(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Donald Trump's New York Times interview: 8 absurd things the president said

Some takeaways from Trump's weird, candid interview with the New York Times


Taylor Link
July 20, 2017 1:56PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump sat down with the failing New York Times this week in a candid interview about his first six months in the White House. Beyond his admission that he would have never picked Jeff Sessions as his attorney general if he had known he would recuse himself from the Russia investigations, the president offered some other eye-brow raising thoughts about his time in office and world history.

Here are eight absurd takeaways from the interview:

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1. He gave "the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil" while in Poland

Trump's speech in Poland was called nationalistic and a manifesto for the alt-right. But according to the president, he received rave reviews from just about everyone.

TRUMP: I have had the best reviews on foreign land. So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president. I’m saying, man, they cover [garbled]. You saw the reviews I got on that speech. Poland was beautiful and wonderful, and the reception was incredible.

2. French President Emmanuel Macron loves holding hands

Trump's prolonged handshakes with world leaders has drawn a lot of attention. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that the president has a lot to say on the matter.

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.

3. He wants the U.S. military to hold a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue

Trump had the opportunity to watch France celebrate Bastille Day earlier this month. Watching that made him remember that he once had plans to hold a military parade for his inauguration.

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TRUMP: And it was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.

TRUMP: I’ve always thought of that. I’ve thought of it long before.

4. He admires Russian soldiers, who can fight in the cold

Trump put his history-professor hat on in the interview, providing random, long-drawn commentary on Napoleon and his invasion of Russia.

TRUMP: Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? [garbled]

Note: Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, designed the modern Paris.

TRUMP: Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army. But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. [crosstalk] It’s pretty amazing.

5. He implies that Donald Trump Jr. met with Russians to talk about Hillary Clinton 

Trump said that during his lunch with Republican senators on Wednesday many of them were perplexed that the Donald Trump Jr. meeting with Russians was receiving so much attention. According to Trump, many asked, "Who wouldn't have taken a meeting like that?"

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TRUMP: 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?” They just said . . .

HABERMAN: The senators downstairs?

TRUMP: A lot of them. They said, “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”

BAKER: You asked them about it at lunch?

TRUMP: Nah, a couple of them. They — now, that was before Russia was hot, don’t forget. You know, Russia wasn’t hot then. That was almost a year and a half ago. It wasn’t like it is, like it is radioactive, then. Russia was Russia.

6. Hillary opposed Russian sanctions

Perhaps the most perplexing statement the president made in his interview was his insistence that Hillary Clinton opposed sanctioning Russia.

TRUMP: She was opposing sanctions. She was totally opposed to any sanctions for Russia.

BAKER: When was that?

HABERMAN: Do you remember when that was? I don’t remember that.

TRUMP: I just saw it. I just saw it. She was opposed to sanctions, strongly opposed to sanctions on Russia.

7. The president suddenly cares about conflicts of interests, doesn't understand what conflicts of interest mean

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Trump has long tried to downplay the fact that his business empire has created a slew of conflicts of interest. The president says he acts in the best interest of the country, not his wallet. But now that his campaign is under investigation for possibly colluding with Russia, Trump suddenly sees conflicts of interest.

Trump said that Rod Rosenstein's hiring of Bob Mueller as the special counsel running the Russia investigation created a conflict of interest.

TRUMP: Rosenstein leaves the office. The next day, he is appointed special counsel. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts? But he was interviewing for the job. There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point. So Jeff Sessions, Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers.

TRUMP: Look, there are so many conflicts that everybody has . . . Do you know how many conflicts of interests there are? But then, then Comey also says that he did something in order to get the special prose— special counsel. He leaked. The reason he leaked. So, he illegally leaked.

8. Mueller should not look into the president's finances

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The president really does not want Mueller to investigate his finances. He suggested in the interview that Mueller would be crossing the line if he started to look into his business dealings. Trump said he thought it would be a "violation" if Mueller dug into his finances.

SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?

TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes . . . 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. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].


Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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