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Interview With Chris Plante of WMAL Radio in Washington, District of Columbia

October 17, 2017

Mr. Plante. The President is now headed over in our direction from across the room. We're being vectored over here so we're standing by for the arrival of the President, who will, hopefully, join us and sit down in just a couple of minutes for a quick interview on the news of the day. And first, of course, he wants to talk about taxes.

Mr. President.

The President. Nice to see you.

Mr. Plante. How are you, sir? Very nice to see you. You know, I sat two tables on Saturday night at the Trump Hotel. We happened to be having dinner at the Trump.

The President. Oh, that's good. I hope I said hello, huh?

Mr. Plante. You, well—you know what, I talked about it the next day on the radio, and what you were doing was the right thing: You were talking to the staff. You were saying hello to the people with the white jackets with the chokers and so on——

The President. Well, that's good. They're doing a great job.

Mr. Plante. ——and thanking all of the—you were thanking all the right people is what you were doing.

The President. Good.

Mr. Plante. Yes.

The President. Absolutely. [Laughter]

Mr. Plante. So thank you for being with us today. I appreciate it very much.

The President. Thank you.

Tax Reform

Mr. Plante. And I know that you're talking about taxes today, and I've just been speaking to some of your staff, some of your people about all of that. Now, what's the one thing, the key thing that the American people and your voters need to know about tax reform?

The President. Well, we're the highest taxed nation in the world. Our companies are leaving, although I've stopped the flow to a large extent, but our companies are leaving because our taxes are so high. So they're going to other countries where they pay much lower taxes. They're firing our workers; everybody is fired. They open up, and then they build product, and they sell it right back into our country.

So we're the highest taxed nation in the world. We'll be one of the lower taxed nations in the world. Not the lowest, but one of the lowest. We'll be highly competitive. You look at China, they're at 15 percent. We're at 35 percent. You look at other countries like Ireland and many other countries are—I mean, they're 8 percent and 10 percent and 12 percent. So we're going from 35 all the way down to 20, which will have a massive impact and keep companies here. I mean, it's going to keep companies here, and companies are going to move back to the United States.

Mr. Plante. Let's light this ride.

The President. And what it really means is jobs, because those companies are going to need people to work, and it's going to be jobs. It's going to be great jobs and great wages.

National Economy

Mr. Plante. Well, and all the predictions from the Obama administration people were that you could never get to 3-percent economic growth, and it took you till the second quarter, and you didn't even own the first quarter.

The President. Yes. [Laughter] We have it. That's right.

Mr. Plante. But the second quarter, boom, we're at 3-percent economic growth.

The President. Three-point-two. And this one would have been even better other than we'll be affected somewhat by the hurricanes. The hurricanes were so massive that we'll have some kind of an impact by the hurricanes. But we're doing even better than we did then.

So you're right, they hadn't hit—as you know, for a full year, they never hit 3 percent. It's the weakest recovery ever by far, and we've already hit 3.2 percent. And we're doing good, but the tax cuts really make us something special.

You know, every point in GDP is $2½ trillion and millions of jobs. But think of it—$2.5 trillion. So one point pays for everything, and I think we're going to have numerous points, not just one point.

U.S. Strategy To Combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Terrorist Organization

Mr. Plante. Well, and there are so many things going on and the world is such a wacky place these days. If I could, I was reading this morning and yesterday that ISIS is being crushed. They're on the run. They're losing their last strongholds even in Syria and in Iraq. Crushed. What is going on with that? Surrendering by the thousands, we're hearing—giving up and running away. Paradise is no longer there. Was that about a change of rules of engagement?

The President. ISIS is being—totally.

Mr. Plante. Was that about Secretary Mattis?

The President. It had to do with the people I put in, and it had to do with rules of engagement. We weren't fighting to win, we were fighting to be politically correct. It had to do with a whole set of things that I did.

I also gave the power to the people on the ground. The White House used to get calls—"Can we do this? Can we do that?"—to places and in places that they had never even heard of. And by the time they got back a week, and 2 and 3 weeks later, there was no fight left, okay? It was ridiculous.

So I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military. I totally changed the attitudes of the military. And they have done a fantastic job. Yes, ISIS is now giving up. They're giving up. They're raising their hands. They're walking off. Nobody has ever seen that before, and that's good.

U.S. Strategy To Combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Terrorist Organization/Afghanistan

Mr. Plante. Why didn't that happen before?

The President. Because you didn't have Trump as your President. I mean, it was a big difference. I mean, there's a big, big difference if you look at the military now, and you look—look at what's going on in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a breeding ground for terrorists. That's why I had to stay in. I would have loved to have gone out, but I had to stay in.

Mr. Plante. Right.

The President. But you see what's going on with Afghanistan. We're making more headway in the last—I changed rules of engagement about a month ago, and we're fighting now to win as opposed to fighting to just stay there. And you know, we were losing. Now we're winning.

So a lot of good things. We have to get rid of the terrorists.

Mr. Plante. Yes, I think almost—almost everyone would agree with that anyway.

The President. Probably not everybody.

Former President Barack Obama/Middle East/North Korea/National Economy

Mr. Plante. Probably not everybody. I remember when you were President-elect, and you came to the White House, and President Obama hosted you, and it was supposed to be a 15-minute meeting, they said, and it went on for considerably longer. And you said that President Obama was very gracious, and I have no doubt that he was——

The President. That's true.

Mr. Plante. ——and all of that. Now, General Kelly, your Chief of Staff, said at the podium the other day that he said—you know, he didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but he said, really, they were left—you, I'm sorry, were left a lot of messes, a lot of things that needed to be cleaned up. And I assume he's talking about everything from Iraq and Syria and Libya and Africa and North Korea and China and domestic issues and economic issues. What kind of messes were—did you find on your plate that took you by surprise when you got here?

The President. So I was left with a big, fat mess. The Middle East, North Korea—so many different problems, so many bad relationships with other countries, an economy that was not doing well, an economy that had the lowest—you know, it was the lowest improvement that anyone has ever seen outside of some very bad times.

We were not doing well. People were leaving, jobs were leaving, and we've turned it around. I've turned much of it around. Now, North Korea continues to be a big problem, and we will handle it. The Middle East is something. It's too bad we ever went there in the first place.

Mr. Plante. Yes.

The President. I wish that they decided not to go. I wish President Obama didn't get out the way he got out, because that's left a vacuum, and ISIS was formed. But we have done some job in the Middle East, and we have done a great job with ISIS in terms of getting rid of vast numbers. We have done more in terms of ISIS, doing what we have to do. It doesn't sound very pleasant, but doing what we have to do. We've done more in 9 months than the previous administration has done, literally, during the entire 8-year period.

News Media/Health Care Reform

Mr. Plante. What surprised you the most in terms of big messes left on your plate when you got here that just, sort of, knocked you back?

The President. Well, I think I've been surprised by a lot of things. And when you say surprised, I know the level of viciousness in the world. I know the level of hate in the world.

I know the level of—actually, dishonesty in the media is one of the things that surprised me the most. I thought after I won, the media would become much more stable and much more honest. They've gone crazy. CNN is a joke. NBC is a total joke. You watch what they report, it bears no relationship to what I'm doing. But the media is absolutely dishonest. And I have never seen—frankly, I've never seen anything quite like it.

But the New York Times, the Washington Post, they write whatever they want to write. You know, they have an agenda. We'll have to figure out what their agenda is, but they do have an agenda. I think that's one of the biggest surprises is the level of dishonesty.

Interestingly, after I won, I said, well, now I'll bet the media starts to shape up and, you know, it's over, so now—and it actually has gotten worse than during the campaign.

Mr. Plante. Yes. What——

The President. What impresses me most is that the people—the voters—they get it. They get it. And I think we're higher now than we've ever been. I think people are loving the job I'm doing. Yesterday you saw what we did with Iran, and you saw what we did with the CSR payments, which were going right into the pockets of the insurance companies. And now we're going to be able to do something very good.

So we're doing a good job.

2018 Congressional Elections/Health Care Reform/Senator John S. McCain III

Mr. Plante. You think you will be in good shape by the midterms?

The President. I think so. I think we'll have a lot done. We need some votes from some of the Republicans that for some reason, they weren't there on health care. They should have been. We thought we had it, but John McCain voted no, which was a shocker.

Mr. Plante. He was taking shots at you again yesterday.

The President. Well, we—it's a shocker, and you know——

Senator John S. McCain III

Mr. Plante. You heard what he said yesterday, Senator McCain?

The President. Yes, well, I hear it. And people have to be careful, because at some point, I fight back. You know, I'm being very nice.

Mr. Plante. Yes. I think that's—[inaudible].

The President. I'm being very, very nice. But at some point, I fight back, and it won't be pretty. Mr. Plante. All right. Mr. President, thank you very much. Getting the wave-off over here from your good people. I appreciate your time very much, sir.

The President. Thank you. Thank you for everything. We really do—we appreciate you very much.

Mr. Plante. Thanks for being here.

The President. You take care of yourself. Thank you.

Mr. Plante. Thank you, Mr. President.

NOTE: The interview began at 10:15 a.m. in the Indian Treaty Room at the White House. In his remarks, Mr. Plante referred to Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis.

Donald J. Trump, Interview With Chris Plante of WMAL Radio in Washington, District of Columbia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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