Donald Trump

Trump's 60 Minutes Interview Further Demystifies the Presidency

From the moment he started his improbable run for higher office, Donald Trump has stripped bare all pretensions that politics is about more than "winning."

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CBS News

Last night, CBS' 60 Minutes aired a long and at times contentious interview with Donald Trump. You can read a full transcript here and watch the segment below.

There's a lot to say about the interview. But even for Trump critics (count me in), a larger revelation overwhelms them, at least in terms of tone and comportment: Trump was appealing in the way he handled himself. He was not bullying or dismissive in his responses to veteran reporter Lesley Stahl, but he was firm, confident, and engaged. In short, he was shockingly presidential even as he was actively demythologizing the very office he occupies. (More on that in a moment.)

Yes, the interview is full of self-puffery and evasion, but he also often simply disagreed with Stahl, or the implications of her question, and told her so. He was talking not to the press but to an audience beyond the press. Oftentimes that meant refusing to engage in the sort of black-and-white morality journalists insist on under some circumstances. Here's a passage in which Stahl asks him what he'll do if it's confirmed that the Saudi regime did in fact kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which seems highly likely.

President Donald Trump: They deny it. They deny it every way you can imagine. In the not-too-distant future, I think we'll know an answer.

Lesley Stahl: What are you options? Let's say they did. What are your options? Would you consider imposing sanctions, as a bipartisan group of senators have proposed?

President Donald Trump: Well, it depends on what the sanction is. I'll give ya an example. They are ordering military equipment. Everybody in the world wanted that order. Russia wanted it, China wanted it, we wanted it. We got it.

Lesley Stahl: So would you cut that off—

President Donald Trump: I tell you what I don't wanna do. Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, all these com— I don't wanna hurt jobs. I don't wanna lose an order like that. There are other ways of— punishing, to use a word that's a pretty harsh word, but it's true.

Lesley Stahl: Tell everybody what's at stake here. You know—

President Donald Trump: Well, there's a lot at stake. There's a lot at stake. And maybe especially so because this man was a reporter. There's something— you'll be surprised to hear me say that. There's something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case. So we're gonna have to see. We're going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.

The answer that Stahl wants—and, one presumes, that most Trump critics want—is an unequivocal statement that the president will pull out of virtually all contact with the Saudis. But not only is Trump unwilling to say he'd do that, he stresses the complications of the relationship, both as it affects U.S. business interests and, implicitly, military alliances. There are many reasons that the United States should not be involved with Saudi Arabia, and especially not with supporting its war in Yemen (or its export of global terrorism). But Trump here is suggesting that few issues are cut and dried, and I suspect that this type of answer will rightly satisfy many viewers.

He provides similar responses to other issues in which the press generally presumes there is only a right or wrong answer. For instance, here he is talking about global warming:

Lesley Stahl: Do you still think that climate change is a hoax?

President Donald Trump: I think something's happening. Something's changing and it'll change back again. I don't think it's a hoax, I think there's probably a difference. But I don't know that it's manmade. I will say this. I don't wanna give trillions and trillions of dollars. I don't wanna lose millions and millions of jobs. I don't wanna be put at a disadvantage.

This answer will not satisfy many people, including journalists, who are calling for immediate change to forestall or minimize climate change. But Trump has got his reasons for not prioritizing climate change, and he's sticking to them. Later, he also says that "scientists also have a political agenda," which is not necessarily wrong.

What comes through again and again in the interview is that even when Trump is wrong, he is working through some sort of personal logic. Everything he does is presented as his estimation of the national interest. Oftentimes that interest is only pecuniary: Will this or that hurt the economy? But he notes that his willingness to sit down with dictators and killers in Russia, China, and North Korea doesn't make him any different than his presidential predecessors. In fact, it makes him exactly like them (though he would add the claim that he is a better negotiator and therefore is getting more out of them than Bush or Obama did).

Over at The Week, Joel Mathis frets:

Donald Trump is not the end of America's innocence. But he might be the end of this country's self-mythologizing. In the long run, that may be good: The truth sets you free. On Sunday night, though, we got a clearer view at what power looks like when unleashed from moral standards and aspirations: It looks like a shrug when a journalist is murdered.

What should the U.S. response be when an "ally" murders a critic? It's easy to say it should be something, but what exactly should it be? And to what standards should the United States hold itself? The murder of Khashoggi is terrifying for all sorts of reasons, but exactly what the right response is at the state level is far from clear (other that a full libertarian refusal to subsidize or aid dictatorial regimes, or at least their ruling classes; that sort of position is almost never taken seriously except in rare moments). Trump doesn't dodge the question as much as force the viewer to ponder what to do. In this sense, the self-mythologization that he's shredding is not the one that presents America as a uniquely moral country, but the one that posits the president as someone who is uniquely qualified to run our lives.

Trump is not the cause of debased discourse and political dysfunction. He is the result of it. The way out of this is not to get a better, smarter president. It's too whittle down the ability of the government (and other actors, such as corporations and social institutions, working in conjunction with the government) to dictate aspects of our lives. Consider this take:

"Trump is a refreshing reminder that the guy that's in the White House is another human being," says Louis Rossetto, the co-founder of Wired and author of the new book Change Is Good: A Story of the Heroic Era of the Internet. "The power of the state is way too exalted [and] bringing that power back to human scale is an important part of what needs to be done to correct the insanity that's been going on in the post-war era."

That's the biggest takeaway from last night's interview. And it's a realization that should inform not just whether Trump gets a second term but how we vote in the midterms too. Candidates and policies that shrink the size, scope, and spending of government should be favored by those of us who want to control more parts of our lives.

NEXT: After Police Detention for National Anthem Disrespect, Chinese Online Star Admits She 'Hurt Your Feelings'

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  1. Admit it, Gillespie. This is when Trump became your president.

    1. “Libertarian moment” Gillespie glumly murmured to himself with his head in his hand

    2. This is probably the first time Gillespie listened to trump outside of a 5 second soundbite on Twitter.

      1. To be fair, I can’t listen to him speak. I have to turn the channel or whatever if his face or his voice shows up. Same goes for Obama or Hillary or any number of “them” though. But, also true of The Big Bang Theory or Modern Family and the like. It’s like, “Ack! My eyes!” A lot of shit on TV is literally unwatchable.

        1. ^ Agreed. His speeches are grating, rambling nonsense

        2. It’s true. Trump is a rambler, constantly digressing. Obama was the opposite, having that smug tone that revealed how much of a calculated operator he was; how carefully chosen his words were disguised as calm consideration but designed for just as much political impact as Trump’s.

          Clinton is the worst of both combined with a double measure of self-righteous harridan.

          Actually, there is no other way but to listen to these types in five-second bites. That’s all the have.

          1. Obama’s tone was calculating, but his words were substance-less and his speeches were on the same level as an eighth grade book report. If it wasn’t for a groveling press interpreting each word as if doing a scriptural analysis and then proclaiming it all Churchillian, he’d be remembered as a garrulous windbag.
            Of course it’s not his fault. He didn’t write any of the speeches. Like today’s political It Girl, Justin Trudeau, he just had to know how to read a teleprompter.

    3. I swear, it seems there are a few commenters who just wait for Reason to post articles only so they can be first of the bunch to make wisecracks at the author.

      I wish the Reason web designers would add in a way for readers to rate the comments so the comments with more substance could float to the top. Otherwise all we see are comments like this that teach us nothing new regarding to topics discussed in the articles.

      1. There is no colder place for a libertarian than the comments sections of Reason articles.

      2. Nothing like Reason being swarmed by lefty trolls trying to silence the few Libertarians that still visit Reason’s comments sections.

        Ars technica created their echo chamber that way. Along with some of the commenters having a direct snitch line to Ars staff for dissent banning.

      3. I swear, it seems there are a few commenters who disagree with the bien pensant zeitgeist that I favor.
        I wish the Reason web designers would add in a way for me to delete the comments I disagree with so the comments I write could float to the top.

        Translated

        1. Spin away, Fancylad

  2. ” Candidates and policies that shrink the size, scope, and spending of government should be favored by those of us who want to control more parts of our lives.”

    ^This – exactly.

  3. Re: Stahl’s stupid harping on “love” for Kim:

    I’m surprised Trump didn’t spell it out for her: “when you go to the negotiating table with an adversary, you don’t start off by listing off all the atrocities they committed, you start out with a fanfare of mutual admiration, DUH.”

    1. +1

    2. Yeah, he has conferences with Kim or Putin, and what does the press demand? That he lunge across the room and try to strangle them?

      If he did it, they’d complain that he wasn’t being diplomatic.

    3. Exactly.

      People who take him literal are either not too bright or want to believe he’s evil.

      But he’s doing precisely what you should be doing with such a character: Flatter him. Not too much though.

  4. Did anyone see that the president has a gaudy picture of himself sitting at a table with Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, George W. Bush, and Richard Nixon all laughing it up?

    It’s so tacky and silly that it really suits the man’s character. My one quibble is that Calvin Coolidge is in the picture but far off in the distance. You put Richard Nixon in a place of prominence over Silent Cal? What a monster

    1. Have you ever been in the White House?

      Its not the Louvre by a long shot.

      1. Hell, did you see the official portraits of the Obamas? Bad taste is hardly new indeed.

        1. These? Hideous.

          Obama official portraits

          Most presidential portraits are neutral to bad.

          Presidential portraits

          1. Wow, those are bad. And weird. Somehow I haven’t seen them before.
            Isn’t it just supposed to be a realistic likeness to hang on the wall next to the others? What were they thinking of (the artists and subjects)?

            1. For most, it was just typical portraiture. Portrait painting isn’t considered a great art. It was a business, not artistry. Word of mouth elevated some – “he made a good likeness”.

            2. I would say it started as an official image of the Presidents since they didnt have pictures back then.

              Obama used it like he used the USA…as a joke.

          2. The Taft oil and JFK pencil are probably the best ones in there.

            1. JFK looking down just seems like he is posturing after Oswald’s bullet.

              Why people worship politicians is beyond me.

    2. Trump could have the White house covered in gold foil, and it still wouldn’t be half as tacky as Obama’s official portrait. And that’s not even getting into Michelle’s; I painted better in high school art class, and I was deliberately trying for “comic book”.

      1. But Trump’s is tacky in such a perfect way for Trump. Obama’s are just confusing and poorly executed.

        1. Not so confusing once you look into the artist he hired. A political statement, and a very nasty one.

          1. Andy Thomas. A self described libertarian.

            He also paints a woman walking toward the table to say that someday a woman will part of the gang.

            1. I think Brett was referring to Obama’s artist.

    3. Any chance you got this picture mixed up with dogs playing poker?

      1. http://www.businessinsider.com/trump-…..se-2018-10

        You look at the picture and tell me if there is any material difference between this and dogs playing poker.

        Also, “whataboutism” with paintings is really….weird. No one responds to someone saying “Jackson Pollack’s art work is lazy and terrible” with “Whatabout Andy Warhol?”

        Calvin Coolidge is off in the distance! That’s criminal.

        1. Yikes. Life imitates “art” once again.

        2. Yikes. Life imitates “art” once again.

        3. Um, they’re not dogs?

          Also, doesn’t look like it was painted on real black velvet. Disappointing, that.

      2. Ha, that’s exactly what I thought of on reading Just’s description of it.

  5. Would anyone give a shit about Khashshoggi if he hadn’t worked for the CIA Washington Post?

    1. Who’s Khashshoggi?

      1. A rejected character from an H.P. Lovecraft novel.

    2. Well, America doesn’t seem to give much of a shit that an entire gender is considered essentially property in Saudi Arabia so it’s tough to really care about a journalists murder. I’m not sure why a journalists murder is so much worse than all those other murders they’ve committed, such as 9/11 for example.

      1. Well, you know, there’s so much evil going on in the world, and the human capacity to care is so finite, that you have to pick your evils to care about. Better to pick the ones you can do something about without crashing the global economy and causing even more widespread suffering.

        Now, when the Saudis, as they must eventually, lose that capacity to crash the economy by cutting off the oil, cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war. A lot of grudges will get settled on that day.

  6. Me, I’d get rid of all foreign relations. No embassies, no ambassadors, no treaties. Foreign aid? Ha ha no. Let people donate what they want to whom they want. Make foreign countries play the PR game with *people* not politicians.

  7. Good article, Nick.
    A

    One small, but important, quibble keeps it from being an A+:
    It should read alleged murder of Khashoggi.
    We don’t have a body, we don’t know he’s dead, and we damn sure don’t know who or what is responsible for his apparent disappearance. All we know is that there is video of him entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, while we haven’t seen video of him leaving it. Everything else is, at this point, unsubstantiated allegation.

    Still, it’s nice to read a sane and dare I say libertarian perspective on Reason for once.

    1. Why do you people defend every shitstain autocracy on earth? Is it just because Trump does it?

  8. Lesley Stahl: Do you still think that climate change is a hoax?

    Does Leslie Stahl still suck dick for crack rocks?

    What a ridiculous framing of the question. Is there anyone who says that climate doesn’t change?

    1. What a ridiculous framing of the question. Is there anyone who says that climate doesn’t change?

      Yes. Donald Trump. I’m glad to see he’s come around. But previously he has been clear in stating that the frequent bouts of cold weather experienced by certain parts of the country demonstrate that climate change is a “hoax”.

      1. Your link is broken.

        1. Don’t you mean it was SugarFree’d….?

          1. Gilmore’d?

        2. Sorry, I thought this was common knowledge. Here’s one link (specifically, his 2nd and 3rd tweet). But there are numerous interviews with him and speeches. His view on this seemed to fade by the time he ran for president, and it’s obviously completely gone now. But when Juice asked who believes the climate doesn’t change, the answer is lots of people.

          1. Climate change is a hoax, since it’s framed as being humanities fault which there is no real evidence of. The Chinese make a ton of money off climate change scares, and while it’s a typical hyperbolic reaction from Trump it’s pretty easy to see why he might say something like that.

            1. Yeah. Lots of people (such as those here at Reason) are good at demonstrating this. But Trump, until recently at least, was really bad at it. By stupidly posting “See it’s cold out? Global warming is a hoax!” he legitimizes anecdotal nonsense. So his opponents OF COURSE tackle the argument that the earth isn’t warming, and then call it “settled science” — which would be an obvious straw man if it wasn’t for the fact that he made that argument in the first place.

              Point being — I think his (possibly) hyperbolic tweets are far less benign than you paint them to be. Best case, he’s ignorant and doesn’t think the climate is changing. Worst case, he is intentionally being flippant and playing into the democrats hands.

            2. Your link is broken.

              Go on, link to the credible scientific resource that says climate change is a hoax.

              1. Tony demanding links…. Now that’s funny!

              2. There’s no credible scientific resource that says it’s humanities fault either, genius. That’s sort of the point.

      2. But the occasional bouts of hot weather in the summer is frequently held up as “proof” of warming.

        Non-falsifiable theories aren’t science.

        1. Right. So both sides are full of shit when they make such arguments.

    2. She was trying to corner him.

      The issue isn’t that the climate is changing. We can all see these things. Plus we all understand the cycles of climate throughout earth’s existence. The question is to what extent it’s ‘man-made’ and what policies are needed, if any, to reduce it.

      Skeptics, rightly, also take issue with all the hyper ‘we’ve got X years or else we’re gonna die’ fear mongering.

      And all the data manipulation.

      And the anti-human rhetoric.

      And so on.

    3. What a ridiculous framing of the question.

      It was not ridiculous among informed, educated people who remember that Trump expressly declared climate change to be a Chinese hoax.

      I can see how half-educated, ignorant, science-disdaining yahoos might find it to be a knee-slapper, though.

  9. There’s something refreshing about a good old-fashioned toadstool-polishing session from reason.

    Remember, low expectations are soft bigotry.

    1. * “turd polishing”

    2. We’re all bigots toward you, Tony

  10. I don’t give a shit about the article, all I want to know is what the fuck’s with the autoplay video? That’s an assault right there if you ain’t got a trigger warning on that shit.

  11. >>What should the U.S. response be when an “ally” murders a critic?

    shock and awe.

  12. Anyone who questions whether the Saudis murdered that journalist has blinders on. They brought in 15 thugs and a bone saw. Allies who want to murder journalists will be given a free hand as long as they are buying arms. Trump doesn’t care about journalists. They tend to criticize him. He admires strong men who suppress critics. He’d like to make protests in front of the white house illegal. No other president in recent history save Nixon has shown such a low tolerance for criticism. (Remember the “libel law” remark). He can’t even stand SNL parodies.

    1. Umm, shall we go over Obama’s treatment of critics? Or firings of inspectors who are on the case of friends?

      1. Umm, why is a comparison to Obama relevant to anything here? Is the only standard that matters now better/worse than Obama? Trump can be bad (or good) all on his own.

        1. OK, I see what you are referring to (“no other president…”). Still, the case can be made that Trump is worse than Obama or Bush in that particular narrow way. The latter two were bad on free speech/press in many ways. But Trump seems to take it personally and lash out in ways they didn’t.

          In any case, they are all bad and I don’t think a perfect ordering of the badness of recent presidents is really necessary when they all suck.

          1. Still, the case can be made that Trump is worse than Obama or Bush in that particular narrow way. The latter two were bad on free speech/press in many ways. But Trump seems to take it personally and lash out in ways they didn’t.

            He doesn’t subpoena their records or spy on them. I’m curious how he is worse than Obama on this. Obama didn’t have too much negative press as is. Trump has little but negative press — and he’s been much better on press freedom than Obama, IMO.

            1. He’s worse in how he talks about it in public. Obama was terrible in how he actually acted. I’m not saying anything about who is worse (though I’d have to say Obama if pressed).

              1. Trump does not like the media lying, especially about him or his family. Surprise surprise surprise.

          2. But Trump seems to take it personally and lash out in ways they didn’t.

            How? By saying mean things about them? Are Presidents not allowed to do that Zeb? Last I looked journalists were not some kind of sacred caste that were above criticism from the people they cover.

            1. How? By saying mean things about them?

              Yes.

              Are Presidents not allowed to do that Zeb? Last I looked journalists were not some kind of sacred caste that were above criticism from the people they cover.

              The president, or anyone else, is allowed to say whatever they want about whomever they want. I’m not saying what should happen. Just making an observation about what does happen, as it appears to me.

      2. Wasn’t Obama hailed and applauded for opening relationships with Cuba? How was Cuba’s treatment of Political opponents and journalists again?

        1. I would welcome a comparison of America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and America’s relationship with Cuba, much as I doubt Cuba’s government would fare worse in a comparison of the governments of Saudi Arabia and Cuba.

    2. Give me a break.

    3. Shall we talk about Bush and ‘free speech zones’?

    4. Lester:
      You’re bitching about Trump’s affinity for authoritarians, but taking Erdogan’s word about a “bone saw” as gospel?
      Inconsistency is a bitch

  13. Gillespie finally admits that Trump deserved to beat Hillary.

    1. And she keeps coming back to get beat again. It’s like she enjoys it, or something.

  14. I didn’t know “wanna” had become a preferred transcription term. Maybe just for Republican speakers.

    1. Well, if he said wanna, you transcribe it as “wanna.” As in the following:

      I wanna tell ya to go fuck yourself.

  15. Lesley Stahl looks like she’s about to have a stroke. It was a joy to behold!

  16. Hey, Can you put the stupid autoplaying video behind the fold please? I don’t need the video playing halfway down the page when I am reading the latest blogs.

    1. Tell us how you really feel, Warren….!!!!

      1. I feel like putting whoever posted this video’s head in a vice and giving it an eighth turn ever other hour until I squeeze both their fucking eyeballs out of their thick fucking skull.

  17. Dammit Reason! Stop it! Stop it! Don’t stoop to Facebook levels of stoopidity!

    Aaargh!

  18. This is the moment when Nick fell in love with Trump. Trump is totally Nick’s boy now. Nick is in awe of the genius of Trumpian logic.

    Trumpian logic should be formalized so that it can be taught in an elementary logic course. Textbooks based on Aristotle, Parmenides, G?del, Nietzsche, and Quine should all be burned and replaced with Trump branded logic.

    It is the only chance for humanity to produce another genius.

  19. What should the U.S. response be when an “ally” murders a critic?

    The answer should not be influenced, let alone controlled, by the issues of whether that ostensible ally

    (1) purchases large volumes of weapons from the United States (which volume may be a small fraction of the amount some claim),

    (2) was or is a good customer of the president’s personal business (even buying ‘$40, $50 million apartments’ should not influence United States foreign policy, especially where cruel and immoral conduct is involved), or

    (3) has a personal and financial relationship with a relative of and advisor to the president.

    One point that should be relevant to (although not controlling with respect to) the analysis is the apparent victim’s relationship with the United States. If the victim is a Virginia resident, for example, that point raises the stakes for America.

  20. Probably the most realistic, and unbiased thing Ed has written about any President in years.
    The “Leslie Stahl’s” of the media world just can’t forgive Trump for not kowtowing to them, as if they know more about everything than anyone else – when the opposite is more like the truth. Over-credentialed, and Under-informed.

  21. Autoplay is an act of violence. Autoplay when you have an extremely long scroll in order to find it and shut it off is a war crime.

  22. The press spent 8 years inflating Obama’s every word, deed, or action to some Olympian proportions, so it figures whomever followed, even Benito Clinton, was bound to lower expectations for the office.

    You gotta say this for Trump, he really seems to be bending the Presidential curve back towards what was intended. Maybe that’ll be his crowning achievement, intended or not.

  23. Great article. Worthy of the libertarian view point. More of this please.

  24. Oh for the days of unparalleled greatness that took place under the regimes of both Bushes, both Clintons AND Obama and when the Trump dynasty only profited from all those bipartisan Amerikkkan War Crimes and Crimes Against Nature that will go on being committed until virtually the end of time itself. Because the half-life of depleted uranium is 4,500,000,000 YEARS! So get a look today at what your descendants will look like in a few generations given the fact that the Islamic State has already threatened to lace maternity wards with DU. Karmic justice ya know? I mean..ya do know don’t you that because trillions of your hard earned tax dollars were spent to guarantee all forms of life yet to be conceived will endure genetic deformities that make the experiments of the Gestapo doctors look like a girl scout tea party. And because the well thought out abominations that “sane” people feel justified in doing…

    Well do take a look and enjoy what your own offspring went without so YOU could pay for this xtian love of one’s enemies to take place. GOOGLE: depleted uranium baby images

    1. I can see where 3 arms would be awkward, but 4 arms would be AWESOME!

  25. Let the Saudis buy inferior weaponry from some non-American supplier, while encouraging the media to become more openly critical of them.

    Why is this question hard?

  26. This video clip started without me clicking “start” or anything else–I’m reading another part of the blog and listening to music, and suddenly there’s noise coming from my computer. And it started with an obnoxious ad. Please do not ever do this again, editors and web-masters. I like the blog, but I won’t tolerate noisy self-starting ads or vids. Post vids which wait for me to start them, please.

  27. Yeah, fuck autoplay.

  28. Yeah, fuck autoplay.

  29. Yeah, fuck autoplay.

  30. Yeah, fuck autoplay.

  31. Yeah, fuck autoplay.

  32. Yeah, fuck autoplay.

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  36. You know, the more I hear this guy talk, the more I like him. While his twitter feed and rallies are barbastic drivel, when you hear him think through his words and speak, he makes a hell of a lot of sense, and it scares me to death that a president doesn’t even know what his own government does! He may not be libertarian, hell, he may not even warrant a political label, but you can see more and more how and why he is successful!

  37. Pretty fair and balanced article, compared with most “Reason” left-leaning authors.

  38. Yeah, my one quibble is that Calvin Coolidge is in the picture but far off in the distance. You put Richard Nixon in a place of prominence over Silent Cal?

  39. Wouldn’t the libertarian position be to let Boeing sell to whatever autocracy wasn’t a threat to us? Saudi Arabia kills someone in Turkey and our solution is to punish Seattle?

    Isn’t the libertarian position to global warming to carefully consider any concrete plan based upon ROI? What does it matter whether we caused global warming? All I see are doomsday scenarios that serve largely to convince me that we shouldn’t bother doing anything about it. Just wait for the seas to rise and people will slowly migrate inland. Perhaps buy farmland in the Sahara.

  40. Their double-stranded, circular genomes are 80-180 kbp in size depending on the virus species and the nonoverlapping open reading frames (ORFs) are present in about equal proportions on both DNA strands.https://www.creative-biogene.com/

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