When Stephanopoulos clarified whether Trump was referring to his chief of staff, the president addressed Mulvaney directly. “If you’re going to cough, please leave the room. You just can’t. You just can’t cough. Boy oh boy. Okay, do you want to do that a little differently?”
It is unclear whether Mulvaney ended up leaving the Oval Office or if he was able to suppress the tickle in his throat for the rest of the interview.
Trump and Stephanopoulos then turned back to discussing his finances. During the conversation, the president failed to commit to releasing his personal records despite pressure from Congress. Trump has refused to release his tax returns while in office, which according to CNN makes him the first modern president not to do so.
“They’re after my financial statement, the Senate, they’d like to get my financial statement. At some point I hope they get it,” Trump said. Asked whether he would hand it over, the president replied, “At some point, I might… It’s a fantastic financial statement.” He also suggested the decision is “not up to me, it’s up to lawyers.”
The House Ways and Means Committee has been pushing for Trump’s tax returns for weeks, but the White House has stonewalled all efforts to force their release. On Friday, the Department of Justice released a memo supporting the administration, describing the committee’s demands as “unprecedented” and raising “serious risk of abuse.”
The president’s wide-ranging interview with ABC News produced a host of other talking points. These included Trump’s admission that he might accept information about his 2020 election opponents from foreign governments without notifying the FBI, his assertion that President Barack Obama was involved in alleged efforts to stop him winning the presidency, and his denial that he ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.