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Palm Beach, Florida

4:17 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much.  Linda McMahon has done an incredible job as the head of the Small Business Administration.  She has been a superstar.  The fact is that I’ve known her for a long time.  I knew she was good, but I didn’t know she was that good.  She has been one of our all-time favorites.  It was just so smooth.  She’s helped so many people in the world of small business.

And she’ll be leaving.  She’s going to go and help us with a very, very important year and a half that we have coming up.  And — the reelection, as they call it.  And we look forward to that.  And we’re going to be working very strongly.  She’s going to be doing a fantastic job.

So she’s going to be leaving.  We’ll be making the new nomination and appointment in the very short distance.  And that will be in consultation with Linda.

But I just have to say that this is an outstanding woman who’s done an outstanding job.  And, Linda, I want to thank you very much.

ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON:  Thank you very much, sir.  I really appreciate that.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’d like to know what has been your highlight and what are some of the great things you’ve done, just so they all know so that we can put it right on the record.

ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON:  Well, the highlight has certainly been the fact that you asked me to take on this position.  It has been an honor to serve the country in your Cabinet, and to serve the administration and the people of the United States and small businesses.  You have 30 million small businesses; 99 percent of the businesses in this country are small businesses.

So we’ve been able to help them at SBA.  We’ve reimagined the SBA with the great team I have there.  They’ve just been awesome in helping us do everything.  We’ve had great outreach to the community of small businesses.

I have traveled all over the country.  I’ve been to all 50 states.  I’ve been to 68 district offices.  Met with over 800 business people, toured businesses.  So I’ve really gotten a feel.  When you talk about that optimism that’s out there —

THE PRESIDENT:  Right, right.

ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON:  — it is there.  It’s palpable.

Businesses are happy.  They’re taking their tax cut money.  They’re expanding.  They’re hiring more people.  They’re giving wage increases.  It’s incredibly powerful when you’re out feeling it and talking to the businesses.

And so we’ve had great outreach.  More outreach to women entrepreneurs through a project that I’ve been working on with Ivanka.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.

ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON:  A learning platform.  We took your salary, that you donated, and we’ve developed a pilot program for our vets.


ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON:  And we’ve been working really closely with Sonny Perdue and USDA to go out to the Rural Prosperity order that you — that you put in place.

And I can tell you one thing that not many people know about SBA is how we move in when there is a natural disaster.  And I want to thank you for letting me go with you to Houston and Puerto Rico and my hometown of New Bern, North Carolina, and I got to see firsthand what it’s like when the Commander-in-Chief is on the ground and the folks know that they — that you’re attending to them.

And so, I want to thank you again for serving.  It’s been an honor and a privilege.  And I thank my great team at SBA because they are awesome.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Linda.


THE PRESIDENT:  I do have to say that I witnessed, firsthand, during the hurricanes — because we had numerous hurricanes, and they were big, and tornadoes.  We had some vicious ones.  And we just left Alabama.  And I’ve watched Linda and her people, the great job they’ve done helping people that really needed help, and they needed it quickly.  And you have just been outstanding.

So — and we’re very, very thrilled at the great job you’ve done —


THE PRESIDENT:  — and at the job you’re going to be doing.  We’re staying together.  Very importantly, we’re staying together.

And we’ll be announcing the next administrator in the very near future.


THE PRESIDENT:  And we pretty much know who that’s going to be.  So we’ll be putting it out there pretty soon.  Okay?

Q    Give us a clue.

THE PRESIDENT:  Somebody that’s really good.


THE PRESIDENT:  Somebody that we know very well.  And somebody that will fit in beautifully.  And, really, I think, somebody you’re going to be very happy with.

Q    Mr. President, the Attorney General said today that he intends to release the Mueller report in full to Congress and then the public.  Do you agree with that decision?  And do you want the White House to take a look over it for privilege (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I have great confidence in the Attorney General.  And if that’s what he’d like to do, I have nothing to hide.  This was a hoax.  This was a witch hunt.  I have absolutely nothing to hide.  And I think a lot of things are coming out with respect to the other side.  But I have a lot of confidence in the Attorney General.

Q    Mr. President, are you going to be talking to President Putin about Venezuela?

THE PRESIDENT:  We will probably be talking at some point.  We’re looking at Venezuela.  Venezuela right now is a big, fat mess.  The electricity is gone.  Power is gone.  Fuel is gone.  Gasoline for cars is gone.  They have a lot of electric cars.  That’s all gone because they have no elec- — they have nothing.  What a job.  When we talk about socialism, take a look at Venezuela.

So I’ll be talking about a lot of — to a lot of people.  Perhaps President Putin.  Perhaps President Xi of China.  My people right now are in China.  We’re negotiating the trade deal.  We’ll see what happens.  But we’re doing very well.

Q    How did that round of talks go?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s going very well.  I mean, the trade deal is going very well.  We’ll see what happens.  But it’s going very well.  They’re in China right now, the highest level of our people meeting with their people.  Then they’ll be coming back here for another round.  It’s a very comprehensive — to use a word that some people like, some people don’t like.  I think it’s okay.  But it is a very comprehensive, very detailed in listing of problems that we’ve had with China over the years.  And it’s going to have to be a great deal.  If it’s not a great deal, we can’t do it.  We can’t do it.

Q    Do you plan to name a new Defense Secretary soon?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m very happy with Pat Shanahan.  I think he’s done a really great job.  We knocked out the caliphate.  We have now — if you look at Syria, what happened in a very, very short period of time — far shorter than people said it was even possible.

We’re working together very well on the wall and on the border.  I’m very upset with Mexico.  I think Mexico is doing a lot of talking.  They have the strongest immigration laws anywhere — anywhere in the world.  They probably have the strongest.  And we have the worst.  We have the weakest, the most pathetic, the most laughed-at immigration laws anywhere in the world.  They’re the Democrats’ laws, and I got stuck with them.

And I hope Congress is going to change them rapidly.  They have a lot of opposition from Democrats — not because the Democrats don’t think they’d be right in changing them; just because they don’t want to make anybody look good.  They want no victories.  They don’t care if the country suffers; they don’t want any victories.

We have two brand new caravans coming up, if you can believe it.  Two big ones.  And they’re coming up.  And Mexico could stop them very easily.  Mexico has a trade surplus with the United States, for many years, of $100 billion a year, at least.  And this is for many years.  Mexico has taken a big portion of our car business.  Mexico is doing very well because of the United States.  And, frankly, they have to stop the illegal immigration.

We’ve run out of room.  We have this ridiculous catch and release program, where you catch them and then you’re supposed to release them.  And you release them into our country.  And we’ve been very, very tough.  And the Border Patrol has been incredible, I have to tell you.  The people in the Border Patrol, the job they do is unbelievable.  ICE — the same thing.  And law enforcement.

But Mexico is going to have to do something; otherwise, I’m closing the border.  I’ll just close the border.  And with a deficit like we have with Mexico and have had for many years, closing the border will be a profit-making operation.  When you close the border, also you will stop a lot of the drugs from coming in.  Because we take in tremendous drugs from Mexico, as you know as well as I do.

So you close up the border and you watch the drugs go way down too.  But I will close the border if Mexico doesn’t get with it, if Mexico doesn’t stop it.  They come in from Guatemala.  They come in from El Salvador.  They come in from Honduras.  They come in from all over.  And they come in from Mexico.

And we’re working very hard to stop it.  We’re building the wall.  But until the wall is completed — and it’s really moving along well.  In fact, we’re going to have a news conference very shortly, over the next couple of weeks, at the wall, as it’s being completed and going up — at sections of the wall.

It’s moving along rapidly, but still we have a current crisis.  We have a crisis.  I know that you can go back 30 years and you go back 40 years, but I can’t imagine it being any worse than it is right now.

Q    Sir, on that note, two children died around December in U.S. custody — migrant children.  Do you believe, given the rising numbers of migrant families and children at the border, your administration is equipped to handle that in a way that it tries to ensure that children are not dying and being harmed?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that it’s been very well stated that we’ve done a fantastic job.  One of the children — the father gave the child no water for a long period of time.  He actually admitted blame.  The other one was being brought to the hospital in an emergency — on an emergency basis.

It is a very tough situation.  And that trek up is a long, hard trek.  And you see what’s happening to women.  You see what’s happening to children.  It’s a horrible situation.  And Mexico could stop it right at their southern border.  They have a southern border, and they could — and they have a border that could be very well structured.  It’s very easy for them to stop people from coming up.  And they don’t choose to do it.

Well, we’re not going to give them hundreds of billions of dollars and tell them that they’re not going to use their strong immigration laws to help the United States.  So there’s a very good likelihood that I’ll be closing the border next week, and that’ll be just fine with me.

Q    Mr. President, can you tell us why you overturned those North Korea-related sanctions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.  He’s somebody that I get along with very well.  We understand each other.  They are suffering greatly in North Korea.  They’re having a hard time in North Korea.  And I just didn’t think additional sanctions at this time were necessary.  It doesn’t mean I don’t put them on later, but I don’t — I didn’t think that additional sanctions at this time were necessary.

They are suffering greatly.  They’re having a very hard time in North Korea.  And I think, because of the relationship — relationship being a good thing, not a bad thing — I think it’s very important that you maintain that relationship at least as long as you can.

But we get along very well.  We have a good understanding.  So I didn’t think that those sanctions were necessary at this time.

Q    Have you spoken to Chairman Kim since, at all, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I have not.

Q    Were you upset that your Treasury Department put those sanctions in place?  Did they run those past you first?

THE PRESIDENT:  Not at all.  Because they were intended to go.  People thought that they would go at that time.  They had the right to do that.  I just decided that I would not let it happen.  In a certain way, it’s like the Special Olympics.  For many years, it hasn’t been approved, and then at some point it gets negotiated out in Congress.

Well, I went out and I said we’re going to have funding for the Special Olympics.  So that’s why I approved that.  It’s a little bit of a similar situation with different parties, to put it mildly.

So I just want to — again, I want to thank the job you’ve done.  I’ll tell you what: Linda has been so great.  And when somebody does that good a job, I’d rather do it this way than just say “bye-bye.”  And so I’m doing it this way.  And I’ll tell you, Linda McMahon is a very special person.  And now she’s going to be working with me very hard so that we keep this miracle that we’ve built.

You saw what happened last night in Michigan.  We had — if they would really report it — many, many thousands of people outside of the arena.  And the arena was packed.  That arena was absolutely packed last night, and there was tremendous love in that arena.

And you look at what’s happening with Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida — so many places.  North Carolina, South Carolina.  You look at what’s going on.  Iowa.  Wait until you see what’s going on in Iowa.  So many different places.  New Hampshire.  I have tremendous reports of something we did up in New Hampshire.

Our country is doing really well.  We’re the hottest country in the world, economically.  And it’s going to stay that way for a long time to come.

Thank you all very much.  And, Linda, thank you very much.


4:32 P.M. EDT