Chopper pressers are the best pressers. Earlier today President Trump was departing the south lawn for a trip to Camp David. The President stopped to deliver remarks to the White House press pool on current issues.
Topics include: Immigration enforcement, the decision not to strike Iran, the economy overall, trade and the geopolitics therein, John Bolton as a ‘hawk’.
[Video – Transcript ADDED]
[Transcript] – South Lawn – 10:18 A.M. EDT – THE PRESIDENT: So we’re going to Camp David. We’re going to have meetings and a lot of work. Coming back sometime tomorrow, but we’re heading out right now to Camp David.
I want to say the stock market is on pace to have its best year, I mean, since, I guess, over 50 years. And the Dow is on pace to have its best year in 80 years. It’s been 80 years since the Dow has hit —
Tariffs are obviously doing very well because we’re taking in billions and billions of dollars from China. We would be from others, and we might be from others, but billions of dollars are coming in from China. And, frankly, look at what’s happening with the stock market, which is pretty much what I’ve been saying.
Also, an article came out this morning that the tariffs are having very little effect on costs going up — and, in some cases, no effect. That the countries that the product come from, they are bearing the costs, which is also what I’ve said.
So the Dow is up. It looks like it could be an 80-year high. It’s on track for an 80-year high. And the stock market itself is a 50-year high. So I’m sure you’re all very happy about that, right?
Q Mr. President, do you still believe that Iran’s targeting of a U.S. drone could have been unintentional? Do you still believe that?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know unintentional or not. It was probably intentional, as I said. But regardless, they targeted something without a person in it — without a man or a woman, and certainly without anybody from the United States in it. So we want to be proportionate.
We’re getting a lot of praise for what I did. And we have people on both sides; some like it and some probably not as much. My expression is “We have plenty of time.” We have plenty of time. You understand that.
Q (Inaudible) ICE raids reported (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, these are people that came into the country illegally. They’ve been served. They’ve gone through a process — the process of the courts. And they have to be removed from the country. They will be removed from the country. It’s having a very big effect on the border — the fact that we’re taking them out.
The people that came into the country illegally are going to be removed from the country. Everybody knows that. It starts, you know, during the course of this next week, maybe even a little bit earlier than that. And again, everybody that came into the country illegally will be brought out of the country very legally.
Now, with that being said, the border is in much better shape. Mexico is doing a good job. We need Congress to fix the loopholes and fix asylum, and we will have the cleanest border there is.
THE PRESIDENT: We don’t know. We’re going to — we’ll see. We’ll see.
Q (Inaudible) cities like Chicago and LA?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, some cities are going to fight it. But, if you notice, they’re generally high-crime cities. If you look at Chicago, they’re fighting it. And if you look at other cities, they’re fighting it. Many of those cities are high-crime cities and they’re sanctuary cities.
The state of Florida is now ending all sanctuary cities. He’s doing a very smart thing. Governor DeSantis — he’s ending all — all sanctuary cities in the state of Florida. And I’ll tell you, Governor DeSantis has been — he’s been fantastic. He’s right on the ball. And we have others that are following. You’ll be seeing a lot of that. People are tired of sanctuary cities and what it does and the crime it brings. They’re very tired of it.
Q What are the next steps for Iran? Is a possible strike off the table?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ll see what’s with Iran. Everybody was saying I’m a warmonger, and now they say I’m a dove. And I think I’m neither, if you want to know the truth. I’m a man with common sense, and that’s what we need in this country is common sense. But I didn’t like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone, and then we kill 150 people. I didn’t like that.
Q (Inaudible) move forward with sanctions against Iran?
THE PRESIDENT: I — I can’t hear.
Q Are you going to move forward with sanctions against Iran?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, we’re moving forward with additional sanctions on Iran. Good question. And some of them are in place. As you know, we have about as strong a sanction grouping as you can possibly have on any country. But we’re putting additional sanctions on. They’re going on slowly and, in some cases, actually pretty rapidly. But Iran — additional sanctions are being put on Iran.
Q How much progress toward a nuclear weapon are you willing to let Iran make before you (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: Very little. That’s what it’s all about. You know, we have built — and, right now, if you look at the United States, very importantly, we are the number-one oil producer — oil and gas — in the world, by far. We’re way ahead of Russia. We’re way ahead of Saudi Arabia. We don’t really need the Straits anymore. We take some, but we don’t need it. The biggest beneficiary of the Straits is China. Ninety-one percent of their energy comes out of the Straits. Japan, Indonesia — many other countries need it.
So we’re doing them a very big service by keeping the Straits open. But this is not about the Straits. This is about Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. It’s very simple. Because we don’t need it, just so you understand. We don’t need it.
Q Your National Security Advisor came under some hard criticism from Tucker Carlson and others for pushing too hard on Iran. You said you’re not a warmonger, but do you have confidence in the judgment of your National Security Advisor John Bolton?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I do because I have John Bolton, who I would definitely say is a hawk, and I have other people that are on the other side of the equation. And, ultimately, I make the decisions, so it doesn’t matter. But I want — for instance, I disagreed very much with John Bolton — his attitude on the Middle East and Iraq was going into Iraq. I think that was a big mistake. I think I’ve been proven right, but I’ve been against that forever.
John Bolton is doing a very good job, but he takes a — generally, a tough posture. But I have other people that don’t take that posture. But the only one that matters is me because I’ll listen to everybody. And I want people on both sides. Having people on both sides, to me, is very important.
Q At what point were you briefed about the potential casualties of an Iran airstrike? Were you briefed in the initial planning stages? At what point were you actually —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I started to hear that it was a lot. But, again, no decision was made. I said, “You come and see me.” And they came and see me. At the time, we hadn’t done anything. And I asked the question, and I said, “I want to know that answer before I make a decision.”
So we hadn’t made a decision to go forward. I said, “Everybody, we will meet. One thing I want to know, and I want to know it accurately — as accurately as possible: How many people will die?”
Just so you know, I come from New York City. In New York City, we have a lot of Iranians, and they’re great people. I have friends that are Iranian — many friends. Living in New York City, you meet many Iranians. They’re very smart. They’re very ambitious. They have tremendous — they’re high-quality people. But I have many friends that are Iranian. I don’t want to kill 150 Iranians. I understand it. I don’t want to kill 150 of anything or anybody, unless it’s absolutely necessary. And most people very much agree with what I — what I’m doing.
Now, if the leadership of Iran behaves badly, then it’s going to be a very, very bad day for them. But hopefully, they’re smart. And hopefully, they really care for their people and not themselves. And hopefully, we can get Iran back onto an economic track that’s fantastic, where they’re a really wealthy nation, which would be a wonderful thing.
All those things, I want to do. But if they’re going to be foolish, that’s never going to happen.
Q Mr. President, you had said earlier that you never met E. Jean Carroll. There was a photograph of you and her in the late 1980’s —
THE PRESIDENT: I have no idea who this woman is. This is a woman who has also accused other men of things, as you know. It is a totally false accusation. I think she was married — as I read; I have no idea who she is — but she was married to a, actually, nice guy, Johnson — a newscaster.
Q You were in a photograph with her.
THE PRESIDENT: Standing with coat on in a line — give me a break — with my back to the camera. I have no idea who she is. What she did is — it’s terrible, what’s going on. So it’s a total false accusation and I don’t know anything about her. And she’s made this charge against others.
And, you know, people have to be careful because they’re playing with very dangerous territory. And when they do that — and it’s happening more and more. When you look at what happened to Justice Kavanaugh and you look at what’s happening to others, you can’t do that for the sake of publicity.
New York Magazine is a failing magazine. It’s ready to go out of business, from what I hear. They’ll do anything they can. But this was about many men, and I was one of the many men that she wrote about. It’s a totally false accusation. I have absolutely no idea who she is. There’s some picture where we’re shaking hands. It looks like at some kind of event. I have my coat on. I have my wife standing next to me. And I didn’t know her husband, but he was a newscaster. But I have no idea who she is — none whatsoever.
It’s a false accusation and it’s a disgrace that a magazine like New York — which is one of the reasons it’s failing. People don’t read it anymore, so they’re trying to get readership by using me. It’s not good.
You know, there were cases that the mainstream media didn’t pick up. And I don’t know if you’ve seen them. And they were put on Fox. But there were numerous cases where women were paid money to say bad things about me. You can’t do that. You can’t do that. And those women did wrong things — that women were actually paid money to say bad things about me.
But here’s a case, it’s an absolute disgrace that she’s allowed to do that.
Q Will the deportation raids start tomorrow? And what will you do if cities are saying that they will not comply?
THE PRESIDENT: The deportation raids, as you call them, are really a group of very, very good law enforcement people going by the law, going by the rules, going by our court system, and taking people out of our country who came into our country illegally. They came into our country illegally, and we’re taking them out legally. We’re bringing them back to their countries.
I want to thank — while I’m here, I want to thank Mexico. So far, Mexico has been really good. They made an agreement, probably — not “probably” — because of tariffs. But they made an agreement. And so far, they’ve really honored the agreement. A lot of things are changing.
But again, if Congress gave us something quickly on asylum; something quickly on loopholes, where we get rid of the loopholes; the border would be so beautiful. But the Democrats just won’t do it.
But maybe now they will, because there’s no question you have a national emergency. They said that, in the last caravan, they had hundreds of people that commit crimes trying to come into our country. We’re not letting them. And now Mexico is bringing them back.
But they had hundreds of people — hundreds — that were criminals in the last caravan. We cannot allow that to happen. We’re not letting them in our country.
One other thing. We’re very focused on MS-13, getting them out. And I hope you’re not going to stick up too much for MS-13. But we’re very focused — ICE. ICE is — these are fantastic people. We’re very, very focused on getting MS-13 out of this country.
How are you?
Q Good. I have a question on Iran. The 150 estimate (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Go ahead.
Q The 150 estimate that you got late on Thursday night, why was that different from the estimate you got earlier in the day from your national security team?
THE PRESIDENT: It wasn’t really. I didn’t talk too much about that. Again, no decision to go forward was made, because I said, “We’ll meet at a certain time before the — and nothing goes forward until we meet.” I didn’t want anybody doing anything. And when we met —
THE PRESIDENT: And when we met, they gave me a rough estimate, earlier, but I wanted a more accurate estimate. The more accurate estimate where — I won’t go into the number of sites, but you guessed that pretty much right. You have, in particular, all right? But it was the number of sites, and it was, on average, 40 to 50 people at each site. And when they shot down an unmanned place or drone, I didn’t like it.
Q That came from an attorney in the Pentagon and through the — into the White House?
THE PRESIDENT: No, that came from me.
Q No, I mean the estimate came through —
THE PRESIDENT: It did. But it was given to me by a general.
Q Was that Dunford, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I had a long talk with Dunford. He’s a great gentleman.
Q Was he the side of (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: He was. Dunford did a great job. Dunford is a terrific man and he’s a terrific general.
Q Will you talk about Iran at Camp Iran?
THE PRESIDENT: I’ll be talking about Iran at Camp David, yeah. We have a series of meetings, and, more importantly, a series of very well connected phone calls. We have a great phone system up there, and — as you know. So I’ll be doing a lot of work.
Q Will you tell us who you’ll be talking to?
THE PRESIDENT: We may release it later. We may.
Q (Inaudible) ayatollah?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, Iran, right now, is an economic mess. They’re going through hell. The sanctions have hit them hard. More sanctions are going to be put on — a lot more. It’s hard to believe you can even put on. But it’s a mess.
All I want is no nuclear weapons. Under the horrible Obama deal, he gave them a $150 billion. He gave them $1.8 billion in cash. Think of that — in cash. Many planeloads of cash. He gave them $1.8 billion in cash, and he got nothing.
But the thing he really didn’t get was good inspection rights, because the most primary places, you couldn’t go to, you couldn’t inspect. We haven’t seen them in years.
The other thing he didn’t get is time. Because, in a very short number of years, they will legally be able to make a nuclear weapon. That’s unacceptable.
And remember this: The deal wasn’t even ratified in Congress. It never got proper — in terms of treaty — it never got proper authorization from Congress.
So, with all of that, it was very important to me. So we’ll start all over. We could have a deal with them very quickly, if they want to do it. I — it’s up to them. But if Iran wants to become a wealthy nation again, become a prosperous nation — we’ll call it “Let’s make Iran great again.” Does that make sense? “Make Iran great again.” It’s okay with me.
But they’re never going to do it if they think, in five or six years, they’re going to have a nuclear weapon. I know too much about nuclear — a lot about nuclear — and let me just tell you, they’re not going to have a nuclear weapon.
If that’s — and it has very little to do with the oil. Because, again, China get its oil — 91 percent; Japan get its oil — 60 percent; Indonesia; so many other countries. What it has to do with, very simply, is the fact is we’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon. And when they agree to that, they are going to have a wealthy country, they’re going to be so happy, and I’m going to be their best friend. I hope that happens. I hope that happens, but it may not.
Q Would your decision have been different if it was 10 to 15 casualties, instead of 100 to 150 casualties?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s — anything is a lot when they shoot down an unmanned, okay? So anything is a lot. I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it.
Q If they shoot down another drone, will you not have to reply to that either?
THE PRESIDENT: Say it.
Q If they shoot down another unmanned drone, will you also not —
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see. But I don’t think that will happen. I don’t think that’ll happen. And if you notice, there was a plane with 38 people yesterday — did you see that? I think that’s a big story.
Q Is that accurate?
THE PRESIDENT: They had it in their sights, and they didn’t shoot it down.
Q That was accurate?
THE PRESIDENT: I think they were very wise not to do that, and we appreciate that they didn’t do that. But they had a plane in their sights — 38 people on the plane — and they didn’t shoot it down. And I think that was a very wise decision. And — and I think that’s something that we very much appreciate.
Q Is it accurate to say that your national security team brought you a plan for a planned strike and it didn’t have a fully formed estimate on casualties?
THE PRESIDENT: No. No. They brought me a great plan. But I wanted to know, at the end — I wanted an accurate count. They gave me very odd numbers. I wanted an accurate count as to how many people would be killed, how many Iranians would be killed.
And, as I said: Coming from New York, I know a lot of Iranians. They’re great people.
Thank you very much.
Q (Inaudible) military action on Iran still on the table?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s always on the table until we get this solved, yeah. We have a tremendously powerful military force in that area. It’s always on the table until we get this solved.