In an increasingly rare interview with a nonconservative journalist, President Trump sat down with Reuters for an extended chat Wednesday amid a ton of controversy stemming from Donald Trump Jr.'s emails.
Trump's response: All is well. And not just well: Fantastic. Also: I'm the best.
Trump's interview with Steve Holland was full of his usual bluster and over-the-top claims. Below, we're pulling out eight and briefly evaluating them.
1) Of Trump Jr.'s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer about research supposedly from the Kremlin: “Many people, and many political pros, said everybody would do that. If you got a call and said, 'Listen I have information on Hillary and the DNC,' or whatever it was they said, most people are going to take that meeting, I think. … I think many people would have held that meeting.”
Trump is fond of saying “everybody” is saying something or would do something, when it's simply not true. This is clearly not something that everybody would do — especially if they want to avoid breaking the law. On the same day Trump said this, in fact, his own nominee to be FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, testified that anybody who is offered such information by foreign governments should report it: “Any threat or any effort to interfere in our election from any nation state or nonstate actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.”
2) “And you have to understand, when that took place, this was before Russia fever. There was no Russia fever back then, that was at the beginning of the campaign, more or less. There was no Russia fever.”
Trump has a point that Russia's role in meddling in the 2016 election wasn't yet known; the DNC's hacked emails wouldn't be released until a month later — July 2016. But Russia was still an established adversarial foreign power, and Trump's repeated statements praising Vladimir Putin and saying he wanted a better relationship with Russia were already controversial by that point. Less than a week after Trump Jr.'s meeting, GOP leaders were already joking about collusion between Trump and Russia behind closed doors. Basically, there was no way Trump Jr. wouldn't have known that working with Russia would be a no-no.
3) “Now, everybody agrees that there was no impact on the votes in this election, which is very important to say, but we have to make sure that nothing could ever happen to our election process.”
This is an old Trump mainstay, and it's highly deceptive. The intelligence community doesn't believe Russia hacked the actual votes in the 2016 election, but that doesn't mean its actions didn't have an effect on the ballots that people willfully cast. And in fact, the intel community's January assessment says explicitly that it wouldn't weigh in on whether the hacking may have affected the outcome. “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” it says. “The U.S. Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion.” This old Trump talking point is just bogus.
4) “I was very tough with President Putin. We have a very important relationship. It’s going to be a relationship where lots of lives could be saved, like as an example with the cease-fire, which nobody else could have gotten but me.”
This is an extremely bold and self-satisfied claim — saying that “nobody else could have gotten” the cease-fire “but me.” It's true that past cease-fires in Syria have fallen apart rather quickly, but Trump is really patting himself on the back here.
5) “It’s really the one question I wish I would have asked Putin: Were you actually supporting me? … I would bet that inwardly Putin would have been against me.”
First off, it's remarkable that Trump is admitting that he didn't ask Putin about this. The White House has said that Trump “pressed” Putin on whether Russia hacked, and this question is inextricably tied to that one; how could he not have asked it? Secondly, the claim that Putin might have actually been against him is something the intelligence community says isn't true, and it runs completely counter to a whole bunch of facts about what Russia did (i.e. hacking Democrats) and Putin's relationship with Clinton, which was quite strained.
6) “The mood in the White House is fantastic. … We have done more in five months than practically any president in history. … There’s not a thing that we’re not doing well in. The White House is functioning beautifully, despite the hoax made up by the Democrats.”
The idea that the mood in the White House is fantastic is contradicted by many, many people in that same White House, and that's been the case for months. Here's what The Post's Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker reported on Wednesday:
The White House has been thrust into chaos after days of ever-worsening revelations about a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a lawyer characterized as representing the Russian government, as the president fumes against his enemies and senior aides circle one another with suspicion, according to top White House officials and outside advisers.
President Trump — who has been hidden from public view since returning last weekend from a divisive international summit — is enraged that the Russia cloud still hangs over his presidency and is exasperated that his eldest son and namesake has become engulfed by it, said people who have spoken with him this week.
And the claim that he has done more than any president in history to this point is a tired one that doesn't comport with basically any objective measure. There has been no signature legislation, several courts halted his travel ban before the Supreme Court allowed part of it, and there have been several controversies. Trump made this same claim after 90 days, and it got four Pinocchios from The Post's Fact Checker.
7) “There was zero coordination. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. There’s no coordination, this was a hoax, this was made up by the Democrats.”
Whether Trump Jr. broke the law is one question; it seems pretty clear that he at least tried to coordinate with someone he was told was acting on behalf of the Russian government. Most in the White House say that what Trump Jr. did wasn't illegal or wasn't collusion; Trump its still pretending no evidence of Trump Jr.'s efforts exists.
8) “This is the greatest con job in history, where a party sits down the day after they got their ass kicked, and they say, 'Huh, what’s our excuse?'”
Trump has frequently exaggerated the size of his victory, and he does it again here by saying Democrats “got their ass kicked.” The fact is that he won by less than 1 percentage point in the states that determined the 2016 election: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. He also lost the popular vote, and Republicans lost seats in the House and Senate. On the whole, it was a good day for the GOP, but Democrats did not get their “ass kicked.”