U.S. President Donald Trump addressed some of his most controversial claims — including his Obama wiretap allegations and his support of a conspiracy theory about Sen. Ted Cruz‘s father and the JFK assassination — in a cover-story interview with Time magazine on Wednesday.
He defended his many statements to Time‘s Washington bureau chief Michael Scherer for the magazine’s cover story, titled Is Truth Dead?, with as straightforward an answer as one could give:
“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right,” said Trump defiantly. “Hey, look, in the meantime, I guess I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.”
According to his answers in the interview, Trump still stands by his wiretapping accusation, insisting that the phones at Trump Tower were compromised during the 2016 election. (FBI Director James Comey refuted this allegation in front of the House Intelligence Committee earlier this week.) Because Trump put the word “wiretapping” in quotes, he says that he was really referring to surveillance.
“When I said wiretapping, it was in quotes. Because a wiretapping is … today it is different than wire tapping. It is just a good description. But wiretapping was in quotes. What I’m talking about is surveillance,” Trump said.
In further defense of his wiretapping accusation, Trump referred to Wednesday’s press conference with Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. During the conference, Nunes stated that communications between Trump and any associates may have been picked up post-election by intelligence groups conducting foreign-target surveillance. Trump interprets Nunes’ comments to fall in line with his own: that he and his team were being watched without their knowledge during the election.
“Nunes had a news conference, did you hear about this? They have a lot of information on tapping.” Trump said to Time. “House intelligence chairman Devin Nunes told reporters, wow. Nunes said, so that means I’m right, Nunes said the surveillance appears to have been … incidental collection, that does not appear to have been related to concerns over Russia.”
As for the Cruz-JFK assassination connection conspiracy theory, Trump defers to a “newspaper article” he saw. As of late, the president has deflected backlash from things he’s said onto news organizations, laying blame at the feet of publications and news broadcasts. (For example, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said a Fox News segment first mentioned the possibility of wiretapping, and Trump was merely quoting that segment.)
“Well, that was in a newspaper,” Trump said about the Cruz conspiracy theory. “No, no, I like Ted Cruz. He’s a friend of mine. I wasn’t, I didn’t say that. I was referring to a newspaper. A Ted Cruz article referred to a newspaper story with — had a picture of Ted Cruz, his father, and [suspected JFK assassin] Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast.”
After the reporter addresses several of Trump’s other claims, like the dangerous, inflammatory idea that New Jersey Muslims celebrated on 9/11 (to which he again deferred to a Washington Post article), Trump laser-focused on the fact that “many, many things” he predicts turn out to be right.
“What am I going to tell you? I tend to be right,” he said. “I’m an instinctual person, I happen to be a person that knows how life works.”
Trump also repeated that he accurately predicted that Brexit would happen, and the U.K. would exit the European Union.
“Brexit, I predicted Brexit, you remember that, the day before the event. I said, ‘No, Brexit is going to happen,’ and everybody laughed, and Brexit happened. Many, many things. They turn out to be right,” he said.
He and Scherer also discussed Trump’s infamous Time magazine cover, and the president insisted that “nobody’s had more covers” than him. When Scherer tells him that former president Richard Nixon actually has him beat, but he still has time for more covers, Trump replied, “OK, good. I’m sure I’ll win.”