Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks in a Cabinet Meeting and an Exchange With Reporters

February 12, 2019

The President. Hello, everybody. Thank you. Hi, Steve. So maybe we can begin. I'll ask Secretary Wilkie to say grace, please.

[At this point, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie, Jr., said a prayer.]

The President. Thank you very much, Secretary. Beautiful.

Thank you all for being here. Before we begin, we're thinking about certain things that we're just starting to look at. David Bernhardt is, as you know, going through the process of becoming Secretary of Interior, from Acting. He's done a fantastic job. And I think he will continue, and we look forward to that.

We're thinking about doing, on the Fourth of July or thereabouts, a parade, a "Salute to America" parade. It will be a—really, a gathering, as opposed to a parade, I'd guess you'd have to say. Perhaps at the Lincoln Memorial. We're looking at sites. But we're thinking about doing something, which would become, perhaps, a tradition. "Salute to America" on July 4 or July 4 weekend. Somewhere around that area.

And, David, you're taking charge of that, and you'll see how it works out with schedules and everything else. And I think it could be a very exciting day. And the fireworks is there anyway, so we just saved on fireworks. We get free fireworks, because it's already being done. [Laughter] So that's very good.

So good morning, and welcome to our Cabinet meeting. As I said in my State of the Union Address, I'm eager to work with both parties to deliver for all Americans. That's what we have to start doing. There's tremendous and quite unusual attitude on the other side. There's a lot of anger. And they're slipping extremely far left. And we don't want that to happen to our country. So we're working very hard with the other side, and hopefully, positive things can take place.

Since the election, we've created 5.3 million jobs, including more than 300,000 last month alone. Blue-collar jobs have grown at their fastest pace in more than 30 years. And we've added half a million manufacturing jobs. That number is going to very soon be 600,009 because of certain things that are happening. And economic growth has nearly doubled since I took office.

We have a big team over in China right now, and they're working very hard, dealing with the Chinese, who want very much to make a deal. We'll see what happens. But the tariffs are bringing a tremendous amount of money to our Treasury. And as you read, of the 21 points—and actually, the number would be 25 now, on the areas that are taxed at 25. China is paying for 21, and we're paying for 4. So that's pretty good.

But we're bringing billions and billions of dollars into our Treasury right now. We'll see what happens, but they very much want to make a deal. Their economy has been hurt by the tariffs. And our economy is thriving like, really, never before. I mean, we're doing incredibly well.

We have a lot of companies going to be announcing. They've already announced, in some cases—and in many cases, they have announced—they're moving back into the country. They want to be a part of the United States. It's like a miracle in the United States, what's happening. But we have a lot of companies that have left. In many cases, they left our country and they're moving back. And that means a lot of jobs.

Speaking of jobs, we have to have more people coming into our country, because our real number is about 3.6, 3.7. It took a little blip up during the shutdown and went up to 4. And 4—any country would take a 4. But we're about 3.7, probably going lower. We need people. So we want to have people come into our country, but we want to have them come in through a merit system, and we want to have them come in legally. And that's going to be happening. We're doing very well in that regard.

But we have tremendous numbers of companies. And you've been reporting on them. A lot of car companies are coming back to the United States.

We want to keep the job boom going strong, and we must protect our economy. And we have to protect it from any attempts to impose socialism. Socialism does not work too well. And we don't want that as part of our country and as part of our heritage. We just can't have it. Everything would come to an end and rapidly. And then, all of a sudden, you'd see things happening, and you'd say: "What's going on? Whatever happened?"

But we're at a high point today, and we're going to go a lot higher. We have a long way to go, frankly, as far as I'm concerned, especially where we make the good trade deals and make the good military deals.

As an example, as you know, South Korea, we defend them and lose a tremendous amount of money. Billions of dollars a year defending them. They agreed, at my request—and working with Secretary Pompeo and John Bolton—they agreed to pay, yesterday, $500 million more toward their defense. Five-hundred million, with a couple of phone calls. I said, "Why didn't you do this before?" They said, "Nobody asked." So it's got to go up. It's got to go up.

Right now it costs us $5 billion a year to defend. As an example, South Korea—we have a great relationship and with President Moon. And we're doing great things. And North Korea is coming along. South Korea is just an example. But South Korea is costing us $5 billion a year. And they pay—they were paying about $500 million for $5 billion worth of protection. And we have to do better than that. So they've agreed to pay $500 million more. And over the years, it will start going up, and they will be terrific. And they've been very good.

We've had a really strong—we made a new trade deal with South Korea. And the same thing will go with Japan. And the same thing will go with Saudi Arabia and many others. I mean, we protect Saudi Arabia. They've got nothing but cash. And we protect them with great subsidy. We give Saudi Arabia subsidy. It should be the other way around, as far as I'm concerned, right?

So a lot of things are happening. And all of this inures to the strength of our country and to our economy. And so we're looking forward to seeing that.

The Mexico deal—as you know, Mexico-slash-Canada trade deal, the USMCA is a tremendous deal. But one of the things—because NAFTA was one of the worst deals in the history of this country ever signed. It cleaned out our jobs and our company. It was just a terrible, terrible thing that we signed NAFTA.

So this is the NAFTA replacement. It has nothing to do with NAFTA. And one of the things that make it very hard—it's very hard for a company, financially, to leave our country, under the USMCA. Very, very prohibitive to leave. And that was the thing I wanted more than any other element. I said, "I don't want these companies going and leaving and going to Mexico and Canada." They've got their own companies. I don't want to do that. We lost tremendous—we lost 25 percent of our automobile industry to Mexico. We lost 30 percent to a combination of both Canada and Mexico.

So that's wielding its way through, and I guess it's hitting Congress very shortly, and we'll see how that does. But that's a great deal. And it's a very labor-friendly deal. It's a deal that the workers of our country will love.

One in three women, as you know, are sexually assaulted on the long journey north. We want to stop that. We want to stop those journeys. The way you do that is with barrier security, a wall. And we're making a lot of progress. In fact, I noticed yesterday, when I got to El Paso, they had signs, "Finish the Wall," instead of "Build the Wall." Because we're doing a lot of wall right now. Just started a big portion of the wall in the Rio Grande Valley, which is now the biggest area for people coming in. We've sealed up a lot of the areas where people come in.

But they're looking for the soft spots, and they come up in a caravan, and they look for the areas without any barrier. And that's where they like to come in. And we grab them, and it's a very tough situation.

And we could save billions and billions of dollars in cost and hundreds of billions of dollars in drugs and what they're doing to us with drugs. And so much of it comes through. And don't believe people when they say it all comes through the portals; it doesn't—the ports of entry. It comes through—the big loads come through the border, where you don't have wall, where they can drive a truck, a big truck, loaded up with drugs or loaded up with, as they call it, "human cargo." Human cargo. These are traffickers. These are the worst people on Earth. And they don't come through the ports of entry with people in the back of a car tied up. Could never do that. They come through areas where there's no barrier.

So we'll see what happens. I got reports last night, when I was going out to speak. We had, by the way, a massive crowd. And my competitor had very few people, but the press didn't report it that way. The press reported it like two speeches. We had a competitor that decided to challenge me with the crowds. And he failed very badly. From what I hear, he had less than a thousand people. And we had a packed arena, and we had probably 25,000 people outside of the arena. It was an incredible night in Texas, I can tell you that. It was really amazing.

But as I'm going on stage to speak, they're telling me about, the committee came out with a deal. And you know, they went over it very briefly. Then, I went over it briefly last night, but it was 3 o'clock in the morning. And I can't say I'm happy. I can't say I'm thrilled. But the wall is getting built, regardless. It doesn't matter, because we're doing other things beyond what we're talking about here. So we'll see what happens.

We're having a meeting on it later. It's really obstruction. The Democrats want everybody to be able to come into our country. We have many criminals. When you look at the numbers of criminals that are nabbed—I mean, I'm looking at numbers that are incredible. This card was just given to me by Secretary Nielsen. And—assaults: 99,000 assaults. Larceny: 40,000. Burglary: 25,000. Fraudulent activities: 25,000. Damage and stolen property: 17,000. Sex offenses: 13,552. Sexual assaults: 10,468. That's sexual assaults on people that live in our country by people that are coming illegally across our borders. In many cases, people that have come before I became President. What happens is, we are working very hard. We're getting rid of tremendous numbers of MS-13. And the Democrats don't like us to get rid of MS-13. Now, you figure that one out. These are violent people, and they don't like us to get rid of MS-13.

So robberies: 11,177. Kidnappings: 4,112. Murders: 3,914. Okay? So these are people that ICE is dealing with, and nobody can deal with them more effectively. There's probably no group in this country that does so much and gets, really, so little respect or love as ICE. It's really a terrible thing. They're doing an incredible job.

One other thing I might want to say is that anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress. And Congressman Omar is terrible, what she said. And I think she should either resign from Congress, or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. What she said is so deep seated in her heart that her lame apology—and that's what it was; it was lame, and she didn't mean a word of it—was just not appropriate. I think she should resign from Congress, frankly. But at a minimum, she shouldn't be on committees and certainly that committee.

And with that, we're going to have a meeting. Our Cabinet is doing really well. I'll tell you, we're doing great. Our country is doing great. The stock market is up tremendously today. Of course, I haven't seen it in 15 minutes, so you know. [Laughter] Anything is—Larry Kudlow, anything is subject to change, right? But so far, so good. And we're hitting new records with growth. We're hitting new records with the economy. We've hit many new records on unemployment.

More people working today in the United States than at any time in the history of our country. We're getting very close to 160 million people. And we've never had anything like that, which tells you that we have to have people come into our country, great people, from the areas that we're talking about. But we want them to be productive, and they—we want people that are going to love our country and help our country.

So I want to thank our Cabinet. The Cabinet is doing a fantastic job. Really, unsung job. Because members of this Cabinet, there are those people that say this is one of the best Cabinets this country has ever had. I happen to agree. I happen to agree. We have great, great people in our Cabinet. And I want to thank you all very much for doing a fantastic job. Thank you very much.

And, Matt, I guess, maybe at some point there will be a vote, and——

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker. Thursday, we hear. Thursday we hear.

The President. ——maybe at some point you won't be doing what you're doing. Come here. I think you've done—you've taken a tremendous amount of abuse. You handled yourself incredibly last Friday.

Acting Attorney General Whitaker. Thank you.

The President. But on behalf of all of us, I want to thank you very much. Matt Whitaker. [Applause] Thank you, Matt. It's heartfelt too, believe me.

Okay, thank you all very much.

Border Security

Q. Sir, will you sign Congress's border deal? The President. I have to study it. I'm not happy about it. It's not doing the trick. But I'm adding things to it. And when you add whatever I have to add, it's all going to happen where we're going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall that's not going to let criminals and traffickers and drug dealers and drugs into our country. It's very simple. It's very simple.

We're building a wall. And now I'm saying we're finishing a wall. We just started a big, big section on the Rio Grande. And you probably saw it. Some of you were there when they started. You went there; you didn't believe it. You went there; you see trucks all over the place. You said, "Hey, he's not kidding." I don't kid. I never kid about construction. I love construction. [Laughter] And I know how to do it for the right price. And we're getting a beautiful-looking structure that's also less expensive to build and works much better. That's a good combination of events, because it was crazy what they were putting up.

In fact, I happen to think that the walls that they were building were so unattractive and so ugly that walls got bad names. Okay? If that means anything. But they were so ugly, with rusted steel and big ugly plates on top that were all tin-canned. It's called tin-canned, where they're wavy, because the heat makes them expand and contract, and they tin-can.

I said, "Why didn't you paint the steel?" "Well, sir, we save money by not painting." And I said: "Yes, but it's going to rust. You have to paint." I've never seen—I've ordered a lot of steel—I've never seen, in my whole life, steel come to me that was unpainted. This can only happen at the border. It wasn't me; it was our past geniuses.

So I can tell you that, am I happy at first glance? I just got to see it. The answer is no, I'm not. I'm not happy. But am I happy with where we're going? I'm thrilled, because we're supplementing things and moving things around. And we're doing things that are fantastic and taking from far less—really, from far less—important areas. And the bottom line is, we're building a lot of wall. Right now we're building a lot of wall.

And you think it's easy? We're building in the face of tremendous obstruction and tremendous opposition from a small group of people. Now, one thing that happened that was, I think, very revealing: We had the biggest and best border agents and experts come up and see the committee. And they said, more than anything else: "You need a barrier. You need a wall." And the recommendation was unacceptable to the committee. So that tells you more than anything else.

Potential Federal Government Shutdown/Border Security

Q. Mr. President, are ruling out the possibility of a Government shutdown?

Q. Do you really want to go through another shutdown?

The President. I don't think you're going to see a shutdown. I wouldn't want to go to it, no. If you did have it, it's the Democrats' fault. And I accepted the first one, and I'm proud of what we've accomplished, because people learned during that shutdown all about the problems coming in from the southern border. I accept—I've always accepted it.

But this one I would never accept if it happens, but I don't think it's going to happen. But this would be totally on the Democrats. Okay?

Q. So, Mr. President, are you saying that you may amend and send back the proposed compromise or that you may grudgingly accept it and then move forward with executive action? The President. It's always nice to negotiate a little bit, right? So you know, whatever you get. But I would hope that there won't be a shutdown. I am extremely unhappy with what the Democrats have given us. It's sad. It's sad. They're doing the country no favor. They are hurting our country very badly. But we certainly don't want to see a shutdown. But you'll be hearing fairly soon.

The bottom line is, on the wall: We're building the wall. And we're using other methods, other than this and in addition to this. We have a lot of things going. We have a lot of money in this country, and we're using some of that money—a small percentage of that money—to build the wall, which we desperately need.

China-U.S. Trade

Q. Mr. President, sir, do you have plans to meet with President Xi at the end of March?

The President. Not at this moment. We have our people over there now. I just got a report. Things are going well with China. China wants to make a deal very badly. I want it to be a real deal, not just a deal that makes—you know, cosmetically looks good for a year. We have a chance to really make a deal—a real deal with China. We've never been in this position before. We've always been the lame duck. And we're not the lame duck anymore. And we've gone up tremendously in value as a country, in economic value. Tremendously.

Larry, we've gone up what, $11 trillion, $14 trillion? And China has gone down close to $20 trillion since we've started this whole——

National Economic Council Director Lawrence A. Kudlow. Worst performing stock market in the world.

The President. Say it?

Director Kudlow. China, worst performing stock market in the world.

The President. Has anybody ever heard of Larry Kudlow? [Laughter] That voice. I hear that voice, and you think money. Right, Larry? [Laughter]

Director Kudlow. Thank you, sir.

The President. So I didn't even know that. That's so—China, he said, has the worst performing stock market right now in the world. And we don't want that. We want China to do—but—and that's because of us. And we're—have to be one of the best performing stock markets, but we are the best performing country, and we have a lot of potential for further growth.

So we're doing very well over in China. Our people are there. You know the people very well. And I think we're going to have some good answers. I think, either way, I'm happy. I'm happy either way. I could live receiving billions and billions of dollars a month from China. China never gave us 10 cents. It was always the opposite way. Now they're paying billions of dollars a month for the privilege of coming into the United States and, honestly, taking advantage of our country. So we'll see how it works out.

But at some point, I expect to meet with President Xi—who I have a lot of respect for and like a lot—and make the parts of the deal that the group is unable to make. That's the way deals happen.

China-U.S. Trade Q. But will the March 1 deadline slide, do you think?

The President. Well, thus far, I've said—as you know, the tariffs tick up for us. In other words, we take in much more money, because the tariff—and there's nothing they can do that's comparable, so it's not like tit for tat. The tariffs kick in; they go up.

Right now they're paying—they're paying 25 percent on $50 billion. Okay? And they are paying 10 percent on $200 billion. So we have $250 billion. We have $267 billion that we were very nice about, and we're not taxing. On the $200 billion, we're paying the 10 percent. The 10 percent on $200 billion goes up to 25 percent on March 1. And so far, I've said don't do that.

Now, if we're close to a deal where we think we can make a real deal, and it's going to get done, I could see myself letting that slide for a little while. But generally speaking, I'm not inclined to do that. Okay?

Q. Sir, were you aware——

The President's National Emergency Powers

Q. Mr. President, where do you stand on declaring a national emergency for the wall?

Q. If Congress sends you a deal that you disagree with, would you consider declaring a national emergency to build the wall?

The President. I consider everything. I'm considering everything. You know, we already have national emergencies out there. You know, President Obama, President Clinton, President Bush—they've declared many national—this is not unique. They've declared many national emergencies. Many, many. And you have some out there that we can use in addition to one that we can declare if we want to do it.

Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President—[inaudible]—President Cuomo—Governor Cuomo? Governor Cuomo?

American Media, Inc./ President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of the Board Jeffrey P. Bezos

Q. Sir, were you aware that AMI was investigating Jeff Bezos?

The President. No. No, I wasn't.

Q. Governor Cuomo, and the tax——

Q. Should the Mueller report be made public, sir?

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:54 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to National Security Adviser John R. Bolton; and 2018 Texas Democratic senatorial candidate former Rep. Robert F. "Beto" O'Rourke. Reporters referred to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York; and Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

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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