The following is a transcript of Vladimir Putin’s interview yesterday with reporters, editors and opinion columnists from the New York Times. This interview follows a recent interview of Donald J. Trump.
ARTHUR SULZBERGER Jr., publisher of The New York Times: Thank you president Putin for joining us. We appreciate you taking time out of your trip to meet with our president-elect here in New York City. We’re told you’ve been brushing up on your English in preparation for this interview.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, President of Russia: Da.
SULZBERGER: We’ll have that translated when we publish.
DEAN BAQUET, executive editor of The New York Times: Mr. President, I think the first issue on everyone’s mind here is your relationship with our president-elect, Donald Trump. We know you spoke with him on the phone soon after his election. Can you share with us your opinion of Mr. Trump?
PUTIN: Trump is winner.
BAQUET: Yes, he won the election, well, the electoral college – though, as you know, not the popular vote. But we were wondering what…
SULZBERGER: No, Dean, I think he means “Trump is a winner.” In the Charlie Sheen sense.
BAQUET: Oh. Right. So I take that to mean that you are satisfied with the outcome of our election?
PUTIN: We support America whoever is president. We, the Russian people, are simply observer to your de-mock-rah-see.
BAQUET: Yes, our DEMOCRACY.
PUTIN: Yes, I said this. Your de-MOCK-racy.
BAQUET: Well, on that note, I guess I’ll open up the floor to our reporters who have some questions for you.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, political reporter: I’ll start, thank you, Dean. Mr. President, as you may know, many Americans believe that Donald Trump is a consummate liar. Some in the press have made a similar accusation against you. Do you want to respond to this allegation?
PUTIN: Yes. Let me state, for the record: I am liar.
BAQUET: Excuse me Maggie, I need to butt in here. Mr. President, I think we may have had a communication failure just now. You are on the record, so I want to give you a chance to correct your response. Perhaps your interpreter could help?
[Putin talking with interpreter]
PUTIN: Let me rephrase.
BAQUET: Of course.
PUTIN: Everything I say is lie.
INTERPRETER: He means “Everything I say is a lie.”
BAQUET: Arthur, are you hearing this? We have the president of Russia telling us on the record that he’s a liar. Those asshats at WaPo are going to shit themselves when they see our headlines.
SULZBERGER: Slow down, Dean. Mr. President, I want to be absolutely clear here. What specifically have you been lying about?
PUTIN: Everything I say is a lie.
BAQUET: To be clear Mr. President, unless you correct the record, we will be publishing a story about how you’ve stated that everything you say is a lie.
JAMES NEWMAN, editorial page editor: Can I interject?
BAQUET: Sure, James.
NEWMAN: I’m not sure we know everything he says is a lie.
BAQUET: But he just said it.
NEWMAN: I think his statement is a classic instance of the Liar’s Paradox.
SULZBERGER: Liar’s Paradox? Come on James, we didn’t all study philosophy at Bowdoin.
NEWMAN: In the Liar’s Paradox you have a statement that is self-contradictory. If I say “Everything I say is a lie,” then it should also apply to the statement I’ve just made. “Everything I say is a lie,” is a lie.
BAQUET: Wait, so are you saying he’s not lying?
NEWMAN: I’m saying his statement is paradoxical.
BAQUET: Mr. Putin, are you lying when you say, “Everything I say is a lie?”
BAQUET: He says he’s not lying.
SULZBERGER: But he just admitted he is a liar.
BAQUET: But not about not lying.
[very confused cross talk]
BAQUET: Well paradox or not, we need to go to press with the statement.
SULZBERGER: But if it’s not true…
BAQUET: Well, it’s not false either.
SULZBERGER: I don’t know, Gary – is Gary Helms in the room?
GARY HELMS, lead counsel for Times: Here.
SULZBERGER: Gary, could we be sued for libel if we print a statement that is both true and false?
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, opinion columnist: Mr. President, can I ask a question while they deliberate? I’m not someone who gets hung up on logic. I’m really a one issue man. As I’m sure you know, I’ve devoted my life’s work to writing opinions about climate change. Does Russia intend to ratify the Paris Agreement?
PUTIN: Yes, we are planning to ratify soon.
FRIEDMAN: OK, that’s a real relief.
BAQUET: Tom, we have no idea if anything this man is saying right now is true.
MICHAEL BARBARO, political reporter: Is anyone familiar with the Barber Paradox?
BARBARO: Yes, there is a barber in town who shaves all those in town, and only those, who do not shave themselves. The paradox comes about when you try to answer the question – does the barber shave himself?
BAQUET: Well, yes he does because…oh wait, shit. I see. So what’s the relevance of this to the Liar’s Paradox?
BARBARO: Oh, nothing. Just another interesting paradox.
[general agreement in the room]
JOSEPH KAHN, managing editor: What do you have to say about allegations that the Russian government supported a coordinated effort to disseminate “faux news” stories on social media in an attempt to confuse the US electorate?
PUTIN: I know of no such propaganda campaigns.
KAHN: Would you tell us the truth if you did know of such campaigns?
UNKNOWN: Seriously, why are we still asking him any questions?
BAQUET: Maybe we are missing some sarcasm here. Anyone here have the Russian beat who could tell us if Russians have a sarcastic disposition?
ANNE WALLACE, foreign policy reporter: Anne Wallace here – I cover Russian affairs and have posed this same question to my contacts at the CIA in the past.
WALLACE: They are still working on figuring it out.
UNKNOWN: Maybe just ask if he’s being sarcastic?
BAQUET: Mr. President, are you saying “Everything I say is a lie” sarcastically?
[Putin talking with interpreter]
SULZBERGER: He’s not being sarcastic.
NEWMAN: Unless he’s being sarcastic in response to the question of whether he’s being sarcastic.
[unknown reporter leaves room in disgust, inaudible cursing]
FRIEDMAN: Mr. President, Tom Friedman here again. Can we get you on record admonishing our president-elect Trump to stick with the Paris Agreement? Because I reminded him last week, in this very room, that he has golf courses that are in grave danger if sea levels continue to rise as a result of climate change. Also, can I just say that I think the world is changing really fast and some people are feeling left behind? I don’t think they are racists. I just think they are having a hard time keeping up.
RUSS DOUTHAT, opinion writer: Amen.
SULZBERGER: Jesus Tom, go write another book.
MAUREEN DOWD, opinion writer: Mr. President, many of us are very concerned about what we see as Russia’s threatening actions towards our NATO allies. My question is this, do you agree that in an alternative history where Hillary Clinton won the election, that the Clinton Machine would pose a greater threat to U.S. national security than an Imperial Russia?
BAQUET: What the hell, Maureen?!
SULZBERGER: Ok, well, it appears we’ve come to the end of our scheduled time here. We really appreciate your meeting us here for this interview.
PUTIN: Thank you all, very much. It is great honor.
UNKNOWN: Trump just tweeted that “Putin currently meeting with NYT to reveal their incompetence.”
BAQUET: He just doesn’t get it, does he?
UNKNOWN: Should we prepare an official response?
SULZBERGER: No need. I think we can let the record speak for itself.