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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Trump Pulls Out of Climate Deal. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired June 1, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:07] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.
Just a few hours ago, the president of the United States kept a campaign promise with no less than global implications, with ripple effects perhaps on everything from jobs to American leadership in the world, to possibly whether the ocean rise or fall. He announced his intention to make this country one of just three on the entire planet to break with the Paris accord on global warming -- Nicaragua and Syria, and now, the United States.
The president said he was striking a blow against a deal he says would hamstring American industry and put the country at a global disadvantage. He said he was elected to represent Pittsburgh not Paris.
Pittsburgh's mayor joins us shortly tonight. He is taking issue with that decision, so are a number of world leaders, so are some leading Republicans, dozens of CEOs and reportedly his daughter and son-in- law.
More on all that tonight, but first, the details from CNN's Jim Acosta.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORESPONDENT (voice-over): With the Earth hanging in the balance, President Trump stayed true to his political orbit -- ending U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord.
ACOSTA: After a fierce debate inside the White House that pitted his top strategist, nationalist Steve Bannon, who favored pulling out of the deal against his own daughter Ivanka who advocated staying in the agreement, the president said his administration will try to hammer out a new climate deal, something of a consolation prize for Ivanka.
TRUMP: So, we're getting out. But we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. If we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine.
ACOSTA: The speech was steeped in campaign rhetoric as the president framed his choice as a win for American workers in the heartland.
TRUMP: I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.
ACOSTA: And a loss for nations Mr. Trump accused of exploiting the U.S.
TRUMP: At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens. And we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won't be.
ACOSTA: The president's move was instantly cheered by conservatives who feared the president would fail to keep a campaign promise repeated time and again.
TRUMP: We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet.
ACOSTA: Former President Obama who helped craft the Paris deal criticized his successor's decision, saying in a statement: Even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that rejected the future, I'm confident that our state, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way and help protect for future generations the one planet we've got.
The move is also being rejected by leading American CEOs who had pleaded with the president to stay in the deal. Tesla's Elon Musk announced he is stepping down from the president's economic advisory boards, tweeting: Climate change is real, leaving Paris is not good for the America or the world.
COOPER: And Jim joins us now.
Where were Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner today, they didn't attend the president's speech?
ACOSTA: Very good question, Anderson. We were wondering that ourselves. We did not see them in the Rose Garden for that speech earlier today.
But we're told by a White House official they were observing a Jewish holiday at synagogue this morning and then Ivanka Trump stayed at home with her children.
Jared Kushner, though, Anderson, did come to the White House, although he did not attend the speech. He had a longstanding meeting we're told by a White House official, but this White House official went on to say that he was involved in the process of the announcement.
But, Anderson, one startling thing that was missing from the announcement today was an acknowledgement from the president that climate change is happening. There was a briefing later on day with reporters, top official with the White House declined to say to reporters gathered here today that the president believes in climate change. We still don't have an answer to that question -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jim Acosta, thanks.
More global reaction now in the tone and wording of the statement today. The president made it plain what the rest of world thinks of this is not his main concern. So far, the reviews are largely not positive. French President Macron took the opportunity to speak out in English against the decision, even using the president's favorite catch phrase to help drive home his point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: We all share the same responsibility. Make our planet great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that's not all he and other world leaders had to say.
CNN's Michelle Kosinski has that angle.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The world's reaction came fast and furious.
TRUMP: The United States with will withdraw.
KOSINSKI: Paris lit up its city hall green. Canada's Justin Trudeau expressing deep disappointment, along with Brazil. Germany, France and Italy in a joint statement saying the Paris climate agreement cannot be renegotiated -- despite President Trump saying it's a possibility.
[20:05:01] MACRON: It is not a future we want for ourselves. It is not a future we want for our children.
KOSINSKI: The president of the European Commission pulled no punches, reminding the U.S. that withdrawal from the deal is a year's long process.
JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (through translator): That's not how it works. The Americans can't just leave the climate protection agreement. Mr. Trump believes that because he doesn't get close enough to the dossiers to fully understand them. This notion, I am Trump, I am American, America first, and I'm going to get out of it, that won't happened. We tried to explain that to Mr. Trump in Taormina in clear German sentences.
KOSINSKI: The Vatican called the American decision a disaster for the planet. When the pope met with Trump, he gave him his published thoughts on the environment, calling for a revolution on climate change before the Earth devolves into, quote, an immense pile of filth.
From the U.N. Secretary General --
ANTONIO GUTERRES, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY GENERAL: Climate change is undeniable. Climate action is unstoppable and climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.
KOSINSKI (on camera): Some foreign policy experts, including ones who served in Republican administrations, feel this decision now could have the greatest diminishing effect on the U.S.'s influence in the world.
(voice-over): With China, India, Europe, more than ready to step in and fill that void.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): The cooperation of the European Union with China in this area will play a crucial role especially in regards to new technology.
KOSINSKI: A role China seems to relish today, in an editorial in its English language tabloid: A reckless withdrawal from the climate deal will waste increasingly finite U.S. diplomatic resources, and the U.S.'s selfishness and irresponsibility will be made clear to the world, crippling the country's world leadership.
Michelle Kosinski, CNN, the State Department.
COOPER: I want to bring in the panel now: Jeffrey Lord, Gloria Borger, April Ryan, Van Jones and Stephen Moore.
Van, what's your reaction to this decision by the president?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is incredibly disappointing to see an American president essentially throw an American industry under the bus. The clean energy industry in the United States is one of the fastest growing if not the fastest growing part of the American economy. We have more people right now working in the solar industry than we have coal miners, same with wind, same with smart batteries.
What this deal would have done and still has a chance to do is to turn 190 countries into a 190 customers for American clean energy firms. And instead of us staying at the table and pushing forward, we now have an American president who does not want for America to be first in clean energy, doesn't want us to be first in innovation, doesn't want American workers and there are tens of thousands of them to be at the front lines.
It is a complete -- it's bizarre to have someone say he wants to make America great again and then lead the Rust Belt idle. They could be building wind turbines, solar panels. They could be making smart cars, smart batteries, all that stuff is part of the world's effort to go clean.
And the only countries who can lead the world in that, United States and Germany and we just threw it away.
COOPER: Stephen, I mean, if the Paris agreement is so bad for American jobs as the president is saying, why then do so many American companies, even oil giants like ExxonMobil, BP, and Chevron support the accord.
STEPHEN MOORE, CNN ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, I think they were be good the citizens and putting out the right sound bites. But I want to address something that, you know, in the presentation where you said that -- that this was -- you had you read the Obama quote saying this would save the planet, and I think you said, early year on, this was the kind of climate change deal that could stop the rise of the oceans.
And one of the things that hasn't been talked a lot about is the fact that even -- let's say that we went all in on the climate change deal and every country kept all of the promises they made, which is something that's not going to happen, but let's just assumed that happened. According to an MIT study, which is one of the definitive ones, by year 2100, this reduce global temperatures by 0.17 degrees. Now, that's not going -- that's not --
COOPER: The economic argument which is the one Van is making.
MOORE: Right. So --
COOPER: -- is perhaps, you know, it's obviously the future of the climate is a very arguable point. But the economic argument I think is interesting one. What do you say to Van who says it's the fastest growing sector and it's the future more than coal?
MOORE: Well, it's not. I mean, oil and gas is growing much faster because we have a shale oil and gas revolution going on in this country.
By the way, Anderson, it's interesting, all the Europeans have been very violent in their opposition to what Trump did. But the European countries ten years ago went all in for the kind of green energy that Van is talking about. They went all in for solar, wind and so on. Their electricity prices today are double and sometimes three times higher than ours are.
So, they want us to move to in that direction so they don't use competitiveness, because you've got factories now the first time in years leaving Europe and they're coming to the United States because we have lower energy prices.
[20:10:04] COOPER: So, Van, what about that?
JONES: Well, he is -- he is overstating the case a number of ways. First of all, it is not in fact the case that you have -- he said -- you have two and three times -- that's not true. A couple things happened.
In the -- hold on a second -- in the United States, we did the shale oil -- shale gas revolution, which crashed our prices here. That is true. But at the same time, the price for clean energy has also been going down, down, down. And so, you don't actually have the same kind of shale opportunities that you have in Europe.
I think part of the thing that you see with the Republicans who are trying to defend Trump on this is that they just want to look away from what's actually happening in our own country. California has the most stringent environmental and carbon constraints in the country and they have the strongest economy. It turns out when you have good environmental policy with the new technology, you actually drive more economic growth.
They ignore all of that. They grab different things -- they grab different examples they don't explain well from around the world, and they throw a bunch of world salad at you, but the reality is that we have actually now walked away from an opportunity to create a massive number of customers for American energy and that's why even Exxon and Shell -- when Exxon, Shell and BP and Van Jones agree, you know there's something going on here.
MOORE: We already have example what of the climate change policies can do with something you would called the clean power plant.
JONES: Which never got complemented.
MOORE: By the way, it's been implemented and we've seen --
JONES: No, it didn't.
MOORE: You talk about what's happening in the California, look what's happening in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio. I visited a lot of those coal town decimated by climate change regulations.
JONES: I can't let you lie. The clean power plan, Obama's clean power plan never got implemented. It was put forward because the conservative Nixon created the conservative Clean Air Act and EPA, and the right wing Roberts court said that Obama had to use that on climate change. So, Obama moves forward with the plan. And it didn't get implemented because you guys stopped it.
So, here is what you got to understand. There is so much nonsense being spoken. The reason that you do not have what you and I both want are people working in the Rust Belt is because the wind industry which could create a bunch of jobs was stopped by you guys in Congress.
MOORE: Wait a minute.
MOORE: Totally subsidized the wind industry. The wind industry wouldn't even exist today in America by their own admission if it weren't for giant taxpayer subsidies.
JONES: OK, you want to have this fight, let's talk about subsidies.
MOORE: Yes. JONES: We subsidize big oil by having the Pentagon police their for- profit products all around the world, we let them pollute carbon for free, we massively subsidize fossil fuels and have for a hundred years. So, all countries subsidize energy because energy is so important.
MOORE: That's true. Except, it's an order of magnitude higher subsidies per kilowatt of electricity that's produced. By the way, that was the Obama's own energy department that said that the subsidies to wind and solar are about five to ten times higher than what the oil and gas industry gets. So, it's not a level playing field.
JONES: Let's talk about George W. Bush's Department of Energy which said that we have a Saudi Arabia of wind energy in the Plain States and if we tapped that, we could be completely free.
MOORE: Dan, if you're right about that, why do we need -- why do we need this climate deal? You keep saying that this is this wonderful new technology that's going to take over --
COOPER: Van, why do we need --
MOORE: Why do we need the climate change deal to do it?
JONES: Because -- because as you have said, energy is special. You have to have rules for the road. You have to have clear market signals over a long period of time, otherwise, you choke off all the capital. Nobody is going to invest in a clean energy market when the rules are all over the place.
So, we had to have a global agreement to send a clear market signal, which your guy just pull out, which is going to throw American innovation under the bus.
COOPER: Gloria, you know, many key U.S. allies, obviously, as we talk about, denouncing this decision. We had the French president saying make our planet great again. What does this ultimately mean from an international perspective, if anything?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it means -- it means that we've stepped away to global leadership and we're, in fact, not only stepped away, but we're kind of gotten shoved off the stage by ourselves.
COOPER: But isn't that the same as the Kyoto protocols back in -- I can't even remember what year it was, that it was going to be, you know, it was an abrogation of U.S. leadership and it didn't -- you know, the world continued to move forward.
BORGER: Right, but this is -- look, this is something that everyone has signed on to except for Syria and Nicaragua. And Nicaragua didn't sign on to it this because it wasn't stringent enough.
And this was a moment when the world came together and said, you know what, we've got to clean up our act. And people -- countries tend to look to the United States for leadership in these -- in that kind of a situation. And you cannot lead if you believe that there is a conspiracy around every corner.
And what we heard from the president today is that there is a conspiracy in the rest of the world to destroy the American economy. I mean, he -- you know, he talked about massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.
[20:15:06] If that is what he believes, then how can he lead?
COOPER: All right.
BORGER: And then, how can we lead? I think, you know, that sort of begs the question. He's sort of said, you guys are all out to get us. And therefore, we're not going to be a part of this.
COOPER: Right. They're saying they're laughing at us.
We got to take a quick break.
COOPER: I want to hear more from April Ryan, obviously, Jeffrey Lord and Van and Steven again. So, just hand on a moment.
And also later tonight, new details on what fired FBI Director Comey is expected to say when he testifies next week on Capitol Hill, as well as the potential damage his testimony could do and the controversy behind it.
COOPER: Former President Clinton has just tweeted about President Trump's decision: Walking away from a Paris treaty is a mistake. Climate change is real. We owe our children more. Protecting our future also creates more jobs.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers speaking with CNN's Richard Quest called it, quote, the biggest U.S. foreign policy error since entering the Iraq War.
The United Steel Workers Union, which represents a western Pennsylvania industry that runs on coal also condemned the decision, calling it, quote, an inexcusable below to the U.S. economy.
Obviously, not everybody agrees, including on the panel.
April, I mean, clearly, this decision was from the Steve Bannon, Steve Miller part of the White House, the America first nationalist ideology.
[20:20:03] There was -- we are led to believe -- lobbying, a lot of lobbying from Ivanka Trump, from Jared Kushner to stay in. But this seems more victory in terms of internal politics of the White House of Steve Bannon, no?
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, Steve Bannon had a victory lap today. You could see him in the Rose Garden standing tall, letting people see him as this was one of his babies. The president definitely talked about the fact this is about Detroit, this is about Youngstown. This is about Pittsburgh. It's not about the world, it's about us.
But as Steve Bannon is taking this victory lap, you're hearing from people like former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Al Gore, who won a Nobel Prize for his comments and commentary on climate change. You heard from former Vice President Joe Biden.
And as we are talking about the economics of it and some people saying, you know, Donald Trump is trying to make coal great again at the expense of clean energy. You know, there's another piece people aren't thinking about. I remember Katrina, remember how that debate happened, you know, during the Bush years, about, you know, the rising sea levels and also drought and things of that nature.
And I looked at the World Health Organization's website today and they were talking about how people are affected globally by climate change. This is the piece of the discussion missing as well, how tens of thousands of people die annually because of the fact that droughts and floods, because of climate change, because of bad air, heat, what have you, what's going on.
And these people are dying because of things like Zika, that we had a scare with, things like dengue and also cholera. So, there are many components to this conversation. And yes, Steve Bannon is talking about this country but what affects the world affects us. And let's see how this plays out.
COOPER: We should point out, though, the two photos we show, Steve Bannon were not today from the ceremony, because they were with Jared Kushner and Jared Kushner wasn't there.
Jeff, the president did leave the door open for further negotiations. He said, in his words to, quote, see if we can make a deal that is fair.
Leaders of Germany, France, Italy, all key U.S. allies shot that down today saying, look, this is non non-negotiable. This thing took so long to negotiate. The idea that this is something that's going to be renegotiated, I mean, that's not really real.
JEFFREY LORD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: There's even more of a problem than that. Let me just address two things. First of all --
COOPER: Well, it's not -- I'm saying that what the president is saying, that -- it sounds a little disingenuous to say, oh, yes, we're going to look into renegotiation.
LORD: Well, I don't think so and I'll get to it in just a second. I mean, I just want to say in the beginning, the political aspect of this -- Rush Limbaugh did something that he very rarely does, he addressed the president personally on his show and basically said, please, sir, don't do this. And I can only tell you the impact --
COOPER: Don't do this? Don't pull out?
LORD: Don't -- in other words, he wanted him to do exactly what he did today.
LORD: And what he was saying is don't go back on your campaign promise because there's millions of people who voted for you depending on this.
COOPER: How much was this about appealing to the base?
LORD: I think there is some of that, because, clearly, places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, you know, had a problem. Their voters did not want this.
The second thing, Anderson, in terms of governmental process, to get to your question. I want to read you one sentence here, this is a quote. I think it's hard to take seriously from some members of Congress who deny the fact climate change exists, that they should have some opportunity to render judgment about a climate agreement, quote-unquote.
Now, that is Josh Earnest, President Obama's press secretary in March of 2015 responding to a question why this is a, quote-unquote, an accord, when it's a treaty really, but they didn't want to submit, they the White House didn't want to submit to it the Senate for a vote. And the reason was they hadn't made the political argument to have the senators there to do this.
So, to get to your point, if President Trump does renegotiate this at some point, then the answer is submit it to the United States Senate and see how --
COOPER: Right. But he's not going to renegotiate it, that's not feasible, just made up.
LORD: Well, I don't think he should. I don't think he should.
LORD: But if he does -- my point is this was a failure of leadership by President Obama to make the political argument to get it passed.
COOPER: Van, does it upset you -- I'm sure it upsets you -- the idea this is based on appealing to the president's base rather than -- you have a lot of the president's advisors, you know, Rex Tillerson, arguing to stay in the accord. Even from a national security standpoint, you had people arguing this.
JONES: It's very, very disturbing because here's what you've got. You've got the top leaders, CEOs of American corporations, including BP, including Chevron, including Shell, saying, please do this.
You Silicon Valley saying, please do not pull America out of this. You've got the environmental community saying please don't do this.
[20:25:02] You have the world leaders saying -- the only people who think this is a great idea are a small circle around one-half of the White House and a bunch of people that listen to Rush Limbaugh. But the problem with that is that those very people who are in Pennsylvania, who you love, Jeff, and so do I, and West Virginia and in Ohio, the best shot they have to go back to work is when we start building wind turbines in America and we start fabricating solar panels and we start building electric cars, and those are the people who are just thrown under the bus. His own base has been betrayed by this decision.
COOPER: We've got to leave it there. Appreciate everybody in the panel.
The president said today he was elected to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not Paris. The mayor of Pittsburgh has a response. We'll hear from him, next.
COOPER: The mayor of Pittsburgh is assuring people that despite what the president did today, his city will continue to follow the guidelines of the Paris accord. Mayor Bill Peduto also notes that Hillary Clinton received 80 percent of the vote in Pittsburgh and the city will stand with the world and follow the Paris agreement. We'll hear from the mayor in just a moment, but first, let's hear what the president said referencing his city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: At what point does America get to me? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?
We want fair treatment for its citizens and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won't be. They won't be. I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Well, just before air I spoke with the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mayor Peduto, I'm wondering what went through your mind when you heard the President Trump saying he was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.
MAYOR BILL PEDUTO, PITTSBURG: Shocked. I mean Hillary Clinton won the city of Pittsburgh with nearly 80 percent of the vote and the values that we have in this city follow right along the lines of what the Paris agreement stated. And we're already following those goals.
COOPER: I mean, you know, he was probably speaking metaphorically, speaking about all of Pennsylvania, obviously, which he won. I mean, but Pittsburgh used to be a big coal town in production as well as consumption. Do you think the president understands that coal doesn't play much of a role in the economy of Pittsburgh anymore?
PEDUTO: Couldn't have picked a worst city as an example. I was in Paris and I joined nearly 500 mayors from around the world and people wanted to do know about Pittsburg story because it wasn't only just heavy on fossil fuels but it also went through a depression where our unemployment was greater than during the Great Depression. And it was only because we looked towards the future that we started to have an economy that went up.
And today, we're back on a global stage, but it's not through our old economy, it's in robotics and artificial intelligence, in medicine, in technology, in finance. And if it weren't for that transition, Pittsburgh would never have been able to get back up.
COOPER: What do you say to those who work in the coal industry, coal miners who are out of work who, you know, believe that the president is going to, you know, help them dig more coal and get back to work?
PEDUTO: I call it false hope. And I know them, I know them personally. They live around our city. My -- I have family that lives in West Virginia. And what I say to them is look at the example of what Pittsburgh was able to do. If there was ever a hope from the Paris agreement in an example of a city, I mean, Anderson, our air was so bad, we had to have our street lights on 24 hours.
But we understood that we would build out a new economy and it would take time. Now there's nothing progressive about laying off a coal miner, but there's a way to transition and understand as the world starts to finance renewable energies and those that finance banks, understand that is the financial waters are moving, then the United States will either be part of that or we're going to be left behind and watch Germany and Southeast Asia lead the next economic revolution.
COOPER: You say your city is going to continue to follow the guidelines of the Paris agreement. How do you do that exactly?
PEDUTO: By executive order of my own. So tomorrow morning I will be issuing an executive order that will say that our government will follow the 2023 guidelines that we put in place, we'll meet all of our benchmarks and goals, we'll follow our 2030 goals and benchmarks of reducing our carbon footprint.
And to be honest with you, what I found out when I was in Paris, it wasn't the federal governments that we're going to do it anyways. It was always about the cities. In cities across America, you will see mayors standing up and saying we got this.
COOPER: Do you have a message for the president tonight?
PEDUTO: What you did was not only bad for the economy of this country, but also weakened America in this world.
COOPER: Mayor Peduto, appreciate your time. Thank you.
PEDUTO: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, coming up, withdrawing from the Paris agreement, the president is not only going against nearly every other country on earth, he is undoing yet another President Obama's policies, this is a big one. It's not the only one. How President Trump is trying to erase eight years of President Obama and how the people worked in that administration are reacting?
[20:38:01] COOPER: Well, for years, Donald Trump as a citizen, tried to undermine President Obama through the birther conspiracy theory, through criticism on Twitter, now that he's president, he's trying to undermine some of President Obama's biggest accomplishments, the centerpieces of his eight years in the White House. Today is a big example, withdrawing from the Paris accord, breaking with nearly every country on earth.
The president has also set his sights on Obamacare obviously and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But that is just the beginning. As you see the list goes one, there are dozens of other Obama administration policies and programs that President Trump has reversed, affecting education or gun control, Planned Parenthood or labor rules, hunting animals on wildlife refuges.
Joining me now are CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod, who was a senior advisor of President Obama and Jen Psaki, who worked for the Obama administration, several roles, including communications director and State Department spokesperson.
David, what is it like just personally watching some of the work that you and President Obama, you know, worked on taken apart by this administration?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, maybe this sounds disingenuous, Anderson, but I'm less concerned about sort of the impact on President Obama's legacy than I am the impact on the country moving forward, you know. You see something like this today and the impact on the issue of climate is deeply concerning, but more than that, the issue of the American leadership and our prestige in the world and our ability to shape events as we've shaped them since World War II.
Those are very much in question because of these decisions, which I believe were made almost entirely on a political basis to apiece the president's base and not on the basis of the substantive facts. And so that's what concerns me. I think that there will be more durability to these accomplishments moving forward, but the one that worries me the most is just America's leadership in the world.
COOPER: Do you think President Obama sees it in that same kind of perspective?
[20:40:04] AXELROD: You know, he is a long term thinker. I think he understands that the steps that he took on climate change have sent -- set things in motion that are going to be hard to turn back. You can see a burgeoning clean energy industry in this country that began in many ways with the Recovery Act back in 2009 and some of the steps that the EPA took while he was president. Steps that are going to be hard to unwind and that will lead to long court battles. And he understands that he encouraged other countries to take steps forward that are going to be hard to turn back.
In fact, some of those countries may accelerate their efforts as a result of this decision. But I do think he'll worry about what I'm worried about because he worked very hard to establish international coalitions around issues like climate change. And America played an indispensable role in that. If America steps back, it adds an element of uncertainty and also deprives American businesses of a chance -- of a major chance to take advantage of the opportunities that the new economy and the new clean energy economy offers.
COOPER: Jen, from what you see or what you would consider the accomplishments of President Obama and the White House then, where does the Paris accord fall in terms of significance?
JENNIFER PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this one definitely stung. I'm sure it stung the president as David already said. I think he's somebody who plays the long game and he thinks there's a lot of opportunities for states and local governments to take action.
But this one is -- when I went back to work for him in 2015, one of the first conversations we had, Anderson, was about climate change. And his ask to me was to find more opportunities for him to speak publicly about this issue, to make sure people understood the importance of this issue because he was worried about the future that he was leaving for his grandchildren. And that wasn't just because he fundamentally believes that he wants to have clean drinking water and air, of course that, but he also was concerned about the national security implications, things like famine and the impacts of climate change and what this would do to local economies in the United States.
COOPER: David, President Trump today said, look, you know, we're going to -- we're pulling out of this accord but we're going to go back and try to renegotiate something. It made it sound like that might be a very easy thing. This negotiation took a long time for this accord.
AXELROD: Well, look, many of the European leaders issued a statement very quickly after that and said absolutely not. We're not going back. We're not going to renegotiate now. And you wonder how sincere the president was about that. I honestly think, Anderson, that this was a big base play. You have an embattled president. And I think he was told by Steve Bannon and some of the people around him that you need this base, they're the people who are going to stick with you through these storms and they're going to walk away from you if you -- on a big one that's symbolically important to them like this, turn the other way.
He over turn -- he ignored the advice apparently of his national security advisers, his diplomatic advisers, his economic advisers but he took the advice of his political advisers.
COOPER: Jen, how different though is this from any other president including President Obama? I mean he reversed many of President Bush's policies like faith-based initiative, restrictions on stem cell research, all through executive orders and I'm sure some people could argue that some of those were politically motivated as well.
PSAKI: Well, I think from what I heard from what President Trump said today, I think the difference is there's a dishonesty in what he's promising here. One, this is a non-binding voluntary agreement. Yes, only two countries, Syria and Nicaragua, didn't participate in it but every country sets their own targets.
So essentially what Trump is doing is taking away our own seat, the seat of the United States at the table. He could have changed the targets and we could have a debate about policies to implement on them but he wanted to deliver on his campaign promise. So it's very transparently political in that way.
And the second way is his reference to coal jobs. The fact is that coal job have been decreasing for years and including exports and the reason is because natural gas is cheap and accessible. So by promising people that this is going to bring back coal jobs or help the coal industry, there's a dishonesty to that. I don't think I can look back and say that the decisions we made in the Obama administration were done with that level of transparent political action that we're in backed up by sacks or our beliefs.
COOPER: David Axelrod and Jen Psaki, thanks.
PSAKI: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: Well, just to add, fired FBI Director Jim Comey is going to testify in public a week from today. We got the date at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, his first public comments since he was fired, his chance to tell his side of the story to the world. What he is expected to say, we'll have details on that. Plus, what Russian President Vladamir Putin said today about who may have hacked the U.S. election.
COOPER: One week from today, June 8th, former FBI Director James Comey will give his first public testimony since President Trump fired him on May 9th. He'll testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in an open session. The hearing is part of the panel's investigation to alleged Russia meddling the election. When he got the act, Mr. Comey, as you know, was leafing the FBI's Russia investigation, a lot has certainly happen since then. Jessica Schneider joins me now with the latest.
So, what do we expect to hear from Director Comey when he testifies?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that he has consulted with special counsel Robert Mueller about what the parameters of his testimony will be in order to ensure that there are no legal entanglements. What we know from his source is that Comey plans to talk about his interactions with President Trump. We know of course the President Trump asked for a pledge of personal loyalty from Comey in January and then there was that February meeting where President Trump allegedly asked Comey to shut down the investigation into former national security advisor, Michael Flynn. So we expect to hear a lot of those details when Comey does testify, one week from today, on Thursday.
COOPER: And will all the testimony be public?
SCHNEIDER: Well, it will actually proceed in two parts. So beginning at 10:00 a.m. next Thursday, it's the public portion and then it moves into a closed session potentially for classified information and that's at 1:00 p.m.
COOPER: And I understand Vladamir Putin weighed in today on the idea of Russia hacking in the election.
[20:50:00] SCHNEIDER: Yes. And, you know, it's actually quite striking, Anderson. Putin's words, they really marked quite a big shift from his previous blanket denials. He put it in this way. He said, "Patriotically minded private Russian hackers could have been involved in those cyber attacks over the election cycle." He compared those potential hackers to artists who choose their targets depending on how they feel when they wake up in the morning.
So it was quite an interesting dialogue. And President Putin, he does continue to deny any state role but it even comments about it, it was a real departure from the Kremlin's previous stance that Russia played no role whatsoever in the hacking during the 2016 election. Anderson?
COOPER: Right. Jessica Schneider, thanks.
Joining us now is CNN's legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice.
Jeff, I mean if former Director Comey does tell his story or what he says is his story, and it turns out to be what's been reported that the president did asked Comey to slow or stop the investigation of Flynn, does that constitute obstruction of justice in your opinion? Because previously Comey I thought had said something under oath about not being under political pressure.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think you're going to have to listen to what he says. Certainly it's a possibility. I mean if you look at the whole story, if the facts are that Trump encouraged Comey to stop the investigation and when he didn't stop the investigation, he fired him, that lays out a plausible matter of obstruction of justice. But, you know, a lot of this matter is in the details. And if I can just raise one factual question, which I think is a very important one is, along with this testimony, will Congress have access to and release Comey's contemporaneous notes? Because that would certainly give a lot more credibility to what he says because it wouldn't just be his recollections. It would be his contemporaneous notes. Whether the notes come out, I think is a very important issue.
COOPER: Jay, I assume you disagree with Jeff here.
JAY SEKULOW, CHIEF COUNSEL, THE AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE: Yes. I mean, look, first of all, the contemporaneous notes that you mean that the FBI -- former FBI director leaked to a newspaper? Are we talking about those notes?
SEKULOW: So it's the self-serving notes of James Comey?
SEKULOW: Well, look, that's not going to be significant evidence, number one. Number two, the standard -- and Jeff knows this. The standard to show obstruction of justice is a very high level. Let's look at the statute itself, whoever corruptly or by threats of force. So this idea that the president made a statement if he even made the statement and then James Comey didn't bother to walk across the street and tell Department of Justice that he feels like his investigation is being obstructed, well, then what really happened here? Because he had an affirmative obligation at that point.
If he thought -- and Jeff knows this, if he thought that there was an obstruction of justice issue at play by the president of the United States, he had an affirmative obligation to notify the Department of Justice. He did not do that.
COOPER: Jeff, did he have an obligation to do that --
TOOBIN: I mean I don't know where that obligation comes from. I mean the fact is he has an investigation that he's trying to protect. He's trying -- and what he has said, as I understand it, is that he was trying to keep Trump at a distance so that he could allow his investigators to proceed without interference from Trump and he got fired for his trouble. So I mean I think this idea of his obligation to go forward, I mean that's basically made up, Jay. I mean you made that up --
SEKULOW: No, it's actually not. It's actually -- it's part of the 18USC. It's part of the criminal code. That's number one. Number two, Jeff, do you think it's a little but ironic that the FBI director -- former FBI Director James Comey leaked his so-called memo, contemporaneous notes to the press? Do you find that not a little bit --
COOPER: We don't know that he leaked it. I mean --
SEKULOW: Or someone leaked it.
COOPER: Someone leaked it.
TOOBIN: But that doesn't affect whether the notes are accurate or not. The notes are the notes, regardless of who has access to them.
SEKULOW: Well, first of all, do you think it was -- if these were FBI documents and he allowed them to be leaked, you don't think that's a violation of the law, that he allowed FBI -- if this an FBI investigation and he feels like there's obstruction of justice --
COOPER: We don't know if he allowed -- I mean there are people who apparently --
TOOBIN: We're going to put James Comey on trial here instead of the guy who obstructed justice. Is that how it's going to work?
SEKULOW: Right. So someone stole the attorney general -- the FBI director's notes --
COOPER: Either they were stolen or he leaked it, the other option which is actually based on the reporting is that he, at the time, talked to other people about it and those may be some of the people who came forward who leaked it. Yes.
SEKULOW: Yes, I mean but so what?
COOPER: Well, it's not a question whether it's OK or not. You were saying is it legal? I'm just saying that there is a third option.
TOOBIN: But to turn this whole debate into one about leaks as opposed to the underlying conduct is really a pretty transparent attempt to change the subject from what this is really about, which is whether the president obstructed justice. And, you know, your citations to 18USC are interesting, but, you know, ultimately the president as a legal matter can even be indicted while he's president.
[20:54:59] The question is, would -- what he did constitute a high crime and misdemeanor and that is a political question. That's not a legal question. That's something that's up to Congress.
SEKULOW: But that's not -- but this is what this is -- the question is, was -- if the president even made that statement, did that constitute obstruction of justice? That's the legal question. The question is then did he have specific required criminal intent do that?
And here's the issue, Anderson and Jeff, why if he thought there was an obstruction of justice or that he was being threatened, did he not tell the Department of Justice which he is required to? I mean you want to ignore what it said but the law is if you know of a crime and you don't report that crime, you're liable.
COOPER: Jeff, what about that?
TOOBIN: That is not -- there is no -- there's no such law that says you have to do that. And in the other -- I mean you have to look at what Comey's situation was. I mean Comey was trying -- to keep his investigation going. I mean if he went to the Department of Justice the first time he was uncomfortable and just blew the whole thing up, that --
SEKULOW: Well, uncomfortable is the not legal standard, Jeff. Uncomfortable is not the legal standard.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, Jay --
TOOBIN: -- you know, it is so -- you are trying to put Jim Comey on trial instead of the real issue here, which is whether Donald Trump obstructed justice.
COOPER: All right.
TOOBIN: And this is not --
COOPER: One week from today, we will keep watching. We'd love to have you guys back. Jay Sekulow, thanks so much.
COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin as well.
Much more ahead on the breaking news in Washington that's sparking intense reaction around the world, President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris accord. What does it mean for U.S. relations, with our allies? That ahead.