Return to Transcripts main page

AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Trump Admin Slaps New Sanctions On Iran; Trump Admin Slaps New Sanctions On Iran; White House: Israel Settlements "May Not Be Helpful"; Who Will Pay Billions For The Border Wall?; Jobs Report: 227,000 Jobs Added In January. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 3, 2017 - 11:00   ET

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


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- administration before them. More on all of that in a moment. But here -- also happening here at home, the White House is pressing ahead with its promises to unravel Obama era policies.

Next hour, President Trump is set to sign another executive order, rolling back certain financial regulations. Within the last hour we saw the president meeting with his Economic Advisory Council, which includes some of the nation's top business leaders.

The president talking about the first major jobs report of his administration in this meeting, which showed 227,000 jobs created in the month of January. Listen here to the president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's 227,000 jobs, great spirit in the country right now, so we're very happy about that. I think that it's going to continue big league. We're bringing back jobs. We're bringing down your taxes. We're getting rid of your regulations. I think it's going to be some really very exciting times ahead. We're going to be coming up with a tax bill very soon, a health care bill even sooner, and it's really working out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: All right. Let's begin right now with CNN's senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. So Jeff, a lot happening at the White House right now.

Let's begin first with the breaking news. The details, what are you learning about the details of these new sanctions the Trump administration has just announced against Iran?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Kate, this is the first concrete step the Trump administration has taken against Iran, after talking about it all week and putting the country on notice, as you said earlier.

Just a short time ago, the Treasury Department here issued a new list of sanctions and these are largely against companies that have a business relationship in terms of producing missiles. This is separate from the Iran nuclear agreement we've talked so much about. But this is sanctions for about 25 or so individuals and companies related to missiles, all going after, of course, the testing that happened earlier this week.

Now, these sanctions largely are the same, a similar variety to what the Obama administration has done with little effect. So critics will say that these don't necessarily have much teeth here, but certainly the first step for what this president is doing in terms of concrete action against Iran.

But he is signaling this will not be all. He tweeted actually this morning about Iran, he said this, "Iran is playing with fire. We don't appreciate how kind President Obama was to them. Not me."

So signaling that he is going to take stronger action. His advisers are not taking military action off the table as well, but for now, Kate, it's sanctions this morning.

BOLDUAN: So maybe the first of more steps, especially with that kind of foreshadowing yesterday of not taking military action off the table, but this is the first concrete action. Jeff, great to see you, thank you so much.

So let's go from Iran to Israel. The White House shifting its posture towards Israel's settlement activity. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer put this out in a statement, saying this, "While we do not believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal."

So for more on this, let's go to Jerusalem. CNN's Ian Lee is there. Ian, the Trump administration has stood fast in its support of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu. What does the prime minister have to say about this new position from the White House?

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, Israeli officials are downplaying this latest statement from the White House. The deputy foreign minister is saying, "The White House itself holds that settlements are not an obstacle to peace and they never have been. It must be concluded therefore that expansion of construction is not the problem."

When Donald Trump became president, it seemed like there was a green light for Israelis to expand settlements in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem. Now it looks like the White House is telling them to pump the brakes a bit.

This also comes on the heels of Rex Tillerson becoming the secretary of state. He spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday. Also yesterday President Trump spoke with Jordanian King Abdullah, likely settlements came up in their conversation.

But a lot of this is going to be hashed out, as well as we're expecting possibly a position by the U.S. government on settlements, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington on February 13th, expect settlements, expect the embassy, expect Iran, expect Syria, expect all these issue to be discussed when they meet -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: And expect everyone to be listening very closely when those two leaders, we would hope speak publicly about their meeting and what they've discussed. Great to see you, Ian. Thank you so much.

So joining me now to discuss all of this is Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin of New York. He sits, of course, on the Foreign Affairs Committee and he is an Iraq war veteran. Congressman, it's great to see you. Thank you so much.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-NY), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: You too. All right, thank you, Kate.

[11:05:04]BOLDUAN: Of course, a lot to get to. Let's start with the breaking news, these new sanctions against Iran. What is your reaction to this White House announcement?

ZELDIN: Well, it's important that Iran's development of ballistic missiles, that program as well as the ability for the IRGC to conduct their operations, in many respects, the IRGC finances terror, Hezbollah, Assad in Syria. A lot of money within the region why Iran is becoming a regional player.

The ballistic missile program is one that Iran is developing in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. It's certainly against the best interests of the United States and our allies.

So targeting individuals and companies involved in the procurement of what's needed for these ballistic missile program as well as the IRGC's functionality, I think that's an important step. We've seen that done in the past and where you have new players, you need to crack down on it.

BOLDUAN: And to your point, we've seen this done in the past. I mean, does this go far enough for you, considering these are similar moves, similar sanctions that President Obama imposed during his time in office?

ZELDIN: Well, these steps are effective in cutting off the ability for particular individuals, for particular companies to be able to assist the ballistic missile program. These aren't the type of sanctions where you'll see a massive leverage shift on the part of our relations with Iran, where all of a sudden Iranian leadership is coming back to the table, just begging us to remove these sanctions.

But it's part of the process, and it is highly effective as it relates to those individuals, those companies, and the direct impact, short term, midterm, on those programs and the IRGC.

BOLDUAN: But Congressman, I've seen some experts already saying, they're foreshadowing that these sanctions were coming, that if you are actually sanctioning the companies that supply missile parts, those same companies rarely do business with the United States and allies, so does it really have any practical impact? ZELDIN: So there are a lot of aspects of this. When you look at Mahan Air, for example, here you have an airline that is moving the IRGC and its equipment around the region. There are many different directions that we can go with this with regards to strengthening the ability to cut off Iran's access to the U.S. financial system and financial systems elsewhere. This is one step of a process, but it's an important step, when you identify a company or an individual helping the ballistic missile program and IRGC.

BOLDUAN: Other big news I want to ask you about, the new White House statement, the shift in their position on Israeli settlement policy. Good news, bad news for you?

ZELDIN: Well, I think, you know, this one is part of a bigger picture. We have Prime Minister Netanyahu coming to the United States. What we saw in December, the debate over the U.N. Security Council resolution was over -- for the first time you're seeing a policy passed by the U.N. Security Council saying it is an illegal occupation.

And there's a violation of international law. That's what was getting done in December. This seems to be more of a strategic play. There are some moving pieces here where administrations in the past, Republican and Democrat, have -- in the United States have been adverse to the development of Israeli settlements.

I would need to know more as far as what the Trump administration's plan is for the prime minister coming to visit. I also met with King Abdullah a few days back. They are a leader in the region.

So there are a few different dynamics here and this is a 19,000 dimensional chessboard. This could be a productive move. Maybe the settlement development just for a short term could be suspended to help with some of our efforts.

BOLDUAN: You do acknowledge the shift for this White House, though, and this president?

ZELDIN: Yes, you know, the administration hadn't indicated in the past that it would be requesting the suspension of developing additional settlements.

BOLDUAN: They made a pretty big statement with the pick that he made for the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

ZELDIN: So there's a history there with the U.S. ambassador to Israel in support of settlement activity. Again, a big difference between -- right now at the beginning of February, placing a request to say please don't do this, this doesn't help, versus what we saw a couple of months back in December, where the U.N. Security Council resolution is actually saying this is an illegal occupation and a violation of international law. This is different.

BOLDUAN: I'll put Lee Zeldin in the category of wants to know more about the Trump administration's position on settlement policy. I want to get you on this, the border wall. Let's talk about a different kind of foreign policy. The president's border wall. It could cost, Mitch McConnell says, between $12 billion and $15 billion, Congressman. Do you support taxpayers putting that bill up front?

[11:10:07]ZELDIN: Well, first off, it is important, it's also something that the president campaigned on, as far as exactly how it's going to be paid for. The president during his campaign made it clear that he was going to find ways for Mexico to pay for it.

BOLDUAN: But now he says that the American taxpayers are going to pay for it up front. He's acknowledged that himself and that would obviously be to Congress to move forward with that -- with legislation there. Do you support taxpayers footing the bill up front?

ZELDIN: If it's part of a plan, a good plan where taxpayers are assisting a little bit, but we are getting reimbursed, then Mexico is making for it. This is something where I really don't want to speculate or hypothesize as to exactly where it's going. If there is a two-step process where that second process -- that second step makes a lot of sense, and the taxpayers are getting quickly and efficiently, completely reimbursed, it's possibly something I would be willing to consider.

BOLDUAN: What if it's not offset?

ZELDIN: Well, Congress has a policy where when we do these appropriations, we want to know how everything is going to get paid for.

BOLDUAN: It's pay as you go, Republicans ran on that.

ZELDIN: Yes, it's an important long term policy that when developing these budgets, looking many years down the road to try to get it towards balance, the debate is how do you get there in seven years or ten years. That's an important goal. So for any cost of any program of a federal government that spends many trillions of dollars a year, whenever there's a new appropriation, it's helpful to know how it's going to be paid for.

BOLDUAN: So Lee Zeldin wants to see those monies offset on the border wall. Thank you, Congressman, I appreciate your time.

ZELDIN: Thank you, Kate. Take care.

BOLDUAN: We'll see if they actually put that together, though, that's a big question right now.

OK, let's discuss all of these foreign policy moves that are going on today. With me now, CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein is here, former NATO supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark, he is now a senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center of International Relations, and CNN global affairs analyst, Aaron David Miller now with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. Thank goodness I have a short title. Ron Brownstein, first to you.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We'll save some time. BOLDUAN: Exactly, because we need it. Iran sanctions. What do you make of this move by the White House? You heard from Lee Zeldin there. He thinks it's a good and an important move. It's similar though with the Obama administration.

BROWNSTEIN: Right, and it's something that had partisan support. There was a letter yesterday from Bob Corker that had not only Democratic talks on it, but also Tim Kaine was a vice presidential nominee. Michael Bennett, Debbie (inaudible), kind of a --

BOLDUAN: Lindsey Graham told me yesterday he wants to see more sanctions.

BROWNSTEIN: A broad range so I think this is something that, you know, I don't think anybody has an illusion that this is, you know, fundamentally going to change Iranian behavior, but it is something as a kind of a first step. I don't think this is the last step we will see. It certainly does not kind of fill out the idea of Iran being put on notice. Where that goes and whether that (inaudible) broad support that is a very different question.

BOLDUAN: A very different question. General, from your view, with your background, what is the impact of these new sanctions and take that in combination with the strong words, the tough talk that we've heard from this White House in the past couple of days, that they were put on notice, from the president.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: I think the impact of the sanctions is likely to be marginal. Iran has had decades of learning how to work against sanctions and in this case, our allies are busy trying to capitalize on economic opportunities in Iran. So it seems to me that this is more of a symbolic gesture.

It's a good first step, it's got bipartisan support, that's fine. With respect to putting Iran on notice, yes, I think we need to put Iran on notice and be very tough. But how you do that and what kind of response you expect to get from Iran, that's a separate set of issues.

Generally when you personalize foreign policy, when you make it all about the president and his relationships and so forth, you can get some nasty surprises in that. It's much better, if we're really going to put Iran on notice. Let's do it in a quiet way, let's do it in a powerful way, let's know what we're leading toward.

BOLDUAN: That's an important point. Aaron, you have been saying that with this "put on notice," that the White House as effectively drawn a red line with Iran over their missile testing. Republicans want tougher talk against Iran, though. They want more action against Iran.

You heard that from Lee Zeldin. You heard that -- I spoke to Lindsey Graham yesterday. They wanted to hear tougher talk from where they were with President Obama. But what are the risks associated here? AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, sanctions are I think wise and warranted. The Iranians have the largest single ballistic missile technology program in the region, over a thousand short and medium range ballistic missiles. I think Wes Clark is right, how you do this is critically important.

[11:15:12]When you send the national security adviser to brief and in the last sentence of the statement is, "we're putting Iran on notice," the question is, you do in some respects personalize. When the president tweets, you personalize.

And the reality is, the only problem with putting Iran on notice is, what does that mean? And if the Iranians test again, and let's be clear, they will test again, the last time they tested was in the spring, they are going to test again.

The question then is, what does the administration do? They now have begun to draw, I don't think they've specified a red line, they've begun to draw a line. And if you don't respond in a tougher way, then you're perceived to be weak or you're humiliated.

If in fact you respond militarily, you create an escalatory cycle. So I think it's really important that they pursue this in a smart and a quiet way, not noisy and not public, although that may cut across his domestic politics.

BOLDUAN: Yes, look no further than asking President Obama what happens when you draw a red line, and what happens if it's crossed and you do not respond.

MILLER: Yes, indeed.

BOLDUAN: Aaron, on the other issue, let's start with you on this one, on Israel, what do you think is behind the shift coming from the White House on Israeli settlements?

MILLER: I mean, that statement is really curious and quite remarkable. On the one hand, it waters down the last four administrations much tougher policies on settlement activity. But on the other, it also sends quite counter intuitively given the appointment of David Friedman nomination as ambassador, and much of the acquiescence from this administration to Israeli policies.

It sends a pretty unmistakable signal that there's no green light here. It may not be a red light so it's flashing yellow. I don't think this president wants to be embarrassed frankly next week when he sits down with the prime minister and you end up with a new round of settlements.

Specifically given the fact that the prime minister was considering actually creating a new settlement. So I think it's a blinking yellow. But stay tuned, I doubt if the Trump administration policy in Israel is quite clear yet.

BOLDUAN: General, the point that I think both Ron and Aaron were getting at is, one thing that President Trump ran on and prides himself on is being unpredictable, not telegraphing his next move. Broadly speaking, when it comes to foreign policy, do you see more benefit or risk in this?

CLARK: Well, it depends on the issues very much. But in general, you've got this huge apparatus, as Rex Tillerson said, 75,000 people working for the State Department. You can't just swing them from one side to the other on an hourly or daily basis. You can't make policy by tweeting.

So you've got to go through a policy development process. I think there's an important role that Donald Trump is creating for himself and tweeting. He's communicating to the American people. Certainly his followers seem to like it. OK, great.

But when you try to make foreign policy that way, and you're dealing with foreign leaders, you can get yourself in trouble, because the shorthand abbreviation of change in positions, you've got people meeting with various levels of government, overseas, alliances.

It's probably not going to work in that respect. Now, if you get into a crisis and you have a single adversary and you're working and they give you some margin, because they say we don't know what he's going to do, we better sort of back off a little bit, fine.

But that's the exception. The rule is America has continuing interests. These interests are largely unvarying from administration to administration and most of the issues have been thought through. And people are working to advance those issues.

That's what our military and State Department do abroad. And you as president of the United States, you've got to harness that and direct that incredibly powerful team in a largely consistent direction if they're going to be effective.

BOLDUAN: It looks like the team is right now working to get their feet (inaudible). -- Ron, we have to leave it there. Sorry about that. Aaron, Ron, General Clark, thank you so much. Always appreciate it, guys.

Just a short time ago, the first jobs report came out since President Trump took office. Candidate Trump called the unemployment rate a hoax. What does President Trump say about it now?

Plus the bowling green massacre, also known as the massacre that wasn't. A Trump adviser defending his travel ban by citing this incident. The problem is, it never happened. The latest on this ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:23:43]

BOLDUAN: President Trump woke up today to the first jobs report of his presidency although the survey was taken in early January when President Obama was still in office but I digress. Still, it is the Trump economy now. The U.S. added 227,000 jobs in January, well ahead of December's gain of 157,000 jobs. The unemployment rate ticking up a hair, 4.8 percent. What does it all mean? I don't know.

That's why I go to CNN's chief business correspondent, Christine Romans. I've been waiting for this one to come out in order to just to hear how President Trump reacts to it.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And before I get to that, let me just show you what these numbers say because they say the job market is still strong, Kate, 227,000 jobs. Look how that fits into the overall picture because context is so important with these numbers. It's the best we've seen since the summer.

The unemployment rate, 4.8 percent. That's about half of what it was. Remember those terrible days after the financial crisis, during the financial crisis? The unemployment rate has been cut in half since those terrible days. This is where the job creation is, retail, construction. The housing market is doing well.

Just a gradual rise in mortgage rates has been OK for the housing market. You are seeing a lot of construction jobs, these tend to be higher paying jobs, Kate, in business and information services.

So where does that leave us? That leaves us with this picture. President Trump says he would like to create 25 million jobs. He has also said, and that would put him just above Bill Clinton, President Obama, who inherited a really horrible, horrible, horrible labor market, he ended up with about 11 million jobs.

[11:25:12]Look at this, George Bush only with 1.3 million. So President Trump, when he was still Mr. Trump and Candidate Trump, had said that these numbers, these official job statistics, were completely made up, that they were wrong, and he didn't believe them. Listen.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TRUMP: Then I read every time it comes out, I hear, 5.3 percent unemployment. That is the biggest joke there is. Don't believe those phony numbers when you hear 4.9 and 5 percent unemployment.

The number is probably 28, 29, as high as 35, in fact I even heard recently 42 percent. The unemployment number, as you know, is totally fiction. If you look for a job, for six months, and then you give up, they consider you statistically employed. It's not that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And so today, with the Council of Business advisors around him in the White House, we learned that it seems as though he is accepting these numbers. He quoted the 227,000 net new jobs number and he said the economy, there is a great spirit in the country, Kate, and that it will continue in a big league way going forward. So a lot of us have been wondering, is he going to reject these numbers from the Labor Department?

BOLDUAN: He did not note the unemployment rate.

ROMANS: He did not, but will he accept this as a baseline? He has promised to create 25 million jobs. Will he accept this as a baseline when he's counting his 25 million jobs? And it appears he will.

BOLDUAN: Yes, things that you say on the campaign trail can come back to get you.

BERMAN: Funny how that is, isn't it?

BOLDUAN: Forty plus percent unemployment will continue (inaudible). Great to see you.

ROMANS: I'll play the clip a few more times.

BOLDUAN: Christine is not going to let that clip go away. Great to see you, Christine. Thank you so much.

So a correction, an honest mistake, or another alternative fact? One of President Trump's top advisers talks of a massacre that never happened. Why and how she's correcting course today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)