Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for Beale Air Force Base, California

November 17, 2018

The President. Hi, everybody. So we're going to California. We're making two stops. We're going to the two areas that you know very well. And it's a shame; it seems that many more people are missing than anyone thought even possible. And I want to be with the firefighters and the FEMA and first responders.

We'll be spending a lot of time. We'll be coming back here, probably landing at 4 o'clock in the morning or something like that. But we want to spend a lot of time. We want to discuss many things. I'm meeting with the Governor and the new Governor—and Governor-elect. So we have a lot of things to talk about.

We will be talking about forest management. I've been saying that for a long time. And this could have been a lot different situation. But the one thing is that everybody now knows that this is what we have to be doing, and there's no question about it. It should have been done many years ago, but I think everybody is on the right side.

It's a big issue. It's a big issue. A very expensive issue, but very, very inexpensive when you compare it to even one of these horrible fires. And we'll save a lot of lives, in addition to a lot of money.

So we'll be out there talking to the Governors, talking to the first responders and FEMA. They have been incredible. The firefighters have been unbelievably brave—some of the stories I've read last night—unbelievably brave. Okay?

Death of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Q. [Inaudible]—the murder?

The President. Well, we haven't been briefed yet. The CIA is going to be speaking to me today. We have not been briefed yet. As of this moment, we were told that he did not play a role. We're going to have to find out what they have to say.

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Say it?

Q. Have you submitted your answers to the Special Counsel?

The President. No, we do that next week. They're all done.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Yes.

Death of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Q. [Inaudible]—Crown Prince held responsible for this?

The President. Well, we're taking a look at it. You know, we also have a great ally in Saudi Arabia. They give us a lot of jobs. They give us a lot of business, a lot of economic development. They are—they have been a truly spectacular ally in terms of jobs and economic development. And I also take that—you know, I'm President; I have to take a lot of things into consideration.

So we will be talking with the CIA later and lots of others. I'll be doing that while I'm on the plane. I'll be speaking also with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. We have not been talking, no. We haven't, no.

Q. [Inaudible]—much longer?

The President. We have not been talking about it. We'll see.

Turkey-U.S. Relations

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. No, it's not under consideration. We are looking, always looking. And whatever we can do for Turkey and, frankly, countries that we get along with very well—we're having a good moment with Turkey. As you know, he gave Pastor Brunson back last week, and we appreciate that.

We are doing very well with Turkey. I get along very, very well with the President. He's a friend of mine. He's a strong man, he's a tough man, and he's a smart man. But he's a friend of mine. And so whatever we can do, we'll do. But—and that is something that we're always looking at. But at this point, no.

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. Mr. President, are you—[inaudible]—Robert Mueller—[inaudible]?

The President. What?

Q. [Inaudible]—Robert Mueller now?

The President. We haven't even talked about it.

Border Security

Q. [Inaudible]—to the southern border?

The President. Yes, we have a tremendous military force on the south—on the border, on the southern border. And we have large numbers of people trying to get into our country. I must say, the reason it's increased so much is because we're doing so well, as opposed to the rest of the world. And if you look at south of our border, it's not doing so well.

But regardless, we have millions of people on line to get into our country legally, and those people have preference. They have to have preference. They've been waiting for a long time. They've done it legally.

So we have a lot of things happening, but we have a great military force on the southern border. We're not letting people into our country illegally. And we're not doing a release. We'll do a catch, but we're not doing releases. So if they think they're going to be released into our country like in the old days—like for years and years, they catch and release—we're not releasing. They don't get released.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. What? Border Security

Q. How long are—[inaudible]—in detention at the border?

The President. As long as necessary. They built great fencing. They built a very powerful fence, a different kind of a fence, but very powerful. The fence is fully manned. Nobody gets through. And when they're caught, they're not released.

And it's very interesting—I said it this morning—they come up, and they're talking about all their great fear, all their problems with their country, but they're all waving their country's flag. What is that all about? If they have such fear and such problems and they hate their country, why do we see all the flags being waved for Guatemala, for Honduras, for El Salvador? We're seeing flags all over the place. Why are they waving flags? This has nothing to do with asylum; this has to do with getting into our country illegally. And we have to know who wants to come into our country.


Vice President Michael R. Pence

Q. [Inaudible]—Vice President Mike Pence—[inaudible]—questioned on his loyalty?

The President. No, I don't question his loyalty at all. He's a hundred-percent loyal. It was a phony story. I doubt they had any sources. A typical New York Times phony story.

Mike Pence is a hundred percent. Not even a doubt of that entered my mind. He's been a trooper. He's been with me from—as soon as I won the primaries. I mean, he was the one I chose, and I could not be happier. And I don't question his loyalty at all. He's already been tested, in many ways. Mike Pence is a terrific person.

That was a phony story written by the New York Times who, by the way, never called me for a comment. How do you do a story like that? See, it's fake news. And that's what breaks up a country. Fake news. How do you do a story like that and you don't call the principal? I would give them a quote. I would say it's not true, and that's the end of their story.

But they don't do that. They write, and they then make up sources. They may speak to one person, but they make up phony sources. They make—like you write a novel. Have you ever written a novel? That's the way a lot of the news stories are written, that's why I call it "fake news." It's fake. And it's a very bad thing for our country. It's very dangerous.

Mike Pence is a hundred percent. They should retract that story. But you can't do that story without calling me for a quote. Or you could call Sarah Huckabee and say, "Could I get a quote?" And here she is. "Could I get a quote from the President?" I would be happy to give a quote. I would be happy. And you know what the quote would be? "Mike Pence is 100 percent." Now you can't do your story. So that's why they don't like calling me for a quote.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi/Bipartisanship

Q. [Inaudible]—with Nancy Pelosi?

The President. I would help Nancy Pelosi if she needs the votes. She may need some votes. I will perform a wonderful service for her. I like her. Can you believe it? I like Nancy Pelosi. I mean, she's tough, and she's smart, but she deserves to be Speaker.

And now they're playing games with her just like they'll be playing with me with—it's called "Presidential harassment." The President of your country is doing a great job, but he's being harassed. It's Presidential harassment. Well, in a way, her own party is harassing her; there's nobody else should be Speaker.

Now, that doesn't mean for a hundred years. But definitely, they should start off with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. And I already have a lot of votes. If she needs any votes, if she asks me, I will give her the votes to put her over the top.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

Q. [Inaudible]—Republicans would vote for her?

The President. Well, I saw Tom Reed as an example. He's a fine man—a Congressman. I would call him a moderate. I'm not saying I can get them from the superconservative side, but maybe I even get them from there. But I don't imagine she'd need too many, but whatever number of votes she needs—if it's 50 or 10 or 2 or 1—she's got them from me, automatic.

So tell her opposition they're wasting their time.

Border Security/Potential Federal Government Shutdown

Q. Mr. President, are you going to shutdown if don't get funding for your border wall?

The President. We're talking about the boarding wall—the border wall. We're talking about quite a big sum of money, about $5 billion. And I think, probably, if I was ever going to do a shutdown over border security—when you look at the caravan, when you look at the mess, when you look at the people coming in—this would be a very good time to do a shutdown.

I don't think it's going to be necessary, because I think the Democrats will come to their senses. And they don't come to their senses, we will continue to win elections. You know, we won the Senate. You do recognize, right? That means all the judges that I'm getting approved will now be easier because we actually pick up—which is historic—we picked up two seats in the Senate. We went from 51-49 to 53-47. That's a tremendous difference. And these are Senators I really like. That's also a difference.

Thank you all very much. Thank you.

Administration Personnel Changes

Q. Have you made any decision on—[inaudible]—for U.N. Ambassador?

The President. What?

Q. Have you made any decision on U.N. Ambassador and Attorney General?

The President. I have very close to made a decision on U.N. Ambassador. On Attorney General: No, we haven't. But I will tell you, until that decision is made, we have a great gentleman in Matt Whitaker. And everybody tells me he's doing a fantastic job.

Florida State Attorney General Pamela J. Bondi/Administration Personnel Changes

Q. Have you considered Pam Bondi for any administration positions?

The President. I'd consider Pam Bondi for anything, but right now we—I know her very well. In the meantime, she's got a very good job. And she's doing a very good job. She's always done a very good job. But at some form—in some form, I'd love to have her in the administration. But we have great people. You know, we have tremendous people—our Cabinet. I'm very happy. Now will I make adjustment? Yes. But we have a great Cabinet.

You take a look at what we're doing with the military. Very happy with Secretary of Defense, by the way. Jim Mattis is doing a great job. Mike Pompeo is doing a great job. We have a truly great Cabinet. I could go through every one of them, but then you might be able to figure out the one or two that I'm a little bit less happy with. That wouldn't be good.

Okay, thank you. I'll see you California. Thank you.

Q. [Inaudible]—in California—[inaudible]?

The President. We're going to be looking at everything. Thank you.

Q. [Inaudible]—in California, sir?

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:25 a.m. on the South Lawn at the White House prior to boarding Marine One. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Jr., and Governor-elect Gavin C. Newsom of California; President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey; Andrew C. Brunson, pastor, Dirilis (Resurrection) Church in Izmir, Turkey, who was detained by Turkish authorities on October 7, 2016, and returned to the U.S. custody on October 12; White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders; and Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker. Reporters referred to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia; and Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for Beale Air Force Base, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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