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Trump Retweets Anti-Muslim Videos; Lauer Fired from NBC; Significance of Women Coming Forward; ; Trump Tax Talk In Missouri. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired November 29, 2017 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Wherever you are from around the world, thanks very much for joining us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: President Trump about to be wheels up right now, going to the Midwest to deliver his message on the Republican tax reform plan.
But instead of Trumpeting the tax plan and the success at rallying Republicans in the U.S. Senate or talking at length about real plans to deal with the latest missile launch from North Korea, the president, and you see him there boarding Air Force One right now, is inflaming emotions on Twitter.
Forget the repeated attacks on CNN, forget the president taking shots at NBC, seemingly gloating over the firing of Matt Lauer.
The president of the United States is retweeting very disturbing anti- Muslim videos from a highly-controversial and an indefensible source. And it's raising all sorts of very serious questions about the president.
Our Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is over at the White House. Our CNN International Correspondent is monitoring all of this in London. Phil Black is there.
Let's start with Jim over at the White House. And we're seeing pictures of Air Force One getting ready to take the president and his entourage to Missouri for a big speech on taxes.
The last couple of times the president left the White House for such a trip, he stopped on his way on the south lawn before boarding Marine One to take questions from reporters. This time, silence, nothing. There have been some very disturbing tweets this morning.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. All we could see was the president mouth the words merry Christmas to reporters, as he departed the White House for this tax reform speech down in Missouri later today.
The theme of the day for the White House is supposed to be tax reform. But, of course, here in Washington, Wolf, it feels like Groundhog Day because we're all talking about the president's controversial and questionable use of social media earlier this morning.
This time, it was the president's use of Twitter and retweeting those very inflammatory videos from the far-right British organization, Britain First.
They are essentially anti-Muslim videos that, purportedly show, they're not verified, but reportedly show Muslims causing harm to people over in Great Britain and other parts of western Europe.
Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, she was asked about this earlier this morning by reporters. Here's what she had to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, U.S. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think his goal is to promote strong borders and strong national security. And I think that is, again, something that is no secret to anyone that that's a big focus of this president and a big focus of this administration.
But whether it's a real video, the threat is real. And that is what the president is talking about. That's what the president is focused on is dealing with those real threats. And those are real, no matter how you look at it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, it doesn't matter if it's a fake video?
SANDERS: Look, I'm not talking about the nature of the video. I think you're focusing on the wrong thing. The threat is real. And that's what the president is talking about.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ACOSTA: So, Wolf, a very critical point there was raised in that Q and A with Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary. She was asked whether or not the president even knew that these videos were real before he retweeted them? She did not answer that question. She only said that the threat is real, regardless of whether the video is real.
Wolf, I know we're banging up against decades of restraint in covering the president. That is a part of the tradition of covering the White House. It's hard to argue he was doing anything other than race- baiting when he was on the Internet earlier this morning.
BLITZER: Yes, it's still hard to believe that he wouldn't have his national security council, his advisers check out those videos, very controversial anti-Muslim videos, before he would retweet them to simply see if they were legitimate.
And this is what we've seen, Jim, from the president over the past three days alone. He made that Pocahontas comment, once again, involving Senator Elizabeth Warren during a ceremony honoring native American Navajo code talkers, World War II heroes. He did that on Tuesday. He attacked African-American athletes over the "Anthem" protests, railed against illegal immigrants, spoke about his own birther claims that former President Obama was born in Kenya. Today, the anti-Muslim videos.
What happened to the assumption that bringing in General John Kelly as the White House chief of staff would put all of this to an end?
ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. And I tried to ask General Kelly, the White House Chief of Staff, as he was leaving with the president. Did he check the videos before the president posted them? Of course, he didn't respond to that.
But, again, Wolf, this goes back to the question here at the White House, why is it necessary for us to ask whether or not the White House chief of staff is keeping an eye on the president and his social media habits, when the president, himself, vowed to the American people that he would be a president for all people. That he would be a presidential commander-in-chief.
[13:05:15] If you look at that list that you just laid out a few moments ago, Wolf, it is hard to wrap your hands around the fact that it's only Wednesday. And he's offended nearly every minority or religious group that you can possibly offend here in the United States.
And it just raises the question, for this president, and it's a question that is almost raised every day, who is left for him to offend?
And it's just another example of how this White House really has to pay more attention to what's happening inside the Oval Office with the president of the United States behaving in this fashion and spending less time honing its message, trying to get legislation passed.
Here, you have the president taking off right now on Air Force One for this speech down in Missouri. That was designed to sell the GOP tax plan.
And, of course, as Republicans up on Capitol Hill know, all we're talking about this morning is the president's very questionable, very controversial, very racially tinged use of social media earlier this morning.
It is -- it is like Groundhog Day because it is literally what we wake up to and come to the White House to expect every day here at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Wolf. It is -- it is basically what happens every day here.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure his own advisers are wondering what's going on as well.
Let's go to London. Phil, the president retweeted these anti-Muslim videos, videos that are very disturbing. Talk about the source of these videos, the source being where you are in Britain. And what you're hearing about the president's retweets. There is some angry reaction coming in from the British government.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed, Wolf, that's right. The tweets originally came from Britain first, as Jim was saying.
This is a group, as members will tell you, they are Christian patriots. But there is a much more wildly-held view that this is a group of people who are divisive, racist, and really quite extreme in the way they go about trying to achieve their agenda.
They believe that British people, this country's traditional values, that these are all under threat by immigration and, in particular, by the Islamic faith. They fear, they say, the Islamification of this country.
And so, that is why they contest elections, not very successfully. But that is also why they go out onto the streets and confront Muslims in very aggressive provocative ways.
And it is for this, the leadership of this group, including the woman who originally tweeted these videos, has -- they have been charged and prosecuted for the hate speech and these sorts of things.
So, today, that organization is thrilled to have received this sort of publicity, this sort of amplification of their views.
But British politicians here are much more concerned, including the British prime minister, Theresa May, who has said that Donald Trump was wrong to spread these videos, these messages in this way, because there is an understanding here, in Britain, that far right groups, you can't flirt with them. You can't encourage them. You can't give them that sort of voice.
Remember, it was only last year that a British politician, by the name of Jo Cox, was murdered on the streets by, really, a far-right terrorist who screamed, among other things, Britain first, as he shot and stabbed her repeatedly.
So, there is a great deal of concern, a great deal of outrage in this country today, calling on the government to, really, condemn Donald Trump for this move.
And it puts the British government in a very difficult position, because Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has worked very hard to try and maintain a close, constructive working relationship with America's president. That's not always been popular here.
And now, these tweets will make it even harder for her to justify that with the British public -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly will. I wonder if the president of the United States will be phoning the British prime minister and apologizing for what he has done. I suspect the answer is no.
All right, Phil Black in London, thank you. Jim Acosta at the White House, we'll get back to you. Stand by. Let's bring in our panel. Shannon Pettypiece is the White House reporter for Bloomberg News. David Gregory is with us. And Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Analyst.
Gloria, these tweets, these retweets I should say, are having a very, very serious impact on the president's image, not only in Britain, but around the world, especially at a time when the U.S. needs support from Muslim-majority countries, friendly countries in the Middle east and elsewhere.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, you know, Jeremy Corbyn, who's the leader of the opposition labor party in Britain, today called the retweet abhorrent, dangerous and a threat to our society. He's talking about the president of the United States.
I mean, we have to take a step back. We look at everything that's happened this week that the president's tweeted about. It's only Wednesday.
He had a big win yesterday in Congress, getting his tax reform bill, you know, out of committee. He may be on the precipice of a victory on a very important piece of legislation for him later this week.
[13:10:10] And, instead, we, and other people around the world, are all sitting here trying to decipher what is going on in his mind and why he is doing these things.
What are his motives? Why did he decide to tweet this today? Is it because this is may -- this is coming up before the Supreme Court? I mean, maybe, if you want to be rational, you could --
BLITZER: The travel ban you mean?
BORGER: The travel ban. You could -- you could say maybe that's why he was doing it.
We know why he tweeted about NBC, because he doesn't like the mainstream media, including us. But we're on the verge of something that could be very dangerous in North Korea and why is he doing this?
Why is he inciting this kind of discussion and potentially even violence, rather than trying to solve our problems?
BLITZER: Yes. And the council of American Islamic relations -- on American Islamic relations, David, they said these tweets you would expect to see on virulent anti-Muslim hate sites, not on the Twitter feed of the president of the United States.
So, how damaging is this to U.S. relations with friendly Muslim- majority countries, whether in the middle east or elsewhere?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's very damaging. I think -- because the president who finds himself -- again and again puts himself in a position to act like a crank, like someone who's just ranting, it's not in the service of anything larger other than bigotry. I mean, there's not even a policy point behind it. Even the contrast to North Korea where he talked about they'll be fire and fury has now been tempered into, we'll take care of it. There's a sanctions protocol. There's actually some strategy in place.
Again, this is just not in service of anything larger. This is a president who apparently doesn't listen to anybody around him, because we know some of the people around him would not, in advance, say, oh, yes, that's a good idea to forward that kind of thing.
It's toxic. It's toxic to his standing in the country. It's toxic to America's standing in the rest of the world. And he is not thinking about what comes next. Clearly, he's not thinking down the road.
And, by the way, supporters of the president who would say, oh, you know, you and the media, you'll harp on these things day in and day out. It just shows the patent unfairness. This is scrutinizing the president's words on a daily basis.
BLITZER: You know, Shannon, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, she, as we heard in Jim's report, defended the president, saying it doesn't matter if those videos that he retweeted, the anti- Muslim videos, were real, because he's trying to address real threats.
And, as you know, it comes at the same time "The New York Times" is reporting he's, once again, reviving the birther claims, the birther issue, involving former President Obama. He's raising questions about whether the "Access Hollywood" videotape was authentic or if the voice was not really his. What do you -- how do you see all this?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, what's surprising, I thought, was all this talk of fake news in the same morning.
And then, here's the, well, who really knows if they're real or not? Maybe these are fake videos. But it's a real issue, you know, amid all of this cry about, quote, unquote, "fake news" they seem to be so concerned about.
And, I mean, I guess, obviously, the other point is, if you wanted to raise issues of concerns of border security, you could've done that in so many other ways than retweeting an unverified video from a militant fringe British group.
So, I mean, there's many, many odd ways you can dissect that statement. But, I mean, our analysis that we did at Bloomberg recently showed he's actually tweeting more. The president is tweeting more, not less.
So, to the point of, isn't Kelly supposed to be moderating him? Everybody in his entire universal has told him to stop tweeting, from his friends to his advisers to his supporters. You know, it's unanimously agreed upon that he's even tweeting more.
It's not something he's going to stop. He apparently thinks it's working for him in some way or it's almost like a compulsion maybe. It's -- I know we've spent a lot of time psychoanalyzing these tweets. And I suppose he's the only one who knows.
BLITZER: It comes at a time, Gloria, when, as you point out, there is this case before the U.S. Supreme Court --
BLITZER: -- on the travel ban, largely affecting Muslim-majority countries. And all of this anti-Muslim attitude sort of reminded me of what he said on CNN. During the campaign, he told Anderson Cooper, in March of last year, this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Islam hates us. There's something there. There's a tremendous hatred there. There's a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There is an unbelievable hatred of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Those where is pretty strong words, obviously. You know, and it comes at a time --
BORGER: I think he believed it.
BLITZER: -- when, you know, a great friend of the United States, King Abdullah of Jordan, he's here in Washington right now. He's a Muslim.
[13:15:02] And if he sees what's going on -- Jordan is a very close friend of the United States. I don't know why, but the president decided not to meet with King Abdullah while he was here in Washington. Did meet with Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Tillerson and others. But you would think the president of the United States would want to meet with King Abdullah while he is in Washington, who's taken in a million Syrian refugees in Jordan and doing a lot of important work in the region.
BORGER: And he's praised him. He has praised him the last time he saw him.
BLITZER: He's a great friend of the United States.
BORGER: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: But when -- I can only imagine what King Abdullah and others think when they hear words like this coming out of the president about their religion.
BORGER: Not only when they hear words. But when the president retweets this video and you hear his press secretary do this double speak and say, it doesn't matter -- basically it doesn't matter whether it's authentic because the threat is real. I mean, she the downplayed the questions about whether the video was accurate, whether, you know, whether the perpetrator was actually Muslim or not, downplayed all of that and preferred to go to the fact that the threat is real. How would you take it if you were Abdullah? It is -- it's -- I would -- I would say it was shocking, but I guess it isn't shocking anymore. But this kind of double speak --
GREGORY: Well, but that -- but that just shows -- I mean people around him are willing to be compromised by him as well.
BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.
GREGORY: And they're just not serious people who are handling themselves that way.
But I do think, Wolf, some of this conversation focuses on the idea of, well, there must be some consequence to all of this.
GREGORY: And we may yet see that. But Donald Trump, as president, feels vindicated by the fact that he has proved impervious to what has felled other public figures, other political figures, and he keeps moving on to this same beat because he feels like it's working for him. And he won't listen to anybody else.
Whether it's taking on North Korea in the way he has. Maybe he gets a break-through the previous administrations have not had. That sound bite to Anderson Cooper sounds like what it is, incredibly ignorant. But what he's actually saying, if you want to interpret him, is that radical Islam, you know, post, you know, 1979 has developed this hatred for the west and on and on. But that's the level of nuance that he brings to these policy discussions, which is none at all. And there's a lot of people who will say right, right on. We should have a president who talks that way, even if it sounds as bigoted as that.
BLITZER: All right, everybody stand by because there's much more going on.
We're following several breaking stories right now. It's a very busy Wednesday for us.
Matt Lauer fired from NBC for alleged sexual misconduct. The network made the announcement just a few hours ago. Our Brian Stelter's standing by. He's got new information.
And later, Donald Trump Jr., the latest to be called up to Capitol Hill in the ever expanding probe into possible contacts between Russians and the Trump presidential campaign.
Lots going on. We'll be right back.
[13:22:15] BLITZER: Matt Lauer is out at the "Today" show, fired for what NBC calls inappropriate sexual behavior. The network says it made the decision to fire Lauer after receiving a detailed complaint from one of Lauer's colleagues. NBC also says it has reason to believe it was not an isolated incident.
Here's how Lauer's co-hosts broke the news to viewers this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, CO-HOST, NBC'S "TODAY" SHOW: You know, for the moment all we can say is that we are heartbroken. I'm heartbroken for Matt. He is my dear, dear friend and my partner. And he is beloved by many, many people here. And I'm heartbroken for the brave colleague who came forward to tell her story and any other women who have their own stories to tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's senior media correspondent, host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter is joining us.
Brian, you've got more details about Lauer's firing. What are you learning?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This was something that was prompted by a complaint to HR on Monday night. A female NBC employee said that this inappropriate behavior began when she and Lauer were both in Russia for the Winter Olympics in 2014. She told NBC that the inappropriate behavior continued after the Olympics.
And apparently she had a very convincing complaint because within 24 hours NBC decided to fire Lauer. The decision was told to him last night. It was told to his colleagues this morning. And what we see there from Savannah Guthrie in that video clip is the raw emotion of just finding out that her co-host has been terminated.
Lauer, for 20 years, was the face of the "Today" show, the cornerstone of the "Today" show. He had a contract worth tens of millions of dollars a year because the show was so profitable and so many millions of viewers looked forward to starting their day with him. But we now see all of that tumbling down.
And it's not just because of the one compliant on Monday night, Wolf. It's also because "The New York Times" and "Variety" magazine have been doing reporting about Lauer's past, speaking with other potential accusers. Now, those stories have not come out yet. We don't know the details of the allegations. But NBC was aware those stories were in the works and this firing was in some ways a way to get ahead of what might be coming out next.
BLITZER: Pretty shocking stuff.
All right, Brian, thank you very, very much.
Gloria and Shannon are still with us.
Gloria, how significant is this?
BORGER: Look, I think what you have seen over the last weeks, or since the Harvey Weinstein stories, are a lot of powerful men who have taken a very big, hard and dramatic fall. And I think what it means is that there is a reckoning going on in this country. And that bad behavior will not be tolerated. And that women, who have been quiet for a very long time, have finally decided that they will be protected if they actually tell their stories, and if they tell their stories accurately, and that they are -- their -- you know, there are numbers of them so they feel a little more secure in that sense.
[13:25:09] And they also feel, I think, that there is more of a willingness to believe them than there ever was in the past. And so if they speak truth to power now, they really have a sense that they will be listened to in the way that they would want without fearing for their livelihood, which was always a problem in the past.
So I think it's not just in media and not just in entertainment. I think it's in corporate America. And, you know, I hope it will -- you know, I hope it will -- it will spread. But it doesn't come without a lot of pain on all sides of this.
PETTYPIECE: To your point, I hope that it spreads.
I mean wonder right now, we see high profile people in politics and media stepping out. But what I really wonder and think about is, you know, when does this get to the point of the retail worker, the waitress, the -- you know, the everyday people out there who, you know, are suffering with this who don't have the type of voice, who maybe don't have the platform to get attention because it's not a high profile figure. It's the nightshift manager. And so maybe it will start trickling down to that level.
But -- and I also do find it surprising the difference on the political side, where members of Congress have been able to hang on so far. We'll see what happens. Where in the corporate world, in the media and Hollywood, you know, it's swift and it's a quick, brutal punishment.
BORGER: You know, also, you have Donald Trump tweeting about this this morning because he can tweet about the mainstream media and he doesn't like NBC, just like he doesn't like us, as I was saying earlier. But it's as if he believes that he's got this bullet proof vest about him. And he is tweeting about this and seems to forget that, in fact, he was accused of sexual impropriety by more than a dozen women during the campaign. And, yes, he got elected. And we all understand that. But he is somebody who has denied those charges. But I'm wondering now whether in his own case, and the fact that he's out there being a pundit on this stuff, whether he's going to have to deal with this again personally. I mean we -- you know, we just don't know. But it is not as if he comes into this from a vacuum. He doesn't.
BLITZER: There's more -- more developments we're watching, as well.
Gloria, Shannon, stand by.
We're continuing our special coverage, including this. President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., now called to Capitol Hill, set to meet with lawmakers up in Congress about his contacts with Russians last year. We have details.
Much more right after this.