Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET
He’ll build a border wall and he’ll deport millions of people who are in the U.S. illegally, President-elect Donald Trump says, promising to keep his campaign pledges on immigration in his first prolonged interview since winning the White House.
Saying that his administration will deport “probably 2 million” — and possibly 3 million — people who are in the country illegally, Trump told 60 Minutes’ Lesley Stahl that he wants to secure the border. Trump also seemed willing to consider the plan some of his fellow Republicans have aired, of securing some parts of the border with a fence.
The interview with Trump aired on CBS Sunday night; it also includes members of his family. The interview was taped Friday at Trump’s Fifth Avenue residence in New York City. It comes after days of anti-Trump protests in more than a dozen American cities, where demonstrators have criticized the incoming president’s immigration stance.
On another campaign promise, Trump affirmed his plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
But Trump also wants to keep some parts of the plan. For instance, he told Stahl that he’ll maintain coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, “because it happens to be one of the strongest assets” of the plan.
Trump also said he wants to keep a portion of the law that covers children living with their parents for an extended period.
As for how the change from one sphere of coverage to another might work, Trump promised it would be smooth, saying, “We’re going to do it simultaneously. It’ll be just fine. That’s what I do. I do a good job. You know, I mean, I know how to do this stuff.”
He continued: “We’re going to repeal it and replace it. And we’re not going to have, like, a two-day period and we’re not going to have a two-year period where there’s nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. I mean, you’ll know. And it’ll be great health care for much less money.”
Here’s what Trump told 60 Minutes when he was asked about undocumented immigrants in the U.S.:
“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records — gang members, drug dealers — we have a lot of these people, probably 2 million, it could be even 3 million. We’re getting them out of our country or we’re going to incarcerate. But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.
“After the border is secured, and after everything gets normalized, we’re going to make a determination on the people that you’re talking about — who are terrific people, they’re terrific people. But we’re going to make a determination … but before we make that determination, Leslie, it’s very important, we’re going to secure our border.”
For comparison purposes, we’ll note that in President Obama’s first term, his administration carried out a record 1.5 million deportations — including more than 400,000 in fiscal year 2012. The figure declined to 235,413 in fiscal year 2015, and as NPR’s Scott Horsley reported this summer, the Obama administration has shifted its focus to deporting criminals, people caught near the border, and those who recently came to the country without securing documents.
As Scott Horsley noted in a review of recent U.S. immigration policy, the rate of deportations went up under Obama, just as it had under the previous two presidents. And Trump took notice, back in August.
“What people don’t know is that Obama got tremendous numbers of people out of the country,” Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “Bush, the same thing. Lots of people were brought out of the country with the existing laws. Well, I’m going to do the same thing.”
The plan for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico is Trump’s new facet in immigration policy. Here’s his exchange with Stahl, discussing the idea:
“Are you really going to build a wall?” Stahl asks.
“Yes,” Trump says.
“They’re talking about a fence in the Republican Congress. Would you accept a fence?”
“For certain areas I would — but certain areas, a wall is more appropriate. I’m very good at this, it’s called construction.”
“So, part wall, part fence?
“Yeah, it could be some fencing.”
In the course of the interview, Trump remained noncommittal on several topics that informed his campaign.
- On whether he will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton: “They’re good people; I don’t want to hurt them,” Trump said, telling Stahl he will give a “very good and definitive answer the next time we do 60 Minutes together.”
- On whether he will release his tax returns: “At the appropriate time, I will release them. But right now I’m under routine audit. Nobody cares. The only one who cares is, you know, you and a few people that asked that question.”
- On the presence of lobbyists on his transition team, despite his pledge to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interests in Washington: “That’s the only people you have down here,” he said, later adding: “I’m saying that they know the system right now, but we’re going to phase that out.”
Asked about his personal views on same-sex marriage, Trump said, “It’s irrelevant, because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean, it’s done.”
And when pressed on the fears felt by African-Americans, American Muslims and other minorities since the election, Trump dismissed the anxieties as products of the media. “I think it’s built up by the press because, frankly, they’ll take every single little incident that they can find in this country, which could’ve been there before. If I weren’t even around doing this, and they’ll make into an event because that’s the way the press is.”
As for the dozens of acts of harassment and intimidation against minorities that have been reported this week, many of which were allegedly performed in his name, Trump said he’s surprised to hear of them. “I’m so saddened to hear that,” he said. “And I say, stop it. If it — if it helps, I will say this and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it.”