President Trump Delivers Speech After Returning From Asia

Nov 15, 2017
Originally published on November 15, 2017 5:34 pm
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ELISE HU, HOST:

Even before he returned from his nearly two-week trip to Asia, President Trump began teasing that he'd make a major statement about the trip when he got back. This afternoon, he spoke in an event that was thrown together rather quickly, touting what he views as his overseas accomplishments.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The momentum from our trip will launch us on our continued effort to accomplish the three core objectives I outlined - to unite the world against North Korean nuclear threat, to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific region and to advance fair and reciprocal economic relations with our trading partners and allies in the region.

HU: NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson is at the White House to talk about what the president said. Mara, he said he had a major announcement. How'd it actually stack up?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: It was more a diary of his trip, his entire 10 months on the world stage. It was kind of a recap of every stop he's made abroad, and it was a defense of his America First approach. As you heard, he talked about momentum. He did point to some business deals, at least memorandums of understanding that were made while he was in Asia where Asian companies have promised to invest in the U.S. But beyond that, there wasn't a lot of there there.

As you said, he had billed this as a major statement. He said in his statement that the U.S. was open to negotiating bilateral trade agreements. He has pulled the U.S. out of multilateral deals, which he doesn't like, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But so far, no Asian nation has stepped forward to make a bilateral deal with the U.S., and as a matter of fact, the TPP countries are going forward without the U.S. And the president said he was renegotiating an existing bilateral deal, the U.S.-South Korea trade deal, which he said was a disaster for the U.S.

HU: Now, apart from trade, the other big focus of the trip, at least according to the White House, was North Korea - so any movement there?

LIASSON: He claimed he made progress. The U.N. sanctions - tough, new U.N. sanctions - are being implemented, but he has asked China to cut off all oil shipments to North Korea. That has not happened yet, but the Chinese did recently send an envoy to North Korea, and we don't know yet what will come of that.

HU: Now, Mara, I want to ask you. Some of the stagecraft for these remarks actually seemed a little off for a big-deal announcement. It seemed like it was hastily thrown together.

LIASSON: It certainly was, and it sounds like the White House staff neglected to put a glass of water on the president's podium because twice during his remarks, he had to bend down, get a bottle of water, crack it open and drink it. Of course this reminded everyone of how he had mocked Marco Rubio mercilessly about having to sip water during a TV speech. Rubio tweeted - mischievously - quote, "similar but needs work on his form, has to be done in one single motion, and eyes should never leave the camera - but not bad for his first time."

HU: And while the president was away, of course there's been this other political controversy - the sexual misconduct accusations against Roy Moore in Alabama. Did reporters get to ask him about that?

LIASSON: They tried, but the president ignored the shouted questions. The White House is still trying to figure out what to do. Many people have called on the president to ask Roy Moore to step aside. Some Republicans want Jeff Sessions to be a write-in, but they're not sure if he could win. And this is a problem because if they have Roy Moore in the Senate, he becomes an albatross for the Republicans. If he loses, they have another Democrat at a time they can't afford to lose a single vote. And I would say the most interesting development in the Roy Moore story was Fox News' Sean Hannity has given Moore 24 hours to clear up the contradictions in his story, or Hannity will ask him to step aside.

HU: NPR's Mara Liasson - thanks, Mara.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.