On Sunday morning, ABC’s This Week finally aired its full interview between host George Stephanopoulos and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, a sit-down that drew a huge amount of publicity in the days prior for how the candidate responded to Khizr Khan and Ghazala Khan, the Gold Star parents of slain Muslim-American war hero Captain Humayun Khan.
And while Trump did indeed touch on the Khan controversy, his remarks were very far-ranging, and will likely make news on a number of fronts.
Stephanopoulos introduced the interview, which took place in Colorado Springs, Colorado where Trump is currently campaigning. He remarked that Trump began in an “exuberant” mood over his “ratings win” against Hillary Clinton’s DNC speech, and indeed, the GOP nominee was in a typically boastful mood. His speech accepting the nomination outdrew hers by a few million viewers, although on the whole, the Democratic convention’s ratings were superior.
They didn’t spend much time on that win before Stephanopoulos transitioned to headier, more important issues. First off, Trump responded to the attacks on his temperament lobbed against him during Clinton’s DNC speech, and it’s fair to say he wasn’t buying it. In fact, he went hard in the other direction, insisting he had “a great temperament”—and a winning one, at that. He also accused the Clinton campaign of being the ones stirring up all this talk about his stability, claiming that his temperament had to be good, otherwise he couldn’t have won the Republican primary.
From there, the conversation shifted to Russia, specifically, the extent of Trump’s relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Allegations by U.S. intelligence officials that the Russian government may have been behind the recent hack of thousands of DNC emails as well as Trump’s own attitude towards the hack has called his thoughts on Russia into question.
In 2013, while speaking with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts in Moscow, Trump claimed to have a relationship with the Russian leader. During this campaign season, Putin has hailed Trump as a “genius,” and Trump has defended Putin from allegations that the Russian leader’s been involved in the murders of dissident Russian journalists.
In the thick of a general election campaign, Trump has changed his story. He’s recently remarked that he doesn’t know Putin and knows nothing about him, indicating that he was either lying before or is lying now. Trump once again told Stephanopoulos that he has “no relationship” with Putin, and “doesn’t know him from Adam.”
Stephanopoulos then challenged Trump about his campaign’s decision to intervene in the GOP platform drafting process, removing a provision pledging to arm Ukraine to protect itself from Russian invasion.
Trump denied prior knowledge of the decision, repeatedly insisting he “was not involved,” before insisting that the concern was all a moot point, because Putin definitely wouldn’t enter Ukraine.
“He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.”
When Stephanopoulos pointed out that Putin was actually “already there”?Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014?Trump suggested that the Crimean people were happier that way, before curiously blaming the whole thing on the Obama administration.
“ … the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also. Now, that was, just so you understand, that was done under Obama’s administration. And as far as the Ukraine is concerned, it’s a mess.”
Finally, Trump and Stephanopoulos came to one of the thorniest issues of his campaign so far: his treatment of the Khan family. Khizr Khan’s powerful speech at the DNC touched on many subjects, including the Donald. Khizr suggested that Trump had never read the U.S. Constitution and accused him of having sacrificed nothing and no one for his country. Rather than facing the criticisms head on, Trump instead went after Ghazala Khan, who’d stood silently by her husband’s side during his address to the DNC.
Specifically, he said that “maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say,” insinuating that she was being treated in a domineering way. Ghazala told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell on Friday night that she was more than able to speak, she simply chose not to because her grief over her son’s death is still so overwhelming. On Sunday, she had a more direct reply to Trump: “Shame on him.“
Stephanopoulos then asked Trump what he’d sacrificed, flipping Khizr Khan’s accusation around on him. This is what the interview will perhaps be most remembered for: Trump’s inability to summon up a credible example of a single sacrifice he’d made, while also being unwilling to admit to his life of relative privilege and comfort.
“I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve worked very, very hard. I’ve created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I’ve had tremendous success. … I think they’re sacrifices. I think when I can employ thousands and thousands of people, take care of their education, take care of so many things, even in the military, I mean, I was responsible, along with a group of people, for getting the Vietnam Memorial built in downtown Manhattan, which to this day people thank me for.”
That’s notably not a list of sacrifices, so much as a list of career achievements.
“I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I’ve worked very, very hard.”
To invoke his business career when challenged about sacrifice by the parents of a soldier killed in action (Capt. Humayun Khan was killed by a truck bomb in Iraq in 2004, and was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star) has proven to be yet another deeply troubling and wildly inflammatory step in a campaign full of them.
Trump issued a statement following the interview insisting that, while Humayun Khan was a hero, his father had “no right” to question whether he’d read the Constitution before.
As many have noted, Trump is wrong about that, and in a very suggestive way. If he’s indeed read the Constitution, he’d know that it’s the very first right bestowed—that of freedom of speech. And considering he also wants to defend the Constitution’s entirely nonexistent Article XII, it’s fair to say that Khizr Khan has struck a major nerve.
Update 11:06am CT, Aug. 13: This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Khizr Khan’s first name.