OTR Interviews

Trump: Christie Would Be a Formidable Foe for Everybody

Donald Trump discusses his meeting with Herman Cain, gives thoughts on the Amanda Knox verdict, the latest in the 2012 race, Chris Christie and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 3, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a "Fox News Alert." Amanda Knox is a free woman tonight. She left an Italian prison just a short time ago. The question now -- where is she headed? The emotion-packed courtroom, an Italian appeals court threw out Knox's murder conviction today. She had served almost four years in prison for the vicious murder of her British college-age roommate. We're going to have much more on this stunning verdict coming up, live report from Italy.

But first, we were in Donald Trump's office when the Amanda Knox verdict was announced. Trump apparently has been in contact with Amanda Knox's parents, and just a short time ago, we spoke with Donald about the case and his meeting today with GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain.


VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, nice to see you.

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VAN SUSTEREN: All right, I want to talk about politics and the economy, but first Amanda Knox verdict just came down a short time ago. You have some connection to this case.

TRUMP: Well, I do in the sense that I helped them out. I helped the family out. I felt very, very badly for that family and for her. I never thought she did it. I watched very intently, like everybody else, and there was just no way she was involved in that.

And so I did help them out. I feel very, very happy about it. In fact, I said boycott Italy until they release her. It was really an injustice. And I would get on that plane so fast if I were her and get out.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm surprised you haven't sent yours for her.

TRUMP: Well, I guess I didn't need to. I think all your networks are sending them.

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't know. ... All right. Have you ever spoken to her parents?

TRUMP: Yes, I have.

VAN SUSTEREN: What -- tell me what -- what...

TRUMP: Well, they're lovely people. And this is amazing. She went there for a short period of time to learn Italian. And guess what? She learned Italian. That's the only thing she got out of the trip.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's extraordinary, though, you know, after all these years that now she's coming home.

TRUMP: It's amazing. it's great. And I think she maybe will be a star. She's really good. I think she's a good person. I thought it was horrible what happened. I thought the Italian prosecutor was a horrendous person with a terrible background and a terrible record. And it's great that she's coming home.

VAN SUSTEREN: I feel, of course, also deeply sad also for the family of the British girl who was murdered. Obviously, the jury (INAUDIBLE) they've decided it was not Amanda Knox, but nonetheless, a terrible tragedy for that family.

TRUMP: The whole thing was a tragedy for the families and for everybody, but Amanda did not do it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, so she's coming home. All right, now, I originally came here to talk to you -- what was your impression? You had a meeting today with Herman Cain. Another candidate makes a pilgrimage to meet you.

TRUMP: Well, I did, and I was really impressed. And I told him, I said, Herman, you should be really proud of yourself. You have done an amazing job, a really great job in terms of -- and this is an individual, so we won't use the word "branding," but just in terms of really setting yourself up for great things -- whether it happens or not, for just great things. I think he's done an amazing job, a great job.

VAN SUSTEREN: What was your impression? If someone saw you on the street and said, What's Herman Cain like, what would you say?

TRUMP: Terrific guy, smart, energetic, really nice guy. I mean, we had a great time. We were together for about an hour and 20 minutes, and we just enjoyed. I think he enjoyed it also.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you surprised that he's surged and is -- I mean, this is a very risky business. Someone's up. Someone's down. Someone's up. Someone's down. But are you surprised at his recent surge?

TRUMP: Well, I'm not surprised after meeting him. He's just a very interesting guy. And he comes out with some very specific plans, and lots of other people aren't coming out with the real specific plans. And you know, I just liked him very much. As a person, I liked him very much, and it's one of the reasons he surged.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's sort of interesting. They all come make a pilgrimage to see you.

TRUMP: Well, we talked about that a little bit. And the fact is that I represent a large group of millions of people that really like what I'm saying about China and about OPEC and about lots of other countries that are just ripping us off. I mean, this country is a poor country. Our country, hard to believe, is a poor country, and we're poor not because all of the other things people are saying, we're poor because other places throughout the world are just ripping us.

They're just stealing our money. They're taking our money like we're babies. Now, we have other problems, but our biggest problem in terms of what's happening with the United States is China and OPEC and others just taking our jobs, manufacturing, just manufacturing virtually everything for us. We don't have jobs anymore. We're not manufacturing. We buy everything.

You know what we do? We service our elderly. We service people from health care. But that's not like bringing in money. It's really very sad when you see what's happened to the United States. And I discussed that with Herman, and I discussed it with Mitt Romney and with Rick Perry.

I mean, you know, people understand what I'm saying. But I represent a large, large group of people, millions and millions of people. I was leading in the polls, don't forget, Greta. You will attest to that. And there was a reason, and that was the rain. So I think they want to hear what I have to say about it, and I think they're starting -- people are starting to get it. To me it's very simple.

VAN SUSTEREN: Aren't they also sort of looking, though, for your blessing, your endorsement? I mean, since you were leading in the policy at one time, they recognize that it might be smart to go out and grab your supporters.

TRUMP: Well, I think that's true, but I think that maybe it's a little beyond that. I think they realize that I really have a strong group of supporters that agree with what I'm saying, and they're not hearing it from other people. So I think that's really why they come up. Yes, I think they'd like my endorsement.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you haven't given one yet.

TRUMP: Well, we didn't even discuss that today with Herman.

VAN SUSTEREN: But don't you think that's why everyone is, I mean, sort of angling for it?

TRUMP: Yes, I do think so. I mean, honestly, he didn't say that, but I do think so because I think I carry millions and millions of people that see what's happening to this country. And I know why. And I deal with the people on the other side.

You know, I deal with China. I deal with Mexico. I deal with the OPEC nations. I have many of them right in this building in terms of tenants that pay me rent. And they laugh at the stupidity of our leaders.

VAN SUSTEREN: You've spoken to many of them now, and the two businessmen in the race are Governor Romney and Mr. Herman Cain. Compare and contrast their business experience and where you think it's an attribute or stronger or something more important for the American people.

TRUMP: Well, I wouldn't want to say stronger or not stronger. I mean, they both have great business credentials.

VAN SUSTEREN: Different or the same?

TRUMP: Very different. I mean, Governor Romney did lots of things with companies, making them better, taking companies, making them better, making them work. That's a great thing. Herman Cain worked for companies like Pillsbury and some tremendous companies, and then he ran a company very successfully. So they really both have very good business credentials.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of job creation, just totally on paper, would you look towards Governor Romney's experience or to Mr. Herman Cain's in terms of who do you think has a -- just the resume only in terms of job creation?

TRUMP: Well, I think both could. And frankly, I don't want to be in that position yet. It's too early. I'm also studying things. I just know this. Obama has to be defeated. We have to get this country back. We have to take our country back.

The world is just taking pieces. Just like a shark would take from whatever, the world is taking pieces out of us. We have to stop it. I was very impressed with Herman Cain. I was very impressed with Governor Romney. And frankly, at some point, I'm going to have to make a decision as to what I'm doing, including Governor Perry.

VAN SUSTEREN: How are you going to make that decision? What are you looking for?

TRUMP: Well, it'll be period of time, but I'll make a decision.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, Mr. Cain has a 9-9-9 program in terms of his tax program. Did you discuss it at all with him? And have you looked at it, reviewed it?

TRUMP: We did, and I have looked at it and we discussed it actually at length. And he's very intent on that program, and it resonates.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think about it?

TRUMP: Well, it resonates. Look, at least it's a program. Now, I haven't studied it and I'm not an economist, although I do have a very nice education. But the truth is, it's a program, whereas Obama really doesn't have a program. Our president does not have a program. Candidates have a program.

He has the 9-9-9, and it has resonated amazingly well. He was telling me he was at a recent big dinner and he mentioned the 9-9-9 in Florida, and then he won the straw poll because people want to hear specifics. And he's come up with a program that's specific. Now, whether you agree with it, now, maybe it's 10-10-10 or maybe it's 7-7, I don't know. But I can tell you he has a program and it resonated, and he did very well in the straw poll, shockingly well, and I think everybody else was very surprised.

VAN SUSTEREN: President Obama today in an interview referred to himself as an underdog going into this 2012 race. Your thought on that?

TRUMP: Well, I don't think he's an underdog at all. I think he's going to be tough to beat. I think that he's got a constituency that's automatic. He's got a group of people that are going to be voting for him. And he's a Democratic, strong. I think that he probably is not doing very well. Let's face it, the economy is doing horribly. But I would never call him an underdog.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he responsible for the economy at this point?

TRUMP: Well, at this point, he is. And Vice President Biden said that he was responsible for the economy. I mean, it's going to be three years very soon, and he is absolutely responsible right now. It should have been turned around, and it's probably getting worse. You look at the stock market, you look at what's happening. It's probably getting worse. It should have been turned around by now.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of looking at the race, the timing of the different primaries -- it's a big deal. Florida has now alienated many people involved in the process. What do you think about Florida sort of jumping the line and moving their primary up?

TRUMP: I think it's a mistake. I think it's an embarrassment to the Republican Party. There's no reason for it because now everybody else is just going to move theirs ahead of Florida, so what are they doing? They ought to take their time, leave it where it was. I really believe it's a mistake, and I think a lot of other people agree with me that it's a mistake.

VAN SUSTEREN: First primary's going to be sometime early January probably. I know you said you haven't endorsed anyone, you haven't made a decision, but do you have some sort of timetable in your mind about when you're going to?

TRUMP: Well, it's probably going to be sometime around that period, before the primaries. They all -- I think they're coming up. Again, I think they're coming up for endorsements. We don't talk in terms of endorsement, but I think they're all coming up for endorsements. And again, millions and millions of people feel the way I feel. I think it's going to be sometime prior to primary time.

VAN SUSTEREN: You do it on our show before you do it on Neil Cavuto's, right?

TRUMP: Oh, I love you both.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, switch topics. The protests, Wall Street protests -- what's your thought on the protests?

TRUMP: Well, I've watched the protesters, and they look very well dressed and probably half of their parents work in Wall Street or work for, essentially, Wall Street-related groups. I'm looking at the way they are. This is not a poor group of protesters.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does that matter?

TRUMP: No, it doesn't matter. But you know, this isn't like protests like I've been used to seeing over the years.

VAN SUSTEREN: But poor people probably can't come down and protest. You know, they got to work. I mean, maybe in some ways, people who have jobs or a little more money can come down and protest.

TRUMP: Greta, there's a reason to protest. Our country's doing very poorly. So I don't -- you know, I sort of cherish the protests because in one way -- I may not agree with them as a group, but I do agree it's time to protest. And the thing that we should be protesting is how poorly our country is doing.

We have to make our country -- not people, but our country rich again or we can't take care of Medicare or we can't take care of Social Security or Medicaid or any of the other programs. We're a poor country right now. We're a country that's being eaten alive by people and other countries that couldn't care less for us. I mean, they're at economic war with us.

And if we don't do something, then Medicare is in trouble and Social Security is in trouble. You know, if we could get our economy going again, you wouldn't even be mentioning Social Security and Medicare anymore. You won be mentioning it. You wouldn't be talking about tax increases and all of the things that people are talking about. What we need is a strong economy and a strong country. We don't have a strong country anymore.

VAN SUSTEREN: What about Congress? Congress has always typically had low approval ratings, but right now, they're really at the bottom of a lot of the rating numbers. What's your thought on Congress?

TRUMP: Well, Congress deserves low approval ratings. Look what they're doing. They're fighting like a bunch of children. They're -- what they're doing is horrible. I've never seen anything like it. I've been watching this scene and been involved in this since because I'm a contributor for many, many years. I have never in my life seen what's happening with Congress. They're like children.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you turn that around, though, because it seems like everyone who comes to Washington as president says, you know, I'm going to be the compassionate conservative, I'm going to cure the logjam, or whatever it is. Every president comes in and thinks he can do the best job possible. But we can't seem to get out of that logjam.

TRUMP: You turn it around with one word, leadership. The president, the leader, has to get everybody together and get them to do what's right. Everybody knows what's right. You got to get them to do what's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you identify a leader?

TRUMP: You never know how to identify a leader, it just happens. There are some people can lead and there are some people that can't lead. You can have people saying the exact same thing in a room -- and I've seen it -- the exact same words, and one room will go along with that person and another room will not go along with the other person with the same words. You don't know how to define leadership, but some people have it and some people don't. And we don't have it in Washington right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, some candidates for the Republican nomination have a program, some don't. How many have leadership qualities of the kind of you're talking about?

TRUMP: Well, I think you have a number of very fine leaders. You know, the hard part about leadership is you don't know until you throw them into the water. You think somebody's a leader -- I see it all the time on "The Apprentice." I see these people come in. They look fantastic. I see other people, they don't look good at all. The other people turn out to be the best by far, and the ones that I think are so great, in some cases, are stiffs. And you see it in politics, too. You don't know. You know when they're tested. You know when they're tried.

VAN SUSTEREN: That's a little late, though.

TRUMP: Well...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's after the vote.

TRUMP: It's too bad. It's too bad. You can get an indication, but it's too bad. But oftentimes, you think somebody's going to be fantastic - - hey, look, I wanted President Obama to be a great president. When he was first elected -- you can go back -- I was, Go out there and do it. I thought he was going to be the greatest cheerleader for this country.

Instead, he's become a very negative force. He really has become -- he's negative. Everything's negative. It's their fault. It's this one's fault. There's nothing positive. He talked about change. Change was wonderful. The concept was wonderful. And I didn't support him, but when he got elected, I thought, Great, you've got to support him now because he's our president for four years.

He's not done a good job and he's been very negative, and he's getting more and more negative every day. It's very, very frightening for this country.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of leadership, you said that we learn after someone's thrown into the fire, essentially. Is there anyone you've spoken to, when you walk out of the room, any of the potential nominees and thought, Wow, that person has leadership qualities?



TRUMP: I can't tell you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Give me a hint.

TRUMP: I won't tell you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you...

TRUMP: I'll...

VAN SUSTEREN: Man or woman.

TRUMP: I'm not going to do it right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.

TRUMP: Well, not man or woman, I'm just...


TRUMP: I'm just not going to say.


TRUMP: But there is somebody that I think is very good.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Governor Christie -- there's a lot of, you know, Is he in, is he out, a lot of pushing and prodding. Do you think he's going to jump into the race, number one? And number two, would he be any good?

TRUMP: He's a very good friend of mine. I know him very well. I've been with him for years and years. I have a lot of property in New Jersey. He's a great governor. He's done a great job. I don't think he's going to run. He'd be a very formidable foe for everybody there.


TRUMP: Because he's smart, sharp, quick. He'll...

VAN SUSTEREN: He's got...


VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, he's got very little jobs experience. He's been a governor for a year-and-a-half. Before that, he was a U.S. attorney.

TRUMP: He was a U.S. Attorney and a very good one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right, but that's not exactly a job creator.

TRUMP: No, but...

VAN SUSTEREN: That's great for law enforcement.

TRUMP: Well, it's a pretty big job. I mean, that's a pretty big job. And...


TRUMP: ... it has to do with law enforcement and that's also what the country needs, a little law enforcement...

VAN SUSTEREN: But if you take that...

TRUMP: ... especially at our borders.

VAN SUSTEREN: But if you take that and compare that to President Obama -- President Obama came in with relatively little experience, as well.

TRUMP: To put it mildly.

VAN SUSTEREN: And he -- I mean, Governor Christie wows the Republicans with the sound bites. President Obama wowed his supporters with his inspirational speeches, as well. So they both sort of in some ways bring no jobs experience to the job.

TRUMP: Well, Greta, I just know him very well. I think he'd be great if he decides to run. I personally don't think he's going to run. I think he'd be -- I think he'd do a very good job if he decides to run. I don't think he's going to run.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the field complete?

TRUMP: I believe the field is complete, yes, as a Republican field.

VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, thank you. Always nice to see you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you going to run?

TRUMP: Let's see what happens. Long time. Now, if the question is, will somebody run against President Obama, I find that to be a very interesting question.


TRUMP: And will it be early or will it be as an independent candidate on the liberal side? I don't know. I'm hearing rumors that somebody will run against President Obama.

VAN SUSTEREN: Within his own party?

TRUMP: No, you think about him. Forgetting about everything else, just the war, the war itself. He was going to get everybody home. He was going to take them home. The war is worse now than ever, and when we leave, as sure as you're standing there, as you know, and I've said it, Iran will take over the oil fields of Iraq. And what have we done? As an example, that war. The other war's another catastrophe.

So if I'm a liberal and I'm saying, you know, like, I'm against the war -- I will say this, if President Bush stayed in office and kept fighting the wars, they'd have riots in the street right now. With Obama, they don't, although they may be starting.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Let me just ask one (INAUDIBLE) because you have -- you've given me a little of a tease. Who do you think would challenge the president?

TRUMP: I don't know, but I hear numerous names. I don't want to mention them, but I hear numerous names, that they're thinking of challenging either as a liberal independent or maybe even, you know, against him in a primary.

VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, it's always nice to see you.

TRUMP: Be very interesting, wouldn't it be? Oh, you would love it!

VAN SUSTEREN: Politics -- never dull. Thank you, sir.

TRUMP: Thank you.