President Trump, in his latest sit-down with his hometown The New York Times, reveled in his own tales of how he “beat the shit out of” his primary opponents and earnestly claimed to his frequent Twitter nemesis that he’s out to “help humanity” in Venezuela. And that was just the beginning.
The president spent his lengthy Oval Office conversation begging for more positive coverage from the newspaper that he has repeatedly called “failing,” pulling a U-turn on why James Mattis departed as defense secretary, and reliving the grandeur of his primary and general-election victories. He was interviewed by Times Publisher A.G. Sulzberger and White House correspondents Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker.
Here’s a quick rundown of Trump’s craziest statements:
When Sulzberger asked the president to limit his anti-press rhetoric, Trump begged for “a great story, just one” from the paper.
The interview, which was published in transcripted excerpts, was presented alongside a separate piece involving questions about Trump’s relationship to the free press.
The president made several confusing references, at times to the “important” and “beautiful” news media, and at other times to the “so bad” and “unfair” nature of its political coverage since he stepped into the election limelight.
“I ran, I won, and I’m really doing a good job,” Trump said. “I came from Jamaica, Queens, Jamaica Estates, and I became president of the United States...I’m sort of entitled to a great story—just one—from my newspaper.”
Trump did, however, note that local news has treated his administration fairly and that Fox News “treats me very well,” but he claimed that NBC News and the Times were “terrible” offenders.
Trump says he forced Mattis to quit because “I wasn’t happy with the job he was doing.”
When former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis first announced his departure from the White House in December, the Trump administration called it “a retirement,” lauding the “tremendous progress” achieved by Mattis during his tenure. Within minutes, a departure letter from the four-star Marine general slammed the White House after Trump unilaterally declared he was withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria, against all advice from the Pentagon and his top advisers.
In his new interview, Trump ripped his previous version of events apart and left it on the floor.
“I wasn’t happy with the job that he was doing at all,” said Trump. “I told Mattis to give me a letter (of resignation). He didn’t just give me that letter … I said it’s time.”
Trump, on defeating other Republicans in 2016: “I beat the shit out of them, OK?”
“I ran, I won, and I’m really doing a good job. I mean, I guess I’m controversial, but I’m doing a great job,” Trump said. “I’ll never forget, Charles Krauthammer’s on television, he said, ‘Why would Trump run? This is the greatest field of candidates ever assembled in the history of the Republican Party.’ You know, you had governors and senators, you know they were all good until I beat the shit out of them, OK?”
Trump also noted that he does not expect to be primaried because he has “great support in the party” but that he believed one “Kameela” Harris (or Sen. Kamala Harris) had opened her campaign for 2020 with the most robust plan.
He claims he didn’t intervene in Jared Kushner’s security-clearance process.
Despite the fact that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was rejected for top-secret clearance by two career White House security specialists, their judgments were overruled and he was approved, according to NBC News. Kushner’s reported extended struggle to get access to America’s most closely held secrets was complicated by his incomplete application and hampered by his foreign business ties and numerous meetings with officials overseas.
Trump, after a confusing back-and-forth with Haberman, claimed he didn’t intervene in the process.
She asked: “Did you tell General Kelly or anyone else in the White House to overrule security officials? The career veterans —
“No,” Trump replied. “I don’t think I have the authority to do that. I’m not sure I do.”
When she corrected him, telling him that he did, Trump clarified: “Yeah, yeah, so there, I, I mean, I take back the other—I didn’t, I was answering a little bit different question. Uh, I have the right to do it, but I never thought it was necessary, Maggie. I never thought it was necessary.”
On Venezuela, Trump said he wants to “do something to help people.”
“Venezuela is very much in flux,” said the president, who has been vocal about U.S. interventions anywhere in the world. “We’ve been hearing about it for probably 14 years now, between the two of them. And some terrible things are happening in Venezuela. So if I can do something to help people. It’s really helping humanity, if we can do something to help people, I’d like to do that.”
The killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a “terrible crime“ but “a lot of improvement has been made in Saudi Arabia.”
“Terrible things are going on,” Trump said, when asked about the continued U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia despite the murder of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi, alleged by those close to its crown prince. “Terrible things are going on in Venezuela. And I look at that, and I see what’s happening. Now in Saudi Arabia, a lot of improvement has been made in Saudi Arabia. But you look at Iran, and they kill many, many people in Iran. You have the access and we have the access also. And Saudi Arabia also has a lot to do with economic development. They’re a country that pays us a tremendous amount of money, creates a tremendous amount of jobs. And Saudi Arabia, I’m not making excuses for anybody. I think that was a terrible event. It was a terrible tragedy. It was a terrible crime.”
Haberman asked: “Khashoggi?”
He continued: “Yeah. Khashoggi. I thought it was a terrible crime. But if you look at other countries, many other countries. You look at Iran, not so far away from Saudi Arabia, and take a look at what they’re doing there. So you know, that’s just the way I feel.”
When his possible Russian ties came up, Trump claimed George Washington “ran his own business” while he was in the White House.
“You know, George Washington ran his business. You can, I guess, you can go long beyond the election, if you wanted to. You know. But I didn’t do that,” said Trump.”
Baker pointed out that “there’s a difference between running a domestic business and being possibly in business with Russian figures at the same time.”
“I have nothing,” Trump responded. “All I did was be a good candidate. Russia didn’t help me.”