President Donald Trump sat down with The Washington Post in the Oval Office on Tuesday, the latest in a series of interviews with major media outlets of late. (I’m still waiting for my invite, Mr. President!)
The Post released the full transcript of their interview. And it is a doozy. Below, the lines you need to read from the leader of the free world.
1. “We are talking about things. But it’s a very sad situation when I look — we have incredible people, incredible fighters. But we’re going to see what happens. We’re going to see what happens.”
This is Trump’s response to the Post’s question about the continued presence in Afghanistan. But in truth, it could double as his response to virtually any conflict anywhere in the world. Or really any policy question at all. Talking about things. Going to see what happens. Going to, uh, see what happens.
2. “Let me go off the record because I don’t want to get in the middle of the whole thing.”
When asked about whether he was planning to do anything to help former campaign chairman Paul Manafort – who signed a plea deal with Robert Mueller’s team only to, reportedly, lie to investigators and back-channel information to Trump – the President of the United States wasn’t willing to say anything for the record. Which is verrrry interesting. After his off-the-record answer on Manafort, the Post reporters ask to put it on the record in some form. Replied Trump: “I’d rather not. At some point, I’ll talk on the record about it. But I’d rather not.” Hmmmmmmmm!
3. “I see the Democrats are going to want to do something, because they understand too. Those pictures are very bad for the Democrats.”
Trump’s talking about his ask of $5 billion to fund the border wall. And I am not sure where he gets his confidence that “Democrats are going to want to do something,” given the fact that every Democrat I’ve seen quoted of late has been extremely skeptical of Trump’s proposed wall spending.
4. “I know one thing: If she loses, I’ll be blamed, and if she wins, I’ll be given no credit. That’s the only thing I know.”
The President of the United States always sees himself as the victim. In this case, he thinks he is the victim of a dishonest media, which is unwilling to give him credit for a Republican senator winning by eight points in a state that is among the most conservative in the country.
5.”But anyway, do you guys want something to drink?”
One thing people who have never interacted with Trump don’t get is how incredibly solicitous he is – particularly of the media. He wants to be seen as a good guy and a smart guy… It’s almost as though all of his rhetoric about the “fake news” is just a ploy to throw red meat to his base!
6. “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself – we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers.”
OK. Got it. So, if you have “very high levels of intelligence” you don’t believe in global warming? Someone should tell the 300+ climate scientists who participated in the Fourth National Climate Assessment!
7. “You look at our air and our water, and it’s right now at a record clean.”
First off, “record clean.” Second, we do not have “record clean.”
8. “And when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small. And it blows over and it sails over.”
This is not The Onion. This is a real quote. On the “oceans are very small” point: Oceans cover roughly 70% of the Earth’s surface.
9. “It just flows right down the Pacific, it flows, and we say where does this come from. And it takes many people to start off with.”
He’s talking about garbage dumped into the oceans in Asia. I think. But I am sure that “it takes many people to start off with.”
10. “If you go back and if you look at articles, they talked about global freezing, they talked about at some point the planets could have freeze to death, then it’s going to die of heat exhaustion.”
Look. It is true that over millennia, the climate has shifted both cooler and warmer. But that’s not what the current climate change problem is about; it’s about how rapidly the earth is warming and how humans are impacting that process in deleterious ways. Please do yourself a favor and read this New Yorker piece by Bill McKibben on how climate change is already shrinking our earth.
11. “As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it – not nearly like it is.”
The thing is: Trump not seeing it when it comes to human activity worsening the planet’s warming is entirely irrelevant. He should read the massive study his administration just released on all of this!
12. “It’s on fire, and they’re raking it, working so hard, and they’re raking all this stuff. If that was raked in the beginning, there’d be nothing to catch on fire.”
The “Rake” theory has been debunked. Repeatedly.
13. “I am not at all happy with the Fed. I am not at all happy with my choice. I think we have to let it go.”
Jerome Powell, call your office. Actually, maybe don’t.
14. “They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”
This is essential Trump right here. He trusts his instincts more than some nerd’s brain. He values his street sense more than something someone read in a book. Virtually every decision Trump makes can be explained by “my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.” And, no, I am not exaggerating.
15. “I’m not even a little bit happy with my selection of Jay [Powell for Federal Reserve Board chair]. Not even a little bit.”
Mr. Powell, please pick up the red phone. Immediately.
16. “I’m not blaming anybody.”
Trump says this phrase repeatedly throughout the interview – usually as he is blaming someone.
17. “It’s a rough part of the world. It’s a dangerous, rough part of the world. But they’ve been a great ally.”
Trump’s two-pronged justification of not punishing Saudi Arabia for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi: 1) Look, people in that region do bad stuff all the time 2) They’ve been our ally. So, yeah.
18. “I know him. I know him well, the crown prince.”
The Trump “gut” principle is very much on display here. Despite the fact that the CIA has reportedly concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s murder, Trump is unwilling to say that because he knows MBS – and knows him well.
19. “I’m getting advice. I’m the President of this country.”
20. “So I take everything into consideration, and again, he totally denies it, and he denied it to me on three different occasions, on three different calls, and a lot of other people deny it, too.”
Trump is using the same logic to defend MBS that he has used in the past to defend Russian President Vladimir Putin when it comes to Russian interference in the 2016 election. It’s as though Trump is incapable of understanding that these foreign leaders may not be telling him the whole truth for their own geopolitical reasons. Or he is simply choosing to believe his “gut” over “anybody else’s brain.”
21. “He wouldn’t have to be, but he’s still there, so I have no intention of doing anything.”
On Mueller, Trump does two things here: 1) Makes clear he could get rid of the special counsel at any point (which it’s not entirely clear he could) and 2) reinforces the idea that he has no current plans to make a move against Mueller.