Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
The President. Hello, everybody. Little windy out here, so I'll button up my coat.
The President. You have a couple of more people who want to join you.
Commutation of Sentence for Former Governor Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois
Q. So we're hearing you're going to commute the sentence of Blagojevich?
The President. Yes, we have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich. He served 8 years in jail. That's a long time. And I watched his wife on television. I don't know him very well. I've met him a couple of times. He was on, for a short while, on "The Apprentice," years ago. Seemed like a very nice person. Don't know him.
But he served 8 years in jail. He has a long time to go. Many people disagree with the sentence. He's a Democrat; he's not a Republican. It was a prosecution by the same people—Comey, Fitzpatrick—the same group.
Very far from his children. They're growing older. They're going to high school now, and they rarely get to see their father outside of an orange uniform. I saw that and I did commute his sentence. So he'll be able to go back home with his family after serving 8 years in jail. That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence, in my opinion——
Q. And, Mr. President——
The President. ——and in the opinion of many others.
Attorney General William P. Barr/Prosecution of Political Consultant Roger J. Stone, Jr./The President's Use of Social Media
Q. Do you have confidence in your Attorney General? First——
The President. Yes, I have total confidence in my Attorney General.
Q. And do you agree with his statement that he—that you should stop tweeting about Justice Department issues?
The President. Well, people liked that. But you know, everybody has the right to speak their mind. And I use social media. I guess I use it well, because here I am. I'm here.
Q. Has he——
The President. And I probably wouldn't have gotten here without social media, because I certainly don't get fair press.
So I wouldn't have gotten here without social media and, perhaps, with all of the hoaxes. You had the impeachment hoax, you had the Mueller hoax, you had the "Russia, Russia, Russia" nonsense. All are scams. And if I didn't have social media, I probably wouldn't be here. So I'm very happy with social media.
But I think he's doing an excellent job. He's a strong guy. I never spoke to him about the Roger Stone situation. Roger Stone, just so you know, never worked—he didn't work for my campaign. There might've been a time—way early, long before I announced—where he was somehow involved a little bit. But he was not involved in our campaign at all. And I think it was a very, very rough thing that happened to Roger Stone.
Because when you look what happened with Comey after a 78-page, horrific report, when you look at what happened to McCabe with a recommendation of prosecution, and you look at all of these other people, and then you look at happen—what happened to General Flynn, a highly respected man—look at—I mean, his life has been destroyed. If you're looking at Roger Stone for a tweet and some other things—you take a look at what's happening to these people. Somebody has to stick up for the people.
So my social media is very powerful. I guess, Mark Zuckerberg just recently said, "Trump is number one in the world" on social media, which is a very nice statement, I guess. Certainly, it's something you can be at least a little bit proud of. But it means I have a voice so I'm able to fight the fake news.
Q. Has the Attorney General threatened to resign over your tweets? And then, also, he said that your comments on Twitter are making it "impossible" to do his job. Are you making his job impossible?
The President. Well, but it allows me—yes, I do make his job harder. I do agree with that. I think that's true. He's a very straight shooter. We have a great Attorney General, and he's working very hard. And he's working against a lot of people that don't want to see good things happen, in my opinion. That's my opinion, not his opinion. That's my opinion. You'll have to ask what his opinion is.
But I will say this: Social media, for me, has been very important because it gives me a voice, because I don't get that voice in the press. In the media, I don't get that voice. So I'm allowed to have a voice.
Q. Do you think he could still do his job with integrity though?
The President. Oh, yes.
Q. He says it's making it hard for him to do his job with integrity.
The President. He's a very—he's a man with great integrity. The Attorney General is a man with incredible integrity.
Now, just so you understand, I chose not to be involved. I'm allowed to be totally involved. I'm actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country, but I've chosen not to be involved.
But he is a man of great integrity. But I would be—I could be involved if I wanted to be.
The President's Use of Pardons and Commutations
Q. Are you also pardoning Bernie Kerik?
The President. Yes. I just pardoned Bernie Kerik——
Q. Okay. Are there more?
The President. ——a man who had many recommendations from a lot of good people.
You know, oftentimes—pretty much all the time—I really rely on the recommendations of people that know them. We have Bernie Kerik. We have Mike Milken, who's gone around and done an incredible job for the world, with all of his research on cancer, and he's done this, and he suffered greatly. He paid a big price; paid a very tough price. But he's done an incredible job. And yes, these are all people that you have to see the recommendations. I rely on recommendations, very importantly.
Prosecution of Political Consultant Roger J. Stone, Jr.
Q. On Roger Stone, are you planning to pardon Roger Stone?
The President. I haven't given it any thought. In the meantime, he's going through a process. But I think he's been treated very unfairly.
China-U.S. Trade/U.S. Export Controls
Q. You tweeted this morning about China and wanting U.S. companies to be able to——
The President. Yes.
Q. ——sell jet parts.
The President. Yes.
Q. Are you not concerned about national security on that?
The President. I'm very concerned about national security. Number one, I'm concerned about national security. Nobody has done a better job with national security than me. You take a look at what's going on: We've done a great job on national security. A lot of countries are a lot different now than they were when I started.
But I will say that we're not going to be sacrificing our companies, for all of the growth and everything else—they're ready, they're exploding; they're doing so well—by using a fake term of national security. It's got to be real national security. And I think people were getting carried away with it.
So I want our companies to be treated—I want our companies to be allowed to do business. I mean, things are put on my desk that have nothing to do with national security, including with chip makers and various others. So we're going to give it up. And what will happen: They'll make those chips in a different country, or they'll make them in China or someplace else.
So national security is very important. I've been very tough on Huawei, but that doesn't mean we have to be tough on everybody that does something. We want to be able to sell all of this incredible technology. We're number one in the world. We want to be able to sell to other countries.
Q. Mr. President, do you trust the Taliban in this cease-fire? And are you confident that a peace deal can be reached in Afghanistan?
The President. We are doing something—we've been in the war in Afghanistan now for 19 years. We've substantially reduced the force, as you know. We're really acting more as a law enforcement agency than we are as a military, because we could win that very quickly and easily if I was willing to kill millions of people. I'm not willing to do that. I'm not willing to do that. We'd win that so quickly, your head would spin. And I'm not talking about nuclear; I'm talking about very conventional. But I'm not willing to kill millions of people.
So we are negotiating with the Taliban. We've been negotiating with them for a while. We will see what happens. There's a chance of making a deal. There's a chance.
Q. Senator Graham—— I can't believe—so quiet, all of a sudden.
Senator Christopher S. Murphy/Iran
Q. Senator Graham is traveling with——
The President. I saw that Senator Murphy met with the Iranians. Is that a fact? I just saw that on the way over. Is there anything that I should know? Because that sounds like, to me, a violation of the Logan Act.
Q. Can I ask about Venezuela, sir?
The President. Yes, what happened with that? Did you read about Senator—or hear about Senator Murphy met with the Iranians?
Q. No. Tell us about it.
The President. Well, they ought to find out about it, if it's true. I don't know. It just came out as I was leaving the car.
Q. Can I ask about Venezuela, sir? Do you think Guaidó is still the guy to get Maduro out of office?
The President. Well, he's the person that the country, right now, prefers, and that's what I go with. We'll see what happens. We put additional sanctions on—very strong sanctions—this morning on Venezuela. We'll see what happens. We're watching Venezuela very closely.
Prosecution of Political Consultant Roger J. Stone, Jr./Investigation Into Russia's Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election
Q. You were asked specifically about Roger Stone, but are you ruling out pardons for Stone, for your former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and for Michael Flynn, for example?
The President. I'm not even thinking about that. There's a process that people are going through. These are unrelated situations where people have done a great job with very, very strong recommendations. But we haven't thought about that yet. Right now there's a process.
I think Roger Stone has been treated unfairly. I think General Flynn has been treated very unfairly. I think a lot of people have been treated very unfairly. I think the Mueller scam is just exactly what it's—what a lot of people are calling, because it was started illegally. It was started by abuse. It was phony. It was a fake dossier. And they went in, and they went into the FISA courts, and they forged papers, and they did a lot of bad things. So the whole Mueller thing, to me, is a scam.
Q. But do you think Roger Stone deserves any prison time?
The President. You're going to see what happens. Let's see what happens.
Q. You spoke to President Erdogan the other day——
The President. I think he's treated very unfairly.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey/Turkey's Incursion Into Northern Syria
Q. You spoke to President Erdogan of Turkey the other day——
The President. I did.
Q. Are you concerned about all-out war breaking out between Turkey and Syria? The President. I did. I had a very good conversation with President Erdogan. I respect him. We have a very good relationship. Yes, I agree, he's a tough guy. But we have a very good relationship. I seem to do better with tough people.
But the fact is that he's fighting on Idlib. He doesn't want people to be killed by the thousands and hundreds of thousands, and he called me about that and other reasons. But we spoke about Idlib, and we're working together on seeing what can be done.
Q. What's the solution?
The President. Well, it's a very tough solution. You have a lot of warring going on right now. A lot of warring going on. But I'm dealing with President Erdogan.
Q. Thank you, sir.
The President's Travel to California, Nevada, and Arizona
Q. On this swing, can you talk a little bit about these coming 3 days, and also why you wanted to——
The President. Yes.
Q. Wait. Also why you wanted to fly back to Las Vegas every night to spend the night there?
The President. Well, I don't know exactly the schedule because I don't set the schedule.
Q. [Inaudible]—flying to Vegas every night to stay there.
The President. Yes. Largely, the schedule is set by the Secret Service. We do what they want us to.
But we're going to California. We're going to Nevada. We're going to Arizona. We're going to different places. And I guess we're coming back here. But I don't set the schedule. I have nothing to do with it.
2020 Democratic Presidential Candidates
Q. Mr. President, you saw Michael Bloomberg made the Democratic debate stage tomorrow night. Do you have any advice for him as he makes his first debate appearance?
The President. No, he doesn't need that kind of advice. He's been doing it for a long time. It just seems unfair what's happening to Bernie Sanders, to be honest with you. I watched it happen four years ago. And always be careful what you wish for, and I'm not wishing for anything. Whoever it is, I'll be very happy.
But it seems that Bernie Sanders and that whole big section of the Democratic Party—or, as I call it, the "Democrat Party," which is really the correct name—it seems they're being taken advantage of like they were 4 years ago, to me.
The President's Campaign Strategy
Q. But what's strategy—your campaign strategy for being in Nevada while the Democrats are focusing on the caucuses there?
The President. Well, I'll be making a speech in Nevada, and that will be probably the day before, I guess, as they have it arranged. That seems to be pretty effective. We got more votes than any incumbent President in history, in Iowa and in New Hampshire, as you saw.
And, in that case, I went just before—the day before, and I went the day before, in both cases: Iowa and New Hampshire. So it seems to be effective. I'll be going to South Carolina—they're working that out now—probably the day before. But you know, look, we have a big voice, and we might as well use it.
Coronavirus Outbreak in China/Coronavirus Containment Efforts
Q. Mr. President, are you still satisfied with how President Xi is handling the coronavirus?
The President. I think President Xi is working very hard. As you know, I spoke with him recently. He's working really hard. It's a tough problem. I think he's going to do—look, I've seen them build hospitals in a short period of time. I really believe he wants to get that done, and he wants to get it done fast. Yes, I think he's doing it very professionally.
We're also working with him and helping him, as of the last few days, as you know.
Q. Some people don't seem to trust the data coming out of China. Are you worried about that?
The President. Look, I know this: President Xi loves the people of China, he loves his country, and he's doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation.
Senator Lindsey O. Graham
Q. Mr. President, Senator Graham is traveling with you. Do you want to talk to him about the Judiciary Committee doing any investigations into the Bidens or others?
The President. You know, if it comes up, yes. But we'll see what happens on that. That's really up to Senator Graham. And he is traveling with me.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India/India-U.S. Trade
Q. Do you think you'll get a trade deal with India before your visit?
The President. Well, we can have a trade deal with India, but I'm really saving the big deal for later on. We're doing a very big trade deal with India. We'll have it. I don't know if it will be done before the election, but we'll have a very big deal with India.
We're not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot. And he told me we'll have 7 million people between the airport and the arena—and the event. And the stadium, I understand, is sort of semi–under construction, but it's going to be the largest stadium in the world. So it's going to be very exciting. But he says between the stadium and the airport, we'll have about 7 million people. So it's going to be very exciting. I hope you all enjoy it.
Are you going?
Q. Yes, sir.
The President. Are you going, Steve [Steve A. Holland, Reuters]? I hope so. Are you going, Jeff [Jeff Mason, Reuters]?
Q. No, sir. [Inaudible]–—is going.
The President. I hope you're going too. [Laughter] All right? Okay? So I'll see you maybe on the plane.
How are you?
Q. I'm good. How are you?
The President. Marriage is good? Huh?
Q. Yes, thank you. Anonymous Author of Opinion Article and a Book on the Trump Administration
Q. One other thing: Is there a search underway for "Anonymous"? Remember "Anonymous" is——
The President. Yes, there is. It's not so much a search.
Q. Who do you think it is?
The President. I know who it is. Yes.
Q. Who is it?
The President. I can't tell you that.
Q. Why not?
Q. Why not?
The President. But I know who it is.
Q. Why not?
The President. But we won't get into it. People know it's—people know it's a fraud. I know who it is, and I know who some of the leakers are. But some of the leakers don't exist. It's made up by the press. So you know, they say, "Nine people have said" or "two people have said," and those people don't exist.
But no, I know all about "Anonymous." I know a lot about the leakers too.
Q. Do you believe it's a person who still works at the White House?
The President. We know a lot. In fact, when I want to get something out to the press, I tell certain people. And it's amazing, it gets out there. But, so far, I'm leaving it that way.
I'll see you later. Thank you. See you on the plane.
Q. Thank you.
NOTE: The President spoke at 1:41 p.m. prior to boarding Air Force One en route to Los Angeles, CA. In his remarks, he referred to Patricia Blagojevich, wife of former Gov. Blagojevich, and their daughters Amy and Annie; former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James B. Comey, Jr. and former Deputy Director Andrew G. McCabe; Patrick J. Fitzgerald, partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, in his former capacity as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; former Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert F. Mueller III; former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn; Mark E. Zuckerberg, chief executive officer, Facebook, Inc.; former Police and Corrections Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik of New York City; Michael Milken, chairman, Milken Institute; and 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City and Sen. Bernard Sanders. Reporters referred to President Nicolas Maduro Moros of Venezuela, whose legitimacy was challenged by the U.S. Government, which recognized National Assembly President Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez as Interim President of Venezuela on January 23, 2019; and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and his son Hunter.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/340085