Trump vows he 'will never do anything' to Social Security after Biden seized on 'cutting' comment

"We'll have to do it elsewhere," he said in a new interview.

March 14, 2024, 11:28 AM

Former President Donald Trump sought to make clear in a new interview that he will "never do anything that will jeopardize or hurt Social Security or Medicare" after rival Joe Biden seized on comments earlier this week in which Trump floated "cutting" related to the entitlement programs.

“I will never do anything that will jeopardize or hurt Social Security or Medicare,” Trump said in an interview with Breitbart News that was published on Thursday.

“We’ll have to do it elsewhere," he said. "But we’re not going to do anything to hurt them.”

Since an interview on Monday on CNBC where Trump appeared open to bigger changes to the programs, his campaign has aggressively pushed back -- arguing his words were taken out of context and distorted and they've been distributing past videos of Trump vowing to protect the entitlements.

President Biden's reelection campaign, which is in the early stages of a lengthy general election fight with Trump, has been highlighting the CNBC exchange this week.

The back and forth illustrates how both candidates see the issue of entitlements as politically potent.

"Have you changed your outlook on how to handle entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid? Mr. President, it seems like something has to be done or else we are going to be stuck at 120% of debt to [gross domestic product] forever," Kernan said to Trump in the original CNBC interview.

"So first of all, there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting -- and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements, tremendous bad management of entitlements," Trump replied.

"There's tremendous amounts of things and numbers of things you can do, so I don't necessarily agree with the statement," he said. "I know that they're going to end up weakening Social Security because the country is weak."

Trump echoed that point, more directly, when speaking with Breitbart.

"There’s so many things we can do," he said. "There’s so much cutting and so much waste in so many other areas, but I’ll never do anything to hurt Social Security."

PHOTO: Former President, Donald J. Trump speaks at the CPAC Conference in Washington, Mar. 4, 2023.
Former President, Donald J. Trump speaks at the CPAC Conference in Washington, Mar. 4, 2023.
Pacific Press/LightRocket via Ge

On social media, Trump's campaign has also attacked the Biden campaign for sharing snippets from Trump's CNBC answer rather than the longer exchange.

"If you losers didn't cut his answer short, you would know President Trump was talking about cutting waste," reads one post from a Trump campaign account.

Biden hit on the CNBC interview during a speech in New Hampshire on Monday to claim that Trump is "still at it" with threats to entitlement programs.

The White House weighed in on Trump's comments on Monday as well, saying they align with his budget proposals while he was president, despite Trump's claims of misrepresentation.

On the 2024 campaign trail, the former president promised to protect retirement programs while working to sink the campaigns of Republican challengers Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis, who both floated entitlement reforms as a way to reduce the national deficit.

"Cut waste, fraud and abuse everywhere that we can find it and there's plenty of it," Trump said in a video from January 2023. "But do not cut the benefits our seniors worked for and paid for their entire lives. Save Social Security, don't destroy it."

At a rally earlier this month in Richmond, Virginia, Trump contended it was Biden who would threaten the programs, telling supporters, "I will not let him destroy Social Security" and "I will not let him crash Medicare."

Congress will eventually need to act on Social Security, which 65 million Americans currently rely on, as it faces a long-term funding shortfall. But, so far, the parties can't agree on solutions, as lawmakers also remain engaged in long-term battles over government spending and the debt ceiling.

ABC News' Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.

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