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Bannon, Pence Deliver Mixed Messages to EU; CPAC Kicks Off in D.C.; Iraqi Forces Take Full Control of Mosul Airport; Trump Meets with Manufacturing CEOs at the White House; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired February 23, 2017 - 10:30   ET


[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: NATO and the European Union as a whole, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said something that is diametrically opposed to that on a call with a key European ambassador over how the U.S. would be dealing with the EU.

Our global affairs correspondent Elise Labott joins me now. Completely different perspectives from these two men. Tell us what they said and most importantly, why does this matter?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Poppy, you remember Mike Pence, the vice president, in Brussels kind of saying that on behalf of President Trump, the -- I'm here to tell you that the U.S. wants to deepen and strengthen U.S. political and economic partnership with the EU.

You know, there's been a lot of concern because of President Trump's support for the Brexit, he even called himself Mr. Brexit, and predicted other countries will leave, that the Trump administration was not committed to dealing with the EU as this 27-nation bloc. Well, in fact just a few days before Vice President Pence made those comments, Steve Bannon, the White House chief strategist, was meeting with the German ambassador to the U.S., Peter (INAUDIBLE), you know, basically said that the EU was a flawed organization, that the U.S. wanted to have more relationships bilaterally with individual countries instead of the whole EU.

And this is really this kind of citing these populist, nationalist movements that are -- you know, elected President Trump and are also sweeping through Europe. A lot of concern in Europe about these mixed messages from the administration.

HARLOW: The argument could also be made, Elise, doesn't this sort of play right into Russia's playbook? They would like to see a weaker Europe.

LABOTT: Well, that's true. Russia would like to see a weaker Europe because Europe as a whole, you know, Europe whole and free as what they call it, was supposed to be a bulwark against an expansionist Russia. In terms of the Trump administration, I think you've heard similar messages but for a different reason. You've heard this kind of nationalist, populist message that Steve Bannon, when he was the head of Breitbart News, was also saying that was what the future was.

And so I'm not sure it's necessarily the same reason. But it still does play into Russia's hands. Russia very much wants to see a weakened EU. And you see elections coming up in the Netherlands, Germany, France, anti-EU extreme right-wing parties are really gaining ground there. And the concern in Europe is that President Trump might support some of those movements. So that's why those mixed messages are very concerning, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Elise Labott, great reporting, from Washington, thank you.

Also right now speeches at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC, just kicking off this morning. Some of the nation's top conservatives taking to the podium, addressing the crowd there. It includes the president who's set to speak there. But before he does, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and the president's chief strategist Steve Bannon will take part in a conversation.

That's at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. We're going to carry that live for you right here on CNN.

Let's go to our Phil Mattingly who is there.

We saw Kellyanne Conway, who else?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As you noted, I think the big thing everybody is paying attention to today is Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, and Steve Bannon, the chief strategist. There's been a lot of kind of stories behind the scenes, maybe they don't get along. Obviously they come from two very different parts of the Republican Party. Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. Very clearly in the establishment lane. Steve Bannon, former chief of Breitbart News, very much so not in that lane.

But really the point today -- I've spoken to people that have knowledge of what this conversation is supposed to be about is to show a united front, to show that they're working well together and try and give a sense of maybe kind of a calm or assuage some concerns about the direction of the administration.

Poppy, it's really interesting when you think about CPAC, you think about what this conference is all about. Two years ago, Donald Trump, then not President Donald Trump, came here and everybody kind of mocked him a little bit because he kept touting that he was considering running for president. Last year he didn't come at all because there were going to be protests. Now this is the Trump administration in full force.

As you noted, Kellyanne Conway here earlier today, speaking, joking that CPAC will soon turn into TPAC because all of the Trump administration officials that are here. It's very clear that the conservative movement right now is the Trump movement. And I don't think if you would have talked to people here at CPAC just a year, they ever would have thought that's possible. But that's clearly what you hear when we talk to conservative activists here, and it's clearly at least the image that the Trump administration is trying to pull off at this event today -- Poppy. HARLOW: You know, Phil, I don't know if you heard the interview but I

had Matt Schlapp who on who organized all this earlier, and, you know, asked him about Steve Bannon and the pushback from his own group that he leads about inviting Milo Yiannopoulos to CPAC only to cancelling just a few days ago. Even about having Steve Bannon on the stage there, someone who many see as promoting the alt-right. He said, I don't -- I think you've got it wrong. I don't think Steve Bannon has anything to do with the alt-right. That has no place here. How do you see it?

MATTINGLY: Yes, it wasn't a great moment over the course of the last week for CPAC. For Matt Schlapp, or really for conservatives in general.

[10:35:04] A lot of people are weary of what Milo and kind of his ilk bring to the table, what they mean for the conservative movement at all. Most people say he's not a conservative, period. And I think the interesting element here has been, no question about it, Steve Bannon. There's been -- I'm on Capitol Hill most days, I talk to a lot of Republican lawmakers, many of whom were kind of flayed at one point or another by Steve Bannon's news organization, now find themselves in the same rooms with him, trying to figure out policy going forward. Trying to figure out how to accomplish a very ambitious agenda that is currently shared by the Trump administration and by Republicans on Capitol Hill.

It's uneasy. There's no question about it. But this is kind of at the heart of not just the conservative movement, but the Republican Party right now, trying to figure out their way forward under their leader, the president, Donald Trump. And I think if you talk to them about top line goals, if you talk to them about Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, where they want to go on health care reform or tax reform, there's broad agreement there.

But there's no doubt, Poppy, the behind-the-scenes, the last couple of years there is an uneasiness there that people are starting to feel more comfortable with but I will say, it's a cautious, more comfortable nature. They recognize that things could turn quickly. They hope it doesn't. And I think when you talk about Bannon and Priebus coming up today to speak together, a very large part of that is to try and comfort any of those concerns, let people know that this is a united front. They plan to stay that way even if some activists, some conservatives are a little bit uneasy about the direction things may be going.

HARLOW: There you go. Phil Mattingly live for us at CPAC, thank you very much.

And again we're going to carry that conversation live at 1:00 p.m. Eastern between Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon.

Still ahead for us this morning, the battle for Mosul intensifying after Iraqi forces regain full control of the airport in Mosul. A major defeat against ISIS terrorists. We're going to have a live report from inside Iraq, next. Also, a family kept apart by the president's original travel ban now

back together. An emotional reunion for these parents and their little boy.


[10:41:18] HARLOW: A major victory in the battle for Mosul after Iraqi forces stormed the city's airports and take control -- full control of the airport back from ISIS terrorists. This comes as U.S. troops that are nearing the front lines in and around the city have been injured we've learned as they come under fire from ISIS.

Our senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live for us in Irbil, Iraq, following all of it.

I want to get to the U.S. soldiers in a moment. But first this retaking of the airport in Mosul, it's a huge advancement.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is. I mean, for one thing, it allows the Iraqis to say very early on in this operation that began Sunday morning that they have been able to capture a major objective.

The airport occupies a large area of southern western Mosul and will give them an important springboard as they move ahead. It was not as difficult a battle as was expected, of course. Iraqi artillery really pounded the airport before -- in the days before they actually made this move. Once they got in, they had to clear away the usual booby traps and whatnot. And shortly after they took control of the airport, it came under rocket fire, killing several Iraqi soldiers.

But by and large this is something that they can show that is important, that they're making rapid progress in taking an important objective, keeping in mind just how long, three months it took to take the eastern side of the city -- Poppy.

HARLOW: A very important point as they try to advance and retake all of Mosul.

Ben, these U.S. troops we've learned have been pushing closer and closer to the front line have come under fire, some have been injured. What else do we know?

WEDEMAN: We heard this from Colonel John Dorian, he's the coalition spokesman in Baghdad. He told reporters that yes, there have been wounded among the U.S. personnel. Some have had to be Medevaced. They've come under fire several times. Not surprising because like me, like many other journalists, if you go near the front line in the war against is, they will be shooting at you. However, he did stress that when they come under fire, the U.S. troops go into full combat mode and given the kind of firepower at their disposal, that's no small thing -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Ben Wedeman live for us in Irbil, Iraq. Thank you, Ben, for the reporting. Still to come, an unexpected phone call means a wish granted for an

Iraqi family whose son was in this country separated from his parents to undergo surgery.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Thank God we're all together again. It's really hard to stay away from your child when they're healthy, let alone he was burned.



[10:48:35] HARLOW: All right. You're looking live pictures of the White House state dining room. All those people standing on the table, those are chief executives from all the big manufacturing companies across the country. They're waiting for President Trump to come in. They will have a discussion with him. We're talking about big companies like Dell, Johnson & Johnson, Ford, 3M, General Electric. You get the gist.

We've got complete coverage. Athena Jones is at the White House, Cristina Alesci is with me here.

Obviously, Cristina, they're going to talk about jobs and trade and taxes. And these guys and women -- I saw one woman.


HARLOW: We need a few more female CEOs.

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. I think it's the Campbell CEO. You there --

HARLOW: I think you're right. Yes. Yes. So they're going to talk about these things that they love what the president has been saying. They don't like, though, other things he's done like the travel ban. How do they thread the needle?

ALESCI: They have to walk a very careful line. And in these meetings which are closed door, we don't know what's being said. And everyone is really careful when they come out of it because they don't want to anger the president. They don't want to be on his wrong side, they want to be invited back to these listening sessions. So it's really hard to thread that needle. And oftentimes really controversial stuff doesn't really come up in these settings, based on what I'm told after -- you know, after these meetings happen.

HARLOW: What -- I mean, you're so tapped into these CEOs. What do you think the number one thing is that they want to see from this president for their businesses?

ALESCI: Well, the number one most contentious issue is actually something that they're not all on the same page on. It's the border adjustment tax. Some CEOs want to see it. Others are opposed to it, right? Because some manufacturers actually import parts from other countries in order to manufacture their products here.

HARLOW: Right. Here.

[10:50:08] ALESCI: And a border adjustment tax would hurt their ability to do that. You know, I know that you know a fairly midsize manufacturer, Cummins, makes industrial sized engines here in the U.S. but a lot of its parts actually come from elsewhere. And it supports jobs here in the U.S., but the materials are coming from overseas. So it's a very complicated -- it's a very complicated issue that the president is really going to have to walk through.

HARLOW: Yes. And --

ALESCI: And the Republicans, the GOP, are actually in favor of that border adjustment tax.

HARLOW: And the delicate dance, Athena, obviously there's politics at play. One of the female CEOs that's going to be in the room is Marilyn Houston. The head of Lockheed Martin that make the F-35 fighter jet. And the president has tweeted about Lockheed Martin saying, you know, basically the F-35 is too expensive so I'm going to talk to Boeing. So he's used these CEOs to sort of pit against each other, to try to get a better deal for the American people.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy, he has. He talked about that at some length at that rally down in Florida over the weekend about making sure that there's competition.

This is interesting and unusual. I should tell you that we're getting guidance from the White House, from the press pool covering this event. Those are the cameras in the room. That this event is going to be live. The entire event. It could last an hour. That's pretty unusual. Usually you have the cameras in there for just a few minutes at the beginning or at the end.

HARLOW: So we're going to get to see all of it? Is that right --

JONES: That is my -- that is my understanding. According to the guidance from the White House we're getting now, this -- well, it was 10:30, but the event, once it starts, can be live. They were originally forecasting it to last more than an hour, now they're saying no more than an hour. But I think that that's going to be a very interesting window into what kind of conversation takes place.

We'll certainly see here what the president has to say and then what these participants have to say. It is a very big table set up there in the state dining room. A lot of people. You mentioned some of the people who will be at the meeting. So is that really enough time for everyone to get a word in? We'll see.

But we expect the president to talk about a lot of the things he's been talking about in these meetings, bringing back manufacturing jobs, getting rid of regulations. One of his favorite lines is for every new regulation you have to get rid of two existing regulations.

We also expect he could talk about tax reform, certainly corporate tax reform. We've already heard Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin predict that there would be a tax reform bill passed by August, that might be some rosy thinking. But this is something we certainly expect the president to bring up because he's done it in pretty much every meeting he's had.


JONES: He's had a lot of these meetings with business leaders.

HARLOW: But never one that we've been able to watch the entire thing.


HARLOW: So if that's the case, you can bet you'll be watching it live here right along with us on CNN.

But, Cristina, this changes the calculus.


HARLOW: Because these executives have to be much more measured in what they say because people from both parties buy their goods. They cannot alienate either side of their customer base.

ALESCI: That's right, Poppy. And you know, a lot of these CEOs are very reluctant to go on camera and give interview to begin with because of the politicization --

HARLOW: I don't know how to say it.

ALESCI: Because how these issues can be politicized.


ALESCI: But another big thing here is, look, there were 17 million Americans working in manufacturing jobs back in 2000. There are five million less today. The big question is, how do you bring that back without hurting profit margins which will in turn have a negative impact on the economy? So there is a law of unintended consequences. And all of these CEOs are worried about the message that Donald Trump is putting out there, that he can bring these jobs back but how do you do that without undermining profits at a corporate level.

HARLOW: Yes. Because by the way, these are not just American companies. These are global companies. So it's not just about being competitive here. It's about how they're competitive on the global landscape.

Stay with me, Athena and Cristina. We're going to get a quick break. We're going to bring you more of this right after the break.


[10:56:27] HARLOW: All right. Here you have it. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, walking in, shaking hands with these manufacturing CEOs, a host of them there from companies like Johnson & Johnson, GE, Ford, Caterpillar, Lockheed Martin, shaking hands with the president before he sits down to have this roundtable discussion with them.

As Cristina rightly pointed out, we've seen a huge decline in manufacturing jobs in this country, five million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000. This is what this president ran on.

Athena Jones is with me at the White House, Cristina Alesci is back here as we wait for the president to start his remarks.

Cristina, interestingly, you know what? Can we listen in to the president, guys?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. It's a great honor to have everybody. And some of the great people in the world of business, many of you I know, many of you I know from reading all of our wonderful magazines and business magazines in particular. So it's an honor to have you with us today.

Bringing manufacturing back to America, creating high wage jobs, was one of our campaign promises and themes. And it resonated with everybody. It was really something, what happened. States that hadn't been won in many, many years, where they came over to our fold. A lot of it had to do with jobs, and other reasons, but jobs.

And I'm delivering on everything that we've said. In fact people are saying they've never seen so much happen in 30 days of a presidency. We've delivered on a lot. I think Mark can explain, and Mark can probably say some of the things we're doing for the auto industry. We're going to be doing that for many of the industries.

As you know, the United States lost one-third of our manufacturing jobs since NAFTA. That's an unbelievable number and statistic. And 70,000 factories closed since China joined the WTO. 70,000 factories. So when I used to give that statistic, I used to talk about it and I always thought it was a typo. I said, has to be a typo. I tell Wilbur, Wilbur, that can't be right. Think of it, 70,000 factories.

So you see, what are we doing? My administration's policies and regulatory reform, tax reform, trade policies, will return significant manufacturing jobs to our country. Everything's going to be based on bringing our jobs back, the good jobs, the real jobs. They've left, and they're coming back. They have to come back.

You've already seen companies such as Intel, Ford -- Mark has been great. GM, Wal-Mart, Amgen, Amazon, Fiat, they came the other day, they're going to make a tremendous investment in the country. Carrier and many others announced significant new investments in the United States. For example, Ford is doing 700 million in Michigan, creating 700 new jobs as a vote of confidence. It was actually stated, a vote confidence.

We have many other companies doing the same thing. Carrier, as you know, and I got involved very late, almost like by two years late, but many of the jobs that were leaving for Mexico, they're bringing back, at least 800 jobs. They're bringing it back, and the actually never got to leave. I have no idea what they did with the plant in Mexico, but we'll have to ask them, because it was largely built.

General Motors is investing $1 billion in U.S. plants, adding or keeping 7,000 jobs. It's going to be investing a lot more than over the next fairly short period.