'60 Minutes' Lesley Stahl on Trump: "He Is Truly President"

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CBS NEWS: Lesley Stahl talks about sparring with the president and the changes she's seen in Donald Trump over the course of three interviews.

Transcript, via CBS News:

FRANK DEVINE: Lesley, you've interviewed President Trump three times, as a candidate, as president-elect, and now as president. Has the office changed him any way?



LESLEY STAHL: Well, in terms of the three interviews, he was completely different today. The-- the one that really stood out was the one three days after he won the election.

Trump sits down at beginning of interview, off-mic,

"It's been a wild ride, I'll tell you that…"

LESLEY STAHL: Where it was my impression-- that he was in total shock. Right now, he's-- he's so much more confident. He is truly president. And you felt it. I felt it in this interview.

FRANK DEVINE: Do you think you ever asked any questions that got under his skin, where you saw him get a little irritable (LAUGH) or snap back at you?

LESLEY STAHL: I think it was more when I would try to bring him back to the question I asked. And that got on his nerves a little bit.

LESLEY STAHL: I'm gonna try one more time. Okay.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I know-- and, Lesley, you don't have to try again. I know exactly what you're saying--

LESLEY STAHL: So answer my question.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The answer is this.

FRANK DEVINE: At times, he seemed to be trying to filibuster you.

LESLEY STAHL: Well, you know something? He-- he was tryin' to filibuster me. But I have never interviewed a politician, ever, that didn't try to filibuster me.

LESLEY STAHL: --do you believe that the Russians interfered in the 2016 campaign --

election? Our election--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They-- they meddled. But I think China meddled too.

LESLEY STAHL: Well, why do you--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I think other countries--

LESLEY STAHL: --think China meddled too?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And you wanna know something?

LESLEY STAHL: Why do you say Chi-- why don't you just say--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, let me ask you--

LESLEY STAHL: --the Russians meddled?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Because I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China--

LESLEY STAHL: This is amazing

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --is a bigger problem.

LESLEY STAHL: You're t-- diverting the whole Russian thing.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm not doing anything.

LESLEY STAHL: You are, you are.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm saying Russia…

FRANK DEVINE: When you were walking to the Oval Office, // you tried to press him on whether he'd pledge not to fire Robert Mueller.

LESLEY STAHL: Yeah.

LESLEY STAHL: Will you pledge-- pledge that you will not shut down the Mueller investigation?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I-- I don't pledge anything.

LESLEY STAHL: Man, he didn't wanna answer that. He didn't wanna pledge. He said, "I'm not gonna pledge on '60 Minutes.'"

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I don't wanna pledge. Why should I pledge to you? If I pledge, I'll pledge. I don't have to pledge to you. But I have-

LESLEY STAHL: Well--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --no intention of that.

LESLEY STAHL: --you're not pledging to me.

LESLEY STAHL: Yeah, he didn't like that one either. But you know something? He-- he enjoyed the sparring. He said so. And I could tell he enjoyed it.

LESLEY STAHL: I-- I disagree, but I don't wanna have that fight with you.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Hey, it's okay--

LESLEY STAHL: All right, I'll get in another fight with you--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Lesley, it's okay. In the meantime, I'm president--

LESLEY STAHL: And we're having--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --and you're not.

LESLEY STAHL: --fun, right? And-- oh, for sure.

FRANK DEVINE: He was very restrained with you--

LESLEY STAHL: Oh, I got--

FRANK DEVINE: --and, his media question--

LESLEY STAHL: I got my share of, "Fake news." I got-- I wouldn't say he was restrained. He-- he came at fake news quite a few times.

LESLEY STAHL: You have said that this administration is like a smooth running machine. And yet, we keep hearing that the White House is in chaos.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's-- well, it's so false. It's fake news.

FRANK DEVINE: There was a point where he was being so complimentary to you that you accused him of softening you up.

LESLEY STAHL: I (LAUGH)-- I think he was tryin' to soften me up.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I'm on 60 Minutes, great show. My first interview with Mike Wallace, right?

LESLEY STAHL: Right.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And it was such a great interview, he was so nice. He was only nice to me, he wasn't nice to other people, many years ago. And here I am again, 60 Minutes with Lesley Stahl, even bigger than Mike Wallace. (LAUGH) Do you consider yourself bigger than Mike Wallace?

LESLEY STAHL: Tryin' to soften me up here.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Okay

LESLEY STAHL: You know, when you interview anybody, you-- you know it's a performance. You're on camera. The lights are on you. He's very aware of-- of being a performer.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Do you really think I'd call Russia to help me with an election? Give me a break.

LESLEY STAHL: And so, I think he's always conscious that this is gonna be seen by everybody, but so am I.

LESLEY STAHL: Oh, look at your desk.

LESLEY STAHL: So as the interviewer. And so, yeah, you're tryin' to set up a good-- chemistry between you; both sides.

FRANK DEVINE: Why do you think President Trump decided on an interview with you now, at this particular time?

LESLEY STAHL: I think he's trying to win the midterm election for the Republicans. And I think he believes, and I know his people believe, the more he's out there, publicly-- the stronger the chances are for the Republicans. And the better for him. And-- I think the White House has come to believe it's a mistake to try to restrain him, to keep him off television, to keep him away from these rallies. And he loves doing it. He really-- he-- he gets a lot of energy from crowds. And-- and I think he gets a lot of energy wrestling the way he did with me.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, I'm having fun. I mean, I had fun. I like doing this. I don't know why.

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