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Report: Trump to Announce Decision to Leave Iran Deal. Aired 2- 2:30p ET
Aired May 8, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What the president will lay out from the diplomatic room in making his case despite what his chief intelligence officials have been saying that there is evidence that Iran has been moving forward with its nuclear weapons program. Vice President Pence is meeting on Capitol Hill -- or has been meeting I should say on Capitol Hill with Senate Republicans, briefing them on the details. And just in the final hours he made calls to chief congressional leaders, including Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell as well, to bring them up to speed about the details of this decision, a decision a source is telling my colleague Kevin Liptack, that was made a final decision that was made just over this past weekend. But as you know, Wolf, the president has been saying this for quite some time even from the campaign, that this is the worst deal in history. And he's been talking about potentially withdrawing. Now we are finding out, Wolf, that he will be making that announcement -- expected to make the announcement of a withdrawal just moments from now from the diplomatic room. Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We are standing by for the announcement. Pamela will get back to you. I want to head over to Michelle Kosinski our senior diplomatic correspondent over at the State Department right now. How are U.S. allies, Britain, France, Germany, reacting to this pending announcement?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there has been a growing sense of pessimism over this over the last several weeks as more and more top European leaders and diplomats have come here to Washington to try for a last-ditch effort to keep the U.S. in the deal. Today, now that the writing is fully on the wall what's going to happen here -- we don't know every detail, but they fully expect that Trump is going to only waive some sanctions or not waive any of them or have some sort of plan that is at the very least going to have the U.S. in violation of the Iran nuclear deal and start to collapse it.
We are hearing words from them like they are frustrated. They are disappointed. That this is a disaster. Because for months now they have been working with the U.S. to address all of the U.S.'s concerns. And they have the same concerns. They just felt like the best way to go here is to keep the existing deal and then work up something separate but alongside the nuclear deal to address Iran's ballistic missile program, to address Iran's influence throughout the region, but keep the framework of the deal intact.
It became clear, especially over the last couple of days in the final conversations they have been having with the White House and the State Department that the Trump administration just doesn't want to keep the deal. They are not fully understanding exactly why. Today, European diplomats tell us they see what's going to happen here. And they are waiting to hear why. They are waiting to hear how this plan advances regional and international security, how this will strengthen non- proliferation. Listen to this quote from a senior European diplomat who was talking about dealing with the State Department today leading up to this decision saying, that what they found was the deafening sound of U.S. diplomats running for cover, unable to explain to allies and partners why this is happening. Still less, what happens next? That's what we've heard repeatedly from these Europeans who have been involved in the discussions. This don't feel inside a solid plan B that actually advances the goals that the U.S. wants. Wolf?
BLITZER: Michelle Kosinski over at the State Department thanks very much. Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is also watching that developments. Moments from now, we expect the president of the United States to announce the first steps for the U.S. to begin withdrawing from this nuclear arrangement.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN OUR CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just what I have heard our correspondents report just now, Michelle talking about what will happen next -- I mean, inside no plan b. Not a single person has a plan b in place at all. Not the president. Not his national security operatives. Not Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is no plan B. So, the question is what happens when all eyes are off Iran's nuclear program right now? What happens if Iran pulls out of the deal? What happens if the hardliners in Iran decide to pull out of the whole nuclear non-proliferation treaty, the NPT. What happens if there is literally no way to see what they are doing? That's one thing.
The other thing is, if what Pamela Brown read out as part of what sources are telling her is going to be part of thee statement, there was apparently president Trump going to say that he believes Iran is continuing its nuclear weapons program. There is nobody in the constellation that believes that Iran is doing that. Not the IAEA. Not the Europeans, not Russians, not the Chinese. Most of the United States' political experts don't think that either. Iran, as everybody knew, and of course Prime Minister Netanyahu who did that famous show and tell, did have some kind of feasibility studies and others about nuclear weapons that allegedly ended in 2003.
[14:05:00] That was the whole show and tell last week. If President Trump actually says that today, that's a dramatic departure even for pulling out of the nuclear deal. And then of course, you know, he's called it an insane deal. He wants all these other things put in it. That was never ever going to happen. Everybody knows that. If the whole world was told that the chief existential threat to global security was the Iran nuclear weapons program, well, the deal made sure that was not a threat any longer. So, pulling out of the deal without a plan B, as many have said, puts the United States back on the path towards war, as we saw before this deal was signed. The United States, Israel, everybody talking about a military intervention in Iran. That is a very, very troubling development for the United States and for the rest of the world. You only have to look at the disaster of what happened in Iraq in
pursuit of a lie about weapons of mass destruction there. So, it is very, very important what's about to happen right now. And we don't know. Will Iran try to stay in? Will the Europeans try to stay in with them? If America reimposes sanctions there isn't much Iran can do, or the Europeans.
BLITZER: Yes, China and Russia are part of the agreement that was signed in 2015 as well. We'll see what they do as a result of the president's announcement. Christiane, we will get back to you immediately following the president's words. We are standing by to hear directly from the president. Jim Sciutto, in this excerpt we got the president will add today we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. But that goes against what Dan Coats the director of National Intelligence, what Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, now the secretary of state have both said in recent weeks, that Iran is in compliance with the agreement.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: In fact, it's not clear what that definitive proof is. But as you say, Wolf, you have multiple senior Trump appointed in the last six weeks saying that based on the terms of this agreement Iran was in compliance. Have a listen to two of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ANGUS KING, (I), MAINE: Is it the judgment of the intelligence community that Iran has thus far adhered to the deal's major provisions?
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Yes. The judgment is there has been no material breach of the agreement.
KING: Do you have any evidence to dispute the IAEA assessment that Iran is in full compliance with the JCPOA?
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Senator with the information that I have been provided, I have no -- I have seen no evidence that they are not in compliance today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: This actually raises an interesting scenario, which is that if Iran is compliant with the agreement under the terms of the agreement -- you can criticize the agreement, but if Iran is in compliance of the agreement as negotiated, by withdrawing today the country that is non-compliant is actually the U.S.
BLITZER: Gloria, that is fair point to make. And I wonder how the president is going to respond to that?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't think he's going to respond to that. He is going to say it is a bad deal, we shouldn't have gotten into it. Now we are getting out of it. That this is -- I'm doing more to protect the country from Iran. And he is going to continue to say they are not in compliance. I think that's his only and best argument. Maybe he will use Bibi Netanyahu's power point presentation that he made the other day. But I think this is a president who was talked to -- there was an intervention by our European allies made one by one by one, led by Macron of France. But then from everyone else, Germany, Great Britain, saying please do not do this. They are in compliance. This will be worse if you get out. And he just -- he just didn't listen. You know, I think there is a big question now about sanctions, right? We have to see what the president says about what he is going to do about imposing sanctions and whether that would be effective at all.
BLITZER: But you remember throughout the campaign he said I'm going to get out of this agreement. This is a horrible agreement. I hate this agreement. Worst agreement ever. It is a disaster.
BLITZER: Insane. Should we really be surprised if he is now going to begin the formal process of withdrawing from the agreement?
[14:10:00] DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not at all. This is a campaign promise kept if he does go ahead and effectively withdraw from this agreement. However, if he makes the argument for withdrawal by saying it's because Iran isn't complying, that really doesn't make sense given what Jim just showed us from his own top officials who are supposed to be looking into that. What would make sense for him to argue is that never mind complying with the agreement, it's that the agreement itself is bad, dh we have heard from him, and from many other Republicans.
And let's be honest, some Democrats who at the time were looking into that. What would make sense for him to argue is that never mind complying with the agreement, it's that the agreement itself is bad, dh we have heard from him, and from many other Republicans. And let's be honest, some Democrats who at the time were furious about the Obama administration because they thought it was a mistake to do this, for lots of reasons. That it sunsets. That it doesn't deal with Iran's ballistic missile program. And its meddling in other countries. Those are the things that the Trump administration and the president and even before as a candidate argued --
BLITZER: Hold on a second. David, we are only a minute or so away from the president. Go ahead.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think there is big point here beyond campaign promises. This is -- this president signaling to the rest of the world how he intends to position America against some of the big global challenges. And it is a different point of view. It is a more militaristic, a more muscular foreign policy, national security policy that is about creating distance from allies, being more of a leader and telling them you are going to have to follow whether you like it or not. If the goal is to keep Iran nuke-free this agreement had at least forestalled that. But they have been a bad and dangerous actor in the region threatening our ally Israel today, and there has been a lot of cash that's been pumped into that country because this agreement that Iran has used for really bad purposes. I think everybody has to acknowledge, this is a tough issue.
And the president is going to break a lot of china here in doing this. But it's going -- he is going to force everyone to reconsider what is the right way to move forward. It's not clear that he sees a path to fixing it or that there is any real thinking about what replaces it, what comes next. We are going to have to watch and wait.
TONY BLINKEN, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE WHEN IRAN DEAL REACHED IN 2015: But now the president would be re-imposing sanctions on Iran for the one thing they are not doing. They are in compliance. This is the one thing they are getting right. Everything else is a problem. Why he is doing that makes no sense. Look let's be clear about what is about to happen. The president is about to put us on a collision course with Iran and our allies. He is going to give the hardliners in Iran an excuse to speed towards a nuclear weapon and without an international coalition to oppose them and without inspectors to expose them. Or if Iran and Europe stick with the deal he is going to force us to sanction our own allies to stop them from doing business with Iran. Either way, we lose.
DAVID URBAN, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: I agree with Dana's earlier point. This isn't about the technical terms of the agreement. This is about this was a bad agreement from the get-go. The president sees the IRGC is not being dealt with. Hezbollah and Hamas wreaking havoc all over the world, fighting a proxy war in Yemen, killing 241 Marines in Lebanon in 1983. They are bad actors. The missile program has not been dealt with. Nothing to curtail out whatsoever. Thank that's what's on the table here. Not the underlying technical aspects.
BLITZER: Jason Rezaian. you have unique perspective on all of this. You are our newest CNN global analyst. You are write for "The Washington Post." You spent 18 months in an Iranian prison. How do you see this?
JASON REZAIAN, CNN GLOBAL ANALYST: Thanks for having me on, I'm happy to be here to discuss this issue. I think that --
BLITZER: Hold on. Jason, we'll get your thoughts right after the president of the United States.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, today I want to update the world on our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror. It exports dangerous rouse missiles, fuels conflicts across the middle east and supports terrorist proxies and militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda. Over the years, Iran and its proxies have bombed American embassies and military installations, murdered hundreds of American service members, and kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured American citizens. The Iranian regime has funded its long reign of chaos and terror by plundering the wealth of its own people. No action taken by the regime has been more dangerous that its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. In 2015, the previous administration joined with other nations in a deal regarding Iran's nuclear program. This agreement was known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
[14:15:00] In theory, the so-called Iran deal was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the lunacy of an Iranian nuclear bomb, a weapon that will only endanger the survival of the Iranian regime. In fact, the deal allowed Iraq to continue enriching uranium, and over time, reach the brink of a nuclear breakout. The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for very weak limits on the regime's nuclear activity, and no limits at all on its other maligned behavior, including its sinister activities in Syria, Yemen, and other places all around the world.
In other words, at the point when the United States had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime -- and it's a regime of great terror -- many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash. A great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States. A constructive deal could easily have been struck at the time. But it wasn't. At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program. Today we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. Last week, Israel published intelligence documents long concealed by Iran conclusively showing the Iranian's regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons. The fact is, this is a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never ever been made. It didn't bring calm. It didn't bring peace. And it never will. In the years since the deal was reached, Iran's military budge has grown by almost 40 percent and its economy is doing very badly.
After the sanctions were lifted the dictatorship used its new fund to build nuclear-capable missiles, support terrorism, and cause havoc throughout the middle east and beyond. The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. The deal's sunset provisions are totally unacceptable. If I allowed this deal to stand there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Everyone would want their weapons ready by the time Iran had theirs.
Making matters worse, the deal's inspection provisions lack adequate mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating and don't even have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations, including military facilities. Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime's development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear war heads. Finally, the deal does nothing to constrain Iran's destabilizing activities, including its support for terrorism. Since the agreement, Iran's bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen. In light of these glaring flaws, announced last October that the Iran deal must either be renegotiated or terminated. Three months later, on January 12th, I repeated these conditions. I made clear that if the deal could not be fixed, the United States would no longer be a party to the agreement.
[14:20:00] Over the past few months, we have engaged extensively with our allies and partners around the world, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. We have also consulted with our friends from across the Middle East. We are unified in our understanding of the threat and in our conviction that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon. After these consultations, it is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement.
The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world's leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world's most dangerous weapons. Exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world's leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world's most dangerous weapons. Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. In a few moments, I will sign a presidential memorandum to begin reinstating U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime. We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.
America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. And we will not allow a regime that chants "death to America" to gain access to the most deadly weapons on earth. Today's action sends a critical message. The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them. In fact, at this very moment, Secretary Pompeo is on his way to North Korea in preparation for my upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un. Plans are being made, relationships are building. Hopefully, a deal will happen. And with the help of China, South Korea, and Japan, a future of great prosperity and security can be achieved for everyone.
As we exit the Iran deal, we will be working with our allies to find a real, comprehensive, and lasting solution to the Iranian nuclear threat. This will include efforts to eliminate the threat of Iran's ballistic missile program, to stop its terrorist activities worldwide, and to block its menacing activity across the Middle East. In the meantime, powerful sanctions also go into full effect. If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before. Finally, I want to deliver a message to the long-suffering people of Iran. The people of America stand with you. It has now been almost 40 years since this dictatorship seized power and took a proud nation hostage.
Most of Iran's 80 million citizens have sadly never known an Iran that prospered in peace with its neighbors and commanded the admiration of the world. But the future of Iran belongs to its people. They are the rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land. And they deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history, and glory to god. Iran's leaders will naturally say that they refuse to negotiate a new deal. They refuse. And that's fine. I'd probably say the same thing if I was in their position. But the fact is, they are going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people.
[14:25:00] When they do, I am ready, willing, and able. Great things can happen for Iran. And great things can happen for the peace and stability that we all want in the Middle East. There has been enough suffering, death, and destruction. Let it end now. Thank you. God bless you. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, how does this make America safer? How does this make America safer?
TRUMP: Thank you very much. This will make America much safer. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Secretary Pompeo bringing the detainees home?
TRUMP: Secretary Pompeo is right now going to North Korea. He will be there very shortly in a matter of virtually probably an hour. He has meetings set up. We have our meeting schedule. We have our meeting set. The location is picked. The time and date. Everything is picked. And we look forward to having a very great success. We think relationships are building with North Korea. We will see how it all works out. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. But it can be a great thing for North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and the entire world. We hope it all works out. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are the Americans being freed?
TRUMP: We will all soon be finding out. We will soon be finding out. It would be a great thing if they are. We will soon be finding out. Thank you very much.
BLITZER: There you have it. Two fronts, North Korea and Iran on that last front, North Korea, the president making some news that Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, is on his way to North Korea. The president saying, he should be there within an hour or so. That is news. The president also saying, we will find out very soon whether the three American prisoners in North Korea will be freed. He says everything is set now for his meeting with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. The time and the place. He hasn't released those details, but he says that is -- that is going forward.
On the Iran nuclear deal, with that signature that you just saw from the president, the United States is now withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, re-imposing the toughest sanctions possible, the president says, and if any nation helps Iran in its nuclear program, sanctions will be imposed by the United States against those nations as well. Jim Sciutto, Christian Amanpour, all of our team is here right now. Let's go to Christiane first. Your thoughts?
AMANPOUR: I was struck by John Bolton standing at the door as you saw President Trump exit. Look, this is the regime change crew. They are back in town. They are ascended. It sounds very much like that is what president Trump is hoping for, they can squeeze and squeeze and squeeze until the regime he described collapsed. They tried it many decades and it hasn't actually worked. I think also he said things like, you know, we will not allow American cities to be threatened. That's not Iran's missile program. That's actually North Korea's missile program that can reach the United States. And he said things like we are united with our allies. Well, that is
clearly not the case around this deal. Of course, everybody would rather see a better, bigger, and more comprehensive deal. But the allies had ideas of trying to do add-ons or the like. It was never going to be possible at the time that they negotiated that deal. Finally, I think to the questions by the reporters that were hurled at the president as he went out, how does this make America safer? It is incredibly difficult to try to fathom that sitting from here. All those things that he laid out about the danger of Iran, about his regional ambitions about supporting terrorism and the like, how does pulling out of one deal that constrains -- and it does, no matter what the president says -- the deal constrains Iran's nuclear program.
[14:30:00] So how does pulling out of it make you safe while you are trying to deal with all the other thing when you have no plan B? It's very important also to remember that it was George W. Bush along with his regime change crew that decided to ditch the Clinton administration's deal with North Korea in the early 2000s. What did that do? They pulled out of the NPT. They kicked out the IAEA inspectors. And now they are conducting nuclear blackmail because they actually do have nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. That is what the president has opened the door to now. Whether Iran decides to stay in the deal, whether Europeans can make it work but that is the worst-case scenario that it's back to military confrontation. How else do you work this out?
BLITZER: The president warning the Iranians if they were to take those steps and begin that nuclear program, engage in ballistic missiles, they will suffer like few nations have suffered in the past. He made that direct threat to the Iranians. Jim Sciutto, you have been covering this for a long time as well. Your thoughts?
SCIUTTO: The president, of the many remarkable things he said during that ten-minute speech he said something about what Iran is up to regarding its nuclear program right now. He used the present tense to say that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons today. To be clear that was not included in the global threats assessment as delivered to Congress by the president's appointed director of National Intelligence, as per my own reporting speaking with intelligence officials in the last couple of days the Israeli intelligence he referenced there did not change the U.S. assessment and in fact that intelligence existed a number of weeks ago. If the president is privy to new intelligence that contradicts the already public U.S. \threat assessment about Iran's nuclear program, then he owes the American people an explanation as to what that new intelligence is. And in fact, the relevant committees in Congress, intelligence committees, Senate armed services committee need to call back the director of National Intelligence Dan Coats --