Writing About Political Characters From New York

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S1: He also mentioned to me in the past that the corruption related to the DNC server. Absolutely no question about that. But that’s it and that’s why we held up the money.

S2: Now, there was a report of the source of the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he was on to withhold funding to the VA.

S1: Look back to what happened in 2016. Certainly was was part of the thing that he was worried about and corruption with that nation then that is absolutely brutal in the funding. Yeah.

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S3: You just described is a quid pro for new reporting shows that there were serious concerns raised by Trump administration officials about the propriety and legality of what the president was doing. I would expect those guys to share their opinions with the president.

S4: I’d also expect them to walk out and, you know, either execute the president’s wishes or, you know, just maybe even leave if they disagreed with the president.

S5: Hello and welcome to Trump Cast. I’m Virginia Heffernan. So Susan Glasser at The New Yorker has a nominee for Word of the Year. And this time it’s an import from the great language of Trump’s forefathers, German. It’s and I’m going to really do this. It’s Trembler Reger ROOM, schlozman’s, Schlussel, Schmidts or rather Trump. She merits this word is analogous to vellore schmear. So you guys know this one pane of the world, the kind of pain of existence, schmear. It’s just to be pedantic. Care gives us smarts in English as in. Ouch. That smarts pain. Trump Schmidts is the ambient pain we all experience in having Trump as president of the United States on our t.v.’s in our media supersaturated, our visual fields, our ears, our minds, his voice, his hair, his his Steria, his hacking away at everything. Ages ago, Yasha Monk sent to me on this show that he hoped Trump would be maximally invasive like a surgery. Why? Because minimally invasive fascists and tyrants, he said. Once you notice less as they use a kind of titrated acid to dissolve democracy rather than clubs, hatchets, acres and chainsaws like Trump does, those more sly, minimally invasive politicians to Yasha are more dangerous because we, the people don’t see what’s happening until it’s too late. And we have certainly not missed what is happening to our country under Donald Trump. So small blessings Trump we can see in broad daylight is banging around with jackhammers and everybody. And I mean, everybody wants it to stop. I even have a suspicion about traditional Republicans and evangelicals based on some of the events, many of the events of the past two weeks, and in particular, the response to Republican stonewalling on the impeachment and the Christianity Today editorial that advocated the impeachment of Trump. My theory is that ordinary Americans, taxpayers, working families, possibly churchgoers, just want all of this to fucking go away. They want life to be normal again. They want a Hallmark movie where people are gently introduced to a lesbian marriage or interfaith relationships or whimsical social and ethnic harmony. And no one’s talking about repealing amendments or seceding or civil war or kunr in a world like we used to know with death and aging and birth and disease and pain and joy. But where the public square in general stays at normal decibels and ordinary exchanges with neighbors that are about as barbed as Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers and a pluribus unum normal America. And even for people who voted for Trump in 2016, Trump has become universally the opposite of normal America today. For today, I really suspect that voters in 2020 and 2020 start tomorrow. They’ll vote for normalcy. Whatever that looks like, even if voting for it means staying home from the polls for a nice normal day at the office or in front of the Hallmark Channel, someone who’s taken the temperature of the abnormality and lived to tell about it, fortunately for us, is one. Olivia Nuzzi of New York magazine. Something satisfying for those of us who are somewhat older than the enchanting Miss Nuzzi is that she’s obsessed with magazines in the way New Yorkers were obsessed with them in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s when I got here. She knows their histories, their prose and the tricks and how magazine journalists do their work. And she has brought all that to Washington, D.C. and her coverage of this administration. So part of my interview with her is about how she interesting person that she is, came to do the incredibly intimate and bold voiced reporting that she does. And part of it is about those two Trump Schmidts inducing savages whom Olivia knows far too well. Rudolph Giuliani and Donna, you know who I mean. Welcome, Olivia. Thank you for having me. It’s such a pleasure to have you. And I’m a little starstruck because you are like a comet in our times.

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S6: Oh, that’s horrifying.

S7: I was gonna ask you, how has it been for you over the last three years? You sort of broke on the scene when you worked for Anthony Wiener. That was, what, seven years ago?

S6: Like seven years ago? Yeah, I was in 2013. The summer of 2013 is when that happened.

S7: Okay. And then up to the present moment where you’re getting increasingly erratic texts from the president’s personal pro-bono lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. So maybe walk us through, if you can, how you became the reporter that you are now, the journalists you are now.

S6: Well, I’m a Capricorn. I’m just so happy birthday. Thank you.

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S8: You know, it’s all been a blur the last several years. I got a sign that Trump beat when that did not seem like a very attractive assignment.

S9: You and me both. Both Trump. So long ago, thought it would last a month. Yeah.

S10: And you know, I remember to this day, the day of his announcement speech, I had interviewed Donald Trump that fall and I was interviewing him about Atlantic City casinos because I covered Chris Christie and from New Jersey. And I wrote a lot about Governor Christie. And the subtext always being, you know, whether or not he was going to make a serious run for president. And that’s when I first interview Donald Trump. And I remember at the end of my interview with him, I think this was in like November of 2014. Mm hmm. I felt like he was waiting for me at some point during the interview to ask him about whether or not he would run for president, because at that point, he had been toying with the idea publicly for like a decade. More than that. And I kind of felt like it would be rude for me to not ask. And so at the end of the interview, I really didn’t care because it didn’t seem like a serious thing. He was kind of like the boy who cried campaign. But I said, so, you know, are you thinking about 2016? And he seemed you know, he was waiting for me to ask that question. And he I’m paraphrasing, but he said something like, well, you know, I’m thinking about you. I’m looking at it. I’m thinking very seriously, you know, if the country needs me, there’s something like that, then. Then I’ll probably do it. And I remember I wrote it up for The Daily Beast, where I worked at the time. And, you know, the piece was basically like Donald Trump says he might run for 2016, run for president 2016. Again, he’s been saying this for so long. You know, we’ll see if it pans out. And I remember the piece ended with like stay tuned or something like that. And then a month later, The Daily Beast was like a pretty strict policy about like not covering Donald Trump and like anything that he said that was inflammatory or, you know, we try to not amplify that too much before he was running for president. Then obviously, that all went out the window. But I remember my editor calling me and saying, oh, I’m so sorry, but can you just write up he’s doing this event. You only have to cover him for this one day. And I was like, all right, fine. Sure. And then, you know, however many months later was sitting next to her at the Republican convention in Cleveland like, fuck you. I can’t believe I’m still doing this. Yes. And yeah, it’s been pretty much nonstop since June 16th, 2015. And it’s very difficult for me to.

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S11: It feels like I’ve just been kind of like running on one breath in all that time of that mix. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s been disorienting. I don’t really remember. I don’t remember what life was like before. He was constantly looming over all of my thoughts and in my activities.

S7: There was a time my 10 year old daughter said that when we walked around the neighborhood that every conversation I had with anyone I ran into it presupposed or we didn’t even need to have an antecedent. It was just always he he. Yes, he. Do you believe what he’s doing? It’s an ongoing story, as if we were all, you know, married to the same abuser. And I sort of thought that was a good point. And of course, all of us have made efforts to disengage somehow or at least engage on our own terms. Have you tried to do anything like that?

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S10: Well, I think, you know, with my White House coverage, you know, I’m lucky because I work for a magazine and we’re on a slower timeline than the papers or the networks. And so I don’t have to kind of drink from the fire hose of news every day, but just try and keep up with what the hell is happening is impossible. And I’m overwhelmed by it constantly. But I do find when I’m at the White House a lot and I’m doing a lot of White House reporting for a specific story that after that story is published, I tend to kind of retreat. And now I’m working on a book with Ryan Lizza about the 2020 campaign. And we’re covering a lot of Democrats as a result. And obviously, that’s just an interesting story as well. And I’m covering them for the magazine, too. But I find it’s kind of like I don’t like I have divorced parents or something like when I’m sick of covering the White House and I can’t deal with them anymore. And like, my head is spinning and I feel like I’m going crazy. I kind of retreat and go out on the campaign trail and hang out with the Democratic candidates and their supporters. And then after I do that for a while and I’m kind of like cleansed by the heads of crazy in a different way, a very, very different way than, you know, I go back and I do another White House story and I kind of always ping pong between those two worlds.

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S7: One thing that also that you have done. Bless you. So the rest of us haven’t had to is deal with some of these people in person. And I think I’ve said on this show before, I read a little bit of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book, I can’t pretend I read the whole thing up in the bookstore. But the first fifteen pages are about how if you meet someone in a sort of weird irony that I guess he discovered is that if you meet someone in person, you can sometimes be less well equipped to predict what they’ll do because they seem so multi-faceted. He had all these examples of Halifax and Chamberlain meeting Hitler and coming away thinking, you know what an asshole. HROOB, he’s awful, but I don’t think he’s going to invade Poland, where Churchill could see from a distance. You know, what he thought of him in much simpler terms and he did see that aggression in him. Do you feel like you’ve been able because you’ve seen so many dimensions and as you say, you you talked to Trump face to face years ago and you have seen so many dimensions to all these people. How do you think that’s affected your capacity to determine what they’re doing to the country?

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S8: You know, I don’t really know. I guess, you know, I think there is a lot of room for different types of coverage, thankfully. And what I do, I mostly write feature and profiles.

S11: That’s very different than what somebody like David Fahrenthold does or somebody like Jonathan Swan at axios. I think there’s room for for all of that coverage. Yeah, I think about the criticism that I get a lot, particularly from the left, about humanizing these people and whether or not that is an OK thing to do. And it’s something that I think about a lot and I feel differently about depending on what the story is and I’m being criticized for or depending on how self-loathing I’m feeling that day. I’m always kind of going over, you know, my pieces and thinking, you know what I should have done differently or how I could have done it better. And so I guess it’s something I think about a lot, but I don’t know if I’ve come to any profound conclusions like I try I think there’s tremendous value for me in getting to know my subjects and sources personally.

S12: Yeah, often I come away hating them more. If I if I kept Justins. But you know, for what I do, I feel like it’s it’s necessary. I’m not going to read a profile of somebody without, you know, trying as best as I can to get to know them on a personal level.

S7: You have a very nice. And from your first, I think you’re one of your first published pieces about your father. You have a really extraordinary way, not just of engaging with your subjects, but of keeping your head clear about them, you know? So like Giuliani continues to trust you. Well, maybe he’s blocking you now. I know he goes back, but you will also never leave him with the impression that you think he’s like a dandy, charming dude, you know? So somehow he talks to you, even though he knows that you mock him and also dislike him.

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S6: Yeah.

S10: Giuliani is an interesting case because we when I hung out with him recently for an interview, it happened after he had been really furious with me and had like blocked my number. And we could only communicate via like email and WhatsApp because, yeah, I couldn’t return hits like I messages ‘cause he blocked me and I just didn’t realize that. Yes. And I didn’t know what that means in practice. Yeah. And I don’t know if this is why he came around, started talking to me again, but he was like berating me via e-mail late at night.

S8: He’d gotten really upset because I said in a story about Joe Biden that Joe Biden seems like a like a nice guy or something like that. Kevin Yeah. Yeah, seems like a good person. Something like that. ‘Cause he just does. Sorry. Yeah. And he was like, Oh, you’re so biased. We can this is useless. We shouldn’t talk. And I kind of like his goading him like, oh, come on, like you’re a New Yorker. That’s not how we resolve our conflicts. Like let’s have a face to face. Good. Yeah. I don’t he ever reply to that. But then like he started answering me again. But with him, he’s so like when I broached that subject in person, he kind of looks like he didn’t know what I was even talking about. And so I don’t know if it’s like he just didn’t care or didn’t want to talk about it or didn’t think it was interesting and just want to talk about his own stuff or he had just like gotten over it and moved on. I don’t know. Or he just wasn’t aware of it and didn’t realize that like I was the person he’d been fighting with.

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S6: I was in the shower. But I guess I.

S12: I mean, I try, you know, in response to that article after Giuliani got mad at me. I talked about this a little bit on Twitter. Really? I try other journalists, obviously, very different strategies. And, you know, I’m not saying this is the correct strategy. It’s just what works for me and what makes me feel like less of a jerk. Like I try to make sure that people are not surprised by what I write and sometimes they are anyway.

S9: Jess, you said that recently, which is by the way, I mean, I have such a hard time with profiles because part of my head is in the Janet Malcolm world of work. I know I’m gonna betray you. Whoever the nice person, I’m talking to us, but I’m never somehow able, you know, once I get home, I never have to deal with them again. I don’t want to deal with their responses. I don’t you know, I don’t ever want to think about them.

S6: But, you know, that’s really, really about that. I you know, I was talking to another two conversations with journalists recently about this. And one was I was in Iowa and I went out to dinner with a presidential candidate and with a friend of mine who’s also a journalist. And I wasn’t even aware of it as it was happening. But after the dinner, my friend said, oh, my God, you like. Fight with these people. It’s like, oh, I guess I do. And I guess I’d said something that had offended or upset this presidential candidate. And I just it’s like, oh, like, you know, who gives a shit? We continue to have the conversation. My friend was like, you know, that’s not the strategy that I employ. I normally am just kind of like, yes, a ha ha. Tell me more. Yeah. And like, I agree with them, no matter how crazy what they’re saying is. Yeah. And sometimes I do obviously if I want someone to keep explaining something, I just say. And what do you mean by that? Over and over again. And while they like to hang themselves and then I was talking to another journalist like the other day about this. Right. I was particularly tormented about something that day. I can remember what it was. And I was just saying, you know, do you still think about the people that you profile after the fact? And they said, like, not really.

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S12: Like, every once in a while, I’ll think about somebody that I spend a lot of time with. But basically, no is the answer. And I was like, really? I couldn’t believe that because I find myself like always thinking about the people that I spent time. I don’t think it’s healthy. And like, I don’t know if it’s a good strategy for doing this, but I’m always thinking about the people who have like trusted me to do this. You know, inherently risky, kind of stupid thing. And like what it means that they trusted me and like, did I fuck it up and was a tough enough?

S11: And did I take any shots just for the sake of like protecting myself from what I know the citizens will be? I think about these things like constantly and I’m always tormented by it and I feel awful all the time.

S9: Well, I I love Ashley Fineberg sense and I don’t know, she’s like something in the same manner about sort of figuring in her own emotional state into enjoy her work, too, which I think is something else that young journalists have brought to the equation that didn’t exist. It was a little bit like what magazine journalists could sometimes be really voice see like you or be emotional on swaggering and have that Hunter S. Thompson thing. But I don’t know. You guys do something else that I can’t quite put my finger on. It feels varying. You would.

S12: I would. I do. I don’t feel like it’s very new. You know, I kind of I see in my work, you know, it’s just a product of decades of new journalism and decades of the type of journalism. Yeah. New York magazine has been publishing since.

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S5: Yes, 1968 and for the record has done so well or I think they’ve done it really well.

S13: But and but what Ashley does is totally feels totally new to me and like totally fresh.

S12: And it’s so different from what I do. But it’s obviously extraordinary, extraordinarily valuable in an entirely different, profound way on its own. But there is, you know, that element, obviously, if like you feel like you when you read her, unpack some kind of investigation, you feel like, yeah, like right there with her and like you kind of get a sense of of what she’s thinking. Even though we don’t really know.

S14: Yeah. I mean I guess it’s that the that really testosterone in new journalism of like and here we are getting high together and you know, sharing a girlfriend or whatever is like the guy version of you just saying I’m filled with anxiety, all which kind of thing that actually does, which is like the your emotions are part of it.

S7: I actually want to jump to something I think is related, which is just the thing that you said to to Giuliani, which is we’re New Yorkers. That’s not how we resolve things. You know, you don’t just silence someone. You have it out with them. And this is also something you bring to the table. It reminds me in a different key of what Vicky Ward has been able to do with the Epstein’s set and with Glenn Maxwell and the Kushner’s and Advanta, which is she is from this posh British set. So somehow she always got invited to parties where she would run into a vodka. And she basically just like kept her eyes open and your ears open and took in this whole scene and how people interact with each other. And then was able when it broke open to write about it. And you, as you say, are kind of first and foremost a New Yorker. You know, you’re not like grew up in New Jersey, but I was born there.

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S14: But, you know, your father’s. Yeah, your father’s younger, I should say, Tri-State area. Right. And in northern New Jersey.

S8: Yes, central. But yeah, it’s like no one who isn’t from there knows the difference between northern and central.

S7: Got it. Okay. Okay. It’s like not too far from the soprano land or at least some of that idiom was familiar to you. And also, you know, your dad was from Brooklyn. And so you have been able to appeal to I mean, the New York contingent that went down. Or is it works in Washington and that sometimes seem to have completely taken over at various it waxes and wanes. And sometimes there’s the John Bolton’s and the McConnells that are high in the mix. But at other times, there’s scaramouch, there’s Michael Cohen, there’s Rudolph Giuliani, there’s Donald Trump himself, who really just bring that New York thing that lots of Americans are not familiar with, you know, including New York.

S14: I mean, I’ve lived here 30 years, but I still think of myself as a New Hampshire, right? You know.

S9: Right. And and it’s been reporters like you who’ve been able to basically go like mano a mano with Giuliani, who like I would run from.

S8: I think Maggie Haberman is like the best example of this. Like I was reading, she did a great piece with I think it was with Matt and Heimer the other day about Bloomberg and his mayoral race. And I was reading it. I was just thinking, first of all, how lucky are some of us that, like all of these New York characters, are just constantly relevant? I know. Yeah. That we cover. But also, just how lucky are we that like someone like Maggie Haberman who has these roots in.

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S11: Yeah. New York tabloids, who has an understanding of Donald Trump that goes, you know, far beyond what I think a lot of other a lot of Washington journalists. I understand him.

S12: We’re very lucky to have her covering him because she gets something that I don’t think that you can get unless you’re really of that universe. Unless you. Yeah. You know, I grew up reading my dad would bring home The New York Post and The New York Daily News every day.

S15: Oh, both Balz and I had a little household.

S8: Well, I thought that The Daily News is like a very serious paper compared to The Post because I would read them every day. And that was why I ended up agreeing to write that story by Anthony Wiener for them, because I didn’t think of them as a tabloid. I was like, oh, well, they’re like dignified.

S15: Yeah, yeah. Obviously did not pan out as I expected, but.

S12: But yeah, I mean, I think there sometimes when I see Trump at the White House, I kind of have this like, oh, like this fucking guy, like he’s this guy’s here. It’s so it’s not just like, oh, he’s Donald Trump. He’s not a politician.

S8: He he doesn’t understand like our democratic norms or, you know, he doesn’t care about democracy and all of the things that, you know, we could talk about with his politics that are concerning and problematic or offensive. Like it’s just like, oh, this guy who, like, you know, really just shouldn’t be here. Geographically. Yes. Yeah, you’re right.

S9: And it’s very strange to see him in this setting, sort of like some kind of like almost a sight gag. Like, I think. Yeah. And says that about Ali G. That like he dressed up in those clothes just for the childish sight gag of having people see him near.

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S14: Buzz Aldrin or near some politician and or like a kind of Beverly Hillbillies or like that one where Paris Hilton went to the country or whatever, you know, reality shows. And Bill. You never forget fish out of water kind of thing.

S7: And yeah, you’re right. I mean, I haven’t been there to, like, see him in the Rose Garden. But sometimes when, you know, you think of I mean, Milani is just ridiculous taste and decorating or just any of it in collision with that architecture and that history. It just seems it’s just dumb like a kind of like uncanny heebie jeebies feeling.

S6: You know, it’s very strange. I don’t really know how I would describe it, but I remember I interviewed Trump in the Oval Office last fall. And at the end of our conversation, I can’t remember if I put this in the story or not, but as I was like walking out, he is like true Trump fashion like wanted to continue talking. And his press aides were like, no. You have to stop now. Like were she’s sleeping. And he was like, oh, New York magazine, Clay Felker. Like, he just threw out the name of our oh, my God, I’m fat or who’s been, you know, who is a genius but has not been alive for like, I think since 2000. Eight or five. And I was like, right. He didn’t say anything else. He just was like Clay Felker. It’s like. Right.

S8: And he was like, you know, I used to live near your office. Like like I don’t know where Trump used to live in New York and Trump Tower. I was like, oh, really? Like, I think I remember that. Yeah, but he just like, clearly wanted to talk about New York like he misses New York.

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S12: I think that’s why he has the connection that he seems to have with the times and why he continues to speak to the times when other people are like, you know, why would he continue doing that if he hates him so much? It’s like part of it, I think, is he wants their approval and, you know, he wants to feel like they accept him. But I think another part of it is like he misses his old life and he feels very alien here. Yeah, maybe I’m projecting. I mean, I feel alien here, but.

S15: Right. Clay Felker is not like a household name there. Obviously, I would know that. But I was just like, oh, of course. Yeah. Yeah. Let’s just. Why do you write?

S14: Do you know why? Like old home dudes. Yeah. Definitely. There’s definitely kind of a shorthand. You know, you mentioned here in New York where your kids go to school and then it’s just like, oh, my friend went to school there or, you know, just it’s instant, you know. And just even saying the syllables, Clay Felker to you is an effort to signify you’re similar.

S9: You have this bond in common. I have to ask you this. I know there’s something that you haven’t said about Trump in person that I hope you will say between us. Then for listeners, some small thing about his comportment, about his speech, about his psychology, about his appetites, about his intelligence, that’s something that, you know, only someone who’s really spent time with him and kept her head clear would know.

S12: I wouldn’t say I like really spent time with him. You know, I’ve interviewed him like a few times. You know, I think the longest interview I ever had with him was like 30 minutes. So I haven’t spent like a great deal of time with him, but I would love to if anyone is listening, who can make that happen. Please call me. But, you know, one of the weirdest things about him is there are always reports about him screaming and yelling. And obviously when you see him at on-stage, his rallies, he’s projecting his voice a lot and he looks amped up. But when he is sitting down and talking, he has like a very if you read the text on the page, you assume that he’s being quite animated and conversational and, you know, he’s talking like you or I would he’s if I were to perform it, I would my voice would be in different tones and pitches and it would sound human. And when he talks at length, you know, in monologue, it’s very quiet and it’s like a very low tone. That’s almost it’s almost like monotone. It’s very strange. He’s very calm. And that’s strange to me because, you know, when you read his text on the page or you watch him at a rally or on a television interview, he just seems very animated and choose a link. I hadn’t watched that spew out of him in like a very calm, almost like a Zen like state. It’s very strange. And I don’t know what that’s about, but that always sticks with me. Also, he’s very soft hands. Like his hands are extraordinarily soft in like a weird way, I think.

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S7: Okay, so you say Zen. Is it possible that he when he’s in one of those monologues and I’ve observed this being around people in their 70s and 80s who tend to monologue instead of falling silent, that there’s a kind of like self stimulation, fugue state or something like maybe it forgets who he’s talking to. He’s using strings of phrases that he’s used before.

S13: Definitely that I’m OK with that because he says a lot of the same stuff that he has said a thousand times before when he’s talking a monologue, you know, like you could probably Malvin Long with him as he talks. Yeah.

S8: So maybe it’s he’s just tapping into like his script in his head and he’s focused. I don’t know. But like I was comparing it in my head, when you ask us to like how Giuliani talks because Giuliani talks in monologue as well and he like large chunks of text.

S10: If you look at the transcript, it’s like paragraphs of him talking and then, you know, me being like, ha! And then him talking again for another couple of paragraphs.

S6: And he is like it’s like he’s auditioning for law and order or something. He’s like, super dramatic. He he’s a very performative. He’s very compelling. Like a lot of the stuff he’s saying. I was like, wow, it’s like a it’s crazy. Like what you’re saying is absolutely fucking crazy. However, the way that you said it is very compelling and good coffee. It was a really good argument, even though it’s crazy bullshit, like it still sounded good. And I could see how someone like not brushed up on like the Ukraine scandal might be compelled by this. When he was talking, I kept thinking like, oh my God, it sounds like Scorsese. He wrote this. Wow. Trump I’m never like if you I mean, if you watch a Trump rally, you’re never like, wow, what a beautiful turn of phrase. You know?

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S5: Yes, that’s a good point. Heat. He doesn’t land. He and he also doesn’t land a point. My brother’s an actor and he’s interested in how people use their physicality to land a point. Like he’s afraid of being interrupted so he doesn’t leave enough space to make a point.

S6: Yeah.

S12: And I always you know, when you’re like in the Rose Garden or the East ROOM or something, it’s pretty close quarters. So it’s easier to see this as it happens at the moment. But like Trump’s at the podium and then in the Rose Garden, let’s say they’re like two gigantic flat screen TV t.v.’s with his words printed on them as a teleprompter, like not a standard glass pane teleprompter, like just two huge t._v.s in the press scrum with his speech on it. And the letters are like the size of your head. It pauses when he’s adlibbing and then it picks back up again when he starts reading from the script again. And sometimes it seems like he is kind of like slowly collecting what is on the screen while he’s ad libbing, and then he picks back up again when he’s ready to like say it all at once. And sometimes it sounds like he’s reading it for the first time because he’s like commenting on it. You know, he’ll be like, you had this many undocumented immigrants came into the country in 2014.

S6: He’ll say something like, huh, yeah, look at that. Would you believe that you’ve never heard it before? Right. Even though it came out of his mouth. Yeah. Like he definitely didn’t, like, read this before he came out here. But I always think that’s interesting to watch him kind of he. Here’s to late be keeping his eye on the screen as if he’s absorbing everything on it and then he says it rather than reading along as he would if you were reading a teleprompter.

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S16: So we have all over the place people saying going back to Rod Rosenstein considering the 25th Amendment or rumors that he did. And we have Bandy Lee at Yale with a whole team of psychiatrists saying that he’s mentally incompetent. George Conway has written about him having a personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder. Very seriously documenting what he thinks makes him unfit to lead. When you’re with him, instead of asking you to make a diagnosis, when you’re with him or when you see him, do you feel like you’re in the presence of someone who’s mentally disturbed, like, you know, how sometimes you might find yourself at a family table and everybody makes room for the aunt who’s like just a little cracked, like she just repeats.

S9: I’m that aren’t does. I’m just OK. I’m I’m heading toward us. As listeners know, Batty British pensioner is where I hope all of this ends up. I have to turn British before it happens. But the rest the badness I have down. But I. Well, OK, maybe people are making room for us, as you know, whatever we are. But you know how like there’s just a general pack. Yeah. That if someone’s on a subway train or if someone is just dominating the conversation and maybe not listening or Lake has some cognitive problem that, you know, you’re going to accommodate it. But that’s what’s happening. You know, it’s not a normal conversation. Do you feel like the rest of the press corps and you are doing that with him? Like, do you feel like you’re around a mentally compromised person?

S6: I mean, I don’t he’s so strange. I think, yeah.

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S12: That people react to his strangeness. And I don’t I don’t know what the source of that strangeness is. I don’t know if you know, George Conways. Correct. Or any of the psychiatrists who have come out to speculate about what may or may not be wrong with him. I don’t know if they’re correct, but he is deeply strange. Yeah. Regardless of what the source of that is. And so I think people are always reacting to that. I mean, I always feel like we’re in like a Nat Geo documentary or like Planet Earth to something. And we’re like, yeah, you know. You know, because even though he seems predictable and like he says a lot of the same stuff, he reacts in a lot of similar ways. There seems to be a pattern with his behavior in the moment if you’re at a press conference here. No. If he’s going to start yelling at Jim Acosta, you don’t know if he’s going to like. I mean, that day I remember in the East ROOM and they had like they’re pretty intense argument.

S8: And it resulted in, I think, them coming to take the microphone away from Acosta. I remember being a genuinely nervous who’s sitting there. And I was like, oh, goodness, like, what is going to happen here? I was like there there was like a funny reaction photo of me, like just like in the background sitting there were like my face looks like really, really concerned because I thought, like, it might get physical.

S15: I don’t know. You don’t you really don’t know in a situation like that.

S9: He does act like it’s the New York streets in the 70s and 80s of like, what do you want for nothing? And people slamming on on everyone yelling out of their taxi windows and rear ending people on purpose.

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S6: Just, you know, just that crazy aggression.

S12: Yeah, but I don’t I don’t know if I think I mean, I think it’s just people it’s a he’s deeply strange and B, he is the most powerful person in America. And so when I see when I watch staff interact with him or even when he was just a candidate. When you watch staff in Trump Tower interact with him, they’re very deferential, I think, because he’s the boss. He’s this rich celebrity. And I think there’s like that aspect of it, as well as the fact that now obviously he’s prince in the United States and he is a predictable, seemingly crazy person. I think it’s a combination of things.

S16: One thing that observers from far away are always curious about is why? Why there aren’t more Jim Acosta’s why there aren’t more people who just shout out. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. The whole time he’s talking. Or like that. Just or just flip the script somehow and box him in or, you know, at least do what European leaders do and like snub him in physical ways or just somehow contain him and bring him up short and make him accountable.

S7: You know, my guess is and I feel like Wonka just did this on Face the Nation that something in them makes people grovel, is too strong a word, but just makes people afraid.

S5: I think Jim Comey even said it, that it would be too awkward to refuse him that it’s. He’s created this context where it really takes an insane force of will. And you’re a person who talks back to your subjects like you will confront Giuliani. I mean, what do you think stops? Maybe other people who deal with him one on one from just confronting him?

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S6: I don’t know. You know, I think back to that interview in the Oval Office. I don’t mean to, like, keep talking about that, because I hate when you do that. But I remember sitting there and I. More than anything, I wanted him to keep talking.

S17: It was an ordinary scene. And I wanted to absorb as much. I was on no sleep heads. I was supposed to have a story to my editor that morning that did not exist. And I had like stayed up all night writing like 600 words about like John Kelly is like military career for no reason. Because it was a story about John Kelly that ended up not being used. And I was just like exhausted. And I was trying to be very deliberate with everything that I said. And I remember sitting there as he’s rambling on and just kind of waiting for first or when is there even a moment to get a word in? Yeah. Push back him. Cause the way that he talks, it’s like the words connect with each other, the sentences connect. He doesn’t pause to take Gretz. There’s no natural. It’s not a conversation I guess is what I’m trying to say. And when I jumped in to make a point or to ask him to clarify something like what would be the best use of my time here? That’s what I was thinking about in the moment. And I was very aware that like I’m obviously recording this. I’m sure someone in the White House is recording this besides just wanting to do like a good job and wanting to hold myself in like a respectable way. I also was aware that like people might listen to this and would obviously have their criticisms of it. And I just remember thinking it was just better. Most of the time in that conversation to just let him continue to talk. I was not going. If I said to him, oh, you just cited that Rasmussen poll and I know that you’re off by four points in your approval. Just as one example. Like, OK, what is he going to say?

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S8: He’s at best he’s going to be like, OK, whatever. Keep talking. You’re not going to get really irritated and cut this short. And I just wanted more of him on the record. And I think any journalist can relate to that. When you’re when you have a great when you’re aware that you’re in the middle of like an incredible moment.

S13: You just want it to go on. He also called in and Kelly. I did not want it to end. And I I mean, there were moments. So I go back when I think about that transcript and come back to it, because that would be insane. But I think you it now, like there were a few moments where, you know, I pushed back or he said something about, um, anonymous sources. And I was like, well, don’t you cite anonymous sources all the time. And I think he just like ignored me and kept on talking or he either ignored me or he said something like, no, well, and then kept going. And, you know, there were moments when I interjected. But like, what am I going to do, have a fight with him about his immigration? Absolutely.

S14: See, you’re not Adam Schiff. You know, you’re not known for prosecuting.

S13: I just didn’t if I knew that, like, it would lead somewhere, I would do it. If you if we were on camera, I would probably be comport myself in a very different way. But I think.

S17: I think a lot of the time you just want to get as many of your questions in as possible. And that’s in any scenario. But I think about Jim Acosta, like I think that Jim is great at his job. I think that he there is space for someone to ask the types of questions that he does. And really the president as he does justice, there’s space for Jonathan Karl or someone like that who lives in a in a very different way. But a lot of times, you know, you leave a situation where they had some kind of spat and other reporters are really irritated because that becomes the story of the day. The story of the day, it’s Trump versus the media and nobody learns anything. We just confirm everything we’ve already known. Reporters are pissed off that they didn’t get to ask the questions that they’d been planning to ask, that they didn’t get to press the president on the news and day because everything gets diverted and it becomes a sideshow, which is exactly what the president wants. And he goes after somebody like Jim Acosta. Yeah. I’m not saying that I disagree with what Acosta does. I think what he does is. Works for him. And I think there is space for it. But I understand the criticisms of it as well.

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S13: But I also. Sorry if I’m rambling like Trump. Not at all. I’ve heard in but like in the briefing room, you know, people always use when they had briefings. People, as you say, just boycott it. Don’t go. And it’s like, why would I do that? Why would we not an opportunity to question these people on the record if we can take it like. It’s not like by being there, we’re telling them we agree with the way that you’re handling things and we support your policies. You know, it’s just I don’t think anything would be accomplished. And now we have no briefing. I think we have less information. And also in that’s in the setting of like a joint press conference.

S8: There are very, very few questions that are actually asked. They’re probably like five questions asked. And the way that it’s done, it’s not like it’s like they walk over and they hand the person the microphone and then they get the microphone. They walk over and they hand it to somebody else. You ask a question of President Trump and you ask question of the foreign leader. And they both have an opportunity to answer. It’s not like the type of thing where you that it’s really conducive to like having a fight. And so I guess I mean, when I’m at the White House, when I see reporters question the president, I do see them push back. But I don’t see them most of the time arguing with him about like the merits of his policies. And I think that’s what people want. And I understand why they want that. But when you’re in a gaggle setting or a press conference, it’s very hard to do that. And I think a lot of reporters, especially television reporters, cannot behave that way. They would not have their jobs if they did.

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S9: I think that’s right. And you’ve got me convinced. I think sometimes maybe too much on TV. We want and I’m especially thinking of his Face the Nation interview that Ivanka Trump did over the weekend. You want the reporter to be a proxy for us, you know, and all the things that you’ve like laying in bed thinking like, I wish I could just say this to have anchor’s face, you know, and it could be instead that the best thing is for the reporter to kind of let them reveal themselves, you know, so that then we can have our own.

S8: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, I think that that that interview was really silly and pointless and a lot of ways. And I thought that, you know, I’ve a lot of respect for for Margaret Brennan. But I also think that a lot of the criticisms of the interview were completely valid. And it didn’t it felt like it felt like a softball interview. And I think that we certainly shouldn’t be doing that. But I also could totally see how that happens. You know, if you are you fight back and forth. I’m not saying I agree with this. Please don’t yell at me or write me emails.

S13: But like I I you totally see how like, you fight back and forth for months to get access to somebody and you have them in the chair finally and you’re talking to them and it’s this big get for you. And how this interview pans out will determine how easy it will be for you to get access to the people that you want to interview in the administration going forward. I’m just going I can’t speak for Margaret Brennan.

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S8: I can see how you feel like maybe it would not be worthwhile to push back really hard or maybe it will be better to just let her speak because she so rarely does in this type of thing. I think that was a failure in that particular instance. But I could totally see how that happens.

S9: Okay. One last thing. Giuliani where it is. Where do you stand?

S14: And his avuncular, weird confession. You know, mother confessor relationship with you. Is he is he talking to you? Is that you hear things right now?

S6: He is mad at me. You know, he called me. I sent him the story after it was published. And I didn’t hear from him for a while. And then I saw another reporter or someone at NBC had reached out to him. And he said he hadn’t read the story and he like doubled down on his crazy comments about George Soros. And then later in the day, he called me to yell at me, but he had only read like five paragraphs in the story. And I was like, why don’t you call me back after you read the rest of it? Yeah. And he wasn’t upset initially.

S17: He was upset that I had characterized him as having told me about his business interests in Ukraine, which is just objectively what he fucking did.

S13: Not my fault that he did that. But he was making the distinction that he did not currently have any active business interest in Ukraine. And therefore, it was wrong for me to say that he explained his business interests in Ukraine to me, even though that is what he did. Got it. And then later, when he called me to yell at me again, he said that his his daughter, who’s a liberal, had told him not to to stop calling me, but he was doing it anyway. Then he he said, I you know, I took some cheap shots. I shouldn’t have described him drooling or falling into the wall or any of these things. But mostly he was it. He did. It’s not my fault.

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S6: But here he mostly he was angry about the business interest in Ukraine thing, which I think is very interesting and really just makes me wonder what his actual business interests in Ukraine are that he did not. But I feel, you know, even though I I think I would write what I wrote about him again. I. I did. There was a big debate about whether or not to include some of those details. And ultimately, including the idea that he was drooling onto himself and that he you know, I think can I just read better for listeners?

S9: I have to read these two sentences. This is Rudolph Giuliani sitting with Olivia at the Mark Hotel and drinking. We’re having some Bloody Marys when his mouth closed, saliva leaked from the corner and crawled down his face through the valley of a wrinkle. He didn’t notice and it fell on his sweater. I mean, we just realized that we were talking about someone at the center of an impeachment of the president.

S6: Right. I mean, that was my argument. Also, someone who has been like it. Look, if he had if he had noticed and he endeavoured to wipe the saliva away, I probably yeah, I have mentioned it. But I thought so much about. I wrote like a memo about why I should include myself in the story there. I hope no one’s mad at me for revealing that at your magazine. But like, I was like very pro, including saliva. I think that’s incredibly important. I just think if he noticed it and he’d wiped it away, I would’ve been like, fine, like who? Who hasn’t drooled in? I think when they didn’t mean to. And I would have left you alone.

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S13: But the fact that he I think the way that somebody who was acting as an unofficial but like president, sanctioned representative of the United States government abroad, how they represent themselves is really important for us to know. So lutely and so we don’t have him on the stand. He hasn’t been a part of the proceedings so far.

S12: And I think, yeah, obviously, we see him on television. People know what he’s like if they watch his interview with Chris Cuomo or on HANNITY. But like when I saw it, I kept thinking I had a line like this in the piece and I took it out because I thought I didn’t need to explain it to this degree. That was evident. But I just kept thinking this is so much worse up close than it seems even on television.

S15: And I was really like I was kind of sucked up by it at the end of the day, like I was. So it was a four hour interview. And when I left, I was just like totally disoriented. I had a I don’t drink beer. I had a beer on the train home because I was so stressed. And I really, really like, I don’t know, just disoriented by the whole thing. And like, yeah, I could not stop telling people about it because I could not believe it. I mean, I’m so glad. I hope you’ll keep at it, but also make sure it doesn’t take too much of a toll on you. My guest has been Olivia Nuzzi.

S18: She’s a staff writer at New York magazine. Thanks so much for being here. Olivia, thank you very much. Thank you for having me. That’s it for today’s show. What do you think? Find us on Twitter and work out your Trump Schmidts. I’m page 88. The show is that real Trump cast. Today our show is produced by Melissa Kaplin and engineered by June Thomas. I’m Virginia Heffernan. Thanks for listening to Trump cast.