Full Text Political Transcripts May 17, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at United States Coast Guard Academy Commencement Ceremony

Source: WH, 5-17-17

Coast Guard Academy
New London, Connecticut

11:50 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, John.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you, and congratulations to the Class of 2017.  Great job.

And, General Kelly, I want to thank you for your leadership as the Coast Guard’s Service Secretary.  You’ve really been something very, very special to us as a country, and to me and our administration.  You’ve done throughout your entire life an incredible job defending your country.  Thank you very much, John.  (Applause.)

And John and all of his folks are also doing an incredible job protecting our homeland and our border.  And I’m thrilled that my first address to the Service Academy is the graduation ceremony for the United States Coast Guard.  Believe me, it’s a great honor.  (Applause.)  I’ve been here before and it’s a very, very special place.  Every cadet graduating today, as your Commander-in-Chief, it is truly my honor to welcome you aboard.  (Applause.)  And you should take a moment to celebrate this incredible achievement.

Governor Malloy, thank you for being here.  Governor, thank you.  We’re glad you could join us.  And I know how busy the governors are nowadays, and they’re out there fighting.  It’s never easy.  Budgets are a little tight, but we’re doing a job, all of us are doing a job, working together.

I want to also thank Admiral Zookunft and his leadership.  His leadership has been amazing.  Today’s graduates will be fortunate to serve under such capable and experienced Commandant. He really is fantastic.

Thanks also to Admiral Rendon, the Academy Superintendent.  Admiral, I understand you come from a true Coast Guard family.  Two brothers, a nephew, a cousin have all passed through these halls.  That’s very impressive.  I guess you like the place, right?  (Applause.)  Somebody in your family has been doing something right, I can tell you that.  I’m sure they all are very proud, just as we are very proud of the fine young officers who are graduating today, Admiral, on your watch.

I would also like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all of the parents and the grandparents and family members who have supported these amazing graduates.  Give your parents and everyone a hand.  Come on.  (Applause.)  Because America has families like yours, and we’ll keep all of those families safe and very, very secure.  You’re keeping your families safe now.

If you are not already, you’re about to become military families.  So, starting today, I hope you feel the full gratitude of our nation.  These fine young cadets are about to take their rightful place on the front line of defense for the United States of America.  Cadets, you deserve not only the congratulations but the gratitude of each and every American, and we all salute you. (Applause.)  A proud nation.  And you’re a part of a very, very proud nation which salutes the 195 199 cadets of the Coast Guard Academy Class of 2017.  Good job.  (Applause.)

And I understand from the admirals that this has been a very special class.  You’ve been trained here to handle the toughest of situations, the hardest of moments really that you can experience, and the hardest in people’s lives, and to help the weak in their hour of need.  But even for the Coast Guard, this class has been exceptionally dedicated to public service.

You served breakfast at the local food bank every single weekday.  You rebuilt a home with Habitat for Humanity.  Last year, you led cadets in donating a total of 24,000 hours — a lot of time — to community service.  You’ve done amazing work.  And in the true Coast Guard fashion, you had fewer people and fewer resources, but you accomplished the objectives, and you did it with skill and with pride — and, I’d like to say, under budget and ahead of schedule.  We’re doing a lot of that now in the United States government.  (Applause.)  We’re doing a lot of that.

I won’t talk about how much I saved you on the F-35 fighter jet.  I won’t even talk about it.  Or how much we’re about to save you on the Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier.  That had a little bit of an overrun problem before I got here, you know that.  Still going to have an overrun problem.  We came in when it was finished.  But we’re going to save some good money.  And when we build the new aircraft carriers they’re going to be built under budget and ahead of schedule, just remember that.  (Applause.)  That will allow us to build more.

Now, of course, there are always a few slip-ups from time to time — you know that.  For example, I understand that once or twice, First Class Cadet Bruce Kim — where’s Bruce?  (Applause.) Where’s Bruce?  Oh, Bruce, how do you do this to yourself, Bruce? (Laughter.)  As Regimental Parking Officer, might have accidentally caused a few tickets to be issued or a few of your cars to be booted.  Bruce, what’s going on with you?  (Laughter.)

But, Cadets, from this day forward, we want everyone to have a clean slate in life.  That includes Bruce, right? (Laughter.) And so, for any oversights or small violations that might have occurred this year, as tradition demands, I hereby absolve every cadet serving restrictions for minor offenses.

Now, Bruce — stand up once again, Bruce.  (Laughter.)  They saved you, Bruce, because they all wanted me to do that, okay?  Thank you, Bruce.  Congratulations, Bruce.  (Applause.)  Good job.  By the way, Bruce, don’t worry about it.  That’s the tradition.  I was forced to do that.  You know that.  Don’t worry.  (Laughter.)

This is truly an amazing group of cadets that are here today for commission.  You could have gone to school anywhere you wanted — and with very, very few responsibilities by comparison. Instead, you chose the path of service.  You chose hard work, high standards, and a very noble mission — to save lives, defend the homeland, and protect America’s interests around the world.  You chose the Coast Guard.  Good choice.  Good choice.  (Applause.)

You’ve learned skills they don’t teach at other schools right here on the grounds of this academy and also on your larger campus — the open sea.  That is a large, large campus, isn’t it? A beautiful campus.  But the greatest lesson you’ve learned at this proud institution is the knowledge you’ve learned about yourself.  It’s the knowledge that each and every one of you is something very special — you are leaders.

From the first stormy days of your Swab Summer to your final weeks as a first class cadet, you have been expected to take responsibility, to make decisions, and to act.  And I — like all leaders, that’s exactly what you have to do.  You have to act, and you have to act properly.  And you have to learn how to act under great, great pressure.  You’re all going to be under great pressure.  You have to learn how to respond and to act under great pressure.

Just days from now, you will put this vital skill into the service of your ships, your sectors, and your country.  You’ll serve as deck watch officers on our amazing Coast Guard cutters. You’ll bring law and order to the dangerous waters as boating officers.  You will block illegal shipments of cash, weapons and drugs.  You will battle the scourge of human trafficking — something that people haven’t been talking about.  One of the big, big plagues of the world.  Not our country only — the world.  Human trafficking.

Americans will place their trust in your leadership, just as they have trusted in generations of Coast Guard men and women, with respect for your skill, with awe at your courage, and with the knowledge that you will always be ready.  You are Always Ready.

Not only will our citizens trust in your leadership, your commanders will trust you as well.  The Coast Guard is the gold standard in delegating decision-making down to chain command.  So just as your instructors have at the academy, your Coast Guard commanders will explain their vision, and then they will trust you to get the job done.  Just like I, as your President, will also trust you to get the job done.

It’s amazing to think of the adventures that are about to begin for you.  Across the country this month, millions of other students are graduating high school, college.  Many others are wondering, just what am I going to do.  They’re saying to themselves, what are they going to do.  You know what you’re going to do.  Many, many students are graduating from college right now.  They’re saying, what am I going to do?  Where am I going to go to work?  You know it.  You picked a good one, by the way.  You picked a beautiful one, a good one, and we’re really proud to have you, I can tell you.  (Applause.)

Years from now, some of them may look back and ask themselves whether they’ve made the right choice, whether they’ve made the most of the opportunities they’ve been given.  In the Coast Guard, you will face many challenges and many threats, but one thing you will never have to face is that question of what will I do.  When you look back, you won’t doubt.  You know exactly how you spent your time — saving lives.

I look at your admirals, I look at General Kelly, I look at some of the great people in service, and I want to tell you, they’re excited about life.  They love what they do.  They love the country.  They love protecting our country, and they love what they do.  Is that right?  Good.  I didn’t think anyone was going to say no.  (Laughter.)  That would have ruined our speech, right?  (Laughter.)  They’re great people.

You always know just what you’ll be:  the leaders and officers of the United States Coast Guard.  (Applause.)

And when they see your uniform, everyone in the world will know exactly what that means.  What standard — and really if you think of it, when you talk about the great sailors, and the great sailors of the world, we have them.  But what stranded sailor doesn’t feel relief when those red racing stripes break the horizon?  What drifting soul at sea, with only a short time left to live, doesn’t rejoice at the sound of those chopper blades overhead, coming back and coming down to rescue them from death? What poison-peddling drug runner, the scourge of our country, doesn’t tremble with fear when the might of the Coast Guard comes bearing down on them?  In each case, we know the reason –America’s lifesaving service is on the way.  The Coast Guard is truly vital to the United States Armed Forces and truly vital to our great country.  (Applause.)

Out of the five branches of our Armed Services, it’s only the Coast Guard that has the power to break through 21 feet of rock-solid Arctic ice, right?  You’re the only ones.  And I’m proud to say that under my administration, as you just heard, we will be building the first new heavy icebreakers the United States has seen in over 40 years.  We’re going to build many of them.  (Applause.)  We need them.  We need them.

The Coast Guard stands watch at our ports, patrols our waterways, and protects our infrastructure.  You defend America in a world of massive and very grave threats.  Soon, some of you will be leading boardings of suspicious vessels, searching for the most deadly weapons, and detaining criminals to keep our people safe.  Others of you will work with partners in scores of countries around the globe, bringing in the full power of the United States Coast Guard right up to those distant shores.  And some of those shores are very far away.

To secure our borders from drug cartels, human smugglers, and terrorist threats, Coast Guard Cutters patrol more than 1,500 miles below our southern border.  A lot of people didn’t know that.  When enormous pride hits your heart, you realize that it’s with this great skill and tremendous speed, our Coast Guard men and women interdict dangerous criminals and billions and billions of dollars’ worth of illegal narcotics every single year.  Your helicopters launch from the decks of world-class national security cutters, and they chase drug smugglers at speeds far in excess of 50 knots.

In rough seas, at high speeds, our incredible Coast Guard snipers take their aim at the smugglers’ engines.  And time after time, they take out the motors on the first shot.  They don’t like wasting the bullets, right?  (Applause.)  They actually don’t.  Your slice through roaring storms, and through pouring rain and crashing waves is a place where few other people will ever venture — exciting.  Exciting.  But you have to have it in your heart.  You have to love it.  You love it.

In the Coast Guard, you don’t run from danger, you chase it. And you are deployed in support of operations in theaters of conflict all around the world.  But not only do you defend American security, you also protect American prosperity.  It’s a mission that goes back to the earliest days of the Revenue Cutter Service.  You’ve read about that and studied that.

Today, the Coast Guard helps keep our waters open for Americans to do business.  It keeps our rivers flowing with commerce.  And it keeps our ports churning with American exports. You help billions and billions of dollars in goods to navigate our country every day.  You are the only federal presence on our inland waterways.  You police the arteries we need to rebuild this country and to bring prosperity back to our heartland.  And we are becoming very, very prosperous again.  You can see that.

Think of the glorious mission that awaits.  You will secure our harbors, our waterways, and our borders.  You will partner with our allies to advance our security interests at home and abroad.  And you will pursue the terrorists, you will stop the drug smugglers, and you will seek to keep out all who would do harm to our country — all who can never, ever love our country. Together, we have the same mission, and your devotion and dedication makes me truly proud to be your Commander-in-Chief.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

Now, I want to take this opportunity to give you some advice.  Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair.  You will find that things happen to you that you do not deserve and that are not always warranted.  But you have to put your head down and fight, fight, fight.  Never, ever, ever give up.  Things will work out just fine.

Look at the way I’ve been treated lately — (laughter) — especially by the media.  No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.  You can’t let them get you down.  You can’t let the critics and the naysayers get in the way of your dreams.  (Applause.)  I guess that’s why I — thank you.  I guess that’s why we won.

Adversity makes you stronger.  Don’t give in.  Don’t back down.  And never stop doing what you know is right.  Nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy.  And the more righteous your right, the more opposition that you will face.

I’ve accomplished a tremendous amount in a very short time as President.  Jobs pouring back in to our country.  A brand-new Supreme Court justice — who’s going to be fantastic for 45 years — (applause) — a historic investment in our military.  Border crossings — thank you to our General — are down more than 70 percent in just a short period of time — a total record, by the way, by a lot.  (Applause.)  We’ve saved the Second Amendment, expanded service for our veterans — we are going to take care of our veterans like they’ve never been taken care of before.  (Applause.)

I’ve loosened up the strangling environmental chains wrapped around our country and our economy, chains so tight that you couldn’t do anything — that jobs were going down.  We were losing business.  We’re loosening it up.  We’ve begun plans and preparations for the border wall, which is going along very, very well.  We’re working on major tax cuts for all.  We are going to give you the largest tax cut in the history of our country if we get it the way we want it, and we’re going to give you major tax reform.  (Applause.)  And we’re also getting closer and closer, day by day, to great healthcare for our citizens.  (Applause.)

And we are setting the stage right now for many, many more things to come.  And the people understand what I’m doing, and that’s the most important thing.  I didn’t get elected to serve the Washington media or special interests.  I got elected to serve the forgotten men and women of our country, and that’s what I’m doing.  (Applause.)  I will never stop fighting for you, and I will never stop fighting for the American people.

As you leave this academy to embark on your exciting new voyage, I am heading on a very crucial journey as well.  In a few days, I will make my first trip abroad as President.  With the safety, security, and interests of the American people as my priority, I will strengthen old friendships and will seek new partners — but partners who also help us.  Not partners who take and take and take, partners who help, and partners who help pay for whatever we are doing and all of the good we’re doing for them — which is something that a lot of people have not gotten used to and they just can’t get used to it.  I say, get used to it, folks.  (Applause.)  I’ll ask them to unite for a future of peace and opposition opportunity for our peoples and the peoples of the world.

First, in Saudi Arabia, where I’ll speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism, and embrace a peaceful future for their faith.  And they’re looking very much forward to hearing what we — as your representative — we have to say.  We have to stop radical Islamic terrorism.  (Applause.)

Then in Israel, I’ll reaffirm our unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state.  In Rome, I will talk with Pope Francis about the contributions of Christian teachings to the world.  Finally, I’ll attend the NATO Summit in Brussels and the G7 in Sicily — to promote security, prosperity and peace all over the world.

I’ll meet scores of leader, and honor the holiest sites of these three great religions.  And everywhere I go, I will carry the inspiration I take from you each day, from your courage and determination to do whatever is required save and protect American lives.  Save and protect American lives.  We want security.  You’re going to give us security.  (Applause.)

In just one example, we see how priceless that gift of life is to the people you touch every day.  A few years ago, a Coast Guard helicopter and rescue swimmer took off in the direction of three terrified fishermen who clung to their sinking and burning vessel.  That day, our Coast Guard heroes did their jobs well.  They flew over the sea, despite tremendous danger, and extended a helping hand at the moment it was most urgently needed.  There was very little time left.

But that’s not the most remarkable part of that story.  As one Coast Guard swimmer put it, you do that stuff all the time.  You do it every hour of the day.  Something is happening all the time with the United States Coast Guard.  You do an amazing job. A remarkable thing happened with that rescue, but when you think of it, you do those rescues all the time.  There, the Vietnamese fishing captain grabbed the swimmer’s hand.  He looked his Coast Guard rescuer in the eye, and said: “I was asking God to please let me live….I need to see my kids. Please, God, please, let me live so that I can see my kids.  Then God sent me you.”  That’s what he said.  (Applause.)

To every new officer, and to every new Coast Guard member here today, or out protecting life around the world on some of the roughest waters anywhere, you truly are doing God’s work.  What a grateful heart you must all have.  Because it is with my very grateful heart, and America’s cheers for the Coast Guard — and America cheers for you often — but we wish you good luck.

As your Commander-in-Chief, I thank you.  I salute you.  And I, once again, congratulate the Coast Guard Class of 2017.  (Applause.)  God bless you.  God bless the Coast Guard.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you, everybody.  Great honor.  Good luck.  Enjoy your life.  (Applause.)

END
12:18 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts January 21, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Remarks at CIA Headquarters

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s Remarks at CIA Headquarters

(as delivered)

Thank you.

Well. I want to thank everybody. Very, very special people. And it is true: this is my first stop. Officially. We’re not talking about the balls, and we’re not talking about even the speeches. Although, they did treat me nicely on that speech yesterday [laughter].

I always call them “the dishonest media”, but they treated me nicely.

But, I want to say that there is nobody that feels stronger about the Intelligence Community and the CIA than Donald Trump. [applause]. There’s Nobody. Nobody.

And the wall behind me is very very special. We’ve been touring for quite a while. And I’ll tell you what: twenty … nine? I can’t believe it.. No. Twenty eight. We’ve got to reduce it. That’s amazing. And we really appreciate it what you ‘ve done in terms of showing us something very special. And your whole group. These are really special, amazing people. Very. very few people could do the job you people do.

And I want to just let you know: I am so behind you. And I know, maybe sometimes, you haven’t gotten the backing that you’ve wanted. And you’re going to get so much backing. Maybe you’re going to say “please don’t give us so much backing”. [laughter] “Mr President, please, we don’t need that much backing”.

But you’re going to have that. And I think everybody in this room knows it.

You know, the military, and the law-enforcement generally speaking, — but, all of it — but the military, gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military and probably almost everybody in this room voted for me, but I will not ask you to raise your hands if you did. [laughter]

But I would guarantee a big portion. Because we’re all on the same wavelength, folks. We’re all on the same wavelength. [applause] Alight? [pointing to the crowd] He knows. Took Brian about 30 seconds to figure that one out, right? Because we know. We’re on the same wavelength.

We’re going to do great things. We’re going to do great things. We’ve been fighting these wars for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained.

We have to get rid of ISIS. We have to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice [applause]

Radical Islamic terrorism – and I said it yesterday – has to be eradicated. Just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil.

And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between countries. There can be wars. You can understand what happened. This is something nobody could even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen.

You’re going to go to it, and you’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.

You have somebody coming on who is extraordinary. You know for the different positions, of secretary of this and secretary of that and all of these great positions, I’d see five, six, seven, eight people.

And we had a great transition. We had an amazing team of talent.

And by the way, General Flynn is right over here. Put up your hand, Mike. What a good guy [applause]

And Reince, and my whole group. Reince. You know Reince? They don’t care about Reince. He’s like, this political guy that turned out to be a superstar, right? We don’t have to talk about Reince.

But, we did. We had just such a tremendous, tremendous success.

So when I’m interviewing all of these candidates that Reince and his whole group is putting in front, it went very, very quickly, and in this case went so quickly. Because I would see six or seven or eight for secretary of agriculture, who we just named the other day. Sunny Perdue. Former Governor of Georgia. Fantastic guy. But I’d see six, seven, eight people for a certain position. Everybody wanted it.

But I met Mike Pompeo, and he was the only guy I met. I didn’t want to meet anybody else. I said “cancel everybody else”. Cancel. Now he was approved, essentially. But they’re doing a little political games with me. You know, he was one of the three.

Now, last night, as you know, General Mattis – fantastic guy – and General Kelly got approved [applause]

And Mike Pompeo was supposed to be in that group; it was going to be the three of them. Can you imagine? All of these guys. People respect … they respect that military sense. All my political people? They’re not doing so well. The political people aren’t doing so well… but you … We’re going to get them all through. But some will take a little bit longer than others.

But Mike was literally — I had a group of, what, we had nine different people? — Now. I must say, I didn’t mind cancelling eight appointments. That wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

But I met him, and I said “he is so good”. Number one in his class at West Point. Now, I know a lot about West Point. I’m a person that very strongly believes in academics. In fact, every time I say, I had an uncle who was a great professor at MIT for 35 years, who did a fantastic job in so many different ways academically. He was an academic genius.

And then they say: “is Donald Trump an intellectual?” Trust me. I’m like a smart person. [laughter] [pointing at Mike Pompeo] And I recognized immediately,

So he was Number 1 at West Point. And he was also essentially number 1 at Harvard Law School. And then he decided to go into the military. And he ran for Congress. And everything he’s done has been a home run.

People like him. But much more importantly to me, everybody respects him.

When I told Paul Ryan that I want to do this, I would say, he may be the only person that was not totally thrilled, right, Mike? Because he said “I don’t want to lose this guy”.

You will be getting a total star. You going to be getting a total gem. He is a gem. And I just …. [applause] You’ll see. You’ll see. And many of you know him anyway. But you’re going to see.

And again: we have some great people going, but this one is something, going to be very special, because this is one of — if I had to name the most important, this would certainly be, perhaps, you know, in certain ways, you could even say my most important.

You do the job like everybody in this room is capable of doing.

And the generals are wonderful and the fighting is wonderful. But if you give them the right direction? Boy does the fighting become easier. And boy do we lose so fewer lives, and win so … quickly.

And that’s what we have to do. We have to start winning again.

You know what? When I was young, And when I was … of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30. 35. 39. [laughter]. Somebody said “are you young?” I said “I think I’m young”.

You know, I was stopping when we were in the final month of that campaign. Four stops, five stops. Seven stops. Speeches — speeches — in front of twenty five, thirty thousand people. Fifteen thousand, nineteen thousand, from stop to stop.

I feel young.

But when I was young — and I think we’re all sort of young — when I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars.

At a certain age I remember hearing from one of my instructors “The United States has never lost a war”.

And then, after that, it’s like, we haven’t won anything. We don’t win anymore.,

The old expression: “to the victor belong the spoils” – you remember? You always used to say “keep the oil”. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you. When we were in, we got out wrong.

And I always said: “In addition to that, keep the oil”.

Now I said it for economic reasons, but if you think about, Mike, if we kept the oil we would probably wouldn’t have ISIS, because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil.

But okay. [laughter] Maybe we’ll have another chance.

But the fact is: we should’ve kept the oil. I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country towards making us safe, towards making us winners again. Towards ending all of the problems — we have so many problems that are interrelated that we don’t even think of, but interrelated — to the kind of havoc and fear that this sick group of people has caused.

So I can only say that I am with you 1000%. And the reason you’re my first stop is that as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth. [laughter, applause]

And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the Intelligence Community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number 1 stop is exactly the opposite. Exactly. And they understand that too.

And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday, the speech, and everybody really liked the speech, you had to right? [applause]

We had a massive field of people. You saw that. Packed.

I get up this morning. I turn on one of the networks and they show an empty field. I say: “wait a minute. I made a speech. I looked out. The field was…. It looked like a million, a million and a half people.” They showed a field where there was practically nobody standing there. And they said “Donald Trump did not draw well”. And I said “well it was almost raining”. The rain should have scared them away. But God looked down and he said “we’re not going to let it rain on your speech”.

In fact, when I first started I said “oh no”. First line, I got hit by a couple of drops. And i said “oh, this is too bad, but we’ll go right through it”. But the truth is: that it stopped immediately. It was amazing. And then it became really sudden, and then I walked off and it poured right after I left – it poured.

But you know, we have something that’s amazing because, we had, it looked honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was. But it went all the way back to the Washington Monument.

And I turn on by mistake and I get this network shows an empty field. And it said we drew 250,000 people.

Now that’s not bad. But it’s a lie. We had 250,000 people literally around, you know, the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20 block area all the way back to the Washington Monument was packed.

So we caught them. And we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.

They had another one yesterday which was interesting. In the Oval Office there’s a beautiful statue of Dr Martin Luther King. And I also happen to like Churchill. Winston Churchill. I think most of us like Churchill. He doesn’t come from our country. But he had lot to do with it. He helped us. A real ally.

And as you know, the Churchill statue was taken out. The bust. And as you probably also have read, the Prime Minister is coming over to our country very shortly, and they wanted to know whether or not I’d like it back. And I said “absolutely, but in the meantime we have a bust of Churchill”.

So a reporter for Time magazine. And I have been on their cover like 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all time record in the history of Time magazine. Like it Tom Brady is on the cover of Time magazine, it’s one time, because he won the Superbowl or something, right? [laughter]. I’ve been on for 15 times this year.

I don’t think that’s a record, Mike, that they can ever be broken, do you agree with that? What do you think?

But I will say that, he said something that was very interesting: that “Donald Trump took down the bust, the statue, of Dr Martin Luther King”. It was right there. But there was a cameraman that was in front of it.

So Zeke – Zeke – from Time magazine writes a story about how I took it down. But I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr Martin Luther King. But this is how dishonest the media is: a big story. And the retraction was like — was it a line? Or did they even bother putting it in?
So I only like to say that because I love honesty. I like honest reporting. I will tell you the final time: although I will say it, when you let in your thousands of other people that had been trying to come in, because I am coming back.

Full Text Political Transcripts January 21, 2017: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer First Press Briefing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer First Press Briefing

Full Text Political Transcripts January 11, 2017: President-elect Donald Trump’s First Press Conference after Election

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION:

President-elect Donald Trump’s First Press Conference after Election

Source: Time, 1-11-17

SPICER: Morning. Thanks for being here (ph). (inaudible) days away from the inauguration of the next president and vice president of the United States. It’s an opportunity to be here today to allow the president-elect to take your questions.

After the president-elect makes some remarks, he will introduce Ms. Sheri Dillon, a prominent attorney in Washington, D.C. with the prestigious firm of Morgan Lewis who will — who structured the agreements pursuant to the president’s business arrangements and she will give brief remarks.

Before we start, I want to bring your attention to a few points on the report that was published in BuzzFeed last night. It’s frankly outrageous and highly irresponsible for a left-wing blog that was openly hostile to the president-elect’s campaign to drop highly salacious and flat out false information on the internet just days before he takes the oath of office.

According to BuzzFeed’s own editor, there are some serious reasons to doubt the allegations in the report. The executive editor of the New York Times also dismissed the report by saying it was, quote, “Totally unsubstantiated, echoing the concerns that many other reporters expressed on the internet.”

SPICER: The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks. The report is not an intelligence report, plain and simple. One issue that the report talked about was the relationship of three individuals associated with the campaign. These three individuals; Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, and Carter Page.

Carter Page is an individual who the president-elect does not know and was put on notice months ago by the campaign. Paul Manafort has adamantly denied any of this involvement and Michael Cohen, who is said to have visited Prague in August and September did not leave or enter the United States during this time. We asked him to produce his passport to confirm his whereabouts on the dates in question and there was no doubt that he was not in Prague.

In fact, Mr. Cohen has never been in Prague. A new report actually suggests that Michael Cohen was at — at the University of Southern California with his son at a baseball game. One report now suggested apparently it’s another Michael Cohen. For all the talk lately about fake news, this political witch hunt by some in the media is based on some of the most flimsy reporting and is frankly shameful and disgraceful.

With that, it is my honor to introduce the next vice president of the United States, Mike Pence.

(APPLAUSE)

PENCE: We are nine days away from the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)

I am profoundly honored and humbled that I will take the oath of office to serve as vice president of the United States nine days from today, but I’m even more honored to stand shoulder to shoulder with a new president who will make America great again.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, the president-elect’s leadership and his energy during the campaign was impressive. But as the Chairman of the transition effort, I can assure the American people that his energy and his vision during the course of this transition has been even more inspiring. To see the way he has brought together men and women of extraordinary capability at a historic pace in this cabinet.

Nineteen of the 21 Cabinet officials have been announced, nine committee hearings already scheduled, seven more soon to go on the books in the next several days and it is a — it is a compilation of men and women with an unprecedented caliber of leadership and background to help this administration move our nation forward. Perhaps that’s why there’s been such a concerted effort by some in the mainstream media to delegitimize this election and to demean our incoming administration.

You know, I have long been a supporter of a free and independent press and I always will be. But with freedom comes responsibility. And the irresponsible decision of a few news organizations to run with a false and unsubstantiated report, when most news organizations resisted the temptation to propagate this fake news, can only be attributed to media bias and attempt to demean the president-elect and our incoming administration and the American people are sick and tired of it.

(APPLAUSE)

But today, we’ll get back to real news, to real facts and the real progress our incoming president has already made in reviving the American economy and assembling a team that will make America great again. And we’ll hear from the president-elect about issues that are of paramount importance to the American people today.

So, it is my honor to introduce to all of you, my friend and the president-elect of the United States of America, Donald Trump.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

It’s very familiar territory, news conferences, because we used to give them on a almost daily basis. I think we probably maybe won the nomination because of news conferences and it’s good to be with you.

TRUMP: We stopped giving them because we were getting quite a bit of inaccurate news, but I do have to say that — and I must say that I want to thank a lot of the news organizations here today because they looked at that nonsense that was released by maybe the intelligence agencies? Who knows, but maybe the intelligence agencies which would be a tremendous blot on their record if they in fact did that. A tremendous blot, because a thing like that should have never been written, it should never have been had and it should certainly never been released.

But I want to thank a lot of the news organizations for some of whom have not treated me very well over the years — a couple in particular — and they came out so strongly against that fake news and the fact that it was written about by primarily one group and one television station.

So, I just want to compliment many of the people in the room. I have great respect for the news and great respect for freedom of the press and all of that. But I will tell you, there were some news organizations with all that was just said that were so professional — so incredibly professional, that I’ve just gone up a notch as to what I think of you. OK?

All right. We’ve had some great news over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been quite active, I guess you could say, in an economic way for the country. A lot of car companies are going to be moving in, we have other companies — big news is going to be announced over the next couple of weeks about companies that are getting building in the Midwest.

You saw yesterday Fiat Chrysler; big, big factory going to be built in this country as opposed to another country. Ford just announced that they stopped plans for a billion dollar plant in Mexico and they’re going to be moving into Michigan and expanding, very substantially, an existing plant.

I appreciate that from Ford. I appreciate it very much from Fiat Chrysler. I hope that General Motors will be following and I think they will be. I think a lot of people will be following. I think a lot of industries are going to be coming back.

We’ve got to get our drug industry back. Our drug industry has been disastrous. They’re leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but they don’t make them here, to a large extent. And the other thing we have to do is create new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they’re getting away with murder.

Pharma, pharma has a lot of lobbies and a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power and there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world and yet we don’t bid properly and we’re going to start bidding and we’re going to save billions of dollars over a period of time.

And we’re going to do that with a lot of other industries. I’m very much involved with the generals and admirals on the airplane, the F-35, you’ve been reading about it. And it’s way, way behind schedule and many, many billions of dollars over budget. I don’t like that. And the admirals have been fantastic, the generals have been fantastic. I’ve really gotten to know them well. And we’re going to do some big things on the F-35 program, and perhaps the F-18 program. And we’re going to get those costs way down and we’re going to get the plane to be even better. And we’re going to have some competition and it’s going to be a beautiful thing.

So, we’ve been very, very much involved, and other things. We had Jack Ma, we had so many incredible people coming here. There are no — they’re going to do tremendous things — tremendous things in this country. And they’re very excited.

And I will say, if the election didn’t turn out the way it turned out, they would not be here. They would not be in my office. They would not be in anybody else’s office. They’d be building and doing things in other countries. So, there’s a great spirit going on right now. A spirit that many people have told me they’ve never seen before, ever.

We’re going to create jobs. I said that I will be the greatest jobs producer that God ever created. And I mean that, I really — I’m going to work very hard on that. We need certain amounts of other things, including a little bit of luck, but I think we’re going to do a real job. And I’m very proud of what we’ve done.

And we haven’t even gotten there yet. I look very much forward to the inauguration. It’s going to be a beautiful event. We have great talent, tremendous talent. And we have the — all of the bands — or most of the bands are from the different — from the different segments of the military. And I’ve heard some of these bands over the years, they’re incredible.

We’re going to have a very, very elegant day. The 20th is going to be something that will be very, very special; very beautiful. And I think we’re going to have massive crowds because we have a movement.

TRUMP: It’s a movement like the world has never seen before. It’s a movement that a lot of people didn’t expect. And even the polls — although some of them did get it right, but many of them didn’t. And that was a beautiful scene on November 8th as those states started to pour in.

And we focused very hard in those states and they really reciprocated. And those states are gonna have a lot of jobs and they’re gonna have a lot of security. They’re going to have a lot of good news for their veterans.

And by the way, speaking of veterans, I appointed today the head secretary of the Veterans Administration, David Shulkin. And we’ll do a news release in a little while. Tell you about David, he’s fantastic — he’s fantastic. He will do a truly great job.

One of the commitments I made is that we’re gonna straighten out the whole situation for our veterans. Our veterans have been treated horribly. They’re waiting in line for 15, 16, 17 days, cases where they go in and they have a minor early-stage form of cancer and they can’t see a doctor. By the time they get to the doctor, they’re terminal. Not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen.

So, David is going to do a fantastic job. We’re going to be talking to a few people also to help David. And we have some of the great hospitals of the world going to align themselves with us on the Veterans Administration, like the Cleveland Clinic, like the Mayo Clinic, a few more than we have. And we’re gonna set up a — a group.

These are hospitals that have been the top of the line, the absolute top of the line. And they’re going to get together with their great doctors — Dr. Toby Cosgrove, as you know from the Cleveland Clinic, has been very involved.

Ike Perlmutter has been very, very involved, one of the great men of business. And we’re gonna straighten out the V.A. for our veterans. I’ve been promising that for a long time and it’s something I feel very, very strongly.

So, you’ll get the information on David. And I think you’ll be very impressed with the job he does. We looked long and hard. We interviewed at least 100 people, some good, some not so good. But we had a lot of talent. And we think this election will be something that will, with time — with time, straighten it out and straighten it out for good ’cause our veterans have been treated very unfairly.

OK, questions? Yes, John (ph)?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) so much.

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: Appreciate it.

A couple of aspects of the intelligence briefing that you received on Friday that we’re looking for further clarification on.

TRUMP: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, did the heads of the intelligence agencies provide you with the two-page summary of these unsubstantiated allegations? And secondly to that, on the broader picture, do you accept their opinion that Vladimir Putin ordered the hack of the DNC and the attempted hack of the RNC?

And if you do, how will that color your attempts to build a relationship with a leader who has been accused of committing an act of espionage against the United States?

TRUMP: OK, first of all, these readings as you know are confidential, classified. So, I’m not allowed to talk about what went on in a meeting.

And — but we had many witnesses in that meeting, many of them with us. And I will say, again, I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out.

I saw the information; I read the information outside of that meeting. It’s all fake news. It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours, as you know, because you reported it and so did many of the other people. It was a group of opponents that got together — sick people — and they put that crap together.

So, I will tell you that not within the meeting, but outside of the meeting, somebody released it. It should have never been — number one, shouldn’t have even entered paper. But it should have never have been released. But I read what was released and I think it’s a disgrace. I think it’s an absolute disgrace.

As far as hacking, I think it was Russia. But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people. And I — I can say that you know when — when we lost 22 million names and everything else that was hacked recently, they didn’t make a big deal out of that. That was something that was extraordinary. That was probably China.

We had — we had much hacking going on. And one of the things we’re gonna do, we have some of the greatest computer minds anywhere in the world that we’ve assembled. You saw just a sample of it two weeks ago up here where we had the six top people in the world — they were never in the same room together as a group. And we’re gonna put those minds together and we’re going to form a defense.

TRUMP: And I have to say this also, the Democratic National Committee was totally open to be hacked. They did a very poor job. They could’ve had hacking defense, which we had.

And I will give Reince Priebus credit, because when Reince saw what was happening in the world and with this country, he went out and went to various firms and ordered a very, very strong hacking defense.

And they tried to hack the Republican National Committee and they were unable to break through.

We have to do that for our country. It’s very important.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … just to the last part of that question (inaudible) how could all of this potentially color your attempts to build a better relationship with President Putin?

TRUMP: Well, you know, President Putin and Russia put out a statement today that this fake news was indeed fake news. They said it totally never happened.

Now, somebody would say, “Oh, of course he’s gonna say that.”

I respected the fact that he said that.

And I — I’ll be honest, I think if he did have something, they would’ve released it; they would’ve been glad to release it.

I think, frankly, had they broken into the Republican National Committee, I think they would’ve released it just like they did about Hillary and all of the horrible things that her people, like Mr. Podesta, said about her. I mean what he said about her was horrible.

If somebody said about me, what Podesta said about Hillary, I was the boss, I would’ve fired him immediately or that person. Because what he said about her was horrible.

But remember this: We talk about the hacking and hacking’s bad and it shouldn’t be done. But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking.

That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn’t report it? That’s a horrible thing. That’s a horrible thing.

Can you imagine that if Donald Trump got the questions to the debate — it would’ve been the biggest story in the history of stories. And they would’ve said immediately, “You have to get out of the race.” Nobody even talked about it. It’s a very terrible thing.

Yeah?

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question, sir?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect.

On that intelligence report, the second part of their conclusion was that Vladimir Putin ordered it because he aspired to help you in the election.

Do you accept that part of the finding? And will you undo what President Obama did to punish the Russians for this or will you keep it in place?

TRUMP: Well, if — if Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS, which, by the way, is, number one, tricky. I mean if you look, this administration created ISIS by leaving at the wrong time. The void was created, ISIS was formed.

If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That’s called an asset, not a liability.

Now, I don’t know that I’m gonna get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there’s a good chance I won’t. And if I don’t, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.

OK?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … President Obama…

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … make clear whether during your visits to either Moscow or St. Petersburg, you engaged in conduct that you now regret and that a reasonable…

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Would a reasonable observer say that you are potentially vulnerable to blackmail by Russia or by its intelligence agencies?

TRUMP: Lemme just tell you what I do.

When I leave our country, I’m a very high-profile person, would you say?

I am extremely careful. I’m surrounded by bodyguards. I’m surrounded by people.

And I always tell them — anywhere, but I always tell them if I’m leaving this country, “Be very careful, because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you’re gonna probably have cameras.” I’m not referring just to Russia, but I would certainly put them in that category.

And number one, “I hope you’re gonna be good anyway. But in those rooms, you have cameras in the strangest places. Cameras that are so small with modern technology, you can’t see them and you won’t know. You better be careful, or you’ll be watching yourself on nightly television.”

I tell this to people all the time.

I was in Russia years ago, with the Miss Universe contest, which did very well — Moscow, the Moscow area did very, very well.

And I told many people, “Be careful, because you don’t wanna see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place.”

And again, not just Russia, all over.

Does anyone really believe that story?

I’m also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me. (LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … how you plan to disentangle yourself from your business. But first, I have to follow-up on some of these Russian remarks.

Based on your comments here today, do you believe the hacking was justified? Does Russia have any leverage over you, financial or otherwise? And if not, will you release your tax returns to prove it?

TRUMP: So I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.

As a real estate developer, I have very, very little debt. I have assets that are — and now people have found out how big the company is, I have very little debt — I have very low debt. But I have no loans with Russia at all.

And I thought that was important to put out. I certified that. So I have no deals, I have no loans and I have no dealings. We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to, I just don’t want to because I think that would be a conflict. So I have no loans, no dealings, and no current pending deals.

Now, I have to say one other thing. Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great, great developer from the Middle East, Hussein Damack, a friend of mine, great guy. And I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai — a number of deals and I turned it down.

I didn’t have to turn it down, because as you know, I have a no-conflict situation because I’m president, which is — I didn’t know about that until about three months ago, but it’s a nice thing to have. But I don’t want to take advantage of something. I have something that others don’t have, Vice President Pence also has it. I don’t think he’ll need it, I have a feeling he’s not going to need it.

But I have a no conflict of interest provision as president. It was many, many years old, this is for presidents. Because they don’t want presidents getting — I understand they don’t want presidents getting tangled up in minutia; they want a president to run the country. So I could actually run my business, I could actually run my business and run government at the same time.

I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to. I would be the only one to be able to do that. You can’t do that in any other capacity. But as president, I could run the Trump organization, great, great company, and I could run the company — the country. I’d do a very good job, but I don’t want to do that.

Now, all of these papers that you see here — yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: (inaudible) do you believe the hacking was justified? And will you release your tax returns to prove what you’re saying about no deals in Russia?

TRUMP: I’m not releasing the tax returns because as you know, they’re under audit.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … since the ’70’s has had a required audit from the IRS, the last place to release them, but as president sir…

TRUMP: You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They’re the only who ask.

QUESTION: You don’t think the American public is concerned about it?

TRUMP: No I don’t think so. I won, when I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I think you care — I think you care. First of all, you learn very little to a tax return. What you should go down to federal elections and take a look at the numbers. And actually, people have learned a lot about my company and now they realize, my company is much bigger, much more powerful than they ever thought. We’re in many, many countries, and I’m very proud of it.

And what I’m going to be doing is my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss it with me. Again, I don’t have to do this. They’re not going to discuss it with me. And with that, I’m going to bring up Sheri Dillon, and she’s going to go — these papers are just some of the many documents that I’ve signed turning over complete and total control to my sons.

(CROSSTALK)

DILLON: Good morning. It’s my honor and privilege to be here today at President-elect Trump’s request.

He’s asked me, as you just heard, to speak about the conflicts of interest and the steps he’s taking. As you know, the business empire built by President-elect Trump over the years is massive, not dissimilar to the fortunes of Nelson Rockefeller when he became vice president. But at that time, no one was so concerned.

President-elect Trump wants the American public to rest assured that all of his efforts are directed to pursuing the people’s business and not his own. To that end, as he explained a few moments ago, he directed me and my colleagues at the law firm Morgan Lewis and Bockius to design a structure for his business empire that will completely isolate him from the management of the company.

He further instructed that we build in protections that will assure the American people the decisions he makes and the actions that he takes as president are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests.

DILLON: As he said, he’s voluntarily taking this on. The conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president and they are not required to separate themselves from their financial assets. The primary conflicts of interest statutes and some have questioned it, is Section 18 USC 208 and it’s simply inapplicable by its terms. And this is not just our interpretation. It’s Congress itself who have made this clear in 1989 when it amended Section 18 USC 202 to state that, except as otherwise provided, the terms office and employee in section 208 shall not include the president.

Even so, President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests. He instructed us to take all steps realistically possible to make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit. He also sought the guidance of individuals who are familiar with and have worked extensively in the fields of government ethics and constitutional law.

Critical to the Morgan Lewis team is Fred Fielding, standing here to our side and with us today and many of you have known him. He has served several presidents over the years including serving as counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as well as serving on President George H.W. Bush’s Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform and he also held the position of vice chair of the Ethics Resource Center.

Mr. Fielding has been extensively involved with and approved this plan. He’s here today to support the plan and he will continue to provide guidance as the plan is implemented and as Eric, Don, along with others, take over management of the Trump organization.

I’m gonna detail some of the extraordinary steps now that the president-elect is taking. First, President-elect Trump’s investments and business assets commonly known as the — as the Trump Organization, comprising hundreds of entities which, again, if you all go and take a look at his financial disclosure statement, the pages and pages and pages of entities have all been or will be conveyed to a trust prior to January 20th. Here is just some of the paperwork that’s taking care of those actions.

Second, through the trust agreement, he has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization to his sons Don and Eric and a longtime Trump executive, Allen Weisselberg. Together, Don, Eric and Allen will have the authority to manage the Trump Organization and will make decisions for the duration of the presidency without any involvement whatsoever by President-elect Trump.

Further, at the president-elect’s direction, the trust agreement provides — that to ensure the Trump Organization continues to operate in accordance with the highest and legal ethics standards, an ethics adviser will be appointed to the management team. The written approval of the ethics adviser will be required for new deals, actions, and transactions that could potentially raise ethics or conflicts of interest concerns.

President-elect Trump as well as Don, Eric and Allen are committed to ensuring that the activities of the Trump organization are beyond reproach and cannot be perceived to be exploitive of the office of the presidency. President-elect Trump will resign from all officer and other positions he holds with the Trump Organization entities.

Further, in addition, his daughter Ivanka will have no further involvement with or management authority whatsoever with the Trump Organization. As she and Jared move their family to D.C., Ivanka will focused on settling her children into their new homes and their new schools.

The president-elect has also already disposed of all of his investments in publicly traded or easily liquidated investments. As a result, the trust will have two types of assets; first, it will hold liquid assets. Cash, cash equivalents and treasuries and perhaps some positions in a government approved diversified portfolio, one that is consistent with the regulations from the Office of Government Ethics.

Second, the trust is going to hold his preexisting illiquid, but very valuable business assets, the ones that everyone here is familiar with. Trump owned, operated and branded golf clubs, commercial rental property, resorts, hotels, rights to royalties from preexisting licenses of Trump-Marks Productions and Goods. Things like Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, all of his other business assets, 40 Wall Street will all be in the trust.

Through instructions in the trust agreement, President-elect trust — President-elect Trump first ordered that all pending deals be terminated. This impacted more than 30 deals, many of which were set to close by the end of 2016. As you can well imagine, that caused an immediate financial loss of millions of dollars, not just for President-elect Trump, but also for Don, Ivanka and Eric.

DILLON: The trust agreement as directed by President Trump imposes severe restrictions on new deals. No new foreign deals will be made whatsoever during the duration of President Trump’s presidency. New domestic deals will be allowed, but they will go through a vigorous vetting process.

The president-elect will have no role in deciding whether the Trump Organization engages in any new deal and he will only know of a deal if he reads it in the paper or sees it on TV. Because any new deal could — and I emphasize could — be perceived as causing a conflict or as exploiting the office of the presidency, new deals must be vetted with the ethics adviser, whose role will be to analyze any potential transactions for conflicts and ethics issues.

The ethics adviser will be a recognized expert in the field of government experts. Again, his role will be to scrutinize the new deals and the actions, and any new deal must receive written approval.

To further reinforce the wall that we are building between President-elect Trump and the Trump Organization, President-elect Trump has ordered, through his trust agreement, to sharply limit his information rights. Reports will only be available and reflect profit and loss on the company as a whole. There will be no separate business by business accounting.

Another step that President-elect Trump has taken is he created a new position at the Trump Organization; the position of chief compliance counsel, whose responsibility will be to ensure that the Trump businesses, again, are operating at the highest levels of integrity and not taking any actions that could be perceived as exploiting the office of the presidency. He has also directed that no communications of the Trump Organization, including social media accounts, will reference or be tied to President-elect Trump’s role as president of the United States or the office of the presidency.

In sum, all of these actions — complete relinquishment of management, no foreign deals, ethics adviser approval of deals, sharply limited information rights — will sever President-elect Trump’s presidency from the Trump Organization.

Some have asked questions. Why not divest? Why not just sell everything? Form of blind trust. And I’d like to turn to addressing some of those questions now.

Selling, first and foremost, would not eliminate possibilities of conflicts of interest. In fact, it would exacerbate them. The Trump brand is key to the value of the Trump Organization’s assets. If President-elect Trump sold his brand, he would be entitled to royalties for the use of it, and this would result in the trust retaining an interest in the brand without the ability to assure that it does not exploit the office of the presidency.

Further, whatever price was paid would be subject to criticism and scrutiny. Was it too high, is there pay for play, was it too much pay to curry favor with the president-elect. And selling his assets without the rights to the brand would greatly diminish the value of the assets and create a fire sale.

President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built. This plan offers a suitable alternative to address the concerns of the American people, and selling the entire Trump Organization isn’t even feasible.

Some people have suggested that the president-elect sell the business to his adult children. This would require massive third-party debt sourced with multiple lenders, whose motives and willingness to participate would be questioned and undoubtedly investigated. And if the president-elect were to finance the sale himself, he would retain the financial interests in the assets that he owns now.

Some people have suggested that the Trump — that President-elect Trump could bundle the assets and turn the Trump Organization into a public company. Anyone who has ever gone through this extraordinarily cumbersome and complicated process knows that it is a non-starter. It is not realistic and it would be inappropriate for the Trump Organization.

Some people have suggested a blind trust, but you cannot have a totally blind trust with operating businesses. President Trump can’t unknow he owns Trump Tower and the press will make sure that any new developments at the Trump Organization are well publicized.

DILLON: Further, it would be impossible to find an institutional trustee that would be competent to run the Trump Organization. The approach that he is taking allows Don and Eric to preserve this great company and its iconic assets. And this approach is best from a conflicts and ethics perspective. It creates a complete separation from President-elect Trump — it separates him and prevents him from participating in the business and poses strict limits on what the trustees can do and requires the assent of any ethics adviser to a new deal.

I’m going to turn to one last topic today that has been of interest lately called emoluments. That’s a word I think we’ve all become familiar with and perhaps had not heard before.

And we’re gonna describe some other actions that President-elect Trump is taking to avoid even the appearance of a conflict.

Emoluments comes from the Constitution. The Constitution says “officials may not accept gifts, titles of nobility, or emoluments from foreign governments with respect to their office, and that no benefit should be derived by holding in office.”

The so-called Emoluments Clause has never been interpreted, however, to apply to fair value exchanges that have absolutely nothing to do with an office holder.

No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument. Instead, it would have been thought of as a value-for-value exchange; not a gift, not a title, and not an emolument.

But since President-elect Trump has been elected, some people want to define emoluments to cover routine business transactions like paying for hotel rooms. They suggest that the Constitution prohibits the businesses from even arm’s-length transactions that the president-elect has absolutely nothing to do with and isn’t even aware of.

These people are wrong. This is not what the Constitution says. Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present and it has nothing to do with an office. It’s not an emolument.

The Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here. But, just like with conflicts of interests, he wants to do more than what the Constitution requires.

So, President-elect Trump has decided, and we are announcing today, that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury. This way, it is the American people who will profit.

In sum, I and president-elect’s (sic) other advisers at Morgan Lewis have determined the approach we’ve outlined today will avoid potential conflicts of interests or concerns regarding exploitation of the office of the presidency without imposing unnecessary and unreasonable loses on the president-elect and his family.

We believe this structure and these steps will serve to accomplish the president-elect’s desire to be isolated from his business interests and give the American people confidence that his sole business and interest is in making America great again, bringing back jobs to this country, securing our borders and rebuilding our infrastructure.

The American people were well — well aware of President-elect Trump’s business empire and financial interests when they voted. Many people voted for him precisely because of his business success.

President-elect Trump wants to bring this success to all Americans. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

DILLON: You’re welcome. My pleasure. Yes (ph). Don’t want to lose your note. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Here you go, you (ph).

DILLON: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump? Thank you. Mr. Trump, (inaudible) from America News.

What is your response to your critics that say not only you, but also your Cabinet is filled with conflicts of interest?

And do you plan to set an example in the future to make sure that your — your Cabinet and everyone throughout your administration…

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I — I really think that when you watch what’s going on with what’s happening in — I was just watching, as an example, Rex Tillerson. I think it’s brilliant what he’s doing and what he’s saying.

I watched yesterday, as you know, our great senator, who is going to be a great attorney general. And he was brilliant. And what people don’t know is that he was a great prosecutor and attorney general in Alabama. And he was brilliant yesterday.

So, I really think that they are — I think we have one of the great Cabinets ever put together. And we’ve been hearing that from so many people. People are so happy.

You know, in the case of Rex, he ran incredibly Exxon Mobil. When there was a find, he would get it. When they needed something, he would be there.

A friend of mine who’s very, very substantial in the oil business, Harold Hamm — big supporter — he said there’s nobody in the business like Rex Tillerson.

And that’s what we want. That’s what I want to bring to government.

I want to bring the greatest people into government, because we’re way behind. We don’t make good deals any more. I say it all the time in speeches. We don’t make good deals anymore; we make bad deals. Our trade deals are a disaster.

TRUMP: We have hundreds of billions of dollars of losses on a yearly basis — hundreds of billions with China on trade and trade imbalance, with Japan, with Mexico, with just about everybody. We don’t make good deals anymore.

So we need people that are smart, we need people that are successful and they got successful because generally speaking, they’re smart. And that’s what I’d put, I’m very proud of the Cabinet, I think they’re doing very well.

It’s very interesting how it’s going, but it’s — I think they’re doing very, very well.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … a quick follow-up on — on Russia, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. I wanted to ask a few questions on Obamacare?

TRUMP: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you be specific on what guidance you’re giving congressional Republicans on the timeline for repeal and replace, whether it needs to be simultaneous or…

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Finally, Obamacare, I thought it was never gonna be asked.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) though if you have outlined a plan for what you want the replace package to look like, would it guarantee coverage for those who have gotten health insurance through the current Obamacare law?

TRUMP: You’re gonna be very, very proud, as not only the media and reporters, you’re gonna be very proud of what we put forth having to do with health care. Obamacare is a complete and total disaster.

They can say what they want, they can guide you anyway they wanna guide you. In some cases, they guide you incorrectly. In most cases, you realize what’s happened, it’s imploding as we sit.

Some states have over a hundred percent increase and ’17 and I said this two years ago, ’17 is going to be the bad year. It’s going to be catastrophic. Frankly, we could sit back and it was a thought from a political standpoint, but it wouldn’t be fair to the people.

We could sit back and wait and watch and criticize and we could be a Chuck Schumer and sit back and criticize it and people would come, they would come, begging to us please, we have to do something about Obamacare. We don’t wanna own it, we don’t wanna own it politically. They own it right now.

So the easiest thing would be to let it implode in ’17 and believe me, we’d get pretty much whatever we wanted, but it would take a long time. We’re going to be submitting, as soon as our secretary’s approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan.

It’ll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially, simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably, the same day, could be the same hour.

So we’re gonna do repeal and replace, very complicated stuff. And we’re gonna get a health bill passed, we’re gonna get health care taken care of in this country. You have deductibles that are so high, that after people go broke paying their premiums which are going through the roof, the health care can’t even be used by them because their deductibles bills are so high.

Obamacare is the Democrats problem. We are gonna take the problem off the shelves for them. We’re doing them a tremendous service by doing it. We could sit back and let them hang with it. We are doing the Democrats a great service.

So as soon as our secretary is approved and gets into the office, we’ll be filing a plan. And it was actually, pretty accurately reported today, The New York Times. And the plan will be repeal and replace Obamacare.

We’re going to have a health care that is far less expensive and far better. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: President-elect, can we just ask you — sir, sir…

QUESTION: President-elect Trump…

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President — which one?

TRUMP: I was going right here.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: President-elect Trump, Jon Steinberg (ph) from Cheddar. When you look at all the meetings that you’ve had with Carrier, SoftBank and Alibaba, do you conceive of making this a program, maybe sitting inside of commerce?

And then my follow-up question to that, is how soon will we see the program on capital repatriation and corporate tax cuts?

TRUMP: Well, if I can save jobs, for instance I was doing individual companies and people said well, that’s only one company, like we did a good job with Carrier. And I wanna thank United Technologies which owns Carrier, but we saved close to a thousand jobs.

And they were gone and Mike Pence and his staff really helped us, a lot. But those were — that was a tough one because they announced a year and a half before that they were leaving so it’s always tough when they’re building a plan, just a little tougher than before they start or before they make an announcement.

TRUMP: So I wanna thank United Technologies. But we’ve been meeting with a lot of companies. But what really is happening, is the word is now out, that when you want to move your plant to Mexico or some other place, and you want to fire all of your workers from Michigan and Ohio and all these places that I won, for good reason, it’s not going to happen that way anymore.

You want to move your plant and you think, as an example, you’re going to build that plant in Mexico and you’re going to make your air conditioners or your cars or whatever you’re making, and you’re going to sell it through what will be a very, very strong border — not a weak border like it is — we don’t even have a border. It’s an open sieve.

But you’re going to sell through a very strong border — not going to happen. You’re going to pay a very large border tax. So if you want to move to another country and if you want to fire all of our great American workers that got you there in the first place, you can move from Michigan to Tennessee and to North Carolina and South Carolina. You can move from South Carolina back to Michigan.

You can do anywhere — you’ve got a lot of states at play; a lot of competition. So it’s not like, oh, gee, I’m taking the competition away. You’ve got a lot of places you can move. And I don’t care, as along as it’s within the United States, the borders of the United States.

There will be a major border tax on these companies that are leaving and getting away with murder. And if our politicians had what it takes, they would have done this years ago. And you’d have millions more workers right now in the United States that are — 96 million really wanting a job and they can’t get. You know that story. The real number — that’s the real number.

So, that’s the way it is. OK. Go ahead.

QUESTION: President-elect, I have a question about the Supreme Court and border security. But I also wanted to ask you about something you said on Twitter this morning. Are we living in Nazi Germany? What were you driving at there? Do you have a problem with the intelligence community?

And on the Supreme Court, what’s your timeline? You said a while ago you were down to four. Have you conducted those interviews yet? What’s your timeline for nominating?

And on the border fence, it now appears clear U.S. taxpayers will have to pay for it up front. What is your plan to…

TRUMP: That’s not clear at all. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: … to get Mexico to pay for it?

TRUMP: I’ve got it. Do you have any more?

(LAUGHTER)

On the fence — it’s not a fence. It’s a wall. You just misreported it. We’re going to build a wall. I could wait about a year-and-a-half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which will start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait. Mike Pence is leading an effort to get final approvals through various agencies and through Congress for the wall to begin.

I don’t feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half. We’re going to start building. Mexico in some form, and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment — probably less likely that it’s a payment. But it will happen.

So, remember this, OK? I would say we are going to build a wall and people would go crazy. I would then say, who is going to pay for the wall? And people would all scream out — 25,000, 30,000 people, because nobody has ever had crowds like Trump has had. You know that. You don’t like to report that, but that’s OK.

OK, now he agrees. Finally, he agrees.

But I say who is going to pay for the wall? And they will scream out, “Mexico.”

Now, reports went out last week — oh, Mexico is not going to pay for the wall because of a reimbursement. What’s the difference? I want to get the wall started. I don’t want to wait a year-and-a-half until I make my deal with Mexico. And we probably will have a deal sooner than that.

And by the way, Mexico has been so nice, so nice. I respect the government of Mexico. I respect the people of Mexico. I love the people of Mexico. I have many people from Mexico working for me. They’re phenomenal people.

The government of Mexico is terrific. I don’t blame them for what’s happened. I don’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. I wish our politicians were so smart. Mexico has taken advantage of the United States. I don’t blame the representatives and various presidents, et cetera, of Mexico. What I say is we shouldn’t have allowed that to happen. It’s not going to happen anymore.

So, in order to get the wall started, Mexico will pay for the wall, but it will be reimbursed. OK?

Supreme Court judge. So, as you know, I have a list of 20. I’ve gone through them. We’ve met with numerous candidates. They’re outstanding in every case. They were largely recommended and highly recommended by Federalist Society. Jim DeMint was also very much involved, and his group, which is fantastic, and he’s a fantastic guy.

TRUMP: So between Leo and Jim DeMint and some senators and some congresspeople, we have a great group of people. I’ll be making the decision on who we will put up for justice of the United States Supreme Court, a replacement for the great, great Justice Scalia. That will be probably within two weeks of the 20th. So within about two weeks, probably the second week. I consider the first day because we’ll also be doing some — some pretty good signings and I think what we’ll do is we’ll wait until Monday.

That will be our really first business day as opposed to doing it on Friday, because on Friday, people are going to have a very good time at the inauguration, and then Saturday, as you know, we’re having a big church service and lots of good things are happening. So our first day — and you’ll all be invited to the signings, but we’ll be doing some pretty good signings on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, and then also the next week. And you’re all invited.

But on the Supreme Court, I’ll be making that decision, and it will be a decision which I very strongly believe in. I think it’s one of the reasons I got elected. I think the people of this country did not want to see what was happening with the Supreme Court, so I think it was a very, very big decision as to why I was elected.

QUESTION: The tweet that you had this morning about are we living in Nazi Germany, what were you driving at there? What are you trying to tell the American public?

TRUMP: I think it was disgraceful — disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. I think it’s a disgrace, and I say that — and I say that, and that’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do. I think it’s a disgrace that information that was false and fake and never happened got released to the public.

As far as Buzzfeed, which is a failing pile of garbage, writing it, I think they’re going to suffer the consequences. They already are. And as far as CNN going out of their way to build it up — and by the way, we just found out I was coming down. Michael Cohen — I was being — Michael Cohen is a very talented lawyer. He’s a good lawyer in my firm. It was just reported that it wasn’t this Michael Cohen they we’re talking about. So all night long it’s Michael Cohen.

I said, “I want to see your passport.” He brings his passport to my office. I say, hey, wait a minute. He didn’t leave the country. He wasn’t out of the country. They had Michael Cohen of the Trump Organization was in Prague. It turned out to be a different Michael Cohen. It’s a disgrace what took place. It’s a disgrace and I think they ought to apologize to start with Michael Cohen.

QUESTION: Since you’re attacking us, can you give us a question? Mr. President-elect —

TRUMP: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, since you are attacking our news organization…

TRUMP: Not you.

QUESTION: Can you give us a chance?

TRUMP: Your organization is terrible.

QUESTION: You are attacking our news organization, can you give us a chance to ask a question, sir? Sir, can you…

TRUMP: Quiet.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, can you say…

TRUMP: He’s asking a question, don’t be rude. Don’t be rude.

QUESTION: Can you give us a question since you’re attacking us? Can you give us a question?

TRUMP: Don’t be rude. No, I’m not going to give you a question. I’m not going to give you a question.

QUESTION: Can you state…

TRUMP: You are fake news. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sir, can you state categorically that nobody — no, Mr. President-elect, that’s not appropriate.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

QUESTION: Do you think President Obama went too far with the sanctions he put on Russia after the hacking?

TRUMP: I don’t think he went too far. No.

QUESTION: Will you roll them back? What do you think of Lindsey Graham’s plan to send you a bill for…

TRUMP: Plans to send me a bill for what?

QUESTION: Tougher sanctions.

TRUMP: I hadn’t heard Lindsey Graham was going to do that. Lindsey Graham. I’ve been competing with him for a long time. He is going to crack that one percent barrier one day. I didn’t realize Lindsey Graham still had it. That’s all right. I think Lindsey Graham is a nice guy. I’ve heard that he is a nice guy and I’ve been hearing it.

Go ahead. Go ahead. You’ve been waiting.

QUESTION: As far as we understand, the intelligence community…

TRUMP: Stand up.

QUESTION: From BBC news. Ian Pannell from BBC news.

TRUMP: BBC news. That’s another beauty.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you.

As far as we understand it, the intelligence community are still looking at these allegations, this false news, as you describe it. If they come back with any kind of conclusion that any of it stands up, that any of it is true, will you consider your position…

TRUMP: There’s nothing they could come back with.

QUESTION: Can you…

TRUMP: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (inaudible) published fake news and all the problems that we’ve seen throughout the media over the course of the election, what reforms do you recommend for this industry here?

TRUMP: Well, I don’t recommend reforms. I recommend people that are — that have some moral compass.

You know, I’ve been hearing more and more about a thing called fake news and they’re talking about people that go and say all sorts of things. But I will tell you, some of the media outlets that I deal with are fake news more so than anybody. I could name them, but I won’t bother, but you have a few sitting right in front of us. They’re very, very dishonest people, but I think it’s just something we’re going to have to live with.

TRUMP: I guess the advantage I have is that I can speak back. When it happens to somebody that doesn’t have this — doesn’t have that kind of a megaphone, they can’t speak back. It’s a very sad thing. I’ve seen people destroyed. I’ve seen people absolutely destroyed. And I think it’s very unfair. So, all I can ask for is honest reporters.

Yes?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on the questions about the U.S. intelligence community. And be very clear about what you’re saying. Do you trust your U.S. intelligence officials? And what do you say to foreign policy experts who say you’re actually weakening national security by waging this war of words against that community?

TRUMP: Intelligence agencies are vital and very, very important. We are going to be putting in, as you know, Mr. Pompeo and others, you know the Senator Dan Coats. We’re going to be putting in some outstanding people. Within 90 days, they’re going to be coming back to me with a major report on hacking.

I want them to cover this situation. I also want them, however, to cover, maybe most importantly — because we’re hacked by everybody — you know, the United States, our government out of a list of 17 in terms of industries is the worst, it’s number 17, in terms of protection.

If you look at the retail industry, if you look at the banking industry, various industries, out of 17 industries — they put this in the category of an industry — the United States is last in terms of protecting, let’s say, hacking defense. Like we had a great hacking defense at the Republican National Committee.

That’s why we weren’t hacked. By the way, we were told that they were trying to hack us, but they weren’t able to hack. And I think I get some credit because I told Reince, and Reince did a phenomenal job, but I said I want strong hacking defense.

The Democratic National Committee didn’t do that. Maybe that’s why the country runs so badly that way. But I will tell you — wait — wait — wait, let me finish. Within 90 days, we will be coming up with a major report on hacking defense, how do we stop this new phenomena — fairly new phenomena because the United States is hacked by everybody.

That includes Russia and China and everybody — everybody. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Go ahead — go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, you said, just now, that you believe Russia indeed was responsible for the hacking of the DNC and Jon Podesta’s e-mails, et cetera.

TRUMP: All right, but you know what, it could have been others also.

QUESTION: But why did you spend weeks undermining U.S. intelligence community before simply getting the facts and then making a public statement?

TRUMP: Well, I think it’s pretty sad when intelligence reports get leaked out to the press. I think it’s pretty sad. First of all, it’s illegal. You know, these are — these are classified and certified meetings and reports.

I’ll tell you what does happen. I have many meetings with intelligence. And every time I meet, people are reading about it. Somebody’s leaking it out. So, there’s — maybe it’s my office. Maybe in my office because I have a lot of people, a lot of great people. Maybe it’s them. And what I did is I said I won’t tell anybody. I’m going to have a meeting and I won’t tell anybody about my meeting with intelligence.

And what happened is I had my meeting. Nobody knew, not even Rhona, my executive assistant for years, she didn’t know — I didn’t tell her. Nobody knew. The meeting was had, the meeting was over, they left. And immediately the word got out that I had a meeting.

So, I don’t want that — I don’t want that. It’s very unfair to the country. It’s very unfair to our country; what’s happened. That report should have never — first of all, it shouldn’t have been printed because it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. And I thank the New York Times for saying that.

I thank a lot of different people for saying that. But, I will tell you, that should never, ever happen. OK.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect, can you stand here today, once and for all and say that no one connected to you or your campaign had any contact with Russia leading up to or during the presidential campaign. And if you do indeed believe that Russia was behind the hacking, what is your message to Vladimir Putin right now?

TRUMP: He shouldn’t be doing it. He won’t be doing it. Russia will have much greater respect for our country when I’m leading than when other people have led it. You will see that. Russia will respect our country more. He shouldn’t have done it. I don’t believe that he will be doing it more now.

We have to work something out, but it’s not just Russia. Take a look at what’s happened. You don’t report it the same way; 22 million accounts were hacked in this country by China. And that’s because we have no defense. That’s because we’re run by people that don’t know what they’re doing.

TRUMP: Russia will have far greater respect for our country when I’m leading it and I believe and I hope — maybe it won’t happen, it’s possible. But I won’t be giving (ph) a little reset button like Hillary. Here, press this piece of plastic. A guy looked at her like what is she doing? There’s no reset button. We’re either going to get along or we’re not. I hope we get along, but if we don’t, that’s possible too.

But Russia and other countries — and other countries, including China, which has taken total advantage of us economically, totally advantage of us in the South China Sea by building their massive fortress, total. Russia, China, Japan, Mexico, all countries will respect us far more, far more than they do under past administrations.

I want to thank everybody. So this is all — just so you understand, these papers — because I’m not sure that was explained properly. But these papers are all just a piece of the many, many companies that are being put into trust to be run by my two sons that I hope at the end of eight years, I’ll come back and say, oh, you did a good job. Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I’ll say, “You’re fired.”

Good-bye, everybody. Good-bye.

Full Text Political Transcripts March 28, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Politics and Journalism at the 2016 Toner Prize Ceremony

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the 2016 Toner Prize Ceremony

Source: WH, 3-28-16

Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
Washington, D.C.

7:49 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  And thank you, Chancellor Syverud for those wonderful remarks and reminding me of how badly my bracket is doing.  (Laughter.)  Congratulations, Syracuse.  You guys are doing great.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Robin’s wonderful husband, Peter, and their incredible kids, Jake and Nora, for organizing this annual tribute to her memory.  And I want to thank all of you for having me here this evening.

A Washington press dinner usually means ill-fitting tuxes, celebrity sightings, and bad jokes.  So this is refreshing.

And it is a great honor to be here to celebrate the 2015 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.  In this political season, it is worth reflecting on the kind of journalism Robin practiced — and the kind of journalism this prize rewards.

A reporter’s reporter — that was Robin.  From her first job at the Charleston Daily Mail to her tenure as the New York Times’ national political correspondent — the first woman to hold that position — she always saw herself as being a servant for the American public.  She had a sense of mission and purpose in her work.  For Robin, politics was not a horserace, or a circus, or a tally of who scored more political points than whom, but rather was fundamentally about issues and how they affected the lives of real people.

She treated the public with respect — didn’t just skim the surface.  Few reporters understood the intricacies of health care policy better.  Few could cut to the heart of a tax reform plan more deeply — and analyze how it would affect everybody, from a struggling worker to a hedge fund manager.  Few could explain complicated, esoteric political issues in a way that Americans could digest and use to make informed choices at the ballot box.

Robin’s work was meticulous.  No detail was too small to confirm, and no task too minor to complete.  And that, too, she saw as her responsibility — the responsibility of journalism.  She famously developed her own fact-checking system, cleaning up every name and date and figure in her piece — something most reporters relied on others to do.  And it’s no wonder then that of her almost 2,000 articles, only six required published corrections.  And knowing Robin, that was probably six too many for her taste.

And this speaks to more than just her thoroughness or some obsessive compulsiveness when it came to typos.  It was about Robin’s commitment to seeking out and telling the truth.  She would not stand for any stray mark that might mar an otherwise flawless piece — because she knew the public relied on her to give them the truth as best as she could find it.

Of course, these were qualities were harder to appreciate when her lens was focused on you.  She held politicians’ feet to the fire, including occasionally my own.  And in her quiet, dogged way, she demanded that we be accountable to the public for the things that we said and for the promises that we made. We should be held accountable.

That’s the kind of journalism that Robin practiced.  That’s the kind of journalism this prize honors.  It’s the kind of journalism that’s never been more important.  It’s the kind of journalism that recognizes its fundamental role in promoting citizenship, and hence undergirds our democracy.

As I’ve said in recent weeks, I know I’m not the only one who may be more than a little dismayed about what’s happening on the campaign trail right now.  The divisive and often vulgar rhetoric that’s aimed at everybody, but often is focused on the vulnerable or women or minorities.   The sometimes well-intentioned but I think misguided attempts to shut down that speech.  The violent reaction that we see, as well as the deafening silence from too many of our leaders in the coarsening of the debate.  The sense that facts don’t matter, that they’re not relevant.  That what matters is how much attention you can generate.  A sense that this is a game as opposed to the most precious gift our Founders gave us — this collective enterprise of self-government.

And so it’s worth asking ourselves what each of us — as politicians or journalists, but most of all, as citizens — may have done to contribute to this atmosphere in our politics.  I was going to call is “carnival atmosphere,” but that implies fun.  And I think it’s the kind of question Robin would have asked all of us.  As I said a few weeks ago, some may be more to blame than others for the current climate, but all of us are responsible for reversing it.

I say this not because of some vague notion of “political correctness,” which seems to be increasingly an excuse to just say offensive things or lie out loud.  I say this not out of nostalgia, because politics in America has always been tough.  Anybody who doubts that should take a look at what Adams and Jefferson and some of our other Founders said about each other.  I say this because what we’re seeing right now does corrode our democracy and our society.  And I’m not one who’s faint of heart.  I come from Chicago. Harold Washington once explained that “politics ain’t beanbag.”  It’s always been rough and tumble.

But when our elected officials and our political campaign become entirely untethered to reason and facts and analysis, when it doesn’t matter what’s true and what’s not, that makes it all but impossible for us to make good decisions on behalf of future generations.  It threatens the values of respect and tolerance that we teach our children and that are the source of America’s strength.  It frays the habits of the heart that underpin any civilized society — because how we operate is not just based on laws, it’s based on habits and customs and restraint and respect.  It creates this vacuum where baseless assertions go unchallenged, and evidence is optional.  And as we’re seeing, it allows hostility in one corner of our politics to infect our broader society.  And that, in turn, tarnishes the American brand.

The number one question I am getting as I travel around the world or talk to world leaders right now is, what is happening in America — about our politics.  And it’s not because around the world people have not seen crazy politics; it is that they understand America is the place where you can’t afford completely crazy politics.  For some countries where this kind of rhetoric may not have the same ramifications, people expect, they understand, they care about America, the most powerful nation on Earth, functioning effectively, and its government being able to make sound decisions.

So we are all invested in making this system work.  We are all responsible for its success.  And it’s not just for the United States that this matters.  It matters for the planet.

Whether it was exposing the horrors of lynching, to busting the oil trusts, to uncovering Watergate, your work has always been essential to that endeavor, and that work has never been easy.  And let’s face it, in today’s unprecedented change in your industry, the job has gotten tougher.  Even as the appetite for information and data flowing through the Internet is voracious, we’ve seen newsrooms closed.  The bottom line has shrunk.  The news cycle has, as well.  And too often, there is enormous pressure on journalists to fill the void and feed the beast with instant commentary and Twitter rumors, and celebrity gossip, and softer stories.  And then we fail to understand our world or understand one another as well as we should.  That has consequences for our lives and for the life of our country.

Part of the independence of the Fourth Estate is that it is not government-controlled, and media companies thereby have an obligation to pursue profits on behalf of their shareholders, their owners, and also has an obligation to invest a good chunk of that profit back into news and back into public affairs, and to maintain certain standards and to not dumb down the news, and to have higher aspirations for what effective news can do.  Because a well-informed electorate depends on you.  And our democracy depends on a well-informed electorate.

So the choice between what cuts into your bottom lines and what harms us as a society is an important one.  We have to choose which price is higher to pay; which cost is harder to bear.

Good reporters like the ones in this room all too frequently find yourselves caught between competing forces, I’m aware of that.  You believe in the importance of a well-informed electorate.  You’ve staked your careers on it.  Our democracy needs you more than ever.  You’re under significant financial pressures, as well.

So I believe the electorate would be better served if your networks and your producers would give you the room, the capacity to follow your best instincts and dig deeper into the things that might not always be flashy, but need attention.

And Robin proves that just because something is substantive doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.  I think the electorate would be better served if we spent less time focused on the he said/she said back-and-forth of our politics.  Because while fairness is the hallmark of good journalism, false equivalency all too often these days can be a fatal flaw.  If I say that the world is round and someone else says it’s flat, that’s worth reporting, but you might also want to report on a bunch of scientific evidence that seems to support the notion that the world is round.  And that shouldn’t be buried in paragraph five or six of the article.  (Applause.)

A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone.  It is to probe and to question, and to dig deeper, and to demand more.  The electorate would be better served if that happened.  It would be better served if billions of dollars in free media came with serious accountability, especially when politicians issue unworkable plans or make promises they can’t keep.  (Applause.)  And there are reporters here who know they can’t keep them.  I know that’s a shocking concept that politicians would do that.  But without a press that asks tough questions, voters take them at their word.  When people put their faith in someone who can’t possibly deliver on his or her promises, that only breeds more cynicism.

It’s interesting — this is a little going off script.  But we still have our house in Chicago, and because Michelle, me and the kids had to leave so quickly, it’s a little bit like a time capsule, especially my desk — which wasn’t always very neat.  So I’ve got old phone bills that I think I paid — (laughter) — but they’re still sitting there.  And for a long time, I had my old laptop with the AOL connection.  But there’s also these big stacks of newspapers from right before the election.  And every time I go back, I have occasion to look back and read what I said at the time.  And Lord knows I’ve made mistakes in this job, and there are areas where I’ve fallen short, but something I’m really proud of is the fact that, if you go back and see what I said in 2007 and you see what I did, they match up.  (Applause.)

Now, part of the reason they match up is because in 2008, during the campaign, people asked me really tough questions about whether they’d match up.  And we had to spend a lot of time worrying about whether what I said I could deliver on, and whether we believed it was true.  And there was a price if you said one thing and then did something completely different.  And the question is, in the current media environment, is that still true?  Does that still hold?

I think Robin understood this because she asked those questions.  She asked me some of those questions.

One of the reasons I ran for this office was to try and change the tone of our politics in Washington.  And I remember back in early 2008 — eight years ago this month — Robin wrote a story wondering whether I could; whether it was even possible.  At the time, I probably thought the piece was fairly cynical.  And while I still believe Americans are hungry for a better politics, as I’ve said several times now, one of my great regrets is that the tone of our politics has gotten worse.  And I won’t take all the responsibility for it, but I’ll take some.  We all own some of it.  I’ll take my share.  But Robin asked that question.  She cast a critical eye from the very beginning.  And that was useful.  Still is.

As I believe that that for all the sideshows of the political season, Americans are still hungry for truth, it’s just hard to find.  It’s hard to wade through.  The curating function has diminished in this smartphone age.  But people still want to know what’s true.

Think about it.  Hollywood released films about getting stuck on Mars, and demolition derbies in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and you even had Leo DiCaprio battling a grizzly bear.  And yet it was a movie about journalists spending months meticulously calling sources from landlines, and poring over documents with highlighters and microfiche, chasing the truth even when it was hard, even when it was dangerous.  And that was the movie that captured the Oscar for Best Picture.

I’m not suggesting all of you are going to win Oscars.  But I am saying it’s worth striving to win a Toner.  (Applause.)

So, look, ultimately I recognize that the news industry is an industry — it’s a business.  There’s no escaping the pressures of the industry and all its attendant constraints.    But I also know that journalism at its best is indispensable — not in some abstract sense of nobility, but in the very concrete sense that real people depend on you to uncover the truth.  Real people depend on getting information they can trust because they are giving over decision-making that has a profound effect on their lives to a bunch of people who are pretty remote and very rarely will they ever have the chance to ask that person a direct question, or be able to sort through the intricacies of the policies that will determine their wages or their ability to retire, or their ability to send their kid to college, or the possibility that their child will be sent to war.

These are folks who trust you when you tell them that there’s a problem in their schools, or that their water has been poisoned, or that their political candidates are promoting plans that don’t add up.

That’s why the deep reporting, the informed questioning, the in-depth stories — the kind of journalism that we honor today — matters more than ever and, by the way, lasts longer than some slapdash Tweet that slips off our screens in the blink of an eye, that may get more hits todays, but won’t stand up to the test of time.  (Applause.)  That’s the only way that our democracy can work.

And as I go into my last year, I spend a lot of time reflecting on how this system, how this crazy notion of self-government works; how can we make it work.  And this is as important to making it work as anything — people getting information that they can trust, and that has substance and evidence and facts and truth behind it.  In an era in which attention spans are short, it is going to be hard because you’re going to have to figure out ways to make it more entertaining, and you’re going to have to be more creative, not less.  Because if you just do great reporting and nobody reads it, that doesn’t do anybody any good, either.

But 10, 20, 50 years from now, no one seeking to understand our age is going to be searching the Tweets that got the most retweets, or the post that got the most likes.  They’ll look for the kind of reporting, the smartest investigative journalism that told our story and lifted up the contradictions in our societies, and asked the hard questions and forced people to see the truth even when it was uncomfortable.

Many of you are already doing that, doing incredible work.  And in some ways, the new technologies are helping you do that work.  Journalists are using new data techniques to analyze economics and the environment, and to analyze candidates’ proposals.  Anchors are asking candidates exactly how they’re going to accomplish their promises, pressing them so they don’t evade the question.  Some reporters recently watched almost five hours of a certain candidate’s remarks to count the number of times he said something that wasn’t true.  It turned out to be quite a large number.  So talk about taking one for the team.  That was a significant sacrifice they made.

This is journalism worth honoring and worth emulating.  And to the young aspiring journalist that I had a chance to meet before I came on stage, those are the models you want to follow.

As all of you know, I just came back from Cuba, where I held a press conference with President Castro that was broadcast all over the country.  So in a country without a free press, this was big news.  And it was a remarkable thing that the Cuban people were able to watch two leaders — their own, and the leader of a country that they’d grown up understanding as their archenemy — answer tough questions and be held accountable.  And I don’t know exactly what it will mean for Cuba’s future.  I think it made a big difference to the Cuban people.  And I can’t think of a better example of why a free press is so vital to freedom.  (Applause.)

In any country, including our own, there will be an inherent tension between the President and the press.  It’s supposed to be that way.  I may not always agree with everything you report or write.  In fact, it’s fair to say I do not.  (Laughter.)  But if I did, that would be an indication that you weren’t doing your job.

I’ll tell you — I probably maybe shouldn’t do this, but what the heck, I’m in my last year.  (Laughter.)  I had an in-depth conversation with President Putin a while back about Syria and Ukraine.  And he had read an article in The Atlantic that Jeff Goldberg had done about my foreign policy doctrine.  And he said, well, I disagree with some of the things that you said in there.  And Jeff is a remarkable journalist who I admire greatly, and all the quotes that were directly attributed to me in there I completely agreed with.  I said, well, but some of the things that were shaped may not fully reflect all the nuance of my thoughts on the particular topic that President Putin was mentioning.  But I pointed out to him, of course, that unlike you, Vladimir, I don’t get to edit the piece before it’s published.  (Laughter and applause.)

So you are supposed to push those in power for more evidence and more access.  You’re supposed to challenge our assumptions.  Sometimes I will find this frustrating.  Sometimes I may not be able to share with you all of the context of decisions that I make.  But I never doubt how much — how critical it is to our democracy for you to do that; how much I value great journalism.  And you should not underestimate the number of times that I have read something that you did, and I have called somebody up and said, what’s going on here?  Because as Bob Gates told me when I first came in — I think it was my first or second week — I said, well, what advice do you have, Bob?  You’ve been around seven presidents.  You’ve served in Washington, in the administration.  He said, Mr. President, the only thing I can tell you for sure is that you’ve got about two million employees, and at any given moment in any given day, somebody, somewhere, is screwing up.  (Laughter.)

So you help me do my job better, and I’m grateful for that.  Because the point of politics, as Robin understood it — certainly as I’ve tried to understand it throughout my tenure in this job — the point of politics is not simply the amassing of power.  It’s about what you do with that power that has been lent to you through a compact, with a citizenry, who give you their proxy and say “I’m counting on you” to not just make my life better, but more importantly, to make my kids’ lives better, and my grandkids’ lives better.  Who will we help?  How will we help them?  What kind of country do we leave to the next generation?

My hope is, is that you continue to ask us questions that keep us honest and elevate our democracy.  I ask that you continue to understand your role as a partner in this process.  I say this often when I speak to Democratic partisan crowds:  I never said, “Yes, I can.”  I said, “Yes, we can.”  And that means all of us.  (Applause.)  If we can keep supporting the kind of work that Robin championed, if we cultivate the next generation of smart, tough, fair-minded journalists, if we can all, every single one of us, carry on her legacy of public service and her faith in citizenry — because you have to have a certain faith to be a really good journalist; you have to believe that me getting it right matters, that it’s not just sending something into the void, but that there’s somebody on the other end who’s receiving it, and that matters — if you continue to believe that, if you have faith, I have no doubt that America’s best days are ahead.

So thank you to Robin’s family.  Congratulations to this year’s winner.  And thank all of you.  God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

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