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North Korea and South Korea Announce Pending Military Talks; Wolff, Conway, Spicer, Hicks All Helped Get Interviews for Book; CNN Sources: Trump Lawyers Anticipate Mueller Interview Request. Aired 8- 8:30a ET

Aired January 9, 2018 - 08:00   ET


[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: He then he issued a statement saying he was wrong, and sincerely apologized to anyone he hurt. Why do we play this? Because racism and ignorant thoughts about race don't always exist in the loudness of the KKK or people carrying banners or saying things that are obnoxious and voluble. It's often quiet moments and people who believe things that feed a very corrosive sense of fairness and of humanity. That's what this is. I'm not saying this is a bad guy. I am saying that he believed this to be true.


CUOMO: And it is poppycock.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but what rock has he been living under? How did he get to his advanced age with those notions? He lives in Kansas. I am betting white people in Kansas have a substance abuse problem and he knows that, and so how could he possibly still harbor these feelings? I just think it actually begs a lot of questions about his --

CUOMO: It is what they call conditioned or implicit bias. The facts are clear. There is no fact that supports what he said. In fact, you look at the opioid epidemic, it is greatly disproportionately white. Does that mean that our character and makeup is bad? Anyway, it's worth exposing so that we remember, it's out there, we need to be better.

We are following a lot of news, we have breaking news out of South Korea. Let's get after it.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CAMEROTA: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, January 9th, 8:00 in the east. And we do have breaking news for you, this from the Korean demilitarized zone, a breakthrough in talks between North and South Korea, these two nations announcing they will hold military talks.

CUOMO: Why has North Korea agreed to this? What does it mean to the United States' role in defusing escalating tensions? Will Ripley is joining us near the DMZ. He has breaking details. Will, what do we know, will? WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this confirmed just minutes ago

from the location of these talks, which is a short distance from where I am, just along the DMZ, that bridge behind me leads into North Korea. The talks happening at the Panmunjom truce village in North and South Korea putting out a joint statement after a full and very busy day of discussions, saying that they will talk soon about easing military tensions in the region. This is after North Korea also announced it has reactivated a long dormant military hotline. Last week they activated a diplomatic hotline between the two Koreas. And of course North Korea also saying that they're going to be sending a high level delegation including athletes and officials to the winter Olympics here in South Korean in Pyeongchang just about a month from now.

This is significant. It's a window of opportunity for the north and south to use the Olympics, which was the initial reason for sitting down for these discussions to have talks about the military situation. But we have to be cautiously optimistic here considering the fact that in that same joint statement North Korea's chief negotiator also expressed very strong discontent with the fact that South Korea's negotiator even mentioned denuclearization as something that's on the agenda. The North has said consistently and repeatedly they're not giving up the nuclear weapons. It's something that officials have told me many times over the last several years. Kim Jong-un said the same thing in his New Year's address.

And so the biggest issue facing the Korean peninsula and the world, North Korea's nuclear program, the two sides don't appear to be any closer to a resolution on that. However, they will sending a delegation to the winter games, and this is very good news for the government here in South Korea which has been wanting to go host an Olympics, a peaceful Olympics without a North Korean nuclear test or missile launch that could disrupt the event, the most important sporting event in this country since the summer games in Seoul back in 1988.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in lived up to a campaign promise to engage with the North Koreans, and Kim Jong-un gets to send a delegation all expenses paid to South Korea and he got the United States and South Korean to agree to postpone joint military exercises that were supposed to kick off during the Olympics. Now those exercises moved back to a later date.

So in the short term a win for both sides, but in the medium to long term, especially after the Olympics, we need to watch very closely what happens because there have been so many times over the years where talks have begun, things looked promising, and it seemed like things were going to get better, and then, of course, the situation just got worse. And that is certainly what we saw over the last couple of years with North Korea's missile launches, 23 missiles launched last year and 16 different tests, and of course North Korea's most powerful nuclear test ever.

But at the moment, the focus is on the Olympics and now this new announcement that military talks will be taking place at the same location, the joint security area, the Panmunjom truce village, they are going to talk how they can de-escalate tensions. It's hard to see, though, how much progress they are going to make if North Korea digs in their heels on this nuclear issue, Chris.

CUOMO: But it's interesting because by sending the delegation, whether it's paid for or not, doesn't that forestall the fears that they might do something, the North, during the Olympics.

[08:05:04] CAMEROTA: Definitely.

CUOMO: They will have their own people there, they'll have high ranking officials there. You told us it won't be Kim Jong-un, but they will have people there that wouldn't want to jeopardize or embarrass, is that part of the calculus?

RIPLEY: Precisely. This is why this was so important for the South Koreans, why they were really willing to bend over backwards. They are going to be providing separate accommodations for the North Korean delegation. They are talking about lifting some of the sanctions that are in place, for example sanctions would prevent North Korea from getting a ship carrying it's delegation to a South Korean port. They are going to possibly make an exception so that North Korea can get those athletes and those other officials to the games here.

So yes, South Korea wants a peace Olympics, they have been branding this as the peace Olympics, and a lot of the people in this country frankly have been very cynical about that, especially given what we saw last year and the year prior to that with all the North Korean military activity. So perhaps South Koreans can now say that the Olympics and all this country is spending on them will be worthwhile if they can go off smoothly, if North Korean Olympians can march potentially side by side under a unified flag with athletes from the south. We have seen it happen nine times before but it has been more than 10 years since this happened. It was back in Torino, Italy, the winter games in 2006 the North Korean and South Korean athletes last marched together.

So yes, cautious optimism moving forward, but still a lot of questions about where this is really going to lead and how much North Korea is actually willing to give up here in terms of concessions because right now they really haven't had to give up a whole lot, if anything.

CAMEROTA: Will, it is great to have you there in the region to bring us all of the breaking news. Thank you very much. Obviously we will check back throughout the day with you.

So let's move on, because are there growing questions -- should I say, are the growing questions about the president's mental fitness overshadowing his agenda. The president meets today with a group of bipartisan lawmakers about immigration, but some of the focus is on the chaos inside of the White House. So let's bring in CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman to give us the real scoop on all of this. Hello, Maggie.


CAMEROTA: How is Michael Wolff's book playing inside the White House. HABERMAN: They're not fans to put it mildly. Look, it's on the one hand, you have the White House, I think where Michael Wolff is right is he has aid the idea that they are claiming we didn't help him, we did nothing, that is simply not true.

Now, the president did not sit for extensive interviews. I know that the White House has said the last time the president spoke to him was in February. Wolff said I spoke to him for three hours. We all know that three hours with Donald Trump is not a lot of time.

However, people certainly were told to speak with him at various levels. Steve Bannon obviously spent a lot of time with him, that's clear throughout the book. But Bannon is not the only person. A lot of other members of the administration did, too. So they are trying to have it both ways now that they turned out they invited somebody in who they thought was going to write some flattering portrait of Trump because that was, candidly, what Wolff sort of suggested, right. He was criticizing everybody else's coverage, and then he went out and basically wrote what the rest of us have been writing for two years.

CUOMO: Yes, there was a little bait and switch going on here. Shame on the White House if there's going to be shame on anybody because they let him in. A hundred percent, that's the number, 100 percent Michael Wolff says of the people, that's what I want your take on, 100 percent.

HABERMAN: That's not true. First of all, even of the people who are there right now, there is no way Hope Hicks believes that.

CUOMO: And he spoke to Hope Hicks?

HABERMAN: Or at least to some degree. Ivanka Trump, Whatever Ivanka Trump actually thinks about her father, the number of people who actually know that is very, very tiny and would not include Michael Wolff, and really won't include Steve Bannon no matter how close Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon were during the transition.

Michael Wolff made clear he did not interview the vice president, he did not interview cabinet members. The lack of cabinet member interviews in particular is a pretty large omission when you are doing the book about the first year, because you are then missing Mattis, you are missing Kelly for half the year, you are missing all kinds of people who could have actually painted a much more vivid and broad picture that was not so agenda driven by personal animosity because you had the Bloods versus the Crips aspect of this West Wing.

CUOMO: And anonymous.

HABERMAN: And anonymous for a long time. So no, that is clearly an exaggeration.

CAMEROTA: So you know now the book has raised all these questions about the president's mental illness. So what's the thinking inside the White House about how to tackle that?

HABERMAN: They're really angry about it. There is no topic that makes this White House angrier than questions about his mental fitness. That has been the case long before Michael Wolff spoke. I will say that I don't think that Wolff actually presents any new evidence to back up this claim. He makes assertions that I think are, he's can't possibly know, such as all three Trump children know that they're dad can't do the job. The Trump kids don't really know what the job of being president was, right, before their dad won it. They didn't think about it much more than he did. So that's -- I think that he is stating a conclusion and there's wish casting going on from people that who don't like Trump and who would like there to be an end to the presidency. And so I think they are seizing on that.

[08:10:08] Within the White House they get very angry, but they also know -- and this is where you do have, you don't have to but it is understandable that there is some sympathy for some of his staff, he doesn't make their lives easier when he then tweets I'm a stable genius when they're trying to basically ride this out and just stay calm and focus on work. That's not his style.

CAMEROTA: That's the point, how impulsively he has responded to this book, which then seems like exhibit A.

HABERMAN: But it's how impulsively he's responded to everything.

CUOMO: I don't know that's Exhibit A of the capacity thing. I think they have a plus and a minus. The plus is if I were around the president I would much rather defend questions about his mental fitness, his mental health, than his behavior and choices, which was the previous level analysis that Maggie and so many others were reporting on, because you can brush this aside more easily.

The negative is, we would not be discussing this right now, I am sure Maggie would have plenty of other stuff that she had dug up that is more insightful into the current state of play if the president hadn't done what he does too often. He engaged the controversy, he fought back --

CAMEROTA: Yes. The wording during the tweets is just there for everybody to see if there is garbled syntax, something peculiar. That does -- it might not be exhibit A for a real psychiatrist but it certainly raises questions.

HABERMAN: I don't know that it raises new questions. I think it just doesn't shut down the existing conversation, the existing conversation going, and the existing conversation, again, this is not even a year a half, or whatever this is in the presidency, the transition, this is two-and-a-half years, nearly three years of a campaign plus the White House, he's the same person. This has not changed.

I think that the presidency exacerbates certain characteristics in people. I think it can bring out things in a more pronounced way, but he has not changed. I have been interviewing him on a fairly consistent basis since 2011. This is the same person. The repetition when he talks, same thing he used to do in 2011, the telling the same stories over and over again, he has been doing that as long as I have known him. CUOMO: He is just overwhelmed right now, and he's dealing with a

level of criticism and stress he never has before. And people change in those situations. It doesn't mean you are having a break down and you are ill, but often you wind up exhibiting personality traits that you didn't before.

HABERMAN: Or at least your personality traits end up becoming more pronounced. When Trump is stressed, and this has always been the case, he tends to bear down on very tiny things. So just for instance you mentioned Tony Schwartz. The night before he was formerly nominated in Ohio in 2016, what Trump was focusing on that Wednesday night at the convention was not his son Eric giving a speech that was pretty highly praised, was not Ted Cruz, Trump's vanquished nemesis being booed in the convention hall. Trump was focusing on a letter that he had sent to Tony Schwartz, his ghost writer on "Art of the Deal" denouncing him. That's where his focus was because that's the kind of stuff that he burrows into when there is a large amount of stress going on around him.

CAMEROTA: Sort of interesting to see how Michael Wolff is playing all of this. He has thrown a grenade on the bridge behind him. That is interesting.

HABERMAN: That's what he does.

CAMEROTA: You are not surprised?

HABERMAN: No, but I guess I just feel like a White House that routinely never vetted its own staff, I guess people shouldn't be surprised this is what happened. But it's a little like -- to the two people that I think are the happiest with the Michael Wolff book, and this is actually really important, for all of the upset in the White House Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are very pleased because they feel vindicated by the fact that Steve Bannon has --

CAMEROTA: Gone down in flames.

HABERMAN: Gone down in flames.

CUOMO: Another silver lining of this book is that there's been a forced breakup of Bannon and Trump in a way that certainly will please them, that's a good point.

HABERMAN: We'll see how long that lasts.

CUOMO: Let me ask you. A lot of criticism or at least commentary on how Wolff got access. It does appear to be a bait and switch, the guy was going on TV and saying we are being too mean to the president, he wrote flattering articles, and now he can't say a kind word about the guy. So, again, shame on them, they're supposed to vet. You have come up in the conversation as well. How do you see the difference between how you get your access and maintain it and what Wolff did?

HABERMAN: I think that I am doing a job where I am pretty clear on what I am going to write. I am not in the habit of misleading people about what I am going to write, and I do not subscribe to the theory that we have been -- what Wolff did was sucking up for access. What he did, you can watch the video of him saying in November, 2016, that the rest of us were being too harsh, the transition was going great now that Steve Bannon had taking over along with Jared Kushner. The rest of us were writing about what a chaotic event it was. So this isn't, and I guess the word maintaining access has a certain connotation. That isn't what I'm pursuing. I'm pursuing covering this president. If the president never spoke to me again, that would be fine.

[08:15:03] CAMEROTA: That's what happened to us.

HABERMAN: If his aides try to shut us down, that is not, you know, that's not going to be effective. But this is not about trying to keep them "talking", which was what Wolff had to do because he hadn't actually covered the campaign. He hadn't really -- he had some relationship with Trump semi-socially, but he had not really covered him in any meaningful way before that.

So he had to do that to play some level of catch-up. The rest of us are just doing our jobs which is covering the president. So -- and the president is bigger -- the presidency is bigger than one man.

CAMEROTA: Do you want to respond to the one of the criticisms in "G.Q." about that access and --

HABERMAN: I didn't read it.

CAMEROTA: All right. Let me just read it to you, "It's clear to me that Haberman and the like aren't saving up their chits for just the exact right time to bring this administration down. No. The only end goal of their access is continued access to preserve it indefinitely so that the copy spigot never gets shut off."

I resent this on your behalf. I mean I really do. When I read this, it really ticks me off, because you don't pull your punches.

HABERMAN: No I don't.

CAMEROTA: What is he talking about?

HABERMAN: I don't know. I don't know.

CUOMO: It's negativity as a proxy for insight by somebody who either doesn't know --


CUOMO: -- or hasn't done the job. There is an orient to what we do in coverage as well. And you can't, you know, you have to maintain relationships. It has to be open, it has to be honest. But how do you feel about it?

HABERMAN: I think that I have helped break a number of the Russia investigation stories. I think that my coverage of Trump was rigorous and aggressive and tough, long before a lot of other people in the media was during the campaign, when people talk about that we weren't tough enough on Trump, I think that's the big one taking him seriously and weren't reading what we were writing. And that's a different issue. I mean, I can if to that person I can (ph) explain it.

CAMEROTA: And I don't want to as sectors. I don't like that. Because we talk to you everyday, every week, we know all of the stories that you've broken. And the idea, I mean, I don't know if the idea that you're -- you never pull your punches. I mean you give us the most clear-eyed view of what's happening in there that we could imagine.

HABERMAN: I believe in being fair. And I think that the tone of --

CUOMO: Right.

HABERMAN: -- some of the coverage of Trump I think is a problem because I think all people hear is the tone as oppose to the information. And that I think is a dangerous. But that's a different.

CUOMO: You also have a good way of describing how he feels about things in an honest way that often leads to a bizarre conclusion. And we know this for a fact, because while this guy is entitled to his opinion he could feel anyway he wants it on your report.

HABERMAN: Absolutely.

CUOMO: But --

HABERMAN: We're open to criticism as soon as (INAUDIBLE) --

CUOMO: The president.

HABERMAN: -- reality.

CUOMO: -- makes no secret to people around him who say why do you keep talking to that Maggie Haberman, you know, they've taken some shots on you. Fair shots because he knows what he's getting. He doesn't believe that you're doing the bait and switch, and that is why you keep getting the access. It's not a mystery for weren't true you wouldn't have it.

HABERMAN: He is also -- and he's also going to think about the "New York Times" and he's definitely comment (ph) --


CUOMO: But he still talks to you.

HABERMAN: But like -- but, again, if he never talked to me again, I would still be doing my job and I would still be doing the exact same before --


CUOMO: No. I need you to keep talking to him. I need to have the insights for next. Have a good 2018. HABERMAN: Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year everybody. Christmas comes early.

CUOMO: Thank you very much Maggie, always great to talk to you.

So, President Trump's legal team anticipating a request from the special counsel for an interview with the president. So, what are the next steps? Our legal experts answer that next.


[08:21:48] CUOMO: CNN has learned that President Trump's lawyers are anticipating a request from the special counsel for a face to face interview with the president and the Russia investigation.

Now, how will it take place under oath? Recorded? Let's discuss with Former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti and CNN Legal Analyst Michael Zeldin. And he was a special assistant to Bob Mueller at the Justice Department, perfect panel for this, thank you gentlemen.

First of all, let's talk about that this is ok. Ken Starr was on the show yesterday and he said Counselor Zeldin, yes, Mueller should speak to the president. Anyone who is saying that this is cheap politics or unnecessary is wrong, he should look him in the eye and he should ask him the big questions, do you agree?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. And in fact in the Clinton Whitewater Lewinsky investigation, Clinton was interviewed three times between Fiske and Starr for over nine hours, mostly in the map room in the White House without the presence of his attorneys. And I think that will be the template that Mueller will follow in this case.

CUOMO: Under oath?

ZELDIN: Under oath.

CUOMO: And then, of course, Clinton got subpoenaed by the Grand Jury and wound up having to testify there. We all know how that that went out.

So, all right, Renato, if I am Trump's personal lawyer, I say hold on a second, this isn't Bill Clinton. This man is not the target of your investigation. We've had no suggestion, otherwise why does he have to be under oath? If you want to speak to him, fine, we'll figure it out. But we're not under subpoena. I only want to talk to you about what he knows, about what he did, no oath, no recording. Do I get it?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I actually think you would get it because if an FBI agent is present for the interview, which is what I would expect. FBI agents are always present when prosecutor and Federal prosecutors interview subjects in line to the FBI is a crime.

CUOMO: All right. So, hold on. So let's make sure people understand that. Even if I am not under oath, if an FBI agent is in the room and I say something that is untrue it goes from a lie to a crime?

MARIOTTI: That's correct. If it's a material to the investigation, in other words, if it matters, you know, if you lie about what you ate for breakfast that day, not a crime. But if you're lying about the subjects of that investigation, the topics that are an issue, it is a crime. And people like Gates and Papadopoulos found that out this year, right, this past year when they were indicted for that crime.

CUOMO: So, we have seen proof of performance from Donald Trump, the citizen, when under oath doing a deposition. And he plays the game well, Counselor Zeldin, I would suggest to somebody as a junior lawyer was forced to read tons of depositions, that big shots like you would give with different subjects. He does the "I don't recall", and he does the "ask him for clarification", you know, he does those things. Will they serve him well in an interview like this?

ZELDIN: I don't think so, not over the long run. As I said, in the Clinton depositions before Starr's prosecutors, one lasted two hours, one lasted 5.5 hours, and these are very experienced prosecutors. And I don't think they're going to allow him to say I don't recall and I don't know and things of that sort of, you know, Jeff Sessions testimony in Congress.

[08:25:04] Because they know that if he says I don't know or I don't recall as many times as others have said it in the course of congressional testimony, that they are indictable for lying based on the I don't knows. That happened to John Haldeman in the Watergate investigation.

CUOMO: But what would that look like here, Michael? So let's play it through. I'm president of the United States, God forbid, and you ask me, did you know that Mike Flynn blah, blah, blah, I said no. I never spoke to him about it, I don't know anything about that. I mean I don't recall any conversation to the, otherwise, how might it play out in a way that I could get in trouble?

ZELDIN: So, let me show you this document in which the --

CUOMO: All right.

ZELDIN: -- the following is represented, or let me remind you of a conversation that you had on this day which Michael Flynn testified to us in which you said. So, it's a matter of testing that I don't know against the reality and the facts that they already have in hand, which is why typically, Chris, these interviews take place at the very end of the process. So the prosecutors have all the informations they need to be able to confront the witness that has a, you know, failing memory or a suspicion that the memory is conveniently failing.

CUOMO: Right. If nothing else, you know, it does give you opportunity to a savvy subject like Donald Trump to get a second bite of the apple. You said you don't recall, they didn't give you a document or something that creates a clarification, and now you get a parameter of what they may know.

Renato, the big question is what are the stakes and when do you see this happening, especially in the context of what Michael just offered up, that these types of big-shot interviews usually happen near the end? Do you expect it soon? What do you think the stakes are?

MARIOTTI: Well, I will say we've heard reports. There have been reports in the press, and you said CNN confirmed that there will be an interview in the Nazi just in the future. What I suspect is that is going to be focused on the obstruction part of the inquiry.

You know, people think that Bob Mueller is investigating one big crime like he's going to come in and have some big indictment and everyone's going to get charged with the same thing. You know, we've already seen different indictments of different people for different crimes. And what I suspect is right now he's focused on the obstruction piece of the investigation, he's getting closer to wrapping that piece up and that's what this interview is going to focus on. And the stakes are extraordinarily high for the president.

If I was his attorney, I would be trying to figure out what I could do to get out of this. And, unfortunately, there's no real way to do that other than taking the fifth, which I'm sure that the president doesn't want to do.

CUOMO: Now, look, there's so much that we don't know that Mueller could know, and that's a good thing. Because this is his house and he should keep it safe. But, with perspective of you two guys, I have to ask it. Because, Renato, you did these kinds of deals and, Michael, you've worked with Mueller.

What do you think the chances, Renato Mariotti, with what we know right now and what your sense is of the investigation that the president of the United States really has any risk of exposure from Mueller in the form of an indictment?

MARIOTTI: If you're going to me first --


MARIOTTI: -- what I would say is not. I think my gut is that Mueller is going to present findings to Congress in a way that started as oppose to actually issuing an indictment. I think that is the more prudent way to go, is an open legal question as to whether a sitting president can be indicted. Mueller seems to me like a cautious careful man and I think that's what he would likely do, but that's just my gut.

CUOMO: And, in truth, look that's what Ken Starr did. You're right, they had something that they, you know, ordinarily, you know, a prosecutor would carry that himself and he didn't. He gave it over the Congress, they impeached the president.

Michael Zeldin, how about you? What do you think the chances that there's any kind of criminality, ascribe with the president of the United States? What do you think the chances having more with Mueller that the president gets a letter of exoneration?

ZELDIN: Well, I don't think there will be a letter of exoneration. There'll be a final reports, and if there is no indictments brought, that'll be explained in the report. But to your question of is the president in jeopardy? Whether or not he's indicted because there's a question about that constitutionally or whether is there a referral, it's a secondary question to, is he in legal jeopardy?

And I think that there are two areas that he may have legal jeopardy. One and I think perhaps most profoundly, if Mueller is looking into it is his financial dealings. The so-called Manafort-styled indictment with his Russia connections and all his Trump properties, sort of disconnected from collusion but perhaps setting the predicate for understanding how the collusive agreements came to be reached.

And the second is obstruction. I don't think we're yet there at obstruction, but I think we could get to obstruction if during the course of the interview that Mueller has with the president, the president lies intentionally about a material matter.

Then, all the other things, the firing of Comey, the asking of his national security advisors to talk to the press and he's talking to Congress about shutting us down, the standing down on the Flynn investigation. All those things then in combination with a lie under oath to Mueller gets you probably to obstruction.

And then as Renato says, it may not be indicted because of the conservational question about that, but it would become the basis for our referral.

CUOMO: There's so much I want to chew on with you guys, can --