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President Donald J. Trump’s Weekly Address

News from the White House - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 6:00pm

The President’s Weekly Address is now available to watch on YouTube.

Categories: White House News

Remarks by Vice President Pence to Troops

News from the White House - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 5:39pm

Schriever Air Force Base
Colorado Springs, Colorado

2:06 P.M. MDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  How about a big round of applause for General Raymond.  He is a remarkable leader.  (Applause.)  We couldn’t be more honored to be here in Colorado with the men and women of Schriever Air Force Base where every day you are evolving the force, driving innovation, and mastering space.  Give yourselves a round of applause, would you please.  (Applause.)  

I bring greetings this afternoon from your Commander-in-Chief, a champion of the Armed Forces of the United States, the 45th President of the United States, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.) And I also brought my commander-in-chief with me --(laughter) -- my wife of 32 years, who also is a Marine Corps mom.  Would you give a rousing welcome to the Second Lady of the United States, Karen Pence, is with us today.  (Applause.) 

MRS. PENCE:  I’d like you all to know I was born on McConnell Air Force Base.  (Applause.)  

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And we’re just delighted to be with all of you today and for the great work at Air Force Space Command.  And also I want to congratulate the newest Brigadier General of the United States Air Force -- just announced this morning -- the Commander of the 50th Space Wing, General Deanna Burt.  Congratulations, General. (Applause.)  And lastly, allow me to just -- this is my first opportunity to do this -- to introduce the President’s choice to be the United States Secretary of the Air Force, herself an 11-year veteran of the Air Force.  I served with her in the Congress of the United States.  She is an incredible advocate of our armed forces, a courageous veteran who has worn the uniform.  Join me in welcoming Secretary and Doctor Heather Wilson.  (Applause.) 

And to all the leadership and all the men and women who serve at Schriever Air Force Base, it’s an honor to be with you. The Old Book says if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect.  And I’m just really here to pay a debt of honor and a debt of gratitude on behalf of the American people for your service to this country.  Each and every one of the men and women in this cafeteria have stepped forward in this all-volunteer military that we have to serve our country at an enormously important time.  And you here at Space Command in every real sense -- as I’ll say more than once -- literally, you might be in Colorado, but you are on the front lines and every day you are in the fight for freedom and the American people are grateful.  (Applause.) 

I told the President this morning I was headed your way and he said to me just, “just tell ‘em I’m proud of ‘em.”  And I’ll tell you what, the President speaks for all of the American people.  I can attest to it.  The pride the American people place in all the men and women of our armed forces is incalculable and I hope you feel it every single day.  

This Air Force Base has really exemplified American leadership and American excellence now for more than 30 years.  There may not be any runways here, but every day you reach into the stars and you make it possible for your fellow warriors to be able to take the fight to the enemy with enhanced security and enhanced safety.  And you guard the nation in space and in cyberspace.  You’re on the cutting edge of technology and arms and you complete the Air Force’s mission.  You know, the Air Force’s mission -- if I get this right, Heather --is to “Fly, fight, and win in air, space and cyberspace.” And you’re the last two of that in every sense of the word and we commend you for it. 

You know, this base is named after a legendary American who wore the uniform, General Bernard Schriever -- the father of the Air Force Space program.  And today the more than 7,700 members of the 50th Space Wing operate the space and cyber systems that literally are the envy of the world and keep America one step ahead of all who would do us harm.  

You direct no fewer than 175 American satellites that are crucial to our national security every day -- in weather, communications, and early warning of foreign missile tests.  Every American benefits from your efforts here -- the world’s only global utility, the GPS system that’s essential to our daily life.  

And as the President said in his inaugural address and many times since, space is a priority for this administration and it is a priority for the American people and it will always be.  (Applause.)  In fact, I’m pleased to report that nearly two decades after it was disbanded, in just a few short weeks the President will soon relaunch the National Space Council.  And it will be my great honor as Vice President of the United States to serve as its chairman, which has been a historic role for this office.  The President recognizes that America needs a coherent and cohesive approach to the last, greatest frontier in history, and the National Space Council, as it has played a role before, will advise the President on both civilian and military national policy and strategy for space and we look forward to the work of that new entity.

It will strengthen opportunities that we have and it will encourage more investment at the national level and more aspiration for all of our people to look to space for careers and for service.  And I just want you all to know that this administration is determined to once again ensure that America is leading in space in near Earth orbit and exploration far, far beyond our planet.  

And you, the men and women of Schriever Air Force Base, will play a leading role as America leads in space.  Under President Trump your mission will be more important than ever before because this administration knows that your work, in the depths of space and cyberspace, is crucial to our security in the 21st century.

You know, it really is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who cares so deeply about the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States, their families, and our veterans.  In fact, you’ll probably see on the news a little bit later today that not more than a couple of hours ago, President Trump gathered in the East Room at the White House and signed the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act -- comprehensive legislation to provide our veterans with the care they earned in the uniform of the United States and America and we’re going to see it through for world-class healthcare for all those who served.  

This new act, following the Choice Act the President signed into law, is a historic step to hold VA employees accountable to the highest performance standards, it will ensure they’re accountable when those standards are not met, and it includes long-overdue protections for VA employees who uncover wrongdoing or blow the whistle on poor care.  We all remember those terrible stories.  Literally some of our veterans, men and women who have worn the uniform of this country and protected our freedom, who literally struggled with health and some who passed away waiting for care at the VA.  I promise you, with this new legislation today and under President Trump’s leadership and Secretary Shulkin, the day of bad healthcare at the VA are over.  And reform at the VA is coming.   

And let me also say -- as I already mentioned before -- as the proud parents of a United States Marine, I couldn’t be more grateful to stand with a President who is so committed to rebuilding our military, restoring the arsenal of democracy.  And President Donald Trump is fighting every day to make sure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard have the resources and the training you need to accomplish your mission and bring our soldiers home safe.  (Applause.) 

Last month, the President signed a $21 billion increase in funding for the Armed Forces of the United States.  It was the largest investment in our military readiness in nearly a decade. In his first budget the Congress will take up this fall, the President called for the biggest increase in military spending since the days of Ronald Reagan -- including a nearly 20 percent increase in the Air Force space budget.  We’re going to fight to lead in space and we’re going to put the resources of the United States of America behind you.  (Applause.) 

In short, the President of the United States is going make the strongest fighting force in history stronger still -- American strength will only grow under the leadership of this new President and this new administration.  It doesn’t matter whether we’re dealing with a brutal regime in North Korea or Iran, or radical Islamic terrorists in Syria, Yemen, or Iraq, the United States will continue to stand strong.  We’ll continue to take the fight to the enemy on our terms on their soil.  

And each one of you are going to continue to be at the tip of the spear, and I understand that, and so does the President.  It’s one of the reasons I wanted to be here today.  It’s one of the reasons why I’m told the Secretary of the Air Force has already been here once before in her very short tenure.  Because you warriors in the room are playing a central role every hour, every day in the fight against radical Islamic terrorism and the fight for freedom around the world, and we recognize it.

As we speak, your brothers-and-sisters-in-arms are stationed across the wider world on the frontiers of freedom in the mountains of South Korea, fields and forests of Eastern Europe, the deserts and valleys of Iraq and Afghanistan; and it’s an enormous comfort to them and a great source of confidence that you’re here.  That your vigilance and your professionalism is here ensuring that they have the real-time information to accomplish their missions.  

You know those who wear the uniform of the United States, all of you in this room, and all those around our country and around the world are really the bulwark of American freedom.  Every day you here at Schriever Air Force Base play your part to defend our freedom, protect the American people, and I want you to know we’re grateful each and every day.  

You know, it’s always humbling for me to stand before men and women who are wearing the uniform of the United States because my life did not take me on that path.  I didn’t wear the uniform.  I’m actually the son of a soldier.  My father saw combat in the Korean War.  And as I mentioned, I’m the proud father of a United States Marine. But maybe it’s altogether fitting that someone like me stands before men and women like you just to say thanks.  Make sure you know how grateful the American people are each and every day for the service that you provide here and the sacrifice you and your families make to keep our country safe.  

So let me tell you, I can assure you that you have the support of your Commander-in-Chief and of his number two and of our entire administration.  You have the support of the Congress of the United States and the support of the American people that they represent.  Let me also assure you one other way -- you also have the prayers of the American people.  I know each and every day, there are people across this country who pray for your protection, who pray for your skill and professionalism, and you provide protection and cover over those in harm’s way.  And they’ll continue to carry you, carry you in faith and in prayers as you serve our country.  

So I came today to say thank you.  Thank you for your service.  Thank you for your service that creates our freedom at home and our security around the world.  And I look out around this room I have faith.  I have faith that in the days ahead we will keep America safe.  That we’ll make it possible for America to prosper.  And to borrow a phrase, we’ll Make America Great Again.  

Thank you for your service, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.) 

2:16 P.M. MDT

Categories: White House News

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sean Spicer, 6/23/2017, #56

News from the White House - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 5:12pm

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:51 P.M. EDT 

MR. SPICER:  I want to start with some good news.  We continue to see great progress by Congressman Steve Scalise, but additionally, it’s great to note that just a few minutes ago George Washington Hospital has announced that Mike Mika, who was also involved in that shooting, has been upgraded to good condition.  So we continue to keep an eye on the situation and wish him a speedy recovery on his way to getting out of the hospital.  And so that’s a great way to start this.

Back to business here.  This morning, after a series of meetings with Secretary of State Tillerson, Homeland Security Secretary Kelly, and Secretary of Defense Mattis, the President was honored to sign the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act surrounded by a group of our nation’s great veterans and their brave families.

As we all know, the VA scandals exposed unacceptably long wait times for our nation’s veterans and issues with tracking their care.  In response, Congress passed the Veterans Access Choice and Accountability Act in 2014, which has since brought many more instances of poor performance and misconduct by the VA to light.  

The bill the President signed this morning further empowers Secretary Shulkin and the VA to protect our veterans from this kind of misconduct in the future.  It’s one part of the President’s comprehensive plan to modernize the VA so that it gives the veterans the care, treatment and support that they so richly deserve.

Back in March, many of you may remember they signed the Veterans Choice Improvement Act so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice and they don’t have to travel long distances or wait for care.  Already under the Choice program, this year, veterans have received 42 percent more approvals to see a doctor that they have chosen.  And he signed an executive order in April creating the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the VA to hold employees who fail our veterans accountable.  At the same time, this office rewards and retains the many VA employees who do a fantastic job and it protects the honest employees who expose wrongdoing.

At the signing, he called on Congress to pass legislation then that he signed this morning with Secretary Shulkin to give the authority he needed to best protect those who protect us.  Since taking the reins at the VA, Secretary Shulkin has carried through a thorough review to uncover all of the problems and challenges it inherited from the previous administration.  He’s imposed new standards of accountability and transparency, and just this month he announced that the VA will finally sync up its medical records with the Department of Defense so that veterans will be treated as a single patient across the system, a long-overdue step, giving them the seamless care that they deserve throughout their service and beyond.

As he said many times, the President cares deeply about the men and women who have served our country, and he was glad to sign the VA Accountability Act this morning that takes another step toward shaping the VA into a department that is truly worthy of our veterans.

Also this morning, the Department of Justice expressed its full support for Texas’s efforts towards improving public safety by mandating that statewide -- towards improving -- by mandating statewide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.  The President has made a commitment to keep America safe, and Texas’s SB4 law is critical to maintaining cooperation from state and local enforcement partners in that mission.

The federal government must have the proper assistance from state and local authorities to effectively enforce immigration laws and keep our communities safe.  And that’s, frankly, what Texas’s law does.  Given the strong federal interest in facilitating this cooperation, the Trump administration is glad to be putting its full support behind Texas’s effort.

As he said yesterday, the President is very supportive of the draft Senate healthcare bill, which represents the next step in repealing and replacing Obamacare.  It’s time to -- for all Republicans to unite and fulfill this promise that we’ve been talking about for over seven years, and that we would rescue them from the mess that they -- was created by imposing a risky healthcare experiment on our country several years ago.

With costs rising and options dwindling, it’s clear that the risk that we were given didn’t pay off.  Just ask the people of New Hampshire, where another insurer just announced that it will stop offering insurance on the state’s Obamacare exchange.  The President and his entire team will be looking forward to working with all senators who are willing to come to the table to amend, finalize and pass the bill so that we can deliver a world-class healthcare system in place of the failing system that we have now.

And with that, let’s get into some questions.  John.

Q    The President this morning, in an interview with Fox and Friends, seemed to indicate that he thinks that the special counsel may have some conflicts of interest, one being his friendship with Comey; another being the fact that one of the people that he’s hiring, bringing on -- special counsel’s officer were either Hillary Clinton supporters, and the President said even some of them are -- even worked for Hillary Clinton.  Is he still ruling out firing this special counsel?

MR. SPICER:  Nothing has changed on that in terms of his position on it.

Q    And his position is?

MR. SPICER:  That while he retains the authority -- anyone who serves (inaudible), I believe -- Steve and I had a healthy exchange with -- but that he has no intention of doing that.  

Q    And does -- he seemed to suggest this morning there might be a circumstance under which Mueller should take himself out.  Can you tell us --

MR. SPICER:  Yeah, that’s one.  Obviously, I would refer to Marc Kasowitz in terms of the President’s legal strategy on that.  But I’ll just leave it at that.  But good try.

Q    Sean, on healthcare, what is the President’s current outlook on the Senate bill, given some of the reservations that some of the senators raised yesterday?  And does the President feel that Senator McConnell should pull the bill next week if he doesn’t have the number that -- the numbers to pass it, or is time to vote?

MR. SPICER:  Well, we'll approach that in the same way that we approach the House bill.  I’m not going to be -- I wasn’t prescriptive then with Speaker Ryan in terms of when they’re ready to vote, they’ll vote.  Senator McConnell has said that he wants a vote next week, and that’s up to him to run the chamber the way he sees fit.  But the President is very supportive of the bill.  He wants to work with all the members to improve it in any way that can help facilitate that passage and make it a stronger bill.  And he intends to work with all the individuals -- he’s got a lot of respect for the four senators in particular on the Republican side that have come forward -- wants to work with them.

But I know Senator Manchin talked about potentially getting some Democrats together, and the President welcomes that.  

Q    Sean, thank you.  

MR. SPICER:  Welcome.

Q    Thank you.  What is the President’s level of involvement at this point in terms of trying to push the bill forward or not?  Can you give us a sense of whether he's taking calls?

MR. SPICER:  He's not -- he's had a couple calls with Majority Leader McConnell.  As you'll recall, I think last week we had six senators here.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see that continued involvement.  As you recall, it's a very similar situation as to what it was in the House, right -- that he had several House members come in and out prior to the lead-up of the vote.  And as the vote got closer, in working with the whip team in the House and the legislative affairs team here, he identified members that had concerns, or continued to call them.

I expect a similar process at this point.  But he's had meetings with members.  He was on the phone with Senator McConnell.  But also Secretary Price, Seema Verma, the legislative affairs staff, the chief and staff, and others are intimately engaged in this, having conversations with senators, providing feedback to the President.  He's providing guidance back, as far as he'll continue to tweak it.  But I think we have a fairly robust discussion going on right now.

Q    Sean, what is the Vice President's role in the Senate healthcare bill?  How involved has he been?  And how involved do you see him being going forward?

MR. SPICER:  The Vice President has played a very important role.  He's been up there.  He goes to the policy lunch once a week.  He's constantly on the phone with him.  And he's been a huge asset, as he was in the House side.

But again, to Maggie's question, I'd say right now it's a fairly similar process.  The legislative affairs team is identifying concerns that individual members have, or ideas and suggestions that they have, feeding them back to the team and asking for the President's input, technically, on some of those technical matters, and providing feedback.

So as we get closer to that vote, we've been pleasantly surprised with a lot of the support that's already come out, and I think we'll continue to work through, in particular, the four individuals who have expressed some ideas and concerns.  And we'll get to it.


Q    So you're saving the President for the tail-end of the process?  Is that what you're saying?

MR. SPICER:  No.  I think -- and Maggie can correct me if I'm wrong -- but I think she was asking what the process was.  And I think that we're following a similar pattern, which is he has engaged with them.  I mean, I think we've talked about the number -- the individuals that he's had over to the White House and met with, and he's also had some pull-asides here and there when they've come over for different things.  So he has personally engaged with them.

The question about -- Maggie had specifically asked about phone calls.  And I think that while he has addressed it here and there, the type of push that you saw at the end of the vote, before the House, we're not at that phase where -- 

Q    (Inaudible.) 

MR. SPICER:  Yeah.  And just because of the nature of -- these are individuals -- I mean, because of the numbers, the Senate being what it is, and the numbers that we have to get to fifty plus one is in a different place than the House, where you had many more members to address.

Q    When you look at the House bill and the Senate legislation, is the Senate legislation the preferred vehicle for this going forward?

MR. SPICER:  I think the President is very supportive of the Senate bill.  There's a lot of ideas in there.  He's talked about having heart, and he likes a lot of the reforms that have been in there.  He's committed to making sure that no one who currently is in the Medicaid program is affected in any way, which is reflected in the Senate bill, and he's pleased with that.

So I think he is very pleased with that bill, and he wants to continue to push it forward.  But in the same way, the way he dealt with the House -- I mean, if there's other ideas and amendments as the bill moves forward that would strengthen it, he's all ears.


Q    And what is the argument he's making, or plans to make, to the senators he's trying to get on board?  Is it a policy-focused argument, getting the nitty-gritty?  Or is it a larger argument about this being the last best chance, or the best chance to keep a campaign promise?

MR. SPICER:  It's a good question, because I think it depends on the senator and what their concerns are.  I mean, if you look at some of the individual senators that have expressed concerns, from Rand Paul to Ted Cruz, there are differences in what their individual concerns are.  And so it's not a holistic approach. 

But I think the overarching point that he's made very consistently is that Obamacare is dead and that it is not a binary choice.  It's not "keep this or take that."  It's "this system is failing and we must act."  That is the overarching point that he's made to all of these individuals.

One interesting point is that when you actually look at the House side in particular, you've got 113 members of the Democratic caucus that are co-sponsors of single, universal care, the Bernie Sanders bill.  It's a $32 trillion alternative.  So if you think about it, the bill that the House -- the House bill that got passed, that's the basis of what the Senate worked off of as a net savings.

What the majority of House Democrats support is not maintaining Obamacare, but the majority of that conference is actually supporting the Bernie Sanders universal healthcare bill, which is a $32 trillion, one-size-fits-all, government-run, no-competition-forces, no-market-forces bill.  And I think that that is really what the choice has become.

If you think about this, the majority of Democrats in the House aren't backing Obamacare.  What they're backing is a government takeover of universal care that doesn’t have any market forces and is going to cost our country $32 trillion.  And I think that that's the real choice that exists.

Q    Just in response to tapes, did you see that Congressman Schiff said yesterday something about, 'I don’t think we can accept this as a complete answer, referring to the President's tweet.  His problem with it was that the President was really talking about him, and that Schiff would like to see, in writing, a response that covers the entire White House.  Because the tweet suggested that maybe someone else has recordings.  Does the White House plan to deliver some sort of official written response to Schiff in the House Intel Committee?

MR. SPICER:  I believe -- and I have to follow up -- but I believe that there was some communication we have to have by close of business today.  So I'll figure out if that's going out.  But, I mean, I think the President was clear -- he was asked -- he said he would follow up on whether he knew of this, and I think he's answered it very clearly.


Q    Just real quick on Medicaid.  You mentioned a moment ago something about Medicaid.  I want to make sure I'm clear.  So is the President comfortable with the changes to the Medicaid program in the Senate bill, and how that would roll back the expansion at a certain date?  Is he comfortable with that aspect?

MR. SPICER:  I think right now, as I said, he's very supportive of the current bill.

Q    And real quick on Qatar.  Does the White House have any response to the demands that the Saudis have made of the Qataris?

MR. SPICER:  The four countries that are part of that, we believe it's a family issue and that they should work out.  If we can help facilitate those discussions, then so be it.  But this is something that they want to and should work out for themselves.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  Just following up on Janet's question there.  One of those demands would be shut down Al-Jazeera.  The United States generally has spoken out in favor of free and independent press -- (inaudible) about Al-Jazeera one way or the other in this case.  But does the White House believe that it's appropriate that the free press is something that's on the table for restoration of diplomatic relations?

MR. SPICER:  Again, we're not -- we're willing to play a facilitating role in those discussions.  But that's a discussion that those countries need to have amongst themselves. 

And so until we’re asked to join that and facilitate it, I’m not going to get in the middle of that discussion.

Q    And second question.  In this morning’s Washington Post there’s an item about some friends of the President inquiring about his health.  I’m wondering, is Dr. Jackson of the military office -- of the medical unit, the President’s personal physician -- has the President seen him?  And will the White House commit to releasing sort of the annual physician’s letter that has been customary of presidents for years?

MR. SPICER:  I know Admiral Jackson travels everywhere with the President, so he consults him regularly.  I don’t have an update on his particular vitals but I will follow up on the letter.  But I know that Dr. Jackson -- Admiral Jackson is intimately involved in the President’s care and provides him feedback -- whatever medical issues he has.


Q    Does President Trump think Special Counsel Robert Mueller is partisan?

MR. SPICER:  I think his comments this morning speak for themselves as to his views on Robert Mueller.

John Gizzi.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  Two brief questions.  First, it was reported on one of the networks that the President referred to the American Healthcare Act as a mean bill and he wanted more money that was coming in.  Did he actually say that, or could you confirm or deny whether he used that term to describe it and call for greater funding for parts of it?

MR. SPICER:  I will tell you that I don’t comment on private conversations that the President has.

Q    All right.  And the other thing I do want to know was, on Tuesday night, in a public conversation, his speech that he delivered in Cedar Rapids, the President called for legislation that would deny welfare benefits to illegal immigrants for five years.  It has been widely reported that that has been on the books for 21 years, going back to when President Clinton signed the omnibus welfare reform legislation in 1996.  Was that a misstatement on the President’s part, or was he aware that this is already on the books?

MR. SPICER:  The President is aware that that law exists.  I think the President’s concern generally speaking with all the immigration laws is that they’re not being enforced.

We’ve got several laws that are on the books but they’re not being enforced.  I think the President believes that we need to do what we can -- I mean, obviously, he’s been very clear on immigration and on -- especially from our southern border.  But that law, while on the books, has not been enforced and clearly either needs to be reexamined, enforced, or new legislation needs to be introduced.

I’m sorry -- Hallie.

Q    I have two questions for you.  One is a follow-up from earlier in the week.  You were asked whether the President believes Russia interfered with the 2016 election, and said you hadn’t had a chance to have that conversation.  So I’m wondering if you’ve had that conversation.  And if so, if the President is concerned about that interference.

MR. SPICER:  I have.  Thank you.  And the only point that I would make, just as a point of clarification, he commented I think it was January 5th or 17th, something like that, on that at the time.  And he said Russia probably interfered but maybe some other countries did as well.

Q    He said, “I think it was Russia but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”

MR. SPICER:  There you go.  Thank you.

Q    And so does he stand by that?  Is he concerned about that, Sean?

MR. SPICER:  Of course.  He’s concerned about any country or any actor that wants to interfere in elections.  I confirm that he stands by that.  

But he’s -- and he’s taken two I think very large steps.  One is cybersecurity, to make sure -- he signed an executive order.  His homeland security advisor is working diligently to make sure that we take steps to protect the integrity of our election system and all of our other cyber defenses.  

And then secondly, he instituted an election commission that is making sure that we look at all of how we’re voting, and to make sure that we maintain integrity in all of our voting process to make sure that we have faith in it.  And that includes cyber, it includes voter I.D., it includes all sort of systems.  I expect that commission to have several announcements in probably the next two weeks, and potentially some hearings in July.

But there’s going to be continued activity.  But the President takes that very seriously, and I think those two actions in particular point to his commitment to it.

Q    So to follow up on that then, Sean, what do you say -- we’ve talked to dozens of state officials who say they simply have not heard much from this administration regarding how to protect their own voting systems.  What do you say to those critics who say you’re not doing enough?

MR. SPICER:  I think those official -- state and county, and I think down to the municipal level -- will get a letter next week from the commission asking them to help facilitate some transfer of data back to us so we can begin the process of a thorough review of the systems.  And we will continue to engage them and find out ways that we can strengthen the integrity of our system and make sure that we have the utmost confidence in our voting system.


Q    Thanks, Sean.  The front row gets an A for effort.  Let's see how the back row (inaudible).   

MR. SPICER:  All right.  You have a lot to live up to.  (Laughter.)  

Q    This question is on healthcare.  Obviously, the House bill and the Senate draft discussion, they’re similar but they’re different.  Does the President at this point have a preference to either one?  And if so, which one?

MR. SPICER:  I think right now he’s, as I mentioned, very supportive of the Senate bill.  Let’s get that passed, and then, obviously, we’ll go to conference.  And so there’s elements of the Senate bill that he’s very pleased with, but let’s -- our goal is to work through the process, get it passed through the Senate, and then have that discussion in conference.

Q    And let me ask you -- comments that you made this morning.  You talked about -- you were asked about the strategy and you talked about how several high-level people within the administration have been provided technical assistance, working with members and Senate leadership to ask -- or to talk, rather, about additional changes that might be necessary.  I’m curious as to what those -- specifically what those additional changes in the Senate bill that you view might indeed be necessary.

I think you’ve got four Republican senators in particular that have expressed -- each one of them has concerns, and in order to get over 50 votes we’re going to -- we’ll listen to them and to others that will help strengthen the bill and get us to that point.  But that’s -- part of that -- that’s part of the process.  Same thing that we did in the House side too.

Q    So nothing specific from the White House point of view as far as --

MR. SPICER:  Well, I don’t want to -- I mean, again, this is a discussion that we’ll have with those senators, but I’m not going to telegraph it right now.  As I mentioned -- correctly quoting me from earlier this morning -- that we’re going to have those conversations with them, find out what additions, suggestions, ideas they have that strengthen the bill and help it move forward.

Q    Real quick wanted to follow up on healthcare.  Is the President eager enough to get rid of Obamacare that he would accept a bill that he doesn’t like?  Or if he doesn’t get what he wants out of the Senate and/or out of conference, would he veto it and make them go back to the drawing board?

MR. SPICER:  Well, of course -- in theory, if he doesn’t like something, he’s not going to sign it.  As I’ve said, he’s very supportive of the Senate bill as it stands.  So I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

Q    And the follow-up to that is there are four members of the Republican Party who say that the problem with it is that it’s really too much like Obamacare and they want to see it completely jettisoned.  

MR. SPICER:  That’s not entirely accurate.

Q    Well, all right, I’m paraphrasing --

MR. SPICER:  Again, he’ll work with them and our staff will work with them, and we’ll look at issues that can get us there.  But I think -- you know, and I mentioned Senator Manchin himself also noted that he would like to sit down and work, and I think if we can find -- if we can grow that number even larger, he would love to do it.

Q    Will he sit with Democrats?

MR. SPICER:  Senator Manchin is a Democrat.

Q    I mean, other than --

MR. SPICER:  He mentioned that he might have some additional folks that have expressed to him a willingness to work together.  And I think the President has been clear, if anybody has a willingness to move this forward and get it done, he’d love to be -- work across party lines.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  We saw the President’s tweet about China’s role in the North Korea crisis.  He just met with Mattis and Tillerson, who met with their Chinese counterparts yesterday.  He characterized at this point what he thinks about China’s role in North Korea and whether he’s preparing to impose what are called secondary sanction on Chinese entities that are flouting international sanctions.

MR. SPICER:  I will not comment on the second part of that for obvious reasons, but good try.

Look, he remains hopeful that we can work with China, both politically and economically, to apply the pressure on North Korea.  He commented personally, and I’ll reiterate, that he continues to be very troubled by what happened to Otto Warmbier and would like to see China do more. 

Q    So you’re not hopeful -- I’m sorry.  He’s hopeful, he’s not impatient at this point?  He hasn’t lost patience with China?

MR. SPICER:  I just would say that he remains hopeful that we can find a way forward.

Q    Sean, on the --

MR. SPICER:  Steve.

Q    I want to ask you about Russia, because this week the Russians cancelled planned talks in St. Petersburg.  It’s been widely reported that two weeks from now, in Germany, the President and Vladimir Putin are supposed to have some kind of talk on the sidelines of the G20.  Is it the President’s intention to have a meeting with Vladimir Putin in Germany?  

MR. SPICER:  Obviously, Steve, we have a lot of countries that we will probably have bilaterals with on the sidelines of the G20, as well as during the visit to Poland.  Not -- that wouldn’t happen during that, but there are countries that we are planning bilats with both during the stop in Poland as well as during the two days that we’ll be at the G20.

Q    Does the President want to meet with Vladimir Putin?

MR. SPICER:  I think that he understands that we have a role -- to the extent that we can work with Russia to solve some problems and to cooperate, if we can find that willingness that we’d like to do it.  And when we have an update on the schedule as we grow closer to the G20, I’m sure we’ll provide that to you.

Q    How would you describe the current state of American-Russian relations?

MR. SPICER:  I don’t know what word you’re -- I mean, they have -- we maintain a -- I’ll give you a good example.  We continue to have de-confliction with them in Syria.  I think that’s a positive thing.  I think we enjoy normal diplomatic relations with them.  And, as the President has said very -- on numerous times that if we can find areas of agreement with Russia, especially with respect to the fight against ISIS, safe zones in Syria, then we’ll do it.  But it’s got to be on terms that are in the best interest -- in our national interest.

John Decker.

Q    Thanks a lot, Sean.  When the President tweeted out earlier this week that China’s efforts at applying pressure on North Korea, in his words, has not worked out, was he referring to the idea that China has not applied the necessary pressure on North Korea, or that North Korea has received that pressure and it has specifically not responded to whatever pressure China has applied?

MR. SPICER:  I will just say that, as I mentioned to Olivier, he remains hopeful that they will continue to apply additional pressure that will seek a better outcome in terms of North Korea.  But I’ll leave that tweet for itself and continue discussion through diplomatic channels.

Q    So when he seemed to sort of abandon the idea of getting China to apply that pressure to North Korea, at the same time it’s -- let me just finish -- at the same time, it seems as if Secretary Mattis and Secretary Tillerson are going to continue that effort.  Is there a conflict there in terms of what the President wants to perhaps not do and what the Secretaries of Defense and State want to do in applying that pressure to North Korea through China?

MR. SPICER:  So can you just expand on that, just to --

Q    Well, it seems like the President has given up on trying to get China to apply pressure --

MR. SPICER:  No, I don’t think that’s true.  As, I mean, I mentioned, he remains hopeful that they will apply both diplomatic, political and economic pressure to force North Korea to do the right thing.

Q    Sean, two questions for you.  One, just on the tapes, in an interview this morning, the President said he believes his tweet about the tapes influenced Comey to tell the truth in his testimony.  So two-pronged question here.  Is his position now that Comey was truthful in that testimony?  And is he conceding that he used Twitter in a way he believes to change the behavior of a congressional witness?

MR. SPICER:  I’m not going to comment any further than the comments that he made this morning.

Q    Separately -- on a separate topic.  On the briefings, you said Monday about your decision to hold these off-camera briefings, off-audio briefings, “There are days that I’ll decide that the President’s voice should be the one that speaks, and iterate his priorities.”  Today the President spoke, so did you this morning -- had an interview with Fox News.  What’s the reasoning for not answering questions on camera today?

MR. SPICER:  The President gave lengthy remarks today on camera, spoke about the VA bill.  Hope you carried it.

Q    You spoke on camera, too, earlier.

MR. SPICER:  I know, I did.  See how much on-camera there is?  I mean, look, I think -- as I said, you referenced the comments I made on Monday; I made the same comments -- similar comments in December and January.  And some days we’ll do it.  I think it’s great for us to come out here and have a substantive discussion about policies.

I don’t think that the be all and end all is whether it’s on television or not.  We’ve made ourselves available a lot of times and will continue to do.  But I’d rather sit here and have a very enjoyable conversation with you on issues on a Friday afternoon, and let the President’s comments stand on the great things that he’s doing on behalf of our nation’s veterans.


Q    A follow-up on the tapes.  You were also on Fox this morning --

MR. SPICER:  I was.  Thank you for watching.

Q    Yeah.  But you indicated that the President's tweet on the tapes successfully influenced Comey to tell the truth in his testimony.  So do you believe that he lied about -- is it the White House's position that he still lied about the President pressuring him to end the Flynn investigation?  Is that still the White House position?

MR. SPICER:  I believe that the President's remarks on Fox and Friends this morning reflect the President's position.

Q    So that would mean that he believes that Comey told the truth.

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think I need to do any further analysis than what the President himself said the intention was.


Q    Thank you, Sean.  I have two questions, if I may.  First is about -- during yesterday's meeting between President Trump and the Chinese State Councilor, Yang Jiechi, President Trump expressed his interest in joining Belt and Road Initiative.  Could you tell us more about their meeting?

MR. SPICER:  I can't.  I mean, obviously I think we sent a representative to that conference, but I'm not going to get any further than the discussion that they had.

Q    So we heard that Jared and Ivanka have accepted an invitation to visit China by the end of this year.  Could you comment on that, as well?

MR. SPICER:  They have.  

Q    Take one question, Sean?

MR. SPICER:  I know because Goyal has got a visit coming on Monday, so he gets a question on Friday.

Q    Thank you, sir.  Two questions.  

MR. SPICER:  Are you excited?

Q    This will be the first face-to-face meeting --

MR. SPICER:  It will.

Q    Yes, sir.  This will be the first --

MR. SPICER:  Better get ready.

Q    -- face-to-face meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi.  So is President Trump ready to accept him and welcome him, because both have the same dream?  Prime Minister Modi is saying "Make in India," and President Trump is saying "Buy American," and make in America -- or "Hire American."  So my question is, so much is there on the plate when Prime Minister Modi arrives here.  He's saying that he will have a great meeting with the President because we have many things in common, as far as U.S.-India relations are concerned.  So what can we expect between the two leaders?

MR. SPICER:  Well, first, I want to wish the people of India a happy 70th anniversary on their independence.  

But during the meeting, the President and the Prime Minister will discuss ongoing cooperation, including counterterrorism, defense partnership in the Indo-Pacific region, global cooperation, burden-sharing, trade, law enforcement, and energy.  I think it's going to be a very robust discussion.

Q    And a separate question, please --

MR. SPICER:  Yeah.

Q    Thank you.  On Wednesday, June 21st was the International Day of Yoga, which was declared by the United Nations three years ago under the leadership -- initiative by Prime Minister Mode.  Any citation you think President Trump will issue?  Or what he has -- any message as far as yoga is concerned?  Because yoga means less trips to the doctors and hospitals.  

MR. SPICER:  I don’t have -- (laughter) -- anything on yoga at this point.  But I appreciate the --

Q    Show us a stance.  (Laughter.) 

MR. SPICER:  Trey.

Q    Thank you.  I have two questions -- one on North Korea and one on healthcare.  Starting with healthcare, does the President consider the Senate bill a full repeal of Obamacare?  The four senators you talked about, they say that they don't feel it's a full repeal, which is why they're not supporting the current draft.  

MR. SPICER:  Obamacare is -- I mean, I think I've said it before -- Obamacare is dead.  So it is -- you have no carriers, the premiums are skyrocketing.  So whatever you want to call it, the bottom line is, it is a dead healthcare system.  There isn’t a question about whether or not -- what to do with it.  We have to act.  I think the President has made clear that we need to actually get a system in place.

Q    On North Korea, the government of North Korea said that Otto Warmbier's death is a mystery to them.  How does the White House respond to these comments?  

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think it's a mystery.  I think we know very well what happened.  And I think, as the President said, it's a disgrace.


Q    Sean, I had a couple questions.  First, on healthcare.  The order in which the Senate was going to vote will occur after the CBO score, and the White House was very critical of the Congressional Budget Office back in March, during the House process.  So my question is, does the President believe that his discussions with lawmakers about what they want and their concern about the legislation should be guided by the CBO score?  And will it influence his thinking as he looks at the bill?

MR. SPICER:  I think one of the points that I made last time, Alexis -- which stands -- is that the CBO core function is budgetary and fiscal impacts, not on people.  And they've been wildly off by a huge percentage when they've tried to score people.  Their track record on doing that is not good.  And so we maintain what we have all along:  we want to do the right policy.  And the CBO score should be used by members in the Senate to decide -- to the extent that they think that that helps them make a decision.  But I think we all understand -- look, Obamacare promised it was going to drive premiums down $2,500, it was going to bring down deductibles.  It did none of that stuff.  

I think the way that this bill has been constructed has done so in a way that it's actually going to achieve the goals that the American people were promised.

All the way in the back.

Q    Can I just follow up on another topic?

MR. SPICER:  Of course.

Q    Hallie was asking about Russia and the interview.  I just wanted to ask you, because you were just commenting that the President does believe Russia was behind the interference in the election, that he is concerned, that the administration is taking steps.  So to follow up on her question and Steve's question -- is it the President's desire to speak directly to Putin, if he gets that chance, to say that U.S. officials believe that Russia poses a risk to the 2018 and 2020 elections, and the United States would like Russia to be on notice or on warning that the United States disapproves of this?

MR. SPICER:  If and when there's a meeting, we will have a readout for you.

Yes, ma'am.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  There's a play rendition of Julius Caesar in New York City where the character portrayed as President Trump gets assassinated.  Is the President aware of this play?  And if so, what's his reaction?  And also, is the Secret Service investigating it?

MR. SPICER:  That's a question for the Secret Service.  You can call Kathy over there and ask her.  

Look, I think it's troubling whether it's that or Johnny Depp's comments.  We've seen this.  And, frankly, as far as I'm concerned, I know that the President and the First Lady weighed in on Kathy Griffin's comments.  I don’t know that he's aware about the play in particular that's going on there.  But it is, frankly, my belief, a little troubling the lack of outrage that we've seen in some of these instances where people have said what they've said with respect to the President and the actions that should be taken.

The President has made it clear that we should denounce violence in all of its forms.  And I think that if we're going to hold to that standard, then we should all agree that that standard should be universally called out.  And so when those actions are depicted -- and I think we saw a couple folks in the media and some other places tweet out their support for that show -- I'm not sure that that's a smart thing to do.  We either all agree that violence should be called out and denounced, or not.  And I think that it's concerning when you see a pattern that these comments get made, these actions get depicted, and the lack of attention that they get when it's on our side.

Q    Sean, thank you.  With regard to the bill signing from this morning, do you see this as a -- because the President talked a lot about during (inaudible) federal employees and so forth.  Do you see this as maybe a larger point of going through civil service reform, and which you could look at holding career-level federal employees to higher standards, and making it easier to fire certain people for certain conduct?

MR. SPICER:  I think it's a good start, yeah.  This is the first step.  I think it's important that we start with our veterans.  But I think everyone who serves in the public trust has an obligation to serve the public and do what they can, whether it's our veterans or people looking for an education loan or whatever.  And if you're not doing your job, I think that we should, as a government, have a standard that if you're not doing what the job is supposed to be doing, and you're not helping your fellow Americans achieve what that department or agency is after, that we should make sure that there's a process by which we can have that person removed and put in place somebody who will do it.

The President's step this morning was a big step forward.  And I think to your question, the impact of that, the signal that it sends isn’t just about veterans, obviously, but it is -- it should resonate government-wide that we expect people who serve in government to do what they can to serve our country.

Q    You mentioned veterans would be a good start.  What would be the next step?  I mean, would it be the (inaudible) misconduct?

MR. SPICER:  We’ll wait and see.  I think we’ve got a fairly robust legislative agenda right now, but if the House and the Senate wanted to move forward with something else, I’m sure we could find a way to work with them.

Q    Thank you, Sean.  The Carrier plant the President visited right after the election has told employees that it would lay off more than 600 people between now and the end of the year.  Its employment would actually fall below the agreement that it has with the state.  Would the President reengage in that situation?  Should the state claw back some of those incentives?

MR. SPICER:  We’re talking about 632 jobs in this instance.  This was announced last year, so what we’re hearing now is nothing new.  Carrier remains committed to retaining 1,069 Hoosier jobs over the next 10 years, consistent with the deal that was reached after the election. By maintaining these jobs in Indiana, Carrier is showing confidence in the business climate and the future of the American economy.

Q    So in terms of the deals that the White House is making with individual companies, though, earlier this week you addressed Ford and you said, “At some point in the future, tax reform is what would incentivize companies to operate here.”  But what sort of enforcement mechanisms does the White House have to keep these companies honest?

MR. SPICER:  Well, again, remember, that deal that you’re talking about with Carrier is consistent with the deal that they struck.  This is just the manifestation of the deal that was struck back in, I think it was November of last year; it could have been early December.

So this is consistent with what they said they would do back then, but I think both in terms of regulatory policy and tax policy, we need to do what we can to incentivize more companies to not just stay here, but to grow here.


Q    Thank you, Sean.  Two separate policy topics.  First of all, you said that Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat, is going to be looking at potentially getting some Democratic votes for the Senate healthcare bill.  The President has said repeatedly that no matter how good this bill is, that he doesn’t think that he would get any Democratic votes for it.  It now sounds like you’re saying that you do expect potentially to get some Democratic votes for it, and therefore you might not even need these four Republican senators who say that they can’t support it.

MR. SPICER:  I didn’t say that.

Q    Okay.

MR. SPICER:  But what I said -- and just to be clear -- is it’s obviously -- the President believes, and for good reason -- I don’t think that -- he doesn’t believe that we’ll end up getting any.  I think it’s encouraging that, as we evolve through this process, that you see someone like Senator Manchin say, I agree that the system is broken and I’m willing to fix it.

Now, whether or not we ultimately can get his vote, that’s another question.  But I think it’s encouraging that someone like him wants to step forward and engage in a discussion about -- if there’s a potential of getting his vote.  And obviously that’s a discussion that -- whether it’s him or someone else -- I noted the other day, I think, to Hallie that a couple of times already, Senator Schumer has been very clear that there would be no engagement from Democrats.

So to see this progress I think is -- I don’t want to get too far in front of it, but it’s also -- it’s good to see at least one senator publicly say that they’re willing to have that discussion.


Q    Sorry -- I said two policy questions, sorry.  

MR. SPICER:  You did.

Q    Totally separate subject, I wanted to follow up on what John Gizzi had asked about the --

MR. SPICER:  That’s a first.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Follow up on what John Gizzi had said about the President’s speech on Tuesday night and the welfare requirement for immigrants.  What specifically would the proposal that the President was talking about do that’s different than what is already a part of the federal law?  You said he wanted to reexamine it, maybe even put in a new law.  What was he proposing?  How is that different?

MR. SPICER:  Well, when we have an announcement on that, I’ll let you know.

Q    You said he'd be he putting in legislation soon.

MR. SPICER:  I understand that.  And so when we do, we’ll let you know.  But at this point, we don’t have that.


Q    Thank you, Sean.  If he White House is concerned about the message of Julius Caesar and stuff that’s said by Johnny Depp, then why was Al Baldasaro, who said that Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason for the handling of Benghazi, invited to the VA event today at the White House?

MR. SPICER:  Well, obviously, as I mentioned, we also -- I’d make it very clear, I don’t -- I condemn all acts of violence.  I don’t believe that any -- and the President has said this as well -- that anybody who goes out and tries to highlight those kind of actions should not be welcome.  I don’t -- I’m not aware of the comments he made.

But again, I’ll say it right now, that I don’t think that we should be resorting to that kind of language with respect to anybody in our country.  

Q    You mean you do condemn it.

Q    You do condemn it.

MR. SPICER:  I do.  Thank you.  

Q    Let me ask you about -- one on Russia, one on healthcare.  The Russia sanctions bill -- can you talk at all about what your goals are for that bill, even a sense of timing?  Is it helpful to have that bill sooner or later from this White House?

MR. SPICER:  You mean the one that the Senate passed that is -- got pulled back with the -- I mean, that’s -- right now -- the Senate passed the bill, the parliamentarian rule that it had a revenue component to it and it had to have originated in the House.  So now the House is looking at it.  

But right now, I mean, there’s not a -- there’s nothing to comment on in the sense that the Senate parliamentarian rule that because of the revenue nature --

Q    What (inaudible) opinion on whether --

MR. SPICER:  Well, I mean, let’s see what it looks like.  I think obviously the concern that we will have is whether or not the executive maintains the authority and the flexibility with respect to implementing sanctions both going forward to pulling back to effectively achieve a goal.

And so --

Q    It’s not a timing issue for you guys.

MR. SPICER:  No, I think it’s a policy -- it’s -- how it’s crafted.  And I think that’s something that we’re going to look at as it -- assuming that the House takes up its legislation, and then when it goes to the Senate.  But I think our main concern overall with sanctions is how they -- how the Congress crafts them, and any potential erosion of the executive branch’s authority to implement them.

Q    And just real quick, these contested Obamacare payments --


Q    -- that the administration looked through this month, the President has referred to those as “ransom.”  Is there any reason to believe that those will -- won’t keep -- won’t be approved every month until there’s a change to the healthcare law?

MR. SPICER:  I think we committed to making them last month, and that’s as far as we will go at this time.  We’re not committing to them this month.  Obviously --

Q    Why is it a month-to-month thing to you guys?

MR. SPICER:  Because I think that the question is, if we believe -- again, I’m not going to -- last month, obviously, if we can pass healthcare overall then that changes that.  And part of it is going to be where we are in that process.  But it ultimately -- up to the President to decide.  But the reason it’s a month-to-month is because exactly what you said, he doesn’t -- the court has ruled very clearly on this instance.

Q    Can you say why he decided to make -- authorize these payments?

MR. SPICER:  Because again, part of it is -- our goal is to ultimately transition to a healthcare system that doesn’t need them and isn’t a bailout to the insurance companies.  So we want to get to that system as quick as possible.  And our hope is that that transition can take place.

Q    It seems like a -- to threaten these payments on a month-to-month basis, does this risk the President’s --

MR. SPICER:  It’s not a -- there’s no threat.  It’s just a fact.  As soon as we can get it done, it’s in the best interest of a healthcare system, it’s in the best interest of the American taxpayer.  And as soon as the President decides that we either have a system or he doesn’t want to continue the bailout, then we’ll stop.  But it wouldn’t make --

Q    So (inaudible).

MR. SPICER:  I don’t think -- look, I’ll give you the flip side.  If the President were to hypothetically say that he’s going to make the payments in perpetuity or for a year, I think that continues to prop up a failed system.  It continues to do wrong by the American taxpayer.  And it also doesn’t lend itself to the expediency that I think we want to -- help get a new healthcare system in place.

Thank you guys very much.  

2:36 P.M. EDT

Categories: White House News

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Focus on the Family 40th Anniversary Celebration

News from the White House - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 4:37pm

Focus on the Family
Colorado Springs, Colorado

11:50 A.M. MDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  And thank you, Jim.  Thank you, Jim, for the kind introduction and for the warm welcome of our family to Focus on the Family.  Jim, you’re a strong voice for timeless values and families across America, and this country, our President, and our little family are grateful for you and the leadership you’ve provided.  (Applause.) Thank you, Jim. 

You know it really is an honor to be here today in this beautiful chapel, with so many men and women of faith and such stalwart advocates for family, now for four decades across America.

I’m grateful that were here to enjoy the music -- (laughter) -- of one of the most inspiring Christian artists in the world --Steven Curtis Chapman.  (Applause.)  Steve and I met not long ago at the White House.  He was there for the National Day of Prayer.  And I was really excited, man.  (Laughter.)  And he came up to me and he said he’d read somewhere that I was a big fan of his.  (Laughter.)  And, Steven and Marybeth, I just want to say that your ministry of music has been a blessing in my life and I thank you on behalf of all the people whose hearts you’ve touched and whose faith you’ve encouraged.  (Applause.) 

And it’s a privilege to be here on this historic day -- the 40th anniversary of a cornerstone of American life for so many Americans, an organization that has been a champion without equal for American families, a bastion of grace that has inspired millions with your model of Christian love.  It is great to be here on the 40th anniversary of Focus on the Family.  (Applause.) 

We’re grateful to be with all of you to celebrate your history and this ministry.  And let me say, I bring greetings and congratulations, as well, on this historic milestone, from a good friend, whose a leader, whose a believer, whose a tireless defender of the values that will make America great -- the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.) 

I’m really here today on the President’s behalf to congratulate Focus on the Family 40 years of vision, 40 years of compassion.  And most of all I’m here today to congratulate Focus on the Family for 40 years of consequence for faith and families all across these United States.

And speaking of family, before I go one step further -- you already heard from her, and isn’t she something?  (Applause.)  My wife of 32 years, the Second Lady of the United States of America, Karen Pence.  (Applause.) 

Karen and I are deeply grateful that Focus on the Family is going to be honoring this day and our modest presence here by donating an ultrasound in our name to the Life Center in Wabash, Indiana, through the Option Ultrasound Program.  You know, Karen and I have spent years supporting the compassionate work of crisis pregnancy centers across Indiana.  And, Jim and the whole team here, this donation is deeply meaningful to us and I know it will save innocent lives.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.) 

You know, the Bible tells us if you owe debts, pay debts; if honor, then honor; if respect, then respect.  And I rise today to pay a debt of gratitude on behalf of millions of Americans who have benefited personally and spiritually from the work of this ministry.  And as I commend all of you, allow me to acknowledge the founder of this ministry -- a man who became author of an enormous body of work that has inspired millions, and he’s been a friend and a mentor to me -- Dr. James Dobson.  (Applause.) 

It’s remarkable to think that 40 years ago, Dr. Dobson launched a weekly radio broadcast that aired on a few dozen stations scattered across the country, bringing words of wisdom and encouragement to all who tuned in.  Now, you think of his legacy.  You know, I spent a little bit of time in talk radio myself back in the day.  (Laughter.)  I started with a small smattering of radio stations across Indiana -- and it stayed that way.  (Laughter.)  It’s an incredible legacy --(laughter) 
-- and that legacy continues.  His, not mine.  (Laughter.)  It’s amazing to think that Focus on the Family broadcast now reaches into the homes and hearts of 38 million people every day.  And the programs and publications run by Focus on the Family extend your reach even further -- around the world itself.  Give yourself a round of applause for the impact on everyday life.  (Applause.)  

In a very real sense, Focus on the Family has let your light shine before men and women across the world and across this country, touching countless lives and shaping generations. In a very real sense, you’re the hands and feet and the voice, in so many ways, of the truths found in the Scriptures -- reaching in with love and compassion, embracing the dignity of people of every background and every experience around the world.  You’ve strengthened marriages -- and I know in my heart you’ve -- this ministry has saved marriages.  You’ve helped parents train up their children in the way they should go.  You’ve brought the Good News to those who never heard it.  You’ve strengthened the faith and foundation of families.

And, also, you’ve fearlessly engaged our culture and advocated in the public square for the timeless values that our society needs to hear, now more than ever.  I have to tell you, it’s especially meaningful for us to be here at Focus on the Family on this occasion because this ministry, and all of you, have been a blessing to millions, including our little family. 

You know, during my years in Congress, when our three children were young, and now they’re all in their 20s -- one is married, one is heading to law school next year, and one is working in the film industry.  But when they were real little,  every time we took the 600-mile drive from Washington, D.C. back to Indiana, I can promise you we spent an awful lot of time with Connie, Eugene, and Whit at Whit’s End.  (Applause.)  We did.  The Adventures in Odyssey were our adventures.  (Laughter.) And I remember so often the kids saying, put in another tape.  (Laughter.) 

And one of the most cherished memories of our children’s youth is the Family Nights booklet that we got from Focus on the Family.  Literally got that book that we heard about it on the radio or something and called in for it.  It inspired us to spend every Friday night with our little ones, usually on the living room floor, a little bit of pizza in the waiting, and we would huddle around a fun story, we’d learn a Biblical message.  And that Focus on Family family night booklet is on the shelf with lots of notes from those moments with the little ones.  

So as we stand here today thanking you for what you’ve done for families across the country -- when I look at my son, who’s married and is a First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, when I look at our wonderful daughter, who’s walking in faith and working with Christian filmmakers, and when I think of our youngest daughter, who’s heading off to law school next year, I just say thank you.  Thank you, Focus on the Family, for helping us pour a foundation in our children.  (Applause.)  

The truth is that Focus on the Family has been a force in American families, a force for good for the past 40 years.  Millions of families like mine are indebted to your work.  And let me assure you that there’s one other family that’s truly grateful for the work of this great ministry.  And I promise you, Focus on the Family, you have an unwavering ally in President Donald Trump.  (Applause.) 

He was excited that I was coming here today, and asked me to give all of you his thanks and his regards.  And the President has been standing for the things that the people in this room, this ministry has stood for now for four decades.  President Trump has stood without apology for the God-given right of every American to live out your convictions in the public square.  This President also has stood with those who are persecuted for their faith -- no matter the country they call home or the creed they profess.  And President Trump has stood without apology for the most vulnerable in our society -- the aged, the infirm, the disabled, and the unborn.  (Applause.) 

This President believes that no American, no American should have to violate their conscience to fully participate in American life, and he has taken action to protect the expressions of faith by men and women across this nation.  (Applause.) 

Just last month -- and Steven was there -- I had the great privilege to stand beside the President as he signed an executive order to support religious liberty in our time.    Speaking from the Rose Garden, President Trump declared that, in his words now, the “federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs,” and he directed our Department of Justice to develop new protections for Americans of faith.  (Applause.) 

And our President is bringing the First Amendment back to pulpits and places of worship around America, rolling back the Johnson Amendment, because the freedom of speech shouldn’t stop at the front door of our churches and our synagogues.  (Applause.) 

And on the world stage President Trump has been standing for our values and our vital national interest.  Under President Donald Trump, once again, America is standing with our allies and standing up to our enemies.  And speaking of our allies, under President Donald Trump -- if the world knows nothing else the world will know this -- America stands with Israel.  (Applause.) 

It has not just been about liberty at home.  This President has stood for religious liberty across the globe.  Under President Donald Trump, America has taken measures to condemn persecution of any faith in any place at any time.  And protecting and promoting religious freedom is a foreign policy priority of the Trump administration.  (Applause.) 

The heartbreaking truth is that believers of so many backgrounds are under assault across the wider world.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East in the very land where our faith was first given life.  Nearly 2,000 years ago the disciples of Jesus Christ fanned out from Israel in every direction, spreading the Good News that we proclaim to this day.

All across that ancient land, from the plains of Nineveh where Abraham sojourned, and on the banks of the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Nile, the fathers of our faith planted seeds of belief blossomed and have borne fruit ever since.  But today, these Christian communities face unspeakable atrocities at the hands of radical radical Islamic terrorism.  

The terrorists seek to stamp out all religions that are not their own, or not even a version of their own, and believers of many backgrounds have suffered grievously -- especially at the hands of the barbarians known as ISIS.  That brutal regime shows a savagery unseen in the Middle East since the Middle Ages. 

At the hands of ISIS, we’ve witnessed Muslims murdered indiscriminately across the Middle East, and ancient symbols of their culture and faith destroyed.  This week alone, ISIS destroyed the 800-year-old Great Mosque at al-Nuri in Mosul.

But the practitioners of terror harbor, arguably, a special hatred for the followers of Christ, and I believe ISIS is guilty of nothing short of genocide against people of the Christian faith.  In Egypt, we have just recently seen Coptic Christians martyred on their way to a monastery, and bombs explode in churches amidst Palm Sunday celebrations -- a day of hope transformed into a day of grief. 

In Iraq, we see ancient churches demolished, priests and monks beheaded, and the two-millennia-old Christian tradition in Mosul virtually extinguished.  And in Syria, we see Christian communities burned to the ground, women and children sold into human slavery.

Christianity now faces an exodus in the lands of its birth, unrivaled since the days of Moses.  It’s heartbreaking to think that the Christian population in Syria has plummeted from one-and-a-quarter million to only 500,000 in just the past six years.  And in Iraq, the followers of Christ have fallen by 80 percent in the past decade-and-a-half. 

Be assured of this:  This administration is fully committed to bringing relief and comfort to believers in that ancient land. And President Trump has made it clear that America will stand with people of faith in that ancient land in their hour of need.  And we will restore -- we will restore their peace and security.  (Applause.) 

This President will continue to stand without apology for persecuted people of faith across the globe.  As we speak, we're taking the fight to the terrorists on our terms, on their soil.  And we'll not rest, we'll not relent until we drive the cancer of radical Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth.  (Applause.) 

You know, it's the greatest privilege of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who is so committed to protecting faith and freedom at home and abroad. But I have to tell you, I’m most proud to stand with a President who stands without apology for the sanctity of human life.  (Applause.) 

Since day one of this administration, President Donald Trump has been keeping his promise to defend the unborn.  And under this President’s leadership and with your support, life is winning in America again.

Life is winning through the steady advance of science that illuminates when life really begins.  Life is winning through the generosity of millions of adoptive families, who open their hearts and their homes to children in need.  And life is winning through the compassion of caregivers and volunteers at crisis pregnancy centers and faith-based organizations, like Focus on the Family, that provide and support for women in cities and towns all across the country.

Life is winning in America, in a word, because of all of you who have supported a President, and a Congress, and the policies that uphold the sanctity of life.

You know, this President has been keeping his word since the first day of this administration to stand for the right to life.  From the outset of this administration, the President said that he would appoint justices to our Supreme Court and federal judges who would uphold the God-given liberties enshrined in the Constitution.  And he's done that, starting with our newest justice to the Supreme Court of the United States -- Justice Neil Gorsuch.  (Applause.)

In January, the President actually made some history by personally asking me to be the first official at our level to ever have the privilege to speak at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.  (Applause.)  And the President asked me to go.  I said that at the beginning of my speech, Jim, but it really did happen.  It was a couple days before that.  We were looking at the course of the week, and Prime Minister May was coming to the White House that day.  It was going to a busy day.  A very important foreign policy discussions.  And they were trying to figure out whether the President could make the customary phone call to the March for Life, to break away from those important bilateral discussions.  

And I was standing by his desk in the Oval Office, and they were having a hard time figuring out how he could get away.  And I said -- you know, rather sheepishly, well, you know, they invited me to speak, too.  (Laughter.)  And the President looked up at me, and he said, to speak at the March?  And I said, yeah.  I mean, we -- I said, I've gone before and we've done that before.  And he just pointed at me and he said, you should go.  (Laughter.)   And I went because President Donald Trump wanted me to go and to make a strong stand for the right to life.  (Applause.)

You know, in fact, beyond that, one of his very first acts in Congress, this President reinstated the Mexico City policy to keep taxpayer funding out of organizations that perform or promote abortions around the world.  (Applause.)  And he even expanded that policy to cover $9 billion in foreign aid.

And this President has eliminated U.S. funding for the United Nations Population Fund because American taxpayers should never have to support abortion in China or anywhere else.  (Applause.)  And the President signed into law legislation that empowered states to withhold funding from abortion providers.  And it was my great privilege, at the President’s direction, to cast the tie-breaking vote to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood.  (Applause.) 

And later this summer, when we repeal and replace Obamacare, we're going to defund Planned Parenthood once and for all.  (Applause.) 

You know, just yesterday, following important work in the House of Representatives, the United States Senate released its bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.  The President and I are grateful to Leader Mitch McConnell and all the Senate Republicans for their deliberative efforts over the past month. And while discussions will continue, let me be clear, the President and I are very supportive of the Senate bill.  As the President reminded the nation yesterday, “Obamacare is dead.” (Applause.)  Obamacare is collapsing all and Obamacare must go.

The President and I are counting on your support.  We need your energy.  We need your enthusiasm, your conviction.  We need you to stand up and to speak out, and to work every single day, from this point forward, to get this bill across the finish line.

This legislation repeals the taxes and mandates of Obamacare. It gives states all new freedom and flexibility to reform Medicaid to meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.  And you can be certain, the President and I will be fighting to protect the provisions in this bill that honor the sanctity of life.  (Applause.) 

But this is the moment -- this is the moment, men and women; now is the time.  And I can promise you, President Trump and I will not rest and we will not relent until we repeal and replace Obamacare and give the American people the kind of world-class healthcare they deserve, built on freedom, personal responsibility, free market competition, and state-based reform.  That's the American way to meet our healthcare needs in the 21st century.  (Applause.) 

Men and women of Focus on the Family, I’m here today to say congratulations, but also to urge you to press on.  You ought to consider 40 years just a good start.  (Laughter.)   And I know you do.  Yours is and always will be a mission and a ministry of great significance.  And I can testify to that and millions of Americans can.  For 40 years, you've been a light -- a ray of hope and joy and love into homes across America and around the world.

So keep going.  Keep doing it.  You are testament to the power of unchanging truth to change lives.  And in this time of widening challenges and too much division in America, the gentle voice of Focus on the Family -- your values, your support for families -- are more important than ever before.  And I believe they spring from the very heart of God.

Flying out here today, I was reading my morning devotions.  And I found myself in the book of Second Kings.  I'm not there often, I was just -- (laughter.)  I like to read an Old Testament verse and a New Testament verse.  And it was when the prophet Elisha asked after a woman who had come to seek some help.  Her son had died, and she went running to find the man of God.  And as he saw her at a distance, not knowing what had happened in her life, the Bible records that he said words that made me think of all of you.  He said, are you all right?  Is your husband all right?  Is your child all right? 

That man of God was not just concerned about her.  He was concerned about her family.  And so, too, all of you.  As you've spoken a word of truth and hope and good news into the lives of individuals, you've done it with a focus on the family.  And I thank you for that. 

And as I close, and urge you to keep going in this ministry, keep being a blessing to generations to come and other young families on 600-mile drives, let me ask you also to do what the men and women of Focus on the Family have always done, I know, over the past four decades.  And that is, as you bow the head and bend the knee in these challenging times, I urge you to pray for America. 

Now, I’m not talking in this moment about praying for a cause or a candidate or an agenda. I rather like what Abraham Lincoln said in his time.  He was asked once if he thought that God was on the side of the Union Army.  Our 16th President simply replied, “My concern is not whether God is on our side -- my concern is whether we're on God’s side.”

So let's just pray for America.  Let's pray for this country that we are so blessed to call home.  Because America matters far beyond our shores.

And when you pray, pray with confidence.  Because I truly do believe those ancient words that Americans have repaired to time and again in much more challenging times than we face today are every bit as true now as they were millennia ago:  That if His people who are called by His name will humble themselves and pray, He'll do like He's always done.  He’ll hear from heaven, and He’ll heal this land -- this one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

So, congratulations, Focus on the Family, on 40 years of ministry.  May God bless you.  May God bless your families.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.) 

12:20 P.M. MDT

Categories: White House News

National Review: Obamacare Failure Is on the Democrats

News from the White House - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 4:23pm


“Premium and deductible costs are rising and choice and competition are decreasing. As of now, over 1,200 counties will have only one insurance provider available on the individual market next year, and 35,000 individuals will live in counties with no options available at all. These numbers are expected to increase as insurers finalize their 2018 plans in the upcoming weeks, and yet, Democratic lawmakers have not introduced any major legislation to try and fix the system.”

Obamacare Failure Is on the Democrats
By Juliana Darrow
National Review
June 23, 2017

Senate Republicans are planning to vote on their version of the long-awaited health-care replacement bill as early as next week; this is the latest development in the contentious process of dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The unveiling of the “Better Care Reconciliation Act” sets up another showdown of competing narratives: ACA supporters will accuse Republicans of cutting coverage and reducing benefits and the GOP will point to a flawed system that is losing insurers and forcing double-digit premium increases on families across the country.

This face-off is nothing new. The conversation has played out repeatedly over the past six months. But one thing no one seems to be talking about is that Republicans are the only ones attempting to address the rising costs, declining quality of coverage, and increasing lack of choice in the health-care marketplace.

Democrats seem to be content with the status quo of the Affordable Care Act. Premium and deductible costs are rising and choice and competition are decreasing. As of now, over 1,200 counties will have only one insurance provider available on the individual market next year, and 35,000 individuals will live in counties with no options available at all. These numbers are expected to increase as insurers finalize their 2018 plans in the upcoming weeks, and yet, Democratic lawmakers have not introduced any major legislation to try and fix the system. They have taken the easy way out: showboating and complaining instead of working on a solution to stabilize the health-insurance market.

Republicans should no longer let their colleagues across the aisle get a free pass on the health-care-reform discussion. They cannot assume that just because the ACA is unpopular with their conservative base, replacing it will be a political win for the party. In addition to highlighting the merits of their own bill, Republicans must also continue to show the country that the ACA is a disastrous law, but one that Democrats are nonetheless committed to preserving. 

The Democrats’ refusal to change current law most likely stems from an unwillingness to admit that the ACA has not lived up to its promises. Conservatives predicted eight years ago that a government-heavy health-care system would lead to decreased competition and increased costs. Democrats should not let embarrassment that those predictions came true prevent real solutions and lasting reform.

Read the full article here.

Categories: White House News

President Donald J. Trump Signs S. 1094 into Law

News from the White House - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 2:41pm

On Friday, June 23, 2017, the President signed into law:

S. 1094, the “Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and
Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017,” which makes a number of changes to Department of Veterans Affairs authorities related to personnel, accountability, and whistleblower protections.

Categories: White House News

First Lady Melania Trump Announces New Chief Usher

News from the White House - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 2:04pm

First Lady Melania Trump is pleased to announce the selection of Timothy Harleth for the role of White House Chief Usher. In his new position, Mr. Harleth will oversee more than 90 White House Residence staff inside the most famous home in the United States.

"I am so pleased that Timothy will be joining our team," said First Lady Melania Trump. "He was selected because of his impressive work history and management skills. My husband and I know he will be successful in this vital role within the White House."

"I am so honored at the opportunity to serve the First Family in their new home," said Mr. Harleth. "I look forward to applying my experience with hospitality, leadership, and political protocol in order to ensure the First Family's needs are met, while also protecting and preserving the rich history of the White House. I am excited to work alongside the accomplished and professional staff who are already in place."

Mr. Harleth will bring more than a decade of hospitality and leadership experience to the White House. He currently serves as director of rooms at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., overseeing more than 110 employees. Prior to that, he served in many management positions at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. and New York, including director of rooms and director of front office operations. He will begin work at the White House on Monday, July 3, 2017.

Categories: White House News

Remarks by President Trump at Signing of the Veterans Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act

News from the White House - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 1:10pm

East Room

11:57 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much, everybody.  That's really greatly appreciated.

And thank you to Secretary Shulkin for that introduction and for your really tireless efforts, David, to protect those who have really been protecting all of us for so long.  There great, great people.  And you know I'm talking about, right?  Congratulations.

In just a short time, we’ve already achieved transformative change at the VA -- and believe me, we’re just getting started.  We have so many people that have been so helpful right here in the room -- Tom and all my friends.  It's been fantastic.  The enthusiasm for the Veterans Administration and for making it right for our great veterans has been incredible.  And I want to thank all of them.   

One of my greatest honors and joys during the presidential campaign was the time I spent going all across the country with our nation’s really and truly incredible veterans.  In their courage, their dignity, and their selfless sacrifice, they represent the very best of us.  Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to this nation -- and now we must fulfill our duty to them.

So to every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words:  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  You are the warriors and heroes who have won our freedom -- and we will never forget what you have done for all of us -- ever.  

As you all know all too well, for many years the government failed to keep its promises to our veterans.  We all remember the nightmare that veterans suffered during the VA scandals that were exposed a few years ago.  Veterans were put on secret waitlists, given the wrong medication, given the bad treatments, and ignored in moments of crisis for them.  Many veterans died waiting for a simple doctor’s appointments.  What happened was a national disgrace.

And yet, some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls.  Outdated laws kept the government from holding those who failed our veterans accountable.  Today, we are finally changing those laws -- wasn’t easy, but we did have some fantastic help -- to make sure that the scandal of what we suffered so recently never, ever happens again -- and that our veterans can get the care they so richly deserve.

So you just heard from Sergeant Michael Verardo.  I didn’t get to shake your hand, Michael.  Huh?  Get up, Michael.  (Applause.)  He gets up better than I do.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Michael.  

Michael lost two limbs in defending our country -- and yet he had to wait 57 days to get his prosthetic leg repaired -- that's a long time, Michael -- and over three-and-half years for modifications to make his house more accessible.  What happened to Michael is happening to many, but it's rarely happening under our leadership and David’s leadership anymore.  That I can tell you.

Our Wounded Warriors have given everything they have to this nation -- and we owe them everything we have in return.  And we're taking care of it.  Today, we are taking a very historic action to transform the VA by enacting the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act.  This was not easy.  This was not an easy one.  And it's one that they wanted to do -- Michael, you know -- for a long time.  For many years, couldn't get it done.  We got it done.

This is one of the largest reforms to the VA in its history.  It's a reform that I campaigned on, and now I am thrilled to be able to sign that promise into law.  

VA accountability is essential to making sure that our veterans are treated with the respect they have so richly earned through their blood, sweat and tears.  This law will finally give the VA Secretary -- who is, by the way, just doing some job, and he’s doing it with this and with the heart.  (Applause.)  

It gives the Secretary the authority to remove federal employees who fail and endanger our veterans -- and to do so quickly and effectively.  It's been a long time since you’ve heard those words.  Those entrusted with the sacred duty of serving our veterans will be held accountable for the care they provide.  It's a big statement.  

At the same time, this bill protects whistleblowers who do the right thing.  We want to reward, cherish, and promote the many dedicated employees at the VA.  This legislation also gives the VA Secretary the authority to appoint new medical directors at VA hospitals -- something which was almost impossible to do in the past.  And these are going to be talented, talented people.

I applaud Chairman Phil Roe and the members of Congress here with us today -- which we have many -- who fought so hard for this legislation.  And I want them up here when I sign.  And I just want to thank the members of Congress.  They have been really dedicated to getting this done.  It was not easy for them either.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you.

Our very sincere gratitude as well to the veteran service organizations who have joined us for this tremendous occasion -- and for everything they do for the veterans -- and for so long.  They’ve been fighting for this and other things so long -- and by the way, other things are happening.  We've done a lot.  This is a big one.  We have a lot of good ones coming.

I also want to express our appreciation for Secretary Shulkin, who is implementing the dramatic reform throughout the VA.  It's got to be implemented.  If it's not properly implemented it will never mean the same thing.  But I have no doubt it will be properly implemented.  Right, David?  Better be, David.  (Applause.)  We'll never have to use those words.  (Laughter.)  We'll never have to use those words on our David.  (Laughter.)  We will never use those words on you, that's for sure.  (Laughter.)

That one never fails, does it, Tom?  (Laughter.) 

Since my first day in office, we’ve taken one action after another to ensure our veterans -- and make sure, have to make sure -- that they get world-class care and the kind of care that they've been promised by so many different people for so many years.  We've created a new Office of Accountability at the VA, which will empower -- and really has been empowered by this legislation.  We’ve launched a new website that publishes wait times at every VA hospital.  We’ve delivered same-day mental health services at all 168 VA medical centers.  That's a big operation when you think of it.

We’ve announced that the VA will finally solve a problem that has plagued our government for decades -- seamlessly transferring veterans’ medical records from the Department of Defense to the Department of Veterans Affairs.  (Applause.)  
That doesn’t sound like such a big deal.  It is -- believe.  That was a big one.  We thought this would be easy, but the people, like David and all that have been here and understand the system, he said that's going to be a tough one.  We got it done.  So that was a good one.  But it is something we're very proud to have been able to do it this quickly.

I've also signed the Veterans Choice Improvement Act so that more veterans can see the doctor of their choice.  Already this year, using the Choice Program, veterans have received nearly double the number of approvals to see the doctor of their choosing.

And this is only the beginning.  We will not rest until the job is 100 percent complete for our great veterans.  (Applause.)  We can all be inspired by the story of a retired Air Force veteran, named Earl Morse, who served as a physician’s assistant at the VA Centers in Ohio and Indiana.  
Thirteen years ago, Earl began asking his patients if they planned to visit the new World War II Memorial -- which is beautiful -- right here in Washington, D.C. 

Nearly all said they planned to visit.  But when he saw these patients at their next appointment, almost none of them had made the trip. 
One day, he had an idea -- Earl is a private pilot.  He asked one of his patients, who was a World War II veteran, if he could fly with him to the memorial.  He was so honored to do it.  The 80-year-old veteran wept; openly cried.  He never imagined he would see that beautiful monument to his service.  That is how the first Honor Flight was born.  Honor Flight -- a very beautiful thing.

Since then, over 100,000 veterans have been greeted with cheers of gratitude as they arrive in our nation’s capital.  We want all of American veterans -- all of them, every one of them -- to experience and to at least have the opportunity to experience that same gratitude every time they walk into the VA.
That’s what today is all about:  keeping our promises to those who have kept us free, kept us happy, saved our lives and saved our families.  
So I just want to thank you, our incredible veterans.  We stand with you.  We salute you.  And with this new legislation, we strive to better support and serve you every single day.  

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless our veterans.  And God bless America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  

(Moves to signing desk.)

So this is something that we are all very proud to be signing.  It's a tremendous honor for me.  It's a tremendous honor for everybody on stage.  And we're taking care of our veterans, and we're taking care of them properly.

Thank you, David.  Congratulations.  Thank you again.  

(The bill is signed.)

12:17 P.M. EDT

Categories: White House News

Remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence at the Congressional Picnic

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:01pm

South Lawn

7:27 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  To all the members of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, to all of the families of those who serve, to all of the friends who are gathered here, on behalf of the First Family, Karen and I are honored to welcome you to the 2017 White House Picnic in the Park.  (Applause.)  It’s Central Park on the South Lawn.  

We especially are grateful to the leadership -- the House and Senate in both parties that are so well represented here today.  Would you join me in thanking Senator John Cornyn and Senator Dick Durbin for representing the Senate leadership tonight?  (Applause.)  We’re honored you’re here.  And thank you to Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Kevin McCarthy, and Speaker Paul Ryan from the House of Representatives for joining us.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)   

As a matter of fact, could we just give a big round of applause to all the men and women who serve in the Congress of the United States?  (Applause.)  Tonight is about saying thank you.  (Applause.) 

You know our family has lots of memories at the White House picnic.  The first time we came here, our two daughters were six and seven years old.  Now they’re standing right over here.  One is 22 and one will turn 24 years old this Sunday -- Audrey and Charlotte are with us today.

The White House picnic for us is always about family.  It’s always about being able to leave politics outside the gate and being able to get together with the families of those who serve in both political parties.  And on behalf of the First Family we thank you for continuing this wonderful bipartisan tradition tonight on this beautiful evening in our nation’s capital.
So with good food, good fellowship, and quite a view, join me in welcoming to the podium our host for this evening -- First Lady Melania Trump and the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Cheers.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  This is so beautiful.  Wow.  

Thank you, Vice President Pence.  Thank you, Karen.  You’ve been such a tremendous help to me, both of you, and we very much appreciate it.  And Melania, myself, we’ve become great friends. Great job, really great job.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

This has truly become, as you know, a wonderful tradition.  It’s the very first Congressional Picnic that Melania and I have the pleasure of hosting, so I hope you enjoy it.  I hope you enjoy it.  We’ve gotten to know many of you over the last weeks and months and developed many friendships with politicians.  Can you believe it?  (Laughter.)  And some really great people, I have to say -- mostly, mostly.  A couple of bad ones but that’s okay.  (Laughter.)  But we’re honored to host you at the White House and privileged to count you as our very close friends -- so many.  

Tonight our thoughts and prayers remain with one friend who is not here.  A man that we have all come to know and respect, and to love -- Congressman Steve Scalise.  (Applause.)  The outpouring of support for Steve and his family has been truly inspiring.  

We are so touched that joining us here this evening are Steve and Jennifer’s children, Harrison and Madison.  (Applause.) Beautiful children.  In fact, we just gave them a tour of the White House.  Just gave them a beautiful tour of the White House. They got the A tour.  (Laughter.)  You know, sometimes we give the B, the C, the D -- and the F tour is just like, here it is, let’s get out of here.  (Laughter.)  We gave them the A tour.  And I want them to know that the whole country is praying for their courageous dad, and all of us are praying for them.  

It's been amazing.  The recovery is going, now, well.  For two days, they were saying it's really tough.  But today, I can report things are looking very, very good.  So we're very happy about that.  (Applause.)  

I also want to give a very special thanks to Special Agents Griner and Bailey of the Capitol Police -- (applause) -- lucky they were there -- for their lifesaving actions.  And all of the members of Congress -- a lot of brave people in Congress who acted in those moments of danger and protected each other.  They cared for the wounded.  They shielded the vulnerable.  And they really did put their own safety aside.  So I want to thank some of those people who were really very, very brave.  We would have never maybe found out about them except we got to see them in action.  So now we know for sure.  But we want to thank them.  There was a great deal of bravery on behalf of everybody.  (Applause.)  

And you know, Agents Griner and Bailey, they came rushing in from the outfield.  Somebody with a rifle, and they had handguns. That's not a good deal.  But one of those bullets struck at the right place and that was really -- that was really incredible -- or that would have been a far worse morning.  Believe me.  So we want to thank them.

America is also filled with pride over the display of character and sportsmanship at the congressional baseball game.  I heard it was very special.  I wanted to go there, but our folks from Secret Service said maybe we better take a pass.  I wanted to be there so badly, you have no idea.  But I spent a little time at the hospital instead with Steve.  (Applause.)  

It's our hope that this unity that was displayed that evening can maybe continue to grow and thrive between Republicans and Democrats.  And I think, honestly, I think we’d all be doing a lot better, and I know the country would be doing a lot better. (Applause.)  

The American people have entrusted us with great responsibility, and I know that we will prove worthy of the trust they have placed in each of us.  I'm hopeful that the spirit of cooperation that we've seen in recent days will deepen as we move forward.  I really believe it's something that can happen.  Maybe it's too early.  Maybe the wounds are too deep in terms of the relationship -- because it's been bad for a long time, long time. Not just when we got there.  I mean, this has gone on for many years.  And hopefully those wounds can heal, and heal quickly, because we owe it to the American people.

Tonight let us enjoy the company of friends and the comfort of our loved ones.  And tomorrow, let us continue to do the people’s bidding and create the optimistic future our citizens so richly deserve.  

I want to thank you all for being here tonight.  It's a very special evening.  Beautiful evening.  And I just want to say God bless you, and God bless America.  

Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  

7:36 P.M. EDT

Categories: White House News

President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Personnel to Key Administration Posts

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 7:07pm

President Donald J. Trump today announced his intent to nominate the following individuals to key positions in his Administration:

Maria E. Brewer of Indiana to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Sierra Leone. Ms. Brewer, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1996. She is currently the Deputy Director of the Career Development and Assignments Division of the Bureau of Human Resources at the Department of State. She has served at six United States Missions abroad and in senior leadership positions at the Department of State. Ms. Brewer earned a M.S. from the National Defense University Industrial College of the Armed Forces and a B.A. from Valparaiso University. She speaks Spanish.

James Byrne of Virginia to be General Counsel of the Department of Veterans Affairs. Mr. Byrne most recently served as Associate General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at Lockheed Martin Corporation where he was also the company’s lead cyber and counterintelligence attorney. Prior to joining Lockheed Martin, Mr. Byrne served as the career Senior Executive Service Deputy Special Counsel with the Office of the United States Special Counsel, and both General Counsel and Assistant Inspector General for Investigations with the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Mr. Byrne has over 20 years of experience in the public sector, including service as a deployed Marine Infantry Officer and a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) international narcotics prosecutor. He volunteered for the past ten years on the Executive Board of Give an Hour, a non-profit organization that has developed national networks of volunteer professionals capable of providing complimentary and confidential mental health services in response to both acute and chronic conditions that arise within our society, beginning with the mental health needs of post-9/11 veterans, servicemembers and their families. Mr. Byrne is a Distinguished Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he received an engineering degree and ultimately held the top leadership position of Brigade Commander. He earned his J.D. from Stetson University College of Law, St. Petersburg, Florida and started his legal career as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Malcolm J. Howard, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina.

Gerald W. Fauth of Virginia to be a Member of the National Mediation Board for the remainder of a three-year term expiring July 1, 2017, and an additional three-year term expiring July 1, 2020. Mr. Fauth has more than 39 years of professional experience in the private sector and Federal Government working on economic, regulatory, public policy, and legislative issues related to transportation. He has been involved in negotiating, mediating, arbitrating, facilitating, supporting via expert testimony, or deciding the resolution of hundreds of transportation problems and disputes during his career. Mr. Fauth has worked at the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, where he served for more than three years as Chief of Staff and Senior Advisor to a Board Member. Today he is President of G.W. Fauth & Associates, Inc., a transportation economic consulting firm based in Alexandria, Virginia. Mr. Fauth holds a Bachelor’s degree from Hampden-Sydney College.

Jamie McCourt of California to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Belgium. Ms. McCourt, a prominent entrepreneur and attorney, has founded and directed leading entrepreneurial enterprises in Los Angeles and Boston, most recently Jamie M, LLC. She was co-owner and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Dodgers. She also served as an Adjunct Professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. Ms. McCourt earned a B.S. from Georgetown University, a J.D. from University of Maryland School of Law, and a M.S. from MIT/Sloan School of Management. She speaks French.

Robert Wood Johnson IV to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Mr. Johnson has served for more than thirty years as the Chairman and CEO of The Johnson Company, New York, NY, a private asset management firm. Since 2000, he has also been Chairman and CEO of the New York Jets and the Chairman and CEO of the New York Jets Foundation. Mr. Johnson is the Founding Chairman of Lupus Research Alliance, the largest non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and cure of lupus. He has served on the President’s Export Council and the President’s Commission on White House Fellows. Mr. Johnson earned a B.A from the University of Arizona.

Michael Rigas of Massachusetts to be Deputy Director of the Office of Personnel Management. Mr. Rigas has over 20 years of professional experience in the private, public, and non-profit sectors, with a record of improving organizational performance and streamlining operations. He currently serves as Chief of Staff at the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services. Prior to his current role, Mr. Rigas worked at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., where he worked to advance free-market and limited government public policy solutions. Previously, he served as an appointee in the General Services Administration (GSA) where he worked to increase Federal Government contracting with woman-owned, veteran-owned, and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses, and improved GSA’s scorecard from “red” to “green.” Mr. Rigas spent more than a decade in the private sector, including at Mellon Financial Corporation and Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. He holds an M.A. in public administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a B.A. and M.A. in economics from Boston University.

Categories: White House News

President Donald J. Trump Announces Presidential Delegation to Serbia to Attend the Inaugural Reception of His Excellency Aleksandar Vučić

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 5:32pm

President Donald Trump today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Belgrade, Serbia to attend the Inaugural Reception of His Excellency Aleksandar Vučić, President of the Republic of Serbia on June 23, 2017.

Mr. Hoyt Yee, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation:

The Honorable Kyle Scott, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia

Mr. Mark Tervakoski, Director for Balkans, Black Sea, and Caucasus Affairs, National Security Council

Categories: White House News

Remarks by Vice President Pence at the Wilson Center

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 5:08pm

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Washington, D.C. 

1:00 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you all for that warm welcome, and thank you to Jane Harman for that very kind introduction and those stirring words.  And thank you for your leadership at the Wilson Center.  I served in the Congress of the United States with Jane Harman and it was always better to be with her than against her.  (Laughter.)  Do join me in thanking Jane Harman for her great leadership here at the Wilson Center.  

Let me also mention someone, who, as Jane noted, is not here today but may well be looking on.  When I grew up in a small town in Southern Indiana, there was a fixture in that town -- someone who was actually elected to the Congress from Columbus, Indiana, but he was no stranger to anyone in the town.  On any given week it would be easy to find Congressman Lee Hamilton walking down Washington Street in Columbus, Indiana, stopping on the curb -- always available.  I have great memories, although it may pain him, of the times that he visited my high school and would lean against the teacher’s desk and explain in a way that he’s so capable of the uniqueness and specialness of the United States House of Representatives.  And, Lee, I know you’re looking on today, and while our politics are still different, my respect for you is boundless.  Thank you for your service to the country, and thank you for your leadership in your years here at the Wilson Center.  God bless you.  (Applause.) 

It’s an honor to be here at the Director’s Forum with the members and friends of this well-respected institution -- an institution of “independent research, open dialogue, and actionable ideas.”  It’s truly a bipartisan stalwart here in Washington, D.C. -- the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.  I’m honored to have the opportunity to speak to so many leaders from public life, academia, and the international community, especially.  And to all of you, I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.) 

And I’m here, at the President’s direction, to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to, in his words, an America First agenda -- an agenda of advancing security and prosperity and freedom across the world.  And I’m also here to reaffirm our commitment to the Western Hemisphere as a whole and especially the nations and people of Central America.

But before I do, let me, again, thank the Wilson Center for hosting this forum and for all you do all across this country. The Wilson Center and all of you gathered here today have a unique perspective on America’s essential role in global affairs.  And that’s been true since the founding of this institution in 1968.  You recognize that the world looks to America as the standard bearer for freedom; that American strength is critical to peace and prosperity across the wider world.  

From the outset of this administration I can tell you, we’ve been busy.  We’ve been busy holding up that standard in the world, but we’ve also been busy here at home keeping our promises to the American people.  

Quick report for my fellow citizens gathered here today. President Trump has signed 39 bills into law since Inauguration Day.  He’s actually signed more bills into law rolling back federal red tape than any President in American history.  And along the way in the first 100 days, we confirmed a principled jurist to the Supreme Court of the United States in Justice Neil Gorsuch.  The President’s put a renewed focus on American energy, set the stage for historic tax relief for working families and American businesses.   

And today, my fellow Americans here can be assured before this summer is out, working with the Congress, President Donald Trump will keep his promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.  Following on the work of the House of Representatives, today the United States Senate released its repeal-and-replace bill.  

And the President and I are grateful to Leader Mitch McConnell and all the Senate Republicans for their deliberative efforts over the past month.  We look forward to working with the Senate majority to move this legislation forward.  And the President and I are determined, before this summer is out, to keep our promise to the American people -- to repeal and replace Obamacare and give the American people the kind of world-class healthcare they deserve.

So we’ve been busy here at home.  But in case you haven’t noticed, we’ve been busy abroad, as well.  Since day one of this administration, President Trump has been taking decisive action to restore America’s role as the leader of the free world by putting America first.  Just last week, in defining his foreign policy, President Trump said that the United States is adopting a principled realism rooted in our values, our shared interests, and common sense.

And this President, by his actions, has shown the world that America Ffirst does not mean America alone.  Since the outset of this administration, President Trump has engaged with the wider world in new and in renewed ways, and this President has rebuilt America’s standing in the world and forged even stronger ties with our allies and friends across the globe.  

President Trump has personally spoken to foreign leaders 93 times since he’s taken office.  He’s hosted 32 foreign leaders at the White House.  In fact, President Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Abe, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Prime Minister May of the United Kingdom, and of course, Chinese President Xi of the People’s Republic of China, just to name a few.  And in just a few days, the President will host the new President of South Korea and the Prime Minister of India -- yesterday, was speaking to the new Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.  

The world saw the leadership that this American President has taken on the world stage just last month when President Trump traveled to the Middle East and Europe.  And our President took the occasion of that trip to reaffirm historic alliances and forged new partnerships to ensure the safety and security of the American people in a time of widening challenges and unknowable threats.  

For my part, I can tell you it’s been very humbling and a great privilege for me to have the opportunity to represent this President and meet many world leaders here in Washington, D.C. and travel across the world on the President’s behalf.  In February, the President sent me to the Munich Security Conference to deliver a message to the nations and people of Europe that under President Trump, the United States strongly supports our North Atlantic alliance and strongly supports NATO, and we will be unwavering in our commitment to that alliance.  (Applause.)  The President had me deliver a message then that he reiterated on his recent trip that we expect our allies to live up to their word.  We expect NATO to continue to evolve as changing threats occur in the world stage.  I reiterated this message in Brussels in my meeting with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, and at the President’s direction, I met with leaders from the European Union to reinforce our ties with those nations as well.

But President Trump also dispatched me to the Asian Pacific to strengthen our alliances and partnerships across that vital region with South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Australia on the itinerary and all the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  I had the opportunity to meet with the representatives of ASEAN when I was there.

As I told them, our primary focus was on the greatest threat to security in the Asian Pacific -- the brutal regime in North Korea.  And my message was very straightforward:  When it comes to North Korea, under this administration, the era of strategic patience is over.

This week, American hearts broke with the news that Otto Warmbier had passed away shortly after being restored to his family from his brutal incarceration at the hands of the regime in North Korea.  And our prayers are with Otto’s family and friends today as they lay him to rest and give their final goodbyes.

As the President said just a few days ago, North Korea’s treatment of Otto Warmbier was a disgrace.  And I can assure you it only deepens our determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people in the days ahead.  

As I expressed on the President’s behalf on my trip to the Asian Pacific, under this administration, the United States will continue to work diligently with our allies across the region and China and the wider world to bring increased economic and diplomatic pressure to bear on North Korea.  And we will do so until North Korea abandons its nuclear and ballistic missile programs once and for all.  (Applause.)  

Under the leadership of President Trump, the United States stands strong for our most cherished ideals.  And to protect these ideals, we stand with our allies and our partners across the world.  And that holds true here in our hemisphere, and literally with our neighbors to the south.  We feel a connection, as I said last week in Miami -- a connection in history, a connection in geography.  And I’m here to tell you, Latin America is a priority for the Trump administration.  (Applause.)  

Our partnerships and alliances throughout the region are critical to our national interests.  The President has said -- in his words -- it’s best for America to have freedom in the Western Hemisphere.  And last Friday, on that count, as Jane just mentioned, the President took decisive action to end the last administration’s failed policy toward Cuba and support the courageous Cuban people in their six-decade struggle for liberty.

Under this administration, the United States now will restrict financial transactions with repressive military, security and intelligence services of the Castro regime and instead redirect lawful commerce to entrepreneurs, to private enterprises in Cuba, and to all those brave Cuban citizens who yearn for freedom and for a brighter future.

No longer will America enrich the Cuban regime at the expense of the Cuban people.  Because America stands for opportunity, not oppression; for liberty, not tyranny.  The Cuban regime must make real progress on human rights and individual freedom.  And as the President has said, our policy will not change until all political prisoners are freed, freedoms of assembly and expression are respected, all political parties are legalized, and free and internationally supervised elections occur.  That’s what American leadership looks like.  (Applause.)  

But, as we all know, Cuba is not the only nation in the region where democracy and freedom are in steep decline and at risk of being completely eradicated.  It’s increasingly true of the troubled nation of Venezuela.  Venezuela’s collapse into authoritarianism and anarchy has been heartbreaking to see.  The people of that once-rich nation now suffer rampant crime and grinding poverty on a daily basis.

Just as we stand with the people of Cuba, under President Trump, the United States stands with the people of Venezuela.  The United States of America condemns the Maduro regime’s abuse of power and the abuse of its people, and we call upon the Maduro regime to restore a robust democracy and the rule of law, and do it now.  (Applause.)  

Throughout this week, our diplomats at the Organization of American States General Assembly in Cancun worked with likeminded partners to build a consensus in support of democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela.  We were, frankly, disappointed that the OAS did not act in the face of crisis and was unwilling to protect the inter-American democratic charter that was founded to preserve. 

Nevertheless, 20 nations did courageously speak out against the Maduro regime’s repression.  And to them, we say thank you.  And rest assured, the United States of America will continue to support international efforts to restore freedom, democracy and the rule of law to Venezuela until freedom occurs.  (Applause.)  

America cares deeply for the plight of the Venezuelan people and the Cuban people, because what happens in our neighborhood affects everybody in the neighborhood.  And that holds true in Central America.  Under President Trump, the United States has three priorities when it comes to that vital region, particularly in the Northern Triangle nations of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  We seek to destroy the gangs and criminal networks, to halt illegal immigration.  

And lastly, we’re working to stop the flow of illegal drugs into our country, into our communities that are tearing apart American families.  Last Thursday, at the President’s direction, I traveled to Miami to discuss these goals at the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America that we organized along with our ally, Mexico.  The conference was co-hosted by our Departments of State, Homeland Security, and the government of Mexico.  

And in my remarks, I commended Foreign Minister Videgaray and Interior Minister Osorio for their actions to address the serious problems throughout the region.  And I had time with the foreign minister privately when we were there.  Mexico is a valued partner of this administration.  And we will continue to seek ways to advance security and prosperity in the region with them.  (Applause.)  

When we met, I reaffirmed that the United States is grateful for the significant investments made by leaders in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to strengthen security, to promote prosperity, and to bring real reforms to their nations, and to promote reform across the region.  And on President Trump’s behalf, I assured them the United States is with them.

We stand with them to root out corruption and crime.  We stand with them to stop the scourge of illegal drugs and illegal migration.  And under President Donald Trump, the United States stands with the nations and the people of the Northern Triangle to ensure a brighter future for themselves and their posterity.  (Applause.)  

These three nations literally sit at the heart of the Western Hemisphere, where north meets south.  And every day, countless people and products pass over their streets, through their airports, their seaports, and across their borders.  By and large, this flow of commerce and crowds benefits us all, and the exchange of cultures as well as goods and services.  But, as we all know, Central America is also plagued by vicious gangs, vast criminal organizations that drive illegal immigration and carry illegal drugs north into the United States.

Sad truth is that American demand is driving the flow of drugs.  And fully 80 percent of documented drug smuggling travels through Central America.  The cartels and kingpins cause untold suffering in that region, and so too do these merchants of death spread violence and leave victims all across America.  President Trump has said this must end.  And working with our allies in the region, and with men and women of law enforcement in this country, this will end.  (Applause.)  

The President has already taken decisive action to protect the American people from the harshest consequences of illegal immigration and the transnational drug trade.  At the President’s direction, American law enforcement is targeting gangs and criminals like never before.  As President Trump has pointed out, criminal cartels like MS-13 are being decimated, in his words, and being sent directly to prison.  

Thanks to President Trump and with the help of our partners in Mexico and in the Northern Triangle, reports of illegal border crossings at America’s southern border are already down nearly 70 percent since the first of this year.

This progress is remarkable.  But President Trump knows that fully addressing these problems requires confronting them in new and in renewed ways.  And just last night, President Trump called for new immigration rules that will say that those seeking admission to our country would not be able to do so unless they can support themselves financially.  And he promised to take action very shortly to ensure that that is the policy and practice of the United States. 

And beyond our immigration laws, the United States is committed to addressing the demand for illegal drugs here in our nation, which drives so many of the problems south of our border.  And finally, under President Trump, the United States is firmly committed to cracking down on the gangs and criminals before they ever reach this nation; to partnering with nations in Central and South America to foster prosperity and give their people the opportunities they need to prosper.

As we all know, the United States has long partnered with nations in the region to accomplish these goals.  Under President Trump, this administration is now directed to continue to work in new and renewed ways with our partners to support the programs that prove effective.  The President made that clear in our commitment when he requested an additional $460 million in our budget for security and prosperity in Central America.  Yet the most important work throughout the region belongs -- the President and I know -- to the nations and the people who call the region home.

As I said at the conference in Miami last week, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador must now redouble their efforts to bring about the reforms that will protect their citizens and promote economic growth; to give people hope, a reason to put down roots in their own homes; to give them a vibrant economy and an alternative to a life of poverty or, worse, a life of crime.  I made it clear that they must bring in new partners in the business community, in the faith community, and the public sector to ensure continued progress.  

Now, I am pleased to report that the conference in Miami has already generated concrete results.  At the conference, key private sector leaders identified policies that will promote sustainable economic growth and create a more attractive destination for investment.  And the Northern Triangle governments have now committed to enact the kind of reforms to improve their business climates, including minimizing red tape, improving transparency, and streamlining business formalization and processes.

Three nations have also committed to develop a roadmap to enhance economic integration in the region, and streamline import/export systems and customs procedures.  And we began initial discussions to further integrate energy markets and develop infrastructure.

And on security, the United States is committed to enhancing our work with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries to combat organized crime, strengthen citizen security, improve border security, and promote regional security cooperation through programs that are focused on capacity building and information sharing.

These steps are encouraging, and I hope all of you find them as heartening as we do.  And in the days and months ahead, I can assure you this administration will continue to work with the Northern Triangle, and with all of Central and South America, to promote prosperity and security throughout the Western Hemisphere.

As I announced last week, in less than two months, at the President's direction, I will be trying to build on the work that's been done thus far in this administration.  I'll be traveling to Colombia, Argentina, and Chile, and Panama to represent the United States and the commitment of this administration to the nations and the people of that region.  And it will be my great honor to go.

Each of these nations is an important partner for this administration, and I look forward to discussing areas of shared concern and new opportunities for collaboration, for the benefit of our people and the benefit of this hemisphere that we all call home.

We are, all of us, bound together -- as I said at the outset, we're bound together by history and geography in this new world.  And under the leadership of President Trump, I believe we're entering a new era in the new world.  The Old Book tells us that we should encourage one another and build each other up, just as, in fact, we are doing.

Under President Trump's leadership, I can assure you that we will build on the foundation of friendship in this hemisphere, between our lands and between our people.  Together, we will achieve new heights of security and prosperity.  And I have faith that with our partners across this hemisphere, and with the help of all of you gathered here, and with President Trump in the White House -- together, we will claim the promise of a brighter future for ourselves, for our hemisphere, and for generations to come. 

So, thank you.  And God bless you.  And God bless the work you do in these halls.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.) 

MS. HARMAN:  Well, Mr. Vice President, I was looking out at the heads nodding as you charted the course of continued U.S. engagement in the world.  It matters a lot to my colleagues at the Wilson Center and this international audience that the United States project strong and secure and sure leadership.  And the things you were talking about are really central to doing that, so thank you.  And thank you also for doing something that I know is unusual so far in your vice presidency and that is agreeing to take a few questions.  And I offer these questions on behalf of myself, but also my colleagues and some in the audience, and they relate specifically to the summit, which is our topic today.  

So you described what is happening coming out of the summit, which is only a week ago.  Time flies.  What’s new?  What are things that you are doing that, perhaps, the past administrations -- all of which talked about Latin America and most of the leaders visited Latin America.  What’s different in the approaches you’re taking, especially in the Northern Triangle?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you, Jane, and again thank you for the opportunity to be here and thank you all for making time to be here for this forum today.  I think what’s new is a new and renewed engagement that combines security and prosperity as co-equal goals in the region, and perhaps especially in the Northern Triangle.  

Our Secretary of Homeland Security, Secretary Kelly, in his last assignment, when it was General Kelly, forged extraordinary relationships with leaders in countries across the region.  And at the President’s direction, he tasked Secretary Kelly and Secretary Tillerson to bring together the nations in the region around the conference that's focused on both of those issues, and to seek ways that we could work with countries in the region to fight insecurity, impunity, lack of opportunity, but also coordinate in ways that would advance public safety in those nations and our national security.

As I mentioned in my speech, I think what’s also new is a renewed energy that we see, particularly in the Northern Triangle, to advance not only cooperation on security issues -- which, in the case of almost all the countries, has been strong in other countries in the region -- but, also as I described, the discussion of standardizing customs rules, of creating a more attractive business environment.  

We actually had at the conference last week a significant number of American businesses who have a great interest or would consider investing in the region, and connecting those businesses with those countries we believe is a key part of advancing our security and prosperity interests.

So I think it's a holistic approach, looking at security and prosperity simultaneously; a great focus on promoting the kind of reforms in the Northern Triangle that we think will advance their prosperity and our interests.  And that's what might be fresh.

MS. HARMAN:  Well, I applaud you for that, and for sending 
-- I applaud the administration for sending the A-team down there.  And just so you know, Secretary Kelly is no stranger to the Wilson Center.  The Homeland Secretary Department has some offices in this building, and he’s already hosted one of his advisory board meetings -- I sit on that board -- here at the Wilson Center.  And he does offer unique leadership because of his experience as head of the Southern Command.

So congratulations to you -- and also to him.  

Let me turn to Mexico.  You mentioned Mexico and the fact that Mexico co-chaired the conference -- I think that was a brilliant idea -- and that Vice President Videgaray and others were there.  There have been a few bumps in the road in terms of a relationship with Mexico in the last months, but there have also been some very good stories.  And it's complicated, as they say.

The Southern border between Mexico and the Northern Triangle is, I think, quite secure now.  And that's a great credit to Mexico.  The Northern border with the U.S. between Mexico and the U.S., as you said, is working better.  Bad people are being stopped at the Northern border.  

What are your expectations in the relationship with Mexico? And what do you want them to do to be the best ally for the United States?  And what do you think the United States should do to be the best ally for Mexico?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you for making mention in your remarks and reiterating it.  This was a conference that was conceived of when the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security visited Mexico earlier this year and said, where are ways that we can begin to work together on issues of common interest.  

And I don't want to paper over -- look, we're in the Reagan Building, and President Reagan is my second favorite President.  (Laughter.)  He had some memorable lines.  One of them is, a nation without borders is not a nation.  And people know that President Trump has made it clear we're going to invest in border security, we're going to build a wall.  We're going to secure the Southern border of the United States of America.  And he’s spoken very plainly about that, both in the campaign and in the course of this administration.

But that being said, we've also been engaging with Mexico.  I know that's created some tension, but we've also been engaging with Mexico on areas where we strongly agree.  And we do strongly agree on the issue of transnational migration.  And you're right, Mexico has made great progress securing their Southern border.  We've been providing assistance to them with regard to confronting criminal gangs, and we will continue to.

We also just minted a very successful trade agreement on sugar with Mexico.  And so where we agree to disagree, where we have differences, our friends will always know where those are.  But I can assure all those present that we're going to continue to work with the Mexico as a critical partner in the region, critical partner in this hemisphere, and dealing with the issues of promoting security in the region and promoting prosperity in the region is in the interest of the United States of America.

And so I appreciate that.  We saw Miami as a great example of both governments’ commitment to find things that we can work on together, and we'll continue to do so.

MS. HARMAN:  Well, I'm totally unbiased, but our Mexico Institute here at the Wilson Center is absolutely best in class. And we're really proud -- Duncan Wood, where are you?  We're really proud of what we have.  And we're happy to have it.  (Applause.)  

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  That's great.

MS. HARMAN:  So turning to a painful subject -- drugs.  You mentioned it, Mr. Vice President.  And this morning, I was on Capitol Hill participating on something called the National Security Forum.  And John Kelly was there, and he said, “Our drug demand is brutalizing Northern Triangle societies.”  Our drug demand.  The U.S. drug demand.  The pull factor.  I mentioned that 90 percent of the cocaine last year that came into our country came in from Central America to Mexico to the U.S.

And I don't think it's as big a problem in Indiana as perhaps opioids are, but it's a huge problem in California, my home state of California.  You mentioned that we're doing things. But we've spent billions of dollars on this problem.  What can this administration do hopefully to solve this problem?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that the President’s view of this is that we've got to deal with this in a multifaceted way.  It's the reason why the President has taken decisive action to secure our borders and to prevent the flow of illegal drugs into our country to begin with.

We’ve also, with the Justice Department, working with local law enforcement, we’ve been taking swift and decisive action against drug gangs across this country -- not just people that are in the country illegally that are involved in these gangs, but we’re moving very swiftly to interdict.  We announced 12 cities’ federal grants just yesterday morning, and are encouraging even greater collaboration.

But the President also recognizes that while we must vigorously secure our borders, we must vigorously enforce our laws.  We’ve also got to recognize, particularly when it comes to opiate abuse and addiction, that we’ve got to lean into this challenge with new and compassionate efforts.  I mentioned healthcare reform, which continues to make progress on Capitol Hill.  And we remain hopeful that there will be action in the coming days in the United States Senate.  

I can tell you that, as governor of the state of Indiana, our Medicaid program that we were able to modify through a state waiver plan was enormously important in dealing with opiate abuse and drug abuse and addiction in our state.  And we’re working with members of Congress to give states greater flexibility to focus resources in Medicaid on the point of the need.  

I have to tell you, I’ve sat at kitchen tables with recovering addicts, great young people, top of their class, promising futures who found themselves addicted to opiates, oftentimes beginning with prescription medication that then avalanched into heroin abuse.  And then I’ve also sat at kitchen tables with parents who buried their children.  And that’s one of the reasons why the President tapped Governor Chris Christie, established a commission to confront opiate abuse in the country.  And our administration is deeply committed to identifying new approaches.

Vigorous law enforcement, strong border security, but also finding ways that we can extend health and healing and compassion to people that are caught up in the grip of drug abuse and addiction in this country.  The approach has to be multifaceted, and President Trump is committed to advancing that in our administration.

MS. HARMAN:  Well, I appreciate your use of the word “compassion.”  And maybe we could add prevention too, if there’s a way, possibly, to start -- to stop the process before it starts.  Because it is taking our youngest and best lives.

Finally, you mentioned North Korea.  I’m not going to ask you about North Korea, but it obviously is an urgent problem, something else that we know a great deal about at the Wilson Center.  But North Korea, the problems in Syria, challenges around the world are also commanding U.S. attention.  And so my question is, how does this conference las week on security and prosperity in Central America fit into our broader engagement in the region and in the world?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think the conference this week was an expression of the President’s desire to ensure that we are advancing security and prosperity in our neighborhood.  Even as we see widening asymmetrical threats developing around the world we’d do well to see to Central and South America to ensure that these countries are advancing the kind of reforms that will encourage growth, promote prosperity and promote security.

And we also -- I was with the President in Miami at the close of our conference when he announced that we were abandoning the last administration’s policy on Cuba and implementing -- new approach demanding that if -- Cuba live up to the empty promises it made to the last administration about advancing reforms.  And we’ll hold them to that.

And also, the issue of Venezuela, which continues to spin out of control.  The headlines this morning about even new developments in Venezuela -- I think the President will continue to call for real leadership in the region to bring pressure on Venezuela, to hold elections as their constitution requires, and to uphold free elections and the rule of law.

And so I think it’s -- for us it’s about putting first things first.  And the first priority of President Trump and this administration is the safety and security of the American people.  And that begins with ensuring the security and prosperity of nations in this region, but also I think people have seen, as I mentioned in the first part of my speech, this is a President who will always stand for America first.  That doesn’t mean America alone.

What I’ve seen this President do in one meeting after another in the Oval Office, what the world saw him do as he traveled around the world was engage -- engage on behalf of the United States, engage on behalf of the people of this country and our vital national interests.  But the United States is engaging.  We’re going to continue to engage.  

I think that involves diplomacy.  The President believes strongly that involves rebuilding our military to ensure that we have the readiness and capability as the arsenal of democracy to see to our vital national interests around the world and those of our treaty allies.  

But it all begins close to home, and I hope, as we confront challenges in the Middle East, in the Asia Pacific, and we confront them with firmness and resolve and with clarity, that our neighbors in this hemisphere know that we’re also with them, we stand with them, and we are determined to advance the peace and security and prosperity of this hemisphere.

So I thank you, Jane.  Thank you for the invitation.  And thank you all for making time to join us here today.  God bless you.  (Applause.)    

MS. HARMAN:  Well, if I just might add one thing -- and then we’ll applaud you again -- you started your comments by talking about Lee Hamilton.  And Lee Hamilton was a mentor to me, as well as to you, and he was a role model in the United States Congress of the kind of person we need more of.  He was well-informed.  He was humble.  He was bipartisan.  He was friendly.  And if he were here, he’d be totally embarrassed by these comments.  He provided enormous leadership at the Wilson Center for 12 years, and with other Hoosiers like Dick Lugar, showed that bipartisanship can work.  

So it’s just my plea to a town where there is too much partisanship that Lee Hamilton remain as a model not just to the Wilson Center and to me and to Vice President Pence, but to all of us.  

And in this spirit, thank you so much for coming here.  It’s a huge honor for us.  (Applause.)  

2:05 P.M. EDT

Categories: White House News

The Financial Times Reports on President Trump’s LNG Export Push

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 4:35pm


“Donald Trump is engineering a sharp shift in US energy policy by using natural gas exports as an instrument of trade policy, championing sales to China and other parts of Asia in an effort to create jobs and reduce US trade deficits. In an attempt to unleash US energy resources, Mr. Trump is trying to promote more liquefied natural gas exports and not just use LNG as a geopolitical weapon aimed at nations such as Russia, as was the stance of his predecessor Barack Obama.”

Trump looks to lift LNG exports in US trade shift
By Barney Jopson, Demetri Sevastopulo and Ed Crooks
Financial Times
June 22, 2017

Donald Trump is engineering a sharp shift in US energy policy by using natural gas exports as an instrument of trade policy, championing sales to China and other parts of Asia in an effort to create jobs and reduce US trade deficits.

In an attempt to unleash US energy resources, Mr Trump is trying to promote more liquefied natural gas exports and not just use LNG as a geopolitical weapon aimed at nations such as Russia, as was the stance of his predecessor Barack Obama.

The goal of the push is to help US LNG companies land sales contracts in energy-hungry nations across Asia, including Japan and India.

When Mr Trump visits Warsaw in July before the G20, he is expected to tout the first Cheniere shipment of LNG to Poland which arrived recently. But the most obvious shift in the US stance came during negotiations with China in which the US provided an explicit guarantee that Beijing wanted in order to entertain contracts with US companies. The Trump administration hopes the move will spur LNG exports to China and help address the $300bn trade deficit the US has with the country.

Wilbur Ross, commerce secretary, and Rick Perry, energy secretary, have both in recent weeks stressed the Trump administration’s desire to help find Chinese buyers for American LNG, shipped from multibillion-dollar terminals being built along the US Gulf coast.

Daniel Yergin, a veteran energy analyst, said: “The Obama administration was generally supportive of the development and export of LNG, but did not see it as a crucial element in trade strategy. The Trump administration, with its focus on bilateral trade deficits, sees LNG as a way to address them.”

Mr Obama’s stance on natural gas production was often ambivalent, frustrating energy companies that complained about long waits for LNG facilities and export approvals.

One former Obama administration official said they had sought to tread a fine line, embracing jobs created by shale oil and gas while recognising concerns about the environmental impact of fracking, as well as the risk of LNG exports pushing up prices for domestic consumers.

LNG contracts are usually signed between private companies. But the US government can influence the market by easing the approval of export projects while also offering rhetorical support for US companies on the global stage, as the Trump administration is doing.

In Beijing this month, Mr Perry, the former Texas governor whose energy department decides whether LNG export applications are in the public interest, said: “My role is to make sure that the facilities are as operational and open for business as quickly as they can be.”

The Trump administration has mimicked one Obama White House position — its interest in using LNG as a geopolitical weapon in Europe against Russia’s energy dominance — but with fewer apparent qualms.

On the first US LNG shipment to Poland, the White House official said: “There’s no question that in eastern Europe there’s a desire to purchase US gas to diversify supply.”

Asked about a potential glut of LNG, Anatol Feygin, Cheniere’s chief commercial officer, said: “Pundits tend to overstate supply and understate demand, because it’s easy to track the supply projects coming on line, but it’s hard to know when the projects that drive demand will come on line.”

Read the full article here.

Categories: White House News

Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 4:14pm

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:26 P.M. EDT

MS. SANDERS:  Good afternoon.  This morning, the President continued his week of events highlighting technology and how it will continue to contribute to the economy of the future by bringing leaders in the industry to the White House to discuss emerging technologies.  The President met with them after they participated in working groups separated by topic -- unmanned aircraft systems, 5G wireless connectivity, and financing -- where he saw firsthand how these important technologies are reshaping modern life.

Throughout this week, the administration has been putting the spotlight on the technologies that will improve the lives of every American, from cell towers as small as pizza boxes, to data analysis that helps our farmers and ranchers get their biggest yields, and having productive discussions with the industry on how government can both help them get there and take advantage of these incredible achievements for the American people.

Tomorrow, the President will focus on an issue that can have important responsibility to address, and that's caring for our nation's veterans.  The President will be signing the VA Accountability Act, an important step in fulfilling the commitment he made when he signed an executive order on accountability for VA employees who fail our veterans.

As the President has said many times, we must never tolerate substandard care for our nation's heroes, and this bill will provide the VA with the tools it needs to improve the care and services that veterans receive.  And he's glad to be signing it tomorrow morning.

This morning, the Senate released the discussion draft of its healthcare bill.  The President is pleased to see the process moving forward swiftly in Congress, and he looks forward to seeing a finalized bill on his desk so that we can finally repeal and replace Obamacare before it completely collapses.

Just yesterday, another insurer announced that it's pulling out of Obamacare exchanges.  Anthem is leaving the exchanges in Indiana -- the state in which the company was actually born and is currently headquartered -- and also in Wisconsin.

Finally, I want to welcome Alex Pfeiffer to his first White House briefing.  Alex is young, so he might need some help from a few of his colleagues to help him with this process.  And with that, ladies and gentleman, I'll take your questions.


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  I'm just curious about the President's revelation by way of Twitter that he has no knowledge of any tapes -- didn't have any tapes, doesn't have any possession of any tapes.  What can you tell the American people about why he decided to sort of make the inference, at least at some point, that maybe there would be tapes?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think the President's statement via Twitter today is extremely clear.  I don't have anything to add beyond the statement itself.

Q    Can I follow up really quickly on the wall?  I was at the rally last night.  The President seemed to get great reaction to the idea that the wall was moving forward.  And he mentioned the possibility of solar as a means to not only pay for the wall itself but also to enhance the wall.  Can you sort of help me unpack that idea?  Is this something that he’s been kicking around for quite some time?  He said it was the first time he’d made it publicly known.

MS. SANDERS:  I think it’s something he’s considering.  It's certainly nothing final, but just an idea that he is considering and reviewing.  Nothing more than that at this point.

Q    I have a healthcare question but I just want to follow up on Kevin’s questions on the tapes situation.  I get that the tweet is speaking for itself, but I’m curious why it took so long, 41 days, for this to be laid to rest, and whether the President is recording any Oval Office conversations.

MS. SANDERS:  You guys asked for an answer; he gave you one.  He said he would have it to you by the end of this week, which he did.  And beyond timing of that, I can’t really speak anything further.

Q    And any Oval Office recordings?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not aware of anything.  I think his statement here is pretty clear.

Q    But I’m asking more generally, just not specifically to Comey, but, again, he --

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of, Hallie.

Q    So no Oval Office recordings that you’re aware of?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of.

Q    And then on healthcare, I just want to know a couple of things on that.  Is the President confident that he will have something to sign in the next few weeks?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t think we’re as focused on the timeline as we are on the final product.  We’re looking for the best bill possible, and we’re going to continue being part of technical assistance and providing that with both House and Senate members as we work to get the best bill we can.

Q    And just on that final product, the President -- this Senate bill, by analysis so far, cuts Medicaid.  It doesn’t look like it will cut deductibles for folks.  Does that have enough heart?  Does the President think that is a bill that is not mean?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t had that conversation but I do know that he made a statement earlier that said this is a negotiation, and so he’s going to continue that process with both House and Senate members and his administration until we get the best bill that we can, and that will be the one that he signs.

Q    So he's open to changes.


Q    Sarah, what was the President doing with this?  I mean, he let it go on for 41 days, as Hallie referred to.  That tweet 41 days ago seemed to be, you know, a very kind of ominous message to Comey -- “he better hope there are no tapes.”  And then he was asked repeatedly during the intervening weeks whether or not the tapes existed.  You were asked many times.  Sean was asked.  Why the game?  What was he doing?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t know there was a game.  Again, he’s answered the question.  He gave a timeline and the frame that -- which he would, and he did that.  He said by the end of this week and he’s done that.

Q    Do you have a sense for -- what was behind the original suggestion from him 41 days ago that there may be tapes?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think it was pretty clear in that original statement that he hoped for his sake.  And that was, I think, the very intention.  And he’s laid out his position on whether or not he personally was involved in that in his tweet today.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Back to the original tweet, did the President intend to threaten James Comey with that tweet?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I’m aware of.  I don’t think so.

Q    And so why -- again, why was he compelled for the deadline to be this week, to clear it up?

MS. SANDERS:  I mean, that was -- has been laid out, I believe, also by Congress that they wanted an answer by the end of this week.  


Q    Sarah, if I can, the tweet ultimately, we know, according to James Comey, led him to share the memos publicly, which led to the hiring of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, which ultimately led to the reports that the President himself is being investigated for possible obstruction of justice.  Does the President regret the tweet?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t think so.  


Q    Then broadly, he said -- you can’t say whether there are any Oval Office recordings, but he did say that “[I] did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.”  Did he ever have recordings of conversations with James Comey?

MS. SANDERS:  Again, not that I’m aware of.

Q    Let me ask about healthcare, if I can, quickly.  On healthcare, the President said when he first became a candidate after coming down the escalator, he tweeted, “The Republicans who want to cut SS & Medicaid are wrong. A robust economy will Make America Great Again!”  So if cutting Medicaid was wrong when he was a candidate, why is it right in the new Republican Senate bill?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t believe that the President has specifically weighed in that it’s right to cut Medicaid.  I know one of the big parts of discussion is giving states flexibility.  And again, the President hasn’t weighed in specifically on any specific measure in this bill, and, as he said earlier, this is a negotiation between the House and the Senate and we’re going to play a part in that.

Q    Does the President still believe there should be no --

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sorry, guys, can you -- one at a time.

Q    Does the President still believe, as he did as a candidate, that there should be no cuts to Medicaid?

MS. SANDERS:  I haven’t had a specific conversation to see if there is an update to that, but I do know that he wants to protect that as much as possible.


Q    What specifically will the White House be doing with the Senate as this healthcare moves forward?  You mentioned technical assistance.  What does that entail?

MS. SANDERS:  I think -- I know members of OMB, Treasury, and certainly members of the HHS and senior staff have been involved in the process.  They’re going to continue to do that.  This has been one of those things where, from the very beginning, we’ve wanted all the stakeholders involved.  And we’re going to continue to do that until we get the best piece of legislation. 

Q    Will the President be involved, or is he going to wait for the conference committee, which, presumably, will --

MS. SANDERS:  I know he’s been involved by having members of his administration -- I think it would be hard to deny the fact they’re an extension of the administration when you have Cabinet secretaries and senior-level staffers that are in meetings and conversations regarding the legislation.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Twelve days ago, the President announced a press conference in two weeks on his entire ISIS strategy.  Can we expect a press conference in the coming days?

MS. SANDERS:  I’ll have to get back to you on a specific date for when that might be.

Q    Thanks, Sarah.  I wanted to ask you just -- about some of the reaction from the left that we’ve seen this week.  

MS. SANDERS:  I’m sure it’s friendly.

Q    Well, our microphones caught a woman who was dragged off from McConnell’s office this morning.  She was screaming, “My child is going to die, and my family is going to die, but they don’t give a damn about it.”  Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said this week, “The Democrats are going to lie down on the train tracks” to stop this bill from passing.  What do you make of all that?  What’s your reaction to that?

MS. SANDERS:  I certainly think that not just Republicans, but I think any American would certainly not support something that allows a child to die.  And the goal is, again, to look for the best healthcare possible that actually provides care -- not just gives insurance but actually provides care.  That’s been a goal from the administration on the front end, and we’re looking for ways to do that.

Right now, we know Obamacare is not sustainable.  It is literally collapsing under itself.  Providers are pulling out every single day out of states.  We are down to multiple counties that don’t have providers.  And we are working day in, day out to make sure we have the best piece of legislation possible.

If Democrats really cared, they would try to be involved in the process.  They said from day one that they didn’t want to be in the conversation if it had anything to do with repealing and replacing Obamacare.  I think that it’s sad that they’ve chosen to play partisan politics instead of trying to have a seat at the table.


Q    Thanks, Sarah.  The intelligence community has concluded that the DNC hack was part of a Russian plot to disrupt and influence the 2016 election.  I’m wondering, after the President’s tweet this morning, why does he continue to dispute that finding and call the hack a “hoax”?  And then a follow-up, if I may.

MS. SANDERS:  I believe that the President said even back in January -- and I’ll read the statement from then -- that he thinks it’s a disgrace, thinks it’s an absolute disgrace.  “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia, but I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”  

I think he’s made it clear and been consistent that while everyone agrees the result of the election wasn’t influenced, he thinks that it probably was Russia.  And I think that regardless, President Trump has made it clear that we have to protect the integrity of the electoral system.  That’s one of the reasons he’s a strong advocate for voter I.D. laws and why he’s also put in place a voter election commission -- integrity commission chaired by the Vice President, which I think shows the level of importance he’s placed on that to make sure that the integrity of all of our elections, particularly moving forward, are as sound and correct as possible.

Q    So then -- thank you.  Just a broader follow-up on that.  So like I said, this morning he called the hack a “hoax.”  He hasn’t accepted the popular vote tallies.  You guys have been touting jobs numbers that he used to call “fake.”  You won’t tell us where he stands on climate science.  So I’m wondering, why does the President choose to accept certain facts, but dispute and reject others?

MS. SANDERS:  I’m not aware that he accepts certain facts.  I think we accept all the facts.

Q    But like the popular vote totals, climate science.  You still haven’t told us where he stands on that.

MS. SANDERS:  Look, the President won the election.  I don’t know why we have to continue debating this.   

Q    I'm not debating that point.

MS. SANDERS:  The Democrats lost because they didn’t have a message.  They had a poor candidate.  We had a message.  And the President won.  I’m not really sure what fact we’re disputing here.  There’s only one winner and he was it.


Q    Sarah, going back to the tweet, it happened before this gaggle started.  Is the President concerned that surveillance is being conducted against him at the White House?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t know specifically if there’s a direct concern.  I do know that he’s concerned with the number of leaks that do come out of our intelligence community.  I think all Americans should be concerned with that.

Q    He did make clear in that tweet that he didn’t have any recordings, but he raised the prospect that there -- somebody else might have them.

MS. SANDERS:  Again, I think that it’s very clear what he meant there, but as far as surveillance --

Q    But who else would have them, I guess?

MS. SANDERS:  -- I wouldn’t know, Jeff.  


Q    Two questions.  First on healthcare, if I can.  Since the President won’t be weighing in specifically on any of the details of the Senate bill, can you help explain what his role will be exactly during at least this Senate phase of the process?  Will he be whipping for votes to pass the Senate bill, even if he doesn’t necessarily agree with everything that’s in it, just to try to advance the process along?  

MS. SANDERS:  We’ll keep you updated as his involvement takes place.  Again, right now, I know that he’s got a large number of members of his administration that are involved in the process and continuing in those conversations.

Q    Sarah, another question, if I can.  The President is meeting today with the International Olympic Committee.  Can you talk a little bit about what that meeting is for, and will he use it as a chance to lobby for Los Angeles’s bid for the Olympics?

MS. SANDERS:  I know he’s certainly supportive of the committee, and we plan to have a read out after the meeting.  I don’t want to get head of that before it takes place.

Q    By the committee, you mean the bid?  Or the --

MS. SANDERS:  I mean, obviously, the committee itself -- and again, we'll have a readout for you after the meeting takes place.  I won't get ahead of that.

Q    Sarah, yeah, listen, I want to -- if you don’t mind, I want to go back to what Jeff was asking you a moment ago.  I know you say this tweet is clear, but it talks about recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking.  Is that activity that is being carried out by the CIA, the FBI, or other U.S. law enforcement agencies?  Is that what his reference is to?

MS. SANDERS:  I think those are questions you'd have to ask those law enforcement agencies, whether or not they're engaging in those activities.

Q    But it's the President who has tweeted this.  The President is the one who has actually put this information out.

MS. SANDERS:  I think there's public record that talks about surveillance, that talks about unmasking.  We know those practices take place.  I think if you're asking about specific instances, you'd have to refer to those agencies.

Q    Can I ask one follow-up on China?  The President tweeted obviously the other day that the Chinese had failed to change the situation with respect to North Korea.  I just wonder, in light of that, given how he had put China at the center of his North Korea strategy, what the next steps are.  How does the U.S. bring pressure to bear on North Korea, if the Chinese are not willing to help?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think the President has been extremely clear on this process.  Of course, he hopes to work with China and continue to work with them to put pressure on North Korea.  But if that doesn’t work, then the President has been clear that he will do whatever it takes to protect America.

Q    Are there any more details on that?  Any details on what that would be?

MS. SANDERS:  The President is never going to outline his strategy in a public way, but I think he's been clear that he would certainly do what it takes to protect American citizens.

Q    Thank you, Sarah.  Two questions.  First on healthcare.  The Senate wants to vote in less than a week, or in about a week.  Can you say whether the President supports the bill as it is right now?  Because we don’t know how many changes can be made in the course of a week.

Q    Again, I think he wants to bring the stakeholders to the table, have those conversations, and we'll get back to you as we go through that process.  But I think right now we're in a negotiation process.


Q    Does the President think that the process on healthcare is moving too fast then, if he wants to take time and talk to people?  I mean, they're talking about having a vote next week.  I mean, this may be like the --

MS. SANDERS:  I mean, we've been talking about reforming healthcare for a number of years.  I don’t think it's moving too fast when it's been nearly eight years.

Q    Sarah, if the healthcare bill changes from what it is now, by the time it gets to the President's desk, will the President support a bill that funds Planned Parenthood?

MS. SANDERS:  I'm not sure.  I'd have to get back to you on that question.

Q    Hasn't he that he wouldn’t support a bill that does? 

MS. SANDERS:  He has.  I would have to get back to you on his specific mentality of the bill.

Q    Well, let me ask you this:  If the bill allows the use of healthcare tax credits to buy coverage for abortion, would he support that?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I'm aware of.  But again, I think it would have to be in the context of the larger legislation.  I can't speak to a hypothetical on one piece of the bill.

Q    I wanted to ask more about the China question that Mark Landler brought up.  Can you tell us more when you say the President will do what it takes with regard to North Korea?  So that would mean a military option.  Can you tell us more --

MS. SANDERS:  I think he's said all along that we're not taking any options off the table, but we're not going to broadcast what those might be.


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  The intelligence community has been pretty unified and adamant that the Russian interference in the election was a very real and serious issue.  Yet the President just called it a "Dem hoax."  Does he believe that members of the intelligence community are colluding with the Democrats, or did collude with the Democrats?  And what would he do about that?

MS. SANDERS:  I believe the reference in the hoax is about the fact that they're trying to delegitimize his win in the election process, and less about the hack itself.  I think he's said several times now that he believes that Russia was part of it, but also, some of those same members have said that they don’t think it influenced the election.  And I think that's what a lot of this process is about; it's about trying to make excuses for why Democrats lost.  And the President, I think, has been pretty clear on where he stands with that.


Q    Sarah you just directed Mark's -- his questions about the President's tweet earlier to the various intelligence agencies.  Is the President accusing elements of the U.S. government of wiretapping the Oval Office?

MS. SANDERS:  That's not what I said.  I said if he was asking about specific instances, he would have to ask them.

Q    So, specifically, does the President believe he's being surveilled in the Oval Office?

MS. SANDERS:  Not that I'm aware of.

Q    Why is he tweeting about it?

MS. SANDERS:  Because he was asked if he had tapes, and he was answering that question.


Q    Thank you, Sarah.  A question and a follow-up.  In his speech last night, the President said that several of the major news corporations are not telling the truth to the American people.  Are you willing to name any of those corporations?  And also, are you keeping a list and following corporations that may not be telling the truth?

MS. SANDERS:  I think there are quite a few instances where there have been false reports out there, and I would be happy when I'm not standing up here to help provide a list to you, John.

Q    All right.  And the other thing is, are you keeping this list ongoing?

MS. SANDERS:  I don’t have like a folder on my computer for it.  But I certainly think we've got some knowledge of very specific instances that have taken place.

Q    Are you going to release them?

MS. SANDERS:  I'll let you know.


Q    Thanks a lot, Sean -- Sarah.  Were you given a heads up in any context --

MS. SANDERS:  We look pretty different.  (Laughter.)  But, you know.  

Q    It's off-camera.

MS. SANDERS:  Hey, John, if you're looking for instances of fake news, there's a good one for you.  (Laughter.)  I'm Sarah.

Q    Were you given a heads up about the President's tweet?


Q    And was the General Counsel given an opportunity to vet what the President tweeted out?

MS. SANDERS:  I'm not sure.  I'd have to double-check on that.   

Q    Sarah, the President talked last night about Governor Branstad going to China to become the ambassador.  Is it consistent with the President's pledge to drain the swamp that he's giving so many of these first wave of ambassadorships to political supporters and campaign donors?

MS. SANDERS:  Look, I think it's pretty traditional that you would have somebody supportive of you and your agenda to go out and be an ambassador to speak on behalf of the administration.  And Terry Branstad is somebody who has, I think, some of the best qualifications that you could have to send there.  He's got a personal relationship with senior-level members of the Chinese administration, as well as a very strong understanding of trade practices given his background.  And I think he's a perfect fit for that role.


Q    Is legal status for DACA beneficiaries on the table?  Has the White House conducted its review of the program?

MS. SANDERS:  As of right now, that's still under review and I don’t have any announcements on the specifics of the program at this time.

Q    Bloomberg reported that the President first raised the prospect of tapes strategically to make sure that Comey told the truth.  Is that your understanding of the President's motivation for tweeting about it?  And does he feel it was effective?

MS. SANDERS:  I'm sorry?  Can you speak -- I can't hear --

Q    Do you want me to repeat the whole thing?

MS. SANDERS:  Yeah, sorry.  No, the air -- It's hard to hear.

Q    Bloomberg first reported that the President first raised the prospect of tapes strategically to make sure that Comey told the truth.  Is that your understanding of the President's motive for tweeting that?  And does he feel it was effective?

MS. SANDERS:  I certainly think that the President would hope that the former director would tell the truth.  But I think that it was more about raising the question of doubt in general.  
Thanks, guys.

1:47 P.M. EDT 

Categories: White House News

ICYMI: FCC’s Pai: “How The U.S. Can Win The Digital Future”

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 1:11pm

“Thanks in part to the administration’s pro-growth policies, there is reason to be optimistic about the state of our economy. Unemployment is at a 16-year low. The stock market is hitting record highs. And, just last week, the Federal Reserve upgraded its forecast for economic growth for 2017.”

Tech Week: How the U.S. can win the digital future
By Ajit Pai
New Hampshire Union Leader
June 22, 2017

This week, the White House is hosting a series of meetings between leaders of our economy’s technology sector and administration officials. Dubbed “Tech Week,” these events provide a forum to focus on a critical question: What public sector policies will best spur private sector innovation?

Getting the answer right is vital for our nation’s economic future. Technological innovation opens the door to new industries and platforms, creating jobs and economic growth. The sharing economy, for example, has already given rise to more than a dozen billion-dollar companies, like Airbnb and Lyft. Technology firms currently account for America’s (and the world’s) five most valuable companies.

In order for us to expand prosperity and extend economic opportunity to more Americans, we must remain on the cutting edge. This means that government at all levels must focus on removing barriers to innovation and ensuring that technological advances aren’t strangled by bureaucratic red tape.

That’s exactly what we’ve been doing at the Federal Communications Commission this year.

Thanks in part to the administration’s pro-growth policies, there is reason to be optimistic about the state of our economy. Unemployment is at a 16-year low. The stock market is hitting record highs. And, just last week, the Federal Reserve upgraded its forecast for economic growth for 2017.

But we can’t afford to rest on our laurels. To continue creating jobs and growing our economy, we must ensure that regulation and inertia don’t stand in the way of innovation. We’re doing our part at the FCC to make sure that government promotes, rather than inhibits, the technologies of the future.

Read the full op-ed here.

Categories: White House News

Remarks by President Trump at American Leadership in Emerging Technology Event

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 12:46pm

East Room

11:04 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Very nice to have you here.  It's a great honor.  So many of you I recognize, and others I do from reading business magazines and other magazines.  You've done very well.  You're very representative of your group.  

And, Jeff, congratulations on a great career.  

MR. IMMELT:  Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT:  A great career.  I was sad to hear it in one way, and in another way I said, boy, what a good job.  

MR. IMMELT:  Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT:  So I know whatever you're going to be doing -- that's a long time over there.  I've known you a long time in that company.  I've done deals with that company, and you were there, right?  A lot of good friends like Dale Frey and John Myers.  We had a good time at GE.

Good morning, everyone.  Thank you for being here and for giving us a chance to see some of the really exciting new technology that you've pioneered that will help improve so many millions of lives.  

I want to thank my Office of Science and Technology -- and this has been a great office; they have done such incredible work -- for organizing today's event and for bringing these wonderful business leaders -- and they are at the top -- together to talk about the importance of emerging technologies.  

I want to thank Secretary Ross for joining us today.  Wilbur, thank you very much.  And we just got back from Iowa last night.  A big speech in Iowa.  That was an amazing group of people.  Those people were excited.  I guess most people saw it, but they were excited.  Wilbur has done a fantastic job, and I want to thank you very much for it, Wilbur.  Everybody understands it.  Wilbur, as Jeff -- as you know -- Wilbur is known as just "Wilbur" on Wall Street.  They don’t even call him Wilbur Ross.  They just say, oh, Wilbur is involved -- right?  He's done a great job.  Thank you.

And, Mr. Vice President, thank you very much for being here.  We've had some busy schedules, and we have a thing called healthcare that you may hear is percolating in the outside, as we've discussed.  And I think it's going to come out.  Obamacare is a disaster; it's dead.  Totally dead.  And we're putting in a plan today that's going to be negotiated.  We'd love to have some Democrat support, but they're obstructionists.  They'll never support.  We won't get one, no matter how good it is.  But we will hopefully get something done, and it will be something with heart and very meaningful.  

And, Steve, it's great to have you here, by the way.  Really good.  You've done a great job.  I always say you got a hell of a lot of money for that sale.  I don’t think you've been given enough -- I mean, I don’t think you were ever given enough credit for the deal you did for your shareholders.  What a deal that was.

Too many years of excessive government regulation.  We have had regulation that's been so bad, so out of line that it's really hurt our country.  And as you see, on a daily basis we're getting rid of regulation.  In fact, Dodd-Frank is now being cut and cut very substantially.  We'll have tremendous safeguards, but we're going to have banks that are going to be able to loan money to people so they can open businesses and do what they used to be able to do in this country.

My administration has been laser-focused on removing the government barriers to job growth and prosperity.  We formed a deregulation taskforce inside every agency to find and eliminate wasteful, intrusive, and job-killing regulations, of which we've had many.

We want our innovators to dream big, like the folks around me and surrounding me in this room.  And we want them to create new companies and to create lots of jobs.  Your industry has been incredible.  Your representation of your companies -- is the reason you're here -- has been something that has created so many millions of new American jobs, and probably jobs in many other countries, also.  But we're interested right now in America first.

We're on the verge of new technological revolutions that could improve, virtually, every aspect of our lives, create vast new wealth for American workers and families, and open up bold, new frontiers in science, medicine, and communication.

Today's conversation will move America one step closer to that bright future that we're all talking about and all longing for in your world.  I would love to hear about the discussions you've had this morning with our team, the White House, and get your thoughts on ways government can help unleash the next generation of technological breakthroughs that will transform our lives and transform our country, and make us number one in this field.  This is a very, very competitive field.  You see what's going on in China and so many other countries.  And we want to remain number one.  We want to go to number one in certain areas where we're not number one.  And we're going to give you the competitive advantage that you need.

So thank you all very much for being here.  On behalf of myself and my great Vice President, it's been a meeting that we actually both looked very much forward to attending.

11:10 A.M. EDT

Categories: White House News

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump to Host Congressional Picnic at the White House

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 12:25pm

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are pleased to host their first Congressional Picnic on the South Lawn of the White House this evening at 6:00 p.m.

Vice President and Mrs. Pence will join the First Family in welcoming Members of Congress and their families for a bipartisan evening of music and traditional picnic fare.  The theme, Picnic in the Park, is modeled after a summer evening in Central Park in New York. 

“My husband and I are pleased to welcome Members of Congress and their families to the people’s house.  I look forward to an evening together that will highlight our New York home by bringing a piece of New York City to Washington, D.C.,” said First Lady Melania Trump.  “With the recent and tragic shooting at the Congressional baseball game practice last week, it is more important than ever that we spend time together not as politicians, but as colleagues and friends.  We will continue to keep Congressman Scalise, his family, and all who were injured in our thoughts and prayers as we come together tonight united through this unthinkable tragedy.” 

The Congressional Picnic is an annual bipartisan event that began under President Reagan.  In years past, first families select themes that pay homage to their home states.

This year’s picnic will include racing sailboats in the South Lawn Fountain, as well as a carousel. The full United States Marine orchestra will perform and President Trump will make remarks. The menu will consist of traditional picnic fare.

Categories: White House News

Remarks by Vice President Pence at Associated Builders and Contractors Legislative Day

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 12:23pm

Hyatt Regency
Washington, D.C.

9:40 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Chuck Goodrich.  Thank you for putting on a tie.  (Laughter.)   Thanks for that wonderful introduction and for your friendship of so many years.  And I'm just so proud of Chuck Goodrich and his leadership role in this great organization.  From one Hoosier to another, thank you for your leadership, my friend.  And thank you for your friendship of so many years.  (Applause.) 

And let me also pay a debt of gratitude to another old friend who I worked with back in my days in Congress and when I was Governor of Indiana.  He came to be President of ABC Indiana/Kentucky, and is just an inspiring and tenacious leader for everything everyone here fights for -- JR Gaylor.  I don't know where you're sitting, but, JR, thank you so much. 

And it is great to be back to ABC.  (Applause.)  This is an organization of red-blooded American patriots who I did, over 10 years ago, proudly call the “Marine Corps of American politics” -- (applause) -- first on the beach for freedom in the workplace -- the Associated Builders and Contractors of America.  Give yourselves a round of applause.  (Applause.) 

It really is an honor to be with all of you today and a privilege for me to bring you greetings from my friend and a builder who is now the 45th President of the United States of America -- President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)  And on the President's behalf, let me welcome you to a new era for American builders.  

I know you enjoyed hearing from some of our great allies in the Congress -- Congressman Rick Allen, Congressman Francis Rooney, and Congressman Lloyd Smucker.  Give them another round of applause.  (Applause.)  They are great, great champions and we appreciate their support. 

But I do appreciate the invitation to join you for the ABC 2017 Legislative Conference.  As you all know, I have a little bit of history with ABC in Indiana.  I first ran for Congress when I was a little bit younger than I am today.  (Laughter.)  It was back in 1988 -- I was 29 years old.  Back when I had dark hair and -- okay, there was a little less of me.  (Laughter.)

But I have to tell you, ABC was there.  When I stepped forward to take on an entrenched incumbent in the Congress, ABC didn't hesitate to give me the support.  Well, I came up short the first two times I tried for Congress.  And by the time I would be elected to Congress a little more than 10 years later, ABC was there every step of the way.  So, on behalf of my little family and the opportunities that we've had to serve in the Congress, to serve as governor, and now to serve as 48th Vice President of the United States of America, let me just say thank you.  (Applause.)   Thank you for the opportunity to serve.  

The truth is that the members of ABC fight for a stronger and more prosperous America, for coming alongside men and women like me and my family each and every day.  And I’m going to make you a promise:  President Donald Trump is fighting every day for all of you and the values of this great organization.  (Applause.) 

This President knows that builders and contractors are the cornerstone of American communities, large and small.  And that's especially true of this group.  It's amazing to think, for more than 65 years, Associated Builders and Contractors have stood without apology for the time-honored principles of open competition and free enterprise.  Your 70 chapters and 21,000 members drive our nation's growth every time you break ground.  And just as important, you make sure taxpayers and consumers get the best bang for their buck when it comes to construction.  (Applause.)   

Thanks in large part to businesses represented here, the construction industry has contributed nearly $800 billion to our economy last year and employed some 6.8 million Americans.  But your impact on America extends so much deeper, into the very foundation of our national life.  Independent-minded entrepreneurs like you have literally built America from the ground up, from our homes to our hotels, from our restaurants, our retail malls, our stadiums, and our skyscrapers.

The truth is Associated Builders and Contractors have the best interests of your workers, the best interests of your communities, and really, you have the best interests of America at heart.  You champion fiscal responsibility and individual freedom.  And I promise you, the American people are grateful that you are a champion for American values.  (Applause.)  

And make no mistake about it, President Donald Trump is the best friend American builders and contractors will ever have.  (Applause.)  This President has promised, simply put, in his words, to rebuild America.  And it's businesses like yours that are going to play such a leading role in doing that.  Ahead of schedule and under budget, right?  

Since the outset of this administration, businesses, large and small, have been responding to the President's leadership, to that America First agenda.  More than 600,000 new, good-paying jobs have been created since the first day of 2017, including 100,000 construction jobs created under this administration.  (Applause.) 

And business confidence is soaring.  In fact, a stunning 97 percent of commercial contractors in America are confident about their prospects this year.  And we're on the phone with the remaining 3 percent.  (Laughter.)  And they should be.  Since day one of this administration, President Trump has been fighting tirelessly to get our economy moving again, and it's working, to get your businesses like yours building like never before.  

Just look at this President's decisive action when it comes to federal red tape.  This President has signed more laws cutting red tape Washington, D.C. already than any President in American history.  (Applause.)  The President Trump has actually signed 14 bills under the Congressional Review Act to roll back burdensome regulations from the last administration that have already saved businesses $18 billion a year in regulatory costs.  One of my favorites is he actually ordered every agency in Washington, D.C. to find two regulations to get rid of before issuing any new federal red tape on America's job creators.  (Applause.) 

Under this President's leadership, specifically, we've repealed the Stream Buffer Rule, we're rolling back the Clean Power Plan, and the Waters of the United States Rule earlier this month is a thing of the past.  (Applause.)  And President Donald Trump put America first just a few short days ago when he made the decision to withdraw the United States of America from the Paris Climate Accord.  (Applause.) 

You know, according to one independent study, the Paris Accord would have cost the U.S. economy more than 6.5 million jobs in the next 25 years while giving countries like China and India virtually a free pass.  As the President said, our administration was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris.  (Laughter.)  And be assured, the President put America first, and this President always will.  (Applause.) 
President Trump is fighting every single day for American industry and American workers.  And as you saw last week, during what we called "Workforce Development Week" at the White House, President Trump is committed to ensuring that men and women in America have the opportunity to pursue careers in the building trades, vocational education becomes more available for more Americans so your businesses and their futures will grow.  (Applause.) 

I mean, we know, at this very moment, the construction industry in particular is facing a workforce shortage of nearly half a million workers in this country.  Skilled tradesmen, in particular, are increasingly hard to come by.  Carpenters, masons, plumbers, and electricians are all in high demand, but too few Americans these days pursue these valuable careers.

I know you're already doing your part to address the crisis.  ABC's local chapters and centers provide, I'm told, more than 800 apprenticeship and training programs across the country.  I saw them firsthand back in the Hoosier State -- the difference that they're making in opening professional doors of opportunities to people for good-paying jobs and great careers.

But we must do more -- much more.  That's why, just last Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order to, in his words, expand apprenticeships and vocational training to help all Americans find rewarding careers in our building trades, in construction, and in every form of vocation in America.  (Applause.) 

This President truly believes that we need to get back to a time when our students see the skilled trades for what they are, which is a foundation for a great life and a boundless future. An amazing 90 percent of apprentices get jobs after they finish their program, and the average salary is an impressive $60,000 a year.  And under this President's leadership, I'm confident we'll train the students of today to meet the jobs of tomorrow, and working families and American businesses are going to be stronger for it.

It really is remarkable to think of the changes that we need in this area.  The President and I have talked at great length about the changes that we made back in the state of Indiana.  We actually reformed funding in our public high schools in the Hoosier State to ensure that there was an incentive -- a financial incentive for schools to offer career-aligned and vocationally aligned education for our high school kids.

And I always would tell people, you know, it's not about plan A and plan B, right?  It's about two plan A’s.  It's about getting back to an America where we have an educational system that gives our sons and daughters the opportunity to develop the background and the skills and the education so that they can start their lives where they want to start their life.

You know, it's fundamental to this President's belief that success begets success.  When we let our young people start their lives in the careers that they want, they can pursue a boundless future as they discover new aspects of their life. 

I look around this room and I see men and women who I know for a fact, because I've heard it, actually started your educational careers in vocational education.  You got out there, you worked on a job site, and now you employ hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of people in good-paying jobs.  That's the kind of future we want once again in America, where we honor -- we honor every future and every workplace in America equally.  (Applause.) 

You know, it really is remarkable to think about everything President Trump has accomplished in the past few months.  It's been awful busy.  From rolling back regulation, to energy, to workforce, and more.  But at this White House, that's what my boss calls just a good start, right?  (Laughter.)  And it's builders like you who elected this President of the United States, and I promise you, straight out of the gate here, we've rolled our sleeves up and we're going to work.  We are going to rebuild the infrastructure of the United States of America.  (Applause.) 

This President knows that roads mean jobs.  And I'm not just talking about road jobs I'm talking about -- you have the right infrastructure and it supports economic growth and prosperity and opportunity for all the American people.  In partnership with all of you, this President is committed to make historic investments in our national infrastructure.  And we're going to do it fast and we're going to do it in a fiscally responsible way. 

But I'll make this promise to you:  This President and our administration will not rest or relent until America has the best roads, the best bridges, the best airports, and the best infrastructure in the world once again.  So get ready to get busy.  (Applause.)  

And today, I want to assure you, before this summer's out, working with the Congress, President Donald Trump is going to keep our promise to the American people, and we're going to repeal and replace Obamacare.  (Applause.) 

In fact, a little bit later today, the United States Senate and Republican leadership is going to release a repeal-and-replace bill this morning.  You know, the President and I are truly grateful to Leader Mitch McConnell and all the Senate Republicans for their deliberative efforts over the past month. 

It really is remarkable when you think about it that as Obamacare is collapsing all across this country -- with news in my home state, even yesterday, that I'll talk about in a minute -- that the people that gave us Obamacare have refused to even lift a finger to fix and to clean up the mess that they created.  But we're moving forward.  And this President and I remain determined  that we'll repeal and replace Obamacare before this summer is out.  

This is the moment.  Now is the time.  As all of you head to Capitol Hill to talk with your elected representatives, I want you to convey that to each one of them.  I want you to tell them the stories of the burden that Obamacare has placed on your businesses and on families in your communities.  

I mean, you all know the grim reality that businesses have been facing under Obamacare.  I’ve heard it from companies large and small as I’ve traveled all across this country.  It really is remarkable.  I’ve traveled on behalf of the President -- the same story everywhere I go.  Obamacare stifles your growth.  It harms your workers through its mandates, its taxes, its endlessly rising costs of health insurance premiums.  And not only is it a burden on your business, it’s, most importantly, weighing heavily on the American people.

Last month, our administration issued a study showing the exact numbers of how Obamacare has led to skyrocketing premiums all across America.  We found that health insurance premiums have more than doubled since Obamacare was signed into law.  And in many states, they’ve more than tripled.  

I mean, remember all the broken promises of Obamacare?  I was actually in the Congress at the time we were stopping -- trying to stop this thing and -- just was amazing.  They said, if you like your doctor you can keep them -- not true.  They said, if you like your health insurance you could keep it -- not true.  They said that the cost of health insurance would go down -- remember that one?  Not true.

I mean, the last administration actually promised that Obamacare would lower premiums in the individual marketplace by up to $2,500 for American families.  Instead, the real numbers  -- premiums have increased by nearly $3,000 for families under Obamacare.  At this very moment, millions of Americans are facing double-digit premium hikes heading into 2018.  And while costs are soaring, choices are plummeting, because insurance companies are pulling out of Obamacare left and right. 

Right now, here’s your number -- a third of American counties, including five whole states, have only one choice of Obamacare coverage -– meaning they essentially have no choice at all.  And in the past few weeks, health insurers have announced exits from Obamacare markets all across the country.  Just yesterday, the last two statewide insurance companies announced they’re pulling out of my home state of Indiana in 2018.  Nearly 80,000 Hoosiers will need to find a new plan.

And across America, tens of thousands of Americans will have no Obamacare coverage whatsoever next year.  In Ohio, more than 13,000 will have no health insurance in 2018.  In Missouri, 25 counties won’t have any coverage at all.  And while the last insurer in 94 of Iowa’s 99 counties has said that they’re going to stay through next year, two days ago they said the cost of them staying next year is a 43 percent increase in premiums on 72,000 Iowans.

Look, as the President has said, Obamacare is a disaster, and Obamacare must go.  (Applause.)  I’ll tell you, the President will never stop fighting to give American businesses and the American people the kind of healthcare reform that you need and deserve.  And we have confidence that with his leadership, with this Congress, and with your help, we will end the Obamacare nightmare once and for all, and give the American people the kind of world-class healthcare that’s built on individual responsibility, free markets, and state-based innovation and reform.  That’s the American way to lowering costs and healthcare solutions.  (Applause.)  

And after we repeal and replace Obamacare, I’ll make you another promise.  This President is going to keep working with the Congress and we’re going to cut taxes across the board for working families, small businesses and family farms.  (Applause.)
A little over a month ago, the President laid out a plan that will lower taxes all across this country and get this economy moving again.  We’re going to simplify the tax code by cutting seven brackets down to three -- 10, 25, 35 percent.  You know, there’s that old saying that the Internal Revenue code is twice as long as the Bible with none of the good news.  (Laughter.)  We’re going to have some good news this year.  

We’re not only going to lower rates and simplify the tax code, we’re going to eliminate the alternative minimum tax, make the code flatter and fairer for everyone.  And under President Donald Trump, we’re going to repeal the death tax once and for all.  (Applause.)  

And when it comes to making sure American businesses are competitive, our tax plan is going to put American companies, including our builders and contractors, back on the road to compete.  We’re going to slash the business tax in this country to 15 percent so American companies can compete with companies all around the world.  (Applause.)  And when we lower the business taxes, we’re going to make sure that small businesses can enjoy the same benefits of big corporations and pass-throughs are going to get tax relief as well.  (Applause.)  

We’re going to end the broken system that penalizes companies for calling America home.  We’re going to cut taxes on trillions of dollars locked away overseas so that American companies can bring those dollars home and invest in America’s future.

The bottom line is that President Trump’s tax cut plan is going to empower your companies to compete on a level playing field with businesses anywhere in the world.  And as we all know, when the playing field is level, American businesses will win every single time.  (Applause.)  

We do want to commend Speaker Paul Ryan and Leader Mitch McConnell for their diligent efforts working with this administration to craft tax reform, get this economy rolling again.  So let me tell you, discussions will continue.  Details are being worked out, but with your support, the support of leaders in Congress, and the leadership of President Donald Trump we will pass historic tax relief and we will pass it this year.  (Applause.) 

Before I leave, let me just continue to urge you, urge you to stand with our President and to partner with this administration as we work to keep our promises to the American people and move our agenda forward.  As you meet with your elected representatives this week, all I ask is that you tell them the truth, tell them your story.  You know, whether it be about the enormous burden that Obamacare places on your business, about the need to heed the President’s call for workforce and vocational education reform, the need for tax reform, the need to rebuild our military to have America standing tall in the world.  You are the voices of the American people.  Come and let them hear from you.   Tell them that you’re counting -- you’re counting on them to support the President’s agenda this year in the Congress.

Tell them we need less regulation and less red tape, lower taxes, better infrastructure, and a better trained workforce.  And tell them the time is now, right now, to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

You know, President Trump is fighting for each one of you every single day.  The man is a fighter -- like nobody I ever met.  (Laughter.)  I got to tell you, he knows that your success is America’s success and every community, large and small, is a testament to your facts.  Your businesses have built a firm foundation that has served our nation and our communities for generations, and that forms the basis of everything that’s great about America -- opportunities, generosity.  

I do want to commend members of ABC for the corporate citizens that you are in your communities.  Having represented a lot of small towns in the Congress, I know you about can’t go to a Little League baseball game and you can’t go to a local charitable function without seeing the ABC banner hanging on a fence.  You folks are always there, and not just when it comes to electoral politics, but you’re just always there when the need arises in your communities.  So give yourselves a round of applause.  You make a difference every day.  (Applause.)   

But you know when I think of these times in which we live and the challenges that lie ahead I’m grateful for the leadership of President Trump.  I’m grateful for the support of our allies in Congress and all of you -- all of you who understand the building blocks of policies that will turn this country around and are turning this country around.  

It gives me great confidence, it does, as I travel this country and have the extraordinary privilege of coming to work every day in the White House.  But I also take confidence in timeless wisdom to which Americans have turned throughout our history that speaks particularly of our future and language the builders would appreciate.  And its language that we might embrace and remember in these all too divided times in America.  As we seek to rebuild this country, let’s remember “unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.”

So as you work to build your businesses, as ABC stands for freedom in the workplace and the reforms that will rebuild America -- if you’re of a mind -- I encourage you to repair to those ancient truths.  Pray for America.  Pray for this country.  This one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all -- because America matters far beyond our shores.  

And I know with your help, and with God’s help, and with that builder in the Oval Office, we will succeed.  We will make America safe again.  We will make America prosperous again.  And, to borrow a phrase, we will make America great again.  (Applause.) 

Thank you, ABC.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  

10:06 A.M EDT

Categories: White House News

Vice President Mike Pence to Visit Colorado Springs, Colorado

News from the White House - Thu, 06/22/2017 - 11:13am

On Friday, June 23, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Colorado Springs, Colorado to deliver remarks at the Focus on the Family 40th Anniversary Celebration. The Vice President will then visit Schriever Air Force Base where he will receive a briefing on the facility, have lunch with service members, and give remarks. Following, the Vice President will tour the Cheyenne Mountain Complex located at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. The Vice President will conclude his visit with a Gardner Victory Event.

Categories: White House News

Remarks by President Trump on Agricultural Innovation | Cedar Rapids, IA

News from the White House - Wed, 06/21/2017 - 10:50pm

Kirkwood Community College
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

6:16 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I just learned more about farming than I ever thought I'd learn.  What a good place.  I love it.  I want to thank also Dean Scott Ermer along with the students and faculty at Kirkwood Community College for hosting us.  What a beautiful place.  We're here today to talk about how we're going to empower America’s farmers and protect our nation’s proud farming legacy, including ethanol, which I've done.  (Applause.)  Family farmers are the backbone of America, and my administration will always support the farmer.

I want to begin by congratulating Iowa’s new governor, Kim Reynolds.  Where's Kim?  (Applause.)  I'm so proud of Kim.  I've known Kim for a long time, and her husband.  And I said, you know, one of the other things I get with Terry, by moving him out, Kim becomes governor and Terry can take on China.  (Applause.)  That's not bad.  She is doing a great job.

Thanks also to Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg -- (applause) -- and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, a man who's been to so many of my stops, Bill Northey.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Bill.  Thank you for all that support.  And Congressman -- a very popular guy -- Rod Blum, doing a fantastic job in Washington.  (Applause.) 

All right, so, most importantly, I have to say -- they will all agree -- he's a great friend of mine, with an incredible family, a very talented son, Eric -- that I can tell you -- but I'm really, truly proud.  I wanted to be here for this reason -- to congratulate your former governor, our new ambassador to China, Terry Branstad.  (Applause.)  

Terry is a true legend.  The people of Iowa first made him governor in 1983.  You elected him six times and made him the longest-serving governor of any state in the history of America.  That's not bad.  (Applause.) 

Under Terry, Iowa’s economy is stronger, its farmers more successful, its schools better, its communities more prosperous, and its citizens safer.  And I want to tell you that's three decades.  This is one great man.  He's been in politics for more than three decades.  And we're going to keep him there -- I don’t know, do we consider ambassadors politicians?  Not really, in the true sense.  So perhaps we sort pulled you out.  But he's going to be a doing a job.

I'll tell you one quick story with Terry.  When I was campaigning in Iowa, Terry would always say, "Do me favor -- don’t say anything bad about China."  (Laughter.)  See, in that day -- in those days, he didn’t call me "Mr. President" -- he'd say "Donald."  He'd say, "Donald, don’t say anything bad about China."  I said, why?  He said, "We have a great relationship with China, and I like it, and I really like President Xi," who he knew for 30-some-odd years. 

And it really dawned on me when I was thinking about ambassadors.  I said, boy, wouldn’t it be great if I picked a man that really likes China and, by the way, China really likes him?  (Applause.)  

So that was an easy one.  I called him up, and I said, you know, I think after 24 years it's maybe time for a change, so let me just steal you.  I also knew about Kim, and Kim has been a great supporter and friend, and so I knew that that was going to be taken care of very nicely.  So we're really happy and really proud of Terry.  You know, his legacy will endure for a long, long time in this state.  He loves this state and the people so much.  And together, we all join to express our deep gratitude to Terry for everything he has done for Iowa and for its people.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you very much.  And have a good time in China.  (Applause.)  

AMBASSADOR BRANSTAD:  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  

For a farm kid from Iowa, my life's ambition was to serve the people as governor.  I never imagined in my wildest dreams that President Trump would ask me to represent all of the United States of America in China.  I will do my very best.  

Mr. President, first of all, I want to congratulate you on your leadership.  We've been trying to get American beef in China for 13 years, and you've already got it done.  (Applause.)  And there's more to come!  

I am honored and proud to represent the United States of America and President Trump in the People's Republic of China.  And I hope a lot of you will come to see us.  

Thank you.  (Applause.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Great guy.  Ambassador Branstad will be serving in Beijing, but he’s going to be fighting for American farmers and for American workers and for Americans.  And there's nobody I can think of that can do a better job or a more effective job. 

So, Terry, go out there.  He'll be joining Secretary of Agriculture -- somebody you all know very well -- the legendary, Sonny Perdue -- (applause) -- and a man who is another legend on Wall Street -- truly a legend; they just call him Wilbur.  How about Wall Street?  (Applause.)  Where Wall Street is big and strong, he's just known as Wilbur.  It's Wilbur Ross.  Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Commerce.  Pretty good on Wall Street.  When they just say, "I hear Wilbur is going to be Secretary of Commerce" -- Carl Icahn called me.  He said, "Donald, I heard you got Wilbur."  That was it.  It wasn’t "Wilbur Ross."  But there's Wilbur Ross, and he's going a fantastic job.  

And also working along with Wilbur is U.S. Trade Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, another phenomenal talent.  And I told you about fair trade.  I told you about free trade.  I told you about trade.  We have the best in the world on our side now, finally, after watching for many, many decades what's been happening, with trade deficits that are beyond anything that anybody could imagine -- hundreds of billions of dollars.  And now we have the right people on our side.  

So, Wilbur, go out and do it.  Robert, go out and do it.  We'll all have a good time together.  And you know what?  The world is going to like us even better, believe it or not.   

So they're going to be representing -- (applause) -- they're going to be representing America's interests and delivering historic wins for our farmers and our factory workers, and our workers generally.  

And I have to tell you, last night was very exciting.  

Karen Handel and Ralph -- Ralph Norman.  (Applause.)  Ralph Norman.  I spoke to Ralph today.  He won a great event.  Now, a lot of people didn’t show up to vote because they said, well, he's going to win by so much.  It got a little bit tighter than he thought.  (Laughter.)  Sometimes when they think you're going to win by too much, I wouldn’t say that's so good.  Next time we're going to say it's going to be really close.  But he still won easily.  But what a fantastic guy he is.  And between the two of them, that was a big night.  

So we're 5-0 in special elections -- 5-0.  (Applause.)  5-0.  And I watched the faces on those newscasters, in many cases, and they were going, oh, this is going to be a big night; this will be great humiliation for President Trump if she doesn’t make it.  Well, they weren’t thinking in terms of Ralph so much.  In all fairness, Ralph sort of said he felt like the forgotten man last night.

But this will be tremendous humiliation -- they built these studios; they built everything.  They were set.  Believe me, had our wonderful candidate lost, this would have been one of the great, big stories in the history of American politics.  Those studios would have been up for weeks.  They would have been talking for weeks about this tremendous defeat.  And after it said projected winner was sort of -- they just sort of slinked out of there.  (Laughter.)  They slinked out.  

One of them actually said, well, maybe it was the weather.  You know, it was drizzling.  A little bit like this, but a little bit less.  It was drizzling.  Did you hear that one, Ambassador?  It was drizzling.  Maybe that was the difference. 

And won by a lot.  Won by a lot.  So we're very happy.  And she's going to be -- Karen is going to be a great person in Congress.  And we have some incredible people and we're doing some really wonderful things, including the taxes are coming along and the healthcare is coming along.  (Applause.)

And we have Gary Cohn, the President of Goldman Sachs, who left Goldman Sachs and a slightly higher salary than he's getting right now by, like, hundreds of millions of dollars -- like by a lot.  (Laughter.)  Where's Gary?  He's around here someplace.  And Gary is working on some incredible plans -- not only taxes, but we're going to be rebuilding our country.  We're going to do things in terms of infrastructure that we need.  Our roads, our highways, our bridges, our schools, our airports.

We spent, as of a few months ago, $6 trillion -- trillion -- in the Middle East.  We have nothing.  We're back further than we were 16 years ago when this whole thing started -- $6 trillion.  And if you want to spend three and half dollars to build a school, or you want to build -- you want to spend any money in this country, it's like a big deal.  But we spent $6 trillion in the Middle East.  And we're going to get that whole situation under control.

That's not an easy one.  I was dealt a very difficult hand, believe me, when I took over, between North Korea, the Middle East -- you look at Afghanistan, what's going on there.  This was a tough hand.  But you put me there for a reason, and I think you're going to be very happy with the end result, believe me.  (Applause.) 

American farmers and ranchers are the best -- absolute best at what they do.  And they can compete anywhere if they are given a level playing field.  They're not given that level playing field because of our terrible, terrible trade deals.  And we're going to start doing much better.  You produce the product, but you have to work too hard and too long to make a living.

We're cracking down on foreign trading abuses; making it easier to produce and grow in America; eliminating job-killing regulations all over the place -- (applause) -- and we're training our great American workers.

That's why it's so important to support schools like Kirkwood, which are helping to train young people in cutting-edge new technologies that will make American agriculture greater and more productive than ever before. 

Farming -- which is something that is very beautiful to me.  I'm not a farmer, but I'd be very happy to be one.  It's a very beautiful world to me.  And it's a truly noble American profession.  Today, we're celebrating the dignity of work and the greatness of the American farmer and the American worker. 

George Washington once wrote: “I'd rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”  We understand that.  Especially after I've spent all this time in Washington, I can really understand.  (Laughter.)

I want to make sure the next generation of Americans has that opportunity as well.  And, in particular, that includes your children and your grandchildren, and working very hard to get rid of the death tax so that those farms can be passed on.  (Applause.)  Very, very hard to get rid of that.  We're working very hard so your farms can be passed on to your children and your grandchildren.  And they'll keep them going and they'll run them with love.

We want to eliminate the intrusive rules that undermine your ability to earn a living, and we will protect the corn-based ethanol and biofuels that power our country.  (Applause.)  And you remember, during the campaign, I made that promise.  And I also made a promise, I'm coming back.  And here I am.  And that promise has been kept.  (Applause.)  And even Terry is clapping about that one, but he was fighting very hard for that, believe me.

For the past two weeks, my administration has been working extensively on vocational education, infrastructure, and technology.  Here, at this great facility, we have just seen fantastic examples of how vocational training in new technologies can help make American farming even more productive so we can compete and win, win, win on the world stage.

We saw how today’s farmers can adjust application rates of fertilizers in their fields with just the touch of a smartphone.  It's changed a lot over the years. 

They showed us how they use precision agriculture to produce crops more efficiently and for far less cost.  They’ve demonstrated how drones, of all things, are used to gather data on crops, and how simulators are used to train students in the next generation of farming equipment.  If we continue to train our workers in these new technologies, then we will usher in a new era of prosperity for American agriculture and for the American farming family.

We must also ensure that these students have the broadband Internet access they need in order to succeed and thrive in this new and very modern and very changed economy and world.  That is why I will be including a provision in our infrastructure proposal -- $1 trillion proposal -- you'll be seeing it very shortly -- to promote and foster enhanced broadband access for rural America also.  (Applause.)  We know that Wall Street wants it very badly, but you know what else?  The farmers also want it.  And you're going to have it.

We have to make sure American farmers and their families, wherever they may be, wherever they may go, have the infrastructure projects that they need to compete and grow.  And I mean grow against world competition, because that's who you're up against now.  

We will rebuild rural America.  (Applause.)  American farmers -- (applause) -- thank you -- American farmers pour their hearts into their crops and their love into their great communities.  That’s why they call this the Heartland.  And those maps, those electoral maps, they were all red.  Beautiful red.  (Laughter.)  Beautiful.  (Applause.)  If you look at those maps, it's almost like -- wow.  A lot places that people weren't thinking about turned red.  A couple of little blue dots on the sides, but they are red -- farmers.  

And our farmers’ work ethic feeds America, and their toughness and grit define America.  They're tough and they're smart.  (Applause.)  Our rich and abundant soil provides more than a living; it provides a beautiful way of life for a lot of people.  Today we honor and treasure this noble history, and embrace the new technology that will power this industry well into the future.  With incredible leaders and students like all of you, I know that the future of American farming has never looked brighter.  Believe me.  And with me as your President, it's going to be that way, I will tell you that.  (Applause.)

So it's a great honor to be here with you today.  People that I know, people that I love, very special people; the people of Iowa that were so good to me during the election.  So many friends.  I want to thank you for being here.  

God bless you and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

6:36 P.M. CDT

Categories: White House News