President Donald Trump spoke with Vladimir Putin on Tuesday and, against the advice of national security advisers, congratulated the Russian president on his re-election to a fourth term. The New York Times has obtained a transcript of the call, published below:
The President: Pozdravlyayu!
President Putin: Spasibo, Donald.
The President:What’s your secret?
President Putin: No secret, Donald. My people love me. I win 77 percent of vote.
The President: You know, I also won 77 percent of the vote, if you don’t count all the illegal Mexicans who voted for Hillary. Plus the gays and blacks. How’d you do it?
President Putin: I arranged for my only serious political adversary, Alexei Navalny, to be convicted on trumped-up charges of embezzlement so he would be banned from running against me.
The President:Love that. It’s like, “Lock her up,” Russia-style.
President Putin: Yes, though you should be careful to disguise your most outrageous acts in clothing of scrupulous legality and strict bureaucratic procedure. That way masses think everything is correct and nothing is political. Like you did with this man, McCabe. Very well played, if I may say.
The President: What a loser! I went after him because he was Comey’s boy and his wife’s in Hillary’s pocket. Next thing I know, it turns out he isn’t such an angel and maybe he did lie to the investigators. I didn’t see it coming but like I always say, I’ve got great instincts.
President Putin: You must continue this, Donald. After Comey and McCabe it is essential to gain total control of security services.
The President:I’ve already got great security.
President Putin:No, Donald, security services, not bodyguard. Anyway, you are making excellent progress. First, you generate climate of opinion that all previously legitimate and venerated institutions of state are actually illegitimate and oppressive – “deep state,” as your friends call it. Second, you pretend you are deep state’s victim even though you are master. Third, you create atmosphere of fear so that your lieutenants are afraid they might lose their jobs at any moment if they don’t fulfill your wishes. I see you have done this very shrewdly with Mr. Sessions.
Finally, you drive away honorable and qualified people from government so that only ones left are mediocrities and lowlifes. They will do your bidding much more readily. Well done, Donald!
The President: You have the best words, Vladimir.
President Putin:Natürlich. But I think you must get better control over your news media.
The President: I’m doing my best. Do you get Fox News in Moscow? I mean, those guys love me.
President Putin: Use your power over access to create lackeys and mouthpieces. Like this man, Hannity.
The President: Oh, Sean, he’s great.
President Putin: He is what Russians call Vyperdysh. I cannot explain meaning of this word.But to lead fools you must not permit yourself to be taken in by their foolishness.
The President: Say that again?
President Putin: Donald, like with security services, same with news media. You have caused revolution in legitimacy. All that was previously trustworthy and reputable is now disreputable and untrustworthy, and vice versa. You promote crazy conspiracy theory and shift burden of proof to your adversaries. You replace honesty with authenticity and policy with drama and reality with manufactured reality. These are correct moves.
But you can go further. To enthrone yourself you must completely dethrone truth, facts, proportion and objectivity. This is how I became president-for-life.
The President:Well, I’ve been doing it. You know: “FAKE NEWS!”
President Putin: We believe your most brilliant tactic is when you bait media into nonstop hysteria over your deliberately stupid Twitter comments so that journalists chase ghosts, people stop reacting and nobody sees your true intention. Bury signal in noise: Very clever!
The President: I do that? Great!
President Putin: If I may switch subject, Donald, I want to speak of sanctions.
The President: You know we did the absolute minimum, Vladimir. Congress forced my hand on this one.
President Putin: To be honest, we don’t mind these new sanctions. They are too weak to hurt us, but they feed Russian complex about Western persecution, very useful to me. But we are unfairly hurt by multilateral sanctions by you and the Europeans on our banks and energy companies imposed on account of Ukrainian misunderstanding.
The President:Vladimir, you know I’m a deal-maker, but that’s a hard sell.
President Putin:We are prepared to be extremely reasonable, Donald. For example, we will consider enforcing sanctions on North Korea if you ease sanctions on us. And perhaps we will not sell defensive arms to Tehran if you halt your sale of defensive arms to Kiev. What do you think?
The President: We need a summit, Vladimir. In Mar-a-Lago! I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
President Putin: For my part, Donald, it is hardly the beginning.