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  Mick Mulvaney at Conservative Political Action Conference Reagan Dinner  CSPAN  March 2, 2019 12:21am-12:49am EST

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>> next, some of today's conservative political action conference being held a national harbor, maryland. speakers included vice president mike pence, senators ted cruz and josh hawley, political commentator glenn beck, and white house counselor kellyanne conway. we begin with white house acting chief of staff mick mulvaney. >> don't be mad at me. >> i'm not mad, that is great. >> taking advantage of the jet lag. that's not fair. >> you all know mick mulvaney, because this guy had a nearly perfect acu congressional voting record. that's pretty good.
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[applause] >> whatsit like to have, as the chief of staff to the president, such a strong conservative? i think it makes us all feel great. i've got the chief in a perfect position, because as you said, you are a bit sleep deprived and jetlagged. >> i would only do it for you. >> you have done it before. how is that? that's pretty cool. he wanted to be here with all of you. he just came back from a pretty important trip. not too many have gone a read out on that trip. tell the great conservatives assembled here what happened on this historic trip. mr. mullaney: we flew 42 hours to be on the ground for 39. that is an interesting way to travel. it was a great trip. i was extraordinarily proud of the president.
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he will be here tomorrow to tell you about it. all i can tell you is he did exactly what you and i would have wanted him to do. there was no way he could take the deal the north koreans offered him. he wanted to do a deal, but was not desperate to do a deal. sometimes, the only thing you can do in a negotiation is walk away. i think that was the right play. [applause] >> i think we all have a lot of questions following up. just to get started, how did you get yourself wrapped up in this? i mean, you are a congressman, you have this great congressional voting record, you are in a state seat, everything is going mick mulvaney's way, and what happens? mr. mulvaney: the freedom caucus was getting really boring. jordan and me all the time, and desantis was leaving anyway to run for governor. raul labrador was leaving. we thought we would let jordan and meadows run it for a while. >> you are director of omb to start.
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that is like, for members of the freedom caucus, this is like kids in a candy store. you are in charge of the budget. mr. mulvaney: i think i spoke your last year and told everyone what the budget office management did, which i'm sure was an education because no one knows what we do, and we like it that way. it is much better for people to not understand what we do, but it is a great place to work. there was a great way to learn about the government because omb quite literally is involved with everything. i remember when the president asked me to be acting chief of staff before christmas, we spent a lot of time together before the government shut down. we were going through something and i said we had to go through this, and through this. the president goes, how do you know all this stuff? there is a reason presidents go to the office of budget management. i think i am the fourth director to go on to be chief of staff. >> usually, the budget director
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is briefing a politician on the budget situation. you are briefing an entrepreneur and a businessman who has become the president. is he a numbers guy? do the numbers matter to him? mr. mulvaney: it is so much easier. the first year i was doing the budget, i don't remember what the policy was, i said this is the deal. we are going to do this, this, this, and this. he says, how much will that save? i said $16 million. he said okay. six weeks later go by and we have not talked about this again. same policy, he goes, how much will this save? i say, $12 million. is like, wait a second. you called me a couple of weeks ago it was $16 million. when you think of how much money we spend and to have him laser focused on something that small, tremendous command of numbers. has been a real joy to work with when it comes to the budget. >> i'm nervous about that. [applause] >> absolutely. i'm nervous about
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that because your wife works there. >> i am nervous because when the president comes to cpac, he always wants to understand how big the audience is. the good news we have to tell him this year is not only will this big room be filled like it was standing room only with the vice president, we will punch out the back by opening those walls. as you know, we have three cpac campuses across the country which are also full, liberty university, colorado christian, and pepperdine university. there are young students assembled all across the country and there is this huge audience overseas. when you think about all those eyeballs on the conservative movement in america, it is quite an opportunity, each one of these things is. i think about the president walking away. he did not just walk away from maybe not the right deal with the north korean leader, is he sending a message to others around the globe, you are not going to hem him in on a bad deal? he's not going to feel forced to
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take something that is not in the interest of the country? mr. mulvaney: there is certainly that, but something no one has talked about the meeting we just had. we did not get a deal. we wanted a deal, and they wanted a deal, but there was no deal to be had. what not nearly enough people are talking about is, you and i can negotiate on something, right? oftentimes, if we don't get a deal, it will negatively impact our relationship. it will make it difficult to start talking again. that didn't happen. it was really quite interesting to watch. the president really is a master negotiator. he was able to walk away from a deal, to say chairman, i appreciate this, thanks but no and did so in go, such a fashion to keep all of the relationships still intact. you can pick up a discussion whenever you want to in the future. there are no wounds to be healed. there is no time that has to go
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by. it was really a masterful thing. to tell someone no and have them not get angry at you is a skill. i've never seen him be about to with thethe way chairman. mr. mulvaney: -- >> nothing happened in this trip that shatters the chances of an next trip. mr. mulvaney: i don't think the president would mind me saying it was very important that the president to shake the chairman's hand when we left, and let him know we are still -- the relationship is still there, we are still interested in talking, we still want a deal, it just wasn't going to happen that week. >> i seem to recall another president who walked away from a summit from a deal that wasn't the right deal. president reagan who spoke year 13 times. mr. mulvaney: he walked away from a deal and saved the world. that's a good start. >> the other thing about mick mulvaney you should know is he -- it is awesome for you to be here tonight, because we know how physically demanding it is
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to go here and there. he also flew to tokyo. the japanese conservative union is here. he took that flight to tokyo and spent three days or so with conservative counterparts and members of mr. abe's government. we have the u.s. ambassador to japan here. great to have you here, sir. when you went to japan, obviously japan, north korea, you were just in vietnam, this big question about china -- what was one of your takeaways from your meetings in japan with japanese conservatives? mr. mulvaney: thank you again for having me. if you have a chance to go, you should go. it was really quite interesting. there, i had no idea what to expect. i was expecting 30, 40 people. i think you had several hundred people the last day, and the
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reception to what is conservatism in japan, what am i telling these folks? how do we sell conservativism in japan? it was personal responsibility, individual freedom and liberty, subsidiarity. they believe in local government, and strong national defense. there really was a lot of overlap and a lot of commonality between some of the core principles of conservatism here and there. i thought that was very interesting. i didn't expect it to go over as well as it did. i think you folks should look at taking this in more places as well. i hope you take it places beyond japan. >> there are other neighboring companies that started conservative unions. just so you know, sir, we have announced we will be going to australia. our australian partners -- mr. mulvaney: you should do it. >> you might want to go on that trip. mr. mulvaney: i'm not sure you could do this, but the crowds in
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vietnam were unbelievable. i don't know if american television covered it. it was a 25 minute car ride from our hotel to most of the meetings in downtown hanoi. quite literally, the streets were lined with people, 10 and 15 and 20 deep, almost the entire parade route. of people hadnds come out to see the president of the united states. i was stunned by that in a socialist country. [applause] mr. mulvaney: his brand is international. my guess is you will not get permission from the government of vietnam to set up shop there, but there is an appetite for this all over the world. >> there is an appetite, and we are having a global reach even tonight with all of the eyeballs on cpac and american conservatives. you said the president has a brand. i want everyone to know that that was one of the takeaways i thought was amazing. you walk around this convention center in tokyo, and there are all these japanese citizens wearing maga hats, and i mean
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maga. i mean "make america great again" hats. [applause] >> yeah, it's pretty cool. >> i know the chief will -- maybe he has the same experience -- i asked groups of japanese women who did not speak english. you know me, i said something probably not very diplomatic. why would you be wearing a hat that says "make america great again? " why doesn't your hat say "make japan great again?" you got some version of "we are wearing this hat because you have a president who understands our number one nemesis on the planet is china, and we love him for speaking to that." did you have a similar? mr. mulvaney: the answer i think i got was when america is great, all of their friends are great as well. they need us, they want us to be great again. that is why they were there. [applause]
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>> when you think about going to japan, you think about the trip to vietnam to try to settle the nuclear problem of north korea, what is going to be the next step? i know you can't know, but help our audience understand with this relationship with china, with negotiations over a great -- trade deal, is there something conservatives need to know? mr. mulvaney: just that the president is actively engaged. i have never seen someone shift gears as fast as the president. we are on the plane, the negotiations are over, and immediately we are on to the next topic. at that particular time, i think it what was happening in india and pakistan. later in the trip, we were talking about china. the president is engaged in all of this at a personal level. the team is much better for it. we are looking toward meeting with the chinese toward -- is it march already? my wife said today she is going
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to quit drinking. there is a three-day program to tot drinking from march 29 march 31. it took me half an hour to get that one. >> you might have meant february. mr. mulvaney: thank you, i am a little out of it. it is funnier when it is february. we will get together with them again. the president is in this every single day. one of the travesties of justice was that story that said the president doesn't work that much. someone leaked his schedule to make it look like a man doesn't work. i am with him every single day. i know when the phone calls start, i know when the tweets start. it is a nonstop. i don't think he slept four hours a night on the trip. he ran laps around the staff and i know because i was one of them.
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he is engaged in all of these things and he has been a lot of fun to work for for that reason. >> i think one of the themes coming out of this conference are, are we going to build this wall? mr. mulvaney: we are. [applause] i was surprised that a lot of my friends called me up to ask questions about this national emergency. , do you think the president of the united states should be able to defend the nation against invasion? they all said yeah. do you think the president even has the right to do that if congress won't give him the money to do that? top of thes the list, right? to than actually have us do what we did and have them complain about it was disconcerting, so
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i've been trying to educate my conservative friends that this is not novel. it is not new, it doesn't -- doesn't set precedent. if a president can declare a national emergency to build a wall, the next democrat president can limit gun rights. no, that is not how it works. there is a law called the national emergencies act that sets forth how a president can do this and we have followed the law. we will continue to do that. it is the liberals who don't want to follow the law. we believe in a rule of law. i am looking forward to the , i am looking forward to explaining to my conservative friends why this was the right thing to do, necessary because congress is not capable of acting on this topic, but that has been surprising. the president is going to build a wall, already building the wall. i can't remember how many miles are under construction --
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[applause] mr. mulvaney: it will be one of the defining things of his presidency. orput your previous omb hat freedom caucus hat on, the democrats are arguing for not spending money in america. i can't think of another example of this. >> because there isn't one. >> they are very physically fiscally responsible out of nowhere. they suddenly got religion on this. mr. mulvaney: the budget comes out next week. everyone will be rushing out to get their copy. it will be out at the end of march. it comes out at the end of the president will put forward a march. fiscally responsible path. congress may choose to ignore it as they often do.
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congress spends money, not the president. congress allocates the money. he will continue to say we don't have to stay $22 trillion in deficit. here is the plan for how to do it and run the nation. we will see if they want to pay attention or not. >> the chief of staff job has a lot of responsibility. we talked about these responsibilities you have to play a large role in, diplomacy, international relations, then there are the operations of the white house itself. the president has made a lot of senior staff changes. it seems that he is quickly getting who he needs to have around him to get this job done. you are a part of that. give the folks some insight. we have larry kudlow. how did you like the indictment of socialism speech? pretty good speech. john bolton, pretty popular in this room. begin playing an important role as an envoy to north korea.
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there have been a lot of changes to the west wing. what is your vision for how this will work? mr. mulvaney: there are some good conservatives. when i took the job as omb director, i said the president doesn't know me very well. does he know who i am? i am a freedom caucus by. presidentow if the and i will see eye to eye on everything. i said if he is looking for a yes-man, then he has the wrong guy. the person said he wants people who disagree. that is how he manages and wants to make decisions. [applause] whether or not you agree or disagree with his policies come in the example i give to my republican friends are the decisions we have made on trade. maybe you don't like that decision.
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whether or not you agree or disagree with his policies come in the example i give to my republican friends are the decisions we have made on trade. maybe you don't like that decision. if you are president, you would make a different decision. what we have done is 100% defensible and proper. we have free traders like larry kudlow, protectionist like peter navarro, and they hammer it out and make the case to the president of the nine states. we had them both here, by the way. mr. mulvaney: the team functions properly. the president says i agree with you, let's do this. not that you or i might be doing as president, but that is what he gets paid to do, to make those big decisions. he is getting the best information and arguments on all of these target mins. you will not find a better defender of capitalism and free trade and larry kudlow. you will not find a more articulate defender of the more protectionist policy than bob lighthizer. these are smart men and women the president wants to surround himself with. i am proud to be part of that,
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to be the chief of that staff has been a real rush for the last 12 weeks. i think i started right before christmas, and i will point out that the turn over, because you have not heard anything about it, doesn't happen anymore. i had someone say today, look -- i was telling some folks about this on the way over -- they when you came on at christmas, i knew my time here was over, i would like to leave. they came in today and said if it is ok, i would like to stay because the president is doing so well, the team is working together. we're all pulling in the same direction. can i please stay? [applause] mr. mulvaney: that is a tremendous testament to the man we work for. >> let's knock back a few misconceptions. ifmaybe you can confirm them
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i'm wrong. the comms team needs a little work. [laughter] mr. mulvaney: where is she? >> she is right here. now i am off my game. mr. mulvaney: i am doing this on no sleep. >> everybody knows i have been sleeping and taking it easy. in all seriousness, let's knock a few things back row quickly. the one misconception i constantly hear about when i talk to people in the media is that the president doesn't read anything. he just follows his gut and makes decisions and doesn't read all these papers. mr. mulvaney: yeah. let's see, it is "the new york post," "the washington "the new york post," and "the wall street journal" cover to cover every single day. when we got on the airplane to go to vietnam, there were seven bankers boxes worth of reading material. he is watching television and reading all of the time. i'm not sure the man sleeps more
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than four or five hours a night and i know when he is active. the phone calls started 6:00 a.m. in the morning and go to 11:00 at night. he really liked being overseas because he can make a phone call it is0 in the morning and 2:00 in the afternoon here, so he can work on was 24 hours a day. mr. mulvaney: -- >> you guys are laughing at larry o'connor. i don't know why you think he is so funny. mr. mulvaney: bellissimo. >> it is not funny. he might well be watching. [applause] mr. mulvaney: has he tweeted about this? [laughter] probably. one other misconception would be good to not back, when you you are of devising president, he doesn't ask your opinion. he is never surveying and asking people opinions. that is what i constantly hear.
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these are just yes-men around him. he just directs them what to do. mr. mulvaney: once he's decided. it is neat, by the way. is meadows coming to this group? >> meadows started the whole thing off. thursday morning was the meadows-jordan show already. mr. mulvaney: when we started the freedom caucus, we met in the basement of a restaurant and get our teeth kicked in by republican leadership all the time. >> you can name some names. mr. mulvaney: john boehner. [laughter] there was a: deficit number. >> you are starting to wake up. mr. mulvaney: the deficit number during my first year in omb was a big number. meadows called and said it sounds like you are losing down there more than you are winning, mr. fiscal conservative. i said that's ok, mark. at least i am losing at the highest level. you are still losing in the basement of the tortilla cove.
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[laughter] mr. mulvaney: i say that to say this, which is when the president is so inclusive in his decision-making, when he does value your opinion, and you know you've had your say and made your case to the president of the united states, the president decides not to go this way but another way, the fact you participated in the process, the fact he values that opinion and considers you credible, he just made a different decision. that allows you to really be behind the decision a lot more. it allows you to have some ownership in the process and that is the sense the team gets. even larry kudlow, who doesn't necessarily make the same decisions about trade policies, can go on tv and say this is the right thing to do because he has been through the process. it might be different for president kudlow, but it is president trump. he does involve the team and for that reason, there is a cohesiveness and unity of purpose -- it is just a fun
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place to work and that is the difference of working with a business person. politicians don't do that. politicians come down in the morning and say the polling data says we have to do x. x.find me a reason to do the president comes down the steps and says what is the right way to handle the situation? run thea better way to country. year, whate this ?akes america great as we close out this conversation, you think about -- give us one idea of what you think makes america great. >> i will sound like i am pandering, but i am not. let me explain this. >> i am for that answer. >> let me explain. i have been unelected governor.
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i left to go be director. it isot tell you how neat to have been in washington, d.c. and to go home and know there is a group like this in like us to county, south carolina, duluth minnesota, southern california that people are engaged. people are engaged. i like it when liberals are doing it, because it is engagement that makes us great. in america, everybody had a newspaper, everybody was involved in the community, involved in some organization -- i can't remember the words he used because i am running out of gas here, but it was something uniquely american and we engaged in our system of government. i have been around the world in the last couple of years to know this, while it is not necessarily unique, is really special. we do it better than everybody else put together, and that is one of the reasons why we are great.
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[applause] >> how great is it to have mick maldini back? -- mick mulvaney back? thank you for being here. [applause] >> we will let you get off and get on with your life. [applause] >> thank you, sir. great job. >> not yet, no. i will let you know. i was watching. [laughter] [applause] that was fun. all right, that puts me in a good mood. do you even know that is going on on your television sets? i don't know, are you watching any of that? we are so overjoyed that you all are here.