To see the full Trump interview, watch “CNN Tonight” at 10 p.m. ET
Donald Trump on Tuesday hit back at Jeb Bush’s accusation that the billionaire businessman is not a true conservative, amid an intensifying feud between the two Republican presidential candidates.
Speaking with CNN’s Don Lemon, Trump responded to a new video from the Bush campaign that slammed Trump for having espoused “liberal” positions in the past, as he explained once again why he used to be a Democrat.
“In New York City, everybody was a Democrat,” Trump said. “There was almost no election because the Republicans hardly existed in New York City.”
Adding that former President Ronald Reagan was also once a Democrat with a “pretty liberal bend,” Trump even went on to predict that plenty of Democrats would end up supporting him.
“I think I will have a lot of Democrats voting for me – far more than any Republican for the last long period of time,” he said.
Over the past few weeks, Trump and Bush have ratcheted up their attacks on one another, both on the campaign trail and on social media. Earlier this week, Trump posted a video on Instagram criticizing Bush’s immigration stance.
As he leads the rest of the GOP field in national polls, Trump has billed himself as a non-career politician candidate who doesn’t need help from donors and won’t answer to special interests. However, the real-estate mogul lamented on Tuesday that he is – like it or not – now a politician.
“I hate the term politician as it relates to myself. I’ve only been a politician for three months but I guess that’s what I am,” he said.
Trump also offered his thoughts on news unfolding Tuesday outside of Chicago, where a police officer was shot and killed. Asked whether recent events suggest that police officers in this country are in greater danger, Trump said he sees respect for law enforcement officials eroding.
“Police are some amazing people but they’re afraid to act and they’re afraid do what’s right,” Trump said. “You see it more and more and the respect is taken away from the police and that’s a very bad thing for the country and it’s a very bad thing for our security and safety.”
Ben Carson’s rise
Trump is no longer the sole leader in the early primary state of Iowa: Neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Trump are now tied at 23% in the early primary state, according to a Monmouth University survey.
Trump said Tuesday he was “a little bit surprised” to see those new numbers.
“I’ve been leading in Iowa by a lot,” he said.
But don’t expect Trump – the king of going on the offense – to start attacking Carson any time soon.
The GOP front-runner said he’s more of a “counter-puncher” – that is, he tends to hit back if he’s first provoked – and that he enjoys a good personal relationship with Carson.
“I think Ben’s nice person. I’ve met him numerous times and I like him,” Trump said.
No more ‘fundraisers’
Trump said Tuesday that the media incorrectly referred to an event in Norwood, Massachusetts, last week as a fundraiser, even though a sign at the entrance had read: “Please have checks made payable to: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. or cash ready on entry.”
Trump once again denied that the evening soiree, hosted at the home of local car dealership magnate Ernie Boch Jr., was a fundraiser. He even pledged to never attend an event where the campaign accepts donations of any size.
“I’m not going to do it anymore because it’s too complicated,” Trump said. “People don’t know the difference between making a contribution to defer costs … I’m just going to pay for the whole thing myself.”
The billionaire claimed that he’s been turning away millions of dollars from potential donors so as not to be beholden to them. He said he hopes it’s a decision that will pay off in the end.
“I just hope the voters appreciate it when it comes time to vote because I’m spending my own money and it’s going to be a lot of money by the time I finish,” Trump said.
Trump’s tax policy has been somewhat of a head-scratcher.
In recent interviews, the candidate has said he wouldn’t mind raising taxes on himself – comments that could be interpreted to mean he supports boosting taxes on Americans in the uppermost income bracket.
On Tuesday, Trump said he is not proposing a tax hike and that he’s only proposing that hedge fund managers – whose profits are taxed at a lower “carried interest” rate compared to other regular income – pay more.
“I’m not proposing to raise taxes,” Trump told CNN. “I’m lowering taxes on the middle class and the upper-middle class and the moderately wealthy. I’ll be lowering the taxes.”