(Editor’s Note: Just before publishing, a Kevlar-wrapped Trump announced from the privacy of his golden Florida country club, that airstrikes have commenced in Syria. There was no mention of the refugee crisis. Bombing will make that problem go away, too, though. So there’s that. Now somebody find him his caddie.)
Trump: Day 76
As a staggering member of the punch-drunk resistance, I want to officially recognize the 76th day of the Trump presidency by tipping my refillable shot glass to the lucky 34 percent of the American electorate who continue to benefit from seeing what the rest of us don’t.
You rugged, individualistic ’76ers, are charting your own course on an endless quest for high ground. By golly, you won’t take yes or no for an answer. You are a rare breed, and I don’t mean maybe.
Before I get to all the news that’s fit to print below, I want to acknowledge what have to be the best days of your lives. You’ve earned this. What it must be like salivating as your like-minded billionaire buddies lift their pompous asses up to the government feeding trough and gouge themselves with all that smoking-hot, deregulated, kickback pork?! Umm-mmm good! I bet you can almost taste it, eh? I mean, besides the fact they’re hundreds of miles away clinking fragile glasses, while you are still exactly where you were in the first place.
If it makes you feel better, the 66 percent in the stumbling resistance have gotten more than a whiff or two of what they’re cooking. But you … you lucky sonofaguns get all the benefits.
Unlike the rest of us, you are smart enough to know that even if they do live a fair piece up the road and to the right, it won’t be long until all that fine, lean corporate cash trickles down, and you are back inhaling all that sweet, sweet coal dust again. And who cares if you have to put up with decent healthcare a little longer, right? You wily ’76ers have put up with a helluva lot worse. With luck it won’t be long before the stench in your drinking water returns. Ah, the smell of success. That’s when you know your side is really doing some winning! Oh, to be you …
And don’t give it a second thought if it looks right now like the swamp is actually overflowing with grease. It’s all part of Trump’s plan. He’s got you covered. Think about it, he hasn’t even had to shoot one of you in the middle of the street to prove your loyalty. That right there is the mark of a real leader. And such followers you are!
For now, and too ensure all that winning, I’d suggest you keep those 19 firearms locked and loaded in case any Syrians cross into your town to blow up all that goodness Trump is sending your way. You can just wake up, hit the deck each morning, take your marching orders from Fox and Friends and things will be A-OK. The good ol’ days are most assuredly here to stay. Talk about bliss.
But before I forget, I have something for you.
As you know, the Orange Flame, sat down with the lyin’, failin’, cheatin’ New York Times Wednesday to show ’em who really knows the best words. Articulating his realities better than anybody ever has, Trump exhibited a level of comprehension of national and world affairs that has never been duplicated.
With thanks to The Times, but mostly your fearless leader, we give you this interview. You deserve it.
WASHINGTON — The following is a partial transcript of President Trump’s interview with The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush. It has been lightly edited for content and clarity, and omits several off-the-record comments and asides.
At least six White House aides were sitting in: Gary D. Cohn, President Trump’s lead economic adviser and a former president of Goldman Sachs; Reed Cordish, an assistant to the president; Sean Spicer, the press secretary; Hope Hicks, a long-serving Trump aide; and eventually Vice President Mike Pence and the chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, White House correspondent: Seems like it’s actually not been a terrible process for [Judge Neil M.] Gorsuch, right? I mean, it’s been pretty smooth.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s never an easy process. I think it’s been very smooth considering there’s tremendous hostility on the other side. I think it’s been pretty smooth.
TRUMP: I do.
HABERMAN: But do they admit to you that they don’t actually have a huge objection to Gorsuch, they think that he’s probably —
TRUMP: They do. They admit that.
HABERMAN: Right. In private.
TRUMP: Elijah Cummings [a Democratic representative from Maryland] was in my office and he said, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.”
TRUMP: And then he went out and I watched him on television yesterday and I said, “Was that the same man?”
TRUMP: But I said, and I liked him, but I said that was really nice. He said, in a group of people, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.” And then I watched him on television and I said, “Is that the same man that said that to me?”
GLENN THRUSH, White House correspondent: Why do you think Democrats feel the need to oppose Gorsuch? What do you think the politics is?
TRUMP: Well, I think that some of it had to do with the election. They thought they were going to win. You know, winning the Electoral College is, for a Republican, is close to impossible and I won it quite easily. And I think they are still recovering from that, but they are recovering now. I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it’s a massive, massive story. All over the world, I mean other than The New York Times.
HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.
HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.
TRUMP: Yeah, it’s a bigger story than you know. I think —
HABERMAN: You mean there’s more information that we’re not aware of?
TRUMP: I think that it’s going to be the biggest story.
THRUSH: Why? What do you think —
TRUMP: Take a look at what’s happening. I mean, first of all her performance was horrible yesterday on television even though she was interviewed by Hillary Clinton’s P.R. person, Andrea Mitchell [the NBC News journalist]. Course you’ve been accused of that also.
HABERMAN: Mostly by you, though.
TRUMP: No, no, no. Mostly by a lot of people. So you know, we’ll see what happens, but it looks like it’s breaking into a massive story.
THRUSH: What do you think are — what other shoes are there to drop on this?
HABERMAN: Yeah, what else could we learn on this?
TRUMP: I think you’re going to see a lot. I think you’ll see a lot.
HABERMAN: In terms of what she did and in terms of [unintelligible]?
TRUMP: I think in terms of what other people have done also.
TRUMP: I think it’s one of the biggest stories. The Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that. But what, you know, what various things led into it was the story that we’re talking about, the Susan Rice. What’s happened is terrible. I’ve never seen people so indignant, including many Democrats who are friends of mine. I’ve never seen them acting this way. Because that’s really an affront on them, you know, they are talking about civil liberties. It’s such an affront, what took place.
THRUSH: What other people do you think will get ensnared in this? Can you give us a sense? How far this might extend —
HABERMAN: From the previous administration.
TRUMP: I think from the previous administration.
THRUSH: How far up do you think this goes? Chief of staff?
TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but —
TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but you know who. You know what was going on. You probably know better than anybody. I mean, I frankly think The Times is missing a big thing by not writing it because you’re missing out on the biggest story there is.
[Mr. Trump makes a comment off the record, and mentions the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.]
THRUSH: We’re back on the record?
HABERMAN: Yeah, back on the record, do you think that he’s being unfairly treated? I mean, I watched it because I was curious how he was dealing with everything.
TRUMP: I think he’s a person I know well. He’s a good person. I think he may, you know, I think he shouldn’t have settled, personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled.
HABERMAN: How come?
TRUMP: Because you — should have taken it all the way. No, I know Bill. Bill’s a good person.
TRUMP: I don’t think Bill would do anything wrong.
HOPE HICKS, White House director of strategic communications: Can we get to infrastructure? [Laughter.] Because I know we are sensitive about time.
HABERMAN: I understand. I just want to ask one last follow-up on that note, and then we’ll move on, not on O’Reilly.
TRUMP: You certainly covered O’Reilly big. Not Susan Rice, boy, O’Reilly [unintelligible]. He’s taking my place. He’s taking my place.
HABERMAN: Sir, if you could give us more information about Rice. If the administration would give us more information —
TRUMP: No, you have a lot of information. No, you have so much information.
HABERMAN: If you would have given it to us last week, we would have written it. Would you declassify some of the information so that —
TRUMP: I don’t want to talk about that.
HABERMAN: No? O.K.
TRUMP: No. I just don’t want to talk about that. It’s such an important story for our country, for the world. What took place.
HABERMAN: Why not talk about it then? With all due respect.
TRUMP: At the right time, I will be.
THRUSH: One last thing on that. Have you actually seen intelligence that leads you to believe that people other than Susan Rice are involved.
TRUMP: I don’t want to comment on anything about — other than to say I think it’s a — I think it’s truly one of the big stories of our time.
THRUSH: Do you think she might have committed a crime?
TRUMP: Do I think?
TRUMP: Yes, I think.
HABERMAN: On infrastructure, just generally speaking, there’s been a lot of reports floating around about this package that you’re looking at. Can you give us the broad outlooks?
TRUMP: We want to do a great infrastructure plan, and on that side I will say that we’re going to have, I believe, tremendous Democrat support. We are also going to have some good Republican support, and I think it’s going to be one of the very bipartisan bills and it’s going to happen. I may put it in with health care.
TRUMP: Yeah. I may put it in with something else because it’s a very popular thing. We’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, as of two months ago. Uh, $6 trillion. And yet we can’t fix our own roads and our own highways. And our bridges, which are, in many cases, in very bad shape. And we’re going to have a very big infrastructure plan. And bill. And it’s going to come soon. And I think we’ll have support from Democrats and Republicans.
THRUSH: [Transportation Secretary] Elaine Chao said that it would likely come “later in the year.” Are you thinking about accelerating?
TRUMP: I am. I’m thinking about accelerating it. I’m thinking about putting it with another bill. Could be health care, could be something else. [Cross talk.] Could be tax reform.
HABERMAN: What’s your time frame, at this point, that you’re looking at as an accelerated?
TRUMP: Well, we’re working — you know when people said, when you guys, because you know we have a very solid administration. We have some very, very good people. This man was the president of Goldman Sachs. I mean, he was, like, the president of Goldman Sachs.
HABERMAN: I’m very familiar with his work.
TRUMP: And believe me, they wanted him. But he wanted to do something more important. As he said, as big as Goldman Sachs are, it was —
HABERMAN: This is bigger.
TRUMP: — and is. The numbers here are staggering. He did the biggest deals in the world. They were, like, tiny deals. They were like peanut deals. But, but we just have a great group of people.
THRUSH: We’ve heard some outlines in the press — how much public money versus tax credits are we talking about?
TRUMP: We may go public/private on some deals. We’re going to do a very big — you know, the money that was squandered by the past administrations. Squandered on airplane routing systems that don’t work. That, you know — what would you call the actual system itself? What would you say just so they know?
UNIDENTIFIED AIDE: The current system? Land-based radar.
TRUMP: It is so bad. It’s so out of whack. They had all of these different companies hired. Tremendous amounts of money was spent. And they don’t hook up. They didn’t hire one company. They don’t hook up.
THRUSH: Well, how much money in total, there are numbers that have been floating around. It’s two to three hundred billion over 10 years of federal aid.
TRUMP: No. More than that. Much more than that.
THRUSH: How much more?
TRUMP: We’re talking about a trillion-dollar infrastructure.
THRUSH: But I mean, in terms of actual —
TRUMP: We may take that trillion, and we may also in addition use public/private. But we’re talking about an investment of a trillion dollars.
HABERMAN: What would be the breakdown be?
TRUMP: On roads, on bridges, on many different things. And it’s also going to be — we have to refurbish to a large extent. You know, we can build new highways, which are much more expensive. And sometimes they’re the highways to hell. You know they’re called, like the Second Avenue subway, the tunnel to nowhere. Which, after spending 12 trillion, 12 billion dollars, they realize it now. But you know when they built the Second Avenue subway, you know they never knew where it was going. Did you know this? This was one of the great of all time. And then they ended up finishing it.
THRUSH: Can we bookmark that for one second? I just want to ask you about — O.K. Tax credits versus actual money on the table, federal money. You say a trillion total. The estimates out there are two to three hundred billion in federal expenditures as opposed to tax credits. Are those numbers accurate? Give me a general account.
TRUMP: Nothing is accurate now because we haven’t made a final determination. We haven’t made a determination as to public/private. There are some things that work very nicely public/private. There are some things that don’t. The federal government, we’re doing very well you saw, a lot of good numbers coming out. You saw our imports. You saw what happened with China. And various other people that this country has been dealing with over the years. You saw the numbers come out today, they’re very promising. Lot of good numbers are coming out. We are borrowing very inexpensively. When you can borrow so inexpensively, you don’t have to do the public/private thing. Because public/private can be very expensive. When you go equity, when you give equity to people who own your highways essentially for a 30-year period, who own your tollbooths for a period of time — come on in, Mike! You know Mike and Reince?
TRUMP: Uh, we’re working on health care. Can I just say, so when you called the health care bill, you know, that was just a negotiation. You didn’t hear me say it’s over. That was a negotiation. You understand? A continuing negotiation. It may go on for a long time or it may go on until this afternoon. I don’t know. It’s a continuing negotiation.
HABERMAN: You said you expect Democrats — I have two questions I want to ask you. You raised both of them. You expect that you will have Democratic support, but you have not spoken to [Senator Chuck] Schumer in weeks, so how do you expect — I don’t mean on public health care but on infrastructure.
TRUMP: No, because they are desperate for infrastructure. That’s the thing that they want second to — that would be their second number — that would be their second request.
HABERMAN: What do you think their first is?
TRUMP: I know it, but I can’t tell you it.
HABERMAN: You referenced the New York projects —
TRUMP: The tunnel to nowhere, I call it.
HABERMAN: Well that’s my question for you. Two of those projects, the Hudson rail tunnel and one is the Second Avenue subway, are two projects you’ve been hearing about for much of your developing career.
TRUMP: For much of my life.
HABERMAN: Right, and so same, we’re all New Yorkers at this table.
THRUSH: In your budget you either zeroed out or cut a lot. We reported —
TRUMP: We don’t want money being thrown out the window, as it has been for many years. Not just in Obama’s years. I mean for many years.
THRUSH: What do you say to New Yorker officials that think those are really vital projects? What do you say to them? Do you support them?
TRUMP: Well, I may support them, I’m going to look at them. So what I’m doing — is you know — I did great in real estate in New York. I know all the developers. I know all of the folks. I know the good ones and the bad ones. And I’m setting up a commission of very smart people that know how to spend money properly. That know how to build on time, on budget. And ideally, under time and under budget. I’m setting up a commission. It’s going to be headed by [the developer] Richard LeFrak and it’s going to be headed — they’re going to be co- — Steve Roth. R-O-T-H of Vornado. Two very talented, smart, tough people. And they are going to, along with me, put on a group of 20 people, 20 to 25 people on a commission. We’re going to run projects through them. And they will have great expertise in that room. We’ll have it from both coasts, and right down the middle. We’re going to have representatives from various parts of the country that are all are very, very successful in terms of infrastructure. From different fields, but always infrastructure. But everything is going to be run by them. One of the things — you probably saw what I said yesterday — did you see where I held up the deal?
HABERMAN: I did. The chart.
TRUMP: That’s a highway. That’s a highway. What is that, 17 agencies, Gary? Hundreds and hundreds of approvals. Some of which, statutorily, you have to wait six months before you ask for the next one. If we do the — when we do the infrastructure, it’s going to be very important to me that if we give billions of dollars to a state, like New York, California or any other state, that they’re going to have to start spending that money, they’re going to have to have approval within 120 days.
TRUMP: And if they don’t — well, otherwise, you’ll give them money and they won’t start the highway till — which is something that no one has ever done.
THRUSH: You’ve spent most of your career in New York. A, what do you think of the subway system in New York? Do you think it’s in good shape? And B, when’s the last time you were on the train in the city?
TRUMP: It’s been a long time. It’s been a long time. It has been. I know the subway system very well. I used to take it to Kew-Forest School, in Forest Hills, when I lived in Queens. And I’d take the subway to school. Seems a long time ago —
TRUMP: I’d take it from Jamaica, 179th Street. Jamaica, right? To Forest Hills. I understand the subway very well. I used to ride between the cars.
HABERMAN: Did your parents tell you not to do that?
TRUMP: They weren’t thrilled when they heard that.
THRUSH: We’ll, you’re kind of doing that politically now, so —
TRUMP: [Unintelligible.] That could be the best statement —
TRUMP: No, they were not happy. I used to love to do that. Those were the old days.
THRUSH: But you think the infrastructure in New York is in pretty good shape? You’re a developer. You know that stuff.
TRUMP: I think it’s in poor shape. The highways are in poor shape.
HABERMAN: What about the airports?
TRUMP: I think the airports are a horror show. I’ve traveled the world, I know the world.
HABERMAN: And, well, you’ve traveled the country. So you saw all of these cities in the last year and a half, two years. Tell us what you thought, do worst, do best in terms of airport, in terms of infrastructure, in terms of what you saw.
TRUMP: When you look at the infrastructure in places like Iowa, in places like Tennessee and Alabama and places I won by massive —
TRUMP: God bless you. You O.K., Gary? That was a pretty tough one. I’ve got to make sure my man is all right.
TRUMP: When you look at the infrastructure of some parts of our country, it’s really remarkably good. But you come back to New York and you look at the infrastructure of New York, you look at Van Wyck Expressway, you look at the medians, which, I would, you know, I’ve already got an order out — the aluminum medians — you’ve heard me talk about it.
HABERMAN: I’ve heard you talk about it, and I take those roads all the time, so —
TRUMP: Whoever the person is that owns that company is a genius salesman. That is the worst garbage. I think it bends by the heat, because not that many cars could possibly hit it. It’s the worst garbage. And I also think it’s dangerous because it’s a spear. And if you hit those things, they come flying apart. And if you’re driving, you’ve got yourself a problem.
THRUSH: Do you drive?
TRUMP: Well, I used to.
REED CORDISH: Per the president’s instructions, the infrastructure package is going to fix the broken permit system, the broken process.
CORDISH: We can give you the details of it, but that’s such a big part of the story. That’s going to create benefit far beyond the federal dollars that we’re talking about. That’s what’s really going on — unleash the true revival of the infrastructure.
TRUMP: It’s a very important element.
HABERMAN: How much time are you spending on infrastructure, versus health care or —
TRUMP: I would say 10 percent more. Right now I’m focused on China.
Focused on the Middle East. We’re doing very, very well against ISIS, as you know. We just had a horrible thing happen yesterday.
HABERMAN: Did you see the images out of Syria? What do you think watching that as a president —
TRUMP: I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s an affront to humanity. Inconceivable that somebody could do that. Those kids were so beautiful. To look at those scenes of those beautiful children being carried out.
HABERMAN: Where were you when you found out about it?
TRUMP: I was here. I saw it on television, I saw it on —
THRUSH: What do you think it says about the role of Russia in Syria?
TRUMP: Well, I think it’s a very sad day for Russia because they’re aligned, and in this case, all information points to Syria that they did this. Why they did this, who knows? That’s a level — first of all, they weren’t supposed to have this. Obama said, “It’s all cleared away.” Well, that’s another thing he didn’t do. This was a big moment, a big moment in the Middle East was when Obama drew the red line in the sand, and it was immediately violated, and did nothing. That was a big moment in the Middle East. I know you’re not going to report it, but — that was a big, bad moment in the Middle East.
THRUSH: We both reported on it extensively. And we grilled both [the former White House press secretary] Jay Carney and the president —
TRUMP: If that were violated, you would not have had this happened. It couldn’t have been any worse in the Middle East, because you have five million people, now they’re all over the place, including millions of deaths, in my opinion —
THRUSH: Is this the level of something you would contact Mr. Putin about, personally?
TRUMP: I never talk about what I do militarily. I’ve been complaining about that for years. In terms of Syria. I just don’t talk about it. People say, “Will you do something with Syria?” I just don’t talk about it.
THRUSH: What about Russia’s role in all this in abetting the —
TRUMP: Well, I think it’s very disappointing. I think it’s very disappointing. Now this was done by — the information is, this was done by Syria purely. But anybody aligned with Syria — this is very disappointing.
AIDE: If we have any more questions about infrastructure, and then we just have to wrap up.
GARY D. COHN: Also, you were asking the president how he spends his time. Don’t forget he’s spending an enormous amount of time on trade and taxes. Those are two big areas.
TRUMP: And the trade is starting now, big league. It’s a good point, Gary. The trade is starting. I mean, its started. You see it already. You see it in the numbers.
HABERMAN: On tax reform very quickly just because you said you might attach infrastructure to another piece of legislation.
HABERMAN: Where are you — we’ve heard a bunch of sort of amorphous proposals — where are you in terms of the border adjustment tax?
TRUMP: Well, we’re very much — I don’t want to announce it yet — but we’re very much set, my team and others — uh, [Treasury Secretary] Steve Mnuchin, lot of other people — we’re very much set on the concept of the tax.
HABERMAN: You are.
TRUMP: We want to see what happens with health care first. Because health care will affect taxes. Because, if we get the health care that we want, we’re going to end up with great health care and we’re going to end up actually with a saving. And the saving will go toward a tax reduction.
HABERMAN: How do you deal with the House Freedom Caucus on an infrastructure bill, given that they seem to feel empowered right now?
TRUMP: Well, they’re all friends of mine, Maggie. And you see that. They go out there and say, “We love our president.” You know, I mean, they’re all friends of mine. I won their districts, some of them, by 48 percent, 42 percent, 45 percent. They’re all friends of mine. They’ve been great. Uh, I think you’re going to see it coming together. You’re already seeing it. I think you saw it yesterday.
HABERMAN: Do you feel there was movement on health care yesterday? There’s been conflicting reports.
TRUMP: Yeah. I do.
THRUSH: Do you feel you’ve surrendered any leverage in these health care —
THRUSH: Do you think these guys can —
TRUMP: No. I didn’t surrender leverage. I’m not looking to gain leverage. I’m looking to get great health care. And the easiest thing for me to do would be to not do health care. Just relax. Don’t do it. If I don’t do that, other things happen. And I think it’s time that we have — because, look — what’s going to happen is Obamacare is not sustainable. It’s over. It will be anywhere from six months to a year. It’s over. It’s over.
THRUSH: On infrastructure, one of the things —
TRUMP: Now, if I want to deal with Democrats, Glenn, if I want to deal with Democrats, all I have to do is let it go a little further. You know, you have many states now, you have many states coming up where they’re going to have no insurance company. O.K.? It’s already happened in Tennessee. It’s happening in Kentucky. Tennessee only has half coverage. Half the state is gone. They left. But I’d rather solve it in a much better way for the country.
TRUMP: And I think we have a good chance.
THRUSH: Vis-à-vis health care and infrastructure. One of the things that we’ve heard over the past couple of months was that you, early on, were very enthusiastic about infrastructure as a way to bring all these forces together.
TRUMP: I am.
THRUSH: And that you might have preferred to have done infrastructure first. Who sold you on doing it —
THRUSH: — the other way? And do you regret not doing infrastructure first?
HABERMAN: What accounted for the change? What was your process?
TRUMP: Because infrastructure is so popular that I might want to use it for another bill.
HABERMAN: So then — so as a sweetener for something else.
TRUMP: Very simple.
TRUMP: Because infrastructure is so popular with the Democrats, and pretty popular with the Republicans. A lot of Republicans want infrastructure, too. Number one, we need it as a country. We need it. We have to fix our roads and our bridges and we need it. And our airports, by the way, which are Third World airports. You look at these airports. They’re horrible. I mean, you go to Kennedy. You go to L.A.X. These airports are horrible. I’m a person that, before I was doing this, I was in Qatar and I was all over the world and I was in different places in China, and you see airports, it’s like we’re — we are Third World.
THRUSH: Joe Biden said —
HABERMAN: That’s right.
TRUMP: The point, the point is that infrastructure is in my opinion very popular. It’s going to be bipartisan. And I’m going to use it in another bill. That’s an important bill.
HABERMAN: What would be a signature piece of infrastructure beyond roads and bridges? What would be a standout project?
TRUMP: We’re looking at that, and we’re going to announce something very soon.
THRUSH: Can I ask you one last question?
THRUSH: On the infrastructure stuff, a couple of quick things. Davis-Bacon [a law that regulates wages on federally funded projects]. Democrats have said that will be a poison pill. Are you going to touch Davis-Bacon? What are you going to do?
TRUMP: We’re going to make an announcement in two weeks —
TRUMP: — on Davis-Bacon.
HABERMAN: O.K. Can you give us a hint on where you are?
[Laughter. Cross talk.]
TRUMP: It’s an important question, actually.
TRUMP: It’s going to be good.