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Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini of Slovakia and an Exchange With Reporters

May 03, 2019

President Trump. Thank you very much. It's my honor to have the Prime Minister of Slovakia with us today in the Oval Office. We have a lot of talking to do. We're dealing on trade. We have a very big trade arrangement and deal. They're buying quite a few of the F-16 planes from us. And a very big order, actually. I'm very impressed. And it's—I have to say, it's a great plane. It's a great, great plane.

But we do a lot of trade. And NATO partner. And our relationship has been very good. And this is the Prime Minister's first time in the Oval Office, and I think he's impressed with it.

Prime Minister Pellegrini. Yes, I am. [Laughter]

President Trump. Thank you very much for being with us.

Prime Minister Pellegrini. Impressed. Mr. President, I'm really very glad to meet Mr. President today here in the White House. And I think the timing is really perfect because this year we are celebrating 30 years of freedom of Slovakia.

President Trump. Yes. That's right.

Prime Minister Pellegrini. And the United States played a key role in our struggle for democracy, and it helped us to transform our country. And I'm very happy that today I can say that the United States and Slovakia are strategic partners and allies.

And, as the Prime Minister, I can say today that Slovakia is really a success story. And I would like to congratulate you, Mr. President, because, in Slovakia, we are able now to create thousands of new jobs, and we have the lowest unemployment rate in our history. And I would like to congratulate you to amazing numbers, which were published today, and about the jobs which were created thanks to your policies. So I think it's a huge success.

And congratulations, Mr. President——

President Trump. Thank you very much.

Prime Minister Pellegrini. ——because I know how difficult it is to reach such numbers and to boost the economy. And Slovakia has, in this moment, really a robust growth, even one of the highest in European Union and euro zone. So—and we are lucky that also your economy is doing very well, because if the United States is going well, also Slovakia——

President Trump. That's right.

Prime Minister Pellegrini. ——is going well.

And I have to say, ladies and gentlemen, that Mr. President is really a leader, which is very clear that we have to do even much more when it comes to defense. And as Mr. President mentioned, Slovakia is delivering. It's spending more. We are modernizing our Armed Forces. We are buying, also, U.S. military equipment. And I can say that the 2 percent of GDP, we will reach earlier, as was our plan. And in 2022, we will be on that number. And, once again, it's a great honor for me, great honor for our country, to be here in the White House with you, Mr. President.

President Trump. That's really nice.

Prime Minister Pellegrini. Thank you.

President Trump. I just want to add a little bit further that—and it's very nice what you said—but we are aligned with you and it has helped your economy, and that's been good. And that makes me very happy because those are incredible people. And the relationship has never been stronger than it is now. And you've been with us all the way.

And what you said is true: Slovakia is very close to being up to the benchmark number—the 2-percent number—and maybe even go beyond it, because they understand the value—the tremendous value—from the United States. Some countries aren't.

But NATO—as your Secretary General has said—they've, over the last short period of time, picked up over a hundred billion dollars of additional money since I'm President, because of the fact that I said you have to pay for your defense. I mean, you have to help us, because the United States pays for a really disproportionate share of NATO.

So over $100 million—over $100 billion has been paid by the various members of NATO. Some are doing fantastically. You are doing really well. You're almost up to the number

Prime Minister Pellegrini. Yes, thank you.

President Trump. And others aren't doing as well, but they will be, we predict.

And I think—I also just want to mention that the economy is unbelievable. We're at 3.6-percent unemployment. That's the lowest number since 1969. We have tremendous backing. The companies are doing really well. We have the lowest unemployment rates for different groups of people, whether it's African American, Asian, Hispanic. Hispanic just set another alltime record for low unemployment.

The household income is the highest it's ever been. Our country is doing well. Never, probably, has done as well as it's doing right now, economically. And so we're very proud of that fact.

We're dealing on China right now. We're doing fine. We're taking in billions of dollars from China in the form of tariffs, as you know. We're charging China tariffs. We've never taken in 10 cents from China, and now we're taking in billions and billions of dollars. That's had a very positive effect on things.

But the deal itself is going along pretty well. I would even say very well. We'll see what happens over the next couple of weeks. But we're getting close to a very historic, monumental deal. And if it doesn't happen, we'll be fine too. Maybe even better.

So I just want to thank you. It's a great honor to be with you. I've heard tremendous things. And you're a very popular man in your country. And I've had my best poll numbers too, so I feel very good. [Laughter]

But it's—our economy is raging. And when we have an economy that maybe is the best economy we've ever had, people tend to like you. So we're both doing well in that regard.

Prime Minister Pellegrini. [Laughter] I understand. Thank you.

President Trump. Thank you very much for being here. Steve [Steve A. Holland, Reuters], go ahead.

Q. Mr. President, what was your message to Putin on Venezuela?

Russia-U.S. Relations/Venezuela

Q. Mr. President, you spoke with Vladimir Putin earlier today.

President Trump. Yes, I did.

Q. What options are you looking at to get humanitarian assistance to Venezuela?

President Trump. Yes, I had a very good talk with President Putin—probably over an hour. And we talked about many things. Venezuela was one of the topics. And he is not looking at all to get involved in Venezuela other than, he'd like to see something positive happen for Venezuela.

And I feel the same way. We want to get some humanitarian aid. Right now people are starving. They have no water; they have no food. This is, Mr. Prime Minister, one of the richest countries in the world 20 years ago, and now it's—they don't have food, and they don't have water for their people. So we want to help on a humanitarian basis.

And I thought it was a very positive conversation I had with President Putin on Venezuela.

Q. Did you discuss the election meddling issues?

Q. [Inaudible]—the U.S. election, did you tell him not to meddle in the U.S. election?

Nuclear Weapons

Q. [Inaudible]—extending the new START treaty? Are you extending—talking about extending the new START treaty or adding China to it? Or what, exactly?

President Trump. We're talking about a nuclear agreement where we make less and they make less, and maybe even where we get rid of some of the tremendous firepower that we have right now.

We're spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons, numbers like we've never spent before. We need that, but—and they are also—and China is, frankly, also—we discussed the possibility of a three-way deal instead of a two-way deal. And China—I've already spoken to them; they very much would like to be a part of that deal.

In fact, during the trade talks, we started talking about that. They were excited about that. Maybe even more excited than about trade. But they felt very strongly about it.

So I think we're going to probably start up something very shortly between Russia and ourselves, maybe to start off. And I think China will be added down the road. We'll be talking about nonproliferation. We'll be talking about a nuclear deal of some kind. And I think it will be a very comprehensive one.

Q. Mr. President, did you tell the President——

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. Mr. President, did you address the election meddling issues that came up in the Mueller report with Mr. Putin today? President Trump. We discussed it. He actually sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that it started off as a mountain, and it ended up being a mouse. But he knew that because he knew there was no collusion whatsoever.

So pretty much, that's what it was. It started off——

Russia-U.S. Relations

Q. Did you tell him not to meddle, Mr. President? Did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?

President Trump. Excuse me. I'm talking. I'm answering this question. You are very rude.

Q. Mr. President—[inaudible]—Slovakia——

President Trump. So we had a good conversation about many different things. Okay?

Q. Did you ask him not to meddle?

Q. Did you tell him not to meddle in the next election?

President Trump. We didn't discuss that. Really, we didn't discuss it. We discussed five or six things. We also—we went into detail on various things, especially, I would say, the nuclear. Especially, maybe, Venezuela. We talked about North Korea at great length, and pretty much, that's it.

Also discussed trade. We intend to do a lot of trade with Russia. We do some right now. It's up a little bit. But he'd like to do trade, and we'd like to do trade.

And getting along with Russia and China, getting along with all of them is very good thing, not a bad thing. It's a good thing. It's a positive thing. Getting along with other countries—including your country, by the way—[laughter]—but getting along with countries is a good thing. And we want to have good relationships with every country.

Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III

Q. Mr. President, should Mueller testify? Would you like to see him testify before Congress?

President Trump. I don't know. That's up to our Attorney General, who I think has done a fantastic job.

Q. And why shouldn't the Congress have the same right to hear from the Attorney General——

Q. Mr. President——

President Trump. Yes, go ahead. Yes, please.

Slovakia-U.S. Relations

Q. Mr. President—[inaudible]—visit in Slovakia? Because——

President Trump. Well, I'd like to. I know people from Slovakia, and they're incredible people. I would love to. It's a beautiful country, and it's doing very well. It's doing very well.

Yes. Yes, please.

Tariffs Q. Do you want to introduce tariffs on the cars? Because the car industry is very important.

President Trump. Well, the tariffs have been a necessary thing for me to do, because in the case of the European Union, they have not treated us right. We're losing $181 billion a year. We have been for many years. And the European Union has not treated us properly. But we'll see what happens with regard to tariffs on cars with the European Union. We haven't made a decision on that.

Q. Mr. President——

Secretary of Defense

Q. Mr. President, are you going to nominate a Defense Secretary? Shanahan. Are you going to make it official?

President Trump. It will be discussed next week.

News Media/Press Freedom/Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. Mr. President, it's World Press Freedom Day. Can you say anything? We've heard a lot about your grievances to us, but can you say——

President Trump. Say it again. Say it again.

Q. It's World Press Freedom Day. We've heard a lot about your grievances about us, but can you say something that you can improve to improve communication and relationship with the press?

President Trump. Well, I think I have a very good relationship with some of the press. And, unfortunately, some of the press doesn't cover me accurately. In fact, they go out of their way to cover me inaccurately, so I don't think that's a free press. I think that's a dishonest press. And I want to see a free press.

I mean, today I was happy to see on the front page of the New York Times—for the first time—where they were talking about spying, and they were talking about spying on my campaign. That's a big difference between the way they've been covering, but that's a big story. That's a story bigger than Watergate, as far as I'm concerned.

So I want to see freedom of the press. And I get treated fairly by some press, but I get treated very unfairly by other press. And frankly, I think that's very dishonest. And I don't consider that. When you have stories that are purposely written badly—in many cases, very much on purpose—I mean, you look at it—that's not free press, that's the opposite of free press.

Investigation Into Russia's Interference in 2016 Presidential Election

Q. Mr. President, have you decided whether you'll invoke executive privilege as it relates to Don McGahn?

President Trump. That will all be determined over the next week or so.

Q. But you said it was done, so are you going block him? President Trump. But you know, I will say this: There has been no President in history that has given what I've given in terms of looking at just a total witch hunt. I call it the "Russian hoax." It turned out to be no collusion, no obstruction. It was a total hoax.

And, yet, I was transparent. We gave 1.4 million documents. We gave hundreds of people. I let him interview the lawyer—the White House lawyer—for 30 hours. Think of that: thirty hours. I let him interview other people. I didn't have to let him interview anybody. I didn't have to give any documents. I was totally transparent because I knew I did nothing wrong.

It turned out I did nothing wrong. No collusion with Russia. Think of it: Thirty-five million dollars they spent, they wasted, over a period of 2 years. No collusion, no obstruction.

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you, Steve. And thank you.

2020 Presidential Election

Q. Are you going to run on the economy?

President Trump. Yes. I'll be running on the economy. Sure.

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:55 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; and former White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II. A reporter referred to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks Prior to a Meeting With Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini of Slovakia and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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