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Remarks in a Meeting With Musician Kanye O. West and Former National Football League Player Jim Brown and an Exchange With Reporters

October 11, 2018

The President. Jon [Jonathan Karl, ABC News], you know Jim Brown? The greatest of all time.

Q. It's an honor, sir.

The President. And what I—what people don't know. Kanye, everybody knows, right? Every—does the world know Kanye? What people—Kanye—what people don't know about Jim? They say—first of all—he's the best football player. But they say he was an even better lacrosse player. Do you think so?

Mr. Brown. Never thought about it.

The President. Huh?

Mr. Brown. Never thought about it.

The President. I heard he was even—at Syracuse.

Mr. Brown. I love the game. Yes, I loved it. I loved all sports.

The President. Well, it's great to have you, Jim. Great to have you.

Mr. Brown. It's good to be here, Mr. President.

The President. Kanye, it's great to be with you.

Mr. West. Great to be here.

The President. And these are two friends of mine. And Kanye has been a friend of mine for a long time. And Jim is—Jim came out of nowhere, and he said, "I like what the President is doing." A long time ago we met. Right? And I just appreciated it very much.

And you know, if you look at the employment numbers, if you look at the median income, if you look at every single indicator, we're keeping our promise, Jim. Thank you. And I want to thank you.

Mr. Brown. Fantastic. And I like North Korea.

The President. I like North Korea too.

Mr. Brown. [Inaudible]—you know what I mean?

The President. Yes. Yes. Well, he's—turned out to be good. Dialogue—we had a little dialogue. And Secretary of State just came back—Mike. He just came back from North Korea. We had very good meetings, and we'll meet again. But we're doing good. No more nuclear testing. No more missiles going up. No more nothing. And it's—that was headed to war. That was headed to war.

Mr. Brown. Yes. I mean, it was—to me, it seemed like that close.

The President. Yes. It was so close. We spoke—I spoke to President Obama. I will tell you, that was headed to war. And now it's going to be—I believe it's going to work out very well. Mr. West. You stopped the war. [Laughter]

The President. We really stopped the war. Saved millions of lives. You know, Seoul has 30 million people. You don't realize how big. Thirty million people who are right near the border; 30 miles off the border. Millions of people would have been killed. And I will say, Chairman Kim has been really good. Really good. And we've made a lot of progress.

That's nice that you say that, because that's a big—that's a big thing. These folks were covering—they were covering North Korea not—I think not very promisingly. And there were a lot of problems. President Obama said that was his biggest problem. And I don't say anything is solved——

Mr. West. You, day one, solved one of his biggest problems.

The President. Yes.

Mr. West. We solved one of the biggest problems.

The President. It was a big solving. And not solved yet, but I think we're along—I think we're on the way.

Mr. Brown. [Inaudible]

The President. No, no. It's—we're well on our way.

Mr. Brown. You know what I mean too.

The President. In a short period of time, Jim. Very short period of time. You know, I left Singapore 3 months ago. And we've made a lot of progress. So it's very good. Hey, look, that's one of many things.

But I appreciate everything with you. I'll tell you what: Kim was in. Mrs. Johnson, we got her out. She was very unfairly treated. And there are many other people like that, that——

Mr. West. Yes, we have Larry Hoover's lawyer with us today. And it's a prisoner that was focused on—he has six life sentences, and they have him next to the Unabomber doing 23 and 1. That means——

The President. What did he do? Larry? What happened?

Attorney Justin Moore. Why is he in?

The President. Yes, tell me. Tell us.

Mr. Moore. Allegedly, it's for conspiracy from prison, from State prison. You know, it's alleged. But we do believe even if he did commit those crimes, the sentence was overly broad and too strict.

The President. What was the sentence?

Mr. Moore. Six consecutive life sentences in the most secure prison in the world, also known as "a clean version of hell," for basically an economic crime.

Mr. West. What prison is that? Name the prison.

Mr. Moore. ADX Supermax, in Florence, Colorado. They house the Unabomber, Al Qaida operatives, mass killers, Oklahoma City bomber, things of that nature.

The President. How old is he? How old? Mr. Moore. Sixty-eight.

The President. He's 68 years old?

Mr. Moore. Yes, 68 years old.

Mr. West. And really, the reason why they imprisoned him is because he started doing positive for the community. He started showing that he actually had power, that he wasn't just one of a monolithic voice, that he could wrap people around.

So there's theories that there's infinite amounts of universe and there's alternate universe. So it's very important for me to get Hoover out, because in an alternate universe, I am him. And I have to go and get him free because he was doing positive inside of Chicago, just like how I'm moving back to Chicago, and it's not just about, you know, getting on stage and being an entertainer and having a monolithic voice that's forced to be a specific party.

You know, people expect that if you're Black, you have to be Democrat. I have a—I've had conversations that basically said that welfare is the reason why a lot of Black people end up being Democrat. They say—you know, first of all, it's a limit to amount of jobs. So the fathers lose the jobs, and they say, "We'll give you more money for having more kids in your home." And then, we got rid of the mental health institutes in the eighties and the nineties, and the prison rates just shot up.

And now you have "Chiraq," what people call "Chiraq"—which is actually—our murder rate is going down by 20 percent every year. I just talked to the superintendent; met with Michael Sacks; that's Rahm's right-hand man. So I think it's the bravery that helps you beat this game called life.

You know, they tried to scare me to not wear this hat, my own friends. But this hat, it gives me power, in a way. You know, my dad and my mom separated, so I didn't have a lot of male energy in my home. And also, I'm married to a family that—[laughter]—you know, not a lot of male energy going on. It's beautiful though. [Laughter] But there's times where, you know, there's something about—you know, I love Hillary. I love everyone, right? But the campaign "I'm with her" just didn't make me feel—as a guy that didn't get to see my dad all the time—like a guy that could play catch with his son. It was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman. That was my—that's my favorite superhero. And you made a Superman cape for me.

Also as a guy that looks up to you, looks up to Ralph Lauren, looks up to American industry guys—nonpolitical, no bullshit—put the beep on it, however you want to do it, five seconds delay—and just goes in and gets it done.

Right now you gave me the heart to go to Adidas. Because at Adidas, when I went in, in 2015, we were a $14 billion company losing $2 billion a year. Now we have a $38 billion market cap. It's called the Yeezy effect.

And I went to Casper. We had a meeting in Chicago. And I said, "You have to bring manufacturing onshore." And not even shore; into the core. It's not about the borders; it's the core of Adidas. And Chicago is the core of middle America. And we have to make middle America strong.

So I had the balls—because I have enough balls to put on this hat. I mean, this Adidas thing made be a billionaire. And I could have lost $200 million walking away from that deal. But even with that, I knew it was more important for me to take the chance of walking away from that deal than to have no fathers in Chicago with no homes. And when we do have prison reformation, for no—because it's habilitation, not rehabilitation, because they didn't have the abilities in the first place. We never had anyone that taught us. They didn't teach us. Exactly—we had no one that "taught" us. Right?

So it's more important than any specific deal—anything—that we bring jobs into America, and that we provide a transition with mental health and the Amer-I-Can education curriculum that Jim has worked on. Larry Hoover also has a curriculum that he's worked on. We have Montessori curriculums that we worked on. WeWorks has a beautiful curriculum. The Waldorf establishment has a curriculum. We have meditation. There's a lot of things affecting our mental health that makes us do crazy things that puts us back into that trap door called the 13th Amendment.

I did say "abolish" with the hat on. Because why would you keep something around that's a trap door? If you're building a floor—the Constitution is the base of our industry, right? Of our country, of our company. Would you build a trap door that if you mess up and you—accidentally, something happens, you fall, and you end up next to the Unabomber? [Laughter] You end up—you've got to remove all that trap door out of the relationship.

The four gentlemen that wrote the 13th Amendment—and I think the way the universe works, it's perfect. We don't have 13 floors, do we? You know, so the four gentlemen that wrote the 13th Amendment didn't look like the people they were amending. Also, at that point, it was illegal for Blacks to read—or African Americans to read. And so that meant if you actually read the Amendment, you would get locked up and turned into a slave.

Again, so what I think is, we don't need sentences; we need pardons. We need to talk to people.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was connected with a neuropsychologist that works with the athletes in the NBA and the NFL. And he looked at my brain—it's equal on three parts. I'm going to go ahead drop some bombs for you—98 percentile IQ test. I had a 75 percentile of all human beings, but it was counting eight numbers backwards—[inaudible]—so I'm going to work on that one. The other ones, 98 percent—Tesla, Freud.

So he said that I actually wasn't bipolar; I had sleep deprivation, which could cause dementia 10 to 20 years from now, where I wouldn't even remember my son's name. So all this power that I got, and I'm taking my son to the Sox game and all that, I wouldn't be able to remember his name from a misdiagnosage.

And what we need is, we can empower the pharmaceuticals and make more money. That's one thing—I've never stepped into a situation where I didn't make people more money. So we can empower pharmaceuticals; we can empower our industries; we can empower our factories. We can bring not only Adidas onshore, we can bring—Foxconn has set up a factory in, I think, Minnesota.

White House Senior Adviser Jared C. Kushner. Wisconsin.

Mr. West. Fifty-three thousand——

The President. Wisconsin. Yes. Wisconsin.

Mr. West. Yes. Wisconsin. They have 4,000 jobs, people making $53,000 a year. And one of the things we've got to set is Ford to have the highest design, the dopest cars, the most amazing. I don't really say "dope." I don't say negative words and try to flip them. We just say positive, lovely, divine universal words. So the flyest, freshest, most amazing car. And what we want to start with is—I brought a gift with me right here. This right here is the iPlane1.

[At this point, Mr. West displayed a photograph on his phone and showed it to the President and others.]

The President. Oh. Wow.

Mr. West. It's a hydrogen-powered airplane. And this is what our President should be flying in. Look at this, Jared. [Laughter]

Mr. Kushner. That's nice.

The President. We'll get rid of Air Force One. Can we get rid of Air Force One? [Laughter] No? You don't like that idea. [Laughter]

Mr. West. Well, we're going to have Apple, an American company, work on this plane with—but you know what I don't like about—it's not that I don't like—what I need Saturday Night Live to improve on, or what I need the liberals to improve on is, if he don't look good, we don't look good. This is our President.

The President. It's true.

Mr. West. He has to be the freshest, the flyest, the flyest planes, the best factories. And we have to make our core be in power. We have to bring jobs into America, because our best export is entertainment and ideas. But when we make everything in China and not in America, then we're cheating on our country and we're putting people in positions to have to do illegal things to end up in a cheapest factory ever: the prison system.

The President. I'll tell you what, that was pretty impressive, folks. [Laughter] You know, I hate to say this, Jim. Do you want to say something, Jim? [Laughter] What do you after that?

Mr. West. You don't mind if I——

The President. You are—please, Jim. Please.

Mr. Brown. If he doesn't look good, we don't look good.

The President. Right. Great, right? Isn't that a great statement?

Mr. Brown. Yes, it is.

The President. And it's so true.

Mr. Brown. Makes a lot of sense.

The President. As a country. It's so true—very impressive—I've never seen Jim Brown impressed before. [Laughter] He was impressed. That's true. That statement is amazing, huh?

Mr. Brown. Yes, yes. It makes a lot of sense.

The President. I want to say it's great to have you guys with us. And we're going to go, and we're going to have some lunch.

That was quite something. That was quite something.

Mr. West. It was from the soul. I just channeled it.

The President. Yes. Yes, I know——

Q. Can I just ask a quick question of Kanye? The President. ——really very interesting.

Yes, sure. Please.

Q. So you had said of President Bush that he doesn't care about Black people. And you've heard some people say that about this President. What do you—how do you respond to that? What do you think of that?

Mr. West. I think we need to care about all people. And I believe that when I went on to NBC, I was very emotional, and I was programmed to think from a victimized mentality, a welfare mentality. I think that with Blacks and African Americans, we really get caught up in the idea of racism over the idea of industry. We say if people don't have land, they settle for brands. We want Polo-sporting Obama again. We want a brand more than we want land. Because we've haven't known how it feels to actually have our own land and have ownership of our own blocks.

So when you don't have ownership, then it's all about how something looks. It's about the patina; it's not about the soul, it's not about the core. So we focus more on, is somebody wearing something; is someone disrespecting so I've got to shoot them. Or the idea of someone being racist.

You know, we talk about police murders, which we definitely have to discuss, and we have to bring nobility to the police officers and make—the police officers are just like us. But there's this whole hate-building, right? And that's a major thing about racial tension.

Like, we also, as Black people, we have to take a responsibility for what we're doing. We kill each other more than police officers. And that's not saying that the police officer is not is not an issue, because they are in a place—a position of power. But sometimes, they're in a placement of law enforcement. They need to be law-power. It's force versus power. And when you—you shouldn't have to force people to do that.

So a lot of times, the police officer is sitting there, they're being forced to do this and forced to do that block. And then, they force somebody into something and force into something. We have to release the love throughout the entire country and give opportunities. A lot of times, it's just the overall lack of reparations that we, at any given point, we say: "Oh, this is racist. This is racist. This is racist. This is racist."

So we don't have reparations, but we have the 13th Amendment. We've got to open up the whole conversation. So—and that's a move. One of the moves that I love that liberals try to do—the liberal would try to control a Black person through the concept of racism, because they know that we are a very proud, emotional people. So when I said "I like Trump" to, like, someone that's liberal, they'll say, "Oh, but he's racist." You think racism could control me? [Laughter] Oh, that don't stop me. That's an invisible wall.

Q. Mr. West, what would you like——

The President. That's—that's——

Q. But you don't think—you reject those who say he's racist?

Mr. West. On your question—and you had one question; we're going to move it to another question.

Q. Mr. West——

Q. [Laughter] Okay. Mr. West. I answered your question. I don't answer questions in simple soundbites. You are tasting a fine wine. It has multiple notes to it. [Laughter] You'd better play 4-D chess with me like it's "Minority Report." Because it ain't that simple. It's complex.

Q. Mr. West, what would you like—I'm from the Chicago Sun Times, sir—I would like to know what you would like to ask President Trump to do for Chicago. You're here to talk about crime in Chicago.

Mr. West. The thing that the head of the police and Mike Sacks met with me last night at the Soho House about was, we feel that stop-and-frisk does not help the relationships in the city. And everyone that knew I was coming here said, "Ask about stop-and-frisk." That's the number-one thing that we're having this conversation about.

Another thing is opening up industries. And we've got to get some tax breaks too. Because we're making—we've got a Speedfactory in Atlanta, but the shoes are costing us $300, so it's costing us too much to make things. So we need some prototypes here so we can get people back working so China can't just beat us and Vietnam can't beat us. You've got Levi's, the greatest jeans company in the world, making their jeans in Vietnam.

So we're going to need to get a few breaks to be able to have some places in my hometown of Chicago and the 2.7 million to the 9 million surrounding suburbs where we can create some factories. Now, I think it would be cool for them to be Trump factories, because he's a master of industry. He's a builder.

And I think it would be cool to have Yeezy ideation centers, which would be a mix of education that empowers people and gives them modern information like—sometimes, people say: "This kid has ADD. This kid has ADD." He don't have ADD. School is boring. It was boring. It's not as exciting as this. We have to make it more exciting. We have to mix curriculums.

You play basketball while you're doing math. You learn about music while you meditate in the morning. We have to instate mental health and art programs back into the city. So those are—and also, Larry Hoover is an example of a man that was turning his life around, and as soon as he tried to turn his life around, they hit him with six life sentences. So I believe he's—you say don't tear down the statues? Larry Hoover is a living statue. He's a beacon for us that needs to see his family; that needs to go out and represent. When you have a block leader on every single block, they can own the block as their own. That's something I learned from Jim Brown, from Amer-I-Can.

We need to put curriculums from people who really came from the streets, not people who were just trying to set us up to go into a work system or prison system that applies to what people are really going through, which Jim Brown has created.

Q. What about gun violence? With all the debate about the Second Amendment going on, how do you propose to fix that?

Mr. West. The problem is illegal guns. Illegal guns is the problem, not legal guns. We have the right to bear arms.

Law Enforcement Practices

Q. President Trump has said that he favors "stop and frisk." Are guys going to be discussing that? Do you think you can change his mind? Mr. West. Yes. We're going to discuss that. I didn't mean to put you on blast like that, bro, but——

The President. No, no. It's okay. [Laughter]

Mr. West. But this is definitely a——

The President. Hey, I'm open-minded. I'm here. I am open-minded.

The President's Political Rallies

Q. Mr. President, would you like him to speak at one of your rallies?

The President. He can speak for me anytime he wants. [Laughter] He's been a great guy. He's a smart cookie. Smart. He gets it. These two guys—Jim Brown. He's been doing this for a long time.

Mr. Brown. Yes, sir.

Mr. West's Political Future

Q. Is this a future Presidential candidate?

The President. Could very well be.

Mr. West. Only after him. So it will be 2024.

The President. Could very well be. That's good. I'm glad to hear that.

Mr. West. We have a good—and the thing is, let's stop worrying about the future. All we really have is today. We just have today. Over and over and over again, the eternal return, the hero's journey. And Trump is on his hero's journey right now. And he might not have expected to have a crazy motherfucker like Kanye West run up—[laughter]—and support, but best believe, we are going to make America great.

Now, the thing is my—another thing is Black people have an issue with the word "again." And I believe—my feeling from that is because I'm going to throw—I'm going to go all the way—[inaudible]—because time is a myth. All we have is now. All we have is today. So the word "again"—it doesn't hurt us because the idea of racism and slavery, different things; it hurts us because we need to focus on who we are now, today, I believe.

So I actually brought some hats in that have a bit of a transition. I'm not trying to put you up there—just follow me—I made a hat that says "Make America Great." Just that.

But I would love to see, at the Super Bowl, Trump wearing the "Make America Great" hat; Colin making—wearing the "Make America Great" and showing that we can bend a bit on this side, we can bend a bit on this side, and we can learn how to be malleable in the infinite universe that we are and the loving beings that we are.

That we don't have to stick to our own traditions. And we aren't a side. We are one unit. We are one country. We are one moment in history and time. We might have been here before, but right now we're here together. And our greatest value that people have are other people. And we need to stop working on—random, like it's gang again.

The President. Let me ask you this question. You're in the Oval Office——

Mr. West. Okay. [Laughter]

The President. How does it feel to be in the Oval Office?

Mr. West. Oh, it is good energy in this.

The President. Isn't it good energy?

Mr. West. It's good energy.

The President. It's a great place. Jim, how do you feel?

Mr. Brown. I feel good. I truly feel good. And thank you too.

The President. You are so respected. And what Kanye is doing has been incredible. All over the world, they're talking about this. And I have to tell you, I had important meetings today with Senators and with everything. Nobody cared. They wanted this meeting. This is the meeting. Is that right? I can say that to Jon.

Q. We care about other stuff too.

The President. The others were good, right? But this is what they want.

Mr. Brown. It's an honor you would be here.

The President. Well, it's my honor, Jim. I want to tell you. I've been a fan of yours for a long time.

Mr. Brown. Well, thank you very much.

The President. Long time. Nobody like you. Nobody like you. No athlete like you.

Mr. Brown. Well, you know why I'm here? I'm here to serve.

The President. Yes. That's really nice, man.

Mr. Brown. I'm not here to ask for anything. [Inaudible]

The President. Well. And you know, that's always been the way Jim has been, for a long time. And he just wanted to help. And it's something special.

Jennifer [Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News], did you have a question?

Law Enforcement Practices/Chicago, IL, Crime Rate

Q. I guess—just you—what do you feel about stop and frisk? Are you going to, you know——

The President. Well, we're going to look at it.

Q. ——back-track on your comment—[inaudible]?

The President. I'm open to everything. Hey, look, I think it's a shame what's happening in Chicago.

Q. And what else can be done in Chicago?

The President. I'm in Chicago a lot too. I have nice things in Chicago. You know that, right? And I hate to see what's happening. They're having numbers—the numbers of people being shot and killed, and it's not for this country. So they have to do something. And I am totally open. If we can do it a different way, Kanye, I'm totally open.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. They have to do—I mean, we all agree they have to do something, that's for sure. Q. Mr. President, is it a law enforcement issue? A legislation—a legislative issue?

The President. Well, maybe it's a combination of both. Yes, I guess it is. But I think it's probably a combination of both. And it's also a respect issue. They respect this guy. They respect this guy. That's a big thing. Right now they're not respecting, let's say, your mayor, or let's say your leadership in Chicago. But certainly, it shouldn't be happening. What's going on there should not be happening.

Steve [Steve A. Holland, Reuters]? Go ahead.

Criminal Justice Reform

Q. Sir, what do you want this meeting to lead to in terms of prison reform?

The President. Honestly, from our standpoint, this was just set up to be a lunch of two people that I like. And I guess they like me. And we're going to have lunch. We're going to talk.

Mr. West. You said—you said, I guess, you know I love you.

The President. I know.

Mr. West. Did I——

The President. But I don't want to take—I don't want to put you in that spot, but——

Mr. West. No, I'm standing in that spot. I love this guy right here. Let me give this guy a hug right here. [Laughter]

[Mr. West hugged the President.]

Mr. West. I love this guy right here.

The President. That's really nice. That's really nice. Come here. That's really nice. And that's from the heart. I didn't want to put you in that position. [Laughter] But that's from the heart. Special guy.

These two are special people. Whether you like it, whether you don't like it, they're special people. And I appreciate it. Jim, Kanye, I appreciate it. So let's go have some lunch.

Thank you all very much. That was really great. Great, Jon, huh? Wasn't that nice?

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:32 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo; Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un of North Korea; social media personality Kim Kardashian West, wife of Mr. West; Memphis, TN, resident Alice Marie Johnson, whose lifetime prison sentence was commuted by the President on June 6; and Mayor Rahm I. Emanuel of Chicago, IL. Mr. West referred to Larry Hoover, a convicted member of the Gangster Disciples organization currently serving a life sentence in the Federal prison in Florence, CO; Theodore J. Kaczynski, a domestic terrorist known as the Unabomber, who pleaded guilty to several counts of bombing and murder in January 1998 and is serving eight life sentences at the Federal prison in Florence; Eddie T. Johnson, superintendent, Chicago Police Department; Michael J. Sacks, chairman and chief executive officer, Grosvenor Capital Management, L.P.; 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton; American fashion designer Ralph Lauren; and Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback, National Football League's San Francisco 49ers. He also referred to his father Ray and son Saint. Mr. Moore referred to Terry L. Nichols, who is serving a life sentence for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, on April 19, 1995.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks in a Meeting With Musician Kanye O. West and Former National Football League Player Jim Brown and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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