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Merkel's U.S. Comments; Train Station Reopens after Bombing; White House Communications Director Resigns. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired May 30, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:26] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, still new criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel about U.S. leadership in the world, or frankly the lack thereof.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: She's made three pretty stinging statements in the last 48 hours about the United States.

Joining us now with what she said and reaction to it is Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and current professor of international relations at Harvard, and Frederik Pleitgen, our CNN senior international correspondent who has covered Merkel extensively.

So she has now made these three biting statements. Nothing being held back.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, certainly. And it's quite remarkable if you know Angela Merkel, Poppy, and you know that she really isn't someone who says these things lightly. She's someone who chooses her words very carefully. For her to originally make that statement that she feels Germany can't necessarily rely on others anymore, originally make that statement, but then make it again certainly is quite remarkable. Let's just listen in really quickly to what she said.


ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The discussions with the United States of America are, of course, important, just as the discussions with other partners. The transatlantic relationship is of incredible importance and what I said is really just to point out that at the current point in time there are more reasons than there even were before to take our fate into our own hands within Europe.


[09:34:52] PLEITGEN: So she says at this point in time, which clearly means with this current White House. So what Angela Merkel was saying there is that Germany is still committed to the transatlantic alliance, just like it was before. However, they're not entirely sure whether the White House really - or this current White House really has their back in all aspects. And that, of course, comes right after President Trump was in Europe last week, especially with the NATO summit and some of the criticism at other NATO members. I think that really is something that certainly worries the Germans.

BERMAN: You know, ambassador, it's not just foreign leaders who seem to be uncertain about where things are headed as well. It's people - members of the president's own party. John McCain in Australia for some speeches, doing some interviews with Australian media, and he flat-out said that Americans are unsettled. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I realize that some of President Trump's actions and statements have unsettled America's friends. They have unsettled many Americans as well. There is real debate underway, now in my country, about what kind of role America should play in the world and, frankly, I don't know how this debate will play out.


BERMAN: Now, he didn't bluntly criticize the president there, ambassador, but he came very, very close, which is very unusual for a sitting U.S. senator, particularly in the president's own party, to do overseas.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, I think that we're looking at one of the deepest divisions in the U.S./European relationship in a generation or two because what President Trump has essentially done is laid down the gaunt less to the Europeans. He's attacking them verbally with his tweet this morning saying that Germany is a competitor with the United States. Contrast that with his very respectful, quite differential treatment of the Saudi king and other Gulf monarchs, none of whom are Democrats, last week. And I think from a European perspective, what we're hearing from Chancellor Merkel certainly it's good politics for her to distance herself from Donald Trump in an election year.

But beyond that, the Europeans believe that President Trump personally is not committed to the European Union and a close U.S./E relationship. He would be the very first American president not to commit himself to a unified Europe. We're about to commemorate the Marshal Plan speech here at Harvard on June 4, 1947. The 70th anniversary. That was all about the Truman administration committing itself to a unified Europe.

But Trump's the president who cheered on Brexit. Who said nice things about Marine Le Pen. And I think the Europeans feel, with the - with the Trump attack on the E.U. on trade and with is disparaging of NATO last week, they feel that he's not committed to this 70-year relationship that we've had. This is a profound break. It's not a permanent break. But we're looking at the decline of American leadership in Europe unless the Trump administration can right itself and reconsider these irresponsible statements.

HARLOW: So, ambassador, the Italian prime minister just said moments ago - and we're just getting this in - a very similar thing to what we're hearing from Angela Merkel and also from the German foreign minister. Italy's prime minister saying that the E.U., quote, "must take its future into its own hands." Now, it's no surprise that there is - there have been tough relations between Angela Merkel and Donald Trump on a personal level. They've traded personal barbs. But is this - how much more is this? Because it seems like, you know, she has just certainly let anyone in her government say anything about the United States now. You had the German foreign minister coming out and saying, "the short sided policies of the American government stand against the interests of the European Union." He went on to say, "those who do not oppose this U.S. policy are guilty," ambassador.

BURNS: Well, we're looking at deep divisions on specific issues that are vital to both sides of the Atlantic. We do not agree right now with the Europeans, the Trump administration, on Russia. The Europeans see the president as quite weak on Russia. We don't agree on trade. They want a free trade agreement between the E.U. and the U.S. The Trump administration dos not. We don't agree on climate change. Climate might be the number one issue in Europe on behalf of - on the part of citizens and the Trump administration is actively Hamlet-like debating whether or not we should stay in the pact. And then if you don't also exhibit at least a concern about NATO in the E.U., a commitment to it on the part of the United States, then you've really thrown the whole basis of the relationship into question. That's why you're seeing this reaction from Europe.

And let me just say it's a two-way street. President Trump's right about European defense spending. They should spend more. But the way he's going about it, trying to shame the Europeans publically in election years for some of them, not effective.

BERMAN: No, and it seems that the flood gates, the criticism, have opened up across Europe.

Ambassador Burns, Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

New clues in new surveillance video as investigators race to find out whether a terror network is still operating in England. Stay with us.


[09:43:57] BERMAN: All right, this morning, the train station adjacent to the arena hit by the Manchester suicide bomber, that station is back open. Officials laid wreaths at a temporary memorial at Victoria Station for the 22 people killed in last Monday's attack.

HARLOW: This comes as investigators release new images of the bomber right there. They're asking for the public's help, but they are still trying to track down members of this terror network they continue to try to contain.

Our international correspondent Muhammad Lila is live in Manchester.

You know, as of just a few days ago, they were still working to contain the network. And it sounds like they're still trying to do that. They don't feel like they have eyes on everyone involved here.

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. And good morning, Poppy and John.

And big part of the investigation this morning focuses on the whereabouts of a blue suitcase. Now the reason that's important is because there were security camera images that caught the main suspect, Salman Abedi, wheeling around this police call this distinctive blue suitcase in the days and, in fact, in the very hours leading up to the attract. The images caught him wheeling around that suitcase right here in downtown Manchester.

[9:45:01] Now, it's important to point out that police don't believe the suitcase was used in the attack. They believe that the explosives were put in a backpack, which was then detonated at the Manchester arena. But that just adds more questions. They want to know why he was seen wheeling around a suitcase in downtown Manchester in just the hours before the attack.

Now, police are also even looking for that suitcase itself. They're asking people if they identify that suitcase to not approach it. They don't think there's anything dangerous inside, but they're asking people to call police if they do find that suitcase. And you have to remember, look, people might not be able to spot a face or remember a face in a crowd of hundreds of people, but if they see a man carrying a suitcase, it might jog their memory and help provide some extra tips.

Now, all of this is going on as the city of Manchester is just coming out of a long weekend. It's back to work. You can see the memorial behind me. Hundreds of people still here. The crowd has gone down considerably since its peak last week. And just this British military announced that soldiers will be scaling down their presence in British cities as well. You'll remember right after the attack, British soldiers were deployed to the streets to help assist police while the British military in a statement this morning saying that their presence is no longer necessary. So it is in very - in a very real way life getting as back to as normal as possible here in Manchester.

John and Poppy.

BERMAN: Even as the investigation continues and deepens in some ways. Muhammad Lila, thank you so much.

It's been over two weeks since White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer faced reporters, briefing them on camera. Well, the on camera exile is over. In just a few hours, a press conference at the White House. How will Sean Spicer respond to questions - the new questions swirling around Jared Kushner?


[09:51:04] HARLOW: All right, just a few hours from now, and you will see it live right here, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer will hold his first briefing in over two weeks, and the stakes couldn't be higher.

BERMAN: Yes. Among other things, this is the first time the White House will have to respond on camera to the latest questions swirling around Jared Kushner. And, of course, adding to this intrigue, communications director Mike Dubke resigned this morning citing personal reasons. So the beginning maybe of a staff shake-up.

We're joined now by CNN's senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers, and CNN media analyst Bill Carter.

Bill, you know, does this solve everything, a new communications director? The president may be taking more questions himself. Sean Spicer may be having fewer briefings. Will that fix all problems that exist inside this White House?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, obviously, it won't, and, obviously, they wouldn't be doing this if they weren't, like, trying to figure out some way to address the situation that they can't really address very effectively. I think the president taking questions any time is good, by the way, and Sean Spicer should be doing the things on camera. That would obviously be a bad idea to remove them.

But, look, they're trying to basically address a long losing streak by firing the PR guy. I mean that's not - just doesn't work. I mean in business it doesn't work. It doesn't work in sports. And in this case, Dubke was not doing the job that Trump wanted, so he resigned and he'll bring in another guy. But that isn't changing the substance of it. The people that he really needs to change are the people whose policies now are causing him all these issues.

HARLOW: So, Dylan, the reporting out of our Jeff Zeleny on the White House beat is that the president is, yes, considering retooling his entire messaging operation, but that nothing's imminent. Right, Dubke leaving, that post is likely going to stay vacant, Jeff is hearing, for a while, and that Spicer is in no way headed out the door.

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA & POLITICS REPORTER: That's absolutely right, and that bears out in my conversations with the White House as well. There's no indication that Spicer is leaving any time soon.

What happened with Dubke, a lot of it has to do with just how impossible the job of communications director was in this White House. What had happened is Sean Spicer had come in not just as press secretary, but also as communications director, so he had two tasks there. That, obviously, was sort of overwhelming, and it created this weird structure where he brought in Dubke to sort of work under him. But, of course, as you and I and we all know, working for President Trump, trying to come up with a cohesive messaging strategy for a president who is extremely temperamental, who has different aides pulling him in different directions all the time, it's very hard to have a coherent messaging strategy coming out of that.

So, I think for Dubke, you know, it's just an impossible job. And that, too, is why you're probably not going to see anyone come in and move in and fill that position right away. And if you do, that is going to have to be somebody who really is capable of talking with the president, of being in the president's inner circle. That was not Dubke. Dubke was a Spicer guy.

BERMAN: You know, he has to have the trust of the president. It's unclear who exactly does have the trust of the president inside the White House.

You know, Bill Carter, Sean Spicer will brief on camera today at 2:00. I cannot remember a White House official or a White House staffer who has been, you know, put through the ringer as much as Sean Spicer has. I'm not saying he's done a good or bad job from the podium, but the leaks about him from inside this White House, he's on his way out, the president doesn't like his tie, the president doesn't like this, not meeting the pope -


BERMAN: And yet we're going to see him on camera today at 2:00. What does that tell you?

CARTER: It tells you he can take a lot, I guess, and that he's willing to take a lot. There are a lot of people in those positions who would say, you know, I've had enough. I mean this has been - he's been snubbed, he's been mocked, he's been vilified. You know, he can't be very comfortable with that. But I think he - let's put it this way, he's loyal and he's committed to the job. I guess there's positive qualities to that, but it would be certainly something I wouldn't be able to tolerate.

HARLOW: And the question becomes how supportive will his statements be about Jared Kushner, given the president's - what some are calling a pretty tepid response to "The New York Times" on Sunday night, "Jared's a good guy." What else is Sean Spicer going to add to that amid all of this?

[09:55:03] Guys, thank you very much, Dylan Byers and Bill Carter.

So, protesters, claims of a phone call to ICE, and lawmakers right in each other's faces. The strange situation erupting on the Texas house floor that ends with one representative saying he was assaulted and threatened to shoot another lawmaker in self-defense.


[09:59:55] BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.

HARLOW: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

Staff changes are coming and they are coming to the West Wing. President Trump's communication director resigning this morning, citing personal reasons, but a White House insider says don't call this a shake-up, even though sources did say there are more changes on the way.

BERMAN: We'll have much more on that in just a moment.