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CNN NEWSROOM

Stoltenberg on NATO Meeting; Strzok Testifies on Capitol Hill; Trump Calls Russian Meeting a Loose Meeting; Asylum Seekers to be Turned Away; Reuniting Children With their Parents. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired July 12, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Europe, but is also the platform that the United States has used to project power into the Middle East or Africa. They use Africa Command is in Europe. So Europe is important also beyond the U.S. presence of military forces in Europe is important also to address crisis far beyond Europe.

Then there are forces, infrastructure, bases, intelligence in Europe, which also help to protect the United States.

So we are together and as long as we are together we are safe and secure. NATO allies together represent half of the world's military might and half of the world's economic might. So as long as we are together, we are able to deal with any potential threat and challenge.

CHRISTINE AMANPOUR, CNN: Secretary General, thank you so much.

Just one last one before I go.

Can you just give me a yes or no, have NATO allies agreed to a 4 percent share of their GDP for military spending? Have they agreed to up it from 2 percent to 4 percent?

STOLTENBERG: We have agreed to make good on the commitments we have made, meaning increasing defense spending substantially. And there's a new sense of urgency and new money is coming in just since Trump was here last time. More than 40 billion has come in from European allies (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: Thank you so much for joining us from Brussels, NATO headquarters, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

STOLTENBERG: Thank you.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Christiane, you're with me.

The dogged reporter that you are, a valiant effort to get a yes or no answer. Good for you. you didn't get a yes or no answer, but let's dive into this first because Emmanuel Macron, during your interview, has just come out talking about the president's claim that they would get this increase in spending because of what the president said to these NATO members. Emmanuel Macron says, quote, the communique is clear, it reaffirms a commitment to 2 percent in 2024. That is all. AMANPOUR: Yes. Well, you know, Poppy, is he -- he basically said it,

Jens Stoltenberg, he just didn't want to out and out black and white contradict the president. But he said, we have agreed to what we've always agreed. We are upping our, you know, our defense spending. And he does say, though, that President Trump has given him, for instance -- remember, he's a former prime minister. He also was elected prime minister of Norway. And he understands politics and how you have to convince people and sometimes bash people over the head. And he does actually genuinely think it's constructive that he can take President Trump's sort of bully pulpit and bash the other reluctant NATO member over the head.

HARLOW: Right.

AMANPOUR: But as you can see, they're not going to get strong armed into -- into just sort of out of nowhere pledging or agreeing to more than they've already agreed to.

HARLOW: Right.

And, by the way, the U.S. doesn't even spend 4 percent of GDP on defense.

AMANPOUR: That's correct.

HARLOW: This year it's on track to 3.5 percent.

Look, about Russia and the questions you asked about the meeting with Putin on Monday, he said he supports it. He said dialogue is not a sign of weakness, a sign of strength. But he -- he qualified that, Christiane, by saying, if we are all on the same page.

Well, there are two key points that I would -- correct me if I'm wrong -- most NATO members are not on the same page, that they would be OK with Crimea being granted officially to Russia and that they would be comfortable with it -- with a halt of a joint military exercises in the Baltics.

AMANPOUR: Well, I mean, he was crystal clear on that. And his own -- President Trump's own deputy secretary of state, who I interviewed not too long ago, a few days ago, before these important meetings, I specifically asked him that question. He replied to me that the United States position is clear that Crimea remains an integral part of a sovereign and independent Ukraine. We do not and will not recognize the annexation of Ukraine, nor the invasion into eastern Ukraine by Russian forces. So that is very clear.

And what they're trying to say is we hope that that is the message that President Trump takes to Vladimir Putin.

HARLOW: Right.

AMANPOUR: And, of course, as you mentioned, on those exercises around the Baltics and the concerns by the Baltic nations who have, you know, suffered Soviet invasion in the past, they are very clear about how those are in the vital security interests -- HARLOW: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Of the Baltic states and of NATO as a whole.

HARLOW: Except when the president was asked about Crimea this morning, that is not --

AMANPOUR: Right.

HARLOW: Not the answer. He chose, instead, to deflect and say, look, it wouldn't have happened on my watch. It happened on President Obama's watch.

Thank you, Christiane. A fascinating and critical interview this morning. Thank you for bringing it to us.

AMANPOUR: Thanks, Poppy.

[09:34:45] HARLOW: All right, it may be a contentious -- it will be a, I should say, it will be a contentious morning on Capitol Hill. The senior FBI agent who sent those anti-Trump text messages during the campaign will be grilled in front of lawmakers in just moments. We are there live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: All right, you're looking at live pictures from Capitol Hill. The House Oversight and Judiciary hearing about to begin with the senior FBI agent, Peter Strzok, who sent those anti-Trump text messages during the campaign. He, of course, was a lead on the Clinton e-mail investigation and also Mueller's Russia probe before these text messages were discovered.

Joining me now is -- and you see him walking in there to the hearing that will begin in just moments. You'll see it here live.

But with me now is Republican Representative Steve Russell of Oklahoma. He is on the Oversight Committee and will question Strzok.

Thank you for being with me, sir.

REP. STEVE RUSSELL (R), OKLAHOMA: You bet.

HARLOW: And let's just begin with the question at hand, and that is, what will you ask him?

[09:40:00] RUSSELL: Well, I think the goals of the hearing will be to examine really what the standards are of our law enforcement agents and investigators. We give our agencies broad latitude to enforce the law and that's with the understanding that they will not use that power to interfere with political processes or to interfere with just the power that they possess.

And I think that's really at the crux of a lot of what will be asked today. HARLOW: The inspector general report from Michael Horowitz on all of this found that the belief is that he could not rule out that he was free from bias completely, but that any personal bias did not impact the results of the investigation, what was prioritized over the other, et cetera. Are you comfortable with that assessment or --

RUSSELL: Well, actually the --

HARLOW: Do you question that?

RUSSELL: Well, the assessment, when we talked to Inspector General Horowitz, he had stated that the prosecutors had not displayed any bias in the outcomes or decisions that they had made. And I think that's an important note.

Now, prosecutors, they handle the evidence that's presented to them by investigators. And one of the questions that I asked the inspector general was, if you had a biased view as an investigator, could it influence the type of material that you would provide prosecutors and, by extension, affect an outcome? And he said, yes, that was possible.

So as we look at the bias question, I think it's clear that Mr. Strzok clearly possessed a bias by the IG report. And then the real question is, did that influence the type of evidence that he presented to unbiased prosecutors?

HARLOW: OK. So we just got a letter from Strzok's attorneys and they're concerned because they say that you, members of Congress on these committees, have not conferred with counsel at the FBI and that in the behind the doors testimony, as you know, Peter Strzok, they say, could not answer a lot of your questions because he was advised by counsel not to do so.

It seems like his attorneys are setting up for Peter Strzok, in just minutes, not to be able to answer a lot of your questions because it is not clear to them what grounds he is allowed to answer questions on and which should be protected because of classified and confidentiality issues. Are you concerned hearing that?

RUSSELL: Well, I think that there's always a delicate balance when we have the oversight hearings, or judiciary hearings, where we handle classified material. I think both members and witnesses are very tuned in to what they can and can't talk about. And that's also why we allow legal counsel to literally sit right behind the witnesses and are able to whisper and confer counsel to them. So I think that that will be respected. And we've seen that in all of the hearings that we've done in the past.

HARLOW: This morning the president spoke at the NATO summit. And here's what he said about his upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just a loose meeting. It's not going to be big schedule. I don't think it should take a very long period of time. And we'll see where it leads. But it could lead to productive -- something very productive. And maybe it's not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: A loose meeting. Shouldn't take up a lot of time.

He then went on to not rule out what could be a cessation of joint military exercises by NATO, including the U.S. in the Baltics, which, of course, is a show of force against Russia. And he also blamed President Obama for the annexation of Crimea by Russia, said it wouldn't happen on his watch, but did not say he's opposed to Crimea officially being granted to Russia.

Do any of those statements concern you as he sits down with Vladimir Putin?

RUSSELL: Well, first off, NATO countries, of which the Baltic states are members of NATO, they have every right to exercise with other NATO members to do whatever they please, to bolster their defense. So, you know, with regard to what the desires of defending eastern Europe are, I think it's always been the policy of the United States that they should show strength. The United States has not done anything other than maybe some statements by the president that could call that into question that would back off our military leaders or back off our commitment to NATO. It's vital.

And with regard to really the whole question with Russia, I think that our policy has been very clear in the United States that we view Crimea as an illegal annexation, an illegal of force. The (INAUDIBLE) and (INAUDIBLE) regions of eastern Ukraine are still illegally occupied with Russian troops present despite the counters to that. So I'm very concerned that the United States should take a position where we would poke our NATO allies in the eye and we would embrace those who may wish to do us harm in the future.

HARLOW: Right.

RUSSELL: That should give every American pause.

HARLOW: So what the president said and the way he answered the Crimea question this morning should give Americans pause?

RUSSELL: We should let the president answer for himself, but as a retired warrior and somebody who has been stationed in Europe and someone who spent more than two decades as a combat infantryman, I'm very concerned about our national security.

HARLOW: OK.

RUSSELL: And, you know, I will continue to support and defend the Constitution. I think that that's my role.

[09:45:04] HARLOW: On immigration, before you go --

RUSSELL: Yes.

HARLOW: You said recently on the House floor, in this impassioned speech, that reducing legal immigration to the United States is a xenophobic move. That is the position of this administration is to reduce, in part, legal immigration to this country. The president said this morning that part of the reason he won the election is because of his stance on immigration. You take a different stance on immigration than the president. You are up for re-election in November. And I wonder, representative, do you think that you have it right, or does the president have it right, on where the minds of the Republican voters are on this?

RUSSELL: Well, I think if you look at the Republican voters in my district in Oklahoma, I won my republican primary with 83 percent of the vote, and that was even after I had given my impassioned speech on the floor.

But, look, the Statue of Liberty doesn't need a blindfold with a stiff arm and a middle finger. This wave of immigration that we hear that's happening for legal immigration is just not supported by the facts. We have less legal immigration today than we had during the Civil War. We're at 0.34 percent of the population that is -- comes in as immigrants. I don't figure that we should reduce the legal paths to immigration and reduce the visas that are there. That's why I oppose those bills.

And three of my own children, adopted, orphan siblings, came here on green cards. I just take a different view, Poppy. I've served with immigrants in uniform.

But, look, on the other side of the issue, we also have to have a secure border, an abidance by the rule of law. If we fail to do that, we're no longer a country.

HARLOW: Representative Steve Russell, thank you for being here and thanks for waiting.

RUSSELL: Thank you.

HARLOW: We had a lot of breaking news this morning.

RUSSELL: Thank you.

HARLOW: Much more on this immigration debate after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:51:00] HARLOW: This morning the government says it has indeed reunited the remaining eligible young children under five years old with their parents. Of course, they were separated at the border. Of those, just over 100 children, Homeland Security says 46, are not eligible to be reunited for various reasons, including some of the parents' criminal history. This as the administration implements a new asylum policy that is very important. It could turn away potentially thousands of migrants seeking asylum at the border.

Our correspondent, Rosa Flores, is in McAllen, Texas, with more.

Update me on these kids being reunited with their parents. ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Poppy, we have new numbers

from Health and Human Services this morning of the number of children who were separated and the number of children who were reunited. So according to HHS, 103 children under the age of five were separated. And as of 7:00 a.m. this morning, 57 have been reunited. And the remaining 46 children, they say, have parents who are not eligible to be reunited with their children because they have criminal histories, because they have been deported or because they were not the parent of the child.

Now, HHS and DHS defending the pace of their work, because, as you know, Poppy, it's been more than two weeks, and we're talking about just 103 children here, defending their pace because they say that their process has helped keep the safety and security of these children.

Poppy.

HARLOW: Also, Rosa, there is a really important new change this morning from the administration on how it processes asylum claims and whom it will consider these claims for and in what way. What is it and what impact will this have?

FLORES: There is so much concern from the advocacy community about this, Poppy, because this is actually a policy that was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, but it's being implemented today. And, in essence, anyone who comes to the border seeking asylum and the basis for that asylum is either gang or domestic violence, the applications are being rejected. And so there's a lot of concern because a lot of the immigrants that are coming from central America, they're coming here because of the gang violence in their communities. So a lot of questions this morning about how that is going to play out.

HARLOW: Rosa Flores, thank you for being there in McAllen, Texas, for us.

Errol Louis is with me now.

And, Errol, let's just begin on the change of policy. Again, it made headlines. We covered it when it was announced a month ago. Today it gets implemented. And what these guidelines show us is that people that come to this country to be interviewed for asylum, they will be considered differently now than they were previously if they say they were victims of gang violence or domestic abuse.

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. And this is something -- the U.S. attorney general does have that power. It's an odd kind of quasi-judicial power that the Justice Department exercises over the immigration process. We should be clear, though, that this is not the end of this inquiry. I mean this is going to be in court for sure. I'm not sure --

HARLOW: Challenging this.

LOUIS: Oh, absolutely, challenging it, because it's not entirely clear. We have to get out of our framework of thinking gang violence means, you know, guys who are wearing leather jackets and threatening somebody in order to get money or drugs.

HARLOW: Right.

LOUIS: In Central America, there's a deep connection between corrupt governments and gangs --

HARLOW: And gangs.

LOUIS: Including MS-13, where in El Salvador, for example, prosecutors have found that the political parties use them to badger and intimidate people. So until those claims are fairly adjudicated, you really can't say right out of hand that, well, you're just here because your life was in danger. You're not a legitimate asylum claimant. And what we're going to find out is that if they're not allowed to make their case, that's a violation of due process.

HARLOW: You just heard Republican Representative Steve Russell, a conservative from Oklahoma, talk about the efforts of this administration to reduce legal immigration, which is exactly what this would be doing, in an effort to reduce what would be legal immigration, as something that is xenophobic, as something that is not part of what the Statue of Liberty stands for and what is written on the front of the Statue of Liberty. However, he seems to be someone in the minority in his party right now.

[09:55:08] LOUIS: Well, that's right. That's right. I mean, look, the reality is, there's a branch of the Republican Party who believes that legal immigration should be tamped down --

HARLOW: Exactly.

LOUIS: Because they think those immigrants will become Democrats and this will threaten their hold on power.

HARLOW: Right.

LOUIS: They've written about it. They've talked about it. Some of them are obsessed with it. That doesn't change the fact, though, that tens of thousands of people are trying to get here, and those people are desperate --

HARLOW: Right.

LOUIS: And they have a legal claim to try and enter the country.

HARLOW: Errol Louis, thank you for being here. Appreciate it. And sticking around amid all of the breaking news we have this morning.

And, guess what, there is more breaking news ahead. Embattled FBI Agent Peter Strzok on Capitol Hill, about to testify in public. We will bring it to you live. Stay with me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:14] HARLOW: Good morning, everyone.