Return to Transcripts main page


John Bolton is Out from Trump's Revolving Door; Zimbabweans Debates Over Robert Mugabe's Burial; Benjamin Netanyahu's Reelection Could Jeopardize Peace Talks; Bahamians Say Goodbye to Their Devastated Island; President Trump Only Mind His Own Polling. Aired 3- 3:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2019 - 03:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Bye-bye Bolton. Donald Trump's national security adviser becomes the latest high-level official to get the boot.

Plus, a new campaign promise from Benjamin Netanyahu that could deal a major blow to peace prospects there.

And with so many homes destroyed, hundreds missing, and no power or running water, officials fear people fleeing the Bahamas may never return.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world. I'm Rosemary Church. And this is CNN Newsroom.

Well, first, it was Michael Flynn, then H.R. McMaster. Now it's John Bolton getting sacked as the national security adviser from Afghanistan to North Korea. Bolton famously clashed with U.S. President Donald Trump.

CNN's Jim Acosta has more on his ouster from Washington.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For now, former national security adviser John Bolton, it was an unceremonious firing by tweet, standing outside the West Wing just hours before he was scheduled to join Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to answer questions from reporters, Bolton was suddenly gone. But his former administration rivals --


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm never surprised.

ACOSTA: All smiles.


POMPEO: The president is entitled to the staff that he wants at any moment. This is staff person who 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.


ACOSTA: The White House insist Bolton was fired but the president announcing in a tweet. "I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the administration, and therefore, I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new national security adviser next week."

But Bolton essentially tweeted, "That's not true." Claiming, "I offered to resign last night, and President Trump said let's talk about it tomorrow."

Despite the fact that Mr. Trump has now gone through three national security advisers, administration officials say there is no insecurity when it comes to the president's foreign policy team.


ACOSTA: Is the national security team a mess?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: Absolutely not. That's the most ridiculous question I've ever heard of.

I mean to 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.

ACOSTA: Can you disagree with the president without the risk of being fired?

MNUCHIN: Of course.


ACOSTA: Sources tell CNN Bolton had clashed with the president over a number of critical issues, including Mr. Trump's scrap plan to invite leaders of the Taliban to Camp David just days before September 11th.

The president and Vice President Mike Pence believe Bolton's team was leaking stories that top administration officials were questioning the idea of a Taliban meeting.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think the view that there's some public discussions about Bolton being on the other side to meet when the Taliban probably was a bridge too far, I don't know what happened there.

ACOSTA: A foreign policy hawk Bolton also dislike the idea of sitting down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Aides say Bolton's contrasting views and outspoken style had irritated the president for months.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: His strong views on things, but that's OK. I actually temper John, which is pretty amazing, isn't it?


ACOSTA: Bolton also found himself at odds with Pompeo who is much more willing to tout the president's foreign policy views.


POMPEO: I know everyone has talked about this for roughly a long time, there were definitely places that ambassador and I -- Bolton and I had different views.


ACOSTA: With Bolton out of the way, the administration is sounding much more open to the idea of Mr. Trump sitting down with Iran's president at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.


MNUCHIN: The president has made clear, he's happy to take a meeting with no preconditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign.


ACOSTA: As a source close to the White House put it, this may be the least surprising firing from the Trump White House yet, as another top White House official said this was a long time incoming.

Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.

CHURCH: Well, Bolton's exit could have a big impact on U.S. foreign policy.

For more on that, CNN senior international correspondent Ben Wedeman is live in Beirut, Lebanon, and CNN's David Culver joins us from Beijing. Good to see you both.

So, Ben, let's go to you first. And Bolton viewed Iran as one of the biggest threats to the U.S. What impact will his sudden departure likely have on President Trump's efforts to meet with the Iranian leadership, and what's been the reaction to this news from Tehran so far?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, if this meeting goes ahead it would've been Bolton who was the one who was most opposed to it. So certainly, this increases the possibility that the two men will meet in New York at the meeting, the annual meeting of the General Assembly.


It certainly seems more likely, although it's -- does -- it still a bit of a long shot. But what we saw is, for instance, world oil markets reacting very positively to the news.

The price of oil fell and what's called a flash crash by 2.2 percent in a matter of minutes after news of Mr. Bolton's departure came out.

Now as far as reaction from Iran itself, this morning, Abbas Mousavi, the spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry said that Iran has no comments on the firing of Mr. Bolton.

However, a senior adviser to President Hassan Rouhani came out and said that the departure of Bolton is sign of the total failure of the policy of maximum pressure on Iran. This policy whereby the United States has imposed the most, perhaps the most draconian economic sanctions on any country short of war.

So, in general, the feeling in the Middle East, I think in the day after the departure of Mr. Bolton is that the possibility of war between the United States and Iran, perhaps, the possibility of a war between Iran and Israel is dramatically lower than it was 24 hours ago. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. Thanks so much to you, Ben Wedeman, joining us from Beirut. David, let's go to you now. What impact will Bolton's departure likely have on the U.S. trade war with China, and of course, efforts to reach out to North Korea and the denuclearization. Has there been any reaction so far from China or North Korea?

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Rosemary, at this hour China's ministry of foreign affairs is actually holding their daily briefing. We expect this question to be brought up, the idea of Bolton's departure and what it impacts, if any, it might have on the trade war.

China likely to push that aside and keep it more so as a U.S. domestic issue characterize it that way. We'll monitor that and let you know what they say.

North Korea is a different story though. North Korea in the past has been very vocal and very specific in their criticisms of John Bolton.

I was going through some of the many releases they've put out, calling him everything from a security destroying advisor, to a war-monger who whispers into the president's ears, desires for war.

So that's how they've characterized Bolton. No doubt they would likely put something out. As of yet, they haven't said anything.

When it comes to the denuclearization deal and trying to the Korean peninsula, we've got talks coming at the end of this month. And so perhaps this will ease some of the tension. The rhetoric from Bolton won't be there and maybe that will have things move forward in a positive progression. When we look at China and the trade war, Bolton certainly had a

position that was critical of the Chinese government, not only with the trade war, also with Huawei, also with the South China Sea.

So, with him not being there, two potential outcomes here. One is, it could be a positive impact and that it likewise lessens that rhetoric and makes things a little bit agreeable and easier to come to some sort of deal.

The other side of this that I've been looking that potentially will rise a little bit higher and that is instability.

Folks looking into the U.S. and saying well, if we have somebody who is here today and gone tomorrow, who exactly are we talking to, who's got the ear of the president, where will the president's decision come down on this and will it change?

So, there's this idea of uncertainty, stability, even the Chinese state media is characterizing this as a chaos. They don't even know if this departure is characterized as a firing or a resignation, they just simply say, it's kind of a state of affairs from the outside looking into the U.S. Rosemary?

CHURCH: All right. David Culver, many thanks to you for bringing us the latest there from Beijing. I appreciate it.

Well, with just a week to go before another election in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a controversial campaign pledge that could radically alter the map of the West Bank and damage prospects for peace.

Mr. Netanyahu says if reelected, he intends to annex the Jordan Valley. That's nearly one third of the West Bank. And he says he will look to eventually extend sovereign control over all settlements in the West Bank.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I will not do anything without getting a clear mandate from the public, and so the citizens of Israel, I ask you for a clear mandate to do this.


CHURCH: CNN's Sam Kiley joins me now from Jerusalem with more on this. And Sam, what has been the reaction to this political pledge from Benjamin Netanyahu?


SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's been fascinating, Rosemary, on a political level and this was, effectively, a party-political broadcast.

Benjamin Netanyahu there imploring his base supporters and others to come out in favor of him so that he can go ahead and do this. His main opponents in this campaign the Blue and White Party saying, well, actually that was our idea in the first place, so they're congratulating him on it.

From the Palestinian perspective, though, the word apartheid looms loud and large. They are describing this as the final death for any prospect of a two-state solution involving a free and independent Palestine alongside the Jewish state. And that is a view shared indeed by a leading candidate within the Israeli elections from the Arab- Israeli constituency.

But I have to say that this is also, Rosemary, in a sense, a repetition of a long-standing Israeli position that they would like to have as part of negotiations, security control, as it used to be called over the Jordan Valley, and also the settlements again as part of negotiations it is acknowledge largely would be incorporated in Israel in return for land swaps.

What this would do, were Benjamin Netanyahu to get elected is take all those issues off the table for negotiations. And recall also, Rosemary, that the status of Jerusalem, as far as the United States is concerned, has also been taken off the table.

So, there is really, in a sense, a strong feeling here both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories that this would be the death now really effectively for any kind of a serious two-state solution. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Yes. That is certainly been the concern from some quarters. Others have suggested that this is just a political promise and that Netanyahu is unlikely to fulfill if elected. What's being said about that?

KILEY: Well, there's no -- there're no constitutional obligation to make good on promises made on a stunt, but this is a big one. And one of the interesting things was that the United States reaction was saying, it was an enthusiastic about it but nor did it put out a statement that was unequivocal.

It said that such an action would not be a barrier to successful peace negotiations, and as I say, that is definitely seen as not only a barrier but a blocked wall to any successful negotiations from the Palestinian perspective.

But also, Benjamin Netanyahu said that this was a the once in a lifetime opportunity, not since the six-day war of 1967, he said, was there such an opportunity therefore the Israelis ahead of the United States to publish their expected peace plan. Rosemary?

CHURCH: Sam Kiley, always good to see you, joining us there live from Jerusalem. I appreciate it.

Well, on the heels of CNN's report on the extraction of a Russian spy, a revelation about the U.S. president's view of covert operations.

And the mixed reaction in Zimbabwe to the passing of their former leader.

Back in a moment.



CHURCH: Well, sources tell CNN the U.S. extracted a high-level Russian informant in part because of President Trump's handling of classified information. Now we are learning the president objects to gathering information that way, putting him at odds once again with the intelligence service.

Jim Sciutto has our report.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Sources tell CNN that President Trump has privately and repeatedly expressed opposition to using intelligence from covert sources including oversea spies. A crucial tool for U.S. intelligence against its adversaries.

Since being elected, the president has repeatedly attacked the U.S. intelligence community.


TRUMP: The intelligence agencies have run amok.


SCIUTTO: Sources say the president's concerns about using foreign operatives is that using them can damage his personal relationship with foreign leaders. The president's views have at times spilled out publicly including his response to a report that CIA recruited North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's half-brother as an asset.


TRUMP: I saw the information about the CIA with respect to his brother or half-brother and I would tell him that that would not happen under my -- under my auspices, that's for sure.


SCIUTTO: The president has also expressed doubts about the credibility of the information for an informant's provide because he, quote, "believes there are people who are selling out their country."


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Generally speaking, I'll say, human intelligence is extremely important, and in many cases more important than even, you know, electronic intelligence in all areas.


SCIUTTO: Both the CIA and the White House declined to comment for the story. The revelation about Trump's views comes as CNN is learning new details about a covert source who helped the U.S. spy on Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

That spy was extracted from Russia by U.S. intelligence in 2017 amid concerns about the informant being exposed, and in part, because of concerns about how the president and his administration handle intelligence.

The spy was considered the highest-level source for the U.S. inside the Kremlin, high up in Russia's national security infrastructure according to a source familiar with the matter and a former senior intelligence official.

Sources tell CNN the spy had access to Russian President Putin and could even provide images of presidential documents.

Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was CIA director in 2017, pushing back.


POMPEO: The reporting there is factually wrong.


SCIUTTO: To be clear, Pompeo decline to comment to CNN before the story was first published. And today, he did not specify that he was alleging was incorrect in CNN's reporting which relied on multiple administration officials with direct knowledge of the extraction.

In a statement the CIA says quote. "CNN's narrative that the Central Intelligence Agency makes life or death decisions based on anything other than objective analysis and sound collection is simply false."

For a sitting U.S. president to say that he has no interest in intelligence that is sourced from inside foreign countries including the governments in those countries, particularly the hostile countries, really flies in the face of what intelligence agencies do, not just for the U.S. but intelligence agencies around the world trying to find information, often secret information about what those countries intend, do they intend to carry out attacks or other hostile acts.

It's a remarkable rebuke to the work that U.S. intelligence agencies have done for decades to keep the country safe.

CHURCH: Jim Sciutto there.

And here in the U.S. A new CNN poll could spell Trump or for President Trump's re-election hopes. The president's approval rating is the lowest it has been since January amid concerns over that trade war with China and a possible recession.

Six out of 10 Americans now say Donald Trump does not deserve to be reelected. The poll taken between September 5th and 9tn found that Mr. Trump's approval rating are just 39 percent, and his disapproval at 55 percent.

The poll findings are similar to those in a new ABC News, Washington Post poll, also conducted earlier this month which found a majority of Americans believe a recession is very likely or somewhat likely in the next year.

Mr. Trump tweeted Tuesday that many polls are fixed and, quote, "internal polling looks great. The best ever." Mr. Trump's words there.

Well, it is a waiting game in Britain. Fifty days to go until the Brexit deadline when Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the U.K. will leave the E.U. do or die.


In just a few hours, his government is expected to release documents related to operation yellow hammer. That is a contingency plan for a no-deal Brexit.

Meanwhile, Mr. Johnson has dismissed accusations he's being anti- Democratic after suspending parliament for five weeks. It exits on October 14th, just days before a crucial Brexit summit of E.U. leaders.

Well, the body of Zimbabwe's former president, Robert Mugabe is now headed home for burial. Mugabe died on Friday after spending months in a Singapore hospital. The country he ran for so long is now wrestling with how to remember this freedom fighter who became a brutal president who destroyed the economy.

And CNN's David McKenzie joins us now live from Johannesburg. Good to see you again, David. So how are people reacting to the death of Robert Mugabe and how do they plan to remember him?

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Rosemary, the death of Mugabe has sparked an intense debate about his legacy. You have leaders from across Africa and liberation parties lauding him as a liberation icon, but in the country it's far more complex.

And many people we spoke to believe that his legacy is one of a failing economy and a legacy of violence.

Just in recent weeks you've had protests that have been brutally met by the police and a series of alleged abductions. The critics of the regime say that it's just a continuation of Robert Mugabe's policies and because of the way he ran that country. I put that to Robert Mugabe's nephew. Take a listen.


MCKENZIE: People we've spoken to on the streets, some of them bore the brunt of violence of the Mugabe regime and onwards, what about that part of the legacy?

LEO MUGABE, ROBERT MUGABE'S NEPHEW: You see when you say Mugabe regime, who was in charge of what when he was president? Those people are still around? Do we still see the violence after him? So, is it fair to put the blame squarely on him because he was the president?


MCKENZIE: Well, the body is on its way on a private plane from Singapore. It's expected in the coming hours. The -- Robert Mugabe will lie in state at a stadium in Harare, actually the place where he was sworn-in in 1980.

And then a few days later will be the funeral which there are still debate between the family it seems and the government where that will be, whether it will be in Heroes Acre where many of liberation icons are buried near Harare on a hillside, or at his home village where we spoke to Leo Mugabe.

That will be an interesting development to see where that happens, and also to see how Zimbabweans react to the body coming home.

CHURCH: All right. Our David McKenzie bringing us the very latest there from Johannesburg. Many thanks.

Next here on CNN Newsroom, nearly one-fifth of the population in the Bahamas has been left homeless by Hurricane Dorian. And officials now fear many of those leaving the country might never return.


CHURCH: We turn now to the Bahamas and the staggering number of residents there who have lost everything.


Around 17 percent of the country's population is now homeless, and that is 70,000 people. The death toll stands at 50, but that will surely rise. The prime minister has promise to rebuild but those living in the hard-hit northern islands face food and water shortages and weeks or even months without power.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann has been in the Bahamas since before the hurricane hit, he has more now on the grim situation facing the survivors.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bahamian officials have said that it is a joyless and dark time for the Bahamas. They're tragically talking quite literally because here on the Island of Grand Bahama, and in the Abacos, we are without power, we are without water. A very tough condition.

Seventy-thousand people have been left homeless by this storm, it's an incredible number and even more incredible when you factor in. This is an island that only has a population of about 500,000 people. So, you're talking about a significant, perhaps overwhelming number of people in dire need.

We have seen images of women carrying the children waiting on docks in the sweltering sun just trying to get out however they can. The United States have said that people with the proper paperwork, with the proper documentation will be able to travel the U.S. But so many people here have been left with nothing, just the clothes on their bag.

Bahamian officials are quite concerned that the people leave may never come back. They are vital. It is a country. The parts that have been destroyed by the hurricane will ever be rebuilt. The Bahamian prime minister says that people would be welcome back no matter how long they are gone for.

But right now, it's an open question if the people who are fleeing these islands will ever return.

Patrick Oppmann, CNN, Freeport, in the Bahamas.

CHURCH: And if you would like to help the survivors of Hurricane Dorian you can head to our web sites There you will find a list of vetted aid organizations helping in the region.

And there was a happy homecoming for a little boy who rode out Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Three-year-old Makai Simmons returned to preschool in Florida Monday and was met with hugs from his classmates.

Makai's mother took him to Grand Bahama to visit relatives but they got stuck there during the storm. The house they were in flooded, but they feel very lucky to have survived what Makai calls the monster. His mother says the hugs were just what she needed to see.

Awesome pictures there. Thank you so much for your company. I'm Rosemary Church. Vital Signs is up next. But first, I'll be back with the check of the headlines. You're watching CNN.