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U.K. Tabloid Reporter Who Interviewed President Trump Live On New Day; President Trump Meets With U.K. Prime Minister After Attacking Her; FBI Agent Behind Anti-Trump Texts And House GOP Clash At Fiery Hearing. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired July 13, 2018 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:31:01] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president's bombshell interview with the British tabloid "The Sun" is the equivalent of this diplomatic explosion. The president going after the British Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of his big meeting with her which is happening at this moment behind closed doors.
Joining me now is Thomas Newton Dunn. He's the political editor for "The Sun," who did this interview -- who sat down with the president on Wednesday in Brussels. The interview published overnight.
Tom, thanks so much for being with us. I really appreciate it.
Did you know what you had? Did you walk out of that interview saying I've got something that is really just going to blow up the president's visit to England?
THOMAS NEWTON DUNN, POLITICAL EDITOR, "THE SUN", INTERVIEWED PRESIDENT TRUMP: In short, yes. It was one of those interviews you walk out of and you desperately try to hide the massive grin that is trying to burst its way onto your face as a horrible journalist, long enough in time get out of the way from the U.S. Embassy in Brussels where we were before you can then enjoy the moment.
It was quite an extraordinary 28 minutes. We had a 10-minute slot with the president.
We were about to be ushered out by Sarah Huckabee Sanders who said our time was up. And then, the president said no, no, these guys are going to stay for longer and we kept on going. We kept on asking him questions.
He seemed to get quite into it, especially talking about Brexit and his thoughts on Boris Johnson and we kept the tape rolling. And, yes, we certainly knew what we were getting.
BERMAN: Obviously, British Prime Minister Theresa May's position is so precarious right now with members of her own cabinet leaving.
Did it appear to you that the president knew the difficulties he was causing when he said look, I told her how to handle Brexit? She wouldn't follow my advice. This means there will be no U.S. trade deal with the U.K. I think Boris Johnson would make a great prime minister.
Did he know the trouble he was stirring up?
DUNN: It's difficult to tell. My feeling is he probably didn't actually, not least because we're hearing rumors that he's going to -- to use the White House lingo -- reset his remarks with what he told me a couple of days ago.
I think it's difficult to think he really could have. I don't really think the president wants to come here and bring Theresa May a wrapped hand grenade as his welcoming present, which is what he's certainly done. I think he was being honest.
I mean, look, you guys know him better than we do. He talked straight and he answers a straight question most of the time -- perhaps not to CNN every now and then, I also hear.
But, you know, he is not a normal politician. He's refreshing. Our politicians talk in riddles most of the time when we ask them questions.
Now, that is either both very good to your base because your bases love you if you're being straight and honest and not sound like a normal politician. And obviously, a disaster if you're trying to be a diplomat on the world stage.
BERMAN: A wrapped hand grenade. Now, this hand grenade was wrapped on Wednesday. You went to talk him in Brussels.
And we understand that it was embargoed until 11:00 p.m. last night, England time -- British time. And when you look at that, that was supposed to be after dinner -- after his big black-tie dinner at Blenheim Palace where the prime minister rolled out the red carpet.
Was that timing coincidental? Explain that to me because a lot of people in the United States look at this and said he wanted to make sure he wasn't wining and dining with her --
BERMAN: -- as this interview was coming out.
DUNN: To be honest, the embargo was our choosing. We carried out the interview in Brussels on Wednesday morning.
We said goodbye to the White House press team. We said thank you very much to Sarah and Bill Shine there and we were very grateful.
They didn't ask us when we were using it. I don't think they thought to. We could have dropped it at any stage from Wednesday lunchtime onwards, I suppose.
[07:35:05] But obviously, we had a certain football match to be watched here in the U.K. -- or the World Cup, rather. We were in the semifinals and we got knocked out, which is a point of intense national embarrassment. So we wanted that to pass and we wanted to wait until the president arrived so it would have the most relevance.
So, no, we chose to run it when we did. We told 10 Downing Street what we had about 6:00 p.m. yesterday evening as Marine One was in the air from Washington -- from London, rather, to Blenheim Palace. So I think Theresa May would have known what was coming her way from the president as he was touching down there for the dinner.
BERMAN: You say you said goodbye to Sarah -- Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary -- and Bill Shine, who is the now- deputy chief of staff for communications.
Bill Shine, everyone knows in the United States, used to work at Fox News which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, which also owns "The Sun" -- the British tabloid where you are the political editor.
Was he involved in any way with securing this interview?
DUNN: I have no idea. I haven't spoken to Rupert Murdoch about this interview.
All I know is that I applied for it. I've been speaking to the White House and also the U.S. Embassy here in London for weeks and weeks trying to persuade them. And the last I heard that we were coming and it was tremendous news and we were very grateful for it.
BERMAN: The timing of it -- what impact or brushback did you hear as it was coming out overnight?
I was in my hotel room. We had wrapped up coverage here.
You know, the president was very careful in his public statements about Brexit yesterday. He said out loud it's up to the people of England to decide.
BERMAN: It's not for me to say. So I think it was a surprise to see these words.
People close to the White House were saying they were getting text messages. People covering the White House were saying this wasn't exactly perhaps how Sarah Sanders may have described it --
BERMAN: -- to the prime minister's office.
DUNN: Yes. So, I can't really speak for what the White House told number 10. I mean, they were all in the room and everyone heard every word.
As I say, Sarah Huckabee Sanders wanted to stop the interview after about 10 or so minutes because we only had 10 minutes with the president.
He an incredibly busy schedule -- he was just about to go off to the NATO summit -- and we would have taken our 10 minutes. But, you know, he wanted to let it roll. He wanted to keep on talking. You know, they heard every word.
It surprises me, I suppose, if they thought that was going to be not difficult.
DUNN: I mean, it's not an unpleasant piece in many respects, and he talks about his love for Britain, his love for the Queen. He said nothing negative about Theresa May herself, as a person. He said he respected her.
But, quite frankly, if you are going to talk about Brexit, which is the prime minister's number one policy -- remember, if Theresa May gets Brexit wrong here then she's out of a job and she's out of a job very quickly, indeed.
So, if you start walking into that sort of territory I really think that anyone who's done politics 101 is going to know that's going to cause trouble, especially when you're arriving and taking in someone's hospitality the next day.
We're a bit obsessed with manners over on this side of the pond, as well you know, and it seems a tad discourteous to drop that wrapped hand grenade to your guest when your guest has gone out of their way to facilitate such a -- such a great show for you.
You know, the Blenheim Palace dinner last night. The SAS were rolled out this morning to impress the president. Now that hasn't happened for many people.
So there's a lot of British politicians here today who are very angry with the president --
DUNN: -- and they're accusing him of showing bad manners.
BERMAN: You say it seems a tad discourteous. That seems a bit like a British understatement this morning, Thomas.
Let me ask you because you write that it seemed to you as you were there interviewing the president with Sarah Sanders walking around there -- you said it seemed to you like being in the court of a medieval emperor.
What do you mean?
DUNN: I think it was the feeling we got of total power. It took a long time to get into the room where the president was.
And remember, we're not used to such an incredible display of might when our world leaders travel around. When Theresa May leaves Chequers she'll have a Land Rover and her Jaguar -- maybe a police motorbike to guide her back to London. But we travel in a very, very small blueprint.
When the president travels it's a small army. I mean, just watching the Ospreys land with all his support staff here at Chequers, it was extraordinary.
The British prime minister doesn't even have her own helicopter, let alone an entire fleet of Ospreys and Black Hawks. So the sheer -- you know, the lay down of force and might is always pretty impressive.
But I was struck in the room that basic -- whatever the president says goes. He wasn't contradicted. It didn't strike me that he had anything particular that was scripted. It was all coming from the heart and that seems to be the way he rolls. And as we've said, there's an advantage to that and there's a disadvantage to that.
[07:40:04] I think that's why he is president. That might well be why he stays president and gets reelected because he is an extraordinary communicator, no matter what you think of what he communicates. He's known in Britain and the world over for communicating in the way he does.
BERMAN: Did he --
DUNN: And if you start scripting stuff and he starts being very careful with his words and it feels like any other politician, then maybe we'll get elected.
BERMAN: Thomas, you suggested the interview was supposed to be 10 minutes -- it did go 28. Did Sarah Sanders try to stop it? Did he actually push her away?
DUNN: No, it wasn't quite as aggressive as that. She simply was doing her job to say look, you've had your 10-minute slot. We were told we only had 10 minutes beforehand and we were very grateful for 10 minutes.
But when she said all right, guys, last question, that's when the president said actually, give these guys a bit more time and kept on talking and kept on answering our questions.
He got quite into the conversation. We were talking about things that interested him -- you know, British politics, Brexit, London's mayor Sadiq Khan who he has a long-going dispute with for two and a half years now. So he seemed to be quite enjoying it and who's any of his staff to tell him not to? He's the boss after all, isn't he?
BERMAN: He did seem to want to get a lot off his chest and keep on talking to you.
Thomas Newton Dunn, thank you for being with us. Congratulations on this interview which is causing quite a stir. A wrapped hand grenade, as you put it.
Thanks so much, Thomas.
DUNN: Thank you.
BERMAN: All right. Joining me now for reaction and analysis, Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS." Fareed, thank you so much for waiting.
You were listening to Thomas there described this moment -- this wrapped hand grenade, as he puts it. He said he knew it when he walked out of that room. I guess "The Sun" held onto the hand grenade from Wednesday until last night when they published it moments after the president left Blenheim Palace after that royal dinner -- that very fancy dinner, I should say.
What's your reaction?
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": Well, I think they waited because they knew they had not just a hand grenade, a bombshell. This is probably the most severe crisis in British- American relations since the Suez Crisis of the mid-1950s.
Here you have a President of the United States who has used his power to essentially undermine America's closest ally and to undermine the prime minister of Great Britain in her most complicated negotiation and probably, the most complicated negotiation Britain has had in 50 years.
Britain's relationship with the European Union is the single-most important thing that's going on in Britain and has gone on for decades.
Remember, Europe is Britain's largest trading foreign partner by far and so how Britain manages to retain access to that European market while not being a member of the European Union is a very complicated issue. That is why Theresa May has been trying to find this so-called soft Brexit option.
What Trump did was throw a bombshell in the middle of it without any solution -- without any plan as to how he would manage that problem. He just criticized her, undermined her authority, promoted one of her chief rivals.
It is the height of irresponsibility. No American president that I -- that I can think of has ever done this with even a neutral country. But this is the closest ally of the United States and the president has come close to bringing down its prime minister.
BERMAN: Tom Newton Dunn, who I just spoke with, the political editor "The Sun" said it's coming across as a tad discourteous. That seemed to me to be British understatement there, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: Well, it was discourteous but that's sort of the -- you know, that's just the half of it. The more important point is that it substantively undermines the prime minister and it undermines the British negotiating position with Europe. I mean, this -- as I said, very tough stuff because Britain is trying
to retain all its preferential access to the European market, which is its largest customer -- buyer and seller -- and at the same time, not be bound by some of the rules.
So, in the middle of this what Theresa May needed was, at the very least, silence and maybe a little bit of support. Instead, she gets this very irresponsible kind of commentary, as I said, with no plan, no solution.
What Donald Trump said is essentially, completely unworkable. There is no grand solution that he had. He says if only she'd listened to me. That's all, frankly, quite nonsense.
The reason this is proving so hard for the British government is it is an almost impossible square to circle. They're trying to get access to Europe without having to listen to Europe's rules and in the middle of it their best friend, the historic ally of Great Britain -- the President of the United States comes in and just blows the whole thing up.
[07:45:07] I cannot understand what strategic purpose this serves for the United States. It gives the United States the reputation --
BERMAN: Well --
ZAKARIA: -- of being cruel to its friends, disloyal to a -- to a -- you know, to an ally, disruptive in the middle of a very delicate negotiation --
ZAKARIA: -- with no better plan.
BERMAN: Let me ask -- let me pause one possible explanation here and I read it in an op-ed written by a very smart writer this morning named Fareed Zakaria.
I read this op-ed "The Washington Post" which suggested that what the president is doing overseas -- here first, in Belgium -- in Brussels -- and the United Kingdom isn't really about the audience here behind me? It's about the audience at home -- explain.
ZAKARIA: Yes, that is the -- that's the sad part of this. I don't think Trump really cares the damage he does internationally -- the effects this has.
What Donald Trump is trying to do is remake the Republican Party in his own image, and that means he's taking a party that historically has been very pro-internationalist ever since Ronald Reagan, certainly -- pro-free trade, pro-immigration. If you think of the Reagan formula it was an expansionist foreign policy of pro-free trade, pro- immigration.
And he's turning it into a nationalist, protectionist, and anti- immigrant party. And in doing that this is all part of explaining himself of kind of recasting the Republican Party.
And what is striking to me is that you have this whole cadre of senior Republican internationalists who have populated Republican administrations from the Reagan administration to the elder Bush, to the younger Bush. They're all quiet. They don't believe in any of the things Donald Trump is saying.
ZAKARIA: But maybe it's because of power, maybe it's because they're intimidated, maybe for fear. The Republican Party's foreign policy elite has capitulated to Donald Trump's protectionism, nationalism, and anti-immigrant race-baiting, frankly.
BERMAN: Fareed Zakaria, great to have you with us. I do recommend people read that op-ed because it is very interesting. Fareed, I appreciate it.
Alisyn, I want to go back to you. I know you're not impressed with the chaos we're having here. You say you've got some of your own -- prove it.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, I can prove it because there was a 10-hour fiery hearing yesterday John where Peter Strzok, this FBI agent who sent those disparaging texts about President Trump, appeared in front of lawmakers and you have to see what happened.
We will have a former FBI agent explain to us did he help or hurt the agency yesterday.
[07:51:20] CAMEROTA: All right.
So there was this very heated House hearing yesterday -- it lasted 10 hours -- where GOP lawmakers slammed FBI agent Peter Strzok, accusing him of not being able to do his job because of those anti-Trump text messages that he sent and received.
Here's Peter Strzok trying to defend himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STRZOK: At no time in any of these texts did those personal beliefs ever enter into the realm of any action I took. Furthermore, this isn't just me sitting here telling you. You don't have to take my word for it.
At every step, at every investigative decision there are multiple layers of people above me -- the assistant director, executive assistant director, deputy director, and director of the FBI -- and multiple layers of people below me -- section chiefs, supervisors, unit chiefs, case agents, and analysts -- all of whom were involved in all of these decisions.
They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. Joining us now to talk about this is Josh Campbell. He is our CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI supervisory special agent.
So Josh, look, the Republicans' point is he could not do his job effectively because he held bias.
How do you think Peter Strzok did in defending himself and do you think he helped or hurt the agency?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST, FORMER SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT, FBI: Hey, good morning, Alisyn.
So I think -- you know, as an analyst, I'll leave it up to the American people to make up their own mind as far as who they believe. But I think an important calculus -- an ingredient that we have to look at and that is credibility.
When you look at Peter Strzok sitting before the American people, sitting before Congress, this is someone who has proven what we all know, that FBI agents are human beings and they're not infallible. This is someone that -- few would question that he actually exercised bad judgment in some of the decisions that he made but the question came down to was what he did politically motivated and did it impact the election.
The inspector general looked and said although we're still undecided as far as what the political calculus was, it doesn't appear that that impacted the investigations. That was the key point.
The second of which being this was his opportunity to finally speak for himself. I mean, he's been caricatured, he's been lambasted by the president, by House Republicans over the course of many months, so the American people got to see and hear from him.
What is interesting Alisyn is when you compare him -- the person sitting at that witness table -- with those who were conducting the inquisition at the dais, it couldn't have been more stark as far as the credibility, in my judgment, because you have people who came in with preconceived notions. Came in and simply wanted to sling one- liners and essentially, embarrass the witness. I don't think this a proper venue.
I think he did the best that he could under the circumstances.
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Josh, traditionally, Republicans have presented themselves as the party of law and order and there's been a sense that they've got law enforcement's back.
In this new environment where the politicization seems to be directed at members of the FBI, is that reputation suffering among the rank and file?
CAMPBELL: I don't know if the reputation is, but I have seen this -- kind of a pattern and kind of this cascade if you will, when I talk to some of my former colleagues in the FBI, when these political attacks first started. So, after the president became elected and you had the FBI saying that his campaign's under investigation, that's really when the slings and arrows started coming out.
And I would talk to some of my colleagues who would say this is really strange where you have Republicans -- the quote-unquote "party of law enforcement" that are now turning their wrath on us. That has now escalated into anger.
I still talk to some of my former colleagues who say look, all right, the nonsense -- we're getting tired of it. How can you have a political party that is out here that is going after a law enforcement agency -- a law enforcement entity -- for the sole purpose of trying to undermine its credibility in an investigation?
It's something that is really starting to get under the skin of FBI agents and other law enforcement officers who are watching this.
And folks will look at this and say will this have political consequences in fall. I think it's something to -- that we'll have to watch.
[07:55:01] CAMEROTA: So Josh, there was substance -- I mean, a little bit that snuck into all of the incendiary environment and Peter Strzok couldn't say a lot because it was an open hearing. And he said that the FBI had advised him not to say much because this is an ongoing investigation into what Russia did with the Trump campaign.
But he did explain why they opened the investigation, to begin with, so here's that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STRZOK: I think trying to keep this at a level not talking about open -- our open investigations --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Only (ph) your --
STRZOK: The -- yes, ma'am.
So the predicating information -- the information we had which was alleging a Russian offer of assistance to a member of the Trump campaign was of extraordinary significance. It was credible. It was from an extraordinarily sensitive and credible source.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: And we don't really know that source. I mean, they were trying to sort of get some stuff out of him and he wouldn't even say the names Christopher Steele, really, or Glenn Simpson or the names that are in the public arena.
Should he have said more?
CAMPBELL: So that's the -- that's the issue, and when we talk about what's in the public arena it's not necessarily in the public arena because the FBI and law enforcement has come out and confirmed it. I think there may be other means here, whether it's -- there's media sources or folks kind of reading the tea leaves through some of the legal process that's been followed within the court. But I don't think the FBI's in a position where they're going to confirm things.
And it shows you the very tough and tenuous position that Peter Strzok was in. On one hand, he's trying to protect his own equities and his reputation. On the other, he has to ensure, as an FBI agent, that he continues to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations. He was in a very tough spot.
CAMEROTA: All right. Josh Campbell, it's so great to have your expertise as somebody who was inside the agency for so long. Thank you -- in the Bureau.
CAMEROTA: Thank you so much.
OK, let's go to John Berman. He is in London covering all of the fireworks there.
BERMAN: All right, Alisyn.
It's all about to happen. We're waiting to hear from President Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May. They will emerge from their closed-door meeting. Obviously, this comes after the bombshell interview the president gave, undercutting the prime minister.
What will this news conference be like? Stay with us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.