Flying between Da Nang and Hanoi, Vietnam, on Saturday, President Donald Trump decided to talk to the press corps. And man did he talk.
I went through the transcript of the reporters’ questions and Trump’s answers (a huge thanks to CNN’s Lauren Holt and Lauren Sennet for transcribing) and picked out the most newsworthy ones below. There are some real eyebrow raisers.
The quotes are listed in the order Trump said them.
1. “Prime Minister Abe came up to me just at the end and he said that since you left South Korea and Japan that those two countries are now getting along much much better.”
Trump spent two days in Japan and a day-and-a-half in South Korea. And yet, he somehow improved relations between the two countries in those 60 hours. So we’re off to a good start!
2. “There’s been a real bonding between South Korea and Japan.”
“Real bonding.” In two and a half days.
3. “They say in the history of people coming to China, there’s been nothing like that and I believe it.”
Trump is talking here about his dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Forbidden City; it’s the first time a US president has dined there since the founding of modern China.
4. “He’s for China, I’m for USA. You know, it’s one of those things but we have a great feeling.”
5. “He said he didn’t meddle, he said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times.”
Trump said he asked Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting whether Russia meddled in the 2016 election. And, this is what Putin told him. I’m satis– wait. The US intelligence community has, unanimously, agreed that not only did Russia actively interfere in the election but that they did so to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.
6. “Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him.”
This is Trump’s response to whether he believes Putin’s claim of not meddling. Imagine if Trump had simply said: “No, I don’t believe him because the intelligence community in our country is very clear that Russia did actively interfere in our election.”
7. “I would rather have (Putin), you know, work with him on the Ukraine than standing and arguing about whether or not… because that whole thing was set up by the Democrats.”
Um, no. Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, the US intelligence community has unanimously said that Russia worked to meddle in the 2016 election with the express goal of helping Trump and hurting Clinton. Trump’s reference to the Democrats here, I think, is about the dossier put together by ex-British spy Christopher Steele that Clinton and the Democratic National Committee paid for. Steele did talk to Russians in the information-gathering process. Of course, that has zero to do with Russia’s active measures to interfere in the election.
8. “But Putin said he did not do what they said he did. And you know, there are those that say if he did do it, he wouldn’t have gotten caught.”
So, the evidence that Russia didn’t meddle in the US election is that had they done so, they wouldn’t have been caught? Got it! Have I mentioned that US intelligence community has unanimously said that Russia worked to meddle in the 2016 election with the express goal of helping Trump and hurting Clinton? I can’t remember if I have.
9. “And because of the lack of the relationship that we have with Russia, because of this artificial thing that’s happening with this Democratic-inspired thing.”
Trump seems to believe that the reason we have a poor relationship with Russia is solely to do with “this Democratic-inspired thing.” There was also the Cold War, Russia’s unlawful seizure of the Crimea and their effort to meddle in our election but, yeah, “this Democratic-inspired thing” is probably it.
10. “He just, he just, every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I believe, I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”
Trump here says that he believes that Putin means it when he says Russia didn’t meddle in the election. That’s not the same thing as saying that he believes that Russia didn’t attempt to meddle in the election but it’s pretty damn close.
11. “I think he’s very insulted by it which is not a good thing for our country.”
Putin is bothered by the allegation that his government actively sought to interfere in a US election. An allegation that the entire US intelligence community stands behind. But, it bothers him so we should stop saying it? Or something?
12. “Hillary had her stupid reset button that she spelled the word wrong, but she doesn’t have what it takes to have that kind of a relationship where you could call or you could do something and they would pull back from North Korea, or they would pull back from Syria or maybe pull back from Ukraine.”
The 2016 election ended 368 days ago. Hillary Clinton lost.
13. “But this is really an artificial barrier that’s put in front of us for solving problems with Russia, and he says that very strongly that he really seems to be insulted by it, and he says he didn’t do it.”
Trump here describes aggressive efforts by Russia to meddle in a presidential election an “artificial barrier” to the US having a better relationship with Russia. Also, Putin is annoyed we say he did it. Also, he didn’t do it.
14. “I think that he’s, he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it.”
Very, very strong, eh? Does the US intelligence committee know about that second “very”?
15. “Then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is (former CIA Director John) Brennan, and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break, they’re political hacks.”
This is Donald Trump actively taking on the intelligence community – pure and simple. And calling at least some of them “hacks.” That will go over well!
16. “So you look at that and you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that.”
This is stunning stuff. Trump is saying that the former CIA director, the former FBI director and the former Director of National Intelligence are, essentially, liars and political hacks. Meanwhile, he is reasserting – for about the eighth time – that Putin says he didn’t do it. Amazing.
17. “China likes me. China likes me.”
18. “It’s the biggest state entrance and the biggest state dinner they’ve ever had. By far.”
Trump is talking about his state dinner in China. And, yes, he is totally obsessed with everything he is involved with being the biggest and the best. Many people are already saying this press gaggle is among the best ever, in fact.
19. “We’re actually getting very good marks having to do with foreign affairs. There’s nobody that I can think of that I don’t have a very good relationship with.”
Good marks. Great relationships. The best. Believe me.
20. “This artificial Democratic hit job gets in the way. It gets in the way. And that’s a shame. Because people will die because of it, and it’s a pure hit job, and it’s artificially induced and it’s a shame.”
Trump seems to believe – or he is at least saying – that the entire idea of Russia meddling in our election is an “artificial Democratic hit job” and is at the sole reason why Russia has so far been unwilling to help the US isolate North Korea as much as he would like. I’m not sure if you’ve run across this information, but the US intelligence committee has said that Russia actively interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton.
21. “Believe it or not even, when I am in Washington and New York, I do not watch much television.”
22. “I don’t get to watch much television, primarily because of documents. I am reading documents a lot and different things.”
Same. I am always reading documents – documents of “a lot and different things.”
23. “Well a lot of people said it is almost physically impossible for someone to go through 12 days. What I didn’t want to do was come back, because I would of had to come back, and we would have been on this plane again in five weeks from now exactly, to do four days. We were going to do four days and four days.”
Many people said no man could go on a 12-day foreign trip. But, there was one man they didn’t count on. One man named Donald John Trump.
24. “He’s representing his people, he’s strong, he’s very strong.”
Trump on Xi. And remember that, for Trump, strength – or at least the projection of strength and toughness – is the most important thing.
25. “He’s one of the greatest gymnasts.”
Trump on Abe following the Japanese Prime Minister’s fall into a sand trap during a round of golf with Trump earlier in the trip.
26. “There was no collusion. Everybody knows there was no collusion.”
Neither the congressional committees investigating Russian meddling in the election nor Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s office have ruled the possibility of collusion in or out.
27. “Democrats wanted to have a good relationship with Russia but they couldn’t do it because they didn’t have the talent to do it, they didn’t have the chemistry to do it, they didn’t have what it takes to do it.”
Trump seems to be suggesting that Democrats, because they lack his chemistry and natural abilities to build relationships, are sabotaging the Russia relationship by suggesting Russia sought to interfere in our election. But the congressional committees looking into the election are controlled by Republicans. And it was Trump’s Justice Department that decided to appoint Mueller as special counsel.
28. “She did that reset button, it was a joke. But she tried and she failed.”
The election ended 368 days ago.
29. “I do feel you should have as many news outlets as you can – especially since so many of them are fake.”
Trump, making clear he opposes media consolidation – in the context of a question about whether he opposes the AT&T merger with Time Warner. (Time Warner owns CNN.)
This story has been updated to reflect minor changes to the transcript.