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South Lawn

5:53 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much.  The hurricane is roaring, and it could be a big one.  We’re hoping that it maybe makes a right and goes up north, but that’s about a 5 percent chance.  It’s not looking good.  And it’s one of the biggest hurricanes we’ve seen in a long time.  A long time.  So it could be very devastating.

I just spoke to Rick Scott, and I just spoke to — we have a lot of people that we’re speaking to.  I spoke with Marco Rubio.  I spoke to your governors of both Georgia — as you know, Georgia and Florida.  And they’re doing really well.  They’re working hard.  Florida seems to be the main target at this moment.  But I think a lot of good things are happening.

FEMA is there.  Tremendous work is going on.  Many, many gas trucks are coming in; they’re bringing gas from Louisiana and all over.  And we don’t know about evacuation.  We’re leaving it up — locally, right now.  We’re going to see where it’s coming in.  We just don’t know exactly where it’s going to be coming and how far in it’s coming.

So, I’m going to Camp David.  We have a lot of experts with us.  And we have a lot of the FEMA people that are coming up, but we’re really, very importantly, coming back.  And, on Sunday, at 12:30, we have a meeting at FEMA headquarters.  And that will be about the time that we’ll know where everything is going.  A lot of decisions will be made.  And that will be a little bit less than a day before it hits.  So we’ll see what happens.

On other things, the stock market is doing well.  The economy is doing great.  The economy is amazing, actually.  Worldwide, we’re the number-one by far.  Stock market is up again and we’re getting close.  We’ll be very close to a new record soon.

And whatever you want to ask.  Go ahead.

Q    Will you be talking to President Xi this weekend, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  That, I can’t tell you.  But we are speaking to China.  But I can’t tell you whether or not it will be President Xi.

Q    Mr. President, Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account was hacked today.  Jack Dorsey’s Twitter account.  Are you concerned that your Twitter account could be hacked as well?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I understand Twitter accounts have been hacked.  Is that what you said?

Q    Jack Dorsey’s account, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Twitter account.  Yeah.  Well, I hope they’re not hacking my account.  But, actually, if they do, they’re not going to learn too much more than what I put out, right?  Shouldn’t be too bad.

Q    Mr. President, why was Madeleine fired?

Q    Do you feel betrayed by Madeleine Westerhout?  And what exactly did she say about your family that disappointed you?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I guess she said — I think she said some things.  And she called me.  She was very upset.  She was very down.

And she said she was drinking a little bit.  And she was with reporters, and everything she said was off the record.  And that still doesn’t really cover for her.  She mentioned a couple of things about my children.

But she’s a very, you know, good person.  And I thought — I always felt she did a good job.  And she’s very down.  And in all fairness, it was an off-the-record.  And, of course, the press — the press breaks off-the-records all the time because they are very dishonorable.  Many of them.  Not all of you, but many of them are very dishonorable.  But nevertheless, you don’t say things — you don’t say certain things.  So, it was too bad.

But I just spoke to her just before I came out.  She called.  And I wish her well.

Q    Thank you very much.  Mr. President, the U.S. has been allocating money for the Ukrainian military that is (inaudible) Russian aggression.  So can Ukraine count on further support and aid from your side?


Q    In Ukraine.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re looking at Ukraine right now.  In fact, I was going to meet with your new President.  And because of the fact that we have this really massive hurricane coming in, I had to cancel my trip to Poland where I was going to meet the President of Ukraine, among many other things.

Mike Pence is going to Poland.  He’s taking my place.  He’ll do a great job.  It was going to be a beautiful weekend and, really, celebration of the past.  And Mike Pence will do a great job.  I felt it was important that I stay here.  And we’ll be up at Camp David working hard.  We have a lot of things happening with respect to that hurricane.

We have to be very careful.  It could be one of the biggest that we’ve seen.  I mean, so far, it’s looking not good, I have to be honest you.

Q    Will you be combining your trips to Poland and to Germany?

THE PRESIDENT:  What I’ll do is be going to Poland at a later date.  We have a great relationship with Poland.  And we’ll be doing that.  And also, Angela Merkel invited me to go to Germany.  So, at some point, we’ll be setting that up.

Q    Mr. President, should McCabe face charges?


Q    Should Andrew McCabe face charges for lying to the FBI?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I don’t want to get into that.  He’s a bad guy, I can tell you that.  He’s a bad guy.  I think he’s a sick guy, personally.  But I can’t get into that with Andrew McCabe.  But Andrew McCabe is a bad guy.

Q    Are the tariffs that you’re planning for China still on for Sunday?  Or are you considering not putting them on?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, they’re on.  They’re on.  We’ve taken in billions and billions of dollars from those tariffs.  And as it’s starting to come out, if you look at the Chinese government — China — what they’ve done with tariffs is very interesting.  They’ve devalued their currency so much, which hurts them ultimately.  It costs them much more to buy things outside of China.

But they’ve devalued so much.  It’s a bad situation they’ve put themselves in.  And I just saw — it came over the wires — that 13 percent of certain companies are going to be leaving China in the not-too-distant future.  That’s a big thing.  Thirteen percent of companies will be leaving China in the fairly near future.  And I’m not surprised to hear that.  I think it’s going to be much higher.  Because they cannot compete with the tariffs.  They can’t compete.

So they’ve devalued their currency, they’re pumping money in.  And we’re not paying much more.  Now, let me tell you, we’ve taken in tens of billions of dollars.  I gave the farmers $16 billion, which makes them totally whole on China.  That’s what China spends in a good year.  I gave — given the farmers — because they were targeted.  The farmers were targeted by China.

So, out of the tariffs, which are much more than $16 billion by a factor of a lot, I’ve given the farmers $16 billion.  And the farmers are very happy.  And they want me to continue this fight.  They want me to win the fight.  And we’re going to win the fight.

We’re having conversations with China.  Meetings are scheduled.  Calls are being made   I guess the meeting in September continues to be on.  It hasn’t been cancelled.  And we’ll see what happens.

But China has lost a lot of companies.  A lot of companies.  A lot of companies have left China and a lot more are leaving.  And they are not doing well.  They are having the worst year they’ve had, I understand, in 61 years.  That’s a lot of years.

Yeah.  Go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, did you release classified information by tweeting that photo about Iran?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  I just wish Iran well.  They had a big problem.  And we had a photo.  And I released it, which I have the absolute right to do.

Q    Where did it come from?

THE PRESIDENT:  And we’ll see what happens.  You’ll have to figure that one out yourself.

But we’ll see what happens.  They had a mishap.  It’s unfortunate.  And so, Iran, as you probably know, they were going to set off a big missile, and it didn’t work out too well.  It had nothing to do with us.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we have a good relationship with South Korea.  We’ll see what happens.

Q    Mr. President, are you disappointed that Bill Barr is not prosecuting James Comey?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have a lot of faith in Bill Barr.  I thought the charges were unbelievably powerful.  I thought the IG report was incredible.  But I have total confidence in Bill Barr to do the right thing.  I think, if anything, this showed how fair he is.  I really think he’s a — you know, he’s a tremendous man, and I think that this really showed, you know, how fair he is.  But, certainly, those were very serious charges, but let’s see what happens.

Q    Governor Kay Ivey — there are calls for her to resign because she did blackface in college.


Q    Governor Kay Ivey — there are calls for her to resign because she did blackface in college.  Your reaction?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t know much about it.  I just had seen something come over the wires.  But she’s a very high-quality woman, Kay Ivey.  Very, very high-quality woman.  I can tell you that.  And I know she apologized.

Q    What’s your message to the protestors in Hong Kong?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, we all want liberty.  We all want freedom.  We’re with everybody.  We want freedom.  Throughout the world, we want freedom.  So we’ll see what happens.  It’s a very interesting time over there.

But my message, really, for them is, you know, they have — they have a very strong point of view.  I don’t think anybody has ever seen marches of 2 million people.  But we’re going to be seeing a lot, and I think we’re going to be learning a lot over the next — actually, I think we’re going — on Hong Kong, I think we’re going to be learning a lot over the next two or three days.  And I hope that it’s handled in a very humane way.

Q    Mr. President, will you spend the entire weekend at Camp David monitoring the hurricane?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I’ll be coming back.  We’ll be spending — we have an incredible conference area up there.  We have a lot of experts coming up.  We’ll be running things.  It’s sort of a control center.  We’ll be running things.  And we’re going up with people, but we have a lot of people coming up to Camp David.  I’ll be coming back on Sunday morning, where I’m going directly to FEMA.  And I think Senator Rubio and Senator Scott and — I don’t think the Governor should be there.  I think he wants to be in Florida — Governor DeSantis.  He’s doing a fantastic job, by the way.  Doing a fantastic job.

Q    How concerned are you about Mar-a-Lago being in the hurricane’s path?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, I haven’t even thought about it until the question was just broached a little while ago.  Yeah, it would look like Mar-a-Lago is dead center.  But, look, Mar-a-Lago can handle itself.  That’s a very powerful place.  The thing I’m worried about is the state of Florida, because this hurricane is looking like it’s — this could be a record-setting hurricane.

Now, maybe things change.  We’re hoping for one element that might happen, and that’s that it makes a right turn, it goes up north, just prior to equal to hitting shore.  That would be great.  But that’s a pretty small percentage at this point.

Q    Mr. President, on Afghanistan, the plan to reduce troops around —


Q    On Afghanistan —


Q    Around 8,600.


Q    That’s a big drawdown.  But can you say the war is over when there’s almost 9,000 American soldiers over there?

THE PRESIDENT:  So, we’re bringing them down to about 8,600 in Afghanistan.  We’re really a police force more than anything else.  That’s something we could win quickly if we wanted to kill a lot of people, which I don’t.  And we’re getting along very well with a lot of people in Afghanistan right now.

We have very good negotiations going on with the Taliban, and the Taliban is saying they’re going to do things.  We’ll see if that’s so.  We haven’t made a deal yet.  But we will be bringing it down to about 8,600.

Q    Do you have a message for Russia on their military buildup in Georgia, in South Ossetia?  And do you have a response to the Russians?

THE PRESIDENT:  We haven’t seen that.  We haven’t seen that.

Q    There are reports that there’s a military buildup by the Russians in Georgia.  Are you —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s not good news.  I’m not happy about that.  But we haven’t seen it.  I have not seen it.


Q    You tweeted this morning that there were some U.S. companies that were contributing to the economic slowdown.  Can you explain what you meant there?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Go ahead.

Q    I can read you the tweet, Mr. President.  You said that, “Badly run and weak companies are smartly blaming these small tariffs instead of themselves…”

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  A lot of badly run companies are trying to blame tariffs.  In other words, if they’re running badly and they’re having a bad quarter, or if they’re just unlucky in some way, they’re likely to blame the tariffs.  It’s not the tariffs.  It’s called “bad management.”

So a lot of companies are coming out and they’re not affected by the tariffs.  Not a lot, but there are some.  The tariffs have put us in an incredible negotiating position, and I say that to China directly.  And it’s only going to get worse for China.  But I say it to China directly.  Because of the tariffs, we’re in an incredible negotiating position, and we happen to be taking in billions and billions and billions of dollars.  And we haven’t taken in 10 cents from China.

And the people that support me most are the farmers.  Now, as I said, I gave the farmers — we’ve given the farmers $16 billion out of a much larger purse than that.  But we’re doing very well with respect to what we’re doing.

I do notice that — and it was on one of the important shows, and I read it this morning someplace, that some companies, for their poor performance, are blaming tariffs, even though they don’t mean that.  They’re just getting away with it.

Q    Do you see a connection between what’s going on in Hong Kong and the trade talks?  Do you — will you put any —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I do.  I do.  The question was, do I see a connection between Hong Kong and what’s going on with the trade talks.

I think if it weren’t for the trade talks, Hong Kong would be in much bigger trouble.  I think it would’ve been much more violent.  I really believe China wants to make a deal, and they know it puts us in a very bad position if there’s not a humane way of handling the problems.  And I let them know that: “Look, handle it in a humane fashion.”  And we’ll see.

But I do believe that because of what I’m doing with trade, that’s very much keeping down the temperature in Hong Kong.  I think it’s by really a lot.  Because China wants to make a deal.  I actually think China has to make a deal.  But that’s holding it down in Hong Kong.  You understand that.

Q    Mr. President, just to follow up, did you fire Madeleine Westerhout?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it was automatic.  I don’t say “fire” or “not fire.”  And I really think she had a bad night.  I think it was unfortunate.  She said she was drinking.  And the whole thing was very unfortunate.  And I think the press is very dishonest because it was supposed to be off the record.  But, still, you don’t say things like she said, which were just a little bit hurtful to some people.

Q    When she talked about you not wanting to be in pictures with Tiffany, is that true?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no.  No.  Tiffany is great.  I love Tiffany.  I love Tiffany.

Q    Can you specifically state how you are preparing for Hurricane Dorian?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ve said it.  We have FEMA.  We have first responders.  We have tremendous law enforcement.  We’re working together with Governor DeSantis and the state.

And we’re also — by the way, I have to tell you, Georgia is very much in this path also.  Georgia could be very much affected.  We’re working with our great Governor of Georgia.  We have our top people there, and it’s really — really been amazing.

And I have to say, we’ve done a great job in Puerto Rico.  We were totally ready in Puerto Rico.  Puerto Rico — we got lucky; it missed Puerto Rico.  But we were really ready in Puerto Rico and we worked very well with government.  You know, I have my issues with their government, but we worked very well.  The new governor was on top of things.  And we had a really great relationship with Puerto Rico.  Fortunately, we didn’t have to use what we had, but we were set to go in Puerto Rico.  We were in great shape.

Q    (Inaudible) planning evacuations at this time?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re thinking about Florida evacuation, but it’s a little bit too soon.  People are getting ready.  It may have to be evacuated.  Sections may have to be evacuated.  We’ll probably make that determination on Sunday.

Q    Mr. President, Polish government demands reparations from Germany for the Second World War.  Do you support those demands — such demands?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that’s going to be between Poland and Germany.  I get along with them both.  That’s between Poland and Germany.

Q    Are you concerned that you don’t have a permanent FEMA Administrator or a confirmed Homeland Security Secretary as you go into this hurricane?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I like the word “Acting.”  I think Acting is great.  As far as I’m concerned, “Acting” to me is good.

Q    But you’ve nominated a FEMA Director?

THE PRESIDENT:  And if I like the people, I make them permanent.

I have Acting.  And Acting gives you great flexibility that you don’t have with permanent.  So I’m okay with the word “Acting.”  But when I like people, I make them permanent.  But I can leave Acting for a long period of time.

Q    Thank you, President Trump.  Many studies have shown that legal access to marijuana results in less opioid abuse and fewer overdose deaths.  Many states have legalized marijuana.  Do you think that it will happen federally during your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re going to see what’s going on.  It’s a very big subject.  And right now we’re in — we’re allowing states to make that decision.  And a lot of states are making that decision.  But we’re allowing the states to make that decision.

Q    Mr. President, what do you make of allegations that Ilhan Omar misused campaign funds to pay for an affair?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s terrible.  I think those allegations are absolutely terrible.

Q    Are you still hopeful that the USMCA will pass the House?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the USMCA has become very popular.  That’s our deal with Mexico and with Canada.  Unions are liking it.  Farmers are loving it.  Manufacturers are really liking it.  It really means that we’re not going to be losing companies down to Mexico and Canada, and probably elsewhere, if you figure it.  You know, when you look at it a certain way.

But they’re not going to be moving very quickly to Mexico or Canada anymore.

The USMCA is a very important deal.  I think it’s going to be a very bipartisan deal.  I hope Nancy Pelosi puts it up for a vote.  I can tell you many Democrats will be voting for it if it’s put up for a vote.  If it’s not put up for a vote, I think it’s a very bad thing for our country.

It’s a very diligently, very hard-negotiated deal.  We got the approval from Mexico.  They voted.  Canada is ready to vote; they’ve essentially approved it.  And we are waiting for a vote.  And Nancy Pelosi, I think, will do the right thing.  I really do.

And as I told Nancy Pelosi, view it as a bipartisan deal; our people want it.  It’s replacing the worst deal in trade that we’ve ever made, which is NAFTA — a total disaster.  It took our car industry out.  It took our industry out.  It’s one of the worst deals that I’ve ever seen.

Q    Mr. President, you’ve given the Fed a pretty hard time.  Would you actually like to see negative interest rates in the United States?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I just think that the Fed is making a big mistake.  Because if you look at what the other Fed equivalents are doing all around the world, they’re in a much lower rate.  And it makes us harder to compete.  It makes it much harder to compete.

Now, with that being said, we’re doing better than everybody else.  But the Fed is hurting me.  The Fed is making it very, very hard to compete.

But we’re so far ahead of everyone since my two and a half years.  You look at it.  Look, you go back to Election Day, and go the day after — so you take November 9th, and you look.  We’re up over 50 percent.  And that’s pretty much amazing.  If you look at our jobs, our jobs numbers are fantastic; probably 3.6 percent.  African American, Hispanic American, Asians — we’re talking about in the history of our country — the best job numbers we’ve ever had.

And on this very day — I just saw a number — almost 160 million people are working.  The most ever in the history of our country.  I mean, we have incredible numbers.

Now, if our Fed lowered the rate, I think our stock market would be like a rocket ship.  It’s already very close to a new record.  We’re not very far away from a new record.  We’ve had some very good days in the last week.

But if the Fed lowered the rate, like they should — the fact is they went up way too fast and they also did quantitative tightening.  They did a double.  Big mistake.

Fortunately, the economy is so strong it was able to handle that.  But if they lowered the rate, you would see our stock market be like a rocket ship.

Q    By how much?

THE PRESIDENT:  It would be good for us.

Q    By how much, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it would go up a lot.  I don’t know —

Q    On Colombia, how do you feel about former FARC leader calling to return — for return to war?

THE PRESIDENT:  Colombia, you said?

Q    Yeah, on Colombia.  Former leader of FARC.

THE PRESIDENT:  You’re talking about the country of Colombia?

Q    Yeah, the country of Colombia.  The —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  No, we have a great relationship.  And they’re not doing badly.  They have a problem because of the Venezuela.  A lot of people are pouring in.  But Colombia — we’ve had a great relationship with Colombia.

Q    Mr. President, have you spoken with Tiffany since yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT:  We have a call-in.  She’s going to be calling me back as soon as I get to Camp David.

Q    What are you going to tell her?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m going to say it’s just absolutely false.  She is a wonderful person.  She studies so hard.  She’s a great student.  And she’s just a great — she’s a great person.  So I look forward to talking to her.  I’ll be talking to her as soon as I get — and I love Tiffany.  Tiffany is a great person.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  (Inaudible) Japan?

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me just tell you, Prime Minister Abe is an incredible man.


6:16 P.M. EDT