The Slatest

Latest Presidential Sit-Down Interview (Once Again) Shows Trump’s Cartoonish Understanding of the World Around Him

President Trump speaks after bill signing in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, November 16, 2018.
President Trump has some thoughts about things.
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

During an interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday, President Trump offered often incomprehensible answers to questions ranging from climate change to the economy and his opinion of the Fed chair. The two Post reporters who conducted the sit-down described the exchange as a “discordant 20-minute interview”—and that’s putting it politely. The president offered up rambling, corkscrewing answers that often careened into complete and utter incoherence. When comprehensible, Trump’s responses were worrying: He doesn’t believe his administration’s warnings on climate change or the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi; he’s mad at the Fed chair he selected, and it goes on and on.

Here’s an actual sentence uttered by the president: “One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers.” That’s totally out of context, but still. And another: “They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.”

Buckle up, here’s sampling of Trump’s answers. The full transcript is here.

Trump explains climate change (or his insistence on the lack thereof) or something:

Trump: One of the problems that a lot of people like myself, we have very high levels of intelligence, but we’re not necessarily such believers. You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and when you look at South America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia, including–just many other places—the air is incredibly dirty. And when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small. And it blows over and it sails over. I mean, we take thousands of tons of garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia. It just flows right down the Pacific, it flows, and we say where does this come from. And it takes many people to start off with.

No. 2, if you go back and if you look at articles, they talked about global freezing, they talked about at some point the planets could have freezed to death, then it’s going to die of heat exhaustion. There is movement in the atmosphere. There’s no question. As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it—not nearly like it is. 

Trump on whether the latest Russian aggression will impact his scheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G-20:

Trump: I am getting a report on that tonight, and that will determine what happens at the meeting. I’m getting a full report on that tonight. That will be very determinative. Maybe I won’t have the meeting. Maybe I won’t even have the meeting. We’re going to see. But depending on what comes out tonight, we should have a pretty good indication on exactly what happened tonight at about 6 o’clock.

Washington Post: Should that aggression concern people here?

Trump: I don’t like that aggression. I don’t like that aggression at all. Absolutely. And by the way, Europe shouldn’t like that aggression. And Germany shouldn’t like that aggression. You know they’re paying 1 percent, and they’re supposed to be paying much more than 1 percent.

On whether or not Trump is blaming Fed Chair Jerome Powell (who Trump put in the job just nine months ago) for recession jitters:

Trump: I’m not blaming — look, I took recommendations. I’m not blaming anybody. But I will tell you, at this moment in time I am not at all happy with the Fed. I am not at all happy with my choice. I think we have to let it go… I’m doing deals and I’m not being accommodated by the Fed. I’m not happy with the Fed. They’re making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me.

Trump on how he absolutely has no financial interests with the Saudis. Really.

Trump: … In the end, though, they’re spending massive amounts of billions of dollars. If you look at Iran and what they do, and you look at many other countries – I don’t have to embarrass other countries by saying it – if you look at what they do, it’s a rough part of the world. It’s a dangerous, rough part of the world. But they’ve been a great ally. Without them, Israel would be in a lot more trouble. We need to have a counterbalance to Iran. I know him. I know him well, the Crown Prince. And, by the way, never did business with them, never intend to do business with them. I couldn’t care less. This is a very important job that I’m doing right now. The last thing I care about is doing business with people. I only do business for us. Somebody said, well, maybe they’re an investor in one of his jobs. The answer is no. But I just feel that it’s very, very important to maintain that relationship. It’s very important to have Saudi Arabia as an ally, if we’re going to stay in that part of the world. Now, are we going to stay in that part of the world? One reason to is Israel. Oil is becoming less and less of a reason because we’re producing more oil now than we’ve ever produced. So, you know, all of a sudden it gets to a point where you don’t have to stay there.

Trump on why he doesn’t believebut doesn’t not believe?the American intelligence on culpability for the Khashoggi murder:

Trump: … If you look at my statement, it’s maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. But he denies it. And people around him deny it. And the CIA did not say affirmatively he did it, either, by the way. I’m not saying that they’re saying he didn’t do it, but they didn’t say it affirmatively. I’m saying this: We have $52-a-barrel oil right now and I called them about three months ago, before this whole thing happened with Khashoggi, and I let him have it about oil. We were up to $82 — probably two and a half months ago — we were up to $82 a barrel and it was going up to $100 and that would’ve been like a massive tax increase and I didn’t want that. And I called them and they let the oil start flowing and we’re at $52.

Sounds like he’s got it all pretty under control.