(October 9, 2019)
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for being here. It’s great to be back in Iowa. Grateful for Senator Ernst’s leadership. You know, at a time when Congress is spending all of its time on endless investigations here in Iowa, we wanted to come to make it clear that the American people, the people of Iowa, want to see us working on issues that are going to expand opportunity and prosperity in this state and states across the country.
Chief among those opportunities is the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. You saw the enthusiasm today as the Senator and I addressed this proposal, which has been sitting now for more than 300 days in the House of Representatives. And we came here to make it clear to the people of Iowa that President Trump and I and our allies in Congress are absolutely determined to continue to call on Speaker Pelosi and Democrats in the Congress to set aside politics and bring the USMCA to the floor.
We remain confident that if the USMCA is brought to the floor of the Congress, it will pass. It will pass the United States Senate. And we believe it will create great prosperity — more than 175,000 jobs all across the country, billions of dollars of investment — and particularly in a place like Iowa, a state where half of their exports go to Mexico and Canada.
The USMCA is a win for the people of Iowa and the people of this country, in the city and on the farm. And so I — it’s my great honor to be here to make it clear how determined President Trump and I are to see this trade agreement through. And we’re truly grateful to Senator Ernst for your —
SENATOR ERNST: Thank you. Appreciate that.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — strong support of this effort. So —
Q You know, growing up here in Iowa, I have a lot of friends who are farmers. My grandma — my family owns a dairy farm. And obviously, a lot — you spoke of, today, these — these countries are going to be the most helpful. And it’s sort of been — they’re in for the — they’re banking on the long-term — long-term effects of your presidency’s plan — Trump’s presidency’s plans to benefit them, and it’s been a hard few years.
And what they want to know is: When can they really expect the fruits of what you are all working on? And how close will there be to reaching a deal with China, even if it is a minority of — you know, compared to the trade involved with these other countries in the USMCA?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. Well, let me first say, from the outset of this administration, President Trump and I have been fighting for jobs and opportunities in the city and on the farm. Tax relief, tax reform that was passed was historic. It made a real difference for family farmers. Rolling back regulation, unleashing American energy. The President’s recent announcement that we will make sure to stay at 15 billion, net, in ethanol is a great boon for farmers all across the country.
But, in the midst of that, the President has been working to open up markets. The recent agreement with Japan for agricultural products is a reflection of that. The USMCA will be a great win for farmers.
But the American people should know that we’re going to continue to stand strong to demand that China open up their markets to U.S. manufactured goods, agricultural goods, and also that they deal with the issue of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer that really compromised the interests of the American people, now, for decades.
We have meetings later this week. Chinese senior leadership will be here meeting with our team at the White House. We’re encouraged at the soybean purchases that have taken place in just the last few weeks. But the American people, I believe, know that this a President that is fighting for agriculture, we’re fighting for manufacturing, and we’re going to continue to stand strong with China until they address the really fundamental structural issues that have worked against the interests of the American people.
SENATOR ERNST: If I could add to that as well: I have done 33 town halls, already, this year across the state of Iowa, and one of those top issues is the trade issue. First and foremost, they want USMCA done, which is why I was glad to join the Vice President and Senator Grassley and Governor Reynolds here today. But they also are very concerned about China.
But what I’m hearing from farmers is: “We want this done soon because we’re feeling the pinch.” But, you know what? They want the President to get it right. And so they understand how important it is.
But if we get USMCA done, that helps us in our leverage with China.
Q Mr. Vice President, were you ever aware of President Trump’s efforts to pressure President Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the Biden family?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, first let’s be very clear that President Zelensky said there was no pressure. I think his words were “no one pushed.” And a clear reading of the transcript shows that there was no quid pro quo in the President’s call with President Zelensky.
Q Were you ever aware —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: So, let me — look, the American people should read the transcript. And they’d do well to do that, since the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee manufactured a version of the transcript and read it into the record before the committee.
Q Will you release your transcript?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We also see that the — the Chairman of the committee misrepresented his contacts with the whistleblower in repeated interviews. And so — look, the American people need look no further than the plain reading of the transcript in the President’s call with President Zelensky. And they will see there was no pressure; there was no quid pro quo.
And in all of my contacts and conversations with President Zelensky, our focus was entirely on the President’s desire to see Europe contribute more to Ukraine’s security and sovereignty, and also to see President Zelensky make good on his own election commitment to pass significant corruption reforms in Ukraine.
We’ve been pleased with the progress that President Zelensky has made on that front. We’re pleased that the aid that we provided is continuing to provide security assistance to Ukraine after its borders were overrun by Russia.
Q But will you at least — you just said — you just explained those transcripts, but will you release those transcripts so the American people can review them? Your own transcripts.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I’d have no objection to that, and we’re discussing that with White House Counsel as we speak.
But when people see the transcripts of my calls and when they hear the reporting of our conversation — President Trump’s focus with Ukraine, from the very beginning, was on enlisting more European support and supporting President Zelensky’s efforts to advance reforms that would end an era of corruption in Ukraine.
AIDE: Hey guys, last question.
Q But Mr. Vice President —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: The United States was very proud — was very proud that, different from the last administration, we provided military assistance to Ukraine. Under the Obama administration, all they would provide was literally pillows and blankets after President Obama had seen Russia overrun Crimea and basically initiate and support warfare in Eastern Ukraine.
We stood strong —
Q But Mr. Vice President, did you know —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We stood strong with Ukraine under President Poroshenko. We’re standing strong with President Zelensky. But, as the American people would expect, President Trump wanted to —
Q But, Mr. Vice President, did you know that —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: President Trump wanted to make sure that Ukraine was advancing the reform agenda — reforming and ending corruption in their country — and that our allies in Europe were doing (inaudible).
Q But were you ever aware, Mr. Vice President, that interest in the Bidens — that interest in investigating the Bidens was at least in part of the reason for aid to Ukraine being held up? Were you ever aware?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I — what — I never discussed the issue of — the issue of the Bidens with President Zelensky and —
Q But within the administration, were you ever aware, within the administration?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What I can tell you is that all of our discussions internally — I mean the President and our team and our contacts, in my office, with Ukraine — were entirely focused on the broader issues of the lack of European support and corruption.
Q But you were aware of the interest in the Bidens being investigated —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I was —
Q — and that being tied to aid to Ukraine being held up?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What I — well, that’s your question. Let me very clear: The issue of aid and our efforts, with regard to Ukraine, were, from my experience, in no way connected to the very legitimate concern the American people had about corruption that took place, about things that happened in the 2016 election in Ukraine or about —
Q But were you aware of others in the administration having those conversations?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — about the issue that former Vice President Biden had his son on the board of a major energy company in Ukraine at a time that Vice President Biden was running the United States’ efforts in Ukraine. I think the American people have a right to know what was going on.
And — but all of our discussions, all of my discussions with the leadership in Ukraine was entirely focused on President Trump’s priority of supporting (inaudible).
Q Had you read the transcript before that September 1st call? Had you read the transcript before that September 1st meeting?
AIDE: Hey, guys, thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Go ahead. Right back there.
Q Thank you. Mr. Vice President, during the campaign of 2016, you had said that “Foreign governments cannot participate in the American political process.”
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q Do you still stand by that today?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I do. I think that’s why President Trump is so concerned about the foreign interference in our election in Ukraine. If you read the transcript, you will see that the President said to President Zelensky that our country had been through a lot and then he had a question about foreign interference in our 2016 election.
I mean, to be honest with you, when did you all lose interest in foreign interference in the 2016 election? President Trump wants to get to —
Q Doesn’t the transcript show that there was foreign interference?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — the truth. He wants to know what happened in 2016. And the American people have a right to know whether the former Vice President and — who was representing and leading the United States’ interests in Ukraine was in any way impacted by the fact that his son was being paid $50,000 a month —
Q Right. But the President himself has said that —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — to be on the board of a major Ukraine energy company.
Q — he asked a foreign government to investigate his domestic political rival. So, is that okay with you?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don’t — I don’t believe that’s the case. And again — but I know that’s the way that —
Q He said it. He said it. The President has said that —
Q And asked China too.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I know that’s the way Chairman Schiff characterized it in his manufactured transcript.
Q The President said it on the lawn.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: But the American people should read the transcript, and they will see that the President did nothing wrong. There was no pressure. There was no quid pro quo. The President simply raised the issues of importance and interest to the American people. And I think, as —
Q So it’s okay with you that he asked that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: — we go forward, that’ll become more evident.