President Trump is expected to deliver remarks to the findings of Speial Council Robert Mueller’s investigation released today by AG William Barr, during this event!
God Bless America! God Bless President Trump!
God Bless Our Wounded Warriors!
President Donald Trump presents the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Travis W. Atkins, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry.
Staff Sergeant Travis W. Atkins will receive the Medal of Honor posthumously for his actions of June 1, 2007, in support of IRAQI FREEDOM. While serving in Iraq with Company D, 2d Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Staff Sergeant Atkins engaged in hand-to hand combat with a suspected insurgent. As he attempted to subdue the man, Staff Sergeant Atkins realized the insurgent was attempting to detonate a bomb strapped to his body. When he noticed the insurgent was about to trigger the suicide vest, Staff Sergeant Atkins tackled him, selflessly using his own body to shield his fellow soldiers from the imminent explosion. Staff Sergeant Atkins’ heroic actions, at the cost of his life, saved the lives of three of his teammates.
12:25 P.M. EDT
Q Do you know when the Mueller report will be released, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: I have no idea. No collusion. No collusion. I have no idea when it’s going to be released. It’s interesting that a man gets appointed by a deputy; he writes a report. You know — never figured that one out. A man gets appointed by a deputy; he writes a report.
I had the greatest electoral victory — one of them — in the history of our country. Tremendous success. Tens of millions of voters. And now somebody is going to write a report who never got a vote.
So we’ll see what the report says. Let’s see if it’s fair. I have no idea when it’s going to be released.
Q Have you reversed your policy on Syria?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no. We’re — in Syria, we’re leaving 200 people there and 200 people in another place in Syria, closer to Israel, for a period of time. I brought this out for you because this is a map of — everything in the red — this was on Election Night in 2016. Everything red is ISIS. When I took it over, it was a mess.
Now, on the bottom, that’s the exact same. There is no red. In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot, which will be gone by tonight.
So that’s ISIS — red, right there — and the bottom one is how it is today. This just came out 20 minutes ago. So this is ISIS on Election Day — my election day — and this is ISIS now. So that’s the way it goes.
Q Mr. President, does the American public have a right to see the Mueller report?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House, “If you want, let them see it.” Again, I say: A deputy — because of the fact that the Attorney General didn’t have the courage to do it himself, a deputy that’s appointed appoints another man to write a report. I just won an election with 63 million votes or so. Sixty-three million. I had 206 to 223 in the Electoral College — 306 to 223.
And I’m saying to myself, wait a minute, I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country — and even you will admit that — and now I have somebody writing a report that never got a vote. It’s called the Mueller report.
So explain that, because my voters don’t get it. And I don’t get it.
Now, at the same time, let it come out. Let people see it. That’s up to the Attorney General. We have a very good Attorney General; he’s a very highly respected man. And we’ll see what happens.
But it’s sort of interesting that a man, out of the blue, just writes a report. I got 306 electoral votes against 223. That’s a tremendous victory. I got 63 million more. I got 63 million votes. And now somebody just writes a report? I think it’s ridiculous.
But I want to see the report. And you know who will want to see it? The tens of millions of people that love the fact that we have the greatest economy we’ve ever had.
I’m going to Ohio right now. They were going to close the plant; it’s where they make the tanks. It was going to be closed, and I stopped them from closing it. And now it’s thriving and doing great. And the people of Ohio, they like Trump because I’ve done a great job in Ohio. And I’ve done a great job all over the country. That’s what the people want to hear.
Q Are you saying that Bob Mueller is a bad actor?
THE PRESIDENT: I know nothing about it. I know that he’s conflicted and I know that his best friend is Comey, who’s a bad cop. And I know that there are other things, obviously. You know I had a business transaction with him that I’ve reported many times that you people don’t talk about. But I had a nasty business transaction with him and other things. I know that he put 13 highly conflicted and, you know, very angry — I call them angry — Democrats in. So, you know — so, what it is.
Now, let’s see whether or not it’s legit. You know better than anybody there’s no collusion. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing. But it’s sort of an amazing thing that when you have a great victory, somebody comes and does a report out of nowhere — tell me how that makes sense — who never got a vote; who the day before he was retained to become Special Counsel, I told him he wouldn’t be working at the FBI. And then the following day, they get him for this. I don’t think so. I don’t think people get it.
With all of that being said, I look forward to seeing the report.
Q On the China trade deal, once you have an agreement with President Xi, will you immediately lift the China tariffs? Will you remove the tariffs right away?
THE PRESIDENT: No. We’re not talking about removing them. We’re talking about leaving them and for a substantial period of time, because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China, that China lives by the deal. Because they’ve had a lot of problems living by certain deals and we have to make sure.
Now, no President has ever done what I’ve done with China. China had free reign over our country, taking out $500 billion a year for many years. We actually rebuilt China, in the truest sense of the word. We rebuilt China.
But we’re getting along with China very well. President Xi is a friend of mine. The deal is coming along nicely. We have our top representatives going there this weekend to further the deal. But, no, we have — we’re taking in billions and billions of dollars right now in tariff money. And for a period of time, that will stay.
Q Mr. President, your tweets about George Conway, how do they fit the standard of the First Lady’s BE BEST campaign?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t know him. Yeah, I don’t know him. He’s a whack job, there’s no question about it. But I really don’t know him. He — I think he’s doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife. Kellyanne is a wonderful woman. And I call him “Mr. Kellyanne.” The fact is that he’s doing a tremendous disservice to a wife and family. She’s a wonderful woman.
Q The 232 tariff reform: What are the recommendations?
THE PRESIDENT: Well — are you talking about the one that you just —
Q The auto tariffs. The auto tariffs.
THE PRESIDENT: — found out about having to do with cars?
THE PRESIDENT: No recommendation. It’s up for review, and the European Union has been very tough on the United States for many years but nobody talked about it. And so we’re looking at something to combat it.
Not only do they charge our companies — if you look, it was 1.6 billion to Google; it just happened yesterday. And a lot of other things. A lot of litigation.
But I say the European Union has been as tough on the United States as China, just not as much money involved.
Q Are you leaning towards tariffs?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see what happens. We’ll see whether or not they negotiate a deal. If they negotiate a deal, a fair deal, that’s a different story.
Q Mr. President, are (inaudible) beneath the dignity of the office you hold?
THE PRESIDENT: Uh, yeah, go ahead.
Q Will you answer that question, Mr. President?
Q (Inaudible) from your Twitter account?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that Twitter is a way that I get out the word when we have a corrupt media. And it is corrupt and it’s fake. So Twitter is a way that I can get out the word. Because our media is so dishonest — a lot of it — the mainstream. A lot of it. They don’t report the facts. They don’t report — as an example that I just showed you, they don’t want to report this, so I figure I might as well show it.
So when I do Twitter statements, I get out the word from a fake and corrupt media.
And I have, on five sites —
Q But is it beneath the office you hold?
THE PRESIDENT: Please. Please.
Q Is it beneath your office?
THE PRESIDENT: Please.
On five sites, I have over 100 million people, and that includes Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and everything. And it’s a way that I can get honesty out, because there’s tremendous dishonesty with respect to the fake-news media.
Q Mr. President, what was your reaction — Mr. President, what was your reaction —
Q Your Secretary of State for African Affairs went to Angola this week and he showed the support of the United States to Angola.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
Q About the work that of President, João Lourenço, doing in Angola — João Lourenço, the new President of Angola, he’s combatting corruption really hard in Angola. What do you think about that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ll take a look at that. I’ll speak to the Secretary.
THE PRESIDENT: Pakistan — we’ll be meeting with Pakistan. I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan.
12:35 P.M. EDT
It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life. The budget requests $750 billion for our national defense. And to be clear, this is not funding for endless wars, this is for research and development and procurement to fund the most awe-inspiring military the world has ever known.
“A Budget for America’s Future reinforces the pro-growth policies that have led to historic job growth and prosperity, cuts wasteful spending, and balances in 15 years.” Russ Vought
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:13 P.M. EDT
MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. President Trump’s 2020 budget, which was released today, builds upon incredible success and keeps his promises to the American people. It continues the President’s pro-job creation policies, keeps taxes low, combats the opioid epidemic, protects our veterans, defends our nation, and secures our borders.
Even with a strong economy, deficits are still a threat, and this budget demonstrates the President’s vision to restrain Washington spending and reach a balanced budget by 2034. This is a clear roadmap for a more fiscally responsible future if Congress chooses to follow it.
To talk about the President’s budget proposal and take questions on the topic, I’d like to bring up Acting Director of OMB Russ Vought.
After that, I’ll be back up to take questions of the day.
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Thanks, Sarah. Good afternoon everyone. Happy budget day.
Q Happy budget day.
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Today we have released the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget, “A Budget for a Better America: Promises Kept. Taxpayers First.” This budget reflects the President’s priorities to ensure that all Americans can benefit from the nation’s historic economic boom and record-low unemployment.
No President has done more in two years to strengthen our military, restart our economy, and reform our government than President Trump — promises he made while running for office.
This great progress is threatened by our unsustainable national debt, which has nearly doubled under the previous administration and now stands at more than $22 trillion. Annual deficits are continuing to rise and will exceed a trillion dollars a year. And it’s projected that interest payments on the national debt will exceed military spending by 2024. Washington has a spending problem and it endangers the future prosperity of our nation for generations to come.
This budget contains nearly $2.7 trillion in savings, more spending reductions proposed than any administration in history. This budget will balance in 15 years.
Last year, President Trump directed federal agencies to meet a target of a 5 percent reduction to non-defense discretionary spending. I’m proud to report to you today that we have achieved that target.
In terms of the economy, our GDP grew by 3.1 percent over the four quarters of fiscal year 2018. While many claimed we were guilty of wishful thinking, we’ve met our economic forecast two years in a row — the first administration to ever do that.
We are confident that the President’s historic tax reforms, deregulation, trade policy, unleashing American energy will continue our economic growth. Economic policies in this budget will generate more than enough revenue to pay for the cost of the tax cut.
The fiscal year 2020 President’s budget outlines a number of key priorities for the administration to continue to pursue. The budget supports public and private school choice through a federal tax credit of up to $50 billion over 10 years.
While this administration has made major progress toward streamlining our infrastructure permitting, we continue to request an additional $200 billion to lever up to a trillion dollars in total spending.
It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life. The budget requests $750 billion for our national defense. And to be clear, this is not funding for endless wars, this is for research and development and procurement to fund the most awe-inspiring military the world has ever known.
In addition, federal resources and frontline defenders are overwhelmed at the southern border. And the fiscal year 2020 budget provides sizeable funding of an $8.6 billion for full completion of the wall and other border security resources.
In terms of other major reforms, the administration is proposing uniform work requirements for Medicaid, TANF, SNAP — or food stamps — and certain housing programs. We can help low-income families and end dependency on government benefits by strengthening work requirements.
The administration also wants to lower drug costs. The budget proposes a drug pricing strategy that puts American patients first, promotes generics, and reduces out-of-pocket costs.
This administration has also identified a number of wasteful, inefficient programs. For example, we can save hundreds of millions of dollars by right-sizing and reforming the underperforming programs like Job Corps, a residential youth training program that has made headlines in recent years for the number of security incidents at the facilities.
Or take the $600 million that we spend at 85 different cultural and exchange programs at the Department of State, despite the fact that only 1 percent of the 1 million students that come to this country to study ever benefitted from that program, and the fact that, at the State Department, these programs doubled in the last 10 to 15 years.
This budget is yet another fiscally responsible and commonsense spending plan from President Trump. The President has continually called for fiscal restraint and will persist in his efforts to end the wasteful spending.
Thank you, everyone. And with that, I’m ready to take some questions. John.
Q Russ, there are concerns by some budget watchdogs that money that’s in the Overseas Contingency Operations budget will end up building a barrier on the southern border. Can you allay concerns of some of these folks that none of that money would be used to build a barrier?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: We do not request any OCO money — overseas counterinsurgency money — for the purchasing of — or for the completion of the wall. We do have emergency spending that we devote to it, and we continue the military rebuild by asking for what’s necessary to complete the wall. That does include military construction funding. So what we do is we both backfill in fiscal year ’19 any funding that is used in military construction. And in fiscal year 2020, we asked for Congress to appropriate these dollars.
Q And one other question about defense, if I could, Russ. It also calls — the budget also calls for the purchase of eight F-15s. And there are concerns that you’re going to lower the number of F-35s that we bought. What’s the reason for buying the F-15s?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: We go along the lines of what the Defense Department has requested with their five-year defense program. It’s an allocation of different plans, including the F-35 and the F-18 — the Super Hornets. So this is something that has been requested by the military, and we think it’s something that will make sense when Congress considers it.
Q Yeah. Just two questions. One, you mentioned what the President promised during the campaign. During the campaign, he also promised that he would eliminate the national debt within eight years. And as you know, the debt at the end of his first year was at $20 trillion; last year it went to $21 trillion; last month, $22 trillion. So what happened to that promise? I mean, the President has added historically large numbers to the national debt instead of keeping a promise to actually pay it off.
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Look, again, the last administration nearly doubled the national debt. And when this President ran for office, he made a commitment to the American people that he would attempt to tackle the debt within eight years. This President did that the very first year that he came to office by sending forth a budget that balanced within 10 years and had more spending reductions than any in history.
Q But he’s added $2 trillion — more than $2 trillion to the national debt.
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: He also came into office and had an economic recovery that was needed to put people back to work, get the economy going, and to rebuild the military, and had historic levels of military at $700 [billion] and $716 billion in national defense dollars.
At the same time, Congress has been ignoring the President’s spending reductions for the last two years. It’s only now in our third budget that they’re willing to have a conversation about the national debt. We’ve been trying to have it since we got to office. The President is putting forward these reductions: He’s putting forward a 5 percent cut to non-defense discretionary spending. He’s putting forward reforms to mandatory programs that are on autopilot while keeping his commitment to American seniors by not making changes to Medicare and Social Security.
Q Two quick questions. One, to go back to — to drill down a little bit on what Jon Karl asked. If the deficit is such a problem, why not at least cut the rate of increase to the defense budget? And secondly, he had said “promises kept,” but we’re cutting Medicare. How does that keep his promise to the American people?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: He’s not cutting Medicare in this budget. What we are doing is putting forward reforms that lower drug prices, that because Medicare pays a very large share of drug prices in this country, it has the impact of finding savings. We’re also finding waste, fraud, and abuse. But Medicare spending will go up every single year by healthy margins, and there are no structural changes for Medicare beneficiaries.
Q But as for the defense budget, why not at least cut the rate of increase if the deficit is of such concern — it’s in the trillions — why not cut at least the increase?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Because he’s the Commander-In-Chief and he thinks it’s important to secure the country. It’s one of his most basic constitutional responsibilities. The military put forward a five-year defense plan. It was done over a series of years about the needs, which gets back to Jon’s question.
We are going along with that five-year defense plan. In addition, we’re putting additional dollars towards the military construction funds that we have tapped.
Q Yeah. Thanks, Russ. Yeah, a couple. One, could you address two major drivers in long-term spending, which would be baseline budgeting and entitlement spending in general? And secondly, this seems maybe a little bit more ambitious in terms of savings than previous budgets you’ve proposed. And I wondered why that would be, since you’re now dealing with Democratic House, whereas in the past you might have been able to get more (inaudible)?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: It’s very in line with previous budgets. We balance in 15 years. Our first budget balanced in 10. One of the reasons that we were unable to balance quicker is because it gets harder each and every year that Congress doesn’t go along with our spending reductions.
You mentioned mandatory spending; it is a driver. We have more reforms than any President’s budget in history.
But look, what has happened for far too long is that Congress has blamed mandatory spending and then increased discretionary spending, which they have a vote on every single year, by large degrees. They continue to let a paradigm exist in this country that says: For every dollar in defense spending, we’re going to increase non-defense spending by a dollar. We think we need to break that paradigm. We don’t think that that paradigm allows us to be able to get our fiscal house in order.
Q Thanks, Russ. Realistically, the administration is not going to get $8.6 billion for wall funding through this budget. Are there other executive actions that you have been looking at in order to pursue — but despite the national emergency being declared and the Treasury Asset Forfeiture and the drug enforcement dollars — that you could use in order to continue to fill the additional funding that you say is necessary for the wall?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Right now, we are focused on spending the money that Congress gave us in the last appropriations bill and the money that we have identified as part of declaring a national emergency and spending that well. And this $8.6 billion is geared towards what we would need in addition to complete that wall.
Q Russ, I mean, I know this administration has talked about the importance of infrastructure, and you propose a $200 billion infrastructure this year. But last year, there were cuts to other programs that caused — would’ve caused a net decrease to infrastructure spending. So would there be a net increase in infrastructure spending under this budget?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: What most people refer to when they look and make that assertion is they’re looking at the fact that the trust fund doesn’t have enough revenues coming into it. This budget looks at the baseline and assumes that to be the case.
But we are totally ready and willing to talk with Congress about how to ensure that there’s additional dollars in the Federal Trust Fund and to put forward additional $200 billion in new investment to make sure that it’s not just a surface transportation bill; that when we need money for broadband or other infrastructure, that is also something that we can pursue.
Q Russ, thanks. So it sounds like you’re saying that the administration needed to take on deficit spending the first couple years because the economy needed the kick. But we also hear from the administration that this is an economy that is roaring right now. So with that being the premise, how do you square having deficits in 2019, 2020, ’21, and 2022, four years going forward, of trillion-plus-dollar deficits? How is that fiscal conservatism?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: I wouldn’t say that we needed deficits to get the economy started. I would say that we put forward spending reductions that were aimed at a balanced budget, and we have each and every year.
We do have large deficits. That’s why we’re here transparently saying that we have a problem as a country. It takes a long time to get out of that mess. We came into office and faced $10.5 trillion right off the bat. And instead of being with us and considering our proposals, and allowing us to make the factual case for why the American people would be better off under these reforms, Congress just hasn’t been willing to play ball, even though they have the power of the purse.
Q It seems like — Russ, just to pick up on that real quick. It seems like one of the ways you’re trying to go at it is by reducing non-defense discretionary spending. Defense spending over the next years is $7 trillion, but non-defense discretionary, $5 trillion. Do you really believe that Congress is going to yank spending down that significantly over the next decade?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: We believe that every budget is an opportunity to put forward our vision of the next 10 years. We are doing that in this budget, and we are saying to the American people: We can no longer afford the paradigm that Congress keeps giving us, which is that we’re never going to make any tradeoffs; that we’re never going to align what we spend with what we take in; that we’re not going to do what every family does across the country and trying to figure out what they can afford before they go out and spend.
So, yes, we are trying to say that we need to continue to secure the country. We need to continue to secure the border. We’re not going to be bashful about that. But at the same time, we’re also going to say that we have many, many programs that are wasteful and inefficient that we can longer afford.
Q Russ, you called on me next. I’m sorry, Russ, you came to me.
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Sure.
Q (Inaudible) the next question. I want to go the least of these: welfare reform and SNAP. How much money is proposed for this Welfare to Work Initiative with job training? And also, with SNAP, what are the lessons learned that you’re trying to, I guess, reshape this harvest box proposal? Because it came under great criticism before, and now you’re proposing it again. Could you talk about those two issues?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: It did receive criticism, but we thought those criticisms were unmerited, and we’re not going to walk away from the proposal as it pertains to the harvest box.
Look, we think there’s nothing wrong with putting forward a reform that says, “In addition to your normal food stamps spending benefits that you would get at the retail, that you would get a harvest box that allows you to get a more balanced meal and to save money to the taxpayers at the same time.”
In terms of work requirements, it’s something that has long been viewed as a success since the 1990s. We expand on it. It is something that we have long viewed as important to be able to say — take the same principles of reducing dependency that we saw in TANF and then apply them to housing and to food stamps, and to Medicaid.
Q But there are some people that slip through the cracks and they may need job training. Are there funds proposed for job training, if you’re going to do this Welfare to Work Initiative?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Absolutely. The Department of Labor receives an adequate amount of funding in an era where we have $1 trillion deficits. There will be many, many workforce development programs that are funded as part of this budget.
Q A lot of the discussion has been in terms of federal debt, but can you address that the federal unfunded liabilities, where does that number stand right now? And what does this budget do to address that much larger number?
ACTING DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Look, we have a lot of debts as a country. We’re trying to take it on head on. We’re trying to say that $22 trillion is not acceptable and we can’t go forward with trillion dollars every single year, and that the way to start doing that is to pursue the types of reforms where we think that the American people will have an opportunity to see how their lives would be better off under our proposals.
We do that in federal retirement benefits. We do that in student loans. We do that in welfare reforms. We think that in each one of these scenarios, we’re going to be able to encourage the kind of conversation that allows us to get our house in order.
MS. SANDERS: Thank you, Russ.
Lastly, quick comment: We extend our prayers to the loved ones, friends and family, of those killed in the tragic crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302. At least eight U.S. citizens were among the victims. We are working with the government of Ethiopia and Ethiopian Airlines to offer all possible assistance.
With that, I will take your questions. John.
Q Sarah, the President said that Democrats hate Jewish people, according to a recent report. We’ve also seen him tweet in the last couple of days that Democrats are the, quote, “anti-Jewish party.” Does the President really believe Democrats hate Jews?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has been an unwavering and committed ally to Israel and the Jewish people. And, frankly, the remarks that have been made by a number of Democrats and failed to be called out by Democrat leadership is, frankly, abhorrent and it’s sad. And it’s something that should be called by name. It shouldn’t be put in a watered-down resolution. It should be done the way the Republicans did it when Steve King made terrible comments. We called it out by name. We stripped him of his committee memberships. And we’d like to see Democrats follow suit.
Q But I ask — first of all, you mentioned Steve King. The President — correct me if I’m wrong — has not condemned Steve King for what he said praising white supremacy. Has the President publicly come out and said anything to criticize or condemn?
MS. SANDERS: I speak on behalf of the President on a number of topics, and I have talked about that a number of times. And I’d refer you back to those comments where I used words like “abhorrent” and “unacceptable.”
Q We’re getting some word that the President plans to nominate Patrick Shanahan later this week to be the Secretary of Defense, elevating him from the Acting position. Can you tell us whether or not that is going to happen?
MS. SANDERS: I am not going to make any personnel announcements at this time. I can tell you that the President has a great deal of respect for Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan. He likes him. And when the President is ready to make announcement on that front, he certainly will.
Q Just one more. There are a lot of “actings” in the administration these days. Any possibility of removing “acting” from Mick Mulvaney’s title?
MS. SANDERS: Certainly a lot of possibility there. Some of the reason that we have “actings” is because we’re waiting on the confirmation process, at least for a couple of those folks. And we hope that that moves forward quickly.
Q Sarah, I wanted to follow up on what the latest with China is. Has the President made an offer for a Mar-a-Lago date? And there’s also some reports that the Chinese feel the President is an unreliable negotiating partner after walking out on the North Korea talks.
MS. SANDERS: Well, let me start with the first one. In terms of whether or not we have a date set, not yet. We’re continuing the negotiations with China. When we have an announcement for the two leaders to sit down, we’ll certainly let you know.
The second part?
Q And what would you say to the concerns by the Chinese that the President is an unreliable negotiating partner after the talks with North Korea broke down and he walked away from that?
MS. SANDERS: I would say that’s absurd. The President is going to make a deal if it’s a good deal. He’s going to make a deal if it’s in the best interest of America. And if he doesn’t feel like it’s a good deal, it’s not worth just signing a piece of paper.
And the President didn’t feel like what was on the table was enough. The President is 100 percent committed to denuclearization of the Peninsula, and he’s going to make sure that whatever we do furthers that process. We’ll see what happens with North Korea, the same way we’re going to see what happens in the negotiations with China. They’re ongoing.
And the President is going to make sure whatever deal we get is in our best interest — that it’s fair and reciprocal trade; that it protects our intellectual property; and that it actually has safeguards to make sure that the Chinese follow through with whatever commitments that they make.
Q Sarah, picking up on that, does the President have any plans to speak with President Xi over the phone?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of any scheduled calls. But if we have any, we’ll certainly keep you posted.
Q Is that the most likely step here, that they speak on the phone beforehand? Or is it possible that these two still meet at the end of the month or at the beginning?
MS. SANDERS: We’re going to keep everything on the table. Again, negotiations are ongoing. The President’s team, as well as the Chinese delegation, continue conversations. And when they feel like it’s time for the two leaders to sit down, we’ll make that happen.
Q Thanks, Sarah. I have a news-of-the-day question but I didn’t get to ask my budget question before. So, can I try —
MS. SANDERS: You missed a big moment.
Q I did.
MS. SANDERS: The guy with all the details.
Q All right. So, in the budget, the way that I see it — and there’s a lot of pages to go through — it keeps referring to Western Hemisphere with regards to foreign aid spending but nothing specifically about Central America. The President has said that he wants to cut money to Central America. In fact, he could cut it all. Is that in the budget? Is that (inaudible)?
MS. SANDERS: I don’t have any specific update on that front. I don’t think there’s a different policy.
Q All right. On the news of the day, the big vote is coming up this week in the Senate on the resolution with regards to the national emergency. What is the President doing to stop a rebellion among Republican senators? We know that a rising number — it’s been reported as many as 10 or 15 — to vote against that. What’s the President doing about that?
MS. SANDERS: He’s doing his job. He’s doing what Congress should be doing. He took an oath of office, and he has a constitutional duty to protect the people of this country. We have a humanitarian and national security crisis at our border, and the President is doing his job in addressing it. He gave Congress a number of opportunities to actually address it, and they’ve failed to do so. So the President is taking his constitutional authority that Congress granted him.
Let’s not forget, the only reason he has the authority to call a national emergency is because Congress gave him the right to do so. They failed to do their job. The President is fulfilling his duty, and he’s going to make sure he does what is necessary to protect the people of this country and secure our borders.
Q I meant more along the lines of calls or meetings that he might be taking with senators who he believes could be voting for that resolution.
MS. SANDERS: Certainly, we talk to a number of members every single day, certainly at the presidential and the staff level. And we’re going to continue to engage with them in this process.
Q Sarah, what is the administration specifically doing to look into Secretary Acosta’s role in the secret plea deal for Jeffrey Epstein? Does the President have any misgivings about the role that this top official played in this deal?
MS. SANDERS: That’s currently under review. Because of that, I can’t get into a lot of specifics, but we’re certainly looking at it.
Q Do you have a timeline for that review, Sarah?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of a specific timeline.
Q So I have a question for you, but I also have a follow-up to my colleague because I didn’t hear you actually answer the question. So, yes or no: Does the President truly believe that Democrats hate Jews?
MS. SANDERS: I am not going to comment on a potentially leaked document. I can tell you what —
Q (Inaudible.) Does he think Democrats hate Jewish people, as he said on the South Lawn?
MS. SANDERS: I think that they’ve had a lot of opportunities over last few weeks to condemn some abhorrent comments.
Q But I’m asking about the President specifically.
MS. SANDERS: I’m trying to answer you. If you’d stop talking, I’ll finish my statement.
Q Just a yes-or-no question.
MS. SANDERS: The President has had — and laid out clearly his position on this matter. Democrats have had a number of opportunities to condemn specific comments and have refused to do that. That’s a question, frankly, I think you should ask Democrats what their position is, since they’re unwilling to call this what it is, and call it out by name, and take actual action —
Q So is that a yes?
MS. SANDERS: — against members who have done things like this, like the Republicans have done when they had the same opportunity.
Q So I want to ask you about Paul Manafort, but I just want to be very clear. You’re not answering the question. Is there a reason?
MS. SANDERS: I believe I answered it twice.
Q You didn’t say yes or no. Does he really believe Democrats hate Jews? I’m just trying to get a sense of that.
MS. SANDERS: I think that’s a question you ought to ask the Democrats.
Q Let me ask you about Paul Manafort. Why hadn’t — obviously, Paul Manafort goes for the second half of his sentencing this week. Why hasn’t the President ruled out a pardon for Paul Manafort?
MS. SANDERS: The President has made his position on that clear, and he’ll make a decision when he is ready.
Q Sarah, on the pardons. Last week, the President tweeted that Michael Cohen, quote, “directly asked me for a pardon.” When did that happen? Was that when Cohen — was Cohen here at the White House? He came into the Oval Office and asked the President for a pardon? Did it happen on the phone? Do you have a date? Do we know when that happened?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not going to get into specifics of things that are currently under review by the Oversight Committee and other committees. What I can tell you is that Cohen’s own attorney stated and contradicted his client when he said that he was aware that those conversations had taken place.
We know that Michael Cohen lied to Congress prior to his testimony most recently, and we know that he’s lied at least twice in that hearing. I think that it’s time to stop giving him a platform. Let him go on to serve his time, and let’s move forward with matters of the country.
Q One budget question just to put it on the record, because a lot of people in the country want to know. Is there anything in the President’s 2020 budget request that has Mexico paying for the wall?
MS. SANDERS: As the President has stated a number of times: through the USMCA trade deal that we look forward to getting passed soon; that will be part of how that takes place.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Two brief questions. Following up on John’s personnel question, does the President have full confidence in Secretary Acosta? Or is the Labor Secretary possibly leaving?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of any personnel changes. But, again, those things are currently under review. When we have an update, I’ll let you know.
Q The other question is, is the President in discussion about signing an executive order to undo Executive Order 13166, President Clinton’s executive order requiring —
MS. SANDERS: I was going to say, I hope you tell me what that one is. (Laughter.)
Q President Clinton’s executive order, 19 years ago, requiring multiple languages. A new executive order, I am told, would make English the official language in government. Is he considering that?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of a specific executive order that’s been drafted, but that is the position of the White House.
Q Yes. Did the President ask Gary Cohn to intervene or block AT&T’s merger with Time Warner?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of any conversations around that matter.
Q And just to get back to Jon and Hallie’s question about the President’s comments about Democrats and Jewish people, isn’t that kind of rhetoric just, sort of, beneath everybody?
And do you think that the President has thought at all — going into this 2020 campaign — that the rhetoric just needs to be lowered, whether it’s talking about Democrats, the media, immigrants? Or should we just plan on hearing the President use the same kind of language that we heard in 2016 and all through the first couple of years of this administration?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think that the real shame in all of this is that Democrats are perfectly capable of coming together and agreeing on the fact that they’re comfortable ripping babies straight from a mother’s womb or killing a baby after birth, but they have a hard time condemning the type of comments from Congresswoman Omar. I think that is a great shame.
The President has been clear on what his position is, certainly what his support is for the people in the community of Israel. And beyond that, I don’t have anything further for you, Jim.
Q Don’t you think that just, sort of, drags down the rhetoric in the debate when you’re saying something that’s just patently untrue? I mean, obviously —
MS. SANDERS: Stating their policy positions is not patently untrue.
Q But Democrats don’t — but Democrats don’t hate Jewish people. That’s just silly. It’s not true. So —
MS. SANDERS: I think they should call out their members by name, and we’ve made that clear. I don’t have anything further to add.
Q But the President — you know, he —
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, Jim. April, go ahead.
Q His rhetoric after Charlottesville, saying that there “are very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, essentially suggesting that there are very fine people in the Nazis. You know —
MS. SANDERS: That’s not at all what the President was stating, not then, not at any point. The President has been incredibly clear, and consistently and repeatedly condemned hatred, bigotry, racism, in all of its forms, whether it’s in America or anywhere else. And to say otherwise is simply untrue.
Q That’s kind of along what I was asking — two questions — but that’s kind of along what I was asking. Since the President did say that in Charlottesville — “some very fine people on both sides” — has he, in your opinion, or has he, for us — because I don’t remember it — condemned the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville for their actions against the Jewish Americans there?
MS. SANDERS: The President has condemned neo-Nazis and called them by name, which is what we are asking Democrats to do when they see this same type of hatred.
Q And also, can we expect to have —
MS. SANDERS: Sorry, I’m going to keep moving. Deborah, go ahead.
Q Can we expect to have briefings more often now, since there has been a little bit changing atmosphere here?
MS. SANDERS: I haven’t noticed a change in the atmosphere. I know that the President is the most accessible President in modern history.
MS. SANDERS: I know that he takes questions from you guys nearly every single day. On days he doesn’t, sometimes I do it from here. We answer hundreds of questions from reporters all over the world, every day. We’re going to continue to do that. Sometimes we’ll do it from this room. Sometimes we’ll do it in other venues and other platforms.
Q In the new spending blueprint, why did the OMB include money for the Yucca Mountain —
MS. SANDERS: I’m sorry, can you say that a little louder?
Q Yes, I can. Why did the OMB include money for the Yucca Mountain waste — nuclear waste repository? And what are the chances it’s in your spending blueprint? And what are the chances that Congress will actually enact that?
MS. SANDERS: I think that the chances that Congress will do its job based on historical precedent over the last couple of months are probably unlikely, but that doesn’t mean we’re not hopeful that they will work with us, look for ways that we can reduce spending, and grow — protect our military, do things like that, which you see in the President’s budget. We’d love for them to work with us on that.
Q And, Sarah, can you tell us a little bit about what the thinking was to put that in?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of any specific policy changes on that front or anything on there. I’ll let you know if we have something.
One last question.
Q Sarah, why did the President write a check to Michael Cohen for $35,000 in August of 2017 while he was here in the White House? What was that money for?
MS. SANDERS: I’m not aware of those specific checks.
Q He testified about this. He specifically accused the President of engaging in a conspiracy to conceal campaign finance violations. He presented the check.
MS. SANDERS: The President has been clear that there wasn’t a campaign violation. Beyond that, I can’t get in —
Q But the President has also said he didn’t know about these hush money payments.
MS. SANDERS: Beyond that —
Q His story has changed.
MS. SANDERS: Again, I would refer you back to the President’s comments. That’s not something I’m a part of. And I would refer you to the President’s outside counsel beyond his comments.
Q But this is something he did during his time in the White House. Does the White House deny that the President is “Individual 1”?
MS. SANDERS: I’m sorry?
Q “Individual 1,” in the Southern District of New York, (inaudible) Michael Cohen?
MS. SANDERS: Again, I’m not going to comment on that — an ongoing case. That’s not something I would be a part of here at the White House. And I would refer you to outside counsel.
What I can tell you is the President has stated his position and made it clear.
Thanks so much, guys.
2:45 P.M. EDT
“The creation of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, announced by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump on Wednesday, will work with the National Council for the American Worker established last July by an executive order.”
Wilbur Ross, Ivanka Trump Introduce Workforce Advisory Board
By Margaret Talev
February 13, 2019
The chief executives of Apple Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Walmart Inc., are among 25 prominent Americans who will shape Trump administration efforts to develop job training programs to meet the changing demands of U.S. employers.
The creation of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, announced by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump on Wednesday, will work with the National Council for the American Worker established last July by an executive order.
Ivanka Trump, in a statement, said the board will “ensure inclusive growth” and that the administration wants all Americans “to have the skills and opportunity to secure good paying jobs and successfully navigate technological disruptions and the rapidly changing nature of work.”
The board is being established at a time when there are 7.3 million job openings and a gap between skills of those seeking to enter the workforce possess and those sought by employers, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the plans before an official announcement. Board members’ terms will run until July 2020.
The White House said 200 companies and associations have signed the administration’s Pledge to America’s Workers, promising to create more than 6.5 million education, training and skill-building opportunities over the next five years.
The board will be asked to help the council develop a national campaign to promote education and training, recommend ways to improve labor market data, increase private sector investments in job learning and better identify companies’ needs in hiring.
The Washington Times wrote:
“This is an urgent humanitarian issue. My Administration is committed to leveraging every resource we have to confront this threat, to support the victims and survivors, and to hold traffickers accountable for their heinous crimes.” President Donald J. Trump
LIVE NOW -President Trump
Today, Tuesday, January 8, 2019 –
President Trump argues his case before the American people. The democrats to not want to hear about the crisis at the U.S. – Mexico border. They refuse to sit down and hear the numbers – the 60,000 per day trying to break our border – the gangs, the terrorists, the illegals. President Trump has been dumped on….last three presidents have left him a mess. President Trump represents “We The People” and he is working day and night to keep America safe.
President Trump is keeping track of and stopping human trafficking, drug trafficking coming through the border. Today He signed a bill:
On Tuesday, January 8, 2019, the President signed into law:
H.R. 2200, the “Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act of 2018,” which reauthorizes and modifies the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000; and
S. 3191, the “Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act of 2018,” which requires the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to establish a collection of civil rights cold cases related to certain Federal crimes arising out of events that occurred between 1940 and 1979; and establishes an independent board, known as the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Review Board, to facilitate the review, transmittal to NARA, and public disclosure of civil rights cold case records.
CRISIS AT THE BORDER: President Trump continues to stress the need to pass legislation that will address the security and humanitarian crises on our Southern Border.
BORDER SECURITY AND HUMANITARIAN PRIORITIES: Any government funding bill must address the security and humanitarian crises on our Southern Border. The Administration has requested additional funds—relative to the FY2019 Homeland Security funding bill that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee (Committee)—to address these priorities.
IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT: Congress must fund additional immigration detention beds and law enforcement personnel.
STATEMENTS & RELEASES
On Monday, January 7, 2019, the President signed into law:
S. 2200, the “National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2018,” which reauthorizes, through fiscal year 2023, and amends provisions of the Department of Commerce’s National Integrated Drought Information System Program; the National Weather Service; the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research; and the National Hypoxia and Harmful Algal Bloom Program; and
S. 2961, the “Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018,” which authorizes appropriations for Justice Department grant programs that assist in responding to victims of child abuse and in improving the quality of criminal prosecution of child abuse cases; and establishes immunity for individuals who in good faith report suspected or known instances of child abuse or neglect.
Yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and OMB Deputy Director Russell Vought had a Press briefing on Border Security:
Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
2:16 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, welcome to the Vice President’s office. It’s my first time to welcome many of you here. We had a very busy weekend around this table, and I thought this would be a good place for us to catch you all up on the status of our negotiations. So, thank you all for coming over.You may have already heard that at the meeting of the leadership in the Situation Room on Friday, when the leaders and the President agreed to have our teams talk over the course of the weekend, the President asked me, Jared Kushner, and Secretary Nielsen to lead the administration’s efforts. And we spent several hours on Saturday in this room, several hours on Sunday, and I wanted to walk you through the status of those negotiations.
We think it was a productive session on both days — I said so on Saturday; the President said so yesterday. That does not mean to imply that we made progress in negotiations, but I think we gained a better understanding of the issues, the crisis on our southern border, and a better understanding of the priorities on both sides of the aisle to address that crisis.
So, let me — let me give you a quick thumbnail, then I’m going to ask Secretary Nielsen to walk you quickly through the latest information on our border crisis — the security and humanitarian crisis on the southern border. I’ll walk you through the White House proposal that was presented at the request of the Democrat staff and leadership yesterday and then we’ll get to questions. And I promise to be as brief as possible.
I think the two things we accomplished over the course of the weekend: First and foremost, on Saturday, we — I believe we made progress in establishing the fact that we do have a humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border. The President will address that as he speaks to the nation tomorrow night at nine o’clock. And we’re going to continue to make a concerted effort to inform members of Congress in both parties about what we are facing, particularly the precipitous rise in families and unaccompanied children over the last several months that is putting an extraordinary burden and presenting great challenges at our border, as well as the whole issue of the flow of narcotics and other challenges that come.
So that was what we believe we established on Saturday. In fact, I was struck — at several moments in yesterday’s discussions, a senior Democrat staff actually used the phrase that they “did not dispute” our facts about the border, which I consider to be evidence of a productive discussion, because if we can agree on the facts first, that may always, in any situation, become a foundation for agreeing on solutions.
On Sunday, we responded to a request that we thought was reasonable: That the administration would put on paper a revised budget estimate for the proposals, including the President’s commitment to a physical barrier, to building a wall on the southern border — but also to attach specific numbers and policies to how the President intends or seeks to address the crisis at our southern border.
I’m very proud of the fact that our OMB team and Homeland Security burned the midnight oil Saturday and early Sunday. And by our meeting, early afternoon — Sunday afternoon — we were able to present the document that I suspect most of you already have in hand.
And as I’ll articulate in just a few minutes, after Kirstjen speaks, what we did in this document was not only articulate, with a great degree of specificity, the President’s request for the budget, but the dollar amounts associated with it, but also we incorporated ideas that Democrat leaders and Democrat staff had brought to our attention over the course of meeting of principals and over the course of the staff meeting. And we were able to clear with the President those things that the administration was prepared to support. We added those to our request, and I’ll enumerate those for each one of you.
With that, I want to recognize Kirstjen. I think we’ve handed out the panels, so we can move through this pretty quickly. But we at least wanted to begin so that you know the information that we shared with the Democratic leadership staff and represents the best real-time information from our experts on the border about what’s happening.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Sure. Well, thank you all for being here. We really appreciate you taking the time.
So you do have the slides in front of you. I’m not going to stop on every stat, because you can read them. I just want to give you a quick, broader perspective.
So, just looking at the second slide here: As the Vice President underlined, I think what’s important here is there’s a real sense of urgency. The crisis is getting worse. So the issue is that the status quo funding, the status quo laws are not able to address the crisis that we’re seeing at the borders.
There’s a few ticks here on why it’s different. I’ll get into them a little bit more, but it is a security and a humanitarian crisis. In terms of the solutions we need, those were, as the Vice President described in the letter that you also have in front of us — in front of you — to also include the additional medical resources needed due to the vast increase in illness that we see coming across the border.
So, whenever I give these presentations, particularly to our friends from the south, from the Northern Triangle countries and Mexico, I always start with common cause. So, where I think we are starting to coalesce is around the fact that we need to be able to protect the vulnerable populations. We need to be able to protect border communities. We need to be able to reduce illicit narcotic smuggling. We need to facilitate legitimate trade and travel, which is part — also part and parcel of CBP’s mission. And of course, doing all of that within the rubric of national security and homeland security, which is our main mandate.
So if you flip to the next slide, I’m not going to spend any time on this other than to say you all are very familiar with the administration’s commitment to reduce drugs. There’s some facts on here. There’s more that we can give you. We are seeing increased drugs flow across our border. What you’ll see in the letter in front of you is an attempt to — based on our conversations with the staff and leadership over the last week, to provide a number that would enable CBP to inspect 100 percent of vehicle traffic coming north for drugs. So that is in that budget proposal.
The next slide, it starts to talk about the part of the security threat. Some of these numbers you have seen before. We’re happy to provide a little bit additional explanation on known or suspected terrorists and special interest aliens. Those are very distinct terms, but there has been some confusion lately so I can focus on that.
What’s not on here that I just want to point out is visa security within the hemisphere is not the same as the United States. We actually have very strong legislation, very strong authorities. We are able, through targeting and other means, to begin to understand who’s coming into our country. That’s not the same for countries in the south. So part of this is simply — folks can travel to the south, and then they can drive or walk up. And that’s a part of what we’re worried about.
On the far right, you’ll see $2.5 billion is what is estimated that goes to profit to the transnational criminal organizations. This is important because TCO’s of course, are massive criminal enterprises. They don’t just deal with smuggling. They exploit children. They deal with trafficking, they deal with drugs. So this an additional concern: They are not humanitarians. This is the main point: Smugglers are not humanitarians.
When you get to the next slide, what we talk about here is part of what’s changed. Part of what’s changed in the 2,000 migrants that we encounter and apprehend each day is that the vast majority of the flow, for the first time, is made up of unaccompanied children and families.
The reason that’s important is for two reasons: One, that’s the basis of the humanitarian crisis. The system right now encourages and incentivizes families and UACs to be at the hands of smugglers and to take a very dangerous journey. Once they get to the United States, our outdated laws do not enable us to process them quickly — to either grant them asylum and help them, should they meet the requirements under the statute, or to be able to detain and remove them if they don’t have any legal right to stay in the United States.
What’s not on here, and I’ll just — one second on it. The Commissioner and I spent a lot of time working with the Northern Triangle countries. We’ve been working with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees to increase capacity for asylum throughout the region. We’re working with the private sector with Mexico every day. We’re working to stabilize the situation to the south, but this presentation is really about what we need Congress to do to be able to eliminate the pull factors that are encouraging and incentivizing the problem.
The next slide: What’s really different now is, in part, the illnesses that we see. We have very serious illnesses that we’re encountering on the border. We are unfortunately having to send about 50 migrants a day to the hospital. Many times, they are discharged from the hospital. Unfortunately, we have to send them back because they remain quite ill. And unfortunately, as you know, we’ve had two children die as part of this journey. It was the first two in 10 years. So it’s very indicative of how dangerous this journey is, how sick they are.
The other thing that’s different is when the migrants come through and they don’t come through a port of entry, they’re coming through very remote parts of the border. So not only is that dangerous for them — walking through a desert, for example — but it’s more difficult for CBP to apprehend them because we have a very long border. So CBP is doing a tremendous job to save migrants. They’ve saved over 4,000 last year who found themselves in distress. But the numbers continue because of the way in which they are journeying.
The last thing I’ll focus on: We’ve talked a bit about a rise in fake families. We do unfortunately see adults that take children who are not their own, present themselves at the border under the belief that if they present as a family, they can gain entrance into the United States and stay. So it’s an additional way that unfortunately the system is putting children at risk.
So the three main challenges: We’ve got detention challenges, adjudication challenges, removal challenges. The one that I’ll focus on that you all have heard from us before is the 1 in a 10 asylum claims are eventually granted asylum. The reason that’s difficult is because that disables us from helping those who actually need asylum. The system is bogged down. There are a lot of others who are coming for other reasons but do claim asylum. And we have to process them. So, you’ve heard about the backlog. What that means are, for those who really need asylum, they’re now in a very long line mixed in with 9 out of 10 who will not be granted asylum at the end of the day by a judge.
So the last slide, this is what we have presented. In addition to medical resources, which you’ll see in the letter, is our suggestion and a way to address this crisis. The bottom line is: This is not a status quo situation. Status quo solutions from Congress will not work. We cannot do more with less.
And so, with that, I know we’ll turn it over. I’m happy to provide any additional information.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thanks. And whatever questions you all have for the Secretary, we’ll get to that.
Also, these —
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yes, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — charts. I want to send you out with these as well. I don’t think you have them in front of you, but — are these okay to release?
MR. AGEN: Yes, sir.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Great. There’s — I think there’s some very helpful charts that give you some idea of the trajectory of the various categories that we’re facing in terms of apprehensions and CBP enforcement actions on the southern border and it gives you an idea of the context.
Okay. So, again, we’ll come back to questions on that. Let me shift to what we’ve presented to the Democrat senior staff this weekend and, frankly, what is part and parcel also among the principals, and now has been delivered to all the relevant committee leadership.
Our position is very simply this: There is a humanitarian and national security crisis at the southern border. The President has been negotiating to open the government and to address the border crisis with resources and reforms. But we’ll also touch briefly on the fact the President has directed OMB to take steps to mitigate the impact of the shutdown on everyday Americans, wherever possible. And we’ll unpack that for you before we break off.
But first, let me walk you through this letter. Maybe if you just grab it, I can breeze through it pretty quickly. As I said on Saturday, sitting about where you’re sitting, one of the leading staff for the Speaker of the House said, you know, “We hear talk, we hear ideas, but we don’t — you know, we haven’t seen any estimates or a revised budget.” We frankly said, “That’s fair.” So we worked overnight and put together a revised budget estimate for them and I’m going to walk you through it.
First and foremost, the top paragraph. The baseline here is the Senate Fiscal 2019 bill. Okay? These are the changes in various categories of that bill, and represent the priorities the President wants to see addressed going forward.
First is, on the subject of border wall and CBP, the President requests $5.7 billion for construction of a steel barrier for the southwest border. We made it very clear — now in writing, also in our meetings — that the President is prepared to construct a barrier on the southern border in a manner consistent with the existing language in the Senate appropriations bill, a language I believe that 11 Democrats voted for.
And the President also, when he got on the helicopter — all of you were there yesterday. You heard him articulate personally what we told them in the meeting — that he would support a steel barrier for the southwest border. This would require an increase of $4.1 billion over the 2019 funding level.
And we also included, by reference here, the CBP’s border security improvement plan, some of which is available publicly because there’s law enforcement elements of it. Some of it is not available publicly, but if you have interest in getting more information about that plan, it’s literally been on the books for months. Members of Congress have had access to it.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Years.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Various iterations have been on the books for years. But we were able to say, with a high degree of specificity, here’s the amount of money that we want, here’s what we want to do with it, and there’s a plan in place for implementing it.
Secondly, we called for $563 million for 75 additional immigration judges. That is the level of funding in the Senate FY2019 bill, but we reiterated that’s our position.
Thirdly, 750 additional Border Patrol agents. That’s $100 million over the fiscal ’19 funding level in the Senate version of the bill. Immigrations Customs Enforcement — we’re requesting $571 million for 2,000 additional agents. This would actually represent an increase of $571 million over the fiscal 2019 funding level. And it addresses the whole issue of gang violence, smuggling, human trafficking, the spread of drugs in our community, and the personnel level that each of these are derived from what our experts and career personnel at DHS have told us will give us the opportunity to meet the need to protect the interests of the American people.
Next page. Detention beds at ICE — we’re requesting $4.2 billion to support 52,000 detention beds. This is a $798 million increase over the funding level in the Senate bill. And again, it’s informed by the fact that we have border — illegal border crossings have now increased to 2,000 per day. And, as you just heard the Secretary describe, it’s predominately — the largest percentage of that is families, unaccompanied children. And so detention beds are a critical need.
You could literally draw a line across the page at that point, because the rest of these items are what I would characterize as “consensus” items. They were derived from last week’s meeting among the principals — issues that were raised by Democrat leadership to the President, and that the President has processed and now given us the authority to endorse.
First and foremost, in the category of humanitarian needs, we have vetted $800 million to address enhanced medical support, transportation, and consumable supplies. In the wake of the tragic loss of two children, we also — it was reported to me that we also had an American who lost her life returning from south of the border with one of her children. So we have increased medical needs and humanitarian support. We’re prepared to support that.
Next category would be counter-narcotics and weapons technology. This was an issue that a member of the Democrat leadership in the Senate brought up in the principals meeting, and the President readily directed us to investigate it. It’s the deployment of detection technology at our ports of entry. And it’s a — I think the initial request was about $44 billion. In the discussion among the principals and then in vetting since, we believe that increasing that by $631 million over the ’19 level would meet the need of providing the kind of non-intrusive (inaudible) technology to allow us to get at — and not just narcotics, but also, most especially, about human trafficking issues at the border.
The next paragraph — non-indented paragraph — has to do with another proposal that was brought to us by the Democratic leadership and that, frankly, I’ve heard about in my meetings with leaders of Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. And that is, they made a request that we consider allowing children to apply for asylum at our embassy in those countries, as opposed to only being able to apply for asylum by making the long and dangerous journey north.
The President and the Secretary of State and I met over that issue, and the President has endorsed that reform that obviously would require a statutory change, along with reallocation of State Department resources in the State Department appropriations bill, but it’s one that we’re prepared to support. And we also believe that we should match that with one other statutory change that the Secretary just alluded to, which is unaccompanied children who apply for asylum, who, after due process, are determined not to be eligible for asylum, we can return them to their families in Mexico. Right now, the law allows us to do that. We cannot return them, even if their families request them to be — we cannot return them to their families in Honduras, El Salvador, or Guatemala.
So we think — what the Secretary described, is that “pull-factor.” We think that — by allowing children to apply for asylum in those countries and by making it clear that those that are not eligible for asylum will be returned to the countries, we think that we will take part of the incentive that human traffickers use to take thousands of dollars cash to take children on a long and dangerous journey, oftentimes facing physical and sexual abuse along the way north, to attempt to come into our country to take advantage of loopholes in our laws.
So, this — what I want to be very clear with you is the document in front of you is a result of the discussions that have taken place between the President and the Democratic leadership as well as the productive discussions that took place over the course of this weekend. And again, you know, I trust that it is evidence that we’ve been negotiating.
Now, for our part, as I said, our position is there is a crisis on our southern border. We’ve been negotiating to open the government and address that border crisis. We’re also taking steps to mitigate the impact of the shutdown. For their part, I will tell you that, from the outset of our first meeting over the weekend, which was professional and direct, the senior staff for the Democratic leadership and the House and Senate simply informed us that there would be no negotiation until the government — federal government was open. Fortunately, they went ahead and had conversations with us, but their position has been very clear that they refuse to negotiate until the federal government opens.
And now, at this point as well, while a number of their senior staff yesterday did say that they did not dispute the facts that we presented about the crisis on the southern border, you know, what we would welcome and I think the President is going to take a message to the nation tomorrow, is that Republicans and Democrats would come together around the recognition of a humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border and the need to take action.
And, you know, the question that I have is: When are the Democrats going to start negotiating? We made the position of the President very clear, not only in terms of what our proposal is; we’ve integrated some of their proposals. We also made it very clear, on the President’s behalf that the President is not going to reopen the federal government with a promise that negotiations would begin thereafter.
We really believe that we can address these issues now. We stand ready to sit down with the Democratic leadership. The President has not only made plans to address the nation tomorrow night, but he’s extended an invitation to Democratic leadership to come back to the White House to give us their response to the President’s written proposal. And we hope they take us up on it. We think the American people deserve nothing less.
We recognize the hardship the shutdown can place on some 800,000 federal workers. We’ve taken some steps. I’m going to ask Russ to conclude here by giving you some facts about how we’ve taken steps at the President’s direction to mitigate the impact of the shutdown.
But I want to — I’ll close you with this: That what I said at the end of the meeting yesterday is that this is not about politics. I mean, when you look at these facts, and I think they’ve got the charts here somewhere that they’re going to pass around — I think even the Washington Post, over this weekend, said that we have a “bona fide emergency” at our southern border; that was their term. And then they lamented the fact that there was little urgency in the Congress to address it.
So what I want to tell is what’s driving the President and his determination to stand firm and his commitment — not just to build a wall, but to address this crisis with the kind of resources and reforms that will end this crisis at our southern border — that it’s being driven by the facts. It’s being — it’s not being driven by politics or promises made.
I actually said to the Democrat staff, one of my least favorite terms is the one that shows up the media lot — it’s the word “base.” I don’t like the word “base.” It’s your base, our base. It’s not — this isn’t about base; this about the American people. This is about human trafficking. This is about a humanitarian crisis. This is about the flow of illegal drugs, illegal immigration, and the President’s determination to address that issue with action and with resources.
And what I want to leave you with, with this document, is: You should see this document and this proposal as evidence that we’re listening. We’re incorporating the ideas of the Democrats. We just need the Democrats to start negotiating.
But, Russ, can you give us a quick — make it really quick, because I know they’ve got lots of questions and time is short. A quick overview of mitigation efforts, with regards specifically to the shutdown.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Our mission from the President has been to make this shutdown as painless as possible, consistent with the law. So we have built on past efforts within this administration not to have the shutdown be used to weaponize against the American people.
This particular shutdown, we have made sure that the Coast Guard has gotten paid. They were not going to get paid. The Coast Guard got their last paycheck. We made sure that flood insurance policies — flood insurance, it was heading down a path where no new flood insurance policies would be done. We ensured that was going to happen. Park Service — Park Service, not only were they kept open, which is consistent with shutdowns under this administration, but, as of this weekend, we’re making sure that trash can be collected, that waste — the restrooms can be cleaned out, et cetera.
Fish and Wildlife Service refuges will be kept open for the next 30 days. And then, specifically, I know you all have question on tax refunds. Tax refunds will go out. They will not be non-excepted activities. That’s something that we will be sending out guidance on that we’re fixing from past administrations.
So just to get back to what the Vice President was saying, we have been trying to make this as painless as possible, consistent with the law.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Russ. We can just go to questions please. Jon.
Q Mr. Vice President, what do you say to Democrats that say that you’re constantly being undermined by the President? So you put forth the idea of a $2.5 billion number for the wall, and the President undermined you. And going back even further, you signaled to Senate Republicans that the President would support the bill that passed the Senate. So what do you say to them? And is the President going to declare a national emergency, and try to do this himself and bypass Congress if he can’t get these negotiations going anywhere?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, number one, thanks for asking the first question; I’ve been dying to answer it. (Laughter.) I really have.
First off, with regard to the CR, senators who were in the room know that what I said that day was the President was very disappointed there was not wall funding. There was no commitment to him signing the bill. I was pressed repeatedly as to whether he was supporting the bill. I said, “The President is very disappointed. He said he’s still thinking about it. He said he has an open mind, but that there is no commitment to sign the bill.” And my colleagues in the Senate know that’s the fact.
The second piece: I can neither nor deny the numbers that have floated around about what was offered on the first day of the shutdown. But I can assure you, it came from the President of the United States. And Senator Schumer knows that. They were provided with documentation of that, that day, to Senator Leahy’s office and to Senator Shelby’s office.
We made an offer — a very good-faith offer — that was an effort to avoid the shutdown in its entirety. It came directly from the President of the United States after consultation with House Republicans, House conservatives, with Senate Republicans — and everyone involved knows that.
We were told on that day, when we made an inquiry that we were not to expect a counteroffer from the Democrats before Christmas and so we could let staff go. When I came to work the day after Christmas, we were ready to go to work; if there was a counteroffer, it would be Thursday, late afternoon, after Christmas that we were informed there would not be a counteroffer.
So, since then, we’ve continued to work, we’ve continued to engage, and we are where we are. But everybody involved in the process knows what the facts are. And the Democrats had documentation of the offer that was made on the Saturday before Christmas.
But, look, where we are today is what we’ve presented this weekend. And I just — if you leave here with no other conclusion of — “What did Pence invite us over to that very nautical office of his to communicate?” — it would be that the President’s position is: There is a crisis at the southern border, and Democrats are refusing to negotiate.
Q And the national emergency?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: On the national emergency, let me say, the President said in front of all you, just the other day, that it’s something that he’s considering looking into. He’s made no decision on that.
I will say that one of the ways that Congress can find the resources for this is through an emergency supplement. And we did indicate to them, over the course of this weekend, that we would be willing to work with them on forming an emergency supplemental for some of the resources — the additional resources we’re asking for.
Q Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Hallie, from NBC. So, two questions for you —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, Hallie.
Q You’re good. National emergency — is it appropriate, then, if the President hasn’t decided on a national emergency, to use that as a threat now, as a bargaining chip to try to get this wall? And then I have another question for you on what Russ was talking about.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think he was answering a question in the Rose Garden, Hallie. That he was asked if he was considering it; he said he is considering it.
Look, if you’d have been around this table over this weekend, you’d have been — I think you would have been impressed by the professional and substantive and respectful nature of the conversation. There’s no threats going on here. People are stating their positions clearly and plainly.
And, you know, when I sat down with the senior staff yesterday from the House and Senate for the Democrats, I looked at them and I said, “Look, let’s all start with the recognition: I know you have no authority whatsoever to negotiate. So what I want to do is I want to tell you exactly where we’re at. And, in our proposal, I want to show you that we’ve been listening to what your leaders have been suggesting, and we’ve incorporated that into some of our proposals here.”
But my purpose was to give them something that they could take back. Now we’ve invited the leadership to come back to the White House and hopefully respond to this proposal.
Q On some of the details you laid out about how you’re relieving the pain for some of these federal workers, right now it seems like you’re pretty adamant on your position and Dems are pretty adamant on theirs. If nothing changes, you have a lot of people who won’t be getting paychecks no matter what OMB does in the long run, right? At what point does that pain outweigh the President’s desire for this border barrier? At what point does that kick in to overrule this desire for a border — steel fence, if you will?
And then, just to clarify, is the President going to declare a national emergency or not? I couldn’t tell from that that prior —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, I just said — I said I think he said the other day in the Rose Garden that it’s something that he has looked at and is examining. He’s made no decision. He’s made no decision.
Look, I hope we don’t find out the answer to your first question. We can work this out. I actually had a leading member — a Democrat member of the Senate — grab me by the elbow back the other day when I was doing swearing-in ceremonies for folks, which was a great honor for me. He grabbed me by the elbow and said, “You know, we could work this thing out in three hours.” I mean, that’s the truth of it.
I mean, most of the work has been done on the Senate appropriations bill. One of the things that we heard from the senior staff was we need another 30 days of a CR on the DHS because it’s so difficult to rewrite these — most of the work has been done.
Some of you people have been following the congressional — some of you worked on Capitol Hill before. I remember you, right? And the simple fact is: If we can sit down and agree that there is a crisis, then plugging in the numbers into this process and reaching an agreement will not take very long. And the American people deserve to know that. But the Democrats have got to start negotiating.
Q Thanks, Mr. Vice President, this is Jordan Fabian from the Hill.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Jordan, thanks. Thanks for saying your name. I don’t get to (inaudible.)
Q Absolutely. (Laughter.) So Senators Tillis and Collins and Gardner have said they’re fine basically moving forward, without wall funding, to reopen to the government. So how concerned are you, here at the White House, about cracks starting to form among Republicans in Congress? And what are you doing to address that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I mean, we’ve been in touch with those members and others. I’ll be on Capitol Hill tomorrow before the President’s national address, briefing House members with the Secretary. We’re going to be on Capitol Hill, meeting with the Senate on Wednesday, briefing them on the scope of this crisis.
And I think what we hear from Republican members and, frankly, quietly from many Democrat members is that when they see the scope of this crisis, when they see the facts presented to them, that they understand why the President is so adamant about doing something meaningful to advance border security.
And so we’ll just continue educating members. I will tell you that, you know, I heard that a number of House members and — I don’t think — I don’t remember which show it was on, but there were several Democrat House members that were cited as having talked about their desire to see some sort of a negotiated settlement that would include funding for a wall.
But, look, that’s — you know, we’d like to see Congress work its will on this. And I think there might be a lot more support on both sides of the aisle for a negotiated agreement that addresses the President’s determination to construct a steel barrier and also advances the other priorities for border security that Democrats (inaudible.)
Q Can you just say when that briefing with House members is happening? Is that before the speech tomorrow?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It’s supposed to be before the speech. Is it confirmed?
MR. AGEN: Before the speech, tomorrow night.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah, it will be before the speech. We’ll give you — yes, please.
Q I have two quick questions. The first is, you talked about —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And you can ask anything to Kirstjen or Jared, too. He’s here. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you. You said that the facts matter and that you need to, in some ways, really agree on the facts.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q Part of what the White House has been saying is that there are a number of people who have crossed the southern border and that are potential terrorists. The reporting I’ve done shows that a lot of those people were apprehended at airports, and that drugs often come in smuggled through vehicles through legal ports of entry.
Can you walk through why you think a wall — a physical wall — is so essential to — I guess, I know that there’s a list of things, but I feel like there are so many experts and immigration people that say there are so many other ways and so many other things we could use resources for other than a wall.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. Well, I hope you can see there’s more than wall in this letter.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: A lot more. And so that would be my first response.
Secondly — this is an issue that came up over the weekend. So the Secretary has got some of her expert people here. You want to address —
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yeah, sure. I mean, I —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — the known or suspected terrorists number.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Sure.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Because we can — we can give them that.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: And we’re going to — we recognize there’s been some confusion on these terms over the weekend, so we’re putting out a factsheet later today so we can get you as many definitions as you want.
But essentially there’s known or suspected terrorists that DHS prevents from traveling or entering this country — 10 known or suspected terrorists a day. Most of those are through airports, as you suggested. Some of them are through land ports of entry, but most of them are through airports.
(Inaudible), a totally different term, is special interests aliens. Three thousand of those were encountered —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What was that number?
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Three thousand.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Three thousand.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: — were encountered on the southern border last year. Special interest aliens are those who have travel patterns of concern. So what that means is they’re traveling under false passports; they are traveling circuitously; they’re traveling illegally. So they’re cause for concern for us, and we want to give them additional screening. So we had 3,000 of those.
Criminals, you mentioned — 17,000 convicted criminals were stopped at the southern border last year.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: People with previous criminal records.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Exactly, I was just going to say. Important point there, is that. They’re previously convicted, not the illegal entry itself. They’re previously convicted of a crime.
But I think what’s important and what the President and Vice President have made clear is that we do have a duty to understand who’s coming into our country, any way in which they come. What we can say is that we absolutely have had cases of terrorists crossing the southern border. The number itself is sensitive, and that’s why it’s difficult. It’s classified for obvious reasons — the ongoing investigations.
But what we can also say — there are thousands, literally thousands, of known or suspected terrorists traveling throughout the hemisphere.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: In our hemisphere.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: And so if we don’t have a secured border, it makes it that much more difficult to know who is coming in.
The other point that the Commissioner has repeatedly raised in testimony is, if we lock down the ports of entry, which we’re continuing to try to do, unfortunately what that does for nefarious populations, it encourages them to go around the ports of entry and actually enter illegally.
So it’s not an “either/or”; it’s an “and.” We need secure ports of entry and secure, as much as possible, between the ports of entry.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q And then I want to ask about the real pain of people. I’ve talked to so many people who are postponing surgeries, who are not getting paychecks, who are worried about HUD and whether or not they can even move into their apartments.
The President, at one point, and Sarah Sanders said, on live television, we’ll find this $5 billion somewhere else if we have to for this wall funding. At what point does that pain — as Hallie said, at what point does that pain make the White House go back to that earlier stance where it says, okay, we’ll find this $5 billion somewhere else and not shut down the government or keep the shutdown going?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, as I said, I hope we don’t ever find out. Look, I honestly believe that Democrats believe in border security. I heard it again and again and again all weekend. I heard it from the leaders when we met twice last week in the Situation Room. They said they’re for border security.
We were able, to their senior staff, to present the facts about a precipitous rise in illegal immigration at our southern border, particularly families and unaccompanied children. You hear about the statistics of criminality; you hear about narcotics and the like, and the magnet for human trafficking. And there’s no reason in the world why we shouldn’t be able to come together as Americans and address this issue.
Q And what’s your message for people?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But make no mistake about it, I mean, we all — as you can see, the President — you know, I have some memory of prior administrations — we’re trying to mitigate the impact of the shutdown on everyday Americans instead of the opposite, which I’ve actually seen in the past. And we’ll continue to do that in a manner consistent with the law.
But beyond the 800,000 federal workers — all the good Americans and great families that we’re very sensitive to — is the tens of millions of Americans who are deeply troubled about the widening crisis on our southern border, and know that it’s time for the Congress to act, and the President is determined to fight for them.
Q One of your colleagues says that the President’s private view has always been that the American people — regular Americans aren’t that bothered by government shutdowns; they care much more about having a wall. Is that view shifting as we get closer to real effects on federal housing, food stamps, potentially tax returns? That’s question one.
And question two: This was all foreseeable — the crisis, needing money for a wall, Mexico refusing to pay. Why didn’t the President request $5.7 billion in his FY19 budget?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first, look, you know, the President — his (inaudible) is protect the American people and promote the prosperity of this country. He takes those very seriously. And it’s not a matter of shifting priorities at all; the President is absolutely determined to continue to stand firm, not just for funding for a steel barrier on the southern border but for all of the other resources and reforms that we believe will have a significant impact on advancing the safety and security of the American people.
Q Sorry, (inaudible) shifting view that the American people don’t really care about shutdowns. Is that changing given that you’re getting close to real effects?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t know that I’ve ever —
Q Heard him say that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Heard him say that.
Q Okay, great.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t know that I’ve ever heard him say that. You can ask him next time you see him. I know the President — look, as the President said, you know, he’s certainly — you know, he certainly appreciates the challenges that federal workers are facing in the midst of a federal government shutdown, even a partial government shutdown. But his primary concern here is for the safety and security of the American people and for achieving real border security.
And the simple fact is: When you look at these facts, this ought to be one of those moments where we can set politics aside and find common ground.
And let me point again, the President — we put in writing and the President said it, out with you all on the South Lawn, a steel barrier for the southwest border.
Now, when I was in the Situation Room on Friday — some of you did some good reporting on it — that was news to some of the Democrat leaders in the room. That it had been talked about by some others that there might be a — that the President might have — be willing to move away from a concrete barrier on the southern border. And he made it very clear, in the meeting, that he was open to that. We’ve now put that formally in our proposal; he said that publically yesterday.
So what you see the President doing is looking for common grounds while standing firm on our commitment for border security and building a wall. What we need is for the Democrats to start negotiating.
Now, with regard to your second question, which I think it a really good question — why didn’t we request the $5.7 billion — I’m going to tell the budget guy, my short answer is things have gotten a lot worse.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yes.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Things have gotten a lot worse.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: I mean, the crisis — the charts will help you see that. But the difference is — I mean, we had 60,000 children sent here unaccompanied to the border last year. We have 30 percent of women who are raped on this journey, and that’s actually not our stat; that’s Doctors Without Borders. We have 70 percent of males — we have 7 out of 10 that are victims of violence. The humanitarian crisis has just skyrocketed since February.
So, as you know, the problem with the budget cycle is it’s such a long lead time.
Q But this money for a wall. You were always going to need to build the wall.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: But what the Vice President is trying to say is, it’s not just that, but the crisis is skyrocketing so the need for a holistic security approach must be the only answer. Status — it’s not the status quo, so we can’t have the status quo budget request.
But, Russ, I’m sorry.
DEPUTY DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Just one thing —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There’s one more too that — and correct me if I’m wrong on this, Madam Secretary, when we made our budget submission, the first of last year, the capacity to deploy those resources and construct, we were told, was roughly at the $1.6 billion level annually.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: That’s right. We have expanded.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: They’ve expanded that capacity dramatically, and so we believe that we can deploy the resources and engage in construction much more readily.
Did you have anything to add?
DEPUTY DIRECTOR VOUGHT: Just that we know that people are watching very closely how fast we spend the money. And so we don’t want to request money for things that we can’t spend the money. Our capacity to spend has accelerated, and as a result we have this new request.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’m going to go to April. But let me also say, when we’re talking about federal workers — and, you know, we have great respect for everybody that follows the calling into public service, whether it’s elected office or whether it’s serving government at every level. But that’s also why the Democrats need to start negotiating.
I mean, literally, I just walked you through it. Fortunately, Jon gave me the opportunity to clarify the facts, right? I mean, the day the shutdown happened, there was an offer on the table from the President of the United States that would have ended the shutdown.
And a week — roughly a week later, the Democrats told us, “No counteroffer. No negotiation.” We were here through the whole Christmas break. There was no engagement. The President brought the Democratic leadership here twice last week in the Situation Room. We sat down. We felt like, as Speaker Pelosi said, after the second meeting that there was increased understanding and there was progress. I agree; there was progress.
They tasked the senior staff for us to meet with them. And, as I said to you, the proposal we put forward yesterday, we think, represents our effort to incorporate their proposals into things that we’re prepared to support.
But the Democrats have got to start negotiating for the sake of border security, national security, and for the sake of those 800,000 federal workers.
April, and then they’re telling me I’ve got time for one more.
Q Mr. Vice President, this is for you and those others at the table, if they choose to respond. Friday, federal employees get their paychecks — they’re supposed to get their paychecks. Do you have hope that there’s a possibility that things could be worked out? Because I’m told that the 11th hour is Thursday — that you can work things out up until Thursday, and there could be a mad scramble to make sure that payroll is done for these federal employees. Do you have hope that there could be a fix before Friday?
And also, when you talk about these terrorists and supposed terrorists or suspected terrorists, how many have been arrested and/or arraigned in federal district court in the last two years?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Do you want to answer that second one? Anybody know the answer to that?
SECRETARY NIELSEN: We can — that’s the DOJ-tracked number. We can get you whatever is unclassified. (Inaudible.)
Q Because that would quantify as well as qualify what you’ve been saying about terrorism at the border.
Q We’d all like that.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yeah, of course — if it’s available.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good.
Q Okay. Also, for Vice President Pence.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah. Do I have hope? I’ve always had hope. I’m a very hopeful person, if you know me. I mean, we’ll get to know each other better; I’m very optimistic, very positive.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But if I can say this, because I obviously haven’t said it yet: The Democrats need to start negotiating. I mean, look, I have a lot of respect for senior staff on Capitol Hill. I worked there for 12 years. You all know, those of you that worked Capitol Hill, members debate and then the senior staff sit down and they figure out — they put pencil to paper, and they work their hearts out.
I sat down — very respectful discussion with all these people, but all they were authorized to do was come and tell us we cannot begin negotiations until you reopen the government.
Fortunately, we found a way to facilitate a dialogue both on Saturday and on Sunday. But again, you know, by Sunday, I was able to tell them, “I recognize you have no authority whatsoever to negotiate anything, but tell us — help us understand more of what your position is. We’re going to help you understand the metes and bounds of the crisis, and we’re going to respond to your request for information with specificity.” And we’ve done that.
Now the hope is that, when they return to Washington, D.C. this week, the Democratic leadership will accept the President’s invitation to come here to the White House and start negotiating.
I will tell you, when I saw Steny Hoyer on television over the weekend — as someone who I served with a long time, I have great respect for — he — one of the aspects, the President saying “steel barrier” instead of “a concrete wall,” he — I think — I paraphrase — I’m only paraphrasing, but he said something like, “That’ll be something that we discuss.”
So we’d love to discuss it. We’d love to sit down, and we’d love to begin negotiation, but the Democrats have got to start negotiating.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Phil.
Q Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Can you explain: How thoroughly has the White House Counsel’s Office reviewed the possibility of the national emergency declaration? And can you assess the confidence of the administration that it would not get tied up in some sort of legal challenge? As you know, a lot of legal experts have said doing so would be an abuse of power by the President. And so what is the administration’s position?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what I can tell you is — what I’m aware of is that they’re looking at it and the President is considering it. You know, I would — I wouldn’t want to go beyond what the President has said with regard to that. But, look, there’s no reason in the world why the Congress shouldn’t be able to roll its sleeves up and work together to find a principled compromise to address what is a real crisis at our southern border.
And that’s — I was a member of Congress; now I’m Vice President — that’s what you get paid to do. So, you know, we’ll leave — you know, all I know is that it’s something that they’ve looked at, they’ve examined.
I do want to be clear not to confuse the point — one of the things we brought up over the weekend, Phil, is that we would be open to addressing some of these funding needs, which clearly would go beyond the cap — those of you that know the budget process well. We’d be willing to address them with emergency supplemental funding. And we indicated that to them because, you know, they — some of the initial conversation was, “Well, but where do you come up with this funding?”
And we honestly believe that we have a crisis at our southern border. I hope when you all — not as reporters, but just also as fellow Americans — look at these facts, you might be prepared, as other journalists have done, to recognize the same and communicate that to the country. And there’s no reason in the world why we shouldn’t be able to solve this through the regular legislative process.
Q But why would Democrats yield —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Jim, I was about to call on you (inaudible.)
Q Well, so — okay, well, I appreciate that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I really was. Go ahead.
Q Okay, if you shut down the government as soon as Democrats come into power in the House, what kind of example is that going to set, what kind of precedent is that going to set if the Democrats buckle as soon as they come into power — the very first confrontation that they have with you guys?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q And I do have a question for Secretary Nielsen on the numbers. There is a State Department —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Actually, can I answer your question?
Q Sure. Yeah.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Your facts — the government was shut down when Republicans were still in control of the House and Senate. We tried to solve it.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Because —
Q No, I understand that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Because we need —
Q But the Democrats were sworn into power —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yeah, because we need 60 votes in the Senate. You know that. I loved where Jon started, because I was dying to clarify these facts with you all. I can confirm — I can’t confirm the number —
Q 2.5 billion (inaudible)? (Laughter.)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I can neither confirm nor deny the number. What I can tell you is that there was a bona fide, in-writing offer on the day of the shutdown that would have ended the government shutdown. Okay?
The second question you asked, though — you know, I know that it’s —
Q You see where I coming from here.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do. It’s — but it makes for a lot of good conversation on cable television, but — and I didn’t mean that to be a put down. It’s not.
Q It’s okay.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What I’m saying is: That’s a political consideration. You’re saying: Does it play politically for them or for us? What we’re telling you is that — you look at these facts — there has been a precipitous increase in the last three to four months of families, unaccompanied minors coming to our southern border. It’s the winter. We believe that it is only going to dramatically increase, as the year turns and we head toward the spring.
Now is the time — for the humanitarian crisis that we’re facing, for the security crisis that we are facing — for us to come together, then address the issues that are important to the President — he believes that walls work. He’s determined to stand firm until he receives the funds to build a steel barrier.
But the President also believes that additional personnel and the kind of reforms — the consensus reforms that we’ve now added to our proposal that came from the Democrats — are a real part of the solution.
Q I just had one tiny little factual thing to ask —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And that’s where we ought to stay focused.
Q I understand. But, Madam Secretary, in a 2016 State Department report on terrorism in various countries — Country Reports 2016 and released July 2017, it says there are no known international terrorist organizations operating in Mexico, no evidence that any terrorist group has targeted U.S. citizens in Mexican territory, and no credible information that any member of a terrorist group has traveled through Mexico to gain access to the United States.
I assume you’re aware of that report.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What’s that from?
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yeah.
Q That is a State Department report released July of 2017.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: I am aware, Jim. But, as you know, it doesn’t talk about Mexico as a transit country, and that’s what we’re trying to describe — the transits through Mexico, right? That’s an old report, first of all. But, secondly, the —
Q Well, released last year by your administration in July.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: And what we’re saying is, there is a crisis; it changed. But it doesn’t talk about transiting. The other thing I just want to make — important from the question over here — is, you know, this terrible adage we have to live with at the Department of Homeland Security, which is we have to get it right every day. And the terrorists — you know, they could get it right one time.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: So one terrorist is too many. We don’t want to enable a process that’s so broken that it pulls terrorists in. So I told you —
Q But that number would suggest that there are a very small number —
SECRETARY NIELSEN: But I’ve just told you there’s a thousand terrorists — over a thousand terrorists traveling — watchlisted individuals traveling through the hemisphere.
So what you’re saying is a very small part of one report said that they don’t have a Mexican terrorist. I’m not disputing what the State Department says one way or another —
Q It says a member of any terrorist group. Okay.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: You guys can continue the conversation, I promise.
Let me conclude just with the thought — you know, the President has said many times, a country without borders is not a country. The President is absolutely committed to border security. He’s committed to constructing a steel barrier on the southern border. Our number is $5.7 billion.
But he’s also committed to all of the items that are listed in our budget proposal that was presented to the Democrat leadership yesterday. We believe the facts support — and I — the first time I’ve quoted the Washington Post at one of these things. (Laughter.) But the Washington Post, you know, literally called it a “bona fide emergency” in an article over the weekend, and lamented the lack of — a “bona fide emergency,” and lamented the lack of urgency on Capitol Hill to address it.
So our position is there is a crisis at the southern border. The President has directed our team to continue to make efforts to negotiate, to open the federal government, and to address the border crisis. But the Democrats need to start negotiating.
So thank you all.
END 3:17 P.M. EST
This is a joyous time of year when we decorate the White House for the Christmas Season. Our theme honors the heart and spirit of the American people. Thank you to the many volunteers and staff who worked hard to decorate the halls of the People’s House in Christmas cheer. On behalf of my family, we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Here are more details about Christmas at the White House 2018 with Our Dear First Lady, Melania Trump. Merry Christmas America! #MerryChristmas2018
The First Family is celebrating their second Christmas in the White House. This year’s theme, “American Treasures” honors the unique heritage of America. Designed by First Lady Melania Trump, the White House shines with the spirit of patriotism. This home, held in trust for all Americans, displays the many splendors found across our great Nation.
In the East Wing, the Gold Star Family tree returns. Decorated by Gold Star families, this tree honors all our troops and families who have sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms. Gold stars and patriotic ribbon decorate the tree and visitors are encouraged to write messages to their loved ones who are on duty or abroad on the digital tablets provided.
More than 40 topiary trees line the East colonnade as guests make their way toward the East Garden Room, where the First Family Christmas card and ornament are on display. The Library remembers some of America’s most cherished authors, housing over 2,700 American classics. Four trees have been tucked away in each corner of the Library displaying the White House Historical Association’s 2018 ornament honoring President Harry S. Truman.
The Vermeil room displays two trees that sparkle in hues of blues and golds amongst the vermeil on display for all to see. Inside the China Room are three tables, all replicas from previous state dinners using pieces from the White House permanent collection. They highlight different eras of state dinners. The Theodore Roosevelt Administration, John F. Kennedy Administration, and Donald J. Trump Administration are all represented.
The East Room highlights the diversity and ingenuity of American architecture and design with four custom mantelpieces showcasing the skylines of New York City, St. Louis, Chicago, and San Francisco. 72 handmade paper ornaments representing six regions across America hang from four 14-foot Noble fir trees. For the 51st year, the White House Crèche will also be on display.
As one makes their way through the Green Room, Americans are reminded of the country’s bounty and harvest. A variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains adorn the tree centered in the room, as well as the garland on the mantel. In the Blue Room, the official White House Christmas tree measures a soaring 18 feet tall and is dressed in over 500 feet of blue velvet ribbon embroidered in gold with each State and territory. Moving into the Red Room, guests will be able to celebrate children through the décor, which displays ways in which children can excel in their own path.
The State Dining Room is a celebration of our country’s national symbols, including the bald eagle, the rose, and the oak tree. The space is also host to this year’s gingerbread house, showcasing the full expanse of the National Mall: the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, and, of course, the White House.
Crossing into the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall, patriotism, the heart of America, takes center stage with more than 14,000 red ornaments hanging from 29 trees. The choice of red is an extension of the pales, or stripes, found in the presidential seal designed by our Founding Fathers. It’s a symbol of valor and bravery.
“This is a joyous time of year when we decorate the White House for the Christmas Season,” said First Lady Melania Trump. “Our theme honors the heart and spirit of the American people. Thank you to the many volunteers and staff who worked hard to decorate the halls of the People’s House in Christmas cheer. On behalf of my family, we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
Throughout the month of December, the White House will host more than 100 open houses and many receptions. More than 30,000 visitors will walk the halls taking part in public tours.