The President's News Conference With President Andrzej Duda of Poland
President Trump. Thank you very much. Please. Today Melania and I are honored to welcome President Duda and Mrs. Kornhauser-Duda of Poland back to the White House. They've become friends. We last hosted them in Washington, in September, and it's wonderful to see you both again. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you. Great honor.
Since our last meeting, the unbreakable bonds between the United States and Poland have grown even closer. This year, as our nations mark 100 years of diplomatic relations, the U.S.-Polish alliance is stronger, by far, than ever before.
Earlier today President Duda and I signed a joint declaration affirming the significant defense cooperation between our nations. And, as the declaration makes very clear, the United States and Poland are not only bound by a strategic partnership, but by deep, common values, shared goals, and a very strong and abiding friendship.
Our people are united by the enduring ties of civilization, culture, and history. We respect the rule of law, revere individual rights, and prize our timeless traditions. We embrace country, faith, family, and freedom.
Over the past century, brave American and Polish patriots have repeatedly stood together to defend our sovereignty, our liberty, and our noble way of life. When I was last in Poland, I was very proud to stand among veterans of the Warsaw Uprising and recall their incredible courage in the face of Nazi tyranny. Today we honor the sacrifices of all those who came before by doing our part to safeguard our independence and strengthen the incredible U.S.-Polish alliance.
As stated in the joint declaration, the United States and Poland continue to enhance our security cooperation. Poland will still provide basing and infrastructure to support military presence of about 1,000 American troops. The Polish Government will build these projects at no cost to the United States. The Polish Government will pay for this. We thank President Duda and the people of Poland for their partnership in advancing our common security.
Poland's burden sharing also extends to the NATO alliance, where it is among 8 NATO allies, including the United States, currently meeting the minimum 2 percent of GDP that's for defense spending. And Poland is there. And you've been there from a very early date, and we appreciate that very much. And we've been there also. There's been a total of 8—8 out of 28, and the rest are coming along. Because nations, at my urging, have paid more than $100 billion more toward the NATO defense.
Last month, I was very pleased that Poland announced the intent to purchase 32 American-made F-35 fighter aircraft, like you just saw. Moments ago, we witnessed that impressive flyover of this cutting-edge F-35 as it flew over the White House and actually came to a—pretty close to a halt over the White House. I was saying, "What's wrong with that plane? It's not going very fast." [Laughter] But it's an incredible—it's an incredible thing when you can do that. That plane can land dead straight, and it's one of the few in the world that can do that. Considered to be the greatest fighter jet in the world.
I applaud President Duda for its efforts to strengthen and modernize Poland's defenses. I also want to congratulate Poland for its progress on meeting U.S. criteria for entry into the Visa Waiver Program. Today our country signed a Preventing and Combating Serious Crimes agreement, a significant and necessary step for Poland's entry into the program. Though we still have some work to do, we hope to welcome Poland into the Visa Waiver Program very soon, and that's a very big deal.
Both of our nations understand that immigration security is national security. In our meeting, President Duda and I discussed the vital issue of energy. Reliance on a single foreign supplier of energy leaves nations totally vulnerable to coercion and extortion. For this reason, we support Poland's construction of the Baltic pipeline, which will help European countries diversify their energy sources. It's desperately needed, and that's the way to go.
During the past year, Poland has also signed approximately 25 billion dollars' worth of new contracts with U.S. firms to buy more than 6 billion cubic meters of U.S. liquefied natural gas. Today our nations just signed another contract for an additional 2 billion cubic meters worth approximately $8 billion.
So between the planes and the liquefied natural gas and many other things that Poland is doing—which is doing very well because Poland is doing very, very well—we appreciate it. Thank you very much, Mr. President.
Our countries also signed an agreement to expand U.S.-Polish civil nuclear cooperation, which will likewise advance Poland's energy and security and deepen our bilateral commercial ties.
Economic relations between the U.S. and Poland are thriving. We're committed to further expanding commerce based on fairness and reciprocity, perhaps my favorite word.
Across many critical areas—from defense and diplomacy, to energy and economics—the alliance between the United States and Poland is reaching extraordinary new heights in 2019. Our longstanding partnership demonstrates the enormous possibilities for the world when two strong and independent nations unite in common purpose and in common cause.
President Duda, it's a honor to have you with us. And, Mrs. Duda, thank you very much for being here. We usher in a very exciting new era in U.S.-Polish alliance. It's a very special alliance with very special people. We build a future of promise and prosperity for the American and the Polish people. And, again, our relationship is an extraordinary one, and it's going to remain that for a long, long time.
Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you.
President Duda. Distinguished Mr. President, wonderful First Lady of the United States of America, distinguished Ministers, all distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
First and foremost, together with my wife, we would like to thank you very much, Mr. President Donald Trump. Thank you also to the First Lady Melania Trump for this invitation to Washington. Thank you for this possibility of holding another, within the last 10 months, official visit to the United States here at the White House.
This clearly demonstrates how close and how good contacts are today between Poland and the United States. Mr. President, all of us hope that you will visit us in Poland, in September, and that we will be able, together, to commemorate the memory of all those who fell and who perished during the Second World War, which started on the 1st of September, 1939, in Poland through the attack of Nazi Germans on our country. And soon, unfortunately, our country vanished from the map of Europe after the attack of the Soviet Union, against Poland, together with Nazi Germany.
That is our history. It's a very difficult one. And today, we firmly believe that the true ally of Poland, but also a true ally of a free Europe, is precisely the United States of America, who helped that very Europe in such a huge way to win the Second World War and later to establish an independent, sovereign, and free world, which later turned into the European Union.
It exists until this day, and thanks to God. Also thanks to the support of the United States, through the support of subsequent Presidents since 1989; thanks to the great movement of Solidarity; thanks to the great determination of the Polish nation.
Also, we are part of the free world. Also, Poland, which liberated itself from behind the Iron Curtain, which later led to the collapse of the Iron Curtain through the votes of the people casting elections in 1989. In those elections, people said no to the Communists. Also, Poland can develop today as an independent and truly sovereign country, a country which wants to build the European community and a country which also wants to build the Euro-Atlantic community.
In our understanding, this is an absolutely key element of peace and good cooperation across the globe. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you that for sure you are among those Presidents of the United States who understand how it works perfectly. You understand that when the U.S. looks at Europe, when it looks at the security of the European states, it plays a key role for the peace around the globe. It is of key importance for a peaceful development of democratic states and democratic communities.
Thank you, Mr. President, for this extreme kindness towards Poland and perfect understanding of Polish matters, which you showed to us in 2017 during your visit to Poland, during your memorable speech that you gave at the Monument of the Warsaw Uprising where so immensely important words for Polish people fell, which are of historic importance to our nation and to Europe. They showed what Poland means and who Poles are.
Mr. President, thank you for uttering those words back then. And thank you also for this policy which is being implemented right now, which demonstrates that you are this kind of man and this kind of a politician who not only speaks, but to whom first and most important are the deeds. The most important are the deeds.
And whenever you say, Mr. President, "Make America Great Again," it means "make" not "say." And this precisely is of crucial importance, hence the agreements that we are signing; hence two agreements between our two states concluded today: two memorandums of understanding, which we signed just a moment ago. One of them I signed personally concerning the security and military cooperation.
As you mentioned, sir, there will be more American troops in Poland. This is going to be an enhanced cooperation. It's going to be an enduring presence, which hopefully will increase gradually in terms of the number of troops, but also in terms of infrastructure which is very important.
Thank you also for the decision to establish the division headquarters in Poland. This is of huge importance not only to Poland, but also to our part of Europe, to Central Europe, to the Baltic States, and to all those to whom the enhanced forward presence was established, of the United States and other NATO states, along NATO's eastern flank. I'm deeply grateful for that.
But thank you, Mr. President, also for the remaining agreements. Thank you for this agreement which talks about Preventing and Combating Serious Crimes. It moves us closer to Visa Waiver Program between Poland and the United States—which to you, Mr. President, and to me, and, first and foremost to Poles, is so important—is of such a crucial importance.
Thank you, Mr. President, also for excellent energy cooperation that we have in terms of LNG supplies. We talked about this in 2017, in Warsaw, during our meeting, that gas from the United States should be delivered to Poland. And it is delivered. And we are signing more contracts. And gas tankers from the United States are coming to the Port of Swinoujscie today. And the gas from the United States has become a fact in Poland and in our part of Europe.
Thank you, Mr. President, that there are going to be more supplies. I'm very happy about that, because to us, it means diversification of sources of supplies. It also means the development of gas security. To us, it also means good business, just as I do really believe is a good business for the United States of America. But thank you also for the agreement cooperation in terms of nuclear energy used for civil purposes.
I hope that, together, we will be able to implement this program with the benefit for environment protection with the benefit for—[inaudible]—protection across the globe and also for the development of the security of my homeland.
Mr. President, I am deeply grateful for this visit. I'm pleased that, thanks to this presence, we're able to show the very good cooperation that we have between Poland as part of the European Union and the United States.
And I firmly believe that thanks to your incredible view of the European matters, and thanks to your understanding to our Polish matters and to the meanders of our history, this cooperation is going to develop better and better, first and foremost also with the benefit for the United States whose interests you are representing, Mr. President, and also understanding the rest of the world.
Thank you very much for that.
President Trump. Thank you. Thank you very much. We'll take a few questions. Emerald [Emerald Robinson, One America News Network], OAN.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
President Trump. Thank you.
Russia-Germany Nord Stream II Natural Gas Pipeline/Poland-U.S. Relations
Q. Earlier in the Oval Office, before you did your meeting with President Duda, you were quite critical of Germany, as you talked about possibly moving troops from Germany to Poland. Do you think that doing a move like that will put pressure on Germany to meet their defense spending requirements?
President Trump. No, I don't think so. I just will tell you very strongly that I think Germany is making a tremendous mistake by relying so heavily on the pipeline. And I think it's a tremendous mistake for Germany. But again, Germany is running their affairs. And they'll do just fine.
But I was critical. I had been critical of it. It's a tremendous amount of their energy will be supplied by that pipeline.
At the same time, having nothing to do with Germany, Poland said that we would like to build a facility, a great facility, and we'd like to have you come to that facility. So we're going to be there with a limited force, but we'll be there. And we appreciate Poland doing what they're doing. It's a great location. It's a tremendous—it's a tremendous plant, tremendous facility. And we—it's our honor to be there.
Poland has been a tremendous friend of ours for a long time. And when Melania and I were there not so long ago, it was a very special day. I think it was a special day for Poland, also. But it was a very special day for our country. So I appreciate that. And our relationship is just a very strong one.
North Korea Q. And, if I may, would you indulge me with one more question before I get——
President Trump. Yes, go ahead.
Q. ——to ask President Duda a question? In more recent news, yesterday you revealed you got another letter from Kim Jong Un. And today we hear of the potential thawing of relations between South Korea and North Korea as Kim Jong Un is sending his sister to South Korea. Now, could you give us an update on more of what was in that letter? And is there a third summit in the works?
President Trump. He just wrote me a very nice letter, unexpected. And someday, you'll see what was in that letter. Someday, you'll be reading about it. Maybe in 100 years from now, maybe in 2 weeks. Who knows? But it was a very nice letter. It was a very warm, very nice letter. I appreciated it. Okay?
Q. Thank you.
President Trump. Good. Thank you very much.
Q. And then, if I may, for President Duda?
President Trump. Please.
Poland-U.S. Military Cooperation
Q. You said you were thankful for the commitment that the President made for more troops today, but you hinted that you would like to see more. Ultimately, what is the number of troops that you'd like to see in Poland? U.S. troops.
President Duda. Madam, this, of course, is always going to be the decision of the United States of America.
President Trump. He'd like to see 250,000 troops. [Laughter] We'll keep it slightly below the—[inaudible].
President Duda. It's always going to be up to the United States to decide how many troops there will be sent to Poland—to which allied nation.
Of course, I know that this depends on the needs and on the real situation on the ground. Of course, I know that this depends on the needs and on the real situation on the ground. Of course, we are very pleased that the U.S. troops are present by giving an evidence to the sustainability and strength of the alliance. And the U.S. soldiers are kindly treated in Poland. They are received as friends.
And we are happy that they are serving in our country. We would like those bonds between Poland and the United States to become even tighter. And we are trying, also, to create the best possible conditions for American soldiers.
Q. Thank you very much, President Trump. Thank you very much, President Duda. I have questions to both of you actually.
President Trump, you plan to enhance U.S. military presence in Poland. Last year, you promised you would enhance our military cooperation, training, intelligence, missile defense, and it's happening right now. People of Poland still remember your incredible speech in Warsaw. Why Poland is such an important ally for you?
President Trump. I just have a very warm feeling for Poland. I always have. And it's now even beyond that because of the relationship, which we've developed with your President and First Lady. And it's just—they're very—they're incredible people: hard-working, smart, very industrious people. And what they've done with the country over the last 5 years has been something that the world has watched and the world has marveled at.
I've just liked Poland. So when the President came and he asked me whether or not we'd consider this, I said, "I will consider it." And now, because of his leadership, we're able to do that. And that's fine with me. That's great. Great people. And say "hello."
Q. So I understand we can—we'll see you in September, in Warsaw, correct?
President Trump. We are looking very seriously at going back to Poland. And I don't know what the President has in store for us, but we're thinking about going back sometime in September. Yes. Thank you.
Q. Amazing. Thank you. Thank you very much.
President Trump. Thank you.
Q. A question to President Duda. Mr. President, so far, we have been talking about a rotational presence of U.S. troops in our country. Right now we are talking about permanent or enduring presence. What does that mean in concrete terms? And when can we expect those additional U.S. troops to arrive?
President Duda. I understand it in the follow way: President Donald Trump and myself are implementing a very calm but consistent policy in terms of security. The presence of the United States in Poland—the military presence—the presence of U.S. troops, which today is about 4,500 troops present on a permanent basis. In other words, it is a rotational presence but it is back-to-back presence. So there is no moment where there are no American troops in the territory of Poland.
And today we signed a document and further cooperation: a Joint Declaration on Defense Cooperation Regarding the United States Force Posture in the Republic of Poland. This is of a breakthrough character because it moves us to another era. So far, we can say that the Americans were testing the situation in Poland: how it looks, how it feels; what about logistics; whether it is possible to stay in Poland and to successfully attain the goals and implement the tasks of defensive nature.
I think that the commanders of U.S. Army are convinced that this is simply possible. And today, the documents speaks about this enduring presence, the presence which is a fact and which will stay there.
It is a rotational presence as it is because this is most beneficial from today's perspective to train soldiers through rotational presence. By having rotational presence, more soldiers can come to a country, be present there, look at a culture and the condition in place in a given country. So this is beneficial for this barely understood—a development of the Armed Forces. Therefore, this is an enduring presence. However, it is implementing this particular way.
And we hope it's going to develop 1,000 troops, mentioned by President Trump today, which is also—the numbers stipulated in the agreement signed today is very differentiated. It is not one single unit. We are talking about special operation forces. We are talking about logistics component. We are also talking about the already-mentioned division headquarters.
So there is a multitude of forums in which the United States is going to be gradually ever-more present in our territory, from the military standpoint. And this will encompass different fields of cooperation. So we're not talking about just one single beat, but we're talking about a more comprehensive cooperation. We're talking about logistics health protection for soldiers and a number of other elements happening. Please remember that right now there is this missile defense facility being built in Redzikowo. So, talking about the elements of Polish-American cooperation, there are more and more of these elements, and the number is growing. I'm very happy with that. Thank you very much.
President Trump. Let's see, who do I like? [Laughter] Nobody. That's the end. [Laughter]
Go ahead. Yes.
Q. Me? Mr. President, thank you very much. President Duda, thank you.
President Trump. I was pointing at you, but you can go ahead. Here we go.
Q. You were pointing to——
President Trump. I was actually pointing to my friend with that beautiful hat on, but that's okay.
Q. Jeff Mason [Jeff Mason, Reuters]. All right, well——
President Trump. You'll give up your question?
Q. Well, I'll give him my follow-up question.
President Trump. You'll give up your——
Q. We can share it.
Q. We'll share the question.
President Trump. Huh? Okay. We'll share it. Good.
Q. Mr. President, you seemed to suggest, yesterday, that you're essentially committing to not spying on North Korea. Is that what you meant? Were those comments interpreted accurately? If so, why?
President Trump. No, it's not what I meant. It's what I said. And that's—I think it's different than maybe your interpretation. I think we're going to do very well with North Korea over a period of time. I'm in no rush. The sanctions are on. We got our hostages back. Our remains are coming back; you saw the beautiful ceremony in Hawaii with Mike Pence. We're getting the remains back. There's been no nuclear testing whatsoever. They'd like to do something. I did get, you know, a very—as I said yesterday, a very nice letter from Chairman Kim. And I think we're doing very well.
When I took over as President, I will tell you, it looked like it was going to be war with North Korea. You know that. Everybody knows that. And it was going to be quite brutal. A strong force. We're the strongest force in the world, but that's a strong force.
And we started off a very rough relationship, and I think we have a very good relationship right now. So we'll see what happens. I'm in no rush. I'm in no rush.
But there's been no nuclear testing whatsoever. And when I took over, it was nuclear testing all the time. And if you look back to the last 4, 5, 6 years—but really go back further than that. In all fairness to President Obama, go back 20 years, 15 years. It was, really, a very dangerous situation. I consider it to be different now.
Now, I may change. And if I change, you will know it very quickly. I will be very quick to tell you exactly what's going on. I may change. But right now we have a good relationship, and I think, probably, better than we've had for maybe 25 years, maybe forever. You know, they've been there a long time—the grandfather, the father, the son. And they've been there for a long time, and nobody has done anything except me. And so we'll see how it all turns out. I hope it turns out well for you and for everybody.
Poland-Russia Relations/China-U.S. Trade
Q. And I'll give my follow-up to Jeff. Very quickly, President Duda, thank you. Do you see Russia as an ally or an adversary?
President Trump. Are you talking to me?
Q. To President Duda.
President Trump. Boy, was that a setup question. [Laughter]
President Duda. I would very much like Russia to be a friend of Poland, because it is our great neighbor. It is a country much bigger than Poland, with a bigger potential than Poland in every single respect, except for one, perhaps. I believe that we have gotten more courage in us—that we are more brave, more courageous, and are able to fight till the end, irrespective of everything.
This is actually what we demonstrated in World War Two, at the Battle of Monte Cassino. We demonstrated that in the Warsaw Uprising. We demonstrated that in many other places around the globe where Polish soldiers died to make sure that Poland is free after the Second World War.
This, unfortunately, did not happen. We found ourselves under the Russian occupation. But even then, for almost 20 years, after World War II, there was this anti-Communist, anti-Soviet underground, which fought against the Soviets, and those people were murdered. Today, we call them "Unbreakable Soldiers." We commemorate their memory, although they were dug underground to make it impossible for anyone to find their remains and so that they couldn't have graves built.
So we were always fighting. We always knew how to defend ourselves. Nevertheless, history was brutal towards us. We never had a great friendship with Russia. Russia was always looking out to take our territory. It was a partitioner in Poland for 123 years. Poland did not exist because part of the territory was taken by Russia.
Poles were deported to the east. Then came an aggression on the right—on the recently reborn Poland, which rose in 1918 from the ashes of the First World War. And in 1919, the Soviet Russia attacked Poland. It wanted to grab Poland's territory and bring communism to the west of Europe. It was us who stopped Soviets at Warsaw in 1920.
By the bravery of Polish soldiers, we defeated them during a great battle. And then, we chased them back to the east. And then, they took their revenge on us in 1939 by attacking us, together with Nazi Germany, and murdering our officers in Katyn.
So, madam, as you can see, this friendship is a very difficult one. Today, we are in the following situation: Russia attacked Georgia. Then, in 2014, it attacked Ukraine. And these are facts. These are facts which belong to the recent history.
We would like Russia to be our friend, but unfortunately, Russia again is showing its very unkind, unpleasant, imperial face, and we do not want to be part of Russia's sphere of influence.
And I am happy that today we can speak boldly, also in connection with the military presence of the U.S. and NATO in Poland, that we truly are, first and foremost, in terms of politics, part of the West. Because we have always been part of the West, in terms of culture. We have always been part of the West, because it is from the West from which we adopted Christianity in 966, more than 1,000 years ago. And since that time, we have been part of the West of Europe. We have been part of the great Christian culture of Western Europe.
But we have to stick to this West also, in terms of politics. And this is what we want—and I firmly believe that this is the biggest desire of Polish people—to be part of the West also in terms of politics.
Thank you that the United States is supporting us in this respect.
Q. For the—excuse me.
President Trump. And just to finish, I hope that Poland is going to have a great relationship with Russia. I think it's possible. I really do. I think because of what you've done and the strength—and maybe we help also, because of what we're doing and doing for Poland.
But I hope that Poland is going to have a great relationship with Russia. I hope we're going to have a great relationship with Russia and, by the way, China and many other countries. And we look forward to doing things on North Korea, just to go back to the original part of your question. And we'll see how that works out.
I do want to say, though: We're in no hurry. The sanctions are on. China has actually been helping us quite a bit. And despite our trade differences right now—we thought we had a deal, and unfortunately, they decided that they were going to change the deal, and they can't do that with me. But something is going to happen, and I think it's going to be something very positive.
But we think we're going to get along with a lot of countries that, frankly, did not respect us very much because they were ripping us off for many, many years. And they're not ripping us off anymore.
China-U.S. Trade/Mexico-U.S. Agreement on Border Security and Trade
Q. Thank you, sir. Regarding China, what is your deadline, if you have one, for China to make progress on trade before you impose the tariffs on the other $325 billion in goods?
President Trump. Well, we're going to be meeting—President Xi and myself—and you know we have a very good relationship. But, again, he's for China, and I'm for the U.S. It's a big difference. And we thought we had a deal. We didn't have a deal. And I would never make something that would be less than what we already had.
We had China opened up to trade. That's a big thing. They've never done that before. We had intellectual property theft taken care of and taken care of beautifully. And all of the sudden, those things started to disappear at the end, after they were fully negotiated.
But that's—you know, that's their decision. I think if they had to do again—and in light of the fact that we have 25 percent on $250 billion of goods coming into the United States. And unlike a lot of countries, they subsidize those goods. We haven't had inflation. And you know, they keep saying that the American taxpayer is paying for it. No. No. Very little.
And what it really does mean is that a lot of those companies that are in China are going to be moving back to the U.S. You have car companies—General Motors, as an example—that built plants in China. Well, that doesn't work out too well when you have the tariff wall up because now they're going to have to get through that and they can't really get through that. So maybe they'll start building plants in the United States instead.
I think that we'll end up making a deal with China. We have a very good relationship, although it's a little bit testy right now, as you would expect. I think they really have to make a deal. A lot of companies are leaving China, as you know. It's in all the reports. And they're going to Vietnam and various other places, and they're also coming to the United States to make their product because they don't want to pay the tariff.
And there is no tariff if you do it in the United States. People don't realize that. You know, they say "the tariff," but there is no tariff if you don't do it—you know, if you just do exactly as I say: You bring your company back to the United States.
And as far as Mexico is concerned, which was a very big topic yesterday—and now people are finding out that the reports that were written were totally false—we would never have had a deal with Mexico without imposing tariffs. Once the tariffs were imposed—and they've been trying to make this deal with Mexico for 20 years, 25 years. The older reporters, those great reporters with the very gray hair in the back—you know who I'm talking about; they know exactly what I'm talking about—you would have never made the deal with Mexico.
We have a great deal with Mexico. I actually think we have a much better relationship right now with Mexico because they respect us again. But you would never have had that deal if I didn't impose the tariffs. And those tariffs were ready to go to on Monday morning, and we made the deal on, essentially, Sunday night.
And that extra little page of the deal that you saw that brilliantly—I had gained such respect for you people when I held it up to the sunlight and it was closed, and you were able to read it through the sunlight. That was not anticipated. But regardless, I mean, you knew enough of what it said. And I didn't do it on purpose, but we have a lot of strength in 45 days if we decide to use that strength. Maybe we will, and maybe we won't. But there's a lot of power right now in the border.
And I will say this: Mexico is, right now, doing more for the United States on illegal immigration and all of the problems of crime and other problems on the border than the Democrats. We can solve our problem on the border in 15 minutes if the Democrats would sit down, straighten out asylum—which is a total mess, but very uncomplicated—straighten out asylum, and get rid of the loopholes. It would take, Jeff, 15 minutes.
Okay? Thank you. Please.
Q. But just—my original question, sir, was: Do you have a deadline for imposing the 325?
President Trump. No, I have no deadline. My deadline is what's up here. We'll figure out the deadline.
President Trump. Nobody can quite figure it out.
Q. And, President Duda, if I could just throw one your way as well: You said in the Oval Office earlier that democracy in Poland was strong. Not all of your European Union counterparts agree with that. How is forcing Supreme Court justices to retire early consistent with democratic principles? And, President Trump, is that something that you support?
President Trump. No.
President Duda. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a very complex issue. And it's hard to answer this question because a lot of people in Western Europe—I think also in the U.S.—do not fully understand this problem because they have not grown up in a country such as mine.
I was born in 1972, in a Poland which was in the Russian sphere of influence, in which a career could be made only, actually, when somebody enrolled as member of the Communist Party and who followed these people's power who was the supreme authority. And this is what was happening for many years.
Although, as you know, ladies and gentlemen, as Solidarity movement grew, people were imprisoned, people were tortured, people were killed during the martial law, and after as well—be it openly or in a secret way. And this was the reality of Poland until 1989.
And now imagine, ladies and gentlemen, that no so long ago—a few years ago—I was surprised to discover that, in the Polish Supreme Court, there was a whole group of justices who were issuing sentencing as judges—members of the Communist Party—before 1990, who were even passing sentences during the martial law, sentencing people to prisons based on the law of the Communist martial law.
And when I was asked whether the Supreme Court needs to be reformed, I said "yes." If Poland is supposed to be a truly democratic, free, and sovereign country, if it is supposed to be a country we want it to be for our children, for the generation who was born after, in 1989, then for God's sake, those people have to leave. They have to retire. And this is what we did.
As a matter of fact, everything that we were doing was aimed at retiring those people. But, as you can see, unfortunately, although 30 years have passed, they have got influence, the influence which they were building after 1989 where they assumed a new identity of an elite of a new state. So this influence is still strong. This is what I can say.
And let me assure you of one thing: that freedom of speech is absolutely respected in Poland. Poland absolutely respects all constitutional standards, just as in the United States: the right to assemble; the right to the freedom of speech. There is free media in Poland. There is everything that is functioning in a normal democracy.
One can announce what they think, one can demonstrate, one can say what they think. In Poland, people are not attacked during demonstrations as it happens in other Western European countries. Police do not use truncheons or tear gas against people. People can speak their mind. They can express that they're not pleased with something. This is their right in democracy.
Please ask Polish journalists, "When was the last time—when was the last demonstration in Poland when some kind of tension happened?" No, it didn't, because in Poland we respect the right to demonstrate and to express your concern, because we believe that this is one of the foundations of democracy. In Poland, there is absolutely free and just elections. All the standards are respected.
So, please, ladies and gentleman, come to Poland and see Poland with your own eyes. Please do not repeat certain stereotypes that are repeated in the West. Poland, today, has got quite a conservative government, that is true. And this government has got certain standards of action. Not everybody subscribes to those standards, especially people of more leftist views. But this is the nature of democracy.
So once you have got one side of the political scene in power, and then people make a different choice and another side of the political stage comes to power. There is nothing extraordinary about that. And this is the change that is happening in Poland.
But when somebody wins the elections, they then have the right to implement the program which they announced before the elections. Excuse me, however, realizing that implementing the program, which you presented in your election campaign, is not only the right, but I think an obligation resting on a politician. And this is exactly what is happening in Poland.
Visa Waiver Program Q. A question for both Presidents. Mr. President, you said just a moment ago that Poland will join the visa waiver program soon. How soon?
President Trump. We think fairly soon. We're doing very well with it. It's a complex situation, as you know. But we're getting very close. We allow very few countries to join, but Poland is one that we're thinking about allowing in. So we'll be making that decision over the next, probably, 90 days.
Q. Sir, will you hope, or do you think that maybe when you are in Poland in September you will make the announcement?
President Trump. I think it's a very good idea. Thank you very much for giving me that idea. [Laughter]
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
[At this point, the reporter spoke in Polish, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter as follows.]
Mr. President, the visa waiver program appeared on many occasions but then it did not come into practice. How optimistic are we about the words uttered right now by President Donald Trump?
President Duda. I'm looking at these words optimistic. I'm optimistic about that because I think this is the first U.S. administration which has treated this problem in such a serious way and in such a comprehensive way. So, both.
When we talk with Mr. President, we—the President expresses his deep care about that. Also, when I talk with President, Mosbacher—the U.S. Ambassador to Warsaw—she looks at the problem all the time. And I firmly believe that, in accordance with the law binding the United States—because this is something that I want to stress very strongly—according to the law, binding in the United States, by all the actions which are necessary in this respect such as today's signing of the agreement on preventing and committing serious crimes, I believe that, through all these sanctions, this visa waiver program—covering Poles with visa waiver program—is going to be possible soon. Anyway, that it is going to be possible before the end of the first term of President Donald Trump.
President Trump. Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 2:23 p.m. in the Rose Garden at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim, and Kim Dong-chul, U.S. citizens formerly detained by North Korean officials who returned to the U.S. on May 10, 2018. A reporter referred to Kim Yo Jong, sister of Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un of North Korea. President Duda and two reporters spoke in Polish, and their remarks were translated by an interpreter.
Donald J. Trump, The President's News Conference With President Andrzej Duda of Poland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/333628