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Exclusive — White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on First 100 Days: President Trump ‘Going Big League on Trade’

WASHINGTON, D.C. — White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told Breitbart News exclusively that he believes that President Donald Trump has been “going big league” on trade policy in his first 100 days in office.

“I think the president is going big league on trade right now,” Priebus said in an exclusive interview on Thursday afternoon, just a couple days before the 100-day mark. He went on to say:

He just signed an executive order on aluminum that ends us being taken advantage of on aluminum. Last week it was steel. He’s been talking about NAFTA, and making sure that we get a good deal—and otherwise, if we don’t get a good deal, he’s willing to pull the trigger and start the process of getting out of NAFTA. One of the first things he did was get out of TPP, another campaign promise. I think the president is cooking with gas right now when it comes to trade.

In the past week plus, Trump has gone hard after NAFTA—first signaling he would be open to scrapping the 1990s-era trade deal between the United States, Mexico, and Canada entirely, before agreeing to renegotiate the deal after phone calls with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto.

Meanwhile, the president has cracked down on Canadian dairy and lumber industries—which have had a negative effect on U.S. counterparts—and zoned in on cracking down on unfair practices on the world stage with regards to the aluminum and steel industries. All of that comes after, in just his first couple weeks as president, he followed through on a campaign promise to rip up the Trans Pacific Partnership—once and for all.

Priebus’s exclusive interview with Breitbart News comes as the 100-day mark looms, and it focused on the administration’s successes, setbacks, and lessons learned. Despite legacy, establishment media outlets claiming repeatedly that Trump has not delivered much in his first few months in office, the president has actually had a number of successes across government and in all facets of his agenda with more to come, Priebus pointed out:

Well, look, I think that the president accomplished something that’s quite historical whether you look at deregulation or TPP—28 pieces of legislation, he followed through on the ethics pledge to make sure that all of his staff are barred from ever lobbying for a foreign government and five years within that same department as a domestic lobbyist. He’s touched on HBCUs [Historically Black Colleges and Universities], opioids, Keystone, I could just go on and on—not to mention Gorsuch, who’s an incredible pick. Just look at the deregulation—obviously, you’ve written about it but it’s remarkable. For every new regulation, two regulations have to be dismissed which means he put our country on a permanent glide path toward deregulation on a permanent basis. There’s more—but one last thing: Look at how he’s realigned our position in the world. He’s got leverage with North Korea and China, realigning there, he’s forcing countries to pay up to NATO. We had the NATO meeting and I know some people were sort of perplexed that he was on stage with NATO but what was the first thing that came out of the Secretary General’s mouth? He said President Trump is 100 percent right that these countries have to start paying up. Look at Egypt: He was criticized for having a meeting with Egypt. What happened 10 days later? The prisoner was released, something that Barack Obama couldn’t get done. All I would tell you is I think if you look at everything President Trump could control, he’s done a remarkable job and I would say a historically good job.

All of that is true: Trump has opened up the Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access pipelineinstituted the aforementioned ethics pledge; held events focused on and signed executive orders related to HBCUs and the opioid epidemicachieved that success with NATO at a meeting and joint press conference with the Secretary General; secured the release of an American prisoner held by the Egyptian government; and appointed and overseen the confirmation in the U.S. Senate of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Specifically on Gorsuch, Priebus told Breitbart News, the fact that Trump nominated him and the whole process that played out should be proof Trump is “a man of his word.” Priebus told Breitbart News:

For one thing, the entire process should be totally a complete validation that President Trump is a man of his word because he put out that list, he told the world that ‘I’m going to choose a judge from this list,’ some people questioned it, but he followed through in grand fashion. That’s number one. Number two, the process of interviewing, the process of vetting started back in November after the victory and the process was methodical and he spoke to all the right people and players and groups and had meetings in the White House if you remember with Republicans and Democrats. He talked to trade groups, he talked to citizens across the country, he talked to members of the Senate, he did everything that you would expect a professional, competent operation to do and he did it every day until ultimately he made the decision to choose Justice Gorsuch.

Priebus added that the execution of the Gorsuch pick rollout, among many other things—including day-to-day operations at the White House, where Trump has had an overpacked schedule nearly every day with multiple events, bill signings, executive order signings, meetings with foreign dignitaries, and more since his inauguration on Jan. 20—is a sign that the White House runs smoothly. No small feat. Priebus said:

Even the mystery of who it would be up until the very time Justice Gorsuch walked out into the East Room was executed to a T, which sort of brings us to another point which is there’s a lot—you look at the day-to-day here in the White House. One EO [executive order] signing, a bill signing, a meeting with a trade group, a bilateral meeting with a foreign dignitary, and you look at the amount of activity that goes on in this White House with this president—it’s not like he’s doing one event a day, he’s doing one thing after the next and he’s doing it flawlessly. Just so you know, that doesn’t happen by accident. The team here, everything from the public liaison to the political operation to the intergovernmental agency process, I’m just telling you that though the Gorsuch thing is the big shiny object that was flawless, you look at all of these events that happen, you have to say there’s not a lot of things that go wrong on a regular basis on the day-to-day operation in the White House.

Another point that has appeared in virtually no media roundups of Trump’s first 100 days, Priebus said, is the president’s first address to a joint session of Congress. That speech earned him universal praise, and one of the most powerful moments in modern presidential history—his exchange with Carryn Owens, the widow of fallen U.S. Navy SEAL Ryan Owens—rocked the world that night. Priebus continued:

I think what you saw that night was everything that President Trump believed in—whether it be from the 1980s, the 1990s, where we are today, the feeling that he has about this country, how much better we should be and how much stronger we should be and how much more respected we should be—was captured that night,” Priebus told Breitbart News about the president’s speech that evening. “It was captured through a lot of issues. It was captured through talking about education, it was captured through talked about our position on the world stage, it was captured talking about what we need to do to repeal and replace Obamacare, but beside that it was captured in a moment of pride looking at a widow up in the balcony that lost a hero soldier and honored by a president that understood the incredible value of life and the value and respect that he has for the heroes of this country and also the respect for the United States of America at that moment where the president, the House and the Senate are getting together and talking about how great America ought to be all coming together in a stew of pride that was captured by looking at that great family up in the balcony. That’s what I was thinking about when that happened and I think that’s what a lot of people were thinking about.

Since Trump won the election, and especially since he has been in office, nearly every economic indicator has been on the upswing—from the stock market to employment numbers to business development and more—something Priebus attributes to an overall message of optimism emanating from the president. Priebus’s words:

I think what’s important to know is that underlying all of the things that President Trump is doing is one real basic theme which is optimism,” Priebus said. “There’s an incredible optimism among manufacturers, business groups, people that are expecting a better future. All the polling aside—I know everyone loves to talk about the polling—but one of the things that gets lost, and you touched on it, is that people are optimistic for the future. People believe that President Trump is going to follow through on his promises and that those promises are going to result in a better future for everybody. When you look at the stock market, you look at business growth, the housing market, sales getting better, people being able to buy and sell their house, all those things matter—and that sort of optimism underneath everything is I think a great foundation for President Trump’s legacy moving forward.

On immigration, illegal border crossings are down, while Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly have increased efforts to enforce the law. President Trump recently, in a meeting with conservative media at the White House earlier this week, compared MS-13—the drug trafficking connected gang—to terrorist group Al Qaeda, and the administration has created an office, VOICE, designed to represent families with victims of illegal immigrant crime. Trump, meanwhile, maintains plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border once and for all—despite setbacks for now in funding from the congressional side of things. Priebus, in his exclusive interview with Breitbart News, sang the president’s praises on immigration:

People understand across the borders that we have a president that’s not really interested in playing games on illegal immigration. We’ve had enough illegal immigration. It’s time to get serious about putting Americans first, and legal Americans first. I think we’re in agreement that there’s not anything good about illegal immigration, and a lot of it’s that really bad like drugs, human trafficking, violence—there’s a lot of reasons for having and wanting to have a wall on the southern border. It’s not just a wall that’s a campaign promise. It’s a wall that’s there to protect Americans from something that shouldn’t be happening. So as far as this issue is concerned, the president has been very strong on illegal immigration and I think that people that have been attempting to come over the border on the mass trek across hundreds of miles maybe even through Central America and Mexico are thinking again about it saying ‘you know what? This may not be worth it because we’re going to get turned around and get returned back to where we came from.’ That may sound harsh, but it’s not. It’s about sovereignty and protecting the people of the United States.

On rolling back regulations, which Trump has done via executive action, and empowering his cabinet officials to act and through the Congressional Review Act, Priebus said that Trump’s vision resembles his predecessor Ronald Reagan.

Priebus said to Breitbart News, “Here’s what I think people should understand: One of the pillars of Reaganomics was deregulation. If you ask anyone about Reaganomics, you can’t have a conversation about how that economic transformation happened without talking about deregulation. If you look at the president’s earliest actions, it’s all about deregulation. It’s all about CRAs. It’s about deregulation. I think he’s at 12 CRAs now, and there’s only one that was done previous to President Trump. So when you take the executive order on deregulation two for one, you take the CRA activity, you look at what he’s doing on clean power—and obviously that’s part of it—but this unbelievable effort and focus on deregulation is part of what his vision is. The president will tell you—and you saw in his tax plan, he’s all for lowering taxes for every American and it’s going to be the biggest tax cut for all Americans that’s ever been done—but put that aside, he also understands a lot of these guys in small business who put people to work, they will tell you ‘listen the taxes are out of control, we shouldn’t be paying 35 percent, but I’ll tell you what, what’s worse is the regulations. I’m getting killed on regulations. I hate the taxes, but the regulations are worse.’ The president gets it.”

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