We'll get to that one in a moment. We begin with the TIME interview:
“You’ll see something that is amazing. It just happened,” he says as he stands up from the desk. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
What is amazing is what happens next. It isn't off the record, it isn't anonymously sourced; it is deliberate:
“Yes. He was choking on that,” the President chortles. “Is there any record at all of collusion? He was the head of the whole thing. He said no. That’s a big statement.” Trump leaves unmentioned the fact that there is an ongoing FBI counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion, which has not yet reached any conclusions. Nor does he note that Clapper, out of government for nearly four months, could not possibly know everything the FBI has learned, and likely would have not known all even when he was in office. Trump also leaves unmentioned that he had a meeting that day with his new Deputy Attorney General about firing Comey, the director of that investigation.
But for now, Trump is focused on his TV. He watches the screen like a coach going over game tape, studying the opposition, plotting next week’s plays. “This is one of the great inventions of all time—TiVo,” he says as he fast-forwards through the hearing.
Trump is showing the reporter a recording of the televised hearing. This is how he spends his time: watching TV and critiquing it, as if he was the political version of "Mystery Science Theater 3000."
The next clip starts to play, this time showing Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asking Clapper and former acting Attorney General Sally Yates if they ever requested that the names of Trump, his associates or members of Congress be identified by name, or unmasked, in a legal intelligence intercept. “Watch them start to choke like dogs,” Trump says, having fun. “Watch what happens. They are desperate for breath.”
Clapper, on the screen, pauses several beats to search his memory. “Ah, he’s choking. Ah, look,” the President says. After a delay, Clapper finally answers, admitting that he had requested an unmasking, which would have been a routine occurrence in his former job. The running Trump commentary continues. “See the people in the back, people are gasping,” he says, though it’s unclear who he is referring to on the screen. He also mentions the sound of photographers’ cameras clicking on the television.
Moments later, the President watches as both Clapper and Yates testify that they had reviewed intercepts containing the unmasked identities of Trump, his associates and members of Congress. This, to Trump, is yet another victory, the lead-lined proof of his still unproven claim that Obama surveilled him before he was sworn in. “So they surveilled me,” he says. “You guys don’t write that—wiretapped in quotes. They surveilled me.”
This is Nixon talking to the paintings in the White House, except that was an anonymously sourced story, and this is not only witnessed, it is presented to the press by the President. This is what the President thinks is important: commentary on Congressional hearings, analysis that he thinks is insightful. What does he think he's accomplishing? And why does he spend so much time doing it, because it's obvious from this accounting that Trump is not watching this hearing for the first time.
Then again, he told Lester Holt he called James Comey and asked if he, Trump, was being investigated by the FBI. Which is all kinds of improper, and yet another reason why Trump should have not have fired Comey.
Stupid is not a legal defense.