This morning, Politico published leaked audio from a speech then President-elect Donald Trump gave at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, briefly after the election.
The content of the tape—even the portions onto which everyone is latching—isn’t very shocking.
Politico’s headline, “Leaked Trump tape: ‘You are the special people’,” at first glance seems to indicate some sort of elitism or cronyism. While these have been foundational elements of Trump’s presidency, the quote doesn’t appear scandalous when taken into context.
The speech was delivered to “longtime members of his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club.” So his calling attendees at the reception “special people” doesn’t really reveal anything. It’s the sort of buttering up corporatists often perform for their benefactors.
Later in the recording, he invites members to “come along” the next day, when Trump says his team plans “to be interviewing everybody,” including for a position at the Treasury and the Secretary of State. Some have tried to make this quote out to be evidence that Trump invited private patrons to sit in on interviews for positions in high levels of government, but I don’t buy it.
Again, this sounds like the standard nicety an executive might offer his highest paying customers. I could be wrong, but it sounds to me like an invitation for members to return to Bedminster — not to join him in interviews.
Politico also misquotes Trump in its write-up of the leaked audio, further muddying the truth surrounding the recording.
Darren Samuelsohn and Annie Karni at Politico quote Trump:
“We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything.”
“You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. We have meetings every 15, 20 minutes with different people that will form our government.”
“We’re going to be interviewing everybody — Treasury, we’re going to be interviewing Secretary of State,” he continued. “We have everybody coming in — if you want to come around, it’s going to be unbelievable….so you might want to come along.”
Trump has a lot of plausible deniability here. Over the course of 13 minutes he says virtually nothing damning. Especially in comparison to the Access Hollywood audio of him bragging about sexual assault.
I think this leak still presents a threat to President Trump. It lets him know that he can’t even trust his inner circle not to divulge what he says in presumed private. For a person so fragile that he surrounds himself with people he believes will never deny him, this is a serious problem.
It’s extremely likely that there are other, much worse, recordings yet to be leaked. This audio may even be a warning that more could come. Hopefully that scares him.
And hopefully we hear more.