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Trump Accepts Offer To Meet Kim Jong-un; Probe Widening In Attack On Ex-Russian Spy In Britain; Deaf Woman Pursues Her Dream Of Singing; Awkward Moment At Trump's Tariff Signing. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 07:30   ET


[07:33:07] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump has accepted an offer to meet with North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un. So, how is Congress reacting to this unexpected news?

Let's bring in Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. Senator, thanks so much for being here.


CAMEROTA: What do you think of this announcement that President Trump and Kim Jong-un will in -- no later than May?

BLUMENTHAL: Diplomacy is always a positive, certainly far better than war or preemptive strikes or threats of fire and fury and bullying, but there is a lot of reason for skepticism.

First, let's be very clear-eyed. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, there is no sign that we've seen that North Korea is going to simply walk away from its nuclear program or abandon its missiles and nuclear warheads and -- so we need to reduce the risk of going to these talks which seem to validate this totalitarian regime, and there are steps we can take to reduce those.

CAMEROTA: Such as?

BLUMENTHAL: Such as engaging our allies and China, and intensifying or at least sustaining the economic sanctions that I've advocated and others have as well. Maybe the economic sanctions are what have brought him to the table.

And also, inspection. Making sure that there is independent inspection to make sure and verify that North Korea is really suspending its nuclear program while these talks are ongoing.

CAMEROTA: But do you give President Trump credit for the economic sanctions that have allowed this to happen and brought Kim Jong-un to the table?

BLUMENTHAL: I give President Trump credit for yielding to the intense pressure from Congress and elsewhere, including myself, saying sanctions have to be applied to coal and textiles, and most important to banking and financial transactions. And, China has to be enlisted in this process.

[07:35:06] Only reluctantly has he imposed those sanctions and part of the problem is that he has hollowed out the State Department. There is no diplomatic team with the expertise and skill that needs to brought to bear in these negotiations. The best way to view it is as a meeting, not a negotiation.

CAMEROTA: Well look, the news is that Rex Tillerson was surprised by this. He was in Africa. He didn't know the president would be doing this.

Nobody knew the president would be doing this, including the president, because he popped in on the South Korean delegation. But still, he seized the opportunity.

And so why do you say he only reluctantly imposed the sanctions when he -- let's be honest, he is the first president -- U.S. president to have gotten this far with North Korea. Doesn't that say that he's doing something different?

BLUMENTHAL: Any president could have sat down with Kim or his father and presidents before Trump were tempted to do so. President Clinton almost did so and decided to focus on the Middle East instead. And the unpredictability and volatility of these two leaders is one of the rifts that is entailed here.

So the president needs to be encouraged to put together a diplomatic team that can really lay the groundwork, do the plans and preparation, and that diplomatic team is very important because --

CAMEROTA: And that's Rex Tillerson, that's Nikki Haley? I mean, who are these people?

BLUMENTHAL: Well, they are the professionals. One of them has recently retired, Joseph Yun. That kind of lifelong professional who has devoted his career to South Korea, knows the language. The State Department is very short of the linguists that are necessary.

So this kind of groundwork is very, very important to make the negotiations succeed. It's more than a reality show. It has to be really, a meeting that provides a plan and a path forward to detailed negotiations.

CAMEROTA: We just threw together this sort of ad hoc list of what the president's successes have been since he took office. So, I mean, it's by no means complete and you quibble with some of them but let me just lay them out for you.

North Korea is in decline, OK? The economic sanctions are working. The ISIS caliphate gone.

Strong relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia is now trying to modernize.

A very strong economy at home, obviously. Look at what's happening with the jobless numbers that will be out this morning and the stock market.

Lowest corporate tax rate ever and people on both sides said that they wanted to bring the corporate tax rate down.

So why -- from where you sit, I don't hear Democrats often giving the president credit for this. What do you -- what gets in your way of giving him credit for some of these things?

BLUMENTHAL: There remain severe economic problems and challenges that we need to surmount. The problem of gun violence in our society remains without real action. Our health care system needs to be improved so that people have access to real quality medical care and treatment.

CAMEROTA: Yes, things are --

BLUMENTHAL: There remain challenges --

CAMEROTA: Of course.

BLUMENTHAL: -- that need to be overcome.

CAMEROTA: But do you think that the -- do you give him credit for those things that I just outlined?

BLUMENTHAL: I will give him partial credit for some of them. The economy, for example, is with all due respect the result of policies begun and sustained by President Obama and he's enjoying a lot of the credit for it.

CAMEROTA: Let me talk to you about gun violence.

So obviously, your home state of Connecticut did something after the Newtown shooting. They took action when federal -- the federal government wouldn't, the state did and gun violence came down.

And now, you're trying to take some of those lessons learned and apply them nationally and you are partnering with Sen. Lindsey Graham. So what is your plan?

BLUMENTHAL: The plan basically is modeled on what states have done, like Connecticut, to have red-flag warnings used so that orders can be issued by federal judges to prevent who are dangerous to themselves or others from having or buying guns.

CAMEROTA: That would have worked, we think, in this Parkland situation because there were red flags.

So in other words, when a family member or a neighbor or somebody -- what do they have to do? If they call the police then the police can temporarily take this person's weapons if they think they're a danger to themselves or others?

BLUMENTHAL: We tell people when you see something, say something, but with this kind of measure they can actually do something. As a matter of fact, the Florida legislature passed it in the wake of

this tragedy so that people could go to court. If a relative or if law enforcement has indications that there are going to be this kind of tragedy they can petition a federal judge to issue an order. There's due process.

[07:40:00] It's a bipartisan effort, essentially. A breakthrough and a new approach that is grounded in solid experience. The experience that Connecticut has shown when these orders result in people temporarily losing their firearms but at the same time saving lives.

CAMEROTA: All right. Well, we will be very interested to see what happens at the national level as we watch what's going on in Florida as well.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks so much --

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: -- for being here with us this morning -- Chris.


The investigation is widening. The nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England is what we're talking about. Who is behind that attack?

A live report, next.


CUOMO: All right. We now have widening investigation into the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain. Police revealing that 21 people had to receive medical attention after the incident, as Western intelligence sources say all signs point to Russia as a leading suspect.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is live in Moscow. Fred, what do we know?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Chris. The investigation widening and the Brits certainly pouring more resources into it.

As of today, they've deployed the military to try and help in the investigation. One hundred and eighty specialized personnel to first of all, try and find out what kind of gas this was and how it was administered.

Now, of course, the man that was hit, Sergei Skripal, is an interesting figure in and of himself. He and his daughter were both exposed to two of this nerve agent.

[07:45:05] He is, of course, a former Russian spy who was then turned by the Brits in the 1990s. Spied for Britain for several years, was then captured by the Russians, and released as part of a prisoner swap in 2010. All of this interesting because of the way that the Russians are now playing it. They continue to deny that they have anything to do with it but they are now calling him a British spy. In a tweet that I'm quoting here they say he was actually a British spy working for MI6. MI6 is, of course, the intelligence service of the Brits.

And at the same time that you have the Russians doing this you also have Russian media Chris, kind of gloating about the whole thing. There was an anchor on Russian T.V. who yesterday said that people who are traitors to the Russian Federation often don't live very long. So you have the Russians kind of making fun of the situation but at the same time denying it was them.

The Brits not having any of it. They say if it's proven that it was the Russians there will be serious consequences, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Oh my gosh, Fred, it all feels so sinister. Thank you very much for the update from there.

So, there was this awkward moment during President Trump's tariff announcement -- watch this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, your father Herman is looking down. He's very proud of you right now.


TRUMP: Oh, he is? Well then, he's --


TRUMP: Then he's even more proud of you.


CAMEROTA: All right. We're talking to that steelworker and his very alive dad, next.

CUOMO: Reports of his death greatly exaggerated. All right.

But first, Mandy Harvey made it to the finals in "AMERICA'S GOT TALENT" in 2017, but you wouldn't know when listening to her sing that she is deaf. Here's Mandy's story in "Turning Points."


MANDY HARVEY, SINGER-SONGWRITER: I grew up doing anything I could get my hands on to with music. I always had hearing troubles. I was born with deformed eustachian tubes and a connective tissue disorder.

I started my freshman year in vocal music education. Over a period of about nine months I lost my residual hearing. I wanted to become a choir director. That was my only dream and it died. But my dad, he asked if I would learn a song to sing. I just closed my eyes and I let go, and when I opened my eyes and my dad was crying.

I was recently on "AMERICA'S GOT TALENT" and finished in fourth place. Singing without sound is a lot of work. Most of it starts all with a visual tuner.

I perform without shoes so that I can feel the band -- so I can feel the beat. I really want to connect with people and take them on a journey with me.



[07:52:08] CAMEROTA: A steelworker's heartfelt story about his father led to an awkward moment for President Trump at the tariff signing.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has more.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The president seemed relaxed at the tariff signing ceremony, joking with one steelworker --

TRUMP: Let's arm wrestle.

MOOS: -- just moment before another steelworker had wrestled with his emotions.

Scott Sauritch told the story of how his father lost his job due to imports.

S. SAURITCH: And never forget that looking into his eyes in my household what that does to a family.

MOOS: What it did to the president was inspire a premature pronouncement.

TRUMP: Well, your father Herman is looking down. He's very proud of you right now.

S. SAURITCH: Oh, he's still alive. He's --

TRUMP: Oh, he is? Well then, he's --


TRUMP: Then he's even more proud of you.

MOOS: You know who relates to that faux pas? Former Vice President Joe Biden. He did the same thing to the mother of the then-prime minister of Ireland. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: God rest her soul and -- although she's -- wait, your mom's still -- your mom's still alive. It was your dad who passed. God bless her soul.

MOOS: Speaking of premature departures, President Trump almost made one again. At least twice he's started to leave bill signing ceremonies without signing the bills.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you need to sign it.


MOOS: The first time, the president was in a hurry to get out to avoid reporters' questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're you trying to do that, Mr. President?

MOOS: The vice president stopped him, then got the bill so the president could sign them elsewhere.

On Thursday, President Trump seemed eager to give the steelworkers a tour.

TRUMP: Would you like to take a picture in the Oval Office? Let's go and do that. Let's go and do that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're signing it.

TRUMP: Yes, send me the bill (ph).

JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, ABC "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": And he remembers to put his name on everything else -- water, vodka, steaks -- Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, but he has a problem with bills. He doesn't sign them or pay them.

MOOS: At least the minor missteps add some life to the ceremony.

TRUMP: Your father Herman is looking down. He's very proud of you right now.

S. SAURITCH: Oh, he's still alive.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


CAMEROTA: All right, let's bring in that steelworker Scott Sauritch and his father Herman Sauritch. Gentlemen, great to see you. Herman, you're looking well.

HERMAN SAURITCH: Yes, so far. The reports are definitely not true.

CAMEROTA: News of your death was exaggerated and premature. And so what did you think when you heard that the president said you were looking down from above? H. SAURITCH, FATHER OF STEELWORKER SCOTT SAURITCH: Well, you know what? The funny part about it is I knew it was going to be on sometime in the afternoon. I knew Scott and the other presidents went down for the signing, so I went up to the Y and I'm on the treadmill with my earphones on and actually looking up, you know.

So -- and then, I'm on the treadmill and he kept talking and talking and I saw my son through to the left and I saw him shake his hand. I said that's pretty cool, you know. And I was on the treadmill for a while and he kept talking. I got off the treadmill and I was on a machine and that's when he finally stopped and I saw a couple of steelworkers come over and talk briefly.

[07:55:13] Then I saw my son come Scott come over and he was talking for like three or four minutes. And I said -- and I couldn't -- you know, I couldn't get to a machine and plug my earphones in.


H. SAURITCH: I said, oh, this looks -- this looks pretty cool. Then I see Scott walking away and the president doing like this and I said oh, that's something. I said I'm going to have to find out what that's about.

Well, I left the Y -- I left the Y. I didn't get out of the parking lot and I had another one of my sons call me and told me what happened. I just start laughing. I just thought it was -- it was really funny.


H. SAURITCH: I wasn't actually -- yes, I wasn't looking down at him. Actually, I was looking up at him on the T.V. screen at the Y.

CAMEROTA: While you were exercising. Yet another irony.


CAMEROTA: And so, Scott, what -- tell us about that moment. What did you think? Did you -- was there a moment where you decided to correct the president or you consider not correcting him that your dad was still alive?

Scott? Scott, can you hear me? I think Scott's audio has died. The irony of all of this.


CAMEROTA: Scott, can you -- Scott, can you hear me because Herman you can, right? All right.

H. SAURTICH: Yes, ma'am.

CAMEROTA: OK. So Herman, I'll stick with you. What did --

H. SAURITCH: OK. CAMEROTA: What did Scott say when he then called you after that moment?

H. SAURITCH: Well, you know, the funny -- the funny part about it was when I left the Y I was on my way to a sports bar out in Belle Vernon. They have a bigger -- OK, that's why you exercise so you can drink a beer.

CAMEROTA: That's fair.

H. SAURITCH: So - but anyway, I get a -- I got out there and then Scott called me and he told me what happened.

And, you know, you have understand something. I have five boys and a girl in our big family. When we get together we just laugh about it. We cut up on each other and this is what we did, you know, and I just started laughing. It was funny.

CAMEROTA: Scott, can you hear us now?

So listen, Herman --

H. SAURITCH: Yes, ma'am.

CAMEROTA: -- there is a serious side of this story, of course, and that was --


CAMEROTA: -- that Scott was trying to tell --

S. SAURITCH: Yes, I can hear you now.

CAMEROTA: OK, good. So I'll be with you in one second but I want to ask your dad about the serious side of the story. And he was trying to tell the president about how your life was hurt in the eighties when you were a steelworker by -- I think the point was imports. And so --

H. SAURITCH: Yes, ma'am.

CAMEROTA: -- what do you think of the president's tariff plan now?

H. SAURITCH: Well, you know, I believe if it's going to help create some steelworkers jobs I'm all for it. Now --

CAMEROTA: And do you think it will create steelworker jobs?

H. SAURITCH: Well, you know what, ma'am? I really don't know. I think that -- first of all, I think it's like 40 or 50 years too late.

I think, personally, that there's a lot -- it's like a global economy today. Back in those days if you bought a Mercedes it came from Germany. If you bought a Toyota it came from Japan. Now, those cars are like made in this country by some more workers and stuff. But, you know, anything to help create -- if we can create some jobs for steelworkers because our infrastructure in this country's just falling apart and hopefully, it's going to get rebuilt sometime.

But back in those days it was -- it was really devastating because we were middle-class America. Then all of a sudden, they'd shut your plant down and then it -- it was tough. It was really hard.

CAMEROTA: Yes, understood. I understand that personal story.


CAMEROTA: So, Scott, glad to have you.

S. SAURITCH: Well, good morning to you.

CAMEROTA: Good morning.

So what I was asking was what was that moment like when the president assumed that your dad was dead?

S. SAURITCH: It caught me off guard but you've got to understand we go the steelworker mentality of we like humor and we laughed about it.


S. SAURITCH: And, you know, you don't take something like that personal. I mean, maybe I -- maybe I told the story that he thought he was dead, you know, but I was just emphasizing the hard time he went though.

CAMEROTA: Understood. I get it.

Was there a moment where you considered not correcting the president?

S. SAURITCH: No, I -- you know, sometimes you've got to roll with the moment and hey, it is what it is. I didn't take it personal, you know. You've got to -- we learn to laugh about things in life and I think that's the way you've got to roll.

CAMEROTA: And so, Scott, I just want to ask the same question that I just asked your dad. Do you think that the president's tariff plan will bring back jobs like the one your dad lost?

S. SAURITCH: Well, I'll tell you what, it's going to have an impact. And like my dad said, things should have been done years ago.

But I think that it's going to be a great impact. One thing I know, there's a major impact right now at Granite City, southern Illinois. That community was devastated when the steel industry got hit when China dumped all this steel into this country. So --

CAMEROTA: Yes, but I mean, I guess my question Scott is like is this payback for the eighties and for when that happened or do you really think this will rejuvenate the steel industry because look, we keep hearing about how automation now is the big threat to jobs. S. SAURITCH: No. You know what? You can never get rid of people in the industry. You're going to have some automation but when it comes to people using their minds solving problems and these hands right here you can't get rid of people and that will never happen completely, so that's not true.