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Trump Meets with French President; Leaders to talk Trade and Climate Change; Trump Press Conference; France and U.S. Relationship. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired July 13, 2017 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Right now.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think that's the key question. There's no way to paper over the fact these are two leaders who have drastically opposing views of the way that the international community should operate and the direction of the world in general. On trade, on climate change, on the EU, you name it, these guys have different ideas of what the path of western democracies working together should mean in the 21st century.

At the same time, they both have an interest in figuring out a way to work together and figuring out a way to be friends. For Trump that interest is simply rooted in his desire to have one western leader with whom he can have a constructive, positive working relationship. His attempts to forge a relationship with German chancellor Angela Merkel have not worked out. It seemed for a little bit of time that he would be close to U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. She's got her own problems. They're withdrawing from Europe anyway. So this is his shot to have a point of contact in western Europe where he can go, right? He can't even go to London after starting a tweet storm with the London mayor during a terrorist attack for no reason. So this is a good opportunity for the president to sort of reset his European image, his European relationship.

For Macron, likewise, if he can elevate himself as a new president with very little experience but a lot of ambition as the point of contact in western Europe for the American president, if he can show the rest of Europe that he can be the Trump whisperer, that he can be the guy who can talk to Trump, negotiate with Trump and sort of help Trump mollify and sort of, you know, take the rough edges off of his image in Europe, that elevates Macron internally, around Europe and would represent a huge victory for France diplomatically. So, in essence, in one way they're - in the ideological way they're totally opposed. But in a pragmatic, realistic way, they have some interests that overlap.

HARLOW: You wonder if Macron's getting a little impatient right now waiting for President Trump to arrive. It should come at any moment and that's why we're showing you, if you're just joining us, these live pictures out of Paris, at (INAUDIBLE), a place of so much history in France and monuments, museums honoring the military history of France and veterans. President Trump about to arrive for the beginning of these two days that he will spend there in Paris.

The press conference, they are going to join - hold, Nic, a joint press conference in just a few hours. You'll see it live here at 12:00 Eastern. The president will not, Nic, be able to escape these questions on Russia. The question becomes, how does he handle them?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. To a degree won't be able to escape them, but to a degree he will, in part, because we understand there's only going to be two questions per president. They each get to speak for about ten minutes each, you know, to give their view on the meetings, to give their sort of view of this place in time in history and the importance of it to each other. No doubt we'll hear about what possibilities there are for future cooperation in the future. This really is about getting to know each other.

But absolutely, that environment, that press conference, President Trump having left the G-20 without speaking there, completely atypical because all the other leaders, or most of the other leaders who attended there, you know, gave their own press conferences, whether it was President Putin, Xi Jinping, and other leaders like Theresa May, Angela Merkel, spoke with journalists. So President Trump gets a chance to reset that image there.

But the opportunity is very finite. It is very small. The number of questions that people have that they want to ask about the Russian meddling, about the latest revelations about is son, Donald Jr., all of these really, even if the French press got their two questions for President Macron, one can see there's only so far that you can go pushing the president to illusivate (ph), to give further insight into his opinion and the substance of what's happened in those key places and meetings.

HARLOW: We also have our chief business correspondent Christine Romans here as we look at what I believe may be the president's motorcade pulling up. The economic interests and ties between the United States are strong and they're important, especially given the divisions between many of the western nations in Europe and the United States. And the president right now on that front.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And, you know, H.R. McMaster, the defense secretary, and Gary Cohn, who is his national economic council director, this morning in "The New York Times" -


ROMANS: In an op-ed talking about the America first mission and calling the G-20 appearance by the president a success and saying the United States is looking for cooperation with countries like France, but it will be America's self-interest at first - the first order of business in all of these matters, whether it's climate change, whether it's Syria, whether it is the economy. What's interesting to me, Poppy, is on trade at least, other countries - the EU and Japan have forged their own trade deal.


ROMANS: China and Mexico are forging - are talking - the very beginning stages of their own trade deal. As Donald Trump has sort of ashoed (ph) globalization as we've known it and global trade deals as we've known it saying they're going to do it - he's going to do it better, other countries are going around the United States and making their own deals. It will be fascinating to see if that's on the agenda here.

[09:35:17] HARLOW: It will be fascinating to see.

And, Josh Rogan, to you as well, the president, the message that he wants to send and the questions that he wants to answer, President Trump in the press conference today, versus the questions he will be asked, especially by the U.S. journalists likely about Russia since he has not addressed that in a press conference yet, how do you see this playing out for the president? And also, how do you see the dynamic between Emmanuel Macron and President Trump at the press conference in terms of what they do not agree on? Christine mentioned the climate agreement, a huge divide for the two.

ROGIN: Sure.

HARLOW: Given how tough Macron was on Putin in their press conference at Versailles, what is to say he won't be similar when he's standing next to President Trump.

ROGIN: Right. Well, I'll answer your second question first. I think there's going to be a determined effort by both of these leaders to focus on the positive and ignore the negative, right? They want to talk about the things that they want to talk about. That includes cooperation on terrorism, cooperation on defense, cooperation on refugees. You know, whatever it is that they can point to, to say, these are the things that are enduring about the U.S./France alliance, which, of course, is America's oldest alliance, right?

Now, all of the other things that they disagree on, climate change, Russia, maybe Syria, we're not really sure, you know, when those come up, we'll see two different styles of leaders handle them in two different ways.


ROGIN: Macron, who is ultimately prepared and will have a thought out ways -

HARLOW: And, Josh, standby for just a moment -

ROGIN: Sure.

HARLOW: Because we are looking at a moment in history. You see the French president, Emmanuel Macron, his wife Brigitte, right next to him, the first lady. And now coming out of the motorcade, President Donald Trump. Here's the handshake. Perhaps not a white knuckle handshake like the first time the two of them met. Greeting the first lady there, Brigitte, as well, and Melania Trump, the first lady greeting Emmanuel Macron.

Josh Rogin, your thoughts.

ROGIN: So Macron is a guy who knows how he wants to handle President Donald Trump. And the handshake, while we shouldn't make too much of it, is a great example of that. The first time, as it was well reported, he prepared, he studied Trump's handshake, he came in with a handshake that he thought could respond to that handshake so it wouldn't look like he got pulled around the room, but at the same time it wouldn't look like he was being too aggressive. Now they've gotten the handshake down. This is their second or third or fourth handshake. So they seem to have figured it out where they can both have a handshake and nobody looks like they overpowered the other one. It's all happy and coordinated.

And if you want to say this, I don't want to make too much of that, but this is a great example of the Trump-Macron relationship because they know that they don't really agree with each other. They know that they're very different. But they're going to figure out a way to work with each other. And Macron's going to do most of the heavy lifting on that and Donald Trump will hopefully go along.

And that seems to be not only what happened in that handshake, but what's going to happen in this meeting and in this relationship going forward. They're going to figure out a way to pretend that they like each other. And maybe they will like each other at the end of the day. We'll find out.

HARLOW: There you go. There you go. Maybe fast friends.

Jeff Zeleny, our senior White House correspondent, is also with us there in Paris.

And, Jeff, as you look at these pictures and you think about the importance of this meeting for both new presidents, the president of France and the president of the United States, what do you believe, covering the White House so closely, the White House wants to gain out of this trip and the headlines they want to see upon the president's return to the United States?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, I think there's no question that, I mean, of all the differences in policies between the two presidents certainly came into, you know, leadership and power in very different ways, but they do have some similarities in the sense that they, you know, are both trying to make their mark in sort of this world. But I think the - you know, there was a lot of surprise in Washington and at the White House indeed when President Trump accepted this invitation here to appear here today with so much else going on. It has turned into something of a respite, actually, of, you know, a bit of a relief from what President Trump has been dealing with back in Washington.

But I also think this is a chance, you know, for him to try and reassert some of that lost U.S. leadership and power at the G-20 Summit we saw last week in Hamburg, Germany. I mean the U.S., of course, stepping out of the climate agreement, this global climate agreement, makes it look like the U.S. is standing alone in many respects. And in many respects they are. But this is a reminder that at least militarily through the fight against ISIS and counterterrorism that President Trump is looking for partners here and he hopes that one of those partners is with President Macron here.

[09:40:08] But certainly a bit of a high wire act with that press conference in a couple hours' time because the issues, even though he's here in Paris, Poppy, Russia still looms large over everything he does.

HARLOW: You know, Nic, I'm glad that Jeff brought that up because fighting ISIS has been key in terms of our partnership with France. I mean, France has been a key strategic ally and an ally on the ground for the United States in fighting ISIS. Do you believe that Syria is the area where these two men share the most common ground and share to gain the most from their relationship? And before you answer that, let's just listen in to the French national anthem for just a moment.

The U.S. - America's national anthem, I should say. Let's listen in.

Nic Robertson, your thoughts on that when it comes to Syria.

ROBERTSON: You know, I think they have - there is a lot of cooperation on counterterrorism. The root of the counterterrorism threat in Europe at the moment, for the United States as well and certainly as the French have experienced here has had its root in Syria. So absolutely there's a meeting on the minds on the root, where it is, how to try to track it, how to combat it, how to work together, how to share information, how to share names, how to share intelligence. You know, it's been very clear through all the attacks that have unfolded in Paris and in France in general for the past couple of years, not forgetting, of course, that there was an attack on Bastille Day last year, just an anniversary of which tomorrow more than 80 people killed, more than 400 injured, a Tunisian there driving a truck into people out celebrating Bastille Day in the sea front in Nice. So all of that fresh in the mind. So on all of that there is clear level of cooperation, but can they build on that? What is, you know, the future picture of Syria?

You know, President Trump really seemed to take a leap with President Putin on that, almost sort of putting it in President Putin's hands what the shape - the next phase of the Syria conflict could look like. Certainly the Russians have the ability on the ground to lead the way. Will the French follow suit? Well, we know that Macron has said he is sort of, you know, agnostic, ambivalent about President Assad, that Assad can stay in power for the interim. The Russians have said that he'll go at some point. But that's been this sort of European view. But it's a softer attitude toward Assad at the moment and that's certainly shared between President Trump and President Putin. But I think - President Macron as well.

But I think what Macron has here is political capital. He's young. He's ambitious. He's come to power recently. He feels the taste of success. And he believes that he can be this outreached hand towards President Trump. Whether or not he takes it to move forward together on Syria, on counterterrorism, but more, you know, more broadly on the issue of their sort of position that the United States found itself in at the end of the G-20 last week. Macron sees himself as somebody who can potentially make a difference and be a significant global player. To do that, he's had to invest political capital inviting President Trump here because, of course, at the moment, President Trump in Europe is not the most popular world leader, (INAUDIBLE) the issues the understanding on trade, globalization and, in particular, climate change, as well as the travel ban.

HARLOW: Jeff Zeleny, the president couldn't be more clear, President Trump, on his stance on the Paris climate agreement, pulling the United States out even against the advice some of those closest to him. A move that Emmanuel Macron was very public in denouncing, even making - saying in jest, we will make the planet great again. Do we know if these two leaders plan to talk about climate change and the Paris Climate Accords, or has Macron sort of written off the United States as coming back to the table on that any time soon?

ZELENY: It would certainly seem to me that they have written off the United States in terms of the reality of the situation here, Poppy. I mean there's no question that President Macron has been reaching out to Americans, in fact, to scientists and others trying to say that, you know, bring your studies and bring your vision to France. And, you know, that just because the U.S. has pulled out of this does not mean that, you know, the world has left you on this.

[09:45:09] But I do think that this is something that at least the White House believes will not be dwelled on significantly during this brief 24-hour visit here. But President Macron has said that, you know, he wants to hold another climate conference here in Paris in December. And, of course, you know, they would like the United States to participate in this.

But this is something a major departure, one of - you know, for all of the differences between the Trump administration and the Obama administration and all of the, you know, rolling back the rules and regulations, this is the biggest. This is the biggest global effort. And President Trump makes no apologies about the climate agreement. But it does worry some of his advisors who thought it was a mistake, you know, that it does indeed isolate the United States. So by having meetings like this on other matters, on counterterrorism, it does give this White House and this president a way to show that they are still aligned with the world. And, you know, it gives them a way to describe the America first agenda that he's talked so much about does not mean America only.

But the challenge here, I think, Poppy, is for the president to really do anything specifically that would show that, you know, the U.S. is not isolated. I think a lot of this today is about - these pictures are about President Macron here showing, you know, a grand welcome. President Trump likes to be flattered. He likes to be treated well. And that's what you're seeing here today.

HARLOW: This is -

ZELENY: It's pictures and you'll see tomorrow at the parade. The reality of cooperation on other matters, though, -- HARLOW: Yes.

ZELENY: I think is pretty much an open question because President Trump has signaled he wants to go alone in some respects.

HARLOW: This is the height of pomp and circumstance. It is quite the welcome. And he will be seeing it, we're hearing, for the next two days as they celebrate Bastille Day.

You see the two presidents meeting their respective cabinets, shaking hands there. You've got the president of the United States traveling with his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, his homeland security advisor, Tom Bossert, as well, and Gary Cohn, his chief national economic advisor with him.

Christine Romans, in a place of so much history.

ROMANS: Oh, absolutely. And we're told they're going to visit the tomb of Napoleon. And it's interesting, you were looking on the left there at a former investment banker. On the right there, a former real estate developer.


ROMANS: And it was Napoleon who signed off on the biggest American land deal in history, the Louisiana Purchase, for just $15 million, doubling the size of the United States. Aa little bit of a historical note.

HARLOW: Look at that.

ROMANS: But it does remind you that these two countries have been in business together for a very long time, the oldest allies on the planet in terms of democratic allies. And what will be the deliverable from this trip? That's what so many of us are watching because both of these men have very different world views about each country's role in globalization, in moving forward together and what America first means.

HARLOW: And you brought up this very important trade deal signed by the European Union, or at least the parameters agreed upon by the E.U., which would include Macron and Japan going around the United States there. So not afraid, President Macron, of saying, all right, America first, well, you know, France first in any way we have to do it as well.

ROMANS: What I think, too, so much about the video that Macron, the message he gave, in English, which was unprecedented, saying make the planet great again, it was a little bit of a jab at the United States.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: I mean it is the president's slogan, make America great again. One wonders what he will say to the president privately about climate change and also about the French elections and Russian meddling in French elections as well. You wonder, that has been a complaint of Macron and French politicians. One wonders if that comes up privately.

HARLOW: That's a very good point.

And, Josh Rogin, on that point, it was the question who yet again yesterday in his interviews at the Christian Broadcast Network and also with Reuters questioned once again whether it was Russia and Russia alone that hacked the U.S. election system. That is a threat certainly that faced - that France had to grapple with. Do you think the two of these men - what do you think their dialogue about Vladimir Putin will entail, because Macron has been so much more willing to be publicly vocally critical of Putin than the U.S. president has?

ROGIN: Yes, I think what they're going to try to do is they're going to try to find some common language with which they can speak about Russia and Vladimir Putin that covers both what President Trump thinks and what President Macron thinks, which are two different things. And what President Trump said in that interview is he asked Putin if he did it, Putin said absolutely not. Then he asked him a different way. Putin denied it again. And then when he was asked, does - did he believe him, he said, well, something happened, we're going to have to figure it out. Right, that's a far cry from acknowledging that the Russians are - interfered in the U.S. election.

[09:50:05] And, of course, they interfered in the Russia - in the French election as well very similarly and right towards the end in a way to disadvantage President Macron. So Macron has a deep desire and a deep imperative to address that problem himself. And he's going to try to find a way to talk to President Trump about this and to come to some sort of agreement, whatever you want to call it. They want to establish a commission, if they just want to have a dialogue, if they want to, you know, acknowledge the general problem without naming Vladimir Putin specifically. They've got to come up with language that acknowledges that this is a shared problem.

There's a growing realization in the United States that this problem cannot be handled by the U.S. alone. It's been dogging Europe for a lot longer than the United States. We have German elections coming up. We have Italian elections coming up. The Russians are not going to stop, all right. And, for France, this is something that they just can't avoid. So that will be a key issue we'll - and I think we'll get some insight into how they're - they've decided to talk about that in the press conference that will come after this meeting.

HARLOW: All right, we've just seen the president of France, the president of the United States and the first ladies enter the building there. We're going to keep watching this as well. They have a busy schedule ahead today. They are at (INAUDIBLE) right now, again, a monument, museums honoring French military history and veterans. Then they will go to the (INAUDIBLE) palace. And, of course, there's going to be the celebration tomorrow, the parade, the celebration of Bastille Day. A lot ahead for these two leaders as well.

Your final thoughts on this, Nic Robertson?

ROBERTSON: Well, they will, of course, be treated, President Trump and Mrs. Trump, will be treated to an exception dinner tonight at an exceptional location, Michilan (ph) Star (ph) Restaurant inside the Eiffel Tower, elevated so they can see in part across the city.

You know, my final thought on this really has to be that Macron is trying to - is reaching. He has, if you will, and I'll put this politely, three's a certain level of hubris that goes with such electoral success that's sort of coming on a campaign from nowhere in such a short space of time. He is successful so far.

This is a very big reach that he is trying to do, if, in fact, as he has said, that he believes that he can draw President Trump back toward the center. President Trump has shown that he is very engaged and focused on his domestic issues back home. Those continue to dog him while was - while he is here.

However, I think, you know, we can expect - we can expect a degree of warmth, a big degree of hospitality, but a certain amount of caginess on both their parts because they know that they are big players on a big stage right now and either one can - either one can wrong foot the other one. And I think that that's obviously mutually they both want to avoid that.

HARLOW: Josh Rogin, for the president, we saw how he handled questions when he was in Poland last week for the joint press conference there when he was asked challenging questions on Russia. That was before the revelation of his son's meeting with this Russian lawyer, driven by a Russian government effort. Do you expect a similar response, Josh, from the president when faced with those tough questions today?

ROGIN: Yes. I see no reason why President Trump wouldn't continue to defend his son, defend the actual meeting and to then turn it back on the media and claim victimization. That seems to be his strategy.

You know, what we're going to see at this press conference is largely the unscripted Trump versus the scripted administration foreign policy. And he kept bringing up the McMaster tone "New York Times" op- ed and I think it's a really good thing to talk about.


ROGIN: And you read it, what you see is two very senior national security officials trying, in about 800 words, to explain the Donald Trump vision for foreign policy. And, you know, it - there's a lot of effort to take what the president has said and form a policy around it and make it seem like this is a well thought out sort of strategy that has all of these, you know, theories behind it and plans, et cetera.

But every time the president talks, he changes that. And there's no holds barred. And he's not reading that "New York Times" op-ed before he gets up to the podium to decide what he wants to say. So whether it's on the Donald Trump Jr. meeting or on the Russian hacking or on whether he still believes that France is a place where nobody goes anymore because of terrorism, which he kept saying for over a year, you know, this - these are all thing that President Trump will decide, in the moment, on his own, based on his own feelings and opinions.

[09:55:07] So the only real way to understand what President Trump's foreign policy actually is and not what his advisers explain it to be is to hear it from the president directly. And hopefully we'll get a chance to do that as much as possible when he takes to the podium with President Macron in just a couple of hours.

HARLOW: All right, if you're just joining us, you're looking at pictures from just a few moments ago. The president of the United States in his motorcade driving in to (INAUDIBLE) to meet with and begin two days with French President Emmanuel Macron. Of course an invitation directly came from President Macron to President Trump and the first lady to come to France. He accepted. This is key for a number of reasons. These two leaders do have common ground that they share when it comes to Syria, when it comes to economic ties and trade. Also some major differences when it comes to climate change and President Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Our Sara Murray, our White House correspondent, is also with us.

And, Sara, previewing the press conference that we will see in just a few hours, 12:00 Eastern, live right here, what are you expecting? Because only each president will only ask two reporters - will only take questions from two reporters.


And we are here at the presidential palace in Paris awaiting their arrival. So the two world leaders will meet. They will hold their bilateral meeting privately, as well as with some advisers, and then they're going to come out and make statements and take questions from the press. Now, as you pointed out, it will be two from the French press, two from the American press. So it is limiting in that regard. But it is also a big moment because it's the first time President Trump will be facing the public and addressing, presumably, this question about his son, Donald Trump Jr. and a meeting with a Russian lawyer, yet another previously undisclosed meeting between someone who was, at that time, a top campaign official, Don Jr., and a Russian. So I do think that is sort of a telling moment that we're looking for.

Again, these are two very different presidents. It will be interesting to see how they play off one another in this. And the other thing I think that we should watch for is any indication of Russia coming up more broadly. Remember, when Macron took president - questions along Russian President Vladimir Putin, he actually went out of his way to slam some of the Russian state news for their disinformation and propaganda campaigns, obviously taking the much tougher line with Russia in some regards than some of the comments we've heard from President Trump. So that will be another thing to watch out for today, Poppy.

HARLOW: And, Sara, I mean there's a lot ahead for these two, right? There's the big parade, the Bastille Day celebration. This also - trip also marking the 100th anniversary of the United States entering into World War I. What else is ahead for these two leaders as they're just kicking it off?

MURRAY: Well, it is a busy day, right, after a few days of a pretty quiet schedule for President Trump. It certainly changed as soon as he got to Paris. So they're touring a number of historic sites right now, including the Tomb of Napoleon they're going to be visiting. After they hold this bilateral meeting, they're going to slit off, take a minute to themselves, and then reunite with their spouses to have dinner in the Eiffel Tower, which will, of course, be very glamorous and certainly the kind of the pomp and circumstance that President Trump tends to enjoy. And that's all before we get to the Bastille Day celebration tomorrow.

It's going to be a parade that's heavy on military might, not only France's military, but also American military. And it is sort of, in that way, a very endearing moment from Trump. Remember, he campaigned on strong national security, on building up the military, so that is certainly a draw for him to be able to come to Paris and celebrate the 100th year - commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the U.S. getting involved in World War I. So I think that that was part of the draw for him to make this sort of spur of the moment trip happen as well.

HARLOW: Jeff Zeleny is joining us as well.

And, Jeff, as you look at what the White House hopes to gain from this trip and what the French president hopes to gain from this trip, we talked about the White House's stance and, of course, they'd like the headlines off of Russia and the headlines on this, et cetera. What do you believe the French President, Emmanuel Macron, would like to gain most from these two days?

ZELENY: Well, Poppy, I think, first and foremost, I mean one of the things that the new French president wants to gain from this is a sense of, if not the upper hand, certainly a sense of more parody here. I mean he is inviting President Trump to Paris at a time of a great show of a force by the French military. Tomorrow, the Bastille Day Parade, as Sara was just mentioning, is going to feature American troops, of course, but it is also going to feature about two hours of French troops parading down, you know, in front of both presidents here. So we are going to see President Trump watching that.

[09:59:52] But I think what President Macron is trying to do here is trying to, a, you know, cement a relationship with President Trump. Climate is one thing that they absolutely disagree on. But counterterrorism is a focus of the meeting today, we are told. This one-on-one meeting between these two leaders.