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Trump Answering Questions About Vaping, Bolton And Guns. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 11, 2019 - 13:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: And I suspect those other Republicans are going to pull their colleagues, Senator Cheney aside, and try to figure out exactly what the president said. Manu Raju live from the Hill, I appreciate it.

As we leave you on this 9/11, more remembrances from around the country, a very important and solemn day.

Brianna Keilar starts now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington Headquarters.

Under way right now, breaking news, in a special meeting in the Oval Office, the president and first lady discussed a number of topics, the dangers of eCigarettes, the departure of his national Security adviser, John Bolton, and gun control.

And joining me now is White House Correspondent Boris Sanchez, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and White House Reporter Kate Bennett.

Boris, tell us what the president said.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president went through an array of news. We're working to get that footage to you as soon as possible, but specifically on the topic of eCigarettes, the president calling on the Food and Drug Administration to get involved. He was joined by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who also had some comments about eCigarettes.

We know that this is something that First Lady Melania Trump has focused on in the past. And the president was trying to figure out a way to move forward, potentially putting out regulations to keep children from using eCigarettes, which have been linked to a number of deaths in recent days.

We also should point out the president had some very strong words about his former national security adviser, John Bolton, who he had resigned yesterday. The president at one point saying that Bolton held the administration back when it came to making a deal with North Korea.

Reporters in the room specifically saying that the president apparently referenced a conversation that Bolton had in the room with Kim Jong-un in which Bolton referenced the Libya model of denuclearization. That apparently setting Kim Jong-un back according to President Trump. Trump saying that Bolton had a series of failures, that he didn't get along with very many people.

The president is saying though that he had a good relationship with him, also adding that several people want that job. He mentioned five people specific people who he believes are campaign for the position, though he wouldn't give specifics.

KEILAR: All right, Boris, if you can stand by for me, I want to bring in Kate Bennett, because the first lady was there and vaping was one of the topics. And vaping is something that she has been tweeting a lot about. Tell us about that.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right. So this week, she said that -- she tweeted that she's been deeply concerned about the news with vaping. She considers it an on ramp for children for smoking and other causes that she's concerned about. And, of course, part of her Be Best platform, helping kids involves health and wellness of children.

And she spoke about it earlier this year. She was at a youth conference in Maryland where she again brought up vaping. I have been on trips with her with medical professionals and Secretary Azar at other places talking about the challenges of drugs and drinking and other things affecting kids. And she has often been the one to talk at vaping.

We often -- we do not talk about children of the first couple often, but considering the fact that Barron Trump is 13 years old and in eighth grade, vaping is a concern among children in middle school and high school. And certainly, I can't imagine that this is an issue that she would overlook as these deaths increase, as these illnesses increase, she has been very vocal.

Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told me today that this is something that the first lady has discussed quite a bit with the president and with other members of his cabinet. This is something that she has talked about, and definitely knowing how quickly this announcement came today, how unexpected it was, I would imagine she had a hand in creating this decision today to make an announcement to discuss the banning of flavored eCigarettes.

KEILAR: Yes, which obviously target children, Elizabeth Cohen. I mean, when you look at this issue, it is very important and significant that the first lady has elevated it and now that it has been elevated even more with these public comments today. How important is that? And also what could the president do to really tackle this crisis?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's absolutely important. You know, we've seen throughout history that when the first lady is very, very concerned about something, and, of course, it will have an impact on her husband.

But here is the catch. You can't just feel this. You have to actually do something about it. So we heard earlier, and we haven't heard exactly what Trump said today about vaping, but we heard he is calling on the FDA to get involved.

Well, the FDA is involved. The FDA has been involved in vaping for years now. The question is are they going to take that crucial step of saying, hey, Juul, hey, other makers of eCigarettes, get those flavored pods off the market. That's what's attracting kids.

The kid are attracted to these sweet and candy-ish flavors [13:05:00] and all the marketing that is done to children. Are they going to tell Juul, stop it, don't do this anymore? Because you can be as concerned and worried as you want, and like the first lady, I have 13- year-old, an eighth grade, you can be as concerned and worried as you want, but if you don't do actually something and get stricter, it's not going to work.

BENNETT: So, Brianna, on that note, a White House official is telling me that there is -- the plan is to ban flavored eCigarettes. So this might be that move from concern to actual action to get these kid- targeted flavors off the market completely. And I'm sure this will come as some sort of surprise to Juul and these other industries that make these products.

But my sources telling me this is certainly something moving towards a ban is what today's discussion was about.

KEILAR: And that, Elizabeth, will be a rude awakening. If that is this huge effective move, that's going to be a rude awakening to these companies.

BENNETT: Right, absolutely.

COHEN: Yes, absolutely, for sure. That would be a big move. That would absolutely be a big move, if that's what they're doing.

KEILAR: All right. Elizabeth, Kate, thank you so much to both of you.

And, of course, this day marks 18 years since September 11th, and the current president of the United States is facing a minefield of foreign policy challenges and tests. An abrupt end to peace talks in Afghanistan where the U.S. has been at war since just after 9/11, there's nuclear maneuvering in Iran, nuclear defiance in North Korea, a trade war with China, a revolt in Hong Kong, more interference from Russia, chaos in the U.K., and yet his national security team is in disarray.

The president now is moving onto his fourth national security adviser in less than three years after suddenly firing John Bolton, which is a firing that those inside the White House may not have been as surprised by as it seems. It may not have been as sudden as it seems.

And according to CNN sources, this is the end of a combative relationship that really began on Bolton's first day. A White House official telling CNN Bolton has been concerned that Trump caves to dictators and gives them too much and that President Trump's Camp David invite to the Taliban just days before 9/11. And Bolton's outright rejection of it was really the last straw here.

As the president marked the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks at the Pentagon, he issued a warning to the Taliban after scrapping peace talks with them earlier this week.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: We had peace talks scheduled a few days ago. I called them off when I learned that they had killed a great American soldier from Puerto Rico and 11 other innocent people. They thought they would use this attack to show strength, but actually what they showed is unrelenting weakness.

And if for any reason they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are and use power the likes of which the United States has never used before.


KEILAR: I am joined now by James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence under President Obama. And it was years after retiring as a three star general in the Air Force that you re-entered government. It just so happened two days after 9/11, already in the works to rejoin an intel agency that was key in the war on terror.

I wonder, for you, what is on your mind today 18 years after the attacks?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think, like everyone who's old enough, the events of that day are indelible. And I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I first learned of the attacks.

And I think what really brought it home to me in a very impact full way was when I saw the Pentagon on fire, a place I spent about 13 years of my active duty time. And that was quite profound for me. I happened to be what's now National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency facility in Arnold, Missouri at the time of the attack and with a couple other people drove back that night.

And then --

KEILAR: Because you couldn't fly, obviously.

CLAPPER: No. All the flights were grounded. You couldn't find any rent-a-cars either. So we commandeered a government vehicle from the motor pool and drove back to the headquarters of what's now NGA in Bethesda then.

And two later, on the 13th, I took over as director of what's now NGA.

KEILAR: It feels like it was not that long ago. It's pretty unbelievable that it's been 18 years. I do want to talk to you about our news about John Bolton. Sources telling CNN that Bolton believed that Trump, quote, caved to dictators.

I bet I can safely assume that you agree with that. Would that be fair to say?

CLAPPER: Well, I wouldn't -- I don't know [13:10:00] that I'd use the word cave, but he's certainly differential to the likes of Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.

KEILAR: And with that, so you believe he is differential. Obviously, John Bolton felt that way as well. What does it say about the departure of John Bolton making it clear that that kind of differing of opinion is not welcome in this position in the White House? There's going to be another national security adviser soon. What does that say about knowing, you can't disagree with him like this?

CLAPPER: Well, the first point is John Bolton's convictions about these things were widely known certainly before he took the job. So it makes you wonder why this arrangement ever came to pass in the first place. And I think the way this administration is taking these key jobs, it's kind of like part-time help at the post office at Christmas time. And it's probably not a good idea to hang a lot of pictures up in your office because if you fall out of favor, which can happen very suddenly, you're gone.

KEILAR: We haven't heard from John Bolton publicly about his criticism of the president's decision. We've only heard from him about whether he was fired or resigned. Obviously, we're hearing a lot of sources around him defending him.

We certainly know what he thinks, right? We know where he was in this disagreement. Is it fair for a president to have these kinds of disagreements aired?

CLAPPER: Well, I don't know if it's fair. I mean, I think probably most presidents would prefer that this internal disagreements not be aired. But inevitably in this town, you know, no secrets, and so they are undoubtedly get out.

Actually, disagreements, in my view, are healthy. And I think the president needs to hear contrarian views.

KEILAR: But if you disagree with the president and you let that be known that the president decides to proceed with a decision, is it the role of his adviser that they should execute a decision even though he disagrees with it, that it shouldn't be --

CLAPPER: I think that and being a military guy, I spent one time in military, once a decision is made, you need to either support it and get aboard or if you can't live with the decision, there's another alternative, which is leave. And, you know, that's kind of traditional thinking. I think that's in the military. And as a civilian and in the government, that same is true.

KEILAR: It seems like Bolton is trying to indicate that is what he did, that he got obviously left.

I want to talk about this new CNN reporting that we have that the U.S. extracted a top Russian spy back in 2017. This was an asset that had very level access inside the Kremlin. We're told this is direct access to Putin. That's what it was, so closely that this asset could probably take pictures of documents on Putin's desk.

Do you expect that the president would have been aware of the specifics of this asset? Knowing what you know about intelligence, would he have known who this was and known exactly where they were?

CLARPPER: Well, I don't know. He could have. And certainly if --

KEILAR: It's not unusual? It's possible?

CLAPPER: Yes. Without -- and by the way, I can't confirm, deny or refute any of this, so just speaking generically, the president has the authority, or the right, as he characters it, to ask about anything of an intelligence nature. So he certainly could have. That's typically not done. I don't, based on my experience, bother the president with kind of details like that. And all also it's certainly sounder security practice not to talk about these things in any environment.

KEILAR: He said that he doesn't really like spies, human sources, right, human sources providing intelligence about other governments. He feels like it gets in the way of relations with that country even for they're a foe, that it gets in the way of his ability to have relationships with the leaders. What do you think about that?

CLAPPER: Well, he made that position known to us in the Obama administration.

KEILAR: Let's -- actually, sir, if I can pause with you, General, let's listen to President Trump in the Oval Office. We have just turned this --

TRUMP: The talks with the Taliban are dead. Jeff?

REPORTER: And a follow-up on your decision yesterday with regards to Mr. Bolton, what led you to decide to part ways?

TRUMP: So John is somebody that I actually get along with very well. He made some very big mistakes when he talked about the Libyan model for Kim Jong-un, that was not a good statement to make. If you just take a look at what happened with Gaddafi, that was not a good statement to make. And it set us back.

And, frankly, he wanted to do things not necessarily tougher than me. John is known as a tough guy. He's so tough, he got us into Iraq. [13:15:00] That's tough. But he's somebody that I actually had a very good relationship with, but he wasn't getting along with people in the administration that I consider very important.

And I hope we have left in good stead, but maybe we have and maybe we haven't. I have to run the country the way we're running the country. We're doing very well. We're respected all over the world again, respected like we haven't been respected in many, many years.

You look at Iran and you look at so many of the things that are happening. Iran wants to talk. They all want to talk. We're doing very well with China. And you probably saw the numbers that have come out and come out, some of them coming just today. But China's supply chain is breaking up, the supply chain of China, which was this unbreakable, powerful tool that they had is breaking up like a toy, because companies are moving out and China wants to make a deal. We'll see what happens. We have to make the right deal for this country.

China has been taking out hundreds of billions of dollars a year out of our country. And I read papers like the Wall Street Journal. They don't have a clue. They haven't got a clue. They don't make any excuses for the fact that China has been literally ripping off the United States in the worst manner for so many years, $500 billion pouring out of the United States.

And I hear people -- I don't even know. Do these people have any education on anything? It's common sense maybe more than anything else. But I look at some statements that are made from so many different people.

And, you know, John wasn't in line with what we were doing. And actually, in some cases, he thought it was too tough what we were doing. Mr. Tough guy, you know, you have to go into Iraq. Going into Iraq was something that he felt very strongly about. So we're right now in for over $7 trillion into the Middle East.

And I don't say it was his decision. You had a president and you had other people also but he was very out there, I can tell you, and wanting to have them do it. And I disagreed with that decision from the beginning even though I was a civilian, so nobody cared. But I was there and I was outspoken about it. I thought it was a terrible mistake. Here we are many, many years later, decades later and we're still there and we've been acting as policemen.

And I'll tell you one thing. We are hitting the Taliban right now harder than they've ever been hit. And what they did was horrible. When they killed a great American soldier, when they killed 12 people, innocent people, essentially innocent people because if you look, I mean, many of these people were civilians.

You also had a NATO soldier in addition to our great soldier. But what they did in order to create what they thought was a better negotiating stance, I said that's the end of them, get them out, I don't want anything to do with them. And they've been hit very hard. And I know for a fact they said that was a big mistake that they made, and it was. But that was my decision. And what we're doing now is my decision.

So we have a lot of great people that want that position. A lot of great people want a lot of positions. They want to be a part of this administration.

We've done more in this administration in less than three years than, I believe, any president. You look at the accomplishments, even today what we're doing. If you look at what we're doing today, these are big things. Nobody else would be doing this. They're big things. But we've done more than any administration probably in the history of the country.

You just look at one point after another point, whether it's regulation cuts, whether it's tax cuts. You look at right to try with these two gentlemen, so important, right to try, where people are able to use some of the incredible innovations that we've developed with the greatest labs and the greatest doctors in the world and they can use them instead of being forced to move and leave to other countries that don't have a clue compared to us. And now they have right-to- try.

And, by the way, a lot of people are being saved. A lot of great things are happening with right-to-try. But what we've done for the vets, what we've done for our great military with spending this year, $718 billion. And, by the way that's also jobs. Secondarily, but it's also jobs.

Nobody has done what we've done. And we're very honored to have done it. We're in a very good footing. Our country is respected again.


TRUMP: Well, I have five people that want it very much. I mean, a lot more than that would like to have it. But there are five people that I consider very highly qualified, good people [13:20:00] I've gotten to know over the last three years. And we'll be announcing somebody next week, but we have some very highly qualified people.

But we were set back very badly when John Bolton talked about the Libyan model. And he made a mistake. And as soon as he mentioned that, the Libyan model, what a disaster. Take a look at what happened to Gaddafi with the Libyan model. And he's using that to make a deal with North Korea. And I don't blame Kim Jong-un for what he said after that. And he wanted nothing to do with John Bolton. And that's not a question of being tough. That's a question of being not smart to say something like that.

So I wish John the best. We actually got along very well. I'm sure he'll do whatever he can do to spin it his way.

John came to see me the night before. In fact, I think a lot of you people were out there waiting for me to get on the helicopter. I'm sure you have a shot somewhere along the line, and he sat right in that chair. And I told him, John, you have too many people, you're not getting along with people, and a lot of us. including me, disagree with some of your tactics and some of your ideas. And I wish you well but I'd like you to submit your resignation. And he did that.

And I really -- I know he's going to do well. I hope he's going to do well and I wish him well.

REPORTER: Mr. President, (INAUDIBLE) on guns, on background checks. What are prepared to announce? TRUMP: I just spoke with Senator Toomey and Senator Murphy and Joe Manchin, Senator Joe Manchin. I just had a long talk with them just before this meeting. I just hang up. And we are working very, very hard together, all of us, and we'll see if we can come up with something that's acceptable to everybody. It's a subject that has been going on for decades, decades, they've been talking about it.

So we're looking at background checks and we're looking at putting everything together in a unified way so that we can have something that's meaningful at the same time. All of us want to protect our great Second Amendment. It's very important to all of us.

So we are now in meetings. The meetings are going to go on tonight. I'm going to speak with them again tomorrow. And I think progress is being made. I hope so.

REPORTER: Are you willing to put background checks on all private gun sales?

TRUMP: We're going to take a look at a lot of different things and we will be reporting back in a fairly short period of time. There are a lot of things under discussion. Some things will never happen and some things can really very much -- very meaningful things can happen. It's really gun sense if you think about it.

What we're looking at is maybe that's what we should call it, the gun sense bill. But we will have some -- we're having great dialogue. We'll see what happens.

REPORTER: Did you tell your chief of staff to have NOAA disavow those forecasters who said that Alabama was not --

TRUMP: No, I never did that. That's a whole hoax by the fake news media when they talk about the hurricane and when they talk about Florida and they talk about Alabama. That's just fake news. It was -- right from the beginning, it was a fake story.

And while we're here and while we're talking about that, I want to congratulate Dan Bishop last night on an incredible win. He was -- Dan was 17 points behind three weeks ago. The media thought he was going to lose. They were all set to have a big celebration with their partners from the Democratic Party. And Dan Bishop worked really hard and I worked really hard with him. He made up a 17-point lead in a few weeks and he won a great election last night.

And also Greg Murphy, because nobody is even reporting, but Greg Murphy won a great congressional election in North Carolina last night. And I want to congratulate between Dan and Greg, what a job they did. We picked up two seats.

And Greg was anticipated to win by two or three points, maybe less, but two or three points. And he won by many, many points. I don't know what the final tab is, but he won by a lot.

And he campaigned brilliantly and Dan campaigned brilliantly. And so we're very happy about that. That's a tremendous win for the Republican Party.

Okay. Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER: Now that John Bolton is gone, is your policy on Venezuela going to change? Are you open to meeting --

TRUMP: Well, we have a policy on Venezuela. That's a firm policy. Venezuela is really hurting. And we're trying to help people in a humanitarian way. That's probably not good in terms of crushing a terrible regime, but you have people dying.

This is a country that 15 years ago was one of the wealthiest countries and now it's dying. They don't have water. They don't have food. They don't have medical. They have nothing. [13:25:00] So we're trying to help as much as we can.

We're also working with Colombia. And the leader of Colombia is a friend of mine and he's doing a really good job. I can tell you that. We're working with Colombia. We're working with Brazil. We're working with other countries on a humanitarian basis.

Venezuela is in very sad shape. That shows you about socialism. I mean, that shows you what happens. You take a country that was so wealthy 15 years ago and today they don't have water and they don't have basic food. So we'll see what happens.

No, I disagreed with John Bolton on his attitudes on Venezuela. I thought he was way out of line. And I think I've proven to be right. But we are always watching Venezuela very, very closely.

REPORTER: And would you be open to meeting Maduro?

TRUMP: I don't want to talk about that.

REPORTER: Mr. President, with your announcement today, are you concerned that the companies that were making these products will be treated unfairly by taking these products off the market?

TRUMP: Well, they've become very rich companies very fast. And the whole thing with vaping has been very profitable. And I want companies. Look, you know that. I fight for companies very hard and I fight -- that's why I'm fighting with China, that's why I'm fighting with other countries. If you look at European Union and if you look at Japan and if you look at so many others, including South Korea, and many others, we're constantly dealing with them to make it good for our companies, because I view it as jobs. I view it as income for our country and jobs.

Vaping has become a very big business, as I understand it, like a giant business at a very short period of time. But we can't allow people to get sick and we can't have our youth be so affected. And I' hearing it. And that's how the first lady got involved. She's got a son together that is beautiful young man, and she feels very, very strongly about it. She's seen it. We're both reading it. A lot of people are reading it. But people are dying with vaping. So we're looking at it very closely. And, you know, if nothing else, this is a conference that's going to let people know about it because people are going to watch what we're saying and parents are going to be a lot tougher with respect to their children.

A lot of people think vaping is wonderful, it's great. It's really not wonderful. It's -- that's one thing, I think, we can say definitely, Commissioner. It's not a wonderful thing. It's got big problems. We have to find out the extent of the problem. It's so new. It's so new. But we're going to find out.

And I hope parents that -- you know, they have children and the children at a certain age, I hope they're going to be able to make wise decisions maybe based on what we're saying today.

But the commissioner and Alex Azar, they are going to be coming back over the next pretty short period of time, a couple of weeks, with some very strong recommendations.

REPORTER: Can you tell us what the timeline is for taking those flavors off the market?

TRUMP: Alex?

ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Yes. It will take several weeks for us to put out the final guidance that would announce all the parameters around the enforcement policy. And then there will likely be about a 30-day delayed effective date as this is customary with FDA's good guidance practices.

And at that point, all flavored eCigarettes, other than tobacco flavor, would have to be removed from the market. Tobacco flavored eCigarettes, their manufacturers would, by May 2020, have to file for approval by FDA of their products. The other flavored product manufacturers can, at any time, also file but they would be off the market until approved by FDA.

The Obama administration had allowed these products to go on to the market in an unregulated way by delaying any enforcement in the hopes that people who are using combustible tobacco would transition to a less harmful form of nicotine delivery through eCigarettes.

But what we've seen, as the data just shows, the kids are getting access to these products in spite of our best efforts at enforcement, at retail enforcement, at controlling locations, at -- over 8,000 warning letters to retailers and others, in spite of moving products off shelves. They've been going at it. So we simply have to remove these attractive flavored products from the marketplace until they secure FDA approval, if they can.

REPORTER: Mr. President, are you looking at arranging a meeting with Iranian President Rouhani at (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: I'm not looking at anything. Iran is a different country than it was two and a half years ago. Two and a half years ago, they were given a lot of money by President Obama, previous to that, $150 billion, $1.8 billion in cash, in actual cash. It's very impressive. But they are a much different country right now than they were two and a half years when I came into office.


And I do believe they'd like to make a deal. If they do, that's great, and if they don't, that's great too. But they have tremendous financial difficulty and --