President Donald Trump sat for an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. While the interview was quickly eclipsed by Trump's comment that immigrants were coming from "shithole countries," it is still a very interesting read.
I went through the transcript -- helpfully released by the Journal (kudos!) -- and picked out the 56 most noteworthy lines. They're below.
1. "We were going down, we were going down a long way."
This is Trump's description of the end of the Obama presidency. And off we go!
2. "The cutting of regulation and all of the many things that we've done, including being a cheerleader for the country -- and perhaps that's part of the reason I'm going to Davos also -- but being a cheerleader for the country."
An interesting comment by Trump -- and telling. He quite clearly puts considerable stock in the idea that the president must be a cheerleader. It reminds me of a story from The New York Times that suggested Donald Trump Jr. approached Ohio Gov. John Kasich with an offer to be vice president -- and a wide-ranging portfolio of responsibilities. What would the elder Trump be in charge of, Kasich asked? "Making America Great Again" was Don Jr.'s response.
3. "You people actually wrote one of the best stories that I've ever seen on regulation; you said more than any president in history. That was the full pager, that wasn't..."
Your regular reminder that Trump is a VERY active consumer of the very same mainstream media he decries. Also, this is the "full pager" (I think) that Trump refers to.
4. "I mean I actually read it because I've never seen a full page—it's actually a full page article."
So, he read it because it was a full-page article?
5. "One of the promises that you know is being very seriously negotiated right now is the wall and the wall will happen."
Well, if you say so....
6. "If we don't make a fair deal for this country, a Trump deal, then we're not going to have—then we're going to have a—I will terminate."
A "Trump deal"! Epic!
7. "They've done more for me than they ever have for any American president."
This is Trump on China and Trump on massive hyperbole. Everything must be historic or record-setting or the best or the first.
8. "He's — China has done far more for us than they ever have for any American president."
This is not a duplicate. He just said virtually the same thing again a sentence or two later.
9. "This should not have been a problem left on my desk, but it is, and I get things solved. And one way or the other, that problem is going to be solved."
This Trump assertion on North Korea is, um, muscular? "That problem is going to be solved" is pretty definitive.
10. "But the difference is I'm president; other people aren't."
Fact Check: True!
11. "And I know more about wedges than any human being that's ever lived, but I'll let you know."
OK, so the context here is that the Journal reporters are asking whether North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States. is Trump talking about that kind of wedge or a pitching wedge in golf? I genuinely have no idea, but I can tell you that either way he knows more about it than "any human being that's ever lived."
12. "I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea."
One of these things is not like the other...
13. "I don't want to comment on it—I don't want to comment, I'm not saying I have or I haven't."
Trump on whether he has spoken to Kim Jong Un. (HINT: He hasn't.)
14. "Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody's my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I'm a very flexible person."
He's right about this. Ted Cruz. Rand Paul. Bob Corker. Lindsey Graham. Trump has SAVAGED all of these people and yet has somehow managed to build relationships with them after the clash.
15. "Unless it's somebody that didn't love our country, and the Democrats love our country. We have different views but the Democrats love our country."
Trump is talking specifically about the visa lottery system and chain migration here. And it speaks volumes that he says that if you don't agree with his view on these two topics, you must not love America.
16. "I've also said Mexico's got to pay for it—sometimes you know on occasion, I'd add who's going to pay for it? Mexico. Well they will pay for it, OK?"
17. "You know, we make a good deal on NAFTA, say I'm going to take a small percentage of that money and it's going to go toward the wall. Guess what? Mexico's paying."
OK, so to follow Trump's logic: The US re-negotiates NAFTA. In that renegotiation, the US saves money in the deal. That money, which comes from Mexico(?), pays for the wall?
18. "There is no deal that I can make on NAFTA that's as good as if I terminate NAFTA and make a new deal."
And yet, Trump repeatedly says in this interview he is open to re-negotiating NAFTA.
19. "We have mountains that are far better than a wall, we have violent rivers that nobody goes near."
The most violent rivers, believe me.
20. "I saw on television, Donald Trump is going to make the wall smaller; no, the wall's identical."
"Believe it or not, even when I'm in Washington or New York, I do not watch much television/ People that don't know me, they like to say I watch television -- people with fake sources. You know, fake reporters, fake sources." -- Donald Trump, November 11, 2017
21. "You go 32 feet up and you don't know who's over here. You're here, you've got the wall and there's some other people here."
22. "If I'm standing here, I want to be able to see 200 yards out. I want to be able to see, I don't want to have a piece of concrete that I can't see."
23. "We have to have vision through the wall."
Wall vision is key.
24. "I'd like to be able to see three or four hundred yards instead of we're at a wall we have no idea who's on the other side. Does this make sense or am I just wasting my time?"
25. "I have Foxconn coming to Wisconsin; that's my deal. You know the head of Foxconn, you know he's a friend of mine. He's still only moving there because of me."
Paging Scott Walker. Governor Walker, please pick up the nearest white phone.
26. "The wall is the wall and it's the same wall that we're always talking about."
Look. All in all, we're just another brick in the wall.
27. "We don't need it where you have mountains; you don't need it where you have rivers and -- you know, vicious rivers."
Wait, wait. I thought the rivers were "violent?"
28. "Yeah, be really clear, I'd like to -- because I love the 'Wall Street Journal'. I hope that you guys are clear. OK."
29. "The man with the three hour interview, he spent three hours -- the man who said he spent three hours in the Oval Office who I never met once in the White House."
"The man with the three hour interview" is kind of a catchy nickname for Michael Wolff.
30. "I think that when somebody makes false statements and libelous statements, whether it's in a book or a newspaper or anything else. When they have phony sources, when the sources don't exist, yeah I think they should have a liability."
31. "I was always the best at what I did, I was the -- I was, you know, I went to the -- I went to the Wharton School of Finance, did well."
This is, by the way, Trump's explanation for why the media doesn't like him. Also, he went to Wharton. That's at the University of Pennsylvania. Ivy League and whatnot.
32. "I created maybe the greatest brand."
"Maybe" the greatest brand??? Sad!
33. "Just -- and so -- so I was successful, successful, successful."
That's three "successfuls," which, by anyone's reckoning, is a lot of success.
34. "I was always the best athlete, people don't know that."
35. "And then people say oh, is he a smart person? I'm smarter than all of them put together, but they can't admit it."
Best brand? CHECK
Best brain? CHECK
Best athlete? ALSO CHECK
36. "I have many people that work for me who were far more important than Steve, right there."
This is a very debatable claim. Bannon was the chief architect of Trump's policy vision and, by all accounts, the one voice urging him to stay in the race after the "Access Hollywood" tape.
37. "And Steve, in the end I fired Steve."
38. "I don't know what the word permanent means, OK?"
He does! What Trump means here is that he never severs any relationship permanently. People can always come back into the Trump fold -- and often do.
39. "We'll see what happens, but Steve had nothing to do with my win. Well, certainly very little."
40. "Steve's greatest asset is he was able to convince a corrupt media that he was responsible for my win."
Oh so that was Bannon's greatest gift.
41. "I talked to Steve very little; I didn't know Steve well, believe it or not."
I don't believe it because it's not true. Bannon and Trump had known one another since 2011.
42. "My son had a brief meeting based on the fact that he thought whatever he thought."
We know that Don Jr. met with Russians at Trump Tower because he had been promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
43. "It's probably illegal, what he's doing."
Trump accuses California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of breaking the law for leaking (I think?).
44. "Because they realize there's no collusion whatsoever. There's no collusion."
46. "I won an election that should never be won, because the Electoral College is far harder to win than the popular vote. The popular vote, for me, would have been much easier."
The 2016 election ended 429 days ago.
47. "This is the FBI we're talking about. I think that is -- that is treason. See, that's treason right there."
Trump's argument -- in case you are missing it -- is that the FBI officials texting negative things about him during the 2016 campaign was treason.
48. "By the way, that's a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act."
Yes, you just said that.
49. "There has never been, in the history -- in the history of an administration anybody that was more open than we were."
50. "Everybody hated Comey."
I smell a sitcom....
51. "I've been, you know, pretty successful in the courts over the years, I've been a very successful person, you can check -- USA Today said, 'he does great in the courts' OK?"
Best brand? CHECK
Best brain? CHECK
Best athlete? ALSO CHECK
Best in court? WHAT DO YOU THINK? CHECK.
52. "When he announced the Hillary Clinton fiasco where she was guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty and then where they did the interview with no tape recorder, with no swearing in, with no this, with no that -- you know the story."
Four "guiltys"! That's bigger than three "successfuls." Trust me. I know math.
53. "I do enjoy this, actually."
Trump is talking about being interviewed. And of course he enjoys it. He loves the media no natter what he says publicly.
54. "I've knocked out ISIS and Syria and Iraq and all but -- and we're doing well in Afghanistan for the first time ever."
"I've knocked out."
55. "Our air-traffic control is from a different planet."
Tell me more....
56. "You know what? I like him. I like him. I like them all."
I like him too. I like them all -- whoever them all is.