Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Speaks Ahead of Critical NATO Summit; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 25, 2017 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And between them you have the secretary-general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.

And as we wait, Ron Brownstein, to hear from them, how real do you believe these leaders think President Trump -- I don't know if threat is the right way to put it, but unwillingness to fully, fully stand behind its Article Five commitment is?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, that picture is fascinating.

HARLOW: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: I'm reminded of the famous Henry Kissinger quote of, like, you know when you want to talk to Europe, who do you call on the phone? The answer is now pretty obvious. It's Angela Merkel, who is once again in a stronger position for re-election. You can kind of see them walking there.

I think people don't know because as either Nick Burns or Ivo Daalder, I'm sorry, who said earlier, you know, we do have a mixed message. We have Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson essentially reaffirming the traditional American line about the importance of our alliance with Europe, and you have the president who has continued to express skepticism.

And as I said, even in interviews during the transition, kind of openly dismissive of whether we cared if the European Union stayed together, and the EU, like NATO, was something that was ultimately set in motion by the U.S. and seen in our own interests.

So I think people are looking for, you know, certain words today, but I also think that there is not a great deal of confidence -- excuse me -- that whatever is said today is written in stone. I mean, talk about the Berlin wall, that it cannot be kind of reconsidered down the road. And I think that there is inexorably throughout, however, you know, this presidency, there will not be the sense of commitment to Europe and NATO that I think that European leaders would have felt from previous presidents, no matter what the president says today.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is the Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Let's listen in.

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Our gathering today is an opportunity to chart our shared future and to remember our shared past. The Berlin wall is a symbol of that past. It was built to divide Europe, to keep people in and ideas out. In face of the division, NATO allies stood united, in defense of freedom, democracy and human dignity.

In 1989, the wall was brought down by peaceful protests, by popular movements such as Solidarnosc, and by the bravery of countless men and women across central and eastern Europe.

Each day, all those who will enter this building will pass this memorial. They will understand that freedom will never be defeated and that NATO will always defend the values on which our reliance is founded.

So, Chancellor Merkel, you were in Berlin the very night when the wall came down, and therefore, it's a great honor to welcome you here to Brussels, to the new NATO headquarters, and the floor is yours. Peace.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (Through Translator): Your Majesty, Secretary-General, dear colleagues, NATO's new headquarters will be the future point of reference of NATO. The modern building like the building of this headquarters is a reference to the future. However, if we are to find convincing answers for the future, it is good to remind ourselves of what we have achieved in the past and what we can build on.

This fragment of the Berlin Wall embodies the history that during the Cold War had left its mark on NATO for many decades. However, this wall also symbolizes something that has been a determinant factor for my life for many years, because I lived on the eastern side of the wall, and it is the division of Berlin, it is an expression of the fact that if we stand firm, as did NATO, if we can rely on the courage of our friends from central eastern Europe and from former DDI at the time, then we can bring down a wall and make it something to be remembered.

Our alliance is united in the awareness of the importance to cooperate to insist on freedom, and we all are united in the trust that it is not isolation and the building of walls that make us successful, but open societies that share the same values.

[10:35:06] Ladies and gentlemen, with the end of the East-West conflict, a new era began, a new era bringing new challenges and new dangers. Yet we continue to be an alliance built on shared values, showing solidarity towards its members.

Germany will never forget the contribution NATO made towards making our country become reunited, and this is why we will continue to make our contribution towards security and solidarity as members of this alliance.

(APPLAUSE)

STOLTENBERG: NATO's greatest strength is the enduring bond between North America and Europe. We saw the strength of that bond after the 9/11 attacks against the United States, and President Trump, those attacks struck at the heart of your own hometown in New York. And for the first time, NATO invoked our collective defense clause Article Five. "One for all, and all for one."

Hundreds of thousands of European and Canadian soldiers have served shoulder to shoulder with U.S. troops in Afghanistan for over a decade to help ensure it never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists. It is our solidarity that keeps our nations safe. And when our open and free societies come under attack, we stand up for our values and our way of life. That is why a strong NATO is good for Europe and good for North America.

The 9/11 and Article Five memorial will be a daily reminder of our vital bond. And today we will commit to do more in our common struggle against terrorism.

So, Mr. President, it is a great honor to have you here and a great honor to give you the floor. Peace.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, Secretary General Stoltenberg, Chancellor Merkel -- I thank you very much -- other heads of state and government. I am honored to be here with members of an alliance that has promoted safety and peace across the world.

Prime Minister May, all of the nations here today grieve with you and stand with you. I would like to ask that we now observe a moment of silence for the victims and families of the savage attack which took place in Manchester.

Thank you.

Terrible thing.

This ceremony is a day for both remembrance and resolve.

We remember and mourn those nearly 3,000 innocent people who were brutally murdered by terrorists on September 11th, 2001. Our NATO allies responded swiftly and decisively, invoking for the first time in its history the Article V collective defense commitments.

The recent attack on Manchester and the United Kingdom demonstrates the depths of the evil we face with terrorism. Innocent little girls and so many others were horribly murdered and badly injured while attending a concert. Beautiful lives with so much great potential, torn from their families forever and ever.

TRUMP: It was a barbaric and vicious attack upon our civilization.

All people who cherish life must unite in finding, exposing and removing these killers and extremists. And yes, losers. They are losers.

Wherever they exist in our societies, we must drive them out and never ever let them back in. This call for driving out terrorism is a message I took to a historic gathering of Arab and Muslim leaders across the region, hosted by Saudi Arabia. There, I spent much time with King Salman, a wise man who wants to see things get much better rapidly. The leaders of the Middle East have agreed at this unprecedented meeting to stop funding the radical ideology that leads to this horrible terrorism all over the globe. My travels and meetings have given me renewed hope that nations of many faiths can unite to defeat terrorism, a common threat to all of humanity.

Terrorism must be stopped in its tracks, or the horror you saw in Manchester and so many other places will continue forever. You have thousands and thousands of people pouring into our various countries and spreading throughout. And in many cases, we have no idea who they are. We must be tough. We must be strong. And we must be vigilant.

The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration, as well as threats from Russia and on NATO's eastern and southern borders. These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.

But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years, and not paying in those past years.

Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined. If all NATO members had spent just 2 percent of their GDP on defense last year, we would have had another $119 billion for our collective defense and for the financing of additional NATO reserves.

We should recognize that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats, even 2 percent of GDP is insufficient to close the gaps in modernizing, readiness and the size of forces. We have to make up for the many years lost. Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today's very real and very vicious threats.

If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorism. I want to extend my appreciation to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York for contributing this remnant of the north tower, as well as to Chancellor Merkel and the German people for donating this portion of the Berlin Wall.

TRUMP: It is truly fitting that these two artifacts now reside here so close together at the new NATO headquarters. And I never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost. I refuse to do that. But it is beautiful.

Each one marks a pivotal event in the history of this alliance and in the eternal battle between good and evil: on one side, a testament to the triumph of our ideals over a totalitarian communist ideology, bent on the oppression of millions and millions of people; on the other, a painful reminder of the barbaric evil that still exists in the world and that we must confront and defeat together as a group, as a world. This twisted mass of metal reminds us not only of what we have lost, but also what forever endures: the courage of our people, the strength of our resolve and the commitments that bind us together as one.

We will never forget the lives that were lost. We will never forsake the friends who stood by our side. And we will never waver in our determination to defeat terrorism and to achieve lasting security, prosperity and peace.

Thank you very much. It's a great honor to be here. Thank you.

HARLOW: All right, there you have some remarks from the president, President Trump of the United States, German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A lot that stands out as we watch the leaders of these 28 NATO countries all walk together. We're waiting for two anthems to be played, the Belgium anthem, the NATO anthem. 30 flags will be raised in just a moment as part of this ceremony for the 28 NATO members. And of course the NATO flag and a pending -- a flag for the pending member nation of Montenegro.

What stood out from Angela Merkel's comments is what she said about walls. She said it is not isolation and the building of walls that make us successful.

BERMAN: Yes. And as for the president, he gave the members of NATO a stern lecture. You know, the U.S. president went to the new NATO headquarters and told the members there that it is time for them to pay up. And the fact that all but five nations have not contributed more than 2 percent of their gross domestic product to their militaries, he says puts an unfair burden on U.S. taxpayers.

I'm not sure how that message will be received.

Let's bring back our guests, former ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder. Also with us, Ron Brownstein. Christiane Amanpour is with us now. I'm looking at the screen to find this out. Nic Robertson is here with us as well.

Christiane, let's first go to you. Again, that was a rather stern message from the president of the United States, that it's time for NATO, these NATO members to start paying.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's the message he's been delivering even before he became president. You remember at the convention he started by saying -- he started with this sort of idea of this transactional relationship between the oldest military alliance and the most successful military alliance in the world. And now, though, he's bringing -- they fully expected it, though you could see in the body language of the other members as he was speaking that they did look a little bit like shifty children being lectured by the headmaster. They knew that he was going to be coming with that message, and some of them believe that that message has to be delivered, because it gives them cover to encourage all members to pay their 2 percent of GDP. Some of them are paying it, some of them are not. But what they

really hope to hear was a once and for all commitment to Article 5, you know, an attack on one is an attack on all, and they want to really hear that the president is fully committed to the alliance. So that is the beginning of this relationship.

And then, of course, you know, he came to NATO having called it obsolete. He met Mr. Macron, the new French president, having backed Marine Le Pen, his far-right extremist, and said that it was an honor to meet him and what a great job he's done in his election.

He met again Angela Merkel, who is, as you can see, de facto the leader of the western world in the way she led the beginning of this, she led the march out, and of course, she's meeting with former president Obama. She already did. She had breakfast with him this morning in Berlin.

So a lot of context and a lot of symbolism in what happened today, despite the fact that there will be still disagreements between all those leaders and the United States. But they want to reset on a positive note.

[10:50:02] HARLOW: Ron Brownstein it was very much point, point- counterpoint.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

HARLOW: First, Angela Merkel says don't build walls. That's not the way we move forward together. And then the president, President Trump, comes up and says thousands of people pouring into our country.

BROWNSTEIN: Absolutely.

HARLOW: We must be tough. Remember, Angela Merkel risking a lot politically to allow so many refugees into Germany.

BROWNSTEIN: I thought that was fascinating. I think you're exactly right. And it was an echo of what the president said during the campaign, where he was, you know, openly and deeply critical of Merkel's policy on refugees.

I think, you know, these remarks this morning show that the gulf is still there. Maybe not Atlantic Ocean size, but this was not a full- scale embrace on either side. You could see the effects of kind of the traditional internationalist wing of the Republican Party, Mattis, Tillerson, other voices in Congress, sanding down the sharpest rhetoric from the president during the campaign. He didn't call NATO obsolete, but he didn't give it a full bear hug

either. I don't -- you know, I don't know if he gave it a full embrace of American commitment that many there may have been hoping to hear, and there was that pointed criticism in effect of EU policy on immigration and German policy on immigration, and in turn, Angela Merkel could not have been any more clearer about rejecting the kind of insular vision of how you build security and prosperity in the world that President Trump ran on and that many of the European nationalists have championed as well. So while a full-scale breach was avoided, I think this reminded us as

much about the differences as it did the common values and common interests.

BERMAN: No, no. It seems to me that in the president's speech in Saudi Arabia, he tempered his campaign messages there more than he tempered his messages --

HARLOW: But not -- yes.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

BERMAN: His campaign messages about NATO here to the Europeans.

You know, Ambassador Daalder, to you, you were looking to see what he said about Russia. There was a lot of talk about terror, a lot of talk. He was talking about immigration. A lot of talk. There's a lot of talk about money. One brief sentence about Russia and the threats from Russia posed to Europe. Did you think that was enough?

IVO DAALDER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: No, I don't think so, and I think we saw a president who continued basically his campaign message when it came to NATO by arguing with the allies about how much is being spent but without committing. I'm actually surprised. He did not commit the United States to back Article 5, which is a treaty commitment of the United States.

He did not embrace the idea of common values that this alliance stands together in the way that Secretary-General Stoltenberg and Chancellor Merkel talked about freedom, about democracy, about the rule of law as the foundation of the common values of the transatlantic alliance and that it is about the defense of those values and the solidarity that lies behind it that is the essence of NATO.

And instead, we saw a lecture of the kind we saw during the campaign about how much the United States is paying more than others and how important it is -- and it is important -- that Europe do more. But if this is a transactional relationship, then it's not just about what Europe should do, it's also what the United States commits to do, and understanding that the threat to Europe comes from Russia today as much, if probably more, than it comes from terrorism, and that the United States is prepared as the leader of NATO to be there for the defense of Europe.

HARLOW: Nic, he did begin -- Nic Robertson, I want to bring you in as well with noting the Manchester attack, marking a moment of silence for the victims of that attack, saying to British Prime Minister Theresa May, as you could see him look for her to make eye contact, saying we grieve with you. But again, it is in the wake of those attacks that Article 5 is so critical, right? The United States after 9/11, it being invoked, and now you have this rift between the UK and the U.S. right now because of the intelligence leaks surrounding all of that, Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, Theresa May right in the middle of an election cycle, and her positioning of herself close to President Trump is something that potentially, it could be part of the campaign issue. We've heard the leader of the opposition in Britain saying he won't surrender Britain's security to a President Trump White House.

So there was another point that came up, brought up by President Trump there that is potentially politically damaging, not just to Theresa May, but Angela Merkel as well -- resurrecting this idea that NATO needs to be tough on immigration, not enough to pay their 2 percent, not enough to pick up the fight against terrorism, which it's been doing for more than well over a decade, but also needs to be tough on immigration.

When the president arrives here at the G-7 in Italy in just a couple of days' time, he'll find that one of the topics on the agenda -- Secretary Tillerson was here in Italy just a month ago, we're hearing it back then, is the immigration -- is the issue of what to do about all the migrants that come into Italy and the rest of Europe, across the sea from Libya. So that we can expect to be a hot topic there.

[10:55:02] But I think Secretary Tillerson will also be reflecting on a moment that he had at the NATO headquarters a month ago, where the German Foreign minister said, yes, we do have a plan, there are plans to up defense spending to 2 percent of GDP. It's called a budget. The feeling from some European leaders is you cannot turn on a dime and suddenly up defense spending to 2 percent.

Just to add one other thought into the mix here, for the Europeans at the moment, one of their considerations is how do we spend that money when we up it? In Europe writ large, there are many manufacturers of tanks, many manufacturers of fighter aircraft, unlike the United States, so they have to consider how and where they spend that money and what integrated defense procurement spending manufacturing system.

BERMAN: And we're getting a look right now of what we call the class photo. This is the leaders of all 28 NATO nations standing on a stage right there. Watch for the body language. Watch to see who is standing where. I haven't seen President Trump enter and walk on that stage yet, so we're going to keep our eyes on that.

While we wait for that, our White House reporter Sara Murray joins us.

And Sara, you know, Poppy was talking about --

HARLOW: There he is.

BERMAN: You see President Trump and the British Prime Minister Theresa May walk in right now. Poppy was talking about the concern over leaks. Great Britain very concerned about this and we just got a statement from the White House.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Obviously, we know that the British prime minister is very concerned about leaks from the U.S. surrounding their investigation into the Manchester incident, so this is the statement that President Trump just put out saying, "The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling. These leaks have been going on for a long time and my administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security."

He said he's going to have the Justice Department look into that and prosecute anyone that they deem responsible. So similar to what we've heard from President Trump over the last couple of weeks, condemning leaks coming from the intelligence agencies.

It's also worth noting that Prime Minister Theresa May talked about this on her way into the NATO meeting today, talking about how treasured this intelligence-sharing relationship is between the U.S. and the UK, but the fact that both sides need to be able to trust each other.

BERMAN: Poppy -- I mean, sorry, Ambassador Daalder, again -- actually, sorry.

Sara Murray, then. I'm getting different messages here. Sara Murray, to you. The White House -- the president just said, specifically did not tell the NATO members that we have your back. He specifically did not recommit to Article 5 there. Are you getting a sense from the people there who helped him prepare these remarks if that was a specific message that he intended to send?

MURRAY: Well, we did not get a good sense of whether the president would say that himself. We heard his advisers in the run-up to this say that they supported Article 5 and they believed that we are sort all in this together with the other leaders of NATO, but I do think it was a little bit of a slap in the face to some of the other members, and you could see that when President Trump was talking a little bit in their facial expressions as he was continuing to talk about how everyone needs to pay their fair share but never sort of voiced his own commitment to Article 5 or the fact that he would have the back of other members of NATO.

HARLOW: Christiane Amanpour, let me just bring you back in here as we look at these pictures. This is quite a moment in this presidency. This is his first international trip. He chooses to go to NATO, an institution that he has been very critical of, especially during the campaign, an institution that he schooled, in a sense, with his remarks in front of them today. What are your final thoughts as they head into these private meetings?

AMANPOUR: Well, just very quickly, I've spoken both to a former, you know, U.S. counterintelligence official and to the current German deputy finance minister who are all watching this. On the big picture here, they believe, and this is from the German point of view and the European point of view, that they started so far away from the U.S. administration during the President Trump campaign and the beginning months and days of his election, when he was still being hard line against the EU, talking openly about it breaking up, anticipating Marine Le Pen winning in France, you know, backing people like Nigel Farage.

He was so, you know, hostile in his rhetoric to NATO, as we've just been discussing, that from their perspective, they believe that they're putting that behind them and they want to move gradually forward on a more positive note, so sort of a reset. So they think they're pulling him further towards where they want to be, but they know this is not a done deal. They still don't agree on things like immigration, on trade, on the climate, on things like that.

So it's going to be a hard pull. And here in Britain, they are furious, furious about the intelligence.

BERMAN: All right, Christiane Amanpour, Ron Brownstein, Nic Robertson, thanks so much for being with us.

Again, our special coverage of these meetings, historic NATO meetings with a very stern message from the president continues with Brianna Keilar right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan.