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AT THIS HOUR

Trump & British P.M. Theresa May Praise Each Other Despite Differences on Issues; Trump: London Mayor Khan a Negative Force, Not a Positive Force; Trump Says U.K. Protests Against Him "Very, Very Small"; Trump: GOP Would Be "Foolish" to Block Mexico Tariffs. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 4, 2019 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[11:00:00] STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Time to party, Holzhauer.

Stephanie Elam, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, what's better than parting with your kid.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: And --

(CROSSTALK)

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: It can soften the blow.

HARLOW: Throw a great party.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: I love that.

OK. Thanks for being with us. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: I'm Jim Sciutto.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.

HARLOW: Pretty cute.

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

Donald Trump and the outgoing prime minister of Britain, it was all smiles and handshakes and good will on display during Donald Trump's second day of his U.K. visit. The president really had nothing but compliments for Theresa May during their press conference this morning. The prime minister, in return, highlighting the importance of these strong and special relationship between the two nations.

But despite all the kind words, there were real differences also on display on some of the most important issues right now, from Iran to climate change to Brexit. The leaders made clear they did not see eye to eye.

President Trump was also, though, asked about the ongoing criticism from another U.K. politician, London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, who just today compared Donald Trump to an 11-year-old child in an interview with CNN. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't think he should be criticizing a representative of the United States that can do so much good for the United Kingdom. We talked about it before. He should be positive, not negative. He's a negative force, not a positive force.

And if you look at what he said, he hurts the people of this great country. And I think he should actually focus on his job. It would be a lot better if he did that. He could straighten out some of the problems he has, and probably some of the problems that he's caused.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And remember, of course, that the president called in a tweet, called Khan a "stone-cold loser."

CNN's Abby Phillip is in London, not a stone-cold loser. She's joining me right now.

So, Abby, both the president and Theresa May did seem at ease today. Dare I say even happy to be there?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they really did. They seemed really comfortable with each other. This is a two-year- long relationship that has truly had its ups and downs.

They have had a cordial, respectful relationship in private, one-on- one, but at the same time, President Trump has not been shy about criticizing her very, very publicly.

But today, as Trump press conferences go, this one seemed to go off more or less without a hitch. He didn't embarrass her in any big way. And in fact, he went out of his way to praise her. He said she was a professional, that she was a patriot, and he's always enjoyed working with her.

And in turn, she also praised her working relationship with him. She said, you know, you and I have always been honest with each other, Donald. Acknowledging that between the two of them, there are a lot of issues where they did not see eye to eye over the last two years.

One of them being the Iran nuclear deal. She brought that up today, talked about how they want to work together to keep Iran within the confines of the deal. The president wants to throw that deal out the window.

And then there's climate change, which President Trump continues to call a Chinese hoax.

And then finally, there's Brexit. And this is really where it gets interesting because President Trump has in the past said that Theresa May messed this up, that she didn't listen to his advice, that she could have done it better.

Yet today, he actually changed his tune, saying that he thinks that she set Britain up for a deal, that this will get done because she set them up to leave the European Union very soon. So he was very conciliatory toward her on that front.

And then, you know, when he was finally asked about whether he was going to be meeting with some of these individuals who are looking to succeed her as prime minister -- this is something that's been the source of a lot of speculation here in the U.K. in particular, where some of these more controversial figures. It has been seen as something that would be a little bit of a faux pas as the president meddles in domestic politics here.

And he didn't really go as far as he's gone before. He said Boris Johnson and others -- he named others -- and he said they would all be good at their jobs, he likes them all, but he didn't endorse any one of them, and so far, we know he hasn't met with any of them, though he has had a phone call with Boris Johnson.

So all in all, it does seem that President Trump really ended this relationship as positively as he could. In many ways, trying to avoid creating additional troubles for Theresa May, who is on her final days as leader of her party and final weeks as prime minister.

A small gesture for someone who I think he's tried pretty hard to maintain a relationship with, despite all of these enormous differences.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Great to see you, Abby. Thank you so much.

Also during the press conference, President Trump weighs in on one of his favorite topics, crowd size. This time, the size of the protest crowds gathered around London against him.

Here's what the president had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:05:02] TRUMP: I don't see any protests. I did see a small protest today when I came, very small. So a lot of it is fake news, I hate to say. But you saw the people waving the American flag, waving your flag. It was tremendous spirit and love. There was great love. It was an alliance. And I didn't see the protesters until just a little while ago, and it was a very, very small group of people put in for political reasons. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Put in there for political reasons.

Nick Paton Walsh is in Parliament Square, which is one of the sites where the protesters gathered this morning.

Nick, the president is calling the protests fake news. You have been with the protester all morning. What are you hearing from them?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Obviously, not fake news. In Trafalgar Square, we saw possibly as many as 10,000 filling the square at one point, united in their message against President Donald Trump. Yes, for their political reasons, their own political reasons. They don't want to see him here.

Earlier, the beginning of the day, we saw the return of the so-called baby blimp Trump. That's a large version of Donald Trump, an inflatable one of him in a diaper. But the rain came, frankly, for the wrong time for the protest organizers. It's reduced numbers substantially.

We heard the leader of the British opposition address the crowds out there earlier on with a message. He tried to say it was unity. More people here against xenophobia, Islamophobia, they say, of President Donald Trump.

Behind me, as this begins to get a bit messier and a lot wetter, we have seen the occasional pro-Trump supporter escorted away by police. A large group -- had the anti-Trump protesters kept away from them by lines of police. Police are beginning to outnumber protesters in some parts of the square.

A number check, significantly more anti-Trump protesters.

Donald Trump, we think we saw his convoy, probably with him in it, drive past. He'll have seen them booing him on his path. Not enormous numbers, that's true, but he didn't see the larger contingent in Trafalgar Square, and those in support of him, frankly, in their dozens at times. Maybe two or three dozen in one group but significantly smaller in number.

And in this political climate, whoever shouts the loudest ends up being the voice heard. They have certainly been shouted down today -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes. The fact the president may not have seen the largest contingent of protesters was probably, definitely, exactly by design during this state visit.

Great to see you, Nick. I really appreciate it.

Joining me now is CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, Susan Glasser, a CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer at the "New Yorker," and CNN chief international correspondent, Clarissa Ward.

Great to see you guys.

Dana, Abby Phillip, as she always does, did a great job getting to this relationship, this good relationship, complicated, conflicted relationship between Donald Trump and Theresa May over the years, if you will. We have definitely seen Donald Trump undercut Theresa May in many a way. You know, Brexit is the biggest example of just basically saying she messed it up. It was so different this time. Why do you think that is?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, they had just come out of a meeting. And they have known each other for a while. And he clearly showed something that we have not seen a lot from him, and that's empathy on a personal level.

And he was very open about the fact, with her standing next to him, again, that she didn't go about getting Brexit actually done and through parliament in a way that he recommended because, shockingly, he recommended going through the courts.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

BASH: It's quite a different system.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: It's quite a different system.

But separate from that, it was really striking that not only did he appear deferential, he gave her the best possible compliment that he could give anybody, which is that perhaps she's a better negotiator than he is. And I think that it was a moment -- and I'm glad that we're sort of taking a beat to talk about it -- that is so rare --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BASH: -- with the president and a world leader, particularly somebody who he has differences with.

But look, she's going. She's leaving. And they had just had what I would imagine to be quite an -- intimate is probably the wrong word -- but a --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: On the professional level.

BASH: On the professional level, a nice meeting between the two of them. On a personal level.

BOLDUAN: Yes, on a personal level. And it's absolutely worth noting because it's so rare.

I mean, Clarissa, the president and prime minister were both asked about the very public criticism of President Trump from the prominent other prominent British officials like the London mayor. You spoke with Sadiq Khan just this morning. When the president says

that he's not a good mayor, he should be criticizing -- he shouldn't be criticizing representatives of the United States, that's what the president says, what does Sadiq Khan say about that?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's interesting, Kate, because we did challenge him on this issue of whether it was appropriate for Mayor Khan to write that editorial piece for "The Observer" in which he talked about Trump, you know, essentially playing from the same song sheet as some of the worst fascists of the 20th century.

[11:10:15] And he pushed back. And he said, listen, I believe this very strongly. I see the rise of the far-right across Europe. He called President Trump the poster boy for those far-right leaders across Europe. And he feels very concerned about certain trends that he sees globally happening geopolitically.

We also asked him, Kate, for his reaction when he first read that tweet of the president calling him a stone-cold loser, as he lands in London at the beginning of a three-day state visit, an enormous honor. Take a listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SADIQ KHAN, LONDON MAYOR: You know, this is what you would expect from an 11-year-old, but for him to decide how he behaves. It's not for me to respond in a like manner. I think it's beneath me to do childish tweets and name calling.

WARD: Were you surprised? Were you offended?

KHAN: Not offended in the slightest. People tell me nothing this president does should surprise you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WARD: And he went on to say, listen, if the U.K. is putting all their eggs in the basket of some kind of a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. under President Trump, that they should be careful, he said, because this is a president who changes his mind every hour, who is easily offended, who can be capricious.

So, essentially, no sign at all that Mayor Sadiq Khan is backing down from this feud with the president -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Susan, give me your take on this bit. Because despite the very friendly tone between Trump and Theresa May, May especially made pretty clear they were not on the same page on some issues. We have gone through this, calling out the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran nuclear deal, even saying she had not taken Trump's advice in suing the E.U. over Brexit.

And despite the friendly tone, you still have the president of the United States weighing in on British affairs, what he thinks should happen with Brexit, who he thinks should replace Theresa May, while on British soil.

How does all of this set the stage for the next prime minister -- and for the next prime minister and the United States and that relationship? And quite frankly, just the U.K. relationship going forward?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Those are good questions because I have to say, to a certain extent, we're kind of defining deviancy down here. The idea that because Trump didn't savage Theresa May, this was sort of a successful press conference.

In any other context, of course, it would have been one of the most striking performances by an American president on British soil ever, continuing to get in a public argument with the mayor of London and his hosts, insulting them, saying they had no right to criticize them while he had every right to call the mayor a stone-cold loser, claiming we shouldn't believe our own lying eyes about the protests that are unfolding in front of him.

You know, it's really in any other context, of course, this would have been a strikingly negative performance.

In terms of the substance, Trump has essentially now committed himself to the Brexit cause. Right? He continues to identify Brexit in 2016 with his own upset victory, and it's sort of the world, according to him.

BOLDUAN: Right.

GLASSER: But he needs to deliver for his pro-Brexit friends. The idea that there really is going to be a major new U.S. free trade agreement at the end of the rainbow, there's no evidence whatsoever that this is going to materialize in any kind of easy way.

It's not clear that, even if the Trump administration negotiates this deal with Theresa May's successor, that Trump would be able to deliver it and to successfully pass it as we're seeing with the difficulties of getting USMCA with Mexico and Canada through Congress this year because Trump has disrupted his own deal with another conflict with Mexico of his own making.

So the British should be certainly very cautious about believing that this is an iron-clad commitment on the part of the Trump administration to deliver the agreement.

Then, just in terms of the tonal thing, I think you saw both the queen and Theresa May essentially operating in this very polite but firm parallel universe where they're chiding the president of the United States for no longer living up to the network of alliances and multilateral commitments that the United States itself has made.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

It's great to see you guys. A lot to take from this. Let's see what the rest of the visit brings.

Coming up for us, some Republicans now are plotting to block President Trump's tariffs on Mexico. What does Donald Trump have to say about that? That is ahead.

Plus this. Joe Biden is still on top, but are there signs now that things could be shifting? A new CNN poll on the 2020 race is out. What it means for the crowded Democratic field.

[11:14:57] Stay with us.

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BOLDUAN: President Trump, while overseas today, is doubling down on his threat to slap big tariffs on Mexico unless and until they, according to Donald Trump in his own words, quote/unquote, "Do something to stop illegal immigration into the United States." What the measure would be, the administration still has not laid out.

[11:20:07] The first round of those tariffs are going to set in next week. That is creating a big problem for congressional Republicans, who are, at their most basic, pro trade, now even discussing moving to block the president's tariffs before they can set in.

The president's response to all this? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think of Republicans who say they may take action to block you imposing those tariffs?

TRUMP: I don't think they will do that. If they do, it's foolish.

But I think Mexico will step up and do what they should have done. And I don't want to hear that Mexico is run by the cartels and the drug lords and the coyotes. I don't want to hear about that. A lot of people are saying that. Mexico has something to prove.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Here with me, Seung Min Kim, from the "Washington Post." She's been doing some great reporting on the potential backlash amongst Republicans on the Senate side. And Dana Bash is back here with me.

Seung Min, let me ask you this. What are Republicans telling you? What are you hearing about these tariffs against Mexico? How real is their concern right now?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So there are two big concerns here. One is the actual imposition of tariffs. I have only found one Senate Republican who says he supports imposing tariffs on Mexico over this immigration dilemma. The fast majority of congressional Republicans oppose this idea. They're pro free trade and don't think this is a good idea. But there's also some concern about what Republicans might be forced

into as a result, if these tariffs go into effect because now the legal rationale that the administration is going to be using or has said they will use -- actually sets up a process that's similar to what we saw with the national emergency over the border wall earlier this year. And Congress has some tools at its disposal to override that emergency on the tariffs should that go into effect.

So Republicans have started discussing that this actually may be an inevitability. It's a standoff they don't want to have on policy and just the merits of having to confront the president.

BOLDUAN: Right, and as Seung Min points out, this sets up a little bit of what has already happened when it comes to this type of emergency declaration move that the president has done in the past. When that happened last time, I think 12 Republicans in the Senate broke from the president on this.

BASH: That's right.

BOLDUAN: That's what makes me wonder, Tuesday, lunch day for the Senate, how big is today? How important is today when they get together?

BASH: It's very important. And I was just texting with the senior Republican in the Senate about this very thing, who was very confident that Chuck Grassley is going to continue to push this. Chuck Grassley, the senior Senator from Iowa.

BOLDUAN: Yes, yes.

BASH: Also the finance chair, who has been really in the words of this source, ticked off, which he has made very clear on Twitter and other statements about the president's move here.

And so, you look at that combined with the fact that, as Seung Min was talking about, there are not a lot of Republicans or Democrats in support of this move.

There could be something we almost never see in this dynamic of the Trump era, which is his fellow Republicans saying uh-uh, you're taking this a step too far, a bridge too far. We're going to use our powers to stop you. It's a long way between here and there.

BOLDUAN: Sure is.

BASH: But it is looking like the momentum is there at this point.

BOLDUAN: And the president was asked about it today, Seung Min. And he said that he doesn't think Senate Republicans will do anything, will go against him. If they do, the way he put it today, is it will be foolish. Of course, there's a long time between here and next week, which is actually not that far.

But it makes me wonder, what are you hearing about what's happening behind the scenes in terms of how the White House is reacting to this very real concern and growing concern from Republicans then?

KIM: There's going to be, like Dana is absolutely correct, an important and critical Senate Republican lunch later today. I have been told by sources that Deputy White House counsel, Patrick Philbin, will be here briefing Senate Republicans on the legal rationale for imposing these tariffs next week should they go into effect.

That's really important because, right now, Republicans, not only do they have a lot of concerns, but they have questions about the exact legal authorities the president has and what law he's actually invoking to use these -- to go ahead and impose these tariffs. And that also helps form the congressional response to how to respond to these tariffs should they go into effect.

Now, the president's tone at his press conference in London was a lot different from what the Mexican foreign minister was telling reporters here in Washington when he was saying he was about 80 percent confident that a deal to avert these tariffs is possible before Monday. So tomorrow's meeting with the Mexican delegation and Secretary of State Pompeo is going to be really critical.

BOLDUAN: And it could be, to be honest, it could be a very big win for the president if that gives him to give.

BASH: It would be a classic --

BOLDUAN: Right.

BASH: -- Trump tactic --

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BASH: -- if he does the, you know, acts like --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I'm going to bring the entire House down.

BASH: Acts like he's going to make a crazy move and then gets the people to the table.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

BASH: We'll see.

[11:25:05] BOLDUAN: Again, we'll see. No, I'm going to say it. No, you say it. I'm going to say it.

(LAUGHTER)

Great to see you guys. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, first on CNN, the White House tells former communications director, Hope Hicks, to not hand over documents that Congress is asking for and has been asking for. House Democrats, they're already furious over stonewalling from the White House on issues like this. What is this move now going to mean? That is next.

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[11:30:07] BOLDUAN: It could be more fuel for the impeachment fire right now.