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White House Won't Say if Trump Believes in Climate Change; Despite Lack of Info. Trump Calls Philippines Attack "Terror"; Bill Weir Explores Divided America in CNN Special. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired June 2, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:56] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: One key element was missing from President Trump's speech, withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords yesterday -- what is the president's position on climate change? Does he believe that it is a hoax? Does he believe what he's tweeted in the past? Well, the president views the deal, at large, as a bad deal for the American worker, but his thoughts on whether human activity contributes to climate change are a bit murkier.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you say whether or not the president believes that human activity is contributing to the warming of the climate?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I must say, I haven't asked him.


SPICER: I can get back to you.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Does the president believe climate change is a hoax?

SCOTT PRUITT, EPA SECRETARY: This is not about whether climate change is occurring or not.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Does President Trump still believe climate change is a hoax?

GARY COHN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISOR: Look, President Trump believes that he was elected to grow the U.S. economy.

BLITZER: But with all due respect, Gary, you're not answering the question. Do you know? Have you discussed this with the president? Does he still believe that climate change, global warming, is a hoax?

COHN: I'm answering what the president's committed to. Look, you're going to have to ask him. You're going to actually have to ask him.

UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: Does he believe global war warming's a hoax? KELLYANNE CONWAY, SERNIOR TRUMP ADVISOR: He believes in clean air,

clean environment, and he believes we have to negotiate better deals for this country.

UNIDENTIFIED ANCHOR: I'll ask one more time, does he believe global warming's a hoax?

CONWAY: You should ask him that.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now, Ernest Moniz, who served as energy secretary for President Obama when the Paris Accord was agreed to and signed.

Secretary, thanks so much for joining me.


BOLDUAN: So, I read your opinion piece on the president's announcement. You, to say the very least, you disagree with the president's decision. What is he getting most wrong, in your view, secretary?

MONIZ: Well, first of all, I think the decision accomplished many unfortunate things all at once. It reinforced, I think, the lack of confidence in our allies and friends of our reliability. And when you combine his statement yesterday with his budget proposal, it undercuts the innovation agenda that is actually the real issue in terms of jobs in the United States. So, I think, and I've said, I think history will look very, very poorly on this decision. I will add, however, a silver lining here is that we do see already, not only other countries stepping forward with leadership, but most importantly, in the United States we see cities and states and business leaders also saying we're going to keep on this pathway to a low-carbon future.

BOLDUAN: And to that point, about 80 mayors representing about 39 million Americans and also many big businesses, they have said that they're going to keep going, they're going to keep with the commitments laid out in the accord, regardless of what the president does. With that in mind, do you think some of the bigger, broader statements about the negative, how negatively this decision will impact the country, do you think that's overblown?

[11:35:00] MONIZ: Well, I think there's no. This decision, if the federal government is not kind of rowing in the same direction with our governors and our business leaders and our mayors, it makes the job much harder. It's going to make it harder for the United States, and more expensive, ultimately, to comply. However, again, it's not -- hopefully, it won't be catastrophic, because we will have these commitments. You know, right now, states that require, for example, more renewables, deployment, they cover 70 percent of the U.S. population, for example. States and regions will take leadership. Mayors are taking leadership. As I said, very importantly, we've already seen major corporate leaders, including in the oil and gas industry, come forward and say, look, we are heading to a low-carbon future, we have to do business, we do business globally, and we're going to keep going. For one thing I think as well, we will see what happens, but I think the president's decision may invite very unfortunate trade retaliation in terms of carbon pricing for American exports.

BOLDUAN: Do you -- Larry Summers made a statement about this accord, and he called the decision the biggest U.S. foreign policy error since entering the Iraq war. Do you agree with that?

MONIZ: I think there's a strong case for that to be made. I would add, on both counts, the 2003 Iraq war and now this climate decision. Look, this is an issue of --


BOLDUAN: What's the case, Mr. Secretary?

MONIZ: Well, this is an issue of global concern and global commitment. The United States has been an indispensable leader on many fronts, including the climate front, including the energy innovation front. In fact, on the latter -- I want to keep going back to that, because the innovation agenda really is the jobs agenda. We play a leadership role in having over 20 countries commit to doubling down on innovation investments. The budget proposal of this administration, rather than doubling it, it proposes halving it.


MONIZ: Well, that just dulls our competitive edge.

BOLDUAN: I'm sorry to cut you off, I just wanted to ask you one quick question. The White House and cabinet officials have been facing a lot of questions about this, and by my count, at least five White House officials and cabinet secretaries after this announcement have refused to say whether the president believes global warming is a hoax still. No matter where he lands on this, do you think the president needs to make his view known?

MONIZ: Well, let me say, first of all, I do want to emphasize that the cabinet officials, with security responsibilities, I think we're encouraging him to stay in the deal because it's a national security risk. In terms of the science and climate change, you're absolutely right. As far as I know, he has not answered the question. But I have to say that implicitly, his announcement and the statements of Administrator Pruitt following the announcement implicitly suggest that they understand climate change has to be addressed. So maybe that's a little bit of a silver lining, but we have to keep pushing that. Let me say, the science is unambiguous in terms of human intervention for global warming, and any prudent person would want a robust response because of the enormous risks we face, not to mention the opportunities presented by a multitrillion-dollar international clean energy marketplace.

BOLDUAN: Secretary Ernest Moniz, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

MONIZ: Thank you. Thank you, Kate. BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, Steve Bannon was front and center during President Trump's big climate accord announcement. Is this a sign, another sign, of a power shift in the White House? Details on that ahead.


[11:42:52] BOLDUAN: Yanking the United States out of the Paris climate deal, it was a "W" in the column for White House strategist, Steve Bannon, and another checkmark -- or maybe he crosses it off -- for his somewhat now-famous white board, listing President Trump's campaign promises they are trying to keep. On the losing end of the climate battle, the president's daughter, Ivanka Trump, wanted her dad to stay in the climate deal and put up an intense lobbying effort, according to all the reports, hoping to change his mind. Is the pendulum now of power within the White House, White House inner circle, especially, swinging back to Bannon?

Let's discuss with CNN Politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza.

I can't say your name today, Chris.


BOLDUAN: The palace intrigue, the palace intrigue, do you see this announcement yesterday as a swinging of the pendulum of influence in the White House?

CILLIZZA: OK, so, I've taken, Kate, to not seeing pendulum swings because I feel like every day is distinct in this White House. That is --


BOLDUAN: Yeah, like last week, Bannon was about to get fired or something.

CILLIZZA: Right, exactly. Yesterday is not necessarily predictive of today and today is not necessarily predictive of tomorrow. What we can say is what you did say, Steve Bannon was clearly the most ardent, aggressive advocate for Donald Trump making good on his campaign pledge. I think he actually puts an "X," a red "X" next to the things that Donald Trump has accomplished on that white board that he said he would. And we know Ivanka Trump, she brought Al Gore into the White House, she brought a number of people into the White House to speak to her father to try to convince him that staying within the Paris Accords was the right thing to do, both sort of as a country, politically, morally, et cetera, et cetera. You have seen in the last week Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, they do go together as a married couple. You get the nickname Javanka, a lot of twinned analysis of the two of them. Look, Jared Kushner had a bad week at the end of last week with the various reports on his ties to Russia. This was a bad week for Ivanka Trump. She was expressly said going into the White House that she thought she could have a real influence on her father's policies and views on things. This is a big one that she clearly was not able to sway his opinion on.

[11:45:01] BOLDUAN: I want to get your take on something else. It was one element of the president's speech yesterday that's gotten a little less attention, is when he called the attack in the Philippines a terrorist attack.


BOLDUAN: The timeline here is important, Chris. He said this -- he said "terror attack" at about 3:00 yesterday. ISIS claimed responsibility overnight into today, and police in the Philippines said today there is no truth that the incident was terror, and they lay out their case for that. So, that bit -- it's still an open question, or it still needs to be worked out, it seems --


BOLDUAN: -- of where the responsibility lies, but the president, at least what I saw, he did not seem to indicate that it was an open question when he spoke yesterday.

CILLIZZA: No, and look, there's a looseness of rhetoric with this president that I do think is problematic and we're right to flag. I was stunned by that, only because, typically, presidents are so resistant to drawing conclusions before literally every fact is known. And this --

BOLDUAN: And, Chris, you don't have to look that far back, how upset, and rightfully so, Republicans were when, on the flip side, Barack Obama and the White House --

CILLIZZA: Correct.

BOLDUAN: -- hesitated on calling Benghazi a terror attack.

CILLIZZA: That's right. You know, so, I think that bred a hesitancy. I think to come out and say that it is, either Donald Trump knows more than is publicly available, which is always possible, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Definitely possible.

CILLIZZA: He's the president of the United States. He gets exposed to plenty of information we don't. Or he was just saying it because he either heard it somewhere or read it somewhere, and it wasn't, at least based on what we know now, it was not verified as such. Yes, as you point out, ISIS is claiming credit for it, but the Philippine authority is saying there is no evidence of this, it looks like a criminal act but not a terrorist act.


CILLIZZA: Again, there's a looseness with words here. We've seen it in lots of ways manifest itself during the campaign, on Twitter, and now in his White House. He's not going to stop being loose with words. I think we just have to make sure we take note of them. There's a tendency that you get a little bit, callus is the wrong word, but it builds up and there are small things we don't notice it.

BOLDUAN: Numb to it.

CILLIZZA: This is a big deal. Numb to it, exactly right.


CILLIZZA: This is a big deal and we have to note it. We have to put a pin in it and say, this happened, and we need to follow up and say why did he say that, if the facts don't bear it out?

BOLDUAN: It has been pinned by Chris Cillizza.

And I want to leave everybody with this, Jim Acosta is reporting from yesterday, when he the asked about this, a quote from a White House official: "The president had been briefed that media reports indicated ISIS had taken credit." That is what Jim Acosta was told yesterday.


BOLDUAN: And I think that is an important element of it.

CILLIZZA: I love the media. I'm in the media. I've spent my whole life in the media. But the president shouldn't be taking -- and media's very broadly defined! We don't know what he was looking at.


CILLIZZA: You shouldn't take that as, you know, the way in which you're going to, to the nation declare that this was a terrorist attack.

BOLDUAN: Unless, of course, it's Chris Cillizza's reporting. And then you can just take it to the bank. I'm just going to say.

CILLIZZA: Take it to the bank, cash it, have a good weekend.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Chris. Thank you.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, new this morning, the White House suggests that President Trump still has to decide, still is working, and still is deciding, if you will, whether he will try to invoke executive privilege to try to keep James Comey quiet, to keep him from testifying next week. What are the risks? What's the reality? That's next.


[11:52:49] BOLDUAN: An organization in California is bringing mobile hygiene centers to the homeless. Not a unique need, but a new way to meet it. The group's founder explains.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: These are people who get turned away, often who get treated poorly and our idea is just to open our arms.

Josh has got you all set up.

Hygiene connects you to your sense of dignity.


UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: We learn their names. We learn their stories. We provide all this extra support. It's like creating community around them and we call that radical hospitality.


BOLDUAN: To see radical hospitality in action, go to for more on that.

Also this, as we race now towards James Comey coming testimony on Capitol Hill next week, CNN is hearing from voters where they stand on the decision to vote for President Trump in the face of this pivotal moment in the Russian election meddling probe.

CNN's Bill Weir went back to his hometown to find out among other things. Watch this.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All this talk about Russia, what do you make of that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, no offense to those people, but it just seems a lot of hype is going on. I don't follow it as much as some people do because I don't believe in it. What will come out will come out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'm concerned about Russia, but Russia is meddling. That's just what they're doing. They've done it all my life.

WEIR: This is Don, long the beloved local veterinarian.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as the election is concerned, were they in the voting booth with you? They weren't in the voting booth with me.


BOLDUAN: Bill Weir is here with much, much more.

Bill, that fascinating. Also fascinating is we've been watching you travel around the globe to some of the remote spots in the world. What sent you home?

WEIR: well, I moved around a lot as a kid. I went to 17 schools in six states. My born was a born-again Christian who believed God was speaking to her in dreams. So I was watching the election from Iceland and watching my Facebook feed. One half giddy over Donald Trump and one in deep depression. I thought, why don't I retrace my steps and see the world through their eyes. Because ultimately, we the people have to figure out if we want this experiment going. It's kind of a miracle we've lasted 240 years. So many different ideas and value systems that come together.

[11:55:09] BOLDUAN: Were you surprised with what you heard?

WEIR: What I was surprised about is how distant people are in the most-connected age in human history.

BOLDUAN: That's a really good way of putting it.

WEIR: In Wisconsin, where I spent my summers, I spent some high school there, you melt in, you tune out, you forget the daily sort of soap opera that we're sort of obsessed by, tweet by tweet, minute by minute. And a lot of friends say, I vote once and I don't think about it again for four years. It's interesting information to have for both parties as they think about where we go from here.

BOLDUAN: I was reading some of the material. You wrote something on about this. This one line stuck out to me, "It's time to ask our country men where are you from. With a lot less fear and a lot more wonder."

WEIR: Right. Right.

BOLDUAN: I love that.

What do you mean?

WEIR: I meant that if you strip away the borders of the 50 states and just look at immigrant streams, values they brought, there's really 11 distinct American nations. We're more like Europe than we think. People ask, why don't the Germans and the Greeks, because they're from different countries. If you're in greater Appalachia, or Yankeedom, those are different countries. I think if you say, where are you from, where did you grow up, it helps me understand why you vote the way you do, how you define the definition -- how you define liberty and justice for all. We all have very different definitions of what that means.

BOLDUAN: So fascinating and beautifully shot.

WEIR: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: A great look at some beautiful parts of the country as well.

WEIR: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Bill. Great to see you.

WEIR: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Make sure to watch "States of Change." That's tomorrow night. You will not want to miss it, tomorrow night, 9:00 p.m. eastern, here on CNN.

Be right back.


[12:00:06] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your Friday with us.

Listen here, as Vladimir Putin says --