All quotes are from Donald Trump’s interview with Michael Gove (The Times) and Kai Diekmann (Bild) that appeared in The Times today (16 January 2017). You can find the full interview here.
1. I will be meeting with [Theresa May]”
He doesn’t know the name of the British Prime Minister.
2. “Q: Why do you think Brexit happened? A: People don’t want to have other people coming in & destroying their country”
Not for Trump the explanation of Brexit that emphasises the virtues of sovereignty or the evils of European bureaucracy. He thinks it is all about refugees.
3. “I think [Merkel] made one very catastrophic mistake and that was taking all of these illegals”
Trump sees the movement of peoples – whether as asylum seekers or as migrants – through the prism of Mexicans sneaking across the Texan border.
4. “Q: Is there anything you take from having a Scottish mother? A: Well the Scottish are known for watching their pennies, so I like to watch my pennies. Q: Is there anything typically German about you. A: I like order and I like strength”
It will be fun playing ‘national stereotype bingo’ when Trump is in the White House.
5. “I think we should have built safe zones in Syria. Would have been a lot less expensive than the trauma that Germany’s going through now.”
If Trump is serious about this, his policy is far more interventionist than anything suggested by Obama. Establishing safe zones in Syria is effectively proposing an occupation force.
6. On the Iran deal: “I’m not a politician. I don’t go out and say “I’m gonna do this”…. I don’t want to play. Who plays cards where you show everybody the hand before you play it?”
Trump is aware of his own unpredictability, and knows how to use it in deal-making. Which is smart, if a bit frightening.
7. “You look at the EU and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany. That’s why I thought the UK was smart in getting out”.
The reason Brexit won was immigration. But the case for Brexit is to escape an organisation that ensures German dominance of Europe.
8. “Q: What is better for the USA –a strong EU or stronger nation states? A: Personally I don’t think it matters for the United States. I never thought it mattered”
At best this is agnosticism on the future shape of the European continent. At worst it suggests indifference to the chaos that a disintegrating EU would bring. Either way, it is a reversal of a decades-long fundamental tenet of American foreign policy.
9. “Q: Do you think that the EU is holding back all its member states? Is it an obstacle to their growth and prosperity? A: Well I can tell you from the environmental standpoint they were using environmental tricks to stop a project from being built – I found it to be a very unpleasant experience”
Trump’s hostile view of the EU is based on three components: accepting refugees, German dominance & environmental safeguards against developers.
10. “I want [trade] to be fair but it’s gotta be a two-way street…. And I will say most of it… most of it is China ‘cause China is a tremendous problem”.
Relations with China will be the biggest international tension of the Trump years.
11. “Jeb Bush would stand up – “He is not a true conservative” – who cares?…. The people don’t care you know when you’re talking – they don’t care, they want good deals. You know what? They want their jobs back”
Trump has a solid grasp on why he won & why his opponents lost. It was about jobs.
12. “Natural ability to me is much more important than experience”
Trump thinks diplomacy is like golf. I fear he’s wrong.
13. “The White House is very special, there’s so much work to be done, I’m not gonna be leaving much…. I’m gonna be in there working, doing what I’m supposed to be doing”
President Trump thinks Presidents who travel are on junkets and not working. He will be a stay-at-home President to reflect his America First message.
14. “Q: They say Camp David is very nice?
A: Yes Camp David very rustic, it’s nice. You know long you’d like it? For about 30 minutes”
Trump has a sense of humour.
15. “Jared (Kushner, his son-in-law) is such a good kid and he’ll make a deal with Israel that no one else can – you know he’s a natural, he’s a great deal, he’s a natural deal-maker”
Trump thinks diplomacy is like golf. I fear he’s still wrong.