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Remarks on Border Security and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for McAllen, Texas

January 10, 2019

The President. Hello, folks. So we're going to Texas. We're going to the border. I just spoke with some of my friends in Arizona. We have tremendous support. The Republicans are extremely united. They all want to see something happen, but they're extremely united. And I don't think I've ever seen unity like this in the Republican Party.

The media—which I call the "opposition party," a lot of the media—in coordination with the Democrats, they're not talking about the Democrats folding. For instance, this morning a number of people came out and said, "You do need very strong border security, and that includes a wall or whatever it is." A number of Democrats said that, but people don't like to report on it.

We have tremendous unity in the Republican Party. It's really a beautiful thing to see. I don't think there will be any breakaway, because they know we need border security and we have to have it. And the only way you're going to have border security—there's only one way: You can have all the technology in the world. I'm a professional at technology. But if you don't have a steel barrier or a wall of some kind—that's strong, powerful—you're going to have human trafficking; you're going to have drugs pouring across the border; you're going to have MS-13 and the gangs coming in.

And we've done record apprehensions. We're doing a great job. But we need help. If we have the wall, we could have far fewer people working, in terms of border security, and doing an even better job. So if we had the wall, we could have a tremendous saving. I really believe the steel barrier or wall would pay for itself every 3 or 4 months and maybe even better than that, in terms of overall. So that's it.

Just a couple of things, because I know the fake news likes to say it. When—during the campaign, I would say, "Mexico is going to pay for it." Obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they're going to write out a check. I said, "They're going to pay for it." They are. They are paying for it with the incredible deal we made, called the United States, Mexico, and Canada, USMCA deal. It's a trade deal. It has to be approved by Congress. It probably will be, other than maybe they even hold that up, because they want to have—you know, they want to do as much harm as they can, only because of the 2020 Presidential election.

So Mexico is paying for the wall indirectly. And when I said Mexico will pay for the wall, in front of thousands and thousands of people, obviously, they're not going to write a check. But they are paying for the wall indirectly, many, many times over, by the really great trade deal we just made. Congress has to approve the deal.

Q. Mr. President——

World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland/Federal Government Shutdown/National Economy

Q. Are you going to go to Davos, or are you going to cancel?

The President. Well, I intended to go and speak in front of the world financial community in Davos. That's still on. But if the shutdown continues—which is in a while from now—but if the shutdown continues, I won't go. I had planned to go. It's been very successful when I went. We have a great story to tell. We have the best job numbers we've ever had, in many ways, certainly with African Americans, with Hispanic, with Asian Americans. And overall, we have the best job numbers in at least 50 years. We have a lot of great things happening. The economy is incredible. We're negotiating and having tremendous success with China. And I find China, frankly, in many ways, to be far more honorable than Cryin' Chuck and Nancy, I really do. I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party.

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Mr. President, did you invite any——

The President's National Emergency Powers

Q. Are you going to have—given how the meeting went yesterday, are you now going to decide to declare a national emergency? Is that your only option left?

The President. I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. The lawyers have so advised me. I'm not prepared to do that yet. But if I have to, I will. I have no doubt about it; I will. I have the absolute right to declare. This was passed by Congress. So when you say, "Was it passed by Congress?" It was. Other Presidents have used it. Some fairly often. I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency. I haven't done it yet. I may do it. If this doesn't work out, probably, I will do it. I would almost say definitely.

Q. How much longer are you willing to negotiate, sir?

Border Security

Q. If it's a true national emergency——

The President. This is a national emergency.

Q. No, no, no. If it's a true national emergency, why haven't you declared a national emergency already?

The President. Because I would like to do the deal through Congress and because it makes sense to do it through Congress. But the easy route for me would have been call a national emergency and do it.

And I will tell you, this is a tremendous crisis at the border. Look at President Obama's statements from the past, numerous statements where he calls it a crisis. This is a crisis. You have human trafficking. You have drugs. You have criminals coming in. You have gangs, MS-13. We're taking them out by the thousand and bringing them back. This is a crisis. And they don't come in at the checkpoint, which they do also, but they go in between the checkpoints, where you don't have any barriers.

Q. Mr. President——

The President. Go ahead. Yes.

Border Security

Q. Mr. President, are you sure—so it's a national emergency. If this doesn't work out, you don't get an agreement, you will do it? Or are you still thinking about it?

The President. If we don't make a deal—I mean, I would say a hundred percent, but I don't want to say a hundred percent, because maybe something else comes up. But if we don't make a deal, I would say it would be very surprising to me that I would not declare a national emergency and just fund it through the various mechanisms.

And by the way, there's more than one mechanism. There's various mechanisms. And the lawyers tell me a hundred percent. It would be nice if we could make a deal. But dealing with these people is ridiculous. I don't know if they know how to make a deal. It's—we need—and I'll tell you what: A lot of Democrats—I was looking at numbers—a lot of Democrats agree, Steve [Steve A. Holland, Reuters], we need national security. And the only way you have it—the only way you have it is—you have to have a strong border. And the only way you have a strong border is, you need a wall, or you need some kind of a steel—go ahead, Gardiner [Gardiner Harris, New York Times].

Q. Mr. President, there are pictures this morning——

The President. You need a—Steve, you need a steel barrier. And if you don't have a steel barrier or a concrete wall, forget it.

Border Security

Q. There are pictures this morning showing a steel barrier wall being sawed straight through. What good is a steel wall if they can saw through it?

The President. Well, that's a wall that was designed by previous administrations. There's nothing that can't be penetrated, but you fix it. But it's a very difficult thing to do. But that's a wall, and they have other walls. We have many walls under consideration. Even concrete—there's acid that can go through concrete. But what you do is you fix it. And it very much limits. It's very, very hard. The wall that we're doing is very, very hard to penetrate.

The President's Meeting With Congressional Leaders/Border Security

Q. Mr. President, you walked out on the Democrats. Are you going to bring them back? How can you get a deal if you're not talking to them?

The President. Well, the news incorrectly reported. Because I said, well, if we go back and everything is peachy-dory, and you say, "We'll talk over 30 days," at the end of 30 days, are you going to give us great border security, which includes a wall or a steel barrier. She said no. I didn't pound on tables. I didn't raise my voice. That was a lie. What you should do is give them Pinocchios. Because if you ask Mike Pence and you ask Kevin McCarthy—you ask anybody in the room, they will say—because I know if I do that, you're going to report it. But you guys report it anyway, because you're fake news.

But let me just tell you something. I very calmly said, "If you're not going to give us strong borders, bye-bye." And I left. I didn't rant. I didn't rave, like you reported. Like, I mean, some of the newspapers—oh, and then Schumer always has his standard line: "He had a temper tantrum." I don't have temper tantrums, I really don't. But it plays to his narrative. But it's a lie.

I very calmly walked out of the room. I didn't smash the table. I should have, but I didn't smash the table. And that's the story.

So with all of that——

Q. But my question——

The President. Wait. All of that narrative is a lie.

The President's Meeting With Congressional Leaders Q. But my question is, how can you get a deal if you're not talking to them? You walked out.

The President. Well, we'll see.

Border Security

Q. Are you going to bring them back?

The President. Let me tell you, I think there's far more pressure on them, because the people of our country want security. We want to be a secure country. We don't want drugs pouring in. Most of our drugs come in through the southern border. And they don't come in through the portals; they come in between the portals where you have no barrier.

Q. Mr. President—[inaudible]—outweigh the fight for the wall?

The President. Say it?

Border Security/Federal Employees

Q. Why does the continued pain that people are feeling all across the country outweigh the fight for the wall?

The President. Well, you know who has more human pain? The parents of people who had children killed by an illegal immigrant that should have never been in the country. You know who has more human pain? The husband that lost a wife, or the wife that lost the husband, to an illegal immigrant that came in five or six times, that shouldn't be here. That's the human pain. And the people that will be paid, but maybe a little bit later, those people, many of them are on my side.

Q. What's your message to them?

The President. They want to see border security.

News Media

Q. What's your message to them? What's your message to those workers?

The President. And by the way, NBC may be the most dishonest reporters of all time.

Q. [Inaudible]—with China?

Q. What's your message to——

The President's Visit to the U.S. Southern Border

Q. [Inaudible]—turn the military into a political photo op for this trip?

The President. I have no idea what they're doing.

Q. But why is military——

The President. Go ahead. Next question.

Q. But why are military——

Border Security

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Quiet. I can't hear you. Q. [Inaudible]—a declaration of national emergency and use the Department of Defense?

The President. We have plenty of funds that if there's a national emergency, there's a lot of funds.

Q. [Inaudible]—a photo op?

The President. If we declare a national emergency, we have a tremendous amount of funds—tremendous—if we want to do that, if we want to go that route. Again, there is no reason why we can't come to a deal. But you have another side that doesn't care about border security. The Democrats—which I've been saying all along—they don't give a damn about crime. They don't care about crime. They don't care about gang members coming in and stabbing people and cutting people up. They don't care about crime.

And if they're not going to care about crime, then I agree: They shouldn't do anything at the border. But I care about crime, and I care about drugs. We're spending a fortune on trying to stop drugs, and they pour in through the border. But I see it more now than ever before. The Democrats don't care about the border, and they don't care about crime.

Q. Did you invite any Democrats on this trip, Mr. President?

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Say it? Say it?

Border Security/News Media

Q. This emergency on the border, this crisis, when did it begin?

The President. Oh, it began a long time. Ask President Obama. Obama used to call it a crisis at the border too. I think he said it in 2014.

Look, look. You can all play cute. And I say 80 percent of you are possibly in coordination with the opposition party. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. All you have to do is look at the borders. Rent a helicopter—except you don't want to know the truth—and watch.

And by the way, here's the story: There is another major caravan forming right now in Honduras. And so far—we're trying to break it up. But so far, it's bigger than anything we've seen. And a drone isn't going to stop it. And a sensor isn't going to stop it. But you know what's going to stop it in its tracks? A nice, powerful wall.

Q. Mr. President, did you invite any Democrats on this trip, Mr. President?

Federal Government Shutdown/Border Security/Democratic Party

Q. Does the buck stop with you over this shutdown?

The President. The buck stops with everybody. They could solve this problem in literally 15 minutes. We could be back. We could have border security. They could stop this problem in 15 minutes if they wanted to. I really believe now that they don't want to. I really believe that. I really believe that they don't care about crime. I really believe this. The Democrats don't care about crime.

They've been taken over by a group of young people who, frankly, in some cases—I've been watching—I actually think they're crazy. But they've been taken over by a group that's so far left. I really don't think they care about crime. And you know, sadly, they're viewing this as the beginning of the 2020 Presidential race, and that's okay with me. But they have been taken over by a group of people that don't care about gangs. They don't care about human trafficking and drugs. They don't care about anything. I'll tell you what, they have gone crazy.

Q. What's your message to the 800,000 workers?

Federal Government Shutdown

Q. How much longer is this shutdown going to last?

The President. We have to get a win, or I'll have to go national security. One or the other.

Q. What about if the courts block it, Mr. President?

The President. Either we're going to win—either we're going to win or make a compromise. I'm okay to making a compromise. Compromise is in my vocabulary very strongly.

So we're either going to have a win, make a compromise—because I think a compromise is a win for everybody—or I will declare a national emergency.

Q. What about if the courts block you, Mr. President? The courts may block you.

The President. Very, very——

The President's National Emergency Powers

Q. What about the courts, Mr. President?

The President. This is a thing that the lawyers tell me is a hundred percent. You just have to read the language.

Q. What about Article I of the Constitution? Article I——

The President. Just read the language.

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. Mr. President, the Special Counsel's final report, do you want that to be made public?

The President. We'll have to see. There's been no collusion whatsoever. We'll have to see.

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. So, on that, Mr. President, did you know that Paul Manafort was sharing polling data from your campaign with the Russians?

The President. No, I didn't know anything about it. Nothing about it.

Q. And would you say, you would have approved that?, Inc., Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President Jeffrey P. Bezos

Q. Mr. President, do you have any reaction to news of Jeff Bezos's divorce and his affairs? [Laughter]

The President. Well, I wish him luck.

Q. That's it?

The President. I wish him luck. It's going to be a beauty.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:32 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House prior to boarding Marine One. In his remarks, he referred to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer; Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi; and House Minority Leader Kevin O, McCarthy. Reporters referred to Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III; and Paul J. Manafort, Jr., former campaign manager, 2016 Donald J. Trump Presidential campaign.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks on Border Security and an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for McAllen, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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