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Interview With Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal; Did Attorney General Lie to Congress About Russia Meeting?; James Comey to Testify; President Trump Withdraws From Global Climate Deal. Aired 6- 7p ET

Aired June 1, 2017 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: New questions about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his Kremlin contacts, and whether he might have committed perjury. Senators confirming CNN's reporting about a possible third undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador.

Day of reckoning. The date is set for fired FBI Director James Comey to go public about his private conversations with President Trump. Will his Senate testimony be a game-changer?

And acting alone, the House Intelligence Committee chairman under fire for unilaterally issuing subpoenas related to the Russia probe. Tonight, a top Democrat is accusing Devin Nunes of violating his pledge to step aside from the investigation.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: a major decision by President Trump that may have huge global consequences.

He just officially announced that the United States is withdrawing from the landmark Paris climate agreement aimed at combating global warming. The president says he's willing to negotiate a new deal that's more fair to Americans, but the backlash is already unfolding this hour.

Also breaking, James Comey's bombshell testimony about his confrontations with the president, that will happen one week from today. The Senate Intelligence Committee setting a date for the fired FBI director to speak publicly. Comey is expected to confirm that President Trump urged him to end his investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Also tonight, renewed focus on Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Russia contacts. CNN reporting that congressional investigators are examining whether Sessions had a third undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. Two Senate Democrats now revealing that the asked the FBI to look into that matter, the possibility that Sessions committed perjury. And Vladimir Putin, he's hinting that some Russians may indeed have

been responsible for U.S. election meddling. The Kremlin leader still flatly denies that any government role, but he now suggests -- quote -- "patriotically-minded" private Russian hackers may be to blame.

I will speak about all of that and much more with our guests, including Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary Armed Services Committees. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.

First, let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, with more on the president's decision today to withdraw from the climate deal.

Jim, a lot at stake for the president, a lot at stake potentially for the planet.


In a speech that reflected the political climate in Washington more than the warming of the planet, the president did pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord. That puts the U.S., along with Nicaragua and Syria, as the only countries not participating in the climate deal.

Late this afternoon, White House officials could not even tell reporters whether the president even believes in climate change.


ACOSTA (voice-over): With the Earth hanging in the balance, President Trump stay trued to his political orbit, ending participation in the Paris climate agreement.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The United States with withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

ACOSTA: After a fierce debate inside the White House that pitted his top strategist, nationalist Steve Bannon, who favored pulling out of the deal, against his own daughter, Ivanka, who advocated staying in the agreement, the president said his administration will try to hammer out a new climate deal, something of a consolation prize for Ivanka.

TRUMP: So, we're getting out, but we will start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine.

ACOSTA: The speech was steeped in campaign rhetoric as the president framed his choice as a win for American workers in the heartland.

TRUMP: I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.

ACOSTA: And a loss for nations Mr. Trump accused of mocking the U.S. TRUMP: At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do

they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won't be.

ACOSTA: The president's mood was instantly cheered by conservatives, who feared the president would fail to keep a campaign promise repeated time and again.

TRUMP: We're going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop -- unbelievable -- and stop all payments of the United States tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.



BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet.

ACOSTA: Former President Obama, who helped craft the Paris deal, criticized his successor's decision saying in a statement: "Even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future, I'm confident that our state, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way and help protect for future generations the one planet we have got," something the Pittsburgh mayor tweeted he plans to do.

The move is also being rejected by leading American CEOs who had pleaded with the president to stay in the deal. Tesla's Elon Musk announced he is stepping down from the president's economic advisory boards, tweeting: "Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world."

But the president's decision should come as no surprise. He's tweeted in the past that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese to make the U.S. noncompetitive. Now it's China, European leaders warn, who may reap the benefits.

JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COMMISSION (through translator): We explained to Mr. Trump in Taormina that it would not be good for the world or the United States if America was to literally step off the world stage, because the vacuum will be filled and the Chinese are in prime position to take on a leadership role.


ACOSTA: Now, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, were absent from the Rose Garden ceremony. A White House official says they were observing a Jewish holiday today, but the official also noted that while Ivanka stayed at home, Kushner decided to attend to a long- scheduled meeting, instead of the president's speech in the Rose Garden.

And as for that one line at the start of the speech, when the president referenced a terrorist attack in the Philippines, police Manila now say it was just a robbery. And a White House official tells us, Wolf, that the president made that remark after being briefed by his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, so the White House appears to be blaming that on the national security adviser -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting, indeed. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta, with that report.

We are going to have a lot more on the president's climate change decision. That's coming up. I will speak live with the president's chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who reportedly urged him to stay in the Paris agreement. We will also be joined later this hour by the mayor of Pittsburgh. He's not happy that the president invoked his city to defend his withdrawal from the Paris accord.

But let's get to the Russia investigation right now, as anticipation clearly builds for James Comey to break his silence next Thursday, a week from today and testify openly about his private conversations with President Trump.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is following all the breaking developments for us.

Dianne, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, they certainly will have many questions for the fired FBI director.


This is, to say the least, highly anticipated testimony that, remember, they weren't sure was going to happen. So, while senators are sure to grill Comey on whether the president pressured him to go easy on now former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, also expect them to try and get answers about some other members of the administration as well.


SEN. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: As long as he's given permission by Mr. Mueller to do so, then potentially we could have bombshells that begin to land next week.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): And when James Comey testifies next Thursday, he could be asked about Attorney General Jeff Sessions' meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, following CNN's reporting that congressional investigators are examining whether Sessions had an undisclosed private meeting with the Russian ambassador in April of last year at the Mayflower Hotel.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: If these allegations prove to be correct, they would be very serious, because, after all, he failed to disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador when he testified. So, that is an enormously serious charge.

GALLAGHER: Today, Democratic Senators Al Franken and Patrick Leahy released three letters sent in March, April and May of this year in which they asked the FBI to investigate whether Sessions lied to senators about previous meetings between Sessions and Kislyak, writing -- quote -- "We are concerned about Attorney General Sessions' lack of candor to the committee and his failure thus far to accept responsibility for testimony that could be construed as perjury."

The Department of Justice responded, saying: "The facts haven't changed. The then senator did not have any private or signed conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel."

Former campaign policy adviser Carter Page, who the president recently tweeted would blow the Democrats' case away with his testimony, was asked about his meetings with Kislyak on CBS this morning.

QUESTION: And you only met with him one time?

CARTER PAGE, FORMER TRUMP FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: Well, I mean, he was around for several days, right?

And, again, I don't like talking about confidential information. Everyone that was in that meeting had agreed that it's off the record and we're not going to disclose that.

GALLAGHER: But the president tweeted today that the big story is about the unmasking and surveillance of people. And House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes tweeted this.

The committee issued four bipartisan subpoenas Wednesday, but Nunes, who promised to step aside from the Russia investigation back in April, after becoming the subject of a House ethics probe into whether he revealed classified intelligence, well, he issued additional subpoenas, targeting documents related to former Obama officials in his probe of unmasking.


SCHIFF: We do oversight all the time of issues of unmasking and minimization. And so I'm not sure why there was a necessity to issue subpoenas to agencies that are already working with us, unless the goal was simply to get publicity or perhaps obscure the subpoenas that were going out in a bipartisan way.

GALLAGHER: This as the U.S. discusses whether to return these luxury compounds to Russia, after they were closed last year by the Obama administration as punishment for Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also speaking out today, suggesting he and President Trump aren't friends, after stressing the two have never met.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): He is a straightforward, sincere man. You can't really classify him as a traditional politician. He never worked in politics. Therefore, this is a person with a fresh view of things, whether you like it or not, but this always very often brings something good.


GALLAGHER: Now, Putin also echoing what sounded like Trump calling for a normalization of U.S.-Russia relationships. And when it comes to their own personal relationship, the two presidents won't be able to say that they officially haven't met for long. Both will be in Hamburg, Germany, for the G20 next month.

And, Wolf, of course you can bet the eyes of the world will be on that handshake.

BLITZER: Certainly will be. Dianne Gallagher, thanks very much for that report.

Let's dig deeper right now in that possible third meeting between Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is part of the team that broke this story for CNN.

Jim, some members of Congress seemed to be confirmed your reporting. What else you learning tonight?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is what we understand, that congressional investigators as well as the FBI are looking into whether then Senator Jeff Sessions had an additional private meeting with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, this in April 2016 at a larger event.

You're seeing some video there. Actually not. That's different video, but a larger event at the Mayflower Hotel in April of that year where President Trump gave his first major foreign policy speech. What they're looking into is whether before or after that meeting on the side there was a private meeting between Sessions and the Russian ambassador.

They haven't established it with certainty yet, but they're asking for more -- here's that meeting now. This is where Trump gave that speech. So the question is at the Mayflower Hotel, somewhere else in that building, was there a private meeting? They have asked Sessions for more information, including schedules, as they seek to determine the answer to that question.

Of course, it's relevant because earlier in his confirmation hearing, he denied he had any meetings with Russian officials. Then, in March, it was reported in "The Washington Post" that he had two of them and he had to correct his testimony, his sworn testimony. So, the question now is, was there another meeting that he has not disclosed?

BLITZER: And tell us a little bit, whatever you can, about what Senators Leahy and Franken are asking the FBI to do.

SCIUTTO: This is interesting, Wolf, because after our story went to air last night, Senator Franken was interviewed, and he revealed that he had sent letters to the FBI asking a very similar question.

And, today, CNN was the first to obtain those letters. As it turns out, Senators Franken and Leahy, both members of the Judiciary Committee, who, of course, was the body that confirmed Sessions as the attorney general, they sent letters in March, April and May to the FBI asking in effect the same question. Was there another meeting that Sessions had that he did not reveal, and because he had not revealed previous meetings, whether it was possible that he had perjured himself by doing so?

So, again, what we're learning then is there's another congressional body, in this case the Judiciary Committee, who is not taking Sessions' denial at face value, is asking for more information, and has, in fact, asked the FBI to investigate it.

As we reported last night, we know that the FBI is looking into this as part of their broader counterintelligence investigation regarding Russian interference in the U.S. election, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Jim Sciutto reporting for us, great reporting. Thanks very much.

Let's get back to the breaking news on the president's decision today to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

Joining us now is Senator Richard Blumenthal. He's a Democrat on the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees.

Senator, thanks for joining us.


BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to the president's decision to have the United States pull out of the Paris climate agreement. That's an agreement signed by nearly every other country on Earth, nearly 200 countries. Only two others have refused to sign, Syria and Nicaragua.

So what message did the president send to the rest of the world with this announcement?

BLUMENTHAL: The message to the rest of the world is that the United States is abdicating leadership here.

No one who abandons the field can fight and win. And the United States essentially is going to sidelines in a small team of outliers like Nicaragua and Syria, after working for years and years to enlist the rest of the world community.


We heard for many, many years that there was nothing the United States could do about global warming or climate change because China and India would not cooperate. Then 195 nations, including China and India, joined this agreement. And now we are becoming the outliers and abandoning it.

And we're not only abandoning the agreement. We're abandoning jobs and technology and innovation. And the Chinese are going to fill that gap, and we're going to lose jobs as a result. We know in Connecticut, because we're at the forefront of job creation technology and innovation in this area.

And it will discourage that kind of innovation and investment, but it will also mean that policies in Washington will change, and we will roll back efforts to make the air cleaner and the environment safer.

BLITZER: A truly historic decision, critically important decision by the president today. The fallout could be enormous.

Let's turn, Senator, to another major story we're following. Congressional investigators are now probing whether the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, had an undisclosed third meeting with Russian's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

If it turns out that these meetings took place, do you believe the attorney general should resign, as Senators Franken and Leahy have suggested?

BLUMENTHAL: If he has failed to be truthful yet again to the Judiciary Committee or to the public, he must resign.

If he were in our shoes, he would not tolerate this kind of dishonesty, assuming it has occurred. He testified falsely. He then corrected the record under oath. So, this failure to disclose would be in effect a second instance of nontruthfulness and I believe would require his resignation.

And I believe he should come before the Judiciary Committee, not just the FBI to investigate, but actually testify, as should Director Comey and the White House counsel, McGahn, but particularly after these questions have been raised. Jeff Sessions should come back, as I have said he should before, but this new news makes it absolutely essential that he come back and clarify the record and explain why he failed to disclose these meetings.

BLITZER: Following his recusal from the Russia investigation in early March, the attorney general was asked by a reporter if there were any other meetings he failed to disclose.

He responded -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I don't believe so. You know, we meet a lot of people. I don't believe so."

Here's the question. Is meeting with a lot of people an adequate defense in this case?

BLUMENTHAL: No, it is not, because we're talking here about the Russian ambassador. These Russian conversations and meetings were a focus of intense interest, both publicly and privately.

And he had an obligation to be careful and complete about his disclosures. And, Wolf, there is a broader, larger pattern here, which is concealment of conversations with the Russians. Flynn did it on his disclosure and confidential clearance forms. Then, of course, there are now allegations that Kushner did it and Sessions as well.

There is a concealment pattern here. And the question is, what are they hiding? BLITZER: Senator Blumenthal, thanks for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up: Why did the president reject the advice of some of his closest advisers and pull out of the Paris climate agreement? I will ask his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn. He will join us live. Stay with us.



BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, President Trump says he's pulling the United States out of the Paris climate accord, despite global opposition, including many American business leaders, who strongly oppose that decision.

The withdraw process starts today, but it will take more than three years to fully complete.

Let's get some more with our specialists and our analysts.

Dana, Dana Bash, take us inside the West Wing of the White House. What are you hearing from your sources about how President Trump came up with this decision?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I mean, a lot of it has played out in public just because of the fact that it was delayed so many times, his decision.

But my understanding is that, despite the fact that the people who have been speaking in public, from CEOs to world leaders to even members of his own Cabinet and family, they have been doing it in private, trying to get him to say, you know what? Never mind, I'm not going to pull out of the Paris agreement.

And he wasn't having it at all. I talked to one source who said he was 10000 percent non-negotiable on this, because he said to people who were trying to convince him -- and, by the way, this attempt to convince him to reverse course was going on even as late as today, people who know him well calling him saying, please, change your mind.

And his answer was, much like he said in the Rose Garden, that he feels that America got a raw deal on this global agreement, and that America is a laughingstock because of it, and that he wants -- in order to renegotiate it, if he can, he has to pull out of it.

So that was really his argument. And I think, Wolf, you know, because you have been covering Donald Trump since he was a businessman as well, this is something he's been pretty consistent on.


And when I say this, I'm not talking about climate change. I'm talking about the notion of America getting raw deal after raw deal after raw deal on multilateral international agreements, whether it was trade or something like this.

And so he felt like this is something that he was he would stick to. I have to say that the people who I was talking to who were trying to convince him were shocked that he went so far in when he gave his speech and didn't even give even a leaf, not necessarily an olive branch, to those who thought that he should stay in and the notion of climate change.

BLITZER: Yes, it's a good point.

Gloria, there's been a lot of backlash, bipartisan backlash already. Certainly, President Obama very opposed, but even a bunch of Republicans like Susan Collins.

Did the president make the right calculation here?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, if you're talking about a political calculation, as opposed to a global calculation, if you're asking me a political question, I will say that this is what Donald Trump promised during the campaign that he would do over and over again.

And this is part of -- was part of his America first platform. And as he said very clearly today, he was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris, even though did not win Pittsburgh, as we know, during the election, but he made it very clear and he said that there has been a massive redistribution of United States' wealth to other countries and that he wanted to stop it.

This is the language of his campaign. This is -- this is something his supporters believe in very strongly. And so I think, as he was listening to these other points of view, as Dana was saying, he listened to a lot of people, but he came from a perspective where this is what I promised and this is what I want to do.

So it's not a surprise. And if he wants to keep his base happy, the next step is, he's got to deliver. If he says this was a job killer, he has to prove now that he can be the job creator as a result of pulling out of this accord.


BLITZER: Jeffrey, you want to weigh in?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I just -- I understand why we view these matters in political terms and what's good for his base and what's not good for his base.

The climate doesn't care about our politics. The climate is going to keep getting warmer. And Antarctica is going to melt. And we're going to have floods and our climate is going to change. That's all going to change -- that's all going to happen, and we are either going to prepare for it and try to ameliorate it or we're not.

And that's what seems to me the crucial fact here, not, you know, the -- what his base is going to be happy or not. BORGER: Well, but -- right, but Wolf was asking me the political


TOOBIN: I understand.

BORGER: And when Jake Tapper today asked the EPA administrator, Mr. Pruitt, about whether the president believes in climate change, he didn't really answer the question.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And the other thing -- I'm sorry. Go ahead, Gloria.


KUCINICH: Well, and the other thing is, this is going to go on without the United States and that's the point.

Globally, you already had Germany, Italy and France say that this is not going to be renegotiated. China, a newspaper there that tends to say what the government would say, called this selfishness and they kind of giddily will step up to the plate where the United States has vacated it.

So, the fact that we're stepping back doesn't mean that progress is going to stop. It just shows that it's one more place where the United States isn't going to lead right now.


BLITZER: Very quickly, Jeffrey. Go ahead.

TOOBIN: I'm sorry.

Our economy is bigger than all those places, so the fact that we're not going to make the changes that we were trying to make means that global warming is just going to continue at a somewhat greater pace.

BLITZER: All right, everybody, stand by. There's a lot more happening on the breaking news, the environmental and the economic implications of the president's decision to withdraw from the climate agreement.

I will speak live with the president's chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn.

Also joining us later this hour, the mayor of Pittsburgh. He's fuming that the president cited his city to justify quitting the Paris accord.


BLITZER: We're getting new reaction this hour to the breaking news. President Trump officially announcing that the United States is pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.

[18:34:11] The president saying he's open to renegotiating the accord, which he calls a bad deal for Americans, a deal he says that costs American jobs. But tonight world leaders say the agreement won't be renegotiated, including word from several of America's closest alleys.

Joining us now the chief economic advisor to President Trump, the director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn. Gary Cohn, thanks so much for joining us.

GARY COHN, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Thanks for having me, Wolf. It's a pleasure to be here.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get through some specifics. Last week you said the president was evolving on climate change, but he just pulled out of an agreement that most experts believe is the best hope for preventing its worse effects. Does President Trump still believe climate change is a hoax?

COHN: What President Trump believes is he was elected to grow the U.S. economy and provide great job opportunities for American citizens. And what he believes he did today was do exactly that. He's always been committed to the American workers and American jobs and the American economy, and this is part of his approach to grow the U.S. economy.

[18:35:17] BLITZER: But he has said repeatedly during the campaign, he said very often that it was a hoax. At one point, he tweeted, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive." He tweeted: "Ice storms roll from Texas to Tennessee. I'm in Los Angeles, and it's freezing. Global warming is a total and very expensive hoax."

Does the president still believe that?

COHN: Wolf, as I said, what the president is committed to doing is protecting the United States and growing our economy. We started out talking about regulation and regulatory reform. We've moved on to tax and tax reform, and he is committed to growing our economy and providing better job opportunities for American families and American workers; and that is what the president is committed to doing.

BLITZER: But with all due respect, Gary, you're not answering the question. Do you know, have you discussed this with the president? Does he still believe that climate change, global warming is a hoax?

COHN: I'm answering what the president's committed to. I know he's very committed to his role as president of the United States and being the leader, and he believes his No. 1 priority is to grow our economy and grow opportunities for our citizens. He commented today in his speech about the environment and his commitment to the environment.

BLITZER: So is that a no, he no longer believes what he tweeted during the course of the campaign and years earlier, that it's a hoax?

COHN: Look, you're going to have ask him. You're going to actually have to ask him. I don't know what he was believing when he did that or didn't do that. I know what he believes today. I know what he believes in today about the economy and jobs and American workers and creating a better America for our citizens.

BLITZER: I would love to ask him that question. We've invited him, clearly, many times to join us here on CNN. I'd love to get his thoughts and that's a sensitive, a very important issue.

As you also know -- I want to move on. There was some stark disagreement inside the White House between those who supported the Paris agreement and those who wanted the president to announce the U.S. was pulling out. You're seen as someone who was more of a globalist than an isolationist. Are you being forced, Gary, to come out, publicly support a decision with which you personally disagree?

COHN: I am working the White House. I am here to support President Trump, and I'm here to support him and his administrative decision. I'm happy to be out here tonight, speaking to you and be talking about what we are doing, again, for the American economy.

I've been actively involved in regulatory reform. I've been actively involved in tax reform. I'm actively involved in all of the president's policies. And I very much believe we have a unique opportunity to drive our economy forward and make America a better place for our citizens.

BLITZER: I ask that question, Gary, because only last week you said that coal, in your words, doesn't even make that much sense any more. That's sharply different than what the president's rhetoric is all about. He wants to bring back coal jobs. He said as much in his speech today. So here's the question. Is he ignoring your advice?

COHN: So Wolf, I don't think that's what I said, but we won't even argue that. What I was talking about is the free markets. I am very much of a free marketer. And when I made the comment about coal, I was talking about the price of coal today and, in the world we live in today, we have made such unbelievable technological advancements in the world of natural gas and fracking that we are in a unique position in the United States where we have abundant supply of natural gas. Natural gas has become so cheap today in the free and open market that we enjoy in the United States that it has become the cheapest feed stock that we have. It won't always be that way.

I believe in all forms of feed stock. I believe that every one of the energy components in the U.S. is an important energy component. And in the cyclical nature of the world we live in today of commodity prices and commodity cyclicality, all of these different feed stocks at some point will make enormous amount of sense. And I believe that we should have a very diversified environment in the United States, where we support all forms of energy.

BLITZER: You're the president's chief economic advisor. As you know, major American companies, including energy companies like ExxonMobil, they supported the Paris climate agreement. They didn't want the U.S. to pull out of it. The CEOs of G.E., Apple, so many other companies said pulling out would be bad for American business.

So explain -- and you're an expert -- why the president is right, and all of those business leaders are wrong? COHN: So, Wolf, what the president did here and what is important to

understand is when we came to the White House we inherited CO2 targets of 28 to -- 26 to 28 percent by 2015 that were just unrealistic. We cannot get there in the United States without regulating carbon usage in this country.

[18:40:17] We do not want to be in the position of regulating carbon usage. We want to be in the position of growing the economy and growing jobs.

What's really happened here and I think what you have to understand is we, as a country, have done an unbelievable job on diminishing our carbon output by ourselves. Our technological advantages and our found natural gas is putting us in a place where, since 2006, we've already decreased natural gas -- we've increased natural gas so much that our carbon footprint is down by 12.5 percent already. We're continuously decreasing our carbon output by 1.4 percent a year. We've been doing that for the last 10 years. We are one of the best...

BLITZER: All right.

COHN: ... environmentally sound countries in the world today.

BLITZER: So you disagree, clearly, with those business leaders who say this was a major blunder on the part of the president. But you know what? And I know we're almost out of time.

The chief -- you were the chief operating officer at Goldman Sachs. Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, a man you know well, he just tweeted this, and I'll put it up on the screen: "Today's decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.'s leadership position in the world." What do you say to Lloyd Blankfein?

COHN: I didn't know he tweeted, first of all. That's interesting news.

What do I say to him? I say, look, I think that the United States is a leader. We're a leader in technology. What we're doing in this country and our new technological wave in what Silicon Valley has done in the entrepreneurial spirit, in the entrepreneurial capital that we have done in modernizing our energy fleet and looking at solar and looking at all the new evolution that's happened, we are ahead of almost every other nation out there.

Many other nations in the Paris agreement are still increasing their CO2 output. You know, you take a big nation that we compete against, they're not going to peek their CO2 output until 2030. That's 13 years from now. We've been going out every year by 1.4 percent. We're going to continue to go down by 1.4 percent.

BLITZER: You know, Lloyd Blankfein well. It was his first ever tweet today. You're absolutely right.

COHN: It was his first ever tweet. See? I told you, I didn't know he tweeted. BLITZER: But he tweeted. He was very disappointed in the president's


I know you've got to go, but let me give you one final question. Today the president said he -- he has created one million new jobs since taking office, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says only a half a million jobs have been added to the economy since the president took office. So where are the other half a million jobs that the president is taking credit for? Where are they?

COHN: Well, I think the president was using the stats that came out this morning, the ADP -- the ADP numbers that came out this morning. I think that's where that stat came from.

BLITZER: But those are different than the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's part of the government. Don't you support the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

COHN: Of course we support the government, but some of those numbers aren't official yet for last month.

BLITZER: So you're standing by what the president said, that there's another half a million jobs that have been created since he's taken office that the Bureau of Labor Statistics isn't familiar with?

COHN: I'm standing by that if you add up the ADP numbers, you would get to the number that the president put in his speech today.

BLITZER: And so you're saying there's another half million just created in the past month. Is that right?

COHN: The president talked about private sector jobs. I'm not going to get in here and debate jobs. But remember, the government numbers talk about government jobs, as well, and the government could be losing jobs. There's a lot of numbers that go around when you start talking about jobs and job creation.

BLITZER: Which is a fair point, and we'll leave it on that note. Gary Cohn, thanks so much for joining us.

COHN: My pleasure.

BLITZER: We'll definitely want you back.

The breaking news continues here in THE SITUATION ROOM. President Trump cites Pittsburgh in his decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord, and the city's mayor, he is hitting right back. He's standing by live. There you see him. We'll discuss when we come back.


[18:48:50] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: More now on the breaking news. President Trump announcing that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. The president said the PAC kills American jobs, saying among other things and I'm quoting him now: I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris. Let's get some more with the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto. He's

joining us.

Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

MAYOR BILL PEDUTO (D), PITTSBURGH: Thank you for the invitation, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. So, he said he was elected by the voters of Pittsburgh, not Paris. Your reaction to when you heard that. You're the mayor of Pittsburgh. Is this what the people of your beautiful city want?

PEDUTO: Well, let me say first I heard that he was not supporting the Paris agreement and I was pretty upset and then I started getting a lot of questions about his reference to Pittsburgh. The city of Pittsburgh voted for Hillary Clinton with nearly 80 percent of the vote.

He may be talking about all of western Pennsylvania, but it's a far cry from being Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh in the past 30 years has come back from a depression. We had unemployment nearly 19 percent. We know what it's like to have a very, very bad economy.

[18:50:03] But at the same time we didn't invest in our past, we invested in our future. We are the example of what the Paris agreement could mean to jobs in the economy for the United States. And for him to use Pittsburgh as the example, I can only say that it was a far stretch at best.

BLITZER: So, what will this decision mean as far as jobs in your city are concerned this, this decision by the president?

PEDUTO: Well, it means a lot for jobs in this country. We realize where the world is going and it's moving towards renewable energy very quickly. Under the previous administration, we had gone into the MOU with the Department of Energy to start to build out direct energy grids, basically a grid of micro-grids around all of our large development. We're working with the University of Pittsburgh in order to be able to capitalize on that and with Carnegie Mellon University and our companies that are located right here.

Now, that basically means that funding will not be available, that goals that we have set will not be met. And it doesn't mean that the world's not going to still follow through with the Paris agreement. It means those jobs and those companies will be financed in Germany. They'll be financed --


BLITZER: Yes, I was going to say, Mr. Mayor, climate change clearly a global challenge. How do you believe the president's decision will affect the fight against climate change?

PEDUTO: Well, I think that those that have been at the front lines for the past 20 or more years now have a more serious commitment to make toward it, and we're not going to find the help in the federal government, which means that cities around this country will ban together and I've been talking to mayors around the country who agree. We are all going to follow the Paris agreement.

Tomorrow, I'll issue an executive order saying that Pittsburgh will meet our 2023 goals. Pittsburgh will meet our 2030 goals. We'll still follow through and the basics of this, and I was in Paris. I was there with 500 mayors from around the world, the largest gathering of mayors ever in Earth's history.

And the actual implementation of Paris wasn't going to happen in Washington any ways. It was going to happen in the cities around this country, and we'll just double down and make sure it does.

BLITZER: Mayor Peduto, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to all the folks in Pittsburgh.

PEDUTO: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

Let's get some reaction, let's get some analysis from our panel.

Once again, Gloria Borger, you just heard the mayor of Pittsburgh, a very different assessment than the president's chief economic advisor Gary Cohn. Your thoughts?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, he thinks that now they're going to have to go it on their own as he just said to you. It's going to be up to the people of Pittsburgh. He feels that the president was clearly wrong but the job issue and that it's going to hurt more than help.

But I think, you know, this is a challenge for Democrats to start making the case as this mayor is doing on environmental issues and relating that to job creation and job growth, and that is -- that is something they didn't do very well during the campaign, because it became an issue of, oh, you're the elite and you're against the coal miners in West Virginia, and that is, I know, that is a case that Democrats have to say it's not true. Pittsburgh has a great working class and this is about jobs for everyone.

So, the mayor makes a good point, that it's going to have to start from the ground up this time.

BLITZER: Dana Bash, why is it so hard for White House officials to say that the president no longer believes that climate change is a hoax?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Every time we have heard White House officials tried to speak for the president, he has under -- not every time, but many times -- he's undermined them at 12:01 a.m. or 6:00 a.m. with a tweet. So, if I were working at this White House, I would do the same thing, and especially something like this, which is so incredibly controversial. You know, the president started saying this on terror back in 2012,

and maybe even before that. And they don't want to go there, especially somebody like Gary Cohn who -- it is hard to believe that he thinks that climate change is a hoax, manmade or otherwise.

BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right on that point.

Jackie Kucinich, but don't the American people deserve to know whether or not the president still believes that climate change, global warming was simply a hoax created by China?

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely, because it's starting to affect their lives by pulling out of this agreement.

One of the things that struck me that are Gary Cohn said, when you ask him one of the questions about America not leading anymore, he referenced Silicon Valley.

[18:55:01] Well, you're going to start seeing world leaders like perhaps in France reaching out to some of these companies to perhaps bring them over to their countries where there might be a more progressive climate change agenda. So, that is one area where this could definitely backfire for this president, because you're seeing it, because the large part of these companies believe that the United States should have stayed in the Paris climate agreement.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, the reaction from allies around the world, pretty stark right now, including the new president of France, Emmanuel Macron. He tweeted clearly a snub at the president, to make the planet great again. That's a pretty direct swipe.

BORGER: Well, it is, and, you know, the president took sort of a direct swipe at our European allies and others by talking today about how the United States has essentially been used and how they're not contributing their fair share. This sort of conspiratorial view of the rest of the world against America and that he would fight back on that.

And so, you know, I think the point is, when you have American business and the CEO -- you mentioned Goldman Sachs obviously, to Gary Cohn, but when you have the CEO of General Electric, Exxon, Chevron, on and on, Apple, American companies being opposed to what the president has done very strongly, you're going to see alliances pop up individually with European allies, I think, and if I were in Europe, I would take advantage of that quite frankly.

BASH: Yes. And, you know --

BLITZER: You know -- go ahead, Dana.

BASH: The president's whole argument today was economic. And that's the main reason why he says that he's pulling out of Paris. But there's something that presidents before him, Republican and Democrat, alike, took into consideration that was beyond economics and that is a moral responsibility and a feeling that the United States should be a leader in the world. And this is one of those issues, which is probably why you're seeing

the kind of reaction from Paris and all the other countries around the world who are part of this agreement, that they can't believe what they're seeing because they are used to that kind of United States. But that's not Donald Trump's United States. That's not what he ran on.

And this, to me, is the first major indicator, even more so than the travel ban because the travel ban was about the United States and what it means within these borders. But the first major indicator of Donald Trump and his nationalistic campaign promises coming to fruition and seeing the implications for that for the United States as a global leader.

BLITZER: You know, Jackie, what does it say about the role of Steve Bannon in this White House?

KUCINICH: He's come roaring back. I mean, I feel like just a few weeks ago, we were talking about how the more globalist members of the administration were rising and were getting a foothold and this is something that Steve Bannon pushed. He reminded the president over and over again that this is what he promised, that this is what is standing up for the little guy looks like.

And certainly now, he's laying low because Steve Bannon's also been burned by looking like he was taking credit for things. The credit can only lie with the president and this White House. That said, he really has re-established himself as a force to contend with in this White House.

BLITZER: He certainly seems to have done that exactly. Because you remember, Gloria, the president at one point not that long ago simply referred to him as a guy who works for me.

BORGER: That's right. Well, and he still works for him. But this is clearly Steve Bannon triumphant. You see him out in the Rose Garden today. I don't know if you've got a chance to look at all those pictures, Wolf, but Steve Bannon had a big smile on his face. And this is something that he was clearly pushing. I think he was on the downside when he was fighting with Jared Kushner.

But I think also, this is pure Donald Trump. This is Trumpism. This is what Donald Trump believes. This is what he wanted to do. Spoke with a lot of people --

BLITZER: All right.

BORGER: -- but in the end, he did what he had to do, he thought.


All right, guys. Everybody, stand by. I want to end our program tonight with a celebration of CNN's birthday. Thirty-seven years ago today on June 1st, 1980, Ted Turner launched the first 24-hour cable news network dedicating the news channel for America. Ted's bold idea changed the world and the mission of this network has never been more important than it is today. Ted certainly also changed the lives of all of us who have worked for CNN.

So, tonight, we want to thank Ted, thank all our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.