Aboard Air Force One
En Route Tampa, Florida
5:00 P.M. EDT
MR. GIDLEY: Thanks, everybody. I want to start with a statement on the plastic gun issue. The President is committed to the safety and security of all Americans and considers this his highest responsibility. In the United States, it’s currently illegal to own or make a wholly plastic gun of any kind, including those made on a 3D printer. The administration supports this nearly two-decade-old law, and will continue to look at all options available to us to do what is necessary to protect Americans while also supporting the First and Second Amendments.
With that, I’ll open it up for questions.
Q Has he spoken to the NRA about this?
MR. GIDLEY: His tweet said yes, so I’d refer you back to that.
Q Does he support the plans being made available, the blueprints being made available for these guns?
MR. GIDLEY: Again, the statement is what the statement is, and I refer you back to that and his previous comments on the matter on Twitter.
Q Can you tell us anything more about his conversation with the NRA and what was said?
MR. GIDLEY: I can’t get into the private conversation. The President knows it’s a serious issue, and he wants to protect all Americans. That’s an oath he took. And he’s looking into the matter. And when we have more, we’ll let you know.
Q Does the White House have any response to Facebook’s statement earlier today about the midterm elections?
MR. GIDLEY: I do. The President has made it clear that his administration will not tolerate foreign interference in our electoral process from any nation-state or other malicious actors. The NSC has put out a statement on this matter, and I refer you to that statement in its entirety.
Q On the government shutdown, the President has talked about not caring about the political implications. That gives us a sense that maybe he’s talking about a shutdown before the elections. Does the President want a shutdown before November? Is he willing to draw a red line on spending in September?
MR. GIDLEY: I just spoke to him about the issue, and he was very clear with me: What he wants is our immigration laws fixed. He wants a lasting solution so that we’re not in the same boat five years down the road. He wants Democrats to come to the table and stop playing politics with people’s lives. And he said, whether a shutdown happens before or after the elections, his focus is getting the problem fixed. It’s been a 40-year problem in the making. It’s been dumped on his plate. He wants to fix it.
But when Democrats in Congress refuse to even have a discussion on the issue — and you know this back from the Schumer shutdown at the beginning of the year — the President laid out his pillars. Those pillars still exist, the four pillars — the wall, ending chain migration and the visa lottery, and closing loopholes. And he still holds that position today. He thinks that will fix the issue.
But when Democrats, for example, come out and say wild things, like abolishing ICE is part of fixing this problem, that’s just lunacy at the highest level. Any Democrat calling for the abolition of ICE either has no clue what ICE actually does or has decided to ignore the safety and security of their own constituents and, quite frankly, their own families.
ICE is on the frontlines of child smuggling, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and commercial airline travel. Just in the fiscal year of 2017, they arrested 48,000 criminal aliens for assaults; 12,000 for sexual offenses; 2,000 homicides; 4,500 gang members, they arrested — 1,000 of those, just about, were MS-13 members.
The President has been clear that he stands with those hardworking men and women — you heard him yesterday with Prime Minister Conte — who go into these dens of evil and death. And Democrats, for some inexplicable reason, won’t come to the table to discuss this, won’t cast a vote in support of ICE, and instead would rather stand with MS-13, whose motto is “kill, rape, and control.” It makes no sense. The President wants this fixed, and he wants it fixed immediately.
Q So the President is blaming Democrats for not taking action on this issue, but the reality is Republicans control Congress. Is he worried about what this would mean for his party in the midterms if there is a shutdown?
MR. GIDLEY: Well, the political reality exists that we don’t have enough votes, as Republicans in the Senate, to get something passed. You’ve got to have several Democrats come onboard to get something accomplished. Right now, we’ve seen no movement and no budge from the Democrats whatsoever, except to demagogue the issue, spread lies about people who put their lives on the line — men and women — every day to protect Americans.
And quite frankly, the President is sick and tired of it. He wants this thing fixed. He put out a 70-plus page immigration fix resolution plan last year. I believe it was October of last year. We went through this fight at the beginning of the year. Democrats chose to shut down the government over it, and they have yet to explain — Democrats at large — why they would rather stand with hundreds of thousands of people who are here illegally and unlawfully as opposed to hundreds of millions of American citizens. That’s where the battle line is drawn here, and the President wants the lasting solution, because immigration, as he has said many times, is a national security issue.
Q But is he worried that there’s going to be political fallout for his party?
MR. GIDLEY: I’m sorry?
Q Is he worried that there would be — there could be political fallout, though, for his party?
MR. GIDLEY: There’s much more at stake here than political fallout. This is about protecting a country, protecting a nation. These crimes are 100 percent preventable. People know it. It’s a 70/30 issue, an 80/20 issue depending on which questions you ask and the depending on the specificity of the issue.
The American people stand with the President on this. He got elected largely on conversations about cracking down and closing loopholes and fixing our immigration system, and we expect Democrats to come along to protect the American citizens.
Q Hogan, are you saying the President is probably not going to force a shutdown before the election?
MR. GIDLEY: The President is clear he wants it fixed. Now, what form that takes, whether the government shuts down or not, I’m not going to get ahead of anything he would do. I’m not going to get into a hypothetical. He’s spoken to this several times. He’s tweeted about it. And I refer you back to those statements.
Q The White House talks about immigrants who talk a lot about rapists and murderers. What percentage of immigrants to this country do you think are actually criminals?
MR. GIDLEY: I’m pretty sure DHS has the most up-to-date numbers and statistical data on that.
Q Is it a lot? A little?
MR. GIDLEY: I’m not sure about the actual percentage as it relates to what you would consider a lot or a little — you personally. What I can tell you is, as I mentioned before in this gaggle, these crimes are 100 percent preventable. We already have our own criminals in this country. We don’t need to import more.
Q Hogan, you said this is a 70/30, 80/20 issue. But the President’s four pillars have gotten votes in the House and in the Senate. You weren’t able to get a majority in the House even though you have a majority of Republicans. You weren’t even able to get 50 votes in the Senate even though you have 50 Republican senators. So why go through this issue again? And since you’ve already gotten your votes, it appears that the representatives of the American people do not support this policy.
MR. GIDLEY: Well, they’ve completely — Congress and the Senate has complained on why this issue hadn’t been fixed. But you’re proving my point and you’re proving the point of the President when he said many times this is a congressional issue. They’ve got to fix this. This doesn’t fall in line with the executive branch. It’s something that President Obama even admitted to, even though he tried to create law out of whole cloth.
And if they have a problem, then they need to go ahead and propose something that will get passed themselves. The President has been clear about what he wants. Those pillars haven’t changed in a year and half he’s been in office because that would provide a lasting solution to the issue.
This isn’t a new thing. We’ve been dealing with this for 40 years. Now is the time to fix it. The President wants it done.
Q Is the President seeking an additional $100 million in tax cuts for billionaires — the billionaires and millionaires — and in a way that would bypass Congress?
MR. GIDLEY: No. In fact, there’s been a great deal of issue — of interest in this provision for a long time. Treasury is currently evaluating the economic impact to see whether or not it requires any legislation. But anything further on the matter, I’d have to refer you to Treasury.
Q Any lines of communication open with Iran since yesterday? Any — is the President still willing to meet with the Iranian leader, no preconditions?
MR. GIDLEY: That’s not changed. But he’s been clear on what he wants from Iran, and that is to end its destabilization efforts, its actions of being the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. And he’s been tough on Iran for that very reason. He got out of the Iran Deal, which, as we all now see, wasn’t actually preventing a pathway for Iran to get a nuclear weapon, but instead was paving it.
He joined with some of our partners and allies for a targeted strike against Syria, which is one of Iran’s allies as well. We’ve ramped up sanctions on Iran, and we’ve bolstered some of our partnerships to try and put more pressure on Iran.
So this continues. But as he said yesterday in the bilateral press conference, that he does want to meet, he wants to come to a solution. And when we have an announcement, we’ll let you know.
Q Can I ask you one more thing? Over the past few days, he’s been tweeting about journalists being an enemy of the people. A handful of journalists were killed, I think maybe six weeks ago, in their newsroom doing their jobs. Why does the President continue to call journalists the enemy of the people?
MR. GIDLEY: Well, those two things weren’t linked at all. That was a workplace violence issue, as I recall. The individual was obviously troubled and was upset at the workplace. It has nothing to do with the President.
But he’s also been clear — President Trump — that 90 percent of the coverage or more has been negative against him. It seems as though no matter how good the news is, the press refused to cover it that way, and it’s quite frustrating for him when he comes in and the detractors before his election were saying the economy would tank and go into a death spiral that it couldn’t recover from, and instead the exact opposite has happened. He’s basically defeated ISIS. They’re crushed in a way they weren’t under the previous administration, who, quite frankly, with his head in the sand, Barack Obama called them the “JV team.”
So the success has continued for this President, but the coverage continues to be negative. And that’s frustrating for him, and I think it would be frustrating for anybody.
Q Hogan —
Q How closely — sorry, Jennifer. Go ahead. Jennifer, go ahead.
Q No, no — I just — are you going to — if that’s leading onto this question, it’s fine.
Q Go ahead.
Q But I just wanted to ask about the new reports about North Korea developing missiles, continuing business as usual. Has the President had any talks with any people over there? What’s the situation in understanding that?
MR. GIDLEY: I can’t get into the conversations, obviously, with our officials or with the President, and potential conversations he may or may not have with North Korea. And I’m also not going to confirm or deny those reports.
But look, the President has seen some successes coming out of that meeting, and we know them — with the four detainees that were returned; North Korea not firing off a missile, a rocket, in nine months; doing so many other things that is moving toward what the President ultimately wanted from that meeting, which is complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. But it’s going to take some time.
The President has been encouraged also by the fact that North Korea did return the remains to this country — people who fought for this country and died for this country. And those are all efforts in good faith. But the President has been clear-eyed on this matter, and more has to be done. And we’ll give you updates as we can give them.
Q How closely is he tracking the Manafort trial?
MR. GIDLEY: I haven’t spoken with him about that, and obviously I’d have to refer you to outside counsel for any of those matters.
Q Why is Eric Trump on this trip?
MR. GIDLEY: I don’t know.
Q Why is Ivanka Trump on this trip?
MR. GIDLEY: Part of what we’re talking about in Florida, I know, is one of the big issues with the Perkins Act, the billion dollars per year for workforce development. That’s one of the things Ivanka has been working so tirelessly on, the successes of that piece of legislation, which was passed in 2009 but remain dormant until this President came along. And now, for the first time ever, we have more job openings than we have people to fill them. And so, many people in this country need to be trained, and because they’ve been block-granted, the states — which is the brilliance of it — is that — know what workers need in Maryland are not the same thing that workers need in Mississippi. And what workers need in Colorado aren’t the same things that workers need in California.
So Florida is one of the leaders in the country on infrastructure projects, and so we came down here today to talk about that and to tout the Perkins Act to try and retrain some of the workers down here, just to continue the economic successes and growth put forth by the administration.
Q Hogan, speaking just generally, is it a crime to collude with a foreign government to interfere with a U.S. election?
MR. GIDLEY: I’m not an attorney. I’d have to refer you to either in-house counsel for that question or to outside counsel in Rudy Giuliani.
Q (Inaudible) Congressman Gaetz was on the flight. Do you have any other members of Congress who are joining us here?
MR. GIDLEY: Nothing I can share at this time. But I’ll get you guys some information on that.
5:14 P.M. EDT