President Donald Trump celebrated the new year with a 90+ minute Cabinet meeting on Wednesday – and cameras were rolling the entire time.
Like much of Trump’s presidency, the event felt entirely free-form – as if Trump was making all of it up as he went. He seemed to support the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, proclaimed that he would have made a good military general and spouted falsehoods at an alarming rate – even for him.
I went through the transcript of the question-and-answer portion of Trump’s Cabinet meeting and picked out the most, uh, noteworthy lines. They’re below.
1. “I’ve heard numbers as high as $275 billion, we lose on illegal immigration.”
Eh, not really. Also, away we go!
2. “And you know, it’s not all about the rich countries, because the rich countries really do take advantage of us, because they pay a very small percentage of their military, and they cheat on trade.”
So much stream of consciousness, so little time.
3. “There’s some horrible things going on in the world, and we want to help those people.”
Worth noting: Despite the CIA concluding that Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman was personally involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Trump has said no one can know the truth – and even if we did know the truth it wouldn’t be worth risking our financial relationship with Saudi Arabia. So, there’s that.
4. “When they say I’m not popular in Europe, I shouldn’t be popular in Europe.”
One of the least covered but most important aspects of the Trump presidency is how he, unlike every president that has come before him, simply does not believe in the coalition built in the aftermath of Word War II.
5. “I don’t care about Europe.”
See No. 4.
6. “I know every angle.”
7. “I could be the most popular person in Europe. I could be – I could run for any office if I wanted to, but I don’t want to.”
So. Wait. Trump is saying he could run for any office in Europe? I am pretty sure that’s not true….
8. “I mean, I could give you an example where I get along very well with India and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, but he’s constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan, OK?”
India was, um, not pleased with this taunt.
9. “We’re supposed to say ‘Oh, thank you for the library.’ I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan, but one of those things.”
So, Trump believes a library in Afghanistan is pointless because it’s in Afghanistan and, therefore, people won’t use it? Got it!
10. “And you know, look, I endorsed (Mitt Romney), he thanked me very profusely, he was very nice.”
This is a good dig by Trump – highlighting the fact that Romney is speaking out against him only now that the political risks for doing so are tiny.
11. “We’ve got the greatest tax cuts ever”
It’s sort of hard to quantify “greatest” but Trump has repeatedly said that his tax cut was the largest in history. It was not.
12. “The deductible is so high, unless you get hit by a tractor you can’t even use them, nobody’s ever seen anything like it.”
Do a lot of people get hit by tractors?
13. “I have great popularity in Utah”
14. “President Obama fired him and, essentially, so did I. I want results.”
Trump is talking about former Defense Secretary James Mattis. He’s not talking about him accurately, however. Mattis resigned in protest in the wake of Trump’s decision to pull US troops out Syria. Trump didn’t “essentially” fire him. At all.
15. “Russia used to be the Soviet Union, Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan – Russia.”
Looks, I’ve seen “Spies Like Us.” I know about Russia. And the Soviet Union. And all that.
16. “The problem is it was a tough fight and, literally, they went bankrupt, they went into being called Russia again as opposed to the Soviet Union. You know, lot of – a lot of these places you’re reading about now are no longer a part of Russia because of Afghanistan.”
17. “I think I would’ve been a good general, but who knows.”
We will never know. Mostly because Trump is not now and never was in the military. Including during the Vietnam War when he got five deferments – including one for bone spurs.
18. “We’re talking about sand and death. That’s what we’re talking about.”
The President of the United States offers his thoughts on Syria.
19. “Now, the Kurds, it’s very interesting, Turkey doesn’t like them; other people do.”
The Kurds: Some people say they are great, some say they aren’t. We may never know!
20. “I had a meeting at the Pentagon with lots of generals – they were like from a movie, better looking than Tom Cruise and stronger – and I had more generals than I’ve ever seen.”
This is so revealing. All of life is a casting call for Trump. These generals were good because they were good looking and strong. Even more than Tom Cruise!
21. “I said, this is the greatest room I’ve ever seen. I – I saw more computer boards than, I think, that they make today.”
22. “Iran is pulling people out of Syria – they can do what they want there, frankly – but they’re pulling people out.”
This is an interesting take on the Middle East. And one that Israel likely will be interested in hearing more about.
23. “We’re getting out, and we’re getting out smart, and we’re winning. We’re winning, OK?”
24. “I never saw anything so beautiful in my life.”
The birth of his child? His bride on their wedding day? Nope! He’s talking about the House vote for $5 billion in wall funding in late December.
25. “Can you imagine me having that power? Wouldn’t that be scary? Right?”
Trump is referring here to then-President Barack Obama’s decision to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, essentially allowing children brought into the country illegally to remain without fear of deportation. But man oh man, that quote out of context is really something.
26. “Could be a long time and it could be quickly. Could be a long time.”
What an answer to the question of how long the government might be shut down! Could be a while. Might not be. But could be!
27. “It’s a big, big house. Except for all the guys out on the lawn with machine guns. Nicest machine guns I’ve ever seen.”
Even when talking about the Secret Service that protect the White House, Trump has to exaggerate. These weren’t just machine guns. They were the “nicest machine guns ever.”
28. “I was waving to them. I – I never saw so many guys with machine guns in my life.”
Many people are saying it was the most – and most beautiful – machine guns ever used in one place.
29. “Secret Service and military, these are great people and they don’t play games. They don’t, like, wave. They don’t even smile.”
Secret Service: not big wavers. Also, anti-smiling.
30. “Look, look, when they say the wall’s immoral well then you – you’ve got to do something about the Vatican because the Vatican has the biggest wall of them all.”
Bizarrely, this is not the first time Trump or a top aide has attacked the Vatican for its wall. Back in 2016, Trump aide Dan Scavino tweeted that the Pope was a hypocrite on immigration because Vatican City was surrounded by massive walls. As CNN’s Daniel Burke wrote at the time: “Yes, the Vatican does have walls, and some are quite large. But anyone can stroll through the Pope’s front yard – St. Peter’s Square – at nearly any time.”
31. “Look at all of the countries that have walls and they work 100%.”
OK, so, according to Trump, any country with a wall around its border is totally and completely impenetrable to outsiders.
As in, no one has ever breached the wall. It can’t be breached. Unless, say, one side had an ice dragon.…
32. “I could have had a lot easier presidency by doing nothing.”
33. “People see that gasoline is way down. And the reason its way down is because I called up some of the OPEC people.”
[narrator voice] That isn’t the reason.
34. “I mean, I just got rid of – I – I wouldn’t say got – they say they’re retired.”
An amazing and overlooked moment. Asked what would happen if Romney didn’t get on board with him, Trump cited the retirements of GOP Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake – threatening that Romney would find himself in the same position if he kept crossing Trump. Little mob boss-y, no?
35. “So Jeff Flake is now selling real estate, or whatever he’s doing.”
I am not sure where Trump got the idea Flake is going to be selling real estate as his post-Senate career. To the best of my searching, Flake hasn’t announced what he’s going to do after leaving the Senate. Also, isn’t “sell real estate” what Trump did his whole professional life prior to 2016?
36. “I will tell you, we have some great Republicans, and if you look at the way they’re standing up for border security, you’d be very proud of them if you’re a Republican, or if you’re a person that loves our nation.”
So, “loves our nation” = supports shutting down the government to secure $5 billion to build a border wall. This feels like a good place to end.