Tonight Donald Trump was asked by Fox News anchor Bret Baier, "What do you think of eminent domain?" Here was the GOP frontrunner's answer:
I think eminent domain is wonderful, if you're building a highway, and you need to build, as an example, a highway, and you're going to be blocked by a holdout, or, in some cases, it's a holdout—just so you understand, nobody knows this better than I do, because I built a lot of buildings in Manhattan, and you'll have 12 sites and you'll get 11 and you'll have the one holdout and you end up building around them and everything else, okay? So, I know it better than anybody. I think eminent domain for massive projects, for instance, you're going to create thousands of jobs, and you have somebody that's in the way, and you pay that person far more—don't forget, eminent domain, they get a lot of money, and you need a house in a certain location, because you're going to build this massive development that's going to employ thousands of people, or you're going to build a factory, that without this little house, you can't build the factory—I think eminent domain is fine.
Side note: Choosing punctuation for Trump transcriptions is truly a challenge. Anyway, the conversation didn't get any better.
Baier: In 2005, you said you agree with the Kelo case in the U.S. Supreme Court 100 percent. And that basically upholds eminent domain, and—
Trump: If eminent domain—number one, a person has a house, and they end up getting much more than the house is ever worth. You know, eminent domain is not like you—they take yours…. [some Club for Growth insults redacted here]
So. If you have a road or highway, you gotta do it. If you have a factory where you have thousands of jobs, and you need eminent domain, it's called economic development.
Baier: Bernie Sanders, when the decision came out, he said, he spoke out against the Kelo case, he said, "The result of this decision will be that working families and poor people will see their property turned over to corporate interests and wealthy developers."
Trump: It's not right! It's not right. Look, they get, the money—you know the way they talk, people would say "Oh, it's turned over." It's turned over for four or five, six, 10 times sometimes what it's worth! People pay them a fortune. But sometimes you have people that want to hold out just for the—most of the time, I will say, I've done a lot of outparcels, I call them outparcels. Most of the time, they just want money, okay? It's very rarely that they say "I love my house. I love my house. It's the greatest thing ever." Because these people can go buy a house now that's five times bigger, in a better location. So eminent domain, when it comes to jobs, roads, the public good, I think it's a wonderful thing, I'll be honest with you. And remember, you're not taking property, you know, the way you asked the question, the way other people—you're paying a fortune for that property. Those people can move two blocks away into a much nicer house.
Baier: I know, but if they don't want to sell….
Trump: Well, look, I mean, if they don't want to sell, I feel—
Baier: But we can move on….
Trump: I think it's a great subject. It's a very interesting subject. I fully understand the conservative approach. But I don't think it was explained to most conservatives.
In Trump's beloved Kelo case, you may recall, the thing called "economic development" didn't actually lead to any, and the working-class homeowner really did love the house that was bulldozed by the government at the behest of a wealthy developer.
Trump's endorsement of the Supreme Court's 5-4 expansion of the constitutional phrase "public use" to include private development is not surprising, given his line of work and prior reliance on the goliath-vs.-David practice. And his assertion that conservatives (let alone libertarians, or progressives like Bernie Sanders) just need the subject "explained" better to them is not just condescending, it's ignorant: Kelo sparked a widespread public backlash, and its economic-development rationale has been massively unpopular for a decade. For good reason.
Since Trump also wants to end the 14th Amendment's birthright citizenship, and deport the American-born children of illegal immigrants, it's reasonable to conclude that individual rights just aren't his thing.
You can watch the interview here: