Trump’s Road to the White HouseView film
NEWSCASTER: Today is finally the day. The presidential nominees have made their final─
NEWSCASTER: Today is decision day in America, and we are taking a look at the presidential race─
NEWSCASTER: After a long, contentious presidential race─
NARRATOR: On election day, Donald Trump and his senior campaign team were huddled at Trump Tower.
KATY TUR, NBC News: They went into election night believing that they were going to lose.
NEWSCASTER: ─as the polls close across the country─
NARRATOR: At 5:00 o’clock, they received the first exit polls.
NEWSCASTER: We’re counting down to the first poll closings right now─
DAVID BOSSIE, Trump Campaign Adviser: When we got those early returns, the exit polls─ and I actually got it about 5:01─ we all had a little bit of a gut punch.
NEWSCASTER: If Trump wants to win, he’s got to hold onto Florida and North Carolina─
FRANK LUNTZ, Republican Pollster: In state after state, he was so far behind that I knew that he was going to lose because the exit polls don’t get it wrong.
TONY FABRIZIO, Trump Campaign Pollster: We were getting crushed in, like, Michigan, Pennsylvania. I mean just─ and so from, like, 6:00 o’clock on, you know, we’re all, like, “Oh, my God.”
NEWSCASTER: And look at all these wins we’re projecting for Hillary Clinton right now. Take a look at the electoral map─
NARRATOR: It seemed to confirm what the media and political establishment had been saying for months, Donald Trump never had a chance.
FRANK LUNTZ: Every senior Republican that I talked to, with only one exception, thought that Trump was going to lose.
NARRATOR: But as the votes were counted in Florida, a surprise.
NEWSCASTER: And CNN projects Donald Trump will carry the State of Florida. With its 29 electoral votes, Donald Trump─
NARRATOR: Florida was just the beginning.
NEWSCASTER: There’s a─ there’s a big ol’ call to make right now. Donald Trump has won the state of Wisconsin. And there goes her blue wall.
RYAN LIZZA, The New Yorker: Late on election night, one of his senior campaign officials e-mailed me and just said, “Can you type President Trump?”
NEWSCASTER: Fox News has called Pennsylvania for Donald Trump!
KELLYANNE CONWAY, Trump Campaign Manager: Our communications director, Jason Miller, held up and said, “AP just called,” and I said, “Just called what? Which state?” And he said, “The whole race.”
NEWSCASTER: This means that Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States, the most unreal, surreal election we have ever seen. [laughter]
KELLYANNE CONWAY: Chris Christie’s son said, “Kellyanne, your phone is ringing.” And I looked down and it said Huma Abedin. And she said, “Secretary Clinton would like to speak with Mr. Trump.” And I said, “Right now?” And she said, “If he’s available.” And I said, “He’s available.” And I said, “Sir, Secretary Clinton─
NARRATOR: She had been first lady, a senator, and secretary of state. She conceded to an entrepreneur, reality TV star, and novice politician. The call lasted about a minute.
NEWSCASTER: In an Electoral College victory that virtually no one saw coming a year ago, a few months ago─ even a month ago, even yesterday─
Rep. CHRIS COLLINS (R-NY), Trump Campaign: It was an “Oh, my God” moment. It was euphoria that we had won the election that no one thought we could win.
NARRATOR: Not long after, to the music from Harrison Ford’s movie Air Force One, the president-elect arrived at his victory celebration.
DAVID BOSSIE: Even for him, it was an overwhelming feeling to see yourself be elected president of the United States.
SEAN SPICER, Trump Press Secretary: You’re never going to see anybody like this again. He is somebody that defied every political rule that existed in a way that nobody has ever done before.
DONALD TRUMP: It’s my honor. It’s an amazing evening. It’s been an amazing two-year period. And I love this country! Thank you.
NARRATOR: It was an unprecedented outcome. over 17 months, Donald Trump had broken nearly every rule of American politics. Then came the question whether the way he had campaigned would be the way he would govern.
ROGER STONE, Trump Political Adviser: Trump is going to be Trump. This idea that you can make him into something else─ that’s not what the people voted for. They voted for Trump as he is. That’s the way they want him to be. And nobody is going to remake him. He will either succeed or fail being Donald Trump.
NEWSCASTER: The sheer unpredictability of a President Donald Trump─
NEWSCASTER: ─how unpredictable the new terrain here in Washington is─
NEWSCASTER: Is this our new normal? Is there reason for concern?
NEWSCASTER: It’s the creation of a new reality.
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump has broken the rules of what it means to be president.
NEWSCASTER: What Trump are we going to see, do you think?
NEWSCASTER: We’re going to constantly have rules that are broken, and my way or the highway─
NEWSCASTER: President Trump is very much a wild card─
NEWSCASTER: We’ll call it a political earthquake, an unraveling of the system, or even a revolution─
NARRATOR: The seeds of Donald Trump’s presidency are embedded in his path to power. He redefined what it meant to be a serious presidential candidate, starting with his announcement
ROBBY MOOK, Clinton Campaign Manager: I remember watching the announcement and─ and laughing at the entertainment value, the way lot of people did.
RYAN LIZZA: In Washington, you could almost just hear people around town laughing at the─ at the idea that this person was going to be a credible threat. He seemed like a cartoon character.
FRANK LUNTZ: He did the exact opposite of what every candidate has done before him. It was like extending the middle finger to the political establishment. And in doing that, in that very first moment, people took a look at him and said, “You know what? He really is different.”
DONALD TRUMP: That is some group of people, thousands!
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, Trump Campaign Manager: I wrote what was supposed to be his announcement speech, and that speech was supposed to clock in at about 7 minutes and 43 seconds.
DONALD TRUMP: We got to make the country rich. It sounds crass. Somebody said, “Oh, that’s crass.” It’s not crass. We got $18 trillion in debt.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: Probably three or four minutes into his remarks, I could clearly tell that these were not the prepared remarks, which I had drafted. And then he had gone on to make an announcement speech which lasted somewhere around 45 or 48 minutes.
DONALD TRUMP: When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.
TONY FABRIZIO, Trump Campaign Pollster: When he made his comments about Mexicans, everybody was convinced, “That’s it. He just blew himself up.” Everybody was, like, “Oh, this is going to be the death of him.”
NARRATOR: Behind the scenes, Trump’s campaign was as unconventional as his announcement.
DAN BALZ, The Washington Post: Donald Trump’s campaign was lean and small, and in a sense, run out of Donald Trump’s, you know, instincts. I mean, he threw all of the normal things out the window.
NARRATOR: Corey Lewandowski, an obscure political operative, was the campaign’s manager.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: In my very first meeting with Mr. Trump, when he offered me the position to be his campaign manager in January of 2015, he asked me what I thought his odds were of winning the Republican nomination. I said 5 percent. And he said 10. And I said, “Let’s settle at 7 and a half.”
NARRATOR: They worked 50 floors below Trump’s New York penthouse. It had once housed the set where The Apprentice was shot.
KATY TUR: All of the Apprentice camera equipment and furniture had been ripped out of it. You looked up at the ceiling, and it was open piping. It was bare bones. And a lot of Trump pictures all over the walls.
NARRATOR: As key advisers, trump chose his children. Running things behind the scenes, his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
GABRIEL SHERMAN, New York Magazine: It’s this family business. With Ivanka and her brothers, Eric and Don, Jr., and Ivanka’s husband, Jared, we had this kind of council of advisers around Trump that he would turn to.
NARRATOR: The campaign had a fundamental rule, “Let Trump be Trump”
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: I used to liken my role to being a jockey on a great racehorse. Let’s say American Pharoah. And my job was to maybe drive that horse into the corners a little bit and put some blinders on, but you got to let it run.
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump is back on the road campaigning at─
NARRATOR: He caused controversy from the very start.
NEWSCASTER: ─secure the evangelical vote with three campaign events in Iowa today─
NARRATOR: In Iowa, as he was interviewed by Republican pollster, Frank Luntz─
FRANK LUNTZ, Republican Pollster: And he and I get into an exchange over John McCain because he’s taking shots at McCain, and I thought they were gratuitous.
DONALD TRUMP: He’s not a war hero.
FRANK LUNTZ: He’s a war hero.
DONALD TRUMP: He’s a war hero─
FRANK LUNTZ: Five-and-a-half years of-
DONALD TRUMP: He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK? I hate to tell you. [laughter]
FRANK LUNTZ: Do you agree with that?
DONALD TRUMP: He’s a war hero because he was captured.
FRANK LUNTZ: I couldn’t believe he said that. I was completely stunned. Everyone in that room thought, “This is it. It’s over.”
DONALD TRUMP: Folks, I want to make America great again. We want to get down to brass tacks. We don’t want to listen to his stuff with being politically correct and everything has─ we have a lot of work to do.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: You know, I asked Mr. Trump after he came off the stage to have a private conversation with him, and I said, “I think we need to fix this.” And when I said “fix it,” I meant an apology. And Donald Trump understood things that I didn’t understand about the American people, said, “No, no, you don’t understand.”
NARRATOR: Trump refused to apologize.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: And once I understood that he was willing to double down on his comments and be a fighter for what he believes in, I’m all in. And I’m there with you to support you.
NEWSCASTER: Don voyage! Trump is toast after insult─
NEWSCASTER: Everything erupted after that─
NEWSCASTER: Virtually every Republican criticized Trump for─
FRANK LUNTZ: This clip is played on every newscast for the next 48 hours.
NEWSCASTER: So far, Trump’s political campaign operates with a no guts, no glory approach.
FRANK LUNTZ: And he survived it. He survived walls and Mexicans and everything. That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and if you ever needed any evidence, just look at Donald Trump.
NEWSCASTER: The biggest event to date in campaign 2016─
NEWSCASTER: ─top 10 candidates taking the stage─
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump gearing up for the crucial─
NARRATOR: Two-and-a-half weeks later, in Cleveland, the first Republican debate.
ANNOUNCER: Businessman Donald Trump─
NARRATOR: He was facing off against a group of candidates Republican leaders touted as the best in a generation.
MEGYN KELLY, Fox News: It is 9:00 PM on the East Coast, and the moment of truth has arrived!
JACK KINGSTON, Trump Campaign: Among the other candidates, there was this sort of smug confidence that, “We know what we’re doing.” This guy is from show business, a little bit Hollywood, a lot of razzle-dazzle.
NARRATOR: Early in the debate, he faced a crucial test, whether his tabloid past and outrageous statements would sink his campaign.
MEGYN KELLY: You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs,” dogs,” “slobs” and “disgusting animals.” Your Twitter account─
DONALD TRUMP: Only Rosie O’Donnell. [laughter]
MEGYN KELLY: No, it wasn’t.
TIMOTHY O’BRIEN: Trump doesn’t deny it. He simply says, “I only said that about Rosie O’Donnell.” And in a way, that is pure Trump.
DONALD TRUMP: What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be based on the way you have treated me, but I wouldn’t do that.
TIMOTHY O’BRIEN, Author, TrumpNation: He’s doing something that is both repellent and completely authentic all at once. And he’s acknowledging that he said these horrid things. He’s not shirking it. I think there were voters out there that said, “You go, man. You said exactly what you think, and you’re not backing down.”
NARRATOR: And Trump wasn’t done. After the debate, the candidates appeared in what is known as “spin alley.” Trump kept the controversy going.
MARK LEIBOVICH: Donald Trump shows up, as if he needed this hit of adrenaline before he went home to New York.
DONALD TRUMP: You guys OK? Don’t hurt yourselves.
GABRIEL SHERMAN: It was like mosquitoes to─ to a lantern on a summer night. I mean, the entire national press corps descended.
MARK LEIBOVICH, Author, This Town_: People were being trampled and camera equipment was flying all over the place. And I’d never seen a scene like this. I mean, I’ve seen many media stampedes, but nothing like that.
1st REPORTER: What’s your history with Megyn?
DONALD TRUMP: I think Megyn─ I think Megyn behaved very badly, personally.
2nd REPORTER: The question about women─ you didn’t like that?
DONALD TRUMP: No, I thought it was an unfair question. They didn’t ask those questions of anybody else.
TIMOTHY O’BRIEN: Trump can’t help himself because he considers anybody questioning his bona fides as someone who he needs to decapitate essentially.
NARRATOR: It was just the beginning. At 3:40 in the morning, he lit up Twitter.
TRUMP TWEET: “Wow, @megynkelly really bombed tonight. People are going wild on Twitter! Funny to watch.”
CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN breaking news─
NARRATOR: On the phone with CNN, he pushed harder.
DON LEMON, CNN: What is it with you and Megyn Kelly?
DONALD TRUMP: She starts asking me all sorts of ridiculous questions. And you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.
RYAN LIZZA, The New Yorker: Donald Trump attacks her and suggests she only asked a tough question because she was menstruating. I mean─ and his numbers went up.
DONALD TRUMP: She’s a lightweight. I couldn’t care less about her. In fact, you’re competing against her─
MARC FISHER, Co-Author, Trump Revealed: At every stage in the campaign, Donald Trump was perfectly happy to have the elites be aghast at him, the kind of non-politically correct, decisive, tough, battling kind of personality that he was putting forward in that debate and in the confrontations with Megyn Kelly and others that he sought out.
NARRATOR: While the media controversy swirled, Trump was out in the country building his base. His personal plane rolled up to hangars filled with curious onlookers, eager to see the reality TV star in person.
MARK LEIBOVICH: There were a lot of people who were there who were pure curiosity seekers They were there to see a celebrity. They were there to see the guy they know from The Apprentice.
GABRIEL SHERMAN, New York Magazine: Trump is a producer at heart. And when he did these rallies, he made sure that the staging was perfect. So we see the same elements that Trump applied in his hit TV show The Apprentice. We saw that in the early rallies.
FRANK LUNTZ: And right at the moment of the first chord, Trump hits the stage. And I felt this wave go through me, and that was the moment that I realized, “Holy [expletive], this is real.” It was like Pavlov’s dog. He hits the stage, they erupt. I had never seen this before.
MARK LEIBOVICH: Trump just had them in the palm of his hand. He─ I mean, they were responding to him. He was responding to them.
TONY FABRIZIO, Trump Campaign Pollster: Those crowds at those rallies, they were tremendously energizing to him. I mean, it was a─ it was a symbiotic relationship. They fed off of each other. The crowd fed off of him, he fed off of the crowd.
MICHAEL D’ANTONIO, Author, The Truth About Trump: For Donald, confidence is a huge part of the game. This was the whole point of all those rallies. It wasn’t just to fire up people to vote for him, it was to fire up Donald Trump. He feeds off of audiences in a way that I think very few politicians do and needed to be energized by the affirmation. And it worked.
DONALD TRUMP: And you know, we’re in─ look at all those live television feeds. It’s always tough. Every time I speak, they put me on live television, so I have to make different speeches! These guys go around, they make the same speech hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times. Nobody cares. It’s true!
MARC FISHER: He was looking out at the camera bank. And he could see the red light on the camera, and that meant that he was live on CNN─
DONALD TRUMP: You got CNN live. You got them all!
MARC FISHER: ─or Fox or one of the other networks. And he said that what he tried to do in those rallies was say whatever it took to keep the red light on.
DONALD TRUMP: Now if you like the media, give them a big hand, and if you don’t, give them a big boo. [boos]
NARRATOR: Rather than rely primarily on polls─
DONALD TRUMP: I had a feeling!
NARRATOR: ─Trump watched to see how the crowd reacted.
KATY TUR, NBC News: Early on, they were kind of─ these rally speeches were a bit rambling and all over the place. As he went on, he started to really hone his message and he started to remember what lines worked.
DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to have such a strong military that nobody, nobody is going to mess with us!
NARRATOR: And what the crowds wanted, Donald Trump─
DONALD TRUMP: We are led by very stupid people!~
DONALD TRUMP: We are going to start winning big league!
DONALD TRUMP: We can’t beat ISIS! Give me a break!
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, Trump Campaign Manager: And it was every location. It was the same messages. “We’re tired of Washington lying to us.”
DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to drive the cars over the illegals! Build a wall!
CROWD: Build a wall! Build a wall! Build a wall!
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: The American people are angry, and they have a right to be. And what they see in Donald Trump is someone who’s willing to fight for them for a change.
NARRATOR: He called them “the forgotten” and spoke directly to their fears and anger at Washington, at trade deals, at immigration.
FRANK LUNTZ, Republican Pollster: People in this country are afraid of illegal immigrants. People in this country have become afraid of random violence. They’re afraid of jobs being shipped overseas. There is so much that scares Americans. And Donald Trump is the only politician who talked to those concerns and those fears. To his critics, it’s fear mongering. To his supporters, it’s truth telling.
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump is the projected winner of the New Hampshire primary─
NEWSCASTER: He regains his front-runner status in a crowded field─
NEWSCASTER: He’s pulling ahead in virtually every super-Tuesday state─
NARRATOR: In one state after another─
DONALD TRUMP: We love Nevada! We love Nevada! Thank you.
NARRATOR: ─Trump proved that he could use his base of working class voters to win.
ROBERT COSTA, The Washington Post: It’s mostly white. They don’t like political correctness. They feel like they can’t speak their mind at home or at work, and so they want something else. Trump strolls in, he says exactly what they want to hear.
NEWSCASTER: This makes back-to-back victories for─
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump dominating his third consecutive─
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump is a professional political wrecking ball─
NARRATOR: Finally, his opponents had to take him seriously.
DAN BALZ, The Washington Post: At that point, the establishment suddenly wakes up and says, “We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to go after him. We can’t ignore him anymore.”
Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM: He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. And you know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.
MARK LEIBOVICH, The New York Times Magazine: The establishment feared him for a lot of reasons. One, he was not of them. Two, he didn’t play by their rules. And three, they genuinely thought he was a threat, certainly to the Republican party, to conservatism, and if he got that far, to the nation.
Sen. MARCO RUBIO: Guys, we have a con artist as the front-runner in the Republican Party, a guy who has made a career out of telling people lies
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: He was a shock to the Republican establishment, and they did everything they could, for the most part, to prevent him.
MITT ROMNEY, Frm. Republican Presidential Nominee: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He’s playing the members of the American public for suckers.
KATY TUR: Every time the establishment attacked Trump, it played into the narrative that they wanted to put out there, which was that he was so anti-establishment, they were going to do anything that they could to take him down.
Sen. TED CRUZ: This man is a pathological liar. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, live from the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina─
NARRATOR: On the debate stage, Trump hit back.
DONALD TRUMP: You are the single biggest liar. You probably are worse than Jeb Bush. You are the single biggest liar.
ROBERT COSTA One by one, each rival comes at him. He throws them away─
DONALD TRUMP: Two days ago, he said he would take his pants off and moon everybody.
ROBERT COSTA: ─tosses a barb in their direction, diminishes them personally─
DONALD TRUMP: And then he tells me, oh, my language was a little bit rough!
ROBERT COSTA: ─destroys their record.
DONALD TRUMP: This little guy has lied so much─
Rep. CHRIS COLLINS (R-NY), Trump Campaign: Donald Trump had the ability to just grab the microphone, just trample over people. That was entertaining. It was different.
DONALD TRUMP: He hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands. I’ve never heard of this word. Look at those hands! Are they small hands? [laughter and cheers] And he referred to my hands─ if they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee it.
ROBERT COSTA: It was ruthless political performance by Donald Trump. He had nothing to lose and he owed nothing to the Republican Party. So instead of standing there as a member of a party trying to get the nomination, he was there for Trump. That changed everything.
NEWSCASTER: Scott Walker is quitting the presidential race─
NARRATOR: One by one─
NEWSCASTER: Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie have suspended their campaigns─
NARRATOR: ─Trump’s competitors began to fall.
NEWSCASTER: Neurosurgeon Ben Carson dropping out of the 2016 GOP─
NARRATOR: But on the campaign trail, at some rallies, things were increasingly ugly.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: Made in [expletive] USA! Go [expletive] cook my burrito, bitch!
KATY TUR: The anger only increased as it got farther along.
TRUMP SUPPORTER: Go [expletive] make my tortilla, mother-[expletive]! And build that [expletive] wall for me! Trump! I love Trump!
KATY TUR: It became completely acceptable. It became OK to come to a Trump rally and wear a shirt that says “Hillary Clinton is a C-[deleted]-N-T.
NARRATOR: And there were some in the crowds with a darker agenda.
ROGER STONE, Trump Political Adviser: The campaign is continually dogged by a small and vocal number of white supremacists, Klansmen, neo-Nazis.
KATY TUR: Some would come in wearing Confederate flags on their T-shirts.
ROGER STONE: This isn’t a very large group of people, but they’re very vocal. And they attach themselves to Trump.
GABRIEL SHERMAN, New York Magazine: Trump, whenever there was a moment to draw a line between himself and these extreme parts of the voting block, he refused. And I think without question, the only way you can interpret that is that he was going to use these groups to try to build this coalition.
NARRATOR: It wasn’t long before anti-Trump protesters began to show up inside the rallies.
DONALD TRUMP: There’s the guy. Totally disruptive, throwing punches. I love the old days. Do you know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks. I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you. Oh, it’s real─
ALEC MacGILLIS, ProPublica: You start seeing these really ugly moments at the rallies with protesters, some of whom are non-white protesters, getting treated very violently by─ by his supporters, trump himself seeming to incite his supporters to go after protesters.
DONALD TRUMP: Knock the crap out of him, would you? Just knock the hell─ I promise you I will pay for the legal fees, I promise. I promise.
NARRATOR: Trump didn’t just turn on protesters, he also directed the anger at the media.
DONALD TRUMP: Absolute dishonest, absolute scum. Remember that. Scum! Scum.
NARRATOR: NBC’s Katy Tur became a frequent target after one of her reports.
DONALD TRUMP: She’s back there. Little Katy. She’s back there.
KATY TUR: He calls me out at the rally, “Look back there, little Katy, she’s back there.” And I was, like, “What?”
DONALD TRUMP: What a lie it was! [boos] No, what a lie. Katie Tur─ what a lie it was from NBC to have written that. It was a total lie.
KATY TUR: We are surrounded on all sides with people who are fired up and angry.
DONALD TRUMP: Third rate reporter. Remember that, third rate. Third rate!
KATY TUR: And they’re whipped up by Donald Trump. I described it as, like, you know, an unchained beast roaring at you in a crowd. And the whole─ the whole place turns at me, looks at me and boos.
NARRATOR: By July, Donald Trump headed to the GOP convention after soundly defeating the establishment candidates.
ROGER STONE: Let’s face it, he was larger than the Republican Party. In fact, his nomination was the hostile takeover of the Republican Party. In this case, the Republican Party is just a vehicle to get his name on the ballot. But his reach was always greater than the Republican Party’s reach.
NARRATOR: He had won the nomination of a divided Republican Party. Now he would see if he could apply the same strategy to winning the presidency of a divided country.
DONALD TRUMP: Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police and the terrorism of our cities threaten our very way of life.
MARC FISHER, Co-Author, Trump Revealed: But I think the essential message there was, “You have been neglected and abused by the powers that be, whether they are politicians or the media or academia, or Hollywood. All of those folks are conspiring against you the good, right-thinking middle Americans.”
DONALD TRUMP: I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people who cannot defend themselves! [cheers] Nobody knows the system better than me. Which is why I alone can fix it! [laughter and cheers]
RYAN LIZZA, The New Yorker: He just said, “Me. I’m the only person that can do this. You have to support me.” That’s the language of a strongman. That’s the language that you hear in autocratic societies.
ROGER STONE: I had at least five reporters approach me and say, “Didn’t you think Trump’s speech was too dark?” And I told them all, “No, I think the country’s in deep trouble. We’re in very dire times. And to pussyfoot around that and claim things are great is a mistake. And we need a strongman.”
CROWD: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!
HILLARY CLINTON: And so my friends, it is with humility─
NARRATOR: Just one week later, at the Democratic convention, Hillary Clinton accepted her party’s nomination.
HILLARY CLINTON: ─that I accept your nomination for president of the United States! [cheers]
NARRATOR: Clinton’s strategy was to draw on Obama’s legacy and bet big on diversity.
JEN PALMIERI, Clinton Campaign Comm. Dir.: This is a time of change for America and it’s a time to take stock and reaffirm the values that we hold as Americans. And that meant embracing the diversity.
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Khizr Khan─
NARRATOR: One moment turned out to be the centerpiece of their efforts, a speech by the father of a Muslim American soldier killed in combat.
KHIZR KHAN: If─ if it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership─
DAN BALZ: I don’t think anybody or very few people who were planning the convention thought simply that moment alone would be as powerful as it was.
KHIZR KHAN: Donald Trump, have you even read the United States Constitution? [cheers] I will─ I will gladly lend you my copy!
NARRATOR: As he watched Khan’s speech, Trump saw an opportunity to go on the attack.
TRUMP TWEET: “I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic convention.”
MICHAEL KRANISH, Co-Author, Trump Revealed: And his advisers thought this was not a good idea. He shouldn’t have done it. But Donald Trump just can’t help himself.
TRUMP TWEET: “Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over TV doing the same. Nice.”
MICHAEL D’ANTONIO, Author, The Truth About Trump: The Khan episode illustrates Donald’s major flaw is he can’t let something go and he can’t notice that he’s losing a fight until he has really lost it.
NARRATOR: He went after Khan’s wife, Ghazala.
DONALD TRUMP: If you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably─ maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that.
NEWSCASTER: Amid mounting backlash over Trump’s comments, his campaign went into damage control mode.
NARRATOR: Veterans groups were outraged─
NEWSCASTER: At least two new polls show Hillary Clinton with a widening lead over Trump.
NARRATOR: As Trump’s poll numbers collapsed─
NEWSCASTER: Republicans in particular have been quick to respond to─
NARRATOR: ─Republican leaders further distanced themselves.
NEWSCASTER: Republican Senator John McCain offered a scathing rebuke─
GABRIEL SHERMAN: And his advisers are horrified. I mean, this is like─ this is political suicide. And they say to Trump, you know, “You know you just attacked a Gold Star family.” And he said, “Well, what’s that?” Trump just sees it as a personal attack, and it’s within his right to go on the counterattack.
NEWSCASTER: Trump’s ongoing battle with the family of U.S. Army captain Humayun Khan─
NARRATOR: Virtually all the professionals expected Trump to change his tactics, to pivot.
ED BROOKOVER, Trump Campaign Adviser: Everybody always wanted to mold Mr. Trump into their own image of what a candidate should look like, what a president should look like. And if there’s one thing that wasn’t going to change about Mr. Trump was that he was going to stay true to himself, you know, whatever that means, and that─ that if he was going to win this campaign, he was going to do it on his own terms.
NARRATOR: With barely 80 days before the election, Trump shook up his campaign and brought in Steve Bannon, the chairman of the right-wing Web site Breitbart.
ROGER STONE, Trump Political Adviser: Bannon is a bomb thrower. Bannon joins the campaign because Bannon has a superior knowledge of alternative media, combined with the fact that he is kind of a swashbuckler and a revolutionary, a guy who can think outside the box.
NARRATOR: It was a sign Trump was doubling down.
DAN BALZ, The Washington Post: Steve Bannon has made very clear all through his recent career, his goal is to blow up the establishment. It’s to take down the government as we know it. It’s to destroy the Republican Party as it was constituted. I mean, he is─ he’s a disrupter in─ you know, in almost every way.
NARRATOR: As his new campaign manager, another unconventional pick, a pollster, Kellyanne Conway, who had bad news for Trump.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, Trump Campaign Manager: On that day, I told him, I said, “What’s going on? Because you’re running against the most joyless candidate in presidential political history and this place is starting to seem like it.” And he said, “No.” And I said, “I looked at the polls.” He said, “The polls.” And I said, “I looked at the polls and we’re losing. But you don’t need to lose, you should be winning.”
NEWSCASTER: Trump is hoping to finally put that controversy behind him─
NARRATOR: They faced a formidable challenge.
NEWSCASTER: He’s hurt himself some─
NARRATOR: The first presidential debate.
NEWSCASTER: As Trump and Clinton get ready to go head to head─
NEWSCASTER: What will likely be the most watched political showdown─
NARRATOR: As he had throughout his campaign, Trump was willing to gamble. He’d rely on his instincts, not preparation.
MICHAEL D’ANTONIO: There is actually a point of pride that he doesn’t have to prepare. He values raw ability over study. So he wanted to prove that he was right about that.
NARRATOR: Trump mocked Clinton for spending so much of her time preparing for the debate.
DONALD TRUMP: You know, you’ve seen me, I’ve been all over the place. You decided to stay home, and that’s OK─
FRANK LUNTZ, Republican Pollster: Arguably, he was the worst-prepared candidate in the history of American politics when he stepped up against Hillary Clinton for that first debate, and it showed.
HILLARY CLINTON: I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that’s a good thing.
KATY TUR: She knew how to get under his skin. She had been practicing. She had been studying him.
HILLARY CLINTON: Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.
DONALD TRUMP: I did not!
HILLARY CLINTON: I think science is real.
DONALD TRUMP: I did not. I do not say that.
HILLARY CLINTON: And I think─
DONALD TRUMP: I do not say that.
HILLARY CLINTON: ─it’s important that─
KATY TUR: She knew what were his─ knew what his buttons were. And she just started unleashing them one after the other.
HILLARY CLINTON: You call your the King of Debt. You talk about leverage. You even at one time suggested that you would try to negotiate down the─
DONALD TRUMP: Wrong.
HILLARY CLINTON: ─national debt of the United States.
DONALD TRUMP: Wrong.
KATY TUR: And he lost─ he lost control of the debate.
HILLARY CLINTON: Let me say this─
DONALD TRUMP: There’s nothing crazy about not letting our companies bring their money back into their country!
MODERATOR: This is─ this is Secretary Clinton’s two minutes, please.
HILLARY CLINTON: I have a feeling that by the end of this evening, I’m going to be blamed for everything that’s ever happened.
DONALD TRUMP: Why not?
HILLARY CLINTON: Why not. Yeah. Why not? [laughter[
Rep. CHRIS COLLINS (R-NY), Trump Campaign: Hillary Clinton was very artful in getting under Mr. Trump’s skin and bringing up the issues that were like putting, you know, gasoline on a fire.
HILLARY CLINTON: One of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. And he called this woman “Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping” because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.
DONALD TRUMP: Where did you find this?
HILLARY CLINTON: Her name is─
DONALD TRUMP: Where did you find this?
HILLARY CLINTON: ─Alicia Machado─
DONALD TRUMP: Where did you find this?
HILLARY CLINTON: ─and she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet─
DONALD TRUMP: Oh, really?
HILLARY CLINTON: ─she’s going to vote this November!
DONALD TRUMP: OK. OK, good.
NARRATOR: Trump would insist he had won.
MODERATOR: ─concludes our debate for this evening, a spirited one─
FRANK LUNTZ: He was crushed in the first debate. I don’t care whatever pronouncements he wants to make. He was crushed by every possible─ our focus group would tell you he was awful.
DONALD TRUMP: [“Access Hollywood” video] Down in Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it. I did try and [expletive] her. She was married.
NARRATOR: It would get even worse for Trump.
DONALD TRUMP: I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married.
NARRATOR: Just two days before the second debate, an un-aired video from the TV show Access Hollywood.
DONALD TRUMP: I’m automatically attracted to beautiful─ I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet.
MARC FISHER, Co-Author, Trump Revealed: There was one account after another about Donald Trump attacking women, groping women, saying nasty things about women. But the moment that counts is the moment this is on video.
DONALD TRUMP: And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
BILLY BUSH: Whatever you want.
DONALD TRUMP: Grab ‘em by the [expletive]. You can do anything.
JACK KINGSTON, Trump Campaign: Here’s a guy who’s making crude, disgusting jokes, and the father in you, the brother in you comes out, and the husband in you. And you can’t defend it.
NEWSCASTER: The Trump camp has swiftly launched into disaster mode─
NEWSCASTER: A big, big development in this campaign as it comes to─
KATY TUR: Right after that tape came out, suddenly, everybody on the Trump team went radio silent. Everyone.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI, Fmr. Trump Campaign Manager: This was the October surprise, had the ability to take down a campaign. And the internal discussion amongst the campaign, some were “You need to apologize immediately,” and some were “You need to double down.”
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump’s campaign, its worst crisis ever.
MARC FISHER: We keep being told, “He is going to come on TV. He’s going to say something. He’s going to apologize.” And it gets delayed and delayed. And finally, he comes out there and it’s─ it’s an apology of sorts.
DONALD TRUMP: I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. I’ve said and done things I regret, and the words released today on this more than a decade-old video are one of them.
GABRIEL SHERMAN: And so he went on Facebook later that night and gave what was, by Trump standards, a contrite apology. But then he went on the attack.
DONALD TRUMP: Bill Clinton has actually abused women, and Hillary has bullied, attacked, shamed and intimidated his victims.
GABRIEL SHERMAN: I think, Trump being Trump, his only instinct in those moments when his back is against the wall is to just go on the counterattack.
DONALD TRUMP: We will discuss this more in the coming days. See you at the debate on Saturday.
KATY TUR: I think with the exception of maybe one or two people, everyone thought that that was the end. How do you survive this? How do you survive this? As a Republican, how do you survive advocating or saying you’re allowed to grab women in their private parts because you’re a star? That is just not something that anybody can survive.
NEWSCASTER: I think the question now is, how do Republicans down the ballot break away from him?
NARRATOR: The next day, he appeared outside Trump Tower. To many, it seemed like his candidacy was over.
ROBERT COSTA, The Washington Post: I called Trump the day after Access Hollywood, and I ask him point blank, “Are you going to quit the race.” That’s what was on everyone’s mind. And he says, “Costa, I’ve lived life. I’ve seen so much in my life, business, personal. This is nothing. I’ve survived everything else. I’m going to survive this.” And I kept asking him, “Are you going to quit the race?” “There’s no chance I quit,” he said. “Not one chance. I am in this to the end.”
NARRATOR: Donald Trump, undaunted, then headed to the second presidential debate.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, Trump Campaign Manager: He showed up, and he was impervious to the naysayers and critics who were all trying to push him out of the race.
NARRATOR: Trump had a surprise of his own just before the debate was to begin.
KATY TUR: Next thing I know ─ and no one in the press knew this was happening ─ there was a press conference with all Bill Clinton’s accusers right before the debate.
DONALD TRUMP: These four very courageous women have asked to be here, and it was─
NARRATOR: Trump had invited four women to the debate, women who had accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing, charges the Clintons had denied.
KATY TUR: There was widespread shock. Nobody had it beforehand.
COREY LEWANDOWSKI: The genius part of Donald Trump was he didn’t announce these women were coming. He just had them at a table and said, “The media’s welcome to come in right before the debate.” And the media was stunned because the media couldn’t fathom doing something like this.
NARRATOR: Standing in the back of the room, the man who had orchestrated the event, Steve Bannon.
JUANITA BROADDRICK: Mr. Trump may have said some bad words, but Bill Clinton raped me and Hillary Clinton threatened me. I don’t think there’s any comparison.
MICHAEL D’ANTONIO, Author, The Truth About Trump: It was to show America that he believed certain things about the Clintons that many Americans also believe, that he was going to stand up for them against the Clintons in a way that was so tough and really so ruthless that it gave some satisfaction to people who hate the Clintons.
DONALD TRUMP: OK. Thank you all very much. We appreciate it.
NEWSCASTER: Mr. Trump─
NEWSCASTER: ─women without their consent?
NEWSCASTER: Mr. Trump, why did you say you touched women without consent, Mr. Trump?
PAULA JONES: Why don’t y’all ask Bill Clinton that? Why don’t you all go ask Bill Clinton that? Go ahead and ask Hillary, as well!
EVAN OSNOS, The New Yorker: By bringing the accusers to the debate, he put that issue front and center and forced voters out there to remember, in a sense, what it is that they didn’t like about Hillary Clinton.
NARRATOR: This time on the debate stage, Trump stayed on the offensive.
DONALD TRUMP: We have a divided nation because people like her─ and believe me, she has tremendous hate in her heart. She’s got tremendous hatred. And this country cannot take another four years of Barack Obama, and that’s what you’re getting with her.
EVAN OSNOS: I don’t think there was any moment in the campaign in which there was a more divergent interpretation among political professionals and members of Trump’s vast and growing army of supporters.
DONALD TRUMP: When you talk about apology, I think the one that you should really be apologizing for and the thing that you should be apologizing for are the 33,000 e-mails that you deleted and that you acid washed.
MARC FISHER: Hillary Clinton, who is clearly much more measured and programmed than Trump. On the other hand, he’s so much more of a live wire that, by contrast, she seems overly programmed.
MODERATOR: Allow her to respond, please!
HILLARY CLINTON: ─personal e-mails, not official.
DONALD TRUMP: 33,000?
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, we turned over 35,000, so─
DONALD TRUMP: Oh. yeah. What about the other 15,000?
MODERATOR: Please allow her to respond. She didn’t talk while you talked.
HILLARY CLINTON: Yes. That’s true, I didn’t.
DONALD TRUMP: Because you have nothing to say.
HILLARY CLINTON: I didn’t in the first debate, and I’m going to try not to─
ALEC MacGILLIS: He’s mocked for this during and after the debate, kind of stalking around that debate, kind of stalking her. He’s, you know, ridiculed for suggesting that he’s going to put her in jail.
DONALD TRUMP: If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it.
FRANK LUNTZ, Republican Pollster: When he looked her straight in the eye and said that, “There should be a commission to study the crimes you’ve done.” And to my surprise, my focus group said, “Absolutely.” Even those who supported Hillary Clinton want to see these candidates held accountable.
MODERATOR: We have to move on. Secretary Clinton, you can respond, but we’ve got to move on─
FRANK LUNTZ: So for what the media saw as Third World dictatorial politics, our voters saw as one candidate holding the other candidate accountable.
HILLARY CLINTON: It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.
DONALD TRUMP: Because you’d be in jail. [cheers]
MODERATOR: We want to remind the audience to please not talk out loud. Please do not applaud. You’re just wasting time.
DONALD TRUMP: When I speak, I go out and speak, the people of this country are furious!
FRANK LUNTZ: He was speaking the language of the American people, that he was holding Hillary Clinton accountable. You wouldn’t know that if you lived in New York or Los Angeles, but you would know that if you were doing focus groups in Columbus, Ohio, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
NARRATOR: Back out on the campaign trail, Trump’s anti-establishment message continued to resonate.
DONALD TRUMP: And we are going to drain the swamp! We’re going to drain the swamp. We’re going to drain the swamp, folks.
DAN BALZ, The Washington Post: That was how Donald Trump started out the campaign─
DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to drain that swamp!
DAN BALZ: ─by saying things that were anathema to the establishment, but that had resonance in the base of support that he was able to cobble together.
RALLY CROWD: Build that wall! Build that wall! Build that wall!
JACK KINGSTON, Trump Campaign: Yes, maybe he has offended me and maybe he’s offensive, but I’m still out of work. I’m still mad that people are pouring over the borders. And I’m still mad that ISIS is still attacking people all over the globe. And you know what, I’m just going to stick with him.
NARRATOR: With time running out, Trump’s chances of winning still seemed slim, but the race would be shaken up by an unlikely source, Wikileaks.
NEWSCASTER: Breaking news here. Wikileaks is about to release, quote, “significant material” tied to Hillary Clinton─
NEWSCASTER: The campaign is doing damage control tonight after Wikileaks released more of─
NARRATOR: Tens of thousands of private e-mails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were released.
NEWSCASTER: There are some embarrassing details─
JOHN PODESTA, Clinton Campaign Chmn.: This was a daily phenomenon.
NEWSCASTER: ─both at home and abroad in all of this.
JOHN PODESTA: It was a constant, you know, pain to our campaign.
NEWSCASTER: Flood of emails suggested in private her advisers liked to tee off on everyone, from Catholics to Latinos and Southerners─
NARRATOR: Day after day, the stories continued.
NEWSCASTER: ─that she couldn’t convey a clear message to voters─
ROBBY MOOK, Clinton Campaign Manager: It was incredibly damaging because every day, there were bad stories coming out. And they could be perfectly timed.
NEWSCASTER: ─Robby Mook lashed out writing, quote, “Wow, what a terrorist─”
ROBBY MOOK: It was anxiety-provoking. You just don’t know what’s going to come out on any day and that you’re going to have to deal with that.
NEWSCASTER: ─more than 2,000 emails─
NARRATOR: The first e-mails began to trickle out less than an hour after the Access Hollywood video.
DAVID SANGER, The New York Times: The Access Hollywood tape was a big surge, but then, you know, after it had run 400 times on television, it fell off. The Podesta emails kept getting dribbled out news cycle after news cycle after news cycle, and it lives forever.
NARRATOR: There were media reports that intelligence agencies believed the leaks were orchestrated by Russia, but that didn’t seem to bother Trump.
DONALD TRUMP: Wikileaks is amazing, the stuff that’s coming out. It shows she’s a real liar!
This Wikileaks stuff is unbelievable! It tells you the inner heart. You got to read it.
Wikileaks! I love WikiLeaks!
NARRATOR: After the election, intelligence agencies would go further, concluding that the leaks were part of a larger campaign ordered by Russian president Vladimir Putin to help elect Donald Trump.
DAVID SANGER: It was cyber mixed with information warfare. And the press, The New York Times included, became the handmaiden to the process because these emails couldn’t be ignored as news. They were newsy. They were out there. It’s not like you could ignore it and not write about it. But in writing about it, you’re doing the work that Vladimir Putin had in mind.
NARRATOR: Then in the final days, as Hillary Clinton struggled to hold onto her lead, another crisis.
ROBBY MOOK: An LA Times reporter came up to our traveling press secretary, Nick Merrill, and said, “Hey, have you heard anything about some reopening of the investigation by the FBI?”
JEN PALMIERI, Clinton Campaign Comm. Dir.: I kept thinking, This can’t be. This has to be a mistake. It’s got to be referring to something else.
NARRATOR: The FBI director, James Comey, was resuming an investigation of Clinton’s personal e-mail server.
ROBBY MOOK: And I just remember this pit in my stomach and really worrying that this could change the game completely, in a─ you know, in a potentially lethal way.
NARRATOR: Mook and Palmieri briefed Clinton.
JEN PALMIERI: When I went to tell her, I said, “I’ve got some news.” And she said, “OK, what’s your news?” “It’s bad news.” So she said “OK, what’s the bad news?” And so I told her. And she said, “I knew we weren’t going three weeks without something else hitting us.”
ROBBY MOOK: That pit in my stomach─ you know, I’ll never forget that feeling that we just got smacked by a two-by-four, and it came out of nowhere.
NARRATOR: Donald Trump immediately seized on the news.
DONALD TRUMP: I need to open with a very critical breaking news announcement. [cheers] The FBI [cheers] has just sent a letter to Congress informing them that they have discovered new emails pertaining to the former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton’s investigation. [cheers]
RALLY CROWD: Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!
DONALD TRUMP: And they are reopening the case into her criminal and illegal conduct that threatens the security of the United States of America! [cheers]
ROGER STONE, Trump Political Adviser: To win, you need a few breaks. The FBI announcement was such a break, certainly not controlled by the Trump campaign, but it really did throw all the cards up in the air at a pivotal time.
DONALD TRUMP: We are going to drain the swamp!
NARRATOR: For the next week-and-a-half─
DONALD TRUMP: We are going to re-negotiate our terrible trade deals~!
NARRATOR: ─Trump traveled the country building on that momentum─
DONALD TRUMP: And we will keep radical Islamic terrorists─
NARRATOR: ─staying on message─
DONALD TRUMP: ─the hell out of our─
NARRATOR: ─off Twitter.
DONALD TRUMP: We will build a great wall!
NARRATOR: Inside his campaign, they hoped it would be enough.
DONALD TRUMP: And we will make America great again!
MATT OCZKOWSKI, Trump Campaign: It was the first time that Mr. Trump was relatively scandal-free at that point. A lot of things had gone away. Secretary Clinton was in the spotlight by herself. And we saw a spike in numbers that were just uncommon for anything that we’ve seen before. That was really the catalyst for the roll, the snowball effect that continued to happen until election day.
NARRATOR: In the final days of the campaign, he solidified the Republican base. And in rally after rally, he tried to win over voters in the heart of the blue wall, states a Republican hadn’t won in a generation.
ROBERT COSTA: In all these steel towns that have carcasses of factories, buildings where they used to have molten metal, no more. But know what was there? Trump signs.
NEWSCASTER: Today is decision day in America, and we are taking a look at the presidential─
NEWSCASTER: After a long, contentious presidential race we are near the end─
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump will carry the State of Florida with its 29 electoral─
NEWSCASTER: Donald Trump has won the state of Wisconsin, and there goes her blue wall.
NEWSCASTER: This means that Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States.
NARRATOR: As a candidate, he had broken all the rules. Now in the White House, he promises to do the same.
FRANK LUNTZ: You guys need to get used to it, that there is no pivot, that there is no normal, and the fact that there is no normal is the new normal. The only thing that is predictable is the unpredictability of Washington, D.C., from this point forward. So get used to it. Buckle your seatbelts, sit back, because it is going to be a wild ride.
Pres. DONALD TRUMP: From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land─