Photo by eflon (CC BY 2.0)

Around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, The New York Times released a partial transcript of Donald Trump’s first interview in weeks involving members of the press who aren’t from Fox News. The transcript underscores how Trump’s general incompetence on the issue of health care guarantees an uphill battle for the Republican-led Senate to achieve any sort of accord:

TRUMP: But what it does, Maggie, it means it gets tougher and tougher. As they get something, it gets tougher. Because politically, you can’t give it away. So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

[MAGGIE] HABERMAN: Am I wrong in thinking—I’ve talked to you a bunch of times about this over the last couple years, but you are generally of the view that people should have health care, right? I mean, I think that you come at it from the view of …

TRUMP: Yes, yes. [garbled]

Trump doesn’t derive his numbers from any data circulated during the recent health care debates—despite his claim of “I know a lot about health care” later in the Times interview—and a $12 annual payment for health insurance surely does not exist. Despite his postelection promises of “lower deductibles” and “insurance for everybody,” the president has yet to propose or support a plan that would actually do so. He said that the bill was “mean” and agreed with Fox’s Tucker Carlson when told that those who would be hurt most by Trumpcare would be his own voters.

Trump’s fumbles in the interview during discussions about plenty of other topics. But while many of his statements are able to be debunked with a simple fact-checking exercise, the interview is potently and strangely illustrative of a confused mindset. For one, he believes that the FBI director reports to him and not to the attorney general:

TRUMP: And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.

He also seemed perplexingly fixated on French President Emmanuel Macron’s handshake from his recent visit to Paris for Bastille Day:

TRUMP: He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.

TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.

His claimed that his speech in Poland got (unverified) rave reviews:

TRUMP: I have had the best reviews on foreign land. […] Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.

Perhaps most compellingly, he complained about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, blaming him for many of his problems after Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation:

TRUMP: So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have—which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.”

The New York Times also released audio of some portions of the interview — perhaps to suggest that the paper’s staffers are not, despite accusations from the White House to the contrary, purveyors of fake news.

The Times on Thursday also published a follow-up piece titled “Trump Made Several Misleading Claims in His Times Interview,” debunking Trump’s understanding of how health insurance functions, calling him out for falsely claiming that Akie Abe, the wife of the Japanese Prime Minister does not speak English, for incorrectly recounting the history of the FBI, and more.

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