President Donald Trump spoke at a fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee on March 21, 2017, in Washington, D.C. This is an annotated transcript of the speech. Click on the highlighted statements below to see a brief summary of statements that we fact-checked. For more information, please read “Trump’s Hollow Keystone Threat.”
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. Wow. You know, I asked how many people would be here tonight. They said a couple of hundred. It was just like a little fundraiser. They didn’t say you broke — 23 years, you broke the all-time record tonight — $30.1 million. And broke it by $10 million — that’s not so close. So, congratulations. We’re going to have a great eight years together. (Applause.)
And Rasmussen just came out with a very good poll — you’ll be liking this poll. This poll is good. We’re going to do a good job. More importantly, we’re going to do a great job, and then we’re going to win it the old-fashioned way — we’re just going to win it. And I want to thank everybody.
This is a lot more than 200 people. This is a hell of a big room. (Laughter.) That’s far back. Can you see over there? See, I would have gotten rid of these columns, actually. (Laughter.) That’s being a construction man. But that was a long time ago, they didn’t do that.
Well, it’s an honor to address you tonight, and thank each and every one of you for your role in helping to build, sustain and grow a truly strong Republican Party again.
In this effort, we will be working hand-in-hand with our House leadership team — and I’ve really gotten to know them and they are winners and they are terrific people — terrific people. (Applause.) Speaker Paul Ryan, Leader Kevin McCarthy, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. What a group, great group (Applause.)
Also with us tonight — a man who I have a lot respect for, gave me a very early endorsement — former Vice President Dick Cheney, along with his daughter, Congressman Liz Cheney. (Applause.) Where is he? Thank you, Dick. Thank you. Thank you, Liz.
I also want to thank the Chairman of the Republican Congressional — I mean, look, what a group — Committee. Where is Steve? Where is he? They lost him backstage. Steve Stivers — where is he? Steve, what the hell happened? I think he left. (Laughter.) Everyone is looking — it’s the second time he’s been introduced. Steve, are you there? Oh. Come here, Steve. What a job you did. Come here, Steve. He’s embarrassed. (Laughter.) Come here, come on, get up here, Steve. Come here. (Applause.)
MR. STIVERS: Thanks, everybody.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s what I like. See, that’s a real worker. Oh, boy — no talk, all action, right? We like people like that. Congratulations to Steve.
And March Dinner Chairman, Steve Womack, and the NRCC Finance Chair, Ann Wagner — thank you. Thank you, Ann. (Applause.)
The work of the NRCC never ends. In fact, we have four special elections currently underway in Georgia — we won — Montana — we won — Kansas — we won — and South Carolina. We love South Carolina. That’s some group. Where’s South Carolina? Oh, we love South Carolina. Remember I was supposed to lose that one big and we won by 21 points. And that’s when I found out these polls are rigged. (Laughter.) They were rigged. Thank you, South Carolina. I learned a lot from South Carolina.
Our nominees from Montana and Kansas are here with us this evening — Greg Gianforte and Ron Estes. Thank you. Thank you very much. (Applause.) Thank you.
On November 8th, the American People voted for historic change — and they also voted for serious action. By delivering the House, the Senate and the White House, the American people gave us clear instructions: It’s time to get busy, get to work, and to get the job done. (Applause.)
That legislative effort begins with Thursday’s crucial vote — and it really is a crucial vote for the Republican Party and for the people of our country — to finally repeal and replace the disaster known as Obamacare. It’s what it is, a disaster. Premiums have soared double digits and even triple digits. Insurance companies are fleeing. One-third of counties only have one Obamacare insurer left. I was in Tennessee four nights ago — they’ve lost half the state. The insurance companies are gone and they’re going to lose the next one pretty soon from what they say. And last night in Kentucky, we had a tremendous crowd — 25,000 people, more — and a similar crowd in Tennessee, by the way — packed, with thousands of people outside. They couldn’t get them into these massive arenas — there’s something going on that’s really incredible in this country. It’s really incredible.
But Kentucky also is having a tremendous problem, as you know and as you’ve read, with Obamacare. And many other states. The House bill ends the Obamacare nightmare and gives healthcare decisions back to the states — and back to the American people.
These are the conservative solutions we campaigned on, and these are the conservative solutions the American people asked us as a group to deliver. We are keeping our promises. I go to these arenas, and they have signs all over the place — He’s kept his promise. He’s kept his promise. Because I’ve done a lot of work.
The border is in the best shape it’s been in in decades. Down 61 percent since inauguration. (Applause.) General Kelly — you know, they used to put political people — I refuse to say political hacks because I would not say that. Because there is no such thing as a political hack. But they would put nice political people at the border. I put General Kelly — recommended by General “Mad Dog” Mattis. (Applause.)
I said to him, General — General Mattis — I said, General, I need somebody really smart and really tough for the border. Sir, I have the man — General Kelly. Soon as I saw him it was like — an interview lasted for about 30 seconds — I said, he’s the right guy. And he’s been great. And General Mattis has been great — you see what’s going on. Big difference.
It’s been 60 days since my inauguration, and that was a promise that I’ve really kept.
As you saw today in the Senate, I nominated a Supreme Court justice who will uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. (Applause.)
I’ve taken historic action to eliminate unnecessary, job-killing regulations. And we’ve just started on that one. (Applause.) But we’ve gotten rid of a lot of them. That includes eliminating regulations crushing our coal industry. We’re going to put our great coal miners back to work. Clean coal. Clean coal. (Applause.)
I’ve cleared the way for the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines — and added a requirement that American pipelines be constructed with American steel. That was the last minute. I said, where are we getting the steel? I won’t tell you where, but you can guess. I said, from now on we have to go — we have to build them here. You want to put pipelines under our land you’re going to make the pipe in this country. (Applause.)
And one other thing happened. I have to tell you, it’s sort of interesting. So I get a call from the ex-president of Goldman Sachs who now works for — Gary Cohn. I said to him, Gary, let me ask you — I heard there was a lawsuit. I hear the pipeline company is suing us. I said, how much? $14 billion. I said, wait a minute. I’m approving the pipeline and they’re suing us for $14 billion, and I’ve already approved it, right? I said, I just heard it. Go back to them and tell them if they don’t drop the suit immediately we are going to terminate the deal You have great — you know, being President gives you great power, right? (Laughter.) So I just saw him this morning — I said, by the way, how did you do? He said, sir, they dropped the suit. Good. (Applause.)
Isn’t that easier — look, if I’m — do you think Hillary does that? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. Isn’t that easier, though, than settling for like $4 billion seven years from now? Oh, but the lawyers aren’t happy at all. They don’t like it. You got a lot of lawyers in this crowd — they’re not happy about that deal.
Because of the new business climate that we’re creating, jobs are already starting to pour back in — companies like Sprint, Intel, Exxon-Mobile — where a great man, Rex Tillerson, is doing an incredible job — (applause) — ran that company for many years and ran it well. Walmart, Ford, Fiat-Chrysler and General Motors have all announced that they’re keeping or adding tens of thousands of jobs right here in America. A big difference. We used to hear they’re all leaving. Now they’re all coming back. They’re coming back, too, believe me. If they don’t, we’re taxing the hell out of their products, so you know they’re coming back. (Applause.)
Why didn’t somebody start doing that 25 years ago? One company said, sir, we’re building a big plant — there’s nothing we can do to stop it. It’s already under construction. I said, here’s the story — when you make your cars, or whatever, and you fire all our American employees, and then you think in your new plant — beautiful new plant, congratulations — you’re going to sell that product our border, tax-free, you’re wrong — 35 percent tax. It’s amazing how quickly they say, you know, I think we’ve decided to stay in the United States.
I only wonder, why didn’t somebody do this like 25 years ago? You would have had nobody leaving. So far, I think I’m batting about 100 percent.
To save taxpayer dollars, I’ve already begun negotiating better contracts for the federal government — saving over $700 million on just one set of airplanes of which there are many sets.
As I promised during the campaign, I have proposed a budget that eliminates the defense sequester and fully rebuilds the United States military. We need it more than ever. (Applause.) We need it more than ever. We’ve got a lot of haters out there — they hate. We got some people running some countries that are bad people. We will take care of it. We will ensure that the America warrior — and if you think about it, the great American warriors — because that’s what they are — are given the tools, the funding, the resources, the training and equipment they so richly deserve. They are warriors, and they have old equipment. They’re not going to have old equipment much longer.
And we will take care of our great veterans. What’s happening there is going to be incredible. Finally, we’re going to take care of our veterans. (Applause.) Our defense expansion will fully pay — and this will be something that is so important — it will be fully paid by making government leaner, more accountable and just perfect for our people. But I will tell you, if it’s not fully paid — because we’re doing a big number, with the planes and the ships — our Navy is at World War I levels. Can you believe that? World War I levels. So if we don’t fully pay, we’re going to do a little work, but we’re going to get our military rebuilt — bigger and better and stronger than ever — because we have no choice, folks. There’s some bad players out there. (Applause.) And it’s going to go quickly.
I have also followed through on my promise to secure, protect and defend the borders of the United States — and, yes, we will build a great border wall at our Southern border. (Applause.) It will be built. These security actions will save billions of dollars, millions of jobs, and thousands and thousands of lives. We’re also taking decisive action to improve our vetting procedures. The courts are not helping us, I have to be honest with you. Ridiculous. Somebody said I should not criticize judges. Okay, I’ll criticize judges. (Laughter.) To keep criminals and terrorists the hell out of our country.
We are keeping these promises, and many, many more. After we repeal and replace Obamacare, our Republican majority will pass massive, historic tax reform — the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan, and potentially even bigger. It’s going to be very big. (Applause.) And by the way, we had to go — had no choice — had to go with the healthcare first. You know how it works. This is one room that really does know how it works. But we had to go with the healthcare first. And we’re doing well. I think we’re going to have some great surprises. I hope that it’s going to all work out.
Then we immediately start on the tax cuts, and they’re going to be really fantastic, and I am looking forward to that one. That one is going to be fun. That one is going to be fun. That’s called the wheelhouse. We’re going to do a great job for companies. We’re going to bring back — could be $3 to $5 trillion from overseas, money that can’t be brought back as part of our taxes. (Applause.)
And it will lower the business tax rate from one of the highest in the world to one of the most competitive anywhere in the world. Way, way down. (Applause.) We will do everything we can to lower business burdens and to make it easier for our businesses to thrive and compete. But in exchange, they must hire, invest and grow in America. We’re not giving them anything — okay? They got to do that. That’s the one thing.
We’re working with the automobile industry who have been played around with. And I’m saying, we’ll do things for you, but you got to build new plants all over the place. You got to build new plants in our country. And they’re doing it, they’re starting. It’s going to be amazing.
I have called this model, the model that you’ve been watching, the model that’s created so much value, the model of bringing back jobs and bringing back industry — I called it the American Model. And this is the system that our Founders wanted. Our greatest American leaders — including George Washington, Hamilton, Jackson, Lincoln — they all agreed that for America to be a strong nation it must also be a great manufacturing nation. Have to make money.
The Republican platform of 1896 — more than a century ago — stated that: “Protection and reciprocity are twin measures of American policy and go hand in hand.” I mean, we have situations where other countries who have zero respect for our country — by the way, do you notice they’re starting to respect us a lot? A lot. A lot. They’ll charge us 100 percent tax on some — 100 percent. And we charge them nothing. They’ll make it impossible through regulations for our product to be sold in their country, and yet they’ll sell their product routinely in our country. Not going to happen anymore. The word, “reciprocity” — they do it, we do it. Who can complain about that? Big difference. You’re talking about big, big dollars, too, by the way.
The platform went on to say: “We renew and emphasize our allegiance to the policy of protection, as the bulwark of American industrial independence and the foundation of American development and prosperity.”
Now, these were some of our greatest leaders, some of whom were great businesspeople. They understood we have to do it. And just so you understand, I’m a free trader, but free trade has been very unfair trade. So I now say I’m a fair trader. And I want to trade all over the world. I don’t want to have it just here. But we’re going to be beneficiaries from now on. We’re not going to be the people that are taken advantage of any longer. That’s been happening for decades and decades — not going to happen any longer. (Applause.) And they know it.
One country came in to see me recently — big country, good country, great person. One of his first questions, sir, how much will you be charging us? It’s like he knew. He knew. (Laughter.) He knew. They’ve been ripping us for years and he finally saw somebody that understands — so it’s one of those — (laughter.) You don’t mind having a rich nation again and having lower taxes, do you? Does anybody here mind? Anybody mind, please stand up. I know Dick Cheney will not stand on this one. Please stand up.
As long as the GOP stands for “Made in the USA,” — remember in the old days, cars all said, “Made in the USA,” right? We don’t have that too much anymore. We’re going to have it again soon. I’m telling all the car companies, put a big label, “Made in the USA” — it’s going to stand for quality. Our party will have a very, very bright future.
It is fitting that we are in the National Building Museum.
Since its founding, the Republican Party has been a party of builders. Many of the great builders are in this audience tonight. Some of them I have to compete with and I really — actually, I don’t like very many of them. (Laughter.) Some of them I do. Some of them I truly dislike a lot. (Laughter.)
But now I like everybody. I like all the great builders. See, now it’s different. (Laughter.) Now we’re all on the same side, so I like — see the guy over there? I couldn’t stand that guy for years. He did a good job, but I couldn’t stand him. Now I like you. (Laughter.)
Our first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, ran his first campaign for public office in 1832 — when he was only 23 years old. He began by imagining the benefits a railroad could bring to his port [part] of Illinois — without ever having seen a steam-powered train. He had no idea, and yet he knew what it could be. Thirty years later, as President, Lincoln signed the law that built the first Transcontinental Railroad, uniting our country from ocean to ocean. Great President. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican, right? Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that. We have to build that up a little bit more. Let’s take an ad — let’s use one of those PACs. (Laughter.)
Those PACs, you never know what the hell is going to come out of those PACs. (Laughter.) You think they’re friendly — although the best ad I ever had was one done against me by Hillary — it was so good, I said I hope she keeps running that ad. (Laughter.)
Another great Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, had a vision of a national infrastructure plan. As an officer in the Army after World War I, he joined a military convoy that trekked across the nation to the Pacific Coast. It traveled along the Lincoln Highway — called then the Lincoln Highway. Its journey began by the South Lawn of the White House, at a monument known today as Zero Milestone. Anybody know where that is? The journey made a great impression on then young Eisenhower. More than three decades later, as President, he signed the bill that created our great Interstate Highway System — once again uniting us as a nation.
Now is time for a new Republican administration, working with our Republican Congress, to pass the next great infrastructure bill. (Applause.) Our party must dream as big and as bold as Lincoln and Eisenhower. Together, Republicans will lead America into our unbelievable future. We have so much potential. We have so much potential. I see it now even more than I saw it in this great campaign — which turned out to be a movement, a movement like the world has never seen before, actually.
You know, it’s funny, I’ve said that so often, they don’t even correct me — the fake media. They never correct me, because it’s true. Oh, believe me, if it’s off by 100th of a percent, it’s like I end up getting Pinocchio’s, right? They don’t even correct me. One of the great movements of all time. And it’s not my movement. It’s a movement of the people. It’s been something that’s really been very special. I’m like a messenger. I’m nothing more than a messenger. (Applause.) I’m a messenger. I did a good job as a messenger, but I’m a messenger. It’s been a lot of fun, too.
Imagine the breakthroughs that will breathe fresh life into forgotten places. Picture the new roads that will carve pathways all across our land — and we need them. And think of the new inventions that will lift up the sights of our nation.
Finally, as we imagine this new prosperity at home, let us also work to achieve real and enduring peace abroad. (Applause.) People don’t realize, I have to say, what a mess we inherited. I’m telling you, you look at North Korea. You look at the Middle East. You look all over. You look at the horrible, horrible, horrible Iran deal. I still have not been able to figure out why anybody would have signed that deal. I asked generals — I have them in my office — I say, General, please tell me why did they sign that deal. Unbelievable. But we’re going to straighten things out, folks.
The best Republican Presidents have not only been warfighters, but also peacemakers. We will never hesitate to do what we must to keep us safe today, but we will always seek a more peaceful tomorrow. We will, and we will succeed. (Applause.)
If we stand for these things — safety, prosperity and peace — then there is no limit to what we can achieve: A future where millions are lifted from welfare to work. And they’re going to love it. They’re going to love it. They’re going to love waking up in the morning, going to work. Communities thriving with jobs and surging with commerce. Inner cities filled with new hope and new opportunity. Schools where our children can learn free from violence and free from fear. And new frontiers in science, technology and space that inspire the next generation of American youth.
All of this, and so much more, is possible. Our country is great. A new national pride is stirring our souls. A new optimism is sweeping our land. A new era of American greatness is just beginning.
Somewhere in America tonight, a child is born in poverty, looking up into the sky, and filling their heart with dreams — big, beautiful, bold dreams. And if we make the right choices together, then no one will ever have to tell that child that their dreams will have to wait for another day, another year, or another decade. Because the waiting now is over. The time for action is now. This is the moment when great deeds are done — and we will do those great deeds. By putting our faith in the people, and by putting our trust in God, we will rise to this occasion like no one has ever risen before. (Applause.)
Thank you so much. Thank you. Great people, great country. Thank you so much.
We will prove worthy of this moment. Anything is possible if we stand together, united and strong. Not just as Republicans — but as great and unified Americans. Join me in believing in this better and brighter future. Join me in building this reality. And join me in rededicating ourselves to the common good of this nation that we all love so much. Together, we will defend our freedoms. We will defend our people. And we will defend our great and beautiful American flag. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)