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Impeachment Weighs on Trump; Trump Slams Macron; Attorney General Disputes IG Finding; Trump Proposes Tariffs on French Goods; Winter Storm Pounds Northeast. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired December 3, 2019 - 07:00   ET

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


[07:00:00]

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Talked about the v chip, which nobody remembers. He talks about -- he talked about, you know, the economy that was booming at the time. And, you know, that was one way of dealing with it.

This president is obviously completely obsessed by it. He talks about it constantly. And, you know, we'll see whether the result is any different. At the moment it looks like the result is going to be pretty much the same.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, he's calling Democrats unpatriotic. That is --

TOOBIN: Different, yes.

BERMAN: You know a big, big departure from what we've heard before.

The president was also asked about something that's been floated out there by Republicans, mind you, Republican commentators, which is the idea of a censure rather than impeachment. This is the first time I believe we've heard the president weigh in on that. So let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I heard about it. Now they want to go to censure because they have no case for impeachment. So they want to go to censure. I don't want them to go to censure. I did nothing -- I don't mind being censured if you do something wrong. I did nothing wrong. I had a great conversation. A very respectful conversation with the president, a good person, by the way, with the president of Ukraine. It was flawless.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right, that was that news conference that ended just a short time ago.

Kaitlan Collins on standby for us in London.

One of the things the president said, he also attacked the French leader in that news conference, Kaitlan. KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he did. It was

pretty wide-ranging, John. And this is just the first meeting that Trump had while he was here, taking multiple questions from reporters, essentially denouncing those who have suggested that they should take the censure route instead of going and impeaching the president, potentially removing him from office. He said he finds that unacceptable because he still doesn't think he did anything wrong. Maintaining those called that he had with the Ukrainian president were perfect, even though you've heard some Republicans say that they do not think that it was a perfect or appropriate call, but they just don't think it's something he should be impeached over.

But, of course, it wasn't the only headline he made. He was going after the French president after President Macron said he believed NATO was experiencing brain death, a comment that he tied directly to President Trump, saying essentially that they could no longer rely on the United States to be this unwavering ally and the president was responding, I believe for the first time, saying he believed that that was insulting. He was essentially saying he believed it was an extraordinary remark. And he was citing Turkey's president, who responded, pushing back on Macron saying that he believed Macron is brain dead since he said NATO was experiencing brain death.

And, of course, it was very -- an interesting position to see the president in since he is the one typically at these kind of meetings, these summits, criticizing NATO. Instead, taking a turn criticizing Macron. Though, of course, Macron was essentially criticizing his decision to withdraw those U.S. troops from Syria.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Kaitlan, you have done a fantastic job of explaining the inexplicable, which is the president's shifting position on NATO. He's the one who has been critical for years about NATO. And as we all remember, David, he had such a bromance with President Macron. They were holding hands.

BERMAN: Pawing.

CAMEROTA: They were --

BERMAN: There was pawing.

CAMEROTA: John calls it pawing. Some people call it heavy petting. I don't know. But their -- they loved each other so much. And now, because Macron criticized President Trump's actions in Syria, now it is just the full plate of insults.

And, you know, this is -- I mean the fortunes go up and down as we see with this president all the time.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he was actually a little bit more tepid on Macron saying also that, look, he understands he has to do what he has to do and that they tend to get along fine. We'll see whether there's some fireworks in their meeting later today. I think this is also about France trying to reassert some leadership in NATO and in Europe generally. But it's not at all surprising that the president would take anyone who criticizes him on like this. And it's so striking, even several years in, to see how close the president has gotten to Russia and to Turkey, and to a leader like Erdogan and further alienating western European leaders who were, along with the United States, the founders of NATO in the first place, excluding France, of course, in the founding of it.

But -- so that's -- that's a striking, you know, play here that there's so much distance between all of them.

TOOBIN: And if we could just talk for a second about why NATO matters. You know, if this is -- it seems almost routine. This has gone on for so long.

But, you know, the western democracies, after World War II, they got together and they said, we are going to protect each other. And this has been the most successful military political alliance in the history of the world really. And the idea that, you know, the president is attacking it is really just so unfortunate because this has been really a great institution, not just for Europe, but for the world.

BERMAN: And I have to tell you, we're getting reports from our people in Russia, Russia has been watching this very closely with great interest. Why? Because it's great for them.

TOOBIN: Exactly.

BERMAN: It's great for them when the president of the United States and the president of France are going back and forth on the future of NATO.

[07:05:00]

Let's play it so you can judge for yourself whether or not the president was attacking the French leader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I heard that President Macron said NATO is brain dead. I think that's very insulting to a lot of different forces, including a man who does a very good job at running NATO.

And you just can't go around making statements like that about NATO. It's very disrespectful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You know, it's like from "Animal House."

GREGORY: That's the rich part.

BERMAN: You can't say that about our Delta Tao Kai (ph) pledges. Only we can say that about our Delta Toa Kai pledges. GREGORY: Right.

BERMAN: The president, who attacks NATO as his job, I mean let's -- let's play the president's attacks on NATO.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (April 18, 2016): Number one, NATO is obsolete.

TRUMP (August 1, 2016): And, number two, the people aren't paying their way.

TRUMP: (August 1, 2016): It's obsolete. And we pay too much money.

NATO, we're going to have the people that aren't paying, they're going to start paying.

TRUMP: (July 29, 2016): It's obsolete.

TRUMP (April 13, 2016): I mean we're getting ripped in NATO.

TRUMP: (August 5, 2016): They don't pay their bills.

TRUMP (August 1, 2016): They are delinquent.

TRUMP (April 25, 2016): NATO is obsolete and has to be rejiggered.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: God forbid -- God forbid, David, that anyone criticize NATO.

GREGORY: Right.

BERMAN: President Trump, all of a sudden, says this morning.

GREGORY: Well, it's what Jeffrey said to underline the importance of why NATO started in the first place. And at the end of World War II, the emerging threat after World War II was, of course, another European war, which is why the European Union was so important.

But it was also the growing threat from Russia, from the Soviet Union at the time, where we had to forge an alliance with them to help conclude the war, to help win the war, and then all of a sudden the iron curtain fell. And this was really the concern.

So what Russia, under Putin, has been worried about is NATO expansion, things like getting rid of -- that we covered in the Bush administration, getting rid of the ABM (ph) treaty, to go back to a star wars concept of intercepting nuclear missiles.

And now to see an American president say that it's obsolete, to have European powers jockeying for position against the United States, it's very 19th century and very concerning. CAMEROTA: Look, Kaitlan, as we all know, the president sees everything

through a lens of dollars and cents. He sees country's worth in terms of money. He sees if the U.S. is being screwed over, as he would say, through money. And so all of the whole thing -- I mean the -- every -- all of the context that you all are giving about NATO, interesting. Not how the president processes it. He processes it on his checkbook ledger. And, today, the U.N. secretary-general thanked President Trump for focusing on other country's defense spending. I mean, you know, he gave him a hearty thanks for increasing the defense spending of other countries.

COLLINS: Yes, and so I think the president's and the White House's response to his past criticism, saying NATO is obsolete, compared to him defending it today against Macron would be essentially what the president said while he was in that room this morning. He thinks that since he's become president, NATO is a completely different organization and that he's been able to change it. And he doesn't word it the right way. He says essentially that they're paying so much more that he's raised so much money for NATO. Essentially the argument is that they have to, of course, increase their defense spending.

And that was essentially what the president triggered an emergency session over when he was in Brussels the last time because he was essentially threatening to withdraw, talking about how much the United States was paying compared to how much other countries were putting up for their own defense, which is supposed to be 2 percent of their GDP. And while some countries have pledged that, of course, there's a lot who are not on track to fulfill that by the time they are supposed to.

So that's what the president argues when he's talking about a different NATO, but he ignores what Jeffrey and David were talking about there, the purpose of NATO, of course, and the only reason and the only time that that alliance has ever been triggered was for the United States. And so that is something that the president says.

And then, of course, they have to talk about what's going on with Turkey. And you saw the president there siding with Turkey after he criticized Macron. And that's also going to be a big subject of discussion while the president is here, is the relationship he's had with them and which ones he's prioritized over ones that have been a priority for past presidents.

BERMAN: And all of this is happening, and it's clear it's on the president's mind, the day --

CAMEROTA: Since he's talking -- since his mouth is saying it.

BERMAN: The day -- yes, his mouth is actually saying these words, the day that the House Intelligence Committee will put out its impeachment report, Jeffrey. The House Intelligence Committee is going to put out their findings after the weeks of hearings and investigations about what they think the president did wrong. And then I think the House Judiciary Committee will take it and figure out why it's impeachable.

What are you waiting to see? TOOBIN: Well, I'd like to see how the intelligence committee pulls

together all this testimony. You know, we have these very interesting hearings with many different witnesses talking about the same subject, which is the American relationship with Ukraine, but we haven't had a single narrative pulling all the stories together. That's what I'm -- I'm looking to see. And also, you know, we all -- or certainly I sat through all the testimony. I suspect I missed some things that will be of interest, importance. And I -- that's -- the two things I'm looking for is the full narrative and anything important that we missed in covering this -- in covering the hearings.

[07:10:04]

BERMAN: And Adam Schiff said we will see that today. So we're waiting for that release. It could be imminent.

Jeffrey, David, Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Another big story this morning, new details about the Justice Department inspector general report into the origins of the FBI Russia investigation ahead of its release next week. "The Washington Post" reports -- and this is what's stunning -- Attorney General William Barr has told associates he disagrees with the Justice Department's inspector general on one of the key findings in the upcoming report, that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign.

Joining us now is Karoun Demirjian, the congressional reporter for "The Washington Post" behind this article.

And, Karoun, the reports over the last week have been that the IG report was going to say, yes, there were problems with the process. Yes, there's a criminal referral on a low level lawyer falsifying a document. But, the investigation was properly predicated and there was no political bias. The attorney general apparently doesn't like the finding of the investigation being properly predicated.

What's your reporting?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. So our reporting is that the attorney general has raised these concerns and objections internally, that he does not believe the FBI basically had a legitimate basis to open this probe into Trump based on what it had heard about what George Papadopoulos, the campaign aide, had told the Australian ambassador in London. That was the foundation of this probe that they decided to launch in the summer of 2016. And the IG is basically going to be concluding that that was a legitimate reason to go ahead with that investigation, and Barr is saying, no, I don't agree with that.

That's fairly significant because at this point, you know, you've got a conflict between IG and AG. And while that, in general, is -- you don't always have the inspector general and the attorney general on the same page. Usually what is happening is the inspector general will be very, very critical, and the attorney general will say, wait a second, hold on, my people did a legitimate thing here. You've got those roles reversed right now. You've got the inspector general saying this was legitimate and the attorney general saying, no, my own department wasn't doing well enough and I disagree with that finding.

BERMAN: Let's just remind people what and who is the inspector general. This is an independent person. This is someone who works for the Justice Department --

DEMIRJIAN: Right.

BERMAN: But does independent inquiries separate from the attorney general. This is the guy who was supposed to go find out without bias what happens, and the attorney general doesn't like it when he does?

DEMIRJIAN: Right. There are inspector generals across the government. I think there's over 70 of them that are in various agencies and departments. And it's their job to scrutinize the work that is done when that is called into question. The IG is in the Justice Department, as you said, but does not answer to the attorney general, does not have to make changes to the report when the attorney general doesn't agree with things that he finds because he's supposed to have that element of independence.

And so this is a conflict that is basically going to just spill into the ongoing debate that we've had over the origins of the Russia probe, the scrutiny that the federal -- that the FBI and the DOJ had of President Trump. This has been a partisan fighting issue for a long time. The IG is supposed to be able to come into the middle of that and settle that. But as we are now seeing, the IG is being challenged on one of the key findings in his report by the attorney general. That is only going to fuel the parties in rancor over these issues going forward as it comes to The Hill.

BERMAN: And do we know how the attorney general is going to express his displeasure? Because with the Mueller report, right, he did the four-page summary beforehand.

DEMIRJIAN: Right.

BERMAN: Are we going to get a Barr summary of the independent inspector general report before it comes out?

DEMIRJIAN: I think that's the remaining question. I think standard practice is usually that the attorney general can raise their assessment and criticisms of the IG report and that is attached along to the report. The inspector general gets a chance to respond to that. It all comes out in one package next week.

But Barr has taken a number of different routes to express his opinions about things. You referenced the four-page letter. There is the public statement that introduced the Mueller report. He could take any number of avenues. I explained what the standard procedure is for what may happen, but, frankly, we don't know yet exactly how he's going to voice these concerns more publicly.

BERMAN: And we should note, he already has launched yet another investigation into this -- DEMIRJIAN: Right.

BERMAN: He's got a backup investigation in case he doesn't like this one with U.S. Attorney John Durham. President Trump pointed to that today and said oh that's the real investigation we're all waiting for. So perhaps he'll lead on that.

Karoun Demirjian, terrific reporting. Thanks for being with us.

DEMIRJIAN: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: I mean, maybe, but they have been waiting for this IG report for years.

BERMAN: No, no. Yes, yes. And to come out and criticize it or leak that you're unhappy with it days before we actually see it shows you where their mind is.

CAMEROTA: All right, meanwhile, President Trump escalating a trade war with France and signaling a shift in any possible trade deal with China. How is the market responding?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:19:21]

CAMEROTA: Breaking news, President Trump making a big announcement overseas, now conceding that he might wait until after the 2020 election to strike a trade deal with China. This comes as the Trump administration is threatening tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of French goods.

Chief business correspondent Christine Romans is here with more.

Explain all of this news.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

Well, tariff man is back. And, to be honest, he never left. The president declares it might be better to wait until after the election to make a trade deal with China and that any deal with China will be on his terms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The China trade deal is dependent on one thing, do I want to make it, because we're doing very well with China right now, and we could do even better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[07:20:02]

ROMANS: And if he doesn't get the deal he wants, he will wait. It shows a president comfortable with the current tariff regime. And Trump's biggest trade war is far from resolved. Talks have

stalled. There are no high level talks on the calendar. And instead of building global alliances to face down China, he's causing what "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board calls an eruption of mount tariff, a new tariff nickname. "The Journal" writes this, he uses tariffs as coercive tools at any time, even against friends who have acted in good faith.

President Trump, case in point yesterday, targeting U.S. allies with a slew of protectionist trade moves, threatening 100 percent tariffs on $2.4 billion in China -- in French goods, champagne, cheese, handbags, beauty products. That's retaliation for a new French digital tax that hits U.S. tech companies.

And it wasn't just France. The administration also threatened the entire EU with additional tariffs over its aircraft subsidies. On both counts, the EU promised to retaliate, you guys.

And the president revived tariffs on steel from Brazil and Argentina. He says U.S. farmers are being hurt by a massive devaluations of those country's currencies. So a currency war on top of a trade war. Both Brazil and Argentina big exporters of farm products. They've benefitted from the president's trade war with China. Brazilian soybeans now have replaced U.S. soybeans for Chinese importers.

And the president mentioning U.S. farmers here this morning, I think also showing how comfortable he is with the tariff regime. He says falsely the Chinese tariffs are going right into the pockets of American farmers and he has made them whole. Well, farm bankruptcies are up 24 percent over the past year. I don't think they would think that's whole.

CAMEROTA: But also bailouts.

ROMANS: Bailouts. The bailout of the farmers. Taxpayer funded bailout, not tariff funded, taxpayer funded bailout of farmers. Now --

CAMEROTA: Right. If that's the deal that we're making, Republicans didn't used to like bailouts, as I seem to recall.

ROMANS: Twice the size of the auto bailouts from a decade ago. But his -- I think the important thing here is, this is -- the president is comfortable with this. And so he's signaling that this could last into next year.

BERMAN: Look, what about actually making a deal? The president's supposed to be this deal maker. So far it's just been threats.

ROMANS: His new NAFTA, USMCA, he signed it a year ago, exactly a year ago. It's still sitting there waiting to be picked up and taken through. So it hasn't been ratified yet by Congress. And there have been some conflicting signals about maybe it's right there at the finish line.

A deal with China, he's now signaling, maybe he's negotiating with China. You know, maybe this is part of his negotiating ploy, that he wants to get them to the table and get what he wants sooner rather than later.

In June we heard from the Treasury secretary, though, they were 90 percent there. That was in June. Markets have priced in a symbolic skinny trade deal that it doesn't look like the president's eager to sign if it's going to be called out as a symbolic skinny trade deal.

CAMEROTA: All right, Christine, you had me at cheese. Thank you.

ROMANS: Cheese and champagne.

CAMEROTA: You had me at cheese and champagne.

ROMANS: There you go.

CAMEROTA: You got my attention.

Thank you --

ROMANS: Nice and early in the morning.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for all of that.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

CAMEROTA: All right, millions of Americans waking up to a snow day. Snow, ice, freezing temperatures, we have a live report from one of the hardest hit cities where it is still snowing at this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:27:18]

BERMAN: This morning, the drums are rolling right there, and the snow is falling in New England. A powerful winter storm moves through the northeast. Schools are closed, some in the Boston area.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is live in Waltham, Massachusetts, with the very latest.

Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, some areas getting as much as 20 inches of snow in the northeast. This is not one of them. By Boston standards, it's probably not as much. But lots and lots of schools are closed in the area.

I want to give you a sense of what the roads are like. They have been very, very aggressive, as they are in Boston, about cleaning the roads all night long as the snow was coming down. And they're in pretty good shape given how much they've had.

I mean this is the common here in Waltham, and look how much they've actually gotten. It's probably about a foot, but it's very wet stuff, so it packs down quite substantially. There's a whole row of the plows just down the street there that have been coming down here consistently. The airports, Boston Logan has a handful of flights that have been already canceled into and out of Boston Logan today. They may go on a delay later because of weather. Some of the New York airports may have issues as well later today because of weather. And San Francisco, they are having some issues with delays and cancellations due to weather, and California ready for the next storm. We expect this storm to probably close out in the next couple of hours, but it has just been snowing. (INAUDIBLE) a few hours left of this sort of snow.

Back to you guys.

BERMAN: Snowing so hard it's knocking out the signal to Miguel Marquez.

CAMEROTA: No, it's freezing him. It's actually so cold he just froze there for a second into an ice statue.

BERMAN: Yes. The people of the commonwealth will warm him up. They'll thaw Miguel out so we can get the signal through.

CAMEROTA: I don't know if Bostonians are known for that, for their --

BERMAN: Warm hugs. Just like Olaf. You were telling me how much you -- doesn't Olaf like warm hugs?

CAMEROTA: Olaf is afraid of melting.

BERMAN: Oh, Miguel likes warm hugs.

CAMEROTA: OK.

Miguel, thank you very much.

All right, meanwhile, to this story that has gotten so much attention in the past 24 hours. Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page ended nearly two years of silence, in an interview with "The Daily Beast," revealing her feelings when singled out by the president at political rallies and in his tweets. She said, it's like being punched in the gut. My heart drops to my stomach when I realize he has tweeted about me again. The president of the United States is calling me names to the entire world. He's demeaning me and my career. It's sickening.

And after that interview, President Trump responded by attacking Lisa Page again and tweeting about her again.

[07:30:01]

Joining us now, are CNN political analyst Kirsten Powers and CNN legal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa.

END