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Defending Against Russia Probe; Kushner Facing Scrutiny; Merkel Relaying on U.S.; Macron Handshake with Trump; Trump at Arlington National Cemetery; Tiger Woods Arrested. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 29, 2017 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: And we are watching a number of developing stories on this Memorial Day.

Moments ago, President Trump paying tribute to America's fallen soldiers there at Arlington National Cemetery. This is, of course, the video from earlier when he laid that wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We'll have a live report on his visit to the nation's most sacred ground coming up.

Plus, the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is facing new scrutiny over allegations he discussed setting up a secret communications channel with Russia.

And more trouble surrounding golf star Tiger Woods. The 14-time major champion has been arrested for alleged DUI in Florida. We'll have those details.

On this Memorial Day, as we honor the men and women who sacrificed their lives for this country, President Trump marking the day at Arlington National Cemetery. Again, here's the video, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and then giving some remarks just moments ago, his first remark since returning to the U.S. from his nine-day trip abroad, paying tribute to the families of the fallen just moments ago.

Meanwhile, President Trump is also trying to overcome the mounting questions about Russia and the ongoing investigation surrounding his administration. CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones is joining us now.

Athena, there - there's a sense now that this administration is moving into a new phase in terms of how they're handling the Russia investigation. Tell us about it.


Well, the word is that there is talk of putting together a war room of sorts. That's the terminology being used. A war room that would be tasked with answering questions about the Russia investigation and also developing a communications strategy. We're talking about a whole separate team of folks who would be focused solely on the questions surrounding around this Russia investigation and also coming up with a way to kind of counteract the narrative that has developed. That could be a tall order.

But this is one of the things being discussed because we know the president is both distracted by and very unhappy about the ongoing investigation. And the hope here is that if you have a team in place to focus just on that, they could find a way to get their - their message out during this - what's likely be a very long series of investigations.

Still no word yet on who exactly will make up this team, but some former campaign hands have been mentioned possibly coming back into the White House or working with the White House in an outside capacity. Folks like Corey Lewandowski, who was fired about a year ago, and others are being mentioned. But that is one thing we're watching here in the coming days, just to see just how that war room takes shape, who's on that team and what they try to do in terms of messaging and answering questions.


CABRERA: And what's the latest on Jared Kushner, the president's son- in-law, one of the top advisers who has recently come under scrutiny when it comes to the Russia investigation after reports that he had tried to establish some kind of back channel, actually setting up some kind of diplomatic channel at a Russian diplomatic facility here in the U.S. during the transition? What's the latest from the white house in terms of how they're dealing with that news?

JONES: Well, this is highly unusual. It's raised a lot of eyebrows, a lot of concerns among folks outside the White House. Within the White House, and among administration officials, they're coming to Jared Kushner's defense. We saw Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly say this is not a big deal. Having an open line of communication with any country, back channel or not, is a good thing.

We also saw the president himself giving a statement to "The New York Times" last night that said in part, "Jared is doing a great job for the country. I have total confidence in him." That statement went on to say that Kushner is well respected by virtually everyone. He's working on programs that will save the U.S. billions of dollars and that he's a good person.

So the white House is clearly frustrated with the focus on this Russia investigation, but it seems like every day or so or every other day, certainly every week, there are new developments coming out in the news, new reports. And so that is why they're looking to put together a special communications team to deal with this.


CABRERA: All right, Athena Jones at the White House for us. Thank you.

After coming off his first overseas trip, President Trump not getting a vote of confidence from one of America's closest allies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says European nations must take their fate into their own hands, adding they can no longer completely rely on the U.S. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The times where we could completely count on others, they're over to a certain extent. I've experienced this in the last few days and that is why I can only say that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.


CABRERA: Let's bring in CNN's senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen. He's joining us now.

Fred, how should the U.S. interpret those comments?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they should interpret them to say that the Germans at this point in time simply don't know where America stands. And I think some of the things that Angela Merkel heard on President Trump's trip to Europe last week, specifically in Brussels, but also at that NATO trip in Italy, really made her feel as though America might not be fully reliable, or at least the sense the Germans be fully reliable as a partner to the Germans.

[12:05:18] And I think that there were several things that really stood out. One was when President Trump was highly critical of other NATO nations, saying that they needed to pay up more. Also not being clear that America fully stands behind other NATO countries. And then he appeared to attack the Germans also in a newspaper article where he gave an interview where he apparently criticized the Germans for importing too many - or exporting too many cars to America, saying that the Germans were very bad. So those are two things that certainly didn't sit very well. And it really shows that the Germans, I think they want to increase their ties with countries like France in Europe, but it really seems as though Angela Merkel is quite alienated by President Trump and by this new administration, Ana.

CABRERA: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thanks for that update.

I want to bring in our panel now, CNN contributor Ben Ferguson, Bill Press, host of "The Bill Press Show," and Caitlin Huey-Burns, national political reporter for RealClearPolitics.

Ben, I'll start with you.

Those Angela Merkel comments, is that what President Trump wanted coming out of this first meeting with the allies overseas, to have U.S. allies now questioning the strength of their alliance?

BEN FERGUSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think what you're seeing here is a big game that's being played of basically leverage. I understand where the German chancellor is coming from. She doesn't like dealing with a strong American leader. They were able to get their way for the last eight years with the last administration and she's making it very well known that her relationship in her view is different.

And for many it should be different. I think it is going to be different. You have a much tougher stance from this president and he is going to make it very clear what our interests are around the world. That doesn't mean that we're not, you know, going to have - be close with our allies. But I also think it was a bad decision by Angela Merkel to isolate herself in this way. When you come out and you talk this way, and then if you need something down the road for the United States of America, it puts you in a bad position. I think all of her citizens should be concerned about that. Why make these statements right out of this meeting and basically go into a rhetoric war with the United States just because you don't like how easy it's going to be to deal with this president? That's just not smart foreign policy or diplomacy move.

CABRERA: Bill, what's your take on Merkel's remarks? Vladimir Putin must be smiling now.

BILL PRESS, HOST, "THE BILL PRESS SHOW": Well, first of all, if you talk about not smart foreign policy, I think we just saw an example on the part of our president of the most boorish, ignorant foreign policy that we've maybe ever seen. Look, Angela Merkel was reflecting reality. The reality is, as Ben - the reporter just told us before Ben, that the United States is not reliable anymore as a partnership, particularly in Europe or around the world. I think that is very - should be very troubling for all Americans, particularly this European partnership.

Look, this is 70 plus years of strategic partnerships in trade, in intelligence, very important in national security, built by Republican and Democratic presidents, especially Republican presidents. Put together by Dwight Eisenhower, reinforced by Richard Nixon, and both Bush presidents. This is something that has been sort of the hallmark of American foreign policy. And for Donald Trump to go there and trash it in two days I think is deplorable. And, you're right, who does it benefit? The other guy who wants to destroy -

CAMEROTA: Let - let me bring -

PRESS: Let me finish. The other guy who wants to destroy the European Union -

FERGUSON: Nothing was trashed.

PRESS: Which is Vladimir Putin.

CABRERA: And, Caitlin, I want to bring you into the conversation, because speaking of Putin, we've heard him and the president make comments about just how bad their relationship is and the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. But then to hear these words from somebody like a German leader, one of our closest allies in the west, bring it some perspective in terms of how bad it really is.

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Sure. One of our closest allies in the west in a really big contrast between Donald Trump and Merkel and, of course, President Obama and Merkel, who were very, very close. But this shouldn't be all entirely surprising that Donald Trump is having this response to Merkel and that she is having this response to him given what we saw in the rhetoric of Donald Trump on the campaign trail really criticizing Merkel as a - as the German leader, really critical particularly of her immigration stances. Remember, this was amid the refugee crisis.

And so what he was trying to do abroad was really speak to his campaign promises, really putting pressure on NATO. But it came off - it came under criticism, of course, because of the venue and because there are allies really concerned about how the U.S. is going to operate in this venue. He wasn't explicitly supportive of the mutual defense pact, which also alarmed a lot of allies. And, of course, put this in the context of the Russia investigation and what this all means, particularly as that story looms over the White House.

[12:10:08] CABRERA: And it isn't just Germany, but France as well. A lot's been said about that handshake between the new French president, Macron, and President Trump. And now we're getting Macron's side of the story, saying this was not an innocent gesture. He wanted to send a message to President Trump through this handshake, essentially that the French aren't going to be walked all over.

Ben, why would that even be necessary?

FERGUSON: Yes. Look, again, this is, I think, what you see as some of this as the elitism of Europe. And in many ways they cannot stand the fact that Donald Trump was elected. And so when they go out into their countries, it is popular with a lot of their base to say, we stood up to Donald Trump.

And, look, these countries are not going to have their way with America financially with our financial commitments, but also we're not going to sit back and be quiet if there's something going on that we disagree with. So I really don't have an issue with any one of these leaders flexing their muscles in their countries so they look like, yes, we stuck it to the United States.

I just think it's a bad move by them because at some point you are going to need the United States' assistance in some capacity. Is it really worth it for you to go out there in a political way where there's a camera and to flex your muscles just so you can look bigger than you really - you know, to your people? I don't know if that's a very smart move.

Let me also say one other thing. Nothing disintegrated on this trip with the president. What Bill was implying a moment ago is that the president went over there and blew something up, some massive long history record. Nothing has changed on paper. Let's be clear about that.

What the president said was, I am willing to talk to you directly about some of the shortcomings and some of these agreements. But to imply that something changed with our foreign policy is just not accurate. It's all rhetoric.

PRESS: Well, you know, I appreciate the long speech, Ben, but let's face it, it was Donald Trump who -

CABRERA: Hey, Bill, just a moment. I will give you a second to respond.

But I do want to call attention to what we're looking in - at in these live pictures. This is the vehicle carrying the president arriving at Arlington National Cemetery, passing through section 60. That's where our Barbara Starr has been reporting from this morning. A very moving section in a place of real, I think, reflection for folks today because these are some of the men and women who sacrificed their lives in the wars in the past decade plus and Afghanistan, in Iraq., And so, again, just wanted to take a moment to look at this moment and to see the president and to, again, talk a little bit about the day that this is, being Memorial Day.

Bill, I'll give you a moment to respond to Ben. But first, let's just stick with this for a moment. And I'd like to get your response, Bill, to what we heard from the president today in his speech honoring the service members and the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

PRESS: Oh, no, I thought it was a very moving moment, a very - a wonderful speech that the president gave this morning, which was just - I thought just the right tone, recognize the fallen heroes, including the - some whose relatives were there at the ceremony. He spoke, I believe, for all of us Americans in recognizing this day and the sacrifice that so many have made to keep us free.

And watching that ceremony, I mean, that's one I think all Americans today are united behind the president in his remarks certainly at Arlington National Cemetery. And that gives us the freedom to appear on national television and disagree about some of the policies of this president, which is one thing that makes America great.

So just getting back to that, I just wanted to point out, it was the president who went to Europe and insulted them on their territory. I do not fault the Europeans for responding.

CABRERA: OK, thanks, Bill, Ben, and Caitlin. Stick around with us.

I want to go Barbara Starr now, who is there, live on the ground at Arlington National Cemetery.

Barbara, walk us through the scene there as the president just passed by or is there among the crowd we see.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Right. The president, as we can see, and I hope you're seeing some of these pictures -

CABRERA: We are.

STARR: Has just gotten out of his limousine. He is moving into Section 60. I can tell you, the people here have expected to see him and are very - these military families are very grateful for any attention brought to their fallen loved ones. Nothing here right now is about politics. This is about military families and paying respect to the fallen.

We believe that the secretary of homeland security, retired General John Kelly, is at his side. We are led to believe they will make their way - you see the crush of people. They are going to make their way towards the graveside of General Kelly's son, who was killed a few years ago in action in Afghanistan. We believe that that is where they are headed.

[12:15:24] But the president being surrounded now by many of those who have been here, many of those who have been here throughout the morning. We have seen people come and go. Many people planning to spend the day here, graveside, at their loved ones visiting. You see a lot of photographers, a lot of families with cell phones, obviously. The president moving on a little bit, being escorted. I see that the vice president, Vice President Pence, is also with him. And they are moving down this line. The president waving to so many of the military families who are here.

This is - this is the president carrying flowers, we see. A very unscripted moment for President Trump in a way because he's stopping and talking to families and other military personnel who are here. Often what we saw with President Obama, what we saw with Vice President Biden, these families want to talk for a few minutes. They want to tell of their loved one. They want to tell why they are here.

And this place, why you see so many people in this one spot of Arlington, this is hallowed ground. This is Section 60. Eight hundred and ninety souls killed in action on the battlefield since 9/11 are buried here. Many of them, of course, killed at very young ages fighting in Afghanistan, fighting in Iraq. And even the ones - the last couple of killed in action, we saw that they were just something like 22 years old. So when you see that, you realize that on 9/11 they were small children who, nonetheless, grew up to join the military and serve the country.

And the president, right now, listening very intently, obviously, we believe, some military family here speaking to him about their loved ones. That's what we usually see here at Section 60. There's sort of this motto, never forget, and that's what military families - it's so important to them that the country doesn't forget and that people do not forget the sacrifices made.

The president, I think -

CABRERA: We heard the president say that multiple times during his speech as well, that we will not forget and we honor their devotion, their courage. He gave a special shout out to every gold star family saying, quote, "God is with you and your loved ones are with him." And he also acknowledged those unknown soldiers who have died, saying they are united in their act of loyalty and love for our country and paying the ultimate sacrifice.

We're staying with these live pictures here, Barbara, as we see the president, again, holding flowers as he's working his way through the crowd there. Go ahead.

STARR: He is making his way to the grave of General Kelly's son now. Really, you know, how do you describe, for every military family, unbearable sadness, unbearable grief. But for - UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now could you go the other way just for a

minute please. Thank you.

[12:20:56] STARR: And he's - the president having laid flowers - what I am - I think - believe that's General McMaster, his national security adviser. He's shaking hands with there in uniform. The president posing for a picture with a young person there.

What I am so struck by, and I want to speak more quietly, is the silence here. There is silence surrounding the president. This is a president who is often surrounded by cheering crowds, by his supporters. What you have right now is something we don't often see with President Trump. He is surrounded by total silence, some applause breaking out. A very, very dignified visit, if you will, to Section 60.

Talking with some of the people here. But a moment really of pause and reflection from the commander in chief. And that's really what this place is about. There are no politics at gravesides. There are families very much even after so many years for some of them still very much in grief here. That's what today is about. To pause, remember, reflect, pay respect.

And the president's stopping again, I see, to talk to more military families here. There are, you know, there are an awful lot of small children here who will grow up and remember that they met the president of the United States. And that is something for all of these people here today to remember. General McMaster in the Army uniform.

CABRERA: And we don't know, Barbara, we don't know if - excuse me, but if we - if I could just say, you know, in sharing this moment with you and with our viewers, Barbara, when you talk about those small children who are also there, while we don't know exactly how all of the folks who are in the cemetery today are connected, if they have personally lost loved ones, safe to assume at least some of them and many of them probably have. And you see these children and some of them have lost their fathers, their mothers in service. And it does become very real as we reflect on the fact that we have thousands, tens of thousands, nearly 200,000 military men and women deployed overseas right now and we still have folks in those combat zones. So, again, we remember those who have lost lives and we also want a moment to remember and thank those who are continuing to serve our country.

We see the camera panning up as there are some flights overhead, perhaps as part of military tributes. Our thanks to Barbara Starr.

We're going to take a quick break here on CNN and thanks for staying with us. We'll be back in just a moment.


[12:28:11] CABRERA: Some breaking news. Police in Jupiter, Florida, say they have arrested golf legend Tiger Woods on suspicion of driving under the influence. They say they picked him up around 3:00 this morning. He has been released without bond.

Joining us now with more details is CNN correspondent Rosa Flores.

Rosa, what can you tell us about what happened?


Tiger Woods, perhaps the most famous golfer, arrested at 3:00 a.m. this morning on suspicion of DUI, or driving under the influence. Now all this according to Jupiter Police.

Now, Jupiter is where he lives. He was actually arrested about ten miles south of his home. And just for reference, Jupiter, Florida, is about 90 miles north of Miami.

Now, we looked at online records and those records show that he was booked at 7:18 this morning. He was later released at 10:50 this morning on his own recognizance. Meaning, he didn't post bail, he was released, though.

Now, we are chasing a few other details because it is unclear whether he tested positive for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It's also unclear if he was the only person in the vehicle. So we're chasing all of that now.

As for what he's been up to lately, he's been recovering from his fourth surgery, so he's been out of the touring scene, out of the golfing scene, out of the professional scene since February. But he has been blogging. His last blog actually saying that he's feeling a lot better after this last surgery.

But again, Ana, Tiger Woods arrested on suspicion of DUI and he was released at about 10:50 this morning, that's Eastern Time.

[12:30:00] Ana.

CABRERA: You are seeing his mug shot there. It's not the Tiger Woods a lot of us are used to seeing when we see him out on the golf course. We know there was, of course, a big tournament this weekend, a big golf tournament that he did not participate in, as you mentioned, as he recovers from his injury.

Rosa Flores, thanks for that information.