Trump Addresses World Leaders At U.N. General Assembly

Sep 24, 2019
Originally published on September 24, 2019 11:36 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

President Trump addressed global leaders this morning at the U.N. General Assembly. This was the third time Trump has spoken before this chamber, and it comes at a time when U.S. influence on the world stage is waning. In several ways, as we've seen at the U.N., leaders are moving on without President Trump in confronting issues like climate change and universal health care that the U.S. president has largely shunned. This was also a brief moment in the spotlight for the president this week where he did not have to address the growing controversy over his calls with the president of Ukraine. Let's talk about all of this with NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez, who is traveling with the president and joins us from New York. Hi, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hi.

GREENE: So what stood out to you from the president's speech at the General Assembly?

ORDOÑEZ: A lot. I mean, this was President Trump's third address before global leaders at the U.N. General Assembly. It was almost 40 minutes. In many ways, it was a speech less for global leaders and more for viewers back home. He covered several themes from the campaign rallies - good job numbers, he promised to protect the Second Amendment, and he also called for an end to human smuggling. And he said the United States has the right to defend its borders.

GREENE: Covering some themes from campaign rallies - it really does sound like he's trying to speak to voters and not global leaders. Did he talk about diplomacy, like who America's partners are in the world and adversaries?

ORDOÑEZ: He did. I mean, he praised the Mexican president for his work on immigration, his help on immigration. He said the United States is working toward peace in Afghanistan. But he took direct aim at Iran. He said this.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: All nations have a duty to act. No responsible government should subsidize Iran's bloodlust. As long as Iran's menacing behavior continues, sanctions will not be lifted.

ORDOÑEZ: The president also defended his trade war with China that many leaders have raised concerns is negatively impacting the global economy. He said the United States seeks justice.

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TRUMP: The second-largest economy in the world should not be permitted to declare itself a developing country in order to game the system at others' expense.

ORDOÑEZ: Trump also spoke about the need to protect the global gay community, and he said the United States is working with others to stop criminalizing homosexuality around the world.

GREENE: So did Ukraine come up in all of these questions that have been raised by Democrats and others about the president's phone call with Ukraine's president and what he has now said himself was asking for a political opponent to be investigated?

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, Ukraine did not come up in the speech. It was kind of a moment where he got to escape it. But it certainly has come up every day, and he got questioned about it again this morning in these accusations about whether he was using his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. This morning, he appeared to admit that he is withholding funds from the Ukraine government. This is what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: As far as withholding funds, those funds were paid. They were fully paid. But my complaint has always been - and I'd withhold again and I'll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute.

ORDOÑEZ: It should be noted it's true that this has been a consistent complaint of Trump's, that other countries don't pay their fair share.

GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez for us in New York. Franco, thanks.

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