The White House has released a transcript of President Trump’s interaction on Wednesday with reporters on the South Lawn, before he boarded Marine One and headed for an event at a tank factory in Ohio.
Trump spoke at some length about the forthcoming Mueller report on Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, reiterating his “no collusion” prebuttal while also saying he had “never figured out” why an appointed, and thus unelected, special counsel would author such a report and returned as well to his talking points that Robert Mueller is himself conflicted. He also showed off a map purporting to demonstrate the near-total decimation of the Islamic State’s physical caliphate since the date of his election, in November 2016; trade talks with China; Trump’s public excoriation by well-known Republican lawyer George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway; and alleged social-media bias.
The transcript, in unedited form, as disseminated by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders:
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 20, 2019
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
BEFORE MARINE ONE DEPARTURE
12:25 P.M. EDT
Q Do you know when the Mueller report will be released, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: I have no idea. No collusion. No collusion. I have no idea when it’s going to be released. It’s interesting that a man gets appointed by a deputy; he writes a report. You know — never figured that one out. A man gets appointed by a deputy; he writes a report.
I had the greatest electoral victory — one of them — in the history of our country. Tremendous success. Tens of millions of voters. And now somebody is going to write a report who never got a vote.
So we’ll see what the report says. Let’s see if it’s fair. I have no idea when it’s going to be released.
Q Have you reversed your policy on Syria?
THE PRESIDENT: No, no. We’re — in Syria, we’re leaving 200 people there and 200 people in another place in Syria, closer to Israel, for a period of time. I brought this out for you because this is a map of — everything in the red — this was on Election Night in 2016. Everything red is ISIS. When I took it over, it was a mess.
Now, on the bottom, that’s the exact same. There is no red. In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot, which will be gone by tonight.
So that’s ISIS — red, right there — and the bottom one is how it is today. This just came out 20 minutes ago. So this is ISIS on Election Day — my election day — and this is ISIS now. So that’s the way it goes.
Q Mr. President, does the American public have a right to see the Mueller report?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t mind. I mean, frankly, I told the House, “If you want, let them see it.” Again, I say: A deputy — because of the fact that the Attorney General didn’t have the courage to do it himself, a deputy that’s appointed appoints another man to write a report. I just won an election with 63 million votes or so. Sixty-three million. I had 206 to 223 in the Electoral College — 306 to 223.
And I’m saying to myself, wait a minute, I just won one of the greatest elections of all time in the history of this country — and even you will admit that — and now I have somebody writing a report that never got a vote. It’s called the Mueller report.
So explain that, because my voters don’t get it. And I don’t get it.
Now, at the same time, let it come out. Let people see it. That’s up to the Attorney General. We have a very good Attorney General; he’s a very highly respected man. And we’ll see what happens.
But it’s sort of interesting that a man, out of the blue, just writes a report. I got 306 electoral votes against 223. That’s a tremendous victory. I got 63 million more. I got 63 million votes. And now somebody just writes a report? I think it’s ridiculous.
But I want to see the report. And you know who will want to see it? The tens of millions of people that love the fact that we have the greatest economy we’ve ever had.
I’m going to Ohio right now. They were going to close the plant; it’s where they make the tanks. It was going to be closed, and I stopped them from closing it. And now it’s thriving and doing great. And the people of Ohio, they like Trump because I’ve done a great job in Ohio. And I’ve done a great job all over the country. That’s what the people want to hear.
Q Are you saying that Bob Mueller is a bad actor?
THE PRESIDENT: I know nothing about it. I know that he’s conflicted and I know that his best friend is Comey, who’s a bad cop. And I know that there are other things, obviously. You know I had a business transaction with him that I’ve reported many times that you people don’t talk about. But I had a nasty business transaction with him and other things. I know that he put 13 highly conflicted and, you know, very angry — I call them angry — Democrats in. So, you know — so, what it is.
Now, let’s see whether or not it’s legit. You know better than anybody there’s no collusion. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no nothing. But it’s sort of an amazing thing that when you have a great victory, somebody comes and does a report out of nowhere — tell me how that makes sense — who never got a vote; who the day before he was retained to become Special Counsel, I told him he wouldn’t be working at the FBI. And then the following day, they get him for this. I don’t think so. I don’t think people get it.
With all of that being said, I look forward to seeing the report.
Q On the China trade deal, once you have an agreement with President Xi, will you immediately lift the China tariffs? Will you remove the tariffs right away?
THE PRESIDENT: No. We’re not talking about removing them. We’re talking about leaving them and for a substantial period of time, because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China, that China lives by the deal. Because they’ve had a lot of problems living by certain deals and we have to make sure.
Now, no President has ever done what I’ve done with China. China had free reign over our country, taking out $500 billion a year for many years. We actually rebuilt China, in the truest sense of the word. We rebuilt China.
But we’re getting along with China very well. President Xi is a friend of mine. The deal is coming along nicely. We have our top representatives going there this weekend to further the deal. But, no, we have — we’re taking in billions and billions of dollars right now in tariff money. And for a period of time, that will stay.
Q Mr. President, your tweets about George Conway, how do they fit the standard of the First Lady’s BE BEST campaign?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t know him. Yeah, I don’t know him. He’s a whack job, there’s no question about it. But I really don’t know him. He — I think he’s doing a tremendous disservice to a wonderful wife. Kellyanne is a wonderful woman. And I call him “Mr. Kellyanne.” The fact is that he’s doing a tremendous disservice to a wife and family. She’s a wonderful woman.
Q The 232 tariff reform: What are the recommendations?
THE PRESIDENT: Well — are you talking about the one that you just —
Q The auto tariffs. The auto tariffs.
THE PRESIDENT: — found out about having to do with cars?
THE PRESIDENT: No recommendation. It’s up for review, and the European Union has been very tough on the United States for many years but nobody talked about it. And so we’re looking at something to combat it.
Not only do they charge our companies — if you look, it was 1.6 billion to Google GOOGL, -0.36% ; it just happened yesterday. And a lot of other things. A lot of litigation.
But I say the European Union has been as tough on the United States as China, just not as much money involved.
Q Are you leaning towards tariffs?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll see what happens. We’ll see whether or not they negotiate a deal. If they negotiate a deal, a fair deal, that’s a different story.
Q Mr. President, are (inaudible) beneath the dignity of the office you hold?
THE PRESIDENT: Uh, yeah, go ahead.
Q Will you answer that question, Mr. President?
Q (Inaudible) from your Twitter account?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that Twitter TWTR, -0.80% is a way that I get out the word when we have a corrupt media. And it is corrupt and it’s fake. So Twitter is a way that I can get out the word. Because our media is so dishonest — a lot of it — the mainstream. A lot of it. They don’t report the facts. They don’t report — as an example that I just showed you, they don’t want to report this, so I figure I might as well show it.
So when I do Twitter statements, I get out the word from a fake and corrupt media.
And I have, on five sites —
Q But is it beneath the office you hold?
THE PRESIDENT: Please. Please.
Q Is it beneath your office?
THE PRESIDENT: Please.
On five sites, I have over 100 million people, and that includes Facebook FB, -0.70% and Instagram and Twitter and everything. And it’s a way that I can get honesty out, because there’s tremendous dishonesty with respect to the fake-news media.
Q Mr. President, what was your reaction — Mr. President, what was your reaction —
Q Your Secretary of State for African Affairs went to Angola this week and he showed the support of the United States to Angola.
THE PRESIDENT: Good.
Q About the work that of President, João Lourenço, doing in Angola — João Lourenço, the new President of Angola, he’s combatting corruption really hard in Angola. What do you think about that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ll take a look at that. I’ll speak to the Secretary.
THE PRESIDENT: Pakistan — we’ll be meeting with Pakistan. I think our relationship right now is very good with Pakistan.
END 12:35 P.M. EDT
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