Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Live Coverage of Donald Trump's Speech at the United Nations General Assembly; Trump's United Nations Speech Directed at Domestic Audience; Questions at United Nations Before Trump Speech Focused on Ukraine. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 24, 2019 - 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: -- many of America's closest friends today were once our greatest foes. The United States has never believed in permanent enemies. We want partners, not adversaries. America knows that while anyone can make war, only the most courageous can choose peace.

For this same reason, we have pursued bold diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula. I have told Kim Jong Un what I truly believe. That, like, Iran, his country is full of tremendous untapped potential. But that to realize that promise, North Korea must denuclearize.

Around the world, our message is clear. America's goal is lasting, America's goal in harmony, and America's goal is not to go with these endless wars, wars that never end.

With that goal in mind, my administration is also pursuing the hope of a brighter future in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Taliban has chosen to continue their savage attacks. We will continue to work with our coalition of Afghan partners to stamp out terrorism, and we will never stop working to make peace a reality.

Here in the Western Hemisphere, we are joining with our partners to ensure stability and opportunity all across the region. In that mission, one of our most critical challenges is illegal immigration, which undermines prosperity, rips apart societies and empowers ruthless criminal cartels.

Mass illegal migration is unfair, unsafe and unsustainable for everyone involved. The sending countries and the depleted -- countries, and they become depleted very fast. But their youth is not taken care of, and human capital goes to waste.

The receiving countries are overburdened with more migrants than they can responsibly accept, and the migrants themselves are exploited, assaulted and abused by vicious coyotes. Nearly one-third of women who make the journey north to our border are sexually assaulted along the way.

Yet, here in the United States and around the world, there is a growing cottage industry of radical activists and nongovernmental organizations that promote human smuggling. These groups encourage illegal migration and demand erasure of national borders. Today, I have a message for those open border activists who cloak

themselves in the rhetoric of social justice. Your policies are not just. Your policies are cruel and evil. You are empowering criminal organizations that prey on innocent men, women and children. You put your own false sense of virtue before the lives, well-being and countless innocent people. When you undermine border security, you are undermining human rights and human dignity.

Many of the countries here today are coping with the challenges of uncontrolled migration. Each of you has the absolute right to protect your borders. And so, of course, does our country.

Today, we must resolve to work together to end human smuggling, end human trafficking and put these criminal networks out of business for good. To our country, I can tell you sincerely, we are working closely with our friends in the region, including Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama, to uphold the integrity of borders and ensure safety and prosperity for our people.

I would like to thank President Lopez Obrador of Mexico for the great cooperation we are receiving. And for, right now, putting 27,000 troops on our southern border. Mexico is showing us great respect, and I respect them in return.

[10:35:12]

The U.S., we have taken very unprecedented action to stop the flow of illegal immigration.

To anyone conducting crossings of our border illegally, please hear these words: Do not pay the smugglers, do not pay the coyotes, do not put yourself in danger, do not put your children in danger. Because if you make it here, you will not be allowed in. You will be promptly returned home. You will not be released into our country. As long as I am president of the United States, we will enforce our laws and protect our borders.

For all of the countries of the Western Hemisphere, our goal is to help people invest in the bright futures of their own nations. Our region is full of such incredible promise, dreams waiting to be built and national destinies for all. And they are waiting, also, to be pursued. Throughout the hemisphere, there are millions of hardworking patriotic young people, eager to build, innovate and achieve.

But these nations cannot reach their potential if a generation of youth abandon their homes in search of a life elsewhere. We want every nation in our region to flourish, and its people to thrive in freedom and peace. In that mission, we are also committed to supporting those people in the Western Hemisphere who live under brutal oppression, such as those in Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

According a to a recent report from the U.N. Human Rights Council, women in Venezuela stand in line for 10 hours a day, waiting for food. Over 15,000 people have been detained as political prisoners. Modern- day death squads are carrying out thousands of extrajudicial killings. The dictator Maduro is a Cuban puppet, protected by Cuban bodyguards, hiding from his own people while Cuba plunders Venezuela's oil wealth to sustain its own corrupt communist rule.

Since I last spoke in this hall, the United States and our partners have built a historic coalition of 55 countries that recognize the legitimate government of Venezuela. To the Venezuelans trapped in this nightmare, please know that all of America is united behind you. The United States has vast quantities of humanitarian aid, ready and waiting to be delivered. We're watching the Venezuela situation very closely. We await the day when democracy will be restored, when Venezuela will be free and when liberty will prevail throughout this hemisphere.

One of the most serious challenges our countries face is the specter of socialism. It's the wrecker of nations and destroyer of societies. The events in Venezuela remind us all that socialism and communism are not about justice, they are not about equality, they are not about lifting up the poor and they are certainly not about the good of the nation. Socialism and communism are about one thing only, power for the ruling class.

Today, I repeat a message for the world that I have delivered at home: America will never be a socialist country. In the last century, socialism and communism killed 100 million people. Sadly, as we see in Venezuela, the death toll continues in this country. These totalitarian ideologies, combined with modern technology, have the power to excise new and disturbing forms of suppression and domination.

[10:40:05]

For this reason, the United States is taking steps to better screen foreign technology and investments, and to protect our data and our security. We urge every nation present to do the same. Freedom and democracy must be constantly guarded and protected, both abroad and from within.

We must always be skeptical of those who want conformity and control. Even in free nations, we see alarming signs and new challenges to liberty. A small number of social media platforms are acquiring immense power over what we can see, and over what we are allowed to say.

A permanent political class is openly disdainful, dismissive and defiant of the will of the people. A faceless bureaucracy operates in secret, and weakens Democratic rule. Media and academic institutions push flat-out assaults on our histories, traditions and values.

In the United States, my administration has made clear to social media companies that we will uphold the right of free speech. A free society cannot allow social media giants to silence the voices of the people, and a free people must never, ever be enlisted in the cause of silencing, coercing, canceling or blacklisting their own neighbors.

As we defend American values, we affirm the right of all people to live in dignity. For this reason, my administration is working with other nations to stop criminalizing of homosexuality, and we stand in solidarity with LGBTQ people, who live in countries that punish, jail or execute individuals based upon sexual orientation.

We are also championing the role of women in our societies. Nations that empower women are much wealthier, safer and much more politically stable. It is therefore vital, not only to a nation's prosperity, but also is vital to its national security, to pursue women's economic development.

Guided by these principles, my administration launched the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiatives. The W-GDP is the first ever government-wide approach to women's economic empowerment, working to ensure that women all over the planet have the legal right to own and inherit property, work in the same industries as men, travel freely and access credit and institutions.

Yesterday, I was also pleased to host leaders for a discussion about an iron-clad American commitment protecting religious leaders. And also, protecting religious freedom. This fundamental right is under growing threat around the world. Hard to believe, but 80 percent of the world's population lives in countries where religious liberty is in significant danger, or even completely outlawed.

Americans will never fire or tire in our effort to defend and promote freedom of worship and religion. We want and support religious liberty for all.

Americans will also never tire of defending innocent life. We are aware that many United Nations projects have attempted to assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery. Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life. Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child, born and unborn, is a sacred gift from God.

[10:45:09]

There is no circumstance under which the United States will allow international actors to trample on the rights of our citizens including the right to self-defense. That is why this year, I announced that we will never ratify the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, which would threaten the liberties of law-abiding American citizens.

The United States will always uphold our constitutional right to keep and bear arms. We will always uphold our Second Amendment. The core rights and values America defends today were inscribed in America's founding documents. Our nation's founders understood that there will always be those who believe they are entitled to wield power and control over others.

Tyranny advances under many names and many theories, but it always comes down to the desire for domination. It protects not the interests of many, but the privilege of few. Our founders gave us a system designed to restrain this dangerous impulse. They chose to entrust American power to those most invested in the fate of our nation, a proud and fiercely independent people.

The true good of a nation can only be pursued by those who love it, by citizens who are rooted in its history, who are nourished by its culture, committed to its values, attached to its people and who know that its future is theirs to build or theirs to lose.

Patriots see a nation and its destiny in ways no one else can. Liberty is only preserved, sovereignty (ph) is only secure, democracy is only sustained, greatness is only realized by the will and devotion of patriots. In their spirit, is found the strength to resist oppression, the inspiration to forge legacy, the goodwill to seek friendship and the bravery to reach for peace. Love of our nations makes the world better for all nations.

So, to all the leaders here today, join us in the most fulfilling mission a person could have, the most profound contribution anyone can make. Lift up your nations, cherish your culture, honor your histories, treasure your citizens, make your countries strong and prosperous and righteous, honor the dignity of your people, and nothing will be outside of your reach.

When our nations are greater, the future will be brighter, our people will be happier and our partnerships will be stronger. With God's help, together, we will cast off the enemies of liberty, and overcome the oppressors of dignity. We will set new standards of living and reach new heights of human achievement. We will rediscover old truths, unravel old mysteries and make thrilling new breakthroughs. And we will find more beautiful friendship and more harmony among nations than ever before.

My fellow leaders, the path to peace and progress and freedom and justice and a better world for all humanity begins at home. Thank you, God bless you, God bless the nations of the world, and God bless America. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: You've been listening to the president there, delivering about 37 minutes of comments there, in the slow, deliberate delivery that we've become accustomed to, with scripted speeches, speeches he's reading off of teleprompters. Particularly deliberate, it struck some of here, as we watched here.

The content of the speech? Very political. A big focus on domestic political issues, attacks on his opponents, on immigration, for instance, calling their policies cruel and evil, talking about his commitment to the Second Amendment, talking about low unemployment, here in the U.S., energy independence, and also his desire to return manufacturing jobs to the U.S.

[10:50:09]

In terms of international targets, took particular aim at China -- perhaps a worrying sign in the midst of ongoing trade talks with China -- but also Iran, raising the level of rhetoric against Iran.

And one quick fact check, the president, in his comments on China, again claimed that billions of dollars are coming Into the U.S. Treasury from tariffs. Of course, we should note that money is not paid by China, it's paid by U.S. importers and consumers.

I'm joined now by Jim Acosta, Nic Robertson. Jim, you've covered this president for some time. You could reasonably say that was a 2020 re- election speech, couldn't you?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think it was a Stephen Miller extravaganza, Jim. But the delivery was particularly low-energy. I mean, I thought the president seemed rather flat, not to get too caught up in his performance. But you have to wonder whether or not this Ukraine issue is just hanging over everything like a wet blanket for this president.

And, you know, I'm still struck by some of the things that he said during that speech, as you just pointed out. He went after pro- immigration groups, calling their policies cruel and evil. He also talked a great deal about his opposition to socialism, saying that socialism will never come to the United States. These are Stephen Miller pillars of a campaign rally speech.

So this was obviously delivered to the president's domestic audience, played out on conservative media. He is still trying to rally this base, to keep them at home as things are unraveling all around him with respect to this Ukraine investigation, which appears to be ramping up on Capitol Hill.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ACOSTA: I mean, the thing that is most striking about today -- and this happens all the time with President Trump -- he is -- he has a mission at hand. He is supposed to go in and give a scripted speech, we're going to see teleprompter Trump today.

What does he do, as he walks into the United Nations? He essentially admits he held up the money for Ukraine. And he also said, during the course of those comments, in front of the cameras before the speech, that he was putting pressure on the Ukrainians with respect to Joe Biden.

Now, we haven't gotten to an admission from the president that there was a quid pro quo, but that really just sort of, I think, blew the doors off of anything the president wanted to get across today.

SCIUTTO: Well, he did move it forward. Because he did say, not only that he had withheld the aid in the past, but that he claimed, at least, he would gladly withhold it again. And in those comments -- the unscripted ones, as you note -- he also raised a new justification for this, saying this is about getting Europe to pay their fair share.

ACOSTA: Right.

SCIUTTO: Nic, not to be underestimated here, of course, he did not mention Ukraine in the scripted speech. He did have a lot of tough words for China and a lot of tough words for Iran. How significant? In particular, this struck me, this phrase, "We should allow -- we should hold governments responsible for subsidizing Iran's blood lust," basically saying, if you are buying Iranian oil, that's what you're doing.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Maximum pressure, more sanctions. Difficult to know where to apply, how to apply. But it is that we will go after you if you are putting money into the Iranian economy. We've heard it before, we've heard some of this language before, you know, saying that there are great Iranian people in the country, this is essentially an object lesson by the leaders of Iran on how not to lead a country, holding them responsible for the wars in Syria, the war in Yemen as well.

This was, I felt, from the perspective of his gulf allies right now, particularly Saudi Arabia, who's looking to him to be tough and firm with Iran, this was it. This was what they wanted. There was sort of no door left open to Rouhani to negotiate --

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: But (ph) nonmilitary (ph) action --

ROBERTSON: -- other than on his terms.

SCIUTTO: -- correct, right? Because I know we've heard criticism, not just on your trip to Saudi Arabia, but also from some Republican lawmakers here, Lindsey Graham and others, saying that, in effect, he has watered down the U.S. deterrent by refusing to act militarily.

ROBERTSON: And the consistency that the region looks for him to provide, he provided it here. But what will he do tomorrow? Certainly, the Saudis have looked to him to provide additional defensive capabilities, to protect their oil facilities. Some of that's been provided. Perhaps it doesn't go far enough.

But the problem for the Saudis was going to be, any equivocation in his speech here, any door left ajar for the Iranians, and he seemed to shut that today.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

ROBERTSON: He seemed to shut it firmly, that the only way you're going to move forward in on our conditions, no nuclear weapons. And he did speak about the support and the growing strength of his position, and the support that he's getting from allies around the world, which he got yesterday -- France, Germany, Britain.

SCIUTTO: Nic and Jim, great to have you there.

And, Poppy, I don't think we should underestimate the president, leveling those very harsh attacks on China as the Chinese delegation --

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: No.

SCIUTTO: -- sat there in the audience. We'd already, heard, in the last couple of days, that ongoing trade negotiations were not going well.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure the markets were watching. Is this a sign that we are in for the long haul, for the trade war?

HARLOW: It's a great point. And I think, Jim, really bringing it home, with that anecdote about that specific company, and $8 billion in I.P. theft, he asserted, by the Chinese.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Jim, stay with me. Let's bring into this conversation our chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour, as well as Jason Rezaian, our global affairs analyst, opinion writer for "The Washington Post."

[10:55:02]

Christiane, the floor is yours. What struck you the most from the president?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, I mean, as all the others have just said, he spent the most time on two subjects, and that was China and Iran, apart from his domestic agenda, which was very, very clear there.

But on Iran, which is the subject that, you know, is the big one in terms of war and peace and how to react, I think, yes, he was incredibly hardline on it. They have developed a strategy that they want to continue the maximum pressure. I've spoken to the foreign minister of Iran, and to the special U.S. representative, Brian Hook, at the State Department, about the way forward.

It is clear that the United States believes that this attack on the Saudi facilities was done by Iran. And, as such, what they are trying to do now is drive a wedge between Europe and Iran. Up until now, Iran was relying on Europe and the Europeans who have signed on to this nuclear deal, to try to figure out a way of the -- out of the sanctions and to try to keep any military intervention or escalation at bay.

The Saudi attack makes that much more difficult, and the Americans are trying to, as I said, get Europe on board to be really willing to increase the pressure on Iran. Whether or not that works, we'll see. I mean, in my interview with the president with the foreign minister, he was saying the only way to resolve this is to go back to the nuclear deal plus -- because they've offered extras to that nuclear deal --

HARLOW: Right.

AMANPOUR: -- and to negotiate.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Yes, yes. Jason Rezaian, you spent a number of years in Iran, covering this

regime. Sadly, you spend more than a year in an Iranian prison, in effect, a hostage to this regime. How does Iran, how do Iranian leaders view the president's comments there? Because in effect, to some degree, they got a pass on the prospect of military action, it seems, but we also know that those sanctions are biting hard in that country.

JASON REZAIAN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I think it was very significant, that President Trump did not threaten military action. I think that Christiane is absolutely right, that Brian Hook and others in the administration think Iran's economy is going to collapse under the weight of the sanctions, and they want to press forward with this maximum pressure campaign, believing that it will have the ultimate effect of collapsing the economy and forcing Iran back to the table sooner rather than later.

HARLOW: Christiane, the president, as Jim noted, did not bring up Ukraine. Obviously, almost all of the questions, though, as he walked into the U.N. this morning, Christiane, were about Ukraine, about his dealings, about how he explained withholding aid, and about impeachment for the president. And he walks into that, with all of those world leaders that he's addressing, knowing the cloud that he is under and the domestic pressure he's facing.

AMANPOUR: Well, interestingly, of course, he's not the first president to have done that. You remember when President Clinton was under impeachment. And in fact, I remember standing right there, outside the U.N., when President Clinton's testimony that he had done to the, you know, special counsel --

HARLOW: YEs.

AMANPOUR: -- was being broadcast, as he was meant to go in to address the world leaders. So it was maximum --

HARLOW: Yes.

AMANPOUR: -- embarrassment and dissonance, if you like, between what was happening on that legal level, on what was happening in terms of responsibility to international affairs and security.

So it's not the first time that this kind of sort of cognitive dissonance, if you like, has happened. But of course, as you've all mentioned, President Trump, bringing up a slightly new version of why he may have withheld aid, talking about it in the same terms as he's talked about NATO, that he was trying to force Europe to pay its share before he -- before he did his. We'll wait to see how that actually fact-checks out.

HARLOW: Yes.

AMANPOUR: I was meant to have an interview with the foreign minister of Ukraine, who has abruptly cancelled. I think I say that because, clearly, nobody really wants to add any fuel to this current fire. And certainly -- SCIUTTO: Yes, yes.

AMANPOUR: -- the Ukrainians seem, at least, not wanting to talk more about this in public.

And just, again on Iran, which is incredibly -- again, between war and peace and who knows what's going to happen in that region, the Iranians believe that the latest round of sanctions are specifically designed by hardliners within the Trump administration to prevent any kind of negotiations.

Because the sanctions on the central bank are aligned with the counterterrorism legislation in Congress, which is very different to the nuclear sanctions, and that makes it much harder for the president to actually put those aside and negotiate. So Iran thinks the United States is slamming the door to any diplomacy and negotiation.

SCIUTTO : Unless, of course, the president surprises again. We know that, a couple of weeks ago, he was considering relief to those sanctions, which of course --

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: -- angered his then- angered, rather --

AMANPOUR: Different sanctions.

SCIUTTO: -- his then-national security advisor, perhaps leading to his exit. Christiane, great to have you on, and Jason as well.

REZAIAN: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you both very much.

[11:00:02]

Jim, great to have you there at the U.N. We'll both be back here tomorrow morning for you. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.