Our current president is unprecedented in many ways: the first president to have no government or public service experience, the first president to refer to his golf resort as the Winter White House, the first president to be profiting off of a global business empire while in office.
We can now add another “first”: the first president who is incoherent enough for it to be nearly impossible to transcribe his actual words.
The transcript released on Friday, April 21 (with the full transcript released the following Sunday) by the Associated Press from its recent interview reveals 16 instances when what the president said is simply labeled “unintelligible.”
Here’s a small taste:
TRUMP: You have to love people. And if you love people, such a big responsibility. (unintelligible) You can take any single thing, including even taxes. I mean we’re going to be doing major tax reform. Here’s part of your story, it’s going to be a big (unintelligible). Everybody’s saying, “Oh, he’s delaying.” I’m not delaying anything. I’ll tell you the other thing is (unintelligible). I used to get great press. I get the worst press. I get such dishonest reporting with the media. That’s another thing that really has — I’ve never had anything like it before. It happened during the primaries, and I said, you know, when I won, I said, “Well the one thing good is now I’ll get good press.” And it got worse. (unintelligible) So that was one thing that a little bit of a surprise to me. I thought the press would become better, and it actually, in my opinion, got more nasty.
“I get treated so badly. Yesterday, about the thing, you know when I said it’s a terrorism … it may be. I said it may be a terrorist attack and MSNBC, I heard, went crazy, “He called it a terrorist attack.” They thought it was a bank robbery. By the way, I’m 10-0 for that. I’ve called every one of them. Every time they said I called it way too early and then it turns out I’m … Whatever. Whatever. In the meantime, I’m here and they’re not.”
The pattern revealed in these answers — Trump steering every answer back to his own perception that he has been treated unfairly — is repeated throughout the interview.
The transcript also shows 55 examples of ellipses, instances when his response ends prematurely.
“I want to do the job, but not many more. … This is an important story. I’ve done a lot. I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days and I think the first 100 days is an artificial barrier. And I’m scheduled … the foundations have been set to do some great things. With foreign countries. Look at, look at President Xi. I mean …” (end of answer)
Journalists and commentators on Twitter promptly reacted to the incoherence of the interview. MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted: “Watch Trump’s mind wander from subject to subject with no apparent charted course, but always stumbling back to how cable news treats him.” In another tweet, she wrote: “He’s like a babbling brook of incoherence and obsession.”
Daniel Dale, a fact-checker and Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, called the interview “bonkers” and tweeted: “I’ve never seen this: the AP has to deem some of Trump’s comments ‘unintelligible’ even though it was a one-on-one Oval Office interview.”
The interview also includes multiple instances of outright fabrications or misstatements. ABC News generously reported that the interview “showed he was not completely familiar with what he had promised in that ‘contract’ with voters.” The Washington Post’s The Fix described the interview’s bragging and boasting as painting a “revisionist history” of actual events that occurred during Trump’s first 100 days.
For instance, Trump claimed that he had never been a supporter of WikiLeaks, despite the fact that his own past tweets and videos of his rallies prove otherwise.
Trump states that he’s “done more than any other president in the first 100 days.” An AP fact-check debunks that claim, stating that out of 38 specific promises he made to Americans in his 100 day “contract,” only 10 have been accomplished, mostly through executive orders.
Trump creates new lies within the AP interview itself, as revealed in this exchange:
TRUMP: OK. The one thing I’ve learned to do that I never thought I had the ability to do. I don’t watch CNN anymore.
AP: You just said you did.
TRUMP: No. No, I, if I’m passing it, what did I just say (inaudible)?
AP: You just said —
TRUMP: Where? Where?
AP: Two minutes ago.
TRUMP: No, they treat me so badly. No, I just said that. No, I, what’d I say, I stopped watching them. But I don’t watch CNN anymore. I don’t watch MSNBC. I don’t watch it. Now I heard yesterday that MSNBC, you know, they tell me what’s going on.
Finally, Trump lets us know something very important, a fact that he hardly ever mentions anymore: He won the election. (Did you know this?)
When asked about funding for his border wall, he replied:
TRUMP: I don’t know yet. People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall, my base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies. OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. My base, which is a big base; I think my base is 45 percent. You know, it’s funny. The Democrats, they have a big advantage in the electoral college. Big, big, big advantage. I’ve always said the popular vote would be a lot easier than the electoral college. The electoral college — but it’s a whole different campaign (unintelligible). The electoral college is very difficult for a Republican to win, and I will tell you, the people want to see it. They want to see the wall, they want to see security. Now, it just came out that they’re 73 percent down. … That’s a tremendous achievement. …
My favorite summary of the interview actually comes from Onion and New Yorker contributor Maura Quint: “This AP Trump interview transcript is a lovely-horrible gift, like fancy bath salts to make the water smell nice as you slowly drown.”