President Trump, a self-described master negotiator and author of The Art of the Deal, a book about winning, reportedly encouraged his aides to emphasize his already apparent lunacy when negotiating with foreign powers.
As if Trump needed assistance in proving his recklessness, White House staff told Axios that he instructed his top negotiator, Robert Lighthizer, to tell the South Koreans — with whom Lighthizer was brokering a trade deal last month — that he was a “crazy guy” willing to pull the plug on the deal at any moment.
Here’s a transcript of Trump and Lighthizer’s delightful Oval Office exchange, per aides who recreated the scene for Axios:
“You’ve got 30 days, and if you don’t get concessions then I’m pulling out,” Trump told Lighthizer.
“Ok, well I’ll tell the Koreans they’ve got 30 days,” Lighthizer replied.
“No, no, no,” Trump interjected. “That’s not how you negotiate. You don’t tell them they’ve got 30 days. You tell them, ‘This guy’s so crazy he could pull out any minute.’”
“That’s what you tell them: Any minute,” Trump continued. “And by the way, I might. You guys all need to know I might. You don’t tell them 30 days. If they take 30 days they’ll stretch this out.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue were all reportedly present during the conversation. Although this specific discussion pertained to a free trade deal that only affects South Korea, it’s quite evident that Trump has applied his loose cannon “madman” negotiation tactic all over the world. But, as Trump himself said, can it accurately be described as a tactic if he’s willing to follow through on his “crazy guy” threats? I’ll let the three-dimensional chess referees deliberate that question.
While people continue to debate whether or not Trump actually has a screw lose or is merely masquerading as “crazy guy,” both of which are equally as troubling, perhaps one of his staff members should give him a high five and congratulate him on accomplishing something all by himself. There’s no need to inform foreign leaders and negotiators that Trump is a “crazy guy,” anyone with access to Twitter can plainly see that.