Saturday, September 21, 2019


Office of the Press Secretary


Via Teleconference

September 20, 2019

1:52 P.M. EDT

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  My name is [senior administration official].  I just want to thank everyone today for being here.  Just up front, this call is a background briefing for President Donald J. Trump's trip to the United Nations General Assembly.

     The ground rules are as such: This is provided on background.  Attribution is to a senior administration official.  There is an embargo on the contents of this call until after this call is complete.  And we are going to cap the background interview at 20 minutes.

     So, here's the run of show.  Our first speaker is [senior administration official].  He will provide an overview of UNGA.  I will follow with an overview of the President's key events and bilateral meetings.  Our next speaker will be [senior administration official].  She will provide an overview of the President's Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom event.  And once she has concluded her remarks, we will take questions.

     And with that, our first briefer of the day is [senior administration official].  Over to you.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good afternoon, everyone.  During the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly high-level week, the President will affirm America's leadership role in the rules-based international system and the need to work collectively within the global community to address global challenges, while also asserting America's determination to uphold the sovereignty and independence of member states, especially on issues of national security.

     In the course of his engagements at UNGA, the President will highlight American values, and underscore that America is a positive alternative to authoritarianism.  Specifically, he will use this opportunity to showcase the administration's commitment to upholding democracy and protecting religious freedoms.

     The President will also emphasize the benefits of the American model and the economic prosperity, freedoms, and security that result from this model, and offer a positive vision for other countries around the world to follow.
     Per protocol, the President will address the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday morning, September 24th, and will also be the guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.

     He will have the opportunity to meet with the Secretary-General and incoming U.N. General Assembly President.  The President will also host a diplomatic reception on Tuesday night for all heads of delegation.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay.  Thank you, Jason.  I'm now going to provide an overview of the President’s agenda.  I'll speak slowly for everyone's benefit.

     Before discussing UNGA, I did want to highlight that the President will be travelling to Houston for President Donald J. Trump in his "Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures" event.  That will be -- he will then travel on to Ohio where he will be joined by Prime Minister Morrison of Australia, where they will visit Pratt Industries and celebrate the U.S. economic relationship with Australia.

     Okay, then on the Monday.  The President's formal UNGA program starts.  The first event will be the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom, which is our key event.  And [senior administration official] will give you more details later on.  The President will be hosting that event.

     After that, the President will be meeting with the following leaders and -- he’s scheduled to meet with the following leaders, forgive me: Prime Minister Khan of Pakistan, President Duda of Poland, Prime Minister Ardern of New Zealand, Prime Minister Lee of Singapore.  As [senior administration official] already mentioned -- correction, President El-Sisi of Egypt, and President Moon of Korea.

Then on Tuesday, the President's highlight is going to be the President's remarks to the U.N. General Assembly.  That’s our key event for that day.  After that event is completed, we will be meeting with the following.  He'll be meeting with the following leaders: Prime Minister Johnson of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Modi; as [senior administration official] previously mentioned, the U.N. Secretary-General and the incoming President; bilateral with Barham Salih, President of Iraq; to be followed by a diplomatic reception.

Wednesday, the President's UNGA agenda includes a meeting with Western Hemisphere leaders about Venezuela, a meeting with Prime Minister Abe of Japan, a meeting with President Zelensky of Ukraine, and meeting with the President of El Salvador, followed by his press conference to conclude UNGA.

Our next speaker will be [senior administration official].  She will provide an overview of the President's Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom event.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks so much.  I just wanted to preview for you the core event, which is the Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom.  This event seeks to highlight and broaden international support for protecting religious freedom in the wake of the increasing persecution of people on the basis of their own beliefs and faith, and a growing number of attacks on and destruction of houses of worship, religious sites, and relics by state and non-state actors.

The Trump administration has made religious freedom a domestic and foreign policy priority.  The past decade has witnessed a sharp increase in violent, sectarian, or religious tension.  There's been a stunning 83 percent of the world's population which now live in nations where religious freedom is threatened or even banned.  State and non-state actors are systemically targeting religious communities within their own borders and, again, as I mentioned, demolishing religious symbols and houses of worship, removing children from religious home environments.

This continues across the globe, and the President is calling on all world leaders to begin to not just talk about it, but to take action to acknowledge it and to move forward.

     We, in the United States, have taken several measures in the past two years to really enhance the protection of religious persecution in houses of worship.  So, that is the core information that we are able to share today on an exciting event taking place on Monday at the U.N. Headquarters.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay.  Thank you.  So, at this time, we'll go ahead and take your questions.  If you could unmute, ask your questions, and then stand by.  I'd also ask everyone to limit to one question, please.

     Okay, over to you.  Thanks.

     Q    Hi.  This is Steve Herman from the Voice of America.  Thanks for the list of the bilats.  I'm wondering if there is a possibility of any more being added to the list.  And do you have any information on what the agenda will be with the President of Ukraine, since there's quite a spotlight on that relationship right now?  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, sorry about that, Moderator.  That’s my fault.  I hit the wrong button.  Are we back now?

     MODERATOR:  Yes, you’re back.  I’m sorry, would you be able to please repeat the first question?

     Q    Yes.  The question was: Is there a possibility of any other sit-down bilats being added to the President's agenda?  And do you have any information on the agenda for the meeting with the President of Ukraine in light of that bilateral relationship in the headlines right now?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, with respect to Ukraine, I think the President is going to -- President Trump is going to focus on, again, congratulating President Zelensky on his election victories and the incredible energy and success President Zelensky has put forward in implementing the reform and anti-corruption efforts.  They're going examine further opportunities as have been recently taken, for example, on energy cooperation, where we have a recent trilateral energy MOU between Ukraine, the United States, and Poland.  They're going to look -- talk about opportunities to expand, through further reform of Ukraine's economy, additional trade opportunities.  And the President is going to speak to his concerns about what he sees as some predatory Chinese economic activity in Ukraine to loot Ukraine's intellectual property.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And no additional meetings planned at the time.  Thanks.

     Q    Hi, everyone.  It's Vivian Salama from the Wall Street Journal.  Thanks for doing this call.  So, my question is, with regard to Iran and the recent attacks on Saudi Arabia, the President has spoken about possibly forming a coalition, you know, really building international support.

And so, separate from these individual bilats and his speech, obviously, can you tell me what more he intends to do to really try to gain support for some sort of international action?  And also, what kind of action might he try to rally support for?  Obviously, the U.S. has put pretty exhaustive sanctions actions on Iran.  And so, what kind of international action would the President and the administration like to see going forward?  Thank you.
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, Vivian.  Obviously, our overarching concerns with Iran's escalatory violence is going to be a theme of the conference.  And we welcome this opportunity to consult with a broad range of partners and allies on our collective response.  And it's important to remember the attack on the Saudi infrastructure really is an attack on everyone who consumes that energy.  But that -- that particular stream goes disproportionately to Asia.  So, this is a very well-timed meeting, from our perspective.

     So it obviously will come up in the bilat.  I'm sure it will come up in some of the group events.  But then, also, Secretary Pompeo will be convening a meeting of our MESA partners, which is the GCC plus Jordan.  And so, that will be, again, another -- a group area.  And since MESA is collectively supposed to be about countering Iran and other threats in the region, I think that will be a very important meeting as well.

     Q    Hi.  Can you hear me?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, sir.  We got you loud and clear.

     Q    Hi.  Thank you for doing this.  This is Dmitry Kirsanov from TASS.  I just wanted to ask if a follow-up on Ukraine on the meeting between President Trump and President Zelensky.  Will President Trump (inaudible) any fresh ideas, fresh initiatives aimed at intensifying efforts to overcome the conflict in the east of Ukraine?  Anything on that?
     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  So, I think it's safe to assume that President Trump will discuss with President Zelensky the importance of all parties, including those parties that are illegally occupying Russian [Ukrainian] territory, of adhering to their Minsk obligations.

     Q    Hi.  Steve Holland with Reuters.  Could you talk a little bit about the speech itself?  How much it -- what the President might say on Iran, on North Korea?  These have been central elements of his speeches in the last couple of years.  What should we expect him to say on Iran and North Korea, specifically, on Tuesday?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, Steve.  How is it going?  It’s [senior administration official].  Hey, so my colleague kind of outlined, kind of the overarching themes in the beginning of the call, so I think we’ll just speak to that for now.   And we’re not going to preview the President’s speech at this time.  Thanks.

     Q    Hey, guys.  This is Justin Sink from Bloomberg.  Thanks for doing this.  Really quickly, in the second-to-last answer, I think you said, “Russian territory” and I just wanted to make sure that wasn’t intended to sort of signal that you guys saw Crimea as Russia now.

     But importantly, I wanted to ask about the religious forum.  There’s been some criticism that it’s scheduled for the same time as the climate change forum.  And so could you guys talk about whether that was a deliberate choice and why the U.S. isn’t going to be participating in the climate change forum?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I think what we’re really looking at is the importance of some of these particular bilateral relationships.  The President has talked with a number of these leaders and he continues to believe that this kind personal diplomacy is his strength.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On the climate change issue, we just want to focus today on the actual event that the President is going to be doing.  The Secretary-General will be participating in the religious freedom event.

     Q    Hi, this is Michael Wilner with McClatchy.  Just clarifying on the last question, I’m not sure if you answered, about whether you believe that Russia -- that Crimea is Russian territory.  So if you could just answer that.

     Secondly, on the agenda for the Western Hemisphere leaders meeting on Venezuela, do you have any more specifics on that?  Can you give us some details on what the President wants to come out of that meeting?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, so let me be clear here, in case there was confusion: The United States, Europe do not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.  Crimea is lawfully part of the Ukraine and is being unlawfully occupied by Russia.

And on the point -- on Crimea and on Donbass, with respect to obligations, Russia has obligations as a Minsk party in the Normandy format to adhere to those obligations.  And so the President will talk with President Zelensky about the importance of Russia adhering to its obligations that it willingly assumed as part of the Minsk process.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  And on the other -- on the other item, we’ll just have to get back to you on that one.  If you could send the distro -- press distro a note, we’ll respond to that question.  Unfortunately, we don’t have our [redacted] with us on the line right now.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I’m on the line.  I’m on the line here.  I can provide some background on the Venezuela event and the focus.

Just very briefly -- we won’t get into the specifics of the agenda, but the goal of the event really is to give the President an explicit opportunity to speak with important hemispheric leaders, in terms of the importance of regional support, the importance of continuing to increase the pressure on the illiterate regime of Nicolás Maduro, and to restate and reiterate that the President has an unwavering commitment to ensuring a peaceful democratic transition in Venezuela.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay, we’ll take one more question.  Thanks.

Q    Hello.  Good afternoon.  This is (inaudible) with WATV.  Thank you for taking our call.  Do you know if the President has any plans to speak on the peace -- the peace agreement that he said he would reveal right after the elections?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, thanks for that question.  I don’t think there has been a decision made about the date for the release of the peace plan.  So I would not anticipate an announcement at this time.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Okay, so that’s all the time we have right now for questions.

So just to go back over the ground rules, again:  This on background.  Attribution is to a senior administration official.  And now the embargo is lifted.

Thank you for your time today.

                   END                     2:11 P.M. EDT


Office of the Press Secretary


Rose Garden

 September 20, 2019


8:39 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Prime Minister Morrison, Mrs. Morrison: Melania and I are immensely honored to host you and the entire Australian delegation for a State Dinner in the historic Rose Garden.  I want to thank America's magnificent First Lady for this truly exquisite evening.  Thank you very much to Melania.  She worked hard.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Great job.

Tonight, we celebrate more than a century of loyal and devoted friendship between the United States and Australia.  Both of our nations are blessed by the uncommon courage, unfailing commitment, and unyielding character.  Our two countries were born out of a vast wilderness, settled by the adventurers and pioneers whose fierce self-reliance shaped our destiny.

The first settlers carved out a home on the frontier and forged our defining national traits.  Americans and Australians hold within our hearts a great love of family, a profound allegiance to our fellow citizens, a deep respect of law and liberty, and a determination to protect our independence at any cost.  It is this free and proud spirit that has always driven our people to imagine, to build, to achieve what others never even dreamed possible.

From the wide-open landscapes of the West and the Outback rose up cowboys and sheriffs, rebels and renegades, miners and mountaineers.  Against incredible hardships, our people have produced abundant harvests, pushed the bounds of science and exploration, and created timeless masterpieces of art, music, and culture.  The defiant spirit of our people has also armed our nations with the strength to overcome any foe that dares to trample on our sovereignty, threaten our citizens, or challenge our freedom.

This evening, we honor every Aussie and American hero who has paid the supreme sacrifice so that we might live in safety and in peace.  In June of 1940, during the Second World War, a renowned Australian writer published a song in the Australian Women's Weekly.  The song rallied the entire nation and it remains an inspiration to patriots everywhere.  Its lyrics are now printed on Australia's 10-dollar banknote.

The poem concludes by reminding the world that Aussies will always defend their cherished homeland.  And it says:

“We are the sons of Australia,
of the men who fashioned the land;
We are the sons of the women
Who walked with them hand in hand;
And we swear by the dead who bore us,
By the heroes who blazed the trail,
No foe shall gather our harvest,
Or sit on our stockyard rail.” 

As many of our friends with us here tonight know well, the acclaimed Australian author who penned these beautiful lines was Dame Mary Gilmore, and her great-great-nephew is Prime Minister Morrison.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON:  Thank you.  That was beautiful.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Prime Minister, on behalf of all Americans, our entire country: We are grateful that you carry on this noble legacy.  We give thanks to all the sons and daughters of Australia who have toiled and sacrificed for a strong, vibrant, and sovereign nation.

So, this evening, I offer a toast to the Prime Minister and Jennifer -- thank you Jennifer -- and to every citizen of Australia: May our heroes forever inspire us.  May our heritage always guide us.  May our values always unite us.  And may our nations always remain the home of the proud and the brave and the free.

I’d like to raise a glass to very special people and a very, very special country.  Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.  Thank you very much.

(A toast is offered.)

I now invite Prime Minister Morrison to the podium.  Mr. Prime Minister.  (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON:  Well, he got me.  Dame Mary, my great-great-aunt, would be very, very proud.

Mr. President, First Lady, Mrs. Trump: Thank you so much, Mrs. Trump, for the amazing night you’ve created for us here.  Ladies and gentlemen, friends: Jenny and I are truly grateful for this wonderful honor and the hospitality that you, Mr. President and the First Lady, have extended to us and to our country as we join you here tonight in the home -- your home -- and that of the American presidency.

This of course was once the house of President Teddy Roosevelt, who I’ve always greatly admired.  He was also a New Yorker.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  That’s true.

PRIME MINISTER MORRISON:  He was also unconventional.  (Laughter.)  He was no captive of the establishment.  He was also accomplished; indeed, some might say, a maverick.  But he was his own man.  He was a doer.  And above all, he was inspired by the great character of the American people.  There is nothing he believed his nation could not do.  And this is the heart of American greatness.

Mr. President, your belief in America and its people echoes this great spirit of that great President, and it’s backed up by you life’s experience and the passion and work of your presidency.

And, Mrs. Trump, your kindness, warmth, and quiet grace in the welcome to Jenny and I, and especially here tonight has been very special and, as Jen has said, very sweet.

General Washington once said, “It is infinitely better to have a few good many than many indifferent ones.”  The same is true in the friendship of nations.  Australia will never be accused of indifference in our friendship to the United States.  And tonight, Mr. President, we are reminded that the United States feels the same way, especially under your leadership.

I’ve noticed tonight the Marines who are on duty tonight, and I thank you for your service, but not just to the United States, but to our alliance as well.  In 1943, the U.S. Marine 1st Division was engaged in the first-ever, large-scale U.S. offensive against the Japanese at Guadalcanal.  At the same time, Australian forces were in New Guinea, also locked in the fiercest of battles against the Japanese.

We both prevailed -- each doing our bit, each carrying our own weight.  When the U.S. Marine 1st Division arrived in Melbourne after six months of heavy fighting, they were welcomed with a rendition of the Australian fake anthem, “Waltzing Matilda.”  More than 75 years, later, the 1st Division still plays “Waltzing Matilda” whenever they ship out.

It’s true, Mr. President: We have been in a lot of battles.  But we have also stood together to realize the dividend of peace -- of peace: prosperity that comes from our embrace of enterprise and free markets and the rule of law, our great immigration societies, education, liberal democracy, and a commitment to the fulfillment of human potential.

This has been importantly included in our work together to expand the frontiers of science, technologies, and exploration to reach into space as we first did together 50 years ago, when you launched and we kept Apollo 11 in contact, through the Honeysuckle Project, with Earth.  And we beamed those most famous of images of all time to an enthralled and inspired humanity.  Events that no doubt inspired a young Andy Thomas, from Adelaide, who is with us here tonight, to launch into space on the Endeavor almost 30 years later.

And now we have to do this again, under the vision of your presidency, Mr. President.  Our generation and our times call this great republic and our great commonwealth to live up to the calling of young, free nations to continually point the way to freedom.

In Australia, we’re reminded of this friendship by the great spire with the eagle atop that looks out across our nation’s capital in Canberra.  And earlier today, we gifted a bronze statue of Les “Bull” Allen, an Australian soldier, carrying a wounded Marine off the battlefield on steep slopes in New Guinea in 1943.  For his gallantry, he was awarded the U.S. Silver Star and the Military Medal whilst fighting alongside U.S. troops.

Mr. President, we would be honored if you would permit Australia, as our gift, to erect a life-size memorial of this image here in Washington at a place of your choosing as a constant reminder of our dedication to our American friends and the (inaudible) -- and the bonds we have formed.

But for now, ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast.

To 100 years of mateship, and to 100 more, to the people of these United States, to the President and his magnificent First Lady, and may God bless America.

(A toast is offered.)  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  That’s so beautiful.  Thank you.  Thank you, Scott.

I would now like to invite a very special person up to the podium to say a blessing, Reverend Franklin Graham.  Thank you, Franklin.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

                         END                 8:50 P.M. EDT           


Resolute Reads
Trump Welcomes Australia's PM, Cementing Strong Trade, Security Ties
“U.S. President Donald Trump welcomed Australia’s prime minister on Friday for only the second state visit of his administration, [signaling] the close bond between the two allies,” Alexandra Alper and Steve Holland report. “Days before the visit, a sign draped across the Australian Embassy in Washington proclaimed ‘100 years of mateship’ between the two countries. On Friday, Trump feted Morrison’s arrival at the White House’s South Lawn with a 19-gun salute and U.S. Marine Band performances of each nation’s national anthems.”

🎬 President Trump: America and Australia share an “unbreakable bond”
Trump Touts Newly Constructed Border Wall Sections
-Fox News
“In an exclusive interview on ‘Fox & Friends’ Thursday, President Trump told Fox News' Ed Henry that ‘brand-new’ wall sections have been built along the U.S.-Mexico border, contrary to claims by some Democrats,” Edmund DeMarche writes. “Trump said the new wall sections include 14 miles at the site in California, where the interview was held. ‘This was not here two weeks ago. This is all brand-new wall. ... We're building on many different sites all up and down along the border,’ he said, adding that the new 30-foot barrier was impenetrable even by ‘championship mountain climbers.’”

 Something to share: Great progress being made on the wall!
Melania Trump Participates in Reopening of Washington Monument
“First lady Melania Trump, alongside a group of local fourth graders, helped cut the ribbon to re-open the Washington Monument, which had been under construction in the wake of a 2011 earthquake,” Kate Bennet reports. “When it first opened to the public in 1888, it used to take more than 10 minutes to reach the top of the 500-foot Washington Monument, by steam-propelled elevator. Today, it's automated, and the ride in a posh new lift with video screens is just 70 seconds. That's just one of the upgrades Trump helped celebrate Thursday morning as she served as special guest to officially reopen the iconic structure after more than two years of closure for much-needed renovations.”

 After three years of renovations, the Washington Monument is open!
California Can’t Go Its Own Way
-The Wall Street Journal
“If you haven’t heard, President Trump has declared war on California, the auto industry and the world’s climate. Or that’s what liberals are saying about his Administration’s plans to revoke California’s waiver that lets it set national fuel economy rules that raise costs for consumers across the country,” The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes. “The Trump Administration isn’t prohibiting [automakers] from manufacturing more fuel-efficient and electric cars. Liberals call the President a totalitarian, but he’s the one giving consumers and businesses a choice.”
The NYT Kavanaugh Smear Shows Why the Press is the Least-Trusted Institution in America
-The Washington Post
“A Columbia Journalism Review poll released this year found that half of all Americans have ‘hardly any confidence at all’ in the media, which beat out even Congress as the institution for which the public has the lowest confidence,” Marc Thiessen writes. “It’s not hard to see why.” Last weekend, The New York Times published a story claiming a “previously unreported” sexual assault allegation against Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “One small problem … the female student in question ‘refused to discuss the incident’ and that ‘several of her friends said she does not recall it.’” The Times conveniently left that part out of its initial story, later adding a “clarification.”
This Constitution Week, America Welcomes 34,000 New Legal Citizens
-Fox News
For Constitution Week, “we recognize the signing of the U.S. Constitution and reflect upon the meaning and importance of citizenship and what it means to be an American, whether native or foreign-born,” writes Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Across the country this week, USCIS welcomed over 34,000 new citizens at more than 300 special naturalization ceremonies in celebration of Constitution Week. “We believe that U.S. citizenship is the greatest honor and privilege in the world,” he said.