Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Four Nominations Sent to the Senate

Office of the Press Secretary

     J. Philip Calabrese, of Ohio, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, vice Christopher A. Boyko, retired.

     James Ray Knepp II, of Ohio, to be United States District Judge for the Northern District of Ohio, vice Jack Zouhary, retired.

     Brett H. Ludwig, of Wisconsin, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, vice Rudolph T. Randa, retired.

     Michael Jay Newman, of Ohio, to be United States District Judge for the Southern District of Ohio, vice Michael Ryan Barrett, retired.


Office of the Press Secretary


South Lawn

3:50 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  So, we just got back.  We had a great tour of NIH.  And Dr. Fauci is here, along with our Secretary.  And a lot of progress.  Maybe, Alex, you'd like to start and then we'll have the Doctor say something.

SECRETARY AZAR:  Well, we just had an incredible visit up at NIH at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease that Dr. Fauci leads.  And the President got to hear from the actual bench scientists who, within three days -- within three days -- developed a potential vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

And they reported some really important news to the President that, yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the entry of that vaccine into phase one safety clinical trials.

Dr. Fauci?

THE PRESIDENT:  Which is a record.  Yeah, please.

DR. FAUCI:  So, what we did is we just had the opportunity to take the President and show him the actual individual researchers who are doing the things that we've been talking about.  And what they were referring to is that the actual scientists -- middle level, senior, junior -- were there and explained to the President what I have actually been explaining to the press, but showed it on graphics: how after the virus was identified, the sequence was taken and put into this platform called messenger RNA.  And what happened is that, literally, within a period of a couple of days, we were able to stick it in.

And now, as I said, we're going to go into a phase one trial in about three months from that day -- well, we're probably, you know, a month or so -- I mean, I don’t want to over promise.   I said a month and a half the other day; it may be about a month or so.  And then very soon, we'll be sticking the first person with the vaccine.

But I want to caution everybody: That's only the first stage of the development of the vaccine because we emphasized to the President that since we'll be giving the vaccine to normal, healthy people, that safety is very important and you really need to know that it actually works.

That next phase is a phase two trial.  We're not going to be able to start that for at least another three or four months after we go in.  So the whole process is going to take a year, a year and a half at least.

THE PRESIDENT:  Do you want to talk about therapeutics?
DR. FAUCI:  Yeah.  The other thing that's interesting that we explained to the President, and the Secretary already knew is that the difference between testing the vaccine and testing therapy are almost qualitatively different.  Because with the therapy, you're going to give it to someone who is already ill and you compare it to standard of care.  So, within a reasonable period of time, you're going to know if it works or not.

So, right now, as of like today, there are two large trials going on in China that are comparing one of the drugs -- and there are several -- one called remdesivir with the standard of care alone.

And when we get those results -- which likely will be several months because you're going to have to accumulate hundreds of patients to decide.  We have our own trial right now in the United States with some people at the University of Nebraska who are infected and put there.  So once you get the result with the therapy -- unlike a vaccine, which takes quite a while -- once you get a result, you can start distributing the medication.

Q    So, Dr. Fauci, just to be clear: You're saying three months away from treating people who already have coronavirus?

DR. FAUCI:  No, I didn’t say that.  I said, if the drug works and you prove it works, you will treat them.  I am not saying that three months from now we’re going to have a drug to treat people.  Okay?

THE PRESIDENT:  If it works.

DR. FAUCI:  Yeah.

Q    So if it works, three months from now, it is possible --

DR. FAUCI:  No, I -- no.  I didn’t say.  I said you have to accumulate enough patients, when they get to 400 patients in each trial.  That may take three months.  That may take five months.  I don’t know.

When the trial is over and they evaluate the data, if the drug works, then you’ll be able to apply it.

Q    Mr. President, can you react to the market drop?  Are you concerned about a recession?

THE PRESIDENT:  I haven’t seen it.  I’m focused on this.  The country is in great shape.  The market is in great shape.  I’m focused on this.  This is very important.  

Q    Do you want tax cuts, in addition to the Fed acting?  The Fed acted and you’ve suggested that you also want tax cuts.

THE PRESIDENT:  I like middle-income tax cuts.  I think it would be a good time.

Q    This year?

THE PRESIDENT:  Middle-income tax cuts.  If the Democrats would approve it, I’d go along with it.

Q    And that’s a payroll tax cut, or did you --

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a payroll tax, yeah.  Payroll tax cut.

Q    And you want that to happen this year?

THE PRESIDENT:  I would do it if they can approve it.  I would do it. 

Q    And then, in terms of travel, obviously spring break is coming around the corner.  Should Americans be concerned -- are you concerned?  For example, would you let your son go to Disney?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I think there’s -- I think we have a lot of great places we could travel to, right in the United States.  We have a lot of great places we can travel to.  Okay?

Q    Mr. President, we’ve heard about confirmed cases, but what are the estimates for how many people and how many cases we actually have?  What are the estimates?


SECRETARY AZAR:  You said how many cases we actually have right now?

Q    We have confirmed cases, but what are the estimates that you guys have?

SECRETARY AZAR:  Oh, estimates.  Estimates.  Well, we can only have confirmed cases.  So we don’t estimate other than the 60 cases we have from here in the United States that are confirmed, as well as the 48 cases that we have that came from our repatriation activities.

We’re very careful to not try to extrapolate or predict with an unknown virus here in the United States.


Q    Mr. President, Google just -- Google just canceled its big annual conference, sir.  Are companies that are canceling conferences and travel doing the right thing or is that an overreaction, do you think?

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s up to them.  Hey, let them stay in the United States.  If they don’t travel, if they stay here, that’s not a bad thing for us.  I -- I’ve been saying for a long time people should do that.

Q    Do you think the Fed wasted its ammunition today?  They cut rates and the Dow went down.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I think they could have done -- I think they should do more.  I think they hinted that they’re not going to do much more and that’s unfortunate.

He gave a very bad signal, in my opinion.  

                                        END                     3:57 P.M. EST

1600 Daily The White House • March 3, 2020 ‘You Will Always Have an Open Door at the White House’

1600 Daily
The White House • March 3, 2020

‘You will always have an open door at the White House’

The Coronavirus response is just the latest reminder: It’s often local officials who are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting our communities.

Today, President Trump addressed many of these local leaders at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference. “In our great national renewal, my Administration has made engagement with local leaders a top priority, because nobody understands the needs of local communities” better than the people in this room, he said.

🎬 President Trump: We’re securing billions to help local leaders fight Coronavirus

“Every day, we are working with you to build a country where every town is booming,” the President added. “You will always have an open door at the White House. No matter what community you represent.”

President Trump: How community leaders can help America stay prepared

Update: Low risk, but Administration stays vigilant against Coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force held a briefing yesterday evening to update Americans on the Coronavirus response.

While experts say the risk remains low, the Trump Administration is making readiness preparations an “all-hands-on-deck effort,” the Vice President said.

Local leaders are getting the full support of the federal government to help fight the spread of the virus. Vice President Pence is in close contact with our nation’s governors, making sure each one has all the resources necessary on the ground.

Americans also deserve regular updates while the fight against Coronavirus continues. “We’ll be back here every day,” Vice President Pence said, referring to daily briefings from the White House task force. “Get used to seeing us.”

Earlier yesterday, President Trump met with representatives from top pharmaceutical companies at the White House. He asked how the federal government could be most helpful in accelerating the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We’re working very hard to expedite the longer process of developing a vaccine. We’re also moving with maximum speed to develop therapies so that we can help people recover as quickly as possible,” the President said.

“Since the start of the outbreak, my Administration has taken the most aggressive action in history to protect our citizens . . . We will confront this challenge together, and we will continue to do exactly what we’re doing.”

MORE: Surgeon General says to be cautious, but not afraid

Press Secretary: President just donated his salary to aid Coronavirus response

Photo of the Day

President Trump delivers remarks at the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference | March 3, 2020

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP IN A ROUNDTABLE BRIEFING ON CORONAVIRUS Vaccine Research Center National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland

Office of the Press Secretary

Vaccine Research Center
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland

2:48 P.M. EST

DR. FAUCI:  Mr. President, thank you very much for coming to the NIH today.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

DR. FAUCI:  We really are very pleased --

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Tony.

DR. FAUCI:  -- with your visit.  And I want just, again, thank you for your support of everything that we’ve been doing in this obviously very important problem.

What I’ve asked is just first to have Francis Collins --


DR. FAUCI:  -- our director, just make a couple of comments about the NIH in general.  And then I’ll talk to you about some of the things that you and I have been talking about for the past few weeks.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Thank you.

DR. COLLINS:  Well, Mr. President, welcome to NIH.  It’s wonderful to have you here --

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Francis.

DR. COLLINS:  -- even though we are, in fact, faced with a very serious public health situation.  We have a lot of people here that are working hard on it and are honored by your presence, and honored also by the presence of the Secretary, my boss, and a wonderful boss he is indeed.

Maybe I just quickly say who else is at the table so you understand who we’re with here.  Starting over here, Dr. Barney Graham; he’s the Deputy Director of the Vaccine Research Center, and that’s where we are right now.

Next to him is Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who is the front line on the bench, making this coronavirus vaccine happen.


DR. COLLINS:  So a wonderfully talented young scientist in our midst.

You know Dr. Fauci, of course.  Next to him, Dr. John Mascola, who’s the Director of the Vaccine Research Center.  And next to him, Dr. Larry Tabek, who’s the Principal Deputy Director of NIH.


DR. COLLINS:  And we are all thrilled to have you here.
I just wanted to say a word about NIH because we haven't had the privilege of having you with us before, and just to sort of set the context for this remarkable institution -- supported by your administration -- the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world, the National Institutes of Health.

We distribute most of our funds -- more than 80 percent -- to institutions all over the country.  So when you hear about a breakthrough in medical research that happened at the University of Illinois or Florida, it was probably supported by NIH.  And we use the most rigorous peer review system in the world to decide what we're going to fund.

And we do everything from fundamental discovery to clinical trials and everything in between.  You could say we do Alzheimer’s to Zika, or A to Z, or some version of that.

And we also support infrastructure that makes it possible at a time like this to be able to move rapidly in terms of developing a vaccine.  And you'll hear more about that from Dr. Fauci.

The consequences of NIH research you could measure in various ways: extension and longevity.  Reduction in deaths from heart attack down to 70 percent from what they used to be; strokes likewise.  Cancer rates of death dropping about 1 or 2 percent a year.  HIV, which used to be a death sentence, now compatible with long survival.  Cystic fibrosis disease used to be maybe able to get kids to live for 8 or 10 years; now, just in the last few months, announcement of a drug therapy.  That means a lot of those individuals are planning for retirement.

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  That’s great.

DR. COLLINS:  What a big change that has been.

Economics: I think we could also say this is one of the government's best investments, because the return on investment -- every dollar that NIH spends is about 8 dollars and 38 cents, because of all of the other economic activity that that inspires.

But a major component of NIH -- though it's only about 11 percent of the budget -- is the intramural program, and that's where you are now on this campus.  More than 5,000 MDs, PhDs, and MD-PhDs work here on a wide variety of things.  A few hundred yards from here, the largest research hospital in the world, the NIH Clinical Center.

Among our achievements: the first chemotherapy for leukemia; the development of AZT for HIV; cancer immunotherapy now saving lives, including people who thought that there was no hope for them and are now being not just helped but cured;  dramatic advances in treating depression.  Lithium was invented here.  Ketamine now turning to be a really exciting development for people with resistant depression.

The first gene therapy for humans done here at NIH and now evolving to a point where we are curing, on this campus, people with sickle cell disease with gene therapy.

And, of course, vaccines -- vaccines -- developed here for childhood meningitis, for HPV, for Ebola.  And now we're going to talk about coronavirus.

So for all these reasons, people call us the “National Institutes of Hope,” and we're happy to embrace that particular description.

And you have next to you the -- probably most highly regarded infectious disease expert in the country -- I might even say in the world --


DR. COLLINS:  -- Dr. Tony Fauci.  And we have been graced by his presence for many decades, and he is exactly the right person to tell you what we're doing right now about coronavirus and how we're going to address the need for a vaccine, in order to tackle this really difficult problem.

So thank you for being here.  I hope that's helpful.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, Francis.  Thank you very much.

DR. FAUCI:  Okay.  Again, thanks again.  I just want to connect what we've been talking about over the past few weeks.  So if I could just get the -- see, this slide here, remember when I mentioned that the fastest from the time that you get a pathogen -- you know what it is -- to the time you do a phase one trial for safety?

So look at what's happened.  When SARS was in 2003, from the time we got the virus to the time we did the first phase one trial -- remember, that doesn’t mean you have a vaccine; it means for safety -- it was 20 months.  Then, H5N1 influenza, we got it down to 11.  H1N1 influenza, 4.  Zika, 3.25.  And now, we believe, as I’ve told you several times, it's two to three months.  I think it’s going to be two.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s fantastic.  That’s great.

DR. FAUCI:  So that kind of thing is what this place is all about.  It's kind of like the SWAT team of going out and responding to emerging microbes.


DR. FAUCI:  So, you know, this building, this entire center, was first started in response to making a vaccine for HIV.  But the crew that we brought together -- and we brought the best of the best from all over the country -- Dr. John Mascola, who’s the director of this place -- we do everything, from fundamental basic science to the clinical trials.

We would -- I mean, and I say this with some pride but also with some modesty, is that there's a lot questions and things that we need to do, but this group is so good at what they do that every time we have a challenge -- and that challenge could be flu, that challenge could be Ebola, that challenge could be anything -- we always turn to this team to do that.  And it's really something that we feel that is -- we're proud of, but I think the nation should know that these are the kind of things we have available for them.

John, do you want to --

DR. MASCOLA:  I would just like to also welcome you, Mr. President, Mr. Secretary --

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, John.

DR. MASCOLA:  -- to our vaccine research center.  We look
forward to a brief tour for you upstairs, where you can have Dr. Corbett and Dr. Graham tell you about how we're working on the coronavirus vaccine.

DR. FAUCI:  Right.


DR. FAUCI:  Just to give you a comparison, because we always talk about SARS and we always talk about MERS and things like that -- if we could have -- just go through the slide.  I just want to -- go to the next slide.

(A presentation slide is displayed.)

Just -- this is an article that I wrote a little while ago and I called it "Coronavirus Infections—More Than Just the Common Cold."  The reason is, up until recently, coronaviruses were like mild things.  They were just common cold and they just -- next slide.

    In fact, those are all different kinds of viruses.  The ones with the red circle around them are the four viruses that cause the common cold.  That was until 2002.  Then we got a big surprise.  And the surprise was -- next -- is that we had the severe acute respiratory syndrome, and that was SARS.

     Multiple years later, we got the Middle East respiratory syndrome.  But a story that you may remember, if you -- next slide.  In China, in the Guangdong province -- this sort of history repeats itself, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  Right.

DR. FAUCI:  In China, in the Guangdong province, there was this strange disease that came up that nobody knew what it was.  The Chinese didn't really tell anybody about it for a few months, November, until it got to Hong Kong.  When it got to Hong Kong -- next slide -- in a hotel in Hong Kong -- and this was way back in 2003 -- someone from China went to the hotel, infected a bunch of people -- next slide -- and this is what you had: You had flights going -- at the time, we didn't make any restrictions the way you did, which I think saved us, really, a lot of -- a lot of hurt.  Next slide.

And then this is what happened: There were 8,000 cases, 774 deaths.  And that's how I get the number that I've been telling you that the mortality of SARS was about 9 or 10 percent.  If you do that math, that's what it is.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  Wow.

DR. FAUCI:  Next slide.  The other one is the MERS coronavirus, which was the one that was in Saudi Arabia.  That was also from an animal reservoir.  Next.  In fact, it was from a bat.  Next.  From a bat to camel.  And then for the people in the Middle East who got it, that was the infection there.

So these are the kind of things that go from an animal reservoir to a human.  Sometimes it doesn't go anywhere; it just goes one to two people.  But sometimes it adapts itself to function very, very, very efficiently.

Next.  And that's what happened.  We had MERS coronavirus in Saudi Arabia, we had a few cases in the United States, but not many.

And finally -- next -- this is where we are right now, with the coronavirus.  And then, just getting back to the last -- we got this sequence about a week after the Chinese were able to put it up on the board and -- next -- and then these are the things that we do: Therapeutics, vaccines.

So we'll stop there, but we'd really like to hear some comments from you, Mr. President, if you want to --

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I want to thank you all.  This is incredible.  And I've heard about you, and I know all of you by name, and now I get to meet you.  unfortunately, I get to meet you, because we're talking about this.

But we've made tremendous progress.  I know you're dealing with other nations to help them out because they really -- they got hit, some of them very badly.  And we're talking to them also.  And we're making decisions as to whether or not we're allowed to travel -- they're allowed to travel.  They've been -- we've been pretty severe on those restrictions, but I guess we did the right thing by being severe.

NIH is the home of -- I mean, I see so many different factors, and it’s true -- the greatest doctors.  I've heard that for so long.  I heard that from my uncle, Dr. John Trump.  He -- big fan of what you've done and how it started.  And it's really been an incredible situation.

But the scientists and researchers all over the world, they say this is the best there is.  And I think the world is extremely happy that you're involved.

And, Tony, your reputation is second to none.  I think we all agree with that.  You have to agree with that, John, right?  I mean, you have no choice.

DR. MASCOLA:  Indeed, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  But the fact is, it is -- in this case, it's true.  And we're very lucky to have you.

I will say that the Vice President is over on the Hill.  He’s just leaving now, and I told him to stay there and finish it up.

But we're doing very well in terms of getting the funding we need, the necessary funding.  And I asked for X, and they want to give us more than X.  And that's okay, as far as I'm concerned.  In this case, Francis, that's unusual, but that's okay.

But I just want to thank everybody at NIH and all of the great scientists and doctors and everything.  I know you're working around the clock.  I know you've made some great finds already, and that's -- really, it makes us feel very good.

We had some good meetings yesterday with the companies that -- I guess you ultimately would go to the companies?  You’d have to go to the companies.  So we had Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson and some of the other great companies, and they were very positive as what -- as to the outcome.

And therapeutics were a very big thing, because I guess therapeutics can happen faster than the actual vaccine.  And certainly the result can happen a lot faster.  So we're looking for some good answers.

But I just want to thank you very much, Tony.  And we really appreciate it.  And, John, thank you.  Thank you very much.  Fantastic job.  Thank you very much.

DR. COLLINS:  Great to have you here.

THE PRESIDENT:  And, you, I don't have to shake hands with.  (Laughter.)  I see him every -- I see him every day, so I don’t have to bother.

So thank you all very much.  Great job.  Appreciate it.

Q    Mr. President, would you travel to Japan or Italy right now?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I haven't been asked to.  But I think we're making decisions on certain parts of those countries, as you know.  We've already made a decision on parts of Italy.

And Japan -- it’s very unfortunate because I've seen the incredible job they did on the Olympics.  As you know, they're building a facility; it's really finished.  It's beautiful.  It's finished right on time -- as usual, with the Japanese.  The Prime Minister, a very good friend of mine.  And -- Prime Minister Abe.  And so I don't know what they're going to do.  They have this magnificent facility, and I don't know what they're going to do, but they'll make the right decision, I know that.

But, yes, if it was necessary, I would do it.  Yes.

Q    What’s your timeline on further travel restrictions, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we're looking at different areas, and we'll make that decision with these professionals.  We made an early decision based on a little bit of luck, I suspect, but that was the original decision on China itself.  And China, in all fairness to them, they never blamed us.  It was, you know, a tough decision for them, but they fully understood.  They were very reasonable about it.  But that was a hard decision to make.  But I guess we would have had a lot more people with difficulty if we didn't make that decision very early on.

But we'll be making additional decisions as they arise, I guess, Tony.

Q    What about closing the southern border?  Is that still on the table?

THE PRESIDENT:  We're not looking at it very strongly.  We're not seeing a lot of evidence in that area.  We're closing it, I guess, automatically because we have a very strong border there now.  We didn't have a strong border at all.  We've built 129 miles of wall, and the wall area is 100 percent secure.

But we haven't seen any great -- I don't think we've seen any great evidence of that area as a problem at this moment.  So we won't have to bother with that at this moment.

Anybody?  You’re so nice today.  I can’t believe it.  (Laughter.)

DR. FAUCI:  This is the NIH.  That’s it. 

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s the NIH.  It rubbed off.

Q    What about Super Tuesday?


Q    Tell us about Super Tuesday, how you’re watching the primaries that are taking place.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it's going to be a very interesting evening of television.  I think it's really going to be something.  It’s -- they’ve got some races going on that didn't seem to exist a few days ago.  And now Biden has come up a little bit.  And I don't know what's happened with Bernie.  I think they're trying to take it away from him.  I don't know if that's fair, but I guess it's politics when you get right down to it and what's fair.

But I think it's going to be a very interesting evening of television.  And because of the time difference -- California time difference -- it’s going to go a little bit later than we're accustomed to, right?

Q    And who would you like to most --

THE PRESIDENT:  And I will be watching -- who would I like to win?  Anybody.  I'll take anybody I have to.  That's the way it's going to work.  Doesn’t matter.

Q    You have a favorite opponent?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I have -- I really just -- you know, we've done a great job.  We have the strongest economy on Earth.  We -- we've gone up and, you know -- as you know, China's economy has been hurt very badly, long before this.  We've done a really good job, and I think people understand that.  And I'm looking at polls that are very good.

But, you know, whoever it is, it is.  We’ll take them on.  We have no choice, right?

Anything else?  Steve?

Q    Do you have a reaction to the North Korean launch of those missiles yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I have no reaction.  Short-term missiles?  No.  No.  None.

Q    And on the Afghanistan -- was that your first conversation with the leader of the Taliban?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don't want to say that.  But we had a very good conversation with the leader of the Taliban today, and they're looking to get this ended, and we're looking to get it ended.  I think we all have a very common interest.  We'll find out about the country itself.  But the country really has to get it ended.  We've been there for 20 years.  Other presidents have tried and they have been unable to get any kind of an agreement.

The relationship is very good that I have with the mullah.  And we had a good, long conversation today.  And, you know, they want to cease the violence.  They'd like to cease violence also.

Q    And the Afghan government seems reluctant to turn over those 5,000 prisoners.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, they may be reluctant.  You know, they've been -- they've done very well with the United States for many years, far beyond military, if you look at all the money that we've spent in Afghanistan.  We've spent trillions of dollars.  Trillions of dollars.

And we're really a police force.  We're really not fighting, per se.  It's a fight that, if we had to, we'd win.  But I don't want to kill millions of people.  We would win it fairly quickly, but I don't want to kill millions of people.  I think it's crazy.  And so we've been there -- we’ll be very -- very soon, it'll be 20 years.

And I said, right from the beginning, not easy to get out of these conflicts.  Very complex in terms of all of the people you have to deal with, including, frankly, people in the Senate, people in the House.  And a lot of people feel differently about things.  But I've been amazed at how positive the response is to getting out of Afghanistan and to moving on.  And I really had a great conversation with him today.


Q    Back to coronavirus.  Are you considering new guidelines for nursing homes, given the cluster in Washington State?

THE PRESIDENT:  I could ask you to answer that question.


DR. FAUCI:  Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY AZAR:  So, actually, we have been educating healthcare providers, really, from day one, back in January, about the need to be on guard against respiratory syndrome.  And then, when we had this case of the long-term care facility in Washington, we sent out special alerts to long-term care facilities to be very mindful about infection control, isolation, with these most vulnerable of our seniors and other individuals who have comorbid conditions.

And that's really -- what we've been seeing around the world is the prevalence of fatalities have been in the elderly and those who have other forms of medical fragility, comorbid conditions.  And so really being on very high alert in our nursing home community is called for.

Q    Mr. Secretary, can you talk about your meeting with lawmakers today and what specifically they’re asking the federal government?  What’s their biggest concern?

SECRETARY AZAR:  Well, I think it's the same concern that we've all had, which is getting testing out there rapidly into the community so that we can be testing as many people as possible.

As you know, our excellent teams down at the CDC developed the test really in record time, within weeks of getting the genetic sequence back in January.  And we approved the diagnostic at CD- -- at the FDA, under an emergency use authorization in record time.

We’ve been able to be testing at CDC throughout, without any backlog in testing.  Our throughput has been great there.  We've had 12 labs qualify to be able to do the testing.  We did suffer a manufacturing issue on that test as it went out to the rest of the public health labs.

We've gotten that issue solved in the last week, so that’s up and running in the public health labs.  We also have gotten this test produced by this contractor to get it out.  So we will, this week, have up to 75,000 tests shipping out there to public health labs, as well as available to hospitals who order it.

And then something really important happened on Saturday morning.  So one of the biggest issues around testing that people don’t understand is, during the Obama administration, the FDA, for the first time, asserted control and regulatory jurisdiction over what are called "lab developed tests."  Before that, if a hospital or a lab, like a Quest Diagnostics, a Lab Corps, or an academic medical center would develop a test on their own with reagents and tests, they could just do that if they were a certified clinical lab, called a CLIA lab.

But under the Obama administration, the FDA asserted jurisdiction and said, "You have to come to us first and get approval of that test before you can do it."  On Saturday morning, Commissioner Hahn issued guidance saying, under an emergency use authorization, we are permitting these labs -- these public health labs, these hospital labs, commercial labs -- to go ahead, get the test going, do your own test, make it available, and come to us for approval after the fact under emergency use authorization.

That will make, as Commissioner Hahn has said, millions of tests per week available quite rapidly.

Q    Mr. Secretary, can I ask you about the study from the CDC today that showed the Americans most at risk of contracting coronavirus are the ones with people living with patients?  So should Americans be less worried about catching the virus from, say, people on the street or people at an airport?

SECRETARY AZAR:  So what we said at the press conference just yesterday is very consistent with that, which is: For the average American, in your daily life, the risk of getting coronavirus -- the novel coronavirus -- is very low.  But if you are around individuals who have the novel coronavirus, the risk obviously is higher.

And that’s why the efforts we're taking with the state of Washington and with Santa Clara County, and elsewhere in the country, are around what's called “community mitigation,” which is to isolate individuals who have the disease, as well as to reduce social contact to bring the level of disease spreading down.

Q    And, Mr. President, I don’t know if you had seen reports about the Vice President having shaken hands with students from a Florida school, one of whom have been placed in a voluntary self-quarantine.  Does that concern you at all?  What did you think about that?

THE PRESIDENT:  I haven’t seen that report.  No.

SECRETARY AZAR:  I haven’t seen it either.

THE PRESIDENT:  I haven’t seen it.

Q    Mr. President, how much money should go to hospitals for the uninsured?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we're going to look at the uninsured because they have a big problem.  And we're going to look at the uninsured people that -- you know, this came -- it was a surprise to all of us.  It just happened.  It shows what can happen in life.  But we're going to be looking at the uninsured and see if we can help them out.

SECRETARY AZAR:  We're working -- as part of the emergency supplemental, we'll work with Congress on programs to help hospitals as they care for the uninsured with novel coronavirus.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Thank you all very much.  Thank you. 

                                   END                3:11 P.M.


Office of the Press Secretary


South Lawn

2:04 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, folks.  So I'm going to the National Institute of Health.  We're having a roundtable.  Things are going very well, as you see.  It's been very strong.  Mike Pence and the entire group are doing an excellent job.

And do you have any questions?

Q    Mr. President, do you believe it's inevitable that the coronavirus will spread across the country?  And is it possible that we may need to take more stringent measures to contain it?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it's -- anything can happen, but I wouldn't say inevitable at all.  No.  I wouldn't say -- we've really -- we've done a good job by doing it and combatting it so early.  We have the best people in the world.  And I think we're getting a lot of credit for having made that early move.  So, no, I don't think that's inevitable at all.

Q    What do you need to see from Congress right now?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think Congress -- we're working along well with Congress to get the various fundings that we're looking for.  That's important in terms of stopping what we're doing.

Some countries have some very big problems.  We're working with them to help them.  They're really unaware of -- they've never done this before.  We do it very well.  And we're working with other countries, and that's very important.

Q    On the Olympics, do you believe the Olympics should still be held in Japan?  Are you comfortable with U.S. Olympic athletes going to Japan?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think I’m going to leave that to Prime Minister Abe.  He's a friend of mine.  He's built a beautiful venue.  It's a very sad thing if that would happen, because the venue is incredible.  They've spent billions of dollars.  But I'll leave that up to Japan.  That's up to them.

Q    What should the Fed's funds rate be?

THE PRESIDENT:  I would say that the Fed funds rate -- the rate, as you would call it, is too high.  It should be eased down so that we're competitive.

Look, we have the greatest country in the world.  We have the strongest country in the world.  It's our dollar that the world relies on.  We should have the low rate, but we have a Fed that doesn't agree with that.  I disagree with them.

Q    Did you speak with the leader of the Taliban today?


Q    Did you speak with the leader of the Taliban today?

THE PRESIDENT:  I did.  I spoke to the leader of the Taliban today.  We had a good conversation.  We've agreed there's no violence.  We don’t want violence.  We'll see what happens.  They're dealing with Afghanistan, but we'll see what happens.  Okay?

We had, actually, a very good talk with the leader of the Taliban.

Q    Do you believe that the Democratic establishment is trying to take it away from Bernie Sanders?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think there's no question the establishment -- the Democrat establishment -- is trying to take it away from Bernie Sanders.  There's no question about that in my mind.

Now, look, a lot is going to be learned tonight.  We'll see how well Biden does.  We'll see how well Sanders does.  I would've said, two, three days ago, Biden was not looking too good.  Now he's looking better.  But a lot is going to be known by a certain time tonight -- you tell me the time -- by, you know, California, we're a little bit -- we're a little delayed.  So probably by 9 or 10 o'clock tonight, we're going to have some big answers.

Q    What should happen, sir, for patients without insurance?  For patients who don’t have insurance, Mr. President, what should happen?  Will you -- will your administration help those people?

THE PRESIDENT:  We're looking at that whole situation.

Q    How so?

THE PRESIDENT:  There are many people without insurance.  So we're looking at that situation for those people.

Q    Who would make an easier opponent for you?  Biden or Sanders?

THE PRESIDENT:  Whoever it is, I don’t care.  I really don't care.  Whoever it is, we will take them on.

Hey, the job we've done -- we've rebuilt the military, we have the strongest economy we've ever had.  All of the things we've done.  I will take on anybody.

Go ahead.

Q    You'll debate any of them?

THE PRESIDENT:  Any of them.  Very gladly.  Very gladly.

Go ahead, Jim.

Q    Do we need to have more stringent containment measures to stop the virus from spreading in this country?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we're being very stringent.  But we're now looking at other countries that have been badly affected, and we're thinking about doing something.  We may have to do.  We don’t want to do that, but we’re looking at other countries and we’re being very stringent.

Now, I’m going but I’ll be back, and I’ll see you over there.

Go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, are you considering restricting domestic travel?


Q    Are you going to restrict domestic travel?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re not looking at that at all.  No.  There’s only one hotspot, and that’s also pretty much in a very -- in a home, as you know -- in a nursing home.

Q    Do you regret downplaying the coronavirus initially?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, not at all.  No, not at all.  But we’re doing a fantastic job.  The professionals are doing a great job.  We’re really happy with the job they’re doing.  They have -- they have been just ahead of it.  And we’re ahead of it by having stopped so much earlier than -- nobody wanted us to cut off access to our country, and I did it early.  By doing that, that was a big step.  Otherwise, many more people would be infected.

Q    Mr. President, the NCAA now preparing to say “no fans in the stands.”  Do you think that’s the right move?  And would you consider doing that --

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a tough move.

Q    -- from your rallies to the conventions?

THE PRESIDENT:  When did they announce that?  A little while ago?

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a tough move.  No, I’m not prepared for that.  But let them do what they want to do.  I’m hearing more and more about that.  I don’t think it would be necessary, no.  That’s too bad.

Jeff, go ahead.  Question?

Q    Mr. President, are you considering tighten- -- or cutting off travel to and from Italy and South Korea?  You already put some restrictions in place.  Are you going to make them tighter?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re watching Italy very closely, South Korea very closely, even Japan very closely.  And we’ll make the right determination at the right time.  We’ve cut it off, as you know, with numerous other countries, okay?

Q    What other countries are you considering?


Q    Any other countries you’re considering cutting off travel to?

THE PRESIDENT:  They are the hotspots right now.

Q    On the markets, sir -- are you concerned about what markets are doing today?


Q    Mr. President, what did you think of the Fed press conference, sir?


Q    What did you think of the Fed press conference, sir?  Did you watch that?  Do you have a reaction to it?

THE PRESIDENT:  I didn’t watch it.  No, I didn’t watch it, but the Fed is very disappointing to me.  They have to lead, not follow.  They are following, not leading.  They’re very disappointing.

                             END             2:11 P.M. EST 


Office of the Press Secretary


Washington Hilton
Washington, D.C.

11:27 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you.  What a nice group.  And thank you, Mary Ann.  I think you like Mary Ann a lot.  I was listening.  I said, “Who is out there that they like so much?”  It was Mary Ann.  (Laughter.) 

Please sit down.  Please.

Before I begin, I want to send my warm wishes to the great people of Tennessee in the wake of the horrible and very vicious tornado that killed at least 19 people and injured many more.  We're working with the leaders in Tennessee, including their great governor, Bill Lee, to make sure that everything is done properly.  FEMA is already on the ground, and I'll be going there on Friday.

Our hearts are full of sorrow for the lives that were lost.  It's a vicious thing.  Those tornadoes -- I've seen many of them during a three-year period, and I've gotten to see the results.  And they are vicious if you're in their path.  It's -- bad things happen.  It's -- really, bad things happened.

I went to Alabama nine months ago, and I saw the devastation that that left an Alabama too.  And everybody was so incredible.  The people were so incredible.  But so many people get killed if you're in the path.  And we'll be going, as I said, to Tennessee on Friday.

We send our love and our prayers of the nation to every family that was affected.  And we will get there, and we will recover and we will rebuild, and we will help them.  And condolences.  Tough.  Tough situation.  It’s such bad news when you see that.

I'm honored to be here with the National Association of Counties at your annual legislative conference.  It's a great group of people.  I've dealt with you for a long time over the years.  And every once in a while, I'll find one I don't like, but generally speaking, you’re fantastic.  (Laughter and applause.)  It’s true.

And when one of you are in the way, it's very tough to get that job done.  (Laughter.)  And when you're helpful, it's real easy and we get it done, and we produce a lot of jobs and good results.  And I just want to say you're very important.

And people that are doing what I do before I got here, we realize how important you are.  Incredible job.  Really, I've met some of the most incredible people doing exactly what you do.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

So, in this room, there are over 1,200 county leaders whose incredible devotion, talent, and drive directly and profoundly improve the lives of millions of Americans each and every day.  I want you to know that my administration will always be your friend and partner and ally, and resource, as you work to deliver an amazing future for your counties and for your communities and for the country itself.

As I said in my State of the Union Address three years ago -- I had just -- this -- I've had a number of State of the Unions already.  Can you believe it?  But this was three years ago, we launched the great American comeback.  And we really did.   We launched it with a vivor [sic] and with a -- with a certain splash that nobody has seen in a long time.  And what we've done in our country has really been incredible.  Our country is so strong now.  We've rebuilt our military.  We've cut taxes.  We've cut regulations.  You know regulations.  (Applause.)

You know the regulation business.  I think you know the regulation business better than any group I can think of.  (Laughter.)  Now, sadly, about 5 percent of you are saying, “Oh, gee, I wish they wouldn't have cut.”  (Laughter.)  But 95 percent of you are saying, “It was redundant and it was a problem.”  And, you know, I talk about highways that would take years to get approved; it would take 18, 19, 20 years.  I can give you many examples too.   Not even big highways.  Sometimes roadways.

But we've cut regulations at a level that nobody has ever thought possible.  And we've done it with the extraordinary help of local officials, people like yourselves that worked with us and worked with the Department of Transportation and all of the other departments that we work with.

We've got it down where it would take sometimes 20, 21 years to get approvals for a highway.  We think we have it down to two.  I want to get it down to one, meaning -- (applause) -- meaning that it can get rejected.  We have safety concerns that we have to look at.  We have environmental concerns.  Many concerns we have to look at.

But to go 20 years and then get a rejection, how about that?  How many of those have -- where you wait, let's say, 10 years and then at the end of 10 years, they vote and they reject you?  Okay?  There's been a couple.  I guarantee there's some people in the room.

I've been involved in a couple of that.  (Laughter.)  That's not fun.  You devote a big chunk of your life to something and then you lose three to two.  (Laughter.)  You go home: “How did you do, darling?”  “Not good.”  (Laughter.)

A lot of power in this room.  You don't know the power you have.  Yes, you do.

But we've hosted nearly 50 White House events, welcoming over 3,000 county leaders from all 50 states to forge powerful new bonds of cooperation.  (Applause.)

As we speak, my administration is working very closely with state and local leaders to confront the coronavirus.  We're really working hard on it.  Vice President Mike Pence is leading the White House Coronavirus Task Force.  He's doing a really fantastic job too.  (Applause.)

We have already met with state, county, and health officials in 30 states, and conducted regular briefings with governors to coordinate our response and contain the disease.  And it just shows you what can happen.  Six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, you never heard of this.  All of a sudden, it's got the world aflutter and -- but it'll work out.

But it's -- you know, just unseen.  You have it all of the time -- not to this extent; sometimes to a greater extent, relatively speaking.  But things happen that you never would even think would happen, and then you have to confront it.  You have to do a lot of good work.  And you take care of the situation.  You people do that better than anybody that I can think of.

America has the world's most advanced public health system.  We know that our county health officials play a frontline role in battling public health threats, and we are working with Congress very closely to pass supplemental legislation that ensures state and county health departments get everything they need.

     I asked for $2.5 billion; it looks like they're going to give us $8.5 billion.  I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before.  (Applause.)  So I think I should say, "I'll take it."  Right?  Right?  I asked for two and a half, they give me eight and a half -- I say, "I'll take it."  (Laughter.)

But, no, everyone is working together very well.  To prevent the uncontrolled spread of the disease, I ordered sweeping travel restrictions and did them very early, as you probably have heard -- earlier than people wanted me to do them.  And it turned out to be a wise decision.

Increased -- (applause) -- we increased travel advisory levels, established screening measures, and imposed historic quarantines.  We urge all of you to share information about basic health and safety practices with your communities back home.  CDC has all of the information.  It's listed all over.  And it's a good thing to refer to.  But that's why, following my remarks today, you'll hear from Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  And they're doing a fantastic job.  They are working around the clock.

America has the world’s greatest professionals working, and they are working very, very hard.  We're moving aggressively to accelerate the process of developing a vaccine.  I met, yesterday, with the biggest drug companies -- Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson and many of the other great companies -- and a lot of good things are happening, and they're happening very fast.  I said, "Do me a favor: Speed it up.  Speed it up."  And they will.  They're working really hard and quick.

We're moving at a maximum speed to develop the therapies, not only the vaccines, but the therapies.  Therapies is sort of another word for cure, where you have it; it helps get the people better faster and take down the severity of the illness.  And they've done so much -- ff you look at what's happened with AIDS and the tremendous job they've done there.  We will be, as an example, AIDS free within nine years.  Nobody would've thought that was possible.  (Applause.)  They are doing a fantastic job.

The revival of American strength over the last three years has put our country in the best possible position to deal with this challenge.  Our economy is prospering like never before.  We’ve relocated supply chains back to the United States.  You know, a lot of the chains now are back in the United States.

And we've also -- as you probably have noticed, for two years I've been complaining about the medicines are made outside of the United States.  I want them to be back here.  If there's a reason why we can’t use a certain country for lots of reasons, I want it to be made here.  And we've already started that process before this happened.  (Applause.)  But this sort of explains why we have to do it pretty well.

Jobs and growth have soared in the United States at a level that’s unprecedented -- historic.  And also, we've had historic new investment in our country.

No country on Earth has had greater power to overcome adversity.  What we've done in so many different ways -- we've rebuilt our military -- $2.5 trillion.  You know, it's wonderful to have a good budget, but if we don’t have a strong military -- (applause) -- you never want to be in a position where you're trying to explain people -- to people that, "Well, at least we had a good budget,” as people are running up the front lawn of the White House.  No, thank you.  (Laughter.)

You look over and you say, "You know, we did a hell of a job on that budget.  Should've spent a little more on the military, I guess."  Right?  (Laughter.)

But when I took over, our military was totally depleted.  It was an embarrassment.  And we've totally rebuilt our military, most of the equipment.  Much of it is already there --new planes, and new missiles, rockets.  New everything.  We make the greatest military equipment in the world, all made in the USA.  (Applause.)  All made in the USA.  Yeah.  All made in the USA.  Every bit of it is made here.  (Applause.)

Rebuilding our Navy.  We’re rebuilding our Navy and we're doing a job.  And, frankly, $2.5 trillion is a lot, but it's not a lot when you think of the importance of the military.  You know, they say the most important thing that a President does is the court system, and in particular, Supreme Court judges.  So I've named 218 new federal judges.  Can you believe it?  (Applause.)  And that’s a record.  That’s a record.

Only one person beat me percentagewise.  You know who that is right?  Does anybody know?  Percentagewise, there’s only one.  And when you look, 218 -- because President Obama was very nice; he left 142 to start off with.  Usually you're left none; I had 142.

But you know who the one percentagewise was?  George Washington.  He had 100 percent.  (Laughter and applause.)  But it was like 12 people.  (Laughter.)  Twelve.  At least I can say I named more than him.  A lot more.  It was a little smaller country at the time, but he had 100 percent.

In our great national renewal, my administration has made engagement with local leaders a top priority, because nobody understands the needs of local communities better than local officials -- the people in this room.  (Applause.)  Nobody.

And with your help -- and we keep in touch with you, as you know, all the time.  We feel very strongly about that.  Our economy is, right now, the envy of the world.

We have created -- and, by the way, yesterday, did you notice?  The market went up almost 1,300 points.  (Applause.)  That's the highest, biggest -- that's the biggest one-day gain in points in the history of our country.  Can you believe that one?  That was a nice surprise.  That was -- that took about half of the hurt from the previous week out, caused by something, again, that we didn't think would happen.  So that was tremendous.  And today it's up.

And the Federal Reserve cut rates today, finally.  Finally.  Finally.  (Applause.)  Finally.  Do it more.  Do it a little bit more.  You want to be competitive with these other countries.  Other countries have lower rates because their Feds -- their currencies are cut to a level and their rate is cut.  They play with their currency, they play with the value of their currencies, and we don't do that.  We don't do that.  We have a different kind of a theory going, and it really puts us at -- and I don't say necessarily to do it, but we have to be competitive with other countries.

When we're paying two points more than Germany, or we're paying more than other countries, we should be paying less than everybody else.  We have the dollar.  We have the strength.  We have the greatest country on Earth.  We should be paying less.

So the Fed rate is too high.  It's very simple: It's too high.  It puts us at a competitive disadvantage, especially when it comes to exporting our product to other countries.  The other countries love that; I don't like it at all.  (Applause.)  So I'd like to see our Fed lead instead of being led.

We have created 7 million more jobs since the election.  And if you would have said 7 million jobs, nobody would have believed that number.  (Applause.)  The optimistic projection by the previous administration was 2 million jobs -- that it would be 2 million by this time -- and it turned out to be now over 7 million jobs.  So that's something really incredible.

African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have reached the lowest level in history.  You know that.  (Applause.)

Median household income has hit the highest level ever recorded.  If you look back and you go to President Bush, it's $450.  If you go to President Obama -- and that's for eight years, remember.  If you go to President Obama, for eight years, $975.  And if you go to President Donald John Trump,   over a period of three years, it's almost $10,000.  (Applause.)  That's a big difference.

So it's much more over a much, much shorter period.  And if you think about it -- I mean, take a look at it and look at the result -- our consumer is so powerful, so strong.  It's really what's leading our country right now, the strength of our consumer.  Nobody has a consumer like we have.  So we've done a job.

For the first time in nearly three decades, every single metro area in the United States has seen their income rise.  Every single area.  The economy -- (applause) -- of rural America -- I love rural America, all that red.  (Applause.)  Rural.  I love rural America.

Look.  (Applause.)  Well, that's nice.  (Applause.)  That's great.  You know, we have all those city slickers there in the back; they're quiet.  (Laughter.)  They're in the back.  We put them in the back corners.  That's okay.  (Laughter.)  How are you doing back there?  Well, they're still waving.  (Laughter.)  Oh, I love those beautiful red areas, that middle of the map.  There's just a little blue here and a little blue.   Everything else -- everything else is bright red.  (Applause.)

Well, what we did, you know, for your farmers or -- you know, what -- it's been incredible.  The USMCA -- we got out of that horrible NAFTA deal, and now we have USMCA.  It's going to make a tremendous -- like day and night.  And then made the deal with China.  Fifty billion dollars' worth of purchases for the farmer.  I don't think the farmer is going to be able to produce it -- $50 billion.

You know, the highest ever was $16 billion.  The biggest purchase China ever made in a year was 16.  So we made it 20 in the agreement, and then the day before the agreement was signed, I said, "How are we doing with the farmer?”  You know, because they suffered.  Of course, not too much because I gave them whatever they got taken -- nobody else would do that -- paid for by China out of the tariffs, right?  And we had a lot left over.  That wasn't so bad.  That's why the other presidents never did it because they didn't quite get it.

But I will say, the farmer -- so they have $20 billion in the agreement.  I said, "Do me a favor.  Make it 50 -- $50 billion."  They got 1.5 billion people, right?  And they said, "No, no, no."  I said, "What does it matter to you?  What does it matter?  It doesn't make any difference."  Anyway, they agreed to do it.  So instead of $20 billion -- highest ever was $16 billion in one year, two years ago.  Instead of 20, they made it $50 billion.

And now my people look at me and say, "Sir, the American farmer will not be able to produce that much."  I said, "Trust me.  They will produce that much."  (Applause.)  Remember I said, "Tell them to go buy more land and get bigger tractors."  Right?  (Applause.)  We buy more land, assuming they get approval from your people.  You got to approve them.  (Laughter.)

But, no, the farmers -- you know, they were so incredible, the farmer.  Just -- you know, the way when -- when the CNNs of the world would go and interview them, looking for something to speak negatively, because when we're negotiating -- you know, China is very smart and they pulled back all their orders.  They didn't order almost anything.  And they'd see the farmer and the farmers were hurt, I mean, until we started helping them out with money from China.  But frankly -- which was a tremendous thing, actually.

But the farmers never said anything bad.  They said -- you know, normally they say, “Oh, it's terrible what he's doing.”  Well, you have to make the deal.  You know, it's -- there’s suffering going on.  It's an operation.  It’s like an operation.

And the farmer, the American farmer -- I don't know that I've seen almost anybody.  And they tried to stick that micro- -- “What do you think of the horrible thing where President Trump is in a trade war with China?”  And they’d say, “Sir, it should’ve been done a long time ago.  It's painful, but this should’ve been done 15 and 20 years ago.”  (Applause.)

And then CNN would pull that mic away -- “I don't like this guy.  Let's find somebody else” -- and then put it in front of somebody else.  And then they’d interview women in the rural communities.  They’ll say, “Are you disappointed that you voted?”  You know, like Democrats had voted for Trump, right?  “Are you disappointed?”  They had one about two weeks ago, right?  You saw it.  It was a classic.  I think they convinced CNN that they were going to say bad things about me -- ten just incredible women -- and they convinced them.  “And you are women that voted for President Trump last time.  Who are you going to vote for this time?”  Ten -- all of them -- they go, “Trump.”  (Laughter and applause.)

What?  What?  What?  That was incredible.

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no.  This is not supposed to be a political rally.  (Laughter.)  This is not a political rally.  I don't like talking politics.  We're talking about the economy, rural America.  (Applause.)  I don’t like talking about politics.  This a pretty wild group you have here, I think.  But it’s a great group of people.  It's a great -- a great feeling.  You can feel it.  I mean, we have a great group of people, and I appreciate it.

The economy of rural America has grown 30 times faster under my administration than during the four years prior to my election.  Think of that.  (Applause.)  Thirty.  Thirty times.  Even I -- that sounds like an exaggeration.  If it is, you'll read about it tomorrow on the Wash- -- (laughter).  They'll give me a Pinocchio.  Well, that's what they have.  They had to get it somewhere.  I know -- one thing I know: It's grown a hell of a lot faster.  Thirty times sounds like a lot.  But they are; they're doing great.

Together, we're building the most prosperous economy and the most inclusive society ever to exist in this country.  Under our massive tax cuts, governors across the country have designated nearly 9,000 distressed community as Opportunity Zones, and neighborhoods are being revitalized every single day.   You see that.  (Applause.)

The Opportunity Zones -- it's Tim Scott.  Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina has been so incredible.  He came in with the idea of Opportunity Zones.  And I don't think there's been anything like it.  We have -- all over the -- thousands all over the country in areas that haven't seen investment in 40 years.  People are putting tremendous amounts of money.  Investors.  Sometimes you’d say rich people are putting money in.  They’re creating jobs and they're happy with it.  I've -- nobody has seen anything like it.  It’s really prospering.  Maybe because the economy is so good, but things like that help make the economy good.

So it's been a very unusual -- usually, that stuff -- almost never does that stuff work.  And then the government comes in with massive subsidies and loses their shirt.  This is something where people are investing in areas that they would have never, ever in a million years invested in, and it’s become a tremendous success.  The fake news doesn't like talking about it, unfortunately, but one day they will.  Because I think you can't help it.  It's become one of the great successes.

We're also promoting workforce development through our pledge to America's workers.  Four hundred and thirty companies have already committed to providing new jobs and training opportunities to over 15 million Americans.  And I give my daughter, Ivanka, a lot of credit for that.  She -- she came in, she said, “Daddy…”  (Applause.)  It’s true.  She had a great company in New York.  She wanted to just come and just help people get jobs.  I said, “Would you like to do this?”  “No, I want to help people get jobs.”

So she started off with 500,000 jobs, and she just broke 15 million.  She did the 500,000.  If you know her, I'm not surprised.  She did the 500,000 like the first week.  But, you know, 500,000 jobs is a lot.  So she'll go to a Walmart and, you know, many of the great companies, and Johnson & Johnson, and they'll hire large amounts.  I think one of them did -- I think it was Walmart -- did a million people where they train them.  And government is in no position to train them.  You understand that.  Government wouldn't know where to begin.  It’d just be another program that they have that would be a disaster.  (Laughter.)

So she'd go to these -- no, no, you can't -- you just can't do that.  The private companies -- and then also, it's very specific.  They have very specific needs.

One of the problems we have is that we're having tremendous amounts of companies moving back to the United States, moving into your communities.  And the problem they have is -- (applause) -- in many cases, they can't get help.  And now what they're doing is they're taking people that didn't have jobs, and they're training them -- specifically training them.  And Ivanka has done that job, and it's been incredible.

In the State of the Union Address, I called on Congress to support my plan to offer vocational and technical education in every high school.  True.  (Applause.)  And I love the term “vocational schools,” because, to me, it says it.  I mean, when I went to school, I had people.  And one person in particular, he wasn't very good as a student, but he could, after hours, take apart a motor or an engine of a car.  And he could strip it blindfolded, put it back together in 15 minutes.  It was the most incredible thing.

I said, “This is your real ability.” He just had an ability that was extraordinary.  Not for sitting there, writing out tests, but for doing things like that, which are, frankly, just as important and high-paying jobs.  They're really high-paying jobs.  (Applause.)

And I love the name “vocational school.”  When I was growing up, we used to -- Edison Vocational School, where they’ll train them for, you know, cars and for bricklaying and for plumbing and all the things that there’s tremendous talent involved.  And it was incredible.  You don't see that.  Now they call them “junior colleges.”  And you don't really -- as junior colleges, you don't really know what that means.  What is a junior college?  What does it mean?

So we're getting back to the word “vocational.”  I thought it was very important.  And it's something that they're very proud of.  And I would be very proud also.  You know, people have that tremendous ability, and we don’t allow them to use it.

We want to help every American acquire cutting-edge skills that they need for the jobs today and for tomorrow.  To put more money in American pockets, we've launched the groundbreaking regulatory reduction campaign by cutting regulations -- (applause) -- yeah.  Yeah.  By cutting regulations on one of the most exciting things that happened.  If you look at the other side, they want to get rid of all energy.  You know, “Let's -- let's put up windmills all over your communities.”  Right?  “Let's have windmills all over the place and solar.”  I love solar, but it's not powerful enough to power these massive factories and plants that we have being built all over.

But by cutting regulations on American energy -- for example, we're massively driving down energy prices -- you see that happening -- unless it's an area or a community where they're not allowing that to happen, in which case -- New York as an example: We're unable to build a pipeline through New York State, where they'd love the jobs of doing the pipeline.  And because of that, New England has very, very high energy prices.  We could cut the energy prices in New York and New England down by half -- less than half, if they would allow.  And we're fighting them very hard, and I think we’ll be successful.  But if they'd allow a pipeline to go through, we would cut the prices of energy down by half, and even more so than that.  It's a terrible thing.  It's a very unfair thing to the rest of the country.

The American energy revolution is now saving the typical family of four an average of $2,500 per year.

And I will say this: We are now energy independent.  How nice is that?  (Applause.)  Energy independent.  Energy independent.  

That's why you don't see all those ships going out to the straits and coming back, and they keep looking for our ships.  “What happened to the USA ships?  I don't see them too much anymore.”  But we're energy independent.  And we're the largest producer of energy, by far, in the world.  It wasn’t that way not so long ago.  So.  (Applause.)

And we approved the Keystone XL Pipeline.  You know that.  (Applause.)  And we approved -- right? -- the Dakota Access Pipeline.  I came in -- those two, I did them in my first week or less.  And it was 48,000 jobs, but more importantly, it's actually environmentally better.  You’re taking it under the soil.  Nobody even sees it.  You’re under the soil as opposed to trains and the problems that can happen.  So it's been a tremendous thing.

But with us today is Rebecca Long, the commissioner of Lee County, New Mexico.  (Applause.)  Oh I love New -- how am I doing in New Mexico?  I hear we're going to win New Mexico.  (Applause.)  We're going to win New Mexico.

Rebecca, please come forward and say a little bit about what's happening on the energy boom.  And your state is right up at the forefront, and we’re very proud of New Mexico.  Now, if I don’t win it, I won't say that.  I’ll take it.  (Laughter.)  I’ll come back and I’ll say next year, “I was only kidding about New Mexico.”

Please.  Hi, how are you? 

     MS. LONG:  It is such an honor to be here with you today.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s my honor.  Thank you very much. 

MS. LONG:  And the remarks you were saying fit exactly in with what I’m going to say.


MS. LONG:  So thank you from Lee County, New Mexico, where your energy agenda is helping us with quicker right-of-way permits on BLM land and drilling permits.  We’re getting those faster, so that’s heling America be energy independent.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  Thank you.

MS. LONG:  So we appreciate that.

Let me give you a little bit of history.  In December 2016, right before you came on, we had 17 active drilling rigs producing 7 million barrels of oil.  In December of 2019, we had 53 active drilling rigs with 18.2 million barrels of oil.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  That’s great.

MS. LONG:  So right now, Lee County, New Mexico, is the second-largest oil and gas producer in the United States.


MS. LONG:  And soon we will be first.  And thank you so much for all you do for us.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s fantastic.

MS. LONG:  Energy independence is so important, and we appreciate that you know where we are and who we are.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

MS. LONG:  Thank you.  Thank you.  We appreciate you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  Good job.  Now, again, we’re not getting political, because I refuse to be -- do that, but -- (laughter) -- you know, Rebecca, that if Bernie or one of these characters get in, you can close up your energy.  You do know.

AUDIENCE:  Booo --

THE PRESIDENT:  They have little things like, “We don’t want petroleum products.”  Well, that’s a lot of people.  (Laughter.)  That’s a lot.

We’re also building your wall right along the border to stop people from coming into our country illegally.  Right?  You know that.  (Applause.)  Say hello to the people of New Mexico.  I’ll be there soon.

We’re reversing decades of calamitous trade policies that decimated so many of your communities.  You know that.  You know it probably better than anybody in the country, how bad it was.  We have successfully renegotiated new trade deals with South Korea and Japan, who were really ripping us.

South Korea -- remember, Hillary Clinton -- the great Hillary Clinton -- she said, “No, no we want this deal.  It will produce 250,000 jobs.”  And she was right, for South Korea.  They produced -- (laughter) -- it’s true.  It got South Korea 250.  So you can’t say she was wrong.  She wasn’t misleading us.  She said, “250,000.”  It was a horrible deal, and we’ve totally renegotiated that with South Korea.  Now it’s a good deal for the United States and a fairer deal.  You know, it’s -- that was a ridiculous deal.  (Applause.)       

In January, we finally ended the NAFTA catastrophe, and I signed the brand-new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement into law, the USMCA.  (Applause.)

And we also took the strongest-ever action to stand up to China’s trade abuses, which, frankly, for years -- explain that one, what was happening with China.  500-billion-dollar-a-year deficits.  Allowing us to reach a landmark agreement that will deliver vast benefits for our ranchers, growers, manufacturers, farmers.

Working closely with local officials, we’ve taken bold action to curb the opioid epidemic, which is such a problem no matter where you come from.  (Applause.)

And for the first in 31 years, we actually went down a little bit.  We went down.  Some communities are down 17, 18, 19 percent.  One is down 21 percent.  But still, it is a massive, massive problem for our country.  Drug overdose problems are just a terrible, terrible problem.  And it's a world problem too.  It's -- no matter where you go, it's -- it's pretty tough stuff.

And frankly, I should say, no matter where you go unless they have really, really strong measures against the dealers, in which case they have no problem.  I wonder how that works.  How does that work, Mary?  When you go to a country where they have very, very stringent -- unbelievably stringent, like probably we can't do in our country -- they have no drug problem.

You go into China, you say.  "How's your drug problem?" They don't even know -- President Xi doesn't even know what you're talking about.  "We have no drug problem."  They have quick trials.  Right?  Quick trials.  And I won't even tell you what the punishment is, but let me just say it's very swift.  (Laughter.)

You go to Singapore -- they don't have a drug problem in Singapore.  A lot of money, a lot of everything.  Perfectly set up for a drug problem.  Everything perfect.  But they are very, very tough.  And I just don't know whether or not this country is ready for that, whether or not it can do it.  But the only countries that don't have a drug problem are countries where the retribution is unbelievably tough.

When we work together, we can dramatically improve public safety.  (Applause.)  It is especially vital that all state and local officials cooperate fully with all requests from our courageous ICE officers.  I hope I don't insult anybody, but the ICE officers are taking people out of your communities by the thousands, including MS-13 gang members.

If you didn't have them -- and your local enforcement doesn't want to do that.  And these are seriously tough, crazy people, in many cases, and we're getting them the hell out of our country, and we're bringing them back to where they came from.  And we're keeping them there and -- Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador -- so many of these countries.

And, you know, in the past administration, they couldn't bring them back because they'd say, "No, no.  You can't bring them back.  Get out.  You can't bring them back."  So they'd fly over; they wouldn't let them land.  They wouldn't let buses go in with these people.  We’d would have to bring them back.

They don't do that with us.  (Applause.)  With us, they say, "Thank you very much.  We appreciate it.  Thank you for bringing these wonderful citizens back."  MS-13 -- you can have them.  And now we bring them back and they take them immediately.

And we just have set records for coming through the border.  We're setting records now on not coming through the border.  We built 128 miles of wall.  We've already got 100, and we have some going up in New Mexico just now.  But we have 128 miles.

And you think that was easy getting that thing for -- I could do anything.  I can rebuild the military for $2.5 trillion.  But if you're going to spend 10 cents on a wall, it was like you couldn't do it.  They would shut down the country.  (Laughter.)

We actually did shut down the country for a little while, frankly, but we ended up getting the money, and the wall is under construction.  We're building a lot.  We're up to 128 miles, and we'll have close to 500 miles sometime -- pretty early next year.  (Applause.)

And in the area where we have them, the walls -- as you people know, because you're also people of great common sense.  You're brilliant, but you have great common sense.  That's why you're doing what you're doing.  At least the good ones do; the bad ones probably don’t, you know.  There must be some bad ones in the room, right?

But it's a matter of common -- so much of life and so much of government is common sense.  But where we have a wall, the numbers just went down to almost zero.  Now they go around. That's why the wall gets longer and longer.  But the numbers have been incredible.

You know, the Democrats used to say, "We don't want a wall. We'll give you drones."  They wanted to give me drones.  I said, "What good are drones?  They're going to be flying around in the air watching thousands of people cross the border.  What good are drones?"  (Laughter.)  "No, no, we'll give you technology." They were saying, "Walls -- walls are old-fashioned."

Yeah, two things will never change: a wall and a wheel.  Right?  A wheel.  (Applause.)  Come back in 1,000 years; you're going to have a wheel.  Come back in 1,000 years; you're going to have a wall.  (Applause.)  They're probably the only two things that aren't going to change in life.  But it is true, when you think of it.  (Laughter.)

So we have 128.   We're building it rapidly, and it's exactly what Border Patrol wanted.  They did tests on every form of wall you can have.  And it's an expensive wall in terms of -- expensive -- very expensive per square foot.  But it's the kind of wall we need.  We might as well -- if we're going to do it, we might as well do it right.

They had a -- (applause) -- they had a big story, two weeks ago, that the wall fell down -- my wall fell down.  You know, I'm saying how strong it is.  I always like to brag about it because it really is.  It's deep set into the ground, surrounded by heavy concrete and steel.  It's actually made of steel on the outside, concrete and rebar inside.  You know, it's got everything.  Right?

And one of the big newscasters, they said, "The wall fell down."  I said, "Oh, this is bad.  I'm building a wall and it falls down -- that’s terrible."  So I go, "What the hell happened with the wall?"  "Well, sir, they had a tremendous windstorm and we were just setting it in very wet concrete.  The concrete had -- and we were holding it up as much as we could until the concrete dried.  And the wind came at 58 miles an hour, sir, and it blew the wall over.  We put it back up, and we held it with cranes."

I said, "You mean you were putting it up and the concrete was soaking wet?"  "Yes, sir.  We just put it in the concrete, and it fell down."  "Oh."  They didn't say that.  (Laughter.) They didn't say that.  They don't say little things like that, do they?  Oh, I don't know how you put up with the fake news, you people.  (Laughter and applause.)

Americans are safest when we support the heroes of federal, state, and local law enforcement.  (Applause.)  My administration -- they're incredible people.  They do an incredible job.  And I'll tell you what: They're very much appreciated in our country.  You know, you read so many things, but they're very much appreciated.  And ICE has done an incredible job of getting very bad -- some very bad people out of your communities.

My administration is also reshaping our nation's approach to mental illness.  My budget calls for almost $5 billion to improve access to inpatient mental healthcare through Medicaid.  (Applause.)

And as you know, county jails were not meant to deal with the mental illness problem.  (Applause.)  They weren't.  They weren't.  Thank you.  Thank you.  I didn't know that that was going to hit such a high note.  Really.  I mean, that's incredible.  I didn't know that that was going to be appreciated the way it's meant to be.

But you understand the situation.  You understand -- the people in this room understand all of the things we're talking about, better than any people I can imagine, even people in Washington.  They don't -- (applause) -- you know, you're on the ground.  So when you make a statement like that, that's very meaningful to me when you -- when you give it that kind of a response.  I wouldn't have thought it would have had that response.

It's also not compassionate to leave those with mental illness on the streets, and you see that.  (Applause.)  So we must get Americans the care that they need.

From day one, my administration has worked closely with you to overcome natural disasters such as the tornado in Tennessee.

Since I took office, 62 percent of counties have received major emergency or disaster declarations, with the federal government committing over $124 billion to support your citizens in very trying times.   And we get you the money quickly.  We check it.  We do what we have to do.  But I think everybody in this room would say that you get the money much quicker under our administration than in the past.  (Applause.)  It used to be unfair.  It used to be very unfair, to a point where you really couldn't even properly do the work.  It would take you so long to get the money, you're afraid to do the work.  We get it to you quickly.

We're joined today by Kathryn Starkey of Pasco County Florida.  A good place.  Kathryn, please come up and share your story about your community and recovering from a very big disaster that I know very well.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Hi, Kathryn.

MS. STARKEY:  Thank you for the opportunity.  In 2017, President Trump's Office of Inter Government- -- Intergovernmental Affairs started an innovative outreach program, inviting to D.C. commissioners from each state, regardless of party affiliation.

This opened a bridge for communication with federal agencies.  And then hurricane Irma hit my state later that year, and soon we had an issue I needed to bring to the attention of your administration, sir.

Counties were getting into bidding wars over debris removal contracts, and they were creating unaffordable prices for other municipalities.  Fortunately, I was able to call the IGA office, and they immediately set up a conference with the FEMA officials.

They quickly resolved the issue through an emergency rule change.  And this would not have happened without the incredible outreach from the White House early on.

I'd like to thank you, sir, President Trump, the IGA office, and the federal agencies, who are being such incredible partners to local government.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

MS. STARKEY:  Thank you for making America great again.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow, thank you, Kathryn.  Thank you very much.  Beautiful.  And I have to say, Kathryn, that you had two governors -- you had Rick Scott, previously, right?  And he did a fantastic job.  Now your Senator and your current governor, Ron DeSantis.  And they would come to my office, say, "President, can we see you just for a minute?  Oh, good."  Separately, but very similar, they wanted money.  I said, "Well, what do you want?"  "We don't need much.  We need a little bit more for the Panhandle,” as an example.  And I said, "Oh, good.  I love the Panhandle."  They got everything they needed, that I can tell you.  But they'd say, "We need another little bit of money."  "How much do you need?"  "$500 million more."  "$500 million?  That's a lot.  You've got it."  (Laughter.)

But they'd come up -- you know, it goes to the Panhandle.  It goes to -- look, these people -- having the right governor in a state is so important.  The good ones, they bug me, bug me, bug me.  (Applause.)  And you have great ones in this country.  You have so many great ones.  And Governor Lee is a great one, in Tennessee.  You have so many -- Texas, Greg Abbott.  But Ron DeSantis, the job he's doing, the job that Rick did as governor, Rick Scott, it's -- it's so important.  If you have the wrong governor, it's not helpful.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  Absolutely.  But if you have the wrong governor, you know understand that better than anybody: If you have the wrong governor, it doesn't work.  But they would come up and they'd want to get everything set and done.  And they need it fast because you have to rebuild your community.  And debris was the biggest thing, Kathryn, right?  Debris.  Debris was the biggest thing.

They'd bid it out, and they'd have bids that were so crazy.  One would be very low and the others would be very high, and they weren't allowed, through red tape, to use the low one.  And I worked it so that they could use the low one.  And, you know, we did a lot of great things.  But Florida really has done -- they have done a fantastic job.

Thank you very much.  That was beautiful.

Everyone here is devoted -- and, really, a devoted public servant.  You love your neighbors, you love your country, you love this nation like nobody else.

Every day, we're working with you to build a country where every town is booming, every community is prospering, and every child has the chance to reach the American Dream.

As long as I am President, the federal government is on your side 100 percent.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you. 

You will always have a very important seat at the table, and you will always find an open door at the White House.  Many of you have come to the White House, and we've had a lot of good discussions.

No matter what community you represent, we're all united by our loyalty to the citizens we serve and the knowledge that America is the most exceptional nation anywhere in the history of the world.

To every county leader -- and it's so brilliant to have you here because you really are the people that know it the best.  And I really know that much more from my previous life.  This life is different, to put it mildly.  (Laughter.)  I thought it would be easier; it's actually much tougher.  But I know it from my previous life.  I know the talent that you have, the insight that you have.  It's really incredible, and I want to thank you for your unbelievable service.

Thank you for your selfless devotion, and thank you for fighting for a glorious future of American greatness.

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

                             END                12:14 P.M. EST