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Trump Administration Makes Conflicting Comments on Iran Nuclear Deal; Bill O'Reilly Forced Out At FOX News. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 20, 2017 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[08:00:00] REP. TED DEUTCH (D), FLORIDA: -- hosted a dinner for President Xi, and his daughter sat next to the president of China the same day that China approved a number of trademarks that will benefit her business, which is the family business. He has to once and for all put the business of the American people first as his sole priority and take the steps necessary to stop violating the constitution and the foreign payments clause and to avoid these conflicts. That's what the American people expect.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman Ted Deutch, thank you for being on NEW DAY, appreciate it.

All right, there are three big stories going on at the same time. Let's get after it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Trump administration is currently conducting a comprehensive review of our Iran policy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If there is trouble in the region you find Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president said he had an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact that happened. It is happening, rather.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These kinds of mistakes could be problematic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really a rudderless administration from its aircraft carrier fiasco to their lack of coordination in their messaging.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bill O'Reilly is leaving the network in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is about women's rights not to have the threat of a job hanging over us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Murdochs recognized a lot of change needs to happen at FOX.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think Bill did anything wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're cut from the same cloth. They're two of a kind. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, so we have a lot to talk about on this show. It is a very full show as it often is, and obviously we will be covering how the face of cable news has changed as of today, and we will talk about all the ramifications of Bill O'Reilly's exit.

CUOMO: And it is. It's more than just who was the big name at FOX News. It's how that will company change. And what does that mean for the presidency? Remember the connection between Trump and O'Reilly not just now but leading all the way up to the presidency?

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. We do begin with Iran becoming the latest target of the Trump administration. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson calling for a comprehensive review of the nuclear deal one day after saying that Iran was complying with that deal. Tillerson now says Iran could soon pose the same nuclear threat as North Korea.

CUOMO: The Trump administration is sending mixed messages on foreign policy and that has critics questioning why the White House is agitating another potentially powerful adversary, escalating tensions with North Korea, Russia, Syria, and now maybe Iran. Day 91 of the Trump presidency. Let's begin our coverage with Joe Johns live at the White House. Good morning, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris. This new administration is saying Iran is playing by the rules, but they are still reviewing the Iran nuclear agreement, the latest example of this administration sort of going in two different directions on foreign policy. If you will remember, Donald Trump just railed against this deal while he was on the campaign trail. But now he's in the Oval Office, it looks a little different.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The JCPOA fails to achieve the objective of a nonnuclear Iran and only delays their goal of becoming a nuclear state.

JOHNS: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declaring the Iranian nuclear deal a failure one day after the State Department said exactly the opposite, affirming in a statement that Iran has been compliant with its commitments to the deal. Despite this compliance, Tillerson ratcheting up the rhetoric against Tehran.

TILLERSON: And unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea and take the world along with it.

JOHNS: Announcing that the deal is under review but stopping short of threatens to issue additional sanctions or dismantle the agreement, one of President Trump's top campaign promises.

TRUMP: My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.

(APPLAUSE)

JOHNS: Tillerson's attempt to clarify the administration's position the latest in a string of mixed messages on foreign policy. Earlier this week President Trump called the Turkish president to congratulate him on a referendum that strengthened his rule just hours after the State Department noted reports of irregularities in the vote. The White House also struggling to get its story straight about why the administration said in April that an aircraft carrier was racing toward the Korean peninsula in response to North Korea's provocations.

TRUMP: We are sending an armada, very powerful.

JOHNS: When in reality the fleet was headed in the opposite direction.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president said he had an armada going towards the peninsula. That's a fact. It happened. It is happening, rather. The statement that was put out was that the group was headed to the Korean peninsula. It is headed to the Korean peninsula.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's headed there now. It wasn't headed there.

SPICER: Sure, no, no. But that's not what we ever said.

JOHNS: Meanwhile House Speaker Paul Ryan rallying NATO allies amid escalating tensions with another international power, Russia.

[08:05:002 REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Russia interfered in our elections and they are interfere in elections here in Europe as we speak.

JOHNS: As the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee says the Russia investigation is back on track.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: I think we're very close to agreement on our initial witness list and the process going forward.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And new this morning on the White House beat, there has been a new development in the case of an undocumented immigrant who may have been deported by the U.S. government despite the fact he had protected status under the DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The new development is that case will be heard by Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the same judge Donald Trump the candidate suggested on the campaign trail may have been biased due to his Mexican heritage even though he was born in Indiana. So that's a case we'll be watching. Back to you.

CAMEROTA: Joe, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all of this, including this Judge Curiel development. We want to bring in our panel. We have CNN political analyst David Gregory, chief White House correspondent for the Associated Press Julie Pace, and former U.S. undersecretary for political affairs and former State Department official, Ambassador Nicholas Burns. Great to have all of you.

David Gregory Judge Curiel is back in the limelight now because of this dreamer case. I mean, he's become this inadvertent nemesis of the Trump administration.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, you know, you poke the judiciary and this is what you get, you know, the judiciary can poke back, at least in circumstances. Remember, when Judge Curiel was on the Trump University case and Trump candidate said he would be unfair. Why? Because he was of Mexican heritage even though it wasn't Mexican heritage, although that's not what the president said. He said he's a Mexican. In fact he's from Indiana.

But what was notable at that time and it's relevant here is that Trump's lawyers never complained about Judge Curiel substantively. They never said he conducted himself in any way other than totally professionally in the Trump case and they never filed to have him removed on the case. So it was all bluster on the part of candidate Trump. And now there is nothing in the ethics laws that would require Judge Curiel to recuse himself just because he had been attacked by a public official. We'll see if there is any reason that those in the case would see a reason to do that, but it doesn't appear to be the case at this time.

CUOMO: It is very interesting. Julie, the study of impartiality would suggest that criticism from a public official never really triggers any suggestion that a judge couldn't do a case because, according to one ethics expert, it would create a perverse incentive for public officials to criticize judges that have cases about them. But isn't that exactly what we see from the White House? And do you believe there's a chance that when they hear it is Curiel that they will make that relevant in the analysis of the case?

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I don't think there is any reason to believe they wouldn't if you look not only at the comments that Trump made about Judge Curiel during the campaign but then the comments he was making about the judges that were involved in cracking down on the travel bans, the two travel bans that the White House tried to put forward. This in some ways is part of the president's strategy in dealing with legal issues. And, so, for him, whether it is against the advice of his own legal counsel or not, for him this is his strategy when it comes to dealing with the courts.

CAMEROTA: Ambassador Burns let's talk about Iran and where the U.S. stands with Iran today, and perhaps you can help us parse Secretary Tillerson's statements. He had said yesterday Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, the nuclear deal that President Trump had criticized on the campaign trail. And then today he basically suggests, but Iran could become as big a nuclear threat as North Korea. So which one is it?

AMB. NICOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. UNDERSECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, it is a contradiction, and the administration has a real dilemma. The Iran nuclear deal is a fact. I happen to support it. I think it freezes Iran's program for 10 to 15 years. But even if Donald Trump wanted to pull out, he doesn't have the option because the British, the French and the Germans would not leave with us. And if Iran would get all the sanctions relief, and if the deal ends, Iran would have all the restrictions lifted. That's the worst deal for the United States.

I don't think Donald Trump could survive that in terms of his credibility and NATO with the NATO allies, and it certainly would be a defeat for American foreign policy.

The dilemma is that Iran is a problem in another venue. It's stoking the fires in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria it's aligned with Assad. They have Revolutionary Guard troops on the ground. They are gearing up for the next rocket war against Israel by delivering missiles to Hamas and Hezbollah. That's the threat. I think the president would be bipartisan support for efforts to try to block the Iranians in conventional terms by sanctions, for instance, in Congress, by tougher talk on that issue, by helping the Sunni allies and Europeans to block it. That's where I think he should go.

[08:10:06] But there is no room for him to walk out of this Iranian deal without suffering a major defeat for American foreign policy.

CUOMO: Julie, do you hear anything on the reporting side that would knit what Tillerson is saying about Iran right now with anything resembling a strategy of how to curtail these other activities that Iran is involved in that the ambassador outlined?

PACE: There really doesn't seem to be a decision that's been made internally about this other than a recognition they have to deal with Iran's actions. And I think it is important to note that some of what we're hearing from the White House and the State Department right now on Iran is because there are deadlines built into the agreement that require the U.S. to send notifications to Congress, to make decisions on oil exports from Iran. So you are going to hear these periodic updates from the administration.

I think what you saw this week was an attempt to both not make a major change in U.S. policy but also try to talk tough on Iran. But everything that I have heard behind the scenes from this administration in terms of their conversations with foreign countries who are partners in this deal is that they're signaling that the U.S. is not ready to pull out of this deal. So we may hear a lot of bluster, but my reporting shows, particularly with our European allies, our partners, they are not worried at this point that Trump is going to cut and run from the Iran deal.

GREGORY: Can I just add, this is why this is a contradiction Nick underlined is so hallow from the secretary of state. You're following a process on the one hand where there is compliance and then you're talking tough the next day. It makes perfect sense a new administration wants to take a close look at this, particularly since the president as a candidate said he was going to rip this thing up. They're not going to do it. There's too much at stake. They don't have the maneuverability as Nick said.

But any administration wants to take a really hard look at what's happening conventionally and the problems that Iran poses, as well as the fact that under the best of circumstances this nuclear deal just buys the western world some time. So you have got to take a look at how you deter Iran over the longer term. I suspect that's what the administration is doing, but if there is a strategy it is really more tactical, which is they want to know an array of toughness in dealing with all these foes around the world.

CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much for all of the analysis.

CUOMO: All right, let's get to the other big story this morning. FOX News firing its biggest star. Bill O'Reilly is gone after more than two decades as the face of that network. FOX's parent company caving to pressure as the claims of sexual harassment have piled up and advertisers have fled the show. CNN's senior media correspondent Brian Stelter has the story. Brian?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: This is the day many inside and outside FOX thought would never come. Bill O'Reilly was thought to be invincible. When he went on vacation eight or nine days ago, he said I'll be back. I'll tell you all about my trip. Turns out he flew home from Italy last night. By the time he landed, he was out of a job.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Bill O'Reilly's two decade reign as the king of FOX News coming to an abrupt end.

HOWARD KURTZ, FOX NEWS HOST: Bill O'Reilly, the biggest star in the 20 year history of FOX News, is leaving the network in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct.

STELTER: His namesake show canceled amid growing sexual harassment allegations from women associated with the network. FOX News quickly removing the anchor's name from his show. Rupert Murdoch and his sons, who lead 21st Century FOX, announcing the decision in a statement on Wednesday, writing "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel. This decision follows an extensive review done in collaboration with outside counsel."

O'Reilly, who has been on vacation for a week overseas, dismissed the accusations in a statement. "It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims, but that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today."

That statement a sharp contrast to a "New York Times" investigation which this month revealed that O'Reilly and 21st Century FOX paid out $13 million in settlements to women who launched harassment claims against O'Reilly. LISA BLOOM, ATTORNEY FOR O'REILLY ACCUSERS: This is a disgusting

human being. These women not only stood up for their rights not to be sexually harassed by their boss, but they were then driven out of the FOX News and driven out of the television industry entirely.

STELTER: It was only nine months ago that FOX News chief Roger Ailes was ousted by the Murdochs after his own firestorm of sexual harassment claims. President Trump stood by Ailes and also denied the accusations, and just two weeks ago Trump defended O'Reilly, a friend of 30 years, in a "New York Times" interview.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a good person. I think he may -- you know, I think he shouldn't have settled. Personally, I think he shouldn't have settled. I don't think Bill would do anything wrong.

STELTER: Critics now wondering if this latest firing by the Murdoch goes far enough in addressing what they see as a systemic problem at the network.

[08:15:07] REP. MAXINE WATERS (D), CALIFORNIA: Let me just say this, the day will come when rich persons, rich men, won't be able to buy their way out of this criminal activity, and they will go to jail and they should go to jail.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STELTER: Many other questions on the mind of media executives. For instance, will President Trump weigh in on this? And more urgently, are there other women coming forward, making accusations of sexual or racial harassment. In just a few minutes, the 21st Century board will meet.

Chris and Alisyn, obviously, these issues, this fallout, will be a tough topic.

CAMEROTA: All right. Brian, stick around. We're going to need to talk to you about all of this for analysis, because coming up we have more on O'Reilly's stunning downfall. We will look at the impact of his exit on all of us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Bill O'Reilly, the biggest star at FOX News, fired amid mounting sexual harassment allegations. And it must be said, mounting pressure by advertisers that were fleeing O'Reilly show.

Let's discuss why this happened, what happens next, what does it mean?

We have CNN political commentator Margaret Hoover who used to appear on O'Reilly show. CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. CNN media analyst Bill Carter. Reporter and editor-at-large for CNN politics, Chris Cillizza.

So, Margaret, you were there. When you heard about this, this is a big surprise that they actually took this step. [08:20:01] Do you believe it is a justified step?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely, it's a justified step. And I commend the new leadership at FOX News, especially the younger generation, James and Lachlan Murdoch, its seems, who are really taking steps to modernize a culture that is desperately in need of it.

CUOMO: Why?

HOOVER: There was a feeling there and, Alison and I have talked about this a bit, we've talked about this a bit, where it wasn't just sexual harassment. Sexual harassment was just one sort of perversion in the culture. But there is a culture of bullying. There was a culture where you got a sense you had to say certain things, look a certain way, be a certain way in order to move up at FOX News.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Or you would even be in trouble, forget just moving up. I mean, you would be called to the woodshed and get in trouble from Roger Ailes if you didn't sort of comply with his idea of what you should say was.

I know you experienced that. I experienced that. And so, I mean -- one of the lessons -- there are many lessons here this morning. But one is that unchecked power is a bad thing. And he ruled with an iron fist. And so --

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, it is the old absolute power adage.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely power.

CARTER: Of course.

CAMEROTA: And so, you know, this was a culture that O'Reilly was part of, I was never sexually harassed by Bill O'Reilly, but he clearly could do what he wanted to do there.

CUOMO: But they didn't fire him, I don't think. I mean, we'll have to hear what they want to say. If they wanted to move on in for this kind of stuff, they didn't need to wait. They could have done this a long time ago.

So, when you look at what justified the actions, how do you stack up the motivators? Because if it's just, he's a bully, he's not nice to men and women alike, you're not going to lose your job for that.

CARTER: No.

CUOMO: The sexual harassment cases or --

CARTER: The advertiser response and the Sky News issue offer hanging everything. I think the economic issues dominated.

I do think once it became obvious that all these advertisers -- and what, were there 50 at some point? STELTER: At least. And more privately, but at least 50 publicly

speaking out.

CARTER: That is an overwhelming number and I think inside FOX News, they all thought these guys probably won't come back if we keep him on the air because it won't let him. The advertisers won't come back. I do think the advertising pressure dominated.

CAMEROTA: I thought a lot about the protesters in the last couple days, what it must be like to go through that gauntlet of protesters who are out front of FOX News who are protesting, to take O'Reilly off the air, and as a woman to go into that office, having to if your way to the protesters. I mean, that just couldn't stay like that. That situation was reaching a boiling point.

STELTER: I have sympathy for women and men, but really the women at FOX News have been under a microscope, wondering if they too have been harassed. It seems to be there was this culture of silence in and around FOX. And as a reporter on the outside, I was somewhat aware of O'Reilly's reputation, but not the details we've heard about recently.

Clearly, "The New York Times" story a couple of weeks ago shine a very harsh spotlight and triggered this ad boycott and the other affects that we're describing, like the protesters.

CUOMO: But also, look, the matter of fact, Cillizza, is that with Bill O'Reilly on his show, it put cold water on the allegations. Because you knew there was an investigation going on, you assume of somewhat a responsible corporate culture, you know? So him being there was at least tacitly a rejection of everything we're hearing now.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: And, remember that, you know, one of the things that always distinguished FOX from CNN, MSNBC and everybody else was Ailes never apologized for anything. There would be controversies, including people still there.

CUOMO: And neither is Bill O'Reilly. He said all of these allegations are false and it is just happening because he is a big celebrity and it's a lefty attack on him.

CILLIZZA: Just sail the ship forward, that the people who are with him and there are a lot of those people in terms of viewers, those people are going to be with them no matter what. Paint it as this is political correctness run amuck. This is the liberal media. This is how they're choosing to cover it. They don't like we're so popular.

So, it is fascinating to me because that was so long their reputation built on Ailes and O'Reilly, which is you just never say you're sorry, just keep going, which by the way might have an echo of someone currently in the White House who is not a big fan of ever saying you're sorry.

HOOVER: How ironic the conservative media movement, really, a movement that prides itself on taking personal responsibility, the prides itself on family values and moral righteousness. And, frankly, I was on Bill O'Reilly show as a culture warrior, all right? How ironic that this is a man who now is acting like a victim of the left, right, a monster scalp taken, right, that he is now embracing the politics of victimization, right, instead of -- pretending this had nothing to do with his own actions, taking responsibility for his own action.

I mean, this is the irony of the modern conservative media racket.

STELTER: If Bill O'Reilly wants a job elsewhere, he has to continue to keep that up. He says it's unfounded. He has to continue to say he's a victim of this liberal media attack in order to get a job.

[08:25:04] CARTER: It's also part of the conservative movement. There's always a grievance. They feel like they're excluded and they're -- the rest of the world is out to get them, et cetera. So, I do think that fits the narrative in that way.

STELTER: Not a feeling that's exclusive to conservatives, by the way. We see liberal versions of that, too, but very visible in this story. A lot of the reactions to this from O'Reilly's fans had been to blame the messengers.

CAMEROTA: So, we obviously still have many friends in FOX News and there was a feeling -- I had high hopes when Roger left that the culture would change, but it can be even trenched and there are still vestiges of the Roger era. So there is a feeling there is more to come.

STELTER: Yes, there are pending lawsuits and claims from other women that suggests there has not been the whole change that was needed at FOX News. There is a meeting coming up this morning that, the leaders of the company -- I wonder what other steps could be taken in the weeks and months to come.

But a lot of Ailes' deputies are still there running the show. They now have big jobs on their hands. But some of them are under scrutiny themselves for their inaction over these --

CUOMO: Sins of omission. What was ignored was empowered. How much do you have to change the management to change the culture?

HOOVER: All -- here's a thing. Roger Ailes did build this empire, it's very successful in terms of media and rating. But it had all of these culture flaws, right?

The lieutenants who implemented that vision are all still there, all right? So you are not going to change a culture unless you change the individuals who are able to execute that vision on a day-to-day basis. And that's I think what's at the heart of the maintenance of the culture at FOX is pretty rotten.

CARTER: You have to start a new vision. Roger was the vision tear for sure. I think everybody just did his bidding. People had to say his words exactly the way he wanted them.

HOOVER: But I'd like to separate this from the conservative media. Roger did a very good thing I think by elevating conservative intellectual rigor into the mainstream and that should be separated. Not all of it was rigor, not all of it was rigor. I just think, you know, it is worth separating a man who did some good things and some very bad actions because let's not throw -- as a conservative or Republican, I don't -- let's not throw the baby out with the bath water, right?

CUOMO: There is nothing incompatible with respecting women and being a conservative.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: Right, that should be a hallmark.

HOOVER: Which is why it would be wonderful to hear from the conservative media outlets a real renunciation of this behavior of O'Reilly --

CUOMO: You know who we're not hearing from the is the president of the United States. He went out there, Cillizza, and he said O'Reilly is a good guy. Fine, they're friends. But he then opined on this matter as if he had knowledge of the facts.

CILLIZZA: Which he didn't.

CUOMO: Right, there is no reason to believe he did, saying he shouldn't have settled that first case.

CAMEROTA: I'm sure he knew bill O'Reilly's side.

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: As president of the United States, as president, he defended O'Reilly. Do you think it is incumbent upon the president to come out and say something?

CILLIZZA: Do I think he should? Yes. Do you think he will? Absolutely not.

You know, again, the thing -- the one thread that ties whether it's Erdogan, Bill O'Reilly, Putin -- Donald Trump likes people who say nice things about him, who pay him the respect that he thinks he deserves.

Now, overwhelming evidence to the contrary, like the chemical attack in Syria, OK, well, Bashar al-Assad, maybe we do need to get involved there. But the point is, Bill O'Reilly always sort of respected Donald Trump as a figure in New York. Donald Trump likes that. Donald Trump will say nice things about you if you say nice things about him.

CAMEROTA: Look, the hope is that by talking about all of this today and so publicly, that it will change. If there is still this toxic culture elsewhere, that you sign sunlight on it and it might change. You know, one step a time, baby steps.

So, thank you very much panel for sharing that.

CUOMO: And if you cherish women, this is a conversation you don't stay out of. I use that phrase because that's the president's phrase.

Singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge also in the news. She's joining us ahead of tonight's premiere of CNN's "Soundtracks" to talk about the songs that define history. She's had a role in that change. She's been affected by that change. Interesting combo, ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)