Mar-a-Lago Club and Resort | Palm Beach, Florida
November 22, 2018
9:42 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, well thank you all very much. And I say to our great, great warriors, “Hello, and Happy Thanksgiving.” We’re celebrating Thanksgiving over in the United States, as you know, and you’re celebrating it wherever you are in all parts of the world. And we’ll be talking to you individually.
We’re honored to be joined on today’s call by great patriots — you are really great patriots — representing each branch of the American armed services.
Melania and I want to express our profound gratitude for the extraordinary sacrifices you make to defend our nation. While you are away from your families and loved ones, I hope that you’ll take solace in knowing that all of the American families that you hold so close to your heart are all doing well.
The nation is doing well economically, better than anybody in the world. We’re the hot nation of the world and it’s nice to know you’re fighting, and you’re fighting for something that’s doing well, and that’s our country.
I want to begin by welcoming Colonel Stephanie Barton and the men and women of the 101st Airborne Division. These are real warriors. And you have the Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade and they are joining us from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, where our soldiers are providing invaluable aid in combined joint area operations throughout Afghanistan.
You are doing an incredible job. A lot of progress has been made and your courage truly inspires us all. We know what you’re doing. We watch it. And oftentimes we’re watching it every night during the news. And we know it’s dangerous and we also know that you’ve had an unbelievable impact.
Joining us from al-Jaber Air Base in Kuwait is the Central Command — response and Crisis Response Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force. Lieutenant Colonel Sam Howie, you are really great Marines and you’re the embodiment of honor, and courage, and commitment.
It’s incredible, the job you’re doing. I particularly want to congratulate you on the work you’ve done to crush ISIS from the air and from the ground. And really it’s — big, big progress has been made. They’re very close to being gone and we like it that way. But you have shown incredible courage. And I have to say, you’ve shown great, great leadership. So, thank you very much. And, Lieutenant Colonel, thank you very much and we’ll be talking to you in a little while.
Happy Thanksgiving as well to Captain Pat Hannifin and all of the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan. Great ship. Your ship’s motto is one that we embrace every day: Peace Through Strength. That’s what the motto is, and we have that motto at home. Everywhere the Seventh Fleet sails, the USS Ronald Reagan is an enduring symbol of American might, American strength, American power and, really, American goodness, in so many ways.
From the United States Air Force, we’re joined by the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, which is supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support.
Brigadier General David Lyons — thank you very much, David — is the Commander. And I want to congratulate you and every minute [member] of the 455th for your outstanding work. Not only have you destroyed hundreds of ISIS — and actually far more than hundreds — and many, many Taliban targets, but you protect coalition ground forces throughout the region. And you protect them like nobody else. It’s incredible the job you do. And I just want to thank you all for being on. And I have to say, General, it’s great to speak to you by teleconference and by phone because your reputation is an incredible one.
Representing the U.S. Coast Guard are crewmembers from six Coast Guard cutters and from the shore support teams that are part of Patrol Forces Southwest Asia, which is the largest Coast Guard unit outside of the United States. And I’m actually going right now — I’m in Palm Beach, Florida, and I’m going over to your local Coast Guard station and we’re going to spend some great time with the men and women of the Coast Guard.
They have, from a lot of standpoints, you could call it branding, you could call it whatever you want, the job they’ve done on hurricanes in this country. They’ve saved thousands and thousands of people. In fact, in Texas, they saved over 12,000 people. If you think of what that means, over 12,000 people. They went into seas and they went into areas that nobody else would go into. And it was incredible. What they’ve done in Texas, what they did in Florida, what they did in Puerto Rico, the Coast Guard has really become a symbol of strength and perseverance and toughness and genius, actually. It’s purely genius.
So, hello to Lieutenant Nicholas Hartmann who is the Commanding Officer of the cutter Aquidneck. And I also want to congratulate Seaman Christopher Wilson on being selected for “A” school. That’s “A,” like in “A.” That’s the best, right? Seaman Wilson, you truly make us proud. Congratulations. That’s a big deal. Going to that school is like going to the Wharton School of Finance, if you happen to be doing what you do.
And to everyone on today’s videoconference also, I want to thank you all for serving. Today we thank God for the blessings of having you people be our heroes, and you really are our heroes. And your families are back here and they love you, and they respect you and they look forward to seeing you because you’re the ones who keep America safe and strong and free. You do a job like nobody else. And it is really great respect that we all have. You are very much appreciated, like you wouldn’t believe, by the American public, by the citizens of our country.
I want to maybe start with the Air Force. And I know that Brigadier General David Lyons is on the phone. And, David, tell me a little bit about what you’re doing.
BRIGADIER GENERAL LYONS: Our mission here, we defend the two busiest airfields in Afghanistan: Kandahar and Bagram. We support our teammates and our mission set, and then we deliver decisive combat air power across the entire country of Afghanistan.
Mr. President, I know you can’t see us right now, but you’ve got 150 airmen in this room that would love to say Happy Thanksgiving to you. (Inaudible), what do you say to the President?
PARTICIPANTS: Happy Thanksgiving!
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. Well, that’s really fantastic. How are things going over there? Are they — are you looking up? How is looking to you? You’ve seen it. You’ve been there a while and you’ve seen what’s going on. You know what’s happening better than anybody. How do you find things going?
BRIGADIER GENERAL LYONS: Well, both the Taliban and ISIS are resilient adversaries, but I think that we’re doing well. We get after them every single day. Our objective here is to fight the away game. And so what I mean by that is we never want this adversary to reach our shores again. And so every airman here is dedicated to keeping this fight away from our shores. A stable Afghanistan is good for Afghanistan, but we do what we do for America, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, said it better than anybody could have said: “Keep them away from our shores.” And that’s why we’re doing the strong border. As you probably see over the news what’s happening in our southern border and our southern border territory. Large numbers of people, and in many cases, we have no idea who they are. And in many cases, they’re not good people; they’re bad people. But large numbers of people are forming at our border, and I don’t have to even ask you; I know what you want to do. You want to make sure that you know who we’re letting in. And we’re not letting in anybody essentially because we want to be very, very careful. So, you’re right. You’re doing it over there, we’re doing it over here.
And your people at the border, we have the military at the border for the first time. I don’t know if it’s ever — or certainly there’s never been a presence like this, but we have a very powerful border now. We have the concertina fencing and we have things that people don’t even believe. We took old, broken wall and we wrapped it with barbed wire-plus. I guess you could really call it “barbed wire-plus.” This is the ultimate. And nobody is getting through these walls. And we’re going to make sure they’re the right people because that’s what you and your family want and all of your families, that’s what they want. And that’s why we’re all fighting. You know, we’re fighting for borders. We’re fighting for our country. If we don’t have borders, we don’t have a country.
So we’re doing very well on the southern border. We’re very tough. We get a lot of bad court decisions from the Ninth Circuit, which has become a big thorn in our side. We always lose and then you lose again and again, and then you hopefully win at the Supreme Court, which we’ve done. But it’s a terrible thing when judges take over your protective services; when they tell you how to protect your border. It’s a disgrace.
So, we’re winning and you’re winning. And I appreciate it very much. And, General, your reputation is an incredible one. Thank you very much for doing the job, and I’ll see you back when you’re in the United States. Or maybe I’ll even see you over there. You never know what’s going to happen.
BRIGADIER GENERAL LYONS: Thank you, Mr. President. We appreciate that.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Really great. And thank all the men and women with you. Really spectacular people.
Well, next, let’s talk to the U.S. Coast Guard Commanding Officer of Coast Guard cutter Aquidneck. And it would be Lieutenant Nick Hartmann. And so, Nick, tell me a little bit about what you’re doing, where you are, and how’s it going.
LIEUTENANT HARTMANN: Good morning, Mr. President. This is Nicholas Hartmann, like you mentioned, from Coast Guard cutter Aquidneck. Here in the room we have 14 members from Patrol Forces Southwest Asia. And we’re located in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Mr. President. Our mission out here is to patrol the Arabian Gulf Straits of Hormuz and conduct our U.S. Central Command and NAVCENT objectives here in the Gulf.
A lot of our work is partnering and building relationships with the Gulf Coast countries, and so that we have a good standing and resolve here in the Arabian Gulf and in Central Command AOR.
Things, in my opinion, Mr. President, are going very well for us.
THE PRESIDENT: And what do you see in the region? What’s going on in the region? How are they feeling about things? How are they feeling about trade? Because, you know, trade for me is a very big subject all over. We’ve been taken advantage of for many, many years by bad trade deals. We don’t have any good trade deals. How are you finding things in the region, Nick?
LIEUTENANT HARTMANN: Mr. President, from our perspective out on the water, sir, we’re seeing that there is an abundance of trade happening in the region. There are vessels moving through the Straits of Hormuz and across the Arabian Gulf on a daily basis carrying cargo to and fro. And we don’t see any issues in terms of trade right now, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Well, you’ll keep it that way. And you know, we want to have good, free trade. And we also want to have fair deals where we can do well too. Not just everybody else. Right now, every nation in the world does well with us; we don’t do well with them. So that’s changing and it’s changing fast. And where you are is a big factor in that, as you know. You’ve been told and you’ve been briefed.
Well, I want to thank you very much, Nick. And great job. And again, as I said, there’s no brand that’s gone up like the Coast Guard over the last couple of years because of what you’ve done with the hurricanes in this country. People saw things that they’ve never seen before. The bravery of those — of your people going out in waves like — like, you know, record setting. It’s been record setting.
The one hurricane in Texas, they say, dumped more water and it was more violent in terms of water than anything we’ve ever had in the country. And you guys went out there and you did it like just a day in the office. And I really appreciate it. We all really appreciate it, Nick. And thank you very much. Thank you very much.
LIEUTENANT HARTMANN: Thank you, Mr. President. And Happy Thanksgiving.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. You take care of yourself.
Let’s go to the Army. Good old Army. We love the Army. We have Colonel Stephanie Barton of the U.S. Army. And, Stephanie, tell us a little bit about yourself and where you are, and what you’re focused on and what you’re doing.
COLONEL BARTON: First and foremost, good morning and Happy Thanksgiving on behalf of the 101st Sustainment Brigade. We’re currently located in Bagram, Afghanistan.
Sir, what we do for the country of Afghanistan, we’re the senior logistics headquarters in theater. And it is an away game — and I will tell you, in order to fight and win the nation’s wars, it’s because of sustainment and logistics. And you’ve got highly motivated, true professionals in this room and outside this room that are truly making it happen.
We support — if it’s in the hands of the warfighter, it comes through us, to them. So we support everything from coalition to joint forces, from border to border here in the country, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Good and how are you finding things in Afghanistan right now?
COLONEL BARTON: Sir, it’s good. We’re truly making the mission happen when it comes to sustainment. We’re response for all the strategic, operational, and tactical logistics.
Like I said, if it comes in the theater, we get it in the warfighters’ hand. But we have a phenomenal team and I can’t speak enough about that. Because a lot of the times, it’s the sustainment (inaudible) we’re behind the scenes, which is fine. But it’s a good team effort and it takes the support by all to make it happen.
THE PRESIDENT: So, Colonel, how many people are you commanding right now, would you say?
COLONEL BARTON: Sir, 10,000.
THE PRESIDENT: Wow. That’s a lot of people. That’s fantastic, Stephanie. That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. And not only is it important what you’re doing, but you’re enjoying what you’re doing. Is that right?
COLONEL BARTON: Sir, absolutely. We truly love it. And I will tell you, our formation is a great mix, sir. We have all the Army COMPOs from the active duty, National Guard, Reserve. We have Army DOD civilians and civilian contractors that — really, we all come together and make this mission happen.
So, we do hate that we’re not with our family and friends today, but I’ll tell you, we are a close family here and I’m truly happy to be a part of it. It takes the whole community, from (inaudible) theaters to civilians, to make it happen. And, sir, you would be very proud, because we truly are.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s fantastic. We’re proud of you. And I’ll tell you what, we’re proud of your people. And please say hello to everybody. Have an incredible Thanksgiving and know we’re taking good care of you. You know, the budget is now at $716 billion, Stephanie. Right? So, we’re getting rid of some of that old equipment that you — you see what’s going in. The best in the world, right?
So, you see a big difference. It’s an awfully big difference from what we had before. And it’s only getting better. We’ll be stronger than ever before. And with people like you, we feel very confident.
So, Stephanie, thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving to all. And I will see you when you’re back.
COLONEL BARTON: Sir, sounds great. We have one last message if that’s okay?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Yes.
COLONEL BARTON: One, two, three —
PARTICIPANTS: Go Army!
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. I really appreciate that. I really do. I appreciate it. And take care of yourself. We’ll see you all soon. Thank you.
From the U.S. Marine Corps, we have Colonel George Schreffler. And, George, are you on?
LIEUTENANT COLONEL HOWIE: Sir, this is Lieutenant Colonel Sam Howie. Colonel Schreffler is doing a battlefield circulation right now.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh.
LIEUTENANT COLONEL HOWIE: I’m the executive officer, and I’m here with several Marines who would like to wish you and our fellow Americans a Happy Thanksgiving. (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. That’s great, Sam. Good. How’s it going over there?
LIEUTENANT COLONEL HOWIE: It’s going great, sir. Right now, with the Special Purpose MAGTF. We’re based in Kuwait. But we have Marines from Jordan all the way up to Afghanistan, and up into Iraq and Syria.
And, every day, those Marines are ensuring that those who do us harm, pays for it. It’s pretty amazing watching you — what you’ve done with men and women tells the Marines and what they do — puts a smile on their face every day.
THE PRESIDENT: And how is the progress coming, would you say?
LIEUTENANT COLONEL HOWIE: I would say the progress is excellent, sir. We’ve moved throughout those areas and cleared the vast majority of those enemy forces who face us. And right now, I think we’re in a good position to continue to (inaudible) the rest of the year or foreseeable future.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. That’s great. I’m hearing very good things. And they treat you good over there I imagine? Right? Do they treat you good?
LIEUTENANT COLONEL HOWIE: Sir, outstanding. Our partners throughout, including here at al-Jaber Air Base. For the Air Force, they treat us like gold. We want for nothing and today we had a — I think everyone can agree, a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner here aboard the base.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. That’s great. Well, they should. We’re good friends and they’ve been a good ally. We treat them well and they treat us well. And a lot of good things are happening over there. People are surprised to see how fast things are turning around. But you have one of the great bases. You have something that’s incredible and special. And we’ll get to see you very soon.
And I will say — and say hello to everybody else — but I will say, I want you to have a great Thanksgiving. You are — what’s the time difference? What — what is your time lag over there? How many hours between, let’s say, East Coast?
LIEUTENANT COLONEL HOWIE: Right now, sir, it’s 18:00 in the evening. So it’s about an eight-hour difference between us.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. That’s a pretty big time difference, right? That’s a pretty big time difference. So you’ve celebrated.
Well, listen, you just take care of yourself and say hello to the Colonel and everybody. And you’re special people — very, very special people — and we’re very proud of you. And give my regards to Kuwait and everybody.
But a lot of progress being made. Your country is really doing well. It’s really doing well, like it hasn’t done before. So that’s good. It’s always good to be fighting for something that is working. And unlike a lot of countries, this one works well and it’s working better than ever.
So, we’ll see you when you’re back or maybe we’ll see you some other place. Okay?
LIEUTENANT COLONEL HOWIE: (Inaudible.) Semper Fidelis.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. Thank you. Take care of yourself.
From the U.S. Navy, we have the Commanding Officer, Captain Pat Hannifin. And, Pat, are you on the phone?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Yes, sir. I’m with you. And from the over 4,800 sailors and airmen aboard USS Ronald Reagan, the nation’s only permanently forward-deployed aircraft carrier.
We are currently in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong, about 13 hours ahead of you. It’s still Thanksgiving here. And from all the sailors aboard Reagan, serving peace through strength for America in the Indo-Pacific, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that’s great, Pat. I appreciate it very much. And say hello to everybody, and Happy Thanksgiving to you.
So, the condition of the ship is A1?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Alpha-1, sir. Absolutely.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. Very important. So, you know, we have another big one. The Gerald Ford is going to be joining you pretty soon. How does this compare in size and scope with the Gerald Ford? You know all about that. That’s the new one, right?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Yes, sir. Size and scope. A good friend of mine just left command to that. But size and scope about the same. Certainly some improvements there to the plants and few of the — and the radars and even the catapults and gear are slightly different as well.
THE PRESIDENT: So tell — hey, Pat —
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: But we’ll push (inaudible) daily.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Pat, tell me about the catapult system. So on the Gerald Ford they don’t use steam, which is the first one that I’ve ever heard of that doesn’t use steam. And I know they have some difficulties, which I’m not happy about. And they spent a lot of money. And I was just curious.
The steam system is tried and true for many, many years, as long as we’ve had aircraft carriers. How do you find steam versus what they’re doing on the Gerald Ford, which is electronic and digital, if you can believe it?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Yes, sir. All of our Nimitz supercarriers have been using steam for decades, and we find it pretty reliable. However, the electromagnetic catapults they’re running there offer some great benefits to — obviously, like any new piece, you got to work through the bugs. But they offer some benefits not only to stress and strain on the aircraft; to extend service life and other pieces. I have no doubt we’ll work through that just as we work through all of our other advancements and continue to bring it to the enemy when called to do so.
THE PRESIDENT: So, when you do the new carriers, as we do and as we’re thinking about doing, would you go with steam or would you go with electromagnetic? Because steam is very reliable, and the electromagnetic — I mean, unfortunately you have to be Albert Einstein to really work it properly. What would you do?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Yes, sir. You sort of have to be Albert Einstein to run the nuclear power plants that we have here as well, but we’re doing that very well. I would go, sir — Mr. President, I would go electromagnetic cast. I think that’s the way to go. We do pay a heavy cost for transiting the steam around the ship.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. Okay. I like to hear that. I’m actually happy about that answer, because at least, you know, they’re doing what they’re doing. But that’s actually a very good answer.
So, Pat, how are you seeing things over there? What’s going on?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Yes, sir. We have been flying, sailing, and operating everywhere international law allows, just as we have for decades out here in full support of our free and open Indo-Pacific push in company with our Japanese and other allies. We’ve worked with the Japanese here in Keen Sword, the Australians, Canadians. So a lot of allies out here. And we are certainly their best friend and our ally. And our adversaries, their worst fear. And that’s exactly what we want to do is bring peace through strength to this region.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. And you have a six-month deployment, approximately?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Sir, we’re a little shorter than that. But Reagan, as your only permanently forward-deployed carrier, spends about half of the time each year out, and about a half back in getting maintenance worked on it. Each of the sailors and airmen aboard spend three to five years out here with us at a time before going back to a stateside assignment. But we’re all honored to be serving the nation out here.
THE PRESIDENT: Right. Pat, why is it that the Reagan is the only one that’s permanently deployed of all the aircraft carriers? Why is that? Was it set up for that, or is — it just happens to be?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Yes, sir. We have worked a single aircraft carrier out in Japan for decades now. Reagan took that role back in about 2013. I’m sorry — that’s not quite right. About 2016. But it switches out. So, different carriers out here for different periods of time. It was George Washington before us. And then a few of the conventional carriers, you know, going way back to Midway and Kitty Hawk and Independence.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: So we’ve been running that for a while. But — and it’s just an infrastructure piece that takes quite a bit of infrastructure to make that work. But we get a lot of presence out of it for the region.
THE PRESIDENT: And do you feel safe in the region? Do you see any hostility? Do you see any aggression? Because, you know, you’re hearing a little bit about aggression from a couple of the players. What are you feeling?
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Yes, sir. We have safe and independent operations out here throughout the theater. We do feel safe. There have been a couple of close calls, but in most cases, the vast majority, they are professional navies, and we have no doubt that we can bring that — we bring the U.S. interest to the theater and expect that to continue into the future.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great, Pat. Well, I want to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and say hello to everybody in the Navy.
And just in closing, I want to wish everybody a really, really Happy Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you when you’re back and maybe I’ll see you over there.
But it’s a great honor to talk to you. I know everything about what everyone is doing. And you’re doing an incredible job and you’re keeping us safe. And we all miss you back here. But we’ll be seeing you soon.
And on behalf of the whole country, I want to just thank you for what you’re doing. Very, very special people. Men and women that are just incredible people. You’re highly respected. And I’ll tell you what: Our country has such respect — I don’t think you hear it enough — but our country has such respect for you and the job you do.
So, Happy Thanksgiving, and we will see you soon.
CAPTAIN HANNIFIN: Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you all. Goodbye.
Great people. They’re great people. Okay?
Q Mr. President, are you looking forward to going to Afghanistan or going to the Middle East for any of these?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to do some interesting things. At the appropriate time, we’ll be doing some very interesting things.
Q Do you have a sense of when yet, of when the trip might be?
THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me?
Q Do you have a sense of when the trip might be yet?
THE PRESIDENT: I do, but I can’t tell you. (Laughter.) You’re the last people I can tell.
How is everything in Florida doing? Okay? Weather is good, right? It’s Florida. Welcome to the Southern White House.
Q Does the CIA have a recording of MBS demanding Khashoggi’s silence?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t want to talk about it. You have you ask them.
Q What about the border, Mr. President? We’ve seen some court —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the border is coming along very well. It’s become very strong. We’re getting some terrible decisions from the Ninth Circuit, as usual. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a victory in the Ninth Circuit. We have to appeal it, appeal it. A vast number of their decisions get overturned, generally speaking, and it’s a shame. It’s a shame. It’s a disgrace, frankly. And essentially, they’re legislating. They’re saying what to do. Some judge, sitting in some location very far away, is telling our incredible military and law enforcement what to do. And it’s not right, and it’s been going on like that for a long time. And we are doing really well, considering the laws are a disaster. And if we had the right laws, it would be a lot less expensive, and we’d do it a lot easier.
But we don’t have the right laws, and we have people interpreting the laws, and they always give us a bad interpretation.
So, hopefully, we’ve shown some light on the Ninth Circuit. I know that Chief Justice Roberts — John Roberts — has been speaking a little bit about it. And I think we’ve — and I have a lot of respect for him. I like him and I respect him. But I think we have to use some common sense. The Ninth Circuit — everybody knows it — it’s totally out of control. And what they’re doing, what they’re saying, the opinions are very unfair to law enforcement. They’re very unfair to our military. And they’re very unfair, most importantly, to the people of our country, because I’m keeping them safe.
And you see how we’ve fortified things, and all of that — all of that vast amount of fighting that you see going on at the border, it’s all taking place in Mexico.
And Mexico cannot believe how tough these people are. The mayor of Tijuana and so many others had said, “Boy, these are tough people.” They start fighting right away; they’re tough people. You have many criminals in that caravan, and the big caravan hasn’t arrived yet. And we’re very well fortified. We have fencing and walls like very few people have. We’ve been able to do it rather quickly. Concertino wire — Concertina wire. And so many other things are there now that they didn’t have. And they’re not coming through. We’re not letting criminals into our country. Got to come in legally. You have to come into a process.
And we want people to come in, because I have many, many companies moving back into the United States. They’re opening up car plants. They’re opening up factories all over the country. The United States is booming. We have the lowest unemployment we’ve, essentially, in most groups, ever had.
So we have a lot of good things happening. We need workers, but they have to come in legally. We want them to come in, but they have to be people that want to work and want to do a great job for our country. They come in through a merit system. They have to come in.
Right now, under the Democrats, they don’t have a merit system. They want open borders, and people can just flow in. You have tremendously dangerous people in those caravans. And we do not want them coming into the United States, and we’re not going to let them.
We’re throwing out MS-13 and so many others. We’re throwing them out of our country by the thousands that got in here over the years, and we’re throwing them out by the thousands. And we’re bringing back towns, we’re making towns safe, and we’re doing an excellent job.
But we’re getting hurt by the Ninth Circuit, very, very badly. Everybody files in the Ninth Circuit. I haven’t seen anybody file anyplace else. They automatically go to the Ninth Circuit. They could go anyplace in the country. And I think we’re going to have to stop that somehow.
The judges are going to have to get together, our Congress is going to have to get together and stop it. Because they’re taking advantage of our country by filing consistently and always — just about, that I see — in the Ninth Circuit. Even our legislation that we did have passed, it failed in the Ninth Circuit; it failed in the Ninth Circuit appeal. It then won in the Supreme Court.
And it’s just a shame, because it’s really hurting people. It’s hurting our law enforcement tremendously. And now that the military is on the border, it’s really hurting our military. And frankly, when they hear these decisions, these are professional. The military, the law enforcement, first responders, they can’t believe the decisions that are being made by these judges.
This is what they do; they do law enforcement, law and order. And they get these decisions now, and they say, “Who makes these decisions?” They’re not into the — you know, lawyer things. They say, “Who makes these decisions? Who are the people that are giving these decisions that are going to make it unsafe for us,” meaning law enforcement and military, “and making it unsafe for the United States?”
So, despite that, we have a very powerful border, and a lot of good things are happening.
Q Mr. President, are you concerned that by not punishing Saudi Arabia more, it could send a message to other world leaders that they can do as they please, and America could be weak in their eyes?
THE PRESIDENT: No, not at all. Saudi Arabia has been a long-time strategic partner. They’re investing hundreds of billions of dollars in our country. I mean, hundreds of billions. They’re keeping the oil prices low. I see that yesterday, one of the papers, I was blamed for causing traffic jams because I have the oil prices so low. Well, I have the oil prices low because I’m jawboning them and others all the time to keep them low. Nobody ever did that. No President ever did that. And gasoline is now at a very low number. But I actually got even beat up for that, where they said, “The President has the gasoline so low that he’s causing traffic jams.” Can you believe this one? I said, “That’s one nobody ever thought of.” So, anyway, no — but I’ll always — let’s have some traffic jams.
We want low oil prices. And Saudi Arabia has really done a good job in that respect. They pumped out a lot more oil than was going to be pumped out, when I called them about four weeks ago. And if you look at oil four weeks ago, it was at 82, 83, and was going up to a 100 a barrel. That would have doubled your prices and even tripled your prices at the car, for gasoline. And instead, you have very low gas prices all over the country. That’s because of what I did, and Saudi Arabia helped us.
But very importantly, they’re investing billions of dollars. They’re buying their equipment from us. And remember this: They don’t have to buy it from us. They can buy it from Russia and they can buy it from China. They make very good equipment. They don’t make as good equipment as we make; nobody does. Nobody even close. But they make very good equipment.
So they can spend their money in Russia and China and other places, and that is not acceptable.
Q But the CIA, Mr. President, concluded with confidence that MBS was responsible.
THE PRESIDENT: They didn’t conclude. No, no, Josh, they didn’t conclude. I’m sorry.
Q Do you think they did not?
THE PRESIDENT: Josh. No, they didn’t conclude. They did not come to a conclusion. They have feelings certain ways, but they didn’t have the report. And you can ask Mike; they have not concluded. Nobody has concluded. I don’t know if anybody is going to be able to conclude that the Crown Prince did it.
But I will say this —
Q Do you think he did it?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know. I don’t know. But whether he did or whether he didn’t, he denies it vehemently. His father denies it — the King — vehemently.
The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things. And in pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t. But there’s no — that was another part of the false reporting, because a lot of you said yesterday that they said he did it. Well, they didn’t say that. They said he might have done it. That’s a big difference.
But they’re vehemently denying it. And we have hundreds of thousands of jobs. Do people really want me to give up hundreds of thousands of jobs? And frankly, if we went by this standard, we wouldn’t be able to have anybody as an ally. Because look at what happens all over the world. But then you can also take a look at Iran, take a look at Syria, where, you know, millions of people have been just slaughtered horribly, horribly. You take a look at what’s going on in Iran and the vicious — the vicious situation that’s taking place there, and the number of people that are being killed and slaughtered. You take a look all over the world. We’re not going to be able to deal with — let’s not deal with anybody.
The fact is that Saudi Arabia is tremendously helpful in the Middle East. If we didn’t have Saudi Arabia, we wouldn’t have a big base. We wouldn’t have any reason, probably — I mean, if you look at Israel, Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia. So what does that mean? Israel is going to leave? We want Israel to leave?
We have a very strong ally in Saudi Arabia. We have an ally that said they did not commit, at the top level — the Crown Prince, the King — they did not commit this atrocity. And it’s an atrocity. It’s a terrible thing. I dislike it more than you do. But the fact is, they’ve been a very strong ally. They create tremendous wealth. They create, really, a tremendous number of jobs in their purchases. And very importantly, they keep the oil price down. If you want to see a global depression, all you have to do is lift the oil price $50 a barrel, which could happen very quickly, once we lose that relationship.
So I hate the crime. I hate what’s done. I hate the cover-up. And I will tell you this: The Crown Prince hates it more than I do. And they have vehemently denied it. The CIA points it both ways. You know, it’s — as I said, maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. But I will say very strongly that it’s a very important ally. And if we go by a certain standard, we won’t be able to have allies with almost any country. Okay?
Q Who should be held accountable?
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe the world should be held accountable, because the world is a vicious place. The world is a very, very vicious place. If you look at what’s happening in China, if you look at what’s happening in so many different countries — I could name many countries. If you look at what’s happening with terrorism all over the world.
That’s the other thing with Saudi Arabia — they really are — they’re putting up tremendous amounts of money to actually fight terrorism. Now, if they were a part of terrorism — and nobody is going to try and justify that; they were a big part of it — but they’re spending a lot of money, and they’re opening up. And they’re doing a lot of things that are very good. They’re really opening up that country for a lot of good.
You know, until this happened, there were a lot of people saying a lot of good things about the Crown Prince. So he strongly denies it. He vehemently denies it. And my policy is very simple: America first. Keep America great again. And that’s what I’m doing, and we’re doing better than anybody thought even possible.
Q Sir, you’ve been talking to the troops. I’m wondering if you can —
THE PRESIDENT: To who?
Q the troops, today —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q I’m wondering if you can tell us: At what point do you want to withdraw troops from Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re always looking to do the right thing, and we’ll be seeing over a period of time. But we’re looking. You know, I just spoke to Afghanistan, as you know. We’re always looking to do whatever is right. We’re in very strong negotiations in Afghanistan right now, which a lot of people don’t know about. This may be the first. But we are in very, very strong negotiation in Afghanistan. And we’ll see what happens. If something happens, that would be a great thing. I’d very happy about that.
I really think the people of Afghanistan also — and they are good fighters, and they fought for a long time; they fought for a lot longer than we fought. They’ve been fighting for many, many, many decades. But I think they’re tired of fighting. And we’ll see what happens. But we are talking about peace, and we’ll see if that happens.
Q Negotiations with?
THE PRESIDENT: We have negotiations going on. I don’t know that they’re going to be successful. Maybe they’re not; probably they’re not. Who knows? They might be, they might not be. You know my attitude in all of that stuff, whether it’s North Korea or anybody else. Maybe they are going to be successful, and maybe they’re not going to be. But we have negotiations going on right now in Afghanistan, okay?
Q Mr. President, what is your response to people who say that a phone call wasn’t enough for the troops today?
THE PRESIDENT: Well nobody has done more for the military than I have. I took the budget from very little to $700 billion and then $716 billion. And I’m now going over to the Coast Guard, where I did last year and I will probably a lot. But we’re going over to the Coast Guard.
And just, I really believe nobody — in fact, a number of generals were on television over the weekend, and just unrelated, but they all mentioned the fact that nobody has done, as a President, for the military, in a long time what I’ve done. Because I’ve taken spending, where you had a depleted military, and it wasn’t being fixed and it was a mess, and it, frankly, put us in danger, and I was able to get Congress to give us $700 billion and now $716 billion for our military.
And I’ve also done more for the vets than anybody has ever done. I got Choice approved. They’ve been trying to get Choice for 40 years — more than 40 years; they couldn’t get it — where a vet can go directly to a doctor now instead of waiting on line for two months and two weeks and three weeks, and amounts of time that are unthinkable to anybody, including yourselves.
So I think I’ve done more than anybody else, certainly in many, many years, and probably in many decades.
Q Mr. President, are there any updates on the troops that are being sent to the border in regards to the caravan?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no troops. We’re going to have a strong border. Our southern border is going to very strong. We’re not — you heard me speaking to some of the folks just now in different parts of the world, and they’re so proud of the job they’re doing. And you got to have borders. If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country.
I mean, the Democrats want open borders, and they want these people coming in. Many of those people are criminals, okay? And have been so adjudged. We know who they are. They have records. They have, some, very substantial criminal records, some very bad criminal records. They’re in the caravan.
You saw what happened in Tijuana, where a number of the people said these are tough people. They start fighting; they’re starting fistfights. They have fistfights all over the streets. They’re starting fistfights. They said, “These are not like normal, innocent people.” These are people, you talk to them, and they start a fistfight. I don’t want that in this country. Okay?
Q Mr. President, what about the idea that the military may use lethal force against these migrants coming through?
THE PRESIDENT: If they have to, they’re going to use lethal force. I’ve given the okay.
Q Did you authorize them to do that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, if they have to. I hope they don’t have to. But, you know, you’re dealing with a minimum of 500 serious criminals. So I’m going to let the military be taken advantage of. I have no choice. Do I want that to happen? Absolutely not. But you’re dealing with rough people.
You ask the people in Tijuana, Mexico — they opened with wide arms, just, “Come in, come in. Let me help you. Let us take care of you.” And within two days, now they’re going crazy to get them out. They want them out. Because things are happening. Bad, bad things are happening in Tijuana. And again, it’s not in this country, because we’ve closed it up.
I actually — two days ago, we closed the border. We actually just closed it. We’re saying, nobody is coming in, because it was out of control. But you take a look at Tijuana, Mexico, and you see what’s happening there — it’s really a bad situation.
Q What do you mean you closed the border and nobody is coming in? What do you mean by that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: If we find that it’s uncontrollable, Josh; if we find that it gets to a level where we are going to lose control, or where people are going to start getting hurt, we will close entry into the country for a period of time until we can get it under control.
Q You mean the entire border, or (inaudible) country?
THE PRESIDENT: The whole border. I mean the whole border. And Mexico will not be able to sell their cars into the United States, where they make so many cars at great benefit to them –not at great benefit to us, by the way. But at least now we a good, new trade deal with Mexico and with Canada.
But we will close the border. And that means that Mexico is not going to be able to sell their cars into the United States until it’s open.
But we’re going to either have a border or we’re not. And when they lose control of the border, on the Mexico side, we just close the border. And we have a very powerful border. We built a very strong border in a very short period of time. And the military has been fantastic, the job they’ve done.
And, by the way, Border Patrol and ICE, all of the law enforcement we have involved — and we have local law enforcement too — they have done an incredible job. And they’ve wanted this for years. You know, I’m the first President that’s done it to this extent, but they’ve wanted this for years.
And some of the Presidents, I guess they didn’t care, or they wanted open borders. I don’t think they wanted open borders. Because most of them, if you go back to 2006, they all approved, essentially, a wall — a very powerful fence — which is pretty much the same thing. But in 2006, if you look — Obama, you look at Hillary Clinton, you look at Schumer, all of the people that are standing up protesting — they think it’s good for them politically. See, I think it’s very bad for them politically.
I think the fact that they’re weak on the border is very, very bad for them politically. But, you know, I’ve only been a politician for three years, so maybe they know better than me.
Q Is there going to be a government shutdown over this wall, in December?
THE PRESIDENT: Could happen, yeah. Over border security. The wall is just a part of border security — a very important part. Probably the most important part. But could there be a shutdown? There certainly could. And it will be about border security, of which the wall is a part.
Q Do you think Secretary Nielsen is doing a good enough job in securing the border?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, she’s in there trying, I’ll tell you. It’s a tough job. I mean, yesterday she gets a ruling that things that we were doing — a judge that knows nothing about it — decided to take law enforcement into his own hands, and he gives a ridiculous ruling. So we’ll appeal it. But it makes the job harder. We’re still doing the job perfectly. But it makes the job harder, and it makes the job more dangerous. Because a judge made a ruling that was shocking. Okay?
Q Just to be clear, going back to the idea of shutting down the border, what would it take for you reach that step and want to do that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ve already shut it down. I’ve already shut it down, for short periods.
Q Are you talking about that one border port that closed?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no. Yeah. I’ve already shut down parts of the border, because it was out of control, with the rioting on the other side, in Mexico. And I just said shut it down.
Q What does that look like in practice?
THE PRESIDENT: What?
Q What does that look like in practice, to shut down the border?
THE PRESIDENT: You see it. I mean, it took place two days ago.
Q Did you have to sign an order? Is there any —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. They call me up and I sign an order.
Q Can we get a copy of that?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, you don’t need it. Don’t worry. It’s not that big a deal, but maybe to some people it is.
What we want to do is we want to have a strong border. We want to have people come into our country. I want to have a lot of people come in. We need them. But they have to come in through merit, and they have to come in legally. They have to come in legally.
You know, we have a lot of people — millions of people — that have been waiting on line for years to become citizens of our country. Great people. They went through a whole process. And then these people come in and they think they’re just going to walk in and — it’s a very unfair thing to all of the people that have been waiting on line, in some cases for many years. They’ve done it right, but they don’t think they’ve done it right, because they said, “Well, how can we do it right, and we go through this very complicated legal process,” and they have lawyers and everything else, and then you have people rushing through the border, and they’re supposed to stay? It’s not happening with me. We’ve been very tough on the border.
I mean, the problem that we have is that I’ve created, and helped create, a country that’s doing better than it’s ever done economically. So a lot of people are coming up here, because their countries are not doing well. And perhaps for a reason. But whatever that reason is, their countries are not doing well.
Okay? A couple of more. Anybody else?
Q How prepared are you for this meeting with President Xi? How are you preparing for it? And how confident are you that you got a deal?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m very prepared. I’ve been preparing for it all my life. You know, it’s not like, “Oh, gee, I’m going to sit down and study.” I know every ingredient. I know every stat. I know it better than anybody knows it. And my gut has always been right. And we’re doing very well, and I will tell you, China very much wants to make a deal. China has been taking advantage of the United States for many, many years. They have taken out four-, five-, and six-hundred billion dollars a year. That doesn’t include the theft of intellectual property, which has been horrible, what they’ve been doing.
And, you know, it’s not a question of preparing. I think I’ve prepared for this meeting — I had a meeting literally right in that corner with President Xi. We have a great relationship. I like him a lot. I think he likes me. Probably likes me less now than he did before we did what we’re doing.
But we’ve picked up trillions of dollars in value. And China has lost trillions of dollars in value since I’m President. Trillions. Many trillions in value. And we’ve picked up many trillions of dollars in value.
And we are a true economic power, far greater than we were before I became President. We are an economic power that is far greater than we were. When we were — when I took over, we were teetering. We were in bad shape. We were going down to minus-four, minus-five, minus-six percent in GDP. Instead, last quarter, we had 4.2 percent.
And we are doing very well. I can say this: China wants to make a deal very badly —
Q Do you think it’s going to happen next week?
THE PRESIDENT: — because of the tariffs. Because right now, on $250 billion, they’ll be paying us, as of January 1st, 25 percent. And in many cases, they’re already paying 25 percent. On the rest that they’re not, they’re paying 10. But the 10 percent goes to 25 percent on January 1st. And so they’re going to be paying a tremendous amount of money, which, frankly, is great for our country. We’re taking in billions of dollars from China. We never took in 10 cents from China. They took everything from us; we never took anything from them.
Now, as of already, we’re taking in — right now, we’re taking in billions. China is — people don’t understand this: China is right now paying us — right now, paying us billions of dollars a month. That’s never happened before. And soon, they’re going to be paying us many, many billions of dollars a month.
But China wants to make a deal. If we can make a deal, we will.
Q Are you worried about Matt Whitaker’s finances and his potential (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: No. Matt Whitaker is a highly respected person. And, you know, once I choose somebody, they always go through hell. But Matt Whitaker is a highly respected man. The Justice Department respects him tremendously. I’ve spoken to a lot of people. And, you know, the press has been nasty to Matt Whitaker.
But I can tell you that he is a highly respected, strong person. And he’s doing a great job. Everybody tells me that. He’s doing a really great job.
Q Have you done anything, Mr. President, to try to bring Julian Assange back to the United States? And would you want him to face —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I haven’t been asked to. No.
Q Would you want him to face charges here? Do you think he should?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know anything about it. I’m not very familiar with the whole situation.
But I would say that if somebody made a request, I guess it’s something we’d consider. I just don’t know very much about that situation.
Okay? What else? Anything else?
Q Are you interviewing people this week for new jobs in your administration?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. We’ll have a few. I’m very happy with my Cabinet and people that work for me, and for us — really work for the country. We have a great Cabinet. We have absolute stars. But a few of them, I would say, can do very well outside. Everyone is doing well when they leave. That’s one thing I’ll tell you. Everyone that leaves the Trump administration has come out really well. I’m very proud of a lot of them. Look at Hope — Hope Hicks is doing a fantastic job. She’s a fantastic young woman, and I’m very proud of her. Look how she’s doing. She’s become a very important person in the outside world. And we have many such people, where they work here for a year and a half, or for a period of time, and they go outside and they do really well, many of them.
So — and that’s what I want — I want to see. There’s always a lot of change. Yeah, I’ll probably be changing a couple, maybe a few, but very little. Overall, we’re very happy.
Q Are you doing interviews this week for that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I’m doing interviews this week. I’ll do interviews, as we say, in the Southern White House. People like doing interviews here.
Q What jobs are you interviewing for, Mr. President?
Q For DHS?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll let you know. I’ll let you know. But —
Q You could just tell us here now, if you wanted to.
THE PRESIDENT: I know. Maybe I will. (Laughs.)
Q Have you talked to Ivanka about her emails?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I have, actually. And very innocent, short period of time. Very early on. There was no deletion of emails, like the 33,000, plus probably another 100,000 that Hillary Clinton did after she got a subpoena. There was no bleached bit. There was no anything. Just innocent emails. There were not classified emails. A much different deal. That’s another fake-news story. And she did transition out. She was a private person, and then ultimately she transitioned out from private to government. And I believe all of her records are in the Historical Society, the historical records. Much different than the other situation that I’ve talked about for a long time.
But she transitioned out, but everything is in historical records.
I’ll see you over at the Coast Guard. I’m going over to say hello to the Coast Guard right now, which I look forward. And I’ll see — I don’t know if you’re going, but if you are, I’ll see you there.
Thank you all very much.
Q What are you most thankful for, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: For having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I’ve made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office, that you wouldn’t believe it. And — I mean, you see it, but so much stronger that people can’t even believe it. When I see foreign leaders, they say, “We cannot believe the difference in strength between the United States now and the United States two years ago.” Made a lot of progress.
Thank you very much.
10:35 A.M. EST