On Thursday, President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with Fox News personality Harris Faulkner. It was, um, chummy – with Faulkner asking Trump questions like “What do you love about being President?” and “You have such energy for this.” (Yes, I know the latter isn’t a question at all.)
I went through the transcript – which covers the sentencing of his former attorney Michael Cohen, Trump’s dealings with China and why he doesn’t get better press – and plucked out the, uh, “best” lines from the President. They’re below.
1. “I don’t think – and I have to go check. I don’t think they even paid any money to that tabloid. I don’t think we’ve made a payment to that tabloid.”
Trump’s argument here – I think – is that because neither he nor the campaign ever paid the National Enquirer any money to buy Playboy model Karen McDougal’s silence about an alleged affair, then he did nothing wrong. This isn’t accurate because even if it’s true, the donation from American Media Inc. – the Enquirer’s parent company – would have had to have been disclosed as an in-kind contribution to the campaign. Why? Because, in a settlement announced Wednesday, AMI admitted that it paid McDougal $150,000 for her story so as to keep it from hurting Trump in the election.
Also: And away we go!
2. “These are campaigns. Nobody except for me would be looked at this like – nobody.”
Well, we don’t know of any other presidential campaigns that paid two women alleging affairs with the candidate $280,000 to keep them quiet, constructed an elaborate scheme to ensure no one found out about it and then, when people did, repeatedly lied about it. So…
3. “Have you ever heard of campaign finance list?”
[searches memory banks] Um, no.
4. “Number one they say it’s not a campaign finance violation. Number two, or it’s not even under campaign finance – number two if it was, it’s not even a violation.”
Wait. “Number one” and “number two” are the same thing. Right?
5. “You know President Obama had a really big one from 10 times more money – much more money and you know what? He paid a fine. I’m the only one that this happens to.”
This is a very common refrain from conservatives when it comes to the campaign finance violations related to Trump. OBAMA DID IT TOO, they insist. Except, no. The Obama campaign did pay a $375,000 fine to the Federal Election Commission for not disclosing the identity of donors making large contributions in the final two weeks of the 2008 race. That’s clearly wrong – and the fine Obama paid was one of the largest ever levied by the FEC. But it’s not even close to the same thing as constructing an elaborate mechanism – in coordination with the National Enquirer – to buy the silence of women who are threatening to come forward and tell of affairs they allegedly had with the Republican presidential nominee.
6. “These people writing stories that Trump did nothing wrong, I did nothing wrong.”
Trump is cherry-picking a very small group of conservative campaign finance lawyers to argue that “everyone” says that he is innocent of any campaign finance violations. This is not even close to true. The VAST majority of campaign finance experts believe this to be a clear violation of in-kind contribution and donation reporting laws.
7. “He did very low-level work.”
Trump’s take on Cohen’s role within the broader world of Trump, Inc. is belied by known facts. Not even Trump now disputes that Cohen handled the payoffs of two women who were alleging they had affairs with Trump. (And worth noting, federal prosecutors have said they believe Trump directed and coordinated these efforts.) Now ask yourself: Would you put a “low-level” person in charge of handling something this sensitive – not just in your political life but in your personal life as well? And the answer is OF COURSE NOT.
8. “But he did – so if you’d see him on television, he was OK on television.”
A good reminder that television is Trump’s lens on the world. It’s how he views everyone and everything, including, once, Cohen. He liked Cohen because he saw Cohen on TV. And thought Cohen did a good job.
9. “I did a great job, Trump World Towers, a very tall building right opposite the United Nations, and when you build a building people always get together at the end and they make a settlement with the owner.”
Two things here: 1) Trump is telling Faulkner that Trump did a great job 2) Trump World Towers is a “very tall building.” Some say it is the tallest building. Many people say it actually.
10. “They put those two charges on to embarrass me. They’re not criminal charges, number one.”
The campaign finance charges against Cohen are, of course, criminal charges. And not only has Cohen pleaded guilty to seeking to break campaign finance law, but the Southern District of New York has said they believe that Trump directed and coordinated that effort.
11. “So what happened is either Cohen or the prosecutors, in order to embarrass me, said, ‘Listen, I’m making this deal for reduced time and everything else, do me a favor, put these two charges on.’”
This provides a fascinating window into Trump’s worldview. He is deeply conspiratorial and hugely transactional. As a result, he thinks everyone – including law enforcement – operates the same way he does. That federal prosecutors would risk their careers and the reputation of their office by creating fake charges – and that Cohen would simply plead guilty to those fake charges to lessen his jail time. Also this should go without saying, there is no evidence for what Trump is alleging.
12. “I never directed him to do anything wrong. Whatever he did, he did on his own. He’s a lawyer.”
Here’s the problem with Trump’s attempted ignorance-is-bliss defense: Federal prosecutors have said they believe he not only knew about the scam to keep the payment hidden but that he directed and coordinated it.
13. “[Cohen] did some bad things and – income taxes evasion, I heard about taxi cab – I heard about a lot of things.”
He did! He pleaded guilty to eight criminal charges – including two related to his attempts to mask hush-money payments to McDougal and Daniels. Which are crimes.
14. “Now, how many people, when they say, ‘Listen, if you embarrass the President of the United States we’ll give you a deal, your father-in-law, your wife, we’ll cut you a deal.’ That’s all it is. It’s a terrible system we have.”
Again, Trump has zero evidence to back up this claim that there was some sort of massive deal cut by prosecutors and Cohen. He’s just suggesting it because he knows his base wants something to cling to so they can say that the whole Cohen plea is rigged and therefore meaningless.
15. “But they took a general that they said didn’t lie and they convinced him he did lie and he made some kind of a deal. And now they’re recommending no time. You know why? Because they’re embarrassed that they got caught.”
OK, so follow this logic. Trump argues that Cohen made things up to embarrass him – and that’s why his former fixer only got three years in jail. But to explain why the special counsel’s office recommended no jail time for retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump suggests it’s because Flynn was too tough? I mean … the mind boggles.
16. “I think it’s amazing because I only get bad news. I only get bad stories. You look at the paper, it’s all nonsense.”
It’s important to remember that in Trump’s lexicon “bad” and “fake” mean the same thing. He operates under the belief that the news is “true” when it is good for him. Which, obviously, doesn’t make sense.
17. “So when you tell me I’m at 48 – like Rasmussen, I was at 50 in Rasmussen – when you tell me I’m at 50 percent, I say how can I possibly be at 50 percent?”
The simple answer is he’s not. His average approval is 43.1%, according to Real Clear Politics.
18. “I have people that I love and that love me, frankly, that includes a lot of women. I’ve got a tremendous percentage of women last time, remember?”
Trump received 41% of the female vote in 2016, according to exit polling.
19. “I got women that – they’re the greatest, and I have tremendous women support, but if you remember the last election I was worried I wouldn’t get one women in the United States to run – and I got tremendous – I mean Hillary wishes she had my numbers, OK.”
Hillary Clinton won 54% of the female vote in 2016.
20. “Look I’ve done a good job on the economy, but I’ve done a very good job in foreign relations.”
So, economy “good.” But foreign relations “very good.” Got it?
21. “Nobody’s done what I’ve done, and what this administration has done in the first two years, and we’re not even that close to two years.”
Trump says this ALL THE TIME. It’s impossible to quantify what he means by having “done” the most. But by virtually any measure you choose, Trump’s claim is false.
22. “They’re going to open the whole country, that they want to please President Trump.”
No one – and I mean NO ONE – goes third person like Donald John Trump.
23. “Well, I don’t think there is any pressure. Everyone’s doing so well. I mean there’s not a lot of pressure.”
The President of the United States says that he feels no pressure on the economy because “everyone’s doing so well.” That quote is about the 50th most newsy/odd thing Trump said in this interview but, in any other administration with any other President, that sort of statement would be front-page news.
24. ” I mean, I am doing great trade deals.”
So, to recap:
a) Trump on Trump’s handling of the economy: “Good”
b) Trump on Trump’s foreign policy: “Very good”
c) Trump on Trump’s trade deals: “Great”
25. “We have great strength. Nobody’s ever done what I’ve done. “
Trump specializes in these sorts of claims – totally impossible to prove. Nobody has ever done what he’s done in terms of what? Everything?
26. “But I will tell you this, China’s economy, if it’s in trouble, it’s only in trouble because of me.”
Trump doesn’t know if China’s economy is in trouble. But he is willing to take credit for China’s economy being in trouble – if, that is, it is in trouble.
27. “All electric’s not going to work. I don’t run a car company, but all electric is not going to work.”
Paging Elon Musk….
28. “Well, I’m focusing on everything.”
29. “You know what, I like to say I work hard, but hopefully I work smart, because I know a lot of people, they work – you have to work smart too, and we’re doing great.”
Shorter Trump: I work both very hard and very smart. Hardsmart. Smarthard. This feels like a good place to end.