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For the Record with Greta, Transcript 4/12/2017

Guests: William Cohen, Michael McFaul, Jeff Mason, Jack Jacobs, Hallie Jackson, Richard Engel

Show: For the Record with Greta Date: April 12, 2017 Guest: William Cohen, Michael McFaul, Jeff Mason, Jack Jacobs, Hallie Jackson, Richard Engel


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: .political consultant and long time advisor to Donald Trump Roger Stone tomorrow on MTP daily. You won`t want to miss it. For the record with Greta starts right now, hi Greta.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, NBC NEWS HOST FOR THE RECORD: Hey, Chris. Thank you, Chris. And warning shots fired. Are Assad and Bannon both on the way out, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today saying this?


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: To an end, and they have again brought this on themselves.


VAN SUSTEREN: And NBC news reporting President Trump has issued a warning shot to chief strategist Steve Bannon warning him, cut the brawling with Trump`s son-in-law Jared Kushner, or he, Trump, is getting involved, more on that ahead. We begin with President Trump holding nothing back, talking about the state of relations with Russia.


DONALD TRUMP, THE 45TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It would be wonderful as we were discussing just a little while ago if NATO and our country could get along with Russia. Right now we`re not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia. This is built for a long period of time. But we`re going to see what happens. Putin is the leader of Russia. Russia is a strong country. We`re a very, very strong country.


VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump also very suspicious of Putin, questioning if Russia knew about Syria`s chemical attack before the slaughter of those innocents.


TRUMP: They are doing investigations into that right now. I would like to think that they didn`t know, but certainly they could have. That is a butcher. That is a butcher. So, I felt we had to do something about it. I have absolutely no doubt we did the right thing.


VAN SUSTEREN: The president`s comments come in short time after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tour of Moscow meeting with Vladimir Putin. After his boss President Trump, secretary Tillerson with the ominous news that there is a low level of trust with Russia and amid all the feuding, get this, President Trump with a surprising message at his joint press conference with the head of NATO.


TRUMP: The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorists. I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It`s no longer obsolete.


VAN SUSTEREN: With me former Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Secretary Cohen, how would you describe now that the day is over in Moscow, the trip that secretary Tillerson had in Moscow, meeting with Secretary Lavrov and President Putin?

COHEN: Well, it was necessary for him to go. I`m glad that he went and I think he conducted himself in a very straightforward manner. He is a man of great substance and I think persuasion, and he made it clear that the United States is unhappy with the role that Russia has been playing and supporting Assad, and that it had to stop.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Was it a success?

COHEN: I think it was a success. He also met with President Putin and they`ve had a relationship in the past and I`m sure was also very straightforward, without a lot of name calling, very businesslike. I think, you say success because Secretary Tillerson put forth the president`s statement, and made it clear that we cannot tolerate the use of chemical weapons again anywhere, but especially on the part of Assad. So, I think it was a success from that point of view.

VAN SUSTEREN: I have a hard time understanding your characterization as a success when the product of it was that the relationship between the two nations -- and these aren`t just the Bahamas and Barbados. These are the two foremost nuclear powers of the world at the lowest trust level ever. He didn`t walk out of there saying there is a door open. He came out of it with a very bleak message.

COHEN: Well, it was a success in the fact that we were talking and not hurling stones or rockets at each other. Sitting down and laying out your case as to why you took action, why you may take action in the future, and listening to his Russian counterpart as such, I think that is a successful meeting. And you both layout exactly what your positions are and hope that the rhetoric will calm down and there will be a change roughly in position as the days evolve.

VAN SUSTEREN: But he completely denied that the Russians completely denied that Assad was behind the gas attack, calling for investigation. I mean, they`ve done everything but show any sort of willingness to have any discussion about it. They`re just thwarting every single effort and their big pal Assad, you know, he just did the unthinkable.

COHEN: Nothing has changed. To go back and think of what Russia has done, they tried to destabilize the American political system. They shot down or at least their missile shot down Malaysian airlines number 17. They prevented anyone from investigating it to prove it was a Russian missile that shot them down. So, this is standard procedure from the Russian`s point of view. They tend to deny, deflect, and disseminate fake information. So, this is not unusual. I think what is still a successful that we`re not yelling at each other, but we`re sitting down and making a case as adults and saying, here`s what`s tolerable, here`s what`s not. Let`s see if we can agree on a way forward. That from my perspective was successful rather than Secretary Tillerson cancelling the meeting or President Putin saying I`m not meeting with you and we`re simply now going to start (inaudible) up the rhetoric and possibly even military action. I look at it as a positive step forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess you`re looking at it half full, I`m looking at it half empty. Russia vetoed the condemnation resolution today, and is standing by Syria, and you have the Secretary of State saying the lowest trust level ever. I say they had a nice afternoon together where they didn`t yell at each other, but I don`t see any sort of progress and I don`t see any sort of effort to bring down the rhetoric or to make things safer for people in Syria.

COHEN: I think on the surface you will not see much change. President Putin is not going to come forward and say gee, you`re right, we made a mistake, this guy is a butcher and we`re not going to support him anymore and that is unrealistic. I think you`re seeing what`s taking place on the surface. Below the surface I`m sure contacts are going to be reinstituted. They`ve already indicated they`re going to put back on the table, at least, the de-confliction process that kept us from shooting each other. And, so, I think look below the surface, you`ll see that contacts will be resumed at a different level perhaps, but nonetheless, the Russians can`t afford to have this go awry nor can we. We have to find a way to work together, understanding each other`s fault lines and I think that Secretary Tillerson made it very clear what ours are. So, I would say there will be progress made. It will be slow, but just remember this is a Russia that tried to destroy our -- faith in our own political system. That is an attack upon the heart of America and it`s not --

VAN SUSTEREN: They`re denying that. They denied that. I mean, there`s another example. You raised that example. It wasn`t like -- I guess we go back to the half empty half full. The Russians denied that. I know it`s the Russians. I realize it`s not easy. I guess I`m looking for something to grab onto to give me some sort of hope that this is deescalating and not the opposite, and that there will be more help for the people who have been victims in Syria and, you know, and other places of the world, whether it`s Crimea or Ukraine.

COHEN: Well, there was progress made today. President Trump came out and said that NATO is not irrelevant, not obsolete. That is a very major step forward and it`s a signal to Russia that he is not just dealing with the United States, he is dealing with 28 members of the NATO alliance. That is a step forward to say, President Putin, you`re alone on this. It comes back to this whole notion of America first. Has President Trump abandoned that? No. You can`t have America first if you don`t have other allies with you. If it`s America first, you can`t be alone. That to me is a positive statement.

VAN SUSTEREN: The fact the president has changed his position saying NATO is no longer obsolete, I thought that actually ratcheted up on Russia, because of course Russia doesn`t want, you know us back in NATO in a very vigorous and robust way. I thought it was another bad sign that things were -- temperatures were not coming down with Russia.

COHEN: No, it`s a good sign. It`s a good sign to show we are united, that we have an alliance that is the best military political alliance in the world, has been. So, that is a signal to Russia saying, look, what you`re doing now is leading down a path in which it`s very dangerous. You`re supporting somebody who is very dangerous. We have 28 members here who are prepared to support the United States in protecting and trying to protect innocent civilians. So, if you`re going to take us on, you`re going to take 28 of us on. That to me gives us more leverage. It presents a message to President Putin that he is dealing with an alliance now, and just not the United States. I think that makes a difference. That will make peace more likely than not in my judgment.

VAN SUSTEREN: And let me point out that you have years of experience as Secretary of Defense. I do not. You are a U.S. Senator, I was not. And I just hope that you`re so right about this and that I`m dead wrong about it. So, thank you very much. Thank you very much for joining us, sir.

COHEN: Pleasure meeting you.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the elephant in the room today is in Moscow as Russia`s meddling in the election. Secretary Tillerson was pressed on that today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you present to President Putin or the foreign minister specific evidence the Russian government interfered in the U.S. Election?

TILLERSON: Yes, to the question of the interference with the election, that is fairly well established. In the United States, I think that has been spoken to on the hill as well with the congress and it is a serious issue. It`s one that we know is serious enough to attract additional sanctions. And, so, we are mindful of the seriousness of that particular interference in our elections, and I`m sure that Russia is mindful of it as well.


VAN SUSTEREN: The Russian foreign minister said they had seen no evidence of any Russian involvement. Michael McFaul served as U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. Good evening, sir.

MICHAEL MCFAUL, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Greta thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, at least one report quoting President Putin today that -- in which he said Russia/U.S. relations have deteriorated under the Trump administration. Do you believe that?

MCFAUL: Well, it`s awful early in the Trump administration to see a trajectory. But I want to build on your last conversation about success or not. I think this trip was a huge success for rather unorthodox reasons, because Secretary Tillerson was talking much more realistically, much more pragmatically about our bilateral relations and really saying nothing, echoing nothing from candidate Trump who I thought was naive about Russia as a candidate, who I thought said things that would not have served America`s national interests. So, we`re closer to, I think, pursuing our national interests. I`d like to see more. I would like him to describe that not in the passive tense, by the way. It has been observed, but rather to say the Trump administration believes that Russia violated our sovereignty in 2016. But I saw that as progress that we are dealing with Russia now realistically and not naively.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, sir. I don`t mean to paraphrase you incorrectly. But I guess the way I hear what you say is that we called it like it is rather than sort of sugar coating it today, telling Russia exactly what we think. Now, having said that --

MCFAUL: Exactly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Seems like we`re at a very difficult time. If the trust between the two nuclear nations is at an all-time low -- we`re not talking about insignificant nations, we`re talking about Russia and the United States. What`s next? I mean, tell me the successful predictable likely path forward.

MCFAUL: So, your paraphrase was exactly right. We weren`t talking about recognizing Crimea as part of Russia. We weren`t talking about lifting sanctions. All of those things that we heard in the campaign and the transition were gone. But here`s the good news about what you`re worried about. I think it was very important that Mr. -- President Putin decided to meet with Secretary Tillerson. Had he not met with him that would have been a very bad sign? And at the end of the press conference, you know, I`ve been to those press conferences with Secretary Kerry and Secretary Clinton with Lavrov before. They were keeping the door open to say we do not want things to spin out of control. We acknowledge our differences, but we`re going to look for places of mutual cooperation. And at this stage in U.S./Russia relations that is the best that could be hoped for.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you see, then, at least let`s pick off one of the issues. Do you see the chemical weapons issue, that that is on a path to ending, that either they will lean on Assad not to do it again or be more robust getting the chemical weapons out of there? Where do you see that in this discussion?

MCFAUL: So, publicly we`re at a big impasse, because President Putin and his government don`t even recognize that there was a chemical weapons attack. That is why they can say, therefore, they are still enforcing the agreement from 2013. I think privately there will be that pressure. I think this was a scary moment for the Russians and it was a moment of undermining Putin`s legitimacy as somebody that delivered on that. And I would hope that that would move forward, but it will not move forward -- let`s be realistic again. Some of the other things that the Trump administration officials are saying, it`s not in Russia`s interest to have Assad there. They`re doubling down on this animal. That is a mistake. That sounds like 2011, 2012, 2013 to me. And to me, Russia is not going to change its policy. They are not going to overthrow Assad. They are going to double down with the status quo.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. What do you think worries President Putin the most tonight about the U.S.? What`s our leverage?

MCFAUL: I think he is worried about that he doesn`t understand President Trump. Trump is more mysterious to him today than before. Nobody in Moscow a couple of months ago would have ever said that Donald Trump, President Trump or candidate Trump would have struck Assad for a humanitarian intervention. That is not what he said as a candidate. That is not what he said back in 2013. And I think unpredictability right now is their greatest worry.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ambassador, thank you very much for joining us, sir.

MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ahead, President Trump reveals his plan for what is next in Syria. Are his generals on board? Also warning shot, source close to the president saying he sent a message to chief strategist Steve Bannon. Is he on the way out? We are live at the White House. And my interview with Press Secretary Sean Spicer on his controversial Hitler comments. Why he was a distraction. And that United Airlines P.R. nightmare, the CEO says he feels shame for this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no, this is wrong. Oh, my god, look at what you`re doing to him! Oh, my god!


VAN SUSTEREN: Is the airline business about to change?


VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump commenting on Russian President Putin for the first time since launching 59 missiles at Russia`s ally Syria, here is Reuters White House Correspondent Jeff Mason.


JEFF MASON, REUTERS: Has your view of Vladimir Putin changed after what`s happened in Syria and what is the United States prepared to do if he continues to support Assad?

TRUMP: Right now we`re not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low in terms of relationship with Russia. This is built for a long period of time.

MASON: Have your views changed on Putin?

TRUMP: We`re going to see. We`re going to see about that. I`ll also see about Putin over a period of time. It will be a fantastic thing if we got along with Putin and Russia.


VAN SUSTEREN: These coming just hours after Secretary of State Tillerson`s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, all eyes on President Trump`s foreign policy. What is his next move in Syria?


TRUMP: Are we going to get involved with Syria? No.


VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump saying we are not going into Syria. Was he telegraphing his strategy? Now, this morning I interviewed White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and asked him about just that.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that is specific to ground troops. I think there are two issues. One is that doesn`t mean, a, how we`re going to deal with ISIS as a whole. So, if we have to deal with ISIS and it moves into Syria, that is one thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: So, Assad should not take his comment, we`re not going to go into Syria to mean that he is not going to do another airstrike necessarily?

SPICER: Absolutely no.

VAN SUSTEREN: That is still --

SPICER: 100 percent.


VAN SUSTEREN: Then there is North Korea threatening a nuclear strike, but Sean Spicer insisting the country does not have nuclear capabilities.


SPICER: We have a shared interest with China of making sure that we don`t have a nuclear North Korea.

VAN SUSTEREN: We do have a nuclear North Korea. We do. They have a nuclear weapon. They have 25, 20,000 artillery weapons on the border facing Seoul.

SPICER: Medium short term missile. I`m not going to get into discussions about their nuclear capability.


VAN SUSTEREN: The gaffe coming just one day after Spicer`s Hitler controversy. With me Jeff Mason Reuters White House Correspondent, he asked that very first question of President Trump and Medal of Honor recipient Colonel Jack Jacobs. Good evening to both of you. First to you, colonel, is there a way to describe what the strategy is of the Trump White House towards North Korea?

JACK JACOBS, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: We don`t have one is the easiest way to describe it. You know, we and China ignored what was developing in North Korea for so long now that it`s heading towards a crisis. And a crisis is something very particular. It`s really bad. It`s getting worse. You need to do something. If you don`t do it right away, it`s all going down the tubes. And both the United States and China have been ignoring it for a long, long time. Something needs to be done. It needs to be done soon. I think that North Korea is maybe 18 to 24 months away from having a nuclear weapon that is deliverable by missile and neither we nor China has any interest in that, in that ensuing. As a result we`re going to have very serious conversations with China about what happens next with respect to North Korea. Indeed, today state controlled newspaper in China said to North Korea, don`t test another nuclear weapon. Otherwise you`re in danger of losing all the oil that we`re sending to you. I think China is now starting to get serious, a little late, but starting to get serious about North Korea.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jeff, on the other part of the globe, going directly to NATO, the president saying today that NATO, in his view, is no longer obsolete. That is a change.

MASON: Yeah, that is. It`s a big change. It`s a shift from the rhetoric that he used as a candidate. And he said in the run up to that comment that he had complained that NATO did not fight terrorism, that now it did, and therefore it was no longer obsolete. But it was certainly a change in the overall view that he has articulated about NATO. And it`s part of a process that he is started since becoming president. He has had meetings with top leaders of NATO countries, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May. All of them have been pushing him in that direction. We saw the culmination of that today and that will continue when he goes to the NATO summit this spring.

VAN SUSTEREN: Colonel, the president said that the United States is not going into Syria, and then I asked Sean Spicer today that the president has always said he doesn`t tell his enemies what he is going to do. Spicer came back and said he doesn`t want to put boots on the ground. We have some boots on the ground, not many, but at least 400 U.S. military on the ground in Syria. What would be your advice in Syria right now?

JACOBS: Well, to have as low a footprint as possible. Don`t forget that the more people we have in Syria, the more difficult it becomes to avoid any casualties. The American public doesn`t have very much -- has a very low threshold of pain for this sort of thing. With respect to using chemical weapons again, I think there is very little doubt that if Assad uses chemical weapons again -- there is little doubt we`re going to attack another air field or something similar. But in terms of actually getting involved in the day-to-day operations underground, I don`t think that is going to happen. He would be well advised not to do that. And I think General McMaster and General Mattis are telling him exactly that, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Colonel, just so we`re all guessing and rolling the dice figuring out what Assad will or won`t do, do you think the strike in your view, was that a deterrent enough for Assad not to do chemical weapons or is he going to do something else, do it equally as bad again?

JACOBS: What is interesting about the strikes is they were able to use the air field right away. On purpose we didn`t crater the runway. It was a demonstration, an interesting demonstration because President Xi was here as well. He wanted to conduct that strike before President Xi went back to China in order to influence China`s thinking about North Korea. But it was not effective as a military way of preventing the Syrians from launching further attacks, but it certainly sent a message, sent a message both to Syria and to Russia. I think that was a stepping stone to serious discussions that ought to be taking place behind closed doors between Tillerson on the one hand and the Russians on the other and let`s hope that the discussions between Russia and the United States do not take place in a public forum. In fact, they do take place behind closed doors. That is the only way we`re going to be able to reach some sort of arrangement on Syria.

VAN SUSTEREN: Jeff, was the White House -- were they pleased with Tillerson`s work in Moscow today?

MASON: Well, President Trump seemed to indicate that at the press conference. He said he was expecting to get a call from the Secretary of State and that things had gone well. So, I think that is at least a foreshadowing of what sounds like praise from the president about his Secretary of State. But clearly there are a lot of open questions about that relationship between the United States and Russia, the Secretary of State worked on that and addressed some of that while he was there on his trip. But there are questions that President Trump is going to continue to grapple with and he hinted at that today, too, when I asked him about whether his views on President Putin had changed. You know, he repeated that he`d still like to have a positive relationship with President Putin and with Russia, but that we`ll see and that right now as you played earlier in the clip, the relations are at an all-time low.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I hear the sirens behind you, Jeff. I hope they`re not coming for you.

MASON: They`re not coming for me. Thanks for your concern, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: You better run if they are. An anyway, gentlemen, thank you both.

JACOBS: Thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ahead more from my interview with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer asked about his Hitler comments and whether the president talked to him about those comments. You`re going to hear what Spicer told me about that coming up.

And later, United Airlines CEO on camera about the video that is scaring many united passengers. You will hear what the united CEO is now saying about his first statement when he blamed the passenger who got dragged off the flight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god, look at what you`re doing to him.



VAN SUSTEREN: White House press secretary Sean Spicer apologizing for his Hitler comments. Here`s what he told me today about the controversy.


SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I made a mistake. There`s no other way to say it. I got into a topic that I shouldn`t have and I screwed up. I mean, you know, and I hope people understand that we all make mistakes. There`s two take away. One is it`s a very holy week for both the Jewish people and the Christian people and this is not to make a gaffe and a mistake like this is inexcusable and reprehensible. Secondly, just from a professional standpoint, it`s obviously disappointing. Your job as the spokesperson is to help amplify the president`s actions and accomplishments and I think he is had an unbelievable successful couple weeks. And when you`re distracting from that message of accomplishment and that is your job, is to be the exact opposite on a professional level it`s disappointing, because I think I`ve let the president down. And, so, on both a personal level and professional level that will definitely go down as not a very good day in my history.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did the president say anything to you last night or this morning?

SPICER: No, I haven`t talked to him this morning.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any message through anyone else from the president?

SPICER: I don`t get into private conversations. I just -- again, this was my mistake, my bad, that I needed to fix and so I`m not going to get into any additional conversations that I may or may not have had. I will just say this was mine, mine to own, mine to apologize for, and mine to ask for forgiveness for.


VAN SUSTEREN: Margaret Carlson, congressman for the daily beast, Nick Confessore New York Ties political reporter, Nick, your thoughts on this?

NICK CONFESSORE, NEW YORK TIES POLITICAL REPORTER: I accept his apology on behalf of the American people. Look, I think the whole thing was a little bit overblown. He said something stupid and he got into territory that you should never get into. You should never compare anything to Hitler ever except for Hitler. It`s just dumb territory to be in. Having said that, he apologized and people make mistakes. Even in Washington. And if he`ll not go after reporters on fake war on Christmas stuff in December, I`ll accept that apology no problem.


MARGARET CARLSON, THE DAILY BEAST: You know who had a worse apology, the president of the United Airlines or Sean Spicer?

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, I`ll take Sean Spicer`s over United, United tried to first blame the other guy.

CARLSON: Well, he did. But both were not forthcoming, you know. Munoz the president of United Airlines finally got to a full-blown apology. Sean Spicer didn`t start out with a full-blown apology. His to you this morning at the museum was his most abject yet. It was step-by-step to get there.

CONFESSORE: It was his fifth attempt.

CARLSON: His fifth attempt and he finally got it right with you, Greta. And I thank you on behalf of the American people.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I think that is a tough business. You know, who hasn`t said something really stupid in this business? It`s like that is the thing that worries me. When I hear someone say something stupid, I don`t think Sean Spicer whether I agree with him, I don`t think he is a bad guy at all. How many stupid things have I said?

CARLSON: This is the second time the White House has had a holocaust problem. When they put out the --

VAN SUSTEREN: Was that his?

CARLSON: No, not him. I think he did apologize for that by saying something like, well, the gypsies and the disabled were also hurt, you know, during the holocaust. It wasn`t just Jews. You just leave all of it alone.

CONFESSORE: If there is one lesson we can draw from this I think for the White House, if you`re wrong, just apologize right away. They do have a habit of kind of digging in really hard. That is true of a lot of politicians and people in politics. Obviously everyone hates to say I`m sorry. I think President Trump is a person who really, really hates to say I`m sorry.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has he ever said it?

CONFESSORE: I`m not sure he has. I think once in my recollection somehow. But just say you`re sorry and move on.

CARLSON: Touch the top of his mouth.

CONFESSORE: Yeah, it was caught in his cheek somewhere. I just think don`t do four tries at it. If you get it wrong, apologize and move on. I thought it was curious, though, that he called up Sheldon Adelson to apologize as he if he was the chief rabbi of the White House or something.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rabbi of Las Vegas.

CONFESSORE: That is right. His first apology seemed to go to a donor which seemed a little strange to me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe Jared Kushner got one and Ivanka. I like a good apology and, you know, living in a glass house is that I`m really good -- I really like apologies. We`ll take a break. Stay with us. Up next President Trump`s tepid defense to chief strategist Steve Bannon. Was it a warning shot? I asked the Press Secretary about the feuding and new reporting live from the White House.


VAN SUSTEREN: Is Steve Bannon on his way out in a new interview President Trump will not say whether he still backs his chief strategist. Trump telling the New York post, quote, I like Steve. You have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors and I didn`t know Steve. It`s not like I was going to change strategies, because I was facing crooked Hillary. When Trump was asked about the rumor of the feud between Bannon and son in law Jared Kushner, he put his foot down, Trump added Steve is a good guy, but I told him to straighten it out or I will. And this morning, I asked Press Secretary Sean Spicer about the feud.


SPICER: I think a lot of it is overblown what you see in the media. The president has brought together an unbelievably talented team of successful individuals whether it`s in business, academics, government. And there are a lot of opinions. But that is frankly -- it`s the same team that in a lot of ways had a very successful campaign. I think sometimes we see some of that spill over in the public and that is unfortunate, because there is going to be on policy issues a very spirited debate. I think that is a healthy way for the president to get guidance and ultimately make decisions.

VAN SUSTEREN: Does the media get in the way of the White House doing its job? Do you feel -- is this a distraction?

SPICER: And I think, you know, to your question, I think the more that the focus is on what are we doing, right or wrong, to make the country better, to strength be e en it, to make it better, that is where I`d like to see the focus. Whether you live on the east coast, north, west or south, those are the issues that most Americans I think are waking up, not whether or not two individuals or three individuals are, you know, going back and forth in the White House. So, I understand that there is always going to be a little palace intrigue, but I think that the proportion that I`ve seen of palace intrigue versus policy is a little out of whack.


VAN SUSTEREN: NBC`s Hallie Jackson is at the White House with new reporting. Halle.

HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CORRESPONDENT WHITE HOUSE: Hey, Greta. In addition to the comments that you just mentioned there is a new "Wall Street Journal" piece out in which the president calls Steve Bannon a guy who works for him which raised some eyebrows for sure. Sources close to the president -- this was kind of a warning shot to Steve Bannon, the post interview, a way to highlight what a lot of folks are telling us is growing frustration from the president against the constant infighting and the subsequent coverage, by the way, of that infighting he apparently doesn`t love either. A source close to Steve Bannon is telling us that, listen, the president wanted the infighting to stop. The infighting has stopped, adding, simple.

That source telling us that Steve Bannon not particularly concerned about his job being in trouble, at least not at this point. But it does highlight some of the intrigue here in the west wing behind me, Greta, when you talk about who is up, who is down, why does the palace intrigue matter, from a policy perspective, right? Steve Bannon is the architect of kind of that populist nationalist movement that helped push President Trump to victory in November. Without that, we know that there are those referred to by some in the Bannon wing as the west wing Democrats referring to Jared Kushner, Gary Cohen, et cetera.

If Steve Bannon has some waning influence then perhaps that indicates the rise of that more centrist thinking, if you will. Will that push President Trump towards the center from a governance perspective? That is kind of the question. It certainly makes for interesting days here at the White House, particularly when you have the president speaking to publicly about it, too, to multiple outlets today. Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: Halle, thank you, back with me, Margaret and Nick, Margaret, first to you.

CARLSON: If I said I like you, Greta, but -- if I heard that, I think I would be very worried, because that "but" is the essence of that sentence. And a White House source told me today that Bannon will probably get the message and resign. He won`t be fired. Trump doesn`t like to fire people. And that, you know, when the door closes and Jared Kushner is in the meeting and he is not in the meeting, this message will come. And I heard Hallie in her report say, you know, Steve Bannon, the architect of the nationalist part of the Trump agenda, Trump really doesn`t like hearing that he is the architect. And remember on Saturday night live where Bannon is the president and Trump is at a little table. He is at the kids` table.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nick, one of the things that President Trump says, I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. Now, that goes to the litany of all the people he beat ahead of time. The fact is the president wasn`t winning, if you look at the poll, Secretary Clinton was. It really took someone coming in, I don`t know if Bannon was the one or Trump changed his policy. But take a look at the Electoral College map and really sort of focus on that. The campaign, the election was won election night. There was a lot that happened in the six weeks that led up to it.

CONFESSORE: Correct. And I think when Steve Bannon came back on and the campaigner came out of the campaign, he had known Trump a few years by the way, Trump had been on the radio show. To say he met him on the campaign is not true. He came on the campaign and there was a Trump be Trump kid of moment there. To really go full throated, to embrace the parts of his message that was most appealing to the voters who as you point out were the critical voters in places like Michigan and Pennsylvania, I don`t think Bannon is the architect so much as he is the propeller of those ideas --

VAN SUSTEREN: The facilitator and the encourager.

CONFESSORE: Trump has some genuine passion on immigration and ISIS and trade. But I think it`s Trump who -- sorry, it`s Bannon within the bureaucracy of the White House is pushing those issues against other power centers. Without him, I think you`ll lose some of that mojo.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think, and of course I don`t know, it`s always hard to tell what goes on behind closed doors. But I suspect that President Trump really doesn`t like the idea that someone else is getting credit for what was a pretty incredible surprising victory.

CARLSON: Right. And I think Kellyanne Conway focused Trump during those later months after Paul Manafort left. And Bannon was the intellectual behind the Trump message. So --

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course it`s probably not wise to fight with the son- in-law. But they have very different ideologies. You can have a fight or a robust debate. A robust debate is appreciated, a fight not so much.

CARLSON: If you`re making it between yourself and Jared Kushner that is not very smart.

VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, we`ll watch that passing tree, coming up, President Trump calling Assad a butcher and animal. NBC Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel joins us next.


VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump today calling the Syrian president a butcher, at the same time Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow for high-level meetings. Today he met with Russian president Vladimir Putin. NBC`s Richard Engel is with us, nice to see you, Richard. And former Secretary of Defense Cohen was just -- Secretary of Defense Cohen was just on with me and he said that he thought the meeting with Tillerson and in Moscow was a success. What are your thoughts?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends on what kind of success. From one perspective, the media are all talking about Russia/U.S. tensions. We`re not talking about how the Kremlin may have influenced the election to help get Trump elected. That has been the narrative in the media for a long time. So, there are certainly benefits for Trump and his inner circle to take a strong stance against Russia right now. I`m not saying that tensions aren`t real, but I think from a P.R. perspective that is certainly a success of one point. Whether there will be progress made over Syria that is a much harder issue.

I think Assad right now, not just after the chemical attack that the U.S. alleges which says it can prove which Moscow says never happened. That just highlighted a problem, but even before that Assad was becoming a liability for Moscow. But Moscow is in a strange position. Vladimir Putin is in a difficult position. Even if he wants to back away from Assad, it`s difficult for him to now back away from Assad, because Trump is telling him to back away from Assad, because Rex Tillerson is coming to Moscow and ordering him to break off relations with his allies. So it`s hard to know if that is coming, if Moscow will really eventually change its tune on Assad and decide that he is a liability and try and quietly remove him down the road. But I think in this case all politics is local. So both sides got to look like they were taking a tough stand against the other. So I guess there`s a success in that.

VAN SUSTEREN: You`ve written so eloquently about the region, and in your most recent book, which I devoured. Looking at --

ENGEL: Oh, thank you.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you think Assad`s thinking tonight?

ENGEL: Well, I think Assad has got to be very nervous about his future. It`s not even clear how much power Assad has anymore. And when you`re the symbol of all things that are wrong in your country and you`ve just been accused of horrible war crimes -- and I`m not saying that Assad had no culpability, but there are certainly military leaders in Syria who are oftentimes, according to U.S. officials acting with a degree of autonomy. So if you`re Assad right now, everyone is blaming everything that is happening in your country on you. The U.S. is asking Russia to get rid of you. Russia is still in your corner, but who knows for how long. Russia might turn on you if it weren`t for the fact that it is the U.S. asking for you to be removed. If I were Assad, I`d be very nervous. I`d be nervous about my own personal security. Let`s just say I wouldn`t be taking any helicopters without checking under the engines first.

VAN SUSTEREN: Richard, thank you.

Ahead, we have new video tonight of the united passenger dragged off the plane, and we are hearing from the CEO for the first time. That is next.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not so much what I thought. It`s what I felt. Probably the word "shame" comes to mind.


VAN SUSTEREN: The CEO of United Airlines scrambling to do damage control, now speaking on camera for the first time. He is now saying that the video showing a passenger getting dragged off a flight gave him shame. He also answered questions about why his first e-mail, his company internal one to united employees, blamed the passenger.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My initial words fell short of truly expressing what we were feeling, and that is something that I`ve learned from. That shame and embarrassment was pretty palpable for me and for a lot of our family.


VAN SUSTEREN: Also new video emerging showing the moments before the passenger was dragged from his seat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not going. I`m staying right there. Go ahead and arrest me.


VAN SUSTEREN: Now lawmakers are getting into it, today, a Republican governor and a Democratic senator both criticizing United Airlines.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This can`t happen again, and I say that as, you know, dullest serves as one of the United`s hub. If united screwed up in their scheduling process, that should not be the passenger`s issue. That should be United`s issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody who flies commercially knows that united is awful. They kicked that guy off the plane and the other three to make money.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is it. And they`re doing it with the permission of the federal government. So what I`m saying to the administration is stop them from doing it.


VAN SUSTEREN: Seth Kaplan is managing partner of airline weekly. Seth is this a totally self-inflicted wound by United Airlines, and could they have just paid more money, because then they`d offered a couple grand, people would have scrambled to the front of the plane to volunteer. Instead they`re paying thousands to try to do damage control.

SETH KAPLAN, AIRLINE WEEKLY: Totally self-inflicted, Greta, both the incident itself and the aftermath. Yeah, you know, look, everybody at some point has a price when it comes to this stuff at least, hopefully not other things in life. But I was in that situation too where I was on a flight a couple years ago. I really had to get to a conference, in thought. But then, you know, $400, $600, $800, I can miss the first session. Usually at some point they can get somebody. Failing that, you know, you just cannot take a passenger. You`ve given a boarding card. He is sitting in the seat you told him to sit in, and extract him like that. United has said they will not do that in the future. That was the last mistake they made, letting him board.

VAN SUSTEREN: One of the things we`re hearing today is Dr. Dao has a lawyer, and a motion to preserve evidence, which means that United Airlines should take out its checkbook now, because they`re about to be sued for this.

KAPLAN: Yeah, and you know, the lack of remorse that they showed when, you know, it was almost like remember the Iraqi minister of information back then. You know, we`re all watching this video, and we know what happened, all of us. Even those of us who are rather sympathetic to everything the airlines go, through, it was terrible. For two, three days, the airline is trying to tell us that it wasn`t terrible. Belatedly they`ve said the right things and done the right thing saying that won`t happen again. They`ll never use cops to take somebody off a flight who hasn`t done anything wrong basically. I`m glad they`ve done that. They just did themselves a lot of harm and the airline industry a lot of harm by not doing the right thing sooner.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is united making money or are they struggling?

KAPLAN: They`re making money. They`re not at the top of the industry, but they`re fine. The U.S. Airline industry in general, the tide is high, so even kind of the underperforming airlines are doing rather well.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know what I don`t like -- I don`t like the mergers because I think the mergers have been a terrible thing with the concentration of these airlines into about four has meant there`s no competition. You know, there`s less incentive to try to give you a good ride, give you a safe ride but give you a good ride.

KAPLAN: Yeah. It`s a mixed bag, Greta, in that regard. There`s no question. It`s a less competitive industry than it once was. On the other hand, it kind of just looks more like other industries, right? Depending on where you live, if you live in a big city and flying somewhere, you probably have three or four airlines to choose from. Kind of like you have three or four cell phone companies, three or four cable companies. Yeah, guess what, now they`re making money like the companies in other industries, and there are some down sides. On the other hand, you get on the plane now, it`s clean.

VAN SUSTEREN: And with that I`ve got to say goodbye to you and also to the viewers, good night, make sure you keep watching and Hardball is next.


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