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White House Arrival Ceremony for French President. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired April 24, 2018 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president and first lady of the United States will officially welcome the president and first lady of France for a state visit, the first since President Trump took office.

You are looking at live pictures right now from the south side of the White House. They'll be bands and troops and dignitaries and speeches, not to mention both pomp and circumstance all within the next few minutes. The French leader expected to arrive momentarily.

Then the serious business kicks in, a series of meetings on Iran, Syria and trade where the big question is whether Macron can leave with anything more than the rack of spring lamb that he will be served tonight at this state dinner.

Our Abby Phillip at the White House awaiting the arrival of the French leader -- Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, John. This is President Trump's turn to treat Emmanuel Macron to the kind of pomp and circumstance that he experienced when he was in France last year for Bastille Day.

Now this ceremony is one that dates back on the south lawn at least to the Kennedy administration. It will show off the U.S. Military, also show off the beauty of the White House south lawn. But the president has already made it clear that he wants a military parade in Washington. That will not happen today but he will get pretty much the closest thing to it, a band, a military welcome. You can see all the flags set up there on the stairs.

Tonight they are going to have the very first state dinner hosted by this White House, really shepherded by First Lady Melania Trump who has taken a great deal of time to deal with all of the details of this dinner.

And we're going to show you a little bit of the menu. They're going to be having some spring lamb as you just mentioned with some French and American touches. Also featuring some dishes that feature state -- the state's key items, like yellow rice from the Carolinas and so on and so forth. So the White House is really trying to put their best foot forward here. That's typically what these state dinners are all about.

It's also about the friendship between the Macrons and the Trumps. Now President Trump last night had dinner with him at Mt. Vernon just outside of Washington, D.C. and our sources tell us that at that dinner, there was some discussion about the serious issues like Syria and other things but there was also discussion by President Trump about his poll numbers. He talked about how he believes he's doing better than the polls suggest. He's tweeted about that quite a bit.

I think that really tells you a little bit about how comfortable President Trump is with Macron. He's talking to him about his political fortunes here in the United States, but Macron has a job to do on this visit. This is a little bit about that personal relationship but it's a lot about trying to get President Trump in line with the European allies on the issue of the Iran nuclear deal which Trump has said he wants to pull out of.

The Europeans are trying to keep the United States in and there are several other things. The U.S. commitment in Syria, how long are we going to be there? What is that going to look like going forward?

The climate deal is already a done deal, but there is a long list, a laundry list really of issues of dissidents between the United States and Europe and Emmanuel Macron might be the only European leader at the moment that President Trump has a genuinely warm relationship with, one that Macron has cultivated over the last several months beginning with that Bastille Day celebration that left such a big impression on President Trump.

He has his chance now today, John, to really pay back the favor and perhaps Macron will get something out of it. I think that is still very much unclear. President Trump is very staunchly opposed to the Iran deal and I think a lot of his aides believe that he's not going to change his mind about that.

BERMAN: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House. Stand by throughout the morning as this event unfolds before our eyes.

Some 500 members of the U.S. Military, all branches, will be there, members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries and also some students from a French emersion school in Maryland to greet the French leader and his wife.

The first thing you will see emerging from those doors, you will see the president and first lady. They will walk out and they will greet the car carrying the French leader.

Joining me now CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, "Washington Post" political reporter Amber Phillips and from the "New York Times," CNN political analyst Patrick Healy.

Admiral, I want to start with you. You have been to your fair share of ceremonies like this. You have seen them before. They are elaborate, they are breathtaking at times to see. Where does this ceremony hit the road, if you will? How does this go for more than just a display into something important?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, that's going to depend on the discussions that they have today and tomorrow. The real meat of the things they need to talk about. So all this is great pomp and circumstance and certainly befitting President Macron and the relationship that he has with President Trump. But really what gets down to it, the sticking points, the Iran deal, Syria and where that goes and of course trade.

[09:05:05] President Macron and Angela Merkel, when she comes later, will likely try to push the president very hard to grant exemptions to that steel tariff that he announced back in March because it's going to -- they're going to retaliate. The EU is absolutely going to retaliate against the United States should it move forward.

BERMAN: The ceremonial mini bus has just arrived right in the middle of our shot right now. I think this does indicate that some more people are arriving here. There's a little bit of time at least before we see the president. This is the official delegation right now. You can see Mike Pence standing behind him, the new National Security adviser John Bolton, and there greeting them is the French delegation which did arrive by that mini bus I should say which means I believe that the French leader will not be far behind.

Let's put up a graphic right now. Actually I don't want to take it off the screen but just to read some of the differences that stand right now between Emmanuel Macron of France and the president. Obviously the Iran deal, Emmanuel Macron wants the United States to stay in. The president, President Trump, seems to want out on the Paris agreement. The climate accord. President Trump obviously out, Emmanuel Macron wanted him to stay in. Then on Syria, Emmanuel Macron claims he convinced President Trump to leave troops there. The president claims otherwise, wants to withdraw U.S. troops.

Patrick Healy, as we watched these arrivals right now, there are clear differences between these leaders.

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: There's no question, John. And Emmanuel Macron is here in part because Iran is a really urgent issue. Macron basically representing the European allies and you're going to see Angela Merkel do this again later this week. But he is here to really get serious with President Trump about Iran or President Trump has set a date for next month in terms of when he wants to fix the deal. The Republican base wants this deal over.

President Trump has a new National Security adviser John Bolton who has been very critical of this deal and there are Democrats who are hoping that Mike Pompeo, if he becomes secretary of State which is expected, you know, may be able to fix this. But the key here, John, is really the Trump-Macron relationship. President Trump cares particularly about two things with regard to foreign leaders, it's about respect and stature.

Respect in terms of whether President Trump feels sufficiently respected, whether people pay homage to him, listen to him talk about his poll numbers, compliment him on that, and he's very much gotten that from Macron. And then stature, it's interesting the way President Trump thinks, John. He cares very much about historic Western European allies. He sees France as a great power. He loves all the gold over there.

He loves the beauty of Paris. He cares about France in that sense and so I think this relationship -- there's room here where I think President Trump is listening to Macron in ways that he may not so much to other allies.

BERMAN: Amber, you note, though, that whomever the president -- President Trump listens to at one moment, that could change the next. Hang on one second, Amber.

AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Sure.

BERMAN: We're hearing the arrival of President Trump will be walking out momentarily along with the first lady.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States and Mrs. Trump.

BERMAN: You can see President Trump there along with the First Lady Melania Trump who has been central in orchestrating this state visit. She set up the dinner we're told with no outside help, just the East Room staff, the East Wing of the White House helping her set up the dinner tonight. She is there beside her husband to greet the French leader and his wife, Brigitte Macron, who will be arriving momentarily.

Amber, as we await their arrival, as we were saying, on the issue of President Trump listening, he does seem to hear people often agreeing with them but then very shortly after can be turned.

PHILLIPS: Yes. I think that's absolutely right, John. You know, Macron is here for a couple of glamorous days. Clearly getting along and enjoying each other's companies but Trump is going to go back to a National Security Team and foreign policy team that generally supports his core foreign policy belief and that is to get out of multi-lateral deals not get back into them which is what Macron is trying to convince the president here today to do.

I think you only need to look at Senate Democrats, Macron might want to talk to them when he's on Capitol Hill later this week to get a sense of how tough it is to negotiate with this president.

[09:10:07] He might seem open when he's talking to you as Senate Democrats said he was on immigration and we got to watch him, you know, bringing up ideas on gun control that were more in line with Democratic priorities. And then at the end of each of those political and legislative dramas the president ends up choosing policies that really reiterate his campaign rhetoric and in some ways are much more conservative than what even Republicans in Congress wanted.

So we just haven't seen evidence of the president changing his core fundamental campaign policies.

BERMAN: Stand by, Amber. There is the French first lady, Brigitte Macron and Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, greeting President Trump with two kisses and a handshake. Their handshakes have become a thing of legends.

What you see now is largely the same ceremony we have seen in past administrations. The two leaders will review troops, again more than 500 members of the U.S. Armed Forces, all five branches, and they've been rehearsing for this outside the White House for the last several days. They will review the troops, they will also greet the official delegations that we saw just moments ago, that's where they're walking right now.

Vice President Pence right there, obviously, the leader of the U.S. delegation with new National Security adviser John Bolton behind. I can see White House adviser Stephen Miller there as well. They will also greet the French delegation that just arrived. You know, National Security adviser John Bolton obviously his arrival before these key meetings could be pivotal in terms of positioning President Trump's mind towards Europe, towards France.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin there. There's been a lot of focus on trade issues between the United States and China but there are just as many issues with Europe as well. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross there very much part of the trade issue, the chief of staff, General John Kelly, is there as well.

John Kirby, again, you've been on both sides of this, no doubt as a member of the military and then working for both the State Department and the Pentagon here. It's a wonderful thing to see whoever is president these ceremonies especially dealing with the nation like France, truly, America's oldest ally.

KIRBY: Indeed. We have an exceptionally close bilateral relationship with France both from a diplomatic perspective and a military perspective. Our militaries cooperate on operations around the world, very, very close collaboration there. And so beyond the ceremony you're talking about a relationship that is really steeped in history. I mean, it was I think entirely fitting and so appropriate for the president to take President Macron to Mount Vernon last night, you know, the home of George Washington, where he wants hosted La Fayette on his return to the United States after the American revolution.

So very, very deep alliance, very close. Lots of issue they disagree on but on the whole, John, on most issues bilaterally we have an exceptionally deep relationship.

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, the National Anthem of France Republic, followed by the National Anthem of the United States.

[09:15:00]

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

(NATIONAL ANTHEM PLAYING)

(END VIDEOCLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now the two leaders will conduct a formal review of the U.S. troops that have assembled here for this ceremony. Admiral Kirby, to you on this subject, there really is no issue of greater importance right now between these two countries than the Iran nuclear deal which President Trump has said again and again he thinks is a bad deal.

President Macron has said again and again it is essential that the United States stay in that deal. Is it possible to reach common ground here given President Trump's entrenched views?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think it is possible, John. There are negotiators from the E.U. and the United States that are working on what we call side agreements. There are three problems that Trump has with the Iran deal and they're trying to solve these with these side agreements.

One is the fact that Iran deal did not deal with the ballistic missile program that Iran has. Number two, that Mr. Trump feels the inspection regime is not strong enough and number three, that there are sunset clauses.

As you know, John, there are certain parts of the Iran deal that expire after 10 or 15 years. It gets to Iran's ability to enriched uranium basically. So, they are having negotiators out there and trying to find side agreements to sort of solve these problems, but there's no guarantee that they're going to get there.

I suspect what you're going to hear President Trump say at his press conference today, we're talking about this, I still don't like the deal. I want the deal to be stronger and if it can get there then we'll think about staying in and if not, I won't. I don't think he's going to show any leg today other than that.

I don't think that they have reached resolution on those side agreements, but it is possible. The real outlier here is Iran and whether Iran comply with these side agreements that are being negotiated between Europe and the United States. Iran's the key player here and they are likely not going to want to be -- to strengthen the deal any more than it already is.

We could not -- and John Kerry said these many times at the State Department, there is no way that if we had included missiles, ballistic missiles in the Iran deal, that Iran would have accepted it. There's just no way they would have done that.

So, we got the best deal we could base on how far we could push the Iranians. I just don't see these side agreements having much purchase with Iran right now.

BERMAN: Not to mention Russia or China, obviously, or the rest of the world beyond just Western Europe as negotiating because there was so many different parties to that original agreement.

As I'm watching them walk across the south lawn greeting people, you are struck by the generational difference, Donald Trump, the president of the United States, 71 years old, Emmanuel Macron, president of France, 40 years old, a generational difference but also just a vast difference in world view. AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, I think this is a really fascinating moment to see these two leaders who are completely different tracks in terms of ideology, where they think had the world should go, how they think multi-lateral deals should be formed if at all.

[09:20:06] Their perspective on everything as you mentioned from their age difference from technology to cybersecurity has got to be different and it's a remarkable moment to watch these two together and try to find some kind of agreement on these very intransigent policy issues as Admiral Kirby just outlined one of them, the Iran deal.

I think Macron is here in part despite all those differences because he's been successful at playing diplomacy by Trump's game and that's really a flattery bringing some of that glitz and glamour that Trump admires in France here to Washington.

It's being savvy, going and giving interviews on Fox News and that in some sense has put Macron in a position where he is one of the most unlikely people, leaders in Europe to have Trump's ear, but he's got it right now. I just don't know what substantially come out of it.

BERMAN: Well, that's the thing. He has Trump's ear. Some people like to call him the Trump whisperer. The question is, what are his deliverables? What has he delivered from that relationship?

Again, you're watching the first couples there reviewing the various troops passing by. Patrick Healy, I'll ask you a different question after this, but I want to keep this gender neutral. I've seen a lot on Twitter. The first lady of the United States, Melania Trump, the hat, care to comment?

PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: John, I mean, Melania Trump understands that this is a major appearance for her. She's very much wanted it known that she was taking the lead on a lot of the planning on the east wing for this state visit.

You know, it is important for her to, you know, in terms of the role that she has as first lady, I think you saw that a little bit of Barbara Bush's funeral on Saturday, she very much wanted to represent, you know, both the continuity in America, respect in America in terms of the role that first ladies play.

Even though the Trumps and the Bushes have a very complicated relationship, she wanted to be there. So, John, you'll see that I'm dodging your question on the hat, but this is -- this is a day for Melania Trump.

BERMAN: It is. I think the hat is striking, I'm perfectly willing to say that right now. And Patrick, on an issue of substance here, I do not know which members of Congress are at this arrival ceremony. We've been told there would be members there. I've not seen them. We do know there will be no Democratic members of Congress at the state dinner tonight and that's a decision, that's a decision that sends a message. HEALY: No question, John. This is unusual, and this is pointed. You can read it certainly as a midterm election message, but it's also a sign of the frustration that President Trump feels after 15 months of negotiating, trying to negotiate with congressional Democrats but also playing them off him.

This is a two-way street and as Amber pointed out, President Trump is made these faints to Democrats and pulled back. Usually members of the other party are invited to state dinners, to events where the country is being represented, where you want to convey the sense of unity and history.

BERMAN: Both leaders will now speak briefly.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. President Macron, Mrs. Macron, members of the French Delegation, and distinguished guests, welcome to the White House.

TRUMP: Mr. President, Melania and I were honored to visit your majestic country last summer. Now we are thrilled to host you and Brigitte here in America. The wonderful friendship we have developed over the last year is a testament to the enduring friendship that binds our two nations. It is truly fitting that we are holding out first official state visit with a leader of America's oldest ally, the proud nation of France.

[09:25:00] TRUMP: This morning, we all send our prayers to the Bush family as we wish Former President George H.W. Bush a very speedy recovery. I also want to express our deepest sympathies to the Canadian people following the horrendous tragedy in Toronto that claimed so many innocent lives. Our hearts are with the grieving families in Canada.

TRUMP: Your visit, Mr. President, comes at a critical time for our alliance. Along with our British friends, the United States and France recently took decisive action in response to the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons. I want to personally thank President Macron, the French military and the French people for their steadfast partnership. They were absolutely incredible.

Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you.

The long friendship between the United States and France began 241 years ago this month, when a 19-year-old Frenchman named Lafayette set sail to join America's fight for independence. He quickly won the trust of George Washington, fought bravely in the battle, and helped secure the aid of France for the American cause.

Decades later, President Andrew Jackson wrote that "The memory of Lafayette will be second only to that of Washington in the hearts of the American people."

The beautiful friendship between the United States and France, forged in revolution, has changed the course of history. Exactly 100 years ago this spring, Americans fought side by side with the gallant French in World War I. A generation later, in the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of young Americans and free French sacrificed together to save civilization in its hour of greatest need.

60,000 American service members rest for eternity beneath the peaceful fields and hills of the French countryside. And in the soil of Virginia and Georgia, French patriots, whose names are known only to God, lie in unmarked graves.

TRUMP: Today, we meet to affirm this friendship that has flourished as an example to the world for more than two centuries.

Our two great republics are linked together by the timeless bonds of history, culture and destiny.