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President Trump Meets with French President Macron in Washington; Senate Delays Hearing on Ronny Jackson for Veterans Affairs Secretary. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2018 - 8:00   ET

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


[08:00:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've see a white van. 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 VIDEO CLIP)

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

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Tuesday, April 24th, now 8:00 in the east. All eyes on the high stakes meetings between the French and American presidents. Emmanuel Macron hoping to leverage his friendship with Mr. Trump to persuade him to stay in the nuclear deal with Iran and in Syria with troops on the ground. Both men are going to cap the night with a state dinner planned by First Lady Melania Trump.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And as for cabinet positions, CNN learning that the hearing for Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president's pick to head the V.A. will likely be postponed this week as lawmakers look into allegations of improper conduct against him. So we're following also the news of former president George H. W. Bush. He's in intensive care this morning. He's being treated for an infection.

We have it all covered, so let's begin with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live at the White House. What do we expected today, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. The preparations are well under way here at the White House for a day of ceremony and pomp and circumstance, but the French president, Emmanuel Macron, is here on a diplomatic mission, to shore up his personal relationship with President Trump and hopefully convince him to stay in the Iran deal.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: 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 other waive sanctions against Iran or leave the deal just weeks away.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our participation can be canceled by me as president at any time.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: What do you have as a better option? I don't see it. What is the what-if scenario, or your plan b. I don't have any plan b for nuclear against Iran, so that 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. not lift sanctions until the regime takes concrete actions towards 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 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 say 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 up end his nomination.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIP: And sources are telling CNN that this confirmation hearing is likely to be delayed in the wake of some of these allegations that are being looked in to into Ronny Jackson. And later today we will see President Trump and Emmanuel Macron multiple times, including in just a few short minutes when they will have a traditional military welcoming ceremony followed by a press conference in the East Room. We're expecting some bad weather, so it's been moved indoors from the Rose Garden, Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby, thank you very much for the update.

CUOMO: All right, let's bring in the CNN political analysts Josh Green and Jonathan Martin. J. Mart, the stakes of the big meet between the French and the U.S. presidents.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that they're immense.

[08:05:00] I think that you've got major issues on the line here for the French president who has put really a lot of capital out there trying to develop a relationship with an American president that his country overwhelming detests in an effort to try to get results on the Iran deal, on trying to keep -- or try to get back the Americans into the Paris Climate Accords. And I think there's a lot on the line for Macron here trying to keep the U.S. engaged in Syria. So I think it's really in some ways as important for him as it is for Trump.

CAMEROTA: And so Josh, on the issues that Jonathan just laid out, do you think the President Trump is inclined to be persuaded by Macron?

JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: From what he said outwardly the answer would be no. Trump campaigned on the idea that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. He's called it a disaster, and so I think that's why you have this one-two punch of Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming in this week to try and persuade him otherwise.

There is a path forward I think for Trump to stay in the deal, for the U.S. to stay in the deal if Trump decides he wants to. The basis of his complaints have been that the deal isn't permanent and that it doesn't address things like Iran's hostility in the region, ballistic missiles, humanitarian concerns, that sort of thing.

U.S. and European negotiators have been working on side deals, so if Macron can convince Trump that the deal is being improved, which is always been one of Trump's conditions, and if Macron can get assurances that Trump isn't going to change his mind and put out of a side deal later on, then maybe there's a path forward that can work for both sides.

CUOMO: So when we look at what's most likely, we keep hearing that the priorities are, what are you going to do on the Iran deal, what are you going to do on Syria, what are you going to do on trade, how do you rank these, J. Mart, in terms of where the emphasis is going to be on and what the biggest chance for change is?

MARTIN: I think certainly the most immediate issue that is going to be discussed is the Iran deal just because of the calendar. I think the sort of urgency as Josh pointed out that Merkel and Macron feel about that, I think for Trump the much more pressing issue is trade. This is the animating force in Donald Trump's life and it has been since long before he got into politics. That is his focus, his passion is trying to balance out the columns when it comes to the American trade deficit with other countries. And I think that is his focus, trying to get, as he puts it, a better deal for American workers. CAMEROTA: OK, Josh, let's move on to cabinet troubles. Let's look at

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the president's pick to be the head of the Veterans Affairs administration. We don't know what this new sticking point is, only that it now looks from reporting that the hearing that was scheduled for tomorrow is not going to happen as lawmakers say they're looking into allegations surrounding Dr. Ronny Jackson. They haven't told us what those are. They were described as raw allegations, but who knows what that means. And so what do we think is happening here?

GREEN: Well, it's not clear what exactly the basis of the charges are for personal misconduct. But I've also heard that the hearing is likely to be postponed. To me this is another example of Trump's impulsiveness, and rather than going through the vetting process in the way that a nominee traditionally would, Trump chose Jackson to run the V.A. because he liked him despite the fact that he really hadn't been vetted, that he didn't have the traditional managerial qualifications that a candidate for that job would ordinarily have.

To me it actually recalled the George W. Bush nomination of Harriet Miers, his personal attorney, for the Supreme Court, which was a similar situation from the standpoint that Miers was in no way qualified for the job, and soon enough Bush had to withdraw that nomination because of criticism from Republicans and Democrats. We're not there yet with Jackson, but if you look at how rocky this process has suddenly become, it wouldn't surprise me if he were to wind up in a similar position.

CUOMO: J. Mart, let me ask you something before we get to Pruitt, because Pruitt is not so much about the vetting. They know who he was. That's why there's so much resistance to him in the center and left, those who value the sufficiency of science for many of the positions that he oversees. It's what he's done once he got in there. But with Jackson, are we seeing something that demonstrates that what Senator Rubio said a few days ago, that we have to defer to the president's judgment about who he wants on the team, that that premise is no longer sound because they keep picking bad people?

MARTIN: Yes. In fairness to Jackson, it's not so much that he's a bad person. It's just that --

CUOMO: No, bad candidate. I don't mean that as a character reference. I'm just saying people keep having to bow out because they don't get it done on one level or another. They're not the best of the best as promised.

[08:10:00] MARTIN: Yes. And I think what the president has done here is he has put his own party in a tough spot on Capitol Hill, not for the first time. They want, to borrow the phrase that Rubio used, show some deference to the president on his picks, but they also can't confirm somebody who is widely seen as unqualified for a pretty sensitive position of V.A. secretary.

So I think this president has once again squeezed the Republicans on Capitol Hill. And, look, it's not the first time, it's not going to be the last because this is someone who does operate not according to somebody's qualifications. It's much more based on personal chemistry, instinct, whether he likes somebody or not. That's how he rolls.

GREEN: If you look at some of the cabinet secretaries that have made it through. Scott Pruitt, for instance, who's kind of emerged as the cabinet secretary from hell, the fact that some of these people have made it through anyway and are causing such problems for Trump, such a black eye for the government in the way they've comported themselves and behaved, I think puts an added responsibility on senators to vet these candidates more closely before they do make it into the job.

CAMEROTA: But explain that, Josh. I just want to stick with you for a second. If President Trump likes Scott Pruitt's positions on the environment and regulations, and he does, then, you know, the complaints from the other side or from even Congress be damned. Why is the White House now souring it seems on Scott Pruitt?

GREEN: Because of Pruitt's behavior. He's taken first class flights. He's built a soundproof booth in his office. He has by all accounts squandered hundreds of thousands if not millions of taxpayer dollars in the way he has gone about doing his job, alienated the staff in that agency, repeatedly embarrassed the president. It's not just your positions that are important when you're a high government official. It's also how you comport yourself in the job and how that reflects on the president who put you there.

MARTIN: And the press coverage thereof, too, Josh. If all those things you mentioned had somehow not been revealed, I don't think the president would have given a moment's thought to terminating him. I think it's the fact that Pruitt's getting bad press, that's what drives this president is how are you being treated in the press. And I think his views are often colored by that. And it's remarkable that Pruitt is still around given the press he's gotten in the last couple months.

CAMEROTA: All right, Josh, Jonathan, thank you very much.

Now to this breaking news. Former president George H. W. Bush has a serious medical scare just one day after the funeral of his wife Barbara Bush. CNN's Ed Lavandera is outside the hospital in Houston where the former president he is this morning. He has more. So Ed, do we know if he is still in intensive care?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's the latest update we have, Alisyn. Just last week that president George H. W. Bush was telling a country in a statement just after his wife died that he was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support that the family had been receiving, and he ended that statement by saying that the country should cross the Bushs off of their worry list.

But a great deal of concern here this morning as we have learned that President Bush is here at Houston Methodist in the intensive care unit undergoing treatment for an infection that led to sepsis. We understand from a source close to the president that a couple of times after he had been admitted here on Sunday morning, that there were a couple of times in the initial day of treatment that they weren't very confident that the former president was going to pull through this medical scare. So a great deal of concern surrounding him. All of this you've made even more emotional, Alisyn, as this was

happening just hours after he had returned from College Station, burying his wife, Barbara Bush, of 73 years, and returning back here to his home in Houston. This was after several days of intense emotional outpouring for the Bush family. You'd seen just last Friday, President Bush standing next to his wife's casket, greeting mourners as they were shuffling past here. So this morning his spokesman saying that he appears to be on the road to recovery, but still, Alisyn and Chris, a great deal of concern about President George H. W. Bush's condition here this morning.

CUOMO: Man, this has got to be so tough for the family, you know, to have debt with the loss of their mom and now their father being in this fragile state, really tough for them, and I hope everybody keeps them in their thoughts right now. Ed, you're in the right place. Thank you very much.

So President Trump and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, are divided on almost all the key policy issues, but where is the common ground? That's a phrase that we do not here enough in our politics. We have a Republican senator weighing in next.

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[08:18:31] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. So, in less than an hour, the French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife are going to arrive at the White House. They'll be greeted by a traditional military welcome ceremony.

The French leader and President Trump have a lot of pressing foreign policy issues to discuss and they must work through some policy differences, actually a lot of them, like on the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, U.S. troop presence in Syria, trade policy.

So, joining us now is Republican Senator John Kennedy. He will be attending tonight's state dinner.

Good to see you as always, Senator.

A point of style, first. You're going to the dinner tonight, yes?

Uh-oh. Has John Kennedy been silenced by CNN?

Let me see if I can hear you, sir.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: Is that better?

COUMO: There we go.

Were you mouthing answers because you were trying to throw me?

KENNEDY: No, no. I wouldn't do that, Chris.

CUOMO: By the way, it worked really well. I was totally thrown.

Let me ask you something. So, tonight you're going to the dinner. KENNEDY: Yes.

CUOMO: The Democratic leadership is not invited. Right move?

KENNEDY: No. I would've included -- and this is just me. I mean, the president can select his own management style. I would've included more of a cross section. You would've included the media.

I think this is about -- it's about learning from President Macron and thanking him. I want to thank him for standing with us in Syria. I want to thank him, the French people for selling Louisiana to United States in 1803.

[08:20:07] I love France but I'd rather it be part of us.

CUOMO: And they gave us that really nice statute that used to be emblematic of what we're all about there in the New York harbor. That's come into dispute.

The reason I raise this is not to play petty politics.

KENNEDY: I know.

CUOMO: But to deal with big pea politics. You've got the French president coming here. He has consensus that the president has consensus of common ground behind him. He's going to look around this table, and he's going to see only one half of the equation represented. That can't give confidence to him that I know that whatever this president says he can get done.

KENNEDY: I wouldn't have done it that way. The president -- let me say it again, he's entitled to pursue his own management style, but I see this as a way to say to France and President Macron -- look, we want your advice, we want your advice on Syria, we want your advice on Iran. That's short-term.

Longer term, we want to know what you think China has planned in terms of its interaction with the West. I would like to talk to him about Russia. I think the Russian people are fine people. I think their leadership is lacking. I'd like to know what we can do to help President Macron with his reforms in France and with the European Union.

And I would -- I think it would have sent a better message, just my opinion, if we included a cross section of Congress. You can't include everybody, but that's Democrats, independence, Republicans and I think the more media exposure, we can give to thanking President Macron for standing with us. He didn't have to join us in Syria, but he has. I'm very, very grateful for that as I am to the U.K.

CUOMO: All right. So, we'll see where they come out in terms of negotiating moves with respect to the Iran deal and our presence in Syria. Obviously you guys should have a lot more to say about that than the French president.

KENNEDY: Well, Iran is the most important. CUOMO: So, you think that's the big ticket?

KENNEDY: It is. On the one hand we've got to make a decision about what I call the nuclear deal. On the other hand, it is clear that Iran, the ayatollah, not the Iranian people, the ayatollah is doing everything he can to start mischief.

He doesn't care about -- he meaning the ayatollah. He doesn't care about the Syrian people and he doesn't really care about Assad. I think he wants to establish a beachhead in southern Syria, so it makes it easier to screw with Israel.

CUOMO: Right. You know, that was a complication when you did the deal a few years ago also, the U.S. government. It was hard to fold that in their bad acts abroad when the central focus is on what they're doing with their plutonium and Iranian enrichment and what they're going to use it for. So, they kept it out.

Now the allies who signed that agreement didn't want to fold it in then, so do you think this is going to be about a side deal or do you think this will be about negotiating an extra layer to the current deal?

KENNEDY: Well, I hope it's about the former as opposed -- rather the latter as opposed to the former. But I don't know. I don't want to -- I don't want to do anything to allow Iran to proceed a gain to establish and build a nuclear weapon.

Having said that, we can't let Iran go unchecked. We can't let it continue its missile research. We can't let it continue his mischief in Yemen. We can't let it continue his mischief in Syria.

I mean, basically, the ayatollah, not the Iranian people, wants to control the Middle East. He saddled up with President Putin. I think what they're doing in Syria is wrong. We could settle the massacre in Syria tomorrow if Iran --

CUOMO: How?

KENNEDY: Just by sitting down at a table with Assad, with Russia, with Iran, with the United States, with President Macron and saying, look, we have all these people killed, we have so many people displaced, you know, how do we settle this? I'm not sure that that would include -- it could include, it shouldn't include but I try to be realistic about these things about Assad continuing. He's not the only leader in Syria that could restore Syria.

In fact, I think he's probably the least likely to do it, but we need some peace in Syria. That doesn't mean peace at any cost, but I'm just not sure that Iran wants peace. I think they like the idea of this trying to establish themselves. Hezbollah is already there in Lebanon. They're controlled by the Iranians. The Revolutionary Guard is now moving into Syria.

CUOMO: Right. KENNEDY: I'd like to hear President Macron's thoughts about how we can combatant that without totally blowing up the nuclear deal in a way that Iranian ends up with a weapon.

[08:25:01] COUMO: I'd like to hear it too because we don't hear about it from the U.S. president. There seems to be no plan of policy in place in terms of what you're talking about. So, let's see what fruit come on that.

Let me ask you about something else. We're talking about the division. Now, let's talk about common ground.

KENNEDY: OK.

CUOMO: Privacy and everything we're learning about what not just Facebook but all these big providers can do with our information and they all just agree to that big long contract in the beginning, lawyers or otherwise, because we want to use the app. So, you're getting together with Democrats to make a difference that will be better for Americans. How so?

KENNEDY: Senator Klobuchar and I have introduce I think the only bipartisan bill. It's called the Social Media Privacy Act. It's pretty straightforward. It just says to Facebook and all the other social media platforms, look, when people sign up, you got to tell them what information you've collecting.

You got to do it in plain English and you've got to give them a chance to opt out, you've got give them a chance to join up but opt out later if they want to. You've got to show them their information. You shouldn't have to chase all over hell and half of Georgia to find the way to do it. It ought to be very, very simple and straightforward. And if your data's breach, you've got 72 hours to tell the consumers.

What we know now is that the consumers on the social media platforms are getting the short end of nothing. It's all biased and favor the platforms. I don't want to hurt the platforms. I told Mr. Zuckerberg that.

I learned a couple things. I learned that he's very smart. I learned that he is fluent in B.S. I learned that he was -- he is very -- was very well-prepared.

I don't know mean to denigrate him. He did was his lawyers and handlers told him to do, but now, the ball's in his court. And I want to see what he's going to do to deal with the privacy problem and deal with what I call the propaganda problem.

I want to thank him. I think yesterday, he instructed the Facebook folks --

CUOMO: Right.

KENNEDY: -- to release their censorship policy.

CUOMO: Right. KENNEDY: It's 27 pages. That's OK. We get to see the whole thing.

He's also implemented a way to appeal if they throw you off Facebook. You have the right to appeal. That's important for the First Amendment.

And I know it's hard to get arms around it, but I just sensed in the past, Mr. Zuckerberg and his team weren't trying. Now, they're trying. Maybe that maybe he's not just smart. He's got sense. He sees what's coming, but we'll see.

CUOMO: Well, the powerful often act out of consequence. Not conscience. So --

KENNEDY: Well, that's true, but I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

CUOMO: No, I hear you, but I'm saying, if you come through with regulation that helps create standards it always make a difference, we'll see how they react to that. It is good that you're working with the other side. It is good that you're finding common ground. We need more of that.

I've also learned that when you say, I don't mean to denigrate you, it usually surrounds something that could be a pretty nasty hit, being fluent in B.S. or calling someone a chucklehead, those are tough things, but I get that your intention is pure. I always welcome that.

KENNEDY: I deny everything, Chris. I deny it.

CUOMO: Senator Kennedy, thank you for being with us. Appreciate it.

KENNEDY: Thank you, man.

CUOMO: Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Well, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was pressed over President Trump's use of the word "breeding" in reference to undocumented immigrants. What did he mean by that? That's next.

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