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Trump's Asia Trip; Roy Moore Refutes Accusations. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired November 12, 2017 - 02:00   ET




CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us. I'm Cyril Vanier, live from the CNN NEWSROOM here in Atlanta.

U.S. President Trump is on his way to the Philippines from Vietnam. The last leg of his five-nation trip across Asia. Earlier in Hanoi he held a joint news conference with Vietnamese president Tran Dai Quang. The two hot topics for reporters' questions, Russia and North Korea.

On North Korea, Mr. Trump was asked if he could ever become friends with North Korean leader Jong-un whom he had just backhandedly called "short and fat" in the latest tweet. The U.S. president did not rule it out, saying strange things happen.

And on Russia, Mr. Trump says that he stands by the U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia meddled in the U.S. election. But he also believes that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is sincere when denying any meddling.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I said, I'm not surprised there is any conflict on this. What I said there is that I believe he believes that. And it's very important for somebody to believe.

I believe that he feels that he and Russia did not meddle in the election. As to whether I believe it or not, I'm with our agencies, especially as currently constituted with their leadership.

I believe in our intel agencies, our intelligence agencies. I've worked with them very strongly. There weren't 17 as was previously reported. There were actually four. But they were saying there were 17, there were actually four. But as currently led by fine people, I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.


VANIER: All right. Since Donald Trump is about to touch down in the Philippines, let's see what's ahead in this trip. We've got Matt Rivers, live from the Filipino capital, Manila. Matt, the Filipino presidential spokesman actually told CNN that Mr.

Trump and Mr. Duterte, the Philippines president, are very much alike in thinking, in demeanor and in language.

How do the Filipinos perceive Mr. Trump?

Do they see a kindred spirit here in the U.S. president?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, depending on who you ask, if you ask Duterte himself, he is going to tell you that he is a big fan of Donald Trump. We have actually heard from U.S. government officials that there is a warm rapport there between both men and that President Trump is looking forward to meeting with the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte.

Amongst Filipinos, though, we have seen polling about how they feel President Trump. Now the poll is conducted by the Pew Research Center back in June. And about 7 in 10 Filipinos, one of the higher countries around the world, according to this survey, actually said that they had confidence in Donald Trump.

Those numbers went down when asked about some of his specific policies, things like the travel ban, things like building the wall that he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. The numbers go down a little bit when you're talking about the specifics.

But generally speaking, the Philippine public does seem to have an OK view of President Trump. That's probably largely because they also have largely supported Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

His numbers have gone down over the last year but a year ago, his numbers were as high as 80 percent favorability here in the Philippines. Now they're hovering around 60 percent but still quite high, all things considered. So it makes sense then, when you think that if people support Rodrigo Duterte and he supports President Trump, then ipso facto, the Filipino public generally supports Mr. Trump.

VANIER: OK, Mr. Trump, when he travels, tends to he say that he doesn't intend to lecture his hosts on human rights, on anything really, on how they should live.

But is he going to making an exception for Mr. Duterte, given that he has been linked to extrajudicial killings, supports killings to eradicate drugs in the country?

Is he going to make an exception there?

RIVERS: Well, he certainly is OK with making exceptions. I mean, think about what he has done on this trip so far. In South Korea, he went in on North Korea when it comes to human rights. I mean, he was absolutely -- he excoriated the North Korean regime for their violations of human rights.

And then he went to China. And China, as we all know, does not have the best record when it comes to human rights. And we didn't hear a word from President Trump whether or not he brought up the issues of human rights, things like cracking down on human rights lawyers in an unprecedented way in China over the last year. He didn't bring that up.

And so clearly, President Trump is willing to bend when it comes to each different spot. So when he comes here to the Philippines, really, it's anyone's guess whether he brings that up or not. We don't have advance word yet as to whether he will firmly do that.

But we do know that largely he seems to have a warm rapport, according to U.S. government officials, with Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. And we know that Mr. Duterte is incredibly sensitive to people bringing that up.

For our viewers who don't know, over the last year-plus --


RIVERS: -- the president has conducted a wide-ranging campaign, targeting not only drug dealers but drug users. And it has been internationally condemned by just about every single human rights advocacy group out there.

And so whether the President of the United States chooses to bring that up, you know it's an open question. But the president of the Philippines will not be happy if that happens. He actually criticized President Obama quite strongly last year when the president brought it up to Mr. Duterte.

So we're not really sure, to answer your question, Cyril, we're not sure exactly what the president is going to say. But we do know that the president is willing to kind of change what he does, depending on the stop he makes.

VANIER: And CNN has reported on the numerous extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. And it was just 24 or 48 hours ago that the Philippine president, Mr. Duterte himself, was saying that, when he was 16, he actually stabbed somebody, killed somebody himself. And it's not the first time that he brings up that kind of thing.

Matt Rivers, speaking live to us from Manila. Thank you very much.

Let's get some overall perspective on President Trump's Asian trip so far. We're joined by Robert Kelly, associate professor of political science at Pusan National University in South Korea.

Mr. Kelly, on the topic of North Korea, which was one of the priorities for Mr. Trump going into this trip, we've got back-to-back statements here, one tweet calling Kim Jong-un "short and fat."

And then the president saying a very short while ago that they could become friends.

Do you ascribe any meaning to this in terms of policy?

Or is it just colorful talk from colorful characters? ROBERT KELLY, PUSAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Yes, my inclination is to read it as the latter. This is actually one of the problems I think with the president's use of Twitter, is that he seems to swings from one position to the next. I think it would help a lot, at least on North Korea and probably on many other issues, if the president didn't use Twitter so frequently because I think often something pops in his head and he puts it out there.

I think we need a little bit more consistent policy on North Korea. I do think the president's trip regarding North Korea went reasonably well, actually. So I'm really not quite sure why he said these things, talking about whether or not Kim Jong-un was overweight and stuff like that.

I mean, if he just sort of stuck to his message, I think it would be pretty good. I think this week he would have had a nice win.

VANIER: Is he any closer to reining in Pyongyang's nuclear program?

KELLY: I think he has made it pretty clear to the Chinese that they really need to help this. And I actually think that's a pretty big -- that's a pretty important move for the president. I think the president has been correct, broadly speaking, to go to China in the last eight to 10 months. I think President Trump has been criticized a great deal for this. And has certainly been very erratic when it comes to dealing with North Korea.

But I think his basic instinct, which is to go to China, is more or less correct. But, no, I don't really think that we've actually come any closer to denuclearization. The North is not giving up its nuclear weapons without concessions. That would be so outrageous that we'd never make them. So we are stuck with North Korea as a nuclear power for a while.

VANIER: What about trade?

That was the other big issue for the U.S. president. Mr. Trump told every country that he visited that he wanted fair trade deals with the U.S.

Is there any progress on that front?

KELLY: The president did take us out of the big deal, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I would actually argue that would have been good for the United States. But now -- I think he is going to start focusing on bilateral deals, specifically for example, the one with South Korea. And that's already up for renegotiation.

It's not clear to me what exactly the president means by these deals aren't fair. There are some specific issues where I think Korean implementation, of course, could be better. But the president actually hasn't brought that stuff up. The president -- those are in areas of services and information.

The president needs to talk about manufacturing, like cars and stuff like that. And it's not really clear to me the Korean car market is that closed to American carmakers anymore. It used to be, but it's a lot better.

So I'm waiting to hear some specifics. The president has been saying that trade with Asia is unfair since the '80s. He's been saying this for a long time. So we need some more detail about what he means.

VANIER: Yes, it's something he's said at every stop of his trip.

KELLY: Right.

VANIER: And you mentioned the TPP. Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of that regional trade deal. But the East Asian countries are going ahead with it without the U.S.

Does that mean -- does that tell us anything about the U.S.' standing in the region or not?

KELLY: Yes, I do. I think broadly the idea behind the trade deals, besides the obvious material benefits from increased trade, is that they undergird and firm up the American security architecture, which is to say that the trade deals allow a lot of other flows, people and goods and services and so on, information, that sort of firm up and make the American presence in Asia more than just soldiers and planes and things like that.

And I think that's the big security loss with the removal of TPP. But the local allies actually have a lot of incentives to work together, particularly based on the rise of China. So I think there is a certain amount of incentive, particularly in Australia and Japan, to keep this thing on the road and then maybe when the president, when Donald Trump is no longer the president in a couple of years, maybe the Americans will see a new TPP.

VANIER: Robert Kelly, speaking to us Pusan, South Korea. Thank you very much for the insights and analysis.

KELLY: Thank you for having me.

VANIER: The embattled U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore is again slamming allegations of sexual misconduct from decades ago. On Saturday, the controversial Republican judge made his first public appearance --


VANIER: -- since the explosive allegations were reported on Thursday. that was in "The Washington Post."

Moore told supporters that the accusations were false and politically motivated to try to derail his campaign.


ROY MOORE, ALABAMA SENATE CANDIDATE: I have not been guilty of sexual misconduct with anyone. These allegations came only four and a half weeks before the general election on December 12th. Why now?


VANIER: And Moore faces Democrat Doug Jones in an election next month to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Jeff Sessions, who became U.S. attorney general and it's worth noting that Mr. Moore was well ahead in the polling before the allegations were put forward.

Attorneys for Michael Flynn flatly deny a report about the former national security adviser and his son. "The Wall Street Journal" says special counsel Robert Mueller is probing Flynn's alleged role in a plot to kidnap Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen from the U.S. and move him to a Turkish prison.

Turkey's president blames the cleric for last year's failed coup. Flynn's attorney has issued a statement, saying, "We have intentionally avoided responding to every rumor or allegation raised in the media. But today's news cycle has brought allegations about General Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our usual rule. They are false."

Let's move over to the Middle East now. In Lebanon, the departure of Saad Hariri is fueling a political crisis. Hariri announced that he was resigning as prime minister last week and said that he feared assassination. He made that announcement in Saudi Arabia and condemned Hezbollah and Iran.

Now that has led to accusations that he is being detained by the Saudis. But the Saudis say he's free to leave. Lebanon's president has demanded Hariri's return and Hezbollah says that Saudis have declared war.

In Barcelona, thousands of protesters turned out, demanding the release of eight former Catalan lawmakers and two activists. They remain in jail while Spanish authorities investigate their role in the region's bid for independence. Supporters at the rally say they want their leaders to know that they have people behind them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am here because there are political prisoners that should not be in jail. We are appalled, angry and mad because of this situation, because people don't deserve it. We do things peacefully with a desire to build a country and without any desire to hurt anyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We want the political prisoners not to feel alone, that they have the people behind them. Citizens are supporting them. The social majority and the politicians are protesting on the streets of Barcelona today to ask for freedom, to demand freedom for the political prisoners.


VANIER: Spain's central government seized control of Catalonia over the region's banned declaration of independence and set new government elections for December 21st. And that does it for now. Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. "MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next. Stay with us.