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Trump Signs $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill But Doesn't Like It. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 23, 2018 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of things THAT I'm unhappy about in this bill. There are a lot of things we shouldn't have had in this bill, but we were, in a sense, forced -- if we want to build our military, we were forced to have. There are some things that we should have in the bill.

But I say to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again. I'm not going to do it again.

Nobody read it, it's only hours old. Some people don't even know -- $1.3 trillion, it's the second largest ever. President Obama signed one that was actually larger, which I'm sure he wasn't too happy with either.

But in this case, it became so big because we need to take care of our military. And because the Democrats, who don't believe in that, added things that they wanted in order to get their votes.

We have to get rid of the filibuster rule. We have to get rid of the filibuster rule and go to 51 votes in the Senate if we're going to have really sustained continued success.

DACA recipients have been treated extremely badly by the Democrats. We wanted to include DACA, we wanted to have them in this bill. 800,000 people and actually it could even be more. And we wanted to include DACA in this bill.

TRUMP: The Democrats would not do it. They would not do it.

To prevent the omnibus situation from ever happening again, I'm calling on Congress to give me a line-item veto for all government spending bills, and the Senate must end -- they must end the filibuster rule and get down to work. We have to get a lot of great legislation approved, and without the filibuster rule it'll happen just like magic.

I want to address the situation on border security -- which I call national defense, I call it stopping drugs from pouring across our border, and I call it illegal immigration. It's all of those things.

But national defense is a very important two words, because by having a strong border system, including a wall, we are in a position militarily that is very advantageous.

And before I get off of that subject, I'd like to ask Secretary Mattis to talk about what we've accomplished in terms of the military.

Because there has never been anything like we've been able to do. Our military is very depleted, but it's rapidly getting better, and in a short period of time it will be stronger than it has ever been.

So, I'd like to ask Secretary Mattis to say a few words, please.

MATTIS: Well, thank you, Mr. President.

Ladies and gentlemen, in 1790 in George Washington's first annual address to Congress, he stated, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving the peace."

As the president noted, today we received the largest military budget in history, reversing many years of decline and unpredictable funding. And together, we are going to make our military stronger than ever.

We in the military are humbled and grateful to the American people for their sacrifices on behalf of this funding. Now it's our responsibility in the military to spend every dollar wisely in order to keep the trust and the confidence of the American people and the Congress.

Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, General.

The border we've worked very hard on. We have a lot of -- really by any standard a lot, but not by this standard, but we're going to make it go a long way -- a lot of money coming to the border, and it will be coming over a period of time. We funded the initial down-payment of $1.6 billion. We're going to be starting work literally on Monday on not only some new wall -- not enough, but we're working on that very quickly -- but also fixing existing walls and existing acceptable fences.

There are some areas that you have to see through. You have to be able to see through the other side in order to see what's coming. And in many cases it's not a pretty picture when you look, but you have to be able to see it.

[13:35:00] So, we have $1.6 billion for the wall, that'll start immediately. This is a short-term funding, but it's immediate -- it starts immediately.

And I'd like to ask Secretary Nielsen to say a few words about what we've done in terms of homeland security and what the bill does for homeland security.

TRUMP: Thank you.

NIELSEN: Good afternoon.

We at the Department of Homeland Security work very closely with the Department of Defense, and we support this omnibus in the defense of our country. As the president has stated, under his leadership, he has delivered for the American people. This is a down-payment on a border wall system. This is a 10 percent increase for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This will help us improve our aviation security with some badly needed upgrades. And we look forward to working with Congress on additional needs that we have.

I will say, however, that it's unfortunate that Congress chose not to listen to the men and women of DHS and those on the front lines. They told us how to build the wall, where to build the wall, and we will continue to work with them to make sure that the wall is where we need it, how we need it, as the president described, and to make sure that it serves the American people and serves the security of this nation.

We also will continue to work with Congress to close the dangerous loopholes that the president has mentioned many times and to continue to increase our overall security.

And finally, we thank those in Congress who support the Department of Homeland Security. I will continue to make myself available to them. I look forward to working with them. But we must fund the department and give it the tools and resources it needs to execute the mission the American people have asked us to do.

Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Secretary.

So, we have many elements in the bill that we wanted.

Just to look at a few of them, we're providing $654.6 billion in total discretionary funding for defense. It's a record. All records for defense.

There will be nobody that says that our military is going to be depleted like they've been saying over the last long period of time. Long period of time. Frankly, beyond President Obama. That won't be happening.

We're spending a lot of money on nuclear -- our nuclear systems, to upgrade, and in some cases brand new, whether it's submarines -- nuclear submarines and others. So we'll have by far the most powerful nuclear force on Earth, and it'll be absolutely in perfect shape and condition. And hopefully, praise be to God, we don't ever have to use it. But there will be nobody that's even close.

This will give a substantial increase to people even outside of the military, but military-related.

Some of the many things that we're buying in the military -- we have $23.8 billion to procure 34 Navy ships. Our Navy is at about the lowest point in terms of ships that it's been in over a hundred years. And we're ask -- we're adding a significant number of extremely advanced -- advanced vessels.

$10.2 billion for 90 F-35 aircraft. That's the most sophisticated aircraft in the world. Jet fighter. Total stealth. They're hard to find, they're hard to see, therefore they're hard to beat. It's very tough to beat a plane when you can't see it. It's the most advanced in the world.

$10.2 billion for 90 F-35s.

We have $2.9 billion for 15 KC-46 tanker aircraft. The tanker aircraft is very important based on everything. It allows our planes to travel anywhere in the world without landing.

TRUMP: $1.8 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft fighter jets.

$1.7 billion for 10 P-8 -- the Poseidons -- incredible stuff.

$1.1 billion for 56 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, most advanced helicopter in the world, by far, fighting machine.

$1.1 billion for the upgrade of 85 Abrams tanks.

[13:40:00] $705 million for the cooperative programs that we're working with Israel and others on various missile defense systems. We're spending a lot of money on missile defense. We have a lot of offense that's been recently installed. We're spending tremendous of (sic) money on missile defense.

You understand what that means? Everybody does. With what we have out there, missile defense is very, very important.

We are funding our Border Patrol agents and our ICE agents. They are working long hours under tremendously dangerous conditions.

We're adding large numbers of immigration judges, high-quality judges. Not only are we adding them in the district court level and the federal level of court of appeals, but we're adding immigration judges at a very high level.

So while we're very disappointed in the $1.3 trillion -- nobody more disappointed than me, because the number is so large -- it'll start coming down -- we had no choice but to fund our military, because we have to have by far the strongest military in the world. And this will be, by far, the strongest military that we've ever had.

So when you look at all of these pages, a lot of that is devoted, a lot, to the military.

I just want to thank members of Congress for working so hard. While we can be disappointed in some ways, we have to also know that there are a lot of strings pulling everybody in different directions. The Republican senators, the Republican congressmen and -women have been steadfast on their fight for the border, and steadfast for their fight for the military.

We're also spending $6 billion on, as you know, various forms of drug control, helping people that are addicted. It's a terrible problem, but this will be also -- this will be a -- a record. We'll be suing certain drug companies for what they've done with the opioids, and we'll be bringing the suits at a federal level.

The level of drugs that are being put out there, and the -- the power of this addiction is hard to believe. People go to the hospital for a period of a week, and they come out, they're drug addicts. There has to be a better way. Doctors are way down now in their orders of the opioids -- way down. It's a great thing.

We're also looking for -- in our research funds, we're looking for a medicine that can stop the pain without the addiction, so that people aren't going to become addicted to these incredible drugs. So that's part of what we have.

We're going to have $6 billion in -- having to do with opioids and other problems that this country, and in fact the world, is having with drugs.

TRUMP: So we're extremely proud of what we've been able to do when it comes to our military. Our military will be far superior than to any military anywhere in the world. That's very important for us. You see the players out there, you see what we're dealing with.

We're very happy with what's happened with opioids. We're very happy with what's happened with certain elements of the border.

Not happy with $1.6 billion, but it does start the wall and we will make that $1.6 billion go very, very far. Going to go very far.

I can tell you this -- and I say this to DACA recipients -- that the Republicans are with you. They want to get your situation taken care of.

The Democrats fought us, they just fought every single inch of the way. They did not want DACA in this bill.

And, as you know, DACA is also tied to the wall. So major funding, the $25 billion for wall and other things.

So I think that'll be coming up very soon.

But I do want the Hispanic community to know and DACA recipients to know that Republicans are much more on your side than the Democrats, who are using you for their own purposes.

With that being said, I just want to thank everybody for being here. We're very proud of many of the items that we've been able to get.

We're very disappointed that in order to fund the military, we had to give up things where we consider, in many cases, them to be bad or them to be a waste of money. But that's the way, unfortunately, right now the system works.

But we have a great country. We are going to have the greatest military we've ever had. And lots of good things are happening. The trade situation we'll be talking about next week. We have many trade deals; not only the deal being made on South Korea, which looks like it's very close to being finalized, but many other countries are now negotiating fair trade deals with us. So, we'll be rolling them out as you see them.

And part of the reason, frankly, that we're able to do that, is the fact that we have the tariffs on steel and the tariffs on aluminum. Because it showed how unfair some of these trade deals, that have been in existence for many years -- how unfair they've been.

So it'll be great for our country. And frankly, it'll also be great for other countries. And it will be fair and it will be reciprocal.

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, was the veto threat (inaudible)?

TRUMP: (OFF-MIKE) about 20 minutes after you look at it, OK? We're going to figure it out and you're going to figure that out.

We looked at the veto, I looked very seriously at the veto. I was thinking about doing the veto. But because of the incredible gains that we've been able to make for the military, that overrode any of our -- any of our thinking.

QUESTION: How concerned are you about the impact of the tariffs on the stock market, and...

TRUMP: Well, I think the stock market's going to be great. The stock market's way up. When I came in to office, the stock market was from a different planet. It's way up.

China is going to end up treating us fairly. For many years, they had free rein. They don't have free rein anymore. We're very friendly with China, we have great relationships with China. And so it's time. It's time.

Last year we lost $500 billion on trade with China. We can't let that happen.

Thank you all very much.

[13:47:34] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: There you have it. The president signs into law the $1.3 trillion spending bill, even though he doesn't like it. He likes the national security part, the additional funding for the U.S. military. "I've signed this bill," the president said, "out of military concerns." Then he said, "I will never sign another bill like this again." He says there's been a ridiculous situation that took place here in Washington over the last week and he insisted that nobody, nobody has actually read this 2200-page piece of legislation. And you saw it there sitting on that little table.

It's interesting, he signs this, Gloria, into law, 2200 pages, even though he says no one has read it, including himself.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BLITZER: Which raises the question, why sign something into law that you haven't even read?

BORGER: As he said, he said he had no choice because, you know -- he makes it a binary choice, which is about the military. I've got to fund the military. If I had vetoed it, I wouldn't have funded the military.

But let's take a look at what we watched here. This is the president of the United States who tweeted out this morning that there was going to be a press conference that he was going to hold. Then he went to the podium and he became not only his own press secretary but his own communications director. We know on other fronts he is acting as his lead attorney. So what we saw the president do today is what Sarah Sanders would normally be explaining at a press briefing. But we know Donald Trump believes nobody can do this better than he can do it. So he put forward the only argument he had, quite frankly, which was this is about military spending. We've done so much. You know, he had a little show and tell with Mattis and with Wilbur Ross. He said we've got to get rid of the filibuster and I want the line-item veto, which is unconstitutional, but he said I want the line-item veto. So he said all of that because he knew it was a problem for him and only he could explain it.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's interesting how we see time and time again -- I made the point earlier that he tries to stand outside of the process that he is in charge of. And I have to say as easy as it is to look at this and look at the chaos and all the counter-arguments about Republicans control Congress, he's a Republican president, he knew these things before he issued the veto threat about the bill. He comes out of this and are saying to supporters of his and detractors alike, I made the military stronger than ever because I will bring America back on the world stage and nobody will mess with us. By the way, China will come around, the stock market will be OK, and the whole process I'm involved in is absurd. I'm both victim of it, as are you, the American people. But I'm strong enough through all this chaos. This is the picture in his mind that gets presented out without some of the realities that we can --

(CROSSTALK)

[13:50:25] BORGER: And only he can do it.

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Only he can do it.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He would stand there and say that he was forced to do this. On several levels, because he knew what was happening. White House was involved in the negotiations. He could have said, I don't like the direction this is going, let's pass a continuing resolution, keep the government open for another few weeks and negotiate a better bill, break it down, not do a 2200-page bill. It's also interesting, this is a president, who essentially is

conceding that the Congress has rolled him on this major legislative package. Coming in, he said he was smarter than everybody in Washington that he alone could fix it, and everybody here was stupid. Turns out that the president is the one who got rolled --

BORGER: By Republicans.

RAJU: -- by Republicans in Congress, and Democrats, too.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let just rewind the tape a little bit. Why is Donald Trump president? He ran as an outsider, said Washington is broken, and Hillary Clinton, a Clinton, an established person, isn't going to fix it. None of these 16 I'm running against with titles like governor and Senator are ever going to fix it. I'm the "Art of the Deal" president. They're stupid. I'm going to make it work for you. He just signed a spending plan -- the Republican president with a Republican Senate and a Republican House -- he said it's full of ridiculous stuff. It's not right. It's very bad for our country. There's a lot of things I'm unhappy about. I was forced to do this, and they forced me to do this. Where is the strength of the Donald Trump deal-making presidency if they, his own party, can force him to sign something that is full of ridiculous stuff and everything else? It's a remarkable moment of this is what he was supposed to be best at. And he's being mocked, by the way. Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, the voices he sometimes listens to on Twitter and on talk radio, are mocking him for being weak.

BLITZER: As Manu said, he could have signed a short-term -- another short-term spending bill for two weeks, tried to negotiate some of these issues. Instead, he deferred to the Republican leadership and the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate, and said, OJK, I hate this, I signed it out of national security, I will never sign another bill like this again.

(CROSSTALK)

GREGORY: He could have gotten $25 billion, as pointed out, for the wall. It would have really angered his conservative base, which, by the way, today, is really upset. He just signed a huge spending bill under the guise of complete Republican --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I want to go over to Kaitlan Collins at the White House.

Kaitlan, you're our White House reporter, give us your perspective. It sounded like the president was venting.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's exactly what it was, wolf, for about a half of hour in the diplomatic room. And just four hours after he threatened to veto this bill, a threat that not even his own advisers in the White House took seriously. But he certainly set off a scramble at Capitol Hill after Hill leaders and his own budget director assured reporters and lawmakers that the president was backing this bill. You saw the president say, yes, I'm going to sign this bill,

begrudgingly, here is what I don't like about it, mainly the lack of funding for his border war, something he said back in the campaign he said Mexico would pay for it. And also that there's nothing on DACA, something that the president failed to reach a deal with Democrats on in the first place. So certainly, a venting session in the diplomatic room. The president said it would be a news conference. He spoke for 30 minutes criticizing this bill, saying he will never sign a bill like this again. To be clear, Wolf, that was a venting session for the president who said he signed this bill. We know that this morning he was watching the news coverage of this bill. A lot of negative coverage about how this bill did not fund his immigration priorities. That clearly got to him. He sat there, complaining about it in the diplomatic room.

But as Manu said, this is something that has been in the works for several weeks now, especially in the last few days, and a process that the president has not been engaged on. His complaints there, they could have aired those before they voted on it and passed this spending bill. But he did say, he signed this bill. And, Wolf, it capped off a frenzied morning this morning at the White House and on Capitol Hill with the president starting to veto -- starting to veto this bill, but in the end, he is signing it.

BLITZER: And as we pointed out, Kaitlan -- and you're right there at the White House -- his budget director, his director of legislative affairs at the White House and other senior officials, they were working closely with top Republican and Democratic leaders to work out this $1.3 trillion spending bill. The president presumably was not that involved. As a result, he threatened to veto it a few hours ago, but then went ahead and signed it into law.

[13:54:56] COLLINS: Yes. He certainly did. They've been telling people for weeks. Just yesterday on camera, the budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said to wrap things up, to keep things short, yes, the president is going to sign this bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan said he had the assurances of the president he was going to support this bill. But it really caps off the perfect end to this week here, Wolf, where the White House says one thing, not only his press secretary, but other officials speaking on his behalf, saying he's going to do one thing, and then he goes and threatens to do the complete opposite. It's not just with the spending bill. That's just the latest. But it's also with his national security adviser, who we were assured last week was not on his way out. Then he got fired yesterday and was replaced by John Bolton. Also his legal team, who he said he was perfectly happy with and he wasn't going to add or replace anyone. And then we saw the lead lawyer on his legal team quit this week and he hired someone else, Joe DiGenova. So it really just capped off this week.

What we learned these last 14 months at the White House, Wolf, the only person who speaks for the president is the president himself.

BLITZER: Kaitlan, stand by.

Gloria, the president did announce 20 minutes before the start of this event, news conference at the White House concerning the omnibus spending bill. That was not a news conference. A news conference is when the president stands up there, makes an opening statement, and then calls upon reporters of various news organizations to stand up and ask questions. In this particular case, he made a statement, showed the 2200-page document, walked out. Couple of reporters in the pool shouted questions and then he left.

BORGER: It's whatever the president wants. It's his version of a news conference. He is the communications director, press secretary. He tweets it out. He is the only one, as Kaitlan was saying, who can speak for himself. So he decided to do it his own way. He didn't take any questions because he knows very well that the questions he would have to take might be about Stormy Daniels on "60 Minutes" on Sunday night, or Karen McDougal, who was on Anderson Cooper last night, or the Russia investigation, or his legal team, one of his top lawyers quit -

BLITZER: Or his new national security adviser.

BORGER: Or his new national security adviser, who everyone was reporting was going to be replaced. They said no, and then he replaced him. He didn't want to deal with that. What he wanted to do was hijack it, which he did.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Two quick points. Number one, to be continued. When the president goes to Mar-a-Lago, which he's going this afternoon, often when he is mad about things and he's venting about things, his early morning tweets on the weekends have been a classic. Get up early on the weekend and pour your coffee.

Number two, the president promised to drain the swamp. He's a jobs program for the swamp. I'm getting e-mails all day long from lobbyists on K Street who are getting calls from their clients all over the country, is he really going to veto the bill? He always says he's going to drain the swamp, but he is the best thing that's ever happened to the swamp.

GREGORY: One different thought on all of this, we tend to pay attention to the minutes of this presidency. A lot of people are looking at the broader overview. This president stood up today, said some things that show he's being hypocritical. But he's strong on defense. He's sticking to principal on trade, no matter people in his own party say they he shouldn't do it. And I think there are supporters who would counsel patients. But the broad overview is a guy who is trying, and people not paying as much attention to the chaos of the day today. I'm not sure he's thinking it through in all of those ways. But there's something to be said about that, to going his own way.

RAJU: This whole episode also underscores the uncertainty that this president brings to a Republican effort to retake the House in the fall. They need him to shore up their base, fire up their base. When he's railing against his own party the way he is right now, they have distorted messages. It's never a good thing going into a midterm election.

KING: It's a great point. To connect these two thoughts, this is what the Democrats learned about Barack Obama. That they though he was protecting the Obama brand over the Democratic brand. President Trump now protecting the Trump brand over the Republican brand. I would go back to 2010, when that happened to the Democrats, a lot of Republicans think that's about what is going to happen to them in November 2018.

BLITZER: He did manage, at least for a little while, to change the subject from some of the issues that he clearly doesn't want us to be talking about, including, for example, Stormy Daniels.

BORGER: Sure, he did. He's not going to talk about it. It's interesting that it's the one issue he has not seen fit to tweet about, nor will he, I believe. But he felt the need to kind of go down a list of all the great things he's done, how they're making progress on the wall, on trade. Then General Mattis comes out and says this is the largest military budget in history. These were his talking points. Again, I go back to the point that he believes, very clearly, they are best delivered by him. And he is the one, alone, not only who can fix it but who can deliver it.

(CROSSTALK)

RAJU: A real credibility issue coming out of this White House, Wolf. If the people who represent the president cannot be trusted to deliver what the president is saying, how can they say anything?

BLITZER: There's a lot of news happening. We'll stay on top of all of it.

But that does it for me, at least for now.

CNN's breaking news coverage of the president's bill signing event will continue right now.