Nearly 27 years before Donald Trump actually announced he was running for President, then-NBC News White House correspondent Chris Wallace pressed a 42-year-old Trump about his political ambitions during an interview at the 1988 Republican National Convention.
Not surprisingly, Trump at that time said if he did run for President, “I’d have a very good chance....When I do something, I like to win.”
The August 17, 1988 video, pulled from the MRC’s TV News Archive, also shows Wallace and then-NBC anchor Tom Brokaw chiding the “tycoon” about his wealth. Brokaw introduced Trump as “someone who has prospered enormously during the years of Reaganomics,” while Wallace told Trump how “some people say” he was a “conspicuous example” of the “greed” associated with the Reagan years.
Trump shot back: “I employ thousands and thousands of people that wouldn’t have jobs if it weren’t for things that I’ve built. I mean, I employ, probably, 25 or 30 thousand people, and that — these are things that I’ve done over the last four- or five-year period, Chris, and I think that a lot of people are very thankful for it.”
And, while Trump has been quite critical of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, in 1988 he was full of praise for Jeb’s father, then-Vice President George H. W. Bush: “He’s an excellent guy, an excellent man. He’s a friend of mine, and I’m here [at the convention] for that reason.”
Back in 1988, NBC and the other broadcast networks offered multiple hours of live coverage, including many interviews, of both the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions. The Trump interview came during the third night of the four-day convention, at about 10pm ET.
Here's the video; full transcript follows.
NBC News Decision ’88
10pm ET, August 17, 1988
Anchor TOM BROKAW: Down there on the floor right now with Chris Wallace is someone who has prospered enormously during the years of Reaganomics. Chris Wallace, who do you have?
NBC's CHRIS WALLACE: Well, that’s right, Tom. One of the interesting things about any national convention is the surprising people who show up on the floor, and here tonight is real estate tycoon and best-selling author Donald Trump.
DONALD TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
WALLACE: You’re welcome. You have flirted with the idea of politics. Now you’re here at your first national convention. Does that get you interested in possibly making the plunge?
TRUMP: Now, you have to tell me something: Who told you I flirted? I didn’t know that I flirted.
WALLACE: Well, you took out full-page ads in The New York Times to talk about your foreign policy. Some people would say-
TRUMP: Well, Chris, I do feel strongly — I do feel very strongly about the country. I love the country. But I think you’re going to have, probably, George Bush as your next president. He’s an excellent guy, an excellent man. He’s a friend of mine, and I’m here for that reason.
WALLACE: Well, I wasn’t talking about this year, Mr. Trump. But you have said, that if you ran for President, you’d win.
TRUMP: Well, I think I’d have a very good chance. I like to win — when I do something, I like to win. I like to do well, and I think I probably would have a very good chance.
WALLACE: Tom Brokaw mentioned a moment ago that you have prospered in the Reagan years, and some people have said that Ronald Reagan ushered in an era, some people say, of greed and conspicuous consumption, and frankly some people say Donald Trump is a conspicuous example of that. You make no apologies about the 100-room mansion in Palm Beach, or the $30 million yacht?
TRUMP: Well, I employ thousands and thousands of people that wouldn’t have jobs if it weren’t for things that I’ve built. I mean, I employ, probably, 25 or 30 thousand people, and that — these are things that I’ve done over the last four- or five-year period, Chris, and I think that a lot of people are very thankful for it. So I can’t make any excuses. I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to do.
WALLACE: One last quick question: Can you laugh at the Doonesbury cartoons about the quality of the solid gold sinks in your yacht?
TRUMP: Well, everybody tells me I’m supposed to be honored by that. I’m not sure if it’s an honor or not. But he certainly — I mean, someday maybe he’s gonna be able to find another topic But I certainly seem to be in a lot of his cartoons. I’m not sure if they’re good, bad or indifferent, but I guess I’m supposed to be honored.
WALLACE: Donald Trump, thanks very much for coming tonight.
TRUMP: You have a good time.
WALLACE: And back to Tom Brokaw.