LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- On Wednesday afternoon, WDRB's Lawrence Smith spoke exclusively with President Donald Trump moments before the president spoke to veterans during a visit to Louisville.
Smith used the opportunity to pose questions on issues that have a direct impact on Kentucky, including opioid addition, gun control and the political careers of Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.
The full transcript of that interview is below:
LAWRENCE SMITH: Mr. President, Louisville’s mayor sent you a letter urging action on gun control. Sen. McConnell also getting pressure in that regard after the mass shootings. What are you prepared to support in terms of gun control?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well we're doing background checks. We already have a lot of background checks. You know, we’ve done the FixNICS program and a lot of other things, but we’re doing some loopholes and we’re doing some changes and I think it’s going to be quite good. I think it will be very popular with a lot of people. We always have to protect our Second Amendment, very importantly. We have to make sure that there’s no slippery slope where they end up taking your protection away. We won’t let that happen. And we’re working very much with Mitch and everybody else on getting something done that’s meaningful but that really protects gun owners because that’s very important. Because you know, if you go along a certain path, you won’t have any form of protection and you won’t have your Second Amendment. And with me, you’re always going to have your Second Amendment.
You have to remember – and I think it’s very important to say – the gun doesn’t pull the trigger. You know that. It’s the person that pulls the trigger. And we have a tremendous mental health problem, and we’re going to be working on that as well.
LAWRENCE SMITH: You’re about to talk to a bunch of veterans. I talked to several yesterday and their big concern is health care for veterans – access and quality. What are you prepared to tell them about that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we’ve done a lot for the vets – especially with choice. You know, before I came, you didn’t have veterans choice. Now you have veterans choice, which nobody in their wildest dream really thought – they’ve been trying to get it for 44 years, and I got it for the veterans. So the veterans are liking me a lot and I like them. So now if they have to wait on a line – you know, they were waiting three, or four, or five weeks to see a doctor. Now if there’s a wait, they go out, they see a doctor, and we pay for the cost of it. And it’s the least important thing, but frankly we save money, and we take care of our vets, and that’s a good combination.
LAWRENCE SMITH: You’re here, of course, also, to support Gov. Matt Bevin. Does he need your support to win next fall?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I don’t know. But he’s been a terrific governor. He’s really done a good job. In fact, he’s done such a good job that some people weren’t happy. He had to straighten out the pensions or the state was going to have a lot of problems. And he really has worked very hard. He loves the state, as I do, and he asked me to come and I’m coming for him and in his honor.
LAWRENCE SMITH: You’ll return again in the future for a larger rally…
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I’ll be in Kentucky a lot – including for Mitch. You have a great gentleman in Mitch McConnell. I mean, he’s done more for the court system. You look at what’s happening. We’ll have 150 federal judges appointed, approved all through the Senate. We’ll have 150 within a couple of weeks and we’ll end up with 179 before we start going again and nobody thought this was possible. And of course, two great Supreme Court justices and Mitch McConnell and I worked very hard.
LAWRENCE SMITH: You’re very popular in Kentucky. You didn’t win Louisville though. What do you do to appeal to urban voters – to get them to take a look at you and your policies with some of the ways they view you, which you know?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well I used to bat with a Louisville Slugger. No bat like it. So I used to use a Louisville Slugger, so maybe they know that and they, they feel differently. I think that we’re doing very well in Kentucky. I mean, I’m many, many points up and, you know, really at the top of the heap in that sense. And I love the people of Kentucky. And I think we’re going to do very well. I think just generally speaking, that’s why I’m here. I mean, Matt asked me to come and see if we could help him out and he’s in a very tight race, but I think it’s a race he’s going to win because he’s really been a great governor.
LAWRENCE SMITH: What do you say to appeal to African Americans, who look at you skeptically, frankly?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I think with the African Americans, our poll numbers have been very good. We have the best job rating we’ve ever had in terms of unemployment numbers. The unemployment for African Americans are the lowest they’ve ever been in the history of our country. And if you look at jobs, we have 160 – almost 160 million jobs for the country, the highest number we’ve ever had.
Also, criminal justice reform: I got that done. Nobody thought it could be done. I’m the one who got that done. You know, with all the talk you hear about other people and other people that are going to do it, I’m the one that gone criminal justice reform done. And opportunity zones – I got that done with Tim Scott. Very largely with Tim. Tim is a fantastic man, who is, as you know, a senator with South Carolina. We worked on that very hard. Opportunity zones have been incredible, and African American folks just think it’s incredible, what’s happened. But lowest unemployment number in history for African Americans.
LAWRENCE SMITH: Your final word – message – to the people of Louisville and Kentucky as you come to our state again.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, it’s a state I love. It’s a state I won – by a lot. I mean, not by a little bit, but by many, many, many points, as you know. Far beyond the relationship just to Republicans and Kentucky. It’s a special place. I have so many friends here and, you know, I expect to do very well in Kentucky. I hope so.
LAWRENCE SMITH: One last question.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes.
LAWRENCE SMITH: …We have an opioid problem here as you know.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah.
LAWRENCE SMITH: …What are you prepared to do to help with that serious addiction problem that many Kentuckians are suffering?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right. We’re spending billions of dollars. I have billions of dollars approved. And as you know, we’re down about 17 percent from what it was a year and a half ago with the opioid. Opioid is a serious problem. One of the things we’re doing is trying to come up – and we’re pretty close, I think – to a painkiller that’s not addictive. This opioid stuff is just horrible. You go to the hospital, you have a broken arm, you end up being a drug addict, you’re addicted so quickly. So we’re working on – through various things that we do, including grants of money. And I -- it’s really at my direction. I want to come up with a painkiller that’s not addictive and we’re very close.
LAWRENCE SMITH: Mr. President, thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much.
LAWRENCE SMITH: Nice talking to you again.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: …Great interview.
LAWRENCE SMITH: Enjoy your stay here.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you.
At this point, the interview concluded.
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