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Trump Denies He Criticized Theresa May; Anti-Trump Protests in London Ahead of Trump's Meeting with the Queen; Interview with Senator Bob Menendez. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:17] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It has been quite an extraordinary Friday morning already. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And the next stop on President Trump's Friday the 13th tour of Britain is tea with the Queen. Most likely a welcome contrast to this joint news conference that he just held with his host, this working visit with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The same Theresa May who he blasted in a tabloid interview as having doomed trade ties with the U.S. by failing to sever ties with the EU in her Brexit plan. Well, this morning the president didn't just walk back those comments, he denied ever making them.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I didn't criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister. And unfortunately, there was a story that was done which was, you know, generally fine but it didn't put in what I said about the prime minister. And I said tremendous things. And fortunately we tend to record stories now, so we have it for your enjoyment if you'd like it. But we record when we deal with reporters. It's called fake news. And we solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instrument.


HARLOW: I should point out "The Sun" tabloid also recorded that interview and it has been playing around the world, on television, on the Internet, in print, all night.

We have a team of reporters across London. I want to get first to our Kaitlan Collins who joins me now.

I mean, he later admitted by the way that he, you know, basically hadn't read the whole interview and the reporter said no, no, no, I did include that stuff you said about Theresa May, but that is by far not the most important part of what we just heard from the two of them. It is striking the reversal that we saw from the president this morning on every front except for immigration.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. I think a lot of people are referring to this as damage control. I'm not sure if that's what it is, but I do certainly have whiplash because just 24 hours ago that this interview was coming out -- well, last night about 12 hours ago and this president blasting Theresa May on her own turf in his own words, in an audio recording that you can hear the president make these remarks himself.

And he is saying that it is not true, he did not criticize her when in fact, Poppy, we all realize that he did criticize her, saying that she didn't take his advice for leaving the European Union for Brexit and saying that her -- one of her greatest political rivals Boris Johnson would be good at her job.

Now the president was asked specifically about Boris Johnson, the Foreign secretary who resigned in protest of Theresa May's Brexit plan. The president said what he said about Boris Johnson was unrelated to Theresa May. Listen.


TRUMP: They asked about Boris Johnson, I said yes. How would he be as a prime minister, I said he'll be a great prime minister. He's been very nice to me. He's been saying very good things about me as president. I think he thinks I'm doing a great job.

I am doing a great job. That I can tell you just in case you haven't noticed. But Boris Johnson I think would be a great prime minister. I also said that this incredible woman right here is doing a fantastic job.


COLLINS: So there the president is saying that him saying that Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister is unrelated to the current prime minister, Theresa May, Poppy, Of course that does seem related to it. Boris Johnson actually does seem as a rival to Theresa May who could take her job as prime minister in the coming weeks. She is in a very politically weak state right now here in the UK. So it's hard to understate that right there. But you can hear from the president himself.

He was also asked about his relationship with another world leader, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Listen to what he had to say about that.


TRUMP: I have a great relationship with Angela Merkel. Great relationship with Germany. But I think that is very much her Germany.


COLLINS: So the president there saying, insisting, Poppy, throughout that press conference that he has a great relationship with these two world leaders, both whom he has heavily criticized over the last few weeks especially since he has been in Europe, especially Merkel last week referring to that gas pipeline between Germany and Russia and then just with that bombshell interview criticizing Theresa May.

But the president insists that he was not criticizing her, that he actually said good things about her, that she is doing a terrific job. But, Poppy, we can hear from the president himself, he did say those things.

HARLOW: He did. Kaitlan Collins, thank you for the reporting and going through all of it.

[10:05:01] Meanwhile these protests are taking place right now in London, you're looking at big protests on Regent Street. Nick Paton Walsh is standing by -- Nick.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, this is just getting under way here really. The larger of the two major protests here. I can say certainly all of Regent Street that stretches from Piccadilly Circus, up to Portland Place here, crammed full of anti-Trump sentiment.

We knew this was going to be happening, but I have to say I didn't really expect it to be quite this crowded. Signs all over the place, some manufactured like that, British politicians leading parts of the crowds here. We've seen Trump-ocalypse, no, this is a carnival of resistance, fight fascism, no one is illegal. Even one person in fact suggesting that Trump is about as welcome as a cold cup of tea. How more British could you possibly get?

But this is something which people were hoping would be adequately organized and calm to express the feeling frankly in the capital that led to Donald Trump barely coming here at all. He simply touched down in frankly U.S. government territory, the U.S. ambassador's residence on the edges of Regent Park to stay the night and rest briefly. The rest of his tour of the UK is well out of the capital for this specific reason.

And of course here we've seen the occasional pro-Trump protester, voicing a counter-opinion but so far a relatively calm presence. But it is extraordinary, though, to see the volume of individuals we have here right in what would normally be the commercial throbbing heart of Central London here. Regent Street itself. And of course this is a place where you would have expected had Donald Trump been allowed to visit or I should say Donald Trump should visit the UK parliament and even royal institutions, this may well have been a place locked down to enable his move around.

But instead, we will be seeing in the hours ahead and have already seen vast amounts of British people simply coming out expressing their indignation at what they considered to be racism, immigration problems and of course frankly sometimes disregard for truth that Donald Trump has expressed. And very few people here I think have been listening to that press conference which he just gave with British Prime Minister Theresa May.

She is in enough trouble herself frankly politically. But also you have to remember that the nature of much of this antipathy towards Donald Trump to some degree strengthens her when he's heard disagreeing with her points of view in policies here. So an extraordinary scene that will continue in the hours ahead as it moves down towards Trafalgar Square, and towards the British parliament.

We've seen the blimp of Donald Trump being held up in the sky here. That came down to be replaced by a smaller version. A lot of frankly offensive placards here against the U.S. president. And this is an extraordinary scene really because normally even at the height of the Iraq war crisis with George W. Bush coming here, we didn't quite see such a volume of people on the streets, such profanity frankly against a U.S. sitting president. And also to the British government, so keen it seems in organizing this all, for keeping him so far away from the center of the capital which is cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic, and clearly and the people here on the streets here rejecting so much of what Donald Trump stands for to those outside of the United States.

HARLOW: Nick, thank you for being there. It is a remarkable, extraordinary scene. We'll keep a very close eye on this.

But joining me now is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez.

Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: An important day to have you in terms of what this means on the world stage and what this all means for America. So did you have a chance to listen to the press conference?


HARLOW: So you heard it its totality. One striking difference that the president has with Theresa May is his screw on immigration. Let's let everyone listen.


TRUMP: In terms of Russia, I guarantee whoever it is in Russia, they are saying oh, gee, do we wish that Trump was not the victor in that election. We have been far tougher on Russia that than anybody. Anybody. And probably than -- look, I'm not going to go down 100 years. But certainly we have been extremely tough on Russia.

And now with all that being said, if I had a relationship with Putin, I don't know him, I met him twice, maybe three times. Two and a half times.


HARLOW: OK. That is what he said on Russia. So let's start with that and then we'll get to immigration. The president going to Helsinki on Monday. He's sitting down with Vladimir Putin and on Russia, he claims no one has been tougher on Russia and this administration has had some tough policies, sanctions, you know, weaponizing the Ukrainians, but the rhetoric on Russia has not been tough. So he says no one has been tougher than him on Russia. And he also said about Crimea, I was handed this bad hand from the Obama administration and there is nothing much I have to say about it. What's your read? MENENDEZ: Well, first of all, it's the Congress that's been tough on

Russia because the Congress passed mandatory sanctions without waivers. First time that I have seen in my 26 years in Congress that the Congress passed mandatory sanctions without giving the president the waivers on Russia because the Congress in a bipartisan basis was concerned about how the president would treat Russia.

[10:10:11] So it's the Congress that's been tough on Russia. And I am deeply concerned as he goes to this meeting including a meeting where it's going to be a one-on-one where we won't really know what happened that, you know, he gives the back of a hand to our closest allies and embraces people like Putin. So whether he is going to stand up as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just voted that Ukraine and Crimea, that the invasion and annexation of Crimea and the continuing action in Ukraine is something that has to continue to be sanctioned, whether or not he'll move back on our NATO exercises, whether or not he'll give up on Syria in a way that's going to affect the region, I'm seriously concerned about the things that he may agree to with Putin because he wants a relationship with Putin that goes far beyond a relationship with any of our allies.

HARLOW: You heard Theresa May say that she is supportive of this summit that the president is having on Monday with Putin. Are you supportive of it? Are you glad at least that it's happening?

MENENDEZ: Well, I am not glad when the president says about Putin that he is a competitor. Putin is not a competitor. He is an adversary at best and in my view a foe. Anyone -- a thug who tries to undermine your -- the elections and the democracy of your country as he did in the presidential, as substantiated by all of the intelligence agencies, including the president's intelligence agencies, and a bipartisan vote of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is not a meeting in which you think you have a competitor.

You have someone who's trying to undermine your democracy. So you need to not ask him the question, you need to tell him, I know you did it and here's the consequences for it.

HARLOW: And he did say -- our Jim Acosta asked him, will you bring up election meddling to Putin and he said yes.

MENENDEZ: He'll ask him the question. But this is not a question to be asked anymore.

HARLOW: We don't -- OK. We don't know what he's going to say, we're not going to be in that meeting. And as you said, not many people will be in that meeting. But here is the counter argument to that. The relationship with Russia is not strong now with the United States. It's not good. It's not beneficial to the United States.

Why not try to make it better? It sounds like you completely oppose this summit happening all together. Is that right? I mean, if you had rathers (PH), would you rather that the president not go to Helsinki on Monday?

MENENDEZ: If I had my rathers, I'd have the president clearly delineate what he's going to challenge Putin on.

HARLOW: But would rather not go at this point, Senator?

MENENDEZ: That's not the point, Poppy. Look, the point --

HARLOW: I'm asking you.

MENENDEZ: The point --

HARLOW: Because neither of us know what he's going to say in there.

MENENDEZ: But he could tell us all before he goes. He could tell the American people, I am going to challenge Putin because I know he interfered in our election. Not going to ask him a question. I am going to say to him that in fact Crimea will never be accepted as an annexation. These are the types of statements, then I would say, yes, I'd embrace the summit.

But the president wants to embrace Putin and he is doing the work for Putin throughout the Western world in terms of creating chaos. He's a human wrecking ball.

HARLOW: Let's listen to what the president said on immigration because he said this in the interview with "The Sun" and then it's pretty much the only thing that he repeated nearly word for word the same way this morning on how he views immigration is damaging to the continent of Europe. Let's listen.


TRUMP: I think it's been very bad for Europe. I think Europe is a place I know very well and I think that what has happened is very tough. It's a very tough situation. I mean you see the same terror attacks that I do. We see them a lot. But I just think it's changing the culture, I think it's a very negative thing for Europe. I think it's very negative. I think that very much hurt Germany. I think it's very much hurt other parts of Europe. And I know it's politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I'll say it and I'll say it loud.


HARLOW: What's your reaction to that from the president?

MENENDEZ: I wonder how he would have felt at the time in which Donald Trump's grandfather, an unaccompanied minor from Germany, came to the United States during a wave of European immigration which in my mind didn't change the culture, it changed the United States for the better. It enriched the United States. And our history since then has enriched the United States.

So, you know, the president is actually the beneficiary of being born in this country as a result of a migratory pattern that brought his grandfather here and then gave birth to his father and then ultimately he was born in this country. So it's ironic that he takes that view. HARLOW: It does tell you about the president's mindset on immigration

overall, who he's talking to, his base, ahead of the midterms, does it not? Does it not tell you exactly that the president seemly is not going to move an inch on this?

MENENDEZ: Oh, no, the president is so bore down on this issue that he is convinced that this is maybe appealing to his base.

[10:15:03] But it undermines the greatest experiment in the history of mankind which is the United States of America, that it brought people from all different walks of life and enriched this nation. And the fact that he cannot come to the understanding -- some of the greatest startups in our country these days are from immigrants. So that he cannot understand that he himself is the beneficiary of the type of immigration that he now continuously criticizes, it's pretty amazing.

HARLOW: The third part of this trip as we go is ahead, it is what the president deemed earlier this week maybe the easiest part of his trip and that's the meeting on Monday with Vladimir Putin. So far the NATO summit, this set of meetings and the dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May, this working trip, has it been beneficial to America?

MENENDEZ: I don't think so. The reality is that he has unsettled the Western alliance, the Transatlantic alliance. NATO is at the core of a 73 year history. It was there after World War II. It helped us win the Cold War. The only time they've used their collective defense provisions is on behalf of the United States after September 11th. He unsettles these allies in such a way, and only in the president's parallel alternate universe can you, you know, stab your host in the back in an interview and then embrace them subsequently, you know.

HARLOW: Well, look, when she was asked this morning, do you feel undermined by Trump, Theresa May, she said -- she said no.

MENENDEZ: She is far more diplomatic than the president, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you for being here, Senator Menendez.

MENENDEZ: Thank you.

HARLOW: And thank you for waiting. I know we took up a lot of your time this morning. We appreciate it very much.

All right. More on our breaking news. Massive protests under way right now, these are anti-President Trump protests in the streets of London. Much more in a moment.


[10:20:57] HARLOW: All right. Welcome to our live coverage. Once again you're looking at live pictures from Regent Street in London, it's 3:20 in the afternoon there and there are clearly thousands of people marching, marching down to Trafalgar Square in opposition of President Trump's visit to the United Kingdom. Right now he is on his way to have tea with the Queen. He just left that press conference at Chequers with Prime Minister Theresa May. And the voice of these British people clearly being heard in opposition to the president. We'll keep an eye on it.

Let's talk about all of the headlines this morning with our senior international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson, also our global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier, and associated editor of RealClearPolitics and columnist, AB Stoddard.

Nice to have you all. Nic, let me begin with you. It was a striking reversal to say the least the way the president spoke to "The Sun" tabloid about Theresa May, about Brexit, about her rival Boris Johnson. And what he said when he was standing next to her this morning. However, despite all of that, Theresa May when asked, does she feel undermined by President Trump, she said no. What is your read?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, I think we're faced with that position that President Trump has put us in before, which is which President Trump do we believe. Do we believe the one that we heard this afternoon or do we believe the one that spoke to "The Sun" newspaper?

By the way, Poppy, if you can hear the helicopters, I'm outside Winfield House, the U.S. ambassador's residence here. Two helicopters, both to be looking like delivery of the Marine One helicopter have landed here. We were expecting President Trump to touch down here back at Winfield House after Chequers before taking off to see the Queen at Windsor. So quite possibly that's President Trump touching down here. Again don't have confirmation of that yet right now.

So I think, you know, President Trump is essentially asking us what he said this afternoon to suspend our belief that we shouldn't believe that he went into an interview with a newspaper not aware that they would use and choose which pieces of what he said to run where in the story. He would have been absolutely aware that they would choose the most interesting things that he said to run in the lead of the story.

The fact that he challenged "The Sun" newspaper reporter to say whether or not they put in -- included the items that he said that he said positively about Theresa May, he was told yes, they did put those in the article. So, you know, I find myself put in that position. But I'm also questioning how much did President Trump really understand about Theresa May and her political position. He seemed to say there that, you know, over the past two days he got to know her really well, she's a really tough person, good negotiator, does great things for her country, would rather have her as a friend than an enemy, but on the other hand, you know, he's clearly undermined her.

So we're put in that position, which version do we believe? The fact that he actually said that he apologized to her, perhaps does indicate some genuine contrition and genuine surprise about the way the article turned out, but it's hard to suspend that belief, that part, Poppy. It seems he knew what he was doing. He hit the points that would undermine her and is now back pedaling.

HARLOW: Yes. I'm trying to ask the control room if the sound is ready. They'll let me know -- OK. Let's listen to the president apologizing.


TRUMP: I said very good things about her. I didn't think they put it in, but that's all right. They didn't put it in the headline. I wish they put that in the headline. That's one of those things. And she is a total professional because when I saw her this morning, I said I want to apologize because I said such good things about you. She said, don't worry, it's only the press. I thought that was very -- I thought that was very professional. I might add, though -- I might add, well, that's such -- that's called being -- don't worry, they have been doing it me and I do it to them.


HARLOW: OK. AB, the president -- this is not a president that often apologizes.

[10:25:01] And to be clear, that was not an I apologize for what I said criticizing you, which he did in the interview to "The Sun," this was I apologize on behalf of "The Sun" if they didn't publish the nice things I said, but wait, they actually did, AB.

AB STODDARD, ASSOCIATED EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Right. It was rare for him to tell us in a public setting that he even used the word apologize to Theresa May. But it's true, he was apologizing to her that all the good things he said didn't make it into a headline. Look, this is really standard operating procedure for President Trump. He is very confrontational either for the cameras and then when he gets into private meeting like he did a few days ago with Angela Merkel after saying she was a captive of Russia, he doesn't use the same language.

He was going to use flattery as he often has with these one-on-one press conferences to get through the moment and get through the questions about "The Sun" interview. That is not a surprise. He often creates his own reality and is perfectly inconsistent about what went on and what the facts are as we know. Theresa May knows that and no matter the bombast, no matter the rudeness, you're not going to take the British out of the Brits. And so we expected nothing less of the prime minister than for her to sit there and pretend that it was all fine.

HARLOW: Yes, she did. She smiled, she laughed right along. Let's listen, Kimberly Dozier, to what he said where he was extraordinarily consistent between his interview with "The Sun" and the presser this morning when it comes to the negative impact he believes immigration has on the entire continent of Europe.


TRUMP: I think it's been very bad for Europe. I think Europe is a place I know very well and I think that what has happened is very tough. It is a very tough situation. I mean you see the same terror attacks that I do. We see them a lot. I just think it's changing the culture. I think it's a very negative thing for Europe. I think it's very negative. I think that's very much hurt Germany. I think it's very much hurt other parts of Europe. And I know it's politically not necessarily correct to say that, but I'll say it. And I'll say it loud.


HARLOW: And that he did, Kimberly Dozier, in response immediately after Theresa May said, quote, "immigration has been good for the UK," and she spoke about a proud history of immigration.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, he never used the phrase white Europeans that there weren't enough white Europeans anymore, but that's how it's going to be read both by immigrants, by the largely cosmopolitan populations in places like London and Frankfurt. And also by the splintered political parties across Europe that are pushing for that kind of anti-foreigner, anti-immigration mandate.

So what he has done is weaken the hand of many of his allies who are trying to do things like the outreach to immigrant communities, to try to fight terrorism. So in a sense he has shot his own efforts to fight global terrorism in the foot. But to his supporters, to his base, this is going to be something that they rally around.

What a lot of the allies, the diplomats that I've spoken to, say that they brace for are comments like this that they have to deal with the fallout later. And what their quiet strategy is, you have to survive meetings with Trump, you have to survive the Trump presidency, and go it alone if necessary while you wait for him to say some of the right things.

HARLOW: Yes. Right. But will Theresa May survive this in her own country? And will she remain in power or will the man that the president also praised this morning, Boris Johnson, get her job? We'll see. There is a lot ahead there.

Thank you all for being with me. Nic Robertson, Kimberly Dozier, and AB Stoddard.

Still to come, back here in the United States, a congressional hearing devolves into a shouting match with personal attacks and partisan bickering. Did anything even get accomplished?