President Trump's final 2018 interview
President Donald Trump's last interview of 2018 took place in the afternoon of December 31 and was broadcast at 10:40 P.M. E.T. on Fox News channel's All-American New Year Special, from Times Square in New York City. The conversation with the president, speaking on the phone from the White House with the news channel's New Year's Eve show co-host, Pete Hegseth, was the only hard news presented on any of the three major cable news channels during the frothy New Year's Eve coverage that began several hours before the iconic ball drop in Times Square at 12 midnight E.T.
Most of the mainstream media coverage of what the president said to Fox News on an otherwise slow news day focused on his comments about Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who let it be known on Monday that she would be the first major Democrat to formally declare an interest in running for president in 2020.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Source: elizabethwarren.com, Jan. 1, 2019.
Typical of the mainstream reporting of the Trump-Hegseth interview is a story that Deadline Hollywood ran on Monday afternoon based on early excerpts of the interview released Monday afternoon by Fox News:
President Donald Trump celebrated New Year's Eve with a Fox News Channel phone interview, where talk naturally turned to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren official announcement earlier in the day that she had officially formed a 2020 White House race exploratory committee.
"She did very badly in proving that she was of Indian heritage," Trump reminisced happ[il]y with FNC's All American New Year Special co-host Pete Hegseth. "I think you have more than she does, and maybe I do too – and I have nothing!"
"We'll see how she does. I hope she does well – I'd love to run against her," Trump chuckled.
Hegseth played Trump straight man, asking POTUS if Warren truly believes she can win the White House in 2020.
"That I don't know. You'd have to ask her psychiatrist," Trump snarked.
After the interview aired in its entirety on Fox News at 10 P.M. EST, Fox News Media Relations emailed a transcript of Hegseth's nine-minute long conversation with President Trump.
PETE HEGSETH, FOX NEWS HOST: Happy New Year to you, sir. Thank you, thank you so much for joining Fox News Channel All-American New Year. Ah, we're live in Times Square. Wish you could be here as well, but we know you're in Washington, D.C. America wants to know, Mr. President, what are your plans here tonight on New Year's Eve?
PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP: Well, I'm sort of in the White House right now. I'm talking to you and uh it's – I think moving along well. We need border security, everybody knows it, we need a lot of people approved that we can't get through the senate. We can't get them through Chuck Schumer and the group – we have 360 people that want to join the administration – ambassadors and lawyers and lots of other people. We cannot get them approved because – I guess you could call it obstruction, if you think about it, it's pure obstruction – and we have a lot of other things, but we have probably done more, Pete, than any administration in its first two years in history, according to most.
HEGSETH: And we want to get to looking back a little bit at 2018, but let me stay on the topic of that shutdown, Mr. President. You stayed in Washington, D.C. through Christmas, through New Year's; we've seen Nancy Pelosi in Hawaii – Democrats not willing to come back. A lot of your supporters, to be honest, Mr. President, are hoping that you will stand firm on that five billion dollar marker, something big for the wall. Are you willing to continue the shutdown, if that money does not come?
TRUMP: Well, we are, we have no choice. We have to have border security and a wall is part of border security. You know, I hear so much about the wall is old fashioned. No, the wall is not old-fashioned, the wall is 100 percent foolproof.
The – you look at a wheel – well, I guess they'd say the wheel is old-fashioned, but it's been around for a long time. The wall is the only way to do it – and technology, nobody knows more about technology than me, but technology are just the bells and whistles on the wall.
If you don't have the wall, you're going to have people coming in. And my border patrol people, they do a fantastic job. But you know, they need the backup of the wall and they're the ones that want it more than anybody, Pete.
Pete Hegseth's interview with President Trump. Screen shot by Peter Barry Chowka.
HEGSETH: So how far are you willing to go, Mr. President? When do you anticipate talks with Chuck and Nancy, as you say, sir?
TRUMP: Well, I assume when they get back. I'm in Washington; I'm ready, willing and able, I'm in the White House, I'm ready to go. They can come over right now, they could have come over any time. I spent Christmas in the White House. I spent New Year's Eve now in the White House and you know, I'm here. I'm ready to go. It's very important. A lot of people are looking to get their paycheck, and so I'm ready to go anytime they want. No, we are not giving up. We have to have border security and the wall is a big part of border security; the biggest part.
HEGSETH: Absolutely. Mr. President, another piece of news; recently Senator Lindsey Graham emerged from the White House. He had been very critical of your decision to withdraw troops from Syria, but he emerged saying, "Now I support the president's decision," a lot of people – he's famously more hawkish on American troops and intervention abroad.
What was said to him? What did you relay inside the White House that changed the mind of Lindsey Graham?
TRUMP: Well, I don't think too much, except that I said, you know, I never said that I'm gonna rush out. We're going to get out. We're getting out of Syria; we're bringing our young, great troops home after so many years. You know, we were supposed to be in Syria for three to four months and that was four or five years ago. And it's time. We have to bring them home.
And we're going to do it in a very good way and frankly – and you know this better than anybody, Pete, ISIS was all over the place when I took over. It was a total mess in Syria. We've almost eradicated all of them. We think all of them will be gone by the time we get out, but we're heading back and we're also fighting. We – you can do two things at once.
Plus, as you know, we have other bases in the general area. In particular, we have one in Iraq and nobody said anything about that. But you know, we're fighting these endless wars; I campaigned on getting out of the endless wars and frankly, I've done more than I said, because not only did I – and am I able to get out, but I've also won.
You look at what I've done. We've really, largely eradicated ISIS. Now that doesn't mean we don't totally finish the job, but that's going to be a very short period of time. We have to bring our troops back home. It's time.
HEGSETH: Certainly an accomplishment – the destruction of ISIS that has not gotten enough notice, no doubt, Mr. President. I want to transition to --
TRUMP: They don't want to talk about it, Pete.
HEGSETH: – just a little bit.
They really don't, they really don't – and if Lindsey Graham's onboard with a plan like that, that's a good sign. I want to transition to presidential politics. Everyone thought 2019 would be the year that Democrats come on to try to win the primary to take you on in 2020, sir. It turns out one of them jumped the gun, just news recently that Elizabeth Warren, one of your favorite senators, will be announcing an exploratory committee – your reaction to your first opponent on the Democratic side, Mr. President?
TRUMP: Well, I'm happy about it. I think she'll be wonderful. I hope she maybe gets the nomination. That will be a wonderful thing for me. But the only reason the Democrats, as an example, aren't approving all of these people, that wanted to come in – want to come into government – and they really do, they want to come in – we really need people. We need lawyers. We need ambassadors. We need all these 360 people that the Democrats won't approve. Or if you look at not approving the wall, where they say walls don't work when they work 100 percent, I mean when they're so good, it's because of the 2020 election.
They think I'm going to win. I think based on record I'm going to win also. I think we're going to win big. And they figure by obstructing they can do this. Elizabeth Warren will be the first. She did very badly in proving that she was of Indian heritage. That didn't work out too well. I think you have more than she does, and maybe I do too, and I have nothing. So you know, we'll see how she does. I wish her well. I hope she does well. I'd love to run against her.
HEGSETH: She says she's in the fight all the way, Mr. President. Do you really think she believes she can win?
TRUMP: Well that I don't know. You'd have to ask her psychiatrist. But honestly, I just, you know --
I mean, if it's her or somebody else, you know, based on our record, Pete, when you look at what we've done, when you look at the regulation cuts, when you look at the massive tax cuts, when you look at what we've done for the vets and what we've done for the military – you know, with the vets, we have choice and now, as you know better than almost anybody I can speak to, that was phase one of choice. We're going to phase two and then ultimately to phase three. We're doing it in steps.
When you look at all of the things we've done for building up our military and all of the things, I don't think, if you go just based on the record, I don't see how anybody wins. We've done a lot. If you look at unemployment, we're at a 50-year low.
TRUMP: For African Americans and for Hispanics and for Asians, we're at an all-time historic low, the history of our country low. And I don't know if somebody could do better than that – good luck, but it just doesn't seem that based on the record, somebody's going to do real well.
HEGSETH: That's a fair point, Mr. President. And on New Year's Eve, tonight, a lot of our viewers, it's a time for reflection. You look back on 2018, you look forward to 2019. If I could, Mr. President, on a lighter note, your winners and losers from 2018 – who are the big winners and who are the big losers in the last year?
TRUMP: Well, I think the winners are the American people, because we've gotten them tax cuts and we've gotten them jobs, jobs like they've never had before. We've taken care of our military, we've rebuilt large portions and very shortly all of our military, which was totally depleted under the previous administration – so I really think that the big winners are – are the people of this country, the people of our country, and that makes me very happy.
The one that has lost, you know, I don't want to really say, but you have certainly a lot of people that wanted to do things that it didn't work out. I think that when you look at some of the candidates that are announcing right now, I think they will end up being the losers. You've got a lot of people, 32 people they say, could be with the Democrats; let's see what happens.
But I only – I'm really more interested in the winners and the winners are the people of the United States.
HEGSETH: Absolutely. Sir, exit question here, 2019, any resolutions from you, Mr. President, in this new year? Or any predictions in the new year? Or both?
TRUMP: Well, I think we're going to have a great form of wealth. We've created a lot of wealth for our country. And that's very important, because that means jobs, that means prosperity, it means we can afford to do what we're doing with the military. We're working on tremendous trade deals, where other countries have taken advantage of us so badly and I mean, I campaigned on all this stuff. And really, I'm producing better than I actually said even during the campaign that I would, if you look at what we've done.
So I really think we're going to have tremendous success with trade deals. I think we're going to have a tremendously rebuilt military for strength and hopefully we'll never have to use our military; it will be so strong that we'll never have to use it and that would be a good thing.
HEGSETH: Mr. President, I shouldn't say this, but last year my resolution was to tweet more; it's the first resolution I've actually kept. Do you have --
HEGSETH: – any resolutions for 2019, sir? Any resolutions?
TRUMP: Just success and prosperity and health for our country. That's all I want.
HEGSETH: Absolutely. Well, Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us. I do have to say, my co-host, Kennedy, wanted to say thank you and she loves the tax cuts as do so many Americans --
TRUMP: Oh, good. Well --
HEGSETH: So thank you Mr. President for joining us and Happy…
TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) – terrific.
HEGSETH: She's terrific. Have a great New Year's in Washington, D.C. and we hope to see you soon in the New Year. Thank you, sir.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it, Pete. Have a great year. Thank you, Pete.
HEGSETH: You, too, sir. You, too, sir.
TRUMP: Thank you.
HEGSETH: Thank you.
Peter Barry Chowka writes about politics, media, popular culture, and health care for American Thinker and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @pchowka.