Magazine | July 30, 2018, Issue


President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the APEC Summit in Danang, Vietnam, November 11, 2017 (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

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Begin Extract

Static. Unintelligible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE: Um, are you okay, sir?

POTUS: I’m fine. We’re fine. Go already.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE: Just leaving. Unless you want me to stay? I can sit and just not even listen, just be here, I’ve got some games on my phone and I can —

POTUS: We’re fine! We’ve got the thing for the tea or whatever —


POTUS: Yeah, didn’t ask. Anyway. Got that, and I’ve got my Twizzlers and my Starburst and my Diet Coke and it’s gonna be a nice chat. Right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE: He’s not saying anything, sir.

POTUS: He’s mad. It’s his little act. The silence thing. It’s your little act, Vladimir, and it’s not going to work with me because I invented that act!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE: Maybe I should stay and —


Footsteps. Door register.

Elapsed silence: 0:11:54

POTUS: You think I can’t just sit here? You think this bothers me? C’mon. You know me. I know you. You’re mad, you’re upset, you’re thinking that I double-crossed you, I know, I know. You sit there like every bank I ever dealt with! We gave you money, we gave you this we gave you that we got nothing. But look! I’m here! And I could be in a lot better places, believe you me. Don’t enjoy the Nordic areas. So spare. So unadorned. And the people! Oh my God! With the sour face and the — you know, I was here five minutes, five minutes, maybe more — but maybe less! — and I already heard three people tell me about the generous family-leave thing they’ve got going here. And I said to them, “We’ve got the same thing back home on the border. We’re trying to get families to leave!” It was crickets. No sense of humor, these people.

Elapsed silence: 0:02:11

POTUS: Family leave is a good idea though. We should have that. We will have that. But better.

Elapsed silence: 0:05:22

POTUS: You’re looking at me like a death ray, Vladimir. Like, what, laser beams out of the eyes? Am I supposed to be scared of this? The silence? The stink eye you’re giving me? You think you’re the first guy who’s lent me money to sit across the table from me and just . . . seethe? I don’t get this. We’re in business, let’s be sensible. I want this deal to be good for everyone, me included. Me especially. Me mostly. Okay, you know what? I get antsy sitting still. I like the bustle. So, here’s the deal. I’m gonna take out my phone and let me tell you when I take out my phone I get lost in it and that’s it I’m gone. Ask anyone. Ask anyone who works for me and they’ll tell you that Trump and his phone, I say it’s like my only really good relationship, you know? C’mon! That was witty, you have to admit. I’m an extremely witty person. Everyone says that.

Elapsed silence: 0:01:57

POTUS: Well, as I said to the guys at Citibank and Morgan Stanley and Lehman and Continental Illinois and JPMorgan and Chase and Bank of New York and Security Pacific Bank, hey, look, I tried! Not every deal makes money. You took a risk, I took a risk, that’s what we do. I really thought I could get those sanctions lifted for you guys and I was all set to do just that and then, you know, you have people too, Vladimir, the people who come into the office and suddenly it’s maps of this area and photos of that area and I’m very appreciative of the briefings you gave me but they were not so good, pretty awful to be perfectly honest, maybe even the worst ever. Crimea, it turns out, Vladimir, isn’t really part of the original Russian deed of trust, if you get what I’m saying. I’m using real-estate terms, Vladimir, because they relax me and I’m getting agitated from the negative energy you’re sending out.

Elapsed silence: 0:10:11

POTUS: Too much wood. In this room. Too woodsy. I’m a chrome guy.

Elapsed silence: 0:03:36

POTUS: I’m POTUS, you know? What they call me? President of the United States, just the first letters, spells “POTUS,” so that’s what I am in the little documents and whatnot. POTUS. You’re president of the Russian Federation, so I guess you’re PORF. Sounds like something really bad on one of those European menus, right? Will you be having the POTUS or the PORF? Hey, look who’s playing tonight at the El Camino! It’s POTUS and PORF! It’s fun. It’s fun wordplay, Vladimir. Fun wordplay between friends.

Elapsed silence: 0:07:22

POTRF: It would be “POTRF.” Pot. Orf. You forgot the “T.” Just like you forgot covenants and promises. And now we must talk about how you make good, how you make better. Now must have sanctions —

POTUS: I am so sorry, Vladimir, but we are all out of time. Can we do this again, soon?

End Extract

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