Donald Trump explains his popularity: ‘I’m not a puppet’

Gracing the cover of Time Magazine – bald eagle in hand and all – Donald Trump says he’s unlike every other presidential candidate in one important way: he doesn’t want donors’ money.

“They’re all puppets,” he told the magazine of his competitors. “They do whatever you want, especially if they’re not finished with their careers, if they’re going to run again. So with me, the one thing and one of the reasons I think I’m doing so well in the polls is the fact that I am definitely not a puppet.”

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Trump, who doesn’t spend money on polling and advertising and claims to refuse donations from fellow billionaires, said he “doesn’t mind” the big-dollar donations to other political campaigns but suggested that campaign finance rules should be overhauled to promote more transparency about candidates’ sources of cash.

“Let them talk, but let there be total transparency,” he said.

In the interview, he also slammed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, likening the continuing controversy over her use of a personal email server for State Department business to Watergate.

“She’s going through something that for me, for me is Watergate. Her only hope is that because the prosecutors are Democrats she doesn’t get prosecuted,” he said.

Defying political conventional wisdom that requires candidates to maintain a veneer of common-man camaraderie, Trump says that his appeal to middle-class supporters isn’t because they can relate to him.

“I’ve always felt that when Jimmy Carter would walk out off Air Force One carrying his own suits and bags, I always said, that’s not what the country wants,” he said.

“They don’t want that. They want someone who’s going to beat China, beat Japan.” 

This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump explains his popularity: 'I'm not a puppet'