In an unplanned interview at his Palm Beach golf club, characterized by Donald Trump’s standard bluster and hyperbole, the President spoke to the New York Times about the Department of Justice, Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, North Korea, and the media.
Much of the interview reiterated what we already know about Donald Trump: that he is conspiratorial, quick to embellishment and fictions, and egotistical. He maintained his innocence concerning the Mueller investigation, downplaying his relationship with Paul Manafort and insisting to the Times that there was “no collusion” between himself and Russia. “It makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position,” Trump said about the ongoing investigation. “So the sooner it’s worked out, the better it is for the country.”
From Russia, he moved to the Department of Justice, verbalizing the dictatorial streak that defines both his personality and presidency. “I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,” Trump told the newspaper before patting himself on the back for his restrained behavior during and about Mueller’s probe.
There was more: complaints about China and conspiratorial whispers about former Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama; complaints about intractable Democrats; an explanation about Roy Moore. There was the inevitable bombastic self-compliment, the kind regularly doled out by Trump to bolster his sense of self, but which always sound like dialogue invented by children for the purpose of imaginary games. “I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most,” he said. He later boasted about his knowledge of “big bills.”
There was more, of course, but like much of what he said, it only rises to the level of news because it came from the mouth of the President of the United States. Whether or not the Times’s interview contributed to our knowledge of the President or was just another example of major media lazily giving Trump an unchallenged forum for the purposes of a scoop is hard to say (though I’m blogging it here, so maybe it’s not).
Perhaps the only insightful thing Trump said during the interview was a few remarks on the media, a preferred Trump subject. He indicated to the Times that the press was going to have to cover him “more favorably” since his presidency is a surefire moneymaker for the media, and re-election will surely mean continued profits. “Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes,” he said. And then he added, in his familiar rhetoric that, “Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.” And the New York Times published it.