Donald Trump takes on Clinton, Bush and the Pope

Story highlights

Trump compared Clinton's situation to that of Gen. David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to giving some classified information to his biographer and lover

Trump said he predicts his campaign will "do very well" and said he also beats Clinton on their records

New York CNN  — 

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump took on an array of subjects and political figures during a lengthy interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday, including Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Pope Francis and even Caroline Kennedy.

Asked first about his standing in a recent CNN/ORC poll, Trump said the controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s email use is “devastating,” and that it’s not surprising that he came within 6 points of the Democrat in a head-to-head polling match-up.

“I think it’s devastating for the election, but I think her bigger problem is not the election. I think her bigger problem is going to be the criminal (problem),” Trump said.

Clinton email scandal

While he said Clinton is not his “focus right now,” he predicted she would struggle to get over the bad headlines generated by the investigation into her private server and the possible transmission of classified information in her private email, as well as the money she has raked in for speeches since leaving office.

“I think that Hillary’s going to have a hard time being in the election based on what’s going on with the emails, the servers, maybe even the speeches,” Trump said. “I think it’s going to be a very hard thing for her to overcome.”

RELATED: Trump competitive with Clinton

Trump compared Clinton’s situation to that of Gen. David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to giving some classified information to his biographer and lover.

“When I look, Chris, at what happened with Petraeus … great general, wonderful guy, everybody loved him, and it destroyed his life over much less,” Trump said. “It would seem hard to think that somebody could have a much worse situation than him and escape.”

Cuomo countered that Petraeus knew the information was classified and intentionally passed it along, but there has been no indication to date that the Justice Department believes Clinton intentionally shared information she knew was classified. She has not personally been declared the subject of the investigation into her emails.

“It certainly looks like it was high-level information,” Trump said. “It’s always skirting the edge. What’s the purpose of it? … What is she doing, why is she doing it?”

He acknowledged that the investigation hasn’t named her, but he said he believes what she did was criminal.

RELATED: Fact-check: Trump misstates support from Rousey, Marines

“I don’t think I’m the only one. The FBI’s involved, they only do criminal,” Trump said. “Now maybe it’s somebody on her staff. But look, it’s ether criminal or incompetent, it’s one or another … either gross incompetence or criminal, and neither’s acceptable to be president.”

On Tuesday, Clinton told the press at an adversarial news conference that the email story “has nothing to do with me,” made fun of questions about whether she “wiped” the server and said “no one” asks her about the emails and the servers but the press.

Trump said he predicts his campaign will “do very well” and said he also beats Clinton on their records, reiterating that he came out against the Iraq War in 2004.

“Hillary’s record as secretary of state was a disaster,” Trump said. “She was in favor, totally in favor, of the Iraq War, which is obviously not a good soundbite.”

03:10 - Source: CNN
Trump on immigration: 'I have to do the right thing'


Trump isn’t backing down from his call to revoke automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrant parents despite concerns he’ll turn Hispanic voters off to the GOP.

“I have to do the right thing,” the mogul said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo Wednesday, when asked about his immigration plan being under fire.

Trump has called for building a wall along the border with Mexico, revoking the right to citizenship to children born the U.S. if their parents aren’t documented, and for deporting undocumented immigrants and then allowing “good ones” to re-enter the country.

He has been hit with criticism from some Republicans while taking and heavy fire from the left.

He even took flak as he sat down for the interview with CNN in Trump Tower, when an onlooker in the lobby of the building shouted: “You will never win the Latino vote. The Latino (voters) don’t like you.”

RELATED: Trump’s immigration plan: the specifics

Trump didn’t respond to the heckler, and after the interview finished taping, two people watching from the crowd told Trump they were Mexican-American and would gladly support him, which he relayed to Cuomo.

“You know, this country is so politically correct. Nobody wants to take a stance on anything,” Trump told Cuomo. “Now they like to use the word undocumented because it’s more political – I don’t use that word. They’re illegal immigrants. They came over illegally. Some are wonderful people, and they’ve been here for a while. They’ve got to go out. They’ve got to leave.”

He did say there were “a lot of good ones” among immigrants, and that he would try to bring them back.

“These people – the really good ones, and we have some great ones – we’re going to try and expedite so they can come back,” he said. “But they’re going to come back legally.”

RELATED: Trump’s immigration plan: the specifics

The candidate also reiterated that he believes in changing birthright citizenship – which grants automatic citizenship to all children born in the U.S. – though he said he wouldn’t need to amend the Constitution to do it.

“No. 1, the 14th Amendment is very questionable as to whether or not somebody can come over, have a baby and immediately that baby is a citizen. OK?” Trump said. “Amending is too big a deal. It’s going to take – it’ll be two terms. I’d be in my second term or my eighth year by the time – assuming everything went smoothly. … I believe you can win it legally.”

He said people can’t be allowed to just “walk over” the border to give birth.

“You have people on the border and in one day they walk over, have a baby. And now all of a sudden we’re supposed to pay the baby … medical, Social Security,” Trump said.

02:44 - Source: CNN
Trump on military: 'Nobody's gonna play games with us'

Military advice

Getting military strategy by watching current and retired generals talk on TV isn’t just OK with Trump – he says it’s better than any team he could assemble to personally advise him.

The mogul made the comment on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday – earning derision from one of those frequent TV pundits, retired Gen. Michael Hayden.

But Trump defended his comments in an interview Wednesday with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, saying it allows him to get a lot of advice quickly.

“I watch your show. And I watch other shows. And you have the best generals, the best everything … frankly probably better than I could get,” Trump said. “What do I know? I’m a man that made a great fortune. I’m gonna make our country rich and I’m gonna make our country great.”

RELATED: Trump defends doing ‘right thing’ on immigration

Trump said he watches shows as well as reading The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers and magazines, which allows him to “get a lot of information in a very short time.”

He acknowledged that other candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, have a team of advisers, but he also dinged Bush for being “very low energy” and not moving as quickly as Trump.

“You get the best people,” he said. “Even the generals wanna be on television, right? Or they’re retired generals in many cases. But I see a lot of good things by watching your show and other shows. And it’s really nothing to be laughed at or scoffed at.”

In fact, Trump said his military savvy could be one of his biggest strengths in the general election.

He pointed to a CNN/ORC poll that had him more trusted than other Republican candidates on fighting terror group ISIS.

“I think that I would be a great sleeper on the military, because people wouldn’t think it’s my strength, but I think it would be one of my strengths,” Trump said. “One of the things I noticed in your poll, I came out way, way ahead of everybody on the economy, and a lot of people weren’t surprised to see that, but I also came way out ahead on the military … and ISIS.”

He added: “I would build up our military so strong, so powerful that nobody will mess with us.”

Trump: Yes I’d scare the Pope

Picture this: Trump and the Pope, face-to-face. And the Pope tells the mogul that capitalism can be toxic. How would Trump reply?

“I’d say, ‘ISIS wants to get you,’” Trump said, when asked by Cuomo about that hypothetical scenario.

“You know that ISIS wants to go in and take over the Vatican? You have heard that. You know, that’s a dream of theirs, to go into Italy,” Trump said.

Cuomo, taken aback, asked if Trump would actually scare the Pope, who is coming to the U.S. for his first visit next month.

“I’m gonna have to scare the Pope because it’s the only thing,” Trump said. “The Pope, I hope, can only be scared by God. But the truth is – you know, if you look at what’s going on – they better hope that capitalism works, because it’s the only thing we have right now. And it’s a great thing when it works properly.”

Trump said right now, capitalism was not working properly in the U.S. because of over-regulation of industry.

The real estate mogul said that though he is a Protestant, he generally likes Pope Francis, who has been outspoken on a number of politically sensitive issues including poverty, climate change and judging gays.

“I have great respect for the Pope,” Trump said. “I like the Pope. I actually like him. He’s becoming very political, there’s no question about it. But I like him. He seems like a pretty good guy.”

Trump also noted he doesn’t believe the Pope is actually opposed to capitalism.

Meet the Trumps

Trump says his famous family is totally ready to hit the campaign trail – and they will be great at it.

In fact, he said before he jumped into the race, he sat down with his family to talk it over.

“My wife said something very interesting,” Trump said. “She’s my pollster, OK? She said, ‘You know if you actually announce you’re going to win.’ I said, ‘I don’t know that.’ But the response has been pretty amazing.”

Trump’s third wife, Melania, hasn’t been a huge presence on the campaign trail – yet. But Trump said she’s ready for that and, potentially, being first lady.

“Yes, she’s ready,” he said. “She has been (quiet so far) and purposely. You know, I haven’t asked her to do anything. And she would certainly like to.”

Melania would be interested in working on women’s health issues, for example, Trump said. And so would his daughter, Ivanka, who he acknowledged could be president in her own right.

“She could be president – she’d be great,” Trump said. “She will be fantastic. My boys will be fantastic. … They wanna be out there. They believe in what I’m saying.”

Trump has five children: the four adults – daughters Ivanka and Tiffany, and sons Eric and Donald Jr. – and 9-year-old son, Barron.

He also dismissed questions about whether Melania, who was born in Slovenia but moved to the U.S. amid a successful modeling career, has any issues with the Republican’s hard-line immigration policies.

“She actually agrees with me because she went through a long process to become a citizen,” Trump said. “She thinks it’s a wonderful process to go through. And when she got it, she was very proud of it.”

Trump on Bush

Trump took several jabs at his opponent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in an interview with CNN on Wednesday – including Bush’s Planned Parenthood flub on women’s health spending.

“When I watch Jeb Bush a week ago not wanting to fund the women’s health issues … I thought it was terrible,” Trump said.

Trump was referring to Bush’s comments earlier this month on wanting to defund Planned Parenthood.

“I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues,” Bush said. His campaign later said he misspoke.

Democrats seized on the line.

“I watched him make the statement,” Trump said, alleging that only after Bush spoke to his pollsters did he say he misspoke.

“But, how do you misspeak about something like that?” Trump said. He said his wife and daughter both encouraged him to talk more about women’s issues after the controversy.

“They said, you know, ‘The one thing you should do is talk a little bit about women’s health issues, because you’re so good on it,’” Trump said. “‘You know about it. And you cherish women. You want to protect women’. … I will protect women more than anybody.”

Trump has faced criticism of his treatment of women, exacerbated after he clashed with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly in the first GOP debate over the epithets he has used for women in the past.

But Trump didn’t just beat up on Bush, who is running second in the polls to Trump, nationally, on women’s health. He also hit the former governor – who has himself joked about being a “joyful tortoise” – for his style.

“He’s a very low energy person, Jeb Bush,” Trump said. “He’s got very low energy, which is okay. It’s good, if you want (to) lead a long life. But he’s a low energy person.”

Trump on trade

Trump says his administration would tap American businessmen Carl Icahn and Henry Kravis as top international negotiators – pledging they could do a better job than the diplomats currently in office. He also predicted he would be “the greatest jobs president that God ever created,” and get tough on countries like China, Mexico and Japan.

Pressed by Cuomo on how exactly he’d get American companies to stop building factories overseas, where labor is cheaper, Trump said he’d slap the companies with tariffs and communicate with them.

He also said current U.S. efforts to improve its standing in the world were failing – and given overseas consumption of his products and real estate, Trump predicted his presidency would be the opposite.

“We are getting killed on trade,” Trump said. “We have diplomacy now. They’re killing us, and they don’t even like us. … With me, they’ll like us and we’ll beat them, OK?”

He said the nation’s top businessmen are on his side.

“Carl Icahn agrees with me,” Trump said. “And Carl Icahn, as you know, is a great negotiator. And I have many other great negotiators. They are dying to get involved.”

Trump said he would “absolutely” put Icahn in charge of China and Japan.

“You take a guy like Carl Icahn, you take Henry Kravis, you take so many of the guys that I know and you say, ‘You know what, I’d like you to watch over the deals that are being made with China because we’re getting killed on trade.’ Believe me, we will be so good,” Trump said. “He’d do it in two seconds. He’s already told me he’d love to do it.”

Trump said Icahn would be better than the current U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy.

“We have the greatest business people in the world, we don’t use them,” Trump said. “We use people like, I mean, she’s a very nice person, my daughter likes her … Caroline Kennedy. OK, in Japan. She didn’t even know how she got the job.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the onlookers of Trump’s interview were Mexican-American.