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Trump Returns from Afghanistan Visit; Shoppers Flock to Stores for Deals; Impeachment Inquiry Continues Next Week; Trump Visits Troops and Talks About Taliban. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2019 - 07:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Talks with the Taliban, which you'll remember he broke off less than three months ago.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Now, President Trump served Thanksgiving meals to the troops when he was in Afghanistan and made the trip despite unprecedented tensions with senior military officers over his decision to intervene in war crimes cases.

CNN's Kristen Holmes live in West Palm Beach, Florida, with more.



Yes, a lot to break down around this trip, but we'll start with this announcement that they're going to reopen these negotiations with the Taliban. Essentially, President Trump abruptly ending them, as Alisyn said, roughly three months ago citing a Taliban attack in Kabul that left an American soldier dead. Now, he says, the Taliban wants to come back to the table.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Taliban wants to make a deal and we're meeting with them.

We're going to stay until such time as we have a deal or we have total victory. And they want to make a deal very badly.


HOLMES: And so, obviously, there he's saying the Taliban is the one who wants to make the deal very badly. And we should note that the details on what these talks look like or how they're going to happen are very thin. So right now it's just his announcement that we know.

And I want to give a little context that you talked about, John, about the week that this comes after -- this trip comes after. It was a week of tension between President Trump and top U.S. military leaders following the president against the advice of the Pentagon, intervening in three war crimes cases. The week really ending with the resignation or ouster, firing as well, as -- of the secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer. Even as early as Tuesday of this week, he was calling the Pentagon the deep state. So this is clearly sending a message hear to the troops. He makes this big announcement about pulling troops out of Afghanistan in front of men and women who are in uniform. He goes on this troop with the chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, General Milley, who was one of these top ranking U.S. military officials that we know expressed concern to the White House, to President Trump, of him circumventing this military justice system.

CAMEROTA: Kristen, thank you very much for all of that. I think we're about to see the president deplaning there. We'll bring that to you live as soon as we see it.

Joining us now we have CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr and CNN military analyst and retired U.S. Army Major General James "Spider" Marks.

Great to see both of you.

We'll keep these live shots up as often as we can.

So, look, I think we -- everybody agrees, general, that going to see the troops at Thanksgiving is a wonderful morale boost. It's a wonderful gesture. It's not easy, of course, for the president of the United States to have to make that trip. And so that we can only imagine with -- from the troops went over really well.

What do you think about the substance of what, if anything, that came out of that visit and his announcement of trying to restart these talks with the Taliban?

MAJ. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yes, I would say any time the president makes a visit to combat troops, it's a wonderful thing. It's good for the president, obviously, and it's certainly wonderful for the troops. Politics are completely washed away. It has no bearing, no context at all. You've got your commander in chief and he's sharing time with soldiers who were deployed, so it's -- it's a wonderful opportunity.

The opportunity to reengage with the Taliban is essential. I mean that is the issue going forward in terms of our presence in Afghanistan, you know, 18 years. We've got to bring this thing to some closure. Whether that's immediate, whether that's going to have a longer horizon, we certainly don't know.

But the key thing is, what are the -- what are the preconditions in order for us to sit down with the Taliban? We can't simply engage in a conversation that's meaningful in any particular way unless we know, number one, what the desired outcome is and what are the conditions under which we are now conducting these discussions. Ceasefire has always been on the table as a precondition for us to sit down. That has not worked well and we haven't really had much result from previous conversations.

AVLON: And, Barbara, as we wait for President Trump to emerge from Air Force One, what are we hearing about whether the Taliban is actually ready to go to the negotiating table and whether the Afghans themselves will participate in this next round?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what everybody, of course, is waiting for. It is expected the Taliban will issue some sort of statement today laying out their position. You know, one of the key questions here, as Spider just pointed out, is, what's in the -- inside the Taliban leadership head right now about what they are thinking? Do they see potential U.S. weakness because they know President Trump wants to get the troops out of this 18-year war?

The Taliban have -- operate on a very long time frame. They can wait out their opponents without really having to worry about it.

Look, all wars really do end at the negotiating table. I don't think anybody thinks it's a bad idea to try and, you know, get some agreement here. But a cease-fire the Taliban really committed to it in all corners of the country and whether the Afghan government and Afghan forces will be participants in this.


All of these are key questions because you don't want to go to the negotiating table if your opponents think you are negotiating from weakness.

CAMEROTA: General Marks, just explain to us what has changed in the past three months since -- well, remember, President Trump canceled that controversial visit that he had planned of the Taliban coming to Camp David. Various even Republicans spoke out against that. And then President Trump canceled it.

So what do we think is different today in terms of the conditions for these trade talks than what happened three months ago?

MARKS: Yes, it's a great question. I would say there is nothing of great significance. However, if you can create some causality between the United States' ability to identify, target, and eliminate Baghdadi, not engaged in Afghanistan, but the notion that the United States will not give up on going after bad actors in a very, very precise and a persistent way. That's -- I mean the U.S. has a presence and will continue to have a presence, whether they have boots on the ground or they have intelligence and really wonderful targeting capabilities. They will continue to pursue those that have done wrong against us, our allies, our partners, and our friends. That's a very powerful message.

But your question really gets to the point, what's different on the ground in Afghanistan? And the short answer is, not much, other than, as Barbara pointed out, the United States has stated, we want to go from about 12,000 troops right now, maybe down to about 8,000. In other words, we've declared our intentions to have a less -- you know, a less vulnerable presence in Afghanistan.

AVLON: And, Barbara, obviously this trip to Afghanistan, a wonderful way to cap what was a very rough week in relations between the Pentagon and the president. But the president at a rally calling the Pentagon the deep state and saying he took them on to pardon three accused war criminals.

What has been the feeling inside the Pentagon based on your reporting?

STARR: Well, I think there's a good deal of the polite word would be frustration on the top of top leadership and some anxiety and concern about what might come next. They have, for a long time, viewed the president's decision-making as sporadic at times. And he has -- he is someone who makes his decisions and, you know, they are then hard- pressed to scramble and figure out what he's really talking about in so many cases. And we saw this most recently with his back and forth about the drawdown of U.S. troops in Syria, abandonment of the Kurds now going back to fighting with the Kurds in Syria. Even yesterday, in Afghanistan --

CAMEROTA: Here's the president now, Barbara. Just for a second, we just want to take a moment to watch the president.

STARR: Sure.

CAMEROTA: He's just arrived at West Palm Beach International Airport.

I think he's wearing a make America great again hat. He is walking down the stairs. He seems somewhat subdued this morning, but he waved to whoever was there. Maybe -- no -- obviously, not a lot of crowds are there. They didn't -- no one knows when the president is arriving back. These things are generally done in secret. The cards are held close to the chest. But he is waving at some people.

AVLON: And --

MARKS: Hey, Alisyn.



MARKS: You should do sports play-by-play. That was just wonderful.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. Thank you, sir.

MARKS: That was --

CAMEROTA: Thank you. I don't know why people haven't seen this innate skill that I have that I often keep hidden in terms of sports, but I --

AVLON: General, that kind of positive re-enforcement goes a long way with Alisyn and sports.


MARKS: You've got to be with her for the next couple of hours. Good job, John.

AVLON: But extraordinary seeing the president come down after an historic -- his first trip to Afghanistan, wearing a red essentially campaign slogan hat coming off Air Force One.

CAMEROTA: Yes. All right.

So, Barbara, sorry, you were saying?

STARR: Well, let me just make one point. Having flown back and forth to Afghanistan several times, you're always pretty subdued when you come off the airplane because it is one long airplane ride and it's very exhausting.

I don't think we saw the first lady there.

And there was discussion about her being on the trip.

You know, look, they -- they are dismayed about the president. There's been a lot of back and forth. Even yesterday he talked about taking the oil again. Not something U.S. troops do. Not a legal mission for U.S. forces to take the natural resources of another country. So all of this is so problematic.

And, of course, we saw him call out the so-called deep state, whatever that might mean, that he says he pushed back against in pardoning these three troops involved in war crimes allegations. He had even tweeted a couple of weeks ago that U.S. troops were trained as, in his words, killing machines.

Well, this is the stuff that is just absolutely -- sets top commanders teeth on edge and I think it's really important to note, standing next to the president not only was the leader of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, but Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Scott Miller, who is the four star general in charge of U.S. operations in Afghanistan.


A general with decades of experience in special operations. Very well regarded.

If you were pushing back against the U.S. military command structure, you're pushing back against men -- top commanders like that, referring to them as the deep state. This is something that certainly there's just probably no way to describe it other than to say it's not true.

CAMEROTA: Spider, beyond my rarely seen excellent sports commentary, your final thoughts?

MARKS: Completely aligned with what Barbara just said. The notion of a military deep state, which really is throwing darts very, very precisely at the UCMJ, that really underpins everything you do in the military to ensure that the wonderful, professional soldiers and military folks can find a path forward and that the criminals can be identified and moved to the side so that we can meet the national security requirements as stated. I mean that underpins everything we do. And to say that that's a part of the deep state is exactly as Barbara indicated. I never -- I never -- call me naive, I never thought I was part of

that. I certainly was not a part of that. And that those that are in uniform today would push back really hard and do push back really hard against that claim.


AVLON: General, Barbara, thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, guys.

MARKS: Thank you.

AVLON: All right, online shopping, on another note, is off to a very strong start on this Black Friday. Analysts say bargain hunters spent a record -- get this -- $4 billion on Thanksgiving alone. The rush is on to get the first crack at those sales this morning. Today's traditionally one of the biggest shopping days of the holiday season.

CNN's Alison Kosik live inside a store right now in beautiful downtown Paramus, New Jersey.

CAMEROTA: She's so lucky.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn said I'm lucky. I am pretty lucky.

You know what, Alisyn, I've already been browsing. I am the only one in this store. There are about a handful of people outside waiting to get in here. An hour to go before the doors open. And it's safe to say the days of kind of elbowing each other out of the way to get TVs, these door busters, I think those days are gone.

But the reality is, Black Friday, it is a thing. It's part of a five- day shopping event. It starts on Thanksgiving Day and it ends on Cyber Monday. During that long weekend that we are in the middle of, 165 million people are expected to get out there and go shopping.

Interestingly enough, did you know consumers already started shopping for the holiday before Black Friday? I'm talking about October. It's because unemployment is low and people are feeling good about their paychecks, they're feeling good about their job security. So it is expected to be a good holiday shopping season.

As far as those tariffs go, yes, they are on -- in the back of consumers' minds, although the National Retail Federation says it does not expect the U.S.-China trade war and the tariffs as a result will not impact the way people shop.

But people are certainly thinking about it. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed are concerned about higher prices because of the tariff war, because of the trade war.

Alisyn and John.

AVLON: Interesting. CAMEROTA: All right, Alison, you have a great assignment there. Feel

free to pick us up anything.

Thank you very much.

AVLON: In other news, for the third time in American history, a U.S. president is about to be impeached. And we've got a presidential historian joining us to talk about it next.



AVLON: As the impeachment inquiry enters a new phase next week, House Democrats could vote to impeach President Trump by Christmas. So what do past impeachments tell us about Trump's prospects in 2020?

Joining us now is CNN presidential historian and confidant to Hunter S. Thompson, Doug Brinkley.

Doug, it's great to have you on NEW DAY. Hope you had a happy turkey day.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Hey, I had a great Thanksgiving and I'm glad to be here with you.

AVLON: All right. Let's go big picture for a second, putting on, you know, the deep history here. First 200 years of the republic, one impeachment. The last 45 years, three inquiries. What does that say about the direction the country's moving?

BRINKLEY: Well, you know, one thing, after the 1800 election, when both sides ripped at each other, you know, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson just were name calling, there became a fear that our country would be permanently divided if we didn't rally behind a president. So for a while there was a thought that, you know, once somebody got elected, you put politics aside. And, after all, we didn't run four year like out campaigns. So you -- things would be a lot tighter to the date and time.

But the Civil War broke things apart pretty much. And, you know, there became a period of the imperial presidency with Theodore Roosevelt. But in more recent times, we are seeing our country so divided, everything so close. I mean just look at 2000 with Gore versus Bush and many people didn't accept Bush 43 as a legit president because he didn't win the popular vote, that we've been having kind of impeachment fever in the country. It's almost just part and parcel of being president. There's going to be a movement (INAUDIBLE) ginned up to impeach you.

AVLON: But let's take a look at the numbers side-by-side.

So, CNN's most recent polling, Donald Trump, 50 percent desire to impeach and remove. That's steady from October before the latest hearings began, but significantly risen since March.

Now, you go back to Richard Nixon, he was below 50 percent until the final poll in August of '74.


Bill Clinton, the opposite. Never gets above 35 percent. His approval rating hits 73 percent when the House votes to impeach him. It's extraordinary.

So where does that give you a sense on the differences between Donald Trump's current political predicament and what happened to Nixon and Clinton?

BRINKLEY: It is a great question. It just tells you what deep trouble Donald Trump's in. I mean when you have 50 percent of the country wanting you -- not -- and not just impeached but removed from office, and the game hasn't even gotten fast yet. I think once the votes take in by Congress to impeach him and he's wearing the "i" on his chest, you're going to see that movement grow even more.

It tells you he doesn't have a lot of friends. He's a base politician. He doesn't know how to turn this around. And I think the charges of corruption are just deep and real.

Bill Clinton's sexual escapades always seemed a tad bit frivolous. And the Starr report seemed overdone with sexual detail. Clinton kind of became a hero of his own impeachment. But there wasn't an election cycle coming in 1999 when the Senate took their vote. Donald Trump's heading right into a 2020 election and the Democrats are going to pound Trump on being a kind of fake president, somebody who's subpar in his behavior and has been running the most corrupt administration since Warren Harding.

AVLON: But, you know, one of the things we can take clearly, because every president and situation is different, as you just pointed out with Bill Clinton. 1976, 2000, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush didn't explicitly campaign on impeachment. But in both cases the party, the opposition party, won the presidency. What does that tell you about the right way to campaign, even in an unprecedented situation where you could have a president impeached and running for re-election?

BRINKLEY: You know, that's an interesting question. And I think the Democrats might want to look at the way Jimmy Carter pulled off victory in 1976. He took the high road. He ran on saying, I will never tell a lie to you. He didn't have to say Nixon's lies or Lyndon Johnson's lies, just that I am clean, good governance coming your way if you vote for me.

I see Pete Buttigieg trying to wave in that kind of way. But it's hard to do when you're campaigning for president and every reporter's asking you, what do you think about the impeachment hearing of the day, you know? And the hatred of Donald Trump in the Democratic Party is even deeper than Democratic disdain for Richard Nixon during the dark days of Watergate.

AVLON: Doug Brinkley, thank you for joining us, our friend. Have a good weekend.

BRINKLEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, President Trump visits U.S. troops in Afghanistan amid tensions with his senior military officers. We will speak to the head of a leading veterans group about how they see all of this.



CAMEROTA: President Trump is back in Florida after a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, who are still fighting in America's longest war.

Here's some of what the president told them.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Taliban wants to make a deal and we're meeting with them.

And we're going to stay until such time as we have a deal or we have total victory. And they want to make a deal very badly.


CAMEROTA: All right, let's bring in Jeremy Butler. He is the CEO of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Great the see you, Jeremy.

So tell us how veterans are feeling about everything that has unfolded over the past couple of weeks. And let's start with that visit that the president just made for Thanksgiving to Afghanistan. Obviously everybody, I'm sure all the troops are grateful to see their commander in chief. But it is controversial to want to have peace talks with the Taliban because, obviously, that's what veterans have been fighting for. The Taliban was who gave al Qaeda safe shelter and allowed them ultimately to kill 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

: No, you're exactly right. And, first and foremost, you know, the president visiting the service men and women that are deployed was absolutely a great thing. That's something that's overdue. You know, he made his first trip to Iraq last year. Overdue for a trip to Afghanistan. So to visit the troops is just an absolutely wonderful thing to do, especially on a holiday such as this. To be deployed is always a challenging time, not just for the service members, but certainly for their families. So for the president to visit on Thanksgiving is sort of a double bonus to those who are deployed because it not only reaffirms his support for them and their mission, but also helps to make what can be an especially difficult day to be separated from your families a little bit easier.

That said, you're right, this is also an incredibly divisive conversation or topic to bring up. IVA did a poll of our membership when the last conversation happened around a peace deal with the Taliban, especially around Camp David. And while our membership tells us that they very much support ending the war in Afghanistan, they're very much against the idea of a peace deal with the Taliban. Because, as you said, this is not a formal government that we're talking about here. This is not a formal organization. This is really an ideology that so many have fought against for these 18 years that we've been involved in this conflict.

And so while we do want to see an end to the conflict, I'm not sure that our membership and probably veterans in general are supportive of the idea of direct negotiations with the Taliban. This is something that has to be, I think, a broader conversation involving more parties, not the least of which should be the Afghanistan government.


CAMEROTA: I mean you know that that invitation to Camp David was so controversial that even Republicans in Congress, who are often loathe to speak.