“I’m glad you made it past security. We are all buttoned-up because Donald Trump is here tonight,” quipped Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. “Tonight, those of you watching at home will have the rare opportunity to see Donald Trump on television.”
Yes, Kimmel had landed a highly anticipated interview with the presumptive Republican nominee for president ahead of the California primaries, and the atmosphere got even tenser when it was revealed that, hours before showtime, musical guests The Weeknd and Belly had pulled out of the show, citing their objections to Trump’s political views.
Referring to him as a “tangerine-tinted Godzilla,” Kimmel welcomed out the “fire-breathing billionaire who incinerated all who opposed him to become his party’s presumptive nominee for President of the United States.” And Kimmel did a stand-up job interrogating the real estate heir turned politician—perhaps better than many professional journalists had.
The biggest news to emerge from their late-night rendezvous came when Kimmel posed a question to Trump from Thursday night’s guest on the show: Bernie Sanders.
“Hillary Clinton backed out of an agreement to debate me in California before the June 7th primary. Are you prepared to debate the major issues facing our largest state and the country prior to the California primary?” asked Sanders via written letter. “Yes, I am,” replied Trump. “How much is he going to pay me? Because if I debated him, we would have such high ratings and I think I should take that money and give it to some worthy charity. If he paid a nice sum for a charity I would love to do that.” Trump also agreed to the debate with Bernie if a network ponied up the desired charitable donation. And right after the segment aired, Bernie said the debate is “on” via Twitter:
That would indeed be yuge—if it happens. Whether the money will actually make it to the charity is, well, anyone's guess.
Earlier in the interview, Trump sympathized with the plight of the Vermont senator and his legion of passionate supporters, while also claiming that Bernie would be “easier to beat” than Hillary in the general.
“Well, I actually think that Bernie would be easier to beat—even though he shows up a little bit better in the polls—and I may be wrong,” said Trump. “But what I do like about Bernie is that, when he loses, because the system is rigged against him, totally—just the way it was rigged against me, I mean, the system is rigged—and if I didn’t win by massive landslides every state there was no chance I could have won. [Bernie] is sorta having the same thing… [Hillary] has superdelegates that were just handed to her. I don’t know how she got them. Nobody understands it, but it’s an unfair system.” “I think it’s very unfair what’s happening to Bernie Sanders, actually, and it’s a very unfair system,” he added. Kimmel tried to squeeze in as many topics as he could during their chat, asking Trump if he’d indeed fired Ben Carson from his VP search team, which Trump denied.
“No,” said Trump when asked about whether he fired Carson. “Ben is a great guy. I’ll tell you, Ben Carson is a great person. He is. He’s very smart, and he’s a very fine person. You know, I have Ben, and I have everybody looking. I have a lot of people I’m looking [at].”
Trump also claimed that these high-earning fundraisers he’s hosting in California and elsewhere aren’t just to bankroll his own presidential campaign, but the entire GOP—to the tune of $1 billion—saying, “We’re gonna raise about a billion dollars, for the Senate, for Congress, for everything.”
The comedian even pressed Trump about the call with a reporter from People magazine unearthed by The Washington Post where a man—sounding exactly like Trump—claimed to be a Trump representative by the name of John Miller and boasted of Trump’s yuge exploits.
“To me, that didn’t sound like my voice,” offered Trump, before confessing that he had used the alias “Barron” (the name of his young son) over the years. “You know, over the years I’ve used aliases… I would never wanna use my name, because you had to pay more money for the land. If you’re trying to buy land, you use different names. I actually used the name ‘Barron.’”
One of Kimmel and Trump’s most telling exchanges concerned the trans bathroom issue. Just today, officials from 11 states sued the Obama administration to overturn an executive order allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that reflected their gender identity. Trump had said in the past that trans people should be able to use whatever bathroom they want, but now the issue is picking up steam on the right, he seemed to be far less settled on the matter:
KIMMEL: “You said, and I thought this was very interesting, you believe that transgendered people should be able to use whatever bathroom they want to which is contrary to what a lot of people, most people, in your party believe. Why do you think people have focused on that?” TRUMP: “What really I’m saying is—and I think it’s pretty simple—let the states decide. And you know, we have to protect everybody. It’s a very, very small group. Right now, it’s a very small group.” KIMMEL: “Would you say though, if you were voting personally or a member of New York State, you would vote for that right?” TRUMP: “Well, the party generally believes that whatever you’re born, that’s the bathroom you use.” KIMMEL: “Well, what about you?” TRUMP: “Me? I say let the states decide.” KIMMEL: “Would you personally support it? I think you do.” TRUMP: “Would I support—no, what I support is let the states decide and I think the states will do hopefully the right thing.” KIMMEL: “And what’s the right thing?” TRUMP: “I don’t know yet. I mean, I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know… It’s a very….”
Kimmel also got Trump to admit he was “full of shit.” The moment came at an early point in the interview where Kimmel asked Trump about past statements he’d made in 2008 and 2012 saying Hillary Clinton would make “an excellent president” and that she was “terrific.” “Well, let me just explain to you,” said Trump. “I’m a business man. I had a beautiful story recently where they said Trump is a world-class businessman. All over the world I’m doing jobs. I speak well of everybody. If people ask me about politicians, I speak well, so when they ask me about Hillary [it’s], she’s wonderful, everybody’s wonderful.”
“So you were full of shit?” prodded Kimmel. “A little bit,” replied a smirking Trump.