Indianz.Com > COVID-19 > White House: Roundtable Discussion on Supporting Native Americans
Posted: May 6, 2020

Remarks by President Trump in Roundtable Discussion on Supporting Native Americans | Phoenix, AZ

Note: Transcript provided by White House

Honeywell International Inc.
Phoenix, Arizona

2:27 P.M. MST

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. We very much appreciate this time, and I’m with some very good friends. We’ve been friends for a long time. And we’re working together very closely.

I’m honored to be with you today to discuss the unprecedented actions my administration has taken to support our treasured Native American communities. Together, we’re fighting for everybody, but we’re fighting this horrible coronavirus. It’s a tough opponent, but we’re winning and we’re starting to see our country come back. It’s been a very exciting few days. We’re starting to see it all come back.

We’re improving the lives of Native American families and tribes more than any administration has done by far.

We’re grateful to be joined by Governor Doug Ducey. And thank you very much, Doug, for being with us.

GOVERNOR DUCEY: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Secretary Eugene Scalia. Thank you, Eugene.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Senator Martha McSally, who’s doing very well. I hear things are very good. You’re doing great. Thank you, Martha.

Vice President of Naho- — Navajo Nation, Myron Liz- — Lizer. And — and, by the way, we appreciate it very much. And you know there is two ways of saying that name. They told me outside, but I always think of it as “Lezer.” So how do you like it? How do you like it?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s what I thought. Okay. Thanks, Myron, very much. And Second Lady, thank you very much for being here. We really, really appreciate it.

The Navajo Nation has been very special to a lot of people. And it’s certainly been very special to the state. And the relationship, Doug, I think is extraordinary, isn’t it —

GOVERNOR DUCEY: (Inaudible.)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: — when you get right down to it. So thank you very much and we very much appreciate it.

Native Americans have been hit hard by the terrible pandemic. Over 2,000 members of the Navajo Nation have tested positive for the coronavirus. And tragically, more than 70 have lost their lives.

How is it looking right now? How is it doing?

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: Well, the numbers are still rising. We’re hoping it flattens. Our health professionals have said that the peak will be in mid-May. And it’s kind of uncanny and it’s fallen that — that way. So 2,400 infected; it was 73 that have succumbed. And that’s too many.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s a lot. Mitigation-wise, you’re doing what?

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: We have shut down the — enacted a 57-hour curfew over the weekend. Our people love to travel out to the border towns off the reservation.

Recently, the National Guard came in and shut down Gal- — under a new mayor leadership in Gallup, New Mexico. So they’ve been on lockdown for five, six days now. And so that’s helped. But our people are readily going to other border towns, like
Flagstaff and Farmington, New Mexico. So I think the super majority are obeying and staying home.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: But what we’re doing, you know, we’re bringing these two — these are very hard to come by, because they’re very popular. This is done by Abbott Laboratories. And we’re bringing them for you. And these are the quick tests, and they’re very accurate and very fast.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: So we’re doing that. I think we have a thousand cartridges, too. A thousand for a thousand tests. So hopefully that’ll be — that’ll be helpful to you. Okay?

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: Yes. Every little bit helps.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We appreciate it because you’ve done a fantastic job. You’ve been great friends.

Native Americans have been hit hard by this terrible pandemic. Over 2,000 members of the Navajo Nation have really — I mean, it’s been incredible what’s taken place, and there’s nothing we can say. But the coronavirus is tragically — as you just said, 70 people lost their lives.

The administration is deploying the full resources of the federal government to support and protect our Native American communities in this very grave time of need. And I know that — I think I can speak very strongly for Martha and for the governor: We’re full hands on deck. And you’re working very hard. I know that, Doug. Very, very hard. And even Department of Labor, it’s — it’s been — it’s been working very hard with everybody that’s in this room and everybody that’s — that needs to be. Right?

Anything you’d have to say, by the way, Gene, while you’re here? Please.

SECRETARY SCALIA: It’s a pleasure to be here. It’s wonderful being on the road again, as you know, Mr. President. And then great being in Arizona, which is such a spectacular state. And the Native American communities here are such a great part of the state and really our nation and our nation’s heritage. So, it’s so good to be here.

I know, Mr. President, you have an important announcement to make today about the additional things we’re doing to help these tribal governments. And we’re certainly doing all we can at the Labor Department to implement the legislation that you signed, that you got enacted so incredibly quickly. People forget: three weeks in March, three major pieces of legislation — with paid leave, with unemployment benefits, and with the Paycheck Protection Program — to put us in position to get going again. And now, Governor Ducey and I were just talking about it, we’re reopening. And it’s — it’s a wonderful thing to see.

I think we’re well positioned. And I think, Mr. President, with your leadership, we’re going to get back to where we were. Just a few weeks ago, things were going so well. And we’ll get there.

We had a nice conversation — the governor, the Vice President, the Second Lady, and I — a little while ago, talking about some of the things we’re doing at the Department. I mentioned these dislocated worker grants that are made available also to tribal governments. So I urge you to look into that and see if we can help you with those, too.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I’d like to introduce also, the governor, Stephen Lewis, who’s been terrific and working with us very hard. Thank you very much, Stephen. That’s fantastic. We appreciate it very much.

How is it going?

GOVERNOR LEWIS: Well, it’s, you know, going to a point where we’re trying to keep up above — beyond the curve as well. We’re located just not far from here — our traditional lands and our reservation land base.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s Gila. Gila River.

GOVERNOR LEWIS: Gila River. Gila River, home to one of the flag raisers of — on Mount Suribachi. Ira Hayes.



PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s beautiful territory, isn’t it?

GOVERNOR LEWIS: It is. It is. Thank you. Thank you, President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: But it’s — how are you — how are you doing, in terms of the amount? What are your numbers now? As of today, what are your numbers?

GOVERNOR LEWIS: Our numbers: We’re — we’ve tested over 1,000. We’ve had about — just over 1,100 tests. We’ve had one fatality. We have 44 positive tests. Our tribal community is around 23,000 members. So, we are keeping ahead of the curve. But, I know testing is a big issue. And also thank you for working with your administration on getting one of the Abbott analyzers as well.


GOVERNOR LEWIS: We were one of the first tribes to get one as well. And then also, working with Governor Ducey, getting five ventilators as well.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s right.

GOVERNOR LEWIS: We run our own healthcare, independent of the Indian Health Service — Gila River Health Care.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s great.

GOVERNOR LEWIS: And so we have hired our own doctors. We put our own community’s members to work and from other tribes as well. And so we’re taking care of our own tribal members on this. We have — really, we have an incident command that we’ve started as well. All of our departments are collaborating for one purpose, and that’s to keep our community members safe, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s fantastic. Good. And you’ll have the ventilators very soon I know, right?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Knowing Doug. They’re good ventilators too, aren’t they?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right? They’re really good.

Weeks ago, I signed the CARES Act, which includes $8 billion to help tribal governments. And I want to thank Senator McSally for fighting hard to get those funds and get them here and get them to a lot of different people all over the country, including to the folks in this room. So I want to thank you, Martha. You’ve done a fantastic job.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: You really have.

This is the single largest investment in Indian country in our history. So the amount of money that’s being sent to “Indian country,” as we call it, is the largest amount in the history of the U.S. And you deserve it. And you’ve been through a lot. The Navajo Nation will soon receive over $600 million. That’s a lot. Should I renegotiate that? Can we renegotiate that? (Laughter.) I don’t think so.

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: Only if we go up.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: (Laughs.) He said, “Only if you go up.” I understand. I’ve heard that before.

The Gila River will receive, and — and I think you probably know all about this, but we’re giving you some information: $40 million. And you’re going to use that very well. I know that because I know you. You’re going to be given $40 million in initial funds to help protect their citizens from the scourge, from the plague, from what we’re all fighting in this country. Should have never happened. Should have been contained from where it came.

Since I took office, my administration has also worked to repatriate precious Native American artifacts, to protect children in the care of the Indian Health and Indian Health Service, and to make eagle remains more easily accessible for cultural and religious purposes, and to highlight the contributions of Native American veterans throughout the history of our nation.

So you know all those elements. And the eagle remains is a very important thing to you, right?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Very important. Yeah. That’s great. That’s great.

Last year, I signed the first presidential proclamation recognizing the tragedy of missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives. We also launched Operation Lady Justice and provided $273 million to improve public safety in Native American tribal communities.

At the end of this event, I will once again sign a proclamation recognizing Missing and Murdered American Indians and Alaska Native Awareness Day. It’s been a tremendous problem: missing and murdered American Indians. It’s been a tre- — could you discuss that for a second, please?

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: I don’t want to steal our Second Lady’s thunder here. She’s been —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Good. I’d like to have the Second Lady — go ahead, please.

SECOND LADY LIZER: Yeah, well, we’re — Navajo Nation has been really hit hard by missing and murdered indigenous women.


SECOND LADY LIZER: You know, it seems to be a growing — a growing issue that’s been happening with Navajo. And so we — you know, with the Ashlynne Mike case that came up in 2016, where she was kidnapped and raped and murdered in Shiprock, New Mexico — May 2, 2016. So that’s kind of what opened the door for Navajo to start saying, “Okay, we need to do something,” because that became the forefront.

And so, since then, the amber alert on Navajo Nation has gotten better but still needs help with funding, still needs help with getting the data together. Our First Lady, Phefelia Nez, is also part of the New Mexico task force that’s getting together data.

And so we’re just really needing help in that — in that sense. And so we don’t want to lose any more of our — our native sisters, our native mothers. And so the cry is — is, you know, to get the awareness out, because a lot of people don’t know of the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. And now it’s hitting the LGBTQ community. And so we just want to make that aware and known that, hey, you know, we’re — we’re waving our arms here.

You know, I think there is a movie that came out with native women that have been —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah, that’s right.

SECOND LADY LIZER: — murdered and missing. And so it hit — it hits close to home because we have a close family member, Patricia Platero, that went missing in 2015. They found her two months later, murdered in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And so her case still remains unsolved.

We got to Tamicka Platero who is from Little — Little Water, New Mexico, who went missing November 25, 2019, and is still missing.

And — and so we have these girls out there that are missing and we don’t know. And, you know, there’s that jurisdiction —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: So this has been far disproportionate to other people in other areas of the country, what you — what you’ve gone through. I mean, I’ve been hearing about this for a long time.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: For years and years. This has been for many years, for many decades, right?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Disproportionate.

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: Disproportionate, yes.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, $273 million — a lot of that’s going to go toward trying to solve that problem. It’s a problem that can be solved.

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: Thank you, Mr. President.

SECOND LADY LIZER: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: But I know you’re going to use it well.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: And you’ll figure it out, right?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s a horrible — it’s a horrible thing. So New Mexico versus Arizona. What — tell me, because we’re here. Where — where are you going to be — where — where’s the problem worse: New Mexico or Arizona?

SECOND LADY LIZER: Well, Navajo Nation spans Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. And so, you know, I think all of us working collaboratively, that’s going to really help, you know. Because sometimes we get misclassified; we may get misclassified as Hispanic. And so — I think there was a Hopi girl that had been murdered here in Phoenix, and they classified her as Hispanic.

And so — so a lot of times, you know, the people don’t know. So I think with the more talks out there, that people will, you know, start to understand —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Is there a certain area, though — you have the four states — is there a certain area where the problem is exacerbated or worse? Or is it evenly spread?

SECOND LADY LIZER: Well, it’s — I think it’s just all Indian country. You know —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s Indian country.

SECOND LADY LIZER: — Indian country, whether it’s Alaskan Native or Navajo or Hopi or Gila River. You know, it’s — it’s —


SECOND LADY LIZER: — all over.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s a very big problem in Alaska.

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: Mr. President, if I could add to that. Just recently, in Farmington, New Mexico, there was an Anglo woman who was abducted. And I’m most certain she came across the Navajo Nation and was found murdered in Flags- — near Flagstaff, Arizona. And so I think it just speaks largely to the lack of public safety officers in such a vast land the size of West Virginia.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: It is a vast — yeah, it’s a vast land.

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: So not only Navajo and others, but there’s just an area that, I guess, because there’s not as many public safety, that you get those kinds of —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I’m going to be signing something in a couple of moments, and I hope it helps a lot. Not just a little bit, a lot.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I think you’ll do a fantastic job. I know you’re going to be watching it personally.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: And between the three of you and everyone else that I know so well, I think you’re going to do a great job. And so, go get them.

SECOND LADY LIZER: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Go do the job. I’d like to maybe finish off with the governor. A great governor. You’re doing a phenomenal job. What do you have to say, Doug?

GOVERNOR DUCEY: Well, my — my mic, thankfully, is working. First, I want to say thank you, Mr. President. We’re — we’re thrilled that you’re back in Arizona, especially to talk these specific tribal issues.

I want to say to Second Lady Lizer, to Vice President Lizer, to — to Governor Lewis: This focus that we’ve had on our tribal nations, first and foremost around the coronavirus — with a special shoutout to Senator McSally, who advocated for these ventilators that were so needed on Navajo Nation. Please extend my — my best to — to President Nez.

And I’m — I’m so grateful, Mr. President that you took a personal interest in getting these ventilators to Navajo Nation. And I’m — I’m proud, Mr. Secretary, in Arizona, our — our legislature, both Democrat and Republican, last year signed HB 2570.

And, Second Lady Lizer, I want to give a — a personal thank you to you. This was the bill to address missing and murdered indigenous people. And what we hope to do in Arizona is to reduce and eliminate this scourge that we have on our native nations. And in Arizona, we have 22 tribal nations and 75 percent of the Navajo people reside in the state of Arizona. So that was a positive thing that we could get done last year.

And, Governor Lewis, I want to say to you: Another positive thing in addition to the HB 2570 that we passed that was also unanimous was the Drought Contingency Plan to address Arizona’s water future. You were a real leader on that, and for that I’m grateful.

Thank you for being here to celebrate these accomplishments, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. And, you know, one of the other accomplishments we have is — in Arizona and a lot of other states — we’re building a wall. And you’re finally getting what you need.

And interestingly, California is calling because, in a — bordering towns, as you know, in Mexico, they have a very big outbreak of the coronavirus. And California is calling saying, “You got to help us.” Those are not calls that the media knows about, but that’s the facts.

And in Tijuana, right along the border, they have a tremendous outbreak. And we have just completed 172 miles of wall. And it’s real wall, not the kind you were having built over the years that were sort of scoffed at, right?

And we’ve done a lot in Arizona, and the people are letting us know. They’re so happy. They’re so thrilled about it. It’s made a tremendous difference.

And we’ve had one of the best months ever, in the history of our country, for not having people come in that we don’t want — that we don’t want in our country. We want to have the people that come in the right way.

So you see the numbers. The numbers are about the best we’ve ever had in the history of the country. So — so it’s good, but we’re getting that done. I guess you see — do you see where they’re doing it?


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah, it’s been a big — it’s a big thing. A hundred and — we’re up to 172 miles. We’ll have it completed early next year. So it’s been — it’s been something.

Okay, I’m going to sign this. I want to just congratulate you, Myron.

VICE PRESIDENT LIZER: Yes, sir. Thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I want to congratulate you, Second Lady. That’s so fantastic.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I want to congratulate you for — also, because I’ve — I’ve been in that vicinity. And it’s one of the most beautiful places you can imagine. So congratulations very much.

(The proclamation is signed.)

Thank you, Stephen. (Applause.)


Q Mr. President, what are your thoughts on winding down the —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Wait one second, please.

Q — Coronavirus Task Force?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: One second, Jim.

Q Yes, sir. Oh, sorry.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Okay? I want to make sure they — everybody looks good, except me. (Laughter.) I’m going to hand this to — I’m going to hand this to the Second Lady. Okay? If you don’t mind.

SECOND LADY LIZER: Thank you, sir, Mr. President.

GOVERNOR LEWIS: Mr. President, I want to thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah, go ahead. Please.

GOVERNOR LEWIS: I want to thank you again. I’m wearing —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah, Stephen, go ahead.

GOVERNOR LEWIS: I’m wearing my red ribbon in remembrance of this significant moment for missing and murdered Native Americans.

And again, I want to thank you for making such an announcement today, and for signing an important document to commemorate the National Day of Awareness.

And I know that your administration also made another very important announcement today regarding the Coronavirus Relief Fund. And thank you for that, and to take a few moments to comment about that as well.

I want to thank, of course, Governor Ducey and Senator McSally for advocating and for making sure that this is getting out to — to the — to Indian country — these much-needed resources as well. And, you know, so today your administration made a significant impact across Indian country. And I want to thank you for getting some of the money out today.

I want to thank you also, because we need help now. Indian tribes can’t wait for that litigation to end before additional payments are made to us from the fund. And if you can, please direct Treasury to make these payments as soon as possible.

And three, you know, we need to spread the limited resources currently available as far as we can, and to avoid allocating to a very few tribes and under-allocating to most others. And this means that you should include a limit or cap on the total funding any one tribe receives.

And we need to have flexible guidance to allow us to use the funds we do to receive — that we receive to keep our governments running, Mr. President. And the current fund of $8 billion is going to be woefully inadequate to meet our — our overall needs. And we really need to work — we will work with Senator McSally and your administration to take this to the next level.

And I look forward to working with Senator McSally, with the — your Chief of Staff Meadows, Congress, and your administration on the next relief bill, Mr. President — thank you — to make sure that your investments in Indian country are going where they are needed the most. And in a way, that shows that our governments and our economic entities can be part of that recovery that we are talking about here that will be critical as we come out of this crisis and rebuild our tribal state and national economy together with Indian country included, Mr. President.

I always end my — my video messages to my community members: We’re all in this together —

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s right.

GOVERNOR LEWIS: — and to continue to be Gila River strong. And I think that is how that we can continue to be Gila River strong and to strengthen all tribal nations moving forward, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s great.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much, Stephen. I appreciate it. And I have to say, Myron Lizer and I have dealt, and we’ve — our people have dealt together very closely, and the Second Lady. And a lot of progress has been made, and we’ll continue to make a lot of progress. I think you’ll see that. And I think you’re going to see it not only here, but in the future.

Thank you very much, and I appreciate it very much. Thank you. Thank you, Governor. Thank you.

GOVERNOR LEWIS: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: And I don’t have to thank you. You’re with the administration. (Laughter.) He has good genes, though. You know, he’s got good genes, right? The Scalia genes. (Laughter.) You don’t get better than that, do you?

SECRETARY SCALIA: They’re good. They’re good.

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