Read the full transcript of our discussion on Trump’s foreign policy.
Mike Pence (archive): The president-elect of the United States of America…
Mehdi VO: It was perhaps the most stunning upset in US political history. Donald J Trump, a property tycoon, reality TV star and demagogue, with zero political experience, roused an angry, nationalistic section of the US electorate to become the most powerful man on earth.
Donald Trump (archive): Together, we will make America great again.
Mehdi VO: But since his election victory, Trump has gone from threatening nuclear war with North Korea …
Donald Trump (archive): They will be met with fire and fury.
Mehdi VO: … to palling around with Kim Jong Un, and has escalated conflict across the Middle East, from Syria to Yemen, to Palestine.
Mehdi VO: Meanwhile, a special counsel continues to investigate whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the presidency.
Mehdi VO: My guest tonight, a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, has called the Russia investigation a witch-hunt and a hoax, but the retired US Navy commander, and former Pentagon spokesman, is himself a former Trump campaign official, who has become entangled in the Mueller investigation.
Mehdi VO: So, is Trump really succeeding in making America, and the world, “great again”?
Mehdi Hasan: I’m Mehdi Hasan and I’ve come here to the Oxford Union to go head-to-head with JD Gordon, the Trump campaign’s director of national security. I’ll challenge him on the president’s alleged collusion with Russia, and ask whether Donald Trump is really fit to be the so-called “leader of the free world”.
Mehdi VO: Tonight, I’ll also be joined by Marc Porter, president of Republicans Overseas in France, and an adviser to the Trump-Pence 2020 re-election campaign, Ellie Geranmayeh, senior policy fellow for the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist and the author of The Making of Donald Trump; and It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America.
Mehdi Hasan: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome JD Gordon.
Mehdi VO: JD Gordon currently runs a strategic communications firm based in Washington, DC, and has served as a national security and foreign policy advisor to three Republican presidential candidates
Mehdi Hasan: JD Gordon, do you believe Donald Trump is president of the United States today because of collusion between his election campaign, the campaign you were part of, and the Russian government?
JD Gordon: No, not at all, as far as collusion with Russia. The collusion with Russia narrative is a hoax. It’s the witch-hunt of the century. It’s basically been a shakedown and it’s ruined a lot of lives, frankly, and it’s basically an excuse from the Democrats for losing the election, when Hillary Clinton was heavily favoured to win.
Mehdi Hasan: Just to be clear, then, when you say it’s a hoax, are you saying that allegations of the Trump campaign that you were part of, working with Russians and Russian government officials or cut-outs is a hoax, or are you saying that the idea that the Russians interfered in the American election campaign in order to try and get their preferred candidate Donald J Trump elected, that’s a hoax? The second view is the view of the US intelligence community, it’s the view of US Senate Intelligence Committee, so I’m just wondering where you stand?
JD Gordon: I do believe that the Russian government interfered in the US election, so that is not a hoax to investigate that. However, the Russians didn’t impact the election, that I know of, as far as swinging the vote. I just think Hillary Clinton was not a very good candidate and she didn’t go to places in the Midwest were she should have went. It’s not a national election, it’s a 50-state election, and President Trump won handily in the Electoral College.
Mehdi Hasan: What I don’t get is, this is an investigation that’s produced, in just over a year, more than 30 indictments, five guilty pleas, including the president’s former national security advisor, his deputy campaign chairman, his camp foreign policy adviser. It doesn’t sound like a hoax or a witch-hunt. It sounds like you were working with a bunch of confessed criminals to get Donald Trump elected.
JD Gordon: Well, what I had said was that the collusion narrative is a hoax. I say it’s like that because it’s rounded up a bunch of people who were innocent of at least collusion of the charges. So, you have people going to jail, one’s in jail now as we speak. His photo in a mugshot was just released, Paul Manafort, right.
Mehdi Hasan: Paul Manafort the former campaign chairman who has extensive ties to Russia, as we know.
JD Gordon: Correct. However, he was not put in jail because of collusion with Russia. There was no collusion whatsoever; once you get put under investigation, everything’s on the table, and several people are going to prison, for a couple, lying to the FBI, General Michael Flynn, who you’ve interviewed.
Mehdi Hasan: Which is a felony, felony crime.
JD Gordon: Yes.
Mehdi Hasan: No one forced him to lie to the FBI.
JD Gordon: He made a mistake, he didn’t have a lawyer with him, he got strong-armed by the FBI, George Papadopoulos …
Mehdi Hasan: He got strong-armed? A former three-star general who ran a US intelligence agency and lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russians, secret conversations, he got strong-armed?
JD Gordon: I think he made some mistakes.
Mehdi Hasan: Poor little general. You say there was no collusion, you say it’s a hoax and a witch-hunt. The problem is that there seems to be so much evidence that suggests otherwise. For example, let’s talk about the Trump Tower meeting, June 9th, 2016. Donald Trump Jr, son of the president, gets an email telling him that Russians have information that would, quote, “incriminate Hillary Clinton” as part of, quote, “Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump”. He doesn’t say, “Uh-oh, I’d better call the FBI and report this.” He says, quote, “I love it.” Then, he and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort invite those Russians to Trump Tower, one of whom later admits to her ties to the Kremlin, and if that wasn’t bad enough, at that meeting, Don Trump Jr asked them for dirt on Hillary Clinton and her foundation. If that’s not collusion, if that’s not working with Russians, what is?
JD Gordon: Well, that’s not collusion. Basically, Don Trump Jr took a meeting he should not have taken. He was a political novice, just like George Papadopoulos and Carter Page, two guys who were on the national security advisory committee of which I was a director. So, you had people doing things they should not have been doing, taking meetings they shouldn’t have taken, travelling to places they shouldn’t have travelled to, but that’s not collusion, it’s poor judgement, but is not collusion.
Mehdi Hasan: When you say it’s poor judgement, but that goes to the heart of it. People on your campaign said, they were asked, “Nope, no contacts whatsoever, never happened, never happened, none, zero,” and then suddenly, one after another, after another, I think by one count more than 24-something meetings there have been between Trump officials and Russians? More than 80-odd contacts, texts, emails, DMs. If there’s nothing to hide, why are these senior people – a senator, a general – why are they lying time and again? Why are they getting caught lying if there’s nothing to hide? I just don’t get it.
JD Gordon: Well, speaking for Attorney General Sessions, who was my boss on the campaign and a senator, when he was testifying for the Senate for the Attorney General position, he basically had said that he wasn’t aware of Russian contacts. He had a very long hearing, I think he was rope-a-doped a little bit, so he was just so tired, wasn’t remembering shaking the Russian ambassador’s hand in a crowd.
Mehdi Hasan: No, he met him on more than one occasion with more than a handshake.
JD Gordon: A couple of time, he’s –
Mehdi Hasan: So, your defence basically, so far, is, “We’re novices, we’re tired, we’re incompetent.” That’s the defence. It’s cock-up, not conspiracy.
JD Gordon: Not me.
Mehdi Hasan: Well, you were part of that campaign.
JD Gordon: I was, well, some people -.
Mehdi Hasan: Even you, you told Business Insider that you did nothing at that Republican National Convention, about anything to do with changing the party’s platform on military aid to Ukraine. There was a huge criticism that Donald Trump had softened the Republican Party’s position on Ukraine and Russia, thrown 70 years of GOP foreign policy out of the window. You said, “I was sitting at a desk. I never moved,” and then months later you admitted, actually you were involved in phone calls, in negotiations, in changing that party platform. Even you weren’t 100 percent forthcoming.
JD Gordon: According to the media, but Business Insider, they lie like the best of them. That’s not what I told Business Insider. What I told Business Insider was that I disagreed with the characterisation from a delegate from Texas, an 82-year-old woman named Diana Denman who was adamant about going to the GOP platform and introducing an amendment to arm Ukraine. Of which I advised the delegates that that was a bad idea and inconsistent with President Trump’s world view, Mr Trump’s world view at the time, and inconsistent with the policy at the time under President Obama. However, that got spun in the Business Insider and other media to saying I denied being involved. That’s not what I said. I just said I just disagreed with Diana Denman’s recollection of events.
Mehdi Hasan: You know who did deny you were involved? Paul Manafort, your boss, the campaign chairman. He said nobody from the campaign was involved in changing the party’s position on Russia and Ukraine. Turns out, someone was involved: JD Gordon.
JD Gordon: That was very unfortunate, it was, it was.
Mehdi Hasan: Oh, it’s a bad memory, let’s just make the list, bad memory, incompetence, novice, unfortunate.
JD Gordon: Yeah, there you go.
Mehdi Hasan: Nothing -.
JD Gordon: You just summed it up.
Mehdi Hasan: Wow. Okay, so that’s the argument for all of these contacts that were hidden, all of these conversations that happened that were never reported, all of these ties. I mean, the Trump Tower meeting is a fascinating one, because even Steve Bannon who, last I checked, wasn’t part of the liberal media, wasn’t a Democrat, served loyally under Donald Trump for a long period, even he said it was unpatriotic and treasonous to take that meeting in Trump Tower. Did Donald Trump Jr and Paul Manafort, did they take that group of Russian lobbyists, one of them has ties to the Kremlin, to see the president? You were working for the campaign then.
JD Gordon: Not that I know of, but the interesting story about that is, that was in June of 2016, I was the director of national security, but I was based in Washington.
Mehdi Hasan: Isn’t there a problem then with your narrative? On the one hand, you say you were in the campaign, it was incompetent. You know, “I knew these people, etc, etc” On the other hand, when I’m asking you about a quite damning meeting, you’re, like, “Well, I wasn’t in town and I didn’t know about it.” You can’t have it both ways.
JD Gordon: Well, I wasn’t based at Trump Tower.
Mehdi Hasan: You can’t have it both ways, so you don’t know about the levels of collusion?
JD Gordon: Well, I -.
Mehdi Hasan: You don’t know about other meetings that may have gone on.
JD Gordon: Yes -.
Mehdi Hasan: Maybe you should support Bob Mueller in getting to the bottom of it.
JD Gordon: However, I do know that there has been an investigation, multiple investigations going on, starting some in the summer of 2016, two years, including by the FBI. There has been no evidence that shows collusion. Bad judgement, yes, plenty of evidence for that.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay. Let’s go to our panel here at the Oxford Union. David Cay Johnston is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author of the Trump biography, The Making of Donald Trump, and the book, It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America. David, the reality is that the pro-Trump Porter side is right in saying that there is nothing so far tying Donald Trump himself to any kind of collusion, is there? You would have to concede that point.
David Cay Johnston: Well, Donald has spent 30 years deeply involved with Russians and Russian criminals. But one thing the two of you didn’t discuss is that Jared Kushner, a White House paid employee and Donald Trump’s son-in-law, went to the Russians and asked to use their secret diplomatic communications in the Washington embassy to have a secret channel to the Kremlin. If that doesn’t tell you there was collusion going on, I don’t know what does. Imagine if any other president, that had happened.
Mehdi Hasan: Let me put that point to, Marc Porter is here from Paris, president of Republicans Overseas over there, he’s also been an adviser to the Trump-Pence 2020 re-election campaign. Marc, I’ve got a question for you, but before I ask it, you’re exasperated, you’re holding up your hands at David. Respond to what you heard from David Cay Johnston.
Marc Porter: Well, first of all, you make it sound like this is the first time this has ever happened. You guys are sounding like you’re amateurs up here, because we know how this works inside of campaigns. Every campaign does this. Hillary -.
David Cay Johnston: Russian secret diplomatic communications?
Marc Porter: Let me speak, you had your turn.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, let -.
Marc Porter: Now, first of all, this kind of thing is not unusual, and collusion is not illegal. Let me explain what collusion is, the reason they’re using collusion is because they can’t find anything else. There is no corruption, there is no collaboration which is illegal -.
Mehdi Hasan: Apart from more than 30 indictments and five guilty pleas?
Marc Porter: Wait, wait, slow down, let me finish, because this idea of collusion being something that’s really horrible, we collude all the time in terms of communicating. I speak with Russians all the time, everybody does, including the Hillary campaign. Now, if you guys would spend as much time looking at the other side of the campaign as you do with us, you will see that you’re making a big thing out of it, and if we’re wasting our time thinking on these things -.
Mehdi Hasan: Just to check, isn’t it odd, don’t you find it odd, you know Donald Trump, don’t you find it odd that this is a man who has an insulting, demeaning nickname for everyone, how come he never says anything critical about Vladimir Putin? Everyone in the world he criticises -.
Marc Porter: He has, what are you talking about?
Mehdi Hasan: Yet Putin, he heaps praise on.
Marc Porter: What are you talking about?
Mehdi Hasan: Can you tell me what he’s said critical about Vladimir Putin?
Marc Porter: You can ask him directly.
Mehdi Hasan: Hold on, hold on. Let me ask my question. He has called Putin a strong leader, a better leader than Obama, he would give him an A+ grade, could he be my best friend, I’ve got a long list. Where are the critical remarks about Vladimir Putin?
Marc Porter: Why is that funny when you only hear half of the side of the story?
Mehdi Hasan: Well, I’m asking.
Marc Porter: He is also criticising Putin.
Mehdi Hasan: What has he said about Putin, critically?
Marc Porter: Are you kidding me? Are you really serious? Now, if you’ve only done half of your homework I’m not going to do the rest of it for you.
Mehdi Hasan: Let’s bring Ellie, who’s been waiting very patiently. Ellie Geranmayeh is a senior policy fellow for the Middle East and North Africa programme at the European Council on Foreign Relations. How much has Donald Trump’s seemingly pro-Russian policies undermined the Atlantic alliance, the NATO, the European Union, or are we blowing this Russia stuff up out of all proportion?
Ellie Geranmayeh: Well, Mehdi, what is a real shock at least in Europe, who are European allies of the United States, is the degree of demeaning nature and tone that’s being used towards leader after leader in the alliance structure, the way that NATO is being attacked by words or pressures which all creates this image, even if it may not be true, but certainly a strong impression that President Trump does favour a much more transactional relationship with someone like Mr Putin than keeping an alliance structure in place. And we’ve seen recently, with the meetings of the G7, with the meetings of NATO leaders, with the types of comments -.
Marc Porter: North Korea.
Ellie Geranmayeh: Well, North Korea, the last time I checked, isn’t an ally of the United States whereas the European -.
Marc Porter: It should be, and that’s what we’re working on.
Mehdi Hasan: Well, we’ll come back to North Korea.
Ellie Geranmayeh: This is where the real worry is, is that, will Mr Putin have more of a sway on US foreign policy decision-making and trade policy, etc., than European allies will? And this is a huge issue.
Mehdi Hasan: JD Gordon, why do you think Putin wanted Trump elected?
JD Gordon: Well, I think that Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was trying to destabilise Russia in 2014. I think that he saw her as an enemy, and I think that he felt he wanted to attack the United States, and this is the way they did it. It’s not just the United States, Russia attacks our European allies, too.
Mehdi Hasan: But he wanted a candidate who was more in line with his views.
JD Gordon: I mean, that’s cheaper than fighting a war.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, well, I’m glad you can concede that, and we’ve got to move on, but I do want to ask you this, just on a personal point, you’ve been interviewed not just by congressional committees but by the Robert Mueller special counsel team, as well. Are you worried, do you worry that he may end up sending you to prison, too?
JD Gordon: No, not at all, but don’t think they haven’t tried. Anybody who’s been before a congressional committee or the special counsel, and there have been about 50 Trump associates who have been before these. That’s why I say it’s a hoax and a witch-hunt, because it takes things like shaking the Russian ambassador’s hand in a crowd after I give a speech, and then the media turn that into some nefarious activity, and you get asked about it of course.
Mehdi Hasan: Let’s talk about North Korea, let’s talk foreign policy. JD Gordon, you’ve said that North Korea has been, quote, “A top threat to America and our allies.” You’ve said, “The threat from North Korea is very real.” So, do you now agree or disagree with the president of the United States, your former boss, who says, quote, “There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”
JD Gordon: I think he was trying to talk in the strategic, macro, sense, like he’s had this great talk with Kim Jong Un right now, so there is no longer a nuclear threat, not the technical sense, because in the technical sense there is.
Mehdi Hasan: That’s flatly untrue, there is a nuclear threat from North Korea.
JD Gordon: In the strategic sense he says, “Oh, we’re getting along now.” He tends to talk in very broad sweeping terms.
Mehdi Hasan: I admire your ability to try and defend him with strategic and technical. It’s not true to say North Korea’s not a nuclear threat, that’s just a demonstrably false statement.
JD Gordon: In a technical sense, but in the broad strategic sense he was trying to make -.
Mehdi Hasan: In fact, according to US intelligence, North Korea has actually, quote, “Increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites, and is considering ways to conceal its weapons.” One US intelligence official said, “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they’re trying to deceive the US.”
JD Gordon: President Trump is trying to do something different that we haven’t had other presidents have the ability to do, and that is to rein in the nuclear programme of North Korea, the missile programme, at all. So, so far, since President Trump has made this outreach and has basically met with Kim Jong Un, we haven’t seen any nuclear tests, we haven’t seen any missile tests. Just six months ago, we were at the brink of a war.
Mehdi Hasan: But then you have Iran, where Donald Trump pulls the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, against the advice of his defence secretary, against the advice of his secretary of state, against the advice of his national security adviser, against the advice of his European allies, against the advice of America’s leading non-proliferation experts. How are you okay with a one-page document of empty promises from North Korea, which is hailed as the end of the nuclear threat, while tearing up a 159-page document of verified inspections negotiated over two years with Iran, and backed up by the IAEA. How do you square the two?
JD Gordon: Because North Korea, basically, just wants to survive. The Kim dynasty, he’s the third one now, his grandfather was the founder of the regime, his father carried it on, he’s the third one. He just wants to pass it on to his children someday, he wants to survive. Iran wants to conquer the rest of the Middle East, they want to be the regional powerhouse. In 1979, the whole revolution was about exporting revolutionary Islam. It’s the Shia version of Islam, and their sworn enemies are people like our allies, like UAE, like the Saudis, and so Iran has a very different view, it’s a view of conquest.
Mehdi Hasan: Hold on, North Korea’s enemies are also your allies, Japan, South Korea. Here’s my question to you. We can all agree that meeting with dictators and despots is a good thing if you’re going to avoid war. I think people should reach out, I’m not against negotiations, a lot of people aren’t against negotiations. What they don’t get is, okay, Trump wants to meet with these people, but why does he have to slobber over them when he does it? Why does he have to – why’s he such a fan of tyrants and despots? Why does he heap such praise on them, in a way that US presidents, who have all met with dictators, have never done so publicly, this, kind of, embarrassing hugging and fawning?
JD Gordon: Well, Barack Obama bowed down to the king of Saudi Arabia.
Mehdi Hasan: So, did Donald Trump, just for the record, and he sword-danced with them, as well.
Marc Porter: He didn’t bow.
JD Gordon: He did a sword-dance.
Mehdi Hasan: In fact, he went to Saudi Arabia before any other country, so I think that’s a bit of a weak criticism of Obama. Let’s ask the question.
JD Gordon: Yes.
Mehdi Hasan: He says, “Kim Jong Un is a talented man who loves his country very much.” Do you believe the oppressed, persecuted, starved people of totalitarian North Korea, quote, “Love Kim Jong Un with a great fervour,” because that’s what Donald Trump says? Is he talented man who loves his people very much?
JD Gordon: I think he loves his people very much, as far as -.
Mehdi Hasan: Do you think his people love him?
JD Gordon: Well, they’re taught to because it’s a cult in North Korea. However -.
Mehdi Hasan: Wow, you’re not willing to criticise the president at all, even when he says stuff you clearly disagree with.
JD Gordon: Well, I’m trying to put it in the right perspective. I think that President Trump -.
Mehdi Hasan: The right perspective is what? They love him in a cult-like way?
JD Gordon: It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality.
Mehdi Hasan: That sounds familiar, talking of people who love in a cult-like way.
JD Gordon: Unless you’re going to take him out by force, what are you going to do?
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, well let’s go to our panel here. Marc Porter, do you now agree that the Republican Party’s position is that the chairman of North Korea isn’t “brutal and heartless” as George Bush once called him, but he’s smart, he’s talented, he’s got a great personality? That’s Donald Trump’s view of him.
Marc Porter: Mehdi, that’s not his view, that’s a negotiating position, and you know it.
Mehdi Hasan: If Barack Obama had gone to North Korea, hugged Kim Jong Un, put out a coin and said he was a talented man who was loved by his people, Republicans would be impeaching him by now. You know that.
Marc Porter: The reason is, and the reason that we have opposition parties and live in a democracy, is that we do keep people in alignment. Now, I want to go back and answer your question that you asked me before: Trump is not insulting Putin because there’s no reason to do so now. In negotiations, you insult people, you put them in their place, you position them so you have the best advantage in negotiating. Putin has not insulted Trump, so therefore, there’s no need to do that now.
Mehdi Hasan: OK. Ellie Geranmayeh, we’re hearing a lot from JD Gordon about the difference between North Korea and Iran. Apparently, North Korea just wants to survive, Iran wants to conquer, therefore you do a deal with North Korea and you tear up the deal with Iran. Is that how you see it?
Ellie Geranmayeh: Well, first I’d say, Mehdi, that the last time I checked, because Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon, they haven’t been able to threaten the United States with a nuclear weapon, in the same way as North Korea was. So, if we’re taking Mr Trump’s America First strategy, you’d see a clear line of why the North Korean threat needs to be dealt with much more significantly so. I think the real problem at the moment is that President Trump violated and exited a nuclear agreement that was enshrined by UN law, UN Security Council resolution, without an alternative and really the only answer that the Republican establishment has given, is bomb Iran, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.
Marc Porter: That’s not our response. That’s a lie. That’s absolutely not true.
Ellie Geranmayeh: This is a response, and there is a disingenuous offer to negotiate a grand bargain with Iran, whereas the opening unconditional offer seems to be a total capitulation of the regime, and this is not how you negotiate, certainly not with a Middle Eastern partner. Frankly, most of the US administration officials that worked on it didn’t even read the deal until six months into -.
Marc Porter: How do you know?
Ellie Geranmayeh: Because I’ve checked, because I’ve checked, a number. So, this is, I think the real point is that, what does President Trump want to do from here on?
Mehdi Hasan: I need to bring in David. You’ve written about Donald Trump for decades, you’ve known Donald Trump for decades from New York days. Let me ask you this on a personal level, why do you think it is that Trump likes these strongmen and dictators, and fawns over them? Is it a negotiating strategy, or is it something he envies about them, he wants to be like them? What is your assessment?
David Cay Johnston: Well, Donald is a man who has thumbed his nose at the law his entire life. He is the third-generation head of a white-collar crime family. His grandfather was a pimp, his father was a thief who stole from the federal government. Donald has cheated workers, he’s cheated vendors, he’s cheated governments, he’s gone to extreme lengths to cheat, and it is Donald’s nature to see in other people who are strong bosses, who thumb their nose at convention, that those are the people he wants to be like. and this is a man who, when he was asked in the debates about nuclear, “What would your strategy be regarding the nuclear triad?” “Oh, it’s awesome, it’s awesome.” “But what’s your strategy about the triad?” “Oh, it’s awesome, it’s just -,” he doesn’t know anything.
Mehdi Hasan: He says he knows a lot about nuclear because his uncle was a nuclear professor.
David Cay Johnston: Yes, he doesn’t know jack about it, and so what he’s done is he’s elevated Kim to his own people. He has given him propaganda devices. He has helped him to solidify his control.
Mehdi Hasan: JD Gordon, let me ask you this before we go to the break. How worried should we be about the prospect of nuclear war on a Donald Trump presidency? Senator Bob Corker, Republican chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that Trump could be leading us towards World War III. How worried should we be that this, kind of, impulsive, erratic president with a lack of foreign policy experience, and who likes the idea of nuclear weapons -.
JD Gordon: Not worried. Not worried, in my view, but I think, Mehdi, it’s important to understand that a lot of people miss the forest for the trees on President Trump. President Trump and the “Make America Great Again” slogan is really a movement. If it wasn’t him, it would be somebody else because there’s a lot of anger and resentment in the American population. It’s a very divided country. Russia helped stoked that division, by the way, but if it wasn’t Mr Trump, it would be somebody else.
Mehdi Hasan: In part two, when we come back, we’re going to talk about Donald Trump – the man, who he is, how we should judge him, how worried should we be and some of the controversy surrounding what he’s said and done. We’ll also hear from our patient audience here in the Oxford Union, so join us for Head to Head after the break.
Mehdi Hasan: Welcome back to Head to Head here at the Oxford Union. My guest today is JD Gordon, former national security adviser to the Donald Trump election campaign, former Pentagon spokesman. We’ve been talking about Russian collusion, North Korean nuclear weapons. Let’s talk about Donald Trump himself. You were an adviser to Trump during his bid for the presidency. You met with him, you spoke with him. Can I ask you, on behalf of millions, perhaps billions of people around the world, what was it like working for this former reality TV star, who, if you wanted to be polite, you would say he’s unorthodox, unconventional. Perhaps, if you weren’t being so polite, you might say he’s a deluded narcissistic man-child?
JD Gordon: Well, I’d say he’s a brilliant man. He became the president of the United States, he had a very successful career in real estate, casinos. I grew up at the Jersey Shore and when I was a pre-teen, he was already famous, you know he’s a guy that’s been around in the public eye a very long time, and he basically is an anti-establishment character, like I was mentioning -.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m just trying to get to the bottom, and I know you’re not going to tell me, of your perspective of this guy, you come from this military, Pentagon, background, and you come to work for a guy -, I mean, does he know anything about the world, because he doesn’t seem to when he speaks about the world?
JD Gordon: He does.
Mehdi Hasan: He thinks Ireland is in the UK, he thinks Israel isn’t in the Middle East. He thinks Germany owes the US money for NATO, he doesn’t understand how NATO works. He thinks Nambia is a country in Africa. He can’t tell the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds.
JD Gordin: As Governor Huckabee told me -.
Mehdi Hasan: Does he know anything about the world?
JD Gordon: He does.
Mehdi Hasan: He does?
JD Gordon: Governor Huckabee said, and he’s right, “This is the best chance we have for a fresh vision for the United States.” The United States is $20 trillion in debt, we can’t be the world’s policemen forever and that’s typically a Democrat position.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, Trump’s solution has been to increase the debt by record margins, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day. Isn’t another problem of working on foreign policy with a man like Donald Trump, is that he doesn’t like foreigners? He’s, kind of, racist. He’s a racist.
Marc Porter: He married one.
JD Gordon: No, I would disagree with that, he does like foreigners. Melania is from Slovenia. So, you said he likes President Putin.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, I realise you’re right. You’re right, he likes white foreigners, yes. I agreed with that.
Marc Porter: Oh boo, that’s not -,
Mehdi Hasan: Well, let me ask you this, because Marc’s getting upset and we’ll come to Marc in a moment. When he compares Syrian refugees to snakes, says everyone from Haiti has AIDS, calls African countries “s-hole countries”, accuses Mexico of sending over rapists and drug dealers, calls immigrants “invaders who are infesting the United States.” Blames terrorist attacks on the Muslim mayor of London, re-tweets white nationalists, praises neo-Nazis as “very fine people”, singles out black athletes for abuse, attacks a Hispanic judge as Mexican, none of that’s racist?
JD Gordon: Well, I would tell you that he did the sword-dance, as you said, with the Saudi leadership, Saudi king, right?
Mehdi Hasan: That’s your response to what I just read out? That he danced with the Saudis?
JD Gordon: Let me get to that point. He also said nice things about Kim Jong Un just now, so how could he be racist against foreigners who are not white? So, you basically just made an argument -.
Mehdi Hasan: I’ve just explained how he can be racist. How do you defend -, okay, let me ask you this, do you share the views that I just read out?
JD Gordon: No, I don’t.
Mehdi Hasan: Why do you think he said those things?
JD Gordon: I think President Trump says whatever he wants to say at any given time.
Mehdi Hasan: That doesn’t not make him a racist, sorry to break that to you.
JD Gordon: No, I don’t think he’s a racist whatsoever, I think -.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, do you think the comments he made are legitimately perceived as racist?
JD Gordon: I think he makes comments that he probably shouldn’t make, I wouldn’t make them certainly.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, so let me ask you this. Why shouldn’t he make them? Because they’re racist? Why?
JD Gordon: I would just say that President Trump is his own man and people are missing the forest for trees if they think it’s just him.
Mehdi Hasan: You can be your own man and say things you shouldn’t say and still be a racist. I’m not hearing a defence here of anything.
JD Gordon: The issue is we were called racists, so many people that are conservatives who are not racist were called that by Hillary Clinton -.
Mehdi Hasan: I get that, but I’m not calling lots of conservatives racist. In fact, other conservatives have called him racist: Paul Ryan, House speaker, said his comments about Judge Richard Curiel, a Latino judge were “the textbook definition of racism”. That’s the leading conservative, accused Donald Trump of racism.
JD Gordon: Yes, he’s had a lot of enemies in Congress, but you have to remember -.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, everything’s a conspiracy.
JD Gordon: For the polls in the United States, that Congress has approval ratings around 12 percent, 13 percent, so…
Mehdi Hasan: Are you really going to do polls? JD Gordon, the majority -.
JD Gordon: Yes, sure.
Mehdi Hasan: According to the polls, the majority of Americans think Donald Trump is racist.
JD Gordon: Well, I would tell you that -.
Mehdi Hasan: We’re going to play the poll game, the majority of Americans -.
Marc Porter: Which poll?
Mehdi Hasan: Which poll, okay.
JD Gordon: I would tell you that he attacks Congress all the time, Democrats, Republicans, because they attack him all the time.
Mehdi Hasan: Fine, okay. It’s not just his racism though, he also does -.
Marc Porter: He’s not a racist, you can’t say that.
Mehdi Hasan: Marc, we will come to you and you’ll make the defence, I’m sure, very well. Or, you might ask me a question back. It’s not just his racism, though, he’s also a serial congenital liar. The Washington Post has kept a count of 3,000 false or misleading claims he has made since coming to office. The Toronto Star’s count is at 2,000 false things he’s said. That’s around three-and-a-half lies a day, a day! How are we supposed to believe anything he says about anything? How did you believe anything he told you about anything?
JD Gordon: Well, the issue is he was elected because the American people don’t care. Do you think he just started saying whatever he wanted when he got elected? No.
Mehdi Hasan: That is the best defence of Donald Trump’s lies, I’ve ever said, “People don’t care.”
Marc Porter: JD, that’s a bad -.
Mehdi Hasan: So, he is a liar, but people don’t care. That’s a good defence, I’ll give you that.
JD Gordon: No, he was elected. Do you think he just started to say whatever he wanted when he got elected?
Mehdi Hasan: No, he was lying before he was elected.
JD Gordon: He’s been in the public life for decades as a reality TV star.
Mehdi Hasan: He’s been lying for decades.
JD Gordon: Well, my point is, the American people don’t care. This issue is -.
Mehdi Hasan: That wasn’t my point, I didn’t ask whether the American people cared or not, I asked how can you take anything he says seriously given he’s a liar and you’ve conceded he’s a liar?
JD Gordon: How can you take him seriously? He’s the president of the United States.
Mehdi Hasan: No, that’s not what I mean. I said if he asks you something, if he tells you to do something about a foreign policy, if he makes a promise that, “We will do X,” how can you believe him? When he tells three-and-a-half lies at minimum a day?
JD Gordon: Well, first of all, I would disagree with that statistic because statistics are often wrong and on fake news.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, pick your own statistic but he tells lots of lies, as you’ve conceded, how can you trust him?
JD Gordon: Working with Mr Trump is basically rolling with the punches, so you have to be able to say, “Okay, how can I best [indistinct] that?”
Mehdi Hasan: That’s a great euphemism, “Rolling with the punches.” You mean, rolling with the lies? Okay.
JD Gordon: We’ve got to roll with the punches, but no, he’s done a lot of great things for the United States. We’re $20 trillion in debt, we’re trying to sort it out.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, fine. This is a great distraction, the fact that you’re $20 trillion in debt has nothing to do with the fact that he’s a liar. Marc, you’re getting very agitated, you’re jumping in here. Marc, tell me why Donald Trump is not a liar and a racist.
Marc Porter: Well, look, you’ve taken all those comments out of context. You have cherry-picked,
Mehdi Hasan: All of them?
Marc Porter: All of them. You did it on purpose to make this, sort of, little argument here and that’s -,
Mehdi Hasan: Am I the first person to accuse Donald Trump of racism? Just me, there’s not, as I said, the majority of Americans think so according to the polls? Republicans think so.
Marc Porter: The majority of Americans do not think that, that is absolutely not true.
Mehdi Hasan: Hold on, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio. Last time I checked, all Republicans, they all called him a liar, a fraud, a conman.
Marc Porter: Do you understand that was during the primaries, when they fighting against each other?
Mehdi Hasan: Agreed, but they didn’t call each other liars, they only called him a liar.
Marc Porter: Have you ever worked in a campaign before? I can tell you have not. Let me tell you what happened inside the campaign.
Mehdi Hasan: Can you tell me who else they called a liar, Marc? They didn’t call each other liars, they called him -.
Marc Porter: They certainly did call each other liars.
JD Gordon: No, (talking over each other) called Huckabee liar.
Mehdi Hasan: No, Marc, they never called any other candidate a conman, a fraud and a cancer on conservatism. Those were only reserved for your candidate.
Marc Porter: No, it’s not true what you’re saying.
Mehdi Hasan: Hold on, are you saying Donald Trump lies just like every other politician lies? Is that your position? He’s not different?
Marc Porter: I’m saying that what Donald Trump is saying is intended to get results. If you look at the results and stop playing this little game.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay. These are fascinating defences. So, you and JD Gordon’s position is he, kind of, does lie, but he gets elected, he gets things done. That’s your argument? Which is fine.
Marc Porter: Have you ever met a politician before? You sound like you haven’t.
Mehdi Hasan: A few.
Marc Porter: That’s not good.
Mehdi Hasan: I’ve never met a politician who lies like Donald Trump, and I’ve interviewed people from across the world in that seat and I’ve never met a politician who lies like Donald Trump.
Marc Porter: Can you come to Texas next week? Come to Austin, Texas, to the Republican National Convention and I will show you some people that you can completely disapprove of, you might actually love us.
Mehdi Hasan: This is my favourite defence I’ve ever heard of a Republican president from a Republican, “Come to the Republican convention, we’re all liars over there.” It’s just a weird defence.
Marc Porter: That’s not what I said. See, you just lied. If I took that back to Texas and said that you were a liar, I would also have all these quotes and all of these things, so that’s unfair.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, so just out of interest, when he says, “The head of the Boy Scouts called me up” and the head of the Boy Scouts says he didn’t call up and Sarah Sanders says he didn’t call up, what is that? What do you call that?
Marc Porter: Mehdi, why didn’t you tell me this yesterday and I could call them up and ask them what really happened?
Mehdi Hasan: I knew you would -.
Marc Porter: You’re tricking me here, what am I supposed to do?
Mehdi Hasan: Marc, you’re answering a question with a question again. There I was thinking you would offer the defence. So, you’re not going to defend Donald Trump?
Marc Porter: You won’t even let me use Google right here or make a phone call to see what’s happening.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay. Ellie Geranmayeh, no, I’m going to come to Ellie next. Ellie Geranmayeh is from the European Council on Foreign Relations. From a foreign policy perspective, I’m fascinated because we can talk about Trump’s lies all day long, but what’s the impact on international relations? We talked earlier in the show about his impact on allies versus Putin, how do allied governments around the world, how do European governments, when Donald Trump is the president, can they take him seriously? Do they take him seriously, in your view?
Ellie Geranmayeh: Look, I think they take him very seriously, but I think there has been significant damage done to the trust relationship. Alliances work on trust, on solidarity and I think both of those have been significantly tarnished in the last year-and-a-half. When you have a statement that’s released and, within 24 hours, President Trump reneges on that to the G7. When you have statement after statement to the different world leaders saying that he will do one thing but at the end of the day ends up doing something else, it creates a very unpredictable chaotic situation.
Mehdi Hasan: Is it dangerous, in your view?
Ellie Geranmayeh: I think it’s significantly dangerous because the last, you know, since World War II, these alliance structures have managed to prevent significant conflicts happening around the world. Let me just add one more thing, because I think I heard that the United States doesn’t want to be the policeman of the world. Well, what we’ve seen in the last year-and-a-half is essentially the United States being the mobster of the world, in terms of threatening allies, in terms of pressuring through duress to keep raising the bar. This is how we are…
Mehdi Hasan: Let me put Marc’s point to you that, you know, politicians lie. You’ve been studying world leaders, foreign governments, foreign policy for many years now, have you come across any other politician who behaves in this way?
Marc Porter: Trudeau, that’s why. That’s why he pulled out -.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, does Trudeau behave in the same way as Donald Trump?
Ellie Geranmayeh: What I can say is that, speaking at least to many European policymakers in the last year-and-a-half, people are baffled. They may not say this publicly, but in private, people are baffled.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, let me put the same question to David Cay Johnston, who is a Trump biographer, award-winning journalist. Let me ask you this, politicians lie, Donald Trump lies a bit more than the rest? A lot more than the rest? Is there something different about Donald Trump when it comes to this, kind of -.
David Cay Johnston: Donald is in a class all by himself and for the 30 years I’ve known Donald, he creates his own reality. There are plenty of video and audio tapes where Donald says something and two minutes later denies that he says that he said that. Donald has willing to lie in amazing forms: He has twice been tried for income tax fraud and lost both cases. He’s a confessed sales tax cheat, that’s lies. This is a man who has testified under oath that he didn’t know anything about who the faculty were of the scam called Trump University, when he in an ad said, “I will personally pick the faculty.” He was shown every name, he didn’t know them. Donald Trump lies with the ease with which you and I breathe.
Mehdi Hasan: So, let me ask you this, you’ve mentioned a few lies there, I mentioned a few lies. Let’s get behind that, I just want to ask; does he tell these lies, does he say these things, his own reality, because he’s a cynical politician who is making, you know, he’s not afraid to make brazenly false statements in order to get things done, get elected, whatever, or is he just deluded? Has he, kind of, lost his mind? I always wonder, is this, ah, kind of, deliberate falsehood or is this just, “Ah, he couldn’t remember”? Which one?
David Cay Johnston: There are occasions in which I’ve dealt with Donald in which his lies were strategic, and I could see the logic of them, but he literally is delusional at times. In my books, I lay out his own statements that show they’re delusional. Remember that Donald Trump says, “I am the world’s greatest expert in all time about taxes” and then demonstrates he doesn’t know jack about taxes, he doesn’t know accounting, he doesn’t know net present value. If you don’t know those, you can’t know taxes. He has said, in numerous forms, things that make clear that he doesn’t know anything. One of his professors at Penn, you know, called him, “the damn dumbest student I ever had in my life”.
Mehdi Hasan: JD Gordon, do you recognise that picture of Donald Trump? I just want to get to the bottom of someone who’s actually worked with him and given him advice?
JD Gordon: Yes, in my personal interactions I’d say he was very brilliant, a very sharp guy, very good questions.
Mehdi Hasan: Can you give me an example? Can you give me an example of the brilliance?
JD Gordon: Sure. He had very insightful questions about relationships with NATO, with Europe, our alliances, dollars and cents. He’s a very big dollars-and-cents guy.
Mehdi Hasan: He doesn’t understand how NATO works.
JD Gordon: Well, he does. He understands -.
Mehdi Hasan: He says Germany owes America money. That’s not how NATO works, you’re a former soldier, you know that.
JD Gordon: He says things that will prompt a reaction from our allies to get them to pony up more money because-.
Mehdi Hasan: So, when he’s lying, he’s just pretending not to know?
JD Gordon: No, it’s not -.
Mehdi Hasan: Why does he keep repeatedly claiming a false thing?
JD Gordon: He tried to make a point. So, sometimes, it’s not exactly technically correct.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, what’s the point? That “I’m a liar”?
JD Gordon: Sometimes, it’s strategically, in a big sense; he’s trying to make a point.
Mehdi Hasan: Are we back to strategically and technically? I admire your persistence, JD Gordon. Let’s go to our very patient audience in the Oxford Union, the gentleman in the front row here and then we’ll go to somebody at the back.
Audience participant 1: So, my name’s Ahmed, I’m a graduate student here. On the campaign trail, President Trump called for the total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, then as president he introduced an executive order banning entry from those from seven Muslim-majority countries. Do you believe it is compatible with America’s core ideals that we welcome all people regardless of religion, race or background, given the policy’s routes?
JD Gordon: Thank you for that question. Shall I respond to that?
Mehdi Hasan: Yes, please.
JD Gordon: Well, basically, of those seven countries you’ve mentioned, one is North Korea and one is Venezuela, which are not Muslim-majority countries. The other countries on that list have a problem with security screening, they can’t do the appropriate background checks. We’re talking about Libya, Syria, Yemen, places that are undergoing civil wars right now or at least low-level conflict. They can’t vet terrorists from those countries, that’s why they’re on the list right now. It makes perfect sense, it’s not a Muslim ban, it’s a ban against countries that don’t vet people the way we would like them to.
Mehdi Hasan: We can have a debate about whether this order is a Muslim ban or not, and the Supreme Court has decided it isn’t, to be fair, but here’s what I don’t get. You worked on the Donald Trump campaign, and during the campaign, it was a Muslim ban. He said no Muslims from anywhere. Me, I can’t come into the US, my friends can’t come into the US, any Muslim cannot come into the United States. Did you support that while you worked for him?
JD Gordon: No. He said something that I wouldn’t have said, and I didn’t support, however -.
Mehdi Hasan: You were his director of national security, you can’t just wash your hands of major policy statements.
JD Gordon: No, we didn’t. What we did is say, “Okay, well how’s that going to work in practice?”
Mehdi Hasan: So, you reined him in? You reined in the bigotry?
JD Gordon: I wouldn’t characterise it that way.
Mehdi Hasan: You don’t think banning all Muslims from the United States is bigoted?
JD Gordon: It wasn’t a good thing to say and he doesn’t say that now, he’s changed his position.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay. Let’s go back to the audience, I said I’d go to somebody at the back. Yes, lady here in the red jacket.
Audience participant 2: Hello, my name is Isabel Domingas. I come from a Venezuelan family that has immigrated to Miami, Florida, which is a refuge to countless Venezuelans who have fled the severe political and economic conflict there. Mr Trump recently suggested using military intervention to alleviate the conflict there, despite some federal opposition. What is your opinion, Mr Gordon, on Mr Trump’s remark?
JD Gordon: Thanks, Isabel, I’m very sorry to see what’s happening in Venezuela, it’s horrible. I was there in 1999, since then about four million Venezuelans have left the country. It’s a tragedy unfolding every day, but what I would tell you is that allegedly, what happened is Mr Trump asked his advisers about it. So, number one, there’s no shortage of things President Trump won’t say or won’t ask, no shortage of that. Number two, there is no shortage of people that are disgruntled around him for a variety of reasons, who quit, get fired. So, then they tell the press, which is number three, there are no shortage of people in the press who will spin any little nugget of information into a sensational story. So, do I believe he asked that question? I do. Do I believe he suggested it? Of course not.
Mehdi Hasan: He asked a question, but didn’t suggest it?
JD Gordon: No, no, no. It’s fine to ask a question, you can ask anything you want, but he didn’t suggest it.
Mehdi Hasan: Do you think Donald Trump wanted to invade Venezuela?
JD Gordon: I don’t. I don’t.
Mehdi Hasan: You don’t, he just put it out there for fun?
JD Gordon: Well no, it’s not that. I had some experience on the campaign with that, where he’ll ask a hypothetical question and then someone will leak it in a very underhanded way.
Mehdi Hasan: He also said it to several Latin American leaders, maybe he shouldn’t tell foreign governments in that part of the world he wanted to invade. Okay, let’s get back to the audience. Let’s take the lady here in the second row.
Audience participant 3: Once again, we’ve heard the view of Russia being an international pariah influencing and meddling in elections, so I wanted to ask the panel and our guest to perhaps name two important benefits that Russia has gained, or is likely to gain, by influencing the elections of the United States?
Mehdi Hasan: Just out of interest, are you sceptical of claims that Russia interfered in the US election?
Audience participant 3: I’m sceptical as to whether it was the Russian state, because I’m not sure that there is sufficient proof that it was the Russian state, that it was the Kremlin itself that was meddling in the elections.
Mehdi Hasan: Was it the Kremlin itself that was meddling? We’ve seen recent indictments of twelve GRU intelligence assets by the Robert Mueller investigation. Do you believe it was the Kremlin itself that was interfering?
JD Gordon: I do, but that said, I don’t believe that it impacted the election to have President Trump win. I think that he beat a candidate that was deeply flawed in Hillary Clinton.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, but he beat her in three states by 80,000 votes.
JD Gordon: I know, he did.
Mehdi Hasan: So, it wasn’t exactly a big margin of victory. So, any little help can win … Lady here in the second row.
Audience participant 4: Hi, putting Trump’s questionable policies aside, do you believe that someone who has been accused of sexual assault multiple times and has essentially admitted to it on camera, deserves to lead the United States?
JD Gordon: He deserves to lead the United States because he was elected by the American people. So, the American people have to decide that and they did, and he won.
Audience participant 4: Do you think someone like that serves as an appropriate role model though, to young people?
Marc Porter: Bill Clinton.
JD Gordon: Well, certainly, had Bill Clinton as Marc points out, and he had sex in the White House with Monica Lewinsky, an intern, who was impeached.
Audience participant 4: So, we’re no further than we were.
JD Gordon: I don’t want to get into what-about-ism, however -.
Mehdi Hasan: That’s exactly what you’re doing.
JD Gordon: I was. I was getting into what-about-ism.
Mehdi Hasan: I mean, Marc’s shouting out, “Bill Clinton, Bill Clinton”.
JD Gordon: That’s true.
Mehdi Hasan: You didn’t work for Bill Clinton, you worked for Donald Trump.
JD Gordon: I didn’t, right.
Mehdi Hasan: How did you work for a man like that, credibly accused of sexual assault by dozens of women?
JD Gordon: Well, I personally didn’t see that. My interactions with him were entirely professional. I thought he was very sharp, on his game, and so I didn’t see that. So, what I would tell you is that Americans -.
Mehdi Hasan: So, you only comment on things you see. Did you see Bill Clinton having an affair in the White House? You were happy to comment on that a moment ago.
JD Gordon: I didn’t, but he was impeached.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, but you didn’t see him having sex. Let’s go back to the audience, gentleman here in the black jacket.
Audience participant 5: How much of the negative media coverage concerning Russia do you think is down to Democrats personal hatred for Donald Trump rather than legitimate evidence?
JD Gordon: Well, it’s not just Democrats, there are a lot of Republicans, too. There was a Republican senator who had one of his aides come here to London to get the dossier from Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 agent. His assistant, his colleague, brought it back to Washington and that senator, Senator McCain, gave it to the FBI director, James Comey. To me, that’s not very ethical. It’s not just Democrats.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, but let me, I just want to bring in Marc Porter, who’s from Republicans Overseas, who’s here. JD Gordon, throughout this show, has been actually quite forthright on the, kind of, Russian role, the Kremlin role, as he put it. I just want to put the same question to you that the audience member asked, how much do you accept-, you know, there’s a legitimate-, Rob Mueller should be investigating this, there is a legitimate investigation even if you don’t agree with some of the indictments, or how much is it all just a Democratic left conspiracy, in your view?
Marc Porter: Well, the thing to consider here is that, “What’s the result of the election?” So, the election, in my opinion – and the opinion of most Americans, is that the Russian influences, whatever they were, whatever they did, did not influence the outcome of the election.
Mehdi Hasan: David, very briefly?
David Cay Johnston: Let’s assume that the Russians were not successful in their efforts and didn’t have any influence, that has nothing to do with the fact that unregistered foreign agents of the Russians, people on the Russian payroll, were the national security adviser or the campaign manager. That we’ve had five guilty pleas, that we recently had thirteen GRU officers indicted by the Mueller campaign. There is lots of evidence that there was a conspiracy going on.
Mehdi Hasan: Gentleman, there has been waiting for a while, in the white shirt, yes.
Audience participant 6: Mr Gordon, on the campaign trail, President Trump was a determined isolationist and he’s now changed to be every inch a belligerent. My question to you is, why has he betrayed his voters? Could it be because with his election, the populous rise of left-wing politics has taken hold in the US, and he sees left-wing governments in North Korea and Venezuela as easy targets, or is it because he’s engaging in the Bill Clinton exercise of bombing other countries to distract from a sex scandal?
JD Gordon: Well, I disagree with your premise. I think it’s a good question, but I disagree with your premise that he’s turned into a belligerent president. He had two limited strikes against Syria in retaliation for chemical weapons used, killing children, women and children, innocent civilians. So, Ivanka had showed those pictures and he reacted.
Mehdi Hasan: Come on, he’s upped the civilian death toll in Syria, in Iraq, in Pakistan, in Yemen. In all of these places, American military numbers are higher, civilian casualties are higher on Trump’s watch even than Obama’s, and Obama was a pretty belligerent president.
JD Gordon: Well, that’s the Saudi coalition in Yemen, that’s not US -.
Mehdi Hasan: Which is being fuelled and armed by the US.
JD Gordon: The Iranians, again, are in Yemen, causing the whole problem, with the Shia Houthi rebels.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, but I’m not speaking to the Iranians, I’m speaking to a Donald Trump supporter, so I’m asking about Donald Trump Porter.
JD Gordon: Right. Donald Trump is trying to mitigate some of the things being done by countries like Iran.
Mehdi Hasan: I mean, but he’s being belligerent in doing so. Okay, let’s go to the audience, I’m going to take the lady there, at the front, yes -.
Audience participant 7: My question is do you think Donald Trump will get re-elected in 2020?
JD Gordon: Great question. He very well may, it depends on who runs against him.
Mehdi Hasan: Will he need Russian help in 2020?
JD Gordon: Low blow.
Mehdi Hasan: You said the Kremlin helped him, you said it, not me.
JD Gordon: It really depends on who runs against him because if a person’s very well qualified and can get the votes, they’ll win.
Marc Porter: He’s going to win.
Mehdi Hasan: Okay, do qualifications matter? I mean, hasn’t Donald Trump proved that qualifications don’t matter?
JD Gordon: It depends what you mean, how do you define qualifications?
Mehdi Hasan: I mean, if you can be on Home Alone 2 and be president, you can be president? Gentleman in the glasses.
Audience participant 8: Briefly, as an American based in Northeastern Nigeria, we partner on a daily basis with 190 million Nigerians. I think, very simply, I just have trouble squaring the forest for the trees argument. How does calling their country a s**thole increase our national security?
JD Gordon: Well, thank you for your service in Nigeria, I know it must be very difficult over there. I think he’s a plain-spoken guy, he says whatever he wants, let the chips fall where they may. Besides, that was a comment that was supposed to be amongst senators, got leaked out. Who knows if it’s exactly what he said? There’s been a lot of debate about that, but here’s the guy who says whatever he wants and, like I said, I think the West should get used to that. More reality TV stars will be elected because that’s all it takes, is to win the majority of the votes in the electoral college…
Mehdi Hasan: Not every reality TV star is a racist, to be fair to reality TV stars.
Marc Porter: He’s not a racist.
JD Gordon: I wouldn’t say he’s a racist, but I would say that -.
Mehdi Hasan: I know you wouldn’t say that, but you’ve not actually told me why.
JD Gordon: Yes. Get used to this, more is going to come as far as reality TV stars.
Mehdi Hasan: We’re getting used to it, that’s the problem. Let me ask you one last question. You advised Donald Trump during a critical period of his campaign, you didn’t get a job in government. You’ve got masses of debt, I believe, from all the Russia stuff and Donald Trump seems to have hung people like you out to dry. Are you just another one of the president’s many, many victims?
JD Gordon: Well, that’s a good question, too, from what a lot of people see in the press and what they know of it. I did get five-figure legal bills in this witch-hunt, fortunately, my campaign colleague, Michael Caputo, raised a third of one million dollars on a legal fund and he was able to pay my legal bills off entirely. Thanks to him, but you know, President Trump just basically moves forward and if people quit or they get fired or something happens to them, that’s just the nature of the business to President Trump.
Mehdi Hasan: He doesn’t give a damn about them.
JD Gordon: It’s what happens. It’s kind of unfortunate that a lot of people have been scooped up in the witch-hunt. What I can tell you is, if you work for President Trump, there is no shortage of people who want to crucify you and come after your scalp. I think this is a great opportunity, to come to Oxford and speak with you because of my role in the campaign, so -.
Mehdi Hasan: You’re still as loyal to Trump, a fan of Trump, as you were in summer of 2016?
JD Gordon: Well, I would say that, what’s the alternative? Hillary Clinton? She would have been a lot worse…
Mehdi Hasan: That’s not a ringing endorsement, I’ll be honest with you, JD Gordon.
JD Gordon: Well, I think that President…
Mehdi Hasan: Are you a fan of Trump? “What’s the alternative?”
JD Gordon: I’m a fan of what Mr Trump is doing, for his policies in general.
Mehdi Hasan: Fair enough.
JD Gordon: I can’t support everything he says or tweets, but overall, I’m supportive of his policies and I defend them all the time.
Mehdi Hasan: JD Gordon, we’ll have to leave it there. I want to thank our audience here in the Oxford Union, and I want to thank our panel of experts and I want to thank JD Gordon for joining us as our guest here in the Oxford Union tonight, thank you for coming on Head to Head.
JD Gordon: Thank you, Mehdi.
Mehdi Hasan: The show will be back next week.