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EARLY START

President Trump Holds News Conference. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired June 12, 2018 - 05:00   ET

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


[05:00:00]

QUESTION: -- the sensitive issue of human rights with Chairman Kim.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes.

QUESTION: I wonder what you would say to the group of people who have no ability whatsoever to hear or to see this press conference, the 100,000 North Koreans kept in a network of gulags. Have you betrayed them by legitimizing the regime in Pyongyang?

TRUMP: No, I think I've helped them because I think things will change. I think I've helped them. There's nothing I can say. All I can do is do what I can do. We have to stop the nuclearization. We have to do other things and that's a very important thing. So at a certain point, hopefully you'll be able to ask me a much more positive question or make a statement but not much I can do right now. At a certain point, I really believe he's going to do things about it.

I think they -- I think they are one of the great winners today. That large group of people that you're talking about. I think ultimately they are going to be one of the great winners as a group. Yes, sir, go ahead. Go ahead. Yes.

QUESTION: Would you ever consider removing the sanctions without significant improvement in the human rights situation?

TRUMP: No, I want significant improvement. I want to know that it won't be happening. And, again, once you start that process, there'll be a point at which even though you won't be finished for a while because it can happen scientifically or mechanically but you're not going to be able to go back. You know, once we reach that point, I'll start to give that very serious thought. Yes, go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead. You first.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you also discuss the cost of denuclearization and how is North Korea able to foot the bill while crippling sanctions remain in place (inaudible)?

TRUMP: Well, I think that South Korea and I think that Japan will help them very greatly. I think they are prepared to help them. They know they're going to have to help them. I think they're going to help them very greatly. We won't have to help them. The United States has been paying a big price at a lot of different places, but South Korea, which obviously is right next door and Japan which essentially is next door, they're going to be helping them. And I think they're going to be doing a very generous job and a terrific job. So they will be helping them.

Yes, ma'am, go ahead. Behind, yes.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: First of all, (inaudible) you said a long time, what does that mean?

TRUMP: Well, I don't know, when you say a long time, I think we will do it as fast as it can be done scientifically, as fast as it can be done mechanically. I don't think -- I mean I've read horror stories. It's a 15-year process, okay. Assuming you wanted to do it quickly, I don't believe that. I think whoever wrote that is wrong. But there will be a point at which when you're 20 percent through, you can't go back.

QUESTION: And how long...

TRUMP: I had an uncle who was a great professor for, I believe, 40 years at MIT and I used to discuss nuclear with him all the time. He was a great expert. He was a great, brilliant, genius. Dr. John Trump at MIT. I think he was there 40 years, I was told. In fact, the head of MIT sent me a book on my uncle.

And but we used to talk about nuclear. You are talking about a very complex subject. It's not just like, "Oh, gee, let's get rid of the nukes." It takes a -- it takes a period of time. But the main period of time that I'm talking is that first period when you -- when you hit a certain point, you can't go back. It's very hard to go back.

QUESTION: And how long will that take?

TRUMP: We don't know but it'll go pretty quickly. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Mr. President. I wanted to ask again on the sanctions campaign. You alluded at the very beginning that the Chinese are not doing as great a job securing the border as they were before. You expressed, you know, some doubts when Kim went to see President Xi.

The Russian foreign minister was in Pyongyang and said there shouldn't be any sanctions while these negotiations are underway. And the South Koreans are now talking about restoring some form of trade. So with all of those players appearing to be moving toward eroding sanctions, how can you keep the sanctions regime in place? What leverage do you have on these countries?

TRUMP: Well, I think we have a lot of leverage. I think we have tremendous leverage. I do believe that China despite my relationship with President Xi, a man who I told you I have great respect for and like also a lot, you know, we're having very tough talks on trade.

And I think that probably affects China somewhat, but I have to do what I have to do. And I think over the last two months, the border is more open than it was when we first started but that is what it is, we have to do it. We had a -- we have a tremendous, tremendous deficit in trade commonly known as a trade deficit.

We have a tremendous deficit in trade with China. We have to do something about it. We can't continue to let that happen. And I think that has had an impact on my relationship in terms of the border. I don't think it has a relationship.

[05:05:00] You know, I don't think it affects my feeling or my relationship to President Xi, but when we first started, we weren't ready to go that route. And as we started preparing and getting ready to do that, I think that's had an impact on frankly the border, which is a shame, but I have to do it. I have no choice. For our country, I have to do it. South Korea will do whatever is necessary to get a deal done and if that means we can't trade with them, I'm not going to trade. They're definitely not going to trade.

If they think and they would do this with our concurrence, if they think that they can do some work because we're very far down in the line, we're actually very far. You know, that document when you read it today, that's far down the line. That's not something that just happened to be put together. This was done over months. And, again, the rhetoric was important and the sanctions were important. I don't even know which one was more important. They were both important.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: (inaudible) I was wondering if you could give us some sense of whether the -- Chairman Kim told you how many nuclear weapons he believes he's made, whether he's willing to turn those over first and then whether in your mind, you need to do more than was done in the Iran deal for actually dismantling the -- both the uranium and the plutonium processes. And whether or not you had a sense that Chairman Kim really understood what that involves and had a timetable in his own mind of shutting that.

TRUMP: Well, David, I can tell you, he understands. He understands it so well. He understands it better than the people that are doing the work for him. That is an easy one. As far as what he has, it's substantial. Very substantial. The timing will go quickly. I believe you'll see some good action. I mean as an example one of the things with the missile site, I think you're probably surprised to hear that, that was the throw-in at the end, the missile site.

But I really believe, David, that it's going to go very quickly. I really believe that it's going to fast and it is a very substantial arsenal, there's no question about it. You know, I used to say maybe it's all talk and no action. But we have pretty good intelligence into that, although probably less there than any other country, you understand that maybe better than anybody in the room.

Probably less there than any other country, but we have enough intelligence to know that what they have is very substantial. This is why, David, I always say this shouldn't have taken place so late into the process. Wouldn't this have been better but was five years ago or 20 years ago or 15 years ago and we didn't have to worry about not having a successful meeting like today. So and I still love my first interview with you, David. I still have that interview actually. Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: If there is a second summit with Chairman Kim Jong-un, will it be in Pyongyang or (inaudible)

TRUMP: We haven't set that up. We'll probably need another summit. We'll probably need, or meeting. We could use a different term but we'll probably need another one. We'll probably -- I will say this, we're much further along than I would've thought. I did not think we'd be -- I thought -- and I've told people, I didn't want to build up people's hopes too much.

I told people I thought that this would be a successful meeting if we got along, we developed a relationship and we could've maybe gotten to this point in three or four months from now. But it really happened very quickly. A lot of that was because of the foundation that was, you know, put down before we met.

A lot of things happened very fast. We didn't have as an example - bringing back the remains, that was not one of the things that was on our agenda today. I brought it up at the very end because so many people have talked to me about it and I brought it up at the very end and he was really very gracious, instead of saying, "Well, let's talk about it the next time," he said it makes sense we will do it.

And he knew, you know, they know where many of those incredible people are, where they're buried, along roads, along highways, along paths usually because our soldiers were moving back and forth and they had to move rapidly. It's very sad. But he knew and that was brought at the very end and, you know, it was really great that he was able to do it. A lot of people are going to be very happy about that.

Yes, go ahead, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Robinson with American News. Congratulations.

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you for the nice way you treat us. We appreciate it. Really it's very good. It's really beautiful what you do. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So you...

TRUMP: And now I'll probably get this killer question.

[05:10:00]

QUESTION: Well, I do want to talk about the future of North Korea, specifically the people. Are -- Kim Jong-un is saying he's wanting a brighter future with prosperity for his people yet we know they live under oppression. You showed him this video of what the future can be like, but do you have an idea specifically of the model that he would like to go towards? Economically, is he open to more economic freedom?

TRUMP: Yes. It's a good question. So, you saw a tape today and I think it was done really well but that was done at the highest level of future development. I told him, "You may not want this, you may want to do a much smaller version of this, I mean, you got to do something, but you may want to do a smaller version. You may not want that with the trains and everything else, super everything the top. And maybe you won't want that."

It's going to be up to them. It's going to be up to them. It's going to be up to the people what they want. They may not want that. I can understand that, too. But that was a version of what could happen and what could take place.

As an example, they have great beaches. You see that whenever they're exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, "Boy, look at that place, wouldn't that make a great condo?" And I explained it, I said, "Instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there."

Think of it from a real estate perspective. You have South Korea. You have China and they own the land in the middle. How bad is that, right? It's great. But I told him, I said, "you may not want to do what's there. You may want to do a smaller version of it and that could be."

Although, I tell you what, he looked at that tape. He looked at that iPad and I'm telling you they really enjoyed it, I believe, okay?

Yes, go ahead. A couple more. Okay. We'll do three more. Yes. Go ahead. Go.

QUESTION: This is Brian Bennett (ph) from Time Magazine.

TRUMP: Yes. Hi, Brian. Am I on the cover again this week? Boy, have I --- so many times...

QUESTION: Entirely possible.

TRUMP: I know. That's okay.

QUESTION: Do you now see Kim Jong-un as an equal?

TRUMP: In what way?

QUESTION: You just showed a video that showed you and Kim Jong-un on equal footing and discussing the future.

TRUMP: No. I think that I don't view it that way. See, I don't view it that way. I'll do whatever it takes to make the world a safer place. If I have to say I'm sitting on a stage, I mean, I understand what you're getting at, if I have to say I'm sitting on a stage with Chairman Kim and that's going to get us to save 30 million lives, could be more than that, I'm willing to sit on the stage. I'm willing to travel to Singapore very proudly, very gladly.

Again, other than the fact that it is taking my time, they have given up a tremendous amount. They've given it up even before and even add the Olympics to it. You could add the Olympics to the question.

They went to the Olympics. They took an Olympics that was going to be a massive failure that maybe wouldn't have even opened and they made it a tremendous success by agreeing to participate. Add that to the list of things that they've done.

So, Brian, if I can save millions of lives by coming here, sitting down and establishing a relationship with someone who's a very powerful man, who's got firm control of a country and that country has very powerful nuclear weapons, it's my honor to do it.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that the video that you showed could be used by Kim is propaganda to show him as...

TRUMP: No, I'm not concerned at all. We could use that video for other countries.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, in the year 2000, President Clinton got a request by Kim Jong-il.

TRUMP: Got impressed?

QUESTION: Got a request...

TRUMP: Oh.

QUESTION: ... from Kim Jong-il to travel to Pyongyang and meet him and Clinton refused. He sent Secretary of State Albright.

TRUMP: Yes. He did a great deal and he spent $3 billion and got nothing. They started making nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: You on the other hand got the request and right away went here to meet him and do you understand those people who say you gave him the ultimate present, a legitimacy to a regime who oppresses people and without ongoing process before you as the U.S. president, as the leader of the free world meet, shake hands with this leader of North Korea who is perceived to be oppressing brutally his own people.

TRUMP: Okay. Good, I think we just answered the question.

QUESTION: But do you understand...

TRUMP: Oh, I understand it much better than you do. Okay. Yes. Go ahead. Go ahead. Thank you very much. Yes?

QUESTION: Mr. President, Eliana Johnson (ph) from Politico.

TRUMP: Sure. Hi.

QUESTION: Hi. You mentioned a couple of specific concessions that you got from Kim, the return of remains and the destruction of the nuclear site and I think you said that...

[05:15:00]

TRUMP: And much more, much more.

QUESTION: Yes. Yes. I know you said the last thing was an add-on and it wasn't in the agreement, that he gave you his word. If he doesn't follow through on these things, what are you prepared to do in response? And will you lose faith in this process?

TRUMP: No. I think he'll do it. I really believe that, otherwise I wouldn't be doing this. I really believe. And it was really the engine testing site in addition to all of the other things that they have agreed to do.

It was the -- they have a very powerful engine testing site that again, we're able to see because of the heat that they -- that it emits. And, yes, I'm able to -- I'm very happy -- I'll tell you what, I'm very happy with those two points. The two points you mentioned, but I think you might be referring to the thing that's not in, which is the engine testing site.

I think, honestly, I think he's going to do these things. I may be wrong. I mean, I may stand before you in six months and say, "Hey, I was wrong." I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse.

OK. One or two, one more. Come on.

QUESTION: In the...

TRUMP: Yes, go ahead. Go ahead, Sher.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Media Group China. I just would like to know will you call Chinese President Xi when you come back to D.C. to discuss about achievements you made today with Chairman Kim?

TRUMP: Yes. Yes. I will.

QUESTION: And what's your expectation about China's role to accelerate the process to establish a long-term peace mechanism?

TRUMP: Well, my expectation about China is that China is a great country with a great leader and a friend of mine. And I really believe that he's happy that we've made this kind of progress. That's what I've heard from him.

But I will be calling him very shortly, maybe even before I land, OK? And I have to say, and the United States is a great country. And we have set records economically, over $7 trillion in net worth addition to what we have.

And we are almost twice the size, the economy of the United States. Nobody talks about this because you do hear a lot about China, rightfully so. But the United States now is almost twice the size of the economy of China. We have a great country and we're on a correct path.

Okay, one more. That will be it.

QUESTION: ... South Korea?

TRUMP: Oh, South Korea -- where is South Korea? I think you deserve -- go ahead. Go. You deserve one. Yes. You deserve one.

QUESTION: I've got two questions for you, Mr. President. First, you mentioned earlier that you're going to talk with South Korean President Moon Jae-in over the phone.

TRUMP: Yes.

QUESTION: What do you plan to discuss with him?

TRUMP: I just wanted to tell him about the meeting, very successful. And he'll be very much involved in the final negotiation. He's a very, very fine gentleman. Also a friend of mine and I look forward to speaking with him.

He'll be very happy when he hears about -- I've already sent word to him about what happened. I sent the document to him actually and all of the details behind the document. So I'll be talking to him very shortly.

QUESTION: If I may ask another question. In signing the peace treaty, do you hope to -- do you plan to work this out with North Korea's Chairman Kim only or what do you think about the involvement of South Korea and China as the signatories?

TRUMP: I'd like to have them involved also. There's a question as to whether or not we're supposed to or whether or not we legally have to. I don't care. I think it would be great to have China involved and also, of course, South Korea, OK?

QUESTION: Thank you.

TRUMP: What?

QUESTION: (inaudible).

TRUMP: Mike, do they have a transcript? They probably have rough transcript which you can give if you have one.

(UNKNOWN): (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: No. They didn't record it. I don't think they recorded it. Are there any recordings of it? I wish there were because it is interesting stuff, say it?

QUESTION: ... Mr. President.

TRUMP: I don't. We probably have some notes or something but they have actually detailed notes I would imagine. But we had a great conversation. It was a very heartfelt conversation.

QUESTION: (inaudible).

TRUMP: We don't have to verify because I have one of the great memories of all time, so I don't have to. OK?

QUESTION: (inaudible).

TRUMP: OK?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Yes. But I don't want to discuss it. But what we did is we've had numerous discussions. We've had very important relationships established at Mike's level and other levels.

In fact, a couple of people are here from, as you know from North Korea. They're in the room. We have a few people in the back also from the room. So when we went into this final agreement, very importantly, we really didn't go in cold.

We went in with tremendous relationship and tremendous knowledge. And I think that's why we got it done. So I'm going to head back. I don't know about you folks. But it's been a long time since I've taken it easy, so now we can take it a little bit easy and then the work begins again.

[05:20:00] And I appreciate everybody being here. I hope we've answered your questions. And thank you very much and sort of congratulations to everybody because this is really, to me it's a very important event in world history and to be really true to myself, I have to add, I want to get it completed.

So, Mike, our whole team has to get to work and get it completed because otherwise, we've done a good job, but if you don't get the ball over the goal line, it doesn't mean enough, OK?

So, thank you and sort of congratulations to everybody in the room. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump wrapping up a one -hour-and- five-minute news conference in Singapore, following his historic meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. He called the meeting intensive, direct, productive.

He also said they reached a comprehensive agreement, but as we sit here, there are serious questions about whether that agreement is, in fact, comprehensive and whether it, in fact, moved the ball forward at all.

What we do know, what we learned just moments ago, is that the White House made a major concession to North Korea on the idea of joint military exercises in South Korea.

Our Jim Acosta was in the room for this news conference. We'll go -- let's go straight to him.

Jim, what do you make of it?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you heard the President say during this pretty long and wide-ranging news conference that he didn't make any concessions to Kim Jong-un, that he gave up nothing he said to Kim Jong-un, when, in fact, he did give up something fairly significant. And that is these joint military exercises that have been conducted for years with the South Koreans and have acted as a deterrent to North Korea.

You'll have a whole range, I'm sure, of foreign policy, national security, and military experts who will tell you, John, over the next several hours as we dissect this press conference, that that's actually a very significant concession. The President trying to paint it as if it was nothing. That's, obviously, not the case.

But, of course, you heard the President say during this press conference -- I thought it was a pretty astonishing admission that he made at the very end of this press conference -- that, you know, he may come back in six months and say that, you know, this was all a mistake. That he'll (INAUDIBLE) at that point if that's the case.

But I think what you heard from the President during this news conference -- and I asked this question very early on in the press conference, do you trust Kim Jong-un? John, I think this just comes down to a matter of trust. He trusts the North Korean dictator.

You could put this side by side with some of the comments that he made about the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This is a president who is putting a lot of faith in somebody who has been a brutal dictator for years at his own country, has murdered family members, has imprisoned tens of thousands of people.

But for whatever reason, because of the phone call that he acknowledged at the very end of this news conference and then this summit that lasted all day long, he somehow established this relationship with Kim Jong-un that has allowed him to take this leap of faith that we're going to see materialize, potentially, in some kind of agreement.

A binding agreement -- we obviously didn't have that today -- that will eventually lead to Kim Jong-un and the North Koreans giving up their nuclear arsenal. And I'm being told, John, if I want to catch my ride on Air Force One, I better send it back to you.

BERMAN: Right. You don't want to miss that ride.

ACOSTA: I better not. BERMAN: Jim Acosta, we will let you go and chase the President.

ACOSTA: All right.

BERMAN: No one chases him better. Thanks so much for being with us.

I want to bring back senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny. Also with us, CNN global affairs analyst, Ambassador Joseph Yun, who, of course, is a former special U.S. representative for North Korean policy.

I believe we also have with us our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, let me start with you. Again, thank you so much for being with us. The President held this remarkable one-hour-and-five-minute news conference, answering more questions in one place than he has answered, really, in well over a year.

But the key question here is, what did he get out of this meeting, out of this five-hour meeting with Kim Jong-un? He says he has a comprehensive agreement. He signed a comprehensive statement. Did he?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, I'm one of those people who really hoped that this would go well, that we could come back with some tangible benefit, and that this would end the state of real sort of tension and conflict and uncertainty in this region and for the world.

But I listened to every minute of that one-hour-plus press conference, and all I can say, from my perspective, is that I found it rambling. I found it, at times, incoherent. I found it giving away more than having got. And I found it mostly on a wing and a prayer and a wishful thinking.

He did not get what even he said that he wanted and that even on the eve of this summit, his Secretary of State said that he wanted, which was complete, verifiable, irreversible commitment to denuclearization and disarmament.

[05:25:01] He gave up the thing that's been going on for decades which was the joint military exercises. And he even denigrated his own country's joint military exercises, calling them provocative. Saying that the bombers were having to fly for six hours plus from Guam, it was so expensive. It was so unnecessary. Why do we need to do that?

But the thing that really worries me, is are we going ahead now with anything concrete that both sides can work on, or are we going ahead with just some hopeful wishful thoughts? And I find that incredibly worrying, incredibly depressing. And as I said, I found it very difficult to connect all the threads of what President Trump was saying over that one hour and five minutes.

BERMAN: Again, the President did say that the United States will stop the joint military exercises that it has conducted for decades with South Korea. Let's listen to what the President said on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money, unless and until we see that the future negotiation is not going along like it should. But we'll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it's very provocative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Again, Ambassador Yun is with us now. You, obviously, have studied this and been involved with this for many years. That's a concession. We just learned that had happened right there. Also, this language inside this statement, this joint statement that they signed.

It says -- Chairman Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, reaffirmed what he has been saying all along. That may not be the promise that the U.S. really wanted.

JOSEPH YUN, FORMER UNITED STATES SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: No, we were looking for a lot more than the past language of reaffirming. So I think, you know, it falls way short of expectation. So it really does beg the question, what happens next? And I must say, you know, we need more details.

Even the one you mentioned, stopping joint exercises. Is it all joint exercises? Then you -- it begs the question, the readiness is very important to our troops. If they are not prepared, they are not ready, why are they there?

So, I mean, you know, it could be joint exercises for the rest of the year? Joint exercises up coming in August? So we need more questions.

And he also said next week, they would start immediate meetings to implement this declaration. At what level? Is it about denuclearization? Is it about peace regime?

So there a lot of gaps here, and I think we need to get a lot more of what happened, what was committed. Is there anything more that we gave to North Koreans beyond joint exercises?

BERMAN: Were you surprised by the joint exercises?

YUN: I was very surprised because I'm -- you know, I think Jim was right. Going in, the President has said we will give nothing. We have given nothing. But apparently, we have given one thing that is very important, and it has huge implications for our alliance.

BERMAN: Jeff Zeleny, again, I don't want to put myself in the President's head. I don't know for sure what he is thinking, but he seemed confident there during that news conference. He spoke for an hour and five minutes in a way that he generally only

does if he is feeling good about himself. He thinks -- to me, it looks as if he thinks he got something out of here. I wonder if he will be surprised by the analysis.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, I think he will be surprised by the analysis. I think the President was in a bubble today, and he was watching, you know, all of this unfold around him.

And it was extraordinary as it was happening, that he was caught up, I think, in the history of the moment. That he was the first U.S. president sitting down with a dictator from North Korea.

But I think, at the end of the day here, as we sort of watch his mindset, I believe that Kim Jong-un flattered him in an incredible way, and he is walking away thinking that he, you know, won some big achievement today. And I do not believe that he did.

And I do -- I think he'll be surprised by the reaction to the joint military exercises. First and foremost, we heard this president talk all the time about how he is building the biggest, most robust military. I'll be very surprised if his Defense Secretary, if he knew about this, James Mattis, if he would be pleased by this. What Republicans and conservatives will say.

But I think, overall, when you sort of step back and see what happened here in Singapore, I think the President elevated Kim Jong-un to an incredible level here. And he is putting so much faith and trust without anything on paper.

[05:30:03] I think he will be surprised that this will not be as viewed as positively when he gets back to Washington or even in that airplane as he sees it right now in the moment.

BERMAN: As much progress --