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Trump Says NATO is Stronger; Trump Says Allies Agreed to Increased Spending; American Idiot Climbs UK Charts. Aired 8:30-9a ET
Aired July 12, 2018 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:32:41] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So despite President Trump's claim that NATO allies have agreement to increase defense spending because of his pressure, the president has provided really no proof of that commitment.
Also, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, says that no commitment has been made beyond what was already agreed to. So we will investigate that best we can.
In the meantime, joining us, Retired General Philip Breedlove. He is the former NATO supreme allied commander in Europe.
General, thank you very much for being with us.
We're trying to get to the bottom of exactly what was agreed to at this emergency meeting in Brussels today, whether or not NATO leaders did commit to spend more than they already had. We'll get to the bottom of that. We'll find out the truth there.
However, you note that being intellectually honest means, you know, means saying flat out that President Trump has succeeded to a greater extent than past presidents in getting NATO to focus on spending, correct?
GEN. PHILIP M. BREEDLOVE LSAF (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER EUROPE (2013-2016): Good morning, John.
Yes, and that's correct. His -- three previous administrations have tried to move that needle and good intentions and actually got a signed agreement at Wales to make improvements. But, really, the needle did not move. And while we might sometimes question and think about the tactics and techniques that were used to get us here, we do have to understand and agree that this president has begun to move the needle on investment. And it looks like again has gotten fresh commitments here at Brussels.
BERMAN: I want to break that down into two separate parts.
First, moving the needle. My colleague, Alisyn Camerota, put the question so well, it's important to get other NATO leaders to commit to defense spending, but it is what -- was it the most important part of this meeting? Because that -- the president almost seemed to exclusively focus on that. Were there not other important things as well?
BREEDLOVE: Well, sure there were. And I think we are now beginning to see the results of the actual meetings. Yesterday most of the reporting was around the peripheral meetings before the actual summit but now we're beginning to get feedback from the summit meetings and we see that the needle has moved in some of the other areas, which were important.
The first and foremost thing in my mind is a reaffirmation of our absolute commitment to this alliance, to NATO, to Article V, and that apparently has happened. And we saw the president use some pretty strong words about the solidarity of the U.S. support to this alliance. And that was very critical.
[08:35:14] And then the second thing I think is the commitment to the agreements that we made at Wales and Warsaw. And we saw the needle again move on that as several nations have stepped up to the plate to increase their troop participation in places like the Baltic nations.
BERMAN: The president did say the words "NATO is vital" but only after really 30 hours of meeting and only after criticizing NATO allies in Germany in particular. And you brought up the tone and the tenor. Does that have an impact, does that help the alliance?
BREEDLOVE: So I think we have two stories here. And I understand this morning, from looking at the reporting that their -- the story of yesterday and the peripheral meetings was a tough one. A tough stance and some pretty hard words being shared.
But what we are getting feedback today from, actually what happened inside the meetings, and this is fairly regular and normal in past summits as well, was that the tone inside the meetings was much more positive, much more collegial, and they were able to move the ball. And so I think over the next couple of days we'll have a better understanding of how the actual meetings went, rather than the peripheral external once.
BREEDLOVE: And the feedback I'm getting is pretty good. In fact, I heard a pretty strong statement, and that was that a strong NATO is good for Europe and good for the United States. That's the kind of words that we want to hear.
BERMAN: I will say that one of the things we heard from the meeting today, as opposed to some of those other meetings last night, was that today he went into this emergency session, which the secretary general sort of honchoed there, and threatened the do his own thing. The president threatened to do his own thing were not the other NATO nations to step up. That's not normal. That's not the type of thing you've seen before.
BREEDLOVE: So if that's in fact what happened, we'll have to see as the -- as this plays out and we get real reporting of what actually happened in the meeting. But what we do know is that at the Wales summit, the nations pledged to increase their spending to 2 percent of GDP by 2024. And that was so far out in the future that it really was no commitment.
BREEDLOVE: That was outside of the administrations that were all there. They would all have been having to go through another election before they would have to come to that point. And so I think what happened this morning in the emergency session is -- and we will hear now, this is only what I hear reported -- is that we have agreed to reach this spending goal quicker, to address it quicker so that it is actually indicative of the commitment of the nations to meet their obligations.
And we need to see what, in fact, did come out of that meeting. We're waiting to hear from the Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
On facts and figures, you know, you're a military guy. You made the military your life. Numbers matter to you. The president said that U.S. defense spending makes up 90 percent of overall NATO defense spending. That's not the case. It's right around 70 percent when you look at how much they spend as a percentage of the GDP. If you talk about the actual NATO-specific budgets, it's around 22 percent. So what's your reaction as someone who cares deeply about the facts here when the president throws out those numbers?
BREEDLOVE: So I'd rather not enter into that conversation. It -- I don't think it really leads to a good conclusion.
I think what we should talk about is what the nations are committing and what the United States is committing. And I think that our track record across the last several years is a very strong one. The United States has increased its troop presence, its rotational presence in Europe. The United States has committed its fiscal support to Europe in the form of what was first the European Reassurance Initiative, now called the European Defense Initiative. Our spending and our commitment has increased.
Our allies have done the same. Now, maybe at a bit slower pace and there's still work to be done, but we see nations like Canada in this summit commit to taking on training and Iraq. We see other nations committing to a new multinational format in the Baltics, committing their troops and their support to these things. So I think what I would rather talk about is that the nations are beginning to put their troops and their investments in the right places to show the support that we all need to see if NATO is going to move together, forward as a fair burden sharing format.
[08:40:07] BERMAN: General Breedlove, thanks so much for being with us.
Again, President Trump makes the claim that NATO is stronger than it was two days ago. We are waiting to hear from the other NATO leaders. We are also waiting to hear exactly what approach he will take when he meets with Vladimir Putin on Monday.
What does all of this mean? The president, Donald Trump, approach to international diplomacy? "The Bottom Line" is next.
CAMEROTA: OK, some breaking news.
This is Air Force One arriving in London moments ago. So the president has left NATO. And as you may have been watching, riveted this morning as he had an impromptu press conference in which he talked about what he believes was accomplished at this NATO summit. Let's bring in David Chalian for our "Bottom Line."
So, David, this press conference was fascinating and the president basically made a grand announcement that he had gotten the other countries to accelerate their payment plan to NATO at a faster clip. Do we have any follow-up as to whether or not that is in fact the case?
[08:45:05] DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Right. With all things that Donald Trump claims was said behind closed doors, you're going to have to wait for the other participants in the conversation to actually say that that was true or not true.
Certainly the initial impression is that Emmanuel Macron, the leader of France, seems to have walked away with a slightly different impression than President Trump was giving at that press conference. It seems that these nations were -- believe they were already on track to meet some of these previously agreed upon commitments. Whether or not -- the one example that the president, I believe, gave in the press conference, Alisyn, was about Germany, saying that they really weren't going to commit beyond the 2024 deadline, not until 2028 or beyond. So I think we have to wait to hear from Angela Merkel to see if there's any commitment to accelerating to meeting that. So we wait for that, Alisyn.
But what I think -- I -- the president, in this sort of performance this morning at this press conference, I think was following pretty much the play book he wrote in "Art of the Deal." I mean it is -- he went into NATO, he just tore through it and created the chaos, disrupted, pushed the people across the negotiating table to the brink as best he can, threatened to walk away and then claimed victory even though the facts may not be backing that up.
CAMEROTA: OK, hold on one second. We do have some bulletins crossing of what the NATO secretary general is saying came out of this NATO summit. And so I'm just going to read you a couple of headlines.
He says, the message from President Trump was clear, there is a new sense of urgency for the members in NATO. And he believes that they are more united now than they were before the summit two day ago.
So that does comport, David, with what the president was saying. He, too, said that he felt that they were more united at the end of it than they were at the beginning.
CHALIAN: Certainly that statement does. The president, I think, previewed that when he -- when he mentioned the head of NATO would be speaking soon. So I think the president had some idea that he would get some backup there.
I don't hear any specifics there. A -- a sense of urgency is very different than we've accelerated to this date.
JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: That's right.
CHALIAN: So I don't know that they're completely aligned, Alisyn, but I do think it backs up what the president is portraying, which is that he leaves with a more unified NATO.
AVLON: That's right. And what David is saying too is that a lot of the president's powers of persuasion, that art of the deal, is performative, right? It's about setting higher expectations as a New York real estate guy and then creating urgency for people to maybe meet their existing commitments. That may have been what occurred out of this.
But I also think it's important that we reality check in the spirit of facts some of the stats the president was throwing out. He said 90 percent. America pays 90 percent of NATO. That's not accurate. America spends around 67 percent of its GDP on defense. That is far more than other NATO nations, approaching 4 percent, around 3.5 percent.
But in terms of the money we actually dedicate to NATO, it's around 22 percent. That's an important distinction that the president seems to be conflating and it could give the wrong impression to folks at home, intentionally or not.
CHALIAN: Well, he -- well, John, it seems to me he is conflating it intentionally because this is part of the whole argument that he's making back home domestically, politically, which is that the U.S. isn't getting the fair end of the deal here.
AVLON: That's right.
CAMEROTA: OK, David Chalian, thank you very much for "The Bottom Line."
CHALIAN: Thanks, guys.
AVLON: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: Now we need to get to alternative rock and a Green Day song --
AVLON: It's beautiful.
CAMEROTA: And how this Green Day song is making a comeback, John Berman, on the British charts.
BERMAN: You say Green Day. And Green Day has got the same initials as the Grateful Dead. That's what I know about music.
No, there's this song. We have a big story about what's going on here and what people are going to see up above here in this country, coming up, next.
[08:52:51] BERMAN: President Trump is now in the United Kingdom. The president insists the Brits like him a lot, even though there will be many large protests around the country. The president largely avoiding London perhaps because of that. His critics are now pushing to make a Green Day song reach number one on the charts. Jeannie Moos explains.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANNIE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's not nice to suggest the president of the United States is an American idiot, but British critics are trying to make this 14-year-old song by Green Day number one in Britain.
GREEN DAY (singing): Don't want to be an American idiot.
MOOS: Just in time for President Trump's visit to the U.K. The campaign to make "American Idiot" great again asks, how cool would it be to have this as a U.K. number one. Are you in?
Enough were in on Amazon U.K. to make the song number one, though on the most prestigious officials singles chart, "American Idiot" has been bouncing up and down in the high teens and low 20s.
It's been fighting a soccer song, whipping up support for England in the World Cup, until England lost.
Back in 2004, "American Idiot" was seen as targeting President George W. Bush and the media after the invasion of Iraq.
GREEN DAY (singing): Information age of hysteria.
MOOS: But now the song's title has been plastered on a mock-up of Melania's jacket, joining the Trump baby balloon in a one-two humor punch aimed at embarrassing President Trump.
Wow, a song and a balloon? That will teach him, tweeted an unimpressed commenter.
MOOS (on camera): But long before critics started using "American Idiot" to insult him, Donald Trump gave it a rave review. Back in 2010, Donald and Melania Trump attended opening night of the Broadway musical "American Idiot," which Trump called "an amazing theatrical experience." Maybe less amazing if "American Idiot" is now directed at you.
GREEN DAY (singing): Don't want to be an American Idiot.
[08:55:02] MOOS (voice over): Jeannie Moos, CNN, New York.
BERMAN: There truly is a tweet for everything, even "American Idiot."
You're looking at live pictures now from Stansted Airport. Now, one thing I want to make clear is that this is really not in London. This is 35, 40 miles northeast of London. You're seeing Air Force One there.
The president spending no real time traveling on the ground in London city proper. He'll stay at Winfield (ph) House, which is the ambassador's residence, but he's going to chopper in and out of there. Why isn't he going to be in the city? Maybe large protests, guys.
CAMEROTA: Perhaps. Perhaps he's not a fan of the lemon curd. Who knows why, but certainly he is spending time in the U.K.
And, John Berman is there for us. And will be there for the rest of the week to bring us all of the news.
John, great work.
CAMEROTA: We'll see you tomorrow.
AVLON: Drink some warm (ph) beer for us.
BERMAN: Tea with the queen. Tea with the queen tomorrow, guys.
AVLON: Tea. Tea. Sorry, tea.
CAMEROTA: OK, well, you've got to go get ready for that. So -- oh, you mean the president?
CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, we'll check in with you later, John. Thanks so much.
CNN "NEWSROOM" will pick up after this very quick break.
[08:59:58] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And it is a busy morning.
President Trump has just landed, Air Force One there on the tarmac, in London, fresh off a NATO summit that he now considers, quote, fantastic, and others, well, don't.