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Former President George H.W. Bush in Intensive Care; Trump & Macron to Discuss Fate of Iran Deal, Troops in Syria; Dr. Ronny Jackson's Confirmation Hearing Postponed Over Allegations. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2018 - 06:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was suffering from an infection. It became a crisis.

[05:59:38] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When one person dies, a spouse has a dramatically increased rate of mortality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American public sees him as the last of the greatest generation.

EMMANUEL MACRON, PRESIDENT OF FRANCE: This is a very important state visit given our current environment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The stage is set for tonight's first state dinner.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Macron is one of the few democratic leaders who's figured out how to handle Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's just hitting people one by one, going down. I couldn't believe what I seen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The police managed to corner the attacker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This kind of tragic incident is not representative of how we live or who we are.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, April 24, 6 a.m. here in New York.

Here's our starting line. All eyes are on the White House today ahead of the high-stakes meetings between President Trump and his French counterpart. Emmanuel Macron is hoping to leverage his relationship with Mr. Trump to try to persuade him to stay in the Iran nuclear deal and to keep U.S. troops in Syria. Both men are going to cap the night with a steak dinner planned almost entirely by first lady Melania Trump. But the challenges aren't just about the big political tickets.

President Trump's pick to head the V.A. is facing major head winds. CNN learning that Dr. Ronny Jackson's confirmation hearing tomorrow will likely be postponed, because lawmakers have a huge field of what they're calling raw allegations of improper conduct in various stages of his career.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Sources tell CNN that President Trump is stepping up the use of his personal cell phone to contact outside advisers, because he does not want his chief of staff, John Kelly, to know who he's talking to. What does that mean for Kelly's status as a gatekeeper?

And we're following breaking news about former president George H.W. Bush. He suffered a medical scare one day after his wife's funeral. The 93-year-old is in intensive care this morning, being treated for an infection.

So we have a lot to cover. Let's begin with CNN's Ed Lavandera. He's live in Houston with all of the breaking details. What do we know, Ed?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn.

Well, the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush, in an intensive care unit here in Houston Methodist Hospital this morning. That is the latest update we've received so far.

You know, it was last week that the 41st president said that the outpouring of love and support from people across the country in the wake of the death of his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, was lifting him up. And at one point in that statement last week, he said that they -- America should cross the Bushes off of their worry list.

But a great deal of concern here this morning for President Bush. As we've reported he is in intensive care unit here, with a blood infection that led to sepsis. A close source to the president saying that there was a great deal of concern over the last 48 hours. A concern that that infection had become so severe that feel that they could have been lost several times.

He was admitted here to the hospital on Sunday morning. So imagine all of this just a few hours after returning back to Houston after burying his wife in College Station at the president -- the presidential library there, the Texas A&M University campus. All of those proceedings ending.

The president making his way back home here to the Houston area and then shortly after being admitted to the hospital. So, a great deal of concern surrounding the 41st president here this morning, Chris and Alisyn, as doctors continue to work with him. A spokesman for the president yesterday said that he had been stabilized and that they were hoping that he was on the road to recovery here. So that is what many people will be monitoring and praying for throughout the day today, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Ed.

CUOMO: Thank you for being there. Tough man. Resilient man, but now heartbroken. And sepsis is no joke. We feel for the entire family. The whole Bush clan going through this together right now.

So we have President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron expected to tackle several pressing foreign policy issues. This all comes ahead of tonight's big first state dinner for Mr. Trump and his presidency.

We have CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House with more. Big politics, big party.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. Good morning. There's already a flurry of activity here at the White House this morning in preparation for that state dinner with Emmanuel Macron, but Macron is here both to shore up the U.S. French relationship and his personal relationship with President Trump in an effort to really deal with some of these big foreign policy issues. Perhaps at the top of that list is the Iran nuclear deal.

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PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump rolling out the red carpet, welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron. Beyond the pomp and circumstance of his three-day visit, the two leaders are expected to tackle several thorny foreign policy issues, including the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, North Korea denuclearization, Russian aggression, the Syrian civil war and climate change. Macron has been dubbed the Trump whisperer by some because of their close diplomatic relationship.

But the talks are sure to highlight the differences between the two allies, including President Trump's threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. The deadline to either waive sanctions against Iran or leave the deal just weeks away.

[06:05:11] DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our participation can be cancelled by me as president at any time.

MACRON: What do you have as a better option? I don't see it. What is a what-if scenario or your Plan B? I don't have any Plan B for nuclear against Iran. So that's a question we will discuss.

PHILLIP: The outcome of Macron's talks setting the stage for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to the White House on Friday. She, too, will press President Trump to stay in the Iran deal.

The French, along with the U.S. and U.K., carried out air strikes on Assad's regime in Syria after another chemical attack. Macron wants President Trump to keep U.S. troops there, which Mr. Trump has vowed to pull out very soon without a clear plan for what happens after.

And on North Korea, the White House says the U.S. will not lift sanctions until the regime takes concrete actions toward denuclearization. SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're not going to take

the North Koreans simply at their word. The maximum pressure campaign is going to continue until we see concrete actions taken by -- we're not naive in this process.

PHILLIP: Trump and Macron are both political newcomers, hoping their relationship will help them hash out these pressing issues. Their friendship on display yesterday when Macron arrived at the White House and forever immortalized in this never-ending handshake at Bastille Day celebrations in France last summer.

But the West Wing is facing more turbulence inside the Trump administration. The president's pick to run Veterans Affairs, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, hits a snag ahead of tomorrow's Senate confirmation hearing. Sources says both sides of the aisle raising concerns as they dig deeper into allegations of improper conduct at various points in Jackson's career. Senators declined to publicly detail specifics of the allegations but say they are looking into whether they are substantial enough to upend his nomination.

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PHILLIP: Well, sources tell CNN that Jackson's nomination could be hitting some real roadblocks here. We are hearing that there is a possibility that his confirmation hearing could be postponed.

Meanwhile, we will see President Trump and President Macron several times today. They'll have a traditional military welcoming ceremony and then a Rose Garden press conference later today, Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: Abby, reporting so strong. The shot behind you so nice; please stay with us for the panel. And let's bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon. So, big stakes. Emmanuel Macron comes here with a really loaded agenda, staying in the Iran deal. We know that there are some negotiations going on curiously between the Europeans and the Americans, but they don't involve the Russians or the Iranians. So, there's -- this is a very odd thing that's going to happen here.

[06:08:03] JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is an odd thing. Look, I mean, Macron has positioned himself as the Trump whisperer. He is determined to been ally of the United States despite the America first rhetoric. And he's really hugged Trump tight.

But that belies the deep differences between the two men on really fundamental issues of policy, not just the Iran deal. Macron lobbying him to stay in because the U.S. pulling out would remove a lynchpin. But Syria, but climate change, but trade. I mean, these are fundamental issues. And Macron is a radical centrist and Trump is a conservative populist.

So beneath that real attempt to emphasize the two country's historical relationship, there deep differences.

CAMEROTA: Macron poses the question in your piece, what's Plan B? So if you pull -- if President Trump doesn't recertify and gets out of the Iran nuclear deal, what does the White House say Plan B is? PHILLIP: The White House has been saying that what they want to do is

just start over, but as Macron and other European allies have pointed out, there is no starting over, really, once this Iran deal is scrapped. It becomes virtually impossible to get Iran back to the table and get all the other parties back to the table.

But the president is really adamant about this. And this is not, you know, to John's point, they're all of the cajoling by Macron and other Europeans about the Iran deal have done almost nothing. All of the people around the president over the last several months who have been helping who have been keeping to keep the deal together on a temporary basis, whether that was Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster and others, those people are gone, and now President Trump is standing alone here.

And what he wants to do is make sure he's fulfilling his promise, and the consequences are not really top of mind for him. I think he's more than happy to just scrap this deal, move on, say he wants to do something else knowing I think most people here in this administration understand that once the deal is gone, there's probably absolutely nothing that will replace it.

CUOMO: Look, I mean, that's a little bit of the experience that the United States is having right now with TPP, right? He didn't like it. He bails out. But everybody else stays in. And this is another multiparty situation. You have a very antagonistic Iran. But let's get back to setting the stage here, John, of how unusual this is.

[06:10:10] Usually, we come together because we have common ground and we believe in things that we want to now forge a new front. That's not -- that's not really what's going on here.

Let's put up a graphic of the policy differences that John was outlining before. OK? So this is what makes it unusual. Yes, they're friends, right, supposedly. But they disagree on everything that matters in this big meeting. The Iran deal, for and against. The Paris agreement, for and against. Syria, troops stay, troops withdraw.

Now the Syria one winds up playing into a bigger understanding, John, which is should the United States and its European allies assert themselves in these conflict zones around the world? That had been what the United States was doing. Obama was a little built more subtle about it, but Trump says, "No, I don't want to be there."

AVLON: Right. It's a difference between a multilateral approach and really unilateral withdrawal. And, you know, the America first rhetoric on the world stage. Look, Macron is trying to reemphasize France's role as a leading power in the region. This is something that they had retreated from in the past, but he's very big on, if you will, making France great again.

But he wants to do it within the context of U.S. and Britain, in particular, the, you know, traditional fundamental powers of western Europe asserting that, you know, civil society with a bayonet's edge on these war-torn regions that are closer to Europe, of course, than they are to the United States. On the other side of the ledger are Russia, are Iran and these powers

that have been less interested in these multilateral coalitions. The problem is, at the end of the day, Macron is a multilateralist. Donald Trump is not.

CAMEROTA: Abby, we -- yes, you want to make a point?

PHILLIP: Just briefly the Macron gamble with Trump, it's better to be a friend of Trump than an adversary. And I think on some level, that works well for him. And while he hasn't succeeded on all of these other fronts, he did say about a week and a half ago that when he talked to President Trump after the Syria air strikes, he convinced him of the need for the U.S. to continue to be engaged.

Now, we don't know where that's going to go in its final stage, how much longer President Trump is going to hang on to the U.S. commitment to Syria, but at least for the time being, he stopped talking about pulling out completely. We authorized air strikes in Syria. And so on some level, Macron, I think, feels like the personal relationship can give him a little bit here and there. Maybe he won't get wins every time, but it's probably better than his relationship with Angela Merkel, which is far worse than it is with Macron. And they certainly just don't see eye to eye, and they can't communicate with each other effectively.

CAMEROTA: But Abby has hit on the very problem. I mean, therein lies the rub, because we don't know how persuasive Macron will be. Because the Trump truism is that he can say one thing to Macron and he could say, "Yes, you've convinced me. I'm going to stay in the Iran nuclear deal."

And then John Bolton can walk into his office ten minutes later, and it can be a completely different story.

CUOMO: So the truism is that what he says is often untrue?

CAMEROTA: The truism is -- no, the truism is that it is whoever he speaks to last. That is a fact.

AVLON: Your morning through the looking glass brought to you by Chris Cuomo.

That is the problem, right? It's the last person to talk to him, whoever can appeal to his instincts. Macron is really drawing on the history of the friendship between these two great powers, which goes back to the Revolutionary War, which is why they were at Mount Vernon last night.

But, you know, I don't think Macron should put too much faith in his own powers of persuasion, because Donald Trump is impulsive. Abby said well, and I think it's something we're focusing on. Consequences don't seem to be part of the calculation for Donald Trump. He wants to check the box in many cases of "I fulfilled a campaign promise," regardless of what the experts say.

But the presidency and governing is all about consequences: owning them, imagining them, you know, envisioning the future, not simply checking off the box and letting the chips fall where they may. That's not the way geopolitics works. That's not the way the world works with the responsibility of the Oval Office.

CUOMO: You know, it's interesting also. The two men are in such different places in terms of their national dialogue.

Macron, as we know, came in, you know, on the heels of this, the worst terror things that they've seen in France in such a long time; and he is desperate to spread the idea of unity. And that, "Well, listen, we know that we haven't done this assimilation thing well yet, but we will."

And here you have President Trump doing the exact -- exact opposite. So it's just an interesting state of play in terms of what's going on.

CAMEROTA: OK. So Abby, you have some reporting that I want to get to, which is that President Trump is using his personal cell phone more than he had been in the past year. We know that he doesn't like to e-mail. We know that he loves the personal touch of one-on-one meetings or a phone call.

So what are the -- what's the upshot of him using his phone more? What does it mean for John Kelly?

PHILLIP: Well, this has been a trend for the last several weeks, with a lot of things really converging here. Starting with the fact that the president is losing or lost a lot of his very close advisers. Hope Hicks's departure and others, people close to him, who have been part of the guardrails for the president, are now gone. And John Kelly has also been stepping back.

[06:15:15] You know, I talk to sources who characterize it this way, but Kelly was really in baby sitter mode when he walked in the door and now he stepped back, in part because of a realization that Trump is going to be Trump regardless and also that he can't really have his hands in everything.

And so what the president has done is taken that and run with it. He is in a place now year two of his administration, where he wants to do whatever he wants to do. He is in the residence up until 11 a.m. almost every day, and he's on the phone, on the phone talking to friends, talking to random people, talking to lawmakers.

CUOMO: When he's supposed to be studying. And this is a very teachable moment. You have to say to him in this moment if you're John Kelly, look --

PHILLIP: And Chris --

CUOMO: We let you use this phone. It's a privilege. It's not a right. If you don't use it the right way, we're going to take it from you until we know that --

CAMEROTA: And you're going to be grounded. PHILLIP: The president believes -- the president believes that his

phone calls are his way of touching -- checking in on the base, checking in with people who are experts. That's his way of doing the homework.

CUOMO: Sure. It's very important to him, but we have higher priorities and we have to think about the greater good about what's going on.

This is the exact conversation I have and lose with my 15-year-old on a regular basis.

CAMEROTA: I could tell. You seem to have practice.

CUOMO: The parallels are frightening.

AVLON: Except the nuclear weapons. I think that's the -- that's the crucial difference.

CUOMO: She has the power of the purse strings and the ability to make my life miserable, which is also a little nuclear.

AVLON: That's more of a congressional thing.

CUOMO: Wait and see, my friend. Wait and see.

CAMEROTA: Abby, thank you very much.

John Avlon, thank you.

So listen to this story. There's another Trump nominee who is now running into trouble. Confirmation hearings for Dr. Ronny Jackson for V.A. secretary could be postponed as lawmakers look into allegations of improper conduct. What does that mean? We have new details next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:20:41] CAMEROTA: Senators on the Veterans Affairs Committee are raising concerns about allegations involving Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson. That of course, as President Trump's pick to lead veterans affairs.

Sources tell CNN his confirmation hearing tomorrow is likely now to be postponed while the White House insists there are no plans for Jackson to withdraw his nomination. But what is this about?

We're back with John Avlon and Abby Phillip.

Abby, this is weird, because something is amiss. We don't know what. We don't what the allegations are, only that it's been reported that they're looking into raw allegations. So, where does that leave his confirmation?

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, I think the key thing here is that it's not just Democrats saying there are problems here. Republicans are making it clear there are issues with this nomination. But it also shouldn't be too much of a surprise, because President

Trump did not vet Ronny Jackson before naming him to this position. It was something done virtually on the fly. A lot of his own staffers were kept in the dark. This was not a nomination that went through the wringer like these often are.

And this is a big deal. The Veterans' Affairs Administrator is someone who is in charge of the most troubled agency in the federal government. So there's going to be a lot of scrutiny to begin with, but this is someone who just simply was not vetted and, despite being the White House doctor, the requirements for a cabinet position are completely different. And I think Republicans are really concerned about the future of this nomination right now.

CUOMO: There's no questions it's controversial because of how Trump did it and who he picked and the fact that this particular man doesn't have any big bureaucracy experience.

CAMEROTA: Credentials.

CUOMO: But however, I was working on this last night. And obviously, our D.C. team was, too. We really don't know anything about the substance of these allegations and neither do the lawmakers. So I don't know what Jackson has any trouble. These are just questions.

AVLON: Look, the question allegations could be political opponents trying to, you know, throw up smoke signals to taint the nomination. What we do know is that senators including Republicans like Johnny Isaacson have raised real questions with the White House based on his qualifications, not that he's not a charming, capable human but that he doesn't have the experience running one of the largest bureaucracies of the federal government.

And that's why, when Donald Trump was first floating this in private meetings, some of his own staff thought he was joking. Rony Jackson is, by all accounts, incredibly well-liked by presidents of both parties, but running one of the largest, you know, bureaucracies in the government is not something you can do on the fly. Charm ain't going to get you far on that one.

CAMEROTA: OK. Next person who may be in trouble -- well, we know --

CUOMO: He is in trouble.

CAMEROTA: He is in trouble, but the White House has gone back and forth between supporting him, and now it seems maybe backing off their support. So this is Scott Pruitt, EPA administrator. As you know, he -- there are questions about his spending, his finances, his ethics, what he's doing for his staff, cronyism. Here are the scandals. He has a soundproof booth in his office.

AVLON: Only one screen?

CUOMO: They have half a dozen open investigations into him. You know, I mean, that's a lot. CAMEROTA: Twenty-four-hour security detail. I was enjoying that full

screen. But any way, let's -- here is Sarah Sanders on the White House position yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDERS: We're continuing to review a number of the reports that you mentioned. And we'll let you know if we have any changes on that front.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Not a full-throated support, Abby. What do we know?

PHILLIP: Not at all. I mean, this is one of those cases where the White House is -- the White House is treading carefully. When I talk to people in the White House about Pruitt, a lot of them say it's not over yet. They know that there is more to come, that these stories are bad.

But the problem is the president has been hearing from a lot of Republican lawmakers, a lot of Republican activists, and he needs to keep Scott Pruitt because of what Pruitt is doing at the EPA.

Pruitt actually has a huge well of support among establishment Republicans. So there are -- these forces are really working against each other. I think a lot of people don't know how this is going to end. There's a perception that this is not over. There's more to come. But also a perception that the president is not quite at a place yet where he is frustrated enough by all these bad headlines that he's willing to get rid of Pruitt. And he really does like the -- at least the narrative that the EPA is doing what Republicans wanted to do, which is deregulating at a rapid pace.

AVLON: Right. I think it's even more than Republicans. Because there's, of course, a Republican environmental tradition. It's industry loves what Scott Pruitt is doing. I mean, this is -- you know, it's Christmas every morning.

[06:25:11] What's stunning about Sarah Sanders' comments yesterday was the -- I mean, that is a distancing yourself from your cabinet nominee. And that's a very different tone than we've heard before where the White House and the president have re-enforced their support for Pruitt, despite the firestorm of scandals. That's the sound of the White House giving permission for allies to start turning on Pruitt and creating distance.

CUOMO: He's got -- he's got three bad facts.

AVLON: At least.

CUOMO: The first one is he hasn't been there that long, and he's got a ton of bad choices. OK, so there's just a lot of volume.

Second, what it is that makes the administration and certain Republicans like him makes people in the center and on the left hate him.

AVLON: Yes.

CUOMO: Because he is seen as anathema to science and progress. OK? And the third thing is the guy they just brought in as No. 2 comes from the coal industry, which is something else that's looming out there that, if Pruitt goes, this ostensibly is who they'd want to bring in, which is somebody who is working for the coal industry.

PHILLIP: And I would add, Chris, that there's virtually -- I think there's a recognition in the White House. It would be virtually impossible to get a Pruitt replacement confirmed in this environment.

The margins in the Senate are so thin, this post is so controversial, that even if the president were to nominate someone to replace him, it would be -- it would be log jammed in the Senate. So I think there's -- they already have, you know, almost half a dozen Senate confirmable positions that they have to get through right now. Adding Pruitt to it would be a huge statement.

CUOMO: That's what made Rubio's statement so controversial this weekend. You have to defer to the president's choices for the cabinet. I don't know where the premise is for that. That's a healthy premise at this point. He keeps picking bad people.

CAMEROTA: Well, hold on. There is one success story. Mike Pompeo does seem to be now on a fast track to becoming confirmed as secretary of state after, as you both know, there was all sorts of questions about whether or not that was going to happen and whether it was going to get out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

So what ended up happening, as Donald Trump -- as President Trump predicted, Rand Paul did come around, and so did Senator Chris Coons in a way, a Democrat who voted "present" instead of fighting the nomination. So here is what Senator Bob Corker said about that moment yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: In particular, I want to thank Senator Coons for displaying the statesmanship that I've been accustomed to seeing in the Senate. And I'm proud of him. I'm proud of our committee. And I'm happy for the American people. I think it showed that senators at the right time can do outstanding things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: What do you think about that moment, John?

AVLON: I thought it was sweet. I love it when Corker gets all choked up about the lost traditions of bipartisan decency and trying to think about country first.

Look, I do think that, you know, Donald Trump said, "Rand Paul has never let me down yet," and he didn't. He's ended up supporting Pompeo, who he disagrees with on a lot of policy. But what really -- the Chris Coons "present" vote really was striking.

And I think there's a recognition, even among people who disagree with Pompeo and the president's foreign policy, that the nation can't have no one at the helm of the State Department. That we need a secretary of state. And that --

CAMEROTA: That's why you think Chris Coons did this?

AVLON: Yes, absolutely.

CUOMO: The question is why didn't he just vote yes? So he's trying to have it both ways. We'll see how it plays with his own caucus.

CAMEROTA: All right. Abby Phillip, John Avlon, thank you both very much.

CUOMO: All right. Here's what we know this morning on another very important story. The suspect in that deadly van attack in Toronto is due in court in a matter of hours. They are playing this like it's a little different than the other vehicle homicide potential terrorist actions we've seen around the world recently. What do we hear from pedestrians? What do we know about this man? Next.