Return to Transcripts main page


Trump & Kuwait Emir Joint Press Conference. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 7, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] SHEIKH SABAH AL-AHMAD AL-SABAH, EMIR OF KUWAIT (through translator): I pray to God Almighty that he would make this, the coming hurricane that is about to hit Florida -- for it to be a harbinger of goodness, not evil. I wish and hope that the losses would not be harmful to the American people, and would not cause further sadness and grief for those who will fall victim to this hurricane.

Once again, we reaffirm that we stand by our friends in the U.S., because -- in fighting and confronting this issue -- we have had deep and comprehensive discussions that reflect the depth of our bilateral and historic relationship, and advance relationships on all levels, at the political, economic, and military and security levels, in order to serve the mutual interests of our two countries and people.

I here would like to commend the commitment that we have sensed here on the part of the U.S. about the security of the state of Kuwait. And within the framework of these relations, we remember with great gratitude the great role that the U.S. played when it assumed the leadership of the international coalition that liberated my country from the throes of the invading Iraqi forces and restored its freedom. And this memory will remain forever in the minds of the Kuwaiti people.

We also highly value the strategic relations between our two countries. We have discussed the situation in our (ph) country, foremost among which is the unfortunate dispute between our brothers in the Gulf region and our efforts to contain it, and the international support that we have received for these efforts.

We have also discussed our common efforts, in cooperation with the international community, in fighting terrorism and ending the sources of funding for it.

And in this regard, I would like to commend the prominent role that the United States plays in combating terrorism, especially the recent victories against terrorism.

And we have also discussed the situation in Iraq and the catastrophic situation in Yemen and Syria and Libya. And we affirm the need to end the fighting there through dialogue between the various disputing parties.

And we have affirmed the necessity of the Security Council to shoulder its responsibility in maintaining international peace and stability, which represents the -- because the continuation of those struggles continues to be a threat.

With respect to the Palestinian question, we have praised the recent U.S. efforts to move the peaceful process, and we affirm the need to join efforts in order to reach a comprehensive and lasting solution to this problem on the basis of a two-state solution and in accordance with the international (inaudible) resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

Once again, I thank His Excellency, the president, for his kind invitation to us and for his kind hospitality. And we look forward to meeting with His Excellency, the president, in the state of Kuwait within the framework of our efforts to further enhance our relations and build on our strategic relationship in the service of the interests of both countries and peoples.

Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: All right, we'll take a couple of questions. Go ahead, yeah.

Actually, we'll go to somebody else this time, John (ph).


You've been doing enough, John (ph).

Go ahead, yeah (ph), CBS.



Mr. President, on the question of North Korea, the country feels that a crisis is coming. Some lawmakers, Lindsey Graham among them, have almost described the situation as inevitably leading to war. I don't want to ask you if you think it's inevitable.

What I do want to ask you is, as president of the United States, would you tolerate a nuclearized North Korea that is contained and deterred, but still nuclear? Or would it have to abandon nuclear weapons?

And would military action on the part of the United States be one of the options necessary to achieve that goal?

TRUMP: Military action would certainly be an option.

Is it inevitable? Nothing's inevitable. It would be great if something else could be worked out. We would have to look at all of the details, all of the facts.

But we've had presidents for 25 years now, they've been talking, talking, talking, and the day after an agreement is reached, new work begins in North Korea, continuation on nuclear.

So I would prefer not going the route of the military, but it's something certainly that could happen. Our military has never been stronger. We are in a position now -- and

you know the new orders, you see the numbers just like I see the new numbers. It's been tens of billions of dollars more in investment. And each day, new equipment is delivered; new and beautiful equipment, the best in the world -- the best anywhere in the world, by far.

Hopefully, we're not going to have to use it on North Korea. If we do use it on North Korea, it will be a very sad day for North Korea.

Do you have a question for the amir?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) follow-up.

Is -- is it acceptable for you, as president, for North Korea to be nuclearized, but contained and deterred? Is that a strategy you...

TRUMP: We're going to see what it is.

QUESTION: ... would like or prefer (ph)?

TRUMP: I don't negotiate with you. No, I'm not negotiating with you. Maybe we'll have a chance to negotiate with somebody else, but I don't put my negotiations on the table, unlike past administrations. I don't talk about them.

But I can tell you that North Korea's behaving badly and it's got to stop, OK?

A question for the amir?

QUESTION: Your Excellency, you mentioned, in a general sense, the situation with Qatar.

How optimistic are you about it being resolved? And what role would you like the president of the United States to play in achieving a resolution?

AL-SABAH (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We still have hope that the dispute will be resolved between Qatar and its neighborly countries in the GCC, especially that our friends in the U.S. and our other friends are assisting us in resolving this issue.

I am optimistic that the solution will come in the very near future, God willing. TRUMP: Question for the -- yes? For the amir first, yes.

QUESTION: My question is for you, Mr. President, first. Kuwait News Agency, (UNTRANSLATED).

(THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Do you support the Kuwaiti mediation role between Qatar and the four countries? And do you support the holding of a conference that will include all parties in Kuwait?

Thank you.

TRUMP: Well (ph), I do appreciate and respect the mediation. I would be willing to be the mediator. I was telling the amir before that, if I can help between UAE and Saudi Arabia, where I have a very great relationship -- I spoke with the king yesterday, King Salman. He's a friend of mine, and we spoke on unrelated subjects, but we had a long conversation.

If I can help mediate between Qatar and, in particular, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, I would be willing to do so. And I think you'd have a deal worked out very quickly. I think it's something that's going to get solved fairly easily.

Kuwait has been, really, the leader of getting it solved, and we appreciate that very much.

But I do believe that we'll solve it. If we don't solve it, I will be a mediator right here in the White House. We'll come together. Very quickly, I think, we'll have something solved.


Mr. Amir, in light of the conditions in the region, has there been an assertion on the role of the U.S. commitment to the security of the state of Kuwait?

Thank you.


And you have heard now what His Excellency, the president, has said about the relations between Kuwait and the U.S. and its assertion of its commitment to the security of Kuwait.

AL-SABAH (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And this is not something new. And don't forget that the United States managed, with its other coalition allies -- when Kuwait was occupied, it liberated Kuwait from Iraq within a few months.

And this is something that the Kuwaiti people remember very well, and everybody also. And we here thank the United States and the American people for that.

TRUMP: Thank you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

Nadia Viviza (ph) with Al Arabiya (ph) Television.

You dispatched a team to Israel and Palestine and you're about to meet the leaders of both countries in the U.N. soon. Do we expect a new American initiative to move the process forward?

And if I may, sir, the U.N. has just published a report about Syria's Assad regime using chemical weapons. It said they basically use it more than dozen -- two dozen times. Does that mean that President Assad is immune now from any persecution? And what can you do to stop the further use of chemical weapons?

Thank you.

TRUMP: Well, first of all, the Palestinians and the Israelis, we are discussing, we are working. They say it is the world's most complex and difficult deal. You know that. But it is something that could happen.

I believe that the relationships that we have with both can help. It's a -- it's an event that's just never taken place. Sometimes people think they're close, and it never happens or it never happens successfully.

I think we have a chance of doing it. I think the Palestinians would like to see it happen. I think the Israelis would like to see it happen. And usually when you have two groups that would like to see something happen, good things can happen. So, I think there is a chance that it could be peace. But again, I say that a little bit reluctantly. We're going to give it our best.

We have tremendous talent working on that particular transaction. As you know, David Friedman, the ambassador, is very much involved. We have a great group of people. We'll see what happens.

As far as the chemical weapons, I find it hard to believe that after what we did the last time that Assad would do that again. I haven't heard what you just said, but I find that a little bit difficult to believe.

But nothing would change. We would be extremely upset if he was using chemical weapons.

As far as Syria is concerned, we have very little to do with Syria other than killing ISIS. What we do is we kill ISIS.

And we have succeeded in that respect. We have done better in eight months of my presidency than the previous eight years against ISIS. So ISIS is rapidly disappearing, as you know. And that's because of our great military. The military's been absolutely incredible in terms of what they've done with ISIS in Iraq and in Syria.

Do you have a question for the amir?

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Yes, to the amir, all the parties are holding onto their own positions with respect to Qatar.

Where do you see a breakthrough in this dispute? Do you see any indications to make us believe that this crisis will come to an end?

AL-SABAH (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The hope has not ended yet. I would like to affirm that Qatar is ready to meet all the demands that were put -- the 13 demands that were presented, and is ready to sit at the table to negotiate and to discuss with us everything related to the dispute between the Gulf parties.

As you know, we have 13 demands that were presented, and we know that not all of these 13 demands are acceptable. But if we were to sit down together and discuss these 13 demands -- and we have indeed accepted them, and Qatar has accepted them -- we would be able to resolve all 13 demands, all the issues and points that harm and relate to the dispute between the countries of the region, and anything that harms the interests of our other friends.

Thank you.

TRUMP: This all began because of the fact that there has been massive funding of terrorism by certain countries. And what I want is, I want to stop the funding of terrorism. And we're going to stop the funding of terrorism.

And if they don't stop the funding of terrorism, I don't want them to come together. But I think they will, OK?

You have a question. Your people have a question. Yes. Go ahead, to the amir.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Your Highness, Said Said (ph) from Al Jazeera.

Mr. President, we talk about Kuwaiti mediation and supporting Kuwaiti mediation, all the tracks and a meeting that happened in Kuwait which received U.S. and international support.

Is there, in reality, something clear and a breakthrough that has been accomplished in this crisis? Are we about to see the beginning of a breakthrough?

Or, Your Highness, are the issues so complicated? We talked about the deep discussion about all the issues. What is the real issue -- uncomplicated issue at the heart of this dispute? We would like to find some information. Where is the problem here, so that we can solve it?

Thank you.

AL-SABAH (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): First of all, I would like to say there is no problem that cannot be resolved.

True, it's complicated. But when we meet around one table -- and now we have an affirmation from the country to which some demands were presented by its brotherly nations in the Gulf region -- when we hear that it's ready to discuss all these demands, we are not among those countries, but we are guarantors, and we can guarantee that we'll pressure Qatar, because it's not in the interest of Qatar to remain outside the flock. Rather, it should join its brothers in the GCC.

As you know, thank God, the wisdom of our brothers in the Gulf region -- they should appreciate the situation we're in today, the situation in Iraq and in Syria and in Libya. Now is the time that we have to forget all these differences. It's true, we have descended into some not very healthy issues, and

especially in the media. But in spite of all of that, we were one of the most people to be affected by this situation, by what our brothers in Qatar have done.

But when that happened, and before this dispute came into existence, we met with our brothers in Qatar and put an end to this issue. And this is now a normal issue.

We met in Riyadh in the presence of President Trump, and there was no one to say that there was a dispute between us, but suddenly this dispute came into existence.

Thank God, now, what is important is that we have stopped any military action.

And these disputes, as I said, there are complicated (ph). And we have seen media campaign that is totally unacceptable to the people, because the media coming out of these country is against the people, not the rulers.

And for that reasons, we have received from Qatar a letter in response to the letter I sent them. And they are willing to sit down at the table and discuss all these demands which the other parties have put down.

And we're talking about 13 demands, and I'm certain that all these 13 demands, some of them, a great part of them will be resolved, and the other part we -- and perhaps we might not accept them, because anything that affects sovereignty, we would not accept.

But we are very hopeful. We have great hope in our friends in the U.S., that they will assist them to restore things to where they used to be.

TRUMP: Well, that is a problem that we will get resolved.

And I'm very, very honored and happy to know that you have problems with the media also.


Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much.

[14:51:46] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So the president of the United States, the emir of Kuwait wrapping up their joint news conference. One American journalist asked a question. Three Arab journalists asked questions from the Kuwaiti news media, from Al-Jazeera. Lots of questions on the dispute that's going on between Qatar, on the one hand, and several U.S. allies, including the Saudis, the Bahrainis, the Egyptians, the Jordanians. Qatar has been playing a significant role in trying to mediate that, so far without any success. The president of the United States says he's ready to step in and get that resolved. He says he can get it resolved quickly. The accusation against the Qatar is that they are funding terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East. The other question that came up, asked by an American journalist,

asked about North Korea, and the president says there is a military option. He hoped it didn't have to be used but he said the military option clearly is there.

John King, there was no questions -- we didn't hear any questions about some of the other issues that are going on right now, including the president's very surprising decision yesterday to go ahead and side with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in this dispute over funding the government.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the president deliberately called on one U.S. Journalist, got a question on foreign policy, and did not go back to the U.S. journalists there. Potentially, significant answer as part of his answer to Major Garrett, of CBS News, on the North Korea question, potentially significant because he was not clear. Major asked him and tried to follow up, are you willing to have a North Korea with nuclear powers, will you accept a nuclear North Korea and then negotiate over containment, meaning trying to limit the number of weapons and future testing, try to put strict limits on proliferation. That has been a question asked of past U.S. presidents. They have said flatly, no. We will not tolerate. We will not accept a nuclear North Korea. The president didn't answer directly. He said I'm not going to negotiate with you, to Major Garrett. And so that will -- now thereby, questions to the State Department and to the Defense Department and to the president's national security team, was he given some opening that he's willing to accept a Chinese brokered negotiation with North Korea, with the possibility of North Korea keeping some nuclear weapons on the table. Past U.S. administrations and this administration up to this point have been clear saying, no, North Korea must give up its nuclear weapons and its missile program so potential there. I just want to say potential, because the president was not clear. But again, he could have said to Major Garrett, no, I will not accept a nuclear North Korea.

BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny, you're there, you were at this joint news conference that we saw unfold. What was your immediate reaction?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think John is absolutely right about the fact that the president did, indeed, leave the door open to the possibility of negotiation at some point, perhaps with some other country, be it China or someone else, on the nuclear weapons ambitions of North Korea. Again, he did not close the door. We have seen this president multiple times, if he wants to close something down, he knows how to do it.

So I think the fact that he left that door open a crack -- and to me, sounded much more diplomatic, if you will, or sort of open to other ideas than he sounded last month when he was in Bedminster, New Jersey, his retreat there. And he talked about the "fire and fury," "unlike the world has ever seen here." So he did also state, I would prefer not to go to route of the military, but of course if it leads to that, he will.

So I think that was the most significant development here today at this news conference in the east room. We did try and ask the president as he was walking away about that vote that happened in the Senate during the news conference, about the deal to keep the government open. This is a major new moment for this president in terms of dealing with Democrats. So I was going to ask him if, you know, that's an example of his new governing style here or if it's simply a limited time engagement with Democrats only. But of course, John is right, the president did not want to answer those questions because in fact it has riled conservatives. We have seen, just moments before this news conference, the Heritage Action Fund, that is a conservative leading group, was urging members to vote against the Trump/Schumer/Pelosi aid package here. So this is something the White House has to contend with. But the president today chose not to contend with that and talk about North Korea and the other questions he was asked -- Wolf?

[14:56:17] BLITZER: The three Arab journalists were asking questions. One American journalist and the American journalist asked about North Korea, critically important issue to be sure.

ZELENY: Indeed.

BLITZER: Stand by, Jeff Zeleny.

Pamela Brown, our justice correspondent.

Pamela, you and your team, you're learning new information about Robert Mueller and his Russia investigation, Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential election.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. My colleague, Gloria Borger and I were told from three sources that Robert Mueller, special counsel, has been in discussions with the White House about interviewing some of the White House aides, a small number, we're told, who were aboard Air Force One during the drafting of that initial misleading statement about Don Jr and his meeting at Trump Tower with the Russian lawyer last summer. And so we're told that special counsel will eventually interview these White House aides and that the White House is cooperating.

At this point, we're told that the White House counsel has not put in -- I'm sorry, Special Counsel Mueller has not put in a request to interview the president as we've previously reported. Through sources, the president was involved in the crafting of that statement aboard air force one on the way back from the government's G-20. So this makes clear that Robert Mueller is interested in the crafting of that statement, who was involved, and what they knew as part of the larger probe, the larger obstruction of justice probe.

It's not illegal to mislead the public. But it could present clues in terms of what the people knew on board the plane, what the president may have known when.

And so all of this is part of the larger probe and we should also mention we have learned that some of these White House aides have had to hire lawyers as a result of the Russia probe. And the White House is right now trying to figure out the legal defense funding for some of these White House aides who have been swept up in the Russia probe.

BLITZER: This is significant development, Gloria. You and Pamela have been doing excellent reporting on it. Give us the context. Why, potentially, this could be very significant in the overall investigation?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANAYST: Well, as Pamela was saying, the Don Jr meeting with Russians has become sort of a focus for this special counsel. And if you'll recall, on this flight, going back from the G-20 summit, a statement was crafted about how to talk about what occurred during the Don Jr meeting. The statement turned out to be quite misleading, and had to be revised and revised again. And so, I think what the special counsel is trying to do is sort of get the full picture here, and maybe get some insight into what people were thinking, the level of anxiety on the airplane, perhaps even the anxiety of the president himself eventually. I mean, we don't know. What we do know is that a small number of staffers are going to have to meet with the special counsel, and we don't know if that number will increase. But clearly, you know, it's today Don Jr's testifying on the Hill behind closed doors about this. So, not only is the special counsel interested in it, but clearly Congress is as well.

BLITZER: That's not the first time, you and I know, John, that White House staffers are forced to hire lawyers to help them prepare for questioning from a special prosecutor.

KING: And in the case of the Lewinsky investigation, which we both covered, that was about the president's personal conduct, the president of the United States. What this tells us, this is yet another flashing light that tells you the special counsel is spending a lot of time and a lot of resources on the question of obstruction of justice, potential obstruction of justice by the president of the United States. Yes, there are a lot of 2016 Candidate Trump, pre- President Trump questions about, you know, who had meetings with whom, what were those meetings about, the Don Jr Trump Tower meeting. But this is about conduct by the president of the United States.

And connect a few dots here. The "Wall Street Journal" reporting recently the president's lawyers already met with the special counsel and his team, trying to disabuse him of the notion the president obstructed justice. "The New York Times" --