President Trump’s bilateral press conference with President Sauli Niinistö of Finland strayed far from U.S.-Finland relations, with questions and comments on Russia, the Mexico border wall, and Trump’s controversial pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
President Trump began the conference with comments on Hurricane Harvey. He applauded the people of Texas and Louisiana for their bravery and perseverance, while also paying ode to local, state, and federal agencies for their quick and efficient support services. His message focused on the notion of Americans helping Americans, and said “we are one American family. We are one family…We are 100% with you”.
President Trump said he will be visiting the impact zone tomorrow, and again shared words of encouragement and support for the people of Texas and Louisiana, the areas most severely impacted by this disastrous storm. He also spoke to the rebuilding measures that will be employed once the storm has passed, saying “we will be bigger, better, and stronger than ever before.” When asked about the budget cuts to FEMA amidst the storm, President Trump said, “The FEMA money is relatively small compared to the rebuilding money”
President Trump then welcomed and introduced President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö. He praised the reciprocal trade agreements between the two countries, and spoke to the shared interests between the two countries. Further, President Trump also pledged half a million dollars to the Fulbright Finnish Foundation in hour of the Finnish Centennial. In praising Finland, President Trump made note of their advances in terms of cyber security, and said, “we’ll be right there with you soon, believe me.”
Russia Security Threat
When asked a question about whether Russia is a security threat to the U.S. President Trump responded saying, “I consider many countries as a security threat unfortunately.” His responses remained fairly vague in this regard, and later when asked a more specific question about the situation in the Baltic, President Trump said, “we are very protective of that region is all I can say…we have great friends there.” Trump was asked again about relations with Russia, and he said, “I hope that we do have good relations with Russia,” and that “it’s very good for world peace and other things.”
Questions to President Niinistö included one on climate change and policy measures to reduce its effects. President Niinistö said “if we lose the Arctic we lose the globe”, making a powerful statement on his and his country’s stance on climate change. President Trump responded saying, “I think we have much in agreement…crystal clear water and we want clean air.”
Pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Later, President Trump was asked about his controversial pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, to which Trump had an extensive and clearly premeditated response. He said “Sheriff Joe” has “done a great job for the people of Arizona.” He emphasized that he was “very strong on borders. Very strong on illegal immigration,” and that “he was treated unbelievably unfairly…right before the election.” He also said that Arpaio was a “great veteran in the military”, and praised his several wins in elections in Arizona. Trump then began to recite an extensive list of past controversial pardons by former presidents, including “drug dealers” by President Clinton and “criminal leaker” Chelsea Manning.
Mexico Being “Very Difficult”
Nearing the end of the press conference, with the questions already deviating ways away from Finland-U.S. relations, President Trump began speaking on the importance of the Mexico border wall. He said “one way or the other Mexico will pay for the wall”. He said that the wall is “imperative”, particularly in terms of border security, mentioning the inflow of drugs to the U.S. various times.
He also spoke of Mexico being “very difficult” in NAFTA negotiations, as he continued criticizing the trade agreement, saying “NAFTA is one of the worst deals ever signed”. He also brought Canada into the discourse, saying despite his “love” and “great respect for Canada”, that NAFTA was a one-sided deal that would only benefit Mexico and Canada. He also said that pulling out of the trade deal fully was still an option, despite current renegotiation processes in place.