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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Republican Bigotry on the Ballot?; Trump Targets Allies at NATO Meeting. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired July 11, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: How is that NATO summit in Brussels? Well, one European diplomat told us it's the world gone crazy.
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Trump lashing out at the NATO summit, insulting Germany and calling our NATO allies delinquent. That will teach our friends.
Plus, breaking this hour, with just days until President Trump's face- to-face with Vladimir Putin, terrifying new information that the Kremlin may actually have access to millions of Americans' most personal data. We will bring you the scoop.
Plus, a Holocaust denier, a self-described white supremacist, bigotry on the ballot. How are Republican leaders in Washington dealing with some of their more hateful congressional nominees?
Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.
We're going to begin with the world lead today and a stunning turn of events at the NATO summit, with President Trump's suggesting today that NATO member countries should double their defense spending goal to 4 percent of their gross domestic product.
That's a goal which according to NATO's statistics the United States doesn't even meet. The president kicking off the annual summit at a breakfast with the NATO secretary-general, where the president served up a heaping helping of confrontation. Calling U.S. allies delinquent for not spending enough or their militaries and accusing Germany of being -- quote -- "a captive" of Russia because of its controversial gas pipeline from that country.
All of it rhetoric that alarmed both Republicans and the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: There are ways of communicating with your friends, and sometimes it feels like we punch our friends in the nose and hold our hand out to people that are working strongly against us like Russia and Putin. SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: For 17 years, NATO's allies and
their sons and daughters have fought alongside our sons and daughters, many of them losing their lives. I think the president forgets all of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Let's get right to CNN's Jeff Zeleny. He's live in Brussels, the site of the NATO summit.
Jeff, President Trump said something today that caught my ear. He said -- quote -- "Many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money from many years back" -- unquote.
I know he is pushing for other countries to spend more on defense, but I don't know of any money that any NATO member owes the United States. What is he talking about?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there is no IOU here. That's not how this works.
Of course, he is trying to single out perhaps, shame some of these member countries into paying more of their share of the GDP. But there is not a subscription-based fee and they don't owe the U.S. anything.
But you got the sense today that President Trump here in Brussels was talking to a domestic audience back home in the U.S., trying to take a tough, American-first stance, if you will. But here at NATO, here in Brussels, he singled out one longtime ally, Germany, in the most unusual of ways.
ZELENY (voice-over): President Trump standing alongside some of America's most loyal allies at the NATO summit tonight, but standing alone in his remarkable confrontation with Germany.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But Germany's totally controlled by Russia.
ZELENY: The president bluntly suggesting Germany is beholden to Russia because of a pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea. Germany is the biggest European market for Russian gas exports.
TRUMP: Germany, as far as I'm concerned, is captive to Russia because it's getting so much of its energy from Russia.
ZELENY: It's the latest example of how the Trump doctrine includes driving a wedge in the world order by upending democratic-led institutions in place since after World War II.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in Soviet-era communist Eastern Germany, said she didn't need a lecture on being captive to Russia. So, coming together later or a face-to-face meeting, their tensions
were clear, after a day of projection, deflection or misdirection, considering it's Trump's warm embrace of Russia's President Vladimir Putin that worries allies.
The president also scolding NATO leaders for failing to meet their commitment to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Only five of 29 nations hit that goal.
TRUMP: Many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back where they're delinquent.
ZELENY: Trump calling on NATO members to double their military spending to 4 percent and by the end the day even asking on Twitter, "What good is NATO?"
Still, Trump joined NATO leaders in signing a joint communique with sharp words for Putin. In part, the statement said: "Russia's challenging the rules-based international order by destabilizing Ukraine, violating international law and attempting to undermine our institutions and sow disunity."
Though such a statement is standard fare for summits, it was notable that Trump signed on, considering he rarely criticizes Russia and walked away from the G7 meeting last month in Canada without signing that communique.
Along with acrimony, plenty of smiles and hand shakes, too, as first lady Melania Trump accompanied the president on the first stop of a seven-day European tour.
TRUMP: Very good, beautiful.
ZELENY: Now, the president and the first lady are still at that dinner here in Brussels this evening meeting with those world leaders, Jake.
It will be fascinating to know what the dinner conversation actually was. Of course, Vladimir Putin is not here. Russia not a member of NATO, but he is looming large at this summit, Jake. Of course, their summit in Helsinki on Monday -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny in Brussels at the NATO summit for us, thanks so much.
And let's chat about this.
Susan Glasser, "New Yorker" staff writer and CNN's new global affairs analyst, welcome to CNN.
SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thanks.
TAPPER: We're excited to have you here.
Let's start with global affairs. One senior European diplomat telling CNN -- quote -- "It's like the world gone crazy this morning. Trump's performance was beyond belief."
NATO obviously long regarded as a stabilizing force in Europe for the last 70 years. How concerned are your sources about the president's commitment to NATO?
GLASSER: You know, look, this is one of those classic Trump moments. It's shocking, but not surprising.
It goes exactly back to Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric, where he called NATO obsolete. A year ago, remember, at the NATO meeting, is when he refused, he took out of his speech the rhetorical commitment, not even meant to be a significant part of the speech, just the boilerplate language saying we're committing to Article V on mutual defense.
Flash forward to this year. I don't think what Trump did this morning was an accident. I think he went there determined to poke his allies and to demand not only more spending, but to insult Germany while meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Are they shocked and worried? Yes. But have they been so already for the last 18 months? Yes. They knew that Trump was preparing something like this.
TAPPER: Yes. It was coming.
David Urban, let me ask you.
Obviously, Europeans, how they feel, that is one thing. Republicans on Capitol Hill, quite a number of them are distressed as well. I want you to take a listen to Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORKER: So without trying to tear down an alliance that's been important to the security of Americans.
QUESTION: Are you worried that that's happening? Tearing down an alliance?
CORKER: I do worry. It has been happening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Obviously, the point that NATO countries need to be paying more defense, that's something I think we all agree on and previous presidents have made the point, Obama, Bush. There should be this commitment. They should meet the commitment by 2024.
But here you have Bob Corker talking about how President Trump is tearing down an alliance.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Listen, so it's no surprise Senator Corker and this president have not
gotten along very well during his tenure. Senator Corker's not running for reelection because of I think he would probably lose in Tennessee, quite frankly, if he ran again for reelection.
And the president has not done anything to step away from Article V and mutual -- the president is there fighting for America, fighting to make sure that we get a fair share. The E.U. has roughly $150 billion trade surplus. Stack on top of that 28 member countries of NATO not paying their fair share, not even close to paying their fair share, but yet...
TAPPER: Well, 24.
URBAN: Poland and Estonia.
TAPPER: Well, U.K.
URBAN: Look, U.K., solid. But big countries, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, not close.
URBAN: So is it fair for folks in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, to sit back and say, geez, my kids don't get to go to school for free, college is free, we don't have universal health care? Everybody in Europe gets to benefit from on our backs. The president is there fighting for fairness. That's what he is.
TAPPER: But the big concern, obviously, Mike, is that the Article V, the attack on one is an attack on all. That's part of the NATO charter and part of the NATO deal.
It's only been invoked once. And that was after 9/11, after the United States was attacked. And the big concern is what happens if Russia goes into Latvia? What happens if Russia goes into Estonia? Take a listen to candidate Trump on the campaign trail in 2016 talking about that very thing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense. And if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: When you hear that, does that concern you?
MIKE ROGERS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes, except I really don't believe that Trump wants to pull out. I do believe that rudeness is just an imitation of strength. And when
you put your political opponent in a corner, they are going to bark a little bit, including Angela Merkel.
I just think he could have had these very conversations behind the scenes. He set it up perfectly. He is very aggressive on China. He's doing I think a lot of right decisions in China.
If we don't deal with China when they're an export economy, we never will them if they're a consumer economy. And so he set that up perfectly to go to Europe and say, listen, I'm dealing with this. I would love you on board, but you have to do these things. I need these things.
He didn't do that. I mean, this is more of a tactical problem for him I think than it is a substantive problem. Again, and you said it. There's not a secretary of state in the last 40 years that's not gone to Europe, hasn't gone to Brussels and said you have to spend more on your defense. It's too expensive for us to go it alone.
And it seemed as though the NATO secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, was trying to give President Trump a route where he could claim victory because these countries, not all of them, but some of them are increasing defense spending. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Why was that last year?
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: It's also because of your leadership, because there is a clear message.
TRUMP: They won't write that.
STOLTENBERG: No, I have said it before. And -- but the thing is that it really has -- your message is having an impact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So there we have it. He's saying your message is having an impact, because of your leadership, because of your clear message. Last year was the biggest increase in defensive spending across Europe and Canada in a generation.
Why not just take the W.?
NINA TURNER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He can't. He just can't.
It's not in his nature. And it's one thing to say that -- he raises a good point. Other presidents have raised that point. It's fine to raise the point, but it's how you do it. And to treat our allies like that, especially the chancellor in that way, and then to sit next to her and say everything is fine, we have a great relationship, when you just dogged her out basically in front of the entire world, is not the way do win people over. You don't win people over that way.
And his point, David, you're saying that he's saying to folks that live in this country, you don't get to send your children to college for free and get Medicare for all. We can change that. There's a group of us.
TURNER: The 2 percent is a guideline. It is a guideline.
URBAN: They should be paying more.
TURNER: Have that conversation. But you don't have to dog out the diplomats to have that conversation.
URBAN: The flip side is this. If they're our friends, they shouldn't put us in the position to have to dog them.
GLASSER: A little fact-check here, I think, is in order.
Actually, NATO with the U.S. participation agreed that they would reach this goal by 2024.
URBAN: I understand. Different president.
GLASSER: Same country. Same country.
GLASSER: It is 2024. OK?
TAPPER: Everyone, stick around.
We're going to ask the former top NATO commander if he agrees with President Trump's new proposal that countries should up their spending to 4 percent of GDP.
Plus, oh baby. Some Brits turning trolling into an art form as they prepare for President Trump 's visit. This isn't exactly rolling out the red carpet. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[16:16:20] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many countries owe us a tremendous amount of money for many years back, where they're delinquent, as far as I'm concerned, because the United States had to pay for them. So, if you go back 10 or 20 years, you just add it all up. It's massive amounts of money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: President Trump rankling some key European allies there, calling them delinquent, belittling Germany for using Russia natural gas, suggesting that all NATO countries should increase defense spending up to 4 percent of their GDP, a threshold not even the U.S. currently meets.
Joining me now is retired General Wesley Clark, who served as NATO supreme allied commander in Europe from 1997 to 2000.
General, thanks so much for joining us.
What are you hearing from U.S. allies and NATO officials today about how today went?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: Very, very concerned because the real question is, is President Trump really committed to the alliance? Will he provide the leadership that NATO's looking for, American leadership, as our presidents have done in the past to deter Soviet efforts or Russian efforts against our allies and friends in Europe?
Will he really stand tall? Will he commit the prestige and the power of the United States to supporting freedom and nations that share our interests and values? Or, will he simply try to wash his hands of it and make an argument of it as though it's some mercenary financial transaction? That's what our allies are concerned about and they're still concerned, especially when they consider that he's going to see Vladimir Putin. He says that's easy.
So he's cozy with our potential adversaries. He is tough on our friends and allies. It's not a good way to build team work.
TAPPER: Do you agree with these Europeans that you were speaking with that you wonder, as well, about President Trump's commitment to NATO?
CLARK: I think it is in doubt. I mean, although he's sort of been forced into this by the staff around him, by McMaster, by Kelly, by Mattis, by others over the last 18 months. Doesn't seem that he really understands what this is about.
For example, if you wanted to do something to deal with China's unfair trade practices, well, that's what NATO is about, because it builds the bonds with Europe and say, this is about security for all of us. We have to deal with the unfair trade practices before they're totally out of control but instead he picks a fight with everybody.
Now, that may be good campaign rhetoric but to try to do it all simultaneously going to get tangled up over his own feet, it's not going to go where it should go.
TAPPER: Previous administrations have expressed concern about this Russian pipeline into Germany. President Trump said today that Germany is, quote, captive of Russia because of this pipeline.
What was your response to that?
CLARK: Well, of course, it would be better if they weren't buying any gas at all from Russia. I would like them to buy liquefied natural gas from the United States myself. But each country has problems and processes and under way for a long time. For the president to say this that they're captive to Russia, it would be like somebody saying the United States is captive to China because they hold a lot of our treasury debt.
Now, we don't believe that we're captive to China. Germany certainly doesn't believe it's captive to Russia.
But to make that kind of incendiary comment, to make it in public, what he's actually doing is he's forcing Angela Merkel and the German public to come back against him.
[16:20:02] If that's what he wants, if he wants conflict, he's certainly got the right recipe for it. If he wants team work and cooperation, for common goals and common interests, he's gone about it the wrong way.
TAPPER: Now, the NATO secretary-general earlier today gave President Trump credit for leadership, message for the fact that there's been more defense spending, increased defense spending in Europe and Canada because the president has been pushing for the NATO allies to uphold their commitment to have defense spending 2 percent of the gross domestic product by 2024.
Does he deserve some credit for that? And what do you think of him saying that maybe it should be 4 percent?
CLARK: Well, I think there's a process for getting the allies to up their spending and, of course, when he comes in as in every case, the NATO allies do the best they can to get along with the new American president. So, he was pretty tough on them. He told them they should pay up and they've tried to do it.
Remember, it's 2024 and it was a guideline. It was not a legal commitment and it wasn't immediate. These countries all have their own domestic constituencies. They're elected political leaders, they're not in dictatorships like, let's say, Vladimir Putin where they can snap their fingers and change the budget priorities.
And so, we have to respect our allies. If you want them with us when the time's tough, when we have problems, you have to respect them when they're with us in peacetime and they may have some problems.
TAPPER: And, General, what is your biggest concern? Are you concerned that Russia invades Estonia and then President Trump refuses to honor Article 5, an attack one on is an attack on all? Is that your biggest concern here?
CLARK: No. That's a little too bold. It could happen but I'd say the odds of it at the present are quite low. I think it's more likely that what you'll see is continued Russian intimidation, a build-up of Russian forces, efforts to co-op, corrupt these governments in NATO, to get them to give up on their values. To take Russian investments and blandishments and to further demoralize the democratic spirit in Eastern Europe.
He could accomplish his goal through what we call hybrid warfare probably more successfully than an overt invasion. But you have to be prepared to handily overt invasion. You don't want to be weak and invite him to do that but we haven't taken the necessary measures yet to deal with what the Russians have in the way of real fake news, their propaganda, their intimidation, their agents, the way they handle their bot-nets and interfere in Western elections. We haven't even done that for the United States to handle that interference and every nation in Europe is worried about it in trying to deal with it.
So, I think to deal with it, you've got to have allied cohesion. Allied cohesion starts with American leadership. And I think that's what the allies are searching for in President Trump and they're worried because they don't see it.
TAPPER: NATO's created after World War II, of course, and meant to defend and protect Western values and interest. A lot has changed in almost 70 years, including the collapse of the Soviet Union. Is it time for NATO to be overhauled, perhaps re-evaluated?
CLARK: Well, we thought about that at the end of the Cold War. That was really the time to do it, when the Warsaw Pact disappeared and the Soviet Union broke up. But it turned out that there were other problems.
We had the problems of regional instability in the Balkans. We had the problem of nuclear proliferation. We had the problem of terrorism. And we had the nagging concern of what if Russia comes back again?
I remember being in Bulgaria in late 1997 as the NATO commander and the foreign minister telling me, said, right now, she said, Russia is weak but some day, Russia will be strong again. They'll be back here. They'll be trying to take us over and before then, Bulgaria must be in NATO.
And so, the United States heeded the concerns of our friends in Europe who are trying to build viable democracies and we provided them the security umbrella or the security foundation through their membership in NATO to do this. They need it more than ever because, in fact, Russia is coming back. Putin wants his countries back, Bulgaria, Romania, the Baltic States.
They traditionally considered these their countries and so, they don't like the fact that the countries have their own governments, their own outlook, their own policies. And they want to emulate the West and our values rather than be subservient to Russia. TAPPER: General, I want you to take a listen to the U.S. ambassador
to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, discussing President Trump's upcoming summit with Vladimir Putin this coming Monday. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[16:25:00] KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Coming from this summit which is allied, is strong and is going to increase our deterrent capabilities, that is going to I think put President Trump in a very strong position with President Putin and I think he will be tough with President Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you think that President Trump will be tough on Putin?
CLARK: Well, I do think that having a strong communique and taking the other measures that NATO's called for today will help in dealing with President Putin. But who knows what's going to really happen one on one in there?
What will be said if President Trump says, look, President Putin, stop denying it, I know you interfered in the election, and President Putin says to him, look, you asked me to, you asked for help in the e-mails in front of the American public? And I mean, what kind of dialogue is that? And what does it mean for the future of the alliance?
So I think our allied leaders may not come out and say this. They don't want to undercut the alliance. They're going to try to put the best face on everything. But I think as people, as Americans, we have a possibility for leadership and I hope the president will really uphold that when he meets one on one with Vladimir Putin.
TAPPER: General Wesley Clark, thanks so much for your time, sir. Appreciate it.
CLARK: Thank you.
TAPPER: President Trump's European tour is obviously off to a combative start but if he's expecting a warm welcome from the British on his next stop -- well, I've got bad news. British attempts to troll Trump on. Activists got the OK from London's mayor to fly this giant baby blimp version of President Trump over the city during his visit and the mayor of Sheffield, though, not expecting a visit from President Trump, banned him anyway, donning a sombrero in this tweet, and citing President Trump's immigration policies as part of his reasoning.
And then, of course, there's the social media campaign to try to propel this song --
TAPPER: Green Day's "American Idiot" to the top of the U.K. charts. It currently sits at number 18. Got to try harder that, Britain.
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