Watch President Trump’s remarks, made from the Rose Garden at the White House on Monday, in the player above.
President Donald Trump offered remarks today that wandered from the opioid crisis to the Russia probe and to relief efforts in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side.
He and McConnell made remarks and took questions during the press briefing. Early on, Trump and McConnell appeared to offer a timetable for when the public can expect Congress to pass the president’s tax overhaul plan. Initially, Trump said he hoped to see Congress pass his plan well before the end of the year.
“I would like to see it be done this year,” Trump said.
But McConnell then quickly stepped to the podium to point out that previous administrations had passed ambitious legislation during their second year in office, not their first.
Trump signaled that he might withdraw his drug czar nomination of Rep. Tom Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania. A report from the Washington Post and CBS News “60 Minutes” said Marino had a relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and shepherded 2016 legislation that hindered the Drug Enforcement Administration’s ability to stem the opioid crisis.
“If I think it’s 1-percent negative to doing what we want to do, then I will make a change,” Trump said.
In response to a reporter’s question, Trump said he will declare a national emergency on the opioid crisis next week. This is not the first time Trump has said he would make such an announcement. The opioid commission he established by executive order in March recommended that Trump put the full weight of his office behind stopping the opioid crisis. He said he would but has not yet. In 2016, an estimated 64,000 people fatally overdosed on drugs, according preliminary government data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Trump said he’d written personal letters to U.S. soldiers who died in Niger and said they would be mailed Monday or Tuesday, adding that he has not yet called their families to offer condolences. The soldiers were killed after an Oct. 4 training mission in Niger.
When asked whether or not would fire Robert Mueller as he leads the Special Counsel investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election, Trump flatly said “no,” but added that the Russia probe was “an excuse” by Democrats who were unhappy about having lost the race for the White House.
When a reporter asked about the president’s response to relief and recovery in Puerto Rico, where U.S. citizens have struggled for roughly one month to secure drinking water and electricity since Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Trump conceded that “Puerto Rico is a tough one” and that the island “was in really bad shape before.”
Trump blamed 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the NFL protests where players kneeled during the National Anthem. When a reporter pointed out that these protests were intended to bring attention to systemic mistreatment of African-Americans by police, Trump said, “It is very disrespectful to our country when they take a knee during the National Anthem.”
Trump then highlighted sagging ratings and a decline in stadium ticket sales to professional football games.