On Sunday night, ABC released the full transcript of George Stephanopoulos’ two-day(!) interview with President Donald Trump. And, well, wow.
I went through the whole thing – and pulled out the best lines. They are amazing(ly) odd.
1. “Good event. Nice event. … (inaudible) ethanol in there. Great crowd, great people. Great people.
Inaudible Ethanol would be a good band name. And away we go!
2. “But caucus is different. People walk in. You talk to them.”
[Opens PoliSci textbook, flips to “caucus” section, reads]: “Caucus is different. People walk in. You talk to them.”
3. “These people couldn’t get in. Great people. It’s a lot of – look at the – look – look at the people. They can’t get in, George.”
Trump is forever obsessed with how many people come to see him and how even more wanted to come see him. Always.
4. “Feel great about I think virtually every state that we’re competing in. I think Iowa’s great. I think Ohio and Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina. Pennsylvania, I feel really good about.”
5. “Yeah, well, we’ll be announcing that in about two months.”
Trump is talking about the health care plan that no Republican elected official wants him to announce. Take special note of his timeline…
6. “You’ll see that in a month when we – when we – introduce it. We’re going to have a plan.”
…because it just changed. So, according to Trump, he will be announcing his new health care plan in mid-July, roughly two weeks before Congress heads out of town for a month on its annual August recess, er, district work period.
7. “With respect to trade, we have a lot of power. And – we have great numbers. The companies are very strong. They’ve very liquid.”
Which companies? All of them?
8. “He’s my pick. I agree. But, you know, we also have people in there that weren’t my pick. But he’s my pick. And – I disagree with him entirely.”
Trump’s referring to Jerome Powell, his appointee as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Who is Trump’s pick but not his guy. If you get my meaning.
9. “And I inherited almost $21 trillion in debt. I inherited that.”
10. “We’re close to being very, very strong. We’re close to being stronger by far than ever before.”
Very, very strong is good, right?
11. “People don’t understand tariffs, but I understand them. And I also understand the power of tariffs.”
12. “I had a case of it recently with The New York Times where they’re writing things knowing it was wrong. Knowing.”
It’s not exactly clear what story Trump is referring to here. But the idea that The New York Times published incorrect information knowingly is very hard to believe. And by “very hard to believe” I mean “not possible.”
13. “I don’t call it tweets. I call it social media.”
14. “And it’s not tweet. It’s social media.”
No, I have no idea why this distinction is important to Trump either. Thanks for asking!
15. “I put one out this morning. And as soon as I pressed the button, they said, ‘We have breaking news.’ Every network, every station. ‘We have breaking news.’ They read my tweet. Why is that bad?”
This explanation is the best one I’ve seen about why Trump uses Twitter so much. He loves to be able to drive news cycles – even if the news cycle is unfavorable to him. The power to do it is intoxicating to him – someone who spent his whole life trying to get coverage for himself from what he believed to be a biased media. Now, he can make the news with a single tweet. And he loves it.
16. “Nobody’s ever been treated badly like me.”
Nobody? Ever? [Consults first page of any history book ever.]
17. “Although they do say Abraham Lincoln was treated really badly. I must say that’s the one. If you can believe it, Abraham Lincoln was treated supposedly very badly.”
This is accurate – especially if your definition of “treated supposedly very badly” is “was assassinated.”
18. “Nobody’s been treated badly like me.”
Yeah, I think most peoples’ “Americans treated very badly list” would go something like this: 1) Trump 2) African slaves 3) Native Americans.
19. “We’ve gotten great poll numbers recently. Tremendous poll numbers.”
20. “I wanted to say, ‘I’m running. I’m running. I’m running.’ But I wasn’t running. There’s a big difference when I run and when I just say, ‘Hey, I hope you vote for somebody.’”
“I’m not on the ticket, but I am on the ticket because this is also a referendum about me. I want you to vote. Pretend I’m on the ballot.” – Donald Trump, October 2018
21. “But Rasmussen– well, I don’t know c– Quinnipiac has never been accurate for me. Rasmussen was the m– one of the most accurate polls.”
22. “And, you know, for women – as you know, I did very well with women last time. I was hearing I wouldn’t have. I’d say, ‘Why? Why? Explain.’ I did very well with women –”
[Narrator voice] He didn’t. Trump lost women 54% to 41% to Hillary Clinton.
23. “Well, I got 52%.”
He didn’t actually get 52% with women. He got 41%. He got 52% with white women. Which, well, draw your own conclusions.
24. “I think that – hey, Hillary Clinton focused on women, and I did phenomenally well. Many, many, many points above what they thought.”
Trump got 41% among women. Mitt Romney got 44% in 2012. John McCain got 42% in 2008. George W. Bush got 48% in 2004 – and 44% in 2000. So if 41% is “phenomenally well” then I did “phenomenally well” in Calculus in high school.
25. “I think we’re going to do tremendously now with African-Americans, with Asians, with Hispanics because they have the lowest unemployment numbers they’ve ever had in the history of the country.”
Trump’s job approval among non-whites was 23% in the latest CNN-SSRS national poll.
26. “We’re doing the best job that anybody’s done probably as a first-term president. I think I’ve done more than any other first-term president ever.”
It’s starting to dawn on me that Trump may not be a huge student of presidential history. Or, like, history more generally.
27. “Mueller comes out. There’s no collusion. And essentially a ruling that no obstruction.”
Nope! Robert Mueller made quite clear – in his special counsel’s report and in his public statement earlier this month – that if he had been able to declare Trump innocent on obstruction of justice, he would have done so. And he didn’t.
28. “George, the report said no collusion.”
From the report: “We understood coordination to require an agreement – tacit or express – between the Trump Campaign and the Russian government on election interference. That requires more than the two parties taking actions that were informed by or responsive to the other’s actions or interests. We applied the term coordination in that sense when stating in the report that the investigation did not establish that the Trump Campaign coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
29. “Probably I average four or five hours or something like that.”
“How does somebody that’s sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone that’s sleeping three or four?” – Donald Trump
30. “Uh I’m not a breakfast guy at all, fortunately. I like the lunches but the dinners is what I really like.”
My meal rankings: 1) Dinner 2) Breakfast 4,627) Lunch
31. “That’s why if we can take over the House, we will have things done like never before.”
“Vote for me, and all your wildest dreams will come true.” – Pedro
32. “I have the biggest people – yesterday I had some of the biggest business people in the world in my office and they have beautiful offices perhaps more beautiful than the Oval Office, although to me there is nothing more beautiful because of what it represents.”
Eloquence, thy name is Donald Trump.
33. “You didn’t have flags to any great degree. You had an American flag, but for the most part you didn’t have flags. Uh, it’s quite a bit different than President Obama.”
Donald Trump’s contribution to the Oval Office? Flags!
34. “It’s very comfortable, and back there I have a tremendous amount of work. In fact, you’d see it’s a much different uh, effect. You can’t have – every time we have pictures everyone wants a picture, you don’t want to take all things off your desk so I have a desk back here that I actually use much more.”
Trump has been criticized for having an empty desk in the Oval Office. So, he makes sure to tell Stephanopoulos that there’s a “tremendous amount of work” behind the desk. That’s like when my parents asked if I had done my homework as I was playing video games and I said: Oh yeah, it’s all done – it’s in a big folder in my backpack.
35. “And the heads of royal companies and car companies and other presidents did not make the Oval Office easily available and I do.”
Ah yes, the well known “royal companies.” Are they related to the Golden Company?
36. “I opened it and I saw the letter I read it and I thought it was very nice and I have it. Uh, right there that’s more judges I’m signing, we’ve signed a 107 judges since I’m in, and I’ll get a 145 plus two Supreme Court judges which we already have and the numbers should be quite a bit higher than that.”
In which Trump goes from talking about the letter Obama left for him in the White House to the number of federal judges he will get confirmed. Without a pause. Or a break. Pure stream-of-consciousness stuff here.
37. “Because we’ve given the biggest tax cut in history.”
38. “It’s actually phony polling and I believe it’s suppression. They suppress, they want to suppress the minds of people so they don’t bother going out and voting.”
This is not a thing. What Trump is saying is that the polls aren’t good for him and, therefore, they must be fake.
39. “I think it’s probably, uh, I want them to think whatever they think, they do say, I mean, I’ve seen and I’ve read and I’ve heard, and I did have one very brief meeting on it. But people are saying they’re seeing UFOs, do I believe it? Not particularly.”
Word salad! With a side of UFOs! Delicious!
40. “And some of them really see things that are a little bit different than in the past, so we’re going to see, but we’ll watch it. You’ll be the first to know.”
The President of the United States on the possibility of aliens: “We’re going to see, but we’ll watch it.”
41. “I think I have the greatest base in the history of politics because they are not believers in false things.”
42. “For instance, on Good Morning America today they had that phony polling information. I explained to you last night that it was phony, but you didn’t do anything about it. You should have, but it was late in the evening and perhaps you didn’t get a chance.”
Your regular reminder that Trump watches a LOT of TV.
43. “I like the truth. I’m actually a very honest guy.”
44. “George, I know he hates me. And then he puts 18 people on who are Democrats.”
Donald Trump’s evidence that Robert Mueller hates him is because he knows Mueller hates him. Which all makes sense! Oh, also, Trump said that Mueller acted honorably in the probe in March. Good times.
45. “Because nobody has any idea how corrupt the media is. They are corrupt. Not all of it, fortunately. But the media is corrupt.”
Read “corrupt” here as “unwilling to write only positive stories about me.”
46. “When you will see my financial statement, at some point I assume it’s going to be released, you’ll be very impressed by the job I’ve done. Much, much bigger, much, much better than anybody.”
Remember: Trump is the only post-Watergate president not to release a single page of his past tax returns.
47. “If you’re going to cough, please leave the room. You just can’t, you just can’t cough. Boy, oh boy. OK, do you want to do that a little differently than uhh-“
White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney coughed during Trump’s answer about his “fantastic financial statement.” Two thoughts: 1) Trump is a noted germophobe and 2) He is effectively trying to executive produce ABC’s interview of him.
48. “I look forward to, frankly, I’d like to have people see my financial statement because it’s phenomenal-“
So, I think Trump is talking about his tax returns when he keeps saying “financial statement.” Of course, if he truly wanted people to see his tax returns, he could, you know, just release them.
49. “But they’re asking for things that they should never be asking for, that they’ve never asked another president for.”
Trump is the only post-Watergate president not to release a single page of his past tax returns.
50. “No, people hate Obamacare.”
In the May edition of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s tracking poll, 49% had a favorable opinion of the Affordable Care Act while 42% had an unfavorable view of it.
51. “Do you agree with the cough? I hate to have a cough in the middle of a (inaudible). … No, but don’t you agree with that?”
Yes, the cough is the key thing here.
52. “My life has always been a fight.”
His father gave him a “small” loan of $1 million when he was in his twenties.
53. “The campaign, the Trump campaign rebuffed them. We had nothing to do with Russia.”
54. “I’ll tell you, you talk about collusion, take a look at the collusion with the Democrat Party and Facebook and Google and Twitter. That’s called collusion, that’s called real collusion.”
The “real collusion,” in Trump’s mind, used to be between Clinton’s campaign and the Russians. That seems to have changed of late for Trump – as he has moved on to alleging a broad conspiracy against conservatives on social media sites. He has yet to provide any compelling evidence to back up this claim.
55. “And [Rusian President Vladimir] Putin, I will say this: if he had it, it was up to him. He would much rather have Hillary Clinton be president right now.”
We know from the Mueller report that Russians interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton because they believed Trump would be better for their country’s long-term interests. Also, Putin said flatly that he wanted Trump to win after the two men’s summit in Helsinki.”Yes, I did,” he said. “Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the US-Russia relationship back to normal.”
56. “I would guarantee you that 90%, could be 100%, of the congressmen or the senators over there, have had meetings – if they didn’t they probably wouldn’t be elected – on negative information about their opponent.”
Trump seems either incapable or unwilling to understand the difference between negative information a campaign unearths about another candidate and taking information from a foreign power. The first is business as usual in politics. The latter is a clear attempt to influence the outcome of another country’s sovereign elections.
57. “I don’t know, I stay uninvolved. I stay totally uninvolved.”
Trump is talking about his dealing with the Justice Department and its ongoing investigations. And yes, this statement is beyond laughable.
58. “Not only – not only wasn’t he charged, if you read it, with all of the horrible fake news – I mean, I was reading that my son was going to go to jail – this is a good young man – that he was going to go to jail.”
It is true that Mueller did not charge Donald Trump Jr. It is also true that Trump Jr. agreed to meet with Russians at Trump Tower in the summer of 2016 on the promise that they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. It is also also true that Trump Jr. replied to an email promising dirt on Clinton with this now famous/infamous line: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”
59. “I’ll tell you what: I’ve seen a lot of things over my life. I don’t think in my whole life I’ve ever called the FBI. In my whole life. You don’t call the FBI.”
This is from a 2017 BuzzFeed story: “According to a 1981 FBI memo, Trump offered to ‘fully cooperate’ with the bureau, proposing that FBI agents work undercover in a casino he was considering opening in Atlantic City. FBI agents even prepared an ‘undercover proposal concerning the TRUMP casino’ that senior agents and Trump planned to discuss, according to the document.”
60. “The FBI director is wrong because, frankly, it doesn’t happen like that in life.”
Trump is saying that FBI Director Christopher Wray, who he appointed to the job, is wrong about politicians needing to report entreaties by foreign powers to the FBI. Trump, as you may know, is not in fact a law enforcement professional. Here’s what Wray said on the subject last month in testimony to Congress: “If any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation state of anybody acting on behalf of a nation state about influencing or interfering with our election, then that’s something that the FBI would want to know about.”
61. “I don’t – there’s nothing wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘We have information on your opponent,’ oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”
Truly stunning stuff here. What Trump, who is, reminder, the President of the United States, seems to fail to grasp is that a foreign county would almost certainly have a motive for passing along negative information about Trump’s opponent.
Think back to what we know about Russian interference in the 2016 election. They sought to interfere to help Trump and hurt Clinton because they thought Trump would be better for their interests. Trump’s blindness – willful or otherwise – that other countries would pass along this information as part of an attempt to manipulate an American election to produce their desired results is scary – especially when you consider that we have another national election coming in 17 months.
62. “It’s not an interference. They have information. I think I’d take it.”
It is interference. There is a reason that we only let Americans vote in elections. Because Americans should be the ones who have the only say about the future leaders of America. I mean, come on. This is 7th grade civics class stuff.
63. “Barron’s doing fantastically. He’s here. He likes soccer. He’s doing a great job.”
Me on my sons: “They’re here. They like soccer. They’re doing a great job.” Weird, right?
64. “He– w– when you say ‘me,’ not me. … Because I didn’t know him at that time. That was a very different deal. But here’s the bottom line. I ended it.”
This is how Trump responded to Stephanopoulos’ question about whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un asked the United States to pay for Otto Warmbier to be returned to the US. So yes, he did.
65. “I think that Kim Jong Un– and you’ve heard many bad things about him, but you’ve heard from me different things.”
This seems to suggest that Trump doesn’t believe Kim is a bad guy – and that many of the reports of the atrocities by Kim are, uh, “fake news?”
66. “[Kim] could have almost an instantaneously wealthy behemoth.”
My college jazz fusion band was named “Instantaneously Wealthy Behemoth.”
67. “I say a lot of nice things about a lot of people that are very soft and nice.”
68. “Some might be nice, and some might not be nice. But I’ve done a great job.”
69. “The story on that very simply, No. 1, I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller.”
Trump denies here that he directed then White House counsel Donald McGahn to fire Mueller. Worth noting: McGahn has testified under oath Trump did exactly that.
70. “I don’t care what [McGahn] says. It doesn’t matter. That was to show everyone what a good counsel he was.”
Oh, it matters. Especially because, again, McGahn was under oath. Which Trump isn’t in this interview.
71. “Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer.”
OK. So, McGahn lied under oath to make himself look like a good lawyer? The logic here is truly mind-boggling.
72. “But Don McGahn thought he did a great favor. And maybe he even believes it. But that never happened. And I have people that will tell you it didn’t happen.”
73. “A president can run the country. And that’s what happened, George. I run the country, and I run it well.”
This was Trump’s response to a simple question: “So a President can’t obstruct justice?” I mean…
74. “I answered a lot of questions. They gave me questions. I answered them in writing.”
Trump refused to sit down with Mueller in person despite repeated attempts by the special counsel’s team to make that happen.
75. “They do societies that are so false. Everything – I mean, almost everything. They do so many false.”
“So many false.” – Donald Trump on the media
76. “I would say that he certainly must have known about it because it went very high up in the chain. But you’re going to find that out.”
No big deal here – just the current president accusing his predecessor of being aware of a Justice Department-led conspiracy aimed at keeping Trump from the White House!
77. “No collusion, no obstruction.”
Not what Mueller said. Here’s what the report said: “(I)f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. … Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
78. “Somebody that did a really great job for the country.”
Donald Trump on his legacy. This feels like a good place to (finally) end.