President Trump says he doesn’t necessarily need facts before making such evidence-free claims as, say, former President Barack Obama’s wiretapping the phones at Trump Tower, because they’ve later been proved right.
“I’m a very instinctual person,” Trump told Time magazine’s Michael Scherer in a phone interview from the Oval Office on Wednesday. “But my instinct turns out to be right.”
The president offered a list things he says he “predicted” would happen, including Brexit, Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal, Bernie Sanders’ loss in the Democratic primary — even his false suggestion that a terror attack had occurred in Sweden the night before.
“Sweden. I make the statement, everyone goes crazy,” Trump said. “The next day they have a massive riot, and death. And problems.”
Two days after Trump’s comments, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in Stockholm in response to an arrest of a local teen on drug charges. There were not, however, reports of deaths.
“Huma [Abedin] and Anthony [Weiner], you know, what I tweeted about that whole deal, and then it turned out he had it, all of Hillary’s email on his thing,” Trump said. “NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that, and I said that the allies must pay. Nobody knew that they weren’t paying. I did. I figured it. Brexit, I was totally right about that. You were over there, I think, when I predicted that, right, the day before. Brussels, I said, Brussels is not Brussels. I mean many other things, the election’s rigged against Bernie Sanders. We have a lot of things.”
Trump said such predictions are why he believes other unsubstantiated claims, like 3 million undocumented people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election, will be proved right, too.
“Well, now if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally,” Trump said. “And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people. In fact I’m forming a committee on it. … We’ll see after the committee. I have people say it was more than that. We will see after we have.”
The interview was conducted for a Time cover story (“Is Truth Dead?”) questioning whether Trump has undermined his credibility with his repeated embrace of unverified conspiracy theories and false claims. For the story, Time resurrected its controversial “Is God Dead?” cover it published in 1966.
At that time, the vast majority of Americans believed in God.
“Half a century later, I suspect that about as many would say they believe in Truth,” editor Nancy Gibbs wrote in her editor’s letter, “and yet we find ourselves having an intense debate over its role and power in the face of a president who treats it like a toy.”
Trump once again touted his unlikely victory in the Electoral College as another example of his clairvoyance.
“When everyone said I wasn’t going to win the election, I said, ‘Well, I think I would,'” he said. “But you take a look and guess what, I won, and I won easily. I predicted Brexit. Remember they said there was no way to get to 270 [electoral votes]? Well I ended up at 306.”
But for every “correct” Trump prediction, there have been myriad others that have proved false, most notably Trump’s championing of the “birther” conspiracy questioning Obama’s birthplace. In September, Trump was forced to finally admit he was wrong, though he offered no apology for his part in leading the “birther” movement.
At one point in the interview, Trump was apparently shown a Politico report about House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ announcement that members of the Trump transition team were “unmasked” during “incidental collection” of information by the U.S. government.
“Wow,” Trump said. “So that means I’m right.”
“But incidental collection would not be wiretapping of you,” Scherer pointed out.
“Who knows what it is,” Trump replied. “Why, because somebody says incidental?”
At the end of the interview, the president was asked if his seemingly nonlinear relationship with the truth hurts his credibility.
“Hey, look, I can’t be doing so badly,” Trump said. “Because I’m president and you’re not.”
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