Republican nominee Donald Trump sat down with The Post’s Philip Rucker for an interview at Trump National Golf Club on Aug. 2 following a rally at a nearby high school. This is a lightly edited transcript of the 50-minute interview.
RUCKER: So how are you feeling about the campaign?
TRUMP: I think really good. I think, uh —
RUCKER: ’Cause there are a couple of polls that came out showing Hillary got a big bounce —
TRUMP: Yeah, she got a bounce —
RUCKER: — after her convention.
TRUMP: Well, she got the second. You have the advantage being the second convention. It’s a big advantage being the second convention. But I feel good. You see the crowds. I mean, you don’t see enthusiasm like that at a Hillary rally. People are falling asleep.
RUCKER: Did you see Tim Kaine’s speech?
TRUMP: I thought it, yeah —
RUCKER: He tried to impersonate you.
TRUMP: Yeah, I thought he was terrible. I thought his speech was terrible. Although he’s not popular here. You know, this is Loudoun County. Loudoun County’s a big deal.
RUCKER: Whoever wins Loudoun wins the election.
TRUMP: Is that what you think?
RUCKER: It’s one of the swing counties, yeah.
TRUMP: Hey, George! Come here. He just said whoever wins Loudoun wins the election. This is Loudoun.
GEORGE GIGICOS, Trump campaign aide: We’re in Loudoun County now.
TRUMP: You got 800 acres in Loudoun.
RUCKER: Loudoun, Fairfax —
TRUMP: What about Fairfax? Same thing?
RUCKER: [Hillary Clinton is] trying to be the changemaker now. We heard Bill Clinton: She’s the biggest changemaker he’s ever met in his life.
TRUMP: She’s been there for 30 years. She’s not going to change. Because you look at her donors. So you heard my speech?
TRUMP: How did you like it?
RUCKER: It was interesting.
RUCKER: You made a comment yesterday that has a lot of people talking today, where you said if, if Ivanka worked at Fox News and had that kind of sexual harassment scenario, you think she should —
TRUMP: I’m surprised people are talking about that.
RUCKER: They are. You think she should leave and go find another —
TRUMP: You can do it either way.
RUCKER: Would you want her to follow the path that Gretchen Carlson did?
TRUMP: I’d want her to do what makes her happy. I’d want her to do, Phil, what makes her happy. [Trump looks at a nearby television, which was tuned to Fox News.] Oh, did they have another one of these things go down? It’s terrible that crash. Never liked that plane, structurally. I never thought that plane could —
RUCKER: Why should she have to change careers or jobs?
TRUMP: She doesn’t have to. She can do it either way. Some people would rather change and some people don’t. Some people don’t want to be forced to stay in a certain atmosphere. You can do both.
RUCKER: What do you mean?
TRUMP: You can go through the process. You can also change. You can do both. Uh, you can do one, the other, or both. And I think it depends on the individual. You understand what I mean by that, right?
TRUMP: One, the other or both.
RUCKER: And is there one that’s preferable, in your mind?
TRUMP: I think it’s gotta be up to the individual. I think it depends on the individual. It also depends on what’s available. There may be a better alternative, then there may not. If there’s not a better alternative, then you stay. But it could be there’s a better alternative where you’re taken care of better. But some people don’t like staying in an atmosphere that was so hostile. You understand that?
TRUMP: They don’t want to stay in an atmosphere that’s so hostile.
RUCKER: Rather just stay there.
TRUMP: But you can do one, you can do the other, or you can do both — meaning fight it out but be in a place that’s more comfortable.
RUCKER: Leave and work someplace else while you fight it out.
RUCKER: What if —
TRUMP: Well, you’re right. But if she’s being harassed, would you want to stay in a place that she’s being harassed in?
RUCKER: Yeah. And that’s what you meant by that?
TRUMP: Absolutely. I think a lot of women wouldn’t want to stay in a place where they’re being harassed.
RUCKER: Can we talk about the debates for a minute?
RUCKER: So, master negotiator, how would you negotiate these debates? What —
TRUMP: Well, I think — first of all —
RUCKER: — kind of debate do you want?
TRUMP: I’ve been very successful at negotiating debates because if you remember when we had to negotiate, I negotiated the proper timing and other things having to do with one of our other debates, okay? You —
RUCKER: Primary debates.
TRUMP: That was me. I don’t — I think three debates is the right number. I think that, uh, they’ll be extremely well watched. There are those who will say it will be one of the highest-rated shows in television history, if not the highest.
RUCKER: They’re probably right about that.
TRUMP: No, they’re thinking — you know, I’ve heard that a long time ago. I’ve heard — when I first started, people were saying, “You know if it ends up being Trump against Clinton, it’s going to be the highest-rated debate in the history of television — or, show in the history of television. And they also said something else. It’ll probably be the greatest voter turnout in the history of this country. That could very well be.
RUCKER: What would you negotiate for? Do you want for example Gary Johnson and Jill Stein?
TRUMP: No because they’re not getting any . . . I’d rather have head to head and right now they’re not getting any numbers. She’s doing better than he is, but right now in some polls she’s actually not doing badly.
RUCKER: There were some Jill Stein supporters in Philadelphia.
TRUMP: She doesn’t get media coverage only because people perceive her as hurting Hillary Clinton. I’m not sure that that’s true.
RUCKER: I don’t know about that.
TRUMP: People perceive her as hurting Clinton. I think she’s doing very well. I don’t think the numbers will be good enough for them to be in the debate.
RUCKER: Have you identified dates when you want it to be? You took issue with it being near the NFL.
TRUMP: I don’t think they should be against the NFL because the NFL, those are two big games. I don’t think it would be good for the NFL and I don’t think it would be good for the debates.
RUCKER: You have the World Series. There are other events.
TRUMP: There are plenty of dates that are dead nights that you could do. There are plenty evenings that are dead nights that you could have the debates in.
RUCKER: Who do you want to be a moderator?
TRUMP: Well, I’d want to play a role in that. I’d want to have a fair moderator. I thought that Mitt Romney was treated very unfairly in the third debate [in 2012].
RUCKER: You mean Candy Crowley?
TRUMP: I thought it was very unfair. I thought what happened to Mitt Romney was very unfair in the third debate. So, I’d want to be. I’d want to have somebody that I think could be fair. But I think three debates is good. I think it should be on a night where viewers are going to be able to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hillary’s people had something to do with putting them on these evenings because that’s what she did to Bernie Sanders. In all fairness, even if. September, she was always going to be the Democratic nominee so there was no negotiating even back then. You know this was before. . . . She was always expected to win the Democratic nomination so I wouldn’t be surprised if they picked those evenings . . .
RUCKER: You said yesterday that you worried the election might be rigged in some way.
RUCKER: What is your worry exactly?
TRUMP: I don’t like what’s going on with voter ID.
RUCKER: It would be what’s happening in the states?
TRUMP: Well, I think its ridiculous. I mean the voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times. It’s inconceivable that you don’t have to show identification in order to vote or that that the identification doesn’t have to be somewhat foolproof.
RUCKER: Although, there’s a tradition in this country of when somebody loses an election, they concede graciously and try to get their supporters on board like Al Gore did in 2000. Would you? You know if some reason Hillary were to win narrowly, would you contest that in some way?
TRUMP: I don’t want to jump the gun. I don’t want to talk about that. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if the election . . . there’s a lot of dirty pool played at the election, meaning the election is rigged. I would not be surprised. The voter ID, they’re fighting as hard as you can fight so that that they don’t have to show voter ID. So, what’s the purpose of that? How many times is a person going to vote during the day? If you don’t have voter ID . . .
RUCKER: Do you think someone can vote multiple times?
TRUMP: Multiple times. How about like 10 times. Why not? If you don’t have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting.
RUCKER: Is there anything else that you think could be going on?
TRUMP: Look, you never know. It started with me in Louisiana when I won Louisiana and I got fewer delegates than Ted Cruz.
RUCKER: I remember that.
TRUMP: I said, “Whoa! Whoa! What happens here?” And then I polled well in Colorado. and instead of voting, the bosses picked it. I said, “What’s going on here?” It took me a little while to get accustomed to the world of politics and then once I did we started running them off. But, who would’ve thought that was going to happen? I win a state, I get fewer votes. Then, I poll great in Colorado and all of a sudden . . . the voters aren’t going to choose. The bosses are going to choose. Anything is possible.
RUCKER: I have to ask you because this has been the story now for four days: the Khan family. I’ve seen the statements you’ve put out and what you had to say last night on Fox News. First of all, does it bother you that they continue to do interviews and sort of drive the —
TRUMP: Just unfair media. Just the unfair media. It’s purely and simply the unfair media.
RUCKER: What do you mean by that?
TRUMP: They want the story to stay alive as long as possible.
RUCKER: Do you think they’re somehow trying to, the Khan family, are they on TV to try to help Hillary?
TRUMP: People have to form their own opinion. I’ve said everything I can say about it. I was viciously attacked from the stage, and I have a right to answer back. I’ve said everything I could say. I was viciously attacked on the stage, and I have a right to answer back. That’s all I have to say about it.
RUCKER: Do you understand why some people would say that you lack some sort of common decency?
TRUMP: I think frankly a lot of people agree with what I’m saying. I was viciously attacked on the stage. All I did was respond to it. Pure and simple. It should’ve been a one-hour story and they make it a longer story.
RUCKER: It’s a four-day story.
TRUMP: I mean fine. So, I have no further thing to say other than I have a right to answer back.
RUCKER: Now that the conventions are over and we’re moving into the general election, you’ve been going after the media more than you have been before. Do you sense any actual shift in the way you’re being covered in this phase of the campaign?
TRUMP: Yeah. It’s getting worse.
RUCKER: In television in particular . . .
TRUMP: It’s worse now because before I had 16 Republican, conservative people and the media had their favorite but they didn’t particularly love anybody. Now it’s myself really against the media.
RUCKER: What do you mean by that?
TRUMP: The media has a tremendous bias and has for a very long time against the Republican party and against somebody that happens to be conservative. They certainly have a tremendous bias against me. Everyone’s talking about it. Worldwide, they’re talking about the bias. When you look at the New York Times, when you look at The Washington Post, when you look at CNN. I mean CNN is all Trump all the time. It’s called the Clinton News Network. Every story is Trump. All day long no matter what it is.
RUCKER: You are the biggest story in the world.
TRUMP: No, I get ratings. If I didn’t get ratings, they wouldn’t do it. They don’t care about poll numbers, they only care about ratings. And, I get ratings but I don’t do interviews for those people anymore. I don’t watch CNN anymore. I don’t do interviews with CNN anymore because its not worth it. It’s very biased against me.
RUCKER: What’s your plan then if you don’t engage with the media that you think are biased against you? How do you get your message out and communicate to people?
TRUMP: What I did today.
RUCKER: Just social media? Rallies?
TRUMP: Social media, where I’m head and shoulders above everybody else. I’ve read now 22 million people on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. More than 22 million people. Nobody else is even close.
RUCKER: How has [running mate Mike] Pence been doing?
TRUMP: Pence has been great. You know Kaine, in Virginia where I am right now, you know he wasn’t popular?
RUCKER: Well, he got elected several times to different jobs.
TRUMP: No but they’re very close, ever notice? They’re very close elections. He even said they were very close. But his first move as governor of Virginia was to raise taxes by 4 billion dollars. He was not popular in Virginia. He wasn’t popular. [Trump looks up at the television] Do you believe that Debbie Schultz, Wasserman Schultz, there she is. She’s very happy — look how happy she looks. She looks very happy.
RUCKER: Not very happy at all.
TRUMP: Do you believe that Deborah Wasserman Schultz [crosstalk] she looks just as happy as Bernie did. She’s now hired by Clinton.
RUCKER: Oh, well, she’s got a job on the campaign now.
RUCKER: She also has a primary challenge that comes from the Bernie people.
TRUMP: I think she’s gonna lose.
RUCKER: You think so?
TRUMP: Are you hearing that? She went to a rally and they were booing her.
RUCKER: Now do you believe definitively that you support Paul Ryan in his primary? Because that’s something that blew up last night because you had a comment in support of his opponent in the primary.
TRUMP: I didn’t support him. I just thanked him for sending their love.
RUCKER: Have you endorsed Paul Ryan?
TRUMP: His opponent sent me a nice letter and I merely thanked him.
RUCKER: Do you support Ryan?
TRUMP: Nobody has asked me if I support Ryan.
RUCKER: I’m asking now though.
TRUMP: I’m giving it very serious consideration.
RUCKER: To supporting Ryan?
RUCKER: But you haven’t decided?
TRUMP: No. I never said I’d support him. I’m giving it very serious consideration.
TRUMP: Just so you understand, his opponent is a big fan of what I’m saying. Big fan. His opponent who’s running a very good campaign obviously. You may have heard. His opponent sent me a very scholarly and well thought out letter yesterday. All I did was say thank you very much for your very nice letter.
RUCKER: It got interpreted a certain way though to suggest somehow that you’re supporting him.
TRUMP: No. I’m giving it very serious consideration to that whole situation.
RUCKER: To Ryan.
TRUMP: To Ryan. To Paul.
RUCKER: Do you want to work with him? Do you think you can work with him if elected?
TRUMP: Oh, I think so.
RUCKER: Even though on a couple of these instances he’s shone some daylight with you, like over the Khan —
TRUMP: [Trump watches himself on TV] Lot of energy. We got a lot of energy. She certainly doesn’t look presidential to me, Hillary. I don’t think you get to look less presidential actually than Hillary.
RUCKER: Let’s go back just a little bit to Pence. I’d love you to tell me what your relationship’s like.
TRUMP: I think it’s phenomenal.
RUCKER: How do you guys communicate during the day?
TRUMP: Beyond good. Beyond good.
RUCKER: Do you talk each day?
TRUMP: Oh, there look, can you believe that? Something, right?
RUCKER: Do you think he really gave you the Purple Heart?
TRUMP: Yeah, he did. He gave me the Purple Heart.
RUCKER: I can’t believe that.
RUCKER: Did you think about not taking it? Like insisting that he keep it himself?
TRUMP: I did. I said you can’t give me this. He said, “Mr. Trump you mean so much to me and my family.” You know we’re doing very well with the veterans. I know you guys do not like to say that.
RUCKER: Well, half the people in your rallies are veterans.
TRUMP: [Looks at the television again] Look at this. It’s all Trump all day long. That’s why their ratings are through the roof. I’d hate to say, Philip, if I wasn’t running, the television networks would be doing less than half the business.
RUCKER: You think so?
TRUMP: In fact the Hillary convention which did very well but not nearly as well as mine, in all fairness, would’ve gotten one-third the ratings they got if I weren’t.
TRUMP: You want me to give you an exact quote on the Paul Ryan? You were asking.
RUCKER: Yeah, please do.
TRUMP: Okay, you’re asking me if I’m supporting Paul Ryan?
RUCKER: Yeah, if you’re supporting Paul Ryan.
TRUMP: I’m not quite there yet.
RUCKER: And why is that?
TRUMP: Just not quite there yet.
RUCKER: Has he asked for your support?
TRUMP: Everybody wants my support. You know why? Cause I had more than 14 million people that voted for me. And nobody gives us credit. There were 17 people in the race. I got more votes than anybody in the history of Republican politics. By millions. Don’t forget. How about if I had two people in the race? The number would’ve been twice as good. In other words, people with 2 million people. Because the Republican party increased. [Trump looks at the TV.] That statement’s gotten a lot of play. I love that statement we wrote. So I’m just not quite there yet.
RUCKER: So you’re doing what Paul Ryan did to you, which is not endorse right away but sort of think about it for some time?
TRUMP: I like Paul. I like Paul. But these are horrible times for our country. We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there. I’m not quite there yet.
RUCKER: Now Mitch McConnell is not on the ballot this year but where are you in terms of him, should he be the leader of the Senate?
TRUMP: It’s up to the Senate. Up to the senators.
RUCKER: Were you bothered at all by John McCain’s statement yesterday? That was a pretty extraordinary statement.
TRUMP: Well, I haven’t endorsed him, as you know.
TRUMP: I haven’t endorsed John McCain. And I’ve never been there with John McCain because I’ve always felt that he should’ve done a much better job for the vets. He has not done a good job for the vets and I’ve always felt that he should’ve done a much better job for the vets. So I’ve always had, I’ve always had a difficult time with John for that reason. Because our vets are not being treated properly, they’re not being treated fairly.
RUCKER: When you say you’re not there with him.
TRUMP: I didn’t say that, I said that about Ryan.
RUCKER: Would you ever consider supporting an opponent to him, or you’re just not going to actively —
TRUMP: No, just, I have not endorsed John McCain. I have not endorsed John McCain.
RUCKER: Is it a political mistake for some of these senators to be distancing themselves from you?
TRUMP: Well I think it is because —
RUCKER: Like Kelly Ayotte up in New Hampshire?
TRUMP: Look, in New Hampshire, I’m at —
RUCKER: Well you won the primary there —
TRUMP: By a lot. New Hampshire’s one of my favorite places. You have a Kelly Ayotte, who doesn’t want to talk about Trump, but I’m beating her in the polls by a lot. You tell me. Are these people that should be representing us? Okay? You tell me. I don’t know Kelly Ayotte. I know she’s given me no support, zero support, and yet I’m leading her in the polls. And I’m doing very well in New Hampshire. We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don’t need weak people. We have enough of them. We need fighters in this country. But Kelly Ayotte has given me zero support and I’m doing great in New Hampshire. You know, as you saw, I’m eight points up. I’m leading Hillary Clinton by eight points.
RUCKER: That word fighter, that was in the Democratic Convention every night, that was the big theme for Hillary, that she’s been fighting her whole . . .
TRUMP: Hillary’s not a fighter.
RUCKER: . . . life for children and families.
TRUMP: Hillary’s not a fighter.
RUCKER: Why do you say that?
TRUMP: And Hillary’s not a change person. She’s gonna be a person to keep it just the way it is. It’s gonna be four more years of [President] Obama.
RUCKER: So 98 days, 97 days now. Left in the campaign. How are you going to beat her? Explain the path here. What are the states you win? What are the kind of voters you’re going to bring into your coalition?
TRUMP: I think I’m going to to do great in Ohio, we’re going to do great in Pennsylvania, I think I’m going to do great in Florida and I think I’m going to do great in states that some people aren’t even thinking about. Because I’m different than Republican candidates, than other Republican candidates. I’ve got states that we can win that other Republican candidates wouldn’t even stop over for dinner.
RUCKER: Like what? Like Maine?
TRUMP: Well, I’d rather not say. Because why should I highlight it? But we have some states that I think are very competitive in that no Republican has ever been competitive in. But I’d rather not say what they are. Don’t you agree with that? I’d rather not say what they are.
RUCKER: So you’ll win with the secret state strategy?
TRUMP: No, not the secret state, no. But I have states, and you know this, I have states that no other Republican would do well in that I think I’m gonna win. But I don’t want to name those states.
RUCKER: But I mean Michigan and Pennsylvania.
TRUMP: That’s my attitude on the military. I don’t like telling the enemy what I’m doing. I think I’ll do well in Michigan. I’ve been talking about cars for five years. And how unfair it is that . . .
TRUMP: Yeah, I’ve been talking about Michigan for five years. I won Michigan in a massive landslide. Remember, I beat Kasich. Remember, Kasich was gonna win Michigan? There was only one problem.
RUCKER: He didn’t.
TRUMP: He had the wrong person he was running against, okay? Remember he was gonna win, you know, the whole belt around him? Except one problem: I won everything around him. And I did well in Ohio, too, by the way.
RUCKER: He’s still resisting you in Ohio, I mean he was making a big show of that in the convention, of not stepping foot in the convention.
TRUMP: It’s okay. Look, I got 13 million more votes than him. I had, including the islands, 42 states, including the islands, he had 1. I had 42, he had 1. I had 14 million, uh, 13 million votes more, I don’t think so, but we’ll see. You know he’s taken it very hard, he’s taken his loss very hard, and I can understand that. But he did sign a pledge. I mean that’s a problem, for him. But look, he’s gonna have to do what he has to do, but I think I’m going to do very well in Ohio. The people of Ohio are not happy with what he’s doing. I can tell you that. They’re not happy with what he’s doing. But the Republican Party more than any other thing has to have a victory, a presidential victory, for one thing, if nothing else: Supreme Court justices.
TRUMP: For anybody that fights me, like if John Kasich is fighting or if somebody else fights this, because, I mean, why would he fight? I had a massive victory over him and everyone else. Massive. I don’t mean like I eked it out. I had a massive victory over Ted, it turned out. Remember Indiana was gonna be the change? I was gonna win New York, I was gonna win, then Indiana? But Indiana was a landslide. You gotta get over it. You know, at some point you gotta get over it. Otherwise we’re gonna have three or four new Supreme Court justices that are going to be a disaster for the Republican Party.
TRUMP: And I am gonna do a couple PACs, at the right time.
RUCKER: What do you mean?
TRUMP: I’m gonna do two or three $10 million PACs at the right time.
RUCKER: What does that mean, though, a PAC?
TRUMP: Anti-certain candidate PACs.
RUCKER: You mean Clinton, or elsewhere?
TRUMP: I’m not saying against her, but I’m gonna do anti-, I’ll be active in politics through PACs at a later date.
RUCKER: Like during this election year, or?
RUCKER: Or in the future?
TRUMP: For future elections.
RUCKER: Oh. So if there’s a candidate you don’t like who’s running, you would fund a PAC to hurt them?
TRUMP: Republican or Democrat.
TRUMP: Yeah. That I’ll do.
RUCKER: Would you do that against Cruz, if he runs again?
RUCKER: He seems to want to run again.
TRUMP: Maybe against Kasich.
RUCKER: They both want to run.
TRUMP: Cruz’s numbers have gone through the floor. Now that showed loyalty.
RUCKER: I was on the floor of the convention when that happened . . .
TRUMP: They had to bring his wife out. She was in danger.
RUCKER: . . . and interviewed a lot of delegates and they were very upset with him.
TRUMP: From Texas.
RUCKER: I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying, after this election’s over you would be considering starting some PAC
TRUMP: Here’s what I think: I’m gonna win the election. Somebody said on television, somebody said last night on television: Nobody has gotten rich betting against Donald Trump. That’s in my lifetime. That’s not just for this election cycle. I went in, and people said: “He’s not gonna run.” I’ve gone through this with you.
RUCKER: And your papers. They said you wouldn’t file your disclosures.
TRUMP: By the way, those give you much more detail than tax returns, okay? Tax returns give you nothing. Tax returns give you no information.
RUCKER: And you won’t go back on that?
TRUMP: No. Not until I’m finished with my audit. You know, Mitt Romney was treated very unfairly. Mitt Romney didn’t want to give his tax returns, because people don’t understand returns that are complicated, and complex. And he didn’t give it. He fought it, fought it, fought it, all the way into September. A month before the election, he gave his tax returns. And they picked out two items that were absolutely perfect. He did nothing wrong. And his returns are very much smaller than my returns. You saw the picture of me with my returns? Mitt had perfect returns, they did absolutely nothing wrong, and they took a couple of lines made him look bad.
RUCKER: The Swiss bank account.
TRUMP: He did nothing wrong. They took a couple of lines that were absolutely perfect and they made him look bad. Now, my returns are four feet tall.
RUCKER: I think we’d all like to see them.
TRUMP: Show him the picture with the tax return. So, the audit’s routine. I’ve been audited for many, many years in a row, which I think is unfair, but that’s the way it is.