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Leaders confront Trump’s ‘America First’ philosophy at UN

At the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump unapologetically rejected internationalism and trumpeted national sovereignty, leaving Europe to defend the world order and multilateralism. Nick Schifrin reports from New York.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The president spoke to the United Nations today, and sought again to explain his America-first views to the rest of the world and to outline threats as he sees them.

    But, as Nick Schifrin reports from the U.N., Mr. Trump's U.S.-above-all philosophy was being challenged repeatedly by other leaders.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    President Trump walked into a room he once chastised as a club where people have a good time and rejected the U.N. internationalism for renewed nationalism.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, democracy has ever endured, where peace has ever prospered.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But among the world's highest-level gathering of leaders, what President Trump calls sovereignty has been deeply unpopular.

    He pulled out of the Paris climate agreement signed by 196 countries. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal negotiated with Europe. And over Arab and European objections, he moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. The president calls those decisions achievements, but they got him off to an inauspicious start.

  • President Donald Trump:

    In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Someone in the audience yells something and laughs.

  • President Donald Trump:

    So true.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • President Donald Trump:

    Didn't expect that reaction, but that's OK.

    (LAUGHTER)

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But President Trump was unapologetic and repeatedly defended his world view.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    It was left to Europe to defend multilateralism.

    French President Emmanuel Macron spoke for nearly 40 minutes, and called President Trump's reference to sovereignty a veil for unilateralism.

    Emmanuel Macron (through translator): It leads directly to the isolationism and to conflict, generalized clashes, men against them.

    Do not accept the erosion of multilateralism. Don't accept our history unraveling. I'm not getting used to this, and I'm not turning my head to it. Our children are watching.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Macron received an extended ovation, as did U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who warned against what he called authoritarianism and implicitly criticized President Trump's policy of separating children at the U.S. border.

  • Antonio Guterres:

    Those who see their neighbors as dangerous may cause a threat where there was none. Those who close their bothers to regular migration only fuel the work of traffickers.

  • Mike Pompeo:

    The Iranian regime robs its own people to pay for death and destruction abroad.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Across town, the U.S.' top diplomat and national security adviser appeared before a group that's advocated for Iranian regime change. The U.S. is pursuing a pressure campaign against Iran that has driven Iran's currency or record lows and flooded currency exchanges.

    Iran is also coping with protests by Iranians criticizing government corruption. Today, President Trump suggested he was forcing Iran to negotiate.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Iran is a much different country today than it was a year ago. I think that, at some point, we will have meaningful discussions and probably do a deal. I don't see how it works for them otherwise.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Europeans are meeting with Iran to try and get around U.S. sanctions. But many companies, including European Airbus, have pulled out of Iran.

    And, today, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani rejected dialogue with the U.S.

    Hassan Rouhani (through translator): It's ironic that the U.S. doesn't even conceal its plan for overthrowing the same government and invites to talks. On what basis and criteria can we enter into a negotiation with such a government?

  • Nick Schifrin:

    All day, President Trump did the rounds, and gave toasts to the U.N., but he didn't spare his criticism, including against historic U.S. allies he says rip off the U.S. on trade and defense.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We defend many of these nations for nothing.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And foreign aid.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The Western Europeans, the Canadians, the U.N. itself will continue to talk about multilateralism. But their leaders have continuously failed to convince President Trump to change course. And they admit they can't preserve what's been called the Western liberal order on their own without the U.S.

    And so the best thing they could do is buy time, as the U.S. focuses on what it calls sovereignty — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Nick Schifrin, we thank you.

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