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Trump Targets North Korea, Iran And U.N. Reform; Trump Calls North Korea Leader "Rocket Man" On Twitter; Maria Intensifies To Category 3 Hurricane; NYT: Trump Lawyers Clash Over Cooperation In Probe. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 18, 2017 - 11:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[11:00:18]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. America first comes face to face with the United Nations. Donald Trump's debut on this world stage just moments ago and there is much more to come.

The president will be standing shoulder to shoulder with world leaders, but it is his sharp elbows if you will that threaten to disrupt his first big appearance. Tomorrow will be his much- anticipated first address to the General Assembly but already today President Trump is striking a different tone than you've heard from him about the U.N. in the past.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We encourage all member states to look at ways to take bold stands at the United Nations with an eye toward changing business as usual, and not being beholden to ways of the past which were not working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: The big focuses of the week, North Korea, of course, and its rogue nuclear ambitions, the Iran deal President Trump has spoken out so forcefully against, and the climate change agreement that President Trump withdrew from but now or may or may not be having second thoughts about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He thinks the speech is a tremendous opportunity, obviously, to reach so many world leaders at the same time and to emphasize really three themes. First is to protect the American people, the second is to promote American prosperity, and the third is really to help promote accountability and sovereignty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: All right. So, let us begin this hour at the United Nations with CNN's Jeff Zeleny. So, Jeff, the president has a very busy schedule this week in the next four days. What have you heard and what's ahead?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, good morning. The -- the president here is making his first step into the United Nations, even though he lives in New York City and is a product of New York City, being inside the United Nations headquarters for the first time and when he left just a few moments ago, he did tell CNN this about his ideas for U.N. reform.

He said this, "The main message is to make the U.N. great, not great again, but to make the United Nations great." Obviously, talking about reform there in his campaign type speech there, but as the day goes on, Kate, he does have significantly important meetings.

At 1:00 he will be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a couple hours later meeting with the French President Emanuel Macron. These are two of the world leaders he has developed a bigger relationship with.

But, of course, North Korea is still front and center on the agenda here on the minds of people here at the United Nations, the rising nuclear threat. He did mention North Korea briefly when he was going into the U.N. this morning.

He said I think everyone knows how I feel about North Korea. But, of course, again, options are limited for that, military options on the table, but this is a week of diplomacy here, Kate.

So, the world is watching President Trump getting a better measure of him, if you will, but he wouldn't be President Trump if he didn't also throw in a bit of real estate talk there as you said.

His very opening words he mentioned the fact that he has Trump World Tower just directly across United Nations Plaza here from the U.N. and he said I saw great potential right across the street so he built that tower -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Mentioning that's why it was such a success. Great to see you, Jeff. Thank you so much. Much more to come in this regard.

Let's discuss where this is all headed. Jon Alterman is here, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Brett Schaefer, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, and Tony Blinken is a CNN global affairs analyst and former deputy secretary of state under President Obama.

Guys, it's great to have you here. Thank you so much. Jon, if you would, set the stage for this big moment on the world stage for President Trump. How does America first meet the global mission of the United Nations?

JON ALTERMAN, SENIOR VP, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, I think already, the president has seen that a lot of things he wants to do, whether it's with Iran or North Korea, it is much easier if the U.N. is with you. There are a lot of things that the president has seen in Iraq and elsewhere where having the U.N. out in front actually helps the United States and is cheaper for the United States.

What I've seen and I think we got in the clip that you played, is a sense from the president that when you're the president and you have to get things done you don't want to destroy the U.N., you want to reform and make it better. That something where he seems to have a partner in the new secretary general.

BOLDUAN: It does, sitting next to each other on that front. Tony, McMaster said as we played in previewing the big speech tomorrow, that the focus would be for the president accountability and sovereignty. What does that mean?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, first, Kate, I think Jon is exactly right. The president is running into a wall, but it's not a wall of his own making it's reality and the reality is that most of the issues we confront around the world are not susceptible to unilateral solutions.

[11:05:10] And there's no wall high enough to protect us against them, whether it's an epidemic crossing the frontier, a hacker leaving a firewall, a terrorist forming a global network, a rogue state amassing an intercontinental arsenal or an ocean that's rising or planet that's warming.

The U.N. is the place where a lot of the stuff gets done. I think what McMasters is talking about and what the president presumably will talk about tomorrow is what is we actually mean by America first. In a way, it's a little bit silly because, of course, every president puts America first.

The question is what do you mean by that, how do you define it? To date the president has defined it as meaning basically a zero-sum world view. We have to win and others have to lose. That's in total contradiction to the foreign policy we've had for 70 years where we tried to have win/win solutions where the success and security of other countries benefited us.

New markets for our products. New allies to deal with threats and aggression. New partners to deal with global challenges. If he can reaffirm that vision tomorrow, then I think he'll find himself on solid footing at the U.N. and he did make a good start today. I thought his remarks were appropriately tempered and right to push U.N. reform.

BOLDUAN: But this, as both Jon and Tony have been pointing to, Bret, another instance where the president's words from the campaign come back to haunt him. What he -- here is what he said, to remind everyone on the campaign trail, about the United Nations. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The United Nations is not a friend of democracy, it's not a friend to freedom, it's not a friend even to the United States of America where, as you know, it has its home. Where do you ever see the United Nations, the United Nations in New York, they're wonderful do they ever settle anything? It's like a political game. The United Nations, we pay for a vast -- I mean, the money we spend on the United Nations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: That's getting to the reforms the president is talking about, but any expectation he will come out this week with that level of criticism and if he doesn't, what does that mean?

BRETT SCHAEFER, JAY KINGHAM SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, I don't think he's going to be coming to the general assembly with the bombast that he would on the campaign trail. It's a different venue, a different audience and different purpose.

He's going to go there to advance the policies of the United States as he sees best. He's going to raise issues like North Korea, Iran, international terrorism. He's going to talk about bias against Israel, I imagine.

We need to reform the Human Rights Council. These are all items on the agenda of the United States and they've been items on the agenda of the United States in previous administrations as well.

Which kind of gets back to the president's criticism, which is that problems tend to fester in the United Nations, and he's impatient that they need to be solved because quite clearly, we're running out of time, particularly in the case of North Korea.

BOLDUAN: And in the case of North Korea, Tony, let's talk about this since Brett brought it up, it has to be a huge focus. The president, I don't know, ticking off where he's going to head with conversations on North Korea or not, with this tweet mocking North Korea -- the North Korean leader calling him "rocket man."

I mean, what can he accomplish this week that his administration hasn't been able to accomplish yet at the United Nations with regard to North Korea?

BLINKEN: Well, one of the ironies, Kate, is that they've actually done a good job at the United Nations in dealing with North Korea, two U.N. Security Council resolutions --

BOLDUAN: That's been where the action has been.

BLINKEN: Yes. That's where the action has been and that's where there's some real teeth if those resolutions are actually implemented in good faith by the Chinese and Russians. So, continuing to ratchet that up, building comprehensive sustained pressure against North Korea that's the way to go.

The U.N. is exactly the vehicle for that. That creates the international legitimacy for getting countries to take the actions that we need them to take. Again, by definition, this is not a problem we can solve alone. So, I hope the president continues on the course that they've already set at the U.N. They've been doing good work at the U.N. on North Korea.

BOLDUAN: Jon, do you -- do you think the president needs to address his past remarks this week, the criticisms he's had for the United Nations, the criticisms he's had for the body, the criticisms for the marble, does he need to address this in any way? Are people expecting him to?

ALTERMAN: Look, I don't think he does. First of all, what's gone is gone, as Brett said, the campaign trail is one thing, governing is another. I think what the president understands and understands very well now is the United Nations is a tool and it's a tool the United States is unusually well situated to use.

Because the U.N. really works with the Security Council, the Security Council is dominated by the United States and the U.S. mission. This is a tool that he has at his disposal. I don't think he wants to destroy it.

He wants to make it better. The interesting thing will be if he and the secretary general, Guterres (ph) can see eye to eye on the importance of reforms and how do it. Guterres can use the president to press other member states.

[11:10:10] The other member states can say we need to keep the U.S. in so we're willing to do things. Actually, being a little bit skeptical is not necessarily the wrong way to start. It actually may in the end make the U.N. stronger than it would otherwise be.

BOLDUAN: Fascinating. Makes me even more interested in what we will hear from the president tomorrow and what's going to happen this week. Brett, finish it out for me, what is the biggest task for President Trump in his debut appearance at the U.N.?

SCHAEFER: I think he needs to press home the foreign policy priorities of this administration, which are addressing preeminent threats like North Korea, Iran, international terrorism, dealing with some of the refugee issues.

But also as the president was making clear in his U.N. panel today, pressing the organization to be more effective, more efficient, more focused in its application of resources, to actually address the problems that are facing not only just the United States, but the combined member states as well.

BOLDUAN: Stand by for the tweets. Let's see if they jive -- if they go along with his speech. Great to see all of you. Thank you so much for coming in. Really appreciate it.

We're keeping our eye on the United Nations, but also coming up, we have several big developments in the Russia investigation including President Trump's lawyer overheard in public dishing on the Russia investigation and some in fighting among the White House legal team. Details on that ahead. Plus, breaking news, we have a new advisory for a new hurricane. Yes. If you can believe it, the National Hurricane Center issuing an update on Hurricane Maria, getting stronger and heading towards the very same Caribbean islands that were slammed by Hurricane Irma. That's next.

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[11:15:49]

BOLDUAN: Breaking news, we have a brand new forecast on a brand new storm just out from the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Maria is what we're talking about now, and it's strengthening fast and taking aim at the very same islands that were just devastated by Hurricane Irma two weeks ago.

CNN meteorologist, Chad Myers is joining me now. Almost couldn't believe it when I knew that we needed to talk about this. Folks on the islands are barely getting back on their feet. Some of them not even close to getting back on their feet and what are they looking at?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And the people that were in Barbuda, they moved to Antigua or to other islands because their island was uninhabitable and now they're getting hit by the next storm in places that they evacuated to.

Here we go, 120 miles per hour, Category 3 hurricane headed to the U.S. Virgin Islands from here right over Dominica today. This is the area that's going to get hit the hardest and right over Puerto Rico, Category 3 likely even Category 4.

Hurricane hunter flying through it right now, hour ago about 80 miles per hour, 35 minutes ago about 90 miles per hour. Then they found the core and then they found the key to the storm and why they upgraded it to a Category 3.

The wind gust to 120 miles per hour and the latest millibar if you want to write this down, 958. So still dropping rapidly. By the time it gets to Puerto Rico, 150-mile-per-hour sustained winds.

Now this goes over the southern BVI, the U.S. Virgin Islands, all the way into Puerto Rico as a major, major hurricane likely Category 4, on the verge of Category 5, but at least so far not there yet. The water is warm.

We know what happened to Irma. Irma was slightly farther to the north but these two are actually going to cross. Here is day five, here is day six, seven, eight on the U.S. and the American models and the European model here.

Not going to move very much after that. After that, after four or five days it's entirely a guess. I want to show you so far South Florida not in the cone and also not in the forecast when it comes to search, eight days away in the computer models. Nothing is out of the question.

Clearly, we saw that with Irma. Where does the cross happen? The yellow line is Irma. The middle of this line here the red line, that is Maria. Over the Turks and Caicos, right over D.R., through Punta Canna and Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico where we will see big swells on the east side of the storm over St. Croix with a damaging hit there.

And then you think about the U.S. VI and BVI and their houses are already torn up. Doesn't take 100 miles per hour wind to blow things around and they may get 120. Here is Jose grabbing a bunch of dry air and killing itself. That's the good news.

Still swells here along the east coast and for New York all the way up to about Boston, we will see tropical storm warnings that were just posted from this, but really Jose is not much to worry about except if you stay out of the water you're in good shape.

Maria is the one we have to watch for the U.S., east coast, and certainly for all of the islands there in the Northeast Atlantic.

BOLDUAN: And coming, coming fast, that had it going over Puerto Rico Wednesday. This thing is coming.

MYERS: It is and the fact that it's moving quickly and not stalled over any water, means it gets to new warm water quickly and so that is more fuel to the fire. When it sits and spin in one spot like this is like Jose you lose the water and lose the hot, lose the heat and humidity, so the storm kills itself. When it keeps moving, it keeps getting stronger and stronger.

BOLDUAN: All right. We got to stay close to this. Chad, thank you so much. We're getting updates from Chad throughout the day and days ahead. Thank you so much.

So, with this new forecast for Hurricane Maria at hand and a new threat, the new threat being real, how are the islands doing right now? Can they come close to handling another direct hit?

CNN's Michael Holmes is in Antigua as we were talking about with Chad. Michael, what are you seeing there and can they handle another hit like this?

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Antigua was pretty lucky when Irma came through. Didn't get a lot of effect, Kate, but I can tell you we're already getting high winds and a big rain squall went through about 30 minutes ago.

[11:20:05] The seas behind me are rolling and get this, we are north of the projected track. We're really not in the extreme danger zone here. So, if it's getting like this now, the storm is not here yet, it's a fair way away and we're north of the track, you wouldn't want to be on Dominica which Chad mentioned.

They're going to get a direct hit from this. We've been around the islands the last few days going around, in Anguilla for a couple days which was badly hit by Irma. You look at places like that where they were just starting to patch things up, put band aides on. Try to clean up from what Irma did, which was such a powerful hurricane, and you imagine as again chad was saying, 100 miles an hour through there everything they put back up is going to come back down. Things that were weakened are really not in good shape to withstand it.

A lot of concern, a lot of apprehension in these islands. The British Virgin Islands, Martinique will take a bit of a hiding from Maria. A lot of concern. This is the last thing they need after a storm that they said was bigger than anything they'd ever seen before in Irma -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right. A Category 3 is the latest update from the National Hurricane Center. Let's see where it goes. Michael, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Great to see you.

Coming up for us, one of the president's top lawyers overheard in public openly venting about the Russian investigation and the debates going on within the White House legal team, about how to respond. Here's a picture of the discussion over lunch.

Plus, a health care Hail Mary. GOP leaders now getting serious about a last-ditch effort to overhaul Obamacare. How serious is this and, of course, most importantly, where are the vote? Details ahead.

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[11:26:04]

BOLDUAN: The Russia investigation back in the spotlight because of a lunch date. "The New York Times" reporting members of President Trump's legal team debating just how much to cooperate with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation. How does "The New York Times" know this? Because of a lunch.

A "Times" reporter snapped this photo of White House Attorney Ty Cobb and one of Trump's personal attorneys, John Dowd, casually and loudly according to the reporting discussing the Russia investigation at a popular D.C. restaurant. Outside nonetheless.

CNN's justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider is here with more details on this. Jessica, what exactly were these two talking about?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, as you saw it can be a small town and two of the president's top lawyers discussed at that lunch very sensitive strategy about the Russia investigation, all at that sidewalk table at BLT Steak here in Washington, just a few blocks from the White House.

As you said it was overheard by a "New York Times" reporter and the "New York Times" is reporting that White House counsel, Don McGahn, erupted at Ty Cobb for discussing the matter in public and saying Chief of Staff John Kelly reprimanded Cobb for the carelessness.

So, the question, what exactly did White House lawyers, Cobb and John Dowd, talk about? Well, Kate, they aired their suspicion with the president's legal team and talked about a White House lawyer who they didn't name calling that person a, quote, "McGahn spy."

Now it seems that Ty Cobb and Don McGahn, the White House counsel, are a bit at odds and Ty Cobb apparently says he wants to be transparent and turn over documents for the Russian probe but McGahn might not be of the same mindset.

Saying that McGahn, quote, "has a couple of documents locked in a safe" and then Cobb blamed a colleague for some of the earlier leaks that we've seen throughout the past summer pointing to that same colleague trying to push Jared Kushner out.

So, really, Kate, a lot said in open in public on a sidewalk and that's where you're seeing questions about what kind of executive or attorney client privilege the president might try to assert in this investigation.

And Kate, what's key here is that the question was this public discussion on this sidewalk any sort of waiver of that attorney-client privilege because the White House attorneys discussing it all right there in clear earshot of that "New York Times" reporter -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: It might be a small town but that's right by where "The New York Times" Washington bureau is. It's not like it's --

SCHNEIDER: Exactly. It's right underneath and just a few blocks from the White House.

BOLDUAN: It's not like some obscure restaurant that no one goes to. I mean, seriously. There's also this, I want to ask you about, President Trump's long-time personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, set to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee tomorrow for an interview. What are you hearing ahead of this?

SCHNEIDER: Right. So, Michael Cohen, long-time Trump associate and attorney will go behind closed doors tomorrow in a voluntary interview, sort of the same setup we saw with Donald Trump, Jr. just a few weeks ago when he went before a Senate Judiciary.

So, what Senate investigators might want to talk to Michael Cohen about, well, his own disclosure he reached out to the Russian government at the height of the campaign all to discuss or maybe pitch a potential deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

Cohen did admit that he had three conversations with then Candidate Trump about the proposal, but then eventually abandoned the idea. But of course, Kate, you know, President Trump repeatedly stated out on the campaign trail, that he had no deals in Russia throughout the campaign.

So, this could be a major point of inquiry for congressional investigators when they do talk face to face with Michael Cohen tomorrow -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Great to see you, Jessica. Thank you so much. Be careful where you do lunch. So, there is that but also this, a search warrant issued and Facebook forced to respond, a spokesperson for the social media giant now confirming yesterday they handed over Russia linked ads and television about the accounts associated with them to Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller. What does this exactly mean for the Russia investigation right now?

CNN senior reporter for media and politics, Dylan Byers, has all the details and also joining us Michael Zeldin, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor who worked with Bob Mueller at the Department of Justice.

So, Dylan, what exactly do we know about what Facebook turned over and I guess even how much?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Well, we know that Facebook turned over everything --