From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.” Today: On Thursday in the Oval Office, the president of the United States debated the publisher of The New York Times about the role of a free press. It’s Friday, February 1. Oh, for the purposes of this interview, how would you like me to refer to you, like, in terms of your actual name? Do you want to be A. G.? Do you want to be Arthur?

O.K. Good. A. G., tell me the story of what happened this past summer.

Well, I had recently been named publisher of The Times. And I was coming back from dinner one day, and I got a email from Sarah Sanders — not someone who had emailed me before — and she asked if I could come to the White House later that week for a private, off-the-record meeting with the president. Our journalists are typically extremely cautious about giving off-the-record meetings to prominent newsmakers. But it’s part of the responsibility that comes with being publisher to be willing to sit down across from folks who are regularly receiving coverage, particularly regularly receiving tough coverage, and hear if they have any concerns. So I felt that I should accept. Meeting face to face with the president, I felt it was really important to raise some of my concerns about his increasingly strong anti-press rhetoric. I also felt pretty strongly that I should bring a journalist along as well. So I brought James Bennet, my colleague who oversees the Opinion department, including the editorial page, and we headed down to Washington.

James asked most of the questions as the journalist in the room. And then at some point, I sensed a natural break in the conversation, and I brought up what I had been wanting to share with him. I said to the president, I’m increasingly alarmed by your anti-press rhetoric. You know, phrases like “fake news” I find very troubling. But I’m deeply concerned about the implication of phrases like “enemy of the people.” And I believe that this language is not just divisive, it’s dangerous.

And this is all off-the-record, so this is just a message that you very much wanted to deliver to the president directly.

That’s right. And it was a civil meeting. He did hear me out. And at the end of the conversation, after we had stood up and were preparing to leave, he thanked us again for coming in, turned to me, pointed to his head and said, you’ve given me a lot to think about. And I really will think about it.

So you leave the White House, and what happens?

So largely nothing. I go back to work. He goes back to work. And about a week, maybe 10 days later, I’m at home. It was Sunday morning. I think I was either changing a diaper or had just finished changing a diaper. And I get a call that informs me that the president has just tweeted about our meeting.

Some breaking news now as The New York Times goes to Washington. President Trump tweeted just a little while ago that he met with A. G. Sulzberger, the relatively new publisher of The New York Times, at the White House recently. Tweeting this today. Quote, “Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A. G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times.” President Trump continuing, quote, “Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of fake news being put out by the media and how that fake news has morphed into the phrase ‘enemy of the people.’ Sad.”

And is that your understanding of what happened in the room?

No. It was a gross mischaracterization of our conversation. I mean, certainly we had had a meeting at the White House. I’ll leave it to him to decide whether it was good and interesting. And we talked about his use of phrases like “fake news” and “enemy of the people.” But it was not a conversation in which I was agreeing with those characterizations in the least.

So what exactly did you do?

So I grabbed my laptop and typed out a very brief account of what had actually transpired in the meeting. We issue our statement, which I thought spoke for itself, and the news cycle moved on to other things, and I moved on to other things. And then six months later, this week, I get another email from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, this time asking me to join the president for a private dinner at the White House.

Huh. And what are you thinking when you get that invitation?

I’m thinking that I can’t possibly accept this invitation.

Because I’m already reluctant about allowing people to go off the record. But the notion that I would do that with someone who had so clearly violated the terms that he had requested, and that I had agreed to, a second time just felt like a non-starter to me.

So you’re prepared, it sounds, to say no and to walk away from this opportunity.

I did say no. I wrote an email back, which I thought was perfectly polite but also very direct, saying that given what had transpired the last time we had such a meeting, that I’d be unable to accept a private dinner with the president. But I also added — and I thought it was probably a long shot — that if the president was willing to meet on the record with several of our journalists for an interview, that I’d be happy to join.

And what was the response?

To my surprise, the next day they said yes. So this morning, Maggie Haberman and I took the train down to D.C., where we met our colleague, Peter Baker, and prepared for the first significant on-the-record interview we’ve done with the president in over a year.

And how are you thinking about this interview, because you’re the publisher of The Times. You’re not a reporter. But you are going to the White House with two of the Times’s star White House reporters. What exactly is this meeting, in your mind?

Well, that’s exactly right. My role in that room is very different than Maggie and Peter’s. So you know, when we sat down to plan it out, I made very clear that I would leave the reporting part of the meeting entirely to them. But I also said that there were a few things that I wanted to convey to the president following up on our previous meeting.

Essentially some unfinished business.

That’s right. The White House is just a few blocks from the bureau, so maybe 20 minutes before the meeting, we headed out into the cold and walked over. Got to the White House security. Maggie breezed through, Peter breezed through, and then it turns out that I had not been entered into the system. So I found myself standing outside in the cold for quite some time while they decided what to do with me.

And what did they decide to do with you?

Eventually some embarrassed member of the communications team came over and apologized for forgetting to enter me into the system. And I guess I passed whatever test of trustworthiness, and they gave me a pass and went through security. So we get in. We’re escorted into the Oval Office and take some seats in front of the president’s desk. He walks in the room.

Mr. President, good to see you.

Shakes each of our hands.

Very friendly. And we begin the conversation.

We just had a great meeting with the vice premier of China.

Pretty early in the conversation, he talks about how, just moments earlier, there was a group of Chinese leaders there, along with most of his cabinet, for trade negotiations.

And we had it set so you could walk in. But were you delayed at the gate or something?

There was an incident. [LAUGHS]

Oh, everything’s fine. That he had been very much hoping that we would see the impressive scene and wondered why we were late.

We’re fine. Everything’s fine.

I think I looked like a suspect individual.

They weren’t sure they wanted to let A. G. in.

At which point Sarah Huckabee Sanders had to let him know that I had been blocked at the gate.

So having had the meeting today with the vice premier, do you feel like you got a deal, or close to a deal?

Well, we’re getting closer.

So after some small talk, the interview begins. Maggie and Peter start going through their long list of questions.

You’ve talked about the sacrifice that this has presented for yourself, for your family, being president, for your business. Could you ever see a point in the next year where you say, you know what, I don’t need to do this again? I don’t need to run for re-election?

I don’t see it because — so I just gave you a list of a lot of the things we’ve done. And this list isn’t even complete. I don’t know if you have it. Yeah. That’s not even — just grab it. Reading material for tonight.

Maggie asks him whether he’s intent on running for another term.

Maggie, here’s the bottom line. I love doing it. I don’t know if I should love doing it. But I love doing it.

He talks about his recent phone call with the head of the Venezuelan opposition.

We had a very good talk. Just more than anything else, I guess, I wished him good luck.

He talks about Nancy Pelosi.

This is your first experience dealing with Nancy Pelosi having the gavel as the speaker. Do you feel that you properly estimated her strengths? Do you feel like you underestimated them?

I’ve actually always gotten along with her, but now I don’t think I will anymore. I think that she’s hurting the country very badly.

And says that he’s given up on their relationship.

If she doesn’t approve a wall, the rest of it’s just a waste of money and time and energy.

He talks about the shutdown.

But based on what I hear and based on what I read, they don’t want to give money for the wall. You know I’m building the wall. You know that. I’m building the wall right now.

You know, for the beginning of the interview, he seems excited and engaged, almost gregarious. He’s talking in superlatives and with obvious excitement about the work and what he describes as his accomplishments.

And one of the generals said, you’ve done more to defeat ISIS than any other person, not even close.

And then, as the questions shift towards Russia —

Has Rod Rosenstein given you any sense over the course of the last year about whether you have any exposure, either in — or there’s any concerns, or whether you’re a target of either Mueller or —

Well, he told — he told the attorneys that I’m not a subject — I’m not a target. Yeah, oh yeah.

And to the Cohen investigation.

Can I ask you, sir, can you clarify the Trump Tower Moscow proposal, right? There was this discussion. And we’ve learned since the campaign that this went on longer through the campaign than we had expected.

So let me tell you about Trump Tower Moscow. This was a very unimportant deal. This was a very unimportant deal.

He becomes visibly more cautious. His arms creep up and they’re now folded on his chest.

You told people that you didn’t have any business there. And people might have misunderstood —

Well, that wasn’t business.

[INAUDIBLE] Misleading to say —

Peter, that wasn’t business there. That was a —

Well, you’re pursuing the business, right?

That was essentially — I had no money invested.

His sentences are growing shorter.

Did you ever talk to him about WikiLeaks? Because that seemed to be what Mueller was — you never had a conversation with him about that.

And did you ever tell him to — or other people to get in touch with him?

And it’s clear he’s being cautious. At one point, he was visibly uncomfortable enough that Sarah Sanders sort of muttered under her breath, next topic.

This job is, from an economic — you know, I get a kick out of these people saying, oh, a rich Arab stayed at his hotel.

And then, as we’ve seen in previous interviews with President Trump, there are a lot of interesting tangents that he’ll take.

I lost massive amounts of money doing this job. This is not for money.

One of the more striking was him talking about how everyone assumes he’s making so much money and benefiting so much from being president, but that actually —

This is one of the great losers of all time. You know, fortunately I don’t need money.

Assuming the office had come at a significant financial cost. And I think he used some language like, it’s the biggest loser.

But I lose — I mean, the numbers are incredible.

So initially we had been told that the conversation would be around half an hour. And —

Maggie, he’s been doing a great job. Yeah?

Just have some important calls whenever you’re finished.

O.K. I’ll be in in a little while.

Like clockwork, at about half an hour, his assistant came into the room and told him that time was up and he had a busy schedule.

What’s more important than The New York Times, O.K.? Nothing.

The conversation continued like that for fully another half hour. So a full hour.

Mr. President, we’re coming up on 45 minutes.

On multiple occasions, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Bill Shine tried to interject by saying, O.K., let’s do one or two more questions.

Mr. President, can I ask you a question that I was wondering as you were all talking about this?

And then maybe — [INAUDIBLE] Make this the last one.

Can I ask you five more questions? [LAUGHTER]

But Maggie and Peter just kept right at it. And President Trump seemed happy and interested to continue to answer their questions.

And what are you doing while Peter and Maggie are pressing the president on all these various questions?

I didn’t say a word. I thought my role there was to open the doors for the two of them for an on-the-record interview.

So you stayed silent the entire time.

That doesn’t happen at The New York Times.

Mr. President, before we wind down, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity just to raise a concern that we discussed last time. But then I realized that the meeting was actually starting to wrap up. And it felt like the moment was right to share the concern that I wanted to raise with the president, which stemmed from our previous conversation. We discussed last time I was here.

By the way, you’re right. And I did not know, when we — did you apologize, I hope?

Because I did not know that. And I apologize for that. O.K.?

Thank you for saying that.

And immediately he interjected and offered something of an apology. It took me a second to realize what it was about. But I believe he was apologizing for breaking the off-the-record agreement he had asked for in the previous meeting.

But I circled back and said — So the concern I raised then was about your anti-press rhetoric — fake news, enemy of the people. And at the time, I said I was concerned that it wasn’t just divisive, it was potentially dangerous, and warned that I thought it could have consequences. I feel like in the time since, we’ve started to see some of those consequences play out. We’ve seen around the world an unprecedented rise in attacks on journalists, threats to journalists, censorship. And as I’m saying this, he is leaning in and asking questions. Jailing of journalists and murders of journalists.

Globally on every continent. I’m happy to send you some of the literature. It’s very closely tracked. But one of the things that’s been really striking to me is, as I’ve talked to my colleagues around the globe, working in different countries — particularly working in countries where a free press is already a tenuous thing — they say that they are increasingly of the belief that your rhetoric is creating a climate in which dictators and tyrants are able to employ your words in suppressing the free press. And I wanted to —

So it sounds like you two are having a genuine back-and-forth about the concerns you have about the dangers facing journalists, and your belief that he, as president, is contributing to that.

That’s right. That’s right. And to his credit, he heard me out and he listened to it. I guess the concern I want to raise is the effects that the broad-based attacks on journalism and journalists continue to have seems to be growing. And it particularly seems to be growing abroad with folks who aren’t covering your administration. They’re trying to do hard, dangerous work of ferreting out the truth in societies where the leadership often tries to suppress it. And I’d urge you to reconsider these attacks.

But if you choose not to, I want you to be aware of some of the consequences that I’m starting to see out there.

Would you say more so now than over the last five years?

But more so now than even a year ago.

I’m not happy to hear that.

The murder of Khashoggi is just the highest-profile example. But we’re seeing —

A. G., are you experiencing the president’s questions and reactions as authentic? Because suddenly it’s starting to sound like he’s saying the things that a publisher of The New York Times might want to hear.

Yeah, I think that’s right. The United States and the occupants of your office historically have been the greatest defenders of a free press and of free speech globally.

And I think I am, too. I want to be. I want to be.

Look, it is hard for me to be optimistic about breaking through to him given that I had raised this exact set of concerns six months earlier, and he had said he was listening, said he was troubled by what he had heard, said that he thought his rhetoric had probably gone too far, and said that he would think about toning it down, and then has continued, if not escalated, his attacks on the free press. So he made a good show of listening. He asked follow-up questions. He expressed concern about some of the things I said. But it wasn’t fully clear whether I was getting through to him. And I wanted to circle back to this, first, I guess, to ask you if you were aware of these broad consequences that we’re seeing.

So the person, honestly, that’s been most suggestive of that is you, more so than others. I do notice that people are declaring more and more fake news, where they go, fake news. I even see it in other countries. I don’t necessarily attribute that to me. I think I can attribute the term to me. I think I was the one that started using it, I would say. But I do see that. But —

But can I just respond to that?

Because the phrase “fake news,” you’re exactly right. It has been embraced globally. And several countries have actually banned fake news. But it was a technique to actually ban an independent media. And so it’s not about viral stuff on Facebook. It’s about countries using that term to actually ban independent scrutiny of their actions.

I don’t like that. I mean, I don’t like that. I don’t like — though I do think it’s very bad for a country when the news is not accurately portrayed. I really do.

And after this conversation goes on for a few minutes, he takes it in an interesting direction, and perhaps a predictable direction.

He starts complaining about his own coverage and explaining he feels that he has been inaccurately portrayed.

And I do believe I’m a victim of that, honestly. In all due respect, I know what a good writer these two people are. But Peter’s been very tough on us the last couple of months. I don’t know why, because I really think I’m doing a great job.

And at one point, he mentions Peter specifically, and says his recent articles have been too tough. Can I just say something on Peter? I mean, Peter has covered four administrations, four presidential administrations, starting with Clinton.

But one of the things that we’ve learned over a century and a half of covering the men who’ve occupied this office is that every occupant feels that the press is too tough at times. But tough coverage is part of occupying the most powerful seat on earth. That chair right there that you’re sitting in is the most powerful seat on earth. And it comes with it scrutiny and questions. You have my — speaking for The Times — my enduring commitment that we will treat you fairly and accurately. I actually noticed a oil painting of President Lincoln over his shoulder, and I said, we’ve been covering presidential administrations for 150 years. Starting, I think, with that guy.

I understand that. And I do. I would say this. I don’t mind a bad story if it’s true. I really don’t. You know, we’re all, like, big people. We understand what’s happening. I’ve had bad stories, very bad stories, where I thought it was true. And I would never complain. But when you get really bad stories where it’s not true, then you sort of say, that’s unfair. And, you know, you have a tremendous power. You have the power of the pen, the power of the ink. You have a tremendous power.

And so we continued to go back and forth. And the striking thing about the conversation now is if the first hour of the conversation felt very much like a traditional interview — questions being asked by Maggie and Peter, and questions being answered by President Trump — now the conversation had taken a real turn, and it felt like we were having a searching debate about the role of media.

What you do is a very important thing. And I will tell you, I would love if I was just covered fairly. If I were covered fairly — like, this should be a fair story. I don’t know what the story is — this should be a fair story. I actually think your readers would respect it.

There were interruptions. There was back and forth. And if at first he was listening to my concern, he became increasingly animated in sharing his concerns.

I mean, this is fascinating. I’m curious, were you surprised in the moment by how this conversation was playing out, that it was becoming a conversation? Was that what you expected, because it seems like you had just wanted to reiterate a final point from your previous interview on the way out the door.

I certainly wasn’t expecting the full back-and-forth, his level of interest and engagement in the conversation. At one point, Maggie jumped in.

Let me look in the mirror.

But what do you see the role of the free press as? What is it that you think that the press does?

And he gave her, in some ways, the most cautious, literal response that I’ve heard from him in either of my meetings with him.

It describes, and should describe, accurately what’s going on in anywhere it’s covering, whether it’s a nation or a state or a game or whatever. And if it describes it accurately and fairly, it’s a very, very important and beautiful thing.

And do you agree with that definition of a free press?

Well, I think his definition is accurate, but it’s also narrow. I view the core responsibility of The Times not just as helping people understand the world, but in seeking the truth wherever it leads, holding power to account. Those parts of our job can be hard to be on the other side of, and I’m sympathetic to that. But those are essential parts of how we meet our responsibility to inform the public. But I was really struck. There was this moment — it was a very human moment, and it seemed like a very sincere moment — when he talked about being a Queens-born kid.

But I came from Jamaica, Queens, Jamaica Estates, and I became president of the United States. I’m sort of entitled to a great story from my — just one — from my newspaper. I mean, you know.

And he just wanted his hometown paper to write one positive story about him.

He just wants The Times to say something nice about him.

I’m sort of entitled to one good story in The New York Times. I started off, I ran against very smart people and a lot of them.

And he said it a few times.

I just sort of think I’m entitled to a great story from The New York Times. I mean, I’ve done something that nobody’s ever done.

Well, listening to the president talking about the media, did you feel that any of his complaints about the media were legitimate and recognizable?

I don’t buy his premise that he hasn’t had that positive story. The first story he got was “Trump Triumphs.” You know, that was literally the headline. But he’s a disruptive political figure who has had an incredibly divisive approach to governing, and the coverage has reflected that.

So what do you think that this conversation meant to President Trump, and why do you think it became a conversation in the first place?

I don’t know if I have the answer to that. I mean, obviously, this is a man whose public posture is that journalists are the enemy of the people. And I’ll tell you, part of what troubles me so much about that phrase is what do you do with enemies? You fight them. You lock them up. You kill them in war. But that’s never been President Trump’s private posture with journalists. And I think what this conversation showed is this is actually a man with a lot of respect for The New York Times as an institution. And I think he wants to feel that respect back. But he wants to feel it in a certain kind of way, with celebration of his actions, with validation of his performance, that I’m not sure a serious news organization, an independent news organization, can give any president. And so we have this tension between a president who, in a room with three journalists, can have a really interesting, open conversation about the role of journalism and the role of his own rhetoric in putting journalists at risk. But in public, I’m not sure we can expect change. I hope it’ll change. I really do. But I’m skeptical.

A. G., thank you very much. We appreciate it.