CENK UYGUR, HOST: Good evening, everybody. I‘m Cenk Uygur.
Tonight, we‘re going to show you parts of a blockbuster interview with Donald Trump that have not been broadcast before, and it‘s good.
NBC‘s national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff sat down with Trump and questioned him about his business dealings. We‘ll talk to Isikoff in just a few moments about his great interview that finally forced Trump to address the truth about his real record in business.
The questions went to the heart of the very thing that Trump claims makes him a credible candidate—his business success.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: You have clearly had some big successes in the business world, but you‘ve also had some big failures. And let‘s go straight—
DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: No, I don‘t think I have had big failures. Donald Trump has always been very, very successful. And so when you say failures, I don‘t think I have had failures. But let‘s go ahead. Ask me about a couple.
ISIKOFF: OK. Trump Hotels and Casinos filed for bankruptcy protection three times in six years.
TRUMP: OK. Let me explain that to you. Very simple.
ISIKOFF: Isn‘t that a failure?
TRUMP: Not really. I mean, look, it worked out very well for me, it was successful. I then levered (ph) the company, I took it public. So I had a relatively small piece of the company. And what happened is—
ISIKOFF: Wait a second. You were chairman of the board. You were chairman of the board.
TRUMP: Excuse me. I was chairman, but I didn‘t run the company. I had nothing to do with running the company. Management ran the company.
ISIKOFF: You were paid $2 million a year.
TRUMP: Excuse me. I didn‘t run the company. I‘m just telling you.
ISIKOFF: So what were you paid $2 million a year for?
TRUMP: Excuse of my genius. OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: “Excuse me.” Excuse me.”
Genius. He had three bankruptcy filings in six years for Trump Hotel and Casinos. Genius?
But that‘s just the beginning. Trump‘s habit of slapping his name on other people‘s products has also landed him in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: There are also some ongoing lawsuits in which investors in Trump projects are suing you, claiming they were deceived. They thought they were buying into a Trump project and discovered it was only a licensing deal.
Trump Tower, Tampa, you were down there for the ground breaking. You said this was going to be a spectacular project that was going to redefine Tampa‘s skyline. In fact, you weren‘t an investor in the project at all, and it‘s never been built.
TRUMP: It was just a licensing deal. I was not the developer of those sites. I licensed the name “Trump” to those buildings.
In case you haven‘t heard, there was a market collapse. And these people did better than most other people in Florida because they got some of their money back and they may get more of it back.
ISIKOFF: They‘re still suing you.
TRUMP: Well, yes, I think it‘s working out very nicely. I think it‘s working out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: I‘m not sure the investors would agree. That‘s why they‘re in court. But it does look like these deals do work out for one guy at the end—Donald Trump.
Now, he has a theory as to why that is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: Do you think it‘s fair to say that sometimes you exaggerate?
TRUMP: I don‘t think I exaggerate any more than anybody else. I think that I have a great grasp of numbers. I have a great grasp of values.
I‘m worth many, many billions of dollars. You may very well be impressed, even you, with all your negative questions about very small things.
ISIKOFF: Even one of your friends said that your real genius is for self-promotion. You are a modern day P.T. Barnum.
TRUMP: Well, I think my real genius is not actually in promotion. I think I build a great product, great locations, and everybody says, oh, gee, what a great salesman he is. It‘s this. It‘s not my salesmanship.
ISIKOFF: It‘s what?
TRUMP: This. Do you know what that is? Brain power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: What do you think is stronger, Trump‘s brain power or Charlie Sheen‘s tiger blood? I wish Isikoff would have asked him that.
All right. Well, actually, let‘s bring in NBC‘s national investigative correspondent, Michael Isikoff.
Michael, you asked him plenty of other things. It seemed a bit contentious.
ISIKOFF: Sorry I hadn‘t thought of that one, but I will next time.
So, now, he said at the end there, you, with your negative questions about small things. How contentious was this?
ISIKOFF: He got pretty prickly, as you can see from that interview. And I don‘t think he appreciated being challenged on some of his spin on some of what have clearly been business failures.
But, you know, bizarrely, the thing he got most exercised about is what his net worth is. I cited “Forbes” magazine estimate of $2.4 billion to him, and he corrected me. He said no, no, “Forbes:” has more recently, in its international edition, upped it to $2.7 billion.
ISIKOFF: And, of course, he claims it‘s about $7 billion. We won‘t really know for sure unless he, A, declares for president and then fills out that financial disclosure form.
UYGUR: Michael, we have that piece of the video. I love it, so I want to make sure that everybody sees it. Let‘s run that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: How much are you worth?
TRUMP: A lot of money, and you may very well see that number in about 70 days or 80 days.
“Forbes” said $2.7 billion. And $2.7 billion is very low. It‘s much lower than the actual number that I may be showing to people and to the rest of the world in a couple of months.
If I run shortly thereafter, I will send a statement of financials and cash, and how much debt and all that. And I think people are going to be very impressed. It‘s actually much bigger than any numbers I have seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Other than being generally unbearable, bragging about his wealth, you know, it‘s a little hard to believe him. And I think that he‘s actually not going to run for that specific reason. I don‘t think he wants the world to know what he is actually worth.
ISIKOFF: That is certainly one theory out there. You know, there was a “New York Times” reporter, Tim O‘Brien, who wrote a book a few years ago, who talked to some sources who suggested Trump was really only worth a couple of hundred million dollars.
Trump sued Tim O‘Brien, the reporter, for defamation, claiming to be called a multimillionaire rather than a multibillionaire had somehow defamed his reputation. The lawsuit got tossed out of court and Trump then appealed.
And, in fact, the appellate argument was heard only a couple weeks ago in a Jersey City courtroom. Trump showed up and was slipping notes to his lawyers.
He clearly is very exercised about this issue. But will we ultimately see that document that lays out his wealth? We‘re going to know very shortly, but that‘s something he‘s going to have to do if he goes through with this presidential run.
UYGUR: Yes. I don‘t believe he‘s going to do it at all. I would be shocked. But we‘ll see if Donald can shock us.
But, you know, you had another great part of this interview about Trump University, which was great. I just want to run that for anybody and then come back and ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISIKOFF: Why did you call it a university?
TRUMP: Because we didn‘t know there was any rules or regulations about using the name “university.”
ISIKOFF: You didn‘t check that out?
TRUMP: I think probably they felt that we would have qualified. If we didn‘t qualify, that‘s fine. We changed the name.
ISIKOFF: And people would pay money to hear you?
TRUMP: Sure, they‘d pay money. Why, am I supposed to do it for free?
ISIKOFF: People have to pay, as I understand it, up to $35,000 for the gold seminars.
TRUMP: And they did. There‘s very little problem with Trump University. There‘s very little—I think we had one or two little lawsuits out of thousands of people that went through it.
We have one or two little lawsuits. There‘s one in California, a little lawsuit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UYGUR: Just a little lawsuit. He seems to be involved in a lot of little lawsuits, but what was this? Was this a real university, did it have classes, professors, or —
ISIKOFF: It‘s not a real university in the sense you and I would understand it. It was basically a series of seminars.
The first thing they ask you to do, according to some of the students who went through it, is up the limit on your credit card to $35,000 so you can then afford the gold seminar in which you really learn the secrets of Donald Trump‘s‘ success and learn how to become a millionaire.
State regulators all over the country have gotten complaints about this. There is a class action lawsuit being filed by former students in California. And as we reported in the piece last night, the Texas Attorney General‘s Office had opened up an investigation into possible deceptive trade practices against Trump University, and only dropped it after Trump University told the state Attorney General‘s Office they would stop doing business in Texas. In effect, they dropped out of Texas entirely.
UYGUR: All right. Michael, stay with us, actually.
I want to bring in MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe to talk about this, too.
Richard, great having you here.
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Thanks, Cenk.
UYGUR: All right. Two of the guys that I have talked to the longest probably in my career.
All right. So, Richard, talk to us about the political implications here. I mean, the main selling point of Trump seems to be, I‘m a great businessman. If there‘s some problems with that, is there big problems in his credibility as a politician?
WOLFFE: Well, to any reasonable person, if you piece together Mike‘s interview with Savannah‘s interview the other day, you have someone who isn‘t prepared on policy and doesn‘t have much of a business record. But that‘s actually not what his main platform is here.
His main platform is to be outrageous and to speak to that part of the Republican Party that wants something more and more extreme. In short, they want more change and not less change.
And so the more outrageous he is, the more he gets attacked by respectable media organizations and great reporters like Mike Isikoff, the better it is for him, because this isn‘t about credibility. It‘s who can say the most impressive things that speak to this sense of hurt and rage that they have.
And Republicans have to ask themselves, do they want to be as the Democrats were in 2004? Do they want to date someone like Dean and marry someone like Kerry, or do they want to stick with someone like Dean? If they stick with someone like Dean, they‘re going to have Donald Trump being a front-runner not just a year out from the nomination, but maybe a few months out from the nomination.
UYGUR: But, you know, I know that the Republican voters sometimes aren‘t really deeply attached to facts. But here, the facts seem to be something that they would be bothered by.
For example, when you go to Trump‘s record, yesterday we did a whole segment on how incredibly liberal positions he had back in 1999 — nationalized health care, an enormous tax on the wealthy, et cetera. Now, on the bailouts, apparently he thought that TARP was worth a shot, that Henry Paulson should get an A, and that Ben Bernanke should get a B plus. And he thought the auto bailouts were swell. The government should stand behind them 100 percent, he said.
Now, Richard, the Tea Party can‘t be happy about that.
WOLFFE: Well, they are not. And of course we found in the last few weeks that Trump is willing to say anything, because, actually, the original position he had was the reasonable one.
It was President Bush‘s position. Paulson was obviously Bush‘s treasury secretary. And the policy worked.
But that‘s, of course, not what gets you the nomination now, not what gets you attention. And really, he has been propelled at this point, apart from the media interest, by going after the birth certificate, by being as outrageous as possible, questioning the authorship of “Dreams of My Father.”
You know, it doesn‘t really matter what the policy position is, whether he‘s consistent. It‘s does he speak to that rage out there that 15 percent, 20 percent of the Republican Party is into?
It‘s not the majority of the Republican Party, but in a multi-candidate field. That‘s what puts you as the front-runner.
UYGUR: And Michael, you know, we‘ve had a lot of polls on this now.
And Trump is doing rather well in most of them.
The latest one is a McClatchy one, and he‘s at third, at 13 percent, which isn‘t bad. He‘s been at the top of some of the polls.
What was your sense? I think the question everybody is asking, is this guy for real? Is this all a show to get more attention for the Trump name, or do you think there‘s a real chance he‘s going to run here?
ISIKOFF: You know, it‘s funny, because after this, as you can see, often contentious interview, Trump actually invited me up to his office, upstairs, one floor up, and wanted to talk politics. And started asking me about people like Ralph Reed, who he‘s interviewing to be a campaign manager, what did I think of him.
And I pointed out that he had previously worked for Pat Robertson in the Christian coalition. And he said, “Yes, but that would be good in Iowa.” You know, “That would be good in Iowa.” Tony Fabrizio, a pollster who he‘s been talking to.
So, I‘ve got to say, even though I know there‘s a lot of skepticism out there, and I think for good reason, I think he‘s taking this pretty far. And I think that‘s one reason you are seeing increasing nervousness on the part of Republican professionals like Karl Rove, which is why he came out with that comment that a Trump candidacy would be a joke. He doesn‘t want—the Karl Roves of the Republican Party don‘t want Donald Trump sucking up all the oxygen.
UYGUR: Michael, that‘s a really interesting insight, because it goes to show you, after the interview, he still wants to talk to you.
UYGUR: He‘s an amazing guy. And he seems to be pretty serious, as you said. I mean, getting down to Tony Fabrizio means he‘s getting pretty serious.
ISIKOFF: Yes, he‘s getting into the weeds.
UYGUR: Richard, the final question for you, real quick, how thrilled is the White House about this development?
WOLFFE: Oh, this is second only to Sarah Palin.
By the way, Mike, make sure that he didn‘t ask you to raise a credit card limit as well when you go up to his office next time.
WOLFFE: But, you know, the White House would love to see this happen.
This is not how you win the middle ground in America.
It just polarizes the Republican Party as a whole, as a brand. Karl Rove knows that if he‘s going to raise the millions he needs for his outside spending groups, he needs more respectable candidates in there, more realistic prospects to win.
You know, he tried to do the same when it came down to Christine O‘Donnell, and that didn‘t work, either. Karl Rove is not going chase this out of the party. It looks to me that, again, given that choice the Democrats faced in 2004, they are going to go for the more extreme, less electable candidate, because it speaks to how they are feeling, at least, again, that 15 percent, 20 percent, which could be enough in this race.
UYGUR: All right.
NBC‘s national investigative corespondent, Michael Isikoff, with a great interview there, and MSNBC political analyst Richard Wolffe.
Thank you both.
WOLFFE: You bet.
ISIKOFF: Thank you.
UYGUR: All right.
Presidential hopefuls like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have a big problem when it comes to taxes. We‘re going to show you their hypocrisy on that issue, and that‘s good.