During a news conference on Thursday ahead of his trip to Great Britain, President Trump was asked an extremely basic question about Brexit.
“You are going to the U.K. — what will be your message on Brexit?” a reporter asked him.
Trump was completely unprepared to respond in any substantial or coherent way. Instead, he began by defensively claiming he has “been reading a lot about Brexit over the last couple days.” But after a few seconds of stammering, he admitted, “I have no message. It is not for me to say.”
The president quickly pivoted to providing a free plug for his private club in Scotland, talking about his family connections to the U.K., and offering platitudes like: “I would like to see them be able to work it out so it could go quickly, whatever they work out.”
After about a minute of Trump’s dissembling, the reporter followed up by trying to get him to be specific about the extent to which he’d like to see the U.K. withdraw from the European Union.
“Hard Brexit?” he asked.
But Trump was barely familiar with what the term means.
“I thought you said it was ‘heart breaking,'” Trump quipped. “I would say that, you know, Brexit is Brexit. It’s not like — I guess when you use the term ‘Hard Brexit,’ I assume that’s what you mean. The people voted to break it up, so I imagine that’s what they’ll do, but maybe they are taking a little bit of a different route.”
Trump finished his “answer” with complete non sequiturs about his 2016 electoral win, and his popularity in the U.K.
A day later, Trump held another news conference, this one in the U.K. alongside British Prime Minster Theresa May. Ahead of his upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump was asked “what your message will be to him on Syria?”
“What would you like him to say to [Putin], especially given Assad’s gains in the country recently?” the reporter said.
Trump was unable to cite a single specific concession he wants from Putin on Syria. Instead, he rambled about the dangers of nuclear weapons, bragged about how smart his uncle was (the implication being that Trump is smart too), and complained about the Mueller investigation. The only thing Trump said about Syria is that he would “bring it up” during his meeting with Putin.
The reporter followed up by asking Trump to be more specific.
“Can you spell out in terms of Syria what eactly you would like to hear from [Putin] and what you would like Russia to do?” he said.
Trump immediately started bashing former President Obama.
“Well that was another one — I mean, the red line in the sand was a problem, for us,” he said.
But the reporter cut Trump off and said, “aside from President Obama, what would you like President Putin to do now under your watch?”
Trump, however, was still unable to cite a single specific thing.
“Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, I’m going to talk to him about that before I talk about you, and if something happens it’ll be great, and if it doesn’t happen…” Trump said, tailing off.
“I’m not going in with high expectations, but we may come out with some very surprising things. But relationship is very important, and having a relationship with Russia and other countries as I’ve said a number of times — and I’ve been saying, actually, for years, and I’ve been certainly saying it during my campaign — having relationships with other countries is really a good thing.”
Trump concluded by talking about the “sprit” of NATO, bashing Hillary Clinton, and praising himself.
The Washington Post reported earlier this year that in a break from precedent established by previous modern presidents, Trump “rarely if ever reads the President’s Daily Brief, a document that lays out the most pressing information collected by U.S. intelligence agencies from hot spots around the world.”
There have been a string of reports detailing Trump’s aversion to reading. The Huffington Post reported that memos prepared for the president “must be no more than a single page. They must have bullet points, but not more than nine per page.” According to the New York Times, “staff members are now being told to keep papers [for Trump] to a single page, with lots of graphics and maps.”