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Porn Star Seeks Testimony; China Throws Curveball; Second Amendment Repeal; Pentagon to Pay for Wall; Trump Can't Find Lawyers. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired March 28, 2018 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Kim Jong-un. What happened inside the secret meeting between China and the North Korean dictator?

And a major development in the Russia investigation. The special counsel now says one of the president's top campaign officials was knowingly in touch with a Russian intelligence operative during the campaign.

But let's start with the legal wrangling surrounding the president of the United States. As the attorney for the former adult film actress Stormy Daniels wants President Trump to have his day in court. He's now filed a motion in a California court asking a judge there to order the president and his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to give depositions about the nondisclosure agreement Stormy Daniels signed. Michael Cohen paid $130,000 for that signature out of his own pocket.

Here's the statement. Quote, we are confident that after applying Supreme Court precedent from the Clinton matter, the court will order the depositions and the trial to proceed. We expect to be placing the president and his fixer under oath in the coming months, close quote.

Our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is over at the White House.

Jim,, Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, he's making a reference to the deposition given by then President Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones case back in 1998. Has there been a response from the White House on the prospects of the president, the current president, having to give a deposition in this case?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there certainly are echoes of the '90s playing out this week over here at the White House, Wolf. But as of yet, no, the White House has not responded to this prospect of the president giving a deposition in the Stormy Daniels case. I've asked various White House officials. They haven't gotten back to us yet. I suspect, Wolf, when Sarah Sanders holds the briefing coming up at 2:00, it's been pushed back from 1:30 to 2:00, that she'll be peppered with questions on that subject, mainly because, as we all know, President Clinton did have to give a deposition in the Paula Jones case and it was part of his undoing in terms of the impeachment that occurred late in his administration.

And that is obviously something that this White House wants to avoid, this president wants to avoid. But again, it underlines why there are so many people around Washington who are starting to suspect that perhaps it's the Stormy Daniels case that may be more dangerous to this president and this presidency than the Russia investigation, Wolf.

BLITZER: The White House, on a very, very different matter, Jim, as you know, is taking credit for the meeting between China's president and the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. What exactly are you hearing over there?

ACOSTA: Well, they are taking credit for it, Wolf. And it was interesting yesterday, and the last couple of days, they have not had very much to say about that suspicious train that appeared to be carrying the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, into China and back. But last night the White House confirmed that China did give the president a heads up on this, the White House a heads up on this. And the president tweeted earlier today that he was contacted, I guess, directly or indirectly by China's President Xi Jinping saying, received message last night from Xi Jinping of China that his meeting with Kim Jong-un went very well and that Kim looks forward to his meeting with me. In the meantime, and unfortunately, maximum sanctions and pressure must be maintained at all cost.

And, Wolf, there's another tweet from the president on this. I don't want to read the whole thing, but it is interesting because it indicates that the president's meeting with Kim Jong-un, at least for now, is on. He says in that other tweet that he's looking forward to that meeting. That answers one of our questions that we've had this week, which is, well, what's happening with this meeting with Kim Jong-un? We've been getting some conflicting messages from the administration as to, you know, whether there are going to be conditions and so forth for that sort of meeting to take place. But the president indicating on Twitter this morning that that meeting appears to be on at the moment.

But I think what this all underlines, and I think this will also come up during the briefing today, Wolf, and you know this, that this meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping in China really underlines just how much of a role China has in all of this. For a while there, we were all talking about the prospect of trilateral meetings, perhaps, between the U.S., South Korea, and North Korea. But as you saw with that meeting between Kim Jong-un and Xi Jinping, China may not want a seat at the table, but they certainly want to have some influence in all of this.


BLITZER: And they certainly have a lot of influence. Clearly there's no doubt about that. We'll see what happens in the scheduled April meeting between Kim Jong-un and the South Korean president and in May, presumably, if it goes forward, the meeting between Kim Jong-un and President Trump.

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: Lots happening on the Korean peninsula right now. Jim Acosta, thanks very much. We'll stand by for the White House

briefing, of course, as well.

Let's talk about all these developments. Joining us now, "Bloomberg News" White House reporter Shannon Pettypiece, CNN legal analyst Michael Zeldin, and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

You know, Gloria, let's start off with this -- it could be a spectacle. The president of the United States doing a deposition in connection with the Stormy Daniels case.

[13:05:00] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I mean remember when Bill Clinton was deposed in the Paula Jones case. That led to his downfall, as we all know, because he lied in that deposition, and that eventually led to his impeachment. And so this, as Jim was pointing out, could be more perilous for the president than even Russia because this could happen sooner.

BLITZER: If, in fact, it goes forward.

BORGER: Yes, if it goes forward.

BLITZER: What are the chances, Michael, that it will?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So this is a distinguishable case from Jones versus Clinton in this respect. The motion that was filed by Stormy Daniels' lawyer is a motion for declaratory judgment. That is, is this a contract that's valid? And, secondarily, defamation. So the judge would have to decide first whether he or she needs discovery, a deposition, in order to determine whether this is a valid contract. If the court can say on its face, this contract is valid or invalid, you may not get to a discovery stage. With respect to the defamation case, that's against Cohen only --

BORGER: Right.

ZELDIN: And not the president. So we're one step removed from knowing whether or not discovery will be ordered against the president, whether or not it's necessary for the court to resolve the issue that's before it.

BLITZER: And there's not going to be a ruling on this until the end of April. Is that right?

ZELDIN: I think that's when the hearing is set, yes.

BORGER: In California?


BORGER: In California.

BLITZER: In California.

ZELDIN: Yes. SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": Well, one case that is much closer to that discovery deposition stage is the Summer Zervos litigation.

BLITZER: That's right. She's the former celerity -- or "Apprentice" contestant who's also filed a lawsuit.


ZELDIN: That's right. And that's -- that's the more damaging of the cases.

PETTYPIECE: Yes, And I think that one doesn't get -- it doesn't have the salacious details. There is no porn star involved. Just a reality TV star. But, yes, I mean, it's not as salacious. But, yes, the lawyers I've been talking to say the same thing, that that one is the one to watch because it's much more further along. And the likelihood of us getting to discovery and getting to a deposition is much closer for sure.

BORGER: And she already lost one round in it.


BORGER: And so he's -- there's another, you know, there's another --

PETTYPIECE: It looks like it's going forward. I'm sure his lawyers will fight to try and stop it as much as they can.

BORGER: Right. And the Paula Jones case was cited as the precedent in that case, saying that no one is above the law.


ZELDIN: And that's right. And add to that the fact that in the Summer Zervos case, it's an unwanted touching, whereas Stormy Daniels --

PETTYPIECE: Consensual, yes.

ZELDIN: And McDougal are consensual relationships. This is groping and it's defamation.


ZELDIN: And that will definitely lead to a deposition if the court of appeals affirms the trial court's decision.

BLITZER: So he's got a lot of legal issues, the president of the United States, Gloria, with Robert Mueller's Russia probe, a lot of legal questions there. He's got a lot of legal questions with these three women who are now bringing forward these cases. But his legal team seems to be in disarray. His private legal team, as well as his White House counsel's office.

BORGER: Well, look, they -- they - John Dowd resigned abruptly as the -- one of the lead attorneys in the Russia investigation. Publicly and abruptly. And a lot of lawyers who worked with him are upset about it because they obviously think it didn't do the president any good.

But the reason he resigned was because he had a bad client, and the client wasn't taking his advice. And the client wanted to bring in Joe diGenova, who now has not been brought into the case for the reason John Dowd objected to it, which was that he was conflicted because he and his wife represented other people who might be witnesses in the Russia investigation.

So they are searching for attorneys. They have been turned down by many. And, you know, I was just told, like, we're in no rush. We don't necessarily need somebody from a huge law firm or whatever. We're taking our time. That we are still in discussions with the special counsel about Trump testifying. Those have not gone off the rails because Jay Sekulow, another presidential attorney, has been involved in them and will continue to be involved in them.

So they're down playing it. But it's kind of astonishing to me that in Washington, D.C., of all places --

PETTYPIECE: Oh, yes. And, I mean, as many great things as people can say about Jay Sekulow, a constitutional lawyer who has argued multiple times in front of the Supreme Court, sure, there's a constitutional element to this case about the executive privileges and powers of the president, but this is also a criminal case. And is a constitutional lawyer going to be sitting next to you during an interview with Mueller or a grand jury -- well, there won't be anyone next to him at a grand jury testimony if it gets to that point, but is a constitutional lawyer going to be the one next to you helping you navigate all these questions about your business dealings, about what happened at what meeting on what date, about obstruction of justice? Those issues still remain, even if they want to portray this as a constitutional case.

BLITZER: And on top of all of this, and, Michael, I'm anxious to get your thoughts on this. There's a major development in the Mueller Russia probe with word now that Rick Gates, who was the deputy campaign manager for the Trump campaign, all of a sudden there's word that during the campaign he was actually meeting with an individual the U.S. suspected of being -- of having connections to Russian intelligence.

[131:10:08] ZELDIN: That's right. The report is that in the September/October 2016 period, Gates was meeting with the head of the Manafort -- it's called I think Davis Manafort Limited, the Kiev office of Paul Manafort, who is reported to have ties to Russian military intelligence, and they were meeting during this time period.

Now, it's also important to remember that right before these meetings, Manafort was meeting with him as well, and they were discussing the DNC hacked e-mails. They've got this DNC hacked e-mail conversation in October. You've got September and October meetings with Gates and this Russian intelligence officer. This Russian intelligence officer is also tied closely to the aluminum magnet who is tied to Putin, who Manafort is doing business with, who is owed some money. So you've got this incredible circle of people that --


ZELDIN: That's right. That's right, you need a --

BLITZER: Manafort has pleaded not guilty, but Gates has already pleaded guilty. He's cooperating in this investigation.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And it presume could result in some sort of collusion.

BORGER: Right. And, by the way, and this just got kind of dropped out there, right?

ZELDIN: Right.


BORGER: It's very interesting to me the way this special counsel, their team, just dropped this out there. Was it in sort of relation to what -- how it affects Manafort or how it affects Gates? I mean what's the reason --

ZELDIN: Well -- so that's -- you're absolutely right. In the sentencing memorandum --


ZELDIN: Of van der Zwaan, the lawyer from (INAUDIBLE) who worked on that supposedly independent report, he told Mueller, van der Zwaan did, during his interview that, by the way, Gates was meeting with this Russian intelligence officer. And just in the sentencing memorandum, Mueller and team decides to put that in there.


ZELDIN: And none of these things --

PETTYPIECE: You're like, are they signaling, are they messaging to someone that they know something?

ZELDIN: Right, so none of these things are done accidentally.

BLITZER: Yes, no.

ZELDIN: And so there's a -- there is a message that's being sent.

BLITZER: All right, very quickly.

BORGER: Right, bread crumbs.

PETTYPIECE: Well, I know there are so many characters in this. It is like a Tolstoy novel.

But Richard Gates, I think, is very important. If Paul Manafort's Batman, he's Robin. And when it turned out that he was cooperating, a lot of people's jaws dropped in this circle that he would turn on Manafort. And he is also connected to one of Trump's closest friends, Tom Barrack (ph), who he was working for at the time of this arrest. So I think he's a very important person to watch.

BLITZER: And clearly the Robert Mueller team is sending a message with this disclosure buried inside this other issue.

BORGER: That's right.

ZELDIN: And I would say, Wolf, mostly they're sending it to Manafort, which is saying, you've got to cooperate.

BLITZER: Well, he's still refusing to cooperate, as we know.

Everybody stick around.

There's more news we're following. The president says no way the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, he says, it will ever be repealed after a former U.S. Supreme Court justice has called for just that.

Plus, forget Mexico. CNN has new reporting on who the president of the United States says could pay for his long-promised border wall and the potential roadblocks ahead in Congress.

Plus, is the president gearing up for a war with Amazon? We have details on the new report that has the stock plummeting.


[13:17:27] BLITZER: President Trump is using the Second Amendment to the Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms, as a rallying cry for conservatives. The president tweeting earlier today, quote, the Second Amendment will never be repealed. As much as Democrats would like to see this happen and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, no way. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must always hold the Supreme Court, closed quote.

The president is referring to this opinion piece from the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. In it, Stevens argues for repealing the Second Amendment. He says it would give lobbying groups like the NRA less power and allow the government to better reform gun control.

Let's discuss this and more with Democratic Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: Thank you, Wolf. Nice to be with you.

BLITZER: Do you think the Second Amendment to the Constitution should be repealed?

COHEN: We need better Supreme Court judges who can interpret the Second Amendment in a way that is in keeping with what the American people want. You know, I think that there's a right to bear arms, of individuals to protect their homes, and I passed a right to carry bill when I was a state senator because people ought to have a right to protect their home. But there are reasonable restrictions that can be placed on the purchase of weapons, like AR-15s and AK-47s. And that's been the case through history. Sawed off shotguns were not allowed since 1938. And even in the Heller decision of 2008, which was awful in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said that there could be restrictions.

So, no, I think the Supreme Court needs better justices who interpret the Second Amendment and the way it should be interpreted, which is kind of what Justice Stevens says, it was for a well-regulated militia. But it won't be repealed and it's a political issue. This is one place where President Trump is right about the law. And, you know, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while.

BLITZER: Let me ask you about another sensitive issue now, the president's plan to build a wall along the southern border with Mexico. CNN is reporting that the president has actually been talking privately in recent days about using the U.S. military budget to pay for the wall. He's even floated the idea to the House Speaker Paul Ryan. This would -- move, though, would require congressional approval. Do you think that's something that the president could get, use military funds because it's a defense, national security issue, to build that wall?

COHEN: It's a national security issue only in that it may be necessary to keep the president psychologically balanced. He seems to be obsessed with this wall, and he may be losing a certain amount of psychological balance, which we need to have in a president.

[13:20:13] The Congress would have to approve that funding. I think the House might do it. I don't think the Senate will. It needs 60 votes. Nowhere would they be able to get it. There's no basis in science, in fact, in study, and certainly even in military, no way does anybody sees that as a necessary wall to protect us from the inflow of immigration -- from illegal immigration from Mexico or drugs. The drug folks tunnel under and do a good job of it, and the immigration has been reduced and is the lowest it's ever been. So I don't think that that makes sense. I don't think it would pass the Senate. And I'm not sure it would pass the House.

BLITZER: Well, as you know, a lot of your Democratic colleagues were ready to support the funding, maybe $20 billion or $25 billion, for the wall if it also resulted, at the same time, in allowing the dreamers, maybe 2 million or so, to stay here in the United States legally and have an eventual pathway to citizenship. That all collapsed, those negotiations, as you know. But would you be willing to fund the wall in exchange for allowing the dreamers a legal pathway to citizenship?

COHEN: The dreamers should have a legal pathway to citizenship. They had one under President Obama. President Trump stopped it by rescinding that order, executive order, and he put them in jeopardy. Now he's using them as hostages.

I would not want to pay that price and throw away that much money, but I would not want to jeopardize the dreamers who are here without any volition of their own and have proven to be good citizens. So we'll see where it comes to. My vote won't be the vote that would stop it, but I certainly won't get on the bandwagon to allow a hostage taker to get his ransom.

BLITZER: All right, let's talk about the Russia investigation right now. CNN has learned that at least five law firms have declined to represent the president. Why do you think these attorneys are so hesitant to get involved and actually help him in his legal related issues?

COHEN: Everybody who's gotten involved -- not everybody, but most people who have gotten involved with Trump have come away with a stain. People in the Congress who he was going to nominate ended up getting in trouble or they -- other things were exposed. People went over there, like Mr. Dowd, and they left because they couldn't work with the president.

The president is not a good client for a lawyer. He is unpredictable. He doesn't listen to advice. He thinks he is the source of all knowledge and he wants to direct everything. So it's difficult for him to get a lawyer who will possibly stain their reputation because of the difficulty of dealing with a client. No lawyer would recommend him go into a hearing with -- a deposition or an interview with Robert Mueller, yet he says he wants to do it.

I hope he does it. That'd be great. And if he's innocent, maybe he should. If he has nothing to hide, he shouldn't be trying to stop the Mueller investigation. He shouldn't be trying to put a straitjacket on Mueller. And he shouldn't be trying to keep the American people from knowing about relationships he might have had with Russia or Mr. Gates or Mr. Papadopoulos or Mr. Manafort or any of the other folks who were so close to Russia that he was involved -- had involved in his campaign.

BLITZER: Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks for joining us.

COHEN: Good Pesach, happy Easter to all of your viewers. And, you know, this is the Martin Luther King 50th anniversary of his assassination in Memphis. And it's an important time to renew our commitment to Dr. King's dream.

BLITZER: We'll have extensive coverage of that coming up in April as well.

Thanks so much for joining us. Same to you.

COHEN: You're welcome, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, a secret meeting between Kim Jong-un and China's Xi Jinping is highlighting a major diplomatic challenge confronting President Trump just ahead of his own now scheduled, not specifically scheduled, but expected face-to-face meeting with the North Korean leader. All of this as we await a White House briefing. You're looking at live pictures. Reporters haven't assembled yet. They will be very soon. We'll, of course, have live coverage. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:28:20] BLITZER: What was an unannounced visit is now making headlines around the world. The secret meeting between North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un and the Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a powerful message to President Trump, China is back on North Korea's side. The news of these talks comes right before a major announcement of a trade deal between the United States and South Korea.

So what does all this mean?

Let's bring in Elizabeth Sherwood Randall. She's a former Obama White House coordinator for defense policy and weapons of mass destruction. She also served as National Security Council director on Europe, NATO, and the European Union.

Elizabeth, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's talk about this very important visit by Kim Jong-un to Beijing. The trip seemed to end some years of strained ties between the two countries. Aside from bridging the gap somewhat, what do you think these two leaders accomplished?

ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDALL, FORMER OBAMA WHITE HOUSE COORDINATOR FOR DEFENSE POLICY AND WMD: It's very important that China be in the game, of course, because China has influence over the North Koreans, particularly with respect to keeping their struggling economy afloat. But the reality is that China is playing chess, not checkers here, and we have to be aware that China's interests don't entirely align with the interests of the United States. So China doesn't necessarily want to keep America in the region and has every reason, therefore, to want to advance an agreement that might put pressure on us to retreat from our commitment to Asia. That would not be in the American national security interests. We have many interests in Asia, many allies, and we're there for the long term.

BLITZER: Earlier, the president tweeted this, quote, for years and through many administrations everyone said that peace and the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was not even a small possibility. Now there's a good chance that Kim Jong-un will do what is right for his people and for humanity. Look forward to our meeting.