US & Canada

10 surprising things Trump just told the New York Times

Trump on the campaign trail Image copyright Getty Images

US President Donald Trump gave a wide-ranging interview to the New York Times, in which he criticised his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. But there was plenty more he said of interest.

So what else came up?

1. There should be a military parade in Washington

"It [the Bastille Day parade in Paris] was one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen. And in fact, we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave."

The US president clearly enjoyed the pomp and military might on display in Paris. He had wanted tanks and armaments to play a part in his inauguration parade in January, emails revealed, but defence chiefs were opposed.

2. Macron loves holding Trump's hand

TRUMP: He's a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.

NY TIMES: I've noticed.

TRUMP: People don't realise he loves holding my hand. And that's good, as far as that goes.

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Media captionThe US president and his French counterpart shared a handshake that seemed like it would never end

3. Russian soldiers are good in cold weather

"The Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they've won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. [crosstalk] It's pretty amazing."

As historian Andrew Roberts once wrote: "The Russians have a saying that there is no such thing as cold weather, only the wrong clothing." Roberts said Hitler refused to believe the weather forecasts. Like Napoleon Bonaparte before him, Hitler's Russian ambitions ended in disaster.

4. Trump discussed Napoleon with Macron

"Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: 'No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.' [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn't go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?"

Louis-Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, began the rebuilding of Paris in 1848, based on his own love of London. But it was as Napoleon III he later commissioned the major renovation of the city, carried out by Georges-Eugene Haussman.

5. Republicans can't trust Baltimore

"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."

It turns out that Mr Rosenstein is not from Baltimore but from Philadelphia, and he was appointed a US attorney by a Republican.

6. The Trump dinner at the Eiffel Tower was a big, big party

"We had dinner at the Eiffel Tower, and the bottom of the Eiffel Tower looked like they could have never had a bigger celebration ever in the history of the Eiffel Tower. I mean, there were thousands and thousands of people, 'cause they heard we were having dinner."

7. The Japan leader's wife can't speak English

TRUMP: 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.

NY TIMES: Like, nothing, right? Like zero?

TRUMP: Like, not "hello."

It later emerged that perhaps Japanese First Lady Akie Abe does speak English, so there are questions why the confusion arose - and whether she chose not to.

The BBC's Mariko Oi in Tokyo said that her team has told the BBC in the past they would only accept interviews in Japanese.

And while we're on language skills... President Trump's eight-year-old granddaughter entered the room during the interview and showed off her Mandarin.

Why didn't Japan's First Lady speak to Trump?

8. Hillary couldn't get healthcare passed in eight years as first lady

"I mean, you think of Hillary Clinton, and you look, she went eight years - very capable - went eight years as the first lady, and could not get healthcare. So this is not an easy crack."

Strange as it sounds, the president is correct that Mrs Clinton was given the task of heading reforms to healthcare but the push floundered.

9. Comey told Trump about Russian dossier to exercise power

TRUMP: So anyway, in my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.

NY TIMES: As leverage?

TRUMP: Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect.

The president is referring to a conversation ex-FBI director James Comey had with Mr Trump, warning him about the existence of memos that contain unsubstantiated claims that Russian security officials have compromising material on him. Mr Comey told Congress he thought it was only fair to let the president know.

Trump's 'Russian dossier' – what we know and what we don't

10. Why he didn't shake Merkel's hand

"Do you know what happened with Merkel? So I am sitting in the chair. We'd been sitting there for two hours. So it's not like, 'Nice to see ya.' So the press comes in. So I guess someone screamed out, "Shake her hand, shake her hand!" I didn't even hear. So I didn't shake her hand, because I'd been with her for so long. I'd been with her for a long period of time."

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Media captionMerkel handshake offer to Trump falls on deaf ears

Read transcripts of the interview at the New York Times


So, what did the interview teach us?

Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

When it comes to wide-ranging media interviews, Donald Trump is like a top. You never know which direction he will head once you give him a spin.

There was a little bit of everything in the New York Times sit-down. Some amateur historian chatter? Sure. How about a mysterious "$12 a year" health insurance plan that is somehow is linked to the ongoing Senate Obamacare repeal negotiations? Yep! Or an extended riff on the loving nature of handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron? Uhh, OK.

Mr Trump's occasionally bizarre soliloquies have been explained away as a quirk of a wandering mind, but they may end up being a feature for the president, not a bug. Like playing football on the side of a hill, every time the Times reporters thought they were about to score a goal on the president, the ball rolled off to one side or the other.

Times reporter Peter Baker twice asked the president what he thought of his oldest son being told, via email, that the Russian government wanted to help his campaign, and both times Mr Trump veered wildly off course.

He talked about Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state and Barack Obama's Syria policy; "illegal acts" by the Democratic National Committee and why former FBI Director James Comey didn't just say he retired instead of admitting that Mr Trump fired him.

If there was any sort of answer to the question of why Russia might want to help him and why Donald Trump Jr was so eager to learn more, it was buried in an avalanche of verbiage.

And that was probably exactly how he liked it.


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