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Remarks With National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien and an Exchange With Reporters in Los Angeles, California

September 18, 2019

The President. Thank you very much. We're with Robert O'Brien, who, as you know, is the new National Security Adviser. He's worked with me for quite a while now on hostages, and we've had a tremendous track record with respect to hostages. Robert can tell you about it.

But we brought a lot of people back home, and we haven't spent any money. So that's good, because you can't do the money thing. If you do the money thing, all of a sudden, it will double and triple and quadruple. You'll say, "What's going on?"

So Robert has been fantastic. We know each other well. And maybe, Robert, say a few words. Please.

National Security Adviser O'Brien. Great. Thank you. Look, it's a privilege to serve with the President and to—and we look forward to another year and a half of peace through strength. We've had tremendous foreign policy successes under President Trump's leadership. I expect those to continue.

We've got a number of challenges, but there's a great team in place with Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper, Secretary Mnuchin, and others. And I look forward to working with them and working with the President to keep America safe and continue to rebuild our military and really get us back to a peace-through-strength posture that will keep the American people safe from the many challenges around the world today.

Drone Attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Facilities

Q. Mr. O'Brien, what advice do you have for the President about the situation in Saudi Arabia and any possible military strike on Iran?

National Security Adviser O'Brien. Yes, so we're looking at those issues now and getting briefed up. And I think Secretary Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia now or is just coming home. And any advice that I give the President will be something I give him confidentially. But we're monitoring that situation closely.

Q. And, Mr. President, any update on your thinking?

The President. Yes, I have nothing to report yet. We'll probably be speaking to you tomorrow, maybe the next day. But nothing to report. But it hasn't changed very much. I think my thinking pretty much remains the same. And we haven't learned much that we didn't know. But there is——

Q. Mr. President——

The President. There is a certain—a guarantee factor. We're really at a point now where we know very much what happened.



Q. Lindsey Graham said sanctions aren't enough. Will you do more on Iran?

The President. We'll see what happens. We'll see. You'll watch. Peter [Peter Baker, New York Times].

Iran/United Nations General Assembly

Q. Mr. President, should Rouhani come to New York next week?

The President. Excuse me?

Q. Should President Rouhani come to New York next week for—[inaudible]?

The President. I really don't know. I really don't know. That's up to him. I mean, I'm—it's not up to me. It's up to him. We'll see what happens.

Q. Will you withhold visas for Iranians to come?

The President. Well, we're going to see what happens. I would let them come. If it was up to me, I would let them come. I've always felt the United Nations is very important. I think it's got tremendous potential. I don't think it's ever lived up to the potential it has, but I would certainly not want to keep people out if they want to come. So that would be up to them.

Iran/U.S. Military Operations in the Middle East

Q. Do you have a response to Senator Graham, who said that the failure to strike Iran this summer was a sign of—taken by Iran as a sign of weakness?

The President. No, I actually think it's a sign of strength. We have the strongest military in the world now. And I think it's a great sign of strength. It's very easy to attack.

But if you ask Lindsey, ask him: How did going into the Middle East—how did that work out? And how did going in Iraq work out? So we have a disagreement on that. And you know, there's plenty of time to do some dastardly things. It's very easy to start. And we'll see what happens. We'll see what happens.

I think we have a lot of good capital. If we have to do something, we'll do it without hesitation.

Drone Attacks on Saudi Arabian Oil Facilities

Q. Mr. President, do you agree with the Secretary—Mr. Pompeo—that the attacks in Saudi were an "act of war"? And if so, what's the response on the U.S. end?

The President. He just came out with a statement. He spoke to me a little while ago. And we'll have an announcement. Okay?

National Security Adviser O'Brien.

Q. What does Mr. O'Brien bring to the table that you were looking for that maybe you didn't get through Mr. Bolton?

The President. It's very interesting. Mr. O'Brien is highly respected. He was highly respected by so many people that I didn't even know really knew him. He did a tremendous job on hostage negotiation—really tremendous, like unparalleled. We've had tremendous success in that regard. Brought home many people. And through hostage negotiation, I got to know him very well myself. But also, a lot of people that I respect rated him as their absolute, number-one choice.

So you know, I think we have a very good chemistry together——

National Security Adviser O'Brien. Thank you, sir.

The President. ——and I think we're going to have a great relationship. He is a very talented man. Q. Mr. President——

Iran/U.S. Sanctions on Iran

Q. Mr. President, would you raise more sanctions on Iran today?

The President. I did.

Q. Would you announce more sanctions on Iran? What will they include?

The President. I did. We'll be adding some very significant sanctions onto Iran.

Q. And what will they include, sir?

The President. We'll be announcing it over the next 48 hours.

Q. And you said that there will be a further announcement on Iran. Are you looking at a military strike?

The President. We'll see what happens.


Q. What are the options, Mr. President, that you're considering? You just said that there were some very bad things you're thinking about.

The President. Well, there are many options, as you know, Phil [Phil Rucker, Washington Post]. There are many options. And there's the ultimate option, and there are options that are a lot less than that. And we'll see. We're in a very powerful position.

Q. Are you considering a nuclear——

The President. Right now we're in a very, very powerful position.

Q. When you say "the ultimate option," are you talking about a nuclear strike?

The President. No, I'm saying "the ultimate option," meaning go in, war. No, I'm not talking about that ultimate option. No.

Q. Okay.

The President. Right?

Role of the National Security Adviser

Q. How do you see the role of National Security Adviser changing with Mr. O'Brien?

The President. I think it's a very important role. It's really a role that, if the President respects the person that's the adviser, I think it really plays a very, very important role.

Okay? Thank you. Peter, thank you.

Border Security

Q. You're heading to the border today?

The President. We're going to the border later. Are you all with me?

Q. Yes.

Q. Yes.

The President. We're going to show you a lot of wall. We're building a lot of wall. We won the big case and a couple of other cases, as you know. We're building a lot of wall.

So we'll be talking. We'll be talking to you later on. Okay? Israeli Elections

Q. Have you spoken to Netanyahu?

The President. I have not. Those results are coming in, and it's very close. Do you have any updates? Any updates? Because you people usually should know before the President, right?

Israeli Election Results

Q. Are you suspicious at all about the results?

The President. No, I'm not. No, I'm not. Everybody knew it was going to be very close, and we'll see what happens. And look, our relationship is with Israel. We'll see what happens.

Thank you. Thank you, everybody.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:34 a.m. on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport, prior to boarding Air Force One en route to San Diego, CA. Reporters referred to former National Security Adviser John R. Bolton; and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks With National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien and an Exchange With Reporters in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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