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Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters

September 29, 2017

Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price/Hurricane Maria Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico

Q. Mr. President, are you going to take any action on Mr. Price?

The President. We'll see what happens. We'll see what happens.

Q. How long should we wait? How long?

Q. Mr. President, what about your other Cabinet members? Did you order a review?

The President. No, we'll see. I mean, we have—he's a very fine man, but we're going to make a decision sometime tonight. He's a very, very fine man.

As far as Puerto Rico is concerned, that's been going, as you know, really well. It's been total devastation. We have over 10,000 people in Puerto Rico right now. We're getting truck drivers, because the people from Puerto Rico—the drivers just aren't there. They're looking for their homes. They have a lot of other problems. Likewise with the police force.

But I think it's going really well, considering. Rick Scott was just up—the Governor of Florida—that's been a success. Rick is going to get involved, also, with Puerto Rico. And we've made tremendous strides. Very, very tough situation.

And a big question is, what happens? We have to rebuild—I mean, if you look at it, the electric is gone, the roads are gone, the telecommunications is gone. It's all gone. And the real question is, what's going to happen later? It's a tough situation. The loss of life, it's always tragic. But it's been an incredible—the results that we've had with respect to loss of life. People can't believe how successful that has been, relatively speaking.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. I can't hear you, John [John Roberts, Fox News]. Go ahead.

Hurricane Maria Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico

Q. What do you say about the criticism of some officials in Puerto Rico—mayor of San Juan have leveled at—[inaudible]—getting the equipment there, was really insulting?

The President. Well, I'll tell you, the Governor of Puerto Rico has been unbelievably generous with his statements. I mean, he's been praising our efforts. And this is a very difficult—this is a total devastation. When you look at Texas and when you look at Florida, it's a whole different level. Nobody has ever seen when you have a category 5 wipe out an island like this. Because you have nothing—you don't have the roads; you don't have anything. And you don't have the people even to operate the equipment.

That's why we have literally hundreds of truck drivers being brought into the island to operate the trucks, because those people have lost their homes so they're unable to do it. And the police have lost their homes so they're unable to do it. So it's a tough situation.

John. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine C. Duke/Hurricane Maria Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico

Q. But, Mr. President, was Elaine Duke wrong to say that Puerto Rico was a "good news story"?

The President. Well, I haven't heard what she said. I can tell you this: We have done an incredible job considering there's absolutely nothing to work with. And a very big question is: What are we going to do with the power plant? Because the power plant has been wiped out. It's not like, let's go back and fix it. That's what I do; I'm a good construction guy. You don't go back and fix it; there is nothing. The power grid is gone.

So we have a lot of big decisions, and you're talking about—the dollars that you're talking about are really tremendous. And I'll be talking with the Democrats, and we'll be talking to Congress, about what we're going to do a little bit longer term. In the meantime, we've saved a lot of lives, we've done a really good job, and now we're bringing the people for distribution.


Q. Mr. President, in Cuba, do you want to shut down the Embassy? [Inaudible]—acoustic attacks on diplomats in Cuba?

The President. In Cuba?

Q. Cuba.

The President. Well, you know the problem we've had in Cuba—and we'll be coming out with something—but there was a big problem in Cuba. So we'll be announcing that fairly soon, fairly soon.

Q. Mr. President, what about the private e-mails on your staff?

Hurricane Maria Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico/Debt Relief for Puerto Rico

Q. Mr. President, would you make Puerto Rico whole again?

The President. Well, we're looking at Puerto Rico. That's a very, very big thing you're talking about. We're spending hundreds of millions of dollars right now. It's a Territory, and these are great people. I know the people very well. These are great people, but you know, there's a massive investment. You are rebuilding all of it.

At some point, as you know, there is hundreds of millions—there's a tremendous amount of money already invested in Puerto Rico by others before the storms. And that money has been in serious trouble. So now on top of it—a lot of other money—so a lot of the—look, a decision has to be made. What are you going to do?

Puerto Rico was flattened, and a big decision comes as to what are we going to do. But I'm there to help, I can tell you that.

Cabinet Members' Travel Arrangements/Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price

Q. Mr. President, will we learn about Price tonight?

Q. You have an internal investigation into the private e-mails of your staff? Can you brief us a little bit on how that goes? The President. Well, we have great Secretaries, and we have some that actually own their own planes, as you know, and that solves that.

But we put in an order that—no more planes. If you look at past administrations—for instance, if you look at the Obama administration and you take a look at the amount of time that they spent in the air, they spent a lot of time in the air.

Q. I was actually asking about——

The President. But I felt very badly because Secretary Price is a good man, but we are looking into it, and we're looking into it very strongly.

Q. Is he paying enough—$52,000?

Q. Is what he did a fireable offense? Do you consider it a fireable offense?

The President. Well, we'll take a look. I'll be announcing something in the pretty near future.

Cabinet Members' Travel Arrangements/Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price

Q. Mr. President, what about tonight's decision? How will you make it on whether to fire Tom Price? How disappointed in your Cabinet members for their travel?

The President. I have a great Cabinet. And we save hundreds of millions of dollars through negotiation. I'll give you an example. With the F-35 fighter plane—me, myself—I've saved hundreds of millions of dollars in negotiating. And that's one of the reasons I don't like seeing anybody even have a question about, you know, flying. I just don't want to do that.

We've saving tremendous amounts of money no matter where we go. If you look at what we've done in Florida or Texas, we've done that for relatively little compared to what other people—so I don't like to see that happen. And I think it's a shame, because as a human being, Tom Price is very good man, I can tell you.

Q. The visit to Puerto Rico, Mr. President, Tuesday, will that be—[inaudible]?

The President. Jon [Jonathan Karl, ABC News].

Cabinet Members' Travel Arrangements

Q. [Inaudible]—supposed to be paying back $52,000 of the plane's cost——

The President. Well, that's unacceptable to me.

Q. Is that enough?

The President. No, that's—no, that would be unacceptable.

Q. Mr. President, the visit Tuesday——

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

Federal Reserve Board

Q. How is your quest for a Fed Chairman going? We understand you're meeting with a couple of people.

The President. I've had four meetings for Fed Chairman, and I'll be making a decision over the next 2 or 3 weeks. Q. What about the use of private e-mails on your staff?

Q. [Inaudible]—Puerto Rico on Tuesday? Sir?

The President. What?

Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency

Q. Where are you in the search for your new Homeland Security Secretary?

The President. We are—well, first of all, we've—you know, Brock has done a fantastic job at FEMA, and Elaine Duke is Acting, and she's working very hard. And I think what FEMA has done has been incredible between all of these hurricanes and doing so well. But we'll be making that decision probably within a month.

Q. Homeland?

The President. Homeland Security, yes.

National Football League National Anthem Controversy

Q. You said you spoke to Jerry Jones, the owner of the Cowboys and other owners. Who did you speak too? And what teams? And what did you tell them?

The President. Well, I've spoken to other owners, and I really think it's coming together. I noticed last night, or I was told—I didn't see it—but I heard everybody stood for the national anthem. And that shows respect for our country, our flag, and for the national anthem. So you know, I'm very happy. I heard that, and they should stand. You have to stand. It's our national anthem. You have to stand.

Q. What team owners did you talk to though?

The President. I spoke to numerous team owners. I have many friends. I did speak to Jerry, yes. Okay. Thank you.

Q. Your staff's use of private e-mails?

Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price/Trade

Q. Have you lost confidence in Secretary Price?

The President. It's not a question of confidence. I was disappointed because I didn't like it, cosmetically or otherwise. I was disappointed. And you know, this is an administration that saves hundreds of millions of dollars on renegotiating things, on new trade deals that we'll be—you'll be seeing the results very soon. We're renegotiating NAFTA. We're renegotiating so many different things and making much better deals. You'll be seeing other things come up.

So I don't like to see somebody that perhaps there's the perception that it wasn't right.

Q. Your staff's use——

Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price

Q. [Inaudible]—be leaving your Cabinet, sir?

The President. Well, I don't want to say, but we'll be announcing something today.

Q. Will you accept his resignation if he resigns?

The President. We'll be announcing something today. [Laughter] Q. Mr. President, is Tuesday—[inaudible]—the visit sir, in Puerto Rico?

Q. Your staff's use of private e-mails? Do you have an investigation[inaudible]?

The President. I'm not aware of that. Yes, I mean, I heard it was very ministerial, but I'm not aware of it. Anything else? John?

Go ahead, Steve. He always treats me so nicely.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price

Q. [Inaudible]—something to do with Tom Price today? Or what's——

The President. Probably today something will happen. Something will be announced.

Q. Do you think he'll stay? Are you leaning toward keeping him or——

The President. Look, I think he's a very fine person. I certainly don't like the optics. As I said, we renegotiate deals. We're renegotiating trade deals. We're renegotiating—as an example, the F-35 fighter plane, I've saved hundreds of millions of dollars. So I don't like the optics of what you just saw.


Q. Mr. President——

Q. Mr. President, what happened in Cuba? What your is response to Cuba? And what can we expect——

The President. Cuba—some very bad things happened in Cuba. Very bad things.

Q. But what can we expect? Anything else from the U.S. Government?

The President. Well, you're going to see what's happening in Cuba. But some bad—they did some bad things in Cuba.

Q. Mr. President——

Q. [Inaudible]—sir, your visit on Tuesday——

Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price

Q. So you'll make a decision about whether or not to fire Price today?

The President. Probably sometime today, yes.

Q. Wow. This afternoon? Do you feel pressured to do something because——

The President. I'm not happy, okay?

Q. You're not happy?

The President. I can tell you, I'm not happy.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:19 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló Nevares of Puerto Rico; and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator W. Brock Long. A reporter referred to Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto of San Juan, PR.

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

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