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On Thursday night, around 6:45 p.m., we reached the publisher of The New York Times, A.G. Sulzberger, as he was about to leave the Washington bureau to head back to New York.
We had a favor to ask: Would he mind canceling his train home?
We needed him for a “Daily" interview. Immediately.
He politely agreed.
Listen to ‘The Daily’: The President and the Publisher
All day, we had wondered whether a planned interview with President Trump would happen, what would unfold in the room, and how we would approach it on Friday’s episode.
We knew the interview had an unorthodox origin: Sulzberger, preferring not to engage in off-the-record conversations, especially after his last in-person meeting with the president, had declined a one-on-one dinner invitation from the White House and said he would only meet with Mr. Trump if it were on the record, with Times reporters in the room. Those reporters turned out to be Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker.
How would this tag-team interview with publisher and reporters play out? Would the publisher ask the president questions or say nothing? It was unclear.
The interview was scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Around that time, we got word that it was still on and that Maggie, Peter and A.G. were in the Oval Office. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Two hours passed — an eternity for audio producers trying to plan a show for the next morning at 6 a.m.
When it was over, a senior editor, Sam Dolnick, walked over to us and explained what had transpired. The reporters had asked penetrating, newsworthy questions of the president for an hour. And then something unexpected happened. The publisher jumped in to raise his concerns about Mr. Trump’s rhetoric about the media. Not with a single question or comment, but in a long, revealing and unguarded exchange with the president.
This we needed to hear. The Washington bureau sent us audio recordings from the Oval Office, generously made by Maggie and Peter with special equipment given to them by “The Daily.” We quickly realized that the story we needed to tell in audio was what had unfolded between the publisher and the president.
Which is how we found ourselves on the phone, beseeching our boss to come back to the office for an interview.
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