Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for Palm Beach, Florida

November 20, 2018

The President. Hello, everybody.

Q. Mr. President. Happy Thanksgiving, Mr. President.

The President. So we're going now to the southern White House. We have a lot of work we're going to be doing in Florida.

We had great—some really great election results, as you know. Georgia just came in, and that was a big success. Florida was a tremendous success with both the Governor, Ron DeSantis—he'll be a great Governor—and the Senator, Rick Scott.

And, as you know, Ohio was a great victory. We had a lot of great victories, so we're very happy about that. We put out a statement on Saudi Arabia, which I guess most of you have seen, and we'll see how that all works out. It's a very complex situation. It's a shame, but it's—it is what it is.

Q. Why are you siding——

Death of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Q. Mr. President, why are you siding with the Saudis over your own intelligence community?

The President. Because it's "America first" to me. It's all about America first. We're not going to give up hundreds of billions of dollars in orders and let Russia, China, and everybody else have them. It's all about, for me—very simple—it's America first.

Saudi Arabia, if we broke with them, I think your oil prices would go through the roof. I've kept them down. They've helped me keep them down. Right now we have low oil prices, or relatively. I'd like to see it go down even lower.

But I think that it's a very simple equation for me. I'm about "Make America Great Again," and I'm about "America first."

Iran/Israel/Saudi Arabia

Q. Mr. President, are you basically——

Q. [Inaudible]—no punishment for the Crown Prince, Mr. President? No punishment?

Q. Are you basically telling us—are you basically telling us, Mr. President, that human rights are too expensive?

The President. That what?

Q. That human rights are too expensive?

The President. No, I'm not saying that at all. If you look at Iran—just take a look at Iran—and you look at what they're doing, they are a terrorist nation right now. Although I must tell you, they're a lot better right now than they were when I took office. When I took office, they were heading in a very, very bad direction. And at some point, things very positive, frankly, could happen with Iran, but we also need a counterbalance. And Israel needs help also. If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a terrible mistake.

Q. Hizballah is saying that they are—[inaudible]—government. Maybe it's a reply for the sanctions that you placed on them.

The President. I really can't understand what you're saying. Sorry.

Saudi Arabia/The President's Personal Finances

Q. The Washington Post, in a statement—put out a statement—they said that you're putting your personal interests, your commercial interests ahead of national interests.

The President. Well, I have nothing to do with Saudi——

Q. Yes.

The President. Just so you understand, I don't make deals with Saudi Arabia. I don't have money from Saudi Arabia. I have nothing to do with Saudi Arabia.

Q. You said they buy apartments from you, sir.

The President. I couldn't care less. And I will tell you, and as most of you know, being President has cost me a fortune, and that's okay with me. I knew that a long time ago. But being President has cost me a fortune, a tremendous fortune like you've never seen before, but it's—someday, I'll tell you what that is.

But—and I knew that a long time ago, because I don't do deals. I don't do—all I do is focus on this country and making great deals for this country. I don't focus on making on great deals for myself, because I don't care anymore.

So Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with me. What does have to do with me is putting America first.

Saudi Arabia-U.S. Trade/Russia/China/Oil Prices

Q. Sir, they rent a whole floor in Trump World Tower.

The President. Wait, wait, wait. They're buying hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of things from this country. If I say we don't want to take your business, if I say we're going to cut it off, they will get the equipment—military equipment and other things—from Russia and China.

Russia and China would be very, very happy, because right now we're doing very well against China. We're doing very well against everybody, including Russia. And I'm going to keep it that way. And I'm not going to tell a country that's spending hundreds of billions of dollars and has helped me do one thing very importantly—keep oil prices down so that they're not going to $100 and $150 dollars a barrel. Right now we have oil prices in great shape. I'm not going to destroy the world economy, and I'm not going to destroy the economy for our country by being foolish with Saudi Arabia.

Q. But, sir, you said the Saudis are buying lots and lots of apartments——

The President. So I think the statement—wait a minute. I think the statement was pretty obvious what I said. It's about "America first."

Q. Are you concerned—— Assistant to the President Ivanka M. Trump/Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Q. On Ivanka's e-mails——

The President. Say it again.

Q. On Ivanka's e-mails, why was it appropriate for your daughter to use personal e-mail for government use?

The President. Just so you understand, early on and for a little period of time, Ivanka did some e-mails. They weren't classified like Hillary Clinton's.

Q. Do you know for sure?

The President. They weren't deleted like Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33—she wasn't hiding—she wasn't doing anything to hide her e-mails.

I looked at it just very briefly today, and the Presidential records—they're all in Presidential records. There was no hiding. There was no deleting like Hillary Clinton did. There was no servers in the basement like Hillary Clinton had. You're talking about a whole different—you're talking about all fake news.

So what Ivanka did, it's all in the Presidential records. Everything is there. There was no deletion. There was no nothing. What it is, is a false story. Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 e-mails. She had a server in the basement. That's the real story.

Q. President Trump——

Q. Mr. President, Mr. President, Admiral Bill McRaven—sir, sir——

Federal Judiciary

Q. Mr. President, what is your reaction to the fact that your asylum policy has been put on hold?

The President. The which policy?

Q. Your asylum policy has been put on hold.

The President. Well, you go the Ninth Circuit, and it's a disgrace. And I'm going to put in a major complaint, because you cannot win—if you're us—a case in the Ninth Circuit, and I think it's a disgrace.

When people file—every case gets filed in the Ninth Circuit, because they know—that's not law. That's not what this country stands for. Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit, we get beaten. And then, we end up having to go to the Supreme Court, like the travel ban, and we won.

The Ninth Circuit, we're going to have to look at that. Because every case, no matter where it is, they file it—practically, I mean practically—for all intents and purposes—they file it in what's called the Ninth Circuit. This was an Obama judge. And I'll tell you what, it's not going to happen like this anymore.

Everybody that wants to sue the United States, they file their case in—almost—they file their case in the Ninth Circuit. And it means an automatic loss, no matter what you do, no matter how good your case is. And the Ninth Circuit is really something we have to take a look at, because it's not fair. People should not be allowed to immediately run to this very friendly Circuit and file their case. And you people know better than anybody what's happening. It's a disgrace. In my opinion, it's a disgrace what happens with the Ninth Circuit. We will win that case in the Supreme Court of the United States.

[At this point, many reporters began speaking at once.]

Q. [Inaudible]—to Saudi Arabia?

Q. Mr. President, did you give your written answers to Mueller yet, sir? Have you turned your written answers to Mueller yet?

Q. Admiral McRaven, who oversaw that raid on Usama bin Laden, is he a hero? And when will you visit the troops?

The President. Go ahead. What do you have?

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Will you answer when you will visit the troops?

The President. I can't hear your question. I can't hear you. Your voice is not——

Q. Is Admiral McRaven—is Admiral McRaven——

The President. I don't know Admiral—I don't know Admiral McRaven.

Q. Have you seen results?

Q. Should Julian Assange be freed?

The President. What?

Q. [Inaudible]—to Robert Mueller?

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. Did you turn in the written answers to Robert Mueller yet?

The President. No, they're all finished. The written answers are finished.

Q. Have they been presented?

Q. Did you turn them in yet?

The President. I don't know. The lawyers have them. I don't know. They will. They will.

Q. Should Julian Assange—[inaudible]?

The President. The written answers to the witch hunt that's been going on forever—no collusion, no nothing—they've been finished. I finished them yesterday. The lawyers have them. I assume they'll turn them in today or soon.

Q. Is Julian Assange—[inaudible]—Iran sanctions?

The President's Interaction With U.S. Servicemembers

Q. Are you afraid to go to a war zone? Are you afraid to go to a war zone and visit American troops?

The President. No, I'm going to a war zone. Yes. U.S. Sanctions Against Iran

Q. Mr. President, are you happy with the sanctions on Iran?

The President. What?

Q. Are you happy with the sanctions on Iran?

The President. Yes, the sanctions on Iran are very strong, very powerful. They're sanctions, I think, that have had a tremendous impact. More sanctions are going on.

Q. What about Hizballah?

The President. We have a lot of tremendous support. And Iran is not the same country it was when I became President; it's a much different country. And hopefully, at some point, we'll be able to make a fair deal and help Iran and help the people of Iran.

Facebook, Inc.

Q. Mr. President, can you talk about the market today? Do you really believe the Dems are behind the market drop today?

Q. Should Julian Assange be able to go free?

The President. Well, I know that Schumer's daughter works for Facebook, which I just found out today. [Laughter] And if you look at what Facebook has been doing, you know, they have some real explaining to do, how they're so Democrat-oriented. All of them.

But I hear Schumer's daughter works for Facebook. And I was very surprised and disappointed to learn that, because nobody knew that until now.

Yes, go ahead.

WikiLeaks Founder Julian P. Assange

Q. Sir, should Julian Assange should go free? Should the Justice Department drop his case?

The President. I don't know anything about him. Really, I don't know much about him. I really don't.

Go ahead.


Q. What do you want Pakistan to do?

The President. Say it?

Q. Do you want Pakistan to do in the fight against terrorism?

The President. I want Pakistan to help us. We're no longer paying $1.3 billion to Pakistan. We're paying them nothing, because that's what they've done to help us: nothing. And I cut those payments off a long time ago. We're not paying Pakistan any money, because they're not helping us at all. And we'll see where it all goes.

Q. But, Mr. President——

The President. I hope to have a good relationship with Pakistan, but right now we're paying Pakistan nothing. I cut them off. They were getting $1.3 billion a year. They're not getting anything now. Q. Mr. President, are you going to—[inaudible]? Mr. President——

Deployment of U.S. Troops to Mexico-U.S. Border/Border Security

Q. Mr. President, what is your message to the U.S. troops that you deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border who aren't spending this Thanksgiving holiday with their families?

The President. Oh, you—don't worry about the Thanksgiving—these are tough people. They know what they're doing and they're great. And they've done a great job. You're so worried about the Thanksgiving holiday for them.

They are so proud to be representing our country on the border where—if you look at what's happening, Mexico—the people from Tijuana are saying: "Wow, these are tough people. They're fighting us." They're in fistfights all over the place. These are tough people that are coming in. Now I understand they have 500 people that have been designated as—let's put it in a nice word—criminals. And these are the people that are coming in? No. You don't have people coming in.

The order today is not—we can get around that very easily. What I do say is, Ninth Circuit is—it's very unfair when everybody files their case in the Ninth Circuit. They file it for a reason.

As far as the troops, they are proud to be on the border. They are proud to be defending our Nation. And we're not letting people in. It's called "catch and detain." It's not called catch-and-release, like it has been for many years. For many years, they called it catch-and-release. They don't call it that anymore.

And our soldiers are doing an incredible job. And if you look at the walls that they're building, and if you look at all the barricades that they're putting up, they've done a great job.

Q. Will you go visit them? Mr. President, will go visit those troops?

Attorney Michael J. Avenatti

Q. Mr. President, do you have any reaction to Michael Avenatti being arrested for domestic violence?

The President. No, I wish him the best of luck. I wish him the best of luck.

National Economy/Stock Market/Trade

Q. But what about the markets? Do you agree with Larry Kudlow that we're not headed to a recession?

The President. No, I think we're doing great. I mean, as a country, we're doing great. Our unemployment is at a record low. You look at all of the different statistics. I think your tech stocks have some problems, but that'll come back.

But no, I think we're going to do very well. I'd like to see the Fed with a lower interest rate. I think the rate is too high. I think we have much more of a Fed problem than we have a problem with anyone else.

We're doing very well with China. China wants to make a deal very badly. They might not say that to you, but they want to make it very badly. I have another 250 billion dollars' worth of tariffs to put on if we don't make a deal. And believe me, I'll be putting them on, because China has been ripping off our country for many, many years. And they don't rip us off with me. We made a great deal with Canada. We made a great deal with Mexico. I appreciate the help that Mexico is giving us at the border. You see that people are not coming through. All of the fistfights and the fighting that you see are done on the Mexico side. They're not coming in here. But I appreciate what Mexico is doing. They can do more, but I appreciate what they're doing.

Assistant to the President Ivanka M. Trump

Q. Mr. President, how can you say for sure that all of Ivanka's e-mails were preserved when she was using a private server and a private address?

The President. Well, they were preserved. The lawyer told me they're all preserved—historically, they're preserved.

Death of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi/Saudi Arabia-U.S. Relations/The President's Personal Finances

Q. Mr. President, what about the CIA assessment that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? Don't you believe the CIA?

The President. They didn't make a determination. And it's just like I said, I think it was written: "maybe he did, maybe he didn't." They did not make that assessment. The CIA has looked at it. They've studied it a lot. They have nothing definitive.

And the fact is, maybe he did, and maybe he didn't. If you look at Iran, what they've done—they've been a bad actor. You look at what's happening in Syria with Asad, with hundreds of thousands of people killed. We are with Saudi Arabia. We're staying with Saudi Arabia.

And by the way, just so everybody knows, I have no business whatsoever with Saudi Arabia. Couldn't care less.

Death of Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi/Saudi Arabia-U.S. Trade/Oil Prices

Q. How are you letting the Saudis get away with murder, murdering a journalist?

The President. No, no. No, no. This is about "America first." They're paying us 400 billion-dollars-plus to purchase and invest in our country. That's probably the biggest amount ever paid to the United States; this is over a long period of time. It means hundreds of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars of investment and product.

And if you think I'm going to let Russia have that money or—or those—or those things; if you think I'm going to let China make the military equipment—hey, China and Russia would love to make 100 billion dollars' worth of military equipment from Saudi Arabia. We have the contracts. They wanted those contracts. That would be a big, fat, beautiful gift to Russia and to China. They're not going to get that gift.

Just so you understand, it's about "Make America Great Again." It's about "America first." We're going to stay with Saudi Arabia.

The other thing: Saudi Arabia is probably the second biggest oil producer. They've worked with us very well. We've kept oil prices down. If you want to see oil prices go to $150 a barrel—like, by the way, Russia would love to see that—all you have to do is break up our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia-U.S. Relations Q. Will you meet with the Saudi Crown Prince in Argentina next weekend?

The President. What?

Q. Will you meet with the Saudi Crown Prince in Argentina?

The President. I don't know that he's going to be there. But if he is, I would. Yes.

Q. [Inaudible]—on Matt Whitaker?

Q. Are you concerned, Mr. President——

Mississippi Senatorial Election

Q. Cindy Hyde-Smith, are you concerned about her situation?

The President. No, Cindy Hyde-Smith is a spectacular woman. She's a great Senator. She came in; she's done a fantastic job in a short period of time. She made a statement, which I know that she feels very badly about it, and it was just sort of said in jest, as she said. And she's a tremendous woman. And it's a shame that she has to go through this.

I think she's going to do very well. I really believe she's going to do very well. I've gotten to know her well. She's a person that loves the people of Mississippi; she loves the people of this country. She's going to be a great Senator.

I'm going to do two events in Mississippi on Monday. I'm doing one near—let's see, I'm doing one near Jackson. I'm doing one in the Gulf Coast. And we're going to do one in Tupelo. So we might even do three, but we're going to do two.

I think Tupelo probably is definite, and I think Gulfport is definite. Cindy Hyde-Smith is a tremendous woman who truly loves the people of Mississippi and our country, and I think she's going to win, very big.

Q. Would you ever let——

Assistant to the President Ivanka M. Trump/Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Q. Why would you ever let Ivanka be interviewed with Democrats about her e-mails?

The President. Oh, Ivanka can handle herself.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Ivanka can handle herself. These are all in the historical records. There was no deletion whatsoever, unlike Hillary Clinton, who deleted 33,000 e-mails.

Q. [Inaudible]—your daughter, sir?

The President. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who had a server in the basement. Ivanka didn't. This was just early on, when she came in. These calls were not classified, unlike Hillary Clinton's calls, which were classified. And it's all fake news.

Q. But what if House Democrats——

Q. But did she really not know the rules?

White House Turkey Presentation Ceremony

Q. Holiday pardons? Any holiday pardons? The President. I love the pardons for the turkey. [Laughter]

Q. Are you going to pardon any people?

The President. I haven't thought of it, but it's not a bad thing.

President Bashar al-Asad of Syria

Q. Would you pardon Asad? Would you pardon Asad? He's still in power, Asad. Why are you still supporting his position?

The President. No, I think what Asad has done is horrible. I mean, really horrible.

Q. So why is he still in power, Mr. President?

Time Magazine's "Person of the Year"

Q. A question about the recently released Time magazine online poll. Who do you feel—obviously, I can assume who you think deserves to be first place. Who do you think deserves to be second place as Time's Person of the Year?

The President. It's called "Person of the Year," right?

Q. Yes.

The President. It's no longer "Man of the Year," right?

Q. Yes, sir. Their language.

The President. I don't know. That's up to Time magazine. I've been there before. I can't imagine anybody else other than Trump. Can you imagine anybody other than Trump? Huh?

Have a good time, everybody. Thank you. Thank you.

Q. [Inaudible]—about the Mueller probe?

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. It's a total witch hunt that's been going on from the beginning. Long before the beginning. When I was campaigning, it was going on. It's nothing other than a disgrace that's costing a lot of money.

We've done some answers. We've done everything they've asked. It should end, because this country has to get back together. It should end. You saw the polls that came out. The polls are negative now on it. It's just a disgrace. Honestly, it's a disgrace—[inaudible].

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Is it good or bad?

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker

Q. It's great. [Inaudible]

The President. He's doing a very good job. Everybody tells me that Matt Whitaker is doing a fantastic job. So you know, we'll have to see where everything goes. But everybody tells me he's doing a fantastic job.

Q. [Inaudible]—calling to investigate Ivanka's e-mails. What do you say, sir? The President. What else?

Thank you, everybody.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:11 p.m. on the South Lawn at the White House prior to boarding Marine One. In his remarks, he referred to Jon S. Tigar, judge, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California; Adm. William H. McRaven, USN (Ret.), former commander, U.S. Special Operations Command; Alison Schumer, daughter of Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer; and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. Reporters referred to Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III; and National Economic Council Director Lawrence A. Kudlow. A portion of these remarks could not be verified because the audio was incomplete.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks in an Exchange With Reporters Prior to Departure for Palm Beach, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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