Against the backdrop of Iranian attacks on Saudi oil fields, earlier today President Trump delivered remarks with Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khaifa of Bahrain in the oval office; and held an impromptu press conference. [Video and Transcript below]
[Transcript] PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. It’s a great honor to be with the Crown Prince of Bahrain. He is a friend of mine, and the country is a friend of ours. We’re always going to be with them, and I know they’re always going to be with us. We have a tremendous relationship militarily, but we have also a tremendous economic relationship — trade. And we’re going to be discussing all of those things. We’ll certainly be discussing what took place over the last two days in Saudi Arabia.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Absolutely.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And we’ll be discussing the Middle East. But our relationship has never been stronger than it is right now. And I think that is largely based on the relationship that we have. So I look forward to having our discussion.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s a great pleasure to be here.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much. Please. Would you like to say something?
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Well, I would like to say — thank the President for receiving me and my delegation here today. I’m here to convey the greetings of His Majesty and the people of Bahrain; to strengthen the relationship, which is based on shared values where they overlap, ideals.
We primarily, as the President said, are going to focus on discussions related to security enhancement and trade enhancement.
We signed today a agreement to purchase additional — or to purchase our first Patriot Missile Battery Systems.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Good timing.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Absolutely. And we seek to strengthen America’s ability to trade with the world, and we have some concrete ideas on how we can do that.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thank you very much.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Thank you, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I look forward to the day and spending time with you.
And thank you all very much. I’ll be doing a news conference outside in a little while. Just part of the trip. We’re going to New Mexico and to other places for two and half days. And many of you will be with us, and I look forward to that. But in particular, I look forward to our meeting.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Thank you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much.
Q Mr. President, have you seen evidence, proof, that Iran was behind the attack in Saudi Arabia?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, it’s looking that way. We’ll have some pretty good — we’re having some very strong studies done, but it’s certainly looking that way at this moment. And we’ll let you know. As soon as we find out definitively, we’ll let you know. But it does look that way.
Q Do you want war with Iran, Mr. President? Do you want war with Iran?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Do I want war? I don’t want war with anybody. I’m somebody that would like not to have war. We have the strongest military in the world. We’ve spent more than a trillion and a half dollars in the last short period of time on our military. Nobody has even come close. We have the best equipment in the world. We have the best missiles. And as you say, you just bought the Patriot system.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: We did.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: There’s nothing even close.
But, no, I don’t want war with anybody. But we’re prepared more than anybody. Two and a half years ago, I will tell you, it was not the same thing. And with what we’ve done, we’ve totally rebuilt our military in so many different ways, but we’ve rebuilt it. And there’s nobody — it has the F-35. We have the best fighter jets, the best rockets, the best missiles, the best equipment. But with all of that being said, we’d certainly like to avoid it.
Q What are the options, Mr. President? What are the options if not a military (inaudible)?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we have a lot of options, but I’m not looking at options right now. We want to find definitively who did this. We’re dealing with Saudi Arabia. We’re dealing with the Crown Prince and so many other of your neighbors, and we’re all talking about it together. We’ll see what happens.
Q Mr. President, will you meet with President Rouhani in New York, as it was speculated that you might meet?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Say it?
Q Will you still meet with President Rouhani in Iran? Is this — in New York, I mean.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I have no meeting scheduled. I know they want to meet. I know they’re not doing well as a country. Iran has got a lot of problems right now that two and a half years ago — and even a little bit more than that — when I came in — it’s hard to believe it’s almost three years — but two and half to three years ago, they were causing a lot of trouble. And we’ll see what happens.
But we’ll let you know definitively if there were — as you know, there are ways to see definitively where they came from, and we have all of those ways. And that’s being checked out right now.
Q Are you still willing to meet with the Iranians without preconditions? Still willing to meet with President Rouhani?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, you know, there were always conditions, because the conditions — if you look at it, the sanctions are not going to be taken off. So if the sanctions — that’s a condition. So, you know, that’s why the press misreported it. The biggest thing you can talk about are the sanctions, and the sanctions are massive. There’s never been sanctions put on a country like that. And I think they have a tremendous future, but not the way they’re behaving.
We’ll see what happens in terms of this attack. Secretary Pompeo and others will be going over to Saudi Arabia at some point to discuss what — they feel they’re going to make a statement fairly soon. But they also know something that most people don’t know, as to where it came from, who did it. And we’ll be able to find that out. We’ll figure that out very quickly. We pretty much already know.
Q (Inaudible) prepared for war?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Say it?
Q You said the United States is prepared for war.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: The United States is more prepared than any country in the history of — of — in any history, if we have to go that way. As to whether or not we go that way, we’ll see. We have to find out definitively who did it. We have to speak to Saudi Arabia. They have to have a lot of — they have to have a lot in the game also. And, you know, they’re willing to do that. I think everybody knows they’re willing to do that.
So we’ll be meeting with Saudi Arabia. We’ll be talking to Saudi Arabia. We’ll be talking to UAE and many of the neighbors out there that we’re very close friends with. We’re also talking to Europe, a lot of the countries that we’re dealing with — whether it’s France, Germany, et cetera. Talking to a lot of different folks. And we’re figuring out what they think.
But I will tell you, that was a very large attack and it could be met with an attack many, many times larger, very easily, by our country. But we’re going to find out who definitively did it, first.
Q Can you clarify, Mr. President? So you said that you think that Iran is responsible for the attack. Do you think that the attack —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I didn’t say that. Why do you say that?
Q You said — you said that you think you might —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I said that we think we know who it was, but I didn’t say anybody.
Q And then you said it was Iran.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: But, certainly, it would look to most like it was Iran, but I did not say it the way you said. Go.
Q So do you think it was launched from Iran, is the second question.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You’re going to find out in great detail in the very near future. We have the exact locations of just about everything. You’re going to find out at the right time. But it’s too early to tell you that now.
Q Do you want to release the oil reserves to help cushion the oil prices that are rising now?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, they haven’t risen very much. And we have the Strategic Oil Reserves, which are massive. And we can release a little bit of that. And other countries, including Bahrain — but other countries can be a little bit more generous with the oil, and you’d bring it right down.
So, no, that’s not a problem. It went up five dollars, and that is not a problem.
And you have to remember, we’re now the largest producer of oil and gas in the world. So a lot of people in the old days — and this happened over the last very short period of time. We’re number one in the world, by far.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Yes, you are.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: By far. So I never want to be benefitted that way. But the fact is, there are those that say we benefit. I don’t view that as a benefit. But we are certainly — we take in more money than anybody else from energy. Not even close.
Q Mr. President, do you still think it’s the responsibility of the Saudis to defend themselves? Or should the United States be —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think it’s certainly the responsibility of them to do a big — a big deal of their defense, certainly. I also think it’s the responsibility of the Saudis to, if somebody like us — which are the ones — are going to help them, they, I know, that monetarily will be very much involved in paying for that.
This is something that’s much different than other Presidents would mention, Jon. But the fact is that the Saudis are going to have a lot of involvement in this if we decide to do something. They’ll be very much involved, and that includes payment. And they understand that fully.
But they’re going to be — look, they’re very upset. They’re very angry. They know pretty much what we know. They know pretty much where they came from. And we’re looking for the final checkpoints, and I think you won’t be surprised to see who did it.
Q Mr. President, will you discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan with the Crown Prince, since Bahrain hosted the first —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We’ll be discussing it, yeah. We’ll be discussing.
Q And (inaudible), is it soon — before or after the Israeli election?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we’re going to see. I mean, it’s — the election is on Tuesday.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Tomorrow.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So —
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: It’s tomorrow.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So you have an election tomorrow, so I would think it would be afterwards, okay? But we — you do have an election. Big election tomorrow in Israel. And that’ll be a very interesting outcome. It’s going to be close. It’s going to be a close election.
Q Did Chairman Kim invite you to North Korea in that (inaudible)?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don’t want to comment on that.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: The relationship is very good, but I don’t want to comment on it.
Q Would you be willing to go there?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I just don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment.
Q Would you be willing to go to North Korea?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Probably not. I don’t think it’s ready. I don’t think we’re ready for that. I would do it sometime at — sometime at a later future. And depending on what happens, I’m sure he’ll love coming to the United States also. But, no, I don’t think it’s ready for that. I think we have a ways to go yet.
Q Do you stand with the autoworkers in the strike against GM?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I have a great relationship with the autoworkers. I got tremendous numbers of votes from the autoworkers. I don’t want General Motors to be building plants outside of this country. As you know, they built many plants in China and Mexico, and I don’t like that at all.
My relationship has been very powerful with the autoworkers — not necessarily the top person or two, but the people that work doing automobiles. Nobody has ever brought more companies into the United States. You know, I have Japan and Germany, and many countries have been bringing car companies in and opening plants and expanding plants. And big things are happening in Ohio, including with Lordstown. Very positive things are happening.
We have many plants that are either being renovated or expanded or built new, right now, in the United States — many more than we’ve had for decades and decades. So nobody has been better to the autoworkers than me.
I’d like to see it work out, but I don’t want General Motors building plants in China and Mexico. This was before my watch. And I don’t think they’ll be doing that, I don’t think.
I had meetings with Mary Barra, the head of GM, and I don’t want them leaving our country. I don’t want them building in China. I don’t want to build them in other countries. I don’t want these big, massive auto plants built in other countries. And I don’t think they’ll be doing that anymore.
You know, General Motors makes most of its money in the United States, and it’s too bad they spent billions and billions of dollars outside of the United States, before I got here. One of the things very important in the USMCA, which we have to have approved for the — not only for the unions, for the autoworkers, but for the farmers and for the manufacturers — for everybody. Everybody wants USMCA. It’s very important, even more so now than it was two weeks ago. But people really want it.
I’m sad to see the strike. Hopefully, it’s going to be a quick one.
Q Mr. President, has diplomacy been exhausted when it comes to issues of Iran? Diplomacy — has it been exhausted?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No. It’s never exhausted. In fact, the Crown Prince can tell you, especially in your part of the world, it’s never exhausted until the final 12 seconds. Is that right?
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: That is correct.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You never know what’s going to happen. No, it’s not exhausted. Nothing is exhausted. And we’ll see what happens.
I think they would like to make a deal. I know they’d like to make a deal. They’d like to do it, but they’d like to do it on certain terms and conditions, and we won’t do that. But at some point, it will work out, in my opinion.
The problem was, the deal that was signed by the previous administration was a disaster — which, by the way, would be expiring in a very short period of time also. So you really don’t have a deal. You know, that deal was a very short-term deal. So they made a deal, but it was for a very short period of time. So that deal would be expiring very soon.
Q Mr. President?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes.
Q Sorry. Are you encouraging Israel and the Saudis to work together on this issue, particularly since they have a shared common goal?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Always. I encourage everybody. I want everybody to work together. The Middle East is an interesting place. They, historically, have not been working together too well.
But, no, Israel is starting to work together with a lot of countries that you wouldn’t have thought possible two years ago.
Q Have you promised the Saudis that the U.S. will protect them in this case?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I haven’t. No, I haven’t. I haven’t promised the Saudis that. We have to sit down with the Saudis and work something out. And the Saudis want very much for us to protect them, but I say, well, we have to work. That was an attack on Saudi Arabia, and that wasn’t an attack on us.
But we would certainly help them. They’ve been a great ally. They spend $400 billion in our country over the last number of years. Four hundred billion dollars. That’s a million and a half jobs. And they’re not ones that, unlike some countries, where they want terms; they want terms and conditions. They want to say, “Can we borrow the money at zero percent for the next 400 years?” No. No. Saudi Arabia pays cash. They’ve helped us out from the standpoint of jobs and all of the other things. And they’ve actually helped us.
I would call and I would say, “Listen, our oil prices, our gasoline, is too high. You got to let more go.” You know that.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Yeah.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would call the Crown Prince and I’d say, “You got to help us out. You got to get some more.” And, all of a sudden, the oil starts flowing and the gasoline prices are down. No other President can do that. No other President was able to do that, or maybe they didn’t try. But I’ve done it.
So now they’re under attack, and we will work something out with them. But they also know that — you know, I’m not looking to get into new conflict, but sometimes you have to.
Q Mr. President, what’s your message to Iran right now?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Excuse me?
Q What’s your message to Iran right now?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think I’ll have a stronger message, or maybe no message at all, when we get the final results of what we’re looking at. But, right now, it’s too soon to say. There’s plenty of time. You know, there’s no rush. We’ll all be here a long time. There’s no rush.
But I’ll have a message — whether it’s a strong message or maybe no message at all, depending on the final results.
Q And how concerned are you about the risk of an all-out war in the Middle East?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I’m not concerned at all.
Q You don’t think that we’re a step closer to that, given what Iran just did?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No. I’m not. Personally, I’m not concerned at all. We have military power the likes of which the world has never seen. I’m not concerned at all. I’d like to avoid it.
You know, when I came here three years ago almost, General Mattis told me, “Sir, we’re very low on ammunition.” I said, “That’s a horrible thing to say.” I’m not blaming him; I’m not blaming anybody. But that’s what he told me. Because we were at a position where, with a certain country — I won’t say which one — we may have had conflict. And he said to me, “Sir, if you could, delay it, because we’re very low on ammunition.” And I said, “You know what, General? I never want to hear that again from another general.” No President should ever, ever hear that statement, “We’re low on ammunition.”
And we now have more ammunition, more missiles, more rockets, more tanks, more — we have more of everything than we’ve ever had before. More jet fighters. When I came here, 50 percent of our jet fighters didn’t fly. You know that. And they were in bad shape. And now we have the best fighters in the world. Everybody wants to buy them. Are you buying our jet fighters?
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: We are, sir.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Which one?
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: The F-16.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s great.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Signed it here.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You have good taste. (Laughter.)
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s a great one.
So, we are very high on ammunition now. That’s a story I’ve never told before. Breaking news. But we have — we were very low. I could even say it stronger. I don’t want to say, “No ammunition,” but that gets a lot closer.
I said, “I never want to hear that again. And I never want another President of the United States to hear that again.” Could you imagine, as President, when they say, “We’re very low on ammunition?” By the way, stronger than that, but I’m not going to go there. That was what I was told. And I said, “I never want to be in a position like that again.” And he said, “Could you delay if we do something, sir? Could you delay it as we fill up?” And that is what I inherited from the past administration. And, in all fairness, to President Obama, to administrations before President Obama. That’s what I got stuck with. And we fixed it, and we fixed it good.
The Crown Prince understands $700 billion; the next year, $718 billion; and the next year, which is right now, we just got approved, $738 billion. And that’s a lot of money even for Bahrain. Right?
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: It’s a lot of money, sir.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It’s a lot even for Bahrain.
CROWN PRINCE SALMAN: It’s a lot of money.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And Bahrain has a lot of money. Okay?
Q You have the Israeli election coming up tomorrow. How does that affect the timing of your Middle East peace plan?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we’ll have to see what happens, Steve. I just don’t know. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen. I can make a prediction; I sort of have a feeling. But we’re going to have to see what happens. That’s a big election. That’s one we’re all going to be watching.
Q Do you think Netanyahu will pull it out?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, certainly he has a good chance. But it’s a very — you know, it’s a 50/50 election. A lot of people, if you look at the polls and everything else, it’s going to be very close. So we’ll see what happens. Polls — polls are often wrong.
Q Netanyahu called for annexing all settlements in the West Bank. Is that something your government would (inaudible)?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yeah, I don’t want to talk about that, but certainly it’s something we were told about that they’d like to do. But, no, I don’t want to be talking about that. It’s too soon.
Q Mr. President, can you, kind of, elaborate a little bit on why the decision was taken yesterday to release the Strategic Reserves? Why did you decide right away to do that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, just in case we ran a little bit low on oil. We have so much with the Strategic Reserves. Plus, being the number one producer, we can fill them up very quickly. Very, very quickly.
And one of the things I’m doing also is I’m approving the pipelines in Texas. We have a tremendous pipeline system that’s being held up by various agencies for a very good reason, for it — going through the normal process.
And we’re going to have to avoid the normal process, because if we do that — Texas is a massive distributor, a massive producer of oil, far bigger than anybody would have even thought five years ago. So what I’m going to do is expedite the pipeline approvals. That will get us another 25 percent energy — additional energy.
I know this is exactly the opposite of the Democrats. They want to have wind, solar, and, I guess, make-believe would be the third alternative, right?
No, this is something we have to do. We have the greatest wealth in the world, and we want to be able to capitalize on it, especially when it comes to safety. Okay?
Thank you all very much. Thank you.
Q Just for one more second. You talked about an urban agenda when you ran for President the first time. You went to Baltimore last week. What are your plans for Baltimore and cities like Baltimore? Instead of pointing fingers, what are you trying to do to help the city rise up from the “rodent-infested place” that you say it is?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I think what I’ve done for the inner cities is more than any President has done for a long time. We’ve created Opportunity Zones. In fact, I did that with Tim Scott, who you know very well, who is, I think, a tremendous guy. It was his initiative. And he came to see me.
They’re having a tremendously positive impact on the inner cities, including Baltimore, including a lot of other cities that you wouldn’t necessarily think. Oakland, California, is an example. We’re having tremendous success in the inner cities because of the Opportunity Zones.
Criminal justice reform — I was the one that got it. Nobody else. I mean, we had people that helped, but a group of extremely liberal Democrats came to the office and they said, “We cannot get it.” President Obama was unable to get it, as you know. President Bush — they were all unable to get it, and I got it.
And I got it with some very conservative senators and people that wanted it to happen. And nobody else could have done it. And it’s sort of interesting, because they don’t like mentioning my name, although, I guess now people are understanding.
But we got it. We got it done. We formed a coalition with some very conservative people, as you know, and some people that are very far left. And we did a thing called, “criminal justice reform,” something that nobody thought. The Crown Prince has seen this. Nobody thought this could possibly happen. And I’m very proud of criminal justice reform. So, we did that. We did the Opportunity Zones and a lot of other things.
Our job numbers for African Americans are the best in history. You saw the new ones came out; they’re even better than they were two months ago. Hispanic, the best in history. Asian, the best in history. Overall, they’re phenomenal. The best in 51 years. And I think we’ll soon be historic on that one too.
The economy is doing great. And that’s the best thing I can do.
Q Did you look at Baltimore when you flew over? Did you see what you —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, when I drove through I looked at it. And we flew over. But we also — no, you have some sections that need a lot of help.
And, you know, what people don’t know — I had a great meeting with Elijah Cummings in this office very early in my tenure. And it was a meeting on drug prices. And I saw him get emotional talking about drug prices. Seriously emotional. And I was really impressed. He cared about it. And I would certainly be willing to meet with Elijah and other people, if they’d like.
But I saw the emotion and the feeling that he had for reducing drug prices. And we’ve worked hard, and we’ve actually had the first year in 51 years where prices went down. But we can get them down much further if we can get the help from Congress.
So I think we’re going to do much lower drug prices over the next year. And I think that if Elijah Cummings would want help, I am here. But I did see him at a moment that was actually, I thought, a very beautiful moment. I’ve talked about it often because I see the political rhetoric every once in a while. And I said, “That’s not the same guy I had in my office.” That was a very caring man that wanted to see drug prices lowered. And he wanted that for the community — for his community.
So, I look forward to working with Elijah, but I look forward to working with a lot of people. But I think Opportunity Zones have been tremendous for the inner cities.
And criminal justice reform is something we’re very proud of. Thank you all very much.