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Tillerson Discusses Afghanistan Plan with Reporters; Missouri Governor Issues Stay in Marcellus Williams' Execution; Anger in 1st Charlottesville City Meeting Since Rally; Trump to Hold Campaign-Style Rally in Arizona Tonight. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired August 22, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: But the president has been clear that we are going to protect American troops and servicemen. We are going to attack terrorist terrorists wherever they live. And we have put people on notice that if you are harboring and providing safe haven to terrorists, be warned, b forewarned. And we're going to engage with those who are providing safe haven and ask them to change what they're doing and help us help them. Because in my view, the best -- the greatest benefactor, other than the Afghanistan people themselves, to achieve peace in Afghanistan, are the people of Pakistan. They will benefit more than any other nation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, you said no preconditions to talks. Specifically, are you saying that the U.S. no longer expects the Taliban to accept the Afghan constitution and specifically the rights of women? And on Pakistan, did you articulate in specific terms, or do you plan to, to Pakistan, the consequences of their actions, whether it be sanctions, dropping their NATO ally status? I mean, what exactly have you communicated or do you plan to communicate?
TILLERSON: Well, I had a good call with the prime minister of Pakistan yesterday afternoon to give them a bit of a forewarning of what they were going to hear in the president's speech. And also we did touch on the points I've made to you today. We are going to be engaging with them in a very serious and thorough way as to our expectations and the conditions that go with it. And all of those things you just listed are on the table for discussion if, in fact, they are unwilling to change their posture or change their approach to how they're dealing with the numerous terrorist organizations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan. Again, it is in Pakistan's interest to take those actions.
When we say no preconditions on the talks, I think what we are saying is, look, the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban representatives need to sit down and sort this out. It's not for the U.S. to tell them it must be this particular model, it must be under these conditions. And I think that's what the president means when he says we're no longer nation building. Look, we've tried taking certain principles and forms around the world, and sometimes it works. In a lot of places, it doesn't work. We don't know what's going to emerge here. We're going to be there obviously to encourage others. But it's going to be up to the Afghan government and the representatives of the Taliban to work through a reconciliation process of what will serve their needs and achieve the American people's objectives, which is security. No safe haven for terrorists to operate anywhere in Afghanistan now or in the future.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, you mentioned the forced protection concerns and Ambassador Bass shortly going to Afghanistan and the discussions, but how are you going to get someone who is able to go out beyond the wire and negotiate, functionally, regularly, in that weekly basis with individuals from the Haqqani Network and that forced protection concern?
TILLERSON: Well, we are going to have to improve the security environment. It is not -- the environment today is not conducive to carrying out those types of activities. You are exactly right. And so part of what we're going to have to do is first ensure we're ready to engage when conditions permit us to engage. It, again, is why Pakistan is very important in this discussion as well. Pakistan can facilitate much of that discussion. And there are other regional players to which this particular conflict and this unstable situation in Afghanistan are important. We've had discussions with the Chinese about a role they might be able to play. We've had discussions with the Russians about the role they could play if they choose to. And certainly, regional players in the gulf, GCC member countries, are very interested in seeing this area in Afghanistan stabilized as well. So, there are a lot of partners out here on the periphery that I think will have, from time to time, important roles they can play. Ultimately, it comes down to the two parties, the Afghan government and the Taliban representatives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you.
Mr. Secretary, going back to Pakistan, officials, for quite some time, Democratic and Republican administrations, have tried to get the government to stop its -- stop giving safe haven to the Haqqani Network of terrorist groups. What leverage do you think you have?
TILLERSON: Well, I think it's -- obviously we have some leverage that's been discussed in terms of the amount of aid and military assistance we give them, their status as a non-NATO alliance partner. All of that can be put on the table. But you know, at the end of the day, Pakistan has to decide what is in Pakistan's best long-term interests from a security standpoint for themselves and for their people. Quite frankly, as I evaluate Pakistan's current situation, if I were the Pakistan government, I would be -- I would have growing concerns about the strength of the Taliban and other organizations inside of Pakistan, who seem to be growing their numbers and their presence to the point that, at some point, they become a real threat to the stability of the Pakistan government itself. I think they need to be thinking about what is in their best long-term interests and how can we work with them to achieve a safer, more stable Pakistan in the next decades to come as well. I think it really is up to them. They've got to ask themselves that question, why does this work for them and why is this going to be -- going to continue to support their stability and the survival of their government in the years ahead if they continue to allow these elements to just grow and maintain their presence inside of Pakistan.
[14:36:01] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Last question. (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Don't you feel, on the other side, that too much pressure on Pakistan may destabilize the Islamabad and may have destabilizing all the region with having Taliban stronger in the country?
TILLERSON: That is a concern, and that's why I made the comments I just made, that I think it's important that Pakistan begin to think about its ability to contain these groups as well. It's why, though, we take a regional approach. The U.S. alone is not going to change this dynamic with Pakistan. You know, India and Pakistan, they have their own issues that they have to continue to work through. But I think there are areas where perhaps even India can take some steps of rapprochement on issues with Pakistan to improve the stability within Pakistan and remove some of the reasons why they deal with these unstable elements inside their own country. As I said, other regional players have strong interests in Pakistan. China has strong interests in Pakistan. Having a stable, secure future Pakistan is in a lot of our interests. They are a nuclear power. We have concerns about their weapons, the security of their weapons. There are many areas in which we believe we should be having very productive dialogue that serves both of our interests and regional interests as well. So, this is -- again, this is not a situation where the U.S. is saying, look, it's just us and you. What our approach is to bring -- as I said, these regional approaches is to bring all the other interests into this effort. Much as we've done with North Korea and assembling this global effort in North Korea, I think too often we try to distill these challenges down to where it's just the U.S. and some other country and only between the two of us can we solve it. We have to enlarge the circle of interest and bring others into the effort as well. And that's what we'll be doing with Pakistan as well.
UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Thank you, everyone.
TILLERSON: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll see you tomorrow. We'll have a press reefing at 2:00 p.m.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaking on the heels of the president's primetime address on the new plan in Afghanistan and how that would unfold in the coming months and perhaps years. And the secretary putting sort of an optimistic yet stern approach to this plan and how the diplomatic strategy will play out, particularly when it comes to Pakistan.
I want to bring in former ambassador to Afghanistan, Ronald Neumann.
You heard him say, the secretary, just flat-out say that he believes we, as in the U.S., can turn the tide in the losing battle in Afghanistan. Of course, the longest war in U.S. history. Do you think, with what you know about this plan, that that can be the case?
RONALD NEUMANN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSDADOR TO AFGHANISTAN: Well, there's still obviously a lot we don't know. But yes, if you look at the extent to which the insurgency has depended on sanctuaries in Pakistan, if you accept that part of this plan is to try to make a really much more serious effort to close those off, if that happens, then the chances of a much larger success in Afghanistan would go way up. There's several "ifs" in what I just said, but when you're fighting a war, there are always "ifs."
BROWN: And he seemed to fill in some of the gaps, some of the details that we did not hear from the president in his primetime address that was more of a broader speech. What stuck out to you in listening to the secretary of state?
[14:39:39] NEUMANN: I was impressed, listening to him. I am out of government and I'm not always a big booster of -- and I was quite critical of the last administration. Although I -- not because I was critical of them everywhere, but in Afghanistan. So, I don't think I'm just a booster of the administration. But the secretary was on top of his brief. He was able to fill in some of the questions from last night. Yes, there is still economic assistance strategy. Yes, we are still going ahead with a lot of other programs. Yes, there is a negotiation strategy, and it's a well-thought-out one because it's not grasping after silver bullets and really short-term miracle fixes. That was the problem with the Obama administration. They wanted out, and so they tried to do things too quickly in ways that couldn't be done, and then tried to drive out -- finally, they had to keep reversing parts of their policy and changing it because it was unrealistic. They had a politically-driven timeline, which was increasingly out of phase with events on the ground, and they never really resolved that contradiction. Now, we'll see how this works. But it is, frankly, it is a more realistic effort.
BROWN: All right, I want to bring in my colleague, Jim Scuitto now.
To get your reaction, Jim, on what we just heard from the secretary of state.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Pamela, it shows why it's important for a U.S. secretary of state to occasionally answer questions from reporters, because he gave some clarity, one, to the president's speech last night, his discussion of the Afghanistan plan, as well as it was a chance for America's top diplomat to comment in public on key national security issues like North Korea.
On Afghanistan, first, first of all, Secretary Tillerson put some clarity on the president's statement last night about troop numbers. The president saying he's not going to discuss them, which raised the issue, wait, when will the American public know how many more of its sons and daughters will be asked to go into the line of fire there. And Secretary Tillerson said, listen, we're not going to keep that secret. It's going to come out when those decisions are made by commanders on the ground. That's an important answer. That's something that I think not just reporters but people at home want to hear.
SCIUTTO: I think it's interesting as well, because this struck me last night with the president's speech, is that a -- and Secretary Tillerson reiterating it, that a key part of the Trump administration plan to win, in effect, and have an end game, is to negotiate with the Taliban, elements of the Taliban, and a not uncontroversial and not un-risky move for the U.S. to take. This idea has percolated before with regards to Afghanistan. And the ambassador knows far more than me on that. But it's a difficult one, because there are some very harsh elements in the Taliban who kill men, women, and children, and continue to, and have expressed no interest in negotiation. There's discussion of elements within the Taliban who might be more open to that, but that's a risky path to take to be a central part of the policy.
The final thing I would say, Pamela, that struck me is just to hear the U.S. secretary of state, after two very volatile weeks with North Korea, say that the U.S. recognizes that North Korea took a de- escalatory step in the rhetoric and the threats with regard to Guam, et cetera. That's significant to hear America's top diplomat say, listen, North Korea, we're watching. And not so much thank you, but, in effect, that's a positive step towards avoiding war.
BROWN: Right. And he cited -- he said the reason why this is, he believes, is because the U.N. security resolution. And he also said that he "appreciated that Pyongyang is exercising restraint" -- direct, quote there. So that certainly was a headline coming from the secretary of state.
I want to go to you, Ambassador, and hit on what Jim said. There's a lot coming out of what we just heard from the secretary of state, but this notion of the moderate elements of the Taliban wants to move forward and perhaps negotiating with them, how realistic is that?
NEUMANN: Well, it's never been really put to the test. I think -- the Taliban is an umbrella organization. It contains a variety of groups within it, some local fighters, Haqqanis, others. And there have, apparently, seem to be -- sorry, that's too mushy an answer. There have been groups that appear to be more moderate in times. They also appeared to be very much in the second place in the last couple of years and dominated by harder line groups. One of the key things is, you have to be able to fight and talk at the same time and not treat these as alternatives where you veer back and forth. When you look like you're chasing negotiations, you stiffen the other side. You stiffen what they're going to demand. And then you either don't get negotiations or you're going to have to kill more people to prove that you won't back up. So, a lot of this is how you walk and chew gum at the same time. And you know, that's a little bit of an art.
BROWN: All right, Jim Sciutto, last word to you.
SCIUTTO: Well, just to echo what the ambassador has said, is that the Taliban is big. We think of them as monolithic. You have many different groups there, elements that have shown interest, perhaps, in some negotiation. I would just say that that, then, raises the question, say you came to some sort of agreement with elements of the Taliban, doesn't mean that the other -- that the Haqqani Network, which has been guilty of some of the most aggressive and deadly attacks recently, for instance, in Kabul, doesn't mean that they disappear. So just to reiterate what the ambassador is saying, you've got to fight and negotiate at the same time. And you might end up fighting some folks who will never negotiate and that's just the morass that is Afghanistan.
[14:45:37] BROWN: All right. Thank you to you both. Appreciate it, gentlemen.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
NEUMANN: Thank you.
BROWN: Well, tempers flare inside a Charlottesville city council meeting, the first since the violence and the president's remarks. Coming up, I'll speak with the one council member who did not walk out.
Plus, the wife of the Treasury secretary flaunts luxury goods online, then mocks one of her critics in a bizarre rant. I'll speak with the mother who Louise Linton went after. You won't want to miss this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROWN: We have some breaking news. The clock running out for Missouri death row inmate. And we have learned now that the governor of Missouri has issued a stay in the execution of Marcellus Williams' execution. That execution was set to happen tonight at 7:00 p.m. in Missouri. The governor has issued a stay, because his attorneys have come out and said there was new DNA evidence that shows that he did not commit this murder, and that the 48-year-old is innocent.
I want to go to our reporter, Scott McLean, who is in Missouri with more on this breaking news -- Scott?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Pamela. There's a lot to unpack here, but the bottom line is that Marcellus Williams has been handed a lifeline by the Missouri governor, Eric Greitens, at least for now. Greitens, in a press released, announced that he would create a board of inquiry to look into whether Williams actually committed the murder that he's accused of back in 1998. So for now, he will not -- the execution will not go ahead as plan. It was scheduled for just about four hours from now, 6:00 local time, 7:00 eastern.
That board of inquiry will be made up of retired judges. It will have full subpoena power to ultimately get to the bottom of this.
Keep in mind, this issue was at the Supreme Court in Washington. We were still waiting to hear from justices as to whether or not they would issue a stay of Williams' execution. We hadn't heard yet. But obviously the governor has power regardless of what the court decides to spare a man's life. And in this case, that's exactly what he's done.
BROWN: Right. That request went to Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Just to give us some background on this case, what are his lawyers relying on to stay the execution in terms of the DNA that has been uncovered?
[14:49:58] MCLEAN: Yes, so, there was never any physical evidence linking Marcellus Williams to the actual crime scene in this 1998 murder of a local newspaper reporter who was stabbed more than 40 times in her house. In 2015, a judge allowed new DNA testing to be done on the murder weapon, which was a kitchen knife, Pamela. And that DNA testing came back, it showed some mixed results. But three out of four of the analysts who looked at it said that it should rule out Marcellus Williams as maybe not a suspect, but as someone who had that knife in their hand. Now, the state argues, look, he may have been wearing a glove, and there's plenty of non-DNA evidence to uphold this conviction. And so that's the rub here.
It's also important to keep in mind that even if Williams were to get exonerated from this case, as his lawyers hope that he one day will be, there is very little chance that he will ever be getting out of prison, because of previous unrelated, separate convictions that he's now serving time for.
BROWN: All right, Scott McLean, thank you so much, live for us in Missouri.
More on this breaking news in just a moment.
But first, the people of Charlottesville, Virginia, that's where I want to turn. They called out the city's leadership after that deadly terror attack there. Demonstrators interrupted and blasted the city council during their first meeting since violent clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters. Police removed and arrested three people in that meeting. They were angry an August 12 unite the right rally was even allowed to happen in the first place. Last night, residents took the mayor to task on everything from the police response to the rally to the monument of Confederate General Robert E. Lee that Neo-Nazis say they came to defend.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been here and I've warned you. I've had enough. We've all had -- absolutely had enough. The statue needs to come down. You need to grow a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) spine. Get the statues down, all of them. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is it that city council cannot recognize white
terrorism for what it is. The form of terrorism that's killed more people in this country than any other form ever has or ever will.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened to CPD? You want to bring these (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in here tonight to restore order.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is what I want to know. What are y'all going to do when they come back? Because they are coming back. Because they've already said so. What do y'all plan to do when they come back? Because those statues are still there. That's their beacon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Clearly, the residents there wanting to make their voices heard.
Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy, of Charlottesville, Virginia, joins me now.
You were the only council member to remain when every other member of the council walked out. Why did you stay?
WES BELLAMY, (D), VICE MAYOR OF CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA: Well, thank you for having me. And once again, it's important for us to acknowledge and send our condolences to Sister Heather who lost her life as well as the two police officers, in addition to the many people who were injured during the melee on August 12, including Deandre Harris.
Now, to answer your question, I thought it was important to stay because many of these individuals within the crowd, personally, I believe that they deserve the right to be heard. This is a very passionate subject. And people deserve not only our empathy and our sympathy. Now, I can't speak for as to why some of my other colleagues chose to stay or didn't stay. But I will say, overall, my colleagues and myself, we were in the city council meeting for nearly six hours, and we listened to nearly 150 to 200 people. So I think that is, in a sense, showing our commitment, and I'm looking forward to us all working together and move forward together.
BROWN: We're watching this video play out from the meeting. You see police escorting, arresting some of the citizens there, escorting them outside of the meeting. What do you say to some of the people in there who said, look, the police are escorting us out and not letting our voices be heard, but yet the city will let Neo-Nazis come and let their voices be heard in the city. What do you say to them? BELLAMY: I understand exactly where our citizens are coming from.
Again, we have to understand and analyze different people's perspectives. And I'm not here to get into a blame game or pick one side over the other. What I wanted to do last night was be able to listen to everyone and try to understand their viewpoint and perspective. And I think it's important for us to do that. So look at it from this perspective. If you were an individual who attended the rally on August 12, and as we heard, on several different accounts, people saying they saw fights, they saw different things transpire and take place. And then to a certain extent, they were looking for certain individuals to intervene, and for whatever reason, they did not. From their perspective, they're trying to understand how could that be and they're looking for answers. Now, again, I'm not here to pick sides or say, you know, one group did this, one group did that. Specifically talking about last night. And I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation with our police department and our police chief to make sure that we address these situations in the most appropriate manner. But I think, again, it's important for everyone's viewpoint and their perspective to be heard because this a traumatizing and very, very emotional situation that's going on. And most of all, people just want to be heard.
[14:55:38] BROWN: Wes, last night, the president addressed bigotry during his statement on Afghanistan. Let's take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When one part of America hurts, we all hurt. And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together. Loyalty to our nation demands loyalty to one another. Love for America requires love for all of its people. When we open our hearts to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice, no place for bigotry, and no tolerance for hate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, Wes, do you think that his remarks that we just heard this time around were strong enough in terms of condemning white supremacy?
BELLAMY: Well, to be honest, I'm not here to talk about 45. I'd much rather talk about the city of Charlottesville. And I'm looking forward to us, again, continuing to rally together, staying together, and be a lot more courageous and much more united in terms of how we move forward. Forty-five can say what he says. And again, I don't really want to get into speaking about him. I would much rather spend my attention and my focus on talking about the city of Charlottesville.
BROWN: But doesn't moving forward include the president?
BELLAMY: In my perspective, locally, where I'm in a local elected official, it's most important for me, once again, to focus on the people of Charlottesville. And I'm still thinking about the voices of the people that I heard in that city council meeting last night and trying to figure out how we can make amends, whether that be by the city council apologizing publicly, whether that be we conducting another town hall and talking to our constituents and finding out different ways in which we can improve. Because I heard a lot of people say they are terrorized. They have been terrorized. They feel as if they are petrified by what happened. They are traumatized. And they are really afraid these individuals may come back. So as a city, we have to continue to formulate our plan and be able to prepare for whatever future incidents arise. But also let our citizens know that we have their back, that we are doing everything that we can to make sure that they are safe and letting them know that Charlottesville is still a great place. We're not a perfect place. We've had issues for several different years now, for several generations, but we're trying to move forward in the right direction.
BROWN: OK. Vice mayor of Charlottesville, Wes Bellamy, thank you.
BELLAMY: Thank you.
BROWN: And we have reached the second hour. Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Brooke Baldwin.
Last night, on message. Tonight, unscripted. President Trump will host a campaign rally in Phoenix tonight. And if recent rallies are any indicator, we expect a stark contrast from his disciplined Teleprompter speech on Afghanistan. Although Trump won Arizona in the 2016 election, the state is home to two of the president's most vocal GOP critics, Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. As Flake faces reelection, President Trump has called him weak on immigration and crime while praising his primary challenger.
And while in Arizona, we'll also be watching to see if the president might pardon controversial former sheriff, Joe Arpaio.
But before the rally, the president will visit Yuma, which is the main base of operations for U.S. Border Patrol.
And that's where we find CNN's Boris Sanchez. He joins us now.
Boris, the mayor of Phoenix asked President Trump to stay away from his city. And there are major protests planned there tonight. What more are you hearing? What can we expect?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Pam. Yes, the potential for conflict, essentially, outside the Phoenix Convention Center. As you mentioned, the mayor of Phoenix asking the president to delay this rally after his divisive remarks in Charlottesville last week. Several different groups, progressive groups, anti-bigot groups, as they're calling themselves, were mobilized and they are set to greet the president as he arrives at the Phoenix Convention Center for that rally later tonight.
You can also expect several of the usual names to be on hand. Vice President Mike Pence is making a trip out. So is chief of staff, John Kelly.
Interestingly enough, though, those who were not invited, including, as you mentioned, the Republican Senators from Arizona, both John McCain and Jeff Flake, have been very critical of the president. Both with some very harsh words for Donald Trump after that press conference at Trump Tower last tuesday where the president talked about the violence in Charlottesville. The president has not hesitated in responding specifically to Jeff Flake, as you said, calling him weak, calling him a non-factor in the Senate, and praising --