President Trump said John Bolton, his former national security adviser was ‘a disgruntled guy who made tremendous mistakes.’ PHOTO: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS

Politics

Transcript of President Trump’s Interview With The Wall Street Journal

par Featured articles licensed from The Wall Street Journal | le 19 June 2020


 

 

 

President discusses the economy, the Bolton book, the coronavirus, race in America and more

WSJ Staff

President Trump sat down for an interview Wednesday evening in the Oval Office with Wall Street Journal reporter Michael C. Bender. White House attendees included press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, communications director Alyssa Farah and chief of staff Mark Meadows.

Here is the expedited transcript of that interview. Portions of the interview were off the record, and have been excluded from this transcript.

President Trump : How are you?

Michael C. Bender: I’m fine, thanks. How are you doing?

 

Mr. Trump: I’m good, I’m good. I think we’re doing good. I just got some good poll numbers.

Mr. Bender: Oh, did you?

Mr. Trump: I think we’re doing good. So what’s up?

Mr. Bender: Do you want to tell me about your poll numbers?

Mr. Trump: We’re up in a lot of states. We’re looking very good in Ohio. Very good in Wisconsin. Very good in Florida. Yeah, I think we’re doing well. I mean, we haven’t started campaigning, you know. I have not, essentially, started. I guess you could say it starts on Saturday, right? What’s the word on that?

Mr. Bender: You tell me.

Mr. Trump: I think it’s gonna be a hell of a night. I’ll tell you.

Mr. Bender: Are you looking forward to it?

Mr. Trump: Yeah. Are you going?

Mr. Bender: No, I’m not this time.

Mr. Trump: You should go. Try and go.

Mr. Bender: We’re in a rotation to travel on Air Force One. So I’ll be in there soon.

Mr. Trump: Oh, I see. It’s rotation. So you’ll be in the next one? The next rally?

Mr. Bender: Maybe. I’ll have to look at the rotation. But very soon.

Mr. Trump: OK. Good.

Mr. Bender: So have you been pushing to do a rally? It’s been a while.

Mr. Trump: These are judges, look. (Mr. Trump holds up a stack of documents that, once signed, will formally nominate individual judges.) So we’ll be up to, oh, I don’t know, 254 or something very soon. This a United States district judge, district—New Mexico. All judges. Nobody’s done anything like that one, right?

Mr. Bender: That’s a lot of judges.

Mr. Trump: The judge situation, yeah. I think we’re doing… Do you mind if I sign this while we talk?

Mr. Bender: No. Sounds good. Go ahead. A little multitasking? Well, maybe we can just talk about the rally for just a second. What do you think about some of the risks from coronavirus?

Mr. Trump: Well, one of the reasons we chose the location, Oklahoma is they’ve done very well, with respect to the rally—with respect to the…they have a really good arena, but they’ve done very well, with respect to the, I call it the plague. The plague that was sent by China. And I think that, you know, the numbers are very small. They said there’s a spike, the spike is, I wish Mike (Pence) were here because he was showing me the numbers before. It’s like, very few people. And I think they’re in great shape. But I would even say the spike ends, has already ended. So I think we’re going to do very well, you know. I think we’re going to do well. I think it’s time to start our country up again, basically. And could we keep it shut longer? Personally, I don’t think so. I don’t think people would take it. And I think it would be the wrong thing to do. We have great retail numbers. I mean, it’s the early surge. We have great retail numbers. It was supposed to, I guess, 7… they were estimating 7%. We’re going to be 17.7%.

So I think that it’s going to be great. I think we’re gonna have a really good third quarter. This quarter, as you know, what’s going on now we’re finishing out the results of what we had to do. So the third quarter’s really our first quarter where we can show something and I think, I mean, based on the numbers, the employment numbers you saw, we’re good. Beyond good. Actually, I think they were reported as the best numbers in history, best employment quarter in history. Best employment month in history.

Mr. Bender: How low can you get the employment rate by November?

Mr. Trump: Well, I think we can get tremendous numbers of jobs by November. I think by the end of the year, we’re going to have a vast number of jobs, largely…shortly thereafter, we should be almost where we were. And I think ultimately next year is going to be a fantastic year. I think next year is going to be a really fantastic year. You know, I was predicting the V, right? You know that. From the beginning. And now everybody’s saying I’m right. And we’ll see. We’ve got tremendous momentum. Now, it’ll be interesting to see where that momentum goes now. We were riding really straight through. Doing great. And then we got hit by the China virus. And frankly, we’re starting a little bit of a different campaign. Now it’s about jobs. Before it was about other things, but basically before it was about keeping it where it was. Now it’s about having it go up. And it will go up. I think you’ll see big GDP increases. I think you’ll see big jobs increases. And I think you’re going to see big retail sales increases, which you’ve already seen. So if you look at the two, the two stats that have come out…Two weeks ago, you had the job numbers, which were the biggest monthly gain in history. And yesterday, you had the retail sales numbers, which was the biggest, the biggest gain—17.7%—in history. And the estimate, I guess, was 6%, 6 to 7%. And it was 17.7%. So the numbers are looking much better than people thought.

Mr. Bender: That’s true. I’m sure you’ve seen the statistics, though, about how it relates to elections.

Mr. Trump: About how what does?

Mr. Bender: Jobs numbers and unemployment.

Mr. Trump: How it would relate to my chances for reelection? Yeah, you know, the sad thing is that I was sailing. You understand? That was a free shot. Now, I mean, if you look at it, people say, “He got us there once, he’s going to get us there again.” That was the greatest economy, the greatest job numbers we’ve ever had. We were up to almost 160 million jobs. Nobody was ever close. But now I just have to start building it up again. We started. And I think that the numbers are beyond anybody’s expectations.

Mr. Bender: Do you think you can get the unemployment rate below 8% by Election Day?

Mr. Trump: I don’t know. We’ll have a lot of jobs before November 3. I mean, all I can say is this: We will have created a lot of jobs prior to November 3. Tremendous number of jobs, a tremendous increase, I expect a tremendous increase in GDP. And we’ll be heading you know, for the top. We’ll be back. And we’ve had a lot of advantages, a lot of experience. We did it once and we’ll do it again. Bottom line is we did it once, and you would agree. Best job numbers, best economy, best everything we’ve ever had. China, we were beating China badly.

China, last year, would have had the worst year they’ve ever had in many, many years and decades. And that was because I put a lot of tariffs on China that they never wanted. And I don’t want them to have bad years, but they happened to have a very bad year last year. And that’s before the virus. Now, of course they didn’t even report their numbers this year. You know, they refused to report their numbers, right? But last year was a bad year for China, one of one of the very bad years that they’ve had. And that’s largely because I put tariffs on. Nobody ever put tariffs on them. Nobody ever did anything to China. China walked away from Obama-Biden. No tariffs, no downside, no nothing. Whereas we took in billions of dollars of tariffs, and they were all put on by me. And they don’t follow the phase one deal—it’s a phase one deal—if they don’t follow it, I would substantially raise the tariffs, if that were necessary. So far, I think they’re…I haven’t had the final report but it looks like they are. They’re buying a lot.

Mr. Bender: Speaking of China, there is a lot about China in John Bolton’s new book. And trade. And he makes a lot of accusations about you prioritizing trade over the enforcement of sanctions when it comes to ZTE, and Huawei.

Mr. Trump: Well look how tough I’ve been on Huawei. Nobody has been tougher than me on Huawei. Look at what’s going on with Huawei. I mean, we’ve convinced other nations not to do business with them. Whether it’s U.K. or Italy or others. We can give you all the list. Nobody has ever been so tough on a company as I have to Huawei. … So, nobody has been tough on Huawei like me, and there’s nobody been tough on China like me. Now, I don’t know what Bolton has said. I haven’t seen it yet.

But Bolton is a disgruntled guy who made tremendous mistakes. He was one of the architects of the Middle East policy. And the only thing I liked about Bolton was that everybody thought he was crazy. And frankly, when you walk into the room with him, you’re in a good negotiating position. Because they figure you’re going to war if John Bolton was there. He wanted to go to war with everybody. He never saw a war he didn’t like. He made a tremendous mistake. You know, he and the people that he was pushing, when he went into the Middle East,  when he went into Iraq That was a terrible mistake. There were no weapons of mass destruction. That was John Bolton.

He wanted the job so badly. He couldn’t get approved by the Senate. It was a non-Senate confirmed…he couldn’t get a Senate confirmed job. And by the way, he didn’t the first time. Did you know that? He wasn’t Senate-confirmed the first time. No. But I view him as a disgruntled employee. Very unhappy. Hated to leave. He was basically a man who was not happy to be leaving. Was not happy to be leaving. He had a lot of policy disputes, he and I.

And after the first month or so, you know, I asked him one question. I said, “So, do you think you did the right thing by going into Iraq?” He said, “Yes.” And that’s when I lost him. And that was early on. That’s when I lost him. But no, I disagreed with much of the stuff he said. He was one of many people. I liked listening to many people, and then doing whatever is the right thing to do.

Mr. Bender: You didn’t ask him about Iraq before you brought him into the White House? If he regretted that?

Mr. Trump: No, but it didn’t…I knew all about his policy on Iraq. But that didn’t matter, frankly. Because he made a terrible mistake. And so did everybody else involved in Iraq and the Middle East, frankly. I never thought it was the right thing to do. And I’ve been proven right. But when he told me he still thinks it was the right thing to do, and was unable to explain it to me, I said, “Explain that to me, because I don’t think you can.’ And he could not explain it to me. So I said, “Do you say that just to make yourself feel good? Or do you say that because you really believe it?” He said, “I really believe it.” I said, “Well, then you’ve lost me because it’s just wrong.”

Mr. Bender: You’ve talked about how your viewpoint on the trade deal has changed a little bit after coronavirus.

Mr. Trump: Yeah.

Mr. Bender: In the book, Bolton says that you wanted to lift the penalties off ZTE as part of a trade negotiation.

Mr. Trump: Well, he wasn’t here there for that. ZTE was my deal. I put the fine on them. And I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I essentially closed them up. That was me. Obama didn’t do it. That was me. I closed them up. And then we settled with them. We let them make a deal fairly shortly thereafter. They paid over a billion dollar fine, and agreed to board changes and all sorts of other things. So an unbelievable deal. It was short. Do you know what I’m talking about? I don’t know exactly what the timing was. And then immediately the Democrats say, Oh, you should have gotten more. I said, wait a minute, this is my deal. So I closed them up. What was it, Michael, like $1.2 billion?

Mr. Bender: I don’t remember exactly.

Mr. Trump: We’ll go back and find it. Something like $1.2 billion. So I close them up. They paid a tremendous amount in fines. I don’t know what it was. I think it was over a billion dollars. And they opened up. But we also got them to change their board as I remember it and the management and other things. So ZTE was great. Now, as always the Democrats, when you go in and you say “Hey, I got a billion dollars or whatever was…”

Kayleigh McEnany, White House press secretary: It was $1.3 billion.

Mr. Trump: $1.3 billion For nothing. Listen to this: I closed them, essentially. I said, we’re not going to do business. They come and ask: how do we get out of this? I ask them for a lot of money. They pay $1.3 billion and other things, not just $1.3. And then the Democrats say, Oh, you could have gotten more. They didn’t do it. Do you understand? They didn’t do it. I did it. So we pick up $1.3 billion in fines. And it’s an amazing deal. Now the Democrats will say, Oh, because …. Iif by the way, if I got $10 billion in fines, if I got $200 billion, if I ended up owning Beijing for $1, they would have said: The deal is not good enough, because that’s what they always say.

Any deal you make, they’ll say it’s good enough. Like with the policemen. They say, Oh, you could have made a better deal, you know. And perhaps I’d say the same thing with them.

Mr. Bender: I guess I wonder about your perspective on the trade deal now, especially given the moves you made on ZTE and, in the book, Bolton says that you effectively gave your blessing to President Xi to continue building camps for the Uighur Muslims.

Mr. Trump: No, that’s not true. That’s not true.

In fact, I approved a deal—a reprimand, etc, etc—from Congress. That’s been done. It’s been all done. It’s been signed. But I approved. The deal came in from Congress recently. And it’s been going along in Congress. I could have killed that very easily. All I would have to do is make a statement that I’m against it.

Mr. Bender: That was today that you signed that.

Mr. Trump: No, but this has been going in Congress for a long time. And I could have fought it. And I would have won. But I didn’t fight that deal.

Mr. Bender: Bolton and Pompeo and Pence all wanted you to sanction China for detention of these minorities, but you were reluctant because of what it meant for the trade deal. And I guess what I’m wondering is now that you sort of have a different viewpoint on the trade deal, do you regret…

Mr. Trump: No, I think the trade deal is a great deal. But ever since we got hit with the Chinese plague, I feel different toward everything having to do with China. And I’ve always been hardline on China.

Bolton never told me to do tariffs on China. Bolton never thought you could get any tariffs done on China. Bolton has no economic sense. Bolton never thought you could get tariffs on China. They paid us billions of dollars. I gave our farmers $12 billion and $16 billion dollars out of tariffs I took in from China, which were much more than that. You understand? Because they were targeted. The farmers were targeted. Bolton never thought you could get—most people never thought you could get tariffs. I even, in the deal, we left a lot of the tariffs in the deal—big portions of the tariffs. I think 25%. Nobody thought you could make a deal like that. Because we got the deal, and we got the tariffs. But since we got hit with the virus, I have a very different perspective on China. Very different perspective. And I view it very differently. But nobody has been tough on China like I am. And you know that.

Look under Obama and Biden, they got away with murder. This should have been… What I’ve been doing to China should have been done a long time ago. Obama-Biden never… They just came in and it was pillage. It was terrible. And they should have done something like what I’ve done. But we’ve taken in billions of dollars and by the way, they devalued their currency in order to pay for the tariffs. They devalued and they put up, they paid money. Otherwise their product wouldn’t have sold because the tariffs would have made their product too expensive. But the deal we made with China was a good deal, but I feel differently. The ink was barely dry when we got hit with the virus, and I view that I view that whole deal differently now. I view the relationship with China differently than

Mr. Bender: I do want to ask a couple questions about China. But just one more Bolton’s book, and then I’ll move on. Pompeo has a very big role in this book. Bolton writes that Pompeo told him multiple times he was close to resignation. He says Pompeo passed him a note during your meeting with Kim Jong Un saying that you were full of shit.

Mr. Trump: Who is full of shit?

Mr. Bender: You, sir.

Mr. Trump: I would doubt that. Does he have the note? Let me see the note.

(Mark Meadows, the White House staff chief, enters the Oval Office.)

Mr. Meadows: Mr. Bender.

Mr. Bender: Mr. Meadows.

Mr. Trump: No, I would doubt that. I have a very good relationship with Pompeo.

Mr. Bender: That’s what I was wondering. There is so much in here on Pompeo, I was wondering if this is a Tillerson moment for Pompeo, when things became so strained between you and Tillerson.

Mr. Trump: I have no strain with Pompeo. No, I have a very good relationship with Pompeo.

Mr. Meadows: Extremely good.

Alyssa Farah, White House communications director: He’s going to push back on that.

Mr. Trump: No, I would doubt that. I have a very good relationship with Pompeo. He’s right now having an important meeting with somebody at their request. Do you know that?

Mr. Bender: No, I didn’t know that. With who?

Mr. Trump: No. Now, I have a very good relationship with… The one who has a bad relationship with Pompeo was Bolton. Did you know that? Pompeo and Bolton had a terrible relationship. What, you don’t see that? How does that come out in the book?

Mr. Bender: Bolton casts a critical eye toward just about everybody in your White House.

Mr. Trump: Everybody in the White House hated John Bolton, that I could see. There might have been some people. (To Mr. Meadows:) Did you deal with him at all? Yeah, you did. You think he’s terrible.

Mr. Meadows. Yes, I did. John Bolton is very self important. And you can quote me on that.

Mr. Trump: And not very smart.

Mr. Meadows: The best way this book could be described is, “In The Room Where It Didn’t Happen.” Because nothing that he touched ever happened, because he couldn’t find consensus.

Mr. Trump: And with a short period of time, as we all got to know him because I didn’t know him very well. I didn’t know him at all before this. I figured, eh, he’s a hardliner. I like having a hardliner. He’s a hardliner, but I call him a stupid liner, because it was so foolish.

I could tell you things that he wanted to do that if we would have done them, we would have ended up on our own Iraq, a nice new version of Iraq.

Mr. Bender: What’s an example of that?

Mr. Trump: I don’t want to say. I’ll have to say when I write my book, but nobody cares about Bolton. I would say this, look, he was somebody that wasn’t liked at all, and wasn’t respected very much. As we got to know him, he was respected less and less. Personally, I thought he was crazy. And other than the fact that he goes out and writes a book when he shouldn’t be writing a book, you know. You don’t leave and then write a book. And he’s got, you know, I think he’s got a lot of legal problems for doing it. I think he’s got probably a lot of legal problems. He should not have done what he did. But you don’t leave the office and go out and write a book about a current administration that’s doing well, but about a current administration. Who would ever think of doing something like that?

Mr. Bender: So, he does address that in the book. And the reason he says he wants this book out now is to essentially warn conservatives. He describes your reelection as the last guardrail on you in the White House, and worries that Democrats may enjoy your second term more than conservatives. Do you want to address that point and…

Mr. Trump: Well, sure. Look, I’m signing now, in front of you, judges. All judges. I won’t give you the names. All judges…  Texas, New York, Minnesota. I’m signing off judges. We’re going to have potentially close to 300 judges including DC It’ll be close to 300. Nobody’s close. They’re all conservaative, highly respected judges. They’re going to be there for many years. They’re all young. They’re all conservative. They’re all very smart. And they’re getting great reviews. If I did nothing else, that’s good. Plus, I put two Supreme Court judges in that are excellent people. But if I did nothing else, and it’s really amazing because if I wasn’t here, those judges go to super liberal, young, smart judges, okay? Super liberal radical left. And you won’t have your Second Amendment any longer. And you will have a view on life that’s much different than the view on life now. That will change. And you won’t be spending money on the military. I’ve totally rebuilt the military. It’s the strongest it’s ever been. All made in the U.S.A.er $2 trillion, right. I created the Space Force. I got Anwar done, that even Reagan couldn’t get done. I got the biggest tax cuts in the history of our country. I got the biggest regulation cuts in the history of our country. I’ve done things that no administration has ever done in the first three and a half years.

Mr. Bender: It’s been a very active four years. I can…

Mr. Trump: No, give me a list. Look at her (Mr. Trump’s assistant enters the Oval Office with a list of Mr. Trump’s accomplishments.) She’s so unbelievable. She is so quick. I look up and she’s walking in with a list. Look at that.

Take this and read it. OK, because honestly, this is page after page of things that I’ve done. Just take this and read it. It’s pretty amazing. Added 2.5 million jobs. This is recently: 2.5 million jobs in May shattering the expectation that we will lose 10 million jobs. We’re going to lose 10 million, unfortunately, for the critics, we Retail Sales up 17.7%, which is the largest in history, job gains last month was the largest increase ever. Nearly 300 jobs were created for African-Americans last month. 75% of small businesses are now open. That’s a big number. It was estimated would be a much lower number. S&P 500 had the best 50 days in history. The was a week before actually…  And this was a good week. So I guess that continues. Nasdaq hit 10,000 for the first time, an all time record. Nasdaq, that was three, four days ago. In the middle of the pandemic, not in the middle toward the end of the pandemic. In my opinion. Hope I’m right. Saved the New York Times The Washington Post and cable television. I put that in for fun, but I did, it’s true. Because when I’m here when I’m not here… Maybe not The Wall Street Journal, but much of the media is going out of business. Because if you have to cover sleepy Joe Biden who’s dead from the neck up, if you have to cover sleepy Joe Biden, I don’t think it’s gonna be too exciting.

Mr. Bender: Well, what would you say is a new priority for the second term? One new initiative.

Mr. Trump: Well, it would have been much different if you asked me that question three months ago, because the economy was really rocking. And I would have been cutting debt. I would have been cutting expenses. I would have been cutting a lot of things. It would have been, you know, different. Now the new priorities: Building the economy to a point where it was plus, because we’re gonna have a better economy than it was. Because of certain things I’m doing. So if you would have asked me the question three months ago, I would have said reducing debt and building a, you know, just a continuation of what I’m doing now. Now you’re asking me the question, and now it’s building a really strong, powerful economy. And I think next year we can have a better…  we can have one of the best years we’ve ever had.

And don’t forget so far I’ve been right. Now, you know, you may come to see me in a couple of months… And Michael’s always been fair, I don’t mind, you know, seeing you. You’ve always treated me well. Sometimes he’s treated me fairly. But when I explained it to him, he’s treated me fairly. When I’m not here to explain it to him, it’s a little different, I told them.

I said there’s going to be a V. And everybody is now saying that I was right.

Mr. Bender: You’ve kind of described it as a snapback, that once the economy reopens all these jobs come back. But is there something you plan on…

Mr. Trump: That’s because it was an artificial closing. It wasn’t like a bad, horrible recession that takes years to develop and it just starts tumbling downhill, and it takes 15 years to recover as it did with the Great Depression and some really big recessions and it would take 10,15 years to recover.

Mr. Bender: A lot of economists say it will take a while to come back. Several decades of job growth have been lost in the last couple months. My question is whether you have a new initiative in mind to re-energize the economy, to bring back jobs and get people back to work, in a second term?

Mr. Trump: So aside from everything else when we got rid of Nafta, which was a disaster. We have a great USMCA now. And in addition, we are making much better trade deals that we had in the past. If you look at Japan, they’re buying $40 billion worth of stuff. And building many car plants here. Germany is doing the same thing. Germany has to do what they’re doing, you know, building plants. They’re always difficult, frankly. And we’re reducing our troops in Germany because it’s costing us a lot of money and they’re delinquent on their payments. You know, they’re delinquent on their NATO payments. They owe a lot of money. Germany owes a lot of money. They don’t pay their bills. They’re supposed to be paying 2% and they’re paying 1%. If that, and it’s not fair. So we’re supposed to defend Germany from Russia, right? And yet Germany pays Russia billions of dollars for energy. How does that work? Right? So, you know. So, we’ve made, we’ve made great trade deals. And I was about to make the best trade deal of all, we’re all set to go. and then we got hit by the pandemic. If we didn’t get hit by the pandemic, we would have some additional trade deals that would have been unbelievable, including with the European Union.

But instead of doing that, everybody was being very conservative and heading for the shelters.

Mr. Bender: You’ve talked about holding China accountable for coronavirus. Do you think they sat on that information about the virus in order to tank other economies around the world?

Mr. Trump: They did something because if you look, they had very little outbreak, although now they seem to have an outbreak in Beijing, which is interesting, as of yesterday. But everybody knew they had it. I acted very early. I closed our country to China.

By the way, Bolton disagreed. He thought we shouldn’t do it, okay? He didn’t think and you know, I was in a room full of people. You were there. And of the people, I don’t know of anybody that thought I should do it. That was a decision I made because I was seeing and hearing that China has a big problem. So they have a big problem, a big contagious problem, a problem of contagion to put it a different way, right? And I closed our country in January, the end of January, I closed our country to China. Nancy Pelosi was dancing in the streets of Chinatown at the end of February.

Mr. Bender: Did you consult with Bolton on coronavirus?

Mr. Trump: No. I lost respect for Bolton’s intellect fairly early in the process. It wasn’t a big deal to me because frankly, he was good for me to use in negotiations because everyone thought he was crazy and he would go to war.

Mr. Bender: Was that effective? Was there an instance where you felt having Bolton in the room paid off in a negotiation?

Mr. Trump: When people saw Bolton in the room, they figured probably he was stupid enough to go to war all the time. You know, he was a guy that I could tell you, if I would have listened to him, you and I would be in World War Three right now. He’s crazy. He’s crazy, and I think he’s not smart. But you know what I’m talking about right?

Mr. Meadows: Yes I do, sir.

Mr. Trump: He wanted to do things that were insane.

Mr. Bender: Like what?

Mr. Trump: I don’t want to tell you that. Maybe I’ll tell you, you know, at a later date. But he had no touch. He had no feel. And I think he, you know, just had little intellect. He was also somebody who, just, people didn’t like him. Nobody in the office liked him. Nobody wanted to be with him. Nobody wanted to talk much with him. And I realized early on, as I was saying before to Michael, was when I asked him the question, so John, you were one of the people that were really pushing hard to go into the Middle East, to go into Iraq. Would you do it again? He said, Yes. And that’s where I said this guy is crazy.

Mr. Bender: That was only after a month?

Mr. Trump: Yeah, I don’t know. But it was very early on. I was talking to him. I said, So was that a mistake? I said, and it’s okay to admit you made a mistake, although that’s a big one. That’s a beauty. And I said, Do you think it was a mistake? And he said, No, I think it was the right thing to do. And I said, You know, you can’t explain that. You just can’t explain it. So anyway,

Mr. Bender: Maybe points for honesty?

Mr. Trump: That’s very interesting. Or maybe points for stupidity? I can figure out which. Oh, wait, you take this. (Mr. Trump offers his print out of accomplishments.)

You can add on to what I said. Tried to deal with a Nafta. By the way. One thing. It wasn’t Bolton that killed al Baghdadi. It wasn’t Bolton that killed Soleimai. … Bolton might say, oh, Trump wasn’t tough enough on China and wasn’t tough enough on this. I know that kind of shit, because he lied a lot. He is a liar. Nobody was tougher in China. Nobody was tougher on Iran. Nobody’s been tougher on anything. We’ll see how North Korea works out. … It’s early in that whole situation. So we’ll see. You know, in the meantime, he expected to be in war. OK. We’re not in war. What have we given up? Nothing. Have we reduced sanctions? No. Have we done anything? No. And the fake news video—total phony media would say, Oh, Trump’s give it up a lot. Really what have I given up? Nothing. … Okay. A few more Mike.

Mr. Bender: Just a couple on coronavirus and I want to make sure to as you a little about your police reforms.

Mr. Trump: On coronavirus, I acted very quickly, and I acted early. And they can’t get over it. Number one. Number two. If I didn’t act, we would have had 3 million deaths. And instead we’re at 110,000. And we could be heading to a number that’s, you know, higher than 150,000 to 200,000, it could be ending all now depending on how it goes. We’re doing very well on vaccine. We’re doing very well on therapeutic. But if I didn’t do what we did, we would have anywhere from 1.5 million to 3 million deaths. That would be 20 times more than we’ll end up having, you know? 10 to 30 times more.

Mr. Bender: It sounds like you’re very tuned in to what’s happening in China and in the second waves that are happening there. There was a spike a couple weeks ago in Wuhan…

Mr. Trump: Well, first of all they don’t… We did an incredible thing, not since the Second World War. We had very few ventilators in our country. You couldn’t get them because every country was desperate for ventilators. We went into the ventilator-making business and now we have thousands of ventilators being made every week. And we’re helping other countries with ventilators. On the medical equipment, same thing. We’re with making a lot. I was up in Maine the other day. I don’t know if you were there. The lines of people on the street in Maine… That was a swab plant. But we’re making a lot of our own stuff now. And very importantly, our testing is so far advanced of any other country. And that’s a good thing and a bad thing. Here’s what’s bad about it.

We tested I think, 20 some odd million people now, right? No country is even close to that. You look at 4 million, maybe 5 million in Germany, no country’s even close to 20 million. The problem is when you test, you’re finding cases, you’re finding kids that had it and you know, etc, etc.

Mr. Bender: Why is that a problem?

Mr. Trump: Well, the problem is because we’re showing cases whereas other countries that don’t have testing capacity, they don’t show cases. So they say the United States has more cases than anybody else. That’s because we do more testing. If we use the same testing that I used in China, or in Iran, or in some of these larger countries, it would blow us away. First of all, China doesn’t report it’s testing.…

So I do say they contained it. Now, just the last little day and it’s all of a sudden turning that maybe it wasn’t contained. But it seems to have been contained in China. And why was it contained in China? But the Chinese people that were infected go to Europe and go all over the world?

Mr. Bender: What’s the answer to that question, Mr. President?

Mr. Trump: Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out.

Mr. Bender: What do you think it is?

Mr. Trump: There is a very good chance it was incompetence. There was a very good chance it was a mistake. And there’s a chance that it was intentional.

Mr. Bender: You think that is a lesser chance?

Mr. Trump: Yeah I think so. Because I don’t think I don’t think they would do that. But you never know. But it has had an impact.

Mr. Bender: And that would be to spread the economic consequences around the globe?

Mr. Trump: Correct. They’re saying, man, we’re in a mess. The United States is killing us. Don’t forget, my economy during the last year and a half was blowing them away. And the reason is the tariffs.

Mr. Bender: Is that your gut on that? Or do you have intelligence that they may have pushed this beyond their border?

Mr. Trump: It’s my sense that could have happened. I hope not. And I hope we’ll be able to find it out.

Mr. Bender: The Wuhan question I wanted to ask about the spike there, which resulted in them testing almost all 11 million people in 9 days. If there was a second spike in New York or Michigan, would you push to test everyone in New York, everyone in Michigan?

Mr. Trump: No, I wouldn’t. I personally think testing is overrated, even though I created the greatest testing machine in history. I’ve created the greatest testing machine in history. And I think testing is overrated.

Mr. Bender: Why is that?

Mr. Trump: Because I think you’ll have it and you’ll test. I’m not saying testing is bad. And certainly you test people and you want to see whether or not they have it. But the testing can lead to a lot of mistakes also. Look, if we didn’t test all the cases that we’re reporting, you wouldn’t know about any of those cases. In many ways, it makes us look bad. The fact that we’re so good at something makes us look bad. But having the ability to test is…has helped us a lot. But don’t forget we report every single death.…We report every case. So, if we test 20 times more than some other country, we’re going to find cases. They call them cases. And that’s only because our testing is much better.

Mr. Bender: You think testing is overrated because it adds to the caseload?

Mr. Trump: No, not for that reason. I just think that what you have to do is be careful, regardless. You have to be careful. You have a certain population… we now know that elderly people, especially elderly people that have a problem such as heart disease, or various…they’re literally listed, okay? They’re literally listed. Diabetes, heart disease, I think would be number one and two. But they’re listed. If they’re elderly, and they have those diseases, it’s not easy. It’s not gonna be pleasant. OK? So we know where we should protect. We had a number of governors that did a very, very poor job with respect to nursing homes, a very, very poor job. And they should have known better.

Mr. Bender: You also don’t seem to like masks very much. Do you think people are protesting you when they wear them?

Mr. Trump: Masks are a double-edge sword. People touch them. And they grab them and I see it all the time. They come in, they take the mask. Now they’re holding it now in their fingers. And they drop it on the desk and then they touch their eye and they touch their nose. No, I think a mask is a…it’s a double-edged sword. It’s a double-edged sword. I see Biden. It’s like his whole face is covered. It’s like he put a knapsack over his face. He probably likes it that way. He feels good that way because he does. He seems to feel good in a mask, you know, feels better than he does without the mask, which is a strange situation.

Mr. Bender: You’ve commented on Biden’s mask a few times, and a couple of reporters who wear masks. Do you view that as a protest of you? Do you feel like people wear masks to show their disapproval of you?

Mr. Trump: It could be, yeah. It could be. But it could also be they feel better about it. I mean, I’m okay with it. Look, I’m okay with it. But the mask is a double-edged sword and I see it. People come in, they’re talking through the mask for hours. They probably don’t clean them after, you know, they get a little cocky, right? Then they take the mask, they put their finger on the mask, and they take them off, and then they start touching their eyes and touching their nose and their mouth. And then they don’t know how they caught it.

Mr. Bender: One of my sisters is a nurse and she’s described this as a false sense of security that it gives people.

Mr. Trump: It’s possible. It could be a false sense of security. But think of it, they’re touching it. I watch them all day long. They’re playing with it. You watch some of these politicians, they start talking, they take their fingers and they put them inside the mask and they rip it down. Now their fingers are infected. Potentially. And then they touch their nose. They touch their eyes, they touch their mouth. Voilà.

Mr. Bender: So it’s okay if your supporters wear masks at the rally?

Mr. Trump: Absolutely. They can wear them or not. I want them to be happy. We’re gonna have a good time. Yeah, I want them to be happy.

Mr. Bender: What happens if your supporters get sick at one of these rallies?

Mr. Trump: Well, people have to know that, yes, you do. But it’s tiny. You know, it’s a very small percentage. We did the right thing. We closed it down. We closed it down. Expensive. But you can’t put a price on saving millions of lives. We saved millions of lives. You know, a lot of people say herd. Well how did herd work for Sweden? No good. How did herd work for Brazil? No good.

Mr. Bender: Let me put it in personal terms. Would you be okay if a family member of yours, if Ivanka wanted to go sit in the crowd at your rally?

Mr. Trump: Yeah I would. I would be. Well, first of all, she’s young. And this really is a disease…I was with the governor of New Jersey the other night, because he wants to do a big bridge in New Jersey that they’ve been trying to finance for 50 years. And I approved it. Very expensive bridge in New Jersey. They need it. It’s been a real problem. You know the bridge. And he was telling me something that was shocking. He said they’ve had.. how many people died in New Jersey?

Ms. Farah: I don’t know exactly. But New York and New Jersey are one-quarter of the cases

Mr. Trump: Thousands of people. They lost one person under 18. Hey, would you find out the number of deaths in New Jersey? The state of New Jersey. It was only a few days ago. So they lose one person under 18, he said. I said that’s amazing. That’s why the schools have to open. But the people that are at risk are our older professors, and they’re gonna have to be careful, Maybe not be there initially or maybe have, you know, be behind some kind of a protective shield.

But this was brought to us by China. Just came in from China, and should have never happened because they could have stopped it.

Mr. Bender: Can I ask just a couple questions on the George Floyd fallout?

Mr. Trump: Sure

Mr. Bender: Do you think that there’s systemic racism in the country?

Mr. Trump: In the country?

Mr. Bender: Yes. In America.

Mr. Trump: Hopefully not. But there’s always something going on that’s bad, because there’s always something going on. Here, let me just see that for a second. (Mr. Trump’s assistant hands the president a chart with the number of coronavirus deaths, which total about 12,800.)

OK. Yeah. So, that number. When he mentioned he said 12,500. So he said at 12,500, one person died under the age of 18. So I think that a lot of these are older persons. So I’m very happy I’m young and in perfect condition. OK?

Mr. Bender: You said you hope there’s not systemic racism. Do you think there is?

Mr. Trump: I would like to think there is not. Yeah, I would like to think there is not such systemic racism. And it would be whatever I can do to make myself correct on that thought, I’d like to do it. Now, unfortunately, in the real world, there is some. But I would like to, whatever I could do to reduce that or get rid of it, I’d be very happy with.

Are you asking in police departments or the U. S.?

Mr. Bender: I meant systemic racism. In police departments, in hiring practices…

Mr. Trump: Yeah, I’d like to think there is not but unfortunately, there probably is some. I would also say it’s very substantially less than it used to be.

Mr. Bender: How are you thinking about some of these issues? I know your position on law and orders is very clear. You’ve had some public events with the police. You had some victim’s families in here yesterday. But when it comes to…

Mr. Trump: By the way that was a very impactful moment. The people I met were incredible people.

Mr. Bender: Impactful in what way? What did you take away from that?

Mr. Trump: Meeting the parents, in most cases, parents. of young people, sons in many of the cases, a daughter in one case, that were killed is devastating. To see the parents and so needless, I mean, it should never have happened. I met with a large number of parents that were just, I mean, their lives have been torn apart.

Mr. Bender: Did any of those cases resonate with you? Any particular story that stands out?

Mr. Trump: All of them.

Mr. Bender: Was there one that stood out?

Mr. Trump: All of them. Ahmed. Ahmad. He is the young man who was running. It was just sad to see. The mother was a fantastic woman. Made a great impression. They all made a great impression on me. In fact, after that I had the speech with the law enforcement. So we had two meetings. And it was very interesting because they were very different meetings, very important meetings. But the impact of meeting the parents was very important.

Mr. Bender: The meeting with families was private. And it sounds like everyone wanted to keep it that way, for a number of reasons. But when it comes to healing the country, is that something you think about and have you thought about ways to try to bring people back together?

Mr. Trump: So I think, Michael, that the best way I can do it, it’s leadership. But I want to bring the economy back. Because if I can bring the economy back, African-American unemployment was the best it has ever been, by far. Number of jobs overall. Hispanic, Asian. But if I can bring the economy back, we’re gonna have great jobs, we’re gonna have families where life is going to be a lot easier. Their life is just going to be better. And I was there. We had the greatest economy. We had the largest increases and, you know, 3.2% increases, It’s unheard of what we did, and I think you would have seen a lot of people starting to come together. And now I’m starting that process all over again because Wuhan. I can give you 12, I can give you 15 different names for that. We can call it China. We can call it Wuhan. We can call it many different things. But because of the virus, it came from China, I have to start that process all over again.

Mr. Bender: Is there any part of you that wishing you hadn’t sent the tweet about the shooting starts when the looting starts?

Mr. Trump: Well, that tweet is viewed both ways. And by the way, that wasn’t from some mayor in Miami, there was a man named Frank Rizzo from New Jersey, was a rough guy. He ran a rough operation, but he didn’t have a lot of looting, I can tell you. But that is viewed both two ways. Number one, it can be viewed as a threat. And number two, it can be viewed as a fact that if people start looting, then end up getting shot. And that’s usually a fact. Now it’s less of a fact in a politically correct society. Because I saw a lot of looting and these kids would just walk out with television. Nobody was doing anything.

Mr. Bender: Did you view it as a fact or a threat?

Mr. Trump: I viewed it that, generally speaking, it could be a combination of both. And look, I think that it’s not right, that police offices run by weak liberal Democrats, allow kids to break into stores and walk out with television sets and put them in the back of a car. Which is incredible. Where does the car come from? But, you know, I saw tremendous looting. And I think it’s terrible. There was tremendous damage done. Small businesses were ruined. Lives were ruined by that and people were killed. Nobody mentions that. They don’t say, Well, what about the people that got killed on the other side? They’re more saying, Oh, what a horrible threat. But no, I view it to me, it would normally mean that when somebody walks into a store and walks out carrying a television set on his back, he’s putting himself in great danger, in theory. But then you look at a place like Seattle, where they take over a major part of a major city. And the mayor says, well, it’s going to be a love fest, and the governor does nothing and doesn’t even… says he doesn’t know about it, but on that he’s lying obviously because he knew about it. But he actually said, you saw that, he said, Gee, I didn’t know nothing about that. That’s a terrible thing. That’s a terrible precedent.

Mr. Bender: You did move your rally off Juneteenth. Can you talk about why you did that?

Mr. Trump: Well, I did that out of respect because I had two African-American friends and supporters. And most people, and I went to a lot of people, they didn’t they had not heard the term Juneteenth.

Mr. Bender: Do you know what it was?

Mr. Trump: I did something good. I made it famous. I made Juneteenth very famous. It’s actually an important event, it’s an important time. But nobody had heard of it. Very few people have heard of it. Actually, a young African-American Secret Service agent knew what it was. I had political people who had no idea. Did you ever hear of Juneteenth before?

Ms. Farah: I did from last year when the White House put out a statement

Mr. Trump: Oh really? We put out a statement? The Trump White House put out a statement?

Ms. Farah: Yes

Mr. Trump: Oh OK. Good. I don’t think it was put up by others. But we made people aware of it, and it’s good. But they asked me, you know, and these are two really good supporters, African-American supporters that they believe in what we’re saying…You know, we have a lot of black support, tremendous black support.

Mr. Bender: Some people wondered why some of the black supporters didn’t walk over to St. John’s with you, or why they haven’t been to many events.

Mr. Trump: Because they weren’t here. I just made that decision very quickly. I’m the only man that can walk three blocks—in danger—can walk three blocks, hold up a Bible in front of a church that protesters just burned the hell out of and get bad publicity. I’m the only person that’s capable of doing that. Think of what I did. I made a speech which people thought was a good speech. I then walked across the street. Not across the street, I walked a long distance away. It’s like a three block walk. And there is danger, because of buildings. I’m not saying there is danger with the protesters, because the Secret Service had that in very good shape. We had no problem. But this danger from above right? I walked three blocks, go to a church that had just suffered a major fire that was built at the same time as the White House. So very important. John Adams was the first parishioner. Was he the fifth or sixth? Whatever. You’ll figure it out. First supporter. First parishioner. I hold up a Bible in front of the church that just got burned badly the night before, and I got bad publicity than me

Mr. Bender: There may be people who are critical of you no matter what. But why didn’t you pray? Why didn’t you read something from scripture? Why didn’t you bring someone from the black community? Or a parishioner?

Mr. Trump: Well, I was standing outside on a sidewalk. It was very, very noisy, as you can imagine. The protesters, who, the day before tried to burn down the church…You know, everyone was saying, Oh, they were so wonderful. They weren’t wonderful. They tried to burn down the church. And it was, they told me, the same group. A similar group. So you have people screaming all over the place. And I didn’t think it was exactly the right time to pray. I’m on the sidewalk. And the church itself, I didn’t want to go in because they had a lot of insurance reasons. You know, the church was boarded up. The entire church was boarded up, and I knew that. So I went there, stood there, held up the Bible, talked to a few people and then we left. I came back and I got bad publicity.

But I also, if you think about it, I went to West Point over the weekend, made a very good speech, according to everybody. They said the speech was one of the best. The kids thought it was one of the best they’d ever heard. Stood up there for a long time saluting. Were you there?

Mr. Bender: No, but I watched. It looked like a really nice day.

Mr. Trump: Yeah. After the helicopters came over, the hats went up, the general said, Sir, Are you ready? I said, I’m ready. And he led me to a ramp that was long and steep and slippery. And I said, I got a problem because I wear, you know, the leather bottom shoes. I can show them to you if you like. Same pair. And you know what I mea, they’re slippery. I like them better than the rubber because they don’t catch. So they’re better for this. But they’re not good for ramps. I said, General, I got a problem here. That ramp is slippery.…

So I’m going to go real easy. So I did. And then the last 10 feet I ran down. They always stop it just before I ran, they always stop it. So, I spent three hours between speeches and saluting people and they end up, all they talked about is ramp. … If you would have seen this ramp, it was like an ice skating rink. So I’m the only one that can happen. But the church is an interesting thing. I mean, here I spent three hours on stage, the sun pouring in and I saluted 1,106 cadets, and that’s not easy. Even the general said, That’s amazing. Other presidents would never have been able to do it. Because usually they do the first 10. They do 10 honor rolls, and then they go home. I stayed there for hours. And what do I do? I get publicity about walking down a ramp. And does he have Parkinson’s? I don’t think so.

Mr. Bender: Well, some of it may be your campaign raising similar questions about Biden’s age and people asking similar questions…

Mr. Trump: Well, I’m four years younger. But no, it’s not Biden’s age. I know people that are much older than me. And they’re sharp as they were when they were 25. I know a man who’s 92, is 100% sharp. Take a look at Bernie Marcus, Home Depot. Take a look at Sheldon Adelson. So sharp. It’s not the age. … But what the news does is they try and put me in that position they saw the ramp. The amazing thing is the Washington Post did a story. Do you have a copy of this story? It’s around someplace. Could you give me the copy of the Washington Post this guy wrote on the ramp? Do me a favor. He said Trump’s right. I could not believe it. Do you see the story that did a Trump’s right? It wasn’t his health it was politics. I said to the general, This isn’t good. Don’t forget the generals were in rubber, you know rubber boots.

That was quick. Rampgate has nothing to do with Trump’s health. This was in the Washington Post. This was one of the great shockers of all time. Do you want it? You don’t need it, right?

Mr. Bender: I can get it at home.

Mr. Trump: The writer, named Henry Olsen. I said, I can’t believe the Washington Post. I gained respect for The Washington Post. They said they had a picture. Look. This is steel. Steel.

Mr. Bender: Are you okay renaming some of the military bases with Confederate names?

Mr. Trump: So, I would like to keep. I don’t think we should be changing these bases. From these bases, we won two World Wars, and plenty of other things. We had great victories. They’re known all over the world. Fort Bragg is the largest military base in the world. I don’t think we should be changing the names and a lot of people agree. They were named after the Civil War in some cases in order to bring people together, north and south. And now you’re going to take them off? You’re going to bring people apart.

Mr. Bender: Have you asked the two black friends you mentioned earlier about that? Or your Secret Service agents?

Mr. Trump: No, I haven’t asked them about that. They told me about the Juneteenth. This is… you’re asking me a separate question.

Mr. Bender: Yes. I was wondering if you have members of the black community to run some of these questions by.

Mr. Trump: I haven’t discussed this with them. I just say this. We’ve won two World Wars. Those names were put on there for a reason. It was a reconciliation. It was bringing people together. This was after the war. And I think that we’re always trying to be so politically correct. And it’s hurting our country very badly in my opinion.

Mr. Bender: The Buffalo protester, the 75-year-old man who fell. He had a brain injury and can’t walk. So you still think he may be Antifa?

Mr. Trump: That I don’t know. I retweeted…he was a professional agitator. He was having a fight with other guys there that were agitators that were younger. Did you see the clip? Do you see the clip of the young guys that were screaming, Get the hell out of here? They were fighting with them. Then he steps and he puts himself right in the way of these people. And then he takes something and starts putting it on their body, touching them or close. And somebody said it was a scanner, whatever it was. I’m not saying anything one way or the other. I’m just saying, What did he stand right in their path? And he moved right into their path. And the soldiers knew him.

Mr. Bender: Do you think he’s still you still think he might be Antifa?

Mr. Trump: If you look at his tweets, he certainly had things about Antifa on his tweets. You saw that right? And he deleted his entire account when the people started going, because they saw the tweets, and then he deleted his entire account. So what’s that all about? No, I don’t like to see people hurt. But he put himself right into the midst of the soldiers. These police, they meant business. They were walking and he puts himself right there. And you could tell they knew him. They knew him. But he’s had a long history. Too bad he had to get hurt.

Mr. Bender: You opened this on polls, let’s end it there. Sounds like there’s a big gap in Arizona. Iowa is tightening. How are you feeling about things right now?

Mr. Trump: I hear we’re doing very well in the polls. And I see we’re doing very well. We have polls. And if you look at a lot of the polls, they’re very heavily weighted Democrat,

But I hear we’re doing very well. We’ll see. We’ll get to know soon enough. This is no different than what I had in a certain other election in 2016. And they would tell me about the poll,

Mr. Bender: You see parallels with the two races?

Mr. Trump: I think this is far worse. I think the press is more dishonest now than it was in 2016. They call them suppression polls. I think that I’m way ahead in Iowa. How could I not be ahead? I took care of the farmers better than anybody who’s ever taken care of farmers? Biden would never do it. He wouldn’t even know that they had a problem. How could they possibly go for Biden. He wouldn’t know the farmers even at a problem. They were targeted for $12 billion and $16 billion, and I got them $12 billion and $16 billion out of the tariffs that China was paying us and had a lot of money left over for the United States Treasury.

Mr. Bender: I know you’re not happy about the press coverage. Sometimes it seems you want to run against the press more than you do against Biden.

Mr. Trump: I just think that I don’t think the press is extremely dishonest. The only thing I can’t figure out is why. Go back a couple of months and take a look at what we’ve done.

And then we would have started with the debt, and we would have started with cutting and you know, bringing things, really, I mean, we were in such great shape. And you think people would love having a strong military and low taxes and all of these things that we had. It was, you know, we have the strongest military now we’ve ever had. One of the things I did also, I don’t even know if it’s in here, the wall. Our border security now is as good as it’s ever been. But we just completed 212 miles of wall. And that’s one of the reasons—that’s a lot, you know, in the most critical areas. And nobody gets through that wall. That wall is the real deal. And so that’s a big thing. But we’ll see you again, Michael.

Mr. Bender: Who do you think Biden should pick as his VP? I’ll leave you on that.

Mr. Trump: I mean, he said he’s going to pick a woman. So I would imagine he’s going to pick a woman. I would hope so. I don’t want to really guesstimate, but you know, there are probably three or four that I would see as being viable. More than that.

Mr. Bender: Thank you very much for the time.

Mr. Trump: Any time.