At the conclusion of the U.S-Japan trade signing ceremony at the White House, President Trump took questions from the media. Below is the segment from the press Q&A.
[Transcript of Presser] – Q Do you have any predictions about China? Do you expect a whole new offer or any optimism?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they want to make a deal. They’re down three and a half million jobs since we started doing what we do. And their supply chain is really cracked and broken. And they want to make a deal.
Now, they’re coming to see us on Thursday and Friday. We think there is a chance that we could do something very substantial. Bob, I think you think that. We’ll see what happens. But, in the meantime, we’re taking in billions and billions of dollars of tariffs every month and we’ve never had this. We never took in 10 cents from China and we’re taking in billions of dollars and tens of billions a year.
And on October 15th, as you know, it goes up from — up to 35 — I guess, it goes to 35. It’s going to — it’s going to raise fairly substantially. We could always do it a lot more, but we’ve decided not to.
So that’s the story. And I think that they will — they’re coming to make a deal. We’ll see whether or not a deal can be made, but it’s got to be a fair deal.
Look, we’ve lost $500 billion a year for many, many years on average. If you include intellectual property theft and all of the other things that took place, it’s incredible that past administrations could have allowed it to happen. We’re talking about $500 billion — not million; that’s a lot, too — $500 billion a year, for many years, taken out of our country.
We rebuilt China. They did a great job and I don’t blame them. I told President Xi, “I don’t blame you one bit.” I blame the people that ran this country to allow that to happen. And they understand that. But we don’t let that happen anymore.
So, we’ll see what happens. We’re going to have a very important meeting. And they have their top people coming in. And I have my top people doing the job. And if I don’t think they’re doing a good job, I’ll fire them and I’ll go over and take their place. (Laughter.) Okay?
Q On Hong Kong, sir, are the Hong Kong protests linked, in your view, to the China trade negotiations in any way?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’d like to see a very humane solution to that. I hope that’s going to happen. And, you know, Hong Kong is very important as a world hub — not just for China, but for the world. And you have great people over there.
I see they’re flying the American flags. They even have signs: “Make China Great Again.” “Make Hong Kong Great Again.” (Laughter.)
And I’m saying, “Get those signs.” But they have, you know, tremendous signage and tremendous — they have a tremendous spirit for our country. They have a lot of American flags, a lot of Trump signs.
I’d just like to see a humane deal be worked out. And I think President Xi has the ability to do it.
I sort of said that I think if he met — he’s a very convincing man, and I think if he met with some of the leaders — that could be one problem, you don’t seem to have a specific leader of the group. But I really think they can do something. We just want to see a humane solution.
Q Did you tell Xi Jinping in any way that you would be quiet about Hong Kong protests during the course of these negotiations?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I didn’t. But I do say that we are negotiating. If anything happened bad, I think that would be a very bad for the negotiation. I think, politically, it would be very tough maybe for us, and maybe for some others, and maybe for him.
But, no, I think that they have to do that in a peaceful manner. It’s — now, I will say, the first time I saw it, if you look — a number of months ago, I saw 2 million people. I’ve never seen anything like it. We talk about crowd size. That was serious crowd size, right? The crowd size is much smaller now, so maybe that’s saying something. But hopefully they can work out something that’s amicable.
Q Mr. President, would you accept a partial trade deal with China? There has been some talk today about whether or not it could be headed in that direction.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a very good question. I think it’s not what we prefer at all. They are starting to buy a lot of our agricultural products. You see that. They’re coming in very strong on pork, also — very, very strong — and in particular. But on other products, that — so, I don’t know if you call that a “partial.” We don’t have an agreement.
My inclination is to get a big deal. We’ve come this far. We’re doing well. Again, the fact that they’ve done what they’ve done with their currency — the devaluation — it really has not increased prices. And now we’re talking China. It doesn’t mean that in all cases that happens; other countries prices increase, but in the case of China that hasn’t happened. And they put a lot of money into their goods. They want to keep their people working. I understand that very well.
But I think that we’ll just have to see what happens. I would much prefer a big deal. And I think that’s what we’re shooting for. Can something happen? I guess, maybe. Who knows? But I think it’s probably unlikely. Okay?
Q Mr. President, on Syria — on withdrawing forces in Syria —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — why are you siding with an authoritarian leader and not our Kurdish allies?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m not siding with anybody. We’ve been in Syria for many years. You know, Syria was supposed to be a short-term hit — just a very short-term hit. And we were supposed to be in and out. That was many, many years ago. And we only have 50 people in that area. That’s a small sector.
And I don’t want those 50 people hurt or killed or anything. I don’t want anything bad to happen to our people. And I told that to President Erdoğan. I said, “Don’t hurt any of our — any of our people get hurt, big trouble.”
Now, a couple of things: I think there’s a lot of pressure on Turkey. They have been fighting with the PKK for many years. They’re natural enemies. If you read today, a couple of reports saying that when President Obama started this whole thing — as you know, it was started by President Obama — he created a natural war with Turkey and their long-time enemy, PKK. And they’re still there. And they’re still hating each other beyond anybody’s belief.
But I have told Turkey that if they do anything outside of what we would think is humane — to use the word a second time; we talk about Hong Kong, we talk about this — they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy. And I’ve done it once. I did it with Pastor Brunson. You remember the Pastor Brunson? And they wouldn’t give Pastor Brunson back, and they ended up giving Pastor Brunson back pretty quickly. Their currency fell at record levels and lots of other things happened. And it was good. I have a very good relationship with President Erdoğan. I want to see it happen.
I will tell you this though: We defeated ISIS. And when I wanted to — when we were at 96 and 95 and 97 percent, I sort of said, “Let the other countries in the area finish it off.” And I was met with a lot of anger from some people in our country. I said, “All right. I’ll finish it off.” And I got together with our generals. I flew to Iraq. I got together. And we did it very quickly. Far quicker than any general from here told us we could do it. We have some great people over there. They did it quickly.
And I said to the European countries, “You’ve got to take your ISIS…” You know we have 60,000, maybe even 70,000 people — that includes families, that includes wives of fighters that were killed. We have many fighters that were killed in the battles. And we took it. Over 100 percent of the caliphate, I took over quickly. Nobody else was — it was a mess when I came to office. And I think most of you would agree to that. It was a real mess.
I took it over. But then I said, “What are we going to do with these 60- to 70,000 people that are being held and being guarded and we can’t release them?” And many fighters also. And I said, “I want them to go back to Germany, to France, to different European countries from where they came.” And I said to the European countries — I said to all of them, “Take the people back.” And they said, “No, no, no. We don’t want to do it. We don’t them back.” I said, “Well, they came from Germany or they came from France. Take them back.”
And they’re so used to the United States being a sucker, being a fool — we’re talking about billions and billions of dollars. You’re talking about life. You’re talking about so many things, so many elements — and elements of complexity. Because they’re going to walk back into Germany. They’re going to go back into these countries from where they came.
So I said, “Take them back.” And they said, “No.” And then I said again, “I’m going to give you another 30 days. Take them back.” And they kept saying, “No.” Maybe they won’t be saying “no” now. I don’t know.
So I told President Erdoğan, “You got to — it’s going to be your responsibility.” Now, really, who’s responsible — it’s really Russia, it’s Turkey, it’s Iran, it’s Iraq, and it’s Syria, and anybody else in the neighborhood. Okay? We call it the “neighborhood.” It’s not a friendly neighborhood. But these countries should do it.
Now, ISIS is the sworn enemy of all of these countries. Many of them they hate far more than they hate us, and those countries hate them at the same level as we do. They’re — they’re terrible, terrible, savage killers. I said, “Take them back.”
But these countries are rich, in most cases. They’re powerful. They’ve got armies. They can do the work. But we’re not bringing 50-, 60-, 70-, or even 10,000 people to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. We’re not going to paying them for the next 50 years, or paying to take care of them for the next 50 years. So we told Europe — we did a great service to the world. And we did a great service to Europe in particular, where so many of these fighters came from.
We said, “Take them back.” And, you know, unfortunately, like NATO, they take advantage. NATO, as you know, I got the Secretary General [DEL: Stolheim :DEL] [Stoltenberg] said — and, I think, very loudly — the Secretary General of NATO, said that because of what I did, they have paid over $100 billion more money toward NATO defense. But that’s still not enough, okay? It’s still not enough. Not fair. Because United States pays far too much, relative. And obviously, NATO affects them more.
But, like NATO, like trade with the European Union, which is a very tough group to trade with — very, very tough group. Almost as tough as Japan — not quite. (Laughter.) But they are a very tough group to trade with. They take advantage. And I said, “Look, you take them back. We’re not — we’re not going to do this. We’re not going to put in Guantanamo Bay and put them all over our prisons.”
So, right now, we’re at a position where, if Turkey does anything out of what they should be doing, we will hit them so hard on the economy. But when you talk about soldiers — we only had 50 soldiers in the area. I think the area was — it’s a very small area and — very small area. But we only had 50 soldiers there. I don’t want them to be in a bad or compromising position.
And I will tell you this: Everybody respects our country again. If we want to go in, if we have to go back for any reason — because bad things happen. But we’re 7,000 miles away. These ISIS people — whatever you want to call them — these people are right there. They’re right there. They’re touching many of these countries that I just named. Iran, as an example, hates ISIS. And ISIS hates Iran. Iraq, you know all about that. Turkey, Syria — let them take care of it. Let them take care of it.
We want to bring our troops back home. It’s been many, many years. It’s been decades, in many cases. We want to bring our troops back home. And I got elected on that. If you go back and look at our speeches, I would say, “We want to bring our troops back home from these endless wars.”
And we’re like a police force over there. We’re policing. We’re not fighting; we’re policing. We’re not a police force. We’re the greatest military force ever assembled because of what I’ve done over the last three years with $2.5 trillion, Mr. Ambassador, we’ve spent on our military — $2.5 trillion.
But we’re not going to be there longer. And we’re going to be watching Turkey and we hope that them and all of the other countries — or some of the other countries, including the European Union — goes in and does whatever they’re supposed to do with these captured ISIS fighters and families. Okay?
Q Mr. President, a number of Republicans, including — including Nikki Haley and Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell were very critical of this decision today. Mitch McConnell put out a statement saying, wish you would recon- — exercise leadership and reconsider, and suggested not doing so would be reminiscent of what the Obama administration would do. Would you respond to that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q And also, did you –
THE PRESIDENT: Sure.
Q Did you consult with the Joint Chiefs of Staff when you made this decision?
THE PRESIDENT: Sure. I consulted with everybody. I always consult with everybody. If you remember, about eight months ago, I talked about doing this. And we kept 2,000 people there, and then slowly brought them out. But once we captured ISIS, I didn’t see — I don’t want to stay there for the next 40 years. It’s not going to do anything. The end game is going to be the same.
I have great respect for all of the people that you named. And they have their opinion, and a lot of people do. And I could also name many more than you just named of people that totally are supportive. You see the names coming out; people are extremely thrilled because they say it’s time to bring our people back home. We’re not a police force. They’re policing the area. We’re not a police force.
The UK was very thrilled at this decision. As you know, they’re over there — they have soldiers over there also. And others. But many people agree with it very strongly. And I understand both sides of it. I fully understand both sides of it. But I campaigned on the fact that I was going to bring our — our soldiers home, and bring them home as rapidly as possible.
I, we, all together, you — we defeated and took over 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate. Everybody said that was going to be an impossible thing to do. I did it, and I did it quickly because we have a great military now.
When I took over our military, we didn’t have ammunition. I was told by a top general — maybe the top of them all — “Sir, I’m sorry. Sir, we don’t have ammunition.” I said, “I’ll never let another President have that happen to him or her.” We didn’t have ammunition.
Now, we’ve captured ISIS. We’ve done what we’ve done. We had 50 soldiers in the area you’re talking about. And I said, “We want to bring our soldiers back home. It’s been a long time.”
Again, we were supposed to be in there for a — just a tiny spot. Like, a 30- to 90-day period. That was many years ago. It’s time.
Q Mr. President, the Kurds themselves have lost thousands of fighters in battling ISIS.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s true. And we’ve lost a lot of fighters, too.
Q Can you guarantee their safety?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re going to try. If you look at some of the Kurds, as you know, that was — that’s a natural enemy of — of Turkey. It’s — you know, specifically, as I said. I mean, they have natural enemies. They’ve been fighting each other for — somebody said, today — hundreds of years. I mean, one historian said they’ve been fighting for hundreds of years.
We interject ourself into wars, and we interject ourselves into tribal wars and revolutions and all of these things that are very — they’re not the kind of thing that you settle the way we’d like to see it settled. It just doesn’t — it just doesn’t work that way. But hopefully, that’ll all be very strong and strongly done.
We’re spending tremendous amounts of money. I can tell you, the two countries that are most disappointed that we’re leaving are China and Russia because they love that we’re bogged down and just watching and spending tremendous amounts of money instead of continuing to build our forces.
We have tremendous new weapons under development now. We have weapons that nobody can even believe. We’re going to be making some stops over the next four or five weeks. Some we show, some we don’t show.
But we’ve rebuilt our nuclear. We’ve renovated and rebuilt nuclear. We’re building submarines the likes of which has — they’ve never been even thought of before, the genius of them. Hopefully and hope to God we never have to use them.
But we are doing what we have to do. But we’ve been there for many years. Long — many, many, many years beyond what we were supposed to be — not fighting, just there. Just there. And it’s time to come back home.
But I can understand the other side of it. But if you go by the other side, that means we should never, ever come home. We should never, ever come home.
And, you know, I have to sign letters often to parents of young soldiers that were killed. And it’s the hardest thing I have to do in this job. I hate it. I hate it. Afghanistan. I signed one the other day — Iraq, Syria. They get blown up by mines. They get taken out by a sniper. And I have to write letters to people. And we make each letter different. Each person is different. And we make them personal. But no matter what you do, it’s devastating. The parents will never be the same. The families will never be the same. People are killed. Many people are still being killed. It’s going to go on that way for perhaps a long time.
And we’re willing to do what we have to do, but there has to be an end game. And if you stay, it’s going to be the same thing. Eventually, you’re going to have to leave. It’s going to be the same thing.
So, I think what we’re doing is the right thing. A lot of people agree with me. A lot of people agree with me. And again, you go back and see my speeches, a big part of my speech and always — when I won what some people consider to be a surprise election — now I just see a poll that just came out where I’m up massively with independent voters. I don’t know if it’s this or because of the hoax, you know, that’s going on with Nancy Pelosi and her — her friend, Adam Schiff. He’s another beauty. He got caught lying all over the place. He doesn’t know what to do. He’s a mess. Right now, he’s a mess. And everybody knows it. Just all you have to do is a little good reporting, you’ll see he’s a total mess because he got caught.
But, you know, we have to do the right thing for our country, whether it — whatever it may be. And I just think that’s the right thing. I respect both opinions. The problem with the other opinion is: When do we leave? When do we leave? We’re going to stay there forever?
Q Mr. President, the White House Counsel’s Office is preparing a letter to —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — to Speaker Pelosi about the impeachment inquiry. What do you hope to achieve with that letter?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the impeachment inquiry is a scam. The conversation that I had with the Ukrainian President Zelensky was a very good conv- — it was a very cordial, very good conversation. The mistake they made — the opponents, the opposition, the Democrats, the radical Left, deep state, whatever you want to call them — they came out with a whistleblower report before they saw the conversation.
Had they waited one day, Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t have made a fool out of herself, and she would have been able to say what I said. Because when she saw it, she said, “This is not what the whistleblower said.” I had a very, very congenial, nice conversation with a man that I like. And he ran on corruption. Because, as you know, Ukraine is known as a very corrupt country — one of the most in the world, shockingly, because I know Ukrainian people. It’s surprising to me. But it’s known as one of the most corrupt countries.
And under the past leadership, it was having a lot of difficulty. This gentleman — the current President, the new President — ran on the basis of anti-corruption, as you know. I think it was his single-biggest thing. And we had a great conversation, but it wasn’t reported that way. The only reason I would have released a letter — because I think it’s terrible to have to release a letter that you have with the leader of a country. I think it’s a terrible precedent.
But the whistleblower report or whatever the news was, was so off. It was so horrible. I said, “I never said that.” I said, “Let me see it.” We have a stenographer report. We have a very, very word-for-word report of what I said; I released it. And almost everybody that read it said it’s either perfect or really very good. But it’s a very normal, nice conversation.
And when you see that the President of Ukraine, President Zelensky, said, “There was no pressure put on me whatsoever.” His spokesman came out two days ago — said there was absolutely no pressure put on the President. I didn’t tell him to say that. There was no pressure put on him. All you have to do is read the report.
The problem is, I released it a day after they had already made their big statements. And again, it’s a big scam. And I think Adam Schiff should be investigated for what he did. He took to the great Chamber — Congress — and he made a speech. And his speech was a fraud. Everything he said was a fraud. He went out as though I wrote it. He defrauded the American people. He defrauded Congress. He defrauded himself and his family. He made a speech as — it was a horrible speech. I said, “What is this go- — what’s going on here?” I think he’s having some kind of a breakdown. Because he got up and made a speech that bore no relationship to what the conversation was.
And I’ll tell you, a lot of people heard that speech and a lot of people thought that’s what I said because they heard his speech. Because they’re not going to read a three- or four-page conversation. They don’t have access to it. But I thought it was one of the — I thought it was a terrible thing, where he’s going up speaking as the President of the United States, saying things that I never said. And the meaning was horrible. And the whole thought was horrible.
And then, the whistleblower, he did — through his committee, through himself — he met with a whistleblower. They never said that. They never talked about it.
And Nancy Pelosi knew all of this stuff. I mean, she’s as guilty as he is because she knew all of that. She knew everything about it. And she didn’t do anything about it.
And I’ll tell you what: They should really be looked at very strongly because what they did is unthinkable. What they did to this country is unthinkable. And it’s lucky that I’m the President, because I guess — I don’t know why — a lot of people said very few people could handle it. I sort of thrive on it. You know why? Because — because it’s so important that we get to the bottom.
We went through the whole Mueller scam — two and a half years. We went through that. And I had three, four days where it was, like, over. And then I’m walking into the United Nations, and they released it as I’m walking in, Mr. Ambassador. I’m walking in. I’m going to meet with — I won’t name, but one of the top leaders of the world. And I see up on the screen and people start screening about this scam called “impeachment.”
You can’t impeach a President for doing a great job. You can’t impeach a President for having the lowest and best unemployment numbers that we’ve had in 51 years. You can’t impeach a President for tax cuts and regulation cuts and creating — and even the Ambassador would say — the strongest economy in the world. We have the strongest economy in the world.
This is a scam. And the people are wise to it. And that’s why my polls went up, I think they said, 17 points in the last two or three days. I’ve never had that one. I’ve never had that one.
So, I think it’s very sad for our country. I think it makes it harder to do my job. But I do my job, and I do it better than anybody has done it for the first two and half years, based on results. I mean, you look at not only the unemployment numbers — look at the employment numbers, Jeff. We have — we’re up to almost 160 million people are working.
And now, today, we’ve signed the deal with Japan, which is such an honor. And you have a great country — a great, great country. And to have you partake in our agricultural product and digital is a real honor for me.
So thank you very much for coming all this distance and — to be here. And I look forward to seeing you for many years to come. Please, again, wish Prime Minister Abe a happy birthday. He’s a very special man. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
Presser begins at 29:36 of video below (prompted):