12:30 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. I just want to say that the First Lady and myself, we just came back from an incredible experience at the Pentagon. It was an incredible — really, a beautiful ceremony.
I was very honored, and I think I can definitely speak for the First Lady, to have partaken in a ceremony that was just so, so lovely, representing September 11th. Three thousand lives. And, if you think about it, that number really got, as you know, Alex, it got a lot higher than that, indirectly. Directly and indirectly, a lot of people. A lot of great people.
So, that was a tremendous job everybody did this morning, letting the world know that we’re ready for anything if we have to be. We’re ready for anything.
So, thank you. And I know a lot of you were there, and I appreciate you being there very much.
We have a problem in our country. It’s a new problem. It’s a problem nobody really thought about too much a few years ago, and it’s called “vaping” — especially vaping as it pertains to innocent children. And they’re coming home and they’re saying, “Mom, I want to vape.” And the parents don’t know too much about it. And nobody knows too much about it, but they do know it’s causing a lot of problems. And we’re going to have to do something about it.
One of the words and one of the reasons we’re meeting today is to let you know that it’s out there. And we want to have parents understand that we’re studying it very carefully. It’s, again, very new and potentially very bad. There have been deaths and there have been a lot of other problems. People think it’s an easy solution to cigarettes, but it’s turned out that it has its own difficulties.
So, I’m going to ask Secretary Azar to say a few words. And then, if I could, Acting Director of the FDA Sharpless. And you’ve been doing a fantastic job. I want to thank you.
And we want to discuss the situation because not only is it a problem overall but, really, specifically, with respect to children, we’re getting some stories that we don’t want to hear. And we may very well have to do something very, very strong about it.
So, if I could ask you, Mr. Secretary, to say a few words.
SECRETARY AZAR: Thank you, Mr. President. So we briefed the President and First Lady today on as yet undisclosed, new data that we have from the National Youth Tobacco survey.
This information shows a continued surging in adolescent usage of e-cigarettes. It also shows that the youth are drawn to flavored e-cigarettes, including mint and menthol.
Currently, about 8 million adults use e-cigarettes, but 5 million children are using e-cigarettes. This is exceptionally harmful to our children. An entire generation of children risk becoming addicted to nicotine because of the attractiveness, appeal-ability, and availability of these vaping products.
So, with the President’s support, the Food and Drug Administration intends to finalize a guidance document that would commence enforcement to require that all flavors, other than tobacco flavor, would be removed from the market.
This would include mint and menthol flavoring, as well as candy flavors, bubblegum flavor, fruit flavor, alcohol flavor. You get the drift.
So, once the FDA would finalize this guidance, we would begin enforcement actions to remove all such products from the marketplace.
We would allow tobacco flavoring to remain, subject to their filing — the manufacturers of the tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products — filing for pre-market tobacco approval with the Food and Drug Administration to assure that the availability of their product is consistent with the public health under the standards set by the Tobacco Control Act.
Any of the other products, which would be removed from the market, would be able to apply under the similar regulatory pathway for approval but have to meet that standard.
But I want to caution that with the President’s support, while we would allow the tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes to remain on the market to be available for adults who are seeking to stop the use of combustible tobacco, if we find that children are being attracted to tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes, if we find that manufacturers are marketing the tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes to children, or placing them in settings where they get them, we will take enforcement action there also.
Let me turn it over to Dr. Ned Sharpless, the Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, for any additional details and comments that he would have.
ACTING COMMISSIONER SHARPLESS: Thank you, Secretary. The data gathered by the CDC and the FDA, as the Secretary described, it shows a very concerning, alarming trend of use by children of flavored e-cigarette products.
The President is directing the FDA to take decisive action against this problem and to finalize our plans that we have been working on. This would have the effect, as the Secretary mentioned, of severely curtailing access to flavored e-cigarette products, which we believe drive childhood use, and will help use get a handle on this alarming and concerning trend.
THE PRESIDENT: And I will say that Commissioner Sharpless has been working on this very hard. But he’s now going to double and triple up. We’re looking at very strong rules and regulations. We already have laws as we need them. But we want to get to the bottom of a very unusual situation. It’s so new, and it’s become so big, so fast. And it could be a potential very severe problem.
So, Commissioner, you know what to do.
ACTING COMMISSIONER SHARPLESS: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: You know what to do. And it’s something that, frankly, should have been looked into a few years ago in a much more advanced way. It wasn’t. And we have something that will be very interesting to see what turns up. But you’ll be able to report back in the fairly near future because you’ve done a lot of work on this. And we’ll see what happens. Okay?
ACTING COMMISSIONER SHARPLESS: Yes, sir. The FDA is on it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.
Any questions on this, please?
Q Mr. President, is the Taliban — excuse me. Is the Taliban talks completely dead still? Or is there still a possibility —
THE PRESIDENT: The talks with the Taliban are dead.
Q A follow-up on your decision yesterday with regard to Mr. Bolton. What led you to decide to part ways?
THE PRESIDENT: So, John is somebody that I actually got along with very well. He made some very big mistakes. When he talked about the Libyan model for Kim Jong Un, that was not a good statement to make. You just take a look at what happened with Qaddafi. That was not a good statement to make, and it set us back.
And, frankly, he wanted to do things — not necessarily tougher than me. You know, John is known as a tough guy. He’s so tough, he got us into Iraq. That’s tough. And — but he’s somebody that I actually had a very good relationship with, but he wasn’t getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important. And I hope we — we’ve left in good stead, but maybe we have and maybe we haven’t.
I have to run the country the way we’re running the country. We’re doing very well. We’re respected all over the world again; respected like we haven’t been respected in many, many years. You look at Iran and you look at so many of the things that are happening. Iran wants to talk. They all want to talk.
We’re doing very well with China. And you probably saw the numbers that have come out and come out — some of them coming out just today. But China is — their supply chain is breaking up. The supply chain of China, which was this unbreakable, powerful tool that they had, is breaking up like a toy because companies are moving out. And China wants to make a deal. We’ll see what happens. We have to make the right deal for this country. China has been taking out hundreds of billions of dollars a year out of our country.
And, you know, I read — I read papers like the Wall Street Journal. They don’t have a clue. They haven’t got a clue. They don’t make any excuses for the fact that China has been literally ripping off the United States in the worst manner for so many years. Five hundred billion dollars pouring out of the United States. And I hear people — I don’t even know. Do these people have any education on anything? It’s common sense maybe more than anything else.
But I look at some statements that are made from so many different people. And, you know, John wasn’t in line with what we were doing. And actually, in some cases, he thought it was too tough, what we were doing. Mr. Tough Guy. You know, you have to go into Iraq. Going into Iraq was something that he felt very strongly about. So we’re right now in for over $7 trillion into the Middle East. And I don’t say it was his decision. You had a President and you had other people also. But he was very out there, I can tell you, and wanting to have them do it.
And I disagreed with that decision from the beginning, even though I was a civilian, so nobody cared. But I was out there. I was outspoken about it. I thought it was a terrible mistake. Here we are, many, many years later — decades later — and we’re still there. And we’ve been acting as policemen.
And I’ll tell you one thing: We are hitting the Taliban right now harder than they’ve ever been hit. And what they did was horrible. When they killed a great American soldier, when they killed 12 people — innocent people — essentially, innocent people. Because, if you look, I mean, many of these people were civilians. You also had a NATO soldier, in addition to our great soldier.
But when they did what they did, in order to create what they thought was a better negotiating stance, I said, “That’s the end of them. Get them out. I don’t want anything to do with them.” And they’ve been hit very hard. And I know for a fact they said that was a big mistake that they made, and it was. But that was my decision. And what we’re doing now is my decision.
So we have a lot of great people that want that position. A lot of great people want a lot of positions. They want to be a part of this administration. We’ve done more in this administration, in less than three years, than I believe any President. You look at the accomplishments; even today what we’re doing. You look at what we’re doing today — these are big things. Nobody else would be doing this. They’re big things.
But we’ve done more than any administration probably in the history of the country. You just look at one point after another point, whether it’s regulation cuts, whether it’s tax cuts. You look at Right to Try, with these two gentlemen. So important. Right to Try — where people are able to use some of the incredible innovations that we’ve developed with the greatest labs and the greatest doctors in the world. And they can use them, instead of being forced to move to — and leave — to other countries that don’t have a clue, compared to us. And now they have Right to Try.
And, by the way, a lot of people are being saved. A lot of great things are happening with Right to Try.
But what we’ve done for the vets, what we’ve done for our great military — we’re spending 700 this year — $718 billion. And, by the way, that’s also jobs, secondarily. But it’s also jobs. Nobody has done what we’ve done. And we’re very honored to have done it. We’re in a very good footing. Our country is respected again.
Q Who are your top picks to replace Bolton?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I have five people that want it very much. I mean, a lot more than that would like to have it. But there are five people that I consider very highly qualified. Good people I’ve gotten to know over the last three years. And we’ll be announcing somebody next week, but we have some very highly qualified people.
But we were set back very badly when John Bolton talked about the Libyan model. And he made a mistake. And as soon as he mentioned that, the “Libyan model,” what a disaster. Take a look at what happened to Qaddafi, with the Libyan model. And he’s using that to make a deal with North Korea? And I don’t blame Kim Jong Un for what he said after that. And he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that’s not a question of being tough; that’s a question of being not smart, to say something like that.
So I wish John the best. We actually got along very well. I’m sure he’ll, you know, do whatever he can do to, you know, spin it his way. John came to see me the night before. In fact, I think a lot of you people were out there waiting for me to get on the helicopter. I’m sure you have a shot somewhere along the line. And he sat right in that chair.
And I told him, “John, you have too many people, and you’re not getting along with people. And a lot of us, including me, disagree with some of your tactics and some of your ideas. And I wish you well, but I’d like you to submit your resignation.” And he did that. And I really — I know he’s going to do well. I hope he’s going to do well. And I wish him well.
Q Mr. President, what are you prepared to do on guns, on background checks? What are you prepared to announce?
THE PRESIDENT: So I just spoke with Senator Toomey and Senator Murphy and Joe Manchin, Senator Joe Manchin. Just had a long talk with them, just before this meeting. Just hung up. And we are working very, very hard together, all of us, and we’re seeing if we can come up with something that’s acceptable to everybody. It’s a subject that’s been going on for decades. Decades they’ve been talking about it.
So we’re looking at background checks, and we’re looking at putting everything together in a unified way so that we can have something that’s meaningful. At the same time, all of us want to protect our great Second Amendment. It’s very important to all of us.
So we are now in meetings. The meetings are going to go on tonight. I’m going to speak with them again tomorrow. And I think progress is being made. I hope so.
Q Are you willing to put background checks on all private gun sales?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to take a look at a lot of different things. And we’ll be reporting back in a fairly short period of time. There are a lot of things under discussion. Some things will never happen, and some things can, really, very much — some very meaningful things can happen.
It’s really “gun sense,” if you think about it. What we’re looking at is — and maybe that’s what we should call it, “The Gun Sense Bill.” But we will have some — we’re having great dialogue. We’ll see what happens.
Q And did you tell your Chief of Staff to have NOAA disavow those forecasters who said that Alabama was not in the path of the storm?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I never did that. I never did that. That’s a whole hoax by the fake-news media, when they talk about the hurricane and when they talk about Florida, and they talk about Alabama. That’s just fake news. It was, right from the beginning, it was a fake story.
And while we’re here and while we’re talking about that, I want to congratulate Dan Bishop last night on an incredible win. He was — Dan was 17 points behind, three weeks ago. The media thought he was going to lose. They were all set to have a big celebration with their partners from the Democrat Party.
And Dan Bishop worked really hard. And I worked very hard with him. And he made up a 17-point lead in a few weeks. And he won a great election last night. And also, Greg Murphy — which nobody is even reporting — but Greg Murphy won a great congressional election in North Carolina last night.
And I want to congratulate, between Dan and Greg, what a job they did. We picked up two seats, and Greg was, you know, anticipated to win by two or three points, maybe less, but two or three points. And he won by many, many points. I don’t know what the final tab is, but he won by a lot. And he campaigned brilliantly, and Dan campaigned brilliantly. And so we’re very happy about that. That’s a tremendous win for the Republican Party. Okay?
Yeah, go ahead.
Q Now that John Bolton is gone, is your policy on Venezuela going to change? Are you open to meeting with Maduro?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we have a policy on Venezuela that’s a firm policy. But Venezuela is really hurting. And we’re trying to help people in a humanitarian way. That’s probably not good in terms of crushing a terrible regime. But you have people dying. This is a country that, 15 years ago, was one of the wealthiest countries, and now it’s dying. They don’t have water, they don’t have food, they don’t have medical. They have nothing. So we’re trying to help as much as we can.
We’re also working with Colombia, and he’s — their leader of Colombia is a friend of mine and he’s doing a really good job, I can tell you that. We’re working with Colombia. We’re working with Brazil. We’re working with other countries on a humanitarian basis. Venezuela is in very sad shape. That shows you about socialism. I mean, that shows you what happens. You take a country that was so wealthy 15 years ago, and today they don’t have water, and they don’t have basic food.
So, we’ll see what happens. No, I disagreed with John Bolton on his attitudes on Venezuela. I thought he was way out of line. And I think I’ve proven to be right. But we are always watching Venezuela very, very closely.
Q And would you be open to meeting with Maduro?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t want to comment. I don’t want to talk about that.
Q Mr. President, about your announcement today, are you concerned that the companies that were making these products will be treated unfairly by taking more of these products off the market?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they’ve become very rich companies very fast. And the whole thing with vaping is a — it’s been very profitable. And I want companies; look, you know that. I fight for our companies very hard. I fight — that’s why I’m fighting with China. That’s why I’m fighting other countries. If you look at European Union, and if you look at Japan, and if you look at so many others, including South Korea and many others, we’re constantly dealing with them to make it good for our companies because I view it as jobs. I view it as income for our country and jobs.
Vaping has become a very big business, as I understand it. Like a giant business in a very short period of time. But we can’t allow people to get sick, and we can’t have our youth be so affected. And I’m hearing it. And that’s how the First Lady got involved. I mean, she’s got a son — together — that is a beautiful, young man, and she feels very, very strongly about it. She’s seen it. We’re both reading it. A lot of people are reading it. But people are dying with vaping.
So we’re looking at it very closely. And, you know, if nothing else, this is a conference that’s going to let people know about it, because people are going to watch what we’re saying. And parents are going to be a lot tougher with respect to their children.
A lot of people think vaping is wonderful, it’s great. It’s really not wonderful. That’s one thing, I think, we can say definitely, Commissioner. It’s not a wonderful thing. It’s got big problems. We have to find out the extent of the problem. It’s so new. It’s so new. But we’re going to find out.
And I hope that parents that — you know, they have children, and the children are a certain age — I hope they’re going to be able to make wise decisions, maybe based on what we’re saying today. But the Commissioner and Alex Azar, they’re going to be coming back over the next pretty short period of time, couple of weeks, with some very strong recommendations.
Q Can you tell us what the timeline is for taking those flavors off the market?
THE PRESIDENT: Alex?
SECRETARY AZAR: Yeah. So, it’ll take several weeks for us to put out the final guidance that would announce all the parameters around the enforcement policy. And then there will likely be about a 30-day delayed effective date, as is customary with FDA’s good guidance practices. And, at that point, all flavored e-cigarettes, other than tobacco flavor, would have to be removed from the market. Tobacco-flavored e-cigarettes — their manufacturers would, by May 2020, have to file for approval for FDA of their products. The other flavored product manufacturers can, at any time, also file, but they would be off the market until approved by FDA.
The Obama administration had allowed these products to go onto the market in an unregulated way by delaying any enforcement in the hopes that people who are using combustible tobacco would transition to a less harmful form of nicotine delivery through e-cigarettes.
But what we’ve seen is the data just shows the kids are getting access to these products in spite of our best efforts at enforcement, at retail enforcement, at controlling locations, at over 8,000 warning letters to retailers and others, in spite of moving products off shelves. They’ve been going at it, so we simply have to remove these attractive flavored products from the marketplace until they secure FDA approval, if they can.
Q Mr. President, are you looking at arranging a meeting with Iranian President Rouhani at UNGA?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m not looking at anything. Iran is a different country than it was two and a half years ago. Two and half years ago, they were given a lot of money by President Obama. Previous to that, $150 billion; $1.8 billion in cash — in actual cash. It’s very impressive.
But they are a much different country right now than they were two and a half years ago when I came into office. And I do believe they’d like to make a deal. If they do, that’s great. And if they don’t, that’s great too. But they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.
We cannot let Iran have a nuclear weapon, and they never will have a nuclear weapon. And if they’re thinking about enrichment, they can forget about it, because it’s going to be very — it’s going to be very dangerous for them to enrich. Very, very dangerous, okay?
So you can — you can —
Q So do you want to meet with him, or no?
THE PRESIDENT: — you can spread the word to Iran.
Q Would you consider easing sanctions to let them — to make a meeting happen?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see what happens. We’ll see what happens. I think Iran has potential, and I think North Korea. Those are two countries we’re dealing with right now at a very high level. And I think Iran has a tremendous, tremendous potential. They’re incredible people. They have — we’re not looking for regime change. We hope that we can make a deal, and if we can’t make a deal, that’s fine too, okay? That’s fine too. But I think they have to make a deal. They’ve never been in this condition.
By the way, China is having the worst year they’ve had now in 57 years, okay? Fifty-seven. It was 27. It was 22 and then 27. It’s 57 years. This is the worst year they’ve had. And it’s only going to get worse. So I think they want to make a deal too. We’re dealing with them, but I think they want to make a deal.
As you know, they’re coming in sometime in early October. And we’re speaking to them constantly. And they also — they made a couple of moves last night that were pretty good. You saw that, right? They were pretty good.
Q Which moves do you mean, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: They were pretty respectful to our people. You’re going to see it, because you were one of the people that reported it. You — your group.
But China is — China is — about to having to do with tariffs, Jeff. Having to do — you saw what they did.
Q With purchases?
THE PRESIDENT: They took tariffs off certain things. A lot of things.
Q And you’re happy about that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think they did the right thing. I think it was good for them. But they took them off. Yeah, I think it was a gesture, okay? But it was a big move. People were shocked. I wasn’t shocked. But I deal with them, and I know them and I like them. And I hope we can do something.
And with respect to Iran, I think they have to do something, because they have the potential to have an unbelievably great country. But the way it’s going right now, it’s disintegrating, and I don’t think — I don’t think they should allow that to happen.
North Korea has tremendous potential. North Korea is in between Russia, China, and South Korea. It’s an incredible — incredible people. I think that they really will — they have this truly unbelievable potential, and I think they want to get to it. We’ll see what happens. I mean, maybe they do and maybe they don’t — won’t. I mean, you’re just going to just see. But I really believe that North Korea would like to see something tremendous happen.
This could be one of the most unbelievable — if you look at a country, in terms of upside, this could be one of the most unbelievable experiments ever: North Korea.
And I also say the same with Iran. Iran can get back to business. They can do unbelievably well with all of the natural things that they have.
So on vaping, just to finish, this is all about vaping. This is a meeting that gets off a little track because you ask us questions about other things. And I think we’re better off answering them than not.
But we are looking at vaping very strongly. It’s very dangerous. Children have died. People have died. And the Acting Commissioner is somebody that’s a true expert on it, as much as you can be an expert on a brand-new subject.
And we’re going to have some very strong rules, regulations. And more importantly, I think we’re going to have some very important information come out very shortly, okay? And we’ll be reporting that over the next couple of weeks.
And I want to thank you. And, Commissioner, I want to thank you very much. Okay? Thank you very much.
ACTING COMMISSIONER SHARPLESS: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you.
Q Mr. President, your reaction to Netanyahu’s promise to annex more of the West Bank?
THE PRESIDENT: What?
Q The West Bank — Netanyahu and the West Bank. Do you have any reaction to what —
THE PRESIDENT: No. No reaction.
12:58 P.M. EDT