Photo of Donald Trump

Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News

July 23, 2019

TODD: Mr. President, welcome back to Meet the Press.


TODD: Let me start right in, what happened last night?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you had a situation that was very bad because the night before, they shot down an unmanned drone. And the unmanned is a very big factor. The fact that there was not a person on it, a U.S. person on it, or anybody. And that had an impact on me. I said, "Well, you know, we got a little problem." And I think they did that on purpose because they understand that they will be hit very hard if that were a plane with a person in it. And I think they knew that there was nobody there. So we had a very, you know, modest but pretty, pretty heavy attack schedule.

TODD: And this is a pre-plan that you had, something that if they did something, you had something --

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, we had it --

TODD: -- these were sort of ready-made plans --

THE PRESIDENT: Sure, we have many of them --

TODD: -- to use if necessary, right?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I have so many targets you wouldn't believe.

TODD: Right.

THE PRESIDENT: We have targets all over.

TODD: So did you green light something? Or had you said --

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing's --

TODD: "If we do it, I'll do this." What was, what was the order you gave?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing is green lighted until the very end because --


THE PRESIDENT: -- things change, right?

TODD: So you never gave a final order?

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, no. But we had something ready to go, subject to my approval. And they came in. And they came in about a half an hour before, they said, "So we're about ready to go." I said, "I want a better definition --"

TODD: Planes in the air? Were planes in the air?


No, no. "We're about ready to go." No, but they would have been pretty soon. And things would have happened to a point where you wouldn't turn back or couldn't turn back. So they came and they said, "Sir, we're ready to go. We'd like a decision." I said, "I want to know something before you go. How many people will be killed, in this case Iranians?" I said, "How many people are going to be killed?" "Sir, I'd like get back to you on that," great people these generals. They said, came back, said, "Sir, approximately 150." And I thought about it for a second and I said, "You know what? They shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it. And here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead." And I didn't like it. I didn't think it was, I didn't think it was proportionate. Now that doesn't mean --

TODD: So what should the response be right now?


I think the response should be -- Well, first of all, as you know, we've done very massive sanctions. We're increasing the sanctions now. But the response is always going to be very strong. I built up a lot of capital. I've had a lot of people that aren't Trump fans saying, "I can't believe." You know, a lot of them said, "We're going to be in World War III the first week." Didn't work out that way. We're doing great in North Korea. We're doing great in a lot of different places. We knocked out the caliphate in Syria. We knocked out 100%. Remember I was going to leave it?

TODD: It's not 100%. Not everybody says it's 100%, even --

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no, the caliphate.


THE PRESIDENT: No, the caliphate, which is the land.

TODD: The land.

THE PRESIDENT: The area --

TODD: Fair enough.

THE PRESIDENT: -- is 100%. You never knock these people out.

TODD: No, you won't.

THE PRESIDENT: These people are stone cold crazy. And they walk into a store and they'll be wired up for bombs and they'll blow -- it's a horrible thing. So I never say that. I don't want to do what other presidents have done or other people have done saying, "We won," because you don't win so conclusively. I would love to have the day where we can win. You know, I remember when I was young I'd go on airplane and I'd walk up, I'd buy a ticket, I'd go on a plane. Nobody thought about bombs and nobody thought about security. You'd walk in, you'd give the ticket to the person at the gate and you'd walk into a plane. Today it's like, a big deal. So what happened is I said, "I'm not going to do it. I'll save it. If they do something else, it'll be double."

TODD: You think they were trying to provoke you?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't think so. And I think it was very important that they, to them, don't forget, their economy --

TODD: They don't -- they, they --you don't think they intended to get you to respond militarily?


No, their economy is shattered. Shattered.

TODD: So what's the message you think they're sending?

THE PRESIDENT: Their inflation is through the roof. They've never had, the highest in the world right now. Worse than any place. They're, they're living not well.

TODD: So put yourself in their shoes, what do you think the message they're trying to send you with this, with this drone?

THE PRESIDENT: I think they want to negotiate. And I think they want to make a deal. And my deal is nuclear. Look, they're not going to have a nuclear weapon. This isn't about the straits. Do you know that China gets 91% of its oil from the straits? We don't even need the straits. We have, we are now, because of -- since I came in, we're the number one energy producer in the world. Okay? Actually by far. And if I get the pipelines approved through the environmental process, which I will in Texas, we'll go up by another 25%. But we're way ahead of Russia, we're way ahead of Saudi Arabia. And I think that they want to negotiate. I don't think they like the position they're in. Their economy is, is absolutely broken.

TODD: So you sent a letter to the Ayatollah via Prime Minister Abe. And the Ayatollah seemed to say, "I'm not talking to you."

THE PRESIDENT: I didn't send a letter, no.

TODD: What was the --

THE PRESIDENT: I didn't, I didn't send a letter. No, no --

TODD: Was it a verbal message? What did Prime Minister Abe carry on your behalf?

THE PRESIDENT: Prime Minister Abe's a great guy. He's a friend of mine. And he obviously is close to them. I think he was their, their largest buyer of oil from before.

TODD: But did he, did he deliver a message from you to them?

THE PRESIDENT: No. He wanted to do something.


THE PRESIDENT: According to Prime Minister Abe, they went to him, it's according to the prime minister, and they said, "What do we do with Trump? Can we make a deal? Is there something that can be done?" That's what Prime Minster Abe told me. I said, "Do you mind if I say that if I have to?" And he said, "Not particularly." So they came to Prime Minister Abe. He then called me. I said, "Send the following message: you can't have nuclear weapons. And other than that, we can sit down and make a deal. But you cannot have nuclear --"

TODD: No other --


"-- weapons."

TODD: -- conditions other than that?

THE PRESIDENT: You cannot have nuclear weapons. And they would have had them with President Obama. He gave them $150 billion --

TODD: What is your deal?

THE PRESIDENT: Remember this.

TODD: I understand. But what is your deal --

THE PRESIDENT: But, Chuck, you have to remember this.

TODD: -- going to look like with them?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me explain something. Number one, you have to look at the sites. Some of the most important sites we weren't even allowed to look at or inspect, okay? Number two, the term was not long enough.


THE PRESIDENT: There's like a short number of years left. After a very small number of years, he's talking about a country, after a very small number of years, they have a free pass to nuclear weapons. You can't do that. So I want to be able to inspect all sites. They cannot have ballistic missiles, which under the agreement, isn't even covered. And as you know, that agreement wasn't even approved by Congress. A lot of people don't know that. That was an agreement that he couldn't get through Congress. He was not authorized, really, to do that deal.

TODD: Congress did give him some authorization to do that. It gave him the power to cut the deal.

THE PRESIDENT: It wasn't ratified by Congress.

TODD: It wasn't a, it wasn't a treaty.

THE PRESIDENT: It was very, very short of what it should have been. You know that.

TODD: Don't you think though -- does it at all tell -- what does it tell you that the Iranians haven't violated the agreement yet? That they are trying hard not to violate this agreement?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you see, I think they have violated the agreement because I think in the areas that we're not allowed to inspect they're doing things. And I think they have been for years.

TODD: Europeans don't think they're violating the agreement.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't care about the Europeans. The Europeans are going out and making a lot of money. The Europeans are fine. But they're going out and making a lot of money. They're selling, in France, they're selling cars to Iran. They're doing other things. And let me tell you, we're very good to Europe. We take care of them. NATO, we spend a tremendous amount, a disproportionate amount. On trade, the European Union's taken, really, they have really taken advantage of us for a long time. Just to finish, we have great relationships with Europe. I don't mind Europe getting in the middle. Europe wants to make a deal too. Europe would love to see a deal be made.

TODD: Are these going to be separate deals?

THE PRESIDENT: By the way, Europe --

TODD: Do you want to do a separate deal with Iran? Or do you want to get everybody involved in the same deal? Get the Russians, get the Chinese?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't care which, what kind of a deal. It can be separate or it could be total.

TODD: But it's one-on-one talks, you and the Ayatollah?

THE PRESIDENT: All it is -- all it is --

TODD: Is it one-on-one talks, you and the Ayatollah, or you and the President?

THE PRESIDENT: It doesn't matter to me. Here's what I want, anything that gets you to the result. They cannot have a nuclear weapon. It's not about the straits. You know, a lot of people covered it incorrectly. They're never mentioned. They cannot have a nuclear weapon. They'd use it. And they're not going to have a nuclear weapon.

TODD: Did you send a message --

THE PRESIDENT: And it's not about the oil.

TODD: -- last night? You know, Reuters is reporting that you sent a message to the Iranians saying, "I don't want war. I want to talk."

THE PRESIDENT: Wrong. It's wrong. I did not send that message. I did not send that message. I don't know who --


THE PRESIDENT: I don't know who would have said that.

TODD: Send a message right now to the Ayatollah.

THE PRESIDENT: I mean it's fake news.

TODD: Then send a message right now to the Ayatollah.

THE PRESIDENT: Wouldn't be much different than that message.

TODD: Which is?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not looking for war and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you've never seen before. But I'm not looking to do that. But you can't have a nuclear weapon. You want to talk? Good. Otherwise you can have a bad economy for the next --

TODD:No pre-conditions?

THE PRESIDENT: -- three years. Not as far as I'm concerned. No pre-conditions.

TODD: And you'll talk anywhere?

THE PRESIDENT: Here it is. Look, you can't have nuclear weapons. And if you want to talk about it, good. Otherwise you can live in a shattered economy for a long time to come.

TODD: If you, are you, do you feel like you were being pushed into military action against Iran by any of your advisors?

THE PRESIDENT: I have two groups of people. I have doves and I have hawks.

TODD: Yeah, you have some serious hawks.

THE PRESIDENT: I have some hawks. Yeah, John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he'd take on the whole world at one time, okay? But that doesn't matter because I want both sides. You know, some people said, "Why did you put --" You know, I was against going into Iraq for years and years. And before it ever happened I was against going into Iraq. And some people said, "Oh I don't know." I was totally against and I was a private citizen. It never made sense to me. I was against going into the Middle East. Chuck, we've spent $7 trillion in the Middle East right now.

TODD: Why is this our problem? This is a proxy war. Iran and Saudi Arabia are in a fight to the death out there.

THE PRESIDENT : Yeah. You're right. You're right. And that's another thing I've done --

TODD: Candidate Trump, candidate Trump for years would have said, "Not our fight." Why are you involved?

THE PRESIDENT: Because of nuclear weapons. It has nothing to do with oil.

TODD: So the minute you get them to do nuclear weapons, you want out of the Middle East?

THE PRESIDENT: That's all I care. I don't care about -- Well, we're going to protect Israel. But I have nothing to do, absolutely nothing -- and we're going to protect Saudi Arabia. Look, Saudi Arabia is buying $400 billion worth of things for us. That's a very good thing.

TODD: You used to say we don't get anything in return --

THE PRESIDENT: We are now.

TODD: -- for protecting Saudi Arabia.

THE PRESIDENT: You know that this --

TODD: You feel like they're now paying for --

THE PRESIDENT: -- this morning --

TODD: -- the American protection?

THE PRESIDENT: -- I spoke to the Crown Prince, this morning. And we had a great conversation. I said, "This is a very expensive operation. You and the other nations that we're protecting have to pay."

TODD: Did you talk --

THE PRESIDENT: And he said, "Yes."

TODD: Did you talk to him about the U.N. report about Jamal Khashoggi?

THE PRESIDENT: I did not because it really didn't come up in that discussion. I called about one reason.

TODD: I understand.

THE PRESIDENT: I called about one -- I didn't call about that. I called about one reason. There's a very expensive operation. Unlike President Obama and unlike everybody else, I'll say others too, not just President Obama. You've got to pay for it. We cannot, we, we just don't want to go in and, and protect the Middle East and protect Saudi Arabia and everyone else and not get reimbursed.

TODD: So this is why you're overruling Congress and, and letting all these weapon sales happen in Saudi Arabia?

THE PRESIDENT: Economic development and that. But economic development.

TODD: Never mind the humanitarian disaster --

THE PRESIDENT: A million jobs.

TODD: -- that's taking place in Yemen?

THE PRESIDENT: A million jobs -- No it's going to end. It's going to end. By the way, who's causing it though? If you look at it, Iran goes into Yemen. They start firing rockets at Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has to protect themselves, Chuck. But it's, it's a million jobs and probably more. They buy massive amounts, $150 billion worth of military equipment that, by the way, we use. We use that military equipment. And unlike other countries that don't have money and we have to subsidize everything. So Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of America product. That means something to me. It's a big producer of jobs.

TODD: It makes you overlook some of their bad behavior?


TODD: I mean --

THE PRESIDENT: I don't like anybody's bad behavior.

TODD: Are you going to -- The United Nations said they'd like the United States to order the FBI to investigate Jamal Khashoggi's death and possibly MBS' --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's, I think it's --

TODD: -- involvement in it. Will you allow the FBI to do that?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it's been heavily investigated.

TODD: By who?

THE PRESIDENT: By everybody. I mean --

TODD: By the FBI?

THE PRESIDENT: I've seen so many different reports.

TODD: What about the FBI?

THE PRESIDENT: Here's where I am, you ready?

TODD: Uh-huh.

THE PRESIDENT: Iran's killed many, many people a day. Other countries in the Middle East, this is a hostile place. This is a vicious, hostile place. If you're going to look at Saudi Arabia, look at Iran, look at other countries, I won't mention names, and take a look at what's happening. And then you go outside of the Middle East, and you take a look at what's happening with countries. Okay? And I only say they spend $400 to $450 billion over a period of time --

TODD: So --

THE PRESIDENT: -- all money, all jobs, buying equipment --

TODD: That's the price. As long as they keep buying --


TODD: -- you'll overlook some of this behavior.

THE PRESIDENT: But I'm not like a fool that says, "We don't want to do business with them." And by the way, if they don't do business with us, you know what they do? They'll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese. They will buy -- We make the best equipment in the world, but they will buy great equipment from Russia and from China. Chuck --

TODD: Yeah. Alright.

THE PRESIDENT: Take their money. Take their money, Chuck.

TODD: What would a candidate Trump have said about a president who, on his watch, had Iran shooting down a drone, a Venezuelan dictator thumbing his nose at you, Obamacare still on the books and no results yet on the border? The border getting tough --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let's, let's take a look. Let's take a look --

TODD: I just say -- what would candidate Trump have said about that?

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, let's take a look. The border's doing great. Mexico's been fantastic. They've been trying to get a deal with Mexico for 45 years, right? So for 45 years, they couldn't get a deal. I got one in one day. I said, "We're going to put tariffs on and we're going to either have a deal or not. We agreed in one day." Mexico just moved 6,000 people to their southern border. 6,000 troops to their southern border. The border's working out well. And the wall is being built. I mean, a lot of people don't like to talk about it. We're building the wall. We will have 400 miles of wall built by the end of next year and that's hard because the Democrats don't want to approve it. We just beat them in a big lawsuit, as you know, in Washington, in D.C. We just beat them in a very big lawsuit.

TODD: But does it frustrate you that your border numbers are worse than Obama's?

THE PRESIDENT: No, because the people are coming up because our economy is so good. They're pouring up because the economy is so good. Obama had a lousy economy. It was a dead economy.

TODD: Can I ask you about that?

THE PRESIDENT: Our, our economy is good.

TODD: Let me show you this chart. Do you see that chart?


TODD: It's the unemployment rate from the peak of the recession.


TODD: Your economy is great. I'm not saying it's not great. But this recovery started and in the 28 months that you've been president and the last 28 months of Obama's presidency, he averaged more new jobs than your first 28 --

THE PRESIDENT: That's because he started off with a, with such a bad base. I mean, he hit --

TODD: Ok. But it is -- is it not a continuation?

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, but Chuck, you have to understand, nobody was working. The whole place was a disaster. And I don't-- I'd never take that away.


THE PRESIDENT: But it's very easy --

TODD: Alright.

THE PRESIDENT: -- because when that turned around they pumped a tremendous amount of money into the economy. He also had a Federal Reserve person who kept the interest rates low. I don't. I don't have that privilege.

TODD: Sounds like you do now. Do you feel like you have --

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, no.

TODD: -- do you feel you have sent --

THE PRESIDENT: He raised them far too fast.

TODD: -- the threat --

THE PRESIDENT: He raised them far too fast.

TODD: -- your threat to demote him, do you think that's had an impact?

THE PRESIDENT: I didn't ever threaten to demote him.

TODD: There's been some talk that you might demote him to the number two slot.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I, I, I'd be able to do that if I wanted but I haven't suggested that. I mean --

TODD: That's not a threat --

THE PRESIDENT: No, it's not --

TODD: -- that's just a reminder that you can?

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, I have the right to do that. But I haven't said that. What he's done is $50 billion a month in quantitative tightening. That's ridiculous. What he's done is he raised interest rates too fast.

TODD: Do you worry it's going to hurt --

THE PRESIDENT: I've been proven right.

TODD: -- your reelection?

THE PRESIDENT: I think the economy's so strong we're going to bull through it. But I'm not happy with his actions. No, I don't think he's done a good job. I think this, if he didn't raise rates Obama had very low rates. So Obama was playing with funny money. I wasn't. I'm playing with the real stuff.

TODD: Let me ask you this.

THE PRESIDENT: Wait, wait. Obama had somebody that kept the rates very low. I had somebody that raised the rates very rapidly. Too much. He made a mistake. That's been proven. And yet my economy is phenomenal. We have now the best economy, maybe in the history of our country. One -- just to finish off, when I took over, this country, the economy was ready to collapse. You take a look at the numbers. It was ready to collapse. And if I didn't win --

TODD: I just showed you the numbers. It was not ready to collapse.

THE PRESIDENT: No no, no, that's -- You showed me unemployment numbers.

TODD: That was unemployment. It was not ready --


TODD: -- to collapse.

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me. Take a look at your GDP, take a look at your jobs, take a look at your optimism.


THE PRESIDENT: Take a look at all of the charts. When I took over from election day on, I mean, you show me one chart which, where I did --

TODD: It was the unemployment rate.

THE PRESIDENT: -- well in that too, but I'm not --


THE PRESIDENT:: -- talking about that. Take a look at some of the optimism charts and everything else. It went from 57 to 92. Nobody's ever seen anything that --

TODD: You're right. You're right.

THE PRESIDENT: -- right after I won.

TODD: The optimism, you're right.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, optimism is a big part of success in business. Okay.

TODD: You were always hard on Obama. You thought he wasn't enough of a cheerleader.

THE PRESIDENT: He was not a cheerleader.

TODD: If you could have one do over as president, what would it be?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it would be personnel.

TODD: Who is it?

THE PRESIDENT: I would say if I had one do over, it would be, I would not have appointed Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. That would be my one --

TODD: That's your, in your mind, that's your worst mistake?

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, that was the biggest mistake.

TODD: Is Bill Barr your Roy Cohn?

THE PRESIDENT: He should've never -- I think he's a very talented, very--

TODD: But do you know what I mean by that? You've always said --

THE PRESIDENT: No, no, look --

TODD: "Where's my Roy Cohn?" Is he your Roy Cohn?

THE PRESIDENT: You have to understand, Roy Cohn, but I had many, many lawyers. I mean, a lot of lawyers. Roy was one of them. He was a tough guy. Bill Barr is a -- First of all, Bill Barr --

TODD: Is he cut from the same cloth, do you think?

THE PRESIDENT: Bill Barr is a very, he's equally tough. He's a fine man. He's a fine man. The job he's done is incredible. He's brought sanity back. I think he's real -- I don't think, I know, he's respected. You know, he loves the Department of Justice. He saw what was happening. He has done a spectacular job. Now he's in the process of doing something and I stay away from it. I really, I stay away from it. But I think he feels that what's happened in this country was a very bad thing and very bad for our country.

TODD: I want to ask what's going down with the, these, the children in these migrant camps. The stories are horrible, Mr. President. You have children without their parents. You have kids taking care of kids.


TODD: You've, you've read these reports. I know people are coming to you. I know you think this is the Democrats' problem.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it --

TODD: Forget it.


TODD: Why aren't you doing something?

THE PRESIDENT: Are you ready?

TODD: They're in terrible shape down there, Mr. President. Down in Homestead, Florida, that's where I grew up, it's, the conditions are terrible.

THE PRESIDENT: I agree. And it's been --

TODD: Do something.

THE PRESIDENT: -- that way for a long time.

TODD: Do something.

THE PRESIDENT: And President Obama built the cages. Remember when they said that I built them? And then it was 1914 --

TODD: Do two wrongs --


TODD: -- make a right?

THE PRESIDENT: It was 2014. Chuck, just listen for one second.

TODD: Ok. Alright.

THE PRESIDENT: Separation, President Obama, I took over separation. I'm the one that put it together. What's happened though are the cartels and all of these bad people, they're using the kids. They're, they're, it's almost like slavery.

TODD: But let's not punish the kids more.

THE PRESIDENT: No this has been happening --

TODD: Aren't you -- the kids are getting punished more.

THE PRESIDENT: You're right. And this has been happening long before I got there. What we've done is we've created, we've, we've ended separation. You know, under President Obama you had separation. I was the one that ended it. Now I said one thing, when I ended it I said, "Here's what's going to happen. More families are going to come up." And that's what's happened. But they're really coming up for the economics. But once you ended the separation. But I ended separation. I inherited separation from President Obama. President Obama built, they call them jail cells. They were built --

TODD: Let's talk about what's happening now.

THE PRESIDENT: -- by the Obama --

TODD: Your administration, and--

THE PRESIDENT: I'm just telling you --

TODD: --you're not doing the recreation. You're not even schooling these kids anymore. You've gotten rid of all that stuff.

THE PRESIDENT: We're doing a fantastic job under the circumstances. The Democrats aren't even approving giving us money. Where is the money? You know what? The Democrats are holding up the humanitarian aid.

TODD: It looks like these kids are being used as, as some sort of -- is it hostages? They're being held --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, they are being used.

TODD: -- hostage.

THE PRESIDENT: They are being used by very bad people on the other side where they actually get --

TODD: But now they're politically being used.

THE PRESIDENT: --paid, where money is being made using them because our laws are so bad. Because if you have a child, you have an advantage. You know that better than anybody. And what should happen, Chuck --

TODD: But why let the political debate hurt these children?

THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, we could --

TODD: They could be impacted for years.

THE PRESIDENT: If the Democrats would change the asylum laws and the loopholes, which they refuse to do because they think it's good politics, everything would be solved immediately. But they refuse to do it. They refuse to do it.

TODD: Let me ask you this.

THE PRESIDENT: You know what? If they change those, I say, I used to say 45 minutes. It's 15 minutes. If they changed asylum and if they changed loopholes everything on the border would be perfect.

TODD: Let me ask you this, why do you think Nancy Pelosi has held off her impeachment caucus?

THE PRESIDENT: Because I think she feels that I will win much easier. I mean, I've been told that by many people.

TODD: Do you think impeachment's good politics for you?

THE PRESIDENT: I think I win the election easier. But, you know, I'm not sure that I like having it. Look, I did nothing wrong. I was spied on. What they did to me was illegal. It was illegal on the other side. I did nothing wrong. So impeachment's a very unfair thing because nothing that I did was wrong. And if you look at the Mueller report, there was no collusion. This was all about collusion.

TODD: Nowhere in the Mueller report --

THE PRESIDENT: This was about conspiracy.

TODD: By the way, Mr. President, you say no collusion. There is not a single, I've read this Mueller report, both, both parts of it --

THE PRESIDENT: Use the word collusion, or use --

TODD: -- there's not one place it says nothing happened.

THE PRESIDENT: Use the word collusion. Use the word conspiracy.

TODD: It never says no collusion.

THE PRESIDENT: I'll be honest with you, nobody even mentions Russia anymore since the Mueller report. They don't mention it, in all fairness.

TODD: I --

THE PRESIDENT: Nobody mentions Russia anymore. And it was about Russia. It was a hoax.

TODD: Let me ask you this --

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute.

TODD: -- during the campaign --

THE PRESIDENT: Wait, wait. We'll give you the time that you need.

TODD: What hoax it was?

THE PRESIDENT: It was a hoax. The Russian hoax with me.

TODD: You don't believe it happened?

THE PRESIDENT: I had nothing to do --

TODD: You don't believe the Russians interfered --

THE PRESIDENT: What they did with --

TODD: -- in our election?

THE PRESIDENT: -- respect to the election is different. We're not talking about that. We're talking about --

TODD: The idea that you were conspiring.

THE PRESIDENT: -- my campaign working is a hoax.

TODD: Fair enough.


TODD: But going back, on WikiLeaks, knowing now that that was stolen foreign material, do you regret using it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I, I wouldn't have. But this was well-known. I think it was in papers. And, again, I'm going back now a long ways. But --

TODD: It was all rumored to be Russian stolen property.

THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. But --

TODD: So why'd you use it?

THE PRESIDENT: --but how would I even know that? I made a speech. It was in there about WikiLeaks. I'm not a --

TODD: Right, but I'm saying knowing now --

THE PRESIDENT: -- WikiLeaks person.

TODD: Knowing that they are a Russian intelligence --


TODD: -- asset --


TODD: -- do you regret it?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you-- WikiLeaks, et cetera, that's not my deal in life. You know, in other words, I don't know about WikiLeaks. It was a strange name. But there were stories about something WikiLeaks that they had information. And I say it in a joking manner at a speech. Joking. Everybody laughing. Everybody having a -- And they made it like it was serious. No, I don't want anything bad to happen to our country. Anything bad happens to this country, I will end it and I'll end it fast. I don't want any of that to happen.

TODD: There's one part in the Mueller report, your, your son, Donald Trump Jr., did cooperate and appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

THE PRESIDENT: Right. That's right.

TODD: In the Mueller report, it says that he did not voluntarily sit for an interview with Mueller's team. And then there's a redaction. A Grand Jury redaction. Did he involuntarily sit?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. I can only tell you this --

TODD: Is it possible he was --

THE PRESIDENT: -- my son --

TODD: -- subpoenaed by the, --

THE PRESIDENT: I, I really don't know.

TODD: -- you don't know if he was subpoenaed?

THE PRESIDENT: But let me tell you what I do know.

TODD: So did you not read the Mueller report?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you, I read much of it.

TODD: The unredacted version or no?

THE PRESIDENT: I read -- No I didn't.


THE PRESIDENT: I didn't. But let me just tell you --

TODD: So if he was subpoenaed --

THE PRESIDENT: You know what I read? I read the --

TODD: -- if he was subpoenaed you wouldn't know?

THE PRESIDENT: -- I read, I read the conclusion.


THE PRESIDENT: Well, he was subpoenaed. Ultimately he was subpoenaed to sit before the Senate Intel --

TODD: But was he --

THE PRESIDENT: -- and he did that.

TODD: Was he subpoenaed by Mr. Mueller?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know. But I don't think so.

TODD: If he was subpoenaed was he going to appear before the Grand Jury or was he --

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know.

TODD: -- just going to plead the fifth?

THE PRESIDENT: I really don't know. But you can certainly ask him. I just --

TODD: But you don't know?

THE PRESIDENT: -- don't know. It was, it was -- He sat, my son, he's been treated so unfairly. He sat for many, many hours before these committees. I think, my impression is, that Mueller took all of the information from the committees and he used that information. How much, how much can you talk about something? Remember the phone calls, the three phone calls? It was such a big deal. Three phone calls that were made to a special type number.

TODD: Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay? And everybody said, "Oh, he called his father." That went on for a year. In other words, before this so-called meeting and after the meeting, "He called his father," the biggest story. Headlines all over the place. And then it turned out, and I give Mueller credit because Mueller was the one that found out through I guess the phone companies or whatever. Somebody found out, maybe through the FBI. Big investigation on who the calls were made. If they were made to me, it would have sounded like you, wait a minute, they turned out that it wasn't to me. It was to a real estate person and a NASCAR person. Two great people, have nothing to do with Russia. Have nothing to do. And you know what? People hardly even put the story in. My son was treated unfairly. My son, he spent 20 some odd hours and then he went back again.

TODD: But he never --

THE PRESIDENT: He was a very innocent, young man and he was treated very badly.

TODD: You're going to see Vladimir Putin in a week.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. I'm going to see many people.

TODD: Are you going to address him directly about interference in 2020?


TODD: Are you going to tell him --


TODD: -- not to do it?

THE PRESIDENT: I may if you'd like me to do it, I'll do that.

TODD: Because some -- Well, some people think that your answer --

THE PRESIDENT: You know what? Here's what you do --

TODD: -- that your answer last week invited him to do it again.

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, that's not true. That's not true.

TODD: Are you going to tell him not to and what are the consequences?

THE PRESIDENT: My answer last week was both. I said both. I'd do both. Except they didn't put it on. And when they did put it on people understood. But they didn't put it on because they put a different segment on. So they ask me a question. But when I said, "Yeah, I'd do both," people saw that in the last version of it because the thing played like all weekend and on Friday. So it's just more fake news. Chuck, there's so much fake news. It would be so good if --

TODD: That's why I'm interviewing you one-on-one --

THE PRESIDENT: That's fine. That's why I like --

TODD: Let me ask you this.

THE PRESIDENT: That's why I like doing --

TODD: Do you think you've been --

THE PRESIDENT: But I like live interviews better, you know why? Because you can't cut the answers.

TODD:Guess what? I'm not -- You're going to enjoy the fact that I'm not going to over-edit this interview. That I promise you.


THE PRESIDENT: Do you think you've been more successful in business or the presidency?

THE PRESIDENT: I think, well, I can't be more successful in politics. I mean, I ran once and I'm president, right? So you have to say that's about -- there's nothing-- it's never happened before, right? So I'm one for one and I hope to be two for two. But my business has been a tremendous success. I actually said to the lawyers, "I'd like to show my financial statement. My financial statement's great." I built a great business --

TODD: You could release your tax returns any day you want.

THE PRESIDENT: I actually don't believe -- You don't learn from tax returns. And I'm under audit, Chuck. I've been saying it. I'm under audit. But you don't learn from tax returns.

TODD: I was under audit.

THE PRESIDENT: But you would learn from a financial --

TODD: I had my tax returns.

THE PRESIDENT: -- statement. And I would like to release it. I've built a great company. They like to -- For instance, banks. Banks. I could have borrowed from banks. But I didn't need to because I had money. I did things, in fact, a lot of people over the last couple of years were really surprised. "He paid all cash, he didn't use banks." I think I've been tremendously successful in business. I think I've been tremendously successful in show business with The Apprentice. I mean, I did one show and it was a great hit, as you know, from NBC.

TODD: Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: And I guess you have to say I've been really successful at politics.

TODD: The Republican Party has changed in your image. Do you think you caused that change or do you think the party was changing and you were the leader they selected?

THE PRESIDENT: I think common sense caused it. You know, I'm about common sense. People say, "Are you conservative?" I guess I'm conservative, but I'm about common sense. I'm about we need borders. We're going to have borders. And we have strong borders. And by the way, Mexico has done a great job. It's slowed down so much. But we have an amazing economy and people want to come up. But it's slowed down so much. But I'm about borders. I'm about great health care. Obamacare is a disaster. I got rid of the individual mandate.

TODD: By the way, why is the economy doing so well if Obamacare is still law of the land? You had said in 2011 --

THE PRESIDENT: We are managing --

TODD: -- "Obamacare's going to destroy the economy." Obamacare's still here and --

THE PRESIDENT: Because I've managed it great.

TODD: -- the economy's great.

THE PRESIDENT: I had a choice. I could have let it implode and killed it or I could have managed it --

TODD: You're still trying to kill it.


TODD: Why are you still trying to kill it with the getting rid of preexisting -- If you -- This lawsuit that the Department of Justice joined, it could get rid of --

THE PRESIDENT: I am in favor --

TODD: -- coverage of preexisting conditions.

THE PRESIDENT: I am in favor of preexisting conditions. I am fighting --

TODD: So get rid -- so drop the lawsuit.


TODD: So drop your aspect of the lawsuit.

THE PRESIDENT: It has nothing to do with it. The lawsuit is one thing. We are going to put in a bill, total preexisting conditions. And the Republicans are in favor of preexisting conditions.

TODD: Mr. President, you had full Republican control and they couldn't pass anything.

THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, are you ready?

TODD: What makes you think you're going to get it done this time?

THE PRESIDENT: We had a negative vote from John McCain. It was a surprising vote. But I got rid of the worst part of Obamacare which was the individual mandate.


THE PRESIDENT: We will always protect pre-existing conditions. And the reason Obamacare continues is my decision. Wait, I made a big decision.


THE PRESIDENT: We have a man named Azar, our secretary, he's fantastic man, Alex. A total pro. I could have managed Obamacare so it would have failed or I could have managed it the way we did so it's as good as it can be. Not great, but it's as good -- It's too expensive and the premiums are too high. I had a decision to make. I could have politically killed Obamacare. I decided not to do it. But still it's not good. We're going to come up with great health care if we win the House, the Senate and the presidency.

TODD: Are you prepared to lose?

THE PRESIDENT: No. Probably not. Probably not.

TODD: Very hon -- I mean, you joke --

THE PRESIDENT: It would be much better, it would be much better if I said, "Yeah."

TODD: You're, you're --

THE PRESIDENT: It would be much easier for me to say, "Oh yes." No I'm probably not too prepared to lose. I don't like losing. I haven't lost very much in my life.

TODD: You didn't like the fact that you lost the popular vote. That bothered you, didn't it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it was a -- I mean, I'll say something that, again, is controversial. There were a lot of votes cast that I don't believe. I look at California.

TODD: Mr. President.


TODD: But that's a --

THE PRESIDENT: Take a look at Judicial Watch, take a look at their settlement where California admitted to a million votes. They admitted to a million votes.

TODD: A million votes of what?

THE PRESIDENT: Take a look at judicial --

TODD: What are you talking about?

THE PRESIDENT: Judicial Watch made a settlement. There was, there was much --

TODD: About what?

THE PRESIDENT: -- there was much illegal voting. But let me tell you about popular vote. Do you have a second?

TODD: Yes, because you were, you were a big fan of it --

THE PRESIDENT: There are two --

TODD: -- until you weren't

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I like popular vote.

TODD: Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT: I think I do better with a popular vote. But I didn't campaign for the popular vote.

TODD: You're right. I --

THE PRESIDENT: You didn't see me campaigning in California or New York. If I -- if it was up to the popular vote, I would have been I think even better. I won 306 to 223, which was a lot in the Electoral College. But it's like you're training for the 100-yard dash versus the mile.

TODD: Yep. You're, you're totally right.

THE PRESIDENT: It's totally different.

TODD: If it's the popular vote, you campaign differently.--

THE PRESIDENT: I went to Wisconsin. --

TODD: -- I don't disagree.

THE PRESIDENT: -- She forgot. I went to Michigan. She didn't go to Michigan enough. I won Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. I won places that she didn't do a good job. What can I tell you? No, maybe I did a great job. You know, I never get credit for that. They always say she was a lousy candidate. I actually think that Hillary Clinton was a great candidate. She was very smart. She was very tough. She was ruthless and vicious.

TODD: You'd rather run against her again, wouldn't you?


TODD: You only talked about her in your announcement speech.


TODD: You spent a lot of time talking about her.

THE PRESIDENT: No. I would actually rather run against Biden.

TODD: Than Hillary.

THE PRESIDENT: I think that would be my preference.

TODD: Why?

THE PRESIDENT: Sleepy Joe. He's sleepy. She was not sleepy. Let me just tell you something, the Electoral College is tougher for a Republican to win than the popular vote. At least me. I feel that I go to three places. I went to 19 or 21 states. I went to Maine four times because I wanted to get one. And I did get it. And that's the beauty of the Electoral College.

TODD: Right.

THE PRESIDENT: You know, I've been a proponent of the other sometimes and I change. But I will tell you, the Electoral College brings you to many of the states in this country.

TODD: You, you have joked about a third term. You've joked about these things.

THE PRESIDENT: I only joke.

TODD: Okay.

THE PRESIDENT: I joke. And I say "Watch, I will drive Chuck Todd crazy."

TODD: You will, you will accept the re -- Ok. You will --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, there won't be a third term.

TODD: You will accept the results?

THE PRESIDENT: 100%. Sure.

TODD: And you will accept whatever happens in 2020.


TODD: You lose, you'll be like -- you're not going to like it but you walk out.

THE PRESIDENT: In fact, I said at a speech recently, I said, "Watch. We'll drive the media crazy. Let's go for a third time and then a fourth." And some of the media said, "He's going to do it."

TODD: Speaking of driving people crazy, when you were asked about Mike Pence in 2024 and you, and you, and you paused a minute about endorsing him as your successor, that got a lot of people going, "Is Mike Pence 100% on your ticket in 2020?"

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, look -- 100%, yes.

TODD: 100%?


TODD: There is no wiggle room?

THE PRESIDENT: He's been, he's been a terrific vice president. He's my friend and --


THE PRESIDENT: -- a lot of things. No. Zero. Zero.

TODD: So why'd you hesitate in endorsing him in being, succeeding you?

THE PRESIDENT: Because it was a surprise question.

TODD: You hadn't thought about it?

THE PRESIDENT: I mean, you know, I'm not even thinking of it. It's so far out. I mean, It's so far out. That would be the only reason. Now what happens in 2024? I don't know that Mike is going to run. I don't know who's running or anything else. I will say this, I think it's a tremendous embarrassment to Joe Biden that Obama has not, that President Obama, I like to say that because it's respect for the office and respect for him.

TODD: Do you speak to any of the former presidents?


TODD: Who's the last one you did?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I speak to Bush.

TODD: With President Bush?

THE PRESIDENT: I speak to Jimmy Carter.

TODD: You do? What about President Obama?

THE PRESIDENT: I have not spoken to him --

TODD: But George W. Bush, you do?

THE PRESIDENT: -- pretty much from the beginning.

TODD: And Jimmy Carter?

THE PRESIDENT: I have spoken to Bush, I have spoken to Jimmy Carter, yes.

TODD: Do you get --

THE PRESIDENT: I like Jimmy Carter. You know, Jimmy Carter's oftentimes come to my defense. I don't necessarily agree with the way he ran things and that's okay. And he understands that and so do I. But he came to my defense on numerous occasions. And he thinks that I was treated the worst of anybody he's ever seen by the press.

TODD: During --

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think he's including you.

TODD: Every new season, every new season of The Apprentice, you had something new to roll out. What's your big new idea for your re-election?

THE PRESIDENT: I think that the economy has tremendous upward potential despite the fact that we're doing really well. I think when we really unleash some of the things --

TODD: But what's your new idea?

THE PRESIDENT: -- that we're going to do --

TODD: What is the new big idea?

THE PRESIDENT: I also think that health care is going to be very important for me. I will tell you. If we win the House, the Senate and the presidency I will get tremendous health care because --

TODD: Do you think Democrats --

THE PRESIDENT: -- Obamacare is a disaster.

TODD: Do you think Democrats won the House because of health care?

THE PRESIDENT: I think they won because of preexisting condition.

TODD: Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing to do with me. Because if you know almost every race that I campaigned for somebody they won. But I couldn't devote too much time to the House, there's too many people. But if you look at some of the Congressmen that I did go for and went for, they won like in Kentucky, et cetera, et cetera.

TODD: So your one new idea is going to be health care?

THE PRESIDENT: Just one thing. Ohio governor, he was behind, great guy.

TODD: He was.

THE PRESIDENT: Mike won. Georgia, President Obama was there. Oprah was there. Michelle Obama was there. It was going to be a big celebration. She was the star of the party. I went there for Brian. Brian Kemp. Brian Kemp won. Florida, Ron DeSantis --

TODD: He ran as you.

THE PRESIDENT: He was going to lose. He was low in the polls. I endorsed him. He went up 60 points after I endorsed him. Ron won. And he's been a great governor of Florida. You know, I've always heard that an endorsement is nice to have but it doesn't mean anything. I'm driving people up 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%.

TODD: Well, when you show up, you bring a lot of people.

THE PRESIDENT: We bring something very good.

TODD: I'm curious, did you see Jon Stewart's pretty passionate plea on behalf of 9/11 responders in front of Congress?

THE PRESIDENT: I was very impressed, yes.

TODD: Are you going to -- He's frustrated with Mitch McConnell. He feels like Mitch McConnell's the guy standing in the way of this bill. You're a New Yorker first. I know that in you. I've got to think Jon Stewart got to you.

THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, well --

CTODD: Are you going to tell Mitch McConnell to --

THE PRESIDENT: I liked what Jon Stewart did. I actually did. And I actually have a meeting on that subject next week. So we'll see what happens.

TODD: So you think you will --

THE PRESIDENT: You know it's a very complicated subject for a lot of reasons.

TODD: I understand that it is. But --

THE PRESIDENT: But I have a meeting --

TODD: -- do you think that Jon Stewart had a point that Congress hadn't done enough?

THE PRESIDENT: I have a meeting with that, on that subject with -- Well, when you say Congress, billions of dollars has been passed.

TODD: I understand that.

THE PRESIDENT: Okay, billions.

TODD: Right. But the fund was about to run out.

THE PRESIDENT: Memorials have been, have been built.

TODD: That's right.

THE PRESIDENT: Tremendous amounts of money. But there are still people that are sick. I have a meeting on it next week.

TODD: All right, Mr. President.


TODD: I appreciate the time.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.

TODD: Thank you, sir.

Donald J. Trump, Interview with Chuck Todd of NBC News Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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