Trump: 'I will be so good at the military, your head will spin'
Donald Trump made headlines Friday following an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt in which the Republican presidential candidate reiterated his support for guns and Israel but seemed stymied by questions about international terrorism.
Hewitt, a conservative radio talk show host, began the interview by asking Trump his opinion of General Qassem Soleimani, who leads an elite branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards called the Quds Force and is a key power player in the Middle East.
There was some initial confusion about the question:
Hewitt: Are you familiar with General Soleimani?
Trump: Yes, but go ahead, give me a little, go ahead, tell me.
Hewitt: He runs the Quds Forces.
Trump: Yes, okay, right.
Hewitt: Do you expect his behavior…
Trump: The Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by …
Hewitt: No, not the Kurds, the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Forces.
But Trump soon came up to speed and recalled that Soleimani had recently been reported meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow despite being subject to UN travel sanctions.
Trump: Is he the gentleman that was going back and forth with Russia and meeting with Putin? I read something, and that seems to be also where he’s at.
Hewitt: That’s the guy.
Trump: He’s going back and forth meeting with other countries, etc., etc.
Hewitt: That’s the guy.
Trump: Not good (…) Not good for us. And what it shows is a total lack of respect, I mean, that the other countries would even be entertaining him, and they’re entertaining him big league, big league.
Hewitt went on to ask Trump what he knew about Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, al Qaeda leader Ayman Mohammed Zawahiri, Nusra Front commander Abu Mohammad al-Julani and Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying it was important for a US president to be familiar with these men and their methods.
Hewitt: But on the front of Islamist terrorism, I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard yet, Donald Trump?
Trump: No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed. They’ll be all gone. … But as far as the individual players, of course I don’t know them. I’ve never met them. I haven’t been, you know, in a position to meet them. If, if they’re still there, which is unlikely in many cases, but if they’re still there, I will know them better than I know you.
Hewitt: That’s what I’m getting at, because the Islamist extremism is metastasizing. Nasrallah’s been there a long time (since 1992), and al-Baghdadi’s running ISIS (another name for the Islamic State group). And so I wonder if you’re going to throw yourself into the details of this during the campaign …
Hewitt went on to say that he didn’t believe in “gotcha” questions – those designed specifically to trip up the interviewee.
Trump: Well, that is a ‘gotcha’ question, though. I mean, you know, when you’re asking me about who’s running this, this this, that’s not, that is not, I will be so good at the military, your head will spin. But obviously, I’m not meeting these people. I’m not seeing these people.
Trump said that he would look to delegate to the “best people” in the US military in the fight against terrorism.
But Hewitt, who is set to co-moderate the next Republican presidential debate on September 16, was not content to let his question about terrorist leaders go quite yet. Later on in the interview, he asked Trump again whether he really felt that it was unfair to ask him to identify these key global players.
Hewitt: I want to go back to the beginning, because I really do disagree with you on the ‘gotcha’ question thing, Donald Trump. At the debate, I may bring up Nasrallah being with Hezbollah, and al-Julani being with al-Nusra, and [Mushir] al-Masri being with Hamas. Do you think if I ask people to talk about those three things, and the differences, that that’s a 'gotcha' question?
Trump: Yes, I do. I totally do. I think it’s ridiculous.
But Trump also vowed that before he came into office, he would know more about them.
Trump: And you know what? In that case, first day in office, or before then, right at the day after the election, I’ll know more about it than you will ever know. That I can tell you.
Hewitt: Oh, I hope so. Last question, so the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas does not matter to you yet, but it will?
Trump: It will when it’s appropriate. I will know more about it than you know, and believe me, it won’t take me long.
Trump, who has been a vocal critic of the Iran nuclear deal signed in Vienna in July, told Hewitt that he would back Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if he decided to act unilaterally against Iran.
Hewitt: And if Israel acts unilaterally against Iran because they view this deal as so bad, will you unequivocally stand by the action of the Netanyahu government?
Trump: Of course, I will. In fact, he’s a friend of mine. I did commercials for his reelection. And according to what he said, I’m the only celebrity, he’s used the word celebrity, this was a while ago, that did commercials, that he asked to do commercials. But he’s a good man, and I would absolutely stand with him.
Hewitt then switched tack to more domestic US matters, and cited the real-estate mogul’s support for building a wall along the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants.
“You could build the wall. I have no doubt about that,” Hewitt said.
“Right,” Trump responded. “By the way, and nobody knows how easy that would be. And I mean, it would be, it would be tall, it would be powerful, we would make it very good-looking. It would be as good as a wall’s got to be, and people will not be climbing over that wall, believe me.”
When asked whether he owned a gun, Trump said that he did but declined to say what type. He also said that he had a license to carry a concealed weapon.
In the wake of a wave of gun violence in the United States that has prompted new calls for a ban on assault weapons, Hewitt asked Trump how he thought the term “assault weapon” should be defined.
“Well, yeah, I think that, you know, the word ‘assault weapon’, and a lot of people, there’s been a lot of controversy, but I wouldn’t give you exact, I am in favor, I have two sons that are members in very high standing at the NRA (National Rifle Association, a pro-gun lobbying group),” Trump said.
Trump went on to say that he was a strong supporter of the US constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms.
“All I can tell you is that I am totally a 2nd Amendment person, and totally in favor of not doing anything [to limit guns],” he said.
To read a full transcript of the interview, please click here.