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Americans Injured in Kabul Blast; Will Kabul Blast Affect White House Decision to Send More Troops; Question Stumps State Department Official; Deadline Tomorrow on Moving Israeli Embassy to Jerusalem; World Leaders React as Trump Expected to Pull Out of Paris Accord; Sean Spicer, German Ambassador Downplay Rift in U.S-German Relationship. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired May 31, 2017 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: We have breaking news out of Afghanistan. CNN has learned Americans were among the nearly 400 hurt that have been hurt in a suicide bombing this morning in Kabul Afghanistan. The blast was just massive. One of the deadliest attacks in the Afghan capitol in years. At least 80 people were killed and it seems the death toll is rising. It happened in a part of the city where all of the foreign embassies are and, of course, it was during the busy rush hour.

Let's got over to the Pentagon. CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is there and has more details.

Barbara, what are you picking up?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. We are learning from two U.S. officials, they do believe at least seven U.S. citizens injured in this attack. Several of them may have been actually assigned to work at the U.S. embassy, not clear if they were formally State Department personnel or contractors, but when people work in Kabul affiliated with the U.S. government they are generally assigned under the U.S. embassy. Regardless of where their paycheck came from, we have several Americans working in Kabul this morning injured in this attack along with nationals from other countries and, of course, Afghans bearing the brunt of this absolute disaster.

A U.S. official that was at the site a short time ago tells me the crater that this bomb left was at least 20 feet deep, more than 40 feet wide. This was apparently a water-tanker truck that pulled up to an Afghan police checkpoint in this area where the embassies are located. They were stopped by the Afghan police and that's when the bomber detonated the truck causing all of this. The Afghan police, in the view of U.S. officials, really the heroes today. If this truck had made it several more feet, it could have been even worse. As bad as it is with so many Afghan civilians hurt and so many Afghans killed.

The U.S. trying to make a determination who was behind this and who was responsible and it really strikes at the heart of the Afghan government and at the heart of the effort by so many nations to help this country get on its feet -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: It's just amazing when you see the video and the perspective you're offering.

Barbara, thank you so much. We'll stay close to that.

Seven Americans, Barbara reports, among those injured in that massive attack. This also comes as the Trump administration has been thinking about, considering, contemplating sending more troops to Afghanistan. How could this brazen and horrific attack affect that decision?

Let me bring in CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, who worked at the State Department and the Pentagon for many years.

John, good to see you.


BOLDUAN: Thank you.

We know that the Pentagon has asked for up to 5,000 additional troops to go to Afghanistan. This is yet another decision that the White House has been really mulling over and divided on. Folks have described it as a mini surge. Do you think today's attack changes the calculation?

KIRBY: I don't know that it will change the calculation of the decision-making process here. As you rightly point out, there are different camps. The military wants more troops. There are people in the White House who oppose that.

I do think, however, that this attack underscores the dangerous situation that subsists in Afghanistan and Kabul in particular. We've seen attacks in the Green Zone before. I haven't seen one of this magnitude in a very, very long time. And it does underscore how important it is to continue a mission of improving the capabilities and the skill sets of the Afghan national security forces.

If you look at the press release they put out today from Afghanistan, the Afghanistan national security force performed well in responding to this attack. It's important that we remain committed to continue to perform well. It will certainly factor into the backdrop. I don't know that it itself will manifest a certain decision.

BOLDUAN: Yes. We still await that decision.

And here's another one I want to lean on your State Department experience. The White House is facing a deadline tomorrow on whether or not to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, or if they defer it for another six months, which is kind of how this has worked. And this is something that we know that the president promised during the election. What do you think is holding him up? What do you think that he's learned since coming into office that is holding him up on this decision so far?

KIRBY: I hope his trip to Israel showed him the complexities of moving the embassy to Jerusalem. Maybe his meeting with President Abbas might have helped cover that. I certainly hope so. It's an easy thing to say that on the campaign trail, and he's not an easy guy to do that.


KIRBY: But when you get involved in discussions with leaders over there and you realize how difficult the situation is and how tense it is and how moving the embassy will only exacerbate those tensions, I think you begin to understand that it's not quite so simple as picking up stakes and moving it there. There's potentially, potentially -- and this is what we used to say at the State Department -- real ramifications to moving the embassy in terms of the safety and security of not just Israelis and Palestinians, but even Americans, American tourists and Americans working over there. I think we need to be very careful.

BOLDUAN: Very interesting. And they're being careful because this decision is taking longer than a lot of folks expected it would.


KIRBY: I think that's wise. I think that's wise.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, John. Thank you.

KIRBY: Thanks, Kate.

[11:35:00] BOLDUAN: Coming up, a possible assassination attempt averted. Police arresting a man with two guns, 90 rounds of ammo, and he was at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. This is after a woman called authorities about a man that she said, said he wanted to kill the president. Details on that ahead.

Plus, the suspect in a deadly stabbing rampage on that Portland train going on a vulgar tirade in the courtroom. He did it right in front of one of the survivors of the brutal attack.


DEAN SMITH, STABBING SUSPECT: Free speech or die, Portland. You have no safe place. This is America, get out if you don't like free speech. You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism.



[11:40:01] BOLDUAN: New this morning, what could be an expected question coming at the State Department on elections in Saudi Arabia and Iran, it seemed to stump a veteran State Department official, Stuart Jones, and that moment went viral. Watch what happened.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Well, while you were over there, the secretary criticized the upcoming Iranian elections and Iran's record on democracy. You did so standing next to Saudi officials. How do you characterize Saudi Arabia's commitment to democracy and does the administration believe that democracy is a barrier against extremism?

STUART JONES, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Um -- uh -- I think what we'd say is at this meeting, we were able to make significant progress with Saudi and GCC partners in both making a strong statement against extremism and also -- and also putting -- putting in place certain measures through this GCC mechanism where we can combat extremism. Clearly, one source of extremism, one terrorism threat is coming from Iran, and that's coming from a part of the Iranian apparatus that is not at all responsive to its electorate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everybody, thank you.


BOLDUAN: OK. Let me bring in right now CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.

Elise, that was a long pause.


BOLDUAN: On TV, a second feels like an hour, for sure, and I'm sure Stuart Jones felt the very same way. You've sat in on these briefings and Stuart Jones is a State Department --



BOLDUAN: Yes. He's a veteran. He's faced many a tough question. What happened here?

LABOTT: You know, I think he just had a moment, like didn't really realize. You see towards the end he was trying to move the conversation back to Iran, and away from the Saudis and try to focus on Iran, and he recognizes that he took too long. Ideally, you don't do these things on live television. I think he realized it wasn't his finest moment. But I don't think it was, in any way, you know, a contradiction of U.S. policy. I just think he was looking for the right words to say and just took too long. I mean, for all of us.


BOLDUAN: For everyone involved.


BOLDUAN: One thing we know about the State Department and the Trump administration, is it has been plagued by understaffing and a slow ramp-up. And he is not someone who is usually in front of the camera doing these types of press briefings. Is that a symptom of understaffing? LABOTT: I think what they're trying to do is, look, the whole State

Department press corps and the American public, and certainly members of Congress are frustrated that there's no State Department briefing, a daily briefing where you can talk about U.S. policy. What the State Department is trying to do is get the officials who are not doing State Department briefings to talked about topical issues. They talked about Venezuela and they talked about the president's trip. There was something on NATO. So these officials, who aren't usually out in prime time doing the briefings, are making these calls. There is a spokesman, Heather Nower (ph). She used to be at FOX, and she's getting up to speed on the issues, and will be briefing soon, hopefully. The press corps is looking forward to having that daily discussion about issues.

I think in this particular case, everyone recognizes that it wasn't his finest hour. But I think it's a larger symptom of the fact that we need that daily briefing and need to be talking about these issues every day, and certainly with someone who is able to talk about them fully.

BOLDUAN: Stuart Jones out there, Heather, you need to read them faster.


LABOTT: That's right.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Elise.

LABOTT: Thanks.

[11:44:08] BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

BOLDUAN: This just in. First Lady Melania Trump is responding to the picture that Kathy Griffin put out -- that we won't be showing you -- showing a mock beheading of President Trump. What the first lady is now saying. That's next.


BOLDUAN: This just in from the office of the first lady. Melania Trump now addressing that widely condemned and appropriately condemned picture of Kathy Griffin holding what looks like the severed head of the president. Mrs. Trump's statement says that -- I'll read this to you -- "As a mother, a wife and human being that photo is very disturbing. When you consider some of the atrocities happening in the world today, a photo opportunity like this is simply wrong and makes you wonder about the mental health of the person who did it." That, the first lady speaking out for the first time about that widely condemned photo. Kathy Griffin has apologized for that photo opportunity.

Let's turn back to the president and breaking news today. World leaders are reacting now with concern to the news that President Trump is expected to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord. The other G-7 nations, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, U.K. and Italy, have urged President Trump to remain a part of the agreement, but two sources tell CNN that the president is expected to pull the United States out of that deal. The president tweeting this just this morning, that he plans to make his decision over the next - announce his decision over the next few days, ending with, make America great again.

Let's talk about the impact on the world stage and the president's world view.

Let's bring in Fareed Zakaria, host of "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

Fareed, great to have you.

If the president pulled out of this agreement, as, at the moment, sources says he's expected to do, and he can change his mind, this comes right after meeting upon meeting with world leaders who are all urging him to stay part of the agreement. Does this do damage to, who cares about friendships, but just relationships abroad?

[11:50:04] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS: Well, it damages, I think, importantly, America's leadership role in the world, the idea that when there are common collective problems, it is the United States that sets the agenda. This has powerfully helped America over the last 70 years because it means these solutions are crafted with America's interests, first and foremost, with America's ideas, first and foremost.

Two of Trump's advisers said there is no such thing as a global community, there are only nations struggling for advantage. That's not actually true because there are a lot of global problems. Think about it, if China pollutes, all our air and atmosphere gets spoiled, if China dumps oceans of plastic into the ocean, it affects the whole world. That's why, with those kinds of common global problems, climate change, disease, we've tried to craft global efforts, because you don't want any one country to do it, but somebody has to lead. That's where we are now falling. We're now withdrawing from that leadership role.

BOLDUAN: And it gets to the world view, the America First, kind of looking within rather than outward that the president campaigned on. But what does that mean in practice is a big question?

You just mentioned two of his advisers that wrote the op-ed in the journal today, his national security adviser and top economic adviser. Kind of the point you're getting to -- I'll read that part for you, for our viewers: "When he embarked on the first foreign trip, he had a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a global community but an arena where nations, nongovernment actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage." He gets to, "We embrace that. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace that."

What are they trying to say here?

ZAKARIA: There is always the sense that the United States is being taken advantage of or being ripped off. A lot of this speaks to the resentment that Trump's base has with the idea that there are kind of professional globalist elites running the United States. But again, the core problem is -- what they describe has been true for millennia. What's different in the last 70 years is the United States brought the world together and said, look, we're still going to compete all the time. The United States has the largest army in the world, by far, larger than the next 20 countries put together. So the United States believes in national interests and advantage. But there are a lot of common problems. There are problems relating to global trade, relating to global climate change, global pandemics, diseases. What should we do about those together so no one country has to bear the burden? If you renounce that role, you are really renouncing the entire legacy of modern America in the world.

BOLDUAN: It's a big statement.

I want to ask you about and get your perspective, because a lot of folks have different perspectives where the relationship is right now with President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. You have -- a lot of folks saw what Merkel said, they can't rely on the United States anymore. But Sean Spicer, from the podium yesterday, he said, in his view, he said, "The relationship is fairly unbelievable." When he said that, he meant that in a good way. And the German ambassador was on this morning and downplayed any rift, saying "We had a good and productive relationship, we did then and do now."

Do you that's true or is there a fundamental shift in the relationship?

ZAKARIA: I think there is a fundamental shift. Sean Spicer admitted it, when he quoted what Chancellor Merkel said, which is we'll have to take things in our own hands. He said, that's great, that's what the president wants.

Here's the problem with that. The United States has been the glue that has kept Europe together, that has kept it united and peaceful. Remember, Europe has been the site of most of the world's wars over the last 500 years, causing enormous damage to world trade. If you want stability, you want a stable Europe. It's still 25, 30 percent of the world's GDP. So if you have Germany now saying we have to take care of our own interests, what will that mean once Germany starts asserting itself? Are the French going to be comfortable with that? Are the Poles comfortable with that? These are the countries that have been invaded by Germany in the past. All those issues didn't have to be dealt with because the United States was the kind of glue that kept it all together. The United States provided the leadership, the framework. If the United States says you're all on your own, they're all going to freelance now. That might work out fine, but might turn out to be a bit of a roller coaster ride. Again, we benefit or not. The bottom line is we are 5 percent of the world's population. If we want to have 25 percent of the world's economy, 25 percent of the world's goods, we have to trade, we have to interact and cooperate with the rest of the world.

[11:54:42] BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Fareed. Thanks for the perspective. Thank you.

Coming up, a disturbing moment in court to show you. The suspect in that deadly stabbing attack on that Portland train ranting in the courtroom as one of the hero survivors sat nearby. See what happened.


BOLDUAN: The man accused of fatally stabbing two men on a train in Oregon goes off on a tirade the moment he is brought into the courtroom. Watch.


SMITH: Praise be to God, Portland. You got no safe place. This is America. Get out if you don't like free speech. Death to the enemies of America. Leave this country if you hate our freedom. Death. You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism.



BOLDUAN: He's charged with aggravated murder and attempted murder. Police say he was taunting two girls on a train with anti-Muslim slurs and then police say he stabbed three men who step up to defend the girls. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. We'll keep an eye on that.

Thank you, guys, so much for joining us AT THIS HOUR.

"Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

[12:00:07] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate.

Welcome to "Inside Politics." I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your time with us.

It's a busy day. Fresh tweets from the president calling the Russia investigation a witch hunt.