In exclusive interview, President Trump commits to taking COVID-19 vaccine, calls on Gov. Cooper to 'open up the state'

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- President Donald Trump returned to North Carolina on Thursday for a campaign rally in Greenville, but before boarding Air Force One the Commander in Chief spoke to ABC11 in an exclusive one-on-one interview.

"One of the reasons we've been successful is your state," President Trump said. "Your state has always been behind us right from the very beginning. Right literally from the beginning."

Indeed, Trump's victory in North Carolina was among the upsets that catapulted him to the White House. His travel schedule - before and after his COVID19 diagnosis - continues to reflect that commitment to winning the state's 15 electoral votes again.

President Donald Trump exhorts supporters in Greenville ahead of televised town hall

"It makes me feel good to help, whether it's the tobacco growers or any others. There are so many different people we are helping. And we're helping on health care. Wait until you see what we're going to be doing on health care. Providing better health care at a lower price and always taking care of preexisting conditions."

Regarding his own health, Trump once again boasted about the success of Regeneron, an experimental antibody drug that the president now considers a cure.

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President Donald Trump returned to North Carolina on Thursday for a campaign rally in Greenville, but before boarding Air Force One the Commander in Chief spoke to ABC11 in an exclusive one-on-one interview.



"It's called a therapeutic but to me it was a cure because as soon as I took it, it was like a ball was lifted off my back," he said. "It was incredible. It was literally 24 hours and I got better very quickly. I had a pretty hefty case."

Still, with new patients in the U.S. testing positive a second time for COVID19, the president acknowledged the importance of a vaccine and even expressed his willingness to get the vaccine to help reassure Americans about its safety.

"The answer is yes I would," Trump said. "I don't want to make anything mandatory, you don't understand that, because we don't want to be in that position. But I would certainly take it if they want."

ABC11's exclusive interview with Trump covered a variety of topics, including jobs, the economy and the president's leadership. Here is a full transcript of the questions and answers:

Mr. President, it's great to hear that you are feeling well. Your diagnosis and hospitalization were big deals, and they came on top of a first term filled with lots of big deals and not necessarily business. Between the controversies and accomplishments, there has been unprecedented, unexpected, overwhelming. I've been speaking with voters here and a lot of them want to know - given all that you and your family have been through, given all you've endured. Why do you even want a second term?

That's a very interesting question actually. Because we've accomplished so much. There's never been an administration in the first three and a half years that's done anywhere near what we've done. Whether it's taking care of our military, rebuilding our military, providing choice for our soldiers. They had to wait for weeks and weeks and weeks for medical care and now they get it immediately, and we just got a 91% approval rating from them, accountability from them. All of the things we've done: rebuilding our military, cutting taxes to a level that they've never been cut before. You know it was the biggest tax cut that's ever been given or granted in the history of our country. Regulation cuts, building the wall - the wall is almost finished and Mexico is paying for it, by the way - but the wall is almost finished and were up to four hundred miles of wall. Our southern border is secured, the most secured it's ever been. And just so many other things. So I have to fight some very bad people, I guess you'd have to say. They spied on my campaign and did things that were so terrible and so horrible and we caught them. But despite all of that we had this tremendous success. One of the reasons we've been successful is your state. Your state has always been behind us right from the very beginning. Right literally from the beginning. It makes me feel good to help, whether it's the tobacco growers or any others. There are so many different people we are helping. And we're helping on health care. Wait until you see what we're going to be doing on health care. Providing better health care at a lower price and always taking care of preexisting conditions. So it's a lot of work but it's really an achievement and I'm very proud of it.

Mr. President, you talk about healthcare and your administration has been spearheading Operation Warp Speed. People are waiting for this vaccine and they're eager for this vaccine. You were here in North Carolina touring Fujifilm and other things. You credit your recovery to Regeneron but that's not a vaccine, and people who get the flu still get a flu shot. So my question to you sir - you know the power of symbolism. When this vaccine is ready, will you commit to getting it first and will you do it in a way that's public so that your supporters and your critics see that it's safe? Will you commit to that?

The answer is yes I would. I don't want to make anything mandatory, you don't understand that, because we don't want to be in that position. But I would certainly take it if they want. Now that will be controversial. Some people would say, 'Oh he took it first therefore he is selfish' or in other words you don't win but if they want me to do it, absolutely. We have Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer, they're all right there. Right at the step in fact, and I think frankly without politics they could've been there even a little sooner, but nobody could have done it like this in terms of the speed because I've done things with the FDA where it would take 2-3 years to get approval and we're getting approvals in weeks. We have safe vaccines coming very, very soon. It could be before or a little after the election, and we have the military ready to deploy and bring it in all over the country. They will bring in and beyond that because you know it won't take very long. The other thing is what happened with me. I didn't feel great and I had something you would call therapeutics, Regeneron. It's called a therapeutic but to me it was a cure because as soon as I took it, it was like a ball was lifted off my back. It was incredible. It was literally 24 hours and I got better very quickly. I had a pretty hefty case. I got better very, very quickly, and what I'm doing is Regeneron and Eli Lilly, a great company, makes a similar product. I actually studied it. I'm like an expert on antibody stuff. We're going to have it delivered free of charge to people that need it. I really believe in my case it was a cure. It wasn't just a therapeutic but a cure. We're going to get it delivered free of charge. We're working on emergency use right now and we're going to have it sent all over the country, free of charge, to the people that need it.

We are rooting for those studies to come back positive. A vaccine and therapeutics will do a lot for consumer confidence and getting back those jobs. I want to ask you sir - the jobless rate is less than 10% but there are still more than 1 million North Carolinians collecting unemployment, and the number of permanent layoffs are rising. In your books, you've credited your success to being a visionary, so in your second term, where do you envision new jobs? New industries? Where will you invest in new opportunities? Not just bringing back jobs but creating new ones.

Well in North Carolina we want the governor to open up the state, the schools to start opening up immediately. The young people, 99.9% have very strong immune systems. They are in great shape. We have to open up the schools, open up the businesses in your state. Many states are fully open and operational and doing really well. In your case, you have a governor, that we sue them to open and the people want it open. The great thing about what we just discussed is how therapeutics and vaccines give you confidence. 85% now. We're up to 85% mortality. When you think about that compared to six months before it's incredible what we've done scientifically. I don't think anyone else would've been able to do have done that. And when you look at how we're leading the world in every way. We've got to get our states open. We don't have many of them closed. We won a big case in Michigan, unconstitutional what the governor, she, was closing the state. Pennsylvania we're winning. New York is a basket case. We need to get these states open. Despite that we're going to have one of the best 3rd quarters in our country, and next year will be a better year than it was last year. Predictions are being made by the Fed, I think the Atlanta Fed, of 25% GDP and maybe higher than that and maybe much higher for the third quarter. The good news is what will come out right before the election and I'm able to say it and live with it. We're growing really rapidly and the number is now 7.9% unemployment, which normally you wouldn't like, but people were thinking 42%. We've had the biggest four months we've ever had for hiring people. It's been a pretty amazing thing considering we're rounding the term on the pandemic.

NC reports highest single-day increase since the first case was reported in March

You've also said success will bring unity, and if you win a second term, you will again inherit a country that's more divided than it was four years ago. I want to quote you in your book, Crippled America: "A great leader has to be flexible, holding his ground on the major principles but finding room for compromises that can bring people together." How will you lead in a second term and where will you make compromises to help form a more perfect union?

Well I want to see everything come together and it was all happening before the China Plague came in. It was coming together. People were calling me and they were ready to move and they were ready to do things. People you would least suspect. We had the best unemployment numbers we ever had, African American unemployment, Hispanic American unemployment, the best unemployment - Asian, women, young people, with diploma, without diploma. It was all coming together and then we got hit with the Plague and we had to go back and now we've got a V shaped recovery. It could be a Super V. We're recovering fast. Success is going to bring this country together and that's going to happen. It was happening until we got hit with the Plague.
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