President Trump on Wednesday offered perhaps his most chilling comments yet about the freedom of the press, saying it was "frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write" -- this despite the Constitution saying, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."
Then, shortly thereafter, he clarified that he didn't think the press should be limited in what it can report. Oh, and he took issue with reports about discord between himself and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, then went on to suggest they do indeed have differences.
That was one of several things Trump weighed in on in a brief Q&A with reporters alongside Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Below is the transcript with our annotations.
TRUMP: Thank you all very much. I very much appreciate it. We are here with a man who has become a friend of mine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mrs. Trudeau. Thank you so much. Appreciate it. And we are discussing many things, including NAFTA. But we have discussions scheduled for quite a few subjects, and I think we both look very much forward. And I want to just tell you, Justin, great honor to have you both with us. Thank you. Thank you very much.
TRUDEAU: Thank you. It's great to be back here in the Oval Office. As the President said, a lot of things to discuss. We have an incredibly close relationship -- two countries that are interwoven in our economies, cultures, and in our peoples. But we have a good partnership, and there's always ways to improve it -- always issues we need need to talk through. And that's why having an ongoing, constructive relationship between the President and the Prime Minister is really important. And I'm glad to be able to meet with you here again today. Merci beaucoup.
Q: (Speaks in French.) (No translation provided.)
TRUDEAU: (Speaks in French.) (No translation provided.)
Q: Mr. President, is NAFTA dead?
TRUMP: We'll see what happens. We have a tough negotiation, and it's something that you will know in the not-too-distant future. But we are going to be discussing NAFTA, and we'll be discussing defense because we have a great -- I mean, these are truly great and original allies, and their mutual defense is very important. And I guess we'll also be discussing mutual offense, which people don't mention too often. But offense is part of defense. So we have many things to talk about, but NAFTA will certainly be a big factor today. Okay?
Q: Do you want to increase the nuclear arsenal?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I never discussed increasing it. I want it in perfect shape. That was just fake news by NBC, which gives a lot of fake news, lately. No, I never discuss -- I think somebody said I want ten times the nuclear weapons that we have right now. Right now, we have so many nuclear weapons. I want them in perfect condition, perfect shape. That's the only thing I've ever discussed. General Mattis put out a statement, or is putting out a statement, saying that that was fake news -- that it was just mentioned that way. And it's, frankly, disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it. No, I want to have absolutely perfectly maintained -- which we are in the process of doing -- nuclear force. But when they said I want ten times what we have right now, it's totally unnecessary. Believe me. Because I know what we have right now.
Q: You want no increase whatsoever? You're happy --
TRUMP: We won't need an increase, but I want modernization and I want total rehabilitation. It's got to be in tip-top shape.
Q: Mr. President, you said that NAFTA just needed some little tweaks. What changed?
TRUMP: Well, I don't think anything changed. We're negotiating a NAFTA deal. It's time, after all of these years, and we'll see what happens. It's possible we won't be able to make a deal, and it's possible that we will. We have a great personal relationship, and we have a relationship now as two countries, I think, that's as close as ever. But we'll see if we can do the kind of changes that we need. We have to protect our workers, and, in all fairness, the Prime Minister wants to protect Canada and his people also. So we'll see what happens with NAFTA, but I've been opposed to NAFTA for a long time. In terms of the fairness of NAFTA, I said we'll renegotiate. And I think Justin understands this: If we can't make a deal, it'll be terminated and that will be fine. They're going to do well; we're going to do well, but maybe that won't be necessary. But it has to be fair to both countries.
Q: Mr. President, do you think there should be limits on what the press should write?
TRUMP: No, the press should speak more honestly. I mean, I've seen tremendously dishonest press. It's not even a question of distortion, like the question that was just asked before about ten times the nuclear capability. I know the capability that we have, believe me, and it is awesome. It is massive. And so when they make up stories like that, that's just made up. And the generals will tell you that. And then they have their sources that don't exist. In my opinion, they don't exist. They make up the sources. There are no sources. Any other question?
Q: When are you going to decide what happens to NAFTA?
TRUMP: We'll decide over the next fairly short period of time, but I think it's going to work out very well for both countries and Mexico.
Q: What's your thinking on the Iran Deal right now?
TRUMP: You're going to see very soon. We're going to be announcing that very shortly.
Q: If you can't make a deal with Mexico, would you still want free trade with Canada?
Q: If you can’t reach a deal with Mexico, can you envision still having free trade with Canada?
TRUMP: Oh, sure. Absolutely. It's possible we won't be able to reach a deal with one or the other. But in the meantime, we'll make a deal with one. But I think we have a chance to do something very creative that's good for Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
Q: How was your lunch with Secretary Tillerson?
TRUMP: Very good. You mean last week? John, you're so far behind the times. Do you mean today or last week? Because today I didn't have lunch with him. No, I had a lunch last week, and we had a very good lunch. We have a very good relationship. The press really doesn't understand that, but that's okay. We actually have a very good relationship. What else?
Q: Are you on the same page on North Korea?
TRUMP: I think I have a little bit different attitude on North Korea than other people might have.
Q: And your Secretary?
TRUMP: And I listen to everybody, but ultimately my attitude is the one that matters, isn't it? That's the way it works. That's the way the system is. But I think I might have a somewhat different attitude and a different way than other people. I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject than other people, but I listen to everybody. And ultimately, I will do what's right for the United States and, really, what's right for the world. Because that's really a world problem; that's beyond just the United States. That's a world problem, and it's a problem that has to be solved. Thank you very much everybody. Thank you.
Q: If NAFTA doesn't work out, would you seek a deal with each individual country?
TRUMP: I would. Yes. I would see that. Yes. Thank you, everybody.