Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters Aboard Air Force One

September 18, 2019

[The President's remarks were joined in progress.]

The President. I'm glad you got to see it.

Border Wall Design

Q. Was there anything that surprised you about seeing it firsthand?

The President. No. I mean, I've seen it. I mean, I saw it--tiny sections of it--when we were devising it. This was--you know, this is a lot?a lot of work coming out. We have two concepts. We have that concept and we have a point at the top--it's a little complicated; nobody cares--but without the structural beam, because they--structural beam is in a different location. Both have advantages. This is probably the strongest--[inaudible]. You don't get much stronger than that. [Inaudible]

Q. Is that what you're putting up around the White House?

The President. No, but that's what the Democrats are putting up around their convention. They're building a big wall. We're doing it too. [Inaudible] They're building a big wall around their convention, which they should do.

The President's Visit to the Otay Mesa Border Wall Site in San Diego, California

Q. What did you sign on the wall? What did you write on the wall?

The President. Just my name. They just said, "Sir, could you sign?" The Border Patrol said, "Could you sign your name?" And I did. I autographed one of the bollards. There are a lot of bollards. That's a lot of bollards. So that's pretty good.

So I--and I think it's moving along really well.

Federal Emergency Management Agency/Hurricane Dorian Preparedness and Response Efforts

Q. Can you talk about--can you talk about your decision to appoint a different FEMA Administrator?

The President. No, I'm happy with Kevin. I think Kevin--are you talking about--which one? Oh, FEMA?

Q. To switch out the nomination--[inaudible]--

The President. We're happy with the job they're doing. We looked at a lot of different things. We think he would have been very good. But we're also very happy with the man who's acting, who has been acting. You're talking--you said "FEMA"? Because I didn't hear you.

Q. Yes. You're going to nominate Gaynor instead of Byard?

The President. Yes, we're very happy. Yes, we're very happy with what's been going--in FEMA. They did a fantastic job. Puerto Rico is 100 percent ready, and every place was ready. We're not involved in the Bahamas. But after the fact, we've really been a big help to the Bahamas, as you probably have heard.

No, FEMA is running very well. We're very happy--[inaudible]. Yes. Gun Control

Q. Sir, there's a document that was circulating on Capitol Hill today that had some proposals for gun reforms that would expand background checks. And that was being given to Republican Senators. Is that something you would support: expanding background checks--[inaudible]--

The President. No, no. We're looking at many different things. That was a news conference that was given. And we're throwing out many different ideas to Republicans and Democrats, see where they all come out. And that was a document that you were talking--I haven't seen that document. But we're throwing a lot of ideas out, but we're always going to be watching extremely closely the Second Amendment.

Q. That was put out by your Leg Affairs--by your Legislative Affairs?

The President. That was put out by, I think--wasn't that Bill Barr, the Attorney General?

Q. The Department of Justice drafted it, and then--[inaudible]--was involved in it.

The President. We got Bill Barr involved. He's a very--he's an expert on guns and gun control. And about a week ago, we asked Bill to get involved. And those are ideas that we're talking to Republicans, Democrats, everybody about. Some they like; some they don't like. Just a series of concepts and ideas.

Gun Control

Q. It's been about a month since those back-to-back mass shootings that resparked the debate.

The President. Yes.

Q. [Inaudible]--or do you think that this is just going to kind of peter out, lose momentum, and there won't be--[inaudible]--

The President. Well, it depends on whether or not the goalposts are moved. I mean, I think we'll come to some kind of a conclusion--you know, conclusion. We will come to a conclusion, I believe, with the Democrats. The question is whether or not, if we do, they'll say: "Well, we can't do it. We're going to move the goalposts a little bit."

Q. You said they want--?

The President. It's not an easy--I think they do want. I think there are certain Democrats that really want to do it. And I would like to do it, and Republicans would like to do it. We have to get something that we all agree on.

And you know, I've been very strong from the day you first met me on the Second Amendment. We're going to be watching that very closely. So we have a whole series of ideas and concepts that we're going to be talking about. And some are liked, and some aren't liked. In that report, there are some ideas that were liked and some ideas that weren't liked at all, actually.

National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien/Campaign Fundraiser in San Diego, California

Q. Is Robert O'Brien on the plane with you?

The President. He's here.

Q. Did you meet with him last night or this morning?

The President. We met last night. We met last night. I've been talking--he was highly recommended by many people. Many, many people. Many Senators recommended him. And some Democrats recommended him, actually.

Q. Which Democrats recommended him?

Q. So you sat down with him?

The President. We sat down. Well, specifically, I--you know, without going into detail, but I actually sat down with him, also, before this trip.

We had a very successful fundraiser. We raised a lot of money. A lot of people showed up. But we could have had many more show up had we had the room. We went to some very large and beautiful houses, and we had some beautiful fundraisers.

The one thing that everybody was consistent on is we could have quadrupled the attendance if we wanted to. They were big, but they could have had many more, if they had the physical room.

National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien

Q. Is Robert O'Brien now the official National Security Adviser? Is he sworn in?

The President. We'll do whatever the process is. I told them about it today, and, as you know, we did--we had a pretty full day. A pretty full 3 days, actually.

Q. Is he on the job?

The President. Well, he is right now. I said: "Start as soon as you can. Start now." I said, "If you can start now"--I would imagine there is a concept of swearing in. He doesn't have to be approved, as you know, through the normal confirmation process.

Q. Will he be in any meetings tomorrow on Iran or anything?

The President. If he can. We're going to look at the exact approval process. Now, you have to understand, he's already at a high level, and he's already passed Senate confirmation, et cetera, et cetera, on other things. And he's highly thought of, and many Senators really liked him a lot. He's got a good way.

California's Automobile Emissions Standards

Q. Mr. President, did you want to--in revoking the California authority on emissions, did you want to do that while you were here in California? Were you trying to send a message?

The President. No, it was really a coincidence, to be honest. It was a coincidence. We've been talking--not talking about it, we've been perfecting it for a long period of time. And it might end up in the courts--probably will.

But you'll be able to produce a car--I wish you were there today, because I gave a whole talk on it. We'll be able to produce an automobile for substantially less money, which is substantially safer, which will also be extremely good for the environment.

In addition, you'll have a lot of cars come off the market that are 10, 12, 15 years old that are very bad for the environment and that, you know, chug a lot of fuel, because those people driving those cars don't want to switch to one of the cars that they're producing right now. Number one, they're too expensive. Number two, they're not nearly as safe. They're lighter, much thinner, much more flimsy. And we're able to produce a sturdier car, which is safer, and we're able to do something that will cost substantially less money for the consumer.

Homelessness in California/Sanitation and Pollution Concerns

Q. One more question related to your trip here: Ben Carson is following you to San Francisco--

The President. Yes.

Q. --?and L.A. Is he here on kind of, like, a fact-finding mission? Are you expecting--

The President. No, but I have asked him--

Q. --a report from him soon?

The President. I have asked him. We'll start with those two cities. And we're looking at San Francisco. We're looking at Los Angeles. And we're looking at all of the things that are happening. The--you know, there's tremendous pollution being put into the ocean, because they're going through a storm--what's called a "storm sewer." That's for rainwater.

And we have tremendous things that we don't have to discuss pouring into the ocean. You know, there are needles. There are other things. A lot of bad--a lot of--it's a terrible situation. That's in Los Angeles and in San Francisco.

And we're going to be giving San Francisco--they're in total violation--we're going to be giving them the notice very soon.

Q. Will you put out----

Q. A notice of what?

The President. We're putting out a notice on San Francisco.

Q. What kind of notice, Mr. President?

The President. Well, you're going to see in--over the next--I would say, less than a week.

EPA is going to be putting out a notice. And you know, they're in serious violation. And this is environmental, very environmental. And they have to clean it up. We can't have our cities going to hell. These are great cities. And we can't have--we can't lose our great cities like this.

Former President Barack Obama

Q. What do you think a congressional investigation into President Obama's Netflix deal would find?

The President. Into his ethics--

Q. No, his Netflix deal.

The President. Oh, into his Netflix-- Well, it was a very substantial deal. I mean, if you were--if he was Cecil B. DeMille, he would have gotten--I mean, Cecil B. DeMille should be, if he ever came back from the dead, one of the greats of all time. He would have loved to have made that deal. Plus, the book was the highest book ever sold, and there were many other things that he did.

So I think somebody should--if they're going to be looking at me over nonsense, they should certainly be looking at that also.

The President's Success as an Author

Q. Would your memoir command as much of an advance?

The President. I don't know, but I've had a lot of bestsellers. I've written many bestsellers, that I can tell you.

Former President Jimmy Carter's Comments About the Presidency

Q. And seriously, though: Did you see the remarks that President Carter made, saying that there should be an age limit for seeking the presidency?

The President. Well, I think it has to be limited by the public. You know, I met with a man the other day who was 85 years old--the sharpest guy you'll ever meet. I've dealt with people that were 92, 93, 94, and they were totally sharp. I don't--you know, I don't--I can't speak for Biden. I can't speak--I know nothing about it. But he's given some very strange answers, that I can tell you.

Q. It was Jimmy Carter. The President was Jimmy Carter who said that.

The President. No, I know that. No, Jimmy Carter said it, but he was referring to Biden. And he said that he was--because Biden's having a hard time; there's no question about it. But I'm not speaking for Biden. Jimmy Carter made the statement, as I understand it, referring to Biden.

But I'm just telling you, I met with somebody 3 days ago--85 years old and sharp as there is in existence. You know, I'm sure you people have also. But not everybody is going to be that way.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Terrorist Organization/Detention of Alleged Terrorist Operatives/Repatriation of Detainees

Q. Sir, did you see the report that the--Guantanamo had cost $13 million a year for each detainee. Is that something that you think is a good idea?

The President. Well, we have a big situation where we've defeated ISIS's caliphate. We have thousands of ISIS fighters, and we want those fighters to be taken--I don't know if you've been really talking about this. I think it's a big thing, Peter [Peter Baker, New York Times]. We have thousands of ISIS fighters that we've taken in Syria. We've defeated--we have 100 percent of the caliphate.

We're holding--in various forms of prison, we're holding thousands of people. Many come from Germany. Many come from France. Many come from Poland. You know, really, most of them come from various European countries, and we want them to take them back.

And I've given them a deadline. I said, "Take them back." Because we're not going to--you know, they'd like to have us put them in Guantanamo Bay and leave them in Guantanamo Bay for the next 50 years, and cost us a fortune. I said: "Nope. You've got to take them back. If they come from Germany, take them back. We did you a big favor. If they come from France, take them back, Emmanuel. Take them back."

And they're going to have to do that. And if they don't do that, we may very well release them at the borders because we have no choice. We're not going to be taking people from other countries and having them--you know, paying the cost of them in prison for 40 years.

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base Detention Facility

Q. We have 40 people there. We're paying $13 million each a year now. Is that the best way to handle it?

The President. No, it's not. And we're looking into that. That's been a long-term--President Obama said they were going to be totally completed and emptied out by the time he left office. And very much like judges, where, as you know, I ended up with 138 slots, you had a situation where that wasn't cleaned out. He was going to have everybody removed and Guantanamo Bay closed up by the time he left office. And he didn't do that. He didn't do that either. So we're stuck with it.

Q. Do you think it should be?

The President. Well, I don't know. But this was President Obama. You know that. He did say that. He said Guantanamo Bay----

Q. Yes, but Congress blocked him.

The President. ----will be totally closed.

Q. Right.

The President. I don't know. I mean, I just know he was very strong on the fact that--Guantanamo Bay. So we're taking what he left, and that's where we are right now. We're going to make some decisions on it.

But with respect to the ISIS fighters--by the way, I hope you're having a good time over here, Mark. I brought him down to talk about--if you had any more questions on the wall.

Border Wall Design

Q. We have questions on the wall.

The President. I hope you like the wall, by the way. Do you like the wall?

Q. It was interesting for all of us to go.

The President. Let me ask you one question. I know you're not supposed to--as a reporter. That is a serious wall. Do you agree with that? That's serious steel.

Q. There was a lot of steel, yes.

The President. Well, and concrete. It's got steel and concrete--and very hard concrete, very strong concrete. You know, it's very, very--5,000-pound concrete is a very substantial concrete.

Hello, are you okay down there?

White House aide. I'm wonderful, sir. Thank you.

The President. Okay. I couldn't do that. That's a very--that's what you get with youth.

Guantanamo Bay Naval Base Detention Facility/Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. When you just said you're looking at making decisions on Guantanamo, do you mean you're looking at potentially closing it?

The President. We're looking at a lot of things. But President Obama said that Guantanamo Bay would be closed, and he never got it done.

Q. But what would you like to do?

The President. It's just like President Obama knew about the Russians, and he never got that done either, with respect to the 2016 election. So there are a lot of things he didn't get done, but that's okay.

Go ahead.

Guantanamo Bay Naval Bay Detention Facility/Repatriation of Captured Terrorist Suspects Overseas

Q. But what would you like to do? Are you suggesting you'd like to do something on that?

The President. Well, we're looking at a lot of things. I know about that. I think it's crazy. It's been--it costs a fortune to operate it, and I think it's crazy. But the big decision we have now is we have thousands of people--they came from other countries. We want those countries to take them back. We did them a big favor by stopping them. And if they came from France, we want France to take them, and to try them, and to do whatever they have to do with them. But that's a very expensive situation.

Q. Can we put this one on the record--that you want to look at Guantanamo?

The President. Yes, I think you can have this on the record.

India-U.S. Relations/The President's Schedule

Q. You're going to Houston this weekend----

The President. Treat it fairly if it wasn't good. But just treat it fairly.

Q. ----with Prime Minister Modi.

The President. I'm going to--yes, I have a great relationship with----

Q. What are you going to announce with him? Or is there any sort of announcement you're going to make?

The President. Could be. But I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Modi. By the way, great relationship with Pakistan and with India. But he's got a big crowd coming, and I guess the crowd just got a lot bigger because they just announced--he asked, would I go? And I will go.

Then, we're stopping in Ohio on the way back, and then I guess we do the United Nations the following week.

United Nations General Assembly

Q. What are you going to say in your speech to the U.N. on Tuesday?

The President. I'm going to say: "The United States is the greatest country in the world. It's never been stronger and it's never been better, and they certainly have one of the great Presidents in our history."

We love you guys. Have a good time. Go eat that chocolate cake, okay? Eat that chocolate cake. They didn't give me cake like that, Phil [Phil Rucker, Washington Post].

Q. You can have ours.

The President. I'll grab that sucker right off your plate.

United Nations Headquarters/The President's Experience as a Real Estate Developer

Q. When you go to the U.N., do you ever think back to all the comments that you made as a private citizen about the green marble, about the sort of setting there? The U.N.--did you pitch yourself to try to rebuild it? If I remember?

The President. I offered to rebuild it, as a real estate developer. I was a very good real estate developer. I offered to rebuild it at a tiny fraction of what they were going to build it for. And I said, "It will end up being much more than that." They didn't even know what New York steam was versus a boiler. They knew nothing.

So it was a big deal. I made an offer. And I think it was the Ambassador to Sweden--one of the Ambassadors--because I built the building across the street. And that building--fully built, brand new--a tremendous building--Trump--you know the building, right-- Right across the street. And that building cost much less than a renovation to the United Nations. So the Ambassador to Sweden, I believe, said, "I'd like to call this man." I wasn't the President. So I was the president of the Trump Organization. "I'd like to call him." And he did. And he spoke to me. He said, "Is it true that you built that building for"--I think it was--I think he said, "$360 million." I said, "Yes." He said, "How could you do that for $360 [million; White House correction.] and they want to spend $2 billion on renovating this smaller building--the United Nations." I said: "Because I know how the game is played. It could be much less."\r\n\r\n

I said, "I could do the whole thing for $500 million." And he said, "What would the difference be?" I said: "The only difference would be that it would be much better. I'd use marble instead of terrazzo, which is more much expensive. I wouldn't move people out. I'd do it by floors." You know, you take three floors at a time. You move them around. They moved everybody out, then moved everybody back. And you don't even notice any difference. I mean, I don't even notice.

They spent a fortune. And I went and I made the presentation to the--to the General. We made the presentation. It's a big deal. And I said, "I'll save you billions of dollars, because when it comes in, your people don't know what they're doing." I spoke to the people. They didn't know anything about building, although they did know about other things, which are not good. You don't want to know about that. But they knew nothing about building.

And it came out--it came out costing billions of dollars. And I offered to do it for $500 million and it would have been a much better job. And they wouldn't have had to empty the building, as I said. We could have done it with people in place. It would have been a great job.

And I've done jobs like that, like the Grand Hyatt New York. I did that. That was the old Commodore. I've done a lot of renovation work.

The President's Use of Cash

Q. Speaking of money, one of our photographer colleagues saw some 20-dollar bills coming out of your back pocket yesterday as you boarded Air Force One. What was that about?

The President. Where were they coming? They were----

Q. It was in the back packet of your pants.

The President. Oh, they were coming out?

Q. All the bills coming out of your pocket.

The President. Out of my----

Q. Your jacket was up in the wind, so they were----

The President. Oh, it could--oh, I see, the jacket. Well, it could have been----

Q. Do you carry cash?

The President. Hey, they have good cameras.

Q. Do you carry cash in your back pocket?

The President. I do. I do.

Q. When do you----

The President. He must----

Q. When do you use that cash?

The President. I haven't used it in a long time. [Laughter] I do.

Q. What about a wallet?

The President. I do leave--I will say this, I don't carry a wallet----

Q. Okay.

The President. ----because I haven't had to use a credit card in a long time. I do like leaving tips at the hotel. You know, I like to carry a little something. I like to give tips to the hotel. I'm telling you--maybe a President is not supposed to do it, but I like to leave a tip at the hotel, et cetera, et cetera.

Oh, that's funny. So the jacket was blowing up, and they saw it. Who is the man--

Q. Tom here got the picture.

The President. Boy, that's a good picture. [Laughter] Hey, I'd like a piece of that picture.

Anyways, have a good time, fellas. Don't eat that cake, okay? Have a good time.

Q. Thank you.

The President. We have a good trip--a really good trip. I hope--I hope you see the wall as what it is: It's a great structure, and it will really do the trick.

One thing I think you wanted to say about the catch-and-release program, probably--

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark A. Morgan. Yes, sir. So hopefully, within the next couple of weeks, because of the network of initiatives and policies by this administration that's really been supported by several different entities within DHS--USCIS, ICE, as well as CBP--we're confident that in a couple of weeks, we're going to be able to end catch-and-release at the southwest border.

The President. There will be no more catch-and-release. Nobody coming into the country.

Acting Commissioner Morgan. That's right.

The President. It would be a big--a big step. And that's without the Democrats. It would have been easier--you know, if we could have done it the other way. But because of what we've done through regulation and what we're doing with Mexico, we won't have catch--within 2 weeks, we'll be free of catch-and-release--releasing people into the country.

Acting Commissioner Morgan. Yes, sir. And you know, not only because of what we've done--I think everybody understands the new IFR that's going to be coming out that's now--because of the Supreme Court decision, we're going to be able to utilize that across the southwest border, as well as MPP, the Migrant Protection Protocol. So those are two significant things that are--that's able to drive us to be able to end catch and release.

The Government of Mexico--again, we've talked about it for a little while--unprecedented support. The President mentioned that today: 25,000 troops. What they're doing is absolutely--I know we use this word a lot, but it's true----

The President. [Inaudible]

Acting Commissioner Morgan. ----it's unprecedented. Mexico has never stepped up and really seen this issue as a true regional crisis like they have now.

The President. Okay?

Q. Can we place this all on the record, then?

Q. Everything is on the record. All right?

Q. Can we use it on the record?

The President. Yes. Treat me fairly.

NOTE: The President spoke while en route to Joint Base Andrews, MD, following departure from San Diego International Airport in San Diego, CA, at approximately 5 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan; former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; President Emmanuel Macron of France; and former Secretary-General Koffi A. Annan of the United Nations. Reporters referred to Peter T. Gaynor, Acting Administrator, and Jeffrey Byard, Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery, Federal Emergency Management Agency; and Tom Brenner, photographer, Reuters. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on September 19. Audio was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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

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