POTUS was seated behind the Resolute Desk as pool entered, with invited attendees standing behind him. As he spoke, he appeared to be reading from two pages of typed remarks; the second page included some written additions in bold black ink, perhaps the NAFTA comments.
Other administration attendees in the Oval spotted by your pooler: Priebus, Kushner, Bannon, Miller, Navarro. Scavino was snapping photos on his smartphone.
POTUS said that he pledged in his campaign that he would take action on behalf of American workers, which was "one of the primary reasons I'm sitting here today as president."
"Since the day I took office, I have followed through on that promise big league, beginning with our withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership." He said he was proud of that withdrawal, which would have been "another NAFTA disaster."
POTUS described his memorandum as one that "would prioritize the investigation that began yesterday, and really, long before that" the investigation of foreign steel arriving in U.S. markets, and its affect on national security.
"Maintaining the production of American steel is extremely important to our national security and our defense industrial base. Steel is critical to both our economy and our military. This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on foreign countries."
Based on the findings off the report, Secretary Ross will make formal recommendations to the White House "in the very, very near future." He said his action was "the next vital step toward making America strong and prosperous once again."
POTUS then said he wanted to add at the end, "I wasn't going to do this," but referring to his trip to Wisconsin what Canada had done to U.S. dairy farm workers was a "disgrace." "The fact is, NAFTA, whether it's Mexico or Canada, is a disaster for our country. It's a disaster. It's a trading disaster."
"What happened to our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and New York State – we're not going to let it happen. We can't let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they do to our workers and to our farmers."
He said lumber, timber and energy were also included in those abuses. "We're going to have to get to the negotiationg table with Canada very, very quickly," he said.
POTUS then invited some of the attendees to speak. None of the three who did identified themselves except for the last – Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers. Gerard said he had worked with Ross before on steel import issues. "This executive order will give us the tools we need to lure our companies back and our people back to work," he said (check against transcript).
POTUS then added that unions have been working with his administration very closely. He then signed the memorandum, noting its recommendations could come in 30-50 days. "Maybe sooner than that. Statutorilly, we probably want to take a good, strong, hard study."
After signing the memorandum he joked about whom he should give the pen to: "To labor or to steel?" he asked to laughter in the room. "How about we give it to the union for a change, should we do that?" He did so, and just asked: "treat us fairly."
Jeff Mason then asked the question noted in previous report about whether the action would affect dealings with China on North Korea. A follow-up question went unanswered as the room began to applaud the proceedings.
After leaving the Oval and walking alongside the Rose Garden, your pooler couldn't help but note it was a beautiful, crisp spring day.