Remarks by President Trump Before Marine One Departure (Excerpts)

June 22, 2019

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Q    Mr. President, do you still believe that Iran’s targeting of a U.S. drone could have been unintentional?  Do you still believe that?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t know unintentional or not.  It was probably intentional, as I said.  But regardless, they targeted something without a person in it — without a man or a woman, and certainly without anybody from the United States in it.  So we want to be proportionate.

We’re getting a lot of praise for what I did.  And we have people on both sides; some like it and some probably not as much.  My expression is “We have plenty of time.”  We have plenty of time.  You understand that.

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Q    What are the next steps for Iran?  Is a possible strike off the table?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’ll see what’s with Iran.  Everybody was saying I’m a warmonger, and now they say I’m a dove.  And I think I’m neither, if you want to know the truth.  I’m a man with common sense, and that’s what we need in this country is common sense.  But I didn’t like the idea of them knowingly shooting down an unmanned drone, and then we kill 150 people.  I didn’t like that.

Q    (Inaudible) move forward with sanctions against Iran?

THE PRESIDENT:  I — I can’t hear.

Q    Are you going to move forward with sanctions against Iran?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, we’re moving forward with additional sanctions on Iran.  Good question.  And some of them are in place.  As you know, we have about as strong a sanction grouping as you can possibly have on any country.  But we’re putting additional sanctions on.  They’re going on slowly and, in some cases, actually pretty rapidly.  But Iran — additional sanctions are being put on Iran.

Q    How much progress toward a nuclear weapon are you willing to let Iran make before you (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  Very little.  That’s what it’s all about.  You know, we have built — and, right now, if you look at the United States, very importantly, we are the number-one oil producer — oil and gas — in the world, by far.  We’re way ahead of Russia.  We’re way ahead of Saudi Arabia.  We don’t really need the Straits anymore.  We take some, but we don’t need it.  The biggest beneficiary of the Straits is China.  Ninety-one percent of their energy comes out of the Straits.  Japan, Indonesia — many other countries need it.

So we’re doing them a very big service by keeping the Straits open.  But this is not about the Straits.  This is about Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon.  It’s very simple.  Because we don’t need it, just so you understand.  We don’t need it.

Q    Your National Security Advisor came under some hard criticism from Tucker Carlson and others for pushing too hard on Iran.  You said you’re not a warmonger, but do you have confidence in the judgment of your National Security Advisor John Bolton?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I do because I have John Bolton, who I would definitely say is a hawk, and I have other people that are on the other side of the equation.  And, ultimately, I make the decisions, so it doesn’t matter.  But I want — for instance, I disagreed very much with John Bolton — his attitude on the Middle East and Iraq was going into Iraq.  I think that was a big mistake.  I think I’ve been proven right, but I’ve been against that forever.

John Bolton is doing a very good job, but he takes a — generally, a tough posture.  But I have other people that don’t take that posture.  But the only one that matters is me because I’ll listen to everybody.  And I want people on both sides.  Having people on both sides, to me, is very important.

Q    At what point were you briefed about the potential casualties of an Iran airstrike?  Were you briefed in the initial planning stages?  At what point were you actually —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I started to hear that it was a lot.  But, again, no decision was made.  I said, “You come and see me.”  And they came and see me.  At the time, we hadn’t done anything.  And I asked the question, and I said, “I want to know that answer before I make a decision.”

So we hadn’t made a decision to go forward.  I said, “Everybody, we will meet.  One thing I want to know, and I want to know it accurately — as accurately as possible: How many people will die?”

Just so you know, I come from New York City.  In New York City, we have a lot of Iranians, and they’re great people.  I have friends that are Iranian — many friends.  Living in New York City, you meet many Iranians.  They’re very smart.  They’re very ambitious.  They have tremendous — they’re high-quality people.  But I have many friends that are Iranian.  I don’t want to kill 150 Iranians.  I understand it.  I don’t want to kill 150 of anything or anybody, unless it’s absolutely necessary.  And most people very much agree with what I — what I’m doing.

Now, if the leadership of Iran behaves badly, then it’s going to be a very, very bad day for them.  But hopefully, they’re smart.  And hopefully, they really care for their people and not themselves.  And hopefully, we can get Iran back onto an economic track that’s fantastic, where they’re a really wealthy nation, which would be a wonderful thing.

All those things, I want to do.  But if they’re going to be foolish, that’s never going to happen.

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Q    Good.  I have a question on Iran.  The 150 estimate (inaudible) —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah.  Go ahead.

Q    The 150 estimate that you got late on Thursday night, why was that different from the estimate you got earlier in the day from your national security team?

THE PRESIDENT:  It wasn’t really.  I didn’t talk too much about that.  Again, no decision to go forward was made, because I said, “We’ll meet at a certain time before the — and nothing goes forward until we meet.”  I didn’t want anybody doing anything.  And when we met —

Q    (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  And when we met, they gave me a rough estimate, earlier, but I wanted a more accurate estimate.  The more accurate estimate where — I won’t go into the number of sites, but you guessed that pretty much right.  You have, in particular, all right?  But it was the number of sites, and it was, on average, 40 to 50 people at each site.  And when they shot down an unmanned place or drone, I didn’t like it.

Q    That came from an attorney in the Pentagon and through the — into the White House?
THE PRESIDENT:  No, that came from me.

Q    No, I mean the estimate came through —

THE PRESIDENT:  It did.  But it was given to me by a general.

Q    Was that Dunford, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  I had a long talk with Dunford.  He’s a great gentleman.

Q    Was he the side of (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  He was. Dunford did a great job.  Dunford is a terrific man and he’s a terrific general.

Yeah.

Q    Will you talk about Iran at Camp Iran?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll be talking about Iran at Camp David, yeah.  We have a series of meetings, and, more importantly, a series of very well connected phone calls.  We have a great phone system up there, and — as you know.  So I’ll be doing a lot of work.

Q    Will you tell us who you’ll be talking to?

THE PRESIDENT:  We may release it later.  We may.

Q    (Inaudible) ayatollah?

THE PRESIDENT:  Look, Iran, right now, is an economic mess.  They’re going through hell.  The sanctions have hit them hard.  More sanctions are going to be put on — a lot more.  It’s hard to believe you can even put on.  But it’s a mess.

All I want is no nuclear weapons.  Under the horrible Obama deal, he gave them a $150 billion.  He gave them $1.8 billion in cash.  Think of that — in cash.  Many planeloads of cash.  He gave them $1.8 billion in cash, and he got nothing.

But the thing he really didn’t get was good inspection rights, because the most primary places, you couldn’t go to, you couldn’t inspect.  We haven’t seen them in years.

The other thing he didn’t get is time.  Because, in a very short number of years, they will legally be able to make a nuclear weapon.  That’s unacceptable.

And remember this: The deal wasn’t even ratified in Congress.  It never got proper — in terms of treaty — it never got proper authorization from Congress.

So, with all of that, it was very important to me.  So we’ll start all over.  We could have a deal with them very quickly, if they want to do it.  I — it’s up to them.  But if Iran wants to become a wealthy nation again, become a prosperous nation — we’ll call it “Let’s make Iran great again.”  Does that make sense?  “Make Iran great again.”  It’s okay with me.

But they’re never going to do it if they think, in five or six years, they’re going to have a nuclear weapon.  I know too much about nuclear — a lot about nuclear — and let me just tell you, they’re not going to have a nuclear weapon.

If that’s —  and it has very little to do with the oil.  Because, again, China get its oil — 91 percent; Japan get its oil — 60 percent; Indonesia; so many other countries.  What it has to do with, very simply, is the fact is we’re not going to have Iran have a nuclear weapon.  And when they agree to that, they are going to have a wealthy country, they’re going to be so happy, and I’m going to be their best friend.  I hope that happens.  I hope that happens, but it may not.

Q    Would your decision have been different if it was 10 to 15 casualties, instead of 100 to 150 casualties?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s — anything is a lot when they shoot down an unmanned, okay?  So anything is a lot.  I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it.

Q    If they shoot down another drone, will you not have to reply to that either?

THE PRESIDENT:  Say it.

Q    If they shoot down another unmanned drone, will you also not —

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll see.  But I don’t think that will happen.  I don’t think that’ll happen.  And if you notice, there was a plane with 38 people yesterday — did you see that?  I think that’s a big story.

Q    Is that accurate?

THE PRESIDENT:  They had it in their sights, and they didn’t shoot it down.

Q    That was accurate?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think they were very wise not to do that, and we appreciate that they didn’t do that.  But they had a plane in their sights — 38 people on the plane — and they didn’t shoot it down.  And I think that was a very wise decision.  And — and I think that’s something that we very much appreciate.

Q    Is it accurate to say that your national security team brought you a plan for a planned strike and it didn’t have a fully formed estimate on casualties?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  No.  They brought me a great plan.  But I wanted to know, at the end — I wanted an accurate count.  They gave me very odd numbers.  I wanted an accurate count as to how many people would be killed, how many Iranians would be killed.

And, as I said: Coming from New York, I know a lot of Iranians.  They’re great people.

Thank you very much.

Q    (Inaudible) military action on Iran still on the table?

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s always on the table until we get this solved, yeah.  We have a tremendously powerful military force in that area.  It’s always on the table until we get this solved.

Thank you.