Donald Trump was "happy" with Jonathan Swan's viral TV interview, the reporter reveals, describing how the President can win the US election despite being "in absolute crisis".

The Australian journalist's viral interview has been called a "train wreck" for the US President, watched by tens of millions around the world and the subject of memes and now a Tonight show host Jimmy Fallon parody.

But Swan, 35, said that in a brief conversation after the 35 minute grilling, Mr Trump appeared pleased with the outcome and all he wanted was the interview be broadcast in its entirety.

"After the interview President Trump said to me, 'You've got to run it in full. You can't be editing, you can't be cutting me off, you've got to let the sentences flow'," Swan said.


"So we went with the President's editorial judgment in this instance."

In two different interviews since the Trump interview, Swan described in fascinating detail how the TV-obsessed President created his persona "through television, through media".

Swan has also revealed how Mr Trump can still win the US election, notwithstanding the deep crisis he is currently in.

Swan was speaking with former Australian US ambassador Joe Hockey and with ABC Radio National Breakfast broadcaster, Fran Kelly.

But Swan said Mr Trump's positive thinking mantra, a philosophy invented by a religious eccentric in the 1950s, was for the first time in his life not working.

"This is probably the first time in his political life when he's faced with a crisis that he cannot spin his way out of," Swan said.

"The power of positive thinking is where you make the claim regardless of whether it's true or not."

Swan said that in Mr Trump's interview with him, broadcast on Axios for HBO, the President had tried to spin his way out of the fact the reporter kept pressing, that 1000 American are dying daily from coronavirus.


"But, you know, it can't be spun," Swan said.

"I really wanted to keep bringing it back to that ... very raw fact, that's undeniable, that can't be spun away.

"Which is America, the leader of the free world, with all of its advanced science and medicine is doing so much worse than ... all of these other advanced countries on that metric of death as a proportion of population for this virus.

Jonathan Swan's interview with Donald Trump. Photo / Axios on HBO
Jonathan Swan's interview with Donald Trump. Photo / Axios on HBO

"What I was talking about was Mr President, America, when you take its population and the number of deaths is not doing the worst in the world, but (it's) pretty close.

"I think he's deeply, deeply frustrated that his old moves aren't working with this crisis.

"The problem with this virus, it resists this type of publicity. It is resilient to any type of spin."


Asked about Mr Trump's almost friendly demeanour during the interview, letting Swan interrupt and calling him by his first name several times, the reporter denied having any special relationship with the President.

"I don't really have a relationship with him that's sort of more than someone who's covered him now for almost five years," Swan told Fran Kelly.

"The thing you've got to understand about this President is he is obsessed with media and driven by media in a way that, no matter what you read about him, it still doesn't fully explain about the level of obsession with media.

"He is a media creation. He's created himself through television, through media.

"He's obsessed with it. He knows programming, he watches an inordinate amount of television.

"He's obsessed with ratings. He knows the nuances of different shows, he knows the hosts.


"If you cover him, he is aware of you in an intense way, and particularly if you are not only covering him in print but appearing on television."

Swan said he was grateful to have gained an interview with Mr Trump, but that the President had been doing "a spree" of interviews, including a "tough" one with "top tier" Fox reporter Chris Wallace.

"I went in with frankly the knowledge that I'm probably not going to get another TV sit down with him," Swan said.

"To get that opportunity I recognised it was incredibly rare,

"We are at a moment when a President of the United States is in absolute crisis.

"Handling the worst pandemic in a century, with an economic crisis overlaid over the top of it.


"He is like no other president in my lifetime ... or even in American history.

"I really wanted to try to explore with him ... how does he grapple with the fact that when he was a private citizen he was always talking about leadership and responsibility.

"He used to be so tough on (former president Barrack) Obama, he even called for Obama to resign when Ebola reached America

"Only two people died of Ebola.

"I was curious whether there was any level of remorse, regret, self-reflection, even admission that he'd made some mistakes to create a situation where America has just such a horrible outcome compared to other advanced countries on the measure of death."

 Jonathan Swan's viral interview has been called a
Jonathan Swan's viral interview has been called a "train wreck" for the US President. Photo / Axios on HBO

During the interview Mr Trump seemed to attempt to shrug away the death toll per capita statistic Swan pressed him on, at one point saying "it is what it is".


Swan said the President's attempt to spin the statistics, by having "his staff pick out ... a graph for the one data point that paints him in a positive light on the subject of death" was classic Trump.

"He ascribes to this positive thinking philosophy this Christian minister Norman Vincent Peale, a popular self help figure in the 1950s, spawned," Swan said.

Mr Trump "was almost fanatical about" it and "lived his life through this idea that if you visualise something, if you believe it, if you say it will be real".

"This is sort of you know a fairly hokey, clichéd kind of ... mantra which is probably perfectly harmless.

"It may be even helpful in the words of commercial real estate and reality television.

"It's even been helpful to him politically to a large extent, making huge claims regardless of whether they bear any resemblance to reality.


"But you can't spin the virus."

Joe Hockey said in his interview with Swan, in a webinar set up by the American Australian Association, that Trump's "main political opponent is coronavirus".

Swan told Mr Hockey that Mr Trump's election campaign was going to run on his economy being the greatest in US history, but Covid-19 had destroyed that central concept.

He said the plans for rallies and mass door knocking operations in what would have been a very "tactile" campaign had evaporated in the pandemic's path.

He said Mr Trump was "very frustrated" at not being able to campaign in the only way he can effectively win the hearts and minds of American voters.

In his interview with Swan, Mr Trump was fervently against mail-in votes which he suggested were rigged.


Mr Hockey discussed with Swan the idea that if Mr Trump was ahead on the night of the election, but was then beaten by Democrat candidate Joe Biden in the wake of a large mail-in ballot.

The suggestion is that Mr Trump would call on his lawyers and then "cancel" the election.

"I don't think it's a leap to say Trump will litigate," Swan said.

But Swan said Mr Trump could still make his way into a second term as President.

Swan said Mr Biden has to win the state of Pennsylvania to win the election.

"Without Pennsylvania and Michigan, you can't win. They are the paths to the presidency," he said.


"If Trump can win Pennsylvania, it's going to be very difficult for Biden to win the presidency.

"And that's why the Trump campaign is spending so much money in Pennsylvania."

And although Mr Biden was currently "ahead in Florida", Swan doubted the margin was as great as Democrats thought.

And Mr Trump's campaign would be pouring resources into Pennsylvania in a mammoth effort to swing that state to him.

"Trump ... will spend an absolute fortune in Florida," Swan said.