Donald Trump gave a lengthy and wide-ranging interview to several New York Times reporters yesterday, excerpts from which the paper subsequently published online. The bit that’s getting the most attention–and rightfully so–is the president’s criticism of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into the possibility of collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government. Trump called that recusal “very unfair to the president,” and said that he wouldn’t have appointed Sessions if he’d known it was coming. Sessions is about as loyal a Trump supporter as exists in Washington, and the president’s verbal shots at him are another illustration of his willingness to take aim at anyone who irks him, no matter the possible political consequences.
Aside from the administration’s internecine drama, the interview was revealing about other aspects of the president, whom the Times notes was “relaxed and engaged,” demonstrating his “more amiable side.” For one, there’s his appreciation for French president Emmanuel Macron’s hand-holding:
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.
TRUMP: I mean, really. He’s a very good person. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.
To be fair to Macron, Trump himself has a rich history of weird hand stuff with foreign dignitaries. The handshake in question, if you haven’t yet seen it, is below.
The president also called the Bastille Day parade he witnessed while in France “super-duper,” despite his evident distaste for the Daft Punk medley performed by the French army marching band. The big boy loves the airplanes and all the different colored uniforms!
TRUMP: But the Bastille Day parade was — now that was a super-duper — O.K. I mean, that was very much more than normal. They must have had 200 planes over our heads. Normally you have the planes and that’s it, like the Super Bowl parade. And everyone goes crazy, and that’s it. That happened for — and you know what else that was nice? It was limited. You know, it was two hours, and the parade ended. It didn’t go a whole day. They didn’t go crazy. You don’t want to leave, but you have to. Or you want to leave, really.
These things are going on all day. It was a two-hour parade. They had so many different zones. Maybe 100,000 different uniforms, different divisions, different bands. Then we had the retired, the older, the ones who were badly injured. The whole thing, it was an incredible thing.
Later in the interview, Trump asserted that Akie Abe, first lady of Japan, did not speak a word of English, based on his experience sitting next to her for an hour and 45 minutes at the recent G20 dinner in Hamburg. However, as Sam Thielman of Talking Points Memo noted on Twitter, Abe is actually fluent in English. Maybe she just didn’t want to talk to him.
TRUMP: So, I was seated next to the wife of Prime Minister Abe [Shinzo Abe of Japan], who I think is a terrific guy, and she’s a terrific woman, but doesn’t speak English.
HABERMAN: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?
TRUMP: Like, not “hello.”
HABERMAN: That must make for an awkward seating.TRUMP: Well, it’s hard, because you know, you’re sitting there for——
TRUMP: So the dinner was probably an hour and 45 minutes.
If you’re not convinced, here’s footage of Abe giving an keynote speech in English at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2014.
Later in the interview, talk turned to the Russia investigation. After Trump condemned Sessions for recusing himself–a decision he made to avoid potential conflicts of interests–he turned to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who acts as leader of the justice department in matters related to the probe. (And who, it should be noted, was also appointed by the president himself.) Trump, for whatever reason, really doesn’t like the fact that Rosenstein is from Baltimore.
TRUMP: So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.
TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.
TRUMP: Yeah, what Jeff Sessions did was he recused himself right after, right after he became attorney general. And I said, “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” I would have — then I said, “Who’s your deputy?” So his deputy he hardly knew, and that’s Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any. So, he’s from Baltimore.
That’s one of the great morals of the Russia investigation, as far as Trump is concerned: never trust a Baltimorean. Read the full interview at the Times.