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Pence Tough Talk on North Korea; Perjury Trap for Trump; Eagles to Celebrate Win; Questions Over Vetting. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired February 6, 2018 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[06:30:00] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Korea doesn't use the powerful symbolism and the backdrop of the Winter Olympics to paper over the truth about their regime. We'll be telling the truth about North Korea at every stop. We'll be ensuring that whatever cooperation that's existing between North and South Korea today on Olympic teams does not cloud the reality of a regime that must continue to be isolated by the world community.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But while having these tough words for North Korea, Vice President Pence also said we'll see what happens when talking about whether or not there would be any meeting with the North Koreans here at the winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, the North Koreans are coming in large numbers here to Pyeongchang. A ferry boat arrived carrying more than 100 North Koreans who will be performing in concerts in South Korea tomorrow, a delegation of more than 200 people, including cheerleaders and a taekwondo demonstration team arriving, this in addition to 22 athletes who will also be competing in the games.
North Korean state media has come out really hard against President Trump in the last 24 hours, denouncing his State of the Union speech, and while also trying to reach out to the South Koreans and talk about unity, they're sending a bit of a mixed message. They're going to stage a military parade for the first time ever on the eve of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, when they'll show off their missiles, which isn't quite the message of unity that perhaps the South Korean government was hoping to receive here.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: It seems like both North Korea and the U.S. trying to send messages at different levels at the same time.
Ivan Watson for us at the Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Ivan, great to have you there.
President Trump's lawyers reportedly urging him not to meet with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's teams. The president's allies say it is a perjury trap. We have a debate you don't want to miss, next.
[06:35:58] BERMAN: So, "The New York Times" reporting this morning that the president's lawyers are concerned he could incriminate himself or be charged with lying to investigators if he meets with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The president's long-time supporter Newt Gingrich shares that concern.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: And I think the idea of putting Trump in a room with five or six hardened, very, very clever lawyers, all of whom are trying to trap him, would be a very, very bad idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Don't put him in a room with smart people because he might lie to them. Could an interview with the special counsel be a perjury trap for the president?
Let's discuss with CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, who worked with Robert Mueller, and CNN legal commentator Ken Cuccinelli.
Michael Zeldin, to you.
There are three questions here, right, and let's try to address them one at a time here. Why won't the president testify or talk to Robert Mueller's team? Can he be forced to? And what does this fight look like? First to the why he won't testify, Michael Zeldin. Newt Gingrich and the president's allies call it a perjury trap. That's a loaded phrase, Michael.
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, a perjury trap actually is a term that has a definition. It is a form of entrapment. It is impermissible. And it implies that the prosecutor is bringing the witness into the grand jury for the sole purpose of getting him to lie so he can charge him with that lie. That is not what is going on here. And Newt Gingrich is just flat out incorrect about that.
What is going on here is a dually constituted special counsel is investigating a matter and he wants testimony with respect to that matter. That witness is subpoenaed or called under a voluntary process and the witness is asked to answer questions. If the witness is truthful in his answers, then there's no perjury. If he lies in his answers, then there's perjury. But it is not a trap.
BERMAN: You know, Ken Cuccinelli, I do not have the legal expertise you have, but in my 45 years of research, I always found the best way not to get caught lying is to not lie.
KEN CUCCINELLI, CNN LEGAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, certainly Michael's correct about the technical use of the term "perjury trap," but Newt Gingrich is a history professor, not a lawyer. I think he was using it descriptively in the context of President Trump and his personality type. And, look, he is the king of hyperbole. And that personality type and
his stubbornness about it are really not well suited to sitting down and giving particularized, specific answers. I mean that's what Newt Gingrich is talking about, which doesn't suggest in anything that Michael said about the term is wrong from a legal perspective. I agree with him.
But I think that Newt Gingrich is being descriptive. And when you look at somebody like Donald Trump, if you're a lawyer, if I were his lawyer, I'd be very, very concerned about whether or not even going -- walking through a hypothetical interrogation, if you will, repeatedly with his personality type is going to be adequate to get him disciplined enough to be -- to stay away from the hyperbole that can get him in real trouble.
Another way to think about it is, do you get the State of the Union Donald Trump who stays on message and so forth and, of course, that was a written speech? Or do you get the more common Donald Trump, who really says whatever comes into his head without even double checking himself in public remarks frequently and so forth. That's a real danger for the president.
But the bottom line is that given the process that the special counsel is in, they can compel him to talk to them. I do think that President Trump's lawyers would be wise, and I'm sure will succeed in, getting limits put around, as Bill Clinton's lawyers did, the manner and place and duration of that kind of questioning.
BERMAN: So, Michael Zeldin, Ken brought up the key point there, can Special Counsel Robert Mueller force the president to answer questions? How does that work?
[06:40:06] ZELDIN: He can. He has the power of grand jury subpoena. And he can compel the witness, in this case the president, to appear. There is nothing in the law that I have found that, you know, sort of reflects on the possibility that there needs to be some sort of threshold, which is the word that his lawyers are using, some threshold that has to be met before the president has his right to receive a grand jury subpoena and be compelled to testify.
And so this notion that somehow the -- Newt Gingrich, a historian, is going to tell Robert Mueller, the prosecutor, that he doesn't want his friend, President Trump, to testify is really beside the point.
And the truth of the matter is, they would be much better off, notwithstanding Ken's counsel to the president, which is correct, the president has to learn how to stay on message, which in this case is on the truth. But they would have been -- they would be much better off to take a lesson from Ronald Reagan, who, in the Iran Contra testimony, did not exert executive privilege, did testify, did cooperate, give -- gave his personal diaries over and that -- and suffered the consequences of being interviewed.
BERMAN: They were written answers in that -- in that case, though. And I think the president, President Trump that is, is going to be forced to sit down. Ken Cuccinelli, to this point, legally speaking, the president will
likely lose here. He will lose. Ultimately he will have to answer questions to some form to the special counsel. So, to me, the interesting thing here is, why then is he willing to have this fight? He's going to lose it. What determination have his lawyers and political advisers made that this fight then is worth having?
CUCCINELLI: Well, first of all, I think you've defined losing as him having to give answers. And he's never --
BERMAN: Well, they've defined it. They've defined losing as him having to give answers --
CUCCINELLI: Well --
BERMAN: Because they're nervous he's going to lie.
CUCCINELLI: No, no, no, no, no, no. No. I just don't agree with your characterization.
I think that what you see going on is a -- is a negotiation. They -- President Trump's lawyers, as his predecessors have, are using the fact that his -- of his office to contain the scope of examination.
Look, when I do depositions, I want to go seven or eight hours and I'm going to save my best stuff for the end. And with a president of the United States, I don't think you're going to get a judge to give seven hours, which would be sort of the rules of civil procedure time limit. That's not what applies here, of course. But it's a useful benchmark. And I just don't think they're going to get that.
I do think that when they do sit down with him, it will be very pointed questions and it won't take that long to get to what they want to get to. So long as the president is answering them.
BERMAN: Well, we'll have to see, guys.
ZELDIN: Yes, except that --
BERMAN: We're actually out of time here, but let's see if this is the beginning of a negotiation or perhaps the beginning of what could be a long, drawn-out political fight that we will all watch.
Ken Cuccinelli, Michael Zeldin, great to have you with us, guys, I appreciate it.
CUCCINELLI: Thank you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: OK, Super Bowl update. Ear muffs, John. The city of Philadelphia preparing for an epic Super Bowl parade. There will even be free beer. What could possibly go wrong? Details in the "Bleacher --
BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE)? CAMEROTA: Yes, free beer for people who show up.
BERMAN: Who's planning this?
[06:47:33] BERMAN: The Philadelphia Eagles receiving a hero's welcome -- and they deserved a hero's welcome -- as they went home with the franchise's first Super Bowl title.
Andy Scholes has more in the "Bleacher Report."
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, John.
You know, Eagles fans been waiting their whole lives to celebrate a Super Bowl title and they are certainly making the most of it right now. Thousands of fans greeting the team at the airport yesterday as they arrived home with the Lombardi Trophy. Championship parade scheduled for Thursday through downtown Philly starting at around 11:00 a.m. It's going to end at the art museum on the famous Rocky steps. School is cancelled, so it should be a huge crowd out there.
Now, before the season, lineman Lane Johnson and Bud Light actually promised free beer for everyone if the team won the Super Bowl, and they're delivering. Bud Light sending out this decree saying everyone 21 or older along the parade route will get one free beer.
All right, Dirk Nowitzki reaching the 50,000 career minute milestone last night in a mad loss to the Clippers. He's just the sixth player ever to play that many minutes in the NBA. But, get this, his jersey was misspelled last night. The z and the k should be flipped right there. Amazingly, too, Dirk wore that jersey against the Kings on Saturday and nobody noticed.
But, Alisyn, Dirk had some fun with it. He said, you know what, this sums up our season. The Mavs are one of the worst teams in the NBA right now.
CAMEROTA: All right, that's a good attitude. As someone who spells her name in an unusual way, I can relate to the misspellings. They happen.
CAMEROTA: All right, Andy, thank you very much.
So more controversy involving President Trump's nominees. Wait until you hear what his choice for ambassador to the Caribbean Islands believes. A closer look at the vetting problem in the White House, next.
[06:53:31] CAMEROTA: A CNN investigative report has found that President Trump's choice for ambassador of Barbados has spread crazy fringe conspiracy theories online. And he's not the first Trump nominee with questionable comments that have scuttled their confirmations.
Joining us now to discuss are editor for "The Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol, and CNN political commentator Ben Ferguson.
Great to see both of you.
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Good morning.
I have to start with this guy. He was the Barbados ambassador nominee, Leandro Rizzuto Jr., and you and our viewers just have to hear these things that this guy is retweeting, OK? So here's a graphic. And I'll just put it up here. I know it's going to be very small, so I'm going to read it to people.
Here's what he believes, since he's retweeting it, about Heidi Cruz, Senator Ted Cruz's wife. It says, this woman should scare the hell out of all Americans. She's an architect of the North American Union whose goal is to destroy the sovereignty of the United States. If Ted were to become president, it virtually ensures the dissolving of the USA and the formation of the North American Union. This would put Heidi Cruz in line to become the first lady, not of the U.S. but of this other North American Union.
Mitt Romney, he says -- he retweets somebody who says, Satan has a hold of you. You will go to hell.
For George Soros he retweets that he is the leader of a movement who worked for Hitler and he helped kill his own people, the Jews.
Ben, let me start with you.
CAMEROTA: How could this possibly be the president's choice for Barbados ambassador?
[06:55:06] FERGUSON: Yes, look, you look at the things that he put out there on his own Twitter feed and the bottom line is, these are things that, in my opinion, should not have been tweeted, that should have never been retweeted or liked or anything associated with it. And I think you've got to do a better job of not just having someone come in and sit there and tell you what they think.
FERGUSON: You've got to look at everything they've put in the past.
FERGUSON: And a lot of people, when they get in a -- when they get a phone call, and we've seen this before, they go back and they do a scrub where it's hard to see what they actually wrote. A lot of this stuff, as you know, has been deleted, but it was found by other people.
FERGUSON: In Google caches and other things. But you have to do a deep dive on people before you nominate them because --
FERGUSON: And why aren't they doing that?
FERGUSON: Well, I -- look, I don't know. I think clearly this is a moment where you have to say, OK, moving forward, we can't just trust somebody that we sit down with and assume that what they're saying now --
FERGUSON: Is consistent with what they may have said or tweeted in the past.
FERGUSON: I think these statements are going to be a huge problem for him to get the nomination through and they've got to make sure that before you put a guy's name out there, you got to check and see what they said in their own works.
Bill, listen, this isn't the first one that has had situations like this. I mean we just had Kathleen Hartnett. She was nominated for the Council on Environmental Quality. She says global warming is a kind of paganism for secular elites. She believes that climate activists want an all-powerful one world government and planetary management.
Bill, what's going on with these nominees?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Well, there's a guy in this administration, Alisyn, you may not be aware of this, who used his Twitter feed to promote -- not just to retweet but to promote quite aggressively the notion that Barack Obama's birth certificate was a forgery. That was kind of a major theme of this guy's Twitter feed in 2011, 2012. I think he even did more than tweet about it. And he's president of the United States. So he probably doesn't have a terribly high standard of accuracy or responsibility for people's -- for people's tweets.
CAMEROTA: OK. Fair. He's -- so he's -- I hear you. He's (INAUDIBLE).
KRISTOL: I'm not being -- I'm not being flip. I mean that's --
CAMEROTA: I know you're not. He's pedaled conspiracy theories. I get -- I get it. But --
KRISTOL: He's the president of the United States.
Now, I will say this. Let me say two -- let me say two things.
KRISTOL: I know people who are ambassadors, I know people (INAUDIBLE) in other senior positions in this administration, some of them are very good people who -- some of them have their doubts about President Trump but they're going in to serve the country. And so I don't -- you know, we shouldn't smear everyone who's getting a senior appointment --
CAMEROTA: No, of course. Listen, Bill, I don't want to. But, no, my question is, doesn't anybody know how to work Google there? I mean people around him should be checking this.
KRISTOL: But -- but -- but I think -- well, no, I think they don't see -- it's not -- it's not a matter of working Google (INAUDIBLE). I think they see things, some of President Trump's aides and associates, see things that many of us might think are shocking and they think, well, this is just kind of, you know, part of business. You know, it's a little extreme, but what the heck. They don't react in the way that a lot of people do, I think should react to some of these things that's outside the bounds. But, again, this is a president who said yesterday that Democrats are treasonists and un-American. So it's a little hard to ask his administration to uphold higher standards.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Ben, this is an embarrassment. When these things are found, this is an embarrassment --
CAMEROTA: That somebody that you would nominate to be an ambassador feels this way and retweets these disgusting things. And so what do you think is going on? Obviously the president can't be responsible for going back and doing all the due diligence into somebody's background, somebody should be. So what's going wrong in the White House?
FERGUSON: Look, I think there's a couple different things here. One, you have a lot of people that the president was close with early on in the campaign that were loyal to him. And when he sees somebody that's loyal to him, he certainly likes him. I also think that there's a good chance that the things that you're talking about were things that would certainly never have been brought up or self-reported when you're talking to an individual who's had a very good career.
You look at, for example, Mrs. White (ph), she was loved in Texas, did a lot of things in Texas for the environment, had a solid resume in Texas and did great things for the economy in Texas. So when --
CAMEROTA: Yes, but these were radio interviews. She gave a -- she gave a radio interview in 2016 where she said this stuff. This isn't hidden.
FERGUSON: I agree.
CAMEROTA: You don't have to dig too deep to find this stuff.
FERGUSON: I -- well, and that's -- and that goes back to our saying. You have some people that are at the White House that have been there working with this president that weren't politically necessarily savvy and that's one thing that a lot of people liked about them. They were new, fresh eyes coming in.
But there's certain parts of politics that are extremely important. Optics is one of them.
FERGUSON: And they have to make sure that when you pick somebody to be a nominee for anything in the government --
FERGUSON: Ambassadorship, you've got to do an extremely deep dive --
FERGUSON: And comb through this and say basically, I'm going to find exactly what somebody that hates this person is going to find. We have to make sure that this nomination can get through --
FERGUSON: Can get confirmed and that there aren't days like this where you're having to talk about a dumb tweet about Heidi Cruz saying that she thinks that there should be a three-in-one government with Canada and Mexico.
Hey, Bill, listen, the president talks a lot about extreme vetting, as you know, for refugees, but not for his nominees. And, I mean, it sounds like Ben is saying that this is sloppiness. What do you think?
KRISTOL: I think -- I think Donald Trump can't -- it's hard for Trump to insist on standards that he himself couldn't meet. He has some aides who will try to do so. But the Trump administration is about Trump.
[07:00:09] CAMEROTA: Bill Kristol, Ben Ferguson, thank you both very much.
OK, thanks to our international viewers for watching.