Return to Transcripts main page


Why Some Evangelicals Still Support President Trump; Kim Jong- un Visits China Ahead of Trump Summit; Attorney for Stormy Daniels Wants to Depose Trump & His Lawyer. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 07:00   ET


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: -- putting blinders on?

STEPHEN STRANG, AUTHOR, "GOD AND DONALD TRUMP": Not any more than the media did overlooking John Kennedy or Bill Clinton. What they did in the Oval Office was much, much worse than whatever is being alleged. Plus, we all knew this. We all knew it. We just --

CAMEROTA: And you're overlooking it. I hear you. You all knew it, and you've decided to overlook it. And it's interesting for me to hear you say that you're emulating the media, that you're using the media as the role model says. You're deciding to take on that behavior of the willful blindness, you're saying?

STRANG: Well, I'm also a journalist, so I can do that. But look, this happened a long time ago.

CAMEROTA: You think it stopped in 2006. You're -- you feel confident that -- that Donald Trump did not cheat after 2006?

STRANG: In my book, "God and Donald Trump," I delve into that. I try to explain to the reader why this can happen. I believe that he accepted Christ. I quote people that say that. I don't know personally if that's true. And I have no evidence. There's no evidence at all that he's cheated, you know, in recent years. Certainly, since he's been in the White House.

CAMEROTA: I mean, obviously, there are many women who have come forward, the 15 who have come forward to say that there was all sorts of misconduct, from groping to forcible kissing, even sexual assault. Do you believe those women?

STRANG: I want to make clear I don't approve of that in any way, shape or form. I don't approve of Stormy Daniels's lifestyle in her chosen profession.

CAMEROTA: But do you believe that 15 women --

STRANG: You know, I don't know. I've not talked to the 15 women. I only know that I'm Donald Trump's friend as much as I can be.

But even in my book, "God and Donald Trump," I make clear that he is not a perfect person. It is not a defense of him. It's just grappling with the spiritual issues that have brought us to this point and raised this very unlikely president who is making huge, huge changes. And I believe in a positive way.

CAMEROTA: Stephen Strang --

STRANG: Everything from trade -- trade deficits to tax cuts.

CAMEROTA: Understood --

STRANG: We can go on and on.

CAMEROTA: You like his policies. I get it. You're the author of "God and Donald Trump." Stephen Strang, thank you very much for bringing your perspective.

STRANG: Thank you, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: And thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, CNN TALK is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un making an historic visit to China to meet with the president there. It's the dictator's first foreign trip since he came into power in 2011. And the intentions are clear.

We're in a period of everybody trying to shore up their relationships ahead of this big anticipated meeting between the North Korean leader and our president. Is that going to happen in the coming weeks?

Mr. Trump tweeting this morning, saying there's a good chance that Kim will do what is right for his people, and he looks forward to meeting with him.

CAMEROTA: Also new this morning, Stormy Daniels's attorney is asking a federal judge to allow him to depose President Trump, under oath, to find out what the president knew about that $130,000 payment to the porn star just days before the 2016 election.

This comes as the White House defends the president's silence, allegations, Stormy Daniels, arguing that plenty has already been said, and he does not always respond to opponents. We have all of this covered for you. So let's begin with Ivan Watson, he's live in Seoul with our top story -- Ivan.


It was a secret and surprise summit of the North Korean and Chinese leaders. Both countries only announced that it took place after Kim Jong-un got back to North Korea. He traveled to and from Beijing on a special training.

And Xi Jinping rolled out the red carpet for his North Korean ally. He talked about their alliance being a strategic choice and not letting little things, basically, upset that alliance. Little things like, perhaps, nuclear weapons tests and ballistic missile launches. For his part, Kim Jong-un raised the question, a possibility of denuclearization, which is crossing a red line that Pyongyang indicated in the past. He said that denuclearization would have to depend on cooperation from the U.S. and South Korea.

Well, President Trump has tweeted twice about this this morning, saying that he looks forward to an upcoming meeting, a historic potential meeting with the North Korean leader but said that these sanctions and the maximum pressure that the U.S. has imposed on the North Korean economy must stay in place for the time being.

On another front, the U.S. has helped sort out an area of friction with its South Korean ally, working through a new version of a trade agreement that goes back to 2012, which would raise the quota on the number of cars that the U.S. can export to South Korea from 25,000 up to 50,000. A number of other agreements included there. They talked about preventing currency devaluation.

[07:05:16] All of this basically, as Chris mentioned, to shore up alliances, as North Korea goes into an unprecedented level of diplomacy. We're expecting a summit with the South Korea president and the North Korean leader just next month -- Chris and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Ivan Watson, thank you very much for all of that background.

Joining us now to help analyze it, "Daily Beast" columnist Gordon Chang and CNN political analyst Julie Pace. Great to have both of you.

So Gordon, what do you think that Kim Jong-un and President Xi of China accomplished in this meeting?

GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, "DAILY BEAST": Well, I think that Xi Jinping accomplished the -- basically, the reinsertion of China into the denuclearization process.

One of the good things for President Trump to accept Kim Jong-un's offer of direct talks was it cut the Chinese out. And during the six- party talks, which started in 2003, China unbalanced used its position at the center of those discussions to pressure the United States and the international community more than pressuring the North Koreans.

For Kim, what he was trying to do is try to get some Chinese support as he goes into those discussions with Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, and of course, President Trump.

CUOMO: Julie, help us understand the timing of doing a hardline trade deal with South Korea right now, a time when you want to have as close a relationship with them as possible. What's the thinking here?

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that you can't separate the trade front from what's happening with North Korea. There have been some outstanding issues in this trade negotiation, which was actually started under the Obama administration. And what you've seen is the U.S. and South Korea both just trying to get this out of the way before they head into, potentially, a meeting between Donald Trump and the North Korean leaders.

So I think there was really an incentive to try to address both sides seem to be pretty pleased with where they ended up. We expect this to be formally announced today.

But it's all part of, again, this idea of shoring up relationships, getting outstanding issues out of the way, so that if this talk, if these talks do move forward, that these other side issues are just off the table.

CAMEROTA: And Julie, just one political question for you. Do you think this is, in Washington, considered a huge win for President Trump, because he's opened up the South Korean market for more U.S. auto makers.

PACE: I think it's -- I think for Trump and for his -- for his allies, it will be seen as a victory. I think sometimes the consequences of these trade deals, though, take sometimes years to actually figure out.

Btu for Trump, it's a victory, because this is the type of agreement that he has promised that he would -- that he would seek. It's one on one. It's not part of a big multilateral trade agreement. He thinks that the U.S. can get a better deal. I think that he will probably be able to go out and make that case over the next couple of months.

CUOMO: But, Gordon, on the facts, South Korea is not a big player in our steel market. I think they're less than 10 percent of our take. We don't sell a lot of cars there. We were under our allotment last year. I think it was 25,000. They're raising it to 50,000. They sold just under 10,000 -- over 10,000.

So again, that's why I asked about the timing of this. I don't understand why you would want to do something to threaten how South Korea feels about you at a time when you need them in this trilateral situation.

CHANG: Yes. There are a lot of trade issues with South Korea, Chris, and cars are one of them. I don't think that that was a big win for the United States because of the reasons that Julia mentioned.

But there were other issues that the South Koreans were actually in a predatory manner. And I hope those were solved in the discussions on the free trade agreement. If they were, this will be a good one. We don't know that until we see the details of the changes in the agreement.

But you know, something had to be done about South Korea's trading practices, because they were unfairly prejudicing American companies. So we've got to be mindful of those other things that aren't necessarily in the headlines.

CAMEROTA: So, Gordon, what does all of this mean, this -- all of this landscape, the meeting in China, these trade deals for when President Trump meets with Kim Jong-un, reportedly, in May. CHANG: That's a good question. And the reason is there are so many

things in play right now. It's not only the Korea talks. It's also the trade discussions with China. The restrictions on Chinese investments in the tech sector. We see China actually talking about war right now in the South China Sea and against Taiwan.

There are so many things that are happening. And these issues are colliding with each other. We don't know how they're going to play out. And the risk here is that leaders -- Trump, Kim, Moon -- they don't know how to deal with this landscape, because too so many things are happening at the same time.

CUOMO: So what happens next, Julie? How do you think that, you know, these developments wind up changing the timing of this expected meeting that the president was tweeting about this morning with the North Korean leader?

[07:10:05] PACE: Well, the big question remains still is this meeting actually going to happen? You do hear from national security officials in the administration some skepticism that this will even go forward. It's interesting that Kim had this meeting with Xi Jinping but hasn't really acknowledged that he's made an offer to meet with Trump.

The North Koreans have actually been silent on this front. So there is some skepticism that this meeting will go forward, even though Trump keeps saying he's open to it. He wants to have this meeting. He thinks there could be a positive outcome from it. But that is really the centerpiece of all of these issues. Does this -- does this meeting that would be historic come to fruition?

CAMEROTA: OK, Julie Pace, Gordon Chang, thank you very much for all the perspectives.

All right. Now we are also following breaking news. The lawyer for Stormy Daniels seeking to depose President Trump and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, about that secret agreement -- or the secrecy agreement for which Daniels was paid $130,000 just days before the 2016 election.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live at the White House with more. What are they saying, Abby?


Stormy Daniels's attorney, Michael Avenatti, continues to put the pressure on President Trump and Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer, on this issue. He is asking now to depose President Trump in an interview in a question-and-answer session in the court of law.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Stormy Daniels's lawyer, Michael Avenatti, wants to know what President Trump knew about the $130,000 payment to his client days before the 2016 election. Avenatti asking a federal judge in California for permission to question the president under oath for up to two hours.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: We're going to prove that Mr. Cohen's statements to the American people are false. That at all times, Mr. Trump knew about this, knew about the $130,000, was fully aware of it, and with the assistance of Mr. Cohen, sought to intimidate and put my client under his thumb.

PHILLIP: The president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, has said that he paid Daniels out of his own pocket and that the president knew nothing about the agreement.

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The president strongly, clearly, and has consistently denied these underlying claims. And the only person who's been inconsistent is the one making the claims.

PHILLIP: The court filing comes as President Trump remains silent about the alleged affair. The White House sparring with reporters over that characterization.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president has addressed this. We've addressed it extensively. There's just nothing else to add. Sometimes he chooses to specifically engage and punch back, and sometimes he doesn't.

PHILLIP: A source close to the White House tells CNN the current plan is for Mr. Trump to continue avoiding the topic, because the controversy hasn't hurt his poll numbers. Avenatti telling CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday that eight women have now come to him with stories similar to Daniels.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER FOR STORMY DANIELS: We're still exploring their stories. We're going to be very careful and deliberate.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you know if any of these eight women who have come to you, have come forward to you, also signed confidentiality or hush agreements?

AVENATTI: We understand that two of them have.

PHILLIP: The president's legal troubles mounting healed of a potential interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Two more lawyers declining offers to join Trump's legal team Tuesday due to business conflicts, just days after the president insisted that many top law firms wanted to represent him.

SANDERS: The president has a highly-qualified team with several individuals that have been part of this process.


PHILLIP: So this is the fifth day of President Trump not having any public events on his White House schedule. But he has been tweeting this morning about North Korea. And also this about the Second Amendment.

He says the Second Amendment will never be repealed as much as Democrats would like to see this happen. And despite the words yesterday from former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, no way. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must always hold the Supreme Court.

The president here weighing in on this really touchy subject, especially after a weekend of nationwide protests for more gun control, but also, we have been waiting this morning for a response from him or anyone at the White House about this latest development in the Stormy Daniels case, where -- in which the president is being asked to sit down for a deposition, Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: Keep waiting, Abby. And this Second Amendment repeat is the latest boogeyman that's going to keep any rational discussion from happening about how we stop these shootings. Thank you for the reporting.

So the president's got a lot of his supporters in a fix over these assaults on his notion of moral behavior. He's got backers having to justify how they're still OK with him, even though he may have done these things, including evangelicals. We're going to discuss that next.

CAMEROTA: Plus, we sit down with teenagers, including survivors of the Parkland massacre, and talk to them about the role of race in gun violence.

Has what's happened in Parkland and these recent gun shootings changed the trajectory of your futures?

OK. All that ahead on NEW DAY.


[07:18:53] CUOMO: Evangelical voters standing by the president, even though you're hearing about the Stormy Daniels and all these other scandals. In fact, in a recent CNN poll, 40 percent of evangelicals say they believe the women accusing Trump of sexual misconduct. Thirty-six percent believe the president. Evangelicals, however, overwhelmingly still approve of President Trump as president: 68 percent.

Let's discuss this kind of obvious disconnect between these feelings and this behavior with former Republican U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and CNN senior political commentator Rick Santorum. Thank you for joining us, sir.


CUOMO: Help me understand this apparent hypocrisy by your evangelical brothers and sisters. They seem to just be choosing policy over piety all of a sudden.

SANTORUM: Well, I don't know if it's all of a sudden. I mean, I think every -- every Christian understands that we are all sinners and we all make mistakes. We all do things that we shouldn't do. That's why, as a Catholic, as you know, we have confession. And, you know, we go there to -- to confess our sins. And that -- we should probably should go every day.

[07:20:11] So I think there's a difference understanding that, you know, people are broken, people fail, people do a lot of bad things. And then the question is, but how do they behave on the issues that we've elected them to deal with. And I think that's -- yes, they are, in effect, choosing.

CUOMO: I don't know that it's a clean-cut distinction, especially for this group of voters. Look, you were in there during the Clinton years. OK? This was not what was being said by this voting bloc then. This is not what was being said by you back then.

You remember you called for Clinton to resign, because he was going to be impeached, and Lewinsky was too big a cloud over everything he had to go. So when it suits the politics, the piety is great. And when it doesn't suit the politics, the piety is easily excused. And that is hypocrisy.

SANTORUM: Well, that sort of goes on both sides. I mean, how many --

CUOMO: Let's just talk about this side. Because they've made this their currency. This is why they are better than I am, because their faith comes first. Where is it now?

SANTORUM: I disagree. The piety on, you know, look at the "#MeToo" movement. And where were they when Bill Clinton was doing this? So look, let's just be honest about all this. I mean, you're right. The politics seemed to Trump everything these days.

Unfortunately, that is the case. As you've seen me on this network, I have not been any apologist for Donald Trump's actions when they -- when they go out of bounds.

CUOMO: But you're not going out of your way to talk -- talk about him with these affairs either the way you did with Bill Clinton.

SANTORUM: Well, I didn't talk about Bill Clinton's affairs as much as I talked about Bill Clinton. And the reason, his impeachment was not about his affairs. It was actually lying under oath.

CUOMO: No, that's all you guys talked about. You remember.

SANTORUM: No, I remember too. I was there. And the reality was that when the president breaks a law, that's a big deal. So the situation that we're dealing with with the president and the investigation in Russia.

I mean, what seems to be where this is heading is what did the president do after the fact, and did he potentially do something that was harmful, not really what was the underlying offense? So actually, how you deal with an investigation is, in fact, important and telling the truth to the FBI is something that -- that is --

CUOMO: We'll see what happens here. This-- this president is studiously avoiding, to this point, any kind of reckoning of the facts. But still, character either counts or it doesn't. Let's be very clear about this. I have been covering this Stormy

Daniels story. And from a very definite perspective, which is the legalities create exposure here that we have to monitor and watch. I'm not covering it because private lives should dominate our official analysis. I don't believe that. I've never believed it. Not about Clinton. I thought you guys were wasting our time. I wasn't even really in the business then. I was still a practicing attorney. And I think it now.

However, with people who say they put faith first, character has to count. It always has. We've heard it time and time again. And now all of a sudden, everything is forgivable. They liken Donald Trump to King David. Do you think that's a good -- is that a good analysis?

SANTORUM: Well, certainly, King David was a very flawed man.

CUOMO: And what else did King David do that made him acceptable to Christians and it was a fundamental aspect of the story in the Bible? Psalm 51. Right? His heart bursting open with contrition for what he had done.

That was fundamental to the forgiveness. It was fundamental to the acceptance of what he was as flawed, because he knew it and he begged forgiveness and promised to live his life differently going forward. It's in the Bible story, because it's fundamental to the reckoning of why you're OK with it. And we see none of that here.

SANTORUM: It is fundamental, but the contrition was not his fellow men. His contrition was to God. And that's -- and that's what evangelicals are looking at. This is between President Trump and God. Not because --

CUOMO: Isn't that convenient?

SANTORUM: No, it's not convenient.

CUOMO: They judge things that are between man and God all the time when it suits them.

SANTORUM: We judge actions. We don't judge the person. We don't just the person. And I think people have been very clear, as I have, that the president's actions on many occasions are reprehensible, and I certainly disagree with a lot of the things that this president does.

CUOMO: I just feel if you put a "D" next to his name instead of an "R," there have been a lot of loud and proud people talking about it.

SANTORUM: The fact of the matter is, and you'll hear this over the -- we had a binary choice in 2016.

CUOMO: I get it. But that's still a rationale.

SANTORUM: It is not rationale. There are two people who we both think are flawed on many levels. And, well, one I happened to agree with their policies. There wasn't a third choice. CUOMO: I hear you.

SANTORUM: A legitimate third choice.

CUOMO: Look, I get it. Just to me it smacks of something really obvious. And if people are going to put their faith first, they're asking for a different level of examination. That's all. That's why I bring it up.

Let me ask you something else about a different level of examination. I -- I don't think you've been on since this discussion. But you know, I always like to give you a chance to answer to your own words.

SANTORUM: I appreciate that. Yes.

CUOMO: You really believe that telling these kids in Florida, "You should go learn CPR" was the right way to deal with how -- what they've lived through and what they're asking for now?

SANTORUM: Well, the fact of the matter is I did -- I did misspeak in using the term "CPR." And I think Sanjay Gupta's job here at CNN is probably safe as being the medical commentator on things.

But the reality is, it --

CUOMO: What did you mean?

SANTORUM: Well, it obscured the larger point. The larger point, which is that what we've seen from all of these mass shootings is that the things that have come out -- the positive things that have come out of these mass shootings are organizations and people who have actually focused on what we can do in our individual schools and communities to actually prevent these types of things.

Things like "Rachel's Challenge." Or even "Sandy Hook Promise." And other organizations that have said what can we do in our community to, you know, promote mentoring, to stop bullying, to be more aware of the problems?

And what -- what I've seen happen here is avoiding the issues that are really actually unifying. I mean, that's really the most disturbing thing. Most of the things that we can do here --


CUOMO: You have to balance that with it being a distraction from the single metric that distinguishes the United States of America from all other developed countries when it comes to gun violence. We have more guns. Access to weapons matters. And it seems like you and others on your side of the fence are going after these kids, who are survivors, in the interest of political expediency.

SANTORUM: Well, if there's anybody that's going after folks for political expediency is certainly isn't -- it certainly isn't me. I mean, I certainly respect their right to go out and --

CUOMO: Tell the kids to learn what to do, you know, learn how to deal --


CUOMO: -- like your comments, act like -- learn what to do when other people get shot around you. That's the best we can do to help you.

SANTORUM: Well, obviously -- you know, obviously, that was not the intention, and nor has it been my -- my suggestion throughout the -- throughout the course since these shootings. What I've talked about are broader things like mentoring. Programs.

CUOMO: I hear you on that. They're part of the equation. They're just not a main variable.

SANTORUM: I disagree, Chris. They are the biggest. If you look at the -- if you look at the organizations that have come up from Columbine, and Sandy Hook, they have been effective.

CUOMO: There's been a lot of --

SANTORUM: -- programs that have actually saved lives. And if you look at the facts.

CUOMO: We know what the main factor is.

SANTORUM: No, I don't agree with that. And here's the point --

CUOMO: You're missing the point, Rick. You just are. Guns matter. Access to the weapons matters.

SANTORUM: Yes. And we can have a policy debate on this. But what's happening --

CUOMO: We actually can't because we've been distracted by all of these efforts to attack the kids, and say they're not real.


CUOMO: They didn't go to the school, likening them to Nazis --

SANTORUM: Well, I disagree with that.

CUOMO: -- making fun of young women, lying about what they do. That's what people on your side of the fence were doing. And I don't hear them being called out.

SANTORUM: Well, and I condemn -- I will right here. I condemn that, too. I think, look, there's politics and hypocrisy on -- well, no, there's politics and hypocrisy on both sides of this debate.

CUOMO: Not like that --

SANTORUM: And the frustrating -- and the frustrating thing, and this is what I've been trying to get through, is that there are things that can unify us. Usually, when we have an issue of national import, and this horrific event and these horrific events at school, we can actually try at times to unite and see what we can do to work together.

CUOMO: Yes. Yes, my brother. You've got the president of the United States this morning tweeting that the Second Amendment will never be repealed. "We must have more Republican" -- who's calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment? Who's calling for it?

SANTORUM: Well, Justice Stevens did. But that --

CUOMO: He did not. It was in the context of a conversation about the fastest route to legal change. And of course, if you hadn't -- didn't have a Second Amendment, you wouldn't have Heller. It would be easier to change the laws.

He's not a politician. He's not in office. He's not the head of any kind of significant group. It's a boogeyman.

SANTORUM: He was a former -- He's a former Supreme Court justice.

CUOMO: That does not breed unity. It's a boogeyman and you know it.

SANTORUM: Look, there have been boogeymans [SIC] on both sides. And that's the point I've been trying to get to. Which is there are things that, in fact, can unify us, and what we see is demonization.

You point to the right. I would point to the left. Look at what they've done to Marco Rubio. I mean, Marco Rubio has been out there, trying to do everything he can to stop these horrific events.

CUOMO: That's not true.

SANTORUM: Engaging young people. That is true.

CUOMO: That's not true. He's doing negotiations.

SANTORUM: No, it is true.

CUOMO: He's talking about the kinds of bills. He's not working on any meaningful restriction of access.

SANTORUM: Because we --

CUOMO: He is trying to do some red flag work. That's all good and fine. But do not put Marco Rubio out there --

SANTORUM: Yes, I will.

CUOMO: -- as someone at the forefront of the most progressive ways to end these shootings.

SANTORUM: This is the problem that we have here. If you don't agree with you on a particular solution that you agree to, that somehow or another, you don't care about this. That's wrong, Chris.

CUOMO: That's your take.

SANTORUM: You can't demonize -- no, you can't demonize -- CUOMO: I'm not demonizing anybody.

SANTORUM: Yes, you are. You're saying that he doesn't care about trying to solve --

CUOMO: I never said that. I'll send you the transcript of this. You're thinking it in your head, because it's convenient.

SANTORUM: OK. OK, well, tell me what you're saying, then, Chris.

CUOMO: But it's not coming out of my mouth.

SANTORUM: Tell me what you're saying.

CUOMO: What I'm saying is access about who gets weapons and how is the fundamental question in this situation. OK? It just is. I'm not calling for a weapons ban. I'm not calling for anything. It's up to you and your ilk to figure out the answers. Access matters.

SANTORUM: Well, it's not -- I do what you do now (ph).

CUOMO: How we deal with the mentally ill, if you're talking about mass shootings, specifically.

SANTORUM: I agree with that.

CUOMO: Which is ignoring the larger problem of gun violence in this --