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Did Kim Jong-un Secretly Visit China?; Retired Supreme Court Justice Calls For Repeal of Second Amendment; Will Trump Use Military Funds to Build Border Wall?. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired March 27, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: We continue on. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
There have been many estimates of how much President Trump's border wall could cost, in the neighborhood of $33 billion, but, today, the first tangible idea of exactly how to pay for it came about. A Trump administration official tells CNN the president had been thinking about tapping the Pentagon budget for funding, as in, have the military pay.
Here is Press Secretary Sarah Sanders fielding a question on that moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Does he mean that he wants the military to pay for the border wall? Could you speak generally to that?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, I'm not going to get into the specifics of that. But I can tell you that the wall is continuing to be built currently, and we are going to keep pushing forward until it's fully completed in the way that the president feels is necessary to defend the country.
QUESTION: Isn't it true at this point that Mexico is not going to pay for that wall?
HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm not going to go beyond what the president has already said. I think he still has plans to look at potential ways for that to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, let's start there with our White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins.
And apparently that was floated in a meeting that the president had with the House speaker a week ago. Can you tell us more about that conversation and the request?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brooke, chanting that the military is going to pay for the wall just doesn't have the same ring to it that Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Obviously, that was a very popular chant at a lot of the president's rallies on the campaign trail before he came into office here. And we know that this is something that the president has been frustrated with, even that was really on display last Friday, as we saw the president threatening to veto that spending bill which he believes didn't include enough funding for his border wall in there, only had a very small amount in response to the $25 billion that the White House had asked for.
Obviously, this all comes back to the president being frustrated that Congress didn't give him enough money for the border wall, but all along, the president said Mexico was going to pay for the border wall, though that's seeming less and less likely.
And Sarah Sanders was also asked by a separate reporter directly, in what way could Mexico pay for this wall? And she said that they are still looking for options, potential options for that to happen, but not a lot of specifics there, Brooke, and not really a direct answer from the press secretary on whether that's going to happen.
But we do -- we have confirmed that the president has floated the idea of having the military -- having that come from a military budget in order to pay for that wall, saying that it would be a national security reason.
And the White House just didn't seem prepared to answer any questions to follow up on exactly what those specifics would look like. But it's very clearly a strong departure from having Mexico pay for it, which is something that the president certainly ran on, when he ran for office here, Brooke.
BALDWIN: You are correct.
Let's move to a question that she was asked a bunch of different times and ways, including from our own Jeff Zeleny, on Stormy Daniels on how the president is still noticeably silent on commenting on this. And she at one point said, he isn't going to counterpunch on everything.
Do we know, Kaitlan, is being told, don't say a word?
COLLINS: He has been advised. He's been asking people, do they think he should publicly respond? He has been told for right now that his friends and his advisers don't think he should wade any further into this in any kind of a public aspect.
He certainly has not directly addressed it. But there are three things in that briefing in response to the Stormy Daniels that stood out. One being the counterpuncher thing, because often in the past, when the president has said shocking things, the White House has responded by saying when he gets punched he's going to hit right back.
But he hasn't been doing that with Stormy Daniels. And Sarah Sanders said he simply doesn't have time to respond to all of the attacks on him. But this has certainly been one of the biggest. It's really dominated the news headlines in recent weeks. So, it's certainly surprising that the president hasn't said a word
about it, when he responds to other very small slights. And then, secondly, Sarah Sanders said that the White House has responded to these accusations extensively and they've gone over them with reporters extensively.
And, Brooke, that's just simply not the case. The White House has actually refused to answer a lot of questions relating to these allegations and what the president's thoughts are on these. And the president himself has not addressed it directly either.
And then one more thing. When asked about this payout from the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, to Stormy Daniels, Sarah Sanders repeatedly referred reporters to the president's outside legal team. But, to be clear, that is the White House Press Briefing Room, and the president's outside legal team is not in there briefing reporters.
It's the press secretary of the United States who is speaking on behalf of the president. And instead of answering those questions, she referred us to people who don't work in the White House -- Brooke.
BALDWIN: Speaking of referring to legal team, Kaitlan Collins, let's talk about this next piece, the president today having issues finding lawyers to join his personal legal team to defend him in the Russia probe.
We are learning two more star lawyers have declined to accept the job. That makes at least five law firms to turn him down, this as the president's personal legal team has been reduced to basically one individual. Attorney Jay Sekulow is up against at least 17 lawyers in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
So, let me bring in Solomon Wisenberg. He is the former deputy independent counsel in the Whitewater-Monica Lewinsky investigation. He questioned then President Clinton before of a federal grand jury.
Solomon, welcome back.
SOLOMON WISENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Thanks, Brooke.
BALDWIN: And just on the news that these attorneys, and to name-check them, Tom Buchanan, Dan Webb, the two latest to say no, to pass on an opportunity to work for the president. They're saying it's about a conflict of interest.
Do you take them at their word or do you think they simply don't want to work for the president?
WISENBERG: Oh, I absolutely take them at their word.
First of all, Tom Buchanan, that's Pat's little brother. He is very conservative. He is an outstanding attorney. I know him well. Knew him well back in the day. Dan Webb, another outstanding attorney. They're at a big firm. My
God, Winston & Strawn represented tobacco interest for years and didn't think twice about it.
I don't think they would have any problem representing the president. I think it must be a conflict of interest. I absolutely take them at their word.
You have publicly said part of why, actually, part of why John Dowd, going back to the news from last week, this lead lawyer, quit was over concerns of dealing with a client who won't listen. Can you imagine being asked to help the president when you're dealing with a man who ignores your advice?
WISENBERG: Well, I don't believe that I said that's why John Dowd quit.
BALDWIN: No. I was jumping ahead. Forgive me. That was separate. You didn't say. I'm actually just asking.
Oh, you want me to answer that?
BALDWIN: Yes, please, sir.
It's not that unusual. The client doesn't have to always follow your advice. You give advice as a lawyer. A client isn't required to follow that. There may be a point in time where you say, you know what? You're just ignoring everything I say and I'm going to quit. But ultimately most -- many of these decisions are up to the client.
BALDWIN: OK. And you don't -- OK. I'm going to leave it there.
On the president's personal legal team that exists right now, "The Times" has reported that it's essentially this one-man operation, Jay Sekulow, leading the charge for now. This -- we're however many months into this Russia investigation. How worrisome does that have to be for the president?
WISENBERG: It's worrisome if there isn't really a big team of blue- chip lawyers. And that would include associates helping out.
I find it hard to believe there are only two or three lawyers helping out. Ty Cobb came from a big firm, I believe. So I don't know exactly who is in the backroom, but you are unquestionably up against the A-team when you're up against Mueller.
And you need to have a commensurate operation to go up against Mueller. I just don't know how much of that is accurate as to how much firepower the White House has.
BALDWIN: OK. You're questioning how it could just be this one star guy.
WISENBERG: I will tell you this.
And keep in mind, Sekulow, brilliant constitutional attorney, but not any experience that I'm aware of in federal criminal law. Here is a reason that some Washington firms, my understanding, and I know this to be true in one case, have not responded to inquiries or not accepted offers or inquiries.
There are a number of firms in Washington that are ideologically liberal and have made a decision and made a decision early on they don't want to do anything to help this administration. I think that's been discounted.
It's not so much, oh, we don't have a client who won't listen to us or we're afraid of what clients won't do. It's people who are saying we don't want to help this president.
BALDWIN: Sure. Got to believe in your client. If your ideology is not in -- doesn't jibe, it wouldn't work.
Let me ask you, Solomon, about Stormy Daniels' -- let me play a clip -- Stormy Daniels' attorney and attorney for Michael Cohen in an unrelated matter sparred right here on CNN about this legal battle of this alleged affair, which, again, the White House is denying the president ever took part in. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Look, it's very simple. My client sat down. She answered the questions; 90 percent of America found her credible.
Why hasn't Michael Cohen sat down -- forget two hours. I will take 20 minutes. How about 10 minutes? And answered the questions. Instead, he sends you. You're not even involved in the case.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: Are you ever going to make an appearance in the case?
AVENATTI: I am never making an appearance in that case. I am his attorney.
SCHWARTZ: You're a talking head.
AVENATTI: Of course. That's what we're here for.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's let him answer that.
SCHWARTZ: We're here -- first of all, Michael Cohen just wants you to keep running your mouth and your client running because every time you do that, it's going to cost your client another million dollars. I mean, I hope you have a nice malpractice policy because you're advising your client to breach a contract.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Jeffrey Toobin is in the like, what do I even do? What do I even say?
BALDWIN: Who do you side with here, Solomon?
WISENBERG: Well, I don't know who you side with as a matter of contract law.
I can tell you that you have to look at everything in these investigations at the substantive level and at the performance level. And I believe that Stormy Daniels' lawyer is doing a very outstanding job at the performance level.
And I do think that the camp, whatever elements of the Trump camp are strategizing on this, you need to be very careful about who you send out to appear in public for you and how they sound, and talking about another million dollars here and another million dollars there.
I would just think that needs to be kept in mind.
BALDWIN: OK. That was a very diplomatic response. I was listening to what you didn't say that was everything.
WISENBERG: And can I mention one more thing about ideology?
BALDWIN: Yes. Sure.
WISENBERG: Because you mentioned -- I don't necessarily think it is the case. This is what is so unusual if some firms are declining for ideological grounds. There are many examples of people who are on different sides of the fence politically who still go for representation to that other side.
The top example I can think of is Karl Rove. He was defended in the Plame affair by Bob Luskin, who is a great attorney and who is a Democrat. Look at Jared Kushner being defended by Abbe Lowell, who has been involved in almost every liberal Democratic political case in the history of this town.
So it doesn't have to be that way. I just say that people aren't thinking about it enough. There are some people who are very opposed. Some law firms here who have just made a political decision. I don't say whether it is right or wrong. I'm just saying that's what's going on, I think.
BALDWIN: You are so incredibly plugged in. You know all these players. Solomon, thank you so much for coming on, and we will chat again.
Thank you very much.
WISENBERG: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Coming up next -- you got it -- a retired Supreme Court justice argues for the full repeal of the Second Amendment, sparking a major backlash online. We will debate that.
Also, no state charges against the police officers who shot and killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, two summers ago. His aunt joins me live to talk about what they plan to do next.
And, later, this mysterious train pulls into Beijing. Was the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, on board? Details on his movements ahead of possible talks with the and U.S. South Korea.
I'm Brooke Baldwin. This is CNN.
BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
A stunning call to repeal the Second Amendment as perhaps the most radical decision in the gun debate, so to hear it from a retired Supreme Court justice is simply quite stunning.
In an opinion piece penned for "The New York Times," John Paul Stevens writes that a constitutional amendment to -- quote -- "get rid of the Second Amendment" -- quoting him -- "would do more to weaken the NRA's ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option."
So, with me now, Rob Astorino, who was a Republican nominee for governor here in New York and a former county executive in Westchester County, New York. Also with me, Paul Callan, CNN legal analyst, and Kirsten Powers, CNN political analyst and columnist for "USA Today."
So, let's dive right in, shall we?
Rob, first to you. When you read this piece, retired Justice Stevens calls the Second Amendment a relic of the 18th century. Why is the way it was written still relevant?
ROB ASTORINO (R), FORMER NEW YORK GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: The good news is, this story takes us away from Stormy Daniels for about 15 minutes.
But other than that, there's really no news here. He said this four or five years ago, too, but his op-ed in "The Times" is what's getting the attention, in the middle of a heated debate nationally with the Parkland massacre.
His decision in the Heller confirmation 10 years ago, to me, is frightening, in that he basically takes at the stance that no individual should be able to have a gun for their own self-defense in their home. That's really what his position is.
To get the Second Amendment...
BALDWIN: Actually, before we get into Heller, because I think that is getting deep, just tell me why...
ASTORINO: Well, but it gets into his kind of thinking.
BALDWIN: But why do you think something written in the late 1700s is still relevant?
ASTORINO: Because the common use is what the term is for today. Right?
They didn't have television and radio back then. And yet we still have First Amendment protections on TV today. They didn't have an AR- 15, but they had the weapons that they used then and they were protected.
So, you can't make that argument of what was in the 1780 or 1790 is not relevant today, because it is relative of what they were using back then.
BALDWIN: We were talking in our office earlier, and I think it's just reminding people, this was Thomas Jefferson, the reasoning, and this is what Justice Stevens pointed out in his piece, and his desire for the people to -- quote -- "protect themselves against tyranny in government."
You tell me. Same question. Is it still relevant today? And will this help? And we were all in Washington, around the country for all these march for our lives marches. And you know what these young people are looking for. How does this help them achieve what they want?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, when the amendment was adopted, one of the things Jefferson said was, the treaty of liberty has to be watered occasionally with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
And he said that because there was a fear that the president of the United States might become a monarch and take the liberties, the civil liberties of American citizens.
So, if you had a well-armed state militia and individual citizens armed, that would be something to prevent sort of tyranny in the United States.
Now, you have to fast-forward to modern-day America. First of all, is there even any possibility that if somebody has a gun in their home, they would be able to use that successfully overthrow the government of the United States? I don't think we think in those terms anymore. And through years, as the court has looked at the amendment, it has
made it clear that you can ban certain kinds of weapons. You can ban the AR-15, for instance. We have banned machine guns in the past, which are guns that shoot multiple bullets on one pull of the trigger.
But the one thing that the Heller case said, the case that Stevens is upset about, is that the right to bear arms is an individual right. Now, up until Heller, the court had said, really, it had to do with the wording that a well-armed state militia being necessary, the right to bear arms is permitted.
That's how the Constitution words it. But, in Heller, they said, well, that thing about the militia doesn't really apply anymore, but the operative clause is individuals have the right to bear arms.
BALDWIN: He was one of the four to dissent in Heller, as he pointed out, and he, to quote him, Kirsten Powers, has -- he says, "Heller has provided the NRA with a propaganda weapon of immense power."
How do you see it?
KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, to your point, or the point that I think Justice John Podesta is making here is that the jurisprudence until very recently was actually, as much as you're trying to act like it is, he's sort of this outlier and he's this extremist, actually was actually what he is saying, which was, there wasn't an individual right the bear airstrikes
I'm not a lawyer. I did go to Georgetown Law School for a year-and-a- half. And that's what we were taught. There was no individual right, that this was about a well-armed militia. So this actually isn't this far-left point of view. It is something conservatives don't like, but we don't talk really about it because people have been sort of indoctrinated with this idea that this right exists.
Now, that said, I don't think it is a political solution to repeal the Second Amendment. I don't think people are going to go for it. But what is very clear -- and this is clear even in Heller -- that absolutely the government can tell you what kind of guns you can and can't have.
This idea that we keep hearing from people saying, you can't tell me how I defend my home is just not true. It is quite clear that the government does have the right to do that.
BALDWIN: Why do you think Americans don't believe that or take that...
ASTORINO: Well, look at all the failures with these mass shootings, all the failures of government, those who are supposed to protect.
The system collapsed, and the authorities, the government failed. But, more than that, let's take a scenario of someone is entering your house in the middle of the night. You wake up at 2:00 in the morning. You hear something downstairs. You have young kids down the hall. You call 911 and maybe in two, three minutes, somebody might get to
you. But the incident, whatever would happen, would have already happened. Now, do you want that ability to protect your family or do you want to sit back and wait for somebody to maybe come after you're already shot?
POWERS: I would love to address this.
So, I grew up in Alaska in a house with at least a dozen guns. I grew up shooting guns. We actually lived not near other people, so we were actually taught to defend the house with guns. We didn't have any semiautomatic weapons. We had shotguns.
And we felt perfectly safe. And so did everybody else. So, the issue isn't about whether or not someone can have a shotgun in their house. The issue is like, why are people walking around with weapons that were created for war?
BALDWIN: To your point about shooting, there is a theme with the types of weapons that are used.
CALLAN: It has to do with the kind of weapon.
And always, even going back to the time of the founding fathers, there was a recognition that you couldn't carry, you know, a bazooka or some kind of weapon that an army would have. But you did have the right to defend yourself in your home.
Clearly, that's what the courts have said. So I think the Second Amendment, as it exists, permits the government to restrict certain kinds of weapons.
We don't have to repeal the Second Amendment. Justice Stevens is correct that, if you repeal the Second Amendment, yes, you could do any kind of gun control that you want. But we can't even pass a law in this country placing minimal restrictions on guns.
It takes two-thirds of the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as two-thirds the state legislatures, to amend the Constitution. That's not happening in the current political arena.
BALDWIN: OK. We have to go. Thank you all so very much.
Again, it's just an interesting read from somebody who was nominated by a Republican president, but did tend to lean left in some of his opinions on the highest court.
Coming up next here, South Korean officials say it is highly likely that the North Korean dictator was on board this train to China. Details why Kim Jong-un might have made the trip to Beijing.
[15:29:21] BALDWIN: Speculation is running high North Korean Kim Jong-un secretly visited China.
The appearance of this mysterious train in Beijing surrounded by heavy security has led to the belief that Kim Jong-un was on board for secret talks with Chinese leaders.
The timing of the apparent visit comes just ahead of a planned summit with President Trump and a key meeting with his South Korean counterpart.
So, with me, Matt Rivers, CNN international correspondent normally based in Beijing, and Sue Mi Terry, a former North Korean analyst for the CIA who has been in talks with senior North Korean leaders.
So, welcome to both of you.
And, Matt, good to see you here in New York.
MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, thanks.
BALDWIN: Tell me about, how we will ever know it could be him?
RIVERS: Yes, there's been a lot of speculation as to who exactly was on this train.
RIVERS: It's been a lot of circumstantial evidence that Kim Jong-un could be on the train. Highly likely is the word we're getting from U.S. officials.
But, in terms of solid confirmation, the Chinese government --