Pentagon Creating Software ‘Do Not Buy’ List to Keep Out Russia, China

The Pentagon is working on a software “do not buy” list to block vendors who use software code originating from Russia and China, a top Defense Department acquisitions official said Friday.

Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, told reporters the Pentagon has been working for six months on a “do not buy” list of software vendors. The list is meant to help the Department of Defense’s acquisitions staff and industry partners avoid purchasing problematic code for the Pentagon and suppliers.

“What we are doing is making sure that we do not buy software that has Russian or Chinese provenance, for instance, and quite often that’s difficult to tell at first glance because of holding companies,” she told reporters gathered in a conference room near her Pentagon office.

The Pentagon has worked closely with the intelligence community, she said, adding “we have identified certain companies that do not operate in a way consistent with what we have for defense standards.”

Identifying these companies has meant that they are put on a list that is shared with the Pentagon’s acquisitions staff.

Lord did not provide any further detail on the list.

She also said an upcoming report on the U.S. military supply chain will show the Pentagon depends on Chinese components for some military equipment, a top Defense Department official said Friday.

The industrial base report will show “there is a large focus on dependency on foreign countries for supply, and China figures very prominently.”

Trump Thanks North Korea for Return of US War Remains

U.S. President Donald Trump extended a word of gratitude to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un Friday for returning to U.S. authorities what are believed to be the remains of 55 U.S. service members who were killed in the Korean War more than six decades ago.

“I want to thank Chairman Kim for keeping his word,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “We have many others coming, but I want to thank Chairman Kim in front of the media for fulfilling a promise that he made to me and I’m sure he will continue to fulfill that promise as they search and search and search.”

The transfer of the remains is the beginning of the fulfillment of an agreement reached between Kim and Trump during their historic Singapore summit last month.

About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the Korean War, and 5,300 of the remains are believed to still be in North Korea.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon Friday the return of the remains may help remove a cloud of uncertainty that some grieving families have been forced to grapple with for decades.

“We have families that … have never had closure. They’ve never gone out and had the body returned, so what we’re seeing here is an opportunity to give those families closure, to make certain that we continue to look for those remaining.”

The White House said Thursday that a U.S. military plane transporting the remains departed Wonsan, North Korea. The plane landed Friday morning at Osan Air Base near the South Korean capital of Seoul, where the White House said a formal repatriation ceremony will be held on August 1.

The remains will be transferred from the base to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Hawaii, where forensic work will be done to identify them.

Friday (June 27) marks the 65th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the 1950-53 war that split the communist North and the democratic South.

The remains were the first returned to the U.S. since a joint U.S.-North Korean effort between 1996 and 2005 recovered what were believed to have been the remains of 220 U.S. soldiers.

Since then, U.S. efforts to bring more American service members home have been slowed due to escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.

White House Bureau Chief Steve Herman and Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report.



Bolton May Meet Russian Security Official By End of Summer

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton may meet the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, by the end of summer, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Friday.

Ryabkov said a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was also being discussed but there had been some difficulties over scheduling.

“We are looking into different options of where minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Pompeo could possibly meet, including the sidelines of international events,” Ryabkov said.


CNN: Lawyer Says Trump Knew in Advance of Meeting with Russian

U.S. President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen said that Trump knew in advance about a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower at which Russians offered to provide damaging information about his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, CNN reported Thursday.

CNN, citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter, said Cohen is willing to make that assertion to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the U.S. 2016 presidential campaign.

“He cannot be believed,” Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Trump, told Reuters Thursday, referring to Cohen. “If they rely on him … it would destroy whatever case they have.” Giuliani was referring to Mueller’s investigation.

Cohen did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters. His attorney Lanny Davis declined to comment.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller, declined to comment.

Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for Manhattan federal prosecutors, also declined to comment.

Cohen under investigation

Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Cohen for possible bank and tax fraud, and for possible campaign law violations linked to a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who has claimed she had a sexual encounter with Trump, and other matters related to Trump’s campaign, a person familiar with the investigation has told Reuters.

Cohen has not been charged with any crime. Trump has denied having had an encounter with Daniels.

Previously Trump has denied knowing in advance that the meeting was going to take place, and he has denied that there was any collusion between his campaign and Russia. Moscow has denied meddling in the election.

​Trump Tower meeting

Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., along with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and senior campaign aide Paul Manafort took part in the meeting with Nataliya Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer and acknowledged Kremlin informant.

Donald Trump Jr. told investigators from the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 2017 that he did not tell his father about the meeting beforehand, according to documents released by the committee.

Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Organization and Donald Trump Jr., told Reuters, “Donald Trump Jr. has been professional and responsible throughout the Mueller and congressional investigations. We are very confident of the accuracy and reliability of the information that has been provided by Mr. Trump, Jr., and on his behalf.”

Democrat Senator Confirms Russia Tried to Hack Computers

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri says Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to infiltrate her Senate computer network, raising questions about the extent to which Russia will try to interfere in the 2018 elections.

McCaskill, who is up for re-election this year, confirmed the attempted hack after The Daily Beast website reported that Russia’s GRU intelligence agency tried to break into the senator’s computers in August 2017. The Daily Beast report Thursday was based on the site’s forensic analysis after a Microsoft executive said last week that the company had helped stop email phishing attacks on three unidentified candidates.

In a statement, McCaskill said she wants to hold the hackers and Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable.

“While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this,” she said. “I will not be intimidated. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Putin is a thug and a bully.”

Her office would not give any details about the attempted attack or say how they learned about it. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he did not have immediate comment. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday night.

Vulnerable Senate seat

McCaskill, a Democrat in a state that overwhelmingly voted for President Donald Trump, is considered one of the most vulnerable senators up for re-election this year. According to The Daily Beast, the email phishing scam that targeted her office was similar to a successful Russian hacking of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, in 2016.

The report comes two days after Trump suggested that the Russians may try to help Democrats in this election cycle. He has repeatedly questioned the extent to which Russia interfered in the 2016 elections despite an assessment from the country’s intelligence agencies that they did. The intelligence agencies said Russia was attempting to help Trump win the election.

Trump tweeted Tuesday, without evidence: “I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. Based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”

Warner urges action

Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, said the news confirms what he and others have warned for some time.

“The Russians saw 2016 as a success, and they’ll be back in 2018, unless we do far more to protect ourselves than we’re currently doing,” Warner said, “Unfortunately, the lack of leadership from the White House means that we still have no all-of-government approach to addressing this threat.”

Remarks by President Trump at Iowa Workforce Development Roundtable


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release                                    July 26, 2018






Northeast Iowa Community College

Peosta, Iowa




11:52 A.M. CDT


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  And thank you very much, for being here.  Wonderful people.  Wonderful state.  We’ve had great luck in this state, and I think we’re really putting it back. 


     I’m very close, I have to tell you, to pulling off something that you’ve been looking forward to for many years.  And that’s the 12 month E15 waiver.  We’re getting very close to doing that.  (Applause.)  It’s a very complex process. 


     And I stuck with ethanol, and most other candidates were — they weren’t there, right?  To put it mildly.  But Kim and Terry Branstad — who is, right now, your great ambassador to China.  (Applause.)  We could not have put him in a more auspicious location or a more important location from the standpoint that Terry is out there doing a — really a — not an easy job.  But I think in the end, it’s going to work out very well.  It’s going to be something special.


     I want to thank Secretary Wilbur Ross for being here.  Secretary Alex Acosta.  (Applause.)  Wilbur, Alex.  Governor Kim Reynolds, I guess one of the reasons I liked Terry, you know, he was the longest-serving Governor in the history of the United States — I think 24 years.  And he was, sort of, semi-newly elected again.  And I said, “How about this?”  Let’s see, first I had to figure out who is the — who is the Lieutenant Governor.  And I knew it was Kim.  And I said, “You know, she’ll be a great governor.”  She’s turned out to be better than a great governor.  You have — (applause) — you know — and Rod told me that.  I said, “Rod, how is she doing?”  And he said, “She’s phenomenal.”  Right? 


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Absolutely. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  You said she’s phenomenal, and she really has been.  You’re number one in almost every category.  You’re in the top three in jobs.  You’re in the top three in unemployment.  You’re number-one state, I think that just came out.  (Applause.)  Number-one state. 


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  There we go.  You won’t let me ride with you again.  (Laughs.)


     THE PRESIDENT:  Those are a — that’s right.  Those are very bad soundbites for whoever you’re running against.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know — I don’t know who you’re running against, but I can tell you, that’s not easy.  When they rate you number-one state for a lot of things, especially on an economic basis.  The job you’re doing, Kim, has been fantastic.


     And I can tell you, I spoke to Terry recently.  We speak a lot.  And he thinks you’re doing a great job.  So thank you very much. 


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Thank you.  We appreciate the tax cuts.  (Applause.) 


     THE PRESIDENT:  And also, sitting up here with Rod Blum.  Without him, we wouldn’t have — (applause) — without Rod, we wouldn’t have our tax cuts.  And we have massive tax cuts and reform.  I don’t mention reform because nobody’s — it’s too complicated to talk about.  People talk about tax cuts.  We didn’t want to use the word “reform.”  But the reforms are a very important thing, what we did. 


     And even included in that bill is the individual mandate.  We got rid of the individual mandate — the most unpopular thing in Obamacare.  And Obamacare is on its way out.  You look at the cost of Obamacare.  It’s horrible.  (Applause.)  In fact, it was done, except we had one man that decided at the — you know, late in the evening, that he would change his vote.  Isn’t that wonderful?  So he changed his vote.  And he surprised all of us. 


But it was dead.  But it’s virtually — it’s on its last legs right now.  Alex Acosta has come up with incredible healthcare plans through the Department of Labor — association plans where you associate, where you have groups and you get tremendous healthcare at a very small cost.  And it’s across state lines; you can compete all over the country.  They compete.  They want to get it.  And, Alex, I hear it’s like record business that they’re doing. 


     We just opened about two months ago, and I’m hearing that the numbers are incredible.  Numbers of people that are getting really, really good healthcare instead of Obamacare, which is a disaster.


     So you’re getting great healthcare for, really, a fraction of the cost.  Highly competitive.  It costs the United States government nothing, and yet you’re getting much better healthcare.  And it’s at very small prices.  So I want to thank you.  The job you did on that is incredible.  Now he’s doing phase two, and that’s going to be announced very shortly.  And that’s going to be a very big group of people that nobody even knows about. 


     SECRETARY ACOSTA:  That’s right.


     THE PRESIDENT:  And then Secretary Azar, also, is doing a different form of healthcare that’s turning out to incredible.  We’re working very hard on medicine prices.  You probably saw where Pfizer actually announced a price increase, and then they — we weren’t happy, and they took it away.  (Laughter.)  They took it away.  It’s never happened before.  And I thank Pfizer for that.  I thank them.  (Applause.) 


     And Merck, likewise, and Novartis, and a number of — they announced increases and — boy, I must have a very powerful position, Wilbur, because I act — I was extremely angry about it.  And then all of sudden, they all called: “We’re going to retract our price increases.”  So I said, “Number one, that has to be a good business, otherwise you don’t do that.  And number two, I appreciate that they did it.” 


     But we’re working very hard on getting prescription drugs down.  And prices down.  And we have a big — that’s what upset me.  Here we are, talking about, you know, bringing down the prices of prescription drugs, and you had a couple of companies go out and announce an increase.  And now those prices are going to become — really, tumbling down. 


     We have something else that we did — “Right to Try.”  And you would really — you were so instrumental in that, Rod.  And I appreciate it.  You and Greg and everybody.  But I’ve been after it for a long time.  I never understood it.  They’ve been trying to get it passed for 42 years.  You know what Right to Try is?  It’s actually a great title. 


You know, a lot of these names I don’t like.  I love this name: “Right to Try.”  And this is where people are terminally ill, and they can’t get a drug that shows great promise because the company or because the country says, “Well, We don’t want to let anybody have a drug that’s going to maybe hurt them.”  Well, they’re terminally ill.  So they want the right to try it.  And they’ll travel if they have the money, and most of the people don’t have the money so they literally — they have no hope. 


     But this way, you have these incredible drugs that are coming out.  It’s too early in the stage to let them go out to the mass public.  Many of them are going to work.  But even if it were some of them were going to work, you now have the right to try.  So you now have the right to get these drugs.  And I think it’s going to be a fantastic thing. 


     And Rod Blum and some of the other folks, they’ve really have been instrumental.  That was an important one for Rod.  But it was an important one for a lot of people. 


And incredible how difficult it was; I mean, you would think that would be an easy one, right?  What’s easier than that?  But the drug companies didn’t like it because it showed badly because people were very, very sick.  They didn’t want it in their statistics.  The insurance companies didn’t want it because they didn’t want to get sued.  The states didn’t want it because there was a liability question.  And we got them all in a room.  We said, “Look, everybody will sign a document saying we’re going to take this, and we’re going to take away all liability.  No suits, no nothing.  But we’re going to have the right to try.”  And they said — I was there, I guess I could say I led it — and they said — they said, very nicely, “Oh, well, that works.”  Everybody said, “That works.” 


     You know, in terms of the statistics for the drug companies — and I understood they don’t want to have that as a bad stat, because these people were really far down the line in many cases.  I said, “We won’t count that stat.  Or, we’ll have a different set of statistics where it’s terminally ill people.”  But one of the things you do get out of it, is you really will find out whether or not it works. 


But the thing that we wanted to get was we wanted to give people hope.  And that’s what they got.  So that was something that was really good, and I’m just mentioning it because Rod was so helpful with that and so many other things.  So I want to thank you.  (Applause.)  Fantastic. 


     So I also want to thank the Northeast Iowa Community College President, Dr. Liang Chee Wee for hosting us.  (Applause.) 


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  He did a great job, didn’t he?


     THE PRESIDENT:  Very good.  Very good.  And really fantastic what we saw.  We met some of the students, and they’re really enthusiastic, and they’re going to have a great life.  They’re going to have a great life. 


     You know, we have so many companies moving back to the United States now.  And what we need is talented people — people that have knowledge and people that know how to use those incredible machines that you don’t learn overnight, right?


     DR. WEE:  Yes, sir.


     THE PRESIDENT:  And what you’re doing here is a great example.  A lot of people are studying it, what you’re doing in Iowa with Kim and everybody else.  And you were very complimentary of your governor, and I understand that. 


     But what you’re doing is really incredible.  People all over the country — and beyond the country — are studying what you’re doing right here in Iowa, Kim.  And thank you, Doctor, very much.  Congratulations. 


     DR. WEE:  Thank you, Mr. President.  (Applause.)


     THE PRESIDENT:  A person who was actually a very, very good student — she went to the Wharton School of Finance.  And she was always a great student.  I said, “Ivanka, are you going to do your homework?”  “Yeah, I’ve already done it, Dad.”  And then she’d get A’s.  I said, “She doesn’t work.”  She doesn’t work. 


     And I remember, when she graduated from Wharton, she did very well.  And her friends said, “You know, we had to work harder than she did.”  And I don’t know if they were happy or not, but they liked her.  Everybody likes Ivanka.  But she really led this initiative so much and she continues to.  She feels it’s so important to job training. 


     We have — again, we have so many companies coming into this area, but all over the country.  And the biggest problem we have is we have to have people with talent and skill, otherwise we’re not going to have these companies come in. 


     But we are learning and we’re teaching a lot of people.  And they’re great people.  And Ivanka really has been leading that initiative, and I want to thank you very much.


     MS. TRUMP:  Thank you. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Really fantastic.  (Applause.)  In fact, Ivanka, before we begin, maybe you just might want to tell them about the bill that was passed last night? 


     MS. TRUMP:  Absolutely.  So after many, many years — since 2006 — Congress, on both sides of the aisle, could not get together to reauthorize and modernize a piece of legislation that is so critically important to what we’re all here talking about: career and technical education. 


     Perkins Career and Technical Education Act passed the Senate last week, passed the House this week, and will be signed into law by the President after over a decade of languishing.  It’s been authorized — (applause.) 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Unless I don’t sign it.  Maybe I’ll veto it.  Maybe I’ll veto it.  I’ll see.  Let’s see.  (Laughter.)  I think I’ll veto that bill.  What do you think, Rod?  (Laughter.)




     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  No, no, no.


MS. TRUMP:  It’s going to affect 11 million students and workers across the nation who are seeking to acquire the technical skills to be able to thrive in our modern and increasingly digital economy.  So it’s very, very exciting —


THE PRESIDENT:  That’s so good.


MS. TRUMP:  — and it’s an enormous piece of legislation, and it’s going to be really transformative to education across the country. 


And I was actually here in Iowa just this past March with the great Governor Reynolds, and we toured one of the facilities that benefits from Perkins.  This facility benefits from Perkins, and it’s great legislation that was in dire need of being modernized.  So thanks to the President’s leadership, and thanks to the push of the White House, it got done.  So we’re very excited and will be signed into law in the coming weeks.  (Applause.) 


THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  Good.  So, Rod, get that to my desk, all right?  Get that to my desk, all right? 


REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  You’re going to sign it, right? 


THE PRESIDENT:  Before I change my mind.  (Laughter.)  I’ll change my mind, be careful.  Anyway – well, thank you very much. 


But I want to also send our prayers to the communities who have been affected by the recent devastating tornadoes in central Iowa.  That was all over the news, and I watched.  And I love this place; it’s been a very special place to me.  And, you know, whatever we can do, we’re doing.  We have a lot of federal people out here.  Some incredible people.  And they’re all working with your representatives, and I know they’re doing the best they can.


But I will tell you, that’s a terrible event.  It’s tragic.  The power — the power of nature.  People have no idea. 


Moments ago, I toured the school’s amazing state-of-the-art training lab with the Doctor.  And preparing — really, they’re preparing American students for the work of the future — for their life’s future.  And they’re going to have a great living.  They’re going to be making a great living.  They’re sought after.  They’re really sought after.  And I congratulated them. 


We’re making tremendous progress on workforce development.  And next week, I’ll sign the legislation that Ivanka just talked about that is going to be really something — and, really, an amazing achievement.  Between that and, you know, for years — how many years, Ivanka, they’ve been working on that?


     MS. TRUMP:  Since 2006.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, 2006.  But we’re signing one for the vets — Choice.  That’s been up for 44 years.  They’ve been trying to get Choice, where you wait in line for weeks and weeks and weeks — you’re not even very sick — and by the time you get to see the doctor, you have a terminal illness.  They could have taken care of it very easily if you got early.  But weeks and weeks — and we got Choice.  And people said you couldn’t do that, and we got it. 


That’s where you go and you see a doctor and the country pays — these are our vets — the country pays the doctor’s bill, which is a tiny fraction of the cost of what would happen and what has been happening.  And the lines are being reduced so drastically, and the vets are now able — if they can’t see — if they can’t get immediate service, they go right outside, they get a doctor — a local doctor.  We have deals worked and pricing worked and everything worked and they get taken care of.  It’s really great.


     And we also passed Accountability.  And, you know, in the — in the VA, you couldn’t fire anybody.  You knew that.  This man knew it better than anybody.  He’s a tough cookie.  He wanted to — if they don’t take care of our vets, you want them out. 




     THE PRESIDENT:  And what happened is you couldn’t get it.


     It was 45 years they’ve been trying to get Accountability.  Now, of course, the unions weren’t thrilled.  And the civil service, you know, was difficult and that would be the stumbling block.  That’s why they couldn’t get it passed.  And we got it passed — VA Accountability.  So if they don’t treat our vets right, we look at them, and we say, “Sorry, you’re fired.  Get out.  Out.  Out.  Out.”  (Laughter and applause.)


     And that’s really — to me, that’s a big one.  And what you did last night, I mean, that’s only been from early 2000s.  So that’s easy by comparison.  But those two bills for the VA — for the vets was just incredible.  We’re really doing a job with the vets, I think.  It’s never been like this before. 


     But I believe that both — but, in particular, Choice is going to be — it’s going to make such a difference.  Where — I mean they were waiting for weeks just to see a doctor.  And then they’d have to come back for a second visit, and it would be four weeks later, and horrible.  So we took care of that. 


     Whether a citizen is a high school student or a mid-to-late career worker, we want Americas of — Americans of all ages and background to be equipped with the skills they need to thrive — preparing American workers for American jobs.  We’ve added 3.7 million jobs since — as you know, since the election. 


     That was a great election.  Wasn’t that a great election?  (Applause.)  And I have to say — because we have a lot of farmers in this place — we had this hat made up.  Look at that.  Just — it’s the John Deere colors, actually, but — “Make Our Farmers Great Again.”  Isn’t that great?  “Make Our” — (Applause.)


And yesterday, you know, we’ve been working on these trade deals, which are the worst ever made by any country in history.  We had the worst trade deals.  We don’t have one trade deal that’s any good.  Between NAFTA, which was a horrible deal — and we’re getting close on that.  But we’re making it good.  You’re dealing with closed markets.  The Canadians — you have a totally closed market from so many — you know, in Canada they have a 375-percent tax on dairy products.  Other than that, it’s wonderful to deal. 


And we have a very big deficit with Canada — trade deficit, although they don’t like to say that.  But on one of their pieces of paper that they give out with the Canadian flag — and I love Canada, by the way.  I have to tell you, I love Canada — but they have the Canadian flag — very official — it’s says, “$97.8 billion deficit that the United States has,” or they put it down as a surplus to Canada.  And I said, “Well, if we’re doing so well with Canada, how come it’s $98.7 billion?”  Okay?  That’s a lot of money.


And so we’re opening things up.  But the biggest one of all happened yesterday — other than China — (applause) — the EU — the European — it’s a thing called Europe.  Europe.  And the relationship with Jean-Claude, who is the head, who is a — actually a very, very strong guy.  Very tough guy, but a good man.  And he’s done an incredible job pulling all the countries together. 


But we just opened up Europe for you farmers.  You’re not going to be too angry with Trump, I can tell you.  (Laughter.)  Because you were essentially — wouldn’t you say, Kim — they were restricted from dealing in Europe.


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Yeah, regulatory problem.


     THE PRESIDENT:  You had barrios that really made it impossible for farm products to go in.  And I said to them, “Do me a favor, will you just” — because you know, China is doing a little number.  They want to attack the farm belt because they know those — the farmers love me.  They voted for me.  We won every one of the states.  And you look at that middle of this country outside of a little bit of blue on the outside — outer edges of the country, we won just everything.  And so they figured, “Oh what we’ll do is we’ll attack them.”  And I see that.  And I said, “They’re not going to win.  Just so you understand.  We have all the cards.  We’re going to win.”


But it’s not nice what they’re doing.  But I said to the Europeans, I said, “Do me a favor.  Would you go out to the farms in Iowa and all the different places in the Midwest?  Would you buy a lot of soybeans, right now?”  Because that whole soybean thing is now going to be opened up.  No tariffs.  No nothing.  Free trade.  I call it, “Free and fair.”  See, that’s called free trade. 


When you have a country that’s charging you 50-percent tariffs, and we charge them nothing, and then I raise it to 50 percent, and then we have politicians in Washington say, “We are stopping free trade.”  No.  No.  They stopped it when they put on the 50 percent.


I mean, we have countries that are charging us 200 percent — 250 percent — 100 percent — I don’t want to mention them because I actually get along very well with the head people.  But they know who they are, and they’re changing their ways.  But the Europe — I mean, basically, we opened up Europe and that’s going to be a great thing for Europe and it’s been — really going to be a great thing for us.  An it’s going to be a really great thing for our farmers, because you have just gotten yourself one big market that really, essentially — wouldn’t you say, Kim? — never existed because you just had — 




     THE PRESIDENT:  — you just had a problem. 


     So we did that yesterday afternoon.  We signed a letter of intent or agreed to a letter of intent, and we’re starting the documents.  But the relationship is very, very good.  So we’re very happy.


     And then the employers are hiring and they recruiting and they’re raising wages in our country.  And you know what’s happened: We have so many jobs now coming in, but they’re raising wages.  The first time that’s happened in 19 years, where wages are going up.  Now, you have a couple of people — you own your big farms, you probably don’t hear that.  But you’re doing okay.  So you’re doing okay. 


     But it’s the first time that’s happened in a long time.  And we’re just doing really, really well as a country.  And there’s no place doing better than Iowa.  I mean, there’s no place with better leadership.  There’s no place with more advanced thought.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank — I want to thank your governor. 


And, you know, as I sort of alluded, when I put Terry as the ambassador — such an important position — and he really likes China.  He really likes China.  Very interesting story.  Terry told me, he said, you know, many years ago — like 38 years ago — he met a man named Xi and he came back because he was selling corn to China.  And he came back, and told his incredible wife — who is incredible with — by the way, a son who led my campaign.  I don’t know if he’s here.  Where is he?  Is he here?  Because what a great guy.  I hope he’s working on your campaign and your campaign.  But he came back, and he told his wife — this is, I think, 38 years before — he said, “I just met the future head of China.”  And she said, “What do you mean?”  “I just met a man who is so impressive that he will someday be the head of China.”  And that’s President Xi.  He just got — in fact, I guess he’s President for life, based on everything I’ve heard.  (Laughter.) 


But can you imagine Terry Branstad telling me that story, which was a great story? 


So I want to ask Kim to say a few words and then maybe we can travel around the table real fast.  We’ll all say something. 


But it’s great to be in Iowa.  We had a tremendous victory here.  We won by a lot.  And just very, very special people.  Very, very special.  And we’re taking care of your ethanol.  Okay?  Nobody else was going to, believe me, they were out.  They were out.  (Applause.)  We’re taking care of your ethanol.  Right? 


And before — I have to thank — Senator Grassley has been an incredible friend of mine.  Joni Ernst has been — Joni, has been, like, an incredible friend of mine.  Although I think she likes Ivanka better than she likes me.  It’s the same thing.  (Laughter.)                              


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Girl power, right?  (Inaudible.)


     THE PRESIDENT:  But Joni Ernst, I’ll tell you, she’s a tremendous talent.  Chuck Grassley is, like — he’s Chuck Grassley.  He’s just incredible.  (Laughter.)  He speaks and you listen, right?  There’s no games with Chuck.


     But they’ve been pushing me very, very strong on the ethanol, and, you know, we’ve been with them all the way.  So I just want to thank them.  I know they’re in Washington doing some very important business right now, but I wanted to thank them.


     Kim, go ahead.


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Thank you.  Well, Mr. President, first I want to say welcome back to Iowa.  It’s a pleasure to have you back in our state.  I also want to welcome back Ivanka and Secretary Acosta as well.  We appreciate the time that you’ve spent in Iowa, really seeing what we’ve been working on.  And it’s a real pleasure to be a part of this roundtable to discuss the importance of workforce.


     And I think we’re actually the first state that you’ve stopped at —      


     THE PRESIDENT:  Right.


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  — to do the pledge since the executive order was signed.  So thank you.  We’re really proud of our leadership role on this front.  And, really, the public-private partnerships continue to build the foundation.  So many of the businesses that I see out in the audience today have been such a phenomenal partner with our schools, and our communities, and our community colleges to really help build those partnerships; to help not only young people see that there are so many pathways to a great career, but as we saw on the tour, adults that are reskilling, retraining, and having a great opportunity to have a great career and a great quality of life.  And most importantly, right here in the state of Iowa.


     So I love the relationships that are being built through initiatives like the one that you’re driving.  We have an initiative called — it’s called Future Ready Iowa, and the goal is to have 70 percent of Iowans in the workforce have either education or training beyond high school by the year 2025.  We’re at about 58 percent right now, so we’re really positioned very well, I think, to hit that goal.  But it just aligns so well with everything that you’re going.


     We’re doing Last Dollar Scholars, which is some financing for credentials up to two-year degrees tied to high-demand jobs, and Employer Innovation Fund that really strengthens the regional talent partnerships and the talent pipeline.  Again, different areas need different things, and so this really helps the areas identify and work on where their need is at.


     We’re expanding registered apprenticeship programs for smaller and mid-sized businesses.  So that’s real exciting too.  And we’re doing a lot of work-based learning.  We have — it’s called the STEM BEST Initiative, which is Business Engaging Student and Teachers.  It’s been phenomenal, again, with really bringing workforce and academia together in a partnership.  They were operating in silo.  So it’s been great to see that.


     The other thing that we’re putting in place is a clearinghouse so that we can provide work-based learning opportunities to some of our rural communities that might not have the access to the great opportunities.  And we want to make sure that no matter where you live in the state of Iowa, you have opportunities.


     I’ll tell one quick story and then I’ll pass it, because we want to hear from the other people on the panel.  But it’s really about kids like Charles Vander Velden.  And he is from Pella.  And he is the first-ever high school student to become a registered apprentice in welding with Vermeer, who is a great company in Pella that happened to be hit with the tornado.  And I tell you, they’re coming back bigger and stronger than ever.  So again, great community efforts there.


     But they unveiled a high school-registered apprenticeship playbook that high schools all across the state can take it and really use it for welding or computer science or IT or nursing, whatever that may be.  And we’ve made it very, very simple to really encourage our schools across the state to engage with our community colleges, our businesses, and our students.  So I’m really excited about that.


     Thank you for being here.  Thanks for signing the executive order.  We appreciate the partnership.  And we’re taking advantage of your tax reform, too, because we were able to pass tax reform in the state of Iowa, as well as regulatory reform.  So we’re partnering with you on a lot of great initiatives.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Kim.  Thank you very much.  Is that the home of Pella windows too?  Pella?


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Yes, it is.


     THE PRESIDENT:  I bought a lot of Pella windows.  (Laughter.)  And I bought a lot of John Deere equipment.  Millions and millions and millions of dollars’ worth of John Deere.  (Applause.)  One of their bigger customers, they tell me.  So that’s good.  And Pella makes a great window, I will say that.  They make a really great window.


     So we’ll go around.  Yes.


     MS. TOWNSEND:  Mr. President, Beth Townsend, Director of Iowa Workforce Development.  First and foremost, I want to say, as a veteran, thank you to your administration for everything you have done for veterans.  You just don’t know what that has meant to all of us. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.


     MS. TOWNSEND:  So thank you.  (Applause.)  I also wanted to say, I’ve heard you talk about the dignity of work, which is something we in Iowa really believe in.  And when you combine that with our employers who believe in investing in their employees, and you bring the collaboration and the great leadership that we’ve had from Governor Reynolds and Governor Branstad and create programs like Future Ready Iowa, if you want to know how to solve this problem in America, you look at us and we will tell you how to do it.  (Laughter.)  (Applause.)  


     THE PRESIDENT:  Good.  I know that.  It’s true.


Doctor, would you like to say a few words, please?


     DR. WEE:  Again, on behalf of Northeast Iowa Community College, welcome to everybody.  It’s not every day we get the President of the United States here.  (Laughter.)  So, Mr. President, thank you for coming.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.


     DR. WEE:  I just want to say thank you for really looking at the Perkins legislation.  In fact, I just read it this morning.  Under the leadership of Representative Virginia Foxx, it says one of the priorities is to have more inclusive collaboration between educational institution, industry, employers, and community partners.


     Mr. President, we’re already doing it in Iowa.  And the 15 community colleges backing by our Governor, we’re doing it.  From the K-12, getting that into guided pathways so that they understand that education has to be our focus.  Our focus is career readiness and also college readiness.  And when they come to us, we make sure that we get them with a skill, and partnering with our businesses to make sure that they apply.


     Eighty-five percent of our students live, work, and play in Northeast Iowa.  We cover 5,000 square miles.  So we’re keeping Iowans in Iowa, and we’re keeping jobs here.


     Last year alone, we worked with over 470 businesses and trained over 1,000 employees.  In fact, last year, we touched over 20,000 for upskilling.  So you find that, as a community college, we really are the college of the people.  And we welcome you back again, because today you’re only saw a sliver of what we do. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, that’s true.  Very impressive, though.


     DR. WEE:  And I can’t thank enough our business partners out here.  They’re out here.  Without their support, without our K-12 support, without the state’s support, without the city — city council and all the other government — Northeast Iowa Community College would not be able to do what you have set up, and that is putting Americans to work.  We’re fully behind that.  And under the Governor’s leadership, we’ll make sure that that happens.  And that 70 percent, Madam Governor, we’re going to exceed that.


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  That’s right.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Doctor.  Appreciate it.  (Applause.)  Thank you.


     I’d like to maybe have Matt [sic] Blum speak next, because he’s been so incredible in so many ways.  He fights so hard.  He loves this state; he loves the people.  I guess he’s got a race against somebody they call “Absent Abby,” because she never showed up to the state house.  I don’t know what’s going — Absent Abby.  Who’s Absent Abby?  (Laughter.)  But he’s going to — you’re going to — have you ever heard that term?  I think so.  (Laughter.) 


     But, you know, he came to me recently with — that’s a bad name for somebody to have if you’re running for office, I’ll tell you.  But he came to me recently about a floodwall, and that’s a big deal, isn’t it? 


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Big deal.  Big deal.  Thank you very much.


     THE PRESIDENT:  And how much money did you get?


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  $117 million.


     THE PRESIDENT:  $117 million.  And if somebody else would have come, they wouldn’t have got — they would have gotten two dollars.  (Laughter.)  But he got $117 million, and it’s going well, right?  Is it going well?


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Absolutely, yeah.  It’s going well.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Congratulations.


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Thank you very much.


     THE PRESIDENT:  And good luck with everything, and I appreciate everything.  I appreciate your help.  You’ve been fantastic.  Thank you, Rod.  Say a few words, please.


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Mr. President, Ivanka, Labor Secretary Acosta, and Commerce Secretary Ross, welcome to the First District of Iowa.  And I don’t mean to put the pressure, Mr. President, on Secretary Ross, because I know he’s got a lot on his plate, but we made a bet on Air Force One, on the way out here — a steak dinner.  Correct, Mr. Secretary?


     SECRETARY ROSS:  That’s right.


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  On getting a deal done with Mexico in the next 90 days.


     SECRETARY ROSS:  That’s right.






     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  And I fully plan on buying you a steak dinner.  (Applause.) 


     I’d like to thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership on our economy.  We are now growing at over twice the rate — twice the rate — that we were under former President Obama, and it’s due in large part to your leadership.  Thank you very much for that, Mr. President.  (Applause.)


     And also, thank you for having political courage to renegotiate these trade deals, which, quite frankly, are not good to the United States.  And you’ve taken some heat for it in the short term —


     THE PRESIDENT:  Short term.


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM: — but in the long run, the farmers, the manufacturers, the employers are all going to be better off.


     THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Thank you for having political courage.


     THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  (Laughs.)  Thank you.  (Applause.) 


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  And lastly, thank you for our commitment — your commitment to workers.  This great economy we have has created another problem in my district.  People cannot find workers.  And that’s a problem.  We need welfare reform.  If you’re between 18 and 65 years old — (applause) — mentally and physically able to work, no children in the house, you ought to be working, right?  You ought to be working.  (Applause.)  We need welfare reform. 


     And we need immigration reform.  We need more legal immigration reform.  We need worker visas — temporary worker visas in the ag area.  So we need more workers here.  And lastly, we need workforce development.


     You know, Mr. President, there exists a myth in this country that you cannot live the American Dream unless you have a white dress shirt on and work in an office.  And that, my friends, you would agree — and I think you would agree, Mr. President — is not true. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  That’s right.


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  So the first time — the first time, my friends, in our country’s history, we have more job openings — more job openings than we have workers to fill them.  First time in our country’s history.  Hats off to you, Mr. President.  (Applause.) 


     So I’m confident that Mr. President and his team and Ivanka will solve our workforce problems and get more people so we can achieve what Secretary Mnuchin and I discussed over a year ago, and that is 4 percent economic growth.  But we need the workers, and they need to be trained to do it.  And I think this quarter, Mr. President, we’re going to have a pretty good GDP report.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Well, on Friday, the numbers come out, and I don’t know what they are, but there are predictions from 3.8 to 5.3.  And if somebody would have said that when I was running, if I would have ever even thought that — you know I’ve been saying — frankly, I’ve been saying we’re going to do awfully well, but nobody thought we were going to be this great.  We’ve already hit 3.2 percent. 


When I took over, those numbers were bad, and they were heading in the wrong direction because of regulation.  Really, the taxes were too high.  People were leaving the country.  Companies were leaving the country.  Jobs were — forget it, they were really being abandoned.  And other countries, frankly, were taking advantage of the United States.  You know that, Rod.  So we stopped that.  But, please, go ahead.


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Well, that’s the big points I wanted to make.  And I just wanted to say, Mr. President, my parents had 10-grade educations, and I valued education, got an education, worked my butt off, and became a self-made entrepreneur who lived the American Dream.  And I think this is all about the American Dream.  Thank you very much.


     THE PRESIDENT:  And became one of the great congressmen, too — that I can tell you.  One of the most effective people in Congress.  (Applause.)  So thank you very much.  Thank you.


     Joe, please.  


     MR. O’DELL:  Thank you, sir.  My name is Joe O’Dell, and I want to thank my beautiful wife for the support out there.  I want to thank the Scherr Family and Dubuque Screw Products for supporting me on my journey. 


     I was a third-generation logger.  And in June of 2014, I was diagnosed with AML Leukemia.  At that time, I was only given a few months.  Through great medical miracles, I am here today.  And in that, I come back to school, though NICC, and they connected me with the right people to be successful.  I went through the Pathway Program, just started out.  I went through the one-year program, and now I am into the apprenticeship program, with a great company backing me.  And I can tell you, I am living a very good life from this schooling.  (Applause.)


     This is a great program.  The things these guys are doing to give us these opportunities is remarkable.  And it’s not a traditional schooling, so it’s open to a lot of people that ain’t real school-oriented, you know?  And there’s opportunity out there.  You just have to be — want and go get it with a drive.  You know? 


     And I think with the employer support we got around our community, the community support, these people can put you in connection with the right people to make you very successful.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you, Joe.  Beautiful.  (Applause.)  Thank you, Joe.




     MS. VAN GUNDY:  Thank you, Mr. President.  Well, I’m Georgia Van Gundy with the Iowa Business Council.  And we represent 22 of the CEOs from some of the largest employers in our state, with Randy being one of them.  But we have operations in all 99 counties.  And I think Beth and the Governor talked about our Future Ready Iowa Initiative that we have, which is a statewide strategy.  That’s the first we’ve ever had to address our workforce needs.


     And as you mentioned, we have workforce needs in this state.  And so it really does take business coming to the table and leading, and being collaborative and innovative.  You know, our employers oftentimes do provide training programs.  But as employers, we know that we have to come together and be innovative in our ways in order to attract our workforce.


     We pledge, of our members, 30,000 internships, externships, and apprenticeships, so that we’re reaching those students early so that they understand the types of jobs that we have in the state of Iowa and why you want to stay here, and why necessarily a four-year degree isn’t needed to have a great career.  And so educating them on that.


     We’ve put together a business education alliance to where we’re bringing together higher education, community colleges, K-12, and the business community to talk about innovative solutions to address our workforce. 


We’re having collaborative industry and partnership, so bringing like industries together to say, okay, we all have these workforce needs; how can we look at apprenticeships?  How can we look at different tools that are out there to address our training and workforce so that we have people here? 


We’re having our community conversations to where we’re going around the state of Iowa, where business is driving some of these conversations to really talk about what are our jobs and demand in the region?  How do we start building those career pathways?  How do we use some of the innovative funds that we have to provide scholarships and break down some of the barriers for people to get to employment?


     And then, also, we’re dedicated to work-based learning.  We hear over and over again that if students just had the opportunity to work with businesses, to get that hands-on experience so that they know, “Gee, what does that algebra class get me at the end of that day?” 


And so as the Governor mentioned, there’s a work-based portal that’s going to be up and running that our businesses are committed to support, and a lot of businesses are — small, medium, large — that are participating in work-based learning.


     And so that’s where I think the state of Iowa and all of our employers are really stepping up to engage with education so that we can — you know, our population hasn’t grown in quite some time here in the state.  So it is important that we re-train the people that we have and fill the jobs that we have.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  Thank you very much.  Beautiful job.


     MS. VAN GUNDY:  Yes, thank you. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks, Georgia.  (Applause.)  Thank you.


     MR. EDEKER:  Mr. President, I just want to thank you for the opportunity to be here.  My name is Randy Edeker.  I’m the Chairman, CEO, and President of Hy-Vee.  Just to level-set about Hy-Vee, we’re a — (applause) — thank you.  We are an 86-year-old employee-owned company.  We operate in eight states in the Midwest: 228 food stores; 145 C stores; 70 clinics; and 258 pharmacies.  And so that’s who we are.


     I was asked just to talk about some of the workforce development initiatives that we’ve taken.  In 2017, we put $22 million up to develop a training and education center in Urbandale, Iowa.  And that’s designed to enhance education of our current employees, develop leadership skills.  We’ve put 2,500 of our 81,000 through that, just to enhance their leadership ability and enhance skills.  And then, also, we developed, in the same year, an innovation and technology center that employs 400 individuals.  That’s a 90,000-square-foot facility that’s a very free-flowing, collaborative-type center.


     We’re using that to really engage with colleges and universities from around the Midwest.  Right now, we have a wonderful internship program with Drake University around business analytics, and so we’re using that as a way to develop new talent and also new ideas.


     Another area we’re very proud of is our Hy-Vee Homefront.  We launched Hy-Vee Homefront as a way to support our vets, as they’re getting out of the service, with needs.  And then it quickly turned to the opportunity to recruit.  We recruited 74 vets in the last six months to Hy-Vee.  We offer a $5,000 relocation bonus and then career tracking for our veterans as they get out of the service.  A very important part of what we do.  (Applause.)


     Another area that we’re exceptionally proud of is the numbers of opportunities we’ve been able to provide for individuals with disability.  We’ve been recognized many times for what we’ve done.  We’re working with the Harkin Institute on the International Disability Employment Summit.  We’re very active in employing folks with disabilities as a great part of our workforce.  We actually have, for the first time ever — this is a very nice, proud moment — we have the first hearing-impaired licensed pharmacist in the United States, who’s practicing in Des Moines right now.  We think that’s a nice thing.  (Applause.)


     And then, finally, as a commitment, we’ve committed to — over the next five years — taking 800 individuals through our Hy-Vee University Program, which is a four-year advanced program to train workers and leaders in our company; 1,000 interns, 1,000 advanced skilled workers will be trained; and then 12,500 on-the-job training, and working with individuals to learn new skills to assimilate into our companies and others.  And so we’ve committed to 15,000 training opportunities over the next five years as a part of your pledge today.


     And so, once again, thank you for having us here. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Randy.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.


     How about you, Matt?


     MR. DROESKE:  Good afternoon, Mr. President.  My name is Matt Droeske, and I reside here in the town of Peosta.  Here with me today is my lovely wife Monica, my two brothers, and both my bosses.  (Laughter.) 


     I’m honored to be here to talk briefly about the opportunity my employer, ServiceOne, has given me to participate in the HVAC apprenticeship program through the CEU Authority.  After high school, I attended Southwest Tech for dairy herd management, and then eventually NICC for HVAC.  I was offered a position at a company graduating where I was low laying on the totem pole doing grunt work.


     I moved on to ServiceOne because they offered me the chance to grow through the apprenticeship program.  And because of the opportunity ServiceOne has provided me, like the apprenticeship program, I am now running service calls on my own, and I am now a third-year apprentice and will be soon a licensed journeyman. 

     This program has allowed me — (applause) — this program has allowed me to build on my skills and knowledge and the trade that seems to be declining in the workforce for skilled laborers.  It is allowing me to better myself and become a greater asset to my employer and to the industry.


     My brother, who is here today, has followed into my footsteps at ServiceOne, and will be starting an apprenticeship next year.


     Mr. President, I want to thank you and congratulate you for the effort in helping the working class and believing in American workers with the workforce development.  I believe this will give the opportunity — or give the other options to kids, like myself and my brother, who may not fit the college mode.  Thank you again for allowing me to share today.  It’s been a real honor. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Beautiful job.  Beautiful.  Beautiful. 




     MR. GIESE:  Mr. President, thanks for being here and welcome.  I’m Matt Giese, Project Manager at Giese Sheet Metal.  Our family has three businesses here in town.  Been in business 95 years, and family owned and operated since the start.  So that’s — not a lot of people do that.  So we’re proud of that.  Very much so. 


     You know, great-grandpa started in the alley selling furnishes and sheet metal, and now we got, you know, three locations and 150 employees.  So each generation has made it —


     THE PRESIDENT:  Great.


     MR. GIESE:  — better and better.  And so hopefully ours is, you know, good.  (Laughter.)  So —


     THE PRESIDENT:  No doubt.  No doubt.


     MR. GIESE:  And actually, our Vice President was at our Giese Manufacturing a couple months before the election, and it was probably the best rally of the entire summer. 


But Kim and Rod — you know, we had a huge stainless steel, metal sign, “Trump” out of — you know, “Trump/Pence.”  It was, yeah, nice.  (Laughter.)


     REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Very nice.  Very nice.


     MR. GIESE:  We — yeah, they join us often, so —


But I work on the construction side of things, so I estimate and do commercial HVAC and duct work.  I could tell you, the jobs are out there.  You know, seeing great numbers.  And not just us; I mean, everybody is seeing — they’re busier than, you know, don’t know what to do.  We’re so busy that we got guys on mandatory overtime.  And they’re great guys.  I just want more of them. 

     And it’s not just us.  It’s all the trades that need more guys.  And I actually saw a guy, while we were waiting, he had a sign that says, “Always hiring.”  And I think that’s a good sign, because, you know, you can always better yourself, you know, regardless.  But, yeah. 


     And then I echo, like Rod and a few of the others have said, that, for the longest time, you heard the only way you’re going to make money is go to college, go to college.  And for so long, the trades kind of went by the wayside.  And I don’t — you realize, but a lot of folks don’t realize how much good money it is.  I mean, some of these are $60,000-a-year-plus jobs.  And so — plus, no college debt.  And I think that’s something that gets lost as well.


     So NICC does a great job.  We’ve got some good guys out of here.  You know, with what the Governor is doing, I think we’re definitely in the right step.  So I think we just keep going.  I think, bottom line is, the work is there; we just need the bodies to do it. 


But thanks again for letting me be a part of this.  (Applause.)


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Great story.  Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.


     Please.  Wendy.


     MS. KNIGHT:  Welcome, Mr. President and Ivanka.  I’m Wendy Knight, and it is my pleasure on behalf of all of our vice presidents, all of our facility and staff, to welcome to you to the greatest community college in the nation.  (Laughter and applause.)


     And I hope this is acceptable with my Secret Service security friends — for those of you in the audience, if you partner with us, if you had a student who you have hired, if you have a friend, a relative, anyone you know that has been touched by NICC, please raise your hand.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Wow.  (Applause.)


     MS. KNIGHT:  It is because of you that we are the greatest community college.  So thank you very much. 


I get to share with you hopes and dreams.  You’re going to hear some themes here with the stories I’m going to share.  Students who attend our community college for in-demand training receive a very high return on investment.


     Ashley Pottebaum lost her customer service job.  She was a single mom.  She needed a career with a self-sustaining income to care for her daughter.  She enrolled here at Northeast Iowa Community College in our Gas Utility Diploma Program.  And in only nine months’ time, and right before she was going to graduate, she was offered a job by one of our utility companies — full time and now making over $26 an hour.  (Applause.)  


     THE PRESIDENT:  Terrific.


     MS. KNIGHT:  And Melissa Oliveras — you met today — she attended Luther College on a music scholarship with a dream to play soccer.  Melissa sustained an injury that sidelined that athletic career.  She decided to return to Dubuque.  She was looking for a mix of creativity, problem solving, and hands-on work that would truly make a difference and impact the world she lives.  She found that at Northeast Iowa Community College in our Engineering Technology program.  She loved that the college offered one-on-one instruction and that everyone wanted her to be successful. 


     And a shout-out to our John Deere friends — I believe she’s interviewing with you next week.  So thank you.  (Laughter.)


My last story — you also met today — Nancy Seckinger.  After several part-time jobs with a temp agency, she returned to her home state of Iowa.  She enrolled in our Engineering Technology two-year program.  Nancy attributes her success to the amazing faculty and many resources at Northeast Iowa Community College.


     Nancy is a little bit of an overachiever.  She has also a welding degree and she worked as a journeyman pipefitter for 10 years.  Today she works at our great city — or our great business here in Dubuque, Iowa, DDI.  (Applause.)


     Thank you, President Trump and Ivanka. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Wendy.  Beautiful.  Thank you. 


     Our great Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, who is a big, big success on Wall Street — and I said, “You have to bring some successful people in, especially for that job.”  Wilbur, you’re doing great.  Go ahead.  Please.


     SECRETARY ROSS:  Thank you, Mr. President.  I’d like to talk about the biggest unused resource we have in this country.  We think about resources as farmland, or not — or mineral land, or oil and natural gas land.  The biggest unused resource is people who have been sidelined because they don’t have the skills. 


Labor force participation for the prime-age workers — namely those 25 to 54 — is 82 percent.  But even that is two points below the peak that was back in 1999.  That’s 2.5 million more Americans who would be at work just to get back to the old percentage.  That would mean $125 billion more salary.  That’s a huge, huge increment. 


Worse yet, is the 16 to 24 age group.  Their participation rate is only 55.4 percent, down 14 percentage points from the peak in 1989.  That means there are more than 5 million young Americans who could be in the workforce but don’t have the skills.  But the jobs are there.  That could be another $125 billion of salary. 


So those two alone would be a quarter of a trillion dollars more pay for Americans.  Think what that would mean for the economy.  Think what it would mean for the families.  Think what it would mean for everybody. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.


     SECRETARY ROSS:  That’s what we’re after —




SECRETARY ROSS:  — with Ivanka and President Trump’s program. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  Thank you, Wilbur.  That’s great.  Thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 


     I just want to call out a friend of mine who’s in the audience, Jeff Kaufmann.  Stand up, Jeff.  He led the Republican Party to a great victory in the state of Iowa.  Thank you, Jeff.  (Applause.)  And I hear we’re doing well.  We’re doing well?  That’s good.  You are fantastic.  Thank you very much. 


     I just look up, I see Jeff sitting there, but he’s totally political, so — (laughter.)


     Great job you do.  Thank you very much. 


     Secretary Acosta.  So he has turned out to be one of our greats.  I told you about healthcare.  He came out of nowhere with this incredible plan.  And he’s done a fantastic job as the Secretary of Labor.  Please, Alex.


     SECRETARY ACOSTA:  Mr. President, thank you.  (Applause.)


     THE PRESIDENT:  You’re doing a good job.


     SECRETARY ACOSTA:  You know, as I’ve been listening to the comments around the table, I’m struck by how many firsts we have seen over the past several months.  The tax cut that the President referenced is the biggest tax cut that we have seen in decades, maybe ever.  And what does that mean?  That means, initially, we saw 2 million and 3 million.  And last I saw, 6 million Americans had received a bonus or a salary increase or some other dividend directly because of the tax cuts.  (Applause.) 


     I was at a facility — advanced manufacturing facility last week signing one of the Pledge to American Workers with the CEO of that facility.  And after the tax cuts, they put aside $100 million to help train and educate their workforce.  Think about that.  And they said that was because of the tax cuts.  Their first.


     Deregulation.  You’ve heard the President reference 22 to 1.  When have we ever seen an administration that rolls back so many regulations so quickly?  Veterans Administration reform. 


And so what does this mean?  If you look at our economy, it is strong.  The unemployment rates are the lowest we’ve seen in my lifetime, quite literally.  The initial jobless claims that recently came out were the lowest since 1969.  The unemployment rate here in Iowa is 2.7 percent.  Think about that.  And GDP, when the President was running, they said 3 percent was impossible.  But we’ve seen 3 percent.  And then when we saw 3 percent, they said 4 percent is impossible.  Yet, today, we’re talking about 4 percent GDP, perhaps, tomorrow.  (Applause.) 


And here’s another first — you heard the numbers from your congressmen: There are more job openings in the economy today than there are people looking for jobs.  So the Department of Labor puts out these job numbers.  And since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started keeping this data, we have never had an economy where we have more job openings than we have people looking for jobs.  Talk about a great first.  Our problem isn’t where are the jobs; our problem is, where are the skilled people to fill those jobs.  And that’s a great problem to have. 


And that leads me to another first, the Perkins CTE.  You heard the President say that folks have been trying to do this since 2006.  And so Ivanka Trump got together with Chairman Alexander and with Chairwoman Foxx in the House, and yesterday, it was passed by voice vote.  Imagine that.  By voice vote.  They just wanted to move it and get it done.


And that’s going to be transformative.  Because what that means — and you heard from your community college president — that means support for all these community colleges that are working to provide — and I loved your phrase, Wendy, “in-demand skills.”  We call it demand-driven education.  Education where community colleges respond to what is being demanded by businesses.  They teach not just any old skill, but in-demand skills.  And that’s what this initiative — this Pledge to American Workers — is about.


So last week in the White House, we saw almost — we saw companies make commitments to provide educational opportunities and apprenticeships to almost 4 million American workers.  And today, I was handed this when I walked in.  Here in Iowa, because of the Governor’s work, businesses have come together.  You heard from Hy-Vee and you just heard from Randy and some others — businesses have come together.  And they’ve already pledged 50,000 training opportunities because of Governor Reynolds’s work to Iowans.  And that’s transformative to each and every one of those lives.  (Applause.)


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  And we’re just getting started. 


SECRETARY ACOSTA:  And so the point that I want to make is a very simple one: Whether it’s through tax cuts; through deregulation; through job opportunities for individuals that are looking to transition careers; through educational opportunities for community colleges; through the Perkins CTE; for veterans that are looking for quality healthcare through association health plans, the rules that we just proposed that are going to drop healthcare costs for associations around the nation — and I know here, I heard this morning that some groups in Iowa are already putting those associations together — that is impacting lives.  Those aren’t just theories.  That is impacting American lives across this nation.  And it’s pretty incredible that that has happened in, in essence, about a year and a half.  And so I just wanted to reflect on that.  Thank you.


THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Alex, very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you.


And just to go on a little bit from what Alex said, we have to keep it going.  And we can’t have people ending the tax cuts and giving you massive tax increases, which is what the Democrats want to do.  We can’t have people with open borders where people flow into our country; many of these people are not people that we can have in our country. 


We can’t get rid of ICE, who are the bravest, toughest people you’ll ever meet.  And they handle the situation.  These are people that are so brave that, you know, it’s brilliant to see what they do.  And yet, they’re disrespected by large portions of the Democrats.  We can’t lose ICE.  That’s our protection.  They’re fair, but they’re tough.  And that’s all that the other side really understands, especially when you’re dealing with people like MS-13 gangs.  These are the toughest people, but they’re not as tough as what we have.  Not even close.  And they understand that.  And they respect it.  In their own way, they respect it. 


So we have to keep it going.  We don’t want to have our tax cuts — and they’re very, very substantial — we don’t want to have that ended.  We don’t want to have tax increases that will kill the whole thing.  We want to keep all of our programs going.  We don’t want them ended. 


So that’s why I mentioned Rod and Kim, and the people that have represented your state on our side of the ledger.  I mean, the fact is, they’ve done an incredible job and it’s only going to get better.  If we keep this incredible phenomena going, it will only get better. 


Our numbers are fantastic right now.  You’re going to see on Friday what happens with GDP.  A lot of predictions.  A lot of predictions.  I told you before, some with a “5” in front of it.  It would have been — to mention that would have been — it would have driven these people back there crazy.  (Laughter.)  And it could be very close.  Could even happen.  5.3 somebody said yesterday.  One of the geniuses on Wall Street said, “5.3.”  Okay, we’ll take anything with a “4” in front.  (Laughter.)  We’ll go nice and slowly, right? 


But I just want to say, it’s so important to keep it going. 


So, Rod, I appreciate you being here. 


REPRESENTATIVE BLUM:  Thank you, Mr. President. 


THE PRESIDENT:  And really appreciate the job you’ve done.  (Applause.)  You love these people.  It is true.  I said — I said, “A floodwall?  How much is a floodwall going to cost?”  “$117 million.”  I said, “Rod, what are you talking about?  $117 million?”  He got it.  (Laughter.)  Very few people would have gotten that, believe me.  So, congratulations.  Use it well, right?  Use it well in Iowa.


And, Kim, maybe I’m going to let you finish off, but I really appreciate the job you’re doing.  I’m very proud of you, because, in a sense, I feel a little bit responsible because I took your other great governor — (laughter) — and I sent him to China. 


GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  (Laughter.)  But we’re all about holding the people accountable.  And I can guarantee you that Ambassador Branstad is holding me accountable as well. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  It’s true. 


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  He has a great legacy, and I want to continue to build on that.  I just want to reiterate again how proud we are to have you in the state.  Thank you for what you’re doing.


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you. 


     GOVERNOR REYNOLDS:  I appreciate the partnership and especially the flexibility that you are giving to the states to give us the opportunity to take these programs and take the resources to be held accountable for, but really to accent the great programs that we have going on. 


     So when I talk to businesses all across the state, I ask them how business is going, and they say it’s never been better.  They’re projecting growth, significant growth.  And so that’s a result of some of the policies that you’ve put in place, and we’re extremely appreciative of that, and we’re going to continue to build on that from the state of Iowa. 


     So thank you for being here and being a part of this. 


     THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you all.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you all.  (Applause.)



Pompeo Declines to Reveal What Trump and Putin Discussed

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came under pressure from Republican and Democratic lawmakers to defend U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy and disclose what happened during Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Meanwhile, the White House announced the Trump-Putin summit would be next year, and Pompeo issued a Crimea Declaration, saying the U.S. would never accept Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine reports.

Trump Re-Election Flags Ordered Early, May Avoid Tariffs on China

The red, white and blue banners for U.S. President Donald Trump’s second-term campaign are ready to ship, emblazoned with the words “Keep America Great!”

But they are made in eastern China and soon could be hit by punitive tariffs of Trump’s own making as he ratchets up a rancorous trade dispute with Beijing.

At the Jiahao Flag Co Ltd in Anhui province, women operate sewing machines to hem the edges of “Trump 2020” flags the size of beach towels, while others fold and bundle them for delivery.

The factory has turned out about 90,000 banners since March, said manager Yao Yuanyuan, an unusually large number for what is normally the low season, and Yao believed the China-U.S. trade war was the reason.

“It’s closely related,” she said. “They are preparing in advance, they are taking advantage of the fact that the tariffs haven’t gone up yet, with lower prices now.”

Tariffs, threats of tariffs

The Trump administration has imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of goods from China. After Beijing retaliated in kind, Washington announced levies on an additional $200 billion worth of products and threatened more, targeting potentially all of China’s exports to America, including flags.

At about $1 apiece, the suppliers of the paraphernalia that will surround the Trump campaign can’t resist the low price offered by Yao’s factory.

She says the buyers are located in both China and abroad, and she doesn’t know if they are affiliated with Trump’s official campaign or the Republican Party.

Her factory has been making Trump banners since the time his tag line as a candidate was “Make America Great Again,” highlighting an irony of his hard-line on trade with China.

“Sales have been great ever since 2015,” she said.

Price advantage in peril

But Trump’s effort to wrest better trading conditions from China threatens Yao’s price advantage, and his hard-line stance could eventually repel suppliers like Yao.

“If he continues to demand tariff increases as he has been, or if he continues to agree with those who are against China, I definitely would not be able to accept (more orders),” she said. “Everyone can have a patriotic heart, but this won’t improve his economy.”

The Jiahao Flag Factory doesn’t only make Trump banners. It churns out American and other national flags and specialty banners, including rainbow gay pride flags.

Factory seamstress Sun Lijun is losing no sleep over the trade war, however.

“I know that Trump’s tariffs targeting China will have some effect, but we’re not worried at all, since we’re producing foreign flags every single day,” she said.

Lawmakers: DHS Chief Says Family Reunifications on Track

The chief of the Homeland Security Department has told members of Congress that the government is “on track” to meet Thursday’s court-ordered deadline of reuniting hundreds of migrant children with their families, lawmakers who met privately with her said.

Wednesday’s assertion by Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was greeted with open disbelief and anger, according to many of the roughly 20 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, all Democrats, who attended. The private, hourlong meeting seemed to achieve little toward dousing lawmakers’ criticism of how children taken from their parents are being handled.

Nielsen also told the group, “I am not a racist,” according to two of the lawmakers. One of them, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., said she made the remark after he told her she worked for a “racist regime.” Gutierrez said she cited her friendship with the first lady of Honduras and other Latina women.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, tweeted that she told the lawmakers: “I am not a racist. Nobody believes families should be separated.”

A spokeswoman for the Homeland Security Department was asked for comment and did not immediately provide one.

Deadline Thursday

After the meeting, lawmakers said Nielsen provided no statistics to support her assertion that the deadline for reuniting families would be met.

“She said they believe they’re on track” to meet the court deadline, said Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., one of several lawmakers who said she used that phrase to describe the status of reuniting separated families.

“That’s impossible. And we all said this to her,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz.

Gutierrez said he told Nielsen “she is committing crimes against humanity, that she is a child abuser” and that she is “an accomplice of Donald Trump’s racist regime.”

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego set a Thursday deadline for reuniting children age 5 and older who have been held by the government since their families were caught entering the country without authorization.

As many as 2,551 children age 5 and older were separated from their families and 1,187 children have been reunited with parents, guardians or sponsors, the government has said. The exact number still separated is unclear. The government has been releasing hundreds of families to faith-based groups, which are caring for them.

​Parents deported without children

The government has said 463 migrant parents may have been deported after being separated from their children, further complicating the reunification process. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said Nielsen suggested to the lawmakers Wednesday that those children were left behind in the U.S. at those parents’ requests.

“We simply do not believe that’s true,” Menendez said.

A separate deadline that Sabraw had set for reuniting around 100 children younger than age 5 with their families passed two weeks ago. Just more than half have rejoined their parents or guardians, according to the latest figures.

The separations caused a bipartisan, nationwide uproar against Trump’s policy of “zero tolerance,” in which the government prosecutes all migrants entering the U.S. illegally.

The government initially separated children from their detained parents or guardians. Under pressure, Trump abandoned the family separation policy, but hundreds of children remain apart from their parents in conditions that visitors have described as horrid.

Nielsen ignored reporters’ questions when she left the meeting.

“Very productive. Very frank,” she said.

Rising costs

The lawmakers said Nielsen also told them her agency is financing the costs of detaining families with a 1 percent across-the-board cut to its programs.

A Homeland Security spokeswoman said the added costs are due to increased numbers of people being caught entering the country, and the money is being used for additional beds and transportation expenses.

Separately, the Republican-dominated House Appropriations Committee approved $5 billion for building parts of Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico after rejecting a Democratic effort to redirect that money to other immigration programs.

Trump has requested the $5 billion for next year, but the Senate version of the bill financing the Homeland Security Department has just $1.6 billion. The final amount will need to be worked out later this year.

White House Delays Next Trump-Putin Summit Until 2019

The White House said Wednesday that President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin will not hold a second summit until next year.

National Security Adviser John Bolton said Trump wants to wait until after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election is completed.

“The President believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we’ve agreed that it will be after the first of the year,” Bolton said.

The statement came as the U.S. announced that it has no intention of recognizing Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and will not drop its economic sanctions against Moscow until Crimea is returned to Kyiv’s control.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that with its invasion of Russian-speaking Crimea, Moscow “sought to undermine a bedrock international principle shared by democratic states: that no country can change the borders of another by force.”

The top U.S. diplomat added, “As democratic states seek to build a free, just, and prosperous world, we must uphold our commitment to the international principle of sovereign equality and respect the territorial integrity of other states. Through its actions, Russia has acted in a manner unworthy of a great nation and has chosen to isolate itself from the international community.”

Pompeo’s statement came shortly before he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer lawmakers’ questions about an array of global issues. At the top of the list were inquiries about last week’s Helsinki summit between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, particularly the two-hour private meeting the two leaders had, accompanied only by their translators. Trump has noted a range of topics he discussed with Putin, including Ukraine, but given no details of the talks.

WATCH: LIVE stream of Pompeo testimony

In prepared remarks, Pompeo said the U.S. goal in dealing with Moscow is “to steadily raise the costs of aggression until Vladimir Putin chooses a less confrontational foreign policy, while keeping the door open for dialogue in our national interest. President Trump believes that two great nuclear powers should not have such a contentious relationship.”

There is no indication, however, that Putin has any intention of relinquishing control of Crimea, where 2.3 million people live.

North Korea

Pompeo said that Trump’s June summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un de-escalated the threat of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons development program.

“We are engaged in patient diplomacy, but we will not let this drag out to no end,” Pompeo said of on-going talks with Pyongyang.

Ahead of the hearing, Trump’s congressional critics said they were particularly interested in questioning Pompeo about Trump’s apparent embrace of Putin’s denial that Russia had interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and equated Putin’s statement with the U.S. intelligence finding that it had meddled. Putin said at a news conference he wanted Trump to win.

Pompeo said Trump accepts the U.S. intelligence conclusion that Putin interfered, although Trump just days ago called the claims of Russian interference a “big hoax.”

Trump’s Helsinki comments drew sharp criticism in Washington, where he later said he supported his intelligence officials and their conclusion, often coupling it with his oft-repeated statement that his campaign did not collude with the Russians and that the Russian interference had no effect on the outcome of the election.

A new Quinnipiac University poll said Americans believe, by a 51 to 35 percent margin, “that the Russian government has compromising information about President Trump.” The survey said that U.S. voters, by a 52-27 percent margin, believe the summit was a failure for the United States, while those polled, by a 73-8 percent edge, believe it was a success for Russia.

Top U.S. intelligence officials say Russia is again attempting to interfere in the U.S. electoral process in the November voting, although Trump administration officials have vowed to try to stop it. The Quinnipiac poll said 63 percent of voters are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about Russian interference in the upcoming vote.

Trump said Tuesday, without offering any evidence, that Russia “will be pushing very hard for the Democrats” in November’s congressional elections, against his favored Republican candidates.

The U.S. leader said on Twitter that he was “very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election.”

Trump claimed that “based on the fact that no President has been tougher on Russia than me, they will be pushing very hard for the Democrats. They definitely don’t want Trump!”

Trump’s contention that Moscow would favor Democrats in the November 6 congressional contests –when the entire 435-member House of Representatives and a third of the Senate is up for election — is at odds with the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win the White House.

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