On Tuesday morning, Donald Trump abruptly canceled a meeting with the New York Times—on Twitter, no less—before eventually changing his mind and putting the meeting back on his calendar just hours later. And when he finally got around to attending the meeting, Trump talked about the alt-right movement (which he weakly disavowed), climate change (which he now has an "open mind" about), the Electoral College (which he now supports), Hillary Clinton (whom he won't lock up), torture (which he apparently no longer agrees with), and, of course, the New York Times itself.
The president-elect started things off by telling the NYT executives, editors, and reporters who attended the meeting that he has "tremendous respect" for the newspaper, despite his past differences with the publication. He had said this on Twitter early Tuesday.
But he changed his tune when he was sitting in front of those who work at the NYT.
"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. I wouldn’t only complain about The Times. I would say The Times was about the roughest of all."
Trump also wrapped up the interview later by describing the NYT as "a great, great American jewel. A world jewel."
Once the actual interview started, Trump talked about the presidential race, which he described as "18 months of brutality in a true sense." He also talked about his opponent Hillary Clinton while discussing the toll the campaign trail took on both of the presidential candidates.
"She went through a lot. And suffered greatly in many different ways. And I am not looking to hurt them at all. The campaign was vicious. They say it was the most vicious primary and the most vicious campaign. I guess, added together, it was definitely the most vicious; probably, I assume you sold a lot of newspapers."
After that, Trump was asked about Clinton and a report that indicated he won't be pursuing legal charges against Clinton, in spite of the "Lock her up!" chants that were used at his rallies throughout his campaign. Trump said he doesn't want to "hurt the Clintons" and suggested that he wants to "get the focus of the country into looking forward."
"Well, there was a report that somebody said that I’m not enthused about it. Look, I want to move forward, I don’t want to move back. And I don’t want to hurt the Clintons. I really don’t...I’m not looking to hurt them. I think they’ve been through a lot. They’ve gone through a lot. … I think we have to get the focus of the country into looking forward."
Trump was then asked his thoughts on the Electoral College. Back in 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, Trump tweeted that the electoral college "is a disaster for a democracy."
After this election, however, Trump changed his mind and praised the electoral college as "genius." In the interview, Trump elaborated and added, "I was never a fan of the Electoral College until now."
"We had a great victory. I think it would have been easier because I see every once in awhile somebody says, 'Well, the popular vote.' Well, the popular vote would have been a lot easier, but it’s a whole different campaign. I would have been in California, I would have been in Texas, Florida and New York, and we wouldn’t have gone anywhere else. Which is, I mean I’d rather do the popular vote from the standpoint—I’d think we’d do actually as well or better—it’s a whole different campaign. It’s like, if you’re a golfer, it’s like match play versus stroke play. It’s a whole different game. But I think the popular vote would have been easier in a true sense because you’d go to a few places. I think that’s the genius of the Electoral College. I was never a fan of the Electoral College until now."
Elsewhere, the issue of the "alt-right" came up. Last weekend, white nationalists quoted Nazi propaganda and raised the Nazi salute in support of Trump at conference in Washington, D.C. Trump told the NYT that he's "not looking to energize" alt-right groups.
"First of all, I don’t want to energize the group. I’m not looking to energize them. I don’t want to energize the group, and I disavow the group. They, again, I don’t know if it’s reporting or whatever. I don’t know where they were four years ago, and where they were for Romney and McCain and all of the other people that ran, so I just don’t know, I had nothing to compare it to. But it’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why. What we do want to do is we want to bring the country together, because the country is very, very divided, and that’s one thing I did see, big league. It’s very, very divided, and I’m going to work very hard to bring the country together."
Trump was also pressed on his decision to appoint Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor Steve Bannon, who's a hero among the bigots of the alt-right and defended his selection.
"I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time. If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him."
Of course, Trump seems to be oblivious to Bannon and his history. While running the misogynistic, Islamophobic, racist, homophobic, inflammatory right-wing website Breitbart, Bannon proudly described it as "the platform for the alt-right" as recently as this summer.
Trump has a weak record on climate change and has previously said that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese.
But in his NYT interview, Trump said he now has an "open mind" to climate change issues.
"I have an open mind to it. We’re going to look very carefully. It’s one issue that’s interesting because there are few things where there’s more division than climate change. You don’t tend to hear this, but there are people on the other side of that issue."
And while elaborating on his climate change views, Trump argued that owning golf courses means he's "actually an environmentalist."
"I have some great, great, very successful golf courses. I’ve received so many environmental awards for the way I’ve done, you know. I’ve done a tremendous amount of work where I’ve received tremendous numbers. Sometimes I’ll say I’m actually an environmentalist and people will smile in some cases and other people that know me understand that’s true. Open mind."
Towards the end of the interview, Trump also said he recently met with a general who convinced him—perhaps surprisingly—that torture doesn't actually work, which is a big change from Trump's previous rhetoric.
"He said—I was surprised—he said, 'I’ve never found it to be useful.' He said, 'I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.'"
After a few more questions, Trump left:
You can read the full New York Times interview here.