Last night the New York Times published an article about the interview they conducted with Donald Trump. There were three big takeaways that are the subject of a lot of discussion today. Trump said:
1. He wouldn’t have hired Jeff Sessions as Attorney General if he knew he was going to recuse himself from involvement in the Russia investigation.
2. James Comey shared the Steele dossier with him as a form of blackmail.
3. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if they looked into his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia.
These are all important stories. But the Times also published a partial transcript of the interview. I found that even more disturbing because, once again, we hear a President of the United States being practically incoherent. As an example, I’ll provide a lengthy quote from when Peter Baker asked Trump about the email exchange between Don Jr. and Rob Goldstone. He specifically asked about the part where Goldstone said that the information to be shared was “part of Russia and its government’s support of Mr. Trump.” Here is how the president responded:
TRUMP: Well, Hillary did the reset. Somebody was saying today, and then I read, where Hillary Clinton was dying to get back with Russia. Her husband made a speech, got half a million bucks while she was secretary of state. She did the uranium deal, which is a horrible thing, while she was secretary of state, and got a lot of money.
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.
HABERMAN: This is post-Crimea, I’m assuming? Is that what we would be talking about?
TRUMP: I don’t really know. … But in that time. And don’t forget, Crimea was given away during Obama. Not during Trump. In fact, I was on one of the shows, I said they’re exactly right, they didn’t have it as it exactly. But he was — this — Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away. You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn’t actually. He didn’t talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn’t do the shot. I did the shot. Had he done that shot, he wouldn’t have had — had he done something dramatic, because if you remember, they had a tremendous gas attack after he made that statement. Much bigger than the one they had with me.
HABERMAN: It was sarin as well?
TRUMP: Sarin. And, and tremendous numbers of people were killed, young people, children. And he didn’t do anything. That was a famous weekend where they were all asking him to do it, do it, do it. They thought they had it, and then he — not easy to do, I will say this, ’cause when I had to make that decision, I was with the president of China, and General Mattis [Defense Secretary Jim Mattis] said, “We’re locked and loaded, sir,” and I’m saying [mumbles], you know. [mumbles] Look, you’re killing people.
TRUMP: You hate it, it’s tough. Obama — you know, I can understand it in a way, but some things you have to do. But it’s, it’s a tough, it’s a tough decision to make.
That is a perfect example of Trump’s pattern of lie, distract and blame. He threw in the kitchen sink to avoid answering the question, including the Russia reset, Clinton Cash lies, the uranium deal, Clinton’s opposition to the Magnitsky Act (which he confused with sanctions after Russia invaded Ukraine), Obama’s response to the Russian invasion of Crimea, North Korea and the red line in Syria.
Eventually Baker comes back to his original question and Trump deflects again by bringing up the Steele dossier—specifically the so-called “golden showers” accusation—in order to ramble about how it isn’t true. That leads to a whole discussion about the Russia investigation and his claim that Comey shared the dossier with him in order to have leverage.
Finally, at the end of the interview, Baker asks the question once again. Here is Trump’s response:
TRUMP: You know, Peter, 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.
That is the closest he president came to actually be responsive to the question, but he once again deflects the actual question about Russia’s intentions to support him in order to claim that getting opposition research on an opponent is standard political stuff.
That exchange could be significant because of the investigation into possible collusion with Russia. But during the course of the interview Trump engaged in similarly incoherent diatribes about things like the Bastille Day parade he attended in France, how much French President Macron likes holding his hand, why he didn’t shake hands with Angela Merkel during their meeting in the Oval office, how Russia used their cold weather to defeat Napoleon and Hitler and how the G20 dinner was preceded by an opera and cocktails, with a strange fascination about the presence of Christine Lagarde—managing director of the International Monetary Fund—who he mentioned three times.
We’ve seen this kind of incoherence during previous interviews with Trump. Mental health professionals would have a field day analyzing his state of mind based on this material. People who have regular contact with the president probably witness this kind of thing on a regular basis. That’s why so many of his aides are constantly working to keep a lid on how much the public is exposed to it. But it is the swamp that eventually seeps out into his twitter account.
This man is not well. Frankly, I have a hard time getting beyond that to pretend we can analyze anything he says in a substantive way. To do so is to pretend like this is normal for an adult…much less the President of the United States.