VP pool report — #5 — Pence interview

From: "Parker, Ashley"
Date: July 30, 2017 at 7:28:21 PM GMT+3
Subject: VP pool report — #5 — Pence interview

Vice President Pence made an unscheduled stop in the Old Town Square here in Tallinn, Estonia, where he did a brief interview with Fox News and then briefly took questions from pool. He was asked about North Korea, Russia, and health care, and the complete transcript is below. (In the transcript, the Fox News interview is marked separately from the pool questions, and some of the questions are paraphrases). Thanks to Assistant Deputy Co-Pooler Peter Nicholas of the Wall Street Journal for help with transcribing.



Q: What do you hope to accomplish?

“President Trump sent me to Europe with a very simple message. And that is that America first doesn’t mean America alone. Our message to the Baltic states — my message when we visit Georgia and Montenegro — will be the same: To our allies here in Eastern Europe, we are with you, we stand with you on behalf of freedoms. It’s a great honor to be with you.

Q: Do you anticipate Trump to sign the Russia sanctions bill while you’re over here and if so, how will that bolster your message that the Trump administration is committed to defending these countries against Russian aggression?

“Well, the president has made it very clear that Russia’s destabilizing activities, its support for rogue regimes, its activities in Ukraine, are unacceptable. The president made very clear that very soon he will sign the sanctions from the Congress of the United States to reinforce that. But at the same time, as we make our intentions clear, we expect Russian behavior to change. The president and I remain very hopeful that we’ll see different behavior by the Russian government, with regard to Ukraine, with regard to supporting rogue regimes in Iran and North Korea. We continue to believe that if Russia will change its behavior, our relationship can change for the good and improve for the interests in both of our countries and the interest of peace and stability in this region and around the world.”

Q: I know we’re all the way over here but everyone back in Washington is still talking about health care. You played such an integral role in that. What were you saying to Senator John McCain in those final moments?

“Let me be very clear, as the president has made clear, we’ll never give up on our commitment to keep our promises, whether it be on health care reform of getting the American economy rolling, or our promise to reengage the world. The president has sent me here, as he has in other places around the world — the president was here in Europe not long before to make it very clear that the United States of America is determined to reengage the world in a way that puts America first, that puts our security, puts our prosperity first, but also reengages in a way that can build up free nations around the world. My message here, very simple, is that: We are committed to nations around the world that are committed to freedom. My message here in Eastern Europe will be that, and when I get back home, we’ll get back to work about keeping all the promises we made to the American people.


Q: Can you talk a bit about North Korea, what you see as possible solutions there. They just tested another missile, their capabilities seem to be improving. What options does the United States have?

“Well, all options are on the table. The president has made that clear, had me make that clear when I visited South Korea earlier this year. The continued provocations by the rogue regime in North Korea are unacceptable and the united States of America is going to continue to marshal the support of nations across the region and across the world to further isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically. But the era of strategic patience is over. The president of the United States is leading a coalition of nations to bring pressure to bear until that time that North Korea will permanently abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile program.”

Q: Should China do more to counter North Korean nuclear program?

"We believe China should do more. The president has been clear about that in his conversations with President Xi that while China has taken unprecedented steps to begin to isolate North Korea economically and to bring diplomatic pressure we believe China has a unique relationship with the regime in North Korea and has a unique ability to influence decisions by that regime and we call on China to use that influence along with other nations in the region to encourage North Korea to join the family of nations, to embrace a nuclear-free Korean peninsula and abandon its provocative actions and its ballistic missile program."

Q: You’re here to show us support for these countries to stand up to Russian aggression. Pres trump barely acknowledged that Russia meddled in our elections. How do you square those differences?

“The president has confirmed repeatedly that we believe Russia did meddle in U.S. elections. I think he has also said it could have been other actors as well. But he’s confirmed his belief and our intelligence that Russia was involved in meddling in U.S. elections and it’s part of what inspired the bipartisan action in the Congress to codify the sanctions that our administration has been implementing against Russia and will continue to advance that. My message today is just very, very simple. While our policy is America-first, it’s not America-alone. And that our allies in Eastern Europe can be confident that the United States of America stands with them. We are committed to NATO, we are committed to our common defense. The president wanted me to come here, to Estonia and soon to Georgia and Montenegro to make sure our allies know that. And we will stand with them as the United States has for Baltic states throughout their history.”

“The Prime Minister just shared with me how meaningful it is to the people of Estonia that all during the time of Soviet repression here in the Baltic states the United States of America never recognized the Soviet Union’s claim on these proud nations. We stand with them today as free and independent nations since 1991 and the president wanted me to make it clear to these Baltic states and to our other allies in the region and to the wider world looking on that America stands with our allies in freedom.”

Q: President originally at NATO HQ didn’t reaffirm Article 5. What has changed?

“From the time the president sent me to speak at the Munich Security Conference, we made it clear that the policy of our administration is to stand firmly with our NATO allies and to stand firmly behind our Article 5 commitment that an attack on one is an attack on all. It was very moving to me to sit with the Prime Minister of Estonia today and have him reflect on the Estonian troops that as we speak are in Iraq and Afghanistan and have been shoulder to shoulder with us since NATO exercised its authority under Article 5 following September 11 in our country. The president has made it clear from the outset of our administration and will continue to make it clear to all our allies in the region.”

After taking questions, standing in the middle of the square, Pence shook several hands on his way to his motorcade. Many of the people waiting for him seemed to be tourists, and when each individual introduced themselves to him, he often tied their comments back to President Trump. When a man from Paris said hello, Pence noted, “The president was just in Paris for Bastille Day.” And when a visitor from Poland said hello, Pence replied, “The president was just in Warsaw.” He also posed for a selfie with two teenagers.

We now have a lid for the night.


Ashley Parker

The Washington Post

Cell: (301) xxx-xxx-xxxx

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