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Trump Slams Allies, Says Germany is Controlled by Russia; Trump Administration Falls Short on First Family Reunification Deadline; Angela Merkel Pushes Back on Trump's Public Scolding. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired July 11, 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] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: -- America's closest allies and demanding that our other allies pay up. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to bring it up because I think it's very unfair to our country, it's very unfair to our taxpayers, and I think that these countries have to step it up, not over a 10-year period. Got to step it up immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Now European leaders expected tough rhetoric from the president, especially about defense spending, but they may not have been prepared for this. At a welcome breakfast with cameras rolling, President Trump slammed Germany, calling it a captive of Russia because of this energy deal between the two nations, making Germany quite reliant on Russian fuel. He expects -- he is expected, I should say, to repeat those comments directly to German Chancellor Angela Merkel when the two meets in just minutes.
Our Kaitlan Collins is live at NATO headquarters in Belgium.
Kaitlan, the president made it very clear that the military spending and defense spending by these nations is -- irks him, to say the least, right? But when it comes to how much he --
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: To say the least.
HARLOW: To say the least. But when it comes to what he said this morning at this breakfast about how much the U.S. spend, it actually doesn't seem to be accurate.
COLLINS: That's right, Poppy. The president was making several remarks, not holding back at all when talking about defense spending. We knew he wouldn't. He made it clear he was going to have a very combative tone when he arrived. But during those remarks this morning at the breakfast before he had officially even arrived at the NATO headquarters where the summit was being held, the president made several remarks and was specifically singling out journey, who has been a favorite target of his throughout all of his complaints about NATO and about defense spending. And he was saying that they weren't spending enough on defense
spending, that they're only going to be a little over 1 percent when they're supposed to be at 2 percent by 2024 and he said something interesting that is raising a lot of eyebrows. He said that the U.S. in actual numbers is spending 4.2 percent of its GDP on Defense.
Now I am looking at numbers that were just released by NATO yesterday and in this it estimates the United States is going to spend 3.5 percent of its GDP on defense in 2018. That's actually slightly lower than what it spent in 2017 which was 3.57 percent. Certainly nowhere near that 4.2 percent number.
We've asked the White House what exactly was it that the president was referring to but he made quite clear that he was referring to GDP when he was making these comments because he got the number for Germany quite right saying they're a little over 1 percent.
But, Poppy, to be clear it wasn't just military spending that is bothering the president about Germany. He also had this to say during the breakfast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Germany is totally controlled by Russia. Because they are getting from 60 percent to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline, and you tell me if that's appropriate because I think it's not. Germany as far as I'm concerned is captive to Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: The president making his problems with Germany quite clear. It is certainly going to make for an interesting one-on-one with Merkel this afternoon. The cameras won't be there, Poppy, but we do expect the president to let us know how that meeting goes.
HARLOW: I think that is a safe bet. Kaitlan Collins, thanks for being here and let me know what you do hear back from the White House on that point.
So German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing back this morning, wasting no time today publicly asserting not only German independence from Russia from also her country's central role in NATO.
Our Nic Robertson joins me now with more on that. And Nic, this is as we do expect the president to directly say to Merkel exactly what he said at the breakfast that morning and that is that you are beholden to Russia. It's quite a claim.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, it is. And that's something we can expect the German chancellor to push back on with a push back from her Defense minister already saying look, that was -- we're talking about a pipeline deal here, gas pipeline deal going back to 2002, 2003. You can't just shut down business deals like that immediately overnight.
And what -- you know, what is happening here in Europe, it is recognized that Russia does use its energy supplies to try to control or influence the political actions of other countries and there is a new gas pipeline coming from Russia, North Stream 2, that does now bypass Poland and go direct to Germany so if you are in Poland then you are looking at the situation, and we saw this at a meeting of leaders in Ukraine over the past couple of days where they are critical also of this pipeline that goes to Germany.
You know, what President Trump was saying is that the United States is watching while Germany puts money into Russian businesses yet the United States has to pay money to defend Germany from Russia. That was his point. But the pushback that we've heard from Angela Merkel already is this. And that you cannot just measure a country's financial contribution.
But Germany does contribute in terms of -- you know, its troops. It commits long-term troops, it commits troops and it committed them to Afghanistan.
[09:05:08] There has been -- we heard from the European Council president yesterday saying 870 European men and women, service members, have lost their lives in Afghanistan, supporting the United States since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. So I think these are the lines that we're likely to hear or President Trump may very well hear from Angela Merkel pushing back on this idea that it is all about dollars and scents that there is another level to the commitment that comes from Germany.
HARLOW: Collective defense and coming to the aid of one of our allies, that Article Five lays out, which is exactly what our NATO allies did after 9/11.
All right, Nic, stay with me. Let me also bring in CNN military analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling and also with us CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger.
Gentlemen, nice to have you hear. Let's all listen to this exchange back and forth between President Trump and Jens Stoltenberg just this morning at the breakfast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY-GENERAL: Despite these differences we have always been able to unite around our core task, to protect and defend each other, because we understand that we are stronger together than apart. I think that two World Wars and the Cold War taught us that we are stronger together than apart.
TRUMP: But how can you be together when a country is getting its energy from the person you want protection against or from the group that you want protection?
STOLTENBERG: Because we understand that when we stand together, also in dealing with Russia, we are stronger. I think what we have seen is that --
TRUMP: No, you're just making Russia richer. STOLTENBERG: Well --
TRUMP: You're not dealing with Russia. You're making Russia richer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. That -- I mean, that is fascinating.
David Sanger, to you, our Christiane Amanpour is hearing that leaders in Brussels are very concerned about how the president came out so strong at this breakfast on that point. What's his goal out of NATO? What does he want to leave with?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Poppy, it seems pretty clear the president is doing exactly in person what he did on Twitter a day ago. And he's hoping I think that by jawboning like this he's going to increase their contributions in rapid form.
He's wrong on the contribution issue. He has a point to make about the dependency on gas. And we're going to break the two down. While the United States is responsible for about what he calls 70 percent of military spending in NATO, that's all of our military spending around the world. It includes what we spend in Asia, it includes what we spend --
SANGER: -- in nuclear forces.
SANGER: It includes what we spend in the Middle East. So it's not really a fair comparison, so -- and of course while many European countries need to spend more as Barack Obama said and George Bush did before that, they are on a schedule to go do it that was agreed upon. But he's got a point that they are over dependent on Russia for fuel and it does give the Russians leverage.
HARLOW: Yes, I mean, it's an important point, not only this pipeline, right? They're talking about building a second pipeline that would supply even more Russian fuel.
SANGER: That's right. They're going to become more dependent.
HARLOW: Right. And circumvent Ukraine in the process.
General Hertling, here's the thing. It's rhetoric right now from the president and it's threats right now from the president, but when it comes to actually backing away from the collective defense of our NATO allies, we have not seen action.
Do you think this president is actually ready to do that?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think there's a very strong possibility, Poppy. He has hijacked the agenda, focused on this bizarre 2 percent of GDP issue which he doesn't clearly understand. There's a lot more to this as David has just pointed out.
I'm very concerned that he is going to disrupt the alliance which does a whole lot more than he can even imagine. The fact that the NATO agenda before he hijacked it with the talk of finances was going to talk about improved cyber security, the improvement in the Black Sea fleet, terrorist action, immigration, climate change, the kinds of things that are threatening not only Europe but the world. And the collective security alliances that does so many things that people don't even understand.
I mean, I think it would be interesting for your audience to know that the NATO Navy does anti-piracy operations in several oceans to protect shipping lanes. Not many people know that.
HERTLING: But that's just one of multiple missions that NATO has so yes, I'm very concerned having spent 12 years of my life in NATO. This is a president who doesn't understand the requirement for meeting and collectively securing the alliance.
HARLOW: So, Nic, to you, I mean, one of the points that General Hertling just made is a lot of the focus that NATO right now was supposed to be about cyber security, for example, right? And that immediately makes me think of Russia and the president heads to Russia on Monday to meet with Vladimir Putin.
[09:10:02] What does all of this talk do to that meeting in terms of the arguments that this just plays right into the hands of Vladimir Putin? It isn't part of what Putin wants to tear apart this alliance.
ROBERTSON: Yes, I mean, what General Hertling has said there is very much sort of weight against Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, what he wants to position NATO going forward and I think this -- and it is part of NATO's message against Stoltenberg's message of how NATO is being relevant, that it's not being obsolete. It's not still a remnant of the sort of Cold War days, that it is ready to fight cyber security.
ROBERTSON: Is ready terrorism, it is ready to fight these sort of wars that -- the way that Russia sort of got itself engaged in over the border inside Ukraine.
I've talked today with the Foreign minister from Latvia, the prime minister from Estonia, Baltic States on the front line with Russia. I asked them about their concerns about President Trump meeting with President Putin, and they said look, as long as he goes in firm and as long as he's very clear that, you know, annexing Crimea is illegal, is against international law, as long as he going in firm and says getting involved in Ukraine cannot be done, they're going to feel comfortable with that.
But at the same time these leaders also felt that while President Trump was saying -- by saying very clearly in a way that President Obama and President Bush hadn't done on this 2 percent of GDP, they did feel that that was an important message to amp up, if you will. But I guess my take away, and I spoke to a member of the Romanian delegation here as well. My takeaway from conversation so far today here is, that there is a feeling already that there was agreed two days in advance the final communique that it was agreed in part by Secretary of Defense Mattis, Secretary of State Pompeo, National Security Adviser Bolton, all agreeing this final communique just a couple of days, agreed more easily these diplomats told me than it was in Wales in 2014, than it was in Warsaw, the NATO summit in 2016.
ROBERTSON: So if there is concern now the way President Trump is handling this, that is a communique that was ready to go that the leaders here feel good about that potentially could be squandered. This morning they were feeling that it was looking good. It may be different now.
HARLOW: And we shouldn't forget how members of the U.S. Senate feel about NATO, voting along, you know, bipartisan lines yesterday, 97-2 in support of NATO. Just an important mark as the president keeps bashing the alliance.
Gentlemen, thank you.
President Trump ups the ante. He is upping the ante certainly in the tariff fight with China, prepping another round of $200 billion worth of goods to be taxed. That is rattling world markets, we are live at the opening bell.
Also, the administration falls short on the first family reunification deadline. So what will happen to those remaining children separated from their parents? We're on it.
HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. And right now, the president is meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel just hours after he said that Germany is beholden, essentially, to Russia.
Joining me now, David Gergen, senior political analyst and former adviser to four presidents. And Molly Ball is here, political analyst, national political correspondent for "TIME " as well.
It was quite a claim, David, this morning, the president saying essentially, Germany, Russia is controlling you because you are so reliant on their energy.
European officials suggested to CNN that, look, a lot of this rhetoric is just for domestic political consumption, that it looks good to the president's base. What's your read?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, I think it does look good to much of the president's base, but it's exactly what his top advisers hoped he would not do. And that was, they were hoping - and Kay Bailey Hutchison, for example, our ambassador to NATO, along with Jon Huntsman, our ambassador to Moscow, both hoped that he would - this summit would produce a statement of unity and of strength and that he would come in understanding and being sympathetic even as he pushed some of his points on private, but he would not come in and openly attack NATO leaders such as Angela Merkel, who has, after all, been the strongest leader in Europe for several years now and has helped to keep Europe together.
On the other hand, this is exactly what Vladimir Putin would hope he would do. Putin's largest aim is to dismantle NATO and to dismantle European unity.
HARLOW: But he knows that, David. I mean, presidents have known that. So, why play into Putin's hands days before you go there?
GERGEN: That's one of the great mysteries that surrounds this administration right from the start. Is Germany too dependent upon - is Europe too dependent upon Russian gas and oil? Yes. Everybody agrees on that.
Everybody agrees that he's right that they ought to increase their defense spending in those countries. But those, Poppy, have been relatively secondary issues in past NATO summits.
Seventy years, American presidents have gone to NATO and said this is the strongest alliance, the most important alliance and the most successful alliance in world history.
And it is vital. It is our most important alliance. The people in Europe are our most important friends. They are our biggest trading partners. And to drive them away and to destroy European unity is profoundly not in the interest of the United States.
HARLOW: And, Molly, European leaders have said - the word that has been used from our reporting is just a hope to avert disaster with Trump this time around. What does averting disaster look like at the end of this summit?
[09:20:02] MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think to your question before, this isn't just for domestic political consumption. I think the president really means it.
And part of the reason that he keeps doing this, keeps upsetting the apple cart, keeps dismaying his advisers who do believe in a more conventional picture of the world order is that he feels like they're not getting it. People keep not taking him seriously.
When he says stuff like this, he is an actual skeptic of the utility of NATO. He is somewhat sympathetic to Putin's view on a lot of things, which is why he has uttered sympathetic perspectives so frequently.
So, we have seen an evolution in the way the world and world leaders respond to Trump. They have gone from feeling like they could persuade him or sweet-talk him or court him to feeling like, as you said, they just sort of have to put up with him and hope that the worst doesn't happen, but be ready if it does.
I think that that is satisfactory to the president as well that he has driven home the message that he can't be controlled or wooed by them. He is where he is and the rest of the world is sort of going to have to adapt.
HARLOW: All right. David, Molly, stay with me. I want you both to weigh on this as well as we go back to the immigration debate in this country because back here in the United States, this morning, 38 of those 102 children that were detained under the age of five are now back with their parents this morning.
This, as the government fails to meet its deadline ordered by the courts to reunite the youngest of those separated migrants with their parents as a result of the Trump administration's zero tolerance practice.
Our Rosa Flores was at one of the reunions that did happen. Good morning, Rosa.
Rosa Flores, CNN correspondent: Good morning, Poppy. About this reunion, this father actually giving us the details of how these reunions happened because, again, we haven't gotten these details from the government.
He says that he woke up yesterday, he didn't know that he was going to be reunited with his son. At about 9:00, 10 o' clock in the morning, he was told that he could change into regular clothing, he was shackled by hands and feet, he was bussed to an undisclosed building with two other men.
While they were in this building, they were asked to sign some paperwork, they were fitted with an ankle monitor. And then, in an administrative office, with filing cabinets, no toys, there were three children in that office, a one-and-a-half-year-old, a three-year-old and the four-year-old that this father was hoping to be reunited with and then these fathers came to tears as they embraced their children for the very first time. This particular father hadn't seen his son in 43 days. So, extremely emotional.
And then, when we look at the big picture, the government says that it separated about 102 children, 38 of those children were reunited yesterday. Thirty-seven are still stuck in the process. They are still going through background checks and that sort of thing.
Twenty-seven, Poppy, the government says that they are not fit to be reunited. And the reason why? The government says that they have criminal backgrounds or a danger to the children. Poppy?
HARLOW: Rosa Flores, thank you very much. And please keep us posted as we see more of these families reunited hopefully soon.
Let's talk about all of this. David Gergen is back with me, as is Molly Ball. And, Molly, to you, the explanation from Secretary Azar is essentially - and I don't have time to play the whole thing here - but, look, 16 of those reunifications didn't happen because the adults were unfit.
I mean, there is everything from, one was charged with murder in his home country, one was a kidnapper. And he is saying that potentially 16 lives have been saved because they've taken longer to vet them for these reunions. I mean, what do you make of that argument because it is the administration's practice that caused the separation to happen in the first place?
BALL: Well, yes. But the prior administration, also in some cases, did separate children from parents, usually fathers who were thought to be a danger to them. So, that is something that has happened before. And if it's true what the administration is saying, it's probably the only thing they can do.
I think the bigger picture, I mean, we're talking about the very small group of children under five. There's still that group of thousands of children overall, including the ones who are over five.
And the big picture here is that the government is not only back to square one where they started with this policy, but maybe even more toward what they didn't want to do, which is what they term catch-and- release, letting families with children go under court supervision while they wait for their hearings.
And so, it's an utter failure of what was intended according to some in the administration as a deterrent to migrants coming over the border. It's completely fallen apart because they never had a plan.
And the reason HHS is still dealing with this is there was never a process in place after they enacted that supposed deterrent to reunite these families.
[09:25:06] HARLOW: And to your point, Molly, let's listen to the former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff under the Bush administration talking to Chris Cuomo about exactly this issue last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL CHERTOFF, FORMER DHS SECRETARY: It seems to me that this was done very quickly. And I can tell you from having done numerous types of challenging programs when I was at DHS, these things take an enormous amount of preparation.
I mean, you have to decide what kinds of records you're going to keep, how you're going to track people.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": If you care about who you're separating and what happens to them.
CHERTOFF: Correct. And if you realize, at the end of the day, you're going to have to bring them back together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: So, David Gergen, where was that prep this time?
GERGEN: Well, clearly, they didn't have the plans together. I do think they deserve credit at least for knowing where some of these children are. It's unclear whether they know where the bulk of them are. They may have lost track of many of them.
But this is not a long-term solution. Catch and release is not going to be sustainable under this president.
What has been interesting to me, Poppy, is that there are now talks going underway with Mexico and with Central America about placing American asylum checkpoints in Mexico, not in the United States. In other words to process people there.
Human rights organizations are very fearful of that kind of solution, but it is being quietly discussed now.
HARLOW: That's interesting. David Gergen, Molly, good to have you both. Thank you.
The president preparing another big round of big, big tariffs on China. This is roiling the world markets. How will it play out on Wall Street. The opening bell is next.