A transcript of an Oval Office interview Tuesday with President Donald Trump by AP White House reporters Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire. “OFF THE RECORD” indicates where portions of the interview occurred that were not for publication.
President Donald Trump: How is the business of the news? We’re keeping you busy?
AP: Yes, sir, you are.
AP: Thank you for doing this.
Trump: What are you going to do in 6½ years with a normal boring person here?
AP: It has certainly been a busy two years.
Trump: It’s going to be different, going to be different.
AP: We’re hoping to cover a lot of topics today, but before we get started on some other things, we want to talk news of the day first. Obviously, the Saudis and the missing writer. AP is reporting that police searching the consulate found evidence that Jamal Khashoggi was killed there. What did the crown prince tell you today, exactly, and what is your intelligence telling you?
Trump: Well, I just put this out, I guess you saw it. I just have it here. I spoke to the crown prince, so you have that. He said he and his father knew nothing about it. And that was very important. And I spoke to him with Mike Pompeo there. And the crown prince. I spoke to the king yesterday, the crown prince, today wanting to know what was going on, what was happening, and he said very strongly that he and his father knew nothing about it but they are starting a major, they’ve already started a major investigation to find out. And so the answers will be forthcoming.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Oct. 16, 2018, Trump criticized the rush to condemn Saudi Arabia for the mystery surrounding missing journalist. (AP video)
AP: Did they raise this idea of rogue killers in any of those conversations?
Trump: Well, the concept of it, I guess. Yesterday, when I spoke with the father, not so much today, but when I spoke to the father, it just sounded to me like he felt like he did not do it. He did not know about it and it sounded like, you know, the concept of rogue killers. But I don’t know. I think the investigation will lead to an answer. And they’re going to do a very thorough investigation. I believe they’re working with Turkey.
AP: But he didn’t bring up that? That was something you came up with after the conversation?
Trump: Just the concept of it. No, that was just from my feeling of the conversation with the king, not with the crown prince but with the king.
AP: Do you believe, sir, do you believe the king and the crown prince? I mean do you find them … do you find them sort of trustworthy here? And there’s been a lot of talk, including from Sen. Graham, who I know is an ally of yours in many ways, that this is the moment that perhaps the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia should be re-evaluated, that things should be done differently going forward. What do you think of that?
Trump: Well, I think we have to find out what happened first. You know, here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh. And he was innocent all the way. So I was unconcerned. So we have to find out what happened and they are doing a very major investigation. So is Turkey. Plus, they’re putting themselves together and doing it. And hopefully they’ll get to an answer as to what happened. But I will say they were very strong in their denial about themselves knowing.
AP: Did they give you any sense of the timetable?
Trump: I would say within a week. That’s my impression. He said two weeks. But they’re going to try and do it in less than a week.
AP: So moving to the midterms, you’re hitting the road for Republicans, obviously.
Trump: A little bit.
AP: And the White House political office has said, and you have said, that Republicans face headwinds this fall, it’s a tough year for Republicans historically. If Republicans were to lose control of the House …
Trump: It’s a tough year … The midterms are very tough for anybody the opposite of president, for whatever reason, nobody has been able to say.
AP: So my question is, if Republicans were to lose control of the House on November 6th — or a couple of days later depending on how long it takes to count the votes — do you believe you bear some responsibility for that?
Trump: No, I think I’m helping people. Look, I’m 48 and 1 in the primaries, and actually it’s much higher than that because I endorsed a lot of people that were successful that people don’t even talk about. But many of those 48, as you know, were people that had no chance, in some cases. We look at Florida, you look at Donovan in Staten Island. He was losing by 10 points, I endorsed him and he won. I could give you a long list of names. Look at Georgia governor of Georgia. And many, many races. And I will say that we have a very big impact. I don’t believe anybody’s ever had this kind of an impact. They would say that in the old days that if you got the support of a president or if you’ve got the support of somebody it would be nice to have, but it meant nothing, zero. Like literally zero. Some of the people I’ve endorsed have gone up 40 and 50 points just on the endorsement.
AP: Eight years ago, Barack Obama said he got shellacked, so you know, taking the outcome of the election as a referendum on himself.
Trump: So I think we’re going to do well. Look, it feels to me very much like ’16. I was going out and making speeches and I was getting tens of thousands of people. And I was getting literally tens of thousands of people, also, more than Hillary in the same location. And I said, ‘Why am I going to lose?’ I mean, I go out, I make a speech like I have, you know, 25 times more people than she gets. And I didn’t need Beyonce to get them. I didn’t have to have, you know, entertainment and entertainers to get them. And then they’d all leave before she made the speech after the entertainer was finished. Honestly, it feels very much like it did in ’16.
Now, I’m not sure that that’s right. And I’m not running. I mean, there are many people that have said to me, ‘Sir, I will never ever,’ you on the trail when I’m talking to people backstage etcetera, ‘I will never ever go and vote in the midterms because you’re not running and I don’t think you like Congress.’ Well, I do like Congress because I think, and when I say Congress I like the Republicans that support me in Congress. We’ve had tremendous support. I mean, we’ve got the taxes with 100 percent Republican votes and we don’t really have much of a majority. You know when you say majority, I always say, ‘If somebody has a cold, we have to delay the vote.’ So I get along, you know, very … people have no idea how low how well I get along with Republicans in Congress. I get along well with a lot of the Democrats in Congress, but I’ll never get their vote.
AP: You just mentioned Justice Kavanaugh. And I know, we’ve all been to your rallies, and you’ve suggested that fight was as hard as …
Trump: I will say, that fight because he was treated so viciously and violently by the Democrats. That fight has had an impact on energy, and it’s had an impact on the Republican Party, a very positive one in terms of getting out and voting. I think, but I’ll let you know in three weeks.
AP: Along those lines, in the days before the actual vote was held, former President George W. Bush made a number of calls of senators also sort of lobbying on Kavanaugh’s behalf. Does he deserve any of the credit here? Have you spoken to him, have you given him a thank you for that?
Trump: I did speak with him, I did. No, I didn’t say thank you, per se. But I did speak to him before it and we had a great conversation about Kavanaugh, what an outstanding person he is, which is what he told me. And we had a very pleasant conversation, a very good conversation.
OFF THE RECORD
AP: There are a number of phone calls that you got from folks in that critical period. Did you hear from anyone who serves in the Supreme Court who serves alongside now, the justice?
Trump: No, I didn’t. Nobody called from the Supreme Court. It’s a very august body. It’s a group of people that, once you’re elevated to that level, you really tend to be in a different place, in a different world. No, I didn’t, I never got a call. As an example, I did not get a call from Justice Gorsuch, who would be the most likely, or Justice Thomas. Or Alito. I’ve got no calls.
AP: Are you prepared for what will happen to your presidency if the Democrats do take back the House?
AP: How will you handle investigations, impeachment prospects?
Trump: I think I’ll handle it very well. I’m handling already. We have a witch hunt now going on, and I handle it very well, and there was no collusion. Everyone knows it. It’s … People laugh. People are laughing at the concept of it.
AP: What if they go after your tax returns? Is that something that would …
Trump: They have to do whatever they do, and I’ll do whatever I do. But I’ve had the most successful two years. I would say, without question, first two years of office, I’ve had the most successful two years in the history of this country as a president. And we’re not even close, actually, if you think about it. It’s not until Jan. 20 so we’re not even really close to two years. And, would get me the list? Would you get me the list, please?
AP: Do you think you have the legal team necessary?
Trump: I have the most successful. Nobody has done what I’ve done, and nobody has come close in the first two years of office. And that’s despite the fighting, the Democrats’ obstruction.
Unidentified: I have extra copies …
Trump: Here, these are just some. I just put them down rough. But take a look at that. You all set?
AP: Yeah, yeah.
Trump: I mean, you go point after point, each point is a major event, but you just take a look. Confirmed more circuit court judges than any other new administration. Soon it will be than any administration in history. Who is the one, who’s the one president that percentage-wise has done better than me? There’s only one. George Washington — 100 percent.
Trump: Nobody has gotten that yet.
AP: That is a good piece of trivia. On another topic: Michael Cohen was your personal attorney for many years. He testified under oath in federal court that you directed him to commit a crime. Did you, sir?
Trump: Totally false. It’s totally false.
AP: So he’s lying under oath?
Trump: Oh, absolutely he’s lying. And Michael Cohen was a PR person who did small legal work, very small legal work. And what he did was very sad, when you look. By the way, he was in trouble not for what he did for me; he was in trouble for what he did for himself. You do know that? Having to do with loans, mortgages, taxicabs and various other things, if you read the paper. He wasn’t in trouble for what he did for me; he was in trouble for what he did for other people. He represented me very little. It’s a very low level. And what he was is also a public relations person. And now if he wants to try and get a little bit lighter sentence for what he did … Totally uninvolved. I wasn’t involved and he had other clients, No. 1. And No. 2, he was a contractor to a large extent. But Michael Cohen, if you take a look at what he did, this had to do with loans, and I guess the taxi industry is something that I have nothing to do with, he did this on his own time.
AP: You were tweeting today about Stormy Daniels …
Trump: I won a case yesterday, a big case. They sued. Got thrown out. And not only did they get thrown out, but I get legal fees, which is quite unusual, because the case is so obnoxious and so wrong. And I give tremendous credit to the judge. And not only that, we go by Texas law. Texas law says you get every penny that you spent. Texas law is very tough for the legal fees.
AP: Sir, as the president of the United States, is it appropriate to call a woman, and even one who is making serious allegations and who you are in litigation against, to call her a horseface?
Trump: You know what? You can take it any way you want.
AP: How should we take it?
Trump: Did you see the letter? She put out a letter. I had nothing to do with her. So she can lie and she can do whatever she wants to do. She can hire a phony lawyer. You take a look at this guy, a stone-cold loser. Take a look at his past. They can say anything about me. I’m just saying, I just speak for myself. You take a look, and you make your own determination.
AP: There’s two cases with Stormy Daniels aside from the one yesterday that the judge invalidated, but the hush-deal case continues. Did you ask the lawyer to invalidate the agreement?
Trump: Well, you’d have to speak to the lawyers. I don’t even know what the lawyers are doing, but they are very good lawyers. They’ll figure it out.
AP: In your interview with ’60 Minutes’ over the weekend, you were asked about climate change, and you said you believe it, but that also, it could go back. And one of the things … (crosstalk)
Trump: I said the worst hurricane was 50 years ago, far worse than what this one was. Then, in 1890, they had one that was even worse. This was No. 3 or 4 or 5. We had worse hurricanes in 1890, we had worse, a worse hurricane 50 years ago. We’ve gone through a period, actually, fairly recently, where we have very few. I live in Florida to a large extent and spend a lot of time in Florida, and we had a period of time where we went years without having any major problem. And then you have a problem and it goes in cycles, and I want absolutely crystal clear water and I want the cleanest air on the planet and our air now is cleaner than it’s ever been. Very important to me. But what I’m not willing to do is sacrifice the economic well-being of our country for something that nobody really knows. And you have scientists on both sides of the issue. And I agree the climate changes, but it goes back and forth, back and forth. So we’ll see.
I mean, you know, I am a person that believes very, very strongly in the environment. I am truly an environmentalist. I know some people might not think of me as that, but I’m an environmentalist. Everything I want and everything I have is clean. Clean is very important — water, air. But I also want jobs for our country. And if we would have, as an example, entered certain agreements with other countries, I actually think that we’re doing it so they could have an economic advantage. Because we would have had a tremendous— we would have been at a tremendous economic disadvantage if we entered into certain agreements.
AP: But scientists say this is nearing a point where this can’t be reversed.
Trump: No, no. Some say that and some say differently. I mean, you have scientists on both sides of it. My uncle was a great professor at MIT for many years. Dr. John Trump. And I didn’t talk to him about this particular subject, but I have a natural instinct for science, and I will say that you have scientists on both sides of the picture.
OK, what’s next?
AP: Sir, you mentioned, you mentioned more than once that your inclination is not to interfere with the Department of Justice as the special counsel probe continues.
Trump: Well, the probe is ridiculous. OK. That that probe was even started. Jeff Sessions should have never recused himself. He did it for … and he did it immediately. He should have told me that. And he recused himself. And even people that are not my friends say that was a horrible thing that he did to the president, a horrible thing. He should be ashamed of himself for doing it. He should have told me that beforehand. And if he would have told me that beforehand, I probably would have put somebody else in the Department of Justice. But Jeff Sessions should never have recused himself.
AP: I mean, you can fire him now. Would you want to do that? Will you do that?
Trump: I haven’t said I was going to fire him or not.
AP: You could, I’m saying.
Trump: I can fire him whenever I want to fire him, but I haven’t said that I was going to.
AP: Why don’t you, sir?
Trump: I just haven’t said I was going to fire him. We’ll see what happens. But if you ask me: Am I thrilled? No, I am not thrilled.
AP: You’ve said in the past, also, on the probe, that you felt like there were certain lines that it shouldn’t cross. How concerned would you be if it perhaps crept close on targeting your family, perhaps your eldest son?
Trump: Well, I can say this. I knew nothing about the meeting that you’re talking about. My son’s a good young guy. He did what every other person in Congress would do if somebody came up to them, said, ‘Hey, I have information on your opponent.’ I don’t know of any politician. And I think I can speak for the people in this room that would have said, ‘Oh, gee, information on my opponent and it’s bad information?’ Name me a politician that would have turned that down. There is no such thing as that kind of a politician. So that’s what they heard. They heard it was about Hillary Clinton. They had a meeting or he had a meeting with some people. The meeting became about a different subject and they couldn’t get out of the meeting fast enough.
Now here’s the important thing. After the meeting, nothing happened. It was like, ‘Hey, let’s get together next week. Let’s get together tomorrow. Let’s get together.’ Nothing happened out of that meeting. Absolutely nothing. He did absolutely nothing wrong. And there’s nobody harder on my son than I am. And I would tell you, the press has made a fake news deal out of that meeting. If he did something wrong, I would have been livid. I could never really blame him because I’ve had people come up to me, senators. I’ve had a lot of political people say, ‘Your son didn’t do anything wrong. That was just a meeting. It was called oppo research.’ A lot of the politicians would call it opposition research. There was nothing wrong with that. But here’s more important. Nothing from the day of that meeting. It ended. And if you listen to people, it sounded like it ended like they couldn’t get out fast enough. There was nothing wrong with having an opposition research meeting and nothing happened from the meeting. If that meeting went, ‘Oh, let’s have another meeting next week or let’s have a meeting tomorrow or let’s start doing this or that or a hundred different things,’ that’s different. That’s totally different depending on what they were going to do. But nothing happened.
AP: The special counsel has submitted written questions to your lawyers. Have you read those questions? Have you been involved in drafting the response?
Trump: I won’t respond, but you’re right — we are looking at certain questions having to do with the word collusion. Of course there was no collusion. So we are looking at that, and we’ll make a determination.
AP: Would you prefer to have an in-person interview or do it this way?
Trump: We’ll see how that works out. You know that’s in process. It’s a tremendous waste of time for the president of the United States. To think that I would be even thinking about using Russia to help me win Idaho. We’re using Russia to help me win the great state of Iowa or anywhere else is the most preposterous, embarrassing thing. And I will say that the Democrats know it and they wink. They’re all laughing. And you know if I often hear that Russia likes to sow discord. The word is sow, an old English term. They like to sow chaos and discord. Well, if that’s the case, you gave it to them on a silver platter because this is ridiculous. This was an excuse made by the Democrats for the reason they lost the electoral college, which gives them a big advantage — a big advantage. Very different than the popular vote. The popular vote would be much easier to win if you were campaigning on it. You know, it’s like running the 100-yard dash versus a 10-mile run. You train differently. Nobody explained that to Hillary Clinton, by the way. Someday she’ll figure it out. But winning the electoral college is a tremendous advantage for the Democrats. And this was an excuse for how they lost the election. How they lost an election they should have won. And one of the reasons they lost because I happened to be a great candidate. And another reason they lost is that Hillary forgot to campaign in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and I guess she needed a lot more time in North Carolina, a lot more time in South Carolina and a lot more time in a place called — a beautiful, sunny, wonderful place— called Florida.
AP: If I could turn to immigration and the families separated at the border.
AP: There are children who have now been reunited with their families who are now showing signs of trauma from their separation experience.
Trump: By the way, many of the children — and this is unfortunate, I covered it so nicely on ’60 Minutes,′ but they only put on pieces of it, and they were fine but you know they cut, cut, cut because I guess they have so much time, although I heard that they did very nicely on the show. Did they do well?
AP: They just put out some ratings.
Trump: So congratulations to them, but I wish they would have left the entire answer. When people enter our country illegally, there are consequences to pay. But despite the consequences, you have many children that, sadly, are there without parents. Then you have people that grab children and use them as a prop and it’s a disgrace. And they come in with a child and they don’t even know who the child is five hours before. And that’s a shame. That’s a terrible thing what they do.
AP: There are also children whose parents have been deported.
Trump: They take children and they use them to try and come into our country. There are many, many bad things going on on the border. We have the worst laws in the history of the world on immigration, and we’re getting them changed one by one. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last couple of weeks even, but we’re getting them changed one by one. But you have children that we’re taking care of, that don’t even have parents at least anywhere within hundreds of miles of the border, and we’re taking those children, caring for those children, and in many cases sending them back to their parents in countries where their parents didn’t even make the journey up with them, incredibly. And some of those children are really young. And we are, actually, in fact, today there was a beautiful statement put out by the Washington Examiner congratulating us on the great job we do with children. Now President Obama had the same law; he did the same thing. And, in fact, the picture of children living in cages that was taken in 2014 was a picture of President Obama’s administration and the way they handled children. They had the kids living in cages. They thought it was our administration and they used it and then unbeknownst to them and the fake news, they found out, ‘Oh my God, this is a terrible situation.’ This was during the Obama administration.
AP: Do you have any regrets or any remorse about how this has impacted children, though?
Trump: Here’s the thing. I think we’ve done an incredible job with children. As I just said, we’ve taken children who have no parents with them standing on the border. We’ve taken many children, and I’m not talking about a small percentage, I’m talking about a very large percentage where they have no people, no parents. In addition to that, we’re separating children who are just met by people that are using them coming into the border, not their parents. They are using them coming into the border. The one thing I will also say is that when a person thinks they will not be separated, our border becomes overrun with people coming in. So that’s another problem. With all of that being said, we’re getting the laws changed so that catch and release, so that visa lottery, so that chain migration and every other form of incredible stupidity can be taken out of our system.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders: I’ll send you guys the DHS report that has the numbers that show that, like, 75 percent of the kids were actually self-separated. Their parents chose to go back and signed the paperwork to leave their kids behind.
Trump: The parents would sometimes come up with their kids, leave them at the border and go back. So we’re in this position where we have an innocent young child at the border; there are no parents. We take them in, we care for the child and then we get horrible publicity. We should be getting great publicity, and the Washington Examiner did a great piece today on the fact that we’ve done a great job. And President Obama had the same law. And, by the way, he separated children and there are many pictures of jail cells where the children were separate from the parents.
OFF THE RECORD
Trump: We should be getting credit for the job we’ve done.
AP: Turning to foreign policy, you ran the campaign on bringing American troops home and the America First policy.
AP: But today there are more American troops serving in Afghanistan and in Syria and Iraq, in Africa, in harm’s way than when you took office. How do you explain to people at home?
Trump: The main thing I have to see is, I have to see safety at home and — not a vast difference, by the way — but a little bit more. But it’s not a lot more, it’s a little bit more. I have to see safety at home. And if I think people are likely to do some very bad things in faraway places to our homeland, I’m going to have troops there for a period of time. But we’ve done an excellent job. We’ve defeated ISIS. ISIS is defeated in all of the areas that we fought ISIS, and that would have never happened under President Obama. In fact, it is going the other way. And I think we fought extremely effectively on everything I’ve wanted to do. Now there will be a certain point where that takes place.
AP: John Bolton, though, told us, told my colleague Jon a couple of weeks ago that troops aren’t going to come out, aren’t going to leave Syria, until Iran is fully out of Syria.
Trump: We’re going to see what happens. We’re going to see what happens. I want, No. 1, the safety of our country. And if that means knocking the hell out of them, of terrorists, long before they can ever get here, that’s OK with me. And if I could help Europe and other places by doing it, that’s OK with me. And they’re starting to pay us for that, by the way, much more substantially than they ever paid before. You understand that’s an important thing because it’s unfair that the burden is all on us. As it has been. But we are … we’ve made … we’ve had tremendous success there. We’ve had tremendous success in North Korea, tremendous success in North Korea.
OFF THE RECORD
AP: On the subject of American soldiers and military overseas, why have you not yet visited a military base in a combat zone like in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Trump: Well, I will do that at some point, but I don’t think it’s overly necessary. I’ve been very busy with everything that’s taking place here. We have the greatest economy in the history of our country. I mean, this is the greatest economy we’ve ever had, best unemployment numbers. Many groups are, you know, we’ve never even been close to these numbers. I’m doing a lot of things. I’m doing a lot of things. But it’s something I’d do. And do gladly. Nobody has been better at the military. Hey, I just got them a pay raise. I haven’t had a pay raise in 11 years. I just got them a substantial pay raise. ‘They’ meaning our military people. I just got them new equipment. They have stuff that was so old that the grandfathers used to fly it. I have done more for the military than any president in many, many years.
OFF THE RECORD
AP: Can you give us any update as to the plans for your next meeting with Kim Jong Un?
Trump: Yeah, we will have one, but it is going to be after the midterms because I want to stay around here.
AP: Will it be here, in the United States, sir?
Trump: I want to stay around and help people get elected.
AP: Do you think that meeting would be here? In the U.S.?
Trump: No, I don’t think so. I mean, we haven’t set it up yet, but I would think not yet. At some point, that will happen, too.
AP: You saw the numbers, the coverage in the last couple of days about deficits. That the projected deficit is a trillion dollars. You railed on President Obama over deficits.
Trump: Excuse me. No. 1, I had to take care of our military. I had no choice but to do it, and I want to take care of our military. We had to do things that we had to do. And I’ve done them. Now we’re going to start bringing numbers down. We also have tremendous numbers with regard to hurricanes and fires and the tremendous forest fires all over. We had very big numbers, unexpectedly big numbers. California does a horrible job maintaining their forests. They’re going to have to start doing a better job or we’re not going to be paying them. They are doing a horrible job of maintaining what they have. And we had big numbers on tremendous numbers with the forest fires and obviously the hurricanes. We got hit in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Georgia. Georgia was hit very hard this time. Nobody even, you know, treats that one fairly. The farmers got hit very, very hard.
AP: Mitch McConnell said he wants to consider entitlement reform.
Trump: Wants to consider what?
AP: Entitlement reform — changes to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid.
Trump: That I haven’t heard.
Trump: I haven’t heard that. I’m leaving Social Security. I’m not touching Social Security.
AP: I know we are quite short on time. We were looking to do kind of a lightning round.
AP: You’ve spoken about security clearances. Do you have any plans to take any more clearances away any time soon?
Trump: Yeah, I do.
AP: From whom?
Trump: People I don’t trust.
AP: Any updates on the White House counsel?
Trump: Yes. I’ve made a decision. He’s … you’ve been reading a little bit about it. A very fine man, highly respected by a lot of people: Pat (Cipollone).
AP: And for the U.N. perm rep? For Ambassador Haley’s job? Have you made a decision?
Trump: I have many people that want the job. I have such a good relationship with Nikki. And I’ve talked to her about it, too. I will be talking to her about it. But I have many people that want the job, and I would say I’ll be making that decision over the next week or two. They’re going to work with Nikki for a little while. She going to go till the end of the year, and they’ll be working with Nikki.
AP: You’ve been very critical, the last year or so, of the NFL. This year, actually, rating are up a little bit. What do you make of that? What does that say about …?
Trump: Hey, look, I did the NFL a big favor. You know that, right?
AP: By calling attention to it?
Trump: No. You didn’t know this? You didn’t know this?
AP: Tell us, sir.
Trump: So the NFL was having a tremendous problem with Canada on the Super Bowl and advertising and all sorts of things — very complicated subject. And in about two seconds, I got, in about 30 seconds, I got that one fixed up for the NFL. They’re going to make a tremendous amount of additional money because of what I did for them. It was a favor for them and it wasn’t for NFL, it was that this is a great American company. I was negotiating against Canada. And one of the things, I said ‘I want the NFL fixed,’ because it had to do with them keeping revenues from advertising and for not allowing the NFL to advertise in Canada. And it was very unfair and everybody knew that and Canada knew it, too. And Canada plays a very tough game. So I said I want that fixed and nobody wrote a story about it because why would they ever write about it? And, by the way, Commissioner Goodell called me last week and he, ‘thank you very much.’ But I settled that for the NFL. It took me literally about a minute because that’s a small deal compared to the big deal. And Canada knew it was the right thing to do. So I helped a great American corporation. You have to understand, I like the NFL. I want the NFL to do well. I have many friends that are in the NFL, owners and others. I want them to do very well. I also want them standing for the American flag, not kneeling, but I just helped the NFL settle a problem that they couldn’t settle for 15 years or something. This has been going on, a vicious battle with Canada, for years. I settled it. And not one person has written about it. Why don’t you call what you call Commissioner Goodell and ask him. Roger. He called me last week. I thought he was calling me about the flag to say ‘ceasefire.’ But he didn’t. He called me just to thank me, and I said, ‘That was very nice.’ It was a very nice phone call. You should do something about it if you want.
AP: Do you plan to pardon Paul Manafort?
AP: Paul Manafort.
Trump: I never even was asked about it. I haven’t thought about it. But, you know, I think it’s a very sad, sad situation. And there’s another thing that had nothing to do with me. That was from years before. You do understand that, right? Do you understand that? Do you know these Russian hackers you’re talking about from Moscow? They have nothing to do with me. How many people are they? Only 28 people? They have nothing to do with me. They were hackers from Moscow. Some of them supported Hillary Clinton. They had nothing to do with me. You look at all the stuff, it’s just nothing to do with me.
AP: Knowing what you know today, is it still appropriate for Secretary Mnuchin to be going to Saudi Arabia next week?
Trump: Well, it depends on what we find out over the next couple of days. He doesn’t have to make that determination until Friday, and I think we’ll also be guided by what other countries are doing. You know, we’ll look at that.
AP: What’s your responsibility?
Trump: I do think this. I do think that they have ordered billions, one of the largest military orders in the history of the country. I think that we hurt ourselves far more than we hurt Saudi Arabia when we cancel an order like that.
AP: You’ve seen American business leaders, though, pull out of that conference. Do you endorse that move?
Trump: Too early to say. I have to find out what happened. Once they find out what happened, I’ll be able to tell you exactly.
AP: Would you only serve one term, Mr. President, if you felt like you had done everything you set out to do?
Trump: No. Because the other term … first of all, there’s always things to do. Actually, it’s a very nice question because I have done so much. People have said that, ‘You’ve done so much. You may have it all put back together. And our country: Make America Great Again.’ And they do ask me that question. So if you do all of the things that you’re doing and you’re given another two years, which is a lot of time because I’ve done this in far less than two years, and those papers pretty much say it, they do ask that question. There’s always something to do. And you know, the new motto is Keep America Great. I don’t want somebody to destroy it because I can do a great job. But the wrong person coming in after me sitting right at this desk can destroy it very quickly, if they don’t do the right thing. So no I’m definitely running.
AP: Is there someone in particular you’d like to run against?
Trump: So far, all of them. So far, all of them. I don’t see any talent. No talent.
AP: No one you’re worried about?
Trump: I see no talent.
AP: Vice President Biden? Or Sen. Warren? Or anyone?
Trump: Well, Biden ran twice and actually a lot of people think he really ran a third time, but he was so low in the polls that he never registered. But he ran twice. And I call him One Percent Joe because you know he did very poorly and then Obama took him off the trash heap and made him vice president. And in a sense he did a good job as vice president, in my opinion, because Obama liked him, and if President Obama didn’t like him, you would have been hearing about it. So in that sense, he, I think, he did actually a nice job because the president of the United States felt very comfortable about him. Like, I like my vice president very, very much. That’s an important function.
AP: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Trump: Thank you all.
A transcript of an Oval Office interview Tuesday with President Donald Trump by AP White House reporters Catherine Lucey, Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire. “OFF THE RECORD” indicates where portions of the interview occurred that were not for publication.