President Donald Trump addressed Hurricane Harvey, terrorism, US-Russia relations and more during a joint news conference with Finnish president Sauli Niinisto at the White House.
FUNDING FOR TEXAS
Monday’s conference marked the first time Trump spoke publically since Hurricane Harvey, downgraded to a tropical storm, caused at least nine fatalities in the Gulf Coast.
Trump said that he will be visiting the impact zone in Texas Tuesday to ensure the state is receiving “full support and cooperation from the federal government.”
“Protecting the lives of our people is my highest priority. Every asset at my command is at the disposal of local officials. Tragic times such as these bring out the best in American character, strength, charity, and resilience,” Trump said. “We are one American family. We hurt together, we struggle together, and believe me, we endure together. We are one family.”
In addition to visiting Texas Tuesday, Trump said that he will also be going back to Texas Saturday, as well as making a stop in Louisiana. Trump said a state of emergency has been declared in Lousiana at the request of Governor John Edwards.
According to Trump, more than 8,500 federal workers have been deployed to the state of Texas but that a lot of work still need to to be done.
Trump promised that Congress will provide federal relief to the victims of the storm, adding that he expects to see an emergency spending request on his desk “fairly soon.”
“I think you’re going to see very rapid action from Congress, certainly from the president,” Trump said. “We think you’re going to have what you need, and it’s going to go fast.”
Trump told reporters that a disaster aid package to the region would not be jeopardized by a government shutdown, which he has previously threatened if Congress do not include federal funding for his proposed border wall in a spending package.
“It has nothing to do with it, really. I think this is separate,” Trump said, adding, “One way or another, Mexico is going to pay for the wall.”
Trump said that he hopes it will not be necessary to shut the government down, but added that the wall is “needed from the standpoint of security.”
When asked about pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, Trump stood by his decision, calling Arpaio a “patriot,” and criticizing former president Barack Obama for treating him “very unfairly.”
Trump then cited former president Bill Clinton, who pardoned Marc Rich, a former donor who fled the country after being charged with crimes including buying oil from Iran while it held US citizens hostage. Trump also cited Obama, who commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who leaked classified documents to WikiLeaks.
When asked why he decided to announce the pardon during the height of Tropical Storm Harvey, Trump said he thought more people would be watching the news.
“I assumed the ratings would be far higher than normal with the hurricane just starting,” Trump said.
The US president said that the US stands “in solidarity” with the people of Finland against the threat of terrorism. He specifically mentioned an attack that occurred earlier this month, where a man stabbed eight people, killing two in the Finnish city of Turku.
Trump added that the US will work to cut off funding for terrorism to defeat what he called a “very wicked ideology.”
When asked if he considers Russia a security threat, Trump said that he thinks “many countries” pose a threat to the Baltic region, adding the US is “very protective of that region.”
“These are all threats that we’ll be able to handle if we have to,” Trump said. “Hopefully, we won’t have to handle them, but if we do, we will handle them.”
Later, Trump said that a positive relationship between the US and Russia would be “good for world peace and other things.”
“I hope that we do have good relations with Russia,” Trump said.
“I say it loud and clear, I have been saying it for years. I think it’s a good thing if we have great relationships, or at least good relationships, with Russia.”