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Trump/Macron News Conference. Aired 1:00-1:30p ET

Aired April 24, 2018 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:00] PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON, FRANCE (through translator): France is not naive when it comes to Iran. We have also a lot of respect for the Iranian people, which through their history -- its history always -- has always shown its trends (ph). But we do not want (ph) to repeat the mistakes of the past. Each time we tried to unilaterally replace sovereignty of the people, we've brought about some more terror (ph). But for our allies, we want sustainable stability.

And I believe that the discussions we've had together make it possible to open the way, to pave the way for a new agreement, an agreement on which we will work. And beyond our European partners, we would like to involve the regional powers, and, of course, Russia and Turkey.

It is also within this framework, as a matter of fact, that together -- together in the long run we can find a solution to the Syria situation. In Syria, we are together, engaged within the international coalition against Daesh and the terrorists. And we will continue to act till the end within this framework until victory.

That being said, in the long run, we need to win peace and make sure that Syria does not fall into any hegemony in the region. So, to that effect, the approach, which is agreed, means that we can work and work on all of the situation -- the whole of the situation in the region. And with these efforts, to contain Iran in the region.

We will continue to work to that effect within the U.N. Security Council to make sure that humanitarian law, the prohibition of chemical weapons, are fully complied with and we will continue to shoulder our responsibilities to that effect. But we are willing (ph) to work with all partners in building a stable, political solution, an inclusive one that will prevent any hegemony and, once again, will prevent feeding terrorism in the future.

We also talked about the climate. And here also we know where we stand. France will continue to work on major peace, including the global compact for the environment. But I think I can say that our economic -- our businesses, our researchers can continue to work in concrete solutions in the field and we are both attached to that.

Now, on trade, like you mentioned it, and I hear what you said when you called upon fair and critical trade. When we look at international trade, today we have some common challenges. There are some (INAUDIBLE) capacities in a number of sectors, which are well-known, and we shall work together to make sure that this does not destabilize our market or brings about some fair competition.

But I believe we can say that we are both attached to make sure that between allies there is compliance with international trade law. At least France is attached to that. We have preferences. There are situations we can probably improve. But I believe that both you and I are also attached -- want to make sure that our businesses, our companies, can operate in a long and sustainable -- and stable framework.

Mr. President, I meant to mention these viewpoints which you commented as well, and allow me to say once again that the discussions we've had today, the ones we will have tomorrow, are fed not only by the strength of our historical bonds, but also by sincere friendship, which I believe we share.

So thank you, once again, Mr. President, madam, for this extremely warm welcome, for these three days spent with you. And thank you, as well, for being here to meet the challenges which are important for the United States of America, for France and for Europe and important for our peoples.

Thank you.

Thank you. Thank you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I like him a lot.

First of all, I want to thank -- I want to thank our vice president and Karen for being here. Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

No, we had a wonderful conference today. And I think especially the one on one in the Oval Office, we covered a lot of territory having to do with trade, having to do with Iran and various other subjects.

[13:05:07] So I think a lot of good things are going to come out of our meeting. And I appreciate you being here.

And we'll take a couple of questions.

How about Jeff Mason from Reuters.

Jeff.

JEFF MASON, REUTERS: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Hi, Jeff.

MASON: Hi there.

After your discussions today with President Macron, what is your thinking about a timeline for bringing U.S. troops out of Syria?

And on one other topic, you mentioned today that you thought the leader of North Korea has behaved openly and honorably. This is someone whose -- many people have accused of starving his people, killing family members. What did you mean when you call him that? TRUMP: Well, we will start with your second part of the question. And

I hope that we will be able to deal in a very open and honorable fashion with North Korea. I started a process. And when I did, everybody thought I was doing it absolutely wrong. But in the meantime, for 25 years, people have been dealing and nothing happened. And a lot's happening right now, I can tell you that, Jeff. A lot is happening. And I think it's going to be very positive. And I hope it's going to be very positive for North Korea and for South Korea and Japan and the rest of the world.

But I am starting at a level that, frankly, I shouldn't have had to start. This should have been worked out a long time ago. This should have been worked out many years ago. We were discussing that. We shouldn't be having this situation happen to the United States and the world. This should have been resolved by other presidents and by other leaders of other countries a long time ago.

With that being said, I think we're doing very well. Meetings are being set up. And I want to see denuclearization of North Korea. A lot of concessions have already been made. We have made no concessions despite some of the media saying that I've made concessions. I don't -- I haven't even discussed a concession. Other than the fact that meeting is a great thing. And I'm sure that a lot of other people would have liked to have had the position we're having.

I will say this. We put the strongest sanctions on a country than we ever have put on any country by far. China, President Xi, has been very strong in helping us to solve this problem, in his case, at the border. He's allowing very little to get through. I think he's doing that for a number of reasons. We have a very good relationship. And also it's very important in terms of trade because I do play the trade card. If you look at what's happening with trade in China, it hasn't been fair for many, many years to the United States, and we're going to solve that problem. In fact, we're having Secretary Mnuchin and a couple of other folks heading over to -- Bob Lighthizer -- heading over to China at the request of China. They came here, as you know, last week and we're having very substantive discussions on trade.

But I think it all plays to the border and the fact that they have been extremely strong on the border and very little has gone through, much to the surprise of a lot of people. And I believe the trade will work out. But I also think that China has never treated us with more respect than they have over the last short period of time that I'm president. I have a very excellent, as you know, relationship with President Xi, and I think that relationship is very important as to what's happening with North Korea.

So, the end result is, we'll see. Maybe good things will happen and maybe we're all wasting a lot of time. But hopefully it will be good for everybody concerned.

As far as Syria is concerned, I would love to get out. I'd love to bring our incredible warriors back home. They've done a great job. We've essentially -- just absolutely obliterated ISIS in Iraq and in Syria. And we've done a big favor to neighboring countries, frankly, but we've also done a favor for our country. With that being said, Emmanuel and myself have discussed the fact that

we don't want to give Iran open season to the Mediterranean, especially since we really control it to a large extent. We really have controlled it and we've set control on it. So we'll see what happens.

But we're going to be coming home relatively soon. We finished at least almost our work with respect to ISIS in Syria, ISIS in Iraq, and we have done a job that nobody has been able to do.

But with that being said, I do want to come home, but I want to come home also with having accomplished what we have to accomplish. So we are discussing Syria as part of an overall deal.

When they made the Iran deal, what they should have done is included Syria -- when I say "should have," before giving them, Iran, $150 billion and $1.8 billion in cash -- $1.8 million in cash. If you think about this, before giving this kind of tremendous money, OK, 150 billion and $1.8 billion in cash, in barrels, I hear, it was taken out, and in boxes it was taken out, cash. They should have made a deal that covered Yemen, that covered Syria, that covered other parts of the Middle East where Iraq is -- where Iran is involved. They didn't do that.

[13:10:34] So we want to come home. We'll be coming home. But we want to have a very, very strong -- we want to leave a strong and lasting footprint. And that was a very big part of our discussion.

OK? Thank you.

MASON: Just a follow-up, if I may, sir.

On North Korea you said you believe in complete denuclearization. What does that mean exactly?

TRUMP: It means they get rid of their nukes. Very simple. They get rid of their nukes. And nobody else would say it. It would be very easy for me to make a simple deal and claim victory. I don't want to do that. I want them to get rid of their nukes.

MASON: And for President Macron, the president referred earlier in your meetings in the Cabinet Room to a potential deal between the two of you on Iran. Can you give us a sense of what that might be? And are you confident that you'll have assurances from President Trump that the United -- or that the European Union will be excluded from tariffs on steel and aluminum?

MACRON: Look, as for the second question, is it (INAUDIBLE) to (INAUDIBLE), but I just want here on the trade issue to -- to be very clear. When you look at the trade issue between our two countries, they are balanced. There is no unbalanced relationship.

Second, we are following and respecting to devalue (ph) to your rules because we are the one who have contributed to the creation of the WTO (ph) and we think it's -- it makes sense to respect the rule you decided to create. (INAUDIBLE) in general, in life, that's a good method.

And, third, because I do believe that we have a very first issue on trade, which is overcapacities in steel and aluminum, it doesn't come from Europe, and not (ph) only from France. And it's good to work together when you're allies, and especially when you work so closely together on security issue like Iran and Syria.

So I'm -- I'm confident about the future of the trade relationship. I think it's part of a broader picture where our interests are totally aligned.

As for the Iran situation, and I think I detailed in my introduction, for me it's a key pillar of this new approach we want to adopt. And it's exactly what President Trump said. We have nuclear on the short run (ph), we have nuclear on the long run (ph), we have ballistic activity, we have regional presence of Iran. We want to fix the situation for these four pillars.

Syria is part of the fourth one. And what we have to work on, obviously with Iran and the different parts of the regions, the B-5 (ph) and our allies, is to find a fair deal where we can fix the overt (ph) situation. This is the only way to preserve sovereignty in the region and to build peace on the very long run (ph). Otherwise, we will have to come back in the region because of new terrorist groups for sure.

And I'm very happy about the discussion we had together, because we raised very new issues and very new situations together. And especially as a fact that the Syrian crisis and the Syria situation should be part of this broader picture.

And the fact that we are here and we are today in Syria, together as international coalition against ISIS, but tomorrow we will have to find a way to fix the situation from the political point of view, not automatically from a military point of view, which means to set up a series of agreements, part of this big deal, in order to be sure that Syria (INAUDIBLE) will be a sovereign country with inclusiveness and free people in this situation to decide for the future. This is very important. And that's our duty.

TRUMP: And I think we will have a great shot at doing a much bigger, maybe deal, maybe not deal. We're going to find out. But we'll know fairly soon.

Mr. President.

MACRON (through translator): A question from the French press.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A question from (INAUDIBLE) Press, on behalf of the French press.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): As you have (INAUDIBLE), Mr. President, you were saying that there was no plan b, that the Iran deal was to be preserved. Now you're talking about a new deal with Iran. Why do you change your mind? Did you join the stronger approach suggested by President Trump? Is it because you could not convince him? And, in addition, do you think (INAUDIBLE) who signed the agreement, that they will follow you?

[13:15:31] MACRON (through translator): When I said there was no plan b, I usually refer to the fact that there is no b planet (ph). It was about to plummet (ph) rather than Iran.

(INAUDIBLE), no, regarding Iran, I've always been coherent and you can go back to what I said at the U.N. General Assembly in September. I always said there was the JCPOA, but we needed to add three pillars post-2025 (ph), the ballistic issue and the regional influence. I do not know what President Trump will decide regarding the JCPOA, and it is his responsibility.

The JCPOA is the first pillar of this framework that was described, so I'm not saying that we're moving from one deal to another. I'm saying it is one aspect of the problem. I haven't -- I have never been as critical of the JCPOA as President Trump has because I believe that we can usefully add to it. But no matter the decision that President Trump will take, I would like us to work as (INAUDIBLE) on a new deal with four pillars, including what is already covered by the JCPOA, that is ongoing nuclear -- I mean the current nuclear activities, the long run nuclear activities, the ballistic activities and the regional influence. So this is constant.

But over the past few weeks, and -- and in particular today, we've been able to go and to very much talk in details about this topic, including this situation in the region. And I believe that we've convert on a common reading of what is happening in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq in particular. And on the fact that the nuclear issue is not the only one. That, indeed, there is a problem with a ballistical activity of Iran and their presence in a number of countries in the region and that our willingness was indeed to set the conditions for the stability of the region.

Once we build these convergence of views, the idea of moving on to a new deal that would include the solution for Syria, I believe, is a strong step forward thanks to the discussions we've had today. So I very much would like us to work together with all of our partners, and the ministers of (INAUDIBLE) already govern the small group and they will be doing it again sometime soon. The process is to have some -- the allied powers and we'll -- amongst them and, of course, also the regional powers, to work at the level of this small group. Well -- so shall have some permanent discussions with Russia and Turkey on region topics, including Syria.

So, as from now, we'll work using that method in favor -- work towards a deal.

I believe we can both combine our common views and the differences because we are not (INAUDIBLE) always said (INAUDIBLE) always said we should not tear apart the JCPOA and have nothing else. I think this would be -- would not be the good solution. But once we are placing ourselves into a (INAUDIBLE), the purpose of which is to put together the broad agreement covering the four topics I just mentioned, it's very different because, first of all, we can take on board the concerns and the criticism of President Trump regarding this deal, which, like I said, once again this deal was supported by a former American administration and -- a previous American administration. But we can work -- and it is also about respecting the sovereignty of the states of the region. It's not about intervening no matter what. It is rather about building a stable framework that will contribute to stability and to peacebuilding.

And I think this is what we've been agreeing upon today. It's not about tearing apart an agreement and have nothing, but it's about building something new that will cover all of our concerns.

TRUMP: Although I might add they -- states -- and as I alluded to, that in countries that are in the area, some of which are immensely wealthy, would not be there except for the United States, and to a lesser extent France, but they wouldn't be there except for the United States. They wouldn't last a week. We are protecting them.

[13:20:18] They have to now step up and pay for what's happening. Because I don't think France or the United States should be liable for the tremendous cost. The United States is embarrassingly into the Middle East as of a few months ago, as you've heard me say before, and I don't take responsibility, but I would be very embarrassed if I had to, $7 trillion. And when we want to build, Mr. President, our infrastructure, everybody says, oh, we want to be careful with our money. When we want to fix a highway or we want to build schools and lots of other things, tunnels, bridges, they say, oh, let's be careful with our money. And yet we have spent $7 trillion in the Middle East and we've gotten nothing for it. Nothing. Less than nothing, as far as I'm concerned. That's over an 18-year period.

The countries that are there that you all know very well are immensely wealthy. They're going to have to pay for this. And I think the president and I agree very much on that. And they will pay for it. They will pay for it. We've spoken to them. They will pay for it.

The United States will not continue to pay. And they will also put soldiers on the ground, which they're not doing. And we will, in fact, bring lots of people home. We will have a strong blockage to the Mediterranean, which to me is very important, because if we don't, you have Iran going right to the Mediterranean. Not going to have that.

But there is a chance, and nobody knows what I'm going to do on the 12th, although, Mr. President, you have a pretty good idea, but we'll see. But we'll see also if I do what some people expect, whether or not it will be possible to do a new deal with solid foundations. Because this is a deal with decayed foundations. It's a bad deal. It's a bad structure. It's falling down. It should have never, ever been made.

I blame Congress. I blame a lot of people for it. But it should have never been made. And we're going to see what happens on the 12th.

But I will say, if Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid. OK?

Yes. John, please.

John Roberts of Fox. JOHN ROBERTS, FOX: Thank you, Mr. President.

I have a question for President Macron as well, but if I could to you, sir, first.

Your nominee to run the Veterans Affairs Administration, Dr. Ronny Jackson, has run into some serious political headwinds on Capitol Hill with some serious allegations being leveled at him. I'm wondering what you know of those allegations, and do you intend to stand behind him?

TRUMP: Well, I haven't heard of the particular allegations, but I will tell you, he's one of the finest people that I have met. And I think speaking for Melania also, he's been the doctor for President Obama, I believe for President Bush, for me. I've gotten to know him pretty well. He's a great doctor. And it was a suggestion.

Now, I know there's an experience problem because of lack of experience, but there's an experience problem. The Veterans Administration is very important to me. We've done a great job with it, as you know, with the accountability act and my other things. Now we're working on choice. It's going to happen. We can take great care of our veterans. That's a very, very important thing. And we've done a great job.

But I told Admiral Jackson just a little while ago, I said, what do you need this for? This is a vicious group of people that malign, and they do, and I lived through it, we all lived through it. You people are getting record ratings because of it, so congratulations. But I said, what do you need it for? He's an admiral. He's a great leader. And they question him about every little thing.

As you know, with the success of what will hopefully soon be Secretary of State Pompeo, everybody was very surprised. I heard 10 minutes before the vote yesterday on committee that he will not be approved at committee, which would be the first time in many, many decades if something like that would have happened with regard to a secretary of state. Except I spoke to Rand Paul, and Rand Paul has really never let me down. He -- Rand Paul is a good man. And I knew things that nobody else knew. And Rand Paul said, I'm going to change my vote. And he voted and everybody was surprised. And he actually got an 11-9 vote because, as you know, Johnny Isakson's vote counts if it isn't the deciding vote. So it was actually 11-9 with, I believe, an -- there was one vote -- what would you call that, John?

[13:25:28] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A present vote.

TRUMP: Not prescient (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, present.

TRUMP: Oh, it's called present, OK.

So it was 11-9. And that was -- that was a terrific thing.

But they failed to stop him. So now they say, who's next? Who's next? And this person, Admiral Jackson, Dr. Jackson, as I say, a wonderful man, I say to him, what do you need it for? And as far as experience is concerned, the Veterans Administration, which is approximately 13 million people, is so big you could run the biggest hospital system in the world and it's small time compared to the Veterans Administration. So nobody has the experience. What he is, is a leader and a good man.

But I told him, I said, you know what, doc, you're too fine a person. His son's a top student at Annapolis. He is a high-quality person. I said, what do you need it for? So he'll be -- it's totally his decision, but he'll be making a decision.

But they failed with Mike Pompeo, and that was a big, big hit because they thought they could stop him and embarrass. The Democrats have become obstructionists. That's all they're good at. They're not good at anything else. They have bad ideas. They have bad politics. The one thing they do is obstruct.

And that's why I'm waiting for -- you would never believe this -- I'm waiting for very good people like the ambassador to Germany hasn't been approved yet. It's been in there for 11 or 12 months. We have Angela Merkel coming to the United States on Friday. We still don't have our ambassador approved. And at this rate, and many of the papers checked it out yesterday and they actually said I was right, but it would be nine years before these people are -- we have hundreds of people in waiting to be approved, and the Democrats are taking 30 hours per person. They're taking the maximum time. They are obstructionists. It's very bad for our country.

I said to Dr. Jackson, what do you need it for? So we'll see what happens. I don't want to put a man through who's not a political person. I don't want to put a man through a process like this. It's too ugly and too disgusting. So we'll see what happens. He'll make a decision.

ROBERTS: So are you saying, Mr. President, that you will stand behind him? It's his --

TRUMP: Oh, I would definitely stand behind him. He's a fine man. I'll always stand behind him. I'd let it be his choice.

But here's a man who has just been an extraordinary person. His family, extraordinary success. A great doctor. A great everything. And he has to listen to the abuse that he has to -- I wouldn't -- if I were him, actually, in many ways, I'd love to be him. But the fact is, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. What does he need it for? To be abused by a bunch of politicians that aren't thinking nicely about our country. I really don't think personally he should do it, but it's totally his. I would stand behind him. Totally his decision.

ROBERTS: And, Monsieur President, if I could direct a question to you as well.

You said that you and President Trump came to some agreement on the way forward in Syria. U.S. troops are really at the heart of any solution. How long, President Macron, do you believe U.S. troops need to stay in Syria? Through the defeat of ISIS? Or do they need to stay through a stabilization period until an alternative to the Assad governor is stood up?

MACRON: First of all, let me say how proud and honored we are to be part of the international coalition today alongside with the United States troops in order to fight against ISIS. We decided to increase our contribution and we are totally involved in this work against ISIS. And for sure the very first goal of this intervention and the international coalition on the ground is to finish this work with them, with ISIS, and definitely to finish with our enemies. And our enemies are ISIS and the other terrorist group.

Beyond this military presence and beyond our troops on the ground, we will have to build, as I say, peace, i.e. a new, inclusive framework in order to be sure that Syrian people will have the opportunity (ph) to live in peace. All the different ethnics, all the different religious, all the different groups and to be sure that there is no hegemony in the region.

[13:30:05] That's a diplomatic work that we're already -- we've already started, but we have to finish. It's something different.