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Trump Lays Out Afghanistan Plan with Few Details; Trump to Visit Border, Rally Base in Phoenix; Trump Denounces Hate, Bigotry In Prime-Time Speech; Protesters Slam City Council "Blood Is On Your Hands"; Ryan: Trump "Messed Up" Charlottesville Response; Mnuchin's Wife Lashes Out At Critics Of Her Designer Clothes; Trump Unveils New Plan For Afghanistan War. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired August 22, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- bomb shelter, yes? Are they there?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: It was so underwhelming, I guess they could have left the house yesterday afternoon at some point. They're indoors.

CUOMO: Alisyn says I'm going to keep my kids inside.

CAMEROTA: Yes, like their mom.

CUOMO: J.B. was out there staring up at the son like a man.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, my only mistake was I wore 15 in my eyes, and it turns out that wasn't the way to go. You need at least SPF 30.

All right. Chris --

CAMEROTA: But, John --


CAMEROTA: -- that was a great moment with Bonnie Tyler where you were at the concert with the lighter.

CUOMO: Yes. One of your favorite songs too.

BERMAN: It was an --

CUOMO: I've heard you sing it many times.

BERMAN: It was an important moment. Thank you all for sharing it with me and with the country.

Chris, Alisyn, have a great day. We got a lot of news. Let's get to it.

All right. Good morning, everyone. John Berman here.

The President's speech on Afghanistan was either a clear display of leadership, a complete flip-flop, a bold new strategy, the same old strategy, maybe not even a strategy. It has been called all of those things by friends and foes, sometimes both.

What everyone can agree on is the scripted speech might just be a preview for what could be an unscripted, controversial political rally in Arizona tonight. With the nation still raw over the response to the displays of hate in Charlottesville, what could possibly go wrong? More on that in just a moment.

First, the nation's longest war getting still longer. The President revealed his plans while revealing few details.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.


BERMAN: All right. A big day for the administration. We have CNN's Ryan Browne at the Pentagon, Athena Jones at the white house.

Ryan, first, to you, what the White House is calling a new afghan strategy. The details, please.

RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, John, the details are still a little bit sparse at this moment. Now, some of the broader outlines were made clear.

One, no timeline. That's very much a big departure from the Obama administration. When President Obama announced his surge of troops, there was a very strict timetable attached to that. Some critics said that that encouraged the Taliban to wait it out. President Trump making it clear that there will be no timetables attached to this strategy.

Another element of this will be kind of removing some of the restrictions on targeting that have been put during the late period of the Obama administration, allowing the military to target ISIS, al Qaeda, and Taliban elements in Afghanistan. Additional trainers, perhaps. We don't know the number, but we believe that some additional trainers will be sent to Afghanistan to help train local Afghan troops.

And all of this kind of also working to put pressure on Pakistan. The no timetable element, they think, will potentially pressure Pakistan. Something the military has long sought to kind of curb some of these al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens in that border area, the Haqqani network mostly.

So, again, these are some of the broader elements of this strategy that were outlined yesterday. Last night, President Trump kind of, you know, listening to his military commanders. A lot of these recommendations have been sought for the military some

time, and it differed a lot from what candidate and citizen Trump had talked about when he talked about Afghanistan. And he acknowledged this change of heart as much in his speech last night.


TRUMP: My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts. But all my life, I've heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office. In other words, when you're President of the United States. However, our commitment is not unlimited and our support is not a blank check.


BROWNE: So President Trump clearly listening to Secretary Mattis, H.R. McMaster, his other military advisers, with regards to Afghanistan, giving them the chance to pursue a more engaged strategy in the months and years ahead -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Ryan Browne for us at the Pentagon. Thanks so much.

Later this morning, the President travels to Arizona for a political rally. The big question, can the president extend his streak of political discipline to two whole days? Athena Jones at the White House.

Athena, obviously, the President's been sort of stirring that Arizona pot hard for a while.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. He has. If past is prologue, we're unlikely to see that scripted version of President Trump that we saw last night. He's likely to return to his usual characteristic unscripted, freewheeling, combative style at this rally.

We know he loves these rallies before his supporters. One question is whether we'll hear any of the kinds of lines we heard at the beginning of that speech last night where he was focused on unity.

But as you mentioned, it's not surprising to see Democrats, like members of Congress or Phoenix's Democratic mayor, criticize the President for deciding to hold a campaign rally, they worry, will be divisive.

[09:04:59] What's more interesting is that Arizona's Republican governor is also skipping tonight's rally. He is going to greet the President on the tarmac when he arrives in Arizona, but he won't be there tonight.

And this is also a time when the President has some frosty relations with the state's two Republican senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain. This is what the President tweeted about Jeff Flake just last week. He said, great to see that Dr. Kelly Ward is running against Flake.

Jeff Flake who was weak on borders, crime, and a nonfactor in the Senate. He is toxic.

And also, at that now infamous press conference at Trump Tower, the President had some choice words for Senator McCain as well. Listen.


TRUMP: Senator McCain?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- to the alt-right and saying this --

TRUMP: Senator McCain --


TRUMP: -- you mean the one who voted against ObamaCare?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And he said that --

TRUMP: Who is -- you mean Senator McCain who voted against us getting good healthcare?


JONES: Both of those senators are skipping tonight's rally. One big question is, will the President officially endorse Flake's challenger, conservative challenger, Dr. Kelley Ward at this rally?

And also, will he pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff who has been convicted of contempt for ignoring an order to stop detaining people on mere suspicion of being undocumented immigrants -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Athena Jones for us at the White House. Athena, thanks so much.

Joining me now to talk Afghanistan, Colonel Steve Warren, CNN military analyst, former spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq, and Juliette Kayyem, CNN military -- sorry, national security analyst and former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Colonel, I want to start with you. There was the speech last night. The President spoke to the nation about Afghanistan, laying out his strategy. The question is, this morning, what is actually different? What has changed, now, in terms of U.S. strategy?

COL. STEVE WARREN, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, and that's exactly the right question to ask. The speech itself, I thought, was well-written and fairly well-delivered speech that hit all of the high points. The real question is, what's changed in the strategy?

And the really only notable adjustment to this strategy is this pledge to shift away from a time-based strategy to a conditions-based strategy. The rest of it, really, is a lot of the strategy that we had been working out of the Department of Defense for the last several years.

Maybe with some of the rougher edges filed off, kind of these points that the Department of Defense and the generals didn't appreciate very much. For example, the ability to flow troops in and out without having to ask permission, the ability to have additional authorities to strike terrorists and other targets throughout Afghanistan.

So these are kind of, I think, small incremental changes. But the overall fundamentals of the strategy, from where I sit, appear to remain largely unchanged.

BERMAN: No, you're adding, what, 4,000 troops probably still doing the same types of things in the country you were doing before.

But, Juliette Kayyem, the no timetable isn't insignificant in the sense that we've heard, for the last several years, that the Taliban, the bad actors inside Afghanistan, they always knew when the U.S. was getting out because President Obama kept on telling them when the U.S. was getting out. So from their point of view, all they had to do was wait.

JULIETTE KAYYEM, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY: Yes. I think, you know, lifting a timetable matters symbolically. But the problem with at least the speech is it didn't sort of lay out what the conditions would be for our own military about when we'd be willing to say, OK, we're waiting -- we're willing to leave Afghanistan at this stage.

In other words, the conditions are just not known at this stage. And what's important to remember for everyone is the Taliban is going to outlast us. They outlasted -- you know, the Afghans outlast the Russians. They're going to outlast the United States.

So what's our primary interest? Of course, it's the counter terrorism effort with al Qaeda and any growth of ISIS and supporting, to the extent we can, a government, a functioning government in Afghanistan. And that is it.

We're not going to rebuild that nation, and we're not going to outlast the Afghanis. So what are the conditions that would make us more willing to leave? I have to say the speech left those conditions, I think, unknown at this stage.

BERMAN: Though, if you listen to the President, he claimed that he did define what those conditions would be. He had this line defining victory. Let's listen.


TRUMP: From now on, victory will have a clear definition, attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America before they emerge.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: So, Colonel Warren, that's interesting. The foreign editor at Breitbart, Raheem Kassam, and the source here -- there is a political element to this which we'll talk about later in the show, but Breitbart notes, in those definitions of victory, there are no real measurables, which is something you, in the military, care about a great deal. Do you agree, Colonel, with that assessment?

[09:10:03] WARREN: Yes, very difficult to measure those definitions of victory. And, in fact, some of those definitions sounded more like actions than actual, you know, completed tasks.

And I think it's notable that, you know, this could open the door to an essentially endless occupation of Afghanistan. You know, if the Taliban continues to exist, would that -- if they're not brought to the table, if a regional solution that incorporates Pakistan, India, China, and even Russia and Iran into a total solution, if we can't get to that spot, we'll have American service members in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

BERMAN: Quickly, Juliette, 30 seconds left, the new attitudes towards Pakistan. Pakistan, you know, a difficult relationship over several administrations.

KAYYEM: That's right. I mean, a much tougher stance against Pakistan and sort of calling them out. To the extent that that matters, we've called them out privately. And I think that that was a significant shift, at least verbally, by the Trump administration.

But while we're talking about a shift in Afghanistan, it is, just quickly, at least worth noting that, in some ways, the speech last night was Trump's default. I mean, if you look at our military engagement in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and now Afghanistan, since January, we've increased our military presence.

So while we talk about a potential shift last night or course correction or him going back on what he said in the campaign, in many ways, what he said last night was very familiar, at least during this administration.

BERMAN: All right, Juliette Kayyem, Colonel Steve Warren. Colonel, welcome to CNN. Great to have you here. Thank you both so much.

WARREN: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. The President flips on Afghanistan, but is that already flopping with his base? We will find out tonight maybe when he tries to rev up supporters in this campaign style rally in Phoenix where Republicans are already on edge over the visit.

And protesters bring the Charlottesville city council meeting to a halt. Look at this. Protesters furious that the deadly Unite the Right rally was allowed to happen in the first place. You can hear them chanting there, "blood on your hands."


CROWD: Blood on your hands. Blood on your hands.




BERMAN: All right, the president's big speech on strategy in Afghanistan open with a message that really wasn't about Afghanistan, but instead the aftermath of Charlottesville. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: A wound inflicted upon a single member of our community is a wound inflicted upon us all. When one part of America hurts, we all hurt, and when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.


BERMAN: All right. Not a bad Afghanistan there. Joining me CNN political analysts, April Ryan and David Drucker, CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, and political anchor for Spectrum News.

So, if you are keeping score at home, that statement, which was really about Charlottesville, not like his first statement on Charlottesville, sort of like his statement, second one on Charlottesville, not at all like the third press conference in Trump Tower about Charlottesville.

But that's where we are from last night. April Ryan, you were part of the pool. You are actually at that speech last night. So, the new scripted words from the president, how much credibility do they carry, given the sort of evolution of thought on the subject?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was interesting last night, being in that room at Fort Meyers. I watched the crowd, the multiracial diverse crowd last night of soldiers as the president was beginning to deliver his speech on Afghanistan but talked about bigotry and race and how it's not tolerated, particularly for military that since Truman has been inclusive.

One of the first federal branches to be inclusive of all races. So, the president tried to do a reset last night. His words were resounding, particularly for military that's diverse, and it could possibly be going to Afghanistan to fight for the rights of all in this nation.

Not just for one group. So, it was a stark contrast. I did pay close attention to his words. If he continues on that tone, he may begin to fix the situation of Charlottesville that's a big chasm right now.

BERMAN: The situation needs fixing. It really does. I mean, there is an open wound in this country and we saw evidence of it in Charlottesville at this city council meeting, which was essentially shut down by people who were very angry with the response of that city.

I think. I hope we have pictures of what happened inside that meeting. We can show you right now. This is what happened inside Charlottesville. People chanting there as they were discussing the events, again, all but shut down.

So, Errol Louis, you know, there is fixing that needs to be done here. The president did not help, but in some ways actually exacerbated the wounds of Charlottesville and there's a long way back here.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, that's right. To piggyback on what April said, he's going to have many more opportunities to try and fix the problem that he helped exacerbate. There are more far-right rallies that are being planned all over the country.

There's an initiative that has slipped from the president and has gone into the hands of people like the business leaders who walked away from the president's councils, the religious leaders who have also resigned from another of his council, the Evangelical Council.

The military leaders who spoke out forcefully. The president is playing catch-up now because the initiative is with people like folks on the screen now. People in the streets, business leaders, religious and military leaders.

If the president wants to get back in this game, this game of leading the country on this very difficult issue, he's going to have to speak up a lot more than a couple of scripted lines in one speech.

BERMAN: Yes. And I don't know if he'll ever reach the people who are at this meeting or in some ways I think the American people who saw what they saw may not be reachable by him. I'm not so sure how much his words will carry weight with them.

[09:20:04] However, there is one constituency, and I think this maybe where the comments are most directed, and that maybe with those Republicans who refuse to stand up for the president over the last week and have been critical in their own sort of different ways.

And one of those Republicans was on CNN overnight with Jake Tapper, House Speaker Paul Ryan, listen to what he said about the president's response to Charlottesville.


REPRESENTATIVE PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: So I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity, when we need extreme moral clarity.


BERMAN: So David Trucker, it a seems to me if the president keeps on saying the words he said out loud last night, maybe tonight in Phoenix, who knows? It allows people like Paul Ryan, who really don't want talk about it and only very, very softly say the president messed. They can then say look the president is fixing it. Just look at the new things.

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, Republicans on Capitol Hill don't want to fight with the president. They want to accomplish legislation with the president and September is a very big month.

I think last night with the president what we saw is what he is capable of as president. But, of course we also saw that with his state of the union address, his address to a joint session of Congress showed what he's capable of.

But there's also the other side to the president, who likes to jab, likes to fight and seems to prefer chaos and seems to prefer mixing it up with his so-called enemies. So, I think the real telling moment of the week is going to be this evening in Phoenix, Arizona with that political rally.

And it's going to have a signature Trump crowd. It's going to have all of that energy that we saw at the Trump campaign rallies in 2016 and even since he's become president and that's where he speaks off- the-cuff usually.

That's where he improvises and that's usually where see the other Trump that makes it so hard for Americans who at least want to root for his success and feel good about him as president, even if they don't like him all that much.

That's where we're going to see whether or not last night was just another moment the way the joint session speech was just another moment, and I -- that's why think it's hard to sort of analyze what he did last night, beyond the policy which I think was very significant.

I have to say I think it was very significant that he conceded that when he was analyzing the Afghanistan situation going with his gut he was wrong and since he's become president, there are things that he has learned that has caused him to change course.

For Trump to say my gut was wrong and I've learned -- for any president do that is a pretty big deal, but I think it was -- it's not that he should be commended. I just think it's a matter of policy. It was the most important thing that happened Monday night.

RYAN: John --

BERMAN: Hang on, I want to get to one other thing here. I just want to make note of one thing before I move on. It was some criticism for the president not just from Democrats but some of his own base, Breitbart which you know is run by Steve Bannon who was working in the White House three days ago essentially called the president a flip- flopper.

You can see some of the headlines from Breitbart last night. So, he's going to have to contend with this wing of his party and base. We will see how this plays out in the next few days. I do want to point out one other curiosity from the last 24 hours. It has to do with the wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who traveled with the treasury secretary to Kentucky, was photographed, posted on Instagram coming out of the plane.

In her initial Instagram post, she hashtagged like every brand that she was wearing including -- the Hermes. David Drucker, I'm impressed by you on that. It led to the exchange where someone criticized her.

And then Louis Linton, you know, Steve Mnuchin's wife lashed out hard core at the person who criticized her saying, "Adorable. Do you think the U.S. government paid for our honeymoon or personal travel? Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband either as an individual earner in taxes or in self sacrifice to your country?

I'm pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day trip than you did." April, you laugh first on this. So, this is your problem to deal with right now.

RYAN: It wasn't my problem. Come on now, John.

BERMAN: This is a tough look for anyone connected to the administration.

RYAN: First of all, I looked at those hashtags, Hermes, Tom Ford, Valentino.

DRUCKER: All good stuff by the way.

RYAN: Very good stuff. She had a Berken bag, I think it's at least $10,000. So, when you are a public servant and even if you're married to a public servant, you have to remember service is about the people.

Many of the people that you're serving cannot afford a Berken bag that's at least $10,000 or a beautiful scarf by whatever designer it was. I mean, she looked beautiful. I can't take that away from here.

She looks like she was coming off a magazine cover from "Vogue" or "Elle" or "Cosmo" or something like that. But you have to remember many of the people that your husband is serving can just barely make it there, tried to make ends meet.

[09:25:12] Unemployed, underemployed or just making it, and you have to be very careful how you flash your wealth and flash your status, particular as you are serving people. I know she is the wife but optics matter.

BERMAN: Well, and not just the optics, it's the way she responded to (inaudible) situation --

DRUCKER: The epitome of tone deaf. Both the Instagram itself and the response. It's just not what you do.

LOUIS: But wait. Not just tone deaf. Reflecting a sneering snarling contempt for people who don't have what she has, which is wealth and power. RYAN: Exactly.

LOUIS: That is the style this administration and unless he reels it in, you have to assume that the president and the rest of the White House are OK with portraying themselves this way.

BERMAN: Errol Louis, April Ryan, David Drucker, thank you all.

All right. As President Trump announces a plan to commit more troops to Afghanistan, how much has the U.S. already spent in the America's longest war? Joining us now CNN's chief money correspondent, Christine Romans. Very expensive.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It is very expensive. You know, I always caution when we do these stories, you cannot put a financial number, really on the cost of war for what it does to the country and for the people who have lost lives.

So, this is the tally of the line items is what I can give you, the direct cost of the war in Afghanistan since 2001, $841 billion including future costs like accounting returning vets and their medical care.

You are talking about $2 trillion, but John, the number could even be bigger because unlike prior wars, the cost of this war, there were no war taxes to pay for it. In fact, there were tax cuts at the very moment.

So, there are a number crunchers who say it will be trillions of dollars when you count the interest on the money borrowed to pay for it. You can see Afghanistan and Iraq together about two and a half times the cost of the Vietnam war.

The other wars ended, of course. We don't see the end of Afghanistan. That is the issue here. There is no end date on this. So, when you just look at 16 years, $2 trillion, two and a half times the cost of Vietnam to say nothing of the cost you can't measure.

BERMAN: The markets, what are we looking at today?

ROMANS: A little bit of a bounce. We had a couple of bad weeks. Pullbacks but looking for a bounce here after last week's tough day. The earning season is over. Lot of discussion about what's going to happen here with the president's legislative agenda.

You know, Paul Ryan, Gary Cohen, those are the two names I'm hearing. They are wondering if those two gentlemen will be able to work with the president to get an agenda. September's going to be a very big month in terms of running the country.

BERMAN: I think we'll see a bounce.

ROMANS: America came together yesterday. Don't count that out. America came together yesterday.

BERMAN: Christine Romans, thank you very much. All right. We have some news on a front that is rather tragic this morning. This morning, divers finding the remains in their search for 10 missing sailors after a destroyer collided with an oil tanker. Stay with us.