Annals of Normalization: The Trump-Times Meeting

TRUMP: O.K. Well, I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special. I think I’ve been treated very rough. It’s well out there that I’ve been treated extremely unfairly in a sense, in a true sense. I wouldn’t only complain about The Times. I would say The Times was about the roughest of all. You could make the case The Washington Post was bad, but every once in a while I’d actually get a good article. Not often, Dean, but every once in awhile.

Look, I have great respect for The Times, and I’d like to turn it around. I think it would make the job I am doing much easier. We’re working very hard. We have great people coming in. I think you’ll be very impressed with the names. We’ll be announcing some very shortly.

Everybody wanted to do this. People are giving up tremendous careers in order to be subject to you folks and subject to a lot of other folks. But they’re giving up a lot. I mean some are giving up tremendous businesses in order to sit for four or maybe eight or whatever the period of time is. But I think we’re going to see some tremendous talent, tremendous talent coming in. We have many people for every job. I mean no matter what the job is, we have many incredible people. I think, Reince, you can sort of just confirm that. The quality of the people is very good.

REINCE PRIEBUS, Mr. Trump’s choice for chief of staff: [inaudible]

TRUMP: We’re trying very hard to get the best people. Not necessarily people that will be the most politically correct people, because that hasn’t been working. So we have really experts in the field. Some are known and some are not known, but they’re known within their field as being the best. That’s very important to me.

You know, I’ve been given a great honor. It’s been very tough. It’s been 18 months of brutality in a true sense, but we won it. We won it pretty big. The final numbers are coming out. Or I guess they’re coming out. Michigan’s just being confirmed. But the numbers are coming out far beyond what anybody’s wildest expectation was. I don’t know if it was us, I mean, we were seeing the kind of crowds and kind of, everything, the kind of enthusiasm we were getting from the people.

As you probably know, I did many, many speeches that last four-week period. I was just telling Arthur that I went around and did speeches in the pretty much 11 different places, that were, the massive crowds we were getting. If we had a stadium that held — and most of you, many of you were there — that held 20,000 people, we’d have 15,000 people outside that couldn’t get in.

So we came up with a good system — we put up the big screens outside with a very good loudspeaker system and very few people left. I would do, during the last month, two or three a day. That’s a lot. Because that’s not easy when you have big crowds. Those speeches, that’s not an easy way of life, doing three a day. Then I said the last two days, I want to do six and seven. And I’m not sure anybody has ever done that. But we did six and we did seven and the last one ended at 1 o’clock in the morning in Michigan.

And we had 31,000 people, 17,000 or 18,000 inside and the rest outside. This massive place in Grand Rapids, I guess. And it was an incredible thing. And I left saying: ‘How do we lose Michigan? I don’t think we can lose Michigan.’

And the reason I did that, it was set up only a little while before — because we heard that day that Hillary was hearing that they’re going to lose Michigan, which hasn’t been lost in 38 years. Or something. But 38 years. And they didn’t want to lose Michigan. So they went out along with President Obama and Michelle, Bill and Hillary, they went to Michigan late that, sort of late afternoon and I said, ‘Let’s go to Michigan.’

It wasn’t on the schedule. So I finished up in New Hampshire and at 10 o’clock I went to Michigan. We got there at 12 o’clock. We started speaking around 12:45, actually, and we had 31,000 people and I said, really, I mean, there are things happening. But we saw it everywhere.

So we felt very good. we had great numbers. And we thought we’re going to win. We thought we were going to win Florida. We thought we were going to win North Carolina. We did easily, pretty easily. We thought strongly we were going to win Pennsylvania. The problem is nobody had won it and it was known, as you know, the great state that always got away. Every Republican thought they were going to win Pennsylvania for 38 years and they just couldn’t win it.

And I thought we were going to win it. And we won it, we won it, you know, relatively easily, we won it by a number of points. Florida we won by 180,000 — was that the number, 180?

PRIEBUS: [inaudible]

TRUMP: More than 180,000 voted, and votes are still coming in from the military, which we are getting about 85 percent of.

So we won that by a lot of votes and, you know, we had a great victory. We had a great victory. I think it would have been easier because I see every once in awhile somebody says, ‘Well, the popular vote.’ Well, the popular vote would have been a lot easier, but it’s a whole different campaign. I would have been in California, I would have been in Texas, Florida and New York, and we wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. Which is, I mean I’d rather do the popular vote from the standpoint — I’d think we’d do actually as well or better — it’s a whole different campaign. It’s like, if you’re a golfer, it’s like match play versus stroke play. It’s a whole different game.

But I think the popular vote would have been easier in a true sense because you’d go to a few places. I think that’s the genius of the Electoral College. I was never a fan of the Electoral College until now.

SULZBERGER: Until now.

[laughter]

TRUMP: Until now. I guess now I like it for two reasons. What it does do is it gets you out to see states that you’ll never see otherwise. It’s very interesting. Like Maine. I went to Maine four times. I went to Maine 2 for one, because everybody was saying you can get to 269 but there is no path to 270. We learned that was false because we ended up with what, three-something.

PRIEBUS: I’ve got to get, we’ve got to get Michigan in.

TRUMP: But there is no path to 270, you have to get the one in Maine, so we kept going back to Maine and we did get the one in Maine. We kept going to Maine 2, and we went to a lot of states that you wouldn’t spend a lot of time in and it does get you — we actually went to about 22 states, whereas if you’re going for popular vote, you’d probably go to four, or three, it could be three. You wouldn’t leave New York. You’d stay in New York and you’d stay in California. So there’s a certain genius about it. And I like it either way. But it’s sort of interesting.

But we had an amazing period of time. I got to know the country, we have a great country, we’re a great, great people, and the enthusiasm was really incredible. The Los Angeles Times had a poll which was interesting because I was always up in that poll. They had something that is, I guess, a modern-day technique in polling, it was called enthusiasm. They added an enthusiasm factor and my people had great enthusiasm, and Hillary’s people didn’t have enthusiasm. And in the end she didn’t get the African-American vote and we ended up close to 15 points, as you know. We started off at one, we ended up with almost 15. And more importantly, a lot of people didn’t show up, because the African-American community liked me. They liked what I was saying.

So they didn’t necessarily vote for me, but they didn’t show up, which was a big problem that she had. I ended up doing very well with women, which was — which I never understood why I was doing poorly, because we’d go to the rallies and we’d have so many women holding up signs, “Women for Trump.” But I kept reading polls saying that I’m not doing well with women. I think whoever is doing it here would say that we did very well with women, especially certain women.

TRUMP: I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him. First of all, I’m the one that makes the decision, not Steve Bannon or anybody else. …And if he said something to me that, in terms of his views, or that I thought were inappropriate or bad, number one I wouldn’t do anything, and number two, he would have to be gone.Now, I’ll tell you what, I know him very well. I will say this, and I will say this, if I thought that strongly, if I thought that he was doing anything, or had any ideas that were different than the ideas that you would think, I would ask him very politely to leave. But in the meantime, I think he’s been treated very unfairly….

PRIEBUS: We have never experienced a single episode of any of those accusations. It’s been the total opposite. It’s been a great team, and it’s just not there. And what the president-elect is saying is 100 percent true.

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Co-founder Civic Hall. Publisher of The Connector newsletter (find it on Substack). Board member Consumer Reports.

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