During a brief conversation with reporters on Wednesday, President Donald Trump weighed in on issues ranging from Hillary Clinton’s involvement in a dossier about connections between himself and Russia to outgoing Senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, a pair of Republican lawmakers who have frequently criticized the President.
Trump’s impromptu question-and-answer period came after The Washington Post reported that Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund the infamous Trump dossier. It also followed an impassioned speech by Flake on the floor of the Senate Tuesday, during which the senator announced his impending retirement and rebuked Trump’s tenure, insinuating the President is a threat to American democracy.
Trump called the news in the Post report a “disgrace” and said Flake’s unpopularity in his home state of Arizona would help the President’s future political prospects there.
Read the transcript below:
Q: What’s your reaction to Democrats paying for the dossier?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s very sad what they’ve done with this fake dossier. It was made up, and I understand they paid a tremendous amount of money, and Hillary Clinton always denied it. The Democrats always denied it. And now only because it’s going to come out in a court case, they said, yes, they did it. They admitted it, and they’re embarrassed by it. But I think it’s a disgrace. It’s just really — it’s a very sad — it’s a very sad commentary on politics in this country.
Q : Do you know which Republicans helped fund that?
Q: Mr. President, (inaudible) Senator Bob Corker and his chairmanship?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think so. I think it’s fine the way it is. We have actually great unity in the Republican Party. Yesterday, I was —
Q (Inaudible) Bob Corker and Jeff Flake?
THE PRESIDENT: That’s okay. Look, you know they have to do their thing. We have great unity. If you look at what happened yesterday at the meeting, we had, I guess, virtually every senator, including John McCain. We had a great conversation yesterday — John McCain and myself — about the military.I think we had a — I called it a lovefest. It was almost a lovefest. Maybe it was a lovefest. But we — standing ovations. There is great unity. If you look at the Democrats with Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, that’s a mess. There’s great unity in the Republican Party.
Q (Inaudible) this country is in the gutter right now. Do you agree with that? Do you bear any responsibility for that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s sad. But I think to a large extent, in all due respect, I think the media causes a lot of it. Fake stories are being reported. A lot of bad things are being reported that aren’t true, and I think to a certain extent, maybe I can blame the media.But politics is a rough business. There’s no question about it. I will say this: I think the Republican Party has a pretty good unity. When I looked at that room yesterday at lunch — and you know, and you reported on it very well, Kristen. You gave it a very good report. The fact is there was tremendous unity in that room, and we’re really unified. We’re really unified on what we want to do.We want tax cuts for the middle class. We want tax cuts for businesses to produce jobs. There’s great unity.
Q: What about Senator Flake saying you are a danger to democracy?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, he was against me from before he ever knew me. He wrote a book about me before I ever met him, before I ever heard his name. His poll numbers in Arizona are so low that he couldn’t win, and I don’t blame him for leaving. I think he did the right thing for himself. But if you know, long before he ever knew me, during the campaign, even before the campaign — I mean, he came out with this horrible book, and I said, who is this guy? In fact, I remembered the first time I saw him on television I had not really been — nobody knew me in terms of politics. But the first time I saw him on television, I said, I assume he’s a Democrat. Is he a Democrat? They said he’s a Republican. I said, that’s impossible.
So, look, his poll numbers are terrible. He’s done terribly for the great people of Arizona, a state that likes Donald Trump very much as even you will admit. And he would have never won. In fact, even in the primary, he’s way down in the primary. So he did the smart thing for himself. This way he can get out somewhat gracefully. But —
Q What about the comments that you’re (inaudible).
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he’s saying that — he’s saying that because he has nothing else to say. But I do think this — I do think this: I wish him well. I really believe he’s going to do the right thing for the country. He’s going to vote for tax cuts because we desperately need tax cuts to put our people back to work. We need tax cuts also to be able to compete with other countries.
Q (Inaudible) Bob Corker — “liddle” Bob Corker?
THE PRESIDENT: You know what, I hope Bob — and I really believe that Bob Corker is going to do the right thing also.
Yes, go ahead.
Q (Inaudible), Mr. President — do you feel like that’s (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t hear you. I can’t — what? Say it again.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Senator Flake did vote with me. I understand it was about 91 or even more than that. So from that standpoint, good.
No, I think I’ll be boosted in Arizona because he’s very unpopular. I think the fact that he did it the way he did it probably — I mean, I’m very high in Arizona. I love the people; they like me. They like security at the border. You know, all of the things.But I think I’m probably helped greatly in Arizona by what happened with Senator Flake.
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think they’d do that. I really know that they want tax cuts. They know we need it. We need it for the country, we need it for the people, we need if for the middle class, we need it for jobs. I don’t think they’d do that. I really don’t. I know them well enough. I don’t know Flake very well, but I know Bob Corker. I think they really would do it. I think they feel they have to do it for the country.
THE PRESIDENT: Say it?
Q (Inaudible) Democrats?
THE PRESIDENT: I think we’re going to get some Democrat votes, yeah. I do believe — I haven’t started the process, but I believe that there are certain Democrats that, if they don’t vote for these massive tax cuts for business, for jobs, and for the middle class, they will lose their races in ’18.
Q Mr. President, should you be more civil (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the press makes me more uncivil than I am. You know, people don’t understand — I went to an Ivy League college, I was a nice student, I did very well, I’m a very intelligent person. The fact is, I think — I really believe — I think the press creates a different image of Donald Trump than the real person.
Q In that vein, Mr. President, would you ever apologize to Sergeant La David Johnson’s wife?
Q When is it okay for you to (inaudible) your punches —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it’s always okay — when somebody says something about you that’s false, I think it’s always okay to counterpunch or to fight back.
Q You have talked, Mr. President, about the idea that any changes to tax-free contributions to 401(k)s are off the table. That was the source of your spat —
THE PRESIDENT: I wanted to end that quickly. 401(k)s, to me, are very important. And they’re important because that’s one of the great benefits to the middle class. I didn’t want that to go too far. That’s why I ended it very quickly.
Q But Kevin Brady, who is the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said this morning it could be on the table.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, maybe it is, and maybe we’ll use it as negotiating. But trust me, that’s one of the great things. You know, there are certain elements of deals you don’t want to negotiate with. 401(k)s — and Kevin knows it, and I think Kevin Brady is fantastic, but he knows how important 401(k)s are.
Q You told me last week you thought that the uranium sale to Russia was one of the big stories of the decade. Three congressional committees are now looking at that. We haven’t heard you comment on it since those investigations were launched.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think the uranium sale to Russia and the way it was done, so underhanded, with tremendous amounts of money being passed — I actually think that’s Watergate, modern age.
Q Mr. President, what more do you want to know about the mission in Niger? And what have you asked the Pentagon to tell you and tell the country?
THE PRESIDENT: Say it again, please.
Q What more do you want to know about the mission in Niger? And what have you asked the Pentagon to tell you and tell the country about what went wrong?
THE PRESIDENT: I can’t —
Q What more do you want to know about the mission in Niger —
Q And what went wrong, and what do you want the country to know about that.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re going to look at it. Now, I have to say, we are decimating ISIS in the Middle East. What’s happening is, they’ll go to parts of Africa, they’ll go to other places. When they get there, we meet them. It’s a dangerous business — I have to say, it’s a dangerous business. So what —
THE PRESIDENT: No, I didn’t. Not specifically. But I have generals that are great generals. These are great fighters. These are warriors and —
Q You gave them authority to do this mission.
THE PRESIDENT: I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have. I want to win and we’re going to win, and we’re beating ISIS very badly. You look at what’s happened in the Middle East — we have done more in eight months than the previous administration has done in many years.
Now, what happens is, you decimate them and that’s all we’ve done. We have decimated ISIS in the Middle East. They go to Africa, they go to places. When they get there, we meet them there. That’s what goes on. It’s a tough business. It’s a tough war, but we are winning it. And you know what? We’re going to continue winning it.
With that being said, my generals and my military, they have decision-making ability. As far as the incident that we’re talking about, I’ve been seeing it just like you’ve been seeing it. I’ve been getting reports. They have to meet the enemy and they meet them tough, and that’s what happens.
Q Did Sergeant Johnson’s wife (inaudible). Would you ever apologize to her?
THE PRESIDENT: I was extremely nice to her. She sounds like a lovely lady. I’ve never seen her. I’ve never met her, but she sounds likes a lovely lady. But I was extremely nice to her. I was extremely courteous, as I was to everyone else.
You know, it’s interesting, you folks have called many people that I spoke to. Everybody has said unbelievable, good thing about me, but you never report that.
Q We reported that.
Q Mr. President, but she was really upset by your phone call —
THE PRESIDENT: Did you report it? Did you report it?
Q We have reported that. You’ve talked about the —
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
Q You’re welcome. But what about your —
THE PRESIDENT: I can only say this: I was really nice to her. I respect her. I respect her family. I certainly respect La David, who — I, by the way, called La David right from the beginning. Just so you understand, they put a chart in front — “La David.” It says, La David Johnson.
So I called right from the beginning. There’s no hesitation. One of the great memories of all time. There was no hesitation. I think she’s a fantastic woman. I was extremely nice to her, extremely respectful.
Q You made four phone calls to four different families that day. Did you say anything different to Myeshia Johnson than you did to any of the other three families?
THE PRESIDENT: I would say, basically, we talked condolence. I mean, it’s all about condolence, it’s about warmth. In many cases you listen, because in so many cases — one of the families, they were saying, yes, he was a great football star.
And honestly, they pour their heart out, John. It’s the hardest calls. They pour their heart out. But I am always — and look, you people have called many people that I’ve spoken to, and every one of them has said I couldn’t have been nicer. Now, it’s a rough time for these people. I mean, how tough is it? There’s nothing tougher. But I have such respect for those families. Nobody has more respect than I do — nobody.
Q In the budget deal in December, do you want DACA in that?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re looking at DACA. We have to get something for it, but we are looking at DACA. And we’ll see what happens. I would love to do a DACA deal, but we have to get something very substantial for it, including the wall, including security, including a strong border. We have to be able to stop drugs from pouring into our nation.
Q On taxes, sir, you talk about what the American people will get out of your tax plan. Why not tell them how it will affect you by releasing your taxes?
THE PRESIDENT: The tax plan is going to be incredible for this country. It’s going to bring back jobs, it’s going to cut taxes tremendously. We’re going to bring back $4 trillion, I think at least from overseas. That money is going to be put back to work in our country instead of other countries. The tax cut is going to be massive. It’s going to keep companies from leaving our country. So important.
Q Have any of your family members or advisors been interviewed by the special counsel?
THE PRESIDENT: Not that I know of, no.
Q Have you been contacted —
THE PRESIDENT: And I have to say, the whole Russian thing is what it’s turned out to be. This was the Democrats coming up with an excuse for losing an election. It’s an election that’s very hard for a Democrat to lose because the Electoral College is set in such a way that it’s very hard to lose that election for a Democrat. They lost it. They lost it very badly and very easily.
I mean, you look at the votes; it was 306 to what — 223 or something. They lost it by a lot. They didn’t know what to say, so they made up the whole Russia hoax. Now it’s turning out that the hoax has turned around. And you look at what’s happened with Russia, and you look at the uranium deal, and you look at the fake dossier. So that’s all turned around.
Q (Inaudible), yes or no?
THE PRESIDENT: No, not at all.
THE PRESIDENT: No. We have a very good relationship. Honestly, when you look at — when you take a look at what’s happened with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and the hatred and the division and the animosity — I’ll tell you what, honestly, the Republicans are very, very well united.
Q Opioids —
THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to have a big meeting on opioids tomorrow. We’re going to be doing a very, very important meeting sometime in the very short — the very near future on opioids, in terms of declaring a national emergency, which gives us power to do things that you can’t do right now.
Q This Fusion GPS investigation began on the Republican side of things during the primary. Do you have any idea who it was who was collecting opposition data on you?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they say it began with the Republicans. I think I would know, but I won’t say. It’ll be determined. It’ll be determined.
Look, Hillary would have never announced it was them, except for this great court case that’s going on where the judge was going to reveal it. So they figured, we’ll do it first. They’re very embarrassed by it. It’s a disgrace. Yes, it might have started with the Republicans early on in the primaries. I think I would know, but let’s find out who it is. I’m sure that will come out.
Q Do you know who those Republicans are?
THE PRESIDENT: I think I would have, if I were to guess, I have one name in mind.
Q What’s the name?
THE PRESIDENT: It will probably be revealed.
Q The DMZ. Yes or no, are you going? Yes or no?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’d rather not say but you’ll be surprised.