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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Al Qaeda Forces in Standoff With Pakistanis; Iraq One Year Later

Aired March 19, 2004 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, hundreds of al Qaeda fighters in a standoff with thousands of Pakistani forces. Who are the terrorists protecting?

Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.

All-out assault. Al Qaeda tries a breakout from a mountain hideout, but Pakistani troops keep up the pressure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are quite certain that nobody would escape.

BLITZER: A year later. Has the war in Iraq become a day in, day out battle against terror?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Whatever it takes, we'll fight and work to assure the success of freedom in Iraq.

BLITZER: I'll speak with former secretary of state Madeleine Albright.

Tycoon.

How much do you think your bottom line is?

DONALD TRUMP, BUSINESS TYCOON: I don't want to say, it's a lot.

BLITZER: I'll go one on one with Donald trump.

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Friday, March 19, 2004.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A fierce battle is raging right now in the mountains of northwestern Pakistan. The siege is in a remote region, but new satellite pictures give you, give all of us, in fact an eye on al Qaeda, or at least the area where a key al Qaeda leader is believed to be trapped. New pictures are also just in, showing Pakistani forces surrounding that so-called high-value target. al Qaeda fighters have been trying to break through their cordon.

Pakistan's military isn't sure who may be trapped in the net, but says the mission is to get them, quote, "dead or alive." We'll go straight to our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson, he's joining us on the phone from Islamabad. First of all, Nic, how many Pakistani troops are surrounding that compound with the al Qaeda fighters?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're told perhaps as many as 5,000. It is a very large area, 19 square miles, many compounds, perhaps five different compounds located in five different areas. It is quite a big area for that number of troops, Wolf.

BLITZER: Why are the Pakistanis having such hard time?

ROBERTSON: One of the reasons, terrain. It's very, very mountainous, they're not as familiar with the area as the people they're trying to catch. It was clear to the Pakistani military, they said that when they went into the area the al Qaeda were prepared. They had their mortars zeroed in on the certain areas. That's why they took casualties on the first day. They are against an opponent that is familiar with the land and is prepared.

BLITZER: The compound housing these al Qaeda fighters, what is it made of?

ROBERTSON: We're told there is a mud compound, typical of that area. They have high walls, perhaps, 12, 15 feet high. Long walls surrounding compounds, in the corners of these compounds, sort of lookout towers, very much what is described by Pakistani military officials as being mud built forts and that's very much typical for that region, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic, I want to play for our viewers some comments from a Pakistani general. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. SHAUKAT GULTAN, PAKISTANI ARMY SPOKESMAN: About Osama bin Laden, I think your guess would be as good or as bad as mine. About al-Zawahiri, the president is on record having said that the possibility of a high-value target being present here cannot be ruled out. But one can't say who could he be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I guess a fundamental question that a lot of people are asking, why won't the Pakistanis simply use their air power and bomb this compound?

ROBERTSON: There's a lot of people feared still in that area it's not clear the Pakistani authorities, when they gave them the early stages of this operation in the week, when they gave local villagers an amnesty to get out of the area, how many people were able to get out. There is obviously a concern, and perhaps the local villagers, men, women, and children, there have been reports in newspaper, of civilian casualties, not many, a handful, that would be a concern for the Pakistani authorities to further anger the tribesmen in the area that haven't had to deal with the Pakistani military before -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Nic Robertson reporting for us in Islamabad. Thanks very much.

More blasts echoed in Baghdad today shortly after President Bush portrayed the ongoing attacks in Iraq as just another front in a worldwide war on terror. It's a war, he says, in which there can be no weakness or retreat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): With the White House East Room packed with ambassadors and diplomats from 83 countries, the president pointedly warned there can be no compromise with terrorists.

BUSH: There's no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery and life and death.

BLITZER: On this first anniversary of the start of the U.S.-led invasion of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, the president repeatedly insisted that assault was part of a broader war on terror and that the stakes couldn't be higher.

BUSH: The terrorists are offended not merely by our policies. They're offended by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease their hatred.

BLITZER: But the president made only one brief reference to what had been the major argument for going to war in the first place. Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction which, to the embarrassment of the White House have, not yet been found.

BUSH: It is a good thing that years of illicit weapons developed by the dictator have come to the end.

BLITZER: Secretary of State Colin Powell made a surprise visit to Iraq on this anniversary, despite the recent spate of suicide car bombings.

COLIN POWELL, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: This is not the time to say, let's stop what we're doing and pull back. This is the time to redouble our efforts in every way. Law enforcement activities, intelligence activities, and deal with this threat to the civilized world, and not run and hide and think that it won't come and get us. It will come and get us.

BLITZER: On this anniversary Democratic presidential anniversary John Kerry remained on his vacation in Idaho. But his aides and supporters were hammering away at the president's Iraq policies.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (D), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We distracted ourselves from the focus on terrorism to go into Iraq, to a mission that I believe the Bush administration believed was sort of a low-hanging fruit, an easy win. Now we're stuck in there with our armed forces, very, very extended.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Earlier I spoke with Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. civil administrator in Iraq. I asked him how concerned he is that as the June 30 date for handing over power to the Iraqis draws closer, the insurgents will step up attacks in a bid to derail the peace process.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: I think it's quite likely that we will face a concerted effort by the terrorists between now and June 30, because they know, indeed, as Mr. Zarqawi and his famous letters said, they know that once the Iraqis have a government here, there's really no pretext for the attacks any longer. I think we're going to continue to have that. We'll have some ups and downs between now and June 30. There's no doubt about it.

BLITZER: Is there anything else that the coalition should be doing together with Iraqis that you're not doing? Has anything come to mind?

BREMER: I think we've got the right strategy here, Wolf, which is to try to get the best intelligence we can so that we can get out and capture or kill the terrorists before they kill. To build up the Iraqi security forces so they can play a bigger role in defending their own country.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Ambassador Paul Bremer speaking with me earlier today. Here's your chance to weigh in on this important story. Our web question of the day is this. One year later, has the war in Iraq been successful? You can vote right now, go CNN.com/wolf. We'll have the results later in this broadcast. While you're there, by the way, I'd love to hear directly from you, send me your comments any time, I'll try to read some of them on the air each day at the end of the program, that's also where you can read my daily online column at CNN.com/wolf.

The fierce fire fight going on in Pakistan right now. What help is the U.S. providing to help capture or kill al Qaeda fighters? That story right after our break.

Later, the battle for the U.S. Senate, and why the south may help Democrats regain control.

Also this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: One of the major business magazines did an article in the late '80, everything he touches turns to gold. And I started to believe that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The rise and fall of business legend Donald Trump. My one-on-one interview as Trump's star burns brighter than ever.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The United States does not have much of a hands-on role in the Pakistani fighting right now along the border with Afghanistan. But it's keeping a very close eye on the situation. Let's turn to our national security correspondent David Ensor -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm told there's been good weather this Friday in the region, that's provided better visibility for U.S. intelligence to closely monitor the fighting between Pakistani forces and the Islamic militants they have surrounded in the group of fortress compounds in the south Waziristan province along the Afghan border.

A knowledgeable U.S. official says there is some evidence suggesting al Qaeda's No. 2 man Ayman al-Zawahiri may be in the area that has been cordoned off but says the evidence is not conclusive. U.S. officials say Pakistani forces have sustained a lot of casualties in the fierce fighting, that the foreign fighters are heavily armed with mortars and rockets. At one point the Pakistani military offered a cease-fire to allow women and children to leave from the heavily armed compounds but it appears the offer may have been spurned. A U.S. official says he's not aware of any actually coming out.

Knowledgeable sources have said for weeks now that a small team of American intelligence professionals or military personnel has been attached to Pakistani military units in the tribal area, they are there to provide realtime intelligence and communications, any kind of help along that line so that the Pakistanis are asking for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Looks like a sophisticated operation. Thanks, Jamie -- David, thanks very much. I got Jamie McIntyre on the mind because we're going to go to the Pentagon now. Our Jamie McIntyre, our senior Pentagon correspondent is standing by with a view from there -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, just to echo what David has said, Pentagon officials say they have no direct intelligence that Ayman al-Zawahiri is in fact in that area protected by those fighters. But they say there is some indication, particularly passed on by the Pakistani military based on questioning of people that they have arrested or taken into capture on the ground. But in an interview with CNN's Larry King that will air later tonight, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insists he still doesn't know who is being protected by those fighters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD RUMSFELD, UNITED STATES DEFENSE SECRETARY: Occasionally when someone is captured, you can interrogate them, and find out still additional information. I don't know the situation today of course, in Pakistan has caused a lot of press attention, and it's not clear to me who's there, if anybody, but certainly there are an awful lot of fine Pakistani forces working hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MCINTYRE: Now the U.S. won't say for sure what it is doing to provide help to the Pakistani military, the U.S. has predator spy drones in the region that are capable of flying over and monitoring the area from above. The U.S. is not confirming that that's what's happening over Pakistani territory, but as you heard from CNN's David Ensor the good weather is giving them a better view, so can you put two and two together and figure they're watching it with something -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure they're watching it very closely. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Jamie, thank you very much. Once again, this programming note, you can see all of the interview that Larry King will have with Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary. That airs tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

President Bush defends his decision to invade Iraq on the one- year anniversary of the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: We will never bow to the violence of a...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Coming up. Is the U.S. losing support among nations, the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright on the trouble facing the United States. Plus this...

TRUMP: Life is what you do while you're waiting to die. Sad. Horrible statement. I hate to say, it but I say it, you know, because it's true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Life and death advice from a man who lives large. I'll go one on one with Donald Trump, and ask him about his presidential and political aspirations, if there are any.

And this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLOS WATSON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm Carlos Watson.

Coming up I'll give you the inside edge on why there could be surprising upsets in this year's election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: John Kerry is still in Idaho taking a break from the campaign trail. President Bush is focusing in on the one-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, but both sides continue to fire broad sides at each other. Joining us with our new Friday feature, CNN political analyst Carlos Watson. Foreign policy, what kind of role is it going to have in this campaign?

WATSON: Probably more significant than any we've seen since 1980 when the Iranian hostage crisis focused attention there. In recent polls for the Democratic primary the numbers were in the single digits, 5,6,7,8 percent of voters were saying this is the most important issue. Now not only because of President Bush's efforts but because of things we can't control like what happened in Spain, what's happening in Pakistan, like what may happen in other areas including some elections in Europe this summer, June 13, the European parliament elections. For all we know it could be thrust into a much more significant way rather, maybe 20, 22, 23, 24, 25 percent of people could say this is a major issue.

BLITZER: People are focusing in on this, that's your sense in.

WATSON: Both because of what President Bush does with his ad campaign speeches and because, again, of things we can't control and of course everybody's worried there could be an October surprise that may really grip the nation.

BLITZER: The Senate races that all us are going to be watching, a third of the Senate is always up for re-election or election this time around. You're looking at it, what are you seeing?

WATSON: I think as much as people are focused on the presidential election, a lot of the interest and excitement could happen in these Senate races. These 34 Senate races. Democrats, believe it or not, and you're hearing it here first, could actually win back the Senate.

BLITZER: Right now it's 51-49 if you include Jeffords.

WATSON: If you include Jim Jeffords, and a lot of people say how are the Democrats are going to do it? Well, I focus you in the middle of the country. In Oklahoma, where former Rhodes scholar and current Congressman Brad Carson is running, perhaps to become the only native American in the Senate. Colorado, where there could be a Latino elected. Ken Salazar and then Illinois, where an African- American could become the senator there, Barack Obama. Those would be three seats the Democrats would take from Republicans and could give them a real edge. So it's not done by any stretch of the imagination but there may be a year of adversity which may turn into the year of the Democrats.

BLITZER: But there are several southern Democrats who are not seeking re-election, that's making it very, very worrisome for Democrats.

WATSON: Southern exposure, if you will. Five states in particular, including my own home state of Florida have Democrats who are retiring, Bob Graham and others retiring or who are facing re- election bid. It's going to be tough there. I think there could be an interesting transition that we start to see, Wolf.

When you thought of southern Democrats winning in the 80s into the 90s you thought of Bill Clinton. You thought of white men who ran for office. Got 90 percent of the African-American vote, 30-40 percent of the white vote, put together a coalition, the new story could be white women running for the Democratic side. People Like Inez Tannenbaum running in South Carolina, people like Betty Castor running in Florida. We saw this with Mary Landrieu, the senator from Louisiana, we saw it in the gubernatorial race this past year, we saw it even in Arkansas, with Blanche Lincoln. So stay tuned, something interesting could happen there.

BLITZER: Carlos Watson giving us the inside edge, now you have your new column out on CNN.com/carlos. Is that right?

WATSON: Inside edge. CNN/carlos.

BLITZER: Go to read, it CNN.com/carlos. Thanks, Carlos.

WATSON: Good to see you.

BLITZER: One year later and the pains for peace continue. Has the war in Iraq changed the United States' standing in the world community. I'll ask the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright. She'll join me live.

An assassination attempt at a presidential parade. Taiwan's leader dodges death on the eve of elections.

And this...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I like the president very much, but I think that this is not a very popular country right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Donald Trump on politics, his profession and his new television show. It's a huge hit. And later, we'll get to that with my interview with the real estate tycoon turned reality show star.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to CNN. Coming up, my live interview with the former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, and the poll results showing a huge mistrust of U.S. policies around the world. We'll get to all of that, first, though, a quick check of the headlines.

U.S. intelligence is closely monitoring the standoff near the Afghan/Pakistan border. That's where Pakistani forces, thousands of them, are fighting a fierce battle with hundreds of suspected al Qaeda fighters. The militants are believed to be protecting what's being described as a high-value target who could be al Qaeda's second-in- command.

And deliberations in the Tyco trial will resume Monday. Jurors are deciding the fate of two former executives accused of looting $600 million from the company. Dennis Kozlowski, seen here as Tyco's former CEO. He and his co-defendant Mark Swartz could each face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

On this, the first anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. A recent poll finds growing antagonism towards U.S. foreign policy in some Middle Eastern and European countries. The poll was done by the non-partisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Joining me now to talk about the results, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and the former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Madam Secretary, thank you for joining us.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, FMR. U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Nice to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You were involved in doing this poll, what was your connection?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I'm just chairman of the advisory committee. The poll is obviously done by professionals and the facts are the facts. 8,000 people were questioned in 9 countries. And so whatever opinions I might have, have no effect on the poll.

BLITZER: There are some pretty remarkable attitudes that we found. Let me put some numbers up on the screen. Opinion of Osama bin Laden. This is pretty shocking, if you ask me. Obviously, tiny numbers in France, Germany, Great Britain, even Russia have favorable added. But take a look at this. In Turkey, 11 percent, Pakistan, 65 percent, Jordan, 55 percent, Morocco, 45 percent. Those are close allies of the United States and these people have such a favorable attitude about Osama bin Laden?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I was stunned by those numbers, because I think it shows that we don't fully understand what's going on in the rest of the world, and I'm troubled by the fact that anybody would think that somebody who orders the killing of innocent people would be popular in any way, but I do think it shows the great disconnect between us and many in the Muslim world.

BLITZER: Let's put some other numbers, opinion of the United States. Favorable opinions, Britain obviously, 58 percent has favorable opinions. France, it goes down, Russia, 47 percent. But look at this, in Turkey, a NATO ally, 30 percent, Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terrorism, 21 percent. Jordan only 5 percent have favorable attitudes, even Morocco, a close ally, 27 percent. What's happening here based on the research that you went through?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what we're seeing is a complete disenchantment with policies of the United States and the lack of explanation as to why we're doing what we're doing. But what troubles me the most, Wolf, is that because the polls do show a huge chasm between us and the Muslim world, this is a long-term issue. What we really do need is the friendship and alliance of our European partners and moderate Muslim states in fighting this and there is -- this division is, I think, what is the most telling aspect that comes out of this research because what is happening now is Osama bin Laden is able to do what the communists were not able to do in 40 years of the Cold War, which is divide us from our natural allies. BLITZER: You, obviously, are looking, like all of us, very closely at what's happening along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, his No. 2.

What's your sense? Is that the end game for them?

ALBRIGHT: Well, I think -- I know only what I see here, and I think it's obviously a very important fight that's going on, on the ground. The Pakistanis are deeply involved. I hope it's the end game.

I think we all hope very much that Osama bin Laden will be captured. But in viewing these pictures, we can all see that the difficulties still exist and we have to be very supportive of trying to get the No. 2, as well as Osama bin Laden himself.

BLITZER: But let no one be under any illusions. Even if Osama bin Laden is captured or killed, the terror will continue.

ALBRIGHT: I'm afraid it will, because what has happened it's metastasized in many ways and there are terror cells all over the place, and I think that it just goes to show that this is a long-term struggle in which we need a lot of help from reinvigorated alliances.

BLITZER: I know you're going to testify next week before the 9/11 Commission looking back. All of us are a lot smarter now with hindsight. But looking back, were there opportunities during your years in government, the eight years of the Clinton administration, in going after Osama bin Laden that were missed?

ALBRIGHT: I believe that we did everything we possibly could to take advantage of any actionable intelligence that we had to get him. President Clinton had standing orders in order to get Osama bin Laden, so I don't think that we missed opportunities because we really did try to act on every piece of intelligence that was predictive and actionable.

BLITZER: Put your other hat on for a minute as a strong supporter of John Kerry. You want him to be elected president of the United States. Will foreign policy be the key battleground between Kerry and Bush this time around?

ALBRIGHT: I think it will be a very important battleground. And obviously, as somebody who cares about foreign policy, I'm glad that is so, because I believe we have eight months in order to have a full dialogue about the role of the United States and the world, how we see the use of force, the use of diplomacy.

I happen to believe we need to use force at various times, and so I would like to see a discussion of it, but I'd also think that domestic issues will be very big in terms of taxes, education, health care, so we have time for a really full debate. I hope it's a full debate and not just a lot of sniping.

BLITZER: Madam Secretary -- that's the name of your book, by the way, isn't it? ALBRIGHT: It is, yes.

BLITZER: An excellent book.

Thanks very much for joining us.

ALBRIGHT: Thanks so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good read.

He's a billionaire businessman, royalty and real estate, and now one of television's hottest new stars.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN: I have fired a lot of people. Generally, I like other people to fire, because it's always a lousy task.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A lousy task he's turned, though, into a lucrative talent. Up next, my interview with Donald Trump. We'll get to that.

First, though, a look at some other news making headlines around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): Taiwan's president and vice president were shot and slightly injured in an apparent assassination attempt while campaigning on the eve of a presidential election. It happened during a parade watched by a huge crowd of supporters in the southern part of the country. No one has claimed responsibility. And officials say the election will go ahead as scheduled.

Kosovo violence. The United Nations says the death toll from three days of fighting between ethnic Albanians and Serbs stands at 28; 600 people have been wounded, including at least 60 NATO peacekeeping troops. NATO is deploying more peacekeeping troops in a bid to stop the violence.

Poland's about-face. Poland's president, Aleksander Kwasniewski, has told President Bush that Polish troops will remain in Iraq -- quote -- "as long as needed, plus one day longer." The comments come one day after Mr. Kwasniewski said his government was misled by intelligence on Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction.

And that's our look around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. He's been called the king of New York real estate, the master of the deal, or sometimes just the Donald. But no matter what people call Donald Trump, they're always talking about him. And lately, even more people are talking about him now that he's the centerpiece of a TV reality show.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: This is a tough one. You're fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Money, money, money, money.

BLITZER (voice-over): Donald Trump may be the year's most unlikely new TV star. But before "The Apprentice" premiered, his was a household name.

TRUMP: Hello, everybody.

BLITZER: The son of a real estate developer, Trump turned his father's company into what Trump, modestly or not, calls an ever- expanding business universe.

Some folks joke that it's hard to find a major Manhattan building that doesn't bear Trump's name. But the empire isn't limited to New York real estate. It includes casinos and reports, golf courses, even the Miss Universe Pageant. For a while, there was even an airline, the Trump Shuttle.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck.

TRUMP: Thank you.

BLITZER: Trump was a billionaire by the time he turned 40, but his name turned up in gossip columns as often as business columns. His marriages and divorces were fodder for newspaper tabloids and late-night TV comedians. While that kind of scrutiny might make your average billionaire publicity-shy, Trump relished it, making conspicuous appearances at trendy nightclubs and gala events.

TRUMP: Just the amount, the glamour, the stars, the star power, everybody here.

BLITZER: Trump also authored books, including "The Art of the Deal." And after bouncing back from a financial slump in the early 1990s, "The Art of the Comeback."

He also promoted a board game based on his career and even flirted with running for president of the United States on the Reform Party ticket. From developer to dealmaker to celebrity to political hopeful. Maybe the next step was inevitable.

TRUMP: Congratulations.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

BLITZER: After years of making guest appearances on television, Trump got his own reality show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE APPRENTICE")

TRUMP: Behind me is Planet Hollywood. The women will manage the restaurant tonight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Devising tests for would-be entrepreneurs who would like to work for him.

TRUMP: Wolf, I don't like the job you are doing. You are fired.

BLITZER: And firing those who fail.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And earlier this week, I was in New York and had a chance to speak with Donald Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Donald Trump, thanks for joining us. Did you ever in your wildest imagination expect this TV show to be this successful?

TRUMP: Well, I'm very honored to be the largest developer in New York. I never thought I was going to be a television star, if you could call it that. But the show has turned out to be amazing.

BLITZER: When you say you're fired, do you ever really say that? Have you ever fired someone?

TRUMP: Well, yes, I have fired a lot of people. Generally, I like other people to fire, because it's always a lousy task, but I have fired many people.

But the words you're fired didn't happen for the show. It was sort of a little bit of a -- I don't say it was a mistake, because it turned out to be really an asset. But when I came into the first board room meeting, the person that I was going to fire, I wasn't going to say, you're fired. I was going to say, it didn't work out for you. Don't worry about it. You'll come back.

And all of a sudden, I'm sitting there. And it's really essentially like live television. You can't do much about it. It's just, as far as I'm concerned, reality. i don't double takes. I don't want any of this. And I came out and said, you are fired, and everyone went crazy. The whole place went crazy.

All of the folks at NBC, they were in the back because this was the first session -- and they spent a lot of money on the show, over $2 million an episode. And they had a lot of NBC executives in the control room watching. And they heard the words you're fired, and everybody started jumping up and applauding. And they thought it was great. So it was a little bit by accident that the term you're fired came about. But when you think about it, it's a very precise, very beautiful two words. There's no arguing. There's no anything. There's no beating around the bush. You're fired is a very strong term.

BLITZER: And it's become the signature phrase for the show. Who would have thought?

TRUMP: Well, who would have thought?

And I walked down Fifth Avenue the other day and there were hundreds of people shouting out from buses and cars and everything else, you're fired, Donald, you're fired. They were all laughing and having a good time. But it's become quite the phrase.

BLITZER: Were you ever an apprentice?

TRUMP: I really went to work for a great guy known as my father. And he liked the job I did. A lot of people have asked, did he ever fire you? Were you ever fired? My father loved the job I did. I did a great job for my father, a really good job. And so he was never even close to it. I know many fathers have fired their sons, but my father was very happy with the job I did, so I was never fired.

BLITZER: What about you as a boss? Would you like to work for someone like Donald Trump?

TRUMP: Well, I think I'm fair.

I think if one thing came out of the program that's really good for me, it's hard to believe. It softened my image. People I guess thought of me as much tougher, almost like a flamethrower, but erratically tough and crazily tough. And I went to the Wharton School of Finance. I got very good marks. I was a good student. It's the best business school in the world, as far as my concerned, but is rated the best business school in the United States.

I was a good student. I did everything right. And yet I had this image of being a flamethrower. And I'm not. So, if the show did anything, it softened the image.

BLITZER: You possibly saw the criticism from Jeffrey Sonnenfeld from the Yale School of Management.

He wrote this. He said: "Many CEOs I talk with shudder at this ill-timed portrait of corporate leadership just when we need to restore trust in corporate values."

TRUMP: Well, I don't know Professor Sonnenfeld, but he couldn't get into Wharton, as far as I'm concerned. I don't think he's living in the real world. He also said there is too much sex in the boardroom.

Well, business is also about sex. It does enter into it, and I just think he's not a real-world person. He's a man who is good at teaching people from the books, but I don't think he has real-world experience. And I don't think a guy like Sonnenfeld would do very well in the business world. I really don't. I don't he's -- I think it's just the opposite. He's sort of saying this isn't necessarily the real world. Well, the fact is, I don't think he's living in the real world, because "The Apprentice" really is very much reality and very much the real world.

BLITZER: It's the way -- when you see the way these young people are behaving in the real world of business that you live in, that's what you see happening?

TRUMP: Except that we have it condensed, that's absolutely right. There's hatred. Whether it's racism or not, you see a lot of tones of it. I happen to not agree with Omarosa with some of the things she said about some of the other contestants.

BLITZER: Did someone accuse her -- call her the N-word?

TRUMP: I don't believe so at all. We had cameras, many, many cameras, running 24 hours a day. And it was not there.

And the person that was accused was just sick to her stomach at the thought of it. And I totally believe that. So there's so many different elements running through "The Apprentice" that are amazing. There's love. There's hate. There is potential racism and certainly accusations of it. Unfortunately, this is the real world. This is what it's all about.

BLITZER: You've gone through a lot in your career. Somebody said the other day, you've proven there is not only a second act. There's a third, a fourth act.

You remember this cover from "People" magazine, "Poor Donald," right?

TRUMP: Right.

BLITZER: July 9, 1990. "First a midlife crisis, then public humiliation. Here's how the brash millionaire's longing for money, love and respect brought him crashing down."

TRUMP: Right.

BLITZER: But when you see this now, what goes through your mind?

TRUMP: Well, I have that cover right outside. I'm very proud of that cover.

The real estate markets in 1990 crashed. I had billions and billions of dollars in debt. I had many friends that went bankrupt.

BLITZER: You were going down?

TRUMP: Well, I was, but I worked hard.

And my company today is a much bigger, stronger company than it ever was in the 1980s or 1990s even. But I was in trouble if I didn't get really back on the stick and start working. The real estate markets crashed. Now, I don't want to blame the real estate markets, because I always made a lot of money in bad markets. I love bad markets. You can do very well in a bad market.

But I wasn't focused particularly. I was in Europe watching all the great fashion shows and I wasn't necessarily interested in the dresses. Some people said I was much more interested in what was in the dresses. But I had a lot of fun and I had a good time. But then I realized it was time to stop the fun.

One of the major business magazines did an article in the late '80s, "Everything He Touches Turns to Gold." And I started to believe that. And I figured, well, I don't have to work as hard as I used to. I can take it easy. And all of a sudden I wasn't working to the same extent. Well, around 1990, I went back to work, and it was an amazing thing, because my company today is so big, so strong, so good. And I'm the biggest real estate person in New York now. And I'm very honored by it.

BLITZER: "Forbes" magazine says that you're worth $2.5 billion. Is that right?

TRUMP: Well, I never like to argue with them. I think "Forbes" is a great magazine, but I've always disputed that. I think, if you take my assets, it's worth a lot more than that. But "Forbes" has always said -- not always. I guess recently they said I'm worth $2.5 billion. But I think that's a lot of money, but would I sell my assets for $2.5 billion? No.

BLITZER: How much do you think, bottom line?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say. But just -- it's a lot. It's a lot.

BLITZER: Twice that?

TRUMP: It's a lot.

BLITZER: Two and half billion is a lot, too. That's nothing to sneeze at.

TRUMP: No, I agree. Hey, look, I think "Forbes" is a great magazine. I like "Forbes" a lot and I like Steve Forbes and everybody in the "Forbes" family.

I just think that if you -- I wouldn't sell my assets for $2.5 billion.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: That's not the last word from Donald Trump. There's much more ahead, including key political questions on which party he supports.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: Well, you'd be shocked if I said that in many cases I probably identify more as a Democrat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: In Donald Trump's own words, his views on the major political parties.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back now to my interview with Donald Trump, the billionaire, the real estate mogul, the host of his own reality TV series. I asked him about his playboy image.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: This notion of Donald Trump as the international playboy, is that exaggerated or is that real?

TRUMP: No, it's very exaggerated. I've had a girlfriend for a long time, Melania. I think there's nothing better than having a great relationship. And there's nothing better than having a good marriage.

BLITZER: You were remember this interview that we had in this room, you and me, that would be the last time I interviewed you, what you were thinking of doing at that time?

TRUMP: Well, I wasn't thinking so much about it. I, for some reasons, get good poll numbers. When they put me in polls, everyone says I should run for president, I should be president. I should be the guy that negotiates all the deals for this country and all of that.

BLITZER: You had created an exploratory committee to run for president.

TRUMP: Well, what happened is, there was a poll that came out that Donald Trump would be a great president and a lot of people liked it. And all of a sudden everybody said I was running for president. I never said I was running for president, as you know.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But you hired Roger Stone, a well-known political consultant.

TRUMP: No, I didn't hire him. Roger is a friend of mine. He's a good guy. And he looked at the possibility of it. And I just decided I didn't want to do it.

BLITZER: The success of this TV show is going to once again fuel speculation, well, maybe Trump should get into politics. Do you ever think about it anymore? TRUMP: Well, I know both people that are running for president, as an example, and I think they're both very good. I know the president. I know John. I think it's going to be a very, very tough race.

BLITZER: Who do you like better?

TRUMP: I won't say right now. But I think it's going to be a very, very tough race. It's going to be very interesting.

BLITZER: You travel all over the world, meet with world leaders. Do you believe what John Kerry said is true, that world leaders tell him they want Bush out and him in?

TRUMP: Well, I will say this. And, again, I like the president very much, but I think that this is not a very popular country right now. It's interesting. New York City is trying to get the Olympics, and I'm all for it, but I think it's tough to give New York City the Olympics right now, because I think a lot of countries that would have voted for us strongly right after September 11 maybe don't like us so much anymore.

BLITZER: Whose fault is that?

TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say, but there's a mind-set that maybe this country is not the popular country that it was. And maybe it shouldn't be such a popular country. We're not running a popularity contest.

BLITZER: Is it right for the president -- and you're a New Yorker, a lifelong New Yorker -- to run images of 9/11 in campaign commercials?

TRUMP: Well, I know that was a terrible, big uproar. I did not see a problem with it. That's life. That's reality. There was a 9/11. And he happened to be president. Why shouldn't he run an image?

BLITZER: Do you identify more as a Democrat or a Republican?

TRUMP: Well, you'd be shocked if I said that in many cases I probably identify more as a Democrat. And I think you would probably be shocked at that.

BLITZER: On social issues?

TRUMP: You know, it's interesting. I've been now around long -- I think of myself as a young guy, but I'm not so young anymore.

And I've been around for a long time. And it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans. Now, it shouldn't be that way. But if you go back, it just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than the Republicans.

BLITZER: Well, it certainly did well under Clinton. But I wouldn't suggest it was so great under Jimmy Carter. TRUMP: Well, that's true. That's true. That's true.

BLITZER: If you remember, the interest rates...

TRUMP: Oh, I know, I know. Jimmy Carter was not the same thing. But, certainly, we had some very good economies under Democrats as well as Republicans. But we've had some pretty bad disaster under the Republicans.

BLITZER: You want...

TRUMP: Including a thing called the Depression.

BLITZER: The Depression was bad, as we all remember.

And this new book that you're writing right now, it's going to come out very soon, right?

TRUMP: That's right. It comes out actually on Friday.

BLITZER: It goes beyond "The Art of the Deal," which was another one of your books which was a huge best-seller.

TRUMP: Right. That's right.

BLITZER: What does it do that that book didn't do?

TRUMP: Well, "The Art of the Deal," they say, is the biggest selling business book of all time. It sold 3.5 million copies. And that was in the late 80s.

The new book is called "Trump: How To Get Rich." The title is very descriptive. The people at Random House had a name called "The Buck Starts Here." And I said, that's cute and it's a nice catchphrase, but it doesn't do anything for me. It we're going to go that way, let's just do it. And I've never seen this before. Let's do it, "How To Get Rich," "How To Get Rich." And it's "Trump: How To Get Rich." And I told my theories on how to make money.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Give me one good theory.

TRUMP: Well, I think that one theory is, again, you have to enjoy what you're doing. You're never going to be rich, you're never going to be rich successful if you don't enjoy what you're doing.

BLITZER: And this is the lesson that you want people to emerge from reading your book.

TRUMP: Well, that's one of many lessons. But, you know, there are many.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: All right, you got a TV hit. You got buildings. You got golf courses, casinos. You've got a great family. You've got a new book that's coming out that's probably going to be a No. 1 best- seller. What else does Donald Trump want to do in his life?

TRUMP: I think it's just a continuation, honestly. Life -- this is sad. No politician would say this, so you know I'm not going to be a politician. Life is what you do while you're waiting to die. Sad, horrible statement. I hate to say it, but I say it, you know, because it's true.

Life is what you do while you're waiting to die. Have fun. Just enjoy it. Enjoy what you're doing. If you don't enjoy what you're doing, it doesn't mean anything.

BLITZER: Donald Trump, thanks.

TRUMP: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And can you catch the full interview with Donald Trump on CNN's "LATE EDITION" this Sunday at noon Eastern.

Our hot "Web Question of the Day" is this: One year later, has the war in Iraq been successful? You can vote right now. Go to CNN.com/Wolf. We'll have the results for you when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's how you're weighing in on our "Web Question of the Day": One year later, has the war in Iraq been successful? Forty-four percent of you say yes; 56 percent of you say no. This is not, not, a scientific poll.

A reminder, you can always catch WOLF BLITZER REPORTS weekdays 5:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll see you again this Sunday at noon Eastern for "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk. Among my guests, the former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, and Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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