In the first televised one-on-one interview of his term, President Donald Trump told ABC News’ David Muir that he believes torture works and that millions of illegal votes were cast against him in November’s general election.
“The country has a lot of problems,” Trump said.
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“You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice,” Trump told Muir. “There are millions of votes, in my opinion. Now, I’m gonna do an investigation.”
It is not illegal nor uncommon for eligible voters to be registered in more than one locality. Various media outlets reported that three Trump associates — senior adviser Steve Bannon, Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin and Trump’s daughter Tiffany Trump — were registered in multiple states.
“We’re going to launch an investigation to find out. Of those votes cast, none of ’em come to me. None of ’em come to me,” Trump said. “They would all be for the other side, none of ’em come to me. But when you look at the people that are registered: dead, illegal and two states, and some cases, maybe three states. We have a lot to look into.”
Trump won a majority of electoral votes but lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 million votes to Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump did not dismiss the idea of using waterboarding and other methods considered torture by many against adversaries.
“As far as I’m concerned, we have to fight fire with fire,” Trump told Muir after describing some of the atrocities committed by ISIS fighters.
The president said he has spoken with people “at the highest level of intelligence” and asked them: “Does it work? Does torture work? And the answer was ‘yes, absolutely.’ ”
“Do I feel it works? Yes, I feel it works,” Trump said.
Trump said he would rely on Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo to help him make the decision. If they do not wish to restore torture, Trump said he would accept the decision. If they wish to reinstate those tactics, Trump said he would work to help them.
Both Mattis and Pompeo said in their congressional hearings that they are opposed to torture.
The existence of a three-page draft of a proposed executive order that could restart the interrogation programs was reported by The New York Times and The Washington Post. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the document was not produced by the White House.
“The President can sign whatever executive orders he likes. But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.
One of Trump’s strongest and most consistent campaign promises was to build a wall on the United States’ southern border and have Mexico pay for it.
Trump acknowledged that American taxpayers will pay for the wall at first.
“We’ll be reimbursed at a later date,” Trump told Muir. “... There will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps in a complicated form.”
Trump said, “That wall will cost us nothing.”
Trump said construction will begin “as soon as we can,” perhaps within months.
Trump said children and young adults brought to the United States “shouldn’t be very worried” about being deported.
“I do have a big heart,” Trump said, though he declined to give specifics when pressed.
Some have been critical of Trump’s speech in front of a memorial wall at the CIA on Saturday, his first full day as president. Trump used the occasion to discuss the crowd size at his inaugural.
Trump said he would deliver the same speech today. “People loved it. They gave me a standing ovation,” Trump said.
He then critiqued the way Muir and ABC covered the speech, comparing it unfavorably with Fox. “That speech was a good speech. You and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech,” he said.
INAUGURAL CROWD SIZE
Trump said he continues to discuss the size of Inauguration Day crowd because it is important to the people who voted for him and came to D.C. to support him. He used a line from his inaugural address, talking again about “forgotten men and forgotten women.”
“I won’t allow you (Muir and the media) to demean that crowd and to demean the people that came to D.C. from faraway places,” Trump said.
Trump has hung several pictures from the inauguration in the West Wing. He repeatedly talked about the crowd size as shown in those photos.
VIOLENCE IN CHICAGO
Trump said he wants Chicago officials to solve the problem of violence in that city, calling Chicago “a war zone” and “worse than the Middle East.” Trump tweeted on Tuesday night that he would consider sending in “the feds,” if the violence continues.
He did not elaborate on what that meant during the interview with Muir.
“You can’t have thousands of people being shot in a city, in a country that I happen to be president of,” Trump said. “I want them to fix the problem. It’s a very fixable problem. They have to get tougher and stronger and smarter.”
‘A SOBERING MOMENT’
Trump said receiving the codes for the country’s nuclear arsenal was “a very sobering moment, very scary in a sense.”
Trump could announce a suspension of visas from several Middle East and predominantly Muslim nations this week, according to the AP.
During the interview, the president said, “The country has a lot of problems. Believe me, I know what the problems are. Deep problems, serious problems. We don’t need more.”
Trump said he was not worried about angering other countries.
“The world is a mess, as angry as it gets,” he said. “... The world is a total mess.”
Trump said the smartest thing for Republicans to do is wait two years and let the Affordable Care Act collapse on its own. But Trump said he is not willing to do that.
“I want to get it fixed,” Trump said.
He wants to “give great healthcare at a much lower cost.”
Trump said he could not hear the large crowd of protestors on Saturday, one day after his inauguration. Asked what he would say to the people who marched, Trump instead talked about the pro-life march that is scheduled for Friday in D.C. When pressed by Muir, Trump said there was an election recently.
“I have to say we just had an election a few weeks ago,” Trump said.
RELATIONSHIP WITH OBAMA
Trump said the traditional letter an outgoing president leaves for his successor left by former President Barack Obama “was long. It was complex. It was thoughtful. It took time to do it and I appreciated it.”
Trump did not share its contents.
He said the two have a “warmth.” Trump said Obama assured him that if his healthcare plan was better than Obama’s that the previous president would support it. “And I believe he would,” Trump said.