President Donald Trump, in a wide-ranging interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” dithered on whether he believes climate change is manmade, called the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi “disgusting,” defended his friendship with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and said he believed, despite mocking her at a rally two weeks ago, that he treated Christine Blasey Ford with respect.
Interested in Donald Trump?
Add Donald Trump as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Donald Trump news, video, and analysis from ABC News.
Here are the highlights of the interview.
Trump refutes that climate change is a ‘hoax’ but won’t say it’s manmade
Trump went back and forth with “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, who has interviewed him three times since his nomination at the Republican National Convention in 2016, on each issue, but first up was climate change. Last week, an intergovernmental report from a United Nations panel on climate change found that the continued release of greenhouse gas emissions at their current rate would create a worldwide crisis by 2040.
Trump said he would not call climate change a “hoax,” but he would not admit that humans have had an influence, either.
“I think something’s happening,” Trump said. “Something’s changing and it’ll change back again. I don’t think it’s a hoax, I think there’s probably a difference. But I don’t know that it’s man-made.”
Trump announced over a year ago that he intends to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, a non-binding resolution the U.S. signed in 2016 that agreed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
Stahl challenged Trump’s statement, and said his own government scientists at NASA and NOAA have reported otherwise.
“I’m not denying climate change. But it could very well go back,” Trump said. He started to argue that there’s a large time frame for comparison, millions of years.
“But that’s denying it,” Stahl said.
“They say that we had hurricanes that were far worse than what we just had with Michael,” Trump said.
“Who says that? ‘They say?'” Stahl followed up.
“People say,” said the president.
Stahl asked about the scientists who are raising the alarm on climate change and saying it is, in fact, worse now than ever before, but Trump argued that he’d have to take a look at their political motivations.
“You’d have to show me the scientists because they have a very big political agenda, Lesley,” Trump said.
There’s ‘something really terrible’ about the disappearance of Khashoggi
The United States is going to get to the bottom of the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump said, and there will be “severe punishment” if Saudi Arabia is found responsible.
“There’s a lot at stake, a lot at stake. And maybe especially so, because this man was a reporter,” Trump said. “There’s something — you may be surprised to hear me say that — but there’s something really terrible and disgusting about that, if that were the case, so we’re going to have to see. We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”
But when asked whether or not he would impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if they were involved, Trump said that it depends on what the sanctions are, noting that major defense contractors secured a deal with the Saudis to build military equipment and he wouldn’t want any potential punishment to cost American jobs.
“Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon,” Trump said, listing the companies. “I don’t want to hurt jobs. I don’t want to lose an order like that, there are other ways of punishing. To use a word that’s a pretty harsh word but it’s true,” Trump said.
Trump on thousands laughing at Blasey Ford at rally
Trump defended mocking Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee in front of a cheering, laughing crowd at a Mississippi rally two weeks ago where he imitated her and said, “How did you get home? I don’t remember. How did you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know.”
He also said without that speech, he may not have been able to get Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the country’s highest court.
“Had I not made that speech, we would not have won. I was just saying she didn’t seem to know anything,” Trump said.
Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault back when they attended high school together in Maryland, was asked during the hearing what her strongest memory from the alleged assault was.
“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter. The uproarious laughter between the two. And their having fun at my expense,” Ford responded, adding, “They were laughing with each other.”
Kavanaugh has directly refuted all claims of sexual assault from Ford and others.
“Professor Blasey Ford got before the Senate and — and was asked what’s the worst moment. And she said, ‘When the two boys laughed at me, at my expense.'” Stahl said.
“OK, fine,” said Trump.
“And then I watched you mimic her and thousands of people were laughing at her,” Stahl said.
“They can do what they — I — I will tell you this. The way now Justice Kavanaugh was treated has become a big factor in the midterms. Have you seen what’s gone on with the polls?” Trump responded.
He defended his comments, and said “the person that we’re talking about didn’t know the year, the time, the place.”
He went on to say that he felt Ford was treated with “great respect.”
Trump claims US and North Korea almost went to war
So far, North Korea has been “a great achievement,” the president said, claiming that the day before he came into office, the countries almost went to war.
“I will say this. The day before I came in, we were going to war with North Korea,” Trump said.
“I think it was going to end up in war,” Trump said. “And my impression is — and even in my first few months, I mean, that rhetoric was as tough as it could possibly get. Doesn’t get any tougher than that. Nobody’s ever heard rhetoric that tough. We were going to war with North Korea,” Trump said.
Over those few months, the president called Kim “little rocket man” and said that continued threats against the U.S. would be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
“Now, you don’t hear that. You don’t hear any talk of it. And he doesn’t want to go to war, and we don’t want to go to war, and he understands denuclearization and he’s agreed to it. And you see that, he’s agreed to it. No missiles,” Trump said of Kim.
Trump could not answer whether or not the North Koreans, while not testing missiles, are still building them.
He also said he has no plans to ease sanctions on North Korea: “This isn’t the Obama administration. I haven’t eased the sanctions. I haven’t done anything. I haven’t done anything. We’re meeting. I believe he likes me. I like him. We have a good relationship. It’s very important.”
Stahl pushed Trump on recent comments he made that he and Kim “fell in love.”
“I want to read you his resume, OK? He presides over a cruel kingdom of repression, gulags, starvation — reports that he had his half-brother assassinated, slave labor, public executions. This is a guy you love?” she asked.
Trump called it a figure of speech, and eventually turned the focus to ending threats against the U.S.
“Look. Let it be whatever it is. I get along with him really well. I have a good energy with him. I have a good chemistry with him. Look at the horrible threats that were made. No more threats. No more threats,” Trump said.
On China: It’s not a trade war, it’s a ‘skirmish’
Trump said he might be imposing more tariffs on China, but said they want to negotiate.
“I have a great chemistry also with President Xi of China. I don’t know that that’s necessarily going to continue. I told President Xi we cannot continue to have China take $500 billion a year out of the United States in the form of trade and others things,” Trump said.
But don’t call what’s going on between China and the U.S. a trade war. According to Trump, it’s not a war, or a battle, but a “skirmish.”
“I called it, actually I called it a battle. But, actually, I’m going to lower that. I consider it a skirmish. And we’re going to win,” Trump said.
Trump says Mattis ‘may leave,’ as ‘everybody’ does
The president defended his stance on NATO, the organization of North American and European countries that Trump said was created to take advantage of the U.S.
Stahl asked Trump about reports that his Secretary of Defense Gen. James Mattis told him NATO and other strategic alliances are created to “prevent World War III.”
“Frankly, I like Gen. Mattis. I think I know more about it than he does. And I know more about it from the standpoint of fairness, that I can tell you,” Trump said.
“I’m fully in favor of NATO, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of,” Trump said.
When asked if Mattis could be out the door, Trump said he has a good relationship with Mattis –- but added he is “sort of a Democrat.”
“I have a very good relationship with him. I had lunch with him two days ago. I have a very good relationship with him. It could be that he is, I think he’s sort of a Democrat, if you want to know the truth,” Trump said.
“But Gen. Mattis is a good guy. We get along very well. He may leave. I mean, at some point, everybody leaves. Everybody. People leave. That’s Washington,” Trump added.
On Russia, the president’s relationship with Putin and possible meddling
In a testy exchange, Trump challenged Stahl’s question about why he doesn’t seem to have anything bad to say about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“You don’t know what I talked about with Putin in the meeting prior to the press conference,” Trump said about the joint press conference with Putin in Helsinki over the summer.
“No, I mean publicly. You never say anything harsh about him,” Stahl replied.
“Excuse me,” Trump said. “I didn’t? I’m the one that gave Ukraine offensive weapons and tank killers. Obama didn’t. You know what he sent? He sent pillows and blankets. I’m the one– and he’s the one that gave away a part of Ukraine where Russia now has this.”
“I think I’m very tough with him personally. I had a meeting with him. The two of us. It was a very tough meeting and it was a very good meeting,” Trump said.
Trump did admit Putin “probably” has ordered assassinations and poisonings as Stahl said.
When asked directly if Russia meddled in the 2016 election, Trump added that China probably did, too.
“They — they meddled. But I think China meddled too,” Trump said.
Stahl then accused Trump of diverting her question about whether or not Russia meddled.
“You are diverting the whole Russia thing,” Stahl said.
“I’m not doing anything,” the president said. “I’m saying Russia, but I’m also saying China.”