Trump: 'Embarrassing' how Putin has 'played' Obama

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 12, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Russian president Putin wanted to get America's attention with his op-ed, and he certainly did. Everyone is talking about it, Donald Trump tweeting, "Putin's letter is a masterpiece for Russia and a disaster for the U.S. He is lecturing to our president. Never has our country looked so weak."

We spoke with Donald Trump earlier tonight.


VAN SUSTEREN: Last night, there was an op-ed put in The New York Times by President Putin of Russia. Right before "On the Record" started, the news broke. So I'm curious what you think. Do you think President Obama knew this was coming, or was this an end run on the president?

DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I don't think he knew it was coming. I thought it was amazingly well crafted. I've read it a number of times. There are a lot of different ideas in there. And frankly, it was very good for Russia. Makes us feel like almost we're being talked down to. But certainly, a very well written letter or op-ed from the standpoint of Russia.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, well, Russia wants diplomacy, doesn't want military intervention. So what did President Putin gain by sort of slapping the president in the face a little bit, insulting the United States about exceptionalism and also saying that it was not Assad who had the chemical weapons but the rebels? So what does Putin get out of this? He makes everyone angry, not willing to talk.

TRUMP: Well, I think it makes Putin look extremely diplomatic. And you know, they talk all about his dogmatic ways and his toughness, but it actually makes him sound very reasoned and very reasoning. And frankly, I don't know that he wrote the letter. Certainly, there were his ideas. But the way it was crafted was very, very interesting. And it really is talking down to the president. There's no question about that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, Speaker Boehner said he was insulted by some of the remarks in that. I assume it was the part where it talked about exceptionalism, that he was insulted by that. What I thought was extraordinary is how President Putin wanted to speak directly to the American people and bypass the president in addition to sort of the slaps that he made.

TRUMP: Well, absolutely amazing that he did that. And certainly, it's getting play all over the world. And it really makes him look like a great leader, frankly. And when he criticizes the president for using the term "American exceptionalism," if you're in Russia, you don't want to hear that America is exceptional. And if you're in many other countries, whether it's Germany or other places, you don't want to hear about American exceptionalism because you think you're exceptional. So I can see that being very insulting to the world.

And that's basically what Putin was saying is that, you know, you use a term like "American exceptionalism," and frankly, the way our country is being treated right now by Russia and Syria and lots of other places and with all the mistakes we've made over the years, like Iraq and so many others, it's sort of a hard term to use.

But other nations and other countries don't want hear about American exceptionalism. They're insulted by it. And that's what Putin was saying.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think President Obama thought when he read it?

TRUMP: Well, I think he can't be very thrilled when he read that letter. And a lot of the stuff is very hard to -- you know, if you look at it, what he said is true. There are many things in that letter, whether you like Putin or don't like Putin, that were -- you know, that are absolutely true.

He talks about Libya, the disaster of Libya. He talks about the total disaster of Iraq. I mean, Iraq is in a horrible civil war right now, and I guess the press isn't cover it because we're not there, but it's blowing up all around with us spending $1.5 trillion and thousands of lives. Iraq is a total mess. And we left with nothing, including we didn't leave with the oil. You and I have talked about that before. Afghanistan obviously is a disaster. So he talks about this, and a lot of people aren't going to be able to dispute it very easily.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I see a sort of another dynamic to the sort of the -- the aspect of -- you know, the part -- what's going on in Syria and how to resolve that. But I see it as another thing. I see it as a power play by President Putin and Russia to try to diminish the president of the United States and diminish the United States. They're trying to the look like the great diplomats, and they then they sort of jab us about Iraq, about exceptionalism, about Afghanistan.

You know, it seemed like every -- there wasn't anything in there to make our president look like a leader. It was everything in it to make Putin look like the great leader. So I thought it was -- I thought it was Putin basically trying to sort of pay us back for something in a -- in a PR setting.

TRUMP: Well, that's why it was so well-crafted from their standpoint because it really made him sound very calm and reasoned. And yet at the same time, it's a very tough letter. If you read it -- you really have to read it a couple of times to realize what's going on here. It sounds so calm and so reasoned, but that was a very, very tough letter to the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, he did say at one point -- and I don't think he'll get many Americans to agree with this. He said that it was the rebels who gassed and not Assad. I mean, he didn't say it quite as bluntly as I just said it.

But you know, I'm -- I don't understand why he -- why he put that in there if he's seeking to get a diplomatic resolution. He's definitely making us wrong for siding with the rebels against Assad.

TRUMP: Well, he did say that, and that's what he said and that's what he's been saying for the last three weeks. It was the poison gas and it was the rebels that set it off. And they did that in order to get sympathy and get help because they're obviously failing.

And -- but he also talks about the rebels as not being good people, as being people that fought us and fought lots of other -- you know,that fought the good. He makes them sound very bad. A lot of people happen to agree with him on that.

And he talks about Syria in such a way that he really makes Syria sound very reasoned and very good. So it's pretty tough for the United States.

I will say this, very tough for the president to go out and get Congress to go along when you read a letter like this because I really think this letter had a very, very positive impact on Putin. And I think it's very negative for the president and certainly for the United States.

VAN SUSTEREN: One last quick question. So what should the president do now? In light of where we are in this whole mess, including Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov meeting in Switzerland and what's going on at the U.N. today, what would you do?

TRUMP: Well, he should play it out and see what happens. Probably nothing good is going to come out of this because they are playing him like nobody's ever played him before. And it's actually quite embarrassing to watch it unfold.

But he has to play it out, see what happens. in any event, he definitely -- and I said this long before this happened. He definitely should not go into Syria. We don't know who we're fighting for. We have enough problems in this country. We have problems like we've never had before. We ought to straighten out our own ship and we ought to do it fast because our country is suffering.

And then when you see an embarrassment like this happen, it's very sad. So we should definitely not go in. They have problems. Let them fight out their problems. We have our own problems in the United States. We should straighten out those problems first.

VAN SUSTEREN: Donald, as always, thank you, sir.

TRUMP: OK. Thank you very much, Greta.