ll remain at her post.
Trump’s statements on Chief of Staff John Kelly, on the other hand, were a bit more in line with media reports of his alleged dissatisfaction with the chief’s management of the White House.
“There are certain things I love what he does, and there are certain things that I don’t like that he does — that aren’t his strength,” he said, seemingly confirming the media’s allegations.
“It’s not that he doesn’t do — you know he works so hard. He’s doing an excellent job in many ways. There are a couple of things where it’s just not his strength. It’s not his fault, it’s not his strength. … But John, at some point, is going to want to move on. John will move on.”
Interviewer Chris Wallace then turned his attention to newly-installed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. While there hasn’t been enough time for Trump to evaluate him, the president seemed taken aback when Wallace revealed that Whitaker is a longtime critic of special counsel Robert Mueller.
“I did not know that, I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation as such,” he said, adding that he ultimately sees nothing wrong with the acting attorney general’s criticisms.
“There is no collusion. He happened to be right. So if he said there’s collusion, I’m supposed to take him?” he said, mocking the belief that only Mueller’s sycophants deserve to serve. “Then I wouldn’t take him for two reasons, and the number one reason is the fact that he’d be wrong.”
Regarding Whitaker potentially interfering Mueller’s investigation, Trump said, “Look it’s going to be up to him. I think he’s very well aware politically. I think he’s astute politically. He’s a very smart person. A very respected person. He’s going to do what’s right. I really believe he’s going to do what’s right.”
Also evaluated was former Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel, who stepped down from her post last week after first lady Melania Trump called for her ouster.
“I met with Mira two days ago, and we’re going to move her around,” the president said. Trump said. “She was with me for a long time, although I don’t know her.”
“She’s really somebody I don’t know very well. But we’re going to move her around because she’s got certain talents. But, frankly, she is not — she’ll never be put in the United Nations, let me put it that way. … She’s not too diplomatic, but she’s talented.”
Last week Melania issued a statement through her spokeswoman blasting Ricardel as someone who “no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”
The statement was reportedly prompted by clashes between Ricardel and the first lady’s staff during an October visit to Africa. Exacerbating the feud were rumors that Ricardel had spread false stories about the incident to the media.
The president saved the last evaluation for himself.
“I think I’m doing a great job. We have the best economy we’ve ever had. We’re doing really well. We would have been at war with North Korea if, let’s say, that administration continued forward,” he said, presumably referencing the administration of former President Barack Obama.
“I would give myself, I would – look, I hate to do it, but I will do it, I would give myself an A+, is that enough? Can I go higher than that?”
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