Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Embassy Opens in London; Foreign Governments Summon U.S. Diplomats; Winter Storm Sweeps Through; Romney Run for Senate. Aired 6:30-7:00a ET

Aired January 16, 2018 - 06:30   ET


[06:30:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: USA Gymnastics. She also said she has to continually return to the facility where the abuse happened as she trains for Tokyo in 2020. Biles is one of more than 130 women and the third member of the 2016 final five team to accuse Nassar of abuse.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're following some breaking news for you. On the heels of Hawaii's false alarm, Japan's national broadcaster, NHK, is apologizing for a text alert reporting that North Korea had launched another missile. The original message read -- North Korea likely to have launched missile. Evacuate inside the building or underground.

This error was cleared up within minutes. But right now we do not know what prompted that false alarm.

I mean, everyone is in just a state of heightened anxiety that you -- I mean these alerts are going out. It's not helping. And they're totally believable because of everything that's happening in North Korea and we don't know why they're falsely alerting.

CUOMO: Well, the timing is terrible. And it's just -- look, mistakes happen. Humans make mistakes. This is a media agency, not a government agency, so it's a different scenario. But the cost of anxiety. Did you see what happened in Hawaii? Can you imagine for 30 minutes -- that's a long time, right? You think a missile is coming and your home, your family may be gone. So you have to get it right. And we'll stay on it and figure out what happened.

Growing international fallout in the wake of President Trump's vulgar comments about immigrants, drawing condemnation from leaders around the world. This is now becoming a chore for U.S. diplomats. How are they responding? How are they being told to respond? We have a former U.S. ambassador, next.


[06:35:41] CAMEROTA: The new U.S. embassy in London opening to the public today, just days after President Trump cancelled his plans to attend a ribbon cutting at the unveiling. Mr. Trump called the embassy move a bad deal by President Obama, even though that decision was made by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Erin McLaughlin is live in London with more for us. Erin, what have you learned?

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Alisyn. And the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., Woody Johnson, whom, as we said, was appointed by President Trump, was actually in the awkward position of having to defend this new billion-dollar embassy behind me. He wrote an op-ed in which he said that it's bigger and better than the old site. That it's more environmentally friendly and more secure. And it didn't cost the U.S. taxpayer a single penny. That the money used to construct this site was pooled from the sale of other London properties.

Meanwhile, British politicians, critics of President Trump, seizing on the opportunity to call him out, saying that this wasn't about the deal, that this was, in fact, about his lack of popularity in the U.K. and the possibility of mass protests.

Meanwhile here at the embassy, the doors have opened to the general public with very little fanfare. There is expected to be an official opening ceremony, though the date for that has yet to be set.


CUOMO: Erin, appreciate it. Thank you very much.

In other news, international fallout continues from President Trump's use of a vulgar term to describe black and brown immigrants from impoverished nations. Several countries summoning U.S. diplomats over the controversial remarks.

Joining us now, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Russia and India.

Always good to see you, sir.


CUOMO: So, let's make the case here. The White House is saying this isn't a big deal. This was misrepresented as a meeting and people should know that the president of the United States just wants to make sure that merit-based policy is what leads our immigration policy, not just simply what country you're from. Is it that much of a no big deal around the world?

PICKERING: Of course not, Chris. Two questions here. Did it happen? And I think if Senator Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham agree, from my experience with them, it really happened. It's hard to doubt. The White House itself put out an announcement early on that seemed to accept, in fact, the facts of the case in terms of the vulgar statement.

The second question is, was that vulgar statement in U.S. interest and has the White House been able to shape the question in a way that has reduced the reaction? Quite the contrary. And I think if I were there out on the point being asked that

question, I would do what every American diplomat does under those circumstances, I would say, Mr. President, you've just raised this question with me. I'm referring it back to the State Department for their official answer. And we'll wait and see, of course, what they have to say. But it is quite clear that there is no explicable reason for why this happened, the notion that one change the nature of the statement is not in any way reducing the negative impact.

And the six countries that have already complained to the United States are only the spear point. All countries that, in fact, were non-(INAUDIBLE) white have been affected in a serious way by what is clearly not just a diplomatic gaffe, but what looks like a racist studied insult. And in that regard, I think we have a lot to do and a lot to go for.

I was ambassador both in Nigeria and El Salvador. And from my personal experience in both of those countries, I can tell you they are outraged.

CUOMO: And what does that mean in terms of what it can lead to? Like, how big a deal could this be? Or is it just hurt feelings and the diplomats have to smooth it over and say, the president didn't mean it?

PICKERING: Chris, our vital interests are at stake here. Our friends around the world -- there's been no uni-polar moment -- are always important in bringing forth diplomatic solutions and dealing with terror threats and other kinds of things.

Nigeria in particular, where Boko Haram has obviously played havoc in the northern part of the country, and we are deeply engaged in helping the Nigerians deal with that problem. El Salvador, where gang violence runs rampant and is clearly a very serious problem, not just for Salvadorians, but for the United States as a whole.

[06:40:11] But beyond that, the whole range of questions that we have to deal with on the international scene are effected by how our president describes our relationships and our attitude toward their countries. He speaks not just for himself but the whole United States. In this regard, hopefully our friends will know and understand that we are not a racist country, that we are struggling with this deep problem, that we haven't got a final, clear, obviously perfect answer to that problem. But that struggle goes on despite what the president has said of an insulting character to developing countries and countries that are clearly not white dominated.

CUOMO: The White House differs with your assessment in as much as they say, this is strength on display. This is tough talk that he used when he was discussing immigration. And that is what is improving America's standing, that it is seen around the world as strong, don't mess with the U.S. This president is someone to be respected.

PICKERING: I've dealt, Chris, with diplomacy for almost 60 years. I cannot believe that someone can take something as insulting and as racist as what was said and turn that into a positive factor. It may appeal to some of the base here in America. We understand that. But it certainly cannot and will not, in any way at all, convince anybody that we have a country here that is going to be a leader in the international community and something that, in fact, will solve problems rather than create them.

At the moment, we're in the problem creation mode, unfortunately, and that has had a very deleterious impact on our international standing and on our capacity the deliver as the leader of the free world.

CUOMO: How do some of the other major populous movements that we've seen breaking out through Europe and Eastern Europe play into your assessment, though, ambassador, because you could make the case that Donald Trump isn't the only one to be looking with a jaundiced eye at immigrants. We see that fanning out, you know, as I said, over a lot of Europe and Eastern Europe. Couldn't he find kindred spirits there?

PICKERING: No country is perfect and he already has with Marine Le Pen in France, with the (INAUDIBLE) in Germany, the German right wing anti-refugee movements. We've seen it in the turmoil in the eastern European Union.

But in a sense adding fuel to the flames is not the way to answer a problem that goes to the central question of humanity. We are all people. We are all born equal. We all have the same outlooks, desires and goals. The notion that we should separate people by race and insult them is not the way in which this country was founded. It's not part of our long, traditional heritage. And it's not something that we should use to appeal to other period groups around the world.

CUOMO: A point that comes and carries even more weight a day after we remember Martin Luther King and, of course, his message that the basic truth of humanity is equality.

PICKERING: Chris, that couldn't be more striking and it's an observation that we all noticed yesterday as, in fact, we contrast what the president read about Martin Luther King with what clearly he said in the meeting with Durbin, Graham and the others.

CUOMO: Ambassador, always a pleasure. Thank you for your perspective. It matters.

PICKERING: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: Alisyn.


Now to weather. Another winter storm could make a mess of your commute today. So what areas will get hit? Jennifer Gray has our forecast, next.


[06:47:42] CUOMO: Southern winter. That's an oxymoron. Those words don't go together. Well, they do right now. Snow, sleet, freezing rain will be sweeping through the northeast and south today. Dangerous travel conditions even expected as far south as Texas.

CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray has your forecast.

Explain this anomaly.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know. I feel like this is the year of snow in the south. We've had a couple of these winter storms come through that have actually given the southern states a taste of winter. We're actually seeing it now. You can see snow in Dallas, even Shreveport. That doesn't happen very often. And then even some freezing rain and sleet as far south as San Antonio and Houston. So, keep in mind, travel is going to be tough in some of these airports as we go through the day today.

But this snow stretches all the way up to New England. And you can see that with very, very cold air behind it. Now, I don't think the snow is actually going to get to New York City and Boston until mainly tonight through tomorrow morning, but we could see three to five inches in New York and four to six in Boston. So this is no joke here. Over 100 million people with some sort of winter advisory. And so the future radar showing -- pushing it through even northern Georgia getting some of that snow as we go through the next 24 hours and even portions of North Carolina.

So, Alisyn, yes, everyone's getting a taste of this winter storm.

CAMEROTA: We will bundle up, but luckily we never took off our parka. So, thank you very much for that, Jennifer.

So, the U.S. and Canada are hosting an international summit on the North Korean nuclear threat today in Vancouver. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be there and his meeting is expected to focus on diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the Korean peninsula. Delegations from 18 nations will be attending, including South Korea and Japan.

CUOMO: Sad news in the world of music. We are mourning the death of Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer of the '90's Irish rock band The Cranberries.


DOLORES O'RIORDAN, THE CRANBERRIES (singing): You've got me wrapped around your finger, do you have to let it linger?


CUOMO: Huge hit "Linger" put them on the map. Her publicist says O'Riordan died suddenly Monday in London. No word on a cause of death. Her bandmates paying tribute on Twitter saying, quote, the world has lost a true artist. Dolores O'Riordan was only 46.

[06:50:05] CAMEROTA: I loved that song, "Linger." I mean I can remember -- it puts me back into an exact time. I remember exactly what was happening. It was so evocative and her voice is so beautiful and unusual. That's a real loss.

CUOMO: Yes, it's terrible. Hopefully we'll learn more.


All right, so it is looking more likely that Mitt Romney will launch a Senate bid soon. So will he be friend or foe to President Trump? Romney's former senior adviser joins us with answers, next.


CAMEROTA: Former Republican Nominee Mitt Romney calls President Trump's reported profane comments about immigrants, quote, antithetical to American values. This comes as "The New York Times" reports that Romney recently texted a friend saying he will be running for the open Senate seat in Utah to replace retiring Senator Orrin Hatch.

Joining us now is Romney's former senior adviser and spokesman Kevin Madden.

Good morning, Kevin.

[06:55:00] KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Is Mitt Romney running?

MADDEN: I think he -- I think he very much is. I don't have any inside information or anything to break for you. I was not the receiver of that text. But I do think that if a rumor like this got out and Mitt Romney wanted to stop it, he could have. And so far, since he hasn't, I think he's leaning toward running.

CAMEROTA: Basically what you're talking about, the rumor, is that Mitt Romney sent a text -- I mean the story goes --


CAMEROTA: To his friend, Kam Gardner (ph), who then showed it or read it, I guess, to the governor of Utah. And I will quote it directly from Romney, it said, I'm running. So that sounds unequivocal.

MADDEN: That's very close to an official announcement and not the way we used to do it back in Romney world, but --

CAMEROTA: That's right. And so let's talk about this. I mean obviously Mitt Romney knows the highs and lows of politics. Why is he getting back into this racket?

MADDEN: Well, I think he really does believe that he has something to offer to the national debate, particularly with the issues that we're dealing with nowadays in American politics. National security --

CAMEROTA: And those issues -- yes, I mean, so is it issues or is it -- is this somehow a comment on how he -- on President Trump's leadership? MADDEN: Well, I think it's both. I think it is the fact that we have

issues like national security foreign policy that are at the -- on the front burner that are very important. Also the economy and how we transition to a new economy. But also the fact that there are a bunch of people out there who do feel like we need a principled leadership and a principled defense of American leadership.

One of the differences I expect that Governor Romney would have with President Trump is this idea that you can say anything, do anything and walk it back. And it doesn't send a message to our friends and allies around the globe about our position or who we are. And I think the governor would be somebody who would stand in principled opposition to those that believe that American leadership is about America first and America only. Because we do have a special role to play in a very complex world.

CAMEROTA: But I want to ask you about that because if you're saying that he would be running in order to sort of speak truth to power in his own version of standing for his convictions, it doesn't seem to go that well for the lawmakers who are trying that. I mean they retire. And the people who end up getting deals, it seems with the president or at least currying favor with him, seem to last longer. And so, how would you thread that needle?

MADDEN: Well, I don't -- I think, first of all, Governor Romney's not a career politician. He made his life in business and before he became elected official. And I think that one of the things he really -- he would be uninterested in worrying about re-election or worrying about what political capital he'd be accruing (ph). Instead, I think he'd be more interested in talking about the issues and delivering the messages to the American people about the importance of those issues and the importance of principled leadership. So, I think he'd be unencumbered by a lot of the -- in a very different way than some of those folks that may have decided to retire, he would be unencumbered by some of those political calculations.

CAMEROTA: But in terms of perhaps having to flatter the president in order to get a deal done, can you imagine Governor Romney ever saying what Senator Diane Black said during -- after the tax deal, thank you for allowing us to have you as our president?

MADDEN: No. You know, having known Governor Romney long enough, I don't think he's really a supplicant. I think he is much more interested in speaking truth to power. I do believe, though, that there are going to be areas where -- that the -- where Governor Romney may agree with President Trump. And, for example, if you look at the most recent debate that we've had on tax reform, I expect that would have been a bill that because it lowers rates and because it makes America more competitive around the globe that he would have voted for. So there will be areas of agreement.

But I think -- and it shouldn't be -- we shouldn't simplistically just think of it as friend or foe. I think the governor's going to talk about issues that he cares about. He's going to stand for -- be a principled leader and he's going to confront I think forces that he thinks are taking the country or even the Republican Party in the wrong direction. But on areas where he agrees, he'll stand up and do the right thing on that -- issues like those as well.

CAMEROTA: Very quickly, in our final seconds here, yesterday Mitt Romney seemed to disagree with the president. I'll just read this tweet quickly. The poverty of an aspiring immigrant's nation of origin is as irrelevant as their race. The sentiment attributed to PODUS is inconsistent with America's history and antithetical to American values. May our memory of Dr. King buoy our hope for unity, greatness and charity for all.

Very quickly, Kevin, what do you think motivated him to write that?

MADDEN: Well, first, you have to remember how much of an influence Governor Romney's father had on him and Governor Romney's father, when he was director of the housing and urban development, cared very deeply about the Martin Luther King legacy. So I think, in speaking to that, he wanted to elevate that.

But also he has a great deal of faith in what he believes is the American experiment.