Fact checking Trump: President-elect’s quotes from ‘New York Times’ interview explained

NYT journalists unpick Donald Trump’s quotes for insights into his thinking

Donald Trump sat down this week with reporters, editors and columnists of The New York Times for an exclusive interview. Times reporters have annotated portions of the interview.

On his relationship with Obama

"I hope we can have a good – I mean, it doesn't mean we're going to agree on everything, but I hope that we will have a great long-term relationship. I really liked him a lot and I'm a little bit surprised I'm telling you that I really liked him a lot."

The personal interactions between President Barack Obama and Trump have so far been pleasant, but it's not clear that the Kumbaya moment will last. Obama has already indicated that he may weigh in against Trump once the new administration takes over, especially if the new president attacks Obama's legacy achievements.

– Michael D Shear

On his feud with The Times

"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."

Trump is working to reset his mercurial relationship with the media as he looks toward assuming office, starting with this meeting at what he branded the "failing New York Times" during his presidential campaign. But he still nurses intense grievances toward news outlets in general and the Times in particular.

– Julie Hirschfeld Davis

On helping with his business

“So I don’t have to do anything, but I want to do something if I can. If there is something.”

Trump is hinting that even though federal law does not require him to do anything specific to separate himself from his vast business empire, he is inclined to submit to some sort of voluntary standard of ethics that would avoid conflicts of interest or their appearance. But he leaves open the possibility that there may not be a way to accomplish it.

– Julie Hirschfeld Davis

On conflicts of interest

“As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest. That’s been reported very widely. Despite that, I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest anyway.”

Trump is correct that federal law, for the most part, exempts the president from conflict of interest rules, meaning he is allowed to take actions that could benefit his financial holdings. But in modern times, most presidents have voluntarily put their financial assets into blind trusts. Trump has said he does not intend to take such a step and instead will turn his companies over to his children.

– Eric Lipton

On liquidating assets

"Selling real estate is much different, it's in a much different world. I'd say this, and I mean this and I said it on 60 Minutes the other night: My company is so unimportant to me relative to what I'm doing, 'cause I don't need money, I don't need anything, and by the way, I'm very under-leveraged, I have a very small percentage of my money in debt."

The Wall Street Journal editorial board, among others, has suggested that the only solution to Trump's potential conflicts of interest is to sell off all of his assets, and then have a blind trust reinvest the proceeds. Trump suggests that this is not practical.

– Eric Lipton

On the Clinton investigation

“I don’t think they will be disappointed. I think I will explain it, that we have to, in many ways save our country.”

Trump's crowds at rallies frequently targeted Hillary Clinton, chanting "Lock her up!" and referring to her as a criminal. In July, Trump encouraged a crowd in Colorado, telling them "I'm starting to agree with you" as they chanted "Lock her up!". In addition, despite Trump's remarks here, the FBI and the Justice Department, which have investigated Clinton's email server and the Clinton Foundation, conduct criminal inquiries largely independently of the White House. A president attempting to intervene in those kinds of inquiries, in any direction, would be a major scandal.

– Carolyn Ryan

On the alt-right movement

"I don't want to energise the group, and I disavow the group."

Trump has been criticised for not specifically denouncing bigotry and groups that spread bigoted views. His statements about such conduct tend to be vague, including here, when he says "I disavow the group". That nonspecific language has been comforting to leaders of the alt-right, a rebranded white nationalist movement, including Richard B Spencer, who led a gathering at a federal building near the White House last weekend that included some audience members offering a Nazi salute.

– Carolyn Ryan

On the family brand

"The brand is certainly a hotter brand than it was before. I can't help that, but I don't care. I said on 60 Minutes: I don't care. Because it doesn't matter. The only thing that matters to me is running our country."

Trump here acknowledges, perhaps for the first time, that being president will perhaps help enrich his family. He also concedes that the arrangement might fairly be called a conflict of interest.

– Eric Lipton

On torture

"It's not going to make the kind of a difference that maybe a lot of people think. If it's so important to the American people, I would go for it. I would be guided by that. But Gen Mattis found it to be very less important, much less important than I thought he would say. I thought he would say – you know he's known as Mad Dog Mattis, right? Mad Dog for a reason. I thought he'd say 'It's phenomenal, don't lose it'. He actually said, 'No, give me some cigarettes and some drinks, and we'll do better'."

Back in February, when he was still a candidate, Trump said definitively that torture was effective. "Don't tell me it doesn't work – torture works," he told an audience in South Carolina. "Okay, folks? Torture, you know, half these guys: 'Torture doesn't work'. Believe me, it works. OK?"

So Trump's answer Tuesday offered a revealing insight into his willingness to shift or rethink a position, especially after talking with someone he respects. Gen James N Mattis may well be Trump's secretary of defence, and his rejection of torture clearly had an effect on the president-elect.

– Michael D Shear

On factory jobs

"You have to understand, our companies are noncompetitive right now. They're really largely noncompetitive. About four weeks ago, I started adding a certain little sentence into a lot of my speeches, that we've lost 70,000 factories since W Bush. 70,000. When I first looked at the number, I said: 'That must be a typo. It can't be 70, you can't have 70,000, you wouldn't think you have 70,000 factories here'. And it wasn't a typo, it's right. We've lost 70,000 factories."

The reality is more complicated. The number of factories and the number of Americans who work in factories both have declined sharply in recent decades. But the nation’s manufacturing output is at the highest level in history. The labour-intensive production of low-value goods, like socks, has been replaced by the largely automated production of high-value goods, like circuits.

– Binyamin Appelbaum

On immigration

“You know, you’ve been talking about immigration bills for 50 years and nothing’s ever happened.”

In 1986, president Ronald Reagan signed a landmark law that prohibited the hiring of immigrants living in the US illegally, provided new resources for enforcement along the Mexican border and offered legal status to several million of such immigrants. Experts say the law did little to slow migration to the United States but made crossing the border more difficult and dangerous.

– Robert Pear

On health care

"'Cause health care is – you know people are paying a 100 per cent increase and they're not even getting anything, the deductibles are so high, you have deductibles $16,000. So they're paying all of this money and they don't even get health care."

Premiums for many health plans under the Affordable Care Act are increasing 20-40 per cent or more, but increases of 100 per cent are extremely rare. Deductibles for many plans are high, but not $16,000. For a family plan in 2017, the maximum out-of-pocket cost, including the deductible, is $14,300.

– Robert Pear

On party unity

“Right now they’re in love with me. Okay? Four weeks ago they weren’t in love with me.”

Trump's comments about his fellow Republicans had a sharp edge and an implicit message: They owe their congressional majority to him, and he expects to be treated accordingly. Whether this is true, and to what extent, will be one of the pivotal stories of the new Trump administration, and crucial to figuring out how much or how little he can get done. He needs Congress to achieve many of the campaign promises he made, including the deep tax cut and large infrastructure spending package – and it is an open question how "in love" with his policies Republicans will prove to be.

– Julie Hirschfeld Davis

On achieving peace in the Middle East

"The president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants – he or she wants. But I don't want to go by that. Jared's a very smart guy. He's a very good guy. The people that know him, he's a quality person and I think he can be very helpful. I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. I would love that, that would be such a great achievement. Because nobody's been able to do it."

Trump suggests here that he may name Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, as a special envoy to the Middle East, charged with making peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Buried in this answer is an assertion by Trump that the federal government's anti-nepotism law does not apply to him as president, but he also says he would want to avoid the appearance of conflict. Installing Kushner as a special envoy could have that effect, essentially giving him an important task that would allow him to be involved in high-level national security deliberations without hiring him outright. This is a role that was often discussed as a potential landing spot for Bill Clinton if Hillary Clinton had won the White House.

– Julie Hirschfeld Davis