Aboard Air Force One
En Route Cincinnati, Ohio
1:05 P.M. EST
MR. SHAH: All right. Hope everybody is having a nice flight en route to Cincinnati. The President is here to talk about the tax cut bill that he signed in December, and what it’s doing for the Ohio economy, what it’s doing for businesses and for employees across the state.
Let me just run through some of the things that have happened over the past year in Ohio, in particular. The unemployment rate in Ohio has fallen from 5.1 percent to 4.7 percent under this President. The Ohio economy has created over 35,000 jobs in the last 12 months, and 1 in 5 of those jobs has been in the manufacturing sector.
In 2018, the tax cut bill that the President signed will produce $8 billion in tax relief for Ohio families.
He’s going to be talking at Sheffer Corporation, one of four companies that we’re going to be highlighting where we’ll have employees and executives talking about how the tax cut bill has helped them provide bonuses to employees. The others are Fifth Third Bancorp, e-Cycle, and Jergens Incorporated.
I want to talk about one other issue before we take questions. Last week, two separate incidents on the Amtrak system claimed the lives of three people and injured many others. Our thoughts are with the families who lost loved ones, and our prayers are with those still recovering from their injuries.
In the days, weeks, and months to come, professionals at the Department of Transportation — who were the ones on the scene in the accident within hours — they’ll determine what went so horribly wrong, and they’ll identify what needs to be done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Unfortunately, they’re going to be doing so without an administrator in place at the Federal Railroad Administration because Senate Democrats, led by the Minority Leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, have been holding up the nomination of Ron Batory, a highly qualified rail safety expert who was named by the President to the post more than eight months ago. This is an individual with bipartisan support who was voted out of the committee by a voice vote.
We call on Senate Democrats, from Senator Schumer to Senator Brown — whose state we’re visiting today — to tell their leadership that it’s well past time to stop putting politics before public safety, and to the bring the President’s eminently qualified nomination up for a vote.
With that, I’ll take your questions. Dan.
Q So does the President support releasing the Democratic memo from House Intel?
MR. SHAH: Well, as we’ve said, that memo — it appears to be up for a vote later today in the House Intelligence Committee. If that memo is voted out and it comes to the White House, we will consider it along the same terms that we considered the Nunes memo — which is to allow for a legal review; national security review, led by the White House Counsel’s Office; and then, within five days, the President will make a decision about declassifying it.
Q But the President seemed pretty willing and eager to release the Nunes memo before he had even read it. Is that his same feeling with this Democratic memo?
MR. SHAH: Well, I’m not going to characterize his feeling, but just walk you through the process that we will be considering it just as we did the Nunes memo.
Q Can you say, Raj, has he spoken with the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein since the Nunes memo came out? And can you say, does he still have confidence in the Deputy Attorney General?
MR. SHAH: Well, I’ve spoken to this. I think others have since Friday. There’s no consideration about any personnel moves at the Department of Justice.
Q And what about the FISA warrant? Does the White House and this President believe that the FISA warrant should be released? And along the same lines, do you think that there is a need for a second special counsel to look into the Department of Justice and the FBI?
MR. SHAH: Well, specifically on the issue of a second special counsel, I believe the President’s personal attorneys have spoken to that. And they have called for further review and a second special counsel.
On the issue of the FISA warrant, again, that document, along with any other that the House Intelligence Committee chooses to vote out of its committee through its process and all the House procedures, we would entertain like anything else.
Q The President was critical of Adam Schiff this morning on Twitter. What did he mean when he said Adam Schiff must be stopped?
MR. SHAH: Well, I think if you look at the level of cooperation that this White House has shown toward both the Senate and House Intelligence Committee through this investigation. I’d throw the special counsel in there, but I think right now we’re just talking about the congressional committee’s investigations.
You know, these committees have investigated dozens of witness — or, interviewed dozens of witnesses; reviewed tens of thousands of pages of documents. And you see a pattern of leaking. Leaking of confidential information that is provided voluntarily, leaking sometimes of classified information.
And let be clear about who is doing it. It’s being done by members of the minority and their staffs. We don’t really see any reason why anybody else would leak this information, other than partisan political stunts by Adam Schiff and other members of the minority, Senator Warner and other people in the minority.
And the President is just calling out Adam Schiff and others for what we see: a pattern of leaking and taking confidential information that is presented to them voluntarily and using it for political purposes.
Q Raj, is the President concerned by the stock market drop on Friday — 600 plus points? And it was — markets were down this morning. And does he think that there is any long-term implication there for his economic policies?
MR. SHAH: Look, markets do fluctuate in the short term. We all know that. And they do that for number of reasons. But the fundamentals of this economy are very strong and they’re headed in the right direction — for the middle class, in particular.
On Friday, where you referenced, we also saw some really good news in the economy, which is wage growth rising at the fastest pace than it has in any point in eight years, since 2009. Unemployment, nationally, is at 4.1 percent. That’s the lowest level in almost two decades.
And the tax cuts and reform bill, as we’re already seeing, is leading to hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in the United States. Hundreds of companies giving additional raises, bonuses, benefits, and everything else to employees. We’re very excited about the strength of the economy.
Q Raj, has the President or the White House been coordinating or talking with Chairman Nunes, in regard to the rollout of this memo and the response to it?
MR. SHAH: Well, all I can say is that the first time anybody at the White House saw the memo was on Monday when it was delivered to the White House.
Obviously, the Chairman of the Intelligence of the Committee will have discussions with folks in the White House about all sorts of matters. But nothing, with respect to coordination on the memo, that I’m aware of.
Q One more. Why does the President say he feels vindicated by this memo?
MR. SHAH: Well, I think the President has been talking about — frankly, since going back to the campaign — the issue of politics playing a role in decisions at the senior levels of the FBI and the Department of Justice.
This goes back to James Comey’s handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation, where you saw a number of decisions that were made that raised real questions about the influence of the Attorney General, other Obama administration political appointees.
And then you see it in this investigation in the early stages. You know, the lead investigator, Peter Strzok, had to be removed from the case because of questions about political bias and the texts that he was sending.
Now you have, in this memo that was released, the use of a partisan political opposition research document — a shoddy document with lots of holes in it — being used, represented by the FBI and DOJ as evidence for a spying warrant under the FISA law.
So all these questions continue to percolate. We know that the Department of Justice’s Inspector General has been investigating some of these matters. And these are matters that he’s consistently raised for some time.
Q To follow up on Jen’s question, has President Trump spoken with the Deputy Attorney General or his FBI Director since the Nunes memo came out?
MR. SHAH: I don’t know, I don’t have any calls to read out.
Q Super Bowl. What was the President’s reaction — since he left Florida, basically, at halftime, right?
MR. SHAH: He reacted pretty soon after the game on Twitter, congratulating the Eagles. You know, it was a great game.
Q Has he talked to Bob Kraft? I know they’re friends. He’s probably not in a good mood right now.
MR. SHAH: I don’t — I guess I don’t have any calls to read out for you.
Q Is there anything else you can tell us about how he spent the Super Bowl? Who else was with him? Any other color?
MR. SHAH: I think, not beyond what’s been released in pool reports and the like.
Q On the Ohio trip, is he going to meet — is Governor Kasich going to be at the event? And also we noticed that Congressman Renacci is travelling with him. Is the President endorsing the Congressman in the Senate race?
MR. SHAH: Well, this isn’t a political event. The President is there to talk about the tax cut bill that Congressman Renacci and many other Republicans in the House and Senate voted for. I know Senator Portman is going to be at the event as well.
No, this is to talk about how companies in Ohio are investing in the United States, investing in their workers, and investing because of this administration and its policies, not just on taxes but on deregulation, trade, and across the board.
Q Was the governor invited to the event?
MR. SHAH: I’m not aware. Anything else guys?
Q Can we talk very quickly about the spending authority that will run out at the end of the week?
MR. SHAH: Sure.
Q What would the President like to see happen on Thursday?
MR. SHAH: We would like to see — and we have been consistent on this for some time — a two-year agreement on budget caps that give certainty to our federal agencies, to our military so that they can plan and make national security decisions from contracting, kind of, through the gamut that makes sense and that are stable. And that they can have federal funding that they can rely on.
Moving from stopgap measure to stopgap measure is no way to govern. We’re disappointed in Congress that we’re potentially facing something like that.
We’d also extend this message to Democrats — which is that last time we got to the brink, they chose to, you know, kind of, prefer the interests of people who are here illegally over people here lawfully and the government that they depend upon including the military, vulnerable children, Border Patrol agents and federal workers. We hope they don’t make that decision again.
Q What is the President going to do to close the deal on immigration? What’s he going to do personally?
MR. SHAH: Well, I think the President has laid out his clear proposals in the framework. The four planks that he wants to see action on. He’s already taken leadership by reaching across the aisle with the DACA proposal and offering legal status and a pathway to citizenship for up to 1.8 million people who are here illegally.
But to do that, we’ve got to fix the problem. Because making folks who are here illegally legal, while not fixing the problem, only makes it worse.
And so, he wants to see border security and a border wall along with more agents and the removal authorities that the Department of Homeland Security is saying that it wants.
He also wants to end the visa lottery system that there seems to be bipartisan support to end. And he also wants to see an end to the practice of extended family chain migration.
So, the President has laid out pretty clear plans. We have yet to see, you know, a Democratic plan that, frankly, is credible or passes muster. And I think that’s probably the next step.
Q Is March 5th a hard deadline in his opinion? I mean, we saw the tweet this morning. He said the March 5th deadline was rapidly approaching.
MR. SHAH: Yeah, March 5th is the deadline.
All right guys, thanks a lot.
Q Your statement at the top — do you think that the rail system is less safe because we don’t have that nominee in place? Or what was your point there?
MR. SHAH: I think that whenever we don’t have qualified personnel in oversight roles of federal agencies, you know, that doesn’t help. I think that safety will always be promoted when there is an individual at the top of the Federal Railroad Commission, just like any number of positions.
Q One more thing. It’s February now. How does the President plan to celebrate Black History Month?
MR. SHAH: I know that there’s an event in planning and in the works, but we’re always working to celebrate the great contributions of African Americans throughout history and throughout this country.
1:18 P.M. EST