Donald Trump is keeping busy, what with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ press conference fiasco, the mounting evidence of collusion between his campaign and Russian operatives, and that whole “wiretapping” thing. Yet none of this prevented the president from participating in an interview with Time magazine for its new story about truth, falsehood, and whether or not Trump can tell the difference. And as Time‘s Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer discovers, the president had a lot to say about the story’s subjects — especially since he repeated many false claims previously debunked by reporters.
The Washington Post and several other fact checkers have since gone through Scherer’s interview with Trump, line by line, to assess the validity of his answers. Unsurprisingly, they determined most of what the president had to say was false. Outright lies and boisterous exaggerations notwithstanding, however, a good deal of the interview was just bonkers. For example, consider Trump’s overly long response to Scherer’s offer to explain Time‘s story:
Yeah, it’s a cool story. I mean it’s, the concept is right. I predicted a lot of things, Michael. Some things that came to you a little bit later. But, you know, we just rolled out a list. Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems. Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing. NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it. Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before. Brussels, I said, Brussels is not Brussels. I mean many other things, the election’s rigged against Bernie Sanders. We have a lot of things.
The whole answer amounts to 161 words and, per the Post‘s count, at least four lies. The “massive riot, and death, and problems” in Sweden, Anthony Weiner’s possession of “all of Hillary’s email,” that NATO “doesn’t cover terrorism,” predicting Brexit — all four were either outright false, or in the Brexit prediction’s case, significantly off from the calendar of actual events. Plus, instead of letting Scherer explain the story after saying “yeah,” Trump proceeded to explain it himself. (Kind of.)
Unsurprisingly, things didn’t improve once Trump and Time dug into the meat of the interview topic. Like when Scherer brought up the ongoing wiretapping drama. In an apparent allusion to Sean Spicer’s initial defense of the president’s tweeted claim, Trump noted he wasn’t actually talking about “wiretapping”:
When I said wiretapping, it was in quotes. Because a wiretapping is, you know today it is different than wire tapping. It is just a good description. But wiretapping was in quotes. What I’m talking about is surveillance.
This faulty explanation immediately led to Trump’s repeating a false claim about the New York Times changing a headline regarding the story:
The New York Times had a front-page story, which they actually reduced, they took it, they took it the word wiretapping out of the title, but its first story in the front page of the paper was wiretapping
There’s also the moment Scherer brought up the campaign claim, since renewed by Trump despite winning the election, that millions of people voted illegally in November. He even suggested the alleged 3 million figure was too low:
We’ll see after the committee. I have people say it was more than that. We will see after we have. But there will be, we are forming a committee. And we are going to do a study on it, a very serious problem.
As for that time Trump cited a National Enquirer story alleging Sen. Ted Cruz’s father colluded with Lee Harvey Oswald in the JFK assassination, the president opted for his Judge Napolitano strategy with Fox News and blamed the outlet. Of course, he didn’t name the tabloid, but he did call it a “newspaper”:
Well that was in a newspaper. No, no, I like Ted Cruz, he’s a friend of mine. But that was in the newspaper. I wasn’t, I didn’t say that. I was referring to a newspaper.
After which he and Scherer got into a pissing contest over who had graced Time‘s cover more — Trump or Richard Nixon? The answer is Nixon, with a whopping 55 appearances:
TIME magazine, which treats me horribly, but obviously I sell, I assume this is going to be a cover too, have I set the record? I guess, right? Covers, nobody’s had more covers.
I think Richard Nixon still has you beat. But he was in office for longer, so give yourself time.
Ok good. I’m sure I’ll win.
Though the icing on the horribly wonderful birthday cake (that is Trump’s Time interview) arrived when he and Scherer said goodbye to each other at the interview’s conclusion. Instead of just saying the word “goodbye,” the president chose to throw a toddler’s playground insult at the reporter:
I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. You know. Say hello to everybody OK?