Remarks by President Trump and President Iohannis of Romania in a Joint Press Conference
2:51 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT TRUMP: President Iohannis, thank you for being here. It’s an honor to welcome such a good friend of America to the White House.
As you know, the people of Romania and America share much in common — a love of freedom, proud cultures, rich traditions, and a vast and storied landscape to call home. The relationship between our two countries stretches back well over a century. But today we especially reaffirm and celebrate our strategic partnership that began 20 years ago next month. That partnership covers many dimensions, including economic, military, and cultural ties. And today we are making those ties even stronger.
Mr. President, your visit comes at an important moment not just in this partnership, but among all of the responsible nations of the world. I have just returned from a historic trip to Europe and the Middle East, where I worked to strengthen our alliances, forge new friendships, and unite all civilized peoples in the fight against terrorism. No civilized nation can tolerate this violence, or allow this wicked ideology to spread on its shores.
I addressed a summit of more than 50 Arab and Muslim leaders — a unique meeting in the history of nations — where key players in the region agreed to stop supporting terrorism, whether it be financial, military or even moral support.
The nation of Qatar, unfortunately, has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level, and in the wake of that conference, nations came together and spoke to me about confronting Qatar over its behavior. So we had a decision to make: Do we take the easy road, or do we finally take a hard but necessary action? We have to stop the funding of terrorism. I decided, along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, our great generals and military people, the time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding — they have to end that funding — and its extremist ideology in terms of funding.
I want to call on all other nations to stop immediately supporting terrorism. Stop teaching people to kill other people. Stop filling their minds with hate and intolerance. I won’t name other countries, but we are not done solving the problem, but we will solve that problem. Have no choice.
This is my great priority because it is my first duty as President to keep our people safe. Defeating ISIS and other terror organizations is something I have emphasized all during my campaign and right up until the present. To do that, stop funding, stop teaching hate, and stop the killing.
For Qatar, we want you back among the unity of responsible nations. We ask Qatar, and other nations in the region to do more and do it faster.
I want to thank Saudi Arabia, and my friend, King Salman, and all of the countries who participated in that very historic summit. It was truly historic. There has never been anything like it before and perhaps there never will be again. Hopefully, it will be the beginning of the end of funding terrorism. It will, therefore, be the beginning of the end to terrorism. No more funding.
I also want to thank the Romanian people for everything they contribute to our common defense and to the fight against the evil menace of terrorism. They have their own difficulties with it, and they’ve come a long way and they’re doing a lot. Romania has been a valuable member of the coalition to defeat ISIS, and it’s the fourth-largest contributor of troops in Afghanistan. There, 23 of your citizens have paid the ultimate price. And America honors their sacrifice.
I want to recognize President Iohannis for his leadership in committing Romania this year to increase its defense spending from 1.4 percent of GDP to over 2 percent. We hope our other NATO allies will follow Romania’s lead on meeting their financial obligations and paying their fair share for the cost of defense. But I will say this, that because of our actions, money is starting to pour into NATO. The money is starting to pour in. Other countries are starting to realize that it’s time to pay up, and they’re doing that. Very proud of that fact.
As you know, I have been an advocate for strengthening our NATO Alliance through greater responsibility and burden-sharing among member nations. And that is what is happening. Because, together, we can confront the common security challenges facing the world.
Mr. President, I want to applaud your courage and your courageous efforts in Romania to fight corruption and defend the rule of law. This work is necessary to create an environment where trade and commerce can flourish and where citizens can prosper. I look forward to working with you to deepen the ties of both commerce and culture between our two countries.
Romanians have made many contributions to the United States, and to the world. Very notable among them was Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, who was born in Romania and, sadly, passed away almost one year ago. And I understand that earlier this week, the American Jewish Committee presented President Iohannis with its very prestigious Light Unto the Nations Award, for his work to further Holocaust remembrance and education in Romania. I join the AJC in saluting your leadership in that vital cause.
The people of Romania have endured many, many hardships, but they have made a truly remarkable, historical journey. The future of Romania and Romania’s relationship with the United States is very, very bright.
President Iohannis, I thank you for your leadership, and I thank you again for being here today. I look forward to strengthening our alliance with your country and our bonds with your people. The relationship has been good, but now it’s stronger than ever.
Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT IOHANNIS: President Trump, thank you so much for the words you found for Romania, for the Romanian people, and for me. Thank you very much for the invitation to be here today with you. And thank you so much for arranging this nice weather in this place.
Mr. President, I’m very glad that we had such a good meeting. And this is due to your strong leadership, and this is also due to our strong partnership. Obviously, the fact that we celebrate 20 years of strategic partnership this year is important for both our nations, and it is important to know — and this is what I want to underline — that this partnership with the United States of America shaped Romania as it is today.
Romania, a solid democracy with a solid and sustainable economic growth. Romania which stands together with the U.S. troops in Afghanistan. We stand together in Iraq. Mr. President, this partnership contributed greatly to what Romania is today. And this partnership was and is very important.
And I think this partnership not only has to continue, this partnership has to become stronger. This partnership has to define our bilateral relation, and this partnership has to contribute to solve so many problems.
President Trump, you mentioned terrorism. I’m very glad that, due to your strong leadership, NATO decided to go against terrorism. Your involvement made so many nations conscious of the fact that we have to share the burden inside NATO. And this is why Romania also decided — and if I’m right, I think this is the first country during your mandate to step up to 2 percent of GDP for defense spending.
A significant part of this defense spending is going into strategic acquisitions. And I hope, President Trump, that we find good ways together to make good use of this money.
Romania is very conscious of the fact that we stand on the Eastern Flank and we heavily rely on your partnership, President Trump, because we cannot stand there without the U.S. We cannot stand there alone. On the other hand, our partnership has a huge opportunity to step up not only in security matters, but also in commercial and economic matters. And this is very important.
Romania is a member of the European Union. And I think it’s the best interest of you, Mr. President, to have a strong European Union as a partner. This is vital for all of us. Our relationship, the transatlantic link is vital. The transatlantic link is not about diplomacy, about policy — it’s at the basis of our Western civilization. And together, we will make it stronger. Together, we will make it better.
NATO and the European Union do not have to compete against each other. They have to work together. They have to work in such a manner as to produce synergetic effects. Make NATO stronger. Make European stronger. Make the United States of America stronger.
And this is what we decided, President Trump and I, to make our partnership stronger, better, more enduring. And this will lead very soon to an enhanced economic exchange — to better commerce. And this is what we all decide and what we wish, because we are responsible, President Trump and I, not only for the security. We are responsible for the well-being of our citizens. And this is what we are deciding to do.
Thank you so much, President Trump.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you.
Dave Boyer, Washington Times. Dave. Come on, Dave.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Apologies.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s all right, Dave.
Q Mr. President, this morning, on Twitter, you were referring to the testimony of James Comey vindicating you. But I wondered if you could tell us in person, sir, why you feel that his testimony vindicated you when it really boils down to his word against your word. And if you could also tell us, sir, do tapes exist of your conversations with him?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I’ll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future. But in the meantime, no collusion, no obstruction. He’s a leaker. But we want to get back to running our great country — jobs. Trade deficits, we want them to disappear fast. North Korea, a big problem. Middle East, a big problem. So that’s what I am focused on. That’s what I have been focused on.
But yesterday showed no collusion, no obstruction. We are doing really well. That was an excuse by the Democrats who lost an election that some people think they shouldn’t have lost, because it’s almost impossible for the Democrats to lose the Electoral College, as you know. We have to run up the whole East Coast and you have to win everything as a Republican. And that’s just what we did.
So it was just an excuse. But we were very, very happy. And frankly, James Comey confirmed a lot of what I said. And some of the things that he said just weren’t true.
Thank you very much.
Do you have a question?
Q Thank you. Mr. President, if you could tell us — a couple weeks ago, President Trump was in Brussels at the NATO meeting, and not only was he encouraging NATO members to pay up the 2 percent required of GDP for national defense, but he also was saying that countries, including yours, who had not paid 2 percent in the past should make up for that difference. Do you think that’s fair?
PRESIDENT IOHANNIS: I was in Brussels, and I met President Trump and I listened to his speech and I liked it. Because, you see, NATO is based on values, but it is ultimately a military alliance. And you know, military spendings are complicated and you need a lot of money, because NATO is the strongest alliance the Earth ever saw and we want to keep it that way.
So we have to spend money for defense purposes. And spending money means if you’re in an alliance, everybody has to spend money. This is called burden-sharing. And I fully agree, Mr. President, to that.
So, of course, some people liked this better, and some didn’t like it so much. But it’s a simple fact that we have to do this. Not as a purpose in itself; we have to do this to stay strong, to be strong, and to defend our nations.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: One hundred percent correct. And you know, one of the things I was referring to during that speech was the fact that, yes, they haven’t paid what they should be paying now, but for many years, they haven’t been paying. So I said, do we ever go back and say, how about paying the money from many, many years passed?
Now, I know no President has ever asked that question. But I do. And we’re going to make NATO very strong. We need the money to make it strong. You can’t just do what we’ve been doing in the past. So I did say, yes, you haven’t paid this year, but what about the past years, the many past years where you haven’t paid? Perhaps you should pay some or all of that money back.
You have a question?
Q Thank you. I have a question for President Trump. On the matter of security, sir, many of the countries on the Eastern Flank of NATO, including Romania, see Russia as a threat to the security and the peace in the region. Do you share this vision? And do you think that the United States should act under Article 5, if any of these countries would be under military aggression?
Thank you very much.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I’m committing the United States, and have committed, but I’m committing the United States to Article 5. And certainly we are there to protect. And that’s one of the reasons that I want people to make sure we have a very, very strong force by paying the kind of money necessary to have that force. But, yes, absolutely, I’d be committed to Article 5.
Q Thank you. Mr. President, were there any discussion about the Visa Waiver Program for Romania? Is there a time frame for including our country in this program? Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We didn’t discuss it —
PRESIDENT IOHANNIS: Yes —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We didn’t discuss it. But there would be certainly — it would be something we will discuss.
PRESIDENT IOHANNIS: I mentioned this issue, and I also mentioned it during other meetings I had, because this is important for us, it’s important for Romanians who want to come to the United States. And you see more and more people come, President Trump, from Romania to the United States. Some come as tourists. Some come for business. And those who come for business should be encouraged.
So the matter of visa waiver would be probably important to discuss. And we all hope that we will advance on this.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Good.
Look at those hands up there, President. Do you have this in Romania, too? I don’t know. (Laughter.) I’ve got the microphone. If I could only sell that. If I could only sell it.
Who would like to ask — should I take one of the killer networks that treat me so badly as fake news? Should I do that?
Go ahead, Jon. Be fair, Jon.
Q Oh, absolutely.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Remember how nice you used to be before I ran? Such a nice man.
Q Always fair. Mr. President, can we get back to James Comey’s testimony. You suggested he didn’t tell the truth in everything he said. He did say, under oath, that you told him to let the Flynn — you said you hoped the Flynn investigation he could let —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I didn’t say that.
Q So he lied about that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I didn’t say that. I mean, I will tell you I didn’t say that.
Q And did he ask you to pledge —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And there would be nothing wrong if I did say it, according to everybody that I’ve read today. But I did not say that.
Q And did he ask for a pledge of loyalty from you? That’s another thing he said.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, he did not.
Q So he said those things under oath. Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of those events?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: One hundred percent. I didn’t say under oath — I hardly know the man. I’m not going to say, I want you to pledge allegiance. Who would do that? Who would ask a man to pledge allegiance under oath? I mean, think of it. I hardly know the man. It doesn’t make sense. No, I didn’t say that, and I didn’t say the other.
Q So if Robert Mueller wanted to speak with you about that you would be willing to talk to him?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you, Jon.
Q And you seem to be hinting that there are recordings of those conversations.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I’m not hinting anything. I’ll tell you about it over a very short period of time.
Q When is that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Okay. Do you have a question here?
Q When will you tell us about the recordings?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Over a fairly short period of time.
Q Why not now?
Q Are there tapes —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Oh, you’re going to be very disappointed when you hear the answer. Don’t worry.
Jon, do you have a question for the President?
Q Yes. Thank you. And, President Iohannis, you are no stranger to Russian aggression. Vladimir Putin recently suggested that Romania could be in Russia’s crosshairs. How concerned should the world be about Russian aggression in your region? And how concerned should we be here in the United States about what Russia tried to do in our election, sir?
PRESIDENT IOHANNIS: Everybody is concerned. But, you see, being concerned should lead you to being prepared. So in my opinion, we have to be very clear, very simple and very straightforward if we talk about Russia and with Russia. In my opinion, we need dialogue. But, on the other hand, we need what we all together decided in NATO, a strong deterrence. So this combination — strong deterrence and dialogue — should lead towards a solution which is feasible for every part.
Q Hello, Mr. President Trump. You mentioned earlier the anticorruption fight in Romania. It is a matter of high importance in our country. But we see now that the anticorruption fight and the efforts to consolidate the rule of law are sometimes undermined by some politicians — part of what we can call the “Bucharest swamp.” Is your administration going to support the anticorruption fight in Romania? And how can you do it? Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we support very strongly Romania. And therefore, obviously we do support that fight on anticorruption. We will always support that. And we support your President. We think he’s done an outstanding job. Very popular, very solid, working very hard. We know everything that’s going on. And, yeah, and he’s going to win that fight. He’s going to win that battle. But he has our support.
Q Do you think corruption in Romania is a problem for the U.S.-Romania partnership and for the American investor — because we still have corruption in Romania, despite this anticorruption fight.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, you do. But I can tell you that there are many American investors right now going to Romania and investing. In fact, I was given a chart just before our meeting, and we have people going over to Romania and investing, and they weren’t doing that a number of years ago. So that shows very, very big progress. And there really are a lot of congratulations in store. But a lot of people are investing from our country to yours.
And people love — from Romania — the United States. And they come here a lot, and we’re very proud of them.
Thank you all very much.
3:18 P.M. EDT