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Trump Says Russia Should be at G-7; Trump-Macron Not Meeting Before G-7; Trump's Foreign Policy; Trump Talks about Pardons. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 8, 2018 - 12:00   ET



[12:00:44] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King.

Live pictures here of President rump and the White House delegation arriving. They are in Canada this hour, arriving at the G-7 summit after dropping a bombshell that escalated already bitter disputes with America's closest allies.

You see Marine One landing there.

The president there for the annual meeting of the group of seven, but the conversations are framed much more in the context of six plus one. In some cases, even six versus one.

Trade is the big flashpoint, or at least it was, when the sun rose this morning. Everyone else at the meeting, mad at the president's new trade war, saying tariffs against steel and aluminum and the president's confrontational rhetoric are a combination, the other leaders say, of bad economics and bad manners.

And then this this morning. More go it alone disruption. Before leaving the White House, the president said the G-7 should offer Vladimir Putin's Russia a seat at the table again. Russia was kicked out because of its annexation of Crimea.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Russia should be in the meeting. It should be a part of it. You know, whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run. And in the G-7, which used to be the G-8, they threw Russia out, they should let Russia come back in because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.


KING: That remarkable statement again as you watch Marine One there to see if the president -- as the president gets off, that statement about Russia unwelcome surprise to most of the other G-7 leaders, and a remarkable gift to Russia's Putin. In one stroke, the president of the United States creates another rift between the United States and its allies, and he welcomes Russia back into a global forum.

As we watch the president get off Air Force One, Matthew Chance is live for us in Moscow.

Matthew, tell us, how much is, a, any reaction straight up from the Russian government yet, and, b, how will this be interpreted? Can it be interpreted as anything but a gift from the president of the United States?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, a good couple of questions.

In terms of the reaction, there has been a response already from the Kremlin. Dmitry Peskov, who's Vladimir Putin's spokesman, saying that we tend to focus now on other platforms, sort of dismissing or shrugging off this apparent suggestion or apparent offer by President Trump to re-invite Russia back into the group of majority industrialized nations.

In terms of what the -- of what the -- of what people are thinking here, what Russians are thinking, I think they're divided, as they have been throughout this Trump presidency. On the one hand they see President Trump promise a lot. He promised, remember, to make the relationship better with Russia, but, in fact, delivered more, even tighter sanctions on the country and said that they'll dismiss that.

But I think you're right, they're also taking a step back from this and watching their old rival, the western alliance, those institutions, effectively kind of eat itself or self-destruct and turn on itself. And, you know what, they're not even doing it. You know, it's the U.S. president, from their point of view, who is causing that disruption. And so I think there will be some horror, but also some satisfaction on the part of the Russians as well as they watch this.

KING: Well put Matthew Chance.

Stand by if you can.

You see the president of the United States getting off Marine One. He is running a little bit more than an hour late. The president was scheduled to first meet before -- there's a group launch to kick off the G-7 that begin in a few moments. The president was scheduled to first sit down for a face-to-face with Emmanuel Macron, the president of France.

If you've been watching in recent months, President Macron tried to go nice approach. Remember the big dinner at the Eiffel Tower. Remember the military parade for President Trump. But in recent hours, President Macron has turned much more confrontation, saying that he is open to the other leaders issuing a group of six statement, essentially laying out the differences these other allied countries have with the United States.

Melissa Bell live for us in Paris to bring more international perspective into the conversation.

Melissa, what is it? We know the president is unpopular in Europe. But President Macron has tried. What is where he finally decided to flip from trying to cooperate to open confrontation?

MELISSA BELL, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you know, after the American withdrawal from the climate agreement, John, after America's withdrawal from Iran, it really took the tariffs to break that bond between Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump. There was that testy phone call a week ago, those series of extraordinary tweets overnight from one side to the other. And now this suggestion that perhaps Russia should be at the table, too.

[12:05:08] Because, of course, tariffs are the main point of contention here. But this is a summit that's about so much more, John. It's about -- and this is what Justin Trudeau has put as the main context of this, it's about the oceans, it's about climate change, it's about women's empowerment. And the American president, of course, looks at this table around him and thinks that his potential only ally might be the Russian president.

This is an extraordinary way to be kicking off a summit. And I doubt you're going to be see when that bilateral begins in just a short while, if indeed it goes ahead, but I don't really imagine that it will, many -- very few hugs, I imagine, compared from what we've seen over the course of the last few month with a much frostier atmosphere and two presidents are going to be determined to show that they will not back down against one another.


KING: Melissa Bell for us in Paris. Our thanks to Matthew Chance as well.

The president on his way now. You just saw Marine One land. He's on his way to the main event. We'll bring you that live when we get it. A group picture our hope. Or at least the leaders arriving to head into their first group lunch in just a few moments.

With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg," CNN's Manu Raju, John McCormack of "The Weekly Standard," and Karoun Demirjian with "The Washington Post."

Here's how "The Economist" puts it. Let's put "The Economist" cover up here. It's Trump swinging a wrecking ball, essentially, if we can put it up on the screen and show our viewers here. It's a remarkable statement. We don't have it at the moment. I guess we'll bring that to you as soon as we can.

"The Economist" essentially making the case, President Trump versus the world, or at least versus, as Matthew Chance put it there, the western alliance. That's certainly the -- to see a public statements from the other leaders, who usually try to gloss it over or make it friendly or say, yes, there are differences but we'll talk about them. This is a group of consensus, generally. Right now it's not quite six. The Italian prime minister, for example, says maybe Russia should come back in. But the Trump style, let alone the substance, the Trump style has infuriated most of the others.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "BLOOMBERG": Well, yes. Certainly when you watched the Twitter warmup yesterday ahead of the arrival to be about to fly into a host country and just completely slamming the host of the event is fairly extraordinary, and so was this morning's 20-minute performance on the South Lawn of the White House before departure. So many sort of bombshell threads in that give or take. But, of course, G-8 being the dominant one. And I hear unsolicited from a European diplomat who says Putin should get nothing for free.

KING: Right.

TALEV: Basically, let's remember why we made it a G-7. It was the annexation of Crimea and you can't reward behavior like that. I think that's how all of the rest of those leaders feel and we'll be seeing that on camera (ph).

KING: Right. And I got very similar incoming on the Putin question saying that this comes up a lot in the private conversations with the leaders. Is it time to talk about letting Russia back in? Is it time to tell Putin, if you want to come back in, here's what you must do. But the organization works on that they develop a private consensus and then they talk publicly. President Trump says, here's what I think, and infuriates them in the process.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I mean Trump just kind of, you know, pre-empts everything that would be a more conciliatory, let's tall talk about this and make a move as one. And he believes in shaking things up and he believes in shaking alliances up.

And allies do not like that, especially when they've been trying to play ball with the United States for a long time and feel like they're getting knocked back at every turn, whether it's trade, whether it's just basic decorum of, you know, the diplomatic process and the fact that you then take Russia, which is a problem for everybody, and throw that in the mix. That's -- people are kind of at the end of their patience and realizing that all the goodwill that they put into developing this relationship with President Trump maybe wasn't worth it, was even going to --

KING: It will be striking if we get publically -- both for the president, will he be as confrontational with them in person, when they're sitting as close as we are around a table? Will he be as confrontational with them as he has been standing on the South Lawn today, in his tweets, at the White House a bit yesterday, and will they be as confrontation with him when he's sitting right there? It's easier to say things when you're giving a press conference to your home country, especially playing to domestic politics.

But here already in the United States today, the reaction, especially to the Russia thing, to the president, here's Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate, President Trump is turning our foreign policy into an international joke, doing lasting damage to our country without any rhyme or reason.

More specifically, on the Russia question, Ben Sasse, Republican senator from Nebraska, this is weak. Putin is not our friend and he is not the president's buddy. He is a thug using Soviet-style aggression to wage a shadow war against America and our leaders should act like it.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, you look at the president's actions in the last 24 hours and it perpetuates the criticism that he gets from both sides of the aisle, that his -- a lot of his recent actions are helping -- benefiting America's adversaries but hurting America's allies. You know, he -- not just talking openly about Russia, saying nice things about Kim Jong-un ahead of their summit next week, going after the leaders of Canada and France, pushing the issue on trade and doing things that -- to the benefits of China, like this deal about ZTE, that very controversial telecom firm that a lot of people in Washington view as a national security threat. So these things are certainly not just upsetting the word orders, it's upsetting the order here in Washington about how exactly you're supposed to navigate on the international scene.

KING: But he tends to like that role, by himself, America first, being disruptive, everybody's mad at him.

[12:10:05] JOHN MCCORMACK, SENIOR WRITER, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": And with respect to Russia specially, we continue to see this schizophrenic approach where the administration takes some very tough action, and some actions even tougher than the Obama administration with respect to lethal (ph) aid to Ukraine, and then he goes around and says, well, we should reward Russia for changing their behavior in no way to -- in no way have they improved it. And, furthermore, this undermines I mean our partners in the United Kingdom. Russia has killed people on British soil. It's not like they've been behaving better. You need to actually have better behavior in exchange for a reward. We haven't seen that.

RAJU: Yes, he didn't really explain why he thinks that Russia needs to have a bigger platform and a voice as part of the G-7, add him to a G --


RAJU: Yes, exactly, but he didn't -- there's really no reason for him to suggest that. It was kind of an odd statement at that point.

KING: It was an odd statement from a president who has not convened a cabinet level meeting on Russian interference in the U.S. elections, which is still ongoing, who has never said anything about the scope of that. And yet he comes out of the blue here. But -- but the conversation today was going to be, the president was going to leave early because he doesn't want to sit and get lectured on climate change by the other leaders. The president is going to be told he's wrong by just about everybody else at the table on trade.

Now we're talking about what Donald Trump said, not about what they said about Donald Trump.

TALEV: I think that's right. DEMIRJIAN: Right. And I'll just add to that, I mean this is -- I do not have a pipeline into the president's brain right here, but like we have seen, as he's moving closer to this North Korea thing, that he keeps handing these sweeteners to all the countries that might actually be pulling the strings.

KING: Grateful.

DEMIRJIAN: We've been talking about China and ZTE. China's definitely the most important one. The second most important one that maintains economic ties that sustain the North Korean regime, it's Russia and it's a prestige gift. And then, this is the thing, you know, you can't actually engage Russia militarily because that would be a disaster for the world, and you can do these proxy fights if you want to on -- but we did that for the whole Cold War. That didn't go that well, either. You can really stick it to Russia on the prestige slaps. And Trump wants to do it the other way around. That's why we kicked them out of the G-8 because we knew it would hurt them, you know, because they want to be considered the leader country in the world. And to bring them back in is exactly appealing to what, you know, Putin cares about.

RAJU: And it's interesting, if they -- if they do cut a North Korea deal, they'll have to get support also from European allies, who he's angering right now. Will they decide to come along with it.

DEMIRJIAN: But the European allies hold (INAUDIBLE) restraints (INAUDIBLE) --

KING: Less import -- less important on that piece of the puzzle. As the president was leaving, he said, we'll all be in love again. That is about the difficult trade conversations.

Up ahead, again, the president now leaving. He just landed outside of the summit area. We'll watch and see if he meets with the leaders. We'll see if we can get any more there.

Also ahead for us here, it's a sad day in the CNN family. A colleague, and a friend, who taught us about food, taught us about culture, taught us about the world because he was a great storyteller and a most curious man, has left us. The life of Anthony Bourdain, just ahead.


[12:16:41] KING: Welcome back.

Live pictures here. Leaders' arrival at the G-7 summit outside of Quebec. The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, doing the greeting. He's the host. Theresa May, the British prime minister, you see there posing next to the prime minister and the spouses there as well. We're waiting for President Trump to arrive. The leaders are coming in. This is the official greeting from the host country, Canada. Then they're heading in. The first session of the G-7 expected to be quite contentious meeting. Over the next day -- lunch first, a working lunch, as they call it. As we watch the leaders arrive, we'll keep our eye for when President

Trump arrives, see if there's any conversation.

Before leaving for Canada, President Trump showing off his love of the presidential pardon power today saying the power to pardon, in his view, is a beautiful thing. And the president making plans he has big plans to use it. He said he is literally looking at, quote, thousands of potential pardons. But he was quick to claim that doesn't mean he sees any need to use that power for himself.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, no, no, I'm not above the law. I never want anybody to be above the law. But the pardons are a very positive thing for a president. I think you see the way I'm using them. And, yes, I do have an absolute right to pardon myself, but I'll never have to do it because I didn't do anything wrong. And everybody knows it. There's been no collusion, there's been no obstruction, it's all a made-up fantasy, it's a witch hunt. No collusion, no obstruction, no nothing.


KING: A very familiar President Trump there. No collusion. No obstruction. It's all a witch hunt. We can talk about that.

But, also, just -- it's interesting, this pardon thing, he's been building in him. But when you watched him talking today, just the energy in his face, the energy in his voice, he does love this. And he is -- I don't know if obsessed is the right word, but he has latched onto this as something -- you know, there's the substance of it. Is it the right thing to do in this case, in that case, in he sending a political message when he pardons people involved in the political corruption sphere, about the Russia investigation. But what does it tell us about him and the power of the president that he's so enamored by this power right now?

RAJU: I think he like things that are unchecked. I mean he does not like to navigate through Congress, which has a check on his power, and you know that he gets very frustrated when he doesn't get things through Congress. This is a power that he can essentially do without any recourse -- without any recourse whatsoever from anybody who has any concerns about it. Not really -- you know, and the underlying -- the question that you raise is, what message is he trying to send? He was asked directly if he's considering a pardon for Paul Manafort, for Michael Cohen. He said they haven't been charged with anything yet. But, still, if you wanted to pardon them now, he probably presumably could. Richard Nixon was pardoned before he was charged with anything (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Because of the investigation, it doesn't matter, whether he's talking about posthumous for Jack Johnson the boxer, when he's talking about the drug-trafficking grandmother he let out of prison yesterday, anything he does, because of this -- it's hard to separate the two.

One of the criticisms has been, is he doing his homework here? Do they have the right process in place? And there was an example of that today. The president, at great lengths, talking about Muhammad Ali. First sort of teasing, saying, I'm thinking about pardoning somebody. You know him. He was controversial. He was trying to keep it secret for a minute or two anyway, and then he said it was Muhammad Ali. The problem is, Muhammad Ali's lawyers issuing a statement saying, we appreciate President Trump's sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali in a unanimous decision back in 1971. There's no conviction from which a pardon is needed.

[12:20:00] And that, again, I don't want to over dwell on that. You know, they made a mistake here. But -- but that has been one of the criticisms. Is the president in such a rush to do this that people are rushing in with paperwork and not doing due diligence?

TALEV: I'm not sure it was a mistake. I think it's -- it's a little soon to see, and we have to see how these pardons unfold, but I think part of what the president's thinking has been in the last several days has been a way to appeal to minority communities, particular African-American communities, as he goes through the pardon process.

And it's important to say that President Obama and his administration also considered thousands of applications for clemency or, you know, pardons, or, et cetera, largely for non-violent drug offenders. And there was a process for that. And it's maybe a slightly different process than this one. But that the difference is what you saw with Kim Kardashian and that interaction, what you saw with Jack Johnson and what you're seeing in discussions about Muhammad Ali, some of what the president is trying to do is to say to minority voters is to say, I'm interested in your plight, I'm interested in your Plight.

And part of the strange way he was kind of trying to square the circle with continuing to goes after professional athletes who do not kneel for the national anthem or the pledge, but, at the same time, trying to court minority voters is this idea of wanting input about who's been unjustly, you know, incarcerated?

KING: A great point there because I was listening to this this morning and I can't figure out, is this an attempted olive branch from the president or what exactly is this? We've all been following the anthem controversy. The president, has, in the past, said that kneeling is disrespect of the flag and disrespect for the military. Today the president actually acknowledged that the African-American athletes who have been doing this at the NFL are doing it to protest racial injustice.

Well, we've got to get to -- we're going to take you back live to Canada now. Watch the president's arrival. We'll continue the conversation as we watch this play out.

Notable, as you see, First Lady Melania Trump not traveling with the president. He is solo at the G-7 summit there with his staff. He told reporters today that her doctors have advised her not to fly for several weeks after her procedure for a kidney problem. Said she's been told not to fly for a month. So the president of the United States walking in solo here. This is just outside of Quebec. It's a beautiful sight, as you can see

the lake in the backdrop there. The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, about to shake the president's hand. These two have sparred fiercely in the last 72 to 100 hours, mostly over trade, also over the broader question -- as we watch the handshake -- the Canadians frankly aghast that they have been called a national security risk to the United States.

The president in turn having a testy call with Prime Minister Trudeau in which he misquoted history about who burned down the White House in the War of 1812, we are told, but also saying again today that the Canadians impose unfair tariffs on American farmers. It's a little more complicated than that. American agriculture also has some pretty steep tariffs on some things. But, clearly, this is under the president's skin. But you see a show of friendship here and politeness as the leaders now head in. The president of the United States, the last of the leaders to be greeted by the host, the Canadian prime minister.

Now they go into a working lunch. We'll continue to watch this to see if we get any coverage of the remarks and whether the remarks, when they're all there in a group, are as contentious as they have been in the one-on-one press conferences in recent days, in social media in recent days, often the conversations, especially in social media, is different than the conversation of when they're around the table. But, we'll see. We'll keep an eye on this.

Back to the pardon question.

I was struck this morning when the president, for the first time really, acknowledged that these athletes who are kneeling are doing it because of racial injustice. What they see as mistreatment of other African-Americans. Whether it's police pulling them over, whether it's disproportionate sentencing. A white person gets caught with a bag of marijuana, a black person gets caught with a bag of marijuana, guess what, you know, the history tells you the court system is going to be much harsher on the American-American.

And the president acknowledging that for the first time and without backing off his criticism of kneeling saying, I'd like some ideas from these players.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to ask all of those people to recommend to me, because that's what they're protesting, people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system. And I understand that. And I'm going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated, friends of theirs or people that they know about. And I'm going to take a look at those applications. And if I find, and my committee finds that they're unfairly treated, then we will pardon them, or at least let them out.


KING: Can -- do we see any potential detente, cooperation? I don't know what right -- what the right word is here. If nothing else, the president has acknowledged their grievance, which he has not in the past. He has said it's un-American, unpatriotic, you're protesting the flag. The athletes would tell you, that's the last thing they're doing. They're exercising their First Amendment right to protest racial injustice.

MCCORMACK: Well, I think that there could be some, you know, detente between the NFL players. But, at the end of the day, the problem here is that this does have this reality game show feel to it where people who have fame and power can get in the president's ear and put a case in front of him. That's not how the justice system is supposed to work. He's obviously sprinkled around pardons for a lot of different people. Some who are undeserving, some deserving. He's normalizing a process of pardoning in the eventuality that he is going to pardon someone connected to the Mueller investigation.

[12:25:15] DEMIRJIAN: I also don't know if he has ever hit the point of detente because one thing that you -- once you settled one dispute or one part of a dispute, he finds something else to focus in that he finds offensive or that is the next, you know, point of tension that can be exploited to some political gain.

So, yes, while you may actually -- I don't know how you hit resolution with this, especially because we're heading into a new football season in a few months or we'll see what else is done. It will not necessarily be kneeling the next time. It may be some other gesture. But the president takes offense very easily, takes umbrage of things very easily and people who go switch up their play because this is getting, you know, to be an old repeated -- repetitive conversation and a protest that is not -- the gesture isn't the issue. The substance of what's behind it is. And so people will continue that in other ways. And the president has shown that he reacts.

KING: And it will be interesting to see, does the president have some follow-up to this. Number one, does he reach out? Or does anybody from the NFL community decide to test him, to try to test him on this and say, why don't we get together. The president said he didn't want a summit at the White House with all the players. He said he doesn't need grandstanding. But, you know, let's not make light of it. Let's see if something can come forward from this.

A quick break and then for us when we come back, you want to understand a complicated place in the world far, far away, you've never been there, how about over a drink and a meal. The gift of Anthony Bourdain when we return.