Sep 18, 2020
Donald Trump Press Conference Transcript September 18: COVID-19, Puerto Rico
President Donald Trump held a White House press briefing on September 18. He discussed federal aid for Puerto Rico, a COVID-19 vaccine, and mail-in voting. Read the transcript of his news conference speech here.
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Donald Trump: (00:08)
So a lot of work has been going on with respect to the vaccines, very successful work I might add. We have three great, great companies doing somewhat different variations but they’re all looking very good from the beginning of the China virus, all nations have understood that our top priority must be to develop a vaccine as quickly as possible to end the pandemic and get life back to normal. The successful vaccine will not only save millions of lives, it will put an end to the restrictions and some of the things that go on and have to go on in the meantime.
Donald Trump: (00:50)
Today I want to discuss the historic progress we are making to deliver a safe and effective vaccine in record time and there’s never been anything like this, ever. History there’s never been … In history, period, world history. Since January, America’s brilliant doctors and scientists have been working around the clock. These are the best medical minds in the world by far and the vaccines are going through the gold standard of clinical trials and very heavy emphasis placed on safety. Three vaccines are already in the final stage. Joe Biden’s anti-vaccine theories are putting a lot of lives at risk and they’re only doing it for political reasons. It’s very foolish. It’s part of their war to try and discredit the vaccine now that they know that we essentially have it, we’ll be announcing it fairly soon.
Donald Trump: (01:46)
As part of Operation Warp Speed, my administration is manufacturing all of the most promising vaccines in advance and actually it will be fairly long in advance. As soon as a vaccine is approved, the administration will deliver it to the American people immediately. Distribution will begin within 24 hours after notice and the general, I think those are the words specifically you wanted us to know.
Speaker 1: (02:15)
Yes, Mr. President.
Donald Trump: (02:16)
Within 24 hours, you’re also set to go and massive amounts will be delivered through our great military and the general is one of our best and he is ready to go. We’ll have manufactured at least 100 million vaccine doses before the end of the year and likely much more than that. Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April and again I’ll say that even at that later stage, delivery will go as fast as it comes they can deliver. They’re very good, best, I think probably the best in the world.
Donald Trump: (02:58)
The estimates I’m providing today are based on the manufacturing that’s in process and that’s in process immediately right now. We’ve already exceeded our ambitious goals under the Defense Production Act contracts that we’ve secured, we may even get far above these numbers, the numbers that I’m telling you today, I think we’ll exceed them very, very substantially and I think that also includes distribution. I think distribution will go even quicker than most people think, relying on our military. Everything I’ve done with our military has worked out very well. In a short time we’ll have a safe and effective vaccine and we’ll defeat the virus.
Donald Trump: (03:41)
Interestingly as I was saying that day, [inaudible 00:03:44] just like what we did with our military with respect to ISIS went very well. Long ahead of schedule. They have been incredible in working with me. Let’s go to Puerto Rico because Puerto Rico has been hit very, very hard by a lot of different storms and they’re great people. It’s a great place, I know it well. Great place. Today my administration is making the largest emergency relief award in history to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and educational system. We’re awarding $13 billion to permanently repair and replace thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines that should have been done many years ago. This was beyond even the storms, it was just age and a lot of the salt. The salt from that ocean is a killer for electrical stations and power generation systems but on top of the salt you had these massive storms or hurricanes come in and Maria in particular was a disaster but for many years they have been trying to get this done and they haven’t had the political willpower in Washington to get it done so we’re going to get it done for them.
Donald Trump: (05:00)
We’re also going to be bringing back very, very major amounts of medical work. [inaudible 00:05:06] pharmaceutical manufacturing at levels that few places had and a lot of it has lest Puerto Rico and w’re going to bring that back, especially now since our emphasis is going to be making our product so we’re going to bring pharmaceutical manufacturing back to Puerto Rico. A lot of it left over the years over a long period of time. It’s been leaving and going to China and other places so we’re bringing all of that back.
Donald Trump: (05:34)
This was done in previous administrations, I’d like to just point out. We’ve done more for Puerto Rico than anybody and this is just an example of it but we’ve done more for Puerto Rico by far than anybody. We’ll also be launching a major effort to repair and renovate the schools across the island following Hurricane Maria, my administration immediately deployed the full power of the federal government to bring the electric grid back online so they could at least temporarily and it certainly wasn’t a permanent fix, it was ripped to shreds but a lot of that was ripped to shreds long before even the storm came and for many, many years they’ve been trying to do it, but we wanted to restore water supplies and we did make emergency repairs to critical infrastructure which we took care of and save countless lives which we did.
Donald Trump: (06:24)
FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico included the longest sustained air mission supplying food and water to American history. We supplied it for long after the hurricane was gone, the largest disaster commodity distribution mission in U.S. history and the largest [inaudible 00:06:42] operation in federal disaster aid U.S. history. My administration has also pre-positioned vast quantities of relief supplies for the future disasters. Unfortunately Puerto Rico is in the way of a lot of different storms, a lot of hurricanes, and the island is now stocked with eight times as much drinking water and 13 times as much food as it had before I took over so they’re ready to go if something should happen. They got [inaudible 00:07:12] recently but they’re in a good position so we’re going to bring back medical distribution and manufacturing to Puerto Rico at a level far greater than it was before and it’s been emptied out. It’s been largely … Largely left the island for many years. At one point it was the talk of the world and now it’s the talk of the world in a different way. We’re bringing it back so we’re going to be bringing it back from various other parts of the world, it’s going to Puerto Rico and I think it’s going to be very exciting for the people and we’re undertaking the largest federal investment in Puerto Rico’s history. So you have a lot of … I have a lot of friends in Puerto Rico and I have told them about it. Asked them about it conceptually what do you think and they’re very excited. I just –
Donald Trump: (08:03)
… conceptually, what are you thinking, and they’re very excited. I just want to say, by contrast, Biden’s devastated the island of Puerto Rico. Joe Biden, what he’s done to Puerto Rico, meaning the past administration, is devastating. In 1996, Biden voted to eliminate a critical tax provision that had allowed Puerto Rico to become a dominant player in global pharmaceutical manufacturing. That’s what happened. When Biden voted to repeal this provision, the pharmaceutical industry was ripped out of Puerto Rico, all incentive to stay there was taken away and all of the jobs went to China, and other places, but mostly to China. That’s what happened. This was done with a vote of Biden, this was even before the Obama administration. This was early on, but so sad that that was done. Then Obama came in and it got worse. For the people of Puerto Rico, they were a disaster for you. I have to say, in a very nice way, a very respectful way, I’m the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico, nobody even close. But as a result, the island’s economy under the previously mentioned names, it just absolutely cratered. Biden’s vote also left the United States at the mercy of foreign suppliers for essential medicines, putting our national security and our health at risk. We had a tremendous industry potentially going to Puerto Rico and they just absolutely cut it short with bad votes and took all the incentive away and it went to other places, far away lands.
Donald Trump: (09:46)
They really, in a sense, were voting to destroy Puerto Rico. We’re bringing Puerto Rico back and we’ll have it done fairly quickly. The $13 billion, that’s a tremendous amount of money, but it’s a very important amount and I think you’re going to see something terrific. It’s very exciting, to me, what the most exciting is bringing the whole pharmaceutical industry back. We’ve spoken to various companies and they’re willing to go there. They want to have a little bit of help, but they’re willing to go to Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is going to be very exciting, what’s going to happen. They were on the verge of doing it and they took away all the incentives. I don’t know how that was allowed to happen, but they allowed it to happen. That was very, very bad for Puerto Rico and the people of Puerto Rico. That was done by Democrats and a Republican is bringing it back.
Donald Trump: (10:41)
With that, we can take a few questions and we are, again, very advanced on the vaccine. We think that sometime in the very near future we’ll have it. We’re, I would say, I think I can say, years ahead of schedule, what it would be if it were an administration other than this one. You would have been years before you ever had anything approved by the FDA.
Donald Trump: (11:05)
Mr. President, this is huge aid package to Puerto Rico, why not a year ago, why not two years ago, why not three years ago? Why 46 days to the election?
Donald Trump: (11:14)
Because what we’re doing is we’ve been working on it for a long time to get it passed. Very tough to get things past Democrats, where they don’t want to see this happen. They probably certainly didn’t want to see it happen at this point, but it’s a big package, it’s a great package. I think the most exciting part of the package isn’t necessarily the billions of dollars, it’s going to be what we do with the pharmaceutical industry. We’re going to get them back into Puerto Rico. They liked being there but they changed the tax situation, they ripped it out. They really ripped apart the island and we’re going to bring it back, John.
It may be simply coincidental, but it does coincide with the big push for Puerto Rican voters that the Biden/Harris camp has.
Donald Trump: (11:56)
Yeah, I think that’s … Well, they can’t do anything. Look, the Biden/Harris campaign, what they did, they hurt … I’ve gone through it, and whether it was President Obama or Vice President Biden, they were a disaster for Puerto Rico, a disaster. What we’re doing, and what we’ve done, but what we’re doing is something that will be fantastic for many years in the future. Bringing back the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturing in Puerto Rico is what they’ve wanted for years and we’re doing that, in addition to the $13 billion.
Donald Trump: (12:29)
Speaker 2: (12:30)
Mr. President, sir.
Mr. President, I think I heard you right, you said that you expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April. As we sit here and mid-September and there have been questions about the timeline, can you walk us through now and the beginning of April, to which every American can have a vaccine and what that might look like?
Donald Trump: (12:50)
Sure, and I think we may exceed these numbers even. Scott, do you want to discuss that quickly?
Sure. As has been said many times-
Speaker 3: (12:58)
[inaudible 00:12:58] the podium please.
Okay. We have all the people that are involved in the actual vaccine distribution here, but we were just going through this. As of the end of the year, we will have over a hundred million doses manufactured. The people who are on the prioritized list, including high-risk, including first responders, will have the ability to take the vaccine, no one’s being mandated to be vaccinated, at the latest in January. As we said yesterday, or I think yesterday, there will be hundreds of millions of doses delivered for people to take it during the first quarter and so that by April, every single American who wants to be vaccinated will have the ability to be vaccinated. It’s not a forced vaccination, of course.
Dr. Fauci said today, basically echoed Dr. Redfield’s comments, that Q2, Q3, some point the summer of next year, the entire country potentially, or at least as many Americans that need to be vaccinated, will be vaccinated. Is that timeline.
Donald Trump: (14:10)
Definitely, yeah. We think we will.
Donald Trump: (14:13)
Yeah, that’s on the outer edge. We think we can beat that number very substantially.
And on TikTok, sir, if you don’t mind. The commerce department essentially gave you a runway today to strike a deal after the election. Do you expect the TikTok deal before the election or after the election?
Donald Trump: (14:29)
I think it could go quickly. We have great companies talking to us about it. You know about Oracle, Microsoft has been involved and let’s see whether or not they’re continuing to be involved. Walmart is truly a great company, they are very much involved. They want to do something. We have some great options and maybe we can keep a lot of people happy, but have the security that we need. We have to have the total security from China. We’re not going to do anything to jeopardize security. At the same time, it’s an amazing company, very, very popular. If we can do a combination of both I’d be very happy doing that. It could go very quickly. It could go very, very fast.
Donald Trump: (15:14)
Speaker 5: (15:14)
Mr. President, sir.
Speaker 4: (15:14)
Donald Trump: (15:14)
Go ahead, please.
Speaker 4: (15:15)
What do you-
Speaker 5: (15:15)
Donald Trump: (15:19)
Speaker 5: (15:19)
Thank you, Mr. President. On Kuwait, the Kuwaiti ambassador to Austria this week told the IAEA that the Kuwaiti government is very concerned over Iran’s constant breaching of the JCPOA. In your discussions with the Kuwaitis today, have you discussed where they stand this week as we go into the UN, as the United States tries to extend sanctions on Iran.
Donald Trump: (15:45)
Well, they just left my office as you know, the Oval Office. We had a very good meeting with the Amir and I think we understand each other very well. They’re very excited about a lot of things that are happening in the Middle East. They are so excited that we signed the first two countries and I think they’ll-
Donald Trump: (16:03)
They are so excited that we signed the first two countries and I think they’ll end up fairly quickly being a part of it. I have, I would say seven or eight countries that want to be a part of it without even working very easily, very quickly. Nobody thought this would happen. Not only is it happening, it’s happening rather easily. We discussed that very briefly because that’s an easy one. Believe it or not, that whole thing is now a beautiful puzzle that’s coming together very nicely, but we are talking to them and others about various aspects of the Middle East. The Middle East is straightening out with all this happening. We’ve brought a lot of our troops back. A lot of them are coming back in the very near future. We’re out of Syria, other than we kept the oil. I kept the oil and we have troops guarding the oil.
Donald Trump: (16:46)
Other than that, we’re out of Syria. We took them off the border between Syria and Turkey. We had a lot of troops on the border. Ultimately we got it down to 50 and I thought they were in great danger. When you have two armies sitting there looking to fight and you have 50 people in the middle, I don’t care who you are, even if you’re the US, those 50 people are in great danger. We took them out, but we had a lot of troops on the border and we took them out. I said, “Look, they’ve been fighting on their border for 200 years and a lot longer than that, under different names, and they can continue to do that. That’s not for us. We’re guarding our own borders. We’re doing very well on our Southern border as an example. We’re out of Syria, except we kept the oil and we’ll make a determination. We’ll probably be dealing with the Kurds on the oil and see what it all ends up, but we’ll be out.
Donald Trump: (17:36)
Very importantly, we’re down to very few soldiers in Iraq and we’re down, we’ll be down very shortly over the next couple of weeks to 4,000, less than 4,000 in Afghanistan. Then, we’ll make that final determination little bit later. We’re dealing very well with the Taliban. They’re very tough. They’re very smart. They’re very sharp, but you know, it’s been 19 years and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness. We really served as a police force, because if we wanted to do what we had to do, we would have fought a lot differently than they have over the 19 years. They didn’t fight it properly. They were police, okay? They’re not police. They’re soldiers. There’s a difference.
Donald Trump: (18:22)
The police, nobody has more respect for police than I do, but they have to do their own policing. We’re having some very good discussions with the Taliban, as you probably heard. It’s been public. But we’ll be down to, very shortly, we’ll be down to less than 4,000 soldiers. We’ll be out of there, knowing that certain things have to happen. Certain things have to be fulfilled, but 19 years is a long time. 8,000 miles away, 19 years is a long time. The Middle East, the whole Middle East equation, if you look at what’s happened, if you’ve looked at the stupidity of decisions that were made, including the deal that was made, I mean, take a look at what happened with Iran.
Donald Trump: (19:12)
Had that deal stayed, had I not broken that deal, you could have never done the deal that I’m doing now, where all the countries are pouring in. I had two calls this morning with countries that want to know, when can we go into the deal? They want to go. It’s not that we’re giving them anything. They want security. They want peace. They’re really tired of fighting. It’s incredible. They’re tired of fighting. They’ve been fighting for so many years, tired of fighting. Thank you very much,
Speaker 6: (19:37)
Speaker 7: (19:37)
A question on the vaccine, but first on Puerto Rico. I heard you many times over the past couple of years saying that Puerto Rico got too much money. I mean, just last year you said Puerto Rico is one of the most corrupt places on earth.
Donald Trump: (19:52)
Well, that’s true.
Donald Trump: (19:53)
They have money.
But you said never again. You said Congress gave too much money to Puerto Rico. Why now-
Donald Trump: (20:00)
Because we’re building that up as a great medical, pharmaceutical manufacturing area where we’re going to be taking back a lot of the business that we let go for years and we’re going to bring it back. They were very good at it. They did a fantastic job, but they destroyed it with their tax policy. They made it impossible for people to stay. People went to China, mostly and other countries. Puerto Rico has been very corrupt in terms of its politicians. You see that. They’re one after another. It’s been unbelievably corrupt and we’re studying that and working on that.
Donald Trump: (20:34)
We think we have a good group of people who are working very well with the politicians right now. But I think more exciting than than the dollars, and you have to do something with respect to their grid. Their grid is a disaster. Their generators are wiped out and they’ve been wiped out for years, long before Maria came, they’ve been wiped out for years. If we can build Puerto Rico back into a pharmaceutical manufacturing area, we’re going to designate it as such, I think it will be unbelievable for Puerto Rico, unbelievable for the people of Puerto Rico, and we can make it very successful
In a larger question on the vaccine and on other issues regarding the experts in your government, last night you criticized what Christopher Wray told Congress, your FBI Director. You obviously said that the CDC director was flat wrong on a couple of things this week. How is it that you don’t trust your own experts? Do you think you know better than all of them?
Donald Trump: (21:34)
Oh, not all of them. Yeah. In many cases I do. I think we have a bigger problem with China than we have with Russia. I think China is a far bigger problem. I said, “Well, that’s okay if you want to think about Russia, but what about China?” I think that’s appropriate. I thought that the definition of Antifa was an absolutely incorrect definition, so I speak up. I like to speak up. I have fantastic people. That’s why we’re able to make these great trade deals. That’s why we’re able to do things like we’re doing today. That’s why the country has done so well.
Donald Trump: (22:08)
The country has done numbers like nobody … Had we not had the China plague come in, if that virus didn’t come in, the plague, I call it, the plague from China didn’t come in, the numbers we had were not only record setting, they were beyond anything anyone’s ever seen in any country, frankly. Now, we closed it up and now we’re opening it up. By the way, the Democrats ought to open up their states and they go to open them up fast, John. The faster, the better, because they’re hurting that people. A lot of damage done with these extended shutdowns, but we save millions of lives by doing it the way we did it. Now we’re opening it up and you see the kind of numbers, the manufacturing numbers, see the retail numbers.
Donald Trump: (22:51)
You look at the employment numbers, they’re setting records. It’s an incredible thing that’s happening. Had the plague not come in, we would have been right now at a level that nobody’s ever seen before. Nobody’s ever seen. But even before it was at the highest stock market, best unemployment numbers and employment numbers were up to 160 million people, just short of 160 million people employed. We were never close to a number like that, and now we’re doing it again. Next year we will have a great economic year, I think one of our best, yeah.
Speaker 8: (23:23)
[inaudible 00:23:25] What you said about white supremacists. Did you-
Speaker 9: (23:25)
The postal service had planned on sending 650 million face masks to Americans back in April. That never happened. Why not and was it because-
Donald Trump: (23:33)
I really don’t know. I don’t run it, to be honest. That’s run as you know, that’s run by a commission and they run it. I think frankly, if they would raise the price of packaging, you’d end up make it a lot of money or breaking even, or doing something. The Post Office has been a mess for many, many generations, but for certainly decades. It loses a lot of money. It’s always lost a lot of money, and one of the reasons it loses a lot of money now, is that it’s delivering all these-
Donald Trump: (24:03)
And one of the reasons it loses a lot of money now is that it’s delivering all these packages, and every time they deliver a package, they lose $3 a package, or whatever the number may be. So I would suggest that they raise the price of packages. And you might get something where it loses very little or maybe broke even or maybe even made some money. Can you imagine a thing like that? And whether it’s Amazon or any of the other internet delivery services, if you did that, you’d have a whole different Post Office. So hopefully, they’ll be doing that. In the meantime, I know so many people in the postal system, and I’ve known them over the years, they’re incredible people. And they’re very secure, they’re going to be very secure.
Donald Trump: (24:44)
The problem they have with the ballots, is not the Post Office. The problem they have with the ballots is the people sending the ballots, and the people counting the ballots. And who are they sending them to? Where are they being sent? Are they being sent to the wrong areas? Or they’re not being sent at all? There’ll be tremendous corruption if they don’t do something about it. Now, one big hope is that we’re in front of numerous federal judges. In Nevada, we’re in front. In Pennsylvania, as you know, we’re in front, in Michigan. We have numerous court cases out there that are very well advanced, and you’ll start seeing decisions. Just like we won the case on opening up Pennsylvania. That was a great decision by a judge that came down two days ago. And that was a very important decision. But we have a lot of very important decisions coming down on the scam of unsolicited ballots, where they’re sending out tens of millions of ballots to everybody. People that didn’t expect them. People are getting inundated with… they’ll be showered with ballots.
Donald Trump: (25:47)
Everybody in this room knows it’s a scam, everybody in this room, even John. Don’t say it, John-
Donald Trump: (25:56)
Because it’s a scam. Sending ballots at a level, [crosstalk 00:26:01] they are never going to be able to count them. Let me ask you-
Speaker 10: (26:04)
Don’t your officials vote by mail, sir? People in the White House vote by mail, are they part of the scam?
Donald Trump: (26:07)
But that’s different, that’s called solicited. When you solicit, when you go out, it’s called absentee or solicit. When you go out and you request a ballot, you want to say, “I want to vote because I can’t be in Florida or I can’t be someplace,” you request. So you’re sending something in, it’s handled professionally. They send it back. It’s a whole thing. That’s much different than unsolicited, when you get millions of ballots. I heard numbers like 80 million ballots. Now, just this week, they had another one, another one of the disasters that took place, an election. But look at what happened in New Jersey. And they had another one in New Jersey, a very, very bad… different than Patterson. Look at what happened in New York with Carolyn… Congressman Murphy.
Speaker 11: (26:55)
Maloney. [crosstalk 00:26:57]
Donald Trump: (26:56)
Maloney, Carolyn Maloney. Look at that, look at that race. Carolyn Maloney had a race, it was a disaster. Ballots are missing, ballots of fraud. These are small races. Look at what happened in Virginia. Look at what happened at various other parts of the country, even over the last short period of while. And these aren’t 80 million or 50 million or 20 million votes, these are small elections. These are congressional elections where in theory it’s easy. So what’s going to happen on November 3rd when somebody is leading, and they said, “Well, what? We haven’t counted the ballots. We have millions of ballots to count.” It’s a disaster. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows it’s a disaster. And I don’t expect people here to say, although some people will, some people would say it… everyone knows, you don’t even have to know politics to know. And this has nothing to do with Post Office, by the way, where are these ballots going? Who sending them? Who’s signing them?
Donald Trump: (27:51)
You have in Nevada, you have a governor that signs something, where he does a one verification of the signature. So what does that mean? So he doesn’t even want verification of the signature. So I think it’s going to be a terrible time for this country. And we’re counting on federal judges to do a great constitutional job when they are… They’re right now, analyzing it. Many, many federal judges, many like, I think five or six. but many federal judges. I can tell you in Pennsylvania, big, in Nevada, very big. I believe it’s in front of a judge in Michigan. We have a lot of judges have not yet ruled on this. But if it’s ruled in a different manner, or it’s ruled where these millions and millions of unsolicited people that aren’t even asking, is such a difference. You write in, you ask, they send it to you, you sign it, you send it back, that’s perfect. That’s absentee. There’s nothing like going to the voter booth, by the way, nothing, where they check you as you go in. There’s nothing like that. But that’s absentee, that’s okay.
Donald Trump: (28:59)
But the scam of sending millions and millions of ballots… and you know, who knows this better than I do, the Democrats. They know it’s going to be a mess. They know there are going to be millions of missing ballots or tremendous numbers of missing ballots. You could be talking about large percentages of these ballots are going to be missing. There’s going to be fraud. It’s a disaster.
Speaker 10: (29:20)
So [crosstalk 00:29:21]-
Donald Trump: (29:21)
And it’d be a lot easier for me not to bring it up, but everybody knows I’m right. And you don’t have to know a lot about elections. You don’t have to know a lot about politics. This is going to be the scam of all time. And hopefully, the federal judges, all respected, all highly respected, hopefully, they’ll be able to see this clearly and stop it. Okay, thank you very much, everybody.
Speaker 10: (29:46)
[crosstalk 00:29:46] Mr. President, if you win… Let me ask you this.
Donald Trump: (29:46)
So I want to congratulate Puerto Rico, and I think you’re going to have a great period of time. I think you’re going to see a rebuilding of Puerto Rico. Thank you very much.
Speaker 10: (29:53)
President, is it still a scam if you win, sir?
Speaker 12: (29:56)
[inaudible 00:29:56] for investigation. How do these events seem to marginalized communities?