Interview with the Wall Street Journal
Wall Street Journal: Yes, actually that seems as good a place as any to start, maybe, in Davos...
The President: Sure.
Wall Street Journal: ...and if you could talk a little bit about your decision to go and the message you're trying to send there and if you have thoughts about what you're going to say.
The President: Well, I think more than anything else it's the great success that we've had in the last year. And you know if you remember the first quarter was a very low GDP, when Obama's last quarter. It was the slowest growing recovery, a very minor recovery, but it's the worst recovery they've had since the Great Depression. And our country was headed in the wrong direction.
We were going down, we were going down a long way. I believe if the opposing party got in, I believe the stock market would have fallen 50 percent instead of gone up to the number it's gone up. The regulations were choking people, choking companies like never before. It was out of control and they were only going to get worse.
The cutting of regulation and all of the many things that we've done, including being a cheerleader for the country—and perhaps that's part of the reason I'm going to Davos also—but being a cheerleader for the country. Yesterday it was announced that Toyota is coming in with a very big plant in Alabama. It's going to cost—they're going to spend billions of dollars, four thousand jobs, create 300,000 cars a year within the country, which is what I want.
Prime Minister Abe told me about it, I pressed him very hard. I said, 'We got to get your companies building here. We don't want a building in Japan; we want to build them here. We have a lot of plants opening, car plants opening; we have a lot of things happening that would've never happened under the Democrats.
And I just think I want to tell the story of what's happening in the United States. A lot of tremendous things are happening in the United States, including the fact that you can now live without being strangled by regulation. You people actually wrote one of the best stories that I've ever seen on regulation; you said more than any president in history.
That was the full pager, that wasn't...
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: ...I mean I actually read it because I've never seen a full page—it's actually a full page article.
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: But, it was a full pager and essentially said there's never been a president that's been anywhere close on regulation. And you know, just so we understand. We need regulation, but we don't need 19 different roadblocks getting to the same place and that's what we had. And we have a long way to go, we're cutting actually quite a bit of additional regulation. We're looking at Dodd-Frank very strongly and I think we'll have something on that.
I think it's going to be bipartisan and we're looking at other things and the bottom line is that the spirit in the country—you saw small business yesterday came out with the most enthusiastic they've ever been in the history of the report, which is a very old report.
Business, generally, manufacturing the same thing, but we have companies pouring back into this country and you saw that yesterday with Toyota.
Wall Street Journal: Did you see the other economy news yesterday? The markets did dip a little bit after some news suggesting that you were going to maybe pull out of Nafta. I wonder where you're at on Nafta and if you're concerned about the impact pulling out and renegotiating could have on the market.
The President: I'm not sure that markets would dip; I think that markets would—I can tell you I'm not sure about world markets, but I can tell you I think the American market would go up if I terminated Nafta and renegotiated a new deal.
We are—when I campaigned I said we'll either renegotiate Nafta or I'll terminate it.
And nothing's changed, I have fulfilled many of my campaign promises. One of the promises that you know is being very seriously negotiated right now is the wall and the wall will happen. And if you look—point, after point, after point—now we've had some turns. You always have to have flexibility. As an example, we've been much tougher on China, but not nearly as tough as I would be, but they are helping us a lot with North Korea.
And you see in North Korea what's happening with North Korea all of a sudden. China's been helping us a lot, so you can veer a little bit differently, but for the most part everything I've said I've done.
Wall Street Journal: And a question on China for you, just to follow up on Nafta, withdrawal is still on the table for you?
The President: If we don't make the right deal, I will terminate Nafta. OK?
Now, do I want to? No, I'd rather leave it, but I feel that if that if—you know, the United States has been treated very, very badly. That has been a terrible agreement for us, and if we don't make a good deal for our country—we lose $71 billion in trade deficits with Mexico. We lose $17 billion with Canada. If we don't make a fair deal for the United States and the United States taxpayer, then I will terminate it.
Wall Street Journal: Do you have a timetable on that? I know there's another round of talks coming up here this month.
The President: No, but, you know, I'm leaving it a little flexible because they have an election coming up. So I understand a lot of things are hard to negotiate prior to an election. They have an election coming up fairly shortly, and I understand that that makes it a little bit difficult for them, and I'm not looking to make the other side—so we'll either make a deal or—there's no rush, but I will say that if we don't make a fair deal for this country, a Trump deal, then we're not going to have—then we're going to have a—I will terminate.
With that being said, I would rather be able to negotiate. We've made a lot of headway. We're moving along nicely. Bob Lighthizer and others are working very hard, and we'll see what happens.
But tremendous numbers of, you talk about auto plants like yesterday, but how about all the plants that have been taken out of this country and moved to Mexico. Like taking candy from a baby. No, I won't let that happen.
Wall Street Journal: And you mentioned the link between China and North Korea. We talked about that a little bit the last time we were in here.
The President: Right.
Wall Street Journal: Is that—does that link still exist for you? Do you feel like China's been helpful enough...
The President: Not helpful enough, but they've been very helpful. Let's put it this way, they've done more for me than they ever have for any American president. They still haven't done enough. But they've done more for me than they have, by far, for any—I have a very good relationship with President Xi. I like him. He likes me. We have a great chemistry together. He's—China has done far more for us than they ever have for any American president. With that being said, it's not enough. They have to do more.
Wall Street Journal: So when it comes to some of the decisions you have this month on aluminum, steel, the 301 case, does that...
The President: For instance, at the very beginning, you know Obama felt—President Obama felt it was his biggest problem is North Korea. He said that openly. He said that to me, but he said that openly. It is a big problem, and they should not have left me with that problem. That should have been a problem that was solved by Obama, or Bush, or Clinton or anybody, because the longer it went, the worse, the more difficult the problem got. This should not have been a problem left on my desk, but it is, and I get things solved. And one way or the other, that problem is going to be solved.
China has been helping us, and I appreciate the help, but they can do much more.
Wall Street Journal: Are you worried, Mr. President, that sending—delaying military exercises on the peninsula for the Olympics sends the wrong message to the North?
The President: Say it again?
Wall Street Journal: Are you concerned that delaying military exercises on the Korean Peninsula for the Olympics sends the wrong message to the North Koreans, that you're in some way bending to them?
The President: You're the first one that's asked that question. No, I don't think anybody thinks that I'm bending. I think that people that, if anything, I'm being too tough.
No, I think it's inappropriate to have the Olympics, have millions of people going to the Olympics hopefully, have North Korea going to the Olympics, and we're having exercises on the beach. No, I think that it doesn't—I think it sends a good message to North Korea, not a bad message. I think it would be totally inappropriate to do that during the Olympics.
Wall Street Journal: You think North Korea is trying to drive a wedge between the two countries, between you and President Moon?
The President: I'll let you know in—within the next 12 months, OK, Mike?
Wall Street Journal: Sure.
The President: I will let you know. But if I were them I would try. But the difference is I'm president; other people aren't. And I know more about wedges than any human being that's ever lived, but I'll let you know. But I'll tell you, you know, when you talk about driving a wedge, we also have a thing called trade. And South Korea—brilliantly makes—we have a trade deficit with South Korea of $31 billion a year. That's a pretty strong bargaining chip to me.
With that being said, President Xi has been extremely generous with what he's said, I like him a lot. I have a great relationship with him, as you know I have a great relationship with Prime Minister Abe of Japan and I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
I have relationships with people, I think you people are surprised.
Wall Street Journal: Just to be clear, you haven't spoken to the North Korean leader, I mean when you say a relationship with Korea—
The President: I don't want to comment on it—I don't want to comment, I'm not saying I have or I haven't. But I just don't—
Wall Street Journal: Some people would see your tweets, which are sometimes combative towards Kim Jong Un...
The President: Sure, you see that a lot with me and then all of a sudden somebody's my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You give me 30. I'm a very flexible person.
Wall Street Journal: Speaking of being flexible it sounds as if there's an immigration deal that has been struck amongst senators on the hill that's been sent to the White House for approval?
The President: Getting close.
Wall Street Journal: Have you—have you seen anything from the Senate yet?
The President: No but it's getting close. They—want, I feel, you know, I have great feeling for DACA. I think that we should be able to do something with DACA. I think it's foolish if we don't, they've been here a long time, they're no longer children, you know. People talk of them as children, I mean some are 41 years old and older. But some are in their teens, and late teens, but nevertheless I think we should do something with DACA and I think we should do something to help people.
It wasn't their fault, their parents came in, it wasn't their fault. So we're in the process of trying to work something out. I hope we can do it. I don't think it has to take that long. The lottery system is a disaster, we have to get rid of the lottery system. The—as you know chain is—chain migration is a horrible situation. You've seen the ads, you've seen everything, you know all about chain.
This person on the west side that killed eight people and badly, you heard me say yesterday, badly, badly wounded about 12. I mean people losing arms and legs—nobody even talks about that. But they say killed eight and that's it. I mean you have people—ones walking around without—missing two legs. And the person was running to stay in shape and now he's missing two legs. Think of it.
But this person, who should've never been allowed into this country, came in through the lottery. When they interviewed his neighborhood, they say he was horrible. You'd say good morning to him and he'd start cursing at you. They didn't want him so they sent him through the lottery, you know, congratulations United States.
So the lottery has to end, chain migration—he brought in they say 22 people through the chain. So we have 22 of his relatives, why? And I honestly think that the Democrats are with us on that. We'll find out. I mean who wouldn't be? Who wouldn't be? Unless it's somebody that didn't love our country, and the Democrats love our country. We have different views but the Democrats love our country.
So yeah, I think, Michael, I think we have a good chance to make a deal. We have to have a wall. We don't have a wall, we're not doing the deal.
Wall Street Journal: Do you have to have a completely funded wall or—would $1.6 billion be enough?
The President: Let me, let me tell you something about the wall. So I've always said we have to have a wall. I've also said Mexico's got to pay for it—sometimes you know on occasion, I'd add who's going to pay for it? Mexico. Well they will pay for it, OK? There are many forms of payment. I could name 10 right now. There are many forms of payment, I didn't say how.
Wall Street Journal: Could you give us an example?
The President: They can pay for it through, as an example, they can pay for it indirectly through Nafta. OK? You know, we make a good deal on Nafta, say I'm going to take a small percentage of that money and it's going to go toward the wall. Guess what? Mexico's paying. Now Mexico may not want to make the Nafta deal and which is OK, then I'll terminate Nafta...which I think would be frankly a positive for our country. I don't think it's a positive for Mexico, I don't think it's a positive for the world. But it's a positive for our country because I'd make a much better deal. There is no deal that I can make on Nafta that's as good as if I terminate Nafta and make a new deal. OK? But I feel that we have a chance of making a reasonable deal, the way it is now.
Wall Street Journal: On immigration—could you see yourself signing a bill....
The President: The other thing...so the wall. The wall's never meant to be 2,100 miles long. We have mountains that are far better than a wall, we have violent rivers that nobody goes near, we have areas...
But, you don't need a wall where you have a natural barrier that's far greater than any wall you could build, OK? Because somebody said oh, he's going to make the wall smaller. I'm not going to make it smaller. The wall was always going to be a wall where we needed it. And there are some areas that are far greater than any wall we could build.
So, maybe someday somebody could make that clear, Sarah, will you make that clear please?
I saw on television, Donald Trump is going to make the wall smaller; no, the wall's identical. The other thing about the wall is we've spent a great deal of time with the Border Patrol and with the ICE agents and they know this stuff better than anybody, they're unbelievable.
They both endorsed me, the only time they've ever endorsed a presidential candidate, OK? And they endorsed us unanimously. I had meetings with them, they need see-through. So, we need a form of fence or window. I said why you need that—makes so much sense? They said because we have to see who's on the other side.
If you have a wall this thick and it's solid concrete from ground to 32 feet high which is a high wall, much higher than people planned. You go 32 feet up and you don't know who's over here. You're here, you've got the wall and there's some other people here.
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: If you don't know who's there, you've got a problem.
Wall Street Journal: Well, the other day after your meeting when you talked about wanting to see a deal from Congress. In particular, I'm thinking of the tweets from Ann Coulter. You know, a straight—I mean, they want a wall. Do you feel that you have some room to negotiate here with your own base, when it comes to the wall?
The President: I don't have to because the wall is the same wall I've always talked about. I can understand why I have to have see-through.
Wall Street Journal: OK.
The President: If I'm standing here, I want to be able to see 200 yards out. I want to be able to see, I don't want to have a piece of concrete that I can't see.
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: Now on the wall we have cameras and we have highly sophisticated equipment, but the wall—the Border Patrol tells me the other way's more expensive. It's not less expensive. We have to have vision through the wall.
Wall Street Journal: But...
The President: This is going to be state of the art wall; this will be state of the art. But, I can fully understand why you'd have to have vision. I'd like to be able to see three or four hundred yards instead of we're at a wall we have no idea who's on the other side. Does this make sense or am I just wasting my time.
Hicks: It's what you've always talked; it's consistent with what you've always said.
Mr. Trump: No, this is the same. I hope I don't read tomorrow, Trump is going to make the wall, I always said, we need a wall.
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: I never said the wall's going to be two thousand, but there are—there is a vast amount of territory where nobody comes through.
Wall Street Journal: There's this famous metaphor in politics about Nixon going to China.
The President: Right.
Wall Street Journal: Is there a possibility that Donald Trump could sign a comprehensive immigration bill which would provide a path to legal status, citizenship for 11 million people who are here illegally?
The President: Well, I'm not talking amnesty at all. I'm not talking amnesty at all, that's the other thing. No, I think my base is with me. My base feels that these 800 thousand young people should not be thrown out of the country, OK? My base is with me and now
I you know; and I think my base actually gets bigger.
And I'm not doing it because of the base or anything else, I'm doing it from the standpoint of heart, I'm doing it from the standpoint of common sense. I'm doing it from another standpoint too. You have a lot of people of those 800, they work hard, they have jobs. We need workers in this country; we need people to come in and work because I have a lot of companies moving in.
And I'm getting a lot of questions like we want to move to Wisconsin, we wanted—like Wisconsin, I have Foxconn coming to Wisconsin; that's my deal. You know the head of Foxconn, you know he's a friend of mine. He's still only moving there because of me.
And the governor has been fantastic.
The governor of Wisconsin has been fantastic in their presentations and everything else. But I'm the one who got them to look at it. Now we need people because they're going to have thousands of people working it's going to be a—you know—that's—that's the company that makes the Apple iPhone.
Wall Street Journal: Yeah.
The President: Is that—they're going to build them here, they're going to build other things here too.
We need people so we have to be a little bit flexible. I don't want to be so—I've had another pledge that I'm going to move companies back into this country. I don't want to make it so tough that they can't come back in.
Would you say that's a correct statement, Gary, we have to have people.
Wall Street Journal: So when you say you have to have people, clearly there's the 800,000 'Dreamers,' but there's also the larger group of people who are currently in the country...
The President: That's a different discussion.
Wall Street Journal: So, you said on Tuesday...
The President: That's comprehensive—well, if we could do that, that's fine. I don't know that that's going to be possible.
There's a lot of—there's a lot of—there's a big difference—first of all, there's a big difference between DACA and Dreamers, OK?
Dreamers are different. And I want American kids to be Dreamers also, by the way. I want American kids to be Dreamers also.
But there's a big difference between DACA and Dreamers. And a lot of times when I was with certain Democrats they kept using the word dreamer. I said, "Please, use the word DACA." You know it's a totally different word.
Wall Street Journal: Sure.
The President: OK, people think they're interchangeable, but they're not.
So—I—I think we have a very good chance of making a deal on DACA, I would like to be able to do it; I think that the people that are Trump supporters agree with me on it. I would never do it without a wall, the wall is the wall and it's the same wall that we're always talking about. It's—you know, wherever we need, we don't need it where you have mountains; you don't need it where you have rivers and—you know, vicious rivers.
So—so we have sort of natural barriers.
Wall Street Journal: Barriers, yeah.
The President: And, obviously, we never intended [inaudible].
Wall Street Journal: Just to be really clear, because I don't want to have any misunderstanding.
The President: Yeah, be really clear, I'd like to—because I love The Wall Street Journal. I hope that you guys are clear. OK.
Wall Street Journal: For sure.
When—on Tuesday you said that you supported the idea of signing comprehensive immigration reform...
The President: No, no I support the idea of discussing it.
Wall Street Journal: OK.
The President: And, maybe, it's possible to get it. You know, that's what I do, I make deals. Despite what you read with—by these people that don't know me, that were never interviewed by—to me, you know.
White House Official: But first we have to [inaudible].
The President: The man with the three hour interview, he spent three hours—the man who said he spent three hours in the Oval Office who I never met once in the White House. OK, you know—despite all these characters that are—that's something you can talk about, is the libel laws, because we've got to increase our libel laws so when people make misstatements, like yourselves, but when people make misstatements somebody has some, you know, recourse.
Wall Street Journal: Do you have a plan for that, Mr. President?
The President: Yeah, I do, I would—I would say—I don't know that I'll be able to get it though—but I think that when somebody makes false statements and libelous statements, whether it's in a book or a newspaper or anything else. When they have phony sources, when the sources don't exist, yeah I think they should have a liability.
Wall Street Journal: Do you think Congress needs to make new libel laws?
The President: I don't know if Congress has the guts to do that.
Wall Street Journal: But do you want them to?
The President: I would like to see that. Yeah, I'd like to be able to—look, nobody gets more false press than I do. Nobody—nobody gets—nobody comes close. In history—in the history of this country nobody's gotten more false press and you guys all know it.
Wall Street Journal: Why—why do you think that is?
The President: They dislike me, the liberal media dislikes me. I mean I watch people—I was always the best at what I did, I was the—I was, you know, I went to the—I went to the Wharton School of Finance, did well. I went out, I—I started in Brooklyn, in a Brooklyn office with my father, I became one of the most successful real-estate developers, one of the most successful business people. I created maybe the greatest brand.
I then go into, in addition to that, part-time, like five percent a week, I open up a television show. As you know, the Apprentice on many evenings was the number one show on all of television, a tremendous success. It went on for 12 years, a tremendous success. They wanted to sign me for another three years and I said, no, I can't do that.
That's one of the reasons NBC hates me so much. NBC hates me so much they wanted—they were desperate to sign me for—for three more years.
Wall Street Journal: Mr. President, you made reference to the book. Steve Bannon ...
The President: Just—and so—so I was successful, successful, successful. I was always the best athlete, people don't know that. But I was successful at everything I ever did and then I run for president, first time—first time, not three times, not six times. I ran for president first time and lo and behold, I win. And then people say oh, is he a smart person? I'm smarter than all of them put together, but they can't admit it. They had a bad year.
Wall Street Journal: You mention the book—Steve Bannon was somebody important to your campaign, worked in the White House, was on the National Security Council for a while. Do you feel betrayed by him?
The President: Yes, I do. I feel betrayed because you're not supposed to do that, but I have many people that work for me who were far more important than Steve, right there.
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: And others, I mean I could take you around to the back and I could show you many people, If you don't—and some of them you wouldn't know their names so [inaudible]. Steve was—I always liked Steve, but Steve became very ineffective because he was such a lightning rod.
And Steve, in the end I fired Steve.
Wall Street Journal: Is that relationship permanently broken between you and Steve?
The President: You never know, you know again, the word—– I don't know what the word permanent means, OK? I never know what the word permanent means. We'll see what happens, but Steve had nothing to do with my win. Well, certainly very little.
Steve's greatest asset is he was able to convince a corrupt media that he was responsible for my win. Hope, just out of curiosity, you were there from day one. What do you think Steve in a percentage had to do with my victory?
I mean he was there. Corey [Lewandowski] had more to do with it.
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: David had more to do with it. Many people— I mean, there were many people—it's a little before Sarah's time. If you were here, you would have had more to do with it. No, I talked to Steve very little; I didn't know Steve well, believe it or not. They made it sound like—I mean when that guy wrote the book about Steve.
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: Don't forget, I had vanquished 17 governors, senators plus a couple of very smart people, like Ben and Carly and others. I had vanquished them easily—easily. I won every debate based on the polls. You know, they do polls—seven or eight polls. Time Magazine—Time Magazine's not a fan of mine.
Drudge, Time Magazine they have seven polls. I don't think, I may be wrong—I don't think you'll find one poll that I ever lost in any of the 14, 15 debates. Including the presidential debate, you know with her, the three. Steve Bannon, I just wish him well...
Wall Street Journal: Sir can I ask you—
The President: ...but he had nothing to do with my—he was involved, but he had nothing to do with our victory. And he was there two months—what was it two months after? So, I beat 17 people, OK? So, Michael, you know politics, perhaps better than me.
Wall Street Journal: Not better.
The President: You've been doing it longer, OK? That's the other thing I've only been doing this for two years, two and a half years, OK? You know, it's pretty good. When they said Jeb Bush was off his game; Trump killed him in the debate. Jeb was off his game because he hasn't been governor now. He's been out of politics for eight years. Oh, really? I've been out of politics for—I was never in politics.
So, sort of interesting, but when I won against the 17 people, you can't then say that oh, gee, somebody comes in two months after I won, and he gives me new policy, new idea. I can't change those ideas, those ideas are wedded.
Wall Street Journal: What seemed like the most egregious thing that Steve said was that was some of the things about your son and the Russian meetings.
The President: What he said about my son is horrible. My son had a brief meeting based on the fact that he thought whatever he thought. And he—somebody said bad stuff on an opponent. I don't know of one politician in Washington—if you're a politician and somebody called up that they have information on your opponent that might be negative.
I'm not sure, but I don't think there's one politician in all of Washington that would not take that would not take that meeting, number one. Number two, after the meeting was over nothing happened. In other words, it wasn't like OK let's meet again in a month and let's plan out the—nothing happened, it was a dead meeting.
Wall Street Journal: Did you ever hear about the meeting during the campaign?
The President: No, I never did; I never knew about it.
White House Official: Excuse me, I just—we have about two or three minutes left and you've got to go to a meeting.
The President: Oh I do?
White House Official: Yes, you have an 11:15. So, I can push it about five minutes, but that's all we've got. So you're running out of time.
Wall Street Journal: I'd like to ask a couple of questions about your tweets on the Russia investigation.
The President: Yes.
Wall Street Journal: You had tweeted yesterday that you wanted Republicans in Congress to take control of the investigations. They control Congress. Do you want them to shut down those investigations?
The President: No, I think—I just want them to—look, all I see of these Democrats, like Adam Schiff —it's all he does, he'll have a meeting, and then he'll leave, and he'll call up the meeting, and then I'll have a meeting and then he'll leave. He left meetings where people are being interviewed, and then all of a sudden they say a story about what's going on inside the meetings.
It's probably illegal, what he's doing. But the Democrats know it's a hoax. It's an excuse for them having lost the election. They know it's a hoax. And yet, they are milking it to a fare-thee-well and I think the Republicans— although I will say that over the last month the Republicans have started to get very tough. Because they realize there's no collusion whatsoever. There's no collusion.
Wall Street Journal: Do you think they're close to ending the probe?
The President: I hope so. Hey, look, I got elected president. I won easily, 306 or 304, depending on your definition, to 223. I won a race that should never be won by a Republican because it's so stacked in the Democrats' favor. I mean, if you figure California, New York, and Illinois, you start off with losing that—you have to run the entire East Coast and every— and the entire Midwest.
I won an election that should never be won, because the Electoral College is far harder to win than the popular vote. The popular vote, for me, would have been much easier.
Wall Street Journal: But just to be clear, you're not asking for them to shut those congressional investigations down?
The President: No, I just want them to be tough, be strong. I also think that primary collusion, because there was no collusion on our side, the collusion was on the Democrat side with the Russians. And what went on with the FBI, where a man is tweeting to his lover that if she loses, we'll essentially go back to the—we'll go to the insurance policy, which is—if they lose, we'll go to phase 2, and we'll get this guy out of office.
I mean, this is the FBI we're talking about. I think that is—that is treason. See, that's treason right there.
Wall Street Journal: Does any of that make you less...
The President: By the way, that's a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.
Wall Street Journal: Does any of that make you less likely or less inclined to testify before Mueller, or talk to Mueller's people?
The President: Look, there has never been in the history of this country an administration that, number one, did nothing wrong, and number two, was more open with a special counsel. We have—my lawyers are very good people. We made a decision right at the beginning. And it wasn't their original idea. They figured, like, well, we'll fight this [inaudible].
After they looked at all the letters, all the facts, every email, they saw nothing. They said, "We should be open." There has never been a more— they said, "You never did anything wrong." To be honest, they probably were surprised, OK? As most lawyers would be.
They said, "You never did anything wrong."
And they said, and I agree with them, "We should be upfront, give them a"—we gave them everything.
Wall Street Journal: So if asked if...
The President: There has never been, in the history—in the history of an administration anybody that was more open than we were. You understand that?
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: We gave them everything. We didn't go to court and say, "You can't have this document, you can't have"—and what we gave them showed—I never got a phone call from Russia. I didn't have a tweet. I didn't have a—I had nothing. I didn't have an email. I didn't have a meeting. I didn't have—did I have one meeting with—about Russia? And...
Wall Street Journal: Well, Mueller's also looking at some other areas, right? Like obstruction of justice...
The President: Well allow—let me—[inaudible]. So, they make up a crime, and the crime doesn't exist. And then they say obstruction. And how could there be obstruction on firing Comey? When the man who's in charge of it wrote a letter that was far stronger than anything I would have written. He was in charge—Deputy Rosenstein. He wrote a letter that's far stronger than even what I say.
And here's another thing. A friend of mine brought this up the other day. Comey. Comey has proven to be a liar and a leaker. Proven. He tries to act like a choir boy. What he did with Hillary Clinton is outrageous. He saved her life, because all of those charges—I call it "Comey one, two, and three," all of those charges and Comey won, she was guilty of. She should have been taken out of the campaign and been on trial.
He didn't do that. He saved her life. But here's the way you look at Comey. Everybody hated Comey, and Comey—by the way, the FBI, say what you want, go back to look at the day around Hillary—the FBI was in turmoil. Everybody hated Comey. The Democrats wanted him fired. Everybody wanted him out. You look at what Schumer said about him, you look at what everybody said. As soon as I fired him they said, "oh, he's wonderful—he's wonderful, how could you do that."
So there's no—you have a no-crime that was created, you have a phony crime and then they talk about obstruction. And how can they talk about obstruction when I was the most open person, in history, in terms of—there's never been a paper we didn't give them, there's never been a question we didn't answer.
Now, I could of done it differently. I've been, you know, pretty successful in the courts over the years, I've been a very successful person, you can check—USA Today said, "he does great in the courts," OK?
Unknown: Sorry to interrupt. We have to—you're late for your meeting. No, I know, finish this thought and then if—I'd love to get like an infrastructure or tax question in before you guys go—I know that was sort of the premise of the meeting.
The President: They don't want to talk about that—they don't want to talk about the biggest tax bill [inaudible].
Unknown: But, we just have about two minutes left, so— you finish, yeah.
The President: OK, all right, well we'll do as much as we can.
So, just to finish, everybody wanted Comey fired. And then, when I fired, I never forget, when I fired, all these people that had just said, "You've got fire Comey", they said, "oh, he just fired Comey." Well now they're—the—on the other side, they're Democrats. So all of a sudden they change.
All you have to do is take a look, seriously—take a look at all these people, they all wanted him fired. And the FBI was a mess. When he announced the Hillary Clinton fiasco where she was guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty and then where they did the interview with no tape recorder, with no swearing in, with no this, with no that—you know the story.
But take a look at all of these people that became critics of my firing, they all wanted him fired. And they wanted him fired until I said, "he's fired." But the deputy, Rosenstein, who is in charge, he wrote a letter that was possibly or probably stronger than anything I would have written or did write.
Wall Street Journal: So you're saying there was no obstruction, if Mueller asks you to come in and talk about it, would you—
The President: Of course there was no obstruction—excuse me. Of course there was no obstruction. But there was no crime. So now they're saying, could there be—now, I haven't even heard that they're looking at obstruct—I don't know that they're looking at obstruction.
But how can you—I'm sorry, this is the most open dialogue ever, I've given everything, number one. That's not obstruction.
The other thing is, everybody wanted Comey fired. And, another thing, and this is just a few, Comey has proven to be a leaker and a liar and, if anything, I should get credit for firing him because it turned out I was right because many thing have been found out about Comey that—I mean, I should be given credit for having great insight because many things have been found out about Comey that would never have been found out if I didn't fire him.
Wall Street Journal: [inaudible] infrastructure [inaudible].
The President: But just so you understand...
Wall Street Journal: Oh, sorry.
The President: ...The deputy attorney general, who's in charge of the case, wanted—all you have to do is read his letter. So that's— there's no obstruction there.
Wall Street Journal: How about a welfare and a tax question real quick before we wrap it up?
The President: Yeah, go ahead.
Unknown: Yeah, let's finish on that and then you really do have to go, you've got a Roosevelt Room full of people waiting for you. So go ahead.
The President: I do?
Unknown: Yes, you do.
The President: OK, get me a list of those people.
Unknown: Yes, sir.
The President: I'll see the level of it.
I do enjoy this, actually.
Wall Street Journal: Yeah, this is fun, thank you for taking the time.
The President: I do ask you this, treat me fairly.
Wall Street Journal: We always do.
The President: We'll do it—every month we'll do one of these. But—because I do respect and I love and I think [WSJ editor in chief] Gerard [Baker]—I always call him the most elegant debate—I thought it was the best debate, maybe because I like that one good from my standpoint.
Wall Street Journal: Yeah.
The President: But I thought he was very elegant. I always say, "You're the elegant host."
I went through some that weren't so elegant. But all I'm asking is one thing, you know what I'm saying, it's very easy, treat me fairly.
Wall Street Journal: We do.
So I just want to be crystal clear about this, you're open to discussing comprehensive immigration reform, are you open to discussing a path to citizenship as part of that?
The President: Ready? Comprehensive immigration reform is a far step from DACA. I am always open to discussing everything but that doesn't mean we're going to get anywhere close to getting it done.
I'd love to get something done if it's appropriate. But there's no—I think we will get DACA, I really believe we're getting close to DACA and I'm dealing with some great people on the Democrat side. I'm dealing with some people that I really have gotten to like.
Wall Street Journal: Who?
The President: And I really believe they have good intention. After we're finished with DACA, assuming that gets done, I would certainly be open to discussing—you know, the comprehensive immigration. I don't know that we'll be able to make a deal on that one.
Wall Street Journal: Got it. And so on this—this welfare...
The President: You understand what I mean.
Wall Street Journal: Yes, I now—I think we're nice and clear on that one.
The President: So that's a very different—very different topic.
Wall Street Journal: Yeah, do you think welfare reform or infrastructure is more feasible?
The President: Well I think we're going to start with infrastructure. We're very far down the line. Gary [Cohn] actually met with Elizabeth Warren yesterday and I heard, actually, had a very good conversation. My team met—Gary, you had a whole group of people—and they had a good conversation. We'll start with infrastructure and we'll see. If we do infrastructure I think that has to be bipartisan—and I think it will be. I think we'll have a lot of Democrat support.
And I think with welfare reform that will have to be bipartisan. You know, we only have a majority of one and unless we get more Republicans in the next election or the next two elections we won't be able to do that and as Republicans we're going to have to have a bipartisan.
So, if we do welfare reform it's going to have to be bipartisan.
Wall Street Journal: And just so we understand, what programs are welfare reform targets?
The President: Well, I'd rather talk to you about that later because honestly, we're doing infrastructure first; OK? We'll do that again.
Wall Street Journal: Infrastructure—would that be a trillion-dollar direct federal outlay? Or is that a public/private partnership?
The President: It's going to be a combination of public/private which is now the new hot topic. We'll be putting up approximately $200 billion. It could be as much as $1.8 trillion spent. We have many, many, wealthy countries, some of whom our country made wealthy, but we have many countries, any people that really want to put up tremendous amounts of money for the infrastructure. That gets it built faster, gets it built better, gets it built on time, on budget and the United States won't be putting up all of the money.
Wall Street Journal: Where does the federal share come from?
The President: The $200 billion?
Wall Street Journal: Yes.
The President: Well, that's not a large amount. I mean—think of this—I hate to say it but it's not my fault and I did not want to go into Iraq, by the way. But as of two months ago we're into the Middle East for $7 trillion. We made a lot of headway in the Middle East, by the way. I've knocked out ISIS and Syria and Iraq and all but— and we're doing well in Afghanistan for the first time ever. But you'll see the results over the next three or four months like you won't believe.
Wall Street Journal: You're not talking about taking it out of the military budget?
The President: No, never out of the military. No—no, no. Nothing comes out of the military. We're making the military strong, again. Just the opposite—we're building the military budget very substantially; you know that.
Wall Street Journal: I mean do you have to find cuts or is this new spending? Would you be willing to spend new money on this?
The President: No. This will be—this will be money that we will find. There's a lot of places to find $200 billion. There are not a lot of places to find $1.8 trillion. I see Gary shaking his head, yes; correct? $200 billion sounds like a lot but relative to what we're talking about it's a number that we can easily handle.
Whereas again people will come in and put up vast amounts of money. They will supervise the projects, they will make sure they get built on time, on budget—or below budget which is even better. And so, what we're talking about is about $200 billion. And, Gary, am I right when I say $1.7 trillion to $1.8 trillion?
Cohn: Exactly right, sir.
The President: Approximately—so it will be actually $1.8 trillion of investment in our infrastructure which will largely rebuild our infrastructure.
That will include bridges, roadways, tunnels; it will include many things. One of the things we're doing separate of that will be air-traffic control. Our air-traffic control is from a different planet. It's horrible. It's a horrible mess.
Our air-traffic control doesn't work. They have spent billions and billions of dollars on it over the last seven years. Billions and it's worthless. They had many different contractors doing many different locations using all different computers and computer companies. And when they hooked it up it didn't work. So, I'm good at that stuff—we'll fix it.
Wall Street Journal: One last quick question.
The President: Go ahead.
Wall Street Journal: I just want to get a tax one in here too.
The President: The tax bill has turned out to be far greater than we ever anticipated.
Wall Street Journal: Can you talk about it in a midterm framework here? Are you going to go out and sell this for the Republicans?
The President: It's selling itself, Michael. Michael, it's selling itself.
Wall Street Journal: Do you plan to help in the midterms?
The President: One thing nobody anticipated was that these companies would come in and pay all of this money to the employees—to millions and millions of employees. And AT&T started it, but it was picked up by Comcast and another one.
Many are announcing today—and the ones that aren't announcing you know what's happening? The employees are going, what about us? Did you forget us—to the ones that—that was never anticipated. That was just one of the many benefits. You know this bill—and I said from the beginning this bill will be so good—and the Democrats are very concerned. They're very concerned. This bill has turned out to be even better than we thought. It's really having a big—and I'm also hearing a lot of people are bringing money back in. You know, the $4 trillion that we're talking about or whatever it may be. Nobody even knows what it is, but it's a big number.
Wall Street Journal: Just on the midterms, are there concrete steps that the administration is taking to make sure Russia doesn't interfere in the 2018 elections?
The President: We're going to be very careful. We're going to be very, very, careful about Russia—and about anybody else, by the way.
Wall Street Journal: What are you doing to make sure?
The President: We are absolutely—at the appropriate time and first of all we're working on different solutions.
And as you know the last election was not affected in terms of votes—and I think you do understand that everybody—even the Democrats agree to that—a lot of people don't write it. But we are looking at all sorts of fail-safes and we are going to make sure that no country including Russia can have anything to do with the result of the midterms or any other election; OK? That's what our country is all about.
Unknown: Thank you, guys, so much.
Wall Street Journal: Thank you, [inaudible]. Thank you, Mr. President.
Wall Street Journal: Mr. President, do you expect Rex Tillerson to stay on?
The President: Yeah, Rex and I are getting along very well.
Wall Street Journal: And Gary Cohn, and...
The President: I don't know, Gary, are you staying on?
Unknown: Gary, are you staying?
Cohn: Very happy. We were—we're doing great things on the economy.
Wall Street Journal: Well usually, it's—the New Year mark is a time when—when—when there's—
The President: Oh, I know it's the time. But look, hey, Gary may leave and Rex may leave but I don't anticipate it. I hope Gary stays and we'll see.
Wall Street Journal: H.R.—H.R. McMaster?
Unknown: Guys, thank you—
The President: You know what? I like him. I like him. I like them all.
Wall Street Journal: OK.
The President: We'll find out. But people do leave. You guys may leave The Wall Street Journal, right?
Wall Street Journal: Thank you very, very much.
The President: Thank you very much.
Donald J. Trump, Interview with the Wall Street Journal Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/332170