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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
South Korea: President Trump Agrees to Meet Kim Jong-un by May; President Trump Imposes Tariffs on Aluminum and Steel Imports; Michael Cohen Pays $130,000 Payment to Stormy Daniels; Former Russian Spy and Daughter Attacked With Nerve Agent. Aired on 8-9p ET
Aired March 8, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening.
President Trump promised big news in the nuclear standoff with North Korea and the dictator he calls little rocket man. Then he delivered, or more precisely, South Korea's national security adviser delivered the news. Standing outside the West Wing, he laid out a series of concessions from Kim as well as Kim's invitation to sit down with President Trump and President Trump's acceptance.
[20:00:08] Here's the statement in full.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUNG EUI-YONG, SOUTH KOREAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Today, I have the privilege of briefing President Trump on my recent visit to Pyongyang, North Korea.
I'd like to thank President Trump, the vice president and his wonderful national security team, including my close friend, General McMaster. I explained to President Trump that his leadership and his national pressure policy, together with international solidarity brought us to this juncture. I expressed President Moon Jae-in's personal gratitude for President Trump's leadership.
I told President Trump that in our meeting, North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, said he is committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests. He understands that the routine joint military exercises with the Republic of Korea and United States must continue, and he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.
President Trump appreciated the greeting and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May, to achieve permanent denuclearization. The Republic of Korea, along with the United States, Japan, and our many partners around the world remain fully and resolutely committed to the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Along with President Trump, we are optimistic about continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution. The Republic of Korea, the United States, and our partners stand together in insisting that we not repeat the mistakes of the past and that the pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions. Thank you. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It was an extraordinary statement. There's a lot to cover tonight from two global capitals, starting with CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House.
So, what are you learning, Jim, about how this announcement came about? Because it seems like a lot of people are surprised.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: A lot of people by surprise -- were taken by surprise, Anderson. I can tell you from talking to a senior administration official that this all unfolded really about an hour, the South Korean envoy there that you were just showing there, Chung Eui-yong, he met with the national security adviser, H.R. McMaster this afternoon over here at the White House to essentially deliver this news that the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, was extending this olive branch.
And then within an hour, the South Korean envoy then went to meet with the president, mentioned this to the president, described this to the president, and then the president within that same hour poked his head into the briefing room and said, hey, guys, have I got a story for you.
So, this all happened very quickly, part of the reality TV momentum and pacing of this White House. But I can tell you, Anderson, one of the things we had a question about after the South Korean envoy made that statement was whether or not this was indeed actually happening. And we can tell you that the White House is confirming this at this point.
Sarah Sanders put out a statement, I can read it to you. It says, President Trump greatly appreciates the nice words of the South Korean delegation and President Moon. He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.
I will tell you, at this very moment, senior administration officials are briefing reporters on the details of all this, but I talked to a senior administration official before this briefing got started who said, you know, at this point, what we are focused on is planning for this historic, extraordinary meeting. My sense of it, Anderson, is that this is not going to take place here in Washington. It's not going to take place in North Korea but may very well take place in South Korea where some of these talks have been going on there at the border of North Korea and South Korea.
But that obviously would be an extraordinary moment to have the president fly over to South Korea for a meeting of this nature. Obviously, it's unprecedented, and I would have to imagine that administration officials, while not saying publicly are privately very concerned whether or not the North Koreans can behave themselves between now and this meeting, so it can actually take place.
COOPER: Well, I mean, it's also just kind of incredible when you consider the relationship between the two leaders just over the past year, it's been nothing if not contentious.
ACOSTA: That's right. It was around seven months ago when the president spoke to the United Nations and described Kim Jong-un as little rocket man. And then, of course, Kim Jong-un returned the favor with insults lobbed at the president.
[20:05:05] And then it was over the summer, it was an extraordinary moment when the president warned the North Korean dictator that he would meet fire and fury like he's never seen before. We had the scary moments over the summer where people in Guam were concerned about their safety at one point, about what might happen there. And it's remarkable that things have developed to the point where these two leaders might actually get together and meet.
It just goes to show you that this president, and we were hearing about this before Chung Eui-young came out and spoke to the microphones, we were hearing from senior administration officials that they were basically cautioning the president against this. That was not going to be their recommendation.
But Trump being Trump, it is not unusual to defy his advisers and decide to go with a bold move like this. Of course, Anderson, the potential ramifications of all this, we can't overstate, obviously, this is not reality television. This is not "The Apprentice". When the president of the United States decides to meet with Kim Jong-un about denuclearizing North Korea, this is deadly serious, and we're going to have to see how things develop over the next month and half to see if it actually happens.
COOPER: Yes. It's serious as it gets.
Jim Acosta, thanks.
It's midmorning already in Seoul, South Korea, where the story matters most to millions of people within artillery range of the North, not to mention the thousands of U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula.
Our Will Ripley joins us with reaction early there.
Will, I mean, from a North Korean standpoint, what do we know about what's behind this offer?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, my sources tell me that Kim Jong-un has been studying President Trump intently and trying to figure out a way out here, given the fact that the sanctions have gotten increasingly crippling for his economy, when there used to be a hundred trucks going back and forth between China and North Korea, now, it's down to ten trucks or even less, an example one source gave me. On top of the fact that President Trump has said that he is seriously considering military action, an attack on North Korea if they finalize that nuclear missile that could reach the mainland U.S., if they perfect the reentry capability.
Kim Jong-un wants to stay in power for decades to come, long after President Trump is out of office and after President Moon is out of office. So, his strategy here is pretty clear. He knew he needed to do something bold, something dramatic, something straight out of the Trump playbook. That's exactly what he delivered after building on a minimum from the Olympics, getting President Moon Jae-in of South Korea to agree to this summit that's going to be happening in April. He decided to write this letter, to make this invitation, and he was betting on the fact that President Trump would accept, and that's exactly what happened.
COOPER: The timeline that's been sent out, I mean, with the president committing to meet before May or in May, what can you tell us about that?
RIPLEY: Well, I think the significance is that Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un are going to be meeting at the Demilitarized Zone at the Panmunjom Peace Village in April. And so, on that hills of that meeting, President Trump apparently wanted to take the next step and have his meeting at some point in May, to try to again, kind of keep this momentum going, to build on this diplomatic path that North Korea is intent on making right now because they've calculated it's their best strategy.
COOPER: Yes. Will Ripley from Seoul, thanks, Will. Appreciate it.
We've got a lot ahead tonight. We want to bring some more expertise to hear on this.
Joining us is Retired Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, former U.N. ambassador, energy secretary and North Korea envoy, Bill Richardson, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and Obama White House communications director Jen Psaki.
Gloria, I mean, did anyone see this coming?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: No.
COOPER: I mean, Rex Tillerson was in Africa, I mean, he had talked about --
COOPER: -- sitting down on the table a long time ago and the White House seemed to have backed away from that.
BORGER: Well, you know, the president actually tweeted that Rex Tillerson is wasting his time when he's talking about talking to North Korea, and just today, as you were mentioning, Tillerson said we are a long way from negotiations. We have to be clear-eyed and realistic. I think the first step, and I've said this before, is to have talks about talks.
So, what it seems is that the president has decided that he wants to meet with North Korea and perhaps then have the talks afterwards. I don't see how you can negotiate that quickly before you have these two people get together if it's going to happen in May. I don't see it.
COOPER: Ambassador Richardson, I mean, do you give the president credit for -- I mean, A, you know, there's been a lot of bellicose rhetoric over the last year, is this maybe what brought them to the table?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: Well, my view is that this is an extraordinary development. I'm flabbergasted, speechless in a positive way, because this potential summit could really lessen tensions in the Korean peninsula, especially for South Korea, for our troops. So this is a good development.
It seems that President Trump and Kim Jong-un have been taking vitamin diplomacy pills. And I think that's very good.
You know, the big risk here is Kim Jong-un has not delivered. He's not delivered on anything. He's talking good.
[20:10:00] He's come from a bomb thrower, to be a strategic thinker and setting the agenda on the peninsula.
But we should take advantage of this. I agree the president should accept this invitation, and I guess he has, but we really have to be prepared, a lot of ground here. I don't think the North Koreans are going to denuclearize, but I think the negotiation, the deals of the missiles, nuclear activity, artillery, and just for instance, South Korea deserves a lot of credit, and they want some kind of lessening in South Korea, because there are 25 million people in South Korea that are vulnerable.
RICHARDSON: Our troops are in South Korea and Japan.
So I tip my hat to both of them, although I'm very worried that we don't fall into a trap.
COOPER: The president just tweeted. I want to read it.
Kim Jong-un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean representatives, not just a freeze. Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made. The sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned.
General Hertling, I mean, the South Korean representatives said Kim Jong-un is, quote, committed to denuclearization, just as the president said, and pledge North Korea is going to refrain from any further nuclear missile tests.
Can you put it just that into context, how significant those agreements are, and if there is a reason -- I mean, there's obviously reason to be skeptical.
MARK HERTLING, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This could be a positive development, Anderson. I'm not -- I'm still pretty skeptical about it. I'm not yet breathless as many people are, because we've watched for 70 years the strategy of the Kim family, the Kim regime.
And their key strategy has been, number one, regime survival. Number two, unification on their terms, not other people's term, and that consist of subversion, coercion, deception, and the use of force. And then the third one has always been their strategy is to split the Republic of Korea, the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
Those things I believe are still in place and as recently as two days ago, the North Korean newspaper demonstrated again their reliance on nuclear weapons for regime survival. And that's something that's blessed by the Kim family.
So, again, I'm still not -- I'm very happy for this development. It's very good. There could be some possibilities there, but, again, I'd like to see what the talking points are going to be. What the ongoing strategy not only of the United States, but of North Korea.
They are certainly going to want to eliminate any kind of sanctions, because it's really hurting them.
HERTLING: All indicators from the intelligence community says that's what's really hurting them. But will they also ask for U.S. forces off the peninsula, should they also ask for no more, even though the message said they knew that combined force operations will continue. Will they ask eventually for that to stop? Will they ask for forces to be (INAUDIBLE)?
And then what are our requests going to be, other than denuclearization? Are we going to ask for North Korean forces to move back from the DMZ to keep Seoul from under pressure?
So, there's a whole lot more to this. And I think, again, a lot of people, even though they were caught by surprise, we should have had a little bit better strategy for all this.
COOPER: Jen, can you explain, as someone who worked in the Obama White House, just how extraordinary the idea of an American president sitting down with a member of the dictatorship of North Korea? I mean, it's never happened, and it's the complete reversal of what the goals of U.S. policy have been.
JEN PSAKI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: That's right. And look, Vice President Pence's statement about how we would meet when we have credible, verifiable proof, concrete proof that they're taking steps is what our policy has been for some time. But the deal or agreement that President Clinton signed which was the last significant development is now 24 years ago. So this is unprecedented historic, no question it will be an enormous photo op.
What has struck me today as I've watched, I guess hour or 90 minutes of coverage is that the Pentagon wasn't tracking at that. Secretary Tillerson said earlier today that we were far from negotiations. And even the White House statement said, we're looking forward to denuclearization, as if they're handing over keys and we're done.
And the reality is, as General Hertling said and in our experience with the Iran deal, which is different, but it's comparative, is that there's very complicated components that need to be agreed to. Not only what we will give or not do militarily, but how will we know that they have denuclearized? Are we having access to their sites? We have no access right now, which is why military action is so hard.
How will that be verified? How will we know what the international community do? What will Congress be required to do with sanctions? These are all significant questions.
BORGER: I mean, will there be verifiable inspections, for example?
COOPER: Although, Gloria, to the president's critics who when, you know, he started calling Jong-un little rocket man, talks about bringing fire and fury, who said, look, he knows nothing about foreign policy, this is not the way you interact with North Korea. I mean, a lot of the president's supporters can say, well, you know what?
[20:15:02] He's doing something which is revolutionary, and maybe it works.
BORGER: And it may be. I mean, it really may be. I mean, we are -- this is a historic moment if this meeting actually occurs. It is a historic moment.
And you can either look at it and say they're unprepared for it or look at it and say, we have to do something, and maybe this is a different way to approach it.
So, I think you -- but, I think as Ronald Reagan once said, trust but verify. You have to make sure, and they all know this, that if somebody is promising to denuclearize, you have to figure out a way to make sure that that occurs, and the groundwork, because this is happening so quickly, has the groundwork been laid properly? Or could he go there and set himself up for failure?
COOPER: Governor Richardson, everybody we talk to keeps talking about how important it is to have a framework for discussion, how important it is to set the groundwork ahead of time. Obviously, time is short, if this meeting is going to take place in May, and there's obviously a lot happening in the region.
How important is it that there's this one-on-one communication between the president of the United States and Kim Jong-un? And if there is some sort of detente between them or there is some sort of greater -- a lessening of the, you know, the hostility on the part of the North Korean regime, does that filter down and make building a framework and negotiations that much easier?
RICHARDSON: Well, the first point I want to make is any kind of framework, any kind of agreement is going to take a long time with the North Koreans. It's not going to happen on a presidential visit.
Now what I think I do agree with is the fact that the two presidents meet, a lot of preparation on our side needs to happen. We have to know what we want to come out of the meeting, but it's not going to be all denuclearization. If it's just a path to negotiations between our envoys, secretary of state, their secretary of state, that's good.
And then we have to include South Korea and Japan, the six-party countries possibly. So, that framework preparation is very important. Now, I don't mind if this is just a photo-op that leads to serious negotiations. It's the fact that the two presidents meeting, despite their histories of hating each other, and both countries hating each other, the significant lessening of tensions in the peninsula, I think it's worth this potential. I hope it isn't a photo-op, but it could be.
RICHARDSON: It's probably in South Korea, in Panmunjom.
But let's think why North Korea did this. I do believe sanctions are biting. I do brief eventually North Korea wants -- they have an end game. I think we've underestimated Kim Jong-un. You know, everyone said he was a bomb thrower, unpredictable. I think he wants something in return.
Now, if there is going to be a deal eventually, be it a brief framework that President Clinton did, which I think was good until the North Koreans evaded it by going ahead with enriched uranium, it's -- there's going to be a very high price. But first, South Korea, North Korea meet, the two presidents meet, that will be in late April, I think. And then before May, the two presidents meet, you're lessening tensions.
RICHARDSON: Your path to diplomacy. I don't believe you ever was going to have a policy that worked that was military, that was military outcome. You can't win.
COOPER: Yes. Governor Richardson, thanks very much.
Every one on the panel, thank you as well.
Just ahead, an update from the Pentagon, where they were just as surprised as anyone at tonight's announcement.
And later, Stormy Daniels and why the story isn't about infidelity. It's about the hush money and how little is known about it. Keep them honest tonight on 360.
[20:22:45] COOPER: What a difference a few months make. Back in October, here was the president tweeting about the North Korea crisis. Quote, I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful secretary of state, that he's wasting his time trying to negotiate with little rocket man.
Now this, not only did tonight's news on North Korea and a Trump-Kim meeting in May take the press corps by surprise, it also caught the Pentagon unaware. And that itself if a surprise.
CNN's Ryan Browne is there for us monitoring late developments. He joins us.
Ryan, so you've been in touch with Pentagon officials. How -- were they surprised?
RYAN BROWNE, CNN PENTAGON REPORTER: Well, at least some Pentagon officials were surprised by the very nature of this announcement. You know, we -- some of them weren't even aware that an announcement was in bounds, when we initially spoke to them, and many officials were off-site, not in the building today, preparing for this. So, again, that was definitely of note.
I think one of the things particularly as the Pentagon's perspective is the announcement from the South Koreans saying that Kim Jong-un, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un understands that joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea would continue, that's always been a big issue as far as the Pentagon is concerned. In the past, both North Korea and China have offered a freeze for freeze, stopping nuclear and missile testing in exchange for stopping these joint military exercises.
But the South Koreans saying that Kim Jong-un understands that these exercises will continue. U.S. officials telling me that the next major exercise for the end -- to start at the end of this month. It will involve thousands of U.S. and South Korean troops as part of an exercise known as Foal Eagle, and that's expected to continue and proceed given that the South Korean said that this meeting will happen by May, it's very interesting to see now North Korea reacts once those exercises begin.
BROWNE: In the past, North Korea has used these exercises as justification for missile or nuclear tests. So, it will be interesting to watch as these developments unfold.
COOPER: Ryan Browne, appreciate it tonight. Thanks.
I want to get some reaction now from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. He's also a former CIA director and a White House of chief of staff.
Secretary Panetta, how surprised were you, both by this invitation from Kim Jong-un and the fact that the president seems to have accepted it?
LEON PANETTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, there was no question that the South Koreans and North Koreans made a great deal of progress with regards to the possibility of setting up negotiations.
[20:25:06] So, that wasn't much of a surprise.
I am obviously surprised that Kim Jong-un issued an invitation to the president to meet with him, and probably more surprised that the president agreed to meet with him in May.
COOPER: This is really a complete reversal on what U.S. policy has been and whether it's among Republicans or Democratic presidents, there's always been the desire to have group discussions from multiple countries with the North Koreans, not necessarily allowing one on one meetings between the president of the United States and North Korea. Would Kim Jong-un view this as a major victory, as a major boost to his legitimacy?
PANETTA: Well, I don't think there's any question that Kim Jong-un has added diplomacy to his arsenal of weapons in trying to deal with the United States. And I think, at least from my sense of how he's looking at this, that he has the attitude that he's trying to figure out Donald Trump and what makes him tick. Whether or not that's true or not, who knows?
But I think for Donald Trump, who probably enjoys the attention here of this kind of meeting. I think his primary problem is sticking to talking points and really laying the kind of ground work that has to be laid for the kind of serious negotiations that are going to take place.
So, while I think, look, I think this is a positive step. I think the world is breathing a sigh of relief as a result of having these negotiations, and even having this kind of meeting. I think all of that is good news.
But, in order for the United States not to repeat the mistakes of the past in terms of how we deal with North Korea, I think a lot of preparation has to be done. A lot of issues have to be looked at, and a lot of caution has it to be exercised here it in order to make sure that what is achieved here does not fail the way past efforts have failed.
COOPER: How important just in general, in foreign policy, particularly in a dangerous region like this, is the meeting of two leaders and the personal, the chemistry between them, the personal understanding that may or may not be developed. How important is that in terms of -- I mean, you talk about a bottom-up framework that certainly makes sense, but how important is the top-down chemistry that then, you know, sort of filters into the seriousness of negotiations?
PANETTA: Well, there, look, there's no question that -- look, these are human beings. This is a human process. I saw that happen with Bill Clinton in his meeting with leaders across the world. If they got along, if there was a certain chemistry there, then we made tremendous progress. If that chemistry is not there, it can lead in the other direction.
And so, in order to make sure that this kind of meeting really is productive, it just is very important to establish what is the framework for what we want to achieve in a set of negotiations that could perhaps take a long time?
PANETTA: What does that framework look like? What do we want to achieve, and if that's in place, I think there's a better chance that a meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump could actually be successful.
COOPER: Secretary Panetta, appreciate your time tonight, thank you.
Well, there's more breaking news tonight. Practically every senior Republican is against it, but President Trump went ahead, signed proclamations today imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum. The concern now is that it could touch off a trade war.
We'll talk to David Axelrod on that, next.
[20:32:37] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. Most members of his own party are against it, most economist are against it, the European Union is against it, but President Trump went ahead and signed proclamations to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, something that prompted resignation of his Chief Economic Gary Cohn.
Now, there will be some exemptions it seems, but up until the last minute it wasn't clear that the announcement would be made.
I'm join now by CNN White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.
So what exactly is the President proposing, and when is this supposed to happen?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, these are going to go into effect here in 15 days, Anderson. The President signed these very sweeping, very stiff tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. A 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent on aluminum imports here today. It will going to effect in 15 days.
But the most noteworthy things that the President said today is that Canada like -- country in Mexico will be exempt while NAFTA is being negotiated. And he did offer essentially a curve out. The other U.S. alleys could be exempt from this here in the future.
So those two things are surprising, especially after the trade adviser, who was the chief architect of these was saying on Sunday that a firm line in the sand had been drawn and that no countries would be excluded. But as the President signed this here today at the White House he made the case that he believed he was doing this as a campaign promise that he was fulfilling and on the grounds of national security here, Anderson.
COOPER: I mean there were a lot of differing opinions inside the White House about the tariff announcement. What have you learned about what went on behind the scenes there?
COLLINS: Well, it's very fascinating. I mean, this is something that could trigger a global trade war and likely to kill jobs. And the President essentially treated it like a reality show today, with drama and cliffhanger and the President was teasing the announcement this morning even when senior White House officials weren't exactly sure what the President was going to be signing today, whether it would be the formal signing of these tariffs or just something symbolic, because the President was so desperate to get these signed. And so there was a lot of confusion, a lot of late-night phone calls, a lot of people trying to persuade the President not to do this. Not just his here in the White House, like his Chief Economist adviser, Gary Cohn who quit, but also Republican lawmakers over on Capitol Hill and U.S. allies. But instead, Anderson, the President went for it, he signed these. Just another episode here at the Trump White House.
COOPER: Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.
With me now, somebody who knows his way around the White House, Former Senior Adviser to President Obama and CNN Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod.
[20:35:00] Are you surprised, David, at all by the fact that -- I mean this tariff announcement was certainly dialed back? A more flexible version of what the President originally promised?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think the President got what he wanted out of this, was that picture with the steel and aluminum workers around him, the headline that says that he's implementing these sanctions.
You know, I think Kaitlan said something very important, and it's been demonstrated several times today. He does view these things from the standpoint of someone who's producing a reality show. He got this picture. He changed the story. From, from the porn star and from guns, which he got off of after he got painted into a corner, and he's looking forward, Saturday, to going to the Pittsburgh area to campaign for a congress at candidate who supports him, who is in some trouble over there. In the steel belt, so this is a great bit of ammunition for him there.
The details, I don't think, matter that much.
COOPER: Feel matter to him?
AXELROD: He's just interested in how it plays in that time. It doesn't matter to him. It matters to the world, it matters to American businesses, it matters to other countries. You know, and in just the same way, to agree to a summit with the first-ever summit between a President of the United States and a dictator of North Korea, within an hour of being presented with a proposal, without consulting with your national security team in a significant way, you know, I think he thinks about these things in terms of how it's going to play.
AXELROD: And everything else is secondary.
COOPER: In another story, CNN is reporting that General Kelly, the Chief of Staff has warned President Trump to be careful about talking to Mueller, Mueller witnesses about the investigation, which is, you know, the "New York Times" reported last night that he's done on at least two occasions, one of them less serious than the other. It does seem like that there are fewer and fewer people in the White House who can sort of keep the President from his own impulses.
AXELROD: Well, there's no question about it. You look at these tariffs, and obviously, his national economic adviser is leaving as a result of this. And it seemed to be almost a declaration of independence that he was tried of being bridled and was going to act on his own instinct.
In the same, maybe true here, of course it's dangerous in respect because there are real potential legal consequences for the President in disregarding that advice, but he seems to be wanting to chart his own course here.
COOPER: It's interesting also in terms of Stormy Daniels, we learned today that the President is upset with Sarah Sanders over how she answered a question about her yesterday and about that arbitration. You tweeted about that, saying, "How do you operate in an environment in which your boss gives you instance if indirect public rebukes." I mean, you think maybe one of the reasons we've seen so much turnover in the White House?
AXELROD: I do. I do. I think it's a very difficult thing to do. I mean, wow often have we had this discussion where we said Sarah Sanders was being rebuked by the President for being too forthcoming? Not very often. But in this case, she was forthcoming and it created a little trouble for him.
I don't know what -- there's no handbook when I was on the White House, there was no handbook for what to do about how to discuss the President's relationship with a porn star or payoffs or, you know, she was, I had some sympathy for her there. This is, I guess you won't want to say virgin territory, but difficult terrain for a White House press secretary to handle.
Nonetheless, you know, it is really something when the President lets word out almost immediately that you have run afoul of him, how do you work in an environment like that?
COOPER: Yes, it's not easy. David Axelrod. Thanks very much.
More on that story next as well as the answer to a mystery surrounding.
[20:42:30] COOPER: I haven't put a second thought on this. It's not on my radar screen. That's Paul Ryan today talking about the Stormy Daniels story. And there's at least one reason why it shouldn't on his radar or frankly hours. Whatever happened, if it happened was between two consenting adults, marital infidelity is certainly nothing new in Washington or elsewhere. And if that were it, there would be no reason to go further.
Keeping Them Honest, though, it's not just about allegations of marital infidelity it's about paying to hush it up in a deal that was struck just days before the election, using shell companies, pony names payments that triggered suspicion and the banking laws were being violated. And many more questions about the money itself, not the least of which is where did it actually come from?
Here is Press Secretary Sarah Sanders yesterday, without any answer about what the President knew about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, facilitated by Mr. Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: When did the President address specifically the cash payment that was made in October of 2016?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President has denied the allegations against him. And, again, this case has already been won in arbitration. Anything beyond that, I would refer to outside counsel.
ZELENY: Did he know about that payment at the time though?
SANDERS: Jeff, I've addressed this as far as I can go.
ZELENY: I'm not talking about the actual allegations, but about the payment. Did he know about the payment at the time?
SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of. And, again, anything beyond what I've already given you, I would refer you to the President's outside counsel.
ZELENY: Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that, since this has become a news story this week? Has he talked to Michael Cohen about it, if I can just ask one more question?
SANDERS: I'm sorry?
ZELENY: Has he talked to Michael Cohen about that this week since this has become news?
SANDERS: I don't know. I'm not sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Oh, that's not good enough to many, including some Republicans, Congressman Mark Sanford, who had an affair, while governor of South Carolina had this to say about non-disclosure agreement that Stormy Daniels signed. "It's nefarious, it's awkward, it's unpleasant, it's unseemly, it's not something people feel that comfortable talking about, but frank, it's something we ought to talk about because it is a big deal." Watchdog groups agree, including Common Cause which has filed complains with the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department alleging Cohen's payment to Daniels amount during a legal campaign contribution or expenditure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL SEAMUS RYAN, COMMON CAUSE: You know, if this FEC does not investigate, and that's all we're asking for, does not open an investigation into this matter, this FEC hopeless. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Michael Cohen if you will recall said that he paid Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket. Something CNN Legal Analyst Paul Callan doubts highly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He didn't know that his own lawyer paid a porn star $130,000? Boy, that's some lawyer. Remember, Michael Cohen, the lawyer, says he paid it out of his own money. Have you ever met a lawyer who reached into his pocket for $130,000 to help out a client? I don't think so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:45:09] COOPER: And we should note that the backdrop to all of this today of course is International Women's Day. So that's the things, the managed things, and so is this. The other's named in the Daniels non-disclosure agreement.
In the section referring to, "prior disclosure of tangible confidential information."
Tonight, CNN Senior Investigation Correspondent Drew Griffin, has uncovered the true identity of one of the people named, Angel Ryan. Drew joins u now.
So I understand you're learning one of the four people turned out to be another adult actress?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We discovered this in that nondisclosure agreement Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen signed. Stormy Daniels said she told four people about this alleged affair with Donald Trump in 2006. One of them as you said is Angel Ryan. She is a porn actress herself. Her stage name, Anderson, is Jessica Drake.
Now in October of 2016, Jessica Drake came forward in a news conference of her own, to describe an unwanted sexual advance by Donald Trump that she says took place at the very same golf tournament in 2006 where Donald Trump allegedly began his affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels. Drake says Trump invited her and others to his hotel room and then this took place.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JESSICA DRAKE, PORN STAR: In the penthouse suite I met Donald again. When we entered the room, he grabbed each of us tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission. He asked me to return to his suite and have dinner with him. He also invited me to a party. I declined. I received another call from either Donald or a male calling on his behalf, offering me $10,000.
(END VIDEO CLIP) GRIFFIN: Same weekend, same event. Anderson, shortly after Jessica Drake made those statements now that was just before the election. The Trump campaign said this. "Mr. Trump does not know this person, does not remember this person and would have no interest in ever knowing her."
In public events, Trump belittled her as a porn actress. Well, now we know, Anderson, just six days later that person was named in this non- disclosure agreement being written by Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
COOPER: So if it came to a legal fight, Angel Ryan could be a corroborating witness in any case between Stormy Daniels and the President?
GRIFFIN: Yes, Angel Ryan worked for the same company. Stormy Daniels was at the same golf tournament. Stormy Daniels and according to her was propositioned in much the same way as Stormy Daniels claimed. So yes, I think it came to it, Angel Ryan and potentially these other three people who knew about it could be witnesses. Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Drew, thanks very much. Coming up, it's a bizarre story, straight out of a cold war spy novel, a former Russian spy and his daughter poisoned by a nerve agent on the streets of an English city. It's all too alarmingly real, that details of that ahead.
[20:52:05] COOPER: Welcome back. If you want a spy novel played out in realtime, there's one now taking place in rural England. British authority say that a former Russian spy and his daughter were found poisoned by a nerve agent in the English City of Salisbury and they were discovered slumped on a park bench. A policeman sent to help them was also exposed with the nerve agent. I mean, the story reads like pages from British spy novelist John Le Carre. Here is Frederik Pleitgen, with the details.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Sergei Skripal at a shop in England just days before he and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a shopping center bench. Victims of a toxic nerve agent.
This footage is believed to show Skripal and his daughter on the day of the attack perhaps just hours before they were subjected to the poison. Police say they were targeted specifically.
MARK ROWLEY: Our role now of course is to establish who is behind this and why they carried that.
PLEITGEN: Skripal is a former Russian spy. In 2004 he was arrested by the Russians for acting as a double agent selling state secrets to the British. He was convicted of treason in 2006 and sent to prison. PLEITGEN (on camera): Sergei Skripal's case was so high profile that Russia's intelligence service, FSB with its headquarter right here on Moscow's (INAUDIBLE) Square even made a film about the arrest and the betrayal they say Skripal committed.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): In 2010, Skripal was released as part of a high level spy swap for 10 Russians arrested in the U.S. He was granted asylum in the U.K. and lived a seemingly quiet life since then with his family.
In recent years his wife and son both passed away. His 33-year-old daughter Yulia is the only one left in his family. They are both in critical condition and suspicion now lies on the Kremlin.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: I say to governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent life on U.K. soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished.
PLEITGEN: This is not first time Russia has been accused of using poison. In 2006 former Russian spy turned whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko was in a London hotel bar and unknowingly drank a cup of tea laced with polonium 210, a highly radioactive agent.
British authority say two Russian agents slipped the poison into his tea when he wasn't looking. Litvinenko slowly wasted away in a hospital bed and blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin before he died.
During the Cold War, a Bulgarian dissident named Georgi Markov defected to the U.K. and was waiting for a bus in London when he felt a sting in his leg. He later said, he remembered a stranger fumbling with an umbrella before walking away. The umbrella turned out to be a cold war era weapon, tip shot out a tiny platinum ball that contained the deadly poison ricin. Four days later Markov was dead. Soviet KGB officials were implicated but no one has ever been charged with the murder.
[20:55:07] The Kremlin has denied involvement in all of these attacks, saying, most currently they have no knowledge of how 66-year-old Sergei Skripal and his daughter fell ill.
COOPER: Fred, what else have the Russians said in response to this poisoning?
PLEITGEN: Well, it's interesting, Anderson, because it seems as though the Russian are going on the offensive. They are not officially naming Sergei Skripal as an agent of the British MI6 Intelligence Service. That's interesting because we also got some information from the FSB, the Russian Spy Service and they're accusing the MI6 of having cultivated Skripal in the 1990 through a British agent at an embassy in eastern Europe but it's interesting that agent is now retired and seems to live in the same town that Skripal lives in and also where he was poisoned. But again, the Russians continue to say they weren't behind but the British are saying, there will be a robust response if it turns out that were, Anderson.
COOPER: Incredible story, Frederik Pleitgen, thanks.
We got much more ahead tonight including what's obviously the biggest news at the evening. South Korea says President Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by May, the latest on that, next.