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South Lawn
9:24 A.M. EST

Q    Mr. President, are you losing leverage, sir, as Republicans want to reopen the government?

THE PRESIDENT:  So the job numbers were fantastic.  The best numbers we’ve had in many years.  It shocked Wall Street analysts.  It didn’t shock me.  I know what’s going on.  But the job numbers were beyond anybody’s expectations.  Really, hundreds of thousands more than your top picks.  So that was a great thing.

One of the elements of job numbers is, if you remember, the past administration said you’d need a wand to bring back manufacturing jobs.  Well, manufacturing jobs are coming back at a very high level.  We had a tremendous manufacturing jobs report, and we’re very happy to see that.  We’ve worked very hard.

We have many companies coming back into the United States; many car companies going to Michigan, going to Pennsylvania, going to Ohio, and other places.  But they’re coming back into the United States.  In most cases, they’ve left, and now they’re coming back in.  So we’re very happy about that.

I’m going to Camp David.  We’ll be discussing many topics: North Korea; the China trade deal, which is coming along very well.  Both of those subjects coming along very, very well.  We’ll obviously be discussing the wall, which is desperately needed, even if you read some of the papers that don’t report accurately, of which there are many.  But a couple in particular, they say that the surge to come into our country has never been stronger.  And it’s very unfair to people that want to come in legally.  But the surge has never been stronger.  And we have to build a wall, or we have to build a barrier.

The barrier, or the wall, can be of steel instead of concrete, if that helps people.  It may be better.  But I’m willing to do that so our great steel companies — which are now back in business — they were very, very — they were doing very poorly when I took office, and now they’re doing very well.  A lot of steel workers working that never had a chance of getting a job in the steel industry again.  Our steel industry was dying, and now it’s very vibrant.

I intend to call the head of United States Steel and a couple of other of our great steel companies to have them come up with a plate or a design of a beautiful steel product, which we now make here, and we’ll use that as our barrier.

So we’re trying to do everything possible to get money to our incredible people, but many of those incredible people agree with me and they say, “Make sure you win this battle.”  This is a very important battle to win, from the standpoint of safety, number one; defining our country and who we are; also from the standpoint of dollars.  This wall will pay for itself many times during the course of a year.  The money we’re talking about is very small compared to the return.  You’ll receive a return many times during the course of the year.  That’s the kind of numbers we’re talking about.

But most importantly, it’s about safety; it’s about security for our country.  It’s about stopping human traffickers.  It’s about stopping drugs.  So we have to have it.  Got to have it.  But we have no choice.  It’s not a question.  You think I like doing this?  I don’t like doing this.  But we have no choice.  We have to have it.

Q    Mr. President, do you relate to the pain of federal workers who can’t pay their bills?

THE PRESIDENT:  I can relate.  And I’m sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustment.  They always do.  And they’ll make adjustment.  People understand exactly what’s going on.  But many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing.

And I will tell you, I just saw a poll — 75 percent — it was on Fox.  But I just a saw a poll — 75 percent, that immigration is so important.  And it is.  It’s a very big issue.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I can’t hear you.

Q    If you think you can declare a national emergency, what is the point of having a shutdown?

THE PRESIDENT:  I may declare a national emergency dependent on what’s going to happen over the next few days.  We have a meeting.  Vice President Pence and a group will be going to a certain location that you know where that is, and they’ll be having another meeting.  I don’t expect to have anything happen at that meeting, but I think we’ll have — nor does the Vice President.  But I think we’re going to have some very serious talks come Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.

We have to have border security.  If we don’t have border security, we’re going to be crime-ridden, and it’s going get worse and worse.  It was so sad watching the funeral of the slain police officer yesterday — Officer Singh.  That was a very sad thing.  But this is going on in many places.  Over the course of — if you go back to the year 2000, we have thousands of people that have been killed by illegal immigration, by people coming into the country illegally, and killing our citizens.  We can’t have it.  We can’t have it.

Q    Will federal workers get paid on January 11?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll see what happens.  We’ll see whether or not it’s settled.

Q    (Inaudible) Republican senators (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will say this: I have tremendous support within the Republican Party.  If you look at Congress, you saw — with all of the numbers, you saw just a very small group of people voting.  And it wasn’t really against; it was a vote to open.  It wasn’t against.  Because I think everybody agrees — frankly, the Democrats agree that you need border security.  They agree that you need a barrier.

I put out a quote this morning of Barack Obama; I put out a quote this morning of Hillary Clinton in 2015 — that was a few years ago — strongly saying that you need a border to keep illegals out.  And that’s what you have to have.

But it’s not just illegals.  It’s criminals.  It’s drugs.  It’s the new phenomena that’s been age-old, been going on for thousands of years, but it’s never been worse than now because of the Internet.  Human trafficking — where they grab women, put tape over their mouth, come through our border, and sell them.  And they go both ways, in both directions.  Now, they don’t go through a port of entry.  They’d be caught.  But they go up where there’s no wall.  They make a right; they go to Mexico.

Look, we better get smart.  Human trafficking is a big business.  It’s a big deal.  Dealing in children is a big deal.  Children are probably the most harmed by not having the wall or its equivalent.

But if you look at the human trafficking, they come in, they nab women, they grab them, they put tape over their mouth, they ties their hands, and they take them to another country, and they go right over that border.  If we had a powerful wall, or its equivalent, they wouldn’t be able to do it because they’d have to go through ports of entry.

Q    Mr. President, how will a compromise look?  How do you envision a compromise (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, I can say this: Everybody is playing games.  But I can say this: I think that the Democrats want to make a deal.  I really do.  I feel that.

Q    What is the deal?  Will you come down from $5.6 billion?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll call it something different.  I don’t think I have to.  That’s for this year.  We’ll call it — excuse me.  We’ll call it something different.  A lot of work has been done on the wall.  There’s been tremendous renovation.  And if you look in San Diego, there’s been new wall built, which doesn’t get reported.  I don’t know why.  You don’t want to report it.  But take a look at San Diego and other areas.  We’ve had new wall built.  But we can do much more if they give us the money to do it.

But a lot of work has already been done.  You know, when they say “build the wall,” I don’t say that anymore.  I say “finish the wall.”  Because we have done a lot of work.  If you know, the billion-six and a billion-six, for two years, it had language in that really allows you to build a certain amount of wall, but mostly renovate existing wall.  We’ve renovated a lot of walls, and they’ve done a very good job.

Q    (Inaudible) DACA?

THE PRESIDENT:  So we’ll see what DACA — what happens with DACA.  DACA is, right now, before the United States Supreme Court.  If the Court does what most great legal scholars think they’ll do, they won’t give President Obama, or President Trump, the power to do what President Obama did.  And if that happens, it will be a great thing for our country.  You know why?  Because we’ll work out a deal very fast with the Democrats, on DACA.  We’ll work out a deal very quickly with Democrats, on DACA.

Q    Are you waiting for that to happen?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re waiting for the Supreme Court decision.

Q    Will you keep the shutdown going on until the Supreme Court decides?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll see how long the shutdown goes on.  Look, this shutdown could end tomorrow, and it could also go on for a long time.  It depends — it’s really dependent on the Democrats.

Q    What are the chances it could end tomorrow?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s really depending on the Democrats.

Q    What would have to happen for (inaudible).  What are you looking for —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re going to see how we do here.  And everybody knows — all you have to do is read today’s Washington Post.  And you see where big surges of people are coming in and trying to get through the border.  Some of that — a lot of that is my fault.  You know why.  Because I’ve created such a great economy that people are pouring up to try and get jobs.  So you could say it’s my fault.  And I want people to come in, but they have to come in legally.  They have to come in legally.  They can’t come in the way they’re coming in.  Because criminals are coming in; human traffickers are coming in; drug dealers are coming in.  We can’t have it.

Q    (Inaudible) impacts the economy.  So the longer the shutdown goes, (inaudible).

THE PRESIDENT:  Our economy is doing so well.  Nobody understands how well our economy is doing.  Our economy is doing so well.  And don’t forget, I’m paying interest.  I didn’t have funny money to play with.  President Obama had zero interest.  I have interest to pay.  And now, a lot of people that weren’t getting interest in their money for many years — you understand — they’re now actually getting interest on their money.

But he was playing with funny money because there was no interest.  We’re playing with paying interest, like, in all fairness, you’re supposed to be doing.

Q    Mr. President, what do you expect out of the China talks on trade this week in Beijing?

THE PRESIDENT:  The China talks are going very well.  I spoke to President Xi recently.  I really believe they want to make a deal.  The tariffs have absolutely hurt China very badly.  But our country is taking in a lot of money through tariffs.  A lot of money.  A lot of tariffs; steel-dumping tariffs and others.

But I think China wants to get it resolved.  Their economy is not doing well.  They’re down close to 38 percent.  That’s a lot.  And I think that gives them a great incentive to negotiate.  But we’re doing very well with China.  My relationship with President Xi is as good as any relationship that a President here has had with a president or leader in China.  And I think good things are going to happen.

Now, I say this: North Korea, we’re doing very well.  And again, no rockets.  There’s no rockets.  There’s no anything.  We’re doing very well.  I’ve indirectly spoken to Chairman Kim.  And when I came here, this country was headed to war with North Korea.  And now we have a very good dialogue going.  Very good.  We have — with North Korea, we have a very good dialogue.  I’m going to not go any further than that.  I’m just going to say it’s very special.

And anybody else but me, you’d be in war right now.  And I can tell you, the previous administration would have been in war right now if that was extended.  You would, right now, be in a nice, big, fat war in Asia with North Korea if I wasn’t elected President.

Q    Do you have a place in mind for your next summit with Kim Jong Un?  Do you have a place in mind for the next summit?  Could it be in Europe?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re negotiating a location.  It will be announced probably in the not-too-distant future.  They have made it very clear — in fact, they’ve actually said to the media that they would like to meet.  And they do want to meet, and we want to meet, and we’ll see what happens.

But the sanctions remain in full force, in effect.  And they will until we have some very positive proof.  But I will tell you, we are doing very well with North Korea, and we’re also doing very well with China, on trade.

The other one is Iran.  Iran is doing very poorly, once I took the horrible Iran nuclear deal off.  It’s had a massive effect in Iran.  They’re pulling back troops all over the place.  They’re not doing well.  They want to talk.

Q    What about Syria?  How long will the troops stay in Syria?

THE PRESIDENT:  In Syria, we’ve had a tremendous impact.  When I went there — don’t forget, when they went to Syria five years ago, they were supposed to be there for three to four months, and they never came out.  We are pulling back in Syria.  We’re going to be removing our troops.  I never said we’re doing it that quickly.  But we’re decimating ISIS.

When I was elected President two years ago, ISIS was all over Syria and all over Iraq.  We’ve wiped out ISIS in Iraq.  We’ve wiped out ISIS.  And we’re doing it for two reasons.  We’re really doing it because we don’t want them coming here, just so we understand.  But we’re doing it for a number of reasons.

Now, we’re helping other countries when we do that too.  You have to remember, Iran hates ISIS more than we do, if that’s possible.  Russia hates ISIS more than we do.  Turkey hates ISIS, maybe not as much as we do.  But these are countries that hate ISIS.  And they can do a little of the fighting in their neighborhood also, because we’re fighting them in their neighborhood.

But with that being said, we’re pulling out of Syria, but we’re doing it and we won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.

Q    How long is the pull-out period?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s going quickly.

Q    (Inaudible) agreement with Turkey (inaudible).  John Bolton said today the withdrawal (inaudible).

THE PRESIDENT:  John Bolton is, right now, over there, as you know.  And I have two great stars.  And John Bolton is doing a great job, and Mike Pompeo is doing a great job.  They’re very strong and they work hard.  And, as you know, they’re doing things that are very — very good.  We’re coming up with some very good results.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m in no hurry.  I have Acting.  And my Actings are doing really great.  David is doing great at Interior.  Mick Mulvaney is doing great as Chief of Staff.  But I sort of like Acting.  It gives me more flexibility.  Do you understand that?  I like Acting.  So we have a few that are Acting.  We have a great, great Cabinet.  If you look at my Cabinet, we have a fantastic Cabinet.  Really good.

Q    Is Pence doing a good job on the shutdown negotiation?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think we’re doing a great job in the shutdown negotiation.  We have no choice.  Look, there will be — there will be —

Q    Do you need to be more involved, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  Excuse me.  I’m totally involved, but I’m involved with principals.  Because ultimately, it’s going to be solved by the principals.  Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and myself can solve this in 20 minutes, if they want to.  If they don’t want to, it’s going to go on for a long time.

I will tell you this: If we don’t find a solution, it’s going to go on for a long time.  There’s not going to be any bend right here.  And the people that voted for Donald Trump, which are a lot of people — one of the great elections ever — those people are for it so much.  And let me tell you: People that didn’t vote for Donald Trump are for it also.  They want border security.  They want to stop human trafficking.  They want to stop drugs.  They want to stop crime.

Q    Have you accepted Speaker Pelosi’s invitation to deliver the State of the Union?  (Inaudible) on the 29th?

THE PRESIDENT:  I will be making the State of the Union on January 29th.  And I look forward to it.  I look forward to it.  And I look forward to speaking, really, before the world.  We have a lot of great things to say.  Our country is doing better than any country in the world, right now.  Our military is almost completely rebuilt.  When I took it over, it was a mess.  It was depleted.  Our trade deals are going great.  We have a deal with Mexico, with Canada, with South Korea.  We’re negotiating with Europe, the European Union.  We’re negotiating with China, which is, by far, the biggest of them all.  We’re doing very, very well.  Very, very well.

Q    (Inaudible) Russia — Paul Whelan (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, we’re looking into that.  We’re looking into that.  Yeah.

Q    Mr. President, what should be done about federal workers who are calling out sick right now?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, they have to do what they have to do. But many of those workers agree with me.  And I think, frankly, there’s been very little of that so far, as you know.  Very, very little.

Okay, any more?  Thank you, everybody.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t like doing this.  I have no fun doing this.  I was elected to protect our country.  That’s what I’m doing.  And Presidents before me have all voted for this, or many of them.  And many of the senators that I’m negotiating with right now have voted for this.

But let me tell you something: They didn’t have the guts do it, just like they didn’t have the guts to move the embassy to Jerusalem, in Israel.  They didn’t have the guts to do things that they should have done.  Just like they didn’t take out ISIS.  Just like so many other things.  I was voted 306 to 223 — or something like that — by a lot.  I was voted to be your President, partially because of security.  It’s a big part of what I talked about.  Not only the wall; the military and lots of other things.  I think — I think I’ve done a great job.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I’ve done a great job.  I’m getting credit from the real news for doing a great job.  But border security is a big part of that.  We also have to stop drugs.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Listen.  We also have to stop drugs.  If we don’t stop drugs soon — there has never been a time, over the last 10 years — and it’s gotten worse and worse over the last five.  There has never been a time when our country was so infested with so many different drugs coming from so many different locations.  And I believe that President Xi, in China, when he made the pledge to me to criminalize fentanyl, I believe that’s going to go a long way to helping us.

I’m going to Camp David.  Thank you.

END                 9:44 A.M. EST