Donald Trump was interviewed by TIME Editor Nancy Gibbs, Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer, and political correspondent Zeke Miller on Aug. 18.
For TIME’s cover story on Trump, read here.
Jeb Bush was asked about your comment on “Meet the Press.” You were asked who your foreign policy advisors are and you said you “watch the shows.” He said it’s not enough to watch television. Do you have a response to that?
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Well Jeb is a very low energy person. So he can sit around a table all day long with one general and talk and talk and you know. But I see that general as being grilled by you. And when I say I watch on television, I do, and I watch on TIME Magazine, and I watch in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, I read all of them a lot.
And I get my views from the media. A lot of the views, and frankly other people do. And the views that you will see during those ten or fifteen minute segments or during reading the story are not a lot different than Jeb sitting around with a policy group, if he really has such a thing.
Behind the cover: Donald Trump meets an American bald eagle.
It sounds good. I can say that too. You know I was an excellent student at the best school and I could also say, “Oh well, I have a great policy group, and we sit around.” I mean I wonder whether or not Jeb actually has that. But I’m being very honest. And I know when I say something like that, you can be criticized…When I see certain generals sitting at the different shows, I mean I think it’s a great way to learn about what’s going on. When I see the leaders of countries sitting on shows and frankly, you don’t have to go through the whole process. It’s a shortened version.
So I’m somebody that time is very important to me, and it saves time. But also you get really good views. You see some tremendous people.
In one of your books on leadership you actually said as advice to other people who want to be entrepreneurs, having a short attention span can be a benefit.
Well I mean I have an attention span that’s as long as it has to be. But I don’t have to sit around with a group of generals to tell me about Iraq being a failure. Iraq was a total failure.
Several of your rivals say that your experience in business doesn’t translate. Chris Christie said, “This is not negotiating a real estate deal. This is international diplomacy.” What do you say to that?
Well, I have the right temperament. I have the right leadership. I’ve built an incredible company. I went to a great school. I came out I built an incredible company. I wrote the number one selling business book of all time Trump: The Art of the Deal. I had tremendous success in show business–star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “The Apprentice” was one of the most successful shows. And as you know NBC renewed it, I just said I’m not doing it. They’re not exactly thrilled with me at all. But I’ve had a great career, and I know how to get along with people. I know how to deal with people.
I mean, if I was the governor of New Jersey, the George Washington Bridge would not have been shut. You talk about temperament.
You know people are talking about diplomacy, or tone. You know Bush brings up tone all the time. Tone. We need strong tone. We’re too far behind. We’re behind. We’re not winning. You know if we were winning we could sort of soften it up.
But you look at Putin can’t stand Obama, and Obama can’t stand him, in all fairness. But we don’t get along with anybody anymore. Hillary Clinton was the worst Secretary of State in the history of the country. The world came apart under her reign as Secretary of State.
I want to ask you about the immigration plan you put out over the weekend. You had said in 2012 that Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” comment was crazy and maniacal.
Well I thought it was stupid. Who’s going to self deport? It wasn’t that it was a bad plan from any other standpoint. But you tell people, oh, self deport. To me that just means what, you’re just going to walk across the border and say okay. They asked me to go. That’s not going to happen.
So how does the deportation happen under …
Well what we’re going to do–we have a plan, and I think it’s a really good plan. And by the way, it’s been very well received and some of the candidates, my opponents I guess you could call them, but some of the candidates have said that’s really what you want. I worked with a number of people on it including [Alabama] Senator [Jeff] Sessions, highly respected, and not known as a radical person at all. But we’re going to have to – look, it’s very simple. We either have a country or we don’t.
The first thing I need is a wall, and I will build a wall. And you know that Hillary Clinton and almost everybody ten years ago wanted a wall built. Everybody wanted a wall built. But they couldn’t do it because they don’t know anything about building. They’re throwing out numbers to build a wall. I’ll build a far better wall, far higher, and just a much better–that’s what I do. I mean the thing I do best is build. Which is not bad to have as a president because our infrastructure in this country is also crumbling. But we’ll build a great wall. It will be a very effective wall. And it will be done quickly and Mexico will pay for it.
But the next step, if I understand your plan correctly, is that even the hardworking good people who are here without papers —
They’re illegally here. They will leave, and they’ll come back on an expedited basis if they…And they will leave.
You’re talking about 10% of California’s workforce, maybe 13% …
Don’t forget in the meantime we have a real unemployment rate that’s probably 21%. It’s not 6. I’s not 5.2 and 5.5. Our real unemployment rate–in fact, I saw a chart the other day, our real unemployment–because you have ninety million people that aren’t working. Ninety-three million to be exact.
If you start adding it up, our real unemployment rate is 42%. We have a lot of room. We have a lot of people who want to work. But the good people I want them to come back. And I also want people of great talent to come to this country, to Silicon Valley for engineers. If you go to Harvard and you graduate number one in your class, and you’re from China, they send you home, you can’t get back into the country.
So you end up working for companies in China and fighting us. And they’re competitors of us. They’re trained in our schools. I want people like that to come into this country. And if they want, I want that path to citizenship for these people. So they go to our best schools, they’re fabulous students, they do well, they’re going to be great and we throw them out of the country. It’s ridiculous.
So again, just talking about the hardworking peaceful undocumented immigrants here.
Illegal immigrants, we’re taking about the illegal. Do you know the word illegal? They go out …
But do you forcibly remove them? I mean if they choose not to go, if they say, “No, I’m not going to go.”
It’ll all work out. It’s called management. Politicians can’t manage. All they can do is talk. It’s called management. And we’ll do an expedited system. Because I agree with you, there are some very, very good people here who they are here illegally.
But they are illegal. We have to strengthen our border. We have to have people come in legally. And we will work out an expedited system where the really good people can come back legally.
If you became president, what needs to change about about Super PACs and campaign financing? It’s a system that you’ve said is basically corrupt.
Well I think this whole thing with PACs is nonsense. Because Jeb Bush puts his friend in charge of has PAC, and they don’t talk….And he’s going to work hard, as is Hillary Clinton. They all have their friends running the PACs. Now you’re not supposed to talk, you’re not supposed to – they go out and play golf, they get together, but they don’t talk. Who believes that? So I want transparency. I don’t mind the money coming in. Let it be transparent. Let them talk, but let there be total transparency.
Are you willing to sign the “No New Taxes” pledge of Grover Norquist?
Well I’m thinking about it but I have a problem because I may want to switch taxes around. I want to save the middle class. And I have hedge fund guys that are making a lot of money that aren’t paying anything, okay. And I don’t know how his pledge relates to that.
But I know a lot of bad people in this country that are making a hell of a lot of money and not paying taxes. And the tax law is totally screwed up. The complexity of it, the size of it. I mean I spent millions of dollars every year on lawyers and accountants just to do a tax return. And I want to put H&R Block out of business. I want to make it very simple. And we can leave the tax code the way it is and simplify it, or you could go to a form of a flat tax. You could go to a fair tax. There’s a lot of things you could do.
Probably the simplest is simplify the existing. Because we have other projects. We have to beat China. We have to beat Japan. We have to beat Mexico. We have to beat everybody that beating us, which is 100% of the countries that we do business with. We have a lot of other things to work on.
As president would you propose changes that increased the net amount of taxes?
No, because there’s so much waste in Washington.
You’ve written more on leadership than any of the other candidates. George W. Bush or Bill Clinton, who is a better leader?
I wasn’t a huge fan of Bush, as you know…I thought he was lost. I thought he was not a great president…He certainly wasn’t a good president. He got us into Iraq which by itself was a disaster. He also caused toward the end of his thing a financial problem by allowing exploding mortgages and other things that I predicted. I said you’re going to have a huge bubble here. We have another one coming up by the way. I predicted that. You have exploding mortgages. I understood. I made a lot of money because I went in and bought a lot of stuff at the low price after it exploded. But he really gave us Obama. Clinton had a lot of problems with the Monicas of the world and had he not had those problems he would have had a pretty good presidency. Not a great one but a pretty solid presidency. But that was a disaster and a tremendous distraction.
Are there any of the current candidates who you would not consider as a vice presidential candidate?
Well I don’t want to say because – I will tell you when it’s all over, win, lose or draw, I’ll tell you who I respect, who I don’t respect. I think the thing that I most – that I’m very complimented by is that Rick Perry was doing really well, and then he decided he had to do better and he went after me and he went right down the tubes.
Senator Lindsey Graham was doing fine. Nobody got more publicity than this guy. He had zero. He’s the only one that had zero. That means not one person in the whole country – he had zero. Like [former New York Gov. George] Pataki had zero but slightly more than that, right. He actually had a zero down today on the CNN.
And these were the two guys that hit me very hard. And it was such a compliment to think – and now by the way Rand Paul’s going down the tubes. Because all of a sudden he came out of nowhere and he hit me, and now he’s … Now I hit back very hard. I think I hit back maybe sometimes harder than they hit me.
But I came out with a very strong statement about Rand Paul. First of all I think he’s totally taking advantage of the people in Kentucky. Because one of these afterthought, if I don’t win here I’ll go back to you. It doesn’t work that way. Somebody should primary him out. Because he can be beaten, believe me.
So he’s done very poorly. And since he attacked me, he’s gone down. And I’m greatly honored by that, you know. I get attacked but somebody and they go down. I thought that a guy like Perry, he was getting so much publicity, he went to Washington, he read a speech, he did a whole big thing, it was all over the television. He went down. So that’s a great honor.
What happened with “The Apprentice”?
[NBC/Comcast Executives] came up to see me. And even after twelve years and fourteen seasons it was one of their most successful shows. It was a great success. And they tried to talk me into it and I just wouldn’t do it. And I just wouldn’t do it.
So I didn’t know this was going to happen, and they’re impressed too. They probably didn’t know this was going to happen either.
Do you still retain an interest in the show?
Yeah I do. A big interest. So it’s a very good question. When I say I’m not doing another season, that’s a lot of money. And even if you’re a rich person, that’s a lot of money to give up… They would have paid me whatever I wanted. So when I did this…I turned down a deal last week in China, because I’d have to go there. One of the biggest companies wanted me to do a deal in China. Guaranteed tens of millions of dollars. Turned it down because I can’t go to China… I’ve told my kids, this is going so wild. Let’s see what happens.
You know I’ve had great success. Even in golf I’ve won many golf club championships. I don’t know if you guys play golf. But to win a club championship is hard, literally hard. And you have to beat scratch players…You got a lot of good players. I’ve won many club championships. So my life has been about winning. My life has not been about losing. So I get a kick out of watching these guys who were not even successful people saying, “Oh, he’s just having fun.”
It’s not having fun. Actually I could have more fun. I own here’s a picture, I own Turnberry in Scotland that just hosted the Women’s British Open. I wouldn’t mind being at Turnberry. I may never see it again.
Are you surprised by your position?
So I’m a little surprised that it’s gone with this speed. I don’t expect to lose ever. But the speed is pretty rapid. You know. And unlike other people, I’ve stayed in the position.
Why run for president this time? You’ve decided against it in the past.
So it was really important that I do it, for myself…I mean I really considered it strongly last time. Before that I thought about it. But I never even had any staff. My secretary was my staff. But the time I looked at it was less time. But I was very busy, I was doing tremendous developments which are now completed and very successful. Because we’re all over the world. And I had a signed contract with “The Apprentice.” I would have had to break it. The other reason I wanted to do this for myself. I didn’t want to look back in ten years and say I could have done that or I could have done that. My family would look at me and say, “Ugh, stop.” I had to do it for myself.
How has this changed your life?
So I am enjoying it. And I think people see that…I’m watching my opponents. Certainly Hillary is not enjoying it, okay. She’s going through something that for me, for me is Watergate. Her only hope is that because the prosecutors are Democrats she doesn’t get prosecuted. That’s the only hope she’s got. Because what she did is wrong and what she did far worse than General Petraeus.…And I saw her joke yesterday, it wasn’t a joke … but it was sort of like you’re laughing at people’s faces when they say – and they automatically – you know by saying they were automatically deleted, right, you know she made that statement yesterday, by saying that you’re almost saying that you deleted them on purpose….It was supposed to be a joke. It wasn’t funny, but there was a lot into that if you think about it.
A lot of your supporters are not wealthy. They can never imagine themselves in your shoes.
And they like me.
You’re not the average American in a way, you’ve never been – but you connect with them. How do you explain that?
Actually, the funny thing is, I do worse with the wealthy people. Okay, it’s funny in my opinion. Now, they’ll all support me if I want them to, but I don’t want them. If they want to send something, I don’t care….I have a dot com. I had a woman send me $7 the other day. Another guy sent me $12. There was a long beautiful letter. I love that, because it’s like they’re investing. That’s called a great thing. They’re investing…They’re doing that because they’re investing in the campaign and that I really do like. But somehow I related to exactly what you’re saying, to the middle class, to the working person, and people don’t understand.
You come in on a Boeing 757, then you get on a helicopter, and you go over to the fair, and you give the kids the rides, which the kids loved. But you land in this incredible Sikorsky, and people like it. I’ve always felt that when Jimmy Carter would walk out of—off Air Force One carrying his own suits and bags, I always said, that’s not what the country wants… He would walk off Air Force One carrying his suit and his bag. He’s the President of the United States, and he didn’t want anybody to carry his stuff, because he thought, “Why should they? I can carry it myself.” I always felt that’s not what they want. They don’t want that. They want someone who’s going to beat China, beat Japan.
I was in Los Angeles, I saw boats coming in with cars from Japan, the largest ships I’ve ever seen, loaded to the gills, cars just pouring off, made in Japan. How does that help us, and we give them a fraction—a tiny fraction—and they don’t even want it. Those days are gone. Those days will be gone. But we have to make ourselves wealthy again in order to save our country. We can’t continuously lose money.
How do you view the state of the American banking system?
We’re having a huge problem, again. You know you look at the junk. You know all the junk that’s floating all over the place. You look at some of this Internet stuff that’s floating all over. We’re in a bubble again, okay. It’s not – and I’ll tell you the problem with the banks, if you’re really rich, like with me, if I want to borrow money I can buy all the money I want. But if there’s a young Donald Trump that needs some money to do a couple of really good deals can’t get it because the regulators are making it absolutely impossible for the banks to loan money.
Do you want to repeal Dodd Frank and similar financial regulation reforms passed by President Obama?
Well Dodd Frank is probably not a very good thing. There are aspects of it you could leave. But generally speaking Dodd Frank stifles business. It just totally stifles business.
I’ll tell you another subject that I’m going to start talking about because nobody talks about it. Corporate inversion, where companies are going over to other places. You know it used to be they moved from New York to Florida, they moved from New Jersey to…Pfizer is talking about moving to Ireland. Or someplace else. We’re talking about Pfizer. Do you know how big that is? It would wipe out New Jersey. I mean that is a massive Merck.
They have $2.5 trillion sitting out of the country that they can’t get back because they don’t want to pay the tax. Nor would I. Everybody agrees that shouldn’t happen. We should let them back in. Everybody. Even if you paid nothing it would be a good deal. Because they’ll take that money then and use it for other things.
But they’ll pay something. Ten percent, they’ll pay something. Every Republican, every Democrat for years they have all agreed … They all agree. So now what’s happening is companies are moving out to get their money. And they’re moving out because they’ll pay lower taxes. That’s a huge problem.
You don’t have any Cayman accounts?
No I don’t. I could have.
Have you ever, because you’d benefit a lot I’m sure.
I could have and I said – I’ve been thinking about doing this – that really hurt Romney in my book, when he set up these stupid accounts. In the end, when you do the Cayman accounts you don’t gain that much.
The way you criticize the political process seems like the underlying theme of this campaign is that the people who are running stuff now are all phonies. That pretending it’s something they can’t actually do.
They can’t do it.
And they use pollsters to tell you what they think, that they’re just not real. And then you’re presenting yourself as the more authentic person. That’s the underlying —
I’m a person who’s had great success in getting things done. They do use pollsters. I’m much richer than all of them put together. I don’t want to pay a pollster. They pay these pollsters a hundred thousand dollars a month for doing what?
And then these guys come in and they want to be tough. Like Romney, but the time he got to the last debate he couldn’t even talk. He was afraid to say anything.
In 2014, you had Republicans saying we’re going to take back Congress, we need it. And they raised five hundred million dollars to do it. The first thing we’re going to do is repeal Obamacare. And they haven’t done it.
They joked. They couldn’t do it.
So do you think that they’re not honest?
They got elected on the basis. So they got in, something happened.
Are they the real phonies though?
Look, I was just as disappointed in the Republicans as I am the Democrats. I mean at least the Democrats you know where they’re coming from. The Republicans – and many of them got elected on the basis of we’re going to get rid of Obamacare.
It’s almost like when they get to Washington, I will not let this happen to me. They’re so enamored with the magnificence that they sort of say, “Oh, we can’t do this. We can’t do that.” They become different. Does that make sense?
It’s just so false and so phony and they can’t move. It’s moribund. They become weak and ineffective except at one thing: get themselves reelected…I have friends who are in Congress and they run every two years. And good guys, I’ve known then for a long time. As soon as that cycle is up, you know they win their election, then they take one day off and then the next day they start fundraising.
All they do it fundraise. They don’t really govern. They just fundraise. Their whole life is raising money. And I say what percentage of the time you’re raising money as opposed to legislating? …I mean they’re constantly – it’s that time of year, you come in. I mean that’s all they do is raise money.
So you say that they’re puppets. You understand the game.
They’re puppets. I’m the only non-puppet in the group.
What was the best example of something you got from a politician?
Well I wasn’t an asker. I would just give just in case. I would always be treated well. But I’ll say this. If the Speaker of the House, somebody they come up to see you and they’d like to know if you’d make a contribution. It’s not a lot of money.
Let’s say you say no. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t. I have great respect for you, I like you a lot. I will not make a contribution.” “Oh, thank you Mr. Trump, thank you.” Now let’s say three years go by and I call, I need something from the Speaker of the House or I need something from somebody.
We’re talking really human nature, okay. It’s fairly hard. It’s the rare politician that can do what’s right in the face of massive contributions. And who can blame them. You could say you’re disloyal. You can do whatever you want to say. But let’s say you say no and then you call three years later. Nothing quid pro quo, none of that stuff. 100%.
Hillary’s thing with the speeches is interesting because to me that’s just as interesting as the emails. Because you look at the speeches and you look at the people who are paying all of that money for those speeches and then approvals of … going to be granted are granted. To me that’s as big a deal. People have forgotten about that.
What do you think of David Koch?
Yes, he’s a member of my club. Well you saw my Tweets on David where all these guys … they’re tying to get money and influence … He’s a member of my club… Big guy. So is his brother, a big guy. And I think they’re well meaning people too by the way. I think they’re actually very well meaning people. But when I see all these guys running over to go get money – okay so when David calls and needs something do you think they’re going to say no? Possible. It’s just something that’s pretty far out. It’s pretty much impossible.
You’ve said that you can’t tear up an Iran deal on Day One.
I’m a deal maker, when a person makes a deal … But I’ve taken on some really bad deals and made the other side suffer.
Do your rivals who say they’d tear up the deal understand how the world works?
They don’t…It’s a terrible deal. But I would enforce that deal like they never saw … I’d demand to go – and the twenty-four day thing is ridiculous. And the fact that we didn’t get the prisoners back is ridiculous.
There are so many things wrong with it….I’m a dealmaker…There are things in the deal that I’m sure Kerry doesn’t even know about that I will find. And if they make a mistake they’ve got big problems.
What do your daughters give you a hard time about?
I’ve been very lucky, they’re both smart and both went to the Wharton School. Tiffany goes to Penn and Ivanka went to the Wharton School, both very good students. Tiffany’s got all A’s, Ivanka the same, very good students.
Ivanka was interesting because I’m very strong on women’s health issues. And I couldn’t believe what Bush said last week about he wouldn’t fund, essentially wouldn’t fund women’s health issues. And I hit him hard. And she came back and she said I’m so glad you did that Dad, because people don’t know how you respect women, they don’t know how you get it, and you have to get that word out.
There still seems to be a ceiling in the polls that there’s a big chunk of the country who know you very well and don’t want to see you in the Oval Office. How can you deal with that?
Well they’ve been saying the ceiling from the time I started in six. When I first got in it was six. Well that’s the ceiling and he’ll stay around there …There was one poll that said thirty-two.
People are surprised, it’s the Tea Party but it’s also straight across the board. It’s men, it’s women, it’s a lot of Democrats. In fact … said you were better with the Democrats…The states where they know me best there’s a huge positive. In fact I had the biggest swing of anybody that they’ve seen. You know what I mean, right?
So I think that’s just a question of time. And I think that I will be the one to beat Hillary.
You’d told people that Bill Clinton told you a third party ticket is possible.
Well he’d love that. I love a third party too. I think Bernie Sanders should run on the Green Party. I think that Bernie Sanders should run. I would love to see Bernie Sanders…Now look, I’m running as a Republican. I’m running as a Republican … And honestly they’ve been treating me fairly. I don’t want nice or anything I just want fair. They’ve been very fair.
Both parties approval ratings are falling even as yours have gone up. What’s the problem?
Because I don’t think the people running for office are real. Because Jeb Bush and others will come out against women’s health issues because – and then he’ll say he misspoke. You’ll see that. He misspoke. Five hours late he comes in with the opposite…I really think they have to throw a lot of their consultants away and just be themselves. I think it’s one of the things that’s helped me. You know, I’m a smart person. I don’t have somebody telling me what I should say.
And I don’t want to go against myself either when I believe in something. Because that’s false. I saw it today with … you saw it big league with [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker today. When he made a statement based on my immigration plan and then his consultants said you’ve got to change that. But I think they would do better if they were themselves.
Do you think there’s any chance watching what has happened with you, that here will be a wave of authenticity?
I think that’s what they need. There’s so little authenticity in many of the people that I’m watching. And that includes the other side. Hillary. I mean it certainly includes Hillary…
What’s the most significant learning experience in your life?
Look, I do say this. Just in watching – I give speeches on success for friends and for charities. I put the money into charity. And they pay me a lot. I will say this, over my lifetime I’ve seen a lot of very smart people who were quitters. They never made it. And I’ve seen people that weren’t as smart who never ever, ever gave up. And those were the people that made it. And I’ve seen it to this day. I’ve seen people that graduated … in school who were super geniuses. And they never made it. And I’ve seen people that were not as smart as them and they’re the biggest people out there. And the ones that are the biggest people are the people that never gave up. It’s something I’ve just observed over the years.
So I take it you’re not giving up.
No, I don’t give up.