President Trump covered a range of topics in an extensive Oval Office interview on Tuesday with Hill.TV’s John Solomon and Buck Sexton.
Here is the extended conversation, which took place late Tuesday afternoon following the president’s press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
The Hill has removed brief segments where the president went off the record or made personal observations unrelated to the interview.
ON DECLASSIFYING DOCUMENTS AND THE RUSSIA PROBE
Buck Sexton: Have you reviewed the memos yourself? What do you expect them to show, if so?
President Trump: I have not reviewed them. I have been asked by many people in Congress as you know to release them. I have watched commentators that I respect begging the president of the United States to release them. We’re sitting with one right here, we’re sitting with two, you’re right. More than once. And I have had many people ask me to release them. Not that I didn’t like the idea, but I wanted to wait. I wanted to see what, you know, where it was all going. And I think this whole, it’s a hoax. You know Gregg Jarrett wrote a book called the Russian Hoax. It actually is a hoax. I call it a witch hunt, but it’s a hoax. Beyond a witch hunt.
ON FBI EMPLOYEES PETER STRZOK AND LISA PAGE
President Trump: When you see the two lovers and you see their most recent texts come out. It is very, very sad for our country to look at that. When you see him talking about the leaks and then say, ‘No we were trying to stop leaks in the FBI,’ OK. That didn’t work out because the following day others came out. But when you see the one about ‘We have to get this while Andy is still there.’
In other words, Comey was a bad guy. He gets fired. They only have Andy left because they know they’re doing wrong. So, we have to get this while, Andy’s, you know the one I’m talking about John.
John Solomon: Yes absolutely, it came out this week.
President Trump: I thought that was terrible. And maybe I thought. And maybe it didn’t pertain to me as much, but the one where he said, ‘Great going Page, the story just hit’ something to that effect. You’ll quote it accurately, you know. But, and the other one I guess, Strzok, said ‘great going.’ And then he goes, ‘now I can go and essentially investigate them.’ In other words, he’ll go up to a door of some person and say, yeah pretext. And say, ‘hey this story just appeared, what’s going on.’ I mean, number one, how illegal is it. But number two, how low is it?
And he’s congratulating her just the way a lover would congratulate another. ‘Way to go Page,’ you know. The whole thing, and I thought that was disgraceful. I thought it was disgraceful and when you look at it, it all goes back to the insurance policy. One of the earlier ones because they thought [Hillary Clinton] was going to win, but just in case she didn’t win, we’re going to have an insurance policy, and what we have now is an insurance policy.
But it’s been totally discredited. Even Democrats agree, that it’s been discredited. They are not going to admit that, but it’s been totally discredited. And I think frankly more so by text than by documents. I think the texts, not only theirs, many others. So honestly Buck, I have been asked by so many people that I respect, please — the great Lou Dobbs, the great Sean Hannity, the wonderful, great Jeanine Pirro. (laughs)
No, she takes it so personally. And that’s not, let’s say they like me. But this is beyond liking me. They know that this is one of the great scandals in the history of our country. Because basically what they did, is they used Carter Page who nobody even knew, who I feel very badly for, I think he has been treated very badly. They used Carter Page as a foil in order to surveil a candidate for the presidency of the United States.
And if you think about it, I’ve been under investigation, even though they say I’m not under investigation and I’m not a target. You do know I’m not a target and I’m not under investigation. But, this has been going on from seven months prior to the election. And then you had, the appointment of Mueller, who’s highly conflicted. Highly conflicted.
ON THE EXISTENCE OF THE DEEP STATE
Buck Sexton: Mr. President, would you call this a deep state? People use that term.
President Trump: I don’t like to use it because it sounds so conspiratorial and believe it or not I’m really not a conspiratorial person. But I think it’s a sad day for our country.
ON ADDRESSING CONCERNS ABOUT FBI/DOJ CONDUCT IN RUSSIA PROBE
President Trump: I think that I hope to be able to put this up as one of my crowning achievements that I was able to do through the help of a lot of good people including you two, and all of the support we have. We have tremendous support by the way, to expose something that is truly a cancer in our country. When you look at the FBI, you know you have eight people or so fired now.
And what we’ve done is a great service to the country, really. You know, I hope, I hope to be able to call this one of, along with tax cuts and regulations, and all of the things I’ve done. You know you’ve been seeing, you probably saw the news conference I just did.
John Solomon: We did.
President Trump: We’re making great trade deals. In its own way, this might be the most important thing because this was corrupt. When you look at Bruce Ohr, whose wife was getting paid by people that did a totally phony deal. And they got a tremendous amount of money, the money.
I mean the millions of dollars. And how about [George] Papadopoulos who I didn’t know other than I sat with him for 15 minutes at a table, unfortunately, where they have a picture of this. I never even talked to the guy. I didn’t know who he was. And I didn’t know, one thing I will say about Carter Page. He never went around saying he knew me. He never went around saying the president is my best friend. They put him on some committee. Some person put him on some committee. They were both on the same committee.
And that was not a good committee for me, OK. (laughter) But they put him on the same committee and that was it. But he never went around talking about the president is my best friend. From day one he said, I never met the president. I didn’t know the president, but I was put on his committee. And I say that.
Buck Sexton: How much time has this taken up of your presidency by the way? The whole Russia thing.
President Trump: It takes a lot. Because if I don’t do it you know bad things can happen. I’ll give you one thing and Papadopoulos. I didn’t know him at all but once he, once he went public and I watched him, he was treated really badly. The guy with the tape recorder who got paid money.
I mean, he got paid a tremendous amount of money. I didn’t know the FBI had the right to pay somebody like that. I mean that’s. He got paid more than anybody at the FBI gets paid by a lot. Right?
Buck Sexton: I used to work at the CIA. I have some sense of what these guys get paid. (laughter)
President Trump: No, but you understand what they gave him. I mean I heard reports from $500,000 to $2 million.
ON POSSIBLE DISCIPLINE INSIDE THE FBI OR DOJ
John Solomon: Let me ask you, sir, if one of the issues is whether the FISA court’s been misled. If it’s later proven that people in the Justice Department misled the FISA court, are you prepared to take action against them in the Justice Department?
President Trump: Well, it looks to me like, just based on your reporting, that they’ve been misled. I mean, I don’t think we have to go much further than to say that they’ve been misled because the dossier is a phony deal and so much of what’s been done is just bad stuff.
Um, one of the things I’m disappointed in is that the judges in FISA didn’t, don’t seem to have done anything about it. I’m very disappointed in that. Now I may be wrong because as we sit here and talk maybe they’re, you know, maybe they’re well into it and we just don’t know that. Because I have purposely have not chosen not to get involved until just — all I want to do is be transparent. I could have fired everybody. I could’ve done many things. I’ve chosen not to do that. I don’t know if that’s wise or not wise, probably, you know, who knows?
John Solomon: History will tell us.
President Trump: Someday you’ll tell me if that was right (laughs) but um, so I’m very disappointed, unless they are doing it, that they have not taken very strong action, does that makes sense to you?
John Solomon: It does.
President Trump: Because they’ve been abused by reporters. They’ve been, I mean, the FISA court has been laughed at and scorned by what’s gone on here.
John Solomon: Without a doubt.
President Trump: And then you see 99.99 percent of the things get approved, it was supposed to be just the opposite I remember when they first started talking about the FISA court, you’ve learned a lot through what I’ve, you know, gone through. They were saying how tough it is to get to — then the report comes out like, 99.9 percent of the things that get in front of it, so they knew that and so they put fraudulent stuff in front of it.
John Solomon: So, would you be open to a reform of the FISA court after all you’ve experienced on your case?
President Trump: Well, I have to see what they’ve done, John, they might be working, they might be really deep into it, and I only hope that’s the case for the good of the country. Because they’re reading the same articles by you guys and by others. Even the other side knows how wrong this whole thing is. They just can’t write it. At some point I really believe they will. You know there’s Pulitzer Prizes here. Big ones. This is, somebody was saying last night, this is the big, oh, Maria Bartiromo, she said it so beautifully, did you see her on Sunday — she said, “This is maybe the greatest scandal in the history of our country.”
And the fake news reporters will not pick it up. You can do something that’s monument shaking and they just don’t want to pick it up and at some point, you would think you would have to and it’s getting to a point where they’re starting to talk about it.
ON BRETT KAVANAUGH’S ACCUSER
Buck Sexton: Mr. President, I want to switch gears for a second, you’ve got this upcoming Senate hearing on Monday. Do you have any concerns about the credibility of the accuser here? Do you have any concerns about getting Kavanaugh through on schedule and if so, do you have a contingency plan in place?
President Trump: Can you give me an update because I just left the stage … has she …
Buck Sexton: Do you have any concerns about the accuser’s credibility?
President Trump: Let me do this before I do that — has she agreed to testify yet?
John Solomon: Not yet, it’s still an open question as of four o’clock.
President Trump: It’s a very big thing, if she doesn’t. So, I have said right from the start and people have been very happy with what I’ve said that we have to let both sides speak, we have to take a look at his absolutely incredible record, a record like almost none other that I’ve seen. You know, between the schools, the intellect. You know I said yesterday, “not a blemish on his record.” And you have to look at what she has to say. So, I don’t want to comment on her until I see her.
… The Democrats have had this letter for three months. They could have brought it up at the hearing during, you know, in course during the hearing. Dianne Feinstein knew all about it and if she knew about it that meant [Charles] Schumer knew about it. And every Democrat knew about it. This is no different than the Russian witch hunt, what they’ve done is they make up a lot of stuff and try and obstruct and resist.
ON INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY’S FAILURE TO ALERT HIM TO RUSSIA CONCERNS
President Trump: I’ve always said that the Russia hoax was an excuse for them losing the election. Even though actually, amazingly that started seven months before. That started when it looked like I may have a chance to win, OK? But see that didn’t do anything to me because I didn’t know about it.
One thing on that again, also, if they thought there was something with Russia, and I’m one of two people that are gonna be the president of the United States, they should have come to me and said, “Sir, you’re dealing with people that may have something to do with Russia. We want to let you know.” And I’d say, “I’m sorry whoever it may be, you gotta go, sorry.”
John Solomon: They never did that, did they?
President Trump: They never did it, no, they never did it. No, but wouldn’t you think they’d say hey, you know there’s two people that have a chance.
(There was a brief interruption in the interview.)
President Trump: They, they should have come to me and said “Hey, you know we have an obligation,” like they did with Dianne Feinstein with her driver. You have somebody that is possibly a Chinese spy, now she had the guy for 20 years. But they notify her, they don’t investigate her. They notify her, and she immediately fires the guy. They certainly did it with Hillary Clinton. I mean what, that, that’s the other thing that people are so upset about.
ON SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT MUELLER’S TEAM
President Trump: It’s not only that it’s fraudulent what they did, it’s not only that you have the 17 angry Democrats, I mean look at these people. Look where they come from. [Andrew] Weissman, he was at Hillary Clinton’s thing going crazy, OK? I call it the funeral. You know, it started off as the party and ended up being the funeral. Going crazy. How can he possibly be allowed to do this? And how can you pick every single prosecutor as a Democrat? You would think even if you did have bad intentions, which he does, you would say let me get half and half, it’s actually more effective.
OK and as you know he has — Comey is his best friend. I had a very, very nasty business transaction with Bob Mueller, very nasty. You’ve heard about that, maybe. To me, that’s — plus he wanted to be head of the FBI. And I didn’t do that and the following day he’s appointed special counsel. Those are three, unbelievable. So, we have a nasty, business transaction. I’ll tell you what, if I’m in business and I have a nasty business transaction with somebody, a hostile business transaction, and then I become a judge and 10 years later I meet that guy in court, I would try and be neutral but probably you’re not able to be. He should be, he’s conflicted, out. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted.
ON FIRING JAMES COMEY
John Solomon: “There is something Rudy told me. Let’s see if you remember it. He said that he began advising you in November-December 2016 to get rid of Comey based on his behavior on the Clinton investigation and you held off and gave him a chance, but it really wasn’t about stopping Russia. It was about you didn’t trust his judgment after seeing him in action. Is that an accurate statement?
President Trump: Yes, it’s accurate. If I did one mistake with Comey I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries. I should have fired him right after the convention. Say, ‘I don’t want that guy.’ Or at least fired him the first day on the job. If I did one mistake it was, you know, I, I really did fire him, you know I fired him a couple of months in, so it’s not like. But I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t him there when I get there.”
(Trump stopped the interview to make a private remark.)
This is on the record. Funny thing about Comey is that everybody hated Comey. The Democrats hated him far more than the Republicans until I announced that I was going to fire him. You go back — or that I did fire him. You go back and look at those statements. Podesta, I think, the day before said Comey should be fired. Schumer was just brutal. To show you how horrible and political it is, in fact naively, when I fired him, I said, ‘Finally I’m going to do something in a bipartisan way.’ I thought I would be popular for the Democrats. I actually thought that firing James Comey, they hated him more than anybody. And so did the Republicans, because the Republicans viewed him as letting [Clinton] get away with murder. They viewed him a different way, but the Democrats hated him even more than the Republicans. Until I fired him. And then they made a decision, and all together, I guarantee you Schumer called them all fast and say ‘We love Comey.’
But honestly when I did it, I didn’t do it for this reason, but when I did it, I really said this is one that’s gonna be really popular also with the Democrats. And you know what? They’re a bunch of phony obstructers and they all changed. The problem, the one thing they can’t do is get rid of all their statements they made the day before, meaning in the days before. Because they went for a long period of time just, the hatred for Comey was probably as great or greater than almost anybody by the Democrats, and now they act like he’s a saint. Although now they’re not acting that way.
ON ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS
Buck Sexton: Mr. President, why haven’t you replaced your attorney general, given all the things you’ve said and everything else that’s come out about his actions, or inactions?
President Trump: I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it. But he came very strongly he really wanted to be. And, I let him be.
And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him, and he won by one vote, I believe. You know he won by just one vote.
(The interview was briefly interrupted.)
President Trump: He won by one vote, and it’s so sad what happened. Then he gets in and probably because of the experience that he had going through the nominating when somebody asked him the first question about Hillary Clinton or something he said ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself.’ And now it turned out he didn’t have to recuse himself. Actually, the FBI reported shortly thereafter any reason for him to recuse himself. And it’s very sad what happened. In the meantime, I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad. I’m not happy at the border, I’m not happy with numerous things, not just this.
Buck Sexton: Are we going to get a wall Mr. President?
President Trump: OK, well, let me just finish this. We’ll see what happens, I mean, we’ll see what happens. A lot of people have asked me to do that. And I guess I study history, and I say I just want to leave things alone, but it was very unfair what he did. And my worst enemies, I mean, people that, you know, are on the other side of me, in a lot of ways including politically, have said that was a very unfair thing he did. You know, you’ve seen that, when he recused himself. So anyway, so, so we’ll see how it goes with Jeff. I’m very disappointed in Jeff. Very disappointed.
ON IMMIGRATION AND BUILDING THE WALL
President Trump: So, we have started the wall. We got 1.6 [billion dollars]. We got another 1.6. We’ve fixed a lot of existing, we’ve started an 80-mile stretch. The entire Democrat life is to try and make sure we don’t have a wall, not because we don’t need it because we do. But because that was a promise that I made, and they want to try to make sure I don’t deliver on that promise. And we have a majority of one in the Senate because we have the filibuster rule, which we shouldn’t, um, you can’t get 10 votes. In other words, Buck, we got a majority of one. We got to get to 60. So, 10 Democrats are controlling the Senate. We shouldn’t have the filibuster rule. The first thing that Chuck Schumer would do if he ever took control of the Senate is get rid of the filibuster rule. And for whatever reason and nobody can explain it, they just won’t do it. Which means we need to get nine more, Republicans. So, it’s very tough thing, even though we need it.
But I’ll be doing things over the next two weeks having to do with immigration, which I think you’ll be very impressed at. So, we are building the wall, I could build it — you know what I do best is build — I could build the whole thing in a year, but um, there was a picture that was sort of great. I wish I had it. I had a picture of where I was this weekend. They built this gorgeous wall where the plane went down in Pennsylvania. Shanksville. And I was there. I made the speech. And it’s sort of beautiful, what they did is incredible. They have a series of walls, I’m saying, “It’s like perfect.” So, so we are pushing very hard. As you know we’ve gotten approved in the House but the Senate cannot get it approved. There are many things the Senate can’t approve, you know, including Kate’s law, including I could name many things. The problem is that with the filibuster rule they have to, they need 10 more Republicans elected. And I’m very opposed to that, but that’s the way it is.
ON THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS
John Solomon: Do you still feel good about a red wave? Do you think you could pull that off?
President Trump: I think this — we probably have the greatest economy in history, so they’ve tried many narratives with me. You know, I took that test when I got my last physical, and the doctor said that’s one of the highest scores we’ve ever seen. I did that not because I wanted but I did it, I was always good at testing. But if there’s anything great about me it’s stability, and I’m a good manager. Always been a good manager, but you know, I have a vision. And I had just beaten 17 — because it was actually 18, including Gilmore, just so you know. People say 17 but it was actually 18, you know he was the governor of Virginia, so it was 18. And I had just beaten 17 people including the Bush dynasty. I then beat the Hillary Clinton dynasty. You can’s give me credit for Bernie Sanders and all because I was part of it, but you know. So I beat the Bush dynasty, the Clinton dynasty, 17 people, and I never left center stage once, you can check. I never left center stage meaning I had lead in republican primaries from day one. And I had, and I went through 14-12 debates, 12-debates before Hillary. And I never left center stage, and then they make up a thing, well, maybe he’s losing it, maybe. No, I, I would know that so fast.
By the way, when you start asking me questions maybe someday, and I say, ‘Hmm I don’t know those answers,’ I may say, ‘Well, it’s time to hang it up, OK?’ But the opposite, and I will say that the narrative, the different narratives, they’ve tried all different narratives. They’ve tried that, they tried, ‘he’s a dictator, he’s a fascist.’ One of them did, one of them did, ‘he’s losing it,’ and the next week they went into, ‘He’s the most brilliant mind. He’s taking over the country. He’s a fascist, he’s a dictator, and he’s gonna make the eight years into life.’ OK.
I said wait a minute, last week, I was incompetent and now, I’m, you know, taking over the world. OK? It’s incredible. It’s sick. But, the various narratives that they do are just so bad, they’re just so bad for the country. It’s just really so bad. And they’re such opposites in a sense. Like, if you take insurance they want single payer, which can’t be afforded, and we want really great health care where people get a great price. You know, really great stuff where people get a great price. I mean there are such differences, I could go on, on almost every subject. So, it’s hard to bring everyone together unless there’s a, maybe very large national problem, which we don’t want. Maybe that brings people together, like it did for about a day with the World Trade Center, you know.
And by the way the worst single mistake ever made in the history of our country — going into the Middle East by President Bush. Obama may have gotten ‘em out wrong, but going in is to me the biggest single mistake made in the history of our country. Because we spent $7 trillion in the Middle East. Now if you wanna fix a window some place they say, “oh jee, let’s not do it. $7 trillion and millions of lives — you know, ‘cause I like to count both sides. Millions of lives.
To me is the worst single mistake made in the history of our country. Civil war you can understand. Civil war, civil war. That’s different. For us to have gone into the Middle East, and that was just, that was a bad day for this country, I will tell you.
John Solomon: How do you convince people not to vote Democrat? What’s your argument to say, keep Republicans in charge?
President Trump: By the way, to finish that, I think we’re going to do much better than anyone thinks because the economy is so good, and people do like the job I’m doing. You know, they like the job, and to finish it off with just a little extra, when people say, you know, there’s a lot of action going on, I’m going through an illegal witch hunt. If I didn’t have that, you asked me a very good question before, do you spend much time on it? You have to spend time on it. I’m not supposed to be spending time on it. You know, part of this whole thing is that I’m not supposed to be spending any time on it. But I am.
Despite that, I think I’ve done more than any president in history. If you look at the things we have done, with the tax cuts, and all of the things that we’ve done, including hopefully now two Supreme Court justices, we’ll have more judges put on than any other president other than one. Do you know who the one is? George Washington. Percentage-wise. I’ll have more than him, too, but percentage-wise (laughs).
I said that the other, you know I have 145 [federal judges], plus hopefully two Supreme Court judges. And that’s assuming nobody leaves the bench which they will over the next period of time. It’ll be number one. I outta say, “Who has highest percentage of federal judges.” They say, “you do.” I’ll say “no, no. I got killed.” They said “who? George Washington because he appointed a hundred percent of the judges.”
So, Buck, I have, in addition to what I’m doing, I have this thing which I wanna run. I wanna manage, but this was used as an excuse, even though it actually started long before I won. You know, and we only found that out through the texts. This was a hoax before. But the Democrats used this as an excuse for having lost the election, when the Electoral College is totally their way. I mean, I had to run the entire East Coast, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania. I had to win places that haven’t been won in years. I won Wisconsin. I won Michigan. I had to run states that nobody thought were possible to do, except me, and some people and some pollsters, and some good pollsters. Rasmussen was very good I have to tell you. So, you know, we’re really happy with the job. And just in finishing I was just gonna say that, so they like to say, chaos in the White House. You’re here. It’s running so beautifully. And expect for the one area that you asked me about before, Mike Pompeo is a star, everyone of my Cabinet members is doing great. I just have one group that’s not been good. You know what that group is.