Return to Transcripts main page
AT THIS HOUR
Tillerson: My Commitment To The President Is Strong; Source: Trump Was Aware Tillerson Called Him A "Moron"; CNN: Tensions At All- Time High Between Tillerson, Trump; Police: Shooter Meticulously Planned Attack. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired October 4, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: -- our relationships with India and Pakistan to stamp out terrorism and support the Afghan government in providing security for their own people. And ISIS' fraudulent caliphate in Iraq and Syria is on the brink of being completely extinguished, thanks to an aggressive new strategy led by the president.
What we have accomplished, we have done as a team. Similarly, Secretary Mnuchin has levied economic sanctions on North Korea and related entities. Countries must increasingly decide whether they will do business with North Korea or with the community of peace- loving nations.
Ambassador Hailey has spearheaded and achieved enormous success passing the toughest U.N. sanctions to date on North Korea. General Mattis and I communicate virtually every day and we agree that there must be the highest level of coordination between our diplomatic efforts and our military efforts.
You can't have a stronger partner than a secretary of defense who embraces diplomacy and I hope he feels he has the partner he needs at the at the State Department. And this is just the beginning of the list of partners and friends across the government who are all working for the American people.
There's much to be done and we're just getting started. To address a few specifics that have been erroneously reported this morning, the vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post.
I value the friendship and the counsel of the vice president and I admire his leadership within President Trump's administration to address the many important agendas of President Trump, both from a foreign policy perspective and a diplomatic -- I'm sorry, a domestic objective.
Let me tell you what I've learned about this president, whom I did not know before taking this office. He loves his country. He puts Americans and America first. He's smart, he demands results wherever he goes, and he holds those around him accountable for whether they've done the job he's asked them to do.
Accountability is one of the bedrock values the president and I share. While I'm new to Washington, I have learned that there are some who try to sew dissension to advance their own agenda by tearing others apart, in an effort to undermine President Trump's own agenda.
I do not and I will not operate that way and the same applies to everyone on my team here at the State Department. When I wake up in the morning, my first thoughts are about the safety of our citizens at home and abroad.
There's no more important responsibility I carry with me than ensuring that Americans are safe. Providing for the security of the United States must be the number one goal of our American foreign policy.
President Trump and his administration will keep moving forward as one team, with one mission. Doing great things for the United States of America, to make America great again. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that the only thing that you consider to be erroneous in that article?
TILLERSON: I think it's the most important out of the article is to reaffirm my commitment to this role that President Trump's asked me to serve and to dispel with this notion that I have ever considered leaving. I have answered that question repeatedly.
For some reason, it continues to be misreported. There's never been a consideration in my mind to leave. I serve at the appointment of the president and I am here for as long as the president feels I can be useful to achieving his objectives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, do you agree with Secretary Mattis that the United States should stay in the JCPOA?
TILLERSON: We'll have a recommendation for the president. We're going to give him a couple of options of how to move forward to advance the important policy towards Iran. As you've heard us say many times, the JCPOA represents only a small part of the many issues that we need to deal with when it comes to the Iranian relationship.
So, it is an important part of that, but it is not the only part. And I've said many times, we cannot let the Iranian relationship be defined solely by that nuclear agreement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you address the main headline of this story that you called the president a moron, and if not, where do you think these reports --
TILLERSON: I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that. This is what I don't understand about Washington. Again, I'm not from this place, but the places I come from, we don't deal with that kind of petty nonsense. And it is intended to do nothing but divide people and I'm just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary, did you speak with the president about the report and did he ask you to make a statement or --
TILLERSON: I have not spoken to the president this morning. I think he's on his way to Las Vegas, is my understanding.
[11:05:05] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Secretary, do you know (inaudible) foreign minister, do you have a reliable partner in Pakistan now (inaudible)?
TILLERSON: Yes, I believe we do. You know, I think the Pakistan relationship -- the Pakistan relationship and the U.S. relationship is extraordinarily important regionally. And as we rolled out the South Asia strategy, we spoke about it in a regional context.
It is not just about Afghanistan. This is about the importance of Pakistan and Pakistan's long-term stability as well. We have concerns about the future of Pakistan's government too.
In terms of them, we want their government to be stable and peaceful and many of the same issues they're struggle with inside of Pakistan are our issues. So, we think there is an opportunity to strengthen that relationship.
We're going to be working very hard at all levels, from the State Department to the Defense Department to our intelligence communities, as well as economic, commerce opportunities as well. So, it really is a regional approach and Pakistan is critical, I think, to the long- term stability of the region. Thank you very much.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We were seeing just now, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, taking kind of an extraordinary moment to address some reporting coming from -- reporting about his position in the administration, if he wanted to leave, if he thought about leaving the administration.
This coming from reporting from NBC News. We have a lot to discuss here, because this is not a secretary of state who often takes questions, either. Joining me right now to discuss is Barbara Starr. She's our Pentagon correspondent, of course.
David Chalian is a CNN political director, global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, and White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins. If I could, I want to start straight to the White House. Kaitlan, you have some new reporting on all of this. Tell me what you have.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. So, we have confirmed that the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who we just heard from there, did refer to the president as a moron this summer.
I'm told by sources from the White House that the president was aware about this remark, but that the situation has gotten worse now that it's become so public after NBC News first reported it this morning.
Now, we just saw Tillerson there, he was directly asked if he referred to the president as a moron and he did not deny it, but said he was not going to get into "petty stuff," quote. Now, Tillerson also during that said, reaffirmed his commitment to the position of secretary of state.
He pushed back on those reports that the vice president had to convince him to stay on in the role because he was considering leaving. Tillerson said that he has not considered leaving. That Pence did not tell him that.
But sources do tell CNN that Pence and Tillerson are quite close. That the two men get lunch very often and that they communicate very frequently. And they told us today that after that moron remark over the summer, that Pence counseled Tillerson on how to interact with the administration the best and how to interact with the president moving forward. So, we do have some reporting on that today -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Yes. So, everyone knows Rex Tillerson was asked as Kaitlan was saying directly about that as you heard this reporting first by NBC News that he had called President Trump a moron after a meeting over at the Pentagon.
Rex Tillerson not addressing it, just saying, this is not what I don't understand about Washington, I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like this, this kind of petty nonsense.
David Chalian, let me bring you in on this. Is this kind of an extraordinary moment for the secretary of state to hold this unscheduled, hastily planned press conference to address a news report, to reaffirm that he is not leaving the administration?
Normally you only hold such a press conference if you're making an announcement that, I don't know, you are leaving your post.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I can't think of an example of this high-level cabinet member ever holding a formal news conference to make a statement to deal with a story that was reported with anonymous sources and what have you.
So, it is definitely a departure from the norm of what we see here. There's no doubt about that. And that may be because Donald Trump operates in a way that departs from the norm all the time with his team.
And perhaps Secretary Tillerson thought this maybe the best way to communicate with Donald Trump, to let the president see him going to this extra effort. As we know, the president is a huge consumer of cable news throughout the day and to go before cameras and do this publicly and talk with press about it.
Perhaps he thought that was the best strategy to make sure that President Trump knew where exactly he was going here to reaffirm his commitment to stay. I do think it is really interesting, Kate.
He said he wanted to address a couple of specifics in that NBC report and he did. He addressed two specifics. One, he said he never considered ever leaving the administration.
[11:10:08] That was one specific in the story that he addressed. And two, he addressed the specifics of the reporting about Mike Pence counseling him and talking to him. And he said, we never had a conversation where Mike Pence convinced me to stay, because, refer to point one, I never considered leaving.
What he did not do was address specifically this charge, this reporting that we now have, too, of him calling the president a moron. He just completely did not deny that that is actually something, a word that came out of his mouth when discussing the president of the United States.
He did, indeed, took pains in his statement to say that he thought President Trump was smart, but he didn't deny at all that he used the word "moron" when describing his boss.
BOLDUAN: Well, now, Kaitlan Collins has matched this reporting on the "moron" comment. David, on the most basic level, how does a president keep a secretary or any cabinet level in place who thinks he's a moron?
CHALIAN: It is hard to imagine that this is not the kind of thing that gets under Donald Trump's skin. This is -- any president, I'm sure, would be annoyed if their secretary of state called them a moron, right? Anybody could understand that. Somebody working for you out there using that kind of language.
CHALIAN: But this president specifically, because of how much he cares about his brand and the narrative in the news and what's out there. If he can actually stomach, he is not the most thick-skinned guy, as he's proven to be throughout his tenure in the White House, Kate.
And so, if he can actually stomach having a secretary of state out there referring to him as a moron, that would be sort of turning another cheek which we don't see Donald Trump do all that often.
BOLDUAN: Elise, let me bring you in on this. Let's back up a couple of steps. We kind of started in the middle of it with this press conference today. For our viewers, this came about because NBC had reporting this morning that Rex Tillerson came out just now and said was not true. Walk us through this, please.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Kate, I mean, we've all been reporting for several months, back since the summer, that Secretary of State Tillerson is frustrated in the job. This is a man who came from the top echelons.
He was the CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the biggest multi-national companies in the world, coming in as essentially a staffer to the president, and repeatedly has been kind of, you know, undermined by the president.
Whether it's on -- whether he's flying down to Mexico to meet with the Mexicans and President Trump says something negatively about the Mexicans, as recently as this week, when he's in the middle of trying to get some negotiations going with North Korea and the president tweets that, you know, I'm telling my secretary it's a waste of time.
So, we know that this secretary is frustrated. This is not a secret to anybody. But the fact that he's using this kind of language, I mean, out in the open, I think, is very interesting.
Look, you know, you remember after the Charlottesville violence, when he was asked pointedly about President Trump's behavior and his tweets, and Secretary Tillerson said, the president speaks for himself.
I think that was one of the major kind of ruptures where we saw that this frustration with the president's behavior, with his speech, with his policies is getting a little bit much for Secretary Tillerson.
But I have to say, speaking to aides, they say that he doesn't really -- you know, he may gripe and may talk about, you know, maybe leaving at some point, but that he's not ready to go and why?
Because he's working with Secretary Mattis, with Secretary Mnuchin, with General Kelly, the chief of staff, in terms of working for the country. This is a patriot and he doesn't immediate the job. I mean, he's worth tens of millions, possibly billions of dollars.
But aides tell me, look, he has a job to do. He's going to try to do that job, as long as he can and he's just going to try to tune out the noise. This is a man that generally does not care about what's written about him in the press. He doesn't talk to the press very often.
So, that's why today is so extraordinary. I think he was really speaking to the president to say, I know we have our differences, but I respect you and I want to do the job on behalf of the American people.
BOLDUAN: I've never considered leaving this post. There's much to be done and we're just getting started. Those are two of the big points from today. For our viewers, here is the news. Here are the headlines that he was responding to today.
NBC reporting this morning that he was on the verge of resigning over the summer because of policy differences and personal differences. This came in light of when the president went and made that speech, speech to the Boy Scouts of America.
Also, then that Vice President Mike Pence had to step in, had to talk to Rex Tillerson and convince him to stay in his post and counsel him on how to mend relationships and how best to communicate with the president of the United States.
The additional bit that we have been talking about is that they are reporting, we have confirmed that reporting, that Rex Tillerson called the president a moron then in a July 20th meeting at the Pentagon, with the national security team. That's a little bit background, that I think is important, that everyone has.
Let's go to the State Department, Michelle Kosinski. She was in the room for this somewhat -- this extraordinary moment and press conference with the secretary of state. Michelle, take us in the room.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think it's clear what he wanted to focus on and didn't want to focus on. I mean, what he didn't focus on was the gorilla in that room. Going in, even aides, some of them didn't know what he was going to say until moments before.
They knew the gist of it. Everybody was speculating, was he going to full-on resign? Was he going to defend himself or shut down that reporting? I think that was the most likely answer and that's what it was.
But shutting it down, I mean, he really didn't do much to that extent, other than what we've already mentioned in that statement that the vice president had to persuade him to stay. So that's really the only thing that he pointed out, that he called erroneous.
So, you know, the first question was obvious. Anything else? You know, maybe that moron comment? But he wouldn't deny that. I think that's very telling and I think when you look at the extent of Tillerson's time at the State Department, it's often what he doesn't say.
I mean, he's the one who will tell you, he's a man of few words. So, when he just days ago won't defend the president's tweets, you know, it's a situation where you have this spokesperson for the State Department defending those tweets on North Korea and defending those tweets, it seems to undermine Tillerson himself, and saying things like, oh, the president is clear and direct.
Well, Tillerson won't say those things. He won't go so far as to point out even a single thing that is helpful about some statements that the president had mas made, when Tillerson is asked directly about them. So, there is no secret that he has been frustrated.
That it's been hard for him to do his job at times. And we heard this coming from foreign diplomats who have had conversations with him, who have been in the room when he's been undermined by the president's tweets, at the very moment that a meeting is going on.
We hear this from friends of Tillerson who don't deny the rumors that he might leave at some point. It's not ever been to a point where we've heard directly that he's on the very brink of leaving or something like that, but we've heard from friends of Tillerson, that he is not happy in Washington.
We've heard this from more than one friend of his. So, we know he has frustrations. I don't think he's hidden those very well. But today, I think you have to ask yourself, how much did the White House, not the president himself.
I mean, he said he hasn't spoken to the president today, but how much did the White House and collaboration there go into this statement that was like a litany of things that the administration has done or wants to accomplish -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Michelle, thank you so much. The one -- one of the people that the secretary of state took pains to compliment in his remarks was the secretary of defense, James Mattis. Let me go over to the Pentagon. Barbara Starr is there. Barbara, what's the Pentagon view of this?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Pentagon, obviously, not speaking publicly about it. But I've talked to a source who has, you know, over the weeks and months, been in the room when there have been private conversations between the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, and the White House national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, for example.
They have often talked when some of them are on the road, there have been teleconferences, that sort of thing. This person describes to me that, yes, Tillerson uses salty language. He would not be the first cabinet member. He won't be the last.
Nothing really more than that but describes it as salty language. There was an interaction between Mattis, Tillerson, and H.R. McMaster where Tillerson became extremely irritated, we are told by this person with direct knowledge, irritated with H.R. McMaster and the White House because they were pressuring him, in his view, to move faster on an Afghan strategy.
This person describes Tillerson's response to McMaster as being, well, you can go ahead and do that, but you can do it without me. Not a threat to resign, but the level of irritation that Tillerson had at the time.
We are told that Mattis stepped in, the secretary of defense repeatedly very close to Tillerson and trying to mentor him a bit in perhaps just like the vice president, in how to deal with this political environment in Washington.
[11:20:14] That is what we are hearing here. There are facts here that are really not in dispute, which is that the secretary of state becomes irritated, not the first cabinet member, won't be the last. And that Mattis is one of his turn-to people to work over these problems when he does become irritated.
So, we are even as of yesterday, on Capitol Hill, with Secretary Mattis, trying very strongly to defend Tillerson's efforts with the Chinese, to negotiate over North Korea. Mattis trying to carve out the position that staying in the Iranian nuclear agreement might be good for national security.
So, you are seeing these very candid comments continue to emerge, even as this other reporting goes on -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Barbara, thank you so much for that. And it appears the president of the United States, albeit -- albeit aboard Air Force One, it appears that he may be watching cable news today.
He did just tweet out this a couple minutes ago, "The NBC News story has just been totally refuted by Secretary Tillerson and VP Pence. It's #fakenews." He then, of course -- he's asking for an apology to America.
There's a lot more to come on this, as you can see. Thank you all, I really appreciate it. We've got a lot more though coming up on other breaking news stories that we have been watching and following unfortunately throughout this week.
Coming up, we have stunning new details and images from the Las Vegas massacre. Officials say these pictures of guns, cameras, high-tech equipment in the shooter's hotel room indicates he meticulously planned the attack. The new details that are emerging and what's the latest on the investigation? That's next.
Plus, we have breaking political news, as well. Soon, we have top investigators on Capitol Hill. They're going to be holding a major news conference to discuss, to update everyone on what they have learned from the Russia investigation so far.
CNN is learning new details of that investigation on how Russia linked Facebook ads, targeted key states in this election. Stay with us.
BOLDUAN: Twenty three guns stocked in his room, 12 modified to mimic automatic weapons. Cameras positioned both inside and outside his room. The chilling new details coming out about the Las Vegas shooter, painting a picture of meticulous planning and premeditation.
This morning, we're getting new information and new perspectives about the massacre, including more video from the perspective of concert goers, people who were enjoying music one minute, and running for their lives the next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are there people laying on the ground? Why are there people laying on the ground? They're lying on the ground? Why are they laying on the ground? Oh, my God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: We're also seeing the perspective of first responders, desperate to help these victims, and also to try to find the killer. This new video that came in is from the police officer's body cameras.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go that way. Go that way. Go that way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, they're shooting right at us, guys. Everybody, stay down. Stay down!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's it at? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's north of the Mandalay Bay. It's coming out of a window.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: There's also fresh perspective from the killer's room at Mandalay Bay. CNN's Sara Sidner is live outside the resort now with much more. So, Sara, what are you hearing there right now?
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are seeing new photos of the arsenal that Stephen Paddock gathered inside of his room, those 23 guns. We are also getting details from investigators about the cameras that he had set up.
I mean, he clearly had planned this to excruciating detail, putting cameras outside of the room, creating something with his peephole, so he could see anyone who would be coming or going, that passed or came to his room.
So certainly, he was ready for just about anything. We are also learning about what investigators found inside the room besides that arsenal. Things like bump stocks and what those can do is help a gun fire much faster, very similar to an automatic weapon.
What they don't know is whether or not he actually used those in the shooting. What we do know is he was shooting between 9 and 11 minutes. If you think about that, if he did use those and treated his guns and turned his guns into automatic weapons, that is a lot of people and explains the number of people injured and the number of people who were killed on that terrible night.
We should also talk about the fact that he is being investigated also for the amount of money that he sent to his girlfriend, somewhere around $100,000. And so, there are a lot of questions here that people are trying to gather, because ultimately, the one question they need answers is still not answered.
Why did he do it? What was the motivate behind all of this? What led him to do this? And, clearly, he had planned this for some time. Ultimately, authorities found in three different locations belonging to Stephen Paddock, 47 firearms. Almost half of those were inside that room. How many of those he used, we don't know, but certainly enough to kill 58 people and injure hundreds more.
BOLDUAN: Sara, thank you so much for the latest on the investigation. Let's talk about the other major focus for investigators right now. Marilou Danley, she's the killer's girlfriend who he lived with. What does she know? What can she offer? Danley just arrived --