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Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

11:27 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you.  What a nice group.  And thank you, Mary Ann.  I think you like Mary Ann a lot.  I was listening.  I said, “Who is out there that they like so much?”  It was Mary Ann.  (Laughter.)

Please sit down.  Please.

Before I begin, I want to send my warm wishes to the great people of Tennessee in the wake of the horrible and very vicious tornado that killed at least 19 people and injured many more.  We’re working with the leaders in Tennessee, including their great governor, Bill Lee, to make sure that everything is done properly.  FEMA is already on the ground, and I’ll be going there on Friday.

Our hearts are full of sorrow for the lives that were lost.  It’s a vicious thing.  Those tornadoes — I’ve seen many of them during a three-year period, and I’ve gotten to see the results.  And they are vicious if you’re in their path.  It’s — bad things happen.  It’s — really, bad things happened.

I went to Alabama nine months ago, and I saw the devastation that that left an Alabama too.  And everybody was so incredible.  The people were so incredible.  But so many people get killed if you’re in the path.  And we’ll be going, as I said, to Tennessee on Friday.

We send our love and our prayers of the nation to every family that was affected.  And we will get there, and we will recover and we will rebuild, and we will help them.  And condolences.  Tough.  Tough situation.  It’s such bad news when you see that.

I’m honored to be here with the National Association of Counties at your annual legislative conference.  It’s a great group of people.  I’ve dealt with you for a long time over the years.  And every once in a while, I’ll find one I don’t like, but generally speaking, you’re fantastic.  (Laughter and applause.)  It’s true.

And when one of you are in the way, it’s very tough to get that job done.  (Laughter.)  And when you’re helpful, it’s real easy and we get it done, and we produce a lot of jobs and good results.  And I just want to say you’re very important.

And people that are doing what I do before I got here, we realize how important you are.  Incredible job.  Really, I’ve met some of the most incredible people doing exactly what you do.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

So, in this room, there are over 1,200 county leaders whose incredible devotion, talent, and drive directly and profoundly improve the lives of millions of Americans each and every day.  I want you to know that my administration will always be your friend and partner and ally, and resource, as you work to deliver an amazing future for your counties and for your communities and for the country itself.

As I said in my State of the Union Address three years ago — I had just — this — I’ve had a number of State of the Unions already.  Can you believe it?  But this was three years ago, we launched the great American comeback.  And we really did.   We launched it with a vivor [sic] and with a — with a certain splash that nobody has seen in a long time.  And what we’ve done in our country has really been incredible.  Our country is so strong now.  We’ve rebuilt our military.  We’ve cut taxes.  We’ve cut regulations.  You know regulations.  (Applause.)

You know the regulation business.  I think you know the regulation business better than any group I can think of.  (Laughter.)  Now, sadly, about 5 percent of you are saying, “Oh, gee, I wish they wouldn’t have cut.”  (Laughter.)  But 95 percent of you are saying, “It was redundant and it was a problem.”  And, you know, I talk about highways that would take years to get approved; it would take 18, 19, 20 years.  I can give you many examples too.   Not even big highways.  Sometimes roadways.

But we’ve cut regulations at a level that nobody has ever thought possible.  And we’ve done it with the extraordinary help of local officials, people like yourselves that worked with us and worked with the Department of Transportation and all of the other departments that we work with.

We’ve got it down where it would take sometimes 20, 21 years to get approvals for a highway.  We think we have it down to two.  I want to get it down to one, meaning — (applause) — meaning that it can get rejected.  We have safety concerns that we have to look at.  We have environmental concerns.  Many concerns we have to look at.

But to go 20 years and then get a rejection, how about that?  How many of those have — where you wait, let’s say, 10 years and then at the end of 10 years, they vote and they reject you?  Okay?  There’s been a couple.  I guarantee there’s some people in the room.

I’ve been involved in a couple of that.  (Laughter.)  That’s not fun.  You devote a big chunk of your life to something and then you lose three to two.  (Laughter.)  You go home: “How did you do, darling?”  “Not good.”  (Laughter.)

A lot of power in this room.  You don’t know the power you have.  Yes, you do.

But we’ve hosted nearly 50 White House events, welcoming over 3,000 county leaders from all 50 states to forge powerful new bonds of cooperation.  (Applause.)

As we speak, my administration is working very closely with state and local leaders to confront the coronavirus.  We’re really working hard on it.  Vice President Mike Pence is leading the White House Coronavirus Task Force.  He’s doing a really fantastic job too.  (Applause.)

We have already met with state, county, and health officials in 30 states, and conducted regular briefings with governors to coordinate our response and contain the disease.  And it just shows you what can happen.  Six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, you never heard of this.  All of a sudden, it’s got the world aflutter and — but it’ll work out.

But it’s — you know, just unseen.  You have it all of the time — not to this extent; sometimes to a greater extent, relatively speaking.  But things happen that you never would even think would happen, and then you have to confront it.  You have to do a lot of good work.  And you take care of the situation.  You people do that better than anybody that I can think of.

America has the world’s most advanced public health system.  We know that our county health officials play a frontline role in battling public health threats, and we are working with Congress very closely to pass supplemental legislation that ensures state and county health departments get everything they need.

I asked for $2.5 billion; it looks like they’re going to give us $8.5 billion.  I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before.  (Applause.)  So I think I should say, “I’ll take it.”  Right?  Right?  I asked for two and a half, they give me eight and a half — I say, “I’ll take it.”  (Laughter.)

But, no, everyone is working together very well.  To prevent the uncontrolled spread of the disease, I ordered sweeping travel restrictions and did them very early, as you probably have heard — earlier than people wanted me to do them.  And it turned out to be a wise decision.

Increased — (applause) — we increased travel advisory levels, established screening measures, and imposed historic quarantines.  We urge all of you to share information about basic health and safety practices with your communities back home.  CDC has all of the information.  It’s listed all over.  And it’s a good thing to refer to.  But that’s why, following my remarks today, you’ll hear from Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And they’re doing a fantastic job.  They are working around the clock.

America has the world’s greatest professionals working, and they are working very, very hard.  We’re moving aggressively to accelerate the process of developing a vaccine.  I met, yesterday, with the biggest drug companies — Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson and many of the other great companies — and a lot of good things are happening, and they’re happening very fast.  I said, “Do me a favor: Speed it up.  Speed it up.”  And they will.  They’re working really hard and quick.

We’re moving at a maximum speed to develop the therapies, not only the vaccines, but the therapies.  Therapies is sort of another word for cure, where you have it; it helps get the people better faster and take down the severity of the illness.  And they’ve done so much — ff you look at what’s happened with AIDS and the tremendous job they’ve done there.  We will be, as an example, AIDS free within nine years.  Nobody would’ve thought that was possible.  (Applause.)  They are doing a fantastic job.

The revival of American strength over the last three years has put our country in the best possible position to deal with this challenge.  Our economy is prospering like never before.  We’ve relocated supply chains back to the United States.  You know, a lot of the chains now are back in the United States.

And we’ve also — as you probably have noticed, for two years I’ve been complaining about the medicines are made outside of the United States.  I want them to be back here.  If there’s a reason why we can’t use a certain country for lots of reasons, I want it to be made here.  And we’ve already started that process before this happened.  (Applause.)  But this sort of explains why we have to do it pretty well.

Jobs and growth have soared in the United States at a level that’s unprecedented — historic.  And also, we’ve had historic new investment in our country.

No country on Earth has had greater power to overcome adversity.  What we’ve done in so many different ways — we’ve rebuilt our military — $2.5 trillion.  You know, it’s wonderful to have a good budget, but if we don’t have a strong military — (applause) — you never want to be in a position where you’re trying to explain people — to people that, “Well, at least we had a good budget,” as people are running up the front lawn of the White House.  No, thank you.  (Laughter.)

You look over and you say, “You know, we did a hell of a job on that budget.  Should’ve spent a little more on the military, I guess.”  Right?  (Laughter.)

But when I took over, our military was totally depleted.  It was an embarrassment.  And we’ve totally rebuilt our military, most of the equipment.  Much of it is already there –new planes, and new missiles, rockets.  New everything.  We make the greatest military equipment in the world, all made in the USA.  (Applause.)  All made in the USA.  Yeah.  All made in the USA.  Every bit of it is made here.  (Applause.)

Rebuilding our Navy.  We’re rebuilding our Navy and we’re doing a job.  And, frankly, $2.5 trillion is a lot, but it’s not a lot when you think of the importance of the military.  You know, they say the most important thing that a President does is the court system, and in particular, Supreme Court judges.  So I’ve named 218 new federal judges.  Can you believe it?  (Applause.)  And that’s a record.  That’s a record.

Only one person beat me percentagewise.  You know who that is right?  Does anybody know?  Percentagewise, there’s only one.  And when you look, 218 — because President Obama was very nice; he left 142 to start off with.  Usually you’re left none; I had 142.

But you know who the one percentagewise was?  George Washington.  He had 100 percent.  (Laughter and applause.)  But it was like 12 people.  (Laughter.)  Twelve.  At least I can say I named more than him.  A lot more.  It was a little smaller country at the time, but he had 100 percent.

In our great national renewal, my administration has made engagement with local leaders a top priority, because nobody understands the needs of local communities better than local officials — the people in this room.  (Applause.)  Nobody.

And with your help — and we keep in touch with you, as you know, all the time.  We feel very strongly about that.  Our economy is, right now, the envy of the world.

We have created — and, by the way, yesterday, did you notice?  The market went up almost 1,300 points.  (Applause.)  That’s the highest, biggest — that’s the biggest one-day gain in points in the history of our country.  Can you believe that one?  That was a nice surprise.  That was — that took about half of the hurt from the previous week out, caused by something, again, that we didn’t think would happen.  So that was tremendous.  And today it’s up.

And the Federal Reserve cut rates today, finally.  Finally.  Finally.  (Applause.)  Finally.  Do it more.  Do it a little bit more.  You want to be competitive with these other countries.  Other countries have lower rates because their Feds — their currencies are cut to a level and their rate is cut.  They play with their currency, they play with the value of their currencies, and we don’t do that.  We don’t do that.  We have a different kind of a theory going, and it really puts us at — and I don’t say necessarily to do it, but we have to be competitive with other countries.

When we’re paying two points more than Germany, or we’re paying more than other countries, we should be paying less than everybody else.  We have the dollar.  We have the strength.  We have the greatest country on Earth.  We should be paying less.

So the Fed rate is too high.  It’s very simple: It’s too high.  It puts us at a competitive disadvantage, especially when it comes to exporting our product to other countries.  The other countries love that; I don’t like it at all.  (Applause.)  So I’d like to see our Fed lead instead of being led.

We have created 7 million more jobs since the election.  And if you would have said 7 million jobs, nobody would have believed that number.  (Applause.)  The optimistic projection by the previous administration was 2 million jobs — that it would be 2 million by this time — and it turned out to be now over 7 million jobs.  So that’s something really incredible.

African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have reached the lowest level in history.  You know that.  (Applause.)

Median household income has hit the highest level ever recorded.  If you look back and you go to President Bush, it’s $450.  If you go to President Obama — and that’s for eight years, remember.  If you go to President Obama, for eight years, $975.  And if you go to President Donald John Trump,   over a period of three years, it’s almost $10,000.  (Applause.)  That’s a big difference.

So it’s much more over a much, much shorter period.  And if you think about it — I mean, take a look at it and look at the result — our consumer is so powerful, so strong.  It’s really what’s leading our country right now, the strength of our consumer.  Nobody has a consumer like we have.  So we’ve done a job.

For the first time in nearly three decades, every single metro area in the United States has seen their income rise.  Every single area.  The economy — (applause) — of rural America — I love rural America, all that red.  (Applause.)  Rural.  I love rural America.

Look.  (Applause.)  Well, that’s nice.  (Applause.)  That’s great.  You know, we have all those city slickers there in the back; they’re quiet.  (Laughter.)  They’re in the back.  We put them in the back corners.  That’s okay.  (Laughter.)  How are you doing back there?  Well, they’re still waving.  (Laughter.)  Oh, I love those beautiful red areas, that middle of the map.  There’s just a little blue here and a little blue.   Everything else — everything else is bright red.  (Applause.)

Well, what we did, you know, for your farmers or — you know, what — it’s been incredible.  The USMCA — we got out of that horrible NAFTA deal, and now we have USMCA.  It’s going to make a tremendous — like day and night.  And then made the deal with China.  Fifty billion dollars’ worth of purchases for the farmer.  I don’t think the farmer is going to be able to produce it — $50 billion.

You know, the highest ever was $16 billion.  The biggest purchase China ever made in a year was 16.  So we made it 20 in the agreement, and then the day before the agreement was signed, I said, “How are we doing with the farmer?”  You know, because they suffered.  Of course, not too much because I gave them whatever they got taken — nobody else would do that — paid for by China out of the tariffs, right?  And we had a lot left over.  That wasn’t so bad.  That’s why the other presidents never did it because they didn’t quite get it.

But I will say, the farmer — so they have $20 billion in the agreement.  I said, “Do me a favor.  Make it 50 — $50 billion.”  They got 1.5 billion people, right?  And they said, “No, no, no.”  I said, “What does it matter to you?  What does it matter?  It doesn’t make any difference.”  Anyway, they agreed to do it.  So instead of $20 billion — highest ever was $16 billion in one year, two years ago.  Instead of 20, they made it $50 billion.

And now my people look at me and say, “Sir, the American farmer will not be able to produce that much.”  I said, “Trust me.  They will produce that much.”  (Applause.)  Remember I said, “Tell them to go buy more land and get bigger tractors.”  Right?  (Applause.)  We buy more land, assuming they get approval from your people.  You got to approve them.  (Laughter.)

But, no, the farmers — you know, they were so incredible, the farmer.  Just — you know, the way when — when the CNNs of the world would go and interview them, looking for something to speak negatively, because when we’re negotiating — you know, China is very smart and they pulled back all their orders.  They didn’t order almost anything.  And they’d see the farmer and the farmers were hurt, I mean, until we started helping them out with money from China.  But frankly — which was a tremendous thing, actually.

But the farmers never said anything bad.  They said — you know, normally they say, “Oh, it’s terrible what he’s doing.”  Well, you have to make the deal.  You know, it’s — there’s suffering going on.  It’s an operation.  It’s like an operation.

And the farmer, the American farmer — I don’t know that I’ve seen almost anybody.  And they tried to stick that micro- — “What do you think of the horrible thing where President Trump is in a trade war with China?”  And they’d say, “Sir, it should’ve been done a long time ago.  It’s painful, but this should’ve been done 15 and 20 years ago.”  (Applause.)

And then CNN would pull that mic away — “I don’t like this guy.  Let’s find somebody else” — and then put it in front of somebody else.  And then they’d interview women in the rural communities.  They’ll say, “Are you disappointed that you voted?”  You know, like Democrats had voted for Trump, right?  “Are you disappointed?”  They had one about two weeks ago, right?  You saw it.  It was a classic.  I think they convinced CNN that they were going to say bad things about me — ten just incredible women — and they convinced them.  “And you are women that voted for President Trump last time.  Who are you going to vote for this time?”  Ten — all of them — they go, “Trump.”  (Laughter and applause.)

What?  What?  What?  That was incredible.

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  This is not supposed to be a political rally.  (Laughter.)  This is not a political rally.  I don’t like talking politics.  We’re talking about the economy, rural America.  (Applause.)  I don’t like talking about politics.  This a pretty wild group you have here, I think.  But it’s a great group of people.  It’s a great — a great feeling.  You can feel it.  I mean, we have a great group of people, and I appreciate it.

The economy of rural America has grown 30 times faster under my administration than during the four years prior to my election.  Think of that.  (Applause.)  Thirty.  Thirty times.  Even I — that sounds like an exaggeration.  If it is, you’ll read about it tomorrow on the Wash- — (laughter).  They’ll give me a Pinocchio.  Well, that’s what they have.  They had to get it somewhere.  I know — one thing I know: It’s grown a hell of a lot faster.  Thirty times sounds like a lot.  But they are; they’re doing great.

Together, we’re building the most prosperous economy and the most inclusive society ever to exist in this country.  Under our massive tax cuts, governors across the country have designated nearly 9,000 distressed community as Opportunity Zones, and neighborhoods are being revitalized every single day.   You see that.  (Applause.)

The Opportunity Zones — it’s Tim Scott.  Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina has been so incredible.  He came in with the idea of Opportunity Zones.  And I don’t think there’s been anything like it.  We have — all over the — thousands all over the country in areas that haven’t seen investment in 40 years.  People are putting tremendous amounts of money.  Investors.  Sometimes you’d say rich people are putting money in.  They’re creating jobs and they’re happy with it.  I’ve — nobody has seen anything like it.  It’s really prospering.  Maybe because the economy is so good, but things like that help make the economy good.

So it’s been a very unusual — usually, that stuff — almost never does that stuff work.  And then the government comes in with massive subsidies and loses their shirt.  This is something where people are investing in areas that they would have never, ever in a million years invested in, and it’s become a tremendous success.  The fake news doesn’t like talking about it, unfortunately, but one day they will.  Because I think you can’t help it.  It’s become one of the great successes.

We’re also promoting workforce development through our pledge to America’s workers.  Four hundred and thirty companies have already committed to providing new jobs and training opportunities to over 15 million Americans.  And I give my daughter, Ivanka, a lot of credit for that.  She — she came in, she said, “Daddy…”  (Applause.)  It’s true.  She had a great company in New York.  She wanted to just come and just help people get jobs.  I said, “Would you like to do this?”  “No, I want to help people get jobs.”

So she started off with 500,000 jobs, and she just broke 15 million.  She did the 500,000.  If you know her, I’m not surprised.  She did the 500,000 like the first week.  But, you know, 500,000 jobs is a lot.  So she’ll go to a Walmart and, you know, many of the great companies, and Johnson & Johnson, and they’ll hire large amounts.  I think one of them did — I think it was Walmart — did a million people where they train them.  And government is in no position to train them.  You understand that.  Government wouldn’t know where to begin.  It’d just be another program that they have that would be a disaster.  (Laughter.)

So she’d go to these — no, no, you can’t — you just can’t do that.  The private companies — and then also, it’s very specific.  They have very specific needs.

One of the problems we have is that we’re having tremendous amounts of companies moving back to the United States, moving into your communities.  And the problem they have is — (applause) — in many cases, they can’t get help.  And now what they’re doing is they’re taking people that didn’t have jobs, and they’re training them — specifically training them.  And Ivanka has done that job, and it’s been incredible.

In the State of the Union Address, I called on Congress to support my plan to offer vocational and technical education in every high school.  True.  (Applause.)  And I love the term “vocational schools,” because, to me, it says it.  I mean, when I went to school, I had people.  And one person in particular, he wasn’t very good as a student, but he could, after hours, take apart a motor or an engine of a car.  And he could strip it blindfolded, put it back together in 15 minutes.  It was the most incredible thing.

I said, “This is your real ability.” He just had an ability that was extraordinary.  Not for sitting there, writing out tests, but for doing things like that, which are, frankly, just as important and high-paying jobs.  They’re really high-paying jobs.  (Applause.)

And I love the name “vocational school.”  When I was growing up, we used to — Edison Vocational School, where they’ll train them for, you know, cars and for bricklaying and for plumbing and all the things that there’s tremendous talent involved.  And it was incredible.  You don’t see that.  Now they call them “junior colleges.”  And you don’t really — as junior colleges, you don’t really know what that means.  What is a junior college?  What does it mean?

So we’re getting back to the word “vocational.”  I thought it was very important.  And it’s something that they’re very proud of.  And I would be very proud also.  You know, people have that tremendous ability, and we don’t allow them to use it.

We want to help every American acquire cutting-edge skills that they need for the jobs today and for tomorrow.  To put more money in American pockets, we’ve launched the groundbreaking regulatory reduction campaign by cutting regulations — (applause) — yeah.  Yeah.  By cutting regulations on one of the most exciting things that happened.  If you look at the other side, they want to get rid of all energy.  You know, “Let’s — let’s put up windmills all over your communities.”  Right?  “Let’s have windmills all over the place and solar.”  I love solar, but it’s not powerful enough to power these massive factories and plants that we have being built all over.

But by cutting regulations on American energy — for example, we’re massively driving down energy prices — you see that happening — unless it’s an area or a community where they’re not allowing that to happen, in which case — New York as an example: We’re unable to build a pipeline through New York State, where they’d love the jobs of doing the pipeline.  And because of that, New England has very, very high energy prices.  We could cut the energy prices in New York and New England down by half — less than half, if they would allow.  And we’re fighting them very hard, and I think we’ll be successful.  But if they’d allow a pipeline to go through, we would cut the prices of energy down by half, and even more so than that.  It’s a terrible thing.  It’s a very unfair thing to the rest of the country.

The American energy revolution is now saving the typical family of four an average of $2,500 per year.

And I will say this: We are now energy independent.  How nice is that?  (Applause.)  Energy independent.  Energy independent.

That’s why you don’t see all those ships going out to the straits and coming back, and they keep looking for our ships.  “What happened to the USA ships?  I don’t see them too much anymore.”  But we’re energy independent.  And we’re the largest producer of energy, by far, in the world.  It wasn’t that way not so long ago.  So.  (Applause.)

And we approved the Keystone XL Pipeline.  You know that.  (Applause.)  And we approved — right? — the Dakota Access Pipeline.  I came in — those two, I did them in my first week or less.  And it was 48,000 jobs, but more importantly, it’s actually environmentally better.  You’re taking it under the soil.  Nobody even sees it.  You’re under the soil as opposed to trains and the problems that can happen.  So it’s been a tremendous thing.

But with us today is Rebecca Long, the commissioner of Lee County, New Mexico.  (Applause.)  Oh I love New — how am I doing in New Mexico?  I hear we’re going to win New Mexico.  (Applause.)  We’re going to win New Mexico.

Rebecca, please come forward and say a little bit about what’s happening on the energy boom.  And your state is right up at the forefront, and we’re very proud of New Mexico.  Now, if I don’t win it, I won’t say that.  I’ll take it.  (Laughter.)  I’ll come back and I’ll say next year, “I was only kidding about New Mexico.”

Please.  Hi, how are you?

MS. LONG:  It is such an honor to be here with you today.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s my honor.  Thank you very much.

MS. LONG:  And the remarks you were saying fit exactly in with what I’m going to say.


MS. LONG:  So thank you from Lee County, New Mexico, where your energy agenda is helping us with quicker right-of-way permits on BLM land and drilling permits.  We’re getting those faster, so that’s heling America be energy independent.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Thank you.

MS. LONG:  So we appreciate that.

Let me give you a little bit of history.  In December 2016, right before you came on, we had 17 active drilling rigs producing 7 million barrels of oil.  In December of 2019, we had 53 active drilling rigs with 18.2 million barrels of oil.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  That’s great.

MS. LONG:  So right now, Lee County, New Mexico, is the second-largest oil and gas producer in the United States.


MS. LONG:  And soon we will be first.  And thank you so much for all you do for us.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s fantastic.

MS. LONG:  Energy independence is so important, and we appreciate that you know where we are and who we are.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

MS. LONG:  Thank you.  Thank you.  We appreciate you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  Good job.  Now, again, we’re not getting political, because I refuse to be — do that, but — (laughter) — you know, Rebecca, that if Bernie or one of these characters get in, you can close up your energy.  You do know.


THE PRESIDENT:  They have little things like, “We don’t want petroleum products.”  Well, that’s a lot of people.  (Laughter.)  That’s a lot.

We’re also building your wall right along the border to stop people from coming into our country illegally.  Right?  You know that.  (Applause.)  Say hello to the people of New Mexico.  I’ll be there soon.

We’re reversing decades of calamitous trade policies that decimated so many of your communities.  You know that.  You know it probably better than anybody in the country, how bad it was.  We have successfully renegotiated new trade deals with South Korea and Japan, who were really ripping us.

South Korea — remember, Hillary Clinton — the great Hillary Clinton — she said, “No, no we want this deal.  It will produce 250,000 jobs.”  And she was right, for South Korea.  They produced — (laughter) — it’s true.  It got South Korea 250.  So you can’t say she was wrong.  She wasn’t misleading us.  She said, “250,000.”  It was a horrible deal, and we’ve totally renegotiated that with South Korea.  Now it’s a good deal for the United States and a fairer deal.  You know, it’s — that was a ridiculous deal.  (Applause.)

In January, we finally ended the NAFTA catastrophe, and I signed the brand-new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement into law, the USMCA.  (Applause.)

And we also took the strongest-ever action to stand up to China’s trade abuses, which, frankly, for years — explain that one, what was happening with China.  500-billion-dollar-a-year deficits.  Allowing us to reach a landmark agreement that will deliver vast benefits for our ranchers, growers, manufacturers, farmers.

Working closely with local officials, we’ve taken bold action to curb the opioid epidemic, which is such a problem no matter where you come from.  (Applause.)

And for the first in 31 years, we actually went down a little bit.  We went down.  Some communities are down 17, 18, 19 percent.  One is down 21 percent.  But still, it is a massive, massive problem for our country.  Drug overdose problems are just a terrible, terrible problem.  And it’s a world problem too.  It’s — no matter where you go, it’s — it’s pretty tough stuff.

And frankly, I should say, no matter where you go unless they have really, really strong measures against the dealers, in which case they have no problem.  I wonder how that works.  How does that work, Mary?  When you go to a country where they have very, very stringent — unbelievably stringent, like probably we can’t do in our country — they have no drug problem.

You go into China, you say.  “How’s your drug problem?” They don’t even know — President Xi doesn’t even know what you’re talking about.  “We have no drug problem.”  They have quick trials.  Right?  Quick trials.  And I won’t even tell you what the punishment is, but let me just say it’s very swift.  (Laughter.)

You go to Singapore — they don’t have a drug problem in Singapore.  A lot of money, a lot of everything.  Perfectly set up for a drug problem.  Everything perfect.  But they are very, very tough.  And I just don’t know whether or not this country is ready for that, whether or not it can do it.  But the only countries that don’t have a drug problem are countries where the retribution is unbelievably tough.

When we work together, we can dramatically improve public safety.  (Applause.)  It is especially vital that all state and local officials cooperate fully with all requests from our courageous ICE officers.  I hope I don’t insult anybody, but the ICE officers are taking people out of your communities by the thousands, including MS-13 gang members.

If you didn’t have them — and your local enforcement doesn’t want to do that.  And these are seriously tough, crazy people, in many cases, and we’re getting them the hell out of our country, and we’re bringing them back to where they came from.  And we’re keeping them there and — Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador — so many of these countries.

And, you know, in the past administration, they couldn’t bring them back because they’d say, “No, no.  You can’t bring them back.  Get out.  You can’t bring them back.”  So they’d fly over; they wouldn’t let them land.  They wouldn’t let buses go in with these people.  We’d would have to bring them back.

They don’t do that with us.  (Applause.)  With us, they say, “Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  Thank you for bringing these wonderful citizens back.”  MS-13 — you can have them.  And now we bring them back and they take them immediately.

And we just have set records for coming through the border.  We’re setting records now on not coming through the border.  We built 128 miles of wall.  We’ve already got 100, and we have some going up in New Mexico just now.  But we have 128 miles.

And you think that was easy getting that thing for — I could do anything.  I can rebuild the military for $2.5 trillion.  But if you’re going to spend 10 cents on a wall, it was like you couldn’t do it.  They would shut down the country.  (Laughter.)

We actually did shut down the country for a little while, frankly, but we ended up getting the money, and the wall is under construction.  We’re building a lot.  We’re up to 128 miles, and we’ll have close to 500 miles sometime — pretty early next year.  (Applause.)

And in the area where we have them, the walls — as you people know, because you’re also people of great common sense.  You’re brilliant, but you have great common sense.  That’s why you’re doing what you’re doing.  At least the good ones do; the bad ones probably don’t, you know.  There must be some bad ones in the room, right?

But it’s a matter of common — so much of life and so much of government is common sense.  But where we have a wall, the numbers just went down to almost zero.  Now they go around. That’s why the wall gets longer and longer.  But the numbers have been incredible.

You know, the Democrats used to say, “We don’t want a wall. We’ll give you drones.”  They wanted to give me drones.  I said, “What good are drones?  They’re going to be flying around in the air watching thousands of people cross the border.  What good are drones?”  (Laughter.)  “No, no, we’ll give you technology.” They were saying, “Walls — walls are old-fashioned.”

Yeah, two things will never change: a wall and a wheel.  Right?  A wheel.  (Applause.)  Come back in 1,000 years; you’re going to have a wheel.  Come back in 1,000 years; you’re going to have a wall.  (Applause.)  They’re probably the only two things that aren’t going to change in life.  But it is true, when you think of it.  (Laughter.)

So we have 128.   We’re building it rapidly, and it’s exactly what Border Patrol wanted.  They did tests on every form of wall you can have.  And it’s an expensive wall in terms of — expensive — very expensive per square foot.  But it’s the kind of wall we need.  We might as well — if we’re going to do it, we might as well do it right.

They had a — (applause) — they had a big story, two weeks ago, that the wall fell down — my wall fell down.  You know, I’m saying how strong it is.  I always like to brag about it because it really is.  It’s deep set into the ground, surrounded by heavy concrete and steel.  It’s actually made of steel on the outside, concrete and rebar inside.  You know, it’s got everything.  Right?

And one of the big newscasters, they said, “The wall fell down.”  I said, “Oh, this is bad.  I’m building a wall and it falls down — that’s terrible.”  So I go, “What the hell happened with the wall?”  “Well, sir, they had a tremendous windstorm and we were just setting it in very wet concrete.  The concrete had — and we were holding it up as much as we could until the concrete dried.  And the wind came at 58 miles an hour, sir, and it blew the wall over.  We put it back up, and we held it with cranes.”

I said, “You mean you were putting it up and the concrete was soaking wet?”  “Yes, sir.  We just put it in the concrete, and it fell down.”  “Oh.”  They didn’t say that.  (Laughter.) They didn’t say that.  They don’t say little things like that, do they?  Oh, I don’t know how you put up with the fake news, you people.  (Laughter and applause.)

Americans are safest when we support the heroes of federal, state, and local law enforcement.  (Applause.)  My administration — they’re incredible people.  They do an incredible job.  And I’ll tell you what: They’re very much appreciated in our country.  You know, you read so many things, but they’re very much appreciated.  And ICE has done an incredible job of getting very bad — some very bad people out of your communities.

My administration is also reshaping our nation’s approach to mental illness.  My budget calls for almost $5 billion to improve access to inpatient mental healthcare through Medicaid.  (Applause.)

And as you know, county jails were not meant to deal with the mental illness problem.  (Applause.)  They weren’t.  They weren’t.  Thank you.  Thank you.  I didn’t know that that was going to hit such a high note.  Really.  I mean, that’s incredible.  I didn’t know that that was going to be appreciated the way it’s meant to be.

But you understand the situation.  You understand — the people in this room understand all of the things we’re talking about, better than any people I can imagine, even people in Washington.  They don’t — (applause) — you know, you’re on the ground.  So when you make a statement like that, that’s very meaningful to me when you — when you give it that kind of a response.  I wouldn’t have thought it would have had that response.

It’s also not compassionate to leave those with mental illness on the streets, and you see that.  (Applause.)  So we must get Americans the care that they need.

From day one, my administration has worked closely with you to overcome natural disasters such as the tornado in Tennessee.

Since I took office, 62 percent of counties have received major emergency or disaster declarations, with the federal government committing over $124 billion to support your citizens in very trying times.   And we get you the money quickly.  We check it.  We do what we have to do.  But I think everybody in this room would say that you get the money much quicker under our administration than in the past.  (Applause.)  It used to be unfair.  It used to be very unfair, to a point where you really couldn’t even properly do the work.  It would take you so long to get the money, you’re afraid to do the work.  We get it to you quickly.

We’re joined today by Kathryn Starkey of Pasco County Florida.  A good place.  Kathryn, please come up and share your story about your community and recovering from a very big disaster that I know very well.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Hi, Kathryn.

MS. STARKEY:  Thank you for the opportunity.  In 2017, President Trump’s Office of Inter Government- — Intergovernmental Affairs started an innovative outreach program, inviting to D.C. commissioners from each state, regardless of party affiliation.

This opened a bridge for communication with federal agencies.  And then hurricane Irma hit my state later that year, and soon we had an issue I needed to bring to the attention of your administration, sir.

Counties were getting into bidding wars over debris removal contracts, and they were creating unaffordable prices for other municipalities.  Fortunately, I was able to call the IGA office, and they immediately set up a conference with the FEMA officials.

They quickly resolved the issue through an emergency rule change.  And this would not have happened without the incredible outreach from the White House early on.

I’d like to thank you, sir, President Trump, the IGA office, and the federal agencies, who are being such incredible partners to local government.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

MS. STARKEY:  Thank you for making America great again.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow, thank you, Kathryn.  Thank you very much.  Beautiful.  And I have to say, Kathryn, that you had two governors — you had Rick Scott, previously, right?  And he did a fantastic job.  Now your Senator and your current governor, Ron DeSantis.  And they would come to my office, say, “President, can we see you just for a minute?  Oh, good.”  Separately, but very similar, they wanted money.  I said, “Well, what do you want?”  “We don’t need much.  We need a little bit more for the Panhandle,” as an example.  And I said, “Oh, good.  I love the Panhandle.”  They got everything they needed, that I can tell you.  But they’d say, “We need another little bit of money.”  “How much do you need?”  “$500 million more.”  “$500 million?  That’s a lot.  You’ve got it.”  (Laughter.)

But they’d come up — you know, it goes to the Panhandle.  It goes to — look, these people — having the right governor in a state is so important.  The good ones, they bug me, bug me, bug me.  (Applause.)  And you have great ones in this country.  You have so many great ones.  And Governor Lee is a great one, in Tennessee.  You have so many — Texas, Greg Abbott.  But Ron DeSantis, the job he’s doing, the job that Rick did as governor, Rick Scott, it’s — it’s so important.  If you have the wrong governor, it’s not helpful.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  Absolutely.  But if you have the wrong governor, you know understand that better than anybody: If you have the wrong governor, it doesn’t work.  But they would come up and they’d want to get everything set and done.  And they need it fast because you have to rebuild your community.  And debris was the biggest thing, Kathryn, right?  Debris.  Debris was the biggest thing.

They’d bid it out, and they’d have bids that were so crazy.  One would be very low and the others would be very high, and they weren’t allowed, through red tape, to use the low one.  And I worked it so that they could use the low one.  And, you know, we did a lot of great things.  But Florida really has done — they have done a fantastic job.

Thank you very much.  That was beautiful.

Everyone here is devoted — and, really, a devoted public servant.  You love your neighbors, you love your country, you love this nation like nobody else.

Every day, we’re working with you to build a country where every town is booming, every community is prospering, and every child has the chance to reach the American Dream.

As long as I am President, the federal government is on your side 100 percent.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

You will always have a very important seat at the table, and you will always find an open door at the White House.  Many of you have come to the White House, and we’ve had a lot of good discussions.

No matter what community you represent, we’re all united by our loyalty to the citizens we serve and the knowledge that America is the most exceptional nation anywhere in the history of the world.

To every county leader — and it’s so brilliant to have you here because you really are the people that know it the best.  And I really know that much more from my previous life.  This life is different, to put it mildly.  (Laughter.)  I thought it would be easier; it’s actually much tougher.  But I know it from my previous life.  I know the talent that you have, the insight that you have.  It’s really incredible, and I want to thank you for your unbelievable service.

Thank you for your selfless devotion, and thank you for fighting for a glorious future of American greatness.

God bless you all.  God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END                12:14 P.M. EST