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Interview with Senator Mazie Hirono; Top Democrat Urges Subpoena for Details in Rob Porter Scandal; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 10:30   ET



[10:32:57] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has accepted the offer to meet with Kim Jong-un by the end of May. And this morning, Vice President Pence says it is all because of the president's strategy to isolate the North Korean regime.

Joining me now, Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono from the state of Hawaii.

Senator, there is no state in the country that has a more direct interest in security on the Korean Peninsula than Hawaii as evidenced by the false alarm of a missile attack in Hawaii that happened earlier this year. Your reaction to the news of this meeting?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Right. Any path that leads to a diplomatic resolution to ease tensions in the Korean Peninsula and leads to a denuclearized North Korea is a good thing. At the same time, I want to set the record straight that this did not just happen overnight because the first direct sanctions to -- on North Korea, those were passed in 2015, we've had a coalition of countries through our own efforts and through the United Nations' efforts to impose more sanctions on North Korea, and so it's been a process of imposing these kinds of sanctions.

That has had a negative economic impact on North Korea. And I think we should also acknowledge the role that South Korea has played recently to make sure that we have an environment.

Now these are serious negotiations, I hope that we do not have what I would characterize as the Tuesday Trump, who goes in and has these one-on-one talks with Kim Jong-un, promises all kinds of things and then on Thursday he walks back. We need to have a full government preparation to these talks because it is that serious. There is a lot at stake.

BERMAN: This administration has put new sanctions on North Korea as part of the maximum pressure strategy. Do you believe that maximum pressure strategy contributed to this diplomatic breakthrough?

HIRONO: Well, as I said, that these kinds of sanctions have been imposed since 2015 or thereabouts. So it has been a process that bringing us to this pass. And so here we are, and what I'm concerned about is, are we going to be prepared to deal with North Korea, Kim Jong-un, and the way that's going to denuclearize North Korea? [10:35:12] This requires preparation. And right now one would think

that it is the State Department that should lead these efforts and we have kind of a hollowed out State Department and that so many people have left the special envoy from the State Department on North Korean issues left. We do not have an ambassador to South Korea. And so we have a State Department that I don't think is prepared as it should be.

Now these kinds of discussions will also include the Department of Defense. It includes the Department of Energy because somebody has to know what a denuclearized North Korea means and that requires technical expertise.


HIRONO: So there are a lot of entities that need to be brought in, not to mention we have our allies, too.

BERMAN: No. Look, I hear your concerns. I hear your concerns. I also hear you trying to spread some of the credit for this to the past administration and to other countries as well. You seem unwilling --

HIRONO: I think that's fair and realistic.

BERMAN: Are you unwilling, though, to give this administration any credit for this?

HIRONO: Oh, well, you know what, U.N. -- our ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley has played a role. And the president's saber rattling, who knows what that has done. But it's all brought, I think -- to say that it's all been the president I think is totally unfair. So I'm just saying that let's just give credit where credit is due.

BERMAN: Sure. It doesn't all have --

HIRONO: And then --

BERMAN: It doesn't all have to be him. The question is, though, some of it him?

HIRONO: Well, one would hope so. But, you know, going forward, I'm really concerned that he's not going to be prepared enough to do one- on-one discussions with Kim Jong-un because I personally have experienced his direct discussions with people, having what I call the Tuesday Trump where he --

BERMAN: Right.

HIRONO: -- promised a whole group of us, things that would happen with regard to the Dreamers. And then by Thursday it's all gone.

BERMAN: Let me shift gears if I can to the issue with Stephanie Clifford, AKA, Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who is suing the president. You know, on the past, you've called on the president to resign calling him an admitted sexual predator. This was by all accounts a consensual act allegedly. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, say she doesn't really see a role for Congress in this matter. Do you see a role for Congress in this matter?

HIRONO: I think it's part and parcel of the Mueller investigation as to what was going on with the Trump team. And there may be allegations that have to do with campaign spending violations. Various things like that.

BERMAN: I was --


BERMAN: This is the first time I've heard any accusation that Stormy Daniels has anything to do with Russia. Isn't the Robert Mueller investigation about possible Russia collusion?

HIRONO: It's a conspiracy, a collusion, I don't think it's illegal. But his investigation has to continue and it can be -- it can include a whole number of things.

Our role in Congress is to try to counter the Russians, make sure that we are countering the Russian interference with our elections and I can tell you that --

BERMAN: Senator, I wasn't -- but just to be clear, I'm not asking about Russia, I was asking about Stormy Daniels, the porn actress, who is suing the president over this alleged hush money that was paid to her by the president's personal lawyer 10 days before the campaign.

Do you see a congressional role in dealing with the questions surrounding that?

HIRONO: Not particularly. But as I say, there may have been some campaign spending violations, but our role should be very much focused on Russian interference with our elections and whatever the Trump team did and collusion or conspiracy with that, which is also part of Mueller's investigation.

The investigation that absolutely has to go forward with regard to the Russian interference because -- and all the testimony that has come before the committee that I sit on, which is the Armed Services Committee, there's been acknowledgement that that interference is continuing in the 2018 elections and that there is no one agency that is prepared to take the lead to counter the Russian interference with what is -- what they refer to as informational warfare.

So, you know, you have that. And our elections are right around the corner. I would like our committees, especially the Judiciary Committee on which I sit to pay attention to those aspects of what's going on.

BERMAN: Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a pleasure to have you on with us. Thanks so much.

HIRONO: Same here.

BERMAN: All right. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's office needs some new doors. And apparently the change-out could rival your mortgage. [10:39:45]


BERMAN: All right. New this morning, a standoff between the White House and Congress as the administration brushes off a bipartisan request from the House Oversight Committee for more details about now ousted White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter.

And now in a CNN exclusive, the top Democrat on that committee is urging the chairman to push back with a subpoena.

[10:45:06] Our Sunlen Serfaty joins us live from Capitol Hill with the latest on that.


SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Chairman -- excuse me, Congressman Cummings is calling for the House Oversight Committee to issue a subpoena for information relating to the Rob Porter scandal.

Now, you'll recall that Rob Porter was the former White House staff secretary who resigned last month over allegations of spousal abuse, which opened up a whole can of worms about the White House security clearance process.

Now this request for information goes back to last month when you had Cummings and the Republican chairman of that committee Trey Gowdy requesting specific information from the White House. They wanted details about the timeline of the Porter background check, when White House officials became aware of the problems in his past. And what specifically they did about it once they found out that information.

Now last night the committee heard back from Marc Short, the legislative director at the White House, essentially talking about changes they made to the security clearance problems, but ignoring questions, specific questions that they asked about Porter.

Mark Kelly writes, "Consistent with your letter's request, we would be pleased to update you and others on the progress of the working group at the appropriate time." So that's a big not at this time response from the White House.

Congressman Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, responded to a letter this morning saying, quote, "This is the third time the committee has sought information from the White House under your tenure as chairman. And it is the third time the White House has defied the committee's request. The question is whether this will be the third time the committee fails to take any action in response."

And Cummings is writing that to Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the committee, essentially requesting that he subpoena information from the White House. Cummings says that the information is completely inadequate, the response from the White House is completely inadequate.

No word, John, as of this morning on what the Chairman Trey Gowdy will do -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Sunlen Serfaty for us on Capitol Hill. Sunlen, thanks very much.

Interior Department spending nearly $139,000 to replace old doors in Secretary Ryan Zinke's office. The department blamed the high cost on historic preservation and government rules. A spokeswoman says Zinke was unaware of the expense for the three sets of double doors.

Zinke recently came under fire for his travel expenses. Records show that his office was on pace to be $200,000 over its yearly travel budget in October.

So this might be one of the biggest comeback stories in sports. Serena Williams returns to the court. And Victoria (INAUDIBLE) for the first time in more than a year. "Bleacher Report" is next.


[10:52:25] BERMAN: Serena Williams back on the court, competitively for the first time since having her first child.

Andy Scholes has more in today's "Bleacher Report." Hey, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, John. This "Bleacher Report" brought to you by the new 2018 Ford F-150.

It's been 14 months since we've seen Serena play in a professional match. In an essay she wrote for CNN Serena detailed how she almost died after giving birth to her daughter Olympia after having an emergency C-section. Serena had to have multiple other surgeries and spent six weeks in bed. But after a long recovery, she was looking more like her old self yesterday.

Serena had a big cheering section as well. Her new husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian on hand watching and then the 23-time major winner beat Serena Diaz, 75-63. Serena after the match it wasn't easy, but felt incredible to be back out there playing.

All right. Alabama's hopes of making the NCAA Tournament on the line yesterday against Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament. Four seconds left, down by one, Collin Sexton going to coast to coast and finger roll the ball in at the buzzer. His teammates mob him as the tide roll on to the next round with the 71-70 win.

Selection Sunday just two days away. And this year can be seen in our sister network, TBS, and Sunday at 6:00 Eastern.

All right. Scary moment in the Celtics-Timberwolves game last night. Jaylen Brown goes for the slam but slips off the rim, lands on the back of his head. He was down for a while but was able to get up and walk off the court. Now Brown then went to the hospital to have a CT scan and other tests. Later he tweeted, "Appreciate everybody, I'm OK, got a headache, though. Good team win."

All right. Finally, Tiger Woods continuing to look good as the Masters approaches. Check out this second shot on 16 yesterday. Tiger hitting a tree as he gets the ball back out on to the fairway. Amazingly he was able to save par on the hole. But take another look, just incredible, his club bending around that tree.

And, John, Tiger starting off hot today, he's only one shot off the lead at the Valspar Championship. You know, I spoke to broadcaster Jim Nantz earlier this week. He couldn't have been more excited about this year's Masters tournament, which he always called with Tiger playing well, Phil Mickelson winning and of course all the young guys on the horizon.

BERMAN: I'm sure CBS is thrilled that Tiger Woods is playing at all heading into the Masters. But Tiger Woods playing well, Phil Mickelson playing great, just winning a tournament. You know, it feels like 10 years ago all of a sudden.

SCHOLES: It should be exciting. Can't wait.

BERMAN: Andy Scholes, thanks so much for being with us. Appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

BERMAN: Still ahead, former President Obama could have a new gig, one that could land him right in the middle of your living room.

[10:55:01] Much more on that next.


BERMAN: So you may be able to soon sit on your couch and binge watch a Netflix series starring President Obama. Talks currently under way between the former president and the streaming giant with the actual format up in the air still according to sources.

The former president could appear on camera as a moderator. He could be on the show or perhaps stay off camera as a producer. Very different things.

The former first lady Michelle Obama also expected to be part of this series if both sides agree on a deal.

That is all for us today. I'm John Berman. Thanks so much for watching. Have a great weekend. "AT THIS HOUR" starts right now.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Kate Bolduan.