“I’m doing good for the Muslims,” Trump told Don Lemon in an interview for “CNN Tonight.” “Many Muslim friends of mine are in agreement with me. They say, ‘Donald, you brought something up to the fore that is so brilliant and so fantastic.'”
Among those reaching out to thank him, the Republican front-runner said, was “one of the most important people in Middle East” — Trump didn’t reveal the name — who called on Wednesday to say, “Donald, you’re doing a great service.”
“I have many friends who are Muslims,” Trump told Lemon. “They’re phenomenal people. They are so happy at what I’m doing.”
The feeling, he said, is mutual.
“I love the Middle East,” Trump declared. “I love the people of the Middle East.”
Trump also said his plan had been misrepresented and explained that the immigration ban may not last long.
“It could go quickly, but it’s a subject that has to be discussed,” he said, adding that there would be exceptions for Muslim athletes and diplomats.
Trump pinned the fierce backlash that followed his call for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” on Republican establishment figures and his primary opponents.
“The group that is not criticizing me,” he said, “is the public. The public agrees with what I said. They saw those two animals last week go out and shoot people (in San Bernardino).”
On a possible independent run for the White House
Trump said he was not likely to wage a third-party candidacy, but the billionaire businessman would not rule it out.
“I think it’s highly unlikely unless they break the pledge to me, because it’s a two-way street,” Trump said. “They said they would be honorable. So far, they, I can’t tell you if they are, but the establishment is not exactly being very good to me.”
He added, “If they don’t treat me with a certain amount of decorum and respect. If they don’t treat me as the front-runner…If the playing field is not level, then certainly all options are open. But that’s nothing I want to do…I’ll know that over a period of a couple months. We’ll go through the primaries. We’ll see what happens, and I’ll make a determination.”
On being likened to Adolf Hitler
Trump said the comparisons, which have become increasingly direct, did not upset him.