Politico got its hands on a transcript of Donald J. Trump’s lengthy interview with The Wall Street Journal in the Oval Office. It is damning in the sheer scope of the ignorance that Trump exhibits on issues ranging from taxation, healthcare, NAFTA, trading relationships and geography. Below are some of the most memorable passages from the interview.
On the most important conversations Trump has had
WSJ: What have you been doing, Mr President, sort of behind the scenes?
TRUMP: A lot. A lot.
WSJ: I mean, what do you think the crucial conversations have been?
TRUMP: Many conversations. I just had one with a certain senator that was very convincing to that senator. So I’ve done a lot. I mean, last night — last night it was amazing. I was at the — you know, I was in West Virginia doing certain things and making a speech to the Boy Scouts, and that was some crowd. That was an incredible crowd.
Trump’s crucial conversations have been with one senator and the Boy Scouts.
On tax reform
WSJ: So can — what’s – I mean, you’ve outlined the principles of tax reform. Can you tell us what you – you know, what you want to achieve fundamentally in tax reform?
TRUMP: Sure. I want to –
WSJ: What are the – what are the main goals?
TRUMP: I want to achieve growth. We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world, essentially, you know, of the size. But we’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. We have — nobody knows what the number is. I mean, it used to be, when we talked during the debate, $2.5 trillion, right, when the most elegant person — right? I call him Mr Elegant. I mean, that was a great debate. We did such a great job. But at that time I was talking $2.5 trillion. I guess it’s $5 trillion now. Whatever it is, it’s a lot more. So we have anywhere from 4 [trillion] to 5 or even more trillions of dollars sitting offshore.
Nobody knows how much America taxes its citizens. And who’s Mr Elegant?
On the trade deal with Britain
WSJ: Can I ask another economics question, while we’re on the subject?
WSJ: You tweeted this morning about trade talks with Britain.
WSJ: Can you tell us more about what’s going on?
TRUMP: No, but I can say that we’re going to be very involved with the UK I mean, you don’t hear the word Britain anymore. It’s very interesting. It’s like, nope.
Nope nope nope.
On the size of Asian countries
WSJ: What do you think is a reasonable corporate rate? We’ve heard 20 percent, but...
TRUMP: Well, you know, we’re going for 15 (percent). We’re going to see, and we’ll see. But, you know, I don’t want to say anything about negotiation. I mean, we are asking for 15 percent, and we think we’re going to grow tremendously.
So I deal with foreign countries, and despite what you may read I have unbelievable relationships with all of the foreign leaders. They like me. I like them. You know, it’s amazing. So I’ll call, like, major‚ major countries, and I’ll be dealing with the prime minister or the president. And I’ll say, how are you doing? Oh, don’t know, don’t know, not well, Mr President, not well. I said, well, what’s the problem?
Oh, GDP 9 percent, not well. And I’m saying to myself, here we are at like 1 percent, dying, and they’re at 9 percent and they’re unhappy. So, you know, and these are like countries, you know, fairly large, like 300 million people. You know, a lot of people say — they say, well, but the United States is large. And then you call places like Malaysia, Indonesia, and you say, you know, how many people do you have? And it’s pretty amazing how many people they have. So China’s going to be at 7 or 8 percent, and they have a billion-five, right? So we should do really well.
But in order to do that — you know, it’s tax reform, but it’s a big tax cut. But it’s simplification, it’s reform, and it’s a big tax cut, 15.
If there are any insights to be gleaned from this, it’s that (1) Trump is still amazed that he gets to call leaders of other countries, (2) Trump wasn’t aware that there were other large countries in the world and (3) Trump is frustrated that China’s GDP has been growing at a much faster rate than America’s. The latter, of course, has nothing to do with taxation, and everything to do with the fact that China is a developing economy.
WSJ: What are you looking for specifically —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I’m looking for fairness.
WSJ: But what does that – can you give an example?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, it means – look, our automobile industry has just left us and gone to Mexico – I mean, a big chunk of it. And it’s very unfair for them to take our companies, build their cars, and then sell the car back into our country with no tax. It’s very unfair. They fire all our people in Michigan and Ohio, and they take it, and they build a car. And now they sell the car back in with no tax. It’s not fair.
But at least Trump has very good relationships
TRUMP: I have a very good relationship with the prime minister [Theresa May]….I have a very good relationship with the EU people….I was with President Xi, who I have a very good relationship with….I have a lot of respect for Rex and his people, good relationship.
Photo by Gage Skidmore / Flickr.