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Remarks During a Briefing on SOUTHCOM Enhanced Counternarcotics Operations in Doral, Florida

July 10, 2020

The President. Thank you very much. I guess I might begin. It's an honor to be with you and really brave men and women. The job you do is incredible, and the progress that you've made in the last short period of time has been unbelievable.

On April 1 of this year, I announced the launch of a powerful U.S. military law enforcement operation to combat the flow of illegal drugs across the Western Hemisphere. Today I'm pleased to be with Admiral Craig Faller and his team—done an incredible job—at the U.S. Southern Command headquarters to provide an update on this incredible successful effort.

We're joined by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Thank you, Mark. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf. Chad, thank you. Thank you. Commandant of U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz. Admiral. Associate Deputy Attorney General Amanda Liskamm. Thank you. Thank you, Amanda. Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart, who is a friend of mine for a long time. Thank you very much, Mario. Great job you're doing down here. And many, many others: leaders and military geniuses and people that do a fantastic job.

In just 12 weeks, SOUTHCOM's surge operation, conducted with key regional partners, has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests and the interdiction of 120 metric tons—I can only tell you that's a lot—of narcotics, worth billions and billions of dollars. We're determined to keep dangerous drugs out of the country and away from our children. We're securing our seas. We're securing our borders. This is a new operation, not been done before. And this operation has been incredibly successful.

As you know, in the United States, at least before the COVID came to us—the flu, the virus, the China virus, whatever you'd like to call it; it's got many different names—but before it hit, we were doing really well, and we're still doing very well, but now we're getting back on track.

Last year, 70,000 precious American lives were taken because of the poison that cartels bring into our country. Under my administration, drug overdose deaths fell for the first time in nearly 30 years. And they fell fairly substantially. Unfortunately, the shutdowns caused by the China virus have led to a recent rise in overdose deaths, still below the level that they were at. But nevertheless, it went up a little bit.

This is one of the reasons that we're working to safely and responsibly reopen our country, reopen our schools, get our country going again, a hundred percent. We're setting records on jobs; we're setting records on many different things. We're going to have a great third quarter. The third quarter is going to be tremendous numbers. Fourth quarter, likewise. And next year, economically, will be one of the best years we've ever had.

But you'll see the numbers starting to come out really, really high in the third quarter, and you've already seen the record-breaking job numbers. NASDAQ just hit, recently, about 12 record highs—12 days, record highs. And the other markets are right behind it. They'll be hitting records, hopefully, very shortly also. That means people have a lot of confidence in what we're doing.

With the help of the heroes here at SOUTHCOM—Coast Guard, CBP, DEA, and law enforcement—we'll work relentlessly to seize illegal drugs, arrest vile traffickers—the traffickers are truly vile; they're terrible, terrible people what they do, mostly to women and children, but women—and dismantle criminal cartels who are responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of Americans.

I'd like now to introduce Secretary Esper to say a few words. Mark, please.

Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper. Yes, thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you.

Secretary Esper. Thank you very much, sir.

The President. Thank you, Mark.

Secretary Esper. And good afternoon, everyone. It's a pleasure to be here today to discuss the successes of our enhanced counternarcotics operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

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

Together, we will maintain our enhanced presence in the region, keep the pressure on transnational criminal groups, and protect America and our communities from the scourge of illicit drugs.

Thank you.

The President. General, please.

Commander of U.S. Southern Command Admiral Craig S. Faller, USN. Mr. Pres——

The President. Thank you, Admiral.

Commander Faller. Thank you, sir.

Mr. President, Secretary Esper, Secretary Wolf, shipmate Karl Schultz, hometown Congressman here, Mario Díaz-Balart: Thank you all for your support on this important mission. This mission is vital to our homeland defense; it truly is.

[Commander Faller continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

Just wanted to introduce you to two, Mr. President: Brigadier General Juan Carlos Correa, if you'd stand up, General. President Duque has sent us his best and paying for it. So he comes here fully paid by Colombia, and he works for me. And it's a recognition that Colombia was with us in world—in the Korean war, and they're with us today——

The President. That's great.

Secretary Esper. And making a difference.

The President. Say hello.

National Army of Colombia Brigadier General Juan Carlos Correa Consuegra. Thank you, Mr. President.

Commander Faller. And our Brazilian—President Bolsonaro—very new addition to our headquarters: Major General David, one of the sharpest in Brazilian Armed Forces, is in our J5 organization.

Again, Brazilians, paying for him to come here and work for me to make a difference in security. You know, Brazil has been with us since World War II, and our relationship is growing even stronger, Mr. President.

The President. Say hello. Commander Faller. Last two points, Mr. President: The tactical end of this fight—and you remember being in Key West at Joint Interagency Task Force South.

The President. Right.

Commander Faller. You rang that bell——

The President. Right.

Commander Faller.——and the warfighters responsible for that fight, Rear Admiral Doug Fears, at the end, commands JIATF South, and Master Chief Henry Audette is a senior enlisted there. They're the ones that are really, day in and day out, the tactical edge of this fight, sir.

And I'll tell you what, Mr. President: They're ringing the enemy's bell every day, sir.

The President. They seem to be. That's a fantastic job.

Commander Faller. Thank you, sir.

The President. Thank you very much.

Mr. Congressman, would you like to say something? Thank you.

Representative Mario R. Díaz-Balart. Mr. President, nothing prepared, but I can tell you, in my time of Congress, which is now almost 18 years, this region has, frankly, been looked over. Just barely any attention paid to it. And sometimes, when the attention was paid, bad things were done.

I will tell you that your administration has emphasized freedom. I want to thank you, by the way, on a personal note—a little bit of a more parochial note—for your emphasis on helping the people of Venezuela regain their freedom, helping the people of Nicaragua regain their freedom, and your solidarity to the people of Cuba, which has been, frankly, like we've never seen.

But your leadership here, in fighting narcotics coming to the United States, is literally saving American lives. So again, just as one who represents Southern Command, grateful for your emphasis of this command and what they do, but for your leadership and actually saving American lives, those who are victimized every year by this scourge of illicit narcotics. So thank you for being here, but more importantly, thank you for your leadership and your emphasis on those key issues. Thank you, sir.

The President. Well, I want to thank you for your leadership. You have done a fantastic job. You represent the area so well. I know this area quite well, as you can imagine, but I know it very well. "Little Venezuela," we call it. And incredible people. I know the people. And we're going to be fighting for Venezuela. We're going to be fighting from—for our friends from Cuba. They know that we've been doing that, and so many other places. But Cuba and Venezuela, we have it very well under control. And you know what we're doing, and we're in touch all the time. So I want to thank you for your tremendous work.

And maybe I could ask Amanda to say a few words, please.

Director of the Office of Opioid Enforcement and Prevention Efforts and Associate Deputy Attorney General Amanda N. Liskamm. Thank you. I'm honored to be here today with our interagency partners to recognize the incredible work being done to disrupt the flow of drugs to the United States.

[Director Liskamm continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

This is truly a whole-of-Government effort and one we are proud to be a part of. Working together, we can and will interdict these deadly drugs before they reach our country and destroy the cartels who are responsible. Thank you.

The President. Thank you, Amanda. Great job you're doing. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Admiral, please.

Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Karl L. Schultz, USCG. Mr. President, it's an honor to be here with you, and it's an honor to be back at SOUTHCOM. I had the privilege of serving. This is a great team, highly professional, doing tremendous things in the region.

Sir, to the DHS team, to start here, your Coast Guard has been in this game with our DHS partners—CBP Air and Marine, the Homeland Security Investigations office. We've been involved in about 1.8 million pounds of cocaine eradicated here in the last 4 years.

This surge here, with the support of the SecDef and your support of the SOUTHCOM team, sir, has been successful. We integrate in a joint environment remarkably well. We've heard the numbers, so I won't repeat them. But you know, these are transnational criminals, sir, and these are very sophisticated groups. Craig mentioned it's a $90 billion, you know, annual industry that we're disrupting here.

So I'm very excited about being here. The Coast Guard has committed to doubling down our efforts here through the end of the calendar year. We take some risk in other places, but this is righteous work. The numbers on American streets, it's something that's north of 70,000 when you roll in the overdoses, you roll in the drug-related violence. You look at the corruption in the region, sir—this is important work for the Nation. So thank you for your support, and honored to be here.

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

Now, Chad Wolf, maybe you could also mention what's going on in Portland, because we sent you there recently. It was out of control. The locals couldn't handle it, and you people are handling it very nicely—so nicely that the press doesn't want to write about it. But why don't you tell them what you're doing in Portland, and also go into this, please?

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf. Well, thank you, Mr. President. I think what we see in Portland is really a smaller example of what we see around the country regarding some of the civil unrest and the attacks on law enforcement. And what you find in Portland is about 5½ weeks of continued violence against the Federal courthouse there that the Department of Homeland Security protects.

We've had to send in additional individuals. We're making arrests. But there has been violence; there's been assaults on Federal law enforcement officers. And it really just shouldn't occur. We should have more support of the local police there. But again, the Department of Homeland Security, along with the DOJ, FBI, and others are surging resources, and we're starting to make a difference there.

The President. Yes. How many have you arrested?

Acting Secretary Wolf. I believe it's been close to a dozen thus far. And DOJ has charged almost as many as well.

The President. And I know you have it in very good control, but it's a pretty wild group, but you have it in very good control.

Acting Secretary Wolf. Yes, sir.

The President. So we're appreciate it. Local law enforcement has been told not to do too much. That's not the way it's supposed to be, but that's okay. Good job. You've really done a great job.

Acting Secretary Wolf. Thank you. Thank you.

The President. Go ahead, please.

Acting Secretary Wolf. Well, for decades—let me just build on what the Commandant said. For decades, counterdrug operations have really been at the core of both the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security's mission. Year after year, the Coast Guard has stood watch both in the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific.

[Acting Secretary Wolf continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

So again, thank you for your support.

The President. Thank you very much.

Acting Secretary Wolf. And I think actions speak louder than words in this case.

The President. Thank you, Chad.

And the wall is coming along very well. Chad is responsible for supervising that, along with the Army Corps of the—of Engineers, who have been fantastic. And, Mark Esper, that's been really one of your pet projects, and it's been going along.

We're up to 250 miles, and that's real wall. That's a wall that you don't get through. It's tough stuff and built to the highest standard. Built to everything that Border Patrol wanted. They all sat down, and they designed their perfect wall, and then we said, "Let's build it that way." And we're up to 250 miles. By the end of the year, we'll be up to 450 or so, and we'll have it finished very shortly thereafter.

And it's made a tremendous difference, because your numbers on the southern border are very, very small coming through. And especially with COVID—that turned out to be very lucky for us that we had the wall, or we would have been inundated, because they do have some big problems.

I was with a great gentleman, the President of Mexico, 2 days ago. We had a long talk about the southern border and Mexico. And they've had some difficulty, but he's doing a fantastic job as President. But the wall is very exciting, and we'll have that opened relatively very, very shortly.

And that was despite all odds, I would say, Mark. Wouldn't you say? That was despite all odds. We had a certain party that was against it. They're not against it anymore. You know, in the end, they just raised their hand, they said, "We don't want to take this on," because politically, it turned out to be as good as we always knew.

You know, two things never change: walls and wheels. A wheel will never change. You know, they were talking about technology. Technology is no good without the wall. And—but it's something that I've heard for a long time. Two things you will never change, in a thousand years from now: a wheel and a wall. They work. And this wall has really been unbelievable the way it's worked.

So, great job, and let's get it finished.

Acting Secretary Wolf. Yes, sir.

The President. And tremendous numbers on the southern border. Very few people coming in. Appreciate it. And we've made a lot of legal changes too. It makes it a lot easier for you.

Robert, please. National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien. Mr. President, thank you. I want to take folks back to April 1, as the COVID crisis was breaking and all attention was focused on it. The President had the foresight to launch an enhanced operation to disrupt the flow of dangerous drugs to the United States from narcoterrorists. Our adversaries believed that the United States would be distracted. But, Mr. President, you weren't distracted. And I think you remember you sent Secretary Wolf and Admiral Schultz, Secretary Esper, Attorney General Barr, and me out to make the announcement on this operation.

[National Security Adviser O'Brien continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

So, Mr. President, it's an honor to serve with you in this effort. Thank you for all that you're doing, sir.

The President. Thank you very much, Robert.

And, James, please.

Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy James W. Carroll, Jr. President Trump, as your principal drug adviser, thank you for your commitment and your leadership on the drug issue. I echo your thanks to the men and women who wear a uniform, whether it's the military or whether it's our State and local law enforcement partners who are stopping these deadly drugs from entering our country and thus saving American lives.

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

We rely on Admiral Faller, Admiral Schultz, Admiral Fears, and Master Chief Audette as the ones who are out there actually taking the risk, taking the dangers for the American people. We appreciate what you all are doing, and we urge you to continue to be relentless.

Thank you.

The President. Thank you very much.

And, Douglas and Henry, if you'd like to say something, go ahead.

Sector Key West Command Master Chief Petty Officer Henry J. Audette, Jr., USCG. Absolutely.

The President. Would you like to start? Go ahead.

Command Master Chief Audette. Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate the opportunity. I'm proudly serving at JIATF South. And I'll tell you, our workforce is ecstatic about the assets that are coming down into our theater. Our morale is very high.

The President. Good.

Command Master Chief Audette. Our workforce is working relentlessly, as you said, sir, to make sure that we are building our immune system and keeping it good so we can work throughout this COVID crisis. They're doing it through great sacrifice to their families at times, but they do it because they believe in the mission that we're doing. And we want to stop these transnational—[inaudible].

The President. So you're working on your immune system.

Command Master Chief Audette. Yes, sir.

The President. That's an interesting one. Not too many people have heard that one. I like that. What do you do for your immune system? Stay in shape?

Command Master Chief Audette. Absolutely, sir. Working out. Hydrating properly. The President. That's good.

Command Master Chief Audette. And staying safe—[inaudible].

The President. I'm going to have to start doing that, I think. That's a good idea. [Laughter]

Command Master Chief Audette. We're doing it, and we're proud to do it.

The President. That's great. No, that's great.

Command Master Chief Audette. And then, lastly, I'd tell you: Our men and women in the military really appreciate the 3.1-percent pay raise you gave us this year. It means a lot to our men and women who work hard going into harm's way all across the globe.

So thank you so much, sir.

The President. Well, thank you. And, Mario, obviously, you had a good immune system, because you recovered.

Rep. Díaz-Balart. Thank God.

The President. It wasn't pleasant, but you got there, right?

Rep. Díaz-Balart. I don't recommend that as a dietary—[inaudible]. [Laughter]

The President. No, it's not good. But you did a good job.

Rep. Díaz-Balart. And by the way, thank you for your kind, multiple calls while I was—[inaudible].

The President. Absolutely. Well, you've been my friend. Thank you very much, Mario.


Joint Interagency Task Force South Director Rear Admiral Douglas M. Fears, USCG. Sir, thank you for coming down today. As your tactical commander down on the edge of this operation, I've been in this mission space for over 30 years. I've never seen this many resources applied to the problems that are transnational criminal organizations and counternarcotics operations.

So we have, under our roof, 21 different countries represented by their foreign liaison officers. They work—they come to work every day, trying to lean into this problem set.

We've got a whole of Government, from the U.S. Government, with a completely joint force from all the branches of service, as well as all of our interagency partners from all the departments and agencies and beyond what's represented in this room. And so we're just grateful for the opportunity to lean into the problem.

And I can tell you with surety that we're targeting and we're getting after this every single day. So thank you for your time, sir, and the resources.

The President. Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it, Douglas.

And we have the best equipment that we've ever had as a military. We've spent $2½ trillion dollars on our military, and some of it's arriving, some of it's coming in, but much of it's here. So when you say, "the quality of equipment," we definitely have the best equipment we've ever had. We have the best equipment anyone has as a military. We have things under construction that we're going to take a look at, one day soon, where we have missiles that go, I hear, 17 times faster than any other missile and of the normal type, at least. And it's something that nobody has anywhere in the world. Seventeen times faster. So it's a little hard to spot it when it goes that fast, because by the time you spot it, it's gone. But we have things happening that nobody has even thought about. So thank you very much. You've done a fantastic job. You have all done a really fantastic job, and it's an honor to be here.

I want to thank all of the folks behind me too. I don't want to be rude, because you're more important than all of us, right?

But I want to thank you all very much. Great job. Really great job. Great to work with you and you. And say hello. Tell him to get well fast, right? Great man. Thank you very much.

Okay, thank you.

Admiral, it's yours.

Commander Faller. Mr. President, thank you for the time and the attention and the resources. And we're going to stay at this mission. It's a—it's a 24/7. And we are going to take the fight to the enemy. And the leadership here is committed to the American people. We owe it to our—the future. And thank you.

The President. You've done a great job. Thank you very much. Thank you, Admiral. Thank you, Admiral. Appreciate it. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:35 p.m. at U.S. Southern Command headquarters. In his remarks, he referred to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks During a Briefing on SOUTHCOM Enhanced Counternarcotics Operations in Doral, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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