‘Let’s have a hug with the ladies’: the surreal time I interviewed Donald Trump before he was US president

Donald Trump has said he will “very, very, very probably run” for President again and has hit out at his Republican rival Ron DeSantis

Donald Trump has been teasing a “big announcement”, widely expected to be confirmation he will once again make a bid for the White House.

He was said to be “livid” about the US midterm election results where his handpicked candidates failed to make the waves he had hoped for. He later took to his TruthSocial platform to deny that he was angry - and then went on to call himself a “stable genius”.

Meanwhile, his rival and the man who is emerging as a potential challenger for the Rebublican candidate for president, Ron DeSantis, won a landslide victory in Florida. Trump, who has dubbed him “Ron DeSanctimonious”, has warned him against running and even said he would “reveal things” about him.

So will Trump actually try to become president for a second time, or is it all just bluster? He has said he will “very, very, very probably run” for president in 2024, while the Washington Post said Trump is “known for attempts to build suspense” and “often vacillates on decisions”.

He is certainly a master of suspense, building hype and showmanship - I’ve seen it several times. And his behaviour last week reminded me of the time Trump kept me waiting.

A media circus on his golf course

The small corner of Scotland which I call home just happens to be where Trump owns a picturesque stretch of land which he turned into a golf course. Since the early days of my career in 2006 I’ve covered the story of the land at Menie, a few miles north of Aberdeen, and how Trump ultimately turned it into Trump International Golf Links.

I interviewed opponents to his plan, sat in on local authority meetings where it was being discussed, and attended press conferences. I also traipsed over the sprawling dunes at the course, and along with dozens of other journalists from all over the world I followed him around the course as he played golf and spouted phrases such as “Trump is going to win and the world will be a happy place”. It was 2016 of course, just months before he became president - an event that some of us there that day didn’t really think was going to happen.

But rewinding the clock back a few years prior to that day, I got the chance to interview him. In the summer of 2010 I was working for a Sunday newspaper when it was announced Trump was coming to town. He had just been given the go-ahead to build the golf course after years of protests and delays, and now work was set to start.

Donald Trump has hinted that he may run for president again.

I was assigned by my boss to go along to a two-day media event with the brief to get something exclusive/try for an interview. And I was determined to do just that. Over the course of those two days I waited in line with other hacks, went to media briefings and put my interview request to his press team.

Yes, he was doing interviews I was told and - delighted - I waited for my slot. But the dream turned to dust when I was asked if I’d let a daily reporter go first, to which I agreed. Turned out, it was the last interview he was doing that day.

Dejected and back at the office, I put more calls in with his press team, who said they’d see what they could do, but didn’t sound hopeful. To my surprise I got a call later that day to say the interview was on, scheduled for the next morning as he was due to leave later that day.

The next day I headed to the interview location, at a golf club in Aberdeen - a few miles south of where he was building his own course.  The photographer the paper had commissioned for the job - the late, and very much great Donald Stewart - met me there.

Donald Trump after getting an honorary degree from Robert Gordon University on October 8, 2010 (Getty Images)

Donald kept us waiting

We had arrived sharp and were met by a member of his team and, shortly afterwards, we were joined by a journalist from another paper, the late Nicola Barry, who I’d be sharing the interview with.

We waited - Trump was playing golf you see, and nothing was going to stop him finishing his round. And we waited some more. Drank some coffee, made polite small talk with each other. And then we waited some more.

Then there were murmurings he was annoyed, as he’d been spotted playing golf and people were taking pictures. As time went on Donald (Stewart, not Trump) and I exchanged glances in trepidation - was he going to cancel? There was a feeling in the room that he might.

Karen Roberts (left) with Donald Trump and journalist Nicola Barry (right). Picture by Donald Stewart.

But then the mood shifted, it was on - he was on his way in apparently. Moments later he strolled in - and if he had been about to throw a tantrum over being snapped during his swing then he showed no signs of it. He adopted a typical “Trumpian” stance, striding into the room as if he owned it, adopting a ‘here I am’ type pose, demanding the attention of all gathered there.

A lot of time has passed since that day - and I’ll be honest I can’t remember much about what I asked him, and no my article did not trouble the front page. But he was charming enough while being questioned and asked us both questions about ourselves.

At the end of the interview there was an unexpected turn of events when Trump, instead of swiftly exiting the room, said “let’s have a hug with the ladies” - that surreal moment was captured on camera by Donald.

I think that sums Trump up: expect the unexpected. Back in early 2016 the idea of a Trump presidency didn’t seem possible, and after his reaction to his 2020 defeat the prospect of him running again seemed remote.

Yet here he is again, poised to make an improbable comeback, and if past events are anything to go by he might just do it. But, of course, we’ll have to wait - he always keeps us waiting.