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INSIDE POLITICS

Trump Praises Relationship with Germany; Trump Unleashes on NATO Allies; Trump Readies China Tariffs. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 11, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:17] DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm Dana Bash. John King has the day off.

If you felt a little tremble this morning, it was coming from a diplomat earthquake set off by President Trump, shaking key alliances in a way we haven't seen in almost a century.

Plus, the vice president is visiting the Midwest this hour. Can he calm trade worries from American farmers?

And, the president's Supreme Court pick is meeting with more Republican senators this hour. The administration is walking a fine line between campaign promises for an anti-abortion nominee and the need to get this one confirmed with a razor-thin majority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Do you still want Roe verses Wade to be overturned?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And that was the though -- well, I do, but I haven't been nominated to the Supreme Court.

BASH: You campaigned so aggressively on finding a nominee who would overturn Roe versus Wade. Do you feel confident -- can you -- can you assure the people who voted for you on that notion that this is the man who will do that?

PENCE: Well, what -- what I can assure people that voted for us is that this will continue to be a pro-life administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: But we begin in Brussels at the NATO summit. President Trump is stepping onto the world stage by kicking U.S. allies. The president promised to be the disruptor in chief, and he sure is delivering. He's upending diplomatic protocol in an unprecedented way. Earlier, President Trump met one on one with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after publicly scolding Germany and NATO members on military spending.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In many countries -- oh, a tremendous amount of money for many years back where they're delinquent as far as I'm concerned because the United States has had to pay for them.

I have to bring it up because I think it's very unfair to our country, it's very unfair to our taxpayer. And I think that these countries have to step it up, not over a ten-year period. They have to step it up immediately.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, if you think that's jarring, listen to what he said specifically about Germany.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, if you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they supply -- they got rid of their coal plants, they got rid of their nuclear. They're getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia. I think it's something that NATO has to look at. I think it's very inappropriate. You and I agree that it's inappropriate. I don't know what you can do about it now, but it certainly doesn't seem to make sense that they pay billions of dollars to Russia and now we have to defend them against Russia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: The president's blistering criticism of NATO allies comes just days before his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he has not criticized in recent days.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the NATO summit in Brussels.

Jeff, it must just be absolutely wild to be there watching the president be Trumpian on steroids.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dana, there's no question. What we heard from the president this morning, those words from President Trump certainly upending the world order, at least since the Second World War, going directly and sharply after Germany.

Now, of course, this is not the first time President Trump has done this, but it was that suggestion that Germany is a -- you know, essentially a captive to Russia because of energy needs the president is, you know, really opening a new line of confrontation here at the very outset of this meeting.

At issue here, of course, Vladimir Putin is not here at the NATO summit in Brussels, of course, but he is looming large over this meeting. But it was shortly after the president had those words he was actually meeting face-to-face with Angela Merkel. He did not say that directly to the cameras. Instead, he had these words.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a very, very good relationship with the chancellor. We have a tremendous relationship with Germany. They've made tremendous -- they've -- you've had tremendous success and I congratulate you. Tremendous success. And I believe that our trade will increase and lots of other things will increase. But we'll see what happens over the next period of a few months.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZELENY: So the president did say that he actually did bring up the pipeline issue. But he did not say if he brought up any more than that in the meeting. But the reality here, Dana, there are strong suggestions the president is trying to do some misdirection here. Of course he's been accused of being too friendly to Vladimir Putin. So trying to suggest that Germany is beholden to it as well.

But, Dana, Angela Merkel had a response to that. She grew up in East Germany, of course. She said she knows what it's like to be captive to the Soviet Union. She defended Germany as very independent and modern. So the state of their relationship tonight, as these leaders are having dinner and meeting here again, certainly in question.

Dana.

[12:05:05] BASH: I think the technical word for that, Jeff, is projection. We're going to talk about that and a whole lot more.

Thank you, Jeff.

ZELENY: No doubt.

BASH: Here at the -- with our panel and here to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Michael Bender with "The Wall Street Journal." "Time" magazine's Molly Ball and Carl Hulse from "The New York Times."

We knew that this was what he promised. We knew that he was going to shake things up. It doesn't make it any less jarring for American people -- for the American people and certainly for these leaders to go into a meeting where usually the most earth-shattering word that is used in these diplomatic meetings is, we had a frank discussion, to this.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. And it was at a breakfast, right? I mean it wasn't, you know, sort of -- probably the most -- supposedly the most pleasant part of this. Things hadn't really gotten underway and he comes out with this real attack against Angela Merkel, against Germany, against Germans, possibly German- Americans, too, right? I mean it's such an insulting thing to do.

But, as you said, he has telegraphed this. I mean he's been talking about this idea that Americans are taking advantage of for decades. At least since the late '80s, early '90s and all throughout his campaign too, this idea that Americans were suckers. He was going to come ride to the rescue and upend everything and make it right.

The question is, what -- we see the up ending part. We don't know what the sort of make it right is. We don't know what after the bull was in the china shop, does he put the china back together in some sort of way? So that's to come. We'll see. I mean he's obviously going to be over there and he's going to be with Theresa May and then with Putin. So, we'll see what happens (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: So they're -- exactly. And there are two issues that this morning he was conflating. Probably intentionally, but he was conflating. One is the question of military spending, of these NATO countries paying their fair share. And this -- that was his big -- sort of one of his big takeaways this morning.

I just want to give the facts, the reality of what is being paid by these countries. The U.S. is paying more, 3.5 percent. And this is percentage of the GDP. U.K., 2 percent. The goal is, or the requirement is 2 percent. France, almost there, 1.8 percent. Germany, by the way, is 1.24 percent. Not there, but not so far away. Canada, about the same.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": Sure. Well, and the other thing that he said that was kind of puzzling was he described these as if they were dues that were paid into a fund, when, in fact, it is the percentage of the national budget that's spent on defense with the idea being that in order for this alliance to be a robust pact, a mutual defense, all of these countries have to have a military that is adequate to that task, should push come to shove.

Now, you know, I think this is not the first time that Trump has said this. And I think, in his view, it is working because a lot of these countries actually have increased their defense budgets in the wake of his NATO criticisms over the past year and a half. And, you know, Trump's whole philosophy, I started thinking, you know, I think he sees these NATO allies kind of like the Republicans in Congress. There are so-called allies and they're supposed to be on our side and it doesn't matter how much you insult them, they're going to still need you, so they can't actually walk out of the relationship. And, in the end, they may actually have to do what you say.

BASH: That's a very interesting analogy. You're probably right about that.

So I mentioned the one is defense spending. The other where he was really harsh was specifically on Germany. And this was on the idea of energy, which, by the way, is not -- is sort of a commercial issue. It's not a military issue.

What he said, I'll just -- as you're looking at those numbers, I'll tell you what the president said. He claimed that Germany will have almost 70 percent of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas. The reality is what you're seeing on this screen. Broadly E.U. imports, 37 percent of its natural gas from Russia. As for Germany, 35 percent of its natural gas from Russia.

MICHAEL BENDER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Right. I mean Trump feels like the -- that the U.S. is bearing too much of a burden when it comes to military endeavors around the world. And he also feels like the U.S. is -- has too much of the burden and -- when it comes to pushing back on Russia. And this pipeline issue has been stuck in his craw for a very, very long time. And now we're seeing it come out publicly and forcefully. And we saw this morning that it doesn't seem like he's going to be convinced, no matter what, like what we put on the stats -- on the screen here for stats, what he's told inside the Oval Office. I mean he said that in the breakfast. He asked -- he asked the NATO leader there to explain how that is -- this is possible. And followed that quickly up by saying, you can't explain it. So it's clear in his mind that this is a settled issue and that -- and one that he's going to come back on again and again.

We've reported in "The Wall Street Journal" that it's an issue for him when it comes to trade talks with the E.U., that he wants Germany to walk away from Nord Stream 2, which they say they can't for legal -- for a number of legal reasons, before the U.S. even --

[12:10:10] BASH: The pipeline.

BENDER: Correct. Correct. The pipeline, before the U.S. starts new trade talks with the European Union. So it's a real issue for him. And then I think that goes back to some of the -- you know, this is a -- the NATO issue is also just sort of a settled issue in his mind, too, I think. He knows these numbers are not right, right? He -- like he -- I mean he knows what he's doing with the language here. He knows these are not dues. He knows that -- that no one is in arrears. But, again, he said it this morning, as far as I'm concerned, you know, that they do owe this money to America. So, you know, he's acknowledging here that the point that we're seeing clearly, that he's not being totally accurate with his message.

BASH: Right, he's kind of -- he's up front about the fact that he's conflating and he's expanding on it.

There was a joint statement put out this morning by both Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Here's what they said. President Trump's brazen insults and denigration of one of America's most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment. His behavior this morning is another profoundly disturbing signal that the president is more loyal to President Putin than to our NATO allies.

OK, pretty tough. Those are Democrats. Then there was House Speaker Paul Ryan, who went to the cameras and said, I don't like to criticize the president while he's abroad, and then he criticized the president while he's abroad.

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I subscribe to the view that we should not be criticizing our president while he's overseas, but let me say a couple of things. NATO is indispensable. It's as important today as it ever has been. We're reflecting that in a resolution we're bringing to the floor today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, you know, he's going to have to go through Congress on this, you know, for any real action. The president has consistently distorted how NATO works. To me, it's a little bit like his attacks on the Mueller investigation. He just continues these lines to undermine confidence.

I think some of this is actually for his base. So he can -- he can prepare them for what he's going to do with NATO. But on Capitol Hill, the Senate took a vote on behalf of NATO yesterday. You know, NATO is -- is a -- something not to be toyed with.

BASH: And he's toying. And as you respond, I just want to tell you all and our viewers that we just got a statement from the White House press secretary to the White House pool. And here's what she said.

During the president's remarks today at the NATO summit, he suggested that countries not only meet their commitment of 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending, but -- listen to this -- they increase it to 4 percent. The president raised the same issue when he was at NATO last year.

So, 2 percent is what the base line is now. He wants to double it.

HENDERSON: Yes, and that's the thing, I mean are the goal posts just going to continue to move, right? I mean if they get 2 percent, if they get 4 percent, is it going to be 6 percent. What would actually make him happy? Would anything make him happy or is it just sort of a fight against NATO and trying to essentially undermine it.

And, you know, if you look at Fox News, sort of the messaging on this, is the apology tour for America is over, right? And Donald Trump is going to go over. He's going to be strong and he's going to tell it like it is to all of these allies. And, in many ways, that's what he's doing.

BASH: And before we take a break, I want to just take a trip in the Wednesday way back machine because this is speaking to what you were talking about, and Jeff Zeleny as well. Remember when Ted Cruz tried to call the president out on what he does with these accusations when it's really about him?

Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. He accuses everybody on that debate stage of lying, and it's simply a mindless yell. Whatever he does, he accused everyone else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level I don't think this country's ever seen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Who wants that one?

BENDER: Well, I --

HULSE: He supports him now.

BASH: Yes.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BASH: Important to point (ph) that out.

BENDER: And I -- again, when it comes to this news (ph), is Trump was then and is now largely on an island, even within his own party. We saw that with the Ryan clip that you played. Even within the White House. I talked to a White House official this morning who called Trump's comments needless and much more incendiary than they needed to be.

You know, if Trump can't get his own party behind him on this sort of rhetoric, on NATO, I don't think he's going to be able to get NATO members to spend 4 percent. And we're already seeing the NATO leaders over there saying, well, let's get to 2 percent before we start talking about 4 percent.

[12:14:44] BASH: OK, so this is a discussion that we're having on sort of the -- the defense alliance. But the other way the president is up ending the world is, of course, on trade. And we're going to talk about the president's threat to ratchet up his trade war with China even more and sending Mike Pence to the Midwest to reassure farmers caught in the crossfire.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: President Trump today is threatening to ratchet up the trade war with China to a whole new level. The White House is proposing new tariffs on an extra $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. We're talking about everything from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the baseball gloves Carl Hulse uses. These tariffs mean higher prices for Americans buying those products.

And President Trump's fellow Republicans, they are not happy. Senator Orrin Hatch called the move reckless. And today the Senate is voting on a measure that could lead to restrictions on the president's ability to wage his trade war.

Now, it's a nonbinding resolution, which means it doesn't have any teeth to it. But free traders in Congress say its passage will build momentum towards real legislation.

This is -- this is no joke for a lot of people who listen to all of the rhetoric going back and forth. But this really hits their pocketbooks.

[12:20:06] HULSE: Yes, I -- this isn't something that you can paper over with assurances and talk. People will see the actual consequences of this in their paychecks. There's talk about jobs being cut at BMW in South Carolina. Of course, a really big state for Trump. But, you know, the government officials down there, they don't want these folks to lose their really good jobs. Farmers are a totally different thing. You can tell them it's going to be OK, but at the end of the year -- you know, farmers borrow money to plant. They plant. They pay the loan back. And what they have left is their income. And they know when their income is up or down.

I think this is a real problem for the administration. And it's kind of getting in the way of their political messaging in some of these states where they have an advantage.

Let's take North Dakota. They have an advantage there. Now they have the Supreme Court fight. At the same time, Heidi Keitkamp was traveling the state meeting with the farmers there talking about, you know, what's going on with these tariffs. I think it's a big problem for them and people -- people will see actual decrease in money.

BASH: And you mentioned the fact that this isn't something you can necessarily brush off with rhetoric.

You've got to look at this tweet that the president sent this morning. I am in Brussels, but always thinking about our farmers. OK, so it's basically like, hi, dear farmers, I'm thinking about you. But, one of the most prominent farmers in the United States Senate, Chuck Grassley, basically isn't having any of this.

Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: But he's negotiating, I think, as a businessperson. And if he takes the competitor to the brink and he doesn't go over the brink, we're going to get a better deal. But if he goes over the brink, it's catastrophic. And right now, on soybeans and corn in my state, it is catastrophic with the dramatic drops in prices we've had.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BENDER: (INAUDIBLE) from Grassley, this is a high-stakes game that Trump is playing.

HENDERSON: Yes.

BENDER: And we've seen the Trump tweet you had this morning and a number of times he's brought up the farmers. He's acutely aware --

BASH: Yes.

BENDER: Of his risks here with his political base and -- particularly when it comes to farmers. And to tie it back to your first point on this -- on this segment, the Trump administration is looking to Congress to mitigate some of the issues with farmers when it comes to some of the pain of dealing with trade. Instead, what we're seeing from the Senate is them trying to reign in Trump's actions on trade. So, you know, this is very much on Trump's mind for a very good reason.

BASH: I mean --

BALL: But it's very similar to the NATO issue, where Trump is up against a bipartisan consensus and an expert consensus, and he simply believes in an alternate theory of the case. And, you know, he and the very small percentage of economists who agree with him, which is overwhelmingly they don't, but he really does believe that, first of all, the economy, because it is roaring right now, has enough of a cushion when it comes to things like jobs that a little bit of temporary pain is something we can get through to achieve a better result in the end. And that this is going to have a good effect.

And so -- and I think also, like the NATO issue, you have the experts always saying the sky is falling, something terrible is going to happen and he simply will not believe that until he sees it. And so when people are sitting around prognosticating, oh this is going to be awful, it's going to lead to an economic crash, all he sees right now is an economy that's still going gangbusters.

BASH: That's such an important counterpoint because as -- this is the story of Donald Trump. People say what you're doing, it goes -- flies in the face of norms and is going to hurt everybody. And sometimes it does, but a lot of times it doesn't.

BALL: Well, and even when it does, also he thinks he can paper over that by creating an alternate perception, which, I think, is part of what the tweet this morning was about.

BASH: But what we do know is that China gets American politics. Just look at where they're targeting their tariffs. But also look at this new quote that we have from the Chinese assistant commerce minister. They go low, we go high. Did you ever think there would be a Michelle Obama illusion with regard to the China trade war?

HENDERSON: Yes, and who knows what that really even means. I don't know they go -- they're going to go higher. I don't know what it means, but --

BASH: But it -- but it is a great quote.

HENDERSON: Yes. Yes, yes. Who knows -- yes, I mean, Michelle Obama, that famous quote from the campaign.

There's -- the question is, if the pain comes, when does it come? And, do Americans react, right? I mean does it -- does it -- do they sort of vote with their feet? Do they look at Trump and blame him? Wilbur Ross, for instance, he came out early on when there was all this talk about tariffs. He essentially said, oh, well it doesn't really matter. Your can of Campbell's soup will go up something like half a cent or something like that. And that kind of pain is enough for -- you know, Americans can take that and absorb that. So it's not clear what's going to happen here.

BASH: Yes. Exactly. But we all know that if this really does get bad, it's a lot more than a Campbell's soup.

HENDERSON: Yes, that's right. BASH: Than a Campbell's soup.

[12:24:50] All right, everybody, up next, President -- excuse me, Brett Kavanaugh is getting some face time with some key senators today. But it's the paper trail of his past remarks that has some lawmakers interested.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BASH: The president's Supreme Court nominee is in the midst of a meeting blitz, talking with high-profile senators on the Judiciary Committee who will vote on his confirmation. On today's docket, Senators Orrin Hatch, John Cornyn and his meet with Lindsey Graham started at the top of this hour.

[12:30:00] The Judiciary Committee chairman, Chuck Grassley, hasn't decided on an exact date for Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, but the nominee definitely has already one fan in the former chairman, Orrin Hatch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)