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Trump Transcript with Mexican President; Trump Transcript with Australian Prime Minister; Afghanistan Decision Looms. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired August 3, 2017 - 14:00   ET



[14:00:16] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. You're watching CNN.

As President Trump heads to what is expected to be a campaign-style rally tonight in West Virginia, new leaked transcripts show the president getting combative over the optics of one key campaign promise, building that wall and Mexico's paying for it. "The Washington Post" obtained the verbatim of the president's official phone call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. It happened in January, one week after the inauguration.

And let me just read for you what apparently President Trump said. Quote, but the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall. I have to. Later on, President Trump says, you and I are both at a point now where we are both saying we are not to pay for the wall. We cannot say that anymore because if you are going to say that Mexico is not going to pay for the wall, then I do not want to meet with you guys anymore because I cannot live with that. I am willing to say that we will work it out, but that means it will come out in the wash and that is OK.

As to comment on these transcripts, a spokesman for the National Security Council said that he could not confirm or deny, quote, the authenticity of allegedly leaking classified documents.

Let's go to the White House, to Kaitlan Collins.

And, Kaitlan, let's talk a little bit more. In that conversation he's also essentially saying to the Mexican president, and, by the way, stop saying this so publicly to the press.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. He said, basically, we can work this out between ourselves. But let's not, like, have it out there. He was pressuring him to not be publicly defiant about paying for this wall.

But I'd like to bring your attention to another part of this transcript that is getting a lot of attention today, and that's a comment the president made about the state of New Hampshire. He was making an argument for why we need a wall along the southern border to stop drugs from coming in when he called out New Hampshire specifically. He said, we have drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country. They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York. Up in New Hampshire, I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den.

Now, as you can guess, Brooke, the governor of New Hampshire was not too happy when he heard this comment. He said the president was wrong and that it was a mischaracterization.

BALDWIN: And in addition, we were just checking some of the numbers. I think it was Hillary Clinton who won in New Hampshire by a couple thousand votes.

COLLINS: Yes, it was.

BALDWIN: With regard to that -- that fact.

In addition, there was the transcript from the call with the P.M. in Australia, Malcolm Turnbull. Tell me about that.

COLLINS: So that one was an equally contentious call. It started out on a good note. They were talking about mutual friends that they had. But as it wore on, we saw them begin to argue over the subject of a deal the Obama administration made with Australia to take in some of these refugees that are living in Australian detention centers.

Now, Trump became increasingly agitated during this call, saying, this is going to kill me. I am the world's greatest person that does not want to let people into the country and now I'm agreeing to take 2,000 people and I agree I can vet them but that puts me in a bad position. It makes me look so bad and I have only been here a week.

Turnbull then argued that it wasn't 2,000 people, it was a little less that, but Trump said, well, it's close. I've even heard 5,000 as well. Trump then told one of our closest allies that his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin had gone much smoother than that, saying, look, I spoke to Putin, Merkel, Abe of Japan, to France today, and this was my most unpleasant call, because I'll be honest with you, I have had it. I've been making these calls all day, and this is the most unpleasant call. Putin was a pleasant call. This is ridiculous.

But, Brooke, I'd like to point out that back in February, when details of this conversation that Trump had with Turnbull first leaked saying it was a contentious talk, Trump got on Twitter and said that that was fake news and a lie and that they had a very civil discussion. But as you and I can both see from this transcript, it certainly was not.

BALDWIN: Kaitlan, thank you so much.

The leaked transcripts run counter to the president's tweet from February. That is when news of the contentious call between himself and Malcolm Turnbull first broke. This is what Kaitlan was alluding to. The president said, quote, thank you prime minister of Australia for telling the truth about our very civil conversation that fake news media lied about. Very nice.

Not the case. Let's talk about all this. Sabrina Siddiqui is with us, political

reporter for "The Guardian." CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger, who's also national security correspondent for "The New York Times," and CNN military and diplomatic retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, a former spokesman for both the Pentagon and the State Department.

[14:05:10] So, Sabrina, let me start with you. Let's take these in order. First, just with the Mexican president conversation. And to me the biggest takeaway with this is that essentially the president is saying to Pena Nieto, listen, we'll figure out who's going to pay for this thing. It's going to come out in the wash, paraphrasing. But, you know, stop saying you're not paying to the press. It's all about optics.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE GUARDIAN": It is indeed. And I think it's striking that for someone who fashioned himself as a candidate as a great negotiator, who is going to come in and strike deals with foreign leaders in a way that his predecessors were unable, Trump was so quickly willing to concede that one of his primary campaign promises was, in fact, bluster, that it doesn't really matter who pays for the wall. He's much more focused on the perception and on a political win versus a loss and how it would be received if he was unable to meet a campaign promise. And also this assumption that the president of Mexico is going to adopt one of Trump's most controversial campaign positions, which he had repeatedly criticized all along.

I think it's also striking that Trump, you know, we know how he speaks publicly, but even in private he was aggressive, if not disrespectful toward two close U.S. allies. And clearly even in private, he didn't really show a respect for the diplomatic relations and norms with which you would expect these conversations to transpire.

BALDWIN: Let me take the first part of that and, David Sanger, let me ask you. I actually spent my evening and sat down with a number of Trump supporters and we went around the table and one of my last questions to them was, all right, if he has four years, you know, what's the -- what's the one promise he can't afford to break? And I heard build the wall and Mexico's going to pay for it. So if, you know, Trump supporters are reading the transcript, how are they feeling today?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we now know what we've all known, which is that this is going to be a bit of a problem all the through. And the (INAUDIBLE) its completely self- inflicted. That he made this promise that they would pay for it, even though the wall's on the U.S. side.

When you talk to people who have (INAUDIBLE) about the wall, what they'll tell you is, even if they present to him other options of what this wall looks like, in places where you couldn't have a physical wall, you'd have electronic monitoring or you'd have some other kind of barrier, he agrees with it. And then at the end he says, listen, when you talk about this publicly, it's a wall. And that's because to his supporters the two important things, as you pointed out, Brooke, are that they talk about a wall, even if it really isn't one, and they find a way for Mexico to pay for it, even if they don't.

BALDWIN: Let me move on, Admiral Kirby, to you on this call with the Australian prime minister. You know, again, just for people understanding, this is early on in his presidency. This is a week after the inauguration. These are diplomatic calls. Hello, how are you, exchanging pleasantries. And so he says to Malcolm Turnbull how unpleasant his call has been with him and says Putin was more pleasant. Your response to that and also how does that play with people saying, why does he never speak an ill word about our enemy over in Russia?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, well, this was, again, early on, as you know, just about a week into his presidency. So we have to keep that in mind.

But, yes, he continues to be reluctant to criticize Putin, and here he is in a very contentious call with one of our most closest allies, certainly in the Asia Pacific region if not in the world, Australia.

It's also important to remember that this deal -- I mean I get the political reasons why he didn't like it, but I was working for John Kerry when we agreed to this and it didn't tie the United States' hands at all. It said that we would agree to vet these individuals and it wasn't 2,000, it was about 1,250. We would agree to vet them and could make the final decision about whether they could come into the United States. And President Obama deferred that to President Trump. So he had an option here. It wasn't being just thrust upon him.

BALDWIN: But in addition to that, Sabrina, you know, the examples apparently he brought into the conversation, you know, terror attacks, he brought up the Boston bombers, he brought up San Bernardino and one other that's escaping me. But the point is, you know, those, you know, terrorists were not refugees. To me, it just underscores the point, did he even have an entire understanding of what the policy with Australia to begin with?

SIDDIQUI: No, not particularly. And I think that one thing that's notable here is that when this conversation was reported on widely at the time, Trump had, in fact, as was mentioned, called it fake news and, in fact, the turns out that the characterizations we read in the press were accurate.

He's someone who has not shown himself to be particularly interested in the policy nuances. Again, it goes a lot more back to perception. So he is more concerned with this idea that he vowed to bar refugees from coming into the United States and he doesn't really take the time to examine what the implications of such a proposal would be and how the policies have manifested themselves in other countries.

[14:10:19] He also similarly has been critical of other U.S. allies, such as Germany, Angela Merkel in particular, and France and Canada for having accepted millions of refugees. And so I think that he doesn't really take the time to understand what the specifics are of the threats that we face from a national security perspective. It has more to do with appeasing that base and that -- those people who did propel him into office in part because they do have hostile attitudes towards immigrants and that, again, goes back to the way that he is communicating about both the wall, as well as refugees in these two conversations.

BALDWIN: I think you hit on the word, it's perception. It's not just, you know, the people's perception of him and promises, but it's also the press's perception. And he can continue to call -- what did he call us? The enemy of the American people, being, we, the media, but he sure seems to care how the media is covering him based upon both of these conversations with world leaders.

Admiral Kirby, Sabrina, and David, thank you so much. Thank you.

We're going to move on.

Coming up next her on CNN, is the U.S. closing in on a new military strategy in Afghanistan. Sources telling CNN that the president is growing frustrated about how the situation is there.

And today, sharp words from Senator John McCain. On his first week getting cancer treatment, he is speaking up. He is blaming the failures in Afghanistan on a particular group of people. We'll take you live to the Pentagon for that.

Also just in, he wanted to address the American people directly, but we just learned moments ago Anthony Scaramucci, the man who sat in that top spot of the communications shop at the White House for 11 days, is canceling his live event suddenly. We're going to tell you what he planned to do and we're wondering why.

This as we also have audio of Scaramucci's profanity-laced conversation with "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza. Ryan Lizza joining us live. A lot to talk about on this Thursday. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.


[14:16:07] BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

A reportedly frustrated President Trump has just held this closed door meeting with his national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, as the White House is facing some tough questions about its promised new strategy in Afghanistan.

So, we've got Barbara Starr, who's live for us at the Pentagon, and we have retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata, who is a former deputy commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

So, welcome to both of you.

And, Barbara Starr, just reminding everyone, there are nearly 9,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. What kind of indication are you getting as far as policy moving forward?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, at the moment, it's not moving and by all accounts that is what is frustrating the president. In fact, later today, yet another meeting scheduled at the White House. The president not expected to attend, but his top advisers, once again, sitting down, trying to hammer out a way ahead.

The big problem they're facing with a way ahead in Afghanistan right now is they can't agree on what to do. All of the options are there, but -- and they range from complete withdrawal, pulling all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, all the way to adding additional troops to help train Afghan forces so they can buy enough time for the Afghan forces to be able to be better trained and look after their own security.

But there is a contingent in the White House that is asking the key question, why after all these years, if the Taliban are still fighting, if ISIS is still fighting there, why is the U.S. still there? Is it a war that's winnable?

And Defense Secretary James Mattis has said, we are not winning this war, referring to the U.S. military, and not winning is not something that President Trump wants to hear. So, he is very frustrated and looking for a way ahead, we're told.

BALDWIN: All right, Barbara, thank you.

So, General Tata, I mean you are the perfect person to talk to. You know the lay of the land. Clearly we hear from Barbara, the president's frustrated. We know that General McMaster has been at odds with him over, you know, committing more troops to the mission, a plan that he supports, but the whole Bannon wing in the White House is against. How do you think the concerns should be addressed here?

BRIG. GEN. ANTHONY TATA (RET.), EX-DEPUTY COMMANDING GENERAL, COALITION FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: Well, Brooke, I can tell you that the person that is most frustrated would be General Mick Nicholson. And if we back up a little bit, Mick has been the -- a commander there in one way, shape, or form since 2006. He was a colonel in Afghanistan when he worked for me. He was a brigadier general there, major general, lieutenant general, now four star general. The last 11 years, his life has been dedicated to Afghanistan and improving the lives of Afghan folks and to improving the security of Afghanistan so that terrorists can't have sanctuary there. That's the real mission is to prevent sanctuary because that's where 9/11 was planned, that's where al Qaeda crossed with the Taliban and the goal so to prevent that from happening again.

So I think the first thing that the president and his national security team should do is express great confidence in General Mick Nicholson, because he has been a true public servant. Nobody knows that land, that terrain, that army, that enemy better than Mick Nicholson. And relationships are everything in this part of the world. And Mick would be the first to tell you that. General Mattis would. H.R. McMaster would. Even Kelly, the new chief of staff, they all know Mick and they all know that he's the right guy, whether it's the relationship with Pakistan or any of the stans surrounding Afghanistan, and the people of Afghanistan. Mick Nicholson is the right guy. So the first -- you start this conversation by saying, we've got the right guy there. And then you start talking about -- talking about --

BALDWIN: So, just staying, if I may, sir, just jump in on your exact point. I mean you would agree then with what John McCain, you know, tweeted today, defending precisely the person you're talking about. This is what he said, if you haven't seen it. Our commanders in chief, not our commanders in the field, are responsible for the failure in Afghanistan.

[14:20:13] So, what about the commanders in chief piece? I mean what do you make of the senator's very sharp message on specifically the commanders in chief?

TATA: Senator McCain is right on point. This dates -- you and I have talked before, Brooke, this dates all the way back to the Bush administration where you had Wolfowitz and Cheney and Rumsfeld all not knowing what they were doing, and they pulled -- the one time our nation asked for a head on a platter, Osama bin Laden, and we pull out of Afghanistan, all the communications, all the intelligence, all of the combat enablers necessary to provide Osama bin Laden to the American people, and cut the head off of that al Qaeda snake, and we go over to Iraq to do what we did there, that was a strategic error, in my opinion.

I said it back then and I'll say it again. I was a commander in the 101st Airborne at the time. Told I was going to Afghanistan and then got told I was going to Iraq. And I said, what for?

And so this dates -- McCain is right, this dates all the way back to the '01, '02 time frame where we made some very bad, strategic assumptions and it just continued through the Obama administration. And I think what President Trump is trying to do is hopefully get it right. And we either need, as Barbara said, either fully get out or fully get in, but right now we're at the, you know, 9,000 or 10,000 troops. And if we get out, we have to understand that sort of the law of unintended consequences.

So like when we pulled out of Iraq, you see what happened with ISIS and they took years, we turned our backs on Iraq, ISIS grew and then we had this, you know, pan national threat, this transnational threat that really spans all across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. And so if we get out of Afghanistan without having properly built the capacity to defend that country and prevent terrorists from taking hosts in there, then we could very well have a replay of that.

And now ISIS has moved to partly in Afghanistan and partly in Libya.


TATA: Why Libya? Because it's ungoverned space. So we have to understand that if we get out, this is what we're going to have to deal with.

BALDWIN: No, I'm hanging on your every word, general, and I think my biggest takeaway, listen to Mick Nicholson. Hopefully that is precisely what the commander in chief is doing. And you're exactly right, Iraq is hopefully a lesson learned. General Tata, thank you, as always, so much.

TATA: Thank you, Brooke.

BALDWIN: Coming up, Anthony Scaramucci planning his next move after that explosive profanity-laced interview with "The New Yorker" led him to parting ways after 11 days with the White House. So we now have audio of that call. And the man on the other end of the phone, the other end of that interview, "The New Yorker's" Ryan Lizza. We've got him coming up live.

Also, the woman who was convicted of manslaughter for texting her boyfriend, trying to convince him to commit suicide, she learns her fate today. Live pictures from inside the courtroom, could get as many as 20 years in prison. We'll have that for you. Stay with me.


[14:27:52] BALDWIN: Well, he said he was going dark, and now that appears to be the case, at least for the moment. Anthony Scaramucci just yanked his plans to reveal his side of the story publicly tomorrow. The man who calls himself "Mooch" was set to discuss his dramatic White House exit, as in his 11 days as communications chief, in a live event online. Scaramucci announcing his quick change of heart just recently on Twitter, writing, no press event tomorrow. Focusing on family, my work in the private sector. #movingforward. Stay tuned.

Now, that just happened. But we also, today, have this audio of Scaramucci's shocking late-night phone call with "New Yorker" journalist Ryan Lizza -- yes, that interview -- when Scaramucci unleashed this blistering and bleep-filled rant launching brutal attacks on key members of Trump world, a la Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon.



RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": Oh, man, I can't tell you that.

SCARAMUCCI: What's what?

LIZZA: I can't tell you that, but --

SCARAMUCCI: OK. So I'm just going to -- what I'm going to do is I will eliminate everybody in the coms team and we'll start over. So, it's no problem. That's over (ph). So I asked these guys not to leak anything and they can't help themselves so we'll eliminate everybody. So it was somebody -- somebody in the coms team leaked that to you?

OK, but you're an American citizen. This is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I'm asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense for the leak.

LIZZA: All I -- the one thing I can tell you is it's two people in the White House who I know wouldn't lie to me, you know what I mean?

SCARAMUCCI: Really? Like who?

LIZZA: Come on, I can't tell you, buddy. You know I can't do that.

SCARAMUCCI: So go -- you can give me -- is it a -- is it an assistant to the --

LIZZA: If you told me --

SCARAMUCCI: Is it an assistant to the -- is it an assistant to the president?

And Reince is a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) paranoid schizophrenic, paranoiac. And what he's going to do is, oh, maybe Bill Shine's (ph) coming. Let me leak (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and see if I can (EXPLETIVE DELETED) block these people the way I (EXPLETIVE DELETED) blocked Scaramucci for six months. OK, but he leaked vociferous (ph) stuff on me. You know my financial disclosure's been leaked to Politico --


SCARAMUCCI: Which is a -- yes, which is a felony.

LIZZA: What I wanted to ask of you, if you wanted to be profiled --

[14:30:00] SCARAMUCCI: I don't -- I don't want to be profiled. I'm not Steve Bannon.

LIZZA: Which is what you're trying to do. What you're trying to do.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm not -- I'm not Steve Bannon.


SCARAMUCCI: I'm not trying to suck my own (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I'm not trying to build my own brand off (EXPLETIVE DELETED) the president.

OK, the Mooch showed up a week ago. This is going to get cleaned up very --