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Remarks Following a Republican Congressional Leadership Retreat and an Exchange With Reporters at Camp David, Maryland

January 06, 2018

The President. Thank you very much. It's great to have you at Camp David—a very special place. We started, as you know, yesterday afternoon. We had a couple of incredible meetings. It's a feeling here that you don't have in very many places. There was a bonding. There was a—we got a lot of work done, a lot of great work for the people.

Security discussed, infrastructure discussed, military and all types of military situations and applications discussed. General Mattis is here, General Kelly—a lot of good military input. Very important. Discussed funding for the military, which is so important.

We also, obviously, went into budgets. And we went into DACA and how we're going to do. And we hope that we're going to be able to work out an arrangement with the Democrats. I think it's something that they'd like to see happen. It's something, certainly, that I'd like to see happen.

So we are very well prepared for the coming year. We finished very strong. One of the things we are discussing and discussing very powerfully is drugs pouring into this country and how to stop it. Because it's at a point—over the last number of years, it's never been like this. We've never had a problem with drugs like we do, whether it's opioid or drugs in the traditional sense. It's never been like it is.

And we are going to do everything we can. It's a very difficult situation, difficult for many countries. Not so difficult for some, believe it or not. They take it very seriously, and they're very harsh. And those are the ones that have much less difficulty. But we are going to be working on that very, very hard this year. And I think we're going to make a big dent into the drug problem.

With that, I think I—what I'll do is ask Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to say a few words. Then, I'll have Paul Ryan. And we'll—perhaps you'll have some questions for some of the folks. We have a great group of talent. And I will tell you, the meetings, again, were really, perhaps, transformative in certain ways. We're doing things, and we have things planned for next year.

One of the things Mitch said—and he said it very well—was, it's going to be tough to beat the year we just left because what we had last year was something very special, especially to cap it off with the tremendous tax cuts and tax reform. And don't forget ANWR. And don't forget the fact that the individual mandate—such a horrible thing for so many people—was terminated. So it's very, very tough.

But I'd like to ask Mitch—come up, say a few words, please.

[At this point, Senate Majority Leader A. Mitchell McConnell made brief remarks, concluding as follows.]

Leader McConnell. And so, Mr. President, thanks for the opportunity to be here. We're excited about the new year and ready to get to work. Thank you.

The President. Thank you, Mitch. [Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul D. Ryan made brief remarks, concluding as follows.]

Speaker Ryan. So we have a very bold agenda for 2018. We think this agenda is one that will appeal to everyone in between: between Democrats and Republicans, Independents. And so we're excited about the progress that's already been made, and we're very excited about what we have in store for us for 2018. Thank you.

The President. Thank you, Paul.


[Vice President Michael R. Pence made brief remarks, concluding as follows.]

Vice President Pence. We truly do believe that there are opportunities after our discussions this weekend for bipartisan work on a broad range of issues from infrastructure to workforce to vocational education. And I can say, I'm even more confident, after this weekend's discussions, that, with the President's leadership and with the strong leadership in the Congress, we're going to keep delivering for the American people in 2018 and we're going to create a stronger and more prosperous America.

The President. Thank you very much, Mike.

Any questions for the group? Yes.

Welfare Reform

Q. Mr. President, I didn't hear any mention here of welfare reform. Is that something that is still on the agenda for 2018?

The President. We are looking at it. And we're looking at aspects of it. It's a subject that's very dear to our heart. We'll try and do something in a bipartisan way; otherwise, we'll be holding it for a little bit later. But we'll be looking to do that very much in a bipartisan way, if we can.


The President's Education and Accomplishments/Author and Journalist Michael Wolff/Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon

Q. Mr. President, you were talking about the policy issues that you all were focusing on the last few days here at Camp David, but this morning you were tweeting about your mental state. Why did you feel the need to tweet about that this morning?

The President. Well, only because I went to the best colleges—or college. I went to a—I had a situation where I was a very excellent student. Came out and made billions and billions of dollars. Became one of the top businesspeople. Went to television and, for 10 years, was a tremendous success, as you probably have heard. Ran for President one time and won.

And then, I hear this guy that does not know me, doesn't know me at all. By the way, did not interview me for three—he said he interviewed me for 3 hours in the White House. It didn't exist, okay? It's in his imagination.

And what I was heartened by—because I talk about fake news and the fake news media—was I—really, was the fact that so many of the people that I talk about, in terms of fake news, actually came to the defense of this great administration and even myself because they know the author and they know he's a fraud. And when I saw some of the people say—and you look at some of his past books. He did a book on Rupert Murdoch. It was a terrible exposé, and it was false. So much of it was false. I consider it a work of fiction, and I think it's a disgrace that somebody is able to have something, do something like that. The libel laws are very weak in this country. If they were strong, it would be very helpful. You wouldn't have things like that happen where you can say whatever comes to your head.

But just so you know, I never interviewed with him in the White House at all. He was never in the Oval Office. We didn't have an interview. And I did a quick interview with him a long time ago having to do with an article, but I don't know this man. I guess Sloppy Steve brought him into the White House quite a bit, and it was one of those things. That's why Sloppy Steve is now looking for a job.

Okay, who else do you have? Yes.

North Korea/2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea

Q. Mr. President, the meetings now between South Korea and North Korea, the discussions——

The President. Yes. Hope it works out.

Q. I was going ask, are you comfortable that this will remain just about the Olympics? Are you——

The President. Well, I think so. I spoke with the President, as you know—with President Moon of South Korea. He thanked me very much for my tough stance. And you know, for 25 years, they haven't been using a tough stance. They've been giving everything.

When you look at what Bill Clinton did—and you've seen the famous clip where Bill Clinton wants to give them everything, and where I said, years ago, with Russert on "Meet the Press"—many years ago, we—I talked to—I don't think anything has changed. You have to have a certain attitude, and you have to be prepared to do certain things. And I'm totally prepared to do that.

But President Moon called me, and we had a great discussion a couple of days ago, and he thanked me very much. And I hope it works out. I very much want to see it work out between the two countries. I'd like to see them getting involved in the Olympics, and maybe things go from there. So I'm behind that a hundred percent.

He actually thanked me. He said—and a lot of people have said, a lot of people have written—that without my rhetoric and without my tough stance—and it's not just a stance—I mean, this is—this is what has to be done, if it has to be done—that they wouldn't be talking about Olympics, that they wouldn't be talking right now.

North Korea-South Korea Relations

Q. Are you comfortable that they're not also taking the conversation beyond the Olympics while he continues to——

The President. Well, I hope they do. I hope they do. I would love to see them take it beyond the Olympics. We have a very good relationship with South Korea. I would love to see it go far beyond the Olympics, absolutely.

And at the appropriate time, we'll get involved. But I like the idea of their dealing on the Olympics. That should be between those two countries. Yes.

Investigation Into Russia's Efforts To Interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election/New York Times/2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton

Q. Mr. President, did you ask the White House Counsel to ask Attorney General Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation?

The President. Everything I've done is a hundred-percent proper. The story, by the way, in the Times was way off, or at least off. But everything that I've done is a hundred-percent proper. That's what I do is, I do things proper.

And you know, I guess the collusion now is dead, because everyone found that, after a year of study, there's been absolutely no collusion. There has been no collusion between us and the Russians.

Now, there has been collusion between Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the Russians. Unfortunately, you people don't cover that very much. But the only collusion is between Hillary and the Russians, and the DNC and the Russians, and one of those things.

Okay, any other questions?

New York Times

Q. In what way was the New York Times story off?

The President. You'll find out. But the story was off.

Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III

Q. Do you stand by Jeff Sessions as your Attorney General?

The President. Yes, I do.

National Economic Council Director Chairman Gary D. Cohn

Q. And will Gary Cohn continue to remain in position?

The President. I hope so. Where's Gary? [Laughter] Is he here? He was here. Gary, come here. [Laughter] Oh! Did you hear the question, Gary, in this beautiful hangar that's freezing?

Director Cohn. No, I did not, sir.

The President. They said, will Gary Cohn continue or remain in the administration? I said, I hope so. [Laughter]

Now, if he leaves, I'm going to say, I'm very happy that he left, okay? [Laughter] All right. Come here, Gary. Come here. Are you happy, Gary? He's just passed a very big bill. I think he's pretty happy.

Director Cohn. Yes, I'm happy. How's that? [Laughter]

The President. Come on. Gary, hopefully, will be staying for a long time.

Yes, ma'am.

North Korea

Q. Just to follow up on the conversations between North Korea and South Korea, are you willing to engage in phone talks with Kim Jong Un right now? The President. Sure. I always believe in talking.

Q. Do you think that that would be helpful?

The President. But we have a very firm stance. Look, our stance—you know what it is. We're very firm. But I would be—absolutely I would do that. No problem with that at all.

North Korea-South Korea Relations/2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea/North Korea

Q. So no prerequisites to coming to the table and talking with him?

Speaker Ryan. That's not what he said.

The President. We—that's not what I said, at all. Look, right now they're talking Olympics. It's a start. It's a big start. If I weren't involved, they wouldn't be talking about Olympics right now. They'd be doing no talking, or they—it would be much more serious.

He knows I'm not messing around. I'm not messing around, not even a little bit, not even 1 percent. He understands that. At the same time, if we can come up with a very peaceful and very good solution—we're working on it with Rex, and we're working on it with a lot of people—if something can happen and something can come out of those talks, that would be a great thing for all of humanity. That would be a great thing for the world. Very important, okay?

Q. Mr. President?

The President. Yes, sir.

2018 Congressional Elections/The President's Approval Rating

Q. Do you plan on involving yourself in Republican primaries in this midterm year?

The President. Yes, I'll be very much involved.

Q. On the side of——

The President. In fact, that's one of the reasons—hard to believe, my polls numbers have gone way up. You'll have to explain that to me someday. But I will tell you, they—actually, they've been explaining it to me, but they want me to be involved, and we're going to be very involved. In fact, not only with the Senate, also with the House.

2018 Congressional Elections/Bipartisanship

Q. And protecting incumbents? Will you——

The President. Protecting incumbents and whoever I have to protect.

Q. Will you back challengers?

The President. But we need more Republicans. We have to have more Republicans.

With that being said, I think we're going to go bipartisan. I think we're going to have some really great bipartisan bills. But we need more Republicans so that we can really get the rest of the "Make America Great Again" agenda passed.

And so I will be actually working for incumbents and anybody else that has my kind of thinking. And I think it's going to happen. We're going to make a lot of trips. We'll be very involved. I think you folks are going to be very happy, because you're going to be doing a lot of travel. 2018 Congressional Elections/2017 Special Senatorial Election in Alabama

Q. So that includes some challengers to incumbents too?

The President. I don't see it—I don't see that happening. I don't see that happening at this moment, no. I think they've sort of scattered.

We had somebody that lost us the State of Alabama. And I think, as far as I'm concerned, that was a shame that that was lost. That should never have been lost.

And you have to—look, with it all being said, we have the right policy, we have the right everything. You still need a good candidate. You don't have a good candidate, you're just not going to win. So we should have never lost Alabama. It shouldn't have happened.

Okay, any other questions? Yes, ma'am.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program/Immigration Reform Legislation

Q. Mr. President, can you lay out—I know that you guys released a very long list of requirements—things that you wanted to see on immigration tied to a DACA fix.

The President. I do.

Q. But can you explain to us right now the exact points——

The President. Well, I can just say some of the basics.

Q. What exactly do you need to sign it?

The President. I can say some of the basics. We want the wall. The wall is going to happen, or we're not going to have DACA. You know, we want to get rid of chain migration. Very important. And we want to get rid of the lottery system.

In addition to that, we want some money for funding. We need some additional border security. These are great people, and we need some border security. We need ICE. But we want to make sure that, in terms of what we want—and we want DACA to happen. We all—everybody, I think I can speak for everybody—we want—John Cornyn from Texas. We all want DACA to happen. But we also want great security for our country. So important. We want to stop the drugs from flowing in. Very important.

So we have to get rid of the visa lottery. You know, the lottery is a disaster. They give you people—in fact, as you know, the person on the West Side Highway that killed 8 people and so badly injured—legs and arms—so badly injured many more, they came in through the lottery system.

And remember this, the lottery—it's just common sense—they're not sending us their finest, okay. When somebody gets picked in the lottery, we're not getting their best people. So we have to get rid of the lottery system, we have to get rid of chain migration. We have to have the wall.

Immigration Reform Legislation

Q. Do you want the lottery and the chain migration aspects in that same piece of legislation?

The President. I think it should be in the same legislation, yes. And I think, frankly, that the Democrats feel strongly about it too. I mean, Chuck Schumer is New York. He saw somebody that came in through the lottery system. He saw this man kill 8 people on the West Side Highway that he knows very well and he loves like I do. I think he's okay with it. I really think we'll have a lot of Democrat support. I hope so. Okay?

Yes, sir.

Border Security/Mexico-U.S. Relations

Q. Mr. President, have there been any more efforts to get Mexico to pay for the wall?

The President. Well, yes, I believe that Mexico will pay for the wall. I have a very good relationship with Mexico. As you know, we're negotiating NAFTA. We'll see how that goes.

Yes, but Mexico will pay. In some form, Mexico will pay for the wall.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Probably got time for one more question.

The President. One more question.

Investigation Into Russia's Efforts To Interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election/2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton

Q. Mr. President, if Robert Mueller asks you to come and speak with his committee personally, are you committed, still, to doing that? Do you believe that's appropriate for a President?

The President. Yes. Just so you understand—just so you understand, there's been no collusion; there's been no crime. And in theory, everybody tells me I'm not under investigation. Maybe Hillary is, I don't know, but I'm not.

But there's been no collusion. There's been no crime. But we have been very open. We could have done it two ways. We could have been very closed, and it would have taken years. But you know, it's sort of like, when you've done nothing wrong, let's be open and get it over with.

Because, honestly, it's very, very bad for our country. It's making our country look foolish, and this is a country that I don't want looking foolish. And it's not going to look foolish as long as I'm here. So we've been very open, and we just want to get that over with.

Okay, anybody else? I think we're set. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis; White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly; Rupert Murdoch, executive cochairman, News Corp.; former President William J. Clinton; Chairman of the Korean Worker's Party Kim Jong Un of North Korea; Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson; 2017 Alabama Republican senatorial candidate Roy S. Moore; Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn III; Sayfullo Saipov, suspect in the vehicular terrorist attack on the bike path along the West Side Highway in Lower Manhattan on October 31, 2017; and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer. Reporters referred to White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II; and Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks Following a Republican Congressional Leadership Retreat and an Exchange With Reporters at Camp David, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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