Aboard Air Force One
En Route Lewisburg, West Virginia
1:36 P.M. EDT
MR. GIDLEY: We’re looking forward to today’s event in White Sulphur Springs. The roundtable discussion will be led by the President and will feature three groups: West Virginia-based companies who reacted to the Trump tax cuts by extending benefits to their employees; West Virginia families who are able to keep more of their own hard-earned money as a result of the Trump tax cuts; and West Virginia elected officials who support the President’s pro-growth, pro-worker, pro-America economic agenda.
We shared more about those — more details about this in the pool report. Let me know if you guys didn’t receive that.
One more quick note. I can confirm that there will be an upcoming visit to the White House by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, but our staffs are still working out the details to finalize — to provide to you. And we’ll be sure to let you know all of those when we have an announcement.
So I’ll take your questions.
Q President Trump said on the way in that he does have confidence in Scott Pruitt. Can you tell us what that means? Is there still some kind of review into his behavior? Should we expect that he’ll be here several months from now, several weeks from now? What does that mean?
MR. GIDLEY: Well, you can’t speak to several months or several weeks. If the President has confidence in somebody, then they stay. We all serve at the pleasure of the President. You guys know that. And when he’s not pleased, you’ll know it.
Obviously, reports are in the news that we’re aware of and we’re looking into. But the President himself said he had confidence, and so that’s where we stand today.
Q Is the President concerned about the way that Administrator Pruitt came off on some of the interviews that he’s done? Did he feel like that was not the best showing for the administration?
MR. GIDLEY: I have not spoken with him about the interview itself. Again, he knows — I mean, he reads the papers, he watches TV. He knows the reports that are floating around out there. And they do raise questions, and we expect that Administrator Pruitt answer those questions.
Q Can you just be specific about, A, what the White House is looking at? And when you say the reports that are out there raise questions, what conduct in particular is of concern to the President? Does it have to do with the rental of the property in D.C.? Does it have to do with the flights? Does it have to do with other conduct? What is the main concern about what may or may not be a firing offense for Scott Pruitt?
MR. GIDLEY: Right. I can’t get into specificity on what we’re looking at. We see what you guys see. We read what you guys report. And, you know, the President demands the highest levels of ethical standards for his entire staff, and that includes the Cabinet. And we expect him to adhere to that.
Q Hogan, what sort of preparations are being made right now for talks with China about trade? Who’s involved? And what things do you have, or what things is the President considering bringing up with them?
MR. GIDLEY: Again, I can’t get ahead of any negotiations. I’m not going to do it here on the plane. What I can say is there have been so many things already in this administration — promises made, promises kept — and also thoughts that the President couldn’t accomplish things that he was able to accomplish, much like this event today on tax cuts. People said he couldn’t do it.
As it relates to trade and China, it’s another thing that he was talking about for decades. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have allowed China to cheat and operate illegally and unlawfully on the world stage. And this President is the first person to have the backbone and the strength to stand up to China, and stand up for the American worker and the American business. That’s what he’s going to do.
And none of these proposed tariffs are in place yet, as you know. There are things that — the President is the best negotiator on the planet, and he uses all means and methods to protect this country and to protect the workers and the businesses in America. And that’s what he’s going to do in this instance.
Q Has the President made a decision on whether to send Secretary Mnuchin to Beijing?
MR. GIDLEY: I’m not aware of that decision. I can ask and get back to you, though.
Q Hogan, I know that these tariffs aren’t in place yet, but, I mean, pork prices have already dropped. Farmers — soybean farmers are trying to plan their crops for this summer. I mean, people are already making decisions in their life. Small communities are already looking and seeing how their economy could change. They’re upset about it. They’re worried about it. And when the White House tells them, “Well, it hasn’t gone into place yet,” they’re already feeling it in their lives. What’s the White House response to that?
MR. GIDLEY: Well — and you just hit on the best point, which is they aren’t in place yet. This is a negotiating phase. There is a comment period, as you know. These are proposals. Nothing has been enacted. The President wants to protect the American worker, the American business, and the American farmer in every phase of what they do.
Obviously, I can’t get ahead of a negotiation or something that’s hypothetical, as your putting it. It’s not in place yet, but we’re talking to the agricultural community. You know, we want to help them. We want to give them the ability for their businesses to grow and protect them in international and national markets.
Q Any more details on the plans for the border? How many National Guard might be going down there? When? What kind of timing we might see?
MR. GIDLEY: Yeah. There is no specificity on the amount. It’s as many as we need, as many as it takes.
This is one of those, again, situations that has been put in place by decades of bad immigration policy. We’ve seen a 55 — or 50,000 — 55,000 people have been arrested in the month of March alone trying to come across the southern border. That’s a 200 percent increase as compared to March of last year.
The surge, we believe, is several factors. One is the economy is great. The President has turned the economy around, and there are a lot of economic opportunities here in this country. But also, when the President was talking about securing our border, building a wall, in October when we put these measures out, we put forth the four pillars and Congress didn’t do a thing.
And now people who want to come to this country illegally and unlawfully are being protected by Democrats who refuse to stand up for hundreds of millions of American citizens, and instead would prefer to protect those who want to come to this country illegally and ones who are already here illegally.
And the President wants a lasting, long-term solution to this. And if Congress won’t act on these measures, the President will.
Q Have all the governors — all the border state governors agreed to work with DOD and DHS to deploy the Guard? Or are there some — I know California; there are some issues there — who have not yet agreed to negotiate on an MOU for that?
MR. GIDLEY: Secretary Nielsen addressed this, this morning. And I believe that she is in talks with Governor Brown. But we would expect all governors across the country to support the federal government’s efforts to protect the citizens that live in those states.
The number-one function of the federal government is to protect the American people. This is a — border security is national security. That’s where the President stands, and we hope to work with all governors to ensure the safety of all Americans.
I’m going to go. Thanks.
1:43 P.M. EDT