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Trump on Fate of Bannon: "I Like Steve But"; Spicer on Hitler Comment: "I've Let the President Down"; United Airlines' CEO Apologizing Again, Making Promises; Amb. Nikki Haley Speaks at U.N. Security Council. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired April 12, 2017 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:34:21] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: The man "Time" magazine recently pointed to as the most powerful man in the world may be no longer that. More questions than answers after President Trump's interview with "The New York Post." It was an interview that even caught the people in the White House by surprise. The president telling the paper this about the infighting between Chief Bannon, his chief strategist, and his son-in-law and top advisor, Jared Kushner. Quote, "I like Steve, but you have to realize that he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all of the Senators and all the governors and I didn't know Steve. I'm my own strategist." Adding, "Steve is a good guy but I told them to straighten it out or I will."

If the ball is in Steve Bannon's court, what does that mean?

With me now, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist and Paul Begala; CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Kevin Madden; and senior political analyst and senior congressional correspondent for "The Washington Examiner," David Drucker.

Paul, first to you.

If President Bill Clinton was saying this about you in "The New York Post," what would you be thinking right now?

[11:35:24] PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would be thinking I better pack my bags. As a White House veteran, we never had infighting like this.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: You had a lot of infighting though.

BEGALA: Yeah, but nothing like this, nor did Bush or other White Houses I've watched. I would say, Mr. President, be very careful who you hire, but be even more careful about who you fire. There's two kinds of White House aides. Those who are there because of the relationship with the president. Jared Kushner is the ultimate example of that. The other kinds is those who are there because represent a constituency you can't survive without. That's Steve Bannon. It's not just Steve Bannon. It's what he represents. He is, of course, a former publisher of "Breitbart," represents the Alt-Right or the nationalist right and whatever you want to call them, and that's a powerful constituency. Not if, when, Donald Trump fires him, there will be hell to pay. I said this when he fired Mike Flynn. Be careful what you do here because Flynn knows where all of the bodies are buried. So does Bannon. He's only going to be a staffer for Trump as long as Trump has him there, but he could be an enemy for life.

BOLDUAN: Interesting point.

But, Kevin, there's also this fascinating element that comes out of this interview, how Trump and his White House very quickly can distance themselves from almost everyone if they need to. You have Paul Manafort who definitely -- who was campaign chairman, and he had a limited role, as they said, and Michael Flynn, who didn't have a big role, he was a volunteer for the campaign, even though he became national security adviser. Now you have Steve Bannon, and Trump says he didn't know him well and he came on just at the end. That is wild. Donald Trump name-checked Steve Bannon in his victory speech that night. What does that tell you?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's an indication of why they oftentimes have a credibility problem. If you didn't know him that well and he was only a small part of your campaign, why is he your chief strategist, working across the hall from the chief of staff in the White House. So that's a problem.

But look, this is a president and this is a White House that communicates through the media. So the president is sending a very clear message to his staff, through "The New York Post" that he's not happy with the current situation.

And remember, we have talked a lot about Donald Trump's loyalty in the past. Donald Trump is loyal to those who are loyal to his best interests. And right now, I think this message that he's sending is he feels that Steve Bannon is not being loyal to Donald Trump's best interest. And if he's not, he's going to have problems, and he's done that through the media.

BOLDUAN: And if those best interests change, you better change along with them.

You were talking about speaking to his staff through the media. Let's talk about speaking to the media, full stop. Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, David, apologizing again today for his remarks yesterday about the chemical attack and Hitler. Listen to Sean Spicer from this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Your job as the spokesperson is to help amplify the president's actions and accomplishments, and I think he's had an unbelievable successful couple of week. And when you're distracting from that message of accomplishment, and your job is to be the exact opposite, on a professional level, it's disappointing because I think I've let the president down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And this is the third time -- multiple times now that Sean has come out to apologize in various different ways about this. He genuinely does seem apologetic.

But regardless of that, there have been questions about his credibility up to this point, David. How does he make up for this going forward?

DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think questions about Sean's credibility are there because there are questions about his boss' credibility, and your job as the press secretary is to speak on behalf of your boss. You're not some neutral player there to relay information to the media and the press. I know we like to think of government as being accountable to the American people through the press, but the truth is when you work for a politician, and especially the president of the United States, you are there on behalf of him. So to the extent that Sean gets himself in hot water from time to time -- and I've known him for a long time and he's a straight shooter, and he clearly didn't mean what he said yesterday. I think that's because he's reflecting his boss' desire to present everything as unprecedented and never been done before, and I think, frankly, they were working too hard to try and justify action in Syria. Look, Assad is a butcher. We've known this for a long time. They took limited action to send a message there. Secretary Mattis, I think explained it very well yesterday. I don't think Sean had to try so hard to justify it. But I think that's an outgrowth of the president of the United States always feeling the need to justify things and present them as unprecedented and having never been done before. And when you're trying to speak on behalf of somebody like that, you will get yourself in hot water from time to time.

[11:40:06] BOLDUAN: I know, Paul Begala, you said very clearly multiple times last night, you said you think this is the job.

Kevin Madden, I want your take on it. Do you think this is a job ender for Sean Spicer? Because he talked about being a distraction to the president. Often, that's the preamble when folks say, because I've become a distraction, I will step aside. Do you think he's a liability now?

MADDEN: No, I don't believe it's a career ender for him or it will hurt him or make him lose his job. I think, to David's point, look, even the most buttoned down, disciplined White House with a harmonious working relationship behind closed doors has a hard time dealing with the press. So I think this is often times a reflection of the acrimonious nature of some of the relationships behind closed doors and some of the some of the undisciplined nature of how this White House runs. So I think Sean has a very tough job, and he has to continue to go out there. And, again, remember that he's not the principal. His job is to focus on explaining exactly what the president is thinking and what -- and why he's making the certain decisions that he's making, and leave it at that. I think one of the big problems is, too, that he's developed a level of notoriety that I think is hurting his ability to do his job.

BOLDUAN: When folks are asking me, does Sean Spicer really refer to himself as Spicey, in relation to "SNL," and I have to say, no, he doesn't, then, yes, you've gained notoriety.

Paul, Kevin, David, thank you all very much. Great to see you all. Thank you.

DRUCKER: Great to be with you.

MADDEN: Thanks a lot.

BOLDUAN: Any moment now, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, is set to speak live at the U.N. You are looking at live pictures of the U.N. right now, Security Council meeting. It comes after, of course, Ambassador Haley said she believes Russia knew about the chemical attack in Syria before it happened. Said that to CNN. We will bring you her comments live when they happen.

Plus this, an apology and a promise from the CEO of United Airlines now after this viral -- violent video went viral. But is it too little too late? And where is the passenger who was dragged away? What is he saying now? New details ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:46:31] BOLDUAN: This morning, United Airlines' CEO is apologizing again, promising the airline will review its policies, and law enforcement officers will never be allowed to haul paying passengers off their planes again. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSCAR MUNOZ, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: It's not so much what I thought, it's what I felt. Probably the word shame comes to mind. You know, as I think about our business and our people, the first thing I think that's important to say is to apologize to Dr. Dao, his family, the passengers on that flight, our customers and our employees. That is not who our family at United is. And you saw us at a bad moment. And this can never, will never happen again on a United Airlines flight. That's my premise and that's my promise. The use of law enforcement aboard an aircraft has to be looked at very carefully. They're clearly there for a purpose of safety, and we want to make sure that they protect us, but for other reasons, I think that's a policy that we have to absolutely look at.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: In the future, if no one voluntarily decides to leave a plane based on the amount of money that United is offering, will United --

(CROSSTALK)

MUNOZ: We're not going to put a law enforcement official to take them off.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A law enforcement official will never come on one of your plane again?

MUNOZ: To remove a booked, paid, seating passenger, we can't do that. I have reached out to him, and I left a message, and our team has tried to reach him on several occasions, and we've not been able to contact him directly. I do look forward to a time when I can, as much as I'm able to, apologize directly to him for what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Some are calling for you to resign. Have you considered that option?

MUNOZ: No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The mea culpa now three days after this video, of course, sparked outrage far and wide. What does it mean now?

Let me bring in Richard Quest, editor-at-large of "CNN Money" and host of CNN's "Quest Means Business."

Richard, this became a huge public relations problem. But not just that. It became a business problem for United. How bad is it?

RICHARD QUESTION, CNN MONEY EDITOR-AT-LARGE & CNN HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: Initially, the stock was down 4 percent and it rallied back up and closed off 1 percent yesterday. But what you just witnessed is what I would describe as leadership. And, you know, Oscar Munoz has defended why he didn't do this earlier. He said he was getting the facts together, which seems fairly reasonable, but in the last 24 hours, he's done exactly what you would expect the chief executive to do. Time and again, he said we take responsibility. And in this morning's interview on "Good Morning, America," he said it's up to me to put this right. It stops with me. And I think that this is a significant move at a time when many CEOs shun off what needs to be done. They blame other people on the way, as he did earlier, as he suggested earlier --

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Richard, I have to cut you off. I'm so sorry, Richard.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: I have to head over to the U.N.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaking now, making comments on Russia as the Security Council considers a resolution condemning the chemical attack last week in Syria. Listen in.

[11:49:49] NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. -- terrorized his own people with one of the world's most horrific weapons. Assad's murderous attack shook every one of us to our core. It once again showed the world that Assad is not a partner for peace. It showed what happens when Assad's allies, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, decide to lend their support to a barbaric regime, instead of joining the world to stop it. When Assad's planes dropped chemical weapons, his regime violated a

resolution from this very council and the Chemical Weapons Convention. Assad mocked every assurance the Russians gave us that there were no chemical weapons in Syria. The United States was compelled to act. We will not allow the use of chemical weapons to go unanswered. We are not going to look the other way. We are watching the regime's actions carefully.

To my colleagues from Russia, you are isolating yourselves from the international community every time one of Assad's planes drop another barrel bomb on civilians and every time Assad tries to starve another community to death. People, not just in the West, but across the Middle East and the world are speaking out against Assad's brutality. It is long past time for Russia to stop covering for Assad. It is long past time for Russia to push seriously for peace and not continue to be part of the problem.

The road to peace is long. We won't get a political solution overnight. But we can start by working together to actually deescalate the conflict. For Russia, getting serious about peace starts by fulfilling its commitment to get chemical weapons out of Syria. We urge Russia to use its influence to make Assad actually live up to his international obligations. That means giving investigators, who are already mandated through existing mechanisms, full access to the bases where the regime launched the chemical weapons attacks and access to anyone who might have been involved. Russia talks about its commitment to a political solution. They must commit to the Geneva talks. Now is the time Russia needs to show the world whether they genuinely want to be a part of the political process. We need to see a real cease-fire on the ground. We need to see a credible, political process through which Syrians can chart their future. We need to see Russia choose to side with the civilized world over an Assad government that brutally terrorizes its own people. The United States is ready to do our part. Russia, too, needs to do its part.

Getting serious about peace also means we have to be honest about Iran's role in Syria. Iran is Assad's chief accomplice in the regime's horrific acts, standing next to Assad's generals or Iranian advisers whispering in their ears for giving orders. Standing next to Assad's soldiers are Hezbollah militias with weapons courtesy of Iran and the power to overrule the Syrian military. Iran is dumping fuel on the flames of this war in Syria so it can expand its own reach. This counsel needs to bring attention to Iran's barbaric acts in Syria. We need to collectively demand that Iran stop. We need to make sure Iran cannot use Syria as a base to keep terrorizing the Syrian people in the entire region.

This counsel needs to be serious in Syria, too. Month after month, we repeat the same points in this chamber. We all say there's no military solution to this conflict. But look at what actually happens on the ground. This council's relevance takes action to condemn those responsible for violence and hold them accountable for defying this council's demand. This council should not just say it's for a political solution, but actively pressure the parties to prove it. That means adopting resolutions that say what we mean. Resolutions that we are all willing to uphold.

So what happens next in Syria depends on what all parties choose to do. For our part, the United States will continue to use influence over any party to push for peace. We will encourage our allies to use their influence on any and all opposition groups, too. We will not support a process that gives cover to Assad while he stalls for time and his forces slaughter the Syrian people. And as we showed last week, we will not stand for continued use of chemical weapons. There are actions by the Assad regime that we simply won't tolerate.

The United States firmly believes that a political process can work despite the odds. We remain committed to the Geneva process. We are ready to throw our weight and resources behind diplomacy. But our commitment is not enough. The United States is looking for partners who are serious about using their influence over the Assad regime and towards defeating ISIS. Every country needs to do its part. All of us must commit, in not just words, but also actions towards the same goal, peace in Syria.

Thank you.

[11:55:31] BOLDUAN: All right. Very strong words about Assad, Syria, very strong words to Russia and Iran, as well, coming from the U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley right there, at the Security Council meeting.

We'll talk about this. CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is joining me, as well as CNN political director, David Chalian.

Elise, you hear the passion in her words, specifically to Russia, you are isolating yourselves from the international community every time Assad drops another barrel-bomb on his people. Your take on this?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. She said Russia has to choose to side with Assad or to side with the civilized world. That is really the message of this administration, the message that Secretary of State Tillerson is taking to Moscow and really the message of the whole international community in the wake of this gas attack, which is Russia now has to realize that more than ever before, its support for the Assad regime is a liability. That Russia's isolation that it really wanted to end after all these years in Ukraine and the support of Syria, were only continuing to deepen. That the U.S. has shown that it will strike in Syria, if it needs to. That there is a new way of looking at Russia. You know, for years, Secretary of State John Kerry would negotiate with the Russians and he would say, look, you know, I can only -- all I really have are my words because I have no leverage. My diplomacy is not backed by U.S. military force. But now the international community has a little bit of leverage from this strike that President Trump decided to do last week. And that is really the whole exercise here at the U.N. Security Council. Everybody knows that Russia is going to veto this resolution. It has veto power as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. This is an effort to name and shame Russia, to put the ball squarely in Russia's court. And when Nikki Haley says Russia needs to choose whether to side with Assad or the civilized world, that's a very important message. We'll see.

You know, President Putin has already said his foreign minister is going to meet with the ministers of Syria and Iran later in the week. So you really have the two camps, the international community, the Western world and the civilizations, and Russia, Syria and Iran on the other side.

BOLDUAN: And, David, it is striking how Nikki Haley has not just from the post at the U.N., but in interviews outside of it, has used such stronger language. It is so much more critical and direct in pointing the finger and staring down Russia than we hear from President Trump on this.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICS DIRECTOR: Yes, Kate. I think that is totally right. She says a lot more like John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, than she does her boss, Donald Trump. Although clearly, Donald Trump, maybe not rhetorically yet, but we have heard from his actions and his emissaries, is beginning quite clearly to change dramatically on what he thought was going to be an opportunity to warm relations with Russia. That doesn't seem to be the case at all right now.

BOLDUAN: And it is -- I mean, it was not so long ago, David, and everyone who follows the campaign will remember, that Donald Trump was talking about Russia and getting along with Russia. There's sound bite after sound bite after sound bite from the campaign. Does it surprise you how quickly we're seeing a shift from the president in word and through the words of his advisers on Russia?

CHALIAN: It doesn't surprise me to watch Donald Trump change on a dime and have an emotional reaction to something as he did to the attack, because I think we have seen Donald Trump act that way, Kate. But you are right, there's so many quotes of his throughout the campaign. In fact, he started to have an influence on Putin's poll numbers among Republicans here at home. He was getting more popular because Donald Trump was talking him up so much. Again, that's not the case over the last week.

BOLDUAN: So when it comes to this, though, does Donald Trump deserve -- does President Trump deserve credit for being flexible on this topic, David?

CHALIAN: I mean, I don't know if it's his credit. It is what it is. He's being more flexible on this topic.

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: I don't know if he deserves credit or blame. That's just the reality of where we are.

BOLDUAN: What do these words mean and what do they mean for Russia? Will they move Russia? That is the big question on the table.

Great to see you guys. Thanks so much.

Thanks for joining us AT THIS HOUR. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

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