Trump On Wacky Debt Idea: I Never Said What NYT Reported I Said!

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

Donald Trump accused the New York Times and others Monday of misreporting his assertion — made on live national TV last week — that he would “make a deal” with U.S. creditors if he were elected and not fully pay back the national debt. In Trump’s new remarks Monday, he also asserted that the U.S. government would never default “because you print the money.”

Given the chance to respond to the firestorm created by his ill-informed comments on the national debt, Trump took aim at the New York Times, in particular.

“It was reported in the failing New York Times and other places that I want to default on debt,” Trump said on a CNN phone interview Monday, reiterating his claim that he is “the king of debt.”

“People had it, the Times and others, that, ‘Oh Trump wants to go and see creditors and buy debt at a discount,” Trump said.

Trump explained that, instead, his idea is “if we have an opportunity where interest rates go up and you can buy back debt on a discount,” that the United States should do that.

“People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, these people are crazy,” Trump said. “This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money.”

Scrutiny of Trump’s debt proposals began after he appeared on CNBC last week and said he loved “playing” with debt. He was asked whether he thought the United States should “pay a hundred cents on the dollar” or whether the U.S. debt could be renegotiated.

“Yeah, I think – look, I have borrowed, knowing that you can pay back with discounts. And I have done very well,” Trump said. “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal, and if the economy was good, it was good, so, therefore, you can’t lose.”

Trump was pressed on the idea on CNBC, and he acknowledged that government debt was different than the debt a business deals with. But he stood by the notion that U.S. debt could be bought back at a discount.

“I don’t want to renegotiate the bonds,” Trump said. “But I think you can do discounting, I think, you know, depending on where interest rates are, I think you can buy back – you can – I’m not talking about with a renegotiation, but you can buy back at discounts.”

Financial experts have said that even floating the idea that the United States would not fully honor its debt threatens global financial stability.

Here is a transcript of what Trump said on CNN Monday:

Trump: “I said if we can buy back government debt at a discount, in other words, if interest rates go up, and we can buy bonds back at a discount, if we are liquid enough as a country, we should do that. In other words, we can buy back debt at a discount. People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt, these people are crazy. This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money, I hate to tell you, OK? So there is never a default. But the point is, it was reported in the New York Times incorrectly.”

CNN’s Chris Cuomo: “That you you said would go to creditors and make them take less.”

Trump: “It was reported in the failing New York Times and other places that I want to default on debt. You know, I’m the king of debt. I understand debt better probably than anybody. I know how to deal with debt very well. I love debt, but you know, debt is tricky and it’s dangerous and you have to be careful and you have to know what you’re doing.

But let me just tell you, if there is a chance to buy back debt at a discount, in other words, interest rates up, and the bonds down, and you can buy debt, that’s what I’m talking about. People had it, the Times and others wrote, ‘Oh Trump wants to go and see creditors and buy debt at a discount.’

Now there could even be a time when somebody comes in, but with government, they’re never going to walk in and say, ‘Do me a favor, buy my debt at a discount.’ In businesses that happens all the time. I bought mortgages back when the market went bad, I bought mortgages back at tremendous discounts and I loved doing that. There’s nothing like it, actually. It gives me a great thrill.

But in the United States, with bonds that won’t happen because in theory the market doesn’t go down so that you default on debt and that’s what happened. So here’s the story, just to have it corrected. If we have an opportunity where interest rates go up and you can buy debt back at a discount, I always like to be able to do that, if you can do it. But that’s all I was talking about. They have it like I’m going to go back to creditors, and I am going to renegotiate and restructure debt, it’s ridiculous and they know it’s ridiculous.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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