Few serious presidential candidates can openly admit they don’t know much about a subject as glaring as foreign policy, simply declaring that they’ll figure it out later. But Donald Trump, of course, is no normal presidential candidate.
On Wednesday night, as eleven Republicans took the stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in southern California, the location of the party’s second official Presidential debate, Trump held onto his crown as 2016’s biggest personality.
Despite often being factually incorrect in his proclamations, the real estate mogul and reality TV star stole the show. Thanks (again) to the Washington Post’s live transcription service, we were able to get a full account of Trump’s “braggadocious way,” as he put it.
“I think I have a great temperament. I built a phenomenal business with incredible, iconic assets, one of the really truly great real-estate businesses.”
[Asked to introduce himself]
I’m Donald Trump. I wrote The Art of the Deal. I say—not in a braggadocious way—I’ve made billions and billions of dollars dealing with people all over the world, and I want to put whatever that talent is to work for this country so we have great trade deals, we make our country rich again, we make it great again. We build our military, we take care of our vets, we get rid of Obamacare, and we have a great life altogether.
[Responding to Carly Fiorina’s response to whether she’d be comfortable with Trump having access to nuclear weapons.]
Well, first of all, [Kentucky Sen.] Rand Paul shouldn’t even be on this stage. He’s number 11, he’s got 1 percent in the polls, and how he got up here, there’s far too many people anyway.
As far as temperament—and we all know that, as far as temperament, I think I have a great temperament. I built a phenomenal business with incredible, iconic assets, one of the really truly great real-estate businesses.
And I may be an entertainer, because I’ve had tremendous success with number-one bestsellers all over the place, with The Apprentice and everything else I’ve done. But I will tell you this: What I am far and away greater than an entertainer is a businessman, and that’s the kind of mindset this country needs to bring it back, because we owe $19 trillion right now, $19 trillion, and you need this kind of thinking to bring our country back.
And believe me, my temperament is very good, very calm. But we will be respected outside of this country. We are not respected now.
[Responding to Paul saying, of Trump’s remarks on other candidates’ appearances, “my goodness, that happened in junior high.”]
I never attacked him on his look, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there. That I can tell you.
[Asked to describe why he’s a serious candidate, given that he’s never held office]
I’ve actually been in politics all my life, although I’ve been on that side as opposed to this side. I’m now a politician for about three months. Obviously, I’m doing pretty well. I’m number one in every poll by a lot. But the qualification is that I’ve dealt with people all over the world, been successful all over the world. Everything I’ve done virtually has been a tremendous success.
When markets changed, when things turned, I heard Governor Pataki—who, by the way, was a failed governor in New York, a very seriously failed—he wouldn’t be elected dog catcher right now. I heard what he had to say.
And I will tell you this: Atlantic City, I’ve made a tremendous amount of money in Atlantic City. I left seven years ago, I’ve gotten great credit for my timing, and that’s what I’m all about. I’m a businessman, did really well, really well, and Jeb, what I want to do is put that ability into this country to make our country rich again. And I can do that, and I’m not sure that anybody else in the group will be able to do that.
[Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker talking over each other]
In Wisconsin, you’re losing $2.2 billion right now. I would do so much better than that.
Every major business leader, has used the—I never went bank bankrupt, by the way, as you know, everybody knows. But hundreds of companies, hundreds of deals, I used the [bankruptcy] law four times and made a tremendous thing. I’m in business. I did a very good job.
But I will say this. And people are very, very impressed with what I’ve done, the business people. But when the folks of Iowa found out the true facts of the job that you’ve done in Wisconsin, all of a sudden […] he was number one and now he’s number six or seven in the polls.
So, look, we brought it out, you were supposed to make a billion dollars in the state. You lost 2.2—you have right now, a huge budget deficit. That’s not a Democratic point. That’s a point. That’s a fact. And when the people of Iowa found that out, I went to number one and you went down the tubes.
“I was watching and he said the statement. And I said, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it. I will take care of women. I respect women. I will take care of women.’”
[Arguing with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush over whether Trump’s donation was because he wanted to build a casino there. The two talk over each other.]
I didn’t—totally false. I would have gotten it. I promise I would have gotten it. I promise if I wanted it, I would have gotten it. I know my people. I know my people.
No. I just will tell you that, you know, Jeb made the statement. I’m not only referring to him. I—a lot of money was raised by a lot of different people that are standing up here. And the donors, the special interests, the lobbyists have very strong power over these people.
I’m spending all of my money, I’m not spending—I’m not getting any—I turned down. I turn down so much, I could have right now from special interests and donors, I could have double and triple what he’s got. I’ve turned it down. I turned down, last week, $5 million from somebody.
So I will tell you I understand the game, I’ve been on the other side all of my life. And they have a lot of control over our politicians. And I don’t say that favorably, and I’m not sure if there’s another system, but I say this: I am not accepting any money from anybody. Nobody has control of me other than the people of this country. I’m going to do the right thing.
[Bush points out that Trump gave money to Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton]
That’s true. That’s true. I was—excuse me, Jeb. I was a businessman. I got along with Clinton. I got along with everybody. That was my job, to get along with people. I didn’t want to—excuse me! One second.
[BUSH: No. The simple fact is, Donald, you could not take—]
OK, more energy tonight. I like that.
I didn’t want—it was my obligation as a businessman to my family, to my company, to my employees, to get along with all politicians. I get along with all of them, and I did a damn good job in doing it. Go ahead. Got along with everybody.
[BUSH: When he … asked Florida to have casino gambling, we said no.]
[BUSH: We said no. And that’s the simple fact. The simple fact is—]
Don’t make things up. Jeb, don’t make things up. Come on.
[BUSH: Don’t cut me off.]
Don’t make things up.
[On how he would interact with Russian President Vladimir Putin]
So, number one, they have to respect you. He has absolutely no respect for President Obama. Zero.
Syria’s a mess. You look at what’s going on with ISIS in there, now think of this: we’re fighting ISIS. ISIS wants to fight Syria. Why are we fighting ISIS in Syria? Let them fight each other and pick up the remnants.
I would talk to him [Putin]. I would get along with him. I believe—and I may be wrong, in which case I’d probably have to take a different path—but I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.
We don’t get along with China. We don’t get along with the heads of Mexico. We don’t get along with anybody, and yet, at the same time, they rip us left and right. They take advantage of us economically and every other way. We get along with nobody.
I will get along, I think, with Putin, and I will get along with others, and we will have a much more stable, stable world.
I believe that I will get along—we will do—between that, Ukraine, all of the other problems, we won’t have the kind of problems that our country has right now with Russia and many other nations.
“And frankly, I will have—and I told him, I will have the finest team that anybody has put together and we will solve a lot of problems.”
[Asked what he would do if he was president when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crossed the “red line” of using chemical weapons on his own citizens.]
I wouldn’t have drawn the line, but once he drew it, he had no choice but to go across. They do bear some responsibility, but I think he probably didn’t do it, not for that reason.
Somehow, [Obama] just doesn’t have courage. There is something missing from our president. Had he crossed the line and really gone in with force, done something to Assad, if he had gone in with tremendous force, you wouldn’t have millions of people displaced all over the world.
[Asked how much responsibility senators have.]
They had a responsibility, absolutely. I think we have three of them here. I think they had a responsibility, yes.
[On Jeb Bush’s claim that “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”]
I think it will haunt him. I think it’s a terrible. I think it’s going to haunt him, absolutely. He came back later and he said he misspoke. There was no question because I heard when he said the statement. I was watching and he said the statement. And I said, “Wow, I can’t believe it. I will take care of women. I respect women. I will take care of women.”
One thing we will say and I would like to get back to the Iran situation. We’re talking about Iran. The [White House deal to delay Iranian nuclear progress] agreement was terrible. It was incompetent. I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the worst contracts of any kind I’ve ever seen.
And nobody ever mentions North Korea, where you have this maniac sitting there and he actually has nuclear weapons and somebody better start thinking about North Korea and perhaps a couple of other places. But certainly North Korea.
And Ted and I have spoken. We’ve—a lot of us have spoken. We’re talking about Iran. They are bad actors, bad things are going to happen. But in the meantime, you have somebody right now in North Korea who has got nuclear weapons and who is saying almost every other week, “I’m ready to use them. And we don’t even mention it.”
[Bush explains his remarks and defends his record of helping women as governor.]
So why didn’t you say it? Why didn’t you say it?
[BUSH: We improved—we improved—]
I know, but why did you say it? I heard it myself. Why did you say it? You said you’re going to cut funding for women’s health. You said it.
[BUSH: I have a proven record. I have a proven record.]
You said it.
[Moderator Jake Tapper points out a recent Trump interview in which he says, of Fiorina, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?
FIORINA: You know, it’s interesting to me, Mr. Trump said that he heard Mr. Bush very clearly and what Mr. Bush said. I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said.]
I think she’s got a beautiful face, and I think she’s a beautiful woman.
[On his plan to deport between 10 and 12 million undocumented immigrants.]
First of all, I want to build a wall, a wall that works. So important, and it’s a big part of it.
“I think she’s got a beautiful face, and I think she’s a beautiful woman.”
Second of all, we have a lot of really bad dudes in this country from outside, and I think [New Jersey Gov.] Chris [Christie] knows that, maybe as well as anybody.
They go, if I get elected, first day? They’re gone. Gangs all over the place. Chicago, Baltimore, no matter where you look.
We have a country based on laws. I will make sure that those laws are adhered to. These are illegal immigrants. I don’t think you’d even be asking this question if I didn’t run because when I ran, and I brought this up, my opening remarks at Trump Tower, I took heat like nobody has taken heat in a long time. And, then they found out with the killing of Katie, from San Francisco, and so many other crimes, they found out that I was right.
And, most people, many people, apologized to me. I don’t think you’d even be talking about illegal immigration if it weren’t for me. So, we have a country of laws, they’re going to go out, and they’ll come back if they deserve to come back. If they’ve had a bad record, if they’ve been arrested, if they’ve been in jail, they’re never coming back. We’re going to have a country again. Right now, we don’t have a country, we don’t have a border, and we’re going to do something about it, and it can be done with proper management, and it can be done with heart.
By the way, I agree with with what Chris is saying, but I will say this: Illegal immigration is costing us more than $200 billion dollars a year just to maintain what we have.
[In whether Trump went too far in saying, of Bush, that “If my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico.”]
[BUSH: He did, he did. You’re proud of your family, just as I am.]
[BUSH: To subject my wife into the middle of a raucous political conversation was completely inappropriate, and I hope you apologize for that, Donald.]
Well, I have to tell you, I hear phenomenal things. I hear your wife is a lovely woman.
[BUSH: She is. She’s fantastic.]
I don’t know her, and this is a total mischaracterization—
[BUSH: She is absolutely the love of my life, and she’s right here…]
[BUSH: And why don’t you apologize to her right now.]
No, I won’t do that, because I’ve said nothing wrong.
But I do hear she’s a lovely woman.
As I said, we are spending $200 billion. We are spending $200 billion a year on maintaining what we have. We will move [undocumented immigrants] out. The great ones will come back, the good ones will come back.
“I never attacked him on his look, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there. That I can tell you.”
They’ll be expedited, they’ll be back, they’ll come back legally. We’ll have a country—they’ll come back, legally.
[Trump is asked why he’s criticized Bush for speaking Spanish while campaigning.]
Well, I think it’s wonderful and all, but I did it a little bit half-heartedly. But I do mean it, to a large extent. We have a country, where, to assimilate, you have to speak English. And I think that where he was, and the way it came out didn’t sound right to me. We have to have assimilation—to have a country, we have to have assimilation.
I’m not the first one to say this, Dana. We’ve had many people over the years, for many, many years, saying the same thing. This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish.
[Asked about the children of immigrants who are born here gaining citizenship.]
Well, first of all, the—the 14th Amendment says very, very clearly to a lot of great legal scholars —not television scholars, but legal scholars—that it is wrong. It can be corrected with an act of Congress, probably doesn’t even need that.
A woman gets pregnant. She’s nine months, she walks across the border, she has the baby in the United States, and we take care of the baby for 85 years. I don’t think so.
And by the way, Mexico and almost every other country anywhere in the world doesn’t have that. We’re the only ones dumb enough, stupid enough to have it. And people—and by the way, this is not just with respect to Mexico. They are coming from Asia to have babies here, and all of a sudden, we have to take care of the babies for the life of the baby.
The 14th Amendment, it reads properly, you can go and—it’s probably going to be have to be checked—go through a process of court, probably ends up at the Supreme Court, but there are a lot of great legal scholars that say that is not correct.
And in my opinion, it makes absolutely no—we’re the only—one of the only countries, we’re going to take care of those babies for 70, 75, 80, 90 years? I don’t think so.
I agree 100 percent, by the way, with Carly on the fact that the Democrats do not want to solve this problem, for the obvious reasons, but they do not.
But I believe that a reading of the 14th Amendment allows you to have an interpretation where this is not legal and where it can’t be done. I’ve seen both sides, but some of the greatest scholars agree with me, without having to go through Congress.
If you do go through Congress, you can absolutely solve the problem.
[On whether he was better than Finoria at creating jobs]
Let me—well, let me just explain. The head of the Yale Business School, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, wrote a paper recently [on] one of the worst tenures for a CEO that he has ever seen, ranked one of the top 20 in the history of business. The company is a disaster and continues to be a disaster. They still haven’t recovered. In fact, today, on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, they fired another 25,000 or 30,000 people, saying we still haven’t recovered from the catastrophe.
When Carly says the revenues went up, that’s because she bought Compaq, it was a terrible deal, and it really led to the destruction of the company.
Now one other company before that was Lucent. Carly was at Lucent before that. And Lucent turned out to be a catastrophe also. So I only say this. She can’t run any of my companies. That I can tell you.
[Fiorina refers to Trump’s companies filing for bankruptcy.]
I never filed for bankruptcy. I’ll tell you why; it’s very simple. I’ll tell you. I was running—Carly, Carly—I’ve made over $10 billion. I had a casino company—Caesars just filed for bankruptcy. [New Jersey Governor] Chris [Christie] will tell you—it’s not Chris’ fault either—but almost everybody in Atlantic City is either in trouble or filed for—maybe I’ll blame Chris. But Atlantic City is a disaster.
Wait a minute, Carly. Wait. I let you speak. Atlantic City is a disaster, and I did great in Atlantic City. I knew when to get out. My timing was great. And I got a lot of credit for it.
Many of the great business people that you know—and [business magnate] Carl Icahn is going to work with me on making great deals for this country. But whether it’s Carl or so many others that we read about all the time—they have used the laws of the land, which is the—
[Trump is cut off by moderators.]
[Responding to Ben Carson’s proposal of a “flat tax,” in which every citizen is taxed the same percentage.]
Well, I think the thing about the flat tax—I know it very well. What I don’t like is that if you make $200 million a year, you pay ten percent, you’re paying very little relatively to somebody that’s making $50,000 a year, and has to hire H&R Block to do the—because it’s so complicated.
One thing I’ll say to Ben is that we’ve had a graduated tax system for many years, so it’s not a socialistic thing. What I’d like to do, and I’ll be putting in the plan in about two weeks, and I think people are going to like it, it’s a major reduction in taxes. It’s a major reduction for the middle class. The hedge fund guys won’t like me as much as they like me right now. I know them all, but they’ll pay more.
I know people that are making a tremendous amount of money and paying virtually no tax, and I think it’s unfair.
[On a recent interview with Hugh Hewitt, a debate moderator, in which Trump appeared confused by a number of names relevant to foreign affairs, particularly in the Middle East.]
Well, I heard Hugh Hewitt, a nice man, he apologized because he actually said that we had a misunderstanding. And he said today that Donald Trump is maybe the best interview there is anywhere that he has ever done. Now unless he was just saying that on CNN to be nice, but he did say that.
[HEWITT: Oh, you’re the best interview in America.]
And we had a legitimate misunderstanding in terms of his pronunciation of a word. But I would—well, I think it was. And he actually said that. Did you say that? OK. So I will say this, though: Hugh was giving me name after name, Arab name, Arab name, and there are few people anywhere, anywhere that would have known those names. I think he was reading them off a sheet.
And frankly I will have—and I told him, I will have the finest team that anybody has put together and we will solve a lot of problems.
You know, right now they know a lot and look at what is happening. The world is blowing up around us. We will have great teams and great people.
[Arguing about those mispronunciations or misunderstandings with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.]
Well, you have to understand, I am not sitting in the United States Senate with, by the way, the worst voting record there is today. Number one. I am not sitting in the United States Senate. I’m a businessman doing business transactions.
I am doing business transactions. I will know more about this—and, as you said, that was very acceptable, and when you listen to that whole interview, it’s a great interview, you said it, I didn’t. Well, now I did. But I will know more about the problems of this world by the time I sit. And you look at what’s going in this world right now by people that supposedly know this world is a mess.
[On his opposition to the Iraq war]
I am the only person on this dais—the only person—that fought very, very hard against [going to war in Iraq], and I wasn’t a sitting politician going into Iraq, because I said going into Iraq—that was in 2003, you can check it out. Check out—I’ll give you 25 different stories. In fact, a delegation was sent to my office to see me because I was so vocal about it. I’m a very militaristic person, but you have to know when to use the military. I’m the only person up here that fought against going into Iraq.
I would like—and I think it’s very important. I think it’s important, because it’s about judgment. It’s about judgment. I didn’t want to go into Iraq, and I fought it, because what I said—what I said—was you’re going to—you’re going to destabilize the Middle East, and that’s what happened.
Your brother—and your brother’s administration gave us Barack Obama, because it was such a disaster, those last three months, that Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have been elected.
[Bush responds that his brother, former President George W. Bush, kept the country safe.]
I don’t know. You feel safe right now? I don’t feel so safe.
“If I become president, we will do something really special. We will make this country greater than ever before. We’ll have more jobs. We’ll have more of everything.”
[On whether billionaires should be denied Social Security benefits or receive greatly reduced benefits.]
Speaking for myself, I’m OK with it. I think there’s a certain truth to it. I know people that, frankly, it has no impact on their life whatsoever. There are many people—I would almost say leave it up to them, but I would be willing to check it off, and say I will not get Social Security.
I do not—as a policy, I would almost leave it up to the people. Don’t forget they pay in and they pay in, and maybe they do well, and maybe some people want it. But the fact is that there are people that truly don’t need it, and there are many people that do need it very, very badly. And I would be willing to write mine off 100 percent, Dana.
[On the possibility, widely contested by scientists, that there is a causal link between vaccines and autism.]
Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control.
I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Because you take a baby in—and I’ve seen it—and I had my children taken care of over a long period of time, over a two or three year period of time. Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump—I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me.
Just the other day, two years old, two and a half years old, a child, a beautiful child went to have the vaccine, and came back, and a week later got a tremendous fever, got very, very sick, now is autistic.
I only say it’s not—I’m in favor of vaccines, do them over a longer period of time, same amount. Just in—in little sections. I think—and I think you’re going to have—I think you’re going to see a big impact on autism.
[On who he’d put on the $10 bill, given the chance.]
Well, because she’s been sitting for three hours, I think my daughter, Ivanka, who’s right here. Other than that, we’ll go with Rosa Parks. I like that.
[On what he’d pick for his Secret Service name.]
[His closing statement.]
If I become president, we will do something really special. We will make this country greater than ever before. We’ll have more jobs. We’ll have more of everything.
We were discussing disease, we were discussing all sorts of things tonight, many of which will just be words, it will just pass on. I don’t want to say politicians, all talk, no action. But a lot of what we talked about is words and it will be forgotten very quickly.
If I’m president, many of the things that we discussed tonight will not be forgotten. We’ll find solutions. And the world will respect us. They will respect us like never before. And it will be actually a friendlier world.
And I have to say, it is a great honor to be here tonight.