Photo of Donald Trump

Interview with Saagar Enjeti and Vince Coglianese of The Daily Caller

January 31, 2019

THE DAILY CALLER: Stephen Paddock, the shooter in Las Vegas in 2017. The FBI just closed its investigation yesterday without determining any motive. But don't you think Americans deserve to know why so many people died in the worst mass shooting in modern history?

THE PRESIDENT: It was a horrible event. He was a very, very sick person, obviously. It was very unusual in that there didn't seem to be your standard set of reasons as to why this would happen. I'm a little surprised that the report wasn't much longer but at the same time I can understand it. It was just a — just a terrible thing. They were unable to find a real reason other than, obviously, he was sick and they didn't know it.

So, I was a little surprised and a lot disappointed that they weren't able to find the reason. Because you'd like to find a reason for that.

THE DAILY CALLER: Were you following the developments through that case?

THE PRESIDENT: I was watching it like everybody else. I thought it was horrible. I went to the hospital, I saw many of the victims and right after the event it was horrible. It was inconceivable. But he was a very sick person and nobody would've known it. Nobody had any idea. He had money — or at least they think he had money. He was a gambler, you know, you don't see too many gamblers that have money.

I think they worked very hard. I will tell you they worked very hard on that case. They just were unable to find anything from all of the facts. Because I've looked at some of the things also and it was a very unusual case of a very sick person who just, people never saw that coming.

THE DAILY CALLER: Speaking of the FBI, sir, were you comfortable with the way and the force that was used against the raid in Roger Stone's house? Do you think that was appropriate for your FBI to be doing that in a white collar case?

THE PRESIDENT: I thought it was very unusual. You know, I've stayed out of that whole situation so that — because there was no collusion whatsoever. There was no nothing done wrong and frankly, I could have waded in very early, I could have ended it very easily if I wanted to but just let it run its course. But I will say, like, I'm speaking for a lot of people that were very disappointed to see that go down that way, to see it happen where it was on camera, on top of it.

That was a very, very disappointing scene —

THE DAILY CALLER: You thought it was unusual that CNN was there?

THE PRESIDENT: — You have 29 people and you have armored vehicles and you had all of the other and, you know, many people know Roger, and Roger is not a person that they would have to worry about from that standpoint. I thought it was sad to see it.

THE DAILY CALLER: Would you ask the FBI to review its use of force, its militarization when it handles cases like this?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it's a good question for you to ask, and it's something I'll think about.

THE DAILY CALLER: One last question related to that. On the Paddock case, all of America was really interested to find out what happened there.

THE PRESIDENT: Including me.

THE DAILY CALLER: Of course. And I wonder how many resources in the FBI were committed to the Paddock case versus committed to the Mueller investigation. How much money was spent? How many people were on those things? How do those two things compare?

THE PRESIDENT: What a great question that is. It's one of the better questions. I hope you're going to play your question because that is a very, very interesting — you're talking about, I guess they're well over 30 million dollars now on this Russian collusion hoax, and everybody knows it's a hoax. They've spent all this money. Nothing. No phone calls, no meetings, no nothing. You look at it, and you say, isn't that sad to have devoted this time, this energy over a — you know, look, there's been numerous books written right now, including number one best sellers, calling it a "hoax." And it is very sad. That is very sad. By the way, to me, both very sad events.

But that is very interesting to ask, where you've had so many people killed, and so badly wounded, because I went to the hospital. You had people so badly wounded. People never talk about the wounded. The level of hurt and devastation for a whole lifetime. You know, many people just devastated for a lifetime. They'll never be the same. And you look at that by comparison to the Russian hoax, it's a shame. The Russian witch hunt, it's a shame.

THE DAILY CALLER: Speaking of that, sir, Matt Whitaker came out I think a couple of days ago. He said that the Mueller probe seems to be wrapping up, generally. Has he communicated that to you?

THE PRESIDENT: No. No, I haven't spoken to him about that. I would say that I think after almost two years it certainly should be. Process crimes or process, you know, questions, the answer is different than what you thought it might be and some people say they lost their memory or a lack of memory, which a lot of people can understand that too.

No, I never spoke to him about that.

THE DAILY CALLER: So Whitaker or whoever is heading as the attorney general at the time will get to make a decision about releasing the report that Mueller sends him —

THE PRESIDENT: I don't know what —

THE DAILY CALLER: Is that the kind of thing you'll sign off on if and when it comes to that decision?

THE PRESIDENT: They'll have to make their decision within the Justice Department. They will make the decision as to what they do. I could've taken a much different stance, I could've gotten involved in this, I could've terminated everything. I could've ended everything. I've chosen to stay out of it. But I had the right to, as you know, I had the right if I wanted to to end everything. I could've just said, 'that's enough.' Many people thought that's what I should do.

THE DAILY CALLER: You know, Andrew McCarthy has made the case that the reason Comey was recommended to be fired by Rod Rosenstein is that he went out in public and he made a public indictment of Hillary Clinton without actually recommending a prosecution.

In other words, he made a character indictment of her in the court of public opinion. In Andrew McCarthy's view, if this report comes out from Mueller and it does anything to try and go after you for any reason that doesn't have any criminality involved, that would be a disservice to you. That's not justice if the Justice Department is trying to say things to hurt your character but they don't have anything to do with criminality.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I never had anything to do with the Russians having to do with this. I ran a great campaign. I ran a campaign that now they say was better than that gentleman's [Andrew Jackson's] campaign in the 1800s and we did a great job.

And we got 306 to 223 and that's that. Won states that nobody thought were possible to win. Remember the expression, 'he cannot get to 270.' And we got way beyond 270.

And I don't even say she ran a bad campaign. I think I ran a very good campaign.

THE DAILY CALLER: Well the people who elected you are very interested in the immigration decision and what's going on with this negotiation. Republicans in charge of Congress for two years didn't get to your wall promise in Congress. How big of a roadblock to wall funding was Paul Ryan now that he's gone?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I was going to veto the omnibus bill and Paul told me in the strongest of language, 'Please don't do that, we'll get you the wall.' And I said, 'I hope you mean that because I don't like this bill,' although I love the bill for what it did for the military. And therefore, if it weren't for the military I would have vetoed it.

Just so you understand, our military needed funding desperately. Totally depleted. And this bill was great for the military. Had I vetoed it, you would never have gotten the numbers back that I got: $700 and $716 billion over the last two years. Which is substantially more — much more than President Obama was able to get for the military.

So that was a negative but a big factor as to why that was the reason I signed it. But another very big factor was the fact that Paul told me in the strongest of terms that, 'please sign this and if you sign this we will get you that wall.' Which is desperately needed by our country. Humanitarian crisis, trafficking, drugs, you know, everything — people, criminals, gangs, so we need the wall.

And then he went lame duck. And once he went lame duck it was just really an exercise in waving to people and the power was gone, so I was very disappointed. I was very disappointed in Paul because the wall was so desperately needed. And it is. And I'll get the wall.

THE DAILY CALLER: Did he lie to you? Did he play you?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't want to say he lied. I think he probably meant it at the time, I guess. I hope. So I don't call that lying. But when he went lame duck, meaning, he said he's not running again — and it was very unusual because usually they'll do that sometime after an election and he didn't want to do that because it's somewhat misrepresenting and I understand that too. But maybe you don't run, okay? Maybe you just don't run. And he had an excellent person taking his place in Congress, he ran a great campaign, did a really good job.

So Paul said, 'please sign the omnibus bill.' Now, in all fairness to Paul, I may have signed it anyway because it was so much more money than anyone ever thought possible for the military, and equal to the wall and maybe even greater than the wall was my promise to refurbish the military.

You know, I made many statements, many promises. In fact, here are some of them, folks. But those are some of the things we've accomplished. VA choice, VA accountability — you know, these are things that for decades and decades and I got a lot of these things. Tax cuts, regulation cuts by far the most that anybody's ever got, biggest tax cuts. And that's why you look at the market — we just hit over 25,000. We're back where we were, right?

So anyway, that's the story.

THE DAILY CALLER: One thing that some conservatives are worried about is that you're prepared to give away some status for illegal immigrants in exchange for the things that you want. So when it comes to DACA, in these negotiations that are going on on Capitol Hill, how far are you willing to go there?

THE PRESIDENT: So I don't know if you saw — you know, there was a couple of days ago, 'he's going to give up DACA, he's going to —'

First of all, it's not mine to give up right now because DACA is going to the Supreme Court, hopefully. But miraculously, and horribly, they lost DACA. This was a case that President Obama said, essentially, he doesn't have the right to sign. But they went, as usual, to the Ninth Circuit and they won a case, they won an appeal, and now it's hopefully going to the Supreme Court soon because this is a very important case.

We should win that case easily, you know, it should be won.

Now, if it is won, then we'll talk about DACA but right now — when that case was lost we were very close to making a deal. And then a judge in the Ninth Circuit agreed that President Obama, although President Obama didn't think he had a right to do it, he said that — as soon as that was done, I said, 'that's the end of that deal.'

We had a deal for some DACA — for a lot of things. But we had a deal done and I said to people when that case was lost — well, it wasn't lost permanently, I think we're going to ultimately win — that's the time I want to talk about it.

THE DAILY CALLER: So DACA is tabled until the court resolves it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well I said to people, I saw yesterday, 'well, what about DACA,' I said, 'it's highly unlikely.' I was tougher than anybody else on that. I could see doing something for DACA but I want to find out what the Supreme Court's gonna do first.

THE DAILY CALLER: Chuck Schumer said he doesn't want the White House playing a role in negotiations on Capitol Hill—

THE PRESIDENT: I don't blame him.

THE DAILY CALLER: How much of a role are you going to play?

THE PRESIDENT: Because he doesn't want me to make the deal. He doesn't want to make me — because my idea of a deal is different than other people's. Without our involvement a deal's not going to get done and I think we're going to — look, that deal. Look, there are numerous things we could do, including declaring a national emergency where we have very good law on our side, including the fact that I'm already building a tremendous amount of wall. People don't realize that.

I'm going to be announcing the exact numbers but I'll have over a hundred miles of wall either built or under construction between new and renovated. Over a hundred miles. We have a tremendous amount of money right now to build a wall. We're building the wall. I'll be announcing some numbers on — but in addition to that we declare a national emergency if this doesn't work out.

THE DAILY CALLER: I believe you have a military base in Yuma, Arizona. Are you going to do some wall there? Is that the plan?

THE PRESIDENT: We have, I believe, that area — yes. We have a tremendous problem in that area.

It's very interesting, California, you know, they always say, 'don't build a wall,' well, they were begging me to build a wall over in San Diego. The day I finished they said, 'don't build a wall.' But they were begging me to build the wall because people were pouring in through that border, through that area.

We built a brand new wall. That's not a renovated wall, that's a brand new wall. We took down the old wall, we built a brand new wall. It's fantastic, looks great, they did a great job, totally stopped everybody from coming in. The day we completed it California started saying, 'don't build a wall, we don't want a wall.' They want drones, right? Flying up around.

THE DAILY CALLER: You talked about the courts, sir. Are you keeping an eye right now on Justice Ginsburg's health?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I hope that she's healthy, I hope she's happy, and I hope she lives for a long time.

THE DAILY CALLER: Would you commit to replacing her with somebody who was on that list — somebody like Amy Barrett who a lot of conservatives have looked at?

THE PRESIDENT: Well I've been very religious. I've very much confined myself to that list, as you know. And that list has great people on it and I would say it's highly likely I would stay. I think one of the things —

THE DAILY CALLER: But Amy Barrett would be a choice?

THE PRESIDENT: No, she would certainly be a choice. I think anybody on that list would be a choice. They're great people. I've been told, and I don't know that that's true, I would be surprised if it's true, but a lot of people said that list was one of the reasons I won.

Because, being a non-politician, where you don't have a record of choosing people, people just didn't know who I would choose. And Supreme Court, especially for the Republican Party, it seems, was very, very important and I came up with the idea of a list of 20 and then I increased it to 25, 25 people and they're very outstanding people. I felt so badly that Justice Kavanaugh had to go through what he had to go through but now he's a Supreme Court justice and he's going to be a great one.

Justice Gorsuch went through much easier and he's going to be a great one.

THE DAILY CALLER: And in that process you had to deal with a couple of Democratic senators: Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein. And the report is that you have agreed or the White House has agreed, your White House counsel, to giving Democrats a say in who gets to be on the Ninth Circuit.

There's a Wall Street Journal editorial about this and so people like Erick Erickson have come out and have criticized this decision because they're saying you're basically giving up two seats on the Ninth Circuit when you're not renominating the people from before.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I know nothing about it. That I can tell you. I would not do it. I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do that.

In fact, you can tell them for the first time, I will not do that. It's a false report.

I've had many false reports from the Wall Street editorial board. Like, as an example, right now we're negotiating with China. We're doing very well. Wall Street — they don't like tariffs. If we didn't have tariffs they wouldn't even be talking to us. They would not even be talking to us. You understand that?

THE DAILY CALLER: Well, on that issue, let me ask you about China. At the end of this, if there is not intellectual property protections in the deal, will you push the tariffs?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, what happens is that right now China's paying 25 percent on $50 billion worth of goods. Mostly high technology. And I was going to charge them 25 percent on $200 billion worth of goods and then I'd have $267 billion leftover where I'm not charging them anything. At their request, and subject to this deal until March 1st, I'm charging them 10 percent on 200 billion. You've got the 50 and the 25, then you've got 200 and I'm charging them 10 percent until March 1st. After March 1st it will go up to 25 percent.

So yeah, that's very important to me.

You know, billions of dollars are being poured into our treasury. Billions. We never had five cents come into our treasury. Now we have billions of dollars and in addition, and very importantly…

The president returns to the issue of the Ninth Circuit court.

THE PRESIDENT: The Ninth Circuit is so much in one direction that you couldn't make that deal. Look, I've lost … the United States has lost so many cases in the Ninth Circuit and, you know, I had an argument — a slight argument, which, I think was not too much of an argument — with Justice Roberts about the Ninth Circuit. If I did that, what are we doing? We have to catch up because we are so far behind on the Ninth Circuit. So I would never make that deal. And I can tell you, if it is made I would end it, but it wasn't, you know, not that I know of.

No, the answer is: I would not do that. You don't catch up by making those deals.

THE DAILY CALLER: Let me ask you about religious bigotry. I want to read a list to you first and then get your reaction because I think you're going to want to react to this.

A number of high-profile Democrats have recently attacked people of faith for their religious beliefs.


THE DAILY CALLER: You've got anti-Semitism in the leadership of the Women's March, sitting members of Congress who've expressed or condoned anti-Semitism, attacks on Second Lady Karen Pence for teaching at a Christian school, attacks by Democratic senators on your judicial nominees for being Catholic or members of the Knights of Columbus, attacks on the boys of Covington Catholic High School for being Catholic and Trump supporters.

Does the Democratic Party have a crisis of bigotry and how should they handle it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it's a crisis for our country because there's never been a time — I saw where today, I believe it was a congressman, took 'in God we trust' —

THE DAILY CALLER: 'So help me God.'

THE PRESIDENT: 'So help me God.' Took the phrase off of a document. And I said, 'Where are we going?'

I think it's a terrible thing for our country and I think it's certainly a terrible thing for the Democrats because I don't think they're going to be able to get away with it.

THE DAILY CALLER: Another thing, sir, Virginia Gov. [Ralph] Northam actually right before this, suggested a mother who wants to have an abortion while in labor should instead be allowed to let her baby die after delivery if that's her choice. Do you think that would be infanticide?

THE PRESIDENT: I watched that this morning. I watched the person testifying and I felt it was terrible.

THE DAILY CALLER: The Virginia delegate?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Do you remember during the debate I said Hillary Clinton was willing to rip the baby out of the womb just prior to birth? And I used the term 'rip'? That's what it is. That's what they're doing, it's terrible.

THE DAILY CALLER: Do you think this is an embrace by the Democrats of this type of abortion agenda?

THE PRESIDENT: I think this is going to lift up the whole pro-life movement like maybe it's never been lifted before. And the pro-life movement is very much a 50-50, it's a very 50-50 issue. Actually it's gained a point or two over the years, but it's been very much 49-51 and vice-versa. I think this really will lift up the issue because people have never thought of it in those terms. Cause she actually said, you know, the day of, virtually the day of birth.

THE DAILY CALLER: Northam suggested that today too.

THE PRESIDENT: Oh did he? So he confirmed that?

THE DAILY CALLER: And he's a pediatric neurosurgeon.

THE PRESIDENT: I'm surprised that he did that. I've met him a number of times. I'm surprised that he said that. I saw the woman do it — who ever that was, was that the attorney general?

THE DAILY CALLER: She's a delegate. Kathy Tran, a delegate in Virginia.

THE PRESIDENT: So I was very, very surprised that they would say that and allow that.

THE DAILY CALLER: Could you give us an exclusive preview of the State of the Union? What can we expect? Who are the guests that are going to be in the gallery?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, in fact, we're making up a list very shortly.

But I will say that some of them will be border-related, some of them will be people who have suffered very badly because we didn't do what we should've done in a very dangerous part of our country, and so that's going to be a part of it, absolutely.

At the same time, the world is not doing well and we're going great. You look at the numbers, we're hitting highs. I get no credit for it. It's like, when do you ever hear them talking about — we just hit 25,000 and you won't even hear a thing about it. If President Obama were there — and don't forget, he was paying no interest. We're actually paying interest. You know, he was paying no interest. He didn't have liquidity being drained out of the market in order to pay it down, which we have. How about 50 billion dollars a month? $50 billion a month.

If I had a no interest, no liquidity situation with respect to the market, I mean, forget it. It would actually be incredible, the numbers. Big difference. Tremendous difference.

THE DAILY CALLER: The Super Bowl this weekend, I just want to get you on that because you're an NFL fan. I'm just going to stick to the Patriots here for a second. What makes Kraft, Brady, and Belichick so much better than everybody else and how are they always back in the big game?

THE PRESIDENT: So, it's talent, it's chemistry — they have a great chemistry with each other — I mean, I like all three of them, as you know, I'm very good friends with them. Coach Belichick endorsed me, you remember that?

Belichick is so tough and Kraft is a great guy. The three of them they just have — how good was Brady, I mean, the last game? Not the last game, the last two games. Brady plays better under pressure than he does in a regular game. I mean, that last two minutes the way he was throwing the ball down the field — they were bullets.

And I've seen how hard that ball comes at you, those guys were doing a great job. They were catching that, you know? That ball is whipped.

THE DAILY CALLER: Have you noticed that all of the kneeling basically stopped this year and the ratings went up and the revenue went up? Is there any part of you that says, 'Yeah, I won that fight'?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't want to take credit for that. You know I get along very well with the NFL. I helped them in Canada, you know that story where they were having a dispute for many years with Canada. And as part of NAFTA, you know, the termination of NAFTA and the new — but as part of NAFTA, which is now the USMCA, I was able to get their dispute settled because they're a great American company and I don't want great American companies to have problems.

In fact, Commissioner [Roger] Goodell called me and he thanked me, you know, they were working on that thing for years. It was having to do with the advertisements for the Super Bowl, it was a long-term problem and I got it solved.

I think it's great what they did, it looks like it's straightened out. I think that may be famous last words, let's see what happens, but I think in the end it really worked out great. And, you know what, their ratings went up along with — as that problem went down, their ratings went up.

THE DAILY CALLER: So you're satisfied with Goodell's performance? You don't think he should go?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I think — look, I think that worked out very well. I was very pleased that he called me to thank me for helping him with Canada and yeah, it looks good. And their games have really been good other than one call. It was a little bit — I feel badly, it was a great state that voted for me, Louisiana. I feel very badly for Louisiana because that was maybe the worst call I've ever seen but I guess there's nothing they can do about that. And you might say it, I feel badly for Louisiana.

THE DAILY CALLER: One final one on 2020 if you don't mind. Who is your dream candidate in 2020 to run against?

THE PRESIDENT: Well so far a lot of them. I don't mind. I think that there's a lot of talk about — it looks like Elizabeth Warren has not caught on like they thought she would. She fell into a trap. It's called the Pocahontas trap.

There's so many of them. The truth is there are some I'd love to run against.

Donald J. Trump, Interview with Saagar Enjeti and Vince Coglianese of The Daily Caller Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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