While the big standout of the meal was his demand to fire the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, his transactional approach to geopolitics, total lack of concern for helping America’s international allies, and openness to letting businessmen convince him to back specific policies that’d benefit them illustrates just how the leader of the free world operates behind closed doors.
It’s not always clear exactly who was there and who’s talking throughout the hour-plus dinner. Trump’s voice is clear, as are those of his son Don Jr., as well as Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. But it’s crystal clear how Trump operates.
Here are the five wildest things he had to say.
“How’s Ukraine Doing? … How long would they last in a fight with Russia?”
Trump grills Lev Parnas on how Ukraine is doing against Russia, clearly with some strong interest in the country — and almost no base of information.
“How’s Ukraine doing? Don’t ask,” Trump begins the conversation.
“You think Russia ever goes in and gets Ukraine, or no?” he follows up.
The president then seems surprised the country has oil reserves.
“Ukraine has oil? Ukraine? How come they don’t have any money?” he asks. “Why aren’t the companies going in there? too risky?”
Then: “How long would they last in a fight with Russia?”
“I don’t think very long. Without us, not very long,” Parnas replies.
“Without us,” Trump responds, sounding like a thought is occurring to him.
A minute later: “Do they feel they’re going to be okay?”
“They feel like they’re going to be okay — if you support them,” Parnas says, in a bit of foreshadowing. Trump later held up $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, in what Democrats say was a bid to pressure the Ukrainian president to announce an investigation into his political rival Joe Biden.
“This whole caravan is a positive thing because it’s showing people how crazy it is”
President Trump spent months publicly railing about a caravan of migrants working its way up from Central America. His fear-mongering on the issue, relentless coverage from Fox News and a heavy ad campaign from the GOP amounted to the Republican Party’s closing message of the 2018 campaign. During this dinner, just months before those elections, he made clear he was privately cheering it.
“This whole caravan is a positive thing because it’s showing people how crazy it is,” he said during the dinner, saying the quiet part loud.