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Trump Voices Support for Article 5, Warns Russia Off; Trump: "Nobody Really Knows" Who Meddled; Severe Things Being Considered for North Korea; Soon: Trump Lands In Germany Ahead Of Putin Meeting; Trump Urges Russia To Stop "Destabilizing Activities"; U.S. Threatens To Limit Trade With China Over North Korea. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 6, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:08] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Morning, John Berman here. The breaking news of the morning. Big drama, big stakes, and in some cases, big contradictions for President Trump.

A strong defense of a key NATO ally, his clearest statement yet against what he called the destabilizing activities of Russia, but also a fairly blistering critique of his own intelligence agencies and a public, full-throated aggressive ambivalence about the notion of Russian meddling in the U.S. election. And that's just the beginning today.

As we speak, the President is on his way to Germany for the G-20 Summit. He arrives there shortly. We will cover every twist and turn. First, though, his warning shot to Russia while standing in front of thousands cheering in Warsaw.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran and to, instead, join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.


BERMAN: Pretty clear. Also pretty clear, his statement hours earlier continuing to sow doubt over his own intelligence agencies' findings that Russia meddled in the U.S. election.


TRUMP: I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries. And I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.


BERMAN: Nobody really knows. His intelligence agencies say they know. Just the beginning of what could be a very important 48 hours, perhaps the most important 48 hours in terms of foreign policy of his presidency to date. CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is in Hamburg. That

is where the President arrives about an hour from now. The G-20 Summit, Nic, we've seen a lot already today.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: We have. And already, the leaders that he'll meet here will have heard a lot listening to him there in Warsaw before he left.

The Europeans will have noticed that he was critical of their failing to make proper financial contributions towards NATO. That he was critical of big government. The European Union is nothing if it is not big government. And critical as well of immigration, which is something that, you know, will strike a chord here in Europe with some people, but it's also not the sort of language that European leaders here like to use.

So I think they, having listened to that, will find some things that they like, that he was strong against Russia, but there were a lot of things they won't like and that's just going to add on to all the other pressures and tensions -- climate change, trade, all those sorts of things.

But what a lot of them will have also listened to is his equivocation, if you will, on this issue of Russia meddling in the U.S. elections. When he was pressed on the issue, he didn't seem to want to get into a --


TRUMP: I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries. And I won't be specific, but I think a lot of people interfere. I think it's been happening for a long time. It's been happening for many, many years.

Now, the thing I have to mention is that Barack Obama, when he was president, found out about this -- in terms of if it were Russia, found out about it in August. Now, the election was in November. That's a lot of time.

He did nothing about it. Why did he do nothing about it? He was told it was Russia by the CIA, as I understand it. It was well reported. And he did nothing about it.

They say he choked. Well, I don't think he choked. I think what happened is he thought Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, and he said, let's not do anything about it. Had he thought the other way, he would have done something about it.


ROBERTSON: So rather than being critical of President Putin, who he was going to sit down face-to-face with, he appeared to want to be pivotal back to President Obama.

But that meeting with President Putin, for President Putin in that meeting, he'll be well prepared. And he will have heard what President Trump has to say about Russia needing to change its position on Syria, on Ukraine. This is not going to be a meeting of minds. We can certainly see that coming, John.

BERMAN: All right. Nic Robertson in Hamburg. Again, we are waiting for the President to arrive there. He's also meeting with Angela Merkel later today, just one of the many things that is on his agenda.

And it's really just part of the story because the President is also dealing with a major development on the Korean Peninsula. For the first time, North Korea testing an ICBM, a missile that could, for the first time, in theory, reach the United States.

Now, when asked about a possible military response to this, the President said, quote, very severe things are being considered. What could those severe things be?

CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon with the latest on that. Good morning, Barbara.

[09:04:59] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. Let's be clear, many sources we are talking to here in Washington this morning are telling us they do not anticipate, at this point, U.S. military action against North Korea. That the administration is still looking at options involving sanctions and diplomatic action despite the rhetoric that is emerging. So that perhaps is a starting point, could there still be diplomatic action and sanctions to come?

That said, U.S. military commanders certainly have recently updated military options for the President if he were to choose to exercise them. He has said there's no red lines. Let's listen to a bit more of what he said about all of that this morning.


TRUMP: But I have some pretty severe things that we're thinking about. That doesn't mean we're going to do them. I don't draw red lines.

President Obama drew a red line, and I was the one that made it look a little bit better than it was. But that could have been done a lot sooner, and you wouldn't have had the same situation that you have right now in Syria. That was a big mistake.

But I think we'll just take a look at what happens over the coming weeks and months with respect to North Korea.


STARR: So when a president of the United States says red lines, the world actually does hear the concept that there might be military action. That's what you're really talking about here. At what point would North Korea cross the line in provocation or weapons development that the U.S. would have to take some action?

This notion that there is no red line is not exactly correct because his own Defense Secretary, James Mattis, recently told Congress that U.S. policy was that North Korea would not be allowed to build an intercontinental ballistic missile and a nuclear warhead that, of course, could strike the U.S.

Key word, build. Well, they're going ahead and doing it, right? I mean, we now have seen the building and actual test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile. They are continuing to work on their nuclear warhead program.

So we are exactly where we have been with a U.S. government. It's not clear Mr. Trump has any different path than the Obama administration had. Hope for sanctions, plan for military action, no indication of which way this is going.

BERMAN: Yes. Exactly where we've been, except now North Korea has a missile that could, in theory, reach Alaska. Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon. Thank you so much.

Again, we are waiting for the President to arrive in Germany for the G-20 Summit. He has a key meeting with Angela Merkel in just a few hours.

Here to discuss what we have seen so far today, and it's been an awful lot, David Rohde, CNN global affairs analyst and online news director for "The New Yorker," and Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to Russia. Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us.

Ambassador, I want to start with you. Not only for the first and clearest time, really, did we hear from President Trump a call for Russia to stop what he called its destabilizing activities. But whereas in Europe before, he failed to stand behind Article 5 of NATO, which calls for collective security; today, he said that statement loudly and clearly. Let's listen to what he said.


TRUMP: I would point out that the United States has demonstrated, not merely with words but with its actions, that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.


BERMAN: All right. That statement was something that NATO allies in Europe had been waiting to hear, Ambassador. How significant was it that he said it today in Warsaw, you know, part of a new NATO country, Poland, that borders Russia?

THOMAS PICKERING, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: John, it's very significant. And it reminds me of a statement that Winston Churchill once made saying, the Americans, after trying everything else, will do the right thing.

I think that this is a happy and useful development because, not only for the Polish audience but for the whole NATO audience, it was significant that the President finally came out and recognized Article 5 as a binding commitment on the United States, and it is the bedrock of our defense in Europe. And obviously, he's doing this on the eve of his meeting both with President Putin where it's most important, but also with President Xi.

BERMAN: And, David Rohde, there was a lot else in this speech as well. There was great praise of the Polish people and the struggles they have had over the centuries, frankly, you know, aggression coming from Russia, also from Germany. But there was also some discussion about the new modern Europe. And he spoke about the challenges being faced right now in Europe to terrorism and also immigration. Listen to this, David.


TRUMP: We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding and their networks and any form of ideological support that they may have. While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind. We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism, and we will prevail.


[09:10:07] BERMAN: You know, David Rohde, so it was interesting. While he gave Western Europe something it badly wanted, you know, defense of Article 5, a strong statement about Russia, he also, you know, was very critical, implicitly and explicitly, about immigration in Europe and also the big government there.

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. I mean, this was sort of the full Donald Trump, if you will. I'd agree with Ambassador Pickering, this thing about Russia was very smart and important. It helps him politically. He's pushing back against Russia. A lot of people wanted to see that.

But then there was lots of other Donald Trump. He talked about the dangers of bureaucracy, you know, thwarting the West and this sort of existential threat against the West. But his answer to that was sort of having the will to fight it. He didn't talk much -- the word democracy was in the speech, but he didn't talk about that much.

And most importantly, he's standing in Poland which has been criticized for having sort of an authoritarian regime, that's undermining independent press there, and the opposition and the independent courts. He didn't talk about the importance of sort of the rule of law and these rules. It was more about the will to fight back and the dangers of immigration and government bureaucracy.

BERMAN: And notable, you know, he attacked the free press. The President did earlier in the day, side by side with the Polish leader who has cracked down on the press in his own country.

Ambassador, I want to get your take on these dual messages that we got from the President. On the one hand, standing up, you know, in the clearest terms yet to Russia on Russia's border. On the other hand, refusing to acknowledge, directly, his own intelligence agencies' assessment that Russia meddled in the U.S. election. What's Vladimir Putin to take from that in his meetings as he meets the President tomorrow?

PICKERING: Well, I think it's calculated. President Trump loves to play the audiences. And in fact, sometimes even at the expense of the national interest and consistency in support of the national interest. But however that may be, he is positioning himself.

He's not had an argument with Putin before. He set the predicate at least because he has, at home, a Congress and a public that, in my view, is probably totally over balanced in an anti-Russian position. And the President has to come out of this particular set of meetings with Russia on a balanced basis.

And so going in, if you put it this way, with a little criticism but a strong history of never having criticized Putin before, and a situation in which both of them have a huge agenda, an agenda in which they have to deal with process, can Tillerson and Lavrov and Mattis and Shoygu, his opposite number, be engaged to help work on this process?

The second is the tactical considerations. Can they work on Syria, which is short-term and very important? Can they find a way to avoid the kind of impossible tragedy of a breakout of a conflict or a shoot down or something else which, because of accident, miscalculation, and misdirection, will be a problem?

And can they begin to work on the longer-term questions of Ukraine and the nuclear issue between the U.S. and Russia, which I think has the real problem of undergoing a lot of, what I would call, disintegration if we can't solve this issue over the INF Treaty.

We need the INF Treaty. We've accused the Russians of breaking it; they've accused us of breaking it. Setting down two good people on both sides to work on solving that problem -- and it is resolvable -- would be a very important way through. So he has to produce a result.

BERMAN: Right.

PICKERING: It can't be too big a result for the American Congress and for the American public, but it can't be too little one or Mr. Trump himself suffers.

BERMAN: And, David --

PICKERING: So it's a very careful course to thread.

BERMAN: David, I want your last quick thought on the President critical or sowing doubt on U.S. intelligence agencies overseas. You don't see that very often.

ROHDE: You don't see that and, again, these are the contradictions of Donald Trump. I think he said the right thing on Russia. And that, arguably, sends the wrong message about U.S. agencies.

BERMAN: You know, he will need U.S. intelligence agencies dealing with North Korea --

ROHDE: And to deal with Russia.

BERMAN: -- and deal with Russia over the next few days. All right. David Rohde, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, thanks so much for your insight here.

President Trump did take questions for the first time in a long time. And he did, of course, talk about the media in that news conference in a country that cracks down on its own media.

Plus, the North Korean missile test now with an ICBM that could reach Alaska. The President promises some pretty severe things. Like what?

And the President's Election Integrity Commission wants personal voter information. This morning, they need to explain why to a federal judge.



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We are waiting for President Trump to arrive in Hamburg, Germany. This is for the G20 Summit. We are also on the eve of President Trump's first one-on-one meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Leave aside for the moment the fact that Trump said during the campaign that he'd already met with Vladimir Putin at least twice. The president has already made a lot of news this morning. He's been very critical of Russia on the one hand, as critical as he's ever been, but there is another hand as well.

I'm joined now by Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator, senior columnist for "The Daily Beast," Matt Viser, deputy Washington bureau chief for the "Boston Globe," and Amber Phillips, political reporter and blogger for the "Washington Post."

Matt Lewis, I want to start with you. I know for a fact that you think the president's upcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin is a big deal because you've said to me on TV for the past few hours. So I appreciate that.

How do you think what he has done so far today? We'll play into that meeting, on the one hand, he continues to say nobody knows for sure whether Russia's meddled in the election. On the other hand, his most direct criticism of Russia saying stop your destabilizing activities.

MATT LEWIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I think just like Donald Trump has done too frequently he's sending mixed messages and I think that someone like Vladimir Putin sees that as a weakness and a vulnerability and he can exploit that.

Having said that, I thought that the speech in Warsaw was very good. I think it's not getting the attention and the praise that I think it deserves. And it was about a civilizational struggle, it was about the preservation of western civilization.

He said civilization, not society, frequently. It harkened to Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, FDR, and I think it's very important. Some people saw that as sort of tired and cliched.

But I think there's a generation of Americans and Europeans who need to be reminded of the stories, Poland's struggle against Nazi-ism and against communism. And how we are galvanizing western civilization together.

[09:20:10]So that is a message about unity for the west, but also a reminder to Vladimir Putin and others about the past. I think it was good.

BERMAN: Amber, you know, Matt Lewis apparently not watching the first segment of our show where we focused exclusively on the speech from President Trump in Warsaw and there were people who said it was important there.

But this gets to the issue here of sometimes the president gets in the way of his own message because he delivered a press conference hours before where, again, he questioned his own U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the U.S. elections. Does that get in the way of this larger direct message with the White House very happy with the speech in Warsaw today?

AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes. One hundred percent this gets in the way of what the White House is trying to do. What I heard today was the president trying to have it both ways. To say, hey, listen, NATO, we stand with you guys against any international aggression in Western Europe.

But I'm giving Russia the benefit of the doubt here that they tried to do an extraordinary thing in the U.S. election. This comes after weeks of hearings from former CIA, FBI, Homeland Security directors saying it is not a guess that Russia interfered in the election, it is fact.

It is fact. And president Trump is over there kind of defying what everyone back here in Washington wants him to do, which is to acknowledge this and put the hammer down on Russia. I imagine the European leaders he's going to meet with next want the exact same thing and he's kind of trying to have it both ways on that front.

BERMAN: You know, Amber brings up a good point, Matt Viser, you know, it's not just the career intelligence officers including Admiral Mike Rogers who say that Russia meddled in the election. But also the political appointees, now Mike Pompeo running the CIA, Dan Coats, you know, DNI, who say that yes, Russia meddled in the election.

They're not saying nobody knows for sure. They are quite definitive. That aside, Matt, to the point previously from the other Matt, Matt Lewis, you know, the White House has been hyping this speech in Warsaw as a defining moment in U.S. foreign policy.

And he did deliver what members of NATO have been looking for, which is a definitive statement that the U.S. will stand behind Article 5. Will this satisfy what some other NATO members have been asking for?

MATT VISER, DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "BOSTON GLOBE": I think so. I mean, it's been sort of a bizarre stutter step toward making that verbal commitment to Article 5, agreeing to step in and help NATO allies.

You know, President Trump on his first foreign trip was expected to make a statement, aides and advisors forecasted he would and he didn't. But they still kept saying he supports it, he just hasn't stated it yet. So I think this sort of clears the air a little bit on that.

What we saw in Warsaw though is more the rosy, you know, supportive crowds, very public speech. Now is sort of -- he's sort of shifting to a different portion of the trip where he might not be as greeted with warm arms in Germany, Angela Merkel the host country in this regard. So I think it's a different type of trip from now forward.

BERMAN: You know, it's undeniable he's got a lot to do on this trip and he's only just begun. Matt Lewis, you know, he delivered that message, the battle as you put it of threats to western civilization. He did it in Poland, which is an interesting place.

Obviously Poland has stood up to aggression in the past from both directions, a tough place to be as the president put it. However, the leader of Poland, President Duda also cracking down on the free press, also cracking down on the judiciary there. More authoritarian than perhaps some other nations. Is that the right message of democracy the president wants to send?

LEWIS: Well, the good thing is I didn't hear that in the speech. I think this was a speech that, you know, could have been delivered by Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, this was an American pro-western civilization speech.

But you're right about the context. And I think that is worrisome, that there is a strain of nationalism and populism that Donald Trump has in common with Poland right now that stifles free expression and frankly they also have in common with Vladimir Putin who has targeted journalists.

BERMAN: Indeed he has. Amber Phillips, the president on his way right now landing very shortly at the G20, where he will be greeted by allies who are skeptical of him, and it could put him in an awkward situation there.

But it's an awkward situation in every time he stands up to them perhaps the leaders of these other European -- Western European countries, it may play to his base. He has a chance to win support, more support on climate, for instance, on trade, for instance, things that might be unpopular there might be popular with some people here.

[09:25:05]PHILLIPS: Yes, I think you make a great point. If we know anything about the president, it's that he's a base politician. I think when he met with Western European leaders a couple months ago, they were feeling him out, giving him the benefit of the doubt. Since then he's done nothing to assuage their concerns about whether he's going to put aside what his base wants for what basically the rest of the world wants. You know, he got out of the Paris climate change agreement.

He's considering very protectionist trade policies like basically tariffs on steel, part of his travel ban that's gone into place that blocks refugees from coming into the U.S.

So Trump is coming from the perspective of wanting to close up U.S. borders while pretty much everyone who's going to meet with at the summit want to open up theirs.

BERMAN: Matt Viser, of course, tomorrow the big meeting with Vladimir Putin, there are reports at the "L.A. Times" and others supporting CNN now, you know, the president is being briefed on this in some cases getting short blurbs, 140 characters or less about how he should deal with Vladimir Putin. How prepared does he need to be given the fact that Putin is famous for how he prepares for these meetings?

VISER: I think he needs to be very prepared because Putin is coming into this very cagey and Trump has done a good job at sort of, I guess, lowering expectations and getting this idea that, you know, he doesn't know what he wants to talk about, and Putin doesn't know what Trump wants to talk about.

So it gives Trump a little bit of maybe leeway in figuring that out and coming into that meeting in that sense. But I think Putin is much more savvy at these type of encounters on a world stage.

This is the third president that he's dealt with from the United States, and I think that Putin is going to be briefed on just about every aspect of Donald Trump as the former KGB agent that he is. He's sort of very well prepared in that way.

So I think Trump comes in with maybe a disadvantage just new at this with somebody like Putin.

BERMAN: Putin brought a Labrador to a meeting with Angela Merkel because she was afraid of dogs. So that's how he operates there. Matt Lewis, Matt Viser, Amber Phillips, thanks so much for being with us.

A key issue hanging over the G20, the possibility of a trade war. We're now hearing that directly from key European leaders. CNN's chief business correspondent, star of "EARLY START" joins me right now with what's going on there.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: German leaders are really concerned about a trade war given the rhetoric from this administration. At the same time, you have the president of the United States putting a lot of pressure on China in regards to North Korea.

You know, yesterday he tweeted the trade between China and North Korea was up some 40 percent. He said "So much for China working with us, but had to give it a try." We crunched those numbers, indeed trade between those two countries was up just about 38 percent in the first quarter.

And, you know, China accounts for about 83 percent of North Korea's exports, so China does have a great big role here. Now, the most hawkish of the China hawks, John, for years have been saying that it plays to China's benefit for North Korea to remain unstable like this.

To remain a problem for the United States because that's another negotiating tool in the toolbox when China has to talk to the United States about the United States' complaints about currency manipulation, about dumping steel.

On the steel subject we're expecting any day to hear from the Commerce Department whether there will be new tariffs against Chinese steel. That's something, of course, the Chinese don't want.

And we know there's so many different pieces of the trade puzzle at play at the very same time here. The E.U. and Japan have just signed their own trade deal icing out the United States.

And we're told that China and Mexico are about to start on their own as well, again going around the United States. So it's a whole new kind of era in trade.

BERMAN: Indeed. Matt Lewis here agrees, you know, just one of the many complicated issues that are all intertwined during this G20 Summit. We are watching it very closely. Christine Romans, Matt Lewis, thank you both so much.

The Trump administration insists the use of force is on the table to deal with the North Korea threat. How realistic of an option is it? We're going to speak with an expert next.