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First Presidential Tweets of 2018 Slam Pakistan, Iran; 12 Dead in Iranian Demonstrations. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 1, 2018 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: A happy New Year to you. I am Brianna Keilar in for Brooke Baldwin.

And the first presidential tweets of 2018 are the one-two punch against an ally Pakistan and an adversary Iran.

[14:00:03] Here's what President Trump said about Pakistan, quote: The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years and they've given us nothing, but lies and deceit thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan with little help. No more.

Well, within the hour, President Trump then tweeted about Iran saying, quote: Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made for them by the Obama administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. He goes on to say: They are hungry for food and freedom along with human rights and the wealth of Iran is being looted.

And then this, which was really sort of eyebrow-raising for many. He said: Time for change, in all caps.

So, the president is referring to anti-government protests in Iran that have left 12 people dead this weekend and as he slams these nations on this New Year's day, North Korea's dictator is also seizing the moment. Kim Jong-un told his people that the mainland U.S. is within his range and, quote, the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office.

Joining me now to talk about this is CNN White House correspondent Abby Phillip.

Abby, you are with the president in Florida where he's just about to leave for Washington. You, the president you're watching his tweets. He's got these foreign affairs issues obviously on his mind, but what's on his agenda today as he returns to Washington?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Brianna.

Yes, when the president gets back to D.C., it's going to be all actually about domestic policy, about the economy and about the agenda that he's hoping to dive right into in the New Year with congressional Republicans. He's going to sit down at Camp David with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hash out the plan for the coming months. And on the agenda is, of course, infrastructure which he's been talking about and also perhaps welfare reform.

When he was at his New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago last night he was talking to his supporters and guests at his club, a little bit about what they can expect in the New Year, and he said touting some of this economic growth, he said more is coming in 2018. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have a great 2018. It's going to be something very, very special. It's all kicking in. Everybody's going to love with what's happening with our country, because we're taking a big, beautiful ship, and we're slowing turning it around. I'd like to do it faster.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Well, the president seems pretty optimistic about the New Year ahead. Also on his agenda, Brianna, he's going to have his first presidential, physical toward the beginning of the month this January. The White House says they're going to release the results of that when that occurs.

KEILAR: All right. That would be very interesting.

Abby Philip in West Palm Beach, thank you very much for that report.

I do want to take a deep dive now on a year ahead with CNN political commentators, Hilary Rosen and Jack Kingston. Hilary is a Democratic strategist. And Jack is a Republican and he used to be a congressman for Georgia.

I wonder, Hilary, there are some things that the president as he's talking about bipartisanship and he wants Democrats to join him on some things like infrastructure. What could he do that would actually put them in a tough spot and force them to work with him in an election year?

HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Democrats want to work on infrastructure. I don't think it would be a tough spot at all. I think they've been talking about it for a long time. They've actually wanted to use some of this money that was spent on tax reform for lowering rates on infrastructure. The administration was against that, so I think if the president came to Democrats with a real infrastructure proposal that's good for working men and women across the country, it's good for labor unions, it's good for the crumbling roads and bridges. I think the Democrats would embrace it.

KEILAR: But, look, if they're looking at polls that show it is possible there could be a Democratic wave here in the midterm elections in 2018, isn't there also an incentive for them to not go along with something that isn't extremely palatable to them?

ROSEN: Well, the fight for infrastructure has been Republicans against it because they only believe in spending through the tax code, not through the actual federal budget. So -- but I think Democrats have plenty to run on in 2018. Look, you know, we have hundreds of thousands of Americans in Puerto Rico without power. We are about to lose millions of people off of, you know, health insurance roles. Fewer jobs were actually created in 2017 than were created in each of the five years prior to President Trump coming in.

Democrats have a lot to run on already. If there are a couple of things that they can do proactively, I think that they would work with the president.

JACK KINGSTON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I don't know. All we've seen from Chuck Schumer is the party of no and the personified negative politics.

[14:05:01] You know, when I think of the resistance, I think, OK, unemployment at the lowest time and the lowest level in maybe 20 years, $5 trillion new dollars added to the economy because of the stock market growth. Opportunities because of less regulation of businesses, lower energy costs. Interest rates have stayed low. Illegal border crossings are down.

I don't know what the resistance is going to do for itself. I think that the Democrats would be better to get onboard with the president and say, let's work with infrastructure, let's try to come up with a compromise on immigration, let's do something on DACA, and let's deal with the budget because the budget is something that's going to be right in the president's face on the 19th of January and it's going to have to be dealt with.

KEILAR: But with the president striking the tone, the very strident tone that he so often does, the divisive tone, Jack, and with maybe a lag in wage growth that would actually make a lot of Americans feel, you know, I'm doing better, you know? Just that sort of sense that if they do a temperature check on themselves even economically, they would feel like they are doing a lot better.

I mean, aren't those areas that could still give Democrats a lot of incentive to not go along?

KINGSTON: Well --

ROSEN: I mean, he already attacked Democrats two days ago for out of the blue. So this isn't a guy who seems to be desperate to work with Democrats.

KINGSTON: Well, but, you know, but I think that's some of the give and take of Washington. I mean, there's a lot --

ROSEN: There's spontaneous --

(CROSSTALK)

KINGSTON: Well, there's a lot of punching back and forth. But let me say this, you have 350 seats that are pretty well Democrat and Republican regardless of what happens, and you have 60 competitive seats and then you have 21 toss-up seats and of those 21 toss-up seats, 17 are Republican and you go back to the competitive seats where we're going to have to spend money, they lean Republican, but we're going to have to spend money to keep them, which makes the vulnerable seats even more vulnerable.

So, I think where the Democrats have the best wind at their back really is just history, just plain and simple. The party that rules the White House is on a disadvantage on the even years.

ROSEN: I think one other point on -- I agree with Jack's map here. This will be a very instructive spring because these Republicans and these vulnerable seats are going to make a decision not based on what people on cable TV say and not based on, you know, anybody else, but what they're hearing, you know, in main street in terms was whether they want to be with the president or not with the president. If we start to see these Republicans like we've seen for instance these Republicans in northern Virginia, running away from the president, if we start to see Republicans in vulnerable districts running away from the president starting this spring, that will be very telling and that will change the legislative agenda.

KINGSTON: If we do see that, but so far, we haven't seen that. Ed Gillespie in Virginia was in a tough spot because it's a purple state in a good year for us right now. But aside from that, everybody from Alabama and other races and Georgia, for example, and the other congressional races, they all clung to President Trump and said --

KEILAR: Those are safer areas.

KINGSTON: They are but --

ROSEN: I'm talking about --

KEILAR: Aren't they looking at a Virginia as opposed to the --

KINGSTON: And the Northeast. But what I'm saying is that history --

ROSEN: You got 24 House districts where Hillary Clinton won by a bigger -- by, you know, beat Donald Trump and they're now held by Republicans. All you need is those districts and two more. So, the math does favor Democrat is.

KEILAR: I do want to switch gears and talk about the Russian investigation, because there's this report out in "The New York Times" that we've seen that George Papadopoulos, who was the first Trump campaign adviser to plead guilty to lying to the FBI, had told an Australian diplomat back in May 2016, so before the election in the spring/summer before the elections that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. This was according to this report after a night of heavy drinking and the Australians pass it along to their American counterparts after you start seeing the DNC WikiLeaks e-mails coming out in July of 2016.

This, we have found out, Jack, is something that may have been the spark to this Russian inquiry. That really undercuts what President Trump has been trying to hammer home which is that it's all entirely based on this dossier. KINGSTON: Well, this is what I would say, that the Russian

investigation did not start with Mueller. It's been going on for a year and a half. We knew the Russians were trying to hack the election during the election, but there has been no proof, no evidence of collusion whatsoever.

But the Democrats, the critics of Trump are always, oh, the shoe is about to fall. We're about to get him. We're this close.

We've been hearing that for months and months.

KEILAR: What about the desire of Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner to get dirt from Russians?

KINGSTON: Well, let me say this, having been in a number of campaigns, people come to you all of the time and say, I've got something on your opponent and sometimes you do listen to them. So, I'm setting up a meeting like that is not nefarious at all.

[14:10:03] Apparently, there was no information exchanged. There was nothing acted upon.

KEILAR: But from the Russians --

KINGSTON: But I think --

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: When the president -- when the then not the president at the time, but when Donald Trump had been warned about possible interference.

KINGSTON: With everything that was going on and the excessive partisanship in this investigation and not to mention the tainted Mueller team, we would know about it if there was something there, but there isn't any substance whatsoever.

Papadopoulos really was a coffee boy. I never heard of him. I was very active in the campaign. Never heard of him whatsoever.

ROSEN: Well, we've seen over and over again how he had a bigger role than people were admitting and there are two issues here. The first issue is whether or not there is so-called collusion with the Trump campaign, whether the Trump campaign worked with the government to undermine the election.

The other issue, though, is that the Russian government used many outlets as we know to try and undermine the election regardless of whether the Trump campaign actually worked for it. I, you know, as a Democrat, I would feel good as a start if we just had our president try and push back on Russia for actually trying to interfere in the election. And that is the issue that I think we can't we're conflating them so much because we're appalled that the president is unwilling to listen to the intelligence agencies to hold Russia accountable for actually trying to undermine the U.S. democracy. And if he did that, some of this other stuff might not look as nefarious as it does. But, you know, now all we have is sort of the systematic and we just heard jack do it again, systematic trying to undermine Mueller's investigation and Mueller's integrity and Mueller's independence --

KINGSTON: People like Peter Strzok have already done that job.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: People keep doing that and that is just --

KEILAR: It was out of the investigation.

KINGSTON: They did when it was found out how partisan he was. Why was he there to begin with? What about Jeannie Rhee? What about James Quarles?

KEILAR: Not when it was public, they did --

KINGSTON: What about Andy McCabe? Why doesn't he tell us what this insurance policy was? What about Quarles and Andrew Weissmann who told Sally Yates, great job defining the Department of Justice --

ROSEN: This is not going to work. People will not --

(CROSSTALK)

KINGSTON: These are all --

ROSEN: This is a systematic Republican attempt to undermine, you know, an independent law enforcement investigation.

KINGSTON: You guys stand for it. You know you want it. You would be outraged and you should be outraged.

ROSEN: The level of hypocrisy about outrage is --

KINGSTON: Let me say this. I would feel better if I would hear that Dianne Feinstein or Mark Warner say, you know what, I'm not a Trump fan, as you know. However I am concerned about Russia hacking into our election and I want to look at this in a non-partisan level about some of the charges, but you know --

ROSEN: They've said that a hundred times. A hundred times.

KINGSTON: The whole prism is get Trump.

ROSEN: The entire first six months of the intelligence committee investigation is the Russian undermining of the election. It was not an investigation of Donald --

KINGSTON: It was --

(CROSSTALK)

ROSEN: Sorry, it was not an investigation into Donald Trump until he fired James Comey.

KINGSTON: I'll make a New Year's prediction. I'll make a New Year's prediction.

ROSEN: He's brought it on himself.

(CROSSTALK)

KINGSTON: What was he going to find?

I mean, Flynn lied. That's probably where it's going to go, stuff like that.

KEILAR: We'll see if your prediction is correct if nothing is found. We don't know at this point.

All right. It was just getting so good, but we have to leave it there. The clock is ticking.

Jack Kingston, Hilary Rosen, thank you so much.

KINGSTON: Happy New Year.

KEILAR: Happy New Year.

ROSEN: Happy New Year.

KINGSTON: Go Dogs in the Pasadena today in the Rose Bowl.

KEILAR: Al right. We'll let you have the plug. Thanks so much for that.

Next, the Iranian government is now responding directly to President Trump after he tweeted support for protesters in Iran.

And then also tragedy in Costa Rica. New details on a New Year's Eve plane crash that killed 12 people including ten Americans.

And dangerously cold temperatures gripping much of the East Coast. How long this deep freeze is going to last.

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[14:17:53] KEILAR: New protests broke out in Iran's capital today as demonstrators rally against the Iranian government. So far, 12 people have been killed during the protests which first broke out in more remote cities last week, but now, we are seeing more action in Tehran, even as Iran's president says the protests are, quote, nothing.

Joining me now on the phone from inside Tehran is Ramin Mostaghim of "The Los Angeles Times." He's been there for three days of these protests.

So, Ramin, tell us about this protester who shot at police with the hunting gun. You watched it on state TV, is that right? RAMIN MOSTAGHIM, REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES (via telephone): Yes.

The state TV and other official media says that (INAUDIBLE) in a provincial town in the center of Iran, a man who was called as a person who collected disturbances shot at the police and killed one police and three other wounded.

KEILAR: Now as we're seeing more action in Iran moving from some of the more remote areas, when you have Iran's president saying that essentially that Iran has dealt with protests like these before, that these are nothing. Do you believe that that is accurate?

MOSTAGHIM: I think no. At the same time I can say the number of protesters comparing to the previous, I mean, back 10 or more years ago, the number of protesters are much, much less, but they seem that (INAUDIBLE) of protesters in Tehran are more determined than before and they're more agile and the age is between 19 to 28 or 29. So the number are, I mean, less, but the determination is higher than before.

KEILAR: Very interesting. Tell us about the situation in Tehran, tell us about the government response to these.

[14:20:01] As you said, fewer protesters, but more determined ones.

MOSTAGHIM: Yes. I said, I mean, in the past three years, we see the number of the anti-riot police is increasing so that they outnumber the protesters, but at the same time the protesters are very agile and they take their protest to the side streets like Palestinian streets where the Palestine embassy is located. And then they try to set the trash bin ablaze and then shout "death to dictator" and something like that, and then run in the dark where they can escape from the followers who are anti-police, anti-riot police with lots of anti-riot gears and they cannot run as fast as the young, agile protesters.

So, this is cat and mouse chase in the side streets and in the vicinity of Tehran University, and at the same time, the old parameters of Tehran University, every single meter is covered by anti-riot police and the potential protesters walk around and they smile at the police and wait for just the iota chance to shout and escape. So they seem to both sides are waiting for opportunity to outsmart the other one.

KEILAR: All right. Ramin Mostaghim with "The Los Angeles Times" giving us an idea of the scene on the ground in Tehran -- thank you for that.

We have seen a response with the series of tweets from President Trump like this one, big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism and it looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations.

I do want to bring in now CNN global affairs analyst and vice president for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, Aaron David Miller, to talk about this.

These tweets, they're not -- one, some of them are encouraging to the protesters. That's not good for the protesters, right?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, in the sense that the president wants to not encourage violence, but encourage people to go into the streets at the same time, we are incapable of protecting them. And you remember 1991, then-President George H.W. Bush encouraged Shia to revolt and Saddam slaughtered them and we were not in a position, frankly, to come to their rescue. So, that's point number one.

Number two is we don't want American fingerprints, even though the regime is clearly spreading that trope to be all over this. We want something that's indigenous, that's homegrown. That's apparently happening and not on the level of the June 2009 protests.

KEILAR: Is it premature when the president tweets time for change? Is it premature for him to be doing that considering he's clearly putting a finger on the scale and we don't really know the protesters who is leading them. It doesn't seem to be particularly centralized or organized, even though they seem to be motivated as we just heard Ramin report?

MILLER: Yes, I mean, I think that's right. We have the tendency to put ourselves in the middle of the story and worse, to sort of turn it into an Obama versus Trump in which the former president didn't do enough. Therefore, I am now president and I'm the un-Obama, and I'm going to make it unmistakably clear where I can.

It's fine to support human rights. We should be doing that. We should talk about the importance of individuals and the human beings having the right to protest. But once you begin to incite, once you go beyond that particularly in the face of the uncertainties in what we don't know about this, and I think it becomes really contradictive.

One more point, we don't have the kind of leverage we may think we do in order to direct and shape what is happening in the streets of Iran.

KEILAR: We heard a former Obama administration spokesperson last hour who was saying there was warranted criticism for president Obama for being too tepid.

MILLER: I think in -- yes?

KEILAR: And also saying Trump is going overboard, this former spokesperson did. Where is the sweet spot?

MILLER: I think the balance is one, bipartisanship. Do we have a unified Republican and Democratic response on this? Second is, what can we do? Many we should remove the travel ban with respect to Iran. Maybe we should ensure that those social media companies --

KEILAR: Can you imagine the president removing the travel ban to Iran?

MILLER: I mean, it would be to his credit in order to send an unmistakable message that America's door is open in the face of what's happening in Iran, or to work on and with social media companies to ensure that social media, Instagram, Twitter and the Telegram -- and the app Telegram remain open.

[14:25:10] Forty-eight million Iranians now have cell phones. In 2009, only a million do.

KEILAR: How would he be able to do that? To send a message and to open a door when he's made such a point of trying to close it in a move that has certainly garnered some support from his base.

MILLER: Yes, right. We're all waiting for the proverbial pivot. It is now 2018.

KEILAR: I don't -- are you still -- are you still waiting?

MILLER: I'm waiting. You know, I have the interest of the Republican having worked and voted for Republicans and Democrats --

KEILAR: But realistically, is it going to happen?

MILLER: It ain't happening.

KEILAR: It isn't happening. And then I want to ask you, finally, the Iran deal of which the president clearly is not a fan. There is another deadline mid-January. He would have to re-certify the Iran deal although he obviously could not. He could also put sanctions back on Iran.

What are the consequences if he doesn't recertify? And what he happens if he does --

MILLER: I mean, first of all, I think right now, we need to keep the focus on the supreme leader, on the forces of repression and intolerance in Iran. The last thing we want to do is to abrogate this accord right now, which will have the focus and attention on us rather than where it belongs on the repressive forces of the regime. But the president faces tough decisions beginning January 11th. I suspect that at some point, this agreement, particularly with what's happening on the streets now and the prospects of repression, its days, I think, are numbered.

KEILAR: Very interesting. Aaron David Miller, thank you so much for your insight. We do always appreciate them and happy New Year to you, sir.

MILLER: Brianna, thanks to you.

And still ahead, a Colorado sheriff's deputy killed, several others killed after a gunman ambushes officers. What we are learning about the shooter and why police were at his home in the first place, next.

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