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President Trump, in an interview with Axios that will premiere Sunday on HBO, says railing against his enemies in the media helped him win — and that his supporters like him more when he cranks up the "enemy of the people" rhetoric. 

Why it matters: In modern American history, no other president argued it’s not his job to calm people in a moment of high tension and unease, especially in the days following deadly domestic terrorism. 

Two exchanges during the interview provide a window into why Trump feels no responsibility for how Americans respond to his words or actions: He both feels wronged by the media, and knows he can whip his supporters into a frenzy by pounding the press:"

1) "Axios on HBO": "You are the most powerful man in the world. And if you say that word — 'enemy,' 'enemy,' 'enemy' — think about what enemy means."

  • Trump: "I think I'm doing a service [by attacking the press] when people write stories about me that are so wrong."
  • "I know what I do good and what I do bad. I really get it, OK? I really get it better than anybody in the whole world."

2) “Axios on HBO": "Tens of thousands of people go into a stadium to listen to you, and then people go on social media and they get themselves so jazzed up. There’s got to be a part of you that's like: 'Dammit, I'm scared that someone is gonna take it too far.'"

  • Trump: “It’s my only form of fighting back. I wouldn’t be here if I didn't do that.” 

When asked if people, including his kids, advise him to calm his rhetoric, the president replied: "Not too much. Hey, I'm here! It got me here." 

  • Reality check: White House officials tell us several family members and friends have implored him to tone it down.

Trump, in the interview for “Axios on HBO," which debuts Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT, said Republican election momentum was stopped by "two plots" — the Pittsburgh shooting and the mail bombs.

  • Trump — despite being the world's most powerful man, with the world's most powerful pulpit — portrayed himself as mismatched against a biased press.
  • "If they would write accurately about me, I would be the nicest president you've ever seen. It would be much easier."
  • "It's much easier ... for me to be nice than it is for me to be the way I have to be."

Context ... Both attacks last week were carried out by politically charged individuals:

  • The accused mail bomber, Cesar Sayoc, 56, had decked out his van as a mobile Trump billboard, including a "CNN SUCKS" sticker, and pictures quickly surfaced of him cheering at a Trump rally.
  • In Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers, 46 — who is charged with 44 counts in the 11 deaths, including hate crimes — disparaged Trump online but "pushed online conspiracy theories about the migrant caravan," the N.Y. Times reported.
  • The big picture: An Anti-Defamation League study found that "white supremacists and other far-right extremists" were responsible for 59% of extremist-related fatalities in the U.S. last year, up from 20% in 2016.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.