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Trump Backs Away From Sharp Criticism Of U.K.'s May; Anti-Trump Protests In London Ahead Of Meeting With Queen; Trump: My Meeting With Putin Will Be "Loose". Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 13, 2018 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. One reporter described it today as a gift-wrapped hand grenade. How is that for you? The repercussions are being felt on both sides of the Atlantic right now. But what did he or he in this case blow up? Let's find out.

President Trump continuing his visit in the United Kingdom, held a press conference this morning with Prime Minister Theresa May.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I didn't criticize the prime minister. I have a lot of respect for the prime minister and I said tremendous things. I said very good things about her and she is a total professional. Because when I saw her this morning, I said I want to apologize because I said such good things about you.


BOLDUAN: Hours earlier, this is what the president said to "The Sun" newspaper about the prime minister and her handling of Brexit.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think the deal that she is striking is not what the people voted on. It is a much different deal than the people voted on. It was not the deal that was in the referendum.


BOLDUAN: That sounds like a criticism. But the president today now calls reporting of his own words on the record fake news. Here is more again on Brexit.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: As far as the advice, I did give her a suggestion. I wouldn't say advice and I think she found it maybe too brutal.


BOLDUAN: But again, here is what he told "The Sun" newspaper before that.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how do it, but she didn't agree -- she didn't listen to me.


BOLDUAN: That sure sounds like advice and suggestion. Whatever it is, so what now? CNN's Kaitlan Collins is in London. Kaitlan is joining me right now. So, Kaitlan, the U.K., the U.S., both nations waking up today with this news from "The Sun" newspaper. What does it do? What are they doing about it right now?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it is essentially a case of diplomatic whiplash. We just saw the president slowly try to back away from that blistering criticism of Theresa May that he said in and on the record interview with one of the biggest British tabloids that dropped about 12 hours or so ago after the president has just left a dinner with the prime minister and was wrapping things up there.

He is insisting he didn't criticize her even though he did criticize here, and it was explicitly clear in that interview. The president saying that he didn't criticize her plans for Brexit even though he very clearly did saying essentially that she wasn't listening to what the people wanted.

He said that his suggestion that Boris Johnson, one of Theresa May's biggest political rivals, who could very well take her job, his suggestion that he would be a good prime minister was unrelated to Theresa May, the prime minister.

And saying that he thinks she is doing a terrific job as the prime minister, which is just simply, Kate, not what the president said during that interview. Of course, there has been ton of blowback in response to that interview since it dropped.

It caught White House officials off guard. They thought it wasn't going to be posting until today and then it posted last night while they were still leaving the dinner with Theresa May, creating a little bit of an awkward moment there.

But certainly, Kate, the president simply trying to back away from something that he said on the record and just can't back away from. But right now, the president is -- he just finished up that prime minister.

You saw Theresa May also trying to down play the tension between the two of them during this trip. He is now going to go and have tea with the queen. But he is taking a helicopter there we should note, and he is avoiding a lot of widespread protests that are happening throughout the city of London before he does depart a little bit later on this evening.

BOLDUAN: Seeing some of the images from the protests as we've been talking. Kaitlan, great to see. Thank you so much.

So, the president this morning called at least part of his on the record taped interview with "The Sun" newspaper fake news. Saying that the newspaper failed to include all the good things that he said about Prime Minister May. Listen to this.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Fortunately, we tend to record stories now. So, we have it for your enjoyment if you'd like it, but we record when we deal with reporters. It is called fake news. We solve a lot of problems with the good old recording instrument.


BOLDUAN: The good old recording instrument. Here is Brian Stelter with more on this. So, Brian, it seems that the president's -- what he calls fake news is evolving starting from anonymous sources that he didn't like to now on the record on tape interviews that he gives.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The only thing fake is his use of the term fake news. There is such a thing as fake news. Real stories that are made up, designed to deceive people. But now the president is talking about a recorded interview claiming that is fake.

And what's even more remarkable, this was an interview with one his favorite newspapers owned by his friend, Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch, of course, which controls Fox News also controls "The Sun" newspaper.

So, the president might have thought he was finding a friendly out letter from the audience in this 28-minute interview, but instead he made a lot of news and a lot of embarrassing ways.

[11:05:10] And I think in his comments, some of which were misleading, some were false, it is showing again how hard it is to trust this president which is a problem as we head into Helsinki and the summit with the Russian president.

But here is a part of what "The Sun" reporter said describing the reaction to the interview heard around the world.


TOM NEWTON DUNN, REPORTER, "THE SUN": It seems a tad discourteous to drop that hand grenade to your guest when your guest has gone out of their way to facilitate such a great show for you, you know, the Blenheim Palace dinner last night, the SAS were rolled out this morning to impress the president. That doesn't happen for many people. So, a lot of British politicians, who are very angry with the president and accusing him of showing bad manners.


STELTER: Yes, indeed. Now a coup for the reporter, a big win for "The Sun" newspaper. They have the U.S. president on the record talking this way and as you were saying there is a tape of this. "The Sun" has not released the entire tape, so it is quite possible that other points in the interview President Trump said flattering things about the British prime minister.

BOLDUAN: That doesn't undo what he said.

STELTER: No, if he said I love your dress and I hate your dress, I think you will remember the ugly part, right? I mean, that's the thing about the contradictions that we constantly hear from President Trump. It makes it hard to know when he is telling the throughout the truth and when he's not. And today is a really prime example of that.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Brian.

STELTER: I do love your dress.

BOLDUAN: I felt like for your entire thing I was like oh, wait, no, I don't like you. Get off my set. Great to see you. Thank you so much.

All right. Joining me right now is Peter, a former British ambassador to the United States. Ambassador, thank you so much for coming in.

PETER WESTMACOTT, FORMER U.K. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

BOLDUAN: I will not talk about your clothing choices. I do want to talk to you about in interview that the president gave with "The Sun" newspaper. You can't undo or unsay what the president said in "The Sun" interview, but you can always spin it. Is that what Theresa May did today in the press conference?

WESTMACOTT: I think there was quite a lot of patching up going on. I think that Trump and probably Theresa May broke the ice between them with the beginning when he perhaps was surprised by the impact which "The Sun" interview had had. Said I'm sorry about that I am sorry if it was hurtful.

And she dismissed it as a kind of, oh, well, that's just the media for you and off they went and started discussing many of the issues that were on their agenda. But of course, in his press conference with Theresa May, he resaid in slightly more polite terms many of the things which he had said in that "Sun" interview.

So, he is not particularly contrite about it and he didn't change really his lines on immigration or the European Union or anything else or on Boris Johnson for prime minister, but I think nevertheless that she will feel that the relationship was repaired, she will be pleased with how the press conference went.

He praised her enormously for the way she was doing her job and how much they got to know each other and what a wonderful time he had at Blenheim Palace with her over dinner the night before.

So, I think she will probably feel quite a lot of successful patch up given that she had taken a strategic position of not doing a love actually Hugh Grant moment and call him out saying this is not acceptable behavior from the head of state of my closest ally.

BOLDUAN: I want to get to that one moment where you did see a real break between the two on immigration in just one second, Ambassador. Let me add to the conversation CNN's international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. He is joining us now.

Nic, this is, though, a kind of a consistent theme, if you will, that we see with President Trump. Walking in, shake things up, sometimes blowing things up when it comes to -- especially international meetings. And then when face-to-face with another world leader, everything is great. What does that do to this relationship?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, when you come in and you fire off so many barbs as he did, you can't pull them all back. They ricochet around and stick in people. There is immediate damage and there is collateral and there is a trail left after that that can have a damaging impact.

I think what Theresa May did, as the ambassador was just lining out for us there, was essentially trying to patch it up, to staunch whatever damage had been caused to hold the political line, her political line, on Brexit to try to continue to put that position forward.

To try to continue to keep her party behind her, not to allow and give any momentum to the opposition in her party, which it seems very clear President Trump was trying to do. I find it hard to imagine a man who is both as familiar and knows the media as well as he does, a man who is widely believed when he was in the property development to have called up journalists and pretended to be a publicity person representing President Trump.

[11:10:05] He a very familiar with how journalism works. And for us to be asked essentially to believe that he was surprised at the way the headlines and lines of the sun chose, I think that is stretching too far for the prime minister as well.

But she is focused on her own political survival that is in a fragile position this week. And so, I think that is where we see the diplomatic high ground trying to patch things up. And as ambassador says, she will walk away from this today feeling that she is at least got things on track in the public domain.

After all, it is the relationship between the two countries not between the two leaders right now that is most important. She wants to preserve that. This was always going to be a difficult visit. That's what I was hearing from officials before, no one expected to be this rocky.

So, get it back on track. He will meet the queen shortly. He will go to Scotland and play golf. He will leave and hopefully collateral damage or no more ricochets, no more damage, no more resonance that creates programs behind Boris Johnson and his supporters to put her off track for the Brexit that she is trying to deliver for the country.

BOLDUAN: And Ambassador, you mentioned it, the one issue that we did in this press conference where the leaders actually did offer in public their differences was immigration. Let me play for our viewers what Donald Trump told "The Sun" that was why this was all brought up during the press conference. Listen to this.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think what has happened to Europe is a shame. I think the immigration -- allowing the immigration to take place in Europe is a shame. I think it changed the fabric of Europe. And unless you act very quickly, it is never going to be what it was. And I don't mean that in a positive way with.


BOLDUAN: And he largely restated that when asked about it at the press conference. But this is what Theresa May said when asked directly about that quote today.


THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The U.K. has a proud history of welcoming people who are fleeing persecution to our country. We have a proud history welcoming people who want to contribute to our country and contribute to our society. And over the years, overall immigration has been good for the U.K.


BOLDUAN: Ambassador, what do you make of that moment?

WESTMACOTT: Well, I think we saw a bit of Donald Trump's strong views on immigration into the United States being transposed to domestic European politics. He was very rough at the press conference on Angela Merkel and immigration.

And he was also talking about it in the U.K. Now, I would add one comment. One of the most distasteful parts of the whole Brexit campaign in this country two years ago was to wind everybody up in this country to believe that all immigrants are bad.

The reality is that 3.5 million immigrants from other parts of the European Union are accidentally fundamental for functioning of the entire services industry of this country. And the suggestion that somehow leaving the European Union meant they wouldn't be welcomed or they wouldn't need them anymore was (inaudible).

There is a bit of an immigration problem from outside the European Union, but none of the politicians were saying that and many of those who were trying to wind people up in to believing in Brexit were trying to argue that Britain's immigration problems were related to the European Union, they just aren't.

And I think that's one of the unpleasant legacies of the campaign for Brexit a couple of years ago. And I think Donald Trump was tapping into some of that in a way that as Theresa May said in her own polite fashion is not very helpful.

BOLDUAN: Ambassador, it's great to see you. Thanks so much for coming in. Nic, it's always great to see you. Thank you.

So, this is happening, all happening, and so is this what you see on the screen right here. Protesters hitting the streets in London, thousands are protesting President Trump's visit to the United Kingdom mocking him even with giant balloon of what they are calling a baby Trump at one point this morning. Important to note though Trump will get nowhere near these protests. Staying miles outside the city center where this is playing out.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is among the protesters. He's been there all day. Nick, what do you see and are you hearing there?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is, Kate, where the protests have begun to end here and gather in their final kind of stance. And you can see the sheer volume of people who have turned up. Estimates certainly in the tens of thousands, quite safe to say that.

It has so far been organized, respectful, peaceful. We've heard people addressing the crowd saying Donald Trump is a threat to world peace. And you can see in some of the placards here hopefully not the more profane ones, but Trump is not welcome, nobody likes you.

And you are unconscionable. Not sure what that means, but a lot of people expressing their loathing in many different ways. Racism, sexism quite extraordinary really. We'd normally see if there was a U.S. president like we have in the early 2000s,

[11:15:08] The usual left-wing parts of British society opposing U.S. military action around the world, but this is a much broader spectrum of the British public. People simply taking time off work in the hot summer sun to express their loathing.

And you have to remember too, this should be when Barack Obama came a place overtaken by celebrating the visit of a U.S. president or lock down to enable it. Here we have the complete opposite, he is as far away as he possibly could be from Central London.

Briefly touched the ground at the ambassador residence to spend the night and is now staying away from Downing Street, parliament, all down that road behind me. Instead we have this staggering display of British unity here in the multicultural cosmopolitan heart of London. Quite extraordinary and it is just beginning this afternoon -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's one of reasons he said he won't go to the city center. He doesn't feel welcome. Great to see you, Nick. Thanks so much.

Coming up for us, we are following some breaking news, we're awaiting a press conference that was announced from Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein. It will be happening this hour. Still working on details of exactly what Rosenstein is going to be announcing. We'll bring you the details and bring to you live when it happens.



BOLDUAN: Is the meeting between Theresa May -- if the meeting between Theresa May and President Trump wasn't in a hot enough spotlight, wait until everyone gets to Finland where President Trump will be meeting with Vladimir Putin. Trump told reporters this morning his focus will be on nuclear proliferation, Syria, Ukraine, and he said this about Russia's interference in the 2016 election.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: I know you'll ask will we be talking about meddling and I will absolutely bring that up. I don't think you will have any, gee, I did it, I did it, you got me. There won't be a Perry Mason here I don't think, but you never know. But I will absolutely firmly ask the question. And hopefully we'll have a very good relationship with are Russia. You know, I think -- and the prime minister would agree. We have a good relationship with Russia.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, former assistant secretary of state under George W. Bush, David Kramer, also the author of "Back To Containment: Dealing with Putin's Regime." David, thanks for coming in.


BOLDUAN: What do you make of what the president said about his approach to his meeting with Putin? I mean, specifically on the Russian meddling thing, I'm firmly going to ask the question. Is that what the president should be doing, firmly asking the question?

KRAMER: He sounded like he's going to do it in a rather perfunctory manner, and I think the president needs to understand is the intelligence community has made clear, as Congress has made clear that interference in our election is something that should be unacceptable, and it should incur costs.

There have been sanctions imposed on Russia and Russian officials and individuals as a result of the interference in the 2016 election, but Russian hackers are still very active. Russian officials are very involved in trying to sow divisions on sensitive issues in the United States, whether it's Charlottesville or NFL protests or other things.

And so, the Russians are still continuing. The president I think needs to be pushing back very strongly.

BOLDUAN: He was asked about dealing with Putin and trusting Putin as Putin still occupying other countries, annexation of Crimea. Let me play for you what the president said about that this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your thinking about improving relations with Russia while they continue to illegally occupy another country?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, they do, if you are talking about Crimea. But again, President Obama failed very badly with Crimea. I don't think he would have done that if I were president.


BOLDUAN: President Trump has done this before, blaming Obama when asked about Crimea and at relationship with Putin. What is the impact of not calling a spade a spade here?

KRAMER: Putin is the one who ordered the invasion of Crimea, peninsula and Ukraine. He also ordered the invasion of Eastern Ukraine where Russian and Ukrainian forces have been bogged down. The president needs to express very clearly that the United States will never recognize the illegal and forcible annexation of Crimea by Russia.

And the sanctions by the United States as well as the Europeans and others should stay in place unless and until Putin agrees to return Crimea to Ukraine. The president I think also gets it wrong -- it would be great if Russia and the United States got along.

I don't think anyone would disagree with that. It is the wrong question to ask, though. The right question is can the United States get along with Russia as long as Vladimir Putin is in power without sacrificing our values and interests, and countries along Russia's borders. And the answer to that question I think is unfortunately no.

BOLDUAN: And David, but everything you've seen from him publicly when it comes to when he talks about Crimea and occupation of Eastern Ukraine, do you have any confidence that he will bring it up anymore, I don't know, anymore -- any more forceful fashion than what we hear publicly?

KRAMER: Well, he has indicated some ambiguity about the issue. He has been asked a number of times will he recognize it and he said we'll have to see. I think the president should be very clear. He should not recognize the annexation of Crimea. Whether on its own or in exchange for Putin's promises on Syria or anything else.

Putin never lives up to his promises. He doesn't abide by ceasefire agreements in Ukraine. He doesn't do it in Syria. He says they didn't interfere in our elections. Why anyone would believe what Vladimir Putin says is a mystery to me.

[11:25:05] BOLDUAN: Trump also yesterday said about the meeting that he almost seemed like he was trying to manage expectations saying it is a loose meeting, not a big schedule, shouldn't take a long period of time. You have written a piece kind of gaming out how you think this is going to down behind closed doors. What do you think, David?

KRAMER: Well, I think Putin will recognize that flattery plays well with President Trump. We've seen other leaders do it, Saudi, Chinese and others. He will extoll his victory in 2016. I think he will also try -- he, Putin, will blame President Obama for the current state of relations, recognizing President Trump does like to point the finger at Obama and blame him for the current states of affairs.

And I also fear that he will encourage President Trump to look at institutions such as NATO, the European Union, recognize that Trump has said the European Union was created to try to take advantage of the United States, the WTO, the G7.

Basically, say to Trump we should start over, we should create a new foundation, forget these institutions. Cold war era institutions. And I certainly hope the president will push back and recognize that these institutions have largely kept the peace in the international world for the past seven plus decades.

BOLDUAN: David Kramer, it's great to see you. Thanks for coming in. I really appreciate it. It will be interesting to get your take whatever we learn coming out of this meeting.

Coming up for us, it was a marathon hearing, but it immediately went from hearing to chaos, and then the chaos part lasted for hours and hours. In the middle of it, a question about Bruce Springsteen. The congressman who asked that question joins me next.