Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters Aboard Air Force One En Route to Fargo, North Dakota

September 07, 2018

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

The President. Are you good? I heard your voice yesterday. It's a moving—it's a powerful, moving voice.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. It was under a wing, and you can't—you can't miss it. Did you like it last night?

China-U.S. Trade

Q. Yes, I had a great time. Mr. President, how is China tariffs going?

The President. I think it's going really well. It's going really well.

Q. Okay. Anything you can tell us on the record about it?

The President. We're looking at $200 billion more if you know that. It's in the hopper. We'll see what happens.

Today's report was fantastic and something really great for our country: wages up 2.9. Nobody has seen that in a long time. The wage situation is incredible. That was an incredible report. Over 200,000—the number, and 2.9-percent up in wages. That was a fantastic story, a story that has not been told in a long time. That's what I've been trying to get to. That, to me, is one of the most important things, not for Wall Street, but for the people and the country.

Canada-U.S. Trade/North American Free Trade Agreement

Q. Are you going to get a—Canada a trade deal today?

The President. Canada is moving along. We'll see what happens. Mexico is a done deal. We're just—[inaudible]—it. Canada is moving along. And we'll see what happens.

I mean, look, everybody wants to deal with us. We never had a President that dealt, because they didn't know how to deal, frankly. And these deals that were made—NAFTA was one of the worst trade deals ever in history. World Trade Organization deal, that's the—that goes down—to me, that goes down as the number one.

But the second worst trade deal ever made was NAFTA. And we're making it—actually, taking it out of NAFTA, doing a brandnew trade deal. It's not NAFTA any longer. But we're making a fair deal to the people of the United States. We lost so many jobs. We lost millions of jobs with NAFTA. We lost so much. And the farmers have done very poorly with NAFTA. So we're opening up markets, and we're making new deals.

And now let's see what happens with Canada. We'll probably know over the next 2 days.

New York Times Anonymous Op-Ed

Q. What are you going to do to find the author of this op-ed piece? The President. Well, I think it's a disgrace that somebody can do that. And I think it's more disgraceful that the New York Times would do it.

But that somebody is allowed to do that is—it's very sad commentary. I will say—just in watching this morning, briefly—so many people that never said a good thing about me are now saying that should never happen. They've actually gone to my side. I think it's reverberating in a very different way.

Q. Do you have——

The President. Because, you know—you know, one of the problems is this: I don't mind criticism. I handle it, and I fight back. I guess you've noticed over the years. But here's criticism where you can't fight back, because you have somebody doing it anonymously. Doesn't seem to be anybody very high up, because everybody very high up has already said, "It wasn't me." It would be very hard if it was, and they got caught, to make the statements that they've made.

Q. Do you have——

The President. But I will say—I will say this: For somebody to do that is very low and, I think, journalistically and from many different standpoints and maybe even from the standpoint of national security. We'll find out about that. For the New York Times to allow that to happen is disgraceful.

New York Times Anonymous Op-Ed/Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward's Forthcoming Book/Libel Laws

Q. Do you——

The President. Because you don't know who it is; therefore, you really have a one-way conversation. And I don't want it.

So I can say that Woodward—Woodward's book is a total fraud. Which it is, it's a total fraud. I don't talk that way. You people know me. I don't talk that way. I can't get up and talk in front of a crowd—many times without notes—for an hour and twenty-five minutes and get the biggest crowds in the history of politics. Because this is not like what you saw last night that place was packed. And you're in Billings. And all over the country, you don't see an empty seat. You don't get up and do that, because you don't know how to think or talk. You can only do that if you're at a very, very high level.

So the book that was written was fiction. I don't speak that way. I'm highly educated and always did well. Always did well, no matter what I did. Whether I was in show business—I was in show business. I had "The Apprentice." It was one of the top shows on television. No matter what I did—before that, I was a businessman. I was great at business. And then, I tried politics. And I started off as President, and guess what happened? I won.

The book was just total fiction. Disappointing, but when I went, I went back and did research on Woodward after the book—I guess it comes out soon—I did a little research; Bush had the same problems, and Obama had the same problems—[inaudible].

But that book was total nonsense. And when General Mattis and General Kelly and Sarah and everybody else come out and totally disavow everything that they said in the book—and others too, by the way—you see the list of people; it's hard to believe you can allow somebody to get away with it. And frankly, I'll say it again: Our libel laws should be tough enough so you can't do that. Our libel laws are pathetic. Our libel laws should be toughened up so if somebody writes things that are fraudulent and false, they get sued, and they lose. We should do that.

New York Times Anonymous Op-Ed

Q. Do you think Jeff Sessions should be investigating who the author of the op-ed piece was or who said—[inaudible]?

The President. I think so, because I think it's national security. Yes. I would say Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was, because I really believe it's national security.

New York Times Anonymous Op-Ed

Q. And is there action that should be taken against the New York Times? [Inaudible]

The President. Well, we're going to see. I'm looking at that right now.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. It only happened yesterday, right? But I'm looking. I am looking.

New York Times Anonymous Op-Ed/North Korea

Q. You said last night that it's treason, what happened. In this country, we can punish treason with the death penalty. Are you serious about that?

The President. We're going to take a look at what he had, what he gave, what he's talking about—also where he is right now. Supposing I have a high-level national security meeting, and he has got a clearance—I know we talked about clearances a lot, recently—and he goes into a high-level meeting concerning China or Russia or North Korea or something, and this guy goes in. I don't want him at those meetings. So we're going to see what happens. We're looking at it very strongly from a legal standpoint.

By the way, yesterday was a very interesting statement, as you saw, from North Korea. Had a very positive statement. Unfortunately, you know, people don't cover it, or you only cover the negative statements. But that was a very positive statement, what he said about me. And also what he said about—he wants to denuclearize during the Trump, you know, administration.

That was a very positive. There's never been a more positive statement coming out of North Korea. And honestly, I didn't see it on the front page of your papers.

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. [Inaudible]—you and Rudy are saying you're not willing to answer questions to Mueller about obstruction? Because it has never—[inaudible]—hiding something?

The President. Well, let me just tell you, David. Number one, there is no obstruction. Number two——

Q. So why not testify and say it?

The President. Wait, wait, wait. Listen. Because everybody that looked at anybody over there, they get them on some kind of a lie. I see Papadopoulos, today, is going to—I don't know Papadopoulos. I don't know him. I saw him sitting, in one picture at a table with me. That's the only thing I know about him. I don't know him. But they got him on—I guess, a couple of lies, is what they're saying. Flynn—where the FBI said he didn't lie, but Mueller's people said he did lie. So I don't want to be set up with a perjury trap, number one. Number two, there was no obstruction and there was no collusion.

Now, one of the things that was interesting about this ridiculous book: He hardly covered collusion at all. Now, that's his business, covering that kind of a thing. In fact, I figured it was going to be some kind of a fictitious book having to do with collusion. But there was none.

There was no talking to Russia. There was no phone calls. I didn't make phone calls to Russia. I didn't receive phone calls. I didn't have meetings. I didn't have texts. I didn't have anything. I've nothing to do with Russia. Nothing to do with Russia.

So—so I think that if we're going to meet, it's got to be a fair meeting. Remember this: Article 2. Number one, you have Article 2 provision. That covers everything. But despite Article 2, there was no obstruction, and there was no collusion.

Now, they've practically found that there is no collusion. They've given up—everybody has given up on collusion, because I didn't meet with Russians, because I love the United States. I didn't meet with Russians. Frankly, I was focused on the campaign. And you know, if I met with Russians, you know who would have found out? You people would have found out, because you know everything I'm doing. You don't always report it correctly, but that's okay. I'm used to it.

But didn't meet with the Russians, had nothing to do with Russians. There is no collusion. And the interesting thing about the book—I figured it'd have chapters of nonsense—he couldn't find anything about collusion. In that big, fat, ugly book, with all the misquotes and all the lies, he didn't have about collusion.

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. Would you do an interview, Mr. President?

The President. Yes, I mean, I'd do it under certain circumstances. I think it's a big waste of time, because there was no collusion.

Q. Mr. President, what are—[inaudible]? I'm sorry.

The President. Honestly, it's such a sad thing for our country to be going through a witch hunt like that. It's so hard for us to deal with other countries, including Russia, because of that witch hunt. It endangers our country. It really endangers our country. It puts us at a big disadvantage all because of the rigged, phony witch hunt.

Now, you have 17 angry Democrats. Now they're making it smaller. I guess they've—they've given up on the collusion stuff. But it's—and you have people that are highly conflicted, highly conflicted. Why don't we have some Republicans on it?

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. It is—it is so—it is so egregious, when you look at all of these Democrats, people that were top of the line, people that were at Hillary Clinton's—I call it "Hillary Clinton's funeral." That was the night she lost the election. It was a funeral. It was a wake.

People that are on Mueller's team were there, crying. They were crying as she lost. What kind of a probe is that? Now, that—all that being said, I must tell you, again, I'm not the target of an investigation. You do know that. Nobody wants to put that. I'm not the target of an investigation. But still, it's not right. When you have people that go to her victory party, slash, funeral, and you have those people looking at anybody having to with it, I think it's very unfair.

With that being said, we have to get it over with. It's really bad for the country. It's really unfair for our midterms. Really, really unfair for the midterms. This thing should have been over with a long time ago.

I watched Jim [John]* Dowd—a very good guy, a very good lawyer—and he was devastated because he thought—and he kept giving me dates—he thought this would be over. And he's a—he's a great lawyer. He thought this would have been over many months ago, and he was devastated by it.

Former National Economic Council Director Gary D. Cohn

Q. Do you think Gary Cohn would actually take a memo off your desk? Is he—[inaudible]?

The President. No, I—he never took—he never took a memo off my——

Q. How did Woodward get it?

The President. Gary Cohn, if he ever took a memo on my desk off of my desk, I would have fired him in 2 seconds. He would have been fired so fast. Gary Cohn never took a memo off my desk. If he did, he would have been fired within the first second that it took place.

South Korea-U.S. Trade/Canada-U.S. Trade

Q. Is it—[inaudible]?

The President. Now, let me just—let me just say——

Q. ——they're doing things you don't know?

The President. Let me just tell you, the deal that you're talking about is the South Korea deal. I completed the deal after Gary Cohn left. It's completed. We're probably going to sign at United Nations week, in a couple of weeks.

But the deal is completed. It was a horrible trade deal made by Hillary Clinton that was supposed to give us 150 to 200,000 jobs. And she was right, it did give 150 to 200,000 jobs. You know where it gave them? To South Korea. Okay? It was a horrible deal.

I terminated the deal. I made a new deal. It's a great deal. We like it. Now it's a great deal. It went from a bad deal to a—really, a good deal. I did that not because of Gary Cohn; I did that because of me.

I'm working on Canada now. You know, people can say, oh, I'm too tough on Canada. Look, Canada has been ripping us off for a long time. And now they've got to treat us fairly. I don't want to do anything bad to Canada. I can; all I have to do is tax their cars. It would be devastating. If I taxed cars coming in from Canada, it would be devastating. But I don't want to do that.

But we want to make a fair deal. I do use that as leverage in negotiating. When they don't want to give us a point, I say: "That's okay. I'd rather tax your cars coming in." And I win a lot of points because of it. But I will say, the deal—that phony story about Gary Cohn—if he did that, I'd never speak to him again. I'd never speak to him again.

North Korea

Q. Sir, could I take you back to North Korea for a second?

The President. Yes.

Q. Isn't it the case that Kim wants you to do something before he will denuclearize? So you have to give him some—[inaudible]?

The President. I don't know. I know that a letter is being delivered to me—a personal letter from Kim Jong Un to me—that was handed at the border. I don't know if you know that, but it was handed at the border yesterday.

It's being delivered—it's actually an elegant way; it's the way it used to be many years ago before we had all of the new contraptions that we all use. But a letter is being delivered to me, and I think it's going to be a positive letter.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. But we have to—we have to start—Steve [Steve Holland, Reuters], we have to start that process. Look, on North Korea—it's very interesting. It started off very rough. I said it last night—you were at the speech. I said, "They thought everybody"—from—you people thought I was too rough. Too rough, too tough, too horrible—it's horrible. It worked out great.

In the meantime, we have our hostages back. I've said a hundred times: no missiles, no rockets, no nuclear testing. There's been some rhetoric, but let's see what happens. Although, the rhetoric between myself and him has been very good. But he said: "I have a respect for Trump. I have respect for President Trump." Yesterday he said, "I want to make this deal and denuclearize during President Trump's administration."

So let's see what happens. But he did write me a letter, and the letter is being delivered to me. Probably, I'll have it—I think it's being brought in by Mike Pompeo, who, by the way, is doing a fantastic job.

Russia-U.S. Relations/China-U.S. Trade

Q. The Russians are continuing to meddle in the 2018 elections. Have you said anything to Putin since your summit? Are you going to say anything to him about it?

The President. I said something at the—well, I haven't spoken to him.

Q. You haven't spoken?

The President. I said—so one of my best——

Q. What would you say—[inaudible]?

The President. One of my best meetings was with President Putin of Russia. And I got—not—the press treated it very unfairly.

My best meeting was probably NATO, because they're putting up hundreds of billions of dollars that they never would have put up. But one of my best meetings was with Putin. Yes, I said it very strongly. But I'll tell you, I also said it to China, and I say it to other countries.

You know, China, right now, is a far bigger problem. You do understand that. Q. Right.

The President. Nobody ever talks about that. China is a far bigger problem. I'm being strong on China because I have to be. They're taking $500 billion out a year. Can't let that happen. Nobody has ever done what I've done. And the $200 billion we're talking about could take place very soon, depending on what happens with them. To a certain extent, it's going to be up to China.

But we've taxed them $50 billion—that's on technology. Now we've added another $200 billion. And I hate to say this, but behind that there's another $267 billion ready to go on short notice if I want. That totally changes the equation. I say "off the record," but you can use it if you want, but off the record, China is down 25 percent.

We are up, since my election, almost 50 percent. We're up almost 50 percent. Some markets are up more than that—we look at NASDAQ.

New York Times Anonymous Op-Ed

Q. Do you want your people to take lie detector tests about this op-ed?

The President. People have suggested it. Rand Paul—who I like and respect—came out this morning. He said, "Have them take lie detector tests." You know, a lot of people have said, "I didn't do it." They wrote, actually, very strong statements.

Almost—that I see—almost all of the high-level people have said that. You know, when you say that, and then, if it were you, you'd be done for the rest of your life. So it's very hard for them to say that, and then—because eventually, the name of this sick person will come out.

New York Times Anonymous Op-Ed

Q. Do you think that the culprit is a national security person or DOJ?

The President. I don't know. I don't know.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. I don't know. You know, you try and get little telltale signs that maybe they put in. Hey, maybe it's nobody. Maybe the Times did it.

Q. Do you have—[inaudible]?

The President. Look, the Times uses phony sources all the time. So maybe the Times did it. I'm not sure.

The President's Accomplishments

Q. Mr. President, as far as the op-ed and the book, do you trust the people that are around you? Do you think they——

The President. I do. I do. I do. But what I do is, now, I look around the room, and I say "Hey" if I don't know somebody. But the people—everyone that's at the major meetings with me are on the front page of the newspapers today with beautiful notes that I did not ask them for. Let me just tell you this: We have a really well-run, smooth-running White House. I said last night, "It's a well-oiled machine." It is running beautifully.

Our trade deals are going to be the best deals ever made by our country. Our military is going to be, very shortly, stronger than it's ever been. Everything we are doing—regulation cutting. We have a really—you know, I—you have the list. I don't know, I guess you have the list. Nobody's ever done that much. There has been no President that's done what I've done in the first 2 years in office, and not even close.

You take a look at what we've done between tax cuts and regulation cuts. Now—and it looks very good for Justice—for Judge Kavanaugh to be Justice now, you know. It looks very good. And we have Justice Gorsuch. So it appeared—in 18 months, I have 2. Nobody—I don't think anybody has done that. You have many Presidents where they've gone for a long periods of time, and they've never had a Supreme Court choice. So we'll have two before I even, you know, have 2 years now.

No administration has done what I've done. I just left Montana, and I looked at those trains, and they're loaded up with clean coal, beautiful, clean coal. And those trains were empty 2 years ago. They were empty; they were dying. Nobody's done what I've done. Okay, I'll see you at the place——

Japan-U.S. Relations

Q. One more thing. One more thing. What—you were talking about China trade. What about trade with Japan? Are you starting that?

The President. We're starting that, yes.

Q. What—[inaudible]?

The President. In fact, Japan has called us. They called us. The only reason I didn't want to do it quite yet: because we're in China.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. We got a lot—trade. Japan has already contacted us; they came last week. Don't forget: Japan would not deal with Obama. He wouldn't deal with President Obama. They wouldn't deal. They said, "No, we're not going to talk trade." Me? They're calling up.

Q. Why not?

The President. Because they felt there was going to be no retribution. They felt they were weak and nobody was going to do anything. And in my case, they feel just the opposite. And I'll tell you, if we don't make a deal with Japan, Japan knows it's a big problem for them.

Federal Budget/Border Security

Q. One more, Mr. President. Is there any chance you're going to use military budget money like the Army Corps of Engineers to build your wall?

The President. We'd rather do it the old-fashioned way: get it from Congress. But I have other options if I have to.

Q. Including the Army Corps——

The President. Just so you understand, I've already started the wall. The wall has been started. In fact, we're sort of saying, "Continue the wall." You know, "Continue." Right? Instead of "Build the wall," continue the wall.

We have two options: We have military, and we have Homeland Security. I'd rather get it through politically—politically speaking, I'd rather get it through Congress. If we don't, I'm looking at that option very seriously.

Q. Do you want to do a shutdown, Mr. President? The President. If it were up—I don't want to say "up to me," because it is up to me—I would do it, because I think it's a great political issue. I was reading and watching, the other day—there are some people that I have a lot of respect for. Rush Limbaugh says, "It's the greatest thing you can do." Mark Levin: "The greatest thing you can do." Your friend Hannity: "the greatest thing you can"—I mean—and there are plenty of politicians. But there were a lot of politicians that I like and respect and that are with me all the way that would rather not do it because they have races. They're doing well; they're up. And you know, the way they look at it—might be good, might be bad. But if we do what we're doing, we're going to win. I think we're going to do very well. I think we're doing—to do great in the Senate, better than anyone has any understanding of. And I think we're going to do well in the House.

One of the important things is, when I go to an area—like going to Montana last night for Matt Rosendale—he's doing very well. He was the one we wanted. He's doing very well. He'll end up jumping a lot. And you've seen it.

Look, in Florida, he started out at 3; he ended up winning the election by 20 points—Ron DeSantis.

In Georgia, he was down 10 points with 3 days left, and he won the election by 40 points. That's pretty good. But—and those are primaries. But I think we're—you know, we have a very good record. But I think I'll do almost as well in elections. The main thing is, can I get there? The main thing is, do you people have the stamina to stay with me?

Q. We're with you, we're here.

The President. Steve, David, do you have the stamina? Do you have the stamina?

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. We'll all have fun together. So enjoy yourself. This is going to be two pretty quick stops.

Q. Can we use this on the record? Is it fine if we use all this on the record?

The President. I guess. You want it on the record?

Q. Yes.

The President. You promise you're going to have it nice and—everything fair, right?

Q. We'll be accurate.

The President. If it's all fair—if it's all fair, the answer is go with it.

Q. All right.

The President. [Inaudible] I'll—will get—I'll go back there—"So we have breaking news." "Oh, no." [Laughter]

Yes, just be fair with me.

Q. Thank you, sir.

The President. You okay with that, Hogan? Do I have that?

Q. It's up to you, Mr. President. [Inaudible]

The President. I don't think we said anything very tricky, Hogan. What do you think?

Q. You said great stuff. The President. Huh?

Q. About the country being great.

The President. You know my attitude—when I ran, I would do this all the time. I'd give press conferences before the speeches. The problem is, the press conference would get more coverage than speech. I'd say, "Why I am doing the speech?" Right? But I always liked the idea of press conference. I always like transparency. I always like transparency.

Yes, use it in good taste. Okay? All right?

Q. See you, sir. Thank you.

Q. Thanks for coming back.

The President. Okay, thank you. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke following his departure from Billings Logan International Airport in Billings, MT, at approximately 9:15 a.m. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis; White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly; White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III; Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un of North Korea; Rudolph W. Giuliani, personal attorney to the President; Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III; George Papadopoulos, former foreign policy adviser, 2016 Donald J. Trump Presidential campaign; former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn; 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her former capacity as Secretary of State; John M. Dowd, former personal attorney to the President; Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim, and Kim Dong-chul, U.S. citizens formerly detained by North Korean officials who returned to the U.S. on May 10; Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo; Sen. Randal H. Paul; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan; the radio show hosts Rush H. Limbaugh III and Mark R. Levin; Sean P. Hannity, anchor, Fox News' "Hannity" program; Montana Republican senatorial candidate State Auditor Matt Rosendale; Florida Republican gubernatorial candidate Ronald D. DeSantis; Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp; and Deputy Press Secretary J. Hogan Gidley. A portion of these remarks could not be verified because the audio was incomplete.<p>* White House correction.

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

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