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White House on Trump's Response to Khashoggi's Murder; White House on Mueller Accusing Manafort of Lying After Plea Deal; Trump Threatens Cutting GM Subsidies Over Layoffs; White House Will Not Say Why CIA Will Not Brief Senators on Journalist's Murder. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired November 27, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Ambassador Haley in the very estimable position of U.N. ambassador for the United States spoke yesterday at the Security Council. We're going to stand on that statement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You mentioned the bilat with the Turkish leader. They've been very critical of the U.S. position backing Saudi Arabia with respect to Jamal Khashoggi. Are you concerned that will affect relations with the U.S. ally. I wanted to follow up that audio intelligence of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, have up heard that tape and does it conclusively point to the crown prince as ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi? And one final one, the --
BOLTON: Am I supposed to remember all these?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'll prompt you.
BOLTON: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And finally, is it true the White House is blocking Tina Haskell from speaking to senators about that audio intelligence on Wednesday?
BOLTON: Let me take the question of the tape first. No, I haven't listened to it. Why do you think I should? What do you think I'll learn from it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're the national security adviser. You might have access to that sort of intelligence.
BOLTON: How many in this room speak Arabic?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't have access to an interpreter?
BOLTON: You want me to listen to it? What am I going to learn? I mean if there is speaking Korean I wouldn't learn any more from it either.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An interpreter would be able to tell you --
BOLTON: I can read a transcript, too. I'm trying to make a point to everyone that says why don't up listen to the tape, unless you speak Arabic, what are you going to get from it? The President has spoken to our position on this issue. He spoke very clearly. And that is our position. Now tell me the other questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gina Haspel from sharing information
BOLTON: No, certainly, not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Bolton --
BOLTON: Back here in the back.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bolton --
BOLTON: The man in the back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, the Argentinean authorities captured two Hezbollah suspects last week and Brazil is probably going to follow the American foot steps and black list Hezbollah also on terrorist lists. Also, Hezbollah is applying for the last sanctions by blocking the formation of the new government. So how do you put all this together? Is it going to be discussed in the G-20 summit, the Iran- Hezbollah influence in the region?
BOLTON: I expect in the bilateral meetings depending on the country, that there will be substantial conversation about counterterrorism efforts where we participate together. That's certainly something that may welcome up in Brazil with the President-elect Bolsonaro and I think it's one of President Trump's biggest priorities to extend cooperation against terrorism, whether it's Hezbollah or Hamas or others. So entirely likely it could be a subject. Yes, ma'am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ambassador, going back to the Khashoggi issue, being informed about an issue is part of, I guess, what is in the scope of national security.
BOLTON: We try to be.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. But in the midst of it, why not -- I go back to that question again, sir. Why not get a translator to understand, to hear what happened? You could find out a little bit more than what they told you?
BOLTON: People who speak Arabic have listened to the tape and they have given us the substance of what's in it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you trust those who have given you --
BOLTON: I don't speak Arabic.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know. But a translator can help you understand what happened at that time to relate to the President to the United States and to convey to the world what happened.
BOLTON: I'm very satisfied that we know what the tape picked up and it was factored into the President's decision and he's announced his position very clearly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As economic security and national security, this should be in your lane.
BOLTON: I was going to defer to Larry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me see if I can keep it in your lane. The talks with China, this idea of some sense of optimism going into the Saturday night dinner with Xi, is it based on any notion that Xi is going to suddenly say this idea of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer, protectionist tariffs, I don't know what we were thinking, it was a bad idea, let's level the playing field and start anew?
BOLTON: I think President Trump has developed a very positive relationship with President Xi, they've met, talked over the phone. Obviously both leaders carry into a discussion like this their national interests. It's instructive and I think the Chinese side believes the same thing, to have the two leaders exchange views with senior advisers and not at the expectation of this meeting there will be some substantial agreement coming out of it, but that there would be an indication, a kind of way ahead that the advisers could then pursue.
[14:05:00] I see Sarah is so eager to be here to answer your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I was going to give him one more but uh --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Kudlow deferred a question to him, could he answer the question that was deferred to him, please, Mr. Bolton.
SANDERS: I think he's already gone. As you know, the new President of Mexico will be inaugurated on Saturday to represent the United States in Mexico City. President Trump has asked the Vice President Mike Pence that will include second lady of the United States Karen Pence, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Nielsen, advisor to the president Ivanka Trump, United States Embassy Mexico City diplomat John Cramer and Assistant Secretary of State Kimberly Breyer. We learned the sad news that three U.S. service members were killed and three wounded when an explosive device detonated in Afghanistan. The wounded service members were evacuated and are receiving medical care. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the loved ones of those killed and those recovering. The United States is grateful for their service and forever in debt of their sacrifice. With that I'll take your questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, the "Guardian" is reporting that Paul Manafort met with Julian Assange around the time he was coming on board with the Trump campaign. Wondering if you know if that meeting took place. The White House has repeated denials that no campaign officials were involved in discussions about the plans to release John Podesta's e-mails.
SANDERS: Certainly, remain confident in the White House's assertion that the President was involved in no wrong doing, was not part of any collusion, the things that have to do with Mr. Manafort, I'd refer you to his attorneys to address that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Given what the President said this morning, that Robert Mueller is ruining people's lives, is he considering a pardon for Paul Manafort or for others who were prosecuted and have been prosecuted?
SANDERS: I'm not aware of any conversations for anyone's pardon involving this process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I can follow up, he also said this morning Mueller is doing tremendous damage to the criminal justice system. If that's true, is he considering picking up the phone, calling his acting Attorney General and saying fire Robert Mueller?
SANDERS: Look, I think that the President has had Robert Mueller doing his job for the last two years and he could have taken action at any point and he hasn't. So, we'll let that speak for itself. He has no intent to do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the weekend we saw some powerful images of children as well as adults who were affected by tear gas fired by U.S. officers on the U.S./Mexico border. We heard the President talk about that at length yesterday. One thing we did not hear from him is any express of regret that there were children -- does the White House regret the fact that children were affected by tear gas and that this situation took place? Is there an investigation under way to prevent this from happening again?
SANDERS: Certainly, the White House would never want children to be in harm's way in any capacity whatsoever. However, that is why we are continuing to encourage people to follow the law and go to ports of entry. Law enforcement officials have used appropriate non-lethal force to protect themselves and prevent an illegal rush across the border. Let's also not forget this isn't the first time that non- lethal force like this was used. Tears began was used -- gas was used once a month in the Obama presidency. They didn't have the same rush that we're seeing in this mascara van taking place. No one wants women or children or any individuals to have this happen, which is why we've encouraged them to follow the law and go to ports of entry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the White House ruling out any interaction between the President and the Saudi crown prince?
SANDERS: I wouldn't say that we've ruled out any interaction. I know that the President's schedule is pretty packed and has a number of Sessions that he'll be involved in with the G-20. I don't think there's any time for us to add any additional, whether or not there's some interaction, not going to rule that out. We'll keep you guys posted as that happens.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yesterday in Mississippi at his rally, the President asked a question about Mike Espy, said how does he fit in with Mississippi? I mean how does he fit in? Suggesting he doesn't fit in? Mike Espy's great grandparents were slaves in Mississippi. What did he mean by that?
SANDERS: That's an election taking place today. I'm not going to comment on anything that could affect anything taking place in Mississippi, and certainly happy to comment on that after today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the administration have a position on the government of Ecuador continuing to provide asylum to Julian Assange at its embassy in London?
SANDERS: I'm not aware of anything official. I'd have to get back to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just one more on that if I may, Sarah. Will you from the podium on the Ecuadorian government to confirm whether or not some sort of meeting may have taken place between Paul Manafort and just at its embassy?
SANDERS: We encourage the process to continue to play out but I'm not going to get engaged in specifics of that case.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump has implied that a potential new deal with Mexico is a done deal, tweeting that migrants will stay in Mexico as they wait for their cases of asylum to be processed. How far along are talks with the new Mexican administration about the so- called remain in Mexico policy?
SANDERS: Those conversations continue. We don't have a final decision until a new government actually takes over, which will happen on Saturday. And on Monday we expect the new foreign minister from Mexico to meet and sit down with White House administration officials and the Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Nielsen, and finalize those conversations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tomorrow secretaries Pompeo and Mattis will brief the full Senate on the murder. Why is a leader of a U.S. intelligence agency not joining them, specifically Gina Haspel, who many expect to hear from?
SANDERS: I'm not going to answer that directly, I would direct you to them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sarah, I want to ask you about the climate assessment that your administration released last week. The President when asked about the economic forecast essentially said he didn't believe it. The takeaway from many people is that the President doesn't feel necessarily a responsibility to lead either in this country or in the world on climate change and preventing the calamity that your administration forecasts. Do you agree with that view? And if not, why not?
SANDERS: The President is certainly leading on what matters most in this process and that's on having clean air and clean water. The United States continues to be a leader on that front. Even Obama's undersecretary for science didn't believe the radical conclusions of the report that was released and you have to look at the fact that this report is based on the most extreme model scenario, which contradicts long-established trends. Modelling the climate is an extremely complicated science that is never exact. The biggest thing we can do is focused on having the cleanest air and water and the President is leading on that front.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is about to go to Buenos Aires. Isn't this a great opportunity for him to go to the table and say, folks, this is a time we have to act in concert to prevent what my administration is forecasting?
SANDERS: Once again, we think this is the most extreme version, and it's not based on facts. It's not data driven. We'd like to see something that is more data driven. It's based on modelling, which is extremely hard to do when you're talking about the climate. Again, our focus is on making sure we have the safest, cleanest air and water and the President's going to do exactly that. April.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sarah, back to GM. President Trump early on in January 2017 met with the big three automakers and said we wanted to make the U.S. a more attractive places for companies to manufacture products, lowering taxes and business regulations. What does this move, this action by GM say?
SANDERS: Certainly. it's disappointing to see that GM decided to lay off these workers. The President's been extremely committed to bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, which is why since he's took office we've seen 400,000 new manufacturing jobs created in the United States. It's because of his policies that we've seen that grow. This is not about the President. It's about the fact that they're making a car, frankly, that people don't want to buy. Hopefully they will make adjustments and make changes and bring those workers back.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Getting back to Paul Manafort, would the President recommend that Mr. Manafort given to cooperate, offer full cooperation to the special counsel's office?
[14:15:00] SANDERS: We can only speak to what our role is in in that process. Not only has the President but the entire administration has been fully cooperative with the special counsel's office, providing hours and hours of sit downs as well as over 4 million pages in documents. We continue to be cooperative, but we also know that there was no collusion and we're ready for this to wrap up.
ACOSTA: If I could ask a follow up. The President doesn't believe the warnings in the climate report. The President doesn't believe the CIA when it comes to Jamal Khashoggi.
SANDERS: That's not accurate.
ACOSTA: The President doesn't believe when it comes to Russian meddling. Why doesn't he have faith in his advisers? SANDERS: That's not true the President has a great deal of faith in
the intelligence community and in the team he has assembled around him. I've addressed the climate report. I have nothing to add to that.
ACOSTA: But on Khashoggi you said that was not true that he doesn't the CIA -- he said maybe MBS did or didn't.
SANDERS: We haven't seen definitive come from our intelligence community that ties him directly to that. We've seen a number of individuals that we know are tied to that and those individuals have been sanctioned. The people we have no doubt about their involvement, we've taken action on. As he said, we'll see what happens beyond that. If there's more definitive information, we'll make a decision at that point.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The remain in Mexico meeting you're talking about on Monday, is that happening here or in Mexico. Is the United States offering international assistance to help accommodate the migrants seeking asylum who would be staying in Mexico?
SANDERS: On that second question? Do you mind repeating that? The first part, I'll get back to you on whether the meeting is here or in Mexico, I'll get back to you. I'm not sure of the exact location.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the United States offering Mexico any financial assistance or does the United States plan to accommodate the migrants who would be staying in Mexico?
SANDERS: I'm not aware of any financial assistance but certainly we'll keep you posted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to clean up on the bilats, you mentioned a bilat with the chancellor of Germany but the ambassador did not. Has this been cancelled?
SANDERS: No, I think he was given additional updates on the ones I didn't mention.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President tweeted at length yesterday about the Mueller report. What are his concerns about any forthcoming Mueller report, and that report is supposed to be delivered to no one else but the Attorney General. Is he concerned that it is going to become public without his knowledge?
SANDERS: I don't think the President has any concerns about the report because he knows there was no wrong doing by him and there was no collusion. I don't think he has concern about that front.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he has no concerns, why is he tweeting so vociferously about it?
SANDERS: Certainly, the President has voiced his unhappiness from the beginning that this has gone on, this ridiculous witch hunt, for more than two years, still nothing that ties anything to the president. We'd like to see it come to a conclusion. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president believe that the work of the
special prosecutor Bob Mueller is illegitimate?
SANDERS: I'm sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president believe the prosecutions of Bob Mueller are illegitimate?
SANDERS: I think the President believes what I've said today and several times over the last couple of years, there was no wrong doing on his part no, collusion by his campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The President as you're speaking is tweeting he is going to be considering cutting all GM subsidies, including for electric cars. Can you explain why he thinks that will help American workers? Can you may have who the President has consulted and the timeline for this decision?
SANDERS: I don't know that there's a specific timeline. He's looking into what those options might look like. The president wants to see American companies build cars here in America, not build them overseas. And he is hopeful that GM will continue to do that here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And my second question is on Afghanistan. The President on Thanksgiving Day told U.S. troops that we are winning the war in Afghanistan, which contradicted what the chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff said, it was a stalemate. Does the President still believe after what we saw over the weekend that we are winning in Afghanistan and why?
SANDERS: Certainly, any time you have a loss of life particularly by an American service member, it is a horrific tragedy and something that no President wants to see, certainly not during their administration.
[14:20:00] And the President wants to make sure that the battle that we're fighting takes place there and not here and he's going to continue consulting with his national security team and make decisions on how best to move forward. Thanks, guys, have a great day.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You have been watching the very first White House briefing in nearly a month. I'm Brooke Baldwin, you're watching CNN. Thank you for being with me. We're going to run through some fact checks here, some of the claims made specifically on that government commission and climate change report. As Sarah Sanders was speaking, the President tweeted news on General Motors over its layoffs threatening to cut its subsidies. Let me read these tweets and I've got with me David Chalian and Gloria Borger.
This is what he just said, ""Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO Mary Barra for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland. Nothing being closed in Mexico and China. The U.S. saved General Motors and this is the thanks we get! We are now looking at cutting all GM subsidies, including for electric cars," which echoes what we just heard from Larry Kudlow. "GM made a big China bet years ago when they built plants there and in Mexico. Don't think that bet is going to pay off. I am here to protect America's workers!"
What do you think of that, David Chalian?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The tone in that tweet could not be more different than Sarah Sanders was trying to portray at the podium. As she's giving an answer, he tweets out this typical Trumpian threatening language and Sarah Sanders was talking about getting the America workers whole in some way. Disappointment seems to be the word of the hour, the President continuing to punch back at GM for what he understands reflects politically poor on him. This is exactly the kind of thing he spent 2015 and 2016 campaigning against this kind of trend in the industrial Midwest region of the country and here is this decision from GM that obviously while the President is on the watch at the moment, he knows that this is precisely the kind of thing that could reflect poorly on him politically and he's trying to get out somewhat ahead of it.
BALDWIN: He was saying to people he was just down the street from Lordstown where they have been socked by this news saying don't move out of your homes, we've got you, we're going to make sure you're working. Speaking of Ohio, Gloria, I'm going to come to you in a second. Christina Alesci has been following this from Ohio that has been so hard hit, Lordstown, how will that go over where you are, the President cutting subsidies?
CHRISTINA ALESCI, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: It's not going to go over well. People are already emotional, they're frustrated and shocked. It's not just the 1,500 workers in this plant that are going to be potentially impacted. It's the rest of the community. The auto workers here spend money in the community. They're out sending their kids to school here, buying things from businesses, using services locally. So, all of that is impacted if these 1,500 people in fact either leave and lose their jobs here. It's a big impact and it's unclear what exactly cutting subsidies to GM would do to help those jobs come back here. After all, the reason that these jobs -- that GM says it's stopping production on the Chevy Cruze, which is the car you see on the building behind me is because the U.S. consumer doesn't want to buy that car. The U.S. consumer is purchasing sports utility vehicles that are produced at other plants and that's where the production is and GM wants to essentially stop production here. It's not clear whether they're going to shut the factory, but it's unclear what eliminating electric car subsidies will do for the people of Ohio and other cities where these plants are closing down. Again, because the U.S. consumer is not buying smaller cars. Sedans, Brooke. Not because of anything having to do with electric cars.
BALDWIN: Sarah Sanders was saying this is about a kind of car which America doesn't want to buy. It's true. People aren't buying sedans, they want SUVs. Jim Acosta, you've been listening to our conversation. As Sarah was talking, the President was tweeting about this GM decision, talking climate change, Khashoggi, the question about why doesn't he listen to his advisers? What was the biggest headline for you?
[14:25:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think the President upstaging his own press secretary with that announcement on General Motors that he might be pulling back on their subsidies in retaliation for closing down plants in the United States and Canada. That is the biggest headline in the last hour. Honestly, Brooke, there were several. I think the White House made it pretty clear, Sarah made it pretty clear during this briefing and this is now on the record in this briefing transcript that she is unaware of any kind of pardon conversations going on behind the scenes. She was asked about that in reference to Paul Manafort. A lot of folks are speculating here in Washington that the reason why Paul Manafort is not cooperating with the special counsel's office is perhaps because a pardon offer has been dangled over his head. Sarah seemed to throw cold water on that during the briefing. I did ask whether or not the White House believes or the President believes Paul Manafort should cooperate with the special counsel's office. She didn't give a really clear answer on that. She just seemed to say that they've been cooperating on that. So that was potentially a signal sent to Manafort's legal team, I suppose. But it's not altogether clear whether or not that was intentional on Sarah's part or whether she was just trying to dodge that question. I do think and we've been talking about Jamal Khashoggi for so long, I thought it was quite startling -- stunning to hear the national security adviser John Bolton push back on reporters who asked, you know, whether or not he had listened to the audio of Jamal Khashoggi's murder and he seemed to say, well, what would I learn from that, why would I do that? He was almost mocking and ridiculing some of the questions coming from reporters on that. Obviously when you're the national security adviser, you would want to have definitive proof as to whether or not, for example, the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman was somehow involved in that murder, whether he had ordered that murder and so on. And at the tail end of the briefing, as you heard, Brooke, I did ask Sarah Huckabee Sanders, that it appears to be a pattern of the President not listening to advisers, whether it's on the climate, Khashoggi, Russia meddling and she said to say based on their knowledge, it is not definitive that the Saudi crown prince had ordered that, that they believe at this point they know who is involved in Khashoggi's murder. As you know, Brooke, and we've been reporting this, that really flies in the face of what's been reported not only by CNN but multiple news outlets that, yes, the crown prince did know about it, was involved in ordering it and so on. It was stunning to hear the National Security Adviser John Bolton almost ridiculing and mocking that he should have information.
BALDWIN: Yes, saying raise hands if you speak Arabic. It's still unanswered. Thank you. Gloria Borger, to you, on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, why isn't Gina Haspel, the CIA chief, briefing members of congress tomorrow on the Khashoggi murder? Do we know why?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we don't. Bolton wouldn't get into it. We know the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee would like to have Gina Haspel, though that committee has been briefed by her. He would like it to a broader audience. I think to echo what Jim was saying, I think it was kind of stunning to me at how dismissive Bolton was of the Khashoggi case, saying, you know, what am I going to learn from it? Obviously, they've had translators listen to it but this can turn into a game of telephone. If you want to avoid hearing the worst of it, that's exactly what they've done. And then perhaps they have some deniability there. There's another thing that struck me. I was listening to this press conference. A lot of the responses were completely not surprises but the mantra she kept repeating on Manafort was there's no wrong doing on his part meaning the President's part, no wrong doing on his part. All of this now, whether it's GM or whether it's Manafort or whether it's even Saudi Arabia has to be seen through the prism of 2020 because that is the way the President looks at everything right now. It is through that prism. So, when you look at GM, and I believe -- the President is a businessman, by the way.
[14:30:00] If he were selling apartments that needed to be three bedrooms but instead they were one bedroom, I guarantee you he would fix his planning and make them three bedroom apartments so he could sell them. But what he is saying to GM is I'm going to punish you for listening to your customers, which is a strange thing for a businessman to do, and he's going to make things worse. Why? Because where Christina Alesci was standing is in Ohio. It's the only state where he had a lot of juice during the midterms. Now we have to look at these things a little bit differently. Manafort is not about Manafort. It's about Trump. GM is about Ohio. It's about Donald Trump. So, this is the way the president -- everything is now about reelection.
BALDWIN: We have the mayor of Lordstown on next hour. We'll put the President's comments straight to him.