Return to Transcripts main page


Trump and Mexican President Transcript Revealed; Trump Blames Congress for Russia Problems; Scaramucci to Hold Online Event Tomorrow; Interview with Rep. Gregory Meeks. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 09:30   ET



[09:31:35] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we have some stunning breaking news.

A brand new report out of "The Washington Post." They appear to have received a lengthy transcript of the first call President Trump had as president from the White House with the Mexican president, obviously talking about the border wall that he promised so much during his campaign. A few of the highlights here.

He begged the president of Mexico not to keep saying to the press, we will not pay for the wall. The president said, according to this transcript, we will work it out in the formula somehow. Meaning, we'll figure out how you'll pay for it. It will come out in the wash. And that's OK. But you can't say that to the press.

He also, John, interestingly, said, this is the least important thing we're talking about, but politically the most important.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And the president of Mexico, in that conversation, if you read the transcript, noted, it -- you know, it is very important to us in Mexico.


BERMAN: It is scheduled to the dignity of the nation of Mexico right now.

So the facts inside this phone call, interesting in and of themselves.

And then, also interesting, the fact that this entire transcript is now in the hands of "The Washington Post." We're going to --

HARLOW: Fifty-two pages.

BERMAN: Fifty-two pages long.

We want to talk about all of this. We're going to bring back our panel. And also joining us, CNN's Brian Stelter.

Brian, you have some details about "The Washington Post" reporting, I understand.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It is extraordinary to see these entire transcripts. And we should keep in mind as we talk about all the quotes, this is coming straight from White House aides. You know, the these are produced by the White House. These are people in the room taking notes, people on the call taking notes. So this is reliable information. This is what the president actually said with these foreign leaders.

It was a big deal when there were initial quotes, a few quotes from these calls. You might remember leaked very early on in the Trump presidency. But now to see the entire transcripts as we pore over many pages and look for some of the news, it is an extraordinarily unusual kind of leak to see from any government. And this is something that's coming to "The Washington Post" one day before the attorney general has a press conference to crack down on leaks.

HARLOW: Also one day after -- go ahead.


TARA PALMERI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was going to say, about this particular call, this transcript was actually circulated very wide throughout the National Security Council, and that was the -- because it was the first foreign call. And this was before leaks are really coming out.

But then once this exact exchange started leaking in the press, they limited the circle of National Security Council members that could have access to the call.

HARLOW: That's interesting.

PALMERI: So I'm not exactly surprised to see that this one leaked. I think it was a matter of time before we saw the whole transcript because now they only share with a very small group of National Security Council members from the exact region. Before that it would go wide.

HARLOW: It also comes, and to your point, Tara, in the same week as there's been quite a shake-up within the National Security Council and some of the people who were there before, not there anymore.

Mary Katharine, to you.

The core of the president's promise to the American people was not just, we're going to build a wall. It was, Mexico is going to pay for that. Not you the taxpayer. Not the U.S. government. He is essentially telling the Mexican president here that we'll figure it out in the wash but you just can't keep saying that.

BERMAN: Can I actually also add, in this transcript he tells the president of Mexico, I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to. I've been talking about it for a two-year period.

MARY KATHARINE HAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. And I think this reflecting something that we've seen with Trump over and over where he wants something from the other side of the table but is not reading, like, what's that guy's advantage? Why does it work for Pena Nieto to give this thing? He has no motivation to do that. So you're not working with a lot other than being able to yell at him on the phone. And it seems like a miscalculation.

[09:35:18] And then I think the other -- the revealing sentence is the part about, this is the least important thing we're talking about but it's the most important political point.

HARLOW: Right.

HAM: And that, to me, is something that may make some Trump supporters look sideways, although they will also think this was probably a negotiating tactic.


HAM: And like some of that may be true. It just seems like he's not negotiating with a (INAUDIBLE) here.

HARLOW: Yes, but that's one thing if the negotiations are actually working.

HAM: Yes.

HARLOW: It's another if they're not.

Greg Miller, who -- the reporter who broke this story joins us now from "The Washington Post."

All right, walk us through, because we're about halfway through reading this. This just broke. Why don't you walk us through the main points as you see them.

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I mean for our story I thought the most interesting news here was his discussion of the wall. It was such a central campaign issue for Trump and there's a level of cynicism in this very first call with the Mexican president that is at -- completely at odds with his sort of public posture on this issue. The is -- he makes no attempt in this conversation to try to get a commitment that Mexico is going to pay for this wall. Instead, he spends much of the call trying to pressure the Mexican president to stop talking about, stop saying you're not going to pay for this wall because it's killing Trump politically.

BERMAN: You know, he says he knows how to build very inexpensively and it will be a better wall and it will look nice, the president of the United States says to the president of Mexico there.

And then, Greg, again, in this transcript that you're printing the details of here, the president of Mexico essentially makes the point, no, you don't get how important this is to our sense of dignity.

MILLER: Right. He describes this as an issue of national dignity for Mexico. And something -- he at one point tells Trump, you guys have put a big mark on our back. Trump is basically asking him to take a huge public relations hit and the Mexican president is trying to explain to Trump why that is just not going to happen. And they're really just sort of talking past each other.

And you see the Mexican president trying to say, look, you don't understand the dynamics here. If you want fewer people crossing the border into the United States from Mexico, you've got to deal with economic growth. We've got to reach agreements that are going to make both of our economies stronger. And then (ph) -- as well as security issues. But this is just a -- you know, Trump is just really fixated on the structure itself and how this is going to look -- how -- how they -- the way they resolve this is going to reflect on him.

HARLOW: David Drucker, it all -- David Drucker, it also seems like a -- sort of a political miscalculation not thinking about, all right, well, what is my Mexican counterpart dealing with. The Mexican elections that are coming up. How he is going to have to look incredibly strong and standing up to pressure from the United States heading into these elections. I mean that seems sort of like rookie move heading into political negotiation.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And I think this goes to the fatal flaw in Trump's get tough approach to diplomacy and the very public manner in which he jaw bones our allies and many of our adversaries. I mean, look, there are two issue here. One is the nature of this leak. It's a very damaging, very -- it could be a very dangerous leak and that the president has to know that he can have private conversations with world leaders without things leaking.

These seem harmless enough given the subject matters, but it's going to make other leaders very hesitant to have conversations with him. It's going to make the president look -- looking over his shoulder in the White House. This is something, as good as it is for the public to know about this stuff, they're going to have to tighten this up.

The other issue is, though, as you point out, Poppy, that the president made his bones in the campaign by saying that the U.S. has been played for years by other countries, both friend and foe. He was going to get tough. And I think what the president has always lost sight of and not been aware of is that other countries have voters too. They have domestic constituencies too.

HARLOW: Right.

DRUCKER: And so when you want to get things out of our countries, you have to often finesse it and you have to treat them in a way that understands that even though the United States is a big fish and everybody needs us, a lot of other voters in other countries resent the fact that they need the United States, resent the fact that we're the biggest economic power, the biggest military power and they're not just going to fold over and fall over when the United States starts making demands. That has caused him problems in Europe, it's causing him problems with China, vis-a-vis North Korea. And you see here in the conversations both with Turnbull of Australia and Pena Nieto of Mexico --


DRUCKER: That they don't really care about Trump's problems and they don't care about what Trump has promised.


DRUCKER: They've got their own voters to answer to. And that is their priority.

BERMAN: You know, of note here, after these confrontational calls with the president of Mexico and the leader in Australia too, President Trump did note he did have one present call. He goes, Putin was a pleasant call. That in the transcripts here.

All right, guys, we're going to ask you to stick around. We're dissecting quite a lot of this as we go through this transcript.

[09:40:01] Coming up next, we're going to hear from a Democratic lawmaker, what he thinks of this breaking news, the fact that basically the president of the United States tried to silence the president of Mexico in his opposition to the wall. Stay with us.


BERMAN: All right, the breaking news. "The Washington Post" publishing the transcripts of a phone call between the president of the United States and the president of Mexico. This conversation took place January 27th, just after inauguration.

Why is it significant? Because inside this phone call, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, essentially pleads with the leader of Mexico to stop saying he won't pay for the wall. He doesn't suggest that, you know, they would reach any agreement there, he just didn't want the president of Mexico to talk about it because it would hurt him in the press. The president says, but you cannot say that to the press. The press is going to go with that. I cannot live with that, says Donald Trump.

HARLOW: But he did continue saying it to the press.

The president also, importantly, noted in this phone conversation with Mexico's president that the wall is the least important thing actually, but the most important politically. Not exactly the message he sent to his supporters during the campaign.

[09:45:11] Let's talk about this and more. Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York is here.

So just your reaction to this reporting, congressman, of "The Washington Post."

REP. GREGORY MEEKS (D), NEW YORK: I wish I could say I was surprised. But this president doesn't surprise me anymore. And as more things are revealed, it just shows that he's deceptive and he was doing that and he's lied to the American people from the very beginning, all throughout the campaign and continues today. And each time, you know, he says something, it is later revealed that he has been very deceptive. And I think that's what your recent polls also show.

This president is probably the most incompetent president that we've had. And he is a talk show host that's trying to run the White House like a reality TV show.

BERMAN: Specifically having to do with these conversations, explain to me what was deceptive, the fact that he told, you know, his voters at rallies that Mexico would pay for the wall without a plan for how to do it? What do you find deceptive here?

MEEKS: Just that. He knew that Mexico would not pay for the wall. He knows that that's not the proper thing to do. He said it's the least important thing, but the most important politically. So that's deceptive to the American people.

And then, in the budget that we just passed in the House, you know, they threw in there the Americans -- for us to pay for that wall. So he knows and so he's trying to still politically say -- so he can say that there's a wall built, trying to get the American taxpayer to pay for that wall. It is deceptive. It is wrong. It's the way he ran his business. So that's who he is. That's why I'm not surprised because that's who he was as a businessman. He had been -- even in business he was very deceptive.

HARLOW: As a member of Congress, the president called you and your colleagues seemingly on both sides of the aisle out this morning writing that all of the problems with Russia that are getting more dangerous are the faults of Congress. What is your response to that?

MEEKS: My response is that I think it is time for my Republican colleagues particularly to put country before this president. Clearly, when you look at the actions of Russia, are we going to just allow them to invade countries like the Ukraine, like take over Crimea without --

HARLOW: Well, he didn't. You guys just passed a sanctions bill.

MEEKS: That's exactly right. And that's finally -- that Democrats and Republicans -- the Republicans said, well, we don't trust you, Mr. President, in doing the right thing by Russia. So we're going to stand up. And that's the -- I think the greatness of our Constitution that we don't have one person that will then try to do something that is against the will of Congress. And Congress has finally stepped up on this particular issue to do what its job is and says, well, we're going to mandate you to keep these sanctions on until Russia changes its behave.

BERMAN: He says it's your fault. He says it's your fault that the relationship with Russia is at an all-time low and it's very dangerous. Is it?

MEEKS: It's Russia's fault. It's Russia who invaded Crimea. It is Russia who went into the eastern Ukraine. It is Russia who violated our elections and tried to have an influence in our elections. It is Russia who's threatening its neighbors. It is not the United States Congress. It is Russia. And it is time for the president to acknowledge that. But the president has not said one single tweet or anything in regards to Russia, in regard to their coming back and saying that they're going to remove individuals or they want individual from our embassy in Russia to leave. He has not said one word about it.

HARLOW: Well, John points out in this new "Washington Post" piece, he actually did say something about Russia, which is.

BERMAN: It was a pleasant call.

HARLOW: With Putin, not so much with --

BERMAN: He had a nice chat. Nice talk with Vladimir Putin.

HARLOW: Not so much with Australia's prime minister or Mexico's president.

Congressman, thank you.

BERMAN: Interesting day.

MEEKS: My pleasure.

BERMAN: All right, ousted Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, he will hold an event tomorrow live on broadcast around the world. Scaramuc-a-vision (ph). What will he say?


[09:53:14] HARLOW: All right, we are back with the breaking news.

"The Washington Post" just released the full transcript of phone calls that the president had in January with the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Australia. These are big leaks and they are the kinds of leaks that ousted Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci vowed to combat head-on. Well, now he's not in that job, but he is ready to tell all.

BERMAN: Scaramuc-a-vision (ph). He will be talking tomorrow.

CNN media correspondent Brian Stelter joining us to talk about that.

Let's talk about tomorrow first, then we'll get back to the breaks news today.

What is Anthony Scaramucci doing?

STELTER: He says he's going to put on the Muc (ph) show. He's going to have a press event tomorrow. He's going to live stream it with the help of a friend of his that used to work at Fox News. He wants to explain what happened to him, I think. He wants to explain his side of the story about that Ryan Lizza interview and about why he lost his job on Monday.

BERMAN: Is this sanctioned by the president? STELTER: That is a great question. I don't think we know the answer to that.

HARLOW: Most importantly, you call it -- what did you call it, the Muc (ph) show? You call it --

STELTER: The Muc (ph) show.

HARLOW: I think our viewers should weigh in on the better --

STELTER: And it is designed for the president (ph) --


BERMAN: Scaramuc-a-vision (ph) is better.

STELTER: I think -- I think he wants to reach Trump. We know -- I -- we don't know. I suspect the president is be interested in watching this live stream to see what Scaramucci says. Scaramucci wants to speak to the base.


STELTER: He is a powerful spokesman. Kind of like Corey Lewandowsky.

HARLOW: There you go.

STELTER: There's a lot of people who aren't actually inside the White House but are in the orbit who are able to communicate on behalf of the president and maybe Scaramucci's going to become one of those figures.

HARLOW: So this is a big leak to "The Washington Post," 52 pages of transcripts. Not something that the White House is going to like. Something Scaramucci tried to -- wanted to tamp down.

STELTER: That's right.

HARLOW: And this comes a day before the Department of Justice announces officially the big investigation into leaks.

STELTER: Yes, Jeff Sessions has been planning this for a while, a press event where he talks about a crackdown on leaks. The Justice Department's been under tremendous pressure from President Trump to crack down on really national security related leaks. There's always lots of leaks about infighting and palace intrigue. But the bigger concern are leaks like this. The paper's right in front of you all. These transcripts of calls with foreign heads of states.

[09:55:07] Why do people leak? Sometimes folks leak because they have an agenda, they're ticked off, they were fired or something. But there are also more positive reasons. Meaning, if you're dissatisfied or uncomfortable with the president, you're concerned about his behavior, if you're trying to expose malfeasance, you could be trying to blow the whistle. So keep in mind, with all these leaks, they're not always because people are trying to just get even or get revenge. Sometimes it can be to blow the whistle on problems.

BERMAN: But when someone says something in public that is different than how they behave or what they do in private, sometimes people choose to go public with that.

Brian Stelter, great to have you with us. Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: Again, the breaking news is this, "The Washington Post" publishing the transcripts of phone calls between the president of the United States and the president of Mexico. Phone call that have a lot of information in there. A lot of problems that the president will now have to explain. Stay with us.