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Report: Trump and Merkel Hold Press Conference; Trump Says Kim Jong Un Meeting to Be Quite Something; Trump Says DC Can Be A Nasty Place. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 27, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Good afternoon. I'm Erica Hill in for Brooke Baldwin today. We're just moments away from a news conference of President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This meeting of course a far different affair than the pomp and circumstances that we saw earlier this week with French President Emmanuel Macron. No fancy state dinner, friendly body language, no red-carpet treatment. Merkel and Trump are pushing their rocky relationship aside to get to the business on the big topic on the table.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we will be talking about Iran probably. But I don't necessarily expect it one way or the other. I know we're going to have a very good discussion on Iran, as I did with Emmanuel Macron who just left, the President of France. We'll be having discussions on Iran, we'll be having discussions on trade. We'll be having various discussions.


HILL: And as we wait to hear more about those discussions, newly surfaced e-mails about the Russian lawyer who was center of that Trump Tower meeting back in 2016. You will remember that Trump campaign officials including Donald Trump Junior met with Natalia Veselnitskaya on the premise that she had dirt on Hillary Clinton. While initially Veselnitskaya that she was a private attorney. Now however the "New York Times" reporting she was actually a quote, informant with close ties to the Kremlin. Joining me now with a closer look CNN's chief political correspondent Danna Bash, CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott, and CNN senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson.

We are seeing all of this of course playing out on the same day we get Republican report from the House Intel Committee, Dana, and we are seeing these reports that in fact she was not a private attorney, that she has been working with the Russian government. How damning is that potentially, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's certainly interesting that she's admitting it. Not a surprise I think to anyone that that's the reality, that she of course has had ties to the Kremlin, deep ties to the Kremlin. And, you know, the fact that she's admitting it is one thing. Whether Robert Mueller knew is a whole different question. Hard to imagine he didn't as part of his investigation. So, it doesn't necessarily tell us anything about the legal situation. It does give even more of a layer into the bad judgement used by the president, now president, then candidate's son and his senior leadership and his campaign meeting with this woman.

Bad judgment, naivety. Even those are things the House Republican report noted. Even though they said no collusion, they did note that at its very basic level. The other thing I would say from the quick oval office meeting that we saw earlier today with the president and Angela Merkel, when he turned to her and said, "Can you believe that people are saying that there's collusion, that the Russians were involved?" We couldn't see her face, but I would love to know what she was thinking, which is probably, yes, I can believe it, it's all over Europe. That's what the Russians do.

HILL: We are well aware of how this works out. And to your point, Dana, in this report we learned those words specifically used, poor judgment in reference to this meeting in June of 2016. Elise, as we look at this, though, Dana is right, probably not a surprise to many people that in fact she was still maintaining those close ties with the Kremlin. Is this in some ways the Kremlin controlling President Trump?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, that's something that they've tried to do. This is certainly as this plays out, there's been this tug of war between President Trump's rhetoric on Russia and his policy on Russia. So, the tougher he gets on Russia --

HILL: Elise, I'm going to pause you there because we see them coming out. Let's take a listen.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Today I'm honored to welcome Chancellor Angela Merkel back to the White House. Over the past year I have enjoyed getting to know the chancellor very well through many productive calls, discussions and meetings. We have a great relationship. Chancellor, I want to congratulate you once again on your election victory, fourth term in office. It's really something. Congratulations. We're also pleased to have our newly confirmed United States ambassador to Germany, Richard Grennell, an outstanding man. He's with us today. Richard, congratulations. Do a great job. And I know you will. Thank you. This confirmation was long overdue.

[14:05:00] We've been waiting a long time for Richard to get his clearance and he got it and it's going to be special. But we have a lot of people that are waiting approval and the Democrats have been treating us extremely unfairly and they're going to have to move it along. For decades the alliance and friendship between Germany and the United States has advanced the cause of peace, prosperity and freedom. Today our nations face a wide array of shared challenges and opportunities and I am confident that we will meet them together with the same strength and resolve that has always defined the United States/German friendship. I want to congratulate the Republic of Korea on its historic summit with North Korea. We're encouraged by the expressed goal of complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. I will be meeting with Kim Jong Un in the coming weeks. We look forward to that and hopefully it will be productive. I want to thank Chancellor Merkel in her leadership of our campaign of maximum pressure on the North Korean regime, which has helped us to reach this important step, this moment where we are right now. It's taken a long time, many, many decades to get here.

Let's see what happens. We seek a future of peace, prosperity and harmony, unlocking a brighter future not on for the people of Korea but for the people of the world. However, in pursuit of that goal, we will not repeat the mistake of past administrations. Maximum pressure will continue until denuclearization occurs. I look forward to our meeting. It should be quite something. In our meetings today, the chancellor and I discussed Iran. The Iranian regime fuels violence, bloodshed and chaos all across the middle east. We must ensure that this murderous regime does not even get close to a nuclear weapon and that Iran ends its proliferation dangerous missiles and its support for terrorism, no matter where you go in the Middle East. Wherever there's a problem, Iran is right there.

As we eradicate what little remains of ISIS in Syria, we also be sure that Iran does not profit from our success. To prevent this outcome, it is essential that our partners and regional partners step up their financial and military contributions to anti-is efforts. Some of these countries are immensely wealthy and they're going to start paying for it and paying for this tremendous help that we've given them. The chancellor and I had a productive discussion about the security of Europe and the responsibility of European nations to properly contribute to their own defense. We addressed the need to strengthen NATO and the NATO alliance by ensuring that all member states honor their commitment to spend 2 percent and hopefully much more of GDP on defense.

It is essential that our NATO allies increase their financial contributions so that everyone is paying their fair share. We look forward to seeing further progress towards improved burden sharing. A lot of people have stepped up. A lot of countries have stepped up, and they're going to have to continue to do so. Tremendous amount of additional money has been raised for NATO over the past 16 months and I'm proud to have helped, but they have to keep going. In this age of international crime, smuggling, terrorism and traffic, it is also essential that we have strong border security and immigration control. This is fundamental to national defense. Also vital to our security and that of our allies is America's ability to maintain a strong and robust manufacturing base, which we really are doing in the United States, we have additional steel plants opening, steel plants are expanding. Aluminum is doing great. A lot of things are happening that were never going to happen before.

[14:10:00] That's why we must have a fair and reciprocal trading relationship with our friends and partners. We have a trade deficit in goods with the European Union of approximately, hard to believe, $151 billion a year, including a $50 billion annual trade deficit in autos and auto parts. I'm committed to working with Chancellor Merkel to reduce with the European Union of approximately, hard to believe, $151 billion a year, including a $50 billion annual trade deficit in autos and auto parts. I'm committed to working with Chancellor Merkel to reduce barriers for United States exports to remedy these trade imbalances and deepen our economic ties. We also welcome the Chancellor's partnership in promoting major reforms to international organizations like the World Trade Organization, which has not treated the United States well. To protect sovereignty and ensure fairness.

The close cooperation across multiple front, military, intelligence, economic, academic is critical to the defense of our civilization as we know it. And the close friendship between the German and American people enriches the lives of millions and millions of our citizens. Chancellor, thank you again for visiting the White House. It's an honor to have you. Our alliance is strong and thriving and together we will overcome shared obstacles, seize upon shared opportunities and build an incredible future for our country and our people. Thank you very much. Chancellor, thank you very much.

ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR, GERMANY (through translator): Thank you very much. I would like to thank you for the very warm reception here in the White House and for giving us this opportunity to have an exchange of views. This is my first visit after the reelection to a country outside of Europe and I thought it was very important to underline that for Germany the transatlantic ties are of prime importance. We're very aware that the transatlantic ties are of crucial and extensive importance. They have given a great contribution to our reunification. The first part of my life I spent on the other side of the iron curtain, and the fact that it was possible for our country to reunite is essentially due to the United States and cooperation is more urgently need more than ever in view of the turbulence all over the world. Germany will continue to be a reliable partner in NATO, in our alliance within the European Union.

All the more so since today we fight against nuclearization of Iran, against terrorism, against Syria and terrorism in Afghanistan or in Africa and we depend urgently on each other. Today we meet at a point in time where it has become very clear that the strength of the American president, where he really saw to it that the sanctions against North Korea abided by, has opened new possibilities and opened new ways. The meeting between Kim Jong Un and South Korean president moon is a first step on a road that will hopefully lead to a better future. We Germans know too well after years of separation and division to have these first contacts. But we will continue to be vigilant to see to it that the denuclearization is stopped of North Korea and that a nuclear-free zone is established on the Korean peninsula.

We think this is essential. We will have to see also in our fight against the Iranian attempts to become nuclear will go on. We are of the opinion that the JCPOA is a first step that has contributed to slowing down their activities in this particular respect, to also establish a better verification and monitoring process but we also think from a German perspective that this is not sufficient in order to see to it that Iran's ambitions are curbed and contained.

[14:15:00] It is most important to see that Iran, after all, is trying to exert geo political influence in Syria, in Lebanon and Iraq. We have to see to it that this attempt at influence is curbed, is contained and that reliability can be established. And I think that Europe and the United States of America are to be in lock step on this or to work together very closely and end the terrible bloodshed in Syria and bring about a solution for the region as a whole. Beyond that and over and above that, we also addressed the tasks that we see ahead on defense. Germany in 2019 is going to earmark a share of 1.3 percent of its GDP on defense. That has been an increase over the past few years. We haven't yet met the target where we should be, but we are getting closer to the target to the guideline that we've set up for ourselves in wales. On trade I think it's most important to see that very close relations on trade exist between Germany and the European Union on the one hand and the United States on the other.

We want a trade that is in line with the multi-lateral trading system of the WTO, but we also acknowledge for many years WTO has not been able to bring about international agreements. So bilateral agreements may well replace that. That's something that we on behalf of the European Union already have done and have negotiated with a number of countries over the past few years so I can well envisage such negotiations with the United States as well. But obviously, that has to be reconciled and I would also like to point out that Germany on the one hand has a very close trade relations with you. The president is obviously not satisfied with the trade surplus. We have been able to reduce that, but we still have a long way to go. But the United States due to tax reform has become a very interesting place for our companies and we can say with great pride that not on hundreds of thousands of cars are exported from Germany to the United States but that from the U.S. to the rest of the world, hundreds of thousands of cars that are built here in the states are exported to the rest of the world, with creating American jobs and I believe the workers here have very good working conditions.

That's another bond that ties our two countries together. We will continue to discuss those issues and, in the summer, we will meet again. Apart from the political relations that are very close and while we sometimes may look at issues differently but generally on the basis of friendship and partnership, we are linked by ties in the world of science, in the world of culture. We still host the largest number of troops ever since 1945, about 17 million members of the U.S. military were stationed in Germany, and a lot of them have established very close ties, very close friendships with Germans and I'm delighted to see that now the ambassador can very soon when he's in Germany work on this basis and we're delighted that we finally have an ambassador. Thank you.

TRUMP: All right, we'll take some questions. Blake Berman. Yes. Blake?

BLAKE BERMAN, FOX BUSINESS WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to ask you about a couple comments you made in the oval office earlier in which you said about North Korea that they played the U.S. in the past like a fiddle but that's not going to happen to us. Do you as it relates to hopefully get peace on the Korean peninsula, do feel you need to be the closer in that deal? Do you want to be the closer in that deal? Or do you think that is something that is shared by all of the major stake holders, all of the world leaders within that region? And secondly, indulge us if you might, you said that the relationship with North Korea has been strong or one of the words you used. Have you spoken with Kim Jong Un himself, or do you plan on speaking with him? TRUMP: I don't want to comment on that, but we have a very good

working relationship. We're setting up a meeting. Things have changed very radically from a few months ago.

[14:20:00] You know the name calling and a lot of other things? We get a kick every once in a while, out of the fact that I'll be watching people that failed so badly over the last 25 years explaining to me how to make a deal with North Korea, I get a big, big kick out of that. But we are doing very well. I think that something very dramatic could happen. They're treating us with great respect and you know what's going on with South Korea and I think President Moon of South Korea was very generous in saying we helped make the Olympics a great success because of fact that there was a tremendous animosity and problem going on and all of a sudden people started buying tickets because a whole different feeling when north said we'd love to go to the Olympics.

So, a lot of good things are happening with respect to North Korea. President Obama told me when I had the one meeting with him, he said that is your biggest problem, that's going to be the most difficult thing you have. Honestly, I wish it was handled earlier, I wish it was handled by another administration years ago. I'm not just talking about President Obama. I'd go back to any administration you want. But over the last 25 years. This should have been handled a long time ago, not now. This should not have been left for me to handle. But we will handle it. We're handling it well.

Hopefully there will be peace for North Korea, South Korea, Germany. Everything is included. Japan. The chancellor has been very helpful in the maximum pressure campaign, as I said. Really very helpful. President Xi has been really helpful. Everyone said he would just talk about it and wouldn't do it. Well, he did it, he did it out of a relationship that we had and also the fact that we're negotiating trade deals, that's very important to them. So, I think some very good things can happen with respect to North Korea. We're down to two countries as to a site and we'll let you know what that site is. Do you have a question for the chancellor?

BERMAN: Just a follow up. Do you feel like it's your responsibility for this to eventually get settled between north and South Korea?

TRUMP: I think I have a responsibility. I think other presidents should have done it. I think the responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of the president of the United States. I think I have a responsibility to see if I can do it. And if I can't do it, it will be a very tough time for a lot of countries and a lot of people. It certainly is something that I hope I can do for the world. This is beyond the United States. And it is something I hope I am able to do for the world. OK? Please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Chancellor Merkel. Thank you very much. I'm wondering if you've been given any assurances that the European Union will be exempt from steel and aluminum tariffs come Tuesday, the May 1 deadline. Did President Trump tell you what he may or may not do? MERKEL (through translator): The president will decide, that is very

clear. We had an exchange of views on the current state of affairs on the negotiations and the respective assessments on where we stand on this and the decision lies with the president. Mr. Ross, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Thank you. I have a question for the chancellor, but I'd like to start with a question on Iran for you, Mr. President. After a long day of talks with you, President Macron went to Congress, warned of a new war in the Middle East and asked the world and the United States to respect the sovereignty of all countries, including Iran. In the absence of a new agreement, are you prepared to use military force to rein in the nuclear program in Iran or do you have another plan B that is not an agreement and not military force?

TRUMP: I don't talk about whether or not I'd use military force. It's not appropriate to be talking about. But I can tell you this, they will not be doing nuclear weapons, that I can tell you. OK? They're not going to be doing nuclear weapons. You can bank on it.

[14:25:00] UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (through translator): Madam Chancellor, only a year ago people in Berlin were very much concerned about President Trump not being ready to show toughness against Russia. Now you've come to Washington with the concern that a new round of sanctions against the so-called oligarchs may be detrimental to the German economy. Have you asked the president to exempt German companies from the sanctions? And are you generally worried because the president is trying to be toughest with President Putin may well change completely and may be treating Russia too harshly without coordinating with you.

MERKEL (through translator): We discussed Ukraine and here we worked very closely against the illegitimate actions of Russia due to for example annexation of Crimea. And also, the situation that calls in Eastern Ukraine I am very pleased to say that we work very closely with the American administration complementing the Minsk format. And the sanctions are very much a thing of the Congress. And we work together with the representatives of the administration also in very closely with the Treasury. We exchanged views on what sort of secondary effects that may have. And looking at the conflicts we have with Russia, for example, in Syria, there is a wide degree of agreement and no one is interested in not having good relations with Russia. But wherever there are conflicts, wherever there are things happening, as for example in Ukraine, we have to call a spade a spade and the principle of territorial integrity of the country such as Ukraine is one that needs to be upheld and be enforced.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER (through translator): But Madam Chancellor, the exchange, was it satisfactory on these issues, between the United States and Europe? Is it as closely aligned as you want?

MERKEL (through translator): Yes, whenever I have questions, I can ask those questions. I believe the exchange is there. Sanctions have been adopted by Congress. We pointed out to what sort of effects that has, the belief that our finance minister and the Treasury have talked about this yesterday when they met with other finance minister at the financing for Syria conference yesterday and whenever I have problems, I can talk to our American counterparts.

TRUMP: Ben Kennedy, please, CBN.

BEN KENNEDY, CBN REPORTER: Two questions for you. The first on Ronny Jackson. It has been one day since he bowed out, less than 24 hours. Do have a new nominee for the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. In my second question is on the U.S. Embassy set to open in Jerusalem in three weeks, have you decided if you do plan to attend and also can you confirm if Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is leading a delegation that include your son-in-law, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump?

TRUMP: Ronny Jackson, admiral, doctor, is one of the finest men I've ever met over a long period of time. High quality. High quality family. I just met them. I explained what happened. I explained that Washington can be a very mean place. You don't know about that, Chancellor. A nasty place. The false accusations that were made about him by Senator Tester from a great state, I don't think that state is going to put up with it. These were false accusations about a great man, about a man who has a son who is a top student at Annapolis.

About a man who is given his life to this country and to the military. He's a brave man, would have been a great leader. To say the kind of things he said. You had President Obama giving him an A-plus report, President Bush giving him an A-plus report, President Trump giving him an A-plus report. And to make statements of things that most people said never happened, never even happened, calling him names was to me a disgrace, an absolute disgrace. And I think it's something we learn from.

I called him today. I said in a certain way you're -- in a very big way you're an American hero because you're exposed the system for some horrible things. I've had it happen to me with the Russian collusion hoax.

[14:30:00] It's a hoax. But I came into the job understanding that things happen. He didn't. He's a great doctor. He's a great admiral. He didn't really think a thing like that could happen. And I think it's a disgrace. So, I just want to comment on that. And actually, I'm glad you asked the question. I think this man has been treated. He's an American hero and I think he's been treated very unfairly.

KENNEDY: As far as a nomination, have you put forward a new nomination yet?

TRUMP: I have many people that want the position, if you can believe it, with all of this being said. We have some, le excellent people, some very political people. Some people that a thing like that wouldn't happen or if it did happen, I guess they'll handle it somewhat differently. We have many people that want that job. We're very proud of the job we've done for the veterans. The veterans have been -- we've gotten accountability improved. For years they couldn't get it approved. We got accountability. That when somebody treats our veterans badly, we can fire them so fast, almost as fast as they fire people in Germany. We'll get rid of them. And I will tell you, we're getting choice, we're putting choice in very, very strongly. We have tremendous support in the senate for that. I have a lot of people that want the job. We're doing a great job over there for the vets.