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Trump Cancels London Trip; Trump Touts Relationship with Kim Jong-un; Trump Expected to Renew Iran Deal; Dick Durbin on Immigration; FaceBook Makes Major Changes. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 12, 2018 - 09:30   ET



[09:33:15] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so this morning, London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, with a new message to President Trump, clearly you got the message, Mr. President. His response is just hours after President Trump said he's cancelling his upcoming trip to London he says because of what he calls a bad deal that he says former President Obama made about the U.S. embassy moving there. That is not the case and there are many factual errors in that statement.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is outside of the embassy with more.

Give us the facts.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy, I mean, you know, lets deal with the tweet itself, what it says, and then probably why it was sent.

Yes, it was not the Obama administration that decided to move the U.S. embassy in London to the site behind me. It used to be in Mayfair in central London. It's still patricianly functioning there in a much older building. It was George Bush's government back in 2008 that decided that wasn't adequately secure and they had to make (INAUDIBLE) building. They sold a bunch of U.S. government owned properties in the U.K. and seemed, though that, to scrape together the billion dollars that this gleaming new facility behind me in (INAUDIBLE) afforded them.

The old cite sold to a Qatari sovereign wealth fund that's not being turned into a billion pound luxury hotel. That gives you a kind of idea as to the possibilities of maybe the State Department didn't lose money in this particular deal.

But, you know, you do really know what's going through the president's mind in the early hours of the morning. I think most Londoners were surprised that it was deciding to preemptively cancel a visit that hadn't even been formally announced. Yes, Theresa May did say early on that he should come here on a state visit, but they never found a date for that. And the mere idea of him coming here also incurs a lot of criticism, particularly from the mayor of London, who seized upon comments that he today in fact called decisive where Donald Trump referred to how parts of Britain were no-go areas. [09:35:02] But, still, the mayor of London today has come forward very stridently and said that, yes, finally he may have gotten the message, that his divisive comments weren't welcome here and that he could have expected mass peaceful protests if he, in fact, came. A quite remarkable tweet in the early hours of the morning. Many Londoners waking up wondering exactly what would be going through is mind to cause him to cancel a visit that hadn't even formally been announced, Poppy.

HARLOW: Thank you for correcting the record. Nick Paton Walsh for us in London. We appreciate it.

There is a lot to talk about here on the international stage, in addition to Nick's reporting. Let's bring in David Sanger, our political and national security analyst.

David, where do we start on this Friday morning?


HARLOW: I just -- I want to get to a lot, North Korea and Iran, but let's start with cancelling this London trip. But the bigger picture that this comes after, calling all of these African nations shithole countries and saying about Haitians, why do we want them in this country, take them out of any immigration deal that protect them here. On a national stage, how does that resonate with our allies?

SANGER: Well, it confirms everything that our allies have feared about President Trump. You know, if you -- if you looked at the policies alone that the president has taken, they would have different, of course, on everything from the Paris Accord to how he's dealt with the Iranian nuclear program and so forth. But those are within the sort of 40 yard lines of normal, political debate.

It's the tweets and the insults to individuals, leaders and now to entire nations that I think most concern them and give them the sense that the United States is turning in, not to America first, but sort of an America alone effort.


SANGER: And that we're basically advocating space around -- around the world.

HARLOW: You know, this is just before the State of the Union Address. This is just before the president goes to Davos, the World Economic Forum, to be on the national stage and make the case for America in front of all of these CEOs and world leaders. You wonder what they're going to say in response there.

North Korea. So he tells "The Journal" in this interview, I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. And then when "The Journal" says, well, have you talked to him, he wouldn't say.

SANGER: Yes. HARLOW: What's the thinking here?

SANGER: I don't know what the thinking is. My guess is that there's almost no chance. I could be surprised. But there's almost no chance that they have talked. There may have been some other forms of communications going on. There have been a lot of efforts by the State Department to do back channel talks to the North Koreans to sort of do some good signaling.

You know, what surprised me the most about those statements, Poppy, was what he left out of it because the message control of this administration has tried to be, and it failed at this time and time again, has been, we will talk to the North Koreans under a certain set of circumstances that includes a decent interval where they stop doing their nuclear and missile tests and an understanding that the talks you head into are about eliminating their nuclear weapons and programs and their missile programs permanently.

And he -- it was the president who actually publicly chastised in a tweet, of course, the secretary of state for not imposing those sanctions when he was in Beijing -- I'm sorry, imposing those conditions when he was in Beijing a number of months ago. That's when the president tweeted out, they only understand one thing, basically force.

So now he's gone back to something that was even to the left of Tillerson's position. And that's leaving everybody confused.


SANGER: Not only our adversaries, but our allies.

HARLOW: So, on Iran, very importantly, today is a day when the president has to decide whether or not he's going to, once again, issue this waiver on sanctions against Iran that essentially keeps us involved in the nuclear agreement. The reporting across the board is that, once again, he's going to waive these sanctions, right?

But what's fascinating is that it -- it seems like his staff had to convince him to do this, that he was sort of really dead set on once again, as he was 120 days ago, not waiving them and then essentially letting the new agreement with Iran fall apart. What are you hearing?

SANGER: That's exactly what we're hearing. So this could be the third time that a president who has said he was going to get out of the nuclear deal has basically continued to waive the sanctions, which keep us in the nuclear deal.

HARLOW: Right.

SANGER: Now, there will be a lot of other noise around it, including new sanctions on human rights issues and so forth.


SANGER: Which, after the protests, might well be the right course. But the fact of the matter is, that the president has had to face the

fact that if we get out of the nuclear deal, it frees the Iranians up to go back to enriching uranium and moving on the path to a nuclear weapon. And even those allies of his who don't like the deal have explained to him that being in the deal right now, at least for the next ten years --

HARLOW: Right.

SANGER: Is a lot better than not having it.

[09:40:03] HARLOW: We appreciate it, David Sanger. So much to talk about with you this morning. Have a good weekend.

SANGER: You too, Poppy.

HARLOW: So, President Trump a day -- less than 24 hours after using this stunning language to describe African countries and immigrants of this country during that bipartisan meeting on immigration talks. Well, now, all of that, this potential deal on hold. Have the president's comments overshadowed all of this conversations and what does it mean for dreamers, next?


HARLOW: Moments ago a Democrats on Capitol Hill, one of the top folks leading these bipartisan talks on DACA and immigration reform, just said the president is not being honest. He's being a liar, frankly. I'm talking about Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, who just said the president did, in fact, say these hate-filled things repeatedly in that meeting yesterday when he rejected the bipartisan deal to protect dreamers.

Our Ryan Nobles is on Capitol Hill with more.

[09:45:02] So, Ryan, we're pulling that sound of what Dick Durbin said so folks can listen to it in a moment. But referring to the president's comments calling people from these African nations, calling these African nations shitholes, in the president's words, say about Haitians, why do we need them? Take them out of any potential protected status deal on immigration.

Is Republican leaderships on The Hill saying anything at this point?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No, Poppy, they're not. And it's really not a surprise that they're not. Whenever we find the president in these situation where he's making controversial comments, either in public or behind close door, generally Republican leadership doesn't want to go anywhere near it. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has a pretty standard line that he doesn't comment on the president's tweets. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, whenever given an opportunity to talk about controversial statements that the president has made, he's tried to find a way around it.

But there's no doubt that this particular comment, in this particular setting, certainly complicates the issues for not just Republicans but Democrats as well who were genuinely hoping to find some sort of bipartisan deal when it came to the DACA program and protecting the dreamers, these young people that have been in this country through no fault of their own, who have lived under a protected status for some time, but now that is in doubt.

So the question is, Poppy, how do Republicans handle this? There were a number of Republicans, including Mia Love, who is a Haitian American, a Republican from Utah --


NOBLES: Who was very critical of the president's comments yesterday. Barbara Comstock, who's a -- a member of Congress from northern Virginia, who's in an at-risk seat, who came out and was critical of the president. How do they handle this going forward --


NOBLES: And how does it handle -- how does it affect these negotiations?

HARLOW: So, Ryan, stay with me, because we have some new reporting just in from our Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Here's what she says, that the president spent last night phoning aides, phoning allies and friends asking them how that thought the shithole comment, his words, were playing out in the press. This is according to two sources familiar with the president's conversations last night. One White House official, Kaitlan reports, referred to this as a victory lap, Ryan.

NOBLES: Yes, and, Poppy, that also not a surprise. Whenever the president seems to be in a position where he seems to be a bit of under siege, he seems to retreat back to his base. And there was a real strong pushback from the hard liners involved in the immigration discussion when it appeared as though that group of six members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, were closed to reaching a deal that some of these hardliners weren't interested in, and as a result, this meeting that took place where these comments happened yesterday, you know, there was a group of the bipartisan leaders that expected to be in this meeting alone with the president, when they got there, some of these hardliners on immigration were in that room, including Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

So it's clear that the president wants to make sure that his base is solid here and this may be a comment that resonates with that group of Americans.

HARLOW: The thing is, I've talked to a lot of the president's base all over this country, during the campaign, a few months ago. None of them have used remarks like this to describe immigrants. This the president.

Ryan Nobles, thank you.

NOBLES: Thanks, Poppy. HARLOW: FaceBook making a major change that will impact everyone. Founder Mark Zuckerberg says this is in part about his children. The question this morning, will it divide us or bring us more together? Laurie Segall has the exclusive interview ahead.


[09:52:52] HARLOW: FaceBook is changing and it will impact all of us. Really soon you will see less content from businesses and brands and more posts from family and friends. The company is calling this more meaningful and fulfilling content.

An (INAUDIBLE) with "The New York Times," CEO Mark Zuckerberg said this morning, why? Partly because it's important to me that when my kids grow up basically that they see that what their father built was good for the world.

Our senior tech correspondent Laurie Segall joins us now.

I mean that's really significant because this is essentially him admitting that, you know, parts of FaceBook are not good for the world and they need to change that. And you've been speaking to tech leaders who are sounding the alarm.

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN SENIOR TECH CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. This is certainly a moment of reckoning, Poppy. I can't say that enough.

And I want to emphasize the tweak of an algorithm at FaceBook behind the doors and memo part will impact 2 billion people.

And, you know, we've seen in the last year the weaponization of the platform to interfere with the election. We have mental health studies coming out showing that more passive scrolling online, just consuming, isn't good for us or our children. So FaceBook is at this very important moment.

Now, I spoke to FaceBook's news feed VP and what he said to me is they want to prioritize quality over quantity by tweaking the algorithm. Listen to what he said.


ADAM MOSSERI, PRESIDENT OF NEWS FEED, FACEBOOK: So the idea is to try and focus more on bringing people together by trying to put more emphasis on facilitating more meaningful social interactions between people. And the way we do that in ranking is to value things like commenting or writing a long comment more and valuing things like how long we might think you -- how long we think you might watch a video for less. And so, as a result, the ecosystem will shift.

SEGALL: Could that lead to less daily active users?

MOSSERI: I think -- I mean anything is always possible. In this case, we haven't seen that people come to FaceBook less often. We do see that people spend a little bit less time on FaceBook, but we think that if we are creating an experience that people are finding meaningful, that over the long run they're going to use the experience of the platform more, and that will be good both for people and for the business.

SEGALL: You guys have fallen into some uncomfortable editorial questions in the last year, whether it's the weaponization of the platform or just hate speech. And all of these real philosophical, ethical questions that come with becoming a worldwide platform. So is this trying to take a step away from, you know, those uncomfortable editorial questions?

[09:55:11] MOSSERI: I don't think there's any future in which we are not having difficult conversations about sticky issues. And so I don't think there's rankings that --

SEGALL: Increasingly so, right?

MOSSERI: Yes. And that's because we -- a lot of people use our platform every single day. And it's an important part of the way people communicate and consume information. And so I think along with that comes a lot of attention and scrutiny and this ranking change isn't going to change that.


SEGALL: And, Poppy, a lot of questions about what this will mean for publishers who rely on FaceBook for their content and also this question of the filter bubble, are we -- if we're just seeing more and more from our friends and family, going to increasingly go into that filter bubble. FaceBook VP says, no, that's not the case. There's research to show otherwise.

You know, but I think this is all part of this larger experiment. We have to pay attention to the changes that are made because we see how much they impact all of us.


HARLOW: Absolutely. This one tweet, as you said so aptly at the top, affects 2 billion people.

Laurie Segall, thank you for the exclusive interview. You can see much more of it on CNN Money.

All right, so, this morning, the president now says he did not use that vulgar word. But a Democratic senator who was in the meeting with the president yesterday says, you bet he did, and he used it repeatedly. All of the developments ahead.