Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Administration Targets Libel Laws; President Trump Meets with Norwegian Prime Minister. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 10, 2018 - 3:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Any legislation on dreamers, also known as DACA, must be tied to his border wall.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agreed to pursue four major areas yesterday of reform, securing our border, including, of course, the wall, which has always been included, never changed, ending chain migration, canceling the visa lottery, and addressing the status of the DACA population.

We want to see something happen with DACA. It's been spoken of for years. And children are now adults in many cases. Above all else, any bill we pass must improve jobs, wages, and security for American citizens.

The people who elected us, all of us, the people that elected us, we have to take care of them.


BALDWIN: So, let's start there.

CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza is here, as is our CNN White House correspondent, Abby Phillip.

So, Chris Cillizza, to you. I don't know if you were plugged in to see our little pop-up video of the meeting that was yesterday.


BALDWIN: But you take the freewheeling, jovial sit-down that he had with Democrats and Republicans and you juxtapose it with the today Trump, arms crossed, we are going after libel laws. How do you square the two?

CILLIZZA: Well, there is no way to square them if you were trying to build sort of an arc of a presidency, Brooke.

I think any time you think that Donald Trump is making, oh, this is a pivot, this is a change, Trump 2.0 or 3.0 or 8.0, that's not a thing. This is a day-to-day president and day-to-day presidency. I think yesterday he felt like sort of being bipartisan and proving to

people watching that, yes, he knows what he's talking about, broadly speaking. Today, you mentioned some of the things he's done. He's also called a U.S. senator sneaky, Dianne Feinstein, for releasing the Fusion GPS testimony of Glenn Simpson.

People say, which one is the real Trump? The answer is both. I think he just sort of has both of these things in him. What Trump you are going to get on any given moment, who knows. And I would caution people that what Trump says today is not terribly indicative of what he will say or do tomorrow, or is he terribly aware of what he has said the day before.

It's a -- I keep saying day-to-day presidency. I think that's how we have to cover it.

BALDWIN: Well, this is it more of what he said today.


TRUMP: We are going to take a strong look at our country's libel laws, so that when somebody says something that is false and defamatory about someone, that person will have meaningful recourse in our courts.

If somebody says something that's totally false and knowingly false, that the person that has been abused, defamed, libeled will have meaningful recourse.

Our current libel laws are a sham and a disgrace and do not represent American values or American fairness.


BALDWIN: So here is Jeff Toobin's quick 2 cents on this. Let me just read his tweet, our chief legal analyst.

This is what he said: "To Donald Trump, libel law is one area where liberals and conservatives on the Supreme Court mostly agree. Both sides recognize the need to protect free speech by encouraging press scrutiny of public figures like you."

Abby, why do you think the president went on and on like he did today in that first Cabinet meeting to about strengthening libel laws in this country?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Brooke, we really don't know exactly what it was.

But you have to look at the events that have been transpired over the last 24 hours, starting with last night, around the time that we know the president was around and he was tweeting. His lawyer, personal lawyer Michael Cohen, someone who has been around him for a very, very long time, said that he is suing BuzzFeed and that consulting research company Fusion GPS over the dossier, the infamous unverified dossier that BuzzFeed covered about a year ago. (CROSSTALK)

PHILLIP: And Cohen is suing them over this.

Now, Cohen is someone who has been around Trump for a very long time, probably longer than everybody who is around him now. And the president is -- I would be very shocked if he didn't know about that, wasn't fully aware of what was going on there.

And what I also thought was interesting, Brooke, about that clip is that you look at what he's doing. He's reading from the piece of paper. This is not the president just saying something off the top of his head.

BALDWIN: There were notes.


PHILLIP: There were notes. He was reading them. So it's clearly something that was on his mind. We know he was tweeting this morning about that dossier. He's upset that Senator Dianne Feinstein released the testimony from the Fusion GPS CEO to Congress that talked about the dossier.


So it's on his mind. It's something that he's thinking about and that he's upset about. It's interesting to me that it was written down, something that he wanted to deliver in this forum, in a Cabinet meeting, that is supposed to be about his 2018 agenda.

BALDWIN: Well, also in this Cabinet meeting, he was praising his performance about talking about anchor letters that were sent to him. Let's just watch it first, Chris Cillizza.


TRUMP: Actually, it was reported as incredibly good.

And my performance, you know, some of them called it a performance. I consider it work, but got great reviews by everybody, other than two networks, who were phenomenal for about two hours.

Then, after that, they were called by their bosses and said, oh, wait a minute. And, unfortunately, a lot of those anchors sent us letters saying that was one of the greatest meetings they have ever witnessed.


BALDWIN: I don't know who the anchors are. I think we are asking the White House that question.

But in the meantime, this sounds like a TV executive looking at the ratings of a show.

CILLIZZA: He uses the word performance, Brooke, and then he says I don't consider it a performance, I consider it work.

Incorrect. He absolutely considers it performance. And he follows ratings and how it did and how people reacted to it. He is a creature of cable television, the likes of which we just -- we rarely see someone this interested and obsessed with cable television who is in the Senate or the House, much less the presidency.

He is above and beyond. He's keeping very close watch. Obviously, the letters thing -- let's say he misspoke and he meant some of the anchors said he did a good job. I think he did do a good job in having a 55-minute public discussion with the leaders of Congress about immigration.

That is a good thing. He always, of course, has to sort of put the 20 extra cherries on top by saying people said it was one of the greatest meetings ever. I'm not sure there is a running list of greatest meetings ever that you would sort of slot that into.

But that's him. That's just the nature of the beast. He always sort of takes even things that are good for him a little too far. There are not letters from anchors praising him for the greatest meeting.


BALDWIN: We just found out -- or, Abby, you can go ahead and get out what Jim Acosta is reporting, because they weren't -- he said letters. They weren't letters. It was videos. Go ahead, Abby.


Yes, the White House -- we asked them, where are these letters, who are they from? They responded by sending a long list of tweets and comments made on television, some of them on our air, on CNN, praising both the president, his performance in that setting, but also the transparency of the moment.

The White House has not said, however, where these notes are from the TV anchors that the president claims. I also want to note, Brooke, the president also made an interesting statement in that same section.

He talked about how for a couple of the hours some of the television networks that he normally dislikes were saying nice things about me. That was interesting, because it really just reflects that somehow the president of the United States knows exactly how long the praise is going on of his performance on television on any given day, this coming at the same time that the White House is also trying to downplay how much television he watches.


CILLIZZA: To quote Donald Trump very quickly, to piggyback on Abby's point: I don't watch much TV when I'm in New York or Washington. I'm too busy reading documents.

BALDWIN: You are obsessed with the reading documents thing, aren't you, Cillizza? CILLIZZA: My point is, like, look, I watch a lot of cable, but I also don't tweet that I don't.

BALDWIN: Right. Right. I know.

CILLIZZA: I love cable TV, just for the record, for anyone who is watching.

BALDWIN: OK. Good. Thank you so much. So do I. So do I.

Hey, but we talked ratings and then performance and letters or videos or tweets or whatever, but these are the numbers we actually have from this new poll. This is the report card, so to speak. The president's approval rating now, it's at just 36 percent.

And 50 percent of American voters say his first year went as they expected.

Chris, what is it they expected?


What is interesting is as expected doesn't necessarily mean -- you could have very low expectations and he met them or you could have high expectations and he met them. There's a lot of gradations in there.

I would highlight more that the approval number, that 36 percent in the Quinnipiac poll. Gallup put out polling earlier this week, their weekly tracking poll, had it at 37 percent approval, so in that range, mid to high 30s, maybe low 40s.

I just want to leave people with one stat, given that we have seen big two retirements from Republican members of Congress in seats that Hillary Clinton won in 2016 over these last 48 hours.

Since 1962, in midterm elections, which is what 2018 is going to be, in those elections, when the president's approval rating is below 50, below 50 percent, the average seat loss in the House for his party is 40 seats.


Now, this president is well below 50. And 40 seats would give Democrats a majority in 2018.

So, keep an eye on that approval rating number. The president might not be on the ballot, his name, officially in 2018, but this is going to function, if it's like all the other midterm elections we've seen, as a referendum on him and how he has done.


Well, as if on cue, here's the president.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS) TRUMP: -- Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway to the White House.

Madam Prime Minister, it's been a pleasure to host you today, had some very interesting discussions as we strengthen the wonderful friendship between our two countries. Norwegians and Americans of so much in common. We're nations made up of strong pioneering and adventurous people, to say the least.

Over a thousand years ago, daring voyagers of Norwegian descent, such as Eric the Red, braved treacherous seas in courageous missions of exploration.

Centuries later, during the Second World War, brave Norwegians escaped occupied Norway to fight alongside of Americans and the Allies, including on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Our friendship builds on this proud and noble history, and is rooted in our commitment to confront the problems of today with that same confidence and that same determination, and I think it might even be greater determination.

We've just concluded a series of discussions on how we can work together to promote a future of security and world prosperity. And also a great future for our respective countries working together. The prime minister and I are both committed to strengthening the NATO alliance. Norway has made contributions to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, where we are doing very well. It's been turned around. As well as to NATO and NATO's enhanced forward presence in Poland and the Baltic states. So I want to thank the prime minister and the Norwegian people for their participation in these efforts.

I encourage Norway to follow through on its commitment to meet the two percent of GDP defense spending obligation. So that together, we can confront the full range of threats facing our nations. And I believe Norway will get there quite soon.

Norway is also a vital and valued member of the campaign to defeat ISIS. Because of us, ISIS has now lost almost 100 percent of the territory it previously held not so long ago in Iraq and in Syria. We're grateful for Norway's civilian assistance efforts, and generous humanitarian aid to the region. They've been out there and really doing an incredible job.

I'm also pleased to share that the economic ties between our two countries are robust and growing. The United States currently has a trade surplus, which is shocking. Can you believe I'm saying we have a surplus?

There aren't too many. You're going to have to go back and check your people.


But we're getting more and more surpluses all over the world, I will say that. I told that to the prime minister. But our two countries are robust and growing.

The United States currently has a large contingent of products that we sell, and back and forth with Norway. And one of the big products of course is our military equipment.

I want to thank the people of Norway for their commitment to fair and reciprocal trade. A word that you're going to hear more and more coming from this administration, and it should have come from other administrations before me. Reciprocal trade, which benefits us all. Free nations are stronger when the trade is fair. And trade has not been overly fair with the United States, but we've had that great relationship with Norway. But remember the word "reciprocal."

In November, we started delivering the first F-52's and F-35 fighter jets. We have a total of 52, and they've delivered a number of them all ready, a little ahead of schedule. It's a $10 billion order. Norway also invests about one third of its sovereign wealth fund in American businesses, supporting hundreds of thousands of American jobs.

They're very big investors in our stock market, and therefore the prime minster thanked me very much. Because their market is -- you have done very well with your investments in the United States, right? Thank you. Norway's commitment to mutually beneficial commerce is a model for other nations, and it really is. It's an amazing country.

TRUMP: I look forward to forging an even stronger economic relationship between the United States and Norway, growing this record of success with even more investment and more jobs and more job creation.

We're also proud of our increasing cooperation on health and health security, and also on biodefense. Very important to both countries. I commend Prime Minister Solberg's efforts to promote vaccine development and disease prevention.

Together, we can save and improve many, many lives. We're working very, very hard, in some cases together, on cures to many ailments.

Prime Minister Solberg, I want to thank you again for joining us at the White House. For decades, Norwegians and Americans have stood side-by-side against common threats to our freedom, to our security and to our values.

Together, we have fought against fascism and communism and terrorism, and we face threats always together. We're partners. Our partnership has advanced peace, cooperation and respect for human dignity all around the world.

Today, we remain united in our efforts to confront shared challenges, to seize new opportunities and to build a bright and beautiful future for our countries, our people, our children, and I think we're doing very well working together, and we have a newfound friendship.

So I want to thank you, and God bless you. Thank you very much.

SOLBERG: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for your generous welcome. It's a great honor to be here at the White House. The relationship between our two countries is strong and it has very deep roots. There are millions of U.S. citizens who proudly call themselves Norwegian-Americans. In our Norwegian Constitution, the second oldest in the world, that is still enforced was inspired by American ideals. And we have a long and continued history of serving shoulder to shoulder on battlefields around the world.

The U.S. remains our most important ally, a major trade partner and a close friend. Today, we have discussed issues of importance for our relationship. How we can keep our countries and citizens safe, how we can grow our economies, how we can further cooperation in the areas of mutual interest.

And I have assured President Trump that Norway remains an ally and a friend that you can count on in the future.

We are already number two in NATO after the U.S. in terms of defense spending per capita, and we are making significant investments to further strengthen our defense.

And this includes, as the president said some big buys from American industry. P-8 maritime patrol aircrafts from Boeing, 52 F-35 combat aircraft from Lockheed Martin, our largest single public investment ever in Norway.

But also we are buying new submarines and investments in intelligence capabilities and army assets. And -- which is important also for our job in the northern part.

The American economy is doing well, and our economic relations are flourishing. And that's to the benefit of both countries. As we discussed in our meeting, for a small country like Norway, it's important for our ability to trade and to invest across the board that we have fair trade and that we have multilateral trade systems, also.

And we think it's important for our future. Norwegian investments and Norwegian companies support close to half a million jobs in the United States. And through our government pension funds, substantial revenues from oil sectors are being invested in U.S. assets.

TRUMP: The U.S. has an impressive business community, and I have commended the leading role it is playing also in the transformation to a green economy. For example, by the fact that one of the big areas we are now importing in Norway is electrical cars from Tesla. And Norway's combating climate change. It's an important issue for us. And we are committed to the Paris Agreement. But it leads to businesses, and it leads to American businesses also (ph) selling cars in Norway.

At the same time, the green economy is an area where we see tremendous economic and business opportunities in the future.

And finally, I think it's important to say that we also are discussing some of the big, difficult issues. For example, the development in Afghanistan, where I think and hope that we can find new future. It's important that we are all working together to find solutions both in North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. And since September 11th, 2001, Norway has contributed to a range of missions and operations including the fight against ISIS.

And I have assured the president we remain unwavering in our commitment to the fight against terrorism all over the world. So, Mr. President, I am looking forward to future cooperation. And thank you for a very fruitful meeting.

TRUMP: Thank you.

OK, some questions. How about Sarah Westwood (ph)?

Where is Sarah? Sarah? Thank you. Washington Examiner.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you, Mr. President. Yesterday, in a meeting with lawmakers, you said that you would be open to signing just about any immigration deal that that bipartisan group of lawmakers sent to you.

TRUMP: Right.

QUESTION: Would you be willing to sign an immigration deal that ultimately does not include funding for the border wall or would that be a red line for you...

TRUMP: No. No. No.


TRUMP: It's got to include the wall. We need the wall for security. We need the wall for safety. We need the wall for stopping the drugs from pouring in. I would imagine that the people in the room, both Democrat or Republican, I really believe they're going to come up with a solution to the DACA problem, which has been going on for a long time. And maybe beyond that, immigration as a whole.

But any solution has to include the wall, because without the wall, it all doesn't work. You could look at other instances, look at what happened in Israel. They put up the wall; they solved a very major problem. We need the wall. We have to have the wall for security purposes. Security is number one. And so the answer is, have to have the wall.

Thank you.

And please.


SOLBERG: Can I call on Anis Malwais (ph), from the Norwegian Broadcasting?

QUESTION: Mr. President, Prime Minister, recently an American General, Robert Neller, told his Marines based in Norway, "There's a war coming, a big-ass fight." Mr. President, how imminent is that big war? And where will it take place?

TRUMP: When you say "the big war," you're saying what? Say it?

QUESTION: It was an American General, Robert Neller. He visited the Norwegian...

TRUMP: Right.

QUESTION: ... the American Marines based in Norway. And he said there's a war coming, a "big-ass fight." When will that war come?

TRUMP: Well, maybe he knows something that I don't know, OK?


I would say this...

QUESTION: There's no -- there's no war coming?

TRUMP: I would say this. We have a very, very powerful military. We're getting more powerful by the month, by the day. We're ordering a lot of the equipment that you're ordering. We're ordering it, but in larger amounts, to put it mildly. We are building up our military to a point that we've never been before. We're also -- we were very much weakened over the last long period of time, but not with me.

No, I don't expect that. I think we're going to have -- because of strength, peace through strength. I think we're going to have a long period of peace. I hope we do. We have certainly problems with North Korea, but a lot of good talks are going on right now, a lot of good energy. I see a lot of good energy. I like it very much what I am seeing.

I just spoke this morning with the -- as you present, with the president, President Moon of South Korean. He had some really great meetings. His representatives had a great, great meeting. And I had some very good feedback from that. So hopefully a lot of good things are going to work out. No, I think that we will have peace through strength.

Our military will be stronger than it ever was in a very short period of time. And that's my opinion. That's not the generals' opinion. But I think my opinion counts more right now. Thank you.

SOLBERG: Maybe I can just add that the reason why we are so happy that we have U.S. marines training in Norway is that that's part of the deterrence strategy that makes sure that we don't have a war in the future.

TRUMP: Sir, did you have a question for the prime minister?

QUESTION: I did, yes. Thank you.

Madam Prime Minister, President Trump has said that the investigation into Russian collusion makes our country "look very bad." And he said this morning that "the world is laughing at our stupidity." So my question to you is, are you laughing at the Russian investigation?

SOLBERG: I think that it's up to every political system and countries to scrutinize and discuss their own political agenda in their countries. And I respect that very much and that this is an issue for American politics.

I would just like to say that it has impacted also in Europe. I think all European countries who have had elections this year has been looking into will there be any type of tampering of others. We concluded our own election and we could not find any proof of any had tried to put any emphasis on that from countries outside Norway.

I think it was a very Norwegian election with Norwegian participants.

TRUMP: Well, I will say this. There is collusion, but it's really with the Democrats and the Russians far more than it is with the Republicans and the Russians. So the witch hunt continues.

John (ph), go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I also have a question for the prime minister, but if I could address the president first. Sarah (ph) brought up the Russia investigation. Your legal team, sources have told us, believes that in the next few weeks the special counsel, Robert Mueller, will ask for some sort of an interview with you, your legal team believes, as part of wrapping up his investigation.

Are you open to meeting with him? Would you be willing to meet with him without condition or would you demand that a strict set of parameters be placed around any encounter between you the special counsel?

TRUMP: Well, again, John, there has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians, or Trump and Russians, no collusion. When I watch you interviewing all of the people leaving their committees, I mean, the Democrats are all running for office and they're trying to say this, that. But bottom line, they all say there's no collusion.

And there is no collusion. And when you talk about interviews, Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn't sworn in. She wasn't given the oath. They didn't take notes. They didn't record. And it was done on the Fourth of July weekend. That is perhaps ridiculous, and a lot of people looked upon that as being a very serious breach. And it really was.

But, again, I'll speak to attorneys, I can only say this. There was absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows it, every committee. I've been in office now for 11 months. For 11 months they've had this phony cloud over this administration, over our government. And it has hurt our government. It does hurt our government.

It's a Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election that, frankly, the Democrats should have won, because they have such a tremendous advantage in the Electoral College. So it was brought up for that reason.

But it has been determined that there's been no collusion and by virtually everybody. So we'll see what happens.

QUESTION: But again, would you -- would you be open to ... TRUMP: We'll see what happens. I mean, certainly I'll see what

happens. But when they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview.

QUESTION: And, Madam Prime Minster, Norway shares a small but strategic border with Russia. President Trump's position has been it's better to try to work with Vladimir Putin, if possible, than to work against him.

Where do you come down on that idea of better to work with Putin than to not work with him?

SOLBERG: Well, I think Russia is an important player in the international world, and I don't think you can not work with and talk to.

But on the other hand it's important to say that we have -- we have a line with all the sanctions, as the European Union has done. And as a member -- connect both (ph) in NATO and interconnected to that. And we have also suffered some economic difficulties in some areas in Norway, based on those sanctions.

But on the other hand, we have a very good relationship with Russia over that border area, where we do have very much free movement of people, especially some (ph) people moving to and from. We have a very large corporation on sustainable fisheries in this area. It's the biggest cod area in the world. But it's a sustainable resource, and we do patrol it. We do work together. So we think it's important to do two things at the same time.

Yes, the international law is firm and clear. There was a break of that to the annexation of Crimea and the situation in Ukraine, and we still stand by all of our allies with (ph) that.

But at the same time, as a neighboring country we do day-to-day work on things that we have to solve for the people and the economic activity that is in that area, which is a fragile area for the whole world.

TRUMP: Just to add to the answer, I think it is much better to work with Russia. It's very much a better having to do with North Korea, where we currently have a problem, that should have never been my problem. This should have been a problem solved many years ago when it was much less dangerous. But it was given to me, along with a big mess of other things.

But I will say this, I am for massive oil and gas and everything else, and a lot of energy. Putin can't love that. I am for the strongest military that the United States ever had. Putin can't love that.

But Hillary was not for a strong military, and Hillary, my opponent, was for windmills, and she was for other types of energy that don't have the same capacities at this moment certainly.

So I just want to say it's a lot better to work with other countries. We're working with China on North Korea.