CNN anchor Chris Cuomo grilled President Donald Trump’s top counselor Kellyanne Conway on Monday about the president’s unfounded surveillance claims and the quality of the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
When asked on Sunday about Trump’s unfounded claims that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower before the election, Conway had responded by citing the “many ways to surveil each other now, unfortunately.”
“There was an article this week that talked about how you can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets,” Conway said Sunday. “Any number of different ways. Microwaves that turn into cameras, etcetera.”
In a live televised interview that lasted over 20 minutes on CNN on Monday morning, Conway appeared to slightly walk back her statement, saying she was “not Inspector Gadget” and didn’t think people used microwaves to spy on the Trump campaign.
“I was answering a question about surveillance techniques generally,” Conway said. “I was reflecting what people saw in the news last week, which was several articles about how we can surveil each other generally.”
But Cuomo pressed Conway about why she raised the surveillance capabilities in the first place, if not to insinuate that it was possible Obama could have surveilled Trump.
“This goes to personal integrity, what kind of message you’re putting out,” Cuomo said. “And this seems to be a distraction. You’ve now had injected into this look at what Russia’s contacts are with the campaign this wiretapping that is without basis. And the person who made the accusation could answer it with a phone call and for some reason hasn’t. It doesn’t seem right, Kellyanne.”
He added: “It seemed to be an effective way of putting more doubt on a situation. That’s what it came across as.”
“Maybe to you and maybe to other people who don’t necessarily want Donald Trump to be the president. But other people, they see it as what it was,” Conway replied, before briefly praising the House and Senate intelligence committees’ moves to investigate Trump’s claims.
Cuomo took issue with Conway’s insinuation that the CNN anchor did not want Trump to be president.
“That is just not fair,” Cuomo said. “My questioning of you, my questioning of his baseless claim about wiretapping is not about not wanting the president to be president. That is unfair and it’s hurtful because you’re feeding people’s animosity.”
“Feeding people’s animosity?” Conway replied. “Look over your shoulder. I have 24-7 Secret Service protection because of people feeding people’s animosity. So don’t claim that privilege.”
The heated interview continued for another 15 minutes as the two sparred over Trump’s flip-flop on the veracity of the monthly federal jobs report and claims that the Republican-introduced American Health Care Act would provide better care for Americans than the ACA, the healthcare law better known as Obamacare.
The two appeared to agree on few facts.
Cuomo argued that it was a “red herring” for Republicans to suggest that purchasing healthcare across state lines could reduce cost and that some states hamstrung themselves by refusing to accept the Medicaid expansion offered under Obamacare that could have helped more people afford health insurance.
Conway pointed out that some insurance companies had claimed Obamacare was in a “death spiral,” and she said Obamacare was preventing people from affording health insurance, a claim Cuomo said was “just a slogan.”
“You just told millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance that they are just a slogan,” Conway said.
“No I didn’t,” Cuomo said. “Listen, Kellyanne I did not just tell anyone they’re just a slogan. That’s what gets you in trouble. I’m not someone who doesn’t want President Trump to be president so I ask tough questions. I’m not someone who is calling people a slogan.”
“You’re taking things way too personally,” Conway said.
The exchanged represented a return to form for Conway, who claimed she would not appear on television as frequently in the days after her endorsement of Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, a move that earned a rebuke from government ethics watchdogs.
The exchange may have also had some fairly high-profile viewers.
Shortly after the interview concluded, Trump used Twitter to defend his television surrogates.
It is amazing how rude much of the media is to my very hard working representatives. Be nice, you will do much better!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2017