Return to Transcripts main page
The U.K. Ambassador To The U.S. Will Resign Days After Those Leaked Cables Showed The Trump Administration As Inept; Alex Acosta Under Fire Today For A Plea Deal 10 Years Ago For Jeffrey Epstein; Excitement Is Building As The World Cup Champs Get Ready For Their Ticker Tape Parade. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 10, 2019 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, NEWDAY HOST: Ambassador Kim Darroch would be. Everyone thought that he would be able to perhaps stay out his terms which was ending at the end of this year, but no. This morning we have just learned in the past out that the U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. will resign days after those leaked cables showed - well, described I should say - the Trump administration as inept.
Max Foster is standing by for us right now in London with this breaking news. Max, what have you learned?
MAX FOSTER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, he's written a letter to the foreign office. I'll just tell you what he's said to his superiors here in London. We've just received this. I'm reading it at the same time.
"Since the leak of official documents from this embassy, there's been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining terms as ambassador." We know he was due to retire at Christmas. "I want to put and end to that speculation. The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.
Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador. I'm grateful to all those in the U.K. and U.S. who've offered their support during this difficult few days. This has brought home to me the depth of friendship and close ties between our two countries."
One final section from him. "I'm also grateful to those whom I've worked with over the last four decades." In response, his superior has paid tribute to him effectively. This comes off the back of a debate last night between the two successors - to Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, and Boris Johnson.
And in that debate, Jeremy Hunt committed to keeping Jim Darroch as ambassador if he got into power this month, but Boris Johnson didn't. It wasn't a vote of support in the ambassador, so that put him in a very uncomfortable position. His role is pretty much untenable because the White House isn't dealing with him right now, so he's decided to do what many would see as the honorable thing.
JOHN BERMAN, NEWDAY HOST: All right, Max Foster, please stand by for us. Let's bring in Abby Phillip, CNN White House Correspondent. Also joining us, Elie Honig, former federal prosecutor and a CNN Legal Analyst, and Astead Herndon, National Political Reporter for The New York Times.
Abby, first to you. I know this news just broke moments ago. Any reaction from the White House yet?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not yet at the moment, but I think you'll find that this is going to be welcomed news. There was quite a bit of anger on the president's part, which in this White House filters down pretty directly down to the staff where President Trump took this as a personal front. And if you read carefully, a lot of these cables that were publicized in the British paper initially, they were criticism and descriptions of the Trump administration in their early days at a time when it was, in fact, an incredibly chaotic administration.
There was a lot of knife fighting. There was a sense that a lot of people in those positions were not prepared to take the reigns of government. So Kim Darroch was describing that in those cables. He also described President Trump as insecure. He was portraying a president in a way that frankly no one really wants to be portrayed in publically, but these weren't public. They were private, but once they became public the President Trump took it as a personal front and you could hear it from his aids that they had no choice but to say and reiterate what the president said which is that this cannot continue. President Trump sent a clear message to whoever -
BERMAN: Abby, hang on one second.
BERMAN: Hang on one second. This is British Prime Minister, Theresa May, answering questions in Parliament right now.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Full support to Sir Kim on Tuesday. Sir Kim has given - Sir Kim has given a lifetime of service to the United Kingdom and we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude. Good government depends on public servants being able to give full and frank advise. I want all our public servants to have the confidence to be able to do that, and I hope the House will reflect on the importance of defending our values and principles particularly when they are under pressure.
Mr. Speaker, the whole House - Mr. Speaker, the whole House will want to join me in sending our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Tammy Minshall, the student paramedic who was killed in a traffic accident last week whilst on duty.
BERMAN: OK, you just heard the British Prime Minister, Theresa May there essentially I think expressing some regret that the British Ambassador to the United States -
BERMAN: - Kim Darroch, had to resign there, basically saying that he was doing his job. You want your diplomats around the world to be able to send unvarnished, really unedited assessments of what they're seeing on the ground, and let me just read you one of those leaked cables that Kim Darroch, soon to be the former Ambassador to the United States, wrote to the British government.
"We really don't believe that this administration - the U.S. administration - is going to become substantially more normal, less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction-driven, less diplomatically clumsy, and inept."
And that was his assessment to his government about what was happening in the United States.
CAMEROTA: Which is his job?
BERMAN: Which we just heard from another former British Ambassador was his job. Max, I know you're listening. So Max Foster in London, you heard the British Prime Minister there along with us. What do you make of her remarks?
FOSTER: Well, it's interesting because her position is very clear. She's supporting him exactly as you say. His job, he's paid to offer frank assessments of the current administration and that's what he was doing. So her focus has been on the leak. Who would leak it, what are the motivations behind it? We still don't know who is the source of those leaks, but it all depended on who was going to take over from her. Boris Johnson certainly the front runner and he didn't offer the same sort of support to Kim Darroch. He just said that the relationship with the United States is the most important thing. I have to say across European capitals a huge amount of concern about this story and really the precedent that it sets should a head of state in a host country be allowed to effectively push and ambassador out, and many people feel this is a really worrying precedent to set. Effectively Donald Trump dismantling to some extent the current diplomatic system certainly between the U.K. and the U.S.
CAMEROTA: One more question, Abby, about the reaction in the White House, and you had said that you assume that it would be welcome news, and of course that's what everyone will say there because everyone ahs to have the president's back, but I happen to know that some of the members of, you know, the White House would go to Kim Darroch's private residence for these lovely lunches as I was invited once. And these are warm, convivial events, and they enjoyed it and he had a warm relationship with many members around President Trump. I think he was going to be going today to have lunch. Ivanka was at - was it yesterday or today?
BERMAN: Was it yesterday? Yesterday with Ivanka.
PHILLIP: So yes -
CAMEROTA: So I mean, they can't say that they enjoyed their relationship until a few days ago.
PHILLIP: I mean, until a few days ago there were no problems with Kim Darroch. White House officials were over at the embassy. They were over at his residence all the time not just for social calls but for business. I mean, this was a functional relationship between two of the closest allies basically on the planet, and even in spite of really difficult times.
I mean, think about the fact that the state visit was not that long ago, just a couple of weeks ago. That visit went more or less off without a hitch with the U.K. government really going out of their way to smooth over some rough - some really potential rough patches as President Trump faced protests. He feuded with the London mayor.
Theresa May and her administration tried very hard to make Trump feel comfortable, happy, welcomed, and it went off without a hitch. The president was happy about it until these cables came out and then he started going on the attack against Theresa May, going on the attack against Kim Darroch and even saying in one of the tweets if you remember that the state visit was great, but it was really the queen that was great to him. All the rest of it was just fine. So President Trump really changed his tune and I think you'll see the White House basically doing the same thing. It's a pretty selective memory considering that not too long ago everything was really just fine, that they were pretty happy to be in the company of this ambassador for the last two and a half years.
BERMAN: Max Foster, we're going to let you go and go back to reporting on this because it's all breaking where you are right now. Please come back to us as you learn more. And we're going to move onto other subjects in just a moment, but I do want to ask, Astead, again, as a political reporter here dealing with the politics of President Trump, he just seemed to bully a Ambassador to the United States out of a job.
ASTEAD HERNDON, NEW YORK TIMES NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I mean, that's exactly what he seemed to do, but I don't know. This has been the president, this administration's kind of operating procedure for awhile when you have folks who come out and embarrass the president, say things that he would not like particularly on a personal level that questions his intelligence and the like, he has always kind of immediately restructured those relationships, publically attack those figures, and kind of demanded, as Abby said, that staff do the same.
And so, you know, while the president certainly would have been embarrassed by these words and we've seen that reflected from the White House, it is no surprise that he took to Twitter and put that kind of pressure on the U.K. to do this because frankly that's how this administration has operated since day one.
CAMEROTA: And yet, he is standing by the Labor Secretary, Alex Acosta, as we pivot to this next topic who is also under fire this morning for this very strange plea deal that has come to light that he gave Jeffrey Epstein 10 years ago when he was a U.S. attorney that after 36 - something like there were 36 under-aged young women and girls who say they were sexually assaulted. He gave him basically 13 months and a work release program. And Elie, you were telling us you've never seen anything like this.
ELI HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I haven't, and it's hard - it's hard to miss the contrast between who the president's willing to stand behind and who he's willing to not stand behind, and it's always interesting, I think, when a person sort of proves the criticism against them by their reaction to the criticism. And with the ambassador, right, the criticism is he was inept and impulsive -
BERMAN: And insecure.
HONIG: - insecure, and look at the response. Point proved. And then flip over to Acosta, this guy who made an unconscionable deal, the time itself - the 13 months is absurd, but a secret deal, a deal that was kept away from victims, and deal where they tried to immunize the coconspirators, the people around Jeffrey Epstein, let me tell you something. I've done hundreds, thousands of pleas. I've never even heard of that - this notion of trying to protect the people around the defendant.
CAMEROTA: That really begs the question about what Acosta knew.
HONIG: Right, and look. To me, those two facts - failing to tell the victims and trying to immunize the other people - go to secrecy. For whatever reason, Acosta was aligned with the defenders (ph). He wanted to keep this quiet, he wanted to keep it out of the public eye, he wanted it to go away, and I think there's a real price he needs to pay.
BERMAN: Astead, our reporting this morning is that the president is privately telling people he still has confidence in Acosta, but - and I think this is a big but - we have Chris Rudy from Newsmax on overnight who says he gives Acosta two weeks - less than two weeks here. When the president keeps on watching the press here, eventually he'll cave.
HERNDON: That's what we've seen from this president before. Even though there's an initial impulse to kind of stick by your team, to support those who have supported you in the past, he we know is someone who is a consistent and veracious consumer of news, and as that continues we have seen his mood turn on administration officials in the past. But I think that we're right here that the pressure is going to ramp up on Acosta. You have the House Judiciary Chair saying that they're possibly looking to an investigation. Democratic base is looking to that House saying it's not just enough to say, "what are you going to do, President Trump," but should they be kind of using their legislative power to look at this?
And as that continues to ramp up and as Acosta is unable or unwilling to answer some of those questions, you could see the president decide what is the benefit that he is getting from that if the headlines and the narrative continue to be so sour, which all indications either this is only the beginning of the questions being asked. CAMEROTA: And yet, Abby, we know the president doesn't like to be told what to do. Even under pressure he likes to keep his own council, but of course at some point it's not a good look to be seen as somehow defending the person who defended Jeffrey Epstein.
PHILLIP: Well, it's not, but I mean, this wouldn't be the first time that President Trump has defended someone accused of something really terrible. I mean, Rob Porter was accused of physically assaulting his ex wives, and President Trump defended him in that scenario, too.
So this is his impulse to defend people, to give people frankly the benefit of the doubt in these situations even when the evidence seems to suggest that it ought to be looked at with a more skeptical eye. And I thin President Trump gets to the point where he decides to abandon people only when the coverage of a situation becomes potentially harmful to him.
And you know, what our sources are indicating that that is - White House aides believe that is what's going to be the tipping point here. They have to wait and see whether or not this looks bad enough for President Trump for him to abandon Acosta, not necessarily whether or not the president thinks the actual accusations against Acosta are significant enough.
BERMAN: All right, guys. Stand by if you will because obviously there is breaking news this morning and we're staying on top of it. In the meantime here in New York City, really around the country, the excitement is building as the World Cup champions get ready for their Ticker Tape Parade to celebrate their championship. Alisyn Camerota will be there shortly. Dave Briggs live on the parade route right now in lower Manhattan. Dave, what are you seeing?
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Hello my friend. People starting to show up and camp out on their spots. The U.S. Women's National Team has won four of the eight World Cups. They are the dominant presence in the sport, and that will be celebrated today, but it's not just about that. It's about inspiring the next generation of soccer greats, and I'm fortunate to be joined by the next generation of soccer stars here from New Jersey. Sienna Petrol (ph), Morgan Nelson (ph), Ciria Parker (ph) here from New Jersey. They are actually taking part in the parade today. They will actually escort the team onto the stage. It's going to be awesome.
So let's talk about that, Sienna (ph). How cool is it not just to be here but to be a part of this day?
SIENNA PETROL (PH): It's amazing because this is like a once in a lifetime opportunity that I'll probably never have again, so it's so super cool.
BRIGGS: All right Morgan (ph), what to you makes this team so unique, so special, so fun to watch?
MORGAN NELSON (PH): Because like they're so - they love each other. They're like best friends, all of them, and there's like no fighting and that's why they're so good because their chemistry's just so good. BRIGGS: What kind of an inspiration have they been, Ciria (ph), to you as a young player watching the game?
CIRIA PARKER (PH): Well it really makes me want to play national league soccer, and yes.
BRIGGS: And who's your favorite player and why?
PARKER (PH): I like Crystal Dunn because she's such a good defender defensively and she likes to close them down (ph), so I like Crystal Dunn, and I like the goalie because I am one, too.
BRIGGS: Yes, she is awesome, Alyssa Naeher. Favorite player?
NELSON (ph): Tobin Heath.
BRIGGS: Tobin Heath. And who's your favorite player?
PETROL (PH): Tobin Heath.
BRIGGS: All right, we know their favorite pose, too, as well, and we're going to close with that. We're going to get our T pose on, girl. And if you're coming down here, Alisyn Camerota, bring some gear. I mean, we got our sock game on, so get down here. We'll see you soon, Alisyn. It's going to be a good time.
CAMEROTA: I have my bracelet on - my flag bracelet that I'm representing, and I have a jersey -
BERMAN: But that's a strong move. Those socks are strong.
CAMEROTA: Nobody has better socks than Dave Briggs. That's one of his many, many talents. Dave, I will find some and bring them down.
BRIGGS: That's about all I got.
CAMEROTA: It's not going to look good with open-toe sandals, but anyway you can watch the parade of champions. CNN's live coverage begins at 9:30 Eastern. Can't wait to get there.
OK, the U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. has just resigned moments ago over these leaked cables. What does this mean to the U.S.-U.K. relationship? What does it mean to how ambassadors need to hold their tongues in the future? We ask a senator on the Foreign Relations Committee next.
CAMEROTA: Breaking news, the U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. has just resigned after those leaked cables showed him criticizing the Trump administration as inept. Let's discuss this and more with Democratic Senator Chris Coons. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator, your reaction to this announcement of a resignation?
SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): Well Alisyn, this is truly unfortunate. I know Sir Kim Darroch well. He has served the United Kingdom extremely well as their ambassador here in our nation's capital, and every country send ambassadors overseas in part so that they can send back open, clear-eyed, blunt assessments of how that other country views them and how it's functioning, and the leak of this confidential cable has produced and unfortunate flap that has now led to the resignation of a very skilled career foreign servant.
I will point out part of what drove this was President Trump taking to Twitter to insult the ambassador, to insult Theresa May, the outgoing Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. We have long enjoyed a close and special relationship with the U.K. that is rooted in our shared values as well as our interests, and I think it's unfortunate that this latest flap has further accelerated some of the distance between us.
They will choose a new prime minister in just a few weeks, and in any event there almost certainly would have been a new ambassador posted at that point, so I think Sir Kim has done, you know, what was the right thing. From a career perspective, I will be sad to see him go.
CAMEROTA: But for foreign relations, what does this mean? If our ambassadors have to worry about their unvarnished assessments being leaked, what does it mean for what they report back to their home offices?
COONS: Well as you remember, we had a similarly embarrassing incident a number of years ago where a trove of classified confidential cables within the U.S. State Department was leaked and it caused some real tension and challenges for us with a number of our allies.
You know, frankly ambassadors still need to do their job. A core piece of their job is letting those of us fin the State Department, in the Executive Branch, and here in Congress who are responsible for foreign policy have real and insightful commentary on what's happening around the world. So you know, I think it's important that those cables be frank, but it's also important that they be confidential.
CAMEROTA: I want to get to the substance of what he was trying to tell Her Majesty basically back in with (ph) this cables, and I just want to read it again because I think that the substance of it is important.
He wrote back, "we really don't believe that the - that this administration is going to become substantially more normal, less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction-riven (ph), less diplomatically clumsy and inept." What does it tell you, senator, that the ambassador - the British Ambassador felt that message was important to send back to Britain?
COONS: Well Alisyn, one of the most concerning developments of the last two years has been the ways in which Donald Trump, who as a candidate promised he would be unconventional and who I'll remind you is our first president with no previous service either military or elected in the public sector. The ways in which he set out not just to shake up and test or challenge some of the structures we've relied on for seven decades to keeps us prosperous and secure like NATO, like our alliances and relationships in Western Europe, but he set about to really challenge them so strongly that he's almost broken them.
I've heard similar input from foreign ministers, from heads of state, from a dozen countries across Europe and Asia in my work on the Foreign Relations Committee, and I thin we need to pay attention to this.
In the runup to the 2020 election, a lot of why I'm supporting my good friend, Joe Biden, is that as a former Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as a former Vice President, he enjoys the kind of respect and confidence across our allies around the world that would allow us to restore these relationships almost immediately if he were elected.
CAMEROTA: I want to move on with what's happening with Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta. You have called on him to resign in light of this plea deal, this very unusual plea deal coming to light with what he offered Jeffery Epstein so far beneath any of the standards for the crime. He doesn't seem inclined to resign. And so, what happens next? How does he continue as Labor Secretary, which by the way is tasked with issues of human trafficking, how does he continue in his job?
COONS: I think it'll be exceptionally difficult for him to be an effective Secretary of Labor. I do expect that the House will take up investigations into the relationship between Secretary Acosta, Mr. Epstein, President Trump, and others in his broader circle to try and better understand how this striking plea agreement was reached.
A federal court has already ruled that it was an inappropriate plea agreement because the victims, the human trafficking victims who were Jeffrey Epstein's victims of his sexual predation were not informed and consulted.
CAMEROTA: Didn't they say illegal, senator? I mean, sorry to interrupt -
CAMEROTA: - but beyond inappropriate, didn't they say illegal?
COONS: Yes, they said it violated federal law, which is striking. And to your point Alisyn, the secretary is charged with combating human trafficking. We have an important agenda here in the United States both within our country and around the world to combat the most gross violations of labor rights which are known as human trafficking.
Jeffrey Epstein for years was engaged in sex trafficking of American girls who were minors. I can't think of a more horrific fact pattern or case, and the idea that he was allowed after his sentencing, after his plea agreement to be chauffeured to work rather than actually serving his time in prison and that his sentence was so unthinkably light, frankly the secretary has a lot of explaining to do to justify why that was an appropriate plea agreement. I don't think he can meet that standard, and that's why I've joined many of my colleagues in calling for his resignation.
CAMEROTA: Senator Chris Coons, thank you very much for giving us your assessment on all of this including the breaking new this hour. Thanks for joining us. John -
COONS: Thank you, Alisyn.
BERMAN: All right, her play and her outspoken nature made her the star or one of the stars of the World Cup. Now, Megan Rapinoe is looking right in the camera with a new message for President Trump.