Excerpts from The Associated Press interview conducted Friday with President Donald Trump, with editing for clarity and brevity:
On the legal status of the “dreamers,” young immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally and protected from deportation by the Obama administration.
TRUMP: We aren’t looking to do anything right now.
AP: That’s going to be the policy of your administration, to allow the dreamers to stay?
TRUMP: Yes. That’s our policy. I am not saying … Long-term we are going to have to fix the problem, the whole immigration problem. … Here is what they can hear: The dreamers should rest easy. OK? I’ll give you that. The dreamers should rest easy.
On deporting criminals in the country illegally, particularly those affiliated with the brutal Central American street gang MS-13:
TRUMP: It’s a little different than the dreamer case, right? But we are putting MS-13 in jail and getting them the hell out of our country. They’ve taken over towns and cities and we are being really brutal with MS-13 and that’s what we should be. They are a bad group and somebody said they are as bad as al-Qaida, which is a hell of a reference. So we are moving criminals out of our country and we are getting them out in record numbers, and those are the people we are after. We are not after the dreamers. We are after the criminals. …
TRUMP: We are cleaning out cities and towns of hard-line criminals, some of the worst people on Earth, people that rape and kill women, people that are killing people just for the sake of having fun. They are being thrown in jails and they are being all over the country and nobody’s ever done it like us, so we are being unbelievably thorough with that. We are out in Long Island cleaning out the MS-13 scum. They are all scum. That’s probably the worst gang anywhere on Earth.
FRANCE AND TERROR ATTACKS
On the impact on France’s election of the possible terror attack in Paris: “Well, I think it will have a big effect on who people are going to vote for in the election.”
AP: Do you think it’s going to help Marine Le Pen?
TRUMP: I think so.
AP: Do you believe that she should be the president?
TRUMP: No, I have no comment on that, but I think that it’ll probably help her ’cause she is the strongest on borders and she is the strongest on what’s been going on in France.
AP: Do you worry at all that by saying that, that a terrorist attack would have an impact on a democratic election, that it would actually embolden terrorists to try to …
TRUMP: No. Look, everybody is making predictions who is going to win. I am no different than you. You could say the same thing.
MEETING FOREIGN LEADERS
TRUMP: One of the best chemistries I had was with (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel. … And I guess somebody shouted out, “Shake her hand, shake her hand,” you know. But I never heard it. But I had already shaken her hand four times, you know, because we were together for a long time.
AP: Did you expect you would have good chemistry with her?
TRUMP: No. Because I’m at odds on, you know, the NATO payments and I’m at odds on immigration. We had unbelievable chemistry. And people have given me credit for having great chemistry with all of the leaders, including (Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah) el-Sissi.
TAX REFORM AND HEALTH CARE
TRUMP: I have great relationships with Congress. I think we’re doing very well and I think we have a great foundation for future things. We’re going to be applying — I shouldn’t tell you this, but we’re going to be announcing, probably on Wednesday, tax reform. … We’ve worked on it long and hard. And you gotta understand, I’ve only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do “Obamacare.” I’ve been here 92 days, but I’ve only been working on the health care, you know, I had to get like a little bit of grounding, right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I’ve been working on health care for 60 days. … we’re very close. And it’s a great plan … we have to get it approved.
AP: Is it this deal that’s between the Tuesday Group and the Freedom Caucus? Is that the deal you’re looking at?
TRUMP: So the Republican Party has various groups, all great people. They’re great people. But some are moderate, some are very conservative. The Democrats don’t seem to have that nearly as much. You know the Democrats have, they don’t have that. The Republicans do have that. And I think it’s fine. But you know there’s a pretty vast area in there. And I have a great relationship with all of ’em. Now, we have government not closing. I think we’ll be in great shape on that, it’s going very well. Obviously that takes precedent.
AP: That takes precedent over health care? For next week?
TRUMP: Yeah, sure. Next week. Because the 100 days is just an artificial barrier. The press keeps talking about the 100 days. But we’ve done a lot. You have a list of things. I don’t have to read it.
BORDER WALL AND SPENDING BILL
AP: Obviously that’s going to come in a week where you’re going to be running up against the deadline for keeping the government open. If you get a bill on your desk that does not include funding for the wall, will you sign it?
TRUMP: I don’t know yet. People want the border wall. My base definitely wants the border wall. My base really wants it — you’ve been to many of the rallies, OK, the thing they want more than anything is the wall. … They want to see the wall, they want to see security. Now, it just came out that (border apprehensions) they’re 73 percent down … That’s a tremendous achievement. … Look at this, in 100 days, that down to the lowest in 17 years and it’s going lower. Now, people aren’t coming because they know they’re not going to get through and there isn’t crime. You know the migration up to the border is horrible for women, you know that? (unintelligible) Now, much of that’s stopped because they can’t get through.