On Oc­to­ber 6, Pres­i­dent Trump sat down for a frank ex­change of views with Forbes’ ed­i­tor, Ran­dall Lane, and chief prod­uct of­fi­cer, Lewis D’vorkin.

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On Oc­to­ber 6, Pres­i­dent Trump sat down for a frank ex­change of views with Forbes’ ed­i­tor, Ran­dall Lane, and chief prod­uct of­fi­cer, Lewis D’vorkin. Here is a con­densed ver­sion of that 50-minute ex­change. We quote the pres­i­dent ver­ba­tim and have not cor­rected er­rors of fact. The full tran­script is avail­able at­ter­view.

Forbes: You’ve al­ways talked about hav­ing fun as a key to busi­ness. are you hav­ing fun? trump: I am hav­ing fun. I’m en­joy­ing it. We’re ac­com­plish­ing a lot. Your stock mar­ket is at an all-time high. Your jobs, your un­em­ploy­ment is at the low­est point in al­most 17 years. We have fan­tas­tic num­bers com­ing out. And I think we’ll have, over the course of the next, fairly short pe­riod of time, and more im­por­tantly over a long pe­riod of time, we’re go­ing to have great num­bers com­ing out of our coun­try.

What’s your per­sonal thought?

I en­joy suc­cess. And we’re hav­ing tremen­dous suc­cess, as a coun­try. We have some dif­fi­cul­ties, with re­spect to North Korea, the Middle East. I in­her­ited—and I’ve said it of­ten— I in­her­ited a mess. The coun­try was hav­ing many dif­fer­ent prob­lems. Among them, the Middle East, ISIS, which we’ve done more with re­spect to ISIS in nine months than we’ve done in nine years. But we have re­ally done, we have done, I would say eight months in eight years, to be spe­cific. But we have done a re­ally, re­ally good job with the mil­i­tary. We’re build­ing up our mil­i­tary. We just had an over $700 billion bud­get, which will be ap­proved. We’re—you know, there’s been few times where the mil­i­tary was more im­por­tant than what it is right now. And, in ad­di­tion to that, which is by far the over­rid­ing el­e­ment, it’s lots of jobs in the United States.

now that we’re al­most a year from the big up­set and the big win, do you think your busi­ness back­ground pre­pared you for this job? and were you ready, now that you have a year in?

Well, I think it helped. It’s cer­tainly a dif­fer­ent kind of job than, re­ally, there is any­where. Be­cause you have so many skills nec­es­sary. But cer­tainly the cam­paign was suc­cess­ful. What peo­ple don’t re­al­ize is that I spent much less money than Hil­lary Clin­ton. So right there, per­haps that’s busi­ness. You know, if you look at the num­bers it’s as­tro­nom­i­cally dif­fer­ent. I don’t think any­body’s ever writ­ten that. You know, in the old days, if you spent less money and won, that was sup­posed to be a good thing. To­day no­body talks about it. But I spent much less money and won.

I think that’s—so we start off there—i think that was good. I also think that, yes, be­ing in—just last night I had din­ner with all of our gen­er­als and ad­mi­rals, at the high­est level. You prob­a­bly saw that. It was lovely. It was fan­tas­tic. But I talked about busi­ness. I said, “Your equip­ment is com­ing in too slowly and at too great a cost.” And I ac­tu­ally got in­volved in ne­go­ti­at­ing, as an ex­am­ple, the F-35 fighter with Lock­heed. You may call Mar­il­lyn, the head of Lock­heed, who you know, I think. And she’s a ter­rific per­son. But I de­vel­oped a bid­ding sys­tem be­tween Boe­ing and Lock­heed. And I was able to re­duce the price of the Lock­heed by billions of dol­lars. By billions of dol­lars. And this took me, ac­tu­ally, a very small amount of time.

so, if you take away the pol­i­tics of be­ing pres­i­dent, and what you’re try­ing to do with the econ­omy, what are the ob­sta­cles that you are find­ing that you nec­es­sar­ily didn’t find in your busi­ness life?

You have Congress. That’s a big ob­sta­cle in many cases. You have, in some cases, well-mean­ing peo­ple in Congress that truly feel strongly about some­thing. And I un­der­stand that and ac­tu­ally don’t mind that. And then of course you have grand­standers and oth­ers that want to try and make a point or want to do some­thing that re­ally isn’t nec­es­sar­ily in the best in­ter­ests of the coun­try. And those peo­ple I fight.

And what peo­ple don’t know is that I’ve had just about the most leg­is­la­tion passed of any pres­i­dent, in a nine-month pe­riod, that’s ever served. We had over 50 bills passed. I’m not talk­ing about ex­ec­u­tive or­ders only, which are very im­por­tant. I’m talk­ing about bills. We’ve had a tremen­dous amount of leg­is­la­tion passed. Like VA ac­count­abil­ity, which no­body could get passed. Mean­ing peo­ple are ac­count­able now, be­cause be­fore you couldn’t do any­thing if you caught peo­ple who worked there do­ing very bad things. But many, many bills have been passed. And now we’re


go­ing for taxes. I will get health care. I’m one vote short of health care. I’ll get health care.

un­til you come up with some­thing dif­fer­ent, isn’t oba­macare your ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­spon­si­bil­ity?

Yes. But I’ve al­ways said, Oba­macare is Obama’s fault. It’s never go­ing to be our fault. With that be­ing said, I think the Democrats want to make a deal. At the same time, I think I have a deal with the Repub­li­cans. So I have the best of both worlds. That’s busi­ness to a cer­tain ex­tent—when you asked the busi­ness ques­tion. And as you have no­ticed, I’m very able to make deals with Democrats if I have to.

I be­lieve we’ll have a great in­fra­struc­ture bill be­fore, which is eas­i­est of all of them. In fact, I think I’ll have more Demo­crat votes for in­fra­struc­ture than I will Repub­li­can votes. And I also have an­other bill that I think will be very—an eco­nomicde­vel­op­ment bill, which I think will be fan­tas­tic. Which no­body knows about. Which you are hear­ing about for the first time. But I’m go­ing to do that.

What is that? What does that mean?

Eco­nomic-devel­op­ment in­cen­tives for com­pa­nies. In­cen­tives for com­pa­nies to be here. In­cen­tives for com­pa­nies to do things.

like busi­ness in­cen­tives to cre­ate jobs, keep jobs?

So that when com­pa­nies leave our coun­try, they get pe­nal­ized se­verely. So that when com­pa­nies stay in our coun­try, they’re incentivized.

so is it a car­rot to get com­pa­nies to stay and/or grow? or is it a stick that you pe­nal­ize?

It’s both. It’s both. It’s both a car­rot and a stick. It is an in­cen­tive to stay. But it is per­haps even more so, if you leave, it’s go­ing to be very tough for you to think that you’re go­ing to be able to sell your prod­uct back into our coun­try.

How com­fort­able are you, as a busi­nessper­son, hav­ing the gov­ern­ment in­volved in a busi­ness de­ci­sion about where a com­pany wants to lo­cate? and where a com­pany wants to put jobs?

Very com­fort­able, be­cause there’s no tax if you stay. There’s no tax. We have to pro­tect our com­pa­nies. And if you looked at what’s hap­pened, they’ve been rav­aged by the stu­pid­ity of pol­i­tics and, frankly, the stu­pid­ity of politi­cians. They’ve been rav­aged. And we have to pro­tect our com­pa­nies. We have to pro­tect our work­ers. And the only way you’re go­ing to do that is you have to cre­ate rules.

But in terms of in­di­vid­ual tax-rate re­form, with­out spend­ing cuts, even with dy­namic scor­ing, it’s go­ing to in­crease the deficit. so are you com­mit­ting to then hav­ing off­set­ting spend­ing cuts?

First of all, we’re go­ing to have some spend­ing cuts, okay. We are go­ing to re­ally have some spend­ing cuts. But I will tell you that most of what we are go­ing to do is we’re go­ing to gain. Look at GDP. So GDP last quar­ter was 3.1%. Most of the folks that are in your busi­ness, and else­where, were say­ing that would not be hit for a long time. You know, Obama never hit the num­ber. He hit 3%. He hit three a cou­ple quar­ters.

He never hit it on a yearly ba­sis. Never hit it on a yearly ba­sis. That’s eight years. I think we’ll go sub­stan­tially higher than that. And I think this quar­ter would have been phe­nom­e­nal, ex­cept for the hur­ri­canes.

But in terms of the tax re­form and what’s on the ta­ble so far, there’s a lot of peo­ple say­ing, “oh, trump’s not as rich.” You’re worth many billions, we’ve looked at you for decades, and we all know that. the es­tate tax, the death tax . . .

Did you say Trump’s not as rich?


no, other peo­ple are say­ing that. We say trump’s worth billions. You say you’re worth more than we es­ti­mate. But the point is, the es­tate tax in the cur­rent plan is go­ing away, that’s more than a billion dol­lars in ben­e­fit to you. How do you square that and be­ing able to sell that to the amer­i­can peo­ple?

Well, we’re go­ing to have to see what hap­pens. We’re go­ing to have to see what hap­pens. The es­tate tax is for many, many fam­ily com­pa­nies where peo­ple are forced to sell their busi­nesses. That in­cludes farms. But it in­cludes a lot of busi­nesses, any busi­ness—not even small busi­nesses only. Large busi­nesses also, where the es­tate tax is so oner­ous that fam­i­lies are forced to sell and some cases have fire sales and not get proper pric­ing. And in many cases those busi­nesses don’t do very well af­ter the fam­ily leaves. So that’s the pri­mary rea­son­ing be­hind the es­tate tax.

Yes, but you could raise that thresh­old higher. I think the point that for some­one like your­self, as pres­i­dent—the first busi­ness­man pres­i­dent—how do you push


for­ward a bill that would, right now, as writ­ten, give you and your fam­ily more than a billion dol­lars’ worth of ad­van­tage just on that clause alone? Well, the big ad­van­tage that I would get is if the econ­omy does well. That’s a great thing for me—po­lit­i­cally and other­wise. But the econ­omy is a very— you know, it’s very in­ter­est­ing, Ran­dall. I built a great busi­ness, but it doesn’t mean any­thing to me. My chil­dren are run­ning it. It doesn’t mean any­thing to me any­more. I don’t even think about it be­cause this is so big, what I’m do­ing now, so big and so, so im­por­tant be­cause this coun­try was go­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion.

You see, you have to un­der­stand, if

what I do is good for the middle class, that’s also good for me, and then if

I do what’s good for the up­per class, that’s good for me. Don’t for­get—the com­pa­nies that we’re talk­ing about— many peo­ple own some of these com­pa­nies. And some­times wealthy peo­ple own them, and some­times poor peo­ple own them. But when we make life and busi­ness bet­ter for com­pa­nies, that’s a great thing for ev­ery­body, in­clud­ing me. But his­tory has shown that you just can’t cut.

What has hap­pened and what will be hap­pen­ing is, not only will we have mas­sive tax cuts and re­form. Not only will we have the largest

reg­u­la­tion cuts in the his­tory of a pres­i­dency—there has never been a pres­i­dent who has cut reg­u­la­tions any­where even close, and I’m not nearly fin­ished. You know the ones I’ve done. And I’m do­ing ac­tu­ally do­ing one next week, which will be mas­sive. But we’ve cut. Now, I be­lieve in reg­u­la­tion, by the way, but it’s got to be rea­son­able reg­u­la­tion. It can’t take 21 years to build a high­way.

You’ve al­ways said tal­ent mat­ters. tal­ent you bring in mat­ters. How do you feel that you’ve done so far with managing the tal­ent that you’ve brought into your White House, to your ad­min­is­tra­tion?

Well, I think you have dif­fer­ent kinds of tal­ent. I have some that is ter­rific, that is un­known to the pub­lic for the most part, that has been in­cred­i­ble.

Who have been your big­gest suc­cesses?

Well, I’ve, I’ve had a lot. I hate to point them out be­cause then when I don’t point some­body out they’re dis­ap­pointed.

What sur­prised you about the ones that didn’t turn out bet­ter?

You never know when to fire. You can meet some­body and you can see some­body sit­ting in front of you and you can even look at their record to a cer­tain ex­tent. Don’t for­get one of your early ques­tions is how does this com­pare with the busi­ness. Well, it is a dif­fer­ent set of skills. You need more skill for this. And you need more heart. You also need more heart. Be­cause a lot of your de­ci­sions here are based on what’s good for peo­ple, not just what’s good for the bud­get or what’s good for the pock­et­book. But, so it is, there are tremen­dous skill sets from the world of busi­ness that are great. But you need ad­di­tional skill. You also need po­lit­i­cal skill. Where are you to­day with sec­re­tary tiller­son?

He came out of a great com­pany. A com­pany that has been around a long time. I don’t mind op­pos­ing views, but he and I have some op­pos­ing views. I think we have to be a much, much stronger in stance. And, ul­ti­mately, my view mat­ters. That’s the way life goes. But I have a very good re­la­tion­ship with him. And, gen­er­ally speak­ing, we get along very well.

there are re­ports out to­day, over the last cou­ple days, about him call­ing you a mo­ron pri­vately. Has he talked, reached out to you about that? do you be­lieve that he said that?

Well, we may have to, if he did that—which he says he didn’t, by the way, he said he didn’t. And they an­nounced with the State Department that he didn’t. I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to com­pare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is go­ing to win.

You’ve also made many fewer ap­point­ments than other pres­i­dents at this stage. Is that an in­ten­tional—

That’s be­cause I don’t need as many peo­ple. And that has to do with busi­ness also. And I’ve said that loud and clear, but no­body wants to write it.

so is it that you’re not go­ing to make those ap­point­ments, ever? I’m gen­er­ally not go­ing to make a lot of the ap­point­ments that would nor­mally be—be­cause you don’t need them. I mean, you look at some of these agen­cies, how mas­sive they are, and it’s to­tally un­nec­es­sary. They have hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple. And you look at—so the ap­point­ments, I’ve made some great ap­point­ments. You take a look at the ap­point­ments we’ve made.

But two things that no­body men­tions that I think are very im­por­tant. Judges. I have many, many judges in the pipe­line. Al­ready we’ve had ap­proved a num­ber. Fed­eral judges. I’m not just talk­ing about Jus­tice Gor­such, Supreme Court. I’m talk­ing about many fed­eral judges. And I will have ap­prox­i­mately 145 fed­eral judges. I’m get­ting praised—right, I mean, are you dis­put­ing that? It’s ap­prox­i­mately 145. That doesn’t in­clude the court-ofap­peals judges, which will be about 17.

Who do you pick up the phone and call and say, “I need to talk. I have a ques­tion.”

Well, I have friend­ships. I have re­la­tion­ships. Largely the re­la­tion­ship is where I am—in other words, now it’s very much of a Washington re­la­tion­ship. I deal with peo­ple here. It’s a very fair ques­tion. I do like to call friends. I don’t have much time, be­lieve it or not. It’s, uh, I am def­i­nitely a work­ing pres­i­dent. I come in early. I start very early. To­day I’ve al­ready spo­ken to the head of France and the head of other coun­tries. And you know, I mean, this is very much of a—in fact, I have my ac­tual work­ing desk in­side. This looks very nice—don’t let that fool you. But more fam­ily, I think, than any­thing else. Plus I have some very good friend­ships in busi­ness. And I do like to get opin­ions. I am some­body that very much ac­cepts opin­ions from peo­ple that I know un­der­stand what’s go­ing on in the world.

Is it at times lonely?

It’s a lonely po­si­tion, be­cause the


de­ci­sions are so grave, so big. If it’s a big—like if you buy air­planes, it’s tens of billions of dol­lars. It’s not like you’re buy­ing a plane. It’s hun­dreds of billions of dol­lars. But that’s not—if the de­ci­sion I made on Syria, for ex­am­ple, go­ing in and fir­ing 59 rock­ets, mis­siles, into Syria. When I had to give the go-ahead for that, that’s a very hard de­ci­sion to make. You don’t know. Ev­ery one of them hit their tar­get with in­cred­i­ble tech­nol­ogy—tom­a­hawks in that case, but in­cred­i­ble tech­nol­ogy. And I was ac­tu­ally sit­ting with the pres­i­dent of China at the time, hav­ing dessert in Florida, at Mar-alago. But you know those de­ci­sions are tough de­ci­sions.

It’s lonely. And you have to make them your­self. And the mil­i­tary is—we have the great­est mil­i­tary. And by the way, our mil­i­tary is get­ting so much stronger, so much bet­ter. And rapidly. But I will tell you, you make those de­ci­sions all by your­self.

did busi­ness pre­pare you for that de­ci­sion?

No, noth­ing pre­pares you for that. Noth­ing pre­pares you for—when you send mis­siles, that means peo­ple are go­ing to die. And noth­ing re­ally pre­pares you for that.

so where are you and north korea right now, and what’s the endgame? You spent your whole life ne­go­ti­at­ing, but you haven’t left any room for ne­go­ti­a­tion. so where do we go?

There’s not that much room left. There’s not that much room left. Look, this should have been taken care of by four or five pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions. It cer­tainly should have been taken care of over the last eight years. And ev­ery year makes it a more dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion. And right now, I mean, Pres­i­dent Obama told me—sit­ting right there, the two of us. He said that the pre­vi­ous—in the meet­ing we had prior to my com­ing into the White House—he said that was his tough­est de­ci­sion. But I said, but you didn’t make a de­ci­sion, be­cause you didn’t do any­thing. You let it go on. I just, I feel strongly you can­not al­low him to have nuclear weapons.

and you’ve kind of shut off, again with sec­re­tary tiller­son, you’ve told him stop wast­ing his time with diplo­matic—

He was wast­ing his time.

let’s hy­poth­e­size that there could be a good-cop, bad-cop sce­nario. How can some­body who is un­der you be taken se­ri­ously as any kind of cop if his boss has un­der­mined his author­ity?

Well, I’m not un­der­min­ing. I think I’m ac­tu­ally strength­en­ing author­ity. But in the case of North Korea, they have been talk­ing for 25 years. Ob­vi­ously, that doesn’t work

In terms of rus­sia, the department of Home­land se­cu­rity reached out to 21 states and con­firmed that rus­sia was med­dling with their elec­tions. do you think that rus­sia med­dled in the u.s. elec­tion in 2016?

Well, they just an­nounced that there was no vote change, num­ber one.

the ques­tion has re­ally been about in­flu­ence, not about mess­ing with the to­tal tally.

They just said there was no change in vote. They just said that. They also just said that there has been ab­so­lutely no col­lu­sion. They just said that. Yesterday. Two days ago. Se­nate. There has been no col­lu­sion. I didn’t speak to Rus­sians. Ev­ery­one knows that that was just a state­ment put out by the Democrats so that they could have an ex­cuse for los­ing an elec­tion that in the­ory they should have won be­cause it’s very easy for the Democrats to win the elec­toral col­lege. And not only didn’t they win, it was 306 to—what was it?—223, if you could get the right num­ber. It was 306 to 223. That was an ex­cuse for the Democrats not winning the elec­tion.

But now that you’re in this seat, does it bother you—or doesn’t it bother you—that the rus­sians tried to med­dle with the elec­tion?

It would bother me greatly if that’s the case. It would bother me greatly. And I look for­ward to see­ing what the fi­nal re­ports are. And hope­fully they’ll come out soon, so if there are sug­ges­tions, we can do those sug­ges­tions prior to the ’18 elec­tion.

You’ve pretty much never had a boss. In some ways, now you do have a boss—the amer­i­can peo­ple. How has this changed—

I have about 330 mil­lion bosses. right. so how has this changed how you op­er­ate as an ex­ec­u­tive? It doesn’t change, be­cause all I want to do is the right thing. You’ll see that I’ll make de­ci­sions that aren’t po­lit­i­cally pop­u­lar, but they’re the right thing to do. So I do have all 330 mil­lion bosses, but it doesn’t mat­ter, be­cause I’m go­ing to do the right thing. I think that’s an­other thing that maybe you’ll do more as a busi­nessper­son than you would as a politi­cian. A politi­cian is go­ing to do the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect thing. I’m go­ing to do the right thing for the coun­try.


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