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President Trump Does Not Hold Press Conference at End of G-20; President Trump Meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping; Analysts Examine U.S. and Chinese Policy Towards North Korea. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 8, 2017 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: -- commitments of noninterference in the affairs of the United States and our democratic process as well as those of other countries.


SARA MURRAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So Tillerson is saying, look, we brought it up, we talked about it, we didn't dwell on it. We're trying to move forward rather than focus on the past. We'll see if that's the same explanation we get today.

Now, as for how our allies are viewing this meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she was delighted to see President Trump and President Putin meeting at the G-20 for the first time face-to-face. She says it's always better to talk to each other rather than about each other. Back to you.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Sara Murray in Hamburg, thank you so much. So the contradictions just keep rolling in over what exactly was said in between President Trump and President Putin. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley sat down with CNN's Dana Bash to discuss what she believes Putin is trying to do, in her words, save face. And when it comes to Trump's version of the story, Haley says you'll have to ask him. Listen.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You said everybody knows that the Russians meddled in the U.S. election and that the president said so behind closed doors to Vladimir Putin. If that's the case, why won't the president say this in public? It would put a lot of these questions and frankly the fact that a lot of your fellow Republicans are perplexed, will put to rest. Why won't he do it?

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think that you can ask him. Everybody's trying to nitpick what he says and what he doesn't. But talk is one thing, actions are another. He confronted President Putin. He made it the first thing that he talked about, and I think we have to now see where it goes from here.


WHITFIELD: All right, joining me now to discuss all of this, Kiron Skinner. She is a W. Glenn Campbell research fellow at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. She was also a part of Trump's national security council transition team. Kiron, good to see you. So we've heard from Nikki Haley, we heard from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, but we have not heard from the president of the United States. Should we?

KIRON SKINNER, W. GLENN CAMPBELL RESEARCH FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: I think we have heard from the administration and the president has made it clear that one of the top issues when he began his meeting with Vladimir Putin was Russian interference in the U.S. election of 2016 --

WHITFIELD: Well, we heard from the administration, but we haven't heard from the horse's mouth, the president of the United States just as we did from Vladimir Putin following the G-20. Vladimir Putin came out, he seemed quite comfortable with answering questions about his account. But then we didn't see that same kind of demeanor coming from the president of the United States to give his version of events, face-to-face.

SKINNER: Yes, I actually don't think that the president of the United States needs to go point by point on this issue with Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin probably issued that statement because that two-hour meeting did not go, I think, in the direction that he wanted it to go. There was a commitment to de-escalation in southwest Iraq -- Syria by both sides. The U.S. made its point known through President Trump about North Korea. So I don't think that the president has to let Vladimir Putin have the first mover's advantage by responding directly to him on the interference issue.

It is an important issue, Fredricka, absolutely. But I don't know if the G-20 has to be sullied by a long discussion about the Russian interference. The global threats right now from ISIS to North Korea are existential for us and the world. And I think the president's trying to keep the focus there, at least in this venue.

WHITFIELD: OK, but then it is customary for a leader of a nation to have kind of a wrap-up press conference, just as we saw in Putin, we saw in Angela Merkel, Macron did it as well. Even the Turkey president did. But absent in this effort was Donald Trump. His predecessors have done so. So it's an issue of what has been customary. And, you know, Donald Trump bucking the trend on this. And you don't find that unusual?

SKINNER: I feel that the evidence of this G-20 summit suggests that Donald Trump not just on a press conference where he talks at length about Russian interference is different, but when you look at the fact that there's kind of the G-19 versus one on the Paris climate accord in the final communique, when you look at the fact that before the G- 20 summit he gave, of all the leaders in the industrialized world, a kind of philosophical statement of defending the west. In his talk in Poland, he's doing everything differently, not just the issue of Russia. So I think that's what we will see in these forums going forward, a different kind of approach by Donald Trump.

WHITFIELD: So on that note, while in Poland this was Donald Trump. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) 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.


WHITFIELD: So then, Kiron, given that, and that raised eyebrows, what do you mean you think it was Russia and you think there were other people? And then he has this face-to-face with Putin, and Rex Tillerson says it was the president who brought it up and said it's Russia, but then Putin contradicts that. So even for the sake of clarifying Trump's position, given what he said in Poland, you don't think it was important, or is there still an opportunity for the president of the United States to clarify what really was said?

SKINNER: I do think it is important, Fredricka, that the president clarify where he stands in particular on Russian interference based on the intelligence that he and his team are viewing. I don't know if the G-20 is the right forum for it, but I do think, as you have noted, the statement he made in Poland did raise some red flags. If he thinks it's a broader effort against the U.S. election that occurred last year, we need to know about it. So I do hope in the coming days that he's very specific about what he means and that we don't hear about this through Twitter, that we hear about it very comprehensively from some podium in the White House or through one of his senior aides.

WHITFIELD: Something else that is kind of making the rounds on social media, there was a moment during this G-20 when Ivanka Trump took the chair of President Trump when he, you know, got up and left in this meeting, and it positioned Ivanka next to Theresa May and next to the Chinese President Xi, and on social media, was this appropriate? Is this right? What's your point of view on her taking her father's seat?

SKINNER: I actually have no problem with the kind of unconventional and new way of diplomacy at international meetings that the Trump administration is undertaking. I think it's actually refreshing. I think we do need a reset on some of these very old bureaucratic, inflexible organizations. And I think Trump is adding a new way of thinking about them.

The fact of the matter is that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are deeply involved in the White House on these meetings, on international issues such as women's entrepreneurship. And I don't believe that's going to change. It's not violating a U.S. law. It does represent a kind of multigenerational approach to foreign policy, which I think is actually refreshing at these meetings. Often the younger people are on the sidelines as civil society partners. Here we have Ivanka Trump playing a much more representative role for the U.S. government. And I don't see where that's a violation of anything, and in fact I think it was -- I saw it as a refreshing act suggesting how there will be a more shared governance approach among generations in the Trump White House.

WHITFIELD: Do you see her as hugely influential on her father?

SKINNER: I believe so. I think, you know, it's my sense that she didn't win on the Paris climate accord, but I do think that he listens to his closest advisors, and she's one of them. And I think in that way she is influential. But I think she's one of several if not many.

WHITFIELD: OK, Kiron Skinner, good to see you. Thanks so much.

SKINNER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, President Trump says he has built a, quote, wonderful relationship with China's president, and something has to be done with North Korea. So could China be the key in all of this?


[14:12:35] WHITFIELD: Welcome back. President Trump is en route to the U.S. following the G-20 summit and his big face to face meeting with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin. They had a long list of foreign policy issues to tackle, including Syria. The two agreed on a cease-fire in southwest Syria which takes effect in less than 24 hours. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who attended the Trump/Putin meeting, said, quote, "This is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria," end quote.

And new details in Mosul, Iraq, where an ISIS stronghold is on the verge of collapse. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is reporting the Iraqi army is increasingly confident they are nearing the, quote, final stage of the final stage of kicking ISIS out of the old city of Mosul.

Iraqi television showing pictures of destruction with plumes of smoke rising over the city. A spokesman for the Iraqi army saying Iraqi forces are, quote, "continuing their advance to liberate the remaining parts of the old city of Mosul. Only a few tens of meters are left for our troops to reach the western bank of the river and establish full control over the city of Mosul. Fighting is still ongoing and our troops are advancing into what's left of the city," end quote. That from the Iraqi army.

Meanwhile, President Trump is urging China to take action against North Korea after its 11th ballistic missile test and growing nuclear weapons capabilities. The specifics were not released to the public, but Trump met with China's Xi Jinping earlier today and said he appreciates China's efforts but emphasized that, quote, "something needs to be done," end quote. CNN's global affairs correspondent Elise Labott joining us now. So, Elise, President Trump seems to be leaning on China to exert some pressure on Pyongyang. But now what?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's unclear, Fred, because, you know, President Trump's policy towards China has really been all over the place. During the campaign and up until his first meeting with President Xi he was very tough. Then he said that him and Xi were forming a very good relationship at Mar-a-Lago and he expected the Chinese to take a much greater role in pressuring North Korea. And as you've seen, these continued missile tests from North Korea he's gotten a little frustrated that China has not done enough, and in recent days on Twitter and elsewhere has criticized the Chinese, kind of indicating that he's going to give up on the Chinese.

And now today you saw that they think that they can work together. I think this strategy really on North Korea, China is the lynchpin, so President Trump trying to calibrate what to do with the Chinese. I think it's going to be a combination, and Secretary Tillerson in fact pretty much said this, a combination of diplomacy and trying to talk to the Chinese, but also tough pressure. And that could be diplomatically. It could be on trade. President Trump has indicated that he's willing to give China a better trade deal and not label it a currency manipulator if it were to play ball on North Korea. But he's also said he could, you know, put tax levies on Chinese imports of steel or other things or perhaps sanctions on Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea if it doesn't comply.

WHITFIELD: So are there any indicators that the U.S. will be able to lean on China to apply some real pressure to North Korea?

LABOTT: Well, I mean, I think we'll have to see how tough President Trump wants to get on the economic front. I mean, how hard are those sanctions going to be? How difficult of a trade deal would he make for President Xi? And then I think you have to balance that with Chinese interests. China's not going to do something as a favor to the United States. China has a lot of interests in North Korea, most emphatically doesn't want the regime to collapse, doesn't want thousands of refugees across its border. So stability in the Korean peninsula is really the most important thing for China. And I think China will act on its interests and it's going to have to juggle what are more support, its security interests and its economic interests.

WHITFIELD: And this is secretary of state Rex Tillerson playing down the idea of trying to get the north to freeze its nuclear program. Listen.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: President Putin, I think, has expressed a view not unlike that of China, that they would support a freeze for freeze. If we study the history of the last 25 years of engagement with various regimes in North Korea, this has been done before. And every time it was done North Korea went ahead and proceeded with its program.


WHITFIELD: How does this set the stage?

LABOTT: Well, I mean, you saw the U.S. tried to do this with Iran as well and it didn't work. So that nuclear deal where Iran committed to giving up a lot of elements of its nuclear program and walking it back, in fact. I think with North Korea, it's gone so far, the program, I'm not sure at this point a freeze for freeze is really what the U.S. is looking for. It's really a do-or-die moment. And I think they're looking for North Korea to denuclearize as opposed to a freeze for freeze.

WHITFIELD: Elise Labott, thank you so much, in Washington. Appreciate it. U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley is sure to be asked about all of this on "State of the Union," that interview airing tomorrow at 9:00 eastern right here on CNN. And we'll be right back.


[14:21:53] WHITFIELD: A key meeting between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping took place earlier today. The two discussed a range of issues from trade to North Korea. Those countries want to resolve the North Korea threat, but they're not on the same page on how to resolve the threat. Here now is CNN's Andrew Stevens.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A man I've gotten to like and respect.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was hailed as a budding bromance, all smiles as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Donald Trump met at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in April. A key issue for the two leaders, North Korea. Trump famously said he'd listen to Xi explain Chinese-Korean history to him for 10 minutes, and it made him realize, quote, "It's not what you think." But in the months since, Trump's had a lesson in real politics. This week's missile test showing that while North Korea, the U.S., and China are still miles apart.

TONG ZHAO, FELLOW, CARNEGIE NUCLEAR POLICY PROGRAM: The issue in North Korea is quickly becoming a major barrier in the bilateral relationship between Washington and Beijing. Both countries see North Korea as a major headache. They both want to resolve it very earnestly. But the issue is they are not on the same page about how to most effectively deal with North Korea.

STEVENS: Trump appears to believe that China is still the key to controlling North Korea, judging from his tweets on China over the past few days. China is North Korea's closest and main trading partner, and Trump wants China to apply more economic pressure on Kim Jong-un.

China says it has implemented U.N. sanctions, including blocking coal exports from North Korea which cuts off a key source of hard currency for the Kim regime. The U.S. says that's not enough, and the bromance has been turning sour. President Xi this week complaining of, quote, "negative factors which are complicating the U.S.-China relationship." China is dismayed with a recent U.S. arms deal with Taiwan, U.S. sanctions on a Chinese bank with alleged ties to North Korea, and the U.S. Navy sailing through disputed waters in the South China Sea claimed by China as its own.

GLENN SHIVE, DIRECTOR OF HONG KONG, AMERICA CENTER: So we're almost in the end of a honeymoon. So they're doing things that now are getting under China's skin. So it's a combined sort of now we like you, but on the other hand now we're going to press you. And as if to say we can manipulate China into behaving the way we want to, I don't think that works too well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is not the way to play China.

SHIVE: I don't think so. I don't think China, especially now Xi Jinping has to look strong, has to look consistent, has to be the man of stability. He's not going to do something that is at Trump's bidding.

STEVENS: China is also clear that it does not want regime change in North Korea.

ZHAO: The dilemma is as follows -- in order for economic sanction to be able to force North Korea to denuclearize, the sanction has to be so tough that it directly threatens the stability of the economic system and therefore threaten the stability of the regime.

[14:25:09] STEVENS: Andrew Stevens, CNN, Hong Kong.


WHITFIELD: And still no clarification now coming from the White House on that meeting between Putin and Trump after Putin had his description earlier today. But just moments ago CNN did receive an official statement of the president's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The two leaders condemning North Korea's recent launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Trump and Abe reaffirming that the international community must address North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program and that U.S. is reaffirming its commitment to defend Japan and Korea from any attack.

All right, thanks so much for being with me today. That's going to do it. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. More Newsroom at the top of the hour. But right now it's time for Dr. Sanjay Gupta's "Vital Signs."