Before hopping aboard Air Force One to head back to the United States after his historic summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Donald Trump spent more than an hour(!) talking and taking questions from the assembled media. It was quite a performance.
I combed through the transcript – shout-outs to interns Jessie Yeung and Bani Sapra for compiling it! – and highlighted the most newsworthy, intriguing and just plain odd lines from the President. They’re below.
1. “We spent very intensive hours together, and I think most of you have received the signed document, or you will very shortly. It’s very comprehensive, it’s going to happen.”
The signed document, which you can see here, is full of generalities about what both countries plan to do but contains few specifics of how and when major changes – like denuclearization by the North Koreans – will happen. “Now that we’ve been given their statement it is far less than advertised,” tweeted NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “No new commitments. No timetable. No definitions. Glad they met but no breakthroughs.”
2. “We got to know each other well in a very confined period of time, under very strong, strong circumstance.”
What, exactly, is a “very strong, strong circumstance”? And is that a good thing or a bad one?
3. “But now we can all have hope that it will soon end. And it will. It will soon end.”
Trump is referring here to declaring an official end to the Korean War, which Kim very much wants. In two sentences, Trump goes from this might happen to this is definitely going to happen. Which, it may or it may not.
4. “The past does not have to define the future.”
“The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” – William Faulkner
5. “This isn’t another administration that never got it started and therefore never got it done.”
Trump can never resist throwing a barb the way of his predecessors or touting his own historic accomplishments. Of course, in this situation he’s right: He made history on Tuesday as the first sitting US president to meet with a North Korean leader.
6. “Our eyes are wide open, but peace is always worth the effort, especially in this case.”
A very good line. Trust but verify, in poetry.
7. “It’s a very great moment in the history of the world.”
No one ever accused Trump of being understated!
8. “The media – this is a big gathering of media, I will say.”
REMINDER: Trump is always, always, always mindful of how he is being covered and by whom. For all his anti-media rhetoric, there has never been a president more addicted to the media and media attention than Trump.
9. “Anybody that takes over a situation like he did, at 26 years of age, and is able to run it, and run it tough – I don’t say he was nice or I don’t say anything about it – he ran it.”
Trump’s weird praise of Kim, including calling him “very talented,” reveals something of how Trump sees the world and how he understands leadership. For Trump, leadership is effective governance by any means necessary. As he has demonstrated in the past with his praise for Vladimir Putin as well as the leaders of Egypt and Turkey, Trump offers little outward concern for authoritarian tactics and human rights abuses – focusing instead on the loyalty these rulers inspire.
10. “Yeah, we’ll be verifying. It will be verified.”
The truth is that there is nothing concrete in the signed agreement about how the US will verify that North Korea is destroying its nuclear capability.
11. “As we do that, we’re going to have a lot of people there, and we’re going to be working with them on a lot of other things.”
a) lot of people
b) working on a lot of things
12. “Yeah, go ahead. Be nice. Be respectful.”
Trump’s comment to CNN’s Jim Acosta is a reminder that he thinks the media is under some sort of “nice” requirement. We aren’t. The job is to respectfully ask hard questions on behalf of the American people. “I’ll be very respectful, sir,” was Acosta’s pitch-perfect response to the President.
13. “In one case, they took billions of dollars – during the Clinton regime – took billions of dollars and nothing happened.”
14. “But I’ll tell you what, we signed a very comprehensive document today, and I think most of you have been given that document.”
No matter whether you think Trump’s meeting with Kim was a good, bad or neutral thing, it’s hard to say that the document the two men signed is “very comprehensive.”
15. “I think, without the rhetoric, it wouldn’t have happened.”
If I understand Trump right here, he means that without the back-and-forth barbs like “Little Rocket Man” and “dotard” the summit wouldn’t have happened? Intriguing.
16. “Let me see, who has better hair?”
Trump is talking to two reporters here. And, yes, he is talking about their hair.
17. “But they will be doing things, and I think he wants to do things.”
This was the extent of detail Trump offered up on the conversations between himself and Kim on human rights abuses in North Korea. “Things.”
18. “I believe it’s a rough situation over there. There’s no question about it.”
Donald Trump on human rights abuses in North Korea: “Rough situation over there.”
19. “It’s rough. It’s rough in a lot of places, by the way. Not just there.”
This is a Trump classic: North Korea may be doing bad things but so do lots of other places. Remember that when Trump was pushed on Putin’s targeting of journalists, he responded this way: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”
20. “Congratulations to everybody, by the way. Congratulations to everybody.”
[shakes hand with self, slaps self-five]
21. “Nuclear is number one.”
22. “I know a lot about airplanes; it’s very expensive.”
Offered without comment.
23. “I think it’s inappropriate to be having war games.”
24. “I haven’t slept in 25 hours, but I thought it was appropriate to do.”
One time in college I didn’t sleep for 36 hours. But it wasn’t for an international summit to de-nuclearize the Korean peninsula. I just couldn’t get to sleep.
25. “But only a person that dislikes Donald Trump would say that I’ve agreed to make a big commitment.”
Terrific third-person reference here by Donald Trump. Fully approved by Chris Cillizza.
26. “How’s Staten Island Ferry doing? OK? He wrote the best story about me with the Staten Island Ferry. And after that, he’s never written a good story.”
REMINDER: Trump follows media coverage closer than any president we have ever had. And he remembers every positive story about himself.
27. “When I got onto the plane, I think that Justin probably didn’t know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions, and I see the television.”
If the Prime Minister of Canada was unaware that a) the US president’s plane has TVs and b) the US President really likes to watch TV, I will eat my hat.
28. “Other than he had a news conference that he had because he assumed I was in an airplane and I wasn’t watching. He learned. That’s going to cost a lot of money for the people of Canada.”
So. The Prime Minister of Canada said Canada wouldn’t be bullied. The American President says he will punish the Prime Minister of Canada – monetarily – for saying that. Totally normal stuff here!
29. “We laughed. We had a very good relationship.”
Oh, how we laughed. Until we cried.
30. “Should we keep going for a little while? Sarah? I don’t know. It’s up to the legendary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.”
Trump here makes clear a) he is having fun and b) he wants to take more questions. Yet more evidence of how much he loves interacting with reporters despite his repeated attempts to vilify journalism as a profession.
31. “This wasn’t like we went and we started talking about – as you know, right?”
[looks around, nervously tugs collar] Yeah, I know. Of course.
32. “People didn’t feel like being bombed out of the Opening Ceremonies.”
Fact Check: True!
33. “Well, I think, can you ensure anything?”
Existential. How can we ever really know or trust anything?
34. “Can I ensure that you’re going to be able to sit down properly when you sit down?”
Um, no? Also, and I have been thinking a lot about this one: What if C-A-T really spelled “dog”?
35. “My whole life has been deals. I’ve done great at it, and that’s what I do.”
36. “I think they are one of the great winners today, that large group of people that you’re talking about.”
Trump is referring here to the tens of thousands of people Kim has relegated to labor camps. They’re the winners today.
37. “I don’t think – I mean, I’ve read horror stories.”
Like Stephen King stuff? Or even scarier?
38. “I had an uncle who was a great professor for, I believe, 40 years at MIT. And I used to discuss nuclear with him all the time.”
Ah yes, conversations around the fire about nuclear. Fond memories of talking about nuclear, for sure.
39. “He was a great, brilliant genius.”
40. “We have a tremendous deficit in trade, commonly known as a trade deficit.”
[nods head knowingly, strokes chin]
41. “So – and I still love my first interview with you, David. I still have that interview, actually.”
Trump is talking to – and about – The New York Times’ David Sanger here. And, not to sound like broken alarm clock but: Donald Trump loves the media and remembers all positive stories written about him.
42. “Thank you for the nice way you treat us. We appreciate it. Really, it’s very good. It’s really beautiful what you do.”
Trump is praising One America News here, a conservative outlet and one of the few media companies he doesn’t lump in as “fake news.” That is, of course, because they cover him positively and he believes positive news coverage = real news.
43. “As an example, they have great beaches. You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, ‘Boy, look at the view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo behind?’”
North Korea: Come for the beaches. Stay for the exploding cannons in the ocean.
44. “You know, instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there.”
Instead of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles, you could have a five-star luxury Trump hotel right there!
45. “Am I on the cover again this week? Boy, have I – so many covers.”
Trump is talking here to a reporter from Time magazine, which depicts him on its June 18 cover as a king staring at his own reflection. And let’s remember that he had fake Time magazine covers featuring himself hanging in several of his golf clubs.
46. “They took an Olympics that was going to be a massive failure that maybe wouldn’t have even opened, and they made it a tremendous success by agreeing to participate.”
According to Trump, Kim saved the Winter Olympics. You’re welcome, world.
47. “I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”
He said the quiet part out loud.
48. “Well, I don’t have to verify because I have one of the great memories of all time. So I don’t have to. OK? OK?”
There it is! One of the greatest memories of all time! An oldie but goodie!
49. “I don’t know about you folks, but it’s been a long time since I’ve taken it easy. So now we can take it a little bit easy, and then the work begins again.”
Let the taking it easy begin!