Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un enjoy a “very good relationship,” according to the president’s latest rambling sit-down with the national press.
Ignoring the personal insults and reckless rhetoric that has fuelled fears of global nuclear war, Trump told the Wall Street Journal Thursday: “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”
The newspaper reported Trump characterized his tweets towards Kim — in which he called the North Korean leader “short and fat” and a “maniac,” and taunted him about the size of his nuclear button — as strategic, rather than reckless and juvenile.
“You’ll see that a lot with me,” Trump said, “and then all of the sudden somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You could give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.”
Asked if he had spoken to Kim, Trump refused to comment. “I’m not saying I have or haven’t. I just don’t want to comment.”
The claims were some of the most remarkable made in the sprawling 45-minute interview about his first year in office. Other eyebrow-raising comments included:
- On former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who Trump slammed after his critical comments in Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” Trump said: “We'll see what happens, but Steve had nothing to do with my win. Well, certainly very little.” He continued: “Steve's greatest asset is he was able to convince a corrupt media that he was responsible for my win.” But Trump did leave the door open for a reconciliation: “I don’t know what the word permanent means,” he said.
- He reiterated that the publication of “Fire and Fury” highlighted the need for new libel laws — but that Congress lacks the “guts” to tackle the issue. “I think that when somebody makes false statements and libelous statements, whether it's in a book or a newspaper or anything else. When they have phony sources, when the sources don't exist, yeah I think they should have a liability.”
- Trump said the renegotiation of NAFTA is “moving along nicely,” despite comments to the contrary by his chief trade negotiator. He added that the talks could be the route for Mexico to pay for his border wall. “They can pay for it indirectly through NAFTA,” he said. “We make a good deal on NAFTA, and, say, I’m going to take a small percentage of that money and it’s going toward the wall. Guess what? Mexico’s paying.”
- Trump said firing the former FBI director, James Comey, should have been welcomed by the Washington establishment, rather than prompting a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into Russian election meddling. “Everybody hated Comey,” he said.
- Addressing recent talks between Seoul and Pyongyang, Trump admitted the move may be a bid on Kim’s part to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. “If I were them, I would try,” he said. “The difference is I’m president, other people aren’t… And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s lived.”
- Trump said the text messages sent between two FBI officials involved in the Mueller probe, who were also having an affair, amounted to treason. “By the way, that's a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act,” he said.
- Trump assured the journalists that he was “always the best at what I did, I was the — I was, you know, I went to the — I went to the Wharton School of Finance, did well.” He also “created maybe the greatest brand” and was “always the best athlete, people don't know that.”