ABC News’ chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl interviewed President Donald Trump on Oct. 31, 2018 about the migrant caravan traveling toward the U.S. border and the midterm elections. The following is the transcript of the interview:
JONATHAN KARL: Mr. President, we’re six days away from the midterms. If the Democrats win –- I remember you surprised a lot of people by striking a deal with Pelosi and Schumer a year ago on the budget. Can you work with them if the Democrats win the House?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, we certainly try. I’m looking to unify. I always like to unify. We will certainly try. They’ve had a very hard time because they haven’t been winning. We’ll see what happens five days from now. It’s going to be very exciting. It’s going to be a close race. And they don’t talk about the blue wave anymore. It’s going to be a very close race. I think in the Senate we’re looking very good. I feel very good about the Senate. And frankly I think we feel pretty good about the House. But it’s a lot of people. So many races it’s hard for me to get to every one of them. With the Senate, we’ve gotten to just about everyone I needed to get to. And I think we’re going to do very well.
JONATHAN KARL: And if they get into the investigations and they get into your business dealings and your tax returns -–
DONALD TRUMP: I’ve been an open book for so long, Jon. You know that better than anybody. I’m an open book. And frankly, so many people have looked at me for so many years it’s probably one of the reasons I won. I think they’re going to want to get along too. If they –- look on the assumption they win the House, maybe they win both, and maybe they lose both -– who knows, it’s going to be close. Although I’m starting to see the Senate is not looking that close. It’s going to be very interesting. I think they’re going to want to do things. I think they’re going to get legislation passed. We need things on the border, we need things on immigration -– they know that too. If you look at education, you look at health care, they’re going to want to get things done. So I have a feeling it would be different than a lot of people would believe. But maybe not.
JONATHAN KARL: Okay, you’re talking about 10,000, maybe 15,000, active-duty U.S. military to the border –-
DONALD TRUMP: Yeah.
JONATHAN KARL: — more than we have fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. More than we have fighting ISIS in Syria. You’re really going to do that?
DONALD TRUMP: It’s very important. We have to have a wall of people –- very highly trained people, terrific, dedicated patriots. That’s what they are. You have caravans coming up that look a lot larger than it’s reported actually. I’m pretty good at estimating crowd size. And I’ll tell you they look a lot bigger than people would think. So we’ll find out. They had a very rough one just formed in El Salvador if you can believe it. And it was very nasty, you saw what took place. And you look at what’s coming up through Honduras through Mexico. And Mexico is helping us. But these are rough people in those crowds. And Mexico suffered a lot of damage in the last skirmish.
JONATHAN KARL: But what we see is a lot of deeply impoverished people fleeing violence, many of them women and children. You’re going to send 15,000 active-duty U.S. military to –-
DONALD TRUMP: Actually it’s mostly men. Actually mostly young men. And a lot of rough people, lot of rough people, Jon. You look –- and it’s been well reported –- it’s a lot of young people, lot of young men. They are pushing the women right up to the front –- not good –- and the kids right up to the front. But if you take a look at the caravans –- and now there’s more than one. There’s two or three forming. And you take a look at it and they’re strong young men. And you look at the skirmish they had with the Mexican police and army and it was a nasty skirmish.
JONATHAN KARL: But they’re 900 miles away. The active duty military –- you know the law. You’re the president –- they can’t arrest people crossing the border –-
DONALD TRUMP: Well it depends, it depends.
JONATHAN KARL: No, they’re not allowed to —
DONALD TRUMP: National emergency covers a lot of territory. They can’t invade our country. You look at that it almost looks like an invasion. It’s almost does look like an invasion –-
JONATHAN KARL: You think those caravans are an invasion?
DONALD TRUMP: I do think so. When you look at some of them, when you look at some of the people in them, yeah, I think it can be considered an invasion. We can’t have it. We can’t have it from a cost standpoint.
JONATHAN KARL: These are some of the poorest people in the world coming up here.
DONALD TRUMP: They are some dangerous people. These are some rough people. I mean you look at MS-13, they come from that area. This is a very rough group of people coming up. Not in all places but this is a very rough group of people. Look what they did to the Mexican army at the border. Look at the skirmish they just had. Very bad thing for the Mexican army; that was not easy. We’ll see what happens and hopefully there won’t be a confrontation.
JONATHAN KARL: One of the central issues is health care. You’ve been saying Democrats want to take away preexisting conditions. I mean, it’s your administration that’s supporting a lawsuit that would allow health insurance companies –-
DONALD TRUMP: No, but I want to replace preexisting conditions and I’ve always been there. What the Democrats are going to do is destroy our entire health care and you’re not going to have any health care. You would destroy the country. You are not going to have health care. The Democrats are going to literally –- you’ll have to pay three times the taxes and they’ll destroy health care as we know it in this country. You won’t have preexisting conditions. You wont have anything.
JONATHAN KARL: You don’t really think Democrats want to do away with the requirement to cover preexisting conditions?
DONALD TRUMP: I don’t think they’re going to have a choice because it’s going to be so bad. So expensive and the health care is going to be terrible. I don’t think they’re going to have a choice. It’s going to be a very bad situation.
JONATHAN KARL: And finally I remember well –- you remember well in the campaign, you made a promise. You said, “I will never lie to you.” Can you tell me now, honestly, have you kept that promise at all times? Have you always been truthful?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I try. I do try. I think you try too. You say things about me that aren’t necessarily correct. I do try, and I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth. And sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that’s different or there’s a change, but I always like to be truthful.
JONATHAN KARL: So what happened on the birthright citizenship where you said that we’re the only country on the globe –-
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I was told that. But I will say this, we’re the country people want to come to. And what they were referring to when they gave me that information is that we’re the country they want to come to. People want to come to the United States. And I sort of jokingly say it’s my fault, because I have really made this country strong economically. People want to come into the U.S. now because we’re doing well economically, Jon, as good as well as we’ve ever done as a country. And people are flowing up and I get it. And I want them to come in, but I want them to come in legally and based on merit. We have a lot of companies that are coming in. Companies from Japan, car companies going to Michigan, going all over. Foxconn going to Wisconsin. We need workers. At 3.7 percent unemployment, which is a 50-year low, is that we need workers, Jon. And I want people to come in. I really do. I want people from the caravans to come in but they have to come in legally and through merit. We need workers.
JONATHAN KARL: You took a shot at Paul Ryan —
DONALD TRUMP: Well, I didn’t think he should be saying what he said. And he called me right after that. We’re fine. I didn’t think he should be saying –- I think he’s wrong, OK? I think he’s wrong. You know who’s going to iron that out pretty quickly? The Supreme Court of the United States.
JONATHAN KARL: Prediction for Tuesday?
DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to do great in the Senate, as you can probably see and say, and you say –- but we’re doing pretty well in the Senate. And I think we’re doing pretty well in the House. You know what I’ll say? It’s going to be an interesting evening.