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President Trump Gives Speech on U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan; Ambassador Nikki Haley Defends President Trump's Afghanistan Speech; Remains of U.S. Sailors Found after Accidental Ship Collision; Interview with Republican Congressman Scott Taylor of Virginia. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 22, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Conditions on the ground will guide our strategy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think what you saw last night is something the president believes in and something he's going to follow through with.

TRUMP: Victory will have a clear definition. Attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Obama's strategy 2.0, just some nibbling around the edges.

TRUMP: There is no room for bigotry and no tolerance for hate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do believe that he messed up on Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is back on the campaign trail tonight with a rally in Arizona.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to go to Phoenix and make a speech, fine. Say something that is going to bring people together.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, August 22, 8:00 in the east.

The U.S. has a strategy in Afghanistan. Is it new? That's an open question. President Trump recommitting the United States to the war in his first prime time address but he refused to provide details about true commitments or an endgame for winning the nation's longest running war.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley telling NEW DAY this morning that the president is not focused on the duration of the conflict but instead on stomping out terrorism. Meanwhile President Trump returns to the campaign trail with a rally in Phoenix, and many are watching to see if his message to supporters will change when he is off the teleprompter. CUOMO: Let's bring in the panel, CNN political analyst David Gregory,

CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst Rear Admiral John Kirby. Gentlemen, let's listen to the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. She gave a defense of the speech on some of the points I'm sure you guys want to touch on. So here it is.


NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think the president's speech was strong. I think it was showing that we are taking an entirely new approach from what's happened in the past. I was in the National Security Council meetings, there were multiple meetings. There was a lot of information. There were a lot of questions asked. And I think what you saw last night was something the president believes in and something he's going to follow through with. In the past, it's always been time based on when we were going to get out or based on the number of troops, or based on all kinds of things. Now it's results-based. And that worked.

CUOMO: There's no question the president needed to have his own mind changed. Citizen and even candidate Trump would have hated that speech last night because he was the complete opposite mindset than what you're laying out right now.

HALEY: No. I think that really shows the signs of a president. The one thing is to be a candidate and talk about what you think. The other is to be a president and talk about what you know. And the facts were put on the table and he asked all the right questions. And you're going to see a very different approach. Our enemies are no longer going to know what our timeline is. Our enemies are no longer going to know where we are and how many troops and all of those things.

What our enemies are going to know is we're not putting up with the terrorism anymore and we're going to do whatever it takes. But more importantly, the president's taking on a regional approach. This is not just about Afghanistan. This is about the region. And so it means we've got to put the pressure on Pakistan. They can't safe harbor terrorists anymore. And we need the international community to step up and say look, if we're going to do this, we're doing it together. It's not the United States alone.


CUOMO: All right, so, David Gregory, the big points. This is different. Results versus the time oriented is an advantage, and that Trump didn't know what he was talking about when he was running but he knows now and that's why he lifted. What do you make of those?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that last point, there is always a learning curve for a president who comes in who gets more acquainted with what the issues really are, with what the challenges are. President Obama faced this. President Bush faced this when he said there would be no nation building as a candidate. But I don't think this is substantially different at all. America has

been committed to Afghanistan for 16 years. I think there was much more nation building in the beginning. President Bush at the end of his term acknowledged that it would be very difficult to turn it around politically.

But there has been a through line now from President Bush to President Obama and now to President Trump. And that is that you can't quit Afghanistan. You can't quit it because you cannot allow a safe haven for terrorists to emerge. And whether that's a parasite like Al Qaeda or an insurgency that's homegrown like the Taliban, that a U.S. presence and a military presence and an intelligence gathering presence is vital.

Now, with a more marginal troop increase as the president seems to be talking about, I don't know how it forces the Taliban into a better negotiating position. There's a lot we don't know about this policy, but I think the conclusion is that we are in something of a forever war in Afghanistan, a commitment to be -- to have a U.S. presence there for a long period of time to kind of keep the lid on it and keep the lid on the region.

[08:05:08] CAMEROTA: John Kirby, she said something I want to get your take on because this is something that has always sort of confused me. Obviously you don't want to telegraph the enemy your timeline, your troop movements, how many you're sending, that makes sense. But what about telling Americans what they're in for, what they're committing to? What is the balance there of how much information the president is supposed to offer up in an announcement like that last night?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: The cutoff is strategy versus operations. The American people have a right to know what your strategy is. They have a right to know what you're trying to do, your ends, your ways, your means. But they don't have a right to know every little operation you're conducting and what individual units are doing on a day-to-day basis, and obviously you don't a want the enemy to know that either.

I don't think the president got that balance right last night quite frankly. Look, I'm glad he's got a strategy for Afghanistan. It's just too bad that this isn't his strategy. This is President Obama's strategy, just nibble off a few things that he knew the generals didn't like, like time management, like micro-management from Washington D.C.

And, oh, by the way, he is not going to get away with the fact that he's not talking about numbers. I was actually glad that the speech last night wasn't about numbers. I didn't want it to be. But when he says we're not going to talk about them, he doesn't get that choice. When Congress comes back in September, I'm guessing they're going to want to have hearings and discussions about this Afghanistan strategy and they're going to want to know point-blank how many troops he's going to send and sort of what the timeline is. They're going to have to talk about this. And frankly they should have to talk about this because there's lots of moms and dads out there that are sending their sons and daughters out to boot camp, and they need to know how many are going to go and what they're going to be doing.

CUOMO: And Congress has totally bailed on this president after president. They've abdicated their duties to declare war and own this part of the check on the executive. The authorization for the use of military force is from 2001. It's an embarrassment. They say they're going to change it. We'll see.

Chris Cillizza, there was another point that Nikki Haley spoke to here that created a little policy confusion. So Afghanistan is important. You've got to know it's regional. You've got to look at Pakistan as well. They harbor a lot of bad people there. That's where Usama bin Laden was hiding whether or not they knew. But she says they didn't need to be in the travel ban because we know enough about the couple who want to come from those countries to the U.S. How can that be?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNN POLITICS: Well, because I think there's policy making on the fly. I think if Nikki Haley had to it do all over again, if you have a president Nikki Haley, which maybe you will have a candidate Nikki Haley at some point, but if you had a president Nikki Haley, my guess is you wouldn't have the travel ban. It was certainly ill conceived as the way it was originally written. It seemed to be somewhat slapdash, an attempt to make a very quick campaign promise fulfilled, the work primarily we know of Steve Bannon and Steve Miller, one of whom is not at the White House any longer.

So I give Trump credit in that the process did take a while. He did change position from the campaign and from what he had said previously when presented with more and better information. But that's the anomaly thus far in his presidency. The way in which the travel ban was both written and then executed is more to the rule, which is much more herky-jerky, much less thought about impact. And so I think that's why you see the policy confusion because one policy was created sort of in a week or two out of whole cloth to make good on a campaign promise. The other one was seven months plus in the making. There's a difference when you actually spend time engaged with the issues, talk to the relevant people who tell you this can work and this can't work.

Now oftentimes, by the way those policy solutions are less than thrilling to any one side. I think that's what you're getting out of Afghanistan.

CAMEROTA: So David Gregory, you've often talked about the split screen that we see with the president, teleprompter President Trump where he sticks to the speech writers' words and to his message, and then there's rally Trump, or even press conference President Trump as we saw when he was trying to explain his reaction to Charlottesville.

So last night, after of the president's speech we had House Speaker Paul Ryan as part of a CNN town hall, and he said for the first time in his strongest language yet that he thinks the president really messed up during that press conference about the Charlottesville reaction. Here is Paul Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. PAUL RYAN, (R), WISCONSIN, 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.

Let me just back up for a second and make one or two other points. It should not be about the president. This is not about Republicans or Democrats. This shouldn't be about some voting Congress or some partisan issue. This is so much more important than that.


[08:10:10] CAMEROTA: So we're happy obviously that the speaker is part of the town hall, but it did take him a long time to come out and criticize the president in that way.

GREGORY: Yes. I think so. I mean, where were those words, where was that public stand right as this was happening in the heat of the moment? That's what leadership required of Paul Ryan, who I think is a strong leader and a very principled person as I've known him and covered him over the years.

I continue to be surprised by Speaker Ryan and his relationship with President Trump and his reluctance to speak out for the values I believe he stands for as a politician and as a person. But he is making a choice, and I suspect some of that has to do with the responsibility he feels to House Republicans and to maintaining political control of the House, and I think it's also policy-based. I think that for all of the chaos around the Trump presidency, the one person who has had a very disciplined and laser-beamed focus on the agenda is Paul Ryan. And I think he thinks that even health care that slipped through his fingers, that tax reform is still possible.

CAMEROTA: All right, panel, thank you all very much for all of insights. We appreciate it. We do need to get to breaking news right now though. So divers have found remains in the search for 10 Navy sailors who went missing after their warship collided with an oil tanker in the Pacific. CNN's Matt Rivers is live in Singapore for us with all of the breaking details. What have you learned, Matt.

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, we just returned from a press conference with the commander for the Pacific fleet for the U.S. Navy, Admiral Scott Swift, and he confirmed that accident is now a deadly accident. Remains have been found. We'll show you what he said moments ago.


ADM. SCOTT H. SWIFT, COMMANDER, U.S. PACIFIC FLEET: The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps divers joined a search today assessing sealed compartments in damage parts of the ship. The divers were able to locate some remains in those sealed compartments during their search today. Additionally, the Malaysian Navy has reported they have located potential remains. They are working to confirm and identify those remains.


RIVERS: So what the admiral would not say, though, is exactly how many of those 10 missing U.S. sailors have been recovered so far. He said this is now a recovery operation, it is not a rescue operation, and that is the priority, trying to get to those other remains, those remains found inside some the sealed compartments of that ship that was damaged early Monday morning here local time in Singapore. That remains the priority. But of course there were questions what caused this all in the first place. The admiral would not speculate. He said there would be a long review by the U.S. Navy to figure out exactly what's going on here.

CUOMO: The simple truth is a recovery like this is hard. Those ships are big. The compartments are flooded. The searching is difficult and it takes time. Matt, stay on it. Thank you very much.

President Trump says U.S. troops will fight to win in Afghanistan. But he didn't lay out a clear strategy or timeline. So what does that mean? We have a Republican congressman and retired Navy Seal joining us next.



[08:16:59] 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.


CAMEROTA: Now, President Trump reversing his stance on Afghanistan and recommitting to the war there. But the president did not give any details on troop levels or a timetable. Does his new policy amount to a blank check somehow?

Joining us is Republican Congressman Scott Taylor. He's also a former Navy SEAL and Iraq War veteran.

Congressman, Good morning.

REP. SCOTT TAYLOR (R), VIRGINIA: Good morning, Alisyn. How are you?

CAMEROTA: I'm doing well. I know you like the president's speech last night.

What did you hear?

TAYLOR: Well, I certainly heard sort of a disruption in the status quo, if you will. And, you know, I represent the area that has more military and veterans than any congressional district in the nation. So, if something happens and what our people are going and we are -- our folks are certainly in Afghanistan and they will be. I want to know that they're going to be able to have the rulings of engagement they need, that they're not going to be micro-managed by politicians in Washington.

So, I did like what he heard yesterday and he actually did say that there's would not be a blank check. I think that his skepticism of Afghanistan and instincts are warranted. I think a lot of folks in the American public, you know, that they're not happy with the nation building, they're not happy with where we are 16 years later. So, for what I heard was we're going to change the status quo, we're going to put pressure on countries in the region and then we will re-evaluate and see where we are with that.

And I did -- I do want to hear that. That's something that I think that we needed to hear as a country, as well as folks that are in the military.

CAMEROTA: The president didn't give any specific troop levels, but our sources in the White House say that he'll be adding 4,000 troops to Afghanistan. Is that -- how will that change anything? How will that change what's going on in Afghanistan, that level of troop build?

TAYLOR: Well, from what I understand and I definitely read the reporting. And from what I understand, he's already delegated that authority previously to Secretary Mattis, up to 4,000. So, from what I understand as well from yesterday, that will be conditions based, of course, that's on the ground. So, what the strategy is and how that changes everything that completely depends on conditions on the ground.

As a special warfare fighter myself, you know, I like to see unconventional type of things, as opposed to conventional, certainly in areas like Afghanistan that are not for necessarily conventional forces. But, you know, I don't know the specific strategy. But I will leave that up to them and the conditions that are the underground that dictate what you need to do.


CAMEROTA: I understand, but does that number make sense to you?

TAYLOR: I don't think that you should get -- I don't think that you should or us should get swept up in what the actual number is. I don't think that's -- that doesn't make sense to me as a military man. It all depends and it's dictated by what the conditions are on the ground and where they're needed.

CAMEROTA: But 4,000 -- I hear you, but 4,000 feels like the right number to change the equation there?

[08:20:03] TAYLOR: I don't know the answer to that. I know that the commanders on the ground will know the answer to that more than me. I don't like politicians micro-managing from Washington so as now a politician, I'm not going to try to do that from Washington.

CAMEROTA: Do you think -- I hear you. About your district, I didn't know that that you sent the most soldiers to fight. That's interesting. Do you think --

TAYLOR: Well, we have -- what I'm saying is we have the most active duty and veterans of any congressional district in the nation.


TAYLOR: Not the most to fight in Afghanistan.

CAMEROTA: Most active duty and veterans.

TAYLOR: The most active duty and veterans combination in the country in terms of congressional districts, yes.

CAMEROTA: OK. That's noteworthy. Do you think that the parents of soldiers who are obviously being sent off, do you think that they deserve more specifics than they heard last night?

TAYLOR: I think that number one -- two things. I've been very clear in terms of the AUMF, the 16-year-old authorization of use of military force. I think that Congress should have that debate. They should get input from the administration. Now, we have to have some, we probably need more specifics and then we should have that debate and say that.

So, but I will tell you that the folks, the parents back home, the soldiers that are fighting, their families back home, they certainly want to know that the people aren't being micro-managed on the ground by politicians in Washington. They want to know if they're going to be there, that they have the rules of engagement and the flexibility necessary to do their job.

So, it's -- you know, as again, as a former military person and someone who has friends still in the fight, I want to know that they have that flexibility. I want to know that they're able to get their job done. I don't need to know day to day and all the specifics that they're doing. But that being said, as you -- I do think Congress should look at the AUMF and should vote on that with input from the administration.

CAMEROTA: Do Americans deserve to know what success will look like?

TAYLOR: No question. No question. Americans need to understand what the strategy is, what the potential end state is. Now, granted, war is obviously fickle and things change.


TAYLOR: So I think that it would be very important for this president to continually update the American public on the progress of -- now, that he's there. I mean, he's the third president in this war. It's not -- he didn't -- it was -- you know, obviously started previously.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he inherited it.

TAYLOR: He's inherited it.


CAMEROTA: But did you understand -- TAYLOR: I think that he needs to continue to update the American

people in terms of the strategy and where we are and where we're going. I think that's a fair thing that should happen.

CAMEROTA: Can you this morning define what success looks like?

TAYLOR: To -- stop any terrorists from having a safe haven in Afghanistan, to make sure that you have stability in the region there. And that requires a lot. I think his statement last night allows for increased flexibility to make sure that you're denying terrorists. You're denying insurgency from the destabilizing the country and, of course, and also ask for surrounding countries to be more involved.

I would like to see more on Russia's, on their support of the Taliban in the north. I'd like to see more from this administration in terms of what China looks like and what their influence is there and how they play a role in stability there. So, I do think that he outlined something yesterday that was a little more concrete than we've seen in the past ten years.

CAMEROTA: I mean, it just sounds as though you have to stay for a long time if you're never going to create a vacuum that then soldiers have to stay indefinitely.

TAYLOR: Is that a question?

CAMEROTA: I don't know. I mean, I really don't know. It just sounds like without a time line and without a clear benchmark, that it's hard to know when mission will be accomplished. But, you know --


TAYLOR: I think you have a fair point there, Alisyn.


TAYLOR: I think you have a fair point there.

And, again, that's why I believe it's important for this president to continually update the American people on progress, on where we are, on what the vision is, what we're looking at. At the same time, not giving a timeline for withdrawals so folks should just outwait us basically and also allow for that flexibility in there for the people to get the job done as needed on the ground.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Congressman Scott Taylor, thank you. We always appreciate having you on and we certainly appreciate your service. Thanks so much.

TAYLOR: Thank you for having me, Alisyn.


CUOMO: The reality is, we've just seen a major shift in the president. He wanted the country out of Afghanistan as a citizen and as a candidate. He campaigned on it. Now, he is basically saying that we are all in and for a long time.

We also saw something else in this speech. It may have been the first time that we saw the president almost admit he was wrong. This isn't the first big flip-flop we've seen from him. We're going to do some analysis of the three biggest and their motivations, next.



[08:28:38] 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.


CUOMO: All right. That's President Trump coming as close as he as so far to admitting a flip-flop on a key issue.

We've seen several major shifts and they matter for different reasons. Last night's speech was a new strategy in Afghanistan, basically a rejection of Trump's previous position, increasing troop levels by an undisclosed amount.

Now, before last night, Trump could not say enough about how badly he wanted the U.S. out, calling any Trump increase a plan hatched by, quote, very stupid leaders. Now, the top of speech last night was also notable.

It was an attempt to douse the flames that he whipped up last week, equating white supremacists with those fighting against them. Given the problems with moral agency, his thoughts about David Duke matter. Back in the day, he knew what Duke was about. But once he started running, he seemed to forget.


TRUMP: Well, you've got David Duke -- just joined a bigot, racist, a problem.

David Duke endorsed me. OK. All right. I disavow.

I don't know anything about David Duke, OK? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.

I know who he is but I never met David Duke.