President Donald Trump sat down for a nearly hour-long interview with The New York Times – you know, the one he has repeatedly called “failing” – on Wednesday. And he went off on, well, everything.
While his comments about Attorney General Jeff Sessions drew the most attention, there are any number of other quotes in the excerpts of the interview released by the Times that are somewhere between eyebrow-raising and cringe-inducing. The overall impression left by the Trump interview is of a President fixated on the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russia meddling in the 2016 election and ill-served by those around him.
I went through the excerpted transcript and picked out the 35 most remarkable quotes. They’re below.
1. “Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”
This is the sitting attorney general that Trump is talking about. And one of the earliest and most steadfast supporters of his campaign. If you are Jeff Sessions and you read that quote, how do you stay in the job? (He found a way!) By way of context: Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe after it was revealed that he had not disclosed during his confirmation hearing that he had participated in two meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
2. “It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So [Sessions] recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.”
Trump’s victimhood complex is strongly on display here. The big Trump takeaway from the Sessions’ recusal is that it was “extremely unfair” to him. Also, terrific third person-ing here by Trump; the President approves.
3. “So his deputy [Sessions] hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.”
That sound you just heard was subtlety going out the window. Here’s Trump’s logic: He doesn’t know Rosenstein –→ Rosenstein is from Baltimore -→ There are no Republicans in Baltimore -→ Rosenstein is a Democrat -→ Democrats hate Trump so Rosenstein must be biased against him -→ Rosenstein appointing a special counsel on the Russia investigation is totally partisan.
Worth noting: Rosenstein was appointed U.S. Attorney for Maryland by George W. Bush but retained in that role by Barack Obama. He was confirmed as deputy attorney general earlier this year by a 94 to 6 vote.
4. “Did you know [Robert] Mueller was one of the people that was being interviewed?”
This is Trump’s way of impugning the special counsel’s integrity. Mueller was interviewing to be the head of the FBI – a job he already held for more than a decade – and, because he didn’t get it, his investigation is hopelessly biased.
Mueller has been universally praised for his fair-mindedness and thoroughness by politicians in both parties.
5. “There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
Trump innuendo at its finest. There are lots and lots of conflicts as it relates to the people involved in the Russia investigation. He won’t say who or what right now. But, believe him, they exist.
6. “Now, perhaps I would have fired Comey anyway, and it certainly didn’t hurt to have the letter, O.K.”
Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he was going to fire then-FBI Director James Comey regardless of the memo that Rosenstein put together outlining a series of missteps by Comey. That was in direct contradiction to the message coming out of the White House at the time, which was that Comey was fired because of the Rosenstein memo. Now Trump is saying he might have fired Comey anyway but the letter helped. So…..
7. “[Comey] illegally leaks, and everyone thinks it is illegal, and by the way, it looks like it’s classified and all that stuff.”
This is not accurate. Comey wrote seven memos based on his conversations with Trump. Some of those memos contained classified information, the leaking of which would be a illegal. But Comey has said, under oath, that the memo he leaked to a friend regarding his interactions with Trump didn’t contain any classified information. (This is a good explanation of that.)
8. “[Comey’s] testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”
Trump doesn’t detail what these lies were.
9. “My granddaughter Arabella, who speaks — say hello to them in Chinese.”
10. “Good, smart genes”
This is Trump talking about his granddaughter. But, really, Trump talking about Trump.
11. “Um, the Russian investigation — it’s not an investigation, it’s not on me — you know, they’re looking at a lot of things.”
When is an investigation not an investigation? Also, notice how careful Trump is, as always, to make very clear “it’s not on me.”
12. “No, nobody told me. I didn’t know noth—— It’s a very unimportant — sounded like a very unimportant meeting.”
This concerns the June 9, 2016 meeting in which Donald Trump Jr. knew the goal was to provide the campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton – “incriminating” information dug up by a Russia government effort to help his father’s campaign. If it was so “unimportant,” why were three of Trump’s most senior advisers – Trump Jr., campaign chairman Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner there?
13. “There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying.”
Maggie Haberman, one of the three Times reporters interviewing Trump, laughs at this line. Which is what I would do too. Trump’s defense that he knew nothing of the June 9 meeting is that his rhetoric on Clinton couldn’t have possible been any more negative than it already was. Case closed!
14. “I mean, unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.”
“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” – Donald Trump, Jan. 24, 2016
15. “We have a director of the F.B.I., acting, who received $700,000, whose wife received $700,000 from, essentially, Hillary Clinton.”
Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe’s wife ran for the Virginia state Senate in 2015. A political organization with close ties to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe donated almost $500,000 to her campaign. McAuliffe and the Clintons are longtime allies.
16. “I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company.”
Trump was responding here to a question of what might lead him to fire Mueller. And he obliged – noting that if the special counsel appeared to be looking into his family’s finances, which are AMAZING by the way, that would be a fireable offense.
17. “They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away. Their best senator did one of the greatest deals in the history of politics.”
It’s very debatable whether Democrats ever “owned” the state of Nebraska. But what Trump is referring to here is now commonly known as the “Cornhusker Kickback.”
18. “Nothing changes. Nothing changes.”
19. “If we don’t get it done, we are going to watch Obamacare go down the tubes, and we’ll blame the Democrats.”
This is a repeat of Trump’s remarkably cynical “let Obamacare fail” statement from earlier this week.
20. “We don’t have bad people. I know the bad people. Believe me, do I know bad people.”
No words. Also, Trump is talking about the Republicans in the Senate in case you were wondering.
21. “You know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care.”
This non sequitur came in response to a question about Mitch McConnell. What’s clear: Trump is very aware of the criticism that he doesn’t know any policy details. The thing is he does; senators couldn’t believe how much he knew!
22. “So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president”
“The greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.” Sit with that.
23. “He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.”
Trump’s review of French President Emmanuel Macron, part 1.
24. “People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.”
Trump’s review of French President Emmanuel Macron, part 2.
25. “I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.”
Trump’s review of French President Emmanuel Macron, part 3.
26. “They had so many different zones.”
Your guess is as good as mine.
27. “I mean, there were thousands and thousands of people, ‘cause they heard we were having dinner.”
People love Trump in France. L-O-V-E. “They love you in France,” Macron told Trump, according to Trump.
28. “Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad.”
29. “How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?”
Is this a rhetorical question?
30. “Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army.”
Um, ok. Hitler did invade Russia on June 22, 1941; it was known as “Operation Barbarossa.”
31. “But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage.”
The Russians: Good cold climate fighters. Everyone knows this.
32. “They’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. It’s pretty amazing. So, we’re having a good time. The economy is doing great.”
When you look up “non sequitur” in the dictionary, this quote is there.
33. “I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo Abe of Japan], who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.”
Yes, she does.
34. “It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes.”
A White House aide previously told CNN that the meeting between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 dinner lasted “nearly an hour.”
35. “You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big.”