President Donald Trump gave a long interview Wednesday with the New York Times that touched on numerous topics. The interview’s full transcript was released online last night, but here are some of the more interesting things Trump said.
Giving away Nebraska: While talking about the Senate’s inability to repeal or repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the president began talking about the Cornhusker Kickback, which he said involved “giving away” the state of Nebraska. He said:
“They had 60 in the Senate. They had big majorities and had the White House. I mean, ended up giving away the state of Nebraska. They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away. Their best senator did one of the greatest deals in the history of politics. What happened to him?”
All of Nebraska’s senators in the last decade have retired at the end of their terms rather than be ousted from office.
Some clarity on the healthcare debate: Trump seemed to actually get why the Republican’s plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is deeply unpopular among a majority of Americans.
“Once you get something for pre-existing conditions, etc., etc. Once you get something, it’s awfully tough to take it away.”
Trump knows the “bad people”: As the interview continued to dissect the healthcare fracas, Trump stressed that he had a “great meeting” with Republican senators but lamented that there are divisions within the party over how to proceed with healthcare.
“And then they’ll vote on this, and we’ll see. We have some meetings scheduled today. I think we have six people who are really sort of O.K. They are all good people. We don’t have bad people. I know the bad people. Believe me, do I know bad people.”
Distance makes the heart grow fonder: Trump said he gets the “best reviews” on foreign land, including from his “enemies” in the media, who Trump claimed called his Poland speech “the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.”
Most people felt the president’s speech had alt-right undertones and pitted different countries against one another. Trump also has dismal reviews among citizens of foreign countries.
Macron apparently loves holding Trump’s hand: When discussing French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump referenced their ongoing masculinity-testing handshake saga in a strange way.
Trump: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.
[New York Times reporter Maggie] Haberman: I’ve noticed.
Trump: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.
Trump: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.
More on Macron: Trump says Macron allegedly told him “they love you in France” when inviting him to Bastille Day, to which Trump replied:
I said, “O.K., I just don’t want to hurt you.”
Trump also said “never had a bigger celebration ever in the history of the Eiffel Tower” because he and Macron were eating dinner there.
“Things” were discussed during the second Putin meeting: Trump defended his second meeting with Putin at the G20 Summit by trying to explain the elaborate set up for dinner including the “big table, big room” where various world leaders were sitting. He added that his wife, Melania Trump, was seated next to Vladimir Putin.
“So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about—things.”
And adoption: Trump said that he and Putin talked about adoption during their dessert chat, which he found “interesting.” His son, Donald Trump Jr., is mired in controversy because while adoption was initially given as the reason for a meeting he had with a Russian lawyer, it really came about because of a promise to give the Trump campaign damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Trump also defended his son’s meeting.
“As I’ve said—most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians—I was just with a lot of people, they said [inaudible], ‘Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?’”
“A lot of them. They said, ‘Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?’”
Trump stumbles with a fact check: As the interview continued, the president tried to make a connection between Hillary Clinton and Russia. When pressed by the reporters about when exactly he heard that she was “totally opposed to any sanctions” against Russia, the president stumbled and admitted:
“I don’t really know.”
There is a “big. big. big” problem with North Korea: While talking about Russia, the president pivoted to blasting the Obama administration’s handling of North Korea.
“You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn’t actually. He didn’t talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big.”
On the pee-tape dossier: The infamous Russia dossier came up, which Trump brushed off as “phony.”
“Now, that was totally made-up stuff, and in fact, that guy’s being sued by somebody. … And he’s dying with the lawsuit. I know a lot about those guys, they’re phony guys. They make up whatever they want. Just not my thing—plus, I have witnesses, because I went there with a group of people.”
Rethinking Jeff Sessions’ appointment: Trump threw Jeff Sessions under the bus when he said he wouldn’t have appointed him as Attorney General if he knew he would recuse himself from the Russia investigation.
“So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have—which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.”
Trump alludes to conflicts of interest: When discussing Robert Muller becoming a special counsel for the Russia investigation, the president seemed to drop hints that he has more to say on the matter.
“There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”
The Trump Jr.-Russia email was “unimportant”: The now-infamous email chain that Trump Jr. released regarding his meeting with the Russian lawyer—which said the lawyer was connected to the Russian government—is “unimportant,” Trump said.
“I didn’t look into it very closely, to be honest with you.”
“I didn’t know noth—It’s a very unimportant—sounded like a very unimportant meeting.”
Trump on Mueller: Trump wouldn’t say whether he would fire Mueller if he began looking into the Trump family’s finances as part of the Russia probe. However, he did meander a bit while answering the question as to whether it would be a “breach of what his actual charge is.”
“I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t—I don’t—I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make—from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one.”
When pressed about whether he would fire Mueller, Trump clammed up.
“I can’t, I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.”