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Transcript: Donald Trump announces plans to form presidential exploratory committee

October 8, 1999
Web posted at: 5:55 p.m. EDT (2155 GMT)

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Donald Trump. Need we say more? Next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

Our guest tonight for the full hour is Donald Trump. The program was taped earlier today for broadcast tonight so that Mr. Trump could be at a big dinner tonight with Jesse Ventura.

DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER: With Jesse, that's right.

KING: Is he the guy that started all this for you?

TRUMP: Well, I guess the polls started it. The polls came out, and they said if I ran, I'd do very well.

Gallup Poll:Trump enters presidential fray with unfavorable image and low poll positioning

KING: Why were you even mentioned in the polls, though, since you never...

TRUMP: I don't know, I just don't even know. I mean, they put people's name -- they put various celebrities' names in, and I did very well in polls, and, all of a sudden, people started calling. One of the people is Jesse, who I've known for a longtime, who's a terrific guy, a real character and a real smart guy. And Jesse called, and they all called, and tonight I'm having dinner with Jesse, which a look forward to.

KING: Is this the first time since all this started that you'll be together?

TRUMP: This is really the first time. We've spoken, but this is the first time we'll be together.

KING: Has he tantamount to ask you to run?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say that. I mean, you would really have to ask Jesse.

KING: What has he said?

TRUMP: But we have a very, very great relationship. He wrestled at one of my places quite a while ago.

KING: Is that where it started?

TRUMP: And I will tell you, he's definitely the strongest governor in the history of the world because he was able to lift 350 pound men over his shoulders and drop them into the fourth row, and very few people can do that.

But he's really a bright guy, and I just like him. I've always liked him.

KING: Disappointed in the "Playboy" interview?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know if I believe the "Playboy" interview. You know, I got myself in trouble with a "Playboy" interview...

KING: They misquoted you?

TRUMP: Well, they take things a little bit out of context, and I had a real problem with them, and I think maybe some of that happened with Jesse, too.

KING: Because he said what he meant was that he didn't mean it as criticism to say people are weak minded if they go to church or if they lean on God. He meant it as a kind of feeling badly for them.

TRUMP: Well, look, he's an extraordinary guy. He's done an extraordinary job. I really think it was taken out of context from what I've understood, and he will be absolutely fine, there's no doubt about that.

KING: In other words, he'll go up again as a popular governor.

TRUMP: He's going to be a -- I mean, he's already up. I mean, his ratings went from 78 down to 55, 55 isn't so bad, right? And he'll be right back up.

KING: Now, let's touch a lot of bases. The first thing we keep hearing is you're going to announce in January, right? Or make some sort of decision by January.

TRUMP: Well, I'm going to announce whether or not I decide to run or whatever, and I have...

KING: What are you doing to make that?

TRUMP: I mean, all that's happening now, is people are coming out with polls. It was so interesting, the one sort of negative polls I had was on "Newsweek," and the put me on the cover. So I said: How can you write a poll -- how could you do a poll like this, and I'm on the cover of "Newsweek"? And, you know, it was just one of those things, but the polls have been unbelievable.

So I am going to form a presidential exploratory committee, I might as well announce that on your show, everyone else does, but I'll be forming that and effective, I believe, tomorrow. And we'll see. I mean, we're going to take a very good, strong look at it.

KING: Well, that's pretty -- most people who form exploratory committees, that's that major step toward going.

TRUMP: Well, it's a step.

KING: Can you say it is a major step.

TRUMP: I don't think I can say it's a major step, I'm looking at it very seriously. I have a lot to lose, Larry. I mean, I'm the biggest developer in New York by far. I'm doing more, as you know from being here a lot, I'm doing more than any -- I'm building 90- story buildings all over the place. And we're just doing a lot, and we're doing great. I mean, the city is the hottest city, and I'm the biggest developer in the hottest city in the world right now.

Other guys, you know, they run. Pat Buchanan, what is he -- you know, he's not giving up anything. What's he doing? And politicians, when they run, they run from one office to another, it's the same thing. They, you know, answer different calls. I'm giving up a lot if I decide to run. So we're going to look at it. We're going to explore it. We're doing the committee, and we'll see how it comes out.

KING: And the committee is going to look into all areas, talk to people...

TRUMP: All areas.

KING: ... financing?

TRUMP: But really, really the big thing they're going to look in -- as -- is: Can you win? Can a Reform Party candidate win? Because I believe I could get the Reform Party nomination. I don't even think it would be that tough. It's going to be Buchanan, and I think Buchanan just blew himself out with the book and his love affair with Adolf Hitler. I mean, you know, how he said this is beyond believe.

But I really want to see, if you get that nomination, what happens from there? If I couldn't win, if I felt I couldn't win, I wouldn't run. I absolutely would not run. I'm not looking to get more votes than any other independent candidate in history, I'd want to win. So we'll see. And we're doing...

KING: So this exploratory committee we announce tonight starts tomorrow?

TRUMP: That will start tomorrow.

KING: And the decision by some time in January?

TRUMP: Sometime January or February, early part of February.

KING: Two, three months in there, right?

TRUMP: I would say about that, yes, Larry.

KING: OK. Are you excited? TRUMP: Well, I've never been inundated. You know, I've been somebody that, for better or worse, has always gotten a lot of press. I mean, I go back to the office after lunch or after an interview like this, which is an hour, and I'll have 40, 50, 60 calls from the biggest people in media wanting to do interviews. And, you know, in the meantime, I'm running a very big business. And to run it well, you what to be running it, you what to be there. So I could do this all day long, but I just don't chose to do it.

KING: Now, let's get into some things. The Reform Party, by its name, means reform. You will be leaving, if you run this -- you believe in, what, the Republican Party I believe?

TRUMP: I'm a registered Republican. I'm a pretty conservative guy. I'm somewhat liberal on social issues, especially health care, et cetera, but I'd be leaving another party, and I've been close to that party.

KING: Why would you leave the Republican Party?

TRUMP: I think that nobody is really hitting it right. The Democrats are too far left. I mean, Bill Bradley, this is seriously left; he's trying to come a little more center, but he's seriously left. The Republicans are too far right. And I don't think anybody's hitting the cord, not the cord that I want hear, and not the cord that other people want to hear, and I've seen it.

Plus, I think there's a great lack of spirit in this country. You know, what happened over the last four years is disgusting, and I just think there's a tremendous lack of spirit, and I think the spirit has to be brought back.

KING: And it will come through a third party?

TRUMP: Well, I think maybe we have no choice, and I think that the third party and the Reform Party has done an amazing job, but it's a new party. It's very, very tough to get elected from the Reform Party, we know that, but it's a possibility, and we're going to look into it.

KING: Do you give credit to Ross Perot in that area?

TRUMP: I give him a lot of credit. I think he'll go down -- his legacy, really, will be the Reform Party much more so than, you know, we make money; he makes money, I make money, we make a lot of money. But the legacy that he's created, the Reform Party, is a great tribute to him, and I think he'll go down, and I think he'll be given great credit for it.

KING: Pat Buchanan said he agreed with Warren Beatty. I wonder if you do. Warren Beatty said: "We don't have a three-party system, we have a one-party system. We need a second party." Do you agree with that?

TRUMP: Well, I don't think so. I think that...

KING: You don't think that the Republicans and Democrats are alike?

TRUMP: I don't think so. I think that their views are different, somewhat different, but they're maybe almost too divergent. If you really know the real Bill Bradley or the real Gore, you're really talking about a very, very liberal cast of characters. And I think that the Republicans are more conservative.

KING: Is George W. Bush real conservative?

TRUMP: I think he's getting toward the middle. I think he's done a good job in sort of distancing himself from some of the radical views in the party, and I think he's doing all right.

KING: You've been an activist Republican, haven't you? I mean, you support candidates...

TRUMP: I've actually been an activist Democrat and Republican. I support almost equally -- I really support people. I support people like Senator Torricelli, who's fantastic, from New Jersey. And I support, on the other hand, Rudy Giuliani, who's been the best mayor in the history of the city of New York; or George Pataki, who's been just a terrific governor and a great guy. You know, they -- I just support people...

KING: So it's the person?

TRUMP: I really go for the people rather than the party.

KING: Donald Trump, announcing tonight the formation tomorrow of a committee to look into the possibility of his running for the presidency of the United States. We'll be back with lots more, don't go away.


KING: We're back with Donald Trump. We're going to be all over the board tonight talking about lots of issues as he announces the formation of exploratory committee to possibly seek the candidacy of the Reform Party.

Do have a vice presidential candidate in mind?

TRUMP: Well, I really haven't gotten quite there yet.

KING: It's just, you know...

TRUMP: Oprah, I love Oprah. Oprah would always be my first choice.

KING: Oprah?

TRUMP: Oprah. Your competitor, right?

KING: No. Oprah is a competitor to no one.

TRUMP: You know what? I tell you, she's really a great woman, though. She is a terrific woman. She is somebody that is very special.

I have not even thought about it. I guess we'll see, we'll see. Maybe that's part of the whole process.

KING: Would she be someone -- I mean, kidding aside, that you might think about?

TRUMP: If she'd do it, she'd be fantastic. I mean, she's popular, she's brilliant, she's a wonderful woman. I mean, if she would ever do it. I don't know that she would ever do it. She's got, you know...

KING: You would ask her.

TRUMP: She would be sort of like me. I mean, I have a lot of things going, she's got a lot of things going, in terms of...

KING: What a ticket that would be.

TRUMP: That would be a pretty good ticket. But she's a very exceptional woman.

KING: What makes a good president?

TRUMP: Well, I think the leadership qualities. You know, the sad part about President Clinton, who I happen to like a lot, but he could have had a great presidency if the whole thing with Monica and Paula Jones and the worst of all is, you know, Linda Tripp. I mean, this woman, where she came from I have no idea, but this is the woman from hell.

KING: But he didn't have anything to do with Linda Tripp.

TRUMP: No, no, he didn't but she always seems to surface. And she's just became a part of the administration.

KING: But can't you'd say in all honesty, as Reagan asked, when running against Carter: Haven't you done better the last -- under Clinton -- you, Donald Trump, would you say you've done a lot better?

TRUMP: Well, you know what, the truth is that Rubin and Alan Greenspan and, you know, those appointments that he was making.

KING: It's on his watch.

TRUMP: And it is on his watch. And the sad part is, and what I'm saying is, is that he could of gone down as a really very good and maybe even a great president.

KING: So, you will admit you have done well and the country's done well?

TRUMP: I have done well and the country has done well from an economic standpoint, there's no question about that. And now you're going to see what happens over the next period of a year. Because, you know, when the election takes place, if things aren't doing well Larry, your Reform Party candidate has a major chance of doing something major. We'll have to see what happens.

KING: Why does Gore inherit this character question?

TRUMP: Well, Gore is a man that I've said before is a very underrated man. But if he keeps going the way he's going, which has been terrible, he's no longer going to be underrated, he's going to be...

KING: What's he doing wrong?

TRUMP: Nobody knows. It's just, I think he's relying on too many people. I think he probably raised too much money and he, therefore, it's being taken away by too many different consultants. I mean, everybody's got a piece of him.

If he would just back to being the regular guy that he was, I think it would do him -- I mean, if he got to be vice president of United States by being Gore, and now all of a sudden you have 15 people tugging on his shoulders and taking money from his various contributions. I mean, if he spent $20 million, I've spent exactly $20 million less, and...

KING: What do you want in a president? You said, OK, Clinton could have been a great president if not for the character issue, and you are saying the character issue...

TRUMP: Well, I think it's very important. I mean, Ronald Reagan, to me, was a great president. And, whether you are liberal or you're conservative, people really view him as a great president. He'll go down as a great president and not so much for the things he did, it's just, there was a demeanor to him and a spirit that the country had under Ronald Reagan that was really phenomenal. And, you know, there was just a style and a class, and that a big part of the president, I mean, that's a really big part of being president. Ronald Reagan had it.

Eisenhower, now Eisenhower -- I don't see him too much on lists of great, great presidents -- but there was a nice time in the country, the country had a prestige and he had a certain, you know, demeanor. He was a quality, class act. There are certain people that have that.

Unfortunately, with all of the scandal in the last four years -- and what happening with Gore is he is really tainted by it, and he is probably the last one to be involved in that kind of a scandal. But he is still tainted by it, it is a tough fact.

KING: So, fair or unfair, it's a fact.

TRUMP: Well, I mean, if he were really on his game, he would get one off his senator friends to go and run against Bradley and him so that you could divide up the anti-Clinton/Gore vote, and he would get in very easily, I suspect. At least he would get the nomination.

KING: And give somebody else a turn -- strategy. TRUMP: Well, no, it has to be strategy because it's not that Bradley is good. Bradley's not great. I know Bradley very well from New Jersey. I think I'm the largest employer in the state of New Jersey, and I know Senator Bradley. And, you know, he was going to be thrown out of office. This guy was not going to be re-elected. And then he made the statement that I'm going not to run, and the Senate is a terrible place, and everybody in the Senate is terrible. It wasn't that he didn't want to run. The guy was going to lose. He was going to lose badly.

KING: Well, Perot told us back in '92 the kind of president he would be if elected. That he would be decisive, he would be uninterested in pomposity, he would be at work at 8:00 in the morning. These are things he would do. He didn't like, not a big ribbon cutter. What kind of president would Donald Trump be?

TRUMP: Well, again, all those things are fine. But, you know, again, you go back to Reagan, and there is a certain pomposity and there was a certain ribbon cutting stature that is important for the president. I think that the whole style and look of him was just really...

KING: Are you saying that's the kind of person you want to be?

TRUMP: Well, I don't say that. And I don't like to be compared to anybody. And maybe it would be unfair to them, to be honest with you. But, the president has to be a great leader, and you have to lead by example. But, you need leadership in this country. And we're just not having it right now.

And this is going to be Gore's problem, because he is very much associated with four very ugly years, despite an economy. I mean, if you had a bad economy at this point, it would be a disaster out there. But you do have the one thing, you have a good economy.

KING: We'll be back with lots more of the Donald Trump, don't go away.


KING: We're back with Donald Trump.

You mentioned real estate. Hillary's here, they're going to move to New York. You live here. They're going to run. Did they get a good deal on that house?

TRUMP: I mean, they really got ripped on the house.

KING: Ripped?

TRUMP: The house is right next to one of my golf courses, and, you know, I just wish I could have maybe represented him in buying the house, and her, because I think I could save them about $600,000 or $700,000.

KING: That much? TRUMP: They really paid a high price. It's good for the neighborhood, and it's good for the area and everything else, but they really paid -- they overpaid for the house. One of my people, who actually runs my golf course, which is literally a couple of minutes away from where they're living, came up and said: Why did they pay so much for that house? And...

KING: That was the asking price, right? A million...

TRUMP: Yes, but the asking price doesn't mean that's what you pay.

KING: I know.

TRUMP: I mean, the asking price could be a lot different from what you end up paying.

KING: Why is it that way?

TRUMP: I really wish I could of represented them on the purchase of that house.

KING: What would have done?

TRUMP: I will tell you, their representatives did a very bad job, very bad.

KING: Did they get good financing, at least?

TRUMP: Well, the financing looked good; somebody was going to put up the money, but I see that fell through.

KING: What do you make of the Hillary-Giuliani -- I know you're a big fan of Giuliani.

TRUMP: I am, and I like her very much, but I think Rudy -- and as I said before, he's been the greatest mayor in the history of the city of New York. This city is the hottest place the world, and that's why, you know, I'm so honored to be doing so well and to be the biggest developer in the city. But he really helped the city, and he's been a great mayor. And people -- maybe some people don't like him and some people love him totally.

I happen to be in love because the guy -- not because I love Rudy, because he's got an incredible job. And I think it would be unfair if somebody did that kind of a great job and, then, for the next office, got rejected.

KING: So, if there is a -- if you're on the Reform Party ballot, Trump/Winfrey, whatever, whoever it is, you're on the Reform Party ballot in New York, you would publicly endorse Giuliani?

TRUMP: He's the best. I mean, he's just done a great job.

KING: How can a Reform Party president lead when nobody in the House or Senate is in his party? TRUMP: Well, maybe I'll have to go around and hire some of the lobbyists that I use already in Washington; they've done a very good job for me. I think I could probably do very well. You know, I'm a very big contributor, by the way. I'm a very big contributor to the various people and over the years. Never did I think my contributions would go toward helping me getting votes as president.

KING: So you're saying you could bring them together.

TRUMP: I think I could bring them together.

KING: Would you call up the congressmen who you have contributed to?

TRUMP: Excuse me, I've been friends with these guys for years, most of them. I mean, I know so many of them and so many of the senators.

KING: So you've contributed to their campaign?

TRUMP: I've contributed -- I think I'm like the largest or one of the largest contributors. I'm maxed out every year.

KING: So, as president, you could pick up the phone on a health bill and say, Senator so-and-so, remember I gave you...

TRUMP: Remember, I've been dealing with these people for years.

KING: No, I mean, is that part of the...

TRUMP: And I haven't done so badly with them, I mean, in all fairness, you know, they're wonderful people as far as I'm concerned. I've done very nicely. And I've been dealing with them for years, and I would be able to bring them together, I have no doubt about that.

KING: Patients' Bill of Rights: You mentioned health care as one of the social issues; you for it?

TRUMP: I think you have to have it, and, again, I said I'm conservative, generally speaking, I'm conservative, and even very conservative. But I'm quite liberal and getting much more liberal on health care and other things. I really say: What's the purpose of a country if you're not going to have defensive and health care?

If you can't take care of your sick in the country, forget it, it's all over. I mean, it's no good. So I'm very liberal when it comes to health care. I believe in universal health care. I believe in whatever it takes to make people well and better.

KING: So you believe, then, it's an entitlement of birth?

TRUMP: I think it is. It's an entitlement to this country, and too bad the world can't be, you know, in this country. But the fact is, it's an entitlement to this country if we're going to have a great country.

KING: So you would be for this measure?

TRUMP: I am for whatever it takes. We have the money. The fact is, that the world is ripping off this country: Germany is ripping us off big league; Saudi Arabia is ripping us off big league; France, I mean, they're the worst team player I've ever seen in my life. You look at what's happened, Japan, for years, I mean, we're like a whipping post for Japan.

KING: But you can't, as president, run -- I mean, you can't be a liberal then?

TRUMP: No, no. What you can do is you can negotiate fair trade agreements. So that instead of billions and billions of dollars going out, you can reduce your taxes by having it come back in. You know, I know the best negotiators. I would put the right people in charge of negotiation. We've been ripped as a country by virtually every country we do business with.

KING: You shared Mr. Perot and Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Nader's belief with regard to NAFTA, right? You were an opponent of NAFTA?

TRUMP: I am. And the reason NAFTA looks OK now is because the economy is strong, but when the economy is not strong, which, unfortunately, will at some point happen, NAFTA is going to look like a disaster.

KING: Are you as much of an isolationist in that area as Buchanan is? That we need...

TRUMP: I'm not an isolationist. What I am, though, is I think that you have to be treated fairly by other countries. If other countries are not going to treat you fairly, Larry, I think that those countries should be -- they should suffer the consequences.

KING: So this isn't fair trade? Free trade isn't fair trade?

TRUMP: No, free trade is a wonderful thing, and I believe in free trade, but, at the same time, it's got to be fair trade. You look at some of these -- I mean, look what Japan does with the cars and the subsidies and everything else, and look at Korea, with the ships and the subsidies they get. I mean, it's very unfair to this country.

What is happening throughout the world in a business sense is very unfair. We could reduce taxes and take care of health care, and it would be beautiful, and you would have plenty of money left over.

KING: Talk about honesty in the presidency with Donald Trump right after this.


KING: We're back with Donald Trump. Honesty, Carter once said I'll never lie to you. Would you say that to the American people?

TRUMP: I would never lie. And I just, you know, one of the things that people do get -- if I ever decide to do this, which is really, who knows? But, they have known me for a long time, I've been really a public figure for a long time. I think everything is known about me. It's...

KING: Yes, I would say.

TRUMP: ... interesting. I've been out there a long time.

KING: So you -- but you could definitely say: I would not lie.

TRUMP: I would not lie, I would absolutely not lie. And you know, Carter, who is a very nice man who I've gotten to know a little bit. I mean, I think he was much better after the presidency than he was during the presidency.

KING: Great former president.

TRUMP: But, he was a great former president.

KING: He is.

TRUMP: And he really was, he's done a wonderful job after the presidency. I'm not sure I agreed with him at all during the presidency, to be totally honest, but, he was an honest guy, and in that sense, I think we had a man who at least we said: Pretty honest guy.

KING: Do you think being in gaming could hurt you?

TRUMP: No, I own casinos. I'm the largest, by far the largest person in Atlantic City, which is actually doing more business now than the entire Las Vegas strip, which surprises people when they here it. We are actually doing more business. And I have a big percentage of that market.

KING: Atlantic City does better than Vegas?

TRUMP: Atlantic City does more business than the entire Las Vegas strip, which very few people understand, very few people know, but it's really...

KING: You mean more dollars go in there?

TRUMP: More dollars in there, than goes into the Las Vegas strip.

KING: But more building goes into Las Vegas?

TRUMP: Well, more building, they keep building and building, but Atlantic City does more business.

KING: But do you think the term "gaming," which is gambling, will hurt you?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all. And certainly, my business, again, in New York I'm very large, to put it mildly, and in Atlantic City I'm very large. And I'd obviously have to do something with a trust where I put my businesses into a trust at least during this term.

KING: Are you going to be a one term president if you ran?

TRUMP: Well, I think you have to solve the problems, and I believe in it. I'm not sure I believe in it that strongly because ultimately the term limits are imposed by the people. If they don't like the job you're doing, they vote you out. But I do like the concept of one term, I want to run one term, and I want to do the right job: straighten out Social Security, get the trade deficits in order, and lower taxes.

KING: A businessman president, pluses and minuses, there have to be some minuses, right? You've got to stop thinking profit and loss, the government is not in the bottom line business.

TRUMP: Well, I'm tired of politicians being president, because I see the lousy job they do, and I'm just tired of it. And I think a lot of other people are.

And, you know, you can do a great job as a businessman, nothing wrong with it. If Jack Welch, who runs General Electric brilliantly for 22 years, I mean, he should be a president, he should be president, he's great. Now, he wouldn't run, he wouldn't want to run. But, he's a brilliant man who has done an amazing job. He would be a fantastic president.

KING: "Esquire" magazine did an article years ago called "100 People Who Could be Great Presidents Who You May Never Have Heard Of"...

TRUMP: That's true.

KING: And their point was that people who can lead executives well or great lawyers -- Edward Bennett Williams might have been a great one -- great lawyer...

TRUMP: Absolutely, he was a great guy.

KING: ... who show leadership ability. But, we don't know the -- for example, you and Kosovo. Would you have done what Clinton did?

TRUMP: Well, I would have done it a little bit differently. And I know this would sound terrible. But look at the havoc that they have wreaked in Kosovo. I mean, we could say we lost very few people. Of course, we had airplanes 75,000 feet up in the air dropping bombs. But, look at what we've done to that land and to those people and the deaths that we've caused.

Now, they haven't been caused with us and the allies because we were way up in the air in planes. But, at some point, you had to put troops in so not everybody could go over the borders and everything else, and a lot of people agree with that.

Now, would people have been killed? Perhaps, perhaps more. But, at least ultimately, you would have had far fewer deaths. And you wouldn't have had the havoc and the terror that you've got right now.

So, you know, I don't know if they consider that a success because I can't consider it a success.

KING: You don't.

TRUMP: They bombed the hell out of a country, out of a whole area, everyone is fleeing in every different way, and nobody knows what's happening, and the deaths are going on by the thousands.

KING: How well, business-wise, do you delegate?

TRUMP: I think I delegate pretty well. I mean, I have a great team in New York. I mean, I have just an amazing team in New York. My casinos in Atlantic City are number one. The Trump Taj Mahal is number one by far.

KING: The president has to be able to do that.

TRUMP: Yes, you have to be able to...

KING: In other words, your manager of your hotel can make a decision today, he doesn't have to call you on it.

TRUMP: You know, I know the smart people. I really know the smart people. I deal with the smart people. I know the smartest people on Wall Street. And I will say that Alan Greenspan has done an amazing job. He's been a great -- he's been great at what he's done.

KING: You would reappoint him?

TRUMP: I would reappointment him, I think he's a terrific guy. A lot of that is confidence. You and me have confidence in Greenspan. People had confidence in Volcker, in all fairness. I mean, a lot of that position is confidence. When he speaks, you have confidence. He knows what he's doing.

KING: Our guest is Donald Trump, announcing tonight the formation of a presidential exploratory committee.

This is LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.


KING: We're back with Donald Trump.

By the way, you mentioned the golf course, can the Clintons play there?

TRUMP: I'd love to have them, it would be my honor. There only a few minutes away in their new house, and it will be my honor to have the president. But it is pretty sad when you think the president of United States will be out of office fairly soon, and he can't get into a golf course in Westchester. OK, now, Westchester is tough...

KING: Why? TRUMP: I don't know. I mean, why, because of the scandals is why. I mean, why? Because he's just having a hard time getting in. He can come in...

KING: A former president can't get into a golf club?

TRUMP: He can come into my golf club. It's pretty sad. He can come into my golf club.

KING: Now, can you the president and -- honestly, you're president, and not think about the Trump building at the General Motors site, and not think about how did Atlantic City do today because you've got to divorce yourself. Clearly, we know how much you love...

TRUMP: I love real estate, I love buildings. I'm building the tallest residential tower the world right opposite the United Nations now. I love it. I love going there. I love being with the workers. I love walking in the concrete. I mean, it's hard to believe. And those are the people who vote for me actually, the people building those buildings, all of those buildings all over the country. The workers are the ones that really like me.

I've often said: The rich people hate me and the workers love me. Now, the rich people that know me like me, but the rich people that don't know me, they truly dislike me.

KING: But do you suddenly not have an interest in that?

TRUMP: Look, I guess you always have an interest in the sense that you love it. I love it aesthetically. I love building great buildings. I own the General Motors building.

KING: No, but can you suddenly say -- because as president you have to put some of that in trust, right? I mean, I guess, can you call everyday and say: How's the 14th floor?

TRUMP: I guess the answer is, I wouldn't be doing it. I'd put in trust, and I'd just say: Lots of luck. And, you know, frankly, it would do very good. I mean, I have the best locations, I have the best buildings, they'll do fine, they'll do fine without me.

KING: There's a lot of jokes about your ego. Should a president have an ego?

TRUMP: I think you have to have -- you know, I don't consider myself to have a big ego. The fact is, I have never, however, met a person who's successful who didn't have an ego or a fairly substantial -- there's nothing wrong with having an ego.

KING: And you express it a lot.

TRUMP: I don't even express it. I mean, I put my name on buildings because it sells better. I don't do it because, gee, I need that. I mean, I get more per square foot in New York than anybody else by far. I get -- if you build a building here, and I build a building there, and not to use you, but I will get substantially more per square foot in that building than the person building the building across the street for almost the same building.

Now, it's not almost the same building. I build a better building. I use better finishes. It's just a better product. But I get more than other people. So when I put my name on it, people say: Oh, gee, he put his name on it.

The General Motors building is an example. I'm partners with Conseco, a great -- Steve Hilbert -- a great insurance company. They're so happy. I mean, we're getting numbers that nobody will ever believe.

KING: They don't what the Canseco building?

TRUMP: No, because they know the Trump factor. I mean the Trump factor -- because they want to make money.

KING: So we'll have a Trump White House?

TRUMP: No, I won't go there, I promise. I pledge on your show, that's the second think I pledge on your show. I will not rename the White House.

KING: We will not have a first lady. Who will be? I'm thinking ahead. Who's in charge of social affairs?

TRUMP: Well, we could have one in 24 hours. We actually -- it would be very interesting.

KING: There's a line out there?

TRUMP: But we could have one quickly.

KING: Are you telling us something?

TRUMP: No, not all. But I'm saying, if there was a, you know, prerequisite, 24 hours, it's done. You know...

KING: A single president.

TRUMP: ... first of all, you don't know that there wouldn't be a first lady.

KING: Well, as of now.

TRUMP: You just don't know. As of this moment, there isn't, but you don't know that. I don't know that it's that necessary. I think that, nowadays, a lot of things have changed, just changed so drastically over the last years. I mean, Gary Hart, in all fairness, somebody was sitting on his lap, and he was run out of office like a dog. And, then, you go through the whole Clinton thing, and it's like, this is major league stuff.

KING: So you don't think it matters? TRUMP: I don't think it matters at all. You know, I have some really fantastic -- I've had over the years some really fantastic relationships and with some really spectacular women and wonderful women and nice women. And, you know, I don't think it matters, but, you know, you never know what happens.

KING: Perot used his own money in the main. What about dollars in Trump?

TRUMP: Well, I'd used my own money. If there were matching funds, if there's government subsidy, you always take it because you don't want to be a total schmuck. I mean, you're dealing with Republicans, you're dealing with Democrats, they've been entrenched for so long, for hundreds of years.

They get all sorts of -- they have -- I mean, the big problem the Reform Party is that no matter who runs the office, there are certain Democrats that would just vote Democratic, it doesn't matter if they like the candidate, and you're talking about 20, 25 percent. Same thing with the Republicans Party. I mean, you have to take every advantage you can get because it won't be easy. And, again, I wouldn't run if I didn't think I could win the election. I wouldn't run just to get 21 percent of the vote, and say: I got more votes than anybody.


TRUMP: It wouldn't do it for me.

KING: How about campaign-finance reform?

TRUMP: I think nobody knows more about campaign finance that I do, because I'm the biggest contributor.

KING: OK, but what about reform? Does it need reform? You're the Reform Party?

TRUMP: Well, it's a very complex -- you know what? It's a very complex thing. As an example, I'm allowed to give $1,000 to every senator, right?

KING: Right.

TRUMP: Do you know how little that is, and this was 20 years ago, $1000. Now, I love it, because, you know, I'm capped out at a $1,000 per senator and they all love me for it. You know, I give them $1,000, it's great.

KING: But you can reform where you have soft money, hard money, PAC money.

TRUMP: Well, no, you have other ways. But the one thing I feel strongly about -- you know, I have heard Bradley and others talking about the government should pay for the elections, and I totally disagree. If you like a candidate, you should be able to contribute to that candidate. Now, they should let it be known that you're contributing, but you should be able to contribute and help that candidate. Otherwise, you're taking away the whole American system.

KING: But as someone said -- that may be true -- but don't you think, if I give you a million dollars, you owe me something for that.

TRUMP: You know what? That's true, but, I'll tell you, it gets a lot tougher when you have to announce, perhaps, on the Internet or in various forms of whatever announcement that so-and-so gave a lot of money to such-and-such a candidate; then, it's a lot tougher.

I mean, I had Ed Koch tell me that I can't -- that he can't do something for me because I was a contributor to his campaign. And I never liked him after that, to be honest with you.

I said: You mean, I would have been better off being an enemy.

He said: Well, I don't know how you...

I said: You mean, I contribute to your campaign, and now you can't help me with something because I was a contributor. I'm much better off not contributing. So there is that...

KING: We're going to ask Donald Trump in a minute about guns and tobacco after this.


KING: Gun control.

TRUMP: If you could take the guns away from the bad guys, and there are plenty of them out there, I'm all for it, but you can't. Now, if you had a law that says no guns, the people that are law abiding are going to go by that law, but the bad guys aren't, so they're going to have all the guns and the good guys aren't. It's very simple.

KING: But the countries that has that don't have gun killings.

TRUMP: Well, the countries that have it don't have as many bad guys as us, OK? The fact is...

KING: We have more bad guys than other?

TRUMP: I'll tell you what, you take a look. I mean, what we have now with guns is not that I'm a big fan at all.

KING: You agree with the NRA?

TRUMP: I don't agree entirely, but I do agree that you should have the power to have a weapon, because other people do and other people are not necessarily...

KING: Would you favor...

TRUMP: ... the nicest people in the world.

KING: ... long checks and how people get the guns? You don't favor easy access?

TRUMP: Yes, yes, no, I favor -- I favor you have to go through a process, but the fact is that the bad ones already have one, and they're not going to go through a process either; they're not going to go through any process.

Look, there's nothing I like better than nobody has them, but that's not going to happen, Larry. So, as long as that's not going to happen, I say you have to be allowed to have a gun.

KING: The government's suing tobacco, states suing tobaccos have already-done deals. The gun dealers are doing deals to, gun manufacturers are doing deals with states. Would you come down tough on tobacco?

TRUMP: Well, I'd come down, but I'd also come down tough on alcohol. I don't know why everyone's suing tobacco, which is terrible, and I love that they're suing and I love that they're paying a big price, but why aren't they suing the alcohol companies, because alcohol -- I mean, I lost a brother to alcohol. I've never had a drink in my life because of the fact that I had a brother that had a problem with alcohol.

KING: Really? Is that why you don't drink? I know you don't drink. Is that why?

TRUMP: I don't drink for that reason. I mean, I had a fabulous...

KING: Your brother died on a...

TRUMP: ... handsome, brilliant, just the nicest guy in the world -- much nicer guy than me, to be totally honest with you. I mean, the guy was great...

KING: How old was he?

TRUMP: ... but he got into the alcohol stuff, and it really destroyed his life...

KING: How old?

TRUMP: ... and he was just a great deal. He was 10 years older than me. And he was just a great guy, and...

KING: So you want to do the...

TRUMP: Well, I'd like to see the same thing happen to the alcohol companies, because...

KING: But they are taxed. They're taxed...

TRUMP: No, no, no. They're taxed. I'd like to see them sued. You know what I don't -- I hope a lot of lawyers are watching tonight. Why is it that everybody is suing the tobacco companies and nobody sues the alcohol companies. I mean, you have the car crashes and the kids that get killed by some drunk that's, you know, riding on the road. It's just terrible. So, I would like to see something happen with alcohol.

KING: And how about tobacco, though? Would you be tough on them?

TRUMP: I would be very tough. I think tobacco's terrible. I mean, I have friends that are smart and tough, and they can't stop. It's a terrible drug. It's a terrible drug.

KING: It is a drug?

TRUMP: Oh, absolutely.

KING: How about allowing the Food and Drug Administration to control it, which the Supreme Court is going to listen to? Would you list it as a drug?

TRUMP: It wouldn't -- well, it should be listed as a drug, obviously. I mean, when I have friends that are the toughest, smartest people you'll ever meet and they can't stop smoking, they start shaking if you tell them they can't have a cigarette. And I've had them in the house, I said, do me a favor, don't smoke in my house, and you see these tough guys start to shake like babies. I've never seen anything like it.

So, it's a terrible drug, and it ultimately destroys your lungs and destroys your insides, and there's no question about it. I don't -- it's inconceivable why people start smoking, but they do?

KING: How is your health?

TRUMP: Well, I think my health is very good, and as far as that, I've never had a cigarette, I've never had a glass of alcohol...

KING: Do we owe...

TRUMP: I've never had a cup of coffee. I -- coffee's not the greatest thing in the world, but...

KING: Does -- do all candidates owe us their medical reports?

TRUMP: I think so. I think you don't want to get into a situation where you elect someone and then you find he's terminally ill and he'll be in office for about three more months. You know, I think that...

KING: It might have happened with Senator Tsongas.

TRUMP: Well, that could have happened with Senator Tsongas, and if you look at what happened, it would have, you know, it would have been very tragic. And he was a good man...

KING: Oh, a great man.

TRUMP: But he was a very -- he was a very sick guy, and you know, he kept running, and it was very brave, but -- and he got a lot of votes where people said: Boy, that's great, and isn't he incredible, and I'm going to vote for him. But the fact is, it would have been, you know...

KING: All right. Does George W. Bush owes us to tell us: I never used drugs ever, or, I did it one time, or what is your read on all of this?

TRUMP: I don't know. I like him, but I don't like his answer. I hated the answer on seven years: I haven't had drugs in seven years. I mean, give me a break. I think he probably owes it. I think he owes even the alcoholism, because alcohol...

KING: But he's discussed that, hasn't he?

TRUMP: Well, alcohol is something that does recur, it can recur under stress and under pressure, and I guess probably the American people are really going to -- perhaps they'll learn or perhaps they won't, but if he suffered from problems with alcohol, perhaps we should know...

KING: We don't know if he was an alcoholic, right? He might have had a...

TRUMP: We don't know, but he had a problem, and perhaps we should know that problem.

KING: Because of the fear they could go back to it?

TRUMP: Because of the fear that people go back. I mean, I'm -- this is perhaps not politically correct, but who the hell cares? I mean, it -- they know...

KING: Well, the alcoholic, the true alcoholic always says: I'm an alcoholic every day, right?

TRUMP: Absolutely, so I think when somebody's running, if there is a potential problem with alcohol or with drugs, I think the people have to know about it.

KING: Will you be a travelling -- will you be a president who's out there?

TRUMP: I think so. I think I'd be very open. And again, you know, I've been sort of growing up with the public. I've been very out there. As a businessman, probably nobody was -- has been more out there than Donald Trump.

KING: A lot of press conferences, lot of...

TRUMP: Oh, I don't know. It depends. I mean, sure, you would have your press conferences, and I would be open, and I would be out there, and I think the country would really have spirit, I think we would have a great spirit in this country that we haven't had, really, in a long time, and I think...

KING: That's one of the things you would campaign on?

TRUMP: I think I'd keep -- I think I'd keep the economy going strong and maybe even stronger, and I'd be able to cut taxes, and other countries would be paying the price.

KING: All right. I'm going to ask you in a minute what a president can do about a word like "spirit."

Our guest is Donald Trump. We'll be right back.


KING: OK. Everybody who's ever run for office says things like: This is a great country, we're a tremendous people -- although tonight you said: We may have more people who use guns -- but, no, we're a great people and the spirit of America and we all hear that, and everyone says: What can the president do about a country's, that ethereal word, spirit?

TRUMP: How do you define leadership? I mean, leadership is a very strange word because, you know, some people have it, some people don't and nobody knows why. I mean, Winston Churchill was an unbelievable leader. Why? He was born with a speech impediment, he had all sorts of problems, he certainly wasn't a handsome man, and, yet, he was a great leader. Why was he a great leader? Nobody knows, he was a great leader.

KING: Vince Lombardi.

TRUMP: I have always been -- Vince Lombardi was a great leader. I mean, he was just a great leader. I mean, there are numerous cases, but...


TRUMP: ... I've always been able to lead. I've always been able to lead, and I've led with spirit. I've just always been able to create spirit. I mean, I built a great wealth by my -- the spirit that I created.

KING: Are there -- you say there are people who would walk through walls for Donald Trump?

TRUMP: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think I have people that are with me that would do that, yes, and I wouldn't want to ask them to.

KING: Now, how do you bring that to Omaha and to Lansing and to L.A. and to Dallas?

TRUMP: You just have to lead by example. You just -- things have to happen that are different. It's just been dead out there, there's been something wrong, something missing. And, again, Larry, if the economy goes bad. You know, we're all sort of semi-happy now, but we're only semi-happy because the economy has been pretty good, not great, but it's been pretty good. If that economy tubes, you're going to see the most depressed country that you've ever seen. KING: If it is you versus Buchanan for the Reform Party nomination, and Pat is expecting to make some announcement by the end of this month, and you, with an exploratory committee now, with an announcement -- if it is you versus him, what would be the primary issues to the Reform Party voter?

TRUMP: Well, for one thing, I'm not in love with Adolf Hitler, OK? That's a pretty big difference right there. I think you could probably run your campaign on that.

KING: You are saying you didn't like Hitler?

TRUMP: I didn't like him, and what I'm saying is that this guy is obviously enamored with him, and it's ridiculous. I mean, what he's saying: Hitler would have never attacked us, Hitler would have gone a different direction, Hitler...

KING: Hitler would be an issue?

TRUMP: I think it's the dumbest thing I've ever read. I don't get it.

KING: It would be an issue? You would bring it up?

TRUMP: Well, I think Hitler has to be an issue. Certainly it's got to be an issue for some people. I mean, I can tell you one thing, he's not going to raise a lot of money from Jewish folks in New York City. I mean the guy...

KING: Would you debate him?

TRUMP: Yes, I would debate him, I would debate him, if it was appropriate.

KING: What would be a major issue? Hitler is going to be an issue.

TRUMP: I think it is personality. I think he's a very -- you know, it's almost gotten to a point where I'm not even so sure he's far right, I think he's beyond far right, and, then, on other issues he's just all over the place. I don't think he'll get any votes.

Look, Pat Buchanan will get a certain number of votes, just to sort of correct, but that's it. He's not going to win anything.

Now, if the Reform Party wants to nominate somebody that's going to get five or six percent of the wacko vote, they can do that, and they'll get five or six percent, but they're not going to win the election. Pat Buchanan is not winning the election.

I'll tell you what Buchanan will do, Bush will lose the election if Pat Buchanan becomes the Reform Party candidate. Bradley or Gore, in my opinion, will become the next president because almost all of those votes are going to come from the Republican Party.

Now, the people that would vote for Buchanan, probably their second choice would be Bush. So all they're doing is losing a vote for Bush, and he'll probably lose the election.

But I think that the Republicans have seen in their own polls, that if Buchanan gets the Reform Party nomination, not that Buchanan does anything great, but he takes all of the votes away from the Republicans.

KING: OK, for Trump to win against Bush and Gore or Bush and Bradley or McCain in this mix, he has to do what?

TRUMP: Well, look, again, you're starting off with a base that's really been there for a very short period of time, OK?

KING: You begin down.

TRUMP: You're not starting off from, gee, I just got the Democratic or the Republican nomination.

KING: But Perot once led in the polls.

TRUMP: He was doing very well in the polls. I mean, had he not dropped out...

KING: He might have won.

TRUMP: ... and, then, announced, practically a couple days later on your show -- I was -- it's very interesting because I was watching that show, and I like him, and I'm watching the show, and I'm saying: I don't believe it. I think he wants to get back into the race. This was after he had dropped out two days before.

KING: Yes, I remember that night.

TRUMP: And, you know, I'm pretty good at seeing what people want.

KING: So who do get?

TRUMP: I -- who do I get in terms of what, Larry?

KING: Voters. I mean, you've got the Republican base and the Democratic base.

TRUMP: I think what I get is I get the working base. I get the middle-class base. For some reason, those are the people that really like Donald Trump. And I think I do well, and I think I get a lot of votes. But if I thought I was going to get the Reform nomination, and, then, get 21 or 22 percent of the votes, I'm not interested, Larry.

KING: You said that, even though that would be the largest ever, 19?

TRUMP: I'm just not interested -- it wouldn't matter. And you know what happens? The next day I'm back at my office.

KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Donald Trump and going to read a very interesting letter Donald got. Don't go away.


KING: We're back what our remaining moments with Donald Trump on this rather historic night, the announcement of a presidential exploratory committee. This letter that you got from JFK, September 19th -- August 19th -- July 19, '99, your father passed away when, in July?

TRUMP: Right, JFK Jr., that's exactly correct. He just -- I mean, it must have been one of the last things he did. He was a great guy, he was a friend of mine.

KING: "Dear Donald, I read over the weekend of your father's passing and I just wanted to drop you a note. No matter where you are in life, losing a parent changes you. I know you had an active relationship and I hope you'll get ample time to reflect. He sounds like a fascinating man from what I read in the 'Times.' I like that he would go over his..."

TRUMP: His "various."

KING: "... various work sites and pick up stray nails and returned them, and clearly, he never lost his perspective. My condolences to you and your family. Sincerely, John Kennedy."

TRUMP: This was a tragedy that he died, because he had so much going. He was -- he was a fabulous guy. I mean, he was really, truly a handsome, wonderful, great, bright guy.

KING: Is that line correct, "No matter where you are in life, losing a parent changes you"?

TRUMP: Oh, it's tough, it's tough. My father was special.

KING: Did losing your father change you?

TRUMP: Well, he was -- he taught me so much. He was just a special guy. You know, he was a firm guy, but just a special guy.

KING: He built homes where I grew up, that's where he started.

TRUMP: He built homes in Brooklyn. He started in Brooklyn. He was so happy.

KING: Some homes.

TRUMP: He said: Don't go to Manhattan, it's too tough, it's too tough. But, you know, he was just a spectacular guy.

KING: What would he think of this presidential possibility?

TRUMP: Well, he was really my biggest fan. I mean, he was -- everybody, there was nobody that was a fan of -- you know, a lot of parents are jealous, if the son goes out and does something...

KING: Better than the father.

TRUMP: ... more. I've seen it, I see it often times, where they have fights because of the sons and the fathers and the sons. My father was my biggest fan, and anything I wanted to do, he just loved it. He was terrific. He never went into Manhattan, he never wanted to go into Manhattan real estate, because, to him, the land was too expensive.. You know, in Brooklyn, you buy it for $1 a foot, and in Manhattan you pay $10,000 a foot. Forget it, it's the same land. But, it was just a different thinking.

But, he was really proud when I did these big jobs in Manhattan. They worked out so incredibly well. He was just proud of me.

So, he would have been...

KING: He would have liked this.

TRUMP: ... the first one that would have said: Boy, this is great.

KING: Thus far, Perot has stayed out of it. If you were the nominee of the party, if you were running with a nominee, would you expect both Perot, Ventura to support you?

TRUMP: Well, I'd like that. I mean, I respect them both. Jesse is a spectacular guy. And, as I said, Ross Perot has really left a great legacy in having created a third party, and a very viable third party.

KING: This committee was going to look into a lot of things, you seem primed, you seem ready, it's got to be this momentous for you. I mean seemingly out of nowhere, despite the jokes, I mean, we're not kidding here.

TRUMP: Well, we had a...

KING: It's the future, you know.

TRUMP: The polls have come out so incredibly well. And again, that's why -- that's why it happened.

KING: But we had a bad one today, though.

TRUMP: They had a little bit of a bad one in "Newsweek," but they put me on the cover of "Newsweek," it's the craziest deal. But, I mean, the polls generally speaking, the "National Enquirer" did a poll that is unbelievable, that says I win, that you beat everybody. And I'm trying to figure out -- you know, I haven't even started campaigning yet.

Now, maybe when I start campaigning, I'll do worse. Perhaps I shouldn't campaign at all, I'll just, you know, I'll ride it right into the White House.

KING: Thanks, Donald.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

KING: Donald Trump, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Tomorrow night, have the children tune in: Jack Hanna of the Columbus Zoo is back and he brings all the animals. And on Saturday night, we will do a retrospective. We will look back at our interview with the late Judith Campbell Exner.

I'm Larry King with Donald Trump in New York. Thanks for joining us and good night.

Trump to form presidential exploratory committee



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In the name of their fathers


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