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10 questions CNN should ask Trump

Personally, I wouldn’t interview a man who has used live events to incite violence and tell lies. But if I did, I would have some very tough questions prepared.
Former President Donald Trump speaks in Manchester, N.H.
Former President Donald Trump speaks in Manchester, N.H., on April 27.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

Some in our media have better learned how to cover Donald J. Trump since the mistakes made starting in 2015 when the then-reality TV star first came down that golden escalator. CNN, however, appears determined to ignore those lessons and will host a live town hall with Trump on Wednesday in New Hampshire. So, will the network’s CEO, Chris Licht, end up regretting giving Trump this particular platform? Remember, his predecessor, Jeff Zucker, admitted it was a "mistake" to run all those Trump rallies uninterrupted back in 2016.

Will CEO Chris Licht end up regretting giving Trump this particular platform?

CNN’s political director David Chalian defended CNN’s decision to Vanity Fair, acknowledging that while Trump’s history makes him a “unique candidate,” it “does not make our approach any different, in the sense that we hold every candidate who comes to CNN accountable for their words.” 

I hope they do. Personally, I wouldn’t interview a man who has used live events to incite violence and tell lies — who has, in the past, even encouraged violence against CNN itself! I wouldn’t normalize him in that way.

But if I were going to interview him, then I would have some very tough, and very specific, questions prepared. Here are 10 I would ask Trump if I had to do an interview with him, questions that CNN should consider posing to the indicted former president Wednesday night.

Question #1: The president of the United States swears an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” You are on record, Mr. Trump, just a few months ago, calling for the “termination” of parts of the Constitution. So you have disqualified yourself from the presidency, have you not?

Question #2: Many would argue that you, Mr. Trump, disqualified yourself from the presidency on Jan. 6,  2021, when you incited a mob you knew was armed to march on Congress and “fight like hell,”  a mob that included Proud Boys since convicted of seditious conspiracy. And on the day itself, it wasn’t just Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham who sent texts to your chief of staff demanding you condemn the violence, but also your own son Don Jr.  Why didn’t you condemn the rioters? And why did your own son have to beg you to do it?

Question #3: On that Jan. 6, more than 140 police officers were injured by your supporters. They suffered brain injuries, cracked ribs, one even lost part of his finger. And yet you, Mr. Trump, have repeatedly vowed to pardon the people who did that to them, and even took part in a music video with some of those people. Why would any American who believes in law and order, who supports the police, vote for you?

Question #4: You were caught on tape just last month hugging a woman convicted for her role in the Jan. 6 riots. Again, why should anyone who believes in law and order, who supports the police, supports democracy, vote for you given your open and deliberate support for convicted criminals?

Question #5: In January 2021, you told Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find you extra votes — 11,780 to be precise. You also claimed in that call that 5,000 dead people had voted in Georgia, even though a study commissioned by your own campaign had found a day before that call that only nine so-called dead voters had cast ballots in Georgia in 2020. Why were you off by 4,991 dead voters? That was a blatant lie, was it not?

Question #6: You are being investigated by special counsel Jack Smith for your mishandling of classified documents, but, Mr. Trump, you say the Presidential Records Act allowed you to “negotiate” and “discuss” with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) over which documents to give up. That’s false, isn’t it? It doesn’t say that anywhere in the Presidential Records Act. It says you have to give up all documents the moment you leave office. So, tonight can you point to where exactly it says that in the Presidential Records Act, or will you finally admit that you’re just making that up?

Trump is a master of both dissembling and deflecting — especially on live TV when it’s much harder to fact-check him in real time.

Question #7: You have been charged in Manhattan with 34 felony counts related to hush money paid to two women, including a payment of $130,000 to adult film star Stormy Daniels, with whom you’re accused of having had a sexual encounter. Mr. Trump, in April 2018, you told reporters you didn’t know about the payments to Daniels. That was a lie.  Your own lawyer has admitted that was false; so why should any American believe a single word you say?

Question #8: Do you want to apologize tonight to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has received death threats after you posted images of yourself holding a baseball bat next to his head? And do you also want to apologize for referring to Bragg, this Black prosecutor, as a “degenerate psychopath” and an “animal”?

Question #9:  A jury just found you liable for sexual abuse and for defaming E. Jean Carroll in your own civil rape trial in New York. You declined to testify and declined to even show up. Throughout American history, candidates for high office have had to quit over allegations of sexual indiscretions and yet here you are, asking the American public to give you a second term, after a jury of your peers found you liable for sexual abuse. Why aren’t you pulling out of the race right now?

Question #10: You have said you wouldn’t pick Ron DeSantis to be your running mate, but why would anyone agree to be your vice president, given that the last guy who took that job says you “endangered” him and his family when your supporters threatened  to kill him on Jan. 6, and while you, according to your own chief of staff, said he “deserved” it?

Obviously, each of these 10 questions requires forensic follow-ups. You can’t just ask one and then … move on. Trump, remember, is a master of both dissembling and deflecting — especially on live TV when it’s much harder to fact-check him in real time, and in front of an audience that will include his supporters.

So, good luck, CNN. But I wish you weren’t doing this.