Stephanopoulos: At that time, you were also pro-choice. Now you say you’re against abortion. When did you change your mind on that?
Trump: I would say, you know, a while ago. Quite a while ago.
Trump: Because a number of cases, but in one particular case, I had a friend and I have a friend. And he would– did not want a child and his wife didn’t want a child. And they were going to abort. And they didn’t do it for very complicated reasons. And now they have the child. And it’s the apple of his eye. And he said, "Thank God." He changed also, by the way. "Thank God, I didn’t do it." And I’ve seen that, and I’ve seen other things. And I am pro-life.
Stephanopoulos: Now, Mitt Romney had a similar evolution on– on various issues, when he first ran for President four years ago. And boy did he face some tough flip-flop ads. And you can imagine–
Trump: Oh, I’m sure I will. But you know what they get with me? You know what they get with me? They get a guy that’s not going to left the world rip off the United States. The world is ripping us off. All of this talk about health care and everything else and the reason they’re trying to cut health care, which I hate having to do, to be honest with you. I hate it. Is because China’s going to make $300 billion, let’s call profit, this year off the United States. And steal a lot of our jobs. Our economy stinks. You know how you solve this whole problem? If the economy picks up. If all of these nations don’t just keep ripping us. It– it would be so wonderful if instead of– of gasoline costing $5 and $6 – watch what happens over the next few months. The gasoline is going through the roof. Forget about $4. $4 is going to be like cheap. It’s going through the roof. If we could get this economy going again, you wouldn’t have the deficits. You’d be able to handle it so easy.
Stephanopoulos: But a lot of people look at that and say, including the head of Club for Growth says that you’re call for tariffs on China will collapse the economy.
Trump: Well, I don’t know anything about the Club for Growth, but I can tell you if that’s his attitude then he’s not a very smart man. And the reason I say that is the following. China is going to make $300 billion this year, largely because our companies can’t compete, because they manipulate their currencies. Now, if he wants to continue to do business with a country that is taking our jobs, taking our money, and then loaning the money back to us so we pay interest to ‘em. And they do it through largely a manipulation of their currency. Then he’s a fool.
Stephanopoulos: Tell me about how you plan to handle this campaign. I know you say you’re going to make an announcement sometime in June. Before June.
Trump: No. I said sometime prior to June, yes.
Stephanopoulos: Before June.
Stephanopoulos: You’ll make an announcement of that announcement on your show Celebrity Apprentice. This morning in the New York Times, NBC officials still not taking this seriously, one executive in the entertainment division are saying, "That’s still Donald being Donald."
Trump: Well, they’re not happy about it. I have the number one show on NBC. The Apprentice, The Celebrity Apprentice. And they are not happy about it. And I’ll be honest with you, NBC wants to renew anything I want to do. They’ll do anything for me. Anything.
Stephanopoulos: They can’t do it if you’re running.
Trump: But they can’t do it if I’m running. And would they like me not to run? They would love me– selfishly, and that’s okay. They would love me not to run. Because I get a thing called ratings. And I have a very successful show. And not only is it successful, it’s the two hours. That’s a big, big slot for them to have to fill. So, the head of NBC and all of the people at NBC are working very, very hard on me. "Donald, we’ll give you anything. We’ll do anything you want to do. One year, two years, three years. Please, whatever you want to do." I will tell you this. It’s very hard. I’m not just like a normal guy that says, "Hey, gee, I’m going to run for President. I was a Governor, I was a Senator. I’m going to run for President." I give up a lot if I run. A thing like that, I also give up a lot of my free, private life. I have a great company. I’ve done a great job. Which if I run, you’ll see what a great job. Because I’ll do a full disclosure of finances.
Trump: We’ll look at that. Maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate. I may tie my tax returns. I’d love to give my tax returns. I may tie my tax returns into Obama’s birth certificate.
Stephanopoulos: All the candidates have released that in the past.
Trump: No, I don’t think they– I don’t think all–
Trump: –candidates do. But I think I may tie mine into his birth certificate. But I’ve built a great company. It’s a strong company. It’s an under-levered company. I’ve got a lot of cash and a tremendous net worth, far greater than even numbers that you’ve read. And if I decide to run–
Stephanopoulos: You took on Mitt Romney you said it was bigger than Mitt Romney’s.
Trump: Well, it’s many times bigger, but that’s nothing bad about him. By the way, I have respect for Mitt Romney. I don’t know him, but I have respect for him. The fact that my net worth is many, many, many times greater, I’m not knocking him. You know, it comes off like it’s a knock. It’s not a knock. I have respect for Mitt Romney.
Stephanopoulos: I actually solicited a lot of questions for you on Twitter and Facebook. And a lot came in about your businesses– and let– let me ask you a couple of them. Patricia Ferri of Providence, Rhode Island, "I would like to know where the furnishings in his hotels and resorts and the clothing and the other items he sells to support his empire are made. Are they made — "
Trump: Isn’t it sad? Isn’t it sad? I’ll tell you the answer. Much of it, unfor– and I– you’re not getting me. This isn’t like a trick question. Because frankly–
Stephanopoulos: No, it’s what people have on their minds.
Trump: I have said this every time I speak. When I go out to bid on furniture, on clothing, on lots– because I do uniforms and I have lots of people. I buy thousands of television sets as an example. I go out to bid. I say, "Is anything made in our country anymore?" I get the bids from China. Television sets, LG. I get the bids– thousands of television sets I’ve bought over the last couple of years. Many thousands. South Korea.
Stephanopoulos: But why not pay a little more to put people to work here?
Trump: And then we defend South Korea? Listen, George. And then we send the– the great aircraft carrier, George Washington, and destroyers to defend South Korea. They don’t pay us? They don’t pay us for it. We send all these ships, hundreds of millions of dollars to protect South Korea from North Korea. We have thou– you know, we have what? 20,000-25,000 soldiers over there. They don’t even pay us for this. What are we doing? What are we thinking? What are we thinking? So, this question. I go out all the time. I don’t need her question. Which I appreciate. It’s a good question. I say I can’t get bids from American companies because China manipulates their currency and they can’t compete with Chinese companies. I can’t get bids from television– for tele– I said, "Does anybody make–"
Stephanopoulos: You don’t get bids?
Trump: Excuse me. I said, "Does anybody make television in the United States?" You know what the answer was. We can’t find anybody. They’re all from China, from Japan, from South Korea. And I said to ‘em, because I bought thousands of them.
Stephanopoulos: We found some. They cost a little more. But we found some.
Trump: You found some? Where?
Stephanopoulos: In World News.
Trump: Where? Where did you find them? Some guy making two sets a year?
Stephanopoulos: I’d have to get it to you.
Trump: I order thousands of ‘em for hotels in Las Vegas and all over the place. Thousands. You can’t get ‘em. It’s pretty sad.
Stephanopoulos: Another question–
Trump: That’s the problem with this country.
Stephanopoulos: Robert Ramos, Corpus Christi, Texas. "Every President’s put his business assets, including investments into a blind trust. You have an extensive business empire. Would you agree today to put 100 percent of your business assets, including personal investments in a blind trust? "
Trump: Absolutely. I would do that.
Stephanopoulos: No question about that.
Trump: No, I would have– George, zero trouble doing that. Look, I’ve always made a lot of money. I’m– I’m very good at this kind of a thing. I’m also aesthetic. I mean, I have a taste that people seem to like. And that’s why I build a building and it’s good and it’s nice and everyone likes it. Okay?
Stephanopoulos: Would you renovate the White House?
Trump: No, I wouldn’t. Although I will tell you something. I called up the White House about a year ago. And I saw that they were having lots of functions for people like the President of China. He’s a con– you know, they rip us off all the time. Then we have functions, but regardless of that. But for heads of state. Heads of other countries. And I said, "Listen, every time I see a function, you put an old broken canvas tent, that they probably pay some guy, some local guy a fortune for. Guy’s probably became rich on the course of the tent." I said, "I will build you, free of charge, to a very high official at the White House, one of the great ballrooms of the world." I have, I think, the best ballroom in the United States at Mar-A-Lago I built it. It’s six years old. It’s gorgeous, okay? People are there all the time. Getting married and doing events. And I raise a lot of money for charity in the ballroom. It’s a very big ballroom. Holds– I mean, it could– it could hold 1,200-1,500 people. It’s a tremendous ballroom. 50-foot ceilings. So, I offered this person– I will build it. It’ll cost maybe $100 million. Anywhere from $50 to $100 million. I will give you a gift and what we’ll do is we’ll hire the top ten architects in the world, hopefully, the United States, but in the world. We’ll have a committee, a review committee set up. We’ll pick the one that everybody agrees, because it’s a little delicate. You know, it is the White House, after all. And we will build, instead of a tent, a canvas tent, which by the way is even dangerous. Instead of a canvas tent, we will build one of the great ballrooms of the world right in Washington, attached to the White House. And they said, "Wow, wow. That’s great." Guess what? I never heard from ‘em.
Stephanopoulos: This is true? This is a true story?
Trump: This is a true story.
Stephanopoulos: Someone at the White House.
Trump: I could tell you the person. Want me to tell you the person?
Trump: You want a big scoop?
Trump: David Axelrod.
Stephanopoulos: David Axelrod.
Trump: I called him up, never spoke to him before. Seemed like a very nice guy, I have to tell you.
Stephanopoulos: He is.
Trump: I said, "David, I noticed– it was during one of the functions. I noticed there was a tent. A very shabby looking tent on the White House grounds. I’m really good as a builder. I really have a certain aesthetic taste that seems to work. And I will build you, free of charge, for the White House, a contribution, a ball room that could cost anywhere from $50 to $100 million that can seat 1,500-1,600 people. Whatever the maximum size of your events are." Right now they can’t have big events, because the tent isn’t big enough, right? "I will build you a ballroom. And the ballroom will be magnificent. And it’ll be in keeping with the White House. And we’ll get the best architects and everything else. And I’ll spend anywhere from $50 to $100 million. I will put up the money. I don’t want one penny from the government. He said, "Wow. That’s interesting." I never heard from him. And that’s the problem with our country.
Stephanopoulos: Tamara Echols, Winchester, Tennessee. "If you run for the presidency is your wife prepared to take on the roll of a candidate’s wife and possibly the First Lady."
Trump: She is. She’d be fantastic. She’s very smart. Melania is very smart. I think that she would be an absolutely fantastic First Lady.
Stephanopoulos: And you’re ready for all the scrutiny? All the–
Stephanopoulos: –potential attacks that are going to come?
Trump: I’ve been public all my life. You know, unlike other people, I’ve really been public all my life. I’ve done a good job. I’ve built a great company. I have a company that’s highly under-levered. I mean, it’s magnificent. And people will probably, possibly get to see that very soon. Because again, if I run, I’m going to disclose all of this stuff. And they will be amazed at how big it is, how strong it is, how much cash there is. It’s a great company.
Stephanopoulos: There was one more question on that from Michael Swaile of Toledo,Ohio. He asked, "How would you defend any fiscal policy, considering you’ve had to declare bankruptcy numerous times?”
Trump: I never went bankrupt.
Stephanopoulos: Declared bankruptcy.
Trump: And it’s such– excuse me. I never went bankrupt. And let me just tell you. If you look at our great businesspeople today, Carl Icahn, Henry Kravis, (UNINTEL)– Leon Black of Apollo. All of them have done the same. They use and we use the laws of this country, the bankruptcy laws, because we’ll buy a company. We’ll have the company. We’ll throw it into a chapter. We’ll negotiate with the banks. We’ll make a fantastic deal. We’ll use those. But they were never personal. This is nothing personal. You know, it’s like on the Apprentice. It’s not personal. It’s just business. Okay? If you look at our greatest people, Carl Icahn with TWA and so many others. Leon Black, Linens-n-Things and others. Henry Kravis. A lot of ‘em, everybody. But with me it’s "Oh, you did–" this is a business thing. I’ve used the laws of this country to pare debt. In one case, with the casinos, which I don’t– which I haven’t even run for many years. But I did very well with the casinos, very well. But then what happened with Atlantic City was Philadelphia happened, lots of other places happened, Delaware and such. And what I did is reduce the debt from a billion eight to like $300 and some odd million, by using intelligently the laws of this country. Now, people could say, "Oh, gee, isn’t that terr–" I never declared– this is nothing to do with me, personally. This is just a business. I haven’t even run these things. I only owned a piece of them. I didn’t own the whole thing. I owned a piece of them. But if you look at our greatest businesspeople, most of them, in order to pare debt or change a company or change a structure, most of them and many of them and some– the best ones, and I name some of ‘em. I could name 25 more. Have used the laws to take a deal. I mean, as an example. I bought a house out of bankruptcy. A house– I bought it for $41 million. I sold it for $100 million a short time later. I paid $41, I sold it for $100. I bought it at a bankruptcy. The bankruptcy laws could be used to your advantage. I just did another thing. A big winery right next to Washington in Virginia. Just–
Stephanopoulos: Kluge winery.
Trump: Last week. The Kluge Estate. It’s a whole big mess. And it’s– I bought it. I used those laws to my advantage. But again, that’s a businessman. We have to have that kind of thinking in this country. But people say, "Oh–" these are stupid people that say this. "Oh, didn’t Trump declare bankruptcy? Didn’t he go bankrupt?" I didn’t go bankrupt. And by the way, Henry Kravis, Carl Icahn. Look at the people. Same thing.
Trump: And it’s called. You know what it’s called? It’s called negotiation.
Stephanopoulos: Ever since Michael Cohen started “Should Trump Run?” hundreds of thousands have gone to the site. You have come to the top of the polls. What do you think it’s about?
Trump: I think that people see me as somebody that loves the country. But maybe even more importantly will not let our great country be ripped off by so many others. Everybody is ripping us. And I think they see that. They think I’m a smart guy. They think I have done well in all of that. But maybe above all, they see a person that loves this country, is passionate about this country and will not let China and OPEC and these people take advantage of us any longer. I will tell you, if oil goes up any higher, this country will have a major, major economic collapse. We cannot afford it. We cannot allow it to happen. And I think they see me as a smart, tough guy. And I think issues that ten years ago or 15 years ago maybe would have played a bigger role. "Oh, gee, I wouldn’t vote for Donald, because he had a divorce." I think that I–
Stephanopoulos: Married three times. You don’t think that matters anymore?
Trump: I had two divorces. And they were very good women. And I always say about that– they were excellent women, terrific women. But you know what? I work so hard and so long that it’s almost unfair to women. But isn’t what this country wants– don’t– don’t you think the country wants somebody that works long and hard and smart, maybe above all smart. So, I think the reason I’m doing so well in all the polls, where I’m leading most of ‘em, is that they see me stopping this onslaught from other people taking advantage of the country. ‘Cause I’ll tell you something, if I run and if I win, people will not be ripping off the United States any longer.
Stephanopoulos: And you– and you seem to be raising a lot of defenses against what could come up in a Republican primary against past positions saying times have changed. This is what people are worried about.
Trump: Times have changed. You’re talking about 12 years ago. And 12 years ago, we had– we had at least the perception of a very strong country. Now we’re at all these wars. We’re spending $1.5 trillion, $1.5 trillion in Iraq. And what are we doing? We go in, we spend ten years, we fight, we lose thousands of lives, thousands and tens of thousands of wounded all over the streets of New York and every other city. And what do we do? We go in and then we leave. And you know what’s going to happen? As sure as you’re sitting there, George–
Stephanopoulos: So you’d stay?
Trump: Excuse me. George, let me explain something to you. We go into Iraq. We have spent thus far, $1.5 trillion. We could have rebuilt half of the United States. $1.5 trillion. And we’re going to then leave. So, in the old days, you know when you had a war, to the victor belong the spoils. You go in. You win the war and you take it. Now, we go in, we win the war, and then we leave. And then smart, mean haters of the United States take over. So, here’s what I say. And I’ve said it very loud and very strong. Iran is going to take over Iraq as soon as we leave. As sure as you’re sitting there. Without question. In fact, they’re already working. I don’t think they’ll have to fire a shot. Because I hear they get along better with the leaders of Iraq, if you call ‘em leaders, ‘cause we just sort of put them there. But they get along better with the leaders of Iraq than we do. Iran is going to take over. They may have to fire a couple of shots, because we’ve decapitated the Iraqi Army. But they’re really going to take over the second largest oil wells to Saudi Arabia in the world. $15 trillion worth of oil sitting under the lands of Iraq. Now, if Iran is going to take it over, and all of these soldiers, these brave soldiers will have then died in vain, we stay there and we take the oil. And we give some to Iraq. Oh, you haven’t heard this before? You haven’t heard this?
Stephanopoulos: How do you intend to pay for that? That would cost trillions of dollars. Hundreds of thousands of trillions—
Trump: Trillions, we’re already there.
Trump: Excuse me.
Stephanopoulos: It would take hundreds of thousands of troops to secure the oil fields–
Trump: Excuse me. No, it wouldn’t at all.
Stephanopoulos: It would unify the world against us.
Trump: George, they have no armies. They have nothing. Their armies have been decapitated by us. They can’t protect themselves. George, they used to fight Iran back and forth. Iraq/Iran for years, for years, for many, many years, just back and forth. Because they were basically of equal strength. While we went in and decapitated the armies of Iraq. We decapitated the army. So, they have no strength any more. Their armies are gone and corrupt, by the way.
Stephanopoulos: That would taken an open–
Trump: Excuse me.
Stephanopoulos: –ended military commitment.
Trump: And corrupt. Excuse me. Do you know how much money this country– this country needs money. This country. How would you feel–
Stephanopoulos: So, we steal an oil field?
Trump: Excuse me. You’re not stealing. Excuse me. You’re not stealing anything. You’re taking– we’re reimbursing ourselves– at least, at a minimum, and I say more. We’re taking back $1.5 trillion to reimburse ourselves. And we reimburse all of our allies. And we give every family a million or $2 million or $3 million who lost a son or a daughter. And all of the wounded that are all over the streets of all of the cities and all of the country. We give them money, which is peanuts compared to what you’re talking about the value is. We reimburse ourselves and we do it. And let me tell you. I made that statement a month ago. I’m surprised you haven’t heard it. I don’t know, you’re not doing your job, George. But I’ve made that statement. And I’ve been make– the loudest applause I get, even louder than "show your birth certificate," I will tell you, is when I say, "Iran is going to take over the oil wells. And that’s not going to happen on my watch. So, we’re going to keep ‘em." It’s the loudest applause. Now, I’m giving Iraq money. And we got– they have one– they have the– the second-largest oil wells, after Saudi Arabia, in the world. And a lot of people don’t even know that. We keep the oil. We distribute the money, to Iraq and others. We reimburse our partners. And we take care of all those families of those soldiers who were so brave.
Stephanopoulos: One– a couple– two final questions, number one–
Trump: And it’s amazing to me that nobody’s ever said it. You know, I said it and everyone said, "Gee, I’ve never even heard it."
Stephanopoulos: Well, I think it’s a pretty amazing proposal. And it’ll– it’ll certainly be debated–
Trump: But can I be honest with you? It– it amazes me that our politicians are so stupid that they’ve never even thought of it. I’ve made this– I made this statement about a month ago and politicians called me. They said, "Man, that’s a great idea." That’s the problem with a politician. They don’t even think that way. They don’t– they have no thought process.
Stephanopoulos: Well, it’d be—
Trump: But I’m not talking about as a business deal. Let me just say, I’m not talking about as a business deal. I’m– I’m thinking more– and not even the money that we lost in Iraq. I’m thinking about this. I’m thinking about all those soldiers that died. Think of it. All those soldiers that died. Then we leave in 14 months or in two years, we have nobody there, and Iran just goes in and takes over those fields. They would have died in vain. And I won’t let that happen.
Stephanopoulos: What’s your decision going to hinge on? What determines whether you’re in or out?
Trump: Well, I’m making that decision right now. And as you know NBC’s putting tremendous pressure on me not to do this, but obviously, that’s trivial compared to what I’m talking about. I mean, I– I love this country. This country is being run horribly. We’re a laughing stock all over the world. I will make a decision sometime prior to June and hopefully you’ll be there.
Stephanopoulos: And to those who say this is a ploy to increase ratings of Celebrity Apprentice?
Trump: I say my ratings are great. And I think you know that. You’re in the business.
Stephanopoulos: Two final questions that I said. Number one, what do you say to Republicans who look at your past positions, look at your flirtation with the Reform Party in the past, look at your– you said it– it just a couple weeks ago that you’ve considered an Independent run, if you didn’t get the Republican nomination. And they look at that and say, "How can we trust you as a good Republican?"
Trump: Very fair question. Just so you understand. The Reform Party, years ago, want– many people have wanted me to run for Governor or Senator, everything. But I love what I’m doing. Years ago, around 2000, the Reform Party so wanted me to run for President. I thought about it, briefly, you may have remembered.
Stephanopoulos: I remember.
Trump: I thought about it briefly. And I decided, intelligently, not to do it. And it turned out to be a good decision, because the Reform Party, you know, sort of exploded. But I decided not to do it. So, I didn’t run. And I never thought about it — certainly not like I’m doing now. I mean, you know, if I did a couple of interviews or something and I was thinking about it very briefly. The Independent situation’s very interesting, because a poll came out and said I would– I might win as an Independent. The problem with running as an Independent is that if I don’t win, it assures Barack Obama gets back in as President. Because I’m a very conservative guy. And I would I think take 99.9 percent of the votes away from the Republican Party, which I don’t want to do. So, unless I could be virtually assured of winning as an Independent, if I didn’t get the Republican nomination, I wouldn’t even think about doing that. Because, you know, unlike there are certain candidates, they could be Republicans and they could take a lot away from both sides or whatever, you understand. I would take exclusively, unfortunately, from the Republicans. So, unless I could be assured of winning, I would never do it, because I’d absolutely give a free pass to Barack Obama. And we can’t have four more years of this guy running this country.
Stephanopoulos: Final question comes from Ellen Killinger of Spring, Texas. "What’s the one thing in your life you’d like to do over?"
Trump: Well, a lot of people ask me a question, "If you had it to do again, what would you do?" And I always give the same answer. I consider life– because it’s– it’s a question that you can’t do anything about. And I’m a realist. The main thing I want to do, everybody makes mistakes, we all mistakes, you’ve had ‘em, I’ve had ‘em, we’ve all had ‘em. The key is you have to learn from your mistakes. So, it doesn’t happen again. So, I don’t want to do anything over. I’ve had a great life. I’ve had an amazing life. I’ve really enjoyed my life. I have great kids, great family. But I really just say one thing about all of that, there’s no mak-up but you have to learn from whatever it is. Both the victories and the mistakes. You have to learn from it. So, in the case of a mistake, it doesn’t ever happen again.
Stephanopoulos: Odds you run?
Trump: Well, I don’t want to say odds. I don’t want to put myself in that position I don’t want to put you in that position. But I will tell you, I love this country. I hate what’s happening to it and you may very well be surprised.
Stephanopoulos: Thanks for your time.
Trump: Thank you.
This interview took place on April 18, 2011. The transcript has been edited for clarity.