Remarks on Proposed National Environmental Policy Act Regulations and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Good morning, everyone.
Participants. Good morning.
The President. Today we're taking another historic step in our campaign to slash job-killing regulations and improve the quality of life for all of our citizens.
In the past, many America's—of America's most critical infrastructure projects have been tied up and bogged down by an outrageously slow and burdensome Federal approval process—and I've been talking about it for a long time—where it takes many, many years to get something built, get something built, done in any way. The builders are not happy. Nobody is happy. It takes 20 years. It takes 30 years. It take numbers that nobody would even believe.
These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground, and deny jobs to our Nation's incredible workers. From day one, my administration has made fixing this regulatory nightmare a top priority. And we want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways bigger, better, faster, and we want to build them at less cost.
That is why, for the first time in over 40 years, today we are issuing a proposed new rule under the National Environmental Policy Act to completely overhaul the dysfunctional bureaucratic system that has created these massive obstructions. Now, we're going to have very strong regulation, but it's going to go very quickly. And if it doesn't pass, it's going to not pass quickly. It doesn't have to take 10 years or much longer than that.
These proposed reforms will reduce traffic in our cities, connect our rural communities, and get Americans where they need to go more quickly and more safely.
We're pleased to be joined by Secretary David Bernhardt, Secretary Elaine Chao, Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Mary Neumayr. They've done a fantastic job on this.
Also with us are representatives of the American workers from across the country, including president of the North America's Building Trades Union, Sean McGarvey; president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, Jennifer Houston; president of the American Trucking Associations, Chris Spear; and many other leaders of labor and industry.
America is a Nation of builders. It took 4 years to build the Golden Gate Bridge, 5 years to build the Hoover Dam, and less than 1 year—can you believe that?—to build the Empire State Building. Yet today, it can take more than 10 years just to get a permit to build a simple road, just a very simple road. And usually, you're not even able to get the permit. It's unusual when you get it. It's big government at its absolute worst, and other countries look at us, and they can't believe it.
For example, in North Carolina, it took 25 years to begin construction of the Marc Basnight Bridge. In Alaska, improvements on a 15-mile stretch of Sterling Highway—the only road connecting local communities to the rest of the State and a very dangerous area—it's been delayed for over 15 years, but we're getting it started. In Washington State, it took two decades to finish environmental reviews for the runway at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Think of that. It takes decades. The United States will not be able to compete and prosper in the 21st century if we continue to allow a broken and outdated bureaucratic system hold us back from building what we need: the roads, the airports, the schools, everything.
Right now it takes over 7 years and oftentimes much longer—and 7 years is, like, record time—to complete approvals for a simple highway—the simplest of them. With today's proposed reforms, we will reduce that number by more than 70 percent.
We'll cut the Federal permitting timeline for major projects down to 2 years. And ideally, we're going to try and get even less than that. So you'll be—instead of 21, 22, 25, 8, 9, 12, 15—we're going to get it down to 2 years and maybe less, with strong regulation, especially environmental and safety regulation. But we'll get it down to a very low number. And we're going to do it fast. We're doing it with a rule change that just is being signed.
In the past, those seeking infrastructure permits have had to go to numerous Federal departments all over—numerous, and numerous means many, many—sometimes to get the same exact change, but you had to get them from different departments. So you'd go to these Federal departments and agencies requesting approval from countless governmental bureaucrats, each of whom was empowered to hold up the process and leave urgently needed projects in limbo, and for the most part, they wouldn't get built. If they did get built, it would take so many years and cost many times more.
But our new "One Federal Decision" policy—it's called "One Federal Decision"—requires agencies to work closely together to promptly deliver one decision. Yes. The entire process will be completed; the entire Federal Government approval process will be done.
We're also cutting redtape by allowing Federal departments to increase the use of documentation prepared by State, Tribal, and local governments. This is just common sense, and there's no need to do all of the duplicate work. There's so much duplication. You'd go for a permit. You'd have to go for another permit. They were all—they would turn out to be all the same permits; you're just going to different agencies to get the same approval.
At the same time, we're maintaining America's world-class standards of environmental protection. We have some of the cleanest air and cleanest water on Earth. And for our country, the air is, right now, cleaner than it's been in 40 years. I guess you go before that, and there was a lot less activity. So we're competing—I would imagine, 200 years ago, it was great. [Laughter] And 500 years ago, before we got here, it must have been really nice, right? [Laughter] But in the last 40 years, it's the cleanest right now.
By streamlining infrastructure approvals, we'll further expand America's unprecedented economic boom. And that's what we have: we have an economic boom. We've created 7 million jobs, including over 700,000 construction jobs. Unemployment has reached the lowest rate in over 51 years.
After years of stagnation, real wages have increased nearly 10 percent for low-income workers, the biggest beneficiaries. Our regulation cuts are giving the average American household an extra $3,000 per year. And if you look at the tax cuts and all of the other cuts, it's close to $10,000 a year, with all of the cuts that we're getting. And that's for an average median-income family, $10,000.
You know, I've talked about past administrations—the one was $475, and the other one was $975—the last two, $975. And we're $10,000, and the number is actually higher that—than that, if you include certain regulations that we got cut. So that's an amazing thing, and that's one of the reasons consumers are doing so well and leading us so strongly in this boom that we're in. But this is just the beginning. We'll not stop until our Nation's gleaming new infrastructure has made America the envy of the world again. It used to be the envy of the world, and now we're like a third world country. It's really sad. You get approval—they even get financing for jobs, and then they can't build them for 15 years, and then it ends up costing five times more than it was supposed to cost.
So I'd now like to ask Chairwoman Mary Neumayr to say a few words. And we're going to have another couple of speakers, and then we'll take some questions. Go ahead. Thank you. Thank you, Mary. How are you, by the way? [Laughter] Come on over here, Mary.
Council of Environmental Quality Chairman Mary B. Neumayr. Thank you, Mr. President. President Trump promised a more efficient permitting process so that Americans receive timely decisions on permits for vital infrastructure projects affecting their everyday lives.
Today we are proposing the first comprehensive update to the National Environmental Policy Act regulations since they were issued over 40 years ago. Over the past 3 years, the White House Council on Environmental Quality has been working closely with Federal agencies and their leadership, including the leaders here today, to improve the implementation of NEPA for the American people.
NEPA requires Federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of proposed major Federal actions, including the issuance of Federal permits and other approvals, as well as when providing Federal funding. NEPA affects communities and the quality of life of Americans across the Nation: from the construction of roads, bridges, airports, and harbors; to water infrastructure; agriculture, forest, land, and fisheries management activities; and environmental restoration.
The goal of NEPA is to ensure well-informed decision-making. But the process can be unnecessarily complex, burdensome, and protracted. A lengthy process can delay or even derail important projects to modernize our Nation's infrastructure, manage our Federal lands and waters, and restore our environment.
The Council on Environmental Quality has found that the average time for Federal agencies to complete environmental impact statements is 4½ years. Further, for highway projects, it takes over 7 years on average, and many projects have taken a decade or more to complete the environmental review process. These delays deprive hard-working Americans of the benefits of modernized roads and bridges that allow them to more safely and quickly get to work and get home to their families.
NEPA is the most litigated area of environmental law. Delays due to lengthy reviews and lawsuits increase costs for project applicants, States, Tribes, localities, and taxpayers. These delays deter investments, and these delays make our country less economically competitive.
Today's proposal would modernize the environmental review process. The proposed rule would make commonsense changes to establish a presumptive 2-year time limit for environmental impact statements; require Federal agencies to request information from applicants and the public earlier in the process; increase coordination by agencies to reduce delays; avoid duplication by facilitating use of documents required by other statutes or prepared by State, Tribal, or local agencies; and ensure that the regulations reflect current, modern technologies.
The proposed rule would provide for a faster process while ensuring that agencies analyze and consider the environmental impacts of proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to address significant impacts. It's important to note that the proposal would reform the process of gathering information on environmental effects, but would not change any substantive environmental law or regulation, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. Nothing in the proposal would eliminate the protections that Congress has enacted to safeguard our environment and the American people.
Today's proposal has undergone extensive interagency review and the Council on Environmental Quality has carefully considered thousands of public comments.
Under the President's leadership, the administration is committed to ensuring that we are good stewards of our environment while supporting American prosperity. As we move forward with this proposed rule, we will remain focused on improving the environmental review and permitting process while ensuring a safe, healthy, and productive environment for current and future generations of Americans.
Mr. President, thank you for your leadership and support.
The President. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks, Mary. Great job.
And if I could, Secretary Chao.
Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao. Yes, right here.
The President. Secretary Chao. Thank you. Please.
Secretary Chao. Thank you, sir. Good morning. We are delighted to be here, because today is indeed very historic. Today's action is really needed. Our Nation's infrastructure is in danger of deterioration, and it needs to be repaired and rebuilt. And as you have heard from the President and also from the director of CEQ, the time that it is required to rebuild a new project is now unsustainable. Our Nation needs, our infrastructure needs to be addressed.
[At this point, Secretary Chao continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
So today is historic. This NPRM will solicit comments, remarks, so it will be an open process. And what we are hoping to do is to address the infrastructure needs of our country as the President has said on so many occasions. And then, of course, we want to see new projects be constructed and new jobs being created.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Very good. Thank you, Elaine. Thank you. Thank you, Elaine. I want to also thank Elaine for doing a great job. She's doing a fantastic job.
Secretary Bernhardt, please.
Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt. Sir. Mr. President, thank you for the introduction and for the honor of being here today. I am thrilled.
For those of you that don't practice in this area, let me tell you: This is a really, really big proposal. This proposal affects virtually every significant decision made by the Federal Government that affects the environment. And I believe it will be the most significant deregulatory proposal you ultimately implement.
The President. Wow. Big statement. [Laughter]
Secretary Bernhardt. Well, the reality—you know, here's the bottom line: You have been crystal clear since the day you arrived here that you wanted to have a commonsense approach to ensuring that the Government made better decisions for the people. And what you see here today are the people. And the reality is that the NEPA law serves an incredibly noble purpose.
[Secretary Bernhardt continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
We have—in the last 40 years, we've gone backwards. And your actions are changing that, and it's a big step forward. So thank you. And thank you, Mary. Thank you. The President. Please, Andrew Wheeler—where is Andrew? Come on, Andrew. Come on. Thank you.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew R. Wheeler. Thank you, Mr. President. I'm pleased to be here today to celebrate yet another promise this President has fulfilled: to update the NEPA regulations.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of both the EPA and the NEPA law. A lot has changed over the last 50 years, and we have made tremendous progress in protecting both the environment and growing our economy. From 1970 to 2018, the emissions of the six criteria air pollutants have decreased by 74 percent, and all six have gone down during the Trump administration. Likewise, on the water side: In 1970, over 40 percent of our Nation's drinking water systems failed to meet the EPA standards.
[Administrator Wheeler continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
I want to congratulate the President for his leadership and the Council on Environmental Quality and our sister agencies who put so much time into this proposal. This proposal is yet another bold step this administration is taking to modernize the Federal bureaucracy and our permitting programs for the benefit of all Americans. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. That's great. Great job. Thank you.
Sean. Please. Sean McGarvey.
North America's Building Trades Union President Sean McGarvey. Thank you, Mr. President. Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades. We are fully supportive of the President's initiative when it comes to NEPA and permitting reform. Few people in this country understand the archaic nature of our system the way the President does, based on his background, where we partnered with him for years to try to build buildings and infrastructure in the United States.
This proposal does nothing to take away from the protections for our citizens, for our taxpayers, for our workers, or for our environment. So on behalf of our membership, we're fully supportive and look forward to the opportunities for thousands, hundreds of thousands of, millions of people to go to work in the construction industry once these reforms are fully in place. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you very much. Would you like to say something?
National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Jennifer Houston. Thank you, Mr. President. America's cattle men and women are subject to NEPA review on a regular basis, whether renewing their grazing permits, applying for USDA program, or improving their rangeland. And although well intentioned, it's become mired in a complex web of litigation and complexity and delay.
[Ms. Houston continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
On behalf of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Public Lands Council, thank you, Mr. President, Secretary Bernhardt, Secretary Chao, Chairman Neumayr. We appreciate all your work and all your, really, remembering the cattlemen, cattlewomen in rural America and everything you do. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
And for the cattlemen and cattlewomen, we're signing, as you know, a very big deal, among many other things, with China——
Ms. Houston. Yes, sir. The President. ——probably January 15. And we just signed a $40 billion deal with Japan. That's already kicked in. You see that.
Ms. Houston. Yes, sir.
The President. We did South Korea. We have others that we've done and some that we're doing. We have tremendous trade deals being made.
Ms. Houston. We appreciate it.
The President. And they're actually good deals for our country instead of bad deals for our country.
Ms. Houston. Wonderful.
The President. So it's been good.
I'm going to Ohio in a little while. We have crowds of people that for, 2½, 3 days, have been standing out in the cold. I don't know how they do it. [Laughter] They're strong people. But they've been out there, and it's pretty much zero degrees. And it's a great State. And we have a tremendous crowd, so I look forward to that. I'll be leaving in a little while.
But we'll take a few questions. Please.
China-U.S. Trade/Federal Aid to Farmers
Q. Mr. President, you mentioned the Chinese trade deal that you're working on; you're going to be signing, next week, phase one. Can you give us a sense of phase two——
The President. Yes.
Q. ——what you hope to accomplish there? And will you be traveling to Beijing for that?
The President. Well, phase one is a big, big number. It's a big percentage of the deal. Some would say half, some would say a little less or a little more than half. But it's a tremendous percentage. It's pretty much all for the farmers—also, bankers. We also have regulations for a lot of different—lot of things are covered that people are going to be very surprised to see, but it's a big chunk of it.
And we'll start right away negotiating phase two. It will take a little time. I think I might want to wait to finish it until after the election, because by doing that I think we can actually make a little bit better deal, maybe a lot better deal.
But phase one was—is a phenomenal deal. Could be up to $50 billion in farm product. So that's something that—the most they ever did was $16 billion. So they go from $16 billion to up to $50 billion. So that's numerous times more than they were buying in the past. It's going to have a huge impact. And I see farm prices are going way up. I see corn is just—had some big increases over the last little while. Cattle has been doing really well. And the farmers liked me anyway. That's what I like about the farmers. [Laughter]
But you know what I did do—and you know this better than anybody—I got—I was able—they were targeted by China. You know—look, China is negotiating. I don't blame them. But they were targeted. They say, "You know, the farmers like Trump so we'll target the farmers." And they did. And the first year, it was $12 billion, and I took $12 billion, and I asked Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture, "What do you think, Sonny?" He said, "It's $12 billion." And I think that would've caused tremendous consternation. And they were hit for $12 billion, and I took $12 billion out of the tariffs.
We had tens of billions of dollars left over; I gave it to the farmers. The next year, it was $16 billion. I took $16 billion out of the tariffs; I gave it to the farmers. So the farmers did pretty well, and now they're doing great. And the prices are going up very substantially, and China is kicking in. China has already started to buy. Japan, the deal is done. They have been buying. It's a $40 billion deal.
But the big question I have is whether or not the farmers will be able to supply that much. Because it's much more than—it's the biggest contract ever signed. So I think it will be great for the farmers, but also great for regulatory, great for banks. You know that. Great for finance companies. Really, a lot.
Then we're going to covering the opening of China and various other things in phase two.
Impeachment/Intelligence Community Whistleblower/The President's July 25 Telephone Conversation With President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine
Q. And on impeachment, sir, would you support a deal for witnesses if that included testimony from Adam Schiff and Hunter Biden?
The President. Well, I'm going to leave it to the Senate, but I'd like to hear the whistleblower. I'd like to hear Shifty Schiff. I'd like to hear Hunter Biden and Joe Biden. You know. How does Hunter Biden, with no experience whatsoever—would anybody up—Sean, would you like the Hunter Biden job? He has no experience, making no money, and then, all of a sudden, see, he's making millions and millions of dollars. You'd take that. Would you leave the union for that? I think so.
Mr. McGarvey. Uh, I'm not sure, Mr. President. [Laughter]
The President. I know so, but I'm not going to tell. [Laughter]
No, no I'd like to hear from Hunter Biden. I'd like to hear from—he's a corrupt politician, Adam Schiff. He's corrupt. He gave a sentence. You know, he never knew I was going to release the transcript. He gave a sentence that he made up. He made it up. And it was not the—it was not what was said in the conversation. That's why I released the transcript; got approval from Ukraine. We released the exact transcript, and it turned out to be totally different.
These are corrupt politicians. The whole thing is a hoax. But I would like to hear Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, Adam "Shifty" Schiff, and some others—the informer that never showed up. You know, once I released the transcript, you know what happened. The informer—he never showed up.
And the second whistleblower, Jon [Jonathan Karl, ABC News], whatever happened to the second whistleblower? The second whistleblower disappeared. There probably was none or maybe we know who the second whistleblower was. Maybe we do. But he never showed up. All of a sudden, they don't talk, because they were really unexpectedly met with the actual conversation, the exact conversation.
So yes, if we do that, I would like to have those people, plus others, testify. Because it's the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the United States Government. This has gone on since the day I came down the escalator. This isn't just here; this isn't just the Ukraine hoax. This is the witch hunt. This is the whole thing with Russia that turned out to be a total fabricated plot. The ones who are guilty are the Democrats, the DNC, and all of the dirty cops that were involved that we caught.
Death of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Major General and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani of Iran/Iran's Missile Attacks on the Ain al-Asad and Erbil Military Bases in Iraq Q. Mr. President, I'm sure you saw Mike Lee's comments. Did your national security team really say that it would be wrong for Congress to debate military action on Iran?
The President. So here's what happened on that: I had calls from numerous Senators and numerous Congress men and women, saying it was the greatest presentation they've ever had.
Mike and Rand Paul disagreed, because they want information that, honestly, I think is very hard to get. It's okay if the military wants to give it, but they didn't want to give it. And it really had to do with sources and information that we had that really should remain at a very high level.
Could we individually maybe give one or two of them some information? Possibly, if we can do that. I get along great with Mike Lee. I've never seen him like that. But other people have called, and they've said it was the best presentation they've ever seen.
And let me tell you what was the best, forget about presentation: the result. We killed a man who killed many, many Americans and many, many people, thousands and thousands of people.
And when I go over to Walter Reed and I meet these young, incredible folks—mostly, it just seems mostly men, but also women—where their legs are gone, their arms are gone. In some cases, both the legs and the arms are gone, and the face and the body is badly damaged. And frankly, 5 years ago, they couldn't have lived. And today, they can live because of the wonders of medicine and the wonders of Walter Reed and the people that, over there—what—the job they do, the medical doctors.
But I will say this: We caught a total monster, and we took him out. And that should have happened a long time ago. We did it because they were looking to blow up our Embassy. We also did it for other reasons that were very obvious. Somebody died—one of our military people died—people were badly wounded just a week before. And we did it. And we had a shot at him, and I took it, and that shot was pinpoint accurate. And that was the end of a monster.
Then—and that was—really, that was the second attack. It was not—we didn't start it. They started it by killing one of our people and wounding badly other of our people. So that you call "retribution."
Ukraine—if you look at what happened with Ukraine, that's a hoax. Well, this is a hoax too. Iran went in, and they hit us with missiles. Shouldn't have done that, but they hit us. Fortunately for them, nobody was hurt, nobody was killed. Nothing happened. They landed—and very little damage even, to the base. They landed.
But we had a chance to take out a monster; we took him out. And it should have been done a long time ago.
Presidential Powers/Death of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Major General and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani of Iran
Q. But would you go to Congress to take further military action against Iran? Would you seek congressional approval?
The President. It would all depend on the circumstance. I don't have to, and you shouldn't have to be able—because you have to make split-second decisions sometimes. Sometimes, you have to move very, very quickly, Jon. But in certain cases, I wouldn't even mind doing it.
What—you know what I—what bothers me? When I see a Nancy Pelosi trying to defend this monster from Iran, who has killed so many people, who has so badly—I mean, so many people are walking around now without legs and without arms. Because he was the big roadside bomb guy. He was the one who would send them to Afghanistan. He would send him to Iraq. He was big. That was his favorite thing. He thought it was wonderful. He doesn't think it's wonderful anymore.
When Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats want to defend him, I think that's a very bad thing for this country. I think that's a big losing argument, politically too.
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action To Prevent Iran From Obtaining a Nuclear Weapon/2020 Presidential Election
Q. So anyway, outside the JCPOA and also with total sanctions implemented, what's left if Iran——
The President. Well, just so you understand, on JCPOA: It's close to expiring. In other words, if I didn't terminate it, it expires in a very short period of time.
One of the problems, of which there was many—$150 billion, $1.8 billion in cash—all of that money—and then that money was used for terror. Because if you look at Iran, it wasn't so bad until they got all that money. They used that money for terror. That's when it became really bad. You just take a look. I mean, it really got bad when they had $150 billion, $1.8 billion in cash.
The JP—the agreement—I always call it the Iran nuclear deal that didn't work. The Iran deal, it was just something that it was—is no good for our country. It expires in a short time. That means they would be on their path to nuclear weapons. And for me, it's about nuclear weapons, more than anything else. Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. They understand that. We have told them very strongly.
Iran now is not wealthy like it was when President Obama handed them $150 billion. They're a much different country. We'll see whether or not they want to negotiate.
Maybe they want to wait until after the election and negotiate with a weak Democrat—somebody like a Biden or a Pocahontas or Buttitieg [Buttigieg; White House correction.] or one of these characters. Okay? Maybe they want to wait. But I think they're probably well off doing it now. Because if you look at the polls, and if look at what's going on, we're doing very well.
They're losing a tremendous amount. They're getting hurt very badly by the sanctions. It all can end very quickly. But as to whether or not they want, that's up to them; not up to me. It's totally up to them.
They can straighten out their country. Iran, right now, is a mess. They can straighten out the economics of their country very, very quickly. Let's see whether or not they negotiate.
Q. But, Mr. President, the plane that went down. The plane——
Additional U.S. Sanctions Against Iran
Q. [Inaudible]—these sanctions—when should we expect to see sanctions on Iran following the attack?
The President. Immediately.
Q. Tomorrow? This week? The President. It's already been done. Yes. We've increased them. They were very severe, but now it's increased substantially. I just approved it a little while ago with Treasury. Okay?
Q. And who will they be against and what sort of sanctions——
The President. Well, you'll see. I mean, we'll put out a minor announcement. It's actually a major event.
It's like this. This is, to me, a major event. And so far, I have—had no—I haven't had—no questions on the fact that we can build a highway in, you know, a small fraction of the time, that we can build all of these beautiful bridges that we want to build, but they can't get approvals. I've had no questions on that.
Are you shocked, Sean, when you hear that?
Mr. McGarvey. No, Mr. President. [Laughter]
The President. I mean, honestly, they should be having some questions. Okay.
Yes. Jon, go ahead.
Crash of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight PS752 in Tehran, Iran
Q. Mr. President, the plane that went down——
The President. Yes.
Q. ——coming from Iran——
The President. Terrible.
Q. ——what do you think happened to that plane?
The President. Well, I have my suspicions.
Q. What are those suspicions?
The President. It was very—I don't want to say that, because other people have those suspicions also.
It's a tragic thing, when I see that. It's a tragic thing, but somebody could have made a mistake on the other side. Could have—could have made a mistake. It was flying——
Q. The air defense systems?
The President. It was—it was flying in—not our system, no. It has nothing to do with us. It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood, and somebody could have made a mistake. Some people say it was mechanical. I personally—I don't think that's even a question, personally. So we'll see what happens.
Q. Do you think Iran shot it down by accident?
The President. I don't know. I really don't know. I don't want to get—that's up to them. At some point, they'll release the black box. Ideally, they'd get it to Boeing. But if they gave it to France or if they gave it to some other country, that would be okay too. I think, you know, ideally, that will be released.
I have a feeling that—it's just some very terrible—something very terrible happened. Very devastating.
Q. Mr. President——
The President. Yes. Venezuela
Q. The situation in Venezuela has not gone as smoothly as some people would, likely even yourself, have hoped. What are you prepared to do differently——
The President. Well, I never thought it would go smoothly. Venezuela hasn't gone smoothly since it became a socialist or worse-than-that country. So I never expected anything to go smoothly.
We'll see what happens with Venezuela. They're doing poorly. I mean, there's a great case—when I say this country will never be a socialist nation, there's a great case. It was a wealthy country 15 years ago, 20 years ago. That was, like, a really wealthy country. And now they don't have water. They don't have food. We're supplying a lot of food. We're supplying a lot of water.
So no, it takes a period of time. It's been—you know, I've only been here a relatively short period of time. We'll see what happens.
Q. Are you prepared to do anything else—change the strategy?
The President. Well, I'm not going to say that. No, I have—we have a good strategy. But we're taking care of people. We're helping people. Colombia is helping a lot of people. Some of the nations surrounding are helping people.
But we're—I think we're doing a good job. They have a system that right now is very broken. We'll see what happens. Stay tuned.
U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq/Political Unrest in Baghdad
Q. Mr. President, you said Iran was trying to blow up the Embassy in Baghdad. Can you provide more details on what that plot was?
The President. No, I think it was obvious. If you look at the protests—and this was the anti-Benghazi. This was—Benghazi was a disaster. They showed up a long time after it took place. They saw burning embers from days before.
I said, "Get out today, immediately." They were saying, "We think we can have them tomorrow." I said: "Nope. They've got to go right now." And they were on their way very quickly. And they got there almost—I mean, they got there quickly.
They could have done that with Benghazi too, by the way. Same thing. Had they gotten there—had they done what I did, you wouldn't have had—you wouldn't know the name "Benghazi." It would not be a very famous name. Now it's a very famous name.
This was the anti-Benghazi. We got the Apaches there very quickly. They were doing the flares. People didn't know what was happening. But if you look at those protesters, they were rough warriors. They weren't protesters; they were Iranian-backed. Some were from Iraq, but they were Iranian-backed. Absolutely.
And they were looking to do damage. And they were breaking the windows. And you know, those are very structurally strong windows, as you know, and they were almost through. And had they gotten through, I believe we would have either had a hostage situation, or we would have had a—worse, we would have had a lot of people killed.
Those people were going to do very serious harm. They were soldiers; they were warriors. And we stopped it. We stopped it. That was a totally organized plot. And you know who organized it. That man right now is not around any longer. Okay? And he had more than that particular Embassy in mind.
Q. Mr. President, do you—— The President. Please.
Former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton/Impeachment/Executive Privilege
Q. Do you have a problem John Bolton testifying in the Senate trial?
The President. Always got along with him. He didn't get along with some of our people. But that's really going to be up to the Senate. It's really—it's——
Q. But you wouldn't stop it?
The President. It's always up. I don't stop it, no. But he would—it would be—no, I do have to—I'd have to ask the lawyers because we do have to—to me, for the future, we have to protect Presidential privilege. When we start allowing National Security Advisers to just go up and say whatever they want to say, we can't do that. So we have to protect Presidential privilege for me, but for future Presidents. That's very important.
I would have no problem, other than we have to protect—we have to be able to protect. People can't go up and say whatever my thoughts are, whatever your thoughts are about us, countries, views. You don't want that to be out. So we have to protect Presidential privilege.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization/U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement
Q. So, Mr. President, you said yesterday you want NATO to do more. Could you be a little more—could you provide a little more information——
The President. I did. I spoke——
Q. ——on what you wanted—[inaudible].
The President. Right. I spoke to——
Q. Have you gotten any indication from them that they might do more?
The President. Yes. I spoke to them yesterday. I spoke to the Secretary General yesterday, and we had a great conversation. He was very—I think he was actually excited by it.
And I actually had a name—"NATO," right? And then, you have "M.E."—Middle East. You'll call it "NATOME." I said, "What a beautiful name." NATOME. I'm good at names, right? "USMCA." Like the song, "YMCA." [Laughter] Everybody—nobody could remember "USMCA." I said, "Think of the song, 'YMCA.'" Now everybody says it. They don't remember the previous name of the bad deal, okay, commonly known as "NAFTA." [Laughter]
No, if you add the words—if you add the two words "Middle East" at the end of it. Because that's a big problem. That's a big source of problems. And NATOME—doesn't that work beautifully, Jon? Think of that: NATO plus ME. And he's not—obviously, he's not getting it. He's not smiling. He used to smile. Before Iran, he was smiling. Now, he's not smiling. So—
Q. Mr. President, more troops?
The President. You know what I'm talking about.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization/Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Terrorist Organization/Repatriation of Captured Terrorist Suspects
Q. Mr. President, more NATO personnel in the region—is that what you're—— The President. Yes. As opposed to us, to be honest with you. Because this is an international problem, and we can come home—or largely come home—and use NATO. This is an international problem.
We caught ISIS. We did Europe a big favor. We got a hundred percent of the caliphate. We have—thousands and thousands of ISIS fighters are killed, and thousands and thousands—tens of thousands are in prison right now. And Europe doesn't want them. It's not right. They want to go to France. They want to go to Germany. They want to go to U.K. They want to go to these countries where they came from. That's where they—that's their home. The U.S. is not their home.
They want to go—it's not fair that we're holding these people and that other countries aren't taking, because we're bearing the cost. So I think that NATO should be expanded, and we should include the Middle East. Absolutely. And we pay for a big percentage of NATO.
And by the way, if you look at and speak to Secretary General Stoltenberg—who's doing a terrific job, by the way—he will tell you that I raised $130 billion more than they were getting. It was going down from past administrations every single year. It was down to a very low number. I came in. "You've got to pay, folks. You've got to pay. We're working with you. We're protecting you. We're a part of this. You've got to pay." We don't want to be the fools, like we have been for so many years.
So we raised $130 billion almost immediately. We had a meeting with all of the countries. I said, "You've got to pay." I mean, I can imagine they don't like me as much as Obama and other people. But they've got to pay. We're protecting; you've got to pay. We got $130 billion more—more. Not $130 [billion; White House correction.]; $130 [billion; White House correction.] more.
In fact, my biggest fan in the whole world is Secretary General Stoltenberg, because he can't believe it. [Laughter] And now he just announced $530 billion we've gotten under my watch. And so we're in great shape with that whole situation. And I think NATO should be helping us now with the Middle East. Having an international flavor there is good. Plus, you had a deal signed with many of these countries that are in NATO. So you know, the economic deal with Iran.
So I have actually—I have actually said that I think the scope of NATO should be increased, and they should be looking for ISIS. We'll help. But right now the burden is on us, and that's not been fair. But we've done a great job with ISIS. When I came in 3 years ago, ISIS was all over the place. It was a disaster. And now ISIS is—the caliphate—a hundred percent of the caliphate is gone. A hundred percent. And we have tens of thousands of prisoners. Well, we have them in prison. But they should be taken, and Europe should be helping with that burden. But I like the idea of NATO expanding their views.
Q. Mr. President, how much of your own money are you prepared to spend on your reelection?
Q. Sir, since the environment is part of the issue we're talking about today——
The President. Say it?
Q. Since the environment is something that is on the table here today, what is your position on global warming? Do you think it's a hoax? Do you think that something needs to be done? The President. No, no, not at all. Nothing is a hoax. Nothing is a hoax about that. It's a very serious subject. I want clean air. I want clear water. I want the cleanest air. I want the cleanest water.
The environment is very important to me. Somebody wrote a book that I'm an environmentalist—it actually called "The Environmentalist"—actually, before I did this. But they wrote a book; I'd like to get it. I have it in the other office. I'll bring it to my next news conference, perhaps. [Laughter] I'm sure you'll be thrilled to see it. I'm sure you'll report all about it.
But no, I'm a big believer in that word: the environment. I'm a big believer.
The President. But I want clean air. I want clean water. And I also want jobs though. I don't want to close up our industry because somebody said, you know, "You have to go with wind," or "You have to go with something else" that's not going to be able to have the capacity to do what we have to do.
We have the best employment numbers we've ever had. We have the best unemployment numbers we've ever had. So that's very important.
All right, one more.
2020 Presidential Election/The President's Financial Contribution to His 2016 Presidential Campaign/Impeachment/The President's Government Salary
Q. How much of your own money are you prepared to spend on your reelection?
The President. I literally haven't even thought about it. I spent a lot on the first one, and I said—I did the primaries, and obviously, that came out to be very successful. And I have not thought about it.
I will say this: Because of the impeachment hoax, we're taking in numbers that nobody ever expected. You saw the kind of numbers we're reporting. We're blowing everybody away. We've never—nobody has ever taken in the money that we're taking in from the public. And it's good because it's an investment they're making. They're making that investment. It's better than the big donors. We're taking in numbers that nobody has ever seen before, frankly. And it's a great thing.
Q. You appealed to a lot of voters in 2016 by saying that you wouldn't take donor money, that you would be——
The President. Well, I don't know—I put in a lot.
Q. ——independent, and therefore you wouldn't be bought by the donors.
The President. You know the number that I put in? Do you know the number I invested—I put in for the primaries and for the first election? What? Do you know that number?
Q. I don't have the total——
The President. It's a big number. And I, to this day, say, "I wonder if it mattered," because I never noticed myself get any credit for that. I did; I spent a lot of my own money. You know, tens of millions of dollars, times a lot. But I spent a lot of my own money.
And I always asked the question. I said, "I wonder if it was necessary." Because I don't think anybody even knew that I was spending it. I'd mention it every once in a while, but I don't—for instance, I give up my salary. It's $450,000—approximately $450,000—Presidential salary. I give it up. It goes to—usually, I give it to drugs. I give some to Elaine, sometimes, for transportation. But every quarter—I think it's paid on a quarterly basis—I give up a hundred percent of my salary that I make as President. I don't think anybody has written that story. You guys don't want to write that kind of a story, but that's okay with me.
Listen, I'm going to Ohio—some of you are coming with me—and we look forward to it.
I want to congratulate all of you, because I think this is going to make a tremendous difference in your unions and in your—for your workers and for your investments and for everything. This is going to be a fantastic thing. We'll bring numbers down from 20 years to less than 2. We'll bring them down from 10 years. I really think that you'll hit much less than 2, even for major projects.
And I want to thank everybody for being here. It's a great honor. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President spoke at 11:19 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Rep. Adam B. Schiff, in his capacity as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; R. Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.; Nawres Waleed Hamid, a contract translator with Valiant Integrated Services, who was killed in the rocket attack at a military base near Kirkuk, Iraq, on December 27, 2019; and 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates former Vice President Biden, Sen. Elizabeth A. Warren, and former Mayor Peter P.M. Buttigieg of South Bend, IN.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks on Proposed National Environmental Policy Act Regulations and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/335439