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Trump Speech on Cuba; Trump Signs Cuba Order; Trump Under Investigation. Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired June 16, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The regime saw his incredible gift and wanted to use him for propaganda purposes. When he was 12, they organized a national television special and demanded he play a solo for Raul Castro, who, by the way, is leaving now. I wonder why.
They sent an official to fetch Luis (ph) from his home, but Luis refused to go. And a few days later, Castro soldiers barged into his orchestra practice area, guns blazing. They told him to play for them. Terrified, Luis began to play. And the entire world was stunned by what they heard. Ringing out from the trembling boy's violin was a tune they all recognized. This young Cuban boy was playing "The Star- Spangled Banner."
Luis played the American national anthem all the way through. And when he finished, the room was dead silent. When we say that America stands as a symbol to the world, a symbol of freedom and a symbol of hope, that is what Luis meant and that is what Luis displayed that day. It was a big day. It was a great day. And that is what we will all remain. That was a very important moment, just like this is now for Cuba, a very important moment.
America will always stand for liberty and America will always pray and cheer for the freedom of the Cuban people. Now that little boy, whose story I just told you, the one who played that violin so beautifully so many years ago, is here with us today in our very, very packed and extremely warm auditorium. Of course, he is no longer a little boy but a world renowned violinist and conductor. One of the greats. And today he will once again play his violin and fill the hearts of all who love and cherish Cuba, United States and freedom.
I would like now to invite Luis to the stage.
(LUIS PLAYING VIOLIN - "THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER")
CROWD: USA! USA! USA! USA!
[14:05:09] TRUMP: Thank you, Luis. I just said, so where were you more nervous, today or then? He said, honestly, I think today. That pretty - thank you, Luis. That was beautiful.
So I want to thank Miami. I want to thank Little Havana. Ah, Havana, we love - do we love it? Would you move anywhere else? You wouldn't move to Palm Beach, would you? No. No way. Little Havana. And I want to thank all of our great friends here today. You've been amazing, loyal, beautiful people and - thank you.
Don't remind me.
Actually, I was telling Mike. So it was two days, on my birthday, until a big day, which turned out to be tomorrow, the 16th. That was the day I came down with Melania on the escalator at Trump Tower. That's tomorrow. So it's exactly tomorrow, two years since we announced. And it worked out OK. It worked out OK. It's a great honor. Believe me, it's a great honor, right?
CROWD: Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.
TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you very much.
I just want to end by saying, may God bless everyone searching for freedom. May god bless Cuba. May God bless the United States of America. And God bless you all. Thank you.
Now I'm going to sign. Thank you.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we're going to stay on these pictures but you have been listening to the president of the United States speaking there in Little Havana, in Miami. We'll watch as he signs this. You heard the crowd there singing "Happy Birthday." It was his birthday two days ago. But this is all about Cuba. You know, this is all about the president rolling back, again, you know, some of President Obama's legacy. This is all about the outreach to Cuba. And so we're going to have a huge conversation as we stay on these pictures.
I've got Jim Acosta standing by, our CNN senior White House correspondent. He's in Miami. We also have CNN's Patrick Oppmann. He is the only American to be a correspondent based in Cuba.
Let's go back to the president and then we'll talk, guys.
TRUMP: You deserve it. Where is Mario?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Who's our third one? Who's our -
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right here behind you, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Oh, I'm sorry.
BALDWIN: All right, Jim Acosta, you know, as he's handing out these pens here, let me go back to a line we just heard from him. "I am canceling the last administration's completely one-sided deal with Cuba." I know there were many a promise from the campaign trail on this. How deeply is he delivering on this? And when he says cancel, I mean he's not rolling back the entire Obama administration policy on Cuba. So what is he doing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, I think, Brooke, I think more importantly, besides the minutia of this policy, he is ushering in a Cold War - a return to the Cold War between Washington and Havana. He made that very clear in this speech, going after the Castro government time and again, accusing the government in Havana of jailing political prisoners, of rounding up innocent people, putting them behind bars, purely for political reasons. He talked about firing squads at one point, the sounds of gunshots in the air and the ocean breeze in Havana. That is the kind of Cold War rhetoric that we have heard for decades between the United States and Cuba.
But getting back to the policy, yes, you're right, when he says that, you know, he is completely canceling the Obama administration's policy on Cuba, that's just not the case, as he acknowledged later on in his remarks. He's leaving the embassies open. People are still going to be able to travel from the United States and Cuba. There are going to be restrictions on that travel. They're not going to be able to do it as much individually. They're going to have to do it through groups.
[14:10:00] But, Brooke, you and I both know, having covered this issue for some time, Americans can get around that policy. Americans can get around the policy if their - if we were to return to one of banning people from bringing back cigars and rum and that sort of thing. So some of this is symbolic, what the Trump administration is doing.
I do think one significant change, though, is preventing U.S. companies from doing business with the Cuban military. That does have a potential to also chill some of the tourism development in Cuba because so much of it is run through a company that is essentially an outreach of the Cuban military.
But, you know, Brooke, we have to - we have to call them like we see them here. When the president talks about human rights and abuses and that sort of thing of people, he just came back from a foreign trip that began in Saudi Arabia where they still chop people's heads off. And so there is some selective outrage here when it comes to human rights and the president is making it pretty clear that when it comes to winning presidential elections every four years, this Cuban- American community down here in Miami is still vitally important. And you'll talk to Cuban-Americans who will say, this is not a monolithic community. Not everybody here in Miami is in favor of the full reversal of the Obama administration policy. That's why you're seeing the Trump administration still allowing Cuban-American to travel back and forth and send remittances, send money back to their abuelas and their relatives and so forth back in Cuba because a total reversal of this policy would even outrage I think some of the hardliners that are in this crowd today, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Right. No, and I think the bit on human rights, it's a totally fair point, Jim. Thank you.
Patrick, you're live in Cuba for us. What's the response been down there to what the president just said?
PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course it wasn't shown here on the Cuban state broadcaster, but we expect that snippets of this speech will be shown. It was a tough speech. You know, he - he called for just about everything to have to change here, that it would become a multi-party democracy, the Cuban government would both release political prisoners and send back U.S. fugitives of justice, like Assata Shakur (ph). Frankly, his speech is much, much tougher than his policy, which leaves much of the Obama opening in place. As Jim was just mentioning, the embassy, American cruise ships and airlines will continue to fly down here. Americans will still be able to come down here with some restrictions, but a lot more freedom than during the George W. Bush era. So a lot stays. It really speaks to the fact that in Miami that - a city that has its own foreign policy and dictates what the U.S. does towards Cuba, but not rolling back by half what Obama changed here in regard to Cuba, and that's because his national security team basically said that a lot of those changes make sense for the United States, to keep an embassy here and some of those other things would have just been very, very difficult to undue.
If President Trump is expecting the Cuban government to make an concessions because of these increased restrictions, I think he's going to be disappointed. Having talked to - spoken to Cuban officials after the speech, they basically shrugged and said we've been hearing this for 60 years. We are not concerned. We expect to have a response from the Cuban government within the next few hours. But right now Cuban officials who have studied very carefully what this policy actually does feels that the speech was much more tough than what his policy is going to do.
BALDWIN: OK. Patrick Oppmann, thank you, in Havana.
Let me go straight now to Phil Peters. He's standing by, former State Department official under President George H.W. Bush, and also the president of Cuba Research Center and an expert on U.S./Cuba relations.
So, Philip, you know, to Patrick's point here on tough speech, maybe not so, you know, tough in actuality in terms of rollbacks, how do you interpret this?
PHILIP PETERS, ADVISED THE CUBA WORKING GROUP IN CONGRESS: I think - well, it was a very interesting speech. I mean President Trump was clearly enjoying himself. It was an occasion where he could act through executive action and not have to involve the Congress. He was able to relive his campaign victory and he was before the only group of Latinos really that he gets support from. So he clearly enjoyed it.
Patrick is right on the money, though. When President Trump said that he's revoking President Obama's policy, he's - he's -
BALDWIN: Canceling, yes.
PETERS: Yes, he's really not. I mean a large part of the commercial opening remains in place. The travel rules remain in place. The embassy remains open. President Obama's migration policy remains in place. So he's making some changes.
The changes are important. By saying no business with military affiliated companies, he's blocking about half the tourism sector, the retail sector, he's blocking a lot of export possibilities for American businesses. So I don't agree with that, but that's certainly an impact.
But he's leaving a lot of other commercial opportunities in place and the travel restrictions, as with everything, we have to see how the regulations come out, which is going to take some time. But the travel restrictions are - there's some serious ones but a lot of what President Obama did remains in place. In fact, most of it does.
BALDWIN: OK. Philip, stay with me.
[14:15:02] Let me bring in one more voice, Patricia Mazzei. She's a political writer at "The Miami Herald." And she was there and attended the president's speech.
So, I mean, how - we heard about how this is being received in Havana, Patricia. How will people in Miami receive this?
PATRICIA MAZZEI, POLITICAL WRITER, "THE MIAMI HERALD": Well, the people who were here loved it. I mean this is the crowd that embraced Donald Trump when he was a candidate before anyone thought he was going to win. The hard life, human exiles really did not like President Obama's policy. And when he said he was canceling it, they erupted into applause, even though we know that's not exactly what he's doing. He's not doing a full reversal.
But, we should note that this is not representative of the entire Miami Cuban-American community.
MAZZEI: There is certainly a divide here with the younger folks who don't necessarily agree with what Trump has done.
BALDWIN: You know, we were talking to Jim Acosta, who covers the White House for us, and his biggest point was maybe the biggest piece of all of this is that it actually prevents U.S. companies from doing business with the Cuban military. How significant, Philip, is that?
PETERS: Well, it's significant. I mean if you just take the tourism, the hotel sector, it fences off about half of it. but apparently President Trump is not prohibiting American companies from doing business with the other half of the Cuban hotel enterprises. It blocks a whole lot of exports because the military's involved in the retail sector that would distribute those exports, it seems. But it does not block American companies from flying to Cuba. That does not block apparently the openings President Obama made that allow American companies to work with Cuba on health and biotechnology and pharmaceuticals and renewable energy and infrastructure. So a lot of these things remain in place.
Interestingly, politically, too, one thing that President Trump is leaving in place is for Cuban-Americans, they will continue to have the unlimited ability to travel to Cuba. So any - that sort of prevents - first of all, I think it's a very good thing because I don't believe in limiting anyone's travel, much less people who want to go see their mom. But what it does politically is it prevents any backlash that would affect Marco Rubio or Mario (INAUDIBLE) or Rick Scott who's running for Senate from most Cuban-Americans who travel and would not want to see those rights aggregated.
BALDWIN: OK. OK. And then so that is key, on the unlimited travel.
But, Patricia, just ending with you and then Philip hit on this, but for Americans watching thinking, hey, I want to go to Cuba for vacation, what happens now?
MAZZEI: It is going to be more difficult, undoubtedly. I mean if you are a Cuban-American, you can still go visit your family and send them money. But under Obama, people were going to these people-to-people cultural exchanges and educational trips with very little scrutiny and now they will have to go under formal loops with set itineraries and they will be subject to an audit on the back end by the federal government that's going to try to ensure that tourism isn't what's actually taking place.
BALDWIN: All right, Patricia Mazzei, Philip Peters, thank you both so very much there.
Coming up next, the White House officials are saying that President Trump is taking matters into his own hands when it comes to this Russia investigation. I think the quote was that he wants to drive it. The political fight he seemed to be picking this morning with a member of his own administration.
We'll be right back.
[14:22:16] BALDWIN: It has been exactly two years today since Donald Trump descended down that escalator at Trump Tower to his gilded lobby and announced that he would be running for president. Now, today, President Trump taking to Twitter once again to respond to news reports that he is under investigation while cryptically appearing to attacking his deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein. Here is the president's statement. Quote, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt."
Rosenstein is tasked with overseeing the Justice Department investigation into Russian meddling because the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, recused himself. For the record, a person familiar with Trump's tweet, tells us that the president was referencing news reports that he is under investigation and not actually confirming that he was personally told an investigation exists.
CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is with me now to set more of this up. And so, what are you hearing from White House officials? Is there any sort of explanation of the - the tweet storm this morning?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it's clear the White House trying to dial these tweets back, especially because when they came out this morning, it appeared that President Trump was admitting, for the first time, that he was under investigation after, of course, repeatedly stressing over the past few months that he wasn't. Well, President Trump, when asked about the tweets, he ignored reporters' questions on the Russia probe as he boarded Marine One a little bit earlier today. Reporters did try to ask whether he had confidence in Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who we know those tweets refer to, whether or not he plans to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And they also asked the president how he knows he's under investigation. But the president not answering any of those questions.
However, we have heard from White House aides. They say that these tweets are the president exemplifying that he believes that he is his own best defender, that he's taking matters into his own hands. And, yes, in fact, that tweet did refer to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
But, you know, on the investigation front, Brooke, a lot has developed. So let me take you through some of it. Mueller himself, he's hired 13 new attorneys and he plans to hire more. We also know that Vice President Mike Pence, he has hired his own lawyer. And when asked about it today, Vice President Pence describes that hiring as "routine."
We've also learned that President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has also hired his own lawyer. Plus, in just the past few minutes, our Jim Acosta has learned former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo, he's been contacted by the FBI.
And that brings me to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. He, today, is quashing reports that he plans to recuse himself from the Russia probe. It is something that Rosenstein said he would do if Mueller expands the probe into the firing of FBI Director James Comey. But, for now, the DOJ saying that if Rosenstein needs to recuse himself, he will. But for now, nothing has changed.
[14:25:09] So, Brooke, a lot swirling on the investigative front. A lot of these lawyers for not only President Trump but also other campaign aides, all of them now lawyering up as this probe barrels forward.
BALDWIN: You almost need a table of contents to keep all of this straight.
SCHNEIDER: It's a lot.
BALDWIN: Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for that.
I've got Abby Phillip standing by. She's a CNN political analyst and White House reporter for "The Washington Post." Chris Cillizza is here, CNN politics reporter and editor at large. Brian Stelter's with me here in New York, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable sources."
So, Chris Cillizza, to you first.
BALDWIN: The tweet storm, you know, the ones referring to "The Washington Post" report that he's under investigation. You know, he wants the one to drive this. He wants to be the one to defend himself. Is he the best person to deliver these messages?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, he certainly thinks so and that's all the opinion that matters, Brooke. It's a form of one person making those calls. I - you showed that video of him coming down the escalator. I remember watching it two years ago to the day.
BALDWIN: Two years ago.
CILLIZZA: It makes me feel older, number one. But also, I think today is a perfect encapsulation of what the two years of Donald Trump has been, tweets that are not helping his cause, things that seem contradictory. He goes out and gives a speech that he clearly was having a good time with. Attacking Hillary Clinton less than 24 hours ago. Being under investigation, according to "The Washington Post," seeming to confirm it but then sources saying, no, well, he wasn't told he was under investigation.
I mean, this is Trumpism. This is sort of the carrying on carnival that follows what this guy does. You would have never thought, given what we knew about him June 16, 2016, we get to June 16, 2017, and he would be president of the United States. But today is indicative of virtually every one of the 150 days almost that he's been president. He kind of does what he wants. His aides try to clean it up and then he goes and does what he wants again. It's very hard to maintain a message and very hard to maintain momentum for any policy. And I think his lack of legislative accomplishments, as well as his poll numbers, which are very bad, particularly for this time in a tenure in the White House, suggests that what worked in the campaign isn't working in the White House.
BALDWIN: Brian, you say we're all hanging on by a tweet?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: It sure feels that way. Instead of marking the two-year anniversary with a celebratory tweet about going down the escalator, sort of reminiscing, he was posting about this investigation. As we've heard now, sources trying to play cleanup saying he doesn't actually know if he's under investigation. He's only reacting to the TV coverage. But reacting to the TV coverage that is very much, as Chris was saying, that's part of Trumpism.
I think for all of the talk about division this week, about divisions in the country, the country is mostly united on this one thing, and that is they wish the president won't post these tweets, wouldn't get distracted, wouldn't react to TV coverage. The polls have shown that most of his supporters don't really appreciate the tweeting, don't really want him to be positing this kind of stuff. And, clearly, some of his own aides and lawyers don't want him to. So it's notable to me that he posted on Twitter saying the media doesn't want me tweeting anymore. Actually, I think journalists do. I think journalists appreciate that real-time information about what he's thinking.
BALDWIN: Well, that's how we can hear from him. He's not doing these sit-downs.
STELTER: Totally. But I think most voters are tired of it.
BALDWIN: So let me read a tweet, Abby, for you. You know, the, "I'm being investigated for firing the FBI director by the man who told me to fire the FBI director. Witch hunt." I mean, presumably, he is talking about, you know, Rod Rosenstein. And so if he does and I know that they're trying to quash these reports, but, i mean, there is this real potential that Rosenstein then would have to be in a position where he has to recuse himself as well.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And, you know, one of the interesting and really puzzling ways in which they're trying to quash this narrative about the president potentially confirming the story is by calling them illegal leaks. Well, if they're leaks, then you're sort of implying that they're true. They can't be false and also be leaks at the same time. So -
PHILLIP: It kind of exemplifies how these tweets have really put Trump's White House and his legal team in a really tough spot where they're forced to tie themselves into pretzels to explain this phenomenon, explain what he's talking about, not to mention that Rod Rosenstein isn't actually the one who is investigating Trump. Bob Mueller is. And Rosenstein is Mueller's boss, but he - that investigation that the special counsel is doing is independent. They have the leeway to go where it needs to go. And Rod Rosenstein has already said that he's not going to get in the middle of it unless he has good cause. So the president is kind of doing his own thing in the interest of being in control of the situation, but actually is spinning things well out of control of his lawyers and his White House.
[14:30:04] BALDWIN: Go ahead, Brian.
STELTER: But there might be a method, though, behind this. he may be laying the groundwork for a firing of Mueller or Rosenstein or someone else by sowing these kinds of seeds, by calling it a witch hunt over and over again. And --