Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is defending the practice of eminent domain, or the taking of private property for public use in exchange for compensation — an issue on which he has taken some heat during the 2016 presidential race.
“I think eminent domain is wonderful — if you’re building a highway and you need to build, as an example, a highway and you’re going to be blocked by a holdout or — in some cases it’s a holdout. Just so you understand, nobody knows this better than I do,” Mr. Trump said this week in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. “Because I’ve built a lot of buildings in Manhattan, and you’ll have 12 sites and you’ll get 11 and you’ll have the one holdout and you end up building around ‘em, and everything else, OK, so I know it better than anybody.”
“I think eminent domain for massive projects — for instance, you’re [going to] create thousands of jobs and you have somebody that’s in the way and you pay that person far more — don’t forget, eminent domain, they get a lot of money,” Mr. Trump said. “And you need a house in a certain location because you’re going to build this massive development that’s going to employ thousands of people, or you’re going to build a factory that without this little house, you can’t build the factory. I think eminent domain is fine.”
Mr. Trump acknowledged criticism on the issue from the the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group.
“If you have a factory where you have thousands of jobs and you need eminent domain, it’s called economic development,” he said.
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held that local government could take the property of a Connecticut resident for the purposes of private development, although the development plans ultimately didn’t pan out. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of Mr. Trump’s 2016 GOP rivals, has spoken out against the landmark Kelo v. New London decision and on Mr. Trump’s position on eminent domain.
Mr. Trump was read criticism of the decision from Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, that the result of the Kelo decision would be that working families and poor people would see their property turned over to corporate interests and wealthy developers.
“It’s not right, it’s not right,” Mr. Trump said. “The way they talk, people would say, oh, it’s turned over. It’s turned over for four, five, six, 10 times sometimes what it’s worth. People pay them a fortune. But sometimes you have people that want to hold out. … Most of the time they just want money, OK? It’s very rarely that they say, ‘I love my house. I love my house.’ “
“These people can go buy a house now that’s five times bigger in a better location. So eminent domain, when it comes to jobs, roads, the public good — I think it’s a wonderful thing, I’ll be honest with you,” Mr. Trump said. “And remember, you’re not taking property. … You’re paying a fortune for that property. Those people can move two blocks away into a much nicer house.”
“I think it’s a great subject. It’s a very interesting subject,” he said. “I fully understand the conservative approach, but I don’t think it was explained to most conservatives.”