The Wall Street Journal held a wide-ranging interview with President Donald Trump on Wednesday , in which he talked about tying a trade deal with China to Beijing’s North Korea policy, addressed where things stand on a health overhaul, said he supported the Export-Import Bank, and weighed in on the United Airlines controversy, among other topics. Here are some selected excerpts from the Oval Office interview:
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Trump on China and North Korea
But we had a really good meeting [with Chinese President Xi Jinping], and it was supposed to be 10 minute session and then you go into a room with hundreds of people, you know all different representatives, and the meeting was scheduled for 10 to 15 minutes, and it lasted for 3 hours. And then the second day we had another 10 minute meetings and that lasted for 2 hours. We had a — just a very good chemistry.
He then went into the history of China and Korea. Not North Korea, Korea. And you know, you’re talking about thousands of years …and many wars. And Korea actually used to be a part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that not — it’s not so easy. You know I felt pretty strongly that they have — that they had a tremendous power over China. I actually do think they do have an economic power, and they have certainly a border power to an extent, but they also — a lot of goods come in. But it’s not what you would think. It’s not what you would think.
We have tremendous trade deficits with everybody, but the big one is with China. It’s hundreds of billions of dollars of year for many many years. And I told them. I said you know, we’re not going to let that go ahead. Now, I did say — but you want to make a great deal? Solve the problem in North Korea. That’s worth having deficits. And that’s worth having not as good a trade deal as I would normally be able to make. OK, I’ll make great deals.
You cannot allow a country like that [North Korea] to have nuclear power, nuclear weapons. That’s mass destruction. And he doesn’t have the delivery systems yet, but he — you know he will.
So, you know we [Trump and Xi] have a very open dialogue on North Korea. We have a very good relationship, we have great chemistry together. We like each other, I like him a lot. I think his wife is terrific. And you know, it’s very rare that he comes and stays with somebody and spends that much time.
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Trump on the Ex-Im Bank:
I will tell you what, I was very much opposed to Ex-Im Bank, because I said what do we need that for IBM and for General Electric and all these — it turns out that, first of all lots of small companies will really be helped, the vendor companies, but also maybe more importantly, other countries give it. And when other countries give it, we lose a tremendous amount of business.
So instinctively you would say it’s a ridiculous thing but actually it’s a very good thing and it actually makes money. You know, it actually could make a lot of money.
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Trump on payments currently made to health insurers under the Affordable Care Act
Obamacare is dead — it’s dead. Obamacare, if you look at the case, you know the famous lawsuit that’s out there [about whether payments to insurers were approved by Congress], right? You know that if we follow that lawsuit, we’re not supposed to pay money toward Obamacare — you know, Obama just paid the money because he couldn’t get approved — the approval from Congress.
Well, Congress hasn’t approved it, so if Congress doesn’t approve it, or if I don’t approve it, that would mean that Obamacare doesn’t have enough money so it dies immediately as opposed to over a period of time. Even if it got that money, it dies, but it dies over a period of time.
… This is a very big deal that nobody even understands. I understand it, but most people out there don’t know it. So, Congress is going to have to approve it [the insurance payments]. Will they approve it? I don’t know, I’m not sure, 50-50. If they approve it, then I will have to approve it. Otherwise, those payments don’t get made and Obamacare is gone, just gone.
Now, what should be happening is [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer should be calling me up and begging me to help him save Obamacare. That’s what should happen. He should be calling me and begging me to help him save Obamacare, along with [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi.
… The longer — the longer I’m behind this desk and you have Obamacare, the more I would own it. Right now, we don’t own it at all.
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On whether Trump would lay out principles for tax reform before passing new health law:
No. I want to get health care done and if I don’t get it done — I think I will get it done.
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Trump on strategy and Steve Bannon’s role:
“I do my own policy, I’m my own strategist. I don’t have — I have people that I respect, I have people that I listen to, I have many people and then I make the decision. I’m just saying that [Mr. Bannon] is a guy who works for me, he’s a good guy. But, I make my own decision. I don’t have people making decisions.”
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Trump on Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen and the dollar:
[He is asked whether Yellen was “toast” when it came to being nominated to another term.] No, not toast. You know, I like her, I respect her. She’s been here, she’s been in that seat. I do like the low interest rate policy, but I must be honest with you, I think our dollar is getting too strong, and partially that’s my fault because people have confidence in me. But, you know, that’s hurting — that will hurt ultimately. Look there are some very good things about a strong dollar, but usually speaking the best thing about it is that it sounds good. You know, it’s very, very hard to compete when you have a strong dollar and the other guy — other countries are devaluing the currency. It’s very hard for our manufacturers to compete.
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Trump on whether U.S. would insist that Syria’s Assad step aside:
I think that there’s such outrage over what he’s done and I think we’ve highlighted that. … I think there’s such outrage, are we insisting on it? No. But I do think it’s going to happen at a certain point. But we’re not going into Syria.
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Trump on whether peace would be “impossible” with Assad still in place:
Well I think it’s hard to imagine, I wouldn’t use the word impossible, but I do think it’s hard. …
No I think the word impossible is not right. But it does seem like you certainly wouldn’t be off to a good start but again we have other fights, that are fights that are more important as far as our nation’s concerned, we have other — we don’t need that quicksand.
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Trump on the passenger who was forcibly removed from a United flight:
Oh, that was horrible. No, no, they should…offer more money. Maybe you double, triple, quadruple. You know, there’s a point at which I’m getting off the plane.
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