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Trump & European Leader Agree to Work Toward Zero Tariffs; Trump Allies in House Move to Impeach Deputy A.G. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2018 - 07:00   ET


THOMAS FRIEDMAN, FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": -- and general shenanigans about not allowing our companies the same access we allow theirs. They got rich over the last 30 years on tennis shoes, T-shirts and solar panels with that strategy. If we allow that strategy to go forward on the issue of aerospace, artificial intelligence, supercomputing, we're going to have a real problem. The president's right on that. But how would you approach that?

[07:00:24] Well, I'd approach that by first getting all my Asian allies on my side. I might even sign a trade agreement. We'd call it TPP, for instance. Then at the same time, I'd get my European allies on my side, because they have the same problem with China. I wouldn't slap steel and aluminum tariffs on them.

Then I'd sit down with the Chinese in secret, in private, and say now we're going to have a trade negotiation. I'm not going to get in your face. We're both going to come out and announce a win. But we would have real leverage on our side.

Instead, Trump blew up TPP. He blew up relations with the E.U. And he did the whole thing in public, and now it's a big face issue between us and China.

BERMAN: Thomas, stick around. We're going to talk to you much more in just a second. We want to do a quick reset.

We want to thank our international viewers for joining us right now. For you, "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY, with Thomas Friedman, continues right now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

So the White House caving to mounting criticism, and they have now postponed that second Trump-Putin meeting that the president had wanted. President Trump had just invited Vladimir Putin to Washington last week, even though President Trump was almost universally criticized for taking Putin's word over that of his own intelligence agencies while in Helsinki.

Putin apparently never responded to the White House invite. So now national security advisor John Bolton claims the president decided to wait until what they call "the Russian witch hunt is over. BERMAN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo really clashed with Democratic

and Republican senators on Capitol Hill. They want to know what the president agreed to with Vladimir Putin, and the secretary of state more or less refused to tell them.

So we want to bring back "New York Times" foreign affairs columnist and author of the best-seller "Thank You For Being Late," Thomas Friedman with us again.

And let's run down some of this news that really have developed over the last 24 hours and since you wrote that column, Thomas.

You were concerned that the president is putting Russia first, not America first. He has since suggested -- or John Bolton has, I suppose -- that this meeting with the White House with Vladimir Putin is going to be delayed.

FRIEDMAN: I don't understand why the first meeting had to happen let alone the second one. You know, we do have issues with Russia, but they're really all about Russia's behavior.

Now, let's remember, a Dutch-Australian inquiry which came out a few months ago found that Russia was responsible for providing the weapons that shot down a Malaysian civilian airliner over Ukraine. We know what Russia has been doing in Syria. We know they've seized Crimea and are intervening in Ukraine with their little green men.

We have a lot of issues with Russia. I'm all for talking about them. But it should be on our terms, not their terms.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Tom, you brought up what -- that the shift, the 180- degree turn that John Bolton, national security advisor, has made in exactly one year. And just to put a finer point on it, I want to read what you're referring to to the viewers.

So a year ago, John Bolton wrote this op-ed about Russia. He said, "Attempting to undermine America's Constitution is far more than just a quotidian covert operation. It is, in fact, a true act of war and one that Washington will never tolerate."

Fast forward one year, here's what he said yesterday. "The president believes that the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we've agreed that it will be after the first of the year."

How do you explain what has happened to John Bolton in one year that he now believes that an investigation into what he considered an act of war is a witch hunt?

FRIEDMAN: Well, Alisyn, the degree of careerism and sycophancy in Bolton, who called it an act of war a year ago, now calling it a witch hunt, it just takes your breath away. And it's so serious. Because year one of Trump I described as President Trump unhinged but bound. Bound by a serious national security advisor, H.R. McMaster; bound by a secretary of state who was ready to tell him no, Tillerson; bound by Gary Cohn, who would tell him no on trade tariffs. He got rid of all of those, and he got rid -- and getting rid of all

those people, the people who came in and took those jobs -- Pompeo, his secretary of state; Bolton as national security advisor; and others, Larry Kudlow, on the national economic team -- those people knew when they came in that Trump had executed, via Twitter, their three predecessors for daring to stand up to them.

So from day one, they clearly agreed to step over the bodies of those people and do and say whatever Trump wanted. Now, these people seem to have forgotten there's something called Google where we can actually look up what they said. And again, as I was remarking earlier, it's just shocking to see people abase themselves for these jobs at such a key time on such key issues.

[07:05:09] BERMAN: Well, Secretary of State Pompeo, who replaced Rex Tillerson, who you were just talking about, was up on Capitol Hill yesterday, and he was facing a lot of questions about what we've been talking about, which is the Russia meeting. What did President Trump agree to with Vladimir Putin? What did he confront him on? And we just don't know, because there are only two people plus interpreters in that room.

Let's just play a little bit of the heated exchange between the secretary and Senator Bob Menendez.


SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Has the president told you what he and President Putin discussed in their two-hour closed-door meeting in Helsinki?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Presidents have a prerogative to choose who's meetings or not. I'm confident you've had private one-on-one meetings in your life, as well. You've chosen that setting as the most efficient way to --

MENENDEZ: I asked you a simple question. Did you --

POMPEO: I just --

MENENDEZ: I can't eat up my seven minutes.

POMPEO: I'm -- (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to answer, Senator

MENENDEZ: Did you -- did he tell you whether or not -- what happened in those two hours?

POMPEO: Yes, Senator. The predicate of your question implied some notion that there was something improper about having a one-on-one meeting. I completely disagree with the premise of the question.

MENENDEZ: Just -- I didn't ask you the predicate. I asked you a simple question. And I hope we're going to get through it. Did he tell you what transpired in the two-hour meeting?

POMPEO: I have had a number of conversations with President Trump about what transpired in the meeting.


BERMAN: Is that what you were talking about before, Thomas? Is that a reasonable answer from the secretary of state?

FRIEDMAN: It's shocking. To compare a private meeting of a senator with a summit that was largely held in private by the president of the United States, with a leader accused of interfering in our elections on his behalf; to compare those two is preposterous.

I listened to that hearing. I didn't listen to every word, but I listened to a lot of it. And it was very obvious that Pompeo could not say directly that he knew everything that went on in that private meeting. We also know that the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, was not consulted about another summit with Putin. We've read that General Dunford, that the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, you know, doesn't know what was going on there. That -- that's just appalling.

CAMEROTA: And so where does that leave us? How will we ever know? And if we never know, which is more likely, what happened during those two hours, what -- what does that -- where does that leave the American public?

FRIEDMAN: Alisyn, we have a real problem. We have a president without shame backed by a party with no spine, echoed by a network without integrity. That is -- that is a huge alliance that is ready to lay itself down for anything this president wants. And there is only one answer to that. There has to be a check on this president's power. That is what the next midterm elections are about.

I am not some raving Democrat or liberal, if you know my -- my column. I have some conservative twitches, as well. But I know one thing: there's only one issue on the agenda of the 2018 election. Will we have a check on this man's power? Therefore, you must run as a Democrat, vote as a Democrat, canvas for a Democrat, raise money for a Democrat, or drive a Democrat to the polls. That is the only way we are going to get a check on his power.

This is not about liberal legislation. Nothing's going to happen between 2018 and 2020. Trump's not going to sign anything. But there has to be, for the sake of our country, a check on this man's power. When you have a president with no shame, a party with no spine, backed by a network ready to be his bullhorn and parrot, there has to be an independent check on his power.

BERMAN: Well, there is a suggestion from some people that we have on this show, and there was a suggestion from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday that, in a way, there is a check. If you look at what the government has done versus what the president is saying, it is different.

Right now, this summit, this second summit, has been delayed. Yesterday, the government put out a statement saying that the United States does not recognize the Russian occupation of Crimea. Yesterday, there was an announcement of some kind of an agreement between the United States and the E.U. on trade, at least a deal to talk about a deal. The tensions were reduced.

So is the actual action different than the words?

FRIEDMAN: I think that -- I think there is some truth to that. I think we have to say there's some truth to that, but I think those restraints were put on by the previous team. And I certainly don't trust the new team to contain those -- to retain those kind of restrictions or to implement them in an effective way.

What in the world -- in what planet in the Milky Way galaxy would it make sense for us to have had Putin here one more time after this crazy meeting that we know nothing about, what actually transpired there? What in the world is that about?

CAMEROTA: And by the way, I mean, the reporting from behind the scenes is that, yes, while President Trump's administration has been tough on Russia in terms of sanctions and expelling diplomats more than any other country, the reporting is that he was dragged reluctantly to do these things. So it's not as big of a chasm between what he says and what he does as we might think. That he -- sometimes, his administration boxes him in, and he has to impose sanctions, but his natural inclination is not to do so.

[07:15:15] FRIEDMAN: And that's the point. A lot of those restraints were put in place by the previous national security team. And when you see John Bolton going from saying that Russia's intervention in our election was an act of war, to -- to the fact that it's a witch hunt, do you really trust going forward what he's going to do?

And that's why we have to have a check on the power of this president. That is the only way that we can be assured that our interests, that we will have an administration that's putting America first, not Trump first, and not Russia first.

BERMAN: What happens next? What happens next, do you think, as this summer goes on? And I keep going back to this meeting with the head of the European Union yesterday. Because he did seem to come here wanting to deal and wanting to move forward. Does that mean, perhaps, the contention that we saw with the NATO leaders will be put in the rearview mirror?

FRIEDMAN: It's so hard to predict. Because, look, I'm a firm believer that some things are true even if Donald Trump believes them. And I say that all the time. And some of the things that he is doing I support on China. It's just a question of, you know, are you going to get it done in a way -- in a rational way?

You know, one of the problems of all of this personal diplomacy is when you've made it personal with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. And I think the president deserves a high mark so far for what he's done with North Korea.

But when it's all personal, if the other guy starts cheating on you, you're very reluctant to call him on it. Because you've made this so personal that it really involves you having to back down in ways that could be very embarrassing.

Same with Putin. There is a reason we have a process for doing these things. There's a reason you have congressional hearings for doing these things.

And always remember one thing. We haven't had a crisis yet. We have not had a crisis. The only crisis we've had are the ones Trump has created. What if we have a big crisis, and we look around and we discover, as my friend Dov Seidman, that we have a president with formal authority, but no moral authority. That would be hugely consequential in a crisis, and that's what worries me most going forward.

CAMEROTA: Tom Friedman, author of "Thank You for Being Late," can you come back early and often?

FRIEDMAN: Thanks very much. Not this early, but I can come back.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Tom.

All right. We want to get to breaking news right now out of China. An investigation is under way right now following this small explosion that was outside the U.S. embassy in Beijing. This happened around 1 p.m. local time. Police tell CNN that a 26-year-old man detonated an explosive device. He injured his own hand and is currently in the hospital. No one else, we're happy to report, was hurt. At this point, there is no word yet on his motive.

BERMAN: Michael Cohen reportedly wants to reveal the truth, but may have created new legal trouble. We'll discuss that, next.


[07:16:57] BERMAN: Multiple sources tell CNN that federal prosecutors investigating the case of Michael Cohen were caught off-guard by the release of his taped conversation with President Trump. Now those sources say the tape's public release could make it harder for Cohen to cut a deal to cooperate with authorities if he's charged.

Joining us now is CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin and CNN political analyst Margaret Talev.

So Michael, we don't really know why Michael Cohen is doing what he's doing. Volumes could be written on that, I suppose, over the last few years. But why might it be a problem for him, that this tape is now out there, with investigators?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The issue, I think, really is one of Cohen's credibility. That is, if the Southern District of New York see him as becoming less credible as a witness, or less stable as a witness, it may inform their decision making about whether to cut a deal or what the nature of the deal is.

I think, however, that Cohen is well known to them. What he is, is what he is. And what they saw yesterday was probably just confirming of what they know, which is if they strike a deal with him anywhere ever to testify, they would need strong corroborative evidence of what he testifies to for it to be availing.

CAMEROTA: So Margaret, this is one of the things that CNN's Kaitlan Collins wanted to ask President Trump about yesterday. She was operating as the pool reporter, and so that people understand, that is when one network assumes the responsibility for all of the free press; asks the questions that they believe are most pertinent and relevant that day.

So let's just play a little clip of Kaitlan doing her job.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you, everybody.

COLLINS: Mr. President, did Michael Cohen betray you?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, everybody. Thank you, everybody.

COLLINS: Mr. President, are you worried about what Michael Cohen is going to say to prosecutors?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just keep going.

COLLINS: Are you worried about what is on the other tapes, Mr. President?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep going. Thank you, all. Keep going. Thank you, everybody.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Why has Vladimir Putin not accepted your invitation? Mr. President --

HOGAN GIDLEY, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you, everybody. Let's go. Come on, guys. Thank you very much.

COLLINS: Why has Vladimir Putin not accepted your invitation, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

GIDLEY: Thank you.


CAMEROTA: Margaret, for the uninitiated, that may sound like chaos, but that is a sort of typical press scrum of trying to get the president to answer. It wasn't -- there was yelling in the room, but the yelling wasn't coming from Kaitlan. She was speaking in sort of a normal tone.

After that, she was banned. She was banned from an open Rose Garden event. Tell us what the aftermath and the repercussions have been of this.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The aftermath was swift and pretty universal in our press corps. We saw condemnation, not just from the White House Correspondents Association, which of course, represent all of us, but from many individual journalists and news outlets including the president of FOX News.

And I think the kind of speed and uniformity with which we saw these reactions sends exactly the message that the press corps feels, which is this was a very ordinary performance from a reporter in a pool spray. This is the sort of thing that's happened for decades. Reporters are in there because the president wants a press moment. They ask questions, and it's up to the president to answer them or not to answer them.

[07:20:19] So I hope that that sent a very clear message of uniformity, but that it was certainly, certainly, you know, has crossed the line in terms of normal White House reaction to -- to normal press interaction.

BERMAN: Yes. This was an ordinary press moment. Reporters ask questions, and I bet they continue to ask questions.

Michael, not ordinary at all, members of the Freedom Caucus, Republicans in the House of Representatives, now introducing articles of impeachment for Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general. Anything to this? Will this go anywhere? What do you see here?

ZELDIN: It's politics, and the circus is in town. This is not going anywhere substantively. They would never get the votes that they need in the House. Even Trey Gowdy is against the impeachment process.

So this is really about theater and that's unfortunate, because you really don't want to make a theatrical production out of national security issues, which is what's at the heart of what they're asking for, which is more documentation around the e-mail investigation of Hillary Clinton and the FISA warrant of Carter Page.

They've received tens of thousands of documents, and this is really just a side show; and it's unfortunate.

CAMEROTA: Margaret, I mean, the irony is that they, the House Intel Committee, has had access to hundreds of thousands of documents. They can go and view them. In other words, the Department of Justice has opened the files in an almost unprecedented, possibly truly unprecedented way to comply; to try to comply with what the Republicans have wanted to see, even though there's an ongoing investigation.

And so now they don't want Rod Rosenstein? I mean, now they want to punish Rod Rosenstein?

TALEV: Yes, and you've seen a few dozen lawmakers take advantage of that. A couple of key ones not taking advantage of it.

But Rod Rosenstein has had one -- since he came on, one of the most difficult jobs in the U.S. government in terms of the American people and the law enforcement posture while sort of trying to fend off a lot of the political pressure that's coming from the White House and some of the president's top defenders in Congress.

And he's in this unwieldy position of, really, by tradition and by job, not being able to get out there and publicly defend himself politically. I mean, he occasionally has, but it's really not his job, and he hasn't viewed his job that way, so he sort of keeps plugging along.

But I think what you're seeing here is kind of the new ratcheting up of the political pressure against Rosenstein. It creates potentially some kind of space if the president decided that he wanted to try to do something against Rosenstein. It gives him a little bit of political support for it. I still think it would be a tremendously controversial move.

And the way that they did this procedurally, without getting into the weeds, the timing of the way that these lawmakers pulled this move, it essentially ensured that there wouldn't be any action ahead of the recess and probably not in September. But it allows them to make that statement and give that --

BERMAN: It's a show.

TALEV: -- political boost to the president.

BERMAN: It's just a show. And Margaret, you're standing outside the White House right now. Where is the soccer ball? Where's the soccer ball? Vladimir Putin gave Donald Trump a soccer ball. You're part of a Bloomberg team which has done fascinating reporting on what is in that ball?

TALEV: It is. This is, to some extent, the -- the -- that's right. It's to some extent, we all experienced this with Alexa or some of the modern innovations in Internet technology. But this is a soccer ball that by manufacture, by design, off the -- off the, you know, manufacturing line form Adidas, has a chip embedded in it that, in theory, would allow just a regular user to watch video of players or figure out whether their left foot kicks harder than their right foot.

So the big question, of course, is is that the way it was delivered to the president from -- from Vladimir Putin? Was it modified in any way? Was there ever a chip in it? If you bought it retail, there would be a chip. We're not getting answers to any of those questions, but the White House secretary -- press secretary, Sarah Sanders, telling us yesterday quite decisively this ball has already been through the typical screening procedures that any potential gift to the White House would. We think it's highly unlikely it's anywhere near the backyard soccer goals. CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh. First of all, why did any soccer ball need a

transmitter chip? OK? I mean, let's just go back. Can't we just be old school and just kick the thing around? Do we need to watch a movie on it?

TALEV: It's 2018.

CAMEROTA: All right. Well, Margaret, great reporting. Thank you.

TALEV: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Michael Zeldin, thank you very much for the analysis.

BERMAN: We saw in that picture, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo eying the soccer ball with suspicion.

CAMEROTA: He should be.

BERMAN: Former director of the CIA.

CAMEROTA: Obviously.

BERMAN: That was last week. Yesterday, he was up on Capitol Hill, being grilled by U.S. senators from the Republican and Democratic party. One of those senators who asked these questions is with us next.


[07:29:08] BERMAN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced senators on Capitol Hill and spent much of the time defending the president's meeting with Vladimir Putin.


POMPEO: President Trump believes that two great nuclear powers should not have a contentious relationship. He strongly believes that now is the time for direct communication.

The president is entitled to have private meetings.

What matters is what President Trump has directed us to do.

Following his meeting with Vladimir Putin --

You somehow disconnect the administration's activities from the president's actions. They're -- they're one and the same.

This is President Trump's administration. Make no mistake, he's fully in charge of this. And it was directing each of these activities that has caused Vladimir Putin to be in a very difficult place today.


BERMAN: Joining us now is Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who did question the secretary during that hearing. Senator, thank you so much for being with us.

We don't know what happened between closed doors between President Putin and President Trump. There was no one inside the room besides interpreters. You had a chance to ask the secretary about this extensively yesterday. Do you have any better sense as to what was agreed to?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: No, absolutely not. And I'm not sure if Secretary Pompeo even knows.