In retrospect, President Donald Trump’s interview with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan was the most entertaining part of the Super Bowl.
Trump was his usual self – making a series of fact-challenged (and fact-free) claims, musing on his own greatness and playing the role he was born to play: Being Donald Trump.
CBS released the full transcript of Trump’s interview – and I went through it. Below, the most noteworthy of lines.
1. “Well, I don’t – I don’t take anything off the table. I don’t like to take things off the table.”
Trump is referring here to his refusal to rule out another government shutdown if no deal on wall funding is reached by February 15. (Which it almost certainly won’t be.) But Trump’s statement also kind of doubles for his life mantra – everything is on the table, always. And away we go!
2. “And this really is an invasion of our country by human traffickers.”
Ask yourself this: If Trump really views the stream of undocumented immigrants into the country as “an invasion” and a national emergency along the lines of a major natural disaster, then why would he give Congress three weeks to figure out some solution? If we are truly being “invaded,” shouldn’t we be acting now out of fear for our lives? So why hasn’t Trump acted yet? [whispers] Because this isn’t an actual national emergency.
3. “You need a wall. And anybody that says you don’t, they’re just playing games.”
If Trump sticks to this view, then there will be no deal in Congress on keeping the government open. Which means Trump is likely to declare a national emergency. It’s just not that complicated.
4. “I think [Pelosi] is very bad for our country.”
Trump has never been big on subtlety.
5. “And on the 15th we have now set the table beautifully because everybody knows what’s going on because of this shutdown.”
A few things here. One, Trump is saying that everything is set up “beautifully” for when the government closes again, which is a sort of a weird word choice. Two, it sure as heck seems as though he expects no deal and to make some sort of, uh, declaration on February 15.
6. “When I took over Syria it was infested with ISIS. It was all over the place. And now you have very little ISIS and you have the caliphate almost knocked out.”
“ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria,” – Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, 1/30/19.
7. “What – you’re– you’re going to have people, like the one-armed man who blew up a restaurant. You are going to have pockets.”
I think Trump is talking about this bombing in Kabul in mid-January. And while the transcript says “one-armed man,” I have to believe Trump meant “one armed man.” Punctuation matters, people!
8. “We’ve been there for 19 years, almost, we are fighting very well. We’re fighting harder than ever before.”
How is Trump quantifying his claim that US troops in Afghanistan are “fighting harder than ever before?” Answer: He’s not.
9. “We have very fast airplanes. We have very good cargo planes.”
This is the President of the United States’ answer when asked what would happen if ISIS surged in areas where he is pulling out troops. “Very fast airplanes.”
10. “We have to protect Israel. We have to protect other things that we have.”
So, Israel is one of the “things that we have,” or…..?
11. “When President Obama pulled out of Iraq, in theory, we had Iraq. In other words, we had Iraq. We never had Syria because President Obama never wanted to violate the red line in the sand.”
In theory, we had Iraq. Put another way: We had Iraq. To put a finer point on it: We had Iraq.
12. “Being in Iraq – it was a big mistake to go – one of the greatest mistakes going into the Middle East that our country has ever made.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” – Donald Trump, when asked by Howard Stern whether he supported US troops going into Iraq (9/12/02)
13. “I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.”
“We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device.” – Dan Coats, 1/30/19
14. “My intelligence people, if they said in fact that Iran is a wonderful kindergarten, I disagree with them a hundred percent.”
[narrator voice] They said no such thing. The intelligence community has simply said they believe Iran to be in compliance with the nuclear deal that Trump pulled out of in May 2018.
15. “I disagree with them.”
It’s OK for Trump to disagree with intelligence officials about Iran. But what is he basing his conclusions on? Because they are basing theirs on actual intelligence.
16. “They said they were mischaracterized – maybe they were, maybe they weren’t.”
[narrator voice] They weren’t.
17. “So when my intelligence people tell me how wonderful Iran is – if you don’t mind, I’m going to just go by my own counsel.”
To be clear: Trump is acknowledging here that he doesn’t trust what the intelligence community tells him about Iran because his gut tells him something different.
18. “It’s OK. It’s easier to make moves when they’re acting.”
I’m not entirely clear on what Trump means here. Does he mean it’s easier to replace acting Cabinet secretaries if he wants? Or that acting Cabinet officials may have less to lose and so are willing to push the policy envelope more?
19. “Really, I like acting because I can move so quickly.”
Not to belabor the point but: Is Trump saying he prefers acting Cabinet officials because he can do more of what he wants on policy with less opposition within his administration?
20. “Like with General Mattis, I wasn’t happy with his service. I told him give me a letter.”
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis said that he resigned out of principle – due to disagreements with Trump on his vision for the US’s role in the world. Trump is saying he fired Mattis because he asked him to resign, aka “I told him give me a letter.”
21. “But they haven’t been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag and their ratings have been terrific ever since. And a lot of good things happened.”
It’s not at all clear that ratings for the NFL are tied in any way, shape or form to whether (or not) players protested during the National Anthem.
22. “And I got it done and I’ve been, you know, really – a lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking me for it.”
So. “A lot of the people in the NFL” called Trump to thank him for getting criminal justice reform passed. I mean, maybe? But like a lot of Trump’s claims, this one is absolutely impossible to fact check.
23.”And I think if you look at the numbers for African-American unemployment, best numbers they’ve had – literally, the best numbers they’ve had in history. And I think they like me a lot and I like them a lot.”
OK, so, Brennan repeatedly asks Trump about claims that he is a racist or that he promotes racist views. This is his answer: How can I be racist of the unemployment numbers for blacks are so good?
24. “And a lot of people, including me, thought soccer would probably never make it in this country, but it really is moving forward rapidly.”
25. “Well, look, the Russia thing is a hoax. I have been tougher on Russia than any president, maybe ever.”
First of all, it’s very debatable whether Trump has been harder on Russia than any president ever. Second, whether he has or has not been harder on Russia than any other president has NOTHING to do with Russia interfering in the 2016 election. Trump has never seemed to understand the difference.
26. “Excuse me. OK, you ready? OK, you ready? Of the thirty-four people, many of them were bloggers from Moscow – or they were people that had nothing to do with me.”
The following people have pleaded guilty to (or been convicted of) wrongdoing in the Mueller probe: former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump fixer and personal attorney Michael Cohen. Another Trump loyalist – Roger Stone – has been charged. So…
27. “First of all, Roger Stone didn’t work on the campaign”
“Donald Trump’s campaign said Saturday it has fired top political adviser Roger Stone – who promptly denied being let go and insisted he had quit.” (8/10/15)
28. “Roger is somebody that I’ve always liked, but a lot of people like Roger. Some people probably don’t like Roger, but Roger Stone’s somebody I’ve always liked.”
“Roger is a stone-cold loser.” – Donald Trump in 2008
29. “There’s been no President that has been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.”
Again, no. And again, even if that were true it would not prove that the Russia investigation is a hoax or a witch hunt.
30. “It’s totally up to the attorney general. Totally up to the attorney general.”
This is important. Brennan gives Trump the chance to say that, yes, the Mueller report should be released to the public. Trump purposely doesn’t go there. Ask yourself this: If Trump is truly totally innocent and all of this is a big, fat nothing-burger, wouldn’t it be in his interest to push for the entire Mueller report to be public, so he can be completely exonerated?
31. “Even the Mueller report said it had nothing to do with the campaign.”
The Mueller report hasn’t come out yet.
32. “There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing.”
Not accurate. To reiterate: 199 criminal charges of 39 people and entities. Seven people who have pleaded guilty. Four people who have been sentenced to jail. And, Manafort, who was convicted by a jury.
33. “We’ve made tremendous progress. If you remember, before I became President, it looked like we were going to war with North Korea. Now we have a very good relationship.”
“We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capability because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.” – Dan Coats, 1/30/19
34. “What a location. I’m in the real estate business, what a location.”
Donald Trump on North Korea. Yup!
35. “Sir, I hear your helicopters. I’m being told to wrap.”
Yes, ok, this is Brennan, not Trump. But, still: I am going to end all future interviews by saying, “I hear your helicopters.”