The Associated Press has released the full transcript of its April 21, 2017 interview with Donald Trump, and it’s another doozy in a growing series of transcripts you wish you’d never had to read. We are, unfortunately, becoming accustomed to the lies, exaggerations, flip-flops, and denials of having said what he is on record for saying—and those characteristics permeate this interview transcript from start to finish. I will leave the fact-checking to others, but suffice it to say that there are large chunks of baloney throughout.
Even more disturbing, though, is the rambling incoherence of Trump’s responses to AP reporter Julie Pace’s questions. In publishing the transcript, the AP includes an explanation that says: “Where the audio recording of the interview is unclear, ellipses or a notation that the recording was unintelligible are used.” It’s a good thing they included that disclaimer, because the transcript contains at least 15 remarks that the AP labeled “unintelligible,” and many ellipses indicating that transcribers couldn’t figure out what he was talking about.
Reading through the transcript, one thing is quite clear, though: After nearly 100 days in office, Trump has no better understanding of what he’s doing than he did on Day 1. He is as incoherent as ever. He is still parroting the ideas and policies of whoever he spoke to most recently, even when those most-recent whisperings directly controvert things he’s said before. He is still making up facts. He is not becoming more knowledgeable or more presidential: There’s only one Donald Trump—the one who bullshits his way through everything, blatantly lies, claims victory where there is none, is delusional about his abilities and accomplishments, and takes no responsibility for any mistakes or offensive utterings.
The interview starts weirdly. Without even being asked, Trump gratuitously brags about securing the release of an Egyptian aid worker, boasting that Obama failed in that effort, getting “zero, zippo.” Then, again without being asked, he declares that he had “great chemistry” with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The incoherence continues throughout. Here are some examples:
Trump on the cost of military equipment
TRUMP: A little before I took office there was a terrible article about the F-35 fighter jet. It was hundreds of billions of dollars over budget. It was seven years behind schedule. It was a disaster. So I called in Lockheed and I said, “I’m sorry, we’re going to have to bid this out to another company, namely Boeing,” or whoever else. But Boeing. And I called in Boeing and I started getting competing offers back and forth. …
I saved $725 million on the 90 planes. Just 90. Now there are 3,000 planes that are going to be ordered. On 90 planes I saved $725 million. It’s actually a little bit more than that, but it’s $725 million. Gen. Mattis, who had to sign the deal when it came to his office, said, “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” We went from a company that wanted more money for the planes to a company that cut. And the reason they cut — same planes, same everything — was because of me. I mean, because that’s what I do.
TRUMP: Now if you multiply that times 3,000 planes, you know this is on 90 planes. In fact, when the Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe of Japan came in because they bought a certain number of those … The first thing he said to me, because it was right at the time I did it, he said, “Could I thank you?” I said, “What?” He said, “You saved us $100 million.” Because they got a $100 million savings on the 10 or 12 planes that they (bought). Nobody wrote that story. Now you know that’s a saving of billions and billions of dollars, many billions of dollars over the course of — it’s between 2,500 and 3,000 planes will be the final order. But this was only 90 of those 2,500 planes.
Trump on China
TRUMP: 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.
TRUMP: And the media, some of them get it, in all fairness. But you know some of them either don’t get it, in which case they’re very stupid people, or they just don’t want to say it. You know because of a couple of them said, “He didn’t call them a currency manipulator.” Well, for two reasons. Number One, he’s not, since my time. You know, very specific formula. You would think it’s like generalities, it’s not. They have — they’ve actually — their currency’s gone up. So it’s a very, very specific formula. And I said, “How badly have they been,” … they said, “Since you got to office they have not manipulated their currency.” That’s Number One, but much more important, they are working with us on North Korea. Now maybe that’ll work out or maybe it won’t. Can you imagine? …
Trump’s understanding of the presidency
This section is one of the most troubling. Obviously, Trump came into the White House with almost no understanding of the role and scope of the presidency—except that it sounded great on his resume and it involved winning. But it is still shocking to read his actual words describing his surprise at how big the job is and how it involves “death and life and so many things,” and how it requires “heart.”
TRUMP: Number One, there’s great responsibility. When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria. I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like, 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area — you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away — and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet …. every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. (unintelligible) … This is involving death and life and so many things. … So it’s far more responsibility. (unintelligible) ….The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency. This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world. The second-largest company in the world is the Defense Department. The third-largest company in the world is Social Security. The fourth-largest — you know, you go down the list.
TRUMP. It’s massive. And every agency is, like, bigger than any company. So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility. You know, the human life that’s involved in some of the decisions.
AP: You’ve talked a little bit about the way that you’ve brought some business skills into the office. Is there anything from your business background that just doesn’t translate into the presidency, that just simply is not applicable to this job?
TRUMP: Well in business, you don’t necessarily need heart, whereas here, almost everything affects people. So if you’re talking about health care — you have health care in business but you’re trying to just negotiate a good price on health care, et cetera, et cetera. You’re providing health. This is (unintelligible). Here, everything, pretty much everything you do in government, involves heart, whereas in business, most things don’t involve heart.
AP: What’s that switch been like for you?
TRUMP: In fact, in business you’re actually better off without it.
There are some topics that Trump just can’t resist, and he blathers on about all of them in this interview, even if he’s not asked to comment on them: Winning the electoral vote even though Hillary Clinton had a huge advantage; the dishonest press, his unfair treatment by the press and “fake” news; how many people in Congress love him—including [incredibly] Congressman John Lewis; his ability to generate the highest tv ratings; his “10-0” track record in clairvoyantly knowing that certain acts of violence were terrorist attacks.
And then there’s this: Trump’s revelation that he has “learned” to not watch negative coverage of himself on tv. Clearly, as a tv addict, he views this recently acquired skill of averting his eyes—particularly from CNN—as a major personal accomplishment. You just have to read it to believe it:
TRUMP: OK. The one thing I’ve learned to do that I never thought I had the ability to do. I don’t watch CNN anymore.
AP: You just said you did.
TRUMP: No. No, I, if I’m passing it, what did I just say (inaudible)?
AP: You just said —
TRUMP: Where? Where?
AP: Two minutes ago.
TRUMP: No, they treat me so badly. No, I just said that. No, I, what’d I say, I stopped watching them. But I don’t watch CNN anymore. I don’t watch MSNBC. I don’t watch it. Now I heard yesterday that MSNBC, you know, they tell me what’s going on.
TRUMP: In fact, they also did. I never thought I had the ability to not watch. Like, people think I watch (MSNBC’s) “Morning Joe.” I don’t watch “Morning Joe.” I never thought I had the ability to, and who used to treat me great by the way, when I played the game. I never thought I had the ability to not watch what is unpleasant, if it’s about me. Or pleasant. But when I see it’s such false reporting and such bad reporting and false reporting that I’ve developed an ability that I never thought I had. I don’t watch things that are unpleasant. I just don’t watch them.
AP: And do you feel like that’s, that’s because of the office that you now occupy —
AP: That you’ve made that change?
TRUMP: I don’t know why it is, but I’ve developed that ability, and it’s happened over the last, over the last year.
AP: That’s interesting.
TRUMP: And I don’t watch things that I know are going to be unpleasant. CNN has covered me unfairly and incorrectly and I don’t watch them anymore. A lot of people don’t watch them anymore, they’re now in third place. But I’ve created something where people are watching … but I don’t watch CNN anymore. I don’t watch MSNBC anymore. I don’t watch things, and I never thought I had that ability. I always thought I’d watch.
TRUMP: I just don’t. And that’s taken place over the last year. And you know what that is, that’s a great, it’s a great thing because you leave, you leave for work in the morning you know, you’re, you don’t watch this total negativity. I never thought I’d be able to do that and for me, it’s so easy to do now. Just don’t watch.
Bottom line: We have an idiot—an extremely dangerous and powerful idiot—in the White House.