President Donald Trump acknowledged that he made mistakes during his first term in office, saying that most issues arose from the people he chose to fill various roles in office.
In an interview that aired July 16, Mr. Trump sat down with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo to discuss an array of issues, including whether he thought he made any mistakes during his term.
Ms. Bartiromo asked, “If there’s anything that you could look back on in  that you think maybe you want to do differently this time around?”
Mr. Trump replied, “The mistake would be people. I mean, I wouldn’t have put a guy like Bill Barr in—he was weak and pathetic,” a reference to his former attorney general, who has spoken out against Mr. Trump since leaving office and has expressed opposition to a second term for the former president.
“I wouldn’t have put Jeff Sessions in,” Mr. Trump said, a reference to another former attorney general with whom Mr. Trump clashed.
“There are some people that I wouldn’t have put in. You know, most people were good. But I had some people—we had [former Secretary of Defense Mark] Esper. I didn’t like him. He was incompetent. I thought we had other people I didn’t like.”
Ms. Bartiromo replied, “Why did you put them in the job then?”
“Because every—look, every president, you put somebody in, you think they’re good,” Mr. Trump said. “But one thing that has happened and I find it very interesting, and this is the way life goes, I put people in—I was there 17 times in Washington, D.C. my whole life. I never stayed overnight. The press actually reported 70 I don’t know if it’s right, but it’s probably pretty right.
“I never stayed overnight. Ever. And then all of a sudden, I’m the President of the United States and it’s like a different society. I was New York and you know, it was a different thing. So I didn’t know people, I became President,” Mr. Trump said, adding later, “I never was involved in that.”
“So you didn’t know what to expect?” Ms. Bartiromo asked.
“No, no,” Mr. Trump cut in. “I didn’t know the people. I know the people now better than anybody has ever known the people. I know the good ones, the bad ones, the dumb ones, the smart ones.”
‘Drain the Swamp’?
Mr. Trump was also pressed on whether he had “drained the swamp,” a reference to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign pledge to root out D.C. bureaucrats and other entrenched establishment figures in the capital city.
“You didn’t drain the swamp like you said you would, you didn’t drain the swamp,” Ms. Bartiromo said, a common criticism of the former president by conservative elements in the party who feel he failed to live up to his 2016 campaign promises.
Mr. Trump replied that he had, citing his decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey from his post.
“I did. I fired Comey. I fired a lot of people. A lot of the people I had I fired, I fired Comey very early,” Mr. Trump said, referencing his unprecedented May 2017 decision to remove the FBI chief. “And you know, there was a question as to whether or not you could, but I fired Comey.”
Mr. Comey drew condemnation from Mr. Trump after he decided ahead of the 2016 election not to prosecute Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for illegally handling classified government information on a private email server, a decision which Mr. Trump characterized as politically shielding Ms. Clinton.
During his first year in office, Mr. Trump set records for the turnover rate of positions within his cabinet, as he removed several appointees who failed to live up to his expectations.
Mr. Trump is currently leading the field for the 2024 Republican nomination by double-digit margins.