Return to Transcripts main page
At This Hour
Live Coverage of Donald Trump Press Conference. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET
Aired January 11, 2017 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:30:08] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT-ELECT: And I will give Reince Priebus credit, because when Reince saw what was happening in the world and with this country, he went out and went to various firms and ordered a very, very strong hacking defense.
And they tried to hack the Republican National Committee and they were unable to break through.
We have to do that for our country. It's very important.
QUESTION: ... just to the last part of that question (inaudible) how could all of this potentially color your attempts to build a better relationship with President Putin?
TRUMP: Well, you know, President Putin and Russia put out a statement today that this fake news was indeed fake news. They said it totally never happened.
Now, somebody would say, "Oh, of course he's gonna say that."
I respected the fact that he said that.
And I -- I'll be honest, I think if he did have something, they would've released it; they would've been glad to release it.
I think, frankly, had they broken into the Republican National Committee, I think they would've released it just like they did about Hillary and all of the horrible things that her people, like Mr. Podesta, said about her. I mean what he said about her was horrible.
If somebody said about me, what Podesta said about Hillary, I was the boss, I would've fired him immediately or that person. Because what he said about her was horrible.
But remember this: We talk about the hacking and hacking's bad and it shouldn't be done. But look at the things that were hacked, look at what was learned from that hacking.
That Hillary Clinton got the questions to the debate and didn't report it? That's a horrible thing. That's a horrible thing.
Can you imagine that if Donald Trump got the questions to the debate -- it would've been the biggest story in the history of stories. And they would've said immediately, "You have to get out of the race." Nobody even talked about it. It's a very terrible thing.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question, sir?
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect.
On that intelligence report, the second part of their conclusion was that Vladimir Putin ordered it because he aspired to help you in the election.
Do you accept that part of the finding? And will you undo what President Obama did to punish the Russians for this or will you keep it in place?
TRUMP: Well, if -- if Putin likes Donald Trump, I consider that an asset, not a liability, because we have a horrible relationship with Russia. Russia can help us fight ISIS, which, by the way, is, number one, tricky. I mean if you look, this administration created ISIS by leaving at the wrong time. The void was created, ISIS was formed.
If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks? That's called an asset, not a liability.
Now, I don't know that I'm gonna get along with Vladimir Putin. I hope I do. But there's a good chance I won't. And if I don't, do you honestly believe that Hillary would be tougher on Putin than me? Does anybody in this room really believe that? Give me a break.
QUESTION: ... President Obama...
QUESTION: ... make clear whether during your visits to either Moscow or St. Petersburg, you engaged in conduct that you now regret and that a reasonable...
QUESTION: Would a reasonable observer say that you are potentially vulnerable to blackmail by Russia or by its intelligence agencies?
TRUMP: Lemme just tell you what I do.
When I leave our country, I'm a very high-profile person, would you say?
I am extremely careful. I'm surrounded by bodyguards. I'm surrounded by people. And I always tell them -- anywhere, but I always tell them if I'm leaving this country, "Be very careful, because in your hotel rooms and no matter where you go, you're gonna probably have cameras." I'm not referring just to Russia, but I would certainly put them in that category.
And number one, "I hope you're gonna be good anyway. But in those rooms, you have cameras in the strangest places. Cameras that are so small with modern technology, you can't see them and you won't know. You better be careful, or you'll be watching yourself on nightly television."
I tell this to people all the time.
I was in Russia years ago, with the Miss Universe contest, which did very well -- Moscow, the Moscow area did very, very well.
And I told many people, "Be careful, because you don't wanna see yourself on television. Cameras all over the place."
And again, not just Russia, all over.
Does anyone really believe that story?
I'm also very much of a germaphobe, by the way, believe me. (LAUGHTER)
QUESTION: ... how you plan to disentangle yourself from your business. But first, I have to follow-up on some of these Russian remarks.
Based on your comments here today, do you believe the hacking was justified? Does Russia have any leverage over you, financial or otherwise? And if not, will you release your tax returns to prove it?
TRUMP: So I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.
[11:35:13] As a real estate developer, I have very, very little debt. I have assets that are -- and now people have found out how big the company is, I have very little debt -- I have very low debt. But I have no loans with Russia at all.
And I thought that was important to put out. I certified that. So I have no deals, I have no loans and I have no dealings. We could make deals in Russia very easily if we wanted to, I just don't want to because I think that would be a conflict. So I have no loans, no dealings, and no current pending deals.
Now, I have to say one other thing. Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great, great developer from the Middle East, Hussein Damack, a friend of mine, great guy. And I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai -- a number of deals and I turned it down. I didn't have to turn it down, because as you know, I have a no- conflict situation because I'm president, which is -- I didn't know about that until about three months ago, but it's a nice thing to have. But I don't want to take advantage of something. I have something that others don't have, Vice President Pence also has it. I don't think he'll need it, I have a feeling he's not going to need it.
But I have a no conflict of interest provision as president. It was many, many years old, this is for presidents. Because they don't want presidents getting -- I understand they don't want presidents getting tangled up in minutia; they want a president to run the country. So I could actually run my business, I could actually run my business and run government at the same time.
I don't like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to. I would be the only one to be able to do that. You can't do that in any other capacity. But as president, I could run the Trump organization, great, great company, and I could run the company -- the country. I'd do a very good job, but I don't want to do that.
Now, all of these papers that you see here -- yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: (inaudible) do you believe the hacking was justified? And will you release your tax returns to prove what you're saying about no deals in Russia?
TRUMP: I'm not releasing the tax returns because as you know, they're under audit.
QUESTION: ... since the '70's has had a required audit from the IRS, the last place to release them, but as president sir...
TRUMP: You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, OK? They're the only who ask.
QUESTION: You don't think the American public is concerned about it?
TRUMP: No I don't think so. I won, when I became president. No, I don't think they care at all. I don't think they care at all.
TRUMP: I think you care -- I think you care. First of all, you learn very little to a tax return. What you should go down to federal elections and take a look at the numbers. And actually, people have learned a lot about my company and now they realize, my company is much bigger, much more powerful than they ever thought. We're in many, many countries, and I'm very proud of it.
And what I'm going to be doing is my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They're not going to discuss it with me. Again, I don't have to do this. They're not going to discuss it with me. And with that, I'm going to bring up Sheri Dillon, and she's going to go -- these papers are just some of the many documents that I've signed turning over complete and total control to my sons.
DILLON: Good morning. It's my honor and privilege to be here today at President-elect Trump's request.
He's asked me, as you just heard, to speak about the conflicts of interest and the steps he's taking. As you know, the business empire built by President-elect Trump over the years is massive, not dissimilar to the fortunes of Nelson Rockefeller when he became vice president. But at that time, no one was so concerned.
President-elect Trump wants the American public to rest assured that all of his efforts are directed to pursuing the people's business and not his own. To that end, as he explained a few moments ago, he directed me and my colleagues at the law firm Morgan Lewis and Bockius to design a structure for his business empire that will completely isolate him from the management of the company.
He further instructed that we build in protections that will assure the American people the decisions he makes and the actions that he takes as president are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests.
DILLON: As he said, he's voluntarily taking this on. The conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president and they are not required to separate themselves from their financial assets.
[11:40:10] The primary conflicts of interest statutes and some have questioned it, is Section 18 USC 208 and it's simply inapplicable by its terms. And this is not just our interpretation. It's Congress itself who have made this clear in 1989 when it amended Section 18 USC 202 to state that, except as otherwise provided, the terms office and employee in section 208 shall not include the president.
Even so, President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests. He instructed us to take all steps realistically possible to make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit. He also sought the guidance of individuals who are familiar with and have worked extensively in the fields of government ethics and constitutional law.
Critical to the Morgan Lewis team is Fred Fielding, standing here to our side and with us today and many of you have known him. He has served several presidents over the years including serving as counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush as well as serving on President George H.W. Bush's Commission on Federal Ethics Law Reform and he also held the position of vice chair of the Ethics Resource Center.
Mr. Fielding has been extensively involved with and approved this plan. He's here today to support the plan and he will continue to provide guidance as the plan is implemented and as Eric, Don, along with others, take over management of the Trump organization.
I'm gonna detail some of the extraordinary steps now that the president-elect is taking. First, President-elect Trump's investments and business assets commonly known as the -- as the Trump Organization, comprising hundreds of entities which, again, if you all go and take a look at his financial disclosure statement, the pages and pages and pages of entities have all been or will be conveyed to a trust prior to January 20th. Here is just some of the paperwork that's taking care of those actions.
Second, through the trust agreement, he has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization to his sons Don and Eric and a longtime Trump executive, Allen Weisselberg. Together, Don, Eric and Allen will have the authority to manage the Trump Organization and will make decisions for the duration of the presidency without any involvement whatsoever by President-elect Trump.
Further, at the president-elect's direction, the trust agreement provides -- that to ensure the Trump Organization continues to operate in accordance with the highest and legal ethics standards, an ethics adviser will be appointed to the management team. The written approval of the ethics adviser will be required for new deals, actions, and transactions that could potentially raise ethics or conflicts of interest concerns.
President-elect Trump as well as Don, Eric and Allen are committed to ensuring that the activities of the Trump organization are beyond reproach and cannot be perceived to be exploitive of the office of the presidency. President-elect Trump will resign from all officer and other positions he holds with the Trump Organization entities.
Further, in addition, his daughter Ivanka will have no further involvement with or management authority whatsoever with the Trump Organization. As she and Jared move their family to D.C., Ivanka will focused on settling her children into their new homes and their new schools.
The president-elect has also already disposed of all of his investments in publicly traded or easily liquidated investments. As a result, the trust will have two types of assets; first, it will hold liquid assets. Cash, cash equivalents and treasuries and perhaps some positions in a government approved diversified portfolio, one that is consistent with the regulations from the Office of Government Ethics.
Second, the trust is going to hold his preexisting illiquid, but very valuable business assets, the ones that everyone here is familiar with. Trump owned, operated and branded golf clubs, commercial rental property, resorts, hotels, rights to royalties from preexisting licenses of Trump-Marks Productions and Goods. Things like Trump Tower, Mar-a-Lago, all of his other business assets, 40 Wall Street will all be in the trust.
Through instructions in the trust agreement, President-elect trust -- President-elect Trump first ordered that all pending deals be terminated. This impacted more than 30 deals, many of which were set to close by the end of 2016. As you can well imagine, that caused an immediate financial loss of millions of dollars, not just for President-elect Trump, but also for Don, Ivanka and Eric.
[11:45:08] DILLON: The trust agreement as directed by President Trump imposes severe restrictions on new deals. No new foreign deals will be made whatsoever during the duration of President Trump's presidency. New domestic deals will be allowed, but they will go through a vigorous vetting process.
The president-elect will have no role in deciding whether the Trump Organization engages in any new deal and he will only know of a deal if he reads it in the paper or sees it on TV. Because any new deal could -- and I emphasize could -- be perceived as causing a conflict or as exploiting the office of the presidency, new deals must be vetted with the ethics adviser, whose role will be to analyze any potential transactions for conflicts and ethics issues.
The ethics adviser will be a recognized expert in the field of government experts. Again, his role will be to scrutinize the new deals and the actions, and any new deal must receive written approval.
To further reinforce the wall that we are building between President- elect Trump and the Trump Organization, President-elect Trump has ordered, through his trust agreement, to sharply limit his information rights. Reports will only be available and reflect profit and loss on the company as a whole. There will be no separate business by business accounting.
Another step that President-elect Trump has taken is he created a new position at the Trump Organization; the position of chief compliance counsel, whose responsibility will be to ensure that the Trump businesses, again, are operating at the highest levels of integrity and not taking any actions that could be perceived as exploiting the office of the presidency. He has also directed that no communications of the Trump Organization, including social media accounts, will reference or be tied to President-elect Trump's role as president of the United States or the office of the presidency.
In sum, all of these actions -- complete relinquishment of management, no foreign deals, ethics adviser approval of deals, sharply limited information rights -- will sever President-elect Trump's presidency from the Trump Organization.
Some have asked questions. Why not divest? Why not just sell everything? Form of blind trust. And I'd like to turn to addressing some of those questions now.
Selling, first and foremost, would not eliminate possibilities of conflicts of interest. In fact, it would exacerbate them. The Trump brand is key to the value of the Trump Organization's assets. If President-elect Trump sold his brand, he would be entitled to royalties for the use of it, and this would result in the trust retaining an interest in the brand without the ability to assure that it does not exploit the office of the presidency.
Further, whatever price was paid would be subject to criticism and scrutiny. Was it too high, is there pay for play, was it too much pay to curry favor with the president-elect. And selling his assets without the rights to the brand would greatly diminish the value of the assets and create a fire sale.
President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built. This plan offers a suitable alternative to address the concerns of the American people, and selling the entire Trump Organization isn't even feasible.
Some people have suggested that the president-elect sell the business to his adult children. This would require massive third-party debt sourced with multiple lenders, whose motives and willingness to participate would be questioned and undoubtedly investigated. And if the president-elect were to finance the sale himself, he would retain the financial interests in the assets that he owns now.
Some people have suggested that the Trump -- that President-elect Trump could bundle the assets and turn the Trump Organization into a public company. Anyone who has ever gone through this extraordinarily cumbersome and complicated process knows that it is a non-starter. It is not realistic and it would be inappropriate for the Trump Organization.
Some people have suggested a blind trust, but you cannot have a totally blind trust with operating businesses. President Trump can't unknow he owns Trump Tower and the press will make sure that any new developments at the Trump Organization are well publicized.
DILLON: Further, it would be impossible to find an institutional trustee that would be competent to run the Trump Organization. The approach that he is taking allows Don and Eric to preserve this great company and its iconic assets. And this approach is best from a conflicts and ethics perspective. It creates a complete separation from President-elect Trump -- it separates him and prevents him from participating in the business and poses strict limits on what the trustees can do and requires the assent of any ethics adviser to a new deal.
[11:50:13] I'm going to turn to one last topic today that has been of interest lately called emoluments. That's a word I think we've all become familiar with and perhaps had not heard before.
And we're gonna describe some other actions that President-elect Trump is taking to avoid even the appearance of a conflict.
Emoluments comes from the Constitution. The Constitution says "officials may not accept gifts, titles of nobility, or emoluments from foreign governments with respect to their office, and that no benefit should be derived by holding in office."
The so-called Emoluments Clause has never been interpreted, however, to apply to fair value exchanges that have absolutely nothing to do with an office holder.
No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument. Instead, it would have been thought of as a value-for-value exchange; not a gift, not a title, and not an emolument. But since President-elect Trump has been elected, some people want to define emoluments to cover routine business transactions like paying for hotel rooms. They suggest that the Constitution prohibits the businesses from even arm's-length transactions that the president- elect has absolutely nothing to do with and isn't even aware of.
These people are wrong. This is not what the Constitution says. Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present and it has nothing to do with an office. It's not an emolument.
The Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here. But, just like with conflicts of interests, he wants to do more than what the Constitution requires.
So, President-elect Trump has decided, and we are announcing today, that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury. This way, it is the American people who will profit.
In sum, I and president-elect's (sic) other advisers at Morgan Lewis have determined the approach we've outlined today will avoid potential conflicts of interests or concerns regarding exploitation of the office of the presidency without imposing unnecessary and unreasonable loses on the president-elect and his family.
We believe this structure and these steps will serve to accomplish the president-elect's desire to be isolated from his business interests and give the American people confidence that his sole business and interest is in making America great again, bringing back jobs to this country, securing our borders and rebuilding our infrastructure.
The American people were well -- well aware of President-elect Trump's business empire and financial interests when they voted. Many people voted for him precisely because of his business success.
President-elect Trump wants to bring this success to all Americans. Thank you.
DILLON: You're welcome. My pleasure. Yes (ph). Don't want to lose your note. Thank you.
TRUMP: Thank you very much. Here you go, you (ph).
DILLON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Trump? Thank you. Mr. Trump, (inaudible) from America News.
What is your response to your critics that say not only you, but also your Cabinet is filled with conflicts of interest?
And do you plan to set an example in the future to make sure that your -- your Cabinet and everyone throughout your administration...
TRUMP: I -- I really think that when you watch what's going on with what's happening in -- I was just watching, as an example, Rex Tillerson. I think it's brilliant what he's doing and what he's saying.
I watched yesterday, as you know, our great senator, who is going to be a great attorney general. And he was brilliant. And what people don't know is that he was a great prosecutor and attorney general in Alabama. And he was brilliant yesterday.
So, I really think that they are -- I think we have one of the great Cabinets ever put together. And we've been hearing that from so many people. People are so happy.
You know, in the case of Rex, he ran incredibly Exxon Mobil. When there was a find, he would get it. When they needed something, he would be there.
A friend of mine who's very, very substantial in the oil business, Harold Hamm -- big supporter -- he said there's nobody in the business like Rex Tillerson.
And that's what we want. That's what I want to bring to government.
I want to bring the greatest people into government, because we're way behind. We don't make good deals any more. I say it all the time in speeches. We don't make good deals anymore; we make bad deals. Our trade deals are a disaster.
TRUMP: We have hundreds of billions of dollars of losses on a yearly basis -- hundreds of billions with China on trade and trade imbalance, with Japan, with Mexico, with just about everybody. We don't make good deals anymore.
So we need people that are smart, we need people that are successful and they got successful because generally speaking, they're smart. And that's what I'd put, I'm very proud of the Cabinet, I think they're doing very well.
It's very interesting how it's going, but it's -- I think they're doing very, very well.
QUESTION: ... a quick follow-up on -- on Russia, sir.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. I wanted to ask a few questions on Obamacare?
TRUMP: Yeah. QUESTION: Can you be specific on what guidance you're giving congressional Republicans on the timeline for repeal and replace, whether it needs to be simultaneous or...
TRUMP: Finally, Obamacare, I thought it was never gonna be asked.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) though if you have outlined a plan for what you want the replace package to look like, would it guarantee coverage for those who have gotten health insurance through the current Obamacare law?
TRUMP: You're gonna be very, very proud, as not only the media and reporters, you're gonna be very proud of what we put forth having to do with health care. Obamacare is a complete and total disaster.
They can say what they want, they can guide you anyway they wanna guide you. In some cases, they guide you incorrectly. In most cases, you realize what's happened, it's imploding as we sit.
Some states have over a hundred percent increase and '17 and I said this two years ago, '17 is going to be the bad year. It's going to be catastrophic. Frankly, we could sit back and it was a thought from a political standpoint, but it wouldn't be fair to the people.
We could sit back and wait and watch and criticize and we could be a Chuck Schumer and sit back and criticize it and people would come, they would come, begging to us please, we have to do something about Obamacare. We don't wanna own it, we don't wanna own it politically. They own it right now.
So the easiest thing would be to let it implode in '17 and believe me, we'd get pretty much whatever we wanted, but it would take a long time. We're going to be submitting, as soon as our secretary's approved, almost simultaneously, shortly thereafter, a plan.
It'll be repeal and replace. It will be essentially, simultaneously. It will be various segments, you understand, but will most likely be on the same day or the same week, but probably, the same day, could be the same hour.
So we're gonna do repeal and replace, very complicated stuff. And we're gonna get a health bill passed, we're gonna get health care taken care of in this country. You have deductibles that are so high, that after people go broke paying their premiums which are going through the roof, the health care can't even be used by them because their deductibles bills are so high.
Obamacare is the Democrats problem. We are gonna take the problem off the shelves for them. We're doing them a tremendous service by doing it. We could sit back and let them hang with it. We are doing the Democrats a great service.
So as soon as our secretary is approved and gets into the office, we'll be filing a plan. And it was actually, pretty accurately reported today, The New York Times. And the plan will be repeal and replace Obamacare.
We're going to have a health care that is far less expensive and far better. OK.
QUESTION: President-elect, can we just ask you -- sir, sir...
QUESTION: President-elect Trump...
QUESTION: Mr. President -- which one?
TRUMP: I was going right here.
QUESTION: President-elect Trump, Jon Steinberg (ph) from Cheddar. When you look at all the meetings that you've had with Carrier, SoftBank and Alibaba, do you conceive of making this a program, maybe sitting inside of commerce?
And then my follow-up question to that, is how soon will we see the program on capital repatriation and corporate tax cuts?
TRUMP: Well, if I can save jobs, for instance I was doing individual companies and people said well, that's only one company, like we did a good job with Carrier. And I wanna thank United Technologies which owns Carrier, but we saved close to a thousand jobs.
And they were gone and Mike Pence and his staff really helped us, a lot. But those were -- that was a tough one because they announced a year and a half before that they were leaving so it's always tough when they're building a plan, just a little tougher than before they start or before they make an announcement.
So I wanna thank United Technologies. But we've been meeting with a lot of companies. But what really is happening, is the word is now out, that when you want to move your plant to Mexico or some other place, and you want to fire all of your workers from Michigan and Ohio and all these places that I won, for good reason, it's not going to happen that way anymore.