Even the most powerful people on Earth sometimes have regrets, or at least that's what President Donald Trump suggested during an interview with a prominent conservative personality on Thursday. During an appearance at the White House's "Generation Next" event for conservative millennials, the president told Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk the advice he'd give his younger self, if he had the oppotunity. Specifically, Trump said he'd warn himself against running for president, citing the poor publicity he's received since entering the political arena.
The exchange was captured on video, which means you can watch the moment in all its awkwardness. As The Cut noted, it's been rumored and speculated since Trump launched his presidential campaign that he neither expected nor wanted to actually win the presidency, although obviously it's impossible to know for sure what was inside his head.
Kirk served up a pretty fawning intro to his question for Trump, calling the former reality TV star and real estate mogul, in his opinion, "one of the most successful businesspeople in American history." He also claimed that Trump's 2016 election victory was something "all people, including young people, should look up to."
He then asked the now 71-year-old president what advice he'd give his 25-year-old self, and Trump's response prompted laughter from the assembled crowd.
"Don't run for president," Trump replied. It was clearly intended as a sort of joke, as Trump obviously anticipated the laughter. But as he continued, it didn't sound like a totally insincere statement.
"All my life, I got the greatest publicity. I was getting such great― until I ran for office," Trump continued. "People get it, people really do get it. There is a lot of fake news out there, and nobody has any idea. And I'm actually proud of the fact that I exposed it to a large extent, because we exposed it."
Railing against "fake news" is nothing new for Trump. To the contrary, it's been one of his longest-standing rhetorical moves since being elected into office, often lumping together as "fake" stories that really do require correction or retraction, with ones that simply portray his presidency in a negative light. This line of attack has had international implications, as some foreign dictators and heads of state have reportedly copied this method of disparaging press reports they don't like.
It's totally unclear whether Trump would actually choose not to run for president, if given the chance to do it over again, or whether this was purely a joke, without a trace of truth behind it.
On the one hand, Trump's life as president is undeniably more stressful, busier, and more chaotic than it would've been if he'd remained a massively wealthy private citizen, and he's currently facing an in-depth investigation by independent counsel Robert Mueller. On the other hand, it's recently been reported that Trump has grown to feel more confident in his job, and has therefore become more comfortable exerting control over the direction of the administration.
If Trump is indeed possessed by a renewed confidence in his abilities as president, that's seemingly being manifested in yet another recent staff shakeup. Last week saw the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; Trump has since announced the former Exxon-Mobil CEO will be replaced by current CIA director Mike Pompeo.
The moment embedded above was not the only exchange between Trump and Kirk, to be clear. If you're curious to see any more of what was said ― in the midst of one of the friendliest and least combative interviews you're ever likely to see ― you can watch the whole 20-minute interview here.