Trump talks Asia trip — not Moore — in first remarks since return

Trump talks Asia trip — not Moore — in first remarks since return
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President Trump delivered a lengthy televised address Wednesday touting his visit to Asia, arguing the U.S. position in the world “has never been stronger.”

One day after his return to Washington, Trump clearly wanted to promote a trip he views as a “tremendous success” but has been largely overshadowed in the U.S. by the growing controversy surrounding Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore.

The president delivered a play-by-play account of his foreign travel, ticking off a litany of moves he described as wins for the American people on issues ranging from trade to North Korea.

Trump said he took office inheriting a number of problems, which he said he witnessed on his “historic” tour of Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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He blamed those issues on the "naive thinking and misguided judgment" of past administrations and vowed his actions abroad have “put the interests of the American people first.”

"Once again, our country is optimistic about the future, confident in our values, and proud of our history and role in the world,” Trump declared.

Trump weighed in on nearly every issue on his plate during the 23-minute address — aside from Moore’s bid for Senate in Alabama.

Trump is facing mounting pressure from Republicans in Washington to publicly denounce the former judge, who is accused of sexual misconduct involving teenagers. 

GOP leaders believe that Moore is in danger of losing the seat to Democratic candidate Doug Jones. 

They also fear Moore could do widespread damage to the party’s brand if he wins the race and are eager for the president to endorse a plan to stop him from becoming a senator.

But the president is taking a wait-and-see approach. 

Trump's aides believe there is limited upside for the president if he decides to speak out against Moore or call on him to drop out of the race. One White House official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said people are cognizant that Trump's ability to affect the outcome in Alabama is limited. 

At the end of his remarks, Trump did not answer shouted questions about whether Moore should leave the race or whether he believes the candidate’s accusers.

Despite Trump’s self-proclaimed success, he left Asia with no significant policy achievements in hand.

Before leaving for his trip, the president teased a “major” announcement on trade at the White House on Wednesday, raising the possibility he was saving his big announcement for a domestic audience.

But Trump did not make any major new announcements during his address. 

Instead, the speech might be remembered for Trump’s two awkward-looking water breaks.

About 10 minutes into his remarks, the president paused and looked underneath his lectern for a bottle of water but there was none there. 

"They don't have water," Trump said. "That's OK." 

A person in the room pointed Trump to a table next to his lectern with a bottle of Fiji water sitting on it. Trump grabbed the bottle with both hands and took a pronounced sip. Minutes later, Trump paused again for water.

Images and video of the water breaks quickly spread on social media.

Making matters worse, during the 2016 presidential campaign Trump notably mocked rival Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans wary of US action on Iran California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Fla.) for his 2013 water break during his response to the State of the Union. 

The president, however, tried to keep the focus on what he achieved in Asia.

Trump said he is working “as fast as possible” to reduce the country’s large trade deficits with U.S. trading partners in the region.

From now on, the president said he will “insist on fair and reciprocal trade," which he said his predecessors did not do.

“That is why we have almost an $800 billion a year trade deficit with other nations,” Trump said. “Unacceptable.”

Trump did not sketch out new measures designed to achieve that goal.  

He cited $250 billion in U.S.-China business deals announced during his visit to Beijing, agreements he previously said could help encourage other nations to buy American products and services. 

The president also said he reached a new understanding with Chinese President Xi Jinping that a “freeze-for-freeze” pact with North Korea is not acceptable. 

Under the parameters of such a deal, Pyongyang would halt its nuclear program in exchange for a pause in U.S. military operations with South Korea.

“President Xi recognizes that a nuclear North Korea is a grave threat to China, and we agreed that we would not accept a so-called freeze-for-freeze agreement, like those that have consistently failed in the past,” Trump said.

“Time is running out, and we made it clear. And all options remain on the table," he added.

China has previously proposed similar freeze-for-freeze agreements.