To hear Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, preview US priorities for the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week which gets underway Monday September 24, the United Nations is merely a stage and the rest of the world’s ministers mere players for American interests, otherwise the US doesn’t want to take part, asserting its “sovereignty.” While the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made strengthening “multilateralism” a key objective this year (which includes addressing climate change, refugees, nuclear nonproliferation, and financing and mobilizing private investment for sustainable government “without which, sustainable goals are not feasible”), in the US definition, “multilateralism” is getting other countries to do America’s bidding – whether sanctioning North Korea or Iran – but nothing that “mandates” the United States to do what it doesn’t want to do.
“We’ve said from very beginning almost two years ago when we came in that we were going to try and see what we make out of the United Nations,” Haley said at a press “stakeout” on Thursday, September 20. Issues like the Global Migration Compact, the Paris Climate Accord, “all these things that we felt were mandating things on the US, those aren’t things we want to be involved in…We really value sovereignty. We think every country should. That’s the conversation we want.
“We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.”
Add to that list the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017, with 122 states voting in favor (but with none of the nine nuclear powers, including the United States, as signatories) and opened for signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations exactly a year ago. The nuclear weapons prohibition would become international law once 50 nations ratify the treaty. (Commemoration and promotion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will take place on Wednesday, September 26, the same day as Trump chairs the Security Council meeting.)
The focus next week, when some 84 heads of state will be in New York, she said, “will be very much on the United States, what our role is in the world, the relationships we want to continue to build and what we can do about that. I think the goal we all have in this administration: how to make the American people proud and what actions we can show that make us proud.” (Sounds like a campaign rally for the midterms, more than taking advantage of face-to-face meetings with the heads of state to address issues of war and peace, life and death.)
“The US presidency has been one that has been full of substance, full of issues,” she said. “We are very proud of what we have done. We raised alarm bells on Venezuela, Nicaragua, how the international community must pay more attention. We held the first-ever discussion in front of the Security Council on corruption and how corruption relates to conflict. [We focused on] accountability – a good next step forward on what we’re trying to do on peacekeeping.
“We held multiple meetings on applying pressure on the crisis we hope doesn’t happen in Idlib and the humanitarian situation that can happen. And we are meeting to intensify the need for enforcement of sanctions on North Korea – reminding Security Council members we are all responsible making sure those are enforced properly.”
Last year, Trump’s big initiative in the United Nations General Assembly was about “reform” – as in getting other nations to pay what he considers their fair share, as he did at NATO. This year, the US big initiative is “a global call to action on the global drug problem. We already have 124 countries signed up and the number is growing. It shows that the world drug problem affects so many countries. The focus is on reducing use of illicit drugs, on cutting supply off, expanding treatment, and more than that, international cooperation… I look forward to more signatories.” Apparently, the US is okay with “multilaternalism” when it comes to curbing the drug problem.
There was no mention of the United States withdrawing from the Human Rights Council (ostensibly over perceived bias over Israel but likely also in protest over a report that pointed to 40% of Americans living in poverty, and perhaps to avoid condemnation over its inhumane, even criminal treatment of separating children as young as infants from their parents at the southern border), or its defiance of the International Criminal Court (to which the US has never joined). Instead of mobilizing private investment for sustainable development, the United States is focused on scoring foreign policy successes through tightening screws with sanctions and slashing foreign aid.
Haley said that Donald Trump’s speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, will focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.”
The America First policy – really a way of reducing issues to dollars and cents – extends to foreign aid: Haley said the United States’ “generosity” will be confined to those who do what the US wants.
“We will lay down a marker that while the US is generous, we are generous to those who share or values, who want to work with us, and not those who want to stop the US or say ‘death to America’.”
That has already been made clear in the US action to shut down aid to Palestinians– nearly $200 million – prompting members of the Security Council to raise alarms over a looming humanitarian crisis there. The action coincided with the administration shutting the Palestine Liberation Office in Washington DC.
With the US chairing the Security Council this year, Trump will chair the Security Council meeting on Wednesday. “That will be the most watched Security council meeting ever,” Haley quipped.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will take over the chair to lead a Security Council meeting on North Korea.
“The importance is the fact that every single foreign minister will be attending this Security Council meeting. It is a conversation we think needs to be had, chance for us to look at what we’ve achieved, in progress in North Korea – progress – chance to look at commitment to peace, but also to have conversation that if we don’t enforce sanctions, all this can go away.”
The US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East – as Haley did during a Security Council meeting that was 99% devoted to bashing Israel over settlements and “disproportionate” reaction to Palestinian protests and rocket attacks on Israel, and its plans to demolish a Bedouin village. She, instead, devoted her comments to Iran, and not on salvaging the nuclear agreement, but in trying to amass international support for renewed sanctions.
“Iran continues to be a problem – every dangerous spot, Iran seems to have their fingerprints in it. … their proxies, what they doing to destabilize the Middle East.” But she was vague in terms of whether Trump would agree to meet with Iran President Hassan Rouhani, who reportedly requested a meeting.
“Certainly if Rouhani requested a meeting, that would be for the president to decide.”
She said that Trump has scheduled bilats with South Korea, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom but “others could come up.” She held out the possibility he might agree to meet with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“If Erdogan requests a meeting… next week not set in stone. Certainly a head of state could request a meeting and the president would have prerogative” to accept.
The plight of the Myanmar Rohingya is also of concern, she said. “That is a hot topic now. We have to figure out how we going to bring Rohingyans back to Burma in a way it’s safe. I have expressed my view that I don’t think the government has done enough, I don’t think the military has accepted responsibility, Myanmar leader] Aung San Suu Kyi basically acknowledged the fact the reporters were right to be detained and imprisoned, is a real problem. What they’re saying, we’re not understanding and what we’re saying they are not hearing..and at some point the international community ahs to speak with one voice. It’s not okay with them just being in Bangladesh.”
Among the administration officials who will be coming to the United Nations and participating in meetings: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Emmet Lighthizer, USAID Administrator Mark Green, and special adviser Ivanka Trump.
“This is week we all wait for, where we can really put American interests in the spotlight, make it a really prominent thing –with all the administration coming in, they will come in and do their thing. All try to get some good peace and security.”
Interestingly, there was no mention of taking up the issue of one nation’s (Russia) interference in the elections of another (United States), which is a direct attack on sovereignty.
Haley’s remarks, which preceded a Security council meeting devoted to the Middle East, were followed by representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, which, they said not only created a humanitarian crisis but exacerbated the conflict and further eroded the possibility of a two-state solution.
They were followed by Arab State representatives, including the representative from Palestine, who expressed gratitude to the Europeans, but said that the proposed resolution censuring Israel would likely be blocked by the United States.
In contrast to Haley’s declaration of “sovereignty”, Secretary-General António Guterres, in his press conference earlier that day, said, “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations. The United Nations is the world’s indispensable forum for international cooperation. The presence of 84 Heads of State and 44 Heads of Government is eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations.”
And in response to a question, of whether the Secretary General considers Trump “a threat to multilateralism,” he replied, “First, I don’t like to personalize things. I think we are facing a situation in which, in different areas and for different reasons, the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded and that multilateralism has been in the fire. And so, this is a concern, and that is the reason I said today and I will say it again in the General Assembly, that it’s essential to preserve multilateralism.”
The question that wasn’t asked of Ambassador Haley or Secretary General António Guterres was this: if the US were not (temporarily at least) the largest economy in the world and the UN’s biggest donor (temporarily at least), would the various UN councils and committees prosecute or seek sanctions for: unleashing climate catastrophes by reversing course of spewing heat-trapping gas emissions at five times the proportion of population (the US has 5% of the world’s population but accounts for 25% of carbon emissions)? For unleashing economy-crippling tariffs on countries in defiance of existing treaties in the absence of a true “national security” issue, while bestowing $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, in violation of World Trade Organization rules? For violating the Global Compact on Migration by shutting down virtually all access to refugees and asylum seekers? For violating human rights of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America by taking away children as young as infants and incarcerating parents and children for an indeterminate time without hearing, and deporting parents leaving children orphans in custody in the US?
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued the following statement in honor of Donald Trump’s visit to New York State:
“Mr. President, welcome back to New York, the progressive capital of the nation.
“Despite being a native New Yorker, since you took office, you have attacked our healthcare, passed a tax law that punished New York in order to fund corporate tax cuts, ripped immigrant New Yorkers from their families, launched an assault on our environment, and undermined the basic values on which this state and this nation were built.
“You say you want to make this country great again, but you have clearly forgotten what made this country great in the first place. Perhaps you can use this trip to New York to help you remember what truly makes this state and this nation great.
“While in Utica, I urge you to meet with the immigrants and refugees who are breathing new life into the city, which has a higher proportion of immigrants than any other city in upstate New York.
“I urge you to visit Seneca Falls, where women first fought for equal rights—a legacy New York is fighting to uphold against your administration’s ongoing attacks on women.
“I urge you to visit Westchester, where jobs are on the rise and the economy is booming despite your partisan and punitive tax policies that are directly responsible for home sales dropping 18 percent.
“I urge you to visit the new Buffalo, where an economic renaissance is transforming the city without resorting to harmful tariffs or trying to revive the industries of yesterday.
“I urge you to visit the beautiful Long Island beaches and thriving marine economy that are threatened by your administration’s reckless proposal to drill off our shores. In New York, we are advancing the strongest environmental program in the nation, and we say no way, no how to your continued assault on our planet.
“I urge you to meet with Mr. Pablo Villavicencio, a father, husband and aspiring American citizen who was torn away from his family and locked away for 53 days because of your anti-immigrant agenda. I was proud to fight for his freedom and will always stand with our immigrant communities against your un-American policies.
“I urge you to visit the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, a symbol of New York’s proud building spirit, constructed by the men and women of organized labor, that today is setting the example for your administration that pledged but failed to follow through on your own rebuilding efforts.
“And I urge you to visit the Leadership and Public Service High School in New York City, where I joined students there who, along with others across our state and nation, are calling for action on gun safety. While your administration remains beholden to the NRA and ignores the young people crying out for change, New York is proud to be taking on the NRA and moving to strengthen our nation-leading gun safety laws to keep our communities safe.
“Mr. President, I urge you to visit the Statue of Liberty in our harbor to remember the American promise made to your grandfather when he first came to this country as an immigrant—the promise of equality, hope and opportunity for all.
“Perhaps then you will remember what made this country great.”
A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.”
Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:
Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we?
Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.
Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.
We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.
Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.
We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.
We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]
Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,
So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.
Louis:Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity?
Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.
When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.
It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.
What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.
Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?
Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.
Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.
Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.
Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.
Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)
Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?
Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.
Louis:Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?
Nance: It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.
Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.
What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.
Louis:How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?
Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.
Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.
Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia.
Louis:China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?
Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)
Louis:What is Putin’s end game?
Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power. All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.
Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.
Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture. Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”
Is climate change a national security issue?
Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.
What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?
Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.
Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.
How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?
Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)
Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.
Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?
Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen. Where the president violated his oath of office, you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.
What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy?
Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.
Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.
We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.
The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.
Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?
Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.
Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.
To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?
Nance: Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick. They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’
What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?
Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.
The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?
Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.
Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached?
Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue
Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.
In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?
New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo issued an open letter to President Trump.
Dear Mr. President,
The old adage is right: “go with your first instinct.” Your White House meeting with bipartisan federal legislators right after the Florida massacre appeared and was unscripted and productive. You essentially had one question that summed up what every American was feeling: “why?” Why sell guns to young people who can’t yet buy a beer? Why sell assault weapons that are designed to kill so many people so quickly? Why not take guns from the mentally ill before they hurt someone or themselves? Why not make sure every gun purchaser goes through a background check?
There was no answer from the electeds assembled, because there is no answer – except the one you suggested – they are afraid of the NRA.
Major political change comes when a window of opportunity opens and a leader seizes the moment. There are brief moments in history where attention, passion and drive combine to unite the American people and overwhelm the forces preserving the status quo and create change.
The American gun crisis has long been a plague and scourge on our country. You can do something about it and the American people would support it. This is the moment. The Republicans will follow your lead. Yes, they fear the NRA, but they fear the enraged citizen majority more.
In New York, after the Sandy Hook massacre, the nation had a similar moment. It was a moment of grief and pain and anger. Sandy Hook touched the hearts and minds of every day Americans. It was anyone’s child – it was everyone’s child. In the immediate aftermath of Sandy Hook we passed the New York Safe Act – common sense gun safety. It has made a dramatic difference, it didn’t negatively affect any legal gun owners, and I believe it has saved lives.
Mentally ill and dangerous people shouldn’t have guns so we need universal background checks. When a person shows signs of mental distress or violence, there should be a provision for police to investigate and determine the facts – a “red flag bill.” Domestic violence offenders should not have guns. Assault weapons are too dangerous in the wrong hands and not worth the risk. In 1938 we outlawed machine guns in this Country precisely for the same reason: they were too dangerous if obtained by the wrong person. Does anyone miss not owning machine guns?
For those of us who serve in government, if we are lucky, we may have a few moments that present a real opportunity to make a lasting difference. There are brief openings where transformational progress is possible and you have that opportunity now. The moments are rare and fleeting. They are leadership moments: don’t squander it.
The political advisers are wrong. NRA members will be nervous about any government change and intervention but they will ultimately realize a functioning system vindicates legitimate gun owners rather than demonizing all. If you lose this moment, I am sad to say there will probably be another shooting and the Country will be in the same place, and it will once again pose the question that you posed – “why?” “Why didn’t we do anything about this after Florida?” You have the responsibility to stop that from happening.
Judging by the Women’s Marches – 280 of them around the country that drew 2 million activists on behalf of women’s reproductive freedom, health care, workers rights, DACA, climate, gun control – the Democrats were headed for a rout in 2018.
Now, pundits are questioning whether the government shutdown – and then the capitulation by Democrats – will jeopardize the Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate and even the House.
And sure enough, the Republicans have proved yet again they are so much better at message manipulation – the signature talent of every autocracy.
It is a curious thing because the 2013 government shutdown, forced by Republicans who held Obamacare hostage and the many instances of Republicans coming to the brink of endangering the full faith and credit of the United States by threatening the debt ceiling, nonetheless won victories in the 2014 midterms, even taking over the Senate.
But it is different for Republicans who want to tear down government, and Democrats, who actually believe that government can be and should be a force for good.
But what did the Republicans actually win besides the message game? A few days reprieve? When instead the government shutdown over a failure to follow through on the deal to reauthorize DACA so clearly demonstrated the dysfunction, dishonesty, bad faith and sheer cruelty of Republican domination?
And is it wise for Trump to crow that Schumer “caved,” for Pence to go to the Middle East and lambast the Democrats as enemies of our soldiers, for the OMB Director Mike Mulvaney to mimic the phrase being hyped by Russian bots, #SchumerShutdown, and the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee to show glee that Schumer is “feeling the heat from the left, with #SchumerSellout trending on social media and Democrats who supported reopening the government are being branded as traitors”?
And how cynical is it for Trump to issue a reelection campaign ad blaming Democrats in advance if anyone is murdered by an illegal immigrant, yet taking no responsibility at all for 33,000 gun deaths a year (a woman is shot and killed by a current or former partner every 16 hours. 10 kids and teens are killed each month in unintentional shootings) and the ease with which terrorists can buy guns because of Republicans’ refusal to adopt reasonable gun control measures?
After all, this is yet another temporary spending measure, which Democrats and some Republicans have decried as no way to run a $4 trillion government since the military, municipalities and agencies can’t do long-range planning or contracts, and we will be right back here on Feb. 8. Fool me once….
Schumer and the Democrats really had no choice but to withhold the votes needed for cloture (the filibuster) which triggered the shutdown, and no choice in coming to this temporary arrangement to reopen government.
Let’s be reminded though: it’s not Democrats who caused the shutdown – five Republicans voted against the CR while five Democrats voted with the Republicans (by modern standards, that’s called “bipartisan”).
Indeed, Trump was rooting for a government shutdown. “The country needs a good shutdown” he said months ago, and referred to this shutdown as “a nice present” –because he believed Democrats would be blamed and weakened and (cherry on the cake) hoped it would get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to trigger the “nuclear option” and end the 60-vote threshold for cloture (the filibuster) so that Republicans could rule without any Democratic input whatsoever.
But for the entire first year of the Trump nightmare when Republicans were in full control of all the levers of government, they chose to rule as if a monarchy, shutting out Democrats entirely, and manipulating votes so that they only needed 50 instead of 60 – on several occasions, needing the Vice President’s vote to get to 51 to pass legislation opposed by large majorities of Americans. The only mechanism for Democrats to have any say whatsoever, and get CHIP and DACA reauthorized was to withhold their votes on the short-term spending bill.
For decades, now (when Democrats are in the White House), “populists” have been decrying the dysfunction in Washington, looking to demagogic characters from outside Washington (they are only “outside” until they are “inside”) to break the logjam and get things done. That’s what many Trump voters said they liked about Trump. They fell for his con: he isn’t disruptive, he’s destructively dysfunctional.
But look to the source of the dysfunction: it goes back to Newt Gingrich and the “Contract for America” ( “Contract on America” is more apt) – 1994 was the first time the Republicans used a shutdown as extortion. And it goes back to the Hastert Rule, named for the pedophile who was the longest-serving Speaker of the House, that bars the Republicans from passing any legislation that is not supported by the majority of Republicans, rather than the majority of the House or the American people, a tough thing to do with the Tea Party fringe and now the Trumpers.
It is because of the Hastert Rule that we do not have affordable health care, sensible gun violence prevention, immigration reform, campaign finance reform, environmental protection – all supported by huge majorities of Americans – and a tax code and federal budget that help uplift people rather than steer this country to unsustainable income inequality that is so dangerous for a democracy.
Add to that the end of earmarks – championed by none other than Senator John McCain who felt they were the source of corruption in Congress – and you have no bargaining chips whatsoever to forge a compromise. (Trump wants to bring back earmarks, so he can turn a $1 trillion infrastructure plan into a political slush fund.)
But Democrats – or rather the extreme left wing championed by Bernie Sanders – seem determined to shoot themselves in the foot, and instead of cheering Schumer for getting 12 Republican Senators to pledge to take up legislation to protect DACA recipients before Feb. 8, they blasted him for capitulating.
Really, what was Schumer supposed to do? Republicans were weaponizing the government shutdown, rather than being embarrassed that Trump, The Greatest Dealmaker in the History of the World, was shown to be an emperor with no clothes (he fidgeted while the capital burned) with no actual grasp of policy or long-term impacts so that he could be swayed and steered by the most virulent, anti-immigrant advisers (Steven Miller and John Kelly), and the Republicans being shown as being incapable of governing on behalf of the people instead of just their donors (the 1%).
Now it is likely that no matter how the Senate is reminded they are supposed to be an institution based on compromise and rational deliberation – and that Congress should realize it doesn’t have to wait for Trump at all, but pass reasonable legislation on its own – my prediction is that Speaker Paul Ryan in the House will kill any DACA legislation or any immigration legislation as he did in 2013, tabling Comprehensive Immigration Reform that passed the Senate by a significant majority.
Or that Steve King, Tom Cotton, Steve Miller and John Kelly will come up with something so draconian – legalizing the Gestapo-like roundup and deportations of 11 million undocumented immigrants, throwing out green card holders, shutting borders to refugees and severely curtailing legal immigration for anyone but white people with money to invest in Trump properties – that Democrats won’t be able to vote for it. Ha ha, the irony.
But my money is on the Women’s Movement – no longer a march, but ongoing activism that will result in a major voter registration drive, record number of women running for elected office (390 for House, 49 for Senate, as many as 16,000 for state and local offices), and to get out the vote in the 2018 midterms. #PowertothePolls.
[Note: In an unprecedented action, the White House originally sent out a transcript in which Donald Trump’s statement, in which he seemed to agree with Senator Feinstein on passing a “clean DACA” was modified. When the change was discovered, the White House sent out a corrected transcript.]
Donald Trump may think that his bipartisan meeting on resolving the DACA issue went swimmingly, but it is not at all clear that the Republicans and Democrats can come together on a clean DACA fix, with or without the “security” elements (which Trump understands to mean a wall but Congress seems to acknowledge means a range of solutions) by March 5th, the date that Trump himself set as the expiration of protections for Dreamers, much less by January 19th, the date when government could shut down if the budget resolution is not adopted.
[Adding to the drama, a federal judge in California issued a nationwide injunction late Tuesday ordering the Trump administration to restart the DACA program because the way it was ended “arbitrarily: and “capriciously” and questioned the contention that Obama did not have the authority to implement it to begin with.]
Still, the to-and-fro was eerily civil – probably because the worst hard-liners were left off the guest-list and the Congressmembers in the room were for the most part were veterans of years of negotiating immigration reform.
There was no discussion of making legal immigration actually work – having enough immigration judges to hear applications, giving parents of legal American children a means toward a legal status.
But in the end, Trump said he would sign whatever Congress came up with – a clear display that he does not actually care or have a grasp of policy. He contradicted himself numerous times, and went back-and-forth seeming to agree with whoever was speaking. He even seemed to moderate his concept of what a “wall” – “a great, beautiful wall” – would be, appearing to agree with Democrats that “wall” was a metaphor for border security, not one contiguous structure like the Great Wall of China, but fencing, mountains, rivers. But he insisted he could build it for less money and ahead of schedule than what is being proposed ($18 Billion is requested; estimates go as high as $45 billion), like Wolman ice rink in Central Park. No different than that. Indeed, throughout, Trump kept suggesting that it was a “simple” matter to solve immigration.
It should be – 86 percent of Americans favor a fix for DACA, and the vast majority support immigration reform. Yet just a few days after Trump appeared to come to agreement with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on DACA, for which Trump received rare praise, he hardened his line because of the reaction of the hardliners who are his base. There was universal wonder whether that would happen again.
And it is really interesting that the very day this civilized discussion of a “bill of love”, as Trump termed a DACA fix, was taking place, the Trump Administration announced it was kicking out some 200,000 Salvadorans, along with hundreds of thousands of Haitians and Nicaraguans, who had come here after some disaster as much as 20 years ago, who have children who are American citizens.
In Tuesday’s meeting, Trump’s tone was calm, even conciliatory – politely calling on the Senators and Representatives, not insulting Democrats and especially Democratic women – even urging the sides to come together, go out to dinner, bury the hatchets – a clear effort to counter the image that emerges from Michael Wolff’s inflammatory “Fire and Fury”. Trump only veered off topic a few times – notably, in extolling the virtues of bringing back earmarks as the best tool for forging (buying) compromise (whereas now, there is no incentive), and the need to build up the military.
The exchanges are rather extraordinary – most notably because the press was not thrown out after the photo op, but were allowed to listen in for 55 minutes.
Most astonishing was the comment by Senator Charles Grassley that he would support a pathway to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform. (A bill that had all the elements currently being discussed was passed 68-32 in the Senate in 2013, only to be tabled and effectively killed in the Republican-controlled House, leading President Obama to adopt DACA provision rather than have no action at all. That sparked the controversy that Obama trespassed into territory that belonged to Congress, even though Congress had abdicated its role. But there is no such criticism of Trump who through executive orders and administrative policy is defying the Affordable Care Act in an effort to sabotage Obamacare into oblivion.)
The climax to the bipartisan meeting – considered extraordinary for being bipartisan after an entire year of Republicans acting on their own, deliberately excluding Democrats on significant issues including health care and tax reform – was Trump’s reply to what sounded like a plea from Senator Lindsey Graham, who has been working on immigration for a decade, “If you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat,” POTUS said. “You are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform.”
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, everyone, for being here. I’m thrilled to be with a distinguished group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers from both the House and the Senate. We have something in common, we’d like to see this get done, and you know what this means.
We are here today to advance bipartisan immigration reform that serves the needs of the American families, workers, and taxpayers. It’s DACA. We’ve been talking about DACA for a long time. I’ve been hearing about it for years, long before I decided to go into this particular line of work. And maybe we can do something.
We have a lot of good people in this room. A lot of people that have a great spirit for taking care of the people we represent — we all represent. For that reason, any legislation on DACA, we feel — at least a strong part of this group feels — has to accomplish three vital goals.
And Chairman Goodlatte will be submitting a bill over the next two to three days that will cover many of the things. And, obviously, that will — if it gets passed, it will go to the Senate and we can negotiate and we’ll see how it turns out. But I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because it should be a bipartisan bill. It should be a bill of love. Truly, it should bea bill of love, and we can do that.
But it also has to be a bill where we’re able to secure our border. Drugs are pouring into our country at a record pace and a lot of people are coming in that we can’t have. We’ve greatly stiffened, as you know, and fewer people are trying to come in.
But we have tremendous numbers of people and drugs pouring into our country.
So, in order to secure it, we need a wall. We need closing enforcement — we have to close enforcement loopholes. Give immigration officers — and these are tremendous people, the border security agents, the ICE agents — we have to give them the equipment they need, we have to close loopholes, and this really does include a very strong amount of different things for border security.
I think everybody in the room would agree to that. I think that we — it’s a question of the amounts. But I think everyone agrees we have to have border security. I don’t think there would be anybody that says “no.”
Second, it has to be a bill to end chain migration. Chain migration is bringing in many, many people with one, and often it doesn’t work out very well. Those many people are not doing us right. And I think a lot of people in the room — and I’m not sure I can speak for everybody, but a lot of the people in this room want to see chain migration ended.
And we have a recent case along the West Side Highway, having to do with chain migration, where a man ran over — killed eight people and many people injured badly. Loss of arms, loss of legs. Horrible thing happened, and then you look at the chain and all of the people that came in because of him. Terrible situation.
[False: Had nothing to do with chain migration]
And the other is — cancel the lottery program. They call it “visa lottery,” I just call it “lottery.” But countries come in and they put names in a hopper. They’re not giving you their best names; common sense means they’re not giving you their best names. They’re giving you people that they don’t want. And then we take them out of the lottery. And when they do it by hand — where they put the hand in a bowl — they’re probably — what’s in their hand are the worst of the worst.
[False. Not how visa lottery works. People in visa lottery are vetted.]
But they put people that they don’t want into a lottery and the United States takes those people. And again, they’re going back to that same person who came in through the lottery program. They went — they visited his neighborhood and the people in the neighborhood said, “oh my God, we suffered with this man — the rudeness, the horrible way he treated us right from the beginning.” So we don’t want the lottery system or the visa lottery system. We want it ended.
So those three things are paramount. These are measures that will make our community safer and more prosperous. These reforms are supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans. They’re from every standpoint, from every poll, and they’re being requested by law enforcement officers.
I had the big meeting with ICE last week; I had a big meeting with the Border Patrol agents last week. Nobody knows it better than them. As an example, on the wall, they say, “sir, we desperately need the wall.”
And we don’t need a 2,000-mile wall. We don’t need a wall where you have rivers and mountains and everything else protecting it. But we do need a wall for a fairly good portion. We also — as you know, it was passed in 2006 — a essentially similar thing, which — a fence, a very substantial fence was passed. But, unfortunately, I don’t know, they never got it done. But they need it.
So I’m appealing to everyone in the room to put the country before party, and to sit down and negotiate and to compromise, and let’s see if we can get something done. I really think that we have a chance to do it. I think it’s very important. You’re talking about 800,000 people — and we’re talking about lots of other people are also affected, including people that live in our country. That’s from the security standpoint.
So maybe the press can stay for a little while and a couple of folks can make statements and I don’t mind the statements. We want to have this as a very open forum. I will say, though, that I really do believe Democratic and Republican — the people sitting around this table — want to get something done in good faith. And I think we’re on our way to do it.
This was an idea I had last week. I was sitting with some of our great Republican senators and we all agreed on everything. It was a great meeting. Right? David, right? We had a great meeting — Tom. It was perfect.
Then I said, “yeah, but we’d like to get some Democrats. Well, what do they say?” And I say, “let’s have the same meeting, but let’s add the Democrats.” And that’s what we’ve done. And I think we’re going to come up with an answer. I hope we’re going to come up with an answer for DACA, and then we go further than that later on down the road.
Dick, perhaps you’d like to say a few words?
SENATOR DURBIN: Thanks, Mr. President, for inviting us. We’re all honored to be a part of this conversation.
September the 5th, you challenged us. You challenged Congress. You said we’re going to end DACA, not replace it. As of today, we have not done that. We face a deadline of March 5th, which you created with your elimination of DACA, and we know that, in the meantime, there have been efforts underway by Senator Graham and I.
We sat down with a bipartisan group of senators. We have worked long and hard, many hours have been put into it. And we feel that we can put together a combination for the future of DACA as well as border security, and that there are elements you’re going to find Democrats support when it comes to border security. We want a safe border in America, period, both when it comes to the issues of illegal migration, but also when it comes to drugs and all these other areas.
Now, I will say that there is a sense of urgency that’s felt by many of us when it comes to this issue. There are many of these young people who are losing the protection of DACA on a daily basis. As of March 5th, a thousand a day will lose DACA protection. Nine hundred of them are members of the U.S. military. Twenty thousand of them are schoolteachers. In my state of Illinois and the city of Chicago, there are 25 of them in medical school who can’t apply for a residency if they lose their DACA status.
So lives are hanging in the balance of our getting the job done. We’ve got the time to do it. In a matter of days — literally of days — we can come together and reach an agreement. And when that happens, I think good things will happen in other places. And we’ll see some progress in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree with that, Dick. I very much agree with that. Tom, would you like to say something? Tom Cotton.
SENATOR COTTON: Thank you for inviting us all here and I’m glad to be here with Democrats and with House members as well. You know, I think, on this issue, there’s a lack of trust and has been, for many years, a lack of trust between Republicans and Democrats; a lack of trust among Republicans; most fundamentally, a lack of trust between the American people and our elected leaders on not delivering a solution for many, many years about some of these problems.
And I hope that this meeting can be the beginning of building trust between our parties, between the chambers, because I know, for fact, all the Republicans around the table are committed to finding a solution, and I believe all the Democrats are as well.
So I think this is a good first step in building the trust we need for a good bill, Mr. President, that will achieve the objectives that you stated: providing legal protection for the DACA population, while also securing our border and ending chain migration and the diversity lottery.
Thank you for the invitation.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, thank you very much for having us down here. I agree with Tom Cotton that the American public are very frustrated with us. One of the reasons they’re frustrated with us is because we continue to couple things on which we have large agreement with things in which we do not agree. This is a perfect example of that.
Eighty-six percent of the American people in the most recent poll are for ensuring, as you have said, not providing for DACA-protected kids to go to a place that they don’t know, they didn’t grow up in, and it’s not their home. They’re Americans. They don’t have a piece of paper that says they’re Americans, but they’re Americans.
And it seems to me, Mr. President, if we’re going to move ahead in a constructive way, that we take that on which we agree — pass it. The American public will be pleased with all of us if we do that. Just as, in September, you recall, we did the extension of the CR. No drama. We were all for it. You and the four leaders met, we came to an agreement, and we passed that CR.
In my view, we can pass the protection in the — well, I understand your position is procedurally it was not done correctly. You then, as Dick has said, challenged us — pass it correctly.
If it’s put on the floor, Mr. President, I believe we will have the overwhelming majority in both the House — and Senator Graham thinks that we’ll have a substantial majority in the United States Senate as well. That, I think, is the first step, Tom, to creating some degree of confidence.
Democrats are for security at the borders; I want to state that emphatically. There is not a Democrat that is not for having secure borders.
There are obviously differences however, Mr. President, on how you effect that. You just indicated that yourself. And you indicated this would be a first step, and then we continue to talk as we’re talking today about how we best secure the border. There are differences of opinion within your party and within in our party.
So I would urge that we move forward on protecting the DACA-protected individuals — young people, young adults, as you pointed out in one of your statements — who are productive parts of our community — that we protect them and get that done. And then, because I think everybody around the table, as you pointed out, is for security — and then the issue is going to be how do we best effect that border security.
So I would urge us to move, as Senator Durbin has urged us to move, on the DACA students. As a matter of fact, the Speaker, I think today, but maybe yesterday, said, we need to solve the DACA issue, and we need to solve it in a way that is permanent, not temporary. And I agree with him on that issue.
THE PRESIDENT: And, interestingly, when you say that, President Obama, when he signed the executive order, actually said he doesn’t have the right to do this. And so you do have to go through Congress, and you do have to make it permanent, whether he does, whether he doesn’t — let’s assume he doesn’t, he said it — and that was a temporary stopgap, I don’t think we want that. I think we want to have a permanent solution to this. And I think everybody in this room feels that way very strongly.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: What happened, Mr. President, I think, is that the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill, as you know. We did not consider it in the House, so we didn’t reach those issues.
Very frankly, on border security, Mr. McCaul, the Chairman of the committee, reported out a unanimous security solution, which we then included in the bill that we filed on comprehensive immigration reform. So I think we can reach agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I also think that, after we do DACA — and I really believe we should be able to be successful — I really think we should look in terms of your permanent solution and to the whole situation with immigration. I think a lot of people in this room would agree to that also, but we’ll do it in steps. And most people agree with that, I think, that we’ll do the steps. Even you say, ‘let’s do this, and then we go phase two.’
Kevin, what would you like to say?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Well, first, I want to thank you for bringing everybody together. You got the Senate, you got the House, you got both parties. And I like the exchange of ideas, and I think everybody has a point here.
The one thing I don’t want to have happen here is what I saw in the past. There were four bills that were passed on border security years ago that never got finished. There were immigration bills passed that — we’re right back at the table with the same problem. Let’s make a commitment to each one, and, most importantly, to the American people, that, when we get done and come to an agreement, that we’re not back at this problem three, four years from now.
That’s why — yes, we’ve got to do DACA, and I agree with you 100 percent — but if we do not do something with the security, if we do not do something with the chain migration, we are fooling each other that we solved the problem. You know how difficult this issue is. So let’s collectively — we’re here at the table together. I’ll be the first one to tell you, we’re all going to have to give a little, and I’ll be the first one willing to.
But let’s solve the problem — but let’s not tell the American public at the end that it’s solved when it’s not.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think a good starting point would be Bob Goodlatte, who has done a bill, and I understand you’re ready to submit it. And you’re going to take that and you’ll submit it and they’ll negotiate it in Congress or the House. And then it goes to the Senate, and they’ll negotiate — both Republican and Democrat. But it could be a good way of starting.
Now, if anyone has an idea different from that — but, I think, starting in the House. Starting in the House — Mike, you good? You’re ready. I think you’re ready to go.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: We are, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: I would like to add the words “merit” into any bill that’s submitted because I think we should have merit-based immigration like they have in Canada, like they have in Australia.So we have people coming in that have a great track record, as opposed to what we’re doing now, to be honest with you.
But I think merit-based should be absolutely added to any bill, even if it has to do with DACA.That would be added to the things I said. I think it would be popular. I can tell you, the American public very much wants that.
But, Bob, where are you with the bill?
REPRESENTATIVE GOODLATTE: So, tomorrow, Chairman McCaul and Congresswoman McSally and Congressman Labrador — we’re the chairmen of the two committees and the chairmen of the two subcommittees — are going to introduce a bill that addresses the DACA concerns.
And let me thank you, Mr. President, both — I was an immigration lawyer before I was elected to Congress. I want to thank you both for campaigning on securing our borders and the interior of our country, but also on addressing DACA in a way that makes sense. Don’t do it ad hoc; do it through the congressional process. So you’ve challenged us, and we should step up to that challenge. And we’re going to do it in a bipartisan fashion, but we have to put our best foot forward.
And we’re going to do that with this legislation. It’s going to address DACA in a permanent way, not a temporary short-term thing. We’re going to address the border enforcement and security and the wall. We’re going to address — in Mr. McCaul’s bill, we’re going to address interior enforcement, but not everything that the administration had on its list.
We’re going to address chain migration. We’re going to end the visa lottery program. We’re going to address sanctuary cities and Kate’s Law.
We think it is a good bill that will both address the two things our Speaker told us right after you made your decision, which is, we have to address the problem we have with the DACA kids being in limbo, as Dick Dubin described it, and I agree with that. But we also have to make sure this does not happen again.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Dick, you and the Democrats are going to have a lot of things that they’re not going to agree — you’re going to talk to us about it. I just felt that this is something that was long overdue. You’d have a meeting and you’d say, this is what we want. We’d have a meeting — and this has been going on for years. And I just — you know, at a certain point, maybe I’ll just lock the doors and I won’t let anybody out — (laughter) — until they come and agree.
Michael, do you have something to say about the bill?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCAUL: Yes, I’ve been in Congress for seven terms. I’ve been trying to get this border secure for seven terms in Congress. I think this is a bipartisan issue. I think DACA is a bipartisan issue.
We have an opportunity, I think, before us to get this done for the American people. When it comes to chain migration and the lottery system, we saw two recent terror attacks in New York that were the result of this, I think, failed immigration policy. We’d like to see that fixed for the American people and along with, as Bob talked about, sanctuary cities.
Now, you and I talked about this extensively. So we think our bill, our House bill would be a good starting ground for this negotiation. And I, too, want to commend you for bringing everybody together.
I think what we don’t want to see happen is for the conditions for DACA to occur again. We want to get security done so we don’t have to deal with this problem five more years down the road.
So thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there are so many points of agreement, and a lot of it is common sense. And I really think we’re going to come out very well.
David Perdue, do you have something to say?
REPRESENTATIVE PERDUE: Well, yeah, my observation is that three times in the last eleven years, well-intentioned people, some of whom are in this room, attempted to do what we’re starting to try to do today, and we failed. And I think the difference is, is their mission creep ended up in an effort that became too comprehensive.
And so, today, my encouragement for all of us is to do what Dick has been trying to do and talks about repeatedly, and that is to limit the scope of this. And I like the idea that both sides have pressure to solve the DACA issue. But I think the bigger issue here is not just the DACA issue, but what we can do to start the path to the steps that solve this immigration problem. For several reasons — there are social issues; there are political issues; there are economic issues about our workforce that have to be addressed.
But limiting this to the legal immigration side and combining the balance between various solutions on DACA; DREAMers, if it gets in the conversation; as well border security and chain migration, I think therein lies the balance of a good deal that can be done.
And I don’t think — I agree with Dick. I don’t think it’s going to take long to get it done if we just lock ourselves in a room and make it happen.
THE PRESIDENT: I think you’re right. I think it could be done very quickly.
Would anybody have anything to say prior to the press leaving?
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Mr. President, I just have one comment.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Senator Durbin mentioned that lives are hanging in the balance. As we come up on the January 19th deadline, the lives that are hanging in the balance are those of our military that are needing the equipment and the funding and everything they need in order to keep us safe, and we should not playing politics on this issue to stop our military from getting the funding that they need.
I think we have the right people in the room to solve this issue. The deadline is March 5th. Let’s roll up our sleeves and work together on this. But those who need us right now before the January 19 deadline is our military. And let’s not play politics with that. Let’s give them what they need to keep us safe.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, good. And I think a lot of people would agree with that. We need our military — I can’t say more than ever before. We had wars. Right, Lindsey? We had a lot of other areas and times. But we need our military desperately. Our military has been very depleted. We’re rebuilding, and we’re building it up quickly, and we’re negotiating much better deals with your purveyors and with your manufacturers and with your equipment-makers — much better than it was before.
I looked at boats that started off at $1.5 billion, and they’re up to $18 billion, and they’re still not finished. In this case, a particular aircraft carrier. I think it’s outrageous. So we’re very much agreeing with you on that one.
Would anybody like to say? Yes, Steny, go ahead.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: I want to follow up on that. There are no Democrats that don’t want to make sure that the military is funded properly. And over the last four years, we had an agreement between Mr. Ryan and Senator Murray — Speaker Ryan and — that we understand that our military is critically important. But we also understand that our domestic issues, whether it’s education, whether it’s healthcare, whether it’s environment, whether it’s transportation and infrastructure, they’re important, as well.
And both the defense and non-defense sides of the budget are hurt when you have a CR, because they cannot blink and they cannot get contracts if they don’t have any money to do so. So that, very frankly, I think Ms. McSally is correct. But what we ought to have done over the last six months — particularly when we did the September and we gave 90 days — is to reach some agreement on what the caps are going to be. The Murray-Ryan agreements were parity. We believe that’s very important.
So we can get to where we should get and want to get there, but we ought to have an agreement based upon what the last —
THE PRESIDENT: But, Steny, we do have to take politics out of the military. We need that military. All the other things we talk about, we’re not going to be here if we don’t have the right military. And we need our military, and we need it stronger than ever before, and we’re ready to do it. But we have to take politics out of the military.
One thing that I think we can really get along with on a bipartisan basis — and maybe I’m stronger on this than a lot of the people on the Republican side, but I will tell you, we have great support from the Republicans — is infrastructure. I think we can do a great infrastructure bill. I think we’re going to have a lot of support from both sides, and I’d like to get it done as quickly as possible.
[Trump doesn’t seem to get it: social spending – health care, education – are equally important to military spending.]
SENATOR CORNYN: Mr. President, I, too, want to thank you for getting us together. You made the point last week when Republicans were meeting with you that, why are we continuing to have these meetings just among ourselves when what we need to do to get to a solution is to meet, as we are today, as you insisted, on bipartisan basis.
[The only reason there is any interest at all in “bipartisan” solution – to DACA, immigration, infrastructure, the budget – is because they need 60 votes, not 51, to get measures through the Senate, unless McConnell does what Trump wants and gets rid of the filibuster.]
But part of my job is to count votes in the Senate. And as you know when you hosted us, the leadership, at Camp David this weekend, I believe both the Speaker and Majority Leader McConnell made crystal clear that they would not proceed with a bill on the floor of the Senate or the House unless it had your support, unless you would sign it.
So that’s, I think, the picture we need to be looking through — the lens we need to be looking through is not only what could we agree to among ourselves on a bipartisan basis, but what will you sign into law. Because we all want to get to a solution here, and we realize the clock is ticking.
But I think that for me frames the issue about as well as I can.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Very well said. One of the reasons I’m here, Chuck, so importantly, is exactly that. I mean, normally you wouldn’t have a President coming to this meeting. Normally, frankly, you’d have Democrats, Republicans, and maybe nothing would get done.
Our system lends itself to not getting things done, and I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks. But of course, they had other problems with earmarks. But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks. Because this system — (laughter) —
PARTICIPANT: Yes, yes, yes. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: This system — (laughter) — but you should do it, and I’m there with you, because this system really lends itself to not getting along. It lends itself to hostility and anger, and they hate the Republicans. And they hate the Democrats. And in the old days of earmarks, you can say what you want about certain Presidents and others, where they all talk about they went out to dinner at night and they all got along, and they passed bills. That was an earmark system, and maybe we should think about it.
[This is true: earmarks allow for horse-trading, for a President like Johnson, but not Obama who did not have the benefit of earmarks, to make deals. Without it, politicians have no incentive to “compromise” and every incentive to revert to partisan fringes because all they have to fear is being primaried. Trump wants to return to using earmarks, so he can quite literally buy votes with taxpayer money. That is what is behind the infrastructure plan – it turn the US Treasury into a political slush fund to benefit Trump and the Republicans.]
And we have to put better controls because it got a little bit out of hand, but maybe that brings people together. Because our system right now, the way it’s set up, will never bring people together.
Now, I think we’re going to get this done — DACA. I think we’re going to get — I hope we’re going to get infrastructure done in the same way.
But I think you should look at a form of earmarks. I see Lindsey nodding very hard “yes.”
SENATOR GRAHAM:Starting with the Port of Charleston. Absolutely. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:A lot of the pros are saying that if you want to get along and if you want to get this country really rolling again, you have to look at a different form, because this is obviously out of control.
The levels of hatred — and I’m not talking about Trump. I’m talking you go back throughout the eight years of Obama and you go before that, the animosity and the hatred between Republicans and Democrats.
I remember when I used to go out in Washington, and I’d see Democrats having dinner with Republicans. And they were best friends, and everybody got along. You don’t see that too much anymore. In all due respect, you really don’t see that. When was the last time you took a Republican out? Why don’t you guys go and have dinner together? (Laughter.)
But you don’t see it. So maybe, and very importantly, totally different from this meeting, because we’re going to get DACA done — I hope we’re going to get DACA done, and we’re going to all try very hard — but maybe you should start bringing back a concept of earmarks. It’s going to bring you together. You’re going to do it honestly. You’re going to get rid of the problems that the other system had — and it did have some problems. But one thing it did is it brought everyone together. And this country has to be brought together. Okay? Thank you.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Well, at 6:40 p.m., I’m going to go to Menendez’s office, and he’s taking me to dinner. (Laughter.)
And he’s buying.
THE PRESIDENT: Sounds like fun.
SENATOR GRAHAM: He didn’t know that, but he’s buying. We’re going to Morton’s. You’re all welcome to come. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: We can usually get bipartisan agreement when the other guy buys. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s a very important thing, because our system is designed, right now, that everybody should hate each other. And we can’t have that. You know, we have a great country. We have a country that’s doing very well in many respects. We’re just hitting a new high on the stock market again, and that means jobs. I don’t look at the stocks, I look at the jobs. I look at the 401(k)s, I look at what’s happening, where police come up to me and they say, “Thank you. You’re making me look like a financial genius” — literally — meaning about them. And their wives never thought that was possible, right?
No, the country is doing well in so many ways, but there’s such divisiveness, such division. And I really believe we can solve that. I think this system is a very bad system in terms of getting together. And I’m going to leave it up to you, but I really believe you can do something to bring it together.
SENATOR GRAHAM: Other than going to dinner with Bob — I’ve been doing this for 10 years — I don’t think I’ve seen a better chance to get it done than I do right now, because of you. John’s right — I’m not going to support a deal if you don’t support it. I’ve had my head beat out a bunch; I’m still standing. I’m “Lindsey Grahamnesty,” “Lindsey Gomez” — you name every name you want to give to me, it’s been assigned to me. And I’m still standing.
The people of South Carolina want a result. How can I get a letter? I’ve been for a pathway to citizenship for 11 million people because I have no animosity toward them. I don’t want crooks, I don’t want “bad hombres.” I want to get a merit-based immigration system to make sure we can succeed in the 21st century, and I’m willing to be more than fair to the 11 million. I just don’t want to do this every 20 years.
Now, we made a decision, Mr. President, not to do it comprehensively. I think that’s a smart decision but a hard decision. We’ve passed three comprehensive bills out of the Senate with over 55 votes. They go to the House and die, and I’m not being disparaging to my House colleagues, this is tough politics if you’re a Republican House member turning on the radio.
To my Democratic friends, thanks for coming. The Resist Movement hates this guy. They don’t want him to be successful at all. You turn on Fox News, and I can hear the drumbeat coming. Right-wing radio and TV talk show hosts are going to beat the crap out of us because it’s going to be amnesty all over again. I don’t know if the Republican and Democratic Party can define love, but I think what we can do is do what the American people want us to do.
Sixty-two percent of the Trump voters support a pathway to citizenship for the DACA kids if you have strong borders. You have created an opportunity in here, Mr. President, and you need to close the deal.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Lindsey. You know, it’s very interesting because I do have people that are — just to use a very common term — very far right and very far left. They’re very unhappy about what we’re doing, but I really don’t believe they have to be, because I really think this sells itself. And, you know, when you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, which is where I would like to get to eventually — if we do the right bill here, we are not very far way. You know, we’ve done most of it. You want to know the truth, Dick? If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform.
And if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care — I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. (Laughter.) I like heat, in a certain way. But I will.
I mean, you are somewhat more traditional politicians. Two and a half years ago, I was never thinking in terms of politics. Now I’m a politician. You people have been doing it, many of you, all your lives. I’ll take all the heat you want. But you are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform. And if you wanted to go that final step, I think you should do it. And if you want to study earmarks to bring us all together, so we all get together and do something, I think you should study it.
Chuck, did you have something to say?
SENATOR GRASSLEY: I’d like to talk about the reality of the whole situation and take off from what Cornyn and Graham have said of the necessity of you working with us. And you are doing that by having this meeting and other meetings as well. But we’ve always talked in the United States Senate about the necessity of getting 60 votes. And that’s pretty darn tough.
But if we would write a bill that you don’t like and you veto it, we’re talking about a 67-vote threshold — two-thirds in the United States Senate. So that’s the reality of negotiating in good faith and getting something you can sign.
The second reality is the March 5th date that’s coming up. Because if we don’t do some good-faith negotiation and make progress, and get a bill on the floor of the United States Senate, our leader is going to have to bring up either the House bill or the bill that some of us have introduced in the United States Senate, and we’re going to have a vote on it. And those people that don’t want to vote to legalize DACA kids are going to have to explain why they haven’t wanted to protect the vulnerable people that we’re all here talking about. We’re talking about everything except doing something for the DACA kids.
You know, I would vote for a path to citizenship, which isn’t very easy for me, but I would do it just as an effort. But there are certain things that we got to guarantee that we’re going to do.
THE PRESIDENT: Chuck, that’s going to be brought up. I really believe that will be brought up as part of what we’re talking about, at some point. It’s an incentive for people to do a good job, if you want to know the truth. That whole path is an incentive for people — and they’re not all kids. I mean, we’re used to talking about kids. They’re not really kids. You have them 39, 40 years old, in some cases. But it would be an incentive for people to work hard and do a good job. So that could very well be brought up.
SENATOR GRASSLEY: We’re talking about legalizing people here that didn’t break the law because their parents, who broke the law, brought them here. And we ought to be talking about what we can do for the people that had no fault of their own, and get the job done, and not worry about a lot of other things that we’re involved in. And that means that we got to make sure that we tell the American people, when we’re taking this step, that we’re doing something that all the people agree to.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, let me just say, I think Dick and I agree with what Chuck Grassley just said.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s hard to believe. When was the last time that happened? (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: We need to take care of these DACA kids, and we all agree on that. Eighty-six percent of the American public agrees on that.
With all due respect, Bob, and Mike, and Lindsey, there are some things that you’re proposing that are going to be very controversial and will be an impediment to agreement.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re going to negotiate those things. You’re going to sit down and you’re going to say, listen, we can’t agree here, we’ll give you half of that, we’re going to — you’re going to negotiate those things.
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: Mr. President, comprehensive means comprehensive.
THE PRESIDENT: No, we’re not talking about comprehensive. Now we’re talking about —
REPRESENTATIVE HOYER: No, we are. We are talking about comprehensive.
THE PRESIDENT: If you want to go there, it’s okay because you’re not that far away.
SENATOR HOYER: Mr. President, many of the things that are mentioned ought be a part of the negotiations regarding comprehensive immigration reform.
THE PRESIDENT: I think if you want to take it a step further, you may — I’m going to have to rely on you, Dick — but you may complicate it and you may delay DACA somewhat.
SENATOR DURBIN: I don’t want to do that.
SENATOR HOYER: You can’t do that.
SENATOR DURBIN: You said at the outset that we need to phase this. I think the first phase is what Chuck and Steny and I have mentioned, and others as well: We have a deadline looming and a lot of lives hanging. We can agree on some very fundamental and important things together on border security, on chain, on the future of diversity visas. Comprehensive, though, I worked on it for six months with Michael Bennet, and a number of — Bob Menendez, and Schumer, and McCain, and Jeff Flake — and it took us six months to put it together. We don’t have six months for the DACA bill.
PARTICIPANT: We’re not talking about comprehensive immigration.
PARTICIPANT: Take a look at our bill and let’s talk some.
PARTICIPANT: I hear you.
SENATOR DURBIN: You’ve mentioned a number of factors that are going to be controversial, as Steny has mentioned.
THE PRESIDENT: But you’re going to negotiate. Dick, you’re going to negotiate. Maybe we will agree and maybe we won’t. I mean, it’s possible we’re not going to agree with you and it’s possible we will, but there should be no reason for us not to get this done.
And, Chuck, I will say, when this group comes back — hopefully with an agreement — this group and others from the Senate, from the House, comes back with an agreement, I’m signing it. I mean, I will be signing it. I’m not going to say, “Oh, gee, I want this or I want that.” I’ll be signing it, because I have a lot of confidence in the people in this room that they’re going to come up with something really good.
Senator, would you like to say something?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: I would. As you know, we tried for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate. It was on the floor, there were a number of amendments, it got a lot of attention in the judiciary committee, and then the House didn’t take it up.
I think there needs to be a willingness on both sides. And I think — and I don’t know how you would feel about this, but I’d like to ask the question: What about a clean DACA bill now, with a commitment that we go into a comprehensive immigration reform procedure? Like we did back — oh, I remember when Kennedy was here and it was really a major, major effort, and it was a great disappointment that it went nowhere.
THE PRESIDENT: I remember that. I have no problem. I think that’s basically what Dick is saying. We’re going to come up with DACA. We’re going to do DACA, and then we can start immediately on the phase two, which would be comprehensive.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Would you be agreeable to that?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I would like — I would like to do that.* Go ahead. I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.
[The original transcript, which was modified by the White House to change what Trump actually said, read: THE PRESIDENT: I think a lot of people would like to see that, but I think we have to do DACA first.]
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Mr. President, you need to be clear though. I think what Senator Feinstein is asking here: When we talk about just DACA, we don’t want to be back here two years later. We have to have security, as the Secretary would tell you.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: But I think that’s what she’s saying.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: What do you think I’m saying?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: I’m thinking you’re saying DACA is not secure. Are you talking about security as well?
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Well, I think if we have some meaningful comprehensive immigration reform, that’s really where the security goes. And if we can get the DACA bill, because March is coming and people are losing their status every day —
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: But, let’s be honest. Security was voted on just a few years ago, and, no disrespect, there’s people in the room on the other side of the aisle who voted for it. If I recall, Senator Clinton voted for it. So I don’t think that’s comprehensive; I think that’s dealing with DACA at the same time. I think that’s really what the President is making.
It’s kind of like three pillars: DACA, because we’re all in the room want to do it; border security, so we’re not back out here; and chain migration. It’s just three items, and then everything else that’s comprehensive is kind of moved to the side.
So I believe when the (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: And the lottery.
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: And the lottery.
THE PRESIDENT: And I think you should add merit. I mean, if you can, add merit-based. (Laughter.) I don’t think — I don’t know who is going to argue with merit-based? Who can argue with merit-based?
Dianne, go ahead.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Can I ask a question? Do you really think that there can be agreement on all of that, quickly, to get DACA passed in time? I wanted to ask Mr. McCarthy a question. Do you really think there can be agreement on those three difficult subjects you raised in time to get DACA passed and effective?
REPRESENTATIVE MCCARTHY: Yes, because you have heard from Leader McConnell and Speaker Ryan, who said they will put the bill onto the floor if the President agrees to it. And us getting to the room, I haven’t seen us be this close and having this discussion in quite a few years — or the whole last four years.
So I think, yes, we can make this happen. We all know it. We’ve done it before. You and I spent a long time — we did probably one of the most difficult things to do in California — water. And I believe we can get there and we can just keep working each day on this.
THE PRESIDENT: I think what we’re all saying is we’ll do DACA and we can certainly start comprehensive immigration reform the following afternoon. Okay? We’ll take an hour off and then we’ll start.
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: Okay.
THE PRESIDENT: I do believe that. Because once we get DACA done — if it’s done properly — with, you know, security, and everything else —
SENATOR FEINSTEIN: That’s the point.
THE PRESIDENT: If it’s done properly, we have taken a big chunk of comprehensive out of the negotiation, and I don’t think it’s going to be that complicated.
SENATOR PERDUE: Mr. President, we have —
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
SENATOR PERDUE: We have to be very clear though.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
SENATOR PERDUE: In my opinion, we’ll be right back here either five years, thirty years, whatever. But this, the chain migration, is so insidious; it is the fundamental flaw in the immigration policy of the United States. If any conversation about DACA is being held without that consideration — I agree with border security as well — but any conversation about that is not going to go anywhere in the United States Senate. And if we think we’re going to divide one side versus the other, that’s just not going to happen on this issue.
THE PRESIDENT: David, I think chain migration has taken a very big hit over the last six months. People are seeing what’s happening.
People — for instance, the man on the Westside Highway that killed the people and so badly wounded. You know, it’s incredible when they talk about wounded, they don’t say that arms are off, and legs are off, one person lost two legs. You know, nobody talks about it. They said eight died, but they don’t talk about the twelve people that have no legs, no arms, and all of the things. So I’m talking about everybody.
I really believe that when you talk about the subject that we’re all mentioning right now, I think they had — how many people came in? Twenty-two to twenty-four people came in through him. He’s a killer. He’s a guy who ran over eight — many people — eight died; ten to twelve are really badly injured. So I really think that a lot of people are going to agree with us now on that subject. I really don’t see there’s a big —
SENATOR PERDUE: Seventy percent of Americans want the immigration policy to be, the family — the nuclear family and the workers. Seventy percent.
THE PRESIDENT: David, the chain immigration, though, has taken a very big hit in the last year with what’s happening. I mean, you’re looking at these killers — whether you like or not — we’re looking at these killers and then you see, 18 people came in, 22 people came in, 30 people came in, with this one person that just killed a lot of people. I really don’t believe there are a lot of Democrats saying, “We will be supporting chain migration,” anymore.
PARTICIPANT: Mr. President, should we get the Homeland Security Secretary —
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Yeah, if you don’t mind. Just on a couple of things on border security. I just want to try to make sure we’re all linking.
The reason that border security is so important to have as part of this discussion is that it doesn’t solve the problem if we can apprehend people but we can’t remove them. So we need the wall system, which is some physical infrastructure as the President described — personnel and technology — but we have to close those legal loopholes, because the effect is that is this incredible pull up from Central America that just continues to exacerbate the problem. So border security has to be part of this or we will be here again in three, four, five years again — maybe, unfortunately, sooner.
The other point I would just make is, the President asked DHS — he asked the men and women of DHS, what do you need to do your job? Congress and the American people have entrusted to you, the security of our country. What is it that you need? The list that we have provided is what we need to do our mission that you asked us to do. It’s not less than, it’s not more than; it is what we need to close those loopholes to be able to protect our country.
So I would just encourage — everyone, much more eloquently than I can, described all the reasons why we all, I think, are committed to helping the DACA population. But to truly solve the problem, it’s got to be in conjunction with border security.
THE PRESIDENT: Jeff.
SENATOR FLAKE: I would just echo what has been said by some here. Those of us who have been through comprehension reform, that was six, seven months of every night negotiating, staff on weekends. And a lot of things we’re talking about on border security and some of the interior things have trade-offs, and we made those during that process. I don’t see how we get there before March 5th.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. So I think that’s why we make it a phase two. We do a phase one, which is DACA and security,and we do phase two, which is comprehensive immigration. And I think we should go right to it, I really do. We do one and we then do the other. But we go right to it.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: Mr. President, I think it’s important to thank you for your flexibility and your leadership. And so I think what all of us have to do is have the same willingness to have a little bit of flexibility to get this issue done. And, obviously, I want to do a lot more than DACA. But the urgent thing now, for obvious reasons, are these young men and women who we have to deal with, first and foremost.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree.
REPRESENTATIVE DIAZ-BALART: And to Steny’s point, there are two issues which we keep hearing that everybody agrees to, and that is dealing with these individuals on a permanent and real solution, and border security.
So I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to do that, and I’m hoping that that will then lead us — to Senator Collins’ point, there’s a lot of lack of trust. If we can get real border security and deal with these individuals, if we can get that done, then I think, my gosh, it all opens up to do a lot more things in the future for the Americans.
REPRESENTATIVE GOODLATTE: I just want to reemphasize what Secretary Nielsen said. It is so important they understand when you talk about border security, if you apprehend somebody at the border, but then you cannot send them back outside the United States, even though they’re unlawfully present in the United States, you have not solved this problem, because they’re then released into the interior of the country and the problem persists. And that sends a message back to wherever they come from.
THE PRESIDENT: I agree, Bob. And you know what? We’re going to negotiate that. I agree, and I think a lot of people agree on both sides.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Thank you, Mr. President. And I agree with my good friend, Mario, in the sense that if we focus on DACA and border security, I think we can address this. Issues of chain migration or the other issues, I think that should be looked at in the second phase.
But again, I say this with all due respect to both Democrats, Republicans — but being from the border, I always get a kick out of people that go down, spend a few hours, and they think they know the border better than Cornyn — or some of us there, because we’ve lived there all our life.
Let me explain this. For example, if you look at the latest DEA — you’re worried about drugs, look at the latest DEA report — more drugs come through the ports of entry than in between ports. But we’re not even talking about ports of entry, number one.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Our bill does.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: No, I know — I’m just saying. I’m saying. (Laughter.) I’m just saying ports — let’s finish this. And some of us have been working this longer than some other folks.
Number one, if you look at the 11 or 12 million undocumented aliens, which is the second phase, 40 percent of them came through visa overstays. So you can put the most beautiful wall out there, it’s not going to stop them there because they’ll either come by plane, boat, or vehicle itself.
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: That’s in our bill, too.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yeah, and I know. So the other thing is, the other thing that we had looked at — the wall itself, Mr. President — if you talk to your Border Patrol chief or the former Border Patrol chiefs, I’ve asked them, how much time does a wall buy you? They’ll say a couple minutes or a few seconds. And this is our own Border Patrol chiefs that have said that.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: It’s not mine. Mine has made clear the wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Not the ones I spoke to.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: They have not. The wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Not the ones I spoke to. They say, without the wall, we cannot have border security.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All right. Okay. Let me show you.
THE PRESIDENT: All you have to do is ask Israel. Look what happened with them.
SECRETARY NIELSEN: No, ask Yuma. Ask San Diego. The wall works.
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, without the wall, you can’t have it.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All right. Homeland Appropriations, your chief that was there, and the former chiefs have all said that.
Now, the other thing is —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they didn’t do a very good job.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Well, if you look at — this is where the wall — Mr. President, if you look at where the walls are at right now, this is where the activity is where the walls are at right now.
THE PRESIDENT: We have massive miles of area where people are pouring through. Now, one of the good things, because of our rhetoric or because of the perceived — you know, my perceived attitude — fewer people are trying to come through. That’s a great thing.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Right.
THE PRESIDENT: And therefore — I mean, our numbers have been fantastic, maybe for all the right reasons.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But let me just finish my thought. I want to ask you that — we’re playing — you saw the game last night. It was a good game last night.
THE PRESIDENT: I did. Very good game.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We’re playing defense on the one-yard line called the U.S. border. We spend over $18 billion a year on the border.
If we think about playing defense on the 20-yard line — if you look at what Mexico has done, they stop thousands of people on the southern border with Guatemala. We ought to be looking at working with them.
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, we stopped them. We stopped them. You know why? Mexico told me, the President told me, everybody tells me — not as many people are coming through their southern border because they don’t think they can get through our southern border and therefore they don’t come. That’s what happened with Mexico. We did Mexico a tremendous favor.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We actually put appropriations to help them with the southern border.
THE PRESIDENT: The point is — I know, we always give everybody — every other nation gets money except ours.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But finally —
THE PRESIDENT: We’re always looking for money. We give the money to other nations. That we have to stop.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: But finally, the last point, Mr. President, is instead of playing defense on the one-yard line, if you look — this is your material — we know where the stash houses are at, we know where the hotels are at, we know where they cross the river —
THE PRESIDENT: Right. And we’re going after those.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Why stop — why play defense on the one-yard line called the U.S. —
THE PRESIDENT: Henry, we’re going after them like never before. We’re going after the stash houses —
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: All I’m saying is, if we focus on DACA, we can work on the other things separately — on sensible border security, listen to the folks that are from the border, and we can work with the —
THE PRESIDENT: And you folks are going to have to — you’re one voice — you folks are going to have to come up with a solution.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: And if you do, I’m going to sign that solution.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: We have a lot of smart people in this room. Really smart people. We have a lot of people that are good people, big hearts. They want to get it done.
I think almost everybody — I can think of one or two I don’t particularly like, but that’s okay. (Laughter.)
REPRESENTATIVE MCSALLY: Where is he looking?
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Who is he looking at? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I’m trying to figure that out. Everybody wants a solution. You want it, Henry.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir. I want to work with you on this.
THE PRESIDENT: I think we have a great group of people to sit down and get this done. In fact, when the media leaves, which I think should be probably pretty soon. (Laughter.) But I like — but I will tell you, I like opening it up to the media because I think they’re seeing, more than anything else, that we’re all very much on a similar page. We’re on the same page.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: We are. We are.
THE PRESIDENT: And, Henry, I think we can really get something done.
REPRESENTATIVE CUELLAR: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So why don’t we ask the media to leave. We appreciate you being here.
Q Is there any agreement without the wall?
THE PRESIDENT: No, there wouldn’t be. You need it. John, you need the wall. I mean, it’s wonderful — I’d love not to build the wall, but you need the wall.
And I will tell you this, the ICE officers and the Border Patrol agents — I had them just recently on — they say, if you don’t have the wall — you know, in certain areas, obviously, that aren’t protected by nature — if you don’t have the wall, you cannot have security. You just can’t have it. It doesn’t work.
And part of the problem we have is walls and fences that we currently have are in very bad shape. They’re broken. We have to get them fixed or rebuilt.
But, you know, you speak to the agents, and I spoke to all of them. I spoke — I lived with them. They endorsed me for President, which they’ve never done before — the Border Patrol agents and ICE. They both endorsed Trump.And they never did that before. And I have a great relationship with them. They say, sir, without the wall, security doesn’t work; we’re all wasting time.
Now, that doesn’t mean 2,000 miles of wall because you just don’t need that because of nature, because of mountains and rivers and lots of other things. But we need a certain portion of that border to have the wall. If we don’t have it, you can never have security. You could never stop that portion of drugs that comes through that area.
Yes, it comes through planes and lots of other ways and ships. But a lot of it comes through the southern border. You can never fix the situation without additional wall. And we have to fix existing wall that we already have.
Q So you would not be for what Senator Feinstein asked you, which would be a clean DACA bill that doesn’t —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think a clean DACA bill, to me, is a DACA bill where we take care of the 800,000 people. They are actually not necessarily young people; everyone talks about young — you know, they could be 40 years old, 41 years old, but they’re also 16 years old.
But I think, to me, a clean bill is a bill of DACA. We take care of them and we also take care of security. That’s very important.
And I think the Democrats want security too. I mean, we started off with Steny saying, we want security also. Everybody wants security. And then we can go to comprehensive later on, and maybe that is a longer subject and a bigger subject, and I think we can get that done too.
But we’ll get it done at a later date.
Yes, ma’am. Go ahead.
SENATOR HIRONO: Mr. President, I’m Senator Hirono from Hawaii.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I know.
SENATOR HIRONO: And as the only immigrant serving in the United States Senate right now, I would like nothing better than for us to get to comprehensive immigration reform. But what I’m hearing around the table right now is a commitment to resolving the DACA situation because there is a sense of urgency.
You have put it out there that you want $18 billion for a wall or else there will be no DACA. Is that still your position?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I can build it for less, by the way.
SENATOR HIRONO: But you want that wall?
THE PRESIDENT: I must tell you, I’m looking at these prices. Somebody said $42 billion. This is like the aircraft carrier. It started off at a billion and a half, and it’s now at $18 billion.
No, we can do it for less. We can do a great job. We can do a great wall. But you need the wall. And I’m now getting involved. I like to build under budget, okay? I like to go under-budget, ahead of schedule.
There’s no reason for seven years, also. I heard the other day — please, don’t do that to me. (Laughter.) Seven years to build the wall. We can build the wall in one year, and we can build it for much less money than what they’re talking about. And any excess funds — and we’ll have a lot of — whether it’s a Wollman Rink or whether it’s any — I build under budget and I build ahead of schedule. There is no reason to ever mention seven years again, please. I heard that and I said — I wanted to come out with a major news conference, Tom, yesterday.
No. It can go up quickly, it can go up effectively, and we can fix a lot of the areas right now that are really satisfactory if we renovate those walls.
SENATOR HIRONO: And can you tell us how many miles of wall you’re contemplating? Whether it’s $17 million or $13 million or whatever is — can you tell us?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, we’re doing a study on that right now. But there are large areas where you don’t need a wall because you have a mountain and you have a river — you have a violent river — and you don’t need it. Okay?
SECRETARY NIELSEN: Senator, I’m happy to come visit you this week to walk you through the numbers.
Q I’m not the most politically astute person in the world, but it seems to me not much has actually changed here in terms of your position at this particular meeting.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I think it’s changed. I think my positions are going to be what the people in this room come up with. I am very much reliant on the people in this room. I know most of the people on both sides. I have a lot of respect for the people on both sides. And my — what I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence in the people. If they come to me with things that I’m not in love with, I’m going to do it because I respect them.
Thank you all very much.
Q Think you could beat Oprah, by the way?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I’ll beat Oprah. Oprah would be a lot of fun. I know her very well. You know I did one of her last shows. She had Donald Trump — this is before politics — her last week. And she had Donald Trump and my family. It was very nice. No, I like Oprah. I don’t think she’s going to run. I don’t think she’s going to run. I know her very well.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, it’s phase two. I think comprehensive will be phase two. I think — I really agree with Dick. I think we get the one thing done and then we go into comprehensive the following day. I think it’ll happen.
Thank you all very much. I hope we’ve given you enough material. That should cover you for about two weeks. (Laughter.)
Donald Trump issued this statement concerning Steve Bannon:
Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. Steve was a staffer who worked for me after I had already won the nomination by defeating seventeen candidates, often described as the most talented field ever assembled in the Republican party.
Now that he is on his own, Steve is learning that winning isn’t as easy as I make it look. Steve had very little to do with our historic victory, which was delivered by the forgotten men and women of this country. Yet Steve had everything to do with the loss of a Senate seat in Alabama held for more than thirty years by Republicans. Steve doesn’t represent my base—he’s only in it for himself.
Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books.
We have many great Republican members of Congress and candidates who are very supportive of the Make America Great Again agenda. Like me, they love the United States of America and are helping to finally take our country back and build it up, rather than simply seeking to burn it all down.
The question that came to my mind as I listened to Natanya Briendel, director of the Westchester Division at the Pace Women’s Justice Center, speak at the monthly meeting of Reach Out America, a Long Island-based activist group, was how Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ roundups of undocumented immigrants rests on a concept that the Constitution – specifically due process – does not apply to non-citizens. Technically, then, any foreigner in the United States could be picked up and denied habeas corpus – the right to appear speedily in front of a judge, hear the charges and put up a defense.
She described situations where people are being rounded up based on an accusation, and if they are undocumented, immediately incarcerated and deported. No warrant. No reasonable cause to justify a search. No right to legal counsel or even a hearing before a judge.
Even people who are claiming asylum based on escaping violence in their home country, are treated as if they were criminals.
The result has been sheer terror for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Why so many? Because Republicans going back to Reagan have refused to establish a workable immigration program; during Obama’s Administration, the House Republicans literally shoved a Comprehensive Immigration bill in the desk and never voted on it. Employers have benefited from having a pool of people who are abused, cheated, and treated like indentured servants.
Here in Long Island, we have an instance where just being Hispanic renders a high school student vulnerable to accusations of membership in the dreaded M-13 gang based on what colors you wear to school.
Donald Trump in his national security speech (really a rehash of his dystopian inaugural address), equates all immigrants as terrorists, regardless if they have lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for decades, describing the need to shut off refugees, cancel DACA, end the possibility of family members obtaining legal status. Even individuals currently serving in the military, who were promised citizenship at the end of their tour, will be subject to deportation.
Our strategy advances four vital national interests. First, we must protect the American people, the homeland, and our great American way of life. This strategy recognizes that we cannot secure our nation if we do not secure our borders. So for the first time ever, American strategy now includes a serious plan to defend our homeland. It calls for the construction of a wall on our southern border; ending chain migration and the horrible visa and lottery programs; closing loopholes that undermine enforcement; and strongly supporting our Border Patrol agents, ICE officers, and Homeland Security personnel.”
The callousness, the stupidity, the sheer contradiction of American values, principles, and law.
Meanwhile, 12,762 DACA recipients – 122 a day – have lost their protected status since September 5, when President Trump rescinded the executive order that protected immigrants who arrived here as children from deportation, who were raised in the United States which is the only country they know. Trump gave a deadline of March, but the Republican Congress has shown it doesn’t actually care. Trump has reneged on the “deal” he appeared to make with Schumer and Pelosi; Democrats have threatened to use the only leverage they have – shutting down government by refusing to reauthorize a budget resolution – but that is unlikely.
Immigrants are no longer welcome. That is, unless the immigrant can buy a visa by investing $500,000 in a Trump family real estate venture, or a migrant imported to work at Mar-a-Lago (when there are tens of thousands of Puerto Rican hotel workers who lost their jobs after Maria and have sought refuge in Florida – why is he not hiring them? Answer: because they can register to vote in Florida. After all, Puerto Ricans are American citizens.)
On the other hand, the way Trump and Sessions are inflicting their might, it means that undocumented individuals are no longer protected by law – they can be physically abused by a spouse, cheated by an employer of their wages, have their children taken from them without recourse to seek custody. They have no way of protecting their civil rights, their human rights, because the courthouse has become a locus for them to be snatched up by immigration officers. They are fearful to report crimes; certainly to warn officials of any terror threats.
Here on Long Island – the very place where Trump gave a speech suggesting that police officers don’t have to be “so nice” when they stuff someone into their patrol car, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office Monday, arguing that it lacks authority under state law to honor detainer requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Detainers ask local officers to hold immigrants after they would otherwise be released from custody. This suit seeks the release of Susai Francis, a resident of Long Island for 21 years, where he has raised two sons, who should have been released after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct but instead was being held for ICE in a Suffolk County jail.
“Not only should local law enforcement reject the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant agenda, but state law is also clear that local law enforcement can’t violate people’s rights in order to do ICE’s bidding,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “The role of local law enforcement is to protect and serve all New Yorkers, and that is incompatible with the unlawful detention of our neighbors and family members at the behest of the Trump deportation machine.”
The day before Trump gave his national security speech calling again for a border wall and shutting down immigration, and offering not a crumb of possibility of the comprehensive immigration reform that should have been in place for 30 years so that people can get some legal status and not live in the shadows where they can be exploited, was United Nations International Migrants Day. Not a peep from the White House. Instead, the United States announced it would end participation in the UN process to develop a Global Compact on Migration (GCM) based on the claim that it would undermine “sovereignty”.
With civil war, ethnic conflict, gang violence, drought, famine, floods, wildfires and climate disasters, there are the largest number of refugees and displaced people in numbers not seen since World War II: 40 8 million displaced people worldwide as a result of conflict and violence at the end of 2015; an estimated 64 million are impacted by climate.
(Trump, in his national security speech, dismissed climate change as a national security threat, suggesting instead that increasing American energy production would be the counter balance.)
Immigrants are lumped together. “You think the countries are giving us their best people? No. What kind of a system is that?”Trump said at a press conference. “They give us their worst people, they put them in a bin, but in his hand when he’s picking them is really the worst of the worst.”
Trump’s view – big on a wall stretching along the southern border, a travel ban which shuts down access from six Muslim majority nations (none of which have been responsible for terrorism in the US), reducing the number of refugees who will be accepted to a trickle (45,000) while threatening to throw out others (Haitians, Nicaraguans) – is to pull up the drawbridge, much like the Soviet Union’s Iron Curtain or China’s Bamboo Curtain, and keep us equally isolated and ignorant, reciting the Trump mantra of America’s Greatness.
Combined with banning words and phrases at agencies, scrubbing reports and websites, spying on federal workers, Trump’s declaration is more ominous: “With this strategy, we are calling for a great reawakening of America, a resurgence of confidence, and a rebirth of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.
It is more: the disdain for civil rights for noncitizens within our borders means that the Trump Doctrine, which we now know is purely transactional, means that there is zero interest in upholding human rights.
“We want strong alliances and partnerships based on cooperation and reciprocity. We will make new partnerships with those who share our goals, and make common interests into a common cause. We will not allow inflexible ideology to become an obsolete and obstacle to peace.”
Trump’s view, enabled by the Republican Congress, is so warped. But there is another way: reauthorize DACA with a path to citizenship; provide legal status (not citizenship) for people who came illegally but who have worked and made homes here and have no significant criminal record, particularly the parents of DACA recipients and American children; have vetting for travelers, but accept travelers; exercise moral responsibility in accepting refugees, helping resettle refugees, and contributing funds toward refugee communities. And participate in the world to reduce the causes for refugees, migrants and immigrants: help end the conflicts and violence that sets people on their precarious journey; address climate change that is resulting in communities being uninhabitable; and advance the quality of life in these countries.
None of these generators of the desperation that motivates people to uproot their lives and take a treacherous journey to a strange place are satisfied by Trump’s “national security strategy” which puts American First and to hell with the rest of the world.
This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.
Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.
Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care. 800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.
The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.
Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:
“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”
You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.
It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.
Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.
This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)
Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.
Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)
You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”
Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”
Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.
“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.
“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.
The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.
Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”
I was watching “The President’s Show” Christmas special (Anthony Atamanuik does a brilliant impersonation of Donald Trump) and happened to switch back to MSNBC’s coverage of Trump’s speech in Missouri in which he extolls how great the Republican tax plan is and quite frankly, could not tell the difference between which was the satire and which the actual speech. See for yourself: President Trump Tax Reform Speech In St Louis 11/29/17 – YouTube
Every fact checker has given Donald Trump’s speech at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri on the Republican tax cuts scheme four-Pinnochios, most especially for his absurd declarations that the proposed cuts would hurt him and his rich buddies. Here’s just a small sample:
Here is the White House transcript highlighted and annotated:
Remarks by President Trump on Tax Reform
St. Charles Convention Center, St. Charles, Missouri
2:22 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: I told you that we would be saying, merry Christmas again, right? (Applause.) And it’s great to be back in Missouri — a sign of a lot of good things because you’re doing really well.
And I want to thank Governor Greitens and Attorney General Hawley, who — by the way, Josh — where’s Josh? Josh, our next senator. Where is he? (Applause.) He’s going to be a great senator. And he wants to see a major tax cut. I think I can speak for him, right? (Applause.) And your current senator does not want to see a tax cut. That’s not good. That’s not good. She wants your taxes to go up.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Secretary Mnuchin, who’s doing such a fantastic job — (applause) — thank you — and Linda McMahon. Everybody knows Administrator — small business, became a big business under Linda. She’s helping a lot of people. Thank you very much, Linda. (Applause.)….
[Mnuchin claimed that he had a team of 100 specialists at US Treasury doing an analysis to show that the tax cuts would not add to national debt, now at $20 trillion. That was a lie – Treasury did not offer any analysis, but other nonpartisan and bipartisan agencies released reports that show that the Republican tax plan will add $1 trillion to the national debt and have only marginal benefit to increasing jobs, wages, or economic growth. What is more, the projections are “optimistic” and do not take into account the likelihood of a recession in the next decade.]
With your help, we can usher in a thrilling new era of opportunity and growth for this nation that we love so much. Tax cuts have already passed the House of Representatives. (Applause.) Big ones. Big ones. The eyes of the world now turn to the United States Senate.
A successful vote in the Senate this week will bring us one giant step closer to delivering an incredible victory for the American people. Massive tax cuts and reform. I don’t even mention the word reform because people don’t know exactly what we’re talking about.
You know, for years, they have not been able to get tax cuts — many, many years, since Reagan. And the problem was they talked about tax reform, not tax cuts. I said, don’t call it “reform,” call it “tax cuts and reform.” So every once in a while we’ll add the name “reform.” But it’s tax cuts.
[That’s true because it does not eliminate any of the loopholes that enable the wealthiest and biggest corporations to avoid paying taxes altogether; it only cuts taxes for the wealthiest, and makes up the lost revenue by taking away the credits and deductions that working class and middle class Americans use for home ownership, education, job training, and healthcare, for upward mobility.]
We cannot sit — (applause.) Right? The Governor agrees.
We cannot sit idly by and watch ourselves losing in competition to other countries as they continue to take away our jobs because their tax codes are more competitive and less burdensome than ours. That’s why we must cut our taxes, reduce economic burdens, and restore America’s competitive edge. We’re going to do that, too. And it’s already happening. Look what’s happening with our markets. People get it. (Applause.)
[It has been happening before Trump because of economic programs put into place by Obama, including trade deals, job training, summits designed to incentivize international businesses to locate here. As a result, corporations are flush with cash – $2 trillion worth – but have not raised wages. Trump’s tax plan has no incentives to raise wages and because consumer spending will be weak, and there are no rules to prevent companies from off-shoring jobs and profits, companies have no reason to invest here.]
If we do this, then America will win again like never, ever before. (Applause.) A vote to cut taxes is a vote to put America first again. We want to do that. We want to put America first again. (Applause.) It’s time to take care of our workers, to protect our communities, and to rebuild our great country. (Applause.)
You know, we’ve spent almost $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 16 years — $7 trillion. Now, I’m taking care of it. We’re doing numbers like ISIS has never seen before. We’re wiping them out — terrorists, they’re bad. (Applause.)
And all of that, but we’ve spent almost $7 trillion. We could have rebuilt our country four times over. And we’re going to start spending here. We’re going to start spending here. (Applause.)
And with that being said, we’re going to protect our country, whether it’s North Korea or any — but we’re going to protect our country like never before. We’re going to build up our military and make our product here and make our planes, and our boats, and our everything here.But we’re going to build up our military. (Applause.)
But we’ve got to start focusing on our country. That’s why I’m saying America first. Make America great again — you’ve never heard that expression. (Applause.) All those hats. All those — they’ve never heard that expression before.
Oh, that was a good expression and it’s a true expression and it’s already happening and long ahead of schedule. And in fact, today, some numbers came out that people haven’t seen in many, many years.
This beautiful city of St. Charles is the perfect place to deliver the message that I want to deliver. It’s the place where America’s past and future come to life on its historic brick-lined Main Street. Nice street, do you agree? (Applause.)
It was along these very streets that, in 1804, the great American explorers, Lewis and Clark, gathered their final supplies before setting out on their very historic expedition of discovery. I have to say, I didn’t really know that until two days ago. (Laughter.)
See? See, now the world is watching. Look at all the fake news back there. They’re all —
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: They’re all watching.
Today, more than two centuries later, a new generation of American pioneers begins its own adventure, gathering inside the startups and the storefronts of main streets across the country, blazing new trails into totally uncharted territory of business and technology, and once again leading our nation into a future of limitless potential.
That’s what we have in this country. We have the greatest people. It’s the greatest country. I love this country so much. (Applause.)
Our country was not treated properly for a long time. We’re treating it properly. We’re treating it with love and with this. You got to treat it with this.
And today, just as it’s always been, Main Street is the heart of our economy, the soul of our community, and the birthplace of American dreams.
But over the years, crippling taxes, massive regulation, and totally disastrous trade deals — oh, the trade deals. Oh, I get a headache thinking about who made these deals. (Laughter.) One after another. WTO, NAFTA, the wonderful deal with South Korea — remember, they said it’s going to produce 200,000 jobs? And it did, for South Korea. (Laughter.) Didn’t produce — we lost 200,000 jobs. It turned some of our businesses’ main streets into empty ghost towns. You see what’s happened.
Now we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to restore American prosperity and reclaim America’s great destiny. We’ve already made tremendous progress — far greater than I would have thought. I will tell you this in a non-braggadocious way — (laughter) — there has never been a 10-month President that has accomplished what we have accomplished. That I can tell you. That I can tell you. (Applause.)
Today, again, the stock market has reached another record, all-time high. (Applause.) The unemployment rate nationwide is the lowest it’s been in 17 years — (applause) — and 13 states this year have seen unemployment drop to the lowest levels in the history of their state. And I hate to tell you, but Missouri happens to be one of them. (Applause.)
[Increases in stock market have nothing to do with jobs or wages or prosperity. In the first place, they are paper profits only realized when the stock is sold. In the second place, only 20% of Americans have a stake in the stock market. In the third place, sales of shares do not go to the company to invest or add jobs except when it is the Initial Public Offering. Fourth: the stock market only reflects short term, not long term, and today, with computer trading, will buy/sell based on small changes in market price. Fifth: Wall Street does not care about the well being of ordinary Americans – witness how the stock market rose on news that hundreds of thousands of jobs were being shed in the lead up to the 2008 financial collapse.]
We’ve created nearly 2 million jobs — 2 million jobs, think of that. We used to lose millions. Now we’ve created 2 million jobs since I won the election. And, I want to say, since you won the election. I didn’t win the election; you won the election. (Applause.)
And we will create countless more if we can sustain the 3 percent growth rate we have achieved for the past two quarters. But we’re going to do much better than that. Remember I used to say, we can hit 4 and we can hit 3? And they were all saying, forget it, forget it. It was 1.2. It was doing terribly. We were flat. We were even. In all fairness, the stock market was going this way.
[No credible economists expect the US, a mature economy, to grow by 3% a year.]
And now, we’re hitting numbers that nobody thought possible, certainly not in this time. And the numbers going up are going to be much better than anybody anticipates. In fact, they’re going to say that Trump is the opposite of an exaggerator — the exact opposite. (Laughter and applause.) They’re going to start saying, Governor, that he ought to be a little bit more optimistic because his predictions were low, can you believe it?
You know, a year and a half ago, they were saying, oh, he can’t do that. Now they’re saying, hm, that was quick. (Laughter.)
But by the way, the Commerce Department announced this morning that our GDP — that’s the big one — in the third quarter, grew even faster than they reported previously. They made a mistake, they were too low. They had it at 3 percent. By the way, 3 percent — did you ever think you’d hear that in less than a year?
THE PRESIDENT: And now it comes in at 3.3 percent, which is the largest increase in many years. (Applause.)
And if we didn’t have the hurricanes, we would have been at 4 percent. The hurricanes were devastating. And I said, they’re worth a point. They said they were worth like .006, but I said they were worth a point. We would have been at 4 percent, maybe even over 4 percent, but we had hurricanes.
We took care of them. In Texas and Florida, they did a great, great job — amazing job, tremendous leadership. And we’re very proud.
[Where is the money coming from for disaster relief, which is all too common with climate change and increasing frequency of climate catastrophe?]
Puerto Rico has been a very tough situation because of the fact that it was in very, very bad shape before the storms ever hit. But they’re doing well there and it’s healing and it’s getting better. And we’re getting them power, and all of the things that they have to have.
But I want to tell you there are a lot of brave people in every state. We have great, great people, and it’s our number one resource, believe me. Really great. (Applause.)
But in order to achieve this bright and glowing future, the Senate must pass those tax cuts. Bring Main Street roaring back — and that’s what’s going to happen. This was all done without the tax cuts, and I’m not sure that people even believe the tax cuts. I want to see what happens….
So right now, America’s tax code is a total dysfunctional mess. The current system has cost our nation millions of American jobs, trillions and trillions of dollars, and billions of hours wasted on paperwork and compliance. It is riddled with loopholes that let some special interests — including myself, in all fairness. This is going to cost me a fortune, this thing — believe me.
Believe me, this is not good for me. (Laughter.) Me, it’s not so — I have some very wealthy friends — not so happy with me, but that’s okay. You know, I keep hearing Schumer, “This is for the wealthy.” Well, if it is, my friends don’t know about it. (Laughter.) I have to explain why.
[Like in poker, Trump has a “tell” when he is bluffing (lying): Whenever he says “Believe me,” especially when he repeats “Believe me” he is lying.]
Now it is great for companies, because companies are going to bring back jobs. And we’re lowering the rates very substantially. But right now, we’re bringing the rates down from 35 percent — which is totally non-competitive. The highest industrialized nation in the world, by far, and we’re bringing it all the way down to 20 percent. (Applause.)
[35% is the nominal tax rate before deductions and loopholes. The average rate paid by US companies is 18%, which is below average for industrialized nations, and profitable companies like Apple and General Electric pay little or no taxes.]
But that’s good for everybody in the room, whether you have company or whether you want a job, because we’re going to bring back jobs. (Applause.)
And what we’ve had is a massive giveaway to foreign countries, which encourage businesses to relocate offshore. And you’ve seen what’s happened.
Before this — this is, really, I’m most proud, because, as bad as our tax code is, we have Toyota, we have big car companies coming back in, building plants in Michigan and other places. We have a lot of businesses coming back in, and they see what’s happening. They see what’s going on.
[International companies have building factories in the US, predating and having nothing to do with Trump. Even the announcements he made after winning election were plans to expand made during Obama’s administration.]
That’s why they’re doing — our current code is a giant — and really it is — it’s a self-inflicted economic wound. It’s been that way for so many years and nobody wanted to do anything about it.
But all that will change and it will change immediately if Congress sends a tax cut and reform bill. The biggest tax cut in the history of our country — bigger than Reagan. If they send it to my desk, I promise all of the people in this room — my friends, so many friends in this room. It’s a great state. I promise you I will sign it. I promise. I will not veto that bill. There will be no veto. (Applause.)
Under the plan moving forward in the Senate, a typical family of four earning $75,000, as an example, will see their taxes go down by as much as $2,000. That’s a lot. (Applause.)
[Individual tax cuts are temporary; what is more, losing the deductions for state and local taxes, interest on school loans and the like, will wipe out any reduction in taxes because of the doubling in the personal exemption. And with the deal to eliminate the Obamacare individual mandate for health insurance – to appear to save $338 billion in government spending so that the tax plan can pass with only 51 Senate votes – everyone’s premiums will increase 10% a year.]
Now, we’re doing that not just to help people. We’re doing that because it helps our country. You’re going to take that $2,000 and maybe you’ll save some, and you’re going to spend some. And we’re going to make product back in our country again. It’s going to be made here — going to be made elsewhere. But it’s going to be made here. We’re opening up plants. We’re opening up factories, and we’re going to be great to small business. Wait until you see the final product. Wait until you see what finally comes out in what I call the mixer.
The beating heart of our plan is a tax cut for working families. That’s what it is. We’re going to make sure — (applause) — that you keep more of your hard-earned money. We’re going to make sure, also, that you have a job that you want. You’re going to have choice. In education we now have choice. Good word. Here you’re going to have a choice. You’re not just going to have one — you’re going to have a choice of many jobs. People are moving back into our country.
Under our plan, the first $12,000 of income earned by a single individual will be totally income-tax-free — zero. (Applause.) And a married couple won’t pay one dime of income tax on their first $24,000 of income — zero. (Applause.)
Our plan will significantly increase the child tax credit and make it available to more middle-class families because the single most important investment our nation can make is in our children. Do we agree? You agree? You better agree. (Applause.)
Families will also benefit from a new credit for other dependents like a child in college, or an elderly loved one. We have our mothers, our fathers. You have your grandparents. You have people that are elderly that have done a fantastic job. They’ve grown old. You want to help them. Now we are going to help you help them. (Applause.)
We’re also going to eliminate tax breaks and complex loopholes taken advantage of by the wealthy. Who are they? I don’t know. (Laughter.) I think my accountants are going crazy right now. It’s all right. Hey, look, I’m President. (Laughter.) I don’t care. I don’t care anymore. I don’t care. (Laughter and applause.)
Some of my wealthy friends care. Me? I don’t care. This is a higher calling. Do we agree? (Applause.) As Hillary said, what difference does it make? It made a difference. It made a big difference. It made a big, big difference. (Applause.)
[If the tax plan isn’t going to give Trump and his family millions of dollars – by eliminating the AMT and Estate Tax – where are his tax returns to prove that?]
We want a tax code that is simple and fair, and that’s for all Americans. The plan that senators will be voting on this week — hopefully as soon as possible — closes the loopholes that corporations use to shift their profits to tax havens, and it eliminates deductions for CEO salaries over $1 million. You see what some of these people are making — a little ridiculous. (Applause.)
I’m driving up their stock. They’re making a fortune. Then they go to their board, and they tell everybody what a great job they’re doing. But what am I going to do? (Laughter.) And many of them, honestly, I don’t like. (Laughter.) Oh, some of these bankers I don’t like them, and they’re making a fortune, and it’s one of those things.
Steve knows a couple of them that I’m talking about, doesn’t he? (Laughter.) They say what a great job they do. Right now anybody could do their job because we’re making it easy for them because we’re giving them a great and strong economy. And because we’ve cut regulations more than any President in the history of this country by far, and that’s for full terms. That’s not for 10 months. (Applause.)
And it allows builders to build, and it allows farmers to farm. You know what I’ve done for farmers. (Applause.) Where if you had a little puddle in the middle of your field, you go to jail if you touch it, right? You know what I’m talking about. Not anymore. Not anymore. Not anymore. (Applause.)
And it allows bankers to lend. It allows bankers to lend again. So many people came up to me, and they said, we had a 20-year relationship with a bank. We never had a default. We never had a bad loan. Now we go back to the bank, and they say, we can’t do business with you anymore.
Because they don’t qualify, even though they’re better than the people that do qualify. It’s incredible. But we’re back to the strong days of our banks. And not the days of trouble — pre-that — we’re back to the — where bankers can make loans and community bankers can make great loans to good people.
You saw what happened recently where the certain agency or bureau that was causing so much trouble to lenders, where they could not lend. They just couldn’t lend. It was devastating. They were going out of business. Well, we’re taking care of that. We’ve already taken care of a big part of it, and yesterday you saw we won the lawsuit. So that’s going to be taken care of automatically. (Applause.) Got to get back to business.
Our focus is on helping the folks who work in the mailrooms and machine shops of America — the plumbers, the carpenters, the cops, the teachers, the truck drivers, the pipe fitters — the people that like me best. (Laughter.) Actually, the rich people actually don’t like me, which is sort of interesting.
And that’s fine. You know what? I like that trade. (Laughter.) But really, the people that like me best are those people — the workers. They’re the people I understand the best. Those are the people I grew up with. Those are the people I worked on construction sites with. (Applause.)
All of the people who give their best each and every day to take care of their family and the country that they love — these are incredible people. They came out to vote for me. They came out to vote for us. People that worked hard, two jobs, three jobs, that hadn’t voted in many years because they never had anybody they wanted to vote for.
And they came out — I’ll never forget, in Tennessee, a great congressman told me — they had early voting — said, I’ll tell you what, we just went through four days of early voting. At that time, it was Mr. Trump. Now they say, Mr. President. But it was Mr. Trump.
He said, and if the other parts of the country are like what’s happening in Tennessee — people are coming from all over Tennessee. They haven’t voted in years, and now they’ve got Trump shirts and they’ve got Trump hats, and they’ve got Trump-Pence, and they’ve got everything Trump and Trump-Pence.
[Trump can’t get through a single speech without crowing over the 2016 Election.]
And he said, I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’ve been a politician for a lot of years. And if it’s anything like Tennessee, you’re going to have one hell of a victory. It turned out to be a lot like Tennessee, so — (applause). And it turned out to be a lot like Missouri. That I can tell you. (Applause.) Because we had a big one here.
And I promised Josh that, when he gets it going — and he’s got it in very good shape, from what I hear, he’s a popular — everybody said, Josh, got to be Josh. Everyone who saw me — I said, who’s going to run against her? Josh, Josh. I said, Josh, when you’re ready, you have my word, I’m going to come here and campaign with you. We got to get you in. Okay? (Applause.) Got to get you in.
It’s not enough for the middle class to keep getting by; we want them to start getting way ahead. (Applause.) We’re going to have them start getting way ahead.
Under our plan, middle-class families will not only see their tax bill go down, they will see their incomes go up by an average of around $4,000. (Applause.) And that’s because we’re going to cut taxes on American businesses so they will compete for workers, they’ll raise salaries. The business is going to be happy and the workers are going to be happy and the country is going to be a happy place.
Although, we’re going to have very strong borders. Please remember that, okay? Please remember. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Build the wall.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to have the wall. Don’t worry about it, we’re going to have the wall. (Applause.) We don’t forget that wall. A lot of people say, now that he got elected, is he going to build the wall? The answer is, absolutely — more so, I think more so. (Applause.)
It’s not easy dealing with the Democrats. They want to have people pour into our country — illegals. They don’t care where the hell they come from. They want to have them pour into our country, they want to raise your taxes, they don’t want to take care of your military, and all they’re good at, frankly, is obstructing. They want to obstruct.
But you know what? They may obstruct, but we have gotten through all of the obstruction so far. We’ll keep it going, believe me. (Applause.)
Today, America has one of the least competitive tax rates on planet Earth — 60 percent. Think of that: 60 percent higher than the average in the developed world. So our taxes are 60 percent higher.
On my recent trip to Asia, every single one of the countries I visited, even those with communist governments, have slashed its corporate tax rates and slashed them dramatically. And it’s very tough competition anyway. But when their taxes are a lot lower, it really makes it very tough.
And that trip was a tremendous success. You know, we brought back $250 billion in contracts. That’s going to be over a trillion dollars very soon. (Applause.) That’s a good week and a half’s work. Boeing came back with contracts. So many of our companies came back, and I’m very proud of them. And we’re doing great.
But at the same time, we’re going to fix trade because trade is unfair. We’re getting killed on trade. So we’re going to fix our trade. Unless anybody would like to continue with this horrible situation that we have.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Our plan gets America from the back of the pack and it’ll bring us right to number one, where we were for years but where we haven’t been for decades. We’re going to be right back at number one. (Applause.)
And we’re going to work on trade, but we’re also going to work on military. When we defend nations that are very wealthy, and we do it for almost nothing, I say, why are we defending them? We love them. I won’t mention names, but there are a lot of them. We love them. They’re wealthy.
One of them has a cash flow that they say is unsustainable, it’s so large. Think of that. How would you like to have an unsustainable cash flow? They don’t know what to do with their money. And we defend them. It’s going to change, folks. We’re going to defend them, but they’re going to treat us fairly. And they’re going to pay for their defense. Does that make sense? (Applause.)
And a lot of this is from many, many years ago, when we defended a defeated country and then they became strong and they became rich and we just kept the same defense. What happened? Why didn’t anybody go in and negotiate?
And when I was in Asia, I spoke to a couple of the countries about it, and they looked like this. Do you know what this is? (Laughter.) That means they know they’re getting away with murder and they got to start helping us out, okay? So if you don’t mind, I’ll start bringing that up with some of our good friends. (Applause.)
We’re going to lower our tax rate to the very competitive number of 20 percent, as I said. And we’re going to create jobs and factories will be pouring into this country, and they already are starting. A lot of people think it’s going to happen. I don’t want to say anything. I’m not going to talk about it. I thought we had healthcare, and we will have healthcare. It’s going to happen. As soon as we get the taxes, we work on the healthcare, we’re going to happen. Because we thought we had the votes and something happened a little strange — (laughter) — that’s okay.
When you lose by one vote, then it’s called — you go back. You know, some people said, oh, you failed with healthcare. I said, what do you mean we failed? We didn’t fail. And by the way, what happened — what happened is Obama took a long time — years — to get Obamacare, right? Again, ten months? We’ve had two runs at it. We’re coming closer, closer. I think now we have a plan that’s going to be great. But we’re not talking about it until after taxes. And then we take care of healthcare.
Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history; healthcare, phenomenal healthcare. I know you don’t want this — welfare reform. Does anybody want welfare reform? (Applause.) And infrastructure. But welfare reform — I see it and I’ve talked to people. I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.)
So we’re going to go into welfare reform, unless Billy doesn’t want it. Billy, am I okay in saying that I speak for you? He said, yes.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Billy. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You got a lot of friends out there, Bill.
Well, we’ll also cut taxes for the millions of small businesses that file as individuals, and that’s going to come out of the hopper. (Applause.) It’s getting there and it’s going to be better and better. We’re reducing the tax burden on businesses of all sizes and of every, single kind.
As a candidate,I pledged to fight for American jobs. I think it’s possibly the number one reason I got elected. And I think we’ve done a lot better, at this point, than anybody ever even thought possible. Think of that, two million jobs since the election — two million more jobs in this country since the election. Nobody expected that. Nobody expected that. Excuse me, I didn’t even expect that. (Laughter.)
But you cut those regulations and you give people spirit and incentive. And when you have the highest ratings, in terms of confidence, that the country has had in many, many years — maybe ever — things happen.
The tax cut will mean more companies moving to America, staying in America, and hiring American workers right here. So that’s so important, right? (Applause.)
Small business groups across our nation, retailers, restaurants, manufacturers, grocers, contractors support this plan. We have tremendous support for this plan. Tremendous. Because these massive tax cuts will be rocket fuel — (laughter) — Little Rocket Man — (laughter) — rocket fuel for the American economy. (Applause.) He is a sick puppy….
[Out of no where, a gratuitous dig at North Korea.]
We want to make it easier for loving families to pass on their life’s work to their children. Be nice. Be very nice, right? (Applause.)
That’s a tough one. The Democrats fight that one I think harder than any other thing that we’re doing. They fight the death tax. They don’t want it. They don’t like it. They don’t want it. It’s one of those things. But that is one of the hardest things. I have to be — I see people right here. They’re obviously very rich, and they love their children, right, in this group? (Laughter.) They love their children. They’re very rich. They want to pass on what they have without having to have the kids sell the property, mortgage up half of it. But the biggest problem we have on that one, these Democrats are being brutal. And I call them obstructionists, but they want to stop the estate tax. They want to stop the death tax from being rescinded. But we’re going to try our best on that one.
[Of course Trump and his donors, the Kochs, Mercers, Adelson, want to rescind the estate tax which impacts a few thousand individuals because the cap is so high: Trump’s kids stand to pocket an extra $1 billion when Donald kicks the bucket.]
Our economy will receive another enormous boost as trillions of dollars in wealth that’s parked overseas will be able to come back to our country.
Now, this one that’s interesting because for years Republicans and Democrats agreed. You have Apple, and you have these great companies having billions and billions of dollars overseas. Now who doesn’t want the money to come back?
But to show you the lack of leadership that this country had in the past, the Republicans want it, and the Democrats want it. And nothing ever happened. You could have passed that one easy. In fact, we’re just throwing it into this bill. I could have had a separate bill on that one — I think. Don’t you agree, fellas? I could have had a separate bill on that one and gotten it passed in record time. But I figured I’d put it here because it is actually popular.
But it used to be $2.5 trillion. You know what that is? Trillion. Money you can’t bring back in. It’s prohibitive — both in complexity and in the amount of tax you have to pay. So nobody brings back in — $2.5 trillion. But $2.5 [trillion] I’ve been saying for six years. I think now it’s $4 trillion to $5 trillion. All that money is coming back into the United States, and it’s going to be invested in our country, instead of sitting and helping others. We want our own help. (Applause.)
That’s sort of an easy one. Last year, American multinational companies left more than 70 percent of their foreign profits overseas because the current tax system penalizes them for bringing that money back home. They actually get penalized. Our plan switches to a territorial tax system that encourages companies to return their profits to America — right here to the United States — where that money belongs going back to work for you. Territorial. (Applause.)
[Democrats support the concept in theory, but not the way it will be abused. The Republican plan doesn’t prevent companies from continuing to offshore profits to avoid tax. Democrats including Obama were always in favor of lowering the corporate tax rate to the range of 20%, but removing the loopholes so they actually do pay tax.]
If we want America to thrive in the 21st century, then we must stop running from the competition. And instead, we must start totally winning and winning and winning again. Remember when I used to say: We’re going to win so much. We’re going to win — that the people of Missouri are going to go to your governor, and they’re going to say, Governor, please, go see the President. We can’t stand winning so much. Remember I used to say that? (Laughter.) Right? I used to say it, and that’s what’s happening. That’s what’s happening. (Applause.)
And then the governor is going to come to that beautiful historic Oval Office. He’s going to say to me, Mr. President, the people of Missouri cannot stand all this winning. (Laughter.) They don’t want to win so much. They love the old way where they had lousy job numbers, lousy economic numbers, lousy — yeah, they loved it. Please, Mr. President, please, not — and I’ll say, Governor, I don’t care what they say in Missouri, we’re going to keep winning and winning and winning. Remember? (Laughter.) That’s right. (Applause.)
I used to say that. I had fun with that. But we are winning. We’re winning again. We’re winning a lot bigger than anyone ever thought possible for such a short period of time.
For too long, our tax code has incentivized companies to leave our country in search of lower tax rates. It happens. Many, many companies — they’re going to Ireland. They’re going all over. They’re going all over Asia. But they’re stopping because they now want to take advantage of what’s happening and what we’re about to pass, hopefully.
My administration rejects the offshoring model. In other words, let’s build a factory in another country. Isn’t that wonderful? That really helps us a lot. Fire everybody, and let’s build a product, and let’s send it in, without tax, back into the United States.
That model doesn’t work for me. It never worked, and it shouldn’t have worked for any of our other past Presidents, believe me. (Applause.)
Our new model is the American model. Call it the Trump model, where we build it here. As much as possible, we build it here. Simply put, our tax plan is anti-offshoring and 100 percent worker, 100 percent worker, 100 percent pro-America. (Applause.)
Under the American model, we’re reducing burdens on our businesses as long as they do business in our country. Okay? They do business here.
Now, we love Mexico. It’s a wonderful place. But I don’t like when our car companies move to Mexico, fire everybody, build the same car in Mexico, send it through our borders with no taxes, no nothing, and we buy the car. Same price. We buy the car.
In the meantime, what do we get out of it? We get no tax and we get unemployment all over. That’s stopping. So now the plants are starting to move back. And now there’s a price to pay when they do that little number on us. (Applause.) That’s how we will all succeed and we grow together as one team, one people, as one American family. (Applause.)
This week’s vote can be the beginning of the next great chapter for the American worker.
To summarize: Our plan cuts taxes for the working and middle-income families; it nearly doubles the amount of income taxed at the rate of zero; it lowers tax rate; it expands the child tax credit; it provides relief from the estate tax, also known as the death tax; it cuts small business taxes; it reduces the corporate rate from 35 percent all the way down to 20 percent; and it provides a one-time low tax rate to return corporate money parked overseas — trillions and trillions of dollars.
This is the right plan. This is the right time. We have a moment in time. The Republicans have the Senate. The Republicans have the House. The Republicans have the White House. It’s very unusual. It’s very unusual. (Applause.)
This is our chance to free our economy from our workers — from the terrible tax burdens. We have workers that are so burdened with taxes. We’re freeing our workers from those terrible burdens.
Republicans in Congress campaigned on cutting taxes. We also campaigned on repeal and replace. It’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. Take your time, it’s going to happen — going to happen. (Applause.)
Many Democrats have promised tax cuts that don’t mean anything because they really want major tax increases. Senator Claire McCaskill — have you ever heard of her?
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: — is doing you a tremendous disservice. She wants your taxes to go up. She’s weak on crime, she’s weak on borders, she’s weak on illegal immigrations, and she’s weak on the military. Other than that, I think she’s doing a fantastic job. (Laughter.)
[Trump uses this kneejerk attack on any Democrat or anyone he doesn’t like without regard for truth.]
But now comes the moment of truth. In the coming days, the American people will learn which politicians are part of the swamp and which politicians want to drain the swamp. (Applause.)
If you make your voices heard and call up your congressmen — and they’ve been terrific — and call up your senators — and they have been totally terrific. Most of them have been incredible. They really are. They’re friends of mine. They’ve been incredible.
But, it doesn’t take much. That’s why we need more. We need to have a larger number. But most of them have been incredible. But call your senators. Call you congressmen, because we have no choice. We have to act. We have to act as a country. This isn’t good for the Republican Party; this is good for the country and that’s ultimately what’s it all about. (Applause.)
So, this week, hopefully, the Senate can join the House and take that strong stand for middle-class families and for business, and for jobs, and for competition, and for bringing money back. Together, we will give the American people a big, beautiful Christmas present. (Applause.)
And remember, I was the one — when I was here last time, I said, we’re going to have Christmas again. I was the one that said, you go to the department stores and you see “Happy New Years,” and you see red, and you see snow, and you see all these things. You don’t see “Merry Christmas” anymore.
With Trump as your President, we are going to be celebrating Merry Christmas again, and it’s going to be done with a big, beautiful tax cut. (Applause.)
Thank you everybody. God bless you. Thank you. Thank you everybody. Thank you very much.