Trump Gets Warm Welcome In Poland

Jul 6, 2017
Originally published on July 6, 2017 6:49 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

America loves Poland. That was the message from President Trump to a crowd in Warsaw this morning. The president's there to visit a NATO ally and to try to reset relations with Europe. He weighed in while he's there on North Korea, saying he's considering a severe response to that country's ongoing missile tests. He also talked about Russia and called Russian behavior destabilizing.

Well, NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president. He's in Warsaw listening to all of those. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: Let's just tick through. The president, as we said, has weighed in on a number of hot topics. Let me start you with North Korea. This is notable because this is the first time the president has taken questions from reporters since this latest North Korean missile test. What did the president say?

HORSLEY: Mary Louise, he used language that was tough but vague.

KELLY: OK.

HORSLEY: He has often said he doesn't want to telegraph any U.S. plan. But he said there will be consequences for what he called the very bad behavior of North Korea. He did not elaborate on what those consequences might be.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: It's a shame that they're behaving this way, but they are behaving in a very, very dangerous manner. And something will have to be done about it.

HORSLEY: Now, later this evening, the president will be meeting with some of North Korea's neighbors to talk about the security situation. But, you know, Trump faces the same challenge that previous U.S. presidents have. There are not a lot of good options for dealing with North Korea.

KELLY: Let me turn you to the reception that he's getting in Poland today. He spoke for about 35 minutes, and there was cheering, people waving American flags. Give us a sense of what the crowd was like and what he said when he addressed the Polish people this morning.

HORSLEY: It was an enthusiastic crowd that gathered in Warsaw's Krasinski Square, which is the scene of a famous uprising by the Poles against the Nazis back in 1944. And the president drew on that history to highlight Poland's role battling tyranny in the past and terrorism today. He talked about what he called Poland's unbreakable spirit.

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TRUMP: The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken and who have never, ever forgotten who they are.

HORSLEY: And Trump was holding up Poland really as a model for the rest of Europe, in both prosaic economic terms - Poland's one of the few NATO countries that meets its commitment to spend 2 percent of its economy on defense - but also more broadly, in the way Poland preserved its faith and its culture for centuries in the face of repeated occupations.

Trump says the West needs a similar commitment in the face of threats like Islamic extremism. And he characterized Western values of faith and family in a way that will appeal to a lot of his evangelical supporters but also in a way that some may find exclusionary. You know, this is the president who pushed to temporarily closed the door on refugees and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. He said today, we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people but added, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism.

KELLY: Scott, the next leg of this trip will take the president to Germany. He'll be in Hamburg later today. And it's safe to say the most highly anticipated meeting of this trip will be his sit-down tomorrow, where he's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Did we get a little, maybe, telegraphing of what he - the tone he plans to take in that meeting when he said today, Russia's behavior is destabilizing?

HORSLEY: Well, you know, the uncomfortable backdrop for that first meeting with Vladimir Putin is the - an ongoing investigation of Russian meddling in last year's presidential election. And the president was asked point-blank today to acknowledge what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded, that Russia interfered in the election with an eye towards helping the Trump campaign. He grudgingly acknowledged that Russia might have interfered but said other actors might have interfered as well. And again, this president questioned whether the findings of the U.S. intelligence community can be trusted.

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TRUMP: I remember when I was sitting back listening about Iraq, weapons of mass destruction - how everybody was 100 percent sure that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And guess what. That led to one big mess. They were wrong, and it led to a mess. So it was Russia. And I think it was probably others also. And that's been going on for a long period of time. But my big question is, why did Obama do nothing about it?

HORSLEY: Now, it's not actually true that the Obama administration did nothing about the Russian meddling. We know that the administration took steps to safeguard the actual voting in November. And ultimately, former President Obama cautioned President Putin to knock off the interference. But the - Obama was wary of doing anything that might have looked overly partisan on his part in the months leading up to the election. Trump dismissed that today. He said, Obama didn't do more in response to Russia's activity because, he says, Obama thought Hillary Clinton was going to win.

KELLY: So a lot to watch for tomorrow. Just quickly, we should note this meeting with Putin comes on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Germany. What kind of reception might the president get?

HORSLEY: It might be sort of testy. Climate change - it's the first international summit since Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord.

KELLY: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. He's traveling with the president throughout this European tour. Scott, thanks very much.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.