In his first interview since the Republican National Convention, Donald Trump said he prevented Ted Cruz from being ripped off the stage by entering Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena as hundreds of angry delegates lashed out at the Texas senator.
“You know what, he’s lucky I did it,” Trump told Bloomberg Politics’ Co-Managing Editor Mark Halperin in an interview to air Sunday night on Showtime’s “The Circus.” The interview was conducted midday Friday on a flight from Cleveland to New York on one of Trump’s private planes.
“I walked in and the arena went crazy. Because there’s great unity in the Republican Party and people don’t know it,” Trump said. “Had I not walked in, I think that audience would have ripped him off the stage. I think I did him a big favor.”
When asked point blank if he entered the arena at the conclusion of Cruz’s speech on Wednesday to “tweak” his former primary rival, Trump responded: “Tweak him? I would never do a thing like that. But yes.”
He also second-guessed the decision to enter, saying, “In retrospect, I wish I would have waited another minute. Because he was being booed right off the stage.”
Cruz was heckled by audience members in the packed arena during his prime-time speech for not endorsing Trump. Trump said that he considered not letting Cruz speak at the convention after reviewing his speech, but decided against it.
Trump said his campaign had approved the speech. “When I first read it, I said you know what, first of all it’s not a very good speech. This is not very exciting. Second of all, let’s throw him out.”
Trump later changed his mind, concluding that it would be “a bigger deal if we throw him out than if he reads it and doesn’t endorse, what difference does it make?”
On Friday, a person familiar with Trump’s thinking told Bloomberg Politics that the billionaire plans to create and fund a super-PAC specifically aimed at ending the political career of Cruz, should he run for office again. The senator plans to run for re-election in 2018 and has hinted at a second White House run in 2020.
“His life in politics might be over because people are so angry with him,” Trump said of Cruz. “By not endorsing, in my opinion, I think he hurt himself.”
Trump said he watched on television from New York as his oldest son Donald Jr., 38, cast the vote on Tuesday that officially granted him the Republican nomination, capping an unconventional campaign for the real-estate developer and former reality television show star. His wife Melania and youngest son Barron, 10, were by his side.
“Well, when I watch the roll call, and I see that I was winning by so much. If you remember the 1,237 delegates, they said I would never get there, and I always felt ‘what are they talking about?'” Trump said. “I will say, when I watch that roll call, it was very special.”
After breaking so many political rules on the way to the nomination, Trump was pleased to follow tradition in the end. “A lot of people said, will you change the convention, will you do this? I said you know what, it’s wonderful to change things, but there’s something traditional. You know, tradition means a lot to me.”
“I have to say, the world of politics is a whole different place. It’s beautiful. It’s glamorous. It’s mean. It’s vicious. I think it’s got every possible word you can think of… and it’s very simple, it’s very complex. It’s amazing,” said Trump.
Days of media coverage of Melania Trump’s speech focused on several lines lifted from Michelle Obama’s 2008 Democratic convention speech, but her husband said she “came out feeling fine.”
“It wasn’t Melania’s fault,” he said. “It was really nobody’s fault. It was just something that could happen. I could understand it. And that’s why I would not accept her resignation,” he said, referring to speechwriter Meredith McIver, who publicly apologized on Wednesday for mistakenly using Obama’s words.
Trump’s own speech, delivered on Thursday night, was “fully checked by computer” as a precaution after the Melania flap.
“I wrote it with Stephen [Miller] and myself,” Trump said. “But we wrote that speech with no references. We didn’t say, you know, let’s do this or that.”
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