Politics & Government

Trump says he’ll immediately deport or jail up to 3M immigrants in U.S. illegally

In this Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, in New York.
In this Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he arrives to speak at an election night rally, in New York. AP

President-elect Donald Trump says he will deport or incarcerate 2 or 3 million immigrants in the country illegally who have criminal records.

“What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers…we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate,” Trump told CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday in his first television interview since Tuesday’s election.

Once the border is secure and “everything gets normalized” his administration will determine what to do about other people in the U.S. illegally “who are terrific people,” he said.

Trump was subdued in the wide-ranging interview that touched on the presidential race and a host of policy issues. He said he’s “saddened” to hear some of his supporters are inciting violence: “If it helps. I will say this…Stop it,” he said, looking into the camera. He reiterated that some of the protestors are professionals but told others “don't be afraid.” “I don’t think they know me,” he said.

Trump admitted that the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, a key campaign promise, could partly be a fence instead.

“For certain areas I would, but certain areas, a wall is more appropriate,” he told CBS, acknowledging “there could be some fencing.”

“I’m very good at this, it’s called construction,” he said.

This echoes House Republicans’ proposal to use fencing as a more realistic and less costly alternative to the “big, beautiful, powerful wall” Trump promised during the campaign.

The wall was not the only campaign promise that Trump tempered his tone on in the interview.

After vowing to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act on the trail, he now says he will keep the “strongest assets” of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law. This includes the parts that prevent insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and allowing children to be covered under their parents’ insurance policies until they are 26.

“It adds cost, but it’s very much something we are going to try and keep,” he told CBS in the interview.

One issue he did not soften his stance on was abortion. He said he would appoint a pro-life Supreme Court justice to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The issue would then be decided by individual states, Trump said.

Pressed on what women seeking abortions would do, he said “they’ll have to go to another state.”

“Well, we’ll see what happens,” he said. “It’s got a long way to go, just so you understand.”

But Trump said same-sex marriage has already been settled by the Supreme Court: “It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court…I’m fine with that,” he said.

Trump acknowledged he has lobbyists helping on his transition team. “That’s the only people you have down there,” he said. “That’s the problem with the system.”

Trump didn’t rule out appointing a special prosecutor to investigate his former rival Hillary Clinton, but said it wasn’t a priority and called the Clintons “good people.” “I’m going to think about it…I don’t want to hurt them,” he said.

Trump also recounted Clinton’s concession phone call, calling the opponent he had labeled “Crooked Hillary” and “Lying Hillary” a “very strong and very smart” woman.

“It was a lovely call and it was a tough call for her,” Trump said. “She couldn’t have been nicer.”

Trump also said he received calls from former President Bill Clinton as well as former Republican presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, neither of whom supported him.

In answer to a question, Trump said for the first time that he would not accept the presidential salary. He also said he doesn’t plan to take vacation.

Trump said he does still plan to tweet as president because it’s a “modern form of communication” and “it does get the word out.” “I'm going to be very restrained,” he said. “It helped me win.”

The interview included some segments with incoming first lady Melania Trump, as well as the president-elect’s children Ivanka, Eric, Donald Jr. and Tiffany. Trump’s three oldest children have been given prominent roles on his transition executive committee.

The Trumps said they didn’t care if the campaign hurt the Trump brand in business. “Who cares?” Trump said.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen

Anita Kumar: 202-383-6017, @anitakumar01