12:06 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. Yesterday, Secretary Azar announced a bold, new initiative to require drug makers to disclose the prices to consumers. And it’s going to be something, I think, very special. You may have heard about it; maybe not. But it’s the beginning of a plan of transparency. And I think it will have quite an impact. So, thank you very much. That was a job well done. Everybody said it. (Applause.)
Thank you all for being here as we address one of the biggest concerns Americans have about healthcare. The Republican Party — I have to say this — is, really, very much becoming the party of healthcare. You see what we’re doing. We’re determined to end surprise medical billing for American patients. And that’s happening right now.
I want to thank Secretary Acosta, Secretary Azar, and everybody else in the room for joining us. Some people with some incredible stories.
Thanks also to Senators Lamar Alexander, Maggie Hassan, Bill Cassidy, John Barrasso, and Representatives Kevin Brady, Devin Nunes, and Greg Walden. Thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
My administration has already taken decisive action to make healthcare more affordable for American families. We’ve vastly expanded lower-cost health insurance plans. That’s happening. And it’s been an incredible success.
We’ve begun a bold initiative to reduce the price of prescription drugs. And last year, drug prices saw their first decline in 46 years. First time in 46 years that drug prices have gone down. And now they’re going to be going down a long way further, including the fact that we may allow states to buy drugs in other countries if we can buy them for a lesser price — substantially less price. And that’s going to be very unique.
But we’ll allow them to go to other countries, because the drug companies have treated us very, very unfairly. And the rules and restrictions within our country have been absolutely atrocious. So we will allow them, with certain permissions, to go to other countries if they can buy them for 40, 50, 60 percent less. It’s pretty pathetic, but that’s the way it works.
For many years, drug companies gave foreign countries better deals than they gave our own country. Now we’re making sure that our great seniors share in the discounts given to other countries. And we will always protect patients with preexisting conditions, very importantly. The Republican Party will always protect patients with preexisting conditions. That’s the man right there.
In my State of the Union address, I asked Congress to pass legislation to protect American patients. For too long, surprise billings — which has been a tremendous problem in this country — has left some patients with thousands of dollars of unexpected and unjustified charges for services they did not know anything about and, sometimes, services they did not have any information on. They weren’t told by the doctor. They weren’t told by the hospitals in the areas they were going to. And they get, what we call, a “surprise bill.” Not a pleasant surprise; a very unpleasant surprise.
So this must end. We’re going to hold insurance companies and hospitals totally accountable.
And we’re joined today by families who have personally experienced some horrible injustices of surprise medical bills. Drew and Erin Calver from Austin, Texas. Drew, I’d like you to maybe come up, and Erin, to share your story. It’s a pretty amazing story.
MR. CALVER: Hi. I have insurance but was still stuck with a highly inflated medical bill. A lot of pain, stress, and fear with that bill looming over us. A highly inflated bill that I shouldn’t have to deal with.
And we hope that — we support the President that he’ll take it — the President’s call to Congress to take action and support, pass, end surprise billing, and also create more transparency in terms of medical bills. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Would you like to explain what happened in your billing? Because it was sort of an incredible story.
MR. CALVER: Yeah. I had a heart attack two years ago and was driven to the nearest hospital. And although I had insurance, I was still billed $110,000.
The hospital threatened to send my bill to collections. And so, from there, all that stress and the fact that it was highly inflated, I was in shock when I found out some of the real prices of stuff I was charged for.
So I feel like I was exploited at my most vulnerable time in my life, just having suffered a heart attack. And so I hope that Congress hears his call to take action, close the loophole, end surprise billing, and just work towards transparency for the bills.
THE PRESIDENT: You look very good now.
MR. CALVER: Oh, thank you. (Laughter and applause.) (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: So, when you got that second bill, you handled it, right?
MR. CALVER: Yeah.
THE PRESIDENT: The heart was okay. (Laughter.)
MR. CALVER: Yeah, luckily I made it through. (Inaudible.) Yeah.
MS. CALVER: Yeah. And we paid it.
THE PRESIDENT: Good. You don’t want to run for President, that I can tell you. (Laughter.) You think that’s bad. (Laughter.) But it is bad, and it’s a shame.
Also here with us today are Dr. Paul Davis and his daughter Liz from Findlay, Ohio. Dr. Davis and Liz would like to tell you about their story.
Hi, Doctor, how are you? Thank you. Please.
DR. DAVIS: Mr. President and honored guests, it’s an honor for me to speak to you today. My family, like so many others, was victimized by a surprise medical bill.
My daughter, Elizabeth, was charged $17,850 for a urine drug screening. If anyone is interested, I have the bill; you may see it.
She had successful back surgery in Houston, Texas. And, at a post-op visit, because she had been given a prescription for a narcotic pain reliever that she used appropriately and as directed, he just said, “Oh, by the way, I would like to get a urine specimen.” “Fine.” She did it. A year later, the bill showed up for $17,850.
This type of — you know, this test, at best, is worth $100. It’s — actually, you can get it for $10 or $20. And this type of billing is all too common not just among dishonest providers. The problem of improper medical billing affects most those who can afford it least.
We must put aside any other differences we have and work together to solve this problem. I am very pleased to see this issue being brought to the nation’s attention. And I thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Doctor. I see it. It’s — I sort of wanted to check it myself. (Laughter.) It’s almost not believable. You look believable, but look at — (laughter) — but he’s right: $17,850 for a urine test.
DR. DAVIS: The EOB says that they would have paid, if it was in network, $100.92.
DR. DAVIS: And that’s still an inflated price.
THE PRESIDENT: So $100, and you paid $17,000.
DR. DAVIS: We settled for less, but I won’t go how much less, but it’s a bizarre story. I’d love to tell you, but I was told to keep it short.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it says it right here. (Laughter.) That’s terrible.
DR. DAVIS: Thank you, sir. Appreciate this opportunity. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: It’s a pretty amazing story. I’m glad I got to see that bill. I don’t know. You’re a very believable looking guy. What do you think, Lamar? I think — I think he had — check it out. Lamar, check that out, please. (Laughter.) That’s pretty incredible.
But there are many stories like that. I’ve heard them for years, myself — friends, where they just come back and they get a bill that they can’t understand it.
And we’re going to be announcing something, I think over the next two weeks, that’s going to bring transparency to all of it. And I think, in a way, it’s going to be as important as a healthcare bill. It’s going to be something really special. And we’re doing a great healthcare bill, if we get the Republican votes during the election, 2020.
But this could be something that will have a tremendous impact. Maybe a bigger impact than even a very good healthcare bill. Maybe even a bigger impact than when we took away the individual mandate from Obamacare. That was a big deal.
But the numbers you’re talking about through transparency are tremendous. It’s the new thing. And we’re going to be announcing it, I think, over the next two weeks. And it’s going to be very comprehensive.
We’re also joined by Dr. Martin McKary, a top surgeon at Johns Hopkins University — that’s a good place — who has studied this issue closely. Dr. McKary, please come up. Thank you.
Hi, Doctor. How are you?
DR. MCKARY: Great. Thank you.
Mr. President, thank you for listening to the real healthcare experts, who are the patients and the doctors, not just the special interests. So thank you.
When someone buys a car, they don’t pay for the steering wheel separately from the spark plugs and the conveyer belt. But yet, in healthcare, surprise bills and overpriced bills are now commonplace and they’re crushing everyday folks like these patients.
People are getting hammered right now. When hospitals were built, they were built with a charter specifying — most of them — that they would be a safe haven or a place of refuge for the sick and injured regardless, according to their charter — regardless of race, ethnicity, or one’s ability to pay.
Yet, today, surprise bills are hammering everyday Americans. They’ve done nothing wrong. They work and have a job and they have insurance, and they’re getting hammered.
In my own profession of surgical oncology, we see now that half of women with stage-four breast cancer report being harassed by medical bills. That’s a disgrace to my specialty. That’s a disgrace to the medical profession. And that’s a disgrace to our country. We can do better.
Hospitals and healthcare can get their act together to provide one honest and fair transparent bill so we can restore medicine to its mission and finally stop the erosion of the public trust that we’re seeing.
Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Doctor. Thank you, Doctor. Thank you very much.
And I’ll go a step further: No American mom or dad should lay awake at night worrying about the hidden fees or shocking unexpected medical bills to come.
Today I’m announcing principles that should guide Congress in developing bipartisan legislation to end surprise medical billing. And these senators and congressmen and women that are with us today are really leading the charge. And I appreciate that they’re all here. Thank you all. Thank you all for being here. This is fantastic.
And I think it’s going to be a successful charge. From what I understand, we have bipartisan support, which is rather shocking. That means it’s very important. That means it’s very good. But that’s great.
First, in emergency care situations, patients should never have to bear the burden of out-of-network costs they didn’t agree to pay. So-called balance billing should be prohibited for emergency care. Pretty simple.
Second, when patients receive scheduled, non-emergency care, they should be given a clear and honest bill upfront. That means they must be given prices for all services and out-of-pocket payments for which they will be responsible. This will not just protect Americans from surprise charges; it will empower them to choose the best option at the lowest possible price.
Third, patients should not receive surprise bills from out-of-network providers that they did not choose themselves. Very unfair.
Fourth, legislation should protect patients without increasing federal healthcare expenditures. Additionally, any legislation should lead to greater competition, more choice — very important — and more healthcare freedom. We want patients to be in charge and in total control.
And finally, in an effort to address surprise billing, what we do is, all kinds of health insurance — large groups, small group, individual markets, everything. We want everything included.
No one in America should be bankrupted and unexpectedly by healthcare costs that are absolutely out of control. No family should be blindsided by outrageous medical bills. And we’ve gone a long way to stop that.
I think next week we’ll go even further — possibly the week after. It’s being drawn now but it’s one of the strongest things we’ve done as an administration. And I don’t think any administration has done more. If we get this the way we want it, over the next two weeks, I think you’ll see something that’s going to be great.
Our initiative to end surprise medical billing is one of many steps we’re taking to fix our nation’s broken healthcare system and to deliver better care, with more choices, at lower costs.
My administration is eager to work with both parties in Congress to save American patients thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars, and to give American families greater peace of mind. They’re surprised with these bills. It’s ruined people’s lives. They leave a hospital with something they think is going to be routine and they end up in court, and they end up going to court. And then they end up with lawyers’ bills that are bigger than anything they could have imagined. They get it from every side. We’re not going to have that anymore.
So today, I ask Democrats and Republicans to come together, to work together. Democrats and Republicans can do this. And I really think it’s going to be something that will be acted on quickly.
John, what do you think, right?
SENATOR BARRASSO: I believe it. Yes, sir, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Lamar, right?
SENATOR ALEXANDER: Mr. President, we’ll be bringing you a bill, we believe, in July.
THE PRESIDENT: Great. Going to be fantastic.
SENATOR ALEXANDER: Bipartisan.
THE PRESIDENT: That will be — well, you have great support in the White House and we appreciate it. And I want to thank everybody for being here. And hopefully you won’t have any stories like that again, Drew. That was not good.
And your story was just terrible. I hope you negotiated it down very, very low.
DR. DAVIS: Not as well as I should have. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Not — not that close to the hundred dollars? Huh? (Laughter.)
DR. DAVIS: I want to thank you for your leadership.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, and thank you very much. I appreciate it very much. Okay?
Q Mr. President, on the North Korea missiles —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — what message do you take from them?
THE PRESIDENT: Well we’re looking at it very seriously right now. They were smaller missiles — short-range missiles. Nobody is happy about it, but we’re taking a good look and we’ll see. We’ll see.
The relationship continues, but we’ll see what happens. I know they want to negotiate. They’re talking about negotiating. But I don’t think they’re ready to negotiate because we have to either do it — it’s very much like China. The Vice Premier is coming here today. We were getting very close to a deal, and then they started to renegotiate the deal. We can’t have that. We can’t have that.
So our country can take in $120 billion a year in tariffs, paid for mostly by China, by the way, not by us. A lot of people try and steer it in a different direction. It’s really paid — ultimately, it’s pad for by — largely, by China. And businesses will pour back into our country. So instead of making the product, it’ll be old fashion way, the way we used to do it. We made our own product.
And I think things are going along pretty well there. But a large group delegation, headed by one of the most respected men and highest officials of China, will be coming in today. They start at 5 o’clock. And they’ll see what they can do.
But our alternative is an excellent one. It’s an alternative I’ve spoken about for years. We’ll take in well over $100 billion a year. We never took in 10 cents from China. Not 10 cents. And it will be a — I think it will be a very strong day, frankly.
But we’ll see. We’ll see. It was their idea to come back.
Q Mr. President, do you have plans to talk to President Xi, or no? Not yet?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he just wrote me a beautiful letter. I just received it. And I’ll probably speak to him by phone.
But look, we have two great alternatives. Our country is doing fantastically well. Our number is at 3.2. Don’t forget, 3.2 — the first quarter is always, by far, the worst quarter, or at least, almost always. You look back over the years: first quarter is always weak. And we had 3.2 GDP.
Our unemployment numbers are the best in the history of our country and we’re doing well. And our companies are really doing well. Even in Ohio — the great state of Ohio — yesterday, General Motors, at my very strong urging, to put it mildly, very strong urging. I wasn’t even nice about it. But I appreciate what they did. They sold the beautiful plant — Lordstown. They sold that beautiful plant to a very, very good company that going to make electric trucks.
And that work — because that was the only thing they could say about our whole economy. Lordstown. They kept saying, “Lordstown. Lordstown.” And when you had all of these great companies spending billions and billions of dollars coming into our country — they couldn’t talk about it — they’d only mention the one plant that was a GM plant from a very long time ago. And now we have a great company going in. Going to make electric trucks. Very appropriate. Interesting idea, actually. Electric trucks.
Q Will you allow Robert Mueller to testify in Congress?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to leave that up to our very great Attorney General, and he’ll make a decision on that. But I will say this: Look, the Mueller Report came out. It was done at — I guess I’m hearing numbers now close to $40 million, with 17 or 18 very angry Democrats who hated Donald Trump. And also, everything that they could possibly have at their disposal.
There was nobody that was, in the history of our country, more transparent than me. I said, “Give them every document. Give them every person. Let the White House Counsel testify.” I think he testified for 30 hours. I guess they must have asked him the same question because there wasn’t much to testify about.
But I said, “Let him testify and let him — keep him as long as you want.” Actually, when I heard 30 hours, I said, “That’s a long time.” But I let him testify; I didn’t have to. I have presidential privilege. I could’ve stopped everything. I didn’t have to give them a document. I gave them 1.5 million documents. I gave them White House Counsel. I gave them other lawyers. Anybody you want, you can talk to.
At the end of the testimony: no collusion and, essentially, no obstruction. Of course, a lot of people say, “How can you obstruct when there was no crime? When there was no collusion, can you possibly obstruct?” I’ll tell you — but it’s worse than that. It’s — not only was there no crime, but the crime was committed on the other side. So we’re protecting against the crime committed on the other side.
So after spending all of that money, all of that time — two years — they come up with a report. And Bob Mueller is no friend of mine. I had conflicts with him. We had a business dispute. We had somebody that is in love with James Comey. He liked James Comey. They were very good friends; supposedly, best friends. Maybe not, but supposedly, best friends. You look at the picture file and you see hundreds of pictures of him and Comey.
And with all of that and other things, he wanted the FBI job. I don’t know if anybody knows that, but as you know, he was considered for the FBI job, wanted it. And the day after he didn’t get it, he became the Special Counsel. That’s a conflict. And we had other things. But those are tremendous conflicts.
Listen to this: Your judge — call him a “judge” — has a business dispute with me. Your judge has a fantastic relationship with James Comey. Well, he’s a part of this. He lied to Congress. He leaked — he’s a liar, a leaker. And your judge has a situation where he wanted to become the FBI Director. We chose Director Wray instead, and told him, “I’m sorry.” Those are tremendous conflicts. Those are tremendous conflicts.
And then, he puts on his staff — almost all Democrats, many of whom contributed to Hillary Clinton. None of them contributed to me, that I can tell you. And it started out at 13 and went to 18. And these were angry Democrats. These were people that went to her — in one case, went to her — it was supposed to be a party; it turned out to be a funeral on election evening. And was going wild he was so angry. And this man now is judging me.
You had other people made big contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. They were angry Democrats in, I think, almost all cases. One of the people worked on the Clinton Foundation as — just about the top person at the Clinton Foundation.
With all of this, they came back, “No collusion.” There’s nobody in this room, including you — if they were — that’s you, John. If we looked at you, with $40 million, 18 angry people that hated you, and all of the other things I mentioned, they’ll find something. I don’t know. Maybe, John, not.
Go ahead. Finish it.
Q Mr. Mueller is also friends with Mr. Barr, and as you’re aware, Mr. Barr told lawmakers that he didn’t have a problem with Mr. Mueller testifying.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m going to leave that up to the Attorney General as to whether or not. I think, to me, it looks like a redo.
Here is what’s happened: The report comes back. It’s perfect. It’s beautiful. There’s no collusion. Nobody even talks about collusion. You know, I haven’t heard the word “Russia” in a long time. There’s no more talk about Russia. What happened to Russia? The Russian witch hunt — they don’t talk — because it was so on collusion, which, by the way, is by far — that’s the big deal, because it was all about Russia. So I haven’t heard the word “Russia.” They don’t use the word “Russia” anymore.
So, there’s no crime. There never was a crime. It was a hoax. It was a witch hunt.
So this comes back and it comes back totally exonerating Donald Trump and a lot of other people. This was a terrible thing that happened to our country.
Now, I’ll you what they are asking. They are asking about how did this whole thing start. That’s what people want to know. And I won’t tell you, I had an event last night; a lot of you were there. Thousands and thousands of people standing in a field. They’ve never seen anything like it — meaning, even the press. But it’s always that way. We’ve never had an empty seat. Thousands of people last night. You know what they want to know? How did this whole thing start?
It’s going to be hard for them to answer that one.
Q Mr. President, are you satisfied with the advice you receive from John Bolton
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. John is very good. John is a — he has strong views on things, but that’s okay. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing isn’t it? (Laughter.) Nobody thought that was going to — I’m the one that tempers him, but that’s okay. I have different sides. I mean, I have John Bolton and I have other people that are a little more dovish than him.
And, ultimately, I make the decision. No, I get — I like John. I get very good advice from John.
Q Mr. President, as you saw, the Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Don, Jr. That’s the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee. What do you make of that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I was very surprised. I saw Richard Burr saying there was no collusion two or three weeks ago. He went outside and somebody asked him. “No, there’s no collusion. We found no collusion.” But I was very surprised to see my son. My son is a very good person, works very hard. The last thing he needs is Washington, D.C. I think he’d rather not ever be involved.
I remember he said to me, a long time ago when I was thinking about running: “Dad, if I could help, let me know. It’s not my expertise. It’s not something I really like, but whatever I can do, you’re my father. Whatever I can do.”
He’s now testified for —
MS. CONWAY: (Inaudible) hours.
THE PRESIDENT: — twenty hours or something. A massive amount of time. The Mueller report came out. That’s the bible. The Mueller report came out and they said he did nothing wrong. The only thing is it’s oppo-research. If he did wrong, then everybody standing with me probably, except for John — and Lamar. I think Lamar is pretty — I’ll tell you. Did you ever do oppo-research on an opponent? I don’t think so, Lamar, right?
SENATOR ALEXANDER: Fifth Amendment, sir. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: And I know John Barrasso never did opposition research because he’s a fine, fine man. But I would say 99 percent of the rest of the folks are —
So, they didn’t — but what they didn’t discuss is this woman that came in, who I watched her on the “Today Show” when it all started. “Oh, I’m just an innocent…” Well, nobody even knows, although the halls of Congress know her very well because, for years, she’s walked around all over Congress.
She came in, and she left, supposedly, GPS Fusion. Goes and meets for a short period of time with my son and some other people. They talked about a subject as very well, you know, advertised and put out, which was nothing. It was a nothing meeting. In fact, Jared left. He said, “Get me out of this meeting. This is a waste of time.” She then went back to GPS Fusion. They were the ones that wrote the phony dossier. Why was she going to GPS Fusion? Why did she go back?
Then I heard that Don, for a year, made three phone calls with an unmarked number. They called it “unmarked.” And this was a tremendous event because they all knew — the fake news — they all — no, you were fair on that, John. But they all knew that these phone calls — these tremendous phone calls, before the meeting and after meeting — there were, I believe, three, right? They all knew that it had to be to his father. Unmarked. It’s perfect.
So, he reported about the meeting and then reported what happened at the meeting. Except, after looking and spending a tremendous amount of time and money, they’re able to go back years and find out who made the calls. One was a local real estate developer; the other was a great person from NASCAR. He took two of them. And a friend of Don’s. This went on for a year and a half. John, you heard all about the phone calls to, obviously, the father, where I knew — I never knew about the meeting. But the phone calls to the father turned out not to be the phone calls.
My son is a good person. My son testified for hours and hours. My son was totally exonerated by Mueller, who, frankly, does not like Donald Trump. Me — this Donald Trump.
And, frankly, for my son — after being exonerated — to now get a subpoena to go again and speak again after close to 20 hours of telling everybody that would listen about a nothing meeting, yeah, I’m pretty surprised.
Q Should he fight that? Should he fight that subpoena?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ll see what happens. I’m just very surprised. I really am by it.
Q What did Iran do to prompt you to send an aircraft carrier to the region, the area? And is there a risk of military confrontation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they were threatening. And we have information — we have information that you don’t want to know about. They were very threatening. And we just want to have — we have to have great security for this country and for a lot of other places.
Q Is there a risk of military confrontation, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I guess you could say that always. Right? Isn’t it? I mean, you know, always. I don’t want to say no. But hopefully that won’t happen. We have one of the most powerful ships in the world that’s loaded up, and we don’t want to have to do anything.
What I’d like to see with Iran, I’d like to see them call me. You know, John Kerry speaks to them a lot. John Kerry tells them not to call. That’s a violation of the Logan Act. And, frankly, he should be prosecuted on that. But my people don’t want to do anything that’s — only the Democrats do that kind of stuff, you know?
If it were the opposite way, they’d prosecute him under the Logan Act. But John Kerry violated the Logan Act. He’s talking to Iran and has been. Has many meetings and many phone calls, and he’s telling them what to do. That is a total violation of the Logan Act.
Because what they should be doing is their economy is a mess ever since I took away the Iran deal. They have inflation that’s the highest number I’ve ever heard. They’re having riots every weekend and during the week, even. And what they should be doing is calling me up, sitting down; we can make a deal, a fair deal. We just don’t want them to have nuclear weapons. Not too much to ask. And we would help put them back into great shape. They’re in bad shape right now. I look forward to the day where we can actually help Iran. We’re not looking to hurt Iran. I want them to be strong and great and have a great economy.
But they’re listening to John Kerry, who’s violated a very important element of what he’s supposed to be doing. He violated the Logan Act. Plain and simple. He shouldn’t be doing that.
But they should call, and if they do, we’re open to talk to them. We have no secrets. And they can be very, very strong, financially. They have great potential. Very much like North Korea. North Korea has tremendous potential, economically. And I don’t think he’s going to blow that. I don’t think so.
Q Can I circle back to trade just for a second?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, please.
Q Is it still possible to get a trade deal with the Chinese this week? Or is it — the difference is too wide?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s possible to do it. They’re all here. Look, the Vice Premier — he’s one of the most respected men, one of the highest officials in China — is coming. You know, you heard he wasn’t coming. He’s coming.
Q Are you going to meet with him?
THE PRESIDENT: I will say this: Once the tariffs went on, they upped the meeting. It was supposed to take place originally on Thursday. Then, about five weeks ago, they said, “How about Friday? How about next week?” I said, “What’s this all about?” And I said, “That’s okay, let’s — don’t worry about it. Let’s take in $100 billion a year.” And we put the tariffs on, we made the statement, and then they upped the meeting. “How about let’s go back to Thursday?”
So I have no idea what’s going to happen. I did get, last night, a very beautiful letter from President Xi. “Let’s work together. Let’s see if we can get something done.” But they renegotiated the deal. I mean, they took — whether it’s intellectual property theft, they took many, many parts of that deal and they renegotiated. You can’t do that.
And I’m different than a lot of people. I happen to think that tariffs for our country are very powerful. You know, we’re the piggybank that everybody steals from, including China. We’ve been paying China $500 billion a year for many, many years. China rebuilt their country because of us. They couldn’t have done what they’re doing. They’re building a ship every three weeks. They’re building aircraft like you’ve never seen. Fighter jets. I respect it. I don’t blame them. I blame our past leadership for allowing this to happen.
What I’m doing now with China should’ve happened many years ago. Not just Obama; long before Obama. I always say — you know, if you look, NAFTA is one of the first deals ever made — trade deal. But the worst trade deal ever made is the WTO, because China was flat-lining for many, many decades. Many, many — it was flat, right here. The WTO came along. We allowed China into the WTO, and they became a rocket ship. You got to take a look at a chart sometime. Do it. It’ll be very interesting. An economic chart.
They’re here, and they went up like a rocket ship. Well, they did it with our money — and others’ — and they did it because they’re very smart, and they’re good people. And I like the President a lot; he’s a friend of mine. But I’m representing the USA, and he’s representing China. And we’re not going to be taken advantage of anymore. We’re not going to pay China $500 billion a year. So we put very heavy tariffs on China, as of Friday, and we put them on, also, eight months ago.
And when people looked at the economic numbers, they were shocked. When they looked at the import/export numbers, they were shocked. They said, “Wow, how did they get to this point? This was very good. That was a very good report.” They’d never seen that for many years. I said, “Try looking at all of the tariffs that China has been paying us for the last eight months.” Billions and billions of dollars. And that’s only because I gave them a break — because we were negotiating good will. We were negotiating. I gave them a break. And I said, “Let’s keep it at 10 percent instead of 25 percent.”
So now, what we’re doing is we’re raising it to 25 percent on Friday, so it will be $250 billion at 25 percent, and it’ll be $325 billion at 25 percent. And we’re starting that paperwork today. So we’ll see.
But you know what? As President of our country, I had to do something about it. And as President of our great country, we’re going to be taking in more money than we’ve ever taken in. And all of these countries — many of them have taken advantage of us, including our allies. They’ve taken advantage of us on trade. They’ve taken advantage of us on military. We defend all these countries for nothing, or for a tiny fraction of what it costs. We take care of NATO. I’m all of for NATO. I’m all for NATO. And I think it’s just wonderful, but it’s different than it was 25 years ago and 40 years ago.
And I got NATO to put up an extra hundred billion dollars. Ask Secretary General Stoltenberg. He’s like Donald Trump’s biggest fan. Because spending was going down. The contributions that the 28 countries were making, it was heading like a slope down, like a very steep mountain. And then I came, and it went up. Like China, it went up like a rocket ship, okay?
But I don’t like seeing people take advantage. We pay for — anywhere from 70 to 100 percent of NATO. So we protect NATO. We protect European countries. And we protect them, and we protect them beautifully. We’re the power. We’re the most powerful nation, especially since we’ve redone our military, redoing and done all of the nuclear. You never want to use it but you have to have it.
But we’ve spent — and I thank Congress for this — $700 billion, and then 717 — 16 — billion dollars on our military. Our military, when I came to office, was totally depleted. We now have, by far, the strongest military in the world. But we defend countries.
When you look at our budget — so we’re at $716 billion, and Russia is at $68 billion. How do you figure that? Because Russia doesn’t go around defending every country in the world and not getting paid for it. And you know what? I don’t mind not getting paid. If there’s a country that’s been horribly treated, and lots of bad things are happening and they’re not a rich country.
But when we defend the richest countries in the world, and they don’t pay us for what we do, and frankly, they go back into closed meetings and they laugh at the stupidity of the United States for doing it — these are countries with nothing but cash. They could very easily — I told the story last night: I picked up $500 million with one phone call to a country. And that’s just the beginning. And I’ve done it with many other countries.
Anyway, but just over the last very short period of time — one phone call that lasted for a period of, I would say, five minutes, I picked up $500 million because I said, “You’re not taking care of us. We’re taking care of you, but you’re not taking care. It’s not fair.”
So, really, the word is “not fair.” NATO doesn’t treat us fairly at all, but now they’re starting to pay. And if you look at Mr. Stoltenberg, he will tell you he’s never seen anything like it. A hundred billion dollars. And that’s a low number. They’re paying $100 billion more.
But how do feel about this: Germany. You’re supposed to be paying 2 percent; Germany is paying 1 percent. They say 1.3, but call it 1 percent, because it really is closer to 1 percent.
Germany pays to Russia billions of dollars a month for the pipeline, and yet we’re supposed to be defending Germany from Russia. So Germany is giving the so-called “enemy” — I don’t call it an “enemy”; I want to get along with Russia and I want to get along with China, because I’m smart. Stupid people don’t want to get along. Because I’m smart. This witch hunt hurt us in our relationships with a lot of countries. It was a very expensive, horrible thing for our country.
And, by the way, should never, ever happen again to a President. Two years I’ve been going through this nonsense. And now we have a good report. And now guys like Jerry Nadler, who I fought for many years — successfully, I might add — back in New York, in Manhattan. He was a Manhattan congressman. I beat him all the time. And I come to Washington and now I have to beat him again — over nothing. Over nothing. Over a hoax.
And they know it’s a hoax. They’re smart. Nadler is a smart guy. Schiff is a smart guy. When Schiff goes to the microphone, he’s conning this whole country. And he knows that. And he goes back into a room, and he talks to his friends, and he laughs. Because that’s the way life is.
But our country is doing great. We’re going to find out about China tonight. And I think, in the end, you’re going to be very impressed with the kind of things we’re doing.
And the reason they were so surprised with the numbers two, three weeks ago — not the 3.2 GDP, which everybody was surprised at — but maybe, more importantly, export numbers, import numbers. Because we have billions of dollars coming to our country that our country never would have seen with a regular President. This should have been done many years ago.
And I told President Xi of China, and I tell Abe, who is a good friend of mine — Prime Minister of Japan. Doing a great job. I tell him, I tell everybody — I say, “I don’t blame you. I blame the people that ran the United States, and I blame their trade representatives. And frankly, I blame our Presidents. Because this should have never happened.” We’ve been losing, for years, close to $800 billion — not million — $800 million is a lot, but we’ve been losing 800 billion dollars on trade. Eight hundred billion dollars. We’re going to stop that. And we’ve already started.
So we have a meeting tonight at 5 o’clock with the top people from China, and we’ll let you know what happens.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
Q Mr. President, there was a moment at your rally last night where someone in the crowd seemed to say that the way to deal with illegal immigrants is to shoot them.
There are Red Sox who are skipping today’s event; they say you are too divisive.
THE PRESIDENT: The Red Sox are coming in a little while. I like the Red Sox.
Q What do you say to those who argue that you’re too divisive? And do you worry it’s going to hurt your reelection?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, it’s interesting — Puerto Rico — just so you understand, we gave Puerto Rico $91 billion for the hurricane. That’s the largest amount of money ever given to any state — talking about states and Puerto Rico; a little different — $91 billion. Texas got $30 [billion]. Florida got $12 [billion]. Puerto Rico got $91 billion. So I think the people of Puerto Rico should really like President Trump.
Now, that money was given by Congress, but they got $91 billion. Now, you remember how big the hurricane was in Texas? The largest water dump in the history of our country, they say. Three times — it went in, went out, went in. Texas got $30 billion. Florida got, actually, anywhere between $9- and $12 [billion]. Puerto Rico got $91 billion.
And now the Democrats are trying to hold up the money — from Georgia, from South Carolina, from Alabama, to Florida. They’re trying to hold it up. They’re hurting Florida. They’re holding — I mean, what they’re doing to North Carolina, to Louisiana. They’re trying to hold relief aid. Because Puerto Rico, which got $91 billion, have to love their President — they want to get Puerto Rico more money, so they’re willing to sacrifice Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, and other states. The Democrats are doing that. They are very divisive people. Thank you very much.
12:49 P.M. EDT