Billionaire David Rubenstein talks all things Trump in exclusive interview


BLAKE BURMAN AT HER MAJESTY’S KINGDOM HERE. DOES ALL OF THIS CONFIRM HUMAN NATURE, TO YOU KNOW, SNICKER AND TALK BEHIND PEOPLE’S BACK? THIS FELLOW NEVER DOES THAT. GOOD HISTORICAL READ ON THAT SORT OF STUFF. CARLYLE GROUP COFOUNDER, AUTHOR OF THE AMERICAN STORY, CONVERSATIONS WITH MASTER HISTORIANS, OF I’M TALKING WITH DAVID RUBENSTEIN GREAT TO HAVE YOU HERE.>>PLEASURE TO BE HERE. THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. NEIL: THESE GLOBAL POW WOWS, THIS SORT OF STUFF HAPPENS. SOMETIMES IT IS CAUGHT ON MIC. OTHER TIMES WHISPERED AND SNICKERED WHAT DO YOU THINK?>>MOST IMPORTANT THING TO KNOW WHEN YOU MAKE SURE YOUR MIC IS ON AND IS NOT. I TRY HARD TO DO THAT I’VE BEEN CAUGHT SAYING THINGS THAT I HAVE SAID. NEIL: I CAN’T PICTURE MEAN OR NASTY THINGS?>>SOMETIMES YOU SAY THINGS IN PRIVATE YOU DON’T WANT PUBLIC. THIS WOULD NOT BE A SUCH A THING AS A SUMMIT IF THERE WEREN’T SOMETHING UNUSUAL HAPPENING. IF SUMMITS WENT ALONG SMOOTHLY AS THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO GO, IT WOULDN’T BE FUN, TO COVER, RIGHT? AT A SUMMIT THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING THAT HAPPENS THAT PEOPLE DIDN’T ANTICIPATE. THIS SUMMIT HAD SOME OF THESE THINGS. I THINK THEY MADE GREAT PROGRESS ON NATO RELATED ISSUES. THERE WAS CONCERN WHETHER PRESIDENT TRUMP CARES ABOUT NATO OR NOT. HE MADE IT CLEAR HE THINKS NATO IS IMPORTANT, MOST PEOPLE INVOLVED WITH NATO DO. SO I THINK THAT IS A GOOD THING. NEIL: DO YOU THINK, DAVID, THIS PRESIDENT GETS TREATED DIFFERENTLY MAYBE BECAUSE HE IS A BULL IN A CHINA SHOP, HE IS PRETTY BLUNT, SAYS WHAT IS ON HIS MIND IN FRONT OF CAMERAS, PUTTING OTHER LEADERS ON THE SPOT, THEY DON’T FLIP OVER HIM AND THEY MAKE IT VERY CLEAR?>>HE HAS CLEARLY A DIFFERENT APPROACH AND PERSONALITY THAN PEOPLE THAT HAVE THAT JOB. IT IS DIFFERENT, PEOPLE ARE GETTING USED TO IT. CLEARLY THE PRESS AND OTHERS ARE TRYING TO ADJUST TO IT. HE HAS A STRONG PERSONALITY. I KNOW HIM SOMEWHAT. I WOULD SAY HE IS DIFFERENT THAN OTHER PEOPLE I’VE KNOWN WHO IS PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. THAT IS NOT GOOD OR BAD. HE IS A DIFFERENT PERSONALITY AND PEOPLE HAVE TO ADJUST TO THAT. NEIL: I WONDER IF THERE IS SOME CALCULATION GOING ON HERE, DAVID. HE IS REACHING AN AMERICAN AUDIENCE? IF HE IS PUTTING THEM ON THE DEFENSIVE, FOR EXAMPLE, DEFENSE SPENDING, TO KEEP UP TO THEIR NATO COMMITMENT, THAT, IS SOMETHING THAT A LOT OF AMERICANS CITIZEN VOTERS, HERE SAY, YEAH HE IS RIGHT ABOUT THAT, THEY SHOULD PAY UP?>>PRESIDENT TRUMP IS SINGULARLY FOCUSED ON HIS BASE AND HIS APPEAL TO THE UNITED STATES. I THINK HE IS LESS CONCERNED ABOUT WHAT PEOPLE THINK ABOUT HIM OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES THAN WHAT HE THINKS ABOUT WHAT THEY THINK ABOUT HIM INSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES. YOU CAN SAY THAT IS GOOD OR BAD. THAT IS HIS FOCUS, MAYBE MORE SO THAN OTHER PRESIDENTS. I DON’T CRITICIZE IT. HE IS FOCUSED ON WHAT HIS SUPPORTERS LIKE. WHAT AMERICANS WANT. I THINK AMERICANS DO WANT OTHERS TO HONOR THEIR NATO 2% COMMITMENT. NEIL: HE HAS JOKED, MAYBE, HALF KIDDINGLY, ABOUT HOW REPUBLICANS AREN’T TREATED AS WELL BY EUROPEANS AS TRADITIONALLY DEMOCRATS ARE. JOHN KENNEDY WAS FEATED AS A STAR. BARACK OBAMA THE SAME THING. FDR WAS HELD IN GREAT REGARDS. MAYBE HE HAD A LITTLE BIT OF RONALD REAGAN GOT SOME OF THAT, BUT TOOK SOME YEARS BUT IT IS HARDER FOR REPUBLICANS TO GET THE SAME TYPE OF REACTION?>>THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT MANY PEOPLE IN EUROPE HAVE POLICIES THAT ARE PROBABLY FURTHER TO THE LEFT THAN THE POLICIES OF SOME REPUBLICANS HAVE AND THEREFORE THE PRESS AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS THERE ARE PROBABLY NOT IN SYMPATHY WITH SOME OF THE THINGS THAT SOME REPUBLICANS HAVE AS SOME OF THEIR POSITIONS AND THAT MAY BE REFLECTED SOME OF THE WAY THEY HANDLE THINGS, MAYBE IS REFLECTED IN THE PRESS BUT GENERALLY EVERYBODY IN EUROPE REALLY WANTS NATO TO BE STRONG. THE PRESIDENT WANTS NATO TO BE STRONG. I THINK THAT IS A GOOD THING. WHILE THE SUMMIT WILL BE REMEMBERED FOR OPEN MIC ORE SO, I THINK IN THE END WHEN HISTORY IS WRITTEN, YES, PRESIDENT TRUMP DOES SUPPORT NATO AND NATO IS STRONG. NEIL: DO YOU THINK, BECAUSE HE TALKS ABOUT THE 160 BILLION INCREASED FUNDING IN NATO UNDER HIS THREE YEARS, THAT’S THE MESSAGE HE WANTED TO POUND? THANKS TO ME, GETTING IN YOUR FACE ABOUT PAYING UP, NATO’S A LOT STRONGER NOW?>>FINANCIALLY NATO MAY BE STRONGER. THE ISSUE OF COURSE, WHETHER THAT IS THE MESSAGE I THINK HE WANTS TO GET ACROSS, THAT IS A GOOD MESSAGE. NEIL: RIGHT.>>WHAT DOES NATO REALLY DO, WHAT DOES NATO DO IF RUSSIA DOES SOMETHING WE THINK IS INAPPROPRIATE. IF RUSSIA GOES FURTHER INTO UKRAINE WHAT DOES NATO DO? IF RUSSIA WERE TO INVADE THE BALTIC STATES, WHAT DO WE DO? THAT IS THE ISSUE NATO FACES IT IS UNCLEAR WHAT NATO WOULD DO BUT HOPEFULLY NATO WOULD RESPOND APPROPRIATELY. NEIL: WHEN YOU TALK TO THE GREAT HISTORIANS, BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF COVERING PEOPLE, IN THE CASE OF COVERING LYNDON JOHNSON BETTER THAN FOUR DECADES YOU LEARN ABOUT HOW HISTORIANS APPRECIATE PRESIDENTS WHO APPRECIATE HISTORY. I’M WONDERING, HOW THIS PRESIDENT FITS INTO THAT?>>WELL, MANY PRESIDENTS HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN HISTORY. THEY HAVE READ HISTORY BOOKS. THEY HAVE HAD HISTORIANS COME IN. I DON’T KNOW IF PRESIDENT TRUMP HAS DONE THAT AS MUCH BUT OTHER PRESIDENTS HAVE DONE SO I THINK LEARNING WHAT YOUR PREDECESSORS DID IS VERY IMPORTANT. PRESIDENT TRUMP ABSORBS INFORMATION NOT BY READING BOOKS, BY TALKING TO PEOPLE. I THINK HE TALKED TO HURT PEOPLE WHO ARE HISTORIANS WHAT HAPPENED IN PREVIOUS PRESIDENCIES AND I THINK HE BENEFITED FROM THAT. NO DOUBT WHEN YOU BECOME PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, YOU’RE STARTING ON DAY ONE. YOU DON’T HAVE THE HISTORY OF THE PRESIDENCY YOU WILL AFTER ONE OR TWO OR THREE YEARS. THE PRESIDENT IS MUCH MORE KNOWLEDGEABLE ABOUT WHAT PREVIOUS PRESIDENTS HAVE HAD TO STRUGGLE WITH. NEIL: DO YOU LOOK AT THE BACKDROP OF IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS STARTING IN THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE TODAY, THAT IS A PRETTY ALARMING BACKDROP TO WHAT IS GOING ON RIGHT NOW?>>IT IS OF CONCERN TO EVERYBODY, YOU HAVE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS. WHETHER YOU THINK IT IS APPROPRIATE OR NOT, NOBODY WANT TO GO THROUGH IMPEACHMENT BECAUSE IT DISRUPTS THE GOVERNMENT. MAYBE IT IS APPROPRIATE, MAYBE NOT. WE ONLY HAD IT FOUR TIMES IN THE COUNTRY’S HISTORY. ANDREW JOHNSON, RICHARD NIXON ULTIMATELY RESIGNED BEFORE THE PROCESS WENT FORWARD. BILL CLINTON WE’RE HAVING ONE AS WELL, PERHAPS. IT IS NOT A GREAT THING FOR THE COUNTRY TO DO. MEMBERS OF CONGRESS CAN DECIDE IF IT IS APPROPRIATE OR NOT. NOBODY WANTS TO HAVE A SYSTEM LIKE THIS PERT — PERPETUALLY HAVING THESE IMPEACH PROCESSES. NEIL: PRESIDENT THINKS THAT SOME DEMOCRATS DO, THE DEMOCRATS DO?>>I DON’T THINK ANYONE WANTS TO GO THROUGH A IMPEACHMENT PROCESS. PEOPLE WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO WORK AS WELL AS POSSIBLE. THIS MAY BE MORE POLITICAL THAN IT SHOULD BE. ALL IMPEACHMENT PROCESSES ARE POLITICAL. ANDREW JOHNSON’S WAS POLITICAL. RARELY ALL THE CASE OF IMPEACHMENT PROCESS, SAME PARTY AS THE PRESIDENT GET INVOLVED TO SUPPORT A IMPEACHMENT. IT HAS HAPPENED, BUT GENERALLY PEOPLE OF OPPOSITION PARTY GENERALLY SUPPORT THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS. NEIL: TALK ABOUT YOUR CARLISLE EXPERTISE, FINANCIAL EXPERTISE, MADE YOU A MULTIBILLIONAIRE. THIS NOTION THAT THE MARKETS AND PRESIDENT CONSTANTLY POUNDS THEM ARE INEXPLICABLY LINKED TO PRESIDENTIAL PERFORMANCE. WHEN THEY WERE DOWN, THEY DIDN’T BENEFIT JIMMY CARTER, THEY DIDN’T BENEFIT HERBERT HOOVER. WHEN THEY WERE UP CERTAINLY BENEFITED HILLARY CLINTON THROUGH IMPEACHMENT AND RONALD REAGAN. I WONDER IF THE FIXATION ON THE MARKETS THAT HE KNOWS ABOUT HISTORY? IT’S A NICE WIND TO HAVE YOUR BACK?>>ONE THING ALL PRESIDENTS RECOGNIZE, PRESIDENTS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT IN RECESSIONS TEND NOT TO GET REELECTED. THE LAST ONE THAT GOT REELECTED WAS WILLIAM McKINLEY IN 1900. WHEN JIMMY CARTER, GERALD FORD, GEORGE BUSH RAN THROUGH A RECESSION, THEY DIDN’T GET ELECTED. WHEN YOU KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT HISTORY THAT YOU DON’T GET ELECTED, YOU WANT TO AVOID A RECESSION. NEIL: DOES HE OVERDO IT?>>THE PRESIDENT IS OBSESSED WITH THE ECONOMY STAYING STRONG. HE DOESN’T WANT A RECESSION IN THE YEAR HE IS RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION. ALL PRESIDENTS WANT THAT. SOME ARE NOT BEING ABLE TO PREVENT THAT. I WORKED FOR JIMMY CARTER. WE DIDN’T WANT A RECESSION. BUT WE HAD ONE. GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH, WAS PER SEIZED TO HAVE RECESSION BUT IT WASN’T A RECESSION. NEIL: IT TURNED AROUND. TOO LATE TO GET BENEFIT OF IT.>>PRESIDENT TRUMP, I CAN’T SPEAK FOR HIM, MY IMPRESSION IF HE RECOGNIZES IF I IS IN RECESSION IT WILL NOT BE GREAT FOR RE-ELECTION. IF HE IS NOT IN RECESSION I THINK HIS CHANCES GETTING REELECTED ARE REASONABLY GOOD. NEIL: DO YOU THINK A CHINA TRADE DEAL WOULD ICE THE DEAL HERE? THE PRESIDENT SEEMED TO THROW COLD WATER ON THAT, SAYING WE MIGHT KNOT GET A DEAL UNTIL AFTER THE ELECTION. THAT WOULD RATTLE MARKETS. DID YESTERDAY. LESS SO TODAY.>>MY VIEW THERE WILL BE A DEAL. I DON’T HAVE ANY INSIDE INFORMATION. I CAN’T SPEAK FOR THE ADMINISTRATION BUT I THINK THEY’RE VERY, VERY CLOSE. I DO THINK THERE WILL BE ANNOUNCEMENT NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE. THERE IS ALWAYS ONE LAST THING RESOLID OR SO. I WAS IN CHINA RECENTLY. I HAD A MEETING WITH MANY OTHER PEOPLE AS WELL AS XI XINPING. I HAD A SENSE OUT OF THAT THERE IS SOMETHING THAT IS GOING TO GET DONE. IT WON’T SOLVE ALL OF OUR PROBLEMS. IT WILL BE A PHASE ONE. WHEN PHASE TWO WILL CAMPUS WE DON’T KNOW. BUT I WOULD BE VERY SURPRISED IF PRESIDENT GOING INTO RE-ELECTION WITH THIS OVERHANGING HIM. NEIL: I FIND OFFENDED THAT XI XINPING MET WITH YOU. HE DID NOT MEET WITH ME. IT COULD HAVE BEEN SCHEDULING.>>I THINK HE WANTED TO MEET WITH YOU, BUT HE TOLD ME THEY DIDN’T HAVE YOUR CELL PHONE NUMBER BUT NEXT TIME — NEIL: HOW DID IT GO? WHAT WAS HIS TEMPERAMENT IS IT HOW COULD YOU READ, CHINESE DELEGATION, WHAT WAS THE READ?>>A NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE MEETING. HANK PAULSON. NEIL: FORMER TREASURY SECRETARY.>>HENRY KISSINGER, NUMBER OF OTHER PEOPLE FROM THE UNITED STATES AND ELSEWHERE. THERE WERE 30 PEOPLE IN THE MEETING. HE TOOK QUESTIONS. HE WROTE DOWN THE QUESTIONS AND HE ANSWERED THEM IN SERIOUM HE IS OBVIOUSLY A SMART PERSON. I MET HIM BEFORE. HE WILL NOT GO DIFFERENT FROM THE TALKING POINTS. HE DOESN’T SAY THINGS THAT ARE A SURPRISE BUT GENERALLY HE GAVE THE VIEW HE WANTS A BALANCED FAIR, TRADE AGREEMENT WITH THE UNITED STATES. HE MADE IT CLEAR HE DIDN’T WANT TO BE PUSHED AROUND. HE MAKES IT CLEAR A GOOD TRADE AGREEMENT WOULD BE A GOOD THING FOR BOTH COUNTRIES. NEIL: DID YOU GET THE SENSE HE COULD WAIT THIS OUT AS MUCH THE PRESIDENT SAID HE COULD WAKE THIS OUT?>>I DON’T THINK HE WAS TRYING TO SAY I WILL WAIT IT OUT, BUT HE DIDN’T WANT TO SAY IF I DON’T GET THE AGREEMENT I’M IN TROUBLE. NO PRESIDENT WANTS TO SAY I HAVE TO HAVE AN AGREEMENT. PRESIDENT TRUMP’S STATEMENT, I CAN’T SPEAK FOR HIM, I DON’T THINK HE WOULD SAY I NEED TO GET THE TREATMENT SOON OTHERWISE I’M IN POLITICAL TROUBLE. HE WOULDN’T SAY THAT. HE SAYS, I DON’T HAVE AGREEMENT NOW. I CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT ONE. CHINA, I DON’T HAVE TO HAVE ONE, DON’T FEEL I’M DESPERATE. I THINK THEY’RE VERY CLOSE. I THINK THEY’RE GETTING DONE KNOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE. NEIL: CAN YOU STAY THROUGH THE NEXT SEGMENT? DAVID RUBENSTEIN.>>CERTAINLY. NEIL: COFOUNDER OF CARLYLE GROUP. A GOOD BOOK OUT. AN AMERICAN STORY. IT’S A GREAT READ ON THE BIGGER LONG TERM PICTURE BY THE WAY IS GETTING SHORT-SHRIFT IN OUR SOCIETY TODAY, ESPECIALLY WITH OUR KIDS. YOU HEARD OBVIOUSLY THE LATEST STUDIES THAT SHOW CHINA IS LAPPING US WHEN IT COMES TO SCIENCE AND MATH, WHEN IT COMES

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