Remarks in a Roundtable Discussion on Efforts To Protect the Health and Safety of Senior Citizens and an Exchange With Reporters
The President. Okay, thank you very much. Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, and we're here to discuss our ironclad commitment to protecting and caring for America's seniors.
We're joined by Vice President Mike Pence, Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, who, by the way, was fantastic over the weekend in various interviews you did, Ben. Really good job, I appreciate it. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, Administrator Seema Verma, Chief Postal Inspector of the United States Postal Inspection Service Gary Barksdale. And Gary has done a great job, especially with spotting drugs coming into our country. He's done a fantastic job.
My administration is working tirelessly to stop the depraved criminals who seek to defraud American seniors, of which there are many. But we are doing a very strong number on a lot of them, and nobody has ever done what we've done.
Three months ago, we launched the National Elder Fraud Hotline, which has already received over 1,800 calls. In 3 years, we've charged nearly 1,000 defendants involving over $2.2 billion in fraud against our seniors. This afternoon the DOJ is announcing a $2 million grant to help new law enforcement identify victims and bring law breakers to justice.
These actions are just one part of our unwavering devotion to our senior citizens. Last month, I announced the deal to slash out-of-pocket costs—you have the out-of-pocket costs of insulin, and insulin is such a big deal and such a big factor of importance for our senior citizens. And we slashed costs for hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries. Impacted seniors will pay just $35 a month, an average saving of 66 to 100 percent. It was the biggest slashing of insulin. Nobody has ever done it before, and we think we can even go further. We're working on one—you call it a "trap," because you have a lot of different traps that get put in your way so that you can't do these things, but we did it. And we think we're even going to be able to go further. So we have $35 a month.
We vastly expanded Medicare telehealth services. That's gone up probably more than any other thing. That's the only thing—it's probably the only thing you can say about COVID: Because of COVID, telehealth has been used at levels that nobody ever thought even possible. And it's been fantastic. And I think a lot of people are going to continue to use it.
Average basic Part D premiums have dropped 13.5 percent, and average Medicare Advantage premiums have dropped 27 percent. And, as you know, last year was the first year where drug prices, in 52 years—where drug prices have actually gone down, the cost of prescription drugs.
We're strongly defending Medicare and Social Security, and we always will. We'll always protect our senior citizens and everybody against preexisting conditions. My administration is also taking vital action to protect seniors in nursing homes. We delivered $81 million for increased inspections and provided every Medicare-certified nursing home with shipments of personal protective equipment.
We are working very, very hard with the Governors of the States on their nursing homes because, obviously, that was a very sad situation what happened to some of the States where they didn't do a good job with respect to nursing homes. They were caught unaware. They were caught unaware, unfortunately. So we're working very hard with the Governors and with everybody, having to do with nursing homes, because that's a vulnerability; it's a real soft spot, in terms of the COVID or any one of the 15 names you want to call it. There are plenty of them out there. All we know is, it came from China. That's all we know.
We now require nursing homes to report the coronavirus cases directly to CDC—residents and family members. All family members. We're working with extreme vigilance to protect nursing home residents from the virus. And as I said, that's been a very important thing for us to be doing. Everybody—working with the Governors on that.
My administration will never waver in our relentless commitment to keep America's seniors safe. We have to keep all of our seniors safe. And this is a very perilous time, and I think we're going to be finishing up. I think we're going to—Mike has some very good numbers to tell you about, having to do with the cases.
Again, our testing is so far advanced. It's so much bigger and better than any other country, that we're going to have more cases. We're always going to have more cases. And as I said this morning, that's probably the downside of having good testing is, you find a lot of cases that other countries, who don't even test, don't have. If you don't test, you don't have any cases. If we stopped testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any.
But we do: We're at a level that—Mike is going to talk about—that's so high. But we will show more cases when other countries have far more cases than we do; they just don't talk about it. But the testing, on the other hand, is very good, because we find out where it's going, how it's going, who it's going to, and we take care of it.
So with that, I'll just say that we are fighting for America's seniors like no administration has ever fought. We're doing a great job in bringing down costs. We have other things like transparency that are going to be coming on line in January, February, which will be an incredible thing. Nobody thought we could even get that approved, but we think we will see numbers there that will be incredible, in terms of cost reduction for our seniors. So that's very good.
And, Mike Pence, if you would, please.
Vice President Michael R. Pence. Thank you, Mr. President. And it's a privilege to sit with you and be able to reflect on this day, on the efforts this administration has made over the last 3½ years to protect our seniors, to make sure they're financially secure, and also see to the health and well-being of our senior citizens.
[At this point, Vice President Pence continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Now we're going to continue to focus with our Governors on making sure that we deploy testing to our long-term care facilities and to our nursing homes. We'll be speaking with all the Nation's Governors in just a short while today, Mr. President, to continue that effort, because we're going to put the interests of all of America first, but as we move into this next stage and through the summer, putting the coronavirus in the past each and every day, we're going to focus on ensuring that our seniors and all those most vulnerable are protected.
The President. Thank you, Mike, very much. Great job.
Attorney General William P. Barr. Thank you, Mr. President, for convening this session and for your commitment to protecting America's elder citizens. We have made combating fraud against elders one of the department's highest priorities. And that's partly because we've seen a skyrocketing in fraud against elders, as we've seen a conjunction of a growing older population, coupled with new technology, particularly the internet, which has given fraudsters new opportunities for their schemes.
[Attorney General Barr continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
And I'd get these very pathetic calls into my office with people who had lost everything. And they said, you know: "I feel so stupid. I—we've lost everything." And they just didn't know how to call. And you know, "I called the sheriff, and he wasn't sure what to do." These are frequently people living in rural areas. And so, at the local level, it's important to train local law enforcement as to how to respond to these kinds of sophisticated frauds that are coming in from these foreign organizations.
So, with that, Mr. President, once again, thanks for convening this session and all you do to keep America's seniors safe.
The President. Good. Thank you, Bill. Great job. Appreciate it.
Hey, Gary. Go ahead, please.
Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale. Thank you, Mr. President, Vice President Pence. It's a pleasure to be here today to speak about some of the work that we're doing at the Postal Inspection Service to address transnational elder fraud. Protecting our elders and our veterans is one of the highest priorities of our mail fraud program, especially now, as we're starting to see fraudsters take advantage of the coronavirus theme to incorporate that into some of their schemes.
[Chief Barksdale continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Prevention is a big part of our strategy. Obviously, we'd rather educate, prevent a crime, before actually a crime occurs. So we've put a lot resources into coming up with a platform. You can go to our website. We have printed material. And we're starting to utilize social media, working with the Department of Justice. And I'd just mention briefly—the last thing I'll just mention, Mr. President—is, also, we're engaging the large banks to update their practices and to do their part in preventing elder fraud.
I'd like to thank you for broadening the awareness and making this one of the priorities of the administration. Thank you.
The President. Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Thank you.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert L. Wilkie, Jr. Oh. Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. President. You know, this is an important meeting for us at VA, but it comes on the heels of almost 2 years of constant reform that we've had at the department. We serve a unique population that has performed unique services to America. And I'm happy to report to the President that our approval ratings at VA are almost 40 points higher than they were in 2014 and 2016.
As a result of that——
The President. Did you hear that number, everybody?
Secretary Wilkie. ——we have seen——
The President. That's a big—that's a big difference.
Secretary Wilkie. It's at 90.1 percent.
The President. Very good. Yes.
Secretary Wilkie. We have seen millions of Americans flock to VA. Last year, we set a record for the number of internal appointments at VA: 59.9 million. That is an alltime high. The reason that is important is that so many veterans have entrusted us with their lives and also with the well-being of their families. We have 134 nursing homes in the Department of Veterans Affairs, 7,500 patients. Over half of those come from World War II and Korea. We have, as we speak, only four of those 7,500 who have tested positive for the COVID virus.
[Secretary Wilkie continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
And to finally say our numbers: We serve 9½ million veterans in VA. We have 14,000 veterans who have come down with the virus. But of those 14,000, 12,000—almost 12,000 are fully recovered. And in our nursing homes, again, of the 7,500, only 4 tested positive—or, tested positive for the virus.
I cannot thank the President for his support. I cannot thank our employees at VA for their heroic action. We are on the frontlines when it comes to bolstering the lives of the most deserving Americans: Those who have carried our freedom on their shoulders. So, Mr. President, I thank you for everything you've done for America's veterans.
The President. Thank you. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II. Well, Mr. President, thank you for what you've done throughout your administration to protect older Americans and to help them live longer, healthier, more active lives.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, your administration had already put a major focus on keeping our older Americans healthy and safe, and that focus has continued during the current pandemic. During this crisis, thanks to new funding secured by the President, HHS's Administration for Community Living has pushed out more than a billion dollars for services for our older Americans that they need to stay comfortably in their homes. That's more than a 50-percent boost in the annual support that we provide for community organizations that provide services like delivered meals; help with trips to the grocery store, to the doctor; and assistance with chores at home.
[Secretary Azar continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Lower prescription drug costs, more support for older Americans in the community, better protection in nursing homes and assisted living facilities—all of these steps mean more healthy, prosperous years for older Americans to spend with their loved ones. And that's what President Trump has promised older Americans, and that's what he's delivering.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you, Alex, very much. Good job.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Benjamin S. Carson, Sr. All right. Well, thank you, Mr. President, for all the work you've been doing to get our country back on track. And you know, America owes a lot to our seniors. They are the ones who really built this country up. They are the ones who have made this Nation a destination for people from around the world. And they are wonderful fountains of knowledge that live among us. And I'm proud to be a part of an administration that really values our elderly citizens.
[Secretary Carson continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
And I'm proud to work alongside you, Mr. President, and others sitting here and this whole administration, which really does value our senior citizens. And we're grateful for the wisdom that our seniors share with us every day. The President. Thank you, Ben, very much. Excellent.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. Thank you. Well, from day one, the President has made his commitment to the Medicare program absolutely clear. And like few Presidents before him, he's always understood the pressing need to modernize the program and also make it more affordable for seniors. He just talked about how premiums are lower in the Medicare Advantage Program; we're at a 13-year low. And in the Part D program, which is prescription drug coverage, that's at a 7-year low, which is absolutely historic; we're putting dollars back in the pockets of our seniors.
[Administrator Verma continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
And we're encouraging Governors to go out to these nursing homes and perform inspections—boots on the ground—so that we can ensure that those nursing homes are taking the proper precautions. And then, finally, the President has also convened a Commission on coronavirus for nursing homes to ensure that we are delivering quality and safety to our nursing home residents.
So thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership.
The President. Thank you. Thank you, Seema, very much. Thank you. Great job.
Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne E. Conway. Thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President.
Mr. President, we heard you many times, 4 or 5 years ago, saying that if we don't take care of our veterans, if we don't take care of our seniors, who are we as a nation? And you promised then and have delivered now, many times, to protect their entitlements, to preserve and to protect Social Security and Medicare. But our seniors are also entitled to dignity, to safety, to the presence of mind and the peace of mind of knowing that their financial assets are protected from money mules and from those who would lure and lurk among them.
[Counselor Conway continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
Today is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. There's a board behind me and one over there. You choose every single day, every single moment what message to tweet, what news to report, what story to tell. Please include this in your reporting. It is important. It is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day for a reason. And you can help us with that awareness. Be a resource, be a friend to America's seniors today, if not seniors internationally, by letting them know there are tools at your disposal and we are here to help solve these problems.
The President. Thank you very much. Good job. So we're taking care of our senior citizens better than ever before. There's never been this much effort; there's never been this much money spent. And we're taking good care of them. And thank you all very much. Thank you.
Q. Mr. President——
Q. A little on your Executive order tomorrow: Can you tell us, sort of, the broad brushstrokes of police use-of-force reform, as well as enhancing opportunity in communities across the country? The President. Well, I'd rather save it for tomorrow, John [John Roberts, Fox News], but basically we're going to be talking about things that we've been watching and seeing for the last month. And we're going to have some solutions, I think, some good solutions. And some of it, as you know, it's about great people. We need great people in our police departments, and we have mostly great people. I would say that. I would say that with certainty: We have mostly great people. I know so many of them—law enforcement. But we will do better. Even better. And we're going to try and do it fast.
So we're going to have a meeting tomorrow. We're going to have a news conference tomorrow. We have a lot of law enforcement coming in and others. And they have seen what we're doing. I've sent it around. I've asked for suggestions from different groups, in particular the sheriffs. And I've sent it to our Attorney General. And I think, Bill, you've gone to some of your people with it and shown it. I think it's pretty comprehensive.
As you know, Congress is also working on it. The Senate is working on something, and the House is working on—two elements of the House. You have the Republicans and the Democrats. And they're each working on their own. But we can get it done, and we'll get it done. And certainly we can add on to what we do, by the work that's being done in the House and in the Senate, if we think it's appropriate. Maybe they can get something passed, and maybe they can't. But we will get it passed, and it's got to be passed by one person, and the person is me.
So we're going to be signing it tomorrow. And we'll have a news conference at some point in the day, at the Rose Garden or maybe in front of the White House at a different location that you know very well, the steps. And we'll see you tomorrow.
Q. What's the overall——
Q. Mr. President——
The President. John.
Q. What's the overall goal of the Executive order and all of these reforms?
The President. So the overall goal is, we want law and order, and we want it done fairly, justly. We want it done safely. But we want law and order. This is about law and order, but it's about justice also. And it's about safety. So I think we're going to do a good job tomorrow. I think you're going to see some things that a lot of people thought would not happen. You wouldn't be able to get them done, but we'll get them done.
Again, though, I want to emphasize it's possible—the House can also on top of this—I spoke to the various leaders—on top of this, can get something. But I think this will be very comprehensive tomorrow. So you'll see something.
Shooting of Rayshard Brooks During an Attempted Arrest by Police Officers in Atlanta, Georgia
Q. What do you think of the Atlanta shooting——
The President. I thought it was——
Q.——video that you've seen versus George Floyd?
The President. I thought it was a terrible—I'm not going to compare things, but I thought it was a terrible situation. I studied it closely. I'm going to get some reports done today, very strong reports. And we'll have a little more to say about it tomorrow. But certainly, it was very—to me, it was very disturbing. Q. Mr. President——
Q. Disturbing how, sir?
The President. Go ahead, please.
Supreme Court Decision Regarding Discrimination Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals
Q. Do you have any reaction to the Supreme Court decision earlier today about LGBT discrimination, saying that is protected under the Civil Rights Act?
The President. No, they've ruled. I read the decision, and some people were surprised. But they've ruled, and we live with their decision. That's what it's all about. We live with the decision of the Supreme Court. Very powerful, a very powerful decision, actually. But they have so ruled.
Please, go ahead.
Alternative Treatments for Coronavirus
Q. Mr. President, could you react to the FDA's decision today to withdraw his recommendation for hydrochloroquine and another malaria drug, saying it's no longer considered reasonable as a useful treatment for COVID?
The President. I don't know. I'd like to ask Alex, maybe, to discuss that.
Secretary Azar. Sure. So just to clarify: Your statement there, I don't think, was quite accurate in what the FDA's action was. The FDA, at the request of BARDA, which is an agency within HHS, withdrew an emergency use authorization for a product that we had acquired into the National Stockpile by donation from Bayer of hydroxychloroquine—of chloroquine that was manufactured in Pakistan. And the EUA, the emergency use authorization was restricted for hospital use—in-patient hospital use of the product, with the FDA finding that they don't see enough data to support hospital-based use for those who are the most extreme cases of patients who have been hospitalized. They took that restriction off. They took the emergency use authorization off.
At this point, hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are just like any other approved drug in the United States. They may be used in hospital, they may be used in out-patient, they may be used at home: all subject to a doctor's prescription. In fact, the FDA's removal of the emergency use authorization takes away what had been a significant misunderstanding by many that had made people think that somehow it could only be used in a hospital setting. And we've tried to make that clear throughout. It's a drug. It's approved in the United States. Has been for decades. If a doctor wishes to prescribe it, working with a patient, they may prescribe it for any purpose that they wish to do so. And this actually removes a potential barrier to that.
The President. So it actually uncomplicates it——
Secretary Azar. It does.
The President. ——in a way. And I think that's probably—your question was a very inaccurately stated question.
Q. No, I didn't mean to—I didn't mean to pose it inaccurately. I believe what it said specifically was that it's no longer reasonable to consider it an appropriate treatment.
Secretary Azar. Only in the hospital—it said the data in the hospital setting was not supportive. We continue to study in out-patient settings, as well as preventive. That data is not yet in. Q. Are you suggesting that data in the hospital setting is not something you would take seriously?
Secretary Azar. No, that's why the FDA acted, was that they looked at the data, and they removed the emergency use authorization for hospital setting use of the chloroquine that was the Bayer product that had been donated from Pakistan.
The President's Campaign Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma/Federal Coronavirus Response/Coronavirus Vaccine and Treatment Development
Q. Mr. President, earlier today, you tweeted that you believed that you were being "COVID shamed" because of your decision to go ahead with the Tulsa rally on Saturday night. The director of the health department in the county and in the city has encouraged you to postpone that, saying they still think that they've got too big a COVID problem for you to pull off a rally like that. Your thoughts on all of that?
The President. Well, Oklahoma has done very well. I just spoke to the Governor. He's very excited about it. Governor Stitt, who has done a terrific job. Mike, I think you can maybe speak to this. He's done a great job. Oklahoma is at a very low number. They've done really fantastic work. They have a new—a pretty new, magnificent arena, as you probably have heard.
And we're getting exact numbers out, but we're either close to or over 1 million people wanting to go. We have a 22,000-seat arena, but I think we're going to also take the convention hall next door, and that's going to hold 40,000. So we'll have 22,000 plus 40,000, which would mean they would have over 900,000 people that won't be able to go. But hopefully, they'll be watching.
But it's an amazing—nobody has ever heard of numbers like this. I think we're going to have a great time. We're going to talk about our Nation. We're going to talk about where we're going, where we've come from. And I can tell you, on COVID or coronavirus or whatever you want to call it—plenty of names—tremendous progress is being made.
I spoke with the Governor of Texas, where they've done a fantastic job. But he said they have had some outbreaks in prisons. And that's where their numbers went out, and the numbers changed a little bit because of the prison population. But he's got it in great shape, Texas. Florida is doing very well. And Georgia is doing very well. We have tremendous numbers. We have hotspots, as I said you might, and we take care of the hotspots.
But many of the Governors have done a very good job. Some not as good as others, some very good. But Oklahoma has been a place that, I think—one of the reasons we chose it is because of how well they've—because it's early. It's very early. And because of what a great job they Governor and everybody else has done in Oklahoma. And we expect to have, you know, it's like a record-setting crowd. We've never had an empty seat. And we certainly won't in Oklahoma.
Mike, do you want to talk about how well Oklahoma has done, relative to other places?
Vice President Pence. Certainly, Mr. President. We, the President and I, have both spoken to Governor Kevin Stitt in the last several days and even earlier today. And Oklahoma has really been in the forefront of our efforts to slow the spread. And in a very real sense, they've flattened the curve. And today, their hospital capacity is abundant. The number of cases in Oklahoma—it's declined precipitously, and we feel very confident going forward and with the rally this coming weekend.
We'll be working closely with the Governor. We'll have measures in place to be screening people coming into the facilities. And—but Oklahoma has really led the way in demonstrating that we can safely reopen. And so, as we gather to hear from the President and hear about the stakes in this election, we'll also be celebrating a State that's demonstrated every day that you can put health first and open up and do all of those things at the same time.
The President. And, Mike, you gave me a number before, nationwide. Overall, how are we doing?
Vice President Pence. Well it's remarkable, Mr. President. With more than 22 million tests having been performed across the country, we continue to see overall that what's called a positive test rate remains very stable in the country. As we said earlier, Mr. President, there is a few States where the positivity rate is climbing, and we're working very closely with those Governors to identify that.
[Vice President Pence continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
The President is always quick to say one loss of life is too many. But when we think about a matter of a month and a half ago, when we were losing 2,500 Americans a day, now that we see the numbers declining so precipitously, I think it's a real tribute to our health care workers, a tribute to every American that has demonstrated each and every day that we can reopen our country, but we can continue to put the health, particularly of our most vulnerable first.
The President. And yesterday's number was, approximately, what?
Vice President Pence. According to some public reporting, Mr. President—and I'll have more details later this afternoon—less than 400 fatalities yesterday all across the country.
The President. So that's a far cry from what it was a month ago or 2 months ago. And it's a lot, it's 400 people too much. It shouldn't have happened at all. China should not have let it happen. But it happened. All over the world, it's happened, which is a very sad thing. But our number is really the low-water mark, and it's getting better, and it'll end up being gone.
We're making very good headway with respect to vaccines, Alex, and we're making very good headway therapeutically and a cure-wise. Really—I think really, really tremendous headway. I've seen the results. I've met with some of the people that do the work: smart people, great people, people that have succeeded before. I think vaccines are coming along far in advance of what they thought they would be. And I think we'll have some very good news for you on vaccines and therapeutics and cures, frankly. Because, I guess, you know, if you look at therapeutics, if it acts fast enough, I bet you call it a cure. Wouldn't you say? And so I think we're going to have some very good news on that.
But we're at a low mark. And some of them, like in Texas, where you had a prison population that was—that went heavy, and now it's controlled. So we understand the disease. We've learned.
I was with the Governor of New Jersey the other night, and we had a great talk about economic development. And we're going to be doing a big bridge that they've been looking for—I guess, he said since 1918 they've been looking to redo it. So that's a long time. But—and we've agreed to that. It's about $900 million.
But he had mentioned 2,500 deaths—or 12,500 deaths——
Vice President Pence. Yes, sir.
The President. Twelve-thousand-five-hundred deaths, and out of that, there was one death under 18. I said, "Say it again?" So it was over 12,000, and I guess that the exact number was 12,500. And they did the study from that point. And out of that, one death was under the age of 18, which is pretty amazing. I knew it was—which tells me the schools, hopefully, are going to be back in the fall. They're going to be back in full blast. But the young people, they have very strong immune systems. I imagine that's the reason. But they've come out of this at a level that's really inconceivable.
By the way, the regular flu, other flus, other things, SARS or H1N1—any of them—if you look at the young people, they were affected like everybody else. But for whatever reason, with respect to COVID, the numbers are very, very low.
So yes, please.
Alternative Coronavirus Treatments/Brazil
Q. Mr. President, are you still sending hydroxychloroquine to Brazil and others countries that need it?
The President. Yes, he's asked—he's asked for it, and we're sending it. Well, I can't complain about it. I took it for 2 weeks, and I'm here. Here we are. And we've had some great studies. I didn't know about the report that Jeff [Jeff Mason, Reuters] asked about or the statement. But we've had some great reports from—coming out of France, coming out of Spain, coming out of other places.
The only place we don't get necessarily reports are coming out of Alex's agency or wherever they come from. I don't understand that, Alex. What is it exactly? Because I have heard—I've had so many people that were so thrilled with the results from hydroxy. So what is that exactly?
Secretary Azar. Well, at your direction, we continue to study, especially in earlier phase. So a lot of the data that has come out that was more negative was people who were quite ill in the hospital.
The President. People that were, like, seriously ill. Like, they weren't going to make it. "Let's give them a little hydroxy." And then, they don't make it. And they say, "Oh, wow, maybe the President was wrong." All I know is that we've have some tremendous reports. I've had a lot of people tell me that they think it saved their lives.
You know the one woman who is a fantastic woman, the representative from Detroit. She was fantastic. But there are many people like that that say the same thing. So I don't know. But I took it, and I felt good about taking it. I don't know if it had an impact, but it certainly didn't hurt me.
Q. Are you worried about any side effects? [Laughter]
The President. I feel good. I feel good.
Q. Mr. President——
Q. Mr. President——
The President. Yes.
World Health Organization
Q. Mr. President, the House Republicans today, they're asking you to reverse your decision on terminating the relationship with the WHO. Would you consider that?
The President. I don't know. I have to see what they're asking. I have no idea what they're asking.
Q. It was after an investigation. And they say that——
The President. I have—I have no idea what they're asking.
Q. ——the United States could change back their position as a member. The President. Well, I'll take a look at it. The World Health Organization has been very disappointing. To the world, they've been disappointing. And we, as you know, paid $450 million and close to $500 million on some years. But for years and years, we paid far more than anybody else. And they've been a puppet of China.
And—so no, I'm not reconsidering, unless they get their act together, and I'm not sure they can at this point. But maybe, certainly over the years, they might. But they have been a disaster. They were wrong on every call, including when I said we're going to close up the United States to people coming in from China, where China was heavily infected at that time and possibly still is.
And I closed it, and that was a wise decision. There were a lot of people, even on the other side—the enemy; we'll call them the enemy—they said that was an incredible decision, "I don't know how Trump made that decision, but he made that decision." And we saved thousands of lives, hundreds of thousands of lives.
Yes, go ahead.
Q. Mr. President, I——
Q. Mr. President, just on a separate issue——
The President. No, no, behind you, please.
Q. I apologize.
Former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton
Q. Mr. President, can you say why you're suing John Bolton to prevent publishing his book?
The President. Well, I don't know. I'd have to ask the Attorney General. But I will say, if he's doing a book, I think it's totally inappropriate that he does a book.
I think the guy, I gave him a break. He couldn't get Senate-confirmed. He was never Senate-confirmed the first time. I don't think he's supposed to even be calling himself an Ambassador, because he couldn't get Senate-confirmed. He got in through a little trick, and he was there for a fairly short period of time.
I put him here because he couldn't get Senate-confirmed. This was a non-Senate-confirmed position, as you know. He stayed for a short while, and I felt that it was not appropriate that he stay any longer. I wasn't impressed.
And somebody said he went out and wrote a book. If he wrote a book, I can't imagine that he can, because that's highly classified information. Even conversations with me, they're highly classified. I told that to the Attorney General before. I will consider every conversation with me, as President, highly classified.
So that would mean that if he wrote a book and if the book gets out, he's broken the law. And I would think that he would have criminal problems. I hope so. Otherwise—I mean, they put a sailor in jail because he sent a photograph of his bed and an engine of an old submarine. And this guy is writing things about conversations or about anything, and maybe he's not telling the truth. He's been known not to tell the truth—a lot.
So we'll have to see what the book is all about. But, you know, a lot of people are upset with him for writing a book. A lot of people are very angry with him for writing a book. But it's up to the Attorney General.
Bill, do you have anything to say about it?
Attorney General Barr. Well, people who come to work in the Government and have access to sensitive information generally sign an agreement that says that, when they leave Government, if they write something that has a—that draws on or might reflect some of the information they've had access to, they have to go through a clearance process before they can publish the book. And we don't believe that Bolton went through that process—hasn't completed the process—and therefore is in violation of that agreement.
Former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton/Privileged Information
Q. So what is the DOJ doing, Mr. Attorney General?
The President. And that's criminal liability, by the way. you're talking about. You're not talking about, like, he's got to return $3 that he made on a book. That's called criminal liability. That's a big thing. You know, Hillary Clinton, she deleted 33,000 e-mails. And if we ever found out what those e-mails say, she would have had a liability. That's what you have: You have liability.
Q. Could the Attorney General tell us what the DOJ is doing, in terms of the Bolton book?
Attorney General Barr. Well, there are a number of things, but the thing that is front and center right now is trying to get him to complete the process—go through the process and make the necessary deletions of classified information.
Q. But the book has been published.
Attorney General Barr. No, it hasn't.
Q. Yes, it's been published. It's just not released yet.
Attorney General Barr. Well, it's being printed. It's being printed.
The President. Hasn't been released.
Attorney General Barr. According to sources, it's being printed. It hasn't been released.
Q. So are you going to court to try and stop him?
Attorney General Barr. Well, I said what we were doing was to try and get him to complete the clearance process that's required.
Former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton
Q. His lawyer says that he thought that they had completed the process for the changes after that first iteration.
Attorney General Barr. Yes. He hasn't completed the process.
The President. He never completed the process. He knew that.
Attorney General Barr. And this is unprecedented, really, because I don't know of any book that's been published so quickly while, you know, the office holders are still in Government and it's about very current events and current leaders and current discussions and current policy issues, which many of which are inherently classified.
Former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton
Q. Have you read the book, sir?
The President. I have not read it. No. I haven't seen it. I haven't seen it, but he——
Q. Mr. President——
The President. ——he knows, and he was advised not to write it. And he was advised very strongly not to write it until it's cleared. And he couldn't wait, and we'll see what happens. But I think he's got—personally, I would imagine he has—like a—when you do classified, that, to me, is a very strong criminal problem. And he knows he's got classified information. Any conversation with me is classified. Then, it becomes even worse if he lies about the conversation, which I understand he might have in some cases. So we'll see what happens. They're in court, or they'll soon be in court. But he understands he did not complete a process or anywhere near complete a process.
U.S. Troop Deployments in Germany/North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Q. On a separate foreign policy issue, sir: You've faced a little bit of criticism from congressional Republicans, including Representative Cheney, about your decision to withdraw troops from Germany. Are you reconsidering that at all?
The President. So we have 52,000 soldiers in Germany. That's a tremendous amount of soldiers. It's a tremendous cost to the United States. And Germany, as you know, is very delinquent in their payments to NATO. And they're paying 1 percent, and they're supposed to be at 2 percent. And the 2 percent is very low; it should be much more than that. So they're delinquent of billions of dollars, and this is for years. Delinquent. So we're removing a number down to—we're putting the number down to 25,000 soldiers. We'll see what happens. But Germany has not been making payment.
In addition to that, I was the one that brought it up. Everybody talks about, "Trump with Russia"—well, I brought this up a long time ago: Why is Germany paying Russia billions of dollars for energy, and then we're supposed to protect Germany from Russia? How does that work? It doesn't work.
So Germany is delinquent. They've been delinquent for years, and they owe NATO billions of dollars. And they have to pay it. So we're protecting Germany, and they're delinquent. That doesn't make sense. So I said, "We're going to bring down the soldier count to 25,000 soldiers." It varies. It's around 52,000 now, but it varies. But it's a lot, and as you know, those are well-paid soldiers. They live in Germany. They spend vast amounts of money in Germany. Everywhere around those bases is very prosperous for Germany. So Germany takes, and then, on top it, they treat us very badly on trade.
We have trade with the EU—and Germany being the biggest member. Very, very badly on trade. And we're negotiating with them on that, but right now I'm not satisfied with the deal they want to make. They've cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars over the years on trade, so we get hurt on trade, and we get hurt on NATO.
Now, with NATO, I've raised other countries $140 billion; they're paying $140 billion more because I interceded. I said: "Look, you know, we're protecting you. You have to pay your bills." Because it was going like this until I got here. Now it's gone like a rocket ship. But one of the only countries that hasn't agreed to pay what they're supposed to pay is Germany. So I said, "Until they pay, we're removing our soldiers—a number of our soldiers, by about half." And then, when we get down to 25,000, we'll see where we're going.
But Germany has been delinquent. And why should we be doing what we're doing if they don't pay? And they're supposed to pay. And the number they're supposed to pay—actually, at 2 percent, the 2 percent should be higher. And we're also talking about for many years. This isn't a new phenomenon. This has going on for many years, where they've taken advantage of the United States.
But everybody has—under Biden and under Obama. What they've done to this country is unbelievable. And I'm not only talking about Germany, by the way; I'm talking about plenty of other countries. But NATO now is paying $140 billion more. If you look at Secretary—the Secretary General, who's terrific—Stoltenberg—he's been terrific. He's probably my biggest fan. He said, "Nobody else could have done what Trump did," because I raised the other countries by $140 billion. Because we end up paying the difference; the United States pays the difference to protect Europe.
So we protect them, and then they take advantage of us on trade for many, many years. We're not talking about now. Less so now. For many years. So we're working on a deal with them, but it's very unfair. And I would say, by far, the worst abuser is Germany.
Seattle, Washington/Demonstrations and Civil Unrest/News Media
Q. Mr. President, you said last week, on Seattle, that if the mayor of Seattle or the Governor of Washington didn't take steps to end the occupation of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, that you would step in and you would do something. They——
The President. Yes. A hundred percent.
Q. They still haven't ended it. They're negotiating. Are you considering taking action?
The President. They're not negotiating. You know what they're negotiating? Garbage removal. They're—these people have taken over a vast part, a major part, a very good part of a place called Seattle. Seattle is big stuff. That's a major city. And we have a Governor who's a stiff, and we have a mayor who said, "Oh, this going to be a lovefest."
And by the way, these are violent people that took it over. These are not people that are nice people. I saw on your network today, John—I saw what went on with the hitting and the punching and the beating and all the other things going on in Seattle.
And you have a Governor that doesn't do a damn thing about it. And you have a mayor that doesn't know she's alive. She's talking about, "It's going to be a lovefest this summer." No, if they don't do the job, I'll do the job, and I've already spoken to the Attorney General about it.
But if they don't do the job, we will do the job.
Q. What can you do?
The President. About 10 different things. Either—any one of which will solve the problem quickly.
Q. Could we go through a whole list or a partial list?
The President. We don't have to go through any list. We can do a lot of things.
Q. Mr. President——
The President. I think it's incredible also that the radical-left press doesn't cover it. They're acting like nothing happened. You turn on the news, you look at the news, you look—you don't even see stories about it. If the right ever took over a city, conservative Republicans took over a city, it would be the biggest story in history. You can't even find stories about Seattle. It's incredible.
Q. How much longer will you wait?
The President. They've taken over—we'll see. They've—I'll tell you what: The American public is very angered by that. Seattle is a major, important city. And the Democrats—I guess you say "radical left," but it's not even "radical left"; it's just Democrat. Where we have a problem are Democrat-run cities. If you look at Minneapolis, if you look at other cities that have had trouble, they're Democrat in virtually every case that I can think of. I can't think of one other case. These are Democrat-run cities. Minneapolis where the police are told to run: "Run. Run for your lives. Don't do anything." And if I didn't get involved and send in the National Guard—and it was at my insistence that they did that. And as soon as I did that, everything stopped in Minneapolis, 4 days, 5 days later.
Q. Is there a timeline that you're thinking here—Seattle?
The President. No, there is no timeline. We're watching it very closely. These are violent people that are dealing violently. And I think what we'd—what I like to see before we do something, I'd like to see the press get in and cover it, because they're not—it's not that they're covering it badly, they're hardly covering at all.
Think of this: A group—Antifa and others, radical lefts—they went into a major U.S. city, Seattle, and they took over a big percentage of that city. And the press doesn't want to cover it. And we have a mayor who is scared stiff. She doesn't know what's happening. We have a Governor that is one of the most overrated politicians in the country. He just ran for President. He got less than 1 percent. He actually, probably—I would have said less than zero, but I'm not sure that's possible. He got nothing. He got no votes. Nothing. He—in the whole thing the guy was out there fighting. At the end, he got zero. Right? Zero.
So he failed. And now he goes back, and they take over a city, and he doesn't say anything about it. Worse: He said he didn't hear—a day later, he said, "I never—I didn't hear anything about it." They took over a city, Seattle, and he said, "I didn't hear anything about it."
So look, the Governor has to call out the troops, do what he has to do—has to call out the National Guard, has to do something. Because, you know, the problem with what happened in Seattle is it spreads. And all of a sudden, they'll say, "Let's do some other city, and let's do another one." And we're not going to let it happen.
So timing wise, hey, we're all set to go. We're watching the process. But the most amazing thing about the process is how the fake news media doesn't want to cover it. To me, that's the most amazing thing.
Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.
The President's Campaign Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Q. [Inaudible]—Saturday night, sir? About the rally?
The President. Saturday night will be a big night. That's a big night, and I hope you're all going to be there. It's going to be very big. Thank you.
Q. Were you suggesting——
NOTE: The President spoke at 2:40 p.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Gregory W. Abbot of Texas; Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey; President Jair Messias Bolsonaro of Brazil; Michigan State Rep. Karen Whitsett; Kristian Saucier, a former U.S. Navy sailor who pleaded guilty to taking photographs of classified areas inside the USS Alexandria while it was stationed in Groton, CT, in 2009, and was pardoned by the President on March 9, 2018; former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Gov. Jay R. Inslee of Washington; and Mayor Jenny A. Durkan of Seattle, WA. A reporter referred to Bruce Dart, executive director, Tulsa Health Department.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks in a Roundtable Discussion on Efforts To Protect the Health and Safety of Senior Citizens and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/342036