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President Trump to Meet with Foreign Leaders; President Trump's Possible Strategy on North Korea Examined; Jared Kushner Visits Iraq; Interview with Rep. Lee Zeldin; Explosion At St. Petersburg Metro Station; Senate Heads Toward "Nuclear" Showdown Over Gorsuch; Interview with Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 3, 2017 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Bobby, great to have you here in studio.

We're following a lot of news this morning so let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump facing the most critical week of international diplomacy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need to see definitive actions by China condemning North Korea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard not to interpret Donald Trump's statements as a warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it comes to the necessity to protect ourselves, we've always had all options on the table.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wherever the Russian evidence takes us in terms of the Trump campaign is where we'll go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would tell people whenever they see the president use the word "fake" it ought to set off alarm bells.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed. How that happens depends on our Democratic friends.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitch calls it a filibuster. We call it the 60- vote standard.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, welcome to your NEW DAY. President Trump facing the most critical week yet of international diplomacy. It's already off to a provocative start with a warning to China. The U.S. could act alone on North Korea if China doesn't help.

CAMEROTA: So today President Trump meets with Egypt's president and also this week with Jordan's king to discuss the war against ISIS, all of this as another type of showdown looms over the president's Supreme Court nominee. It's a very busy day, day 74 of the Trump presidency.

Let's begin with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House this morning. Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. President Trump meeting the leaders of three nations this week as this new administration takes some of the most important steps yet on the world stage, the first of those meetings occurring today, trying to reboot the relationship with Egypt.

Meanwhile the administration continues to dealing with allegations of collusion with Russia on Capitol Hill.


JOHNS: President Trump kicking off a critical week of high-profile diplomatic talks hosting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi at the White House today ahead of a sit-down with King Abdullah of Jordan on Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday President Trump will host Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time at his Mar-a-Lago resort for arguably the most important diplomatic meetings of the president's tenure thus far.

A key point of contention, North Korea's nuclear ambitions. President Trump offering a vague but head-turning assessment to "The Financial Times" saying he might act unilaterally, quote, "If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will." The president tweeting last week that he expects that high profile meeting with China will be difficult, particularly after all of his tough talk during the campaign.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing.

China is responsible for nearly half of our entire trade deficit.

JOHNS: The president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, expected to play a key role in the two days of meetings. Kushner rapidly becoming the president's foreign policy point man, making a surprise visit to Iraq over the weekend. All of these diplomatic meetings come as the cloud of Russia continues to hang over the Trump administration. The president continuing to stand behind his unfounded wiretapping claim, insisting he does not regret any of his tweet while attempting to downplay the connections between campaign advisers and Russia as "fake news."

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: I would tell people whenever they see the president use the word "fake" it ought to set off alarm bells.

JOHNS: The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee telling CNN he's treating the immunity request from Trump's fired national security adviser Michael Flynn with healthy skepticism as Senator John McCain calls the request unusual and continues to push for special investigation. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Every time we turn around, another

shoe drops from this centipede. If we're going to get to the bottom of these things it has got to be done in a bipartisan fashion.


JOHNS: The administration also sending signals that the president will not press very hard on the issue of human rights violations with Egypt and China, but he will take a private and discreet approach to these issues, something very different from the way the Obama administration handled it. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Joe, thank you very much.

So President Trump's warning to China has made one thing clear, that North Korea's nuclear program is at the top of the president's agenda for his meeting with the Chinese president this week. What will change with that meeting? CNN's Will Ripley has reported extensively from inside North Korea and he joins us now live from Beijing. What is the reaction there, Will?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly publicly Chinese officials don't seem to be fazed by the comments President Trump made over the weekend. The ministry of foreign affairs put out a statement saying that there was a conversation overnight between China's top diplomat and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. They say -- it was a very pleasantly worded statement, saying that they're looking forward to this very important meeting between President Trump and President Xi.

[08:05:09] Look, this is not the first U.S. administration that has tried to put pressure on China to solve the North Korea problem. The Bush administration tried it as well back in the mid-2000s after North Korea's first nuclear test. There have since been five and there could be a sixth nuclear test imminent according to those who analyze satellite imagery.

So clearly China has not proved reliable in the past as being willing to sanction North Korea too much. China wants a stable North Korea, which is why they do business with them, why they trade with them, because China doesn't want to see the North Korean regime implode, they don't want to see millions of North Koreans come across the border. And perhaps even more important strategically, Chinas doesn't want to see an entire Korean peninsula controlled by a U.S. ally.

And so it's a very complex situation as those two presidents meet later this week in Florida. Chris?

CUOMO: Thank you very much. Appreciate it, Will.

We're following breaking news as well. Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner has just landed in Iraq. The president's son-in-law traveling with the chairman of the joint chiefs. We've got CNN correspondent Barbara Starr live from the Pentagon with breaking details. We're told he was invited by the chairman. What do we know about this trip? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.

Jared Kushner landing in Baghdad, Iraq, a short time ago. The Pentagon General Dunford's office putting out a statement about why he is there. Let me read you part of it, that statement saying about Mr. Kushner, quote, "As well as receiving briefings and updates, Mr. Kushner is traveling on behalf of the president to express the president's support and commitment to the government of Iraq and U.S. personnel engaged in the campaign."

We are told that Jared Kushner as a senior adviser to the president now will attend many if not all of the same meetings that General Dunford will be in. He will get a chance at least to see what happens in the complex that houses the U.S. embassy and the U.S. military mission there. Whether he actually gets out in the field to see troops, where they are living and working and fighting, remains to be seen. We have not yet been given General Dunford's full schedule.

Jared Kushner, as the senior adviser to the president, will have had a bit of a chance to see something very unique for someone in the position and experience he has had so far. He will have landed in a plane and then gotten into armed helicopters to travel to the complex. He will be under the same tight security as General Dunford the entire time they are there. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: OK, Barbara, thank you very much for that breaking news.

Joining us now is Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin from New York. He is a member of the House foreign affairs committee. Congressman, thanks so much for being here. Great to have you in studio.

REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), NEW YORK: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: You're on the foreign affairs committee. There's a lot of foreign affairs to talk about this morning. Let's start what President Trump in an interview with "Financial Times" about how to deal with North Korea. It's short and sweet. Here's what he says. "Well, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That's all I am telling you." How do you interpret that statement?

ZELDIN: Well, part of what we can do is, our leadership in that region, a more stable South Korea, they're going through some challenges right now at the top of their government. We have the ability through economic sanctions to be able to leverage that. Diplomacy is something that is hugely important. Ideally for us, we would have the regional powers in that area exerting their leverage.

CAMEROTA: Meaning China.

ZELDIN: Absolutely.

CAMEROTA: But they haven't shown any real interest in doing that, and so I guess the question is, what's different? What's going to happen this week? What can Mr. Trump possibly do to cajole China to do that?

ZELDIN: No one's been able to crack the code on this. We've had one administration after another. This is going over the course of decades. When you're laying out your options to deal with North Korea, you have to have China as an option there, but no one's really been able to figure out how to get them motivated enough to deal with this the way we need them to.

CAMEROTA: Right. And so it sounds like what President Trump is suggesting or even threatening is we're going to do something different. We're going to do something different. We're not going to rely on China. We're going to go it alone. And if go it alone means, and it's hard not to read it this way, a military action against North Korea, so be it.

ZELDIN: Well, as you're laying out your options, I'm someone who believes that having the military option on the table is something good to have there. It doesn't mean that you should be using it, so all across the map of the world it sometimes doesn't make sense to just unilaterally take it off. Sometimes the threat can help crack the code on it a bit.

CAMEROTA: Yes, unless you're dealing with a madman. We're dealing with such an unpredictable Kim Jong-un and his father, nobody's been able to stop the madness and the unpredictability of them. And I'm not suggesting that President Trump should be able to do something that previous administrations have failed at and not been able to do. But it sounds like he's talking about it in a different way. And I'm wondering if that causes you concern or optimism?

[08:10:13] ZELDIN: I think it's important to have all of your options on the table. There's no reason to take it off. I do believe --

CAMEROTA: It doesn't make you nervous that he's talking about military action against a nuclear unstable country with a madman at the helm?

ZELDIN: A lot of different countries all across the globe in complex challenges, I don't believe that we should be unilaterally taking it off the table. It would make me nervous whenever you get to that point where you have to actually use it because of the cost of lives, of limbs, the dollar costs as we saw in conflicts that we're engaged in and been engaged in the past. So I don't want to us ever have to go there with any country, but I think option number one is our ability to, as a leader economically, North Korea is in a very difficult place and anywhere we can exert additional leverage, they're in a tough time right now, and anything that we can do to squeeze that tighter, I mean, what other options are we being left with?

CAMEROTA: What leverage do we have with China? That's the other option. So what leverage do you think the U.S. has this week with China?

ZELDIN: There's a lot of leverage as it relates to our relationship between the two countries, a lot of trade, a lot of complex diplomatic issues with neighboring territory and other countries around China. So there's a lot to talk about. And wherever you can find common ground and exert the right tension and make China become more of a leader on North Korea. But again, with all due respect to this president, the last one, the next one, no one has really been able to figure out how to crack the code on this.

CAMEROTA: As you sat down, you heard Barbara Starr reporting the breaking news that Jared Kushner, the president's top adviser and son- in-law, has just landed in Baghdad in Iraq. Jared Kushner is also, we expect him to be involved in these discussions between the president and the president of China. What is Jared Kushner's role on the world stage, and how does it differ from that of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson?

ZELDIN: Jared Kushner is clearly a senior adviser to the president inside of the White House. I think it is important for everyone who is surrounding the president right now to be informed on these issues. This trip can make Jared Kushner a better adviser to the president.

You know, it was a trip that I took to Iraq in December of 2015 for Christmas where I didn't realize just how much has changed positively over the course of just a few months before I had made that trip, where you realize that the government of Iraq -- and I just met with the prime minister last week when he was in Washington, D.C., how much has changed, where they are. The Iraqi counterterrorism service, their ranks are growing. They're bringing the fight and taking back territory. They're battling for Mosul right now and they're pushing ISIS out of their country and trying to form a coalition government. So for Jared Kushner for anyone advising the president to go to Iraq to make the relationships, and for them to be able to put a face to the name from their end, but most importantly is to get that update.

CAMEROTA: There is no substitute, you're right, for being on the ground and seeing it with your own eyes. But how do you think what he's doing differs from that of Rex Tillerson?

ZELDIN: He's not the secretary of state, but he is a senior adviser to the president, so when you're at a table and discussing what the right policies should be to battle Iraq -- battle ISIS in Iraq, or battling ISIS in Syria, or you're talking about ISIS's moves in the command and control nodes popping up in Libya, or all the other terrorist groups, when you're looking around the map and you have groups like the Haqqani Network or Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, we were talking about laptop earlier on the show, a lot of it is interconnected. And more and more informed you can be, so there's one benefit because it says a lot for the leadership of that other government and for our troops to see those surrounding the president firsthand.

But you also get a lot out of it as that adviser. It's just something different about the briefings seem to be more candid, more productive, great questions. It's an important experience.

CAMEROTA: Great context, Congressman Zeldin, thanks so much for being here on NEW DAY.


CUOMO: All right, we are following breaking news right. We have reports of an explosion at a metro train in St. Petersburg, Russia. There are definitely injuries. CNN's Matthew Chance is live in Moscow with breaking details. Matthew, what do we know?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, not very much at this stage Chris. But it's been confirmed by the Russian state news agency that there has indeed been an explosion, at least one explosion in St. Petersburg in a metro station there. Social media is filled with what you might expect -- horrific images of the aftermath of that explosion.

[08:15:08] It seems like the doors have been blown off a Metro train, what we believe to be it was reported to be the Sunia Square Metro Station, which is in the middle of St. Petersburg, right in the center of that big Russian city.

There are casualties on the platform, emergency services there, according to Russian state media, that's the only source we've got on this at the moment apart from the social media postings, people are being evacuated from the subway station. We don't know whether it's affecting one or two stations.

There seems to be some concern it could have been either taking place between two Metro stations or at two Metro stations, but obviously we're going to try and get some clarity in the hours ahead -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Matthew, we know it's very early here. We're looking at some cell phone video from there. They still haven't even put out information about whether or not this came from the actual train or it was just in the station. The early pictures are tough. There are certainly injuries.

We will check back with you, Matthew. Let us know when you have information, St. Petersburg, second largest city known as the cultural capital. Lot of consulates and banks and transients as well in that population of some 7.5 million.

CAMEROTA: Watching that video is obviously just eerily reminiscent of the other attacks we've seen on subways in Belgium, here, our own World Trade Center. That's a target and we're seeing it again even in St. Petersburg.

CUOMO: Yes, we'll stay on that.

CAMEROTA: OK, our next guest says he's going to force a filibuster on the Supreme Court nominee so we will speak live with Senator Richard Blumenthal.



CUOMO: Nuclear showdown that is the loaded phrase that we hear, what is really going on in the Senate around President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. The Senate Judiciary Committee is going to vote today. By all expectations, Gorsuch should make it out of that committee. There are more Republicans there than Democrats. Now, what happens next? Joining us is Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, he sits on the Judiciary Committee. He says he will vote no on Gorsuch's nomination, supports a Democratic filibuster or what now Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls not a filibuster, the 60-vote rule. What is this now, this change in vocabulary about?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: The change in vocabulary or rules would really be profoundly destructive to the traditions and practices of the Senate, and the idea that a Supreme Court justice appointed for life to the nation's highest court ought to be approved by more than a razor thin majority.

It ought to be an overwhelming bipartisan consensus and so sometime later this week, the Republican leadership will have to decide whether it is going to embark on this profoundly historic destructive step, and I think a lot of my Republican colleagues are having misgivings and my Democratic colleagues are increasingly determined because Neil Gorsuch was so evasive in his responses.

CUOMO: But they're always evasion dances in these hearings. This is one of the most tolerated farce in politics, this expectation that these men and women have no personal inclinations at all, and they never answer questions. This really wasn't that different. Is your no vote on Gorsuch about who he is as a jurist or what this is politically and the reaction to Merritt Garland?

BLUMENTHAL: My vote on Neil Gorsuch has everything to do with him and almost nothing to do with Merritt Garland because I want to consider his merits and qualifications and Chris, you're right, that there is a practice of nominees being somewhat evasive, but nowhere nearly as non-responsive and non-forth coming as this nominee.

I asked him repeatedly to say whether he agreed with core constitutional precedents, Brown v. Board of education, the desegregation case, Roe v. Wade, on the right to reproductive care. Griswold v. Connecticut, the right to use contraceptives, interracial marrying.

Every one of these precedents he refused to say whether it was correct or not, unlike some of his predecessors, Roberts, Alito, Kennedy, all said they agreed with these precedents. So we're left with no conclusion except that he agrees with the Trump litmus test that he would automatically overturn Roe v. Wade, he would strike down gun violence prevention --

CUOMO: He said he would walk out of the room if President Trump had put it to him that's why he was picking him, he expected him to go the other way on Roe v. Wade, Gorsuch said, "I would have walked out of the room if I were told that." You don't take any solace in that?

BLUMENTHAL: He came across as the Jimmy Stewart, shucks, I followed the law and I'd walk out of the room. But the fact of the matter is he was screened by the Heritage Foundation and other right wing groups that suggested his name, and Donald Trump outsourced this decision to them, so he didn't need to answer that question. And the fact of the matter is that he has a record of taking rules that protect workers' safety and consumer rights, as well as an aversion to stating unequivocally that Donald Trump should never have attacked the judiciary in the way he did.

CUOMO: What do you think happens in terms of the votes? This is all about whether or not you get Democrats to vote for Gorsuch. We've had several no coincidence that they're mostly Democrats who are coming up for election, several of them in red states. Do you think we'll see 60 votes or no?

BLUMENTHAL: The path to 60 votes I think is very, very, very slim. In fact, I think doing the numbers now, there are nowhere near 60 votes, but the debate will go on this week, and I think what is most important is that Neil Gorsuch has doubled down on his evasion, as recently as late last week, when he responded to a number of my written questions. I give him every opportunity, wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and enable him to state unequivocally that he agreed with these precedents.

[08:25:05]CUOMO: Well, you're replacing Scalia right now, and there is a little bit of kind of light math where it's, well, you are replacing a conservative, this guy is a conservative. Maybe it's a wash, not even as forceful as Scalia was on the court, that's a very high bar but then you have the political calculation.

If you go all in Gorsuch, what about when Anthony Kennedy resigns, what if Ruth Bader Ginsburg runs out of gas? Now you're going to have a key decision and you may have already set precedent allowing for there could be a slim majority vote.

BLUMENTHAL: First, principle and conviction are important, and protecting these core precedents is supremely significant, but second, I know from having been a law clerk on the court, from having argued cases before the court, every vote is important, and every vote is potentially a swing vote. Every justice potentially can sway other justices, and so to say this nominee because he seems bland and nonthreatening is less important than the next is a mistake.

CUOMO: All right, Senator, we'll see how the votes fall. Appreciate you being on NEW DAY as always, sir.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Chris, we do have some breaking news, there are two explosions in a Metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia. Our CNN reporter will bring us a live report from Russia, next.