President Donald Trump sat down for an interview with Forbes Magazine Editor Randall Lane and Chief Product Officer Lewis D’Vorkin in the Oval Office on Friday, October 6th. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks also sat in. This is the unedited transcript from the interview, which lasted 50 minutes.
Randall Lane: You’ve always talked about having fun as a key to business. Are you having fun?
Donald Trump: I am having fun. I’m enjoying it. We’re accomplishing a lot. Your stock market is at an all-time high. Your jobs, your unemployment is at the lowest point in almost 17 years. We have fantastic numbers coming out. And I think we’ll have, over the course of the next, fairly short period of time, and more importantly over a long period of time, we’re going to have great numbers coming out of our country.
Lewis D’Vorkin: What’s your personal thought?
Trump: I enjoy success. And we’re having tremendous success, as a country. We have some difficulties with respect to North Korea, the Middle East. I inherited– and I’ve said it often–I inherited a mess. The country was having many different problems. Among them, the Middle East, ISIS, which we’ve done more with respect to ISIS in nine months than we’ve done in nine years. But we have really done, we have done, I would say eight months in eight years, to be specific. But we have done a really, really good job with the military. We’re building up our military. We just had an over $700 billion budget, which will be approved. We’re, you know, there’s been few times where the military was more important than what it is right now. And, in addition to that, which is by far the overriding element, it’s lots of jobs in the United States. So, what the country is doing, we’re doing very well. And on an economic front, we’re doing very well.
Photo credit: Jamel Toppin for Forbes
Lane: Now that we’re almost a year from the big upset and the big win, do you think your business background prepared you for this job? And were you ready, now that you have a year in?
Trump: Well, I think it helped. It’s certainly a different kind of job than, really there is anywhere. Because you have so many skills necessary. But certainly the campaign was successful. What people don’t realize is that I spent much less money than Hillary Clinton. So right there, perhaps that’s business. You know, if you look at the numbers it’s astronomically different.
Trump: I don’t think anybody’s ever written that. You know, in the old days, if you spent less money and won, that was supposed to be a good thing. Today nobody talks about it. But I spent much less money and won. I think that’s–so we start off there–I think that was good. I also think that, yes, being in–just last night I had dinner with all of our generals and admirals, at the highest level. You probably saw that.
Lane: Yeah, I saw the picture right here. Yeah.
Trump: It was lovely. It was fantastic. But I talked about business. I said, “Your equipment is coming in too slowly and at too great a cost.” And I actually got involved in negotiating, as an example, the F-35 fighter with Lockheed. You may call Marillyn [Hewson], the head of Lockheed, who you know, I think.
Trump: And she’s a terrific person. But I developed a bidding system between Boeing and Lockheed. And I was able to reduce the price of the Lockheed by billions of dollars. By billions of dollars. And this took me, actually, a very small amount of time. And I read a story, and this when I was president-elect, had not come here yet. And I called the military. I said, “What’s the problem?” We met with the generals. I then met with Lockheed. I then–the generals were unable to get anything off the price. And in fact, they wanted to raise the price and claim extras. And I met with Marillyn [Hewson], from Lockheed. I then went and had a very frank discussion with her. I then met with Boeing, and I said, “Well, we’re going to come out with a competing plane.” And then went back to her. And I went back and forth. And the end result is billions and billions of dollars have been taken off the cost of the plane.
Lane: Well, again, you’re negotiating with them. You have obviously a lot of negotiation skills that you bring.
Trump: And that’s one thing. There are many, many things that I was too late into the game for the President Gerald Ford aircraft carrier. But it took too long to build, and it was way over budget. And you know, those things, we’re being much more conscious as a country about things such as that.
D’Vorkin: So you’ve had pain points in business, obviously.
Trump: Well, I don’t know.
D’Vorkin: If you–
Trump: Pain points?
D’Vorkin: In other words, obstacles that you have to overcome.
Trump: Oh, sure. You always have obstacles.
D’Vorkin: So, if you take away the politics of being president, and what you’re trying to do with the economy, what are the obstacles that you are finding that you necessarily didn’t find in your business life?
Trump: Well, you have Congress. That’s a big obstacle in many cases. You have, in some cases, well-meaning people in Congress that truly feel strongly about something. And I understand that and actually don’t mind that. And then of course you have grandstanders and others that want to try and make a point or want to do something that really isn’t necessarily in the best interests of the country. And those people I fight. And what people don’t know is that I’ve had just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that’s ever served. We had over 50 bills passed. I’m not talking about executive orders only, which are very important. I’m talking about bills. We’ve had a tremendous amount of legislation passed. Like VA accountability, which nobody could get passed. Meaning people are accountable now, because before you couldn’t do anything if you caught people who worked there doing very bad things. But many, many bills have been passed. And now we’re going for taxes. I will get health care. I’m one vote short of health care. I’ll get health care. And I think block-granting it back to the states is going to be a great thing to do. I think it’ll be great for the people. Smaller government, great for the people. They’ll be able to handle it better. But we’re one–
Lane: Are you talking about the Graham-Cassidy bill?
Trump: Yeah, I like it very much. I do. I like it. It’s block-granting. It’s granting the money back to the states.
Lane: Right, right.
Trump: And you have a smaller form of government that’s going to be able to do–if they do a proper job–that will be able to do. There are certain states where they are very well run. And I could name them. I could name certain states where they really–they will do miracles with that money, in terms of health care. It’ll be far better than it is. Because Obamacare has failed, badly. So I’m working on that now. But we actually, I would say, I either have the votes or I’m one vote short. And I believe we’ll get health care done sometime prior to the election.
Lane: With Obamacare, until you come up with something different, don’t you feel there’s a lot of things going on with Obamacare right now, where, don’t you feel you need, as CEO of America, an obligation to make it run as good as it can while it’s still the law of the land?
Trump: Well, that’s an interesting, that’s a very interesting question. It’s a failed concept. It’s thousands and thousands of pages. It’s been amended by additional thousands of pages. It’s a total mess. The premiums are going up, you know.
Lane: But while it’s still the law, don’t you think, you know, we’re cutting back on advertising, we’re shrinking the window of signing up, so–
Trump: Well, we’re actually, what we’re doing is trying to keep it afloat, because it’s failing. I mean the insurance companies are fleeing and have fled. They fled before I got here. But with that being said, no, Obamacare is Obama’s fault. It’s nobody else’s fault. In fact, if you go back to–
Lane: Yes, but now it’s your administration’s responsibility.
Trump: Yes. But I’ve always said Obamacare is Obama’s fault. It’s never going to be our fault. With that being said, I think the Democrats want to make a deal. At the same time, I think I have a deal with the Republicans. So I have the best of both worlds. That’s business to a certain extent–
Trump: –when you asked the business question. And as you have noticed, I’m very able to make deals with Democrats if I have to.
Lane: Who have you found so far are better deal-making partners, the Ryan-McConnell set or the Pelosi-Schumer set?
Trump: Well, the Republicans have something called the filibuster rule. Which is a disaster. And if they don’t get rid of that, it’s always going to be very tough for them. You know what that is.
Lane: Yes, well, of course.
Trump: The filibuster rule is–
Lane: It’s a disaster when you’re in the majority. It’s a friend when you’re in the minority.
Trump: Well, you need eight Democrat votes every time. I mean, they literally need eight Democratic votes. And, they keep it for the sake of history. But history is that, in 1789, when it all began, what it actually, when they started voting, it was 1789, the first votes, that was a simple majority. And we should go back to a simple majority. If we had the filibuster rule, if we had the 60 votes for Justice Gorsuch, he would not be sitting on the bench right now because for the judges that has been taken off. And part of my plan is that the Democrats would take it off in two minutes. And the Republicans–
Lane: Well, they didn’t when they had a majority.
Trump: Well, they were going to. Well, they did it for the judge. Don’t forget, 95 percent of that work was done before we got there. So I think the filibuster rule is very bad. At the same time, I think if we pass taxes, I think we’ll have health care and taxes before. I believe we’ll have a great infrastructure bill before, which is easiest of all of them. In fact, I think I’ll have more Democrat votes for infrastructure than I will Republican votes. And I also have another bill that I think will be very–an economic development bill, which I think will be fantastic. Which nobody knows about. Which you are hearing about for the first time. But I’m going to do that. But before–
Lane: What is that? What does that mean?
Trump: Economic development incentives for companies. Incentives for companies to be here. Incentives for companies to do things.
D’Vorkin: What kind of incentives?
Trump: And it’ll be a great bill. It’s something I’ve had. I just don’t want to do it before I do health care–
Lane: So business, like Carrier? Business incentives to create jobs, keep jobs?
Trump: So that when companies leave our country, they get penalized severely. So that when companies stay in our country, they’re incentivized. But there won’t be any more companies, and it’s really stuck. I hope you have seen–again, this is an interview where I am doing the talking, I guess–but I hope you’ve seen that companies are moving back into our country. You saw Toyota, five plants. Other companies, car companies are moving back into our country. They are expanding their plants.
Lane: So is it a carrot–
Trump: We have a lot of–
Lane: So is it a carrot to get companies to stay and/or grow? Or is it a stick that you penalize?
Trump: It’s both. It’s both. It’s both a carrot and a stick. It is an incentive to stay. But it is perhaps even more so–if you leave, it’s going to be very tough for you to think that you’re going to be able to sell your product back into our country.
Lane: How comfortable are you, as a businessperson, having the government involved in a business decision about where a company wants to locate? And where a company wants to put jobs.
Trump: Very comfortable, because there’s no tax if you stay. There’s no tax. We have to protect our companies. And if you looked at what’s happened, they’ve been ravaged by the stupidity of politics and, frankly, the stupidity of politicians. They’ve been ravaged. And we have to protect our companies. We have to protect our workers. And the only way you’re going to do that is you have to create rules. I mean, when you talk about, Randall, when you talk about fairness, do you think it’s fair that some countries charge us 100% tariff, or tax, to sell a product in their country? And yet the same product coming out of that country coming into our country comes into our country for no tax. See, that makes it unfair for our companies. And what I want to do is reciprocal. See, I think the concept of reciprocal is a very nice concept. If somebody is charging us 50 percent, we should charge them 50 percent. Right now they charge us 50 percent, and we charge them nothing. That doesn’t work with me.
Lane: You are also taking steps with the corporate tax rate. Which I think there’s a lot of consensus on that.