Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters in Morristown, New Jersey
The President. So, tremendous retail numbers were announced today, which really is a great indicator how well our country is doing, how well our economy is doing. Those are real numbers. Walmart announced; others announced. We had some tremendous numbers come out today, which I'm sure you saw. So we're very happy about that. We're doing very well.
The economy is incredible. The consumer—probably above all else, the consumer is doing incredibly.
So go ahead. Any questions?
National Economy/China-U.S. Trade
Q. What actions are you prepared to take to avoid a recession if this yield curve thing is really predictive?
The President. Well, I think we're going to have a very long period of wealth and success. Other countries are doing very poorly. As you know, China is doing very, very poorly. The tariffs have really bitten into China. They haven't bitten into us at all, except for the reporters that want to make it look that way, but they don't understand what's happening.
The tariffs, we've taken in close to $60 billion in tariff money. And the consumer has not paid for them. Now, at some point, they may have to pay something. But they understand that. And who really understands that is our great farmer. The farmers of this country really understand it. They know we had to do something about China, and we're doing something about China.
With that being said, I think we're having very good discussions with China. They very much want to make a deal. We'll see what happens. We had a deal, and they decided not to make it. Now, I think they would like to have had that opportunity again, because I think they really would——
Q. Mr. President——
The President. I think they really missed a great opportunity. I think they feel that they missed a great opportunity. But China very much wants to make a deal. We're talking to them. We'll see what happens.
Representatives Ilhan A. Omar and Rashida H. Tlaib's Planned Travel to Israel
Q. Why did you feel the need to get involved in the two Congresswomen's trip to Israel?
The President. Well, I'm only involved from the standpoint of they are very anti-Jewish and they're very anti-Israel. I think it's disgraceful, the things they've said. You have lists of—and this isn't just a one-line mistake; what they've said about Israel and Jewish people is a horrible thing. And they've become the face of the Democrat Party.
So I did absolutely put out a very strong statement. I think, if you look at their language, if you look at what they've said, if I ever said it, it would be a—it would be a horrible—it would be a horrible month, to put it mildly. So the things that they've said—Omar, Tlaib—what they've said is disgraceful. So I can't imagine why Israel would let them in. But if they want to let them in, they can. But I can't imagine why they would do it.
Q. Are you worried that a prolonged trade war with China will pitch the economy into a recession?
The President. No, I think the longer the trade war goes on, the weaker China gets and the stronger we get. We're taking in massive amounts of money, billions and billions of dollars, Steve [Steve A. Holland, Reuters], as you know. And I think the longer it goes, the stronger we get. I have a feeling it's going to go fairly short. I think it's going to be—China's lost millions of jobs; you saw that reported today. Thousands of companies are closing in China. And I don't know, you know, maybe they want to do this for a year. They'd love to have somebody like Biden, who doesn't know what he's doing. I mean, I just put a clip where he said: "Oh, we want to build up China. We want to build up China." Well, they gave us a very strong China. China has taken out over $500 billion a year for many years from our country. And that's not going to happen anymore.
Q. Sir, just——
Q. How concerned are you—let me just follow up, sorry.
Q. Sure. It's okay.
Political Demonstrations in Hong Kong/President Xi Jinping of China
Q. How concerned are you about a violent crackdown by the Chinese in Hong Kong?
The President. Well, I am concerned. I wouldn't want to see a violent crackdown. I put a little bit of a memo out last night. He's a man I like a lot. I get along with him very well—President Xi.
And I said that I would be willing to bet that if he sat down with the protesters—a group of representative protesters—I'll bet he'd work it out in 15 minutes. I bet he'd work it out very quickly. I know it's not the kind of thing he does, but I think it wouldn't be a bad idea. I really believe if he sat down—they have a certain little leadership pool. If he sat down with that leadership pool, I'll bet he'd work something out very quickly.
It really seems like things that could be worked out pretty easily.
Representatives Ilhan A. Omar and Rashida H. Tlaib's Planned Travel to Israel
Q. Did you speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the Congresswomen coming?
The President. I don't want to comment about who I spoke to, but I think my social media statement pretty well speaks for itself. I feel that they are so anti-Israel, so anti-Jewish. Again, if other people made that statement, there would have been hell to pay. So—but I did speak to people over there.
Q. Sir, China has said that they want to retaliate, that they're going to retaliate because of the tariffs increase that you announced. What's your response to that?
The President. Well, if they did retaliate—which I don't think they will do because we're talking to them and they're offering things that are very good. I don't think they'll retaliate. But if they did, we have the ultimate form of retaliation. I think they'd have very few jobs left in China, because we'd be able to step it up.
Just so you understand, I've been very mild about it, very, very mild. There's a long way I can go. And somebody had to take on what was happening with China. We can't allow China to take out of our country $507 billion every year, not including intellectual property theft and so many other things.
So we're having very good talks with China. I think things will happen, but we'll see.
Q. If they do retaliate, will you want your team to meet with them in September as planned, or no?
The President. Well, that's too—I—look, September, the meeting is still on, as I understand it. But I think, more importantly than September, we're talking by phone, and we're having very productive talks. They would like to do something, I will tell you that.
And the talk we had a few days ago with my two representatives, nobody knew what was on that talk except for myself, China, and those two people. That was a very good conversation.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell/Interest Rates
Q. Do you want Jay Powell to cut interest rates some more?
The President. Jay Powell should be cutting rates because every country all over the world is cutting, and we want to stay sort of even. And I don't mind if we're higher—we're better, we're a better credit—but we're way too high. Jay Powell has made a big mistake. He raised them too fast, and he also quantitative tightened. He did quantitative tightening. That was a big mistake—$50 billion a month. And it put us in a position.
And interestingly, even with normalized interest rates, President Obama was paying nothing. And we have a much better economy.
And you have to look at our economy also from the day after my election, because we picked up tremendous steam the day after the election. That's not attributable to President Obama. They only did that because of us.
So when somebody says "from January 20," it's not from January 20; it's from November 9, the day after the election. We picked up. The fact that I won lifted our economy greatly. And if I didn't win, it would go down. And frankly, if for some reason that happened in the 2020 election, you'll see this economy go down the tubes. I will tell you that right now.
China-U.S. Trade Negotiations/Political Demonstrations in Hong Kong
Q. Mr. President, do you have any idea on when China's going to follow through on their ag purchases and crack down on fentanyl?
The President. They want to follow through very quickly. This was part of the conversation that we had. They had a special representative actually come over and talk to us—a different group—and a message to me, a very strong message to me. They want to start doing that very quickly. I'll be honest, I'm not there yet.
Q. Did you—did you tell Israel to——
The President. It's not China; I'm not there yet. We'll see what happens.
I do want to—I really would like to see China, in a humane way, solve the problem in Hong Kong, humanely solve the problem in Hong Kong. And I think they could do it very quickly. You know, I said yesterday: I really have a lot of confidence in President Xi. I know that if he sat down with their representatives, I have no doubt he would solve that problem quickly.
Representatives Ilhan A. Omar and Rashida H. Tlaib's Planned Travel to Israel
Q. In your conversations with people connected to Israel, did you encourage them to reject the—[inaudible]?
The President. No, I don't encourage or discourage. I think that if Israel allowed them to come in for the normal reasons, other than those reasons, I really believe that it would be a terrible thing for Israel. I think it would show a terrible sign.
They want to do boycotts. They said horrible things about Jewish people. They said horrible things about Israel and Israelis. I think it would be terrible thing, frankly, for Israel to let these two people, who speak so badly about Israel, come in.
And they have become, amazingly, the face of the Democrats. The Democrats don't want to do anything to condemn them. If they were—if this were 10 years ago, or if this were maybe a different time or different people or whatever, they would be condemned for the things they've said. They've said some of the worst things I've ever heard said about Israel. So how can Israel say, "Oh, welcome"? I don't think it would be a good thing for Israel.
Representative Steven A. King
Q. Mr. President, do you think that Steve King needs to resign?
The President. I don't know the situation with Steve King. It looked like—I read a statement that supposedly he made. I haven't been briefed on it, but certainly, it wasn't a very good statement.
Group of Seven Summit in Biarritz, France/Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom/U.K.-U.S. Relations
Q. So you're going to go to the G-7 pretty soon, and I think you're going to meet with Boris Johnson. Are you going to have some sort of declaration about the intent to seal a trade deal with him, with the Britons?
The President. So we're dealing with the U.K. on trade and a trade deal, and we're going to have a great deal made. I've been dealing with Boris Johnson. I just spoke to him yesterday. I'll speak to him again. He and I are very much aligned. We feel very good about each other. I think we'll make a fantastic and big trade deal with the U.K.
Actually, we should do much more business than we're doing with the U.K. You know, it's a—they're probably—I don't want to say our "closest," because I don't want to insult other people, but certainly—or countries—but certainly, they're one of our closest allies anywhere in the world. And we're going to have a fantastic relationship with U.K. And we're going to have a great trade deal with U.K. And that's moving along rapidly.
Q. Any other goals for the G-7, sir?
The President. I think just relationship. We'll see what happens. We have a lot of things to discuss, a lot of things to discuss.
Former 2016 Donald J. Trump Presidential Campaign Manager Corey R. Lewandowski
Q. Is Corey going to announce tonight?
The President. I don't know. Corey Lewandowski, I think, would be terrific if he ran, but I don't know that he's going to run. I spoke to him about it a week ago. Frankly, I think it's something he'd like to do, but I don't know that he's going to do it. I think he'd be very good. He's—he loves New Hampshire. He loves our country. If he did it, I think he'd be very formidable.
Gun Control/Mental Illness/"Make America Great Again" Rally in Manchester, New Hampshire/2016 Presidential Election
Q. What executive actions are you prepared to take on guns? Executive actions on guns, are you prepared——
The President. We're going to look at that very closely, and we're looking at the whole gun situation.
I do want people to remember the words "mental illness." These people are mentally ill and nobody talks about that. But these are mentally ill people, and people have to start thinking about it.
I think we have to start building institutions again because, you know, if you look at the sixties and seventies, so many of these institutions were closed. And the people were just allowed to go onto the streets. And that was a terrible thing for our country. They closed them; cities couldn't afford them and they closed them. I mean, I can tell you: In New York, they closed a lot of them. And the people went out; they went out onto the streets. And it's a terrible thing. But a lot of our conversation has to do with the fact that we have to open up institutions. We can't let these people be on the streets.
So we have a tremendous crowd in New Hampshire. It's—all over the place, everybody is saying, "Wow." Our competitor has virtually no crowd. I don't know what that means. I assume that's a poll of some kind. But I think we're going to do very well in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire should have been won last time, except, we had a lot of people come in at the last moment, which was a rather strange situation. Thousands and thousands of people coming in from locations unknown. But I knew where their location was.
Q. Where, where, where?
The President. But I think we're going to have—I think we're going to have a tremendous success in New Hampshire. These are great people. And the relationship is very good.
Former Governor Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois
Q. Do you still plan to commute the sentence of Blagojevich?
The President. We're looking at it. I feel very badly. I think he was very harshly sentenced, but we're looking at it very strongly. People feel very strongly about that. I floated it, and I wanted to see where the Democrats stood, where the Republicans stood.
People feel very strongly about Rod Blagojevich and his sentence. He's been in there for 7½ years; that's a long time. And what he did was terrible, but it's a long time. It's a long time.
Judicial Appointments/Gun Control/Mental Illness
Q. Are you pushing Mitch McConnell on background checks?
The President. I've been dealing with Mitch McConnell. He's a man who we have had tremendous success with judges and judicial appointments. We're going to be up to 179 Federal judges within the next 2 months. Nobody would have believed that's possible. And that was because President Obama was unable to get them completed. So I inherited about 138 empty seats. Nobody can believe it. And we will have them almost all filled with tremendous judges and tremendously talented, smart people. They'll be filled within 2 months. So I have 179 judges and 2 Supreme Court Justices. That's something that nobody would have ever thought possible.
Q. Yes, but background checks on gun owners——
The President. I want to thank, very much, President Obama for that.
Q. But I was asking about background checks for gun owners, for gun purchasers.
The President. Yeah, we do. I've been speaking to Mitch about that. I've been speaking to everybody about it.
Q. Yes, sir.
The President. And we don't want to see crazy people owning guns. But I also want to remember that mental illness is something nobody wants to talk about. These people are mentally ill, and we have to study that also. Because, you know, it's them; they pull the trigger. The gun doesn't pull the trigger. They pull the trigger. So we have to look very seriously at mental illness, and we're doing that at a level that hasn't been done before. Okay?
Q. Are there other Republicans you're speaking with, Mr. President, besides the Senate Majority Leader and Pat Toomey?
The President. Yes, yes.
Q. Is there anyone else who you're talking to?
The President. I'm speaking to many Republicans. And I'll tell you, it's—it's been pretty—an amazing experience. They want to see something happen. And basically, it's very simple, they don't want to have insane people, dangerous people, really bad people having guns. Republicans agree with me on that, I think, you know, I would say, pretty much uniformly.
Gun Control/Mental Illness
Q. Do you think this will be easy to do when the Senate comes back? Or how—[inaudible].
The President. Well, I'm afraid that if we came up with a good bill, I think the Democrats then might up it and then do things that can't be done and that the public wouldn't want done. I hope that wouldn't happen, but that's happened in the past. You understand.
Q. Do you support universal background checks?
The President. I support strong, meaningful background checks, where people that should not have guns, people that are insane, people that are mentally ill, people that are bad, bad people, like this guy in Philadelphia, who has been arrested numerous times; he's a bad guy—where people like that would not have guns. And frankly, people like that should be locked up. He shouldn't have even been on the streets.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
President Xi Jinping of China/Political Demonstrations in Hong Kong
Q. Did you talk to Xi directly? Was that who you talked to in China?
The President. I will speak to him. We have a call scheduled soon—President Xi. We'll be speaking to him very soon. I really believe he can work it out. I know him well. If he wants to, he can work that out in a very humane fashion. He can work something that everybody is happy. Thank you.
Q. But when do you want to meet him?
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:07 p.m. at Morristown Municipal Airport, prior to boarding Air Force One en route to Manchester, NH. In his remarks, he referred to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer; Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin; Supreme Court Associate Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh; and Maurice Hill, suspected gunman in the Philadelphia, PA, shooting of six police officers on August 14.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks and an Exchange With Reporters in Morristown, New Jersey Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/333791