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Full Transcript: Former President Donald Trump speaks with Yahoo Finance

·22 min read

Donald J. Trump joined Yahoo Finance's Adam Shapiro for a wide ranging conversation covering topics such as the U.S. economy, COVID-19 vaccines, cryptocurrencies, and his thinking on a third run for the presidency in 2024.

Below is a complete transcript of the conversation from October 1.

ADAM SHAPIRO, anchor and correspondent: Donald Trump was elected November 8th, 2016 to become the 45th President of the United States. During his administration, there was historic law passed, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, as well of the coordination of the departments FDA, HHS, Department of Defense, CDC in what we all know as Operation Warp Speed, the $18 billion program to not only develop, but then deliver vaccines against COVID-19. The 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, joins us now on Yahoo Finance Live. Mr. President, thank you for being here.

FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: Thank you Adam, very much.

SHAPIRO: Wanted to ask you, a lot of us are curious what you think of the current state of the U.S. economy?

TRUMP: Well, it looks to me like inflation is going to ravage our country. I was there a long time ago with Jimmy Carter as president, and the inflation was devastating, where rates went. You had a prime rate that went up to 21%, which is not even believable when you think of it. And I saw things during that period as a businessman that I have never quite seen, even since, and we've had some recessions, but not since. And it's very scary when you look at gasoline from $1.87 a gallon when I was president. It went from $1.87 and now it's well over $5, and it's gonna go a lot higher. And they're calling OPEC, and they're calling Russia and Saudi Arabia, trying to make a deal. We had so much, we were energy-independent.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Trump warns on 'scary' inflation, says surging prices will 'ravage our country'

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SHAPIRO: Mr. Trump?

TRUMP: And when you talk about inflation, energy is a big part of it because if you make products, you have to deliver them with trucks and everything else. It's a real problem.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about the energy part of that though. The energy part. I'm glad you brought inflation because I got the latest numbers. CPI, in August, 5.3% -

TRUMP: Wow.

SHAPIRO: - if you take out fuel and food, 4%. But look, Americans are paying $6.99 for half gallon of milk. When you talk about, for instance, fuel. The pace of inflation is actually slowing. That's what the government said. And then in California I think... You know the average price of a gallon of gas in California's over four bucks but the rest of the country, it's like $3.50, $3.60. So, it's not over $5.00 right now.

TRUMP: Well a lot of the country... When I look at the country, I'm hearing numbers that are going to be $5 or soon to be. Don't forget, OPEC already turned down the United States. You know, they went to OPEC of all groups and they asked for relief on getting gasoline, getting barrels of oil sent in. We had so much, we didn't know...look, we were energy independent. We had so much that we didn't know what to do with it. And now all of a sudden, they're asking OPEC for help. They're asking Russia and Saudi Arabia for help. And I think that you're gonna see numbers that we haven't seen in a long time for gasoline. And you really already are. You know, you were at $1.87 a gallon and even if you take your $3.50 number, and that's just the low section, but a lot of the country's gonna be and is already over $5. And what it's gonna be in a year from now, Adam, I think is going to be much higher than that.

SHAPIRO: I want to get to some of the issues economically that we're all confronting and I know in California, I've been corrected by my staff, that it is over $5.00 but in a lot of the country, gas is under $5.00. But we have a short amount of time and I wanted to ask you, because one of the issues that we're dealing with is this debt ceiling discussion, what worries you about whether we raise the debt ceiling or don't raise the debt ceiling? And what do you think of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's recommendation to just do away with it?

TRUMP: So I think we're in trouble no matter what. If you raise it, that's not a good thing because the bill is so bad - the $3.5 trillion - and if you raise it, bad and if you don't raise it, bad. It's a bad situation to be in. The bottom line is the $3.5 trillion plus $1.2 trillion plus other things that we had to do for Covid, et cetera, et cetera. You're talking about historic numbers and I just don't know if this economy can take it and if it can't take it, it's been a bad bet. So, raising it is bad and not raising it is bad. I mean, you just look at what's happening and there are a lot of bad scenarios but I think the worst scenario is $3.5 trillion. I just don't think our country can take it and I think they're changing the norm of the country by doing it.

SHAPIRO: Help me understand what you just said because the $3.5 trillion, that reconciliation bill that the Democrats are debating amongst themselves about how they get that through, that doesn't deal with the debt ceiling as we understand it now. The debt ceiling covers the debt that administrations, Republican and Democratic administrations, all accrued over the last several decades.

TRUMP: But this will add to it, Adam -

SHAPIRO: So why wouldn't we want to make good on-

TRUMP: - and this... Right, but this will add to it -

SHAPIRO: It won't.

TRUMP: ... and whether you call it an infrastructure bill which really it's a percentage, a small percentage of that money goes to infrastructure. If you talk about that one at $1.2 trillion, it all adds to it whether it's immediately or into the future. It's tremendous borrowing. There's no way that they can take this... You know, they're saying it's net neutral. It's not net neutral; it's just the opposite of net neutral. So this will add to it whether it's immediately or into the longer term.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Many Republicans are rallying around Trump's false claim that infrastructure deal is 'fake'

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SHAPIRO: Are you saying we should not raise the debt ceiling, though, and default on the debt we've already accrued? Because whether they pass any of the infrastructure, the 1.2 trillion or the reconciliation bill, we have to raise the debt ceiling to pay for our previous debt. Are you saying we should not do that?

TRUMP: Well, I say this. I say that the Republicans have a very strong card to play and they can get a lot of what they want and what they feel. You know, this was an election and we don't have to get into it but this was an election that was rigged and was very, very close at worst. It was extremely close. This was not a mandate to change the norms of our society. This was not a mandate to become a socialist country or worse. And I think the Republicans have to play the cards that they're dealt. Now that's a very, very powerful card. It's a very strong card. Hopefully they won't have to play it but I think they will in order to do something with the 3.5 and other things.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Trump, after adding trillions to the government’s IOUs, comments on debt ceiling fight

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SHAPIRO: Mr. President, you just said something and opened a window so I have to respond to you about when you said the election was rigged. It was Mitch McConnell who is, you know, the Majority Leader in the Senate, who said on January 6, "Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence." That's Mitch McConnell, Mr. President, so why do you persist with the election was rigged?

TRUMP: Mitch McConnell doesn't know what he was talking about. If you look at the data that's coming in from many states, you'll see that more votes than they had voters. If you look at Arizona, which by the way, other than the coverage, the fake coverage in the press... If you look at Arizona and the findings, they had many findings. There were tens of thousands of votes that it was a very close election. They had tens of thousands of votes that were either fraudulent or could have been fraudulent or they didn't know and that alone, that alone would have turned that state.

SHAPIRO: But that's not what the cyber ninjas found. You're talking about the 74,000 votes which actually were early votes. Those were valid votes.

TRUMP: No, I'm talking about much more than that. If you go to the findings in Arizona, you will see. Now, I just heard they, with a different county... They just found 35,000 additional votes. Don't forget, I so called lost by approximately 10,000 votes and I heard yesterday they just found an additional 35,000 votes. So the Attorney General is investigating, see, and we'll find out soon. He's looking at the whole thing. But if you look at the findings of that report done by the Senate, not done by me, it was done by the Senate of Arizona, those findings are damning. Now Mitch McConnell doesn't know what he's talking about.

SHAPIRO: Let's get back to the economy because Gary Cohn, an economic advisor and one of the architects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has joined us repeatedly and he's pointed out on our program that a couple of promises that the tax cut would pay for itself have not delivered and that the growth that they would generate did not deliver. How do you respond to that? What happened?

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RELATED ARTICLE: Gary Cohn's most recent Yahoo Finance appearance

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TRUMP: Well, I don't know what Cohn said. I can tell you this. That until Covid worked its way into our country and into the world from China right out of, probably, almost certainly, the Wuhan lab... Until Covid came in, you had an economy that was roaring like never before. And even after we did that and went through the hell of Covid-19 or the China virus or Wuhan or whatever you want to call it... Even as we worked our way and when I left office, our economy was really starting to get strong again because the foundation was so good. Had we not had Covid, then Gary Cohn would have been 100% wrong. He would have been anyway, probably. But the Covid element is a very important thing. That came out of China but it came out of, in a sense, just from a timing standpoint, nobody ever thought this was possible to have something like this. This was in 1917 where 100 million people died; nobody thought a thing like this was positive. And frankly, if I didn't come up with the vaccines in record-setting time, less than nine months and also buy a lot of the vaccine production and all, you wouldn't have shots for another five months from now. So we saved tremendous numbers of lives, -

SHAPIRO: Mr. President? I do want to-

TRUMP: - the economy was roaring, no economy in history has ever roared before-

SHAPIRO: Actually, Mr. President, on the economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excuse me, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, points out, without Covid, the first three years of your administration, the average growth was 2.5% and the last three years of President Obama's administration was 2.3%. So, not a dramatic change.

TRUMP: We had the highest stock market in history. We had the most number of jobs in history. And we were getting ready to rock. We were starting to get the changes done with the horrible trade deals that were made with all of these countries. We had just made a great trade deal with China which we actually completed which has helped our farmers greatly. We did the USMCA. This country was ready to rock until Covid came.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about Covid because Operation Warp Speed is one of the positives from the administration and you've brought up the need for vaccines. You've actually told people to get vaccines. I'm just curious. I got the Pfizer vaccine. Which vaccine did you get? Have you shared that with us yet?

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RELATED ARTICLE: Trump: 'I got the Pfizer' vaccine, leaves door open to getting booster shot

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TRUMP: Well, I got the Pfizer and I would have been very happy with any of them. I thought a very bad statement was when they did a pause on Johnson and Johnson. I think that frightened people. That was a bad thing to do. At that time, when they did the pause, they had six people that may have had some difficulty out of millions that received it but I think the pause was a very bad thing to do.

SHAPIRO: Mr. President, you've talked a lot about the good state of your health and I'm curious would you get the booster shot?

TRUMP: Well, if I felt it was necessary. I guess I have sort of a double vaccine because, as you know I had it, recovered from it pretty well. I don't think I had it like the media said. They were making it difficult. It's not pleasant but I had it. I recovered. I, in addition to that, got the shot. I mean, I'm somebody that tells people I'd like to see them get it. I also want them to have their freedoms, et cetera. But, I got the double shot and if I felt that it was necessary and let's see where this whole thing is going. I mean, I was surprised. I thought it would have been gone long before now. You know, you don't hear Biden being criticized for the fact that this thing is lingering on. In some cases, you know, numbers that are very, very large.

SHAPIRO: It is, Mr. President, it is lingering on but when I mentioned you had said to your supporters get a vaccine, some of them booed and the current data shows us that it's the unvaccinated that are contributing to why it's lingering. What do you say to those people?

TRUMP: Well, you know what's interesting? When I was president, everybody wanted to get the vaccine. Everybody. There was a rush to get it. You didn't hear anything about mandates. You didn't hear anything about, "Oh gee, people don't want to take it." After I left, people don't want to take it. And it's very interesting. And I think it's because they don't trust Biden. They don't trust the administration. As you know -

SHAPIRO: You don't think it's misinformation about the vaccine?

TRUMP: No. Vice President Harris made some very nasty comments and I think maybe people took that seriously, what she said. But I think they hurt the vaccine. Now they're trying to get everybody to take it. But, I will say, and I think you'll agree, when I was president, there was a rush to get it. Everybody wanted to get it. It was only after that you started to hear this.

SHAPIRO: Let's shift to the political landscape -

TRUMP: Okay.

SHAPIRO: - because we're all curious. What issues are you considering that will help you decide if you're going to run for the Republican nomination to become president in 2024?

TRUMP: Okay. Well, when I looked at what happened with the military in Afghanistan, that was a horrible, horrible situation. Taking the military out first began it. But it was just grossly incompetent. We lost the 13 young, incredible warriors. We also have many wounded that nobody talked about but very seriously wounded. I guess close to 250 people died, okay, of the people in the area. Two hundred and fifty people died almost and it was terrible. Leaving behind $85 billion of the finest military equipment in the world instead of taking it out. Every single screw, bolt, every machine, every plane, every tank was going to be taken out under my... Tents were going to be taken out. The big hangers that you see, they were going to be taken out.

SHAPIRO: Does your administration, though -

TRUMP: Every, everything would have been taken out.

SHAPIRO: Does your administration bear any responsibility? I mean, it was the negotiation under your administration that precipitated our withdrawal. Are you saying that you would have left soldiers? You would have left the U.S. military in Afghanistan? Because you were in favor of pulling everyone out.

TRUMP: No. We have absolutely no responsibility. I dealt with Abdul, who's the leader, and I told him very strongly that you will be hit harder than any country's ever been hit and he understood that. And, as you know, and Biden even admitted it, for 18 months, not one solider was shot at or killed. Not one solider. Not one American. And I let them know, you can't do that. That was a part of the agreement. If they didn't fulfill conditions, if... You know, we had 2,500 people there. We started with close to 20,000 and we were down to 2,500. And I was a big proponent of getting out but getting out with dignity. Getting out with no death. I don't think... There would not have been... We had them exactly where we wanted to have them and they would not have done anything to us. We would have been able to take our soldiers out, take our equipment out. But we would have taken the soldiers out last. First, all of the Americans come out and people that deserve to come out beyond the Americans.

SHAPIRO: If this were-

TRUMP: Right now we've taken out hundreds of thousands of people that most of them, only 3% at this moment seem to deserve to come out. We don't even know who these people are.

SHAPIRO: So, Mr. Trump, when you consider what it's going to take for you to decide if you're going to run for president, this would be one of the issues. Curious, though-

TRUMP: This would one, just the gross incompetence. The other issue I think is -

SHAPIRO: One of many issues I would imagine but you'd have to win the nomination again -

TRUMP: oh yeah, many many issues, well the economy.

SHAPIRO: - I'm curious, how would you do that?

TRUMP: I'll give you a couple of others: The economy, inflation but maybe the biggest issue right now will be the border.

SHAPIRO: But if you faced a Republican like Ron DeSantis in the primaries, how... What would it take for you to beat him?

TRUMP: Well, number one, I don't think I will face him because I don't see that... If I did it, I don't see that. I think most people would drop out. I think he would drop out. And, if I faced him, I would beat him like I would beat everyone else, frankly. And you take a look at what's going on in the polls, where I have way over 90% and in some cases, 98% approval rating in the Republican Party because I did a great job as president despite all of the hoaxes. Despite the Russia, Russia, Russia. Stuff that now has been exposed as a total fraud. Despite everything, we did a great job. Largest tax cuts in history. Rebuilt the military, space force. Took care of our vets. Ninety-two percent approval rating in the VA for the first time ever. Way higher than ever before. You know, we did a job that nobody's done and had Covid not come and interrupted, we had the greatest economy. Again, say what you want, we had a 160 million jobs. Our country was never close to that. Never close to that.

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RELATED ARTICLE: Trump on a 2024 GOP primary vs. Ron DeSantis: 'I'd beat him like I would beat everyone else'

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SHAPIRO: Mr. Trump, it's not what I want. It's just the jobs created during your administration, I think that it's the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out it was something like 6.4 million jobs and during the Obama administration, it was 7 million jobs. But when I hear what you're saying about the need for perhaps you to run in 2024, what I'm hearing you say is that you are going to run. Are you?

TRUMP: No, I haven't said that. I said that if I do run, I think that I'll do extremely well and I'm looking not only at polls, I'm looking at the enthusiasm... We did a great job. Now when you say what you had just said, the economy as you know, was very bad when he took over. So, the economy wasn't terrible when I took over but it wasn't great. It was stagnant. It was slow. I guess it was the worst recovery since the Depression of 1930. So, that's not a very good job done by the previous administration. But I took over an economy and I made it into 160 million jobs. And it was really getting ready to rock. We would have rocked it but then, as you know, Covid came in from China.

SHAPIRO: You bring up China, a great many of our viewers here on the Yahoo Finance platform are into cryptocurrencies and the well-known bitcoin investor, Anthony Pompliano, was just on my program talking about China's crackdown on crypto. He says that's a big gain for the United States. You have a relationship with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. What do you think Xi Jinping is up to and is this crackdown on crypto good for the U.S.?

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RELATED ARTICLE: Crypto investors 'should be thanking China for this,' says Anthony Pompliano

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TRUMP: Well, I think he wants to do his own currency whether it's crypto or otherwise. And one of the reasons that we have to be very careful is that we have a currency right now, the dollar, and I'm a big fan of the dollar. I'm a big fan of our currency and I don't want to have other currencies coming out and hurting or demeaning the dollar in any way. And China's certainly not looking to back the dollar but right now they're based on the dollar and they would probably have to stay that way unless we do something very foolish in our country. I mean, the problem that I have with so much that has happened whether you look at the border, the horror show at the border, or the horror show of the Afghan withdrawal, is our country is losing credibility. And if you look at a monetary system based on the dollar, if you start losing credibility, all of a sudden you're going to lose that strong monetary system. And we have to be very careful about that.

SHAPIRO: Mr. Trump, there's one last question I want to ask you as we wrap and it's because I covered your administration for the first year and a half. I was in Washington and I remember that Steve Bannon lost your trust when he spoke to Michael Wolff for that book. And he left the administration. But he's re-earned your trust and I'm curious what he did to get back into your good graces and to get your trust.

TRUMP: Well, Steve didn't get along with certain people in the administration so I understand that. That happens and it happens with all administrations frankly. And for a period of time he just didn't do it. And I understand that. But if you look at Steve over the last three years, he sees what a great job we've done as an administration when you look at all of the things that I've enumerated plus many others. I mean, a thing like Right to Try where you can get medical treatment of something experimental if you're in a bad shape, if you're terminal.

SHAPIRO: But Mr. Bannon was advising you towards the end of your administration?

TRUMP: Excuse me?

SHAPIRO: Mr. Bannon was advising you towards the end of the administration?

TRUMP: No, not at all. No, I haven't spoken to Steve almost at all. No, he wasn't but I know that he's got a show that's very successful and people would tell me-

SHAPIRO: He says he does. So, is he lying when he says he was talking to you in the last months of your administration?

TRUMP: Very little. We would speak very little. Steve and I spoke very little. But I will tell you he was very supportive on his show which is a successful show and he was very supportive in the media as to the things that... No, we spoke very little, actually but he was extremely supportive.

SHAPIRO: Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States. Thank you so much for joining us on Yahoo Finance.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Adam.