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Remarks at the White House Opioids Summit

March 01, 2018

The President. Well, thank you very much, Kellyanne. And it's an honor to be with you. I just said I was going to stop over, say hello to some of the great families and some friends, some friends that have had some incredible difficulty. I know what you're going through.

Melania is here someplace. Where is our First Lady? Where is she? Where's Melania? Hello, darling. So she feels so strongly about it. Kellyanne feels so strongly about it. And I do.

And a friend of mine, Steve Witkoff, who is a great developer in New York City—stand up, Steve. I didn't know you were going to be here. Steve had some big difficulty. He went through—Steve, come on up here. Steve has been one of my great friends over the years, tremendously successful man. And would you want to just discuss this? Because we're all among friends here. You know, it's a tough thing to discuss, right?

Witkoff Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steven C. Witkoff. It is. It is.

The President. But I was there when he was going through something with a very special boy, right?

Mr. Witkoff. Yes.

The President. Go ahead.

Mr. Witkoff. I remember the hug you gave me when the world was—when I felt all was lost. I listened to Eric's story. I lost my son in 2011. And he didn't buy drugs on the darknet; he bought drugs on the internet—a website owned by three of the largest U.S. corporations in the country today. So it's not just the darknet.

But he was a great kid, and he detoxed the first night with me. So he was my special child. So if I lost him—I always felt hopeless before you were elected. And I've never lobbied my friend about anything. I've just supported you because I so believe in you. But if my son knew that you were going to take up this battle—oh, my gosh, he must be upstairs applauding every single day. So I am so grateful. Thank you.

The President. Thank you, Steve. You take care of yourself. Thank you.

And Steve went through something where he thought everything was perfect. He thought everything was fine. And his boy was recovered. And then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he got some very bad news. So I fully understand what you're going through.

The administration is going to be rolling out policy over the next 3 weeks, and it will be very, very strong. I've also spoken with Jeff about bringing a lawsuit against some of these opioid companies. I mean, what they're doing and the way—the distribution. And you have people that go to the hospital with a broken arm, and they come out and they're addicted. They're addicted to painkillers, and they don't even know what happened. They go in for something minor, and they come out and they're in serious shape.

So we're going to very much—you know, as you know, I think we've been involved more than any administration by far. It's a problem that's growing. And drugs are a similar but different problem, in the sense that we have pushers and we have drug dealers that don't—I mean, they kill hundreds and hundreds of people, and most of them don't even go to jail. You know, if you shoot one person, they give you life, they give you the death penalty. These people can kill 2,000, 3,000 people and nothing happens to them.

And we need strength with respect to the pushers and to the drug dealers. And if we don't do that, you're never going to solve the problem. If you want to be weak and you want to talk about just blue ribbon committees, that's not the answer. The answer is you have to have strength and you have to have toughness. The drug dealers, the drug pushers are—they're really doing damage. They're really doing damage.

Some countries have a very, very tough penalty—the ultimate penalty. And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do. So we're going to have to be very strong on penalties. Hopefully, we can do some litigation against the opioid companies. I think that's very important because a lot of States are doing it, but I keep saying, if the States are doing it, why isn't the Federal Government doing it? So that will happen. So that will happen.

In the meantime, I just want to pay my respects to everybody. Some of you have gone through a lot. Many of you in this room have gone through a lot, more than anyone can imagine. We're with you a hundred percent. We're fighting for you, and we're going to win. We're going to win. Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 3:10 p.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway; and Attorney General Jefferson B. Sessions III. Mr. Witkoff referred to former Fox News anchor Eric Bolling, who discussed the recent death of his son from an opioid overdose in a video shown during the White House Opioids Summit.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks at the White House Opioids Summit Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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