1:38 P.M. EDT
Q What do you say to critics who say that you ending the CSRs, the subsidies under Obamacare, will throw the markets into chaos?
THE PRESIDENT: What it’s going to do is it’s going to be time to negotiate healthcare that’s going to be good for everybody. That money is a subsidy for insurance companies. Take a look at their stocks. Look where they are. They’re going through the roof, from past — I don’t know about today. But the insurance companies that made a fortune, that money was a subsidy and almost, you could say, a payoff for insurance companies.
And what we have to do is come up with great healthcare. Now, that’s what I did partially yesterday; that’s going to cover a big segment. But now, for the rest, we have to come up with great — whether it’s going to be block grants or something else. And we just about have the votes.
Now, if the Democrats were smart, what they’d do is come and negotiate something where people could really get the kind of healthcare that they deserve, being citizens of our great country.
Q Mr. President, on the Iranian nuclear deal, why not just scrap it altogether now? You threatened to do so. Why not just end it now, withdraw?
THE PRESIDENT: Because we’ll see what happens over the next short period of time. And I can do that instantaneously. I like a two-step process much better.
Q (Inaudible) healthcare?
THE PRESIDENT: Because I think what we’ll do is we’ll be able to renegotiate so that everybody gets to. We just took care of a big chunk, and now we’ll take care of the other chunk. What would be nice — if the Democratic leaders could come over to the White House, we’ll negotiate some deal that’s good for everybody. That’s what I’d like. But they’re always a block vote against everything. They’re like obstructionists. If they came over, maybe we could make a deal. But the subsidy is really a subsidy to the insurance company. That’s not going to people; that’s making the insurance companies rich.
Q Mr. President, you had said you were going to rip the Iran deal up, and you called it the worst ever.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I may do that. I may do that. The deal is terrible. So what we’ve done is, through the certification process, we’ll have Congress take a look at it, and I may very well do that. But I like a two-step process much better.
Q The moves that you’ve made on Obamacare here, with the executive order yesterday and then removing the subsidies —
THE PRESIDENT: We have great support.
Q — is that a way for you to put pressure on Democrats and say, look, you’re going to lose it — come to the table and negotiate with them?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they’ve already lost a big chunk, because as you know that’s a big chunk and it’s very popular. And you will have millions and millions of people sign up under that. You could say — I mean, I’m not doing that consciously. I will say this, John — I will say that the Democrats should come to me; I would even go to them. Because I’m only interested in one thing: getting great healthcare for this country. That was a big chunk. And as far as the subsidy is concerned, I don’t want to make the insurance companies rich. If you look at their stock price over the last number of years, take a look at what’s happened with those insurance companies. They’re making a fortune by getting that kind of money.
Q How long will you give Rex Tillerson to get this new deal? And are strikes on Iran still a possibility if you don’t get what you want?
THE PRESIDENT: We will see what happens with Iran. We’re very unhappy with Iran. They have not treated us with the kind of respect that they should be treating. They should have thanked Barack Obama for making that deal. They were gone. They were economically gone. He infused $100 [billion] to $150 billion into their economy. He gave them $1.7 billion in cash. And they should be, “Thank you, President Obama.” They didn’t say that.
Q On opioids, your wife is with you. She’s been talking about the opioid crisis. You said you would declare a national emergency more than two months ago. What’s taking so long?
THE PRESIDENT: We are studying national emergency right now. Believe it or not, doing national emergency, as you understand, is a very big statement.
We will be doing that. My wife, Melania, who happens to be right here, finds that subject to be of such vital importance, and she’s very much involved. And as you know, she’s on the committee and really wants to be involved in that process.
Q Have you spoken with Theresa May or Emmanuel Macron about the Iranian Deal?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q What did they say to you? What did you say to them?
THE PRESIDENT: They would love me to stay in, only for one reason: Look at the kind of money that’s being sent. You know, Iran is spending money in various countries.
And I’ve always said it, and I say to them: Don’t do anything. Don’t worry about it. Take all the money you can get. They’re all friends of mine.
Actually, Emmanuel called up, and he talked to me. And I said, look, Emmanuel, they just gave Renault a lot of money. Take their money; enjoy yourselves. But we’ll see what happens.
Iran has to behave much differently.
Q You promised that you would help people who are struggling. The CSR payment looks like it will hurt low-income people.
THE PRESIDENT: The CSR payments, if you take a look at CSR payments, that money is going to insurance companies to prop up insurance companies.
Q To help lower-income people.
THE PRESIDENT: That money is going to insurance companies to lift up their stock price, and that’s not what I’m about.
Take a look at who those insurance companies support, and I guarantee you one thing: It’s not Donald Trump.
Q So you don’t think it will raise premiums at all?
Q Mr. President, the JCPOA fix that’s being floated by Senators Cotton, Corker, and Rubio that would remove the sunset provisions, strengthen IAEA inspections, do some other things. Does that meet the bar for you, or do you need more?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we’re going to take a look, John, at what happens. We’re going to see what happens. We’re going to see what they come back with. They may come back with something that’s very satisfactory to me, and if they don’t, within a very short period of time, I’ll terminate the deal.
And as far as Puerto Rico is concerned, I love Puerto Rico.
Q (Inaudible) going down to Puerto Rico, and saying you won’t stay there forever. You didn’t say that about Texas or Louisiana. You said it about Puerto Rico. Why?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ve done a great job. We’ve done a great job in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has to get the infrastructure going. We’re helping them with their infrastructure.
But most important on Puerto Rico is their electric plants are essentially gone. Now, they were gone before the hurricane; they were in bankruptcy, they owed $9 billion — I think it was $9 billion. But the plants, as you know, were — the electric was a disaster. After the storm, even more so.
We have to help them get the plants rebuilt. That’s a long-term project, unfortunately. But we have to help them.
But I love the people of Puerto Rico, and we’re going to help them.
Q On Puerto Rico, Mr. President, do you want to make sure that there remains a very bright line between hurricane relief and debt relief so that the two don’t become so mingled?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, you have to watch — you can’t say there was a hurricane, and now we’re going to spend X dollars. And we also have to do something with all the money that’s been invested, mostly private. The government is going to have to become before that money, because the government is going to want security. They’re going to have to become before that money. And I’m sure we’ll be able to work that out.
But the Puerto Rican people have tremendous spirit. When I was there and I looked at the way that — what they have to go through. They have a lot of problems. We’re going to help them straighten it out.
Q Could you clarify where you are on North Korea? You raised some eyebrows when you said this is “the calm before the storm.” What’s next on North Korea?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to see what happens with North Korea. That’s all I can say. We’re going to see what happens. We’re totally prepared for numerous things. We are going to see what happens with North Korea.
I will say, look, if something can happen where we negotiate, I’m always open to that. But if it’s going to be something other than negotiation, believe me, we are ready, more so than we have ever been.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
1:46 P.M. EDT