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Interview: Lester Holt of NBC News Interviews Donald Trump at The White House - May 11, 2017

  • Donald Trump
    Person
  • Lester Holt
    Person
Unknown

Donald Trump

Very Negative
00:00:00-00:00:18 (18 sec)
Look, he's a showboat. He's a grandstander. The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil. Less than a year ago. It hasn't recovered from that. 1

Lester Holt

Very Negative
00:00:18-00:00:24 (6 sec)
Monday, you met with the Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein. Did you ask for a recommendation? 2

Donald Trump

Somewhat Negative
00:00:24-00:00:29 (5 sec)
What I did is, was I going to fire [James] Comey. My decision. It was not... 3

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:00:29-00:00:31 (2 sec)
You had made the decision before they came over... 4

Donald Trump

Leans Negative
00:00:31-00:00:34 (3 sec)
I... I was going to fire Comey. There is no good time to do it by the way. They... 5

Lester Holt

Slightly Positive
00:00:34-00:00:39 (5 sec)
Because in your letter you said I... I accepted... I accepted their recommendation. So, you had already made the decision. 6

Donald Trump

Somewhat Negative
00:00:39-00:00:43 (4 sec)
Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation. 7

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:00:43-00:00:44 (1 sec)
So there [inaudible] 8

Donald Trump

Very Positive
00:00:44-00:01:31 (47 sec)
He made a recommendation He is highly respected. Very good guy. Very smart guy. The Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats having lost an election that they should have won. And the reason they should have won it is, the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win. Very hard. Because you start off at such a disadvantage. So, everybody was thinking they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election. 9

Lester Holt

Very Negative
00:01:31-00:01:35 (4 sec)
Are you angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation? 10

Donald Trump

Very Positive
00:01:35-00:01:43 (8 sec)
I just want somebody that's competent. I am a big fan of the FBI. I love the FBI. I love the people of the FBI. but when you have a land of people taking on that investigation I think that. 11

Lester Holt

Somewhat Positive
00:01:43-00:01:44 (1 sec)
But were you a fan of him taking up that investigation? 12

Donald Trump

Unknown
00:01:44-00:01:46 (2 sec)
I think that... about the Hillary Clinton investigation? 13

Lester Holt

Slightly Negative
00:01:46-00:01:49 (3 sec)
No, about the Russia investigation and possible links between... 14

Donald Trump

Very Negative
00:01:49-00:02:22 (33 sec)
No, I don't care... look, look, let me tell you. As far as I'm concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly. When I did this now, I said I probably maybe, will confuse people. Maybe I'll expand that, you know, I'll lengthen the time because... it should be over with, it should... in my opinion, it should have been over with a long time ago, because all it is, is an excuse, But, I said to myself I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He's the wrong man for that position. [Break] 15

Lester Holt

Positive
00:02:22-00:02:31 (9 sec)
Let me ask you about your termination letter to Mr. Comey. You write: I greatly appreciate you informing me on three separate occasions and I am not under investigation. Why did you put that in there? 16

Donald Trump

Unknown
00:02:31-00:02:33 (2 sec)
Because he told me that. I mean, he told me... 17

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:02:33-00:02:37 (4 sec)
He told you you weren't under investigation with regard to the Russia investigation? 18

Donald Trump

Slightly Positive
00:02:37-00:02:39 (2 sec)
Yeah, and I've heard that, I've heard that from others. 19

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:02:39-00:02:40 (1 sec)
Was it in a phone call? Did you meet face to face? 20

Donald Trump

Positive
00:02:40-00:02:46 (6 sec)
I had a dinner with him. He wanted to have dinner, because he wanted to stay on. We had a very nice dinner at the White House very early on. 21

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:02:46-00:02:47 (1 sec)
He asked for that? 22

Donald Trump

Positive
00:02:47-00:03:02 (15 sec)
That dinner was arranged. I think he asked for the dinner. And he wanted to stay on as the FBI head. And I said, I would, you know, consider will see what happens. But we had a very nice dinner. And at that time, he told me you are not under investigation, which I knew anyway. 23

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:03:02-00:03:04 (2 sec)
That was one meeting. What were the other two? 24

Donald Trump

Somewhat Positive
00:03:04-00:03:14 (10 sec)
First of all, when you are under investigation, you're giving all sorts of documents and everything. I knew I wasn't under... And I heard it was stated at the committee, at some committee level that I wasn't. Number one. 25

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:03:14-00:03:15 (1 sec)
So that didn't come directly from him. 26

Donald Trump

Unknown
00:03:15-00:03:23 (8 sec)
Then during the phone call, he said it, and then doing another phone call he said it. So, he said it once at dinner, and then he said it twice doing phone calls. 27

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:03:23-00:03:24 (1 sec)
Did... did you call him? 28

Donald Trump

Unknown
00:03:24-00:03:27 (3 sec)
In one case, I called him. In one case, he called me. 29

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:03:27-00:03:29 (2 sec)
And did you ask am I under under investigation? 30

Donald Trump

Positive
00:03:29-00:03:39 (10 sec)
I actually asked him, yes. I said, if it's possible, would you let me know if I am under investigation? He said you are not under investigation. 31

Lester Holt

Positive
00:03:39-00:03:49 (10 sec)
But he's... he's given sworn testimony that there is an ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign, and possible collusion with the Russian government. You were the centerpiece of the Trump campaign. Is he being truthful when he says you're not under investigation? 32

Donald Trump

Positive
00:03:49-00:03:59 (10 sec)
Well, all I can tell you is... all, well, I know.. I know that I'm not under investigation, me personally. I'm not talking about campaigns. I'm not talking about anything else. I'm not under investigation 33

Lester Holt

Slightly Negative
00:03:59-00:04:02 (3 sec)
Did you ask him to drop the investigation? 34

Donald Trump

Slightly Negative
00:04:02-00:04:03 (1 sec)
No, never. 35

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:04:03-00:04:04 (1 sec)
Did anyone from the White House... 36

Donald Trump

Slightly Negative
00:04:04-00:04:06 (2 sec)
No, in fact I want the investigation speeded up. 37

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:04:06-00:04:08 (2 sec)
Did anyone from the White House ask him to end the investigation? 38

Donald Trump

Very Negative
00:04:08-00:04:09 (1 sec)
No, no, why would we do that? 39

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:04:09-00:04:11 (2 sec)
Any surrogates on behalf of the White House? 40

Donald Trump

Very Positive
00:04:11-00:04:54 (43 sec)
Not that I know of. Look, I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia, or by the way any, but... anybody else. Any other country. And, I want that to be so strong and so good. And, I want it to happen. I also want to have a really competent, capable director. He's not. He's a showboater. He's not my man, or not my man, and I didn't appoint him. He was appointed long before me. But I want somebody who's going to do a great job, and I will tell you, we're looking at candidates right now who could be spectacular and that's what I want for the FBI. 41

Lester Holt

Leans Positive
00:04:54-00:05:05 (11 sec)
What you said a moment ago about supporting the idea of investigation a lot of people would find it hard to believe that the man who just said that tweeted very recently it's a total hoax. It's a taxpayer charade. 42

Donald Trump

Slightly Negative
00:05:05-00:05:28 (23 sec)
Oh, I think that looking into me and, the campaign...look, I have nothing to do. This was set up by the Democrats. There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians. The other thing is the Russians did not affect the vote. And everybody seems to think that. 43

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:05:28-00:05:31 (3 sec)
There is an investigation under way though, an FBI investigation. Is that a charade? 44

Donald Trump

Slightly Positive
00:05:31-00:05:39 (8 sec)
Well, I don't know if it's an FBI, or if it's, there's so many investigations. I don't know if it's an FBI investigation or if it's a Congress, if it's the Senate, or the House... 45

Lester Holt

Slightly Positive
00:05:39-00:05:41 (2 sec)
Well, James Comey testified there was an an FBI investigation. 46

Donald Trump

Very Positive
00:05:41-00:05:52 (11 sec)
Yeah, but I think they're also helping the House and the Senate. So, you probably have FB.. FBI, but you have House, you have Senate. They have other investigations. 47

Lester Holt

Slightly Negative
00:05:52-00:05:59 (7 sec)
But when you put out tweets it's a total hoax, it's a taxpayer charade, and you're looking for a new FBI director, are you not sending that person a message to lay off? 48

Donald Trump

Very Negative
00:05:59-00:06:13 (14 sec)
No. I'm not doing that. I think that we have to get back to work, but I want to find out... I want to get to the bottom. If Russia hacked, if Russia did anything having to do with our election, 49

Lester Holt

Very Positive
00:06:13-00:06:18 (5 sec)
Well, there's already, already intelligence from virtually every intelligence agency that yes, that happened. 50

Donald Trump

Leans Negative
00:06:18-00:06:32 (14 sec)
I'll tell you this. If Russia or anybody else is trying to interfere with our elections, I think it's a horrible thing, and I want to get to the bottom of it, and I want to make sure it will never ever happen. 51

Lester Holt

Very Negative
00:06:32-00:06:43 (11 sec)
Were angry with James Comey when he went public and said he can't support your unsubstantiated charges of wire tapping... that your your predecessor wiretapped you? 52

Donald Trump

Positive
00:06:43-00:07:01 (18 sec)
I was surprised he said it but I wasn't angry. There's a big thing going on right now which is spying, and it's.... you can call it anything you want. The, the unmasking, and the spying, and to me, that's the big story right now. That's a very very big story. 53

Lester Holt

Somewhat Negative
00:07:01-00:07:04 (3 sec)
You didn't take that as a sign of disloyalty that came out and contradicted you? 54

Donald Trump

Positive
00:07:04-00:07:09 (5 sec)
No, I didn't... I didn't. I don't think of it is loyalty. I mean, I want, whoever the director is, I want them to do the right thing. 55

Lester Holt

Very Negative
00:07:09-00:07:19 (10 sec)
And what about when he went public and said that there was in fact an FBI investigation looking at your campaign and Russia. Did that anger you? I ask that because there's... there is a sense that there was a building anger here. 56

Donald Trump

Very Negative
00:07:19-00:07:39 (20 sec)
Well, you know, I have that. I have that. No, no, no. I.. I know, every once in a while you'll see that in the newspaper, anger, somebody will report, or they'll have fall sources that maybe don't exist, because of the media, the way the media is. No, I will tell you I think that, um, I want, very simply a great FBI director. 57

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:07:39-00:07:43 (4 sec)
And we expect that they would would continue on with this investigation? 58

Donald Trump

Very Positive
00:07:43-00:07:44 (1 sec)
Oh yeah sure, I expect that. 59

Lester Holt

Very Negative
00:07:44-00:08:07 (23 sec)
General Flynn is a part of his investigation. You know, Sally Yates recently testified that the White House was notified that he had been compromised, he was at risk of being blackmailed. It was eighteen days later that he was finally fired. During that eighteen days he had access, I assume, to all the nation's top secrets. One day, you meet on the issue of Comey... 60

Donald Trump

Unknown
00:08:07-00:08:07 ( sec)
Right. 61

Lester Holt

Very Negative
00:08:07-00:08:12 (5 sec)
...and you fire in a humiliating way while he's sitting in a room with his colleagues and it's appearing on the TV. 62

Donald Trump

Leans Negative
00:08:12-00:08:45 (33 sec)
Cause my White House Counsel Don McGahn, came back to me, and did not sound like an emergency of any... it didn't make it sound like he was, you know... and she actually didn't make it sound that way either, in the hearings the other day, like it had to be done immediately. This man has served for many years. He's a general. He's a, in my opinion, a very good person. I believe that it would be very unfair to hear from somebody who we don't even know and immediately run out and fire a general. Now... 63

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:08:45-00:08:47 (2 sec)
She was the acting Attorney General at the time. 64

Donald Trump

Very Negative
00:08:47-00:08:59 (12 sec)
Uh, my White House counsel came to me. They had, I believe two meetings. And we ultimately fired, but was fired for a different reason. 65

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:08:59-00:09:00 (1 sec)
You're talking about General Flynn. 66

Donald Trump

Positive
00:09:00-00:09:01 (1 sec)
General Flynn, yes. 67

Lester Holt

Very Negative
00:09:01-00:09:03 (2 sec)
Because of, because of lying to the Vice President. 68

Donald Trump

Neutral
00:09:03-00:09:13 (10 sec)
Yeah, but everything plays in. Everything plays into it. But we fired him because he said something to the vice president that was not so. 69

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:09:13-00:09:18 (5 sec)
Did you know that he had had that received payments from the Russian government, that he had received payments from the Turkish government? 70

Donald Trump

Very Negative
00:09:18-00:09:44 (26 sec)
No, no but Obama perhaps knew because he had clearance from the Obama administration. And his clearance... and, and this is something they never want to report. He had clearance from the Obama administration, the highest clearance you can have. And, I think it's a very unfair thing that the media doesn't talk about that. You know you're talking about 2015. I don't know that I knew him in 2015. 71

Lester Holt

Very Positive
00:09:44-00:09:53 (9 sec)
The Senate intelligence committee wants, wants info... information from the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Unit about your finances, your business' finances. 72

Donald Trump

Slightly Positive
00:09:53-00:09:54 (1 sec)
Yeah. 73

Lester Holt

Slightly Positive
00:09:54-00:10:02 (8 sec)
Can you tell us whether you, your family, your business is... your surrogates have accepted any investments, any loans from Russian individual or institutions? 74

Donald Trump

Very Positive
00:10:02-00:11:04 (62 sec)
Yeah, in fact I just sent a letter sent to Lindsey Graham from one of the most prestigious law firms. in the country, a tremendous, highly-rated law firm that I have nothing to do with Russia. I have no investments in Russia. None whatsoever. I don't have property in Russia. A lot of people thought I owned office buildings in Moscow. I don't have property in Russia. And I am in very... I'm, I mean... I'm in total compliance in every way. Now I have to tell you, I file documents, hundreds of pages worth of documents, with the Federal Elections Bureau. Everybody's seen that. I built a great company. But I'm not involved with Russia. I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian, many years ago. I had the Miss Universe pageant, which I owned for quite a while, I had it in Moscow, long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia. 75

Lester Holt

Unknown
00:11:04-00:11:07 (3 sec)
And one last a question on this matter, did you ever... 76

Donald Trump

Very Negative
00:11:07-00:11:26 (19 sec)
And I have a certified letter, just so you understand. It... I'm not just saying that. I've given the letter. I've given a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham. He has the letter, and I think frankly... I assume he's going to give the letter out. But it says, I am not involved in Russia. No loans. No nothing. 77

Lester Holt

Very Negative
00:11:26-00:11:37 (11 sec)
Did you worry at all when you made the decision to fire Comey when you did, the day before Lavrov was here in the White House, and the Russian ambassador. Did you think through the optics of the way this would look? 78

Donald Trump

Very Positive
00:11:37-00:13:00 (83 sec)
I never thought about. It was set up a while ago. And frankly I could have waited but, what difference does it make? I'm not looking for cosmetics. I'm looking to do a great job for the country. I'm looking to create jobs. I'm looking to create strength and security. I'm looking to have strong borders. I'm looking for things like that. I think it's really a good thing that I meet with people. Now, this is a public meeting, because you know, when you cover this, the people watching may say, oh he met with Lavrov. Well, this was announced that I'm meeting with Lavrov, just like the number of days ago I spoke... had a very good conversation, very public in the sense that everybody knew this was taking place. I meet, I... I talk all the time. I just spoke, with the head of, the new head of South Korea, who just got elected. I speak with the head of India. I speak with the head of China. I have to speak with Putin also. It's called Russia. But when I spoke with Putin, he asked me whether or not I would see Lavrov. Now what, should show I say, no I'm not going to see him? I said I will see him. During that discussion with Lavrov, I think we had a great discussion having to do with Syria, having to do with the Ukraine, and maybe that discussion will lead to a lot less people getting killed, and will lead ultimately to peace, so I'm... I'm okay with those discussions Lester, I think it's a good thing, not a bad thing. 79