Earlier today President Trump, Melania Trump and Barron Trump arrived in Morristown, NJ, airport en route back to Washington DC. Prior to boarding Air-Force-One the President delivered brief remarks and answered media questions for 36 minutes.
[Note: longer version of video provided to see young 13-year-old (very tall) Barron Trump as he arrives with Mom and Dad. (Full Video (begin 6:45) and Transcript below)]
[Transcript] – THE PRESIDENT: So, we had a lot of meetings yesterday on Afghanistan, on the economy — which is doing very well. We have the strongest economy, by far, in the world. The tariffs have cost nothing, in my opinion, or certainly very little. We have import prices from, and through, July — all the way through July. And they’re down 1.8 percent so that the import prices have actually gone down.
China is eating the tariffs because of monetary manipulation. And also, they’re pouring a lot of money into their country because they don’t want to lose jobs. They’re losing, as you probably know, because you reported it, but they lost over 2 million jobs in a short period of time. And they want to make a deal; we’ll see what happens. But they definitely want to make a deal.
I’d like to see Hong Kong worked out in a very humanitarian fashion. I hope President Xi can do it. He sure has the ability, I can tell you that, from personal knowledge. He certainly has the ability to do it if he wants to. So, I’d like to see that worked out in a humanitarian fashion. I think it would be very good for the trade deal that we’re talking about.
And other than that, if you have any questions?
Q What’s the status of your deliberations on the Afghanistan — the troop withdrawal and where things stand?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re looking at Afghanistan. We’re talking to Afghanistan, both the government and also talking to the Taliban, having very good discussions. We’ll see what happens. We’ve really got it down to, probably, 13,000 people. And we’ll be bringing it down a little bit more, and then we’ll decide whether or not we’ll be staying longer or not. We’re having very good discussions with the Taliban. We’re having very good discussions with the Afghan government.
Q What’s the argument for staying?
THE PRESIDENT: I think just that we’ve been there for 19 years. We’re like a police force. And that’s about it, frankly.
I think it’s very important that we continue intelligence there, in all cases, because it is somewhat of a nest for hitting us. If you look at what happened with the World Trade, it essentially came out of Afghanistan. Most of the people, I think, they may not have come from Afghanistan originally, but that’s where they were taught. So there’s a big argument to be made. And I buy that argument.
You know, it’s very tough when somebody says, “Well, this is a big breeding ground.” And it is a breeding ground. And we have things under control very well with a small force. We can probably make it a little bit smaller, and then we’ll decide. It’ll depend on the Taliban. It’ll depend on the Afghan government. But there is a case to be made. And the case also is that we’re going to be leaving very significant intelligence behind for just the reasons I stated.
Q Have you spoken to President Xi, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t comment on that. Can’t do it, Maggie.
Q Can you comment at all on where things stand in terms of the China negotiations? You said there was progress.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think President Xi obviously has this in mind because he probably would’ve acted faster. So I think he has at least something in mind, having to do with trade, because it’s something he could do fairly easily. It could be, unfortunately, very ruthless. So I do think it plays on his mind, and I do think he — he’s thinking about what I’ve had to say. It would have an impact on trade; there’s no question about it.
Q Is there any U.S. land holding that you would be willing to do in exchange —
THE PRESIDENT: Little louder, Maggie.
Q In order to get your interest in Greenland, which has been widely reported, is there anything —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Greenland, I don’t know — it got released somehow. It’s just something we talked about. Denmark essentially owns it. We’re very good allies with Denmark. We protect Denmark like we protect large portions of the world. So the concept came up and I said, “Certainly, I’d be. Strategically, it’s interesting, and we’d be interested.” But we’ll talk to them a little bit. It’s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that.
Q Would you ever make an exchange with them of any kind for U.S. territories?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, a lot of things can be done. I mean, essentially, it’s a large real estate deal. A lot of things can be done. It’s hurting Denmark very badly because they’re losing almost $700 million a year carrying it. So they carry it at a great loss. And, strategically, for the United States, it would be nice. And we’re a big ally of Denmark, and we help Denmark and we protect Denmark, and we will.
In fact, I’m supposed to stop. I’m thinking about going there. I’m not necessarily definitely going there, but I may be going. We’re going to Poland and then we may be going to Denmark — not for this reason at all. But we’re looking at it. It’s not number one on the burner.
Q Mr. President, sir, back to Afghanistan. Two questions on that. First of all, have you seen the reports about the suicide bomber at a wedding? There were more than 60 people killed. And so, why then could you trust the Taliban to keep Afghanistan safe from terrorists when you have a suicide bomber killing so many people there?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m not trusting anybody. Look, I’m not trusting anybody. It’s a horrible situation that’s going on in Afghanistan. It has been for many years. Russia tried to do something. And at the time they did it, they were the Soviet Union, and now they’re Russia. They spent all their wealth on trying to do something in that land. There have been many, many great nations in that land. It’s a difficult territory.
There are a lot of very good people there, I will say, but they’re also good fighters. We have it very much under control as far as what we’re doing. But the rest is — you know, a lot of bad things happen in Kabul. A lot of bad things are happening in Afghanistan, and some very positive things.
But we would — look, we’re there for one reason: We don’t want that to be a laboratory. Okay? It can’t be a laboratory for terror. And we’ve stopped that, and we have a very, very good view. I mean, some things are going to be announced over the next couple of weeks as to what happened, who’s been taken out. A lot of people have been taken out that were very bad — both ISIS and al Qaeda.
Q And Senator Lindsey Graham said that for you to withdraw the U.S. troops from Afghanistan and entrust the Taliban would be the biggest mistake since Obama’s Iran nuclear deal.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I guess that means Lindsey is a very tough man, isn’t he? Huh?
Okay. What else?
Q On Huawei — is the administration going to allow U.S. businesses to continue selling to Huawei? Is there going to be an extension of the license tomorrow?
THE PRESIDENT: No. That was reported. And, actually, it’s the opposite. Huawei. Huawei is a company we may not do business with at all. And it was sort of reported, I think the opposite, today — I was surprised — that we are open to doing business. We’re actually open not to doing business with them. So I don’t know who gave the report.
Now, they have little sections of Huawei, like furniture and other things that we could do. But when you cut out sections, it gets very complicated: what’s being sold, what’s coming in.
So, at this moment, it looks much more like we’re not going to do business. I don’t want to do business at all, because it is a national security threat. And I really believe that the media has covered it a little bit differently than that. So we’re looking, really, not to do business with Huawei. And we’re actually talking about not doing any business, because, again, the rest of it is not national security, but it’s very difficult to determine what’s coming in and what’s not coming in. It’s still Huawei. So we’ll be making a decision over that in the not-too-distant future. But it’s a little bit the opposite of what seemed to be reported this morning.
Q How were your meetings at Bedminster, sir? How was your meeting with Tim Cook? Did you meet with other folks? Who did you golf with?
THE PRESIDENT: I had a very good meeting with Tim Cook. I have a lot of respect for Tim Cook. And Tim was talking to me about tariffs.
And, you know, one of the things — and he made a good case — is that Samsung is their number-one competitor, and Samsung is not paying tariffs because they’re based in South Korea. And it’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if they’re competing with a very good company that’s not. I said, “How good a competitor?” He said they are a very good competitor. So, Samsung is not paying tariffs because they’re based in a different location, mostly South Korea, but they’re based in South Korea. And I thought he made a very compelling argument, so I’m thinking about it.
Q And, sir, there’s reporting on CNN that Larry Kudlow may be leaving at some point soon. Do you have confidence in him?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I hope not. I love Larry Kudlow. I think he’s done a fantastic job. He has been going through health problems, as you know. But I watched him this morning; he was terrific. I think Larry is a fantastic guy. But I haven’t heard that at all.
Q And are you doing any planning, or are you going to be directing your administration to plan for the possibility of a recession?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t see a recession. I mean, the world is in a recession right now. And — although, that’s too big a statement. But if you look at China, China is doing very, very poorly. They’ve had — I just saw a report — they’ve had the worst year they’ve had in 27 years because of what I’ve done. And they want to come to the negotiating table. You know, they’re having companies lose — I mean, they’re leaving. The companies are leaving. And they’re laying off millions of people because they don’t want to pay 25 percent. And that’s why they want to come to the table. I don’t think there’s another reason other than President Xi, I’m sure, likes me very much. But they’re losing millions and millions of jobs in China. And we’re not paying for the tariffs; China is paying for the tariffs, for the one-hundredth time.
And I understand tariffs work very well. Other countries it may be that if I do things with other countries. But in the case of China, China is eating the tariffs, at least so far.
Q But a lot of economists say that you should be preparing for a recession; that no President is immune from a recession, and that it’s malpractice for the government not to be doing something to get ready for that scenario.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Phil, honestly, I’m prepared for everything. I don’t think we’re having a recession. We’re doing tremendously well. Our consumers are rich. I gave a tremendous tax cut, and they’re loaded up with money. They’re buying. I saw the Wal-Mart numbers; they were through the roof, just two days ago. That’s better than any poll. That’s better than any economist.
And most economists actually say, Phil, that we’re not going to have a recession. Most of them are saying we’re not going to have a recession.
But the rest of the world is not doing well like we’re doing. The rest of the world, if you look at Germany, if you look at European Union; frankly, look at the UK — I mean, look at a lot of countries — they’re not doing well. China is doing poorly. Parts of Asia are doing poorly.
We are doing better than any country, or even area, anywhere in the world. We’re doing great. And our consumer is really, really strong, and it looks like they’re going to be for a long time.
Also, when you go in and analyze the curve, the curve always means that about two years later maybe you’ll go in. That’s a long time — two years. But I don’t think so. Interest rates are low. I think I could be helped out by the Fed, but the Fed doesn’t like helping me too much. But, you know, frankly, we have money that’s pouring into our country because they want the security of the United States.
We have billions and billions of dollars daily that’s pouring in — we’ve never had anything like this — because they want to come into the United States. That’s a great thing. That means we can loan that money out.
Mortgage rates are at an all-time low. Borrowing costs are at an all-time low. It’s probably a great time. I told Secretary Mnuchin that this is a great time to refinance our bonds, or some of our bonds.
You know, it’s — I mean, the money is pouring into the U.S. like never before and like no other country has ever experienced, including China money. I mean, China money — everybody — they’re all coming into the U.S. So we’ve never had anything like it. I think our economy is very, very good.
Q But if it were to slow down, could you win reelection?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’d be prepared for it. We can do — sure, we can do a lot of things. But if it slowed down, it would be because I have to take on China and some other countries.
Look, you have other countries that are just as bad as China, the way they treat us. You take a look at what’s happening with the European Union; they have barriers, they have tariffs. Take a look at other — I’m not going to mention all the countries because you’ll be surprised. But we’re treated very badly — a lot of them by our allies. We’re treated very badly.
When all of that normalizes, we’ve got a rocket ship. Our country is going to be stronger, by far, than ever before. I mean, if I wanted to make a bad deal and settle on China, the market would go up but it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I’m just not ready to make a deal yet. China would like to make a deal. I’m not ready.
Q Do you have an updated on the Iranian oil tanker in Gibraltar that has (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no update, other than Iran would like to talk also. I have to say “also.” China wants to talk, but Iran would like to talk. They just don’t know quite how to get there.
Look, they’re very proud people, but their economy is crashing. It’s crashing. Inflation is through the roof. They’re doing really badly. They’re not selling oil. Even — I mean, we put the sanctions on. The oil is selling much less — I mean, much less — than we thought. It’s like a trickle. And they very much want to make a deal. They just don’t know how to call because they’re proud people, and I understand that. But I have a feeling that maybe things with Iran could work out, and maybe not.
If you notice, they haven’t taken any of our boats. They haven’t taken our ships. They’ve taken ships, but they haven’t taken our ships, and they better not.
But I will say this: I really think that Iran wants to get there. They have a great potential. I say this about North Korea. North Korea has tremendous potential. Also, Iran has tremendous potential, and we can do something very fast, but they don’t quite know how to begin because they’re proud people. They’re very proud people. But their country is crashing. Their economy is a disaster. They’ve got to do something, so let’s see what happens.
Q What about gun control, Mr. President? Where does that stand?
THE PRESIDENT: So, Congress is working on that. They have bipartisan committees working on background checks and various other things. And we’ll see. I don’t want people to forget that this is a mental health problem. I don’t want them to forget that, because it is. It’s a mental health problem. And as I say — and I said the other night in New Hampshire; we had an incredible evening — I said: It’s the people that pull the trigger. It’s not the gun that pulls the trigger.
So we have a very, very big mental health problem, and Congress is working on various things, and I’ll be looking at it. We’re very much involved. We’re very much involved in looking at what they’re studying.
Q Mr. President, the Dayton shooter had a 100-round-capacity magazine. Would you support banning high-capacity magazines?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re going to look at a whole list of things, and I’ll make a determination then. But I will say, Congress is now, as you know, meeting in a bipartisan way. We’ll see what happens. A lot of things are happening on the gun level. A lot of things are happening.
But you have to remember, also, it’s a big mental — I was talking about mental institutions. They closed so many — like 92 percent — of the mental institutions around this country over the years, for budgetary reasons. These are people that have to be in institutions for help. I’m not talking about as a form of a prison. I’m saying for help. And I think it’s something we have to really look at — the whole concept for mental institutions.
I remember, growing up, we had mental institutions. Then they were closed — in New York, I’m talking about. They were — many of them were closed. A lot of them were closed. And all of those people were put out on the streets. And I said — even as a young guy, I said, “How does that work? That’s not a good thing.” And it’s not a good thing. So I think the concept of mental institution has to be looked at.
Unrelated to that, I believe that the concept also of voter identification has to be looked at, because you can’t have great security for the voter. People that vote, you can’t have that national security unless you’re going to have voter identification. It’s something people have to look at very strongly.
Q Sir, what does that have to do with guns?
Q Can you say who you golfed with, sir, and who else you met with at Bedminster? I know you did a lot of work.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I did. We had a lot of meetings, and the golf was the least of it. I played two days. The golf was the least of it. I don’t care about — look, I like golf; it’s fine. It’s so unimportant to me. Usually, I’ll play with senators, I’ll play with people where it can help. Golf is not important from that standpoint other than it’s a little form of exercise, and that’s not so bad.
Q Sir, on Taiwan, any answer on — or response, rather, on the sale of F-16s to Taiwan?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, there is. I mean, I’ve approved the deal. The deal is approved. Got to be approved by the Senate, but I’ve approved the deal. It’s $8 billion. It’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of jobs. And we know they’re going to use these F-16s responsibly. But we approved the deal. A lot of money. And it’s a great aircraft. And we really believe — or we perhaps wouldn’t have done it — they’re going to use it very responsibly. But it’s tremendous numbers of jobs. It’s $8 billion.
Q And, Mr. President, you brought up voter ID laws in the context of the gun control debate.
THE PRESIDENT: No, no, just — I said, “unrelated.” I wanted to bring that out while I’m here with you. I think voter ID laws are — if you look, voter identification. So when people show up to vote — because, if you look, Judicial Watch made a settlement with California, I guess, or Los Angeles, where they found over a million names that was very problematic — a problem.
And you just take a look at that settlement; that’s a lot of names. You had people that were well over 100 years old that were voting, but we know they’re not around any longer.
So, you have a lot of voter fraud. The way you stop it, the easiest way, is voter identification. We have to go and think about that. I hope Republicans and Democrats can vote, sit down, and work something out on voter ID.
Q But your commission on voter fraud didn’t find any actual fraud. It disbanded.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let the commission — the commission was having a tremendous problem, legally, getting papers from various states like California. They were absolutely hard-lining. They didn’t want to give this commission — it was just a quick commission, headed up by Vice President Pence, to look at voter fraud.
The problem the commission had is we had to have a vast amount of lawyers, which I didn’t want to bother with, because California and other states were giving up no information whatsoever. And the reason they weren’t giving up information is because they were guilty. They were guilty of it. And they know they’re guilty of it. Many, many people voted that shouldn’t have been voting. Some people voted many times. What I’m saying is we need voter identification. We need voter ID.
Q I know it’s not a top priority for you with Greenland, but when you go to Denmark, is this something you’re going to want to talk to them about?
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe. Maybe. I don’t think Denmark has been absolutely set in stone yet, going there. But if I did, I’d certainly talk about it. But not — not top in the list.
Q How much is it worth? How much do you think it’s worth?
THE PRESIDENT: We haven’t gotten there yet. First, we have to find out whether or not they have any interest.
Look, they’re losing almost $700 million carrying it. That’s a lot of money for Denmark. They’re losing a tremendous amount of money. So we’ll see what happens.
Q And I’ve got this — this Fox News poll the other day — I don’t know what to make of polls at this point, but it showed you underwater.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Fox has always given me — I’ll tell you, Fox is a lot different than it used to be, I can tell you that. Juan Williams. Then they have the wonderful woman that gave Hillary Clinton the questions. That was a terrible thing. And all of a sudden, she’s working for Fox. What’s she doing working for Fox? Fox has changed. And my worst polls have always been from Fox. There’s something going on at Fox, I’ll tell you right now. And I’m not happy with it.
Q (Inaudible.) What do you think the change is at Fox?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know what’s happening with Fox, but when they have, like, a Juan Williams, who has never said a positive thing, and yet, when I show up at the Fox building, he’s out there, “Oh, sir, can I have a picture with you? Could I have a picture?” And he was 100 percent nice. I mean, you’ve never asked me for a picture.
Q I have not. Should the Murdochs, sir, change the management at Fox? Or should they bring in new —
THE PRESIDENT: No. No. They have to run it the way they want to run it. But Fox is different. There’s no question about it. And I think they’re making a big mistake, because Fox was treated very badly by the Democrats — very, very badly — having to do with the debates and other things. And I think Fox is making a big mistake. Because, you know, I’m the one that calls the shots on that — on the really big debates. I guess we’re probably planning on three of them.
Q You might not debate, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m very — I’m not happy with Fox. I’m certainly happy — I think Sean Hannity, and Lou Dobbs, and I think Tucker Carlson and Laura and Jesse Watters, and Jeanine. We have a lot of great people. Even Greg Gutfeld; he wasn’t good to me two years ago. Now he sees all I’ve done, and he said, “Would you rather have a great President or a nice guy?” I don’t know, I think I’m a nice guy. But nobody has done in two and a half years what I’ve done. And I say that a lot. And very few people can challenge it.
The first two and a half years, nobody has done what I’ve done in terms of tax cuts, regulation cuts, the military, the vets, the Choice, so many different things. Nobody has done that.
Q Can you clarify what you meant when you said that you don’t want to do business with Huawei? Are you not going to extend this license for 90 days to temporarily allow —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m talking to my people, but ultimately, we don’t want to do business with Huawei for national security reasons.
Q But not even a temporary extension that —
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see what happens. I’m making a decision tomorrow. It could be temporary — could be — and maybe not. But we’re going to make a decision tomorrow.
Q So the — what I was asking about, the Fox poll, that they had you underwater against your main Democratic (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t believe it.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t believe it. Every place I go, we have lines outside. Then we have even phony stuff with that. You guys were in New Hampshire. Maggie was there. You saw, that room was packed. And they had thousand — Maggie — there were thousands of people outside. And then, I see some phony website some wise guys put up. That place was packed.
Q Where do you see that? Where did you see that?
THE PRESIDENT: And the New York Times actually saw that, and actually, there was a massive flag behind — and even the seats behind the flag where you had no view —
Q But there were pictures of empty seats that were on Twitter.
THE PRESIDENT: Because those people came down to be on the floor.
Q Who showed you those pictures? Where did you see those?
THE PRESIDENT: But all of the people — any empty seat, you had the people come down to be on the floor because they were so far away. Plus, you had a big flag.
Look, we had, I think they said, 17,000 people outside that couldn’t get in. The fire marshals close it at a certain level. The arena announced — I don’t know the people at the arena — that I broke Elton John’s record. And then, I have fake news. The fact is that people tend, during a speech that I make, they love to come down to the floor if they’re sitting in the high areas. And they’re not allowed, for fire reasons, to have any more people.
So, that was an amazing evening, and you saw the enthusiasm. But we had a lot of people sitting behind that massive American flag that couldn’t see, so they moved over and they moved down, and they came down to the floor as the speech started.
But Maggie Haberman was very fair. And she was there and she saw the beginning of that speech. Every seat was packed. But then they tend to come down. They do it all the time.
Q But Mitt Romney did his last rally there the night before the election and it was packed.
Q It was.
Q He ended up losing the election, but — so it’s —
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I don’t know. Phil. Phil, what can I tell you? Do I think I’m going to win? Yes. Do I think I have more enthusiasm now than I had before this — you know, the 2016 election? Yes. I think we’re — I think you people do too. And some of you have reported it.
I think there is more enthusiasm for President Trump than there was even for Mr. Trump. Because what I said that I was going to do, I did. The tax cut, the regulation cuts — the biggest in history. In two and a half years, more than — and that’s one of the reasons our jobs are so good, because of the regulation cuts.
Q So, why can’t you tell us whether you talked to President Xi?
THE PRESIDENT: I just don’t want to comment on that
Q Is there a call set up for next week?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can speak to him any time. But he understands how I feel. I just can’t comment as to whether or not I spoke to him. But I will tell you this: We’re having very, very substantive talks with China, and with others, but with China.
Q Did you watch any of the coverage of the Hong Kong protest? Huge numbers of people.
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t believe it. You know, I tell you, I’ve never seen 2 million people. When you talk about crowd size, Maggie, those are serious crowds — the Hong Kong crowds. I mean, when they said 2 million people on the streets, that really looked like 2 million people on the streets.
Q What changed your mind, sir? Because the other day you were saying that it was, sort of, China’s problem and Hong Kong’s problem to figure this out. And why have you moved?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think it would be very hard to deal if they do violence. I mean, if it’s another Tiananmen Square, it’s — I think it’s a very hard thing to do if there’s violence.
And, you know, that — I’m President, but that’s a little beyond me because I think there’d be — you know, I think there’d be tremendous political sentiment not to do something.
So I hope — because I think we’re going to end up doing a very good deal. And I think China, by the way, needs a deal much more than we do. But I really do believe that if this weren’t part of the deal, possibly something would have happened already a long time ago.
Q Do you support the principles of the protestors — the pro-democracy movement?
Q That’s — that’s what I’m asking.
Q Do you think democracy matters?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’ll tell you what I do support: I support liberty. I support democracy. I understand what’s going on very well over there. I’d love to see it worked out in a humane fashion. And I think they have a great chance of doing it.
Look, I put out — and I told you that I really believe — I have a confidence in the — in the talents of President Xi. I think if he met with the protestors, within a very short period of time, they would work something out that’s good for everybody. I really believe that.
He’s a very talented man. I mean, aside from everything, he’s a very talented man. He’s very smart, very talented. And I know him well, probably as well as anybody, And I believe if he sat down with them — now, you know, he’s not — that’s not his deal, sitting down with people. You know, he doesn’t do that. But I think, maybe, the world changes. I really believe if President Xi sat down with representatives of the protestors — and they do have representatives; pretty good representatives, pretty strong representatives. I’ve been watching and seeing them. If he sat down, I think he’d work something out. And I think it would be good for everybody. But it does put pressure on the trade deal. If they do something negative, it puts pressure.
Now, that deal I can sign by myself. It’s structured so I don’t have to go to Congress. But I respect Congress. I respect the views of Congress. And I respect, most importantly, the views of the people of our country. And I think it would be much harder for me to sign a deal if he did something violent in Hong Kong.
Q But do you support cutting $4 billion in foreign aid?
THE PRESIDENT: Are you talking about the —
THE PRESIDENT: — rescission? Yeah. I support many of those things. We’ll negotiate it out. But, you know, I’ve cut back a lot on countries. You know, we give billions of dollars to countries that don’t even like us. And I’ve been cutting that a lot.
We give billions and billions of dollars to countries that don’t like us — don’t like us even a little bit. And I’ve been cutting that. And we just put a package of about 4 billion additional dollars in. And, in some cases — you know, in some cases, I could see it both ways. In some cases, these are countries that we should not be giving to.
Q How do you see that cutting aid to them is helping the United States, though? Does it make us safer? Does it make us wealthier?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so. And if I thought it would, I’d probably do it. But, you know, I cut back $1.3 billion a year to Pakistan. And when I cut it back, I have a better relationship with — as you know, the President came in, and we have a great relationship. Prime Minister came in. We have a great relationship with Pakistan now. He — we had a really good meeting.
So, what happened: I cut back $1.3 billion. We have a better relationship now. I also cut it back on the Palestinians because they speak very badly about our country. So I cut it back on the Palestinians. We were paying $500 billion a year, and now we’re paying nothing. But I think we’re going to get further because I could see opening that up again. I think we’re going to do much better the way I’m doing it. You know, we’re trying to negotiate a peace deal. Everybody said that’s the deal that’s totally impossible. They talk about a deal between the Palestinians and the Israelis as the toughest deal you could possibly do, no matter what deal you’re talking about.
And I stopped payment on $500 million a year, but I think they’re going to make a deal. And I think one of the reasons they’d want to make a deal is because of that. Okay?
Q Are you going to wait until after the Israeli elections to put out your Middle East Peace plan?
THE PRESIDENT: I probably will wait, but we may put out pieces of it. We have some very talented people — as you know, our great ambassador and others. We have some very talented people.
But that’s probably the toughest deal of all — peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians — because they’ve been decades of hate. And it’s tough to make a deal when there’s that much hate.
But I think I’ve helped it very much by saying, “Look, until there’s a deal, we’re not going to pay you anymore.” And other people should have done that long before me. So these are things, when you talk about rescission — and that’s not part of rescission, by the way — but we have a lot of things like that in the rescission.
Q Sir, you’re going — you’re heading back to Washington after a week off. Do you have any thoughts on the Cabinet? Is the Cabinet solid and going to stay in place, or is somebody going to change?
THE PRESIDENT: I think we have a great Cabinet. Yeah, there will always be people changed, because, you know, after — you’re going to be three years now. It’s a long time. They’re under a lot of pressure. And — but I think we have a great Cabinet. I really do. I think our Cabinet is terrific. Some of them will leave for a period of time; they may come back. I mean, the relationship I have is very good with the Cabinet and with others.
But, you know, it’s almost three years now, if you can believe it. Right? And at a certain point of time, people do tend to leave.
Q Are you still considering withdrawing from NAFTA if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t bring up the USMCA on the House floor?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I haven’t said whether or not I would, but I would say NAFTA is one of the worst deals ever made in the history of trade deals.
If you look at NAFTA, and you take a look at what it’s done to our country, thousands of factories closed, millions of jobs. It’s been a one-way street. And the USMCA is a great deal. The unions love it. The farmers love it. Everybody wants it. But it’s up to Nancy Pelosi. If she wants to put it for a vote, she’s going to get overwhelming bipartisan support. And I view that as a bipartisan deal. I would imagine she’d put it up.
There’s an easy thing to do. It will be totally bipartisan, which is good for the Democrats and the Republicans. And everybody wants it. I mean, the unions like it. The unions hated NAFTA, but they love the USMCA. The farmers, above all, love it, especially the American farmers. Our farmers love it more than the other two sides. They love it. So, a lot of good things going.
But we have to see; they have to put it up for a vote. You know, it’s political season, if you haven’t noticed. So they have to put it up for a vote.
Q You talked about some people coming back into the administration. Could Nikki Haley come back into the administration in any role?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, at some point, maybe, if she wanted to. Yeah.
Q Have you been talking to her about that?
THE PRESIDENT: I really haven’t. I’ve been talking to a lot of people.
Q (Inaudible) change on the ticket, would you, Mr. President? This continues to get asked about.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I’m very happy with Mike Pence.
Q You are?
THE PRESIDENT: I think Mike Pence has been an outstanding VP. I think that he’s been incredible in terms of the love that a lot of people — especially if you look at the Evangelicals and so many others, they really have a great respect for our Vice President. And so do I. And so do, I think, most people.
No, I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t be thinking about that. A lot of people — a lot of people, you know, amazingly, they bring different names up. And they brought a lot of different names up.
Q What are the names?
THE PRESIDENT: And that’s — and that’s, by the way — (laughs) — at some point, I’ll let you know — but that’s, by the way, standard. You know, that’s standard. Everybody thought that President Obama was going to change Biden. They all thought that in the, you know, second term, he was going to change it. Everybody thought it. And he didn’t do that.
But, no, I’m very happy with Mike Pence.
Q Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you.
Q Could just be a little clearer on the gun — your gun position? I don’t —
THE PRESIDENT: Which one?
Q Your position on background checks and guns. What would you support exactly?
THE PRESIDENT: So, Congress is looking at it very strongly. Bipartisan. I put in certain parameters, which you somewhat know about. I’m also very, very concerned with the Second Amendment, more so than most Presidents would be. People don’t realize we have very strong background checks right now.
If you go in to buy a gun, you have to sign up. There are a lot of background checks that have been approved over the years. So I’ll have to see what it is.
But Congress is meeting. Bipartisan. A lot of people want to see something happen. But just remember this: Big mental problem, and we do have a lot of background checks right now.
Q But you’re not willing to support universal background checks right now?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not saying anything. I’m saying Congress is going to be reporting back to me with ideas. And they’ll come in from Democrats and Republicans. And I’ll look at it very strongly. But just remember, we already have a lot of background checks. Okay? Thank you.
Q Have you spoken to Wayne LaPierre again, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Say it?
Q Have you spoken to Wayne LaPierre this week at all during your trip?
THE PRESIDENT: I have. Well, I spoke to him a week ago. And, look, I’ve had a great relationship with the NRA, and I will always have a great relationship. I’ve been very good for the NRA.
If you just look — I mean, we have now two Supreme Court justices — great ones. And who would have thought that was going to happen in, you know, long prior to three years?
So, we have two. And equally importantly, we will have, within another 90 days, 179 federal judges. And I say, “Thank you very much, President Obama.” Because he was unable to get them filled. I don’t know what happened to him, but he was unable. So, President Obama did not do his job. And I inherited 138 empty positions. And, honestly, from his standpoint, and the standpoint of where he’s coming from, that shouldn’t have happened.
And we did do one other thing. I saw last night where some people were talking about criminal justice reform — very liberal Democrats. I’m the one that got it done. And I saw that, and I said, “You know, isn’t it a shame? You do something…” — and I’ve had very conservative people wanting it and very liberal people wanting it.
But if you take a look at — if you take a look at that reform package, without Donald Trump, it doesn’t happen. And you know what? I don’t need the credit. I get enough credit. But they never even mention my name. And these were people that were begging me to do it — calling me, begging me like you’ve never seen. And now that criminal justice reform is done — beautiful package, wonderful — they don’t even mention my name. So stupid. So stupid.
Thank you. Thank you.
END TRANSCRIPT 5:09 P.M. EDT
Arrival at White House – South Lawn: