Read the complete transcript of President Trump’s remarks at Trump Tower on Charlottesville
AUG. 15, 20175:22 PM
On Tuesday, President Trump took questions from journalists after a discussion about infrastructure. What follows is a transcript of the question-and-answer session provided by the Federal News Service.
QUESTION: Why do you think that CEOs are leaving your manufacturing council?
TRUMP: Because they’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country. We want jobs, manufacturing in this country. If you look at some of those people that you’re talking about, they’re outside of the country. They’re having a lot of their product made outside. If you look at Merck, as an example, take a look where -- excuse me -- excuse me -- take a look at where their product is made. It’s made outside of our country. We want products made in the country. Now, I have to tell you, some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside. And I’ve been lecturing them, including the gentleman that you’re referring to, about you have to bring it back to this country. You can’t do it necessarily in Ireland and all of these other places. You have to bring this work back to this country. That’s what I want. I want manufacturing to be back into the United States so that American workers can benefit.
QUESTION: ... wait so long (inaudible)?
TRUMP: I didn’t wait long. I didn’t wait long.
TRUMP: I didn’t wait long. I wanted to make sure, unlike most politicians, that what I said was correct, not make a quick statement. The statement I made on Saturday, the first statement, was a fine statement. But you don’t make statements that direct unless you know the facts. It takes a little while to get the facts. You still don’t know the facts. And it’s a very, very important process to me. And it’s a very important statement. So, I don’t want to go quickly and just make a statement for the sake of making a political statement. I want to know the facts. If you go back to my…
TRUMP: I brought it. I brought it. I brought it.
QUESTION: What did you (inaudible)?
TRUMP: As I said on -- remember this -- Saturday, we condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America. And when I went on from there. Now, here’s the thing. As to -- excuse me -- excuse me -- take it nice and easy. Here’s the thing. When I make a statement, I like to be correct. I want the facts. This event just happened. In fact, a lot of the event didn’t even happen yet, as we were speaking. This event just happened. Before I make a statement, I need the facts. So I don’t want to rush into a statement. So making the statement when I made it was excellent. In fact, the young woman who I hear is a fantastic young woman, and it was on NBC, her mother wrote me and said through, I guess, Twitter, social media, the nicest things and I very much appreciate that. I hear she was a fine, a really -- actually, an incredible young woman. But her mother on Twitter thanked me for what I said. And honestly, if the press were not fake and if it was honest, the press would have said what I said was very nice. But unlike you and unlike -- excuse me -- unlike you and unlike the media, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.
TRUMP: They don’t. They don’t.
TRUMP: How about a couple of…
TRUMP: How about a couple of infrastructure questions?
QUESTION: Mr. Trump, was it terrorism, that event? Was that terrorism?
TRUMP: Say, what?
QUESTION: The CEO of Wal-Mart said you missed a (inaudible) opportunity to help bring the country together. Did you?
TRUMP: Not at all. I think the country -- look, you take a look. I’ve created over a million jobs since I’m president. The country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We’re doing record business. We have the highest levels of enthusiasm. So the head of Wal-Mart, who I know, is a very nice guy, was making a political statement. I mean…
TRUMP: ... it the same way. And you know why? Because I want to make sure when I make a statement that the statement is correct. And there was no way -- there was no way of making a correct statement that early. I had to see the facts, unlike a lot of reporters -- unlike a lot of reporters…
TRUMP: I didn’t know David Duke was there. I wanted to see the facts. And the facts as they started coming out were very well stated. In fact, everybody said [my Monday] statement was beautiful; if he would have made it sooner, that would have been good. I couldn’t have made it sooner because I didn’t know all of the facts. Frankly, people still don’t know all of the facts. It was very important that -- excuse me, excuse me -- it was very important to me to get the facts out and correctly. Because if I would have made a fast statement, and the first statement was made without knowing much other than what we were seeing. The second statement was made after -- with knowledge, with great knowledge. There are still things -- excuse me -- there are still things that people don’t know. I want to make a statement with knowledge. I wanted to know the facts. OK…
QUESTION: Was it -- two questions. Was it terrorism? And can you tell us what you’re feeling about your…
TRUMP: Well, I think the driver of the car is a disgrace to himself, his family and his country. And that is -- you can call it terrorism. You can call it murder. You can call it whatever you want. I would just call it as the fastest one to come up with a good verdict. That’s what I’d call it. Because there is a question. Is it murder? Is it terrorism? And then you get into legal semantics. The driver of the car is a murderer. And what he did was a horrible, horrible, inexcusable thing.
TRUMP: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I would echo Maggie’s question. Steve Bannon…
TRUMP: I never spoke to Mr. Bannon about it.
QUESTION: But can you tell us broadly what you’re -- do you still have confidence in Steve?
TRUMP: Well, we’ll see -- and look, look. I like Mr. Bannon. He’s a friend of mine. But Mr. Bannon came on very late, you know that. I went through 17 senators, governors, and I won all the primaries. Mr. Bannon came on very much later than that, and I like him. He’s a good man. He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He’s a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard. But we’ll see what happens with Mr. Bannon, but he’s a good person, and I think the press treats him, frankly, very unfairly.
QUESTION: Do you have confidence in him? Because he has called on you to defend your national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, against…
TRUMP: I’ve already done it. I did it the last time.
QUESTION: And he called on it again linking this …
TRUMP: Sen. McCain?
QUESTION: ...the alt-right and…
TRUMP: Sen. McCain? You mean the one who voted against [repealing] Obamacare? Who is -- you mean Sen. McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare?
QUESTION: Sen. McCain said that the alt-right is behind these attacks, and he linked that same group to those who perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.
TRUMP: Well, I don’t know -- I can’t tell you. I’m sure Sen. McCain must know what he’s talking about. But when you say the “alt- right,” define “alt-right” to me. You define it, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, I think that …
TRUMP: No, define it for me, come on. Let’s go. Define it for me.
QUESTION: Sen. McCain defined them as the same group…
TRUMP: OK, what about the alt-left that came charging (inaudible)? Excuse me. What about the alt-left that came charging at the -- as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt?
QUESTION: Mr. Trump…
TRUMP: Let me ask you this. What about the fact they came charging -- that they came charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do.
TRUMP: As far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day. Wait a minute, I’m not finished.
I’m not finished, fake news. That was a horrible day…
TRUMP: I will tell you something. I watched those very closely, much more closely than you people watched it. And you have -- you had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now. You had a group -- you had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.
TRUMP: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you think that the -- what you call the alt-left is the same as neo-Nazis?
TRUMP: Those people -- all of those people -- excuse me. I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. But not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists, by any stretch. Those people were also there because they wanted to protest the taking down of a statue, Robert E. Lee. So -- excuse me. And you take a look at some of the groups and you see -- and you’d know it if you were honest reporters, which in many cases you’re not, but many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you all -- you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop? But they were there to protest -- excuse me. You take a look, the night before, they were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. Infrastructure question, go ahead.
QUESTION: Should the statue of Robert E. Lee stay up?
TRUMP: I would say that’s up to a local town, community, or the federal government, depending on where it is located.
QUESTION: Are you against the Confederacy?
QUESTION: How concerned are you about race relations in America? And do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?
TRUMP: I think they’ve gotten better or the same -- look, they’ve been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that, because he’d make speeches about it. But I believe that the fact that I brought in -- it will be soon, millions of jobs, you see where companies are moving back into our country, I think that’s going to have a tremendous positive impact on race relations. We have companies coming back into our country. We have two car companies that just announced. We have Foxconn in Wisconsin just announce. We have many companies I say pouring back into the country. I think that’s going to have a huge, positive impact on race relations. You know why? It’s jobs. What people want now, they want jobs. They want great jobs with good pay. And when they have that, you watch how race relations will be. And I’ll tell you, we’re spending a lot of money on the inner cities. We’re going to fix -- we’re fixing the inner cities. We’re doing far more than anybody’s done with respect to the inner cities. It’s a priority for me. And it’s very important.
QUESTION: Mr. President, are you putting what you’re calling the alt-left and white supremacists on the same moral plane?
TRUMP: I’m not putting anybody on a moral plane. What I’m saying is this. You had a group on one side and you had a group on the other, and they came at each other with clubs and it was vicious and it was horrible. And it was a horrible thing to watch. But there is another side. There was a group on this side, you can call them the left. You’ve just called them the left -- that came violently attacking the other group. So you can say what you want, but that’s the way it is.
QUESTION: ... on both sides, sir?
QUESTION: You said there was hatred, there was violence on both sides. Are…
TRUMP: Well, I do think there’s blame -- yes, I think there’s blame on both sides. You look at -- you look at both sides. I think there’s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it, and you don’t have any doubt about it either.
TRUMP: And -- and -- and if you reported it accurately, you would say (inaudible).
QUESTION: (inaudible) started this (inaudible) Charlottesville. They showed up in Charlottesville to protest…
TRUMP: Excuse me, excuse me. (inaudible) themselves (inaudible) and you have some very bad people in that group. But you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. You had people in that group -- excuse me, excuse me -- I saw the same pictures as you did. You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name.
QUESTION: George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same (inaudible)…
TRUMP: George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down -- excuse me -- are we going to take down -- are we going to take down statues to George Washington?
TRUMP: How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?
TRUMP: OK. Good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue? So you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers and you see them come with the black outfits and with the helmets and with the baseball bats. You’ve got -- you had a lot of bad -- you had a lot of bad people in the other group…
QUESTION: ... treated unfairly (inaudible) you were saying. You were saying the press has treated white nationalists unfairly? (inaudible) understand what you’re saying.
TRUMP: No, no. There were people in that rally, and I looked the night before. If you look, they were people protesting very quietly the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure in that group there were some bad ones. The following day, it looked like they had some rough, bad people -- neo-Nazis, white nationalists, whatever you want to call them. But you had a lot of people in that group that were there to innocently protest and very legally protest, because you know -- I don’t know if you know, they had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit. So, I only tell you this, there are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for our country, a horrible moment. But there are two sides to the country (sic). Does anybody have a final -- doesn’t anybody have a -- you have an infrastructure…
QUESTION: What makes you think you can get an infrastructure bill? You didn’t get healthcare. You…
TRUMP: Well, you know, I’ll tell you. We came very close with health care. Unfortunately, John McCain decided to vote against it at the last minute. You’ll have to ask John McCain why he did that. But we came very close to healthcare. We will end up getting healthcare, but we’ll get the infrastructure. And actually, infrastructure is something that I think we’ll have bipartisan support on. I actually think -- I actually think Democrats will go along with the infrastructure.
QUESTION: Mr. President, have you spoken to the family -- have you spoken to the family of the victim of the car…
TRUMP: ... I’ll be reaching out. I’ll be reaching out.
QUESTION: When will you be reaching out?
TRUMP: I was very -- I thought that the statement put out -- the mother’s statement I thought was a beautiful statement. I must tell you, I was -- it was something that I really appreciated. I thought it was terrific. And really, under the -- under the kind of stress that she’s under and the heartache that she’s under, I thought putting out that statement to me was really something I won’t forget. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.