Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Delivers First Speech to the United Nations General Assembly; Aired 10:30-11a ET
Aired September 19, 2017 - 10:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- to pursue needed political and economic reform, and drains them of the human capital necessary to motivate and implement those reforms.
For the receiving countries, the substantial costs of uncontrolled migration are borne overwhelmingly by low-income citizens whose concerns are often ignored by both media and government.
I want to salute the work of the United Nations in seeking to address the problems that cause people to flee from their home. The United Nations and African Union led peacekeeping missions to have invaluable contributions in stabilizing conflict in Africa.
The United States continues to lead the world in humanitarian assistance, including famine prevention and relief in South Sudan, Somalia, and northern Nigeria and Yemen. We have invested in better health and opportunity all over the world through programs like PEPFAR, which funds aids relief, the President's Malaria Initiative, the Global Health Security Agenda, the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, and the Women Entrepreneur's Finance Initiative, part of our commitment to empowering women all across the globe.
We also thank --
TRUMP: Thank you. We also thank the Secretary-General for recognizing that the United Nations must reform if it is to be an effective partner in confronting threats to sovereignty, security, and prosperity. Too often the focus of this organization has not been on results, but on bureaucracy and process. In some cases, states that seek to subvert this institution's noble ends have hijacked the very systems that are supposed to advance them.
For example, it is a massive source of embarrassment to the United Nations that some governments with egregious human rights records sit on the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The United States is one out of 193 countries in the United Nations, and yet we pay 22 percent of the entire budget and more. In fact, we pay far more than anybody realizes.
The United States bears an unfair cost burden, but to be fair, if it could actually accomplish all of its stated goals, especially the goal of peace, this investment would easily be well worth it. Major portions of the world are in conflict and some, in fact, are
going to hell, but the powerful people in this room, under the guidance and auspices of the United Nations, can solve many of these vicious and complex problems.
The American people hope that one day soon the United Nations can be a much more accountable and effective advocate for human dignity and freedom around the world. In the meantime we believe that no nation should have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, militarily or financially.
Nations of the world must take a greater role in promoting secure and prosperous societies in their own region. That is why in the western hemisphere the United States has stood against the corrupt destabilizing regime in Cuba and embraced the enduring dream of the Cuban people to live in freedom.
My administration recently announced that we will not lift sanctions on the Cuban government until it makes fundamental reforms. We have also imposed tough calibrated sanctions on the socialist Maduro regime in Venezuela which has brought a once thriving nation to the brink of total collapse.
The socialist dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro has inflicted terrible pain and suffering on the good people of that country.
[10:35:05] This corrupt regime destroyed a prosperous nation by imposing a failed ideology that has produced poverty and misery everywhere it has been tried. To make matters worse, Maduro has defied his own people, stealing power from their elected representatives, to preserve his disastrous rule.
The Venezuelan people are starving and their country is collapsing. Their democratic institutions are being destroyed.
The situation is completely unacceptable and we cannot stand by and watch. As a responsible neighbor and friend, we and all others have a goal. That goal is to help them regain their freedom, recover their country, and restore their democracy.
I would like to thank leaders in this room for condemning the regime and providing vital support to the Venezuelan people.
The United States has taken important steps to hold the regime accountable. We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists on its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people.
We are fortunate to have incredibly strong and healthy trade relationships with many of the Latin American countries gathered here today. Our economic bond forms a critical foundation for advancing peace and prosperity for all of our people and all of our neighbors.
I ask every country represented here today to be prepared to do more to address this very real crisis. We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela. (APPLAUSE)
TRUMP: The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.
From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenants of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.
America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their well-being, including their prosperity.
In America, we seek stronger ties of business and trade with all nations of goodwill, but this trade must be fair and it must be reciprocal. For too long the American people were told that mammoth, multinational trade deals, unaccountable international tribunals and powerful global bureaucracies were the best way to promote their success. But as those promises flowed, millions of jobs vanished and thousands of factories disappeared.
Others gamed the system and broke the rules, and our great middle class, once the bedrock of American prosperity, was forgotten and left behind, but they are forgotten no more and they will never be forgotten again.
While America will pursue cooperation and commerce with other nations, we are renewing our commitment to the first duty of every government, the duty of our citizens. This bond is the source of America's strength and that of every responsible nation represented here today. If this organization is to have any hope of successfully confronting the challenges before us, it will depend, as President Truman said some 70 years ago, on the independent strength of its members.
[10:40:13] If we are to embrace the opportunities of the future and overcome the present dangers together there can be no substitute for strong, sovereign and independent nations. Nations that are rooted in the histories and invested in their destinies. Nations that seek allies to befriend, not enemies to conquer, and most important of all, nations that are home to patriots, to men and women who are willing to sacrifice for their countries, their fellow citizens, and for all that is best in the human spirit.
In remembering the great victory that led to this body's founding, we must never forget that those heroes who fought against evil also fought for the nations that they love. Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland. The French to fight for a free France. And the Brits to stand strong for Britain.
Today, if we do not invest ourselves, our hearts, our minds, and our nations, if we will not build strong families, safe communities and healthy societies for ourselves, no one can do it for us. We cannot wait for someone else, for faraway countries or far-off bureaucracies. We can't do it. We must solve our problems to build our prosperity, to secure our future, or we will build vulnerable to decay domination and defeat.
The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one. Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures? Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?
One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. That was the moment when America awoke, when we looked around and understood that we were a nation.
We realized who we were, what we valued, and what we would give our lives to defend. From its very first moments, the American story is the story of what is possible when people take ownership of their future.
The United States of America has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.
Now we are calling for a great reawakening of nations, for the revival of their spirits, their pride, their people, and their patriotism. History is asking us whether we are up to the task. Our answer will be a renewal of will, a rediscovery of resolve, and a rebirth of devotion.
We need to defeat the enemies of humanity and unlock the potential of life itself. Our hope is a word and world of proud, independent nations that embrace their duties, seek friendship, respect others, and make common cause in the greatest shared interest of all, a future of dignity and peace for the people of this wonderful earth.
This is the true vision of the United Nations. The ancient wish of every people and the deepest yearning that lives inside every sacred soul.
So let this be our mission and let this be our message to the world. We will fight together, sacrifice together, and stand together for peace, for freedom, for justice, for family, for humanity, and for the Almighty God who made us all.
[10:45:15] Thank you. God bless you. God bless the nations of the world and God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.
ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: On behalf of the General Assembly I wish to thank the president of the United States of America for the statement just made. May I request representatives to remain seated while we greet the
president, after which the meeting will stand suspended for five minutes before resuming to hear the next speaker.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres thanking the president of the United States.
The big headline, though, from President Trump was a very, very powerful statement as far as North Korea is concerned and other what he called rogue regimes, but specifically North Korea. He said if the North Korean nuclear program continues and threatens the United States, he says we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.
He then called the North Korean leader "Rocket Man." He said "Rocket Man" is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able.
An incredibly strong statement from the president warning the North Korean regime. He also warned other what he called rogue regimes including Iran. He spoke of radical Islamic terrorism, went after Venezuela.
But, Gloria Borger, let's talk about North Korea for a moment. This was -- the president has often said tough things about North Korea, but in front of this world body, to say the North Korean regime is on a suicide mission, Kim Jong-un, Rocket Man, and the U.S. is ready to totally destroy North Korea if necessary to protect U.S. security.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think you'd have to say at the very least this is an unambiguous speech the president delivered before a body that very often is not -- speaks in softer tones.
You know, this was Donald Trump saying we have no choice but to totally destroy you if you're on this suicide mission. He also did the same with Iran. He said we cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities. He said -- and he said we will stop radical Islamic terrorism, said as much about Venezuela.
He went to this body to effectively say you've got to share here, you've got to share the burden with us, told them, I don't think that it would be appreciated by a lot of people in the room, that some countries were, quote, "going to hell," and then proceeded to explain where he is coming from which clearly is what he called his principled realism, this notion that sovereignty comes before anything else.
BLITZER: There's the president and the first lady walking on.
TRUMP: I think the United Nations has great potential. If they get there it will be something that will be very, very special. But I think the United Nations has great, great potential. It needs that potential right now, just about more than at any time ever before. So we'll be back here during the week. We have many meetings scheduled. I think we're going to have great success. Thank you all very much. BLITZER: The president and first lady now leaving the United Nations.
We're told they're going to be heading back to Trump Tower across town in New York City. The president there with his national security adviser, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
Jim Sciutto, you listened so closely to what the president said. Some are already suggesting in his attack on what he called these rogue nations, this was in effect the new axis of evil speech by an American president.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It did, Wolf, echo that famous 2002 State of the Union address by George W. Bush at the time, axis of evil, calling out Iran, North Korea, and Iraq in that case, but very strong words, not as -- not just as you noted, Wolf, about the potential to totally destroy North Korea but he called the Iran nuclear deal an embarrassment to the U.S. and a cover for its nuclear program.
It's really difficult to see how this president stays in that nuclear agreement as he just described it there. And listen to some of his language when he was describing North Korea and Iran. Again that notion of evil.
"We must confront together those that threaten us. If the righteous many don't confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph."
[10:50:09] Again, laying down a very hard rhetorical line with very specific and strong threats. I mean, a bellicose threat against North Korea saying that we may have to, to defend ourselves and our allies, destroy North Korea, but also calling that Iran nuclear agreement which in effect was born here at a previous U.N. General Assembly, saying that from his point of view it would be an embarrassment for a U.S. led by him to stay in it.
A remarkable moment. The president drawing two very firm lines in the sand against both North Korea and Iran, and difficult to see how he doesn't follow through on those in light of how strong his rhetoric was and strong his threats were to both those countries -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. He said this was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into, an embarrassment to the United States, and then he said pointedly, Jim, he said, I don't think you've heard the last of it, believe me.
BLITZER: Which is an indication that maybe he's suggesting the U.S. would get itself out of that Iran deal. As you know by October 15th the U.S. has to certify before the U.S. Congress that Iran remains in compliance with the agreement, something the Trump administration so far has done twice.
SCIUTTO: That's right. And Wolf, yesterday I spoke with a senior United Nations official and this official told me that it is the concern of the senior leadership, the secretary-general, that the Iran deal is in peril, and that was before they heard President Trump utter the lines that he did today, so genuine concern there and that has -- that would have enormous effect going forward because there also -- you could say it would have an effect on any potential to negotiate with North Korea if that's what you want to do.
If you want to bring North Korea to the bargaining table how do you do that if you withdraw from the previous international attempt at a nuclear freeze with a developing nuclear power?
BLITZER: Let me bring Jeff Zeleny into this conversation as well.
You cover the president. You're one of our senior White House correspondents. You're there at the U.N. What's your assessment of what we just heard from the president?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think this completes really the missing point in triangle of the Trump doctrine. We've seen now him deliver three major foreign policy addresses during his short time in office, one in Saudi Arabia this summer, one in Warsaw, Poland, and now this, and now we are seeing his America first policies and priorities in really quite stark view. Also, though, with Trump unique brand of Trumpism that he campaigned on.
Wolf, I cannot imagine another American president standing on that rostrum there, talking about Rocket Man, but I am told by a White House official that he insisted that language stay in the speech, of course referring to Kim Jong-un.
He also talked in such stark terms about really the status of the world when he said that parts of the world are, quite frankly, going to hell. So this was a Trump branded, but infused by many thinkers in the White House still of this nationalistic view.
Steve Bannon is no longer with this president directly, but in spirit, Wolf, in this speech, there are still echoes of Steve Bannon, of course, his chief strategist, in this.
But, Wolf, the big takeaway here I think is just the somberness and seriousness of this, but did not give a sense of what his strategy would be toward North Korea. We still do not know what his red line is. He did not repeat "fire and fury unlike the world has ever seen" as he did in August, but he did say of course he would totally destroy North Korea.
But we know, Wolf, that comes with deep consequences. We know that his advisors, his military advisors do not prefer that option.
So, Wolf, at the end of this we are still left with a sense of wonder and an open question, what he will do in North Korea? And of course the leader of China and Russia, the leaders of China and Russia, not in this room. He did not have harsh language for them, nearly as much as he had. They still hope diplomacy in urging China to this negotiating table and helping with North Korea is one of the best solutions, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Good point. You know, and John Kirby, you're with us, our retired rear admiral, CNN military diplomatic analyst, former State Department and Pentagon spokesman, I couldn't help but think that his sharp attack on North Korea, warning to totally destroy North Korea if necessary, calling Kim Jong-un Rocket Man, saying he's on a suicide mission for himself.
Yes, he was addressing the North Korean regime in Pyongyang and yes, the North Korean delegation to the U.N. was right in that front row by chance, sitting in that front row, but my own sense was he was also addressing China and Russia.
[10:55:04] And warning them, you can do a lot more to scale this crisis down if you just use your own influence with Pyongyang and that in part explains these tough words from the president.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I agree, Wolf. I mean, clearly he was talking about China and Russia when he talked about those who are trading with -- and enabling the DPRK. There's no question about that.
Yes, very tough language on North Korea. It's almost as if he was advised that upping the rhetoric will intimidate or can have some kind of intimidation effect on Kim Jong-un. I think that's a very risky proposition. I don't see any evidence that that's the case.
Look, this wasn't a speech. This was a sermon. And he wasn't a president, he was a preacher up there giving his dark world view about threats and conflict. This was a speech about conflict around the world, not a speech about cooperation. And that's a real shame because of all the places you can give a speech about collective security and mutual cooperation and respect, it's at the U.N. and I think he missed a huge opportunity.
BLITZER: Well, let me play the clip. All right. This is the clip of the president of the United States with that warning to North Korea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. "Rocket Man" is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Nia, you're with us as well. I think it's fair to say I don't think another president would have called the North Korean leader "Rocket Man."
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And we saw him do that this past weekend in a tweet. Some people thought it was funny and certainly didn't think that he would bring that same language to this body, to this speech today. But it's certainly something that he did. I think it was also interesting to see him at the top of the speech,
right, talk about the stock market, talk about in sort of crediting himself, right, with the state of affairs in America in terms of the unemployment rate and the poverty rate. So that was I think a touch as well that is quite Trumpian.
I do think that there is a bit of contradiction in his presentation today, talking about sovereignty, talking about a renewal of spirit for all of these nations, talking about nations needing to be patriotic.
I imagine if you talk to folks in Venezuela, you talk to folks in North Korea, they imagine that they are being patriotic, right? I mean -- and I think the North Korean leader also thinks that he is trying to protect his own sovereignty by developing nuclear weapons. So there is something I thought throughout that whole speech -- you called it a sermon. I think it -- you know, he obviously has to work on his delivery a little bit. It's a little stilted.
But I do think there is that contradiction that that was really throughout the speech and throughout this whole idea of America first, but also the U.N. has to help a nation should come together.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I actually was texting with the senior administration official about that very notion, about the fact that the whole speech was about countries being sovereign, having, as you said, a patriotic spirit, and a revival of that pride, and how does that sort of jive with the notion of North Korea not being allowed to have, you know, any kind of nuclear program.
And the response was that they believe that the speech explained that in that they said that that ability for countries to, you know, sort of thrive in their -- sovereign nations ends when they start to threaten other countries and that the notion of North Korea, obviously, building a nuclear program, more than that, sending missiles over towards Japan, threatening Guam and so forth, that that limits that.
Having said that, if I may just kind of taking a step back, we're understandably focused on North Korea because that was the harshest language and it's a grave threat at this point. But this is a speech that we've not heard from Donald Trump at all during the whole campaign and even during his presidency, this kind of speech.
It was probably the most clear about his world view and not just America first, but about what he expects. And it's a lot like who he is and was as a president and as a person. It's transactional. It's not about human rights, it's not about, you know, kind of American values, Republicans that we covered about American exceptionalism and even Democrats, it's not about that.
It's you do your thing, you be -- you do it as well as you can, don't bother other people until you get to the point where you are a threat then we're going to talk.
BORGER: Well, and he also said in the speech, we are guided by outcomes, not ideology.
BORGER: And that is Donald Trump. Because he is guided by outcomes, winning, not ideology.
KIRBY: It all seemed like a lecture to himself, at least the first two-thirds of it.
KIRBY: It's almost like he's lecturing himself, almost trying to teach himself at an eighth grade level about, you know, basic sovereign --