Tonight, in what has become an election year tradition for 60 Minutes — conversations with the major party candidates for president and vice president of the United States.
We begin with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. I spoke with the president on Tuesday in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
We had prepared to talk about the many issues and questions facing the president, but in what has become an all-too-public dust-up, the conversation was cut short. It began politely, but ended regrettably, contentiously.
Lesley Stahl: Are you ready for some tough questions?
President Donald Trump: You’re gonna be fair.
Lesley Stahl: Are you g–
President Donald Trump: Just be-
Lesley Stahl: I’m gonna be fair.
President Donald Trump: Just be fair.
Lesley Stahl: But you’re okay with some tough questions?
President Donald Trump: No, I’m not. I mean–
Lesley Stahl: (LAUGH) You’re not okay with tough questions?
President Donald Trump: I want them to be fair. You– you don’t ask Biden tough questions.
President Donald Trump: Okay. Are you ready–
Lesley Stahl: You ready? Everybody ready? So we have the pandemic. On your watch, we’ve had racial strife, we’ve had looting. Why do you want this job? Why do you wanna be president again?
President Donald Trump: Because we’ve done a great job and it’s not finished yet. And when I finish, this country will be in a position like it hasn’t been maybe ever. The economy is already roaring back. And– other people aren’t gonna bring it back, certainly the person that we’re dealing with is not gonna bring it back. They’re gonna raise taxes.
Lesley Stahl: Let me ask you what you think your– the biggest domestic priority is for you right now.
President Donald Trump: Well–
Lesley Stahl: Or next year.
President Donald Trump: Ultimately, le– let me– and I– I’ll tell ya, it was happening. We created the greatest economy in the history of our country. And the other side was–
Lesley Stahl: You know that– you know–
President Donald Trump: –coming in-
Lesley Stahl: –that’s not true.
President Donald Trump: It is totally true.
Lesley Stahl: No.
It isn’t, but President Trump did have an impressive string of economic accomplishments.
President Donald Trump: We had the best stock market price ever and we’re getting close to that price again. The unemployment numbers for African Americans, for Asian Americans, for Hispanic Americans. Virtually every number was the best. And what was happening is things were coming together—
Lesley Stahl: I asked you what’s the priority? I mean, those are all the good things–
President Donald Trump: The priority now–
Lesley Stahl: –what do you have to solve?
President Donald Trump: –is to get back to normal. Get back to where we were. To have the economy rage and be great with jobs and everybody be happy. And that’s where we’re going, and that’s–
Lesley Stahl: And–
President Donald Trump: –where we’re heading.
Lesley Stahl: And who is our biggest foreign adversary?
President Donald Trump: I would say China. They’re an adversary. They’re a–
Lesley Stahl: They’re the biggest?
President Donald Trump: –competitor. They’re a foe in many ways, but they’re an adversary. I think what happened was disgraceful, should never have happened. Should– they should never have allowed this plague to get out of China and go throughout the world. 188 countries. Should never have happened.
Lesley Stahl: Four years ago, you were behind in the polls, as you are now, and you pulled it out. But this time, you have kind of a double migraine. You have unemployment claims going up. You have COVID cases going up. I mean, it’s like the gods have suddenly decided– decided to conspire against you–
President Donald Trump: I don’t think so at all, no. I think we’ve done–
Lesley Stahl: Well, what about the–
President Donald Trump: –a great job with COVID.
Lesley Stahl: Sir, excuse me, cases are up in about 40 states.
President Donald Trump: Okay– you know why cases are up also? Because we do more testing. The fake news media loves to say cases are up. The fact is, we’ve done a very, very good job–
Lesley Stahl: Cases are up.
President Donald Trump: We have done– that’s right because we’re doing so much testing.
There is increased testing, but according to the COVID Tracking Project, that doesn’t account for all of the rise in new cases sweeping the country, or the 40% increase in hospitalizations in the past month.
Lesley Stahl: When you’re out there saying we’ve turned the corner, this thing is disappearing–
President Donald Trump: That’s right. We have turned–
Lesley Stahl: –and people can see–
President Donald Trump: –the corner. We have turned the corner.
Lesley Stahl: –people can see cases going up all over the– in the Midwest, in the Mountain West, record numbers of cases–
President Donald Trump: We have turned the corner.
Lesley Stahl: –in some states.
President Donald Trump: We understand the disease. We understand the elderly, and we are taking care of them like nobody’s ever taken care of ’em. So we are taking care of our people.
Lesley Stahl: Okay. Let me– let me ask you something about suburban women.
President Donald Trump: Yeah.
President Trump at a rally:
Suburban women will you please like me? Please, please. I saved your damn neighborhood, okay?
Lesley Stahl: You said the other day to suburban women, “Will you please like me? Please, please–“
President Donald Trump: Oh, I didn’t say that. You know, that’s so misleading, the way y– I say jokingly, “Suburban women, you should love me because I’m giving you security.” And I got rid of the worst regulation– see, the way you said that–
Lesley Stahl: Yeah?
President Donald Trump: –is why people think of you and everyone else as fake news. I said kiddingly, “Suburban women, you should love me.” I got rid of a regulation–
Lesley Stahl: You said, quote–
President Donald Trump: –that would bring low-income housing into suburbia that is destroying– that would destroy suburbia. And I said that in a joking way. The way you have it, it’s like, “Oh,” like I’m begging. I w– I’m kidding. Play it, and I’m kidding. That is such a misleading question, Lesley.
Lesley Stahl: But you’re behind with suburban women in the polls.
President Donald Trump: I doubt it. I doubt it. I really doubt it.
Lesley Stahl: One of the reasons is that they don’t feel you’re being upfront about the pandemic. Are you deliberately downplaying it?
President Donald Trump: –we’re rounding the corner. We’re doing well. We’re doing well. We understand the disease. We’ve done a good job. We’ve done maybe a great job. What we haven’t done a good job on is convincing people like you because you’re really quite impossible to convince, but that’s okay. And the economy now is coming back and it’s coming back very strongly, and people see that, Lesley.
Lesley Stahl: There are more unemployment claims– I mean, the economy has kind of–
President Donald Trump: Lesley, we just picked up–
Lesley Stahl: –stalled a little bit.
President Donald Trump: –11.4 million jobs. It’s the largest number in the history of our country–
It is true that of the 22 million jobs lost since February, 11.4 million have been restored. Yet, unemployment claims are running at historically high levels. But the president sees the economy as his strongest suit.
President Donald Trump: Gallup did a poll, 56% of the people said that they’re better off now, during a pandemic, than they were during Obama and Biden. 56%. It was a record number.
Lesley Stahl: Can we go back for one second to the pandemic, because– you called Dr. Fauci and other health officials idiots.
President Donald Trump: Where did I call him an idiot?
Lesley Stahl: You called them “idiots.” I wonder if you think–
President Donald Trump: Well, he’s been wrong a lot. I like him, but he’s been wrong a lot.
Lesley Stahl: –I– I wonder if you think that masks don’t work.
President Donald Trump: I feel masks possibly work. But certainly you want to stay away a certain distance, socially distance, et cetera. But I would say a mask works. And I have nothing against masks. And I tell people to wear masks. I have no problem–
Lesley Stahl: Well, tell me then about these rallies you’ve been having–
President Donald Trump: A lotta people are wearing masks, and they’re outside.
Lesley Stahl: –with people– a lot of people– aren’t. I’m– I’m watching all these people jammed in together, and I’m seeing most of them without masks. And I’m wondering the message that you’re sending with these pictures coming across television–
President Donald Trump: Take a look. Yesterday we were in Arizona, record-setting rallies. Numbers of people like nobody’s seen before.
Lesley Stahl: You used to have bigger rallies.
President Donald Trump: No, these are much bigger than I ever had–
Lesley Stahl: Okay, I don’t wanna bicker over that.
President Donald Trump: You know, you’re– you’re–
Lesley Stahl: Tell me about the mask wearing.
President Donald Trump: –so negative. You’re so negative. These are the biggest rallies we’ve ever had. You just come in here with that negative attitude. These are the biggest rallies we’ve ever had.
Lesley Stahl: But I can’t believe, after what happened in the Rose Garden here, after the announcement, with all the people getting sick–
President Donald Trump: Yeah.
Lesley Stahl: –that you are not being more strongly encouraging about wearing masks–
President Donald Trump: I am.
Lesley Stahl: –at your rallies-
President Donald Trump: I tell people to wear masks–
Lesley Stahl: But you don’t.
President Donald Trump: Lesley, we hand out thousands of masks at every rally.
Lesley Stahl: But you look out and they’re not wearing them. You don’t get up there and say, “Look. You know, come on. I don’t want you to–“
President Donald Trump: What’s your– what’s your next–
Lesley Stahl: –“get sick.”
President Donald Trump: –question, Lesley? We’re outside. The rallies are bigger than they’ve ever been. There’s more enthusiasm than we’ve ever had. There has never been anything like what you’re witnessing now, and you’ll see that soon.
Lesley Stahl: Okay, I’ll ask you another health question, okay? Told you. Okay. You promised that there was gonna be a new health package, a health care plan.
President Donald Trump: Yeah.
Lesley Stahl: You said that it was, “Gonna be great,” you said “It’s ready,” “It’s gonna be ready–“
President Donald Trump: It will be.
Lesley Stahl: “It’ll be here in two weeks.” “It’s gonna be like nothing you’ve ever seen before.” And of course we haven’t seen it. So why didn’t you develop a health plan?
President Donald Trump: It is developed, it is fully developed. It’s going to be announced very soon–
Lesley Stahl: When?
President Donald Trump: When we see what happens with Obamacare.
Lesley Stahl: If the Supreme Court ends this– Obamacare–
President Donald Trump: Well, we’re gonna have to see what happens. I think– I hope that they end it. It’ll be so good if they end it–
Lesley Stahl: And if they end it people with preexisting conditions will be stranded. And that’s just a fact.
President Donald Trump: No, no. It’s wrong.
Lesley Stahl: No–
President Donald Trump: It’s wrong. A new plan will happen.
Lesley Stahl: But will–
President Donald Trump: And we won’t do anything– will and is. We won’t do anything and no plan unless we have preexisting conditions covered.
With little more than a week till the election, the president has been barnstorming the swing states where the polls are tight, including Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and in Michigan.
Lesley Stahl: Can you characterize your supporters?
President Donald Trump: Yeah, I think I can. People that love our country. More than anything else and they like to see our country thrive.
Lesley Stahl: But do you think that when you hold rallies and encourage people to say, “Lock her up,” the way you—
President Donald Trump: I don’t encourage them. They say it.
Lesley Stahl: And you enjoy it– You don’t say, “Don’t do that–”
President Donald Trump: Hillary Clinton, let– let me just tell you– Hillary Clinton deleted, she deleted 33,000 emails after she got a subpoena from the United States Congress.
Lesley Stahl: But why is this still an issue? Why do people, they’re not gonna vote on that–
President Donald Trump: I think it’s an issue. To me it’s an issue.
Lesley Stahl: She ran last time.
President Donald Trump: Excuse me. When they say “Lock her up,” it’s not me. They say it. It starts, it– it ends up being–
Lesley Stahl: You encourage it.
President Donald Trump: I don’t encourage it.
Lesley Stahl: Yes, you do.
President Donald Trump: No. If I mention her name about something, they go crazy.
Lesley Stahl: Well, what about the governor of Michigan?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping plot by an armed militia group.
President Donald Trump: It was our Justice Department that is the one that’s helping her. My Justice Department, if you call it that–
Lesley Stahl: Yes, yes the FBI.
President Donald Trump: It was our Justice Department that’s helping her. And, you know, people aren’t so– they’re not liking her so much, because she’s got everybody locked down.
President Donald Trump at rally: You’ve gotta get your governor to open up your state, okay…
Crowd: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
President Donald Trump at rally: Lock ’em all up.
Lesley Stahl: You are– very powerful, and the people who love you, love you with passion. And if you go after somebody the way you’ve been going after her, they take it to heart–
President Donald Trump: I haven’t gone after her.
Lesley Stahl: –and they, then there are plots and threats, and the same with Dr.–
President Donald Trump: I haven’t gone after her.
Lesley Stahl: You did.
President Donald Trump: I’ve helped her. It was our Justice Department–
Lesley Stahl: You did go after– You– you criticized her–
President Donald Trump: –that’s helping her. Oh, I do criticize her, yeah.
Lesley Stahl: Well, that’s goin’ after her–
President Donald Trump: I think the way she locked down Michigan is a disgrace.
Lesley Stahl: but when you–
President Donald Trump: The way she closed churches in Michigan is a disgrace. I– yeah, I think it’s disgraceful what she’s done. I do.
Lesley Stahl: You want to lock her up?
President Donald Trump: And, by the way, that’s other-. Of course, I don’t want to lock her up. Why would I lock her up?
Lesley Stahl: ‘Cause you were in front of a rally of people saying it, encouraging it.
President Donald Trump: Lesley, it’s such a vicious thing you just said. I never said, “Lock up the governor of Michigan.” I would never say that.
Lesley Stahl: Do you take any responsibility for the country being divided against itself? Do you feel that?
President Donald Trump: I’d like not to, but, you know, perhaps everybody has to take a little responsibility for it. But when people put out phony witch hunts, you know, when they spy on your campaign, you have to fight back. And if you don’t fight back, you’re not sitting here very long. You go back home.
President Donald Trump: You go back home to mommy.
As we moved from subject to subject, our conversation grew more tense. President Trump brought up what he calls the unfairness of the fake media. Most prominently: a lack of coverage of his unproven and unverified charges that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, have received millions of dollars in corrupt payments from a Russian oligarch and a Chinese billionaire.
President Donald Trump: I wish you would interview Joe Biden like you interview me. It would be so good. You know what?
Lesley Stahl: You like this, I thought-
President Donald Trump: The, the–
Lesley Stahl: I thought you liked spy– sparring–
President Donald Trump: I don’t mind it. I don’t mind it. But when I watch him walk out of a store, and he’s walking with an ice cream. And the question the media asks him, “What kind of ice cream? What flavor ice cream do you have?” And he’s in the midst of a scandal.
Lesley Stahl: He’s not.
President Donald Trump: And he’s taking
Lesley Stahl: He’s not, no–
President Donald Trump: Of course he is, Lesley.
Lesley Stahl: Come on.
President Donald Trump: Of course he is.
President Donald Trump: It’s the biggest — second-biggest scandal. The biggest scandal was when they spied on my campaign. They spied on my campaign, Lesley-
Lesley Stahl: Well, there’s no– real evidence of that.
President Donald Trump: Of course there is. It’s all over–
Lesley Stahl: No–
President Donald Trump: –the place. Lesley, they–
Lesley Stahl: Sir–
President Donald Trump: –spied on my campaign and they got caught–
Lesley Stahl: Can I– can I say something? You know, this is 60 Minutes. And we can’t put on things we can’t verify–
President Donald Trump: No, you won’t put it on because it’s bad for Biden. Look, let me tell you–
Lesley Stahl: We can’t put on things we can’t verify–
President Donald Trump: Lesley, they spied on–
Lesley Stahl: And–
President Donald Trump: –on my campaign.
Lesley Stahl: Well, we can’t verify that–
President Donald Trump: It’s been totally verified.
Lesley Stahl: No.
President Donald Trump: It’s been– just go down and get the papers. They spied on my campaign, they got caught.
Lesley Stahl: No.
President Donald Trump: And then they went much further than that and they got caught. And you will see that, Lesley. And you know that. But you just don’t wanna put it on the air–
Lesley Stahl: No– as a matter of fact, I don’t know that.
President Donald Trump: Okay.
Lesley Stahl: And you’re out there–
President Donald Trump: So why don’t you get back to your interview, and let’s go.
Lesley Stahl: Do you think that your tweets and your name-calling are turning people off?
President Donald Trump: No, I think I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have social media.
President Donald Trump: But the media is fake. And frankly, if I didn’t have social media, I’d have no way of getting out my voice.
Lesley Stahl: Do you know what you told me a long time ago when I asked why you keep saying “fake m– media”–
President Donald Trump: Yeah? Yeah?
Lesley Stahl: You said to me, “I say that because I need to dis– discredit you so that when you say negative things about me, no one will believe you.”
President Donald Trump: I don’t have to discredit you.
Lesley Stahl: But that’s what you told me–
President Donald Trump: You’ve discredited yourself.
Lesley Stahl: You know, I didn’t want to have this kind of angry–
President Donald Trump: Of course you did.
Lesley Stahl: No, I didn’t–
President Donald Trump: Of course you did–
Lesley Stahl: –no, I didn’t.
President Donald Trump: Well, then you brought up a lot of subjects that were inappropriately brought up–
Lesley Stahl: Well, I said, I’m gonna ask you tough questions. But–
President Donald Trump: They were inappropriately brought up. Right from the beginning. No, your first question was, “This is going to be tough questions.” You don’t ask Joe Biden, I saw your interview with Joe, the interview with Joe Biden.
Lesley Stahl: I never did a Joe Biden interview-
President Donald Trump: It was a joke. The interview, 60 Minutes. I see Joe Biden, giving softball after softball. I’ve seen all of his interviews. He’s never been asked a question that’s hard.
Lesley Stahl: Okay, but forget him for a minute. You’re President–
President Donald Trump: No, but you start with me.
Lesley Stahl: You’re President, and-
President Donald Trump: Excuse me, Lesley, you started with me. Your first statement was, “Are you ready for tough questions?”
Lesley Stahl: Are you?
President Donald Trump: That’s no way to talk. That’s no way to talk.
Producer: Lesley, one, one second.
At this point one of our producers interrupted to advise about the time remaining in the interview.
President Donald Trump: I think we have enough of an interview here, Hope. Okay? That’s enough. Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go meet for two seconds, okay? Thanks. I’ll see you in a little while. Thanks.
Lesley Stahl: Be careful.
We were scheduled to take a walk with the president around the White House grounds.
Lesley Stahl: I’ve got a lot of questions I didn’t ask.
While we waited to see if the president was coming back, his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, came in with a hand delivery.
Kayleigh McEnany: Lesley, the president wanted me to deliver his health care plan, it’s a little heavy.
Lesley Stahl: Oh my god. This is his health care plan?
Kayleigh McEnany: Yes.
Lesley Stahl: Okay. Kayleigh, thank you.
Kayleigh McEnany: You’re welcome and the Vice President will be with you shortly.
Lesley Stahl: Okay. And the president’s not coming back?
Kayleigh McEnany: The president’s given you a lot of time.
It was heavy. Filled with executive orders, congressional initiatives, but no comprehensive health plan.
Vice President Mike Pence: Hello, Lesley.
Lesley Stahl: Hi, Mr. Vice President.
While our interview with the president did not go forward, the one scheduled with the vice president did.
Lesley Stahl: So what just happened with the president?
Vice President Mike Pence: Lesley, President Trump is a man who speaks his mind. I think it’s one of the great strengths that he’s had–
Lesley Stahl: But he walked out–
Vice President Mike Pence: –as president of the United States, is that the American people always know where they stand.
Lesley Stahl: I’ll buy that—
Vice President Mike Pence: And he’s always ready. And the American people know that– in this time, it’s, it’s– it’s less about the back and forth with the media, and it’s– it’s really more about how we bring this country all the way back.
We then asked the vice president to put on his hat as the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Lesley Stahl: Dr. Fauci. You know the president said that he’s a disaster, and he and the– other public health officials around him are idiots. Do you care to comment on that?
Vice President Mike Pence: The scientists who’ve worked around the White House Coronavirus Task Force, who will meet again today here at the White House have provided a great public service. They’ve–
Lesley Stahl: So not idiots–
Vice President Mike Pence: –brought the perspective of scientists all along the way. And I have– I have a strong relationship with Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx but remember, the president of the United States has to consider the whole of America. The president’s been balancing the broad interests of the country—and the health of the American people, and we’ll continue to do that every day.
Lesley Stahl: So let’s say there’s a mother out there. Let’s say in a hot spot in Wisconsin. And she’s wondering whether she should send her children to school. Now, w– what’s your advice?
Vice President Mike Pence: Lesley, we gotta get our kids back in school. And I would say to that mother, or any mother, that we’re gonna continue to work our hearts out to make sure that those schools have the testing, have the PPE, have the supplies they need to get our kids back where they belong, safe and sound, in the classroom.
Lesley Stahl: So are you saying she should send the kids back? Should the kids wear masks?
Vice President Mike Pence: I think they should adhere to whatever criteria the school administrators and local health officials determine to be appropriate. But really, again, I wanna say, the American Academy of Pediatricians made it clear early on that distance learning, this online learning, is no substitute for being in the classroom.
Lesley Stahl: What about Thanksgiving? Should people feel safe to get together with their family? With their grandparents? With their aunts and uncles?
Vice President Mike Pence: Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.
Lesley Stahl: Me too.
Vice President Mike Pence: And– and I’m looking forward to it with our family.
Lesley Stahl: With a big– with extended?
Vice President Mike Pence: I think that’s a decision every American family can make based on the circumstances in their community, the vulnerability of particular family members. Now, one of the things we apprehended early on is that seniors, particularly those with serious underlying health conditions, are the most at-risk– for a serious outcome if they contract the coronavirus. And so w– families may make a decision that– that certain elderly family members might take a pass but I think the difference between President Trump and me and some of the public voices in this debate over the last year has been we trust the American people.
Produced by Richard Bonin and L. Franklin Devine. Associate producers, Mirella Brussani, Natalie Jimenez Peel and Jack Weingart. Broadcast associate, Wren Woodson. Edited by Peter M. Berman.