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Oval Office

11:59 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much.  I’m honored to be here with many of the great American workers as we take historic action to accelerate the incredible revival of American manufacturing.  It truly is a revival.  Nobody thought it was possible, actually.  And not only is it possible, but we’re thriving.

We’re also grateful to be joined by Secretary Acosta, Administrator McMahon, and Representative Robert Aderholt, Mario Diaz-Balart.  And we’re working on a lot of interesting projects in your neck of the woods, aren’t we, huh?  How’s that all going?

REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART:  Mr. President, you are a champion of freedom in this country.

THE PRESIDENT:  I didn’t expect that.  I never told him to say that.  (Laughter.)  Well, that was a great move.  Every once in a while (inaudible).  (Laughter.)  And you too, that I can tell you.  Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.

Robert Aderholt.  Robert, thank you very much.  David Joyce, Anthony Gonzalez, and David Rouzer.  Thank you all for being here.  We really worked hard on this.  And I appreciate your support.

In the eight years before I took office, we lost nearly 200,000 manufacturing jobs.  They were leaving.  People were talking about the fact that you needed a magic wand; you’ll never bring them back.  You remember the previous administration, he said that they said — he said — they all said you needed a magic wand; manufacturing jobs were over.  I guess you people heard that too.  It was a little bit discouraging.

And since the election, we’ve gained more than 500,000 jobs — and that number is going to be very soon to 700,000 jobs — all in the manufacturing world, which is a beautiful world, a high-paying world, and very important for our country.

Last year, we saw the biggest increase in manufacturing employment in more than 20 years.  Early in my presidency, I issued an executive order directing the federal government to live by two very crucial rules: Buy American and hire American.  And I think that sounds appropriate.  Remember in the old days?  It was not that.  It was almost the opposite.  You’d say, “Where are they coming from?”

Thanks to my executive order and a really great group of people, we have increased reliance on American-made goods very, very substantially.  Federal agencies are now spending an additional $24 billion on American-made products instead of going to other countries or foreign-made products.

Federal spending on foreign goods is now the lowest it’s been in more than 10 years, and it’s going down very substantially.  And, by the way, we don’t get treated great by many countries in terms of our trade deals, and that’s changing rapidly.  But we are now looking out a little bit for ourselves and it’s about time.

Today, I’m taking action to build on this tremendous success by strengthening the Buy American principle for federal infrastructure and federal spending.

We want American roads, bridges, and railways, and everything else to be built with American iron, American steel, American concrete, and American hands.  And if you look at what’s happened with the steel industry, it’s actually amazing.  The steel industry is thriving now and it was dead when I came to office.  It was dead.  It was a dead industry.  They were dumping steel all over the place.  The jobs were going.  And if any of you were in the steel industry, I think you can probably tell them, you know.  And aluminum, too.

But when you look at what’s happened to the steel industry, it’s been incredible.  One of the great successes.  And now prices are starting to come down because they’re competing with each other.  Nucor and U.S. Steel and so many of these companies, they’re building many, many plants all over the United States.  And as those plants open, they’re finally competing with themselves.

We literally were not going to have steel companies.  We weren’t going to make steel in this country.  And that in itself is a very important thing.  We have to have steel.  There are some products you have to have.  And, by the way, steel is one of them.

You talked about defense — how do you do it without steel and aluminum and the kinds of things that we’re really very heavily focused on.

By signing this order today, we renew our commitment to an essential truth: It matters where something is made, and it matters very greatly.

When I came to office, and I witnessed for many years — for decades, frankly — they didn’t care where it was made.  I care where it’s made.  It should be made right here in the USA.  And we’ve taken a very strong stand.

I want to introduce, before I sign, Peter Navarro and Kevin Hassett, two of my great economic people.  And they’re going to give you a little talk as to what’s happened and how good we’re doing.

Peter, do you want to start?

MR. NAVARRO:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I remember back during the campaign, the naysayers said that this President could not restore the manufacturing base.

I’m just going to show you a couple pictures here.  What we have here is a chart that shows the loss of 192,000 jobs during the eight years of the Obama administration.  It did tick up a little bit during Obama’s last two years: 73,000.  But it is absolutely dwarfed by the policies of this President: 473,000 since Inauguration Day, and over 500,000 since the election.

And then you can see how the emphasis is on this administration in putting men and women who work with their hands to work.  You can see the jobs created in the Obama administration: One percent of the total job gains were manufacturing compared to 10 percent.

And the folks here that you see on the President’s right come from across this great country, and they build essentially the mother’s milk of Americana.  It’s lamppost, it’s fire hydrants, it’s water mains.  And we salute these workers today coming in this White House.

Kevin is going to show you another chart that shows how these distribution of manufacturing gains are across this country, and then we’ll kick it back to Mr. President.

CHAIRMAN HASSETT:  And again, the economics literature, Mr. President, when you were running for office basically said that manufacturing was going the way of agriculture in the previous century; that it was just on an inevitable decline as a percentage of GDP.  But it also focused a lot on this idea that there was a rust belt in America.  There was a place where there used to be manufacturing, where there was disproportionate harm to workers.

And I think the thing that’s really, really interesting about the manufacturing jobs that have been created by our policies — your policies — are that they’re scattered throughout America.  The dark red part is a place where manufacturing jobs are up by 20 percent or more since you last took office.

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  That’s fantastic.

CHAIRMAN HASSETT:  And then the lighter reds are 10 percent or more.  And the lightest red is 5 percent or more.

But if you look at all the pockets all across the country, including in places that people used to call the Rust Belt, where manufacturing employment is booming, what it means is that there’s basically a boom belt from coast to coast that’s been created by our policies.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, you know, Kevin, when I took over, the Rust Belt was really in trouble.  Many people were saying it’s dying, it’s dead; people were leaving.  And I love the Rust Belt, and the Rust Belt is no longer the Rust Belt as far as I’m concerned.  It’s vibrant.  It’s doing so well.  You look at all of those red marks, those red marks are where it’s flourishing.  Tremendous numbers.  And that’s fantastic.  We’re very proud.

I wish, frankly, that the media would report how well we’re doing in manufacturing, how well we’re doing with the economy.  They don’t seem to report how well we’re doing.  I think if you had another President, it would be the biggest story, because it really is the biggest story, or certainly one of the biggest stories.  And you see the market, how it is.  It hit 25,000 yesterday.  We’re doing great.  We’re doing great as a country.

And we have a lot of bite-back because other countries are not doing well.  China is having a very hard time.  They’re here now.  We’re going to be seeing them a little bit later.  We’re trying to work out a new trade deal with China.  I think it will happen.  Something will happen.  But it’s a very big deal.  It will be — if it does happen, it will be, by far, the largest trade deal ever made.

And we essentially didn’t have a trade deal with China.  We lost $500 billion with China, for many years, a year.  Anywhere from $300- to $500-, $505 billion a year was lost in our dealing with China.  And I have a very good relationship with President Xi, and I think we’ll sit down at the end — at the end of the negotiation by our representatives — and do something with respect to making a deal with China.  I think it has a very good chance of happening.

But China is having a very hard time with their economy, and the European Union is having a hard time.  A lot of things going on.  And we’re getting tremendous numbers.  Tremendous unemployment numbers — among the best we’ve ever had in the history of our country.  Individual groups the best: African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, women.  Numbers that we haven’t seen before.  The overall is the best numbers.  Best employment numbers in 51 years.

So we’re doing really well.  I wish the press would report it.

I’m going to sign this.  Before I do, I think I want to just ask a few of you folks, would you like to say something?  Anybody?  Anybody want to become a congressman by (inaudible)?

MR. MULLER:  Mr. President, I’d like to thank you for the tax cuts.  It’s been rocket fuel for our business for manufacturing.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  That was great.  Charlie?  That was great.

MR. FORTNEY:  Mr. President, I’d like to thank you for the — this Buy American push that you’ve got with federal funding for the infrastructure that’s Buy American.  It’s jobs for us.  And it puts us in a position where we can compete.  Otherwise, we tend to walk to away from jobs where foreign competition is going to take our business.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  We’re changing that fast.

MR. FORTNEY: Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Big difference.  Big difference.

MS. HARRISON:  And I’m with McWane, in Birmingham.  We’re based out of Birmingham, Alabama.  We have seen a tremendous uptick.  We’re representing several divisions with McWane here, but thank you for everything you’ve done.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Great group.  Thank you.  Thank you all very much.  You want to say anything?  Anybody else?

Anybody want to become a congressperson?

MS. MARTINEZ:  Just that it gives us an opportunity to hire, obviously even more opportunities that we have to fill positions as jobs increase.

MR. FORTNEY:  That’s Brenda Martinez with U.S. Foundry.  She’s our HR, and she hires people when we get more work.

THE PRESIDENT:  Big difference.  Right?


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all very much.

So how about our politicians?  Now, they want to say, that I know.  (Laughter.)  These people — they’re not shy.

REPRESENTATIVE ADERHOLT:  Well, let me say, first of all, that this is a very commonsense, a bipartisan piece of executive order that the President — we have worked on legislation in the past that’s worked this from the appropriations side from year to year.

But what this executive order does, it goes beyond that and it really tries to make sure that we — as the President said, American hands are doing the job and this is what we’re — when we go back home, we want to see our manufacturers do well.  We want to see them grow.  We want to see our workers do — have better jobs.  So thanks, Mr. President, for doing it.  So, thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Appreciate it.

MR. NAVARRO:  Mr. President, if I may — this gentleman here has been a long-time leader on the hill carrying the Buy American banner, and his leadership is very much appreciated.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s why he wins by so much.

MR. NAVARRO:  Yes.  That is correct.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s why he doesn’t worry too much about races.  You know?  Just wins.

REPRESENTATIVE ADERHOLT:  It helps when you’ve got a district that he wins about 80 percent.  So — (laughter).

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I did very well.  (Laughter.)  Come to think of it.

REPRESENTATIVE ADERHOLT:  The best of 435 districts, so —

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  That’s very nice.  Thank you very much.  Say hello.


ADMINISTRATOR MCMAHON:  Well, thank you very much.  I hear from small businesses, you know, all over the country, and they are very happy to be buying American and hiring American.  And, you know, the job growth, it just speaks for itself.  And our businesses are growing and starting and expanding.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job you’re doing too.  She runs the Small Business, and they’re big business when you add it all up.  She’s done a fantastic job — Linda McMahon.

Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY ACOSTA:  Mr. President, you know, in the past, we’ve encouraged individuals out there to buy American.  But what you’re doing is so important because you’re leading by example.  You’re saying the federal government will buy American.  And we’ve seen the impact last year with, you know, a 10-year record low in foreign purchases.  And this is going to take it to the next step, and it will translate into more jobs for individuals, just like those here today.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s having an incredible effect.  I mean, people don’t realize it yet, but they’re seeing it more and more.  We are mandating even pipelines and things that were made elsewhere.  They’re starting to be made here because we have a steel industry again.  But it’s having a tremendous effect.


REPRESENTATIVE JOYCE:  Thank you, Mr. President, I have been co-sponsoring a bill for years with Daniel Lipinski.  Couldn’t get it to go anywhere.  I’m honored that you’re doing it today to force it into action because, as you said, these are American jobs.  It’s American concrete, it’s American steel, it’s American asphalt.  Thank you for doing so.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate it.

REPRESENTATIVE ROUZER:  Well, Mr. President, you can’t believe how much my folks back home in Eastern North Carolina appreciate your commitment to the American worker, and particularly the American farmer.  And I personally really appreciate you taking it to China.  They have eaten our lunch for a long, long time, and I appreciate you standing up and really fighting hard for our American workers, and the job creation that’s going to result from that.  And keep plugging for America’s farmers.

THE PRESIDENT:  So China, as you know, has opened up because of us to the financial services industry, which is a big thing.  Nobody thought that was possible.  And they’ve opened up to financial services and things of the like.

But I just want to let everyone know we won’t have a deal if we don’t open it up to the farmers, and we won’t have a deal if they don’t open it up to our manufacturers, and just all of it.  And I think China is very prone to do this.  So we’re going to have a talk.  But we’ve already got financial services.  A big impact.  You have tremendous amounts of money.  Tremendous amounts of people.  It’s a whole different market, and a massive market.  I guess you could certainly say the biggest, or one of the biggest markets in the world, but maybe the biggest market in a certain way in the world.

But we’re the number-one country in the world economically.  I don’t want people to forget that.  We’re the number one.  And we were heading — we were heading south fast.  We were going down, and we turned it around.  And it started with the regulations that we cut.  We cut more regulations than any administration in the history of our country in two years.  And, actually, less than two years.  And it also was helped by the tax cuts.  Put a lot of people to work and really gave companies something where they’re now coming back into our country, they’re investing in our country, and they’re expanding in our country.

So, a lot of great things are happening.


REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART:  Mr. President, I, again, it’s amazing what leadership does.  The economy is booming, you’re rebuilding our military, you’re leading around the world.  Enough said.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  I’m liking this guy more and more.  (Laughter.)

REPRESENTATIVE ADERHOLT:  Let me just add one thing that I have — this makes my 22nd year serving in the House of Representatives.  This President has stood up more for manufacturing jobs in Alabama and across the country — not just Alabama — than any President.  So I thank you for standing up.

MR. NAVARRO:  And Robert and Mario have been leaders on the Reciprocal Trade Act, as well, that you’re sponsoring.

THE PRESIDENT:  I know.  Reciprocal trade is going be very important.  We’re going putting in a bill very soon, where when a country charges us tariffs that are massive, and we charge them nothing for the same exact product, we just say, “Hey, got to be equal.  You charge us, we charge you.”  You could call it a reciprocal tax, but some people call it a mirror tax.

So, if Europe, as an example — the EU charges us 72 percent tariff on corn, and they don’t even want it, and we charge them nothing — it doesn’t work that way anymore.  So, you know, I’ve gone to many people that aren’t that familiar with it, including politicians that you’ll be dealing with soon.  And I went to a couple that are always tough.  I said, “What do you think of that?  They charge us, we charge them.”  They looked at me and they said, Robert, “Huh.  Sounds fair to me.”

And, actually, you probably get rid of tariffs, because rather than charging 75 percent to nothing, now if you’re both at 75, you say, “Let’s call it quits.  We’ll go to nothing.”

So it really has that impact too, as you know.  Please.

REPRESENTATIVE GONZALEZ:  Thank you, Mr. President.  So, as you know, northeast Ohio is all about jobs and the economy.  And Dave and I are from the same neck of the woods.  And to see the cranes, buildings going up, to see steel jobs coming back — to your point, they said it couldn’t be done, and now wages are going up.  When was the last time real wages went up?  It’s been a while.  So keep doing what you’re doing, and we support you in northeast Ohio on everything with the economy.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.


THE PRESIDENT:  And they’re getting — it’s a beautiful thing because I opened up, as you know — the best iron ore, they say, virtually in the world is in Minnesota.  The big mines.  They were closed.  President Obama decided to close them.  I opened them.  And we’re not bringing it in; we’re taking it right from our own home.  And we’re having it made in Ohio.  We have good ore in Ohio, too.  But we’re having it made in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, in North Carolina, and all the different places.  It’s been really incredible to see what’s happening.  We don’t need anything from outside of our own boundaries.  So that’s been really great.

Okay, let’s go.  (Laughter.)  Does anybody want this pen?  Thank you very much.  Thank you all for being here.  I appreciate it.

(The executive order is signed.)

Okay, here you go.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody, very much.  I appreciate it.

Q    Mr. President, (inaudible) your intelligence officials yesterday.  Do you still have confidence in Gina Haspel and Dan Coats to give you good advice?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I disagree with certain things that they said.  I think I’m right, but time will prove that.  Time will prove me right, probably.  I think Iran is a threat.  I think it’s a very big threat.  And I think I did a great thing when I terminated the ridiculous Iran nuclear deal.  It was a horrible, one-sided deal that was $150 billion, plus $1.8 billion in cash, and lots of other bad things.

If you remember, they took our 10 sailors out of waters that people are disputing, and made us look very bad.  But, of course, the payment was due the following day, so they eventually let them go, which they had to.  I disagree very much on that.

I also think — and you’ll be seeing something next week — because you look at what’s happened in Syria with respect to ISIS and the caliphate.  We took over a lot of area in the last two weeks.  We’ve done tremendous in the last couple of weeks.  At the same time, we’re consolidating, and a tremendous amount of good things are happening.

You even look at what’s going on — and I can’t tell you that this is a guarantee because we’re going into close to 19 years in being in Afghanistan.  And, for the first time, they’re talking about settling.  They’re talking about making an agreement.  And we bring our people back home if that happens.  We’ll see what happens, but they’re in very serious negotiations for the first time.  There’s a reason for that.

So I think we’re doing so well on a foreign policy basis.  If you look at North Korea — and many of you are going to be traveling with us to North Korea and — for the meetings with North Korea.  We’re going to a certain location.  I think most of you know where the location is.  I don’t think it’s any great secret.  But we’ll be announcing the location and the date — the exact date.  It will be at the end of February.  And we’ve made tremendous progress with North Korea.

When I came in — or, let’s say, at the end of the last administration — frankly, it looked like we were going to war with North Korea.  Now there’s no missile testing.  There’s no rocket testing.  There’s no nuclear testing.  We got back our prisoners or our hostages.  And we’re getting back our remains; they’re coming in.  And we’ve had some beautiful ceremonies in Hawaii, other places.

So I just tell you that we are doing really well.  Our military is being rebuilt.  It’s very close to being rebuilt.  We have tremendous amounts of new aircraft, new ships, new weapons of all kinds, which we need — because, hopefully, the stronger we get, the less you have to use it.  I guess you know that from growing up in school.  The stronger we are, the less we’re going to have you use it, and we don’t want to have to use it.  But we’re going to have the strongest military, by far, that we’ve ever had.

So I didn’t see the report from the intelligence.  When you read it, it’s a lot different than it was covered on in the news.  But I think that Iran is somebody — is a nation that we have to watch very closely.  They sent up a rocket the other day, and it failed.  But it was sent up.  Now, they can say they’re sending it up for civilian purposes, but I don’t think too many people believe that.  They’re doing tests.  And we don’t want to be in a position where we’re behind.  We’re not going to be leading from behind anymore.

So that’s the story.  I have great respect for a lot of people, but I don’t always agree with everybody.  Okay?

Q    What concessions has China made so far in the talks?  Anything on IP theft?

THE PRESIDENT:  So, it’s great.  Well, we’re going to — look, we’re going to go into everything.  You probably saw, this morning I put out a statement.  We’re going into everything.  This isn’t going to be a small deal with China.  This is either going to be a very big deal or it’s going to be a deal that we’ll just postpone for a little while.

But we’ve been dealing with China.  We’ve had a great relationship.  I have a great relationship with President Xi.  The relationship of my people to Chinese representatives has been very good.  They’re negotiating now.  They’ll be coming over here at about 4 o’clock, and we’ll be talking to, actually, one of the top leaders in China, as you know.

I think that probably the final deal will be made.  If it’s made, will be made between myself and President Xi.  But we’re certainly talking about theft.  We’re talking about every aspect of trade with a country.  And we’re talking about fentanyl, too.

As you know, most of the fentanyl — which is killing 80,000 Americans a year is — it comes through China.  And, in China, it was not criminalized.  And they’ve agreed to criminalize fentanyl and give it the maximum penalty.  The maximum penalty in China, if you’re selling drugs, is death; it’s the death penalty.  And they’ve agreed to do the death penalty for selling fentanyl.  And if it’s shipped to the United States, that would be a very severe penalty.

So I think that’s going to have a tremendous impact.  We put that one item into the trade deal — the fentanyl.  I think that’s a very important item to put in.  But they’ve agreed — they’ve agree, and agreed very readily — we really appreciate it — to criminalize the sale of fentanyl.


Q    Do you think you’ll make the March 1 deadline?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know.  I mean, it’s —

Q    And you are going to add (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  I can tell you, there’s — a lot of people are working.  What happens — we’re charging large tariffs to Chinese products that are coming in, which hurts China.  As you know — you saw the reports — out of the 25 points, we’re paying for four points out of the 25.  They’re paying for 21.  That’s a big difference.  I’ve always said that.

We’re taking in billions of dollars.  And, frankly, we’re creating a lot of industry.  But the rate goes from 10 percent to 25 percent on March 1st.  So they would like to do it, and I’d like to accommodate them.  If we can, I’d like to accommodate China if we can get the deal done.

It’s a lot of work because this is a very comprehensive deal.  This isn’t what we’re talking about, you know, they’re going to buy some corn and that’s going to be it.  No, they’re going to buy corn.  Hopefully, they’re going to buy lots of corn, and lots of wheat, and lots of everything else that we have.  But they’re also talking heavy technology, heavy manufacturing, financial services, and everything else.

Q    So you may have to extend the talks beyond March the 1st?  Is that what you’re saying, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think we can do it by March 1st.  Can you get it down on paper by March 1st?  I don’t know.  I can say, on March 1st, the tariff on China goes to 25 percent, and that’s a big tariff.

Q    I’m just curious, what’s the tone looking like for the State of the Union, sir?  And then, I don’t know if you’ve seen, the Democrats have tapped the rebuttal speech — Stacey Abrams, who ran for Governor of Georgia.  Any thoughts on their pick, sir, or any of the messaging?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I campaigned against Stacey Abrams.  I know that President Obama campaigned for her.  Michelle Obama campaigned for her.  And Oprah campaigned for her.  And all Brian had was me.  And he won fairly easily — you know, fairly easy.

So I hope that she does a good job.  I mean, I respect her.  I don’t know her.  I haven’t met her.  But I hope she does a good job.

Q    And the tone for your speech, sir — can you tell us —

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s unification.  I think it’s industry.  I think it’s about the people that you see right here.  It’s also working with these people, because they’ve been incredible.  We have had some incredible report.  And we’ve have incredible Republican support.

The problem is, the Democrats — you know, when they say, “We don’t want to build…” — as an example, “We don’t want to build a wall because it doesn’t work or because it’s immoral.”  Well, it’s also immoral the people that come into our country that shouldn’t be here and kill people.  That’s immoral, too.  That’s a lot more immoral.

So — but I really think it’s doing to be a speech that’s going to cover a lot of territory.  But part of  it is going to be unity.

Yeah, please.

Q    Mr. President, Nancy Pelosi said this morning that there is not going to be a wall in this deal, but she did say she’d be open to other kinds of physical barriers.  Would you accept that?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, because if there’s no wall, it doesn’t work.  She’s just playing games.  So if there’s no wall, it doesn’t work.

And we’re building the wall right now.  I mean, a lot of people don’t know that, but we have a lot of wall under construction.  We’ve given out a lot of contracts over the last three, four weeks — good contracts.  A lot of wall is soon going to be under construction.

We will be — we’re finishing up design on certain areas, the most important areas — the Rio Grande area and others.  We are building a lot of wall.  You know, I’m not waiting for this committee.  And I’ve told a lot of people I don’t expect much coming out of the committee because I keep hearing the words that, “We’ll give you what you want, but we’re not going to give you wall.”

The problem is, if they don’t give us a wall, it doesn’t work.  Without a wall, it doesn’t work.  We have caravans right now coming up from Honduras, who we give a lot of money to — which is stopping, by the way.  But we pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.  And then they have caravans leaving their country, coming up here.

And, by the way, if you go to Tijuana and you take down that wall, you will have so many people coming into our country that Nancy Pelosi will be begging for a wall.  She’ll be begging for a wall.  She will say, “Mr. President, please, please give us a wall.”  It’d be very interesting.  Some people have suggested: Let me take the wall along California, let’s move it to Arizona, let’s move it to Texas.  And, you know, it’s going to — it would be a very interesting statement.

About Nancy: So, in California, they wanted the wall built in San Diego so badly.  And we built it.  And probably I should have waited, because as soon as it was finished, they started screaming, “We don’t want a wall.  We don’t want a wall.”  But they wanted the wall so badly.  And, by the way, it worked.  Nobody is getting through.

But the minute it was built, they started saying, “We don’t want a wall.”  Without a wall, it doesn’t work.  It’s very simple.  I mean, I’m not saying this as a Republican.  I’m not saying it as anything other than a fact-stater.  Without a wall, it just doesn’t work.

Q    Mr. President, after listening to the hardship from many federal government workers, as well as those who were contractors and who relied on the federal government employees’ finances to fund their businesses, are you willing to jeopardize the economy again, and also your presidency, with people who are fearful of another government shutdown over this wall?

And also, I want to ask you about Jussie Smollett.  Have you heard about that story?  In Chicago, a situation — the actor from “Empire” who was allegedly attacked with racist and homophobic —
THE PRESIDENT:  That, I can tell you, is horrible.  I’ve seen it last night.  I think that’s horrible.  It doesn’t get worse, as far as I’m concerned.

As far as the people are concerned, many of those people wanted me to stay out, but I didn’t want to do it because people were getting hurt.

People — what I think is the worst sin of all is the fact that we’re allowing people to come into this country and sell drugs and human traffic, and do all of these horrible things.  That if we had the simplicity of a well-constructed, beautiful barrier or wall, they wouldn’t be able to come into our country.  That, to me, is the great sin.  And everybody knows it works.  I watched this morning, early in the morning, somebody trying to justify walls are immoral.

I mean, if walls are immoral, maybe we should take down all the walls that are built right now.  You will see a mess like you’ve never seen before.

So I only say this: I was elected partially on this issue — not as much as people say, but partially on this issue.  This is a very important issue.  Nothing to do with elections.  Nothing to do with votes.  Nothing.  Only to do with common sense and only to do with security.  And if we don’t put up a barrier or wall — a strong one, but one that looks good — in the old days, they used to build them; they looked terrible.  Now we build them, they look really good.

If we don’t put up a physical barrier, you can forget it.  Our country is going to be a very unsafe place.  People are coming in.  Drugs are coming in.  Human trafficking is coming in, which is so horrible.  Things are happening that won’t happen after the wall is constructed.

So we’re building a lot of wall.  We’re building new sections that are starting in about two weeks.  We’re building some brand new sections — large sections.  And the wall is getting built.  I would like to build it even faster, but it’s getting built, and it’s getting built very substantially, as some of you see because you’ve been there.

Yeah, please.

Q    I have an immigration question.  But first, if I could just clarify something you said about North Korea.  Do you have an agreement with North Korea on the time and place for that next summit?


Q    Can you share it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, we’re going to very soon.  We’re going to announce it pretty soon.  We’ll be announcing it early next week.

Q    Okay.  And you also said that —

THE PRESIDENT:  And they very much want the meeting, and I think they really want to do something.  We’ll see.  But I think they really want.

But again, remember, North Korea was a whole different story.  When I came to office, many people thought we were going to war with North Korea.  I would sit and listen, and I would read people saying, “Go to war with North Korea.”  Well, you’d lose, I mean potentially, hundreds of millions of lives.  You know, Seoul has 30-some-odd million people, and it’s literally right off their wall, by the way.  But that wall works, I can tell you.

Q    About the wall, you just said that people make that out to be a bigger deal on your election than you —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it was one of my points.  I had — yeah.

Q    I mean, you would consider that the biggest campaign —

THE PRESIDENT:  Now they say it’s the wall, because I’ve accomplished practically everything else.  Look, I accomplished the military.  I accomplished the tax cuts.  I accomplished the regulation cuts.  I accomplished so much.  The economy is the number-one economy in the world.  We’re the number-one economy in the world.  We’re the number one, not even close.  Companies are pouring into our country.

I’ve accomplished so much.  So now they say, “Oh, if he doesn’t get the wall…” — they make that the only issue.  But it’s not going to work, because I’m building the wall.  The wall is happening right now, okay?

Q    The government has been reopened for several days now.  Are you closer or farther apart on an immigration deal, now that — since you opened the government?

THE PRESIDENT:  With respect to the committee?

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  I would say we’re the same.  Because I’m hearing they don’t want to do a wall, for political reasons.  I actually think it’s bad politics.  I mean, frankly, I think them fighting us on what everybody knows has to be done to have proper security.

And you can add the other things, but the other things only really work if you have the physical barrier.  Without the physical barrier, you just won’t — what are you going to have?  Drones flying over the 12,000 people?  You’re going to have a nice drone flying — doing circles around the 12,000 people that are walking in from Honduras and Guatemala and El Salvador?  No, you don’t want that.

So I want to do real things, like the deal with China.  I want it to be a real deal.  I could do a deal with China, where people would say, “Isn’t that wonderful?”  It’s not wonderful.  I have to do the real deal.  We have to open up China.  We’re open to them.  They have to be open to us.

So, it would be so easy for me to make a deal with China, but it wouldn’t be a real deal.  I could get them to buy more corn than they’ve ever bought, and more soybeans than they’ve ever bought.  And they’d be so happy if I did that.  But they’re going to do that, but in even higher numbers.  But we’re going to do a lot of other things.

And just remember, we are taking in billions and billions of dollars from China.  We never took in 10 cents from China.  China is being charged tremendous amounts of money for the privilege of coming in and doing what they do to our country.  They’re being charged a tremendous amount of money.  And we’re going to make a deal.  I think we’re going to make a deal with China, but it’s going to be a very comprehensive deal.  We’re going to cover everything, okay

Q    You mentioned all the economic indicators are going up.  Why then is the — are U.S. deficits and the financial debt increasing at a time when the economy is —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, the trade deals won’t kick in for a while.  You know, number one, the USMCA hasn’t even been approved yet.  It has to go before Congress and get approved.  Now, it should get approved quickly.  NAFTA was one of the worst deals ever made.  During the campaign, I said I will either terminate NAFTA or negotiate a new deal.  And we negotiated a good deal.

Now, if you went back to pre-NAFTA, that would be, frankly, okay with me.  Pre-NAFTA or the new deal.  But I won’t allow NAFTA.  NAFTA was a horrible deal for this country.  If you look at the scars all over our country, where you go to New England, you go to Ohio, you go to Pennsylvania, you see what — I mean, what happened in North Carolina — you have factories that are still empty from what happened with NAFTA.  NAFTA was a horrible deal.  The USMCA is a great deal.

But pre-NAFTA was — we had huge surpluses with Mexico.  With NAFTA, we have huge deficits.  We lose $100 billion a year on trade with Mexico.  Does that sound good?  And this has been going on for many years.  So I stopped it.  I stopped it a lot.

Q    One more on the wall.  You said the wall is being basically held hostage for political reasons by the Democrats.  Is there anything you would have done differently in the first two years to get this —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, there’s nothing — look, they had this from day one.

Q    — (inaudible) wall finished —

THE PRESIDENT:  Could I have done it differently?  No, not really.  I mean, I think what — by having the shutdown, we’ve set the table for where we are now.  If I didn’t do the shutdown, people wouldn’t know — they wouldn’t understand the subject.  Now they understand the subject.  They realize what a humanitarian crisis it is.

It’s sort of — it’s called, like in deal-making, “setting the table,” or, you know, setting the stage.  We’ve set the stage for what’s going to happen on the 15th of February.  I don’t think they’re going to make a deal.  I see what’s happening.  They’re all saying, “Oh, let’s do this, but we’re not giving one dime for the wall.”  That’s okay.  But if they’re not going to give money for the wall, it’s not going to work.  And if it’s not going to work, then the politicians are really wasting a lot of time.


Q    Mr. President, will you declare a national emergency if there’s no money for the wall?

THE PRESIDENT:  I would do that.  I would do that.

Q    So why hasn’t —

THE PRESIDENT:  We have money.  Just so you understand: We have money.  We’re building the wall right now — a lot of it.  People don’t know that, and nobody reports it, but that’s okay.  Because it’s not very exciting when you say it’s built.  You know, people.

But let me just tell you: We’re building the wall right now.  It’s going up fairly rapidly.  We’re renovating tremendous amounts of wall, which is good stuff that’s in very bad shape with massive holes in it and fencing coming down.  It’s being beautifully renovated.  In some cases, we have to replace it.  We renovate some.  We replace some.  We build some new.  But the wall is going up right now in all different forms.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Q    What’s been holding you back from declaring a national emergency?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re going to see what happens on February 15th.

Q    Are you concerned about legal challenges?

THE PRESIDENT:  Against who?

Q    Are you concerned about legal challenges?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I’m not concerned.  I’m not concerned.

Q    But you still don’t think there’s going to be a deal, but you’re not going to declare it now.  Don’t you think that —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m waiting — excuse me.  I didn’t say that.  I said I’m waiting until February 15th.  On February 15th, the committee will come back, and if they don’t have a wall, I don’t even want to waste my time reading what they have because it’s a waste of time.  Because the only thing that works for security and safety for our country is a wall.

Now, when you couple the wall with sensors and drones and all of these other things, that works, as a combination.  But if you don’t have a wall, they’re all just wasting their time.  It’s just politics.

Thank you all very much.


12:38 P.M. EST