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Trump Meets Belgian P.M. After Pope Francis Meeting; Republicans Slam Trump's Budget Proposal; Officials: Manchester Bomber Spent 3 Weeks in Libya Before Attack. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 24, 2017 - 11:30   ET



[11:34:05] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A very busy agenda for President Trump on his fifth day of his overseas trip, meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican this morning. The president called the meeting "fantastic." And right now, he's getting together with the Belgian prime minister.

Let's discuss the agenda and these very important meetings with CNN's Phil Black. He is in Brussels. And CNN's Ben Wedeman who is in Rome.

Phil, first to you.

During the campaign. it was no secret that President Trump once called brussels a hell hole in the interview. The Belgian prime minister did not like the description so much back then. What are we expecting when these two men meet?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what he was talking about there, in that context, was the belief that there were too many Muslims, said then-Candidate Trump, that weren't integrating into Belgian society.

And he has some other awkward meetings taking place, too. Tomorrow morning, meeting with the European Union leading officials. He's criticized that organization and praised Britain for deciding to leave it. He'll also be having lunch with the new French President Emmanuel Macron, who, during the recent French presidential election, Trump said that Macron's political rival was the strongest candidate in that particular race. Plenty of potential for awkwardness.

And on top of all of that, tonight, in Brussels, Belgian police said they're expecting 10,000 people to be rallying, protesting in the streets of the city because they don't want Donald Trump to be here -- Kate?

[11:35:32] BOLDUAN: Wow. First thing's first. Let's see what comes out of this first bilateral meeting with the Belgian prime minister.

Ben, Candidate Trump had some back and forth with Pope Francis, but there was no sign of that at all today in the video of the meeting that I saw. What do we know about their meeting and what was discussed?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's interesting, if you look at the video, the meeting, before it began when they had the photo opportunity together, Pope Francis and President Trump, President Trump was smiling rather awkwardly and the pope was looking rather stern. This is often the case, but not always how he meets world leaders. Normally, the contents of these meetings remain confidential, but both sides did put out statements describing the talks as cordial. The Vatican said they did discuss climate change, as well as, for instance, the importance of political negotiations and protection of Christian minorities, in particular reference to the Middle East. We did hear that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on the plane flying from Rome to Brussels, did say that the pope specifically asked Donald Trump that the United States stay within the Paris Climate Accords. Tillerson did say that no decision has been made on whether the U.S. will continue to comply with those accords, and that probably a decision would come after this trip is over. But it's interesting that the President Trump did say, when he was leaving the meeting, to the pope, he said, "Thank you, I won't forget what you said." So certainly, it does appear that the pope did press some of those points that he is passionate about. He also gave President Trump a copy of an encyclical he wrote two years ago in which he definitely made a link between human behavior and climate change. So we will see whether President Trump will also keep those things in mind, as well -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: A lot of past statements to keep in mind and discussed. A lot of present statements to keep in mind as discussed. A lot going on, on this trip.

For our viewers -- Phil and Ben, thank you guys so much.

For our viewers, that was new video that came in with the president and the first lady meeting with the king and queen of Belgium. They were there to meet with them, first, looking at the schedule, meeting with the king and queen, their meeting there signing a guest book at the palace and then the bilateral meeting with Belgian prime minister. So keeping track of all of the president's moves in Belgium. We'll bring them to you as they come in.

Coming up for us, British police are now targeting a network in connection with the Manchester concert bombing. This, as we are learning that the bomber now spent three weeks, it is believed, in Libya before the attack, returning just days before the attack. What does this mean? Where does this lead investigators now?

Plus, the president's budget proposal already under fire, and not just from liberal Democrats. Growing backlash against what some Republicans are calling draconian cuts in the president's budget blueprint. That is ahead, as well.


[11:43:16] BOLDUAN: President Trump's first budget unveiled, landing with a bit of a thud on Capitol Hill. They traditionally do land with a thud or two for most presidents, so that is not unusual. What's unusual is that many Republican lawmakers say some of the president's proposed cuts went too deep. The State Department, EPA, Education, and Health and Human Services, just a few of the agencies that will face slashed budgets as a way of helping boost funding for -- mostly for defense and a few other areas. Republican Congressman Hal Rogers told reporters, the budget, if taken as is, it would, quote, "be very harmful." He's the former chair of the Appropriations Committee and knows a thing or two about a budget.

Joining me now, someone else who knows a thing or two about a budget, Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Maya, great to see you.


BOLDUAN: You wrote an opinion piece about his today and it was headlined, "Trump's budget doesn't make sense." Why is that, Maya?

MACGUINEAS: It's never black and white with the budgets, and I do think there are good things that I wrote about in the piece that the budget does do. One, it sets out a goal of balancing the budget. I don't think it's a credible assumption it gets there, but it's really important that we acknowledge these fiscal problems and has a goal of fixing them. And, two, while the budget is certainly going to be criticized for the spending cuts that it does, it is important that you actually make some hard choices. And so they did look through a lot of programs where they would reduce spending and bring some of those policy choices and generate some savings.

That said, I think there are a lot of problems, starting with the fact that their savings come from such a small sliver of the budget, like you were just saying, domestic discretionary investments and programs for kids and poor people. And there was a huge amount of savings that has to be squeezed on that very small part of the budget because they take so much off of the table. They don't look at revenues. They don't look at the biggest entitlement programs, which they need to fix.

BOLDUAN: Like Social Security and --


[11:45:13] MACGUINEAS: And Medicare, which are really the centerpieces of -- if we're going to be serious, we have to look at those programs and how to fix them so that they are solvent. And you can't fix the budget without fixing the biggest parts of the budget.


BOLDUAN: And which many Republicans have said they want to tackle that. Where Democrats often say, they will never touch those programs, Republicans have traditionally been more open.

Can I ask you, Maya, about one of the assumptions that the White House is working with, and you talked about? You talk about credible assumptions. They're working with the assumption that there will be 3 percent economic growth. When you wrote about this, you wrote that it's almost certainly unobtainable. Why is that?

MACGUINEAS: Yeah, 3 percent doesn't sound like a huge number. You think we should be able to do that, but here is the problem we're facing. We are an aging society. When we had higher growth rates in the past decades, which we did, it is because women were entering the workforce and, importantly, the baby boomers were entering the workforce and in their prime working years. Now, they're retiring. Back to the point you just made, we never fixed Social Security and Medicare, which we should have. They're retiring in a way that both drains the budget and makes our labor market force grow much more slowly. And we're also not talking about opening up the economy for more immigration. So the constraints from labor mean that our economy isn't going to grow as quickly as it did before. You can't just wish for economic growth. We need to have an agenda that will help grow the economy. The president has laid out the right kinds of ideas with tax reform, regulatory reform and changing our spending, but it will not get us to 3 percent, and we shouldn't pretend it. And I worry those growth numbers in the budget are tapering over. Again, they're not looking at the biggest drivers of our debt from revenues to the big entitlements, and we can't have a serious plan to balance the budget until we put all of those on the table.

BOLDUAN: At the very moment, when you look at the reaction from Republicans on Capitol Hill, so far it does not look like this budget is going anywhere fast, that's for sure. We'll see what Congress has come up with. And in this climate, can they come up with any budget even on their own? We shall see.

Great to see you, Maya.

MACGUINEAS: Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Three weeks in Libya before the attack, U.S. officials saying the suspect, the man that they say committed the terror attack at the Manchester concert, that he was only back in the United Kingdom for days, just days after that long Libya trip before he carried out this attack. Details on that ahead.


[11:51:38] BOLDUAN: Just moments from now -- just moments ago, rather, Manchester police shared new detail on terror attack that occurred this week. Four people are now in custody in connection with the bombing. The U.K. police now say they are investigating a wider network at play. And U.S. officials telling CNN just this morning that the attacker spent three weeks in Libya, returning only days before launching his attack.

For a perspective, let me bring in R.P. Eddy, former director of counterterrorism at the National Security Council under President Clinton and the co-author of "Warnings, Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes."

R.P., great to have you here. Thanks for coming in. R.P. EDDY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM, NATIONAL SECURITY

COUNCIL & AUTHOR: Thanks, Kate. Good to be here.

BOLDUAN: This new detail, the two new details coming out today, does it surprise that you U.K. officials say they are investigating a wider network?

EDDY: No, that's not surprising at all. Manchester, the town where the bombing occurred, has a history of radicalization. There's been a transition in Manchester from gangsterism to jihad. About 16 people have already been caught before this bombing who have become ISIS members through radicalization in just this town. It wouldn't be surprising if this bomber was drawn into that.

BOLDUAN: When we talk about the wider network, the new information Barbara Starr was bringing earlier about the fact that the attacker, U.S. officials believe he spent three weeks in Libya returning just days before the attack, that - that --

EDDY: This is a big deal.


EDDY: Just to set the framework, think of ISIS in three different formats. The first thing you have is ISIS that is the landlord that controls parts of Iraq and Syria and the pseudo caliphate. That's a country to some extent. The second -- and they're losing territory. The second group, of course, is ISIS as an international terrorist organization, taking trained soldiers, like this bomber may have been -- soldier is not the right word -- trained terrorists, killers murders, and putting them in the streets. The third aspect of ISIS is they're really proteolyzing, an extremist-making machine. I call it an idea of mass destruction that works well with the Internet. They're very fast at radicalizing folks. Those are the three different aspects of ISIS, really, three different phenomena. In this instance, we now see this murderer is from the middle class. That's a little unusual for ISIS. They're usually not as great at getting someone in to get trained and back out into the West.


BOLDUAN: Right. That's why they started in moving to "stay where you are and doing what you can," right?

EDDY: Right.

BOLDUAN: But a lot of these attacks, if ISIS connected, it comes down to recruitment for them, right? I keep returning to this question. Why on God's green earth is attacking innocent kids outside a concert, a pop concert, how is that good for recruitment?

EDDY: Well, it's something that our brains are never going to get. We're never going to wrap our brains around that question. Don't expect for me to have a rationale answer.

But this idea of countering violent extremism, figuring out how to crack the cycle of recruitment is very important. And it almost doesn't happen on the battlefield. In fact, it almost doesn't happen on the battlefield. It happens on the Internet. It happens in the world of ideas. It happens about -- it's a really big complex and nuanced situation. Now, it can be tactical. If you're in New York City, we worked very, very hard about breaking that cycle of radicalization down at the community level. But it's a hard thing to do. We'll never understand it.

BOLDUAN: I want to ask you, the British home secretary, she was asked about leaks coming from the United States, U.S. Intel officials leaking some information. She called irritating and said she's had a talk with our friends to make sure this can't continue to happen. This is the world that you worked in throughout your career. What does that mean when the home secretary comes out to say something like that?

[11:55:19] EDDY: It means a lot. The British and U.S. have an extraordinary open intel sharing relationship. NYPD has cops in London, collecting intel as well. We'll never figure out where the leak came from. But just because the information is shared doesn't mean it's not classified, doesn't mean it's OK to spread it. The Donald Trump instance with the Russians, where he shared Israeli information, all these things become real irritants to our foreign intelligence partners.

That she made the comment, amidst all that's going on, means she was really upset. I would say the information she seems upset about, the suicide bomber and maybe the name, I don't know that that's really, you know, going to set back her investigation. That's not for me to say.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, R.P.

EDDY: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: Great read. Thank you for being here.

EDDY: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We're going to continue to follow more of our breaking news. Reports now of two explosions rocking the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. This is all happening as we speak. These details are coming in. We'll bring much more of this to you in a moment.

We'll be right back.


[12:00:07] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

President Trump is in Brussels for his first NATO summit, a gathering with fresh urgency --