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Merkel: Europe Can't Rely on U.S.; Reports: Trump Considering West Wing Staff Shake-Up. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 29, 2017 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggesting Europe cannot trust the United States.

[05:58:35] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here in Europe, there are a lot of folks looking to hear things from him.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we hit a home run, no matter where we are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump again targeting journalists, accusing the "fake news media" of fabricating lies.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PENNSYLVANIA SENATOR: If you tweet every day and complain about the media, you're not going to get your deals done.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jared Kushner sought to develop a line of communication with the Russians that could not be monitored.

JOHN KELLY, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Any line of communication to a country, particularly a country like Russia, is a good thing.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There ought to be a review of his security clearance.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't trust this story as far as I can throw it.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NSA AND CIA: What manner of ignorance or chaos would you have to have to think that doing this with the Russian ambassador was a good idea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers from in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Monday, May 29, 6 a.m. here in New York on this Memorial Day.

Chris is off and David Gregory joins me. Great to have you here.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Always fun to be called up. CAMEROTA: We have a lot of news, so let's get to it. Here's our

starting line. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel says European nations must take their fate into their own hands, adding they can no long completely rely on the U.S.

President Trump is back in Washington today, facing growing questions about his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The FBI investigating Kushner's contacts with Russia.

GREGORY: Meantime, as you might expect, President Trump is reviving his attacks on the news media, condemning leaks in a barrage of tweets. Yes, more tweets. Can he overcome the growing cloud of Russia gripping his administration, now that he is back at the White House?

All of this as the president marks this Memorial Day in a wreath- laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

We have it all covered this morning. We're going to begin with CNN's Athena Jones, who's live this morning in Washington. Good morning.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, David.

The president is kicking off the week facing more negative headlines. German Chancellor Angela Merkel now questioning the strength of Europe's alliance with the U.S.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONES (voice-over): Tensions from the president's first G-7 summit following him home. Trump's tepid support for NATO, harsh words on trade and his lack of commitment to the Paris climate agreement putting him at odds with E.U. allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel questioning America's strong alliance with Europe: "The times when we could completely rely on others are over. Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands."

President Trump rating the trip "a great success" and tweeting a tease: he'll decide on the landmark Paris agreement this week. Trump again targeting journalists and leakers inside his own White House. The latest bombshell leaks concerning Trump's most trusted adviser, his son-in-law Jared Kushner. During a December meeting, Kushner reportedly asking Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak for help setting up a back channel for secret communications concerning Syria and other matters between Russia and the Trump team, a back channel that would bypass U.S. surveillance.

HAYDEN: This is off the map, Michael. I know of no other experience like this in our history. Certainly within my life experience.

JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: My dashboard warning light was clearly on, and I think that was the case with all of us in the intelligence community. Very concerned about the nature of these approaches to the Russians.

JONES: Kislyak himself reportedly surprised by the request, according to intercepted communications between Russian officials, first published by "The Washington Post."

Ousted national security advisor Michael Flynn also purportedly present. The meeting initially left off Kushner's security clearance form before being amended a day later.

Kushner cutting his foreign trip short amid the crisis. A source telling CNN he did not want to be beside the president when the story broke, contradicting White House accounts that his early departure was planned. Democrats now calling for Kushner to have his security clearance revoked.

SCHIFF: 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 a security clearance.

JONES: But President Trump affirming support for Kushner, telling "The New York Times," "Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him."

And Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly playing defense on the Sunday talk shows.

KELLY: I don't see any big issue here. Any line of communications to a country, particularly a country like Russia, is a good thing.

JONES: Officials telling CNN the White House is considering creating a war room. Kushner's wife, Ivanka, spotted with President Trump's private attorney, Marc Kasowitz, at the White House Sunday.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JONES: Now Jared Kushner says he is willing to testify before Congress. Meanwhile the president met with his senior advisers on Sunday to discuss a way forward.

And the other looming question this week is when fired FBI Director James Comey will testify before Congress. This as the special counsel ramps up his Russia probe -- Alisyn, David.

CAMEROTA: Athena, thank you very much for all of that.

Let's discuss it with our panel. We want to bring in CNN political analyst April Ryan, CNN political commentator Errol Louis and "Washington Post" congressional reporter Karoun Demirjian. Great to have all of you here.

Errol, let's start by talking about the upshot of the president's first foreign trip. Angela Merkel felt, after meeting with President Trump, that she had -- and Germany had a more go-it-alone stance after that. She said -- let me read -- to you, "The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over. I experienced that in the last few days, and therefore, I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands."

What does this mean? ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is a devastating

indictment of U.S. foreign policy, No. 1.

And secondly, it's music to the ears of the dictator Vladimir Putin. His entire project has largely turned on trying to put daylight between the United States and Europe, so that one nation at a time he can start to interfere in different events on the continent.

I mean, to drastically weaken the European alliance the way the new foreign policy of the U.S. appears to do really helps him immensely. Putin, you know, taking territory as we saw in the Ukraine, resorting to intervention in elections. Put the U.S. aside. Look at what just happened in France, where they were openly financing and supporting one of the candidates for the leadership of that country. This is -- this is serious business. And it's a sea change from what we've seen over the last 70 years.

[06:05:15] GREGORY: You really can't underline it enough that the whole international security order set up after World War II by the United States, in partnership with Europe, is being upended, if Europe wants to go it alone.

April Ryan, look, we covered President -- we'll come back to April in just a second. Karoun, we covered President Bush at a time when he was at odds with Germany and other European countries with regard to the Iraq war. But this is totally different. This is Europe saying the United States can't be trusted anymore, which does give this path to Vladimir Putin.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Potentially, it does. This is certainly a more existential challenge to Europe right now. And the question is how is Europe going to respond?

Yes, as we just said, there was definitely blatant Russian interference in the French election, too, but it didn't go their way.

Merkel is now looking stronger in the upcoming German elections that are going to be later this year. The question is: Does Europe take this moment and really kind of rally around its union in a way that was kind of actually being, you know, more challenging and more threatened a few months and years ago than it is right now. It seems, just listening to these leaders talk with the resolve that they have about having to go it alone.

So it's not a complete decimation of the alliance between the Europe -- Europe and the United States, but it's certainly a very, very fierce challenge, because there's no guarantee. And that's exactly what Merkel's reflecting right now. She's saying, "Look, you know, it's going to be changed to an extent. We can't count on it; doesn't mean it's completely gone. But in that light, we have to kind of trust ourselves."

So what is Europe going to do next is going to be the main question. And if they can stay coalesced as a continent, that will help stave off any sort of threat, interference that Vladimir Putin might want to -- you know, wield from Russia. But that is the question. Can they -- do they want to; do they have the ability to at this point?

CAMEROTA: Errol, here's what Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, tweeted yesterday. He said, "Merkel is saying Europe cannot rely on others and needs to take matters into its own hands is a watershed and what U.S. has sought to avoid since World War II."

But what is it, Errol, that gave Merkel this feeling that they ca no longer rely on the U.S.? Was it the speech that the president gave at NATO telling all the countries that they would have to sort of carry their fair share?

LOUIS: That's right. And the president often talks about it as if it was merely a financial issue. What every single leader in Europe was listening for and, frankly, what -- what we could have expected from almost any other president, was a sort of almost ritualistic but very important recitation of the importance of Article V of the NATO compact, which states that an attack on one is an attack on all. And that others will come to the defense of other NATO members.

This was the article that was invoked when European nations came to the aid of the United States in the wake of 9/11. To not even mention that, to instead sort of lecture the NATO members is -- you know, it's being interpreted by Merkel and others as President Trump really meaning what he said so often on the campaign trail, which was that it's going to be America first, and what Europe does is kind of a secondary concern, which literally did not get a mention from the point of Article V defense.

GREGORY: And we should -- we should just point out as a matter of history that not since prior to World War I have we seen the specter of European countries kind of on their own march and the United States retreating, which is why this has so many people worried.

And by the way, whether it's Richard Haass, whether it's David Frum, these are people who worked for a Republican president, in George W. Bush, who are expressing this.

Let's turn to the White House under siege. April Ryan, Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, the white-hot focus of and investigation now, not a target, according to reports. But certainly having to deal with the fact that he is a big part of this investigation.

The president's behind him. But the president is also prepared to go into a different kind of combat mode over this Russia investigation.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, David, when it comes to Jared Kushner, you have to remember this: Jared Kushner is critical in this White House.

No. 1, he is the president's daughter's husband. This president chose his son-in-law over his sons to come into the White House. So that's one.

Two, this president never admits any wrongdoing. So that's another thing. He's always trying to promote the winning picture. But three, Jared Kushner, did have meetings with Kislyak. And trying

to create a secret channel, now that is off the grid of what is typically, in national intelligence or global intelligence, at the White House.

[06:10:06] And the Democratic calls for him to lose his security clearance is actually really -- is viable. Because what he's doing is going around and skirting behind what is on the table, what is part of the construct of what happens. That is a viable issue.

Now, how this White House handles it, you know, David, they are bringing in lawyers and what I'm hearing from my sources -- and I know the president doesn't like to hear us say "sources" -- but sources very close to this White House are saying when he, Jared Kushner and the White House talks to these lawyers, it's about what does he remember from the conversation? And that's the key piece. What does he remember from a conversation in December?

Karoun, your organization, "The Washington Post," first reported about this back channel that Jared Kushner was trying to, allegedly, to establish with Moscow. And this weekend it was pretty fascinating. The different takes that -- that officials had on whether a back channel with Russia is good or if it is so far off the reservation that it has never been seen before.

So let me just play you two different takes. One from the homeland security secretary and then one from former CIA director Michael Hayden. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KELLY: Whatever the communication is comes back into the government and shared across the government. So it's -- it's not a bad thing to have multiple communication lines to any government. I would just say that any line of communication to a country, particularly a county like Russia, is a good thing.

HAYDEN: This is off the map, Michael. I know of no other experience like this in our history; certainly, within my life experience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: How do we explain that discrepancy, Karoun?

DEMIRJIAN: Well, there's a flaw in the argument the administration is putting out, which is to say any line of communication that, you know, comes between the government and Moscow and comes back to the government is great. If you're having a back channel that is -- you're proposing setting up at a secure facility -- at Moscow's secure line to its embassy in the United States, that fundamentally is to avoid the government seeing what you're doing.

So it's not really information that's planned on going back into the government. If it were, it would be a more standard sort of, you know, track to diplomacy, which is usually set up to avoid any sort of public scrutiny, to keep politics from getting into the mix. That's why you have, you know, the early stages of the Iran deal being negotiated with the help of Oman. That's the standard way that this type of thing happens, not in this sort of "We'll go to an adversary, set up a secret line in the hopes that, you know, the intelligence community can't peer in on what we're doing." That's -- that's a little different.

GREGORY: Here's the other thing. Just a few seconds left, April. Why would we be doing this with Russia after Russia attempted to interfere in our election? Why would we have a back-channel negotiation? Why so much coddling of Vladimir Putin and Russia during the -- the -- what this was, which was the transition?

RYAN: David, you are actually saying what many are questioning. There are alarm bells going off everywhere. The question is, was there collusion into -- with this Trump camp with Russia to fix the election? The democracy of this country has been tampered with.

Now, the question is, is this president and his group of people who worked with him, did they work with Russia? And the reason why it's so big is because we did have a problem in the 2016 elections. The question is what happens for 2018? What happens for 2020? We see what happened in France. There are alarm bells going off everywhere.

And for those who say, "Oh, there's nothing to it," something is -- I mean, you're hearing the -- about this investigation with Jared Kushner. Michael Flynn, the Comey. It's a lot going on. And the question is what's there?

CAMEROTA: Yes.

GREGORY: Right.

CAMEROTA: And there are all sorts of investigations trying to determine that. Panel, thank you very much. We will check in with you momentarily. We have other questions for you.

One crisis after another appears to be weighing down the White House. So now President Trump may be looking to shake up his West Wing staff. Who could be in the crosshairs? We'll discuss that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:17:57] GREGORY: We're back. It's happening again. More reports that President Trump is now considering a major shakeup in the West Wing amid the growing Russia crisis plaguing his administration. One official telling CNN the president is likely taking aim at the White House communications office.

Let's bring back our panel: April Ryan, Errol Louis and Karoun Demirjian. Because there is only a communications problem. There's not a substantive problem. Right? You always focus on the communications people first.

Karoun, let me start with you. We've heard about a potential shake-up before. It hasn't happened. What would it look like this time and what would the likely impact of it be? DEMIRJIAN: Well, if there is the shake-up in the communications

office, probably less of Sean Spicer; and you'd probably see Sarah Huckabee Sanders move in more to that role. But if there's going to be a shake-up any place else in the administration, we have yet to actually see that happen.

And according to our reporting, you know, there's -- well, and many others are reporting, too, it doesn't seem like the president is taking any steps to distance himself from people like his son-in-law, Jared Kushner...

GREGORY: Right.

DEMIRJIAN: ... who's become the latest epicenter of the latest allegations against the administration. So Trump has thought he had a messaging problem for a long time. It doesn't seem to the rest of us like it's just a messaging problem, but that certainly seems to be his approach.

And he's, you know, taken to Twitter again in the last 24 hours for the first time in over a week, which means that he's feeling like he's got to reenter the fray. And if that's the case, maybe it's also that his view of what -- where the problem lies that's going to -- that's going to reign supreme.

GREGORY: Well, we should also point out that he didn't have any press conference when he was on a foreign trip, which is unprecedented. He didn't face reporters at all. All he wants to do is bark out on Twitter.

CAMEROTA: He's back with a vengeance. On Twitter.

GREGORY: So that -- he wants to reassert that he's the sole communicator.

CAMEROTA: Right, but Errol, it's hard to fire your son-in-law.

GREGORY: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And so he...

LOUIS: It's impossible.

CAMEROTA: OK, it's impossible. And so if he thinks that Jared Kushner is now a distraction, because he -- because federal investigators are looking at him, then if Jared Kushner's fortunes are falling or star is falling, then whose is rising in the White House?

[06:20:05] LOUIS: Well, this -- this is the question. I mean, the reality is Jared Kushner is not just a really smart guy who happened to marry the president's daughter. Jared Kushner is the guy who goes around openly saying -- April and others have reported on this -- that he has no agenda other than to promote the president.

Now, the flip side of that, if there's a problem with Jared Kushner, it reaches all the way to the White House. Because it wasn't on his own behest. It wasn't necessarily for business reasons and certainly no political agenda. He's never been an elected official, never served in government. So why during the transition was it so urgent for him to do this thing that is now adding to the president's problem?

So this is by no means a communications problem. They can set up all the war rooms that they want. They can shuffle the press secretary around and have somebody else at the podium day after day. They can even stop holding briefings or cut back on them. They can even stop the president's Twitter feed. The reality is there's stuff in motion now. The former FBI director looking into this; two congressional committees looking into this. The press having a field day with leaks, which let's keep in mind are not the media's doing. Somebody in the White House is talking.

CAMEROTA: More than one person. I mean, a lot of these sources are dozens of sources.

LOUIS: Dozens. When you read in "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times" that they spoke to dozens of people, there's a question about whether or not the White House really kind of has its team together.

GREGORY: Well...

LOUIS: So you can move all the chairs around, but that's not going to make people loyal if that's not how they feel.

GREGORY: Let's talk about team. Because clearly, the president is going back to something he thinks has worked for him, which is to go back into campaign mode, to take this over himself. And really, there's a nexus between him and, say, FOX News going after the news media, the liberal news media as a distraction point.

But if he's going to hire lawyers, April, then he might have to start listening. Now, his own lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, was seen outside the West Wing yesterday with Ivanka Trump. It's clearly somebody he's worked with before and he trusts. There's no evidence that he's actually listening to him on things that are really important like get off Twitter. Don't talk about how you tried to influence the investigation or shut Comey down.

We know that he's talked to people like Brendan Sullivan, the famous defense lawyer who represented Oliver North. Ted Olson, a conservative lawyer, appellate lawyer, Supreme Court advocate who argued Bush v. Gore successfully in 2000.

The question is, if he brings in a steadier, more experienced hand in Washington, will he listen? What will it take for him to listen and shut himself down on these Russia questions?

RYAN: Well, first of all, David, as you know, this president, we've never seen anything like this before.

Two, when you talk about an outside lawyer coming in, that lawyer doesn't necessarily know the rhythms of the White House. So that's one of the problems that he could face.

But two, I'm hearing -- well, three actually, I'm hearing a couple of things when it comes to this attorney. They're actually looking at -- looking at the president's tweets before he tweets. Because this president is -- is serious about continuing his tweeting.

GREGORY: Right.

RYAN: To his detriment, you know, it could very well be.

But then also, there are conversations within the White House with this attorney about the possibility of looking at not just briefings with maybe Sarah and Sean back and forth, or maybe even more so with Sarah. But then you also have the possibility that's on the table of written statements that this lawyer is looking at. And they're saying one of the issues is, if you issue a statement and it's not accurate, there is a problem that this written statement is out.

So this lawyer is looking at a lot of different things. Can anyone corral this president? It remains to be seen.

CAMEROTA: So Karoun, another question is, is all of this just palace intrigue? Who's in? Who's out? Who's up? Who's down? Or is it actually impeding the president's agenda? So obviously, we know that health care, all eyes on what the Senate is going to do ever since the House passed something that most people consider untenable. So where are we with health care?

DEMIRJIAN: The Senate is going to be starting on its own road in doing that. Certainly, that has been one of the things that Donald Trump has said he wanted to have done. But yet it doesn't -- it's not clear how engaged he is at this process. And he celebrated the victory of the House passing the health care bill as if it was a final deal, which it very much was not, especially since the Senate, it's extremely unlikely they take up that House -- that House bill. And many have said they are just not going to.

So there's a long road ahead still for health care. There's problems in that bill that the party can't seem to reconcile for itself, even leaving Democrats out of it. And then there is, you know, the rest of an agenda that he promised that has certainly stalled.

But to -- some of that, sure, the president is very frustrated that some of the air has been sucked out of the room by the constant focus on the Russia investigation, the continuous stream of new allegations. But that's not to say that, were it not for this Russia investigation, that we would be seeing a masterful agenda being rolled out. But there's a lot of problems within the congressional side of things, too, where they're having difficulty coalescing around one strategy.

[06:25:12] GREGORY: Right. Health care is not moving, according to people that I'm talking to, and there's a lot of problems there.

Panel, thanks so much. We'll continue this conversation as we go through the morning, for sure. Coming up next, the widening investigation into the Manchester terror

attack. Now there's word Britain's top security agency is investigating itself over missed warnings. Could the attack have been prevented? A live report coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CAMEROTA: South Korea and Japan slamming North Korea's latest ballistic missile test, its third test in as many weeks. Japan's prime minister promising to respond with, quote, "concrete action together with the U.S."

U.S. military officials say the missile flew for about six minutes and did no to ships or planes when it landed in the exclusive economic zone off Japan's coast.