Return to Transcripts main page


Trump to Meet British PM; Trump Defends Waterboarding; Steve Bannon on Media; March for Life Demonstrators in DC. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 27, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:31] CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thanks so much for joining me.

It is a day of firsts for President Trump. This morning he welcomes the British prime minister, Theresa May, to the White House. It is his first meeting with a world leader now that he is commander in chief. Then both world leaders will hold a news conference. This is Trump's first since the election. Among the topics on today's agenda, trade policy. And, of course, today's meeting could also be a critical test for Trump when it comes to some of the controversial foreign policy views he holds.

With me now to talk about that and more is Peter Westmacott. He's a former U.K. ambassador to the United States.

Welcome, sir.


COSTELLO: How do you expect this meeting to go between Theresa May and Donald Trump?

WESTMACOTT: I think it's a meeting which is likely to go very well. She has done her homework. And there was a warmup act at the Republican retreat yesterday evening where I think she made a cleverly balanced speech which appealed very much to Republicans, but also made a number of policy statements which moved her a bit towards where Donald Trump is coming from, which gave her the space to make a number of rather firm remarks about how you're going to deal with Putin and what about European security and the importance of ensuring that those who are left behind by globalization are looked after in the years to come.

So I think there was a number of substantive issues where she's said a number of things which are not quite where Donald Trump is at the moment, but give the agenda, if you like, for a substantive and useful conversation in the Oval Office.

COSTELLO: One of the topics is sure to be torture because the British prime minister has made it clear that Britons do not - do not - do not see torture as a legal alternative and they don't think it works. But Mr. Trump has conflicting views on that. Listen to what he said on Fox News last night.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So waterboarding used to be used because they said it really wasn't torture. It was the one step slightly below torture. That's why waterboarding was happening.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's why it was legal.

TRUMP: I mean torture is real torture, OK. Waterboarding is -

COOPER: I think I know.

TRUMP: I'm sure it's not pleasant, but waterboarding was just short of torture. When, you know, all of a sudden they made it torture.

So, here's the story. Look, I spoke with people the other day who are in this world that we're talking about. They said absolutely it works. Absolutely.

Now, General Mattis said that he doesn't intend to use it. I'm with him all the way. Do I believe it works? Yes, I do.


COSTELLO: So what if President Trump says that sort of thing to the prime minister?

WESTMACOTT: Well, I think the clip you've just shown suggests that the message is a little confused. On the other hand he says it works. On the other hand he says he's going to follow what General Mattis says. And General Mattis is a highly experienced theater general who knows what does and what doesn't work.

I think the important point from the British prime minister's perspective is that we cannot under law, never mind the question of principle of effectiveness, condone torture. We have a number of court cases which have been going through the U.K. courts in recent years about U.K. complicity or rendition or allegations of torture. And this is all not acceptable as a matter of policy for the U.K. So to the extent this comes up during the conversation - and I don't actually think it's going to be a dominant subject. I think Theresa May will want to be very clear where the British government stands.

COSTELLO: Mr. Trump's favorite politician is Nigel Farage, right, who now has a job on Fox News and he has a direct line to Steve Bannon, who is one of Mr. Trump's senior advisers.

WESTMACOTT: That's right.

COSTELLO: Do you suppose the two men talked, crafted a message that Mr. Trump needs to send to the prime minister?

WESTMACOTT: Well, I don't know what private conversations Nigel Farage has with his - his friends. My guess is that Donald Trump will have done quite a lot of homework. He has worked out where Theresa May is coming from. He will have seen what her policy positions are on everything from China to Russia to the Iran nuclear deal, to free trade and so on. And I think they will get stuck into those issues in their bilateral meeting.

My hunch is that whatever Nigel Farage's views are - and his main interest, of course, is the U.K. leaving the European Union, which is an issue on which at the moment he has very little difference with Theresa May. That's his main level of interest. I wouldn't expect him to be trying to influence the agenda for this meeting on any other subject.

COSTELLO: And a final question for you. In November you wrote an op-ed and you wrote this, quote, "there is much to learn from such a bruising political year and much we can teach each other. Neither British nor American democracy covered itself in glory during this year's referendum and election campaigns." Do you still feel that way?

[09:35:15] WESTMACOTT: You know, I do still feel rather like that. I think there was much in our referendum campaign where there was - there were false allegations, there was a degree of dishonesty, people were promised certain things that didn't happen. Much was made of immigrations from countries like Turkey to the European Union, which wasn't a real issue. And people took their decision on the basis of, I think, incomplete, if not wrong information.

I think also that during the campaign here - there in the United States, there was a lot of disinformation, there was some false facts, artificial, alternative facts, if you like. So I worry a bit that the information on which people are basing their decisions is a bit distorted and is not as objective and reality based as it ought to be and as it used to be.

COSTELLO: Peter Westmacott, thank you so much for joining me. We'll be right back.

WESTMACOTT: Thank you.


[09:40:18] COSTELLO: Checking some top stories for you at 40 minutes past.

The Miami mayor, Carlos Gimenez, says he'll comply with President Trump's crackdown on sanctuary cities. Trump's executive order threatens to cut federal grants for any counties or cities that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. That could mean millions lost for a city like Miami. Mayor Gimenez says there's only one real change triggered by the new policy. His city will stop asking for be reimbursed for holding undocumented immigrants in jail. I'll talk to the mayor live coming up in our next hour.

The man accused of killing five people at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport has been indicted. If he's convicted, 26-year-old Esteban Santiago could face the death penalty or life in prison. Prosecutors say Santiago opened fire in the airport's baggage claim area earlier this month, killing five and wounding six others. Santiago told FBI agents he carried out the attack on behalf of ISIS.

Wildfires in Chile have now killed at least nine people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes. Firefighters are struggling to contain the burn, some of the worst in the country's - in the country's recent history. Nearly 600,000 acres have already been burned, an area nearly three times the size of New York City.

Prince's sister and half-brother says millions are owed to the pop superstar's estate. They have filed court documents saying the proceeds from the singer's tribute concert last October were mishandled. The five-hour concert featured more than 100 artists. But two of Prince's family members says $7 million are missing and may have gone to promoters.

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon ignites the tension between President Trump's administration and the media by calling journalists the opposition party that need to, quote, "keep their mouths shut." And last night President Trump piled on.


SEAN HANNITY: I've seen now "The New York Times," CNN, NBC, they've used the word "liar" to describe you as it relates of you talking about crowd size or voter fraud.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're very hostile. These are very hostile people. These are very angry people.

HANNITY: But - but they also colluded against you in the campaign.


HANNITY: And my question to you is -

TRUMP: Well, they're very dishonest people. The media is very dishonest. I've been saying it. I say it openly.

HANNITY: I said journalism's dead, so we agree.

TRUMP: Never - never dead, but it's - they're very dishonest people.


COSTELLO: OK, so let's talk about this. Let's bring in editor in chief of "The Daily Wire" and Breitbart's former editor at large Ben Shapiro, and host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter.

Welcome to both of you.


COSTELLO: Good morning.

Ben, I want to start with you. Steve Bannon's comments. First of all, your initial thoughts. BEN SHAPIRO, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE DAILY WIRE,": Well, I mean, I think

that Steve's - first of all, I think you have to quote Steve completely. So when you say that he says the media should shut up, what he actually said is, the media should shut up and listen more to the American people so that they can get better at their job was essentially what he was trying to say.

Look, I'm not, as everyone knows, I'm not a big Steve Bannon defender. I'm not a big Steve Bannon fan. He's one of the worst people I possibly know. But that has nothing to do with what he's saying here.

I think that what he's actually saying here is not entirely incorrect. There is a vast gap between the media's perception of itself and the public perception of the media. The reason Trump keeps picking fights with the media is because it's a fight he can win. The American people don't actually trust the media at this point, mainly because the media seem like they're representing their own interest, we're like a separate class, as opposed to people who are defending the interests of the American people. And the more we get into slap fights with the administration, the more we get into slap fights with politicians, on behalf of the press, on behalf of the media, instead of on behalf of the American people, the more the American people are going to be likely to just ignore it, the more they're joining to say, OK, it's another slap fight, right.

COSTELLO: And I completely - I understand - I understand where you're coming from and I understand there's a lack of trust in media, but people are certainly watching us, Brian, because if you add up the numbers of CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN, there are millions of viewers, right?

STELTER: Yes, this is just the data for the nightly news casts. I tried to pick 6:30 p.m. because it's the best way to show who's tuning in every night. This is NBC, ABC, CBS, plus CNN at that hour, about 27 million on an average night last week.

Now, that's a snapshot in time, right? Not everybody tunes in every day. Over time, most of the country is still paying attention to these traditional media outlets, as well as new digital outlets like the one Ben's at, like "The Huffington Post" and the BuzzFeeds and "The Daily Callers" of the world.

You know, there's a very complicated media ecosystem out there now and I think, you know, we hear Trump kind of attacking the media in general, but there is no one media and there is no one American people. Many, many Americans are demanding that the press fact check the new president, but at the same time many Americans are skeptical of the press. You know, it's a very complicated situation.

COSTELLO: Well, let me - let me put this by you, Ben. If a media entity is a cheerleader for Donald Trump and never puts his feet to the fire, won't you lose the trust of the American public, too, if you continue to do that consistently?

[09:45:12] SHAPIRO: I certainly would hope so. I certainly would hope so. I mean I think that here's the thing, every White House treats opposing media as the opposition. The Trump White House I think rightly looks at a lot of the mainstream media and says, you guys were the opposition during the campaign, you're still the opposition now, you don't particularly like me, and so you're going to be much more critical of me than friendly outlets like Fox News, for example.

But the job of the media should be to understand that we're always the opposition. If we're the fourth estate and it's our job to check the government and it's our job to check the White House, it shouldn't matter whether you like or dislike the person in the White House particularly. You should be treating the White House as your opposition.

The fact that the media did not treat President Obama as much as the opposition as they are President Trump is giving Trump the opening to slap you guys around. And I think that he's largely correct in slapping the media around by saying that there is a bias that exists for Trump that didn't exist for Obama.

The best way to respond to that for the media is not to defend ourselves by saying, well, that's an attack on the press, that's an attack on the media. It's to say, OK, look, say what you're going to say. It's either true or it's false. And then treat it as a true/false statement, as opposed to a fight between the media and Donald Trump because he's going to win that fight every time, at least in the minds of the public. The Trumper from Michigan does not care if the media gets bashed (ph).

COSTELLO: Well - well - and I - and I understand - I understand what you're saying, but here's the difficulty for us, Brian, and I think you'll agree. When there is a blatant untruth told by President Trump, for example, the crowd size at the inauguration, should we not call him out on that and ignore it because it doesn't really matter, or in calling it out does it make us seem like we're opposing him in some way since we're not giving him the benefit of the doubt for something really inconsequential?

STELTER: Right, you're making it sound like a no win situation. But I think the majority of Americans want us to be showing the evidence, showing the photos in that case, showing the video and letting the facts stand wherever they may be. This is a president who has a 36 percent approval rating according to Quinnipiac, 40 percent according to CNN's poll before the inauguration. This is not a president that the majority of the country wants to only here positive news about. Yes, there are some viewers who only want to hear the positive. That is actually a minority. And I think we need to keep in mind, there are many different constituencies, many different audiences that want different kinds of news right now in this very divided America.

COSTELLO: OK, interesting topic. Thanks to both of you for stopping by, Ben Shapiro, Brian Stelter.

Still to come in the NEWSROOM, protesters plan to make history today, this time on the side of the anti-abortion movement. Up next, how they're getting a big boost from the White House.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:52:03] COSTELLO: An historic moment for supporters of the anti- abortion movement. CNN has learned President Trump might address the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., today by phone. The rally kicks off at noon, but as you can see, people have already gathered. The vice president also plans to speak at this rally in person and Trump aide Kellyanne Conway will also address these people. Demonstrators are already descending, as I said, on the - in the nation's capital. Today's event seen in many was as a counterpunch to the women's marches that erupted around the world last weekend.

For more, CNN's senior Washington correspondent Brianna Keilar joins us. She's on the National Mall.

Good morning.


I'm here not far from the Washington Monument. You can see the crowd starting to gather ahead of what's going to the speaker's program for this event. And then after this, a little after perhaps 1:00 p.m., we're going to see participants marching up to the Supreme Court, which is something that's going to take a few hours is what we're expecting. This scheduled in proximity, of course, to the Roe versus Wade decision anniversary. That was actually last Sunday. And organizers say this is the first time they could get a permit here on The Mall for this event.

But you mentioned they're hoping this is a counterpunch to the march that we saw last week and I think it's definitely seen in that context. This is really one issue that the folks are dealing with here. They are anti-abortion. And, of course, people who were for abortion rights were part of that liberal women's march last Saturday. And that was one of a myriad of issues that they were dealing with, immigrants' rights, Muslim rights, in addition to a number of other women's rights.

But they're hoping, especially with Donald Trump now in the White House, Carol, that their issue, and I think they're more hopeful now than they have been even in decades, that their issue of trying to get some sort of at least partial rollback of Roe versus Wade is something that can actually be accomplished. You know, Donald Trump has said that he's going to announce his pick for the vacancy on the Supreme Court next week, and that's certainly a day that organizers and participants of the March for Life are looking forward to.

COSTELLO: Yes, and I know, Brianna, that these demonstrators, that they're looking upon this as their moment. This is the time when they finally can achieve their goal. You would have to believe, though, that there will be a counterpunch to that movement. What might that look like?

KEILAR: Oh, certainly. And I think the goal, for instance, when you saw the women's march last Saturday, it was in conjunction with a number of groups. But prominently among them was Planned Parenthood. So the expectation that we're hearing from organizers of that national movement and even from states and cities is that they're going to try to continue to keep making their case. Here today, this is a group that is going to be seeing Vice President Mike Pence, and, Carol, they're very excited about this because it's the highest ranking White House official by far to ever address the March for Life. In fact, Kellyanne Conway addressing the March for Life today. If Mike Pence weren't here, she would be the highest level White House official to address them. So they're hoping that their cause gets a little more attention because of that and that they draw more participants.

[09:55:15] COSTELLO: All right, Brianna Keilar, covering this for us. We'll get back to you next hour. Thanks so much.

And the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM after a break.


COSTELLO: And good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.

One week on the job, and President Trump is pushing ahead with his foreign policy agenda, defining how he things America should fit into the world. In just a little while, the British prime minister, Theresa May, visits the White House for President Trump's first meeting with a world leader. Later, she'll take part in the first news conference as commander in chief for Mr. Trump.

[09:59:59] To the south, though. Tensions are rising with Mexico after its president cancelled a White House meeting. Just minutes ago, Trump tweeting this out. Quote, "Mexico has taken advantage of the U.S. for long enough. Massive trade deficits and little help on the very weak border. Must change now.