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Trump and Merkel to Talk Trade, Climate, Immigration; Trump Calls out Russia; Trump's Speech in Poland; Tillerson on Trump-Putin Relationship. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 6, 2017 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:15] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

It's a big day on the world stage for President Trump, including a very big meeting this hour. The president arrived in Germany a short time ago and is on his way to a face-to-face with Chancellor Angela Merkel, with whom he has sharp disagreements on climate change, trade, terrorism and more. The president's first stop was Poland, where he again refused to single out Russia for what his own national security team agrees was unprecedented Kremlin 2016 election interference.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think it was Russia and I think it could have been other people in other countries. It could have been a lot of people interfered.


TRUMP: I've said it very -- I've said it very simply, I think it could very well have been Russia, but I think it could well have been other countries. And I won't be specific. But I think a lot of people interfere. I think it's been happening for a long time. It's been happening for many, many years.


KING: The president's tone was tougher on the question of how to respond to North Korea's new intercontinental ballistic missile.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll see what happens. I don't like to talk about what I have planned, but I have some pretty severe things that we're thinking about. That doesn't mean we're going to do them. I don't draw red lines.


KING: With us to share their reporting and their insights, Michael Bender of "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic's" Molly Ball, Julie Pace of "The Associated Press," and Olivier Knox of "Yahoo! News."

In a moment, the president's answer on Russian election meddling and what it signals. There is a big showdown tomorrow with President Putin.

First, though, a clash of world views on very public display at the annual G-20 economic summit and what it means for transatlantic relations. Any moment now we'll get a peek at the Trump/Merkel meeting, which is to say a glimpse at that clash.

CNN's Nic Robertson is on the ground in Hamburg with more on why this meeting and this moment is so interesting.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, John, if you can hear the helicopter circling above, that's because there's a demonstration going on just a little ways away from here, about 4,500 people according to the police here. They want to voice opposition to President Trump's visit here. And Angela Merkel's got opposition, not to his visit per say, but to some of his views.

Historically, we know that there's a difference on trade. We know that there's a difference on climate change. We know that there's a difference on immigration. President Trump was very clear, criticizing Angela Merkel for the way she allowed so many -- more than a million refugees, people from other Syria and other countries into the country in the last couple of the years, and that he was voicing similar concerns or similar narrative today in Warsaw saying, you know, while we welcome -- we're always going to welcome people from other countries into ours, they cannot cross our borders unless they share our values and love our people. So this, again, is a point that he'll find with Angela Merkel where he feels -- where he is on a different page. And Angela Merkel has even taken to the newspapers here to criticize what she thinks and believes his view of globalization is, which is one where the rich get richer. She wants what she calls a win-win, where the bosses and the workers do well out of globalization, John.

KING: Nic Robertson on the ground in Hamburg. Nic, we'll keep in touch in the hour ahead.

You see some of the arrivals there for the big meeting. President Trump on his way to the Merkel meeting.

This is the president's fist G-20 economic summit, his second visit to a Europe that views him with considerable skepticism. He may have eased some of those concerns on the security front with this today in Poland, a public rebuke of Vladimir Putin's Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The west is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence and challenge our interests. To meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes and cyber warfare, we urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran.


KING: But in the very next section of the speech, the president also publicly aired his grievances with the European Union.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The west became great, not because of paperwork and regulations, but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.


KING: This, to me, the meeting that's about to take place, that's about to start, it's just this -- fascinating. You have a new American president on the world stage. Most of Europe doesn't like what it sees. To the president's credit today, a lot of his critics say, you know, connect these dots for me. What's your strategy? The president, in that speech, laying out, I think more clearly than we've heard in the past five months, of why he thinks the way he thinks about trade, about allowing Syrian refugees and others into European countries, about migration issues and the like and now he is going up against the leader of the European forces with whom he so profoundly disagrees.

[12:05:15] MOLLY BALL, "THE ATLANTIC": That's right. And I think there are a lot of echoes here of the NATO Summit, where we did see the president start to articulate a clearer vision, if not specifics of policy, but at least in the way he sees the world and the international vision that he plans to implement. The problem is, it's a vision that European leaders don't like. They know what it is. It's just not the vision that they would prefer and it's not the partnership with America that they've had in the past. It's not the partnership with America that they've come to expect. So, you know, the Merkel meeting he had previously, the NATO Summit, very awkward interactions and a Europe that clearly is not eager to make nice with this president in the way that leaders of some other parts of the world have, and there's a lot of tension there.

KING: And you can see just --


KING: Michael, sorry for interrupting. You can just see Chancellor Merkel arriving for her meeting with President Trump, as you watch the pictures on the right side of your screen. The president of the United States coming in as well there. So that meeting about to get underway. And, again, we should get a glimpse of it in a few moments. They'll let the press pool in, we believe, at the top of the meeting. It will be very interesting to see how -- they know they have differences. They have aired them in separate settings, each, including today, from President Trump. It will be interesting to see when they're side-by- side if they air their differences or if they try to play nice. But you were about to say?

BENDER: No, I -- yes, I was going to say that the speech, we can kind of see Trump's foreign policy here being sort of assembled in real time. You can see the hands of a few different advisers in that speech. You know, leading up to it we've seen, you know, there was talk about Russia, all right, some tough talk at Russia. There was a -- also some lines in there about immigration may have been aimed at Merkel here. We've seen his policy -- some shifts in his policy on China this week. And, yes, as we -- as we watch Merkel here, I mean, there's been a lot of talk about Trump's meeting with Putin and Xi and this may be actually the most important one here.

JULIE PACE, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": What's so fascinating about the dynamic with Merkel compared to a lot of these leaders that we've seen Trump meet with is that she doesn't pull punches and she is not afraid to sit side-by-side with him or stand side-by-side with him at a news conference and make pretty clear that she doesn't agree with his world view. And the statements that she's made in Germany ahead of her own elections coming up about the United States not being a reliable partner, it's a catchy sound bite, but when you really think about that, when you think about the fact that the strongest country in Europe does not see the United States as a strong partner, we're talking about a complete shift in the global dynamic when that happens and we've seen her reach out to China, importantly, to try to fill some of this void.

KING: Well, that's a great point as we get through this, you know, to get overly wonky and economic, but if the United States pulls back, if the United States says, we're going to reconsider every one of our trade agreements and Angela Merkel says you can't look at U.S./Germany trade because we're a part of the European Union and she thinks Trump doesn't get it actually when it comes to some of that. But China is stepping in. Japan and the E.U. are going to have a trade agreement. There is a question about whether Trump's America first policy, which would please his base back home, in the end, if they don't get about the business of, you know, redefining those economic relationships, does that very base suffer?

OLIVIER KNOX, "YAHOO! NEWS": They keep talking about how America first is not America alone. But some of these dynamics suggest that it's certainly, as American leadership pulls back, you're right, the other countries are filling the vacuum.

This speech was really interesting for me in a couple of different ways. One was the constant emphasis on individual nations and individual peoples. In Poland, whose government is euro skeptic, doesn't like the E.U. very much, no way Merkel misses the symbolism of that. But also the notion of a clash of civilizations. The notion that the west is fighting terrorism, and -- as through terrorism is itself a different civilization. There's no way she misses any of that. She's too canny a play on the world stage. She understands the symbolism of it. She understands that he has taken some symbolic steps on this trip to undermine the German role in Europe and the E.U. itself.

KING: And if she -- if she doesn't miss it -- you're absolutely right, she made that crystal clear, but even if she had, in Poland today, listen to the president talk about what he views as the clash and implicit in here the mistakes he believes Merkel and others in Europe are making.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fundamental question of our time is whether the west has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?


KING: I mean written by a speechwriter, but if you want to strip that down to the basics, I'm right, you're wrong. I imposed a travel ban to keep people from countries out that I think are a threat to the United States. You have these open boarders in Europe and you're letting people in and that's why you have terrorism in your countries. I'm right, you're wrong, isn't that what he's saying?

BALL: I think that's a part of it. I think you clearly hear the vision here of Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, Jeff Sessions, that apart of the axis in the administration that is much more skeptical of globalism and multilateralism. There are, however, other elements of the administration that feel quite differently and there's been a lot of internal tension in that regard.

[12:10:14] But this isn't just about Trump selling his vision to the United States in contrast to what's happens in Europe. He's taking sides in the battle for Europe that's being waged right now. The battle between populism and internationalism that we have seen in Brexit, in the French elections, in Merkel's election that's coming up in the fall. Trump is taking sides on an internal European battle that is happening everywhere across the continent.

KING: And --

PACE: Right, that's important to note I mean while as a whole Europe is skeptical of Trump and doesn't agree with him in terms of the leadership there. The points that he's making, there is an audience for that in Europe.

KING: Right.

PACE: It's just, we have not seen since his elections those voices be particularly successful. But that doesn't mean it doesn't exist and he does see an opportunity to try to rally support for that on the continent.

KING: And that's why the leaders push back so hard because it is a threat to their survival. If you have more Brexits --

PACE: Exactly.

KING: And more of that type of sentiment across Europe. You mentioned the -- the German elections are undergoing right now.

What to make of the president's answer -- we'll talk more about this as we get through the hour -- but what to make of the president's answer when asked at the press conference about Russian election meddling, where he says, you know, Russia may have been involved, other countries could have been involved. He's going into this big meeting with Putin tomorrow. Angela Merkel and her people would tell you, the Russians are messing in the German election right now. Emmanuel Macron would tell you, the Russians were just messing in his elections in France. The president's own national security team will tell you, it was Russia, first and foremost. Yes, there are other actors, but the central player was Russia and the Kremlin at Vladimir Putin's direction. And the president still won't say so straight up. Why?

BENDER: H's getting a lot of pressure to -- to bring that up in that meeting with Putin, and that's going to be a question he won't be able to escape after his meeting with Putin. But I do think -- my sense of what he's saying there is almost a defense of him -- more of a defense of himself than trying to water down what Russia did. He says it was Russia. I think it was Russia. That's clear. I mean the rest of it, to me, is him trying to find him -- back himself out of a corner for his hedging up to this point.

KING: Isn't there --

KNOX: He give every -- he views --

KING: Isn't there -- I'm sorry, go ahead.

KNOX: He views every conversation about, this is an attack on his legitimacy and he's had sort of this life-long quest for that legitimacy and that acceptance. And so any talk of Russian interference, any talk -- even more so, any talk at all of possible collusion between people in his orbit and the Russians, he views all of that as an attack on his legitimacy and it really, really burns them up in the White House whenever this happens.

KING: Right. I just don't understand why he can't say, I'm president. He likes to say, I'm president, you're not, when he's attack us in the news media. Why doesn't he say, I'm president, damn it, and I'm going to look forward, not backwards, but this is not going to happen again on my watch, period. And that's what the Democrats -- they saw that answer. Here's Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee. He said, "this is not putting America first but continuing to propagate his own personal fiction at the country's expense. President Trump must have the courage to raise the issue of Russian interference in our elections directly with President Putin, otherwise the Kremlin will conclude he is too weak to stand up to them."

PACE: And it's not just Democrats who fell that way. There are Republicans who just don't understand. They get the psychology behind it, right? I mean we all know Trump is insecure about his victory and he thinks that people look at him and don't think he deserves to be in the Oval Office. Everyone understands that. But he's in there right now.

KING: Right.

PACE: And this is an actual national security issue that will continue to affect American elections, European elections for years to come if the U.S., in particular, doesn't get in front of this. And Republicans know that it could come their way in three and a half years. This is not a problem that is just for Democrats right now. And they just can't understand why the president can't feel confident in his victory enough so that he could actually take on a serious national security issue like this.

KING: One way to turn down the volume, the question of whether he's willing to address it with Putin would be for him to forcefully address it with Putin. That would put his critics -- that would take -- part of his critics argument right away and, in fact, help the president.

Hold the thought. We'll come back to this.

Next, tough talk about Russian aggression in Ukraine. But, as we noted, a muddled response to Kremlin election meddling. What to expect when the president of the United States goes eye to eye with the president of Russia.


[12:18:24] KING: Show you pictures here from Hamburg, Germany. Just moments ago, the president of the United States, the chancellor from Germany, two leaders with very big differences. A little small talk here. A little greeting. You'll see a handshake in a moment just before they went into their conversations in Hamburg behind closed doors. Could not hear what they were saying in the small talk there. The two leaders then went into a conference room.

We do expect the U.S. media and the German media to be allowed in for part of that meeting. We'll bring you that as soon as it happens. Again, just differences over trade, economics, migration, terrorism, climate change, and more. The two leaders ignoring the questions as they walk in. Hopefully we'll have more on that one in just a minute.

The president's schedule at the G-20 is packed. But it's a safe bet the most scrutinized will be his first metering with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. That is on the schedule tomorrow. Chancellor Merkel among those who want a tough U.S. line with Putin. And President Trump did offer this hint earlier today in Poland.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran, and to, instead, join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: So what to expect and how much does this first Trump/Putin meeting matter?

Insights now from Ambassador Nicholas Burns, whose nearly three decades of diplomatic work include stints as the undersecretary of state for political affairs and serving as U.S. ambassador to NATO in the George W. Bush administration.

Ambassador Burns, a pleasure to have you with us on this important day.

I want to get first to the question of election meddling. You testified before Congress a couple weeks ago, you said it would be a dereliction of duty for this president not to look Vladimir Putin in the eye and call him out, to say, I know what you did and you must not do it again and there will be consequences if you do.

[12:20:12] I want you to listen, when this came up in Poland earlier today at the press conference, this was the president's answer.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it was Russia, but I think it was probably other people and/or countries. And I see nothing wrong with that statement. Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure.

The west is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence and challenge our interests to meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes and cyber warfare.


KING: So from the hints at the press conference and then the hints in the speech, what do you expect? Will the president do, as you think he must, or will he punt or muddle this?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: John, I think what you saw this morning was the tail of two President Trumps. You saw the scripted speech where I think the president was right to accuse Russia of destabilizing activities. I assume he meant Ukraine by that. But then you saw the unscripted President Trump in the press conference. And Putin might think this is the real Trump, where he was very -- he went very easy and very soft on this certainty of our intelligence community that Russia launched a major cyberattack on the 2016 elections.

And so I do think it's very important for President Trump. I hope he can meet this expectation tomorrow that a lot of people have, that he raise the issue of Russian meddling in the elections directly with President Putin. That he say it's objectionable and that he communicate privately that there will be penalties for the Russians, sanctions, if this continues in 2018 and 2020. That's what President Obama did directly to President Putin last autumn, and it really is the basic responsibility of our president to defend our country, particularly our elections. I think he has to meet that test tomorrow, President Trump.

KING: Nick, talk to Trump supporters who might be watching this program. Because President Obama did it is not good enough for them. They don't -- they don't like President Obama. They don't think President Obama was a strong leader. Explain to a Trump supporter why you think it is critical that he not say in a meeting with Putin, I know you did it, but maybe others did it. Everyone does it. You've done it for a long time. Why is it critical that this president of the United States be very clear and very blunt on this issue?

BURNS: I would say that the first duty of any president is to defend the United States. What's more important to the United States than the sanctity and the efficiency of our elections? The fact that our elections will not be disturbed and perhaps even thwarted by a foreign power? In this case, an adversary, Russia. I think nearly all Americans can agree that we don't want to see foreign countries, adversarial countries, interfere with the conduct of our elections, try to get into 21 states' database, which the Russians tried to do, and somehow influence the elections from afar. That's an American issue. It's an America first issue, John, if you will. I think most Americans can agree, we don't want that, and that's why the president needs to stand up to Putin on this issue.

KING: Let's get into the additional complexities. Just standing in Poland today, and talking about Poland being free, talking about helping Poland with its energy supplies, talking about the Poles getting patriot missiles, that is a message to Russia, too. Tougher than maybe some people who think Trump wants to be soft on Putin would deliver.

I want you to listen here to a bit of the president's viewed as outlined in Poland about the importance of the NATO alliance.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see what's happening out there. They are threats. We will confront them. We will win. But they are threats.

The United States has demonstrated, not merely with words, but with its actions, that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment.

I declare today for the world to hear that the west will never, ever be broken.


KING: I'm sure that the Kremlin and President Putin specifically won't like some of that. Your make a distinction, though, is that the real Trump or is that written by his national security team.

BURNS: Well, yes. I think there were some -- many positive statements in the president's speech this morning. He spoke to Polish history. He spoke to the valor of the Poles. And he spoke in this respect, John, to the fact that the west has to be united, particularly against Russia. So I think that was a positive in the speech today.

But as your previous panel indicated, there are some troubling aspects of the speech. There were echoes -- "The New York Times" reported this -- of the inaugural speech. A clash of civilizations. It was not the open, pluralistic west that every American president has stood for, but more of a divisive sense of keeping others -- I read into that Muslims -- out of Europe. That plays into the politics of Poland but it doesn't play into the politics of Hamburg, Germany, where President Trump is right now with Angela Merkel, because she stands for the traditional American values of free trade, of the strength of our alliances, of containing Russia and of allowing immigration obviously of people from all faiths. That's where I think the discussion is going to break down between Chancellor Merkel and President Trump, and she's a far more important leader for us, she's the strongest leader in Europe. So that's the key meeting that we're focusing on today.

[12:25:33] KING: You have served -- you were in the foreign service when Democrats gave way to Republicans, Republicans gave way to Democrats. I want you to listen to how the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, set the table, if you will, for this first meeting between the new president and Vladimir Putin.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're at the very beginning and I would say at this point it's difficult to say exactly what the Russians -- what Russia's intentions are in this relationship. And I think that's the most important part of this meeting is to have a good exchange between President Trump and President Putin over what they both see as the nature of this relationship between our two countries.


KING: I don't think you'd disagree that at a first meeting part of it is just developing a personal rapport, feeling each other out. But do you agree or disagree with Secretary Tillerson, who said that at this point it's difficult to say exactly what Russia's inventions are in this relationship?

BURNS: I think Secretary Tillerson is right to say that the primary focus of this meeting, and the reason for it is, they need to get to know each other. This is their first meeting, John. They need to take the measure of each other. They need to find a way to communicate because there will be crises ahead. They'll have to be on the phone with each other. And every American president has to learn how to deal effectively, whether we agree with him or not, with the Russian leadership.

I think it's clear what Putin wants. He wants relief from the Ukraine sanctions. We should not give that to him because he's still, of course, occupying and annexing Crimea and occupying eastern Ukraine. He does not want additional sanctions on Russia for its interference in our elections. And the Senate voted 97-2 two weeks ago to impose those sanctions. The House now needs to act. President Trump should get behind the Congress. Republicans in Congress want a big statement against President Putin. So I do think it's clear what Putin wants. I hope President Trump won't give it to him tomorrow morning.

KING: All right, Nick Burns, appreciate your insight. Now, I'm going to ask you to stand by as well. We're still waiting to see if we get the president and the -- Chancellor Merkel of Germany speaking. If so, we'll bring you back into the conversation.

Up next, often differences are papered over at these big, international meetings, but President Trump, not shy about airing his disagreements, nor are the traditional U.S. allies now turned vocal America first critics.