In keeping with a tradition that stretches back to the administration of George W Bush, President Trump sat down with CBS News for a sweeping hour-plus interview that is expected to air before the Super Bowl. And with so much happening on both the domestic and foreign front - the tumult in Venezuela being only ...
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In keeping with a tradition that stretches back to the administration of George W Bush, President Trump sat down with CBS News for a sweeping hour-plus interview that is expected to air before the Super Bowl. And with so much happening on both the domestic and foreign front - the tumult in Venezuela being only the latest addition to Trump's foreign policy plate - Trump and his interviewer, Face the Nation correspondent Margaret Brennan had quite a bit to discuss.
Some of the highlights from the interview included Trump's criticisms of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he derided as "very bad for our country", his revelation that he intends to move US troops from Syria to a US base in Iraq, where they can help "keep an eye on" Iran (while he would like to withdraw from the Middle East, Trump suggested that it might be better for at least some troops to remain at a US-built base in Iraq for an indefinite period). As Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro scrambles to tamp down military defections and the rising tide of international opposition to his brutal regime, Trump reiterated that a military intervention in Venezuela "remains an option". Meanwhile, trade talks with China were "doing very well" and another government shutdown remains a possibility because "I don't take anything off the table."
Here's a summary of some of the biggest issues discussed during the interview:
With allegations that he "caved" to the octogenarian Democratic leader still fresh, Trump blasted his chief political antagonist as "very rigid" during negotiations, and accused her of hypocrisy because of her unwillingness to make building the wall a priority (allowing drugs, guns and human traffickers to continue flowing unabated into the US).
MARGARET BRENNAN: You had quite the showdown with Speaker Pelosi. What did you learn about negotiating with her?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think that she was very rigid - which I would expect - but I think she is very bad for our country. She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it's very bad politics because basically she wants open borders. She doesn't mind human trafficking or she wouldn't do this because you know--
MARGARET BRENNAN: She offered you over a billion dollars for border security.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me?
MARGARET BRENNAN: She offered over a billion dollars for border security. She doesn't want the wall.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She's- she's costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars because what's happening is when you have a porous border, and when you have drugs pouring in, and when you have people dying all over the country because of people like Nancy Pelosi who don't want to give proper border security for political reasons, she's doing a terrible disservice to our country. And on the 15th we have now set the table beautifully because everybody knows what's going on because of the shutdown. People that didn't have any idea- they didn't have a clue as to what was happening, they now know exactly what's happening. They see human trafficking. They see drugs and gangs and criminals pouring in. Now, we catch them because we're doing a great job. But if we had proper border security we wouldn't have to work so hard and we could do an even better job, and I think Nancy Pelosi is doing a terrible disservice to the people of our country. But she can--
MARGARET BRENNAN: You're still going to have to deal with her now.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, she can keep playing her games, but we will win. Because we have a much better issue. On a political basis, what she's doing is- I actually think it's bad politics, but much more importantly it's very bad for our country.
Of course, it wouldn't be a proper pre-Super Bowl interview without a few questions about President Trump's battle with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (a battle that was won decisively by the president when the league decided to crack down on players who opted to kneel during the national anthem). How does Trump feel about players like Colin Kaepernick and their complaints about his administration? Well, Trump said, many players have actually been calling and thanking him because he passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, something that President Obama tried and failed to accomplish.
According to Trump, the president did Goodell a "big favor" by scrapping Nafta and negotiating USMCA, which Trump said treats the NFL more favorably (though he neglected to elaborate about how).
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about your relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Have- have you put your differences aside?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think so. I mean I- I was just one that felt very important, you can't be kneeling for the national anthem. You have to respect our flag and our country. I want that as president and I'd want that as a citizen. And I have a very good relationship. I did them a big favor in negotiating the USMCA, which is basically the replacement to NAFTA, which is one of the worst trade deals ever made. And I said to Canada, look we have a great American company known as the NFL, and they were being hurt and treated unfairly, the NFL, by Canada for a long time. And I said to Prime Minister Trudeau, who was very nice about it and really understood it, I hope you can settle the difference immediately and fast. And they did. So I did the NFL a big favor, as a great American company and they appreciated it. And Roger Goodell, this is a dispute that has gone on for years. Roger Goodell called me and he thanked me. And I appreciated that. But they haven't been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag and their ratings have been terrific ever since. And a lot of good things happened.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Talking about the- the kneeling position you've taken and the controversy around it. Do you think that the players who did kneel had a point? I mean did you- are you sensitive at all to players like Colin Kaepernick, who- who point out that the majority of victims of police violence are black?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, you know, I'm the one that had passed judicial reform. And if you look at what I did, criminal judicial reform, and what I've done- President Obama tried. They all tried. Everybody wanted to do it. And I got it done and I've been, you know, really- a lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking me for it.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Really?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have been calling and thanking, you know, that people have been trying to get that taken care of and it's now signed into law and affects tremendous numbers of people, and very good people. I think that when you want to protest I think that's great. But I don't think you do it at the sake of our flag, at the sake of our national anthem. Absolutely.
With his trade deal in limbo ahead of talks in Beijing later this month, Trump reiterated that the US has the upper hand in trade talks because China's economy is doing "very badly". He added that he won't accept anything that's not a "fair trade" deal, but hinted that he was optimistic because China has already been "very helpful" on the issue of pressuring North Korea.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly get to China. The last time you spoke with FACE THE NATION you were one hundred days into office and you said you would accept a less than perfect trade deal with China, if it meant they'd be helpful with North Korea. Do you stand by that?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, yes but I think we're in a different position now.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We've put very massive tariffs on China. China is paying a big price and it's hurt China's economy very badly. I want them to make a fair deal.They have been very helpful, especially at the beginning when I first came in with North Korea. They have stopped goods from going in. They have stopped a lot of things from going in through the border. Because as you know they have a border just like we have a border with Mexico, where crime is way up by the way, way up, and you have to remember that. But we have a border with- they have a border with North Korea.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have been very vigilant. Are they the same now? Probably a little bit less so. But North Korea is absolutely talking. And I think North Korea wants to make a deal. We are making a deal. It looks like we're doing very well with making a deal with China. I can tell you this, no two leaders of this country and China have ever been closer than I am with President Xi. We have a good chance to make a deal. I don't know that we're going to make one, but we have a good chance. And if it is a deal it's going to be a real deal. It's not going to be a stopgap.
For the first time, Trump suggested that, after spending "a fortune" on a military base in Iraq, the US should keep troops there to maintain pressure on nearby Iran.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But you want to keep troops there now?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --but when it was chosen-- well, we spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Whoa, that's news. You're keeping troops in Iraq because you want to be able to strike in Iran?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, because I want to be able to watch Iran. All I want to do is be able to watch. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up. And this is what a lot of people don't understand. We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do.
Trump revealed that Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro had requested to negotiate, but that the president had turned him down.
MARGARET BRENNAN: What would make you use the U.S. military in Venezuela? What's the national security interest?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well I don't want to say that. But certainly it's something that's on the- it's an option.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you personally negotiate with Nicolás Maduro to convince him to exit?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well he is requested a meeting and I've turned it down because we're very far along in the process. You have a young and energetic gentleman but you have other people within that same group that have been very very - if you talk about democracy - it's really democracy in action.
MARGARET BRENNAN: When did he request a meeting?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to see what happened. A number of months ago he wanted to meet.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But now because you're at that crisis point--
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well now we'd have to see.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you negotiate that?
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would say this. I decided at the time, "no" because so many really horrible things have been happening in Venezuela when you look at that country. That was the wealthiest country of all in that part of the world which is a very important part of the world. And now you look at the poverty and you look at the anguish and you look at the crime and you look at all of the things happening. So, I think the process is playing out - very very big tremendous protests.
CBS News has already released a full transcript of the interview (read it here), which is expected to air at 3:30 pm ET.