We begin today with our first in a series of 2024 presidential candidate interviews. Vivek Ramaswamy is a 38-year-old businessman who’s never held political office. He got a biology degree from Harvard, a law degree from Yale, and built a billion-dollar fortune in part on a drug development company he founded. He says he’s looking to attack systemic government corruption, eliminate numerous federal agencies, and change Washington, D.C. as we know it. We caught up with him in Iowa where the first 2024 Republican primary votes in the nation will be cast in less than four months.
The following is a transcript of a report from "Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson." Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.
Sharyl: Let's say you're elected president. What are the first executive actions you'd like on your desk?
Vivek Ramaswamy: Well, the first thing is I want to rescind a lot of the old executive actions that have been wrongfully taken. Take Executive Order 11246, an executive order that created race-based quotas in the private sector that require any government contractor — that's 20% of U.S. workforce working for such a company — required to adopt these toxic racial quota systems. I'll take a pen and cross it out. Something that no president has actually had the spine to do. But one of the things I want to get started on very early on is cutting the size of the federal employee headcount, that 75% headcount reduction. We're going to get started on day one. So from the FBI to the U.S. Department of Education, to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to other branches of government or other branches of the administrative state, I'll be shutting them down using executive authority to do it and on strong legal, principled, Constitutional foundations. And I think I'm the only person in this race, or in frankly modern presidential history, who has offered that level of clarity on how we'll actually get that done.
Sharyl: Prior to Republicans winning the House of Representatives, they promised that if they won, they would do something immediately and very strong to handle CDC, the mistakes that it made, the misinformation...
Sharyl: ...that it put out during Covid. Nothing really meaningful has happened. We’re now facing more talk about a Covid resurgence, masking, mandates. What do you make of that, and what's your position on it?
Ramaswamy: My position on is a lot of times with the Republican party, we see a lot of talk and no action. Actions speak louder than words, but it's going to take somebody who's an executive outside of government who also actually has a deep understanding of the law and the Constitution of this country to be able to see that through. That's part of what gives me my sense of purpose in this race. But incremental reform is actually a formula for, in some ways, the worst of all worlds, where you give people the appearance and expectation that something's going to get done, when in fact you're in an even worse situation than you thought you were signing up to be in. The Department of Education is larger and spends more money now than it ever has. The CDC's overreach has now become part of a pattern of precedent that we've set in this country as they're taking further steps in that direction. That's what changes on my watch.
Sharyl: Did you say something like you're the only Republican candidate who's not bought and paid for?
Ramaswamy (Fox News debate, August 23): I am the only person on this stage who isn't bought and paid for, so I can say this.
Ramaswamy: Certainly I was the only person on that stage for whom that was true in a meaningful sense of that word.
Sharyl: What do you mean by that?
Ramaswamy: Well, what I mean for that is, look, let's just get really honest. Let's level. One of the things a question somebody asked me early in this campaign is, "How do you know you're not just saying what your biggest donor told you to say?" And I said, "You know what? That's the way the game works. I am my biggest donor." I put over 15-plus million dollars of our family's hard-earned money into this campaign, and through the end of this campaign, I'm fully confident I will remain our campaign's and our entire effort's single largest donor. So by definition, I'm not bought and paid for by anybody else, the other candidates in this race, it's not their fault. It's the fault of a broken system. It's really a habit of super PAC puppetry that we have in the Republican party, the super PAC game. It's a farce.
Sharyl: If I understand correctly, you made a great deal of your fortune in the pharmaceutical-related industries.
Ramaswamy: That's correct.
Sharyl: How do you posit yourself as somebody who's not a pharmaceutical industry insider with the interests of Big Pharma?
Ramaswamy: Well, first of all, I understand how the game is played. But second of all, you've got to look at the details of the companies I've built. Calling my biotech company and calling me, because of that, part of "Big Pharma" is like the equivalent of calling Rumble part of Big Tech just because it's creating a competitor to YouTube. And I say this as somebody who was an early investor as a private company in Rumble before its stage as a public company today, because I believe in challenging incumbents through the market. Well I took on the bureaucracy of Big Pharma too. One of the problems with Big Pharma is that they have soft coordination to say that there's certain therapeutic areas where they've just decided they're going to abandon it. And the FDA drives a lot of these decisions in the shadow of their decisions too. I view it as corrupt. But what I said is, you know what? Many of those medicines do deserve to be developed even though pharma had abandoned them. One of them — it wouldn't be an approved therapy today if it weren't for me and the company that I founded, and I'm proud of that. It is a life-saving therapy in kids where 100% of kids who are born with a genetic disease, if they're not treated, they're left to die by the age of three, 100% of them. And now a majority of those kids, if they're treated, have opportunities to live lives of normal duration. I'm proud of that, as well as the drug for prostate cancer, or women's health conditions that had been ignored, like endometriosis or uterine fibroids. Yes, I'm proud of that. But that's by taking on the bureaucracy of Big Pharma. I then took on the bureaucracy of the ESG industrial complex. I've taken on Big Tech through my writings and some of the other investments that I've made. But now I'm going in to take on the biggest bureaucracy of all — that is the bureaucracy in our federal government. I'm battle-tested. I have a track record of success. That's frankly what it's going to take for somebody who's up for this task, not somebody who's grown up within the business of reading talking points from a binder from GOP consultants that's not going to get the job done.
Sharyl: You called President Trump the best or greatest president of the 21st century.
Sharyl: Which really only means better than Bush and Obama.
Ramaswamy: And Biden.
Sharyl: And Biden. Where does he stand if you count the 20th-century presidents in your mind?
Ramaswamy: Well, I think that, look, you're then entering a different era. And one of the things I often say is, as Lincoln said, "The dogmas of a quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present." The challenges we faced in 1980 are different than the challenges we face in the year 2023. So I think Trump was unambiguously a great president, no doubt about it, but we can't just aspire to normalcy. We have to aspire to excellence. And to take our America first agenda to the next level, we're going to have to reunite this country. And I think I can reunite this country in a way that no other candidate — not just Trump, but any other candidate in this race — no other candidate can. That's why I'm in this race. We're reaching young people, bringing them along in droves. I'm the youngest person ever to run for U.S. president as a Republican. I'm doing it as somebody who has lived the full arc of the American dream and can speak to that.
Sharyl: You're 38, right?
Ramaswamy: I'm 38, and I'm not moved by vengeance and grievance. I'm moved by gratitude to this country.
Sharyl: If President Trump were to come at some point and tap you on the shoulder and say, "Would you serve under a Trump administration, or would you run with me?" would you consider either of those things?
Ramaswamy: So here's what I would tell him. I think that we're going to have to work together, all of us, to revive this country and play our respective roles, and I would love to work with him. The capacity I see it is that I'll be the next president. That'll put me in a position to reunite this country. But especially during that first year in office, he will undoubtedly be my most trusted mentor and advisor in the White House. That's, I think, the relationship we need to have that'll put me in a position to win in a landslide to reunite this country, but also make sure we don't have a standing start, and understand where he left off so we can take that America first agenda far further under my watch.
Sharyl: Would you pardon President Trump if you got elected?
Sharyl: And I think you've made a statement about some of the January 6th suspects.
Ramaswamy: So I'm going to pardon on day one — not on the last day, which is what many presidents wait for — on day one, anyone in this country who has been a victim of a politically motivated persecution or prosecution. How do I define that? If someone else under similar circumstances would not have been prosecuted or was not prosecuted, that's evidence of a politically motivated prosecution if it's based on political views. So take Julian Assange. He sits in a foreign prison in exile while Chelsea Manning, the government official who leaked to Julian Assange, had her sentence commuted by President Obama because she's transgender. That’s a disparate standard. Julian Assange gets a day one pardon.
Sharyl: Edward Snowden?
Ramaswamy: Edward Snowden gets a pardon under my watch. Now that would be technical about the terms we use. He would get clemency. He hasn't been prosecuted. But I think that exposing the unconstitutionally flagrant violations of a government, especially after he has already served in some ways for taking that risk, deserves to finally move on with his life and so our country can move on with our own national life. And yes, in that category, Donald Trump absolutely will get a day one pardon under my watch because these are politically motivated persecutions, and my standard is how do we move our nation forward? That's what I'm focused on. So on January 20th, that's what I'll be doing: restore one standard of the rule of law, put into motion shutting down the FBI, such that on January 21st, I'm not worried about the Trump family or the Assange family; I'm worried about every American family. But we have to get that right on January 20th, my first day, so that on January 21st, we can start on the rest of the agenda.
Sharyl (on-camera): We’ll be hearing from other Democrats and Republicans, including Donald Trump and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. One note, we’ve been asking Joe Biden for an interview since 2019 and are still hoping he'll agree at some point.
Watch story here.