“We’re ending intrusive EPA regulations that kill jobs, hurt family farmers and ranchers, and raise the price of energy so quickly and so substantially.” – President Donald J. Trump
ENERGY INDEPENDENCE: President Donald J. Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is implementing the energy independence priorities laid out in the Executive Order, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.
- On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order 13783 on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. On October 25, 2017, the EPA released a report on how it is implementing the President’s Executive Order to curb regulatory burdens to promote energy production and economic growth.
The report included four initiatives started by the EPA to implement Executive Order 13783.
- EPA is creating a task force dedicated to reviewing and simplifying the New Source Review application and permit process.
- EPA is streamlining the National Ambient Air Quality Standards State Implementation Plan approval process.
- EPA will conduct evaluations of the potential employment effects that may result from the implementation of five environmental statutes. These evaluations had not been conducted historically, despite being mandated by the five statutes.
ROLLING BACK THE CLEAN POWER PLAN: Following the principles established by the President’s Executive Order on Energy Independence, EPA has proposed the repeal of the “Clean Power Plan.”
- Repealing the Clean Power Plan will allow for the development of critical United States energy sources.
- The Administration estimates that repealing the Clean Power Plan could eliminate up to $33 billion in compliance costs in 2030.
The proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan respects the limits of the EPA’s authority.
- The Clean Power Plan was originally issued under an expansive and legally dubious view of the EPA’s authority under Section 111 of the Clean Air Act.
- The Plan authorized EPA to dictate the content of the Nation’s energy portfolio, a power well outside its authority under the Clean Air Act.
- It also severely restricted States’ long-held authority to make choices about energy production and use within their borders.
Public hearings were held for the proposed repeal on November 28th and 29th.
- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced three additional public listening sessions to be held in California, Wyoming, and Missouri.
STREAMLINING SUPERFUND CLEANUPS: EPA Administrator Pruitt launched a task force to provide recommendations on how to streamline and improve the Superfund program, which is responsible for cleaning up land contaminated by hazardous waste.
- In May, EPA Administrator Pruitt announced the creation of a Superfund task force to look at ways to streamline and improve the Superfund program.
The Superfund task force released 42 detailed recommendations with five goals in mind.
- Expediting cleanup and remediation
- Re-invigorating responsible party cleanup and reuse
- Encouraging private investment
- Promoting redevelopment and community revitalization
- Engaging partners and stakeholders
FORWARD THINKING SOLUTIONS: EPA has re-launched launched the Smart Sectors Program to partner with the private sector to achieve better environmental outcomes.
- The Smart Sectors Program uses a sector-based, collaborative approach to consider forward-thinking ways to protect the environment.
- EPA officials who oversee and regulate a wide range of industry sectors will serve as ombudsmen within the EPA, conduct educational site tours, host roundtables, and provide advice on forward-thinking approaches to environmental improvement.
- Smart Sectors will also help streamline internal operations at EPA.
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3:02 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, everyone. Please.
We're joined today by college students, young entrepreneurs, families, workers, mothers, and fathers from all over our nation. You make this country run. It's an honor to be with you, and it's an honor to have you at the White House. And thank you all for being here — really fantastic. Thank you. Great people. (Applause.)
As a candidate, I promised we would pass a massive tax cut for the everyday, working American families who are the backbone and the heartbeat of our country.
Now we're just days away — I hope, I hope — you know what that means, right — from keeping that promise and delivering a truly amazing victory for American families. We want to give you, the American people, a giant tax cut for Christmas. And when I say giant, I mean giant. (Applause.)
As we speak, Congress has reached an agreement on tax legislation that will deliver more jobs, higher wages, and massive tax relief for American families and for American companies.
The typical family of four earning $75,000 will see an income tax cut of more than $2,000, slashing their tax bill in half. It's going to be a lot of money. You're going to have an extra $2,000.
But there are many more things than that. Our plan expands the child tax credit for working families. You'll hear the numbers very soon, but they're even larger than anticipated.
It nearly doubles the amount of income taxed at the rate of zero. I don't know if any of you are paying zero. I hope you're not; I hope you're paying above that. But a lot of people who are having it a little bit tough are going to be paying zero.
It closes special interest loopholes; it lowers tax rates for families; and our plan also cuts taxes on businesses, which is expected to raise income by an average of more than $4,000. So your income goes up. It's like having a $4,000 increase, which isn't bad, which isn't bad.
a lot of money to spend. A lot of jobs are going to be created with the money that you spend — very special. And it makes America competitive again so we can bring back that simple but beautiful phrase, you've heard it before: Made in the USA. Right? I don't know if they've heard it, but you've heard it. (Applause.)
Our current tax code is burdensome, complex, and profoundly unfair. It has exported our jobs, closed our factories, and left millions of parents worried that their children might be the first generation to have less opportunity than the last. Our factories have left. So many of them, gone. But they're all coming back. And you see it, even before we do this, that they're starting to come back. Our country is starting to do really well again, and as a country we're being respected again. We're being respected again.
I'm here today to tell you that we will never let bad things happen, with respect to the economy of our country. We're not going to lose our businesses again like has happened over the last number of decades. America is coming back bigger and better and stronger than ever before. Okay? They'll see it, and they're going to see the result.
America isn't content just by getting by. America is about getting ahead, about finding the best in ourselves and in each other. We are reclaiming our destinies as Americans, a nation that thinks big, dreams bigger, and always reaches for the stars. We didn't become great through massive taxation and Washington regulation. And, by the way, we are cutting regulation at a rate never seen before in the history of our country.
We became great because our people, our families — and because of our freedom. We became great because of our drive to find the next horizon, to unlock the next mystery, and to begin the next adventure. You know what I'm talking about. And that's who we are: a nation of strivers and builders and dreamers and doers, people who treasure their independence and don't know how to quit. Never quit. Never, ever give up — never, ever.
I say that, also, to our great Cabinet. And they've done a great job. A lot of things have happened. Nobody's done the job that we've done.
When government loosens its grip, there is no summit we cannot reach. Our tax cuts will break down, and they'll break it down fast — all forms of government, and all forms of government barriers — and breathe new life into the American economy. They will unleash the American worker; they will tear down the restraints on discovery, innovation, and creation; and they will restore the hopes and dreams of the American family.
Millions of middle-class families will win under our plan. And today we are honored to hear from a few of those wonderful and truly great families.
Bryant and Ashley Glick — right — are from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I know it well. They have two beautiful children with a third on the way. Bryant manages a farm equipment store. Ashley works in healthcare. This year, they were in the 15-percent tax bracket.
Under our plan, they will drop to the 12-percent bracket. That's a big drop. Instead of itemizing their deductions, they will be able to file their taxes on a single, little, beautiful sheet of paper. That's good. That's good. (Applause.) And instead of paying $2,600 in income taxes, they will get it down to $2,000. They'll save at least $600 and probably more than that.
Bryant, Ashley, how about saying a few words? You want to? Come on. Thank you very much.
MR. GLICK: Well, thank you, Mr. President. It's an honor to be here. On behalf of the good people of Lancaster County; my family; and, specifically, my grandmother, Linda Martin, well done. Many of your predecessors promised that this reform was coming, but you did it. We are greatly excited about this.
With the tax savings that we are going to see, we are going to put that money into home renovations. And I'm excited that you were the one that got it over the finish line. Thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: The Kovacs family also joins us today from Ohio. That's a great state. A lot of success in Ohio. (Laughter.) Adam is a veteran who works in telecommunications, Lindsay works in administration admissions at a university, and they have two beautiful children.
This year, they're currently in the 25-percent bracket and pay nearly $14,000 in taxes. Our plan gives them their time back because they won’t have to itemize, and it gives them nearly one-third of their money back — more than $3,500 for one year.
I’d like to invite the Kovacs to explain what our tax cuts will mean for them. They've studied it very closely. These are very smart, sharp people. They know exactly what we're doing here, and they like it. Come on up. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. KOVACS: Thank you, Mr. President. It is truly an honor that you invited the Kovacs family to the White House today. This is going to be great for our family. We have home renovations that we want to take care of, and hopefully save for our two children to go to college.
Thank you so much, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: The Giampolo family is from Polk County, Iowa. Anthony is a police officer and Aubyn is a 911 emergency dispatcher. When they’re not at work protecting and serving their fellow citizens, their hands are full with four wonderful children.
This year, they were in the 25-percent bracket, their itemized deductions, and they've done everything they can. They paid more than $19,000 in taxes — thank you very much, by the way; that's a lot of money. (Laughter.) Under our plan, they will file on a single page and save $2,700. Anthony, Aubyn, maybe you'd like to say a few words? Come on in. (Applause.)
MR. GIAMPOLO: I just want to thank President Trump. Education is very important to our family. Under this bill, our family will be able to save a lot of money. We have a lot of people going to school. My wife and I are both in graduate school, finishing up, and we still got three other — four other kids to get through college. So, it will help out a lot. (Laughter and applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Leon and Maria Benjamin are pastors of New Life Harvest Church — and it's a beautiful church in Richmond, Virginia — and they have three wonderful children.
Under our plan, they will get a larger tax refund to help them pay their bills. They'll receive a tax refund, this year, of $3,000. Leon and Maria, I would love you to discuss your middle-class tax cut a little bit with the millions of people watching right now on television. (Laughter.) You do very well, and we're very proud of you. And it is indeed a beautiful church. I got to see a very, very nice picture. We'll have to get there someday soon. Thank you. Come on in, please, please. (Applause.)
MR. BENJAMIN: (Laughter.) To God be the glory. Thank you, President Trump, for inviting us here. On behalf of the Benjamin family and of course, Richmond, Virginia, we represent a cadre of many families across the nation. African American families, urban communities, and families all across need this now. And it's time for a change, and it's time that we recognize that our President is making good on his promises. (Applause.) Thank you, Mr. President. God bless you, and we'll continue to keep praying for you and your team as you move forward and forge ahead with this new future in America. God bless you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: He can be my minister anytime. (Laughter.)
The Howard family lives in Tenino, Washington. Issac owns an espresso machine service company, and Emily takes care of their four beautiful children. They are currently in the 15-percent bracket and pay $2,500 in taxes. Our plan will totally wipe out their tax bill, and they might even get a refund of substantially more than $700. I'd like to introduce them. Come on up. (Applause.)
MRS. HOWARD: I'm going to speak for us today. (Laughter.) We are absolutely blessed to be here, so thank you, Mr. President. It’s our joy to stand before you guys. And what this means to us as a family is that we will be able to pour out into our community — whatever that looks like — giving away to families that are in need, or setting them up for success in any way that — whatever God has planned for our family.
I think that that is our goal, and that we are blessed to have such an amazing President — and what a good steward he is of our country.
So thank you, Mr. President. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all. It’s critically important for Congress to quickly pass these historic tax cuts, and that's going to take place, I think, even before the media — I used the word “media.” Did you notice? As opposed to “fake news media” — I don't say. (Laughter.) Because today is a very important day. We want everybody to be covered very accurately.
So I’m excited to announce that if Congress sends me a bill before Christmas, the IRS — this is just out, this is breaking news — has just confirmed that Americans will see lower taxes and bigger paychecks beginning in February, just two short months from now. (Applause.) Just got that. We just got that.
Fifty-five years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, launched a historic effort to pass sweeping top-to-bottom tax cuts. A half a century later, we're reminded that lowering taxes is neither a Republican or Democrat idea, but an American principle and an American idea.
The goal of my administration is for every American to know the dignity of work, the pride of a paycheck, and the satisfaction of a job well done. We want people to love waking up in the morning and going to work — just with that incredible enthusiasm that we have in this country. And that's what we're going to be doing, and that's what’s going to be happening.
Today we stand on the verge of a new economic miracle. Our economy has already surged to 3 percent growth — far ahead of schedule, by the way — far, far ahead — in each of the last two quarters. And if we didn't have the hurricanes, we could have hit four last quarter. Four — a number that was unthinkable two years ago when I started the campaign, and even my first month in office — that was an unthinkable number. And I’ll tell you what, it’s going to go higher than that.
We’ve created 2.2 million jobs since the election. Unemployment is at a 17-year low. The unemployment rate in the manufacturing business is the lowest in recorded history. Consumer confidence is a 17-point high. Pensions and retirement accounts are soaring as the stock market hits 85 new record highs since the election. How are we doing? Are we doing okay? Not bad, right? (Applause.)
And if Congress sends me a tax reform, this is only a small beginning to the incredible things that our people will achieve over a very short period of time, and the tremendous heights that we will reach economically and so many other ways in our country.
Every day, as this victory draws closer — I mean, we are so close, right now. So close. In fact, almost — I don't want to talk about it. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about it. (Laughter.)
The cynical voices that opposed tax cuts grow smaller and weaker, and the American people grow stronger. I heard one of our opponents stand up the other day and say, this is for the rich. They had no idea. They didn't even see the final bill. I didn't see the final bill. This is for the people of middle-income. This is for companies that are going to create jobs. This is for very, very special people, the great people of America.
Everyday, hardworking Americans know that the future of this nation will never belong to those who say you can't; it will always belong to the American people who will say we will.
belongs to people like the Glicks, the Kovacs, the Giampolos, the Benjamins, the Howards, and the millions of Americans just like them across our nation, who pour out their hearts and souls every single day to take care of their families and the country they love and that we love.
We are going to have a country that celebrates you again — hardworking, great people. You're being celebrated again. Remember that. Because you were a little bit forgotten. We had called it “the forgotten people.” Somebody else called me and everybody else the “deplorables.” Have you ever heard that term? Right? We're proud to be the deplorables, and we're doing well.
going to make our tax system work for you again. We’re going to make our economy work for you again. And we are going to make the American Dream — and that's the real dream — that will be the dream that you want for your children and your grandchildren once again.
But we need your help to get Congress across that finish line. We’ll have very little Democrat support, probably none, and that's purely for political reasons. They like it a lot, and they can't say it. They don't like what’s happening. But they can't say it. Some day we have to come together and do bipartisan, and hopefully it can happen soon. Right? (Applause.)
If you make your voices heard, this moment will be forever remembered as a great new beginning, the dawn of a brilliant American future shining with patriotism, prosperity, and pride.
With your help, we will bring back our jobs; we will bring back our wealth as a country; and, for every citizen across this beautiful land, we will bring back our great American Dreams.
you and God bless you all. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
3:22 P.M. EST
Vía White House.gov Press Office Feed http://ift.tt/2za7zwR
12:40 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. We appreciate it. And I'll be also speaking, at three o'clock today, a little bit more about what's happening with this incredible journey and what we're doing with regard to bringing down taxes — the largest tax cut ever.
But I appreciate you being here today. I want to thank the incredible members of the House and the Senate, who have been working so hard. We're very, very close to a historic legislative victory, the likes of which rarely has this country seen.
I think I can say, Kevin and Orrin, that we're getting very close. And I know a lot of the folks that we'd like to have here — we said, if you have your choice, stay back and get it done. Right? They're all working and negotiating some final points, but we're very, very close.
This bill is vital to the American people for many reasons. First of all, it's going to have a tax cut, the likes of which we haven't seen for, not only business but for the working families of our country. It's really a tax cut based on jobs and also very good for companies, which also means jobs.
The typical family of four earning $75,000 will see an income tax cut of $2,000. So that's $2,000 in their pocket, additional to spend on whatever they want to spend, or they could save the money also. You do have a lot of families in the old days — they saved money. But they will be saving it in many cases.
Second, the bill is going to cut taxes for American businesses — both big ones and small ones — so that they can grow, hire, and compete all around the world. Right now they're paying 35 percent, and that's the highest in the industrialized world — in many cases, by far. And we'll be bringing that down to a number that will be extremely impressive to a lot of people. I don't think I'll give them the surprise yet, Kevin, right?
REPRESENTATIVE BRADY: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe I'll hold the surprise. But I think you'll be very happy with it. I think the businesses will be very happy. And we'll be able to compete all over the world.
Third, we're simplifying our broken system. It's so complicated that nobody can figure it out. Tax returns that are very, very big and large — and they have to go out and hire companies to do them. So we're fixing the system.
Finally, the plan is going to bring trillions of dollars back into the United States, money that's offshore. And you've been hearing me say $2.5 trillion for years. Well, 2.5 has grown, and it's going to be a lot more than that — probably $4 trillion. It could be even higher than that. We don't even know. It's so much money, we don't even know how much it is.
But you look at the great companies — Apple and so many others. They have billions of dollars overseas that they want to bring back. Now they're going to be able to bring it back, and we'll be spending that money, and they'll be spending that money right here. And it will be jobs and lots of other good things.
While the media has focused on the differences between the House and the Senate bills, I can only tell you that we have very, very talented representatives right here. And I think I can say, Orrin, that we're very close. Right?
SENATOR HATCH: We are.
THE PRESIDENT: We are very, very close.
SENATOR HATCH: We'll get it done.
THE PRESIDENT: And I want to thank Senator Orrin Hatch. He's been incredible. And Kevin Brady — incredible. You guys have been just really, really amazing. Although I shouldn't say that until we sign. (Laughter.) We've been there too many times. Let's count the vote first. Right? (Laughter.)
But I want to thank my whole team, Gary and Steve and everybody. The whole team has been really something special. And, Diane, thank you very much for everything. We appreciate it.
So we're very close to getting it done. We're very close to voting. And our economy, as you know, has surged from where it is when I took it over. We were having an economy that was going in the wrong direction. They can say all they want about the last administration, or even administrations. This country was going in the wrong direction, from the economic standpoint. And you saw where it was — one of the early times we heard about 1 percent and 1.2 percent, and you were going down.
401(k)s right now — I met last week in New York City with a very, very fine group of policemen. And they were all so happy about their 401(k)s. They feel like they're geniuses because, in one case, he said, I'm up 39 percent.
I see all the guys carrying the booms are smiling. Are you up, too? Yes, he is. Oh, look at him. (Laughter.) He's got that boom. Let's see. He's got the one that's the highest and the closest. So he's a good boomer. (Laughter.) But he's got a big smile on his face, right? Thank you. Thanks very much.
You know, usually with the press — they won't admit it — but he does because he's beyond the press. (Laughter.) But I want to — I just want to say that people are up 30 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent, depending on what's in there, and they are very, very happy.
So we think we're going to grow that a lot more. We really think the economy has a long way to grow and it needs the tax cut. It needs it desperately. And all that money is going to be spent on expanding businesses.
We have so many different things in this bill that are going to create jobs. And for me, this is a bill — very simple — it's a massive cut for the middle class and it's about jobs. And the jobs are really defined by the companies. The companies are going to be expanding and they're going to be creating jobs.
You know, in education, we're talking choice. Well, in jobs, we're going to be talking choice, too, because, right now, people go for one job and they don't have many options. They're going to have plenty of options. They're going to look at five, six, seven jobs, and they're going to pick the one they want. And wages are starting to go up. First time in many years, wages now are actually starting to go up.
So we have a lot of great things happening, but what really is something that, I think, will really be the capper is going to be the massive tax cuts that we're planning that hopefully, within a very short period of time, we'll have signed into law.
It will be bigger than anything ever done in this country. Bigger than the Reagan cuts, bigger than any cuts, and it will also be reform. And there are also some other things in that bill that are very, very big that are somewhat unrelated, but ultimately I think it's all related.
So I just want to thank everybody at the table — Mike, everybody at the table — for being here. And I want to have a very fast lunch so you can go immediately back and finish. (Laughter.) I actually feel very guilty having you here. So I want you to go back immediately and finish it up.
Thank you very much. It's going to be something very, very special. Thank you all. Thank you.
Q Mr. President, will you support the 21 percent corporate tax rate? And would you sign the current 21 percent?
THE PRESIDENT: I would — yeah, I would. We're going to see where it ends up, but I certainly — it's at 35 right now, so if it got down to 21, I would certainly be — I would be thrilled. I would be thrilled.
We'll see. We have haven't set that final figure yet, but certainly 21 is a very great difference.
Q Mr. President, after Alabama, is it crucial to get a vote in the next week?
THE PRESIDENT: I think it's very important for the country to get a vote next week. Not because we lost a seat. Wish we would have gotten the seat. A lot of Republicans feel differently; they're very happy with the way it turned out.
But I would have — as the leader of the party, I would have liked to have had the seat. I want to endorse the people that are running.
But, I will tell you that it's — to me, it's very, very — just, very important to get this vote. Not because of that, but because of the — and I don't know what the vote will be. I don't know what exactly the final — we have a margin now of two, plus our great Vice President.
So I really — I think we're going to get the vote, but I will say, we have to get more senators and more congressmen that are Republicans elected in '18. And then you'll see a lot more of what we're doing right now.
Q How can that loss affect your agenda going forward?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think it's going to affect it. I think we're doing a lot. This is the biggest thing that we've worked on. This also has to do with other subjects.
As you know, I won't mention the subject, but there are some subjects in here that are very vital to the — beyond — I'm talking about beyond pure tax and tax cuts.
But I'm just very excited by it. This is one of the biggest pieces of legislation ever signed by this country. And I can tell you that everybody around this table, we are very, very excited about it. And thank you all very much. Appreciate it.
12:49 P.M. EST
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“Good for ordinary Americans. Good for small businesses. Good for local economies. This tax bill is the Christmas gift they’ve been waiting for.”
Tax Bill Is Christmas Present Americans Have Been Waiting For
By Alfredo Ortiz
December 13, 2017
Pending tax cut legislation will eliminate the federal income tax burden on the average American family earning $59,000 a year. It will halve the tax bill for the average family earning $75,000. And it will allow the overwhelming majority of small businesses to protect nearly one-quarter of their income from taxes.
That’s the bottom line of the tax bill that needs to be said up front.
Given the critical media coverage of the bill, these benefits have largely gone overlooked. Rather than reporting on its provisions to double the standard deduction, double the child tax credit, and eliminate the 15 percent tax bracket in favor of a vastly expanded 12 percent rate, media coverage has claimed the bill is a gift to the rich. Rather than reporting on the new 23 percent tax deduction for small businesses earning less than $500,000 a year, media coverage has claimed the bill is a budget buster.
That’s a shame because these benefits would bring long overdue relief to hardworking taxpayers who have borne the brunt of the slow growth Obama economy from which the country is finally emerging. Median wages were essentially flat between 2009 and 2016, while economic growth sputtered along at roughly 2 percent – both of which the tax bill would also meaningfully address.
Ordinary employees will not only see an immediate raise in their paycheck due to less federal tax withholding, but many will also receive raises or new job opportunities because small businesses will have more funds at their disposal.
Just as tax cuts would increase paychecks, they’d also jump-start the country’s local economies, which have largely been passed over by the economic recovery. More money on Main Street and less sent off to Washington, D.C., would stimulate local investment, consumption, and job creation.
Good for ordinary Americans. Good for small businesses. Good for local economies. This tax bill is the Christmas gift they’ve been waiting for. Legislators must pass it now.
Vía White House.gov Press Office Feed http://ift.tt/2z8vg8E
Andrea L. Thompson of South Dakota to be the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Ms. Thompson, a former military officer, currently serves as a Special Advisor in the Office of Policy Planning at the Department of State. Previously, she was Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President at the White House. A former Director of the McChrystal Group Leadership Institute, Ms. Thompson has more than 25 years of military service in the U.S. Army including deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Bosnia. She has also served as National Security Advisor to the House Homeland Security Committee, Executive Officer to the Under Secretary of the Army, Senior Military Advisor to the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Senior Fellow with the Army’s strategic studies group. She earned a B.A. in both journalism and Spanish at the University of South Dakota, a M.S. from Long Island University and a M.A. from the National Defense University.
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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
3:08 P.M. EST
MS. SANDERS: Good afternoon. Let me start by introducing Francis Cissna, the Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. He's here to provide a briefing on the attempted suicide bombing in New York and how it was enabled by flaws in our immigration system.
After he speaks and takes some of your questions, I'll be back up to answer questions on other news. And, as always, if you can stay focused on the topic at hand, that would be great. Thanks so much.
MR. CISSNA: Hello. I'm here to talk to you about yesterday's incident and kind of give you some of the context and perspective in the immigration system — how it works, or how it didn’t work, in this case — and what are the sorts of things our administration is proposing to change it to make it better.
So, as you all know, yesterday, the suspect, Akayed Ullah, was arrested in an attempted bombing in New York City. And there's an immigration aspect to this. The immigration aspect is that he immigrated to this county; he was a green card holder, a lawful permanent resident. He came to this country based on family connection to a U.S. citizen. He was a national of Bangladesh. The U.S. citizen in question was his uncle, and that U.S. citizen, many years ago, came to this country originally as a visa lottery winner.
So this is the general background. I now want to try to explain what all that means, where those terms come from, and what the significance of all that is.
First, I would explain that, for those who aren’t aware, our immigration system has two principal components. There's a family-based component through which the suspect in yesterday's attack — alleged bombing incident — came through. And there's an employment-based component.
In any given year, we have about 1 million immigrants. One million people come here to get green cards, immigrant visas. In fiscal year '15, for example, of that 1 million, about 72 percent of our immigrants came based on a family connection, and only 6 percent — or about 1 out of 15 — came based on an employment or job connection, job offer. So you can see the immigration system is heavily weighted towards family migration.
There are other categories of people that immigrate as well, besides just family and employment-based, including refugees, asylees, and, of course, the visa lottery people that I just referenced. But those are very small compared to those two larger categories.
I want to talk now about these in particular — the family-based, the employment-based, and then the visa lottery. In the family-based migration category, there are multiple categories of people. The principal category — family-based immigrants — are called “immediate relatives.” These are people who are the spouses or children, nuclear family members, of U.S. citizens. In a given year, you have about half a million people in that category. In fact, I have better numbers than that. In fiscal year '16, in that category — these are people who are the nuclear family members of U.S. citizens — there were about 566,000 people that immigrated.
An additional category in the family-based universe are what are called “preference” categories. These are more extended family connections. These include unmarried — the first category — unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; second category — spouses of green card holders, unmarried sons and daughters of green card holders; third category — married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens; fourth category is brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens and their children. That's the category that yesterday's suspect came in under.
So the suspect in yesterday's bombing came in under the most extreme, remote possible family-based connection that you could have under current U.S. immigration law — that being the child of the sibling of a U.S. citizen.
Under the employment-based categories — that's a much smaller number — only 140,000 slots are allocated in a year to that category, but you're only really getting about half that number of actual workers because the spouses and children don't count towards that category.
There you have a number of categories, including categories for extraordinary ability of workers. You have people with advanced degrees. You have people who are skilled professionals and immigrant investors. There's multiple categories, but a much smaller number than the family-based categories. And again, I remind you, only 1 out of 15 of our immigrants come in under those skilled categories.
Let me turn now to the diversity visa, which is the other visa program that is relevant to yesterday's events. The diversity visa, or visa lottery as it's called colloquially, is a program that was established back in 1990. There were some precursor programs before that, but, basically, the program as we know it was established in 1990. That's seen 50,000 people a year based on an immigration lottery.
The qualifications for registering for the lottery are that you have to be from a country that had low immigration in the previous five years, and the person who's applying for the lottery has to either have a high school degree or, if they have no education, at least two years of experience in a job that requires two years of training. So the criteria are very low.
The problems with the visa lottery are various. First, because the criteria are so low, either you have no education at all and very little skills, or you have a minimum of education and no skills at all. And because it's a lottery, pretty much anybody on the planet who is from a qualifying country can take advantage of this.
In 2003, the State Department's Inspector General Office observed that this low eligibility criteria could lead to exploitation by terrorists. They warned about this in 2003. The GAO, in 2007, echoed that warning — again, warning that terrorists could take advantage of the diversity visa program.
Also, the program is racked with fraud. In 2003, the State Department IG, 15 years ago, noted that the program was rife with pervasive fraud. The fraud, the low eligibility standards, all these contribute to its potential exploitation by terrorists and other mala fide actors.
Bangladesh is an interesting case. That's the country where yesterday's suspect came from. That country was a high user of the visa lottery program. In fact, in 2007 — which was the peak year for that country's use of the visa lottery — 27 percent of the immigrants from that country came through that program, through the visa lottery program.
Uzbekistan, which was the country of origin of the alleged — the truck driver from October 31st in New York City — in 2010, 70 percent — 7-0 percent — of immigrants from Uzbekistan came through the visa lottery program.
So that program is used as a prime avenue for immigration for many countries.
Finally, let me touch on the subject of chain migration. When I use that word, what I'm talking about is a person who comes to this country and who, in turn, employs one of these many avenues that I just described, principally family-based, to sponsor relatives who are in the home country to come and join him or her.
Because the categories that we have that I just described in family-based migration are so extensive, it's not just nuclear family. You also have, as I say, adult unmarried children; brothers and sisters; nieces and nephews. You can sponsor a person like yesterday's alleged terrorist at the extremity of that chain, and then that person, in turn, can sponsor people and so on, and so on, indefinitely.
Hundreds of thousands of people come into this country every year based on these extended-family migration categories. And it is my view, it our administration's view, that that is not the way that we should be running our immigration system. A system like that, that includes something like the diversity visa program, these extended-family categories are not the way anybody would have designed this immigration system if we could start from scratch today.
What we need is an immigration system that is selective. We want to be able to select the types of people that are coming here based on criteria that ensure their success; criteria that ensure their ability to assimilate successfully in our country. And random lotteries, extended-family connections — that's not the way to run our immigration system.
So I appeal — we appeal — to the Congress as they consider these matters as we speak, and in the coming weeks, to seriously take into account these concerns that we have with the way the immigration system is structured and its vulnerabilities, as I just described, and correct that.
At that point, my formal comments are concluded. I'll answer any questions you have.
Q Thanks a lot, Mr. Cissna. I want to ask you a question about what you're suggesting. Is it your belief that the only changes that can be done to the immigration system are ones that need to emanate from Congress? Are there any things that the President can do on his own, by executive action, by executive order to change the process for either chain migration or the visa lottery?
MR. CISSNA: Well, I mean, that's something we're looking at right now in USCIS — my agency — which is the agency that administers all these visa programs. And there are some things that we could do. There are some things that the President has directed us to do by executive order, in particular with the temporary visa categories. We're talking about green cards here. But if you look at temporary visa categories, yes, there's a lot of things that we can do and that we're going to do, for example, to increase protections of American workers.
In the green card domain, it's a little harder. Congress has kind of occupied that field a little more densely than it has in the temporary visa area. But there could be. There could be. There could be some things that we could do to clarify how these categories are administered, yes.
Q There's so much talk about DACA legislation right now. Do you think any DACA bill would have to be tied to bring in a merit-based system?
MR. CISSNA: Well, I mean, about two months ago, the President announced his immigration priorities. You can find it on the White House website. It's a long list of about several dozen priorities that we, career officials at DHS and at the other relevant immigration agencies — at the time I was a career official — came up with as the things that we need to be able to do our jobs.
And in that list, there are these fixes that I'm just talking about, including getting rid of the diversity visa program, because it just degrades the integrity of our immigration visa programs, generally; ending chain migration. These are all things that we have suggested in the priorities that the President has advanced.
So we hope and expect that Congress will take those priorities seriously and will do as much as they can to accomplish the goals that we set forth.
Q If the (inaudible), if the President signed the DACA bill, it would have to have a merit-based system (inaudible)?
MR. CISSNA: I can't speak for the President's priorities and what he does or doesn’t want in a bill. But I know that what I want is something that I can implement and that I can implement well to get at the priorities that we set forth, is something that we need to do our job.
Q Would you be in favor of extending the blanket travel bans, as far as the countries are concerned, such as Bangladesh, which isn't on the list, currently?
MR. CISSNA: My position on that is that my agency needs as much information as it can get from these other countries to be able to vet and screen people adequately to ensure that mala fide actors don’t come into the country. To the degree that that can be done under the executive order — the protocols established by the executive order — I'm all for it.
But I'm not in a position to prescribe whether the blanket ban, as you put it, should be extended or not extended. I want the information that these countries can give us to screen people.
Q How do you deal with people who have been here for years and then become radicalized once they're here? How would any of that deal with what actually happened in New York? He had been here for many years.
MR. CISSNA: So, on that, there's two points. I think the criticisms that we have of the diversity visa program or chain migration — in particular the diversity visa program — the vulnerability to exploitation by terrorists because of the low eligibility criteria and because of the prevalence of fraud, that's not changing. That's a sad fact of that program. For that reason, regardless of when the person became radicalized, I just want that door shut because it's a vulnerability. It's been recognized for 15 years.
Now, with respect to that person in particular and what do we do of people who radicalize afterwards, my agency in particular is focused very much so on ensuring that immigration doesn’t stop when the person gets the green card. It's an ongoing process. I view it that way. I think that —
Q How so?
MR. CISSNA: Well, I mean, because what you want is an immigrant to become a citizen. I mean, citizenship is in the name of my agency. We ultimately want people to naturalize because naturalization is one of the best — it's one of the best signs that a person has fully assimilated. And it's also — once you naturalize, it's one of the best guarantors of that person's continued success in our society. We want people to naturalize.
And my agency is seeking to do everything it can to insure that people are enabled to do that and succeed in that quest.
Q Just to follow up quickly — is it your understanding that the suspect was radicalized before he came here? Or do you think that it happened here? And if it did happen before he arrived, then was something inherently missed?
MR. CISSNA: No, I have no idea. I don't know.
Q Can you give us any sense of where he picked up this —
MR. CISSNA: I truly have no idea if he was radicalized at all. I don't know. I don't know that part of the investigation.
Q Well, you just said that because of the criteria and how low it is, that chain migrant immigrants or diversity lottery immigrants are more susceptible to being self-radicalized. Do you have data on that?
MR. CISSNA: No. What I think my point is, is that if you have immigrant visa programs where the eligibility criteria are low to non-existent — or even an outright lottery — you're not selecting for the types of people that we want in this country, according to a criteria that will ensure their success in our nation; that will ensure that they will assimilate well.
Q I get that that's a matter of priority. You want to select the immigrants, not just have them come in. I get that part. But you seem to saying that these kinds of immigrants are more likely to become terrorists.
MR. CISSNA: No. What I'm saying is that if you have a system that doesn’t select at all, or is barely selecting anybody, we don't know what we're going to get. It's better if we take an active affirmative role in our immigration process and establish criteria that correspond to things that we want to see in our immigration pool.
Sir, in the back.
Q Yes, sort of following from that — the data shows that immigrants actually commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans. Other than these isolated incidents, is there any data behind this plan?
MR. CISSNA: Well, I don't know that I agree with your first point. I don't know where that data came from, but I can't comment any further on it.
Q Can you provide a couple of examples? The incarceration rates would be one example.
MR. CISSNA: That's a bigger debate that I don't know that we have time for here. But based on my questioning the validity of — the premise of your question, I don't know that I want to engage in that dialogue at this time.
Q Does this administration believe that immigrants are more dangerous than U.S. citizens?
MR. CISSNA: I don't know that anybody has said that.
Q Just two, sort of, points of clarification. I have you saying, with the diversity visa program, that there is a certain vulnerability because of the low eligibility criteria. By that, I think you mean because there is no higher education standard required. I mean, what is it that makes these people more vulnerable to radicalization and becoming terrorists?
MR. CISSNA: Well, there's two parts to that. My criticism of the diversity visa program is that the eligibility criteria are minimal or next to nothing and that there's a random element to it.
Q These are vulnerabilities?
MR. CISSNA: Right. The program is vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists because it's a combination of the low eligibility criteria and the ability to defraud the system. Fraud is pervasive, as I said, in the program. So if you are a mala fide actor and you want to use that program to come into this country, it's easy to fake a high school graduation certificate.
Q The charging document said that this suspect was radicalized approximately in 2014. He entered the United States in 2011. So that is why so many of us are asking these questions, because it sounds like you are implying that U.S. intelligence or Homeland Security missed something, and this guy was radicalized.
MR. CISSNA: Oh, I’m not implying that at all. No, no. I’m just talking about the immigration programs. I’m not talking about this one guy. I don't have sufficient —
Q So this isn’t actually effective at screening out terrorists. You're saying when they get here — because these people are more vulnerable — if they come in on this program, they are then subject to exploitation more easily?
MR. CISSNA: No. What I’m saying is that —
Q We're just not getting the nexus to terrorism.
MR. CISSNA: The nexus to terrorism is that if you have a visa program that is easily exploited by mala fide actors, including terrorists, because —
Q But you don’t know that he did that.
MR. CISSNA: I don't know that — he didn't come in on the visa lottery program. He came in as an extended-family-based immigrant.
But I’m saying, with respect to the diversity visa program, which is also at play here, that program is — as the State Department IG found 15 years ago, as the GAO confirmed in 2007 — exploitable by terrorists or mala fide actors because the criteria are so low and easily faked. And it’s a lottery, so on multiple levels it’s an open door, it’s problematic. It needs to shut. That's what I’m saying about that.
With respect to the individual in yesterday’s attempt, I would say, I don't know. I don't have a command of the facts relating to the investigation as to whether or if he was ever radicalized.
What I’m saying is, if you have any sort of visa program which is minimally selective, which is based solely on chance or lottery or low eligibility criteria, then we, as a government, aren’t doing our job in picking the people that come to this country in a competent and careful and intelligent way.
And if we're not doing that, bad guys can come in.
MS. SANDERS: We’ll take one last question, guys.
Q Are lottery winners vetted?
MR. CISSNA: Yes. Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah.
Q So it's screening — that's the problem?
MR. CISSAN: Oh, yeah, they're screened like any other immigrant. Yeah, yes.
Q So that's an intelligence failure then?
MR. CISSAN: I don't know that there’s any failure.
Yes, last question.
Q Thank you. We know from your confirmation hearings, testimony, that both your mother and your mother-in-law are immigrants. How did their experiences shape your thinking on this position? And do you have any reason to believe that they would both still have been able to come in and lead productive lives as Americans under the tightening that you're at looking at now?
MR. CISSAN: The fact that my own mother and my mother-in-law are both immigrants has indeed influenced everything. I mean, that's one of the reasons why I’m interested in this field, why I’m interested in it, and why I very passionately carry out my duties every day.
I think, though, that a policymaker or a citizen who is examining all these questions should not be handicapped or shackled by previous immigration programs from which we all — everybody in this room has benefitted from the immigration laws of the past. That doesn't meant that every generation doesn't have its own prerogative, its own duty and responsibility to look at the situation that we have now and determine for itself, ourselves, whether the immigration laws should be changed. It’s perfectly rational. So moving forward, maybe we’ll change things.
MS. SANDERS: Thank you, Director.
Continuing with national security theme, as many of you saw this afternoon, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation, which was approved with bipartisan support, represents an important milestone in the President’s plan to rebuild our military and bolster our national security.
For the first time in seven years, we are increasing rather than shrinking the size of our forces. This NDAA also provides our military servicemembers with the largest pay increase they've seen in eight years.
To put into historical context, it authorizes one of the largest defense spending increases since the days of Ronald Reagan. Previous administrations sadly oversaw deep cuts to our armed forces with serious implications for our military readiness and capabilities. This hindered the fight against ISIS and other enemies of freedom, and made our people less safe.
In signing this bill today, the President once again made it clear that we are serious about enhancing military readiness, expanding and modernizing our forces, and providing our incredible men and women downrange with the tools they need to do what they do best: fight and win.
President Trump also called on obstructionist Democrats in Congress to stop threatening to shut down the government. As the President said, at this time of grave global threats, Congress should send a clean funding bill to his desk that fully funds our great military.
We certainly hope that will happen, and we look forward to that taking place. And with that, I will take your questions.
Q Thank you, Sarah. The President said today that Senator Gillibrand would “do anything” for campaign contributions. Many, many people see this as a sexual innuendo. What is the President suggesting?
MS. SANDERS: I think that the President is very obvious. This is the same sentiment that the President has expressed many times before when he has exposed the corruption of the entire political system. In fact, he’s used similar terminology many times when talking about politicians of both parties, both men and women, and certainly in his campaign to drain the swamp.
The system is clearly broken. It’s clearly rigged for special interests. And this President is someone that can't be bought, and it’s one of the reasons that he’s President today.
Q So you're saying that this quote — “Senator Gillibrand would do anything” — is a reference to campaign contributions in Washington, the swamp? This has nothing to do with her being a female? What is he alleging would happen behind closed doors with her?
MS. SANDERS: He’s not alleging anything. He’s talking about the way that our system functions as it is; that politicians repeatedly beg for money. That's not something new. And that comment, frankly, isn’t something new. If you look back at past comments that this President has made, he’s used that same terminology many times in reference to men. There’s no way that this is sexist at all. This is simply talking about a system that we have that is broken, in which special interests control our government. And I don't think that there’s probably many people that are more controlled by political contributions than the senator that the President referenced.
Q Does the President want Roy Moore to be seated in the Senate if he wins tonight? And does he plan to call him tonight?
MS. SANDERS: In terms of calls, I’m not aware that anything is scheduled, win or lose. In terms of being seated, I can't speak on a hypothetical — certainly not one that could potentially influence an election one way or the other due to the Hatch Act.
Q Sarah, does the President agree with his outside legal counsel that a special prosecutor should be appointed to look into the goings-on at the Department of Justice during the election campaign in 2016 since the revelation about Bruce Ohr, the former associate deputy attorney general?
MS. SANDERS: I think it’s something that certainly causes a lot of concern, not just for the President and the administration, but I think probably for all Americans, and something that if we're going to continue to investigate things, let’s look at something where there’s some real evidence and some real proof of wrongdoing. And this looks pretty bad, and I think it’s something we should certainly look at.
Q So would he support the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into this?
MS. SANDERS: I haven’t asked him that directly, but I know that he has great concern about some of the conduct that's taken place, and something that we certainly would like to see looked at.
Q Thanks, Sarah. Congressional leaders are saying that they have no plans to re-impose sanctions on Iran by the deadline tomorrow that the President initiated back in October when he decertified Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. Is the White House okay with this no-action? And, if so, where are the teeth in the President's move to decertify them from compliance?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the administration continues to make encouraging progress with Congress to fix the U.S.-Iran deal and address long-term proliferation issues. There was actually no deadline to act by this week, as the administration did not ask that Congress introduce legislation to re-impose JCPOA-related sanctions.
Q Thanks, Sarah. Senator Grassley said that he's advised the White House to reconsider the nomination of Jeff McClure to the federal court in Texas and Brett Talley in Alabama. Has the President spoken to Senator Grassley about his concerns? And does the President plan to pull back those nominations?
MS. SANDERS: I'm not sure if they've spoken directly. I'll have to check and circle back with you.
Q Thanks, Sarah. Bashar al-Assad and Rodrigo Duterte have both recently have used the phrase “fake news” to dismiss damaging reports about their regimes. And a state official in Myanmar recently said that the Muslim minority, Rohingya, don't exist and added it's fake news.
Is the White House concerned at all about authoritarian regimes adopting this phrase “fake news” to try to delegitimize the press? And does President Trump bear any responsibility for the popularization of this phrase among some world leaders?
MS. SANDERS: I think the White House is concerned about false and inaccurate information being pushed out and to mislead the American people. I think I made that clear yesterday.
In terms of other leaders, I'd have to look at their comments to be more specific on what they've said. But our concern is making sure that the information that the people receive in this country is fair and accurate, and, when it isn't, that it's corrected and corrected in the same fashion in which it was first presented when it was wrong, which is very rarely the case.
Q But when you hear autocrats using the term “fake news” to describe events that reflect poorly on their regimes, that doesn't cause concern here?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I'm not going to speak to specifics of another country when I don't know the details. What I can talk about are the problems that we have in this country with inaccuracies that happen frequently within news stories. And so, that, I feel comfortable speaking about. Without that information and that detail in front of me, I don't want to weigh in too deeply.
Q Sarah, thank you. The President tweeted today that the accusations against him are “false, fabricated stories of women who I don't know and/or have never met. Fake news.” And yet, the reality is he's pictured with a number of the women who have accused him of the misconduct. So do you concede that that part of his statement is not true?
MS. SANDERS: The President was referencing the three individuals that were part of a press conference yesterday, and simply stating that you don't know someone means that you don't have a relationship with them —
Q So (inaudible) of all of his accusers? Because —
MS. SANDERS: Correct. He's referencing the three from yesterday.
Q And, Sarah, members of Congress have called for an investigation into these accusations. Is President Trump as confident that they are not true? Would he support such an investigation?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has answered these questions. He has spoken to these accusations, and denied and pushed that they are all false and fabricated accusations. Frankly, I think if Congress wants to spend time investigating things, they should probably focus on some of the things that the American people would really like them to investigate, like how to secure our borders, how to defeat ISIS, how to pass tax reform that actually impacts them.
If you look at the issues, in poll after poll after poll taken by a number of the outlets in this room and pushed out regularly, the issues that are top-mind, number one, every single time: the economy, jobs, national security, immigration, healthcare. Yet we never talk about those issues.
In fact, 90 percent of the coverage that is —
Q And yet, this moment is an important moment, as well, Sarah. This is a moment that's getting a lot of attention.
MS. SANDERS: Hold on, I let you finish. I'm going to finish this statement. Ninety percent of the coverage that comes out of the media is negative and rarely covers those topics. And those are the things that the American people want to talk about. If Congress wants to investigate something, I think that they should look at some of the priorities of the people that they actually represent.
Q And yet, Sarah, this is something that is being discussed in businesses all across the country. There have been a number of people who have been fired over this. So why not allow this congressional investigation to go forward? And if the President, he's confident in the accusations being involved —
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has addressed these concerns. He's addressed them directly. You guys spent months talking about them on the campaign trail. And the American people voted for this President, they have confidence in this President, and they wanted him to lead our country and they wanted him to focus on things like the economy, focus on healthcare, focus on fixing our broken tax system, focus on fixing our borders, and focus on national security.
That's what we're here to do, that's what we're focused on. These questions have been asked and answered, and we're ready to move forward and focus on the questions of the day that the American people have.
Q Is Gillibrand owed an apology for the misunderstanding of the President's tweet this morning? Because many — including the Senator — thinks that it's about sexual innuendos.
MS. SANDERS: I mean, only if your mind is in the gutter would have read it that way. And — so, no.
Q No, it's not. What he said was open, and it was not mind in the gutter.
MS. SANDERS: He was obviously talking about political partisan games that people often play and the broken system that he's talked about repeatedly. This isn't new, this isn't a new sentiment, this isn't new terminology. He's used it several times before. As I said a few minutes ago, he's used it several times before, referencing men of both parties, in fact. And so I think that there — if you look back at the past comments he's made, it was very clear what his reference was.
Q Thank you, Sarah. Looking at this issue with the system, the President gave almost $8,000 to Senator Gillibrand over the years. His daughter also gave her $2,000. What specifically did they get for these contributions that she was offered?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think oftentimes what you do — you're getting access. A member of Congress will take your phone call, they'll take your meeting, and if you're driving something as a businessman that the President may or not have been driving at any particular point, you can talk to that individual about it. And sometimes they carry your water. That's the reason that we have a broken system. That's a reason that often special interests control our government more than the people do, and that's one of the reasons that this President ran to be president.
And it's one of the top reasons, I think, that he won and that he's sitting in the Oval Office today and Hillary Clinton is not. Because he couldn't be bought, and everybody knew that she could because they'd seen it time and time again.
Q So he is admitting that he bought access in a corrupt way?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think he is admitting that he is participating in a rigged system. He said that on the campaign trail. He knows how the system works. I think it would be disingenuous for anybody not to understand that, but at least this President is being honest about the process and his willingness to actually fix it and drain the swamp.
Q So Kirsten Gillibrand called for him to resign, and he says over and over again that he's a counterpuncher. So the next day, after she does that, he wakes up and you're saying that he's tweeting about the campaign finance system. Is that what you're saying?
MS. SANDERS: I'm talking about the fact that she's controlled by special interests. I'm talking about the fact she's a wholly owned subsidiary of people that donate to her campaign. She's a puppet for Chuck Schumer. I'm talking about a number of issues that she has, none of which make her an independent individual, but more somebody that is controlled by people that helped donate money to her cause. That's simply all I'm saying.
Q And what kind of campaign finance reform does the President want?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has been talking about the need for us to put a stronger ban on lobbyists participating in the government process. We've taken a stronger ethics pledge under this administration than previous administrations. I think those are some of the first steps and something that we're going to continue working on over the next seven years.
Q Thanks a lot, Sarah. You're familiar with the President's tweets. He tweets pretty often. In this particular —
MS. SANDERS: I've noticed that too. (Laughter.)
Q Yeah, a little bit. In this particular case, his criticism of Senator Gillibrand was very personal. Why must he criticize in such personal terms? He called a sitting, elected U.S. senator a “lightweight.” Why go after her in such a personal manner?
MS. SANDERS: I don't think that's all that personal. I mean, if you want to talk about personal, look at the comments that she's made about this President over the last several months.
Look, the President is always going to be somebody who responds. We've said that many times before. And he's simply talking about a system that doesn't work for the citizens of this country, and he wants to fix it.
Q Thanks, Sarah. Two quick question for you. One following up on John's question from earlier about a second special counsel. Does the President have confidence in the FBI as it exists today?
MS. SANDERS: Look, the President has confidence in Director Wray and his ability to clean up some of the mess left behind by his predecessor. I know I've addressed that before, and he certainly has confidence in the rank-and-file members of the FBI.
Q And then a follow-up on foreign policy. Today, Bloomberg has an article out about the Trump administration encouraging Saudi Arabia to consider bids from U.S. companies as it relates to building nuclear reactors. Does the President see this as an opportunity to bring up human rights in Yemen during these talks with Saudi Arabia?
MS. SANDERS: I'm not aware of those specific conversations in this process, so I would have to ask and certainly get back to you.
I'll take one last question. Margaret.
Q Thank you. H.R. McMaster gave some really interesting remarks at a luncheon earlier today. And he spoke in really strong terms about China and Russia. He said they were “undermining the international order and stability” and “ignoring the sovereign rights of their neighbors and the rule of law.” He went on to talk about Russia, in particular. He didn't use the words “election meddling,” but he talked about subversion, disinformation, propaganda, and basically pitting people against each other to try to create crisis of confidence.
So what I wanted to know is: Does the President agree with all of General McMaster's statements? And is that a foreshadowing of a national security strategy that will take a harder tack on Russia and China than the administration has so far?
MS. SANDERS: Look, I think we've been very hard on Russia from the beginning. There have been sanctions, we've increased energy exportation from this country, and we've done things to put pressure on Russia, asking them to engage in a bigger and greater way on some of the common enemies that we face.
In terms of like a rundown, I haven't had a chance to sit down with the President and go detail-by-detail. But General McMaster certainly is someone who understands and knows the President's feelings and our relationships with foreign partners, and something that we certainly feel confident in him speaking about.
Thanks so much, guys.
3:44 P.M. EST
Vía White House.gov Press Office Feed http://ift.tt/2ASIN3A
As Christmas approaches, Second Lady Karen Pence visited with children receiving medical care to give them coloring books and crayons while also offering encouraging words to them and their families.
Mrs. Pence visits patients at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
First, Mrs. Pence visited patients, families, and staff members at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC. Upon arrival, she was greeted by Katie Wallace, the Child Life Coordinator, and Eileen Farrell, Chief Nursing Officer. The staff led Mrs. Pence to the in-patient area where she met with young patients. The Second Lady spoke with the children and their families and gave them coloring books and crayons. Then, Mrs. Pence visited the pediatric outpatient hematology/oncology clinic. There, she visited the art therapy program that is provided by Tracy’s Kids. She gave a child who was meeting with one of the art therapists a coloring book and crayons. She gave the art therapist a charm bracelet in appreciation for her work in art therapy.
Mrs. Pence visits patients at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
“The children at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital provide so much inspiration and hope,” said Mrs. Pence. “I was encouraged by the positive spirits and laughter and appreciate the opportunity to share some time with them during this holiday season.”
Mrs. Pence visits patients at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
“We're so pleased to have a visit from Mrs. Pence to help brighten the days of our sick children who unfortunately must be hospitalized so close to the holidays,” said Eileen Farrell, Chief Nursing Officer. “We thank her for the smiles she spread here today at MedStar Georgetown.”
Mrs. Pence visits patients at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
Mrs. Pence also visited children at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC. Upon arrival, the Second Lady was greeted by Julie Lowe, Director of Marketing and Community Engagement, and Dustin Davis, Director of Operations. Then, Mrs. Pence met with children and their families and gave them coloring books and crayons. To date, the two Ronald McDonald Houses in Washington, DC and Fairfax, Virginia have served over 23 Pediatric departments from 16 hospitals and doctors’ offices, including children from Neonatal ICU, Cardiac ICU, Pediatric Transplant, and Hematology and Oncology.
Mrs. Pence visits patients at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
“I am always amazed by the courageous spirits of young patients and their families,” said Mrs. Pence. “The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC provides a positive place for children and their families during a difficult time in their lives. This Christmas, I am wishing all families faced with tough times better days ahead.”
Mrs. Pence visits patients at Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington, DC, Tuesday, December 12, 2017, in Washington, D.C.
“We are delighted that the Second Lady, Mrs. Pence, was able to visit our DC Ronald McDonald House today, “ said Karen Torres, President & CEO. “The holidays can be an especially difficult time for our families who are away from home, and her visit brought some unexpected excitement and cheer.”
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Members of Congress
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI): “Proud to watch as @POTUS signs this legislation into law, giving our men and women in uniform their largest pay raise in 8 years.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): “Today, President Trump signed a bill that will make America safer. This defense bill authorizes money for our troops, for our national defense and homeland security, and to make sure America has the best technology in the world to protect ourselves. This bill passed the House 356 to 70, including more than half of the Democratic caucus. It passed the Senate by voice vote—not a single Democrat opposed it.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ): “I am encouraged that the President today signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, which authorizes nearly $700 billion of spending for national defense. The NDAA authorizes the resources and provides the policies necessary to begin the process of rebuilding our military—and it is the result of an open and bipartisan legislative process.”
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX): “Having the President sign the NDAA conference report into law is a critical milestone in the effort to rebuild America’s military strength, support our troops, and reform the way the Pentagon does business. The policies in this bill reflect months of bipartisan work and agreement.”
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “Thank you @POTUS for supporting our troops. With the ‘National Defense Authorization Act of 2018’ signed into law, we’re equipping our U.S. armed forces and personnel with the resources they need to protect America and counter global threats.”
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS): “@POTUS just signed the bipartisan #NDAA to give our troops their largest pay increase in eight years.”
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS): “With his signature, President Trump has confirmed the United States’ resolve to meet the growing needs of our U.S. Navy. Building up our nation’s fleet is essential to protecting our national security and projecting American power around the globe. We are asking too few ships to do too many things, and today the President took a major step toward rectifying that problem.”
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK): “It’s official—@POTUS has signed the NDAA and I’m proud of the House and Senate’s hard work to make this happen.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD): “Today, @POTUS signed the #NDAA for fiscal year 2018 into law. The NDAA is one of the most important pieces of legislation that we pass each year. It authorizes funding for DOD so our armed forces are able to successfully carry out their missions.”
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL): “With President Trump’s signature of the National Defense Authorization Act today, this is the beginning of the rebuilding of the U.S. defense forces after eight years in which we dangerously cut our armed forces, endangering the security of the American people.”
Rep. French Hill (R-AR): “I appreciate President Trump signing into law a bill that continues our support for Arkansans – and their families – serving in our nation’s military…. Our military is the most effective military in the world, and our brave men and women in uniform deserve the funding, tools, and support to successfully complete their strategic missions around the globe.”
Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR): “Today @POTUS signed the #NDAA into law which secures our men and women in uniform the largest pay raise in eight years. This bipartisan legislation restores readiness, resources, and reform to our fighting forces.”
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO): “As chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, and as a Marine Corps combat Veteran, my goal is to ensure that we have the best trained, best equipped, and best led military in the world. The signing of the FY18 NDAA is a very important step in providing the necessary resources to DoD to do just that. I applaud the President for signing the NDAA into law today.”
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA): “Today, we saw another victory for America and Georgia as the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act. Not only does this bill reverse the decade-long trend of dismantling our military, it gives our men and women in uniform a much-deserved pay increase.”
Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN): “The FY18 NDAA @POTUS signed today gives our troops their largest wage increase in nearly eight years, significantly boosts active duty end strength for each branch of service and increases funding for military facilities and new oversight tools.”
Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN): “Today @POTUS signed the National Defense Authorization Act #NDAA that gives our troops the largest pay raise in 8 years.”
Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN): “Proud that the @POTUS signed the #NDAA into law today! It provides our servicemen & women the largest pay raise in 8yrs & provides resources needed to keep our nation safe at home & abroad.”
Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN): “We have the best military in the world and now, with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 signed into law, our troops will have resources they need to protect us, and they will receive the care and pay they deserve. By signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 into law, President .@realDonaldTrump is following through on his promises to strengthen our military and make our world a safer place.”
Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA): “Proud to see that President Trump is signing our #NDAA bill into law. Gives troops largest pay raise in 8 yrs & provides resources to rebuild our military.”
Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI): “Today President Donald J. Trump signed into law the #FY18NDAA. This bill will help restore our military strength, provide the largest pay raise to our war-fighters in 8 years, and protect our homeland and our allies.”
Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI): “.@POTUS just signed the #NDAA into law, giving our troops the biggest pay raise in 8 years. @POTUS was correct when he said ‘only when the good are strong will peace prevail.’ Proud to have supported this important legislation.”
Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO): “Thank you @POTUS for signing #NDAA today. This law provides our troops with the tools and equipment that match their skills and proficiency.”
Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS): “Today, President Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I look forward to continuing working with my colleagues to make sure military men and women have the tools they need to keep America safe.”
Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC): “Today @POTUS signed the #FY18NDAA to ensure our troops receive a pay raise and have the tools they need to defend our nation both at home and abroad.”
Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC): .@POTUS just signed the #NDAA giving our servicemen and women their biggest pay raise in 8 years & also providing our military with the resources they need to keep American safe!
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH): “Today the President rightfully called again for an end to the sequestration of national defense…. Our troops face enough uncertainty–their budget shouldn’t be on the list of things they need to worry about.”
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK): “The FY18 NDAA rebuilds and restores our military by supplying our men and women in uniform with the critical resources needed to protect our country from harm. Our troops work tirelessly to defend our flag. By giving them a well-deserved pay raise, we recognize their constant commitment and lend our gratitude for their brave sacrifice…. I applaud President Trump for his strong support of our nation’s military and this year’s NDAA.”
Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA): “America’s military is made up of hardworking men and women who wake up every day to serve others. We should be making it easier for them to transition to civilian life with a steady job, and infuse our workforce with leadership skills only the military can provide…. I am glad President Trump has signed this legislation into law.”
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC): “Grateful that #ndaa is now law. The bill, signed today by @potus, makes critical investments in our military & national security – and it represents a big win for South Carolina. #maga”
Rep. John Carter (R-TX): “BREAKING: @POTUS has signed the #NDAA into law, ensuring our troops have the resources they need to deter and defend!”
Rep. John Culberson (R-TX): “Watch as @POTUS signs #NDAA into law – it provides the LARGEST pay raise in 8 years for our troops & empowers the great men & women that serve our country.”
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA): “I’m grateful to see President Donald Trump sign this bill into law, and commend Rep. Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, for his work on behalf of the men and women in uniform who serve our great nation and keep us safe.”
Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI): “.@POTUS just signed into law the #FY18NDAA– now Congress must pass a budget deal to ensure our warfighters have what they need to deter threats, support our allies, and above all, keep the American people safe.”
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Hanukkah is a time for Jewish families around the world to come together around the lighting of the menorah and celebrate the miracles of the past and promises of the future. Melania and I wish all of our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrating this meaningful holiday a happy and healthy eight nights in the company of those they love.
The miracle of Hanukkah began more than 2,000 years ago, when the practice of Judaism was made punishable by death. A small band of Jewish patriots rose up and reclaimed their Jewish identity by vanquishing a mighty army. In their pursuit to rededicate their holy temple, the Jewish heroes found only enough oil to light the temple’s menorah for one night. However, a miracle occurred and with God’s grace the oil lasted for eight days.
On this holiday, we are proud to stand with the Jewish people who shine as a light to all nations. We also stand with the people of Israel, the Jewish State, which has itself a miraculous history of overcoming the tallest of odds. We hope that those observing the holiday here, in Israel, and around the world have a wonderful holiday.
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Today, I have signed into law H.R. 2810, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018.” This Act authorizes fiscal year 2018 appropriations for critical Department of Defense (DOD) national security programs, provides vital benefits for military personnel and their families, and includes authorities to facilitate ongoing military operations around the globe. I am very appreciative that the Congress has passed this bill to provide the DOD with the resources it needs to support our Armed Forces and keep America safe. I note, however, that the bill includes several provisions that raise constitutional concerns.
Several provisions of the bill, including sections 1046, 1664, 1680, and 1682, purport to restrict the President's authority to control the personnel and materiel the President believes is necessary or advisable for the successful conduct of military missions. Additionally, section 1601 provides that the Commander of Air Force Space Command, a military officer subordinate to the civilian leadership of the President as the Commander in Chief, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Air Force, has “sole authority” over certain matters. While I share the objectives of the Congress with respect to maintaining the strength and security of the United States, my Administration will treat these provisions consistent with the President's authority as Commander in Chief.
Certain other provisions of the bill, including sections 350, 1011, 1041, 1202, and 1227, purport to require that the Congress receive advance notice before the President directs certain military actions. I reiterate the longstanding understanding of the executive branch that these types of provisions encompass only military actions for which such advance notice is feasible and consistent with the President's constitutional authority and duty as Commander in Chief to protect the national security of the United States.
Sections 1033 and 1035 restrict transfers of detainees held at the United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay. I fully intend to keep open that detention facility and to use it for detention operations. Consistent with the statement I issued in signing H.R. 244, I reiterate the longstanding position of the executive branch that, under certain circumstances, restrictions on the President's authority to transfer detainees would violate constitutional separation-of-powers principles, including the President's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief. Additionally, section 1035 could, in some circumstances, interfere with the ability of the United States to transfer a detainee who has been granted a writ of habeas corpus.
I also strongly object to section 1633, which threatens to undermine the effective operation of the Executive Office of the President by making full funding for the White House Communications Agency (WHCA) contingent upon the submission of a report on a national policy for cyberspace, cybersecurity, and cyberwarfare. I take cyber‑related issues very seriously, as demonstrated by Executive Order 13800, which has initiated strategic actions across executive departments and agencies that will improve the Nation's cyber-related capabilities. Among other things, WHCA plays a critical role in providing secure communications to the President and his staff. The Congress should not hold hostage the President's ability to communicate in furtherance of the Nation's security and foreign policy. I look forward to working with the Congress to address, as quickly as possible, this unprecedented and dangerous funding restriction.
Several provisions of the bill, including sections 1069, 1231, 1232, 1239, 1239A, 1258, 1259, 1263, 1271, 1279A, and 1607, could potentially dictate the position of the United States in external military and foreign affairs and, in certain instances, direct the conduct of international diplomacy. My Administration will treat these provisions consistent with the President's exclusive constitutional authorities as Commander in Chief and as the sole representative of the Nation in foreign affairs to determine the terms on which recognition is given to foreign sovereigns and conduct the Nation's diplomacy.
Section 1244(b) purports to limit certain expenditures unless, under section 1244(c), the President submits to the Congress a plan to impose sanctions — including asset blocking, exclusion from the United States, and procurement bans — on certain persons for failing to comply with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. My Administration will apply these provisions consistent with the President's constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations, including the President's authority under Article II, section 3 of the Constitution to “receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers.” Section 1245 purports to direct the United States Government to consider the RS-26 ballistic missile to be a breach of the INF Treaty “for purposes of all policies and decisions,” if the President, with the concurrence of certain other executive branch officials, were to make certain legal and factual determinations. My Administration will apply this provision consistent with the President's constitutional authority to identify breaches of international agreements by counterparties.
Section 910 purports to elevate the current Deputy Chief Management Officer of the DOD to the position of Chief Management Officer, which would result in an expansion of duties, along with an increase in both responsibility and pay. While my Administration supports the policy of section 910, the provision raises constitutional concerns related to the President's appointment authority. My Administration will devise a plan to treat this provision in a manner that mitigates the constitutional concerns, while adhering closely to the intent of the Congress.
Section 1097 purports to reauthorize the Office of Special Counsel, including by continuing the existing tenure protections for the Special Counsel. The Special Counsel is a principal officer of the United States who performs executive functions, and has both broad authority and long tenure insulated from the President's removal authority. I reiterate the longstanding position of the executive branch that such insulation of a principal officer like the Special Counsel raises serious constitutional concerns.
Section 1653 purports to require the Nuclear Weapons Council to make an assessment and provide a report to the congressional defense committees in response to legislative activity by a single house of Congress. To direct the Council's operations in this manner, the Congress must act in accord with the requirements of bicameralism and presentment prescribed in Article I, section 7 of the Constitution. Accordingly, my Administration will treat section 1653 as non-binding, and I will instruct the Council to take action in response to this provision only as an exercise of inter-branch comity — i.e., only insofar as such action would be practicable and consistent with the Council's existing legal responsibilities.
Several provisions of the bill, including sections 737, 1097, 1244, 1631, 1632, and 1669, as well as language in the classified annex to the joint explanatory statement of the committee of conference, purport to mandate or regulate the submission to the Congress of information — such as deliberative process and national security information — protected by executive privilege. My Administration will treat these provisions consistent with the President's constitutional authority to withhold information, the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the executive branch, or the performance of the President's constitutional duties. Additionally, I note that conditions in the classified annex to the joint explanatory statement of the committee of conference are not part of the text of the bill and do not carry the force of law.
Several provisions of the bill, including sections 513, 572, 807, 1648, 1676, 1696, 2878, and 3117, purport to require executive branch officials under the President's supervision to recommend certain legislative measures to the Congress. My Administration will treat those provisions consistent with Article II, section 3 of the Constitution, which provides the President the discretion to recommend to the Congress only “such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,
December 12, 2017.
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