Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Test Fires Third Missile In Three Weeks; Merkel: Europe Can't Completely Rely On U.S.; Trump To Honor The Fallen At Memorial Day Service. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired May 29, 2017 - 09:00   ET



MILTON MOCKERMAN, WORD WAR II VETERAN: I don't know how you'd put it in words, but it does mean a lot to me.


CAMEROTA: So beautiful.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN ANCHOR: No summer school for that guy.

CAMEROTA: There you go. Thanks --

GREGORY: He earned the right to walk across the stage.

CAMEROTA: Thanks for being here.

GREGORY: Yes, this was fun.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

GREGORY: Time for CNN NEWSROOM with Poppy Harlow. Have a good day.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, you guys. Have a great Memorial Day. Let's get started.

Good Monday morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. John Berman has the day off.

This morning President Trump visits Arlington National Cemetery to deliver remarks and to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The President will honor those who have served this country and lost their lives fighting in this nation's wars. It is his first public event since returning home from his nine-day trip overseas. A trip that, it appears, did not sit well with one of our most trusted allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel making waves saying this.


ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY (through translator): The times when we could completely count on others, they are over to a certain extent. I've experienced this in the last few days, and that is why I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Merkel's spokesman has added some context to those remarks. This morning, our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is live in London with more.

So, I mean, how do you read this because that was a startling statement from one of our biggest allies? And her spokesperson had seemed to walk it back a little bit.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I'm not sure that he's walking back, Poppy, but it is quite interesting. I just want to read the tweet from Steffen Seibert, who's the spokesman for Angela Merkel.

He said, "Those who have accompanied Chancellor Merkel journalistically for a long time know how important the German- American relations are. They are a pillar of our foreign and security policy, and Germany will continue to work on and strengthen those relationships."

So on the one hand, he's seemingly clarifying her remarks, but I do still think that Angela Merkel does feel very or quite alienated by President Trump and some of the things that she heard at that G7 Summit there in Europe last week. I think especially some of the things that he said about Germany where he felt that Germany was bad for exporting so many cars to America.

But also, some of the things that he said about NATO allies leads Angela Merkel to believe maybe the U.S. cannot be trusted at this point or with the administration, at least, the way that it could in the past or doesn't have Germany's back the way that it did in the past, Poppy.

HARLOW: Right. And you heard those stark remarks that were very opposite of one another when we saw them speak right there at the NATO headquarters prompting what Merkel said. Here's the thing. She is sort of the polar opposite of President Trump when it comes to temperament, right?


HARLOW: And "The Washington Post" put it this way, she's highly cautious. This speech is not an impulse move. This is something that was calculated.

PLEITGEN: Well, you know what, I've been covering Angela Merkel since 2000, so I've known her since she was an opposition leader in Germany. And she really is someone who is very reserved and very calculated. She's a doctor of Physics. She's not someone who would come out with off the cuff remarks that she hasn't completely thought through.

Now, she is currently in an election campaign, but she's so far ahead of the polls that no one really believes that she's actually in line to lose this election. So certainly, she will have not done this out of some sense of wanting to be in the election campaign. She will have really calculated this to say, on the one hand, look, we need deeper ties with Europe, but to also sort of give a warning to the U.S. as well that Germany is feeling somewhat alienated at this point.

HARLOW: Fred Pleitgen, reporting for us in London. Thank you very much.

President Trump returned to Washington over the weekend. He left behind bruised alliances overseas and landed home in a pretty deep crisis. During those nine days that he was gone, much of the focus, especially at the latter end of the trip, was on his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and reports that he tried to set up this secret back channel to communicate with the Russians, with the Kremlin. The White House is scrambling to defend those actions and contain the fallout.

Our Athena Jones is live at the White House with more this morning. So last night, finally, after, you know, the Trump team said we're not going to comment, we're not even going to acknowledge that -- I think that's what Gary Cohn said -- the President did give a statement to "The New York Times."

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. That's right, he did. And part of what the statement says is, "Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him." The President went on to say that Kushner is respected by virtually everyone, and that he's a good person. He's working on projects to save the U.S. a lot of money.

But this is clearly a story line, just the latest in a series of bombshell reports that is raising eyebrows and raising concerns among people certainly outside the White House. You have former intelligence officials like Michael Hayden, who was the former director of a National Security Agency, who said this reported move by Kushner was off the map, not something he's ever -- like no other experience he's seen in our history or certainly in his lifetime.

[09:05:04] Meanwhile, you have Democrats on Capitol Hill, folks like Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who are also raising concerns, and folks like Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly trying to defend Kushner's move saying it's not a big deal. Take a listen to what Schiff and then Kelly had to say exactly.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: If these allegations are true and he had discussions with the Russians about establishing a back channel and didn't reveal that, that's a real problem in terms of whether he should maintain that kind of security clearance.

GEN. JOHN KELLY (RET.), UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I don't see any big issue here. Any line of communication to a country, particularly a country like Russia, is a good thing.


JONES: Now, it's not surprising to hear the Homeland Security Secretary defending Jared Kushner, but this is going to raise a lot more questions on Capitol Hill, just to add to the long list of questions investigators already have about this entire Russia issue. Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you very much. Athena Jones, at the White House. Let's discuss this, whether it is off the map like former CIA Director Michael Hayden said, or if it is more like what Kelly just described.

Joining me now, Julian Zelizer, our CNN political analyst and historian and professor at Princeton University. David Rohde is here, our CNN global affairs analyst, and CNN Contributor Salena Zito.

So let me begin with you, David. Just how normal is a back channel like this? Because we have seen it work, as Julian will get into with his history lesson in a moment. It has worked before. How normal is it because the White House, the line seems to be this is much ado about nothing?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: What's totally abnormal is, a and we don't know if any of these is true, but if he was talking about using a Russian government communication system to secretly go into the Russian, you know, diplomatic facility and use that, that's extraordinary. That's very strange and, I think, alarming. So a back channel is no problem. It's just using this method of communication --

HARLOW: It's the way --

ROHDE: It's the way. What is he hiding?

HARLOW: -- that it's reported by us, by "The Washington post."

ROHDE: So you feel more safe and secure with the Russian government and their communication system than the rest of the American government? What are you trying to hide in that back channel?

HARLOW: I should just note that "The Washington Post," Adam Entous and his team, point out that perhaps this is false and not true and that the Russians were planting this to see if the U.S. was listening in on that line. Is that's a possibility?

ROHDE: Yes, it could be disinformation, but we have this pattern of Kushner not disclosing his meetings with the Russians.


ROHDE: "Reuters" reported on Friday there were two calls between Kushner and Kislyak that he has not disclosed. That was a new story. So it's a pattern that's a bit concerning.

HARLOW: And "Reuters," as you know, cites seven different former and current U.S. officials.

Julian, to you. You wrote an op-ed about it and you titled it, you know, "Is this the Nixon card?" Right? Because there was a back channel in the Nixon administration to Russia before the inauguration and it was very successful. You ended up with SALT I, the nuclear arms agreement, or you say this could be more akin to the Chennault Affair. What do you mean?

JULIAN ZELIZER, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Right. So the positive story is that, under Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger would conduct negotiations in a back channel with the Soviet ambassador.

HARLOW: Even before he was president?

ZELIZER: Even before he took over as President Nixon. And the whole point was to ease relations, to have discussions about different policies issues, and it culminates in this historic arms agreement in 1972. The other back channel, though, was in the middle of the campaign. People connected to the Nixon campaign told the south Vietnamese, don't enter into a deal to end the Vietnam War.

HARLOW: With President Nixon?

ZELIZER: You'll get a better deal with Richard Nixon as president. Lyndon Johnson heard about this. He said it was treason but he never said that publicly. So we don't know which comparison is more apt.

HARLOW: Salena, to you, switching gears here. The President comes back from this trip overseas, and he calls it, in his words, a great success with, quote, "big results." He doesn't hold one press conference so that we, the press, can ask questions, so we have to follow his tweets as his thoughts on this one.

And then Chancellor Angela Merkel comes out and says, "The times when we could completely rely on others to an extent are over." She didn't need to say President Trump's name or the United States to make very clear who and what she was talking about. This is a President who ran on an America first platform. Is this what they want?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, it is. You know, I just came back from seven different states in the past two weeks, and this, for Chancellor Merkel to say this, the voters that put him into office would be like, well, what's the big deal? I mean, no, they shouldn't have to rely on us all the time because we've got to focus on our own domestic problems that are affecting our lives and affecting our communities. And that's what he ran on and that's what he's important to us.

A lot of his voters that I talked to, even ones that did not support him and sat out the election, they viewed this trip as successful in that he went there, he spoke strongly. A lot of people are not going to agree with what he said, but he did what he said he was going to do in terms of talking about NATO and in his decision or indecision on the Paris Accord. And a lot of sort of voters that supported him look at this as a successful trip.

[09:10:08] HARLOW: You have to remember, though, David Rohde, whose hand this plays into. Growing discord between the United States and our biggest allies in Western Europe plays directly into Vladimir Putin's hand. Interestingly, he has a meeting with French President Emmanuel macron today. But if you're sitting in the Kremlin and you're looking at this, are you happy about it?

ROHDE: Yes. This is what Putin has been trying to achieve, I'd say, since he took over. I mean, for years and years, there is discord. But, again, his voters, Trump's voters, wanted this. This is no surprise. He ran on this. It's been two years of him talking about, you know, a distance from NATO and then a closeness, I think, to authoritarians, you know, to Putin and others.

HARLOW: But at the same time, Julian, you could you flip the card here and look on the other side and say, well, if Trump's rhetoric and his lecturing of our NATO allies gets them to pay more finally, if he's the president who succeeds at doing that, then that will be a stronger NATO against Russia.

ZELIZER: Right, but it's not clear that's how it's going to play out. I think there's many members of NATO who are unhappy with his rhetoric, with his demeanor, with these kind of moments. And the irony is, obviously, if this alliance weakens, America won't be stronger as President Trump promised. It will actually be weaker against adversaries such as Russia. So I'm not sure voters thought out all the consequences of how this could play out.

HARLOW: So since he's returned home, Salena, he has tweeted, the President, five times -- I was counting them this morning -- about what he deems to be the fake media. He has used that word five times in all of these different tweets, OK? He didn't hold a press conference, as I said, so we have to read this as what is top of mind for him because we can't ask him any questions right now.

ZITO: Right.

HARLOW: What is the strategy here? You come back from this huge international trip, and you talk most about, you know, your typical line about the fake media. I don't understand the strategy.

ZITO: Well, I think it would be in his best interests -- as difficult and as tough and as questions that have nothing to do with the event would have hit him, it would have been in his best interests to go out and face the press. You know, there are questions that he -- I mean, he's his best advocate, right?

And, you know, there's a school of thought, well, you know, I'm just going to use Twitter as a filter to get past the press, and that's OK maybe here and there. But it's important for the President to take the hard questions, to face, you know, the information that the American public wants. And, you know, he's able to tell his own story, and the press is also able to pull out how he feels about things, not only on the trip but also the problems that he's facing at home.

HARLOW: That's true because we and everyone else would have carried that press conference live in its entirety. It's not like this would have been edited down, and he could tell his story exactly.

Salena, thank you very much. Julian Zelizer, David Rohde, we appreciate it. Still to come. Overnight, North Korea firing off yet another missile

test. This is the third in as many weeks. How the U.S. is responding. The President just tweeted about it.

Also get ready for tighter security at the airport. The Homeland Security Secretary says U.S. planes are still a top target for terrorists.

And a live look right now this morning on this Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery where we are honoring those who have died, given the ultimate price, paid the ultimate price serving for this country. The President is set to speak there a little bit later this morning. We'll take you there live. Stay with us.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, President Trump lashing out at North Korea after North Korea test fired another missile, the third launch in as many weeks. He tweeted "North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile but China is trying hard."

Let's go straight to our international correspondent, Will Ripley. He has spent a lot of time in North Korea. He joins us today from Tokyo. This is the third test in as many weeks but what is significant about it? I mean, is it different from the others? Does it show an advancement?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, not really. This is a scud missile that North Korea launched. It flew less than 300 miles. It landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, those are waters close to the west coast of Japan, which of course is infuriating for the prime minister here in Tokyo, who promised concrete action against the North Korean regime led by Kim Jong-un.

But what does concrete action actually mean? What can the United States, Japan and South Korea do that they haven't done over the last decade or longer to stop North Korea from launching these missiles?

The answer is, Poppy, really not a whole lot. The pressure here is on China, and that is why you saw that tweet from President Trump once again talking about China doing its best to rein in North Korea but we don't know exactly what that is.

We know that China has stopped buying coal from North Korea for the moment, but trade with North Korea and China was up 40 percent at the beginning of this year. I saw a lot of evidence of Chinese products on store shelves, Chinese cars on the roads in North Korea when I was there just last month.

So this is an economic relationship that continues, and Beijing really can't dispute the fact, Poppy, that Chinese money billions of Chinese dollars are going into this economy and therefore, helping North Korea continue to develop these weapons and test them time and time again, week after week.

HARLOW: No question. That relationship, the economic ties are strong and the banking relationship between North Korea and China is a big, big part of this. Will Ripley, thank you for the reporting.

Joining me here on set is Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York. He sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee. So let's start with North Korea and the bigger picture to get your response to Angela Merkel's comments.

You were in South Korea not that long ago and the last time you were on the show with me and John, you said that North Korea had -- China has not done enough, we have not seen enough from China. What is it that you want to see that you think this administration isn't doing to stop the economic support that we're seeing for North Korea from China?

[09:20:04]REPRESENTATIVE GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: I think the report just earlier speaks to that. When you look at some of the parts that are being utilized for these weapons, et cetera, they come from China. And China has historically used North Korea as a buffer. So that it does not want the United States involvement for example with the North China seas, et cetera. We've got to have some tough economic conversations with China ourselves.

HARLOW: Wouldn't you say this president is being tougher on China at least in terms of rhetoric, than his predecessor, than President Obama when it comes to dealing with the North Korea situation or is there something that you saw in the Obama administration you think the Trump administration isn't doing?

MEEKS: I think that what you see with this administration, they're trying to -- they're talking to China. They're not talking about further sanctions or even isolating China in a degree that we may have to, working with our other partners.

This is why I think it is important for us to be engaged in multilateral relationships as opposed to bilateral relationships, and I think what the Obama administration did, it worked in multilateral relationships so that it would be America and our allies pushing together.

HARLOW: I mean, you know, China does not like the fact that we have THAD, they're in South Korea. What should the Trump administration be doing differently right now?

MEEKS: Here is something that is not popular necessarily in domestic policy, but I think that is needed to be and what people did not understand, part of what the Obama administration's position was, when he was talking about TPP, for example, it was getting all of these nations together.

So it wasn't just about an economic trade agreement, et cetera, but it was also about a political agreement, alienating and forcing China to say China, you're interested in your economy? You've got to deal with us. HARLOW: It's interesting because the sort of total failure and collapse of what TPP was going to be now gives China a lot more economic power in the region, but you know, it wasn't just President Trump who said no way to TPP, it was also Hillary Clinton.

Let me get your take on what Angela Merkel, German chancellor came out and said yesterday, she said "The times when we could completely count on others are over." It was a clear message to the United States and to President Trump from one of our biggest allies in the world.

Here's how David Fromme, a former speech writer for President George W. Bush, a vocal critic of President Trump tweeted, "Since 1945 the supreme strategic goal in Europe of the USSR and then Russia was the severing of the U.S.-German alliance. Trump delivered." He says this is a gift to Russia. Do you agree?

MEEKS: Absolutely. And I have grave concerns. Again, when you're talking about multilateral alliances that we've had with our allies who has the same kind of feelings and motivations as we have. We have the same raising standards, but Russia wants more than anything else is for us to be divided.

And so what happened on this trip, which I think was a failure, number one the failure of the president to agree explicitly that we would go along with Article Five, which is the mainstream and the only time Article Five was really utilized.

HARLOW: Collective defense.

MEEKS: That's right, 9/11, they did that. You have a failure of commitment in regards to this president to talk about the E.U. You have the statements of this president saying that the NATO in the past was not relevant, and then to try to lecture them when in fact, Poppy, there has been an agreement already by the NATO allies by the year 2024 that they will pay what they're supposed to pay within that agreement.

HARLOW: I will note as you know the president did say NATO used to be obsolete. NATO is no longer obsolete. He said that a few months ago changing his tone a bit, but I hear your point. Thank you very much for being here. We'll see what comes next. We appreciate it.

We have a lot ahead. Right now, laptops, e-readers, iPads banned from the cabin of some incoming flights to the United States. Now word from homeland security that ban may be getting a whole lot broader. That's next.



HARLOW: All right, you are looking at live pictures of the Project Hero Memorial Bike Ride that is set to kick off in the nation's capital in just moments. The vice president will be joining as well. We'll get remarks from him there in just a moment. We'll monitor those and bring them to you. Meantime, President Trump will mark Memorial Day today by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers to honor those who have given their lives, paid the ultimate price serving this country.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, joins us for a special report from Arlington National Cemetery. Barbara, first just tell us the significance of exactly where you are at Arlington.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. We're just down the hill from where the president will be speaking. This is Section 60. This is very hallowed ground for the U.S. military. It is here as you look around 890 souls at their final resting place, troops who were killed in action on the battlefield since the 9/11 attacks, 890 souls.

And of course so many more buried at cemeteries and towns and cities across this country. On this Memorial Day, this is a time when so many families come here, friends, battle buddies, to pay their respects to their loved ones. This is a place of great love year after year.

We see the same people come back every year to make sure they pay their respects. This is really the history of the U.S. military in the United States.

Here we see many who have fallen in places we've come to hear about over the years, places like Fallujah or Kandahar or, it's so many different places. Permit me a special shout out to those who fought and fell in the Corengal and Diyala, so many families, so many stories here.