President Trump gave an extended interview to the Associated Press’s Julie Pace, a liberal reporter who has done her best to oppose Trump. (See, e.g., here and here.) But Pace played it straight and Trump was expansive, to say the least. The Associated Press has now published a partial transcript of Pace’s interview with the president.
It is well worth your time to read the entire interview. Trump is a human hurricane, and Pace, to her credit, tried to ask reasonable questions. Mostly, she tried to get a word in edgewise. Here are a few excerpts, but, as I said, the whole thing is worth reading:
AP: You did put out though, as a candidate, you put out a 100-day plan. Do you feel like you should be held accountable to that plan?
TRUMP: Somebody, yeah, somebody put out the concept of a hundred-day plan. But yeah. Well, I’m mostly there on most items. Go over the items, and I’ll talk to you … (Crosstalk.)
TRUMP: But things change. There has to be flexibility. Let me give you an example. President Xi, we have a, like, a really great relationship. For me to call him a currency manipulator and then say, “By the way, I’d like you to solve the North Korean problem,” doesn’t work. So you have to have a certain flexibility, Number One. Number Two, from the time I took office till now, you know, it’s a very exact thing. It’s not like generalities. Do you want a Coke or anything?
AP: I’m OK, thank you. No. …
TRUMP: But President Xi, from the time I took office, he has not, they have not been currency manipulators. Because there’s a certain respect because he knew I would do something or whatever. But more importantly than him not being a currency manipulator the bigger picture, bigger than even currency manipulation, if he’s helping us with North Korea, with nuclear and all of the things that go along with it, who would call, what am I going to do, say, “By the way, would you help us with North Korea? And also, you’re a currency manipulator.” It doesn’t work that way.
That answer contained a technical response as well as considerable common sense.
Trump talks about his relationship with Congress, in particular Congressional Democrats:
AP: Do you think that you can break through that? I mean this —
TRUMP: Yeah, I do.
AP: Is one of the biggest challenges for a president.
TRUMP: I think (I) can to an extent. But there’s a, there’s a basic hard-line core that you can’t break though, OK, that you can’t break through. There’s a hard-line group you can’t break through, you can’t. It’s sad. You can’t. Look, I met with Congressman Cummings and I really liked him, a lot. Elijah Cummings (of Maryland). I really liked him a lot. And during the conversation because we have a very strong mutual feeling on drug prices. He came to see me, at my invitation, because I saw him talking about, he came to see me about drug prices because drug prices are ridiculous. And I am going to get them way, way, way down and he liked that. He said you will be the greatest president. He said you will be, in front of five, six people, he said you will be the greatest president in the history of this country.
AP: He disputed that slightly.
TRUMP: That’s what he said. I mean, what can I tell you?
TRUMP: There’s six people sitting here. What did he, what, what do you mean by slightly?
AP: He said, he said that he felt like you could be a great president if and then —
TRUMP: Well he said, you’ll be the greatest president in the history of, but you know what, I’ll take that also, but that you could be. But he said, will be the greatest president but I would also accept the other. In other words, if you do your job, but I accept that. Then I watched him interviewed and it was like he never even was here. It’s incredible. I watched him interviewed a week later and it’s like he was never in my office. And you can even say that.
It is funny how Trump, with his unconventional style, generally wins these exchanges. Here is one more:
AP: If I could fit a couple of more topics. Jeff Sessions, your attorney general, is taking a tougher line suddenly on Julian Assange, saying that arresting him is a priority. You were supportive of what WikiLeaks was doing during the campaign with the release of the Clinton emails. Do you think that arresting Assange is a priority for the United States?
TRUMP: When Wikileaks came out … never heard of Wikileaks, never heard of it. When Wikileaks came out, all I was just saying is, “Well, look at all this information here, this is pretty good stuff.” You know, they tried to hack the Republican, the RNC, but we had good defenses. They didn’t have defenses, which is pretty bad management. But we had good defenses, they tried to hack both of them. They weren’t able to get through to Republicans. No, I found it very interesting when I read this stuff and I said, “Wow.” It was just a figure of speech. I said, “Well, look at this. It’s good reading.”
AP: But that didn’t mean that you supported what Assange is doing?
TRUMP: No, I don’t support or unsupport. It was just information. They shouldn’t have allowed it to get out. If they had the proper defensive devices on their internet, you know, equipment, they wouldn’t even allow the FBI. How about this — they get hacked, and the FBI goes to see them, and they won’t let the FBI see their server. But do you understand, nobody ever writes it. Why wouldn’t (former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John) Podesta and Hillary Clinton allow the FBI to see the server? They brought in another company that I hear is Ukrainian-based.
TRUMP: That’s what I heard. I heard it’s owned by a very rich Ukrainian, that’s what I heard. But they brought in another company to investigate the server. Why didn’t they allow the FBI in to investigate the server? I mean, there is so many things that nobody writes about. It’s incredible.
AP: Can I just ask you, though — do you believe it is a priority for the United States, or it should be a priority, to arrest Julian Assange?
TRUMP: I am not involved in that decision, but if Jeff Sessions wants to do it, it’s OK with me. I didn’t know about that decision, but if they want to do it, it’s OK with me.
Will Trump’s unconventional presidency be a success? I don’t know. Ask me in four years. But I will say this: the more I have listened to Trump and, especially, read transcripts of his speeches and interviews, the more I am impressed by the fact that if you look past his gee-whiz real estate developer style and his generally-overlooked implicit self-deprecation, what Trump is telling us is usually very smart.