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Predicting Trump Won’t Last Full Term, Alec Baldwin Speaks Out on Impersonating the President

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Earlier this week, we sat down with award-winning actor Alec Baldwin, the acclaimed Donald Trump impersonator on “Saturday Night Live.” Baldwin’s performances have been seen by millions—including President Trump himself. Baldwin is currently preparing for another run of Trump impersonations on the upcoming season of “Saturday Night Live.” We spoke with Baldwin on Monday at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.

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AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Alec Baldwin, the award-winning actor who impersonates Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: [played by Alec Baldwin] Kellyanne, I just retweeted the best tweet. I mean, wow, what a great, smart tweet.

AIDE: [played by Kenan Thompson] Mr. Trump, we’re in a security briefing.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: [played by Alec Baldwin] I know, but this could not wait. It was from a young man named Seth. He’s 16, he’s in high school, and I really did retweet him. Seriously, this is real.

AMY GOODMAN: Alec Baldwin’s performances have been seen by millions—including, well, Donald Trump himself. Last December, Trump tweeted, quote, “Just tried watching Saturday Night Live–unwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Baldwin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad.”

Well, Alec Baldwin responded. He tweeted, “Release your tax returns and I’ll stop. Ha.”

Well, to date, Trump hasn’t released is taxes, and Baldwin hasn’t stopped his impersonations. He’s now preparing to return to Saturday Night Live for another season playing Trump.

I spoke to Alec Baldwin on Monday night at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you have to do to be President Trump?

ALEC BALDWIN: You know, I think there are obviously people out there who do a more keen impersonation of Trump, you know, if we were doing a movie and doing multiple takes, and we were kind of luxuriating time-wise. This is a five-minute cold opening, even less, of a live TV show. So I had to really think to myself, “How can get it—make it simple, a caricature?” And to me, the key to that is just making Trump as miserable as possible. Regardless of what news he’s offering, regardless of what happens during the course of the day, just make him miserable, and we’re there.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: [played by Alec Baldwin] Before we begin, I just need to know that I have your undying loyalty.

LESTER HOLT: [played by Michael Che] You don’t, sir.

AMY GOODMAN: But how do you physically become him? What do you feel your body becoming when you turn into Donald Trump?

ALEC BALDWIN: Well, if you maintain it, because sometimes it’s hard to—you know, concentration-wise, you have to maintain this simple thing. And when I did it, it was really just kind of like, you know, stick your mouth out as far as you can, like you’re trying to like chew the paint off a car. And then, you know, left eyebrow up, right eyebrow down. Get your mouth out there as far as you can. And make him miserable, like on a psychic level. You have to just—so, I’ll sit in a room and try to—like, my neck gets sore. I’ll sit in a room for like 30 minutes before we go on the air. I’ll sit there, and I’ll be going, “It’s fantastic. It’s fantastic.” You know, like really trying to get my mouth in that zone where you push your face out like you’re in the movie Alien.

AMY GOODMAN: So you didn’t know how this was going to be received, at the beginning?

ALEC BALDWIN: No.

AMY GOODMAN: Who suggested you?

ALEC BALDWIN: I was told it was Tina Fey suggested to Lorne that we do it. And, of course, everybody presumed we would do it for three shows, prior to the election, and then we were done.

AMY GOODMAN: Tina Fey, who played Sarah Palin.

ALEC BALDWIN: Tina—Lorne was talking to Tina. They’re very close. And Lorne said, “Who do you think would make a good Trump?” And they had a few ideas. And Tina said, “Alec should play Trump.” And I don’t know what she meant by that. But again, we just assumed we would do it for a handful of shows, and we’d be done, because we all assumed he wouldn’t win.

AMY GOODMAN: So what was your reaction on election night?

ALEC BALDWIN: I was mortified, for two reasons. I was mortified in the same way that everybody else was mortified who was opposed to his candidacy, and I was mortified knowing that I would, in all likelihood, have to continue with this routine.

AMY GOODMAN: So, we’re talking on—a few days after Bannon was fired or let go and says he’s going to now take on his biggest weapon of all, and that he’s all jacked up to go back to Breitbart. You had this famous skit on Saturday Night Live with Bannon.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: [played by Alec Baldwin] Send in Steve Bannon.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that and what was being conveyed there, the big desk and the little desk.

ALEC BALDWIN: Well, there was some talk about Rosie O’Donnell coming on and playing Bannon. And I think a big part of the reason that didn’t happen is because the show—and Lorne is very astute about this—doesn’t want to bring in too many outside people. He has a company of actors, and he needs to use those people, rather than handing out these plum roles to people outside the building. Of course, that happens every now and then, as well. So they hired Mikey to come on an do Bannon as Death, and which I thought was very, very funny, although I certainly would have loved to have seen Rosie’s version of Bannon.

But Bannon is emblematic of what Trump felt he needed. I always felt that during the—once Trump won in November, and until they took power in late January, I had this image of Bannon in some kind of leather-upholstered card playing room in his house, and him and his buddies were smoking cigars and drinking whiskey. And they were turning over names—they were playing a game of casting all of the members of Trump’s Cabinet. And so, somebody turns over the name Pruitt, and they all “Ooh” and “Ooh. Good one. Pruitt, ooh. For EPA.” And the goal being, ultimately, to come up with a Cabinet between them that, in combination, would literally make the editorial board of The New York Times cry, like you could hear them crying all the way down I-95 from New York.

And he succeeded in doing that. He succeeded in getting people who were absolutely not only unqualified, they are the enemies of the avowed mission of those departments—you know, Pruitt in the EPA, in the interior, want to open up all these public lands for drilling. We have a group of people now who—Tillerson, who thinks he can run the whole State Department by himself. It’s like him and three guys in a car driving around with a cellphone. They haven’t staffed anybody. I mean, this notion that you want to trim down government. I mean, I’m a firm believer that one of the problems in this country is not that we spend too much money, not that people’s taxes are too high—we’ve all heard all these clichés about how the U.S. compares to other Western civilizations in terms of percentages of taxes. But the real problem is how much money we waste—subsidies for oil, subsidies for sugar, subsidies for the defense industry. And we need to spend the money differently. We need to spend the money more carefully. But you got these guys who—you know, they treat this government like their job is to have a yard sale. You know, they’d be selling furniture on the front lawn of the Hoover building if they could get away with it.

AMY GOODMAN: Does this role that you’re playing—and who knows how long it will be?—does it make you want to run more or less for office? Because it’s something you’ve considered.

ALEC BALDWIN: Well, I certainly have considered that. And I think the only reason I think about that is because there’s a concept, and I don’t necessarily think this is as effective as a—I don’t know how effective it would be if I ran. But there’s a concept that the Republicans, for example, have co-opted in my lifetime, that they are a more commonsense party. Their charges against the Democrats are that they’re profligate with money and that they’re—you know, that they throw money away on social programs like Obamacare and so forth.

And my feeling is, is that we need to return to commonsense policies of this country that are really commonsense policies, like let’s stop subsidizing fossil fuels. You were there in Dakota. I mean, no more pipelines. No more—we have the resources now to have—first of all, we’ll never be out of—to use energy as one example, we’ll never be out of the oil business. We will always need oil. We will always need refined oil products for jet fuel and for emergency vehicles. You’re not going to have ambulances and police cars be run by solar power, for example, or whatever. But to reduce that dependence and to reduce that usage significantly, by half by 2030 and then half again. I have friends of mine who work in alternative energy who say we could put derricks on the Great Lakes with wind turbines on them and power one-quarter of the country with the wind that’s generated by that, during certain times of the year. And on and on and on, where we—where we need to stop—like, for example, when Trump said, “Coal. I’m going to bring coal back.” I mean, how many people threw up in their mouth and swallowed it when he said that? You want to go to the people in the coal industry and say, “I got a job for you. It’s not in coal. Coal is dead, and you’re all going to be—you are all out of a job in coal. And I want to turn parts of Kentucky and parts of West Virginia into the renewable energy universities of the world.” Let’s put as much geothermal and as much solar and as much wind in there as we can and train those people to work in that field.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, with the media obsessing about Russia—I’m talking about CNN and MSNBC—does that give people hope in the United States of what an alternative is?

ALEC BALDWIN: Well, I think that—you know, Glenn Greenwald is someone who baits people in this country incessantly. It seems to be his raison d’être, is to bait Americans about wasting their—wasting their time investigating the Russia situation. And I am perfectly willing to admit—unlike people like Greenwald, for that matter, I’m perfectly willing to admit that I’m wrong. But at the same time, I tend to doubt that Mueller and company and everybody who has got their shoulder into or even a finger on the scale of what’s going to happen to Trump, that all of them are wrong. You know, what—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, they’re doing their thing. But the networks, in terms of what needs to be covered on a regular basis, I mean, what, 80 percent of—at least that on Russia, the alternatives may be 20 percent. What about if that was switched around, and we looked at, really, what was happening in this country, and that investigation carried on, and we would see what would happen?

ALEC BALDWIN: Well, I think when you say—that’s a very subjective thing is to try to wonder which stories should be prioritized in this country. For example, I look at Carl Bernstein, and I’m very tuned into what Carl has been saying on CNN, that Trump is being unfit for office, and Trump requiring a psychiatric and medical examination in order to carry on. I buy that. That’s the biggest story of all. But that’s never going to get any traction. That’s never—that idea of hustling Trump into a doctor’s office and having him checked out, that’s never going to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: But the word is, of course, you have people like the Tennessee Senator Corker, who was pro-Trump, now talking about his stability and his ability to lead. Are you concerned about the man behind him, Vice President Pence, without the chaos of Donald Trump, without the catastrophe of Donald Trump, for even the Republicans—

ALEC BALDWIN: Well, I think that there would—

AMY GOODMAN: —that the plan will then really accelerate of what they want to do?

ALEC BALDWIN: Well, no one can predict what will happen, but two things. One is that Pence—although I find most of his policies abhorrent, and I’m opposed to many of those policies, Pence—there’s a very good chance Pence would wind up president. You know, Trump would need to resign or be impeached between now and 2020. I think the Democrats will make—I believe—I’m not just hoping, but I believe the Democrats will make huge inroads in 2018, and then Pence is faced with a Democratic House, or maybe a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House. And then, Pence knows how to deal. He’s one of them. Trump is not one of them. And although Pence has his anthem and what he wants done in this country, I doubt he’ll get a lot of what he wants if he has to deal with the Democrats.

Now, the other thing is that I think—I think Mueller is going to come up with an indictment. Mueller is going to hand that indictment to the House Judiciary Committee. They have to decide whether they want to bring articles of impeachment. They’re going to go to Trump, and something will be finessed where Trump will resign. And they need to do that quickly to get that smell, that stench, out of the room, so they can prop up Pence to run as the nominee, because they will go in one four-year period from controlling the White House and both houses of Congress to losing all three in 2020. Trump will be responsible for the most catastrophic political reversal in American history, I believe. I’ll have to check on those facts and see. But I think that—I think that Mueller is going to indict Trump. I really do.

AMY GOODMAN: And your future now with Saturday Night Live? Are you—

ALEC BALDWIN: I will be more than happy to be put out of a job. I can’t wait. I can’t wait for this to be ended for me. I do this because it’s fun. I do—people seem to enjoy it. I do it per my availability, because I have a lot of other things going on. This show does tend to crash my weekend with my family and my little kids.

But you know something—I don’t need to tell you this—and that is, we’re here to do a program, you and I, with Bob Garfield and Nicholas Lemann from Columbia School of Journalism, and the program is entitled “Ideology vs. Fact: The New Normal in News.” And you’ve been doing this for a long time, and so has Bob, and so has Lemann. And we’re here to talk about: How can we get back to some source, and how do we easily identify a source, of media that we can rely on? Because people do rely on media. We need people to tell us. We need people to not just tell us the facts. We need people to help us prioritize what’s happening. Right now, as I think you and I would both agree on this, that the stories that are being prioritized, and what’s being featured, what’s being put forth as the most important stories of the day, are not the most important stories of the day. And that function of the press, that prioritization, I think, is vital.

AMY GOODMAN: So, finally, Alec Baldwin, you have a vested interest in bringing Donald Trump down, because you don’t want to do this anymore, you don’t want to impersonate him anymore.

ALEC BALDWIN: Well, I think that the—I am guilty of—in the last eight years, I am guilty, from 2008 on, of—which I never did before, but I really found, for some reason—I don’t know why. I need to kind of examine this. I am very guilty of sitting there when Obama came in, especially in Obama’s second term, and saying, “Our guy is in there. We’re good.” I took a long nap politically. I turned all my attention toward the arts. I turned all my philanthropy of my foundation toward the arts. I don’t give any money to candidates. I don’t campaign for people. I mean, I was very political in campaigning for Chuck Schumer and campaigning for this one and campaigning for Hillary and campaigning for Bill and campaigning for Teddy Kennedy and campaigning for Carter, when I first went to GW as a freshman in Washington in '76. And my point is, is that I really do care deeply about this country and this country's future—and, I mean, like anybody, not to any exaggerated amount. I’m an American, and I care about my country. And I kind of turned my attention elsewhere. Now my attention is back on this subject. And without boring you with the details of that, there’s a lot of things I’m getting involved with and a handful of groups I’m getting involved with to get much more political than I’ve been in the last eight years.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Trump will make it to the end of his term?

ALEC BALDWIN: I don’t.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Alec Baldwin. He won an Emmy for his acting in 30 Rock. Yes, Alec Baldwin, the man who impersonates Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, which is returning in September. I spoke to him Monday night at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, a debate on whether troops should remain, U.S. troops, in Afghanistan. Stay with us.

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