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Trump Contradicts Border Chief on What Happens to Bahamians Fleeing to U.S. in Wake of Dorian; Pompeo & Mnuchin Give Press Briefing; Trump Fires National Security Adviser John Bolton. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired September 10, 2019 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The president seems to be contradicting his own administration on something. This time there's a mix up between the president and his border chief over what happens to Bahamian refugees who are fleeing to the U.S. in the wake of Hurricane Dorian.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody needs totally proper documentation.
MARK MORGAN, ACTING COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION: This is a humanitarian mission, right, with respect to this. So if your life is in jeopardy and you're in the Bahamas and you want to get to the United States, you're going to be allowed to come to the United States.
TRUMP: 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.
MORGAN: Nobody has said that. I have not said that. And I'm not going to say that. What I will say is history has shown us that there are bad people that do take advantage of that. Have we seen any of that right now? No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Joining me now is Robert Perez. He's the deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection.
Maybe you can help us get a sense of the kind of flow we're seeing from the Bahamas. Has the CBP seen this, gang members, drugs, concerns? Did they brief the president or warn the White House about gang members coming through the Bahamas?
ROBERT PEREZ, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, U.S. CUSTOMS & BORDER PROTECTION: Thanks for having me, Brianna.
KEILAR: Of course.
PEREZ: Look, so far, we haven't seen any criminal element. But make no mistake about it, unfortunately, in years past and other times, when we've experienced and responded to these types of tragedies, there's a criminal element that will look to exploit these situations.
I really also want to make mention, that CBP, Customs and Border Protection, we are and will continue to ask for everybody to adhere to the rules that are in place with respect to traveling to the United States.
KEILAR: Sure, and I want to talk a lot about that, but I'm trying to get a sense of did CBP brief the president that this is a concern at this point in time?
PEREZ: Look, what we continue to share with everyone is this ongoing concern to make sure that our border security mission, which is a national security mission, is something that we need to be mindful of regardless of circumstances as tragic as what has happened in the Bahamas is.
So we have standards in place with respect to the documentations, the visas that are required to travel.
PEREZ: But nevertheless -- and most of all the people that have arrived so far in the U.S. from the Bahamas have had proper documentation. The cruise lines, the air carriers, all the people that are helping people relocate, and if they have to leave the Bahamas, know the rules that are in place.
And if we need to apply discretion, we have the ability to do so and we're ready to do that --
KEILAR: I want --
PEREZ: -- on a case-by-case basis.
KEILAR: I do want to ask you about that because we saw, with this ferry ship, a concern over that with the ferry captain telling - actually, -standby with me if you can, Deputy Commissioner. Let's listen in to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Last night, the president asked for Ambassador Bolton's resignation. As I understand it, it was received this morning.
POMPEO: Go ahead, yes, ma'am, in the back
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was it because of this disagreement?
POMPEO: I'll leave that to the president to talk about the reasons he made the decision.
POMPEO: But I would say this. The president is entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment. This is a staff person that works directly for the president of the United States, and he should have people that he trusts and values, and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy.
It's what Cabinet Secretary Mnuchin and I try to do so each and every day. And when the president makes a decision like this, he's well within his rights to do so.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you describe your working relationship with John Bolton as it was today?
POMPEO: Sure. Sure.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And also, does his departure make it easier for you to do his job and for the administration to accomplish the president's foreign policy agenda?
POMPEO: Look, I don't talk about the inner workings of how this all goes. We all give our candid opinions. There were many times Ambassador Bolton and I disagreed, that's to be sure. But that's true with a lot of people with whom I interact.
My mission is always to make sure, as I run the Department of State, is to deliver America's diplomacy and to work with the team, whether it's the Treasury or the president's staff, to make sure we get good outcomes.
I know everyone has talked about this for an awfully long time. There were definitely places where Ambassador Bolton and I had different views about how we should proceed.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is it now possible to see some less hawkish Iran policy, and does this open the path for the president to meet with Rouhani?
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I would say Secretary Pompeo and myself and the president are completely aligned on our maximum pressure campaign. I think you know we've done more sanctions on Iran than anybody. And it's absolutely working.
The president has made clear he's happy to take a meeting with no pre- conditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.
(CROSSTALK) POMPEO: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Secretary Pompeo, for clarity on this, can you foresee a meeting between President Trump and the Iranian leader later this month surrounding the United Nations?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Would the president support that and do you support that?
POMPEO: The president has made it very clear he's prepared to meet with no pre-conditions.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Quickly, on the original guidance for this briefing, Bolton was on the guidance to be here, so were you two blindsided by what occurred today, that he's no longer with the administration? Was it news to you today? Because last night you were both going to be here today.
POMPEO: I'm never surprised.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Let me ask it this way.
POMPEO: I don't mean on just this issue.
And I think Secretary Mnuchin would say the same thing.
We work very closely with the president of the United States. I think we have a pretty good understanding of how he's thinking about things -- I think you would agree, Steven -- at nearly all times.
So, you know, our mission says not to talk about these inner workings and the palace intrigue that I know you're so curious about but to talk about things that matter with foreign policy.
MNUCHIN: I would just add that people who know should know and we won't get into the administrative things when a notice went out because yesterday --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you very much.
Secretary Pompeo --
POMPEO: Yes, ma'am. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- you reported on Syria and the refugee camps last night. Our David Muir was there. He talked about how these refugee camps, ISIS fighters are blending in. There's children dancing around the ISIS flag.
Are you concerned about these refugee camps becoming a breeding ground, a training ground for terrorists, for ISIS fighters?
POMPEO: There's a long history of just exactly what you're describing, camps in Iraq, camps other places where prisoners were detained and extremist elements breeding in those places.
But we are working diligently on this. We have conduct enormous operations against ISIS even after the fall of the caliphate as recently as the last handful of days. We are very focused on this. The success that we had moving down the Euphrates River Valley that our Department of Defense led with the USDF forces was truly remarkable.
We will not take our eye off the ball ensuring, whether it's ISIS or other Islamic extremist groups, continue to be under pressure from the United States of America.
POMPEO: And just to close it up, that would include in these camps you're referring to.
POMPEO: Yes, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, the White House says that National Security Adviser Bolton's foreign policy would not align with the president's philosophy. How is it out of alignment?
POMPEO: Well, I'll leave that to the White House to talk about, other than to say I think President Trump -- I watched his campaign. I've now worked with him, first as CIA director and now as secretary of state. Someone asked, would the policy be different, absent any individual being here. This has been the president's policies.
We give him our best wisdom. We share with him our understanding. When I was intelligence director, we did our best to make sure he had the facts and data available so he could make good decisions. But I don't think any leader around the world could make any assumption because one of us departs that President Trump's policy would change materially.
POMPEO: The other thing I would say in follow-up, because the president has been very clear on this, the president's view of the Iraq war and Bolton's were very different. The president has made that clear.
POMPEO: Yes, go ahead.
POMPEO: Sure, way in the back. Yes, ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you both planning to impose tariffs on Mexico if they don't continue with the immigration plan?
POMPEO: We're looking forward to meeting with the foreign minister in just a little bit. We're going to talk about the progress we've made, which has been substantial and real and material and has made America more secure.
But at the same time, we know there's still work to do. And we're going to talk about how best we can jointly deliver that.
We are deeply appreciative of what the president of Mexico and the foreign minister have done to increase the capacity to deter migration into the United States. You can see the numbers have improved substantially.
But we also know, A, it needs to be sustained, and, B, we've still got real work to do.
POMPEO: Yes, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We know that Ambassador Bolton was trying to keep up the pressure in Venezuela in the picture, and we know that Ambassador Bolton and President Trump disagreed on many things regarding Venezuela. What can we expect now with the departure of Ambassador Bolton?
MNUCHIN: I think you know the Treasury Department and the State Department have been incredibly active on sanctions. Everything we do is in consultation with the State Department. Again, we have a massive sanctions program that's working.
But I would just add, we are concerned about the people there and what's going on in the humanitarian crisis, and I know the secretary has worked with their neighbors extensively.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is this national security team a mess?
MNUCHIN: Absolutely not. That's the most ridiculous question I've ever heard of.
MNUCHIN: Let me just say, the national security team, which is what you asked, consists of the national security adviser, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, myself, the chief of staff and many others.
MNUCHIN: Of course.
POMPEO: I'm sorry, I'm sorry. We'll take one more.
Yes, ma'am, in the red.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Thank you, sir. There were reports this week that the CIA had to pull a top Russian asset out because of concerns his identity could be exposed. Under which administration was this source, and is there currently an investigation into how his identity got leaked to the media?
POMPEO: Yes, I've seen that reporting. The reporting is immaterially inaccurate.
You should know, as the former CIA director, I don't talk about these things like this very often. It is only the occasions when there's something that I think puts people at risk or the reporting is so egregious as to create enormous risk to the United States of America, to even comment in the way I just did. And I won't say anything more about it.
I know the CIA put out a statement. Suffice it to say the reporting there's factually wrong.
POMPEO: Thank you, everybody.
KEILAR: All right, I want to bring in Kylie Atwood at the State Department to talk about what we just saw.
This was pretty interesting, Kylie. You had Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who, I mean, he was very much at odds with the now former national security adviser, John Bolton, but while he admitted that, he also minimized the impact of that, though he did stand by the president's account of how Bolton was fired versus Bolton saying he resigned.
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it very clear that he is on Team Trump as he spoke to reporters today just hours after President Trump has tweeted that national security adviser, John Bolton, is leaving the administration. Secretary Pompeo said that President Trump is entitled to the team
that he wants, defending his decision to let his national security adviser, John Bolton, leave via tweet today.
He also admitted, as you said, Brianna, that he and Bolton have not always seen eye to eye. He didn't get into the specifics there. But he was asked about a few foreign policy topics that he and John Bolton saw a little bit differently on, and President Trump, and one of those is Iran.
When asked, now that the biggest hawk in the administration, John Bolton, is leaving, President Trump could sit down with Rouhani later this month. Secretary Pompeo said, sure, and he said that President Trump has reiterated that there are no strings attached to that, he would sit down and meet with the Iranians. So there are potentially going to be some changes to foreign policy going forward.
We know, I'm told by sources at the White House, that John Bolton was frustrated that Trump repeatedly said he would meet with Rouhani. We know this administration has been tough on Iran but President Trump sees himself as a dealmaker.
The other thing they spoke about today was the fact that they are rolling out some tightening, some new updates to counterterrorism designations. That's what they were supposed to be talking about today, Brianna, and they were also supposed to be joined by John Bolton.
So when they were asked if they were surprised about the announcement today, Secretary Pompeo just kind of shrugged it off and said he's not surprised by anything.
But making it very clear going up to the podium that they are with President Trump. John Bolton is leaving the administration but they, for now, are sticking it out.
KEILAR: All right, Kylie, thanks so much.
I want to bring in Jim Acosta, watching all of this for us from the White House briefing room -- Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, you heard the questions there in the briefing room. It didn't last very long. This was only about 12 minutes.
But you heard a whole slew of questions and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary Steve Mnuchin, they engaged. They took these things on the ousting of the national security adviser, John Bolton.
At one point, I asked Secretary Mnuchin if the national security team is a mess and Secretary Mnuchin said that was the most ridiculous question he had heard of and then went on to say, no, it was not.
I'm also asked the question but I'm not sure it was audible because there was so much shouting going on in this room, whether it's possible to disagree with this president without being fired, and Secretary Mnuchin said, of course.
And so there's obviously this perception now that if you push back too hard on this president, and you're inside the president's inner circle, that may be hazardous to your future prospects with this administration, but the secretary said that was not the case.
And you heard, a few moments ago, there was other news at this briefing in that it does sound as though the door is open for some kind of meeting between President Trump and Iranian President Rouhani at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, which is in just a couple weeks.
That is something that John Bolton, the national security adviser, would have been opposed to as well as other issues.
I think the other thing that was interesting that Secretary Pompeo talked about, Brianna, and that was this whole notion of essentially, what is the thrust of this national security team for the Trump administration. You held Secretary Pompeo said essentially the policies and so forth have not really changed although it's been a revolving door here at the White House, particularly when it comes to the position of national security adviser -- Brianna?
KEILAR: We heard the secretary really minimizing this disagreement, a series of disagreements, as our reporting shows, between himself and the now departed national security adviser. But he really minimized the effect of that.
We understand from our reporting last week, Jim, that you had a situation where the secretary of state and the national security adviser were not even on speaking terms.
KEILAR: What does that mean now as the president is looking to find a new national security adviser, his fourth, right?
ACOSTA: That's right. There's an acting national security adviser, Charlie Kupperman. He was Bolton's right-hand man at the National Security Council. So you can guess that Charlie Kupperman is not going to stay in that position very long. There are already names being floated out there.
But, yes, make no mistake, the position of national security adviser and the team inside the National Security Council has been almost in a constant state of turmoil since the beginning of this administration.
It was the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn who was fired shortly after President Trump was sworn into office because he had misled the vice president and other people inside the administration in terms of his contacts with the Russians and the Russian ambassador at that time, Sergey Kislyak. And ever since then, the president has been at odds with his national security team. Bolton and Pompeo, for sure, have been at odds with each other. But this was a known quantity, Brianna, before John Bolton came into this administration. He was very well known for having sharp elbows. He was very well known for being a hawk on Iraq War policy. That put him at odds with President Trump himself.
Remember, during the campaign, the president campaigned heavily on the idea that he was opposed to the Iraq war. So it was sort of an odd- couple, strange bedfellows to begin with.
I don't think this was at all surprising to just about anybody in Washington that John Bolton did not last in this job for very long. Not only because of his aggressive posture, but also because of his Neo-Con hawkish views are at odds at times with people inside the Trump administration that who were not always aligned on that issue. I think that was pretty clear at this briefing.
KEILAR: Jim Acosta, thank you so much.
I want to bring in Jim Sciutto.
Jim, you broke this story on the U.S. extracting a top spy in Russia in 2017. And moments ago, the secretary of state said, he said, normally, he doesn't comment on things like this, especially as former CIA director, but he felt this was a report he certainly took issue with and he dismissed it.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR & CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we gave the secretary a chance to comment on the story several days before we published, and the secretary of state and his spokespeople turned down the chance to comment. Didn't comment at all. Not clear why it didn't comment then, but he is commenting now.
Second of all, we stand by our story. I spoke to a former Trump administration official who was directly involved in the discussions when the decision happened to extract that source, and that official contradicts that, says the president's mishandling of classified intelligence, the president and the administration's repeated mishandling of intelligence factored into the decision.
As you know, Brianna, having read the story, we made clear in the story, these were concern that built over months. The dated back to the Obama administration.
The first concerns about the source's safety derived from a combination of factors. One, length of service this source had as a U.S. informant going back more than a decade.
Two, when intelligence from this source was used in the Intelligence Community's assessment on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, intelligence specifically noting it was President Putin who ordered interference and did so to advantage Trump over Clinton that, at that time, those concerns about the source's safety grew. At the time, that source, that asset, that spy, was offered extraction by the U.S. and refused. Months into the Trump administration, following a series of instances,
including mishandling of information and intelligence by the Trump administration, ultimately the call was made to extract this source.
Note, the timing is indicative. I'm told by a source with direct knowledge it was soon after a meeting in the Oval Office between President Trump and two senior Russian officials, then Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, that it was after that meeting the president discussed highly classified intelligence with the Russian official, this intelligence source from Israel.
It was after that meeting, that Secretary Pompeo made a call, spoke to other Trump administration officials, said too much information coming out about this source and time to get this source out.
Now, intelligence officials in the CIA and elsewhere have said that it was purely media speculation at the time about a source's existence that led to this decision.
I ran that explanation by five sources, including people who served in the Trump administration, including people who served in intelligence agencies and those that served on Capitol Hill handling classified intelligence, and said the likelihood media speculation would lead to one of the most complicated operations and dangerous operations is unlikely that the explanation was that simple.
Regardless, as I said, we offered the secretary a chance to comment before the story was published. He did not comment. And in the statement just then in the White House briefing room, he did not specify as to what he said was materially inaccurate.
KEILAR: What is the interest of the secretary of state and others in the administration to downplay this reporting? What do you think --
KEILAR: What are some concerns that come up because of this reporting?
SCIUTTO: Multiple outlets reporting the extraction happened. In my reporting, no one denied to me the extraction took place. Multiple Trump administration officials confirmed the extraction of the source.
That is an issue they seem to have -- first of all, cannot contest but have not contested. What they have been focusing on is whether any of Trump's mishandling of intelligence factored into this decision.
I should note that the concerns about the president's handling of intelligence did not end in May 2017.
In fact, as I reported in the story, this is also news, that in July 2017, after President Trump met with the Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany -- remember, the private meeting where the president took unusual step of confiscating his own interpreter's notes -- after that, the Intelligence Community again raised alarms, concerns about the possibility that the president improperly discussed classified intelligence with Russians.
I have that from an intelligence source aware of and briefed on the intelligence response there. The fact is that these concerns within the intel agencies about the president's handling of intelligence have been long-running and they've been based on a number of incidents. It's not any single, isolated incident.
KEILAR: Jim Sciutto, thank so much.
I want to bring in Gloria Borger.
Gloria, let's go back to Pompeo's remarks about John Bolton. Pompeo was pretty concise on Bolton. He admitted they disagreed quite a bit.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Let's not forget who the president likes and respects, and that had is secretary of state, and that the president had grown increasingly irked by John Bolton, and disagreed with him more and more. And Pompeo is a very good in-fighter, and a good politician, and he knew how to handle the president and Bolton did not.
And I would have to say, Brianna, that, as the president chooses his next national security adviser, I bet you that the secretary of state is going to have an awful lot of say in what recommendations are made to the president. Would not surprise me at all.
KEILAR: Yes, indeed.
All right, Gloria Borger, thank you so much.
We'll have more on this breaking news, John Bolton, the president's third national security adviser, out at the White House. That's next.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi, there. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being here.
Let's get straight to the breaking news. This afternoon, President Trump has fired his national security adviser John Bolton via Twitter. But Bolton says he was not fired and that he resigned. The big question is why, why now.
President Trump tweeted that he, quote, "strongly disagreed with many of his suggestions," as did others in the administration.
And CNN is reporting that Trump's cancelled meeting with the Taliban at Camp David was a point of contention between these two.
Bolton is publicly disputing the president, tweeting that he, quote, "offered to resign last night." Tensions really hit this new high between Bolton and Secretary of
State Mike Pompeo, including this recent stretch of several weeks without speaking to one another.
And then moments ago, Secretary Pompeo had this to say about John Bolton's sudden departure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: The president's entitled to the staff that he wants. At any moment, a staff person who works directly for the president of the United States. And should have people he trusts, values and whose efforts and judgments benefit him in delivering American foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: President Trump has now gone through three national security advisers and says he will name a fourth in the next week.