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Bomb in Kabul; Trump Considering Troops to Afghanistan; Trump Feuding with Germany; Trump Expected to Withdraw from Paris Deal; Portland Suspect's Court Tirade; Trump's Covfefe Tweet. Aired 8:30- 9:00a ET
Aired May 31, 2017 - 08:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:30:29] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're following breaking news. A massive explosion rips through a diplomatic quarter in Kabul, Afghanistan. At least 80 people killed, hundreds injured, including workers at foreign embassies and press outlets.
This is a window into a continuing reality of insecurity in that country. What should it mean for U.S. military strategy and planning?
Joining us now, CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby and Ambassador Nicholas Burns. He's a former U.S. undersecretary for political affairs and State Department official. He's now a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
Gentlemen, thank you. Perfect guests for this.
You can call them advisors, you know, support, whatever. We're thinking about putting more boots on the ground. We all know in this discussion that means they're going to be in harm's way. They're going to be part of the fight. Do you think that this is a moment for the U.S. to reconsider the decision to get more involved and put more people at risk in Afghanistan, John Kirby?
REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, I think this actually does underscore the importance of what's going on in Afghanistan and the need to continue to support the resolute support mission, which, oh, by the way, is also a NATO mission as well. So I don't know that this attack itself is going to - or should actually lead to specific decisions in terms of troop numbers, but it certainly underscores the importance of the continuing mission to continue to advice, train and assist Afghan national security forces.
You might have seen, Chris, in the press release that resolute support mission put out this morning. They praised the Afghan national security forces and their reaction to this deadly bombing. That they were there, they were responsive, they were on scene and they were capable. That speaks to the importance of this mission going forward.
CUOMO: Right. And we had a reporter on the ground add to the context by saying those same forces are also regularly getting killed and in large numbers, Nick Burns. Another reminder that whether it's 500, 5,000 or 15,000 U.S. troops that you put on the ground, will that change Afghanistan in a meaningful way?
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. UNDER SECRETARY FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Well, it may not. We're 16 years into this fight and the Trump administration is now actively debating whether they put more troops in beyond the 8,000 or so American troops. There are 5,000 NATO troops. And so NATO's going to have to be with us in this.
Until now, the U.S. troops have been training the Afghan national army and have been engaged in counter terror operations. The big question is, do we have to go back into the streets of the cities to help the Afghan government, control them from both the Taliban, but also from the Islamic State entity there in Kabul. And either one of them could have been responsible for this devastating terrorist attack this morning.
So this is a big decision for President Trump. Maybe one of the biggest and most important early in his presidency. Do we ramp up in Afghanistan much in the way that President Obama did? You'll remember in the autumn of 2009 -
BURNS: There were risks to the United States, but there's so much riding on the stability of this government, I can't see an option where the United States decides to leave. We have to stay with this.
CUOMO: And the question is why. I mean it didn't make sense when Obama did it after he had won an election on the basis in part of getting out of the Iraqi theater and then he went back into Afghanistan and Trump made that point even more strenuously, that we need to stay out of these situations if we can't stabilize them and somehow benefit. So we'll see what he does here.
John Kirby, other international issues. Trump's feud with Merkel. The White House's reckoning that he had an amazing trip abroad, but the foreign press and officials in some of those countries giving a very different reckoning of the impact of the president. How do you see it?
KIRBY: Yes, I did not recognize the trip from Sean Spicer's description yesterday at the podium. I think you could argue that he had a unifying message in Riyadh, although he cast the fight against terrorism in very militaristic terms and also weighed right in on this Shia/Sunni divide, which I don't think is healthy long-term.
But when he went to Europe, certainly in Brussels, I think the trip fell apart at that point. I mean you have our strongest, most powerful ally on the European continent, Germany, now saying that they don't know that they can rely on the United States going forward. This is a watershed moment. This is something we haven't seen in - in literally 70 years. We have our - our closest ally, the U.K., refusing to share intelligence with us during an ongoing investigation and we have our oldest ally, the president of the France, making it clear he's not going to be bullied by the president of the United States. So what I - I don't understand here is how we warm up to dictators and demagogues and yet democrats, with a small "d," such as our allies and partners in NATO, we give them - we give them the cold shoulder. It - it made no sense to me.
[08:35:08] CUOMO: All right. And, Nick Burns, we have breaking news from two official sources coming from the White House where the word is that President Trump will withdraw from the France agreements with respect to global warming and those other environmental considerations. Now, if that's not true - the president is often watching, if that's not true, please reach out, at least on Twitter, and let us know that it's not true. But if it is, Nick Burns, how big a deal is it if the U.S. withdraws from the Paris Accords?
BURNS: If true, this would be a colossal mistake by President Trump. It would harm every American because climate change is an existential threat to us. It would also, Chris, devastate our international credibility. We're one of the two largest carbon emitters with China. We're the ones who put President Obama and Xi Jinping put this deal together. It's the first step to try to do something about climate change.
For President Trump to take us out, it is anti-empirical. It's anti- science. It doesn't make sense. And, boy, will it deepen the crisis with Europe. If you travel in Europe, as I did in the last few weeks, it's the number one public issue. If we walk away, it will further deepen the credibility problem that we have with - with the Germans and other peoples in Europe.
CUOMO: And, John Kirby, it also would create a control vacuum. Even the business interests here in the U.S. have said, don't leave. If you do, we won't have leverage in the negotiations of a lot of the regulation.
KIRBY: Yes, that's exactly right, Chris. I mean 300 U.S. companies have urged the president to stay inside the Paris agreement. Look, in just the last 15 years, the solar energy industry in the United States has doubled seven times. The wind energy industry has doubled four times. In just in the last 15 years, there's 2.5 million jobs in the United States dedicated to the clear energy industry and that number is continuing to climb. That's the future and that's where - frankly, look, that's where China wants to go. So we're - we're going to be losing jobs here in the United States and we'll be hurting our economy and we'll be seeding that territory to China going forward.
CUOMO: One hundred and ninety-two signatories during this trip. You saw the entire European community come out and reinforce its commitment to the Paris Accords. And now CNN has learned from two different sources that the president of the United States says the United States is out of the Paris Accords.
Gentlemen, thank you for commenting on these important issues today.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Chris.
The man accused of carrying out that deadly stabbing spree in Portland lashed out in court. The city's police chief joins us with what's next.
[08:41:33] CAMEROTA: The man accused of carrying out a deadly stabbing spree on a Portland train goes on a tirade in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY JOSEPH CHRISTIAN: Free speech or die, Portland. You've got no (INAUDIBLE). This is America. Get out if you don't like free speech.
Death to the enemies of America. Leave this country if you hate our freedom. You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism. You hear me? Die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Jeremy Joseph Christian is charged in the deaths of two men, heroes, who defended two young women on a train last week. The girls apparently targeted because one was wearing hijab. Now Portland's mayor is urging the cancellation of upcoming alt-right rallies.
So joining us now is Portland's Police Chief Mike Marshman.
Chief, thank you for being here.
MIKE MARSHMAN, PORTLAND POLICE CHIEF: Thank you very much for having me on.
CAMEROTA: Why was that suspect allowed to go on that diatribe in court? I mean is that just sort of the downside of free speech?
MARSHMAN: Well, yes. I mean free speech rights, First Amendment rights, we obviously have to protect those rights of every individual and on our train system in Portland it's an open system. It's not a closed system. So people are able to move about pretty freely on that. So we try to monitor this behavior, but, unfortunately, sometimes like this, these tragedies do occur.
CAMEROTA: I mean, look, and, of course, the bitter irony is that that man, who was railing for free speech, is suspected - is accused of snuffing out the free speech of the two heroes who tried to stand up for these young girls.
And that leads us to the next issue. The mayor of Portland wants to cancel the - this extremist right wing rally that's scheduled for this weekend. What do you think? Should the rally go on or be canceled?
MARSHMAN: That's correct. Well, you know, honestly, with the police bureau in Portland, we try to stay neutral. So regardless of whatever your message is, we will protect all sides. And there's multiple sides in this story now. So we will stay neutral in that. If any group comes down and has their First Amendment rights, we will protect them from other groups. That's the hard part for the police bureau. There's multiple groups coming. Again, we don't want to stifle anybody's constitutional rights, but what we will try to do is keep everybody safe and have no violence. That's our goal for this Sunday.
CAMEROTA: Right. I mean that's what your duty is, is that regardless of whoever odious things they're spewing, you are promising to try to protect them.
You know, what's going on in Portland, though, because as I understand it there's been a lot of protests that have turned overly heated or violent. There's been anarchist groups that have been setting fires, anti-fascist groups making threats, right wing extremists perpetrating violence. What do you think is going on there?
MARSHMAN: Well, I've been in Portland now for 26 years. Portland does have a pretty rich history of protests and people exercising their First Amendment rights. And again, you know, as the city, we're OK with that. Portland's a unique city to provide policing services and a lot of people want to get out and voice those opinions. So this to me is actually nothing new. But since we have different election cycles and different people in administrations, different communities pop up to voice those concerns. And again, honestly, we're in favor of that, people coming out and voicing that. Again, my goal is to have people available to do that in a safe manner.
[08:45:18] CAMEROTA: Chief, what have you learned about this Portland stabbing suspect's background?
MARSHMAN: We did have encounters with him in the early 2000s. We actually were in a shooting with him. I believe he robbed like a little mom and pop grocery store. We actually shot him. He ended up doing about 90 months in prison for that crime. Obviously, he's since been out.
A couple weeks ago there was another protest in town where he showed up, yelled a lot of hate speech and actually both sides, if you want to call it sides, that were voicing concerns about each other, both sides kicked him out of their protest. So he wasn't welcome there by anybody. So he was on our radar due to that activity.
MARSHMAN: And then, obviously, unfortunately on Friday, we all know what he did on a train.
Well, chief, we appreciate the work you do and we appreciate you taking time for being on with us. Stay safe this weekend and beyond. Thank you.
MARSHMAN: Yes. Thank you very much.
CUOMO: All right, we're following breaking news. Sources tell CNN President Trump is expected to withdraw from the Paris Accords, the climate deal. What will the fall-out be? We're going to ask David Axelrod, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[08:50:06] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CUOMO: All right, President Trump is expected to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord signed by 192 nations. Sources tell CNN a formal announcement will happen this week. What will it mean?
Joining us now is CNN's senior political commentator David Axelrod.
The rational has not been laid out for this move. The president has not addressed it with the American people. But apparently the argument would be it's too expensive for the United States. It's not a good deal. We'll take care of our business at home and not spend money abroad. Your take?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, look, I think it's a fundamentally political decision on the part of an embattled president who couldn't brook a revolt among his base. And this was a key issue for his base.
We know that there was a big debate raging in the White House between his economic advisors and his national security advisors, who were on one side, which is to stay in the agreement, and Steve Bannon, who represents his political side and really speaks for that fundamental populous base that elected him. And he opted to go with the base on this.
I think there are terrible ramifications of it in terms of our relationships, not just with Europe, but also in Asia and other countries around the world. And clearly the business community was united in its hope that he would not withdraw from the Paris agreement. But he made a decision to hang on to his core supporters here, who were absolutely resolute that he should pull out of the Paris agreement.
CAMEROTA: Yes, it is interesting to see who has the president's ear at any given time. So, as you point out, David, it sounds as if Gary Cohn, one of his top advisors, Rex Tillerson, Ivanka Trump, that they were for staying in the Paris Accord and then, as you say, Steve Bannon and, of course, Scott Pruitt of the EPA were against it.
CAMEROTA: It - it's hard to know exactly where President Trump is in terms of climate change because he's been a little bit all over the map. In 2005, he said - he tweeted this, "among the lowest temperatures ever in much of the United States, icecaps at record size. They changed the name from global warming to climate change." This is when he thought that it was more of a hoax. And then yesterday Sean Spicer, press secretary, was asked about where are the president's views, what are they now on this? And here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This morning the president met with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Pruitt. One of the topics that they discussed, of course, was the president's upcoming decision on the Paris Climate Accords.
QUESTION: Can you say whether or not the president believes that human activity is contributing to the warmings of the climate?
SPICER: Honestly, I haven't asked him.
SPICER: I can get back to you on that.
QUESTION: And do you feel like that is a decision he's still trying to make?
SPICER: I don't know. I honestly haven't asked him that specific question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: David, your thoughts?
AXELROD: Well, I mean, the one thing we know about his position in climate change is that it's changeable and the political climate has changed such that he feels it's in his benefit to be against us, to pull out of Paris. It's - you mention that it's hard to know who has his ear at any given time. It's interesting because, you know, you remember not that many weeks back there were all these stories about how Bannon was on his way out, that Bannon was in disrepute with the president. Well, clearly, he is ascendant again in the - in the White House and this decision reflects that.
CUOMO: You know, hopefully for tomorrow we'll work up exactly what these accords were about, what they did and why because this is another issue that's going to be burdened with a lot of miss and disinformation in explaining this move. So we'll try and give people some information so they understood what's happening.
What is your take - we read your Twitter feed - but about midnight last night, the president letting his fingers do the walking and comes up with this.
CAMEROTA: And talking.
CUOMO: "Despite the constant negative press covfefe." Camerota decides to swallow the v on that as if it were French or something like that.
CAMEROTA: I think it's covfefe.
CUOMO: Yes, that's it. I mean it sounds better -
AXELROD: Very nice. Very nice. Classy.
CUOMO: In any case, is this - is this exhibit number 5,280 of why he should not be on Twitter?
AXELROD: Well, I - he asked what it meant. He joked that people can speculate on what it meant. I said that it is the sound of a sputtering machine running out of power. But what it - what it says to me is there's something really amiss in the White House. Yes, I mean, it's - we've lost - the issue of whether he should taper off on Twitter has long since been decided by everybody but him. But now - you know, I make typos on Twitter. You probably do as well. You generally delete it after ten seconds.
How can the president of the United States tweet something nonsensical like that and have it sit there for six hours and no one in the White House - I know it was midnight, but people work around the clock at the White House. How does no one say, hey, you know, sir, we better delete this or delete it for him and that - you know, that's a process issue. I thought that was insane that they allowed that thing to hang around as long as it did. So there are all kinds of problems that that tweet portrays. I don't want to get into the sort of psychobabble about it, but just in terms of process, it really is an alarming thing.
[08:55:38] CUOMO: And it's a reflection. It's symptomatic. Oh, how is it symptomatic, because look what followed it. He then goes with Carter Page and tweets that a man he said he didn't even know, he starts defending him, owns his story and implies in a tweet that Brennan and Comey were lying in their testimony.
AXELROD: Well, it also speaks to, Chris, how difficult the job is going to be for his lawyers, who must grimace every time they look at his Twitter account. So he better - he better zip it up. That's the advice he's going to get from them.
CAMEROTA: It's a teachable moment for our children to check your work before hitting send.
CAMEROTA: Thank you very much for "The Bottom Line," David. Thanks.
AXELROD: All right, guys, have a great guy.
CAMEROTA: You too.
CNN "Newsroom" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman is going to pick up after this very quick break. We'll see you tomorrow.
[09:00:04] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, the breaking news, a major decision from the White House. President Trump is expected to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This is