Press Briefing on the President's Agenda at the UN General Assembly
Secretary of State
Americans expect the United States to assert bold leadership on the world stage that reflects our values. And under President Trump, we are certainly leading from the front.
This was clear from just the first meeting this morning, in which we issued a call for Global Action for the World Drug Problem, the scourge of drug trafficking, narcotics production, and substance abuse is intensifying on a global scale. Within the United States, President Trump is leading a massive and effective counterattack against it. It’s now time for every country to follow our lead.
Later today, the President will hold bilateral meetings with President Moon of South Korea, President Al-Sisi of Egypt, and President Macron of France. Whether it’s security issues, economic issues, human rights, or anything else, the President is asking for countries to exert their sovereignty to solve challenges and listening to what America can do to help.
This emphasis on sovereignty was, of course, the theme of President Trump’s speech to the General Assembly last year. That theme will endure in his speech tomorrow, along with a recap about how his call for every nation to do its part has paid dividends for the United States and the world over this past year.
For example, President Trump’s leadership, combined with efforts of countries to enforce the pressure campaign, has deescalated tensions with North Korea and brought us closer to our final goal: the final, fully verified denuclearization of the DRPK, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un.
Last week’s summit between President Moon and Chairman Kim yielded another positive step forward, but the President remains resolute: Now is the not the time to ease pressure.
And as you’ve heard too, President Trump will address the threat of nonproliferation at the Security Council, on Wednesday, and the need for responsible nations to stop the spread of weapons and technologies.
Among the topics that meeting will cover are North Korea, Syria, and Iran. You can bet the President will have well-deserved strong words for the Iranian regime, which is among the worst of violators of U.N. Security Council resolutions, if not the absolute worst in the world. He’ll call on every country to join our pressure campaign in order to thwart Iran’s global torrent of destructive activity.
Whether it’s Venezuela, South Sudan, Syria, Burma, China, the estimated 2.5 million victim — excuse me, 25 million victims of modern slavery around the world can also count on America’s support. Today is shaping up as a great first day. Lots more work to come this week.
President Trump and our entire diplomatic corps look forward to the days with our foreign counterparts as we work on achieving shared victories for all.
AMBASSADOR HALEY: Good morning. Happy UNGA. We got a great start today with the President’s event on counter-narcotics.
Really, to understand this event is to understand the fact that it wasn’t just a bunch of people getting into a room. Every country that attended had to sign a Global Call to Action, which basically said that they were going to implement something within their own countries that dealt with how they were going to deal with the supply and demand of drugs, the international cooperation they were going to do with other countries to stop illicit drugs, and then also treatment that can be done within their own countries.
And so the idea that the President was able to get 130 countries to sign on means that we are now having a global drug conversation that needed to be had for a long time.
As we go through UNGA, you are seeing over 140 heads of delegations that are here at the United Nations. We certainly are looking forward to the President’s speech tomorrow. As you can tell, last year we started UNGA and it was trying to figure what the U.S. presence was going to be. This year, we’re here with a bang. Not only is the President doing his speech, he’s going to be doing a Security Council meeting. Secretary Pompeo is also doing a Security Council meeting. The Vice President is doing an event on Venezuela. And so it’s all hands on deck by the United States.
He will be meeting with the Secretary-General. It’s been an interesting time knowing that, since the Secretary-General’s meeting last year, we have pulled out of the Paris Accord. We have pulled out of the Global Compact. We have pulled out of the Iran deal. And all of that is to say that the United States is determined to obviously be involved in multilateral organizations where we see it, but not in the way that they’re mandated on what the United States does or that infringes on the American people.
So with that, he will be hosting the reception, obviously tonight, with the heads of delegations. And then tomorrow night, he and the Vice President and the Secretary have agreed to host our Security Council members, as well as their foreign ministers.
And you know, with everything we’ve been able to get accomplished, whether it’s the arms embargo with South Sudan, whether it’s the idea that we were able to get three sanctions packages passed in North Korea, that we’ve got massive reform efforts that were done this past year and peacekeeping mandates completely rolled over. We would not be able to do that without the Security Council, and so that meeting is going to be very important.
But we look forward to a great week. Everyone is excited. The United States is always very happy to host this. New Yorkers may not be, but we’re going to make it a great UNGA. Thank you very much.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, thanks. I’m just delighted to be here. Everybody have a copy? I’ve got mine. It’s a little worn, but I still got it.
I just wanted to take a second and talk about one of the themes in the President’s remarks tomorrow. And I have been around long enough to know that I’m not going to step on any of his lines, but he is going to talk and elaborate on his views on sovereignty.
And I just wanted to explain that this is — why this is so important for Americans, because many people consider sovereignty a kind of abstract concept. It derives, obviously, from the word “sovereign,” meaning the monarch. But it’s one of the reasons I think America is exceptional, and that is we understand sovereignty not to be vested in the head of state; we understand it as the Framers said in the Constitution itself: “We the People.” We the people are sovereign in America. So that infringements on our sovereignty are not infringements on abstractions or infringements on the government, they’re an infringement on the people themselves.
We express our sovereignty through the Constitution, through our political process. It’s why that’s so important. And it’s why we believe — and of course, I’m speaking in secular terms here — that the Constitution is the highest authority that we recognize.
So in a number of different ways, the President is going to address this issue. And again, it’s the continuing theme of his — as Secretary Pompeo said, it was a theme in his last address to the General Assembly, it will be this year, and in a variety of other contexts that you’ll see.
MS. WALTERS: With that, we’ll open it up to questions. Steve Holland.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, will you raise with the Russians what you’re calling an “escalation” of sending these S-300 missiles to Syria?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there are many topics that we’ll talk about with the Russians. I am very confident that their latest decision to move the S-300 will be amongst them.
Ambassador Bolton has had the most recent conversation when he met with his counterpart now three weeks ago perhaps, four weeks ago.
As I said yesterday, we’re trying to find every place we can where there is common ground, where we can work with the Russians. We’re finding lots of places where they’re working against American interest, and we will hold them accountable for so doing.
QUESTION: And will you meet with Lavrov while you’re here?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. I’m sure Sergey and I will have our time together.
MS. WALTERS: Matt Lee from the AP.
QUESTION: I really don’t have anything to ask. I’m in the middle of writing something here. (Laughter.) But I will, I guess.
Ambassador Bolton, when you talk about sovereignty and your threat to prosecute the International Criminal Court, do you expect the President will repeat that threat? And exactly what is the legal basis for saying that you will prosecute ICC prosecutors or judges?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Well, as I said a moment ago, I’m not going to say anything specific about what he’s going to comment on. And the authorities that I referred to in my speech to the Federalist Society are largely drawn from the American Service-Members’ Protection Act of 2002.
MS. WALTERS: John Roberts, Fox News.
QUESTION: Two questions. The first one is not exactly in your purview. But as you spent the morning with the President, do you have any idea what’s currently going on with the Deputy Attorney General?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We don’t have any comment. You’ll have to talk to the White House about that.
QUESTION: Okay, then let me ask my second question. North Korea. You’re having a lot of talks with North Korea. You’re not seeing what you need to in terms of denuclearization. How long do you leave the door open before you decide this isn’t working?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, John, look, you have to remember this is a process that will move forward. To set a date certain would be foolish. But make no mistake about it — the conversations that we’re having are important. They’re putting the opportunity to complete the denuclearization in place. And we will continue at every level to have those conversations. Some of them you will all be aware of; some of them you won’t know are taking place.
There’s lots going on so that we can get to the place where — in this place, this week. Right? These are the U.N. Security Council resolutions that demanded that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons program and, even more broadly, its nuclear capabilities. Those aren’t United States demands; they are the United Nations demands. And we’re working to assist in implementing them and to help Chairman Kim get to the right place to honor the promise that he made to President Trump in Singapore.
QUESTION: Are you optimistic that he will come through on this?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes.
MS. WALTERS: Errol Barnett, CBS.
QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo, just to follow up on that point, President Trump said earlier today the second meeting will take place quite soon. So my specific question to you is: What does North Korea need to do before securing that meeting? Or has it already achieved that privilege?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’m not going to get into the details about it, but the President said this morning they’ll meet quite soon. I’m confident that that will happen. I expect I’ll be traveling to Pyongyang before too long, as well, to make the final preparations for that second meeting between the two leaders.
QUESTION: Will that be before the end of the year? What is “soon”?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes. Lord willing, I’ll be traveling before the end of the year.
MS. WALTERS: Francesca Chambers.
QUESTION: Thank you, Lindsay. I’ll start with you, Secretary Pompeo. North Korea says that it’s looking for reciprocal actions from the United States in order to enter into a nuclear deal. What at this point would the United States be willing to give up to North Korea since you guys have said that sanctions are not on the table? And then, I have a second question on a second topic, but you might want to answer that first.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I have said repeatedly and I shall remain steadfast: We’re not going to talk about the state of the negotiation — it would be inappropriate for us to do that — or our North Korean counterparts to talk about particular deal points, things we’re working on.
But the fundamental principles remain the same. We expect the full, complete, verified denuclearization of North Korea. And until such time as that occurs, the economic sanctions — the sanctions that have been put in place by the United Nations Security Council — will remain in place. That’s the core proposition that the President agreed to in Singapore, and it’s the one we’re going to continue to honor through the whole process.
QUESTION: Okay, and then the second topic. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the U.S. allies who is not getting a private sit-down with the President this week, it would seem. So what does that say about the relationship between the United States and Canada right now? And what does it say about the possibility of securing a trade deal with Canada?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: The President’s schedule is very compressed this year in New York, and so there were a lot of requests and a lot of desires by the President to have bilaterals that simply couldn’t be accommodated. He speaks with Prime Minister Trudeau by phone all the time. And it’s always possible here in New York that they would have time for a pull-aside, as we call it. But there is full and open, complete communication between Prime Minister Trudeau and President Trump. That I can assure you.
MS. WALTERS: Emerald Robinson, One America News.
QUESTION: Thank you, Lindsay. This is for either Ambassador Haley or Secretary Pompeo. In an update on Pastor Brunson, there’s rumors that he could be released next month. Any comment on that? Is that true? And are there conversations going on this week in regards to him and Turkish sanctions?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, he could be released this month. He should have been released last month, and he should be released today, in fact. We’ve talked to the Turks; they know the expectation. Pastor Brunson and the other U.S. persons that are being held by Turkey all need to be released by Turkey. And they need to be done — that needs to be done immediately.
And I’m sure there will be some conversations this week in furtherance of that. But no make no mistake, there will be nothing that we share with them here that we haven’t shared with them already about President Trump’s demands that these innocent people — these people who have truly done nothing wrong — not be detained wrongfully in Turkey.
MS. WALTERS: We can move to the back of the room.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you very much. Secretary Pompeo, my name is Majeed Gly. I’m from Rudaw Media Network. I have a question for you, Ambassador Bolton, or Secretary Pompeo, to answer questions about Iraq.
Ambassador Haley last week elaborated very well at the Security Council of how Iran is practically taking over Iraq and influencing what’s going on there. Iran now is appointing the Speaker of the Parliament. They’re planning to appoint the Prime Minister of Iraq. They’re taking over the country. What is the U.S. planning to do in order to counter Iranian influence? Do you have specific plans with that regard? Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. You’re speaking about the Iraqi government formation process? Yes, sorry, I wanted to make sure I had the question right.
This administration took over at time when Qassem Soleimani and the Ayatollah were running rampant through five capitals in the Middle East. And we have engaged in significant activity that has begun to counter the Iranian threat. Today they remain the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. It is our fervent effort to make sure that that not remain the case.
We’ve put a number of restrictions in place. We will re-impose another set of sanctions come this November. Our actions in and around the Middle East have made clear we will not continue to accept Iran’s bad behavior.
In Iraq, we have been working to achieve a government that is an Iraqi national government. And we’re hoping that the leaders — the people of Iraq have spoken. They had their chance to vote. And now they’re in the process of forming that government. And we are working diligently to make sure that the Iraqi people, the voice that they gave during their election, is who ends up in leadership there.
QUESTION: A follow-on. Kim Dozier from the Daily Beast. Rudy Giuliani over the weekend called for regime change in Iran. Does that follow with the Trump administration’s desires of policy?
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: As I’ve said repeatedly, regime change in Iran is not the administration’s policy. As Mike Pompeo just said, we’ve imposed very stringent sanctions on Iran. More are coming.
And what we expect from Iran is massive changes in their behavior. And until that happens, we will continue to exert what the President has called “maximum pressure.” That’s what we intend to do.
MS. WALTERS: Jim Acosta, CNN.
QUESTION: Yes, Ambassador Haley, you’re the lone person here that has been with the administration since the beginning. In the story about Rod Rosenstein on Friday, it was mentioned that he had been involved in circulating discussions about invoking the 25th Amendment to have the President removed from office. Were you ever involved in any of those discussions? Were you aware of any of those discussions? And I did have a North Korea follow-up for the Secretary.
AMBASSADOR HALEY: I mean, I said yesterday, on the Sunday shows, that, literally, I have never once been in the White House where that conversation has happened. I am not aware of any Cabinet members that are even talking about that. It is completely and totally absurd. No one is questioning the President at all. If anything, we’re trying to keep up the pace with him, in the fact that he’s got a lot he wants to accomplish very quickly, and we’re going to continue to support him in the way that he does that.
QUESTION: I appreciate that. And, Secretary Pompeo, if I may ask you a follow-up on North Korea. Before you went into the summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, you did not have an agreement really in place for complete denuclearization. Why should you have another summit with Kim Jong Un — a second summit the President talked about this morning — if you don’t have the details in place? It just seems, even to the layman, that you sort of have the process backwards; that you would want the details in place before having a summit. And here you may do it for a second time.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Two things. Fact check: I’ve been with the administration since the beginning too. Not that that’s relevant. (Laughter.) But I’ll add, no discussion with me about the 25th Amendment anywhere either.
QUESTION: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. Yes, sir.
SECRETARY POMPEO: So you can now report that there are two senior leaders that have said that your statement — your question was ludicrous. (Laughter.)
Second point, with respect to North Korea: Look, we went —
QUESTION: Well, if it’s so ludicrous — if I may ask, if it’s so ludicrous — and I apologize for not remembering that you were the CIA Director. Obviously, you were the CIA Director. If it’s so ludicrous, why did the Deputy Attorney General have discussions about it behind the scenes?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I find the question ludicrous. I’ve been involved — I’ve been at the center of this administration, along with lots of other folks, from virtually day one. I think it was actually day three or four. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, whisper about it, joke about it in any way. I’ve been in a lot of meetings with a lot of senior officials from this government.
Your question on North Korea: Remember the history. We went at this the other way for decades, and North Korea continued to build its nuclear program. Right? We tried to do details. We tried to do step-for-step. We tried to do trade-for-trade. Each of those failed.
We’re coming at this from a different direction. We’re bringing the two senior leaders, the individuals who can actually make the decisions that will move this process forward, bring them together so we can continue to make progress towards what the U.N. Security Council has demanded and what Chairman Kim has promised he would do.
That’s the effort. There remains work to be done. There will be some time before we get to complete denuclearization for sure. But we’ve been at this the other way for an awfully long time and failed, and put America in the position it finds itself today: At risk from North Korean nuclear weapons.
QUESTION: And wouldn’t it be ludicrous to have another meeting with Kim Jong Un if you don’t have the details in place?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Absolutely not. If we can continue to make progress and have conversations, I think there’s enormous value in that.
MS. WALTERS: (Inaudible) in the back.
QUESTION: Yeah, hi. Secretary Pompeo, in your terms about denuclearization, you left out the word “irreversible.” Was that a mistake or deliberate?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Complete mistake. Completely irreversible. Thank you. Thank you for correcting me.
MS. WALTERS: Thank you all for attending today. Thank you.