Donald Trump does not think it is fair to ask him if his aggressive rhetoric on immigration, terrorism and war will lead unintentionally to bigotry and violence that hurts innocent people. But that doesn't mean he won't answer the question.
"Are you ready?" he asks in a Nov. 24 interview with TIME. "People are getting hurt. People are getting hurt. People are being decimated by illegal immigrants. The crime is unbelievable. . . . People are getting hurt. Far greater than something I’m going to say. People are getting badly hurt. People are getting hurt by our stupidity."
Trump made those comments during a 40 minutes of interviews with TIME in his Fifth Avenue office in Manhattan. He addressed his appeal with voters, his handling of protesters and his concerns about Muslim immigration in Europe. He also addressed topics he had not before answered on the record, including how he felt about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, whether he believed undocumented immigrants were more disposed to violent crime, and whether he would attempt to pull press White House press credentials from reporters he disliked if he won the Presidency.
At the core of the interview was a discussion of whether the aggression in his approach to the campaign, which has taken the political world by storm, might have unintended consequences.
"People are being hurt by being weak," he said. "You understand what I mean? Different people. It’s different people. People are being hurt badly, badly by this weakness that’s going on. We’re weak. And people are being hurt. Now in my way I don’t want anybody hurt. But people are being hurt. So when you ask that question it’s very unfair."
TIME: I spent a couple of days last week talking to your crowds at the South Carolina and Alabama events. Your supporters say, 'He says what other people aren’t saying, he tells it like it is.'
DONALD TRUMP: I hear that a lot.
TIME: What thrills them about you is that you are willing to break lines, to transgress the roles of politics. Even the way you talk about protestors.
TRUMP: Well I talk about the fact that one man screams and the next day he’s a headline and I have fifteen thousand people in an arena. And because one guy screams, and they take him out—it’s not me taking him out, it’s the local police. It has nothing to do with me. But they take him out and he ends up being the headline. I think it’s disgusting actually. I think it’s unfair. We had it the other night where two people were screaming and they had a story on protestors. We had fifteen thousand people, were two people took a minute and a half and they end up being a part of the headline, you know it’s a part of the headline. But it was still a part of the headline.
TIME: But do you agree with that that you’re sort of breaking china as you go?
TRUMP: Well … I don’t think in terms of that. I don’t do it as a phony thing. I do it because it’s from my heart. I say what I want to say. And from my brain. You know I was blessed with a very good brain. Top level, alright. And frankly it comes from the heart and it comes from the brain. And in my case they work together very well.
TIME: Does it trouble you the way your supporters have treated protestors at your events?
TRUMP: Because nobody was hurt and nobody was—if you saw the way they behaved, how bad they were. I mean the screaming. I’m saying things and, you know, you could say that’s extremely rude. You’re not supposed to—a man is speaking. Like I watched Bernie Sanders just get—his microphone was taken away. And I did a thing about it. I don’t know if you saw it. It had millions of hits where these two people walk up and just took over the microphone. And he walks back and he’s listening to them speak. That can’t happen to me. That can’t happen to me.
TIME: I have never heard a politician sort of celebrate the extrajudicial punishment of someone. And this goes back to that mean tough talk thing that we were talking about before.
TRUMP: Well I think Bergdahl is a very bad person who killed six people, who went after him, you know, six people went after him. And the amazing thing is that the government knew that he was a traitor before they made the deal. Because they had a general and a colonel interviewing all of the people that he was with in his group.
TIME: Where I’m heading is that I wonder if you have any concern that the tough rhetoric, the escalating rhetoric, that sort of thing, could have a negative affect that you don’t control, that people could get hurt?
TRUMP: Are you ready? People are getting hurt. People are getting hurt. People are being decimated by illegal immigrants. The crime is unbelievable. You’ve been saying it, have you seen the statistics? Thirty-five thousand? The numbers are unbelievable. People are getting hurt. Far greater than something I’m going to say. People are getting badly hurt. People are getting hurt by our stupidity.
TIME: Do you believe that people who are here illegally are more disposed to commit crimes?
TRUMP: No, it just happens to be. I don’t know, I don’t go into their minds. I don’t go into their minds. I just know that I happen to believe that countries actually force their bad people out, okay. I happen to believe that. I happen to believe that various countries force their bad people into the United States because they say why should we take care of these monsters, let the United States take care of them. I happen to believe that —yes, I don’t happen to believe, the statistics are that there’s massive crime.
TIME: You’re not saying that there’s any reason to fear people who speak Spanish more?
TRUMP: Absolutely not. Do you know how many Mexicans I have working for me? They’re incredible people. And I put that now into my—so that people don’t get confused. I’m going to win the Hispanic vote. Do you know that in Nevada I’m way up ahead of everyone else with the Hispanic vote?
TIME: Among Republicans though. Not among Hispanics generally.
TRUMP: But I’m at 34%.
TIME: But Hispanic polls, national Hispanic polls are at like eight to two against you.
TRUMP: It depends if it’s legal or not legal. If they’re legally here, I’m doing quite well. . . . If I win [the GOP nomination], one of my first pictures is going to be to get all of my Hispanic employees and take a picture in some area. People will be amazed. I have thousands. Thousands. I’m going to take a picture and we’re going to get them all together and we’re going to have a picture. They love me. I take great care of them. I pay them a lot of money. I take care of education, I take care of healthcare, they don’t have to worry about Obamacare which is killing people, you know with the premiums going up 55%.
TIME: When it comes to Muslim Americans, are you saying that we should be more suspicious of Muslim Americans? Or are you saying that we just need to investigate?
TRUMP: We have to be vigilant. I mean, you know. They’re not coming from Sweden. We have to be vigilant. Now somebody else would say ‘Oh, you shouldn’t say that.’ I’m saying that. If people don’t like it they won’t vote for you.
TIME: During the debate that you pointed to Eisenhower’s immigration program in 1954. That program involved rounding people up in stores and parks.
TRUMP: Do you know how they got so many? They did move out a million and a half by the way. Most of them left. What happened is a small percentage of them were [rounded up by authorities] The rest of them just left.
TIME: So is that the model then for the eleven million?
TRUMP: It’ll be very humane. I hear mixed reports on the Eisenhower plan. I hear that it was very rough. Which is surprising because Eisenhower was not that rough a person. I like Ike. You know, everybody ‘liked Ike’—that was his phrase. Mine is ‘Make America Great Again,’ I happen to like that better.
TIME: So you’re not saying it’s a model? Or you’re saying it is a model?
TRUMP: I’m not saying it’s a model because there are things I didn’t like about the way they did it. I didn’t like the way they went about it. But it was very effective; it moved them out. And Truman moved a lot out also. What happened is once they knew the country was getting tough on illegal immigration, they left, the illegals left. Tremendous numbers of people left. They moved probably a hundred thousand and about a million and a half left.
TIME: So then how is that different than Romney’s self-deportation line?
TRUMP: I don’t think anybody understood what he was talking about. That’s why he didn’t get elected. He should have won that election. He choked. He chocked like a dog. He should have won that election.
TIME: So another time that the country was tough—and this was actually used by the Eisenhower plan, they had people staying for a time in Japanese internment camps. That was also a very tough time: we’re at war with two continents basically, the whole country is drafted. And we intern the Japanese. Was that something we should have done?
TRUMP: I would have had to be there at the time to tell you, to give you a proper answer. I certainly hate the concept of it. But I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer. It’s a tough thing. It’s tough. But you know war is tough. And winning is tough. We don’t win anymore. We don’t win wars anymore. We don’t win wars anymore. We’re not a strong country anymore. We’re just so off.
TIME: Could you assure that even news outlets that you feel are being very unfair to you will continue to have their credentials at the White House if you're elected President?
TRUMP: Oh yeah, I would do that. It doesn’t mean I’d be nice to them. I tend to do what I do. If people aren’t treating me right, I don’t treat them right.
TIME: Along the same lines, the First Amendment stuff and you getting tough, there was a protest outside your building several months ago in which a bunch of people were holding a sign which said Make America Racist Again. One of your employees ripped the sign away, and then there was a scuffle afterwards. The ripping of the sign, is that something you condone, you thought was okay?
TRUMP: They were trouble makers. With records, by the way, with records. . .The planters we have, they’re very expensive plantings. It’s called the Beautification of Fifth Avenue. We have these very expensive plants. And these guys are putting their cigarettes out on the thing, they’re sitting in them. They’re sitting there waiting, holding the signs, sitting on top of the plants. They were dressed as Ku Klux Klan. You know that? You know when they first came out they were dressed as Ku Klux Klan, okay. Would you think that if somebody was dressed as Ku Klux Klan—you know, they were dressed as Ku Klux Klan. And they were sitting in the planters, they were sitting on top of the plants. They did a lot of damage, we had to change the plants.
[Roger Bernstein, a co-counsel for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit relating to the altercation outside the building says: " Our clients were peaceful demonstrators, and they were exercising their constitutional right to challenge Trump's anti-Mexican statements. . . . As the video tape confirms, our clients were never on the planters and never damaged any plants. Not surprisingly, Trump has never attempted to bring this allegation up in court as it has absolutely no basis in fact. And the claim that our clients had 'records' is so baseless and irrelevant that Trump and his lawyers have never made such a claim in any of the extensive papers they have submitted to the court."]
TIME: But the Ku Klux Klan has a right to protest, as noxious and offensive as they are? The real Ku Klux Klan?
TRUMP: But they don’t have a right to destroy our property. And that’s what happened.
TIME: But you’re not questioning that right to protest? That’s basically what I’m asking.
TRUMP: No, not at all. I have protests. I have protests.
TIME: The Tweet that you talked about yesterday.
TRUMP: Which one?
TIME: The crime statistics, number of whites killed by black, blacks killed by whites.
TRUMP: That wasn’t a Tweet.
TIME: What was it?
TRUMP: It was a re-Tweet. That was somebody else sent it to me and one of them was a very respected radio host and radio show. And it was sent to me and I looked at it, I re-Tweeted it. It’s for other people. Let them find out if it’s correct or not. I don’t know. But I didn’t make that up. That was a re-Tweet. There’s a big difference between a Tweet and a re-Tweet. Let people make up their own minds. But that was a re-Tweet.
TIME: It said wrongly that more whites were killed by blacks than killed by whites, it’s actually the reverse, whites kill whites more than anything else. There’s a whole evil racist strain that’s still in America.
TRUMP: Which is terrible.
TIME: After you re-Tweeted that, after you know that it’s not accurate, do you have a responsibility to sort of clear the air in terms of the accuracy?
TRUMP: Well I actually have people looking into the accuracy of it. But people that were on that list were very, you know, were respected people. One was a radio show.
TIME: So you still might address the accuracy?
TRUMP: Oh, I might do that. Yeah, I mean I’m looking at it. It’s actually hard to get those statistics. Those statistics are not easy to get. But this was just a re-Tweet sent to me by people that are respected.
TIME: In the US Military Rules of Engagement for the Air Force in Syria, is there too much concern for civilian casualties?
TRUMP: We have to win a war. We have to win a war. It’s very tough. It’s a very tough situation. I don’t want to give you the answer to that because I just don’t want to be one of these dopy guys like Obama that—the other day he said we are going to go in—we are going to go in and attack the oil. I’ve been saying that for three years by the way. I hope you can say it. I’m the only one that’s been saying consistently attack the oil, take the—I’ve been saying take the oil, attack the oil, both of them. But the other day I heard him give them our whole plan. We’re going to be sending troops, we’re going to take the oil, we’re going to go here, we’re going to go there, we’re going to try taking this land, that. I said why doesn’t he shut up and do it? He talks too much. You know? He talks too much. He basically laid out his whole play of what he wants to do. He talks too much.
TIME: How does it feel to be the Republican frontrunner?
TRUMP: Look, okay, if I win, I’ll be extremely happy. And I’ll do a great job. If I don’t win, for me, it will have been a total waste of time. Despite the man calling me saying it doesn’t mater if you win or lose because what you’ve done has never been done before. I said I disagree with you....If I don’t win, I will consider—even if other people don’t, I know they give me a lot of credit for what’s taken place. And or probably has never happened before. But I will consider it not a success.
TIME: A lot of what you say about illegal immigration here is similar to what nationalist parties are saying in Europe.
TRUMP: They destroyed Paris. Do you know they have sections of Paris where the police are afraid to go in? They never had that before. Brussels. You look at Brussels. Do you know how beautiful a place that was? Do you know it’s absolutely closed now. And the head of Brussels doesn’t know what to do. Because they’ve allowed people to come in that have taken over their country, taken over their country. They have taken over their country.
TIME: You mean the immigration, the migrants coming in?
TRUMP: Yes. It’s so dangerous. Paris is not Paris anymore. Not because of this event. Paris wasn’t Paris before this event. They have taken over Paris and destroyed it. Wait till you see what happens to Germany. Okay. Wait till you see what happens to Germany.
TIME: The backlash that’s happening in the U.S. that’s supporting your presidency right now, appears to be happening in a number of countries in Europe too.
TRUMP: I don’t care what’s happening in other countries. I only care about this country. And if I win, this country will do great. And they will be very proud of this country. They’re not proud of our country anymore.
TIME: I hope you’re right, and if we get tougher and tougher and no one gets hurt.
TRUMP: People are being hurt by being weak. You understand what I mean? Different people. It’s different people. People are being hurt badly, badly by this weakness that’s going on. We’re weak. And people are being hurt. Now in my way I don’t want anybody hurt. But people are being hurt. So when you ask that question it’s very unfair.
This interview has been edited and condensed.