My close encounter with Donald Trump

November 13, 2015

Ever walked around with the dread of an unstoppable dressing-down by a blustery billionaire hanging over your head? That was my Monday.

Donald Trump’s press team agreed to connect me with him to talk about his habit of arguing with contractors over their final bills, and I was expecting what sometimes happens when interview subjects – especially powerful ones – are confronted by evidence of their own bad behavior. I thought he’d yell, try to twist my questions, put words in my mouth, cry persecution.

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at Iowa Central Community College in Ft. Dodge, Iowa, November 12, 2015. REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Trump’s team wouldn’t even tell me what time, even approximately, Trump would call. When I’d offered some guidance – I had a meeting at 1pm that I said I could move if they gave me even half an hour’s notice – I was met with a cold silence from my press contact. After recovering from what must have been shock that a puny reporter like me would have the nerve to suggest time constraints for the interview, she explained Trump was “very busy” and would call whenever he had a moment. Whenever that might be.

He called at 1:15. The source I was interviewing kindly stepped out of her own office to let me conduct the interview. But then came the surprise: He was calm and polite. No insults, no threats. He didn’t accuse me of not knowing what I was talking about after I prefaced one question with “I don’t have my notes in front of me, but—“ He knew I knew my stuff, and he answered my questions as they came.

We even touched on lighter topics. I complimented him on his performance as the Nov. 7 host of Saturday Night Live and told him my favorite skit of his had been the parody of Drake’s video “Hotline Bling,” in which Trump, in a suit and some nerdy-looking glasses, had swayed back and forth crooning “You used to call me on the cellphone,” slightly off key.

“My favorite was the one where I was in the White House,” Trump said. “Did you see how ISIS was totally defeated?”

I couldn’t bring myself to remind him it was all a joke.

At the end of the interview, I thanked him and added: “One more question: Do you think it’s a good idea for the Fed to raise rates in December?”

There was a silence on the phone so long I thought he’d hung up. “Are you still there?” I asked.

“Yes he said. But I’ll see your story first before I answer any more of your questions.”

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