Thursday, November 14, 2019


Office of the Press Secretary

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

10:32 A.M. EST

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  Good morning.  Today I'd like to talk about the latest southwest border enforcement statistics, focusing primarily on the month of October.

     But, first, if you recall, earlier this year we sounded an alarm -- actually, quite a bit -- with respect to the border crisis and asking Congress repeatedly to act to fix the loopholes in our broken immigration system, and close the gaps driving this crisis.  Unfortunately, not a single piece of meaningful legislation has been brought forward.

     And as a result, this country stood by and watched as the crisis worsened, as we reached our peak in May of over 140,000 apprehensions in a single month.  However, in the continued absence of congressional action, the President, along with his administration, as well as our hardworking men and women of the Customs and Border Protection and our partner agencies, has taken action.

     Through continued engagement with the government of Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries, we have initiated a network of initiatives, policies, and of regulations to stem the flow of the migration.  Together, we are approaching this as the regional crisis that it is, and we have seen incredible success.

     Just a few weeks ago, I described how we experienced a significant decline in apprehensions in the last four months of the fiscal year 2019, with September at that point marking the lowest number of enforcement actions during the entire year.  And that was a little over 52,000.

     But I'm happy to report this month, the month of October, has continued with that trend, reaching a 14 percent decline compared to September, with just over 42,000 apprehensions, defying typical seasonal trends once again over the past seven years.  And this represents an overall decrease of almost 70 percent since the peak in May of this year.  This is a significant decline.

     Let me put this in perspective real quick.  By mid-year, CBP was detaining almost 20,000 detainees in custody.  Now we average less than 3,500 daily.  At the height of the crisis, CBP apprehensions exceeded 5,000 in a single day.  Now we're averaging just over 1,300.  And we all but ended catch and release.  Migrants can no longer expect to be allowed into the interior of the United States based on fraudulent asylum claims.  And more importantly, we're sending a message to their criminal organizations to stop exploiting these migrants and their profit-making schemes.

     And, additionally, as we've had to navigate unprecedented judicial activism from lower courts and the congressional inaction I talked about, the numbers show this administration has and continues to take bold action to address this crisis.  And the numbers show it's working.

     To illustrated this further, we saw a shift in the demographics in this October.  For the first time in nearly 18 months, Mexico was a country of origin for the majority of apprehensions and inadmissible aliens rather than from the Northern Triangle countries, with single adults surpassing families.  The headlines -- got it: The numbers are low; the numbers are down.

     But while we made great progress, I want to remind the American people that there still remains a humanitarian crisis at our southern border, and, importantly, a national security crisis along our southwest border as well.  Cartels -- they continue to add to their multibillion-dollar organization on the backs of these migrants.

     As I said yesterday at the Senate hearing, former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has said multiple times -- and I'm sure most of you heard this -- that a thousand apprehensions a day is a bad day.  He's right.  We're still seeing daily apprehensions far exceeding that benchmark that Jeh Johnson set when he was Secretary.

     And as I sit here today as a law enforcement professional, I'm absolutely perplexed why Congress cannot come together on a bipartisan manner to fix this.  We know the cartels and human smuggling organizations are exploiting the migrants making the journey here, often abused, deprived of adequate food, water, and medical attention during their journey.

     We know this because, in FY19, we averaged 71 hospital visits per day throughout the year.  These smuggling organizations leave the migrants in rivers to die, they leave them in open harsh terrain to die, and they leave them in tractor-trailers to die.  The Border Patrol conducted over 4,900 rescues of migrants who the smugglers had abandoned to die.

     We also encountered 24 bodies along the southern border, including skeletal remains.  We know children are being rented and recycled, and presented as fake families.

     So, as you can clearly see, our job is not over -- not until we shut down the cartels and the human smuggling organizations and put them out of business.  And the President is committed to doing just that.

     That's why our success at addressing the humanitarian crisis should not be overshadowed by the real national security crisis we face.  Both crises are interconnected and they have to be attacked that way.  Transnational criminal organizations, they don’t just exploit the migrants themselves, they also flood our country with dangerous drugs.

     Last year, CBP officers and Border Patrol agents seized more than 750,000 pounds of illicit narcotics.  And our Air and Marine Operations contributed to the seizure of additional 285,000 pounds of cocaine.  Seizures of the four hard narcotics -- heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and fentanyl -- all went up last year.  Last year -- and I know we've talked about this before -- but over 68,000 deaths in this country due to illicit narcotic use.  And methamphetamine has seen a resurgence in this country.  Superlabs in Mexico are taking over the production and flooding the United States with cheaper and purer forms of meth.

     Nationwide, in October of this year, CBP intercepted more than 54,000 pounds of drugs.  That's 45 percent higher than this time last year.  And here's a couple of stats that, really, should shock every American in this country: We seized over 9,700 pounds of methamphetamine.  That's up over 90 percent the same time last year.  We seized 284 pounds of fentanyl in this month alone -- an 84 percent increase from this time last year.

And last month, on the southwest border, CBP seized more than 47,000 pounds of drugs -- a 50 percent increase from this time last year.  And we intercepted double the amount of methamphetamine last month than we did last year on the southwest border.

     The cartels and smuggling organizations continue to exploit our immigration system and enforcement vulnerabilities as we’re pulled off the line, time and time again, to deal with the humanitarian crisis, increasing the threat to our national security.  Last year, more than 150,000 migrants who illegally entered this country got away.

     The illicit narcotics the transnational criminal organizations are flooding the U.S. with are making their way to every town, city, and state in this country.  It isn’t just a border issue.  Make no mistake: If your city, town, or state has a meth problem, it came from the southwest border.

     So when we talk about the importance of the resources we need -- including the wall, and the 76 miles of new wall system that’s been built, or the more than 450 new miles of wall we anticipate having constructed by the end of 2020 -- it’s about increasing the CBP’s operational capacity to address both the humanitarian and national security crisis we face at the southwest border, improving our ability to safeguard the United States, uphold the rule of law, and maintain the integrity of the system, and put the cartels out of business.  That’s our goal, that’s this President’s goal, and we’re getting there.

     With that, I’ll take some questions.

     Q    Is cartels your main focus?  And has the administration given any consideration, in the wake of the slaughter of the Mormon family, to labeling the cartels a terrorist organization?
ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So, what I’ll say, Griff, is we are absolutely, collectively, from the USG, having those discussions on what else can we do to absolutely go out and target the cartels, to disrupt them and do as best we can to dismantle them.  We still have a ways to go.

     I think what happened a couple weeks ago, with the U.S. citizens being killed, specifically the children, it showed that the cartels are alive and well.  It shows that they have the ability to adapt their -- we call them the "TTPs,” right? -- their techniques, tactics, and procedures -- to continue to thrive.

     They’re continuing to war with each other for control over the plaza and the smuggling routes.  And why?  Because it’s so profitable.  The numbers I -- the numbers I just gave out, with respect to the number of drugs we seized -- think about that: That’s just what we seized.  It’s hard to even fathom the amount of drugs that are still pouring through and getting into our country -- again, 68,000 deaths that occurred last year.

     So we’re having discussions on what we can do, from a United States government approach, to absolutely go after and target these cartels.

     Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.

     Q    Do you have any update on how many people have been sent back as part of the MPP?  And do you have any concerns about reports we’re hearing from the Mexican side about -- that once people are returned, they’re vulnerable to kidnapping and extortion and other violent crimes?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So, right now, about 50,000 individuals are over there at MPP.  Let me start with a couple of facts, and then I’ll address the anecdotal information on the violence.

     So, with respect to facts -- so, I said in my opening -- so, in the peak of May, we had about 20,000 individuals in our custody.  Right now, we have about 3,500.  We had, on a given day, over 5,000 apprehensions in a single day.  Now we’re a little over 1,300.  At the peak of May, we had 2,700 children in our custody.  Now we average about 100.

     So make no mistake: These initiatives, including MPP, have absolutely been a game-changer.  And it has been a significant part in our facilities now not being overcrowded with 20,000 individuals, with the apprehension numbers going down.  So, from a law enforcement perspective, as the Acting Commissioner of CBP, MPP has absolutely been successful.

     Now, to address the question on the anecdotal stuff we’re hearing about violence: So, the Department of State -- CBP was part of that.  We just went down there last week.  Actually, I think it’s been a week and half ago.  And we were there with IOM -- the International Organization for Migration.  We were there with immigration advocate organizations, faith-based organizations.  The Department of State led this, and we also were there with the government of Mexico personnel.  And they visited several shelters.

     And two of the shelters -- the main shelters they visited -- one was operated by a faith-based organization and the other by the government of Mexico.  Both of those shelters were found to have persistent law enforcement present, adequate medical attention, adequate food, and the safety was okay.

     IOM, which also is providing services for those migrants who are no longer wanting to wait in Mexico -- free of charge -- providing them services to return them to their country free of charge.  During that process -- it’s a very methodical, structured process -- IOM actually interviews those individuals.  And what IOM told our personnel on that visit is that they’re not hearing any complaints of people fearing for their lives when they’re in -- or their safety -- when they’re in that shelter environment.

     And keep in mind also: At any given time, if anybody in the MPP process that's waiting in Mexico fears for their safety concern, all they have to do is go to a U.S. port of entry and claim that, and they will be allowed to go through that process.

     Lastly, what we are hearing is that, unfortunately, some of the individuals in the MPP program are actually going outside the shelter environment.  They’re reengaging with the cartels because they’re tired of waiting.  And that’s what we’re hearing is when some of that further abuse and exploitation has happened.  We’re seeing, actually, a 9 percent recidivism rate of those individuals that are MPP are actually reengaging the cartel to illegally enter the United States.  So --

     Yes, sir.

     Q    Mr. Morgan, you are, of course, the Acting CBP Commissioner.  There are a number of senior officials at DHS that have “Acting” in their title.  Are there any senior officials at DHS who have actually been confirmed by the Senate?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So, I tell you what: I don’t get up and -- that’s of no concern for me.  When I get up every day, the fact that I have “Acting” in front of my title is irrelevant.  It’s irrelevant to what I do, why I do it, and how I do it, or how successful or not successful I am.

     So, when I get up every single day, I accomplish the mission, I’m trying to do the best I can to get the resources for the men and women of CBP and support who my bosses are, regardless of whether they have “Acting” in front of them or not.

     So, from my seat, it’s not relevant.

     Q    Right.  Are there any, though, senior officials at DHS who have been confirmed by the Senate, to your knowledge?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So, I’d have to go through that.  But, yeah, there are a couple.

     Q    Yeah.  Is that problematic, in terms of carrying out your mission?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  No.  I just said it’s not.  Again, there has not been a single day that I’m here that the “Acting” in front of my name has prohibited me from carrying out my job and trying to get the resources for the men and women of CBP to do their job.

     So -- yes, sir.

     Q    Would you like to be nominated for your position, Mr. Morgan?  Would you like to be nominated for your position?

     Q    Thank you.  (Inaudible) --

     Q    Would you like to be nominated for your position?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  Here’s what I’ll say, is: I’m here to serve the President of the United States in whatever capacity he thinks I can best serve.  And so if he thinks I can best serve his vision and this administration’s vision in the “Acting” capacity, that’s what I’ll do.  If he thinks I can best serve it in another capacity, I’ll do that as well.

Yep.  Yes, sir.

Q    Following up on Jon’s question, a recent report obtained by courts showed that arrests of CBP officers and agents are at a five-year high and that CBP officers and agents are arrested at a much higher rate than other law enforcement agencies.  Do you think that the lack of stable Senate-confirmed leadership has had any effect on the officers and has anything to do with it?

     And why do you think that your officers are being arrested more often than other law enforcement agencies?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So I’ll have to get some more fidelity on that.  So that’s not my understanding, that the arrests have actually increased.  A high -- a rate actually -- my understanding is they’ve actually decreased a little bit.  But regardless is --

     Q    Well, this is up --

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  -- one arrest --

     Q    This is up to fiscal year 2018.  They had been going down, and then they went up some --

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  I understand.  Again, my understanding is that they continue to go down.  But I’ll get some more fidelity on that.

     But that really doesn’t matter, because one arrest is too many, right, of a law enforcement officer.  So, here, we’ve talked about this before.  So whether someone is Acting or not -- I got to tell you, the professionalism of the men and women of the CBP -- of this organization that I am the Acting Commissioner of -- whether I have "Acting" in front of my name, I think is of no moment to them when they get up every single day doing their job.

     Q    Do you have any --

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  What I think -- I’m trying to answer your question.  What -- what my belief and my understanding of talking to the troops is -- what really is frustrating for them is the fact that every day that they get up there and they’re risking their lives every single day trying to protect and safeguard this country, they’re enforcing the law that this Congress has enacted -- the rule of law, every single day they’re trying to get out there --

     Q    In understand that.  Aren’t they --

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  -- and so -- let me finish.  I’m trying to answer your question.  So --

     Q    -- (inaudible) breaking the law?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  Can I answer your question without being interrupted?

So what I’m trying to say is, what I’ve been told by them -- what really frustrates them is the fact that when they’re out there doing their job every single day, it’s the rhetoric that’s out there -- the rhetoric that comes from the mainstream media, the rhetoric that comes from our --

     Q    Sir, this isn't rhetoric.  This is a report from 2018.

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  -- the rhetoric -- the rhetoric that comes from our congressional leaders that when they say stuff like they call them “Nazis,” and they say that we’re making people drink form toilets or running concentration camps, that’s --

     Q    So they’re breaking the law because they’re being called mean things by the media?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  -- that’s -- that’s what gets them frustrated.

     No, you asked me what gets them frustrated.  So -- right?  And so what I’m trying to tell you is, is that the Acting -- whether somebody is "Acting" or not has no -- no moment of whether they’re going to go out and be arrested.  So what I think is, the frustration that’s out there sometimes leads them, right, to --

     Q    To commit crimes?  Is that why?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  No, not crimes, because a lot of the arrests -- some of the arrests are -- a lot of the arrests we see are DUIs.  And so I think we’re trying to do our best.  So it’s really a resiliency problem.  And so that’s what we’re really trying to take a look at, is the resiliency and how can we better get to these individuals through resiliency to make sure that when they are experiencing frustration, when they are experiencing stress, that we're able to get to them before they cross that line.

     Yes, sir.

     Q    The President has promoted the construction of a border wall as one of the key deterrent efforts to try to keep migrants from coming into this country illegally.  Just for a status update for us: How many miles of wall has been constructed?  Not wall that’s replacing old wall, but new wall has been built to this point.

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So, 78 miles of new wall has been built.

     Q    So, much of that, obviously, is replacing wall that formerly existed, the President said was insufficient.  How many miles of wall now exist where there was no wall whatsoever?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So, again, my -- my response to that is: Every mile of wall that’s being built is a new mile of wall.

     Q    No disagreements.  But how many -- but just for a breakdown, how many miles formerly existed that have now been renovated or replaced?  And how many miles -- new, where nothing existed?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So, right now, the 78 miles that have been built have been built where there was an existing form of barrier.  We just started breaking ground in RGV, where we’re building miles of new wall where there has been no structure there at all.

     Q    So that’s just now starting the construction of new wall up against --


     Q    -- (inaudible) now?


     Q    Thank you.


     Q    I believe you said -- Commissioner, I believe you said last time that land acquisition was one of the things making it challenging.  Can you give us an update on your efforts to acquire land and what other challenges you guys are facing?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  Yeah, land acquisition is going to continue to be a challenge.  I’ll give you an example: So you could have a mile of land -- again, on the southwest border -- where it goes back in time, and you could have multiple owners, from 10 to 100 owners that have a piece of that land.  Sometimes the records go way back; the records weren’t that great.  And it's a challenge to go through that process.

     Now, there's also areas like Laredo, for example, that were actually, you know, working with the city on the design, the structure, and even where it can be placed to make sure that we’re taking their considerations into the process as well.

     So it's a challenge, but again, I still think that we're on track to get the land we need for 450 miles.  What I will say is that there are lawsuits out there.  So, again, we've seen a lot of the judicial activisms out there, and land acquisition is not going to be immune from that as well.  So --

     MR. GIDLEY:  Last question.


     Q    Mr. Morgan, I’ve seen a case where a mother and daughter were kidnapped after being returned to Mexico by the United States.  They were then later given asylum in the United States.  How does that not show that a mother who had a credible asylum claim was subjected to unnecessary violence by the United States?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So I don’t know anything about that specific case.

     Q    But what about a case like that --


     Q     -- where someone is kidnapped in Mexico while waiting in the United States for their asylum claim?  They're now given asylum in the United States, having to have been kidnapped while waiting in Mexico.  What do you make of a claim like that?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  So go through that scenario one more time.

     Q    I’ve talked to a woman who -- a mother and her daughter who were returned to Mexico by the United States whilst trying to seek asylum.  They were then given asylum and were allowed to come to the United States.  My question is: How does that not show that that mother, or someone like her, with a credible asylum claim, was then given -- was then subjected to unnecessary violence in Mexico?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  Again, what I’ll go back to is what I talked to before, is that we’re working with the government of Mexico.  They have promised -- right? -- they have committed that they will do everything they can to provide adequate protection and shelter for those individuals waiting in Mexico under the MPP program.

     And again, what we have shown, there have been -- again, Department of State is engaged, IOM is engaged, non-profit organizations are involved, advocacy groups are involved, and --

     Q    Was this mother subjected to unnecessary violence by the United States?

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  By the United States?  I --

     Q    Because we returned -- because the country returned her to Mexico --

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  Yeah, so -- I’m -- I’m trying to --

     Q    -- and she was kidnapped while waiting in Mexico.

     ACTING COMMISSIONER MORGAN:  I’m trying to answer that question, right?  And so we have to work with Mexico.  Just like the United States, here, we have certain responsibilities to make sure to safeguard and protect those people in our custody.  Mexico has that same responsibility. 

     And again, we are working with them to help them in any way we can.  I just went through of how we’re going over there.  We’re visiting those sites.  We’re seeing persistent law enforcement presence.  We’re seeing the national guard presence there.  And we’re seeing from IOM -- that’s saying, “Hey we’re not seeing that.”

     And again, if someone is in fear for their safety or their life, they can come to a port of entry and claim that, and we’ll take them in.

     Again, what we are seeing -- what we are seeing is that the individuals that leave that shelter environment and reengage with the cartels to potentially be re-smuggled in the United States legally, that's where we’re seeing and we’re hearing some of the anecdotal stories.  That’s happening as well.

     Q    So what do you say to advocates who say that they are --


                              END                      10:55 A.M. EST


President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Appoint Individuals to Key Administration Posts

Office of the Press Secretary
President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Appoint Individuals to Key Administration Posts

Today, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to be Members of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology:
  • Shannon Blunt of Missouri
  • Dorota Grejner-Brzezinska of Ohio
- - -
Today, President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to appoint the following individuals to be Members of the Cultural Property Advisory Committee:

Ricardo St. Hilaire of New Hampshire, (Archeology) for the remainder of a three-year term expiring April 25, 2021.

Anthony Carroll Wisniewski of Maryland (Public Representative) for the remainder of a three-year term expiring April 25, 2022.

West Wing Reads Adam Schiff is Wasting the Nation’s Time with Impeachment Hearings

West Wing Reads

Adam Schiff is Wasting the Nation’s Time with Impeachment Hearings

“In their first day of public impeachment hearings, Democrats made clear just how weak their case is,” the New York Post editorial board writes.

In mostly dull, uneventful testimony yesterday, Democrats’ “star” witnesses openly complained about policy decisions they disliked. “Sorry, but it’s not their place to second-guess Trump or his policies. The president sets foreign policy, not they.”

Most revealing: Rather than offer any actual evidence at all, “they merely cited third- and fourth-hand rumors. Neither man ever had direct contact with the president.”

Click here to read more.
Just like with the left’s two-year Russia collusion chase, the facts do not match Democrats’ narrative. “Now, Democrats have moved from their earlier charge of ‘quid pro quo’ to wild allegations of ‘abuse of power,’ ‘extortion’ and ‘bribery.’ When the proof falls short, they continue to shift the goal posts from one unsubstantiated allegation to another,” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) writes in USA Today.
“Adam Schiff’s opening statement reminded me that Ukraine is a problem for the United States today because Russia invaded it during the Obama administration.” In 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula on President Obama’s watch—after he promised Russia “flexibility” in his second term. For the next two years, the Obama administration refused to provide lethal aid to Ukraine despite Kiev pleading for help, Scott Jennings writes for CNN.
“While Washington is often dominated by partisan gridlock, Congress can put politics aside and improve the everyday lives of Americans by approving the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), a trade deal that would replace the outdated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).” This deal “will become the new gold standard against which all future trade deals are measured,” former Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Gary Locke write for Fox News.
“The White House is inviting lawmakers to its first summit on paid family leave and childcare affordability next month,” Francesca Chambers reports. “Never before has this issue had so much support and momentum, on both sides of the aisle,” Ms. Trump told McClatchy DC.


Office of the Press Secretary


Oval Office

2:25 P.M. EST

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, thank you very much.  We have some of our great senators and, as you know, we're discussing various things, including the S-400.  We're discussing trade and lots of other matters, and we're having a very good discussion.  And I thought bringing over some of our Republican senators that are very much well versed in what's going on in Turkey to meet President Erdoğan would be good.

     So we're having a very strong discussion on different things, including the safe zone, and the border, the oil.  And, again, trade is a very big factor because we think we can get the trade up to about $100 billion.  And it's much lower than that right now.
     So we're going to have a meeting for a little while and then we're doing a conference, making a statement.  And I think we've had a very successful meeting.

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  (As interpreted.)  With my dear friend, President Trump, we’ve had -- we first had a tête-à-tête meeting with (inaudible) participation.  And then, during lunch, our delegations have met and now all of the discussions were quite comprehensive.   

     And as far as the political dimension goes, we've had the opportunity to focus on our strategic partnership with President Trump.  And we've also set our eyes in order to accomplish the target of $100 billion of a trade volume.

And, of course, our indisputable partnership under the auspices of NATO is still there.  And, as you are probably aware, on Decem- -- between December 3rd and 4th, we will be gathering for the leader's summit of the NATO in London.  And Turkey is among the top five contributors of the NATO.  And of course, our position with the United States, under the roof of NATO, is quite different.  It's indisputable.  And I believe the London summit is going to be quite busy.

Thank you.
     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, we're going to have a big meeting on NATO very soon.  I think the President -- I think I can say this, because other people know it and many other people feel the same way.  They were very disappointed and he was very disappointe- -- disappointed in the statement made by France, having to do with commitment and NATO.  That was a big statement that was made a couple of days ago by France.  So I think that bothered the President very much.  And I don't think he was very happy about it.  And a lot of other people feel that way, too.

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  Yes.  (As interpreted.)  It's unacceptable.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  See?  There's a nice way of saying it.  Much shorter.  (Laughter.)

     Do you guys have any questions?  Lindsey, do you want to start off?  Do you have any questions?  You know the President very well.

     SENATOR GRAHAM:  I've never had an opportunity like this before.  I appreciate it.  The purpose of this meeting is to have an American civics lesson for our friends in Turkey.  And there's a pony in there somewhere if we can find it.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  And I think we will.  Jim?

     SENATOR RISCH:  First of all, regarding the Pres- -- the remarks of President Macron, we would hope he would re-think those comments.  I think that they were ill-advised at the time made, and we would certainly hope that he would re-think those.

Today, we’re going to have a discussion about common interests that we have and also some disagreements that we have, and see if we can’t find some common ground where we can get these resolved.  And we’re -- obviously NATO is a -- is the strongest and most successful alliance amongst the military powers in history of the world.  We want to keep it that way.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Good.  Thank you very much.


     SENATOR SCOTT:  First, I want to thank you, Mr. President, for putting this meeting together.  I think all of us want to figure out how we build a better relationship with Turkey.  We know that there’s issues that we’re dealing with right now, but the goal -- my goal here and I think all of our goal here is, at the end of this meeting, we’re in a better position where we’re better allies; where we understand exactly what’s going to happen with the S-400; so it’s not -- so Turkey is heading in the direction of the United States, not heading the direction of Russia.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Right.  Very good.  It’s true.


     SENATOR ERNST:  Yes, thank you, Mr. President.  And thank you, President Erdoğan, for joining us today.  As previously stated, we do want to remain very strong allies in NATO.  You are very important to us.  So we want to bring you back into that fold.  We want to discuss the S-400.

I want to say thank you very much for taking in the Syrian refugees that you have. It is very important to us.  And then, as well, we also want to talk about -- some of us that have been aligned with the Kurds as well and how we can work with you through that issue.

Thank you.


     SENATOR CRUZ:  Mr. President, welcome.  Mr. President, thank you for hosting us.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you.  Thank you.

     SENATOR CRUZ:  We’re glad you are here.  Turkey and the United States are friends, are allies.  We have many shared strategic interests and we look forward to continuing that friendship and alliance.

     At the same time, we have concerns.  And I would say the two principal concerns that are in Congress -- you’ve heard both of them referenced -- are, number one, the S-400 Russian system, which is incompatible with the F-35.  And we very much hope Turkey changes the path it’s on and does not employ the S-400.

     And, number two, the Kurds.  The Kurds have risked a lot to stand with America to fight against our shared enemies, and there is very real concern that we do not want to see Turkey engaged in offensive action against the Kurds.

If we can resolve those two issues, I think there is the opportunity for enormous trade, enormous strategic cooperation.  But those two issues are real and significant.



PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  (As interpreted.)  First and foremost, we have to make a distinction here -- the Kurds and the terrorists.  Kurds are, at the same time, my citizens.  And my country happens to be the country where the largest Kurdish ethnicities live.

And, currently, my parliament -- my political party has 50 MPs of Kurdish descendance, and the other political parties lack that.  And especially in the southeastern and eastern Anatolian regions of Turkey, my political party have the greatest political network ever.  And you can only appreciate the scale of the investments that we have conducted were you to visit them in situ.

And when President Obama was still in the office, the number of the Kurdish refugees coming from Kobani to Turkey reached 350,000.  When nobody was accepting these refugees, we did.  And it all depends on us: their healthcare, their education, anything and any service that you might think.  And no one else supported them, financially or economically.

But I assume the ones that you’re referring to as “Kurds” are either PYD or YPG.  These are terrorist organizations and they are the offshoots of the PKK.  And I would like to submit to your party some documents, specifically.

Well, Ferhat Abdi Sahin -- it happens to be almost like a stepson to the previous leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan.  And this is the information that one needs to know, especially.

     And when we were discussing with President Trump, I reiterated the same fact as I did with President Obama when he was in the office: We need to establish this safe zone.

     And in the northern part of Syria, for the establishment of a safe zone with a length of 444 kilometers and with a depth of 32 kilometers, we can establish the safe zone maybe with the participation of the international donors.  And maybe we can launch an appeal for an international donors’ conference to be held.

We have drafted the plans and we have prepared the projects.  And if we were to start taking these steps forward in order to realize these projects, between six months to two years, we can repatriate about 1 million refugees there in this safe zone.  And we can repatriate 1 million refugees in cities such as Raqqa and Deir az-Zor.

     Three million six hundred and fifty thousand of the four million refugees that we currently have in Turkey are of Arab descendance.  And we have also Christian minorities, known as “Keldani” and “Yazidi.”  They are Christians.  And we have about 350,000 Kurdish descendants.  A total of 4 million refugees.

And, until so far, we have invested more than $40 billion.  And, until so far, we have only received €3 billion from the European Union, but those funds were not directly allocated into our national budget.  These funds were used through the Turkish disaster relief agency and the Turkish Red Crescent with the international NGOs.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  They have 4 million refugees right now in Turkey, and Turkey has been paying the cost for these.  And, frankly, Europe should step up because Europe is being helped, to a large extent.  You have 4 million.  If they were released, they would go throughout Europe.  So, hopefully, Europe will step up.

     Okay.  Thank you all very much.  Thank you.

     Q    Mr. President, how are you going to reconcile between the purchase of the S-400 versus your desire to sell F-35s?

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, that’s what we're here for.  We're talking about it with our great senators.

     Q    What are the options?  What are the alternatives?

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I think they have a lot of alternatives.  We'll work something out.  I -- I project that we will work something out with Turkey.  I think it will work out fine.  Okay?

     Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

                             END                2:39 P.M. EST


Office of the Press Secretary



East Room

4:06 P.M. EST

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much, everybody.  Please.  I want to begin by welcoming the First Lady with us, today, and the First Lady of Turkey.  Thank you very much for being here.  This is a great honor to have you.

     And we had a wonderful and a very productive meeting.  And before we start, I would like to thank President Erdoğan for releasing detainee Serkan Golge, who was in detention -- in different forms of detention.  And I appreciate that very much.  That was a very nice tribute.  And he'll be coming back at some point in the not-too-distant future.  So, that's -- that's very good news for the United States and also very good news for Turkey.

Turkey, as everyone knows, is a great NATO Ally, and a strategic partner of the United States around the world.  Our economic relationship has tremendous potential and continues to expand and to grow.  Direct engagement and diplomacy between our nations are essential to ensuring a future of peace, and prosperity, and promise for our citizens.

Over the course of the day, President Erdoğan and I had a frank and productive conversation on a range of very important topics.  Among those topics we discussed was the situation in Syria.

Last month, I sent Vice President Pence; Secretary of State Pompeo is with us; National Security Advisor O’Brien -- thank you -- to meet with President Erdoğan in the hopes of ending all of the hostilities.  The negotiations were very successful, and the United States and Turkey achieved a tremendous amount on that day.  And I think we're working toward getting it better and better.  It's a complicated situation.  It's been going on for hundreds of years.

Today, the ceasefire continues to hold.  And I want to thank the President for his partnership and cooperation as we work to build a more stable, and peaceful, and prosperous Middle East.  We've assured each other that Turkey will continue to uphold what it's supposed to uphold.  I'm a big fan of the President, I have to tell you that.  And I know that the ceasefire, while complicated, is moving forward and moving forward at a very rapid clip.  There's a lot of people that want to see that work after so many decades and so many centuries, you might say.

The United States and Turkey are working extensively on many other security issues.  Turkey has the second-largest armed forces in NATO after the United States.  And they're a very strong second, I might add.  And I'm pleased that Turkey has been steadily increasing its defense spending and is very close to the 2-percent-of-GDP range, unlike many of the other countries.  At this moment, they're 8 out of the 28 countries that are current, in terms of their obligation, financially.

Turkey has made a vital contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, and its partnership was important to our destruction of the ISIS caliphate.  In fact, just recently, when we took out al-Baghdadi -- and take him out, we did -- Turkey knew that we were going over certain areas.  They were very, very helpful, and we appreciate that very much.  Good for both countries.  We really appreciate it.

We're grateful to President Erdoğan and to the citizens of Turkey for their cooperation in the constant struggle against terrorism.  He fights it like we do.

Key to our security collaboration is our trade -- defense and military equipment program.  American Foreign Military Sales to Turkey total many billions of dollars, and Turkey supplies component parts to many American defense programs.  They make parts of the frame, as an example, for the F-35.

Turkey’s acquisition of sophisticated Russian military equipment, such as the S-400, creates some very serious challenges for us, and we are talking about it constantly.  We talked about it today.  We're talking about it in the future.  Hopefully, we'll be able to resolve that situation.

We've asked our Secretary of State, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, and our respective national security advisors to immediately work on resolving the S-400 issue.

We've also recently agreed to work toward a $100 billion two-way trade agreement -- Secretary Ross is here -- and I think we've made tremendous progress on that.  We have a lot of trade with Turkey, but it could be many times larger -- and Turkey would like to see that, and it would also be good for the United States.  So we intend to bring it up to $100 billion.  That would be four times what it is right now.

Our goal is to expand commerce between the United States and Turkey, reduce our trade deficit, and ensure a truly fair and reciprocal relationship.

We are, just for those of you that have any interest -- we discussed it, today, also -- our trade agreement with China is moving along very rapidly.  We'll see what happens, but it's moving along rapidly.  China wants to make a deal, that I can tell you.

One of my chief priorities as President has been removing the barriers to American trade and investment, and ending the illicit practices that harm our workers.  We encourage Turkey to further open its markets -- and they are doing that; they're doing that very much -- toward American goods and American services.  Our markets are open.  Turkey is opening up their markets and they're opening up rapidly. 

Mr. President, as we have seen in recent weeks, the U.S.-Turkish alliance can be a powerful force for security and stability not only in the Middle East, but beyond.

I look forward to working with you.  And to your representatives, I want to thank you very much all for being here.  I've gotten to become very familiar with all of you, and I really appreciate it.  You're doing a fantastic job for the people of Turkey.

And I look forward to continuing to find common ground, harness common purpose, and to advance the vital interests of our people and the abiding friendship between our nations.  We have a great relationship, both personally and with the great country of Turkey, and we look forward to moving that forward and making it an even bigger and better relationship.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  (As interpreted.)  Mr. President, my dear friend; distinguished ministers; secretaries; distinguished members of the press, I would like to, at the onset, salute you with my most heartfelt emotions on behalf of myself and my nation.

     First and foremost, I would like to thank my dear friend, President Trump, and the First Lady of the United States for being such gracious hosts today.

We've managed to comprehensively discuss all the issues in our agendas with Mr. President all throughout the day and the discussions were very sincere.  We all agree that we need to further profound our cooperation and that Turkish-American relations should be erected upon a strong and a very healthy foundation.  I think we should remain resolved, in order to open a new chapter in our relations, which are in full compliance with our deeply rooted alliance.

We have reciprocally stated our will to fight terrorist organizations imposing a clear and a present danger upon our national security.  We have especially underlined the significance of fighting against Daesh in a sustained fashion, especially in the aftermath of the demise of Baghdadi -- the death of Baghdadi.  We have detained several prisoners trying to flee the prisons in Syria and come to Turkey, and we currently have more than 200 Daesh terrorists who have been incarcerated.

And with the Operation Peace Spring initiated on October the 9th, Turkey took another step forward in fighting terrorism in a very resolute fashion.  Our country, with this operation, blew a very significant impact upon the separatist agenda of terrorist organizations, such as PKK and YPG in Syria.

In order to further strengthen our cooperation in Syria, we believe we have gained a significant momentum with our October 17th agreement or memorandum.  But in order to harm this memorandum, PKK and YPG are attacking our soldiers and the civilians in a very provocative fashion.  And, in the last 24 hours, more than 19 attacks and harassing shots took place.  And at the beginning of this month, in Tal Abyad, a bomb was placed -- an explosive device was placed in an outdoor market and, as a result of the explosion, 13 civilian lives were lost.

Despite all of these developments, in order to settle the conflict in Syria in a sustained fashion, we are reiterating our commitment to our memorandum -- our agreement with the United States.  But some circles who are empathetic towards these terrorist organizations are feeling deeply upset.  They are deeply disturbed and they are using this information in order to cloud the understanding of the public opinion and that perception with the eventual gain or goal of harming our relations.

And some historical developments and allegations are being used in order to dynamite our reciprocal and bilateral relations.  Especially in the House of Representatives, some of the resolutions that were passed on October 29th served this very purpose and hurt deeply the Turkish nation, and they have a potential of casting a deep shadow over our bilateral relations.  And I shared this information with Mr. President.

The decision makers in an incident that took place about 104 years ago should not be politicians, but historians.  We have nothing to hide, and we have a full self-esteem in that regard.  But I need to state very clearly that we are, as Turkey, on the side of dialogue and open discussion and debate.  And we have voiced our proposals to the Armenian party to open the archives reciprocally and establish a history commission.

I believe the Senate will take this -- take the United States out of this vicious cycle, which happened as a result of the resolution of the House of Representatives.  Turkey and the United States stand side by side in order to fully eradicate Daesh and in order to bring peace and stability to Syria once and for all.  And for this purpose, we should keep on working together.

Turkey remains, or it should be, the most reliable partner of the United States in this region to achieve these targets.  We are the only NATO Ally, as Turkey, who has fought Daesh in a very resolved fashion.  And until so far, we have detained 7,680 foreign fighters and we have sent them back to their countries of origin.  And we have been entry to 77,000 individuals who are considered to be affiliated with Daesh terrorist organization.  And, right now, in our presence, a total of 1,216 Daesh members are incarcerated, coming from 40 different countries.  We have quite recently detained 287 individuals, including women and children who have fled the prisons that PKK and YPG used to control.

Our country is being showcased as a target and this terrorist organization caused 304 Turkish citizens to die -- and against which we are going to keep on fighting.  And it's very important to understand that the foreign fighters should be accepted by the countries of origin.  And we have the same understanding with President Trump in order to convince the countries of origin to do this.

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we have a border line of 911 kilometers with Syria.  And when the war broke out, nine years ago, we were the ones at the forefront impacted heavily and maybe the most.  Currently, we have 3,650,000 Syrian refugees and a total of more than 4,000,000 refugees.  And we have spent about $40 billion, even beyond that, for these refugees in our country.  And until so far, Europe only sent €3 billion, despite a higher pledge.  Through our NGOs and, similarly, we are providing sustained humanitarian aid to more than 3 million people living on the Syrian territory.

Back in the year 2015, at the G20 Antalya Summit, I launched an appeal in order to establish a safe zone in Syria.  But because of the delay, hundreds of -- tens of thousands of civilian lives were lost.  This problem cannot continue forever and ever.

     Previously, with our Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch, we have managed to clear an area of 4,000 square kilometers of terrorist presence.  And I agree with the proposals of the -- of the President.  It’s very important to realize our goals.

     I said Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch -- and, through these operations, we’ve managed to repatriate 365,000 Syrians back to their motherlands, especially in Jarabulus.  And thanks to the Operation Peace Spring, we have secured many towns and many villages, and the rightful settlers are going back.

     We have shared our projects with President Trump and our several plans for the safe zone.  And with the support of the United Nations and international community, we can repatriate many more Syrian refugees in the northern part of Syria.  We’re talking about an area of 444 kilometers in length and 32 kilometers in depth.  One million people can be repatriated.  And in Raqqa and Deir az-Zor, 1 million more individuals can be repatriated.  So, a total of 2 million refugees can be repatriated.

     Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization, known as “FETÖ,” attempted to destroy the constitutional order of Turkey with a failed coup attempt, and it is a terrorist organization behind this failed coup.  They have killed 251 individuals, harming 2,193 citizens.  And they have even dared to bomb our parliament -- airborne.

We have once again accentuated our expectations vis-à-vis our friends at the U.S. administration to once and for all eradicate FETÖ presence here.

And we have also discussed with President Trump how to achieve the $100 billion trade-volume threshold as soon as possible.  We believe that we should not confuse political incidents with commerce-related aspirations.  And our secretaries of commerce are currently heavily invested in achieving the $100 billion threshold.  We hope and pray that we will shy away from certain measures which will make it much more challenging for us to reach these targets.

And we have also quite naturally discussed our deeply rooted relations in the field of defense industry, primarily the S-400 system and the F-35 program.  We can only surmount the hurdles that we experienced through dialogue.

My dear friend previously stated, back in Osaka at the G20 Summit, the injustice orchestrated against Turkey, in terms of the acquisition of Patriot missiles.  And we have clearly stated to President Trump that, under suitable circumstances, we could acquire Patriot missiles as well.  As Turkey, we are ready and committed to sustain a very constructive dialogue with the United States Congress, and this is an idea that I’ve shared with President Trump as well.

So with these thoughts in mind, I hope and pray that our discussions and deliberations all throughout the day with President Trump will yield the most auspicious results.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank President Trump for their kind invitation and for being such gracious hosts all throughout the day.  On behalf of my personal self, on behalf of my delegation, I would like to thank you.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, thank you very much, Mr. President.  And I called up the Senate; I asked a couple of our senators.  And we really ended up with five -- and others wanting to come, and we‘ll keep them apprised.  But some of them joined us.  They happen to be here.  Senator Jim Risch.  Thank you, Jim, very much.  Ted Cruz, thank you very much.  Lindsey Graham.  Lindsey, thank you.  And Rick Scott.  Thank you, Rick, very much.  Joni is here -- Joni Ernst -- someplace.

These are people that want to see peace in the Middle East and I thought it would be appropriate to have them come over.  And they met with the President and we had a lot of very frank discussion.  And we’re dealing with a very big subject -- a complex subject.  It’s been going on for centuries, in many cases.  But we’re making a lot of progress -- tremendous progress in the Middle East.

Okay, a couple of questions.  Go ahead, OAN.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.


Q    First, I would like to just start out getting your general reaction today to the impeachment hearings on the Hill.  Do you feel that Democrats made their case?  And how did you feel about the Republican performance? 

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Are you talking about the witch hunt?  Is that what you mean?  Is that what you’re talking about?  I hear it’s a joke.  I haven’t watched.  I haven’t watched for one minute because I’ve been with the President, which is much more important, as far as I’m concerned.

This is a sham and shouldn’t be allowed.  It was a situation that was caused by people that shouldn’t have allowed it to happen.

I want to find out who is the whistleblower because the whistleblower gave a lot of very incorrect information, including my call with the President of Ukraine, which was a perfect call and highly appropriate.  And he wrote something that was much different than the fact.  I want to find out why the IG -- why would he have presented that, when, in fact, all he had to do was check the call itself and he would have seen it.

I’m going to be releasing -- I think, on Thursday -- a second call, which actually was the first of the two.  And you’ll make a determination as to what you think there.  But I’ve heard -- just a report -- they said it’s all third-hand information.  Nothing direct at all.  It can’t be direct because I never said it.

And all they have to do is look very, very simply at the transcript.  If you read the transcript -- this was analyzed by great lawyers.  This was analyzed by Gregg Jarrett.  It was analyzed by Mark Levin.  It was analyzed by everybody.  They said this statement that I made -- the whole call that I made with the President of Ukraine was a perfect one.

So -- that this country gets put through that, that we have to waste this gentleman’s time by even thinking about it, talking about it -- I’d much rather focus on peace in the Middle East.  And I hear that it’s -- I hear that it’s a hoax, and it’s being played as a hoax.  That’s what I hear, but you’ll have to tell me.

Go ahead.

Q    Then, if I may, on Syria and peace in the Middle East: President Erdoğan talked about repatriating Syrian refugees back to their homeland.


Q    Have you had those discussions with European leaders, since there are so many Syrian --

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, no.  I think that, frankly, Europe should be paying for this, to a large extent.  As of this moment, Turkey has been paying for most of it.  I think the President was saying today, they've spent over $40 billion on the cost of that -- $40 billion.

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  (Inaudible.)

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN: (Inaudible.)

     PARTICIPANT:  Forty.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Forty.  That's what I said.  (Laughter.)  Whatever.  He spent a lot, okay?  (Laughter.)  They’re giving -- they're throwing out all these different numbers.  I heard it was $40 billion.  How was that -- $40 billion?  Correct?  So, $40 billion.  And I've heard that number from others.  And that's a lot.  Europe has contributed about €3 [billion].  And a lot of these people would go all throughout Europe.  I mean, it would be a -- a devastating situation for Europe, because he's got 4 million people.  He has a lot of Kurds, too, that they're helping and taking care of.

    So, I have spoken to Europe about it.  I think they should help us with ISIS because many of them left France and they left Germany and they left UK -- they left different countries.  And these countries should help us because if they ever did get released, which we won't be doing -- but if they ever did get released, that's where they want to go.  They want to go back to France and Germany and UK and all of those other countries that are not helping us.

     I gave them the option, "Would you like to have them back?"  And, intelligently, they said, "No, thank you."  But that's not right and it's not fair.

     I can tell you also that Turkey captured -- when they -- some escaped during the conflict, when they had the heavy shooting.  And, I mean, I think I know how they happened to escape, but it's one of those things.  Doesn't matter, because Turkey captured everybody that escaped, plus an additional group.

     When we took over, when I became President, ISIS was rampant all over the Middle East.  And, as of about a month ago, I think, Lindsey, we can say that we have now 100 percent of the caliphate.  And they'll always try and grow, but they haven't been able to do that.  And what we did last week with al-Baghdadi -- who is the absolute founder, leader -- set them back.  We also got his number two, and we have our sights on his number three.

     So, they're not going to be growing too fast.  But I will say, Turkey has been helping us a lot.

     Q    So, with that, I have -- I also have a question for President Erdoğan.  With the -- what you're calling a realignment along the northern Syria border, a lot of Christians in that region are feeling very vulnerable.  Groups on the ground are saying that attacks on Christians have increased under this new policy.  And that they're not feeling safe any longer.  Can you guarantee that the Turkish government will also protect Christians in that region?  The fact that there was an attack on an Armenian priest -- he died -- he and his father -- this week.  ISIS is claiming responsibility.

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  (As interpreted.)  Thank you.  Thank you.  On the contrary, Keldani, Yazidi, and Christian minorities is an area where we're especially sensitive about, and we have certain, different plans -- whether it be the ones remaining on the side of Syria -- whose sanctuaries have been destroyed, whose churches had been destroyed -- will see their sanctuaries getting revived and their churches will be reconstructed so that they can go back and start praying there again.  And these are the plans that we're making for them.
     As I said before, the Christian minorities -- Aramaic Christ- -- Catholics, Keldani, and Yazidi -- the ones who are living on our side of the border have no problems whatsoever, but the ones remaining on the side of the Syrian territory will see their worshiping practices restored and revived in a special manner.

     They are receiving healthcare, they're receiving humanitarian aid in every aspect possible.  Thank you.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  Would you like to pick somebody?

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  (No translation provided.)

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  A friendly person from Turkey, please.  Friendly.  Only friendly reporters we like to see.  There aren't --

     Q    I'll try.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  -- too many of them around.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you.

     Q    You had the burden of Obama's flawed foreign policy.  And one of those flaws was allying the U.S. with the U.S.-designated terrorist organization, the PKK, and its Syrian offshoot, YPG.  You're trying to mend the damage that it did to U.S.-Turkey relations.

However you also invited the ringleader of YPG to the White House -- his codename “Mazloum Kobani.”  And he is responsible for at least 18 terrorist attacks in Turkey, which caused the death of 164 soldiers and 48 civilians.  So, after today's meeting, do you still think of inviting him to the White House, which will be very offensive and hurtful for the Turkish public?  Thank you.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I had a very good talk with him.  We had a very good -- recently.  And we're working very closely together, and we're also working very closely together with your great President.  And a lot of things are happening.  A lot of very positive developments are happening.

     A lot of that is definition: what's your definition of the various groups within the Kurds -- you call the “Kurds” -- and then you have various groups.  And some like them, and some don't.  But I think we've made a tremendous amount of -- we've gained a tremendous amount of momentum and strength and knowledge over the last short period of time.  So, we'll see what happens.
    But I will say that the relationship with President Erdoğan and Turkey has been outstanding.  And, you know, it's a major country with a tremendous military.  They're one of our very big purchasers of military equipment.  They have the finest equipment in the world, which the United States makes.  We make, by far, the best equipment in the world.  Turkey understood that a long time ago.

     So, I think a tremendous amount of progress is being made.  Okay?  Thank you very much.

     You could ask the President a question, now.  Same reporter.  You're sure you're a reporter?  You don’t work for Turkey with that question?  (Laughter.)

     Q    Me?  Okay.  I'd be glad to.  (As interpreted.)  Mr. President, about FETÖ, we are not getting the best of news out of the United States.  And the FETÖ (inaudible) targeting Turkey is extensively invested in their daily works, but I can see certain traces that the U.S. government is ready to understand more about FETÖ.

So my question is: How do you perceive the situation developing vis-à-vis the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization and the American approach to FETÖ in that regard?  Can we expect anything further?

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  Yes.  Thank you.  During this current visit, we are going to submit -- as we already have, actually -- a great deal of documents and evidence.  And FETÖ is a terrorist organization and he is the leader -- the ringleader of this terrorist organization.  They have killed 251 people in Turkey.  They tried to undertake a coup against the government, the state.  And more than 1,000 -- more than 2,000 people have been injured.  And the ringleader is living on an area of 400 acres in the United States, running his network all around the globe, and this is something unacceptable.

     And during this visit, as I've said before, we have introduced an additional array of documents.  We will submit them to the relevant authorities, including Mr. President.  And in the light of these documents, I think they will appreciate the situation.  We send the terrorists back, if they ask for them, and I'm sure they will do the same for us.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Fox, please.

     Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I know that you didn’t spend a lot of time glued to the TV today, but there was one moment where Ambassador Bill Taylor recounted a conversation that an aide of his overheard.  It was the day after the phone call with Zelensky, on July the 26th, in which the aide says that he overheard you say to Sondland, "How are things going with the -- proceeding with investigations?"  Sondland repeated back to you, according to this aide, that "Ukraine was prepared to do everything that you wanted it to do."  Can you -- was that -- is that correct?  And can you fill in some more of --

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I know nothing about that.  First time I've heard it.  The one thing I've seen that Sondland said was that he did speak to me for a brief moment, and I said, "No quid pro quo under any circumstances."  And that’s true.  And the other -- I'd never heard this.

     In any event, it's more secondhand information, but I've never heard it.

     Q    Do you recall having a conversation with Sondland (inaudible)?

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I don’t recall.  No, not at all.  Not even a little bit.  The only thing -- and I guess Sondland has stayed with testimony that there was no quid pro quo.  Pure and simple.

     Yes, please.

     Q    And President Erdoğan: President Trump sent you a letter on October the 9th, urging you not to launch a military action into northern Syria.  He said, quote, "Don’t be a tough guy.  Don’t be a fool."  You ignored that letter, and you went ahead, and you launched a military action into northern Syria.  Can you explain why you ignored the President's warning?

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  Well, this letter was represented to Mr. President this afternoon.  And I've also underlined the fact that a terrorist, such as Ferhat Abdi Sahin, should not be considered as an interlocutor by a country such as the United States.  And this individual, Ferhat Abdi Sahin, has been instrumental in the killings of hundreds of Turkish civilians and he is a person labelled as "like a son" for the terrorist leader who is currently incarcerated in Turkey, Abdullah Öcalan.

So, a person like this should not be welcomed by a country such as the United States.  And similarly, this person was welcomed by a country such as Russia.  So, it's very difficult for me to understand these when we're trying to fight terrorism on a global scale.  If we're going to sustain our fight against terrorism in a healthy fashion, we need to be much more sensitive than we currently are.  “It happens to us today and it will happen to somebody else tomorrow” is a saying that goes in our language.

     We have also provided information and the document thereof to our interlocutors in the White House, including Mr. President.  And I have also submitted a document produced by CIA, pointing out to the fact that this individual is a terrorist, to Mr. President.

     And, as I've said before, I have shared them with His Excellency, Mr. President.  And we gave back the letter that we have received.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  President, please.

Q    Thank you very much.  Mr. Kurd, from Kurdistan.  Thank you very much, Mr. President, for all you have done for Kurdistan and for Pesmerga in fight against ISIS.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Yup.  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.

     Q    My question is: All senators I meet -- all of them I interviewed -- they believe Kurdistan is very unique in the Middle East and (inaudible) all minorities.


     Q    What is your (inaudible) policy on the Kurds right now?

And as a question for President Erdoğan: Why you are not able to form negotiation with the Kurds in Syria, as Iraqi Kurdistan?  Do you think they will be your friends in future?  Thank you very much.  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, thank you very much.  And I will say that we've had a great relationship with the Kurds.  And we fought with them very successfully against ISIS.  We fought together.  We had -- we have great generals and we have great equipment, and it's certainly helped a lot.  But we were very, very successful.

And we captured, as I said before, 100 percent.  I was going to -- when we were at 97 percent, I was going to say, "Well, that sounds pretty high to me."  And I was thinking about stopping it then.  And a lot of people said, "Please, go to 100."  And very quickly, very rapidly, the military got the 100.  I wanted to have that.  But we have a great relationship with the Kurds -- we have had.  We're with them now; we get along with them.

And, by the way, I think the President, he may have some
factions within the Kurds, but I think the President has a great relationship with the Kurds.  Many Kurds live currently in Turkey.  And they're happy and they're taken care of, including healthcare -- we were talking about it before -- including healthcare and education and other things.  So that's really a misnomer.  But our relationship with the Kurds has been a very good one.  Okay?  Thank you.

     PRESIDENT ERDOĞAN:  (As interpreted.)  First, we have to make a distinction between two things.  We have no problems with the Kurds; we have problems with terrorist organizations.  Some terrorists coming out of the Kurds -- which are they?  What are they?  PYD and YPG -- which are offshoots of the terrorist organization, PKK.

Just as we have no problems with our brothers and sisters in the northern part of Iraq, where we enjoy great relations, and we have no problems with, similarly, our brothers and sisters in the northern part of Syria, during the times when Assad was not recognizing the Kurdish presence in the northern part, I told him that he needs to give these individuals passports and that he was making a mistake.
     And secondly, there is something really important.  I want you to know this: My political party has more than 50 MPs of Kurdish ethnicity in the Turkish parliament.  We don't have problems with the Kurds, but we have problems with the terrorists.  And, of course, you're not going to own up to the terrorists, are you -- whoever they are, whoever they might be?  But we have to make a distinction here.  We're just fighting terrorists, period.  Because the terrorists don't have an ethnicity, they don't have a nationality, they don't have a flag.  If they're terrorists, that is a terrorist.  If you don't fight back, then tomorrow you will have to pay a very hefty price.

Thank you.

     PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.
                              END            4:49 P.M. EST