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President Trump Answers Questions Over Taliban Meeting; Trump Under Fire Over Proposed Taliban Meeting at Camp David. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 9, 2019 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Do you think that she has addressed it as well as she could have? Have you given her any advice on that?

REP. MARCIA FUDGE (D-OH): I mean, we have discussed it. But I would say this.

There is no reason for her to defend being a prosecutor. We should not cede prosecution to any particular group or person. She should not be ashamed of the fact that she protected her community, that she wanted it to be safer than it was.

She should not be ashamed at all that she made sure that children went to school and helped increase the attendance record because of her truancy position. She should not be ashamed that she takes care of people who have lost their children who have been raped, who have been murdered, that she brings justice.

There's no reason to be ashamed of it.

HILL: Congresswoman Fudge, we appreciate you joining us today. Thank you.

FUDGE: Thank you.

HILL: Top of the hour here. I'm Erica Hill, in for Brooke Baldwin.

And moments ago, new pushback from the president reports that top members of the president's own staff were against a possible meeting with the Taliban on U.S. soil.

Leaders of the militant group would have gone to Camp David to mark a peace agreement in Afghanistan. The president canceled that meeting due to a Taliban car bombing, he said, which killed an American soldier.

The plan, however, sparking bipartisan outrage, and from the top of the Republican ranks. Sources telling CNN both Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Adviser John Bolton told the president not to bring the Taliban to the U.S.

The sources described the president, who originated the idea, as wanting to showcase his success at reaching this deal in the most presidential of settings, Camp David.

It's been the site of major events, of course, including the 1978 accord between Egypt and Israel. The president tweeting -- quote -- "This story is false. I always think it is good to meet talk, but, in this case, I decided not to. The dishonest media likes to create the look of turmoil in the White House, of which there is none."

And the vice president sending out his own tweet, saying the story was not what it had been reported as.

Jake Tapper, CNN's chief white -- chief Washington correspondent, Jake, of course, anchor of "THE LEAD" and "STATE OF THE UNION."

So, looking at this, despite that tweet, it's not often that we hear about the vice president going against the president. That's a big deal.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It is.

And sources in the administration and the White House are telling our reporter Kevin Liptak that Vice President Pence did not agree, nor did National Security Adviser Ambassador John Bolton, with the idea of hosting the Taliban at Camp David.

And it is unusual, as you note. Usually, the vice president keeps a very close counsel and there are not individuals in the White House willing to share his views with reporters, especially when he disagreed with President Trump.

So somebody wanted to get the message out there that Vice President Pence disagreed with the president on this very, very controversial idea.

HILL: Very controversial.

We can't ignore the optics of it, right, at Camp David, and the fact that, from our reporting, President Trump really wanted to be seen as the dealmaker in bringing these parties together and sort of ironing out the final details there at Camp David.

There's that part of it. And there's also the fact that this would have been the week of the anniversary of 9/11.

TAPPER: That's right.

And you even have some Republicans, including in leadership in the House, like Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, saying that the Taliban should never be allowed to set foot in the United States.

I think there is a -- there's a lot of room here for individuals who do think that there should be some sort of negotiated peace. And, obviously, you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends.

And your enemies, our enemies, the nation's enemies in this case, are the Taliban. But the idea of an invitation of them to Camp David onto American soil, when only recently, in July, the Taliban put out a video still blaming the United States for 9/11 and justifying that horrific attack, well, that's a bridge too far for a lot of people.

HILL: You also spoke, of course, with the secretary of state about U.S. plans to pursue peace in Afghanistan. I want to play a portion of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We've been working on this peace and reconciliation program for quite some time. And we had made real progress.

We had the Taliban agreeing to, for the first time -- I remember when President Bush tried to get the Taliban to make a commitment to break with al Qaeda. The Taliban had agreed to do that. They'd agreed to certain reductions in violence.

They'd agreed, for the time, Jake, as you know, to sit down with their Afghan brothers and sisters and talk about the right process forward.

You know, Jake, it's also the case we haven't been negotiating while they have been killing us and we've been standing still. We've been taking it to the Taliban as well, over 1,000 Taliban killed in just the last 10 days alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: What more did you hear from the secretary, Jake?

TAPPER: Well, one other thing that I challenged him on was, I said that, if a Democratic president had proposed that the Taliban come to Camp David for a peace treaty, peace negotiations, and did such an invitation, made such an invitation on the week commemorating 9/11, that I can't imagine that Congressman Mike Pompeo, former West Point graduate, top of his class, former Army veteran, that that wouldn't upset him.

[15:05:20]

And he disputed that. He disputed the idea. He said he was 100 percent behind it.

But the truth of the matter is, when you look at actions that President Obama took that were controversial, including trading Taliban prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, for example, and you look at the eruption of controversy among not just Republicans, but mainly among Republicans in Congress, and then you compare it to this, it's really hard to imagine that there wouldn't be almost impeachment proceedings.

There certainly would be a hearing about the such an idea. It is a very controversial thing to do. The Taliban obviously not only harbored al Qaeda. They refused to hand over Osama bin Laden. They had militant terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

And the Afghanistan war started because they refused to acquiesce to President Bush's demands.

HILL: Jake Tapper, always appreciate it. Good to see you, my friend. Thank you.

TAPPER: Good to see you, Erica. Thanks so much.

HILL: And we will, of course, be seeing Jake again for "THE LEAD" at the top of the hour.

We should point out the Taliban is issuing a response. And the Taliban, of course, which now calls itself the Islamic Emirate, noting -- quote -- "As president as -- now, as the president of the United States has announced suspension of negotiations with the Islamic Emirate, this will harm America more than anyone else. It will damage its reputation, unmask its anti-peace policy to the world even more, increase its loss of life and treasure, and present its political interactions as erratic."

CNN senior national security analyst Lisa Monaco served as a counterterrorism and homeland security adviser for President Obama.

I just want to pick up really quickly on what was said in that statement. So, Clarissa Ward, our chief international correspondent, one of the things that she pointed out when we talked about that just last hour was, they talk about you're going to see an increased loss of life, there will be bloodshed, you will lose treasure.

But they didn't say they weren't open to still having discussions. How important is that, what wasn't said?

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look, the fact that there's still an opening, I think it's the right deduction to make from that statement.

Let's step back a minute though, Erica, and pick up on something Jake said. The fact of these talks is not wrong, right? Sitting down and trying to bring this bloody conflict, now 18 years on, trying to bring that to a close is a laudable goal.

And it's true, of course, if you're trying to bring a conflict to a close, you have to deal with the parties to that conflict, and that here means the Taliban. But it's a different thing to do that -- and that is a very hard thing to do -- than to actually bring them to the crown jewel of the U.S. presidency, or one of the crown jewels of the U.S. presidency, and that is Camp David.

So I think peace talks make sense. There's got to be a component for the Afghan government in that. But I think President Trump was right to call off the talks in the wake of the Taliban not agreeing to a cease-fire, continuing to attack and kill our soldiers.

But the talks themselves, OK. Bringing them to Camp David, quite another thing entirely.

HILL: The optics are a lot there. And then they could have been -- perhaps that is part of what was -- especially based on some of our reporting, what was driving the president, the idea of all of this happening and him being the dealmaker at Camp David, because of its history, because of what it symbolizes. But that, plus the week of the 9/11 anniversary, are you surprised

that we're not hearing there was more pushback within the administration?

MONACO: Well, look, two things to be said about all this discussion about pushback.

One, I'm not surprised that there were strong views against this move, which I think was quite incredible to even broach this topic. Frankly -- and I interested the focus on the kind of inside baseball and who's up and who's down and who's disagreeing.

It does not surprise me that there was disagreement. There should be disagreement. Frankly, the hardest problems , when I spent hours and ours in the Situation Room on very, very tough national security problems, there was lots of disagreement. And that's what you want.

That's how you get better decisions. So I think disagreement, fine. The fact that we're hearing about it does mean folks have an agenda to get that out.

HILL: Signals something else.

Lisa, stay with us, because we are just hearing actually from the president talking about the Taliban, talking about these decisions, and we're going to bring you more of that in just a moment.

We will have it on the other side of this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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HILL: Welcome back.

We are just hearing from the president speaking moments ago. Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... a little better negotiating position.

When they did that, they killed 12 people. One happened to be a great American soldier, a wonderful young man from Puerto Rico. Family's from Puerto Rico. And you can't do that. You can't do that with me.

So they're dead, as far as I'm concerned. And we have hit the Taliban harder in the last four days that they have been hit in over 10 years. So that's the way it is.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Say it. What?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: No, actually, in terms of advisers, I took my own advice. I like the idea of meeting. I have met with a lot of bad people and a lot of good people during the course of the last almost three years.

And I think meeting is a great thing. I think that meeting with -- you're talking about war. There are meetings with war. Otherwise, wars would never end. You would have them go on forever.

We had a meeting scheduled. It was my idea. It was my idea to terminate it. I didn't even -- I didn't discuss it with anybody else.

[15:15:05]

When I heard, very simply, that they killed one of our soldiers and 12 other innocent people, I said, there's no way I'm meeting on that basis. There's no way I'm meeting.

They did a mistake. And, by the way, they are telling people they made a big mistake. They're saying it loud and clear that they made a big mistake.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, Camp David has held meets with a lot of people that would have been perceived as being pretty tough customers and pretty bad people.

There have been plenty of so-called bad people brought up to Camp David for meetings. And the alternative was the White House. And you wouldn't have been happy with that either.

So, Camp David would have been a good place. But I don't want to meet under circumstances where they go around and try and make themselves a little bit more important by killing a soldier, by killing actually also a great NATO soldier, in addition to our soldier, and also a total of 12 people. I don't want that.

But, you know, Camp David has had many meetings that I guess people would not have considered politically correct.

Yes.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, we're looking at that. And we're thinking about it.

You know, as I have said, we have been policemen there for a long time. And the government's going to have to take responsibility or do whatever it is they do. I have been saying from the campaign that we want do get out at the earliest possible time.

We're doing a very good job. Our soldiers are incredible. But they're serving as policemen, to a large extent. I just made a statement on it. Yes, we'd like to get out. But we will get out at the right time.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: What?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, India and Pakistan are having a conflict over Kashmir, as you know.

I think it's a little bet less heated right now than it was two weeks ago. And I'm willing to help them. I get along with both countries very well. I'm willing to help them if they want. They know that that is out there.

David?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: You know, I don't even know who they are, other than I know that -- I guess you could say no, but I don't know them. I don't know them.

I would say this. They're all at less than 1 percent. It's a -- I guess it's a publicity stunt. We just got right a little while ago 94 percent popularity or approval rating within the Republican Party.

So, to be honest, I'm not looking to give them any credibility. They have no credibility. One was a person that voted for Obama, ran as a vice president four years ago, and was soundly defeated.

Another one got thrown out after one term in Congress, and he lost in a landslide. And the third one, Mr. Tallahassee Trail or Appalachian Trail -- he's the Tallahassee Trail, right? The Tallahassee Trail is nice too, but I think he was the Appalachian Trail.

But he wasn't on the Appalachian Trail. He was in Argentina.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Say it louder.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) you think the military as a police source on our southern border?

TRUMP: Well, right now, Mexico has been doing a great job for us.

And, frankly, we're very appreciative. But we have also been very -- pretty rapidly changing the regulations, the rules, winning in court. We have had a lot of wins. We did it early on, but we're having a lot of wins in court right now. The courts are backing us up.

And that has a lot to do with our success of the southern border. In addition, a lot of wall is being built. And every time we put up a mile of wall, that helps us a lot.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: So, we're talking to a lot of different people on that. You know, we're recovering from the hurricane also. Florida did get hit, not as hard as we anticipated.

And you look at Georgia, you look at South Carolina, North Carolina. I'm going to North Carolina right now, North Carolina, to have a rally for Dan Bishop. But before I go to the rally, we're going to be stopping at one of the sites that got hit very hard by the hurricane.

So, we're also recovering from the hurricane. But we have to be very careful. Everybody needs totally proper documentation, because, look, the Bahamas had some tremendous problems with people going to the Bahamas that weren't supposed to be there.

I don't want to allow people that weren't supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States, including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.

[15:20:04]

So, we are going to be very, very strong with that.

Let me just explain. Large sections, believe it or not, of the Bahamas were not hit. And what we're doing is bringing the people to those sections of the Bahamas that have not been hit.

We have done a lot of the USAID. We have done a lot of work with our U.S. Coast Guard, with our FEMA, who have been phenomenal. I mean, they have been phenomenal. So, we will see what happens. We will see what happens.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

TRUMP: Well, I saw a statement was just put out having to do with North Korea. And that will be interesting. We will see.

It just came out over the wires a little while ago. So, we will see what happens.

In the meantime, in the meantime, we have our hostages back. We're getting the remains of our great heroes back. And we have had no nuclear testing for a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: President Trump speaking there moments ago with reporters.

Lisa Monaco is with us, Gloria Borger also with us this hour.

I want to pick up on what the president was saying about this plan and the canceled meeting that we heard about with the Taliban. He said: I took my own advice. He didn't speak with any advisers who talked to him out of the meeting, saying, Lisa, that it was this attack that the Taliban has claimed responsibility for which killed 12, one U.S. soldier killed in that, and because of that attack and the people who were killed, then the talks, according to the president, that those talks are now dead.

There is a question about the Taliban, Lisa, taking responsibility for this attack while they're supposed to be in the middle of some sort of negotiation with the U.S. What does that say to you?

MONACO: Well, it really makes you question their commitment to any of the commitments we're trying to get out of them, one, a cease-fire, which we know they haven't committed, two, renouncing, which they have never done, 9/11.

So how can we trust that they will make good on their commitments if they continue -- if they refuse to agree to a cease-fire, and they continue these attacks, even while they're being invited to Camp David?

HILL: And we're hearing, Gloria, the president there. He was asked, did any advisers talk you out of this meeting? He said very clearly: I took my own advice. This was all my decision.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that seems to be what -- the truth, because there are advisers, we know, who disagreed with him.

There are advisers who thought, whatever you decide to do, even if you want to talk to the Taliban, you should not do it at Camp David.

And what the president also said is that they have been hit harder in the last four days than in the last four years.

And, Lisa, maybe you can talk to this, but what does that mean? Where does that put any kind of negotiation? And where does that put the notion about what we're going to do with our troops in Afghanistan?

MONACO: Well, a few reactions to both the president's comments and what Gloria just said.

One is, what is this -- what is the strategy here, right? So I heard the president say he did not talk to anybody about this, he made this decision on his own.

Well, that is really turning a national security policy process completely on its head. You're not getting an informed decision. You're not getting the best decision you can without having lots of voices in the room on this.

And in terms of the Taliban's continued terror attacks, their continued violence in the region, I mean, we don't have a strategy, it seems, to have these talks, while also continuing to have a counterterrorism presence, continuing to prosecute the counterterrorism issues.

The president said, what about the -- also, what about the security for our forces? What about security for our NATO presence?

And the president said, we are the -- we have been the policemen in that region.

Frankly, the mission in that space has been twofold. It has been to continue to prosecute the counterterrorism mission and to ensure another 9/11 doesn't emanate from that region, and, secondly, to ensure the Afghan security forces can operate there on their own.

HILL: And, real quickly, too, we had talked about this, but the president talked about Camp David. And he said: Well, I was also considering the White House. If I had done that, nobody would have been happy with that either. There have been, in his words, plenty of bad people there.

Lisa, you were there with President Obama for that Mideast peace summit. Just -- I mean, just take us inside that room. How does this happen there when you're trying to bring sides together? And did it make sense for the president to consider Camp David?

MONACO: No, it didn't make sense for the president to consider Camp David, let alone the White House for this type of meeting.

Camp David has been used historically to bring our allies together, to plan strategy, to bring partners together in a joint effort. Reagan famously met with Margaret Thatcher there.

And, yes, as you mentioned, I was present in 2015 when President Obama held meetings with all of our Mideast and Gulf allies in the region to talk about the Syria problem, to talk about continued pressure on Iran. That's where you use a place like Camp David.

And, very importantly, Camp David and bringing somebody there and bringing an ally and a partner there is a reward for that partner, for that ally. And this is not the type of thing we should be doing with the Taliban, who quite literally has blood on their hands from 9/11.

(CROSSTALK)

[15:25:15]

HILL: Go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: I just also want to ask -- and I don't know if there's any answer to this -- which is, why is the president tweeting about all of this?

I mean, it's kind of stunning to me. And, again, I don't have Lisa's experience with national security. But why would the president be tweeting about a meeting he was going to have that was top-secret that he canceled and then today talk about, well, I was thinking about having it in this venue, and I was thinking about having it in that venue? I mean, is there any reason for him doing that, other than wanting to make it the reality show continue for another day? I can't figure that one out either.

HILL: It's a question that I can't either -- answer either.

But it does raise significant questions, to your point, Gloria.

BORGER: Yes.

HILL: Stay with us.

The president also in that exchange earlier talking about the special election, which is being seen by many as a test for him in North Carolina, in addition to the controversy surrounding Air Force members staying at one of his resorts.

We have more on that. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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