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Trump Backs Out of Iran Nuclear Deal. Aired 11-12p ET
Aired May 8, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ISHA SESAY, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: You're watching a special edition of CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: At this hour what's next to the Iran nuclear deal now that the US President has made good on a campaign promise and scrapped the agreement. Could this deal actually survive without the US?
SESAY: And is a nuclear free Iran really what's motivating Mr. Trump's decision or is it something more political?
VAUSE: Also, the US Secretary of State is heading back to North Korea ahead of an expensive summer between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, but could pulling out of the Iran deal cause a credibility crisis for the US that will hurt big league with Pyongyang?
SESAY: Hello, and thank you for joining. I am Isha Sesay.
VAUSE: And I'm John Vause, this is a special early edition of Newsroom LA.
SESAY: President Donald Trump has made one of his most consequential foreign policy decisions to date, pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal. The President says he's keeping his promise to withdraw from the agreement which he described as defective at its core.
VAUSE: His word is a slap in the face to European allies of the French and the Germans leaders travelled to Washington to lobby the President in person. CNN's chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta begins our coverage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For the US, it's a deal no more as President Trump abruptly pulled the US out of the agreement designed by the Obama Administration to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The Iran deal is defective at its core. Therefore I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
ACOSTA: The President didn't hide why he's scrapping the Iran deal.
TRUMP: The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump is delivering on one of his first campaign promises, to abandon a deal he repeatedly savaged at his rallies.
TRUMP: It could go down as one of the worst deals in history.
ACOSTA: The President accused Iran of lying about its participation in the agreement despite the fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified at his confirmation hearing that he had no proof that Tehran was not in compliance with the deal.
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: With the information I have been provided, I have no -- I have seen no evidence that they are not in compliance today.
ACOSTA: The Iran deal is the latest Obama policy dumped by the President, joining the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Trade Deal, the DACA Program protecting the Dreamers and the Obama Care Individual Mandate. Obama's former secretary of state, John Kerry, who helped broker the Iran agreement tried in vain to save the deal.
JOHN KERRY, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Our friends are safer if we stay in this agreement. We made an agreement. Iran is living by the agreement. Yes, we have concerns on the missiles, on Yemen and other things, but we should be working on those.
ACOSTA: The President instead sided with Iran deal critics like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and against leaders from important US allies like France, Germany and Britain who pleaded with Mr. Trump to stay in the deal.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: What we think that what you can do is be tougher on Iran, address the concerns of the President and not throw the baby out with the bathwater, not junk a deal because as I say, plan B does not seem to me to be particularly well developed at this stage.
ACOSTA: As the President is pulling back from the Iran deal, he's moving toward his own nuclear agreement with North Korea, announcing Pompeo will meet with regime leaders to continue working on an upcoming summit.
TRUMP: We have our meeting set. The location is picked, the time and date, everything is picked and we'll look forward to have a great, great success.
ACOSTA: But Democrats worry the President is sending the wrong message to the North Koreans by signaling to the world that US commitments are only good for one administration at a time.
CHUCK SCHUMER, SENATOR: You're making it harder to go after Hezbollah. You're making it harder to go after Iranian activities that are really dangerous and you're probably making it harder to come to a North Korea deal.
ACOSTA: As for North Korea, the President was asked about the fate of the Americans being held prisoner there. Mr. Trump hinted there could be an announcement on the detainees soon and Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo is in the region now working on their release.
Jim Acosta, CNN, the White House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: CNN's senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen is live in Tehran. Fred, explain the process here, we have the first line of sanctions from the United States which will be re-imposed in 90 days and then another round of more consequential sanctions after that.
FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, additional sanctions, those are the ones that will be in about half a year. Now, the first ones after about 90 days, those are the sanctions that were in place before the nuclear agreement was actually put into effect. That's what the US is going to do.
Now, at the same time, of course, the Iranians are also going to have to see what they want to do as well. President Hassan Rouhani has come out right after President Trump gave his speech or shortly thereafter. He said that he would like -- or he's thinking about it at least an agreement between Iran and the other signatories of the original JCPOA, that of course being China, Russia and the European countries.
Now, the big thing is going to be those additional sanctions that the US is going to put in place. They are set to target Iran's automotive sector as well as the oil and gas sector, and of course that's something that could hurt international companies that want to do business here, German companies, but especially French companies. The French have been very quick to move back into the Iranian automotive sector, especially Peugeot and Renault and then of course you have the oil and gas sector where Total has moved in to as well. So those are the more comprehensive things, really, really big problems for some international companies that have already moved into Iran after the nuclear agreement went into effect, John.
VAUSE: Surely, after the US President made this announcement, Iran's Foreign Minister tweeted this, "In response to US persistent violations and unlawful withdrawal for the nuclear deal as instructed by President Rouhani I'll spearhead a diplomatic effort to examine where the remaining JCPOA participants can show its full benefits for Iran. Outcome will determine our response."
So now, the question mark is this, can this nuclear deal stay alive without the United States? Can the Europeans as well as the Russians and the Chinese make this deal work and survive those - those secondary sanctions. Because any non-US company doing business with Tehran with face sanctions. PLEITGEN: Will face sanctions, exactly, if they want to do business in the United States as well or perhaps any sort of legal entities in the United States and certainly it's going to be very, very difficult to keep this deal alive. Certainly the Europeans have said that they want to stay in agreement. They want to make it work, the leaders of all three countries that were privy to the decisions of a nuclear agreement, they say they want to make it work as well, but in reality it will probably be a lot harder than that. And John, not just on the international state, but here inside Iran as well because of course the Iranians, when they negotiated all of this, it wasn't just about them giving up any sort of nuclear efforts that they were making, but it was also about them reaping benefits in return for that. That's something that, for instance, Javad Zarif has been saying the past couple of days as well.
And there's many people in Iran who feel that with the nuclear agreement, those benefits have not come because they felt there was that pressure from the United States. Now, if there's no betterment in sight, if there's no, nothing in sight that would bring new jobs here, international investment because of American pressure, then it's hard to see how Iran would stay in this agreement. We just have to keep in mind, John, that the agreement itself was pretty controversial here in Iran as well especially the hard liners always felt that President Rouhani was giving up too much of Iran's nuclear program and receiving too little in return, John.
VAUSE: Funny, Fred at the very end of his remarks, the US President opened the door for a new round of negotiations, maybe a possible deal, a new deal with Iran. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They are going to want to make a new and lasting deal, one that benefits all of Iran and the Iranian people. When they do, I am ready, willing and able.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: At this point, is it fair to say the chances of Tehran negotiating another deal are about the same as Mexico paying for the border wall?
PLEITGEN: Yeah. I mean I think it's pretty much that. The Iranians certainly at this point have no interest, and if you look at some of the statements that have been coming from Iranian politicians, not just now after the President's announcement, but also of course in the days leading up to all of this, they've always been saying, look, it's the US that's isolated if the US has shown it does not lead up to international commitments and the Iranians also said, of course, the US also left the Paris Climate Accord, trade deals and now the Iran Nuclear Agreement. So they say, look, how can we negotiate with the United States?
And then of course there's that anger that is here in Iran right now especially of course among the folks around President Rouhani, but of course among the hard liners as well. Right now, it's very difficult to see that anybody would this close to the time that President Trump has essentially mixed the deal on the part of the United States for them to go into new negotiations seems like a long shot at best, John.
VAUSE: A long shot, indeed. Fred Pleitgen, out msn in Tehran. Thanks so much.
SESAY: The Israeli Foreign Affairs Columnist Bobby Ghosh, he joins us via Skype from New York. Bobby, good to have you with us. So the US pulls out of this deal, the other parties to agreement all say they plan to stick with it. But the real question we all have on our minds is how long can it survive without the US.
BOBBY GHOSH, COLUMNIST: Exactly. The question is what is the US going to do to force the other parties to follow its own position here. The Treasury Department has already indicated that companies that do business with Iran, so that could be German companies, British companies, French companies, Russians, Chinese, companies that are doing business with Iran will face American sanctions.
So it's one thing for Angela Merkel and Macron and May of Britain to say that they want to keep their countries in the deal, but if German companies or French companies or British companies don't do business with Iran for fear of incurring American sanctions, then the British, the European position is entirely moot.
There's a slightly different question with Russia and China. Will Russian companies and Chinese companies defy American sanctions? We'll have to see. The size of the American market means any company that wants to do business in both markets will always favor the American position over the Iran one.
SESAY: I mean with that being said, with those difficulties and those economic sanctions if you will and the pain that, you know, British and the other Europeans would face if they were to continue down this road, I mean how long would Iran be willing to stay in the deal itself, how long before Iran decides, you know, we're going to start our nuclear program again?
GHOSH: It may not be in nuclear -- in Iran's control how long it stays in the deal, because I say these other countries are forced by the United States to pull out, then Iran's hand will be forced. Whether Iran decides then to go immediately to nuclear enrichment as it has threatened do, we'll have to see because that would mean incurring even more sanctions and the Iranian economy, the Iranian currency, let's not forget in the last few months, has been in a complete free fall.
So what the White House is hoping, what Trump is hoping is that the economic reality will bite and the fact that many Iranians are already dissatisfied with their economic situation, that's why we've been seeing these protests across Iran. The fact that more and more of these protests are likely to take place will force the Iranian regime's hand. The Iranian regime on its side will probably try to rally its people around a nationalistic message, it will try to say as it has in the past, look, we are under attack from the United States, from the Western powers. This is not a time for our society to be divided. Rally around the government and support us. And we'll see how the Iranian people respond to that.
SESAY: So to be clear, while you look at the move by President Trump, was this most abated by US National Security interest or was this the case of creating an atmosphere and an environment that ultimately could bring about regime change?
GHOSH: Well, there are multiple motivations at work here, political analysts in this country are suggesting that a big part of it is just about the President's determination to undo everything that Obama did. But there are many people within his circle, his advisors who do believe that Iran represents a major threat. Rightly or wrongly, they believe it and they have been advising the President that to pull out of this, to torch this deal essentially will improve America's chances of putting more pressure on the Iranians, would deprive the Iranian regime of access to resources and will force the regime into backing into a corner from where the United States can get a better deal.
Whether that's how it pans out is another matter, but that is certainly how many people in and around the White House view the situation.
SESAY: I mean the US -- former US Vice President, Joe Biden said this, let me read it to you, he said talk of a better deal is an illusion. It took years of sanctions pressure, painstaking diplomacy and the full support of the international community to achieve that goal. We have none of that in place today. Quite simply, is a better deal possible?
GHOSH: It seems very, very hard to imagine given the circumstances in which this deal was essentially blown up. It seems very, very hard. The joker in the pack, the unknown element here is just how hard will the Iranian economy take a hit, just how hard will it hurt and how will ordinary Iranians respond to that?
At some level, if the economy is really, really badly hurt, at some level, the administration here is hoping it will force the hard of the regime, whatever their public rhetoric, whatever their bluster will be forced by the economic realities to make a deal. Right now, all of that looks highly, highly unlikely, but that's the nature of the gamble that Donald Trump is taking today.
SESAY: I mean how great is your concern that the US is effectively now on a collision course militarily with Iran because effectively with this move with the demise of this deal, the US no longer has eyes on what Iran is doing. So what comes next?
GHOSH: Well, I'm not exactly -- I'm not sold on the idea that this is inevitably going to lead to war. That was the message that the Obama Administration put out when it was making the deal that either there's a deal or there's a war. I didn't believe that that were the only two choices then. I don't believe that these are the only two choices now.
The Iranian military has not had any serious technological and hardware upgrade in decades. The Iranian military has not really been tested against a major -- in a major war. I don't think the Iranian regime wants a war. The economy is in such a bad state. The last thing they can afford is a war. There does not seem to be a lot of appetite for war in the American military and in most of the members of Congress. So I don't think that this is a direct now there's a straight line from here to war. The possibility of war has improved -- has increased somewhat, but I don't think that is inevitable. That's not where my mind is leading up to.
SESAY: Bobby Ghosh, it is always good to speak to you. Thank you so much. Thanks for joining us.
GHOSH: Any time.
VAUSE: Again, a short break. When we come back, now that President Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal is official, the focus turns to North Korea, plus, on the Secretary of State's agenda as he returns to Pyongyang.
SESAY: Well, President Trump's decision to exit the Iran agreement comes during a flurry of diplomacy with North Korea. As we mentioned earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is travelling to Pyongyang for his second face-to-face meeting with officials there. He told reporters he's hoping to nail down a framework for the planned meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
VAUSE: Meanwhile, the North Korean leader has just returned from his second trip to China, his second in two months that is. Now, Kim stayed overnight in the port city of Dalian after talks with President Xi Jinping, attended a formal banquet, even did a beach front stroll which was broadcast on State China, state-controlled TV apparently to show their once frayed relationship has been repaired.
SESAY: Well N Square is a group that sums innovation in nuclear settlement. Paul Carroll is a senior advisor for N Square and joins us now from San Francisco. Paul, always good to see you. Let me ask you this, what message of this move by President Trump to pull out of this Iran deal, what message does that send to North Korea?
PAUL CARROLL, N SQUARE SENIOR ADVISOR: Well, I think it actually strengthens their hand. By pulling out of the Iran deal, Iran was basically back on its heels a couple of years ago, the sanctions, not just US sanctions, but international sanctions were having an extremely strong bite.
And in keep in mind that Iran has more economic cards to play than North Korea. It's an oil power, they're oil rich and they were really feeling the squeeze. It's also important to keep in mind, they don't have nuclear weapons. So North Korea has nuclear weapons and that's really their only card. So by walking away from the Iran deal, it actually strengthens the position that North Korea has in the negotiations or in the discussions we're about to see.
SESAY: I mean the thinking as reported is that President Trump sees it completely -- also that in an opposite way that says his hand is now stronger when he goes to meet with Kim Jong-un. I guess my question is does he now face a pressure to get a better deal with Kim Jong-un than President Obama got with the Iranians, because as said, this deal which most considered to be actually a good one, the Iranian deal that is, he said that was weak. Whether that leave President Trump in terms of what kind of deal he goes after?
CARROLL: Well, I would say that the Iran deal, the JCPOA as it's known was an extremely comprehensive deal for the very specific purpose that it had, which was to constrain and prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
The number of complaints or grievances that President Trump aired today against Iran about support to Hezbollah and Hamas and terrorism and so on, those are all true. They also have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal. The bar has been set for North Korea quite high. In order for the United States, or the international community to deal on the ground at North Korea is now vanishingly small. It's as though -- it's not as though, the Trump Administration is taking an all or nothing approach and basically under the light of moving under the sun (inaudible) the chances of coming away with any kind of agreement have gotten even smaller.
SESAY: We're hearing that with this trip that the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has taken to North Korea, we're getting word that he may return from North Korea with those three American detainees, that's according to a South Korean government official. What does that say to you? Does that give you any kind of indication or sense of what lies ahead for the talks with President Trump and Kim Jong-un?
CARROLL: I think it's very unclear. I would say this. I hope for the sake of those three gentlemen that they are released. I mean this is a card that North Korea has played that is brutal. It's not (inaudible) with human lives in their palms. I would love to see them come home.
In the more geopolitical or negotiating sense, for the United States to say ahead of time in an official capacity, we're going to get the release of our prisoners, I think, again is not a very savvy way to go about it. In the past, we've had envoys that were former government officials do so on very quiet terms or when there were official envoys, they were lower level and it was pre-arranged very meticulously. I have seen nothing to show me that this is the case in the current situation.
SESAY: We have word that Kim Jong-un is just back from a second trip to China. Pictures of Kim Jong-un and President Xi obviously with great, publicized and placed on state broadcasts to great effect showing that the relationship is being repaired or is no longer frayed, you have that to one side, and then you have the US pulling out of this Iran nuclear deal which obviously China was a part of. I guess my question is what does this mean for the US relationship with China?
CARROLL: Well, it's extremely notable. Not only is it the second trip in a number of weeks, but in this case, Kim Jong-un flew there and it may seem trivial, but it's actually not trivial. His grandfather (inaudible) for him, his recent trip was via train. So this may, I'm saying, may indicate that he's feeling more secure at home, that he can leave the country, take an airplane trip and not worry about his power base, but it also is I would say, a little bit nerve wrecking from an American point of view that China and North Korea is deemed to be (inaudible) on their friendship.
China used to say we are as close as lips and teeth with the North Koreans and there have been some wrinkles and some ups and downs along the way, but it indicates to me that Kim Jong-un is feeling quite secure not only in his security situation, but in his negotiating situation. And where it leads the US and China, I think it's quite fraught. I think Donald Trump needs to be extremely careful about his own confidence in his deal making.
SESAY: Well, even if he isn't, he's never going to say it, Paul Carroll. Paul Carroll joining us from San Francisco. We appreciate it, thank you so much.
CARROLL: Thank you, my pleasure.
VAUSE: Let's break a deal. Maybe the break of the deal with all the controversy. Okay, you're watching a special edition of the CNN Newsroom. Just ahead, what do Iranian Americans think about President Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran?
VAUSE: Welcome back, everybody, you're watching CNN Newsroom live from Los Angeles, I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay, the headline this hour. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now in North Korea for more talks of the proposed summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un and a South Korean official believes Pompeo will leave there with the three American detainees North Korea has held for months. This is Pompeo's second face-to-face meeting with North Korean officials.
VAUSE: A source tells CNN investigators with the special counsel Robert Mueller questioned a Russian oligarch about hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen. That money allegedly came from a US firm linked to the oligarch, but the company has denied that it was used as a conduit for payment. The attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels says half a million dollars went to a shale company set up by Cohen. That account has been used to pay off Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Mr. Trump.
SESAY: Well, President Trump is pulling the US-Iran nuclear deal and re-imposing economic sanctions on Tehran. He says the agreement is defective and won't prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Iran said it will take a few weeks to decide how to respond.
And Reza Marashi is Research Director at the National Iranian American Council and he joins us now from Washington. Thank you for being with us, Reza. And let me just start by asking you your view this move by the US President tuning the words of the British Primary Secretary to throw the baby out with the bath water by pulling out of this deal.
REZA MARASHI, RESEARCH DIRECTOR AT NIAC: Yeah, that would certainly be -- appear to be the case wouldn't it? What I heard from President Donald Trump today was an airing of grievances. I didn't hear a coherent plan. I didn't hear a coherent strategy. I heard no indication of any plan B. All I heard was a willingness to try and strong arm our partners in Europe to go along with America cutting off its nose to spite its face.
SESAY: Why not fix the deal? Why nix it, not fix it to use the popular parlance? What's your read on that?
MARASHI: Well I think the whole fix or nix parlance was always a fool's errand. I think it was a disingenuous attempt to try and convince people both inside and outside of governments around the world that it was possible to fix an agreement that a variety of countries had spent over two years negotiating.
Really, the premise of what the Europeans tried to accomplish with Donald Trump in terms of "fixing this agreement" was to get him to agree to fulfill the agreement as it existed and then agree to address other points of Iranian behavior they don't like outside of the agreement. And they couldn't even convince Donald Trump to do that.
SESAY: Do you see the issue of regime change being a big driver here as you listen to the words coming from the President?
MARASHI: No question. When I heard Donald Trump speak today, I heard the words of John Bolton and John Bolton has been one of the biggest proponents of regime change in Iran really since the aftermath of 9/11. And regime change is incredibly dangerous, because as we saw with the run up to the Iraq War and then the subsequent aftermath of it, sanctions and all other forms of isolation that the United States did to Iraq and will continue doing to Iran, that doesn't accomplish the regime change objective.
So then it becomes, well now we have to go to war. And I'm deeply concerned that President Trump doesn't even realize he has put the United States on the fast track to a military confrontation. SESAY: How does this play internally, talk to me about that? There's a school of thought that says Hassan Rouhani who backed this deal is now severely weakened, that this plays into the hands of hard liners who never wanted any engagement with the US to begin with. What comes next from Iran's point of view in terms of their next action?
MARASHI: Well, I would actually argue that President Rouhani is not weakened. I think on the issue of negotiations with the United States, he doesn't have anything to hang his hat on anymore, because the negotiations that successfully concluded have now been torpedoed by Donald Trump.
So more than anything else, what this is going to do is unify the vast majority of Iran's political system in opposition to American pressure, in opposition to American threats and it's going to further open Iran's willingness to try and find some modus vivendi with Europe, Russia and China that will leave the United States isolated.
There's no guarantee that that will succeed, but that's definitely going to be Iran's plan A going forward.
SESAY: That would be Iran's plan A, but when you look at the secondary sanctions that the US is looking to impose that would hit oil and gas sector and will hit the auto industry and you look at the state of Iran's economy right now, I mean, do you have concerns that ultimately those protests that we saw, you know, in recent times will once again replay?
MARASHI: Well, you can never rule out the possibility of protests in Iran because the political economic and social aspirations of Iranians inside of Iran have been long unmet. But the difference between then and now is a lot of the grievances that were being expressed in those protests, legitimately protesting against you know Iranian government, mismanagement, corruption and nepotism.
Well now, thanks to the blame game, Donald Trump has shifted attention and blamed back on to the United States and his torpedoing of this agreement, this nuclear deal that was wildly popular amongst the Iranian people. So now, with the country being essentially forced back into war mode, I think you're going to see people get incredibly nationalistic and really kind of rally around the flag and push back against the American pressure, because they don't appreciate these kinds of threats just like they don't appreciate being banned from travelling to the United States for example.
SESAY: Do you see a road to a new deal, a better deal as President Trump would have it?
MARASHI: No. There was never a viable possibility of renegotiating an agreement that took two years to complete in 2015. But what there is a possibility of going forward is Iran, Europe, Russia, and China continuing and moving forward with the agreement as it was agreed to, but that's going to require the Europeans especially to pick up the slack and essentially create political and economic infrastructure that doesn't currently exist so that they, much like the Russians and the Chinese can prevent the United States from taking those unilateral American sanctions and punishing their governments and their firms.
SESAY: That's a big if, Reza, you know that is, a very big if. Reza Marashi, joining us there from Washington, I very much appreciate the insight. Thank you.
VAUSE: Bob Baer is a CNN intelligence and security analyst and a former CIA operative and has read extensively about Iran and you a lot about the country, so very good to have you with us. You're up there in Telluride in Colorado. Thanks, Bob. Okay, here's part of what Iran's President said shortly after that announcement by Donald Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN: We will start over industrial enrichment without limitation, so until that time to just adopt that decision, we will wait for a few weeks and we will also speak with our allies and friends and those who have signed this deal and who will remain loyal to this deal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Okay, Rouhani has been a strong supporter of this nuclear deal even though he was talking about restarting the Iranian enrichment process which seemed to be, you know, a bone to the hard liners. But how much pressure is he under now from those hard liners who want to end to agreement almost as much or maybe more as the US President?
ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: Well, John, he's under a lot of pressure. He put his reputation on this agreement. He put his reputation on the word of the United States, that we would obey treaties and agreements especially when they're international agreements, and for no reason at all we have backed down to this one.
I mean I couldn't tell you what a catastrophe this is for Rouhani and clearly right now he's going to go to the Europeans, France and Britain who didn't want us to pull out and so let's cut a separate deal, let's isolate the United States. And how far is Trump going to do to impose sanctions, will you put sanctions on European companies trading oil with Iran, with Total in particular, the French company that runs South Pars with the Iranians? We don't know. I mean our relations with Europe are going downhill very fast.
VAUSE: We're in for another period (inaudible) I guess. If there is this battle underway in Tehran between this so called moderates like Rouhani who want to keep this deal alive and the hard liners who want to kill it, who do you think will win this?
BAER: If he can cut a deal with the Europeans and hold this agreement together, I think he'll do just fine. If he can't, the hard liners are going to say, look, we have won in Syria, we have won in Lebanon with these recent elections, we have won in Iraq by military force and that's how we're going to, you know, sustain Iranian interests. And that's really the problem, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is watching and waiting and if Rouhani fails in this, his administration, the middle class in Iran, the liberals in Iran will all fail. I can't tell you how bad this is.
VAUSE: So when you say they will all fail because this is obviously a lot more -- a lot bigger political implications here than just, you know, this nuclear deal, for Rouhani and for the government because in many ways, it seems Trump just cut the ground from under Rouhani.
BAER: Oh totally. Well ultimately Trump is after regime change. There's a belief in the hard liners in this administration that if you put enough pressure on Iran, the place will collapse, the currency will collapse, the economy will collapse, the mullahs will be thrown out. I mean these are the same people that talked us into going in to Iraq in 2003. You know, I just don't see it. There's no evidence that the Iranian street is going to rise against the mullahs or Rouhani or anybody else and it's a gamble which could very well get us into a war in the Gulf.
I mean, you know, this is so -- it's just hard to tell where this could go, hard to tell what sort of pressure will come down on Rouhani and where this war could start. And I would assume it would have something to do with Israel, with things spinning out of control in Syria with more missiles, with Iranian forces on the Golan Heights and on and on and on, somebody is going to make a mistake here, I guarantee it.
VAUSE: We're almost out of time, Bob, but essentially what we're saying here is that, you know, if Israel and Saudi Arabia, the U.S. two main allies in the Middle East, this is not so much about nuclear weapons, but much more about breaking the regime in Tehran which seems to be a pretty big gamble.
BAER: It is a big gamble. But look at their point of view, Israel and Saudi Arabia, there is an Iranian hegemony, again with these elections with Lebanon, Hezbollah won a majority of the seats. There is a problem. There is a threat, but right now, pulling out of this nuclear deal is not going to make that threat go away. The Iranians are not going to all of a sudden get up and leave Lebanon and Syria and Iraq, it's not going to happen.
VAUSE: A deal is a deal. This was a done deal, but no more and it comes with a lot of consequences now I guess. So Bob, thanks for being with us, I appreciate it.
BAER: Thank you.
SESAY: Once again, it is a huge gamble.
VAUSE: Yeah, I mean clearly, you know, Iran has withstood sanctions and a lot of pressure from the United States and the United Nations and Europe for years and the regime is not -- they say that they're --
SESAY: For keeps.
VAUSE: For keeps, so we'll see. SESAY: Well, the US is out but the European allies say they are still in. Next, what France, Germany and the UK plan to do to save the Iran nuclear deal.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Phil Black in Paris. President Macron spoke with President Trump before he made his announcement and soon after, Trump declared his decision to the world. Macron tweeted his regret, a regret shared by the UK and Germany as well. And he said those countries all intended to work together on a new broader framework that would deal with Iran's longer term nuclear program as well as its ballistic missiles and destabilizing behavior in the region.
Those diplomatic priorities are the same grievances listed by President Trump in justifying his decision to pull out of the agreement. For weeks and months Europe, let by Macron, had tried to convince Trump that those issues could be dealt with without abandoning the original deal. Macron had put it all on the line, his international reputation, domestic political capital, he had worked very hard to maximize the very warm personable rapport he has with Trump and ultimately it all failed.
Macron and his European allies now say they are determined to work with Iran and make the original agreement stick. But for that to be possible, American sanctions will have to allow European businesses to continue trading with and investing in Iran.
VAUSE: Now, thanks to Phil Black there. And joining us now here Los Angeles Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and CNN Political Commentator John Thomas. Okay guys, thank you so much for coming in, a big day, coming in a little bit early too, so fantastic. The French President we know was in Washington last month, was trying to charm Donald Trump trying to convince him into doing exactly what he, not to do, exactly what he did today. That was followed by the visit by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
So John, every major European power opposed ending this nuclear deal but at the end of the day they were powerless too stop Donald Trump because the bottom line is I guess, what. the Europeans need the United States more than the United States the Europeans essentially Donald Trump had them overpowered.
JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That and also Donald Trump wanted -- is trying to position himself as Israel's greatest ally they have ever seen and also Donald Trump's base largely wanted him to tear up his deal. This is one of his fundamental campaign promises, it was tearing up that deal and building up that wall.
VAUSE: So Wendy, what happens when the day comes when the US needs Europe? WENDY GREUEL, COUNCILWOMAN LOS ANGELES: Well, I think exactly, and look, no one thought that this was the best deal ever, but most people and including, you know, people across the country, across the world said, we want to be able to fix it, not necessarily throw it out. I mean we should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time and to be able to keep this deal going, but also address some of the other concerns that people had. This does not give us that opportunity in the same way and I think instead of us being part of that word order runs sidelines.
VAUSE: You know, it's not without historical irony that this American slap in the face to Europe comes on this particular day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY TRUMAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a solemn but glorious hour.
I wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to see this day. General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly all over Europe. For this victory we join in offering our thanks to the providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity and into light.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Seventy-three years ago, President Harry Truman announcing the unconditional and total surrender on Nazi Germany, and John, what followed was this remarkable period this post-world war period of prosperity and peace and was led by the Americans, you know, the Marshal Plan, the defense of Berlin, the fight against communism and this was American ideals around the world, and what we're seeing today many would say is the exact opposite of that by this President.
THOMAS: You know this isn't like some trade deal where we can quibble around well we could have done a better deal. No, this is a highly dangerous deal. This was allowing Iran to continue to spin centrifuges to eventually, especially when the deal expired, when the deal expires, they can move full speed to getting a nuclear weapon.
VAUSE: A year away.
THOMAS: And all you have to do is fast forward and look at a place like North Korea. You have to stop these people in their tracks and I'm proud of President Trump that he stood up and did the right thing despite -- look, I think history will look kindly on what Donald Trump did today despite Europe not appreciating it.
GREUEL: I mean you look at our foreign leaders who are standing there saying they don't want them to have nuclear power. You think they would be involved in this agreement if they really thought it was going to happen. They believed as did many of Trump's appointees who stood there and who sat there in front of Congress and said we believe they're following the letter of the law of what this agreement was meant to be.
Is it enough? I don't think so.
VAUSE: Fifteen times (inaudible) divided though in this agreement. But I just want to -- if this nuclear agreement was not part of Obama's legacy, would Trump have torn it up because essentially what he tore up today is pretty much the same nuclear deal we saw him offering to North Koreans. John.
THOMAS: Yeah, I don't really think it had anything to do with Barack Obama. Remember when Barack Obama proposed the deal, it wasn't Donald Trump that was universally from the right saying it was a terrible deal. Foreign policy hawks, most people on right leaning think tanks all disagreed with the deal. This is something Donald Trump campaigned on, it's a promise he made and the promise he kept. And remember, the one country that is most affected by nuclear Iran is Israel and they're very happy today.
VAUSE: Very good. Well Wendy?
GREUEL: Well I think that you've seen a lot of people said we should have given more time to be able to do this than to throw it out and that politics at this time should not have guided, to fulfill that campaign promise, you know. You have to become the President of the United States, be President of the United States that understands the world.
VAUSE: One could only wonder what would have happened if it was, you know, President Donald Trump after World War II as opposed to President Harry Truman, I mean the world might be a very different place.
Let's get to the latest on the Russian investigation because it's another bad day it seems for President Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen who apparently received hundreds of thousands of dollars of a company controlled by a Putin allied Russian oligarch Victor Vekelsburg. Sources have confirmed the story to us. The allegations initially came from the lawyer for Stormy Daniels', Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels aka Stephanie Clifford is the porn star who was paid $130,000 of hush money after allegedly sleeping with the President.
Okay, here's part of Avenatti's allegations. Within approximately 75 days of the payment to Ms. Clifford, Mr. Victor Vekelsburg, a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Russian President, Vladimir Putin closed substantial funds to be deposited into a bank account from which Mr. Cohen made the payment. It appears that these funds may have been replenished -- may have replenished the account rather following the payment to Ms. Clifford.
So, John, how do you explain this?
THOMAS: Well, first of all there is no illegality at all at this point. So the fact that Michael Cohen might have taken money from probably not just this company, but probably many others for access is not surprising. It's what many political consultants and attorneys make their living of. The reason they work hard to get somebody elected is so that they have access to that person. So it's not surprising that somebody from Russia might want access as well as somebody from Iran and somebody from Israel and somebody from the UK, right? It's a standard thing.
I have yet to see anything that's illegal about this and of course the company is denying, saying that they're not owned, that they're wholly American. So we don't know what we don't know here other than the fact that Michael Cohen made some money.
GREUEL: But there are ethics laws and there are rules that say that if you are getting paid somehow through a foreign country or some other way, additionally if you are lobbying, you must also file that you are lobbying when you have that kind of access. And I think that's what you're going to see as well. All of these companies who paid him for that access, they never reported it, that he was their lobbyist, he was the person that was focusing on it. And I think there's going to be some connections that you're going to see it looks like between them.
VAUSE: Because it's interesting because we have this statement from the company and all reports say that Viktor Vekselberg used Columbus Nova as a company as a conduit for payments to Michael Cohen are false. The claim that Viktor Vekselberg was involved or provided any funding for Columbus Nova's engagement of Michael Cohen is mainly untrue. But they do not deny that the company actually made the payment. And so...
GREUEL: And they don't describe whether they used it or just kind of in general, we gave it to him.
VAUSE: Exactly, exactly.
VAUSE: AT&T also (inaudible) into this account for some reason which remains --
VAUSE: But John, if it's not illegal. If there's nothing wrong with all of this, it's looking real swampy, swampy, swampy right out isn't it?
THOMAS: I mean it's not surprising that the attorney that it turns out looks like he's not that great of a legal mind, was trying to make a living by providing access to somebody he had very close relationship with. That's not very surprising. That's how Washington works, and I think
it works in the bipartisan way. That doesn't care who we are.
VAUSE: Look, let's just recount here because CNN has also reported that Mueller interviewed Vekselberg on his private jet and after he landed in New York, Vekselberg was also at the President's inauguration, no connection I'm sure.
And as it turns out he was also that now infamous Michael Flynn Moscow dinner in 2015. Everything seems to go back to Moscow, Wendy.
GREUEL:: Well, do you remember that 1966 movie, "The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming."
GREUEL: They are here. They are here and they're marrying in this way in that same account that Michael Cohen created has money for Stormy Daniels and from the Russian oligarch. That to me is -- there's a definite line, And a swamp.
VAUSE: I mean there was just millions which went through this account, but, John, at the end of the day, we keep having these connections, keeps being, just always seems to be some kind of dodgy Russian connection somewhere, not far below the surface that just keeps coming out for the Trumps and those associated with the Trumps.
THOMAS: I would imagine if we did this level of autopsy to the Clinton Administration, you would find many connects -- global connections...
VAUSE: You don't think they did this in the Clinton--?
GREUEL: Right, yes. Right yes...
THOMAS: No, but the fact is this is just -- when you go through a lobbying firm, you go through with the guy's attorney there. This is access. This is how Washington works. I have yet to see anything illegal, I mean, we need to close loopholes. But I have yet to see anything illegal, so to me it's like it's just -- it's saying, "Hey, there is smoke, there must be fire."
GREUEL: Well, he's being interviewed by Mueller and I think that speaks volumes. He's got a little problem.
VAUSE: Okay. Maybe a little one, maybe a big one. We'll see. Wendy and John. Thank you.
SESAY: Thank you. Well, up next, why Turkey's president fears new crises will break out in the Middle East due to the U.S. pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal. CNN's exclusive interview next.
SESAY: (inaudible) the concern with President Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal.
VAUSE: Mr. Erdogan says this will lead to chaos breaking out in the Middle East and says the world's economy is at stake. Becky Anderson has more in this exclusive interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RECEP ERDOGAN, PRESIDENT OF TURKEY: (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This nuclear deal was previously called unsignable. It was rendered possible after years of...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... negativity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raising a hope around the globe, and at the drop of a hat--
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turning this deal around and retreating from this deal possibly is not just going to impact the region but also the entire world. The whole world economy is at stake and this is the reason why as Turkey we will be hit.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the United States might gain some certain positivities out of the withdrawal from this or rising oil prices, but many of the other countries in poverty will be hit even harder and deeper. And at the same time, we fear new crises would break out in the region. We don't need new crises in the region.
BECKY ANDERSON, BRITISHH JOURNALIST, CNN ANCHOR, HOSTS CONNECT THE WORLD: Do you believe or are you concern that a geopolitical war will break out? What is the biggest risk here, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not what we would wish to to see and of course, this is not what we would like to expect. However...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... in my point of view, the U.S. will be the ones to lose.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Iran... ERDOGAN: (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... will never compromise on this agreement. We'll abide by this agreement until the end, that's what I tell you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But however, U.S. will lose in the end.
ANDERSON: How, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because the issue to respect an agreement that you have signed. This is not how the international mechanisms work. International covenants and international conventions cannot be annulled upon will, if any document is bearing your signature you need to respect that. You need to abide by that.
(END OF VIDEO)
SESAY: Tune in Wednesday for Becky Anderson's full exclusive interview with Turkish president Erdogan. The interview airs first on Connect the World, 6 PM in Ankara, 4 PM in London.
VAUSE: And we'll be back with one hour more of Newsroom LA, I'm John Vause.
SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay, Amanpour is up next after the short break. You're watching CNN.