But Trump’s demand that players be on the field, his suggestion of mandatory standing, and his idea that protesters should leave the country once again spotlights a dissonance in his thinking. Trump has claimed that religious people are not free to speak their minds (including saying “Merry Christmas”), and he decried efforts to prevent speakers like the conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos from addressing students at the University of California, Berkeley. Yet at the same time, the president is infuriated by athletes, most of them black, who are protesting to bring attention to racial injustice. He seeks to dictate their behavior, and he has argued repeatedly that they should lose their livelihoods.
Trump has also in the past suggested that people should have their citizenship stripped for burning the American flag, which the Supreme Court has deemed protected speech.
The president’s comments about the NFL were the most notable during his interview with Kilmeade, which was taped on Wednesday. The president has not held a press conference in more than a year, and seldom grants on-the-record interviews to non-Fox journalists, but has made the morning show a primary platform. He is said to devotedly watch the show, and often tweets about it in real time. Still, Thursday’s interview was only a short check-in with Kilmeade during the president’s stop in Long Island, far from the free-wheeling, more-than-a-half-hour-long call-in he did in April.
Among other topics, Trump weighed in on the latest skirmish over immigration in Congress. Although he portrayed the matter as a fight between Democrats and Republicans—and said Democrats were feeling the pressure—the reality, as my colleague Russell Berman reports, is a war between moderate Republicans and hardliners. Moderates want a vote on a replacement for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and they’re pursuing a procedure called a discharge petition to force a vote over the objections of GOP leaders. Trump told Kilmeade he would not sign a bill that funded his border wall and replaced DACA without provisions to end the visa lottery and what he has called chain migration. “I think it’s time to get the whole package,” he said.
The president also delivered a confusing riff in which he seemed to imply he didn’t like the process of judges processing immigration cases.
“We’re the only country that has judges,” he said. “They want to hire thousands of judges. Other countries have, it’s called security people, people that stand there and say, ‘You can’t come in.’ We have thousands of judges and you need thousands more judges. The whole system is corrupt. It’s horrible. So yeah, you need thousands of judges based on this crazy system. Who ever heard of a system where you put people through trials?”