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Trump/Merkel Press Event Concludes; Discussion of Press Event. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 17, 2017 - 14:30   ET


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- that we do business with, it's not exactly what you call "good for our workers."


When you look at the horrible NAFTA transaction, NAFTA has been a disaster for the United States. It's been a disaster for companies, and in particular, it's been a disaster for the workers. A lot of the companies just moved. But the workers are screwed (ph), and it's probably the reason I'm standing here. Maybe number one that and maybe the military, building up our military, which we will do and we will be stronger than ever before and hopefully not have to use it, but we will be stronger and perhaps far stronger than ever before, but it's probably the reason I'm here is when you talk about trade.

So I think that we are going to be a very different country. I think we are going to be -- gonna have great values, but in terms of our military, it's going to be much stronger and our trade deals are going to be good, solid deals, not deals that lead to closing plants and tremendous unemployment. OK? Thank you.

MERKEL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): When we speak about trade agreements, and the European Union is negotiating those agreements for all of the member states of the European Union, but obviously, there's also input by the member states. They bring to the table what's important to them.

We have underlined as German industry -- German business community and have made the experience that any kind of agreement that we have concluded, for example at the very latest with South Korea, brought us more jobs actually. People were very much concerned about losing jobs, for example to the automotive industry, but in the end, it turned out, particularly was it regards to South Korea, in the end it turned out that both sides benefited.

And I think it's only fair, that's the purpose of concluding agreements, that both sides win and that is the sort of spirit I think in which we ought to be guided in negotiating any agreement between the United States of America and the E.U. I hope that we can resume the agreement that we started. We have just now concluded an agreement with Canada, and hope that we will come back to the table and talk about the agreement between E.U. and the U.S. again.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you, (inaudible). Madame Chancellor, a question addressed to you. Today, we're talking about trade. The president in the past always said that he doesn't like multilateral trade agreements, but prefers bilateral trade agreements. Do you think from the E.U.'s point of view TTIP is a bilateral agreement with Washington on one said, the E.U. on the other side? Is the problem (ph) that America -- the president of the United States and the Europeans have a basically different understanding of what the E.U. is all about? That's my question addressed to you.

And Mr. President, my question addressed to you, if I may.

QUESTION: Rejected White House claims that the alleged wiretapping on you, on Trump Tower, on Trump Organization or members of your campaign was -- that British intelligence was either responsible for it or involved in it. After these claims are rejected, what is your take on that? Are there other suspects or do you think it was a mistake to blame British intelligence for this?

And by the way, my second question, are there from time to time tweets that you regret?


TRUMP: Very seldom.

QUESTION: Very seldom.


QUESTION: Do you never would have wished not to have...


TRUMP: Probably wouldn't be here right now, but very seldom. We have a tremendous group of people that listen and I can get around the media when the media doesn't tell the truth, so I like that.

As far as wiretapping, I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps.


And just to finish your question, we said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn't make an opinion on it.

TRUMP: That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox, and so you shouldn't be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox. OK?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MERKEL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Well, I believe that the president has clearly set out his philosophy as to what trade agreements have to bring about for the American side as well. I personally don't think that Germany needs to negotiate and not the European Union. We've devolved (ph) our confidences to the European Union. So the European Union, or rather the commission, negotiates on behalf of the member states, so that's not going to prevent us from concluding agreements (inaudible). Indeed, this would be then -- qualify as a bilateral agreement between the E.U. and the United States if we had it.

But the question is will it be of benefit to both countries or not? And let me be very honest, very candid, free trade agreement with the United States of America has not always been all that popular in Germany either. There have been less demonstrations against this free trade agreement in the United States than in Europe and also in Germany. So I am very glad to note that apparently, the sort of perspective on that has changed a little bit at least in Germany, too.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Great honor, thank you. Thank you.

[13:36:06] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States the chancellor of Germany wrapping up their news conference. They dealt with several very important issues. Perhaps, most surprisingly, right at the very end, in response to a question from a German reporter, the president seemingly wanted to joke about being wiretapped remarking that Angela Merkel had been wiretapped, and commenting, "at least we have something in common," suggesting we, too, have been wiretapped. He didn't walk away from the assertion by the White House press secretary quoting from a FOX analyst, Judge Napolitano, saying, talk to FOX about that, but not apologizing to the British government even after the British government says it was ridiculous, that entire report.

Lots to discuss. Our want to bring to our panel.

But also, I want to go to our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, in London.

Christiane, first, you're there in London. What the president just said clearly not going to please the U.S. allies in the British government?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Except that he did say that I didn't have an opinion on that, this was just something that was being quoted, so take it up with FOX, not with us, so he kind of sort of avoided responsibility. That's called plausible deniability, I believe.

What was interesting was the back and forth that underpinned the issue of trade. Donald Trump kept saying we've been treated very unfairly but thanked Germany for the investment for its apprenticeship programs, and is going to be taken up at lunch, but went on and on about the win. She, Angela Merkel, kept coming back, would not leave it alone, defending globalization saying, yes, Germany has been a successful economy thanks to the United States building up Germany with the Marshall Plan after World War II, but on the other side is we have always been good for a peaceful European Union. But after President Trump said we are going to renegotiate our deals, talked about NAFTA being a disaster. And Angela Merkel kept on saying, I hope we come back to the E.U.-U.S. trade deal. But then saying, by the way, free trade has not been so popular in Germany, too. We have had more demonstrations against free trade than you in the United States. So I think this is going to be the basis going forward. And did talk about Russia and how to bring peace to the Ukraine as well.

BLITZER: Christiane, stand by.

I want to go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, in the East Room.

You were there during this news conference. What were the headlines? What emerged in your mind.

[14:34:25] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I do think it's the wiretapping claim, that cloud has been hanging over the White House here. And to give you a sense of perspective, Wolf, I am just about five or six feet from the president. The look on his face when it was a German reporter who asked the question about the British about wiretapping, he didn't look pleased. The two U.S. reporters asked about health care, certainly, an important issue here in the U.S., not necessarily the news of the day at the White House. But the look on the president's face when he was asked that was certainly interesting.

But look, he took no responsibility for any of this, Wolf, did not acknowledge that if bipartisan leaders of the Intelligence Committee have said look there's simply no evidence of surveillance at Trump Tower but did talk about Judge Napolitano. He answered that question as you should be talking to FOX. So it may have answered it for this moment as we head off to Florida for another weekend at his retreat there, but this certainly does not put an e exclamation point on it. Because on Monday, the FBI director will be testifying and we expect him to be asked about this.

Early on, the president did want the talk about health care. And one interesting thing I thought, Wolf, was that he said he is indeed flexible. He would not specifically say what negotiation points he would give on, but he said he would let you know when he was finished. So certainly, a sign he wants to get this done. But the wiretapping question from that German reporter, certainly a news-making one. Today, I'm not sure we got the answer from this president -- Wolf?

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

Gloria, that German reporter said, are there tweets you ever regret, he said very seldom. And then spoke of reports that Angela Merkel's cell phone had been tapped during the Obama administration, and -- that we have been wiretapped.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: That was his effort at a joke. First, we have to give kudos to the German journalists for asking the tough questions, the news of the day, and the questions revolving around the president's claim on wiretapping and the international incident that occurred over Sean Spicer's reading of quotes from FOX News about the United Kingdom participating in spying. And I think the president today elevated it. He elevated it. He not only said in the effort to make a joke to Angela Merkel that our -- her cell phone was tapped, so he tried to make a joke of it. But in making a joke of it, he didn't stand down one bit. He just said check with FOX News. And this is a quote from him, "We said nothing", meaning it's not our charge, even though it came from the podium in the press room by the president's own press secretary. He said, "We said nothing," that, you know, you shouldn't be talking to me, talk to FOX.

And to Jeff's point, this is somebody who can look at classified information, who can find out exactly what occurred and get to the bottom of things if he wants to, but instead, there was no apology made, sticking by their story and if I were the Brits right now I would be more furious than I was yesterday.

BLITZER: And he went one step further, Elise. He said that Judge Napolitano, the judge, said he has a very talented legal mind on FOX. He said talk to FOX, which seemingly is giving a little bit more credence, which is firmly denied by the British intelligence community.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't give credence because he didn't get it from his own intelligence community. Obviously, we know he follows a lot of media, listens to FOX, watches a lot of these blogs that are sympathetic to his ideas. And I think -- we were just sitting here a few weeks ago, when there are big important meetings with world leaders in front of cameras about the important National Security and issues that he wants to address, and we're being diverted by these types of scandals about the wiretapping the voter fraud, about the size of the crowds. This is really diverting from his agenda. This was an important meeting with Angela Merkel, and I sense it was a little bit of a tense meeting. He said this is going to be more friendly, we've been hurt before, I'm the president of America. And what she is saying is, yes, you're entitled and rightfully looking out for American interests, but American interests are much better served when we're working all together. And I think that's where the main difference between these two leaders lies.

[14:45:16] BLITZER: And not happy on NATO because he's been demanding that all the NATO allies pay 2 percent of their GDP.


BLITZER: And she said we'll get to it but in the year 2024. I'm sure the president wasn't very pleased about that.

Brian Stelter is our senior media correspondent.

Brian, it was interesting that the sensitive questions about wiretap, about what British intelligence supposedly was doing, didn't come from American journalists but from a German journalist.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: Yes, the first question was about health care. He's working on a documentary, so he's following the president around this week. The topic of wiretapping only coming up from German reporter. This really was a one-note message, talking about America will be stronger, stronger. But his comment about wiretapping was incredibly weak. He said, talk to FOX. So I have talked to FOX and they don't have much to say. The word from the network is that this is apparently going to be addressed today. Apparently, Napolitano made it on an opinion show and FOX News makes a big deal about opinion shows, like their morning show and their newscasts. They say this is going to be addressed on their newscasts. But this is not about Napolitano, but the president is saying it was FOX's reporting he's citing. But stuck in this conservative media ditch where the president is relying on something that may or may not have been reliable between an opinion commentator saying something on an opinion show versus real reporting. And it's just not a good look for any political leader to be doing that. Now I suppose, Wolf, the ball is back in Napolitano's court.

BLITZER: Brian, it wasn't just Napolitano that was cited by Sean Spicer. He also cited a report from Sean Hannity from FOX News. Any reaction to that?

STELTER: No, I think folks at FOX are probably trying to figure out what to do, having just given this shout-out. Hannity is clearly a pro-Trump partisan and an entertainer. There's room on TV for all that. The difference is the president's media literacy. When he is watching television in the morning or the end of the day consuming these opinion shows, hearing these ideas, he wants to believe, because they seem to support his point of view. He is then sharing that. His aides are then sharing that, trickling all around the world. And in this case, creating an international incident. And I don't think FOX and its credibility -- I don't think actually FOX wants to be in this situation where the president is going to call them, talk to FOX. It's simply not a good look. And I say we're stuck in the ditch because the president tweeted about this as a result of a radio show and a "Breitbart" report. Two weeks later, we're still talking about this baseless claim because the president tries to continue to give it oxygen.

BLITZER: Let me quickly go back to Jeff Zeleny, who is still in the East Room, our senior White House correspondent.

Jeff, it was pointed -- we didn't hear from the president of the United States when asked about the allegations involving British intelligence. What we heard earlier from the president's own National Security adviser, General McMaster, we heard from the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, apologized for citing this for this allegation at the podium. We didn't hear any of that coming from the president.

ZELENY: We didn't. Either the ownership of the tweets he started two weeks ago, a Saturday morning, saying he had just learned that President Obama had tapped his wires, had wiretapped him, so we did not hear the president take any ownership of that. He also didn't repeat it. If he truly believes this, you may have expected him to use this as an opportunity to reiterate that. He didn't. Laugh it off in a joking way saying he has something in common here with the chancellor of Germany, who, of course, had her wires tapped during the Obama administration, that created a whole issue here.

[14:50:02] But Wolf, he simply deflected these questions in answers to FOX News, yet, another example of how words have consequences. This president said a lot of things running for this office, but once you are here in the office, they are amplified, and indeed caused incidents here. And it's something that will go forward here. That's not something he wanted to address.

I did want to say one interesting thing. As these two leaders sort of get acquainted with each other, Angela Merkel had a close relationship with President Bush and with Barack Obama. And she was asked about the differences, and she talked about diversity, and she said if everyone was the same, there wouldn't be a need for politicians. Punted a bit. They are having lunch indeed forging a brand new and very different relationship -- Wolf?

BLITZER: A very important relationship, the U.S. German relationship.

But getting back to the comment that the president said, at least we have something in common, looking at Angela Merkel, referring to the wiretapping, he is not backing away from those four tweets two weeks at all. If anything, he's trying to joke and be funny, but by suggesting that reinforcing that notion.

ZELENY: He is reinforcing it, Wolf. And I think many advisors sitting in the room would prefer him to change the subject, but until he addresses it, I'm not sure the subject will change. And we have seen leaders, Republicans as well as Democrats, say he will indeed, at some point, owe the American people an apology. But the incident in the last 12 hours or so involving the British show the deep consequences that every single word he says or message he makes something he did not take ownership for today.

BLITZER: Gloria, this is going to be a problem, especially looking forward to Monday when the House Intelligence Committee has invited the FBI director, the leaders of the National Security, other agencies to testify in open session about the allegations levelled by the president nearly two weeks ago against President Obama, accusing him basically of committing a felony in those four tweets, that all of us know almost by heart now, but this is going to be a big problem.

BORGER: It already is a big problem. You have the co-chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Democrats and Republicans, saying this did not occur. The Republican leader of the House Intelligence Committee saying he hasn't seen any evidence. The Democrats saying it doesn't occur. So the evidence is piling up. And we'll get more obviously on Monday.

But I think what this shows, Wolf, is that this White House has an inability, and it starts at the top, to say I made a mistake or to say our information was wrong. It took the president a long time to acknowledge that the Russians were trying to hack into the election because he was stuck on the fact that he would have won otherwise. When you took that away, he said, OK, maybe the Russians were trying to hack into our elections. And at some point, he is going to have to say that he wasn't accurate here. And that his words do matter.

And, I think we may have to hear it from the director of the FBI personally for him to say, OK, this did not occur. I think that their way out of this was to say maybe there was a collection being done and people kind of caught up in it. But this White House can never step back and say that they regret any statements and we learned that during the campaign and it's continuing now.

BLITZER: British government I assume wanted to hear a firm rejection from the president at least, Elise. They didn't hear that.

LABOTT: No. They heard, "Talk to FOX." And this is the thing about not relying -- and the U.S. and the Brits have such a close intelligence relationship. Rely on the intelligence reports. And this is the problem. He has said he does not trust the intelligence community and, instead, he trusts FOX News. And I think that's going to cause problems with his own intelligence apparatus.

[14:54:35] BLITZER: The tweets were, in part, based on what he acknowledged he heard on the Bret Baier show on FOX News. Not from any sources in intelligence or a law enforcement source.

Everybody, thanks very much.

We're going to have a lot more on the breaking news. We're getting word that the man who jumped the White House fence last weekend was on the ground, on the White House grounds for 15 minutes before he was apprehended. You're going to hear what went wrong.

Also, we're learning that a Secret Service agent's laptop has been stolen and it contained floor plans for Trump Tower, among other issues.

Our special coverage continues right after a quick break.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[14:59:32] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You are watching CNN.

Breaking news today. You just heard, moments ago, the president of the United States responding for the first time after the bipartisan rebuke that there is absolutely no evidence that he was wiretapped by former President Obama.

Also, President Trump gave his response during this first joint news conference at the White House with the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel. They are face to face today -- according to both analysts and White House officials agree -- in his most important meeting with a foreign leader since he took office some 56 day ago.

But this historic moment, overshadowed by the president's response here, standing by his baseless allegations --