In 1987, then-businessman Donald Trump told ABC News he had “zero political aspiration.” Thirty years later, he is president.
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Trump's views on running for office clearly changed. But 128 days into his presidency and just after his first foreign trip in office, three people who have covered Trump closely say not much else about him has changed.
ABC News’ Martha Raddatz sat down with two Trump biographers, Gwenda Blair and Tim O’Brien, and ABC News National Correspondent Tom Llamas, who covered Trump throughout the campaign. Blair is the author of “The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President." O’Brien is both the executive editor of Bloomberg View and the author of “Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald.”
Blair began researching Trump in the late 1980s. Asked by Raddatz how Trump has changed since then, she said, “Not a bit.”
“He is exactly the same guy. He was totally focused on what was in his self-interest then. He is totally focused on it now,” Blair said in the interview that aired Sunday on “This Week.”
“He’s 70 years old,” added Llamas, “and for the better part of his adult life, he’s never had a boss. He’s always been the boss, so he’s never had to listen to anybody… And right now, I don’t care how great a tactician, how brilliant a political scientist walks into the Oval Office, whatever they tell Donald Trump, he’s going to do what he wants.”
“He is his best spokesperson,” Llamas continued. “That's maybe the only part of his presidency so far that has hurt him is that he's had messengers come out, whether it be Sean Spicer or Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The best salesman for Donald Trump is Donald Trump.”
O’Brien disagreed slightly with Llamas. “I would depart from Tom on the notion of that -- that if they let Trump be Trump, that's the best thing to do because he's a good spokesman for himself. I think he's a good source of energy on the campaign trail. That's why he got so much attention,” said O’Brien. “He's this force of nature, and he's uninhibited. He's essentially Mr. id.”
The Trump Organization, now being managed by the president’s sons, Eric and Donald, Jr., has always been a family business. His presidency is, in a way, similar, said Llamas.
“I think that’s the only way he knows how to do business,” Llamas said. “I think he feels very comfortable with having a relative in there because I think he knows, at the end of the day, as loyal as some of his staffers are … blood is thicker than water.”
Raddatz noted that Trump “clearly admires” his eldest daughter, Ivanka, who has taken a formal position in her father’s administration.
“Clearly, he sees Ivanka as the heir to the Trump dynasty,” said Llamas. “I think he relies on her advice. I think he does think she’s very intelligent, very savvy, very smart.”
All three agree that President Trump will run for reelection in 2020. Llamas said he thinks Trump’s favorite part of being president is the campaigning because “it’s the closest he can be to a rock star.”
O’Brien said he thinks Trump would “like to be president for life” if he could. “I think he has no intention of going away. Reality, some investigation, the electorate -- all might intrude, but I don’t think he thinks about it that way.”
Blair agreed, saying, “He’s the most competitive guy who ever lived, and this is the biggest gold ring there is. He’s got it in his hand. Why would he let it go?”