‘Are you ready for tough questions?’ Top moments from Trump's combative interview with Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes

Nicholas Wu and Sean Rossman, USA TODAY
·6 min read

WASHINGTON – “60 Minutes” host Lesley Stahl started her interview President Donald Trump with a question about the interview itself: “Are you ready for some tough questions?”

Trump responded by asking for “fairness" and wondering aloud if she asked Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tough questions too, a probe he'd repeat throughout the 38-minute contentious interview the two had Tuesday.

Trump has used the interview, which he abruptly cut short, to continue attacks on the media ahead of the final presidential debate. The interview, which originally was set to air on Sunday, was released early by Trump on Thursday, when he told his Twitter followers to “look at the bias, hatred, and rudeness” from Stahl and CBS, an accusation not supported by the video.

The White House had its own camera running during the interview, ostensibly for archival purposes, and in releasing its own tape of the interview, violated an agreement with CBS, the station said.

The interview will still be broadcast on "60 Minutes" on Sunday. The program is scheduled to air taped interviews with all four national candidates: Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as Biden and running mate Kamala Harris.

Trump: Trump releases '60 Minutes' tape of contentious interview with Lesley Stahl

Here are some of the top moments from Stahl’s interview with Trump:

‘You would never say that to Biden’

The president repeatedly insisted Stahl would not have asked similar 'hard' questions to Biden.

“You would never say that to Biden,” Trump said when Stahl challenged him on his claim he “created the greatest economy in the history of the country.”

“I wish you would interview Joe Biden like you interview me,” Trump said later in the interview, accusing Stahl of “protecting” Biden.

The media would rather ask Biden what kind of ice cream he liked, Trump said, than about unverified allegations against his son Hunter Biden.

After Vice President Mike Pence entered the room, Trump asked him about Stahl’s questioning.

"You think she'd ask questions like this of Joe?" Trump asked his vice president.

Questions about rallies and COVID-19

Stahl’s questions about Trump’s rallies and their participants’ lack of mask-wearing amid the COVID-19 pandemic drew a sharp response from the president.

“I'm watching all these people jammed in together. And I'm seeing most of them without masks. And I'm wondering the message that you're sending with these pictures,” she said.

Trump pivoted to a familiar theme – his “record-setting rallies” with “many, many masks.”

Stahl interjected: “you used to have bigger rallies.”

“No, these are much bigger than I ever had. You’re so negative, you’re so negative. These are the biggest rallies we’ve ever had. You just come in here with that negative attitude,” Trump said.

Many attendees at the president’s rallies neither wear masks nor social distance despite the risk of COVID-19.

On Obamacare: ‘I hope that they end it’

During a back-and-forth about the status of Trump’s to-be-released health care plan and whether people with pre-existing conditions would be protected, Stahl asked the president what would happen if the Supreme Court took up the Affordable Care Act, which it's expected to do in November.

Trump replied, “I hope that they end it. It'll be so good if they end it because we will come up with a plan.”

The Supreme Court is set to add another justice, Judge Amy Coney Barrett next week, filling the vacancy left after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Democrats lack the votes to block the nomination but have centered their opposition to her confirmation around the fate of the Affordable Care Act, which they say will be overturned by Trump’s nominee and the conservative majority on the court. Barrett declined to answer questions about the legislation during her confirmation hearings.

‘Why don’t you get back to your interview’

In another exchange, Trump interrupts Stahl’s questioning to complain about media coverage of Joe Biden, accusing the media of going soft on the former vice president while he’s “in the midst of a scandal,” referring to New York Post stories about Hunter Biden’s foreign contacts.

Stahl responds, “He’s not,” to which the president replies “Of course he is, Lesley. You’re like Big tech. You’re protecting him.”

Trump then claims his campaign was spied on, to which Stahl says “There’s no evidence of that.” She interrupts him to say “This is ’60 Minutes’ and we can’t put on things we can’t verify.”

Stahl again says she doesn’t know the accuracy of Trump’s claims before the president says, “So why don’t you get back to your interview and let’s go.”

‘Where are we sitting?’

Stahl and Trump got into another verbal tit-for-tat when Stahl asked whether Trump thinks his tweets and attacks on opponents are turning people off.

Trump responded by asking, “Where are we sitting?”

“In the Roosevelt Room,” Stahl responds.

“Of what?” asks the president.

“The White House,” Stahl says.

Trump, who intermittently accused Biden of corruption, says the press is “very biased, very very biased.”

“You’re trying to discredit us,” she replied.

“You’re discrediting yourself, Lesley,” he said.

“No, you are,” she shot back.

‘You go back home to mommy’

In a discussion about partisanship in the U.S., Trump said the country had been coming together before “the plague.”

Stahl asked whether he does anything to unify the country, to which he responded, “I do, I think I do unify the country. I think I will unify the country. It’s called success.”

She asked if he takes responsibility for the partisanship in America.

“I’d like not to. Perhaps everybody has to take a little responsibility for it,” he said. “But when people put out phony witch hunts, when they spy on your campaign, you have to fight back. And if you don’t fight back, you’re not sitting here very long, you go back home, you go back home to mommy.”

‘You’re very aggressive’

Stahl asked the president why it seems like he’s always attacking others, when Trump butted in.

“I don’t think so. It’s not attack. It’s defense against attacks,” he said.

“You’re very aggressive,” she says.

“I don’t view it that way. I’m defending myself and I’m defending the institution of the presidency,” he replied.

‘I didn’t want this kind of interview’

Before Trump abruptly ended the interview, Trump attacked Stahl one more time.

“I didn’t want to have this kind of interview,” Stahl said.

“Of course you did,” he said. “No I didn’t,” she replied.

Trump said Stahl "brought up a lot of subjects that were inappropriately brought up."

“You’re the president, don’t you think you should be accountable to the American people?” she asked.

Trump said he doesn’t mind “tough questions” from Stahl but that Biden has “never been asked a question that’s hard.”

“Forget him for a minute,” she said. “You’re the president.”

He then interrupted her, saying, “Excuse me, Lesley, you started with me ‘Are you ready for tough questions?’ That’s no way to talk.”

In the final seconds of the clip, a voice off-camera said they have 5 minutes until Pence joins the interview. That’s when Trump says “I think we have enough.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump's '60 Minutes' interview with Lesley Stahl: top moments