Making an Entrance
Something seems different about the Donald Trump who approaches the table at which I am sitting from the opposite end of Mar-a-Lago’s posh living room. As Mr. Trump makes his way across the 1,800-square-foot space, I notice how his gold tie complements the gilded walls and ceiling. He appears so at ease in this regal setting that it makes me wonder if he would truly consider sacrificing his family, enterprises and wellbeing for another four years in the swamp.
“How are you?” Mr. Trump greets me warmly. “Nice to see you.” At that moment, I realize that our scheduled interview is about to take place right here and not in his office, as I had originally thought. I return the salutation, taking special care to keep my hands at arms’ length, having been tipped off that now that he is no longer burdened with the formalities of political niceties, he prefers not to engage in the customary handshaking ritual.
“Please, sit down,” my host gestures with a wink, a directive with which I’ve become acquainted in recent years. “We gotta do this a little quickly, because I have some meetings,” he says in a calm, measured tone.
As I’ve come to learn over the years, the thing about interviewing Trump is that Trump is the one who essentially conducts the interview. He determines when it starts, he decides when it ends, and he directs much of its course and tempo. Indeed, he beats me to the opening question and begins the interview by asking, “How’s the magazine doing?”
“It’s doing very well,” I reply.
“Rubashkin,” he says suddenly. “You know Rubashkin? Iowa?”
“He was so badly hurt,” Trump remarks, and he then proclaims that the percentage of Orthodox Jews who voted for him was “very high.”
As Ami’s pre-election poll foretold and multiple data have since corroborated, Donald Trump garnered 83% of the Orthodox Jewish vote in the 2020 election, a notable surge from the 54% who voted for him in 2016.
“You know Jason Greenblatt?” Trump inquires. “Jason’s good, right?”
“Jason’s a great guy,” I confirm. As the conversation somehow segues to Jason Greenblatt, I’m touched by the president’s concern for his longtime attorney, whose decision to step away from his leadership role in the Middle East peace negotiations mere months before they started paying dividends precluded him from reaping the benefits of their success.
“The fact that President Trump asked about me doesn’t surprise me at all,” Jason Greenblatt would later tell me when I shared this exchange with him. “In my roughly 23 years of working with him, he has always been thoughtful, warm and respectful. Behind his tough negotiator personality and reputation as someone who speaks his mind about issues and policies that are important to him is a person who asks that kind of question. Why? Because he cares about people.”While this revelation wouldn’t surprise Jason, Trump shares something that has taken him by surprise.
“You know what really surprised me?” Trump asks me as the conversation develops. “I did the Heights, I did Jerusalem, and I did Iran—the Iran Deal was a disaster, right? And I also did many other things. Jewish people who live in the United States don’t love Israel enough. Does that make sense to you? I’m not talking about Orthodox Jews. I believe we got 25% of the Jewish vote, and it doesn’t make sense. It just seems strange to me,” he stresses before exclaiming, “But I did very well in Florida. I did great in Florida.”