THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I guess I might begin. It’s an honor to be with you and really brave men and women. The job you do is incredible, and the progress that you’ve made in the last short period of time has been unbelievable.
On April 1st of this year, I announced the launch of a powerful U.S. military law enforcement operation to combat the flow of illegal drugs across the Western Hemisphere. Today I’m pleased to be with Admiral Craig Faller and his team — done an incredible job — at the U.S. Southern Command headquarters to provide an update on this incredible successful effort.
We’re joined by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Thank you, Mark. Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf. Chad, thank you. Thank you. Commandant of U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Karl Schultz. Admiral. Associate Deputy Attorney General Amanda Liskamm. Thank you. Thank you, Amanda. Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart, who is a friend of mine for a long time. Thank you very much, Mario. Great job you’re doing down here. And many, many others: leaders and military geniuses and people that do a fantastic job.
In just 12 weeks, SOUTHCOM’s surge operation, conducted with key regional partners, has resulted in more than 1,000 arrests and the interdiction of 120 metric tons. I can only tell you that’s a lot of narcotics, worth billions and billions of dollars. We’re determined to keep dangerous drugs out of the country and away from our children. We’re securing our seas. We’re securing our borders. This is a new operation, not been done before. And this operation has been incredibly successful.
As you know, in the United States, at least before the COVID came to us — the flu, the virus, the China virus, whatever you’d like to call it; it’s got many different names — but before it hit, we were doing really well, and we’re still doing very well, but now we’re getting back on track.
Last year, 70,000 precious American lives were taken because of the poison that cartels bring into our country. Under my administration, drug overdose deaths fell for the first time in nearly 30 years. And they fell fairly substantially. Unfortunately, the shutdowns caused by the China virus have led to a recent rise in overdose deaths, still below the level that they were at. But nevertheless, it went up a little bit.
This is one of the reasons that we’re working to safely and responsibly reopen our country, reopen our schools, get our country going again, a hundred percent. We’re setting records on jobs; we’re setting records on many different things. We’re going to have a great third quarter. The third quarter is going to be tremendous numbers. Fourth quarter, likewise. And next year, economically, will be one of the best years we’ve ever had.
But you’ll see the numbers starting to come out really, really high in the third quarter, and you’ve already seen the record-breaking job numbers. NASDAQ just hit, recently, about 12 record highs — 12 days, record highs. And the other markets are right behind it. They’ll be hitting records hopefully very shortly also. That means people have a lot of confidence in what we’re doing.
With the help of the heroes here at SOUTHCOM — Coast Guard CBP, DEA, and law enforcement — we’ll work relentlessly to seize illegal drugs, arrest vile traffickers — the traffickers are truly vile; they’re terrible, terrible people what they do, mostly to women and children, but women — and dismantle criminal cartels who are responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of Americans.
I’d like now to introduce Secretary Esper to say a few words. Mark, please.
SECRETARY ESPER: Yes, thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
SECRETARY ESPER: Thank you very much, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mark.
SECRETARY ESPER: And good afternoon, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here today to discuss the successes of our enhanced counter-narcotics operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The Department of Defense began this initiative alongside our interagency partners, at the President’s direction, on April 1st, as part of our whole-of-government effort to combat the flow of illicit drugs into our country and to protect the American people.
Transnational criminal organizations have destroyed far too many American lives by smuggling heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamines into our country, leading to drug overdoses and addiction in our communities. Moreover, the profits derived from these activities support a range of bad actors, from cartels in Mexico to the illegitimate Maduro regime, which continues to oppress the Venezuelan people.
Despite the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, our enhanced counter-narcotics operations have shown great success in countering those threats by disrupting the flow of illicit drugs, denying our adversaries financial resources, and strengthening the capacity of partner countries in the region.
Since the end of March, we have employed, in the U.S. Southern Command Area of Responsibility, 75 percent more surveillance aircraft and 65 percent more ships than normal for drug interdiction. These additional assets include four Navy destroyers, five Coast Guard cutters, and eight aircraft. Currently, nearly a dozen Navy and Coast Guard ships and over 15 aircraft from across the interagency are supporting our efforts, in addition to security forces deployed to the region.
Further, we have successfully engaged and encouraged 22 partner nations to join us in this fight and step up their involvement in drug interdictions.
As a result of these enhanced operations, SOUTHCOM and our interagency and international partners have disrupted more than 122 metric tons of cocaine, as well as over 18,000 pounds of marijuana. We denied nearly $2 billion in drug profits, increased our targeting of known smuggling maritime events by 60 percent, and neutralized dozens of members of transnational criminal organizations.
These efforts have been critical to saving countless American lives and making our communities healthier, safer, and stronger.
I want to thank the President, President Trump, for his leadership and bringing us together in support of this critical mission. Thank you, sir.
And I am grateful for the hard work of our partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Homeland Security, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Justice, members of the intelligence community, and support from Congress as well, for all their efforts.
Together, we will maintain our enhanced presence in the region, keep the pressure on transnational criminal groups, and protect America and our communities from the scourge of illicit drugs.
THE PRESIDENT: General, please.
ADMIRAL FALLER: Mr. Pres- —
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Admiral.
ADMIRAL FALLER: Thank you, sir.
Mr. President, Secretary Esper, Secretary Wolf, shipmate Karl Schultz, hometown congressman here, Mario Díaz-Balart: Thank you all for your support on this important mission. This mission is vital to our homeland defense; it truly is.
And I’m proud to say the efforts are making a difference, Mr. President, and they’re saving lives. And the team here that’s assembled deserves the credit, but the resources that you’ve ordered have made that happen.
Other nations have stepped up, Mr. President. Colombia, for one, have stepped up despite COVID. U.S. leadership has been a key — a key piece.
Mr. President, if I would, I just wanted to show a map. I have a little version in front of you. Just orient on the — on the hemisphere here, if we could put the map up.
So, SOUTHCOM’s responsibility in this Western Hemisphere — really, it’s our neighborhood. It’s — it’s so close to home. So what impacts the neighbors really has a high impact on us at home, Mr. President. And that’s why this is so important.
There’s so much opportunity here. It’s our number-two trading partner outside of Asia, and so trade, economics, and democracy, importantly. And our partner nations are willing. They want to work with us, and we work with partners, from Guatemala on south and out into the Caribbean.
But that’s under assault. This vicious circle of threats that you see, led by the transnational criminal organizations — about a 90-billion-dollar-a-year enterprise — and it feeds off corruption and now the added instability of COVID. But I — as I said, partners have stepped up despite the COVID, which is a tribute to their — to their security teams.
There’s also another aspect in this neighborhood of ours, and it’s, you know, what we call a national defense strategy — great power competition. So China has certainly looked at this neighborhood as an opportunity for them. And when you think about the proximity of some of their investments, Jamaica and El Salvador, it’s just as close to Washington as it is to Miami, if you look at comparative distances.
But what our citizens want — I know certainly my dad in western PA who’s watching wants — is they want to know if we’re making a difference. And the numbers, as we’ve stated, really have. At 15 percent more disruptions — that’s detainees, that’s drugs off the street; that’s at 122 metric tons, Mr. President.
And 60 percent more targeting is a big deal for us because that means we can put more assets on more targets. And the enemy has seen that. We’ve gotten information from our intelligence agencies that says the enemy has watched that and they’re waiting, and they’re stockpiling and they’re trying to change their tactics.
Those additional Navy ships; the AWACS from the Air Force; Oklahoma Guard, MC-12s; DEA Agents — it’s a whole team effort, really, as we make a difference here.
But that 70 percent partner participation is key, Mr. President. And I think of it this way: You know, on the field to compete when you go to golf or baseball, you want the best players with you. And we certainly have those winners with us here today.
Just wanted to introduce you to two, Mr. President: Brigadier General Juan Carlos Correa, if you’d stand up, General. President Duque has sent us his best and paying for it. So he comes here fully paid by Colombia, and he works for me. And it’s a recognition that Colombia was with us in World — in the Korean War, and they’re with us today —
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great.
SECRETARY ESPER: And making a difference.
THE PRESIDENT: Say hello.
BRIGADIER GENERAL CORREA: Thank you, Mr. President.
SECRETARY ESPER: And our Brazilian — President Bolsonaro — very new addition to our headquarters: Major General David, one of the sharpest in Brazilian Armed Forces, is in our J5 organization.
Again, Brazilians, paying for him to come here and work for me to make a difference in security. You know, Brazil has been with us since World War Two, and our relationship is growing even stronger, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Say hello.
SECRETARY ESPER: Last two points, Mr. President: The tactical end of this fight — and you remember being in Key West at Joint Interagency Task Force South.
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
SECRETARY ESPER: You rang that bell —
THE PRESIDENT: Right.
SECRETARY ESPER: — and the warfighters responsible for that fight, Rear Admiral Doug Fears, at the end, commands JIATF- South, and Master Chief Henry Audette is a senior enlisted there. They’re the ones that are really, day in and day out, the tactical edge of this fight, sir.
And I’ll tell you what, Mr. President: They’re ringing the enemy’s bell every day, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: They seem to be. That’s a fantastic job.
SECRETARY ESPER: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
Mr. Congressman, would you like to say something? Thank you.
REPRESENTATIVE DÍAZ-BALART: Mr. President, nothing — nothing prepared, but I can tell you, in my time of Congress, which is now almost 18 years, this region has, frankly, been looked over. Just barely any attention paid to it. And sometimes when the attention was paid, bad things were done.
I will tell you that your administration has emphasized freedom. I want to thank you, by the way, on a personal note — a little bit of a more parochial note — for your emphasis on helping the people of Venezuela regain their freedom, helping the people of Nicaragua regain their freedom, and your solidarity to the people of Cuba, which has been, frankly, like we’ve never seen.
But your leadership here, in fighting narcotics coming to the United States, is literally saving American lives. So again, just as one who represents Southern Command, grateful for your emphasis of this command and what they do, but for your leadership and actually saving American lives, those who are victimized every year by this scourge of illicit narcotics. So thank you for being here, but more importantly, thank you for your leadership and your emphasis on those key issues. Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to thank you for your leadership. You have done a fantastic job. You represent the area so well. I know this area quite well, as you can imagine, but I know it very well. “Little Venezuela,” we call it. And incredible people. I know the people. And we’re going to be fighting for Venezuela. We’re going to be fighting from — for our friends from Cuba. They know that we’ve been doing that, and so many other places. But Cuba and Venezuela, we have it very well under control. And you know what we’re doing, and we’re in touch all the time. So I want to thank you for your tremendous work.
And maybe I could ask Amanda to say a few words, please.
MS. LISKAMM: Thank you. I’m honored to be here today with our interagency partners to recognize the incredible work being done to disrupt the flow of drugs to the United States.
Drug trafficking organizations are devastating this country with the drugs that they are pumping in. We continue to see Mexican cartels traffic cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and fentanyl into the United States. This fentanyl is fueling the ongoing domestic opioid crisis, and we are seeing an increasing surge in low-cost, high-purity, and high-potency methamphetamine.
Further, Colombian cartels continue to control the production and supply of cocaine and rely on a partnership with Mexican cartels to export multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Colombia to U.S. markets. As these drugs are more readily available and more deadly, we are seeing record-level overdose death rates. Every year, more Americans die from overdoses in the United States than died in the entirety of the Vietnam War. And now, for the first time in our country’s history, our odds of dying from an opioid overdose are greater than from a motor vehicle crash.
The Department of Justice is committed to defeating these cartels who are directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans each year by flooding this country with addictive poison.
The department charged a record number of defendants with drug trafficking offenses last year in an effort to hold these traffickers accountable. Indeed, several leaders of Mexican cartels received significant sentences, such as life imprisonment over the past several years. And despite the influx of drugs into the United States, DEA’s domestic seizures are at record levels.
However, this work alone is not enough. It is clear that we can obtain the most immediate result by increasing our ability to make drug interdictions at sea before they reach the United States.
This surge has been a tremendous success with over 120 metric tons of cocaine seized. The drugs seized represent almost $2 billion in profits denied to these cartels and an untold number of American lives saved. Numerous traffickers responsible for these loads of drugs will be held accountable in the United States federal district courts.
Since the start of this surge, the Department of Justice has charged more than 60 defendants for the role in trafficking these drugs into the United States.
This is truly a whole-of-government effort and one we are proud to be a part of. Working together, we can and will interdict these deadly drugs before they reach our country and destroy the cartels who are responsible.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Amanda. Great job you’re doing. Appreciate it. Thank you.
ADMIRAL SCHULTZ: Mr. President, it’s an honor to be here with you, and it’s an honor to be back at SOUTHCOM. I had the privilege of serving. This is a great team, highly professional, doing tremendous things in the region.
Sir, to the DHS team just starting here, your Coast Guard has been in this game with our DHS partners — CBP Air and Marine, the Homeland Security Investigations office. We’ve been involved in about 1.8 million pounds of cocaine eradicated here in the last four years.
This surge here, with the support of the SecDef and your support of the SOUTHCOM team, sir, has been successful. We integrate in a joint environment remarkably well. We’ve heard the numbers, so I won’t repeat them. But, you know, these are transnational criminals, sir, and these are very sophisticated groups. Craig mentioned it’s a 90-billion-dollar, you know, annual industry that we’re disrupting here.
So I’m very excited about being here. The Coast Guard has committed to doubling down our efforts here through the end of the calendar year. We take some risk in other places, but this is righteous work. The numbers on American streets, it’s something north of 70,000 when you roll in the overdoses, you roll in the drug-related violence. You look at the corruption in the region, sir — this is important work for the nation. So thank you for your support, and an honor to be here.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Admiral. I appreciate it.
Now, Chad Wolf, maybe you could also mention what’s going on in Portland, because we sent you there recently. It was out of control. The locals couldn’t handle it, and you people are handling it very nicely — so nicely that the press doesn’t want to write about it. But why don’t you tell them what you’re doing in Portland, and also go into this, please?
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Well, thank you, Mr. President. I think what we see in Portland is really a smaller example of what we see around the country regarding some of the civil unrest and the attacks on law enforcement. And what you find in Portland is about five and a half weeks of continued violence against the federal courthouse there that the Department of Homeland Security protects.
We’ve had to send in additional individuals. We’re making arrests. But there has been violence, there’s been assaults on federal law enforcement officers. And it really just shouldn’t occur. We should have more support of the local police there. But again, the Department of Homeland Security, along with the DOJ, FBI, and others are surging resources, and we’re starting to make a difference there.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. How many have you arrested?
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: I believe it’s been close to a dozen thus far. And DOJ has charged almost as many as well.
THE PRESIDENT: And I know you have it in very good control, but it’s a — it’s a pretty wild group, but you have it in very good control.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So we’re appreciate it. Local law enforcement has been told not to do too much. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be, but that’s okay.
Good job. You’ve really done a great job.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead, please.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: Well, for decades — let me just build on what the Commandant said. For decades, counterdrug operations have really been at the core of both the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security’s mission. Year after year, the Coast Guard has stood watch both in the Caribbean and the Eastern Pacific.
And so with this operation, Mr. President, you have recognized the threat that illicit narcotics play in harming America. And while previous administrations have admired the problem, you’re taking concrete actions with this operation. This effort is bringing the power of the United States military, along with the department, to bear on this problem. And we’re having successes that we’ve talked about.
What we’ve seen is the partnership. Again DHS — not only the Coast Guard, CBP air assets are flying constantly in the region as well; and we have ICE Homeland Security Investigations helping DOJ, as we heard, prosecute. We are one team accomplished on a shared objective, and that’s keeping the American people safe at the end of the day.
Mr. President, I would say the men and women of the Coast Guard are unrivaled when it comes to sea-based drug interdiction. While it takes a whole-of-government approach — from collecting intelligence, to identifying targets — it’s the brave men and women of the Coast Guard that continue to be at the tip of the spear. And whether it’s from a Coast Guard cutter or a Navy ship, Coast Guardsmen every day are directly engaging narco-traffickers and taking them down.
So I wanted to make sure that you were absolutely clear on that front. And we certainly value the partnership that we’re getting from DOD, SOUTHCOM, and others.
And what we heard also is, really, at your direction, we’re not only seeing targets at drug cartels, we’re also seeing rogue nation-states and politicians that support them. We talked about Department of Justice’s recent indictment of Nicolás Maduro and 14 of his cronies that proved to the world that everyone involved in drug smuggling will be held accountable. And I really think that that sends an example to all that whether, again, you’re a drug cartel, you’re a DTO, or you’re a rogue nation-state, we’re coming after you.
So again, thank you for your support.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
ACTING SECRETARY WOLF: And I think actions speak louder than words in this case.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Chad.
And the wall is coming along very well. Chad is responsible for supervising that, along with the Army Corps of the — of Engineers, who have been fantastic. And, Mark Esper, that’s been really one of your pet projects and it’s been going along.
We’re up to 250 miles, and that’s real wall. That’s a wall that you don’t get through. It’s tough stuff, and built to the highest standard. Built to everything that Border Patrol wanted. They all sat down and they designed their perfect wall, and then we said, “Let’s build it that way.” And we’re up to 250 miles. By the end of the year, we’ll be up to 450 or so, and we’ll have it finished very shortly thereafter.
And it’s made a tremendous difference, because your numbers on the southern border are very, very small coming through. And especially with COVID — that turned out to be very lucky for us that we had the wall, or we would have been inundated, because they do have some big problems.
I was with a great gentleman, the President of Mexico, two days ago. We had a long talk about the southern border and Mexico. And they’ve had some difficulty, but he’s doing a fantastic job as President. But the wall is very exciting, and we’ll have that opened relatively — very, very shortly.
And that was despite all odds, I would say, Mark. Wouldn’t you say? That was despite all odds. We had a certain party that was against it. They’re not against it anymore. You know, in the end, they just raised their hand, they said, “We don’t want to take this on,” because politically it turned out to be as good as we always knew.
You know, two things never change: walls and wheels. A wheel will never change. You know, they were talking about technology. Technology is no good without the wall. And — but it’s something that I’ve heard for a long time. Two things you will never change, in a thousand years from now: a wheel and a wall. They work. And this wall has really been unbelievable the way it’s worked.
So, great job, and let’s get it finished. And tremendous numbers on the southern border. Very few people coming in. Appreciate it. And we’ve made a lot of legal changes too. It makes it a lot easier for you.
MR. O’BRIEN: Mr. President, thank you. I want to take folks back to April 1st, as the COVID crisis was breaking and all attention was focused on it. The President had the foresight to launch an enhanced operation to disrupt the flow of dangerous drugs to the United States from narco-terrorists. Our adversaries believed that the United States would be distracted. But, Mr. President, you weren’t distracted. And I think you remember you sent Secretary Wolf and Admiral Schultz, Secretary Esper, Attorney General Barr, and me out to make the announcement on this operation.
The traffickers use their funds for nefarious purposes, among them to finance the regime of Nicolás Maduro, the illegitimate regime in Venezuela. And for years, Venezuela has flooded the United States with cocaine. It poisons our communities, and it fuels a dangerous epidemic of addiction that threatens the safety and security of all Americans.
The situation in Venezuela has gotten so bad that, earlier this week, Admiral Fuller [sic] — Faller called Venezuela a “paradise” for drug traffickers who enjoy the support and cooperation of the Maduro regime and his allies.
At a crackdown on the traffickers, President Trump deployed additional ships, aircraft, security forces that you’ve heard about. But the other thing that he did, which is less focused on, is he rallied our 22-nation coalition partnership to help in this effort to interdict drugs.
So that fight includes, as you’ve heard, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador. On the flight down from Air Force One, Mr. President, I told you I was on the phone with my counterpart in the Netherlands, the Dutch national security advisor, and they have been part of this coalition fight. And they’re — they’re very proud to be partnered up with Customs and Border Patrol, DEA, the Coast Guard, our military, working in the Caribbean and the eastern Pacific, where they’ve had — where we’ve all had a huge effect.
In addition to this operation, the Colombian-led operation Orion 5, in partnership with the United States, has disrupted or seized approximately 50 additional metric tons of cocaine that would have otherwise come into our country, Mr. President.
So President Trump has been resolute in his commitment to protecting the American people from the scourge of narco-terrorists and traffickers. Our military deployments in the Caribbean and in the eastern Pacific will endure. Those profiting from illicit drugs and the destruction of our communities will be brought to justice.
The United States will continue its maximum pressure campaign on the Maduro regime, which has a criminal hold over Venezuela. And I can tell, for the Venezuelan people, when I speak with President Trump, he asks almost every day, “How are things going in Venezuela? What can we do to help the Venezuelan people?” This operation is part of that effort.
Venezuela is a narco-state, led by a corrupt, criminal, illegitimate regime, and the people of Venezuela are suffering because of Maduro.
Mr. President, you’ve been committed to cutting off his financial lifelines, identifying ways to continue to support the Venezuelan people and ensure the unfettered flow of humanitarian aid to those same people that are suffering.
So for those of you in Venezuela, I can — I can let you know that President Trump continues to stand with you. He stands with Interim President Guaidó, the democratically elected National Assembly, and all the people that are fighting for their freedom and their basic human rights, and a restoration of democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela.
President Trump’s fight against drugs and narco-trafficking in the Caribbean and in the eastern Pacific are good for the United States of America, they’re good for the people of the region, including Venezuela, but they’re also good for the entire world.
So, Mr. President, it’s an honor to serve with you in this — in this effort. Thank you for all that you’re doing, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Robert.
And, James, please.
MR. CARROLL: President Trump, as your principal drug advisor, thank you for your commitment and your leadership on the drug issue. I echo your thanks to the men and women who wear a uniform, whether it’s the military or whether it’s our state and local law enforcement partners who are stopping these deadly drugs from entering our country, and thus saving American lives.
You laid out a comprehensive strategy to prevent drug use before it starts, to get more people into treatment, and importantly, as we’re talking about today, to stop these drugs from coming into our homeland.
At your direction, we’ve implemented a whole-of-government approach, we’ve made record investments, and we’re taking real action, which meant you have received — and more importantly, the American people have received — real progress.
We must recognize these drug cartels are trying to take advantage of the pandemic, and you are not letting that happen. You are making certain that those people who are suffering and risk death are making sure that we are taking the steps necessary to protect them. That’s why your leadership in this step is so important. You’re sending a clear message that this administration, that this country, will not let up in our fight against drug traffickers.
You’re doing it also with our international partners. For the first time, Colombia — I recognize the work done there — they eradicated 13,000 hectares of cocaine in one month, last month in June, and that is before they begin the aerial eradication that we have talked about so often.
We cannot let these drug traffickers take advantage, especially these cocaine traffickers that are coming up through this AOR. The surge operations are effective, and they’re going to continue. And we are going to take the fight to these drug traffickers.
You have relentlessly committed to the American people by making investments of $36 billion for both the military fight, our law enforcement fight, as well as treatment and, of course, one of the signature programs of the First Lady — something that’s really been led by Kellyanne Conway — of speaking to the American people about the dangers of drug use. The media campaigns that she and the First Lady have done have really made a huge difference in what has happened. And so I’m very appreciative to be a colleague of hers.
We rely on Admiral Faller, Admiral Schultz, Admiral Fears, and Master Chief Audette as the ones who are out there actually taking the risk, taking the dangers for the American people. We appreciate what you all are doing, and we urge you to continue to be relentless.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
And, Douglas and Henry, if you’d like to say something, go ahead.
MASTER CHIEF AUDETTE: Absolutely.
THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to start? Go ahead.
MASTER CHIEF AUDETTE: Thank you, Mr. President. I appreciate the opportunity. I’m proudly serving at JIATF-South. And I’ll tell you, our workforce is ecstatic about the assets that are coming down into our theater. Our morale is very high.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
MASTER CHIEF AUDETTE: Our workforce is working relentlessly, as you said, sir, to make sure that we are building our immune system and keeping it good so we can work throughout this COVID crisis. They’re doing it through great sacrifice to their families at times, but they do it because they believe in the mission that we’re doing. And we want to stop these transnational (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: So we’re working on your immune system.
MASTER CHIEF AUDETTE: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s an interesting one. Not too many people have heard that one. I like that. What do you do for your immune system? Stay in shape?
MASTER CHIEF AUDETTE: Absolutely, sir. Working out. Hydrating properly.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s good.
MASTER CHIEF AUDETTE: Staying (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: I’m going to have to start doing that, I think. That’s a good idea. (Laughter.)
MASTER CHIEF AUDETTE: We’re doing it, and we’re proud to do it.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great. No, that’s great.
MASTER CHIEF AUDETTE: And then, lastly, I’d tell you: Our men and women in the military really appreciate the 3.1 percent pay raise you gave us this year. It means a lot to our men and women who work hard going into harm’s way all across the globe.
So, thank you so much, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. And, Mario, obviously you had a good immune system because you recovered.
REPRESENTATIVE DÍAZ-BALART: Thank God.
THE PRESIDENT: It wasn’t pleasant, but you — you got there, right?
REPRESENTATIVE DÍAZ-BALART: I don’t recommend that as a dietary (inaudible). (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s not good. But you did a good job.
REPRESENTATIVE DÍAZ-BALART: And, by the way, thank you for your kind, multiple calls while I was (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. Well, you’ve been my friend. Thank you very much, Mario.
REAR ADMIRAL FEARS: Sir, thank you for coming down today. As your tactical commander down on the edge of this operation, I’ve been in this mission space for over 30 years. I’ve never seen this many resources applied to the problems (inaudible) transnational criminal organizations and counter-narcotics operations.
So we have, under our roof, 21 different countries represented by their foreign liaison officers. They work — they come to work every day, trying to lean into this problem set.
We’ve got a whole of government, from the U.S. government, with a completely joint force from all the branches of service, as well as all of our interagency partners from all the departments and agencies and beyond what’s represented in this room. And so we’re just grateful for the opportunity to lean into the problem.
And I can tell you with surety that we’re targeting and we’re getting after this every single day. So thank you for your time, sir, and the resources.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it, Douglas.
And we have the best equipment that we’ve ever had as a military. We’ve spent two and a half trillion dollars on our military, and some of it’s arriving, some of it’s coming in, but much of it’s here. So when you say, “the quality of equipment,” we definitely have the best equipment we’ve ever had. We have the best equipment anyone has as a military. We have things under construction that we’re going to take a look at, one day soon, where we have missiles that go, I hear, 17 times faster than any other missile, and of the normal type at least. And it’s something that nobody has anywhere in the world. Seventeen times faster. So it’s a little hard to spot it when it goes that fast, because by the time you spot it, it’s gone.
But we have things happening that nobody has even thought about. So thank you very much. You’ve done a fantastic job. You have all done a really fantastic job, and it’s an honor to be here.
I want to thank all of the folks behind me too. I don’t want to be rude, because you’re more important than all of us, right?
But I want to thank you all very much. Great job. Really great job. Great to work with you and you. And say hello. Tell them to get well fast, right? Great man. Thank you very much.
Okay, thank you.
Admiral, it’s yours.
ADMIRAL FALLER: Mr. President, thank you for the time and the attention and the resources. And we’re going to stay at this mission. It’s a — it’s a 24/7. And we are going to take the fight to the enemy. And the leadership here is committed to the American people. We owe it to our — our — the future. And thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: You’ve done a great job. Thank you very much. Thank you, Admiral. Thank you, Admiral. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 1:08 P.M. EDT