On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump gave a sit-down interview to The Wall Street Journal, accompanied by communications staffers Hope Hicks and Anthony Scaramucci. While the interview didn't rise to the level of absurdity we saw in his interviews with the Associated Press and The New York Times, it did provide us with some very important insights into what makes him tick.
1. Donald Trump thinks that Jeff Sessions only endorsed him for the crowds
Here's some revisionist history. The president said Tuesday that Sessions only endorsed him because of how popular he was.
And don’t forget, when they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama. I had 40,000 people, you may have been there, remember, in Mobile? . . .
I had 40,000 people. He was the senator from Alabama. I won the state by a lot, massive numbers. A lot of the states I won by massive numbers. But he was a senator. He looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, what do I have to lose, and he endorsed me.
That's also quite a statement to make of the man who became the first sitting senator to endorse him and stayed with the president through his numerous campaign missteps. It also says a lot about the president's vision of loyalty: What have you done for me lately?
2. Trump wants complete control of the Justice Department and wants to squash the Russia investigation
This one is a bit obvious: The president is angry that investigators are looking at his campaign's connections to Russia — which he said don't exist, even though his son went to a meeting after getting an email entitled "Russia-Clinton-private and confidential." Here are the blanket denials that Trump gave — without hedging at all.
That’s a total witch hunt, the whole Russia story. It’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. We had no collusion with Russia. We never dealt with Russia. . .
I was never involved with Russia. There was nobody in the campaign. I’ve got 200 people that will say that they’ve never seen anybody on the campaign. . . There’s nobody on the campaign that saw anybody from Russia. We had nothing to do with Russia.
Trump's proof was that Corey Lewandowski told him, "I must be honest with you, I never dealt with any Russians." But Trump glossed over his other campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who indicated Tuesday he'd be cooperating with Senate investigations into Russia's possible involvements.
Shortly after saying, "I have nothing to do with Russia," Trump undercut his own previous sentence, which doesn't help his argument much.
You know, I put out a letter from a very – from the biggest law firm saying Trump has no involvement with Russia. I don’t. I have no involvement. I mean, I had Ms. Universe there, like, nine years ago, eight years ago, something like that. But I have nothing to do with Russia.
He had nothing to do with Russia whatsoever, except for that thing he had in Russia. But other than that, nothing. And other things, possibly. Who knows?
3. Trump thinks Republicans are going to help him raise taxes on rich people?
Here's a confusing claim from the president. He talked about having dinner with Robert Kraft — who owns the New England Patriots — and Kraft told him that he was paying too much in taxes. That's the setup for this comment.
And I mean, I have wealthy friends that say to me I don’t mind paying more tax. And I’ll tell you what I sort of don’t like, is when they – you know, you’ll do your charts in The Wall Street Journal and they’ll be brilliantly done, very nice, and they’ll show that a rich guy who made, you know, $25 million last year is going to pay less than he was. In a certain way, I don’t like that. I’d rather take that difference and put it into the middle-income and put it into corporate.
The Journal asked Trump if he expects to get Democratic support for tax hikes on the wealthy. But Trump said he doesn't, because "they're obstructionists." Does that mean that he's going to rely on Republicans, who will never, ever, vote for a tax hike?
4. Scaramucci has a way of sweet talking Trump, doesn't he?
Trump isn't the only one able to handle revisionist history. His new communications director Anthony Scaramucci comes to the job with a fun backstory that's news to anyone who followed Trump's campaign. In this backstory, the Mooch was always a Trump fan, even though they could never be together.
You know, Anthony came in to see me before it all began. And he said, I want to back you for president. This was before the June 16th day. I said, Anthony, I’m not really sure that I’m running. I’m not sure. I may, but I’m not sure. He said, you got to run, you got to run. I want to endorse you. I said, but I’m not sure. This was a few months earlier than when I ran. And he was leaving and he was disappointed. I say, Anthony, what are you going to do? He goes, I got to back somebody, because that’s the way he is. That’s his personality. And he went to a very good guy named Walker.
Then I came after the hedge fund business. So he wasn’t in love with me for a short period of time. And he backed Bush. And that was OK. But his first choice was Trump. I think it’s important to say that because, you know. —
Scaramucci called Trump "anti-American," which Trump dismissed as "wasn't in love with me for a short period of time." During that time, Scaramucci also called out the "unbridled demagoguery . . . caused by the reckless behavior of a man who knows a thing or two about bankruptcy." Love hurts.
But there's a reason that Scaramucci is in charge of White House communications, and that's because he's able to talk his way out of anything. And he's willing to back up the president and makes sure Trump knows it. Here's when Scaramucci spoke up during the WSJ interview, sounding less cool and calm and more like someone trying to suck up really, really hard.
I said from the podium on Friday that’s there’s nothing to the Russia story. I said on the weekend there was nothing to the Russia story.
5. Internal quibbles? They're just fighting for Trump's love
For months, the American public has been treated to stories of the disarray in the White House. But that means nothing to the president; those leaks are just a show of affection.
Number one, they should go after the leakers in intelligence. I don’t mean the White House stuff where they’re fighting over who loves me the most, OK? (Laughter.) It’s just stupid people doing that.
This is how politics works in Trumpland.