In his first interview since taking office, President Trump gave glimpses of being humbled by his ‘sobering’ new responsibilities between intrepid promises to maintain his campaign vows.
Speaking with ABC’s David Muir, he went from gently praising the ‘beautiful’ letter left for him in the Oval Office by Barack Obama to brazenly describing Chicago as more violent than Afghanistan.
Among his admissions was that receiving the nuclear codes was a ‘very scary’ experience which brought home the enormity of the job.
‘When they explain what it represents and the kind of destruction that you’re talking about, it is a very sobering moment. It’s very, very, very scary in a sense.’
Not quite scary enough to keep him up at night, he said. ‘I have confidence I’ll do the right thing, the right job, but it’s a very scary thing.’
He later told of the ‘beautiful’ letter he’d been left in the Resolute Desk by Barack Obama but did not, as is tradition between presidents, reveal its contents.
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In his first interview since taking office, the president told ABC’s’ David Muir it was ‘very scary’ to have been given the nuclear codes
‘I won’t show it you, read it to you, but a just a beautiful letter. There were numerous lines, so well written, so thoughtful – so thoughtful. I doubt too many of them were written in this manner.
‘He really – in fact I called him and thanked him for the thought that was put into that letter. It was long, it was complex, it was thoughtful and it took time to do it and I appreciated it.’
He repeated his earlier condemnation of Chicago’s rising gun violence, describing its shooting epidemic as worse than the brutality seen in war zones.
‘It’s carnage. You know, in my speech I got tremendous – from certain people the word carnage. It is carnage. It’s horrible carnage. This is Afghanistan – is not like what’s happening in Chicago. People are being shot left and right. Thousands of people over a period – over a short period of time.
‘Chicago is like a war zone. Chicago is worse than some of the people that you report in some of the places that you report about every night,’ he mused.
He said he would ‘love’ to help state law enforcement to address the violence which was getting in the way of Chicago being a ‘great city’.
The President showed Muir the letter he’d received from Barack Obama but would not reveal its contents
President Trump also showed Muir around the newly decorated White House, pointing to photographs from his inaugural weekend
Trump also told Muir how he didn’t believe he could exasperate the anger surrounding his anti-Muslim immigration plans because the world was ‘as angry as it gets’
The president also spoke of the gun violence in Chicago, telling Muir it was worse than in Afghanistan
‘It can’t be a great city if people are shot walking down the street for a loaf of bread.’
On Tuesday, the president threatened to ‘send in the Feds’ if the Illinois State Government didn’t dramatically reduce the problem.
While many have slammed Trump’s anti-Muslim immigration policies as inflammatory, he said there was no way for him to contribute to the animosity surrounding the issue because it is already as heated ‘as it gets’.
‘The world is a mess. The world is as angry as it gets. What? You think this is gonna cause a little more anger? The world is an angry place.’
He defended plans to keep put a ban on refugees and Syrian immigrants entering the country, explaining that he wants to prevent another 9/11.
Trump is expected to announce a new refugee policy that replaced a proposed ban on Muslim immigrants any day now.
TRUMP’S TALKING POINTS
‘It’s very, very scary’ but ‘I have confidence I’ll do the right thing’
‘Very beautiful, I appreciate it.’
‘This is Afghanistan. It’s horrible carnage. Chicago is like a war zone’
THE WAR ON TERROR
‘I want to keep people in this country safe’ and ‘torture works’
‘I want to take care of everybody. We will unleash something that’s going to be terrific’
VOTER FRAUD AND THE POPULAR VOTE
‘What’s going on with voter fraud is horrible’ and ‘I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote’
INAUGURATION CROWD SIZE
‘We had supposedly the biggest crowd in history’
A draft of the executive order that was leaked to the press Wednesday calls for an indefinite halt to admission for Syrian refugees, and a four-month ban for all others.
The Trump administration is also considering a 30-day suspension, at least, of visas for anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen, according to Reuters.
While not explicitly aimed at keeping immigrants out who are followers of Islam, the policies would have that effect. The countries affected by the new regulations are majority-Muslim.
Syrians would be offered protection within a ‘safe zone’ inside their country – an idea that was considered by the previous administration and discarded because of the resources it would take to enforce it.
‘People that come in, in many cases, in some cases with evil intentions. I don’t want that. They’re ISIS. They’re coming under false pretense. I don’t want that.
‘We’re going to have extreme vetting in all cases. And I mean extreme. And we’re not letting people in if we think there’s even a little chance of some problem.
‘We are excluding certain countries. But for other countries we’re gonna have extreme vetting. It’s going to be very hard to come in.
‘Right now it’s very easy to come in. It’s gonna be very, very hard. I don’t want terror in this country. You look at what happened in San Bernardino. You look at what happened all over. You look at what happened in the World Trade Center.’
To prevent terror, he said he was open to waterboarding and had been told in no uncertain terms that ‘torture works’.
He also claimed that had the US ‘kept’ Iraq oil after the war ISIS would never have been created.
‘We should’ve kept the oil when we got out. And, you know, it’s very interesting, had we taken the oil, you wouldn’t have ISIS because they fuel themselves with the oil.’
The wall on the Mexican border will go up, he said, and would be paid for by Mexico eventually if not straight away.
‘All it is, is we’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico.
‘I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form. What I’m doing is good for the United States.
‘It’s also going to be good for Mexico. I wanna start the wall immediately.’
As for his claim that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton, costing him the popular vote fraudulently, Trump maintained it, tossing in the admission that he strategically campaigned to win over critical counties instead of individual votes and would have won the latter had be wanted to.
‘I ran for the electoral college. I didn’t run for the popular vote,’ he said.
He was angry that discussions on the subject with congressional leaders on Monday had become public (‘that was supposed to be a confidential meeting’), but conceded that he did indeed make the claim.
‘I said it. And I said it strongly because what’s going on with voter fraud is horrible.’
While the suggestion has in the past been that the votes were cast by illegal immigrants, Mr Trump said on Wednesday some were illegally registered to vote in more than one state and others had been voting in the name of dead citizens.
Borrowing from Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s war on the media, he also complained that ‘unflattering’ photographs had been used to depict crowd size at his inauguration.
‘I had a massive amount of people here. They were showing pictures that were very unflattering, as unflattering, from certain angles, that were taken early and lots of other things. I’ll show you a picture later if you’d like of a massive crowd.
The lengthy interview was the president’s first since he took office on Friday as the 45th President of the United States
The president said he wanted to begin building the wall along the Mexican border ‘immediately’. Above, construction begins on the San Ysidro border in California
DONALD TRUMP’S DRAFT ORDER
A draft order shed more light Wednesday on Donald Trump’s expected moves on immigration.
The president is expected to:
- Block Syrian refugees indefinitely and impose a four-month ban on all refugees
- Suspend issuing visas for people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen for at least 30 days
- Produce a plan’ for safe zones in Syria and the surrounding area
- Ask certain countries for information used to vet would-be visitors, give those countries 60 days to start providing it
- Cut the number of refugees for fiscal year 2017 to 50,000
- Expedite the implementation of a biometric system tracking entries and exits for all visitors to the US
- Require in-person interviews for all non-immigrant visa applicants
‘In terms of a total audience including television and everything else that you have we had supposedly the biggest crowd in history.
‘The audience watching the show. And I think you would even agree to that.’
Aerial photographs taken on the day appeared to show large, bare swathes of the National Mall.
When compared to the same view at Obama’s 2009 inauguration, Trump’s crowd seemed dramatically smaller in size.
Spicer scolded the press for comparing the two images and said it had been inaccurate, that the crowds were the largest ever and that the media ought to take more care.
He later clarified that he meant when counting the number of views the inauguration received online and through television networks it was clearly more watched than others past.
President Trump also slammed the media’s coverage of his widely criticized speech at the CIA’s headquarters which former agents said was ‘inappropriate’
Standing before a wall emblazoned with stars to represent 117 unnamed agents who have died in the line of duty, Trump talked again of the inauguration crowd size and of his ‘war’ on the media.
‘It was meant to be confidential’: Trump shared his disappointment that ‘Democrats’ who attended a meeting in the State Dining Room on Monday later told the pres what had been discussed – namely his claim that he would have won the popular vote if it weren’t for the votes of ‘millions’ of illegal immigrants
During his interview with Muir, he said that the speech had in fact been ‘great’ and that the CIA ‘people’ in the room ‘loved it.’
‘That speech was a good speech. And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did. The people of the CIA loved the speech.’
President Trump also shared how he planned to replace Obamacare with a strategy that would ‘take care of everybody’.
‘Obamacare is a disaster. It’s too expensive. It’s horrible health care. It doesn’t cover what you have to cover. It’s a disaster. You know it and I know it.
‘I wanna make sure that nobody’s dying on the streets when I’m president. Nobody’s gonna be dying on the streets. We will unleash something that’s gonna be terrific.’
He refused to promise that anyone currently with healthcare might lose it, despite repeated requests from Muir.
Instead, he answered: ‘We want no one (to lose it). We want the answer to be no one.
‘But I will say millions of people will be happy. Right now you have millions and millions and millions of people that are unhappy.’