Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Monday that his recent comments about renegotiating or restructuring debt with creditors are being misconstrued, and that some of his practices in the business world don’t necessarily translate to how one would approach dealing with the national debt.
“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,” Mr. Trump said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“People said I want to go and buy debt and default on debt. I mean, these people are crazy,” he said. “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’s never a default.”
But Mr. Trump said there were reports that he wants to default on debt.
“You know I’m the king of debt. I understand debt better than probably anybody,” he said. “I know how to deal with debt very well. I love debt. But 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’s a chance to buy back debt at a discount — in other words, interest rates go up and the bonds go down and you can buy debt — that’s what I’m talking about,” Mr. Trump said. “People had it … ‘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 [the] government they’re never going to walk in and say, ‘Do me a favor: Would you buy my debt at a discount?’ In business, that happens all the time,” he said. “I bought mortgages back when the market went bad.”
“I bought mortgages back at tremendous discounts. And I love doing that. I mean, there’s nothing like it, actually, it gives me a great thrill,” Mr. Trump said. “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 happens.”
“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,” he said. “But that’s all I was talking about. They have it like I’m going to go back to creditors, and I’m going to renegotiate or restructure debt. It’s ridiculous, and they know it’s ridiculous.”
Mr. Trump did discuss debt extensively during a recent interview with CNBC, but when pressed to clarify then, he appeared to make a distinction between what he’s done in the business world and how to deal with the U.S. debt.
He had been asked if he thinks the U.S. needs to pay 100 cents on the dollar, or if there is a way to renegotiate the country’s debt.
“I’ve borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts,” Mr. Trump said last week on CNBC. “I’ve done very well with debt. Now, of course, I was swashbuckling and it did well for me and it was good for me and all that, and you know, debt was sort of always interesting to me.”
“Now we’re in a different situation with the country, but I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal,” he said. “And if the economy was good, it was good, so therefore, you can’t lose.”
Asked if he was suggesting the U.S. would negotiate its own credit like that, Mr. Trump said: “No, I think this: I think there are times for us to refinance — we refinance debt with [a] longer term.”
“I could see long-term renegotiations where we borrow long-term at very low rates,” he said. “We do need money to rebuild the infrastructure of our country.”
“I don’t want to renegotiate the bonds, but I think you can do discounting,” Mr. Trump said when asked about sovereign bonds. “I think depending on where interest rates are, I think you can buy back. I’m not talking about with a renegotiation, but you can buy back at discounts — you can do things at discounts.”