Trump, Rajoy commit to fighting threats to democracy

Last Updated Sep 26, 2017 3:49 PM EDT

President Trump and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy committed to fighting various international threats to democratic values during a joint news conference Tuesday afternoon.

Both leaders acknowledged recent provocations from North Korea and Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's regime, as well as radical terrorist groups as threats to democracy in both Spain and the U.S.

"Together Spain and the United States hope for peace,"  Mr. Trump said.

Rajoy echoed the president's sentiments.

"Combatting terrorism was something we talked about at length," Rajoy said of the working lunch he held with Mr. Trump earlier Tuesday, prior to the conference. The Spanish prime minister said that "both countries agree" on counter terrorism efforts, but added that they need to "increase commitment" in this realm.

Rajoy said that Spain has "taken measures that have reduced the diplomatic presence" of North Korea in his country, calling their actions "intolerable" and adding that "Spain will support any political decision" that may aid in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Mr. Trump called North Korea a threat "to the entire world."

"We'll see what happens," Mr. Trump said of North Korea, without ruling out a military option against Kim Jong Un's regime. Mr. Trump also blamed the existence of the North Korean threat on previous administrations going back a quarter century. He complained about his predecessors, whom he said "left me a mess," in terms of the North. "But I'll fix the mess," he promised.

Addressing other threats from across the globe, both leaders called out Venezuela's failing state.  

"The international community should be forceful with regards to Venezuela," Rajoy said.

Mr. Trump added that he hopes Spain will join the United States in "sanctioning the Maduro regime." The Trump administration announced new sanctions against Venezuela and several other countries in an updated travel ban on Sunday.

"What is happening in Venezuela is unacceptable," Rajoy said, adding that the country operates under an "anti-democratic" rule.

In days, Spain faces a referendum on Catalonian independence. The Catalonian region of Spain has been calling for independence since 2012. The Spanish government views Sunday's referendum as an illegal vote in violation of the Spanish constitution.  

Mr. Trump stood in solidarity with Rajoy, who protested that Catalonia cannot legally hold a "valid democratic referendum."

"I'm for united Spain," Mr. Trump said. "I really think the people of Catalonia would stay with Spain," he later added.

During the conference, Mr. Trump also defended his recent comments on NFL players who refuse to stand for the national anthem, which have sparked a heated debate prompting responses from teams, celebrities, individual athletes and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

"I think it's disgraceful," Mr. Trump said.

The president also offered condolences to Puerto Rico, which has been ravaged by two serious hurricanes in the past month.  

He promised that  "top people" from his administration as well as resources are being allocated to "assist in the response and recovery" to the "tough situation" on the island.

"The recovery process will be a very, very difficult one," Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump will visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday and will later travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Rajoy arrived in the United States on Monday, marking his first Washington visit since January 2014. Mr. Trump and Rajoy last spoke on the phone after the August terrorist attacks in Barcelona, when a van rammed into pedestrians, killing 13 and injuring 100. The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Live updates from the Trump, Rajoy news conference below:


Trump on Catalonia: "I'm for united Spain"

"I really think the people of Catalonia would stay with Spain," Mr. Trump said despite the region's planned referendum for independence from Spain on Sunday.

Rajoy: "What is happening in Venezuela is unacceptable"

Rajoy said that Venezuela operates under an "anti-democratic" rule and went on to say that "sanctions are important."

"The international community should be forceful with regards to Venezuela," Rajoy said. 

"This is tough stuff" Trump says of Puerto Rico

Mr. Trump marveled at "the amount of water dropped on that island" and said that "top people" from his administration are recognizing and responding to the "tough situation" in Puerto Rico.

"We're also very much involved in security," Mr. Trump said. 

Trump: "we'll see what happens" on North Korea

The president blamed previous administrations for the situation in North Korea, adding that he would not rule out military options for the regime.

Catalonia can't hold "valid" referendum on independence.

"There can't be a valid democratic referendum," Rajoy said of Catalonia's upcoming vote for independence on Sunday, an effort they have aimed for since 2012.  

Mr. Trump said that the United States will stand with Spain on the issue. 

Rajoy is asked about North Korea

"We all have to be forceful," Rajoy said in defense of democratic values against North Korea. He said that  sanctions have been adopted by Spain against Kim Jong Un's regime.

"Spain will support any political decision" that may put an end to the situation in North Korea, Rajoy said. 

Trump defends NFL comments

"I think it's disgraceful," Trump said of NFL players who choose to kneel out of protest while the national anthem plays. 

He defended his criticism of the league and its athletes, adding that he thinks the NFL should impose rules requiring players to stand for "The Star-Spangled Banner" as it plays prior to football games.  

Rajoy: "Combatting terrorism was something we talked about at length"

Rajoy said that "both countries agree" on counter terrorism forces, but said that they need to "increase commitment" to double down on these efforts.

Rajoy called North Korea's continued provocations "intolerable" and said that Spain has "taken measures that have reduced the diplomatic presence" of North Korea in Spain. 

Rajoy said that the United States and Spain are jointly committed to the defense of democratic values. 

Rajoy: trade is "growing sustainably" 

Prime Minister Rajoy said that Spain is committed to sustaining and promoting the economic relationship between the United States and Spain, saying that the U.S. is one of the country's most important trading partners. 

Trump hopes for joint international democracy efforts between U.S. and Spain 

Mr. Trump acknowledged Spain's role in countering terrorist efforts across the globe. The president also called North Korea a threat "to the entire world."

He also added that he hopes Spain will join the United States in "sanctioning the Maduro regime" in Venezuela.

"Together Spain and the United States hope for peace,"  Mr. Trump said. 

Spain is "greatly admired" by the United States

Mr. Trump praised the relationship between Spain and the United States. The president acknowledged Spain's recent terrorist attack in Barcelona, which killed 13 people and injured 100 more, offering his condolences while calling for an increase in counter-terrorism efforts.

Trump: Send prayers to Puerto Rico

"Massive effort is underway," Mr. Trump said of the hurricane-stricken island. He assured that resources are being allocated to "assist in the response and recovery" efforts in Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by two hurricanes in the past month. 

Mr. Trump will visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday and will later travel to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

"The recovery process will be a very, very difficult one," Mr. Trump said.


 

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    Blair Guild is a politics reporter and video producer for CBS News Digital.