By Kevin Cirilli and Bob Cusack - 10/14/15 06:00 AM EDT
NEW YORK — Donald TrumpDonald TrumpSenior House Republicans fighting for their lives GOP vulnerables dial back Hillary attacks Government workers shun Trump, give big money to Clinton MORE on Tuesday said the Secret Service should be giving him protection — and he suggested partisan politics might be why the agency isn’t providing it.
In a 90-minute interview with The Hill, the Republican presidential front-runner pointed out that he has attracted large crowds just like Barack Obama did eight years ago as a White House candidate and that by this point in the 2008 cycle, the Illinois senator had Secret Service protection.
“I want to put them on notice because they should have a liability,” he said. “Personally, I think if Obama were doing as well as me he would’ve had Secret Service [earlier]. I have by far the biggest crowds.”
Obama was given Secret Service protection on May 3, 2007. At the time, law enforcement officials acknowledged it was unusually early in the presidential cycle to grant a presidential candidate protection, but also said it was not based on specific threats.
Pressed on details, Trump asked one of his private security officers to describe the discussions the Secret Service has had with his campaign. The talks were described as preliminary, and the Trump camp says the Secret Service had not provided a definitive answer on when — or if — the billionaire businessman will receive government protection.
“They’re in no rush because I’m a Republican. They don’t give a shit,” Trump said jokingly.
It was an off-the-cuff remark he later clarified.
“Of course I don’t think they’d want anything to happen. But I would think they should be very proactive and want protection for somebody like me that has 20,000 people at any time,” Trump said. “You would think that they would want to be very proactive, but we have not heard from them.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said it had not received an official request for protection.
If a request is received, the spokeswoman said, a determination of Secret Service protection would be made after a consultation with an advisory committee including House and Senate leaders from both parties.
Trump reportedly beefed up his private security in July after a purported threat from Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who escaped from prison earlier this year.
A vulgar tweet from a Twitter account thought to belong to the crime boss targeted Trump, who responded by contacting the FBI.
Trump praises his private security detail, but says people have expressed concern to him about his safety. During a speech on Monday in New Hampshire, a handful of private security personnel walked beside the White House hopeful.
Trump’s move to put the Secret Service “on notice” is similar to his threat in July to run a third-party bid. At the time, he told The Hill that if the Republican National Committee (RNC) didn’t play “fairly,” he might launch an independent campaign. The RNC subsequently made peace with Trump, who signed a pledge to back the Republican presidential nominee.
Throughout Tuesday’s interview, the real estate mogul cited new and old polls as well as ratings for recent Sunday talk shows that featured him. He ripped a number of high-profile news outlets, saying many in the media are “scum” and vowing to continue to come after “horrible” journalists.
The 69-year-old candidate has transitioned from what some have called the “summer of Trump” to what he calls the “autumn of Trump.” Despite pundits’ predictions, he’s in the same place in mid-October as he was in late July: on top of the GOP field.
Though there have been controversies upon controversies triggered by Trump, he has dominated state and national polls, frustrating his rivals and the GOP establishment. The reality TV star says he enjoys running for president though he describes politics as “vicious.”
And there are sacrifices beyond the monetary ones he frequently mentions on the campaign trail. He doesn’t watch as much sports on television as he used to and now rarely plays golf. Seeking to become commander in chief means he must constantly keep up with the news, which he devours after getting up at 5 a.m. on about four to five hours of sleep.
His rise in the polls has a lot to do with how he attracts headlines and his media savvy. Unlike other candidates, Trump doesn’t deliver typical “stump” speeches, knowing he must give reporters new things to write about. He doesn’t use notes or a teleprompter when delivering speeches and seems to enjoy press conferences, sometimes mocking what reporters are asking him.
When asked tough questions, Trump is quick to interrupt, whether the query is posed by a voter or a journalist. The premise of the question is often disputed, and as a result of Trump’s interjection, the potential negative headline doesn’t materialize.
Trump pushed back against Republicans who have attacked him for supporting a single-payer healthcare system in the past.
He said he’ll release formal details on his healthcare plan in the coming weeks. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, one of Trump’s 2016 rivals, released his plan on Tuesday.
“People think this is not traditionally Republican, but I think it is because I don’t want to see people dying on the streets and neither do other Republicans want to see that,” Trump said.
He added that policymakers cannot let people die “because they don’t have money.”
“I’m not a conservative that wants to take care of 60 percent of the people and let the other 40 percent rot in hell,” Trump said. “That’s not going to be me. You can’t do that and I don’t think most Republicans want to do that either.”
Specifically, he said his plan would break down inter-state barriers that prevent people from going across state lines to purchase healthcare plans, a plan championed by many other conservatives.
But his opponents have seized on his seemingly evolving position about the exact role he thinks government should play in the healthcare system, as well as how he intends to pay for expanded coverage beyond ObamaCare.
Trump says much of his plan will come out of the pockets of insurance companies, which he says are thriving under ObamaCare.
In the wake of Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) impending retirement, some on the right have said the Senate majority leader should also leave Congress.
But Trump said he likes McConnell (R-Ky.), though doesn’t know him well. He also added he would like to see the Senate run in a “tougher” manner.
Asked if the filibuster should be scrapped, which has been suggested by some conservatives, Trump said, “We’ll have to see.” He did note Republicans could accomplish a lot if they had control of the White House and both chambers of Congress.
Marco Rubio and other rivals
Trump has shifted his focus from Bush to Sen. Marco Rubio, a clear sign that he views the Florida Republican as a major threat. Trump now regularly lambasts Rubio’s attendance record in the Senate, his work on comprehensive immigration reform and financial controversies that have attracted media attention.
While the real estate mogul is not shy about bashing former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina, he doesn’t seem to think she can win the GOP nomination. Trump treads more lightly on anti-establishment candidates like himself, such as former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Asked whether Carson is qualified to be president, he responded, “I don’t want to comment on that now.
Presidential coattails, lobbyists and the Cabinet
The Republican front-runner countered critics who say that a Trump nomination would be disastrous for the GOP in congressional races and could cost them the control of the Senate.
“I think they’d do better,” Trump said. “Look at my level of popularity.”
He said he would stick with Obama’s pledge not to hire lobbyists to work in the White House, a policy he says the president didn’t enforce.
“He’s totally waived it. [But] I think it’s a great policy,” Trump said. “I’d probably continue it.”
Trump also said that he would be open to having Democrats serve in his Cabinet, but that he would “probably” keep it to just Republicans.
Trump said that he thinks Pope Francis sounds like a Democrat.
“He sounds liberal to me,” he quipped.
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