tv CNN Newsroom With Carol Costello CNN February 2, 2017 6:00am-7:01am PST
good morning. i'm carol costello. thank you for joining me. the trump white house rattling nerves among friends and foes alike as america's foreign policy takes on a more combative tone. we're closely watching two live events this hour. on the left side of your screen, president trump attends the national prayer service in washington, expected to speak any moment. we'll take you live to the hilton in washington, d.c. at the bottom of the hour, trump's new secretary of state rex tillerson will speak to a crowd of employees at the state department. the agency rocked by dissent and resignation over trump's new policies like the travel ban. the diplomatic tension is only growing. today we have more details on the president's newest clashes with important allies, australia
and mexico and the nuclear deal partner, iran. there are reports of high civilian casualties in the yemen raid that killed a u.s. navy s.e.a.l. it was the first counterterrorism mission ordered by the new commander-in-chief. today we know much more about what went wrong. we're covering a lot this morning. of course, all the developments, it's very busy. let's begin with the newest diplomatic concerns. cnn's jeff zeleny at the white house with that. >> good morning, carol. secretary of state rex tillerson certainly is getting a full agenda here as he is now confronting with what president trump dealt with last week with world leaders, these courtesy calls turned confrontational. new tension between president trump and a major u.s. ally. sources say the president grew angry during a phone call with australia's prime minister last saturday, calling the australian refugee agreement a bad deal.
that deal transfers refugees currently living in detention centers on islands off australia to the u.s. >> i'm not going to comment on the conversation. >> reporter: prime minister turnbull repeating to president trump that according to the deal nearly 1,300 refugees have to pass u.s. screening requirements. sources say mr. trump kept insisting it was a very bad deal, remarking one of these refugees will be the next boston bomber. >> i always stand up for australia in every form. >> reporter: the prime minister saying the conversation ended courteously. a source says president trump abruptly ended the call. notably the leadout of the call provided by the white house on saturday showed no sign of a contentious meeting instead saying both leaders emphasized the enduring strength and closeness of the u.s.-australia relationship. as news of the contentious phone call broke, mr. trump tweeted, i will study this dumb deal.
white house press secretary sean spicer confirming the agreement will go through. >> the president in accordance with that deal, in ensuring that vetting will take place in the same manner we're doing it now, will go forward. >> more on yet another dust-up with the u.s. ally after the mexican president canceled their in-person meeting. cnn is learning president trump offered to help mexican president enrique pena nieto with drug cartels in mexico. according to an interpret of the transcript provided to cnn, mr. trump said you have some pretty tough ombres in mexico that you may need help with. we are willing to help with that big league, but they have to being noed out. you have not done a good job knocking them out. national security adviser mike flynn offering a stark warning to iran. >> iran is now feeling emboldened. as of today we are officially
putting iran on notice. >> reporter: it has some lawmakers worried the administration will dismantle the iran nuclear deal. >> i hope it doesn't include trying to undo the nuclear deal. i think that would be a grave mistake. but we'll have to just wait and see what general flynn meant. >> reporter: as others call for a collaboration on policies. >> i think the trump administration needs to work with congress. >> reporter: again, carol, this is something that is certainly going to be in the in box for new secretary of state rex tillerson who is going to be addressing his employees at the state department later this hour. we are still watching for the president who will be speaking any time at the national prayer breakfast. that is a bipartisan gathering of republicans and democrats. all presidents go to it. of course, a lot of the president's supporters, the evangelicals that brought him here to the white house are eager to see their new president. >> interestingly enough, mark modet will introduce the
president of the united states, mr. donald trump, known as executive producer of "the apprentice," part of "shark tank" and part of the miniseries "the bible." he's married to roma downing, she was in "touched by an angel." he's making his speech right now. the prayer breakfast is set to be a forum to at semable and build relationships. what do you expect the tone of the president's speech to be? >> reporter: carol, i think the tone of the president's speech certainly will be different than the tone he had in some of those conversations and phone calls with foreign leaders. i think it will be very grateful, and he will be reaching out. again, there are a lot of democrats in that audience as well, a lot of senators. this is one of those rather moments in washington, and there really are not that many of them, where people from both sides of the aisle, republicans and democrats, independents and others come together at this national prayer breakfast. i'm told it will be a bipartisan
tone, a gracious tone. interestingly, he met with -- the president met with mark burnett yesterday at the white house, a private meeting as well. he is there introducing them as you said, carol. >> exactly. the past few days have been so contentious, especially between republicans and democrats on capitol hill. i think that democrats at least are very curious to see if donald trump will speak in a conciliatory tone. >> reporter: sure. i think they're always wondering that. at this setting at this national prayer breakfast, i am told by an administration official that the president is not going the use this speech as an attempt to unveil any new policies or proposals. he's going to thank some people in the room. again, show his leadership. as president, he has to do several things at one time, of course. i would not be at all surprised if some of the democratic
senators he is meeting with this morning or seeing this morning, if he may ask them for their support for his supreme court nominee. it seems like it's been a long time ago, carol, but only a couple days ago he made that nominati nomination. that is something that really is next up here in washington, will his nominee be confirmed. so the president, whenever he is in these settings, coming face-to-face with democrats, he can certainly use this as an opportunity to perhaps try and convince them or persuade them or twist an arm or two. >> we'll have to wait because mark burnett's introduction apparently is a long one. let's turn our attention to another potential diplomatic hit to u.s. diplomacy. reports of high civilian casualties in the anti-terror raid in yemen that left one u.s. navy s.e.a.l. dead. ryan brown harmon. >> reports came in from the u.s.
military that said there was indeed a high likelihood that civilian casualties did occurring during the site exploitation mission. the mission went awry in a few ways. the navy s.e.a.l.s and their uae special forces allies were detected by the al qaeda fighters there, despite using a moonless night as cover which is actually why the operation took place under donald trump's presidency, even though it was planned during the obama administration. an intense fire fight featuring small arms, grenades, heavy weapons. one of the air strikes was likely the source of some of these civilian casualties. reports of the ground put that north of a dozen. the military is still conducting its formal investigation, its formal assessment. we're waiting on that as well. it's a high likelihood there were high casualties during this operation which saw a navy s.e.a.l. fatally wounded, three other s.e.a.l.s wounded, three
other service members injured when their aircraft crashed in an attempt to rescue the wounded. that aircraft was subsequently destroyed in a u.s. air strike. officials obviously are not happy about how things went down. however, they are saying information gleaned during the raid including computer hard drives on al qaeda is providing intelligence helping the u.s. military and intelligence services prevent future terrorist attacks down the road against the u.s. and its allies. this group is considered one of the most formidable of the al qaeda affiliates, having directed the attacks in 2015 against the charlie hebdo newspaper offices. this was considered an objective desirable enough to take the risk of putting boots on the ground. carol. >> there are some pretty grisly pictures released of civilians released including pictures of dead children. those are now online. i know that's a concern because isis uses those kinds of
pictures for propaganda reasons. >> that's right. the military is still conducting its assessment. there were local reports on the ground and the military acknowledged that there is a likelihood that children were killed. this is something that could future in the propaganda. the military pushes back saying it's typical for al qaeda and isis to use human shields and they keep women and children close to them in order to try to deter the united states from conducting an operation. clearly u.s. intelligence at the time was not aware the children were there and the family members were there. the investigation is on going. it's definitely something of concern. >> ryan browne, thanks for your reporting. with me is democratic senator sheldon whitehouse of rhode island. good morning. >> good morning. >> president trump will speak at the national prayer breakfast at any moment now. what do you expect to hear from him?
>> i have no idea. this has been the most rash, reckless gong show of a new presidency that anybody has ever seen. he could go anywhere and do anything and offend anyone. >> sir, the president is speaking right now. i hope you'll stand by. let's listen. >> thank you, mark. so nice. thank you very much. thank you. thank you very much. it's a great honor to be here this morning and so many faith leaders, very, very important people to me, from across our magnificent nation, and so many leaders from all across the globe. the day we continue a tradition begun by president eisenhower some 64 years ago.
this gathering is a testament to the power of faith and is one of the grat great customs of our n. i hope to be here seven more times with you. i want to thank co-chair, senator bozeman and senator coops and all the congressional leadership. they're all over the place. we have a lot of very distinguished guests. we have one guest who was just sworn in last night, rex tillerson, secretary of state. going to do a great job. [ applause ] some people didn't like rex because he actually got along with leaders in the world. i said, you have to understand, that's a good thing, not a bad thing. he's respected all over the world and i think he's going to
go down as one of our great, great secretaries. we appreciate it. thank you, thank you, rex. >> thank you as well to senator chaplain barry black for his moving words. i don't know, chaplain, whether that's an appointed position? is that an appointed position? i don't know if you're democrat or republican, but i'm appointing you for another year. the hell with it. i think it's not even my appointment. it's the senate's appointment. we'll talk to them. your son is here. your job is very, very secure. thank you, barry. appreciate it very much. i also want to thank my great friends, beautiful roma downey. she has the voice -- every time i hear that voice, so beautiful. everything is so beautiful about roma, including her husband, because he's a special, special friend, mark burnett, for the wonderful introduction.
so true, so true. i said to the agent, i'm sorry. the only thing wrong -- i actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said you don't want to do it, it will never, ever work. i said, listen, but i really fired him after it became the number one show, it became so successful and he wanted a commission and he didn't want to do the show. that's when i really said it. we had tremendous success on "the apprentice." when i ran for president, i had to leave the show. that's when i knew for sure i was doing it. they hired a big movie star, arnold schwarzenegger to take pace mie place, and we know how that turned out. the ratings went right down the tubes. it's been a total disaster. and mark will never, ever bet against trump again, and i want to just pray for arnold, if we can, for those ratings.
we've had an amazing life together, the last 14, 15 years, an outstanding man. thank you very much for introducing. it's a great honor. i also want to thank my dear friend vice president mike pence who has been incredible. incredible wife karen. every time i was in a little trouble with something where they were questioning me, they'd say, but he picked mike pence, so he has to know what he's doing. it's true. on a scale of zero to ten, i rate him a 12. thank you very much, mike. appreciate it. but most importantly today, i want to thank the american people. your faith and prayers have sustained me and inspired me
through some very, very tough times. all around america, i have met amazing people whose words of have been something of strength. what i hear as i travel around the country are five words that never fail to touch my heart, that's "i am praying for you," i hear it so often. i am praying for you, mr. president. no one has inspired me more in my travels than the families of the united states military, men and women who have put their lives on the line every day for their country and their countrymen. i just came back yesterday from dover air force base to join the family of chief william ryan
owens as america's fallen hero was returned home. very, very sad but very, very beautiful, very, very beautiful. his family was there, incredible family, loved him so much. so devastated, he was so devastated, but the ceremony was amazing. he died in defense of our nation. he gave his life in defense of our people. our debt to him and our debt to his family is eternal and everlasting. greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. we will never forget the men and women who wear the uniform. believe me.
[ applause ] >> from generation to generation their vigilance has kept their liberty alive. our freedom is won by their sacrifice and our security has been earned with their sweat and blood and tears. god has blessed this land to give us such incredible heroes and patriots. they are very, very special, and we are going to take care of them. our soldiers understand that what matters is not party or ideology or creed, but the bonds of loyalty that link us all
together as one. america is a nation of believers. in towns all across our land it's plain to see what we easily forget, so easily we forget this, that the quality of our lives is not defind by our material success, but by our spiritual success. i will tell you that, and i tell you that from somebody who has had material success and knows tremendous amounts of people with great material success, the most material success. many of those people are very, very miserable, unhappy people. i know a lot of people without that, but they have great families, have great faith. they don't have money, at least not nearly to the extent and they're happy.
those to me are the successful people, i have to tell you. i was blessed to be raised in a churched home. my mother and father taught me that to whom much is given, much is expect ed. i was sworn in on the very bible from which my mother would teach us as young children. that faith lives on in my heart every single day. the people in this room come from many, many backgrounds. you represent so many religions and so many views, but we are all united by our faith in our create creator, and our firm knowledge that we are all equal in his eyes. we are not just flesh and bone
and blood. we are human beings with souls. our republic was formed on the basis that freedom is not a gift from government, but freedom is a gift from god. it was the great thomas jefferson who said the god who gave us life gave us liberty. jefferson asked can the liberties of a nation be secured when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of god? among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. that is why i will get rid of and totally destroy the johnson amendment and allow our
representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. i will do that. remember. freedom of religion is a sacred right, but also a right under threat all around us, and the world is under serious, serious threat in so many different ways, and i've never seen it so much and so openly since i took the position of president. the world is in trouble, but we're going to straighten it out. that's what i do, i fix things. we're going the straighten it out. believe me. when you hear about the tough phone calls i'm having, don't worry about it. just don't worry about it. they're tough. we have to be tough. it's time we're going to be a
little tough, folks. we're taken advantage of by every nation in the world virtually. it's not going to happen anymore. it's not going to happen anymore. we have seen unimaginable violence carried out in the name of religion, acts of wanton abuse of minorities, horrors on a scale that defy description. terrorism is a fundamental threat to religious freedom. it must be stopped and it will be stopped. it may not be pretty for a little while. it will be stopped. we have seen -- [ applause ] by the way, general james "mad dog" mattis -- the reason they call him that, never lost a
battle. always wins him and always wins them fast. he's our new secretary of defense, working with rex. he's now in south korea, going to japan and some other spots. i tell you what, i've gotten to know him really well. he's the real deal. we have somebody that's the real deal working for us and that's what we need. so you just watch. things will be different. we have seen peace loving muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered and oppressed by isis killers. we have seen threats of external nation against the jewish people. we have seen a campaign of isis and genocide against christians where they cut off heads. not since the middle ages have we seen that. we haven't seen that, the cutting off of heads. now they cut off the heads, they
drown people in steel cages, haven't seen this. nobody has seen this for many, many years. all nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence. all nations have a duty to work together to confront it and to confront it viciously if we have to. so i want to express clearly today to the american people that my administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land. america must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure. we have to feel safe and secure. in recent days we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goem. our nation las the most generous immigration system in the world,
but these are those and there are those that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear. we need security. there are those who seek to center our country for the spread of violence and suppress other people based on their faith or their lifestyle. not right. we will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation. you look all over the world and you see what's happening. so in the coming days we will develop a system to helm ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty and they reject any form of oppression an discrimination. we want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love ous and to love our values
not to hate us and to hate our values. we will be a safe country, we will be a free country, and we will be a country where all citizens can practice their beliefs without fear of hostility or fear of violence. america will flourish as long as our liberty, and in particular our religious liberty is allowed to fluor rish. [ applause ] america will succeed as long as our most vulnerable citizens, and we have some that are so vulnerable, have a path to success. and america will thrive as long as we continue to have faith in each other and faith in god.
that faith in god has inspired men and women to sacrifice for the needy, to deploy to wars overseas and lock arms at home to ensure equal rights for every man, woman and child in our land. it's that faith that sent the pilgrims across the oceans, the pioneers across the plains and the young people all across america to chase their dreams. they are chasing their dreams. we are going to bring those dreams back. as long as we have god, we are never, ever alone, whether it's the soldier on the night watch or the single parent on the night shift, god will always give us solace and strength and comfort. we need to carry on and to keep
carrying on. for us here in washington, we must never, ever stop asking god for the wisdom to serve the public according to his will. that's why -- [ applause ] thank you. that's why president eisenhower and senator carlson had the wisdom to gather together 64 years ago to begin this truly great tradition, but that's not all they did together. let me tell you the rest of the story. just one year later, senator carlson was among the members of congress to send to the president's desk a joint resolution that added ch "under god" to our prej of allegiance. it's a great thing.
because that's what we are. and that is what we will always be, and that is what our people want, one beautiful nation under god. thank you, god bless you and god bless america. thank you very much. thank you. thank you. >> you just heard president donald trump address the crowd at the hilton in wad for the national prayer breakfast, which is, of course, a tradition if our nation. here to discuss what plchlt trump said is david swerdlick, "washington post" assistant editor and david laudner from the los angeles times, cnn media correspondent brian stelter and cnn's jeff zeleny at the white house. he started out with joking about arnold schwarzenegger and "the
apprentice." >> reporter: carol, that was a moment of levity. i'm struck by what the president is saying, not backing down from the discussion we've been having all morning about the calls he's been having with foreign leaders. he said the world needs this. when you have tough phone calls, don't worry about it. i'm here to straighten it out. as we have seeing in the right-hand side of the screen there at the state department, this is something that his new secretary of state is going to have to contend with. the language that the president used to get him to this white house does not sound the same on the foreign stage here. he was very blunt about this, that he was going to use the same tough talk. that does not always translate well in diplomatic speakers. so struck by that comment this morning, basically confirming that the white house is just fine with that message being out there, that he was being sort of tough on some foreign leaders, but including our allies, australia. >> exactly. i want to play specifically what you're talking about, jeff.
this is what mr. trump said about the world. he said it is a dangerous place and he's going to fix it. he said don't worry about those phone calls. i want you to hear president trump in his own words. here it is. >> the world is in trouble but we're going to straighten it out, okay? that's what i do, i fix things. we're going to straighten it out. believe me. when you hear ability the tough phone calls i'm having, don't worry about it. just don't worry about it. they're tough. we have to be tough. it's time we're going to be a little tough, folks. we're taken advantage of by every nation in the world virtually. it's not going to happen anymore. >> so it's not going to happen anymore. i just got an urgent about iran and i will share this with my viewers right now, and then address a question to you david swerdlick. it says iran will vigorously continue with its missile activity. the trul administration sent out
a warning shot to iran, there's a new sheriff in town and we're going to be ever vigilant and much tougher than the obama administration. iran test fired a missile. right now iran has responded to the trump administration's words by saying it will vigorously continue with its missile activity. what do you make of that, david swerdlick? >> i think the iranian regime and the trump administration are testing each other out. the time clearly is meant to test president trump. at the same time i think the tough language that president trump and the trump administration are using are meant to signal both to iran and to their constituency here at home that they mean to take a different tact than the obama administration. what matters more ultimately than the words said, as jeff said, the new sheriff in town attitude, is what policy backs it up and what actions the administration might take. the forum for challenging the
missile test is the un security council. i think moves have already been made to g there. what else will the trump administration do to set themselves apart from their predecessors. >> colonel rick francona is also joining me. i wonder from a military perspective what you thought of president trump's words at this prayer breakfast in light of all that's happened in just the last day. >> i wasn't too surprised. we heard the ever-modest donald trump saying he was going to fix things. i didn't really find anything he said today to be either surprising or particularly offensive. he is kind of doubling down on his recent phone call with the australians. the tenor of the phone call with the australians troubles me a little bit. the australians are one of our closest allies, not just in a military sense, but very important intelligence operations we conduct using australian territory and also with the australian intelligence
services. that's very interesting. the iranian angle, though, is probably even more -- >> colonel, i want to focus more on australia for just a second. what you say is very interesting. we've come to find out that the phone call between the australian prime minister and president trump was rather con ten sthous, right? you're right, australia is a very important ally of the united states. i think many people might forget that australia stood by us in the wars in iraq and afghanistan and fought alongside, part of the coalition of the willing, right? >> of course. not just did, they still are. they're one of our most important allies in the global war on terrorism. they have -- australian special forces are among the highest rated in the world, and they are there today working very closely with u.s. forces in afghanistan and also fighting isis very covertly in iraq and syria. so it's very important that we maintain that relationship. i saw some of the fallout in the australian press.
they're beginning to question, do they want to continue this level of relationship military to military with the united states. that's where this becomes very dangerous. we don't want these discussions over a refugee issue which could be settled diplomatically to escalate to where it challenges a very important relationship, one that we rely on. we worked hand in hand with the australians. >> be by the way, the australian prime minister is also a big-time businessman and is also tough. i want to go back to the subject of iran. i want to go to fred pleitgen, he was just in iran. this new version that iran will vigorously continue with its missile activity. what do you make of that, fred? >> i think it's absolutely correct. it seems the iranians and the trump administration seem to be testing each other and seeing who blinks first, if you will. i don't think it came as any surprise that the iranians did this missile test shortly after
donald trump came into office, testing to see what the reaction of the new administration was going to be. i don't think necessarily they thought it was going to be as vigorous as it actually was. with nikki haley coming out and michael flynn coming out and saying iran was being put, quote, on notice. i think what we're also seeing, this is something the iranians have been telling me for a very long time, they are going to wait and see what the trump administration does. they certainly aren't going to back down from any of their core positions. that's something very important to them. they feel testing these ballistic missiles is something they're allowed to do. it's no doubt a provocative action. it's not clear whether or not it violates a u.n. resolution. certainly this is something that does put oil on the fire and seems to indicate there is going to be a very confrontational relationship between the u.s. and iran over the next four years. that certainly isn't something that bodes well for the easing of tensions we've seen when the obama administration was still
in office. i can tell you also from being in iran, carol, a lot of iranians very concerned about what the next four years might bring with the new trump administration. they were looking forward to possibly getting easing of those sanctions. >> i found it very interesting that during this prayer breakfast, that donald trump talked about this u.s. navy s.e.a.l. killed in the raid in yemen. david lauder, there are some publications out there saying that the first -- mr. trump okayed that raid and that raid didn't go down as expected. civilians died including children. there are grisly pictures out there of dead children circulated and probably will be used by isis in the long run. i found it very interesting that mr. trump spent a lot of time talking about navy s.e.a.l. william ryan owens, the man who died in that raid. your thoughts, david lauder? >> president trump, as
presidents typically do, wants to portray this as a heroic mission and focus on the american service member who died. but there are going to be questions inevitably about was this mission planned properly, was it reviewed properly? any time you have a transition from one administration to the other, there's always a danger that something slips through that isn't quite adequately vetted. of course, those questions have been heightened by the sense that the trump administration doesn't have everything nailed down quite as firmly as they should. this was a mission that was planned initially by the obama administration. president obama left the final decision to his successor because military wanted to use a moonless night for the raid, and the next moonless night was going to be after president trump took over. they passed the decision on to the next administration, but there's always questions about were the last-minute checks done adequately? was there enough scrutiny of the
military planning by the people in the white house. the bhous obviously would prefer that the public not focus on those questions and instead would rather focus attention on the heroism -- undoubt ed heroim of american forces. >> some of the language mr. trump used. he said freedom is a gift from god. he talked about religious liberty, but he said that in america we treat people of all religions the same. he said it is god who gave us life and liberty, not of course the mere men who wrote the constitution and came up with the constitution and our way of government. what do you make of that? >> he also said to the chaplain, the hell with it at one point. i was focused on his words about "the apprentice," talking about wanting to pray for arnold schwarzenegger's ratings. on one level, just a joke.
a joke in a setting like this seemed shocking to the folks following along on social media. on another level -- >> let's pause then since you bring that up, because we have that sound bite. >> you would president believe it unless you see it. we should look at it. >> he's at the national prayer breakfast. this is a very somber occasion, trying to get people on the same page and talking about your own faith and spirituality. this is how president trump started it off. let's listen. >> we had tremendous success on "the apprentice." when i ran for president, i had to leave the show. that's when i knew for sure i was doing it, and they hired a big, big movie star, arnold schwarzenegger to take my place, and we know how that turned out. the ratings went right down the tubes. it's been a total disaster, and mark will never, ever bet against trump again. and i want to just pray for arnold if we can for those ratings, okay?
>> on one level it is a joke. on another level it's a pretty egotistical self-serving statement. talking to his old producer friend in the room who created "the apprentice" a few years ago. he was bragging "the apprentice" is not doing well now that arnold has taken over for him. there's some truth to that. the setting for it, one thing to tweet about it. another thing to say it from the podium from the national prayer breakfast. >> the senate chaplain got up and gave a very moving prayer before mr. trump spoke. he said to the chaplain, i don't know how you're hired or anything, maybe the senate is responsible for that, but i'm going to keep you. >> right, right. he's been the chaplain for a number of years. the hell with it is what he said. later on trump said the quality of our lives is not defined by our material success, but by our spiritual success. those are the kinds of words that resonate in that room and with the viewing audience at home. to go from that comment to his own material success about "the
apprentice" is what felt off. >> i have to take a break. we have much more to talk about including new secretary of state rex tillerson. he begins his first full day today. he was at the hilton listening to president trump. look at all these people gathered waiting to hear what rex tillerson has to say. boy, does he have a full plate on his first day. we'll be right back. t, i'm all-business when i travel... even when i travel... for leisure. so i go national, where i can choose any available upgrade in the aisle - without starting any conversations- -or paying any upcharges. what can i say? control suits me. go national. go like a pro. safety doesn't come in a box. it's not a banner that goes on a wall. it's not something you do now and then.
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it is u.s. secretary of state rex tillerson's very first day on the job. he is expected to address state department employees at any moment now. you can see them gathered there. that's actually inside the state department in the lobby. they are awaiting rex tillerson. there's no shortage of issues to face this morning as president trump makes headlines for his comments on iran and his talks with foreign leaders and foreign allies. tillerson was sworn in just last night, a few hours after the senate voted to confirm him 56-43 in favor. as the nation's top diplomat,
rex tillerson will be charged with carrying out donald trump's approach to foreign policy. with me again david swerdlick "washington post" assistant editor, david lauder from the los angeles times and retired air force lieutenant rick francona. david swerdlick, i will start with you. donald trump was very complementary of rex tillerson at this national prayer breakfast meeting. he said it's a good thing he gets along with all the foreign leaders. that seems at odds with what's happened with mr. trump and foreign leaders over the past four days. how do you suppose that might play out? >> here is the rub, carol, last night in his remarks at secretary tillerson's swearing in, president trump said it's time to bring a clear-eyed focus back to foreign relations. the clear-eyed focus he's handing off to tillerson in his inbox is a war of words with australian's prime minister, mexico's president, a brewing
standoff with iran over their missile program and doubts among our nato allies about president trump's approach to nato. i think the other thing we also learned just as an aside about the confirmation, there was an opportunity for republican senators, rubio, mccain, graham to demonstrate >> so i want to go to you and talk about a clear eyed focus on the part of rex tillerson and the trump foreign policy. there are some who say that mike flynn, the national security adviser to president trump, put iran on notice, that was certainly the clear eyed vision. is that right or wrong? >> it certainly makes clear that they u.s. is going to take a stronger stance towards the iranians. the big question is, how are you
going to follow up on that? there is certainly potential for escalation between iran and the u.s. in the persian gulf you've had run-ins between the u.s. and the iranian navies, you've had them on a fairly regular situation. how are you going to handle that short of having a war? are they going to really fire at those vessels in the future? certainly the iranians for their part really do seem to be testing the trump administration with that ballistic missile that was fired, clearly waiting to see what sort of reaction they were going to get. again, i'm not really sure they thought it was going to be this vigorous and forceful. at the same time, the iranians are saying they're going to continue with their ballistic missile program. they're not going to back out. the big question is, what is the trump administration going to do next? because the next ballistic
missile test is going to come. and then the big question is, does this endanger the nuclear agreement itself. i think one of the things that i'm reading out of the tweets also that we've seen from donald trump this morning where he said, look, america gave iran this nuclear agreement, we also have to keep in mind that the nuclear agreement is not just between iran and the u.s., there's other countries involved as well, like for instance the germans, the chinese, the russians, who are all now doing business with iran. it certainly is a lot more complicated than just getting tougher on iran. certainly it seems iran is going to be a delicate issue over the next four years. >> colonel francona, you know about these things. how might the united states retaliate when iran is surely to conduct another missile test? >> it goes beyond the missile test. i think the greatest potential we have for military confrontation right now and in the near future is going to be in the persian gulf between u.s. navy units and the iranian irgc navy and the regular navy.
they are very close, everybody is on a hair trigger out there. and in the past, under the obama administration, there was a lot of restraint put on the commanders there. i still wonder what the new orders to those commanders are going to be. are we going to be more aggressive towards the iranians? if that's the case, as fred points out, a military slayings, possibly ending in a violent confrontation out there, is not only possible but it's even growing more likely. i know the iranians are going to continue their missile tests. think we are going to protest that but there's not much we can do about that. the wording in the u.n. resolution gives them enough wiggle room to do that. i'm more worried about the freedom of transit through the strait of hormuz. i think that's where we're going to see a possible confrontation, possibly a military confrontation between the two countries. >> okay. so david lauder, you have rex tillerson who is going to be our
new access. he has no diplomatic experience. he's businessman. but i guess he gets along with foreign leaders. how might that play on the world stage? >> well, i think one of the biggest issues, probably, for the new secretary of state is something that we heard the president say at the prayer breakfast a few minutes ago, a phrase that donald trump has used over and over again through his campaign. he said, all the rest of the world has taken advantage of the united states and we need to be tougher. the rest of the world of course sees it as exactly the opposite, they see the united states as the bully on the world stage, the country always throwing its weight around and telling other countries what to do, the richest and most powerful. there is a huge gap in perception between the rest of the world and the president about who is getting the short end of the stick here. i think secretary tillerson is now going to be the person in the middle who is going to have to try to bridge that enormous
gap, and using his skills as a businessman and a maker of deals, make he can do that. make he can find areas in which he can say to the rest of the world, well, here is what we need to do and bring them along. it's going to be extremely difficult if the president constantly thinks that the rest of the world is trying to take advantage of the u.s. and the rest of the world sees the u.s. as pushing them around. >> here is the other thing, david, that came out of the prayer breakfast. donald trump used general mattis's nickname "mad dog," when general mattis doesn't like, he said, "i have general mattis in place, he's never lost a battle." what did donald trump mean by saying that? >> we've seen throughout the campaign that president trump liked to refer to general mattis, and previous jenelgener
pat on and macarthur, who talked tough and backed it up. no one doubts general mattis is a highly capable leader on the battlefield and at the department of defense. it's the policy behind it. one more thing about the prayer breakfast, if i can, carol, i think president trump gave a fitting tribute to william ryan owens, but he weakened the message with the shoutouts to general mattis and to mark burnett and vice president pence. it was an odd mixture of messages in that short speech. >> we'll continue to talk about this, but i have to take a break. thanks to all of you. the next hour of "cnn newsroom" after a break.
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and good morning, i'm carol costello. thank you so much for joining me. the trump white house rattling nerves among friends and foes alike as america's foreign policy takes on a more combative tone. minutes ago, at the national prayer breakfast, the president ignoring the conciliatory tone traditional at this event. also at this hour, his new secretary of state, rex tillerson, speaking to employees at the state department, that will happen at any moment. the agency has been rocked by dissent and resignations over trump's new policies like that travel ban. and the diplomatic tensions only growing. today we have more details of the president's newest clashes with important allies, australia and mexico. and of course the nuclear deal and iran. and there are reports of high civilian casualties in that yemen raid that killed a u.s.
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