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Vice President Pence Reassures EU Allies; The Importance of a Free Press in a Democracy; Michigan Autoworkers Embrace Robots, Automation. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 20, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:30:07] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the week off.

Today, Vice President Pence is meeting with the Secretary General of NATO. Soon, the two men will make a joint statement from Brussels. You're looking at live pictures of the event. Of course we'll monitor and bring you any developments as they come.

That joint statement comes as the vice president works to shore up U.S. alliances across Europe. He is facing skepticism from many world leaders. Our Erin McLaughlin joins us now from Brussels, Belgium, with more.

Quite a stage that he walks on to with all of the comments that President Trump has made about NATO being obsolete and things that have certainly shaken our European allies.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Poppy. And today, the U.S. Vice President Mike Pence offering up badly needed reassurance to the European Union, especially considering some of the things the E.U. leaders have been saying about the administration, the president of the European Council Donald Tusk writing this open letter listing worrying declarations from the Trump administration alongside radical Islam and Russia as external threats facing the E.U. That's how bad things had gotten. So what the vice president had to say today is being seen as very important and reassuring.

Take a listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president did ask me to come here to Brussels, to the home of the European Union, and deliver an additional message. So today it's my privilege on behalf of President Trump to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union.


MCLAUGHLIN: Now, that is very different from what we heard from President Trump himself at a rally over the weekend in Florida in which he seemed to openly praise Brexit, the United Kingdom's departure from the E.U. That kind of rhetoric really seen as openly promoting the fragmentation of the European Union here in Brussels. And I asked some E.U. officials about that apparent contradiction and they told me that they are focusing on what the vice president has to say in Brussels today. Poppy.

HARLOW: Erin, live from Brussels for us. Erin McLaughlin, thank you very much.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Wesley Clark joins me now. Very important perspective to have from someone with such experience with NATO on the program. We're glad you're here.

And let me begin with this. I want you to listen to what former presidential candidate and current Ohio Governor John Kasich had to say on "STATE OF THE UNION" this weekend about how critical these meetings are between the United States and our European partners right now. Listen.


GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: What they're saying is we can hear from the vice president, we can hear from General Mattis, we can hear from General Kelly, but we're not sure about the president. And it is vital that the administration be on the same page. And there is question that, in a time of crisis, where will America be?


HARLOW: Question about where America will be in a time of crisis. I should note you're a Democrat. You did not support the president in this election. You ran for president as a Democrat. But if you were sitting in the White House advising the president, what would you suggestion to him after hearing that?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FMR. NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Well, Poppy, first of all, I think all Americans want our president to be successful. We need a strong, effective President of the United States continuously. That's just a requirement for the democracy, regardless of what your partisan affiliation might be or might have been.

But I mean, the problem is you've got a rumble coming out of the White House. You've got Steve Bannon who I'm sure is a very bright, capable guy, but he's on the National Security Council, appointed. And people are unsure of what his influence is. You've got the continuing comments by President Trump. And all of this undercuts the message that Vice President Pence and Secretary Mattis have given in Europe.

These are very important messages and the administration has to speak with one voice on this. And so what I would urge the president to speak clearly, say the same thing Vice President Pence has said, and bring Vice President Pence into the Russian strategic discussion. There's obviously something going on behind the scenes. There's nothing wrong with the new administration trying to put a different spin. Other new administrations have tried to work with Russia in the past. They haven't been successful. Maybe this administration can be successful. But you've still got to bring the administration together to work as one team, and you have to maintain that consistency and reliability of America as an ally with our European partners and our partners in Asia. Those are the -- that's the bedrock of America's influence in the world.

HARLOW: I mean, it is, no question. But just let's remember what this president has said about NATO in the past, saying, quote, it's obsolete. First because it was designed many, many years ago.

[09:35:01] Secondly, countries aren't paying what they should.

And then just last week, here is what the president also said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm a NATO fan, but many of the countries in NATO, many of the countries that we protect, many of these countries are very rich countries. They're not paying their bills. They're not paying their bills. They have to help us.


HARLOW: Can he accomplish both goals, do you think, General? Reassure NATO but, at the same time, get some of these NATO countries to chip in more? Because the U.S. does carry a large part of the bill, as you know.

CLARK: Absolutely. And in fact Germany just announced a major increase in its defense expenditures. And Germany has been the principal rich country which hasn't done its part. Its defense expenditures were almost -- about half of what they should be under the 2 percent guideline.

Of course, the United States is spending much more than that. We have worldwide responsibilities; we're involved everywhere. These European countries are only involved elsewhere through NATO. But we need them in NATO. So I think the president's right, they should be spending more money, and they are feeding this. But we've got to be forthcoming with them. There's got to be an unwavering pledge of support to NATO. It's not about how much they pay. Ultimately, it's in America's interests to be in NATO. We created it and it serves our purposes.

HARLOW: I want to get your take on what we're hearing from Defense Secretary James Mattis this week as he's overseas. He's being asked these questions by reporters trying to, you know, see if he is on the same page as the president. He was asked about the president's comments ripping into the press and if he agreed with them. He sort of had walked away from those, saying clearly that's not his stance. And then also, when he was asked about the president's very controversial remarks on numerous occasions that America should have just seized the oil in Iraq -- which, by the way, you know, the United States can't do that. It would be against many, many, many international treaties -- he said this. Let's listen to Mattis' response on oil.


JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along. And I'm sure that we will continue to do this in the future. We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil.


HARLOW: We're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil. Is this typical, a Defense Secretary sort of having to walk away from or rebut what a president has said?

CLARK: No, it's not typical and I'm very happy that Secretary Mattis has said this. I think the administration has to -- there's a problem in the campaign is over. And sort of rousing these crowds with this kind of rhetoric, it may make great sense to some people in the United States. It's the kind of talk that I hear many times if I go in with a bunch of guys in a bar at night and you're talking about it over a couple of beers. You say, yes, we should do this, we should do that. But it's not serious talk.

So we need to put the campaign rhetoric behind us. It's out of the way. I'm sure that Secretary Mattis, Secretary Tillerson, Vice President Pence, these are serious men, they're serious leaders, they're saying the right thing. The administration has got to be behind them.

HARLOW: General Wesley Clark, nice to have you on. Thank you.

Still to come for us, the president calling the press the enemy of the American people. Well, now he's getting a bit of blowback from leaders, both outside of his party and within the Republican Party. That's next.


[09:43:02] HARLOW: The enemy of the American people, those words from the president on Twitter, saying that and using his rally over the weekend to lash out at the media. The move sparking major backlash on both sides of the aisle. Still, the White House chief of staff Reince Priebus digging in. Listen.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Here's the problem, when the president says we're the enemy of the American people, it makes it sounds like if you are going against him, you are going against the country.

REINCE PRIEBUS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Here is the problem, Chris -- the problem is you're right. Some of these things were covered, but you get about 10 percent coverage on the fact that you get a very successful meeting with Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister of the U.K., the prime minister of Canada -- WALLACE: We covered all of those news conference live. Everybody


PRIEBUS: Right. Sure, yes, for about -- yes, right. But then as soon as it was over, the next 20 hours is all about Russian spies --

WALLACE: But you don't get to tell us what to do, Reince.


PRIEBUS: -- nothing is happening. Give me a break.

WALLACE: You don't get to tell us what to do anymore than Barack Obama did. Barack Obama whined about FOX News all the time, but I got to say, he never said that we were an enemy of the people.


HARLOW: Joining us live from New York, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter, certainly busy these days, and Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. And, Larry, we will get to your tweeting about Thomas Jefferson and all of this in just a moment. But let's begin with Brian Stelter, because, Brian, it is not the job of the media to be the friend of the president. Never has been.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Reminds me of that kind of cliche from reality TV shows -- I'm not here to make friends. That's what the contestants say. Well, that's sort true for journalists. We're not here to be liked by any administration, by any people in power. That has always been true but it's especially relevant right now with a president who is sloppy, who is misleading, who makes misstatements on a near daily basis.

That's just an objective view of what's going on. When you look at the rally on Saturday, or his Twitter feed on Sunday and into Monday, in a moment -- at a moment when journalists are seeing a lot of falsehoods and misstatements from the White House, journalists have to work even harder to fact check and correct the record.

[09:45:10] And that's why the coverage is very aggressive right now.

HARLOW: Larry, the president in his rally on Saturday brought up other presidents who he knows have had an adversarial relationship with the press -- Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson. That's who he named though. He was remiss, though, you know, in not remembering, as you've been tweeting a lot of things that Thomas Jefferson had to say about the press. One of the things, key thing -- "If I had to choose between government without newspapers and newspapers without government, I wouldn't hesitate to choose the latter."

Not that, but we'll pull it up on the screen for you. Your thoughts?

STELTER: There we go.

HARLOW: Larry, can you hear me?



SABATO: There's the Jefferson quote. There were lots of other important Jefferson quotes. I'm going to mention one because it's Presidents Day. Jefferson also said in the middle of his presidency, writing to a future president, John Tyler, that we should always be beware of leaders who are trying to shut up the press because they're fearing legitimate investigations into their actions.

And that in my mind is what makes what Donald Trump did and said in that tweet, and followed up in his Florida press -- or Florida rally, so disturbing. Because this feeds into the image, Poppy, that many, many people have domestically and abroad, that Trump has authoritarian tendencies. He always has a devil figure. For years, it was Barack Obama, who wasn't a citizen, supposedly. And then it was Hillary Clinton for a couple of years. And now I think his new target, maybe permanent target, is the news media.

Well, it's great to have a devil figure if you're a politician, but it doesn't mean you're right.

HARLOW: Well, I think the question also becomes, Brian, twofold -- to what end? But, more importantly, to what damage? What damage does it do to democracy?

Just take a listen to what his Republican colleague said about it over the weekend, Senator John Mccain and Governor Kasich.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press. And, without it, I'm afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That's how dictators get started.

KASICH: And without a free press -- well, we're going to have a free press. And while I don't always agree with the reporting of the press, they're vital. They are really such an important part of democracy. I have great respect for the press.


HARLOW: Brian?

STELTER: Journalists are not perfect. But when we mess up, when we screw up, we need to 'fess up. We need to aim to be as accurate as we can every day. And the same is true for the White House. They're trying to hold journalists to a very high standard; journalists are trying to hold them to a very high standard.

You know, Trump on Saturday said there's no way to vet these people coming in from other countries. We all know that's not true. And he knows that's not true. His staff knows that's not true. He watches so much cable news, he has seen the stats about how it takes 18 months to 24 months in order to vet these refugees coming in from countries like Syria.

My point is that if he's going to hold journalists to a high standard, as he should, his administration's going to be held to an equally high standard. And the kind of looseness with the truth, the looseness with the facts, is why we're seeing such scrutiny of his administration. And I think it's important to see the McCains of the world standing up and pointing out that they understand the role of a free press in a society.

HARLOW: So then, I have 15 seconds left, Larry, to what end? What's his end goal with this?

SABATO: Well, as I said, it's a devil figure for his followers. And there are millions of them who accept basically anything he says. Look at the booing that goes on in all these rallies. Look at Twitter. Look at Facebook. All the attacks on the media. That point of view has taken hold among the millions of Trump followers.

HARLOW: Brian Stelter, Larry Sabato, important conversation. Thank you both very much.

Still to come for us, one of the president's biggest campaign promises -- keep jobs in the U.S. Now a group of auto workers in Michigan betting on him to keep his word. Straight ahead.


[09:53:46] HARLOW: President Trump flipped the state of Michigan, winning it by over just 10,000 votes. How? His promise of good- paying manufacturing jobs. Now, Michigan has lost nearly 3,000 of those jobs since 2000. So CNN Money went there and spent a week there and found something pretty surprising. A lot of those folks, those autoworkers, seem to be embracing the automation, the robots that cost jobs. But their disdain for the free trade deals -- palpable.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NAFTA was one of the worst contracts negotiated for the American worker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Need to renegotiate NAFTA.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: NAFTA was the worst thing to ever happen to the State of Michigan. MATT SEELY, CEO, QUALITY BENDING AND THREADING: There was a point in

time before NAFTA came in where there was a machine shop like this literally in on every corner in the Metro Detroit area. There were jobs everywhere. People were busy, they were working overtime. The city was thriving from the standpoint that people were employed.

HARLOW (voice-over): Manufacturing jobs in Michigan have shrunk by a third in recent years, from about 900,000 jobs in the year 2000 to fewer than 600,000 now.

SEELY: Now you drive through the neighborhoods and you see many empty buildings.

[09:55:01] There's a lot of people that have fallen off the employment rolls and have not been able to find jobs.

RICK QUINN, UNEMPLOYED AUTO WORKER: I didn't really see a big unemployment problem because of automation, but I really do feel like the trade deals were a killer to a lot of stuff.

HARLOW: Working to one study, just 13 percent of manufacturing job losses were caused by trade, while the large majority stemmed from factories adding automation. But other studies place more blame on trade, which these autoworkers in Michigan agree with.

FRANK PITCHER, UNION AUTO WORKER: I don't fear the technology or the automation or the robotics, I welcome it.

SAL MOCERI, UNION AUTO WORKER: The robots, like I said, are not taking jobs away. Actually we're assisting the robots.

KEN SULTES, UNION AUTO WORKER: As a matter of fact, there's actually education involved to learn how this robot works, to learn how to adjust it, to learn how to make adjustments on it, who to call when. I mean, so there's also education involved when automation, robotics, and things like that --

MOCERI: It brings us to a higher level of working.

PITCHER: They've replaced a lot of jobs that actually injured people, which in the long term costs the company money when there's an injury to the employee. So when you have a robot there now doing that particular job, that's a good thing.

MOCERI: So automation is great. I want it to excel. I want more computers. I want more robots because they're helping keep the jobs here in America.


HARLOW: Pretty amazing to see. Even though automation is taking so many more jobs than free trade, arguably, by these studies, they're embracing it. Thank you for that to the CNN Money team.

Coming up, the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM. We'll be right back.