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In sprawling 'Time' magazine interview, Trump lays out plans for second term

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump does not do a lot of interviews with mainstream news outlets. But recently, he did a big one with Time magazine. The subject was 2025, what Trump would do if he won the presidency again. Well, Time national politics reporter Eric Cortellessa conducted the interview and spoke with many top Trump advisers and described that agenda as, quote, "the outlines of an imperial presidency that would reshape America and its role in the world." Eric Cortellessa, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

ERIC CORTELLESSA: It's good to be here. Thank you.

KELLY: I will start with a statement that grabbed my attention straight off. In his interview with you, former President Trump promised to carry out a massive deportation operation. Tell me how massive.

CORTELLESSA: Well, bigger than anything the country has ever seen. And we should say that Donald Trump has always fixated on immigration and the border. It's been a Trumpian obsession of his for many years. His plans, if he were to return to office, would be to deport every single undocumented migrant in the country, and that could be as many as 11 million or more. And he told me he would rely mostly on the National Guard, along with other federal agencies like ICE. But, you know, most strikingly, he said he would be willing to deploy the military not only at the border but inland in order to remove these migrants from the country.

KELLY: OK, so a massive deportation operation, like, 11 million people. That's immigration. What about abortion policy? Trump has said before he would leave that up to states. You asked, well, what does that mean? What would the potential consequences of that be? What did he tell you?

CORTELLESSA: Well, you know, it's an interesting question. It's one area where the president is reluctant to reveal too much of what he wants to do precisely, but his firm stance right now is that he would have no role in what other states would do. He would allow states to carry out their policies as they see fit. I asked him very precise, deliberate questions about whether he would allow for certain measures to be taken in red states, including monitoring women's pregnancies to know if they've gotten an abortion off the ban. Trump told me they might do that, and it didn't matter whether he was comfortable with that or not because states are going to make up their minds.

I asked him the same question, whether he was comfortable with states prosecuting or punishing women for getting abortions after the ban. He said, it's totally irrelevant whether I'm comfortable or not because states are going to make those determinations. He would let the states do what they want.

KELLY: We could go on. He talks about how he would consider pardoning everyone convicted on January 6 charges. All of this is what Donald Trump says he wants to do if elected to a second term. What checks remain that would have a say on whether he's able to execute on all this?

CORTELLESSA: Well, Trump has embarked on a very strategic and coordinated effort to remove many of the guard rails that persisted throughout his first term, right? He has tried to clear out of Congress members of his own party who are skeptical of him, intervening in primaries throughout the country in House and Senate races. If he comes into office with GOP majorities in the House and Senate, they'll be replete with MAGA diehards, who are prepared to rubber-stamp his legislative agenda and approve his cabinets.

But there will be checks that remain. There will be the courts. There will be the Constitution. Public opinion will also be a check. In the first term, he had to reverse some of his more draconian policies, such as separating children from their families at the border, because of the outcry. That said, the judiciary this time is going to be stacked with way more of his own appointees, which means they could sign off on some of the more radical actions he wants to take in the White House.

KELLY: I'll note one more check - a free press, of which you are a member. Eric Cortellessa, thank you.

CORTELLESSA: Thank you - good to be here.

KELLY: His Time magazine story based on his interview with Donald Trump is headlined, "If He Wins." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.