Oval Office Washington D.C. August 20 11:19 A.M. EDT
Thank you very much. It's great to have the Prime Minister of Iraq, a very highly respected gentleman all over the Middle East, and respected very much by our country, too. I can say that.
And we will be discussing, today, the obvious: defense — and offense, I have to say. But we'll be discussing military. We're also involved in many oil projects and oil development within their country, and I think we've had a very, very good relationship since we started.
We're down to a very small number of soldiers in Iraq now. We defeated the ISIS caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and it's — that has been defeated very strongly, and it does have a different feeling to it now that you've got it. We had it at 98 percent, and we said, "Well, we can leave." And then, everybody said, "Would you bring it to 100 percent?" Then we brought it 100 percent.
But the relationship is very good. We have become friends. We have become, I think, friendly. I think our relationship now is better than ever before. But we have very few soldiers in Iraq, and — but we're there to help. And the Prime Minister knows that. We are there to help. We're with some people that also — Mike and Mike — we — and Robert. We very much feel that if Iran should do anything, we will be there to help the Iraqi people.
So, that's where we are. We're doing big trade deals, we're doing military deals, and we're doing military purchases by them, where they're spending a lot of money on purchasing equipment and they're building up their military rapidly, and we like to see that.
So, thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for being here. I appreciate it. Please.
PRIME MINISTER KADHIMI:
Thank you, Mr. President. I just want to thank you for receiving us in the White House today. I'm grateful for all the support offered by the United States to Iraq during the war against ISIS.
This support has built our partnership for the best interests for our nation. Mr. President, yesterday we signed many contact — many contracts with American companies — over (inaudible). Iraq is open for American business and investment and for a better future for Iraq and Iraqi people.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER KADHIMI:
Mr. President, what's your reaction to the indictment of your former campaign aid, Steve Bannon?
Well, I feel very badly. I haven't been dealing with him for a long period of time, as most of the people in this room know. He was involved in our campaign. He worked for Goldman Sachs. He worked for a lot of companies. But he was involved, likewise, in our campaign, and for a small part of the administration, very early on. I haven't been dealing with him at all.
I know nothing about the project, other than I didn't like — when I read about it, I didn't like it. I said, "This is for government. This isn't for private people." And it sounded, to me, like showboating. And I think I let my opinion be very strongly stated at the time. I didn't like it. It was showboating and maybe looking for funds. But you'll have to see what happens.
I think it's a very sad thing for Mr. Bannon. I think it's surprising. But this was something, as you know, just by reading social media and by reading whatever it is, and by speaking to Mike and Mike and all of them, I didn't like that project. I thought that was a project that was being done for showboating reasons.
I don't know that he was in charge. I didn't know any of the other people either. But it's sad. It's very sad.
But it's not just Steve Bannon. It's Roger Stone. It's Michael Flynn. It's Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen. What does it say about your judgment that these are the kind of people who you're affiliated with —
Well, I have no idea.
— and the culture of lawlessness —
— around people who are involved in the leadership of your 2016 campaign?
Well, no, there was great lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally. And if you look at all of the things and all of the scandals they had, they had tremendous lawlessness.
But I know nothing about it. I was not involved in the project. I have no idea who was. But I can tell you: I didn't know the people; the three people that were talked about were people that I did not know. I don't believe I ever met them.
I don't think that should be a privately financed wall. I don't think — it's too complex; it's too big. And we're now up to 300 miles, almost. In another week, week and a half, we'll be up to 300 miles of wall at the highest level. They were even having construction problems.
I was reading — the little I know about it, I got from you. I was reading, where they were having construction problems with the wall that they were — they had a small area just to show people that they could build a wall, and they were having a lot of problems where it was toppling over and other things. And I didn't like it because I didn't want to be associated with that.
We built a very powerful wall. It was a wall that is virtually impossible to get through. It's very, very tough. It's very strong, and it's everything the Border Patrol wanted. And I didn't want to have a wall that was going to be an inferior wall. And I felt this was going to be an inferior wall.
Kris Kobach said you endorsed the wall. Is that true? The project.
So I didn't — I didn't know — I didn't know that. I didn't know about Bannon's involvement, but I didn't know any — I didn't know the other people. And I — but I do think it's a sad event.
And, again, Steve has had a great career at Goldman Sachs. He's had a career with a lot of other people. I haven't dealt with him at all, over years now — literally, years. And I guess this was a project he was involved in, but it was something that — in fact, you can see I made statements about it a long time ago. It was something that I very much felt was inappropriate to be doing.
Okay. Please go ahead.
No, go ahead, please.
Mr. President, the end of the militia roles in Iraq — it's one of the very important issues to stabilize the country in Iraq. How America is going to support ending the militia role in Iraq and —
You know, you're — you're very hard to understand. Could you maybe help me with it?
Mr. President —
Wait. Go ahead. Try it again.
(No translation provided.)
PRIME MINISTER KADHIMI:
(As interpreted.) The United States helped the — helped Iraq enormously in defeating ISIS and also in toppling the Saddam Hussein regime. We are working on building a strong relationship that is based on joint interests between Iraq and the United States, that is based on economic interest for the better future of the Iraqi people and the United States people.
When I got to — when we came into office, ISIS was running rampant all over Iraq and Syria. And we knocked out the — 100 percent of the ISIS caliphate. But the Obama administration did a very, very poor job. They were running rampant all over. And we came in and we did a real job, and we got rid of that, and that was a good thing.
And now we're working with Iraq. They use the great American Dollar, which is the most powerful currency in the world. And they're starting to do well. And we are with them. And this gentleman, in particular, we've developed a very good relationship. And hopefully, it's going to be very strong for your country.
Read the full transcript HERE
You can visit a collection of all White House posts by clicking here.