Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Readout from First Lady Melania Trump's Second Opioid Town Hall in Las Vegas, Nevada

Office of the First Lady
Readout from First Lady Melania Trump's Second Opioid Town Hall in Las Vegas, Nevada

First Lady Melania Trump arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada Monday afternoon after making two stops in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Seattle, Washington promoting her Be Best message.

Earlier today, Mrs. Trump participated in an opioid town hall at the Westgate Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Opioid addiction is one of the three pillars that make up Mrs. Trump’s Be Best campaign and this is her second time appearing to speak at a town hall hosted by Eric Bolling.

Mrs. Trump delivered remarks that focused on the progress made by the Trump Administration and the great work being done by so many in an effort to end this national crisis.  During her remarks, the First Lady encouraged people to break through the stereotypes of drug addiction.  Mrs. Trump asked the audience to be brave enough to help someone if they know they are struggling, or strong enough to stand by them while they fight the disease.  Mrs. Trump said that Be Best continues to focus on programs that help educate mothers and families on the dangers of opioid abuse.  The First Lady enforced the idea that ending the opioid epidemic will require the entire country to come together on the large national scale down to local communities and neighborhoods – this is a fight we must all take responsibility for. 

Prior to departing, the First Lady also participated in a Q and A with Eric Bolling taking questions from him and users on social media.


Thank you Eric. I am honored to be with you again.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank you for the strength you have shown, despite what I know to be the grief you and Adrienne deal with each day.  People who are able to use a profound loss to help others, are an inspiration to all of us.  You honor your son each day by shining a light on this nation’s opioid crisis and by the lives I know you are saving.  Thank you again for allowing me to be part of such a heartfelt and impactful event.

The United States is by far the largest consumer of opioids, using more pills per person than any other country in the world. In fact, overdose deaths have quadrupled since 1999 and now account for the majority of fatal drug overdoses.  These overdoses are being driven by a huge increase in addiction to prescription painkillers, heroin, and now, fentanyl. No part of our society or our country has been spared from the deadly disease of drug addiction.

As most of you here know, my husband and his entire Administration are committed to fighting the nation’s opioid epidemic.  As the statistics very clearly demonstrate, it is the worst drug crisis in American history, and as such, the President declared it a public health emergency and directed all executive agencies to use every appropriate emergency authority to fight this crisis.

I have been honored to work alongside many of those agencies - including the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and now joining us later today, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.  Together, and with all of you here today, I know we can make a real difference and save lives.  I do believe we can be known as the generation that ended the opioid epidemic.

I am so proud of the hard work and results that have already been demonstrated, including the work being done alongside doctors and medical professionals to carry out best practices for safe opioid prescribing, and requiring federally-employed prescribers to receive special training to reduce over-prescribing and increase access to evidence-based treatments.

This Administration also supports first responders and medical professionals’ access to the tools they need to prevent deaths through life-saving overdose medications, and is currently distributing over $1.4 billion in grants for addiction prevention and treatment, and over $50 million to support law enforcement programs that assist those facing prison and addiction.

The United States Postal Service has strengthened its inspection of packages coming into our country, to try and stop the flow of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and manufactured in China.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched an awareness campaign called RX Awareness  and will soon be launching another anti-stigma campaign called “Crisis Next Door”, in partnership with the White House. This campaign will give a voice to those affected by the opioid crisis by allowing them to share their stories and Eric Bolling was one of the first to share his family’s story, inspiring hundreds more who have followed his lead.

When I took on opioid abuse as one of the pillars of my initiative BeBest, my focus has mainly been on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which are conditions that occur when a baby withdraws from the drugs it was exposed to during pregnancy.  After they are born, these innocent babies endure nausea, pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, and trouble eating - the same as adults who undergo detox.  We must do all that we can to educate young mothers on the dangers of abusing drugs and I encourage medical facilities around the country to implement programs such as the Maternal Addiction, Treatment, Education and Research program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Their vital program has been helping mothers and children since the 1970s, offering treatment programs designed to support both mothers and their babies.

Less than a year later, and after meeting so many families with heartbreaking stories, I have started to expand my focus with the goal of helping children of all ages.   I have visited many hospitals and facilities dedicated to helping all who have been affected by the disease of drug addiction.  I’ve spent time with adults who are addicted, babies born addicted, and families coping with the addiction of a loved one - and every time I am struck by just how many people have been touched by drug addiction.  Whether it is because of personal use, or that of family members, friends, coworkers, or neighbors - opioid addiction is an illness that has truly taken hold of our country.  I have learned that we have a responsibility to not just ourselves, but also those who may be struggling around you.

I have said this before – but it bears repeating: while you may never personally become addicted, the chances of you knowing someone who struggles with it are high.  And if you, or someone you know needs help, please be brave enough to ask, or strong enough to stand with them as they fight through the disease. Please educate yourselves so you know the signs of addiction, and also feel secure enough to talk about it, and keep talking about it until help arrives.

If even one of you leaves here today and talks to a friend or family member about the potential to end this crisis, then we have succeeded.  Ending this epidemic will require continued effort by the entire country, including the government, neighborhoods and communities, and private organizations.

I’d also like to take a moment to challenge the media to cover this very real issue as often as possible. In 2017, we lost at least 72,000 Americans to overdoses—that’s 197 lost American lives per day – more than 8 lost lives per hour.  I challenge the press to devote as much time to the lives lost – and the potential lives that could be saved – by dedicating the same amount of coverage that you do to idle gossip or trivial stories. When we see breaking news on TV, or the front pages of newspapers – it is my hope that it can be about how many lives we were able to save through education and honest dialogue.  We all have a real opportunity to help this country save lives, and I know these are the real issues that people care about.

By thinking of this epidemic not just in terms of statistics, but as a human story, we have the potential to not just reduce, but eliminate the statistics I mentioned earlier. Together, we can support our next generation and work together to strengthen fragile families and communities.

I look forward to hearing from the rest of today’s guests, and from the people who have asked questions via social media.  I also want to thank each of you for taking the time to be here, and of course Westgate Arena for hosting such an important and potentially life-saving event.

God bless you all and God bless the United States of America. Thank you.



Office of the Press Secretary


Public approval of President Trump’s handling of the economy has hit a new high as the soaring economy continues to lift up American workers.

THE HILL: Trump’s Approval Rating on Economy Hits New High: Gallup

“President Trump’s approval rating on the economy has reached a new high, according to a Gallup poll published Tuesday. The poll showed that 56 percent of adults in the U.S. approve of Trump’s handling of the economy, the best mark of Trump’s presidency and the highest approval rating for Trump on any of the 14 issues in the poll.”

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Boom: Best Economic Optimism in 16 years, 50% ‘Better Off’ Under Trump

“Public optimism in their personal economy has hit a 16-year high under President Trump, according to a new survey. Some 69 percent told Gallup that they expect their personal finances to be even better next year, just shy of the record 71 percent when the internet boom was raging under former President Bill Clinton. What’s more, the survey company said that 50 percent believe they are ‘better off’ than just a year ago when the current economic surge was kicking in and when the White House coined the phrase ‘MAGAnomics.’”

FOX NEWS: Annual Economic Growth Hits 3 Percent, Defying Predictions of Trump Critics

“The data are in and the economy grew at a 3.1 percent rate from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018, one measure of annual growth, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That is the first time in 13 years that it’s been over 3 percent, the White House notes. The administration attributes the gains to tax cuts, deregulation and other pro-growth policies.”

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Inside the Hottest Job Market in Half a Century

“The job market doesn’t get much better than this. The U.S. economy has added jobs for 100 consecutive months. Unemployment recently touched its lowest level in 49 years. Workers are so scarce that, in many parts of the country, low-skill jobs are being handed out to pretty much anyone willing to take them—and high-skilled workers are in even shorter supply. All sorts of people who have previously had trouble landing a job are now finding work. Racial minorities, those with less education and people working in the lowest-paying jobs are getting bigger pay raises and, in many cases, experiencing the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded for their groups.”

CNBC: Worker Wage Gains Just Broke 3% for the First Time in More Than 10 Years 

“Wages and salaries for American workers rose more than 3 percent over the past year, the first time that threshold has been broken in more than 10 years, according to a Labor Department report Thursday. The employment cost index, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases quarterly, showed a 3.1 percent gain in the wages and salaries component in the fourth quarter of 2018. That’s up from 2.9 percent in the third quarter and tied for the biggest gain since the third quarter of 2008, just as worst of the financial crisis hit.”

BLOOMBERG: Job Switchers See Best Wage Gains Since 2007 

“A strong labor market is proving to be blessing for job switchers as they pocket bigger raises amid record openings. Median wage growth for those who jumped to new positions picked up to 4.6 percent in January from a year earlier, the fastest pace since October 2007, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s Wage Growth Tracker.”

THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: More Americans Are Back at Work Making Stuff

“America’s factories are hiring again. After years of job losses, U.S. manufacturing employment has risen for 18 straight months among those holding production or nonsupervisory jobs, the longest stretch of gains since the mid-1990s. Employers have added 274,000 non-managerial manufacturing jobs since July 2017, Labor Department figures show.”

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: 90 Percent of Big Manufacturers High on Trump Economy, Set 4.4 Percent Growth Target

“The nation’s top manufacturers have for the ninth consecutive quarter given the Trump economy a thumbs up, setting record industry optimism of the economy and predicting positive growth unseen during the Obama administration. The National Association of Manufacturers said big and small companies are overwhelmingly optimistic about future growth. In fact, the past nine quarters of have seen record optimism, with an average of 91.8 percent of manufacturers positive about their own firm, compared to an average of 68.6 percent during the last two years of the Obama administration.”


“For a midterm report card on the economy under President Trump, take a look at two recent government reports. The Commerce Department reported Thursday that real gross domestic product grew by 3.1% from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018—the largest rise in 13 years. And last month the Congressional Budget Office reported that even if the current surge in economic growth isn’t sustained, the revenue residual from our current strong growth rate will pay for some 80% of the projected cost of the 2017 tax reform. While these reports reflect only the initial impact of the tax cuts and the deregulatory effort, any objective evaluation would give the administration’s economic program high midterm marks.”



Office of the Press Secretary

Roosevelt Room

1:59 P.M. EST

     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I very much appreciate it.
I'll be heading to Alabama on Friday.  So I think some of you will be joining me, but we'll be going down Friday.  And we'll let you know times and when we're leaving, and how long we'll be there.  It's been a tragic situation, but a lot of good work is being done.  And we've been in constant touch with the Governor, and also the Governor of Georgia.  And so we'll be going to the area.  We'll be -- Alabama and the general area.  We'll see Governor Ivey.  So that'll be on Friday.  Thank you very much.

And we're here today to confront a solemn crisis that requires urgent national action.  In a few moments, I will sign an executive order addressing one of our nation’s most heartbreaking tragedies: veteran suicide.

Our mission is to mobilize every level of American society to save the lives of our great veterans and support our heroes in need.  We've worked very hard on Choice for the veterans and so many other programs, and done a really great job in so many ways.  Veteran suicide is something that's been an incredible thing to watch -- hard to believe.  It's tragic.  Today we can help end this crisis.

I would like to thank Secretary Wilkie for being here today with us.  He has done a fantastic job as Secretary.  He is making tremendous progress at the VA.

We are also profoundly grateful to be joined by many of our nation’s leading veteran service organizations -- the best -- and all of the state and local veteran leaders.  And I want to thank everybody very much for being here.  Thank you very much.  Thank you all very much.  I know how hard you've been working on this.

Veteran suicide is a tragedy of staggering proportions.  Hard to believe an average of 20 veterans and service members take their lives every single day.  Who would believe that's possible?  There are more than 6,000 veteran suicides per year.  The suicide rate among veterans is 1.5 times greater than that for non-veteran adults, and the suicide rate for post-9/11 soldiers has increased significantly over the last ten-year period.

To every veteran: I want you to know that you have an entire nation of more than 300 million people behind you.  You will never, ever be forgotten.  We are with you all the way.  I think you know that.

Supporting veterans is a very, very important thing to me.  And it's been very important -- from my campaign, from day one, and from before my campaign -- but from day one.

Supporting veterans in distress is a critical priority for our entire administration -- everybody in the administration.  Last year, I signed into law the largest funding bill for the VA in its history, which included $8.6 billion for veterans in mental health services.  I also signed an executive order directing the Department of Defense, Veteran Affairs, and Homeland Security to ensure our veterans have seamless access to mental health care and suicide prevention resources.  These efforts focus on veterans the first year after they separate from military service when they are at the heightened-risk area.

The White House VA hotline has fielded more than 200,000 calls and successfully resolved 93 percent of the concerns our veterans brought to them.  And they work very hard.  It's been very, very effective.

We secured $206 million for VA suicide prevention programming.  Every VA medical center now offers same-day emergency mental health care.

These are crucial steps, but unfortunately most veterans who die by suicide have not been in the care of the VA.  Many of them don't know about the programs that we have or the programs that we've instituted.  In fact, nearly 70 percent of those lost to suicide have not received care from the VA in the previous two years.  They're just not aware of those great strides.  They're just not aware.  It's just not something that's on their mind.

This grave problem can only be solved if our entire country works together to build communities that truly serve, support, and protect our veterans from the first moment they return to civilian life.  It's so different.  They leave a military life and they go to civilian life, and it's just much different.

We must keep our promises to those who keep us free.
Through today’s action, I am launching the PREVENTS Initiative -- “The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide”.  This order creates a new Cabinet-level task force co-chaired by Secretary Wilkie.  The task force will create a comprehensive, national public health roadmap that brings together federal and local government, along with private sector partners, to improve the quality of life for our veterans and turn the tide on this terrible crisis.

We're being helped greatly by our strong economy.  Our economy is very, very powerful and makes it a lot easier for people to get jobs, including veterans.  And a lot of companies are actually giving priority, at our request, to veterans and they're very happy with the results.

The task force will be charged with developing a national research strategy so that we can more effectively identify, intervene, and help veterans during a time of need.  By investing in research and scientific advances, we can better understand the trauma our brave soldiers face and how to restore their faith and their health.

Under this order, my administration will also work with Congress to pass legislation providing resources and assistance in the form of grants to communities so that they can empower veterans with critical information, services, and networks of total, total support.  We're going to take care of our veterans.  We're working so hard on this.

We're making so much progress and we're going to take care of them like never before.  Veterans are America’s greatest national treasure and a lot of people understand that; some people don't.  I will tell you, our single-greatest national treasure.  They kept us safe and we're going to keep them safe.  They courageously fulfill their duties to our nation.  Now we must fulfill our duties to them.

Here with us today is Frank Larkin.  His son, Ryan, followed in his footsteps to become a Navy SEAL.  Terrific, terrific young man.  Tragically, Ryan is no longer with us.  Frank, we'd love to have you come up and just say a few words about your great son, please.  Frank.

MR. LARKIN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  And thank you to our warriors and veterans present today; along with the veterans service organizations -- our partners who are working hard every day to make a difference for our veterans who are in need; to the other government leaders here today; and to the survivors of suicide who live every day with the pain from the loss of their loved one.

     Ryan was a decorated high-performing Navy SEAL who suddenly went over the edge.  In the two years that we tried to rescue him, he was prescribed over 40 different drugs.  His treatment was all psychiatric- and behavioral-health focused.  All along, Ryan kept saying that something was wrong with his head, but nobody was listening.

     Months before he took his life, he expressed a wish to donate his body for TBI research.  Ryan was concerned about his teammates and the similar struggles that they were experiencing following both training for combat and combat operations overseas.  Many are burdened with invisible wounds as a consequence of going into harm's way into the service of this nation.

     After Ryan's death, we learned that he suffered from an undiagnosed, severe level of microscopic brain injury uniquely related to military blast exposure from firing our weapons systems, rockets, mortars, using explosive breaching charges, and being exposed to improvised explosive devices -- IEDs.

     We are currently challenged by the fact that this newly discovered pattern of brain injury cannot be seen in a living person -- not unlike the contact sport players who are trying to understand the effects of microscopic CTE, which also cannot be seen in a living player.

     This executive order is defining a national strategy that needs to resemble a Manhattan-like Project.  We need the science to illuminate our path forward.  I am convinced that we can solve this.  It is not because we lack the intellectual capability or capacity; in many cases, it's because of culture.  We need all the relevant players to step onto the same field of play at the same time, completely focused on solving this problem.  We need collaboration, integration of data, and unity of effort across DOD, the VA, HHS, DHS, academia, and the private sector.

     We need a holistic approach with a heightened sense of urgency to push the scientific research.  As we develop knowledge -- as we experienced with the Manhattan Project and space exploration -- we will inform on other disease processes and therapies that will go well beyond the veteran community and vice versa.

     I receive calls almost weekly from special operators, past and present, seeking help.  They want to know what is happening to them.  They are experiencing unexplained changes.  They want to know if the pain will get better, if the demons will go away, if they will return to being the person they once were.

     I have to commend my own SEAL community and the Special Operations Command for embracing this challenge.  They realized that things did not go well in Ryan's case -- that he got left behind.  They are working hard now to get it right, collecting exposure data, promoting a brain donation program to advance the research, increasing baseline health surveillance, and changing tactics to reduce exposures, especially in the combat training environment.

     We also need to appropriately recognize invisible wounds suffered on the battlefield.  The monetary cost of a Purple Heart award is low -- a few dollars for the medal itself.  But the emotional impact is very high to those suffering daily with these obscure injuries to be recognized for their sacrifice.

     Mr. President, following this event I'm going over to Arlington National Cemetery to tell Ryan that he's still making a difference, that he's still helping his boys.  We can't leave any more of our valiant men and women behind.

     To our warriors, our veterans, and their families: Please do not lose hope.  We will find a better way.  Remember, we made a promise to take care of those who served us.  Failure is not an option.

     Mr. President, I thank you for the platform.

     THE PRESIDENT:  Very nice.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, Frank, very much.

Also here today with us is Thomas Winkel, a Marine Corps veteran.  He is the Director of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families and the creator of a nationally recognized community collaboration model called "Be Connected."

And, Thomas, if I might, could you please come up and say a few words?  Thomas.

MR. WINKEL:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I greatly appreciate being able to be here and speak with you all today.  To Frank, I really appreciate your words.  I'm sorry about your son.  He is in our hearts and you are in our hearts, your family.  And Semper Fi, brother.

MR. LARKIN:  Thank you.
MR. WINKEL:  Folks, the PREVENTS Initiative it exactly what this country needs.  It is exactly what the thousands -- the tens of thousands of individuals across the country have been hoping for.

For the past 10 years, I've been working with states -- every single state -- across the country.  Local teams, state teams, federal teams.  And when you boil everything down -- all their concerns, all their hopes, all their dreams, all their frustrations -- what it really comes down to is that there needs to be a sense of coordination and collaboration unlike what we have today and unlike what we've seen before.

We're not talking about just regular old coordination and collaboration, or a partnership that is "partnership" in name only.  But we need partnership that is true, that is consistent, that allows the organization to meet both its own metrics and its altruistic metrics.  It's incredibly important.  And it's incredibly valuable.

We have examples of this true partnership -- little ones, all across the country.  One from Arizona happens to be in 2010.  The Arizona National Guard had its highest rate of suicide ever.  Very, very difficult situation.  Partners got together under the leadership of a collective impact initiative.  And we all had the same goal in mind: How do we reduce this number or get rid of it completely?

Over the course of 36 months, we dropped the rate from the highest ever to zero.  It can be done.  We have the ability to prevent suicide, to make lives more empowered, to make lives have more meaning, and to be able to drive folks forward to feel the success that happens when they get a great job, or they get a great spouse, or they have kids.

Look, the reality is, is that we've all known someone who has died by suicide.  It is hard.  It is painful.  And we have the ability to stop it.  What our belief is, and the way that we were able to do this is that we worked with a "No Wrong Door" and "No Wrong Person" approach.  A "No Wrong Door, No Wrong Person" approach.  That means very single organization was engaged.  Every single organization was involved that had a stake in service members, veterans, and their families, and their survival and their thriving.

So we have mechanics, and lawyers, and doctors, and teachers, and first responders.  And we have hotel clerks -- one of my favorite stories is a hotel clerk that noticed that a person that was checking in happened to be a veteran -- that they were struggling in a variety of different ways.  But the hotel clerk didn’t know what to do.  He called what we have in Arizona, called the "Be Connected" line, and talked with them.  They coached him through how do you just connect with the individual.

So the clerk goes up to his room, knocks on the door, and says, "Hello, sir.  I just wanted to check in with you.  You seem like you might be a little distressed and I wanted to see if there was anything I could do for you."

The individual said, "I'm so glad that you came up.  I'm so glad that you talked with me because I was sitting here contemplating how I was going to die.  Not 'whether.'  Not 'if.'  So you may have just saved my life."

We hear these stories consistently, and it takes the entire community to be able to do this -- everybody working off the same page.  Our belief is, is that if everyone knows what to do when an individual is in trouble, they will act.  And we've seen it time and time again.

So, Mr. President, we greatly support this act -- or this initiative.  It is an incredible thing.  We deeply appreciate everything that you have put into this.  It is going to make a huge difference.  And I can speak on behalf of Arizona and the other states that I have spoken with that we stand ready.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  So, Thomas, I heard one thing beyond all else when you just spoke so beautifully, and that was "from the highest rate ever to zero."  That was a very big statement.  So we're going to have to find out what you are doing.  Somebody's got to get together with you.  That's an incredible job.  I've heard about it, too.  "Highest rate ever to zero."

MR. WINKEL:  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  That's what it's about.  That's what we're up here for.  There has to be something that we can do.

MR. WINKEL:  There is.

THE PRESIDENT:  Twenty a day?  It's hard to believe.  So thank you very much.  Come here.  Again, thank you very much.

I'd like to ask a man who's really done an incredible job, before I sign -- Secretary Wilkie -- to step up and just say a few words.  I'm so happy that he's our Secretary.  If you look over the last fairly long time now that he has been Secretary, we've had so many good stories about what's happening, generally, at the VA.

We're extremely of proud of Choice.  It's been many, many decades that they have been trying to get Choice, where a veteran can go out and see a doctor if the lines are long.  They don’t have to wait four days, nine days -- I always say three weeks, five weeks, ten weeks.  Never get to see a doctor.  People go on line and they're not feeling well, and they end up being terminal by the time they get to see a doctor.

And, by the way, we have great doctors.  I have to say, I've heard -- one thing I hear: We have great doctors in the VA.  A lot of people say getting there is tough but, when you see them, they're as good as anybody in the world.  We have great doctors.

But a man who has really put it all together is Secretary Wilkie.  So, Secretary, please say a few words.  Please.

SECRETARY WILKIE:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I've said this to you before, separate and apart from the honor of serving in your administration, but I am what passes for an amateur historian.  And there has never been a campaign or an administration where the candidate and the President put veterans at the centerpiece of his campaign and his administration until you did that.  And as I speak for all of us who have worn the uniform, in whatever capacity we have served, we can't thank you enough for that, sir.

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

SECRETARY WILKIE:  So, last week, three Department of Veterans Affairs heroes put their lives on the line to keep a fellow veteran from taking his own life.  Dr. Bruce Goldfeder, Dr. Evelyn Alba, and hospital technician Navarone Johnson in the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center risked their lives to save the life of a veteran.  Two of our VA heroes were wounded -- one severely.  But that veteran lived.

Since 2017, VA employees -- doctors, nurses, technicians, policemen -- have saved 243 veterans just like the one that our heroes saved in Palm Beach.  But since 2017, 19 veterans have not been saved.  That is what today's ceremony is about.  It is about pulling together the resources of the federal government, our states and localities, our charities, our non-governmental organizations, and coming together with a roadmap and the resources to make sure that we no longer have those 19.

I have said many times that the mission of the Department of Veterans Affairs is to remind our fellow citizens why they sleep soundly at night.  They sleep soundly at night because of the sacrifices of a select number of their fellow Americans who have taken the affirmative step to serve in uniform.

Those -- as the President said, those 20 who every day take their own lives -- 14 of them outside of our VA system, most of them from my father's generation.  His comrades from Southeast Asia.  We deserve, for them, the last full measure of our devotion.  And this begins the closing of that circle.

And, Mr. President, I thank you and your team for everything they have done on behalf of America's warriors.  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Good job.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

This is very important to me and to everybody here.  Thank you very much.

(The executive order is signed.)

Where's Frank?  Here you go, Frank.

MR. LARKIN:  My son's bracelet.  It's a symbol of all the veterans who have taken their lives.  We've got to keep our eye on the ball.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Frank.

Thank you very much everybody.  Thank you.

Q    Sir, your response to the Democrats who are calling for a criminal investigation into Jared Kushner’s security clearance?

THE PRESIDENT:  The witch hunt continues.  The fact is that, I guess, we got 81 letters.  There was no collusion.  It was a hoax.  There was no anything.  And they want to do that instead of getting legislation passed.  Eighty-one people or organizations got letters.  It’s a disgrace.  It’s a disgrace to our country.

I’m not surprised that it’s happening.  Basically, they’ve started the campaign.  So the campaign begins.  But the campaign is actually -- their campaign has been going on for the last two and a half years.  So it’s a shame.

And the people understand it.  When they look at it, they just say, "Presidential harassment."  But that’s okay.

No administration has accomplished -- probably, you could say this with absolute surety -- in the first two years anywhere near what we have accomplished.  Whether it's the tax cuts; whether it's regulation cuts; whether it’s the Veterans Administration -- what we've done with the Veterans Administration with Choice and so many other things that nobody thought would be possible to get passed; no administration has done in its first two years what the Trump administration has done.

So what the Democrats want to do -- they cannot stand the loss.  They could not stand losing in 2016.  I see it all the time.  I see people getting on -- I saw a certain person get up yesterday.  The anger.  The anger.  And they just haven’t gotten used to the fact that we won a lot of states that haven’t been won by Republicans in a long time.

But essentially what they're saying is the campaign begins.  And instead of doing infrastructure, instead of doing healthcare, instead of doing so many things that they should be doing, they want to play games.

President Obama, from what they tell me, was under a similar kind of a thing -- didn’t give one letter.  They didn’t do anything.  They didn’t give one letter of the request.  Many requests were made; they didn’t give a letter.

It’s too bad because I’d rather see them do legislation.  We negotiate out legislation.  We have so many things -- actually things that we agreed on, like infrastructure.  But they want to focus on nonsense.

So I just want to end by thanking all of the people that are in this room today.  Very special people.  The job you've done for the VA is incredible.  And just keep up the good work.  And, Secretary, you've been fantastic.  Thank you very much.

Thank you all.

                         END                 2:25 P.M. EST



Office of the Press Secretary



“There is a humanitarian and security crisis on our southern border that requires urgent action.” – President Donald J. Trump

WORSENING SITUATION AT THE BORDER: New numbers released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reflect an ever-worsening crisis on our southern border.

  • New data from DHS shows that more than 76,000 inadmissible aliens arrived at the southern border in February.
  • An average of more than 2,000 aliens cross illegally every day at the southern border.
    • Border Patrol has apprehended over 268,000 individuals crossing since the beginning of the fiscal year (FY), a 97 percent increase over the same period in the previous year.
  • Our Nation is experiencing an unprecedented spike in the number of alien families arriving at the southern border, with more than 40,000 arriving in February alone. 
    • In this FY to date, there has been a more than 300 percent increase in the number of family units apprehended compared to the same time period last FY.
  • Apprehensions of family unit aliens and Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) this FY have surged 338 percent and 54 percent, respectively.
  • There has been a wave of large migrant groups flooding to the southern border.
    • Seventy large groups of 100 or more individuals have attempted to cross the border so far this FY, compared with only 13 the previous year.
  • Many of the migrants arriving at our southern border are requiring medical assistance, further straining resources and personnel on the ground.
    • Customs and Border Protection is executing a new directive to expand existing medical service contracts and deploy additional medical personnel to the border.
UNDENIABLE EMERGENCY: We are facing an undeniable humanitarian and national security crisis at our border that constitutes a national emergency.
  • Many migrants who make the trek through Central America and Mexico encounter horrifying violence, including sexual assault.  
    • One-third of women are sexually abused along the journey to the border, according to a report by Doctors Without Borders.
  • Dangerous criminals have exploited our porous borders to gain entry into the country.
    • In the last two years alone, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made 266,000 arrests of illegal immigrants with criminal records – many charged with violent crimes.
  • Deadly drugs continue to pour across our border and into our communities, including the vast majority of cocaine and heroin consumed in America.
    • More than 70,000 American lives were lost to drug overdoses in 2017.
TAKING URGENT ACTION: President Donald J. Trump is taking urgent action to address the crisis we are facing and uphold his duty to ensure the safety of our Nation.
  • The President has taken action to address this crisis and build barriers desperately needed at our border, including declaring a national emergency. 
  • Nearly $8.1 billion has been identified to build border barriers, including funds appropriated by Congress, funds available under other statutory authorities, and military construction funds available in a national emergency.
  • President Trump deployed the military to assist our heavily strained border personnel.
    • More than 6,000 troops have been deployed at the border.


Office of the Press Secretary

     Brent R. Bunn, of Idaho, to be United States Marshal for the District of Idaho for the term of four years, vice Brian Todd Underwood, term expired.

     Robert J. Colville, of Pennsylvania, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania, vice Arthur J. Schwab, retired.

     Timothy J. Downing, of Oklahoma, to be United States Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma for the term of four years, vice Sanford C. Coats, resigned.

     Michael Blaine East, of North Carolina, to be United States Marshal for the Eastern District of North Carolina for the term of four years, vice Scott Jerome Parker, resigned.

     Stephanie L. Haines, of Pennsylvania, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania, vice David S. Cercone, retired.

     Jason K. Pulliam, of Texas, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Texas, vice Sam Sparks, retired.

     Matthew H. Solomson, of Maryland, to be a Judge of the United States Court of Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years, vice Emily Clark Hewitt, retired.

     David Austin Tapp, of Kentucky, to be a Judge of the United States Court of
Federal Claims for a term of fifteen years, vice Lynn Jeanne Bush, term expired.

     Dale Cabaniss, of Virginia, to be Director of the Office of Personnel Management for a term of four years, vice Jeff Tien Han Pon.

     Andeliz N. Castillo, of New York, to be United States Alternate Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank, vice Eliot Pedrosa.


     Calvin R. Tucker, of Pennsylvania, to be a Governor of the United States Postal Service for a term expiring December 8, 2023, vice Carolyn L. Gallagher, term expired, which was sent to the Senate on January 16, 2019.


Office of the Press Secretary

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    By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

    Section 1.  Purpose.  On average, 20 service members and veterans die by suicide each day.  As a Nation, we must do better in fulfilling our solemn obligation to care for all those who have served our country.  I am therefore issuing a national call to action to improve the quality of life of our Nation's veterans -- many of whom have risked their lives to protect our freedom while deployed, often multiple times, to areas of prolonged conflict.

    Answering this call to action requires an aspirational, innovative, all-hands-on-deck approach to public health -- not government as usual.  The Federal Government alone cannot achieve effective or lasting reductions in the veteran suicide rate.  This is not because of a lack of resources.  It is, in fact, due substantially to a lack of coordination:  Nearly 70 percent of veterans who end their lives by suicide have not recently received healthcare services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

    To reduce the veteran suicide rate, the Federal Government must work side-by-side with partners from State, local, territorial, and tribal governments -- as well as private and non-profit entities -- to provide our veterans with the services they need.  At the same time, the Federal Government must advance our understanding of the underlying causal factors of veteran suicide.  Our collective efforts must begin with the common understanding that suicide is preventable and prevention requires more than intervention at the point of crisis.  The Federal Government, academia, employers, members of faith-based and other community, non-governmental, and non-profit organizations, first responders, and the veteran community must all work together to foster cultures in which veterans and their families can thrive.

    The United States must develop a comprehensive national public health roadmap for preventing suicide among our Nation's veterans, with the aspiration of ending veteran suicide once and for all.  This roadmap must be holistic and encompass the overall health and well-being of our Nation's veterans.

    Sec. 2.  Policy.  It is the policy of the United States to end veteran suicide through the development of a comprehensive plan to empower veterans and end suicide through coordinated suicide prevention efforts, prioritized research activities, and strengthened collaboration across the public and private sectors.  This plan shall be known as the President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide or PREVENTS (the "roadmap").

    Sec. 3.  Establishment of the Veteran Wellness, Empowerment, and Suicide Prevention Task Force.  (a)  There is hereby established the Veteran Wellness, Empowerment, and Suicide Prevention Task Force (Task Force), co-chaired by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy (Co-Chairs).

    (b)  In addition to the Co-Chairs, the Task Force shall include the following officials, or their designees:

        (i)     the Secretary of Defense;

        (ii)    the Secretary of Labor;

        (iii)   the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

        (iv)    the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development;

        (v)     the Secretary of Energy;

        (vi)    the Secretary of Education;

        (vii)   the Secretary of Homeland Security;

        (viii)  the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

        (iv)    the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; and

        (x)     the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

    Sec. 4.  Additional Invitees.  As appropriate and consistent with applicable law, the Co-Chairs may, from time to time, invite the heads of other executive departments and agencies, or other senior officials in the White House Office, to attend meetings of the Task Force.

    Sec. 5.  Development of the President's Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide.  (a)  Within 365 days of the date of this order, the Task Force shall develop and submit to the President the roadmap to empower veterans to pursue an improved quality of life, prevent suicide, prioritize related research activities, and strengthen collaboration across the public and private sectors.  The roadmap shall analyze opportunities to better harmonize existing efforts within Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal governments, and non-governmental entities.  The roadmap shall include:

        (i)    the community integration and collaboration proposal described in section 6 of this order, which will better coordinate and align existing efforts and services for veterans and promote their overall quality of life;

        (ii)   the research strategy described in section 7 of this order, which will advance my Administration's efforts to improve quality of life and reduce suicide among veterans by better integrating existing efforts of governmental and non-governmental entities and by improving the development and use of metrics to quantify progress of these efforts; and

        (iii)  an implementation strategy that includes a description of policy changes and resources that may be required.

    (b)  In developing the roadmap, the Co-Chairs shall, at their discretion and in consultation with the other members of the Task Force, engage with:

        (i)    State, local, territorial, and tribal officials;

        (ii)   private healthcare and hospital systems, healthcare providers and clinicians, academic affiliates, educational institutions, and faith-based and other community, non-governmental, and non-profit organizations; and

        (iii)  veteran and military service organizations.

    Sec. 6.  State and Local Action.  Within 365 days of the date of this order, the Task Force shall submit a legislative proposal to the President through the Director of the Office of Management and Budget that establishes a program for making grants to local communities to enable them to increase their capacity to collaborate with each other to integrate service delivery to veterans and to coordinate resources for veterans.  The legislative proposal shall promote the development of milestones and metrics in pursuit of:

    (a)  community integration that brings together veteran-serving organizations to provide veterans with better coordinated and streamlined access to a multitude of services and supports, including those related to employment, health, housing, benefits, recreation, education, and social connection; and

    (b)  promoting a stronger sense of belonging and purpose among veterans by connecting them with each other, with civilians, and with their communities through a range of activities, including physical activity, community service, and disaster response efforts.

    Sec. 7.  Development of a National Research Strategy.  (a)  Within 365 days of the date of this order, the Task Force shall, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, develop a national research strategy to improve the coordination, monitoring, benchmarking, and execution of public- and private-sector research related to the factors that contribute to veteran suicide.

    (b)  As the Task Force develops this national research strategy, the Co-Chairs may, at their discretion and in consultation with the other members of the Task Force, engage with the persons and entities described in section 5(b)(i) through (iii) of this order, as well as with Federal Government entities.

    (c)  The national research strategy shall include milestones and metrics designed to:

        (i)    improve our ability to identify individual veterans and groups of veterans at greater risk of suicide;

        (ii)   develop and improve individual interventions that increase overall veteran quality of life and decrease the veteran suicide rate;

        (iii)  develop strategies to better ensure the latest research discoveries are translated into practical applications and implemented quickly;

        (iv)   establish relevant data-sharing protocols across Federal partners that also align with the community collaboration outlined in section 6 of this order;

        (v)    draw upon technology to capture and use health data from non-clinical settings to advance behavioral and mental health research to the extent practicable;

        (vi)   improve coordination among research efforts, prevent unnecessarily duplicative efforts, identify barriers to or gaps in research, and facilitate opportunities for improved consolidation, integration, and alignment; and

        (vii)  develop a public-private partnership model to foster collaborative, innovative, and effective research that accelerates these efforts.

    (d)  The national research strategy shall not be limited to clinical or healthcare interventions, but should approach the problem of veteran suicide in a holistic manner to improve overall veteran quality of life.

    Sec. 8.  Administrative Provisions.  (a)  The Department of Veterans Affairs shall provide funding and administrative support as may be necessary for the performance and functions of the Task Force.

    (b)  The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in consultation with the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, shall designate an official of the Department of Veteran Affairs to serve as Executive Director of the Task Force, responsible for coordinating its day-to-day functions.  As necessary and appropriate, the Co-Chairs may afford the other members of the Task Force an opportunity to provide input into the decision of whom to designate as Executive Director.

    Sec. 9.  Termination of the Task Force.  After submission of the roadmap described in section 5 of this order, the Task Force established in section 3 of this order shall monitor implementation of the roadmap.  The Task Force shall terminate 2 years following the submission to the President of the roadmap.

    Sec. 10.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

        (i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

        (ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

        (b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

        (c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

                        DONALD J. TRUMP

    March 5, 2019.


Office of the Press Secretary


“We will not rest until all of America’s great veterans receive the care they’ve earned through their incredible service and sacrifice to our country.” – President Donald J. Trump

CALL TO ACTION: President Donald J. Trump is taking action to empower our veterans and address the tragedy of veteran suicide.

  • President Trump is signing an Executive Order on the “President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide”—the PREVENTS Initiative.
  • The Executive Order establishes a task force that includes the Secretaries of Veterans Affairs, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security.
  • The task force will develop a comprehensive public health roadmap for helping veterans pursue an improved quality of life and ending the national tragedy of veteran suicide.
    • The roadmap will include a national research strategy for engaging with public- and-private sector stakeholders to better understand the underlying factors of suicide, and to lead to earlier identification and intervention.
    • The roadmap will also include a proposal for equipping State and local governments with the resources and tools they need to empower veteran communities and provide needed services.
  • To prevent suicide, the Federal Government must work side-by-side with partners across all levels of government and with the private and non-profit sectors.
  • The Administration’s roadmap will help create a national and local ecosystem that cultivates active engagement with each veteran, rather than a passive system wherein the onus for engagement is placed on veterans.
A NATIONAL TRAGEDY: Veteran suicide is a national tragedy that has taken too many of our Nation’s heroes.  
  • Despite significant efforts and billions of dollars invested, suicide rates among veterans rose 26 percent from 2005 to 2016.
  • In 2016, the suicide rate was one and a half times greater for veterans than for non-veteran adults.
  • Each day, an average of 20 service members and veterans die by suicide, nearly 70 percent of whom are not engaged with the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) for their healthcare.
  • Veterans often endure traumatic experiences—either emotional or physical—which make them susceptible to mental health issues.
STRENGTHENING VETERAN SUPPORT: This Executive Order will amplify the existing efforts of the Trump Administration to improve quality of care for our veterans. 
  • President Trump previously signed an Executive Order directing his Administration to improve access to mental health treatment and suicide prevention resources for veterans.
  • President Trump secured a record $73.1 billion in funding for the VA to provide quality medical care for our veterans.
    • This included $8.6 billion for mental health services and $206 million for suicide prevention.
  • The President revolutionized the VA healthcare system by signing the VA MISSION Act.
  • The President has expanded access to telehealth services to help reach more veterans, including through his “Anywhere to Anywhere” VA healthcare initiative.  


Office of the Press Secretary

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     On March 8, 2015, the President issued Executive Order 13692, declaring a national emergency with respect to the situation in Venezuela based on the Government of Venezuela's erosion of human rights guarantees; persecution of political opponents; curtailment of press freedoms; use of violence and human rights violations and abuses in response to antigovernment protests; and arbitrary arrest and detention of antigovernment protestors, as well as the exacerbating presence of significant government corruption.

     On August 24, 2017, I issued Executive Order 13808 to take additional steps, with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692, to address serious abuses of human rights and fundamental freedoms; the deepening humanitarian crisis in Venezuela; the establishment of an illegitimate Constituent Assembly, which usurped the power of the democratically elected National Assembly and other branches of the Government of Venezuela; rampant public corruption; and ongoing repression and persecution of, and violence toward, the political opposition.

     On March 19, 2018, I issued Executive Order 13827 to take additional steps, with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692, to address actions taken by the Maduro regime to attempt to circumvent United States sanctions by issuing a digital currency in a process that Venezuela's democratically elected National Assembly denounced as unlawful.

     On May 21, 2018, I issued Executive Order 13835 to take additional steps, with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692, to address actions of the Maduro regime, including endemic economic mismanagement and public corruption at the expense of the Venezuelan people and their prosperity, and repression of the political opposition; attempts to undermine democratic order by holding snap elections that were neither free nor fair; and the deepening of the humanitarian and public health crisis in Venezuela.

     On November 1, 2018, I issued Executive Order 13850 to take additional steps, with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692, to address actions by the Maduro regime and associated persons to plunder Venezuela's wealth for their own corrupt purposes; degrade Venezuela's infrastructure and natural environment through economic mismanagement and confiscatory mining and industrial practices; and catalyze a regional migration crisis by neglecting the basic needs of the Venezuela people.

     On January 25, 2019, I issued Executive Order 13857 to take additional steps, with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692, to address actions by persons affiliated with the illegitimate Maduro regime, including human rights violations and abuses in response to anti-Maduro protests; arbitrary arrest and detention of anti-Maduro protestors; curtailment of press freedom; harassment of political opponents; and continued attempts to undermine the Interim President of Venezuela and undermine the National Assembly, the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, and to prevent the Interim President and the National Assembly from exercising legitimate authority in Venezuela.

The circumstances described in Executive Order 13692, and subsequent Executive Orders issued with respect to Venezuela, have not improved and they continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.  Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

                             DONALD J. TRUMP

    March 5, 2019.

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

Office of the Press Secretary
President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate Individuals to Key Administration Posts

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

William B. Kilbride of Tennessee, to be a Member of the Tennessee Valley Authority for a term of five years expiring May 18, 2023.

Julie Reiskin of Colorado, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation for the remainder of a three-year term expiring July 13, 2019.


The White House Office of the Press Secretary FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 5, 2019 TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:

Office of the Press Secretary

     Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, within 90 days before the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date.  In accordance with this provision, I have sent to the Federal Register for publication the enclosed notice stating that the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692 of March 8, 2015, with respect to the situation in Venezuela, is to continue in effect beyond March 8, 2019.

     The situation in Venezuela continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.  For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13692 with respect to the situation in Venezuela.

                             DONALD J. TRUMP