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Minor note from the Times interview:
TRUMP: Elijah Cummings [a Democratic representative from Maryland] was in my office and he said, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.”
TRUMP: And then he went out and I watched him on television yesterday and I said, “Was that the same man?”
TRUMP: But I said, and I liked him, but I said that was really nice. He said, in a group of people, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.” And then I watched him on television and I said, “Is that the same man that said that to me?”
Baltimore Sun asked Cummings:
"During my meeting with the president and on several occasions since then, I have said repeatedly that he could be a great president if -- if -- he takes steps to truly represent all Americans rather than continuing on the divisive and harmful path he is currently on," Cummings said in a statement.
This is what happens when you try to speak truth to power politely. You give them a positive out, the way you do with a teenager—"You could be the best if you made better choices, like studying for that test instead of smoking dope with your criminal friends"—and that's all they hear: "You said I'm the best!"