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Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters During a Meeting With Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Speaker-Designate of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi

December 11, 2018

The President. Okay, thank you very much. It's a great honor to have Nancy Pelosi with us and Chuck Schumer with us. And we've actually worked very hard on a couple of things that are happening. Criminal justice reform—as you know, we've just heard word—got word that Mitch McConnell and the group, we're going to be putting it up for a vote. We have great Democrat support, great Republican support. So criminal justice reform, something that people have been trying to get—how long, Nancy? Many years.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. A long time.

The President. Many, many years. Looks like it's going to be passing, hopefully—famous last words—on a very bipartisan way. And it's really something we're all very proud of. And again, tremendous support from Republicans and tremendous support from Democrats. And I think it's going to get a very good vote. And we'll see soon enough. But it will be up for a vote very shortly. A lot of years they've been waiting for it.

The other thing, the farm bill is moving along nicely. And I guess they'll be voting on Friday or so. But pretty close.

Leader Schumer. Soon. Soon.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Possibly.

The President. And we think the farm bill is in very good shape. A lot of good things are happening with it, and our farmers are well taken care of. And again, that will be quite bipartisan, and it will happen pretty soon.

And then, we have the easy one, the wall. That will be the one that will be the easiest of all. What do you think, Chuck? Maybe not?

Leader Schumer. It's called "funding the Government," Mr. President.

The President. [Laughter] So we're going to see. But I will tell you, the wall will get built. We'll see what happens.

It is not an easy situation, because the Democrats have a different view, I think, than—I can say—the Republicans. We have great Republican support. We don't have Democrat support. But we're going to talk about that now. We're going to see.

One thing that I do have to say is: Tremendous amounts of wall have already been built and a lot of wall. When you include the renovation of existing fences and walls, we've renovated a tremendous amount and we've done a lot of work. In San Diego, we're building new walls right now. And we've—right next to San Diego, we've completed a major section of wall, and it's really worked well.

So a lot of wall has been built. We don't talk about that, but we might as well start, because it's building—it's being built right now, big sections of wall. And we will continue that.

And one way or the other, it's going to get built. I'd like not to see a Government closing, a shutdown. We will see what happens over the next short period of time. But the wall is a very important thing to us.

I might put it a different way. Border security is extremely important, and we have to take care of border security. When you look at what happened with the caravans, with the people, with a lot of—we shut it down; we had no choice. We shut it down. But it could be a lot easier if we had real border security.

I just want to pay my respects to the Border Patrol agents and officers. They've been incredible. The ICE agents and officers, they've been incredible. And very importantly, our military. Our military went in, and they did an incredible job. They have been really, really spectacular.

A lot of the people that wanted to come into the country, and really, they were to come in no matter how they wanted to come in—they were going to come in even a rough way—many of these people are leaving now, and they're going back to their countries: Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and other countries. They're leaving. If you notice, it's getting a lot less crowded in Mexico. And a lot of them are going to stay in Mexico, and the Mexican Government has been working with us very well. So we appreciate that. But they haven't been coming into our country. We can't let people come in that way.

So that's pretty much it. We're going to talk about the wall. I wanted to talk about criminal justice reform, just to let you know how positive that is. I wanted to talk about the farm bill, how positive that is. And I want to talk about the wall. And I will tell you, it's a tough issue, because we are in very opposite sides of—I really think I can say "border security," but certainly the wall.

But the wall will get built. A lot of the wall is built. It's been very effective. I asked for a couple of notes on that. If you look at San Diego, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent once the wall was up. El Paso, illegal traffic dropped 72 percent, then ultimately, 95 percent, once the wall was up. In Tucson, Arizona, illegal traffic dropped 92 percent. Yuma, it dropped—illegal traffic—95 to 96 percent.

I mean—and when I say "dropped," the only reason we even have any percentage where people got through is because they walk and go around areas that aren't built. It dropped virtually a hundred percent in the areas where the wall is. So I mean, it's very effective. If you really want to find out how effective a wall is, just ask Israel: 99.9-percent effective. And our wall will be every bit as good as that, if not better.

So we've done a lot of work on the wall; a lot of wall is built. A lot of people don't know that. A lot of wall is renovated. We have walls that were in very bad condition that are now in A-1, tip-top shape. And frankly, some wall has been reinforced by our military. Our military has done a fantastic job. So the wall will get built, but we may not—we may not have an agreement today. We probably won't. But we have an agreement on other things that are really good.

Nancy, would you like to say something?

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Well, thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity to meet with you so that we can work together in a bipartisan way——

The President. Yes.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——to meet the needs of the American people. I think the American people recognize that we must keep Government open, that a shutdown is not worth anything, and that you should not have a Trump shutdown. You have the White House——

The President. A what? Did you say, "Trump"? Oh, oh.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. A "Trump shutdown." You have the White House——

The President. Oh. I was going to call it a "Pelosi shutdown."

Speaker-designate Pelosi. You have the Senate. You have the House of Representatives. You have the votes. You should pass it right now.

The President. No, we don't have the votes, Nancy, because in the Senate, we need 60 votes, and we don't have it.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. No, no, but in the House, you could bring it up right now, today.

The President. Yes, but I can't—excuse me. But I can't get it passed in the House if it's not going to pass in the Senate. I don't want to waste time.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Well, the fact is, you can get it started that way.

The President. The House we can get passed very easily, and we do.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Okay, then do it. Then do it.

The President. But the problem is the Senate, because we need 10 Democrats to vote, and they won't vote.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. No, no, that's not the point, Mr. President. The point is——

The President. It's sort of the point.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——that there are equities to be weighed. And we are here to have a conversation——

The President. Correct.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——in a careful way. So I don't think we should have a debate in front of the press on this. But the fact is, the Senate—the House Republicans could bring up this bill, if they had the votes, immediately, and set the tone for what you want.

The President. If we thought we were going to get it passed in the Senate, Nancy, we would do it immediately. We would get it passed very easily in the House.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. No, that's not the point. That's not the point.

The President. Nancy, I'd have it passed in 2 seconds. It doesn't matter though, because we can't get it passed in the Senate because we need 10 Democrat votes. That's the problem.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Well, again, let us have our conversation——

The President. That's right.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——then we can meet with the press again. But the fact is, is that legislating—which is what we do——

The President. Right.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——you begin, you make your point, you state your case. That's what the House Republicans could do, if they had the votes. But there are no votes in the House, a majority of votes, for a wall, no matter where you start.

Leader Schumer. That is exactly right. You don't have the votes in the House.

The President. If I needed the votes for the wall in the House, I would have them—in one session, it would be done.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Well, then go do it. Go do it.

The President. It doesn't help, because we need 10 Democrats in the Senate.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. No, don't put it on the Senate.

The President. Of course——

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Put it on the negotiation.

The President. Okay, let me ask you this. Just—and we're doing this in a very friendly manner. It doesn't help for me to take a vote in the House, where I will win easily with the Republicans——

Speaker-designate Pelosi. You will not win.

The President. It doesn't help to take that vote, because I'm not going to get the vote of the Senate.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Well, don't blame it on the Senate, Mr. President.

The President. I need 10 Senators. That's the problem.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Mr. President, you have the White House; you have the Senate.

The President. I have the White House.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. You have the House of Representatives.

The President. The White House is done. And the House would give me the vote if I wanted it. But I can't because I need——

Speaker-designate Pelosi. But you can't——

The President. Nancy, I need 10 votes from Chuck.

Leader Schumer. All right, let me say something here.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Mr. President, let me just say one thing. The fact is, you do not have the votes in the House.

The President. Nancy, I do. And we need border security.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Well, let's take the vote, and we'll find out.

The President. Nancy. Nancy. We need border security. It's very simple.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Of course we do.

The President. We need border security.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. We do.

The President. People are pouring into our country, including terrorists. We have terrorists. We caught 10 terrorists over the last very short period of time. Ten. These are very serious people. Our border agents, all of our law enforcement has been incredible what they've done. But we caught 10 terrorists. These are people that were looking to do harm.

We need the wall. We need—more important than anything, we need border security, of which the wall is just a piece. But it's important.

Chuck, did you want to say something?

Leader Schumer. Yes. Here's what I want to say: We have a lot of disagreements here. The Washington Post today gave you a whole lot of Pinocchios because they say you constantly misstate how much the wall is—how much of the wall is built and how much is there.

But that's not the point here. We have a disagreement about the wall——

The President. Well, the Washington Post—[laughter].

Leader Schumer. ——whether it's effective, or it isn't. Not on border security, but on the wall.

We do not want to shut down the Government. You have called 20 times to shut down the Government. You say, "I want to shut down the Government." We don't. We want to come to an agreement. If we can't come to an agreement, we have solutions that will pass the House and Senate right now and will not shut down the Government. And that's what we're urging you to do. Not threaten to shut down the Government——

The President. Chuck——

Leader Schumer. ——because you——

The President. You don't want to shut down the Government, Chuck.

Leader Schumer. Let me just finish. Because you can't get your way.

The President. Because the last time you shut it down you got killed.

Leader Schumer. Yes. Let me say something, Mr. President. You just say, "My way, or we'll shut down the Government." We have a proposal that Democrats and Republicans will support to do a CR that will not shut down the Government. We urge you to take it.

The President. And if it's not good border security, I won't take it.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. It is good border security.

Leader Schumer. It is very good border security.

The President. And if it's not good border security, I won't take it.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. It's actually what the border security asked for.

Leader Schumer. It's what the border——

The President. Because when you look at these numbers of the effectiveness of our border security, and when you look at the job that we're doing with our military——

Leader Schumer. You just said it is effective.

The President. Can I be—can I tell you something?

Leader Schumer. Yes, you just said it's effective.

The President. Without a wall—these are only areas where you have the walls.

Leader Schumer. We want to do this——

The President. Where you have walls, Chuck, it's effective. Where you don't have walls, it is not effective.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Wait a second. Let's call a halt to this.

Leader Schumer. Yes.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Let's call a halt to this. We've come in here as the first branch of government: Article I, the legislative branch. We're coming in, in good faith, to negotiate with you about how we can keep the Government open.

Leader Schumer. Open.

The President. We're going to keep it open——

Speaker-designate Pelosi. The American——

The President. ——if we have border security.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. If the American——

The President. If we don't have border security, Chuck——

Speaker-designate Pelosi. I'm with you.

The President. ——we're not going to keep it open.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. I'm with you. We are going to have border security.

Leader Schumer. And it's the same border——

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Effective border security.

Leader Schumer. You're bragging about what has been done.

The President. By us.

Leader Schumer. We want to do the same thing we did last year, this year. That's our proposal. If it's good then, it's good now, and it won't shut down the Government.

The President. Chuck, we can build a much bigger section with more money.

Leader Schumer. Let's debate——

Speaker-designate Pelosi. We have taken——

Leader Schumer. Let's debate in private.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. We have taken this conversation——

Leader Schumer. Okay?

The President. Okay.

Leader Schumer. Yes.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——to a place that is devoid, frankly, of fact. And we can dispel that.

The President. We need border security. And I think we all agree that we need border security.

Leader Schumer. Yes, we do.

The President. Is that right?

Leader Schumer. We do.

The President. See? We get along. [Laughter]

Thank you, everybody.

Border Security

Q. [Inaudible]—Mr. President. You say border security and the wall. Can you have border security without the wall? There's a commonality on border security.

The President. No, you need the wall. The wall is a part of border security.

Q. Are you redefining what it means to have border security?

Leader Schumer. Yes.

The President. Yes. We need border security. The wall is a part of border security. You can't have very good border security without the wall, no.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. That's just simply not true. That is a political promise. Border security is a way to effectively honor our responsibilities.

Leader Schumer. And the experts say you can do border security without a wall, which is wasteful and doesn't solve the problem.

The President. It totally solves the problem.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Again, but I don't want to take this——

The President. And it's very important.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Unfortunately, this has spiraled downward from—we came at a place to say, "How do we meet the needs of American people who have needs?" The economy has—people are losing their jobs. The market is in a mood. Our Members are already—[inaudible].

The President. Well, we have the lowest unemployment that we've had in 50 years, in all fairness

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Sixty people of the Republican Party have lost—are losing their offices now because of the transition. People are not—the morale is not——

The President. And we've gained in the Senate. Nancy, we've gained in the Senate.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. The morale——

The President. Excuse me. Did we win the Senate?

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——is not—[inaudible].

The President. We won the Senate.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. When the President brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, he's in real trouble.

The President. I did.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Let me say this.

The President. We did win North Dakota and Indiana.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. This is the most unfortunate thing. We came in here in good faith, and we are entering into this kind of a discussion in the public view.

The President. But it's not bad, Nancy.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Let us—no, but it's——

The President. It's called transparency.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. I know. But it's not transparency when we're not stipulating to a set of facts. And when we wanted to have a debate with you about saying we'd confront some of these facts——

The President. You know what? We need border security.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——without saying to the public, "This isn't true."

The President. That's what we're going to be talking about: border security.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. This isn't true."

The President. If we don't have border security, we'll shut down the Government. This country needs border security.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. We agree with that.

The President. The wall is a part of border security.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. [Inaudible]

The President. Let's have a talk. We're going to get the wall built, and we've done a lot of wall already.

Border Security

Q. Mr. President, how big a part of border security is the wall, sir? Is that the——

The President. It's a big section. It's a big part of it.

Q. Is it everything that you need?

The President. It's a big part of it. We need to have effective border security. We need a wall in certain parts—no, not in all parts—but in certain parts of a 2,000-mile border, we need a wall.

Q. How much money, Mr. President?

The President. We are doing it much under budget. We're actually way under——

Q. [Inaudible]—this conversation.

The President. ——budget on the areas that we've renovated and areas that we've built. I would say if we got——

Border Security

Q. Do you still need the $5 billion?

The President. If we got $5 billion, we could do a tremendous chunk of wall.

Q. Is that mandatory?

Border Security/Potential Federal Government Shutdown

Q. Mr. President, would you accept less though? And are your guests conversely willing to offer more?

The President. Well, we're going to see. We're going to see. Look, we have to have the wall. This isn't a question, this is a national emergency. Drugs are pouring into our country. People with tremendous medical difficulty and medical problems are pouring in, and in many cases, they're—it's contagious. They're pouring into our country. We have to have border security. We have to have a wall as part of border security.

And I don't think we really disagree so much. I also know that, you know, Nancy is in a situation where it's not easy for her to talk right now, and I understand that. And I fully understand that. We're going to have a good discussion, and we're going to see what happens.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Mr. President——

The President. But we have to have border security.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats who just won a big victory.

Leader Schumer. Elections have consequences, Mr. President.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. But let me just say——

The President. That's right. And that's why the country is doing so well.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. Let me say this: What the President is representing in terms of his cards over there are not factual. We have to have to an evidence-based conversation about what does work, what money has been spent, and how effective it is.

This isn't about—this is about the security of our country. We take an oath to protect and defend, and we don't want to have that mischaracterized by anyone. And we are——

The President. I agree with that.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——that we are——

The President. No, no I agree with that.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. ——we are—[inaudible].

So let us have a conversation where we don't have to contradict, in public, the statistics that you put forth, but instead can have a conversation about what would really work and what the American people deserve from us at this uncertain time in their lives, where they have apprehension.

Leader Schumer. The one thing I think we can agree on is, we shouldn't shut down the Government over a dispute. And you want to shut it down. You keep talking about it.

The President. I—no, no, no. The last time, Chuck, you shut it down——

Leader Schumer. No, no, no.

The President. ——and then, you opened it up very quickly.

Leader Schumer. Twenty times. Twenty times.

The President. And I don't want to do what you did. But, Chuck——

Leader Schumer. Twenty times you have called for, "I will shut down the Government if I don't get my wall." None of us have said——

The President. You want to know something?

Leader Schumer. You've said it.

The President. Okay, you want to put that on my——

Leader Schumer. You said it.

The President. I'll take it.

Leader Schumer. Okay, good.

The President. You know what I'll say: Yes, if we don't get what we want, one way or the other—whether it's through you, through a military, through anything you want to call: I will shut down the Government. Absolutely.

Leader Schumer. Okay. Fair enough. We disagree.

The President. And I am proud—and I'll tell you what——

Leader Schumer. We disagree.

The President. I am proud to shut down the Government for border security, Chuck, because the people of this country don't want criminals and people that have lots of problems and drugs pouring into our country. So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it. The last time you shut it down, it didn't work. I will take the mantle of shutting down.

Leader Schumer. Good.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. That is—[inaudible].

The President. And I'm going to shut it down for border security.

Leader Schumer. But we believe you shouldn't shut it down.

The President. Okay. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

Speaker-designate Pelosi. [Inaudible]—shut down the Government.

Potential Successors to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly

Q. Chief of Staff?

Q. Have you picked a Chief of Staff, Mr. President? Are you any closer?

The President. Thank you very much.

Yes, we're interviewing a lot of—we have a lot of great people for Chief of Staff. A lot of people want the job. A lot of people want the job. And I have some great people. A lot of friends of mine want it. A lot of people that Chuck and Nancy know very well want it. I think people you'd like. We have a lot of people that want the job Chief of Staff. So we'll be seeing what happens very soon. We're in no rush. We're in no rush.

Potential Successors to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly

Q. Why? Why no rush, Mr. President?

The President. Why? Because we have a wonderful Chief of Staff right now. I mean—just no—we are in no rush. Over a period of a week or 2, or maybe less, we'll announce who it's going to be. But we have a lot of people that want the position.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thanks.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:40 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters During a Meeting With Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and Speaker-Designate of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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