President Donald Trump said he gets along better with “meaner” world leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, than with the “easy” heads of state, according to a recording released Monday by journalist Bob Woodward.
“I get along very well with Erdogan even though you’re not supposed to, because everyone says, ‘What a horrible guy,’” Trump says in the recording. “But you know, for me, it works out good.”
“It’s funny, the relationships I have, the tougher and meaner they are, the better I get along with them,” he continues. “You’ll explain that to me someday, OK? But maybe it’s not a bad thing. The easy ones are the ones I maybe don’t like as much or don’t get along with as much.”
Woodward recorded the tape, which aired Monday during his appearance on NBC’s “Today,” while he was reporting for his forthcoming book “Rage,” his second book about the Trump administration.
Woodward, famously part of the duo of reporters who unearthed the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post during the Nixon administration, interviewed Trump 18 times for “Rage,” beginning in February and continuing through most of the summer, Politico reported.
It wasn’t immediately clear when Trump told Woodward about his tendency to favor “tougher and meaner” world leaders.
Democrats, as well as some Republicans and former Trump administration officials, have sounded the alarm on Trump’s apparent fondness for several prominent authoritarian leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“As you know, under the Constitution, the president controls foreign relations unilaterally,” Woodward told NBC on Monday. “He decides. And he has decided, ‘Oh, I’m going to get along with Putin, I’m going to get along with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ... and I’m going to try to get along with Kim Jong Un.’”
“He just smears South Korea time and time again in my interviews,” Woodward added. “He is the face of the United States to the world, and he has said, and there it is, ‘Hey look, I get along with these bad guys, but not the good guys.’”
One of the most explosive revelations from Woodward’s forthcoming book, set to be released Tuesday, was Trump’s decision to mislead the American public about the threat of the coronavirus.
In a recording taped on Feb. 7 and released last week, Trump told Woodward that the virus was airborne and five times deadlier than the flu. But for weeks afterward, the president continued to hold large rallies, and on Feb. 26, he told reporters that the flu was more dangerous than the virus.
“I say the president is the wrong man for the job,” Woodward told CBS’ “60 Minutes” in an interview that aired Sunday. “It’s a conclusion based on evidence — overwhelming evidence — that he could not rise to the occasion with the virus and tell the truth.”