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Trump And Netanyahu Meet; Trump Says No Trade War; Russian Offers Trump Secrets for Asylum; Trump Tweets About 2016 Again; Trumps Tweets Show Panic. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired March 5, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington, 8:00 p.m. in Jerusalem, 1:00 a.m. Tuesday in Bangkok. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
Two leaders under scrutiny in their own countries, right now together inside the White House. Is Benjamin Netanyahu using President Trump to try to help save himself?
Also, global backlash erupts over the president's threat to launch a trade war. But a new twist from the president, himself, just moments ago.
Plus, the president makes a demand as he says North Korea wants to talk. And a Russian sex worker vows to spill secrets about President Trump. And CNN speaks to the self-described seductress from inside her jail cell.
All that coming up. But let's start with the news at the White House.
A hearty handshape between two leaders mired in controversy. Last hour, President Donald Trump welcomed the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to the White House.
Netanyahu comes to the U.S. for talks on the heels of another police interrogation in Israel over alleged corruption. And news today that a former spokesman for the Netanyahu family made a deal with prosecutors.
As for President Trump, he's looking to change the focus from last week's cavalcade of chaos here in Washington.
Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny. He's over at the White House.
Jeff, last week was full of controversary for the president, for the administration. How are they trying to change that narrative today?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It was, indeed, Wolf, full of internal controversy inside the halls of the White House, as well as the Russian investigation. But it is clear that the president is trying to change the subject. But also, sparking a furious and ferocious fight with his own party over the message he announced last week, about imposing tariffs on some foreign goods.
Now, he is sparking this fight. Speaker Paul Ryan is doing something that he has not done much in the last year or so. He is urging the president to not go ahead with those planned tariffs discussed last week.
He said it would hurt American workers. It would hurt the economy here. He even blamed the drop in the stock market last week to this plan.
The president asked directly about this in the Oval Office. He had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not backing down. Mexico is - we've had a very bad deal with Mexico, a very bad deal with Canada. It's called NAFTA.
Our factories have left our country. Our jobs have left our country. For many years, NAFTA has been a disaster.
We are renegotiating NAFTA, as I said I would. And if we don't make a deal, I'll terminate NAFTA.
But if I do make a deal which is fair to the workers and to the American people, that would be, I would imagine, one of the points that will be negotiated, would be tariffs on steel for Canada and for Mexico.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not worried about a trade war?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you.
I don't think you have a trade war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No trade war?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: OK. So, is there a trade war? The president says, no, I don't think so.
But, Wolf, the reality is many Republicans and other business leaders here do believe that that is what could happen.
So, the president, of course, pushing the populist rhetoric that he campaigned on. But in the real world, consequences are also unfolding. So, we are getting some mixed sense of if this policy is going to be
announced by the end of the week, or if it's going to be pushed off into the following week here.
It was announced last week without much specificity. Again, the White House trying to change the subject from all those staff shake-ups here.
But now, they're left with this fight inside the Republican Party - Wolf.
BLITZER: A serious fight, indeed.
Thanks very much, Jeff Zeleny. We're going to have a lot more on the tariffs, the potential for a trade war. That's coming up.
But, right now, joining us is Aaron David Miller. He worked closely on Middle East peace negotiations at the State Department for more than 20 years. Aaron is now with the Wilson Center here in Washington.
Let's talk a little bit about U.S.-Israeli relations. Both of these leaders under a lot of pressure right now, a lot of scrutiny. The Israeli prime minister especially under criminal investigation.
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, and I think Benjamin Netanyahu, in an effort to escape some of that, came to APEC and to meet with the president.
Wolf, I have to tell you, watching that pool spray, I haven't seen anything like that since Clinton (INAUDIBLE.)
BLITZER: The photo opportunity in the Oval Office.
BLITZER: Tell me why.
MILLER: I mean, the warmth, the clear, willful, purposeful effort, on the part of both leaders, to praise the other. And president saying that U.S.-Israeli relations have never been better.
He's now actively considering attending the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem against the backdrop of Israeli Independence Day.
And, look, you have an administration that's already created historic firsts. The first president to visit Israel this early in his term. The first president to pray at the western wall. The first president to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel.
[13:05:05] And now, the first president maybe even to preside over at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.
BLITZER: Yes, he was asked specifically whether he would go. It's now scheduled, tentatively, for May 14. The opening, the formal opening, of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're looking at coming. If I can, I will.
But I'll be there again. Israel is very special to me. A special country, special people and I look forward to being there. And I'm very proud of that decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The people are wondering, is there a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem? There isn't a U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv.
But there's a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem. They're going to take the name, the name plate in front of that consulate right now in Jerusalem, and call it the U.S. embassy.
And as a result, the consulate will become the embassy in Tel Aviv.
MILLER: Right. At least the disharmonious (INAUDIBLE) site. The ordinary consulate (INAUDIBLE) which deals with the Palestinians, will continue to maintain itself as a - as a consulate.
BLITZER: They just changed the name from consulate to embassy.
MILLER: Yes, it's a quick fix. It's part of a phased operation to ultimately construct, on that site presumably, a permanent embassy.
But, again, it's rather remarkable, the degree to which all politics are local. You have a prime minister that wants to demonstrate his indispensability. And a president that loses absolutely nothing by deepening his relationship with the state of Israel.
BLITZER: Can the president son-in-law, Jared Kushner, affectively serve as the top Middle East peace negotiator, if he only has interim secret security clearances, as opposed to top secret security clearances?
MILLER: I'm going to make two comments. I mean, Jared Kushner could have access to every piece of classified information in the world. And without Israelis and Palestinians that are willing and able to make tough decisions and an administration that knows what it's doing, it wouldn't matter.
At the same time, the fact is having top secret clearance in a world driven by intelligence organizations, where he's literally reading intercepts on the very people he's negotiating with, could be extremely important, a sign of credibility.
Plus, participating in these intelligence exchanges, as we did with Srimad Mossad (ph), you ought to be able to hold your own. You've got to know what you don't know, and you have to be in a hurry to find out. Presumably, Mr. - unless Mr. Trump restores Mr. Kushner's clearance or selective access, Mr. Kushner won't have the capacity to find out what he doesn't know.
BLITZER: And Jared Kushner's security clearances were left in the hands of the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, who says, you're not getting them, at least not yet. But the president can overturn that if he wants.
Aaron Miller, thanks very much for joining us.
MILLER: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll continue this.
When it comes to President Trump's new trade policy, it's the United States versus the world right now. With one of his top trade advisers saying that, right now, no country will be left off the list, when it comes to new steel and aluminum tariffs.
But even as the Trump administration digs in on a possible trade war, the president is qualifying his position.
He tweeted, and let me quote, "We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for USA. Massive relocation of companies and jobs, tariffs on steel and aluminum will only come off if new and fair NAFTA agreement is signed." Closed quote.
Here, you can see, by the way, that Canada is the largest source of U.S. steel imports. Mexico, by the way, is number four.
Canada also tops the list of aluminum imports into the United States, more than tripling the amount of any other country.
Let me bring in Jim Tankersley. He's the tax and economics reporter for "The New York Times" who's watching all of this closely.
Jim, with the president's latest NAFTA comments, does it make it sound like the entire steel and aluminum tariff threat was a ploy to force Canada and Mexico to give in on NAFTA renegotiations?
JIM TANKERSLEY, TAX AND ECONONICS REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I don't -- I'm not sure that it does, Wolf. But I think if it - if it is a ploy, it's a bad one.
The president has taken a very broad policy here. It applies, as the White House is telling us, to every country in the world.
And if you're going to do that, just to squeeze Mexico and Canada, that would seem to be a - not very well-tailored or targeted plan.
On the flip side, Mexican and Canadian officials have been very critical of these tariffs.
And so, this could just be the president lashing back at them and saying, hey, you're going to criticize my tariffs, fine.
Unless you give in on NAFTA renegotiations, which are going on right now, we're not going to change this tariff that you don't like.
BLITZER: We've heard a lot of dissent on the whole issue of increasing tariffs. Not just from a bunch of Democrats, but top Republican leaders, including the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader.
Does Congress have any control over these tariffs?
TANKERSLEY: Well, what Congress can do, in the short term, is not very much.
I mean, in the long term, they could try to seize some control back.
But, you know, this is truly a place where the president has always been at odds with congressional leaders in his party. And where they have been trying, behind the scenes, to get him to change his policy.
But we are seeing just that start to spill out into the open more now, because the traditional Republican post-trade consensus is being threatened here by what the president is up to.
[13:10:06] BLITZER: We see the Dow Jones now up about 260 points. I assume, Jim, it's, in part, because the president has backed away from a trade war.
Last week, he said trade war would be good. Today, he's saying it's not going to happen.
Also, giving himself an out on these tariffs. If there's a successful renegotiation of NAFTA, no more tariffs. I assume the market likes - the markets like that.
TANKERSLEY: It's hard to mindread the markets day to day. But, yes, I think that's definitely a thing that the market would react well to.
And we clearly saw the market react negatively last week, when the president embraced not just tariff tariffs, but the idea of a broader trade war. This is something that economist, traders, basically anybody who watches the macro economy worries about a big trade war that would hurt trade volumes and then growth around the world.
BLITZER: Jim Tankersley of "The New York Times." Thanks very much.
TANKERSLEY: Thanks. My pleasure.
BLITZER: A Russian sex coach says she has secrets about the president and his Russia ties and she's willing to spill them for a price. CNN's interview with her, that's coming up.
Plus, America's own intelligence chief say Russia is attacking the U.S. right now. But new today, the State Department apparently refusing to spend a dime to fight it. Why?
And we all know the president's affinity for strong men around the world, but a new comment taking it to a whole new level.
[13:15:31] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're now hearing from the self- described Russian seductress who claims to have secrets on President Trump and Russia. She's talking to CNN through the bars of her jail cell in Thailand. The model wants to come forward with what she calls the missing puzzle pieces. But there is a catch. She says she won't spill the alleged secrets unless the United States grants her asylum.
Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson. He's joining us from Bangkok right now.
Ivan, you spoke with her. Tell our viewers what she had to say.
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean she's saying that she's willing to cooperate with U.S. investigators to share what she claims is really important information having to do with alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election. But she hasn't offered any evidence, really, to back up her claims. And she says she won't because she risks deportation from an immigration detention center here in Bangkok back to Russia, and she fears further persecution from the Russians.
Now, all of this might sound like a really half-baked kind of desperate plan to get out of trouble with the Thai authorities, except for one thing, Anastasia Vashukevich, she popped up in an investigation by a Russian opposition, a leading Russian opposition politician, who figured out from her previous social media posts and a book she published where she changed the names of an oligarch that she claimed to seduce, he figured out that she was actually on the private yacht of a Russian billionaire named Oleg Deripaska that she claimed to have had an affair with for more than a year. And that's what she told me from behind bars today.
But also in those pictures, you could see a senior Russian government official, the deputy prime minister of the Russian government, in a meeting with this Russian billionaire. Deripaska is known in the states because he's a former business partner of Paul Manafort, the, of course, former Trump campaign manager, now indicted facing charges of money laundering as part of the Mueller investigation, the Mueller investigation, into alleged Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
And that's where this woman then pops up again. After she was arrested with some of her friends, and, get this, they were teaching a sex training course in a Thai resort. They were arrested by Thai police. And then she immediately began saying, I can spill a lot of information if the U.S. helps get me out of jail. Information that should help.
What did she tell me? She says she has hours of audio recordings from her meetings with Deripaska, the meetings he saw, and she claims she has photos of his meetings with Americans with whom he discussed plans to try to influence the U.S. election. I have to note, Oleg Deripaska, his spokesperson has denied all of
this as fabrications created to try to evade breaking laws here in Thailand.
BLITZER: A pretty amazing story indeed. Ivan Watson in Bangkok for us.
Ivan, thanks. I know you're going to continue to work your sources over there.
Other news we're following.
With the chaos surrounding the White House, President Trump is turning his attention back to the 2016 campaign, this time taking aim at former President Barack Obama, tweeting, and I'm quoting him now, why did the Obama administration start an investigation into the Trump campaign with zero proof of wrongdoing, long before the election in November? Wanted to discredit so crooked H would win. Unprecedented. Bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did nothing about Russian meddling, end quote.
Let's bring in our panel to discuss this and more. CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto and CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian.
So, Jim, first of all, what's your reaction to this tweet?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's just go to how the tweet doesn't line up with the facts. One, his implication there -- and this is a frequent talking point of Trump and his allies -- is that this was a political investigation opened by the Obama administration to target Trump. Remember the timeline here.
First of all, it was not the dossier. The FBI started the counter- intelligence investigation seven weeks before the dossier, which, again, Trump and others have called a purely political document because the Trump foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, told an Australian diplomat that the Russians told him they have dirt on Hillary Clinton. And then that diplomat considered it important enough that he then shared it with his U.S. counterparts. So, remember, that's the origin of this investigation.
[13:20:05] Then, did Obama do nothing on Russian meddling? Well, which is not true. He did nothing -- he did something on it. You can argue whether he did enough, but he did something on it. He imposed quite severe sanctions during the transition.
He warned Vladimir Putin personally about them. He named and shamed Russia as being behind it. You can -- so it's fair, credible to criticize Obama for not doing enough.
But where he gets into dangerous territory, President Trump, is by comparison the Trump administration has certainly done less, imposed fewer sanctions. And, in fact, his administration, the president himself, is sitting on congressionally mandated sanctions that large majorities in the House and the Senate pushed for directly in response to the meddling. So the facts don't support the tweet.
BLITZER: And he signed that legislation into law.
SCIUTTO: He did.
BLITZER: But he hasn't implemented it yet.
Karoun, the former CIA director during the Obama administration, John Brennan, strongest reaction to the president's latest tweet, calling out the president for, quote, paranoia, panic and anxiety about the Mueller investigation.
Do you think this tweet -- all of a sudden the president's going backwards, tweeting about this now, shows what John Brennan is suggesting?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that we've seen at various junctures, when the Mueller investigation starts to get too close to the White House, that you do see Trump taking these tweets that are more about the -- you know, either Hillary Clinton or about the Obama administration's responsibility or things that actually don't come back to him, which is about as far away as he gets from just seeing this entirely about every Russian issue, every Russian meddling issue is just about himself.
But there is also an open discussion, as Jim was kind of referencing at various points right now, where we are getting to a point where the Mueller investigation is heating up. You did have Obama's former chief of staff on television this weekend saying, oh, Republicans were the hang-up for why we couldn't put out a more forceful statement. So both sides are kind of bringing this up again.
And this really has become a crux point because now it doesn't seem like either side is saying, oh, this is not a big deal. Clearly it's a big deal. So it's the blame game, who's more culpable? Is it the Obama administration that should have done more because it was on their watch that this happened, or is it Trump who's alleged to have ties, you know, to Russians who are affiliated with the Kremlin? That's an open question depending on which side of the political aisle you're on. And that's why you see these kind -- these tweets and other political attacks ramping up in their intensity. I mean you had dueling memos just a few weeks ago and pretty much the same side effect.
SCIUTTO: Well, here's the other point. Russian meddling is continuing right now, today.
SCIUTTO: And the president is the president now, today. And, for instance -- and this is one of many instances of this -- the head of the NSA, which would be the front line defense against Russian cyberattacks, said a week ago on The Hill that the president has not instructed him to do anything to stop these attacks there. So President Trump can look back to the last administration as much as he wants to, but we know the attacks are happening now. The meddling continues. And that this administration, who's been in office for some 14 months, is not responding.
BLITZER: And, you know, and last August the House and Senate overwhelmingly, almost unanimously, passed new sanctions against Russia because of its election meddling. The president reluctantly signed it into law, but since then has not imposed any of these sanctions. He's sitting on them.
And now we're learning from "The New York Times" that the State Department -- that there was an appropriation of, what, about $120 million for the State Department to fight this Russian meddling in the U.S. election system. And of that $120 million, the U.S. -- the State Department so far has spent --
DEMIRJIAN: Yes. And the thing that's really stunning about it is that in that report they also say there's not a single Russian speaker on that team that they were supposed to be getting. That's problematic if you're trying to focus on Russian meddling.
Look, I mean clearly Congress has laid out ways for the administration to take more steps. There's an open debate as to whether you should go whole hog on every -- every element of sanctions, especially sartorially, because that can start to affect the economy. But the fact that nothing has been done is very, very striking. And this is really the issue is that we've been so focused on the political back and forth, and the president has been so obsessed with every time somebody brings up Russia, he takes it as an affront to himself and the legitimacy of his presidency, that we've really done nothing in terms of actually working on what is the greater problem here, which is that, you know, Russia wins most when there's discord, not necessarily one horse or the other in this race. And there's a lot of discord right now. And not only have you not had the intelligence community get a mandate and the State Department spent any money, you don't have any recommendations out from Congress either about how to do better before the primary season starts. We'll see Senate Intelligence put something out in about another week or so but --
SCIUTTO: It just seems that there's interest whatsoever.
DEMIRJIAN: Yes. We're behind the eight ball for 2018.
BLITZER: The president personally has been thunderously silent in reacting to this Russian meddling during his administration. He's been in office now for almost 14 months.
BLITZER: He doesn't say anything about Putin or what the Russians are up to.
DEMIRJIAN: Yes. BLITZER: But he goes back and complains about what the Obama administration was up to or not up to.
SCIUTTO: Yes. And the NFL and the Oscars and --
DEMIRJIAN: (INAUDIBLE), for sure.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much.
A historic meeting in North Korea. Kim Jong-un speaking face to face with top South Korean officials in Pyongyang for the first time ever, all as President Trump lays out a single demand if North Korea wants to talk with the United States.
[13:25:08] Plus, the younger brother of the Parkland high school killer now speaking to police about their relationship and the brother's big regrets. Stand by.
BLITZER: There is a key meeting happening today in North Korea. A South Korean delegation is Pyongyang right now for talks with the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. It's the first time he's had direct dealings with the South Korea since he took power in 2011. South Korea is trying to lay the groundwork for U.S.-North Korean talks at the same time.
Speaking at a free-wheeling dinner event with journalists the other night, President Trump said about North Koreans, and I'm quoting him now, they called up a couple of days ago and said, we would like to talk. And I said, so would we, but you have to denuke. You have to denuke. So let's see what happens.
[13:30:07] Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's joining us right now.
Barbara, the U.S. and North Korea are very far apart on this issue. Can they come together