President Trump lashed out at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former FBI Director James Comey, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe and independent counsel Robert Mueller in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday.
In a wide-ranging discussion with Times reporters Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman in the Oval Office, Trump sounded off on topics ranging from the Russia investigation to presidential handshakes.
Here are some of the notable moments from the president’s interview with the newspaper he likes to describe as “failing.”
Trump wants to have a military parade on Pennsylvania Avenue like the one he saw in Paris
Trump: It was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.
Haberman: I wondered if you were going to say that.
Trump: I’ve always thought of that.
Trump: I’ve always thought of that. I’ve thought of it long before. … The Bastille Day parade was — now that was a super-duper — O.K. I mean, that was very much more than normal. They must have had 200 planes over our heads. Normally you have the planes and that’s it, like the Super Bowl parade. And everyone goes crazy, and that’s it. That happened for — and you know what else that was nice? It was limited. You know, it was two hours, and the parade ended. It didn’t go a whole day. They didn’t go crazy. You don’t want to leave, but you have to. Or you want to leave, really.
These things are going on all day. It was a two-hour parade. They had so many different zones. Maybe 100,000 different uniforms, different divisions, different bands. Then we had the retired, the older, the ones who were badly injured. The whole thing, it was an incredible thing.
Trump explains his extended handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron
Haberman: He was very deferential to you. Very.
Trump: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.
Haberman: I’ve noticed.
Trump: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.
Trump talks about invading Russia
Trump: Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked [President Macron], 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]
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. … It’s pretty amazing.
So, we’re having a good time. The economy is doing great.
Trump says the first lady of Japan, Akie Abe, who gave a speech in English in 2014, couldn’t even say “hello”
Trump: So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo Abe of Japan], who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.
Haberman: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?
Trump: Like, not “hello.”
Haberman: That must make for an awkward seating.
Trump: Well, it’s hard, because you know, you’re sitting there for ——
Trump: So the dinner was probably an hour and 45 minutes.
Trump says his unscheduled chat with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit was about “Russian adoption”
Trump: [Melania] was sitting next to Putin and somebody else, and that’s the way it is. So the meal was going, and toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin. Really, pleasantries more than anything else. It was not a long conversation, but it was, you know, could be 15 minutes. Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption.
Haberman: You did?
Trump: We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago. And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Trump Jr.] had in that meeting. 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?”
Trump believes Comey was seeking “leverage” over him by sharing the dossier about allegations that the Russian government had compiled incriminating information on him
Trump: When he brought it to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal. … I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time. It was so wrong, and I was with groups of people. It was so wrong that I really didn’t, I didn’t think about motive. I didn’t know what to think other than, this is really phony stuff. … In my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.
Schmidt: As leverage?
Trump: Yeah, I think so. In retrospect.
Trump says a special counsel “should never have been appointed”
Trump: I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.
Trump says he regrets choosing Sessions as attorney general
Trump: Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.
Haberman: He gave you no heads up at all, in any sense?
Trump: Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy. …
What Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?”
Trump appears to think the FBI director reports to him
Trump: And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.
Trump’s granddaughter makes a surprise appearance
Trump: Hi baby, how are you?
Arabella Kushner: [enters room] Hi, Grandpa.
Trump: My granddaughter Arabella, who speaks — say hello to them in Chinese.
Kushner: Ni hao.
Trump: This is Ivanka. You know Ivanka.
Ivanka Trump: [from doorway] Hi, how are you? See you later, just wanted to come say hi.
Trump: She’s great. She speaks fluent Chinese. She’s amazing.
Baker: That’s very impressive.
Trump: She spoke with President Xi [Jinping of China]. Honey? Can you say a few words in Chinese? Say, like, “I love you, Grandpa” —
Kushner: Wo ai ni, Grandpa.
Baker: That’s great.
Trump: She’s unbelievable, huh?
Trump: Good, smart genes.
Trump gives a curious explanation of how health insurance works
Trump: Pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.
Trump claims he is not under FBI investigation
Trump: The bottom line is this. The country’s doing well. We are, we are moving forward with a lot of great things. The unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 16 years. The stock market is the highest it’s ever been. It’s up almost 20 percent since I took office. And we’re working hard on health care. Um, the Russian investigation — it’s not an investigation, it’s not on me — you know, they’re looking at a lot of things.
Trump calls his son’s meeting last year with a number of Russians offering information to use against Hillary Clinton “standard political stuff”
Trump: I didn’t look into it very closely, to be honest with you.
Trump: I just heard there was an email requesting a meeting or something — yeah, requesting a meeting. That they have information on Hillary Clinton, and I said — I mean, this was standard political stuff.
Schmidt: Did you know at the time that they had the meeting?
Trump: No, I didn’t know anything about the meeting.
Schmidt: But you didn’t——
Trump: It must have been a very important — must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it.
Trump says the meeting had no effect on his campaign
Trump: I don’t think I added anything much different than I had been doing. … I’ve made some very strong speeches about the corrupt emails. The 33,000 emails being deleted and bleached, and all of the things she was doing. I would make those speeches routinely. … There wasn’t much I could say about Hillary Clinton that was worse than what I was already saying. … I mean, I was talking about, she deleted and bleached, which nobody does because of the cost. How she got away with that one, I have no idea. 33,000 emails. I talked about the back of the plane, I talked about the uranium deal, I talked about the speech that Russia gave Clinton — $500,000 while she was secretary of state — the husband. I talked about the back of the plane — honestly, Peter, I mean, unless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.
Trump warns Mueller not to look into his family’s finances beyond Russia, but declines to say whether he would fire him for doing so
Trump: I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? 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].
Schmidt: But if he was outside that lane, would that mean he’d have to go? …
Trump: I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia. So I think if he wants to go, my finances are extremely good, my company is an unbelievably successful company. And actually, when I do my filings, peoples say, “Man.” People have no idea how successful this is. It’s a great company. But I don’t even think about the company anymore. I think about this. ’Cause one thing, when you do this, companies seem very trivial. O.K.? I really mean that. They seem very trivial. But I have no income from Russia. I don’t do business with Russia. …
Haberman: Would you fire Mueller if he went outside of certain parameters of what his charge is? …
Trump: I can’t answer that question because I don’t think it’s going to happen.
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