The interview, which aired for about 30 minutes, was filled with a lighting round of questions and answers. Trump and Stahl engaged in several contentious back-and-forths on almost every topic-
‘It’s okay. In the meantime, I’m president and you’re not,’ he told after one long exchange.
It was the president’s first sit down with ‘
President Donald Trump alternated between defensive and snappy in a wide-ranging interview with ’60 Minutes’ anchor Lesley Stahl
Trump and Stahl engaged in several contentious back-and-forths on almost every topic
The fireworks began in the first minutes and continued to when the credits rolled.
There were several memorable moments.
Trump dismissed talk that
‘Do you really think I’d call Russia to help me with an election? Give me a break. They wouldn’t be able to help me at all. Call Russia. It’s so ridiculous,’ the president said.
He also argued he is tough with Russian President Vladimir Putin in private after interviewer Lesley Stahl asked him about his friendly demeanor with his counterpart in their now-infamous press conference in Helsinki in July.
‘I think I’m very tough with him personally. I had a meeting with him. The two of us. It was a very tough meeting and it was a very good meeting,’ the president said.
He also conceded, when asked, that Putin is ‘probably’ involved in political assassinations.
‘Probably he is, yeah. Probably,’ Trump said.
British officials claim Russian militants were dispatched to the United Kingdom to kill Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who had given information to British intelligence, charges Moscow has denied.
President Trump and President Putin in Helsinki in July
One of the heated back-and-forths with Stahl was on whether he thinks Moscow meddled in the election.
‘Do you believe that the Russians interfered in the 2016 campaign election?,’ Stahl asked.
‘They meddled. But I think China meddled too,’ he said.
Stahl pressed him on why he included China.
‘Why do you say China, why don’t you just say the Russians meddled?,’ she asked.
‘Because I think China meddled also,’ he said. ‘And I think, frankly, China–‘
‘This is amazing,’ Stahl interrupted. ‘You are diverting the whole Russia thing.’
‘I’m not doing anything,’ the president replied.
‘You are, you are,’ Stahl injected.
‘I’m saying Russia, but I’m also saying China,’ he said.
Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford
President Trump at an Oct. 2 campaign rally in Mississippi where he mocked Christine Ford
‘Had I not made that speech, we would not have won,’ Trump said of his remarks on Christine Blasey Ford (right), which came before the Senate voted on Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation
The two went at it again when Stahl asked the president about his speech in Mississippi during Kavanaugh’s confirmation process, where he mocked Christine Blasey Ford, who had accused Kavanaugh of pinning her to a bed, groping her and covering her mouth when she screamed during a teenage party in the 1980s.
Kavanaugh denied the allegations and Trump mocked Ford’s testimony on her accusation before the Senate Judiciary Committee in what he called his ‘famous Mississippi speech.’
‘Had I not made that speech, we would not have won,’ the president told ’60 Minutes.’ ‘I was just saying she didn’t seem to know anything.’
At his rally in Mississippi, he mocked Ford for not remembering more details of the evening, including how much she drank, where the party took place or how she got home.
His remarks came a few days before the Senate voted on his Supreme Court nominee. Kavanaugh was confirmed in a close 50-48 vote.
But Trump argued he wasn’t really mocking her.
‘I didn’t really make fun of her,’ he said.
‘Well, they were laughing,’ Stahl said of the crowd at the rally.
‘What I said the person that we’re talking about didn’t know the year, the time, the place,’ Trump said.
‘Do you think you treated her with respect?,’ Stahl asked.
‘I think so, yeah. I did,’ he said.
Stahl pressed the president: ‘But you seem to be saying that she lied.’
‘You know what? I’m not gonna get into it because we won. It doesn’t matter. We won,’ the president said.
Trump defended his ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy, which resulted in children being separated from their families as seen in this June 2018 photo of children at a facility in McAllen, Texas
First lady Melania Trump visited a detention center in McAllen, Texas, in June
The president also offered a forceful defense of his ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy, which resulted in immigrant children being separated from their families who illegally crossed the border.
‘The same as the Obama law. You know, Obama had the same thing,’ Trump said of his predecessor Barack Obama.
Stahl pointed out Obama did not enforce the law but Trump did.
‘No,’ Trump said. ‘But then everybody decided and the courts don’t want separation. And frankly, when you don’t do separa – when you allow the parents to stay together, okay, when you allow that, then what happens is people are gonna pour into our country.’
He added: ‘There have to be consequences, Lesley, for coming into our country illegally.’
He also said he was to blame for the illegal immigration numbers.
‘I have to blame myself, the economy is so strong that everybody wants to come into the United States,’ he said.
In June, Trump abandoned his policy after images of youngsters in cages sparked outrage at home and abroad.
Attorney General Jeff Session
Attorney General Jeff Sessions (left) is said to be on the way out; Trump spoke with Sessions’ chief of staff Matthew Whitaker (right) about replacing him
Trump and interviewer Lesley Stahl engaged in several contentious back-and-forths on almost every topic
Trump also again expressed his disappointment in his Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has become someone he regularly criticizes in interviews and on Twitter, for recusing himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
‘I was disappointed that he recused himself and many people think I was right on that. I was very disappointed. Why should he have recused himself?,’ Trump said.
But the president also cautioned no one could assume Sessions will be gone from the Justice Department after the midterms.
‘No. No. You can’t assume that,’ he said.
He also declined to pledge not to shut down Mueller’s probe.
‘I don’t pledge anything. But I will tell you, I have no intention of doing that. I think it’s a very unfair investigation because there was no collusion of any kind,’ he said.
Sessions’ unsteady future has been the subject of news stories and cocktail party chatter for months. Unfounded rumors two weeks ago about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s departure fed discussions of a wholesale shakeup at the top of the DOJ.
Rosenstein, however, appears to be staying.
Senior Republicans told DailyMail.com on Monday that Whitaker is in a ‘grooming exercise’ to become attorney general, and was expected to become acting deputy attorney general until Rosenstein’s planned resignation evaporated.
That would have been a dry-run for the top job.
Sessions, when he was a senator from Alabama, was one of Trump’s earliest supporters on Capitol Hill – loyalty that earned him the top spot at the Justice Department.
But he met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak twice during the campaign and did not disclose that to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his January confirmation hearing.
It ultimately led to him recusing himself from overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election, a move that infuriated the president.
‘VICIOUS’ WASHINGTON D.C.
Trump said Washington D.C. was vicious
The president spoke to CBS’ Lesley Stahl in his first interview with the program since he entered the White House
In the interview, Trump also had strong words for Washington D.C.’s political establishment, calling them ‘vicious.’
‘I always used to say the toughest people are Manhattan real estate guys and blah, blah. Now I say they’re babies,’ he said.
He added: ‘They’re babies, the political people. This is the most deceptive, vicious world. It is vicious, it’s full of lies, deceit and deception. You make a deal with somebody and it’s like making a deal with that table.’
Trump was a political outsider when he was elected, having never previously held public office.
He went to say of the U.S. capitol that ‘it’s a very deceptive world. The other thing I’ve really learned is I never knew how dishonest the media was. And I really mean it. I’m not saying that as a sound bite…’
Stahl interrupted him: ‘I’m gonna change the subject again.’
Trump snapped at her again: ‘Well, no, even the way you asked me a question, like, about separation. When I say Obama did it, you don’t wanna talk about it.”
‘I’m gonna run your answer, but you did it four times,’ Stahl said.
‘I’m just telling you that you treated me much differently on the subject,’ Trump complained.
‘I disagree, but I don’t wanna have that fight with you,’ Stahl said.
Trump responded: ‘Hey, it’s okay.’
‘All right, I’ll get in another fight with you,’ she said.
‘Lesley, it’s okay. In the meantime, I’m president and you’re not,’ Trump said.
THE NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED
President Trump said said ‘maybe it was The New York Times’ who wrote the resistance op-ed that ran in its newspaper about his administration
Stahl said she doubted the president’s theory on the op-ed authorship
Trump said it was possible The New York Times wrote the anonymous op-ed about a resistance movement in the White House against him. The Times said it was written by a ‘senior official in the Trump administration.’
‘Whoever it is,’ Trump said of the author. ‘Maybe it was The New York Times too.’
He added: ‘You don’t know how dishonest The New York Times is. It could’ve been The New York Times. I doubt it. But it could’ve been.’
‘Okay. I doubt it too,’ Stahl said.
‘Well, don’t count on it. It also could’ve been any one of 3,000 people,’ Trump said.
The op-ed, which The Times ran last month, sparked a witch hunt of Trump’s own in his administration as his staff searched for the author and a bevy of officials – from Vice President Mike Pence to first lady Melania Trump to every member of the Cabinet – denied writing it.
The author’s identity has yet to be revealed.
MORE CABINET CHANGES
President Trump said there could be more changes coming to his Cabinet
Defense Secretary James Mattis could be on the chopping block
‘General Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves,’ he said.
‘I think he’s sort of a Democrat if you want to know the truth,’ he noted.
Mattis has been rumored to be on the way out for more than a month amid reports relations between the two men have deteriorated to the point that Trump now calls his former ‘Mad Dog’ the ‘Moderate Dog.’
The president also indicated more people will exit his Cabinet – likely after the election.
‘Other people will go for sure,’ he said.
And while he didn’t name specific names,’ he did say there are some people in his Cabinet he is not happy with.
‘I have a great cabinet. I have some people I’m not happy with. I have some people I’m not thrilled with. And I have other people I’m beyond thrilled with,’ he said.
The president said he has ‘phenomenal’ waiting in the wings to join his team.
‘I have people now on standby that will be phenomenal when they come into the administration,’ he said.
The question of who might be lined up to join the Trump administration has been in the regular rotation of Washington guessing games as reports speculation on who may be next to leave.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley announced last week she would leave her post at the end of the year, which could be the first hint of a major Cabinet turn over.
Already gone: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price; Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, who became chief of staff; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin; and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.
President Trump and CBS’ Lesley Stahl taped their interview at the White House
In the wake of Hurricane Michael, which devastated the Florida panhandle, Stahl pressed the president on whether the current season of ‘super storms’ meant climate change was real.
Trump dismissed the idea.
‘I think something’s happening. Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s manmade,’ Trump said.
Stahl used the moment to question Trump on something he often says when making a point: ‘they say.’
When he did it in talking about climate change, Stahl challenge him on who are ‘they.’
‘They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael,’ Trump said.
‘Who says that? ‘They say’?,’ Stahl asked.
‘People say. People say that,’ Trump responded, declining to get more specific.
President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shake hands at their June summit in Singapore
President Donald Trump shows a letter he said he received the previous day from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Septemer at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York
‘I’m not a baby. I know all these things,’ Trump told her before going on to explain the two men get along well.
Stahl proceeded to read to him what she called Kim’s ‘resume’: ‘He presides over a cruel kingdom of repression, gulags, starvation. Reports that he had his half-brother assassinated. Slave labor. Public executions. This is a guy you love?’
‘Sure. I know all these things. I’m not a baby. I know these things,’ Trump replied. ‘I get along with him okay.’
Stahl then questioned Trump’s comments that he made at a September campaign rally where he said he ‘fell in love’ with Kim, who sent him ‘beautiful letters.’
‘You said you love him,’ she said to the president.
Trump defended his comment as a ‘figure of speech.’
‘No it’s like an embrace,’ Stahl said.
‘Let it be an embrace. Let it be whatever it is to get the job done,’ Trump replied.
‘He’s a bad guy,’ Stahl countered.
‘Let it be whatever it is. I get along with him really well,’ Trump responded. ‘I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him. Look at the horrible threats that were made. No more threats. No more threats.’
The president also claimed the United States was on the brink of war with North Korea when came into office.
‘The day before I came in, we were goin’ to war with North Korea. I sat with President Obama,’ he said.
Stahl interrupted him to ask: ‘We were goin’ to war?’
‘I think it was going to end up in war. And my impression is – and even in my first few months, I mean, that rhetoric was as tough as it could possibly get,’ he said.
Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping when the president visited China in November 2017
President Donald Trump and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Canada in June
Stahl pressed the president on the $250 billion in tariffs he has leveraged against China, which he denied is a trade war.
‘I called it, actually I called it a battle. But, actually, I’m gonna lower that. I consider it a skirmish. And we’re gonna win,’ he said.
He also wouldn’t rule out slapping more tariffs on Beijing.
‘I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,’ Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday, while adding that more tariffs ‘might’ be in the mix.
The president also dismissed her question on the tariffs he imposed on American allies.
‘I mean, what’s an ally?,’ he said. ‘We have wonderful relationships with a lot of people. But nobody treats us much worse than the European Union. The European Union was formed in order to take advantage of us on trade, and that’s what they’ve done.’
Earlier this year, Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from most countries, including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico.
Stahl asked him if tariffs were a ‘hostile’ action.
‘You know what’s hostile? The way they treat us. We’re not hostile,’ he replied.
The president also said he would keep the U.S. with NATO as long as they paid their own way.
‘I will always be there with NATO, but they have to pay their way. I’m fully in favor of NATO, but I don’t wanna be taken advantage of,’ he said.
Stahl asked him about a report Defense Secretary James Mattis had to explain to him that NATO was established to prevent World War III.
‘No, it’s not true,’ Trump said, adding: ‘Frankly, I like General Mattis. I think I know more about it than he does.’
‘I FEEL VERY COMFORTABLE’ ON THE JOB
President Trump said he feels very comfortable on the job
The president agreed with first lady Melania Trump that there are some people he can’t trust
In his final lightening round of questions, Trump denied his White House is in chaos.
‘It’s wrong. It’s so false. It’s fake news,’ he told ’60 Minutes.’
But when Stahl asked him about first lady Melania Trump’s comment there aren’t people in the White House they can trust, the president agreed.
‘I feel the same way. I don’t trust everybody in the White House, I’ll be honest with you,’ he said.
He added: ‘I’m not saying I trust everybody in the White House. I’m not a baby. It’s a tough business.’
Trump also said there was no adjustment period for him when he took the oath of office.
‘I felt comfortable at the beginning, other than it was a little surreal to say I’m the president of the United States, but I think that’s true with everybody,’ he said.
‘Now I very much feel like POTUS,’ he said. ‘I do. I feel like the president. You know, for a little while, it’s like ‘Mr. President, sir.’ Even my friends, they call me, they don’t call me Donald, they call me Mr. President. And I say, ‘Will you please loosen up?’ I’ve learned on the job. I have.’
‘And you feel comfortable?,’ Stahl asked.
‘I feel very comfortable, yeah,’ Trump responded.