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President Trump Expected to Pull Out of Iran Nuclear Deal; Interview With Rep. Chris Stewart. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired May 8, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is some of the President's other lawyers, also aren't pleased with this. I think that is perhaps the more interesting thing here. Is this a wise strategy to have (ph) with Giuliani out front so often.
I don't think we'll see him as much in the spot light as we have over the last several days. But he serves at the pleasure of the President. The President, as we've seen in many examples, he can be irritated, and not pleased.
But he can still work for him. So I think he's not on think ice per say of getting his job taken from him. But I don't think we'll see him out there quite as much.
WOLF BLIZTER, CNN ANCHOR: So next necessarily learned another Anthony Scaramucci, who was on the job for - what? Ten, 11, or 12 days?
LAUREN BURKE, WRITER, NATIONAL NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION: Right. Ten days, right. I mean the bigger problem of course is that it doesn't appear to actually be a strategy, other than Rudy Giuliani talking on the air to anchors, and getting questions that he can't answer.
And there's sort of this collision of ego, arrogance, and ignorance about the issue of campaign finance, which he seems to know nothing about. So just like in the medical profession, where we have do no harm, obviously in the legal profession it should apply here too. And he seems to be of course harming his client, which is not - I think it's safe to say that had he stayed off of TV, Donald Trump would have had a better result.
And so, it's just - it's not acceptable to have a situation where Sarah Sanders has no idea what the strategy is, and has to go out and face the press everyday. And sort of being standing there, not even knowing - even if he can't answer specifically, not just being aware of the strategies. So this - this thus far has been a disaster.
BLITZER: And Molly, amidst all of this, you heard Pamela Brown's reporting on Scott Pruitt, the EPA Chief that he may be on very, very thin ice right now. The President may be turning against him.
MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we've heard that the White House is - is becoming cooler to him. And it had been - the whole White House had been pretty much standing behind throughout this endless stream of controversies to this point. But everything just depends on Trump's mood, and Trump's whim. It's all down to one man.
And so, we've heard for months and months that Tillerson wasn't - wasn't doing OK, but it - he didn't go until Trump decided it was time. We've heard for almost a year I think that John Kelly is on thin ice with the President. He's still there until one day Trump wakes up and decides that it's time.
So for now with Scott Pruitt, yes, you know maybe he's being hung out to dry a little bit. Maybe he's going to be there for six more months. I really don't think we'll know until we get that tweet.
BLITZER: And there are other examples, including Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General. He's still the Attorney General of the United States right now.
BALL: Still there.
BLIZTER: All right, guys. Thanks very, very much. Pressure is mounting on Jeff Sessions by the way as House Republicans push to hold the Attorney General of the United States in contempt. We'll explain.
And all eyes on the White House right now where President Trump will announce whether the United States will pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal. I'll speak with Republican Congressman, Chris Stewart. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
We'll talk about the implications of this decision. There you see him. He's up in Congress. We'll discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: We're now just a few minutes away from President Trump's announcement on the Iran Nuclear Deal and it's just in sources telling CNN that the Vice President Mike Pence has been briefing leaders up on Capitol Hill also suggesting that the President will announce a withdraw from the 2015 deal.
Joining us now from Capitol Hill is Utah congress man Chris Stewart. He's a Republican. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Have you been briefed already on this deal? Do you know flatly what the President will announce?
REP. CHRIS STEWART, R-UT.: You know I don't. Now maybe Speaker Ryan or others do but I haven't spoken to the Vice President. Although, I --I agree with you. I think indications are that they probably going to announce they're going to withdraw.
BLITZER: As you know, what the President says this agreement is awful. This deal that was worked out during the Obama administration deeply flawed. You have serious problems with this as well.
But do you support a decision to re-impose sanctions on Iran right now which for all practical purposes would end U.S. support for this agreement worked out with the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council in Germany?
STEWART: Yes, you know I -- I've always supported that we should reimpose sanctions. I've always said that this agreement is fatally flawed. And I think both the best indication of the flaws of this agreement was that President Obama wouldn't bring it before the Senate as a treaty, because he knew that the Senate would reject it.
If he brought it as a treaty, we're required 2/3 vote. And we have to just reflect on that a moment. If he'd been willing to follow what really was custom in the Constitution, if you have a treaty like this we would have negotiated an agreement that many of us could have supported.
But as it is we're left with this agreement that many of us have considered deeply flawed. It -- it's allowed for Iran to expand their power and influence in the region ph). It's freed up billions of dollars for them. I think it's time to start over.
But I do hope the President will start over. I think it's very important that we engage with Iran now and -- and our allies as well and try to craft an agreement that will actually bring us long term security.
BLITZER: The -- but -- but everyone agrees the international atomic energy agency, the allies, even Mike Pompeo the former CIA Director, now the Secretary of State, Dan Coats the Director of National Intelligence that Iran is complying with this nuclear agreement. They have not violated the terms to the agreement. So why go ahead and withdraw from them?
STEWART: Yes, because it's the terms of the agreement -- you're right. And Mike is a good friend of mine. A man that I have tremendous respect for. We were on Intel Committee while this was being negotiated and then while it was being implemented but we shared the same concerns.
And that is you can claim to be in -- not in violation of the agreement and still have the agreement be flawed. And that is if we're unable to inspect certain critical facilities for example. Well, because we can't inspect those facilities we don't know if they're in agreement on those -- on those very critical elements.
So once again we say we're in agreement but we don't know what's going on over here. And that's one of the primary disagreements I have with this -- with this agreement with -- with Iran and our allies is it didn't allow for the inspections that we truly needed and then like I said earlier, Wolf, and that is the freeing of up of billions of dollars which Iran is using to fight in Yemen, they're using to fight in Syria, they're causing, you know, just danger and darkness and death everywhere that they have their footprint.
And if we allow them to have that access to those funds, without having a verifiable process to know that they're actually complying with not building nuclear weapons. BLITZER: Yes. But they were doing - whether in Yemen or Syria or Iraq, or elsewhere was not part of the 2015 nuclear deal, those were separate issues. Why should other countries, for example, North Korea right now -- as you know the president is getting ready to meet with Kim Jung-un, why should they want to negotiate an agreement with the United States knowing that even if they stick to the strict terms of agreement, the U.S. could one day just announce they're withdrawing it from the agreement throwing it out.
STEWART: Yes look, that's a great point but it's my first point - and if you will you've made my argument for me and that is, we didn't go though a normal treaty process with this Iranian agreement. It wasn't something that would have passed the Senate, and if we had negotiated something that would have passed the Senate, it wouldn't be on this thin ice right now.
So now shifting to North Korea, which is your point - I think that North Korea leaders, Kim Jung-un and others in the region hopefully they'll look at that and think we have to negotiate a treaty that the US senate and the house will approve of, and if we do that then we'll have a lasting agreement they won't have to worry about this being changed by the next president who may come in with a different view. If we have a treaty in place then that will be much more stable, and much more long-standing.
BLITZER: But why not keep the current agreement and then work with Britain, and France, and Germany, and Russia and China, for that matter,they were all part of the original deal - to improve the agreement down the road, but keep the existing agreement in place.
STEWART: Yeah, look Wolf, I have asked that question sincerely myself, my starting point was can we keep the agreement, can we tweak it if necessary? Work with our allies and improve it to our satisfaction. And after looking at that over the last few years I've just concluded that we can't, it's much better to start over, to engage Iran. Once again I hope the president engages Iran tomorrow - or even this afternoon and says, let's start again. I hope he engages our allies and says let's start again.
But in my view, and we'll see if it's the president's view, again this was just fundamentally the foundation of this was so flawed it really required a start over rather than just tweaking the edges.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to what the former secretary of state, John Kerry, has been doing - in then in private as you know at the U.N. with Javad Zarif the Foreign Minister of Iran. He's been going after the criticism of the deal, he was one of the chief negotiators as you well know.
He wants the president to stay in the agreement, the president though is going after Kerry big time - he tweeted, "John Kerry can't get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it." What's your reaction to Kerry getting involved in all of this right now, the way he is?
STEWART: Yeah, you know what, I don't think it was helpful. I think honestly it probably backfired. If you wanted to persuade the president, then go talk with the president. I think it puts him up, you know -- and we know this president reacts this way, you know - he'll dig his feet in. If you've put him in a corner, he'll fight back.
And I think he feels like -- and I'm just speculating, but I think I would understand if he felt this way, Mr. Kerry is going against the U.S. policy, and against U.S. administration time (ph) - and I think that makes him less likely to stay in agreement, rather than more likely. And I also have to say, I think it's inappropriate for a former secretary of state to be engaged like this. We've never seen another former secretary do that, Condoleezza Rice certainly didn't, although she disagreed with the administration that followed her. And neither have any others that I'm aware of and again, I just don't think it was helpful. If he wanted the U.S. to stay in the agreement, I think this is the last thing in the world he should have done.
WOLF: Understood, Congressman Chris Stewart thanks so much for joining us.
STEWART: Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: The world is watching and waiting for President Trump to officially announce his decision on the Iran nuclear deal we have reporters fanned out across the globe with international reaction, we'll check in with them. Also stay with CNN, we'll have live coverage of the president's announcement that's set to happen right at the top of the hour.
BLITZER: We're now only a few moments away from President Trump's official announcement from the White House and the fate of the Iran Nuclear Deal. We're covering all angles from around the world, starting with CNN's Amir Daftari in Tehran. Amir, Iran's leaders have told the United States, flat out, that stepping away from this agreement would be a huge mistake. What's the latest over there?
AMIR DAFTARI, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: That's right, Wolf, Iranian officials, both for and against the nuclear deal, warning of severe consequences if indeed the U.S. walks away from the JCPOA.
Now, no real details on what those severe consequences may be though. At the same time they're reassuring Iranian's at home, that Iran will be fine even without it. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani saying that Iran has played by the rules, and that it will push forward no matter what difficulties there are. All right (ph), Iran will be OK. Wolf?
BLITZER: Amir Daftari in Tehran, thank you. Oren Liebermann is in Jerusalem for us. Oren, as you know, the Israeli Government, the prime minister, specifically, been very strong advocates of pulling out of this deal. What's the latest over there?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launching, essentially, an all out campaign in the last few days, last few hours even, criticizing the deal and essentially trying to force a nixing of the deal, in his words. A U.S. pull out of the deal and this critical from Netanyahu's perspective, a re-imposition of sanctions.
Netanyahu wants to see the toughest, hardest, most economically punishing sanctions form the U.S., and that would be what he'd like to see come out of Trump's decision. Either way, Netanyahu said they will welcome whatever decision comes out of this, but it's clear that Netanyahu, at this point, is pushing for a "nix the deal" strategy.
BLITZER: Oren Liebermann, thank you. The French President, Emmanuel Macron, he has been aggressively lobbying President Trump to stay in the deal. Phil Black is joining us from Paris right now. Phil, what are you hearing?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, well, if we know (ph) that Presidents Macron and Trump spoke by phone earlier today, and it logical to think that Emmanuel Macron knows Donald Trump's latest thinking on this issue because the two have spoken at length in recent weeks, and (inaudible) Emmanuel Macron has led, publically, the European effort to keep this deal alive and he's put it all on the line.
He's invested his international reputation. He has used his -- his domestic political capital, and he's tried to take maximum advantage of his very warm personal rapport with Donald Trump. We saw that during his recent visit. Despite all of that, President Macron has previously predicted that he has failed and ultimately, he believes Trump will withdraw from the deal.
And more than that, he's talked about what he fears it could mean for the region and the world. He fears it could lead to war. Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil Black. Thanks very much for that. German leaders, meanwhile, they have also been quietly trying to pressure President Trump to keep the deal intact. Atika Shubert is joining us from Berlin right now. What's the latest there, Atika?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, a following up from what President Macron did. Chancellor Angela Merkel, here in Germany flew to D.C. again to drive home the point that Germany believes in the Iran deal, that it has to be kept intact, and Germany has made it very clear that no matter what President Trump says today, Germany believes this deal needs to be kept in place and it will work to make sure it does.
BLITZER: Atika, thank you. Thanks to all of our reporters. We're going to be checking back with you to get reaction after we hear from the president. Any minute now the president will announce his decision. Stay with us, we'll have live coverage.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News. BLITZER: Hello. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I want to welcome our viewers here in the Untied States and around the world. This is CNN's Special Live Coverage of the most impactful, and far reaching foreign policy decision of the Trump Presidency so far.
We're talking about the future of the Iran Nuclear Deal. In only moments, the President will announce from the diplomatic room over at the White House whether the United States will pull-out of the Obama Era agreement. It aims to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
If President Trump rejects extending the deal, it would unravel several years of negotiations between Iran and the world's major powers, including Russia and China. And to the Iranians, the U.S. exit would leave, quote, "No deal left," and according to the Iranians would be a historic mistake.
Still, sources say, President Trump is expected to push ahead on sanctions against Iran, re-imposing those sanctions, and that would be a first step toward pulling out of the actual agreement. And in an administration caught up in confusion and contradiction, President Trump has consistently condemned this Iran Nuclear Deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iran Deal, which may be the single worst deal I've ever seen drawn by anybody.
One of the worst and most one-sided transactions.
It's a bad deal. It's a bad structure. It's falling down. Should have never ever been made.
What kind of a deal is it where you're allowed to test missiles all over the place?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: As we await the major announcement, we have a story covered only as CNN can do, with our correspondents here in the United States and around the world. I'm going to start over at the White House.
Pamela Brown is standing by, our Senior White House Correspondent. Pamela, you're learning more signs - behind the scenes at least right now, that - that indicate the President will in fact exit the agreement?
PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. President Trump is poised to announce a withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal. And he is expected to make the case in the Diplomatic Room in just moments from now, that Iran has continued with its Nuclear Weapons Program. And we just received an excerpt of his prepared remarks, Wolf, here is what the President is expected to say.
"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 Iran to continue enriching uranium and over time, reach the brink of a nuclear black out."
The President will add, "Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie." But Wolf, it is important to point out though that the President's chief intelligence officials have said publically, as recent as a couple of months ago that Iran has not been in breach of the deal. In fact, the Director of National Intelligence said, quote, "there has been no material breach of the deal," when he was testifying before Congress.
And his new Secretary of State, Pompeo, has also said that there was no evidence that Iran has not been in compliance. So certainly the devil is in the details of what the President will lay out from the Diplomatic room in making his case that - despite what his chief intelligence officials have been saying, that there is evidence that Iran has been moving forward with it's 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 -