This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 18, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: House Speaker John Boehner says President Obama is selling out American jobs for politics. The White House disagrees, and today the Obama administration denied a permit for the Keystone pipeline project. The State Department says there is not enough time prior to the agreed upon deadline to determine the pipeline's environmental impact. They want to make sure the environment is protected.
As a might have guessed, the permit denial makes House Republicans steaming mad. They say the pipeline would have created thousands of jobs. What does business titan Donald Trump think? Donald is the author of "Time to Get Tough." We spoke with Donald earlier today.
VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, nice talk to you.
VAN SUSTEREN: There is big news today pitting the environmentalists against labor and the Republicans against Democrats and business against anti-business over this Keystone pipeline project. You thought about the news that is going no permit is going to be issued now for the pipeline?
TRUMP: Well, I think it's disgraceful. Frankly, we don't need Canada. We should just be able to drill our own oil. As long as it's there we certainly should have approved it. It was jobs and cheaper oil. It's just absolutely incredible. I guess President Obama took care of the environmentalists, but it is absolutely terrible. And it is not an environmental problem at all in any way, shape, or form.
VAN SUSTEREN: I take it one step further in that in 2008, that was when the State Department agreed there would be an environmental impact study done to see what effect the pipeline would have if any on the environment. They outsourced it to the TransCanada pipeline company to pick its own company to do the environmental study and they picked a company that had other business with them. In that sense it's a conflict of interest. So naturally when the environmental study report came back last August, the company said it had no impact on the environment. It was like sending the fox out to guard the chicken coop. Our government is so stupid to let the company hire its own contractor and naturally with a conflict of interest. So it's no surprise.
TRUMP: You should look into the political contributions who got what. It's just a total mess. This is way our country has been run. It's a laughing stock, Greta, all over the world. All over the world they laugh at us. People tell me from Keystone from other places, and from China. They can't believe it.
Honestly we're taking oil from Canada and paying them a lot of money. We don't need Canadian oil if we did it right. We need to drill our own oil. We have so much of it we don't know what to do. Between natural gas and oil and lots of other things, we should be doing our own.
The fact is the Keystone pipeline is a positive. You are talking about tens of thousands of jobs. You are talking about lower oil. Let's have at least the option of taking the oil from Canada.
VAN SUSTEREN: What has happened is by virtue of this complete blunder in creating a conflict of interest in the first environmental impacted study is it has been put it on another timetable so another decision will be made post 2012 election, essentially letting people off the hook to making tough decisions right now. It's another government screw up, a conflict of interest, which has now thrust us into this problem.
TRUMP: I think Obama is using that as the reason to delay it. I think it's just another excuse. The impact study was probably fine. I imagine the president --
VAN SUSTEREN: Whether it's fine or not, why in the world would the government be so stupid as to facilitate a chance that company that has at least the appearance of a conflict of interesting to do the environmental study. There is no wisdom in doing that?
TRUMP: Maybe it was done on purpose, because I have heard from day one he was never going to approve this before the election. The funny is I actually think he would have gotten votes if he approved it. I think there are many more people that would like to see it than not like see it. I think it would have been a political positive thing. You see what has happened to gasoline prices. They are setting a record for this time of the year and it will get worse as people start to travel. I think it would have been positive politically for President Obama.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about the news White House about the question to whether the Obama administration has called for direct talks with Iran. The White House is not denying it, but there is a reported out of Iran that trying to direct talks?
TRUMP: I think that is positive. I think we should be talking to Iran. I've been saying for a long time we don't speak to anybody. That doesn't show weakness. That shows, in a way, strength. We should have talks with Iran. If we can do that without having go into another war, without having to drop missiles -- as you know, nobody is more into the military than Donald Trump. But we don't talk to anybody. We should have talks. I view it as a positive. I view it totally as a positive. We should be having talks with Iran.
VAN SUSTEREN: What would you be saying to President Ahmadinejad if you were president?
TRUMP: First of all, we have all the strength. We have it now, long before. And certainly before they start coming up with their nuclear program, which is obviously not meant to be a positive thing for us, but I would be telling them what is it. We're hurting them, we're hurting them in a lot of ways with the embargoes and with what we're dealing.
But we're dealing with such strength, this is the time to be talking to them. I'm sure if they had the right negotiator, we could make an unbelievable deal, better than spending tens of billions of dollars and starting another con applicant in the Middle East.
VAN SUSTEREN: Sanctions would work if there is no leak in them. But Iran has other friends, Syria and North Korea, other countries that are willing to buy their products.
TRUMP: I'm hearing the sanctions are hurting them. It's really doing some bad numbers on their economy and I am hearing the sanctions are somewhat effective. I think it's a great time to talk. We're talking from strength. We can make a great deal if they have the right negotiator. That is the big question. I look at the deals this country makes. We don't make any good deals anymore. We are really dealing from strength. By the way, if Obama is talking, I think that is great thing. Not a bad thing.
VAN SUSTEREN: Here is how I play it. If it were on the flipside this is how I would be playing this. If I was Ahmadinejad and get Obama to talk and detract out negotiations I possibly could and probably could do it for a long time. Meanwhile, my nuclear enrichment program is full speed ahead so talking buys you time. We believe their goal is to get a nuclear weapon.
TRUMP: You are 100 percent right. The talks don't take a long time. It doesn't have to go on for months or months, you can know at the end of the deal. When I go into a deal, I know almost immediately if the deal is going to happen.
VAN SUSTEREN: You recently tweeted "Barack Obama asked Iran for our drone back. They're returning a miniature model." And then you tweeted something where it says "another diplomatic cue." What did you mean? There's a sales pitch they are trying to make fun of us?
TRUMP: That's really it. They wanted to send a model of the drone. I thought was pretty pathetic. We are not a respected country anymore. The potential of this country is unbelievable, but we are just not a respected country anymore.
VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, much more with Donald Trump. What does he think about Snooki and her endorsement? You don't want to miss what Donald says about Snooki, next.
VAN SUSTEREN: Who is the candidate to beat President Obama in 2012? Our conversation with Donald Trump continues.
VAN SUSTEREN: News out of South Carolina, a recent CNN poll shows Governor Romney's lead over Speaker Gingrich is diminishing. It was up 19 points and now down to ten points. On top of that Speaker Gingrich is quoted as saying, "I fully expected the Romney campaign to be unendingly dirty and dishonest for the next four days because they are desperate. They thought they could buy this. They discovered they can't buy this. I think they have internal polling that shows them losing. I think they would do anything to try at any level. And I need your help, people power and money power, and I need your help." That is the message speaker Gingrich is pitting out. Your thoughts what is going on in South Carolina?
TRUMP: First of all, that was very well done by you. That was a lot of words and quickly read, and I congratulate you.
The fact is, the one that is happy about this is President Obama. It's becoming nasty and a mess, and literally they are giving each other the campaign slogans for the Obama administration.
The good news is he has done so poorly he has done so bad no matter where doing now and what kind of information they are giving out, they've got plenty on him also. So it's very -- but it's very sad what is happening, there is no question about it. It's vicious. I mean it's a scorched earth policy. It's a very, very bad thing in the Republican Party.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think that Speaker Gingrich, Governor Romney and Congress Ron Paul and Senator Santorum each one of those in general election if election held today could beat president Obama or not?
TRUMP: I would rather not say who or who couldn't. But I don't think they all could, no. Ron Paul could not beat them.
VAN SUSTEREN: How about Speaker Gingrich and Governor Romney?
TRUMP: I do think they could yes. I think they could beat him and I think he is highly overrated now. Maybe I'm in a small camp but I think he is highly overrated. Hillary should have beat him. As I've told you before, at the end of those primaries last time three and a half years ago, at the end of the primaries he was losing virtually every one of them. And he just stumbled across the finish line. The fact is if those would beat him and I think it would by a margin that is lot bigger than I've seen in polls.
VAN SUSTEREN: How about Senator Santorum?
TRUMP: I don't know the senator. I really don't know.
VAN SUSTEREN: Other interesting news, Snooki -- by the way, do you know who Snooki is?
TRUMP: I do.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you watch Snooki?
TRUMP: I don't watch too often but I do know her and I appreciate her sentiments.
VAN SUSTEREN: I guess you were talking about Snooki said he would endorse you if you were running for president.
TRUMP: That's right. I saw that where Trump is her favorite. I think that is always very nice. Anybody says that, I will always speak well. I congratulate her. She looks terrific. She lost a lot of weight. She really looks terrific.
VAN SUSTEREN: Your prediction on South Carolina?
TRUMP: It's going to be very close. I think Mitt was hurt really very badly by this whole thing with the income tax returns. I believe he should have given them April 1, but I didn't think going into a little bit of detail without going into a lot of detail was positive thing. He'll come back. He has proven to be very resilient guy. He has been hurt a number of times by number of different things, he comes back. He really seems to be very tough and resilient. You have to hand it to him.
And Newt is just great. Every time there is a debate he does so well. You have to give him a lot credit for that.
VAN SUSTEREN: Has Governor Romney been boxed on this tax return thing, and if he called you up tonight and said, Donald what should I do about tax return thing, should I release them or not?
TRUMP: I think first answer would have been good. It should have been delivered a certain way. But April 1st historically is the time that everybody gives them.
VAN SUSTEREN: I hear April 1, I think of April Fool's Day.
TRUMP: OK, make it April 2nd.
VAN SUSTEREN: If he called you in light of the situation he in now from clamoring from opponents, would it political be shrewd he would release them now?
TRUMP: I think he may have to. I think he a step went too far. I think that April 1st or April 2nd was OK. But now I think in light of the fact that he started discussing some of the things, namely the rate or approximately the rate, I think it probably be better off just to release them now.
VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, nice to talk to you, as always. I hope you come back soon.
TRUMP: Thank you very much, Greta.