President Donald Trump took aim at some usual suspects in his Super Bowl pre-game interview with CBS News, tearing into Rep. Nancy Pelosi and players who disrespect the flag by kneeling in protest during the national anthem, and questioning those who are second-guessing his decision to pull American troops out of both Syria and Afghanistan.
The president also briefly discussed the sport of football, telling CBS reporters that he would not pressure his son Barron to take up the game, knowing the risk of long term brain injury.
Trump called Pelosi “very rigid” and suggested he may go around a negotiating Congress to implement the border wall by declaring a national emergency, something he believes is both appropriate and has precedent.
“I think that [Pelosi] was very rigid — which I would expect — but I think she is very bad for our country,” Trump told reporter Margaret Brennan. “She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it’s very bad politics because basically she wants open borders. She doesn’t mind human trafficking or she wouldn’t do this.”
“She can keep playing her games, but we will win. Because we have a much better issue. On a political basis, what she’s doing is — I actually think it’s bad politics, but much more importantly it’s very bad for our country,” he said.
“You know, there have been plenty national emergencies called,” Trump continued. “And this really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers.”
She “doesn’t mind human trafficking,” Trump added, striking a deep blow at Pelosi.
As for the kneeling NFL players, Trump believes the recent boost in NFL ratings proves he was right that anti-racism protests were souring Americans on professional football. Trump also believes he’s made progress handling some NFL players’ complaints. “A lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking me,” he said, referring to his part in efforts to reform the criminal justice system and grant clemency to a number of federal prisoners serving long sentences for drug crimes.
“You have to respect our flag and our country. I want that as president and I’d want that as a citizen. And I have a very good relationship. I did them a big favor in negotiating the USMCA, which is basically the replacement to NAFTA, which is one of the worst trade deals ever made,” Trump said. “And Roger Goodell, this is a dispute that has gone on for years. Roger Goodell called me and he thanked me.”
In a final interview, which aired just before the game, Trump touted his plan to withdraw American military forces from Syria and Afghanistan, noting that the United States’ commitment to the two countries won’t be dimmed by a change in troop presence.
“We’ll come back if we have to,” Trump said.
“We have very fast airplanes, we have very good cargo planes. We can come back very quickly, and I’m not leaving,” Trump added, hammering in the possibility that American troops could easily re-deploy to the region. “We have a base in Iraq and the base is a fantastic edifice. I mean I was there recently, and I couldn’t believe the money that was spent on these massive runways. And these — I’ve rarely seen anything like it. And it’s there. And we’ll be there. And frankly, we’re hitting the caliphate from Iraq and as we slowly withdraw from Syria.”
The president’s interview was part of a tradition — Trump has made it a point to provide an interview to the network hosting the Super Bowl several times. The president is expected to touch back on many of these themes Tuesday in his State of the Union Address.