Return to Transcripts main page


President Trump Meets With Finnish President. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired August 28, 2017 - 16:30   ET



SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT OF FINLAND: I want to -- also to take this opportunity to greet the almost 700,000 Americans who have Finnish origin.

Mr. President and I exchanged news on several international issues. Our broad headline was security. We discussed the importance of the Transatlantic Bond between the European Union and the United States.

History has taught us Europeans the value of unity. The U.S. and NATO presence in Europe are and in Baltic Sea are most important, and they are increasing rapidly.

Finland is doing its part. We promote dialogue. To reduce risks, Finland has proposed steps to improve flight safety in the Baltic Sea area. They are small, but positive steps in reopening dialogue between NATO and Russia.

We remain committed to supporting Afghanistan. And we are a dedicated member of the Global Coalition Against ISIS. Finland took the chairmanship of the Arctic Council from the United States in May. We can't afford losing the pristine Arctic nature.

Finland firmly believes that business and environment can both be winners in the Arctic. A good example is reducing black carbon.

Mr. President, I'm looking forward to even closer cooperation with you and your great nation. I want to thank you.

Thank you.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So we will take a couple of questions.

How about we go to Texas?

Todd Gillman? Todd?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.


QUESTION: I'm wondering what you can tell the people of Texas to expect in terms of long-term recovery efforts. And in particular, you have been feuding with some key congressional leaders. You have also threatened a government shutdown potentially next month

over border wall funding. Are these going to hamper long term -- the funding that will be needed long term for recovery?

TRUMP: No, Todd.

I think that you're going to see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president. And you're going to get your funding. It's a terrible tragedy. Your governor has been absolutely outstanding in the job he's done, and his entire staff.

And I will say that I just spoke with Greg, and he is working like 24/7. We expect to have requests on our desk fairly soon and we think that Congress will feel very much the way I feel, in a very bipartisan way. That will be nice. But we think you are going to have what you need and it is going to go fast.

Texas is a unique place. It's great, great state. Great people. And I think you will be up and running very, very quickly, really very quickly. So, yes, I think you are going to be in fantastic shape. I have already spoken to Congress and everybody feels for you and feels for what you're going through.

But at the same time, they have great respect, even additional respect for the state because you have had handled it so well, so brilliantly. But it's a long road. Still pouring. Still a lot of rain. Nobody has ever seen anything like it. I have heard the words epic. I have historic.

That's what it is. But you will have what you want, I think, very, very quickly. And, Todd, you can ask a question to the president.

QUESTION: Sure. Thank you.

Does this situation make you reconsider the possibility of a government shutdown next month?

TRUMP: I think it has nothing to do with it. I think this is separate. This is going to go really very, very quickly. Again, I have spoken to many of the people we're talking about. And everybody feels the same way I do.

QUESTION: Thank you.

And, Mr. President, I wanted to ask you. Your neighbor Russia has meddled in U.S. politics. They have a military exercise coming up in the next few weeks in the Baltic. There are tensions over there. What kind of advice have you offered and can you offer to the United States in dealing with this adversary?

NIINISTO: Sir, we are not feeling ourselves as advisers, but we are feeling ourselves as doing all what is possible to maintain peace. And that is what we are doing in Baltic Sea area too.

With the -- actually, you referred to the different part of the military training which is going to happen there. I have to tell you that a couple of weeks ago, I met President Putin and the media interested in why Chinese navy having training together with Russians in Baltic Sea area.


Putin answered that it is not against a block. It's not against anybody. My answer was that we are also training in Baltic Sea, we, the United States and Sweden. And it is not a block. It is not against anybody.

So, we have to be very careful about this huge training, huge military trafficking over Baltic doesn't cause any accidental problems, because we know that from accidents might grow whatever.

And that is why I think it's important that we continue to work with NATO to enhance, like I said, dialogue between Russia and NATO. And it is going forward.

TRUMP: You have a question?

NIINISTO: Finnish Broadcasting Company, where you are? OK.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

I have a question to President Trump, if I may.

As President Niinisto told, he's been raising the issue about the security situation in the Baltic region and the Baltic Sea specifically, and has been concerned about the Russian planes flying there without transponders on.

So, my question to you, Mr. President, would be, Mr. Trump, would you consider Russia as a security threat?

Thank you.

TRUMP: Well, I consider countries a security threat, unfortunately, when you look at what's going on in the world today.

As you know, a few weeks ago, our great vice president, Mike Pence, who is right here, was in the region and spent quite a bit of time there. We consider that a very, very important part of the world. We have great relationships there. We have a great relationship with Finland.

And so I would consider many countries threats, but these are all threats that we will be able to handle if we have to. Hopefully, we don't have to handle them, but if we do, we will handle them.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up, as he had also?

So, if the situation in the Baltic were to escalate, what would the U.S. be ready to do in that unfortunate circumstance?

TRUMP: Well, we are very protective of that region. That's all I can say. We are very, very protective. We have great friends there, great relationships there. We are

extremely protective. Thank you.

A question for the president? Yes.

NIINISTO: Sometimes...


TRUMP: Do you have a question for the president? Do you have a question for the president?

It's all right. Somebody else can...

NIINISTO: You don't have to.


QUESTION: Mr. Presidents (INAUDIBLE) from Finland.

Did you speak about climate change at all, and what about your, Mr. President Niinisto, initiative about cleaning up the Arctic and doing it together with the United States? What kind of response did your idea receive here in Washington, D.C.?

NIINISTO: We discussed a lot about black carbon.

And to explain to everybody, what happens is that from atmosphere, black carbon covers the Arctic. And we know what happens when sunshine meets black. It melts the ice. And the problem is not only Arctic.

If we lose the Arctic, we lose the globe. That is a reality. So, we must fight against those emissions spreading black carbon. I understood that the United States is going to put it in half.

And we know that black carbon sources are a lot of them are in Russia. They are old-fashioned energy plants. They're producing heating. The other problem is flaring, you know, that, you know, in oil fields, they flare up, the extra gas, and the amount is huge. Yearly, they flare 40 times more than Finland spends gas.

So, if we can -- and here comes also business, to which it would be a good business to renew those old-fashioned plants, to make more with less energy.


It would be a business to stop flaring, to take use of that gas, which is now burned, for (INAUDIBLE) and I think that these elements are shots that we can continue discussing in Arctic Council.

We have inherited the chairmanship from the United States, and we continue the work.

TRUMP: We had a very good discussion in particular on the Arctic and black carbon. And I think we have much in agreement.

One of the things we also agree on, we want crystal, clean water and we want clean air, the cleanest ever. Very important. So we have a lot of agreement.

John Roberts, yes?

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you so much.

President Niinisto, I have a question for you as well, but if I can start with President Trump.

In the middle of Hurricane Harvey hitting on Friday night, you chose to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I wonder if you can tell us what was behind your thinking for issuing a pardon for the sheriff. And, as well, what do you say to your critics, even in some of your own party, who say it was the wrong thing to do?

TRUMP: Well, a lot of people think it was the right thing to do, John.

And, actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally. The hurricane was just starting. And I put it out that I had pardoned, as we call, as we say, Sheriff Joe.

He's done a great job for the people of Arizona. He's very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona. I thought he was treated unbelievably unfairly when they came down with their big decision to go get him right before the election voting started, as you know.

And he lost in a fairly close election. He would have won the election. But they just hammered him just before the election. And I thought that was a very, very unfair thing to do.

When I mentioned him the other night, you saw the massive crowd we had. The people went crazy when I said, what do you think of Sheriff Joe or something to that effect? The place went absolutely crazy, when I was in Arizona last week.

And as far as pardons are concerned, I actually did this just before the meeting because I assumed that somebody would ask me the question. I didn't know it would be you. As you can attest, you didn't even know you were going to be called. But I thought I would.

And, you know, Sheriff Joe is a great veteran of the military, great law enforcement person, somebody that's won many, many elections in the state of Arizona.

But I wanted to look at some of the other people that were pardoned over the years. And if you look at, as an example, President Clinton pardoned Marc Rich, who was charged with crimes going back decades, including illegally buying oil from Iran while it held 53 American hostages. Wasn't allowed to do that. Selling to the enemies of the United

States. He was pardoned after his wife donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Clintons. Then you have dangerous criminals. President Clinton pardoned Susan Rosenberg, a member of the Weathered (sic) Underground, charged as part of a bank robbery that led to a guard and two police officers being killed.

Drug dealers. President Clinton commuted the sentence of Carlos Vignali, a central player in a cocaine ring that stretched from California to Minnesota. Criminal leaker. You have heard the word leaker. President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who leaked countless sensitive and classified documents to WikiLeaks, perhaps, and others, but horrible, horrible thing that he did, commuted the sentence and perhaps pardoned.

President Obama commuted the sentence of Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was charged as part of a violent independence group from Puerto Rico responsible for 28 Chicago area bombings and many deaths in the 1970s and 1980s.

Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders. And Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won.

So -- and he was elected many times. So, I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe, and I think the people of Arizona who really know him best would agree with me.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I would like to claim prescience that you did all the research, but I'm afraid I have to confess the question was fairly obvious.

And, President Niinisto, I'm sure that President Trump either briefed you today or you are aware of his new plan for Afghanistan that really relies at its core in bringing the Taliban to the table for negotiations.

Given the history and the ideology of the Taliban, do you ever believed that they would honor any kind of agreement that was ever made or with they -- with the United States and Finland and other countries Leave Afghanistan, renage on that deal?

SAULI NIINISTO, PRESIDENT OF FINLAND: Yes, first of all, I want to underline that Finland has been involved from the very beginning to all the attempts to solve the situation in Afghanistan. We have troops there. We have also financial aid going on all the time. We have to try. We have to try -- we have to try in all possible ways to solve the situation in Afghanistan. It has been ongoing quite a long time, for decades. But to solve it by negotiations, surely you have to have full respect to the one you negotiate, and to also full believe that what is negotiated is also fulfilled. These elements have to be all the time present when you discuss with whichever party in Afghanistan. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know there might be a

couple of more questions, but do you want to take one more? Would you want to take one more? Go ahead, pick.


TRUMP: Again? You're going to give her the same one?

NIINISTO: No, she's not the same lady.

TRUMP: Go ahead.

NIINIST: They are sitting side-by-side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a lot of blonde women in Finland.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President Trump, what kind of role do you see as Finland having in the U.S.-Russia relations? Do you think Finland could be of assistance, helping U.S. get better relations with Russia?

TRUMP: Well, I hope that we do have good relations with Russia. I say it loud and clear, I've been saying it for years. I think it's a good thing if we have great relationships, or at least good relationships with Russia. That's very important, and I believe someday that will happen. It's a big country, it's a nuclear country, it's a country that we should get along with, and I think we will eventually get along with Russia. Finland is respected by Russia. Finland has been free of Russia, really -- just about one of the few countries in the region that has been for 100 years. And Russia has a lot of respect for Finland, so that's always good. But I think Finland is doing fine with Russia, and I hope that the United States will someday be able to have a very good relationship with Russia also. I think that's very good for world peace and for other things. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a follow-up, if Finland's relationship with Russia were to deteriorate, would the U.S. -- what kind of assistance would the U.S. be willing to give to Finland bilaterally, if we needed it?

TRUMP: Well, as I said before, that, you know, our relationship with Finland is a very close one and we're always ready to help Finland. One of the things that is happening is you're purchasing large amounts of our great F-18 aircraft from Boeing, and it's one of the great planes, one of the great fighter jets, and you're purchasing lots of other military equipment, and, I think, purchasing very wisely. I know all of the military equipment and I actually agree with everything you purchased. We talked about it before. I think Finland is really a respected country militarily. It's got large armed forces for its size as a country. Really, proportionally, probably one of the biggest in the world if you think of it.

NIINISTO: I guess so. TRUMP: But they're very respected militarily, and they're respected beyond militarily. So hopefully it will never come to that. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And President Niinisto? President Niinisto, did you discuss Russia? And did you offer any assistance to the U.S. with their relationship with Russia?

NIINISTO: Well, like I said earlier on, we did discuss about Russia. But actually, I don't feel myself or Finland being any advisor to anybody, but we try to do our best, and hopefully, we get also results from that. I want to remind you that, in NATO meeting, a year ago approximately, it was stated by all NATO countries that with Russia you have to be deterrence, but you have to exercise dialogue too. These two-way elements have to be there.

TRUMP: Yes, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. Trey Yingst with One America News. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, do you believe that cutting FEMA's budget is the right thing to do?

[16:50:02] TRUMP: No, I think what's going to happen is the FEMA money is relatively small compared to the rebuilding money. So FEMA -- right now, we have the money necessary for Texas and Louisiana, if we need, but the all -- you know, the real number, which will be many billions of dollars, will go through Congress. I think it'll happen very quickly, it'll go very fast, and I want to congratulate you on the network. It's a great network.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. If I may follow up on one other question from earlier. The southern border wall. Is your plan still to have Mexico pay for the wall?

TRUMP: Yes, they will. One way or the other, Mexico is going to pay for the wall. That's right. It may be through reimbursement, but one way or the other, Mexico will pay for the wall. We're right now negotiating NAFTA. In my opinion, Mexico has been very difficult, as they should be. Why wouldn't they be? They had a sweetheart deal for so many years. It's one of the great deals of all time for them. One of the worst trade deals ever signed. I guarantee you, Mr. President, Finland would never have signed NAFTA with Russia or whoever you wanted. This is not a deal that you would want to sign. This is not a deal that Finland would know about. NAFTA is one of the worst trade deals ever signed at anytime, anywhere in the world.

And I can understand why Mexico is being difficult because why wouldn't they be? They've had it their way. But, no, Mexico will pay for the wall. It may be through a reimbursement. We need the wall very badly. As you know, Mexico has a tremendous crime problem -- tremendous -- one of the number two or three in the world. And that's another reason we need it. And the -- just to add on, tremendous drugs are pouring into the United States at levels that nobody has ever seen before. This happened over the last three to four years in particular. The wall will stop much of the drugs from pouring into this country and poisoning our youth. So we need the wall. It's imperative. We may fund it through the United States. But ultimately, Mexico will pay for the wall.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, if I may follow up. On Tuesday, you said, if we have to close down our government, we are building that wall.

TRUMP: Well, I hope that's not necessary --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Mexico is paying for wall, why would you close down our government?

TRUMP: Let me just tell you -- yeah, I hope that's not necessary. If it's necessary, we'll have to see. But I hope it's not necessary. The wall is needed from the standpoint of security. The wall is needed from the standpoint of drug -- tremendous, the drug scourge, what's coming through in that -- through the area -- through the areas that we're talking about. As you know, I have General Kelly here. We stopped traffic coming through -- 78 percent. It's going to be, I think, 81 percent this quarter, which is a record. In other administrations, if they stopped it just a little bit, like one, or two, or three percent, they considered that a great thing. We're up to almost 80 percent. We'll soon be over 80 percent. But you need the wall to do the rest, and you need the wall for the drugs. The drugs are a tremendous problem. The wall will greatly help with the drug problem, and ultimately that's a good thing for Mexico also.

We have a very good relationship with Mexico, but I will say that dealing with them -- I've always said -- I've talked about NAFTA, you've heard me many times -- and I've said that we will either terminate it or renegotiate it. We're in the process of renegotiating -- right now renegotiating the deal. I believe that you will probably have to at least start the termination process before a fair deal could be arrived at because it's been a one-sided deal. And this includes Canada, by the way. Great respect for Canada, great love for Canada, but it's been a one-sided deal for Canada and for Mexico. And the United States workers, all of these incredible people who have lost their jobs because of NAFTA, they're not going to be suffering any longer. It's been unfair for too long. So we will build the wall, and we will stop a lot of things, including the drug. The drugs are pouring in at levels like nobody has ever seen. We'll be able to stop them once the wall is up. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

NIINISTO: Thank you.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: All right, President Trump wrapping up his Bilateral Press Conference there with the Finnish President, Sauli Niinisto. Wide ranging topics that were covered and the questions that he was asked there at the White House, talking about the potential for a government shutdown, as well discussing what is ongoing, of course, in Texas, and also moving into Louisiana, Hurricane Harvey and what the government is doing there. But one thing that was particularly interesting is he was asked about on Friday when he decided to pardon the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio.

There was a question about whether he had done this on Friday to avoid attention because there was so much attention on the storm in Texas. He said actually that he thought ratings were higher then. So the point he was making, he wasn't actually trying to avoid the limelight, he was trying to bring attention, is what seemed to be the indication there. Bill Kristol, as our panel joins us here to discuss this. He wasn't trying to avoid scrutiny, right? That's what he said. And then he also had a laundry list of other very controversial pardons by other presidents.

[16:55:08] BILL KRISTOL, THE WEEKLY STANDARD FOUNDER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: That's what struck me. He came with a piece of paper with some other worst pardons of recent times. You know, I think people like -- everyone was very critical of the pardon of Marc Rich on January 19 of last day of the Clinton Presidency. Something he did, I think, without consulting with anyone in his own staff. He would have gave up a lot of money with (INAUDIBLE) wife to the various Clinton entities and stuff.

So, I'm not sure if he gained a lot by comparing the person you pardoned. It just leaves the people who have harder than other administration. But look, I guess -- I guess he thinks -- he's happy to stick with it and make the case for it. I'm not -- I wouldn't defend pardoning him. I think he was a terrible sheriff and it's very bad for I think signal to send that he gets pardoned. And I mean, it's one thing to commute the sentence and say he's 85 years old and he shouldn't go to jail but to pardon him as to say there was no guilt? I really can defend that. But he thinks he can.

JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, last week is the evidence of -- I think that he was worried about his base. Now, there's not a lot of polling to show that and he's been pretty good at keeping his core base together, but his speech in Arizona, which was completely unhinged and crazy, and then the pardoning of Arpaio on Friday night, they were -- they were winks to his base that he's still with them. And he's going to do the things he said he was going to do on the campaign trail, despite the fact that it's divisive and really appalling to most of the country.

JACK KINGSTON, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, you know, I think though Arpaio brand is actually not a bad brand within the Republican base. I think it's like Sheriff Clark. You know, there are just certain kind of folk heroes, even going back to Joe the Plumber, that the Republican base connects with. And I think that fact that even if he was 85 years old, people realize, you know, here's an older man in the sunset of his life, why send him to jail after his service in the war, service as a sheriff and so forth. But Jen, I got to say, I don't think this speech was unhinged.

I know that the D.C. crowd likes to say that. I think it was a great speech. I think he fired up his base. It was a campaign speech, and you know if I listened to some of the Obama campaign speeches, I wouldn't have liked that. Speaking of Obama, I just want to remind everybody, 1,715 commuted sentences. I think the point is that the President can pardon or commute whoever he wants. And I think that's something that he was saying Bill when he's talking about the people who his predecessors have pardoned.

KEILAR: But his -- to that point, Juana, he was -- with this laundry list, Marc Rich, Susan Rosenberg, Chelsea Manning, these are all other very controversial commutations or pardons by previous presidents. Is he -- he seems to be admitting in in a way that this is controversial or was he maybe stepping over himself saying, look, people pardon very terrible or commuted the sentences of very terrible people and this is someone who isn't terrible? Because that's not the way it came across.

JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: I think it's certainly a little bit of both in. I have to say though, what struck me as I listened to this, viewing this through the lens of that leadership test we talk about when the presidents are faced with domestic crisis. The President of the United States just admitted that he timed the decision of a controversial pardon while -- during a historic weather event that has killed a number of people that yes, we probably do not know the extent of. With that have --

KEILAR: On going.

SUMMERS: That is still ongoing. The water is still rising in many of these cities. People are without their homes, businesses are destroyed and he's admitting that he timed something to meet with that. And it thinks, if we talk about, is this a president whose meeting the task, is he meeting the moment in which he is supposed to place certain role with the state. And I think that that leaves a very open question. I was surprised I guess, a little bit that he phrased it that way.

KEILAR: Congressman, what do you make of that, that he is talking about utilizing the high ratings of a deadly catastrophe to bring awareness to a controversial pardon?

SUMMERS: You know, President Trump is like none other. And I've had one on one conversations with him and I can tell you, he can talk about a 10,000-foot view or a micro issue in just a second and transition immediately from one to the other. And you know, I think Newt Gingrich as the Speaker of the House was that way in many respects. He could say some really high-level stuff, and then he can say something that makes you wonder, why did you go there? But I think it's vintage Trump. He is a guy who fires on all cylinders and you know, this -- I don't think this was a sudden Friday night decision.

PSAKI: To one point I think, the test really for presidents is whether they can show empathy in very difficult times like this because it's not just now. People -- we don't even know how many people have lost their homes, have lost power, are going to be relocated, have lost their lives, it's the coming weeks and month when people are scared, they're suffering, they don't know how they'll get food for their kids or diapers, can he show that empathy. We haven't seen him do that before.

KEILAR: All right. Thank you all so much discussing this press conference. Really phenomenal. Phenomenally interesting one of the White House is with us. Be sure to tweet the show @THELEADCNN. That was it for THE LEAD, I'm Brianna Keilar in for Jake Tapper. I'm turning you over to Jim Sciutto, he is in for Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."