2:26 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Sit down, please. Come on, get up here with me, everybody.
CHIEF BAKER: Sir, I bring you greetings on behalf of our honorable mayor, Mayor Kasim Reed. And our men and women of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department would like to present you with a token of our appreciation.
THE PRESIDENT: That is beautiful. I think I should leave it right here, right? It fits so well. Thank you.
CHIEF BAKER: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I didn’t know I was going to get such a nice — that is fantastic. Thank you, how are you?
CHIEF BAKER: I’m fine, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re going to go around and introduce ourselves, okay? We’ll do this first. You know, these folks back here, they’re very famous — most of them — it’s called the media. (Laughter.) They’re very honorable people. But you are more honorable, I can tell you that.
CHIEF BAKER: Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: So I’m honored to be here with you today and welcome you to the White House. The heroes who responded to the terrible bridge collapse on I-85 two weeks ago in Atlanta. That was something. The whole world was watching that one. Today we’re joined by members of the Georgia State Patrol, the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, and the Atlanta Police Department — great people. On that day, Georgia State police and Atlanta police took fast action to get motorists away from danger. Then, our brave firefighters battled 40-foot flames, which was incredible. What was the reason for those flames? It was something underneath that just was very combustible?
CHIEF BAKER: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, those flames were amazing. They pulled back, by battalion chiefs, and just minutes before the bridge itself collapsed and everybody was safe. That was an amazing thing, and everybody was watching. Your skill and courage saved many lives and represented true strength, and the true strength of America. Really great job, fellas. I’m proud of you. Great job.
To the people of Georgia who were affected by the collapse, my administration stands with you. We’ve already made a $10 million emergency relief fund available. And I called your governor, who I know very well — he’s a terrific guy — and I approved it literally the day that it happened. I had a feeling you’d need a little money — (laughter) — because I look like a big money deal, right, Elaine? But I approved it immediately, and Elaine took care of it, and we gave fast action.
What happened in Atlanta is a painful reminder of the critical importance of infrastructure. We’re going to be doing a lot with infrastructure. You’ll be seeing that over the coming weeks — a tremendous amount. I’m committed to funding a massive nationwide infrastructure program to rebuild, repair, and construct the roads and bridges of the future of this country. This is necessary as a matter of both safety and economic growth, and it’s necessary to improve our quality of life as Americans.
We will also continue to seek proper funding for law enforcement and public safety in our country. On behalf of the entire nation, I salute you — you’re really amazing people — and I honor your service. I pledge that you will have the support of our country — the police, the firefighters, first responders — you will always have the support of President Trump. I think you know that very well. And I thank you for the great job and the fast action. Really fantastic. A lot of bravery.
Maybe we could just go around and introduce yourselves. And, who knows, maybe you’ll become a movie star after this. (Laughter.) After all this, you’ll become a movie star. If they like the way you look or sound, you’ll become a star.
CHIEF BAKER: Well, thank you again, sir. My name is Joel Baker, the fire chief of the city of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
THE PRESIDENT: And how tall are you, Joel?
CHIEF BAKER: I’m 6’6″, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s all? I thought it was much more than that. I think you’re taller than that. (Laughter.) Okay, good. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
MR. BURKETT: I’m Trooper Thomas Burkett with the Georgia State Patrol.
MR. HEALD: And I’m Sergeant Ryan Heald from the Atlanta Police Department.
MR. MCLEMORE: I’m Battalion Chief James McLemore from the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
MR. GIUNTA: I’m Trooper John Giunta with the Georgia State Patrol.
MR. CAMPBELL: I’m Sergeant Anthony Campbell, Atlanta Fire Rescue Airport Division.
MR. BAKER: I’m senior police officer Michael Baker from the Atlanta Police Department.
SECRETARY CHAO: Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation.
MR. ADKINS: Captain Arthur Adkins, Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
MR. TISDALE: I’m Trooper Harold Tisdale, Jr. with the Georgia State Patrol.
MR. MCKOY: Trooper First Class Kendell McKoy, Georgia State Patrol.
MR. BOSSERT: I’m Tom Bossert. I’m the President’s Homeland Security Advisor.
MR. HATCHER: Battalion Chief Douglas Hatcher, Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.
MR. KUSRA: Sergeant First Class Thomas Kustra with Georgia State Patrol.
MR. BRYANT: Assistant Chief of Atlanta Police Department, Rodney Bryant.
THE PRESIDENT: Great, Rodney. Well, thank you very much. So who’s the bravest person in this room? That’s what I want to know. Raise your hands if you’re the bravest person. Huh? Maybe it’s — (laughter) — I thought so. I thought so.
SECRETARY CHAO: Do you want —
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
MR. CRONIN: Sergeant First Class John Cronin, Georgia State Patrol.
MR. SEVERANCE: Officer Ryan Severance with the Atlanta Police Department.
THE PRESIDENT: Elaine, would you like to say something?
SECRETARY CHAO: Mr. President, beside you and around you are true heroes of our country. They demonstrate courage, steadfastness, commitment, and fealty to their oaths to serve our communities in need.
This fire was reported at 6:12 p.m., right in the middle of rush hour, on March 30th. By 6:20, this team was on site addressing the issues. Governor Nathan Deal also deserves some credit because he has, as a matter of policy, pre-positioned state troopers around I-85 to move any traffic incident right out of the way. So that helped a great deal. By 7:00, the bridge had collapsed. By 8:00, these brave men, leaders of their own communities, basically had the fire under control. The U.S. Department of Transportation was on site, and we worked hand-in-hand with these great heroes. And as you mentioned, $10 million from your administration went out within one hour of the governor making this request.
The good story following all of this is also that the repairs and recovery of this whole scene will occur very quickly. You will like them, because they will come in under budget and on time.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s good. I love to hear the words “under budget” and “under schedule,” right? (Laughter.) We used to call it “ahead of schedule.” Now we say “under schedule.” But that will be great.
And I have to tell you, Governor Nathan Deal did call me immediately as this was happening, and he sort of said, could you be ready? Because we’re going to need some emergency money fast. And we were ready and we got him the money immediately.
And again, we want to thank everybody in the room very much. And, Secretary, congratulations.
SECRETARY CHAO: Not at all. Again, I told them that you are really approachable and that you would enjoy meeting them so much. They were a little bit apprehensive about meeting you, so they’re just so thrilled. And Chief Baker and also Chief Bryant, these are the two leaders here, and they both said what an honor it is to be at the White House, to be with you. And you have done the first responder community a tremendous honor by honoring them. And they want to make sure — because they’re saying that you are sending a message to all the first responders that you value them. So, Chief Bryant, why don’t you say that to the President? (Laughter.)
CHIEF BRYANT: Yes, ma’am. I stand with her, Mr. President, that this is not only a great day for the city of Atlanta and Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, but it’s a great day for all the public safety personnel throughout the country to include the department of fire, police, state patrols throughout the country, corrections department. But all the public safety really appreciate the opportunity that you’re recognizing public safety members.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Chief, I have great respect for the people that do what you do. It’s amazing bravery. And the speed is incredible. So, again, I want to thank you. And I think what we’ll do is, when we’re finished here we’ll talk, and then, unless you don’t want to do this, but I know you do, we’ll go right across the hall to the Oval Office and we’ll have some pictures. Is that okay? The Oval Office. It is — believe me, I’ve been in a lot of good offices. (Laughter.) It is a special office, okay? So we’ll go over there, we’ll take some pictures, okay?
CHIEF BRYANT: Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much.
Q (Inaudible) bomb in Afghanistan?
THE PRESIDENT: It was really another successful job. We’re very, very proud of our military. Just like we’re proud of the folks in this room, we’re so proud of our military. And it was another successful event.
Q Did you authorize this —
THE PRESIDENT: Everybody knows exactly what happened. And what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done their job as usual. So we have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing. And, frankly, that’s why they’ve been so successful lately. If you look at what’s happened over the last eight weeks and compare that really to what’s happened over the last eight years, you’ll see there’s a tremendous difference — tremendous difference.
So we have incredible leaders in the military, and we have incredible military. And we are very proud of them. And this was another very, very successful mission.
Thank you very much.
Q Does this send a message to North Korea?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know if this sends a message. It doesn’t make any difference if it does or not. North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of. I will say this: I think China has really been working very hard. I have really gotten to like and respect, as you know, President Xi. He’s a terrific person. We spent a lot of time together in Florida. And he’s a very special man, so we’ll see how it goes. I think he’s going to try very hard.
2:37 P.M. EDT