Return to Transcripts main page
Former Trump Adviser Denies Russia Ties; Trump White House Refusing to Disclose Visitor Logs; Nuclear North Korea Fears. Aired 3- 3:30p ET
Aired April 14, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A message that reaches far beyond Navajo Nation.
RUSSELL BEGAYE, PRESIDENT, NAVAJO NATION: We need to recognize that these are real people with families, with children, with spouses, with mom, dad. We need to teach our children to respect and honor law enforcement while they are young, so, when they grow up, when they see a police officer, they will be thankful that somebody is there protecting them.
SANCHEZ: Boris Sanchez, CNN, Window Rock, Arizona.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Continuing on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.
We begin with North Korea. It is vowing any U.S. provocation would lead to a -- quote -- "merciless retaliation that would leave no survivors."
That threat comes amid growing fears that Kim Jong-un could mark an important holiday with yet another nuclear test. And if he does, there's a chance that Vice President Mike Pence could be just across the border. The vice president is scheduled to arrive in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday.
A North Korean nuclear test would be the first one on President Trump's watch, and the president has already said on Twitter that North Korea must be dealt with and if China doesn't do it, the U.S. with its allies with.
CNN's Jessica Schneider is covering the story from Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate and club.
And, Jessica, we know the president is being briefed there in Palm Beach. Who is briefing him on this?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, there was some question last night, when President Trump boarded Air Force One without any of his senior staff, wondering who would be down here with him. Well, we do know now. Members of the National Security County staff,
they are here at Mar-a-Lago in South Florida. They are keeping an eye on the situation. They're briefing and informing the president, of course, monitoring all of this because a new day has dawned on North Korea, of course, their national holiday today.
But it was a relaxed President Trump just a few hours ago this morning. He spent several hours at the Trump International Golf club in West Palm Beach, just a few miles from Mar-a-Lago. We know he was there for most of the morning. He's now back at Mar-a-Lago.
And there's a secure facility at Mar-a-Lago. It's no White House, but it is a secure area where we know that there are videoconferencing features, as well as classified features. The president can get briefings there. That in fact is the area where President Trump was when the strikes happened in Syria this week.
So we know that that staff is keeping monitored of the situation. They are briefing the president, but really, Brooke, no clear indication how President Trump might respond if there is this nuclear test in North Korea that experts have warned on, on this national holiday there in North Korea.
But, of course, earlier this week, we did see a decisive action from the president in Syria and, of course, his military in Afghanistan -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: I guess we now know even the tweets are getting through to North Korea, as they have called him the most aggressive president in history.
Jessica, thank you so much in Florida for us.
Meantime, new video of that massive bomb that the U.S. dropped on ISIS. This is -- these grainy pictures here, this is the moment of impact as the massive so-called Mother of All Bombs exploded over ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan.
This 10-ton smart bomb is one of the most powerful non-nuclear bombs in the U.S. arsenal. We are told the explosion killed at least 36 ISIS fighters and destroyed their tunnels. U.S. military leaders defending the bomb's use for the first time in combat.
As far as how the operation was authorized, President Trump will not say if he, himself, green lit the strike. He was asked about it talking to reporters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Did you authorize it, sir?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody knows exactly what happened. So -- and what I do is I authorize my military. We have the greatest military in the world and they have done a job as usual. So, we have given them total authorization, and that's what they're doing. And, frankly, that's why they have been so successful lately. If you
look at what's happened over the last eight weeks and compare that to really what's happened over the last eight years, you will see there's a tremendous difference, tremendous difference.
So, we have incredible leaders in the military, and we have incredible military, and we are very proud of them, and this was another very, very successful mission.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: This is while sources are telling CNN that it was actually General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who is the one who signed off on the use of this bomb, but that the White House was informed before the bomb was rolled out.
Peter Bergen is joining me, CNN national another security and also knows this part of the world very, very well. Jason Beardsley with me, former intelligence officer and Green Beret and CEO of the Underground Movement.
Gentlemen, thank you so much for being here.
And Jason, just beginning with you, coming off of the president's sound there, the fact that he is being vague on whether he was the one who authorized this bomb, do you think that's beneficial for the commander of chief?
JASON BEARDSLEY, FORMER GREEN BERET: Well, thanks, Brooke, for having me on.
I think he's talking about kind of a standard thing in the military, this sort of bifurcation of approval and authority. And a lot of times, I think what he's trying to tell us he's pushed the sort of approvals and authorities for certain actions down to the regional commanders, but also we have got the trust in guys like H.R. McMaster and James Mattis.
These are two of the great titans of national security advisers that we have seen in a long time. And two are well-thought-out. I think what he's telling us is he's pushed the decision down to them. He's got a trust in his military leadership. He mentioned in that clip that we have got an incredible military, we've got incredible leaders.
There's no doubt that the two guys together, M&M, are going to kind of handle that policy. And we've got to build some trust in that. And I think Donald Trump has showed us what that looks like to trust those leaders. So whether it benefits him or not, I think it will because it encourages the military at the regional and sub-theater command level to know that the president has got trust in the forces that he's hired to do this work.
BALDWIN: Peter, how do you see it?
PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. I mean, I basically agree.
I think that we know from CNN's reporting, as you have said, Brooke, that it was General John Nicholson who made this, who authorized this. This was a tactical decision. I'm sure he flagged up the chain that he was going to do this, but he didn't seek permission, and it's quite within his rights to do this.
After all, this was not -- it's one strike. It's not like a change of strategy in Afghanistan. Right now, CNN is reporting that General McMaster will be traveling to Afghanistan soon, and we're in the middle of a big review of the Afghan situation.
BERGEN: And, clearly, there's a lot of work to be done beyond just this strike.
BALDWIN: Yes, you're correct. And General McMaster, it is significant that he will be there -- quote, unquote -- "soon." That's all we know.
But, Jason, back over to you. Just looking at it from the other side, if some sort of strike were to go awry or an operation and there were to be collateral damage, and this wasn't something that the president himself would personal authorize, where does the buck stop then?
BEARDSLEY: Right. Excellent question.
In reality, the buck still stops at the president's desk. We lost a special forces soldier last week. Our commanders are going to make these positions. And the reason they're in those positions is that they are thoroughly thought-out and they're well-trained professionals.
H.R. McMaster, his thesis was on the balance between civil and military relations. He's a studied sort of acolyte of that sort of discipline. So, even though they're going to wear those decisions if something goes wrong, as you point out, the buck still stops with the president.
But this is why good presidents and good leaders in combat situations, you know, you have to fire generals. We saw that time and time throughout in memoriam throughout our history. When you get the right generals in place, and you have the right policy, they will use judicious wisdom to make these decisions and we will see positive effects, not just tactically, but strategically, which means politically they walk away with a win.
BALDWIN: On the win, we know it was 36 ISIS fighters who were killed here. That's a good thing any way you look at it.
But, again, this the biggest bomb of this kind in the U.S. arsenal, never been used before, called the Mother of All Bombs. When you hear 36 ISIS fighters, how does that ring for you?
BERGEN: Well, I'm pretty familiar with where that bomb was dropped. And if you send in conventional forces or even special forces, you would be -- these are the dug-in positions. This is one of the most remote places on the planet. They know it very well.
And there's a cost/benefit analysis. Dropping this bomb was zero civilian casualties and no casualties of Afghans or U.S. or allied troops. I think that was a pretty easy call for the commander.
BALDWIN: And just as I'm looking at you and I'm thinking of this part of the world, and of course we all think of your interview with Osama bin Laden, and you can never tell us exactly where you were, but somewhere in this part of the world.
Were you aware then of those intricate -- of the tunnels of -- obviously, it was al Qaeda. Now we're talking about ISIS. Can you tell me just briefly about that?
So, we interviewed bin Laden for CNN somewhere in the region of where this bomb was dropped. It was in the middle in the night, so I have no idea exactly where we were. We were blindfolded.
BERGEN: But point is, is that this is a place that al Qaeda and other jihadis have been using since the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
These groups knows this area very, very well. It's very remote, got lots of caves. It's right on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's sort of a no man's land. And that's why they are there.
Tora Bora, where bin Laden disappeared in 2001, it was probably a dozen miles from where this bomb hit. This is an area that has just been traditionally used by these groups and will continue to be used by these groups because of its remoteness and its closeness to the Pakistan border.
BALDWIN: Peter Bergen, thank you so much.
Jason Beardsley, thank you for coming on. Thank you for, of course, serving our country as well. Thank you, gentlemen.
Let's move on, though, and talk about Carter Page. The president's former adviser, we've now learned that the FBI received a warrant, FISA warrant to monitor him as a possible Russian agent. This guy has been all over the radio, all over television, totally contradicting himself. What's going on there?
Also, she has become an important figure as tensions are rising around the world, as we've been talking about. How often does the president of the United States actually call U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley? You might be surprised. The ambassador gets candid and talks about their relationship with Jamie Gangel.
And just in, the Trump administration announcing that it will not reveal its visitor logs over at the White House, which breaks with the Obama administration. The question we're asking is why. We will be right back.
BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN on this Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
CNN is now learning British intelligence shared with the United States communications between associates of Donald Trump and Russian officials during the campaign. These intercepts were captured during routine surveillance of these Russian officials.
This is happening as Carter Page, the Trump campaign's former foreign policy adviser, has been trying to downplay his links to Russia and his role in the campaign in a series of puzzling interviews. Page offering contradictory answers as to what he may have talked about with the Russians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Did you ever talk to anyone there about maybe President Trump if he were elected, then candidate Trump, would be willing to get rid of the sanctions?
CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Never any direct conversations such as that. Look, it's...
TAPPER: What do you mean direct conversations? I don't know what that means, direct conversations.
PAGE: Well, I'm just saying, no -- that was never said. No.
I never offered that, no, nothing along those lines, absolutely not. It may -- topics -- I don't -- we will see what comes out in this FISA transcript. Something may have come up in a conversation. I have no recollection and there's nothing specifically that I would have done that would have given people that impression.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: With us now, Carl Bernstein, CNN political analyst and journalist and author.
It is so good to have you back, by the way, in person.
You have been all over this story. And Carter Page is all over television. I'm curious, who do you think is advising him and what's going on with this guy?
CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I have no idea who's advising him.
And I think he's trying to save his legal position, so that he can avoid any kind of prosecution. And I don't pretend to know what his exact situation is.
I think much more important is the fact that the president of the United States is impeding and obstructing our ability to find out what has really happened with the Russians and people around his campaign.
And I don't mean obstruction in the sense of obstruction of justice as a legal matter, but, rather, by trying to divert us with talking about what Susan Rice did or leaks and all the rest, he has done absolutely nothing except try and keep investigators from knowing what went on with the people around him, whether it's Flynn, whether it's Sessions, all of these matters.
So, it's time for the president of the United States to say, we want to get to the bottom of how it was that a hostile foreign power tried to undermine our most basic element of democracy, free elections in this country, and I want everybody near me, around me, in my campaign, in my administration to go down those committees to tell the whole story.
BERNSTEIN: He's done just the opposite.
So, that raises the question, why has he done the opposite? And what we know of these intercepts by the British and by others is that they believe and did a little whistle-blowing action on their own, went to the FBI, went to the CIA. And this is known to the prime minister of Britain.
It's known to the heads of state elsewhere in Europe that people close to Donald Trump were discussing things in an inappropriate way about the election with Russian operatives of some kind.
We need to know what happened, and not have a president who is keeping us from what knowing what happened.
BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.
And on the president, and we have been talking a bit this week about the president's reversals. There's been a lot going on obviously with regard to Russia and how once upon a time he wouldn't say an ill word about Vladimir Putin, and said it wouldn't be bad if we have a relationship with Russia, to now changing his tune on Putin, changing his tune on Assad, even on China as a currency manipulator and how he now stands on that.
What do you make of the shift in the president?
BERNSTEIN: I make, one, that he's perhaps learning on the job. I hope that that's the case. BALDWIN: Are you encouraged by it?
BERNSTEIN: It's not a question of encouragement.
So far, we have been seen an incoherent presidency, as well as this whole question of lying. And let's put just aside Russia, that the hallmark of this presidency has been lying by the president of the United States, demonstrable untruths, one after another after another, compulsively.
Hopefully, he will that behind him, including having to do with Russia. But the strategy, we have seen no coherent strategy whatsoever about the United States as a world power.
BERNSTEIN: Now perhaps we will see a coherent philosophy. I don't know.
We have seen him change his position at least to the point of saying that the United States has a different role in the world than the one I imagined when I was a candidate for president of the United States.
But three days does not a new Donald Trump make. He's been Donald Trump for 70 years, and he hasn't changed his spots yet. So I would not jump up and down and expect to see a coherent set of anything in the space of a few days. Let's be hopeful.
BALDWIN: OK. Some people are hopeful. The man himself called himself flexible.
And that could be...
BALDWIN: There are many politicians, Carl, who are so stuck in the mud and don't change their opinions.
BERNSTEIN: Donald Trump is flexible in the following way. Donald Trump's whole life has been about winning for himself, not for other people, but winning himself.
I think he has seen in the White House he hasn't been winning. So maybe trying some different ways might get him toward winning and winning affection as well or a sense of accomplishment from the people of the United States.
Affection, I don't want to overdo it here, although, look, the other thing is, he has 40 percent, whatever that number is, of people who think he's doing a good job. He has real support in this country. Let's not minimize it, even though it might be the lowest numbers of a new president, ever.
He's changing some things. Let's look at it. But, meanwhile, the president of the United States needs to be truthful. And that's the bottom line. And so far, we haven't seen evidence of that. And on this question of the Russians, it's really important if -- and it's also possible -- you know, you asked me about Carter Page.
It's possible that what some of this business with the Russians could be about are people who were co-opted by the Russians around Donald Trump, and then in fact Donald Trump could have been duped in some ways into the positions that he took in the campaign.
I'm not saying that happened, but it's a suggest that that could have happened, if not something more nefarious. But, again, Mr. President, open up. Tell your people, let's see what happened.
BALDWIN: I think to your point, we just don't know. We don't know yet.
BERNSTEIN: No. We don't know. What don't.
BERNSTEIN: What we do know is the president of the United States has done nothing but divert and not tell us, hey, we want to get to the bottom of this. We have seen no indication of that.
BALDWIN: OK. Carl, thank you.
BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.
BALDWIN: Thank you very much.
BERNSTEIN: Coming up next, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations sits down with CNN, what Ambassador Nikki Haley says about her relationship with President Trump and her ambitions for the future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: He knew that, when he hired me, that I made it clear I didn't want to be a wallflower or talking head. I'm very passionate by nature, and he's fine with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: We will talk to -- we have that piece from Jamie Gangel.
Also, the first big test for the social part of the Trump White House, the Easter egg roll. A woman who organized this massive event for eight years joins me live.
BALDWIN: She has gone from being a powerful figure in Republican state to being a dominant and outspoken voice in the Trump administration.
Nikki Haley sat down with CNN to reflect on her rise on the world stage as the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. And you may actually be surprised to find out that it was a very famous Democrat who actually inspired her to get into politics in the first place.
CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel has more.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From condemning the chemical attacks in Syria.
HALEY: Look at those victims.
GANGEL: To her aggressive stance on regime change.
HALEY: Strengthening Assad will only lead to more murders.
GANGEL: U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has taken center stage as the leading voice of foreign policy in the Trump administration. Not afraid to speak her mind.
HALEY: For those who don't have our backs, we're taking names.
GANGEL: Or contradict her boss.
HALEY: Russia is trying to show their muscle. I don't think that we can trust them.
GANGEL (on camera): Has he ever said to you, you shouldn't have said something?
HALEY: No, he has not.
GANGEL: Are you surprised that he's never?
HALEY: I'm not surprised because he knew that, when he hired me, that I made it clear I didn't want to be a wallflower or talking head. I'm very passionate by nature, and he's fine with it.
GANGEL: How much of it is coordinated with the White House and the State Department?
HALEY: Well, it's always coordinated the White House.
GANGEL: You're not going rogue?
HALEY: No, I would never go rogue, because I'm very aware of who I work for.
But what I will tell you, it's a sign of how this president works. It's not uncommon for him to pick up the phone and tell me what he feels on an issue. It's not uncommon for him to say, make sure you say this, don't be afraid to say this.
He's given me a lot of leeway to just see what I think and interpret what he thinks. I'm a strong voice by nature. I'm sometimes a bull in a china shop and he allows me to do that.
GANGEL (voice-over): Friends say that same strength and independence served Haley well growing up in Bamberg, South Carolina. The daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, her father was a professor, her mother a lawyer. But the family suffered constant discrimination.
HALEY: They had never seen anybody in a turban. They had never seen anybody in a sari. So, they didn't know who we were, what we were, or what were about. And so growing up was -- you always knew you were different. You felt it.
GANGEL: One such memorable moment, when she and her sister were disqualified --