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Trump: Time for Change in Iran; Iran's Supreme Leader Blames 'Enemies' for Spreading Unrest. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired January 2, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ALESCI: ... providing access to people who pay for it.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Seems like that fell on deaf ears.

[07:00:06] Walter Shaub, Cristina Alesci, thank you both very much for bringing this to our attention.

SHAUB: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN NEWS ROOM is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw hundreds of arrests.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw them shouting, "Death to the dictator."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's very important that the Trump administration not look like they're trying to foment trouble.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sense of urgency is real and palpable in the region. We have to take it seriously.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one knows of any good options for dealing with North Korea that doesn't involve China.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We've got a chance here to deliver some fatal blows to really bad actors in 2018. But if we blink, God help us all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to quit playing games. We need to take care of the DACA kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president seems to have made clear that he wants to use the wall as leverage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing is going to happen unless it has the president's support.


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

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Chris is off. John Berman is here. Great to have you.


CAMEROTA: New year's off to a rollicking start.

BERMAN: Oh, yes.

CAMEROTA: Let's get right to it, because we begin with all this breaking news. There are more protests. There's more bloodshed on the streets of Iran.

President Trump is tweeting his support for the Iranian people while declaring, quote, "It's time for change in Tehran." Now Iran's leader is blaming the uprising on his country's enemies.

BERMAN: Here at home, the president is facing a full legislative plate: a budget, an Infrastructure bill, a plan for the nation's DREAMers. That all needs to be hammered out with Congress.

But will the president be able to convince Democrats to get on board with his agenda. CNN covering every angle of this, starting with Joe Johns, live at the White House this morning. Good morning, Joe.


The president back here at the White House after the long holiday break. His administration and congressional leaders now confronting many of the domestic issues they had to postpone in order to hit the road in December.

However, it is the international issues that have been dominating the president's Twitter feed so far this year.


JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump returning to Washington with a large legislative to-do list and a range of international issues on his plate.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody is going to love what's happening with our country, because we're taking this big, beautiful ship, and we're slowly turning it around. I'd like to do it faster.

JOHNS: Mr. Trump weighing in multiple times over the holiday on the deadly anti-government protests in Iran, saying that "Iran is failing at every level" and calling for change after warning the U.S. "is watching very closely for human rights violations."

GRAHAM: It's not enough to watch. President Trump is tweeting very sympathetically to the Iranian people. But you just can't tweet here. You have to lay out a plan.

JOHNS: Iran's ambassador to the U.K. calling the tweets offensive in an Instagram posting Monday night. As for Kim Jong-un's New Year's threat that the nuclear button is always on his desk, President Trump saying only this.

TRUMP: We'll see. We'll see.

JOHNS: The former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff warning that the U.S. is closer to a nuclear war with North Korea than ever before.

MIKE MULLEN, FORMER CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I don't see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point.

JOHNS: The Trump administration's relationship with Pakistan also strained, heading into the New Year. Mr. Trump accusing Pakistan of lying and deceiving the United States in his first tweet of the year and, again, alleging that the country's leaders have given safe haven to terrorists.

TRUMP: We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars. At the same time, they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting.

JOHNS: A National Security Council spokesman later saying the U.S. will continue to withhold $255 million worth of military aid from the country.

Pakistan responding by summoning the U.S. ambassador for a meeting and promising to respond shortly to let the world know the truth.

All this, as the administration confronts a number of legislative deadlines back here in the U.S. The first, a January 19 deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a government shutdown that could cost billions.

One issue that will be front and center: protection for so-called DREAMers who were brought to the country illegally as children. The president insisting there will not be a deal on DACA without funding for a wall, a nonstarter for Democrats.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you give anything to the president on border wall funding in order to get a DACA deal done? Because he says...



JOHNS: The Democrats have shown openness to work with the president on infrastructure issues. Infrastructure, by the way, is likely to be part of the conversation when the president meets today with the labor secretary, as well as the vice president for lunch.

Today, the press secretary holds the first news conference in a couple of weeks. Foreign policy issues are expected to be front and center -- Alisyn.

[07:05:09] CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much for that. Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader is blaming the country's enemies for

stirring this unrest as the death toll continues to rise in the protests.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in London with all of the latest. What's happening there, Nick?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, key that Ayatollah Khamenei would feel the need to actually say something, a position normally sort of above, really, the presidency of Iran as the country's supreme leader. But he was clear to blame, quote, "the enemies waiting for an opportunity for a flaw through which they can enter," he said in a statement today, going on to blame those who have money, politics and intelligence for fomenting this unrest. I paraphrase.

But it's clear here that the enemy normally refers to the United States -- you could probably add in Saudi Arabia here, who Iranian officials have blamed for fomenting these protests.

But aside from that, the more moderate actual government of Iran and the president, Hasan Rouhani, has expressed sympathy with these protesters. There's now six days of unrests here that sprang, frankly, many think, from nowhere. It wasn't really anticipated, based on economic grievances, some political, as well, that sadly, now the focus less being on how widespread geographically and numerous these protesters are and more on the increasing death toll.

The rise from 12 to 21, the nine dead overnight, well, that's mostly focused on one area in Isfahan. So not widespread bloodshed, but a concern that we're now hearing stronger rhetoric from the Iranian security forces, who perhaps now see the time to implement their more traditional, authoritarian oppressive measures that we certainly saw in the 2009 protests.

The question really being, how do you negotiate calming down of protests that doesn't have a leadership, doesn't have a figurehead you can talk to? That's one major concern. The world's eyes certainly on Iran here, their foreign policy having done very well in the past years or so. Domestically, though, this is a real sign of the challenges they face -- Alisyn, John.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Nick, thank you very much for setting all that up. Let's discuss it with our CNN political analyst John Avlon and associate editor for RealClearPolitics, A.B. Stoddard. Great to have both of you.

So A.B., very interesting to hear how President Trump has decided to handle this. It's very interesting to hear even people who were in President Obama's National Security Council coming out with support of President Trump tweeting that he stands with the -- whatever -- I'm paraphrasing him, but that he's thinking of the Iranian people here and how repressed they've been.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. I think it's pretty much concluded, sine -- some -- mostly privately but now publicly by many who were in the Obama administration, that President Obama's efforts to warm communications with the regime, to lay the groundwork for the Iran nuclear deal, did not allow him, diminished his ability to take an opportunity with the Green Revolution, June of 2009, with those protesters, protesting Ahmadinejad's election.

And so as a result, things became much, much worse, and we're now at a point where there's obviously lots of criticism of the Iran deal here. President Trump is poised to perhaps withdraw from it early in this year.

And then, of course, in the streets of Iran, the people are saying that the deal that President Rouhani drew up with our government has failed to give them the economic relief that he sold it to do.

And so it really is -- it's an interesting moment, and it's a -- that everyone is praising President Trump's response. But he has to follow through, not only in sort of intervening with social media platforms and staying with these protests in order to take advantage of an opportunity. And you have pressure from people like Senator Lindsey Graham and former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolten, saying that it's time for a regime change in Iran. That plays a big part into what he's going to do in the weeks and months to come.

BERMAN: The fall through his work gets complicated, clearly, John Avlon. It's one thing to make the statements on Twitter, which is further than President Obama went in 2009 initially. That is something/

But the "what next" here is very complicated, particularly when the supreme leader of Iran is already out there, saying these protests are backed by Iran's enemies, including the United States.

AVLON: Of course, and that's the typical move. One reason that President Obama was restrained, I think too restrained during the Green Revolution, was a concern that if he played too active a role in advocating on behalf of the protesters, that their legitimacy would be undercut. They'd be called puppets of the United States and that regime rhetoric. So we're seeing some of that today.

That said, I do think it's important to give some courage, confidence, some solidarity with folks in this environment. But as Lindsey Graham pointed out, tweets are not enough. You need a plan of action. And what will that be? That's on the president and this administration.

BERMAN: We do have a new statement from the president on Twitter that came out literally seconds ago. The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism, into their pockets. The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The United States, you know, is watching.

[07:10:11] AVLON: So interesting, I think, on one level. To the extent there's strategy behind Trump's tweets and the foreign policy ones there often are. They're trying to say that, look, that money in the deal ended up fueling a clubtocracy, and that is designed meant to drive a further wedge between the protesters and the -- and the regime.

CAMEROTA: So A.B., if there is strategy behind the president's tweets. And I agree, the tone with the foreign policy ones are different. And the wording is different and the amount of sort of information and background in there is different than when he, for instance, goes after, say, the media or something like that.

So, what's the strategy? What's the plan after these tweets?

STODDARD: Well, that's -- that's the big question. I mean, he was tweeting about Pakistan. Most people, Democrat or Republican, who've worked in the administrations and dealt with that country that we are supposed to treat as an ally, have been very frustrated by that same relationship. We've withheld military aid from them before. That sounds like something he's going to follow through on.

It's -- it's unclear what exactly he's going to do. He has a travel ban that blocks Iranians from coming here. Again, I mentioned the social media platforms I mentioned, because that's something the Obama administration did to an extent. But if he really pushed that, that would be, really, a powerful measure of support for the protesters and for sort of resistance to the regime there. And it would be very crippling for their efforts to crack this down.

So it's going to be -- it's going to be something to watch in the days and weeks to come, especially what he does with the -- whether or not he officially withdrawals from the Iran deal is also another big question.

BERMAN: And look, international events have a way of overwhelming a White House, John, and Iran, certainly, more than any issue, could become the issue of the month. But you know, you have Congress coming back over the next ten days.

You have a legislative agenda that includes just about everything. You know, what do you think will be the most complicated issue facing the White House and Congress in the coming days?

AVLON: As you point out, I mean, American history is full of examples of presidents whose domestic agendas are overwhelmed in reaction to the international events.

That said, Congress is coming. They've got non-optional deadlines coming up. They need to come up with a fix to stop a partial government shutdown by January 19. So just over two weeks to do that. Then the big questions that seem most urgent are, one, can they do some kind of grand bargain on immigration that involves a fix for the DREAMers, as well as the wall? That's going to probably be too much for Democrats to uphold.

In this new spirit of bipartisanship that Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump are talking up, given the fact that they need it with 51 -- only 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats is the question of infrastructure reform. This is something that should be a great opportunity for both parties. Both parties support it. The president has got unique credibility. But will Democrats want to give the Trump administration a win? And

what's the political calculus and cost of that? But that's the one that the president, I think, would be wisest to frontload.

CAMEROTA: Those are two good ones to watch, obviously, A.B., as all this unfolds. So let's just deal with DACA for a second, the DREAMers, because this is the one where they seem to be at loggerheads. It seems to be mutually exclusive. Democrats won't pay for the wall. Republicans won't go along with not -- with protecting the DREAMers if you don't pay for the wall. So where does that leave everyone?

STODDARD: Well, that's not entirely true. That's the president's position. And actually, what he talked about with Democrats months ago did not involve a wall. And then his new tweet over the holidays was demand for a wall, the end of chain migration and lottery system and on and on, these sort of deal-breaking positions that are going to really throw more sort of gasoline on the fire of this already heated debate.

I don't think it will be solved in January. I think they have until March 5, and it will be pushed off, because it's so contentious.

Republicans have been working on many different measures to push this forward. Senators Tillis, Langford and Hatch, conservatives on their own working. Some worked with Democrats. None of these involve a wall. They involve, you know, strict border security and visa reforms.

But the idea of a wall, when Republicans from border states like Texas and Arizona oppose it and conservative fiscal hawks are mad about deficit-funded tax cuts and the steep debts that they're building up on their Republican government watch, it's really hard to imagine that that's going to be something that he's going to get funding for. But he's really thrown a huge wrench into what was already going to be a rollicking January, Alisyn, by demanding this wall and these other things that are considered non-starters.

BERMAN: A rollicking January, following a rollicking December, following a rollicking November.

CAMEROTA: There's been a lot of rollicking around here.

BERMAN: A lot of rollicking.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you, guys.

BERMAN: Pakistan summoning the United States ambassador to explain a tweet from President Trump. We'll look at the uneasy U.S. relationship with Pakistan. That's next.


[07:18:46] BERMAN: All right. Just moments ago, we got a new statement from President Trump about the protests in Iran. He did so while slamming his predecessor, President Obama. This is the statement: "The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went to the terrorism and into their pockets. The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching."

Joining us now, John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, former Pentagon press secretary, State Department spokesperson during the Obama administration.

Admiral, if we can get your reaction from this new statement from President Trump that really does two, if not three things, expressing support for the protesters in Iran, the second thing, critical once again of the Iran nuclear deal struck by the Obama administration.

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, John, there's a lot there, John. Look, I agree with the president that we need to support the peaceful protests in Iran. And I think it's important for the United States to have a voice here, and to not be afraid to come out in defense of peaceful protests and to decry the violence against those who are protesting the regime.

And he's not wrong about the corrupt nature of the Iranian regime. I think we all know that. That said, I think it's a mistake for him to try to conflate what's going on there with the Iran deal itself.

[07:20:03] Now, I can't speak for the protesters and the degree to which they have a problem with the Iran deal. But he's inserting this into the debate, I don't think is helpful. It's also inaccurate.

I mean, President Obama didn't foolishly give the Iranians any money. It was sanctions relief that brought them to the table to negotiate away their nuclear capabilities, and it was sanctions relief that they earned as a result of getting rid of those capabilities. This wasn't -- this wasn't money that was given to the Iranians in any kind of fashion.

And oh, by the way, it wasn't just President Obama who was at the negotiating table. And it was, you know, five or six other parties, as well.

BERMAN: Well, there may be some irony here, which may in some ways, you know, voice support for the nuclear deal. Which is maybe the president's right. And maybe the Iran nuclear deal here is an impetus for some of these protests, because the president, Rouhani, did promise that the economic conditions would get better, and they're not. So the people are protesting right now, because he is not delivering on what was promised.

KIRBY: That part is true, John. You're right. There seems to be some feeling by some of the protesters that they haven't seen the economic windfalls that they were expecting to see as a result of that and that their country continues to foment terrorism around the world and foreign interventions that are not as popular back home with the demographic as I think the hardliners would have preferred them to be.

BERMAN: We've already seen the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, come out and suggest that these protests are being fueled by enemies of Iran, outside agitators, as it were.

Is there a risk that President Trump, his statements in some ways gives the regime a weapon here to act out against the protesters?

KIRBY: Yes. I think that -- yes, I think that's -- yes. And that was a concern I had yesterday when I saw him get so -- so virulent in his tweets. I think, again, it's OK to come out. It's important for us to come out and defend the protesters' right to do this and to do so safely and to have a vote in human rights around the world.

But I think he has been inserting us into the conversation probably in ways that have not been helpful. Now, that said, John, I mean, it was probably likely going to be the Iranian regime's pursuit of a foreign enemy or interventionist, as well, to blame even without his tweet. O SI don't know that he caused it. He's certainly not helping to stem it.

BERMAN: No. Today's statement may be more measured, using some more diplomatic type speech. If I can I want to get your reaction to some other statements of the president, particularly on Pakistan.

Let me read you something that the president wrote on the New Year about Pakistan: "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $43 billion in aid over the last 15 years, and they've given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan with little help. No more!" exclamation point.

And, of course, the White House has been leaking that perhaps the White House would withhold some foreign aid funding that's going to Pakistan. This, after the president suggested that there was a whole new positive relationship with Pakistan in the fall. Where do you see things?

KIRBY: Well, I don't think he's wrong to complain about this, and he's not wrong to want to take action. It wouldn't be the first time that an administration has withheld military funding or aid and assistance to Pakistan for their failure to shut down these safe havens and to go after terrorist groups on their side of the border. President Obama did that himself, as well.

This is the government, Pakistan, that is playing a bit of a double game. They -- they are fine in terms of supporting terrorists that are going to go after Afghan and U.S. interests on the Afghan side of the border. But they want the assistance and the aid to go after the -- the terrorist networks that are on the Pakistan side of the border that are targeting their own government.

And this is a government that is largely controlled by a military and a military that has a huge stake in the intelligence service, the ISI, which actually supports groups like the Haqqani network.

So again, I think the president's on good ground here, and I think we should take a look. We should hold aid and assistance contingent to their cooperation on shared mutual interest, which they have not proven willing to do. BERMAN: Of course, Pakistan is a complicated ally and in the past has

been a necessary ally in the battle against terrorism. How far can the U.S. push here? I mean, how much will Pakistan be willing to take? They've already summoned the U.S. ambassador.

KIRBY: Yes, well, there's a diplomatic game that is frequently played out. I'm not too worried about that. My concern here -- I don't -- again, I don't have any compunction about the president withholding aid and assistance. I think he's on good ground there.

But I do think we need to make sure we find a way to manage through this relationship. And I know that will sound Pollyannaish and people will criticize me for saying that, because Pakistan hasn't delivered over the last 15 years, and I understand that.

But while we have to hold aid and assistance that hold them accountable for that, we also try to find a way to succeed in this relationship, because we need each other. There are shared interests. There are shared threats on that spine between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we do need to both work together to try to solve those problems.

The other thing that we need to be mindful of is that Pakistan really considers China their best friend. Not the United States. And they have long ago given up on thinking of us as a reliable ally and partner in a real tangible sense.

[07:25:13] They see China as their best friend. China does have interests in that region, no question about it. They have a small shared border there. But I don't think it's in our best interests to let China come in, and to be seen as the savior of Pakistan and to increase their influence in that particular part of the world.

BERMAN: While I have you, if I could ask you one question about the Koreas, because North and South Korea, now South Korea has proposed an actual meeting with North Korea on the border. This after Kim Jong-un in his New Year's statement, while he said they could mass produce nuclear weapons on the one hand, but also said that maybe North Korea would want to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

What do you see happening there? And do you think the U.S. is just a bystander?

KIRBY: I think a couple of things. One, I think North Korea feels emboldened. They feel encouraged, it's fine. Now they're willing to hold out this fig leaf, because they feel like they've got a program that is farther advanced than it's ever been before.

So he's feeling -- Kim Jong-un feeling a little bit of confidence here. That said, and I think we need to continue the international pressure campaign to try to get him to change that behavior. That said, I think that this could be a welcome and open and solid opening here. I don't -- and I think South Korea has come out and said they've supported this.

I think to the degree that dialogue can be fostered, even if it is over something like the Olympics and sending a delegation to a sporting event, I think that's generally helpful. I think that's a move in the right direction.

BERMAN: That's what the Olympics have always been about, to some degree.


BERMAN: Over their history. All right. Admiral John Kirby, great to have you with us. Thanks so much.

KIRBY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, Congress is approaching a showdown over DREAMers, with President Trump saying a deal hinges on the funding of his signature border wall. Does it? We debate that, next.