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President Trump Agrees to Meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un; Trump Imposes Tariffs, Defying Allies & GOP Establishment. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired March 9, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SCOTT SAURITCH, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STEEL WORKERS UNION 2227: 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 mind, solving problems, and these hands right here, you can't get rid of people. That will never happen completely. So that's not true.
And I'm going to tell you, you're going to see a major impact in all the -- U.S. steel is going to fill it. They're going to get some reprieve from the dumping, and they're going to be able to sit back and take a different look to run their business. And hopefully, with that being said, there will be some opportunity for United Steelworkers in the process when we sit down at the table next time.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Scott Sauritch, Herman Sauritch, great to have you both. Herman, we're happy that you're in good health and that you're working out at the gym. Great to see both of you guys. Thanks so much for sharing your personal story with us.
SCOTT SAURITCH: Thanks for having us.
HERMAN SAURITCH: And I'll be 77 next month if I keep working at the gym.
CAMEROTA: You're looking great. Happy birthday.
HERMAN SAURITCH: Thank you, ma'am.
SCOTT SAURITCH: Ma'am, I want to thank Wilbur Ross for his help too, what he did for us.
CAMEROTA: OK, great, glad that you got that message out. Thanks so much.
We're following a lot of news this morning. So let's get right to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rocketman is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Trump said he'd meet Kim Jong-un by May.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is unprecedented, historic. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very concerned about the chances for success,
but look, I'm always a fan of diplomacy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been doing the same thing, banging our head against the wall for 25 years. Let's try something different.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Kim Jong-un was looking at all of the cards on the table, this was a Hail Mary pass, and President Trump caught it.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don't have steel, you don't have a country.
REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: 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 hikes are prosperity killers. They always have been and they always will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It's Friday, March 9th, 8:00 in the east. A chance for a historic diplomatic breakthrough after months of rhetoric and threats. President Trump accepted kind of spontaneously this invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a face-to-face meeting. This would certainly be historic because it would be the first time a sitting U.S. president would meet with the leader of this isolated regime.
CAMEROTA: The South Koreans applauding that development but pushing back on another. They are also requesting an exemption from the stiff new tariffs on steel and aluminum that the president put in place yesterday despite strong opposition from Republican leaders who say they're worried about starting a trade war.
So we have all of this covered for you. First let's go to CNN's Will Ripley live in Seoul, South Korea, with this huge development. Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And they are exuberant here in South Korea about this, Alisyn. Obviously in the United States there's cautious optimism and a lot of skepticism. There's still many things we don't know this morning. For one, where is this going to happen? Will it be China? The Chinese government dodging our questions overnight whether they will play host as they did for the six-party talks.
What exactly is Donald Trump going to say to Kim Jong-un? What exactly can they accomplish? One thing that we know for sure, though, over the next two months, Kim Jong-un is going to do two things that he has never done before in the years that he has led North Korea since late 2011. He's going to meet with the president of South Korea and he's going to do something his father and grandfather wanted to do but never could, sit down face-to-face with the president of the United States.
CHUNG EUI-YONG, SOUTH KOREA NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.
RIPLEY: 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.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 breakthrough.
EUI-YONG: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he's committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests.
RIPLEY: In addition to suspending their weapons testing, a 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, accused by the U.S. of cheating on previous deals. Victor Cha, recently dropped for consideration as U.S. ambassador to South Korea reportedly for opposing a preemptive military option against the regime, warns while the summit provides unique opportunities, its failure could 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 think 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: I can tell you after more than three years and nearly 20 trips to Pyongyang I have had many conversations with North Koreans who have said all along that Kim Jong-un's strategy was to grow his nuclear program and come to the table, sit down from a position of strength, not weakness. Yes, you can argue there is the threat of military action from the United States. There are sanctions that are getting increasingly crippling and difficult for the North Korean economy, but at the end of the day Kim Jong-un is getting something that his father and grandfather wanted, the optics of sitting down at the table as equals face-to-face with the president of the United States, in this case Donald Trump. Chris?
CUOMO: Will, appreciate it. Thank you so much. You're in the right place at the right time.
Let's dig deeper with CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger and former ambassador to the U.N. and for U.S. energy secretary, Governor Bill Richardson. Gov, good to have you on the show. David, as always. So let's start with you, governor. Do you see this as a potential opportunity for progress or are you just overwhelmed by the concerns?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, I'm overwhelmed by what is happening. In the many years, the eight trips I've taken to North Korea, this is unorthodox and unprecedented. But I'm an optimist. This has never happened before. I don't think we're going to get an absolute goal of denuclearization. I think the president needs to temper that. But I'm opposed to 95 percent of what the president does on foreign policy, but on this one I'm supporting him.
It's risky. We've got to be properly prepared and we cannot underestimate Kim Jong-un. He's evolving into a strategic thinker, into a man with an end game. And what we don't want to do is get trapped in a situation, a high-level negotiation where we're not prepared, where we don't have our best negotiators forward. At the very least the president should tell his secretary of state what he's doing. So I'm concerned, yet at the same time hopeful.
CAMEROTA: So what the governor there, of course, David is referring to is this took Rex Tillerson by surprise. It took everyone by surprise because the president hadn't planned to do it, he hadn't even planned to meet with the South Korean delegation that was at the White House yesterday. But then he popped in. They apparently made this overture, he apparently accepted it on the fly, and here we are. So how do you see it?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Alisyn, as the governor has suggested, this is happening in the reverse of the way these things normally would. You would normally conduct a negotiation at a lower level, begin to work out what it was that you were trying to achieve, what steps the North Koreans would take toward denuclearization. The most important question, how you would verify it, a particularly difficult issue when it came to North Korea. And then you'd hold out the meeting between presidents as the thing you would do at the end, the capstone.
So of course as with many things with the Trump presidency, this one is going backwards. And it comes because we've got two leaders who are supremely confident in their own capability to negotiate a deal to man and come out on top.
And in this case, as the governor suggested, that could work. We've never tried this in the years since the armistice took place in 1952. And on the other hand, if it fails, then both sides have sort of got their backs up and you could be into a bad spiral. My guess is that the North Koreans have no interest in ever fully denuclearizing, as the governor and I have talked about before, because this is the one last protection this country has.
CUOMO: First we have this fact issue of the notion that this this is where the administration has been heading all along. Let's just play what Rex Tillerson said about this because remember, he got caught out there, fellow, we're nowhere near diplomatic talks, and then Trump the same day Trump accepted the invitation. But here is what he said about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: In terms of the decision to engage between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, that's a position the president took himself. I spoke to him very early this morning about that decision, and we had a good conversation. This is something that he's had on his mind for quite some time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: Maybe this is too fine a point, gov, but you tell me. It seems like people like you and David who have experience with foreign politics say you don't just jump into situation like this, which it is an opportunity, how you get to it as an opportunity matters, how you plan for it, what's the thinking as you get into it matters just as much as the opportunity itself. The other side is going to stop with all your politics, it's good it's happening, he made it happen, bravo to him. Where are you on this?
RICHARDSON: I'm on the side of the big gamble because the North Korean situation, the tension in the peninsula has been so intense, this is the worst state of U.S.-North Korea relations, that you almost need a Hail Mary pass. You need a homerun thrown into the mix.
The risks are exactly that, that there is not adequate preparation by our military and our negotiators. I think the very first step, obviously Rex Tillerson is trying to recover from not being consulted, is give Tillerson and our military some instructions. Development a coherent strategy. At the first meeting you're not going to make a huge deal on denuclearization, but you may get some kind of a freeze on missile development affecting the United States or Guam, Alaska, some kind of deal that eases the tension with the Koreas in terms of artillery, conventional weapons, some kind of positive steps.
I think we need to get three Americans out from North Korea. They're there. We need to recover the remains of our soldiers from the Korean war, some soft power steps before the two big guns meet in two months. But there's not much time, and the North Korean and South Korean president also are meeting before the president.
So maybe we have a little cover to get something done substantially before the two leaders meet. But you're not going to make a final deal with the two leaders. It's going to take years and it's going to cost a lot. The agreed framework President Clinton negotiated in exchange for North Korea halting their nuclear development was energy, food, economic assistance, end of sanctions. If there is a next deal, it's going to be 15 times as costly, but it may be worth it because this is a country that may have 20 nuclear weapons. They've got 2 million men in arms. They've got missiles.
So I think this is big stakes, a big gamble, but I'm supporting the president's effort to do it. Just be careful and don't tweet. Don't tweet. Just stay low.
CAMEROTA: There's some advice for the president. But that's really fascinating, governor, to hear all that context. And so David, if all of those things that the governor just laid out are not hammered out beforehand, should the president still do this and roll the dice?
SANGER: This is a president who is probably not going to sit around for the details because he's convinced he can go do this. So my guess is at this point having said he would go ahead with the meeting, he'll probably go ahead with the meeting unless some crisis emerges in between.
But as the governor suggests, this is really going to be cramming for the exam for this administration because they don't have a North Korea deep bench right now. In fact, it was just last week that their most senior representative for North Korea, somebody who knew the place really well, just resigned from the State Department. So it's not even clear who will be negotiating this whole thing out. And these things usually take a good deal of time.
I think the thing that -- to think about the hardest, how would you verify it. It's very easy to verify that tests aren't taking place. We can see a missile taking off. We know when a nuclear test goes off. But as the governor suggests there are at least probably 20 nuclear weapons. By the lights of some American intelligence agencies, there may be up to 60 nuclear weapons. If you don't know how many there are, you really don't know where to inspect in an incredibly mountainous place.
And so you're going to have to think ahead of how to get inspectors into every corner of the country. When you think about the president's critiques of the Iran deal, that it didn't go far enough, Iran didn't have nuclear weapons. This is going to be infinitely more complex than the Iran deal was.
CAMEROTA: All right. David Sanger, Governor Bill Richardson, thank you very much for all of your expertise.
OK. So, President Trump unmoved by the talk of possible trade war by some of his Republican allies. Will the risky tariffs boost American industry? Our analysts are here next.
CUOMO: A defiant President Trump ignoring establishment Republicans concerned about starting a trade war. It's Republicans on the political side but also about every economist that takes a look at these issues. Tariffs that the president just put on steel and aluminum imports are of grave concern in terms of helping workers in this country and what it will mean in terms of retaliation around the world including from our allies.
Now, it's a move that's already cost him his top economic adviser. What else will it do?
Let's bring in Chris Cillizza, reporter and editor-at-large of CNN Politics, and Ron Brownstein, CNN senior political analyst.
So, Chris Cillizza, is the simple analysis here as obvious as he wanted to win, he wanted a big move, he said he would do it, these other people don't know what they're talking about, I'm doing it?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS, REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. I mean, I mean, I'll add to that, he believes. I actually think on trade policy, this is the one area I think you could point to throughout Donald Trump's professional career, as businessman, real estate investor and now in politics that you can say he's sort of consistent on this.
[08:20:13] He is very skeptical of these large scale international trade deals. You know, he views -- he ran as we need to protect the American workers. So, I think he was going to do it. I think Gary Cohn got in front of that. He thought he might be able to stop it and he couldn't.
Trump -- remember, Trump likes doing things that people say either have never been done or can't be done or shouldn't be done, right? Those are the three things he likes doing. This fits most of those.
CUOMO: All right. So, Ron, I totally get he's been against deals, he thinks the workers are being taken advantage of, American. It's easy to say. It's tough to fix.
He hasn't done anything to negotiate a new deal except what's going on with Mexico and Canada. That seems to undermine his national security threshold for putting these sanctions and these tariffs in place. And it's interesting. While the GOP has come out and said, we don't like this, they haven't said they're going to do anything about it. People have to remember, the president only has this power because Congress gave it to him. And they could take it away.
Do you think there's any chance of that? What is the political fallout from this?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, I agree with Chris, this is a consistent known for the president throughout his career. But I think we're learning two -- this reinforces two broader truths we know about him. But one process, one substance of the process is that he negotiates as we talk about before like a hostage taker. I mean, that is the way he negotiates. He takes a hostage and then demands concessions in return for it.
That's what he's turned this into in terms of Canada and Mexico by temporarily exempting them from the tariffs and threatening to re- impose them later if they don't make concessions on NAFTA. It's exactly what he did with the deferred action program, where he ended it and basically demanded the Democrats give concessions on legal immigration in order to get it back.
And second, I think, this reminds us of how much of his economic vision is fundamentally backward looking. It's about reviving industries that have been important contributors to the American economy but whose biggest contributions are in the past. I mean, steel, aluminum employment, we're down to a thin sliver of the economy. And the risk, of course, is that by imposing these tariffs, you affect a broad range of occupations that create more jobs.
I mean, the retrospective done on the Bush steel tariffs, where it cost 200,000 more jobs than they created because of all the downstream effects on other industries, and there are similar estimates here. What's really striking to me, Chris, real quick, while Republicans are resisting this, where are the Democrats? Sixty percent of all the exports in the country come from the counties that Hillary Clinton won. They are the party now --
CUOMO: They're in a box, Ron.
BROWNSTEIN: Digital metros and they're silent.
CUOMO: They're in a box, because as we know, Democrats are not by definition against doing something to balance the playing field for American workers. But they don't want to come out in favor of this because they're anti-Trump.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
BROWNSTEIN: Well, in fact, this is against -- if you look at who is actually voting for Democrats at this point, they are overwhelmingly the party of metro America which is globally connected, moving into the information age. As I said, Hillary Clinton's counties were one- sixth of all the counties in the country, they account for 60 percent of our exports according to the Brookings institution.
And yet, apart from Terry McAuliffe today in "The New York Times," a couple of new Democrats in the House, the only Democrats who have spoken of this have favored it, kind of the Rust Belt Democrats. CUOMO: Right.
BROWNSTEIN: And you wonder if they're steering through the rearview mirror when they used to be the party of the industrial blue collar Midwest. Now they're the party of white collar metro America. And it is striking to see them silent.
To answer your question before, Jeff Flake says he is planning legislation to overturn this. Hard to see how that gets the 60 votes however.
CUOMO: You're shaking your head, Chris. I --
CILLIZZA: Just very quickly, one of the reasons this was a safe thing for Republicans in Congress to oppose is because they don't effectively have to do anything. They can say we think this is bad. We want to be --
CUOMO: They have a hedge.
CILLIZZA: And if it goes badly, they can say, well, we did say it was bad.
CUOMO: They have a hedge. There's no question about it.
What I don't get is, if the president wants to help this group of workers, why doesn't he deal with the truth of the realities. The automation is the big factor on why our manufacturing business has changed. He could address that.
If he really wants to use U.S. steel, he could do something. His infrastructure bill, he could say every dollar of materials must go to American companies that make aluminum and steel. He could do that and help them more directly than he is with these tariffs. Isn't that a clear point?
CILLIZZA: I think that -- Ron hits it exactly right when he talks about the world and America specifically that Donald Trump envisions going back to is not one that exists. I was struck the exact same thing, he was talking about Russian meddling earlier in the week. He said we've got a foolproof solution, paper ballots. We'll just get paper ballots.
CILLIZZA: Now, what he's talking about there is, we'll have paper ballots so they can't hack into the electronic -- but that doesn't deal with social media persuasion, all the other -- the vast ways in which the Internet is making -- because he does not live in that world. He lives in a world that is very much sort of '50s steel, make America great. Look at all the presidents he cited yesterday, by the way. McKinley,
I mean, there was one -- Roosevelt I think was the most recent one. That's to Ron's point. It tells you the kind of America he envisions and thinks he can create.
My guess is because of automation, because of technology, because of the Web, you're not going to be able to do that no matter what you do policy-wise.
CUOMO: And, look --
BROWNSTEIN: Manufacturing employment peaked in 1979, Chris.
CUOMO: Look, I hear it, there's no question about it, and everybody around Trump on the political side says he needs to grow from the base that got him elected. He can't get out of the 30s if he keeps denying the realities of the 21st century.
Ron, Chris, thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grilled by the House Intel Committee. He says he answered, quote, relevant questions. Democrats disagree, want him subpoenaed. A member of the committee joins us live next.