Moments ago President Trump concluded a mid-afternoon press conference prior to departing the White House to fly to Michigan. [Video Below – Transcript will Follow] The primary topic of the press conference is the ongoing status of COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
UPDATE: Video and Transcript Added
[Transcript] – THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Wow. We have some big ones today, huh? This is a room — loaded up. Wow. Paula Reid. Jonathan Karl. Phil Rucker. Hi, Phil. How are you? Kaitlan. We’ve got the all-stars. A lot of all-stars today. You too.
Q Alex Alper, Reuters.
THE PRESIDENT: You too. That’s good. Well, that’s fine.
Thank you very much. In the past four months, we’ve added 10.6 million jobs, including 643 [thousand] manufacturing jobs and 658,000 construction jobs. It’s far beyond expectations.
We’ve experienced the smallest contraction of any Western nation, meaning we’ve been affected less than any other nation — Western nation — and probably, almost, I think you can put us in — I just saw some numbers — I think you can put us into just about any category anywhere. And the fastest recovery by far. And that’s anywhere. Nobody has recovered like we’re recovering.
If we follow Joe Biden’s strategy, we’d shut down the entire country after just having set records on growth. And we also did have tremendous retail growth, as you probably noticed. We’re witnessing the fastest labor market recovery from an economic crisis in our history.
By contrast, the Obama-Biden administration had the slowest, weakest, and worst recovery in American history, as you know.
We continue to make progress in our fight against the China virus. New weekly cases have declined by 44 percent since July. Deaths declined by 20 percent compared to just last week. It’s going down very rapidly. Really rapidly. This is in contrast to nations in the European Union, which have recently experienced a sharp increase in cases. They’re having a very big spike over there. We’re hopefully beyond our spike, and we’ll see, but we’re doing very well all over our country.
In the past five weeks, per capita cases doubled in France; surged to over 300 percent in Spain, which I’ve been hearing about and speaking to some of the leaders of Spain, and they are having a hard time; and increased more than 400 percent in Italy again. And as you remember, I stopped — I put a ban on people coming in from Europe after the ban I imposed on China, Wuhan — but because of Wuhan primarily, because that area was very infected. We — we also put a ban on Europe. So Spain is being heavily impacted, France, and 400 percent in Italy.
Yesterday, European nations experienced 50 percent more deaths than the United States. And you don’t hear these things. You don’t hear these statistics. But the United States has done really well. Very proud of everybody that worked on this. And I really do believe we’re rounding the corner.
And the vaccines are right there, but even — not even discussing vaccines and not discussing therapeutics, we’re rounding the corner. We already have therapeutics out there, by the way, which are having obviously a very big impact because you look at that, you look at the — the way people are recovering, it’s so much better than in the past before we knew about the disease and had anything to fight the disease.
On schools, as part of our science-based approach, we want schools to safely open and stay open. Children are at extremely low risk of complications from the virus. Less than 0.2 percent — 0.2 percent of the coronavirus deaths have occurred in those under the age of 25, and most had underlying conditions where there was a problem.
There is no substitute for in-person learning. According to a recent study, student progress in math decreased by half and — using online education compared to in-person or campus education. So, online, we think of so many things online and how great it is; there’s nothing like being in the classroom. That’s what we’ve learned from this whole ordeal.
According to the CDC, school closures disproportionately harm low-income and minority children, as well as those with disabilities. And I think you see some slides behind me that are very new, very current. It’s also crucial for colleges and universities to stay open. And we hope that they do indeed stay open, and we want to see Big 10 football. We hope it’s coming back. We have a lot of the colleges that we’re talking about, they want to come back. We hope that Michigan agrees.
We hope that — and I know the governor will have a lot to say about it. We hope she approves it. But we have a couple that — Maryland is another one. We hope the governor puts a little pressure on so that we can have it, but I have a feeling they may do it. They may do it without having everybody, but I think they’re going to have maybe Michigan, maybe Maryland. We have a couple of states that might not participate.
But people are working very, very hard to get Big 10 football back, and I’m pushing it. And it’ll be a great thing for our country and the players. And the coaches want to do it really badly. The par- — the players are missing — they only have so many years of this. And the players are missing a big opportunity, including the chance, in some of the cases — they have some of the best players, college players in our country, and they want to get into the NFL and they want to make money in the NFL, and they’re not going to be able to do that too easy if you don’t get to see them play.
It’s much safer for students to live on campus. And low-risk young people would, rather than the alternative. It’s — the alternative is no good — than going home spreading the virus to high-risk Americans. It’s — they want to be on campus. They want to go back to school. And the parents want them back in school, maybe more so than they want to be back in school. And they want them back safely and they want to go back safely, but they have to go back.
Based on the recent data from more than 20 colleges, not a single student who tested positive for the virus has been hospitalized. So that’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of students. Not one has been hospitalized.
As we continue to follow the science-based approach to protect our people and vanquish the virus, Joe Biden continues to use the pandemic for political gain. Every time I see him, he starts talking about the pandemic. He’s reading it off a teleprompter. I’m not allowed to use a teleprompter. Why is that, Phil? They ask questions and he starts reading the teleprompter. He says, “Move the teleprompter a little bit closer, please.” I don’t know, I think if I did that, I’d be in big trouble. I think that would be — that would be the story of the year.
When I took early action in January to ban the travel and all travel to and from China, the Democrats and Biden, in particular, called it “xenophobic.” You remember that? Joe was willing to sacrifice American lives to placate the radical-left open-border extremists. And we saved tens of thousands of lives, probably hundreds of thousands of lives. And we saved millions of lives by doing the closing and now the opening the way we did it.
Joe’s decision to publicly attack the China ban proved he lacks the character or intelligence or instinct to do what is right.
Now Biden has launched a public campaign against the vaccine, which is so bad, because we have some vaccines coming that are incredible. Scott was telling me about some of the things that are happening and it’s very exciting, Scott. Thank you for being here. But you don’t want to have anything having to do with, for political purposes, being an anti-vaxxer. You don’t want to be talking about the vaccines in a negative way, especially when you see the statistics that we’re starting to see. They’re incredible, actually.
Biden is perfectly happy to endanger the lives of other people by doing something that he thinks is going to help him politically because his polls are getting very bad. They’re getting very shaky.
This was an election that was going to be very easy, very quick, and then the China virus came in and I had to go back to work politically, unfortunately. I had to devote more time politically than to the other things we do, which are very important for our country. But I had to go back to work. And it looks like — it looks like we’re going up very rapidly. More rapidly than the media wants to admit.
And Biden has had to go out. He’s gotten out of his basement and he’s working. Let’s see what happens. But we got to talk about how great these vaccines are if, in fact, they’re great. And I think you’re going to see numbers that are going to be very, very impressive.
The approach to the virus is a very unscientific blanket lockdown by the Democrats — that’s what they’re talking about — which takes all of these incredible statistics, records, and it throws them out the window. Now, they did say it would be based on the recommendation of the experts, but, you know, whether expert or not, we’re not doing any more shutdowns. We did the shutdown and now we’re doing the opening, and there won’t be any more shutdowns.
There could be a little section, a small section, where you have a breakout, but we’re not talking about shutdowns like they were talking about, depending on experts. We’re not going to be doing that.
The swine flu was a disaster, you remember, when — not nearly as deadly, not — not the same world. But when Joe Biden was Vice President, his failed approach to the swine flu was disastrous. He called it — he called it N1H1; it’s actually H1N1. You know, you remember the “H” comes before the “N,” so it’s sort of easy to remember, right? But Joe — Joe always calls it the opposite way, but it was — call it the “swine flu.” It was disastrous.
And his own chief of staff said that when Biden helped manage the swine flu in 2009, they, quote, “did everything possible wrong.” And 60 million Americans got H1N1 in that period of time. This is a quote from his chief of staff. And it’s just “purely a fortuity that this isn’t one of the great mass casualty events. It had nothing to do with us doing anything right because we did everything wrong.” It was a disaster. It was a disaster. And now he’s telling us how to manage — he can’t manage himself.
Two hundred and seventy thousand Americans were hospitalized during this attack. The outbreak was so rampant that the Obama administration told states to stop testing. “We don’t want any tests,” because they don’t want to show all of the things that tests show. By the way, we’re setting a record on testing. Our testing is at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We’re substantially greater than the second country — which is India, by the way, which has 1.5 billion people. But we’re 50 million tests ahead — 50 million ahead.
And they ordered the CDC to stop counting tests and stop counting cases, and then left us a depleted stockpile, which is what I inherited. I inherited a depleted — a very badly depleted stockpile. In other words, Biden’s record demonstrates that if he had been in charge of this very serious, highly, highly contagious epidemic or pandemic — the China virus — countless more Americans would have died.
And if we didn’t do what we did — and I say it all the time now because the media likes to belittle. What we’ve done has been incredible. Now you can look at Europe and you can look at other places, and you can start comparing.
Biden is weak on China. Yesterday, it was revealed that a fund — partly owned by Joe Biden’s son, Hunter — facilitated the sale of a Michigan auto parts producer to a leading Chinese military defense contractor. You don’t want to write about that, do you? Biden spent his entire career selling Michigan jobs to China. Now the Biden family is selling out our country directly to the Chinese military, which has to do with this company that Hunter — here we go with Hunter again. He didn’t have a job; now, all of a sudden, he’s selling companies from Michigan to China.
China’s military got American manufacturing jobs, and the Biden family got paid a lot of money. And I said, “If Joe Biden ever got elected, China will own America.” They will — they will own America.
Finally, I can announce with great pride that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be departing this evening on a historic trip to Doha — that’s Qatar — for the beginning of intra-Afghan peace negotiations. We’ve been negotiating with them for quite some time, getting along with them, moved a lot of soldiers out.
I got a report this morning that there’s been nobody killed in Afghanistan since early February. It’s a long time. There’s been no deaths, no problems. And a lot of progress is being made in Afghanistan. But we’ll be down to 4,000 soldiers in a very short period of time.
Likewise, Iraq: We’ll be down to about 2,000 soldiers in a very short period of time. And, in Syria, for the most part, we’re out, other than we kept the oil. And so we have soldiers guarding the oil — not too many; I think a small number — but they’re guarding the oil. And we’re helping the Kurds, and we’re making their lives much more pleasant because of the fact that we have the oil.
So we’re pretty much out of Syria. We’re pretty much out of Iraq. And we’re down to the smallest force that we’ve had in — we’ll be very shortly down to that number in Afghanistan.
The negotiations are a result of a bold diplomatic effort on part of my administration in recent months and years. The United States will play an important role in bringing the parties together to end the decades-long war; it’s been going on for almost 20 years, long before I got involved, I can tell you that.
And had they not been wasting our time with all of the phony witch hunts and all of the things, we probably could have done this even faster. But a lot of time had to be spent wasted like that.
But the parties are together right now, and we’re negotiating, and we’re really making tremendous progress.
Next week at the White House, we’ll be having a signing between UAE and Israel, and we could have another country added into that. And I will tell you, countries are lining up that want to go into it.
As you know, UA- — UAE is headed by a very, very highly respected gentleman and respected by everybody. And he’s a warrior too. He’s a great warrior. And Mohammed is very excited about this. And you’ll be hearing other countries coming in over a relatively short period of time.
And you could have peace in the Middle East. I think what, ultimately, will happen is you’re going to have quite a few countries come in. The big ones are going to be coming in. I spoke to the King of Saudi Arabia, so we’re talking. We’re starting a — we just started the dialogue. And you’ll have them come in.
And I think two things are going to happen: Iran will — if we win the election, Iran will come and sign a deal with us very, very rapidly, within the first, I would say, week, but let’s give ourselves a month — because their GDP went down 25 percent, which is, like, an unheard of number, and they’d like to be able to get back to having a successful country again. So I think that’ll happen.
And I think, very importantly, the Palestinians will get back into the fold. And when they see all of these countries that, frankly, have been supporters of the Palestinians — very big supporters and, certainly, financial supporters.
As you know, we used to pay the Palestinians $750 million a year, and I ended that some time ago, on the basis that they didn’t seem to want to make peace. And we’ll think about it once we have a deal, but I’ve ended that quite a while ago. I’m frankly surprised they haven’t been to the table earlier.
But this is the best way. This is a way that’s going to be great. This can really bring the Middle East together.
And again, since February, we haven’t had a death in Afghanistan, which is — it’s a record for many years. Not a death. And we’re getting along very, very well with the Taliban and very well with Afghanistan and its representatives. And we’ll see how it all goes. It’s a negotiation.
But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be departing in a little while. So I think that’s very exciting news. And a lot of people thought that my natural instinct is war; no, my natural instinct is actually peace. When we were on the debate stage, people used to say, “Will it be one week or two weeks before President Trump gets into a war?” But that’s not — I did rebuild our military. We have a military that — two and a half trillion dollars — new jets and rockets and tanks and ships and a lot of things we have. We have the newest, best military we’ve ever had. So, hopefully, we won’t have to use it.
Our nuclear program has been put into gear like never before, and in particular, hopefully, we won’t have to use that, because that’s a whole new level of destruction. And we never want to — just have to pray to God we never have to use that.
All right, please, Jon.
Q Yes, thank you, Mr. President. Why did you lie to the American people? And why should we trust what you have to say now?
THE PRESIDENT: Such a terrible question and the phraseology. I didn’t lie. What I said is: We have to be calm; we can’t be panicked. I knew that the tapes were there. These were a series of phone calls that we had — mostly phone calls. And Bob Woodward is somebody that I respect, just from hearing the name for many, many years, not knowing too much about his work, not caring about his work.
But I thought it would be interesting to talk to him for a period of, you know, calls. So we did that. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I don’t even know if the book is good or bad, but, certainly, if he thought that was a bad statement, he would have reported it because he thinks that — you know, you don’t want to have anybody that is going to suffer medically because of some fact. And he didn’t report it because he didn’t think it was bad. Nobody thought it was bad.
Q But when you told him that this —
THE PRESIDENT: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. And your question — the way you phrased that is such a disgrace. It’s a disgrace to ABC Television Network. It’s a disgrace to your employer. And that’s the answer. Are you ready? Because I —
Q Are you saying you didn’t lie?
THE PRESIDENT: I love —
Q I mean, you — you told him that you knew that —
THE PRESIDENT: Of course I didn’t. Of course I didn’t.
Q — it was “deadlier than the flu.”
THE PRESIDENT: No, no. No, no.
Q And then you went out and told the American public that this was “just like the flu.”
THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you something: We’ve had flu years —
Q I mean, you told Woodward one thing and you told everybody else something else.
THE PRESIDENT: No. And five times, right? Five times. You ever hear the expression, “five times”? We’ve had flu years where we lost 100,000 people. The flu is a very serious problem for this country also. And we’ve been losing them — Scott, what kind of a number have we lost over the years with flus? Into the hundreds of thousands?
DR. ATLAS: Well, I mean, the last five years have been something like 35 to 80 thousand per year, every year, even with antiviral drugs and even with vaccines.
THE PRESIDENT: Flu is a very serious problem also.
Q But you told Bob Woodward this is — this is worse than the most deadly — “deadlier than the most strenuous flu.”
THE PRESIDENT: Okay.
Q And then you went out and said, “It’s just like the flu.”
THE PRESIDENT: What I went out and said is very simple —
Q And that it was “going to go away.”
THE PRESIDENT: Listen, what I went out and said is very simple: I want to show a level of confidence and I want a show strength as a leader, and I want to show that our country is going to be fine, one way or the other. Whether we lose one person — we shouldn’t lose any, because this shouldn’t have happened. This is China’s fault. This is nobody’s fault but China. China should not have allowed it to happen.
Whether you have a — one person, 180,000 people, or two and a half or 3 million people, which it could have been very seriously if we didn’t make the moves. And when you look at the opposition, where they said, “Oh, why did he put the ban on?” — Doctor Fauci said we saved hundreds of thousands of lives by putting the ban on China and then, ultimately, putting the ban on Europe. There was no lie here.
What we’re doing is we’re leading, and we’re leading in a proper way. And if, frankly, somebody else was leading it, they wouldn’t have closed it.
If you look at Nancy Pelosi, you look at Cuomo, you look at de Blasio, you look at Biden, months later, they said there’s no problem — they’re talking about me. Months later. And before any statement was made — you have to remember, I put the ban on China. So, obviously, outwardly I said it’s a very serious problem. And it’s always a serious problem. That doesn’t mean I’m going to jump up and down in the air and start saying, “People are going to die! People are going to die!” No. No. I’m not going to do that.
We’re going to get through this. And we’re, right now, I hope — really think we’re going to — we’re rounding the final turn. And a lot of good things are happening with vaccines and with therapeutics, but there’s no lying. And the way you ask that question is very disgraceful.
Q But should people trust you now?
THE PRESIDENT: Phil, go ahead, please. Go ahead.
Yeah, I do think so. And I think we did a great job. I think we did a great job. And the people that did such — our generals, our admirals, Mike Pence, all of the people that have worked so hard — and now Dr. Atlas — all of the — Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx — they should be respected for the job they’ve done.
Q So you won’t downplay it again?
THE PRESIDENT: And you haven’t —
Q You won’t downplay it again? Because you said you downplayed it. That’s what you told (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: All I’m doing is — no, I don’t want to jump up and down and start screaming “Death! Death!” because that’s not what it’s about. We have to lead a country. We’re leading a great country, and we’re doing a great job.
And the people that have done such a good job should be given the kind of credit that they deserve. We possibly have done the best jobs when you start looking at what we’re doing with the vaccines and therapeutics and ventilators. We had no ventilators, Jon. We make thousands of ventilators now a month, and we’re supplying them to the whole world. The job we’ve done is the best job. And don’t give me any credit; give the people that have done this the credit. They’ve done a great job.
Yeah, Phil. Go ahead.
Q Yeah, Mr. President, you talked about the need to stay calm and not jump up and down and scare people. A lot of other world leaders were calm. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was very calm and she presented information to the German people so that they could stay safe and protect their families. So why as you, as President of the United States, did you not level with the American people, did you not share the information that you knew at the time, in real time?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t know what — what Angela is doing. But if you look at the European Union right now, they’re having breakouts like you’ve never seen before. And, frankly, their numbers are at a level that are much worse than the numbers here.
Q Many people have died in the United States.
THE PRESIDENT: We are — we have done — we have — Phil, we have done much, much better than the European Union. I just read you numbers that are not good on their behalf; that are very good at ours. And we have rounded the final turn, and we have — we’re going to have vaccines very soon —
THE PRESIDENT: — maybe much sooner than you think. Listen, maybe much sooner than you think.
But we have done a phenomenal job, and the people that have done this job — including the American public that’s had to put up with a lot with the lockdowns and all of the things that they had to do — they have to be given credit. They have to be given credit.
Q But you knew this was a deadly virus.
THE PRESIDENT: Please, go ahead.
Q You knew it was airborne. You knew — on February 7th, you told Bob Woodward how it transferred from person to person in the air, how deadly it was. Why did you not come to the podium and (inaudible) people what you —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me ask you this: If Bob Woodward thought that was bad — because this is stuff that everyone knew. There’s a report that I have here someplace where China said it was airborne earlier than the statements I made. People knew it was airborne. This was nothing — this was no big — when I say it was airborne, everybody knew it was airborne. This was no big thing.
Q (Inaudible) put that out in February?
THE PRESIDENT: But read the reports. China came out with a statement that it was an airborne disease. I heard it was an airborne disease. I assumed it early on. The fact is, there has to be a calmness. You don’t want me jumping up and down, screaming, “There’s going to be great death. There is going to…” and really causing some very, very serious problems for the country.
If Bob Woodward thought what I said was bad, then he should’ve immediately, right after I said it, gone out to the authorities so they can prepare and let them know.
Q But Bob Woodward is not —
THE PRESIDENT: But he didn’t think it was bad, and he said he didn’t think it was bad. He actually said he didn’t think it was bad.
Q Bob Woodward is not the President.
THE PRESIDENT: The only one that said it was bad or thinks it was bad were the fake news media, because they take it and they try and put it a certain way.
If Bob Woodward thought it was bad, then he should’ve immediately gone out publicly, not wait four months. You know, he’s had that statement for four months, maybe five months. He’s had it for a long time. It was a series of taped interviews, mostly by telephone — quick ones, not long ones. Quick ones. And it was — I did it out of curiosity, because I do have respect, and I want to see — I wonder whether or not somebody like that can write good. I don’t think he can, but let’s see what happens.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. We’re just about 50 days out from the election and we haven’t seen a lot out of the Durham investigation yet.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q Where is that? And do you — do you have confidence in the investigation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I can’t tell you that yet. I have to see. I’m not involved in it. I purposely stayed uninvolved. I’m, I guess, considered the chief law enforcement officer of the country. I could be involved if I wanted to. I thought it would be better if I wasn’t. I think it’s better if our great Attorney General handle it. He has Durham, who is a very, very respected man, and we’re going to see what it is. I can’t tell you that.
Q But do you want to see more indictments?
THE PRESIDENT: I can tell you this — I can tell you this: They — they lied, they cheated, they leaked, they got caught. They spied on my campaign. Never in history has there been anything like this. And I guarantee if the roles were reversed and I was on the Democrat side, people would have been in jail at the very highest level. People would have been in jail for two years already. Nothing like this has ever happened. And the term would be for many, many years, because it’s treason and other words can be used also.
Q So you think there should be more indictments as a part of this investigation?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think — just on what I read in your wonderful papers, I think — and — and see what, you know, just looking at the media — not even what I know. I think Comey is a disgrace to our country. I think Strzok — who just wrote a book, which is a total fake — is a disgrace. I think Page — Lisa Page, his lover — is a disgrace to our country.
I think that when you look at McCabe, where his wife got $700,000 in campaign contributions from Hillary Clinton — right?
And then Hillary Clinton is under investigation, and yet she paid the head of the FBI — one of the top people, but actually the head, because he took over for — for the other guy, who fortunately I fired. I made a good move when I fired. That was a smart move — because they were looking to take down this administration, duly elected administration. So I fired him. That was a great move when I fired him. Because maybe, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here talking to you as President.
But when McCabe’s wife gets $700,000 in campaign contributions when she was running for whatever office she was running from — from Virginia — and yet he’s in charge of the investigation of Hillary Clinton. Now, he says, “Well, I wasn’t really in charge.” Of course, he was in charge. He was totally in charge. He knew exactly what was going on.
These people got caught in the — probably the biggest political scandal in the history of our country. They got caught.
Now, what the Durham report is going to say, I can’t tell you. But if they say half as much as I already know — just from seeing it. You know, you have people — I watch some of the shows. I watch Liz McDonald; she’s fantastic. I watched Fox Business. I watched Lou Dobbs last night, Sean Hannity last night, Tucker last night, Laura. I watched “Fox and Friends” in the morning. You watch these shows; you don’t have to go too far into the details. They cover things that are — it’s really an amazing thing.
They got caught in the biggest political scandal in the history of our country. They were spying on their opponent’s campaign. Not only spying; they were making up fake dossiers. You have the dirty dossier. They were making up the dirty — and it was all made up. It was all fiction. It turned out to be fiction. And then they were using that in the FISA courts — this revered court. Well, it’s not so revered anymore because when you look at what they did and how they played it — and they hurt a lot of people.
General Flynn is still being hurt, and he’s being hurt very badly. He’s a wonderful person. I spoke to General Milley about General Flynn two weeks ago. I said, “What do you think of General Flynn?” He said, “He’s a great soldier, sir. He’s a wonderful, wonderful human being.” He’s been destroyed. He’s been destroyed.
No, I think that this — without knowing anything about what Durham is going to release — the “Durham report,” we’ll call it, or maybe it’s going to be more than a report. Maybe it’s going to be much more than a report, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a report or maybe it’s much more than that.
But when I look at the — the things that everybody in this room knows, just from reading about it from yourselves back and forth, I think it’s a disgrace to our country. And I think if people don’t pay a very, very substantial price, it’ll happen again. And this should never ever happen to another President.
Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody.