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Trump Accepts Offer to Meet Kim Jong-un; Trump Imposes Tariffs, Defying Allies & GOP Establishment. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired March 9, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
[05:59:06] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump set to meet Kim Jong-un.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is unprecedented, historic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very concerned about the chances for success. I'm always a fan of diplomacy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been doing the same thing, banging our heads against the wall for 25 years. Let's try something different.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kim Jong-un is looking at all of the cards on the table. This was a Hail Mary pass, and President Trump caught it.
TRUMP: You don't have steel, you don't have a country.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I actually think there is a better way to address unfair trade practices.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The process is evolving, but at least they're getting to the right spot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tariff fights are prosperity killers. They always have been, and they always will be.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is your NEW DAY. It is Friday, March 9, 6 a.m. here in New York. Here's our starting line.
A potentially historic moment for the Trump presidency. After months of trading insults and provocations, President Trump accepting an invitation from the North Korean leader to meet by May. This would be the first time ever that a sitting U.S. president meets with a leader of this isolated regime.
CNN learning the president's decision caught his advisors off-guard. The unexpected North Korea announcement following right on the heels of a controversial announcement on tariffs. Defying opposition from Republican leaders, the president imposed stiff new tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. But he did soften the blow on two of the closest U.S. allies, exempting Canada and Mexico for now.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And then there's the Stormy Daniels scandal. Sources tell CNN there is growing anxiety inside the White House over the fallout around these allegations of an affair between the president and an adult film star. So we will speak with Stormy Daniels' lawyer live about all new developments and what is next.
And the White House rejecting a request from the House Oversight Committee. For more information on that former staff secretary Rob Porter, they're refusing to answer questions about Porter's security clearance and when they know of the allegations of abuse from his ex- wives.
Now the ranking Democrat on that committee is calling for a subpoena. So we have all of this covered for you. Let's go first to CNN's Will Ripley. He is live in Seoul, South Korea, for more on our top story. What a development, Will.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, 12 hours ago if somebody would have told me that President Trump would accept an invitation from Kim Jong-un to -- for a summit, I would have said that they were crazy. Covering North Korea for the last several years, after all the missile launches and nuclear tests, who would have thought. And yet, here we are. This is apparently happening. Kim Jong-un has never even met with another head of state. He never left North Korea as the leader.
And now he could have potentially something that his father and his grandfather desperately wanted, a sit-down, face-to-face meeting with the president of the United States.
CHUNG EUI-YONG, SOUTH KOREA NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: He expressed willingness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.
RIPLEY (voice-over): President Trump agreeing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un within the next two months, setting the stage for an unprecedented encounter between the leaders of two countries who just last year were exchanging threats of nuclear annihilation.
TRUMP: They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
RIPLEY: North Korea responding by calling President Trump a dotard, old and senile, threatening the U.S. territory of Guam and conducting repeated nuclear and missile tests.
But now, an apparent break-through. EUI-YONG: Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization. He pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests.
RIPLEY: In addition to suspending their weapons testing, the South Korean representative says Kim Jong-un also accepts the upcoming joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States. President Trump expressing optimism about the possibility of denuclearization but stressing economic sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached.
South Korea's president calling the meeting almost miraculous. But others expressing skepticism, noting North Korea has made these types of promises repeatedly, accusing by the U.S. of cheating on previous deals.
Victor Cha, recently dropped from consideration as U.S. ambassador to South Korea, reportedly for opposing a preempted military option against the regime, warns "While the summit provides unique opportunities to end the decades-old conflict. Its failure could also push the two countries to the brink of war."
The surprise announcement coming after Mr. Trump unexpectedly popped into the White House briefing room to tease the news, catching both White House and Pentagon staffers off-guard. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, sent on a trip to Africa, said this about the prospect of talks.
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're a long ways from negotiations. I just think it's -- we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it.
RIPLEY: The South Korean delegation delivering North Korea's request to the White House after meeting with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang earlier this week.
South Korean officials say Kim expressed interest in meeting with President Trump during a more than four-hour dinner meeting, where he treated officials to multiple bottles of local alcohol and even cracked jokes about early-morning missile launches and his image outside North Korea.
RIPLEY: The details that we're learning here in Seoul about that dinner in Pyongyang earlier this week truly extraordinary. The first time we've ever really gotten this -- this look at Kim Jong-un's personality. He was apparently relaxed. He was cracking jokes. The bottles of alcohol kept coming.
He talked about the fact that President Moon of South Korea will be able to sleep in now, because he won't be launching so many missiles early in the morning and just the fact that he's sitting with government officials, really, for the first time ever from South Korea, just so confident. It clearly shows that right now he feels he's in the driver's seat. [06:05:10] One source of mine told me a few days ago that Kim Jong-un
feels like he's the sheriff in town, calling the shots, and getting exactly what he wants here, you know, pushing this forward.
Meanwhile, in China and Beijing, the government dodging CNN's questions overnight about whether they would be willing to host any summit between Trump and Kim Jong-un. They did, of course, play host to those six-party talks which fell apart about a decade ago.
CUOMO: Will, stay with us. This is an important conversation. No one knows what's going on on the ground better than you. And let's bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World," Gordon Chang.
Gordo, that is the right title for anything dealing with North Korea this morning. So give us, just at the outset, the plus-minus on this opportunity.
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": Well, certainly, you have to follow-up on this opportunity, if for no other reason we cannot allow Kim Jong-un to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.
Obviously, South Korean President Moon Jae-in wants this desperately. And of course, the North Koreans for 70 years have been trying to separate South Korea and the U.S.
So Trump really had very little choice in terms of what he was going to do. He didn't have to accept on the spot. But by doing so, he made Moon Jae-in very, very happy.
CUOMO: All right. Let's put up a graphic of the sticking points between the sticking points between the two sides as we enter into the potential negotiations. I say "potential" because you have the secretary of state say that we're nowhere near this happening at the same time that the president was saying it's about to happen.
So full denuclearization.
CAMEROTA: That's a big sticking point.
CUOMO: Sanctions and maximum pressure remain. No missile testing. So there's really two of those, David, on the side of what the U.S. wants, and there's going to be one, obviously, relief, that North Korea wants.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, the fact that the regime has promised to give up its nuclear program before and has cheated on that is an important piece of history that has to be counseled here.
But also -- but I think we should point out, you know, months ago we were talking about the potential for a preemptive strike on North Korea. So what we're talking about diplomacy is inescapably and indisputably a positive sign.
Donald Trump, I think, in a different way than other presidents, feels he uniquely can pull off the kind of deal that has eluded previous presidents.
The danger in that is what has the North done to deserve meeting with the American president? And I do worry about what happens if this fails? If you get to this level and you fail, the -- there's no other room -- there's no other play here. You know, Nixon didn't go to China until Henry Kissinger had done a lot of work to set up that meeting to assure that it was successful.
So that's what I worry about here, is that the reality show nature, something that's kind of a trite phrase we use over and over again. But I think it is apt here, because again, this is a president that thinks, "Hey, who better than me?" I can pull off this deal, and then on the way home, I'll negotiate Mideast peace. And it's not that easy, and it's potentially very dangerous. It feels like a gambit.
But I will say I think there's been more of a process with regard to North Korea -- Gordon may comment on this -- a thoughtful process than we've seen in other areas. This seems a little bit, you know, more unpredictable. But again, better than talk of preemptive strikes.
CAMEROTA: Well, your thoughts reflect exactly Victor Cha's. Of course, the former national Security Council director for Asia. And he talks about the high stakes of all this during this op-ed in "The New York Times." He says, "Everyone should be aware that this dramatic act of diplomacy by these two unusual leaders, who love flair and drama, may also take us closer to war. Failed negotiations at the summit level leave all parties with no other recourse for diplomacy. In which case, as Mr. Trump has said, we really will have run out of road on North Korea."
So Gordon, I mean, obviously the stakes are very high. And normally there's a lot of diplomacy and gaming out of this that goes into it. It's not sort of a snap decision that takes your secretary of state by surprise. And this one did. So it can go wrong. Or it could be a huge breakthrough.
CHANG: Well, it could be. You know, sanctions are biting the North Korean regime. We know somebody is Office 39, which is the Korean leader's slush fund is running out of money. People are saying the country's going to run out of foreign exchange reserves by October. Clearly, there's a problem there for the regime. But we're not where we need to be.
Where we need to be is where Kim Jong-un realizes he has no choice but to disarm. We're not there yet. We'll only be there when we see senior generals, regime figures defect. That's when we should be talking to North Korea. And we're going to have to sort of, I think, delay this a little bit so that these sanctions might even --
CAMEROTA: May is too soon?
CHANG: May is too soon. But you know, Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, left us no choice.
GREGORY: Right. And again, I think the prospect of the president speaking to the North regime is -- is important if it can tamp down tension. I'm one who believe, especially with this administration, I'd rather do as much as possible to degrade North Korea and to maintain a status quo rather than intensifying this over time. Which is what the Obama administration did with regard to Iran.
[06:10:10] Now, a lot of people don't like that deal, but at least it buys, you know, about 14 years to see what can happen to degrade the program over that amount of time. Rather than forcing these issues to come to a head where there are not great answers. If somebody figured out a good answer here, they would have done it.
I mean, sanctions seem to be the road nobody wants to go to war.
CUOMO: Sometimes you have paralysis by analysis. You think about things so much you wind up not acting. That is not the problem with Donald Trump and his administration. So it creates a little bit of tension, a little bit of risk.
Will, I want to bring you back in. I want to match what your reporting is on the ground about any perceptible evolution in thought on the North Korean side about the U.S. with Donald Trump's own evolution about North Korea.
So let's play some sound that shows where he started and where he is now and then let's match up with your reporting. Go ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There's a 10 percent or a 20 percent chance that I can talk him out of those damn nukes, because who the hell wants him to have nukes?
I would absolutely -- I would be honored to do it. If it's under the -- again, under the right circumstances.
Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for husband regime.
North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you willing to engage in talks with Kim Jong- un right now?
TRUMP: Sure. I (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Kim Jong-un.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: All right, Will. So I guess you see the low point there is when he was full O.G., saying that North Korea best not be messing with the U.S.
But on the North Korean side, have you seen a shift of being provocative towards wanting to find a more mild status quo?
RIPLEY: Well, remember, during the presidential campaign when Donald Trump said that he would sit down and have a hamburger with Kim Jong- un, North Korean state media called him a wise politician at that time.
And then, of course, since then when the insults have been hurled back and forth, they called him, you know, everything that we mentioned in the piece earlier: senile old lunatic, a dotard. You know, even Kim Jong-un himself used that kind of language.
But I've been talking a lot with sources, you know, close to North Korea, familiar with North Korea's mindset. And Kim Jong-un has been studying intently Donald Trump, trying to get inside the head of Donald Trump, to figure out exactly what the best strategy is here.
And the first year of the Trump presidency was defined by more than 20 missiles launched into the sky, nuclear tests. And the North Koreans saw that the response from President Trump was anger, defiance, upping of sanctions, threats of military action. And even after the pause in launching -- North Korea hasn't launched anything or tested anything since November. President Trump still, as recently as a couple weeks ago, was talking about moving to phase two, this military option if diplomacy doesn't work out.
So when Kim Jong-un looked at all of the factors at play and also feeling the effects of these sanctions that are really starting to bite, according to sources on the ground, that the number of trucks from China into North Korea has dropped to almost nothing. And that is going to hurt, and it's going to hurt North Korea's elite class, the privileged 3 million or so people who live in Pyongyang who are used to being able to get their smartphones and their consumer items. And those kind of things might start going away.
Those people start to get angry. The other 22 million people living out in the rural areas don't have that kind of a voice. But Kim Jong- un does -- you know, does obviously have a lot of people around him in the capital that will be letting him know how unhappy they are, even though the North Koreans said that they were prepared to go back to the days of the famine, the arduous marches they call it.
Clearly, he's promised to grow his country's economy. And so his strategy is diplomacy is the way to go. He wants to stay in power for decades to come, long after President Trump is out of office and President Moon Jae-in is out of office, as well. He thinks this is the best --
GREGORY: But look what Kim Jong-un has done to earn this. Right? He's just --
CUOMO: Or what he hasn't done.
GREGORY: Right. Well, but what he's done is he's launched, you know, missile test after missile test in defiance of the United States and the international community. And it has gotten him now, potentially, an audience with the president of the United States. That's a dangerous precedent.
I think the most reassuring thing that we can look at is, based on what I've heard, the president is legitimately afraid of this issue. And I hope to God he is. Because this is not popping off about, you know, Ted Cruz on the campaign trail. This is an issue where, if you miscalculate, people die. And I don't think the president wants to be in that situation.
CUOMO: It could be the same thought, though, of those who counsel Kim Jong-un, too. Right? Which is, you know, don't shoot your mouth off with this man at the wrong time. He may be equally as provocative as you are.
CHANG: And also, the other thing about Kim Jong-un right now -- and this is a good sign -- is that he may think this is the best time for him to get a deal. And that to us says that time is on our side, not on his side.
[06:15:12] But there are, you know, a lot of players here, Chris. Because you've got China; you've got South Korea. North Korea almost seemed to be on one side of this and the United States on the other. We've got to realize that they're ganging up on them. But we're more powerful than them. We just need a little bit of political will. Trump has it. And, you know, God hopes that he understands the severity of this.
CAMEROTA: All right. Gordon Chang, David Gregory, thank you very much for all of the analysis and reporting. Obviously, we'll be covering it throughout the morning.
Now to this. The White House's Stormy Daniels problem is not going away. Could her lawsuit lead to bigger legal problems for the president? We discuss all of that next.
CUOMO: President Trump says he heard what everybody was saying within his own party and outside it about why tariffs are a mistake, and then he decided to do it anyway.
Steel and aluminum will be taking a bite. Who pays it? The rest of us. What will it mean to the economy? We don't know. But that's the state of play right now. Let's bring in -- we have David Gregory here. But first, we start with CNN's Abby Phillip, live at the White House with more.
[06:20:03] ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Chris.
Surrounded by steel and aluminum workers yesterday, President Trump here at the White House announced those promised steel and aluminum tariffs that, despite the nervousness from Wall Street, the loss of his national economic adviser, he's framed as about an issue about who we are as Americans. Take a listen to what he had to say at that ceremony yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A strong steel and aluminum industry are vital to our national security. Absolutely vital. Steel is steel. You don't have steel, you don't have a country. The workers who poured their souls into building this great nation were betrayed. But that betrayal is now over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP: Now, despite that strident language, the president did allow for some carveouts in what he announced yesterday. Mexico and Canada are going to get those waivers that they have been clamoring for since this whole thing was announced.
But two other allies, South Korea and Japan, just hours after the president made that announcement, started to criticize the tariffs and will probably be among the nations who the White House says can probably apply for these waivers in the future.
That being said, this tariff announcement is going forward at a time when President Trump is about to go to Pennsylvania to campaign in a crucial Republican race, where part of the state where steel factories and manufacturing is a big issue. He wants to be able to go there and say promises kept.
Now, all of this is happening at a time when the White House is dealing with North Korea, which you've just been discussing, and also dealing with this Stormy Daniels issue. There's growing anxiety about how that issue is being handled by this White House, now that the president is more fully at the center of it.
All of these are questions at the end of this week that continue to be brewing here at this White House, Alisyn and Chris.
CAMEROTA: Abby, such a great point. What a week it's been.
Let's bring back David Gregory. Also we want to bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon. I was reminded that Sam Nunberg -- OK, that is in the rear-view mirror. Right. So Sam Nunberg, Stormy Daniels, the tariffs, North Korea. I mean, this is just in the space of one week.
But the tariffs are really interesting, David Gregory. To see all of the Republicans who don't like this idea, who have pleaded with the president not to do it. And he stuck to his guns, and he did it.
I mean, I'll just read to you. These are the senators -- this is all from some of the Steel Belt senators. "While we recognize and appreciate the administration's commitment to strengthening the economy of the U.S., imposing broad tariffs on both aluminum and steel could risk straining relationships with international allies and partners. We ask that the administration consider alternative approaches to address these issues."
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: At the heart of this presidency is the specter of crisis because of the Russia investigation and what that means to his presidency. Issues that may befall the administration whether it's North Korea or another kind of national security crisis that we don't fully understand, and the economy. And the bottom line is that this president, who says he wants to be a
jobs president, who says the stock market reflects his golden touch to improve the economy, they bring manufacturing back, is in jeopardy because of this.
Listen to Larry Kudlow, who is somebody that the president has listened to over at CNBC and said, "Look, this is a prosperity killer." So it doesn't matter about conservative orthodoxy and that Republicans are free traders and he is flouting that. Or his nostalgia for the '50s and the hula hoop and tariffs.
It is the fact that, if this hurts a synchronized economic growth reality around the world, then his presidency is going to suffer, and everybody is going to suffer if the economy suffers.
CUOMO: But there's been a vacuum created, right? Because in this toxic who's worse battle between left and right, he's run to the edges. There is an opportunity for somebody who says, "I'm just going to get something done." And that's what Trump feels. And he comes up with these easy answers, quick answers. This is a solution. And often, they don't work out. I mean, people are going to learn this about the tax plan as it goes on.
But that's what tariffs are. On the outside, he will tell people, "You work in those steel mills. I told you I would help you. Here I am." The problem is, this is going to hurt those people, and they're just not going to know it for a while. But that's why we are where we are.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Look, I mean, the president's negotiating strategy and political strategy is to take an extreme position and then sometimes move his way to the middle.
What's odd about tariffs and the president's protectionist impulses is there's actually this odd coalition between the far left and the far right. The populism. I mean, that's what he's trying to run through. That's what he's going to stand on. Not fiscal policy, not Republican or conservative orthodoxy.
And particularly with this Pennsylvania special election in mind. Which is a district that is outside of Pittsburgh that Republicans should be winning, Trump won handily. He believes there's going to be some political benefit from this.
But to David's point, to your point, the larger economic repercussions of this could hurt workers. You've got Jeff Flake proposing a bill to nullify these tariffs. That's a tough road to hoe, getting 67 votes to override a presumed veto.
[06:25:06] But this policy the president says, "Look, the markets will adjust. Washington is going to need to adjust. I'm going to look out for my base."
But if the repercussions end up undercutting his signature achievement, the economy. If a trade war ends up causing more pain for the people he's trying to help, which history would say is likely. That's a -- this is a cascading problem.
GREGORY: And look, he gets -- people trying to give Trump credit say this is kind of a long-held view that he's had.
GREGORY: And I'm kind of over that. Yes, he did make this promise. But you know, again, this is core competency. Does this administration know what it's doing on key matters that affect the American people?
I don't know. I mean, I just don't know if people who can make an historical argument that protectionism is good for our economy. They can make the argument that, you know, we are trying to bring manufacturing back. But we spent all that time. What has he done? Are all of these plants, you know, opening back up in America because Donald Trump is president and they fear him? I mean, does he know what he's doing and is this a fraud? And again, it's the only time the Republicans have awakened on Capitol Hill to say, "Please don't do this."
AVLON: It's fascinating that this is the issue they expound on, you know. That if you could start going after the economy and business, then you've got real troubles. But the success --
CUOMO: How. By writing a letter? Do you think the president would sit and read?
AVLON: Well, that -- you know -- reading the letter isn't really the point.
CUOMO: Where's the spine? Paul Ryan came out with his press secretary talking about this. You know, where's the spine?
AVLON: It is -- calling the president out is more than they've done on deficits and debt, other core issues that Paul Ryan has devoted his career to that he basically rolled over on, on these subsequent bills. So I mean, it's a comparative measure. Is it a profile in courage? No. But I think, you know, the other --
CUOMO: Qualified spine? Like the noto core (ph)?
AVLON: A qualified spine. Sort of an exoskeleton perhaps.
CUOMO: I got you.
AVLON: But, you know, it's also really interesting is yesterday the Trans-Pacific Partnership was signed in Santiago, Chile. All of America's allies following through on something that was designed to contain China within a constructed multilateral framework. That's going forward. The president is going his own way. That's not American leadership.
GREGORY: But you made a reference to something earlier that I think is important here in terms of how the president sees his leadership and how he sees politics, which is he sees the left and the right. And then he sees a kind of abandoned part of the electorate.
And he uniquely has been incredibly adept at speaking to that band of the electorate to say, "I'm thinking about you. I'm not going to do what the party wants. I'm going to reach out and see what I can do to help you." There's something incredibly effective about that. And because it's a long-held view, even if it's a wrong one, for most people, there's something that he's achieving there.
CAMEROTA: There's also something emotionally satisfying about it. So we're going to have one of the steel workers on whose dad lost his job in the '80s. So to say, "I am -- for you guys, we're going to -- you know, we've been screwed over. " This is what the president has said. "So we're going to get -- get it back. We're going to get our steel back." That's very emotionally satisfying, even if you can't prove --
GREGORY: The idea of what do we make? You know, this was an issue, whether it's 19th Century Russia, you know, like a fear of, like, we're losing it because we're not producing anything. This has been a strain in history.
AVLON: Well, and 19th Century Russia ended well. I mean, look -- I mean, look, you know, if you're like workers in Mahoning County, the Allegheny regions, right? My mother is from Youngstown, Ohio. That town has been suffering. If these workers feel that he's coming to save him, they may really reward him in the short run.
But if the long-term feeling is "won't get fooled again," because not only don't the plants and the jobs come back but prices raise, that could be a real electoral problem.
GREGORY: For more on 19th Century Russia, you can go to our web site.
CUOMO: You're going to have the reckoning of feelings and facts. That's where the election is going to be made.
CAMEROTA: John Avlon, David Gregory, thank you very much.
Another government agency under scrutiny for its spending. The Interior Department going a little over budget to fix Secretary Ryan Zinke's office doors. Wait until you hear how much he spent on a door. Details.
CUOMO: They thought they were supposed to build a wall.