Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks in a Cabinet Meeting and an Exchange With Reporters

October 17, 2018

The President. Thank you very much. Yes, we'll start off with a prayer for our great Cabinet. And, Ben Carson, would you do the honors? Thank you very much.

[At this point, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Benjamin S. Carson, Sr., said a prayer.]

The President. Thank you very much, Ben. That was very nice. Thank you. It's great to have everybody and have a little meeting. We're going to go over deregulation and some other things. If you'd like to stay, you're certainly entitled to.

Today's Cabinet meeting will focus on my administration's historic and unprecedented effort to remove job-killing regulations. They have been put on our country at a level over the last 15 and 20 years like nobody has ever seen before, more in the last 10 years than we had in every year put together.

We have eliminated more regulations than any administration ever, even though it's substantially less than 2 years that we're here. We're lifting the crushing Federal burdens on farmers, ranchers, factory workers, energy producers, and businesses of all types.

Along with our massive tax cuts and powerful trade policies, which you're seeing every day—the deals we're making are unprecedented, great deals—this regulatory rollback has helped to unleash an economic miracle: Jobless claims are at their lowest level in more than 50 years. African American, Hispanic American, Asian American unemployment rates have all recently achieved their lowest levels ever recorded.

And the economic pictures all throughout the country—literally, no matter what aspect of business, finance, economics you're talking about—we're setting records. There's—I can't think of any category of business where we're not setting records, unless it's negative, in which case we're way, way far away from those records.

The World Economic Forum just announced that the United States has reclaimed its place after a long absence as the world's most competitive economy and country. That's a great thing to have.

We've also ended the war on American energy. We are now the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. And soon, I'll be able to say "by far." We will be, by far, the largest.

We're removing redtape so we can substantially lower the price of health care premiums and prescription drugs. We've come out with health care programs that are incredible, that people are just starting to learn about.

We got rid of the individual mandate in Obamacare, and we're running Obamacare—the remnants of it—better than ever before. The premiums are going up at a much smaller rate. It will end up being over at some point. We had it done, but unfortunately, somebody decided to vote against that at the last moment, even though they campaigned for years saying they were going to do it. But these are the facts of life. But it's of no import, because it's happening anyway. But getting rid of the individual mandate was a very, very powerful thing. We oppose efforts from Democrats to destroy your health care and to raid your Medicare to pay for socialism. And that's what's happening. You'll end up with Venezuela. We totally support people with preexisting conditions. We have a tremendous level of talent, and we're doing a lot of work on preexisting conditions. And Democrats will never be able to pull that off.

I will be asking every Cabinet Secretary to continue identifying and removing every needless, wasteful, and job-killing regulation that remains on the books. And while we've set a record—even though it's a short period of time, we've set a record; no President or administration has cut nearly as much—there are many, many left to do. And it will not hurt safety, it will not hurt health, it will not hurt anything. It will get things moving faster.

We have tremendous potential. Our country has tremendous potential. And a lot of it was held up by exactly what we're talking about.

To stop offshoring and outsourcing, we are also fixing America's horrendous trade deals. You know all about that—the deal with Canada, with Mexico, with South Korea. We're in a position where we're in very good shape with China. China wants to make a deal. And we're just—I'm just saying they're not ready yet. I told them, "You're not ready to make a deal yet." And I don't blame China. I blame the people that were in charge of running our country, for allowing that to happen. China was taking out $500 billion a year and more. And that should never have been allowed to happen.

But likewise, other countries are—at a much smaller level are—everybody does well against the piggy bank. And we're stopping that. We want fairness, and we're going to have fairness.

So the USMCA has turned out to be a deal that's been incredible for our farmers, for our manufacturers, for everybody. It's going through the process now. It's been approved by Mexico, been approved by Canada. And likewise, the deal, as you know, in South Korea was a deal made by the previous administration. It was unacceptable. It was so bad. It was unacceptable. It was a tremendous drag on this country, and we've changed it. And now it's a very good deal for our country.

So that's what we're here. And I think what we'll do is we'll start on the regulation aspect by asking Director Mulvaney to give you an update as to exactly what's going on.

Where is Mick?

Director of the Office of Management and Budget John M. "Mick" Mulvaney. Thanks, Mr. President. I'm just going to give a real quick summary, because I know we're going to hear from individual Cabinet members. I want to give you, sort of, the top line, where we are over the last 2 years.

[Director Mulvaney continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

Across the board, Mr. President, it's probably one of the biggest successes we've had as an administration. It doesn't get the attention it deserves. That's probably understandable. It's just not as glamorous as things like taxes and energy. But getting rid of the small stuff over the course of time makes a big, big difference. I think it's one of the reasons you see—Larry is going to talk later on today about the economic prosperity. This is a big reason for it.

The President. That is true. Right.

Director Mulvaney. So it's been a huge success. The President. That is a big factor. Thank you very much, Mick.

Secretary Zinke, thank you.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan K. Zinke. Thank you, Mr. President. You issued an Executive order in reducing regulation and controlling regulatory costs. The actions the Department of Interior has taken is, we've withdrawn, since 2017, over 150 proposed rulemakings from our regulatory agenda.

[Secretary Zinke continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

In short, Mr. President, unleashing the potential of American energy in all its forms is estimated to be $20 trillion in unrealized wealth and 2.7 million new jobs. I'm proud to say, Mr. President, under your leadership, America will never be held hostage again by any foreign entity for our energy, Mr. President.

The President. Very good. Thank you very much. That's music to my ears. [Laughter]

On transportation—thank you very much, Ryan—I'd like to ask Elaine Chao, who's doing a terrific job. Secretary, please.

Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. Well, the Department of Transportation is hard at work to reduce redtape and overly burdensome regulations: regulations that are duplicative, that don't contribute to safety, that inhibit economic growth and job creation, and also negatively impact the quality of life for all of us.

[Secretary Chao continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

We also want to streamline the permitting for the safe transport of LNGs, which is, again, vital to our country's energy independence, which Secretary Zinke talked about.

So that is my report. Thank you.

The President. That is great. And I think one thing—very important—roadways and highways were taking forever to get approved.

Secretary Chao. Yes.

The President. And we've cut them down many, many years. And ultimately, maybe we'll get down to 1, but we are getting very close to 2. And in some cases, you know many stories where they're 21, 22 years—18 years, 19 years to get just approvals. And in many cases, they don't get approved. After spending tens of millions and hundreds of millions of dollars on the approval process, in many cases, they don't even get approved after so many years.

So we're down to 2 years. We'll very soon be down to 2 years, and maybe we'll even do better than that. And they may not get approved, and that's okay too, but at least you're going to know if it's not going to happen.

Secretary Perdue, Agriculture, please.

Secretary of Agriculture George E. "Sonny" Perdue. Yes, sir, Mr. President. As a businessman, you instinctively knew that the regulations that we had imposed upon our American economy, it just deflated them and created a lack of hope and spirit that just killed the American entrepreneurial spirit. And that's what you did: You talked about tax policy, this deregulatory environment, and the trade policy that you've done.

And agriculture has benefitted from that as well. We—our American citizens own millions and millions of forestland out here with the U.S. Forest Service. We're making forests work again. Over the years, these communities have been depleted and decimated, because we took away their jobs; we wouldn't let them cut their trees. And you've seen what happened; you've talked about the forest fires. Now we are permitting and cleaning up these forests so we will reduce the threat of forest fire, as well as creating jobs in these communities.

We're all——

The President. And we have to do that in California, by the way.

Secretary Perdue. Yes, sir.

The President. California is a mess. We're giving billions and billions of dollars for forest fires in California. There's no reason for those fires to be like they are. They are leaving them dirty. They're—it's a disgraceful thing. Old trees are sitting there rotting and dry. And instead of cleaning it up, they don't touch them; they leave them. And we end up with these massive fires that we're paying hundreds of billions of dollars for—to fix. And the destruction is incredible.

So I think California ought to get their act together and clean up their forests and manage their forests, because it's disgraceful. What's happening should never happen. I go all over the country and I meet with Governors. The first thing they say is, "There's no reason for forest fires like that in California."

So I say to the Governor or whoever is going to be the Governor of California: You'd better get your act together. Because California, we're just not going to continue to pay the kind of money that we're paying because of fires that should never be to the extent—they were telling me in a couple of States; I won't even mention their name—it's like a flash. Some grass will burn; it'll be over in minutes. They'll lose 2 acres, 3 acres at the most. They won't even lose that. And here we are with thousands of acres and billions and billions of dollars. Every year, it's the same thing. Every year.

And they don't want to clean up their forests, because they have environmental problems in cleaning it up. It should be the opposite, because you're going to lose your forests. You're losing them. But it's costing our country hundreds of billions of dollars because of incompetence in California.

So the people—I'm speaking now for the people of California—they don't want to see this happen. They're getting destroyed. And it's hurting our budgets, it's hurting our country, and they'd just better get their act together.

I'm sorry, go ahead.

Secretary Perdue. Director Mulvaney hit on a good point earlier. It's just a myriad of these kind of things that give the public the optimism for this economy that keeps fueling that.

I'll tell you a cute story that you will appreciate it. When you were elected, a childhood friend of mine was telling his granddaughter about that and the USDA, and what we did regarding school lunches. She said, "Good. I hope President Trump can make school lunches great again." [Laughter]

And so—and that's exactly what we're doing. We're not feeding the trash can any longer——

The President. That's right.

Secretary Perdue. ——but we're trusting these professionals to make—— The President. Big difference.

Secretary Perdue. ——nutritious meals for these kids out here that they want to eat.

The President. I hear it's a big difference.

Secretary Perdue. It is a huge difference.

So—and then obviously, another on nutrition: We're empowering able-bodied adults who can work, without small children, to remove these waivers that States are using to bypass the ability to work and provide for self-sufficiency for families in that regard, along with removing and creating entrepreneurial activities over new technology and agriculture.

Thank you, sir.

The President. Great job. Thank you very much.

SBA, deregulation—a woman who has done a fantastic job, and I appreciate it. Linda, please.

Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda E. McMahon. Thank you very much, Mr. President. I want to thank you for your leadership on the economy. You know, you have such a commonsense approach to job creation. The bold approach you've taken toward modernizing the regulatory system has been a priority in this administration from day one, and I'm absolutely convinced the sustained focus on eliminating outdated jobs and stifling regulations has been a major contributor to the economic growth that we're experiencing.

[Administrator McMahon continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

So I know that what we've done here at SBA has occurred many times across many agencies represented in the room. And, Mr. President, I do want to thank you for presiding over an administration that is committed to listening to the men and women who run our small businesses, for giving them the opportunity to start and to grow and expand.

Thank you.

The President. Thank you very much, Linda. Appreciate it.

USMCA—it's new, it's good. It takes the place of NAFTA, which was a total disaster. Thousands of factories and plants closed. The farmers were never treated properly by NAFTA. The USMCA is a whole different ballgame. It opens up Canada. It opens up Mexico for our farmers and for others.

And I'd like to have Bob Lighthizer, who's really worked so hard—24 hours, around the clock—for a long time, many months. Bob, maybe you could give a little briefing, please.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer. Great. Thank you, Mr. President. So after—as you say, after 14 months of tough negotiations and a lot of work, we now have an agreement that is much better than its predecessor, and it's great for America, but also great for Canada and Mexico.

[Ambassador Lighthizer continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

The final thing I would say, in another day—which would be big news, but isn't today because of all things that we're doing—is that we sent the letter yesterday, as you know, to start the process under TPA to have new negotiations with the EU, Japan, and the U.K. That's a process that we started. We did it last year at approximately this time for what was then NAFTA. And we started now on these three. We'll see where it turns out. We're hopeful. We certainly have a very ambitious, protrade, fair-trade, reciprocal-trade agenda.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you very much, Bob. And I have to say that these are countries, in every instance, which had no intention of ever negotiating with the United States. They were not going to. They were very happy with the deals the way they were. Speaking for Mexico, Canada, South Korea—every one of them.

You go to the European Union, they had no intention of renegotiating; now they're renegotiating. And we'll see what happens with that one. They've treated us very harshly for many, many years, taking out tremendous amounts of money over $150 billion a year for many years. And I mean, frankly, it's ridiculous. It's hard to believe that we could've allowed ourselves to be put in a position. And that's why we have debt, and that's why we have tremendous deficits.

And on trade, as an example, almost $800 billion a year has been lost for many years in our country—$800 billion. It's not even a conceivable number.

So we're negotiating. And again, they wouldn't negotiate at the beginning. I said, "That's okay. You don't have to negotiate." I said, "Why aren't you going to negotiate?" "Because we're very happy with our deal. We're extremely happy with our deal." And I said, "But I'm not happy with your deal." And I said, "That's okay. We're going to put tariffs on every product you sell to the United States." And they said, "We would like to negotiate immediately." [Laughter]

And President Obama was unable to get anybody even to go to the table. And that goes for previous administrations also. It's incredible.

And again, China; you could look at Vietnam; you could look at every country—just about every country. Incredible that we allowed this as a country to happen. And it's not going to happen any longer. And that just shows the tremendous potential we have. Because we had these horrible trade deals, we had these horrible military deals, where we paid for everybody's military, or we certainly don't get subsidized or paid back what we should be. And that includes NATO, where we're paying for 90 percent of NATO to protect Europe. And I think it's all fine, but they have to pay.

I got them to put up $44 billion last year. They're going to put up at least that amount this year, maybe more. They should pay for the whole thing right away. But we're paying for NATO. We are paying to protect Europe. And then, on top of that, Europe treats us very badly on trade. So we lose on a double—it's a double whammy, I call it.

So all of that is changing; it's changing rapidly. We're in a very strong negotiating position, because we're the piggybank that everybody wants to rob. And I don't blame China, and I don't blame Europe, and I don't blame anybody. I blame our politicians, and I blame our leaders for allowing this to happen. There was no reason for it.

So we're making up for lost time, and we'll do it properly.

I'd like to have Larry Kudlow speak and maybe talk about where we are with the economy, how good it's doing. It's been setting records despite all of the above. And, Larry, I guess that's why I say the potential is so enormous. Because you look at what happens to us on the military—the massive amounts of money. You look at—we have 716-billion-dollar budgets; Russia has a budget of $68 billion. China has a budget that's just a small fraction of what we spend. It's absolutely ridiculous. And that's because we protect every country in the world practically. And some of these countries are massively wealthy, and they don't pay us for the protection. It's crazy.

So, Larry, please.

National Economic Council Director Lawrence A. Kudlow. Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Mr. Vice President.

So I love to tell stories, and I can tell you the story I told a month or so ago. The biggest story of 2018, in my judgment, is an economic boom—which is growing—where almost everybody said it would be impossible to produce. And the boom is growing.

[Director Kudlow continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

So we're in an economic boom, right? Naysayers said you couldn't do better than 1 to 2 percent. We have done better. A lot of people have talked about the tax cuts. You lower marginal tax rates, you create new incentives. You have basically incentivized the economy, is what you've done. You've given it life, openings, oxygen, everything. This is just so important.

Deregulation, massively important, as everybody said. Started in 2017, continuing now. I think, Linda, that's a big thing for the small businesses.

Administrator McMahon. Yes.

Director Kudlow. No redtape; they're not worried about that stuff anymore. And with the lower tax rates, which also helps small business, you keep more of what you earn. Tax something less, you get more of it. And I think that's why people are going out. I think it was you, when we had the economic summit a couple of week ago—was it you that asked owners to raise their hands? Somebody did.

[Director Kudlow continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

Everybody thought it was impossible; it's possible. Tremendous turnaround. My old boss, Reagan, he used to say, "The best is yet to come." I would say to you, sir, the best is yet to come. It will get even growthier over time. [Laughter]

The President. Thank you, Larry. Thanks. Good job.

Larry, have you done that before? I just asked Larry, has he done that before? I think so. Ben, what do you think? [Laughter]

Secretary Carson. Absolutely.

The President. That was great. But he's never been this optimistic. I've watched Larry for many, many years. I hear that voice—that beautiful voice—I say, "That's Larry." I can tell Larry in my sleep. And I've never seen him more positive than you've been in the last couple of months. And you've done a great job, but I appreciate you doing that.

Director Kudlow. I am grateful for the opportunity, sir.

The President. Thank you very much, Larry. Appreciate it. And I think Larry is going to be very happy with what I'm going to say. I might as well leave the press to say it, because it will put more pressure on all of the people gathered around our table.

I'm going to ask each of you to come back with a 5-percent budget cut from your various departments. Whether it's a Secretary, an Administrator, whatever, I'm going to ask everybody with a 5-percent cut for our next meeting. I think you'll all be able to do it. There may be a special exemption, perhaps. I don't know who that exemption would be. If you can do more than 5—some of you will say, "Hey, I can do much more than 5."

You know, I've heard about the penny plan for 15 years. One penny every year per dollar—one penny every year—after 4 or 5 years, the country is in good shape. I'm saying, let's not do the penny plan, let's do the 5-penny plan. I think you can do it.

So I'd like to have everyone sitting around the table, your incredible domains that you preside over so brilliantly, in some cases. In some cases very well; in some cases brilliantly. I would like you to come back with a 5-percent cut. Get rid of the fat. Get rid of the waste. And I'm sure you can do it. I'm sure everybody at this table can do it. It will have a huge impact.

Last budget, we had to go—because of the military—we had to fix our military. Our military is in the process of being fixed. Planes are being made. Boats are being made. Ships are being made. Missiles, rockets, everything. Our nuclear is being brought to a level that nobody else can even imagine. Pray God, we don't have to use it. But there will be nothing like what we have, and there is nothing like what we have.

And that's why I did that. I made deals with the devil in order to get that done, because we had to improve our military. Our military was depleted. It was in bad shape. Our great people in the military hadn't received a wage increase in more than 10 years. Now they're getting an increase. First time in more than 10 years.

So I wanted to do that and—in order to get that done—because the Democrats won't vote for the military. They don't like the military. They don't like law enforcement. They don't like borders.

You see what's happening with the border, where people are coming up in caravans, and we have to stop them even though the laws are terrible. The laws are terrible. Our laws are terrible. They're a laughingstock all over the world. And we're supposed to stop people with laws that aren't very good, but we'll—we're doing better than anybody else could possibly even think about.

But I'd like you all to come back with a 5-percent cut. And I think if you can do more than that, we will be very happy. There are some people sitting at the table—I'm not going to point you out—but there are some people that can really do substantially more than that. Because now that we have our military taken care of, we have our law enforcement taken care of, we can do things that we really weren't in a position to do when I first came.

So we'll see you at the next meeting. I'll see you many times before. I'm sure I'll speak to all of you during this term. But that's a very, very important request that I'm making of everybody sitting around this table. It's tremendous amounts of money, and it's something that we can do

And I believe we could actually do it easily. So rather than go by the penny plan, we'll call it the nickel plan. At least it will be a 1-year nickel plan. We may do another nickel plan next year too.

Thank you all very much. To the press, thank you very much.

Defense Spending

Q. Mr. President, does that include the Defense Department, sir? The 5-percent cut? The President. We know what the budget—the new budget is for the Defense Department. It will probably be $700 billion. So it's 716; it was 700—716. And that's a very substantial number, but it's defense. It's very important. I mean, to us, without defense, maybe the rest of it doesn't mean very much. [Laughter]

But if you know, it was a $520 [billion; White House correction.] a very short while ago. And the reason I brought it up to 700 and then 716 was to build new ships. We're building new, incredible submarines, the finest in the world. The most powerful in the world, anywhere, ever.

We're doing things that we have never done on this scale. So that included a lot of rebuilding of our military. So despite that, I'm going to keep that at $700 billion—defense. Okay?

Q. Can I ask you a follow-up?

Disappearance of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Q. The Saudis are investigating themselves, essentially. What do you think about calling for——

The President. No, they're just—they're great, very talented people. They're not investigating themselves. They're going to cut costs. These all talented people. They have now been here long enough to be able to do this.

They are—it's a great group around this table. It's a great group. And they'll be able to do it. And when you add this and couple this with what Larry Kudlow said about how well we're doing, I wouldn't—where is Larry?

Director Kudlow. Here he is.

The President. I mean, Larry has to be very happy when he hears this. Because you didn't even expect this, right? Did you expect this, Larry?

Director Kudlow. It's actually happening bigger and faster than I thought. [Laughter]

The President. Yes. I mean, this is part of it. This is all part of it. I just couldn't do it last year because of the fact that we had to do our military. Our military was in really bad shape.

Q. I'm talking about Jamal Khashoggi.

The President. You had planes that couldn't fly. You had military that was really in a ridiculous situation. So that's what we had to do.

So what they're doing is they're doing it themselves. Okay, any other questions?

Q. I'm sorry—[inaudible]—wasn't clear——

Q. What's your take on Muhammad bin Salman?

The President. Steve [Steve A. Holland, Reuters], go ahead.

China-U.S. Trade

Q. Sir, you said that the Chinese want to make a deal, but you told them they're not ready.

The President. I told them they're not ready yet.

Q. What—[inaudible]? The President. No, because they've had—they make too much——

Q. [Inaudible]—make an extension?

The President. We have rebuilt China, just so you understand. Our country has rebuilt China—with their hard work and genius also—but how our country has allowed itself to lose $500 billion a year, and much more than that, is ridiculous—is ridiculous.

So it's hard for them to do a deal because they've had it so good for so long. It's a very hard thing for them to do. But we have a very good relationship with China. We have—I have a great relationship with President Xi. And I think you'll see something happen that going to be good for both countries. Okay?

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it.

Q. Mr. President, what's your take on Muhammad bin Salman?

The President. Thank you. Thank you very much.

Q. Is Lindsey Graham wrong about Muhammad bin Salman?

The President. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:56 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. A reporter referred to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia; and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks in a Cabinet Meeting and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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