Trump: I stopped Hong Kong being ‘obliterated in 14 minutes’
Donald Trump has claimed he stopped Hong Kong from being “obliterated in 14 minutes” by China over pro-democracy protests in the city.
The US president said Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a “million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong” but he had asked his “friend” not to send in the military.
In a television interview with American TV show Fox & Friends, Mr Trump said he told Mr Xi that efforts to quash the protests would complicate negotiations for a US-China trade deal.
“If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would’ve been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Mr Trump said.
“He’s got a million soldiers standing outside of Hong Kong that aren’t going in only because I asked him, ‘Please don’t do that, it’s going to make a tremendous negative impact on the trade deal.'”
China has warned it will retaliate against the US if Mr Trump signs a bill supporting the Hong Kong protests.
Mr Trump did not say whether he would veto the bill, but added: “We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi.”
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He added that if it had not been for him, “thousands of people would have been killed in Hong Kong right now and you wouldn’t have any riots”.
Mr Trump also said a trade deal with China is “potentially very close”.
In a wide-ranging interview, the US president also addressed the impeachment inquiry into him, saying: “I want a trial.”
The inquiry by the Democrat-led House of Representatives is trying to assess if Mr Trump withheld nearly $400m military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure the country into investigating Joe Biden, a potential 2020 presidential candidate for the Democrats.
Republican Mr Trump, who is accused of abusing his power in office, has denied any wrongdoing.
He told Fox & Friends that he does not expect to be impeached, claiming Democrats have “absolutely nothing” incriminating.
This is despite days of public testimony by witnesses who said Mr Trump withheld aid from Ukraine to press the country to investigate his political rivals.
“I think it’s very hard to impeach you when they have absolutely nothing,” Mr Trump said.
But he added that if the House of Representatives did vote to impeach him, he would welcome a trial in the Senate.
“Frankly, I want a trial,” he said.
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Mr Trump also said he will stick with US Vice President Mike Pence as his running mate in the 2020 presidential election.
“He’s my guy, he’s my friend,” Mr Trump said.
He said former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley “would be great,” but that Mr Pence has done a “phenomenal job”.