Donald Trump joined me to open today’s program:
HH: I begin today’s program with Donald Trump, about whom everyone in America is talking. Donald Trump, welcome back, I say I’d start every show of mine with you, you’re such a ratings draw. So just be available more, would you?
DT: Oh, I’d love to, Hugh. How are you doing?
HH: I’m great. Now I want to get to the Jorge Ramos thing in a moment. I want to ask you first, though, because of a story this afternoon in the Huffington Post, you’ve said, you know, you wouldn’t run third party if the GOP treated you fairly. Are they treating you fairly so far?
DT: Well, I didn’t see any story in the Huffington Post. So I don’t know what story that is. What story is that?
HH: It quotes Michael Cohen saying that asked specifically if Trump would be making a formal announcement that he would pledge not to run third party, Cohen replied only Mr. Trump can sign that oath, and when he does, you can rest assured he will live by it. And Mr. Cohen indicated you had, you’d pretty much been happy with the way the GOP had been treating you.
DT: They have been treating me fairly, I think very fairly. And you know, maybe it’s, you see the kind of polls that are coming out. They’ve been so terrific and so high and so wonderful. The one that just came out in New Hampshire, a Public Policy has been, I guess it’s 35%, and way in the lead. And all of them, and so I’m very honored by that, and I will say that the RNC and the Republican Party, I think I’ve been treated very fairly over the last period of time, yes.
HH: So are you ruling out a third party run?
DT: Well, it’s not something I’d want to do, and at some point, I’ll you know, actually totally commit. You know, I didn’t think it was appropriate to commit during the debate, because it was, you know, just, I was a little surprised by the fact that they even asked me at that debate, but that was okay. But at some point, look, I want to run. I’m leading in the polls by a lot. I want to run as a Republican. I want to get the nomination, and then I want to beat the Democrats, and I think that’s our best chance for a victory. I think we will win. And we have to energize, because you know, last time, sadly, Hugh, a lot of people did not get out and vote. And I still, to this day, don’t understand it. But a lot of the Republicans and a lot of conservatives just never got up to vote. They just weren’t energized, and I think this time, they’re going to be plenty energized.
HH: But I’ve told you before, I’ll just say it again. I think your numbers go up the day you take that pledge.
DT: Well, I’ve been told that by a lot of people. Steve Wynn is a good friend of mine, and he’s a great guy from Las Vegas. You know, he’s done a fantastic job.
HH: Of course.
DT: And he says the same thing. He says when you go and you actually do that, and make that firm, firm commitment, your numbers are going to bounce, and maybe bounce quite a bit. So you’re saying that also. So now I have two very smart people that tell me that.
HH: Well, okay, you can make that announcement anytime in this conversation you’d like.
HH: I want to turn to Jorge Ramos.
HH: I loved that interview yesterday when you called yourself a builder. I immediately thought you’re also a television pro with many seasons under your belt. The moment that Ramos stood up and started to orate, did the light go on in your mind that this was a television moment?
DT: Not really. I mean, you have to be careful. I had a lot of cameras. You know, there was a tremendous crowd. We had 4,000 people there, and you saw the room. It was packed and energized. And likewise, before I went out, I mean, literally, just before I went on stage, I did this press avail, as they call it, or the press conference. And there were tremendous numbers of reporters there. It was packed. It was, you know, a room that was just absolutely packed with moving television cameras and everybody else. And I’m getting ready to start the press conference, and I actually picked on one person, and I said listen, go ahead, and it was actually Fox. It was Carl Cameron. And then I said another one, and all of a sudden, a man stood up and started like screaming at me. And I said who is that, and he just started, and he wasn’t saying can I speak. He was just telling me things. He wasn’t like, you know, asking questions. He was just telling me things. And it was a very loud, shrill voice, and I said what’s going on over here. And ultimately, I figured he was a Univision person, and I figured that was Jorge, and you know, I just didn’t think it was appropriate the way he behaved. He was screaming, and I thought it was actually very unfair not so much to me, which I guess you could say it was, but it was certainly very unfair to all the other reporters that were waiting with their hands up to take questions. And I would have gotten to him, 100%. I have no problem with doing that.
HH: Yeah, what he did was, it was not professional. I’ve been doing this for 25 years. It wasn’t professional. But it was successful for him, and it was also, though, very successful for you because of the way you handled him. And I was actually reminded, do you remember when the Iraqi threw the shoe at George W. Bush?
HH: And he didn’t blink, and he just carried on?
HH: That’s what it reminded me of. And you see why?
DT: Well, that may have been his best moment, if you want to know the truth, which is pretty sad to say. But the truth is I didn’t think in terms of television. I just said you know, who’s this guy that’s screaming? I don’t think, I think when you’re doing a lot of live television, you don’t necessarily think that you’re on live television, but that was live all over the place. And I just thought it was inappropriate. The first thing I thought, it was really unfair, because they had so many people with good, you know, sitting with hands up, and wanting to ask questions. And this man was standing up and really shouting quite loud. Now you didn’t hear the extent of it, because you didn’t have a microphone. Had he had a microphone on, and yet you still heard him, because he was shouting so loud.
DT: But if he had a microphone, he would have blasted everybody out of the room. So it worked out fine, and it probably was good for him. And actually, at the end, by the time we finished, I mean, I didn’t think he was such a bad guy. I’m glad I invited him back, because I think maybe I would have been criticized if I didn’t invite him back with some people, you know, the concept of getting him out, which people didn’t mind, but I think they wanted him back. So it was an interesting evening. Had I…
HH: Oh, you know what the most interesting part of that presser was, Donald Trump, when you brought up Normal Vincent Peale.
DT: Oh, yes.
HH: Now I know about Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. Many people might not. How often did you hear him preach? Do you have a favorite book of the Bible or a favorite verse? And do you have a favorite hymn? If you were a churchgoer at the Marble Collegiate Church, that’s a big deal.
DT: Yeah. Well, I was, and I just, I just Norman Vincent Peale. You know, he would talk, and we go to church, and you go to church, and as good as we are, sometimes, you know, you could, you can leave church and you’re not so upset. I used to be, I used to love his sermons. I used to love his, he would speak, and he’d bring things from the Bible, Hugh, he would bring them into modern day territory. I remember he was talking about Alfred Sloan, who had tremendous difficulties as a young man. He founded General Motors. And he would talk about Alfred Sloan, who was a friend of his, a great friend of his. He had great friendships with very substantial people. And he’s talk about him, and Alfred Sloan had an alcohol problem, and he had lots of difficulties. And he got rid of these difficulties, and he’d bring it into sort of a modern day feeling, meaning, you know, bring it updated. And he would give, he was one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen. And you would literally leave church, and you would say I could listen to another three sermons. I was there when he made his last sermon, and it was very sad, because he became, you know, he was very old, and he was almost unable to finish the sermon. He was clutching, you know, the podium. And he was reading, and he was clutching, and he said, I can’t go on any further. I was there in that room. You know, the amazing thing about Norman Vincent Peale, when some churches were empty, his church always had overfill areas. Maybe that’s why I’m always glad that I always have overfill areas, right?
HH: Did he leave you…
DT: But he would always have, they had rooms throughout the church, Marble Collegiate Church, where they’d have like cameras, they’d have closed circuit televisions. And if you didn’t get there early, you wouldn’t be able to sit in a fairly large church. You’d have to sit on one of the rooms, one of the conference rooms where they had the closed circuit. But he was a fantastic speaker, a wonderful speaker.
HH: And given that, that you had this great preacher all those years, and your mom was a Scots émigré, I learned. Did you get your reformed roots from her?
DT: I would say maybe. I mean, she was religious, and my father was religious. I was actually Presbyterian, which is interesting. I actually, my first church was First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, which is in Queens, because I didn’t join Marble Collegiate until much later. And that wasn’t Presbyterian, but it was just a church that I liked, and I liked him.
HH: It was reformed, yeah.
DT: But I was actually Presbyterian, and then I came into Manhattan, and I joined Marble Collegiate.
HH: So what was your mother like?
DT: Well, she was from Scotland, and she came over at 19, met my father. They were married for, I guess, about 65 years. They had a great marriage. She was a terrific woman. She was a very beautiful woman, they tell me, as a young man. They said she was like a real beauty, of great beauty, and my father was a builder in Brooklyn, in Queens, And he was build houses, and they met, and she never went back to Scotland. Now she would go back to Scotland every year. She loved Scotland. But she never officially went back, because she married my father, and they had five children.
HH: But she was the religious one.
DT: And it was a terrific marriage, actually.
HH: What I’m trying to get at, if she’s the religious one, do you think today the Gospels have any role in shaping public policy? You said you’re doing very well with the Evangelicals.
DT: Well, the Evangelicals, they’re sort of interesting. I mean, I am a religious person, I would say not formally like some might be, you know, like some would talk about it. But I am, you know, somebody that believes, and I am, it’s very interesting, because I noticed that the polls came out. The one in New Hampshire, Public Policy Polling, where it said 35%, and it sort of said it leads across with Tea Party, with Evangelicals, with moderates, with just about everything. They even said with Democrats, I mean, just lead straight across the board. And I think a lot of people were surprised. They thought it would be very conservative, and which I lead big in the very conservative. But I lead straight across. And one of the things that made me very happy was that I actually lead, and you’ve seen this even in Iowa where I lead with Evangelicals. And I was so happy to see that, because they think that’s the real me, but I don’t think people see that as me.
HH: Do you think they expect you to, but do you think the Gospels have some way of informing your public policy choices? Or is that just a different category?
DT: I don’t know. I think that maybe so, you know, down deep, maybe they do. I think what’s happening in the country where it just seems that you know, the word Christmas is being taken out. I see these stores like Macy’s and so many others. They’re afraid to use the word Christmas now. Maybe they can’t use it, legally. What’s going on is outrageous, and I would try and, not only try, I will do things about it. You’re going to have to go through court systems. That’s the problem. I mean, you have to go through actually courts now to use names that you should be able to use automatically. But you know, the whole thing is changing, Hugh, so much toward religion and what you can say and what you can’t say, and what you can put up in a beautiful public area, where for years you’d have the manger, and you’d have, you know, Mary and Jesus, and now you’re not allowed to do it.
HH: Well, now in Denver.
DT: And I think it’s terrible. I think it’s terrible.
HH: I’m on the campus of a Colorado Christian college today. In Denver, where we’re close to, their city councils have said Chick-Fil-A, maybe they can’t build at the Denver International Airport because their founders are Evangelical and have traditional marriage views. It’s blatantly unconstitutional.
DT: Wow. Wow.
HH: Have you heard that story, yet?
DT: I haven’t heard it, but it doesn’t surprise me. It’s horrible. What’s going on is horrible. I mean, you can’t do, you can’t do anything having to do with really deep-seated, incredible beliefs that really, to a large extent, made our country great. You know, these, the beliefs in the Bible had a lot to do with our country. And I mean, a week doesn’t go by where there’s not some negative ruling on something having to do with Christianity. It’s getting, I think it’s outrageous, and I’ll tell you what.
HH: All right, let me get a couple of…
DT: I’ll be fighting on the other side much stronger than anybody else that you have up there fighting, because I think it’s really outrageous.
HH: Let me talk about two big issues, tough ones. I always ask you tough but fair questions. China has gotten very erratic. Their markets are strange behavior. Do you think that South Korea and Japan ought to consider going nuclear to match their erratic neighbor?
DT: Well, they have a very erratic neighbor, and you know, the whole concept of us protecting Japan was so they didn’t arm again, because we had a little problem with them, as you remember. And that wasn’t a good situation. But you know, there’s got to be a point where we cannot protect everybody. You know, we’re protecting everybody. I talked about it last night in my speech from Iowa. It was such an amazing group of people. And you know, we’re protecting Germany, we’re protecting Japan. We’re protecting South Korea. Hugh, I just bought 4,000 television sets on a big project I built, and 4,000, and they all come, every bidder is from South Korea. They’re making a fortune, and yet we have 28,000 soldiers at the border. And…
HH: Well, should they go, should they build their own nuclear weapons in South Korea?
DT: Well, I don’t know. You know, it’s a question. The problem is you’re going to have, all of a sudden, you’re going to have everybody having nuclear weapons, and that’s a scary prospect, also. But in the meantime, you have North Korea, that obviously has them.
DT: Now I don’t know if they know how to use them, yet.
DT: Because every time you see a rocket go up, it comes crashing to the ground. But you know, that’s the easy part. I mean, in theory, that’s the easy part. So it’s a pretty frightening prospect. I do say this. At some point, we can’t be the policemen of the world. We have to rebuild our own country. We have to rebuild our bridges and our highways and our roads and schools and our airports. And how much longer can we be doing this? You know…
HH: I’m trying to, though. Scott…
DT: If you noticed with South Korea, North Korea started rearing its head a couple of days ago, and we all of a sudden, we’re engaged and we’re getting ready. We don’t get anything for this, Hugh. You know, at what point, at what point, and they’re wealthy. The reason I tell about the 4,000 televisions, they make a fortune in trade against us. You understand that.
HH: Well, that’s, you know, earlier this week, Scott Walker said the President should cancel the state visit from President Xi. And do you agree with that suggestion, by the way?
DT: No, I don’t think you should cancel it. I think you should negotiate better deals. Our trade pacts with China are horrible, and you know, if you want to do, I have a friend who’s a big trader and a big manufacturer. He can’t get his goods into China. And when he does get them in, they charge him a big tax. Well, people don’t know those stories. You know, if you sell trucks in China, they charge you taxes to get them in. People don’t understand it’s a one-way street. We…
HH: Okay, you wouldn’t cancel it. Last question, because you know, you’re…
DT: I would not. Yeah, I would not, but I’d negotiate it and I’d say listen, it’s over.
HH: Will you negotiate on my behalf with Hope, because I need a negotiator with Hope, because she keeps me to 15 minutes with you, and you know, I could use like two hours.
DT: Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it.
HH: All right.
DT: You can have as long as you…
HH: Here’s my tough question. In tough times, republics turn to tough men. It’s happened throughout history – Caesar, Napoleon, the last century had a lot of republics fail, and I don’t have to invoke Godwin’s Law and go that far, but are you tickling that temptation in democracies that they go for tough guys in tough times, and it’s called the authoritarian temptation? Is that’s what’s playing for Trump?
DT: Well, I think we’ve had very weak people. I think we have very weak people even running. I look at some of the people that are running, and I think they’re not strong people. And they’re good people. I’m not saying they’re not good people, but I think it is time to have tough, smart people. If you look at China, if you look at some of these countries that are just eating our lunch, they have tough, smart people. It’s time that we have tough, smart people, because we’re not going to be able to go much longer the way we’re going right now. We owe $18 trillion. And by the way, that $18 trillion’s going to be about $21 trillion very quickly. You know, it builds, it’s going to build, right now, from this point, very, very rapidly. We’re not doing well. That, I can tell you. So…
HH: Well then, when people say Trump will an authoritarian, once he gets power, he won’t give it back, what’s the response going to be?
DT: Well, no, I just want to make the country great again. I’m not looking to do this. I have a wonderful life. People say why are you even doing it.
HH: Yes, you do.
DT: I love my life. I love what I’ve done. I’ve built a great company. But I want to make this country great again. I owe a lot to this country, and I want to make it great again. And we can do it. And honestly, it cannot continue to go like this, otherwise, there’ll be a point at which you can’t bring it back, Hugh.
HH: But you’ll play by the rules if you win?
DT: 100%. 100%. I always play by the rules.
HH: The Constitution, I mean, by the Constitution, you wouldn’t…
DT: No, Obama doesn’t play. He goes out…
DT: …and dodged, he signs his executive orders all over the place, because he doesn’t want to meet with people and try and convince them to do what the right thing to do is. No, he’s not playing by the rules. No, I do play by the rules. I will play by the rules, too.
HH: Donald Trump, it is always a pleasure. Come back. You tell Hope, you know, I’m not perfect, but I’m the best when it comes to this stuff.
DT: You did a good job. I didn’t even know you had the 15. You could have had three 15’s if you wanted, Hugh.
HH: Oh, my gosh, I’m a terrible negotiator for myself. I’ll keep going if you want, but I promised Hope, so I’m letting you go.
DT: Hugh, you’ll do better the next time then, and thanks a lot, Hugh. I appreciate it.
HH: Come back early and often.
DT: Very good. Thank you very much. Bye.
End of interview.