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President Trump Holds News Conference With Romanian President. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 9, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: President Iohannis, I thank you for your leadership. And I thank you again being here today.
I look forward to strengthening our alliance with your country and our bonds with your people. The relationship has been good, but now it's stronger than ever.
Thank you very much.
KLAUS IOHANNIS, ROMANIAN PRESIDENT: President Trump, thank you so much for the words you found for Romania, for the Romanian people and for me.
Thank you very much for the invitation to be here today with you. And thank you so much for arranging this nice weather in this place.
Mr. President, I'm very glad that we had such a good meeting. And this is due to your strong leadership. And this is also due to our strong partnership.
Obviously, the fact that we celebrate 20 years of strategic partnership this year is important for both our nations. And it is important to know -- and this is what I want to underline -- that this partnership with the United States of America shaped Romania as it is today, Romania, a solid democracy with a solid and sustainable economic growth, Romania, which stands together with the U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
We stand together in Iraq. Mr. President, this partnership contributed greatly to what Romania is today. And this partnership was and is very important. And I think this partnership not only has to continue. This partnership has to become stronger. This partnership has to define our bilateral relation. And this partnership has to continue to solve so many problems.
President Trump, you mentioned terrorism. I'm very glad that, due to your strong leadership, NATO decided to go against terrorism. Your involvement made so many nations conscious of the fact that we have to share the burden inside NATO.
And this is why Romania also decided -- and, if I'm right, I think this is the first country during your mandate to step up to 2 percent of GDP for defense spending.
A significant part of this defense spending is going into strategic acquisitions. And I hope, President Trump, that we find good ways together to use -- to make good use of this money.
Romania is very conscious of the fact that we stand on the eastern flank and we heavily rely on your partnership, President Trump, because we cannot stand there without the U.S. We cannot stand there alone.
On the other hand, our partnership has huge opportunity to step up, not only in security matters, but also in commercial and economic matters. And this is very important.
Romania is a member of the European Union. And I think it's the best interests of you, Mr. President, to have a strong European Union as a partner. This is vital for all of us. Our relationship, the transatlantic link is vital. The transatlantic link is not about diplomacy, about policy. It's at the basis of our Western civilization.
And, together, we will make it stronger. Together, we will make it better. NATO and the European Union do not have to compete against each other. They have to work together. They have to work in such a manner as to produce synergetic effects, make NATO stronger, make Europe stronger, make the United States of America stronger.
And this is what we decided, President Trump and I, to make our partnership stronger, better, more enduring. And this will lead very soon to an enhanced economic exchange, to better commerce. And this is what we all decide and what we wish, because we are responsible, President Trump and I, not only for the security.
We are responsible for the well-being of our citizens. And this is what we have decided to do.
Thank you so much, President Trump.
TRUMP: Thank you.
Dave Boyer, "Washington Times," please? Dave?
Come on, Dave.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Apologies.
TRUMP: That's all right, Dave.
QUESTION: Mr. President, this morning on Twitter, you were referring to the testimony of James Comey vindicating you, but I wondered if you could tell us in person, sir, why you feel that his testimony vindicated you, when it's really -- boils down to his word against your word?
And if you could also tell us, sir, do tapes exist of your conversations with him?
TRUMP: Well, I will tell you something about that maybe some time in the very near future.
But, in the meantime, no collusion, no obstruction. He's a leaker. But we want to get back to running our great country, jobs, trade deficits. We want them to disappear fast. North Korea, big problem. Middle East, a big problem. So that's what I am focused on.
That's what I have been focused on. But yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction. We are doing very well. That was an excuse by the Democrats, who lost an election that some people think they shouldn't have lost, because it's almost impossible for the Democrats to lose the Electoral College, as you know.
You have to run up the whole East Coast and you have to win everything as a Republican, and that's just what we did. So it was just an excuse. But we were very, very happy. And, frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren't true.
Thank you very much.
Do you have a question?
QUESTION: Thank you.
And, Mr. President, if you could tell us, a couple weeks ago, President Trump was in Brussels at the NATO meeting. And not only was he encouraging NATO meetings to pay up the 2 percent required of GDP for national defense, but he also was saying that countries, even including yours, who had not paid 2 percent in the past should make up for that difference.
Do you think that's fair?
IOHANNIS: I was in Brussels. And I met President Trump, and I listened to his speech, and I liked it, because, you see, NATO is based on values.
But it is ultimately a military alliance. And, you know, military spendings are complicated. And you need a lot of money, because NATO is the strongest alliance the Earth ever saw, and we want to keep it that way. So we have to spend money for defense purposes. And spending money means, if you're in alliance, everybody has to spend money.
This is called burden-sharing. And I fully agree, Mr. President, to that. So, of course, some people liked this better and some didn't like it so much, but it's a simple fact that we have to do this, not as a purpose in itself.
We have to do this to stay strong, to be strong and to defend our nations.
TRUMP: One hundred percent correct. And, you know, one of the things I was referring to during that speech
was the fact that, yes, they haven't paid what they should be paying now, but, for many years, they haven't been paying. So, I said, do we ever go back and say, how about paying the money from many, many years past?
Now, I know no president has ever asked that question, but I do.
We're going to make NATO very strong. You need the money to make it strong. You can't just be doing what we have been doing in the past. So I did say, yes, you haven't paid this year, but what about the past years, the many past years where you haven't paid? Perhaps you should pay some or all of that money back.
You have a question?
QUESTION: Thank you.
I have a question for President Trump.
On the matter of security, sir, you -- many of the countries on the eastern flank of NATO, including Romania, see Russia as a threat to the security and the (INAUDIBLE) region. Do you share this vision? And do you think that the United States should act under Article 5 if any of these countries will be under military aggression?
Thank you very much.
TRUMP: Well, I'm committing the United States and have committed, but I'm committing the United States to Article 5. And certainly we are there to protect. And that's one of the reasons that I want people to make sure we have a very, very strong force by paying the kind of money necessary to have that force.
But, yes, absolutely, I would be committed to Article 5.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Mr. President, was there any discussion about the visa waiver program for Romania? Is there a time frame for including our country in this program?
TRUMP: We didn't discuss it. We didn't discuss it, but there would be certainly -- it would be something we will discuss.
IOHANNIS: I mentioned this issue. And I also mentioned it during other meetings I had, because this is important for us, it's important for Romanians, one, to come to the United States. And, you see, more and more people come, President Trump, from Romania
to the United States. Some come as tourists. Some come for business. And those who come for business should be encouraged.
So, the matter of visa waiver would be probably important to discuss, and we all hope that we will advance on this.
TRUMP: Wow. Look at those hands up there, President. Do you have this in Romania, too? I don't know.
IOHANNIS: I got the microphone. If you allow me, Mr. President.
TRUMP: If I could only -- if I could only sell that, if I could only sell it.
Who would like to ask -- should I take one of the killer networks that treat me so badly as fake news? Should I do that? Huh?
Go ahead, Jon. Be fair, Jon.
QUESTION: Oh, absolutely.
TRUMP: Remember how nice you used to be before I ran? Such a nice man.
QUESTION: Always fair.
Mr. President, I want to get back to James Comey's testimony. You suggested he didn't tell the truth in everything he said. He did say, under oath, that you told him to let the Flynn -- you said you hoped the Flynn investigation, you could let -- he could let go.
TRUMP: I didn't say that.
QUESTION: So he lied about that?
TRUMP: Well, I didn't say that. I mean, I will tell you, I didn't say that.
QUESTION: And did he ask you -- to pledge his loyalty?
TRUMP: And there would be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I have read today. But I did not say that.
QUESTION: And did he ask you for a pledge of loyalty from you? That's another thing he said.
TRUMP: No, he did not.
QUESTION: So, he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?
TRUMP: One hundred percent. I didn't say under oath.
I hardly know the man. I'm not going to say I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn't make sense. No, I didn't say that, and I didn't say the other.
QUESTION: So, if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that...
TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jon.
QUESTION: And you seem to hinting that there are recordings of those conversations.
TRUMP: I'm not hinting anything. I will tell you about it over a very short period of time. OK?
OK. Do you have a question here?
QUESTION: When will you tell us about the recordings?
TRUMP: Over a fairly short period of time.
QUESTION: Are there tapes, sir?
TRUMP: Oh, you're going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer. Don't worry.
Jon, do you have a question for the president?
Thank you. And, President Iohannis, you're no stranger to Russian aggression. Vladimir Putin recently suggested that Romania could be in Russia's crosshairs.
Are you -- how concerned should the world be about Russian aggression in your region, and how concerned should we be here in the United States about what Russia tried to do in our election, sir?
IOHANNIS: Everybody's concerned.
But, you see, being concerned should lead you to being prepared. So, in my opinion, we have to be very clear, very simple and very straightforward if we talk about Russia and with Russia.
In my opinion, we need dialogue. But, on the other hand, we need what we all together decided in NATO, a strong deterrence. So, this combination, strong deterrence and dialogue, should lead towards a solution which is feasible for every part.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. President Trump. You mentioned -- you mentioned earlier the anti-corruption fight in
Romania. It is a matter of high importance in our country. But we see now that the anti-corruption fight and the efforts to consolidate the rule of law are sometimes undermined by some politicians, part of what we can call the Bucharest swamp.
Is your administration going to support the anti-corruption fight in Romania? And how can you do it? Thank you.
TRUMP: Well, we support very strongly Romania.
And, therefore, obviously, we do support that fight on anti- corruption. We will always support that. And we support your president. We think he's done an outstanding job, very popular, very solid, working very hard.
We know everything that's going on. And, yes, and he's going to win that fight. He's going to win that battle. But he has our support.
QUESTION: Corruption in Romania is a problem for the U.S.-Romania partnership and for the American investor as a threat, because we still have corruption in Romania, despite this anti-corruption fight.
TRUMP: Well, you do, but I can tell you that there are many American investors right now going to Romania and investing.
In fact, I was given a chart just before our meeting. And we have people going over to Romania and investing. And they weren't doing that a number of years ago. So that shows very, very big progress. And there really are a lot of congratulations in store.
But a lot of people are investing from our country to yours. And people love from Romania the United States, and they come here a lot and we're very proud of them.
Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so a couple of headlines, but the big money question that everyone wanted answer, the whole, Mr. President, are there tapes in reference to the he said/he said situation between Director Comey and the president of the United States could totally be put to bed if in fact there are and he authorizes the release.
And he kept going back to two different times that will come out in the near future. It wasn't a denial, but it was a wait and see.
I have got my entire panel here.
Dana Bash, first to you, impressions.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, we now really have a he said/he said situation, not just from the president's attorney, but from the president himself, not just saying in the Rose Garden that Comey is lying when he said that the president told him that he hoped that he would make -- he, Comey, would make the Michael Flynn investigation go away.
But he said he would even say that under oath to special counsel, which is a pretty big deal. So we really do have kind of have to figure out who is telling the truth here. And it's unclear, if there aren't tapes, which he seemed to suggest there probably aren't, because at the end he said you will probably be disappointed in the answer.
BALDWIN: Because the answer could be no.
BALDWIN: Why not just say? He knows what the answer is. Why not just say?
BASH: We've got to wait for the next episode, Brooke.
That's kind of how he -- look, to be -- that was flip, and it's not -- I shouldn't say it like that. He has legal counsel. And he is working through lawyers the proper way. And there's probably some legal reason why he wants to do this in a proper way, so we should do that.
BASH: But, yes, he should know.
I want to go back to Jim Acosta. Jim Acosta is there in the Rose Garden after those couple of questions.
And, so, Jim, at least he called on Jon Karl and there was that exchange with Jon back and forth. What was your takeaway?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that the president is maybe stalling for time here on this question of whether or not there are recordings of his conversations with the former FBI director.
He did say and you did hear that exchange with Jon Karl where he basically said, well, I will answer that at another time. There was -- I'm not sure you picked up on it, because you weren't here in Rose Garden with us, but there was a moment where he was looking around after he answered that question the way he did.
I then interjected and said, why can't you answer that question about the tapes? And that is when he said, well, you're going to be disappointed when you get that answer, something along those lines, if we just wanted to get that answer.
So I thought that was interesting. That was an indication, Brooke, and it really is something that you can only read here in the Rose Garden, that he is sort of saying here that there aren't any recordings.
But until we have a hard-and-fast answer to that question, I don't think we can answer that definitively at this point, although he seemed to say that we're going to be disappointed when we find out the answer to that question. Of course, you know, one could answer that one way or the other as to whether we were disappointed.
Obviously, we would be pleased to know that there would be recordings in some sense, but perhaps there might be others out there who would pleased to find out there aren't any recordings.
But the president went on to say during that exchange that -- and he said this to the reporter with "The Washington Times," Dave Boyer, that he believes that James Comey is a leaker, but at the same time he feels that he was totally vindicated, that there was no obstruction of justice, no collusion that Jim Comey testified to during that hearing yesterday.
And so it's very much echoing -- and I think Dana was just saying this a few moments ago -- echoing what his outside counsel, Marc Kasowitz, has been saying over the last 24 hours.
I don't think this really resolves a lot of these questions that we have here. And perhaps the president is saying, well, I will get back to you on these tapes because he plans on doing something in the course of the next few days in terms of a sit-down interview or something along those lines where perhaps he may feel more comfortable.
But I thought it was very fascinating, Brooke, that he didn't dodge that question when he was given that opportunity a couple of times to answer that directly.
BALDWIN: Michael Zeldin, just is there a legal strategy in stalling and saying, we will answer that eventually on the tapes?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I can't think of one.
Firstly, if there is official recordings, they must turn that over. If you're Mueller and you know from stories in the paper that, when President Trump was private businessman Trump, there were stories that he would privately tape people with his phone or other things, he would send the subpoena for phones that he may have possessed personally and official tapes. So it will come. If it's there, it will come.
If they destroy it, he won't be president very long, because that will be a destruction of evidence obstruction case that will take five minutes to prosecute.
But what is most interesting to me is his willingness to say, I will say this under oath. So Marc Kasowitz and he are on-message, and that message is, we will take the he said/he said joinder and may the best, if you will, man win.
BALDWIN: Because he's saying, I never said about, Flynn, let it go. And why would -- I barely knew the guy, this guy Jim Comey. Why would I say you need to pledge your allegiance and loyalty to me?
ZELDIN: Well, that's right.
And one thing that puts Comey, I think, in a better position perhaps than the president is these contemporaneous memoranda, because if the president says this, and Comey says that, and Comey says, and I also have documentation contemporaneously made to verbatim recite what was said, that -- if there's a tie, I think that tips the tie toward the Comey side.
ANNE GEARAN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, surely. I mean, that goes back all the way to the reason why Comey made those notes. Right?
He's a smart bureaucrat. He's been around this town a long time. And he knew that these were going to be important conversations that potentially could go badly for him, Jim Comey. So, he wanted to make sure that he was documenting them the way he remembered them.
I was struck yesterday by the number of times Comey made reference to his own verbatim memory. I remember exactly what he said. I remember every word. I wrote down every word.
He's communicating there that he left those meetings, left those interactions and made contemporaneous notes, that he -- and so, in a way, he's bolstering the case for those to eventually be legal documents.
We know of no such contemporaneous notes made by Trump or others on his behalf, but that, like the question of tapes, is one thing that surely the special counsel will be asking about.
ZELDIN: And there was nobody was in the room.
GEARAN: In one case, there was definitely nobody was in the room, right.
So, unless Trump wrote in his diary afterwards...
ZELDIN: When he excused everybody else, yes.
DAVID SANGER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I think it's worthwhile just parsing for a moment what the president said.
There is no obstruction. Well, that depends on which version you believe. Certainly, Mr. Comey was leading people to the thought that there was at least an effort to try to end the Russia investigation as it dealt with Flynn.
There was no collusion. Well, certainly, there was nothing in the testimony yesterday that would have taken you necessarily to collusion. So he's accurate on that.
[15:25:00] He's a leaker. The was an effort to try to go impugn Jim Comey's
reputation. It's a very debatable point whether handing off your own recollections of an unclassified conversation, when you're a private citizen, is a leak. It may simply be a revelation, and there's a difference, a very big difference.
Then he immediately said, this was an excuse by the Democrats to explain the election. So, this is -- this conflates the question of what the president was doing in relation to the investigation and the underlying question of whether Russia was messing with the election, right?
And that's what he -- what he always used to say about the Russia thing was, this is an invention of the Democrats.
SANGER: He's the only one now who says that. All of the intelligence leaders, Comey himself, even many Republicans, now all say clearly the Russians were involved.
BALDWIN: And that he never, according to Comey's testimony, never asked Comey about the investigations...
SANGER: Not once.
BALDWIN: ... Russia. And out of the gate, to your point, sir, when he gave that opening statement and said my priority is the safety of the American people, and you said what?
SANGER: I said, you know, the fundamental issue, the reason we're all sitting here discussing this, is whether or not the Russians got involved in a nefarious way in the fundamental operations of American democracy.
And it's pretty fascinating that at no point in this investigation have we seen the president actually ask Jim Comey, by Comey's account, about that.
BASH: And just to even broaden it out a little bit, who was he standing next to there? The leader from Romania. And he got a couple of questions about the very real concern in Romania about Russia being a threat to Romania, and one of the Romanian journalists asked, unfortunately for her, a two-part question.
And he smartly answered the one that he wanted to about Article 5 of NATO, but I think it's very telling that he didn't answer the question about whether or not the president of the United States thinks that Russian aggression is a threat to Romania.
BALDWIN: He dodged.
BASH: He just dodged that question. And it's just another -- again, in the context of any other president, maybe it wouldn't be that big of a deal. But in the context of this whole thing being about a question of
Russia influencing the election and that the undercurrent there being, why is he so nice to Russia and so reluctant to criticize Vladimir Putin, even especially next to somebody who he says is his big ally who does feel a threat from Russia, meaning Romania?
SANGER: One his secretary of defense and secretary of state have all described Russia as a threat.
BALDWIN: Let me bring in two more voices. Then we will come back to you guys.
We have got two legal voices, David Rivkin, former deputy director of the Justice Department, and CNN contributor Norm Eisen, former White House ethics czar under President Obama.
David, just beginning with you, back to the issue on the tapes and how we know he knows, he's not saying, he's stalling, why? What do you make of that?
DAVID RIVKIN, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I don't know if there are tapes, but do I know that I think we're missing the big picture.
Let's assume -- and I think it's true -- that former Director Comey is not lying. I certainly assume that President Trump is not lying. So, you have got very bad chemistry between the two of them brought by different acculturation, a creature of Washington, and on the other hand, blunt, anti-Washington person.
Let's assume that what's involved here is not what was actually said in those meetings, but how they interpreted this. Comey has been incredibly unkind to the president.
The president, I believe, did suggest that it would be best if, given Flynn's -- all the equities, that particularly asked of the Flynn investigation, would it go away? It's not an obstruction of justice. It's not even a direct order.
Director Comey chose to make the worst out of it, the same discussion about loyalty, if the word loyalty was even used. So this is not an instance about he said/he said. This is an instance of how you construe this.
And, by the way, Comey did not make any inferences from two points he made during his testimony, the fact that Trump wanted the investigation of a salacious dossier, and that President Trump wanted to investigate any of his associates who might have done something wrong.
You would think that is a very inculpatory piece of information. That's now Comey say it. So, I think Comey is a man of probity, just a man who absolutely does not get this president.
And, by the way, he also does not get the fact that even a direct order to seize any investigation is not an obstruction of justice, given the statutory and constitutional reality. The president is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.
He can order any investigation to be commenced. He can order any investigation to be ceased. In fact, Comey himself admitted. So, the whole obsession with obstruction is, with respect, utterly ridiculous.
Mr. Eisen, how do you see it?
NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, we heard today, Brooke, that there are no tapes, because if Trump is willing to swear to what happened, I believe Jim Comey, and, therefore, there must be no tapes.
It's going to be a he said/he said situation, bare-knuckle. That does create problems for the special counsel, because you don't like to bring an obstruction case --