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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
President Trump in Great Britain. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 3, 2019 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And truly remarkable reign of Her Majesty, the queen.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
You have been watching Queen Elizabeth II and President Trump, each delivering toasts at the state banquet in Buckingham Palace, the queen toasting to the common values and shared interests of the U.S. and the U.K., invoking the 75th anniversary of D-Day this week.
President Trump echoing that message, offering a toast to the friendship between the two nations, the leadership of the queen, the service of the prince.
The state visit has been two years in the making. That's when the invitation was first extended to President Trump. The occasion, obviously, involves a lot of tradition, which is interesting for a president who is, I think it's fair to say, anything but traditional.
Max Foster is outside Buckingham Palace for us right now.
Max, what did you make of these toasts from the queen and from President Trump?
MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump talking about how he was profoundly honored for this invitation, for the state visit.
He described the queen as a great, great woman. Both of them hinged their speeches around D-Day and talking about the military and security ties which underpin what certainly Brits see as a very special relationship, America being the key ally of the United Kingdom.
I have to say, there was a paragraph there in the queen's speech which I think was pretty pointed. If we look at the line where she talks about, after the shared sacrifices of the Second World War, Britain and the United States worked with other allies to build an assembly of international institutions to ensure that the horrors of conflict would never be repeated, whilst the world has changed, we will never -- we're forever mindful of the original purpose of these structures.
Now, there's a big debate here in Europe about Donald Trump's intention, really, to break down many of those institutions, NATO, the European Union, these sorts of institutions that are held dear on this continent because of the war.
And she's basically reminding Donald Trump, I think, that they matter a huge amount to her and to the United Kingdom and Europe, and they shouldn't be forgotten.
TAPPER: Very interesting.
Kate, let me bring you in.
While there is all this royal pageantry, I'm told that it's not quite to the extent that one might traditionally expect. Is that right?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we might usually expect much bigger royal pageantry than we get here. It certainly is a huge state dinner. But we have seen many bigger ones, and what we aren't going to see, which we sometimes do, and we very often do, since it's important to the queen, is reviewing of the troops, is a large troop review.
But, basically, what's happening with Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump is indoors. And that's because they are afraid of protesters, they're afraid of disruption, and they are afraid of people on the streets, the giant Trump balloon that went flying during the last state visit in Windsor.
So I think that is the argument that it's going to be all interior, as opposed to an exterior visit. And I think that's very important, when we aren't seeing the big -- yes, Britons rolling out the red carpet, but it could be bigger and it could be redder.
TAPPER: And, Bianca, let me bring you in.
The last time President Trump visited the U.K., he was greeted with that huge baby Trump blimp flown over London. The president, so far, it seems, has avoided seeing protests.
BIANCA NOBILO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So he says, and that's because he's been traveling around London mainly by helicopter back and forth from Winfield House, where I am, Jake, although, tomorrow, baby Trump blimp is making another appearance between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. local time.
At that point, President Trump will be in meetings with business leaders and then he will be going to Downing Street. It's possible he might not see it.
And one of the main reasons behind that protest and one of the reasons why the Brits that don't want to welcome the president to the U.K. at this time object to him is because of his populism, because of his support for causes like Brexit, because of his anti-immigrant rhetoric.
And that's interesting, Jake, in terms of what we heard from the queen and from President Trump just now, where their sentiments bisected -- obviously, they spoke about a lot about shared values and history and shared sacrifice -- was when, as Max mentioned, the queen started to discuss the importance of shared institutions, like the European Union, and President Trump chose instead to champion the fact that the U.K. took its own destiny into its own hands and fought for a sense of sovereignty, freedom and self-determination.
Now, reading between the lines that, to Brexiteers and those who want to leave the E.U., will very much harden them. And those are the people that want to see President Trump come and think that an endorsement of Trump's for a future prime minister, perhaps Boris Johnson, who did claim -- today is the day that he decided to launch his campaign officially.
They will be happy to hear those sentiments from President Trump and it will really buttress the argument that they have been trying to make.
TAPPER: Very interesting.
And we do know, of course, President Trump a big fan of Sir Winston Churchill, the prime minister during that period of World War II that you're talking about.
Nile, let me bring you.
This visit obviously comes as the U.K. is undergoing a lot of turmoil, preparing, trying to figure out the proper way to leave the European Union. There's going to be an election for a new prime minister and on and on.
NILE GARDINER, MARGARET THATCHER CENTER FOR FREEDOM DIRECTOR, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, this is certainly an extremely important time for Great Britain and for the future of the special relationship as well.
And without a doubt, I think that President Trump is the biggest single supporter of Brexit on the world stage today. And a lot of Brexit supporters in Britain strongly support President Trump, but also what he's saying right now about Brexit, about self- determination, about national sovereignty.
And I would say that certainly he is viewed by backers of Brexit in Great Britain as a president who really stands with them, who really stands with the 17.4 million Britons you voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum.
And I expect your hear more words from President Trump over the next couple of days on Brexit, which he believes as fundamentally important actually for the United States as well. And he believes a Brexit is good not only for Britain, but also for America as well.
Max, I understand that you are right now learning some new details about the dinner, the state dinner, that's going on right now.
FOSTER: They are munching through this spectacular menu. I don't think the Americans or the American side of this had any say on this, because it's particularly British, actually.
So we have got steamed filleted halibut with water crest mousse as the first course, a saddle of new seasoned Windsor lamb for the second course. That's followed by strawberry, sable and lemon with verbena cream. I don't know what that one is, but it sounds pretty exotic.
And then you got a selection of assorted fresh fruits as well for dessert, followed by coffee. So they will be eating through that. These dinners are -- there's a huge amount of staff down there in the basements of Buckingham Palace putting all of these meals together.
They travel with the queen. They serve all of the staff, but on this occasion, this is their big event really. So everyone will be hoping it all goes down well. You can see some mingling going on as well there.
Huge -- the great and the good of British society here, and senior businessman, I have to say, it's interesting looking at the guest list, because actually when Barack Obama came here, there was lots of celebrities and showbiz people, as well as business executives, but this is all politicians and the business elite invited.
So I think the American side got involved with that as well, the sorts of people they wanted reflected today.
TAPPER: All right, Max Foster, thanks so much.
While surrounded by pomp and circumstance, President Trump also raising some eyebrows in London on how he's already bucking tradition in the U.K.
And then the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, giving a rare interview with an answer that might be music to Moscow's ears.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we're back with our world lead.
President Trump making his first state visit to the United Kingdom. He was greeted by royal pageantry. He received some gifts from Queen Elizabeth. He met Prince Charles for afternoon tea.
But shortly before he stepped out of his plane, he continued his feud with the mayor of London on Twitter, after sparking controversy with his comments about the duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle.
CNN's Abby Phillip is traveling with President Trump.
And, Abby, President Trump has been saying some things that could have made this all royally awkward, but it doesn't seem to have, at least in front of the cameras.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, he certainly tried.
The president seemed to revel in his ability to really create controversy as he landed here in London earlier this morning, but the royal family tried their best to keep the pageantry perfectly calibrated to his tastes.
PHILLIP (voice-over): Today, the British royals treating President Trump to a long-delayed state visit, chockful of the gilded grandeur that President Trump craves.
The splendor of the monarchy and the power of the United Kingdom's military on full display, as President Trump soaks in a spectacle reserved for a select few, and paying tribute to fallen World War I soldiers during a solemn ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
The royal family putting aside their differences with Trump today, Prince Harry even attending a private lunch the queen hosted for the president, but hanging back as the first family inspected the royal artifacts just days after Trump said, "I didn't know that she was nasty," when told that Prince Harry's wife, the duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, criticized him in 2016.
[16:15:09] And Prince Charles hosting the Trumps at his home, Clarence House, for a proper afternoon tea, despite the fact Trump erroneously suggested the prince's cause, climate change, is a Chinese hoax.
The only hitch in a perfectly coordinated visit coming from Trump himself, who fired off two caustic tweets aimed at London's liberal mayor, Sadiq Khan, just minutes before touching down in the U.K. Trump responding to Khan's criticism of his state visit by attacking him as a stone-cold loser and commenting on his height.
And there could be more controversy ahead. Trump leaving the door open to meetings that could place him squarely in the middle of the U.K.'s messy domestic politics. Just days before Theresa May is expected to step aside as party leader, Trump going out of his way to praise, but not formally endorse a top critic who is running to replace her, Boris Johnson.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I may meet with him. He's been a friend of mine. He's been very nice. I have a very good relationship him.
PHILLIP: Trump also suggesting that he might meet with Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage during this visit. TRUMP: I may meet with him. They want to meet. We'll see what
PHILLIP: Sources telling CNN that British officials at 10 Downing Street are working to prevent these meetings from occurring, and a U.S. official also telling CNN that there are no plans yet for Trump to meet with the two men.
PHILLIP: And tomorrow is when all of the political elements of this come to a head. President Trump is starting his day with a meeting with business leaders in which the trade deal that he wants to have with the British is going to be a topic of conversation. Then he'll meet with Theresa May, where a lot of the thornier issues that the United States wants to deal with the U.K. government on will come on to the table. There will also be a press availability between President Trump and Theresa May, yet another opportunity, Jake, for the president to go off-script.
TAPPER: Indeed. Abby Phillip, thanks so much.
Let's bring in my experts.
Kaitlan Collins, let me start with you. There are a lot of potential political land mines that the president is facing here.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this trip is supposed to be mostly ceremonial. The entire trip that the president is taking, later going to Normandy, Ireland, of course. But the question is, what's going to happen when the president does meet with Theresa May tomorrow, because, of course, she's leaving her party on Friday. That's the slated expectation time right now.
But they still have a lot to talk about. Not only Brexit, but also a potential trade deal. They've got these threats from China and Iran that they're also talking about. So, there's a lot on the table besides just the pomp and circumstance that you saw the president going through today visiting with the queen. And that's the question going forward, because, of course, the president has undermined Theresa May at times, just days before going on this trip.
So, White House officials are looking to see what that trip tomorrow is going to look like.
TAPPER: And, Nia, this is a state visit that involves a lot of tradition, a lot of protocol for a president who frankly defies all of that back home in the U.S.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. And revels in defying that, but in some ways revels in this, as well, the sort of pomp and circumstance. We've seen different foreign leaders kind of roll out the red carpet for him and him kind of exaggerate and essentially say, you know, this is the biggest celebration of American president we've ever seen -- obviously, not the case here, with Donald Trump. It was the same with George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well.
But you're right. I mean, in terms of wanting to upset the apple cart, they're picking a fight with the mayor of London or they are continuing a fight that really began in 2015, in calling him a loser there. This is a president that sort of can't help but to make things about himself, even though this is a visit that is really about America. It's about the tradition, the relationship between America and Britain there, as you heard the queen talk about in that toast, the president talking about it as well there.
But this is classic Donald Trump in terms of, you know, not really wanting to follow the script that most American presidents follow.
TAPPER: And, Richard, let's talk about that, because obviously the royal family, they're keeping a stiff upper lip, as it were. But President Trump responded to a negative op-ed by the mayor of London, by calling him a stone-cold loser. He was interviewed by the "Sun," newspaper, and they told him that Meghan Markle had said not-so-nice things about her in 2016, and he replied, "I didn't know that she was nasty," then lied about the fact that he said that. And now he seems to be backing a rival of Theresa May, Boris Johnson.
How is this actually playing when the cameras aren't around?
RICHARD WOLFFE, COLUMNIST, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, it's playing badly for the British public. Of course, this is a president who has a 21 percent approval rating among Brits. That's actually several points lower than Theresa May, the outgoing prime minister, who's widely considered to be a complete disaster, and he's 51 points lower than Barack Obama.
[16:20:03] So, these comparisons are not good for him.
What happens behind closed door with the queen is exactly what you see in the public, she is supremely disciplined. She's the queen of no comment and she's going up against the king of foolish comment. So, you know, what their rapport is like is not going to be smart and wonderful conversation between the two of them.
On the other hand, what is the White House, what does a Trump reelection want, it wants those statesman like photos. The more silent he is, the better because every hour, every day he's out there on Twitter saying something that's much less statesman-like.
TAPPER: And, Kristen, late last night, there's this group in London that projected these images on London landmarks. One is a red baseball cap with the name of the USS John McCain projected on to the Madame Tussauds building in London. That's a reference to the ship that White House aides asked the U.S. Navy to move so President Trump wouldn't be the upset to see the name of a much-admired war hero and Republican senator who the president didn't like and who died last year.
And then, of course, there are the poll numbers. I don't know if they're the exact same numbers that Richard was just referring to, but they are similar ones of U.K. approval ratings of Obama versus Trump. People -- and then, of course, there's the balloon. So there is this attempt to troll the president by certain members of the British public.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And certainly. I think it's unfortunate. Again, this is supposed to be a visit about the United States having the special relationship with the U.K.
I think in terms of public opinion, something that President Trump is focused on and why you hear him bring up things like Brexit and wanting to meet with Nigel Farage is that he views that Brexit as having been a prologue or prelude to his own election as president of the United States. This idea of people sort of bucking what the pollsters were saying, kind of trying to take back their nation's future. I mean, I think that's how he views the narrative of Brexit, being connected to his own political fortunes here in the U.S. And the Brexit Party led by Farage just had a very good showing in the E.U. elections over there in the U.K.
So I suspect that's the piece of public opinion you're going to hear President Trump sort of latch on to and talk about more, because I think he views there sort of being a large portion of the British public that wants Brexit, and him viewing that indirectly support for his own sort of style of politics.
COLLINS: And, Jake, you also have to look at this trip and the difference in the last time the president visited the U.K., last year, when he did not go into London, where there were a slew of protests that we saw. The president was instead out at Checkers, several miles away from London, and instead he's in the heart of the city this time. So, that's what makes it different about the protests and that's how you see the president tweeting about them.
But also in response to the president being a disruptive force in London, you have to look at the threshold of that, because last year when the president was there, that's when he gave that also explosive interview to "The Sun," where he said Boris Johnson would make better prime minister than Theresa May, long before she was slated to step down as she is on Friday.
So the threshold seems to be a lot lower for what the president is doing compared to the last time he visited there.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We're going to keep talking.
Russia, are you listening? The president's son-in-law Jared Kushner with an interesting answer to a question -- an answer that left many heads shaking and Moscow possibly smiling.
Stay with us.
[16:28:01] TAPPER: Welcome back.
Our politics lead now. What will the Trump team do if foreign powers try to help his campaign again in 2020? President Trump has yet to fully embrace publicly the findings of his own intelligence community. He didn't bring up Russian interference in his last phone call with Vladimir Putin.
His lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, a few weeks ago told me, quote, there's nothing wrong with taking information from Russians. And now, a stunning statement from the president's adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, telling "Axios" that he's not sure he would alert the FBI if Russia came calling again, defending participating in that 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
As CNN's Jessica Schneider reports for us now, this was just one of the many eyebrow-raising responds made by the top presidential adviser.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jared Kushner brushing off questions about his role and responsibility when Russians offered dirt on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election, during a rare sit-down interview with "Axios".
JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: We're in a place now where people are playing Monday morning quarterback and they're being so self-righteous.
SCHNEIDER: Kushner attended the controversial meeting inside Trump Tower in 2016 alongside Donald Jr. and then campaign manager Paul Manafort. The three met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who British publicist Rob Goldstone previously promised would provide official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia. They were never given any damaging information on Clinton and Kushner says he simply showed up and left soon after.
KUSHNER: I get an email that says show up instead at 4:00 instead of 3:00 at a meeting that I didn't know what the hell was about, OK? I show up at the meeting, I stay for 15 minutes, it's a clown show -- let me finish. I text my assistant who says, give me a call to get me the hell out of here. It's a waste of time.
INTERVIEWER: Would you call the FBI if it were happen 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.
SCHNEIDER: Kushner also questioned about accusations from freshman Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that the president is a racist.