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Trump Expected to Withdraw from Paris Climate Deal. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired May 31, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:08] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The breaking news, a major decision from the White House. President Trump is expected to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This is according to two senior U.S. officials.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It is unclear at this point how long this process is going to take or when the official announcement will come, but this is a major shot at the Obama era legacy. And it's one that could trigger a wave of consequences with major U.S. allies overseas. Among those who had been pushing for withdrawal, Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon and, of course, the head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt.

We are following all the developments live with our teams today. Let's begin with our Global Affairs Correspondent, Elise Labott, who is here with us in New York.

This is incredibly significant. Just looking at the world leaders, who, after this meeting with the President in Europe last week, said don't do this, don't be hasty, wait. And CEOs of big companies, including energy companies, said don't do this. But, you know, there is a fair number of Republican senators and Republicans in this country who say, absolutely, this is the right call.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And I mean, some of his cabinet is also divided, too. You have Pruitt on one side, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Mattis, others who say that there are national security and foreign policy implications for this.

I mean, I think this is really where you come down to what does "America first" mean? And, you know, over the months of the Trump presidency, we've seen sometimes it means one thing and sometimes it means another thing.

Right now, it means jobs, jobs, jobs. And I think President Trump has concluded that staying in the agreement would undermine the economy, undermine jobs. You know, the other argument is that this could seriously hurt the U.S. overseas.

BERMAN: Can we ask, before we get to the analysis, what exactly did the Paris Climate Accord commit the United States to?

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: And what does withdrawing from it actually mean?

LABOTT: Sure. Well, it aims to limit global warming. I mean, you know, the science is clearly on the side that there are climate change effects and something really needs to be done. Slashes carbon dioxide and other fossil fuel emissions. And the main thing is that the U.S., the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, have committed to reducing emissions by about 26 to 28 percent by 2025. And this is more than 200 countries now.

HARLOW: Yes.

LABOTT: Now, clearly the U.S. pulling out isn't going to torpedo the agreement, but there could be a ripple effect where other countries who are just only starting now to get serious about climate change could back out on their agreements.

HARLOW: Right, namely China. What happens to China now?

LABOTT: That's right.

HARLOW: So when you talk about jobs, there is the argument that limiting carbon emission is going to mean a lot of these energy jobs, coal jobs, that the president promised more of.

There's also the fact that this voluntary agreement -- it wasn't mandatory or it didn't have legal binding because it would have had to be ratified by the Senate -- that these countries, the richer countries like the U.S., were supposed to pay in $100 billion to poorer countries, right, so that they could help achieve this. So that's what the President is talking about, these costs.

LABOTT: That's right, but, you know, the U.S. under President Obama was really a leader in this field of climate change. Secretary of State John Kerry, this was one of his pet projects. And the U.S. said it wants to lead on climate change, on getting the world to commit to taking actions. And now that the U.S. is not going to be showing leadership on this, it really remains to be seen what's happening.

And I don't think you can really underestimate not only the environmental impact on one side, what this does for the United States on the other side. You've heard nations after President Trump's trip to NATO, Angela Merkel, President Macron of France, talking about that they can't count on the U.S. leadership anymore. I really think there is going to be colossal decisions by other countries about whether the U.S. is reliable.

BERMAN: Elise, stand by because let's talk about just that subject right now. Joining us now, CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson with some of the world reaction to this. Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, it's only just been announced. It's been, to a degree, expected. There are concerns in Europe already, and those were expressed at the weekend of the G7 Summit where, in that joint communique, the end which was short by any standards. It was stated really clearly in the communique that all the other six

parties there -- Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada -- all reaffirmed their support for the COP21, the climate change agreement, just waiting for the United States to make its decision.

And the Italian Prime Minister commented during the meeting there that this wasn't expected that the United States would take this position, that they were surprised by it. And he said it was important that the United States would stay part of the climate change agreement, and that he hoped that all the persuasive conversations that were had around the table there would be enough to convince President Trump to remain part of it.

So although we don't have specific reaction yet, we called 10 Downing Street here to get the British reaction, nothing yet. The French, the same. We are trying to reach out to other European leaders at the moment.

[09:05:05] The expectation is that there is going to be disappointment because there was disappointment at the G7, that President Trump wasn't ready to make a decision while he was there. And of course, this is going to further add to what we heard, as Elise was speaking about, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, saying that that gap between the United States and the Europeans is growing bigger, that there is a feel that they can count on the U.S. less.

And we'll also remember that the world, in a way, waited for the United States to get on board with the climate change agreement under President Obama. Many countries, particularly the Europeans, have been pushing and pushing over a number of years. And it was when President Obama came on board with it that that turned the world around on climate change. So this threatens to turn it back.

HARLOW: That's true. It failed in Copenhagen, succeeded in Paris, and now the U.S. is pulling out. Nic Robertson, thank you very much. Let's go to our chief business correspondent, Christine Romans.

You were here yesterday with us telling us about those big corporate CEOs urging the President to stay in, including some energy companies who wanted to see this remain.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Energy companies told the President, look, we think that climate change is inevitable, and we need to have a seat at the table as the rest of the world comes to a deal on it. Remember, China is the biggest carbon emitter, followed by the United States, then Europe, then India.

By midcentury, India is expected to surpass the U.S. So if the U.S. pulls back, who will be the leader on climate change technology and initiatives? Many of these companies worry the U.S. cedes its leadership on this stage, and that could be incredibly dangerous. Here are just some of the companies that have signed this.

Also interesting to me, the President apparently has rejected the advice of his top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who, by the way, used to run an energy company, ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil in 2007, after a very complicated history with climate change and whether it even existed, it came to the conclusion it is real and it needs to be dealt with. Even today, ExxonMobil is having, you know, a shareholder meeting where there is a shareholder movement to try to get the company to game out, to stress test what climate change will mean for its business.

So companies say they see this as a reality and are moving forward to try to figure out how to deal with a world in which dealing with climate change is a top priority. The White House moving in the opposition direction. I will say, the Chamber of Commerce recently commissioned a study that found that 6 million jobs would be killed in the U.S.-heavy industry, jobs that will be killed in the U.S., if we stay in the Paris Accords. But there are other economists who say, you know, you're talking about old industry jobs at a time we should be talking about building new industries.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, CNN's chief business correspondent, thanks so much. I want to talk more about this now.

Joining us is Jackie Kucinich, a CNN political analyst, Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast;" Errol Louis, CNN political commentator, political anchor for Spectrum News; Matt Lewis, a CNN political commentator, senior columnist for "The Daily Beast;" and Ivo Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Look, guys, there are domestic political implications here, international political implications, as well as implications for planet Earth. And hopefully, we'll get to each and every aspect of that, but, Ambassador, first, to you. You know, President Trump returns from a nine-day overseas trip, much of it with NATO nations and European leader nations, who are going to look at this decision with great scorn, I think.

IVO DAALDER, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Yes, I think this is a double whammy in some ways. First, he goes to NATO headquarters and refuses to commit the United States to the fundamental tenant of collective defense, the so-called Article 5 of the NATO treaty. And then he goes to the G7 and doesn't commit to the Paris Agreement and goes home and pulls out of it.

And this is a major international agreement. Only Venezuela and Syria, I believe, haven't signed it yet. And for the United States to walk away from this when the rest of the world is committed, in part because of American leadership, to embrace this idea of producing greenhouse gases so we can deal with the climate, is a real blow.

HARLOW: Errol Louis, to you. This is a move that many had been expecting, but this is also a move that is counter to what his Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, was urging him to do. When he was CEO of ExxonMobil, he and the company said, you know, essentially, this is what we need to do and supported the Paris climate change agreement.

ERROL LOUIS, POLITICAL ANCHOR, SPECTRUM NEWS NY1: Yes. HARLOW: So where does it go from here? I mean, of course, Mitch

McConnell is happy, someone who, at the time, said this is possibly illegal and could not be sustained. So what does this all mean for the President and the people around him?

LOUIS: I think it's helpful to put it in the frame of domestic politics. So Senator McConnell, coming from Kentucky, is in favor of promoting fossil fuels in any which way that he can. And many of the 22 senators who signed the letter urging withdrawal from the treaty felt the same way.

[09:09:53] I think, though, it's going to get a little bit stickier perhaps than the President and his team realize because there is a robust alternative or clean energy sector where there are lots of jobs being created, where there are lots of possibilities out there, new technology solidly behind it. And it's including in states where the President did quite well, places like Florida. They're very interested in solar energy down there. Places like Wisconsin, places like Pennsylvania, places that he won and needed to win and will need to win again. So I think the domestic politics are going to get very tricky very quickly, and I think he may find less support from some Republican governors than he might be expecting.

BERMAN: Well, Matt Lewis, that's an interesting question. Matt Lewis, conservative writer, I should say. There is a fundamental disagreement at play here. Look, the overwhelming number of scientists say that global warming is real, humans contribute to it, and we have to deal with it. But clearly, the President and many Republicans either do not believe the science or do not believe it is a priority to deal with it.

MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Or it's not a good deal. That's the problem with this, it's not a good deal. Donald Trump ran for President saying he was going to pull out of the Paris Accords. He also ran as a deal maker who wanted to put America first. The problem with this is it's a bad deal.

First of all, there is no uniform criteria for involvement. Countries just pledged what they were going to do, right? So some countries phone it in. America, with President Obama, made a very, I would say, overly ambitious pledge to cut greenhouse emissions by 26 to 28 percent. What that would do, as we just heard from Christine, is cost about 6 million jobs, probably trillions of dollars in energy costs. But what do we get out of it?

That's where the deal really falls apart. The estimate is that if this is fully implemented, the Paris deal, it would shave 0.2 degrees Celsius off of warming by 2100. So we're going to lose 6 million jobs to shave a fraction of one percentage of one degree maybe in 80 years. That's not a good deal for America.

HARLOW: To be clear, and Christine pointed it out, that's one economist's estimate. There are others out there as well. But you do have a point. And it's the question of sort of, also, Jackie, where does the President fall within his own party on this? I mean, you have Lindsey Graham on this network on Sunday saying,

well, if he pulls out, that will show the world that this President thinks that climate change is a hoax, Lindsey Graham's words. And then he said it's going to show that the leader of the Republican Party is out of step with the rest of the world. Does that matter to this President?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, because of his America first position, it doesn't seem to be the case because, yes, this does take the United States away from the table as a leader when it comes to climate change initiatives. But, as Errol pointed out, there is the domestic side of this. President Trump made a lot of promises to coal country, and this is one of the promises that he made. Whether or not he could bring it back and whether or not that's true, that's another discussion entirely, but he did make those promises.

That said, again, as Errol pointed out and, you know, pushing back on Matt a little bit, I think it depends on what state you're in whether jobs are going to be lost. I'm from Ohio. Natural gas is a growing industry there. ExxonMobil, just last week, sent a letter to the President saying that they can compete under the agreement, and they believe in this because of clean energy alternatives like natural gas. So there are so many levels of politics at play on this.

BERMAN: And it also gets to Matt just to say, you know, whether some progress is better than no progress.

LEWIS: Right. But look --

BERMAN: Or a better deal is even possible.

LEWIS: I will just say there is no way you can cut 26 to 28 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions and not dramatically impact the American economy. Now, we could argue that's a good thing, that we need to make that sacrifice, but, look, Exxon may do fine, right? Maybe that's possible --

BERMAN: Again, that's one analysis of it. And Poppy correctly points out, there are other, you know, analyses of that as well. Ivo Daalder, Ambassador, I just want to get your take either on that or also to note, you know, again, this is in the context of a very dicey foreign trip, particularly to Europe, for the President.

HARLOW: Oh, yes.

BERMAN: Sean Spicer, the White House Press Secretary, was talking about the relationship between President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and said they have an unbelievable relationship. I would like your definition of what unbelievable is here.

DAALDER: Well, it's not a great one. That is the relationship. Clearly, Angela Merkel, when she came to Washington in March, left deeply disappointed about the direction that the United States was heading in under President Trump. They had very tough words then, as they did just last week over the

issue of trade. The President made very clear where he stands on this issue just the other day when he tweeted out that Germany is, quote, "very bad on trade." And she has made clear over the weekend that she doesn't think she can rely on the United States to the same extent that we may have been in the past.

[09:14:48] And this decision on the Paris agreement, which she foreshadowed in her press conference in Italy and said she would be deeply disappointed, kind of is the exclamation point on the nature of the relationship today, where Germany is going to look for alternative ways to get its way and to, in some ways, lead, particularly in Europe, when the United States has decided that leadership of the free world is no longer something that the president is particularly interested in.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And the words used after those climate talks when the president was in Europe, very difficult, very dissatisfying. That was before this news. Guys, thank you very much. Stick around.

We have a lot ahead. Fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn reversing course suddenly, agreeing to hand over some of those subpoenaed documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why the change of heart and why now?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, words that will live in history, "covfefe." What does it mean? And how does it solve the president's messaging problem?

Also, unleashed and unrepentant, the Portland stabbing suspect screams out in court, free speech or die. There's much more as well.

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BERMAN: The White House likes to say that the president's tweets speak for themselves. And this morning those tweets shouted, "covfefe."

[09:20:03]Now despite the constant negative press "covfefe" he wrote and then nothing else. Historians will debate the deeper meaning of this for generations, but what it does show is that whatever discipline regimen the president was under during his foreign trip that has been relaxed as he also railed against what he called the witch hunt of the Russian investigation, which moves closer and closer to his inner circle.

HARLOW: That's right. A source confirmed to CNN that fired National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has agreed suddenly to hand over a few rounds of documents to Congress from his business and some personal documents that are being subpoenaed.

In the meantime, the president's personal attorney one of them slamming this investigation calling it a total fishing expedition. All of this happens as the White House refuses to confirm or deny whether President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, pushed and pursued a secret back channel to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Let's get to Joe Johns at the White House with more. Good morning. Do you know what "covfefe" means?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know what, I wish I did. I thought he was just trying to write coverage, but who knows. You say "covfefe," I say "covfefe."

Talking about the congressional investigation that sort of taking a familiar turn quite frankly, the president's former national security advisor had initially said he wasn't going to comply with the first subpoena he got from Capitol Hill because he was invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

And then they gave him a second subpoena, he decided he would comply with that subpoena because apparently the bulk of it is for business records, which aren't covered by the Fifth Amendment.

On the other hand, we have a second individual, of course, and that would be Michael Cohen. He is a fixture, if you will, in Trump world simply going back years. And he, too, has gotten an invitation, a request from Capitol Hill to come and talk, also to give information.

And he declined and used a lot of strong words. He called the request overbroad, a fishing expedition and said he simply was not going to comply with it. Back to you.

BERMAN: All right. Joe Johns at the White House, thanks so much. Let's discuss more. Back with us our panel. Jackie Kucinich, first to you, in addition to "covfefe," we are going to leave that aside for a moment, the president also wrote some very interesting things about the Russia investigation, simply about Carter Page.

He goes, "So now it is reported that Democrats who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia, don't want him to testify. He blows away their case against him and now wants to clear his name by showing false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan, witch hunt!

He's talking about a letter that Carter Page wrote to the congressional investigators saying he wants to testify out in public. The substance aside, we thought the president was going to back off his tweeting about the investigation.

That the lawyers were going to vet this. That really doesn't seem to be the case here. He seems to be directly engaged, which would be a problem for his outside counsel.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Apparently no one told Donald Trump he was going to back off tweeting and that he doesn't know Carter Page.

BERMAN: Exactly.

KUCINICH: And he doesn't have anything to do with Carter Page because that's been the line coming out of the White House since Carter Page kind of surfaced and became a problem. So this really speaks to the fact that the president keeps making this worst for himself by going after Comey, going after Brennan, going after this investigation as a witch hunt.

Whether or not he thinks it's a witch hunt, it's going to continue, be it what Mueller is doing or be it what the Senate and the House are doing. This is going to continue. And by tweeting things like this, he just makes it worse for himself.

But at the end of the day, as we have seen with these reports, anything the White House has done to curtail this, it doesn't matter if the president isn't 100 percent onboard.

HARLOW: So in terms of this investigation and how it's widening, we learned overnight Flynn is going to hand over some of these documents. That's one thing.

If you are keeping score at home about who investigators want to talk to, it's getting bigger and bigger, you now have Boris Epstein, who was on the outside, but still within the president's circle. Not an inner circle guy.

You do have Michael Cohen who is in this loyal, loyal confidant and attorney to the president. You've also got the campaign chairman, his son-in-law, it goes on and on.

Matt Lewis, the web is getting bigger, the circle of interest is getting bigger. Does that matter?

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the thing about witch hunts is that witches get caught, they get killed. (Inaudible) to be witches but --

BERMAN: Not anymore.

LEWIS: Not anymore. Maybe I should say the thing about fishing expeditions is you end up with fish, right? Like whether or not you should go on the expedition and that's what's happening now. There may be no Russia collusion. Whatever started this may or may not exist.

But guess what, once you started getting people giving interviews to the FBI, which to lie to the FBI is in itself a crime, you start getting them under oath, testifying before Congress. You start having them subpoena documents, turning them over.

All of a sudden, there is such a potential for people to become wrapped up in this and to be caught lying, misrepresenting things. I mean, it's entirely possible.

[09:25:09]This thing takes on a life of its own. Remember, you could have a land deal in Arkansas, you know, turn into a president perjuring himself.

BERMAN: Hypothetically. And it gets wider and again, as Jackie says, when the president says I don't know Carter Page and then all of a sudden he's tweeting in defense of Carter Page. Sean Spicer says the same thing.

Errol Louis, moving on to a different name, Michael Cohen, someone you know from covering New York politics very well. Explain who he is and his role to Donald Trump.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's a loyalist from within the Trump organization. He's been sort of an attack dog. He's one of the people who makes threats and in some cases idle threats, in some cases vicious threats, in some cases obscene and profane threats.

So he is unambiguously on the side of Donald Trump. So it is not surprising that he would sort of use the kind of caustic language that we heard saying that they don't know what they're doing. It's overly broad. I can't respond and so forth.

Of course, there's nothing to do with the law. If they present him with a valid subpoena, he'll have to make a choice, stay in contempt or actually meet the terms of the subpoena.

I think for us it's also important to understand that this is somebody who actually knows a lot about what goes on in that organization. So if you had to make a list of who you didn't want speaking to investigators or to Congress, Michael Cohen would near the top of the list.

HARLOW: He'd be covered in many ways by attorney-client privilege.

LOUIS: Well, depending on what you are asking him for. But as we saw, even asserting your rights, when it comes to this kind of investigation, terrible optics and sort of signals to investigators that it is time to broaden the net.

HARLOW: Jackie, Sean Spicer -- I can't even call them answers yesterday. OK? As the "Washington Post" put it a press briefing for the ages. His not answer "answer" on any and everything Jared Kushner. I mean, how long can he standup there and do that with someone who has been sort of unofficially dubbed in the White House as secretary of everything?

KUCINICH: Well, I mean, Jared Kushner has indicated he's willing to talk to the Senate and investigators about his role in this. So Sean Spicer can block and tackle as much as he wants, but at the end of the day eventually we'll hear something from Jared Kushner.

But as we know, Sean Spicer is performing, for lack of a better word, for an audience of one and if the president doesn't want him to talk about Jared Kushner, he's not going to talk about Jared Kushner.

BERMAN: You know, Jared Kushner could talk about Jared Kushner. I mean, he doesn't just work for himself or in some ways, he works for the United States of America. He's a senior advisor to the president of the United States of America, Matt Lewis, who may be secretary of everything. Does he owe a public answer to some of this?

Look, you know, he's got the right to defend himself in investigations right now, but don't U.S. officials need to answer some policy related questions here?

LEWIS: It would certainly be nice. Most Americans have no idea what he even sounds like. Most Americans have never heard his voice. I think he did an interview years ago like on C-Span or something, but no one's like -- he's never done an interview. Would it be welcome here?

BERMAN: That's a great point. He did one "Forbes" interview. That's it. Errol, quickly to his wife's credit, Ivanka has done, not a ton of interviews, but she's done interviews.

LOUIS: That's right. I mean, look, the blending of public and private business here and family business on top of it is what makes all of this so unusual and distasteful. I mean, because, you know, what was he trying to do with the back channel?

Was it for private business, private business for firm, for the president's organization, the Trump Organization or for the White House? Those are the questions that need to be answered and saying I don't like to give interviews is really not acceptable.

BERMAN: Or was it at odds with the current policy of the United States of America, which would be problematic in and of itself. Jackie Kucinich, Errol Louis, Matt Lewis, thanks all for being with us.

HARLOW: All right, still to come for us, can we buy a vowel anyone? The president's confusing, confounding late night tweet may be a joke on the internet. We think it is going to be in your syllabus soon, trying to figure out what does "covfefe" really mean?

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