The Slatest

The New York Times Trump Interview Is a Reminder: The President Is a Huckster

An advertisement for a magazine at a news stand in Shanghai on Dec. 14, 2016.

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Two New York Times reporters sat down for an interview published Wednesday with President Trump and at least six—count’em six—high-level presidential advisers hovering in the background of the back-and-forth. Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush from the Times were joined by the usual suspects: chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer, whatever-it-is-Hope-Hicks-actually-does Hope Hicks, along with top economic adviser and former president of Goldman Sachs Gary Cohn, and, at some point, Vice President Mike Pence. That’s a lot of presidential assistance in one room for one interview. They were there to help, presumably. What they ended up witnessing was another stunning display of how little the president of the United States knows and his cringe-inducing huckster shtick when presented with questions he doesn’t know the answer to.

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Here are some of the things the president of the United States said—out loud—in an interview with the New York Times two-and-a-half months into his presidency.

TRUMP: Elijah Cummings [a Democratic representative from Maryland] was in my office and he said, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.”

HABERMAN: Really.

TRUMP: And then he went out and I watched him on television yesterday and I said, “Was that the same man?”

What?

On Democratic opposition to Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination:

TRUMP: Well, I think that some of it had to do with the election. They thought they were going to win. You know, winning the Electoral College is, for a Republican, is close to impossible and I won it quite easily. And I think they are still recovering from that, but they are recovering now. I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it’s a massive, massive story. All over the world, I mean other than The New York Times.

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The Electoral College? What?

Trump on “the biggest story there is:”

TRUMP: I think it’s one of the biggest stories. The Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that. But what, you know, what various things led into it was the story that we’re talking about, the Susan Rice. What’s happened is terrible. I’ve never seen people so indignant, including many Democrats who are friends of mine. I’ve never seen them acting this way. Because that’s really an affront on them, you know, they are talking about civil liberties. It’s such an affront, what took place.

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THRUSH: What other people do you think will get ensnared in this? Can you give us a sense? How far this might extend —

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HABERMAN: From the previous administration.

TRUMP: I think from the previous administration.

THRUSH: How far up do you think this goes? Chief of staff?

TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but —

THRUSH: President?

TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but you know who. You know what was going on. You probably know better than anybody. I mean, I frankly think The Times is missing a big thing by not writing it because you’re missing out on the biggest story there is.

What?

Trump on Bill O’Reilly:

TRUMP: I think he’s a person I know well. He’s a good person. I think he may, you know, I think he shouldn’t have settled, personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled.

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HABERMAN: How come?

TRUMP: Because you — should have taken it all the way. No, I know Bill. Bill’s a good person.

HABERMAN: Yeah.

TRUMP: I don’t think Bill would do anything wrong.

Bill O’Reilly wouldn’t do anything wrong? What?

On infrastructure:

TRUMP: We want to do a great infrastructure plan, and on that side I will say that we’re going to have, I believe, tremendous Democrat support. We are also going to have some good Republican support, and I think it’s going to be one of the very bipartisan bills and it’s going to happen. I may put it in with health care.

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HABERMAN: What’s your time frame, at this point, that you’re looking at as an accelerated?

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TRUMP: Well, we’re working — you know when people said, when you guys, because you know we have a very solid administration. We have some very, very good people. This man was the president of Goldman Sachs. I mean, he was, like, the president of Goldman Sachs.

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HABERMAN: I’m very familiar with his work.

TRUMP: And believe me, they wanted him. But he wanted to do something more important. As he said, as big as Goldman Sachs are, it was —

What?

THRUSH: We’ve heard some outlines in the press — how much public money versus tax credits are we talking about?

TRUMP: We may go public/private on some deals. We’re going to do a very big — you know, the money that was squandered by the past administrations. Squandered on airplane routing systems that don’t work. That, you know — what would you call the actual system itself? What would you say just so they know?

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UNIDENTIFIED AIDE: The current system? Land-based radar.

TRUMP: It is so bad. It’s so out of whack. They had all of these different companies hired. Tremendous amounts of money was spent. And they don’t hook up. They didn’t hire one company. They don’t hook up.

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They don’t hook up? What?

TRUMP: When you look at the infrastructure of some parts of our country, it’s really remarkably good. But you come back to New York and you look at the infrastructure of New York, you look at Van Wyck Expressway, you look at the medians, which, I would, you know, I’ve already got an order out — the aluminum medians — you’ve heard me talk about it.

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The medians on the Van Wyck Expressway? What?

HABERMAN: How much time are you spending on infrastructure, versus health care or —

TRUMP: I would say 10 percent more. Right now I’m focused on China.

Focused on the Middle East. We’re doing very, very well against ISIS, as you know. We just had a horrible thing happen yesterday.

We’re doing very, very well against ISIS? What?

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Monorail. Monorail. Monorail.

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