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Trump Rips NATO Allies Over Dues In Awkward Moment; Trump Vows Leak Prosecution After U.K. Stops Sharing Intel; GOP Candidate Charged With Assaulting Reporter. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 25, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN GUEST ANCHOR: Hello, there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan, and you are watching now these live pictures coming to us from Brussels, Belgium, where President Trump is having his first big meeting with NATO leaders. Areas of disagreement? There is tension here. These leaders are looking for common ground.
And we just witnessed really some extraordinary remarks from President Trump there at NATO Headquarters at what is the unveiling of a 9/11 Memorial, and he really took these leaders to task.
I want to bring in a couple folks who can help me break all of this down. We have CNN military and diplomatic analyst, Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, also with me, CNN global affairs analyst and foreign deputy secretary of state, Tony Blinken.
You, I should mention, John, also worked at the Pentagon and the State Department. So help me talk about, really dissect these comments from President Trump. He was taking these NATO leaders to task, saying that -- he said 23 member nations are not paying what they should be. He was schooling them right in front of them.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. To be clear, this isn't a new message that President Obama made, President Bush before him, five secretaries of defense now who have made this case, but it was extraordinary to me to see him be so bellicose about this and so specific about it in what was supposed to be an opening welcoming ceremony right there at the 9/11 Memorial. So, I think the setting was extraordinary and the message was perhaps I think much more stronger than the NATO allies would have expected on this particular day.
KEILAR: Than all of us expected. And Tony, I think the setting being extraordinary, as John mentioned. It was near a twisted piece of metal from the World Trade Center, this 9/11 Memorial. And the message there, that setting is so clear, talking about Article Five, this idea that an attack on one is an attack on all.
The only time it's been invoked was following 9/11 and so, you have that visual of that. And yet, as many people expected that Donald Trump was for the first time going to really endorse ARTICLE FIVE as a concept, it didn't sound like we heard that. Am I wrong? TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I didn't hear it. And in fact, I think our allies heard what they didn't want to hear and didn't hear what they wanted to hear. They wanted to hear exactly what you just said, which is the president reaffirming Article Five. And in fact, the only time it's been invoked, that an attack against one is an attack against all, was after 9/11, when our allies stood up for us.
And they wanted to hear the president say that the United States would always be prepared to stand up for them. They didn't hear that. And as you and John said, they heard a lecture on defense spending.
Now the truth of the matter is this, that spending has been starting to go up since the Wales Summit in 2014 under President Obama, and indeed, previous secretaries of defense and presidents have gone at the allies, but not in the same bellicose, in-your-face way, that we just heard from the president.
I'm concerned it will be counterproductive. The reason allies have started to spend more on defense is not because of Donald Trump, it's because of Vladimir Putin and the threat that he represents.
But the problem is this, President Trump is unfortunately not popular in many European countries, starting with Germany, the country that really should do more on defense spending. So when he lectures on defense spending, it hits German ears in exactly the wrong way.
He's the wrong person to be making that argument. It actually puts Chancellor Merkel in a difficult spot. Her public when they hear President Trump saying you've got to spend more, they're going to say to her, don't listen to him. That's a problem.
KEILAR: Let's listen to what Donald Trump said to all of these member nations.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: These grave security concerns are the same reason that I have been very, very direct with Secretary Stoltenberg and members of the alliance in saying that NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations.
But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States, and many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.
Over the last eight years, the United States spent more on defense than all other NATO countries combined. If all NATO members had spent just 2 percent of their GDP on defense last year, we would have had another $119 billion for our collective defense and for the financing of additional NATO reserves.
[11:05:07]We should recognize that with these chronic underpayments and growing threats, even 2 percent of GDP is insufficient to close the gaps in modernizing readiness and the size of forces. We have to make up for the many years lost.
Two percent is the bare minimum for confronting today's very real and very vicious threats. If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today, especially from the threat of terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: President Trump there in Belgium. But John, it certainly seems as if he's speaking to an audience as well that is not there, and that would be his base that supports him. We've heard from Tony there, dues have been going up in recent years, but at the same time, Donald Trump has a base that is wondering, why does the U.S. have to do it all? These folks in Europe are just mooching off of us, and that's certainly their opinion that the U.S. is doing it all.
KIRBY: Yes, look, I mean, this will appeal to the people that voted for Donald Trump, there's no question about that. But what I think people are missing is that the United States has special global leadership responsibilities.
Yes, we're a member of NATO, yes, there's 27 other countries, but not all of them can be expected to contribute in the same way we can or we should, quite frankly. The United States has special convening power and facilitation power.
We have other global responsibilities outside NATO that many of those nations really don't have to worry about, so there's a lot that goes into this picture. And when he talks about underpayments, it's important for people to understand, you don't pay dues to NATO. What he's talking about here are their national decisions about defense spending on their own, and they all agree --
KEILAR: Their commitments to defense.
KIRBY: Right. And they agreed back in Warsaw a few years ago for 2 percent. They recommitted in Wales, as Mr. Blinken mentioned, that's what we're talking about, not payments of dues.
KEILAR: A really extraordinary day here as the president is in Belgium. One of the areas of contention with one of these member nations is we have heard that Theresa May of Britain was going to be confronting the president about leaks, information that had been shared from the U.K. with the U.S. when it came to this bombing in Manchester.
And now, Sara Murray joining us, she's on this trip with the president, a statement coming out from the administration, from the president, about their reaction to this information being published in the U.S., confirmed by U.S. officials before British officials ever wanted it out there. What can you tell us?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: That's right. Well, we're still waiting to see when President Trump and Theresa May might meet privately to discuss this, but as you pointed out, there has been a lot of concern from the U.K. government that information surrounding this investigation into the Manchester attack seems to be coming out being leaked from U.S. intelligence.
So, the president put out a statement today addressing that issue. It says in part, "The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling. These leaks have been going on for a long time and my administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security."
Now, he also pointed out that he was going press the Justice Department to look into where these leaks are coming from, and once they find who is leaking, they're going to prosecute those people to the fullest extent of the law.
So, this mirrors a lot of the rhetoric we've heard from President Trump back in the United States surrounding a number of different intelligence leaks, essentially saying these compromise our national security.
Now, as for the prime minister, Theresa May addressed reporters on her way in to the NATO summit as well, and she reaffirmed this special nature of this intelligence-sharing relationship between the United States and the U.K. but said it really hinges on both sides being able to fully trust one another -- Brianna.
KEILAR: All right, Sara Murray, stay with us, as you're watching the scene unfold there in Brussels. Tony, I want to talk to you about this. How is the rhetoric that we're hearing there when it comes to leaks, and certainly there are concerns from Theresa May and other countries as well -- can they trust the U.S. when they're sharing this important information?
But how is this something besides a continuation of what we saw under President Obama, who had an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions that his administration pursued?
BLINKEN: Well, look, you're right, this is certainly an ongoing story. It's not a story that started with the Trump administration. It's afflicted various administrations in different ways.
But this particular leak seems particularly egregious, because it was in the midst of an active investigation and possibly an active ongoing threat. And in that situation especially, loose lips sink ships.
So, I can understand why the Brits are very upset about this. Hopefully, we can rein this back in and get this under control because this goes to our security as well. The intelligence that we get from our partners, from our allies, is vital to our own security.
[11:10:06]If they start to move in another direction and shut that down because they can't trust us, it's going to harm us, not just them.
KEILAR: And John, to this point, I mean, let's just explain to our viewers what we're talking about, what got leaked. American media getting information from U.S. sources were first to report the initial death toll after the blast, the method of the attack, and then also the identity of the bomber, all before British officials hoped that this would be out there.
You can understand this when you're talking about the identity of the bomber, because that may provide connections to other people who could be around him, who could help him.
KEILAR: They're in the process of doing raids, right, the British?
KIRBY: You have to understand that the network who helped this man commit this brutal crime, they're watching news media as well. And so, they're gleaning information and intelligence off of what they're seeing from press reporting.
And when you have an ongoing -- I mean, it was still an active scene, not to mention a potential, you know, manhunt for more perpetrators.
When this is ongoing, it's absolutely critical that no information get leaked to the press that could harm those investigative efforts or those police and security efforts. So I mean, real lives could have been put at risk here. It's a very dangerous thing.
KEILAR: Fred Pleitgen is following this for us, and this is pretty interesting, Fred. We're seeing Theresa May, I believe, sitting next to President Trump following this class photo there of these NATO member leaders. You know, what can you tell us about this investigation?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the investigation is apparently moving forward at a very fast pace. We've seen a lot of arrests take place over the past couple days. In fact there were two that happened earlier today.
So it appears as though the police believe that they might be closing in on this network that they believe must have been behind all of this. And one of the reasons why they say that is that apparently, the device that was used, according to some of the pictures that we're seeing, appears to be quite sophisticated.
And there's many here who believe that the man who is apparently behind all this, Salman Abedi, must not have had the knowledge to build such a sophisticated device. That's one of the reasons why the authorities believed there must be a bigger network there.
So they're continuing to conduct raids in the Manchester area and continuing to take people into custody for questioning, but of course, it is still very much an ongoing investigation. That's also one of the reasons, Brianna, why the authorities here are so furious that these leaks that have been coming out.
And certainly you're hearing that from on the ground in Manchester, where they took that very extraordinary step of saying, look, we're just not going to share any more intelligence on this matter with our American counterparts because they believe they simply can't take that risk -- Brianna.
KEILAR: So, what do you make of this, because Donald Trump comes out with a statement saying, essentially we are cracking down on this. We take this seriously. We had heard that Theresa May was going to be confronting him on this issue of intel leaks. Also, Donald Trump doesn't like leaks. He's made that very clear about leaks that pertained to his administration.
KEILAR: Was this him sort of beating her to the punch, showing a seriousness, or was this something that was induced by something Theresa May, may have already said to him? Do we know?
PLEITGEN: Well, we know that they've already spoken. We know that Theresa May said that she was already on the phone with President Trump and told him that she believes that something like this can't happen and that the mutual trust between these two countries certainly needs to continue to be in place and needs to be restored to a certain point as well.
So, certainly, it might have been him trying to conduct some damage control and saying, look, we're trying to do something about this, we're trying to stop this. It's unclear how Ms. May is going to react to all of this.
But in the end, it seems as though, at least the authorities there in Manchester for the time being have made their decision and said, look, we're just not going to share any more intel with our colleagues in the United States on this simply because of what's happened so far already.
And it's something that they take very seriously because this is a very, very important investigation that's going on. It could be a life-or-death matter in certain instances if, in fact, there still is an active cell here in this country that has the knowledge and has in the past already been able to manufacture bombs that kill a lot of people.
So, right now they are investigating at a very high pace, and the last thing that they need is for their investigation to be hampered by leaks that are coming out, and it's something that they've made very clear and something where they say that in order to conduct this investigation without any more pitfalls, they need to just stop this information from flowing.
So, it is a very, very big step, and it's going to be very, very interesting to see how these meetings between Theresa May and President Trump are going to turn out and what exactly the wording there is going to be afterwards.
KEILAR: Tony, I wonder, do you think that this is smart diplomacy and also that this may actually have the effect of chilling some of the leaks? Is this a smart move on the part of the Trump administration as they say they're going to really address this? BLINKEN: Yes, no, the president did the right thing in putting out that statement, in putting out a strong statement, making it clear that he was going to try to do something about this, sending a very strong message to our own bureaucracy, his own bureaucracy that this needs to stop.
[11:15:12]So, this is the right thing to do. And whether it was getting out ahead of Prime Minister May or not, I'm not sure, but it was the right message at the right time. But we have a lot of trust to build back, and that's not going to happen in the matter of a day or with one statement.
KEILAR: I saw you nodding your head as you listened to Fred's report there about the leaks.
KIRBY: Yes. Just, I think it's important to realize how extraordinary this is. It's the U.K. It's our closest ally. A nation that has been at our side repeatedly over so many decades on so many issues.
KEILAR: This is like a constant cousin, right? Putting it in those terms. This is someone who has your back.
KIRBY: Yes, and for the U.K. to say, you know what, on this particular issue, we're not sharing with you anymore, that is significant. I agree with Tony, too, the president had no choice. He had to react this strongly and it was good that he did that, and it should be investigated and prosecuted. But let's not forget how significant this is coming from the U.K.
KEILAR: If they're not sharing information, John, let's talk not necessarily just about this terror attack, but other ones as well. And obviously, the not sharing is happening just with this investigation, but when you're looking at other things, there are tentacles that stretch from Britain to the U.S. This is a very important avenue of information and communication, right?
KIRBY: Absolutely. I mean, the U.K., again, not just one of our closest allies but one of our best intelligence relationships in the world. And so, hopefully, this won't bleed over into any other thing. And I can't imagine that the U.K., having knowledge of anything that might affect our security, would withhold it from us.
But this is an extraordinary step by them that I think we need to take seriously. I talked to a friend in the intelligence community yesterday and he said he hasn't seen any chilling effect yet in other nations about intelligence-sharing, particularly in the wake of the oval office meeting with Kislyak and Lavrov.
But he said intelligence agencies around the world are very interested in the relationship between our White House and our intelligence community, that's where -- that's the barometer they're really looking at.
KEILAR: That's very interesting. John, Tony, Sara, Fred, stand by for me for just a moment here. In a little while here, the most powerful Republican in the House is set to address the charges against the Republican who is looking to join his ranks, the candidate in Montana accused of assaulting a reporter, charged, I should say, with assaulting a reporter, body slamming him to the ground, punching him as well, this as voters are making their choices at the polls right now. Stand by for that.
KEILAR: It's an election day, actually, today. Right now polls are open for a special election in Montana, which has made its way into the national spotlight this morning after the Republican candidate running for a seat in Congress was charged with assault for allegedly body slamming a reporter.
Republican candidate, Greg Gianforte, held off taking a stance on the GOP health care bill, waiting for the Congressional Budget Office score, that price tag, to come out, and then it did.
And a reporter from "The Guardian," Ben Jacobs, tried to press Gianforte -- not even press so much as to just simply ask a question for his stance on this now that the CBO has released that price tag, and the audio released speaks for itself. Here's what happened.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BEN JACOBS: -- the CBO score, because you know you've been waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill, and it just came out and --
GREG GIANFORTE: We'll talk to you about that later.
JACOBS: Yes, but there's not going to be time. I'm curious --
GIANFORTE: Speak with Shane, please -- I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here, he did the same thing! Get the hell out of here!
GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. Are you with "The Guardian"?
JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.
GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing!
JACOBS: You just body slammed me and broke my glasses.
GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.
JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here. I'd also like to call the police. Can I get your guys' names?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you've got to leave. JACOBS: He just body slammed me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to leave.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KEILAR: Well, Greg Gianforte was charged overnight with misdemeanor assault. I want to go now to CNN's senior media and politics reporter, Dylan Byers. Dylan, you read what happens here, but when you hear that audio, that's when you can see just how quickly this escalated and the appearance that this candidate just really snapped.
DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Yes, absolutely right. And you know, it speaks to the importance of actually having some documentation about these things before you even get to the aggressive and somewhat troubling nature of the violence.
Let's just talk here for a second about the ineptitude of Gianforte's campaign. You're in the room, there are other witnesses in the room, there's a reporter in the room who is holding a recorder to your face.
You then -- the candidate then allegedly body slams him. And what do you do? The campaign comes out with a statement basically describing an alternate reality, an alternate version of events that has no relationship whatsoever to what was on the audio recording or to what other people witnessed.
What they said -- and I'll just read you part of it here -- is that the reporter was aggressive, he was badgering them with questions, and that the candidate asked the reporter to lower his recorder and he declined, asked him to leave the room.
None of that happened. None of that was in the audio. They put out this statement anyway. Hours later, a team from Fox News that was in the room, that had been interviewing the candidate, comes out and says, look, we saw the same thing.
Gianforte grabbed the reporter by the neck with both hands, slammed him to the ground. At no point did the reporter, Ben Jacobs, do anything at all that was aggressive or badgering towards the candidate.
So, look, the violence alone, you can argue, would make Gianforte disqualified from this race, but certainly, the sort of ineptitude and this idea that they could somehow skate by on this on the belief that they were less than 24 hours away from the vote seems to me is just baffling.
[11:25:01]KEILAR: He does this, as you mentioned, with witnesses there. A Fox News reporter has written about this and exactly what she saw, multiple people saw this. I want to listen to what Ben Jacobs himself said on CNN's "NEW DAY" today about what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACOBS (via telephone): It was an open room in the campaign headquarters, but it was not marked off in any way. I went over to ask the congressman a question in a way that he was chatting, making small talk with other reporters in a way that, you know, waiting to join in the conversation in a way that characterizes most normal human interaction.
It was a very strange moment that he suddenly, you know, grabs my recorder, and then things go haywire from there. I've spent a lot of time recording on Capitol Hill, a lot of time asking politicians questions about health care, and it's never, never ended in any sort of altercation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: Now the question, it seems, Dylan, is how bad is this going to be for this candidate? We've heard at least anecdotal reports that people who are among a third of Montanans who have actually cast their ballots, or a third of folks in this particular election who have cast their ballots are wanting to change their vote, but maybe some -- and I've heard this certainly on Twitter -- are going to back up this candidate and be glad he did this.
BYERS: That's true. You know, it'd be foolish to sort of try and make assumptions here about what exactly what's going to happen. Our colleague, Kyung Lah, has reported that there are some requests to see if people can change their early ballots.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's something that they're allowed to do under Montana State law. But again, the fact that this happened does not necessarily mean that all of a sudden Montana is going to swing in favor of Gianforte's opponent, the Democrat.
There are, you can imagine, some cases in which people would sort of back this up in part because there is so much antipathy and so much distrust of the media. You know, we saw throughout the 2016 campaign, you and I were at many of these rallies, the sort of anti-media rhetoric coming from the now president of the United States.
There are indeed, there could indeed be some Montanans who celebrate this sort of approach to the media and that in and of itself is troubling. But as for how this actually shakes out, of course, we'll have to wait and see what happens tonight.
KEILAR: All right, Dylan Byers, thank you so much for that report.
Let's talk next about what's the most powerful Republican in the House is going to say about this. We are expected that we will find out from Speaker Paul Ryan. We're just moments away from that.