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Trump's Foreign Policy; New Travel Ban Coming; Trump Names New National Security Adviser; Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired February 20, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Getting the whole Iraq enterprise up and running in a noncombat sense -- as I recall, by that time, he was a civilian. He is former special forces.
He served in a variety of highly respected jobs, highly decorated, many years ago back in Europe. I want to tell a sort of personal/professional anecdote about General Kellogg because he and I have spoken about this so often.
On the morning of 9/11 here inside the Pentagon, he was active-duty. He was a three-star at the time. And I ran into him suddenly coming out of the National Command Center. He was the first person that morning to tell me face to face -- he was quite ashen-faced -- that it was a terror attack.
And he went off down the hallway to deal with everything that needed to be dealt with. So he is someone -- he's someone that has, you know, certainly seen a lot in his years in the military, but hasn't served during this whole era of ISIS and the sort of post-9/11 terror atmosphere.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Sure.
Barbara, your knowledge is invaluable. If you want to stick around, great. I may need to come back to you.
Let me bring in a couple more voices.
I have got David Chalian, our CNN political director, Stephen Yates, former deputy assistant for national security to Vice President Dick Cheney. Lynn Sweet is with us, Washington bureau chief for "The Chicago Sun-Times," and Colonel Cedric Leighton, CNN military analyst.
Let's go. We have heard sort of the military experience.
David Chalian, just on the politics of all of this, we know it's been a -- I think it's fair to say a rocky path to finally land on this person to be the national security adviser, and on a holiday. I mean, now this is huge, huge news. And now he has named this person and the NSA chief of staff. Your thoughts?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, remember first and foremost that this is not a Senate-confirmable kind of position. So this is Donald Trump with a gut-check here of somebody he can really trust in a position that, as you note, has been troublesome, has been trouble for him since the Mike Flynn situation.
I will say, Brooke, for a White House that has been complaining about leaks of all sorts, personnel, and other intelligence matters, but this was a bit of a surprise. Right? It wasn't clear as to what the spray was to get a photo-op that the press pool was being brought in to President Trump.
And this meeting was not something that was advised or that we knew what would come out of this. So he was able to control this entirely on his terms, the Mar-a-Lago backdrop, having these two military men on either side of him. This was a completely sort of President Trump- produced event in that way.
And it has the value of surprise that will help dominate the remainder of the news cycle.
BALDWIN: Colonel, do you know either of these gentlemen?
COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I do. I do know General McMaster a bit.
And he is absolutely without a doubt, as Barbara Starr reported, one of the most brilliant minds in the U.S. military today. It was a very wise choice on the part of President Trump to do this. He has a lot of potential.
LEIGHTON: He is I would say this generation's version perhaps of either Brent Scowcroft or Colin Powell, both of them of course previous national security advisers. This is a very good pick for the national security community.
And then what about just in terms of the timing?
Lynn Sweet, do you agree with David Chalian in saying for a White House complaining of leaks that this was sort of a surprise how they handled this?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": I think -- no, I'm not surprised. I don't mean to disagree, David, with you so much. We knew that these gentlemen were in play.
And we know that Trump likes to make announcements in the way he does, sitting these guys on the couch. Here's what I think is interesting.
One, he said, so there doesn't have to be a leak, that runner-up John Bolton is going to get another position. I don't know what it will be, but we know he's in play. But what is interesting here is that however we got to this point with Flynn out, that this appointment is probably more helpful to the Trump White House overall than having Flynn there, because if McMaster has the same level of trust with President Trump that Flynn had, Flynn was a controversial character, even without the controversy that led to his ouster.
Flynn had dealt in conspiracy theories and trafficked in them, you know, led political charges during the convention and in other speeches. He gets a second chance. And in this redo, it's probably a better choice all around because this is somebody who comes in with no extra baggage at a time where the Trump administration just needs to get to work.
BALDWIN: Stephen Yates, you advised Vice President Cheney. I mean, how can Lieutenant General McMaster be so successful in a way that perhaps General Flynn and his baggage couldn't be?
STEPHEN YATES, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY ASSISTANT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY: Well, number one, he doesn't come in with any of those kinds of rumors, innuendoes or actual events in the past that get in the way.
President Trump has proven that he has a very strong preference for having military advisers filling these kinds of roles. The NSC is not really a military organ. Certainly, military-related affairs come there for discussion and decision, but you can have anyone ranging from a professor to a businessperson to a retired or current military person serving.
But President Trump has clearly gone the military route. He seems to also want this to serve as a coordinating and facilitating entity with giving deference to his very powerful secretary of state and secretary of defense Cabinet members.
And so we are in a little bit different territory in terms of role of NSC and the national security adviser than we had in the last several administrations.
BALDWIN: Colonel, what about when we think about challenges? And this is a different National Security Council in the sense that you have this political operative by the name of Steve Bannon who actually has a -- he's a principal who has a seat at the table.
That's unprecedented. We do know -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders did say that the NSA chief would be able to pick the team, which is key. What is challenge number one for the general moving forward?
LEIGHTON: Well, Brooke, I think it could be multiple challenges, but I would say North Korea would be at the top of the list.
That would be bit of a challenge for General McMaster, because he hasn't really spent a lot of time in the Asia-Pacific theater, at least not recently. So that will be a big challenge. Also, of course, the fight against ISIS, you know, with today's offensive against Mosul, I think that has to be also at the top of the list. And they are going to have to juggle their priorities between those two possible theaters that we're dealing with right now.
BALDWIN: David Chalian, just final thoughts from you now that we have these two names. What now? CHALIAN: Well, as you were just discussing, we are going to see does
this National Security Council run differently than we have seen in White Houses past?
I just want to follow up on Lynn's point. It's not just the national security adviser now where he had a false start and went back and now appointed someone who at this initial moment is getting rave reviews and perhaps may be a stronger choice. That may be true for his labor secretary nominee after Puzder was not able to get through.
And the new labor secretary nominee may be more appreciated now. And on a non-personnel matter, perhaps we are going to see it with the executive order as well, whereas it was a botched rollout initially on the travel ban, but now maybe going back, as the president said, to tailor it to the courts.
Perhaps President Trump is finding sort of when he hits a road bump that he is able to back on course and actually proceed down a better path.
BALDWIN: Thank you all so, so much.
Again, the breaking news here, we just saw the picture. We thought it would be some sort of pool spray. Didn't realize it would be this, that it would be the president naming on his right, our left, the next national security adviser, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, who Barbara Starr really perfectly painted with such experience, Iraq, Afghanistan, independent thinker.
And then on the other side, you have General Keith Kellogg, who will be the NSC chief of staff, that happening just right no from West Palm Beach, Florida.
Coming up next here, new details on this revised travel ban that President Trump may now issue any day. This is what David Chalian was just referencing. We want to know what's different, right? What is changing in the next iteration of an executive order and what isn't it that could obviously impact the immigration status of thousands and thousands of people?
Plus, across the country in these big cities, you have these anti- Trump demonstrations on this President's Day, New York here, a live report coming up.
And the British Parliament debating today on whether to withdraw an invitation to President Trump to visit.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's difficult to know whether to be appalled at the morality of this invitation or just astonished at the stupidity of the invitation.
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(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [15:13:25]
BALDWIN: Breaking news here on CNN.
If you are just joining us, big news from West Palm Beach, Florida, the president there just announcing his choice for the next national security adviser. He is Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster.
And he is on our left, the president's right. And then on the other side of the sofa, you have General Keith Kellogg as the national security National Security Council chief of staff, the president making the announcement down at Mar-a-Lago moments ago.
This comes as new details are in to CNN about the revised travel ban currently in the works. It's being drafted by the White House. But we are hearing from our source that the Trump administration could roll out this executive order as early as tomorrow.
We know the ban still includes the same seven Muslim majority countries. This is according to the draft. But the homeland security secretary says the president is considering a "tighter, more streamlined version of the first executive order," an order that, as you remember, was met with all kinds of outrage.
Remember the pictures from all those airports, protests, of course, the legal threats. And then it was eventually put on hold by the courts.
We are also expecting to learn more about the president's immigration reform as early as today. This executive order could result in sweeping changes to the way undocumented immigrants are handled.
With me now, CNN's Ariane de Vogue, and Page Pate, constitutional attorney and criminal defense attorney.
Ariane, just first up to you on exactly how this next version of his executive order, this travel ban, would be significantly different from the last that could pass muster in the courts?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, as you said, the Trump administration is going to release this new executive order.
The president said it was to protect our people. But, Brooke, what's really important this time is that the administration's lawyers, they have got to write it in way where it's not going to be blocked by the courts.
Keep in mind, two federal courts halted the previous order. We have seen glimpses so far of what might be in it over the weekend. Homeland Security Chief John Kelly, he acknowledged something really important. He said that the first one had been poorly rolled out.
And he said that the new one would have sort of a phase-in element. Here's why that's important. He's trying to avoid that chaos that you talked about that went out through the airports.
DE VOGUE: The new -- as of this weekend, the order hadn't been finalized. There were still a lot of drafts, but it makes one thing really clear, is that it won't affect green card holders.
It's likely also to address religious discrimination concerns. And finally, Brooke, it might modify a section dealing with Syrian refugees. That's what we know for now.
BALDWIN: Let's say, Page, to you, you know, the administration has the smartest legal minds in the way of crafting the wording. Do you think that, no matter what, there will be another challenge, or no?
PAGE PATE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Brooke, there is no question there will be another challenge. The only question is, will it be a successful challenge?
And it's not just the rollout of this travel ban that was problematic. And it is not just the language of the initial travel ban that was unconstitutional. It was everything that Trump and his administration and his campaign said before he took office, after he took office, and at the time the initial travel ban was imposed.
All of that evidence of possible discrimination against Muslims can still be evidence in court, even if the executive order does not specifically say it is a Muslim ban.
So, if you are still limiting the rights of people from specific countries that are Muslim majority, even if you take out that part about giving preference to religious minorities, a court can still find that this order is problematic and unconstitutional.
BALDWIN: So, then, Ariane, what happens with the original executive order and what happened with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals? Are they two totally separate issues?
DE VOGUE: Well, the legal challengers say, look, we are not going to accept anything unless there are drastic changes. They are not going to accept tweaks in this. So, for sure that they will effort to continue the lawsuit.
And the administration hopes, look, it wants to get off to a new start. It wants to win in court. That's how they look at it. And they are hoping that will be sort of a new step going forward now.
BALDWIN: Looking for this piece of news, this executive order as early as tomorrow.
Ariane, thank you so much. And, Page Pate, thank you.
PATE: Thank you.
BALDWIN: We also have now the vice president, Pence, reassuring our European allies that the Trump administration is committed to NATO. But he is also issuing a warning of sorts. We will have reaction to the vice president's message coming up.
BALDWIN: The U.S. and NATO are demanding European leaders pay up when it comes to international security. Vice President Mike Pence and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says European allies should pay their fair share in defense spending, adding it is essential in the fight against terrorism.
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MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The president really put this issue front and center before the American people in his campaign for president.
And, frankly, it struck a very resonant cord. And so I don't know what the answer is to or else, but I know that the patience of the American people will not endure forever. As Secretary of Defense James Mattis said here in Belgium just a few short days ago, if you are a nation that meets a 2 percent target, we need your help encouraging other nations to do likewise.
If you have a plan to get there, as he said, our alliance needs you to accelerate it. And if you don't yet have a plan, these are my words, not his, get one.
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BALDWIN: Back with me, Stephen Yates, former deputy assistant for national security to Vice President Dick Cheney, Colonel Cedric Leighton, CNN military analyst, and from Moscow, joining us, CNN senior international correspondent Nick Paton Walsh.
Nick, just hearing different messages from the vice president, whether he was in Munich there or in Brussels, he is there to assure our European allies who have had some jitters since Election Day back in November. How is his message resonating?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think really the notion that increased defense spending is an essential part of NATO's coherent structure or, frankly, or else, as Mr. Pence was unable to answer himself, is leaving a lot of European allies deeply perturbed, because Article V, the bedrock of the NATO treaty, that if one member calls for help from the rest, they have to answer that call, it has got a lot of people really upset at this stage, because they are not really sure that's always going to be respected.
The mere idea to many NATO members that senior American leaders would have to turn up and reassure them in such stark terms is I think deeply unsettling, particularly given the belligerent nature many see of the country I'm standing in here now, Russia, what it did in Ukraine, how it's making the Baltic neighbors feel very nervous. And it sort of comes down to the 2 percent spending pledge that NATO
members are supposed to adhere to, that 2 percent of their GDP is supposed to be spent on defense. At the present, only four countries do that. That's the U.K., Estonia, Greece, and Poland. And some of the major economies, France, Germany in particular, and Italy, fall pretty short.
Now, the Germans, for their defense, say, well, look we are spending millions on housing refugees from many of these conflict areas in our own country. And it would be hard for us to suddenly, having had a very pacifist nature in our armed forces for quite some time, to suddenly pour millions in and make that particular target.
And I have also heard from many NATO members as well that they remember Afghanistan, the International Security and Assistance Force, which was populated by many NATO members helping America out, they thought, in their time of need, because that would retain the nature of the NATO alliance.
They remember, too, the so-called the coalition of the willing which lacked many NATO members, but also had a lot of involved too that invaded Iraq. They remember the times when they were there for the United States. And they are perhaps wondering now, with Russia seemingly on its front foot militarily and making people here quite nervous, what exactly is the message they are hearing from the White House, which is saying, well, basically, up your spending or we may rethink the whole thing.
BALDWIN: On the message, Stephen, let me quote this to you. I know there was a BBC reporter in the room, and he asked the vice president a very simple question, is, who do we believe?
Because it's either do we believe, Mr. Vice President, what you are saying, or do we also believe what the president has been saying? As the deputy national security adviser to Vice President Cheney, how did you thread that needle at times?
YATES: Well, there is always one president at a time. And anyone who is going on behalf of the president is doing exactly that, speaking on behalf of the president.
Really, though, this discussion about balancing our alliances and addressing this funding issue has been out there for a very, very long time. It was discussed when I was in the White House before. It was discussed in the White House before I got there.
And the or else part of it, it may be abrupt and inelegant and it may make people uncomfortable, but their relative comfort in the last two decades has left a lot of these major nations under-resourcing their own defense. And they should have a motivation on their own, given what Russia has been doing, and with the threats that have arisen from the broader Middle East related to refugees to do more.
So we have tried the nice approach. We have tried the diplomatic approach. And whatever flaws people may see in the messaging going out now, it at least has this four square on the agenda of every leading government on the continent.
BALDWIN: Colonel, Stephen said it perfectly. This has been an issue that predated him in the Bush White House. How do you see it?
LEIGHTON: I do agree with Stephen on that, Brooke.
And one of the key things that I remember about it is when Bob Gates was secretary of defense, he very specifically outlined the need for NATO member nations to fulfill their 2 percent of GDP goal for their defense spending. That becomes really one of the critical markers.
I kind of look at this as being a good cop/bad cop scenario, where President Trump is playing bad cop and everybody else is playing good cop. Yes, we will help you out, but you better follow the guidelines that you yourself agreed to.
And even the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in essence the same thing, that everybody does need to help out at the right level.
BALDWIN: Colonel Leighton, let me just quickly ask you about what has happened in Iraq. We know that Secretary of Defense James Mattis made a surprise appearance in Baghdad saying hello to our men and women in uniform.
But the timing is key, because this is just after the Iraqi forces launched this offensive to retake Western Mosul from ISIS. On this what the president says vs. someone else, this is what General Mattis said specifically on Iraqi oil.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we kept the oil, you probably wouldn't have had ISIS, because that's where they made their money in the first place, so we should have kept the oil. But, OK, maybe we will have another chance.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We are not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, it's that simple, the point being, you know, the president has said one thing. His administration there in Baghdad saying another.
What message is that disconnect between top officials sending to the rest of the world?
LEIGHTON: Well, I think it becomes a really difficult issue for people like Secretary Mattis to really square.
But I think we have to look at it as kind the inside voice as Donald Trump is speaking and the outside voice and the one that will actually happen, hopefully, as Secretary Mattis speaking. And that becomes I think the key differentiator.
And we will see. Of course, the prove proof will be in the actual actions, but that's going to be the way it will have to go. I think it's unrealistic to do anything but allow Iraq to keep the oil.
BALDWIN: Colonel Leighton, thank you. Stephen Yates, a pleasure. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you all the way in Moscow.
And back to our breaking news. If you are just joining us, President Donald Trump announcing Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as his new national security adviser, this just happening down in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Also of note, General Keith Kellogg remains the National Security Council chief of staff, the president making the announcement at Mar- a-Lago.
Barbara Starr at the Pentagon joins me live with explaining exactly who this three-star lieutenant general is, and his experience, Barbara.
STARR: Hi, Brooke.
Well, oddly enough, General McMaster right now is in an Army job, a very senior job, I grant you, but he is involved