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Trump Invites Controversial Philippines President to White House; Interview with Bill Richardson; U.S. Troops Patrol the Syrian- Turkish Border; Grieving Isaiah Thomas Leads Celtics to Victory; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 1, 2017 - 10:30   ET



[10:32:26] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, new this morning, blowback over a conversation that President Trump had with the controversial leader of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte. The White House describes it as a friendly discussion, so friendly that it resulted in an invitation to the White House.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: An invitation, exactly, and that's the invitation that's sparking a lot of criticism, in part because of statements like this one from December where Duterte admitted to killing suspected criminals with his own hands.


PRES. RODRIGO DUTERTE, PHILIPPINES: I must admit that a third of the killings really happened during police encounters. And I know it because, I am not trying to pull my own chain, but in Davao, I used to do it personally, just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can't you?


HARLOW: Our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is in Hong Kong. He's covered Duterte closely.

Look, the White House is justifying this, saying it needs the Philippines on North Korea. Is that true?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't think the Philippines has much economic or political leverage when it comes to the regime in Pyongyang. It could be a help in the South China Sea, in the territorial dispute with China, but not when it comes to nuclear weapons and North Korea. And South China Sea was not discussed according to the White House readout and the Philippines president's readout of this discussion.

What was discussed in addition to North Korea was President Duterte's controversial and very deadly war on drugs, which by some press accounts has resulted in the deaths of more than 7,000 people in the Philippines in his first 10 months in office. And by some accounts, the police themselves have killed more than 2500 drug offenders, suspected drug offenders, all, the police claim, in self-defense. That is why, and then if you add the fact that Duterte himself is a

self-confessed killer, that's why some human rights activists are denouncing the White House invitation of Duterte to the White House and also why you have some leading Democrats now getting on board, criticizing this. Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut tweeted this, quote, "We are watching in real time as the American human rights bully pulpit disintegrates into ash."

Now it's notable that Duterte is well known for being a brash speaker. That's part of why Filipinos like him. He seems to have affinity for Trump. He says that, hey, we're similar. We both like to swear a lot.

[10:35:03] He did not like former President Obama. He said Obama could go to hell and he called him a son of a whore -- Poppy.

HARLOW: And he'll be at the White House in a few weeks.

BERMAN: A sign, maybe that Ivan is right, that he didn't like President Obama.


BERMAN: That he used those words.

Ivan Watson for us, thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, former New Mexico ambassador, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, former secretary of everything, Bill Richardson joins us now.

And Governor, we want to ask you about the Filipino president in just a moment, but first there are some developments overnight with an interview that President Trump did with Salena Zito, where he talked about the civil war. I just want to read you this comment. He said, "People don't realize, you know, the civil war, if you think about it, why? People don't ask the question. Why was there a civil war? Why could that one not have been worked out?"

You know, Governor, you've negotiated a lot of things in your day. Is that one of the questions that you've asked? Do you ever wonder why that one couldn't have been worked out or why was there a civil war?

BILL RICHARDSON (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: No. I mean, this is a -- this is an unfortunate remark. I mean, this is American history, and the president is questioning that. I mean, the whole issue of land and slavery and sovereignty, it's clear. So I don't know why the president gets into these messes that he doesn't need to.

HARLOW: On the issue of negotiation, I mean, you've negotiated quite a few very difficult deals. You have spent -- visited North Korea eight times. You've negotiated the release of three Americans from the country. And the president was successful in his negotiations with Egypt when he had el-Sisi to the White House in getting Aya Hijazi, an American, out of jail there.

So the question now becomes this meeting he'll have with the president of the Philippines, Duterte, what's the risk-reward in that? Can he get things from someone who is a blatant abuser of human rights, who's admitted to killing with his own hands? What is the risk-reward to having him to the White House?

RICHARDSON: Well, the risk is that he's a human rights violator. He admits, even suspects extrajudicial killings. It's a terrible image. A big mistake. I think he should try to walk it back. The Philippines is an important country to us. We have military bases, a strategic relationship, a long history. Yes, they're important in containing China, but they're not important with North Korea. But apart from that, when you have the president of Egypt -- Egypt's an important ally, but you have the president of Egypt, el-Sisi, at the White House, human rights violator, now we invite Duterte, human rights violator. It doesn't send a signal of moral authority by the United States. The president needs to walk this back.

BERMAN: But he did get something from el-Sisi of Egypt, right? Aya Hijazi was released, so are there some possible rewards to outreach? And look, I mean, you did go to North Korea yourself several times. It was to release prisoners and for other reasons. So you know, you yourself have talked to people considered unsavory, shall we say.

RICHARDSON: Well, yes, I will give credit to the administration for releasing this woman in Egypt. They did that quietly. That's the way to do it. I hope the president is also considering Otto Warmbier and another American and a Canadian that are locked up in North Korea unfairly. I think that's a path forward to open up a discussion in North Korea on other issues, like the ballistic missile issue, like the nuclear issue.

And by the way, I think the president did the right thing. He sent a message to North Korea, basically saying that the president of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, was a smart cookie. I don't think there's ever been praise by any American official of Kim Jong-un. So you know, maybe that will result in something. But I don't know. I'm not endorsing it.

HARLOW: Let's listen to that because that was a very important moment from this CBS interview. Let's play it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So, obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie.


HARLOW: What is the impact of statements like that?

RICHARDSON: Well, I know -- I've been to North Korea many times. I was there once after President Bush said something negative about his father, Kim Jong-il. It really upset the North Koreans. Then we know the reaction of Kim Jong-un when they made that movie in Hollywood where his head exploded and he was kind of given a cartoonish character. Those personal issues are important to the North Koreans. They don't think like we do. They're unpredictable. Little slights like that have an impact.

Now this smart cookie, I'm sure his advisers are telling him what cookie means, that it's not negative, may cause Kim Jong-un to maybe send a message through another channel about improving ties. I'm not sure.

[10:40:08] But I don't recall any American official ever saying anything positive about Kim Jong-un. This is a first. So I don't know if the president realized this, this is his psychology, art of the deal, but let's see what happens. I think the Chinese are pressing the North Koreans. They're not having much success because the ballistic missile was detonated. It failed. But let's see how this evolves. It's a very interesting situation right now where I think talk about the military option, preemptive military strike, I think we've got to be careful. And the secretary of State and the president need to be on the same page, which they haven't been.

BERMAN: Cookie diplomacy with North Korea.

All right, Bill Richardson, former governor of Mexico. Ambassador, thank you so much for being with us. Appreciate it, sir.

All right, U.S. troops now on the move in the Turkish-Syrian border. What is the mission? That's next.

HARLOW: All right, but first, let's take a quick look at the markets right now about an hour into the trading day. A mixed start to the month of May for the market, up just a modest three points there right now. The Nasdaq is moving higher as well. We'll be right back.


[10:45:43] HARLOW: Right now U.S. troops are conducting patrols right along Syria's border with Turkey.

BERMAN: According to U.S. officials, armored vehicles flying U.S. flags are being manned mostly by special operations forces, not to fight ISIS, though. They're there to really keep Turkey and Syrian Kurds from fighting each other.

Live now at the Pentagon to explain all this, CNN's Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what's going on here? You know, U.S. boots on the ground, but not to fight ISIS?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. You know, pretty confusing on the face of it, but if you look behind the scenes, what the real bottom line is here is the U.S. wants to keep those Kurdish fighters fighting ISIS. They want them to keep making progress towards the city of Raqqa, ISIS' self-declared capital. It's a big U.S. military goal to get ISIS pushed out of that area. So

they've been diverted because there's these border skirmishes between Turkey and some of the U.S.-backed Kurdish rebels. To keep those skirmishes under control, to keep the focus on moving towards Raqqa, the U.S. just on Friday began these patrols very visible, flying the American flag. They want everybody to know they're there, basically not formally as peacekeepers, but essentially as a visible peace force, saying to everybody, calm down, behave, no more border skirmishes.

Dangerous business, nonetheless. This is a very volatile area. The Turks are not happy, and the U.S. has to keep its support for the rebels but has to keep Turkey happy as well. The U.S. needs access to those air bases just over the Turkish border, but it doesn't want Turkey attacking the rebels because it wants the rebels still focused on Raqqa.

In the middle of all of this, those U.S. Special Forces conducting those patrols, putting themselves out there right in front. No telling how long all of this will last.

HARLOW: And Barbara, this is all just two weeks ahead of President Erdogan of Turkey coming to the White House.

STARR: Well, it is, and he comes at this very delicate time with all of this going on. The Turkish government, Erdogan not happy about the U.S. being out there. They feel the U.S. is supporting some of the Kurdish elements that Turkey believes are a terrorist force. The U.S. says that's not true. The question of continued access to Turkish air bases likely to be an issue, and Erdogan is also going to be very unhappy if the U.S. moves ahead with any potential plans to continue to arm the rebels.

Back to you, guys.

BERMAN: All right, Barbara Starr for us from the Pentagon. Thanks so much, Barbara.

One person dead this morning, six others wounded after a gunman opened fire at a pool party in San Diego. This incident happened on Sunday in the neighborhood near a college campus. Authorities say the 49- year-old gunman, who was eventually shot and killed by police, opened fire in the early evening. Police still haven't announced whether there was a motive. It is unclear whether the gunman knew the victims, but officials say the shooter and at least one of the partygoers lived at the apartment complex where it all took place.

We'll bring you new developments as they come in. We'll be right back.


[10:53:08] BERMAN: All right, one day after his sister's funeral, Celtics star Isaiah Thomas, he put his grief aside, and a tooth, to lead his team to victory.

HARLOW: Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report." He has been remarkable.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Outstanding. Can only imagine his state of mind right now, guys. Good morning to you. Isaiah Thomas delivered the eulogy at his sister's funeral on Saturday, then took a redeye flight, arriving back in Boston at 4:00 a.m. Sunday, just nine hours before game one against the Wizards.

The Celtics would get off to a rough start. They fell behind 16 to zip in the first quarter and then Thomas, he gets an elbow to the face. His tooth goes flying out of his mouth, but he keeps his composure. What's he do? He walks over, calmly picks up that tooth and says the game will go on. Oh, the perseverance in this guy. He hit two consecutive three-pointers after that tooth flew out and would end with a game-high 33 points in the Celtics' win. After the game, Isaiah talked about despite everything going on how he has been able to carry on.


ISAIAH THOMAS, CELTICS GUARD: Basketball, when I'm on the court, it just keeps me going, so I do everything for my sister now and that's all I can do.


WIRE: More playoff action. Beyonce with Jay-Z by her side at game seven between the Clippers and Jazz in L.A. They see what would be future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce's final game. The Jazz would go on to win 104-91, earn them a date with Golden State in the next round, but the 39-year-old Paul Pierce, what a career. Thanked fans of every NBA city after the game, saying he has no regrets and that he gave everything he had every single day of his 19-year career. Outstanding.

Great moment before last night's NHL playoff game between the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers in Canada, mind you. The microphone stopped working during the American National Anthem, so what did country music singer Brett Kissel do?

[10:55:03] Well, he asked the fans for a sing-along. Check it out.

Give you the goose bumps a little bit. The Oilers would lose the game but still lead the series 2-1. And those 18,000 fans in that arena, in Edmonton, singing the national anthem of their neighbors to the south, that's strong, guys, strong stuff.

BERMAN: And in fact, I mean, how many Americans could sing "O Canada" I think every word?

HARLOW: You sing to me every day on this show.

BERMAN: In French.

HARLOW: In French.

BERMAN: In French, "O Canada." All right. Coy Wire, thanks very, very much.

WIRE: You're welcome.

HARLOW: All right. Straight ahead for us, the White House says it believes it has the votes this time to get health care through Congress, but has anyone asked Congress? The latest from Capitol Hill is ahead.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Stop me if you've heard this one. But I think we may have been here before. Congress up against a deadline and up against another congressional recess. And a White House looking for a win.