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Merkel to Meet Trump at White House; White House Budget to Cut Meals on Wheels to Increase Defense Spending. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired March 17, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] CHARLES KUPCHAN, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS & PROFESSOR OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY & FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL DIRECTOR FOR EUROPEAN AFFAIRS: And so it's really important for Trump to carve out a working relationship with Merkel. The problem is, on European integration, on trade, on NATO, on immigration, on climate change, they are really living on opposite planets. The question is can they come into the Oval Office today and find a way of building a working relationship.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: What does Angela Merkel need to get out of this meeting and what does the president need to get out of it?

KUPCHAN: Angela Merkel wants to show that she can work with him, that she can tame President Trump, if you will, and try to bring him back to the moderate center, someone who believes in NATO, Europe as America's best partner, essentially, to kind of continue the traditions of the post World War II order. What I think Trump will want is, number one, a commitment to increase defense spending, because he's been hammering the allies on that, justifiably. And Germany is a laggard when it comes to that issue. On trade, the president ran for election saying we've got to get the manufacturing sector going again. There is a trade surplus, Germany with the United States. I think that he should look for Merkel to say, I'm going to increase spending on security, increase demand, and thereby increase imports to make our trading balance, our trading relationship more balanced.

BOLDUAN: Those are just two of the big issues that will be facing them.

Charles, stick with me.

I want to get in a quick break. We'll come back to this after this.

Stick around. We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: A live look at the White House as we all await German Chancellor Angela Merkel coming to meet with President Trump, their first face-to-face meeting. The stakes could not be higher. This relationship could not be more important than the time and place we're in, in the world of international affairs.

Joining me now to discuss as we await the arrival of the German chancellor, Charles Kupchan is back with me.

We're talking about policy, of course, the issues these leaders need to address and need each other on. It must be stated, their difference in style. As I heard someone put it this morning, he runs hot, she runs cool. Angela Merkel is careful, she's deliberative. He, Donald Trump, shoots from the hip. And he was elected on his brash style. That is going to be on full display today. What are you watching for on this, Charles?

[11:35:10] KUPCHAN: I mean, you're exactly right. They are oil and water. She's very steady. She's very quiet. She's been in office for a long time as a career politician. President Trump is noisy, he's impulsive. And they actually have quite different voter bases. Merkel is trying to consolidate the center against the populists in Europe. President Trump is essentially catering to the populists. Therefore, they have very different audiences that they're trying to please. And that's why we really are going to have to ask them to try to come together, find a way of working on the key issues. And I don't think it's that hard. In some ways, if she increases defense spending, that would also help boost the German economy and get the trade balance right. There are places where I think the two of them can find common ground.

BOLDUAN: Of course, part of this relationship is what has been said in the past, there have been some real mixed messages coming from then-Candidate Donald Trump about Angela Merkel. In one interview, he says she is the leader that he most admires. In another moment, he says she was ruining Germany. These harsh statements that came from Donald Trump during the election towards the German chancellor, does that matter? Does that impact this German chancellor?

KUPCHAN: It means they're going to come into this meeting with some baggage. It makes it harder for them to emerge as real partners. Merkel has also said some harsh things about Trump, she's criticized the travel ban. But I do think even on immigration the chancellor has sort of backed away. It's her most exposed political flank. But she can work with the president on border control, on screening, on sharing of intelligence. Even though they approach this issue from a very different perspective, there is a place where they can come together.

BOLDUAN: Let's take a brief walk down memory lane, if you will, to show our viewers what we're talking about, about these statements that have been traded in the past between -- of course, in public, it comes from Donald Trump towards the German chancellor. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What Merkel is doing to Germany is absolutely insane. So we'll see what happens.

Nice woman. I like her. I like her. I may have to deal with her.

Do you know that she was person of the year? And I would have gotten it if she didn't get it.


TRUMP: I would say I think we made a mistake in picking Merkel when we should have picked Trump.

In short, Hillary Clinton wants to be America's Angela Merkel. And you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany. It is a catastrophe.

Look at what's happening with Germany. The crime wave over there -- Merkel is not going to be elected.

I think Merkel is a really great world leader, but I was very disappointed that -- when she moved with the whole thing on immigration. I think it's a big problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you trust more if you talk to them?

TRUMP: I start off trusting both. But let's see how long that lasts.


BOLDUAN: So with that past, Charles, do you think, since it clearly exists, people when they meet face-to-face have that in the back of their minds at some level, do you think it should be noted at some point today?

KUPCHAN: You know, I think they're probably not going to air their dirty laundry. But it does put Chancellor Merkel in a tough spot, because the German public has reacted harshly to President Trump's words. And even though Merkel wants to show that she can work with Trump, she can't be too close to him because that would be seen as cozying up to someone that the German public is not too comfortable with. So she has to find that sweet pot between standing up to him, challenging him on issues of values and immigration, for example, but at the same time, show that she can work with him and avoid a real breach between Berlin and Washington.

BOLDUAN: Seeing more movement at the White House, Charles.

Let's try to fit in one more quick break.

We'll be right back.


[11:39:57] BOLDUAN: As we were expecting, it appears right now, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is arriving at the White House for her first face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump. Let's listen in.


BOLDUAN: And off they go. The German chancellor arriving to the White House for the first time face-to-face with President Trump.

Charles Kupchan, with me? KUPCHAN: Yes, I'm still here.

BOLDUAN: Charles, as you were noting before the break, as you see the handshake and they walk in, kind of the relationship, if you want to talk about a close relationship, that would be between the German chancellor and your former boss, President Barack Obama. That was the closest of relationships by all reports, both privately and publicly. How does that -- I mean, the German chancellor has worked with many a Republican president in her long tenure. How do you reflect on that relationship when you look at where this relationship starts off?

KUPCHAN: You're right to note, Kate, that it was a remarkably close relationship. Merkel and Obama not only liked each other, they trusted each other. They consulted each other regularly. And it will be difficult for President Trump to rebuild that kind of relationship with Merkel, because they are quite different people.

On the other hand, they can sort of set the tone for the broader relationship between the White House and the German chancellor, the presidency. As someone working in the White House under Obama, I was in touch with my German counterparts on almost a daily basis. It's important to Trump and Merkel to rebuild that. Even if they aren't close cousins, at least they can try to keep the relationship on even keel.

BOLDUAN: We'll see where the relationship kicks off as we watch events play out today.

Charles, thank you very much.

KUPCHAN: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Really appreciate you joining me.

There will be a joint press conference between the two world leaders, and the president will be hosting a luncheon for the German chancellor today. We'll be watching all of that play out throughout the day.

Also, coming up next, more on our breaking news. Republican Congressman calling now on President Trump to apologize to former President Barack Obama for his now-unfounded claims that President Obama wiretapped him in Trump Tower. This, of course, as the White House is issuing an apology on a different front for creating an international incident. We'll be right back.


[11:46:58] BOLDUAN: It was an emotional moment to happen during last night's "Messy Truth" with Van Jones on CNN. Watch this.


CHELSEA PATTON (ph), MEALS ON WHEELS RECIPIENT: I think you should try to put yourself in my situation. And what would you do? As I indicated, I am on a fixed income. I am basically homebound. I haven't been out of this apartment in like seven years. How else would I eat? I don't know. I really don't know how I would receive healthy food. And, you know, I used to laugh about the jokes about senior citizens eating dog food. I can understand now exactly what they're talking about.

REP. CHRIS COLLINS, (R), NEW YORK: This is the president's budget. I'm not sure where the details came from. But I can pretty much assure America, the congressional budget -- and when we get into appropriations -- Meals on Wheels is a wonderful program. It is one I would never vote to cut even one dollar.


BOLDUAN: That was Congressman Chris Collins. He is one of President Trump's staunchest supporters, defending against cuts in the federal budget there to this nonprofit group, of course, Meals on Wheels, a nonprofit group that delivers food to almost 2.5 million elderly people each year. But President Trump's newly released budget outlines includes such cuts.

Here is his budget director defending the move.


MICK MULVANEYM, WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR: You can't spend money on programs just because they sound good. Meals on Wheels sounds great. Again, that's a state decision to fund that, and take the federal money and give it to the states and say, we'll give you money for programs that don't work. I can't defend that anymore.


BOLDUAN: Joining me now, the president and CEO of Meals on Wheels, America, Ellie Hollander.

Ellie, thank you for coming in.


BOLDUAN: Full disclosure, Ellie, I was a Meals on Wheels volunteer with my mom growing up in Indiana. I was just talking to her about our shared experiences this morning with regard to our volunteer work.

But what was your reaction when you heard the budget director say your program doesn't work? What was your reaction?

HOLLANDER: Kate, first of all, thanks for volunteering, and we appreciate that.

Meals on Wheels has enjoyed decades of bicameral, bipartisan support from members of Congress. We're not used to being in a defensive posture. In fact, 45 years ago this month, in March, President Nixon signed into law the program that enabled senior nutrition programs to be born, thus Meals on Wheels.

These programs work for everyone. They work for the seniors like the woman that you just showed on the clip. Clients who -- millions of them who rely on Meals on Wheels every day as a lifeline, as their ability to live out their lives at home, independently, safely, and healthily. Sometimes the Meals on Wheels volunteer is the only person that senior sees in a given day.

[11:49:56] BOLDUAN: I want to get to this, though, Ellie. Of course, you done like the wade that he said it. But the budget director when he said he is not wrong when he says the country is in $20 trillion, some $20 trillion in debt. Do you understand the tough chases needed to be made in tough times?

HOLLANDER: Absolutely. That's why cutting Meals on Wheels programs doesn't make economic sense. We know that Meals on Wheels enables seniors to stay out of much more expensive health care settings such as unnecessary visits to the emergency rooms, admissions and readmissions to the hospital, and also premature placement in long- term care facilities. That saves taxpayers millions of dollars annually. It can help reduce falls. We spend $31 billion annually on falls alone. And we know that Meals on Wheels recipients say that knowing that someone is coming to check on them and delivering food, they have less falls. Brown University had a great study in 2012 that said for every state that spent $25 more per senior on Meals on Wheels, they would notice a reduction in the nursing care up to 20 percent. That translates to millions of dollars in Medicaid payments alone.


BOLDUAN: We don't know exactly where this will end up. This is a budget blueprint, a wish list, if you will. It's up to Congress to decide where the cuts and the money will be. We'll be sticking close to it to find out those answers.

Ellie, thank you so much for coming. I appreciate it.

HOLLANDER: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, we have more on the breaking news. The White House apologizing to the U.K. for what the U.K. calls ridiculous allegations about spying on President Trump. For a president that doesn't apologize very often, what does this mean? We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: CNN has learned that at least one House Republican believes right now that President Trump should apologize to his predecessor for claiming that former President Obama wiretapped him. Listen here.


REP. TOM COLE, (R), OKLAHOMA: I see no indication that that's true. It's not a charge that I would have ever made. And frankly, unless you can produce some pretty compelling proof, I think the president, President Obama is owed on apology for that. Because if he didn't do that, we shouldn't be in reckless d. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: All right. That's key Republican in the House, Tom Cole. That is an apology that hasn't happened.

But the apology that has happened, from the White House to the United Kingdom for claims from the briefing room regarding British intelligence helping the Obama administration spy on President Trump.

Let's get to apologies panel. With me now, Amanda Carpenter, CNN commentator and former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz; John Phillips, CNN political commentator and political columnist for the "Orange County Register"; and Alex Burns, CNN political analyst and national political reporter for "The New York Times."

John Phillips, this is not a White House that apologies, this is not a president that apologizes. When it comes to what happened, the incident with the U.K., the fact that they have apologized, does it tell you it's a big deal?

JOHN PHILLIPS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As a general rule, I wouldn't make a claim on television and footnote it by citing a guest on the D block on the FOX Business program. I would try to go in a different direction with that. But we look in a crazy world. This judge in Hawaii cited the TV chat shows in his decision on the immigration restrictions he struck down, so I guess we're living in a whole new world.

[11:55:17] BOLDUAN: We'll see if the apology is coming from the judge. I venture to say no.

Amanda, from a communications standpoint, when Sean Spicer cited this FOX News report, I think it came in a near eight-minute monologue, citing press reports in order to defend President Trump's claim of wiretapping. Listen to this.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: "The New York Times" reported the following. Sean Hannity went on FOX days after the election. "Heat Street" reporter Andy McCarthy writing in "National Review." Sara Carter reporting --


BOLDUAN: We do not -- we synthesized that for you. Not eight minutes for you. But the fact that in the aftermath, Amanda, tells the British that Spicer's comments was unintentional, is the reporting that we have. Does any of that seem unintentional to you?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITIAL COMMENTATOR: Here is the thing I don't understand about what the White House is doing communications-wise. They're relying on commentators. They have access to all kind of primary information, primary sources. Even just as a newspaper columnist, commentator, I wouldn't rely on a commentator as evidence. This may be the position that Sean Spicer is in. Here's the problem for Donald Trump. He's asking his aides and his

party to choose between being loyal to the president and the truth. You see Paul Ryan coming out and saying there's no evidence to back up the claims. If you put people in this position, there are very people that can stand by you. This is going to impact this presidency. It's make or break time. These first 100 days lay the foundation for whether he will be successful as a president or not. If he doesn't start cleaning this up and start acting in a professional manner, more and more members of his party will be abandoning him. Tom Cole is asking him to apologize to President Obama, for goodness sakes. This is day 57. It won't get better.

BOLDUAN: Tom Cole knows what he's saying. He's careful with his language. He's been around for quite some time. Do you think it's a sign of things to come?

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not a vote of confidence the way the president and his spokes people are carrying themselves right now. Republicans who have been around the block realize that the words of the president, of the White House have to land with a certain credibility if the president is going to be successful in governing, if the president is going to be a reliable spokesperson for the country in a moment of actual crisis, or actual intelligence threat that needs to be described.

John had that sort of clever one liner about the judge in Hawaii. The similarity between the case in Hawaii and what we're talking about now, is the president and his advisers popped off on Twitter and on television and the court and the British government took them seriously and to take them into account for what they said.

BOLDUAN: You said it even better. It's not up to the White House to say don't take us literally. It's others to decide.

BURNS: Right. And it's extremely different from the context of a political campaign where, ultimately, it's the voters and 46 percent of the country distributed in the right state to get to decide we're going to interpret President Trump in this way. That's not how it works with the judge or the foreign leader.

BOLDUAN: I want to quick turn -- Amanda, I want to get M.J. Lee, a great reporter, on health care.

When he was meeting with a group of conservative leaders he said everyone is on board, we're making changes, things are moving in the right direction. She talked to the Freedom Caucus, a smaller group of conservatives. The announcement that all the RNC are for it doesn't change our group at all. What does it mean for the bill and getting it to the goal line.

M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Paul Ryan is putting pressure to get it there. And you don't know how every member will vote until you get there. There's three areas, I think the Medicaid expansion, the tax credit and the mandates, if they can make headway, great. If they can't, failure will be the result. I don't think failure is an option for Donald Trump or the members of the House. They have to get a win on health care. What will that look like, will it be true repeal, we don't know. But they have to do something. All the incentives are really aligned, and I think the first test will be coming next week.

BOLDUAN: First, of many of votes. But an important one.

Thank you, guys, so much.

Thank you for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"Inside Politics" with Dana Bash today starts now.

[12:00:11] DANA BASH, ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm Dana Bash. John King is off today.