Donald Trump said it would be a "miracle" if Hillary Clinton is able to continue her run for president in the wake of the controversy surrounding her use of a private email server to conduct official business as Secretary of State — but if she does, he'll beat her.
"I think [Clinton] may not be able to run, to be honest, because this whole email thing is a horrible thing," he said in an interview conducted by NBC's Chuck Todd.
Trump likened her situation to that of General David Petraeus, who resigned as director of the CIA after his affair with his biographer was uncovered, and later accused to have shared classified materials with her. The controversy surrounding Clinton's email use intensified this month as reports revealed the FBI was investigating the security of her private server.
"General Petraeus, his life has been destroyed. And he did 5% of what she did," Trump said. "So assuming she's able to run — which would be absolutely, to me, a miracle at this point — I will beat her."
The GOP frontrunner offered that as evidence he hadn't conspired with the Clintons, as some skeptics believe, to enter the race to undermine the GOP's chances of taking back the White House. Trump said he had made up his mind to run before Bill Clinton phoned him and encouraged him "to play a larger role in the Republican Party," according to the Washington Post.
"And I think he's very disappointed that I'm running," Trump said of Bill, "because I'm the one person that's going to beat her."
The real-estate mogul holds a lead in nearly every poll of the Republican field, but over the past month he's openly floated a contingency plan in case he doesn't win the nomination: Break off from the GOP and make a third-party run for the White House.
In his interview on "Meet the Press," however, Trump said he could drop his threat to make a third-party bid for the White House "in the not too distant future" — but hinted he was keeping the option over for "leverage."
"I'm not prepared to close that door yet," he said, when asked about his third-party threat. "But I wouldn't be surprised if someday in the not too distant future it happens."
The GOP frontrunner has been floating a potential independent bid for weeks over what he said was initially a lack of "support" from the Republican National Committee. Many party leaders, including RNC Chairman Reince Preibus, criticized Trump's controversial rhetoric and blustery style, and Trump said if party leadership were "not fair" towards him, the likelihood of his running third party would increase.
But it seems his relationship with the party has warmed considerably since then.
"They are treating me very well. I just want to be treated fairly," Trump said.
Still, the real-estate mogul kept the option open, saying he "believes in leverage."
"I would say that it's highly unlikely that I ever [run third-party]. But I just don't want to close that door yet," Trump said.