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Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies at 92; CIA Director Pompeo Secretly Met with North Korean Leader. Aired 6-6:29a ET

Aired April 18, 2018 - 06:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

[05:59:27] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Wednesday, April 18, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we do begin with breaking news for you.

The matriarch of one of America's great political dynasties has died. Former first lady Barbara Bush, only the second woman in U.S. history to have a husband and a son elected president.

She died Tuesday at the end of 92. Today she is being remembered for her quick wit, her sharp tongue and her fierce devotion to family. Mrs. Bush and former President George H.W. Bush were married for 73 years.

She's also being remembered for her causes of literacy and fighting cancer.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Our other top story is, did you know that the CIA director went to Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong-un? Well, that's exactly what reportedly happened. Mike Pompeo in a top-secret meeting with the North Korean dictator, setting the stage for a meeting between the president of the United States and Kim some time months from now.

Also, Pompeo making a strong play with senators to confirm him in his new role of secretary of state.

But first let's start with the passing of Barbara Bush. Wolf Blitzer looks back at a remarkable life and a legacy of service to others.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: America loves Barbara Bush.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Barbara Bush was the woman behind two U.S. presidents. The wife of one, the mother of another. Barbara Pierce was born in Queens, New York on June 8, 1925. She grew up in suburban New York. At a Connecticut country club dance, she met a young man who would change her life, George Herbert Walker Bush.

BARBARA BUSH, FORMER FIRST LADY: I was square all through high school. I just tried to do the best I could. I was the -- I married the first man I ever kissed. You talk about a bore. I am the world's worst.

BLITZER: George Bush focused on building an oil business. Barbara Bush focused on building a family. George Bush eventually entered a life of public service, and while Barbara's candor might not have made a good match for his job as CIA director --

B. BUSH: That's because I can't keep a secret.

BLITZER: -- her charm was a definite asset to her husband's political career.

B. BUSH: Find the joy in life, because as Ferris Buehler said on his day off, life moves pretty fast, and if you don't stop and look around for a while, you're going to miss it.

BLITZER: George Bush served two terms in Congress, and in 1980 was elected as Ronald Reagan's vice president. Eight years later, he sat in the Oval Office.

Barbara Bush loved living in the White House, keeping diaries of her time there and using them to help write her memoirs. Two other books showed her lighter side and a dog's eye view of the executive mansion.

B. BUSH: I must tell you --

BLITZER: Mrs. Bush knew well her vision of a first lady's role.

B. BUSH: I think the person who has the courage to run for the office is the one you should hear, not the wife or the husband. Having said that, of course, I told George how I felt.

BLITZER: For George and Barbara, their more than 60 years together included decades of devotion. This letter to her written by George while he was serving in World War II.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I love you, precious, with all my heart, and to know that you love me means my life. How often I have thought about the immeasurable joy that will be ours someday. How lucky our children will be to have a mother like you.

BLITZER: Two of those children -- George W. and Jeb -- would solidify the Bush political dynasty as president and Florida governor. But in a surprising comment in 2013, as talk of a presidential run by Jeb swirled, the matriarch told NBC's "Today Show" there should be a limit on the family's White House claim.

B. BUSH: There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we've had enough Bushes.

BLITZER: But after Jeb did decide to run for the 2016 Republican nomination, she fully backed him and hit the campaign trail.

B. BUSH: He's decent and honest. He's everything we need in a president.

BLITZER: In or out of politics, the legacy Barbara Bush nurtured will live on through her family, children, and grandchildren.

B. BUSH: I know that I'm the world's luckiest woman. I think if I sort of put it in a nutshell, these are the things that are important to me. Faith, family, and friends.


CAMEROTA: All right. Let's bring in CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel and CNN contributor and author of "First Women," Kate Brower. Nice to see both of you ladies on this day.


CAMEROTA: Wow. I mean, to look back at Barbara Bush and how -- how strong she was, how authentic she was always. You know, she was always herself. Jamie, I know that you had reported on her and interviewed so many in the Bush family. Share your impressions of her with us.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So you just used the word "authentic." And it's a word we use a lot these days. But she really was. She was the real deal.

Her children called her The Enforcer, because she was very tough. She really did think she was the luckiest person alive. She and her husband were married for 73 years, the longest in presidential history.

And I think the other thing that Wolf said in -- in his piece was she really did love being in the White House. And she used that platform to -- literacy wasn't just a cause for her. It was a passion. Her son Neil had dyslexia. Reading meant a lot to her. And I don't know if people realized this. The Bushes, in the years after the White House, they didn't just walk the walk and talked the talk, they did it. They raised together more than $1 billion for charity.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

GANGEL: Literacy, for cancer research, for volunteerism. She was the real deal.

CUOMO: You know, Kate, here in New York, people are going to be surprised that Barbara Bush, born in Queens, and raised up in Rye in New York. My mother, when she passed, Barbara Bush, my mother said, "Hey, don't just make her about her husband and her son. They reflected her success, not vice versa."

And she reminded me of something I had forgotten. In the '80s when people still believed you could get AIDS by contact, Barbara Bush went and held babies with AIDS, sending such a powerful message that was not comfortable for people politically. And my mother says that, in talking with her, that's what she was about. She did not believe in politics as an end, just a means. If something was right, she was going to do it. And that's something that has to be reminded in this moment now as we kind of try to capture what she was about. No? BROWER: Absolutely. And I think that moment in 1989 when she went to Grandma's House here in D.C. and hugged babies living with HIV virus. We forget now. I mean, back then there was this myth that you could -- you could -- it was contagious simply by touching. And so that simple photograph. She -- she changed a lot of people's lives with that. And I think that goes to her compassion and her understanding of the position that she was in.

And I think another thing is, you know, she -- she wore a pair of $29 shoes to the inaugural balls for her husband. She was very down-to- earth. She wanted to travel in a smaller limousine. She wanted to fly commercial even though she was told she couldn't. So even though she had this patrician background, she was actually very relatable. And I think that's one of the legacies she will leave behind as first lady.

CAMEROTA: Jamie, I want to talk about their marriage. OK? Seventy- three years. In August of 1999, I had the honor of interviewing them both at Kennebunkport. They sat next to each other, and I was struck by their repartee. You know, they had this whole series of jokes that they made with each other. They kind of teased each other. I joked with them that they were Mr. and Mrs. Bickerson. But it was clear that it was their schtick, OK? That they really loved each other. They had fallen into, whatever, or perfected this shtick of kind of teasing each other.

Tell me what you noticed about their long union.

GANGEL: Let me guess, you saw them elbowing each other a lot when they were talking.


GANGEL: So keep in mind that Barbara Bush was 16 years old when she met him at that dance. But it really was a love affair. And they were very, very close. They laughed a lot. That part was genuine. They weren't putting that on for you.

And I'll tell you a story I don't think I've ever told before. I was with Mrs. Bush once up in Kennebunkport. President Bush had not arrived yet. And I'm guessing she was in her late 70s or early 80s. And he heard his car pulling up outside. And she went over to the hallway. There was a little mirror in the front hall. And right before he came in, she took her hands and she pinched her cheeks to make them rosy for him. That was in the 80s, in her 80s. She still cared for him that much.

He was the first person she only kissed. She claims he was only person she ever kissed. She says her children used to roll their eyes about it. But I think that they had a genuine love affair and also that she was an essential political partner. People think of her as a traditional first lady. But behind the scenes she really did give him advice. And everyone around him will tell you that she was always watching out for him.

CUOMO: Look, you know, the more we examine strong presidency, we see that that is the rule more than it is the exception.

GANGEL: Right.

CUOMO: That, you know, the spouse is so important. Jamie, let me stay with you one second. The idea of what she put into her kids, we always heard that. You know, sons, you know, obviously want to talk -- every child wants to talk well about their parents. But they say that this was more true than usual. That she didn't groom them to be politicians, but character mattered to her. Even when she came out and talked about Trump during the last election, it was seen as this is a point of conviction for her. She's just speaking her mind. She doesn't care about the politics of it.

[06:10:12] How did she impress that on her kids? What do we know about that?

GANGEL: She was very strict. Surprise, surprise. I mean, if you go up to their house up in Kennebunkport and you go into a bathroom, there -- there's a piece of paper with a list of rules about picking up your towel and making your bed. And she was a task master, and she let them know.

I was laughing, because we were listening to some tape of her sons, who are now in their 60s, talking about her still with a certain trepidation in their voice about how "She let us know." I mean, there is a reason, Chris, that her nickname is "The Enforcer."

CAMEROTA: Jamie Gangel, Kate Brower, thank you both very much for your reflections. Obviously, we will be covering this throughout the morning.

BROWER: Thank you.

CUOMO: Boy, oh, boy. And I really do hope that, as people remember her loss today, that you remember what she did, what she was about. Yes, just she and Abigail Adams were married to one president and had a son who was another. But that is the least of what should be remembered about her in her legacy.

Our best to her family in this time right now.

All right. Let's talk about our other big story this morning. Top- secret meeting between the U.S. and North Korea. CIA Director Mike Pompeo traveling to Pyongyang, meeting with dictator Kim Jong-un over the Easter weekend. The news unfolding as President Trump is supposedly preparing to meet with Kim. And the president says it will be soon.

CNN's Abby Phillip is live in West Palm Beach. There's another big diplomatic act going on there right now, Abby.


The intrigue around this potential visit and meeting with Kim Jong-un only grows by the day. Yesterday President Trump was going back and forth, answering a series

on of questions from reporters about what level of talks have been had between his administration and the Un regime. And then later we learned, first reported by the "Washington Post," but CNN has confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, did travel to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong-un in a secret meeting Easter weekend. That meeting was carried out without officials from the White House or the State Department.

But it signals one, first of all, the seriousness that the White House is taking of the potential of this meeting. And secondly, Mike Pompeo is a close adviser of the president. It sends a strong signal to the North Koreans that President Trump is deeply engaged in this process.

Now, there are still some sticking points, particularly where exactly such a summit between President Trump and Un would be held. There -- as far as our sources are concerned, there are no locations in the United States being considered. But several others are being considered around the world, including in the demilitarized zone.

But this comes at a time when President Trump is sitting down with the Japanese president, Shinzo Abe, this week to hammer out what exactly the objectives are going to be, both for the United States and as far as Japan is concerned when it comes to security.

And also, the South Koreans are about to engage with North Korea on -- on peace talks. President Trump said yesterday that he would give the blessing for peace talks.

But I want you to listen to what President Trump is saying about the level of talks that the United States is having with North Korea right now. Take a listen to what he said yesterday.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've also started talking to North Korea directly. We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea. And I really believe there's a lot of good will, a lot of good things are happening. We'll see what happens. As I always say, we'll see what happens.


PHILLIP: "We'll see what happens." But the president is also saying he wants this done by the end of May, early June. So it's really coming up very soon, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby, thank you very much for all of that.

So now that those direct talks with the North Korean leader have reportedly already taken place, what does it mean for that summit that Abby is talking about between Kim Jong-un and the president? What happened in the previous meeting? We dig in on all of that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [06:18:10] CAMEROTA: All right. Big news today. The U.S. and North Korea have already held high-level talks. Sources confirm to CNN that CIA Director Mike Pompeo met one on one with Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang this March.

So let's bring in CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger.

David, let me start with you. What do you make of this news that it was -- they had this secret meeting, it's already happened?

DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It's pretty bold. And I'd have to -- kudos to "The Washington Post." It was a really great scoop for them.

And I'd say that this tells you two things. The first is that Kim Jong-un is actually pretty serious about making this meeting happen and making it somewhat successful.

And the second thing it tells you is that President Trump is willing to trust Mike Pompeo, his nominee for secretary of state, in a way I don't think he ever would have sort of trusted Rex Tillerson to go off and do this. And if you're CIA director, which Pompeo still is, you can slip out of the country quietly.

Before you get too excited, remember that Kim Jong-un's father met Madeleine Albright when she was secretary of state. People were similarly excited. And of course, what we got out of that was a full- fledged nuclear weapons program.

CUOMO: All right. But let's play with this a little bit. If it happens, OK, and if the armistice were converted into some kind of peace, how big a game changer would this be for President Trump going into his election?

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It would be a significant game changer for the world. Whether it translates into domestic politics, that's TBD. But the armistice has been in place for 65 years. This is high drama that Mike Pompeo -- Pompeo, CIA director, secretary of state designate -- sneaks out of the country over Easter weekend to meet with Kim.

It looks like the meeting is going forward. It's high-stakes. There's the danger that Donald Trump gets rolled. But already, Abe over the week -- over the last couple days has given Trump credit for changing the calculus in the region.

[06:20:07] CUOMO: Called him brave.

AVLON: And that's a significant thing. So I think this is something where Trump, his toughness could lead to real breakthroughs. And that would be a signature move. That would be something very real he could say he's accomplished as president, changing the calculus by wielding a big stick.

CUOMO: Arguably, it could be Peace Prize kind of stuff. I just think it would be such an interesting curve ball --

AVLON: You're floating the Donald Trump Peace Prize. I was waiting for you to do that.

CUOMO: -- into the political calculus.

David, I'll bounce it back to you on that idea. That, you know, if North and South Korea finalize actual peace at the urging of the United States or as a relevant party, and he meets with Kim Jong-un and there's any kind of concession of any kind, I mean, would -- that would really change the political calculus, I think, in this country. Am I wrong?

SANGER: I think that it could be a huge breakthrough if it happened. I guess I've covered enough of these, Chris, to know that North and South headed down the road toward a peace agreement in 1992. They agreed to denuclearize the entire Korean Peninsula. It didn't come together. There have been other moments where that's happened.

Now, that said, if President Trump, because of his unpredictability, because of his threats to the North, has actually made Kim Jong-un recalculate here the value of his nuclear weapons, that would be a huge breakthrough and could well be, as you say, Peace Prize kind of thing.

AVLON: And also, though, not only the prospect of face-to-face meetings with the president, which are historic, but the president -- the presence of President Moon in South Korea. That's also something that changes facts on the ground. He is someone very interested in kind of a confederation and even possibly a reunification on the Korean Peninsula. So that's a game changer, too, that helped set the conditions. So between Moon and Trump, you may have that sort of carrot-stick combo that may dislodge what's been an intractable problem for the world and the region for a long time.

CAMEROTA: John, let's talk about the political repercussions of all this. First of all, very interesting to know that a secret can be kept in this administration.

AVLON: How about that?

CAMEROTA: And it matters. This didn't leak out. OK? So that tells you something about when people really want something out that they're leaking or when they think that it is national security and they protect it. It also begs the question of why now is this coming out. Does it have something to do with Mike Pompeo's somewhat imperiled nomination process to become secretary of state? Has this been leaked out intentionally to show how important he is?

AVLON: I think "The Washington Post" reporters got the story. They didn't necessarily want it out. But you're exactly right. What we found out yesterday is that three people on the committee, three senators on the committee are going to vote against Mike Pompeo. That's a problem. Rand Paul, Tim Kaine, and Jeanne Shaheen from New Hampshire. That means that McConnell's going to have to pull a really

extraordinary legislative maneuver to get Pompeo to the full Senate, where it's expected to pass. But a committee hasn't rejected a secretary of state nominee since 1925.

Maybe it does strengthen his hand. It does show an ability to keep secrets, presumably a plus in a CIA director. But this -- this nomination is a little more imperiled than people might have thought.

CUOMO: But McConnell can do it.

AVLON: Absolutely.

CUOMO: He could put it on the floor. The nomination, just to be clear, is secure. The confirmation is what there's going to be a question about. McConnell said, David Sanger, that he won't put any vote to protect Mueller on the floor, but he can put this vote on the floor. We'll see what he does.

Let me ask you something else. Nikki Haley comes out. It seems like she knew what she was talking about. She had detailed talking points about sanctions on on Russia.

CAMEROTA: From the White House, by the way.

CUOMO: She didn't say, "Well, I think they're coming." There was nothing speculative about it. It was just about timing.

Then they come out and say she was confused, Kudlow says. He then had to go and apologize to her. She put out a statement saying, "I don't get confused."

What's the plus/minus on that situation?

SANGER: This was pretty much all minus for the White House. It's very clear that Nikki Haley sat in meetings where they discussed the next set of sanctions on Russia.

And it's equally clear that the president, who's never liked the idea of sanctions on Russia and who was unhappy about the size of the expulsion of Russian diplomats who were mostly spies, put the -- put the kibosh on this thing. He basically said, "We're not going to do another round." And nobody told her when she went out on the Sunday shows.

I thought she came back very strong, and you saw that Larry Kudlow -- that had to call and apologize to her.

AVLON: But that's not Nikki Haley being confused. That's Nikki Haley being thrown under the bus by the White House.


AVLON: Because the president refused to follow through on something that had been agreed upon. Yes, it's evidence of the deeper divide we've seen in this administration between the national security apparatus and this president.

CAMEROTA: But it doesn't always blow up in public the way this did.

AVLON: It really blew up in public. Remember, Friday night, there's Donald Trump, you know, really sounding tough: "We'll use all the power at our disposal, economic, military diplomatic." These had been planned. And then the president apparently blew up, afraid maybe it was pushed too -- Russia too far. So it speaks not only to that deeper divide but why the president really wants to pull a punch when it comes to Russia.

[06:25:07] CUOMO: It still comes down to what they do or what they don't do.

So then on that -- on that idea of whom controls what kinds of decisions, we now understand, David Sanger, that Mattis, even though he gave Tulsi Gabbert a hard time and Tulsi Gabbert said, "Don't you need Congressional approval for any action?"

He was like, "Well, there's a lot of precedent of you guys in Congress letting presidents do what they need to do in these situations."

We now understand that he was singing a little bit different tune with the president. He was saying, "You should go to Congress. You need a marriage of military expectations and popular sentiment, which you get through Congress." And that President Trump rejected that notion, and it didn't happen. What's the meaning of that to you?

SANGER: Well, you know, this is a case where the Constitution is pretty clear using the authorization to use military force, which was rushed through right after 9/11 and was really intended to go deal with al Qaeda, as a reason to be able to go after Bashar al-Assad and his chemical weapons supplies, I think was pretty thin. And Secretary Mattis recognized this.

And this is a president who does not want to hear that he's got to give up what he views as his own rights as commander in chief to -- in order to consult Congress.

And, you know, I think there will be other presidents, including some Democratic presidents we can think of, who also wanted to go be able to conduct quick strikes like this and say, "We simply don't have time to do Congress."

CAMEROTA: All right. David Sanger, John Avlon, thank you very much.

So now to this story. A Southwest Airlines passenger was killed after nearly being sucked out of the plane's window. What went wrong aboard this flight? We have the latest on the investigation for you.