Photo of Donald Trump

The President's News Conference

September 18, 2020

The President. Thank you very much, everyone. So a lot of work has been going on with respect to the vaccines, very successful work, I might add. We have three great, great companies doing somewhat different variations, but they're all looking very good.

From the beginning of the China virus, all nations have understood that our top priority must be to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible to end the pandemic and get life back to normal. The successful vaccine will not only save millions of lives, it will put an end to the restrictions and some of the things that go on and have to go on in the meantime.

Today I want to discuss the historic progress we're making to deliver a safe and effective vaccine in record time. And there's never been anything like this ever. In our history, there's never been any—in history, period—world history.

Since January, America's brilliant doctors and scientists have been working around the clock. These are the best medical minds in the world, by far. And the vaccines are going through the gold standard of clinical trials, and very heavy emphasis placed on safety. Three vaccines are already in the final stage.

Joe Biden's antivaccine theories are putting a lot of lives at risk. And they're only doing it for political reasons; it's very foolish. It's part of their war to try and discredit the vaccine, now that they know that we essentially have it. We'll be announcing it fairly soon.

As part of Operation Warp Speed, my administration is manufacturing all of the most promising vaccines in advance. And actually, it will be fairly long in advance. As soon as a vaccine is approved, the administration will deliver it to the American people immediately. Distribution will begin within 24 hours after notice.

And the general—I think those are the words specifically you wanted us to use?

Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer General Gustave F. Perna, USA. Yes, Mr. President.

The President. Within 24 hours, you're all set to go. And massive amounts will be delivered through our great military. And the general is one of our best, and he is ready to go.

We'll have manufactured at least 100 million vaccine doses before the end of the year and likely much more than that. Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month. And we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April.

And, again, I'll say that even at that later stage, the delivery will go—as fast as it comes, they can deliver. They're very good. Best—I think probably the best in the world.

The estimates I'm providing today are based on the manufacturing that's in process, and that's in process immediately, right now. We've already exceeded our ambitious goals.

Under the Defense Production Act, contracts that we've secured—we may even get far above these numbers. And numbers that I'm telling you today, I think we'll exceed them very, very substantially. And I think that also includes distribution. I think distribution will go even quicker than most people think. I'm relying on our military. Everything I've done with our military, it's worked out very well. In a short time, we'll have a safe and effective vaccine, and we'll defeat the virus. Interestingly, as I was saying that go "very well," just like what we did with our military with respect to ISIS went very well, long ahead of schedule. They have been incredible in working with me.

Let's go to Puerto Rico, because Puerto Rico has been hit very, very hard by a lot of different storms, and they're great people. It's a great place. I know it well. Great place.

Today my administration is making the largest emergency relief award in history to rebuild Puerto Rico's electrical grid and educational system. We're awarding $13 billion to permanently repair and replace thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines that should have been done many years ago.

This was beyond even the storms. This was just age and a lot of the salt. The salt from that ocean is a killer for electrical stations and power generation systems. But, on top of the salt, you had these massive storms or hurricanes come in. And Maria, in particular, was a disaster.

But for many years, they've been trying to get this done, and they haven't had the political will power in Washington to get it done. So we're going to get it done for them.

We're also going to be bringing back very, very major amounts of medical work. You know, we used to have pharmaceutical manufacturing at levels that few places had, and a lot of it has left Puerto Rico. And we're going to bring that back, especially now, since our emphasis is going to be making our product. So we're going to bring pharmaceutical manufacturing back to Puerto Rico. A lot of it left over the years, over a long period of time. It's been leaving and going to China and other places. So we're bringing all of that back.

This was done in previous administrations. I'd like to just point out, we've done more for Puerto Rico than anybody. And this is just an example of it, but we've done more for Puerto Rico, by far, than anybody.

We'll also be launching a major effort to repair and renovate the schools across the island. Following Hurricane Maria, my administration immediately deployed the full power of the Federal Government to bring the electric grid back on line so they could at least temporarily—and it certainly wasn't a permanent fix; it was ripped to shreds. But a lot of that was ripped to shreds long before even the storm came in. For many, many years, they've been trying to do it. But we wanted to restore water supplies. And we did make emergency repairs to critical infrastructure, which we took care of, and saved countless lives, which we did.

FEMA's response in Puerto Rico included the longest sustained air mission, supplying food and water, in American history. We supplied it for long after the hurricane was gone. The largest disaster commodity distribution mission in U.S. history and the largest sea bridge operation in Federal disaster aid in U.S. history.

My administration has also prepositioned vast quantities of relief supplies for the future disasters. Unfortunately, Puerto Rico is in the way of a lot of different storms, a lot of hurricanes. And the island is now stocked with nearly 8 times as much drinking water and 13 times as much food as it had before I took office. So they're ready to go if something should happen.

They got brushed by a storm recently, but they're in a good position. So we're going to bring back medical distribution and manufacturing to Puerto Rico and at a level far greater than it was before.

And it's been emptied out. It's been largely—it largely left the island for many years. At one point, it was a—it was the talk of the world, and now it's the talk of the world in a different way. We're bringing it back. So we're going to be bringing it back from various other parts of the world. It's going to Puerto Rico. And I think that's going to be very exciting for the people. And we're undertaking the largest Federal investment in Puerto Rico's history. So you have a lot of—I have a lot of friends in Puerto Rico, and I told them about it—asked them about it. "Conceptually, what do you think?" And they're very excited.

I just want to say, by contrast, Biden has devastated the island of Puerto Rico. He—Joe Biden, what he's done to Puerto Rico, meaning the past administration, is devastating.

In 1996, Biden voted to eliminate a critical tax provision that had allowed Puerto Rico to become a dominant player in global pharmaceutical manufacturing. That's what happened. When Biden voted to repeal this provision, the pharmaceutical industry was ripped out of Puerto Rico. All incentive to stay there was taken away, and all of the jobs went to China and other places, but mostly to China. That's what happened. This was done with a vote of Biden. This was even before the Obama administration. This was early on. But so sad that that was done.

And then, Obama came in, and it got worse. So, for the people of Puerto Rico: They were a disaster for you. And I have to say, in a very nice way, a very respectful way, I'm the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico. Nobody even close.

But as a result, the island's economy, under the previously mentioned names, it just absolutely cratered. Biden's vote also left the United States at the mercy of foreign suppliers for essential medicines, putting our national security and our health at risk.

We had a tremendous industry potentially going to Puerto Rico, and they just absolutely cut it short with bad votes and took all the incentive away, and it went to other places—faraway lands. So they really, in a sense, were voting to destroy Puerto Rico. And we're bringing Puerto Rico back, and we'll have it done fairly quickly.

And the $13 billion is a—that's a tremendous amount of money, but it's a very important amount. And I think you're going to see something terrific. And it's very exciting. To me, what—the most exciting is bringing the whole pharmaceutical industry back.

We've spoken to various companies, and they're willing to go there. They want to have a little bit of help, but they're willing to go to Puerto Rico. And Puerto Rico is going to be very exciting, what's going to happen. They were on the verge of doing it, and they took away all the incentives. I don't know how that was allowed to happen, but they allowed it to happen. That was very, very bad for Puerto Rico and the people of Puerto Rico. That was done by Democrats, and a Republican is bringing it back.

So, with that, we can take a few questions. And we are, again, very advanced on the vaccine. We think that sometime in the very near future, we'll have it. We're, I would say—I think I can say—years ahead of schedule, what it would be if it were an administration other than this one. It would have been—you would have been years before you ever had anything approved by the FDA.

John [John Roberts, Fox News], please.

Federal Aid to Puerto Rico

Q. Mr. President, this huge aid package to Puerto Rico: Why not a year ago? Why not 2 years ago? Why not 3 years ago? Why 46 days to the election?

The President. Because what we're doing is, we've been working on it for a long time to get it passed. Very tough to get things past Democrats, where they don't want to see this happen. And they probably, certainly, didn't want to see it happen at this point.

But it's a big package. It's a great package. And I think the most exciting part of the package isn't necessarily the billions of dollars; it's going to be what we do with the pharmaceutical industry. We're going to get them back into Puerto Rico. They liked being there, but they changed the tax situation; they ripped it out. So they really ripped apart the island, and we're going to bring it back, John.

Q. It may be simply coincidental, but it does coincide with a big push for Puerto Rican voters that the Biden-Harris campaign——

The President. Yes, I think that that's probably—well, they can't do anything. Look, the Biden-Harris campaign, what they did—they hurt—you know, I've gone through it. And whether it was President Obama or Vice President Biden, they were a disaster for Puerto Rico. A disaster.

And what we're doing and what we've done—but what we're doing is something that will be fantastic for many years in the future. Bringing back the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing in Puerto Rico, is what they've wanted for years, and we're doing that, in addition to the $13 billion.

Yes, please.

Q. Mr. President, sir——

Coronavirus Vaccine Development and Distribution

Q. Mr. President, I think I heard you right, saying that—you said that there should—you expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April. So as we sit here in mid-September and there have been questions about the timeline, can you walk us through now and the beginning of April, to which every American can have a vaccine and what that might look like?

The President. Sure. And I think we may exceed those numbers, even.

Scott, do you want to discuss that quickly?

White House COVID-19 Pandemic Adviser Scott W. Atlas. Sure. As has been said many times——

Q. From the podium, please.

Pandemic Adviser Atlas. Okay. And we have all the people that are involved in the actual vaccine distribution here, but we were just going through this. As of the end of the year, we will have over a hundred million doses manufactured. The people who are on the prioritized list of—including high risk, including first responders—will have the ability to take the vaccine—no one is being mandated to be vaccinated—at the latest, in January.

And as we said yesterday and—or I think yesterday—there will be hundreds of millions of doses delivered for people to take it during the first quarter. And so that, by April, every single American who wants to be vaccinated will have the ability to be vaccinated. It's not a forced vaccination, of course.

Q. And when did you—Dr. Fauci said today—basically echoed Dr. Redfield's comments that Q2, Q3—at some point the summer of next year—the entire country, potentially, or at least as many Americans that need to be vaccinated will be vaccinated. Is that the timeline?

The President. We'd like to beat that number, yes. But we think we will.

Q. Next summer, the rest——

The President. Yes, that's—that's on the outer edge. We think we can beat that number very substantially.


Q. And on TikTok, sir, if you don't—if you don't mind: The Commerce Department essentially gave you a runway today to strike a deal after the election. Do you expect the TikTok deal before the election or after the election?

The President. I think it could go quickly. We have great companies talking to us about it. You know about Oracle; you know Microsoft has been involved, and let's see whether or not they're continuing to be involved. Walmart is truly a great company. They are very much involved; they want to do something.

So we have some great options, and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy, but have the security that we need. We have to have the total security from China. Just know we're not going to do anything to jeopardize security.

At the same time, it's an amazing company and very, very popular. So if we can do a combination of both, I'd be very happy doing that. It could go very quickly though. It could go very, very fast.

Q. Mr. President, sir——

The President. Yes, please.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

Q. Mr. President——

The President. Go ahead, please.

Q. What do you——

Q. The Kuwaiti——

The President. OAN.

Middle East Peace Process/Syria/Iraq/Afghanistan

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. On Kuwait: So the Ambassador to—the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Austria this week told the IAEA that the Kuwaiti Government is very concerned over Iran's constant breaching of the JCPOA. In your discussions with the Kuwaitis today, have you discussed where they stand this week as we go into the U.N., as the United States tries to extend sanctions on Iran?

The President. Well, they just left my office, as you know, the Oval Office. And we had a very good meeting with the Amir, and I think we understand each other very well. They're very excited about a lot of things that are happening in the Middle East. They are so excited that we signed the first two countries, and I think they'll end up fairly quickly being a part of it.

I have, I would say, seven or eight countries that want to be a part of it without even working very easily, very quickly. Nobody thought this would happen. And not only is it happening, it's happening rather easily. We discussed that very briefly, because that's an easy one. Believe it or not, that whole thing is now a beautiful puzzle that's coming together very nicely.

But we are talking to them and others about various aspects of the Middle East. The Middle East is straightening out with all this happening. You know, we've brought a lot of our troops back. A lot of them are coming back in the very near future.

We're out of Syria, other than we kept the oil. I kept the oil. And we have troops guarding the oil. Other than that, we're out of Syria. We took them off the border between Syria and Turkey. We had a lot of troops on the border. Ultimately, we got it down to 50, and I thought they were in great danger when you have two armies sitting there looking to fight, and you have 50 people in the middle. I don't care who you are, even if you're the U.S., those 50 people are in great danger. We took them out.

But we had a lot of troops on the border, and we took them out. I said, "Look, they've been fighting on their border for 200 years and a lot longer than that, under different names, and they can continue to do that." That's not for us; we're guarding our own borders. We're doing very well on our southern border, as an example.

So we're out of Syria, except we kept the oil, and we'll make a determination. We'll probably be dealing with the Kurds and the oil and see what it all ends up. But we'll be out.

And very importantly, we're down to very few soldiers in Iraq, and we're down—we'll be down very shortly over the next couple of weeks to 4,000—less than 4,000 in Afghanistan. And then we'll make that final determination a little bit later on.

We're dealing very well with the Taliban. They're very tough, they're very smart, they're very sharp. But you know, it's been 19 years, and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness. And we really served as a police force, because if we wanted to do what we had to do, we would have fought a lot differently than they have over the 19 years. They didn't fight it properly. They were police, okay? They're not police; they're soldiers. So there's a difference. The police—nobody has more respect for police than I do, but they have to do their own policing.

So we're having some very good discussions with the Taliban, as you probably heard. It's been public. And—but we'll be down to—very shortly, we'll be down to less than 4,000 soldiers. And so we'll be out of there, knowing that certain things have to happen—certain things have to be fulfilled. But 19 years is a long time, 8,000 miles away. Nineteen years is a long time.

And the Middle East—the whole Middle East equation, if you look at what's happened, if you've looked at the stupidity of decisions that were made, including the deal that was made—I mean, take a look at what happened with Iran. Had that deal stayed and had I not broken that deal, you could have never done the deal that I'm doing now where all the countries are pouring in.

And I had two calls this morning with countries; they want to know, "When can we go into the deal?" They want to go. It's not that we're giving them anything. They want security, they want peace, and they're really tired of fighting. It's incredible. They're tired of fighting. They've been fighting for so many years. They're tired of fighting. Thank you very much.

Q. Mr. President, sir. Mr. President——

Federal Aid to Puerto Rico

Q. Mr. President, a question on the vaccine, but first, on Puerto Rico: I heard you many times over the past couple of years saying that Puerto Rico got too much money. I mean, just last year, you said Puerto Rico was one of the "most corrupt places on Earth".

The President. Well, that's true. That's true. They have been.

Q. You talked about how Congress had sent too much money.

The President. Jon [Jonathan Karl, ABC News], the——

Q. But you said, "Never again." You said Congress gave too much money to Puerto Rico. Why now are you——

The President. Because we're building that up as a great medical pharmaceutical manufacturing area where, you know, we're going to be taking back a lot of the business that we let go for years. And we're bringing—we're going to bring it back. They were very good at it. They did a fantastic job, but they destroyed it with their tax policy. They made it impossible for people to stay, so people went to China, mostly, and to other countries. Puerto Rico has been very corrupt in terms of its politicians. You see that. They're one after another. It's been unbelievably corrupt, and we're studying that and working on that. And we think we have a good group of people who are working very well with the politicians right now.

But I think more exciting than the dollars—and you have to do something with respect to their grid; their grid is a disaster, their generators are wiped out. And they've been wiped out for years, long before Maria came. They've been wiped out for years. So if we can build Puerto Rico back into a pharmaceutical manufacturing area, we're going to designate it as such. I think it will be unbelievable for Puerto Rico, unbelievable for the people of Puerto Rico, and we can make it very successful.

China/Antifa Movement/National Economy

Q. And a larger question on the vaccine and on other issues regarding the experts in your Government. Last night you criticized what Christopher Wray told Congress—your FBI Director. You obviously said that the CDC Director was flat wrong on a couple of things this week. How is it that you don't trust your own experts? Do you think you know better than they do? Do you——

The President. Oh, I do. Not at all of them, no. I think—I think I have—yes, in many cases, I do.

I think we have a bigger problem with China than we have with Russia. I think China is a far bigger problem. And I said, "Well, that's okay if you want to think about Russia, but what about China?" I think that's appropriate.

I thought that the definition of Antifa was an absolutely incorrect definition, so I speak up. I like to speak up. I have fantastic people. That's why we're able to make these great trade deals; that's why we're able to do things like we're doing today; that's why the country has done so well.

The country has done numbers like nobody had we not had the China plague come in, if that virus didn't come in—"the plague," I call it—if the plague from China didn't come in, the numbers we had were not only record setting, they were beyond anything anyone has ever seen in any country, frankly.

Now, we closed it up, and now we're opening it up. And by the way, the Democrats ought to open up their States and they ought them up fast, Jon. The faster, the better, because they're hurting their people. A lot of damage done with these extended shutdowns. But we saved millions of lives by doing it the way we did it. And now we're opening it up, and you see the kind of numbers—the manufacturing numbers; you see the retail numbers; you look at the employment numbers. They're setting records. It's an incredible thing that's happening.

Had the plague not come in, we would have been right now at a level that nobody has ever seen before. Nobody has ever seen. But even before, it was at the highest stock market, best unemployment numbers and employment numbers. We were up to 160 million people—just short of 160 million—people employed. We were never close to a number like that, and now we're doing it again. And next year, we will have a great economic year. I think one of our best.

Yes, please. Go ahead, please.

Q. Mr. President, what about what Wray said about White supremacists? Did you——

United States Postal Service/Vote-by-Mail Policies

Q. The Postal Service had planned on sending 650 million facemasks to Americans back in April. That never happened. Why not? And was it because you were——

The President. I don't know. I don't run it, to be honest.

Q. Were you running——

The President. That's run—as you know, that's run by a Commission, and they run it. I think, frankly, if they would raise the price of packaging, you'd end up making a lot of money, or breaking even, or doing something.

The Post Office has been a mess for many, many generations, but for certainly decades. And it loses a lot of money. It's always lost a lot of money. And one of the reasons it loses a lot of money now is that it's delivering all these packages. And every time they deliver a package, they lose $3 a package or whatever the number may be.

So I would suggest that they raise the price of packages. And you might get something where it loses very little, or maybe broke even, or maybe even made some money. Would—can you imagine a thing like that? And whether it's Amazon or any of the other internet delivery services, if you did that, you'd have a whole different Post Office. So hopefully, they'll be doing that.

In the meantime, I know so many people in the Postal System, and I've known them over the years. They're incredible people. And they're very secure. They're going to be very secure.

You know, the problem they have with the ballots—not the Post Office—the problem they have with the ballots is the people sending the ballots and the people counting the ballots. And who are they sending them to? Where are they being sent? Are they being sent to the wrong areas? Are they not being sent at all?

There'll be tremendous corruption if they don't do something about it. Now, one big hope is that we're in front of numerous Federal judges in Nevada. We're in front in Pennsylvania, as you know. We're in front in Michigan. We have numerous court cases out there that are very well advanced, and you'll start seeing decisions. Just like we won the case on opening up Pennsylvania. That was a great decision by a judge that came down 2 days ago, and that was a very important decision.

So—but we have a lot of very important decisions coming down on this, on the scam of unsolicited ballots, where they're sending out tens of millions of ballots to everybody—people that didn't expect them. People are getting inundated with ballots—they'll be showered with ballots.

Everybody in this room knows it's a scam. Okay? Everybody in this room, even Jon. Don't say it, Jon, because——

Q. What's a scam? What's a scam?

The President. It's a scam.

Q. What——

The President. Sending ballots—sending ballots——

Q. Voting by mail is a scam?

The President. ——at a level—they are never going to be able to count them. Let me ask you——

Vote-by-Mail Policies/New York Democratic Primary Election/2020 Presidential Election

Q. Don't your officials vote by mail, sir? People in the White House vote by mail. Are they part of the scam?

The President. They do, but that's different. That's called "solicited." When you solicit, when you go out—it's called "absentee" or "solicit." When you go out and you request a ballot—you want to say, "I want to vote because I can't be in Florida or I can't be someplace." You request. So you're sending something in, it's handled professionally, they send it back—it's a whole thing. That's much different than "unsolicited," when you get millions of ballots. I heard numbers like 80 million ballots.

Now, just this week, they had another one—another one of the disasters that took place—an election. But look at what happened in New Jersey. And they had another one in New Jersey—very, very bad—different than Paterson. Look at what happened in New York with Carolyn—your Congressman—Murphy.

Q. Maloney.

The President. Maloney.

Q. Maloney.

The President. Carolyn Maloney. Look at that. I mean, look at that race. Carolyn Maloney had a race; it was a disaster. Ballots are missing; ballots are fraud.

These are small races. These are—look at what happened in Virginia. Look at what happened at various other parts of the country, even over the last short period of a while. And these aren't 80 million or 50 million or 20 million votes; these are small elections. These are congressional elections where, in theory, it's easy.

So what's going to happen on November 3 when somebody is leading and they say, "Well, look, we haven't counted the ballots; we have millions of ballots to count"? It's a disaster. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows it's a disaster. And I don't expect people here to say—although some people will. Some people would say it. Everyone knows. You don't even have to know politics to know.

And this has nothing to do with Post Office, by the way. Where are these ballots going? Who's sending them? Who's signing them?

You have—in Nevada, you have a Governor that signs something where he doesn't even want verification of the signature. So what does that mean? So he doesn't even want verification of the signature.

So I think it's going to be a terrible time for this country. And we're counting on Federal judges to do a great constitutional job when they are—they're right now analyzing it—many, many Federal judges—many, like, I think five or six—but many Federal judges.

I can tell you, in Pennsylvania, big; in Nevada, very big. I believe it's in front of a judge in Michigan. We have—a lot of judges have not yet ruled on this. But if it's ruled in a different manner or it's ruled where these millions and millions of unsolicited—people that aren't even asking. There's such a difference. You write in, you ask, they send it to you, you sign it, you send it back—that's perfect. That's "absentee."

There's nothing like going to the voter booth, by the way—nothing—where they check you as you go in. There's nothing like that. But that's absentee; that's okay.

But this scam of sending millions and millions of ballots—and you know who knows this better than I do? The Democrats. They know it's going to be a mess. They know it's going—there are going to be millions of missing ballot or tremendous numbers of missing ballots.

You could be talking about large percentages of these ballots are going to be missing. There's going to be fraud. It's a disaster.

Q. So let me follow up on that, sir.

The President. And everybody—and it'd be a lot easier for me not to bring it up. But everybody knows I'm right. And you don't have to know a lot about elections. You don't have to know a lot about politics. This is going to be the scam of all time.

And hopefully, the Federal judges—all respected, all highly respected—hopefully, they'll be able to see this clearly and stop it.

The President. Okay, thank you very much, everybody.

Q. Mr. President, I have a vaccine question. Mr. President, if you win——

The President. So I want to congratulate Puerto Rico.

Q. Let me ask you this——

The President. And I think you're going to have a great period of time. I think you're going to see a rebuilding of Puerto Rico.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 3:09 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Democratic Presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Vice Presidential nominee Kamala D. Harris; former Prime Minister Nasir al-Muhammad al-Ahmad al-Sabah of Kuwait, whom the President presented with the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, on behalf of Nasir al-Muhammad's father, Amir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jabir al-Sabah of Kuwait; William S. Stickman IV, judge, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania; and Gov. Stephen F. Sisolak of Nevada. He also referred to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organization. Reporters referred to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert R. Redfield, Jr.; and Kuwait's Ambassador to Austria Sadiq Marafi.

Donald J. Trump, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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