Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Palomino Conference Center
12:47 P.M. MST
THE PRESIDENT: So this is a big day for the Central Valley, California. And I want to thank everybody for being here. This is a vital action. In my opinion, it’s vital to improve access to water in the American West.
What’s happened there is disgraceful. They’ve taken it away. There’s so much water, they don’t know what to do with it, and they send it out to sea. For decades, burdensome federal regulations have made it extremely difficult and expensive to build and maintain federal water projects. You all know about that.
Millions of Americans in the West depend on critical water infrastructure to irrigate farmland, provide water and power, and support our economy. Some of the best farmland in the world, by the way, can’t be used because they don’t have water. But they actually have a lot of water.
In a few moments, I will sign a presidential memorandum to dramatically improve the reliable supply and delivery of water in California, Oregon, and Washington.
We are honored to be joined by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Where is Kevin? Come here, Kevin. He traveled a long way to be here. And Representatives Devin Nunes, Jeff Denham, David Valadao, and Tom McClintock. These are tremendous people. They love this country. They love the state. And I appreciate you all being here. Thank you, fellas. This is very important.
And they are the ones that really led this drive because it was — it was so unfair. I was telling the story that I was with Devin, driving up this beautiful highway, and I’m looking at farmland. And it was bone dry. And they’d have a little patch — just a little patch in the corner of such beautiful green. A tiny percentage of this massive area. And then I’d go step further, and you’d see another one. Big, big area. Hundreds of acres. And you’d have just a little patch.
And I said, “Could I ask a question? Do you have a drought? Is there a problem?” “No, we don’t have a drought. We have so much water, but they don’t let the water come down into the valley and into the areas where you need the water.”
And I said, “I’ve never seen anything — what do they do?” “They route it into the Pacific Ocean.” And I say, “Why do they do that?” And the reason — I don’t even want to discuss it, it’s so ridiculous.
But you have so much water coming from way up north. And you’ll have — Devin told me this, numerous people told me this — the best farmland, potentially in the world, if you had water. The land itself — the soil — gives you the best farmland, I’ve heard, in the world. What that could mean for California and for the economy of California — because you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of acres of land where the water is so plentiful and the land is the best there is. So I’ve heard that from many different farmers.
So today, I’m directing Secretary Zinke and Secretary Wilbur Ross to streamline approvals for federal water infrastructure and to eliminate all unnecessary burdens, significantly speeding up the environmental review and approval process. We will have it done very, very quickly.
We’re also speaking to the EPA, and they’re all ready to go. As soon as I sign this, they’re ready to go.
So the big problem was the federal approvals. They were un-gettable and now they’re very gettable. We’re going to have them in very fast time because of the gentlemen standing behind me. Nobody else brought it up to my attention; it was them.
In particular, we will resolve the issues blocking completion of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project in California. And this will be done within a record period of time. Nobody will ever see anything like this.
Because it’s basically been looked at — I don’t know if you guys — for years. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent looking at it. But that’s all they do; they look. Nobody does anything about it.
The Klamath Irrigation Project in Oregon and the Columbia River Basin in Washington — all of these states benefit tremendously in terms of jobs, in terms of the environment. I think it’s important to say “the environment.”
Together, we rebuild our water infrastructure. We’ll do something that hasn’t been done in — how many years has that been since we’ve done a project like that?
REPRESENTATIVE DENHAM: 1979.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. That’s a long time. And this is even bigger. This is a bigger impact than anything they’ve done, even from 1979. And make our communities more beautiful places to live, and work, and grow. And make them so environmentally incredible.
And so it’s a great honor to be signing the new memorandum, and this will move things along at a record clip. And you have a lot of water. I hope you enjoy the water that you’re going to have. Okay? (Laughter.) The farmers are going to enjoy it. Great for the farmers. Great for the people. Great for recreation. Great for everything you can think of.
And now, the next time I ride up that road, I think we’re going to see a lot of green. It’s going to be 100 percent green instead of 4 percent green.
So I’ll sign it right now.
(The presidential memorandum is signed.)
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Very important. And who should get this pen? I think —
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Let’s give that to Devin.
THE PRESIDENT: I think so, right? I think Devin.
REPRESENTATIVE NUNES: Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: So he’ll get the one that I actually used, but I’m going to give the other guys one anyway. (Laughter.) Just don’t tell them, okay? All right?
It’s funny, I’ve watched Presidents over the years, and they sign one letter at a time. (Laughter.) One letter. One. And you look at it, and it’s really terrible. And so I do it this way. Right? It’s a little bit better.
Do you have any questions for the congressmen? Please.
Q Well, just — Mr. President, can you give us an update on a different subject? Anything — the latest on Saudi Arabia?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let’s talk about this first, and I’ll do that. I will. I will talk about that.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: One point I want to make about this: I want to thank the President, because this is just another campaign promise he’s keeping. For you, if you’re not out West — from Washington, Oregon, to California — water is one of the most critical issues. And the most difficult part of about this — this will streamline. This will bring more water not only to Washington and Oregon, but throughout the Central Valley.
And it is true, this is the best farmland in the world. But the amount of jobs and the ability to keep our food safe. But this could bring more than a million acre-feet of water, just within the valley itself. And this is something all of us have been working a great deal on, especially within your district as well, David.
REPRESENTATIVE VALADAO: Well, in my district, it’s not just farm ground. There are actual communities that rely on this water. So some of this water will actually go into homes of people who have been desperately needing this water for a long time. So it affects people in the workplace. It helps put them back to work. But it also helps them live a normal life with a steady water supply for those communities.
So thank you, Mr. President.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCCARTHY: That’s the number-one issue you ran on.
REPRESENTATIVE NUNES: Yeah. I mean, this is an issue we’ve been working on for a long time, Mr. President. So I want to thank you for signing this today. It really is the first time since John F. Kennedy that we’ve had a U.S. President actually come to the Valley and act on what he said he was going to act on. And so that goes back to the 1960s.
So, Mr. President, thank you. You came out there not once, but twice. You made a commitment in 2016. And, today, he’s fulfilling the commitment because we have been overlooked for a very long time in the central part of California, which is the breadbasket of the world.
So thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Jeff, you’ve been on this issue.
REPRESENTATIVE DENHAM: Yeah. Taking away our water takes away our jobs, takes away the economy and the largest agriculture industry in the country. But it’s also our green power — our hydropower. And the state is trying to double our flows right now and push more water out to the ocean that will just cripple our economy and affect our drinking water.
And so, Lake Don Pedro is also going through FERC re-licensing to make sure that we actually are building and fixing our dams, as well as making sure that we’ve got that water for the future. So this is a critical help to the entire Valley.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: And Tom has been the committee chair, making a lot of the (inaudible).
REPRESENTATIVE MCCLINTOCK: Oh, yeah. Well, I’ll tell you what I learned chairing the Subcommittee on Water and Power. Droughts are nature’s fault; they happen. But water shortages are our fault; that’s a choice that we made a generation ago when we began imposing laws that have made the development of our water resources cost-prohibitive.
This order today and the other actions by this administration, and the bills that have been passed out of the House, move us back toward an era of abundance as the cornerstone of our water and power policy, rather than the scarcity and rationing that two generations of bad laws and bad regulations have imposed on one of the most water-rich regions of the country.
THE PRESIDENT: It’s funny, when I met with the farmers — great people. Met with a lot of them. And we were in a group at the end — everybody came together. And I said, “Gee, I feel so badly about the drought that you people are suffering.” They said, “We don’t have a drought. We have so much water.” And I said, “Explain this to me.” Then I said, “How did this ever happen?” That was the one thing they couldn’t explain: how a thing like this could happen.
So you have tremendous land. And, literally, I have heard, in terms of the land itself, it’s as good as it gets anywhere in the world for farming. But they cut off, artificially — I mean, the water used to come down. They cut it off artificially.
So we’re going to re-open it the way it used to be, and it’s going to be great. It’s going to be great for the economy. It’s going to be great for the farmers, and for a lot of other reasons. And, I guess, employment, you’re talking about a lot — you’re talking about a lot of people.
So we’re very happy about it, and these are the people that get the credit, not me. They’re the ones that brought it to my attention, and very strongly. And Devin was incredible. He was — it took about two minutes to explain. I said, “This can’t be possible.”
But all you have to do is look at those dry-as-a-bone fields. And then you look at a little patch — the most green, most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. The whole thing can be like that. And it’s tens of millions of dollars coming into the state of California, and other states.
And we look forward to doing it. It’s my great honor.
Q Mr. President, you said yesterday that you would be considering severe consequences for Saudi Arabia about the killing of the journalist. What are you considering?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s too early to say. We want to see. We’re doing investigations right now. We have a lot of people working on it. We do. And we have other countries working on it, as you know. It’s a very serious problem. You people are going to be very much involved in this too, indirectly and directly.
It’s something that we don’t like. It’s very serious stuff. And we’re going to get to the bottom of it, and we’ll make that determination.
I’m going to have very much Congress involved in determining what to do. You remember, with Justice Kavanaugh, I said, “Hey, look, the senators are doing a great job — Senator Grassley, Lindsey, John Cornyn, all of them. Every one of them.” I said, “Let them decide what to do, in terms of that investigation.”
And I think I’ll have a very similar attitude on this. I think — you know, we have — Congress is very much involved. I will, in this case, make certain recommendations. We have $450 billion worth of things ordered from a very rich country — Saudi Arabia. Six-hundred thousand jobs; maybe more than that. And it would be very hurtful to this country if we said, “Oh, we’re not going to sell it to you.”
So there are other things we can do, but I would certainly make that recommendation to Congress. But I will very much listen to what Congress has to say. They feel very strongly about it also. So I’ll be doing this with Congress.
I do hope that they’ll be able to see the way clear to take — to make these products. We’re talking about almost every state in the Union is affected, because it’s the largest order ever given. I did this; I went to Saudi Arabia first. And a large part of the reason was they agreed to do this; they agreed to spend $450 billion on buying and investing in the United States.
So I hope we can keep that. I hope we don’t lose track of that. There are plenty of other things we can do.
But we’re going to have some answers pretty quickly, but I will have Congress involved, which I think is an important part of your question.
Q Is sanctions one of the things that you would consider?
THE PRESIDENT: Could be. Could be. Yeah. We’re going to find out. We’re going to find out who knew what, when, and where. And we’ll figure it out.
Okay. Any other questions?
Q Mr. President, are you considering curtailing U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the Yemeni civil war?
THE PRESIDENT: With the what?
Q The Saudis’ involvement in Yemen. Sort of targeting intelligence assistance.
THE PRESIDENT: So Saudi Arabia has been a great ally of ours. That’s why this is so sad. You look at what goes on in Iran and the viciousness of that regime. And it’s brutal. It’s a brutal regime. The killing, the horror stories — you hear them, and you write about them very well. I’ve seen you write about them very well. It’s a tough part of the world, there’s no question about it.
But Saudi Arabia has been a great ally. They’ve been a tremendous investor in the United States. They’ve invested, and the jobs are incredible. In addition, it’s a big — we’re right now the largest supplier of energy in the world — we are, the United States. And it happened, I hate to tell you, over the last 18 months. And we’re now the biggest in the world.
But still, they’re a major, major supplier. They’re actually number two. And we have to take all of these things into account. Very important.
But we’re going to know over the next two or three days, we’re going to know a lot. We’re getting a lot of information in as we speak. Okay?
Q Do you expect to have those recommendations for Congress by Monday? Or the conclusions of the investigation by Monday?
THE PRESIDENT: I might — I might know a lot by Monday, yeah. I know a lot already.
Q Well, I guess there’s a question of why you’ve waited, so far to wait —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think waiting two days and making sure everything is right is not so bad.
Q Okay, so, early next week.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, but we’re going to have it pretty early. We’ve done a lot of work on this.
Q Sir, as we wait for the results of the investigation, do you regret bringing up, last night at your rally, the assault on a reporter by a congressman?
THE PRESIDENT: No. Not at all. Not at all. That was different world. That was a different league, a different world. No.
He’s just a great guy and he’s a — he’s — you know Greg very well, right? It was a — that was a tremendous success last night in Montana, and Greg is a tremendous person. And he’s a tough cookie. And I’ll stay with that. It’s a different — you’re talking about a different world.
Q Mr. President, today, the Justice Department unleashed — unsealed an indictment against a Russian national who was accused of trying to influence the election in 2018.
THE PRESIDENT: It had nothing to do with my campaign. You know, all of the hackers and all of the — everybody that you see, it had nothing to do with my campaign. If they’re hackers, a lot of them probably like Hillary Clinton better than me. Now they do. Now they do.
But, you know, they go after some hacker in Russia; they say, “Oh.” That had nothing to do with my campaign.
Q Would you have any warning to Russia or other — other countries or state actors that would try to interfere with the midterm?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve already said it. And, you know, I always say this — Kevin, you’ve heard me say this many times — you’ve said it — President Obama was contacted by the FBI in September, long before the election in November. And they told him there may be meddling by the Russians. And he did nothing about it because he thought Hillary Clinton would win. He did nothing. He didn’t do — he didn’t lift a finger; he didn’t spend a dime. We’ve done a lot to protect the elections coming up very shortly.
But President Obama — people don’t want to bring it up. The fake news don’t want to bring it up. President Obama was told in September, by the FBI, that there could be problems with Russian meddling.
Now, the good thing is every single report — as you know, Richard Burr came out — Senator Richard Burr, head of the Senate Intelligence. They said, “Did you see any collusion?” “No collusion. I’ve seen no collusion whatsoever.” Very strong. Couldn’t be stronger.
But the good news is, it never affected — whatever did take place never affected the vote. And everybody agrees to that. It never affected the vote. The candidate affected the vote — the bad candidate. She should have gone to Wisconsin. She should have gone more to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida. She should have gone out a little bit more. She had to work a little bit harder. That affected the vote.
Okay. How about one more?
Q What specifically are you going to do about this caravan that’s headed toward the U.S.? Have you thought about specific actions?
THE PRESIDENT: So, we have the worst laws in the history of the world because we don’t have a big enough majority. We have great people standing behind me. We could write up the laws in — in a half an hour. You’d have the greatest laws. It would stop all the problems.
The problem is, we need support from Democrats because we have small majorities, especially in the Senate. Because in the Senate, we need nine votes. We’re not going to get nine votes. They’re not going to vote. They always vote in a bloc. They’ll do anything to hurt the Republican Party, even if it hurts — and me in particular, by the way, I hate to say. But even if it hurts — no matter what — even if it hurts our nation.
We could have laws drawn in one hour or less — they’re already drawn — to solve every one of these problems. But we can’t get the Democrats. That’s why I hope Republicans get out and vote and give us majorities where we can do what we have to do.
But we give a lot of money to these countries, to — if you look — El Salvador. If you look at what we give to Honduras and Guatemala — tens of millions of dollars. In one case, $400 million. They do nothing for us. I called them; I said very nicely, “You’re not going to get any money if you let this happen.” And all of a sudden, they’re starting to close it up tightly. They’re trying.
But a lot of people have gathered. And a lot of people are looking at Democrats — “Why did they gather?” You know, there’s a lot of information that is being — hopefully you people are looking — but how come this happened. Because people are saying there’s a lot of money being passed around so that this would normally hit just before election. But I happen to think it’s of great issue for the Republicans. This is a great Republican issue.
With that being said, I called Mexico. We just drew a great new deal with Mexico. We have a very good relationship with Mexico. I said, “Look, we have lousy laws. I hope you’re not going to let these people come through your country and march a thousand miles up through your country and come through our borders, because our laws are horrendous.
And, as of this moment, you see better than I do — because I haven’t been able to see it; we’ve been so busy with water for California. But it’s being stopped, as of this moment, by Mexico. So we appreciate very much what Mexico is doing. But as of this moment, you see what’s happening. It’s being stopped.
But you have — 4,000 people got together. And they got together in a certain way, and a lot of people — I hope you people are going to look at why this happened at this time. But it’s okay.
We are about law and order, and borders, and jobs. And they are about allowing crime to enter our country with open borders. Because many of those people — a percentage — a big — fairly big percentage of those people are criminals, and they want to come into our country. And they’re criminals. And it’s not happening under my watch. It’s not going to happen.
So as of this moment, I thank Mexico. I hope they continue. But as of this moment, I thank Mexico.
If that doesn’t work out, we’re calling up the military — not the Guard. We’re calling up the military. And we’re going to have the military stationed. They’re not coming into this country. They might as well turn back. They’re not coming into this country.
Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.
1:09 P.M. MST