WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump sat for an exclusive Oval Office interview Wednesday with The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti and Benny Johnson for approximately 31 minutes.
The transcript is as follows:
THE DAILY CALLER: Let’s get the news of the day out at the top. There’s all of these things that are being discussed about the chief of staff [John Kelly], about Kirstjen Nielsen. Why are you disappointed in the DHS secretary and is John Kelly going to be staying in his job right now?
POTUS: So, you know, always in an administration after the midterms you make changes, so, I’m looking at things and I’ve got a lot of options. A lot of people want to come in. A lot of politicians that have had very successful careers that are very good want to come in. So I’m looking at things — haven’t made a decision yet. I will be making a decision on Homeland shortly.
But I have not made decisions yet. But I will be making changes on various things. Overall, I have a very good cabinet. I think our cabinet’s great.
You know, you’re talking about a few names, you’re not talking about many.
Uh, we’ve been doing incredibly on trade deals and trade with my whole staff of traders, because that’s what they are. What we’ve done on trade deals is incredible — with Mexico, with Canada, with South Korea — taking deals that were horrible and making great deals. And now we’re in the midst of China and others.
But we have a great cabinet, we have — we’ll see, uh, there will be some changes made before the end of the year.
THE DAILY CALLER: Sure. Could you tell us where your thinking is currently on the attorney general position? I know you’re happy with Matthew Whitaker, do you have any names? Chris Christie —
POTUS: Matthew Whitaker is a very respected man. He’s — and he’s, very importantly, he’s respected within DOJ. I heard he got a very good decision, I haven’t seen it. Kellyanne, did I hear that?
WHITE HOUSE ADVISER KELLYANNE CONWAY: 20 pages.
POTUS: A 20-page?
THE DAILY CALLER: It just came out right before this, sir.
POTUS: Well, I heard it was a very strong opinion. Uh, which is good. But [Whitaker] is just somebody that’s very respected.
I knew him only as he pertained, you know, as he was with Jeff Sessions. And, you know, look, as far as I’m concerned this is an investigation that should have never been brought. It should have never been had.
It’s something that should have never been brought. It’s an illegal investigation. And you know, it’s very interesting because when you talk about not Senate confirmed, well, Mueller’s not Senate confirmed.
THE DAILY CALLER: Right.
POTUS: He’s heading this whole big thing, he’s not Senate confirmed.
So anyway, I have a lot of respect for Matt Whitaker, based primarily on reputation. And I think he’s really — I think a lot of people are starting to come out very much in favor of him during this period of time.
THE DAILY CALLER: What about who will eventually replace him, sir?
POTUS: Well, I’m looking at a lot of people. I have been called by so many people wanting that job. We have some great people. In the meantime, I think Matt’s going to do a fantastic job.
THE DAILY CALLER: Banning Jim Acosta. Taking his White House credentials. His hard pass. Is this going to be something that happens with repeated nature inside of the White House? Who you feel are disrespecting the White House, sir.
POTUS: Your world has changed quite a bit and you have grandstanders much more than you did before. He’s just a grandstander. He’s just an average guy who’s a grandstander. And he’s got the guts to stand up and, you know, and shout.
It’s primarily led by CNN because they pay him to do that. CNN is low on the ratings now, relative to Fox and others, and they’re doing very poorly actually. But because of me — the age of Trump — because of me, they’re doing better than they’ve done but they’re doing very poorly in compared to others. Very very poorly. And, um, and getting worse.
They’ve lost a tremendous amount of credibility and, you know, Jim Acosta’s just somebody that gets up and grandstands. He doesn’t even know what he’s asking half of the time. So, we’ll see how the court case goes. It’s today.
THE DAILY CALLER: Are you confident that you’re going to win the court case?
POTUS: I don’t know, I think that we should. Certainly, you shouldn’t be able to go up into a White House and, on principle, it’s very disrespectful to the rest of the press. You were actually getting up to do a question.
THE DAILY CALLER: That’s right, sir.
POTUS: — And this guy’s screaming. And I kept saying to you, ‘come on,’ you didn’t give me much help. I kept saying, ‘give me the question already.’ But, you know, he just screamed and, you know, you knew it because you’re standing, you didn’t know what to do, and I understand that.
He was very rude to the young lady. I won’t, I won’t even — who knows. Who knows. Certainly, he didn’t act very respectful to the press. He’s actually more disrespectful, I think, to the rest of the media. Because he gets up and grandstands and he wants to ask three or four questions and everyone else is, you know, you’re trying to get one question in and the room was packed with a couple of hundred people that want to ask questions.
So, I think he’s very disrespectful to the media, I think he’s very disrespectful to the office, and I think he’s bad for the public. You know, when I say that the fake news is the enemy of the people, it really is. A lot of the animosity that we have in our country is because of fake news. They’re so angry at the news. They get it. You guys are at my rallies all the time, you see the anger when I mention the words ‘fake news’ and they turn around. And they use CNN because they — it just sort of works for them I guess.
But it’s ABC, it’s — NBC is maybe worse than anybody. I mean, NBC’s a total fraud as far as I’m concerned. Their news is disgusting. But I think NBC is as bad as anybody. You look at — and CBS — you look at what’s going on with the fake news and the people get it.
Now they get it — you know they had a very high approval rating before I became president and I think it’s actually a great achievement of mine. Their approval rating now is down as low as just about anybody. And much lower than your president. I actually have good approval ratings, which nobody ever writes. I was at 51, I guess, with Rasmussen the other day.
So I will say that I really think that when you have guys like Acosta, I think they’re bad for the country. Because they show how fake it all is. And it’s a grandstander, and we’ll see how the court rules. You know, then they talk, ‘Oh, freedom of the press.’ But can you really have — is it freedom of the press? It’s actually the opposite. Is it freedom of the press when somebody comes in and starts screaming questions and won’t sit down after having answered a couple of them? And then won’t sit down and then I can’t ask you guys because he’s standing — I don’t think that’s freedom of the press, I actually think that’s the opposite.
THE DAILY CALLER: Which is an important follow-up question, why this administration? This doesn’t seem to be the norm. It certainly wasn’t the norm in previous administrations, that reporters behave in this capacity.
POTUS: Well, I think they behaved badly. I remember Sam Donaldson was terrible at two presidents, and, you know, we tend to forget. I think that now it’s become, with cable television, playing such a role, although, you know, cable television was supposed to be a dying medium. And because of me it’s now hotter than it’s ever been. But someday I won’t be here and it will die like you’ve never seen. And so will The New York Times — will die — and every one of them will just be dead.
I mean, look, I remember picking up before I announced for president, I picked up The New York Times and I said to somebody, ‘Boy, this paper is dead, look at it.’ The paper was dead. It was like a leaflet that you hand out at the supermarket, and now it’s a vibrant paper.
But you look at the stories, many of the stories on the front page are about me. You know, all my life I told this story, had stories on the front page. A few, not a big deal. Which wasn’t bad, you know, maybe seven, but, you know, a few. And, you know, now if I have a few each day it’s surprisingly low.
But it has made a big difference.
THE DAILY CALLER: Sir, I do want to turn to policy.
POTUS: That’s why I always joke when I say they’ll all be endorsing me. Cause I don’t know what happens to their business after I’m gone.
THE DAILY CALLER: Sir, right now, in 2010 we saw several pieces of major legislation passed in a lame-duck Congress. What can we expect your and the Republican agenda to be in this Congress? Is it going to be an immigration fix? What about criminal justice reform? What are the two to three things you’re looking at?
POTUS: We’re working on many things. Criminal justice reform we’re working on very hard. We have a meeting today, do you know about that? We have a meeting today.
THE DAILY CALLER: We heard about that.
POTUS: Get these two in, alright? I think we have a chance at that. We should be able to fix health care. We should be able —
THE DAILY CALLER: Just one second, sir, on that criminal justice bill. Is that the Jared Kushner-backed bill that you want to focus on?
POTUS: The answer is I’m looking at it very closely, okay? I am. It’s a good thing. You know, Texas is backing it, if you look at Mississippi and Georgia and a lot of other places, they believe in it, those governors, and they’re conservative people. Rick Perry’s a big fan.
You know, a lot of people are backing it. Look at the people that are backing it. Even, you know, like Mike Lee, he votes against a lot of things and we respect Mike and Mike is backing it. We have a lot of people that are backing this.
THE DAILY CALLER: What about immigration, sir? Are you willing to shut down the government if you don’t get a certain set of policies?
POTUS: I may be. I may be. I’ll have to see how it plays out. But I may very well be willing to shut down the government.
I think it’s horrible what’s happening and, you know, building the wall, it’s in smaller stages, we can build it very quickly. I’m building the wall in smaller stages and we moved the military there, we put up barbed wire, we did all sorts of things. You have to have a barrier. You have to have a barrier.
Look, we have a chance of, they can do presidential harassment, put very simply, and I’ll be very good at handling that and I think I’ll be better than anybody in the history of this office. And in a certain way I look forward to it because I actually think it’s good for me politically, because everyone knows it’s pure harassment. Just like the witch hunt, the Mueller witch hunt. It’s pure harassment. It’s horrible. It’s horrible that they’re allowed to get away with it.
Again, not Senate confirmed but, you know. You have 17 people — half, many of them worked for Hillary Clinton, some on the Foundation. The Hillary Clinton Foundation. I mean, you think of it.
So, I think we’ll do very well if they want to play the presidential harassment game. If they play the presidential harassment game I don’t think anything’s going to be done ’cause why would I do that, okay? If they want to get things done I think it will be fantastic, I think we can get a lot done.
I think we can almost get more done because they’re gonna want to prove something, too. So if they wanna do health care, we can do health care. There a very good fixes to health care that could solve a lot of problems. We’ve really, you know, terminated a lot of the Obamacare, as it was referred to. But we could do a new health care bill that would be fantastic that could take everybody’s — that could incorporate good pieces of everybody’s good ideas.
So there’s a chance at that, there’s a great chance at comprehensive immigration reform. If they wanna do it, they wanna do it, they wanna do it right. And there’s a good chance at doing things that maybe you couldn’t do.
Don’t forget, I didn’t really have a majority. I had one senator. And I had a few Republicans in the House. You know, a very small number. Um, and now the pressure’s on them because they’ve gotta come to me with things.
Hey, the beauty is, and I’ve said this, you heard me at the news conference, I don’t know if you agree with me — let’s say I won with two Republicans or three. I’d have to make deals with Republicans. I’d have guys coming to me, you know, out of that group there’ll be people. Let’s not say they’re good or bad but they’re people: ‘well I don’t want to do this.’ Well, I’m gonna have three or more. I mean, literally, unless I had like a 25 majority, you know, something substantial, they would come to me and they would say, ‘well, I don’t like it.’ You wouldn’t even be able to get something through there. It would be too close.
Where I am now, when they have a small majority, I can sit back and say, ‘hey.’ And the beauty is when it gets passed, when we pass things, we’ll get it passed in the Senate, which now we can’t because we need 10 Democrat votes. Because we’ll have Democrats and I’ll be able to get enough Republicans to pass.
But the beauty is, the beauty is that we actually have something that can work much better than it worked before, because before it was politically very difficult for a lot of people.
THE DAILY CALLER: While we’re on the subject of Congress, I do want to get — does Kevin McCarthy have your full endorsement in the speaker’s race?
POTUS: Well, I didn’t endorse because I stay out of it, but I like Kevin a lot and I like Jim [Jordan] a lot. I like both of ’em.
THE DAILY CALLER: How would you like them to work it out?
POTUS: Who else is running, nobody, right?
THE DAILY CALLER: That’s all there is right now.
POTUS: Well, I like both of ’em a lot. I think Jim is a fantastic guy and I think Kevin’s a fantastic guy. They’re very different but Kevin is a very political person, which is good. He’s a very honorable guy, and I think he’s gonna do great, and it looks like, you know, he’ll probably get it.
THE DAILY CALLER: Would you like to see Jim on the ranking member on Judiciary?
POTUS: I would like to see Jim in a high position ’cause he deserves it. He’s fantastic, but I haven’t gotten into the endorsement or not. I just like both of ’em too much, too much to get very much involved. It’s something I shouldn’t be involved in. But Jim is a fantastic guy and Kevin is a fantastic guy and they’re very different and they complement each other.
THE DAILY CALLER: Broward County election commissioner Brenda Snipes is in violation of Florida law. She’s in violation of Florida reporting laws, she’s in violation of a judge’s order. She’s also reportedly mixed in illegal ballots with legal ballots and asked for them to be counted. Is she behaving criminally and should she be removed?
POTUS: Look, you know, the bottom line — it’s, she’s a disaster. You look at her past, she’s a disaster. Even with me. I won Florida and, you remember? That area, Broward, didn’t come in. It didn’t come in. I think Palm Beach was like — they wouldn’t call Florida, I won. Then it got to a point where I won by enough that all the votes of the people that lived there would, you know, in other words — you can only put in so many votes, although she may change that system.
You can only put in a number of people that are registered voters or live there. Now they’re, I guess they were trying to take illegal voters but these are — I’ve been saying, this is a problem all over the country, by the way. This is what I’ve been saying.
This is a problem in California that’s so bad of illegals voting. This is a California problem and if you notice, almost every race — I was watching today — out of like 11 races that are in question they’re gonna win all of them.
The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes, which is what I’ve been saying for a long time. I have no doubt about it. And I’ve seen it, I’ve had friends talk about it when people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.
The disgrace is that, voter ID. If you buy, you know, a box of cereal, if you do anything, you have a voter ID.
Well, over here, the only thing you don’t is if you’re a voter of the United States. A voter in the United States of America. I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. Really a disgrace. And they try to shame everybody by calling them racist or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing.
If you look at what happened in New Hampshire, where thousands of people came up and voted from a very liberal part of Massachusetts and they came up in buses and they voted. I said, ‘what’s going on over here,’ my people said, ‘you won New Hampshire easily except they have tremendous numbers of buses coming up.’ They’re pouring up by the hundreds, buses of people getting out, voting. Then they’re supposed to go back within 90 days. And of the people that are supposed to go back, almost none of them do. In other words, they go back after the vote is over. They go back — and I think it’s like three percent — I mean, almost nobody goes back to show that, you know, that they were allowed to vote. And so what do you do? Recall the election. Recall the election. I mean, there, you should be able to recall the election.
THE DAILY CALLER: You think they should call Florida right now, sir?
POTUS: Uh, I think they should’ve called Florida election evening. Well, many votes were added to that, and, you know what’s going on. And now they have mixed them up. You said it better than I did. They mixed the votes up and now you can’t find the ones that were put in, they just put ’em into a batch.
When they call this woman incompetent, they’re wrong. She’s very competent but in a bad way.
THE DAILY CALLER: Should she be removed from office?
POTUS: Oh, she should have been removed — I think she should have been removed in the middle of this mix-up.
THE DAILY CALLER: How do you prevent this in 2020? From happening when you run for re-election?
POTUS: First thing you do is fire her and her cronies. You get ’em out of — you get ’em out. And it should have been done, I mean, if there’s anything really that I would be — because, again, in the 2016 election, you guys remember, remember how long it took to get Florida?
THE DAILY CALLER: It took a long time.
POTUS: Had I not been winning Florida by more than they could — I mean, you can’t produce — if you have a million people, you can’t give 1,200,000 votes, okay? So actually, what happened is they went with fairly accurate numbers because whether I won by 10 votes or by half a million votes it didn’t matter.
But I had, fortunately, enough votes, and they were sitting there waiting. They said, ‘Broward County is not reporting.’ This went on for hours.
WHITE HOUSE ADVISER KELLYANNE CONWAY: The Panhandle came in an hour later.
POTUS: Well, the Panhandle was so devastating to Crooked Hillary, that, frankly, it didn’t make any difference, okay? Because the Panhandle was so — it was like 98 percent. That thing came in, then all of a sudden Broward came in. And I won by, you know, I won by a lot of votes. I call it four Yankee Stadiums.
THE DAILY CALLER: Sir, as a resident of both D.C. and New York City, what do you think about Amazon’s relocation and the decision of both Virginia and New York to give billions of subsidies to Amazon. Do you support that?
POTUS: I think they’re paying a very big price. I think that it was a competition. I know all about those competitions, I’ve been in those competitions, you know, and it’s a lot of people, a lot of cities who are competing for it. They took the best deals.
THE DAILY CALLER: So you support the cities giving them tax breaks?
POTUS: Well, I think they’re giving up a lot. They’re very expensive deals. Only time will tell. Maybe Amazon will have massive competition and they won’t be the same company in five years, in which case it will be a big mistake.
You know, Amazon could have — I see Walmart is doing very well and others are building sites. I think that’s going to be a very competitive business someday, Amazon. And I’m not sure that size necessarily helps when you get —
THE DAILY CALLER: Do you still think they’re cheating the U.S. postal system?
POTUS: Oh, I think they’re getting the bargain of the century. I think that Amazon’s getting — and that’s why I’ve asked for a review of that. And others too, you know, not just Amazon. There are classes of companies that are getting the bargain and I think that — I may be wrong about this, you’ll check — but I think the contract they signed with Amazon was a closed contract. You can’t even see it. It was a sealed contract.
No, I think Amazon has the bargain of the century with the U.S. Post Office, which is losing a fortune.
THE DAILY CALLER: Tucker Carlson had his house attacked, he had a mob outside of his house while his wife was home. They cracked the door — what is this violence? Where does it come from? Do you have a message for Tucker and his family?
POTUS: I do, I spoke to Tucker and I think Tucker’s a great guy and I think it’s terrible, they were actually trying to break down the door.
THE DAILY CALLER: How do you think the police should handle Antifa, generally?
POTUS: These people, like the Antifa you’re talking about, the Antifa — they better hope that the opposition to Antifa decides not to mobilize. Because if they do, they’re much tougher. Much stronger. Potentially much more violent. And Antifa’s going to be in big trouble. But so far they haven’t done that, and that’s a good thing.
But they better hope that the other side doesn’t mobilize, you understand what I’m saying. Because if you look, the other side is the military, it’s the police, it’s a lot of very strong, a lot of very tough people. Tougher than them. And smarter than them. And they’re sitting back and watching and they’re getting angrier and angrier.
THE DAILY CALLER: What’s your takeaway from the 2018 election and what do you think that means for 2020 for you?
POTUS: I think I did very well. Because if you look at — Obama was 60-something odd House seats and lost seven Senate seats. So we picked up three or four Senate seats depending on how it all goes — it’s a big pickup. In fact, they say in 80 years I think the presidential party’s only picked up two Senate seats, I picked up three. I mean, assuming that they don’t do any further shenanigans in Florida.
Almost picked up Tester. Almost picked up, you know, if you look — and that was somebody that wasn’t even in play. And that was another one at the very last moment, all of a sudden, that was over. Almost picked up Arizona and that was another one that I question, I have to question that more strongly than our candidate, a wonderful person. But she didn’t question strongly, so I’m not going to, but I think that was very odd the way that all happened in Arizona. But we picked up — I mean, it looked like we picked up five. But probably three. It’s a lot.
I think this — if I didn’t go around, and you were there, you saw the crowd — in the history of politics, and I say this proudly, I wasn’t even running. In the history of politics nobody’s ever gotten crowds like that or close because you were in those stadiums and those arenas, but outside you had many more times — you know, in Houston we had 109,000 people sign up for 22,000 seats. We actually took ads saying, ‘please don’t come’ and that helped Ted Cruz a lot.
So if you look at Ted Cruz, and you look at some of the people that won, they wouldn’t have won without my helping them. And then you look at the new senators, you look at Indiana, Donnelly was not going to happen. Nobody said Donnelly was going to lose. Nobody said — even look at a case of a congressman. I couldn’t help too many congressmen because I don’t have that much time. The only congressman I went for was Andy Barr and that was in Kentucky, Mitch was there but he wasn’t running, and Rand Paul was there. Good guy, Rand Paul, by the way. And he was there, and the only congressman — I specifically went, there was no senator running in Kentucky, it was Andy Barr, and he won nicely. And he was down 10 and he won his race.
Every place I went, look at Georgia, I’m assuming he wins. That’s another one now they’re trying to play around with the votes. Honestly, it’s a disgrace what’s going on. Oprah went, Obama went, and Michelle Obama went. They went, and they spent a lot of time, and I went and did a rally, and the real number was probably 55,000 people, cause, you know, were you there in Georgia?
THE DAILY CALLER: Not Georgia, sir.
POTUS: Because we had a hangar, another hangar holding 18,000 at the top of the hangar. These are massive, like 747 hangars. It went way back, and he won. And everybody said he wasn’t going to win. But they had Obama, Mrs. Obama and Oprah. Oprah spent three days there and every place I went, we won or came real close with areas, like, as an example, Tester.
Tester, nobody wanted even to contest it. Well, look at what happened in North Dakota with Heidi. Heidi, they said don’t contest. One year ago when we were looking, they all said don’t contest Heidi, she can’t be beat. She lost by a lot. I went there three or four times.
I mean, the truth is, every place I went, we either won or did well or did really well. If I didn’t go, if I didn’t do those stops — I did 31 stops in 30 days or something like that. If I didn’t do those stops, I think we would’ve lost 10 Senate seats, seven to 10 Senate seats, and we would’ve lost 60 to 70 House seats or more.
By doing the stops, then again a lot of times I’d have the congressmen in the room, so they wouldn’t be the prime focus but I’d get up and I’d be able to talk about them for a couple of minutes apiece, right? If I didn’t do the stops — and I’ve been thanked by a lot of Republicans — if I didn’t do those stops we would definitely not have control of the Senate. It would be a question, so what are we up, three? Two or three. We would be down five or six or seven. And they know that. Nobody has ever had a greater impact.
Well, I’ll give you another. You take Georgia. He was 10 points down when I endorsed him, he ended up winning by 40 points in the primary. He’s now in, but he was 10 points down. It was 70 to 30, something like that, 70-30 or 70-40, maybe 70-40. But it was an easy win.
Take DeSantis. Ron DeSantis was a three, had no money. He was running against in the Republican primary, who was at 31 and he had $21 million cash in the bank. The Department of Agriculture, right? Nice guy, too. But I didn’t know him so I don’t feel guilty. I endorsed DeSantis. I endorsed DeSantis and he won by 20 points. Okay, it wasn’t even a race. And his opponent, who I spoke to afterward because he is a nice guy, he said, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it.’ He said, ‘you endorsed him, the race was over.’
There’s never been an impact — I don’t say it braggingly. I mean, it’s hard for me to say it because I’d rather have them say it but they don’t say it very well. No, there’s never been a story, nobody ever writes it.
But you take a look at the races that I was involved in, I had a massive impact. Then they said, ‘well, DeSantis is not gonna make it in Florida, he’s never gonna get elected.’ So I went down and made a speech, he got elected, he won. Now they’re trying to take votes away from him, it’s a disgrace what’s going on, but it looks like he’s gonna be good and hopefully, Rick [Scott] is gonna be good. Maybe the machines are bad, now the machines are all smokey, they’re all — it’s crazy. Honestly, it’s a disgrace.
Georgia, what they’re doing is a disgrace, and Florida, what they’re doing to the two people — no, to the three. Look at what they’re doing, how about the agriculture guy. He was leading all night long and then he ends up losing by 5,000 votes because nobody was watching that one. That’s a very important position in Florida, right? Pretty impressive if I do say so myself.