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Trump Arrives For A Visit At Westminster Abbey. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 3, 2019 - 10:00   ET


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Ceremony reigning as the President and Mrs. Trump begin their long, delayed state visit to Britain, but, as usual, controversy and conflict, never too far away.


Just minutes from now, the Trumps will pay their respects at Britain's grave of the unknown warrior, this at Westminster Abbey tonight. There will be a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, where the toast will drown out any lingering whispers over the President's attacks on the Mayor of London. It happened just moments before he landed there, or his criticism of the outgoing British Prime Minister and her handling of Brexit or his open support of Brexit, deal or no deal.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Our coverage begins this hour with our Max Foster and Abby Phillip. Max, let's begin with you first. We were just speaking with you as they were touring the royal gift collection. What else can you tell us about all of this pomp and circumstance for this official U.K. visit for the President?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen these amazing artifacts. We expect the President to come past. There he is, the beast driving past us with some booing and some cheering. And I think it's pretty well balanced. He's heading off there to Westminster Abbey, which is the Queen's church. It's where coronations are held. It's probably on, you know, a building of most important national significance and religious life, state occasions held there and big royal weddings and many funerals in the past as well.

He's going to go there, and he's going to go to the west end of the nave in Westminster Abbey to the grave of the unknown warrior. It's a body brought from France, buried there in 1920. And it contains soil from France as well. So a hugely symbolic sort of place for Brits where we commemorate people who have died in service in battle, and it's something that foreign heads of state will often visit to pay their respects.

He'll then get a tour of the Abbey, a huge amount of historical significance going back centuries. I don't know what they'll point out. There's more than enough to choose from. But this is a building they'll recognize. They'll have lots of questions, I'm sure, as well.

After that, they'll head off to tea at Clarence House just next door to where I am now, which is the London residence of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

SCIUTTO: They're also going to be visiting other graves at Westminster Abbey, including that of Stephen Hawking.

Abby Phillip, you have been covering this president for some time. He soaks up the pomp and circumstance of a visit like this, does he not?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is the sort of thing that of all the tasks I think of being president, it's one -- it's among the top in terms of what he actually enjoys. That when he goes to foreign countries, and frankly, Jim and Poppy, this is not a president who enjoys being on the road, traveling, sleeping in foreign beds.

But when he gets to do things like this, it really changes the experience for him. It leaves him in a much better mood, which at times is good for his staff and it's good for a lot of people who are on the receiving end sometimes of his anger on Twitter. But it also creates a sense of good feeling. And I think that that is at the core of what -- you know, of what the British are trying to accomplish with this visit, which is to say you are an American President. We respect you. We will give you this kind of royal treatment, as your predecessors have also received.

And President Trump gets to be initiated into that club as well. And this is exactly the kind of thing that he truly does enjoy. And it is coming at a time when he's actually just coming off a very similar visit that he had about a week ago in Japan, where he spent days just being feted by the Japanese. And last year, he went to France and was treated to an incredible parade that he talked about for weeks and weeks on end. These are the types of things that stick with him.

And I think also in these moments, you see a different kind of President Trump where he is quite jovial in moments like this. He is quiet and respectful in the moments that he needs to be and can be kind of fun to be around. You can see him joking around with people that he's standing next to. We saw him earlier in the last several hours as he was inspecting the guard, talking to them, getting to know them in a lot of ways.

I think this is a different side of President Trump than a lot of people often get to see and it's just the sort of thing I think some in his staff don't think he gets to do quite enough of. But he enjoys it so much because he enjoys being treated with this kind of respect. And when he has his chance, the types of world leaders that he brings to the United States and treats with a similar kind of pomp and circumstance, that is a sign of how much he respects them. So it's very much mutual, Jim and Poppy, just the way that this -- how meaningful this is to him.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Abby Phillip, thank you. Max Foster, we appreciate it.

With us now, our Chief International Correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, and our European Affairs Commentator, Dominic Thomas.


Christiane, to you. You know, just building on what Abby said about this pomp and circumstance and the respect for the queen, et cetera, I remember when the President talked, he told the times of London, I think it was, about a year or so ago, about how much his mother loved the queen and had great respect for the queen. And, clearly, he is enjoying this visit, only the third president under this queen, the third U.S. President to have this official U.K. state visit. What stands out to you?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Well, look, first and foremost, this is the second time in two years that the President has got such wonderful pomp and circumstance from the queen. And I think that is really remarkable. And I don't recall any other world leader who has had these two visits, two summers running, of such incredible detail, attention to detail and real Britain showing its respect and its historic, historic transatlantic alliance with the American President and with the presidency and with the United States itself.

We're seeing them now walking into the Westminster Abbey. They'll be shown around by Prince Andrew, who is the queen's third child, her second son. And he had his marriage in Westminster Abbey to Sarah Ferguson. They are no longer married, but they had their wedding there. Very interesting that the President will be obviously, as many do, putting a wreath of respect around the tomb of the unknown warrior.

And also, we heard from you, Jim, that he will be visiting the tomb of Stephen Hawking. This is also a big deal and caught me a little by surprise because what is Stephen Hawking, if not, the repository of facts, of science, of evidence, and the real based world, which the President is often taking pot shots at. So I think that's a really important moment to know that he's going to be putting a wreath there.

And I think it's really important also that this visit is happening at a time where we will be commemorating in just three days the historic D-Day landing. 75 years since General Eisenhower was the commander of the naval fleet that took off from Portsmouth and then basically invaded, occupied France, and started the beginning of the end of the Nazi domination of Europe. It's a massively important time.

And for those who want to look fondly and with positivity on the relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, it couldn't be more fortuitous, this timing. And then, of course, you have all the other stuff around it that we can talk about, if you like, the politics.

SCIUTTO: Dominic Thomas with us as well. We should note that Westminster Abbey is a resting place for many prominent Brits. Stephen hawking, of course, Charles Darwin, Mary Queen of Scots, and as Christiane noted, of course, the tomb of the unknown soldier, so topical right now.

Dominic Thomas, this is a good trip for the American President. He enjoys the welcome. He enjoys the pomp and circumstance. How about for the British, because it happens at a very divisive time in the country? The debate over Brexit, an outgoing Prime Minister, lack of clarity about who follows, will there be another referendum? Donald Trump, a divisive figure on that topic, so is this visit good for Britain at this time?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Well, Jim, it very much depends on the person to whom you are speaking. It is clear that for the conservative party, this is a moment of transition and change. They are facing a sort of existential and rethinking as to the direction they need to go in, very much like the Republican Party in the United States since President Trump was elected. Boris Johnson announced that he would be running for Theresa May's position today. And so he clearly sees some advantage to all the news that's been swirling around President Trump's visit.

When you speak to others, many, of course, have not hidden the fact that they are concerned about the Trump presidency and all that he goes about representing. And others have been emphasizing the historical nature of this relationship, in many ways, reminding people that the U.K. and the United States have been around a long time, have worked together historically and will continue to do so.

But the 75th anniversary of the end of the D-Day launchings from Portsmouth was an important moment. It was followed up, of course, by the establishment of this liberal democratic order, the creation of the European Union and so on, and one cannot underestimate the fact that this new order, this new international order, has been put into question by President Trump's presidency and his favoring of bilateral agreements and the ways in which his critique of the European Union, of NATO, and the way in which he has weighed in on this divisive Brexit issue is weakening this international order.

HARLOW: You know, Christiane, what strikes me is for this America First president, right, how important our allies are, and he knows that.


And he's making this visit as parts of that. Your great interview with German Chancellor Angela Merkel just last week showed that as well. Let's get to that in a moment, but let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the President contemplates the unknown warrior on the pillar to the left of our picture hangs the Congressional Medal of Honor given by the --


SCIUTTO: The grave of the unknown warrior, as it is known there. That remembers all who died in the First World War. And as Christiane mentioned, of course, the importance of that just days before the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings where the President will also make a visit later on this trip.

HARLOW: He will. Christiane, your thoughts. AMANPOUR: Well, look, you know, he does enjoy these somber and historic moments. And who could not be reflective when they stand inside Westminster Abbey. It's known as the queen's church. It is the repository of so many historic figures, both militarily, both in terms of statesmen, both in terms of scientists, as we have seen, and just the big huge towering figures throughout the hundreds and hundreds of years of British civilization, that they have just been putting those people to rest there.

You're seeing him with the Dean of Westminster Abbey there, and also to the left of the screen, Prince Andrew, who, as I said, is the queen's third child, her second son, and who himself was a military pilot of helicopters during the Falkland War. So he has that in the early 80's. He has some military experience himself, as does, of course, Prince Harry, who was not there, but as we remember, he fought in Afghanistan.

And the whole military tradition is huge with the British Royal Family. That is what they do. They go to officer school when they graduate from high school. And that is the sort of the framework with which they conduct their public service. Certainly the men, and we know also Princess Anne as well has a certain role in that regard. And the queen herself was helping out and in uniform during the home battle, during World War II.

But I think, look, you have a situation now where Britain as its role on the international stage will diminish because of Brexit, as it unhooks itself from all the powerful alliances and trade deals and intelligence and military and all these other issues that makes Britain so punch above its weight for so many decades, since the Second World War, now it's going to be diminished slightly on the world stage. So it needs to keep a massively close relationship with, you know, the great big uncle over the seas who is historically the provider of security for the transatlantic alliance.

Now, President Trump is questioning his continued intelligence sharing, if Britain goes ahead with having Huawei enter some of its I.T. and technology developments in the future. The President doesn't like that at all. He'll be discussing that with Prime Minister May.

You mentioned Angela Merkel. She, of course, represents the country that was defeated in World War II, and yet she has been the key defender of the liberal world order and says that we cannot continue without that multilateralism and respect of all of these economic and security treaties.

Yes, poppy. Go ahead.

HARLOW: I'm just going to take a moment and listen in to this.


SCIUTTO: Joining us, the President and First Lady at Westminster Abbey, an official visit. They just laid a wreath at the grave of the unknown warrior, remembering all who died in the First World War. We have Dominic Thomas with us in addition to Christiane Amanpour. Dominic, we've mentioned a couple times on this broadcast how Trump is only the third U.S. President to receive the honor of a state visit to the U.K. Of course, there have been a lot of U.S. Presidents with very close relationships with the U.K. going back decades. Why? Why is he only the third to receive this honor?

THOMAS: Well, that's an interesting question. I think at this particular moment in history, as soon as Prime Minister May took over from David Cameron in the aftermath of the 2016 Brexit referendum, she realized that, strategically, this relationship with the United States and that the discussion and that the spreading of this vision of a kind of global Britain engaging in these bilateral relations was going to be important. And to that extent, the Atlantic relationship became the incontrovertible relationship for the U.K.

And so early on in her prime ministership, she was eager to court President Trump and to use Donald Trump as a way to bolster the arguments in favor of Brexit as they were heading into negotiations with the European Union. And so, yes, you're absolutely right though that, historically, all American and presidents have visited the United Kingdom, but the state visits have been reserved for those partners and at moments in history, whether it's George W. Bush or President Barack Obama ,when the U.K. has wanted to go to that extra length to honor that Atlantic relationship and to make that particular point.

And for President Donald Trump, this kind of reception has been so incredibly important to him as he has gone around the globe trying to build these bilateral relations and the U.K. were deeply aware of that.

HARLOW: Max Foster, on that point, could you talk to us a bit more about what we can expect in the entirety of this visit for the President? The pomp and circumstance will continue, obviously, solemn visits just like this one. But could you also speak to what we will see in the days ahead and I suppose what the hope is for U.K. and the queen in terms of what they get at the end of the day in this visit?

FOSTER: I think what the queen gets out of this is a justification for her existence, if I'm frank. Her primary role is to represent the United Kingdom. And there is no bigger stage for that than a state visit from the key ally, so this is her presenting the United Kingdom to the world above politics, which is her role as well, to stay out of politics.

So this building we're in right now really speaks to much of what she wants to come across. This is her church, known as the Royal Peculiar. She runs it directly. It's not the Archbishop of Canterbury who runs it, like other churches. And this is the church where it has held every coronation going back 1066, which his William the Conqueror. I don't know if you've seen it yet, but you've got the coronation chair in there. It goes back to that time, extraordinary amount of history, and the current royal family, the Duke of York amongst them who is conducting the tour here, are directly descended from William the Conqueror. So this is where it all comes together. All the coronations and they'll recognize it as well when the monarchy was made relevant yet again after a really sort of low point after Diana's death. It was reinvented in new poll numbers with the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton which is in Westminster Abbey.

So I think she's speaking to the place Britain has in American history, whereas Theresa May is dealing with something very separate, which is a collapse in, you know, political authority in this country.

SCIUTTO: This is the part of the visit to the Abbey where the President and First Lady are visiting the graves of some of the many luminaries who are buried there. We mentioned Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking. There's Henry VIII's Lady Chapel. There's the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots.

And if you've ever been to London, this is right across the street from the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, this is right in the middle of so many iconic structures and buildings full of so many centuries of history there. And this is an honor reserved for special, very special visits like this, for visiting dignitaries including the President of the United States there.

Christiane, you have covered your fair share of state visits to the U.K. and elsewhere.


This is an interesting one. It is. Divided times --

AMANPOUR: Well, look, of course it is.

SCIUTTO: In the divided time in the U.K., differences between the U.K. and Britain, but some similarities and common ground between this president and those pushing for Brexit. How do those politics complicate this visit?

AMANPOUR: Well, first of all, they have shown themselves because the President, before he arrived, gave two interviews to British newspapers. They happened to both be the Murdoch Newspapers, his tabloid's son, and then the broad sheet of The Times of London. And in it, in both, he made statements that would be considered pretty undiplomatic and unusual for a foreign leader to make about internal domestic politics.

I would, of course, say that President Obama intervened in the Brexit debate before the referendum and that didn't turn out so well for him or for those he was campaigning on behalf of or speaking on behalf of. But President Trump has made it incredibly clear that he believes in the maximum disruption state of affairs, which the maximum disruption is a no-deal Brexit and a Brexit. And further maximum disruption is, as he's already talked about in the past, not necessarily on this trip, but in the past, the breakup of the European Union.

So these are existential reflections that go to the very heart of what makes up this part of the transatlantic alliance, this side of the Atlantic. Obviously, Britain is in its current unknown, really. It's still unknown because no matter who succeeds Theresa May as leader of the party and then presumably Prime Minister, cannot, by succeeding her, change the mathematics. The math shows that, currently, in parliament, there is absolutely no majority for a no deal.

And the Europeans, and you mentioned my interview with Angela Merkel, who is the de facto leader of Europe and the strongest figure in the transatlantic alliance currently has said that Brexit is going to be bad for everybody, for Britain and for the European Union, and that we have done our best to give as much as we can in this deal.

It was a good deal that Theresa May secured with the E.U., and we're not going to bend over for a person who comes in who is likely to be highly exiting, very Brexity. It won't be a remainer, like Theresa May was. And the idea that Europe is going to bow down to a hard line piece of negotiation, as President Trump has suggested, is pretty much unclear that that will be successful. Most people don't believe it will be successful. So that's a big issue.

Then, of course, you had the reprise of the sniping that has occurred over the last several years between President Trump and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. True to form, they have both let off their Twitter artillery at each other, and that has colored the situation for a little bit. And then we're going to have what they plan, at least the protesters, tomorrow will be protest day. Tomorrow is political day for President Trump when he talks further to the Prime Minister and has more of a political dimension after the pomp and circumstance and ceremony of the state part, the royal part today.

HARLOW: To you, Dominic, if the swipes continue while he is there, making some very solemn visits as well, making history, again, as Jim said, as the third U.S. President under Queen Elizabeth's reign to make an official state visit, if he continues with these jabs, calling the Mayor of London a stone cold loser, his words, and criticizing his height, I mean, I just wonder if he'll continue doing it while he is making these visits and does the queen just, you know, ignore it, not to mention his comments about Meghan Markle?

THOMAS: Well, of course. And then in his Tweet about the Mayor of London this morning, he used in quotes, the word nasty, which is a direct reference to the way in which he characterized the Duchess of Sussex.

But let's not forget that on previous trips around the world, but let's just take to Europe, where, for example, he was while meeting with NATO leaders, criticizing and Tweeting about contributions from NATO members. He had criticized the French President Emmanuel Macron and talked about his weakness in the face of the Yellow Jackets protests, and so on and so forth. Unless President Trump is kept very busy during his visit, he will not stay away from Twitter.

The other irony, of course, is that he does not have access to his traditional media outlets and networks that he's often talked about the fact that when he travels, he is forced to watch international media and to see his reflection in the ways in which he's received there, and this does tend to frustrate him. [10:25:05]

And, of course, the fact that he's meeting with a prime minister who is poised to step down as the leadership race gets under way for a new conservative party leader, and therefore a new prime minister, the situation is even more complex and complicated, particularly since he has expressed his explicit support for those people that have been the most problematic detractors in this whole Brexit saga, and who are directly responsible for the fact that the prime minister was, on the one hand, unable to deliver Brexit, and on the other, forced to step down so that these Brexiteers could take over the process of negotiating with the European Union.

And so all of these questions will shape this discussion and this engagement along with the fact that President Trump does not fully understand what is at stake with a no deal, what the divorce treaty is all about, when we talk about the U.K. leaving the European Union.

SCIUTTO: Max Foster, are you still with us there?


SCIUTTO: So tell us about the rest of the day following this visit. There's going to be tea with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and, of course, there is going to be a state banquet tonight, which I imagine in the U.K. is no small affair.

FOSTER: No. The state banquet is really the highlight of all of these events. And it's the time when you'll hear the President and the Queen make a speech and you'll see all of the great and good of British society, but also American society as it relates to the U.K. in these spectacular surroundings in Buckingham Palace.

Ahead of that, as you say, he's heading over to Clarence House for afternoon tea with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. That isn't normally on the agenda. And it's not quite clear where the suggestion came from. The only insight I have been given is a U.K. official telling me that actually the British government of put this whole tour program together, and they didn't challenge any of it. That's according to the U.S. side, anyway. So we don't think that President Trump suggested tea with Prince Charles.

My reading into it is that perhaps Prince Charles and Buckingham Palace suggested it was a good idea, and President Trump went ahead with it, which I think is interesting because these are two people with very different views on a wide range of issues. And Prince Charles, before he is king, has got some leeway on whether or not to express his opinions, and I think he will, on the subject closest to his heart, which is climate change. And that's something he'll want to press home with the President because I think in his world, the way that the United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Change Accord was something that was a massive step back for the entire green movement. So that's going to be really interesting.

SCIUTTO: Well, the President has outright denied the science behind climate change. So if he chooses to brush the subject, it will not be -- it may not be a pleasant moment between Prince Charles and the President of the United States.

HARLOW: That's a great point. With a president who has said, he's the President of Pittsburgh, concerned about Pittsburgh, not Paris.

Christiane, what is the most useful thing for U.S.-U.K. relations overall that the President could do or say on this visit?

AMANPOUR: Well, to keep absolutely shoulder to shoulder in terms of British transatlantic relations in intelligence sharing. It's the one thing or one of the things that the British do incredibly well and are very, very proud of their intelligence gathering operations and the way they play a much bigger role than their size would suggest in the world of intelligence sharing. So it's going to be very important to see whether President Trump can be dissuaded from using the stick of punishing Britain for any engagement with Huawei, using the break-off intelligence sharing stick. That will be important to see whether they can get through that.

Then, of course, I mean, that's real and that's now and that's absolutely important. The other thing is obviously aspirational but equally important for Britain, and that is to see whether the British can get a quick fast track, big important trade deal with the United States. And that is, by no means, clear, as we were reporting over the weekend. No matter what the President might want to do, he also has a Congress that has to actually pass these trade laws and trade deals. And it's, by no means, clear that Britain is going to be at the front of the queue and that Congress, by the way, will approve anything if indeed Brexit deals a very sharp blow to something that's very important to Congress, and that is the Northern Ireland peace deal.

I spoke to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, when she was in Ireland a few weeks ago. And she said, if Britain believes that we, the U.S. Congress, will reward them for crashing out of the E.U. and thus endangering something that is very important to the American Congress, and that is the 1998 Good Friday peace deal in Northern Ireland, then they're mistaken. We will not. This is a massively important thing for the United States of America and for the Congress. You remember that it was President Clinton, it was George Mitchell.