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Taliban Statement Undermines Trump's Claim of Talks; President Trump Announces Resumption of Peace Negotiations with Taliban while Visiting Afghanistan; House Impeachment Inquiry to Move to Judiciary Committee; Retailers Prepare for Black Friday. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 29, 2019 - 08:00   ET

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


[08:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your New Day. It is Friday, November 29th, 8:00 in the east. John Berman is still at home digesting. John Avlon joins me here.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It takes time. It takes time. He deserves that digesting time.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: President Trump is back in Florida as of about an hour ago. This is after making his surprise trip to visit U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The president did not speak to the press upon his return, but in Afghanistan he announced he is reopening peace negotiations with the Taliban less than three months after breaking them off.

AVLON: President Trump also served troops a holiday meal and spent about three-and-a-half hours in Afghanistan. Made the trip in the face of unprecedented tensions with senior military officers over his decision to intervene in war crimes cases.

Joining us now, Maggie Haberman, White House correspondent from "The New York Times," and a CNN political analyst. All right.

CAMEROTA: CNN has just obtained a statement from the Taliban, from a spokesperson there. And here it is. We've been waiting for this to see how the Taliban feels about reopening these peace negotiations. So here it is, quote, "Our policy regarding peace talks is the same as it was. If Americans want, talks will resume from the point where it was stopped."

AVLON: Well.

CAMEROTA: That's interesting because the president was saying, well, if the Taliban wants to do it, then that's fine. And the Taliban saying, well, if Americans want to do it, that's fine.

AVLON: And the talks were called off not only amid the firestorm about a floated plan to invite the Taliban to Camp David but also because a ceasefire was violated and the Taliban refuses to extend any proposal of a ceasefire to the Afghan citizens. So Maggie, what does that sound like to you?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It sounds to me as if the president made a trip that was about something else, which was basically a surprise Thanksgiving visit, and he announced, as he often does, that there was some greater thing at work and not everybody was actually read in on that. It was met by surprise by people, the reporters traveling with the president.

I think the president wants to notch victories ahead of next November. And I think that you have to look at everything through that lens right now. So he is very well aware that the war in Afghanistan is this longest engagement that the U.S. has had, that voters are tired of it, and he knows that he campaigned in 2016 on a promise of ending that. So I think that's where he's coming from. But as we saw, there's not much evidence that talks are actually really resuming or that there's even a framework for anything taking place.

CAMEROTA: I think that what is so curious about this is, much like the announcement of the withdrawal from areas in Syria, is surprising your military commanders and the Pentagon a good idea? We've already seen this play out. And so around the president, why does this keep happening?

HABERMAN: I would say with Syria it was actually a different situation. With Syria, he was on a phone call with Erdogan, and by all accounts of it, he basically, as one person close to the president put it to me, just wasn't strong enough. Some administration officials have tried to insist the president did everything he could there to try to prevent Erdogan from this incursion into northern Syria. We obviously have not seen the transcript, but just based on what happened and what the president has said subsequently, there's a lot of reason to doubt that.

In this case, I think this was just the kind of thing that the president says. But you're right that it all becomes of a piece where he is essentially imposing his will on his commanders and catching them off guard. And they then end up doing the same thing any number of Trump administration officials have to do, which is reverse engineer facts to fit into what he is talking about.

I'm not sure, however, how engineered this is going to get. Now that we've seen that Taliban statement, I'm not really sure where this goes. We will see. But clearly, he was getting ahead of where things actually were.

AVLON: And clearly the president's goal is to get this done by November to fulfill a campaign promise from 2016, the Taliban must recognize that and puts him in a position of negotiating from weakness.

HABERMAN: Correct, which he never likes, and he will pretend isn't there.

AVLON: Exactly right.

So let's switch from foreign affairs to domestic because we've got a big week on the impeachment inquiry coming forward. Things move to the Judiciary Committee. The White House seems to be embracing a strategy of denials. The White House press secretary putting out a statement saying that there's nothing here. The president has done nothing wrong. The Democrats know it. It's an illegal impeachment sham. What are you hearing from within the White House about the president's willingness to lawyer up either for the Judiciary Committee hearings coming up or the Senate trial?

HABERMAN: The Senate trial I think you can expect there's going to be not lawyering up necessarily, but lawyerly engagement. I think you're going to see the White House Counsel mostly likely take the lead role, this is all fluid and could change, with some assist from the president's team of personal lawyers.

In terms of the Judiciary Committee investigation or inquiry in the House, they're still debating what they want to do in terms of engagement, because, on the one hand, they don't want to elevate something where there's not a ton of polling, and they are watching the polling very carefully, indicating that voters' minds have been changed. So they don't want to engage in a way that then elevates it.

[08:05:00]

On the other hand, they were also very frustrated watching the impeachment inquiry testimony where Republicans were muddying it up as much as possible in terms of witness testimony that they themselves didn't have a lawyer there. They didn't have anybody from their own actual team, and they're weighing that. I expect we will know in the next couple of days what's going to happen.

CAMEROTA: What's been the aftermath to your reporting that the president, of course, knew about the whistle-blower complaint by the time that he started denying it, and the congressional investigation, and so it just -- all the narratives the Republicans had hung their hats on in terms of, couldn't have been a quid pro quo if the president didn't know, and if nobody on the other end knew. So now what? What are they saying around him now?

HABERMAN: It's now the same thing. Nothing really has changed. Essentially the response that I heard from folks around the president to our reporting was, look, this is an unprecedented situation. Of course, you had the White House Counsel briefing his client. The client is the president. This is an unprecedented situation, and so this is a complaint about the client, and so that -- the client who controls all kinds of responses within the White House. So that creates its own layer.

But I think Alisyn, you're going to see the same thing from the White House that we have seen before, which is to basically ignore that detail, focus on the witness testimony that they want to try to poke holes in, like from Ambassador Sondland, and see where that goes.

AVLON: And where does that leave the members of the administration like Ambassador Sondland who gave testimony that was not favorable to the president? Where is currently the president's status with Rudy Giuliani? He has stood by him. Normally loyalty is a one-way street with this president. So far that hasn't been true, although there was a bit of daylight in an interview late last week.

HABERMAN: Unlike Michael Cohen, who was at a bit of a weak hand with this president, Rudy Giuliani has a much stronger hand. Number one, it's really hard to basically suggest that Rudy Giuliani was just off doing this on his own. We've seen the president start to try that, but he hasn't done it to the extent that, frankly, I and a bunch of other folks had thought he might at this point.

You also have the transcript of the phone call between the president and the president of Ukraine, and that just, I think, changes the calculation in terms of what President Trump is able to do in explaining away these actions.

Look, I think if Rudy Giuliani presents a real threat, but that would mean that he is under serious investigation himself. We know the SDNY is looking at him, we just don't know the status of that investigation, or if Rudy Giuliani is about to turn on the president, which, remember, was when the president separated from Michael Cohen last year. It was when it became clear that Michael Cohen was going to say things that were unfavorable to President Trump. I think that would be the point at which you see a break. I think that they do not want that unless that presents itself.

CAMEROTA: I think the Giuliani thing is so fascinating because Giuliani is complicated, obviously, because he was drumming up business for himself over there. And the president said as much. The president has begun alluding to that. I don't know why Rudy Giuliani went there. I know he has a lot of business dealings over in Ukraine. True.

HABERMAN: That helps him to say. If you are the president and you're arguing that Rudy Giuliani might have been out there operating on his own and not for me. And the fact he had all of these other potential pieces of client work with Ukraine government officials helps him.

CAMEROTA: For sure. So I'm just saying it gets complicated because if Rudy doesn't want that narrative depicted --

HABERMAN: It might be out of his hands at this point given the wealth of evidence.

AVLON: What was the White House response to the decision regarding Don McGahn being forced to testify. They're appealing it. It buys them a little more time. It looks like now there's going to be the appeal hearing in early January. But the judge's wording was very tough, saying one of the distillations of American history is we don't have kings. That's a tough ruling for this White House to confront.

HABERMAN: It is a tough ruling, but, again, I think we tend to look at these decisions that come down from the courts, in particular piecemeal, in terms of here's an individual decision and here's a statement from a judge. And there are people who are following this who are going to recognize that voters are going to recognize that that's a pretty damning statement about the administration. But what we have seen time and time again is the administration is going to ignore it and put blinders on and just charge ahead toward trying to appeal this decision. And that will be what they focus on if it goes their way. And they are focused on running out the clock on any number of these cases, and that's what they're doing with McGahn.

CAMEROTA: It's always interesting to have a little weekend reading. Here's what's on "The New York Times" bestseller list right now. Number one "A Warning" by Anonymous, who is supposedly this senior Trump official still in the White House.

HABERMAN: We don't know --

CAMEROTA: I don't know. Obviously we don't know anything.

AVLON: Senior administration official.

CAMEROTA: A senior administration official. But in their ask me anything thing they did on Reddit, it sounded as though they were at least acting as though they are still in the White House. What's your understanding?

HABERMAN: So we don't know. They've refused to say whether they're in the White House or not. Actually, what I thought was interesting about that ask me anything on Reddit was they said, yes, I will reveal my identity at some point. The whole conceit in the book is I'm not going to reveal my identity because that will allow the president to focus on me, but now apparently, it's a good thing to say what your identity is. I think that for a lot of people, for people who don't like this administration, this book really appeals to them.

[08:10:00]

For people who are looking for people to be vocal and stand up about it, they are looking at witnesses going up to Capitol Hill, testifying, no masks, with their identities, or even people like Richard Spencer, the Navy secretary who was fired, and that whole situation was contentious, but he wrote a blistering op-ed this week about the president.

AVLON: On the flip side to that, number two on the bestseller list is "Triggered" by Don Trump Jr. There's been reporting in the "New York Times" and other places that basically the RNC has been bulk buying the books, inflating it success in sales numbers. That dichotomy because the two books says a lot about the country right now. But what do you have to say about the reporting that some of the sales figures for Don Trump Jr.'s book have been inflated by the RNC and other bulk purchases?

HABERMAN: So Nick Confessore, my colleague, and Alexandra Alter did a look at the other groups. And there's, I think, maybe nine of them have purchased in bulk copies of the book "Triggered." I think it adds up to a total of either 16,000 or a little north of 20,000. It still is a pretty big dichotomy, as we understand it, between the number one slot on the list where he is, and the number two, so there's no indication that those sales are why he is number one. It is obviously going to raise questions for people particularly because the RNC was not honest about it when they were asked about it in the first go around. I do think it's an interesting window into how complete the Trump

takeover of the Republican Party is. And also Donald Trump Jr. has become a big surrogate for the GOP in his own right. We have seen this before where surrogates have their books sold. It becomes a fundraising effort. So there is a certain synergy between these books and Republican surrogates, and certainly in this case, the Trump family. It's interesting to watch.

AVLON: Maggie Haberman, thank you very much, as always.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Maggie. Have a great weekend.

AVLON: All right, the black Friday frenzy is here. After record- setting online sales of $4 -- get this -- billion on Thanksgiving Day alone, Americans flocking to stores now in search of holiday bargains. And analysts widely expect black Friday to be one of the biggest shopping days of the season. CNN's Alison Kosik live in at a Best Busy store in beautiful downtown Paramus, New Jersey, with more.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ready, get set, and shop. That's how it is right here at this Best Buy in Paramus. Just a few minutes ago, the doors here at this Best Buy opened and dozens of people came streaming in looking for those bargains. It's proof that black Friday, it is still a thing. But this time it's expanded to a five- day shopping event. It began on Thanksgiving Day yesterday and continues all the way through Monday on cyber-Monday. What are people shopping for? The usual suspects, TVs, appliances, and other electronics. The best place to be, of course, is Best Buy.

But one thing that is on shopper's minds are those tariffs. The U.S.- China trade war is under way. Some tariffs have gone into effect. And although the National Retail Federation doesn't think that it's going to change the way people shop, 79 percent of those surveyed say as they're shopping, they are concerned that those tariffs will cause prices to rise. It's why retailers like Best Buy have taken steps to mitigate the effects of those tariffs. They've negotiated with their vendors, they've diversified their supply chains, and they've also bought inventory early before the tariffs actually went into effect. That way those products clear customs before those taxes take effect.

But not every business is doing as well as Best Buy in that realm. Small businesses are unable in most cases to absorb the higher costs.

Alisyn and John, back to you.

CAMEROTA: All right, Alison, we see you're no longer alone in the glorious Paramus mall but you had those --

KOSIK: No. I've already picked out what I wanted.

AVLON: I hope you grab stuff as discussed.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Alison.

All right, you have to see this. Gusty winds did not ground the iconic Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloons, but maybe they should have because handlers struggled -- oh, my gosh -- to rein in particularly the Nutcracker who went rogue. Watch what happens when this gust hits and the Nutcracker knocks over a parade marcher. Luckily, we're happy to report, she is OK. She got back up and soldiered on, John.

AVLON: No marchers were injured by the errant Nutcracker, but getting knocked down by a Nutcracker like that is going to leave a mark.

CAMEROTA: It's also a great story when you go back for your Thanksgiving meal.

AVLON: That time I got knocked down by the Nutcracker and it went viral, globally. It's a gift.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, winter storms will cause more travel trouble for people trying to now get home on Sunday. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has been keeping an eye on this. What are you seeing, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Or even trying to get home today, Alisyn. I-17, I-40 closed across Flagstaff. Very heavy rainfall in Phoenix right now. That's the next storm that will get to the northeast Saturday night and Sunday. Temperatures are good for shopping right now, I guess, if you are going to get out there, I'd rather be in here. Here's the heavy rainfall, though, in Phoenix. Flash flood warnings all over Sun City here. We are going to see the Valley of the Sun not see much today. The snow will be north of you into Flagstaff. It will move into the four corners. It will move into Colorado.

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Great news if you are sitting there on the ski slope waiting to go out today because there's fresh powder coming. Unfortunately, there's powder coming to the Northeast, too.

We're going to watch Saturday night and Sunday trying to get in and out of the airports in the Northeast. And by Sunday, 7:00, the snow is everywhere across New England. And it doesn't even leave until Monday night.

So, this is a multiday snow event. So, if you don't get out, enjoy some more cold turkey because you're going to be there awhile. An awful lot of snow across parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Some spots will have more than a foot of snow by Monday night.

Guys, enjoy.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: That's some cold turkey there.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, cold turkey used literally. Thank you very much, Chad.

AVLON: Thanks, Chad.

All right. Have Taliban peace talks restarted as President Trump claims? Well, a new statement just obtained by CNN puts that in doubt. We're going to discuss, next.

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[08:20:13]

AVLON: Breaking news. President Trump just returned from Afghanistan where he surprised U.S. troops on Thanksgiving. The president also revealed this during his brief visit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AVLON: But CNN has just obtained a statement from a Taliban spokesperson that completely undermines the president's claim. Quote: Our policy regarding peace talks is the same as it was, if Americans want, talks would resume from the point where it was stopped.

Joining us now, CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot.

Max, what do you make of this? The president making a statement during a press conference, seems to be contradicted in terms of the state of talks by the Taliban just this morning.

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, it's very hard to figure out the president's policy towards negotiations with the Taliban because, remember, in September, they were very close to a deal. And then there was an attack that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan, and Trump pulled the plug. He was even planning to invite the Taliban to Camp David and decided not to do that. And so, the negotiations were off.

And now, he's saying they're on. It's not clear what has changed between September and now. I would hope they'd take this opportunity to change the U.S. negotiating posture because I think there were a couple of major weaknesses with Zal Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy negotiating in September.

One of them, there was no commitment from the Taliban for a cease-fire as a precondition for American drawdown. And, two, there were no direct talks between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan. I think it's crucial to do both of those so that you have a successful end to the war rather than just an American withdrawal leading to a possible Taliban takeover.

CAMEROTA: We just had Maggie Haberman on from "The New York Times" who has her finger on the pulse of what's being said inside the White House. Her impression was that the president got out ahead of his skis.

BOOT: I can't believe that would happen with this president. CAMEROTA: I know, Max, shocked you.

(CROSSTALK)

BOOT: I mean, normally, he saw (INAUDIBLE) was brief, you know?

CAMEROTA: I know.

BOOT: This is -- this is like one of his Twitter moments except it wasn't a Twitter. It was actually on live TV.

AVLON: This is also war and peace.

BOOT: Yes.

AVLON: I mean, this is not, you know, photoshopping yourself on top of Rocky Balboa. This is a big deal.

You say he put the cart before the horse and that the negotiations haven't been where they should be in your mind if we're going to have a real end to the conflict as opposed to simply U.S. drawdown.

BOOT: Right, and it's not clear that there's actually been a change in the negotiations because as you suggested, as Maggie said, it could just be Trump sounding off without any real progress being made in the talks that Khalilzad has been trying to get going again.

CAMEROTA: I know. But I mean, I guess my point is that, sure, Trump being Trump, I know we say things like that a lot, but this is about international -- this is about war and peace. This is about foreign affairs. I was telling Maggie that it reminds me of what happened in Syria where suddenly the Pentagon has to scramble and commanders on the ground have to scramble acting as though this is real.

BOOT: Well, this is the real nightmare the Pentagon has which is that Trump is simply going to go on Twitter and announce that he's withdrawing most of the U.S. forces. And a lot of what is driving the negotiations on the part of Zal Khalilzad and his team is trying avoid that from happening, trying to somehow negotiate because everybody knows that Trump is desperate to pull out. He even said he wants to cut, by 50 percent, a number of U.S. forces.

That does not strengthen the U.S. posture when you're saying we want to leave but please negotiate and make concessions to allow us to leave in a face-saving way. That's not how you successfully negotiate.

AVLON: Well, speaking of gestures before important meetings, NATO conference this coming week in the United Kingdom. CNN reporting that the White House is actually cutting the U.S. contribution to NATO from 22 percent of its total budget of $2.5 billion to around 16 percent, which would put us on parity with Germany.

How do you read this going into those meetings given concerns about the president's actual commitment to NATO? BOOT: Well, it's not a lot of money. It's mainly a symbolic step

because obviously most of what is involved in NATO is national defense budgets. And this is a very small part of a contribution to a joint NATO fund.

But the message it is sending is that Trump does not like NATO. He thinks that our allies are deadbeats. He wants to reduce the American commitment to the Atlantic alliance. And so, I think the atmospherics are terrible going into this 70th anniversary summit of NATO coming right up here.

Again, Trump is signaling animus towards what has been a bedrock of American security since the late 1940s.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but President Trump's supporters, and probably a bunch of other Americans and voters, do feel like, why do we get stuck with the bill more than Germany. And so, if you're saying it's not a big deal and our other guests have said, even the generals we've had on, this is not a big deal. This is part of their sort of direct funding, kind of their overhead infrastructure budget.

So, why not pay the same amount as Germany?

[08:20:01]

Maybe -- maybe people will applaud President Trump for this.

BOOT: Well, in the past, it was based on the country's share of the global economy. And we're richer than Germany. So, we were paying more.

But, again, this doesn't matter so much. What matters is, will Trump remain committed to NATO and I think there's good cause to doubt that.

AVLON: Final thing before we go. Apple, you know, an extraordinary company in many respects, raised a lot of eyebrows. Seemed to be getting knuckled under by Russia because in their maps in Russia, it says that Crimea, the province that it essentially took over and is contested in Ukraine, Apple Maps saying it's now part of Russia.

This is part of a larger pattern of companies knuckling under pressure from foreign countries. We've seen it in Taiwan and China with regard to airline maps.

What do you make of this?

BOOT: Well, it's unfortunate, but it's also probably inevitable. I mean, I think this is kind of --

AVLON: Inevitable?

BOOT: Well, I think this is, you know, the challenge that these American Internet companies face doing in -- the challenge they face doing business in tyrannical countries like Russia or China. They're basically being given a choice, which is either they can engage in the kind of propaganda that the regime demands or they can pull out. And I would hope in most cases, they would actually pull out, but this

is -- you know, unfortunately, they are having to make real compromises with their values because they are so desperate to continue doing business. And me, personally, I don't think it's worth it, but obviously, this I difficult decision that these executives have to make.

AVLON: It's a dangerous precedent being set.

CAMEROTA: Max Boot, thank you very much.

AVLON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you as always.

BOOT: Pleasure.

CAMEROTA: OK. Breaking 2020 news. There's turmoil inside Senator Kamala Harris' campaign. What a top aide is telling people on her way out the door. We have that, next.

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