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Giuliani Confirms He Asked Ukraine to Investigate Biden, Biden's Son; Trump Speaks to Reporters, Hosts Australian P.M. As Whistleblower Scandal Mounts. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 20, 2019 - 11:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:00:30]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Any minute now, we will hear President Trump's first on-camera comments about the whistleblower complaint that points the finger at him. He spoke to reporters while in the Oval Office just moments ago. We're actually just waiting for that tape to play back.

Among the questions that he faced, did he ask the Ukrainian president in a phone call to investigate Joe Biden. He is responding to that.

And this is all before his actual press conference scheduled for later this hour with the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, where he will likely face even more questions about the whistleblower complaint concerning the president's communication with a foreign leader that reportedly involves a promise and Ukraine.

Again, did he ask Ukraine to investigate a political opponent, Joe Biden? Did he threaten to withhold military aid because of it? Did he do none of the above?

The "Washington Post" first broke this story. And the whistleblower complaint was made by an intelligence official and it is now caught in limbo. The Intelligence Community's inspector general has called the complaint urgent and credible. The acting director of National Intelligence, though, is refusing to hand it over to Congress, because he says it was out of his jurisdiction.

Related or unrelated, we now have confirmation directly from President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that he, at least, did ask Ukraine, apparently, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, but pulling a classic Giuliani, we can call it, he first denied it and then admitted it in the same interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?

RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: No. Actually, I didn't. I asked the Ukraine to investigate the allegations that there was interference in the election of 2016 by the Ukrainians for the benefit of Hillary Clinton, for which there already is a --

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: You never asked anything about Hunter Biden? You never asked anything about Joe Biden and his role in the --

GIULIANI: The only thing I asked about Joe Biden is to get to the bottom of how it was Usenko (ph), who was appointed, dismissed the case against --

CUOMO: So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?

GIULIANI: Of course, I did!

CUOMO: You just said you didn't!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: A classic Giuliani.

Add to that CNN confirms the White House and the Justice Department were directly involved in keeping the whistleblower complaint from Congress.

There's a lot going on here. And there's a lot more to come this hour.

So first, let's get over to CNN's Kaitlan Collins. She's at the White House.

Kaitlan, the president is speaking to reporters in the Oval Office. We're going to get that tape. But you have some of the reporting of what's going on there.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the president is addressing this complaint in the Oval Office. He says he believes that this whistleblower is partisan, though moments later, he admitted he does not know what the identity of the whistleblower is.

We should factor in, when the president and his attorney general. Rudy Giuliani last night on CNN --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I'm interrupting you for only one reason. We're actually going to go to the tape now. President Trump in the Oval Office.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was in honor of you and Australia, OK. Thank you very much.

So we have a lot of things to talk about. We're talking trade, we're talking military. We've been great allies for a long time. There's no better partnership. And we've developed on a personal basis a tremendous friendship and that helps, that helps a lot.

But we'll be meeting after this and having some very serious discussions about many things.

I do want to, if I may, intercede for just a second. We have just sanctioned the Iranian national bank. That is their central banking system, and it's going to be at the highest level of sanctions. So that just took place, and a couple of other things. We have our secretary of Treasury here, Steve Mnuchin.

If you want to say just a word, Steve, before we begin?

MNUCHIN: Mr. President, as you instructed me, we are continuing the maximum pressure campaign. This is the last remaining source of funds, so both the Central Bank of Iran as well as the National Development Fund, which is their sovereign wealth fund, will be cut off from our banking system.

So this will mean no more funds going to the IRGC or to fund terror. And this is on top of our oil sanctions and our financial institutions' sanctions.

Thank you, Mr. President.

QUESTION: How big (ph) are the sanctions, Mr. Secretary, Mr. President?

MNUCHIN: This is very big. We've now cut off all source of funds to Iran.

QUESTION: It goes all the way up to the very top?

MNUCHIN: That does.

QUESTION: The (ph) president?

TRUMP: Right to the top.

QUESTION: Supreme Leader?

TRUMP: Right to the top. OK, yes, right to the top.

Thank you very much, Steve.

MNUCHIN: Thank you, Mr. (ph) President.

TRUMP: Appreciate it.

So we're dealing with many nations, we're dealing with some of the neighbors to Saudi Arabia, and of course we're dealing with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is very much involved from the standpoint of what we're doing and what they're doing. And we're working together with others.

We're also working on the cost of this whole endeavor. And Saudi Arabia's been very generous. We want to see if it works out. And if it works out, that's great, and if it doesn't work out, that's great. In the end, it always works out. That's the way it is, it always works out.

So you'll be seeing certain things happening but a very major factor is what we did. These are the highest sanctions ever imposed on a country. We've never done it to this level.

And it's too bad what's happening with Iran. It's going to hell, doing poorly. They're practically broke. They are broke. And they could -- they could solve the problem very easily. All they have to do is stop with the terror.

They have been the number one -- as you know, Scott, very well -- number one country worldwide of terror, between sponsoring it and doing it themselves. And we can't have it.

They have a tremendous potential, they have an incredible potential. I can -- think I can speak on behalf of Australia, too, in the sense they would like to see them do very well. We were discussing it before, the prime minister and myself, we want to see them to do well, but it looks to me like with what's happening, maybe they want to keep going at it. And when they go at it with us, there's no way they win -- no way they win in any way or in any capacity.

So we wanted to let you know about that and that's the way it is.

And thank you all very much. We're going to spend a lot of time with Australia today.

Today is our -- our -- a very special day for the United States because we're honoring a great ally and a great friend.

Thank you. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Scott, would you like to say something?

MORRISON: It's a tremendous honor for Australians, for -- for Jenny and I to be here with the president and Mrs. Trump. It's a very gracious invitation, but it -- it's -- it's an invitation that recognizes not just, you know, the great relationship the president and I have been able to forge so early but this goes back a long way, this relationship.

As the president often says, we've been in a lot of battles. And those battles -- of course, there's happened in the fields of conflict but we're battling continuously for a prosperous and -- and a free world.

TRUMP: And we've never lost.

MORRISON: Well, we've been doing great and we're going to keep doing great because we're going to keep this -- this partnership together. And it's a partnership where we both carry our own weight. As I said outside, we -- we look to America but we -- we don't leave it to America. QUESTION: Prime Minister, the president said he spoke for Australia on Iran. Does he...

MORRISON: Well, he was saying that we both would like to see a prosperous Iran. We'd like to see the people of Iran -- we'd like to see the people right across the world to be able to benefit from prosperous economies doing well. That's what we want.

This is why Australia and the United States have always worked so closely together, is because that's what we want for our own people, that's what we want for everyone.

QUESTION: Last week, (inaudible)...

TRUMP: And -- and we've been speaking a lot about this subject, the two of us. We -- I think we have very similar views on the subject.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you want to address this whistleblower story, sir? Do you want to address this whistleblower story?

TRUMP: What story?

QUESTION: The whistleblower, when it was...

TRUMP: A ridiculous story. It's a partisan whistleblower that shouldn't even have information.

I've had conversations with many leaders; they're always appropriate. I think Scott can tell you that -- always appropriate, at the highest level always appropriate. And anything I do, I fight for this country. I fight so strongly for this country.

It's just another political hack job. That's all it is.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: On that point, did you discuss Joe Biden, his son or his family with the leader...

TRUMP: It doesn't matter what I discussed.

But I will say this, somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, 'cause it was disgraceful, where he talked about billions of dollars that he's not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor's taken off the case.

So somebody ought to look into that. And you wouldn't because he's a Democrat and the fake news doesn't look into things like that. It's a disgrace.

But I had a -- I had a great conversation with numerous people. I don't even know exactly who you're talking about. But I had a great conversation with numerous people, numerous leaders. And I always look for the conversation that's going to help the United States the most. That's very important.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... know the identity...

TRUMP: I don't know the identity of the whistleblower. I just hear it's a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party. But I don't have any idea.

But I can say that it was a totally appropriate conversation, it was actually a beautiful conversation.

And this is no different than -- you know, the press has had a very bad week with Justice Kavanaugh and all of those ridiculous charges and all of the mistakes made at the New York Times and other places. You've had a very bad week, and this will be better than all of them. This is another one. So keep -- so keep...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: So keep playing it up, because you're going to look really bad when it falls. You know, I guess I'm about...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I guess I'm about 22 and 0 and I'll keep it that way.

QUESTION: Did you mention Joe Biden during the conversation?

TRUMP: I don't want to talk about any conversation...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: ... other than to say, great conversation, totally appropriate conversation, couldn't have been better. And keep asking questions and build it up as big as possible so you can have a bigger downfall.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... will you be asking Australia to do more when it comes to China?

TRUMP: Say it -- what?

QUESTION: Will you be asking Australia to do more when it comes to China?

TRUMP: Well, we're talking about China all the time. And Scott has very strong opinions on China. And I think I'd let him, maybe, express those opinions.

Maybe you'd do it right now? You're not going to get a better audience than this. MORRISON: We -- we have a comprehensive, strategic partnership with China. We work well with China. But as we've spoken many times, we need to ensure that, as countries develop and realize their potential, well, they come onto a whole new level. And that means there can't be special rules around that.

And we have a great relationship with China. China's growth has been great for Australia. But we need to make sure that we all compete on the same playing field.

And -- and this something that United States and Australia have been very consistent on, that we need to move into this -- this new world where economies are changing. China is a big economy -- not as big as the United States, but it's a big economy. And that means we've all got to get on the same page with how the rules work. And that's what we're working to achieve.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I will say this. We're making a lot of progress with China. They're having a very bad year, worst year in 57 years. The tariffs are coming in to us. We're taking in billions and billions of dollars of tariffs. They're devaluing their currency, which means the tariffs are not costing us probably anything, but certainly not very much. They're also adding a lot of money into their economy. They're pouring money into their economy.

But we're taking in many billions of dollars. At some point in the not-too-distant future, it'll be over $100 billion. We've never taken in 100 cents from China. It was always the other way around.

With that, they've lost over 3 million jobs there. Supply chain is crashing. And they have a lot of problems.

And I can tell you they want to make a deal. That I can tell you. They want to make a deal.

So we'll see what happens. We'll see.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Are you prepared for military action against Iran, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Always prepared. There's never been a country more prepared. There has never been a country more prepared.

Look, I spent...

QUESTION: (inaudible)

TRUMP: I spent $1.5 trillion, and we're spending another $738 billion now. But I've spent $1.5 trillion rebuilding our military. We have the finest ships, the finest planes, the finest everything.

And, actually, Scott, and Australia, they've purchased a lot of great stuff from the United States, some of the best military equipment that you have.

We have the greatest missiles in the world, rockets in the world, jet fighters in the world, planes in the world, ships.

And we have under construction a number of the most powerful submarines ever built. And they're getting very close to completion.

We have the largest ship in the world right now, the President Gerald Ford, the aircraft carrier. It's the largest ship ever built. And just flew over it yesterday, actually. It's massive and beautiful.

We have the greatest -- and I have to say this. When I got here, Scott, it was a different world. It was a different world. We were very depleted. And I actually saw one of the related networks today saying how strongly and good and how well we've done with ISIS. I defeated the Caliphate. When I came, the Caliphate was all over the place. I defeated the Caliphate, ISIS.

And now we have thousands of prisoners of war, ISIS fighters that are prisoners of war. And we're asking the countries from which they came, Scott, from Europe. We're asking them to take back these prisoners of war. And they can try them, do what they want.

So far they've refused. And at some point I'm going to have to say, "I'm sorry, but you either take them back or we're going to let them go at your border."

But they came out from Germany. They came out from France. We captured them. We did everyone a big favor. We've taken over the Caliphate 100 percent. If you remember -- I was thinking about getting out when it was at 96 percent, 97 percent, but they were all over the place. And we did it. We did it in record time. It was a total Caliphate victory (sic).

And now I want the countries to take back the captured ISIS fighters. And if they don't take them back, we're going to probably put them at the border and then they'll have to capture them again.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

TRUMP: Because the United States is not going to have thousands and thousands of people that we've captured stationed at Guantanamo Bay, held captive at Guantanamo Bay for the next 50 years, and us spending billions and billions of dollars.

TRUMP: We've done Europe a tremendous favor. They mostly come out of Europe. And we've done them a tremendous favor. And the United States is not going to pay the cost of thousands and thousands of ISIS fighter prisoners in Guantanamo Bay or someplace else. We won't do it. So they have to make their decision otherwise we're releasing them at the border.

Go ahead, next.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... your national security team on Iran today, and what do you expect to hear from them?

TRUMP: Yes, I have a great new person. You know Robert O'Brien. A lot of people wanted Robert very badly. He was -- look, I had 10, 12 people I thought were fantastic for the job. I think Robert...

MORRISON: He's a good friend of Australia too.

TRUMP: He is a great friend of Australia. Scott was telling me, he was very happy with the choice. Robert is going to be outstanding. He just picked a deputy who was in the administration. You all know him. You know who the deputy is. I guess they have to announce that separately.

But he is fantastic. And essentially he is already on the job. But, you know, he did a tremendous job as hostage negotiator. We are -- we have a tremendous record. Nobody comes close to our record with hostages.

QUESTION: Are you going to be discussing options for Iran today with your team?

TRUMP: Sure. But also with secretary of defense, secretary of state. We're discussing with everybody. And, you know, the early move today was the Central Bank of Iran. OK?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... military conflict?

And would you support that, Mr. Prime Minister, a military strike?

TRUMP: It's always possible.

QUESTION: Would you expect Australia to join any military action?

TRUMP: We haven't discussed that. We'll be discussing it later. But we haven't discussed that yet.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... consider 50 percent tariff or even 100 percent tariff on China, as some have predicted?

TRUMP: I'm not going to get into that. Right now China is paying 30 percent on $250 billion. That starts in another couple of weeks. As you know, President Xi called through his top people and they have a 70th anniversary. A very important day for them. And it happens to be October 1st, which is the exact date of the increase in the tariff.

And they asked us out of respect, would I delay the tariff a little bit. I said, how about if I move it forward? Let me move it forward a little bit, because they didn't want it to fall on the same day. It's exactly October 1st. So I said, let me move it up a couple of weeks. They said, no, no, no, could you -- so out of respect for President Xi, who I do have great respect for, I moved it back two weeks.

But right now it's 25 percent. It goes up to 30 percent on October 15th.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... have you read the...

TRUMP: No, I haven't. It's -- I just tell you, it is -- everybody has read it. They laugh at it. And it's a...

QUESTION: You haven't read it?

TRUMP: It's another media disaster. The media has lost so much credibility in this country. Our media has become the laughingstock of the world. When you look at what they did to Justice Kavanaugh and so many other things last week. I think this is one of the worst weeks in the history of the fake news media. You have been wrong on so many things and this one will be -- I wouldn't say it will top the list because I think you can't do worse than some of the stories you missed over the last week or two, but the media of our country is laughed at all over the world now. You are a joke.

OK, what else?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... when you talk about the conversation that you...

TRUMP: Which conversation?

QUESTION: Well, we're trying to figure out what conversation...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, figure it out. You are supposed to be the media, figure it out. It was...

QUESTION: ... July 25th, it was some...

TRUMP: Which conversation?

QUESTION: July 25th with the president of...

TRUMP: I really don't know. I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

MORRISON: ... know about space (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... Mr. Trump, can you talk about the Australian (inaudible) program to the moon (ph), sir, what was that...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: So we're doing a great program. We have Vice President Pence is very much involved. And we have a tremendous space program. If you look at our facilities, they were virtually closed up. There was crabgrass growing on the runways. And now they're vital and, you know, we're doing -- we're going to Mars. We're stopping at the moon. The moon is actually a launching pad. That's why we're stopping at the moon.

I said, hey, we've already done the moon. That's not so exciting. They said, no, sir, it's a launching pad for Mars. So we'll be doing the moon but we'll really be doing Mars and we'll be -- we're making tremendous progress.

In addition, rich people like to send up rocket ships. So between Bezos and Elon Musk and others, we're leasing them our launch facilities, which you can't get. There are no launch facilities like this. This is big stuff.

So we're leasing -- in Texas and Florida, we're leasing them our facilities so they can send up whatever they want to send up. We're -- it's OK with us. And they've actually done very well. They've said they've had great success. But rich people in this country, I don't know about your country, but they like building rocket ships and sending them up and it's OK with us.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Say it?

QUESTION: Will an Australian (inaudible) on board?

TRUMP: Well, I'll let it -- I think Scott and I...

MORRISON: (inaudible) right (ph).

TRUMP: ... would rather take a pass.

So, I don't know, would you like to be on there?

I think -- I think, I'm not sure, but I know him pretty well. I think he and I will take a pass...

MORRISON: Yeah.

TRUMP: ... but there are a lot of people that want to go up. And I have great respect for the astronauts, that's it. That's an incredible...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... minerals from Australia. And how important is that industry?

TRUMP: Say it again?

QUESTION: Do you want to buy more critical minerals from Australia? And how important is that industry?

TRUMP: Yeah. Well, Australia's mineral industry is massive. It's far, far bigger than that (ph). I mean, very few -- very few countries have anything approaching what Australia has in terms of mineral wealth.

And you've really taken advantage of it, and you've done it in a very environmentally sensitive way.

MORRISON: That's true.

TRUMP: I know that's very important to you. It's very important to Scott. We talk about it a lot because that business can get out of control a little bit, from the standpoint of environment. And you have really approached it in an environmentally sensitive way.

Coal is, as an example, you're the leader of safety in coal-digging (ph). And we've actually studied it because we're doing a lot of coal, and you have very little. You almost have no -- you know, you used to have a thing, black lung disease. And in Australia, you almost don't have it anymore. You've got all of the dust down and, you know, they're very -- they become wet minds, basically.

MORRISON: It's a -- it's a very technologically advanced industry.

TRUMP: Incredible.

MORRISON: That's (ph) right (ph). All our resources industry are -- from the robotics that's involved in the production, and all the way through. But that critical mineral (ph) space, these are the things we're going to be talking about because Australia has a wonderful partnership with the United States, not just militarily and not just strategically, but also economically.

And that's going to be a big part of this conversation we have today.

TRUMP: And environmentally, I have to say...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: ... and environmentally, the things that they've done environmentally, with digging -- digging is a -- you know, when you talk minerals, it's about digging. And what you've been able to do with the environment, having to do with taking minerals out of the ground, including -- and, you know, I would say, even especially, because you're leading on coal (ph).

I will tell you, I sent a whole crew over because your record is so good, in terms of illnesses from digging, better than anybody in the world. So we're going to catch you on that, OK?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Prime minister, have you invited the president to Australia? And have you introduced him to the term "bubble" (ph) yet?

(LAUGHTER)

MORRISON: Oh. We'll talk about that over dinner tonight, I'm sure. He has another term for it, I hear, in Washington, I understand. But, no, we have talked about whether -- his schedule and Mrs. Trump, (inaudible) where they take in the Presidents Cup later in the year, which is going to be a great tournament, a tremendous tournament. The president knows a lot more about golf than I do, and he certainly swings a club way better than I do.

But he's got a busy year coming up. Next year, he's going to do great (ph) there and if he has the opportunity, if Mrs. Trump has the opportunity, it's going to be a great spectacle, down in Australia, to see.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Interestingly, the PGA tour invited me to go. And I would love to do it. We'll have to see what the schedule is, but I would love to do it. It's a very exciting tournament, nothing more exciting. And having it in Australia, where you have so many great golfers -- Greg Norman...

MORRISON: Yeah.

TRUMP: ... is a friend of mine, and a great friend of yours, I know. And I think he's going to be here tonight?

MORRISON: Yeah, he is. Yeah.

TRUMP: The first lady has done an incredible job tonight...

MORRISON: (inaudible) looking (ph) forward (ph).

TRUMP: ... we're going to have it -- for either the first time or certainly one of the few times, in the Rose Garden. And it's going to be -- I watched, yesterday, the rehearsal and she was out there, and it's going to be incredible. Tonight's going to be a beautiful night.

And the only thing that can dampen it would be rain, and we're not expecting any rain. But if it rains, we head over to the State Room and we'll be just fine. But we're really expect -- I hope you're going to be able to see it, tonight, for a little while. Probably you will. Well, we'll sort of make sure that you do. It's beautiful.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President, how critical is it that you build coalition to address Iran? Iran (inaudible) provocations. And does that start today with the...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, I always like a coalition. Sometimes you find that people have made a lot of money -- that you'd want in the coalition, they've made a lot of money with Iran which is, you know -- when President Obama made that deal, not only was it a bad deal but the United States didn't partake in a business sense.

And other countries -- Germany, France, Russia, many other countries -- made a lot of money with Iran. And we didn't make money with Iran, which -- that was just one of the many bad parts about the deal. Everyone else is making money, and we're not.

So we'll see what -- we'll see what happens. Look, the United States is in a class by itself. We have the most powerful military in the world, by far. There's nobody close.

As you know, we've spent tremendous and hopefully -- and we pray to God, we never have to use it -- but we've totally renovated and bought new nuclear. And the rest of our military is all brand-new. The nuclear, now, is at a level that it's never been before.

TRUMP: And I can only tell you because I know -- I know the problems of nuclear, I know the damages that -- I know what happens. And I want to tell you, we all hope -- and Scott hopes -- we all pray that we never have to use nuclear. But there's nobody that has anywhere close to what we have.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well UNGA's going to be very exciting, we look forward to it, we'll be there. You'll be there?

MORRISON: Yeah, I'll be there (inaudible).

TRUMP: And for you, it's a much longer trip.

MORRISON: It is a bit, yeah.

TRUMP: But we -- we look forward to it. We have a big message for UNGA -- we have a big message and I very much -- I haven't been back to New York in a long time. I see that our part time mayor will be now going back to New York so they'll be able to work a little bit harder.

But he dropped out of the presidential race a little while ago. Too bad, he had tremendous potential.

(LAUGHTER)

He only had one real asset. You know what it was? Height.

(LAUGHTER)

Other than -- other than that, he had nothing going. OK, what else?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) President Trump, (inaudible) you will be discussing military action in Iran and (inaudible)?

MORRISON: Well I think the United States has taken a very measured and -- and calibrated approach to date and the -- the thing about our partnership is we -- we always listened to whatever requests are made and Australia always considers them in -- in our national interests and we have good conversations about these things.

But the thing is the both of us, we never get ahead of ourselves on these things. We just -- you know, you take this one step at a time and we keep talking to each other, that's what we've always done wherever we've worked together and we're going to keep doing that. We've got such a -- an open line of communication. I appreciate the fact the President and I talk about these things even when -- when we're not together and we're going to keep doing that and we'll just take these things one step at a time.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: You know, the easiest thing for me to do -- and maybe it's even a natural instinct, maybe I have to hold myself back -- I remember during the debates and when I was running against Hillary and the Democrats and the media -- I view them all the same, I view that partnership very much the same -- but when I was running, everybody said oh, he's going to get into war, he's going to get into war, he's going to blow everybody up, he's going to get into war.

Well the easiest thing I could do -- in fact, I could do it while you're here, would say go ahead, fellas, go do it. And that would be a very bad day for Iran. That's the easiest thing I could do, it's so easy, and for all of those that say oh, they should do it, it shows weakness, it just -- actually, in my opinion, it shows strength because the easiest thing I could do -- OK, go ahead, knock out 15 different major things in Iran.

I could do that and -- all set to go -- it's all set to go. But I'm not looking to do that if I can. I think I -- I've changed a lot of minds. People are very surprised at -- and many people are extremely happy, many people are thrilled and many people are saying oh, I wish you'd hit the hell out of them.

Well let's see what happens but it -- it will take place in one minute. I could do it right here in front of you and that would be it and then you'd have a nice, big story to report. And I think it shows far more strength to do it the way we're doing it.

And again, whether it's next week or two weeks or three weeks, doesn't make any difference. Whether it's now or in three weeks, doesn't make any difference. But I think the strong person's approach and the -- the thing that does show strength would be showing a little bit of restraint.

Much easier to do it the -- the other way. It's much easier and Iran knows if they misbehave, they're on borrowed time. They're not doing well. I'd like to see them do great -- I'd love to see them do great but they're not doing well, they're doing very poorly.

They're doing far worse than they've ever done before. They're having riots in their streets, they're having a lot of problems in Iran right now. They could solve it very quickly. But the easiest thing for me to do is say OK, let's go, let's just do it. Very easy for me to do.

But it -- it is interesting because when I was campaigning, everybody here thought that I was going to be like -- it would be one day. But what I have done is I've defeated ISIS, I've rebuilt our military to a level that it's never been before, spent a lot of money.

The budgets are not so hard to fix for me but when you're spending $1.5 trillion so far, now another $738 million -- billion on the military -- but think of it, $1.5 trillion and we have the greatest in the world. But I think restraint is a good thing -- I think it's a good thing.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Peace in Afghanistan -- peace in Afghanistan, another process ...

TRUMP: Yeah, well we were thinking about having a meeting. I didn't like the idea that they couldn't produce a ceasefire. I wasn't in favor of that. I said no, if they can't produce a ceasefire, why are we bothering? And they thought that it was a sign of strength that killed 12 people, wound others -- badly wound some others and one of those 12 people was a young man, young soldier from Puerto Rico, from our country.

And when I heard that, I said I don't want to deal with them anymore.

[11:30:00]