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Politics & Government

Trump Defends Travel Ban In News Conference With Japan's Prime Minister

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump says he's confident that his executive order on travel will ultimately be upheld by the courts. The president also hinted today that his administration is looking for new ways to prevent a possible terrorist attack. He spoke to reporters after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders are set to spend the weekend together at Mar-a-Lago, the president's winter home in Florida. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Trump has justified his temporary travel ban on refugees and visitors from seven majority Muslim countries as a way to safeguard the U.S. from would-be terrorists. While a federal appeals court was not persuaded by that argument and left the travel ban on hold, Trump says security remains his top priority.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I've learned tremendous things that you could only learn, frankly, if you were in a certain position, namely president. And there are tremendous threats to our country. We will not allow that to happen.

HORSLEY: Trump says the administration will continue to pursue its legal options. He also suggested other security measures could be in the works.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

TRUMP: We'll be doing something very rapidly, having to do with additional security for our country. You'll be seeing that sometime next week.

HORSLEY: Trump later told reporters the administration might just rewrite the travel ban more narrowly to pass constitutional muster. Economic security was also on the president's mind today as he met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Trump has been lobbying both Japanese and American automakers to build more vehicles in the United States. He's promised tax cuts and regulatory relief.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

TRUMP: Those plants will be coming back. And jobs will be coming back to Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania and North Carolina and so many other places where we've lost so many jobs.

HORSLEY: One of Trump's first acts as president was to formally pull the U.S. out of a 12-nation trade deal that Japan's prime minister had pressed hard for. Abe is still hoping to salvage stronger economic ties. Speaking through a translator, he said Japan is not just a competitor for the U.S. but also a partner, with Japanese companies investing tens of billions of dollars on factories in this country.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: (Through interpreter) Those Japanese businesses have created large number of jobs.

HORSLEY: During the campaign, Trump rattled Japan and other Asian allies by suggesting the U.S. was spending too much money on their defense. Today though, he called the U.S. alliance with Japan a cornerstone of peace and stability in Asia.

The biggest player in that region, of course, is China. And yesterday, Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since taking office. Trump prompted an official protest from the Chinese in December when he took a surprise phone call from Taiwan's president. He tried to smooth things over during his phone call with Xi last night, agreeing to honor the longstanding one China policy.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

TRUMP: It was a very, very warm conversation. I think we are on the process of getting along very well.

HORSLEY: Trump and Abe also appear to be getting along as they set off for a weekend together in Florida. Japan's prime minister says he's looking forward to continuing their talks on the golf course.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ABE: (Through interpreter) My scores in golf is not up to the level of Donald at all, but my policy is never up, never in, always aiming for the cup.

HORSLEY: Trump also sounded eager for the golf course. After a week in the legal rough, he ended his news conference with Abe saying, let's go to Florida. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.