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Putin Announces Military Will Respond to U.S. Missile Test; Low Expectations Set for G-7 Summit; Trump Sends Mixed Messages as Economy Flounders; Ken Cuccinelli, Head of Immigration Services, is Interviewed about Rule Change on Detaining Immigrant Families. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired August 23, 2019 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Andy.

[07:00:01] All right. There's this new threat from Vladimir Putin, so we have all of the breaking news for you. NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: All right. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. John Berman, as we've said, is off this morning.

John Avlon joins me for a very busy morning. Busier than we expected --


CAMEROTA: -- because of this breaking news. There are fears this morning that the U.S. and Russia could be headed towards another arms race.

In the past hour, Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to prepare a symmetric response to a U.S. missile test. The Pentagon tested this ground-launched cruise missile off the coast of California on Sunday after President Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark IMF treaty, which banned such tests.

AVLON: All this comes just hours before President Trump and world leaders are set to meet at the G-7 summit in France. Let's get right to CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen, live in Moscow with the breaking details -- Fred.




AVLON: Looks like we have lost Fred's feed for the time being.

CAMEROTA: Technical gremlins from Russia. I won't draw any conclusions.

AVLON: All right. But never fear, we have Nic.

Now, how are the -- is this all going to play at the G-7? We've got Nic Robertson standing by in France to pick the ball up. Nic, enlighten us.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, John, look, I mean, one of the issues that's been discussed, and President Trump has been at the forefront of this, from that terrible G-7 summit last year, where he stormed out, failed to sign the communique at the end of it, got into a staring match with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

But back then, President Trump was saying, "Look, Russia needs to be at the table of the G-7; make it back to the G-8 again."

President Macron, the French leader who's hosting this summit here, has said, "OK. Yes, we can -- I can work with that. But only if Russia agrees to the peace deal terms in Ukraine." All of that's going to be on the agenda here.

But I think this will thrust, again, Russia and the issue of Russia being part of the G-7 and getting it around the table and getting Vladimir Putin around the table here back on the agenda.

But there are so many other things that are on the agenda here. But the reality is -- and the French president has spoken about this -- that he is not expecting a communique this year. Because of what happened in many ways last year when President Trump refused to sign. He doesn't want to go through that again. He knows the issues here that are coming up are going to be very divisive: climate change being one, trade being another.

But you also see Macron emerging here, sort of taking France and putting it in the position you might traditionally see the United States. He is going to be trying to get a ratcheting down of tensions between the United States and Iran. Macron's taken the lead on that, as he is on climate change. And inequality will be another issue -- gender inequality, social inequality, economic inequality -- here, as well.

You do have other leaders coming. Boris Johnson from Britain wants to meet with President Trump, hopes for talks about a trade deal. But so many of those leaders coming here -- Angela Merkel, the Italian prime minister resigned just a couple of days ago, as well. They're all in weak positions.

So no great expectations of a strong communique or perhaps any agreement at all. Russia, though, now a big talking point.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Understood. Nic, thank you for giving us all that context.

We've rejiggered the satellite, and Fred Pleitgen is back.

So Fred, what is this breaking news? Why did Vladimir Putin announce this today?

PLEITGEN: Hi, Alisyn. Yes, our signals dropped there out of nowhere all of a sudden. But we are back now.

And you're absolutely right. Vladimir Putin absolutely angry at this land-based Tomahawk cruise missile test that the U.S. conducted on Monday. It's one of the things where the Russians are saying that they believe that the U.S. left the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty under a pretense.

Vladimir Putin coming out earlier today in his -- which was billed as a very important announcement, saying the fact that the U.S. tested this missile only 16 days after it officially left the INF treaty shows that it was all a pretense and that the U.S. had been planning this for a very long time.

Now comes the really important part: Vladimir Putin now saying that he has ordered various ministries here in Moscow to start planning for what he calls a systematic and symmetrical response. Let's listen in to what Vladimir Putin had to say.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Given the newly-emerging circumstances, I instruct the ministries in relevant departments to analyze the level of threat posed by the actions of the United States to our country and take comprehensive measures to prepare a symmetrical response.


PLEITGEN: Now, he didn't go into detail what that exactly means, but one thing that the Russians have been talking about is developing new weapons systems of their own. Of course, some of the ones have been announced by the Russians over the past couple of years.

[07:05:00] One of the things we also have to keep in mind is that, while the Russians say that the U.S. left this treaty under a pretense, the U.S., for its part, says that Russia has been violating that treaty for a very long time and, in fact, has already deployed intermediate-range nuclear missiles in the vicinity of NATO. So certainly, that was one of the big points of contention.

But right now the Russians really in a state of anger, as you can see, and saying that there will be a response. Whether or not they're going to start deploying new missiles is something that they haven't announced yet, guys.

CAMEROTA: OK, Fred. Thank you very much for jumping in on all of this breaking news.

Joining us now, we have Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN senior political reporter; Abby Phillip, CNN White House correspondent; Josh Dawsey, White House reporter for "The Washington Post" and CNN political analyst; and Van Jones, CNN political commentator and host of "THE VAN JONES SHOW." Abby, I want to start with you because of this breaking news. Our

international experts, analysts, reporters say that the fears of an arms race are very real. This isn't just hyperbole. The idea that there's a testing and then another testing, and then they keep upping the ante.

And I just wonder, from the White House, how President Trump is feeling, because he has put so much stock in the relationship that he wanted to cultivate with Vladimir Putin. He's been so solicitous of Vladimir Putin. What now?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Trump has made it clear for a long time that his vision for what happens now is that everyone just comes to the table and decides that they want to create a bigger arms deal, one that, in the last hour, Susan Glasser mentioned would include China, for example.

But the problem is that there's been almost no indication that Russia's interested in that, that China's interested in that. This has been something that has been a little bit of a pet project for President Trump for quite some time now. And as someone who sees himself as a deal maker, he thinks he's the person to do it.

The walking away from the INF treaty is something that the Trump administration did, because they have been saying that Russia has not been fulfilling their end of that bargain and that it, in fact, hamstrungs -- hamstrings the United States by -- by tying us to an agreement that it isn't working in the first place.

The Trump administration's not the first to -- to say that Russia's been cheating on that agreement, but it really came to a head under this administration. And it really leads to a bigger problem of Russia on the world stage being kind of a bad actor and the Trump administration, frankly, not making any progress in getting them back to the table on big issues like this, like nuclear arms.

But President Trump still maintains that he's the guy who can get everybody into a room and agree on some big, massive deal that just has not materialized yet.

AVLON: Abby, that's such an important point, because just this week, we saw another attempt at creating an inducement to Russia, an engagement with Russia. Josh, President Trump raising a lot of eyebrows when he basically unilaterally suggested bringing Russia back into the G-7 without any request from Russia that it do -- that he do so. And this seems to be Vladimir Putin's response.

What's the White House thinking about the president's outreach strategy today?

JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's been a perpetual strategy of the president. Remember, he did that last year, as well, just before the G-7. He called on Russia to come in right before he left. It's kind of a tactic that he did almost one year to the date afterwards. And both times, it got significant pushback from the European leaders. The president, as Abby said, has wanted to have a solicitous

relationship with President Trump [SIC]. But then, we've seen others in his administration, and Jim Mattis, the last defense secretary, H.R. McMaster, Bolton -- John Bolton, the national security advisor now, who have far more dim views of Russia.

And you see the president taking a kinder and gentler stance to Vladimir Putin than any of them would probably propose or like.

And here, what you have again happening is the president saying, "Oh, I just think Russia should be there. I think Russia -- it's important to have Russia at the table if we're going to make any sort of deals." Others in his administration that have a conference call with reporters yesterday and saying the president didn't really express an opinion. He was just kind of throwing the idea out there.

So it kind of tells you the discord, the divide there between the president and people around him on how to handle Russia.

CAMEROTA: Josh, I want to stick with you for one second, because you have really interesting reporting about the G-7 and what other world leaders and diplomats are preparing for. I think it's safe to say they see President Trump as a wild card at big meetings like this.

And so here are some of the quotes in your article that everybody should read. "When countries like Denmark are in the firing line, you just try to get through the summit without any damage. Every one of these, you just hope that it ends without any problem. It just gets harder and harder." That is a G-7 diplomat that you spoke to.

Here's a second G-7 diplomat: "You have to plan on going into the summit that he is going to try to divide and conquer."

I mean, it just sounds like everyone's bracing themselves for what will happen starting tomorrow.

DAWSEY: Well, each one of these summits, there tends to be an explosion or a threat or a demand from President Trump.

[07:10:05] Here, he's expected to really lash into folks on NATO spending, which he does time and time again. Remember, NATO last year he kind of threatened to pull out of the alliance, of the G-7 last year. He left on the plane and said he was taking back signing of the communique.

Here, they're not even going to have a communique this year is the plan, because they're not sure that they can get language that everyone agrees to.

What France is doing is trying to keep some issues they know that will probably upset the president or cause divides like climate change, global warming, some of their energy policy that the president doesn't agree with off the table, because they want to be able to try and have a harmonious meeting of sorts.

The challenge for the president, though, on these -- on these summits is, you know, he does all these one-on-one meetings with world leaders. And he wants to kind of divide and conquer. He wants to get trade deals with each one of them. You know, he hates the European Union. We've heard this time and time again. He's looking to kind of cannonball in the pool and get things done.

And a lot of these summits, frankly, if you talk to diplomats even from other countries, not a lot really happens at them. So it's a lot of -- it's a lot of, like, you know, hand holding, and a lot of, you know, we're all in this together and kumbaya. And that's just not what this president likes to do on the world stage. So it should be an interesting time.

AVLON: No, he's not a kumbaya character.

Nia-Malika, let's go to you. Because as the rest of the G-7 seems to be engaging in this kind of "contain the president" strategy, really, folks are hobbling into this G-7. All the political leaders are at a point of weakness. Is there a constructive agenda that you and, more importantly, the White House believe they can achieve in the meetings over the next two days in France?

NIA-MALIKA, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, a constructive agenda out of this White House? Where Trump is the show, right? I mean, that's how he governs. He doesn't have a lot of guardrails around him, certainly if you look at the last years of his presidency. People have moved on. People who, you know, were in some ways, able to contain some of his behavior. Those folks aren't around anymore.

So I think, you know, we have a president who often would go into meetings like this and say he -- he was essentially going to wing it. So I think that's probably the expectation here. Who knows what will come out of this meeting?

Josh obviously has that great reporting with folks there, essentially, bracing for a surprise. Who knows what this president, who we've seen over these last days behave in maybe, in some ways, a more erratic way, a more kind of shoot-from-the-hip and no real filter. You saw that kind of rambling presser he had on the South Lawn there. 40 minutes of all sorts of topics. So we'll see what comes out of this.

This is a president that I think is in an odd time in his presidency. There was so much focus from this president on Russia, on the Mueller probe. And now it's all of a sudden, what does he do now? Facing re- election, facing a bit of a softening economy and facing, I think, some blowback from some of his decision, whether it's on trade; whether it's on sort of turning a blind eye to Russian aggression; turning a blind eye to North Korea aggression, as well.

And so here he is on the world stage, and we'll see what comes out of it. Nobody knows. It'll be the Trump show. That's all we know.

CAMEROTA: OK. So Van, an unsettling G-7, a potential arms race that some people say we're already in. By the way, the Amazon rainforest is on fire as we speak. Happy Friday.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good to see you. Good to see you.

CAMEROTA: Give us the big picture on all of this.

JONES: Look, I mean, it's -- it's the chaos presidency. You know, Jeb Bush said it. That if you have this chaos candidate, you'd have a chaos presidency presidency. You've got chaos inside the U.S. border, with all this division, all this conflict that's going on, chaos at the border, and now chaos beyond the border. Then that's what you're going to see with the G-7.

And part of the thing David Axelrod has been talking about is this fatigue now. That you have people, even people who might love the tax cuts, even people who might like the conservative judges, it's just exhausting. You can't get up every morning for five more years and be afraid to look at your phone, because you just don't know what crazy thing is going to leap out into your eyeballs and ruin the next hour of your life. But that's kind of what we've been dealing with. And it's a continuation of that.

AVLON: And just to remind folks, the last G-7, there's an indelible photograph that folks might remember of just how swimmingly the various world leaders get along. We've got --

CAMEROTA: You asked for a body language expert. I don't need one.

AVLON: You don't need one for this one?

CAMEROTA: For that photo. That photo, the iconic photo that we will show to you for one second, where President Trump is basically swarmed by all of the leaders, waiting for sort of a response or an answer for him or --

AVLON: This is what happened last time. This is --

JONES: He's got his little arms folded like a -- like a young -- like a kid.

AVLON: Yes. So this is what happened last time. We'll see if we can improve. But no, Aly, I don't think you need a body language expert for that.

CAMEROTA: No. Not this morning.

AVLON: But Josh, you have a co-byline on a massive piece in "The Washington Post." Twenty-five sources spoken to, describing the chaos inside the White House, the pervasive nervousness about the economy, not just domestically but globally, and how it's impacting the president's sort of mixed messages to date.

[07:15:15] What do you -- you know, he has said the world is in recession, but we're not. What are the storm clouds that they're buffeting back here at home? And how is that affecting his approach to the G-7 going forward?

DAWSEY: Well, the president has been shown forecasts in recent weeks that show the economy slowing into next year. His economic team has come in and given him different briefs, different analysis that they've done.

And you've had a president who's really had contradictory messages. You've seen where he's gone over and over, talking about the strong, robust economy on the South Lawn, Air Force One, on his speeches. Talking about how the fake news just wants to show a recession for him to lose. That's been his new trademark line.

But the hallmark of a strong economy has really been one of the guiding points of his presidency. And that's why it's kept his numbers as high as they've been, according to political analysts and people close to the president.

And now you see some signs of weakening, and you have a president who's kind of throwing different things against a wall, potentially a rotating board of governors for the Federal Reserve, which we know that he hates, to try to reduce the power of Jerome Powell.

A potential payroll tax cut. He says it's on the table, off the table. Now on the table, off the table.

Different ideas that the president is kind of coming up with to try and make sure the economy stays juiced through next year.

Inside the White House, this is the first time where these kind of signs of a faltering, the different advisers -- Larry Kudlow, Steve Mnuchin -- the president are trying to figure out how can we -- how can we deal with this? Because without a strong economy, they see his chances of election going down precipitously.

CAMEROTA: Abby, it's been a crazy week. I mean, rhetorically, from the president, it's been Mr. Toad's Wild Ride in terms of what -- I mean --

AVLON: I didn't see a "Wind in the Willows" reference coming this morning.

CAMEROTA: I mean --

AVLON: That's good.

CAMEROTA: You know, I don't know where to begin. Everybody, I suppose, remembers if they haven't blocked it.

And so what is your reporting about -- is it the economy? Is it that he personally is feeling unsettled, and it's having this manifestation on some erratic rhetoric?

PHILLIP: Well, when the president thinks about his own re-election prospects, he has over the last, you know, several years been alternatingly worried about the Mueller investigation and the economy.

Well, the Mueller investigation, in his mind, that has been resolved. That is to the side. The economy is now taking forefront. It has become the No. 1 issue on his mind as it relates to how he thinks voters are going to view him going into 2020. And what his prospects are. And so any weakening of the economy really disrupts that narrative. I

mean, he's been talking ad nauseam about the greatest economy in the history of the country and in the history of the world. But that economy could be softening.

And now his aides are coming to him, telling him things that they hadn't really been telling him before when they'd been projecting confidence. Republicans had assured him tax cuts would do the trick, would help juice the economy. Those things turned out to not be true. So we've seen the president publicly attacking the Federal Reserve, who he has blamed for not doing more to try to boost the economy.

And as we go to the G-7 over the weekend, one thing we should be on the lookout, that President Trump has already projected, is that he might very well start attacking America's allies in Europe as he's been projecting attacking Germany over their moves to keep their interest rates low that he thinks is putting the U.S. at a disadvantage.

This is a president who is on edge about the economy. And even as the world economy might be slowing, he's not out there saying, "We want to try to help everyone stay afloat." He's saying, "We have to win at -- you know, we -- the United States has to win over economies like Germany's and others in Europe."

So that's another point of major tension going into the G-7.

AVLON: Van, I heard you last night on Don Lemon say that the Democrats' message should be, at this point, "Make America sane again."



AVLON: There is this sort of sense of exhaustion, as Aly was saying, unpredictability, of alienating allies and embracing enemies, who seem to reject him anyway.

Is this something the Democrats can politically exploit, or do they run into danger if they try to tap dance when things go sideways on the international stage? Because it looks like their cheerleading against the American economy, against Americans' interests.

JONES: Well, look, I mean, it's a -- it's a tricky thing. Because you're literally trying to -- you're juggling chickens and chainsaws and an earthquake. I mean, that's -- every day it's how is this all going to work out?

AVLON: Chickens, chainsaws and earthquakes.

JONES: It's kind of like -- so you can imagine trying to run for president against 27 other people trying to do that.

So just to pull back a little bit on this economic question and the reason why I think there's queasiness with the president and his allies. They fired every weapon, and they're out of bullets.


JONES: There's only a few things you can do to get an economy moving. You can either do big infrastructure, spend money. We had Infrastructure Week for every week, and no infrastructure. So that's kind of off the table now.

[07:20:08] You can cut taxes. They cut taxes a bunch, but it mainly went to people at the top.

So you're really out of fiscal policy options to do anything. What's left is monetary options. You get the Fed to try and do something. That's why he's jawboning the Fed. But the Fed's been behaving pretty responsibly.

The reality is, you create a massive deficit. You're now out of bullets, and you just basically have to hope that you get to where you're going, you know, 18 months from now. And hoping and praying is not a good strategy.

And so now you've got the president just wandering around, flapping his arms, saying anything, doing anything, because they don't have any more tools. And that's what's going on.

HENDERSON: And it's also just the instability of this trade policy, right? You know, so he came in promising that he would reinvigorate all these different sectors, particularly manufacturing. You remember, in his inaugural defense, he talked about the tombstones of rusted factories littering the American landscape.

Well, guess what? A lot of those factories are still rusted out. Some of the jobs that he promised to bring back like Carrier. Remember that big promise, right, when he was elected? A lot of those jobs have lost.

Harley-Davidson, for instance, had to sort of outsource some jobs because of this instability.

That big plant in Foxconn. It was supposed to bring 13,000 jobs. It looks like it will bring about 1,500 jobs after a big, you know, sort of incentive package at the state of Wisconsin. A promise that company.

So a lot of those very specific promises to very specific people, particularly working-class folks in Midwestern states, those haven't been met.

Truckers, right? There's a trucker recession in that industry at this point. And truckers tend to vote Republican. Seventy-five, 80 percent or so voted for Donald Trump.

So he's got very specific problems. And I think Van makes a very good point. They are out of bullets. But in many ways, Trump is firing his own gun at the economy because of the instability of this trade policy and sort of the tariffs. CAMEROTA: Well, they're talking about further cutting the tax rate.

They're talking about, I don't know, intimidating Jerome Powell with people around him. But in any event, we take your point. Thank you, all --

AVLON: Thank you all.

CAMEROTA: -- very much for the deep analysis.

So this humanitarian crisis at the border, it is still complicated. Now the Trump administration has made a decision to lift the restrictions on detaining children. Well, you'll remember, they could only be detained for 20 days. Now they can be detained indefinitely. So we have the head of the immigration services next.


[07:26:33] CAMEROTA: A new Trump administration rule would allow the administration to keep migrant families, including children, detained indefinitely at the border. It would replace this long-standing Supreme Court settlement that limits how long children could remain in custody. The rule up until now has been 20 days.

Joining us now to explain all of this is Ken Cuccinelli. He's the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Director Cuccinelli, thanks so much for being here.


CAMEROTA: So explain --

CUCCINELLI: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: Explain how this helps. Explain how it helps to keep kids --

CUCCINELLI: Sure. First of all -- first of all, you mentioned --

CAMEROTA: -- detained indefinitely. Hold on just one second, Mr. Cuccinelli. Because we know that the issue has -- for you guys has been overcrowding. So how does this solve that?

CUCCINELLI: No, it is not just overcrowding. And it wasn't a Supreme Court settlement. It was one district court judge in California, who took a 1997 case and, in 2015, added families to the settlement related to children.

President Obama's administration vehemently opposed that move by that single judge. And the data shows that that single judge's decision in 2015 played an enormous role in the explosion of the crisis at the border that we're still contending with today.

So what we did do this week -- and it is, as you note, Alisyn, it is a very big deal. The Flores settlement is the name of the case. And so we called this the Flores Rule. And it fixes that problem.

The problem was the inability to hold families -- detain families more than 20 days. And now we can hold them until their whole court situation is resolved.

CAMEROTA: Yes. But that could be years.

CUCCINELLI: And historically, that took about 50 days.

CAMEROTA: All right. OK, but nowadays --

CUCCINELLI: Well, that isn't --

CAMEROTA: -- it can take years.

CUCCINELLI: That is not how it -- that is not how it worked when this was being conducted with families.

CAMEROTA: Understood. But I'm just saying the problem now --

CUCCINELLI: And realize, one of the problems --

CAMEROTA: that we've been confronting --

CUCCINELLI: -- that was going on was that 30 percent of the children in the pilot programs, we were finding, were being recycled. They were being trafficked. This became a ticket to -- to bring children became a ticket to get into the United States --


CUCCINELLI: -- because you had to be released within 20 days. This protects children.

CAMEROTA: I guess. I mean, OK. On one level, it protects children, but it also exposes children to the overcrowding. I mean, here's some of the B-roll. We've been playing it for months. We've been seeing this for months. Lawmakers have been going to the border for months.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, I assume the B-roll you're showing --

CAMEROTA: Hold on one second. Hold one one second. Here it is, as you can see.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, I know you don't want real answers. I know you don't want truth. You want your narrative to go, but --

CAMEROTA: I want to be able to ask you a question.

CUCCINELLI: -- I'm not going to sit back and take that.

CAMEROTA: Mr. Cuccinelli, I want to be able to get a question --

CUCCINELLI: I can't see the pictures you're showing. I guarantee you they're border agents.

CAMEROTA: Those are border agents in these cages right here?

CUCCINELLI: Pictures of the Border Patrol -- are those Border Patrol facilities?

CAMEROTA: Yes, these are Border --

CUCCINELLI: I can't see them.

CAMEROTA: These are Border Patrol facilities with overcrowding and not enough room --


CAMEROTA: -- for people inside these cages. And now children will be held there indefinitely.

CUCCINELLI: So we don't use cages. We use the facilities built in the 1990s and with the last administration. So if you want to characterize it that way, just everyone watching should know you're pushing a narrative, not analyzing a situation.

CAMEROTA: Well, you're calling it a different word. Here's -- here's -- let's agree on this. Through mesh -- through chain-link fencing, there are families being held that are overcrowded. I'm getting this from you. It's your administration that has said that the overcrowding has gotten to a level that is unlivable.

CUCCINELLI: So -- Alisyn, yes -- Alisyn, realize that the position the Trump administration took.