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Trump & First Lady Depart Westminster Abbey; Trump Tweets About London Mayor, Calls Meghan Markle "Nasty" Ahead of State Visit; Kushner Struggles With Questions on Trump's Birther Conspiracy Theory, Meeting With Russians, Middle East Peace. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 3, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We'll be back with you tomorrow morning for that. We'll get a bit more political. And then, of course, the commemoration of the 75th anniversary a bit later this week.

Thank you all for joining us for this. I'm Poppy Harlow.


"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan will continue our coverage right now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

Pomp and circumstance on full display today. Great Britain rolling out the red carpet for President Trump on an official state visit two years in the making. You have seen some of the pictures here from just this morning.

This morning, the queen welcomed the president and the first lady to Buckingham Palace for a private lunch. That was just the start. Minutes ago, the president paid his respects at Westminster Abbey where he laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

Now, at any moment, he's set to be arriving at Clarence House to join Prince Charles and wife, Camilla, for the most British of British events possible, a proper tea.

Trips like these, state visits like these -- that's the entrance, I believe, of Clarence House we're looking at and we'll bring you the live moments as they come, as the president has just left, leaving Westminster Abbey.

We see Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall walking out now. They will be greeting, obviously, the president and the first lady as they arrive.

These state visits, though, these are close relationships, symbolize the close relationship between two nations. And we're seeing that on display right now.

Let's watch. Let's listen. As we see, it appears the president and the first lady arriving for the next of the events during this state visit. Arriving at the Clarence House, at Clarence House, to meet the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Not that we're going to hear much, but let's just listen for one second to see if there's something.

Standing by. Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall waiting there to welcome -- oh.

All right. In they go. Let's see what happens next. That's the president and first lady heading into Clarence House.

Let me bring in Max Foster. He's been following all of it, ticking through all of the highlights.

And the schedule is tight. They're keeping tight with this schedule, Max. But as you see, off to the next step, into Clarence House this morning.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a lot to fit in. The schedule really is packed. It was put together by the British side, according to a U.K. official, and the White House didn't tinker with it at all, so this is all as planned.

They have gone into Clarence House, the London residence of the Prince of Wales, just around the corner from Buckingham Palace. This whole area has been closed down from traffic so they're able to move around very quickly, indeed.

We are due to get another photo opportunity within Clarence House, which is this quite countrified mansion, really, in central London. It's surrounded by lovely gardens, created by the Prince of Wales.

And they'll sit down, have tea, which is an utter nightmare for anyone not associated with the practice here in the U.K. There's all this tension around whether or not you should put the milk in first or the tea first or if you're allowed to use sugar, when you eat the cakes.

Anyway, what I will say is the Duchess of Cornwall is brilliant in these situations. She dissipates pressure in these moments. She's a country girl at heart, so she doesn't have much time for these sorts of urban habits either. So I think she'll calm things down. And they'll sit down, and they'll have a conversation.

What would be fascinating is to be a fly on the wall, Kate. Because Prince of Wales feels very, very strongly about certain issues. Religious tolerance and climate change are the two key ones. And obviously, President Trump is on the other end of the arguments. Fascinating to see whether or not Prince Charles brings it up.

He can do it before he's monarch, at which point, he has to be impartial. So I think this is a bit of an opportunity for him.

[11:05:02] BOLDUAN: I can't let you go. It's funny. I always delight in how difficult it is. But it is also quite serious. These visits are all about protocol and etiquette. When it comes to a proper British tea, that is the definition of protocol and etiquette.

The president met, had tea with the queen, during his last visit. Is the protocol any different when you're meeting with the heir to the throne?

FOSTER: Well, you know, it's probably a bit more relaxed. You're not actually sort of --


BOLDUAN: "More relaxed" you have to throw up in air quotes, I think here.

FOSTER: I mean, the one thing I would say about these teas is you don't know quite how to tackle it because you have a stack of various things to eat on the plate. If you go really traditional, you have hot plates coming out as well. I don't know whether they're doing that today.

But if you get nervous about it, it's so telling, because you're holding this fine China and it rattles and it's very easy to spill as well. It's a horribly stressful situation. If ever I get nervous, I don't drink the tea. I just eat the cakes --


FOSTER: But anyway --


BOLDUAN: I feel like Max Foster is speaking from experience on that one.



BOLDUAN: Thanks, Max.

FOSTER: It's a fascinating moment. And then, the big event -- sorry, carry on.

BOLDUAN: I was going to say, it's also -- and I find it unusual that we're even going to see anything from inside. You said there's going to be another photo opportunity.

FOSTER: Yes, I think they'll be standing by a fireplace or something. You won't actually see them eating the tea. They don't actually let us film royals generally eating. That's one of the protocols here. So Donald Trump gets off lightly on that side.

BOLDUAN: All right.

Max, please stick with us. We need you as we walk through these events.

We'll bring more of these events when that photo opportunity comes, we'll bring it as well. Max is standing by with us

Abby Phillip is joining me now. She's been traveling with the president.

These state visits are used always, Abby, as a moment to symbolize the close relationship between two nations. This relationship between President Trump and the U.K., though, is more complicated than most when it comes to the special relationship.

And that is, look no further to see the evidence of that than comments that the president made basically almost as he was landing on U.K. soil in another back and forth with the mayor of London. And responding to old remarks from, what, two-plus years ago from the Duchess of Sussex. Abby, what's going on here?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There's never any shortage of drama, is there, Kate, with this president? But particularly, it seems when he comes over to the U.K., there's always something that happens. And in this case, some of the drama happened before he even touched down on British soil.

Over the weekend, he did that interview with the British tabloid, "The Sun," in which he called Meghan Markle nasty and then proceeded to deny that he called her that, even though his voice is recorded on an audiotape saying just that.

And then over the weekend, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan was criticizing President Trump's politics, saying he disagreed with his right-wing politics, that he did not, in Sadiq Khan's view, stand up for American values.

But President Trump took it a step further, sending a tweet timed perfectly for just minutes before he touched down in an airport near London, and he called Sadiq Khan a "stone-cold loser." He said he reminds him of the very dumb and incompetent New York City mayor -- that's Bill de Blasio -- and then President Trump criticized his height.

So, Kate, this is clearly one of those visits in which President Trump, even though it could have been just pomp and circumstance, he clearly went into it eager for a fight on some of these political fronts.

But I think going a little bit perhaps too far for some in criticizing the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, for comments that she made years ago, and then having to, you know, be in the presence of her husband, Prince Harry, at Buckingham Palace earlier today.

So the tea is going to be awkward, perhaps, and tense for all kinds of moments, but not in the least because President Trump has, I think, made it quite stressful and difficult in the lead-up to this moment. So far, though, everything seems to have been going well from a ceremonial perspective.

The question is, will President Trump let all of this go as this visit continues forward, or will he perhaps invite even more controversy as he starts to delve even further into British politics as the visit goes on tomorrow where some of these more political events are happening, with Theresa May, the outgoing prime minister, and potential other visits with some of the people who are trying to replace her.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point, Abby.

It's great to see you.

Much more to come as we're looking at some of the pictures from earlier this morning, as the president and the first lady are now at Clarence House, beginning their tea with Prince Charles and Camilla.

Thanks so much, Abby.

[11:10:07] Joining me now for much more on this is CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, and CNN presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley.

Clarissa, this visit comes also as such a tumultuous time for the U.K. It cannot be overstated how tense the situation is there politically.

I mean, what do you think could come looking ahead past today's events even, looking ahead to the meeting tomorrow of the president and the outgoing prime minister, Theresa May, and also this big question that still is lingering out there of whether or not he plans to meet with some of the prime minister's archrivals?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's the real question, Kate. Everyone has been watching today with a degree of relief after the run-up to the trip. There were all sorts of, you know, scandals surrounding his comments about Meghan Markle, surrounding his comments in "The Sunday Times" about Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

But today, largely, has gone smoothly. It's been a day of pomp and circumstance and pageantry. And he has carried himself in the way that one would expect a U.S. president to carry themselves.

The concern becomes tomorrow. That's when we get into the political events. As you say, the United Kingdom right now is in a state of political turmoil. It is looking down the barrel at a very uncertain future. It does not know yet how exactly it will exit the European Union.

And, so precisely because of that, this is a moment where the U.K. really needs to consolidate and cement all the alliances like, of course, the special relationship between the U.S. and U.K.

And the special relationship, Kate, has come under a lot of pressure since President Trump took office. There have been major areas of disagreement, and fewer areas of commonality.

So actually, tomorrow, I would expect politicians to sort of bend over backwards to avoid President Trump going off piece, going off script, and sort of digging his -- you know, digging his oar into the political process, and really trying to underscore some of the commonalities between these two countries. Because, ultimately, that is the purpose of this state visit.

And in this moment, the United Kingdom needs its ally more than it has in quite some time, particularly, when it comes to looking to negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's a great point.

Doug, Doug Brinkley is here as well.

That's tomorrow, right, Doug? Today, so much of any state visit is pomp and ceremony. Let's be honest, this, that is what President Trump likes. And that is what he is very good at.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, yes. We just saw the president come off of a trip to Japan where he ate Kobe beef and watched wrestling and everybody honored and bowed to him, and he absolutely loved that. He's enjoying being feted in London right now.

But what creates a disparity, something that is discordant, is here he lands in London and disses on the mayor, who represents the people of London. At the same time, he's being very careful not to spill a teacup.

So it's -- where the pomp and circumstance part is going all right, the politics -- what could be more gauche than Twitter when you're trying to deal with something as rich as British heritage that we have been witnessing in places like Westminster Abbey and the like?

But Donald Trump hasn't made any mistakes yet. Jimmy Carter, in 1977, famously kissed Queen Elizabeth II on the lips, and she like backed off and later said it was creepy. Nobody had done that since her husband had died.

And so Donald Trump hasn't done something that's going to be talked about decades later, yet, on this visit. But that tweet that he did about the mayor of London is going to live on.


Clarissa, the president, President Trump is dishing it out, if you will, as he's landing on U.K. soil. He was responding to a column written by Sadiq Khan. The president asked in an interview about comments Meghan Markle had made, the Duchess of Sussex, in years past, and he goes after her.

I mean, you know, what the president said about them, not at all diplomatic, but they, surely, in those remarks, weren't holding back either. Does that color -- it does from the outside looking in -- but how does that color kind of how this whole state visit is going to play out?

WARD: Well, I think it's important for our viewers to remember that this state visit has been talked about now for two years.


WARD: And for two years, Prime Minister May has found herself battling whether it's political factions, whether it's ordinary British citizens, but a lot of people in the United Kingdom, who don't have time for President Trump, don't feel he reflects American values or shared values with the United Kingdom, and don't think he should be extended the honor of a state visit. This is a common view amid -- with many, many people in the U.K. So in a sense, Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, was really speaking to that.

[11:15:06] Having said that, it is, of course, a highly, highly unusual step for a mayor of London to speak out in a public forum just 24 hours before the president of the United States of America arrives in the U.K., comparing him to the worst fascists of the 20th century.

Obviously, we're in something of uncharted territory here. And you know, this is something that people are just becoming used to at this stage.

You mention also all these barbs and tweets and slights that the president engaged in before coming here. The reaction here in the U.K., honestly, Kate, to much of this, has been water off a duck's back. There's outrage fatigue here. People can no longer twist themselves into pretzels, convulsing over every single slight and barb and tweet, because they have become so commonplace that people are almost used to it.

It will be very interesting to see just how large the protests are tomorrow that are scheduled. You remember, a year ago, there were huge, huge protests.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Yes.

WARD: I wonder if there will be quite the same turnout tomorrow as people seem to just shrug their shoulders at this stage and say, well, that's the president.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Interesting to see. Absolutely, will be interesting to see.

Clarissa, thanks so much.

Doug, thank you.

Guys, really appreciate it.

Coming up for us right now -- coming up for us shortly, the gloves are officially off, as the Democratic presidential candidates no longer are holding back when it comes to the Democratic front-runner, Joe Biden. So why now? And is this new tactic, if you will, working?

Plus, the president's son-in-law, senior advisor, Jared Kushner, sits down for a rare interview and we may now know why those interviews are so rare.

We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:21:32] BOLDUAN: It is a pretty straightforward question, but the answer was anything but. In a new interview with "Axios," the president's son-in-law, senior advisor, Jared Kushner, was asked whether the president's pushing of the Birther conspiracy theory for so long, if that was racist. Here's how Kushner responded.



JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Look, I wasn't really involved in that.

UNIDENTIFIED "AXIOS" REPORTER: I know you weren't. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I wasn't involved in that.

UNIDENTIFIED "AXIOS" REPORTER: I know you weren't. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: Look, I know who the president is. And I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So again, I was not involved in that.

UNIDENTIFIED "AXIOS" REPORTER: Did you wish he didn't do that?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.


BOLDUAN: And that is not all that he said that deserves attention.

Here with me right now, CNN national security analyst, former senior adviser to the national security advisor under President Obama, Samantha Vinograd, and Aaron David Miller, former State Department official who has advised presidents on both sides on Middle East policy, and he's also a CNN global affairs analyst.

It's great to see you guys.

Sam, let's get to this one first. You worked for President Obama. You were in -- working in the Obama White House. When you hear Kushner basically say I'm not going to answer it, is it more of what he's not saying that's the more important answer?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: He answered the question by not answering the question. He was asked three times whether a policy that is clearly racist is racist, and he was extensively so afraid of getting crosswise with his father-in-law that he waffled three times.

And the truth is, Kate, he said he that knows the president and that's why he works for this president.

BOLDUAN: Right. VINOGRAD: The president didn't stop being racist when he entered the Oval Office. He now has a largest platform to propagate racist memes and racist rhetoric against minorities. He's done it consistently throughout his presidency.

So while Jared Kushner said he wasn't involved in the Birtherism claims that the president made, Jared Kushner is directly involved in the racist policies and rhetoric that President Trump continues to adopt from the Oval Office.


And, Aaron, you have advised many an administration, many a president. The fact that the senior adviser to the president of the United States doesn't have an answer on this -- and honestly, I can't even believe I'm going to say it -- he doesn't even lie and try to toe the party line of what other officials have said, what does it say to you?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Look, the guy has made a career, it seems to me, of saying very little. Particularly, in the Arab/Israeli issue, where he imposed a degree of radio silence we haven't seen. This goes well beyond the Israeli/Palestinian issue. This cuts to a vital issue in American politics. Look, after all, this is his father-in-law.

I mean, the notion that Jared Kushner is going to answer this question on national television or with "Axios" in a way that would attack his father-in-law, I mean, it gives Kushner a test he can't possibly pass and would never pass. So I suspect -- I mean, that's not terribly striking or stunning, frankly, to me.


We have much more to get to that I think is also striking and stunning.

Sam, another extraordinary moment was when Kushner was asked about the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting. We have talked about this many a time. This was a Trump Tower meeting with Russians. The intended purpose, as we later found out, of the meeting was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. Jared Kushner was part of the meeting and he was asked about it. This is what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED "AXIOS" REPORTER: Does it not set off at least some alarm bell when you see an e-mail saying that the Russian government wants to help your candidate?

KUSHNER: Like I said, the e-mail I got on my iPhone at the time basically said, "Show up at 4:00." I didn't scroll down. I would have never thought about --


UNIDENTIFIED "AXIOS" REPORTER: It had "Russia" in the subject line. [11:25:09] KUSHNER: Again, I would get about 250 e-mails a day. I

saw, "Show up at 4:00." I showed up at 4:00.


UNIDENTIFIED "AXIOS" REPORTER: Would you call the FBI if it happened again?

KUSHNER: I don't know. It's hard to do hypotheticals. But the reality is that we were not given anything that was salacious.


BOLDUAN: Here's the thing that kills me on this one. That's not a hypothetical. It's not a hypothetical --


VINOGRAD: Right. And Jared Kushner just put a "for sale" sign on his forehead during this interview. He's on television saying that he would not call the -- or he may not call the FBI if a hostile foreign power contacts him. That sends a message to Russia and any foreign actor that Jared Kushner may be open for business as part of this 2020 campaign cycle.

And this should have been a softball question, Kate. He may be saying he was naive back in 2016. He's had a year and a half of intelligence briefings, counterintelligence briefings, and the Mueller report that lays out all of Russia's tools, including trying to manipulate campaign officials.

And also, Kate, he has a security clearance. As a security clearance holder, if a hostile foreign power e-mails you, you have to contact the FBI. U.S. government officials have been investigated for failing to report that kind of contact with the FBI. And Jared Kushner, unfortunately, has a security clearance and is saying he wouldn't take the same posture.

BOLDUAN: Yet, there's more, Aaron, and I really want to get your take on this. Because one very issue that is not a past issue, it's a current issue, for the president, for Jared Kushner -- is in charge of, is Middle East peace.

I want you to listen, I want our viewers to listen to what he said about Middle East peace.


UNIDENTIFIED "AXIOS" REPORTER: Do you believe that the Palestinians are capable of governing themselves without Israeli interference?

KUSHNER: I think that's a very good question. I think that that's one that we'll have to see. The hope is that they, over time, can become capable of governing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: And at the same time, the secretary of state told a group of Jewish leaders in a closed-door meeting that the Kushner plan was, quote/unquote, "Very detailed. One might argue un-executable." Those were Mike Pompeo's words.

What do you do with all this? When you hear this, Aaron, what do you do?

MILLER: The first time I met Jared Kushner, I said I wish my father- in-law had as much confidence in me as his father-in-law had in him. Because he's given him mission impossible.

The issue is not, frankly, whether or not the Kushner plan will work. It can't work under any circumstances. The real question is, how much worse -- the diplomatic equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath, Kate, above all, do no harm. And it seems to me that the administration over the last two years is not going to make the situation better. It's going to make it worse.

Insulting the Palestinians -- let's be clear, the Palestinian Authority is pretty dysfunctional and Hamas and Fatah represent kind of Noah's Ark where there are two of everything. But insulting the Palestinians, the very constituency that presumably you want to appeal to in the deal of the century, the ultimate deal, is simply dump.

Frankly, they have been waging a preternatural economic and political war against the Palestinians on ne side, giving them all the vinegar, and providing the Israelis with most of the honey on the other.

So the real question to me is whether or not this has anything to do with starting negotiations or whether or not it's an effort to reframe American policy that will essentially make it virtually impossible for successor administrations to return to the least bad solution to this problem, which is two states.

BOLDUAN: All right. I think we have a little more to talk about that.

Aaron, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

Sam, always great to have you.

Thank you guys. Thank you so much.

MILLER: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Right now, President Trump is having tea with Prince Charles. We have new pictures. Oh, what did he pick up off the floor? All right, we'll get to that in just a second.