Being part of the press pool to interview Donald Trump is an exhilarating and bewildering experience. All questions posed to him are answered – just not in the correct order.
As soon as he started, Mr Trump was machine-gunning answers, and controversy, around the room.
He said there was a “tremendous spirit” around Nato, “except for one country”. France perhaps?
“President Macron said Nato was brain-dead,” Mr Trump said. “I think that’s very insulting… a very, very nasty statement.”
Talk then moved to the British general election. “I have no thoughts on it,” he said. “I don’t want to complicate it.” Next he treated us to a roller-coaster ride through US political campaigns. “I’ve won a lot of elections for a lot of people,” he suddenly threw out. “North Carolina… Kentucky… Louisiana… good guy, popular governor…” my head was spinning, “… Kansas… I’ve won virtually every race,” he said.
He finally wheeled back to Britain and something I recognised. “But this is a different country,” he said.
My hopes soared that we were going to get an actual comment about the election.
But no: “… and, I say often, in Germany they like Obama because he gave the ship away.” What, wait, what ship?
“I’ll stay out of the election. I was a fan of Brexit, I called it the day before. I think Boris is very capable and will do a great job.”
I was desperate to get the conversation back on to something I could recognise, so I asked the president if he could work with a possible prime minister Corbyn.
“I can work with anybody,” he boomed. “I’m a very easy person to work with.
“Look at this gentleman,” he said, indicating the by-now somewhat stunned Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato Secretary General, sitting next to him. “When I came in I was angry at Nato, and now I’ve raised $130bn… and yet you still have many delinquents who have not paid up in full.”
Different tack called for. Should the NHS be on the table in trade talks? “No, no, no. I’ve had nothing to do with it, never even thought about it. I don’t even know where that rumour started. If you handed it to us on a silver platter, we’d want nothing to do with it,” he said.
Desperate for an answer to a security question, I asked why North Korea had continued its nuclear programme despite his meetings with Kim Jong-Un.
The president brightened. “I have a lot of confidence in him, we’ll see what happens.”
But then, disconcertingly, he said: “He definitely likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he?
“That’s why I call him Rocket Man. If I weren’t president you’d be at war right now.”
And with that we were ushered out of the room, wondering if it had all been a dream. (© Daily Telegraph London)
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