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Eisenhower Executive Office Building

2:21 P.M. EST

MR. KIRK:  So, thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Nice group.

MR. KIRK:  This is a great audience of millennial leaders from all across the country.  So thank you for taking the time to address us today.

So, this morning you signed some very historic — you know, a historic piece of regulation against China.  They’ve been stealing our jobs for many years now, and the critics have said that, you know, this will trigger a trade war.  I like to say we’ve been in a trade war for 40 years.  So you —

THE PRESIDENT:  And losing.

MR. KIRK:  That’s right.  That’s correct.  (Laughter.)  So thank you for what you’re doing to stand up for the American worker.  Would you like to comment on that and what it means —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it was an honor, actually, doing it.  We had a great news conference a little while ago.  And it’s Section 301.  It’s a very complex pile of words.  But, honestly, it’s very simple.  And the simplicity is what makes it beautiful.

Look, we’ve lost, I mean, so many factories — probably 60,000 factories.  Nobody can even believe it.  In fact, when I first heard the number, I said, “That can’t be real.”  We lost anywhere from 6 [million] to 7 million jobs over a relatively short period of time.  And it’s a whole different thing.

Now, I have to tell you, they’re coming back.  Over the last year, we are bringing jobs back.  As of about two weeks ago, 153 million jobs.  It’s the highest number of jobs we’ve ever had in our country.  So it is coming back.

But we’re losing $375 billion with China.  It could be $504 billion, depending on the way you count.  A lot of different ways of counting.  But no matter how you count, it’s bad.

And we’re doing something that will be the start of making trade with China more fair.  We’re so far down.  And our Presidents, frankly — our past Presidents should never have allowed this to happen.  This has been many, many years.  It’s sort of like the Middle East.  How did that happen?  And other things.  How did all of these things happen?  And North Korea — how did this happen, where it got so bad?  I shouldn’t be the one negotiating North Korea.  This should have been done years ago, Charlie.  This should have been done by somebody before they were in the position that they’re in right now.

But we got stuck with a lot of beauties, but we’ll fix them.  (Laughter.)  We’ll fix them.  (Applause.)

MR. KIRK:  I would like to say, if a Democrat President accomplished one-tenth of what you’ve done over the last year, they would say it’s historic and it’s unbelievable.  And so, what you’ve done for the American people to change the trajectory and save this country and our generation is quite phenomenal.

So let’s talk about tax reform.  The Democrats call it “crumbs.”  A thousand dollars is not crumbs to the young people in this room.  It’s the biggest middle-class tax cut in American history, but it’s also the biggest young person — essentially, the millennial tax cut.  So talk about the amazing economic benefits that we’re seeing thanks to the tax cut package that you championed and you successfully got through Congress.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, Charlie.  And a couple of things:  The individual mandate was knocked out by itself, that would be a big bill.  Knocking out the — (applause).  This is for Obamacare, where you have the privilege of paying a lot of money so that you don’t have to buy bad healthcare.  Okay?  And we got it knocked out.  That was a big thing.

And ANWR — we have that approved, which is tremendous in terms of one of the great energy reservoirs in the world.  And they’ve been working on it.  Reagan tried.  Bush tried.  Every President was trying to get it approved, and we got it approved.  And that was part of our bill.

And then, of course, we have the tremendous tax cuts for people.  And I guess if you think about it, millennials starting out, you have a tremendous advantage now over what you had.  You’re going to pay less taxes.  You have far more incentive.  You’re going to have a lot more money left in your paycheck to spend.  And that’s part of the beauty.  And we’re seeing it, and we’re seeing the numbers.

And, you know, we were at about 1.2 percent GDP.  We’ve now hit 3, and another 3, and a 3.2.  And we’ll see what this next quarter is.  That could be a good quarter.

Our businesses are flourishing.  Jobs are — now, people are going to have choice.  And that’s choice of jobs.  You know, before, if they got one job, they’d stay there even if they didn’t like it because they had no alternative.  Now, people are going out and they’re looking at five, six, seven jobs, and they’re making a choice.  So that really works out.

But young people coming out of college, coming out of even high school.  We’re trying a very big push for vocational schools.  I like the name vocational school, where somebody is good at fixing motors.  I remember I’d be in school, in lower schools, and I’d be doing a test.  And there would be somebody on my right who was not too good.  (Laughter.)  This was not a great student.  This was not going to be Einstein, academically.  Okay?  (Laughter.)  And, yet, that person could fix an engine or a motor so — he was incredible.  Blind folded.  And, by the way, that’s what he liked.  And that’s probably — I don’t know, we lost track — but it’s probably what he ended up doing.  But he had a great ability at that — far greater than me or far greater than other people.  But he’ll never be a student, nor did he want that kind of learning, that kind of whatever you want to call it.

So we need vocational schools.  Now, they call them, a lot of times, community colleges.  I don’t think it’s an accurate definition.

We’re having a lot of companies come into the United States.  We need workers.  And, by the way, illegal immigration — which will be probably one part of a question but I’ll give you the answer right now — we want people to come into our country, but we want them to come in based on merit.  Because we’re going to need these people because we have tremendous numbers of companies coming in, whether it’s Chrysler leaving Mexico and coming into Michigan, or Foxconn — you know, Foxconn is going to open up a tremendous place in Wisconsin, and we’re very proud of that because that was a deal that nobody even thought was happening or could happen.

Apple — they make a lot of the Apple products — Apple is taking $350 billion and they’re coming into our country with — building here.  And I said to Tim Cook a long time ago, “Tim, it’s wonderful, Apple — it’s nice — but we want you to build the places here.”  And he said, because of our tax, because of what we’ve done, they’re bringing in — they’re actually bringing in about $240 billion, but they’re going to be investing $350 billion on new plants and a tremendous campus and lots of other things.

So it’s very exciting, and very exciting for millennials.  Very, very exciting for jobs.

MR. KIRK:  Absolutely.  And black youth unemployment at an all-time low.  (Applause.)  Latino youth unemployment at an all-time low.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s true.  All-time low, black unemployment.  I’m very proud of that.  And Hispanic unemployment, all-time low.  Woman — women unemployment, the lowest in 18 years.  We’re doing great.  We’re really doing great.  And I really believe that — I don’t want to sound braggadocios — (laughter) — but I think that there’s never been an administration that’s done as much as we’ve done in the first year.

You know, if you look at regulations — forget about tax — I think the cutting of the regulations may be as important or more important than even the tremendous tax cuts.

MR. KIRK:  That’s right.  And you said you would get rid of one regulation — two regulations for every one.  And I think it’s now 22 for every 1, thanks to your leadership with that.

THE PRESIDENT:  And that will be 22 for 1.  (Applause.)

MR. KIRK:  That’s absolutely amazing.  It’s amazing.  And so, shifting gears for a minute here, one of the other things that you’ve done so successfully during your campaign and presidency is crush political correctness.  And what the college network that we represent — I represent an organization on 1,200 college and high school campuses — is it’s harder than ever to espouse support of your presidency and the ideas that you’re fighting for.  So thank you for what you’re doing to help give us the courage of our convictions to fight against political correctness.

But what advice do you have for young patriots and conservatives on campus that support your agenda that are being ridiculed and silenced because of administrators that are clamping down on free speech?

THE PRESIDENT:  So, Charlie, it’s a great question.  I think the numbers are actually much different than people think.  I think we have a lot of support.  If they have one campus or two campuses that we know what they are, it gets all the publicity.

We have campuses where you have a vast majority of people that are, perhaps, like many of the people in this room — you could call it conservative, you call it whatever you want — but they’re people that want free speech.  If you look at what’s going on with free speech, with the super left, with Antifa, with all of these characters — I’ll tell you what, they get a lot of publicity.  But you go to the real campuses and you go all over the country or you go out to the Middle-West, you go out even to the coast in many cases, we have a tremendous support.  I would say we have majority support.  I think it’s highly overblown.  Highly overblown.

MR. KIRK:  I totally agree.  And we see it on the ground, and people say, “Hey, I’m a Trump supporter, I’m just not allowed to say it because of the culture that’s been created by the administrators and the professors.”  And kind of piggybacking off of that, what you see on college campuses, and the speakers being disinvited and, you know, the assault on these ideas, I think it’s so important what your administration is doing for the Department of Justice to support these lawsuits to help advance this free speech movement on campus.

So, kind of talking generationally in general, this is something that I’m quite curious about, and a lot of people ask me: I consider you to be one of the most successful businesspeople in American history, and your successful presidential run is something that all people, young people included, should look up to.  What advice would you give to the 25-year-old Donald Trump, knowing what you know today?  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t run for President.  (Laughter and applause.)

MR. KIRK:  But we’re glad you did.

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, I was talking to Mercedes and Sarah walking off — you know, the Oval Office is right across the street — and I said, all my life I’ve gotten really — you know, look, we all get, every once and a while, a knock — but I got the greatest publicity.  I was getting such great — until I ran for office.  (Laughter.)

But it’s been — people get it.  People really do get it.  There is a lot of fake news out there.  Nobody had any idea.  And, you know, I’m actually proud of the fact that I exposed it, to a large extent.  Because we exposed it.  (Applause.)  It’s something — it’s an achievement.

And you have some great news.  And you know, when I say, “fake,” I don’t mean everybody.  Not every one of those many people back there.  I just say we have shown something that a lot of people didn’t really understand.  If you look at approval rating, their approval rating is — sorry, folks — it’s down the tubes.  (Laughter.)  Because people have found out how dishonest it is.  However, you have some great, great reporters.  You have some great people in the press, people that I have tremendous respect for.  And it is that way, also.  And that’s very important.  And it’s also reassuring to know that, you know, that’s the fact.

MR. KIRK:  Absolutely.  And your capacity to be able to fight back against the press — and look, they say — they talk about your approval ratings — these are the same people that said you were going to lose in a landslide victory, and now we’re supposed to believe these approval rating polls.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think a lot of the polls are not real too, because there were — a couple of them got us right, but a lot of them didn’t.  And lot of them purposely didn’t, because, you know, they set an expectation when they give you a certain poll.  People say, “Oh, gee, I think I’m not going to vote.  I love Trump but he’s not going to be able to make.”  So they’ll go to a movie and they’ll say, “We’ll go home and we’ll watch later.”  And they go home and they watch and they say, “Gee, if only we voted.”  But they really voted.  In 2016, they came out and they voted.  There was nobody that stayed home.

And as you know, the results were far greater than the polls.  Now, a lot of people just don’t want to talk about it.  They say, you know, we love Trump but we don’t have to talk about it.  We love — what do we love?  We love a strong military.  We like low taxes.  We like all of the things that are happening now, jobs, tremendous cutting in regulation.  All of the things that you see happening right now, they like that.  They don’t have to talk about it.

They went into the booth — and you know, look, this was the big story.  People came out that nobody knew existed.  And the Democrats are looking for those people right now.  (Laughter.)

I got a tremendous number of people from the Obama administration, where they voted for Obama — President Obama — they voted for him and they voted for me.  They voted for Bernie Sanders — a lot of people — and I think because he was right about trade.  The difference is I know how to fix the problem, not just talk about it.  But he was right and that’s what we’re doing.  That’s why we had the 301 meeting today on China.

But Bernie Sanders was very strong on saying that we’re getting ripped off on trade.  He happened to be right.  And I got a lot of Sanders voters.  Who would think that?  You know, you would think I would have gotten virtually none, but many of them came — that was a big part of the difference between Hillary Clinton and myself.

So we have a tremendous amount of support.  And it’s sort of an interesting thing:  Sometimes they say, “You add nine.  Whatever Trump’s poll number is, add nine.”  People don’t want to talk about it.  They don’t want to be bothered.  But when they get into the voting booth, they say, “Vote Trump.”

You know, we gave a speech the other night in Pennsylvania for a very nice guy, Rick Saccone.  And it was — the level of love in that room was incredible.  We were in Pensacola, Florida a couple of weeks ago.  The place was just rocking.  Now, I don’t know if it’s transferable.  They say a lot of it’s not transferable.  They may like me.  They may vote for me.  They’re all saying I’m going to do great in 2020.  I mean, you know, let’s see what happens, right?

But I don’t — they don’t know if it’s transferable.  I hope it’s transferable because we have to do our agenda.  We have to win in ’18.  We have to get the agenda.  We need more Republicans.

We could also, by the way, get rid of the filibuster situation going on in the Senate.  I feel very strongly about that.  It would make life a lot easy — easier.  But you look at some of the votes — we would get so many more votes — if you could work that with youth — get rid of it, because certain senators just want to keep it.  But it makes things a little bit tougher.

But I will say, we need more Republicans and we’re going to get your taxes — you know, I don’t know I you know but we’re — I was with Kevin Brady the other day.  We’re starting a phase two on tax cuts.  We’re going to get more tax cuts and we’re going to be very focused again on the middle class.  We’re going to get a phase-two tax cut because it worked so well.  Nobody thought it would be like this.  It worked so — the word “crumbs” is going to be like the word “deplorable,” I think, for Hillary.  (Applause.)

MR. KIRK:  Totally agree.  And —

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, Charlie, when she said the word — I was watching that speech, and I thought it was, you know, not very nice, but I didn’t see it that bad.  And the next day, I’m at a speech and women are coming in, “I’m a deplorable.”  The husband, “I’m a deplorable.”  And I say, “What’s going on?”  That word really — and it was a basic —

MR. KIRK:  Irredeemable.

THE PRESIDENT:  It was a — that’s right.  She actually said “deplorable and irredeemable.”  Irredeemable is probably worse.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRK:  She was reading off a teleprompter.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the one she did last week wasn’t too good either — that the woman goes and asks the husband, the son, and the male boss for approval to vote for Trump.  That was not too good.  (Laughter.)  That was not too good.

Q    And she found a way to insult both men and women.  She said women can’t make decisions on their own, and men are so controlling over women, they don’t allow them to make decisions of their own.  Only Hillary could figure out a way to possibly do that.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is not good.  (Laughter.)

MR. KIRK:  No.  Kind of, in closing here, I know the next panel, we’re going to be talking about the crisis on college campuses, but specifically talking about the opioid epidemic, which is something that has just totally devastated Middle America.  And I know your administration is making historic strides to help fix the issue.  So can we talk a little bit about opioids and what you’re doing to help —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, Charlie, so we’re going to be putting $6 billion over a fairly short period of time into the opioid crisis.  It’s a crisis.  And you have to include in that the drug crisis, period.  Drugs are coming across the southern border and coming all over.  That’s why we will have the wall.  We have $1.6 billion toward the wall, and fixing up bad walls that are already up and, you know, building them new and rebuilding them.  And a lot of work being done.

You know, certain communities, believe it or not, like in San Diego, they want a wall.  Nobody likes to talk about that.  In fact, I said, “Don’t build a wall there.”  They’re all wanting it.  And Jerry Brown, who’s doing a terrible job as governor, but you know.  (Laughter.)  No, if you like high taxes and lots of other — and crime — that’s your guy.  (Laughter.)  But they go and they talk so much about the wall.  But in San Diego, as you know, there’s a long stretch that is demanding the wall.  So I said, okay — they were ready to start.  I said, “Don’t build it.  We’ll wait until we get everything approved.”  Because they’re having a lot of pressure.  They want the wall.

Look, we have to stop the drugs from coming in.  So, opioids are a big problem.  We’re going to be probably — we’re developing potential litigation to be suing some of these companies.  If we could only do a painkiller that’s not so addictive.  This stuff is brutal.  You have a broken arm, you go to the hospital, you’re there for a few days; you come out, your arm is fixed and now you’re a drug addict.  And we got to do something about it.  It’s so incredibly addictive and so quickly.  And we are working here with research money.  We’re working, and very strongly, on coming up with painkillers that aren’t so addictive, and maybe not addictive at all.  And I think that will be a big thing.

The other thing we have to do, in terms of the drug problem, is we have to be very tough on sentences.  And, you know, a drug dealer will kill sometimes more than 2,000 people.  Sometimes much more than that.  Ruin families, ruin lives.  And they get caught; they’ll get 30 days in jail.  They get a fine.  They won’t even get jail.  They’ll get a year in jail.  And yet, if they kill somebody — if they shoot somebody, if they get into a fight and somebody dies, they put them in jail for life or they give them the death penalty.

But these people kill thousands of people over the course of their lives through drugs.  So we’re going to have to get much, much tougher in terms of penalty.  And if you want to stop it — if you look at certain countries where they have, as an example, the death penalty, and say, “How’s your drug problem?”  And they will tell you, “We don’t have much of a drug problem.”

So I sort of — there’s nothing to laugh about, nothing to smile about.  But when we have these Blue Ribbon committees composed of some very nice people, many of whom are in the office — Alex and Alex.  We have a double Alex, and Ivanka.  And we’ll set up a nice — and Kellyanne.  Has anybody ever heard of Kellyanne?  Huh?  (Laughter and applause.)  She’s become — I told Ivanka this morning, you can take Kellyanne and put her right into the heart of the battle to somebody who the level of hatred back there is so incredible.  (Laughter.)  Seven in the morning, the cameras are on, the lights are on, and she’s there, and she’ll just take them on.  You know, great courage.  Really great courage.  A lot of people say, “Please, please.”  (Applause.)

You know, Charlie — it’s true.  A lot of people say, “Please, Mr. President.  Please don’t put me in there.”  She’ll say, “Where do you want me to go?”  Right?  It’s all words.  It’s all — if you think about it.  And here’s another great warrior right here.  Right, Ivanka?  You are a great warrior.  (Applause.)

MR. KIRK:  Thank you.  I appreciate that.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Really is great.

MR. KIRK:  Thank you.  Yeah.  Thank you, Mr. President.  We’re fighting for you, and we can’t wait for the next seven years.  So thank you so much.  We appreciate it.

THE PRESIDENT:  That will be great.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)


2:41 P.M. EDT