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State of the Union

Interview With David Plouffe; Interview with Senator Durbin, Congressman Hensarling; Interview With Tony Blair; Interview With Donald Trump

Aired April 10, 2011 - 09:00   ET


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: Friday night into the wee hours Saturday, the president and congressional leaders were a happy troika, basking in the after- hours glow of a minutes-to-spare deal that averted a government shutdown.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Today Americans with different beliefs came together.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEV.: I first of all want to express my appreciation to the speaker and his office. It's been a grueling process.

REP. JOHN A. BOENHER, R-OHIO, HOUSE SPEAKER: I'm pleased that Senator Reid and I and the White House have been able to come to an agreement that will in fact cut spending and keep our government open.


CROWLEY: The cuts out of this budget, which will fund the federal government through September, total $38.5 billion. The national debt is $14.2 trillion.


CROWLEY: Today, crisis averted for now. A view from the White House with senior adviser David Plouffe, and from Capitol Hill with Democratic Senator Dick Durbin and Republican Congressman Jeb Hensarling.

Then, the Middle East and the stalemate in Libya with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

BLAIR: We were right to intervene. We've got to keep this situation moving forward.

CROWLEY: And the man who's turned the president's birth certificate into his hobby horse.

TRUMP: It doesn't even have a serial number. It doesn't have a signature.

CROWLEY: I'm Candy Crowley and this is "State of the Union."


CROWLEY: Joining me now here in Washington to discuss this budget deal and the Obama agenda going forward is White House senior adviser David Plouffe. Your maiden voyage here on "State of the Union," thanks for coming, David.

PLOUFFE: Good to be with you, Candy. CROWLEY: The critics of this, largely on your left, including Paul Krugman, have said the economy is not strong enough to sustain these kinds of cuts, $38 billion in this package, $10 billion before, far down $78 billion to be decided (ph) from what the president had originally proposed.

Have you all decided in the White House that the economy is recovered enough to stop pumping federal money into it?

PLOUFFE: Well, the president's approach, Candy, has been -- and he stated this clearly -- we need to take a scalpel, not a machete. You know, all spending is not alike. You've got to sort of go line by line, program by program. And that's what this budget debate came down to.

There's certain things, investments in education, in research and development, that the president was not going to support cuts in those. So we were able to protect those, at the same time bringing about the largest annual spending cut in history.

Look, his budget for next year, which he laid out around the State of the Union, would reduce the deficit by over $1 trillion in the next decade, bring spending to the lowest level since Eisenhower. So the president clearly believes that we can still grow economically with smart deficit reduction. But it's got to be smart. If we're just going to cut student loans, cut HeadStart, cut medical research, we're not going to be the country in terms of the economy that we need to be.

CROWLEY: But spending is spending. Pumping money into the economy is what -- it sort of a Democratic policy, in fact. Republicans will say, leave it to the private sector. The Democrats have said, the government has to step up when private companies step back. So no matter how you slice it or where it is, this is less money going into the economy.

PLOUFFE: Yes, but again, you just can't look at it broadly like that. I mean, we have a responsibility to the American people to look at every allocation here and make a determination, is it working for people? Can we afford it? Is it going to help the economy? And that's what the president did. So again, this is a budget agreement and this is the principle he's going to use bringing forward.

I will say, later this week the president is going to speak about his approach to long-term deficit reduction. Is that approach, which is while we reduce the deficit -- and we have to do it, we've got to do it in a balanced way. Can't be all on the backs of seniors and the middle class. We have got to make sure that we are taking a balanced approach to this that allows us to win the future. And we're not going to win the future in this country unless we invest in education, in research and development, in innovation and infrastructure. So that's going to be his north star in these spending decisions. How do we make sure that it is balanced? That we are investing in the things that are going to allow us to win the future.

But he does believe that to grow economically, to be a strong country, we can't sustain this fiscal situation. And there are some that don't agree with that, but he believes strongly that we do have to engage in serious deficit reduction.

CROWLEY: You talked about not having cuts in education. There are in this -- because we haven't really seen the entire thing -- but there are $13 billion in funding -- in cuts in funding for health care, education, and various labor things. And it's caused some of your critics -- or skeptics, among them Congressman Anthony Weiner, who I know you know -- who tweeted this out after the deal was made and said, "This feels an awful lot like the tax cut deal," when you all agreed to have taxes remain low for higher income people. "I got a bad feeling," he said in this tweet.

Would you like to reassure him about these cuts that are some in education, some in health care?

PLOUFFE: I don't really have any interest in reassuring Anthony Weiner. I think what I want to do is reassure the American people. I think the American people think that tax agreement was the absolute right thing to do. And it's been a huge contributor to the economic growth we've had.

So -- and this right now is a deal that -- listen, we live in divided government. OK, you are going to have to find common ground and move forward on anything. But the president's approach here, which is to make sure -- listen, the Republican congressional proposal would have zeroed out medical research, you know, would have had 800,000 kids dropped off of HeadStart. Would have had huge cuts to the student loan program. Those are things we protected in this deal, and not only protected moving forward, but we're going to make sure they're invested in, because they're so important to making sure that we can succeed economically here in America.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you, you mentioned about a long-term debt approach to the nation's debt, $14 trillion, somewhere around there. Big money. We saw some of that come out in Paul Ryan's approach when he put out a Republican budget. You all widely criticized it. The president is going to give us a specific plan this week when he addresses the subject, or is he simply going to address it in a this is serious business?

PLOUFFE: No, he's going to lay out his approach, which is -- and he said this previously -- but to get the kind of deficit reduction we need to -- first of all, one of the reasons he wants to do it is so we can live within our means so that we then have the ability to invest in things like education and innovation. But obviously you've got to look everywhere. It's got to be a balanced approach. Every corner of the federal government has to be looked at here. CROWLEY: So, Social Security?

PLOUFFE: Well, first of all, he said -- first of all, his health care reform package is going to produce $1 trillion of deficit reduction over the next two decades. That being said, we clearly have to do more. So you are going to have to look at savings you might be able to get in Medicare and Medicaid in the long term. He said Social Security's not a contributor to the short-term deficit problem, but in the process of talking about our fiscal situation and our government, we ought to look if there is a way to strengthen Social Security in the long term that doesn't endanger anybody, you know, who's a current beneficiary, and doesn't slash benefits. So he'll look at that.

Defense spending. Domestic spending. Revenues are going to have to be part of this. Listen, the congressional plan that you referenced...

CROWLEY: Tax increases.

PLOUFFE: Well, the congressional plan that went out, the average millionaire in this country would get a $200,000 tax cut under Paul Ryan's plan. The average senior down the road will pay $6,000 more in health care costs. So that's a choice you're making, by the way. Seniors, the poor, the middle class in the congressional Republican plan are asked to bear most of the burden. If you weren't giving enormous tax cuts to millionaires, you wouldn't have to do that.

So the president has said and it is in his budget, for people making over $250,000, he would favor having the tax cuts eliminated for them, look at some of the other provisions in the tax code that the wealthy are taking advantage of. As he said the other day in Philadelphia...

CROWLEY: Closing loopholes and stuff like that, or some...


CROWLEY: ... actual tax hikes for the rich? Well, is he going to be that specific? I'm trying to -- kind of -- do you have a plan?

PLOUFFE: Yes. He's going to lay out his approach very clearly. I don't think it will be...


CROWLEY: Which is different from a plan.

PLOUFFE: No, no. He's going to be clear about the type of deficit reduction we need in terms of dollar amounts, over what period of years. Again, I don't want to -- he's going to give -- he's going to give remarks on this. But...

CROWLEY: But he's willing to cut Medicare, for instance, you seem to indicate. PLOUFFE: What I will say is listen, actually, the one thing in -- a couple -- there's a couple of things in the congressional Republican plan. One is they leave the Medicare savings from the Affordable Care Act in there. So the president already has been able to get real savings in Medicare. But his approach to Medicare will be this: How do we really preserve the program, not end it? How do we squeeze every dollar out of inefficiencies without putting all the burden on seniors? So, yes, we are going to have to have more health care cost savings in this country. There's no question.


CROWLEY: In Medicare and Medicaid.

PLOUFFE: Yes, you're going to have to look at both of those things, and he'll speak to both of those this week.

CROWLEY: And Social Security?

PLOUFFE: Again, we view Social Security as not a central driver.

CROWLEY: Can you give us a number that you think his plan, if he looks at it or where you're headed, would reduce the overall debt by?

PLOUFFE: I don't want to get ahead of the president. He'll speak to that this week. But he believes we need significant deficit reduction in the coming years, and that's what he's going to speak to this week.

And so here's the thing. The congressional Republican plan, there's a bipartisan group of senators called the gang of six working on something. The president is going to come out.

What's clear is there is going to be some commonality, many differences. We're not going to achieve any deficit reduction in this country, because we have divided government, unless Democrats and Republicans come together on behalf of all Americans to agree to it. So we're going to have to strive to reach common ground.

CROWLEY: I want to play you quickly something that Speaker Boehner said last night. He's talking about you are also going to have to lift the debt ceiling. The U.S. has run out of authority to borrow money is essentially what this means. Speaker Boehner says we have a moral duty to pay our bills. This debt ceiling has to be lifted. He doesn't like the president's approach to it. Take a listen.


BOEHNER: The president says I want you to send me a clean bill. Well, guess what, Mr. President? Not a chance you're going to get a clean bill.

BOEHNER: There will not be an increase in the debt limit without something really, really big attached to it.


CROWLEY: Will the president consider putting attachments on this debt ceiling bill or is he going to demand it be a clean bill?

PLOUFFE: I don't -- those are specifics we're going to get into down the road. I think what's clear is if we're on a process and you've got members of Congress, the administration and clearly the American people want to participate in this, too, to try and reach real deficit reduction. Hopefully that will give people confidence.

But again, the debt limit needs to be increased. It will be. Every leader's spoken to that.

But I think at the same time, we need to be focusing on how do we come together so that we can -- now, as the president focuses on deficit reduction, he's going to make sure that it still preserves our ability to invest in the things that are going to allow us to win the future, like education and innovation.

CROWLEY: David Plouffe, senior adviser to the president, thanks for stopping by.

PLOUFFE: Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Round one of the budget battle may be over but both sides are already drawing the lines for round two as you just heard. Congressional leader Senator Dick Durbin and Congressman Jeb Hensarling are next.


CROWLEY: Joining me now from his home state of Illinois, the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin. And in Dallas, Texas, Republican congressman Jeb Hensarling, the number four Republican in the House.

Gentleman, thank you both for being here.

Let me start first with you, Senator Durbin, there is a lot of rattling from the left that the president has basically once again caved in this this budget deal that we now have with a $38.5 billion in cuts and that what he has done specifically will hurt the economy at a time when the federal government still needs to at least keep up spending.

DURBIN: I would say to the folks on the right, as well as my friends on the left, there is a budget reality facing both political parties. We need to dramatically reduce the deficit that we are facing. We are borrowing 40 cents for every dollar we spend.

What we're trying to do as Democrats is to make sure that we don't go too far, and so we fought to make sure that we protected early childhood education, Pell grants for kids from low-income families who want to go to college, medical research grants. these are the things which were essential and at the end of the day we won the battle. But we join with the Republicans in cutting spending. That's going to be part of our responsibility in the years to come.

CROWLEY: Congressman Hensarling, let me ask you because we are hearing from the right, in particular I wanted something that Jeff Flake told "The Hill" newspaper on Friday, saying quote, "a lot of us are quite disappointed with the level of spending cuts. It's not very big."

Where are you on this?

HENSARLING: Well, I share the disappointment of my colleagues. I mean on the one hand this is the single largest year-to-year cut in the federal budget. Frankly, in the history of America in absolute terms. And in inflation adjusted terms, it's the biggest since World War II. Probably for that we all deserve medals, the entire congress.

Relative to the size of the problem, it is not even a rounding error. In that case we probably all deserve to be tarred and feathered. I mean $38 billion of savings. In February the deficit alone was over $200 billion. It is the shortest month of the year.

We have a deficit problem that is spending driven and until we get control of spending, we're going to imperil job creation, and frankly we threaten our children's future.

CROWLEY: Senator Durbin, you're right, everybody sort of came to this middle and seems to please neither of their wings but it is something, it is movement and you didn't shut down the government. But there is a lot of complaint out there within your own party that the president did not lead on this, he came in at the last moment, sort of swooped in and said, OK, you guys, get together and do something. And that he caved, that this looks a lot less like a progressive president than a guy who's running for re-election that wants to attract the center.

DURBIN: First, the president has a difficult assignment. He's expected to be part of the negotiations but if it looks like he's leading the negotiations he'll get push-back from Congress, Congress will remind him we have several branches of government. So the president was playing an important role here as a facilitator to bring us to agreement, and it worked. Secondly, I would say to those on the progressive side of the agenda, there are things we need to fight for, make sure we end up with a safety net, a progressive system of taxation that makes certain the most vulnerable people in America still have a fighting chance and middle income working families are not being left behind at the expense of tax cuts for wealthy families. That battle is still being led by the president of the united states.

Now comes the next chapter and it goes to another high-drama moment when we're going to face this debt ceiling. Now instead of risking government shutdown we are risking a second recession. I hope -- and I listened to Speaker Boehner's comments earlier in the program -- I hope he understands clearly that if we default on America's debt with this debt ceiling, It will have a dramatic negative impact on America's economy. It will spin us into a second recession. We don't need that.

Let's work together on a bipartisan basis to avoid it.

CROWLEY: Congressman Hensarling, the debt ceiling -- and that is that the U.S. government is now up against the Congressionally approved number of the amount of money that it can borrow. I want to first read you something from Jamie Dimon who, as you know, the CEO at JPMorgan Chase who said of the idea of failing to lift the debt ceiling -- "if anyone wants to push that button which I think would be catastrophic and unpredictable, I think they're crazy."

Do you think absolutely this debt ceiling has to be raised?

HENSARLING: What I do think is, yes, it would be catastrophic to have the nation default upon its debt. But I think in some respects it presents a false premise. Dick says he wants to work with us to spend less. We could put America on the path today to spend less. We don't have to default. So nobody wants America to default on its debts, but let's also remember the classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I mean, we've had our nation's first trillion dollar deficit, second trillion dollar deficit, third trillion dollar deficit, highest in the nation's history. At some point you got to quit spending money you don't have.

So Republicans are asking the president -- if I could finish this one point -- we're asking the president one thing. If you want our help to help pay your debt, start to can up the credit cards, work would us to put in place legislation to putting America on a fiscally sustainable path.

CROWLEY: And it does sound like he is going to start talking about long-term deficit reduction in a speech Wednesday, and I want to talk to Senator Durbin about that, because I know you've had some conversations, but let me just follow up, Congressman, not lifting the debt ceiling doesn't mean that the U.S. is any less in debt. It simply means it won't pay its debt. Are you willing to put a clean bill, as the president wants, just lift this debt ceiling and let's deal with the long-term debt and get together with the gang of six and with those people up on the Hill working on long-term deficit.

Will you pass a clean bill or...

HENSARLING: Candy, you say the president is going to make some announcement on Wednesday. I hope he does. But Dick and I served on his fiscal responsibility commission. He introduced a budget that had had zero -- zero recommendations of the fiscal commission in it. House Republicans have put forth their budget. Frankly, we've included a number of their ideas. So it reminds me, I continue to agree with 80% of what the president says, I just disagree with 80% of what he does.

And so I can only say it one more time -- no, we do not want America to default on its debts, but the president is going to have to cut up the credit cards. He's going to have to work with us to cut up the credit cards and put the nation on a fiscally sustainable path, otherwise we're going to continue to lose jobs and we're going to bankrupt our children. It's that simple.

At some point you just got to quit spending money you don't have.

CROWLEY: But you're not willing to play chicken with the debt ceiling? Just yes or no, if I could.

HENSARLING: Well, I don't know what you mean by playing chicken. I've said the same thing three times. I do not want America to default on its debt but the president is going to have to start the process of cutting up the credit cards, pure and simple.

CROWLEY: Senator Durbin, let me ask you about the president's plans. He's going to start addressing -- I've got one minute left. Can you tell me what you know about where the president wants to head? We were told by David Plouffe that he will touch on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. What else can you tell us?

DURBIN: I can just tell you in the most general terms, I spoke to the president. And he believes as we did with his deficit commission, which I voted for, he believes that we need to address everything, put it owl an the table in a responsible manner.

I respect Paul Ryan and Jeb Hensarling, but their budget proposal leaves gaps when it comes to this discussion. They do not talk about responsibility for those in the highest income categories. They continue to give them lavish tax cuts. They don't talk about spending cuts and savings in the Pentagon. Well we certainly can save money there. Let's put everything together on the table. I think the president will try to approach this in a comprehensive way, take as much as he can take politics out of it and talk about working together.

For four months there have been six senators -- I'm one of them, three Democrats and three Republicans, sitting at a table back and forth hammering this out. We're very close -- not quite there, but very close.

I hope we can help the president find some guidance for the future.

CROWLEY: Senator Dick Durbin, it will be interesting to see if we can take the politics out of this in a presidential cycle. Thanks so much Senator Durbin. Congressman Hensarling thank you as well. We appreciate it.

When we come back, a check of today's top stories.

Then former British prime minister Tony Blair's take on the stalemate in Libya and his relationship with leader Moammar Gadhafi.


CROWLEY: Time for a check of today's top stories and all the headlines lead us to the Middle East.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vows his country will strike back against continued Palestinian attacks. Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak surveillance Israel will stop firing on Gaza when they stop the rocket and mortar attacks into southern Israel. Thursday Israel responded to a Hamas rocket attack with a series of strikes on Gaza that has left at least 18 people dead.

NATO says that its forces are dismantling pro-Gadhafi forces throughout Libya. A NATO commander says air strikes have destroyed 25 regime tanks in the two vital cities of Misrata and Ajdabiya. Meanwhile, there are new clashes between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Gadhafi reported in Ajdabiya where the city remains largely under rebel control.

After protests across Syria reportedly led to the deaths of more than three dozen demonstrators, the government announced plans to crack down hard on what it calls unrest provoked by outside agitators. A human rights group in Syria says security forces used tear gas and live fire against unarmed civilians, made dozens of arrests and raided homes.

Up next, we'll talk about the challenges facing the Middle East with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

And then, potential presidential candidate Donald Trump on an issue that's getting him a lot of attention.


TRUMP: I just say very simply, why doesn't he show his birth certificate? Why has he spent over $2 million in legal fees to keep this quiet and to keep this silent?



CROWLEY: Joining me now here in Washington, Tony Blair, special envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, and former British prime minister.

Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for being here.

BLAIR: My pleasure.

CROWLEY: There are so many headlines in the Middle East, it is hard to know where to start, but for us it has been Libya. For a while you have known Moammar Gadhafi, I know you've spoken to him throughout the course of the uprising there.

Right now I think people look at Libya and say, at best, it's a standstill, and at worst, it really looks as though Gadhafi might be prevailing. What is your sense of what's happening?

BLAIR: First of all, I think we should just take one major positive, by the way, out of this. As a result of the action that Britain, France, America, other nations have joined together and taken, those people -- innocent people who might have been killed in a very large number are not being.


CROWLEY: Although innocent people are still being killed.

BLAIR: Innocent people get killed in a conflict, that is true. But I think that the sense that the country was going to be overrun and then taken back into control of a regime that had frankly gone back to where it used to be, I think that we have managed to avoid.

The question now I think is we've got to keep in our minds what is our strategic objective, and it is to get a different form of government in place in which the people of Libya decide the future of Libya. And...

CROWLEY: And the translation of that is, Gadhafi has to go.

BLAIR: The translation of that is that you need a process which changes probably the constitution, the way Libya is governed, and ends with the people deciding. So it is not for us to decide, for outsiders to decide, it is for the people of Libya.

If you can get that through, I think to those in the Gadhafi camp at the moment, but also to try and make sure that we create a situation which that change can occur, then that's the optimum thing.

CROWLEY: Do you see signs of any cracking around Moammar Gadhafi at this point?

BLAIR: What I see are signs, that anyone sensible realizes, that this cannot end in any other way then at some point an agreed process of change in Libya. So you know, whether we carry on for a long time or a short time, that's what's going to happen.

The status quo is not the option. So I think, you know, even though it looks...


BLAIR: ... somewhat, well, stuck at the moment, nonetheless from my experience in dealing with these situations, sometimes that happens but actually there is a lot of pressure going on the regime. And there are, also, I think, probably voices around him saying, look, the only sensible way out of this is to have an agreed process of change, if people agree, by the way, that the central thing is the will of the people of Libya should prevail.

CROWLEY: At the moment, I know you have spoken with him. Can you -- we sort of look at this and think this -- he seems delusional, he seems to think that people in his country are for him when clearly they're not. What is your sense of his state of mind at this point? And on whether you can really see him doing that, agreeing to a process?

BLAIR: I mean, his view is that we've got it all wrong and that actually this is about people who are fighting for all sorts of reasons to do with al Qaeda, or tribal reasons. So...

CROWLEY: Delusional.

BLAIR: ... that is obviously not the case. Now what is true however is that someone who has been in power for 40 years, and this is somebody I've sat with and talked with, whatever people say about being delusional and so forth, he has kept that grip there for 40 years.

So he -- you know, I think we're as well also to treat him as somebody who has a perspective and is prepared to...

CROWLEY: But a madman with power can hold on to it.

BLAIR: Well, there's a certain amount of calculation as well. So I think what is important therefore is to ask the question, you know, what is the best way that we're going to get change now in this situation and get it with the minimum loss of life and minimum bloodshed? BLAIR: And let me ask you about al Qaeda, because I want you to take a look at the region, northern Africa, but the Middle East, where you have spent so much time since leaving as prime minister.

Do you see signs in any of this unrest that is now kind of gripping that region of the world, that al Qaeda does, as one of our senators wondered out loud, is taking advantage of the fog of war to begin to move in to places like Libya or, you know, Bahrain or places like that?

BLAIR: The honest answer is this is a situation with huge uncertainty, unpredictability, and what we have got to do is to try and plan insofar as possible, as you can from the outside, for an evolution of change in this region, recognizing that the danger with revolutions.

In Egypt there was no option for people, they rose up, they've changed the government. But elsewhere in the region, if can you get a steady evolution of change, that is preferable, precisely because you've got these complicated forces, some of whom want what we want, you know, freedom, democracy...

CROWLEY: And some of them don't.

BLAIR: And some of whom don't.

CROWLEY: And so does -- is that a yes or a no in terms of that there are signs of elements of al Qaeda that are taking advantage?

BLAIR: Well, it's a yes in the sense that of course there will be people who will try to and use the instability and the fact that they are often very well organized to subvert this process. On the other hand, one, those modernizing and democratic forces are strong and they are determined, and I think in places like Tunisia and Egypt, they will not allow the extremists to gain sway.

CROWLEY: How about Iran, do you see signs of Iran influence in this area?

BLAIR: Well, I think, again, with Iran, there is no doubt that Iran will try and use this instability for its own ends. However, there's also pressure for change there. And I personally continue to think that one of the single things that would make me more optimistic about the change in the region, which is an extraordinary revolutionary change, is if there was change in Tehran as well.

CROWLEY: You've been working pretty hard in Israel, and in that region, to try to further the peace process. I know you as an optimist and so I bet you're going to see lots of opportunities for peace at this point for Israel. But that is not a uniformly held view...

BLAIR: No, it's not.

CROWLEY: ... at this point. Do you think what's happening has made this peace process even more difficult from Israel's perspective? BLAIR: Well, I think what it has done is it has injected uncertainty and unpredictability in the place of what was more certain and predictable. So if you are Israel, you were dealing with the Mubarak regime in Egypt. You know, you may agree or disagree, but it was predictable for Israel. Now they are dealing with an unpredictable situation.

On the other hand, Israel is a democracy, and I think that long term they see that this can be positive and beneficial. The key thing in the peace process right now is to inject back a sense of direction. You know, what are we trying to do and how are we going to do it?

And I think that the core of this is to understand that the only way forward is to accept that we need to move towards a Palestinian state that is properly and securely governed, that's a viable state, an independent and a sovereign state. And that if that can be achieved, then that is also the best security for Israel.

CROWLEY: If you can, because I'm out of time with you, more or less difficult getting the peace process back on track?

BLAIR: More difficult because there is fantastic amount of change in the region. Every bit, if not more, urgent to make sure that we do get progress.

CROWLEY: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. You have your work cut out for you. You are headed back to the region. Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it.

BLAIR: Thank you very much. Thanks, Candy.

CROWLEY: Up next, my interview with the always outspoken Donald Trump.


CROWLEY: Businessman and showman Donald Trump says he's thinking about running for president but can't announce anything until June after the airing of the finale of his reality show. Now in its 11th season, "Celebrity Apprentice" with the likes of Gary Busey and Meatloaf is currently the highest rated show on NBC.

Trump has the money to make a go of a campaign and name recognition alone is enough to keep him up there in the polls right now. But starting with an appearance on "The View" March 23rd, he's made a campaign out of the birther issue, the widely dismissed claim that President Obama was not born in the United States.

This week an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Trump tied for second among GOP primary voters for their choice of candidate. Among Tea Party supporters he finished first. A mid-March CNN poll found, among Republicans, 43% think President Obama definitely or probably was not born in the United States.

There are many theories on why Trump has stepped out on the birther issue: TV ratings, ego, politics -- or all of the above. Donald Trump when we come back.


CROWLEY: We sat down with Donald Trump Friday at his offices saying we wanted to get past the birther issue. He said he preferred to talk about other things, too, but ten minutes later we were still on the subject.

Next week, Trump on China, Libya and OPEC. Today, Trump and the widely debunked doubts about where the president was born.


CROWLEY: OK, let's get this out of the way, because you have been making a lot of waves lately. You came loaded for bear with a birth certificate. You'll be happy to know -- I'm sorry, certification of live birth. It is good enough for the state of Hawaii and the State Department. The U.S. State Department recognizes these as legitimately...

TRUMP: Well, it is not a birth certificate, Candy. And people are trying to figure out why isn't he giving his birth certificate? It is not a birth certificate. A certificate of live birth, and you can see that one that you have, and the one that I brought you, because that's the one that's on the Internet and all over the place, it doesn't even have a serial number. It doesn't have a signature, it doesn't have a signature, one that I saw on television has a stamp but that's not a signature.

CROWLEY: Right. But that's how they...

TRUMP: Excuse me, but that's not the one they were showing to everybody.

CROWLEY: After it released a copy of the certificate in 2008, the Obama campaign said the serial number was blacked out for concern over Hawaiian procedure. Since then many news organizations and the Annenberg Fact Check Project saw the original with the serial number and embossed seal and a stamped signature. Officials in Hawaii say this is standard.

TRUMP: And I just say very simply why doesn't he show his birth certificate? Why has he spent over $2 million in legal fees to keep this quiet and to keep this silent. When I listened today to the tape of the grandmother and she was saying he was born essentially in Kenya and then all of a sudden -- don't forget, this is when Barack Obama was hot as a pistol because it looked like he was going to get the nomination and they had a lot of people, a lot of handlers in there. All of a sudden you hear people all over the room, no, no, no, he was born in Hawaii. He was born in Hawaii.

CROWLEY: But they say it was a misinterpretation.

TRUMP: Excuse me, they drown her out. She was like -- there were a lot of people in that room. And she said Kenya, he was born right -- and then they started screaming, no, no, no, you mean Hawaii. You mean, Hawaii.

CROWLEY: Here's a portion of that taped international phone call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was she present when he was born in Kenya?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She said yes, she was present when Obama was born.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whereabouts was he born? I thought he was born in Kenya.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. He was born in America, not in Mombasa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; Do you know where he was born? I thought he was born in Kenya. I was going to go by and see where he was born.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. She said he was born in Hawaii.

CROWLEY: You can hear the entire sometimes confusing conversation on our web site,

TRUMP: I don't like to talk about this issue too much because I really would rather talk about China, I would really rather talk about what OPEC is doing to destroy us. I would really rather talk about other things. But I'll be honest with you, I started this and I heard the question for the first time four weeks ago and I assumed, although I had heard about it for years, I assumed that he was born in the United States, meaning in Hawaii. I assumed that. The more I go into it, the more suspect it is.

Now, he doesn't have his birth certificate or he's not showing it. And I wish he did have one, but he doesn't have it. There is a huge difference between a birth certificate -- and I can show you mine, it's upstairs and it's in great detail and it's certified by everybody and it's got signatures all over it. It's got a birth certificate.

He shows a certificate of live birth. And a certificate of live birth is easy to get and it is not the same thing. It's a totally different thing. And in many states a certificate of live birth you can't even get married or you can't get a driver's license with it.

The fact is his own family doesn't know which hospital he was born in this Hawaii. And here's one other thing, wherever you were born, I can go to that hospital, and I can find out the name of your doctor, the name of the -- the number of your room...

CROWLEY: My hospital...

TRUMP: ...excuse me -- how much you paid, how much this, how much that. I can find the information. I guarantee you my hospital has all the information, how much my parents paid for that unfortunate day when I was brought into this world, this rather crazy world.

But the fact is, nobody has any information. And his people in the United States don't even know which hospital -- his relatives don't even know which hospital he was born in.

So it's a very strange situation. That's all I can tell you. And, you know, it's a very sad thing because the people, the birthers, they got labeled and they got labeled so negatively, and even the word "birther" is a negative word.

And I always tell people, I was a very good student; I went to the best college; I went to great schools; I had very high aptitude. Because, if you come out and say, and even question, the press goes wild. They get angry at even the question. And the fact is, if he wasn't born in this country, he shouldn't be the president of the United States.


CROWLEY: In fact, two separate Honolulu papers published birth announcements, which Trump says he can explain.


TRUMP: It was eight days later, after the supposed birth. It was eight days later. And many people that are on a certain side of this say his grandparents said -- they made the announcement. You're not talking about the same day. You're talking about eight days. A lot of things happen in eight days. Excuse me.

And the grandparents put that in because, obviously, they want him to be a United States citizen because, in those days, I mean, people were much more proud than they are today, unfortunately, for being a United States citizen. So they wanted him to be a citizen of the United States. For that purpose and also for hospitalization, for welfare, for this, for that, for all the other assets you get from being a United States citizen.

So there are very smart people that say that's routinely done and that was done by his grandparents.

CROWLEY: I -- I just want to say, and then we'll move on... TRUMP: Candy, it's eight days -- excuse me -- eight days later.

CROWLEY: Well, I think you could make a case for people that -- whose birth announcements show up later. But I will tell you that we checked with both these papers earlier, not to this latest -- when you brought it back to the headlines, but the fact is that the hospitals reported this information to the papers and the papers printed it.

TRUMP: Who knows? You're talking 50 years ago.

CROWLEY: Nonetheless, there is enough here that's going to -- we're going to be talking about this 20 years from now, I can almost guarantee you.

TRUMP: I don't think -- you shouldn't be.

Why? Here's my -- look, I'll leave it at this, because I'd much rather talk about China; I'd much rather talk about OPEC. I'd rather talk about how all these countries are ripping us off and how they shouldn't be and we can stop it easily. That's what I'd rather talk about.

But I'll tell you, there's a real question -- and even you say you're going to be talking about this for 20 years. You shouldn't be talking. Why doesn't he give his birth certificate?

He says he has a birth certificate, and I hope does he. And by the way, you know who's going to be the happiest if he produced a birth certificate, a real birth certificate, not a certificate of live birth, which is not a birth certificate?

I would be. I would be very happy. Somebody would say, oh, wouldn't that be bad for you? I said absolutely not. I would be very happy if he produced a real birth certificate. So either they don't have one, which is very bad, or there's something on it that he doesn't want people to see. And I think that would be the lesser of two evils, no matter what's on it.

CROWLEY: Let me -- let me give you another conspiracy theory of a different sort, and that is from fellow Republicans who say -- who don't -- as you know, think this is a total losing issue for the Republican Party.

TRUMP: Excuse me -- 55 percent of the Republicans believe in this issue and 70 percent think that there's at least a good chance he wasn't born in this country.

CROWLEY: On the other hand...

TRUMP: I don't think it's a losing issue.

CROWLEY: Well, if you could get elected just by Republicans, I guess that's so. But if you look at the totality of the country...

TRUMP: Well, you're right. You do have to go step by step. CROWLEY: Right. This gets me to the conspiracy theory, that this is something that is an issue to the base of the Republican Party, and by that they mean voters who vote in the primaries, and that this is a cynical play to get their attention...

TRUMP: By who?

CROWLEY: By you.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think so.

CROWLEY: By bringing this up and saying, hey, I'm thinking about running for president; by the way, I don't think the president really was born...

TRUMP: Let him show me a birth certificate. How come nobody has any records of his hospitalization? They don't know his room number. They don't know the nurse. They don't know the doctor. Let him show me or let -- not me. Let him show a birth certificate. It's a problem for them.



CROWLEY: Let me try to move this on just because I know we could get engulfed in this.

TRUMP: And this is not conspiracy on my part, believe me.

CROWLEY: And because I can also tell you that there are others in the Republican Party who say, I think he's trying to help the president. Because this sort of thing sounds crazy to a lot of the country.

TRUMP: Those are fools. Those are fools. And I don't think there are those people. I think anybody that would say that is a fool. I believe that this is a very bad issue for the president. I believe that there are a lot of very smart people, and I've had them call me, and I've had some say, yeah, get off that issue, Donald, you're better on China, OK, and you're better on the economy and you're better on jobs, because that is my strength.

They say, Donald, get off that issue; you're better on jobs and you're better talking about the world, especially as it pertains economically, OK?

And I agree. But, you know what, a lot of very smart people are very confused by what's going on here. And they don't know why did he spend all this money and they don't know why hasn't he given his birth certificate?

CROWLEY: Let me move on...

TRUMP: And I think it's a very bad issue for the president, not for the Republican Party. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: There is not the slightest indication that Donald Trump is finished talking up this issue. But when we come back, a taste of the Donald and what he sees as the OPEC rip-off.


CROWLEY: Despite all evidence to the contrary, Donald Trump and I did get around to other subjects, his potential Republican rivals, Libya and the people he says are ruining the U.S. economy, oil- producing countries in the Middle East.


TRUMP: Now, the worst abuser of all -- I mean, the worst abuser is obviously OPEC. And I watched a show the other day where you had these oil analysts sitting around saying, you know, there's so much oil; we don't understand why the price -- it's up to $110; it's going to go up to $150 a barrel. You're going to be paying $7 or $8 a gallon for gasoline very soon.

So these analysts are sitting around, Wall Street guys -- they say, we don't understand why oil is so high; there's so much of it; it's all over the place. And I want to almost scream into the television set, "It's OPEC." The only they didn't -- they talked about the psychology...

CROWLEY: So what -- I mean, in the end, there are certain things that even the U.S. doesn't control. And you've got this, sort of, angry -- I mean, I -- you, sort of, tap into this angry...

TRUMP: No, I'm not angry.

CROWLEY: ... populist -- OK, aggressive populist...

TRUMP: I can't believe that our politicians are so stupid to let people that we absolutely protect get away with it. Saudi Arabia wouldn't be there if it weren't for us.


CROWLEY: You can see more of the world according to Trump next Sunday here on "State of the Union." Until then, thanks for watching. I'm Candy Crowley in Washington.