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CIA Director Pompeo Meets Secretly with Kim Jong-un; White House Reverses Course on New Russia Sanctions; Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies at 92. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired April 18, 2018 - 07:00   ET



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have had direct talks at extremely high levels with North Korea.

[07:00:17] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong-un.

NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: You will see that Russia's sanctions will be coming down.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's making clear that she is not confused here.

MARTY MARTINEZ, PASSENGER ON SOUTHWESTERN AIRLINES (via phone): We just heard this loud bang. The oxygen masks dropped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They said there's a hole and someone went out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We made every effort to save this woman's life.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: America mourning the loss of former first lady Barbara Bush.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was really beloved. She was a matriarch of the Republican Party.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'd walk across coals for her. I think she's immensely impressive.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CUOMO: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. We're following two major stories this morning. President Trump confirming a top-secret meeting between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Pompeo's comes ahead this meeting of President Trump expecting to meet with Kim, as well. The president said it could happen in a month or two. This is also an interesting political move, because Mike Pompeo's nomination for secretary of state is facing some serious headwinds. Will this make a difference? ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And we are remembering former first lady

Barbara Bush, who died at the age of 92 last night. In her honor, flags across the country are at half-staff this morning.

Mrs. Bush was the matriarch of one of America's biggest political dynasties and only the second woman in U.S. history to have a husband and a son elected president. She is being remembered for her quick wit, her sharp tongue and her fierce devotion to family.

But we begin our coverage with CNN's Abby Phillip. She is live in West Palm Beach with our top story. What is the latest, Abby?


Just yesterday the White House refused to confirm this reporting that Mike Pompeo had gone to North Korea to Kim Jong-un. But the president this morning confirmed it himself on Twitter.

He wrote, "Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong-un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly, and a good relationship was formed. Details of summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for world but also for North Korea."

Now, all of this is happening as there are -- there are sensitive meetings happening between the president and the Japanese prime minister on this very subject. But it seems very clear, Alisyn and Chris, that the president is leaning towards this meeting happening in the next six to eight weeks. Very, very soon.


TRUMP: We have had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels, with North Korea.

PHILLIP (voice-over): CNN has learned CIA chief Mike Pompeo met with dictator Kim Jong-un in a top-secret trip to North Korea over Eastern weekend, a source telling CNN that Pompeo, who was awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, traveled with only intelligence officials with him. "The Washington Post" reports Pompeo went as President Trump's envoy to lay the ground work for direct talks between the two leaders about North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

The white House declined to comment, but Pompeo recently spoke about the U.S.'s goals.

MIKE POMPEO, FBI DIRECTOR: I'm optimistic that the United States government can set the conditions for that appropriately so that the president and the North Korean leader could have that conversation. It will set us down the course of achieving a diplomatic outcome.

PHILLIP: During the first day of meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the president saying when that meeting might happen.

TRUMP: We'll be having meetings with Kim Jong-un very soon. It will be -- it will be taking place probably in early June or before that. Assuming things go well.

PHILLIP: But leaving the door open for the U.S. to back out if necessary.

TRUMP: It's possible things won't go well and we won't have the meetings and we will just continue to go along this very strong path we've taken. But we will see what happens.

PHILLIP: A source tells CNN one sticking point is the meeting's location. Several possibilities floated but none in the U.S.

This as the White House grapples with the in-fighting over another foreign policy snafu after the president's ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, announced a new round of sanctions against Russia would be coming in response to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria.

HALEY: He will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday.

PHILLIP: But the president's top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, later walking back that announcement, blaming Haley for the discrepancy, saying that additional sanctions were under consideration but not implemented.

KUDLOW: She got ahead of the curve. She's done a great job. She's a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.

PHILLIP: A senior White House official tells CNN President Trump was annoyed after the confusion. But Haley fired back saying, "With all due respect, I don't get confused."

[07:05:06] A source tells CNN Kudlow called Haley to apologize, telling her that the policy had changed but that she was not kept in the loop. This as "The New York Times" sheds new lighton last week's U.S.-led airstrike in Syria, highlighting a divide between President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The paper reporting that Mattis urged President Trump to get congressional approval before striking against Syria but was overruled by Mr. Trump, who wanted a rapid and dramatic response.

But the president ultimately compromising on limited airstrikes on three separate targets that lasted under two minutes.


PHILLIP: Well, this morning the Pentagon spokeswoman, Dana White, is denying the "Times'" report to CNN's Barbara Starr. She says it is simply not true.

Meanwhile, President Trump waking up here in Florida, just down the street at his Mar-a-Lago property. He teased yesterday he's likely to play golf with the Japanese prime minister today. And I think we can expect to see that just in a few hours, Alisyn and Chris. CAMEROTA: All right, Abby, keep us posted from everything that

happens down there. Thank you.

Let's discuss all of this news with CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN Politics reporter and editor at large, Chris Cillizza. So David Gregory, this secret meeting has already happened with Pompeo and Kim Jong-un. And what do you make of it, No. 1.

And No. 2, why is it leaked now? Is it to help cement Pompeo's somewhat imperiled confirmation as secretary of state?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that latter point, it seems obvious that he is in a tricky situation in the Senate for lots of reasons. And to really make it clear that he is part of a sensitive mission and a diplomatic one, I might add, may strengthen his hand in getting confirmed.

This is a -- this is a risky and very interesting approach by the administration to North Korea. I think we can look at all the appropriate cautionary signs about this. Where you give something that hasn't been earned, which is this audience with even Mike Pompeo as CIA director and paving the way for a summit with the president.

What has the North done to deserve that high-level attention. We are conferring upon this -- this regime that oppresses its people and taunts the West and taunts the South. A great deal of legitimacy. All of that, I think, is potentially dangerous, especially if it doesn't go well. But there's something kind of norm-breaking about this whole approach. which is so much hasn't worked before, which is maybe they're onto something.

And I think people are going to wait and give them some room.

CUOMO: The mandate was to do something, right, to make something happen. David's 100 percent right. Very risky. Another David, David Sanger, was on earlier in the show saying, and history says, that it's risky and potentially, probably unproductive. We remember Madeleine Albright going and meeting with Kim Jong-un's father. And what you wound up having was worse nuclear capabilities afterwards.

All that being true, Chris Cillizza, if this does go well and there is some calming down, if the U.S. role, maybe with Japan, maybe not, of helping the North and South of Korea end the armistice and create actual peace, how much of a game changer would that be for President Trump's political fate?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, I mean, be I think it would justify what has looked somewhat haphazard both in North Korea and, I think, more broadly in foreign policy and, candidly, more broadly in domestic policy.

We've gone from Little Rocket Man to secret meeting with CIA director. You know, I mean, that's -- there's a way to go. If on that Little Rocket Man tweet, and you would have told me the CIA director would equally be meeting with Kim Jong-un in advance of a likely summit between Donald Trump -- meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, I would be surprised. Donald Trump was elected promising unconventional approaches.

Now, unconventional doesn't always mean successful. But it would be a huge deal, Chris, because it would be a validation for him that, yes, lots of sort of alleged big brains say this isn't the way to do it. But I'm in the room with them. And I think I can talk to anyone and get it done. If that actually happens, as opposed to just in Donald Trump's mind, big deal.

GREGORY: And let me just disagree a little bit with Chris on this one point. This is actually one area where I think the president has been less haphazard, less impressive, Little Rocket Man notwithstanding. I didn't think tweeting like that, I think he's been given some room.

This is one area where he appears to be legitimately frightened, as any president should be, when -- in the face of something this uncertain. And I think they've given him a little room to do what he does. But he has hewed pretty carefully to a path.

The danger that you alluded to, Chris, I think, is real, which is I'll tell you, there's a great meeting. Let's say there's a deal. The North Koreans lie, and they cheat and they change their mind. So what then? Now you have gone as high as you can go, and you've run out of options quickly if that happens.

[07:10:15] CAMEROTA: But I mean --

CILLIZZA: We know, by the way -- very quickly, to David's point, we also know on our end, not on North Korea on our end, on our end, Donald Trump often hears what he wants to hear, not necessarily what is said.

CAMEROTA: Yes. Well, but I mean, as Chris was pointing out last hour, if it works, I mean, if it works. So they're rolling the dice. OK. So that's obviously what Donald Trump does.

But if it works, that's the stuff of, you know, Chris was saying Nobel Peace Prizes. And then we get a Stormy Daniels tweet from the president. I mean, this is what we were talking about.

CUOMO: He doesn't want it to be too easy.

CAMEROTA: I guess not.

CUOMO: He doesn't want you to think this matters too much to him.

CAMEROTA: Right. So on a day that people are talking about, wow, this seems to be under way, look at this diplomacy that's happening, what will it do? Will it help make Mike Pompeo indispensable? Was this a brilliant move? His tweet this morning is about Stormy Daniels that then, like, derails the conversation, Chris Cillizza.

CILLIZZA: Yes. I mean, I'm healing to the idea that the strategy is that there is no strategy. You know, I just -- I -- this makes zero sense why he would bring this up.

And putting aside the strategic piece of it, the norm-breaking of a president of the United States saying that he knows that an accuser has made up a man who harassed her is significant. I mean, you know, I don't want to lose sight of that. You know, how could he know this? I don't know is the answer. And I just think he does these things because it occurs to him to do them.

We, his administration, all try to figure out why this dot is connected to this dot, is connected to this dot. When, in effect, there may be no through line to those dots other than it occurs to Donald Trump at the moment. But for a day where we would presumably be talking a lot about this summit in -- at Mar-a-Lago and talking about North Korea and this Mike Pompeo secret visit, now we're also talking about Stormy Daniels. That's a lose [SIC] for Donald Trump. I don't see how that could be made a win.

CUOMO: Just as reminder, we pointed out because -- not because it's necessarily relevant, but it's relevant to an examination of what matters to the most powerful man in the world. And what he tweets are official statements from the president of the United States. He is not a victim, as he likes to posit. He drives the coverage. News starts at the top. He's the president of the United States.

David, please weigh in as you like. But a component also to fold into your next thought is they have to be on the same page to make this kind of gambit, pay off in North Korea. It's going to take a lot of finesse. Nikki Haley is going to be important. All right?

Now on another unrelated, basically, issue, she says sanctions are coming. Some she was told that. She had talking points. They were detailed. Something happened. The White House didn't want to move as quickly as she was. She was apparently then thrown under the bus by Larry Kudlow. Let's listen to him.


KUDLOW: She got ahead of the curve. She's done a great job. She's a very effective ambassador. There might have been some momentary confusion about that.


CAMEROTA: Can I do a dramatic reading of what she said?

CUOMO: Please.

CAMEROTA: The statement that she then put out, David: "With all due respect, I don't get confused."

GREGORY: Yes. I think her first -- I think her first statement was, "I have two words for Larry Kudlow, and they're not 'drive safely.'"

CUOMO: So they've got to be on the same page, David. And she obviously heard that somewhere. She wasn't, you know, going rogue. So you've got to be on the same page. How big a deal?

GREGORY: You know, I actually think it's not as big a deal. This actually comes across ia some bumbling, probably, on Larry Kudlow's part.

This is actually a part of the administration that's been in pretty good sync. That is Nikki Haley with the White House. There was tension with Tillerson early on. But we saw how that turned out. She's still there. He's not.

So I think they are in pretty good sync. It's like with Mattis. I mean, this is a big deal. Perhaps we'll get to it on the wanting to go to Congress on the air strikes. But they've obviously been in really good sync.

Let's remember our short-term history, and you can get back into it if you want to read the Jim Comey book about, you know, the NSA programs. I mean, the knife fights of the Bush administration over national security. I mean, that's -- that's internal tension. This just sounds like a little bit more bumbling.

And I think the point about the Stormy tweet, look, this president doesn't hew to any message discipline. That is such a conventional thought of a previous political generation that predates Trump.

And I think this area of Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, anything that goes to potential overreach in his mind by the special counsel, he is going to be untethered on that on a daily basis.

CAMEROTA: You know, Chris Cillizza, in terms of the Nikki Haley thing, these were talking points that she was following.


CAMEROTA: Putting out -- put out by the White House that the RNC then distributed.

So it's -- it's more than bumbling. I mean, this was -- they had a plan. Nikki Haley telegraphed that plan. And then Donald Trump changed the plan. And she basically says, "You know what? I'm not going to be run over by this bus. I'm going to let everybody know that I was doing the right thing."

[07:15:11] CILLIZZA: Yes, and I mean, in case people don't think that, there's a reason that Nikki Haley was booked on the Sunday shows. I mean, you know, that was not accidental. It was to roll this out, at least in part to talk about this.

Something changed. My strong sense is that Donald Trump changed it. Remember, we know from reporting over the last 48 hours or so he was not thrilled that the U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomats. He wanted to match whatever our European allies were doing. They did far fewer. He was annoyed at that.

He wants to have a good relationship with Russia. Asked whether Vladimir Putin is a friend or a foe, he said, "I don't know. We'll see. We'll know very soon." That's a contrast to his secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo, contrast to virtually every Republican in the House and the Senate, with the exception of Dana Rohrabacher in California. So there's something there. I don't think -- many of his detractors say, "Well, he's protecting Russia, and you know why." I'm not sure that we're there yet. But he quite clearly, on a number of demonstrated occasions wants to be less tough on Russia than the rest of his administration.

GREGORY: To see Russia as a legitimate threat, to see Russia as a legitimate threat to the country, he would have absorb the full extent of what they did in the 2016 election. I don't think he's willing to do that yet.

CAMEROTA: All right. David Gregory, Chris Cillizza, thank you very much.

Now to this. We're remembering America's beloved former first lady, Barbara Bush. In her family, she was called The Enforcer. And we have some cherished memories shared from two people who knew her well. That's next.


[07:20:46] CAMEROTA: Beloved former first lady Barbara Bush died last night at the age of 92. She's being remembered this morning for her unwavering devotion to her family and for elevating her favorite causes, including literacy.

Joining us now, CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel; and Kristen King Nevins, former personal aide and chief of staff to Mrs. Bush.

Jamie, I want to start with you, because you've reported on the Bush family for so long. And you've done lots of interviews with different family members, including Barbara Bush's children. So we just want to play a clip of some of what they've shared about their mom.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My mother was on the front line and expressed herself frequently. Dad, of course, was available, but he was a busy guy. And he was on the road a lot in his businesses and obviously on the road a lot when he was campaigning. And so mother was there to maintain order and discipline. She was the sergeant.

JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Well, Mom, the nickname that -- one of the many nicknames she has was The Enforcer. So there were unwritten rules. And if you violated them, she would enforce the rules and do it in a way that was pretty effective. I don't remember my dad doing that.

NEIL BUSH, SON OF BARBARA BUSH: Mom is amazing. Some he really is. She is no smart, so sharp, so aware. She's witty. She's wise. I would say it was -- her role, more important role was keeping us humble and grounded. I mean, she was a rule maker, and she did have high expectations for keeping things neat and just basic rules. And she would let us know when we hadn't met those rules.

But, you know, she would never let us think we were any different or better than others. And she was -- she just kept us grounded.


CAMEROTA: Jamie, what a testament, right, to have your sons be emotional talking about their mom with such respect.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. What better legacy could -- could you have? And I love -- so that was former president George W. Bush, Jeb Bush and son Neil Bush, all very emotional.

What I also love is hearing these men are in their 50s and 60s, still speaking with a certain trepidation. Right? You watched Jeb Bush say, "She -- it was pretty effective."

She was -- she was the boss. She was also so funny and so outspoken. And this family had really an extraordinary relationship. They were married for 73 years, George and Barbara Bush. That, in and of itself, was amazing.

And in addition to the family, she really was an essential political partner. She may have seemed more traditional, but behind the scenes, as James Baker said to me, she let everybody know exactly what was going on, what she thought of you.

CUOMO: Kristen, first of all, I'm sorry for your loss. I know that Mrs. Bush meant a lot to you. And even though you can't complain with 92 years of such a vibrant life, when she's gone it's got to hurt. So we're sorry about that for you.


CUOMO: My mother got to work with Mrs. Bush in her capacity as first lady here in New York. And she says, you know, the success of her sons, that's reflective of her greatness. It's not the other way around, that she should be known because of their greatness. They're only great because of her.

And she uses the word that she was brave. And she reminded that when people were afraid of those afflicted with HIV, that Barbara Bush did something that her political party -- it wasn't about her party. They weren't doing that. It wasn't about what was in the best interest of her husband. That's not what it was about. She went and met with kids who had the virus and hugged them and let everybody see it, because she was brave.

Does that fit with what you knew about her?

NEVINS: Absolutely. I think that she was very wise as a political spouse and understanding what topics she could wrap her arms around in a public way. And she understood exactly how to advocate for something near and dear to her heart, such as literacy, something that she would take on without any reservation of it being controversial for her husband.

[07:25:00] While quietly working behind the scenes on issues such as those with HIV and AIDS, especially in the '80s when it was such a controversial and terrifying topic to the public, because they didn't understand the reality of the disease.

And she knew -- she knew quietly she could show up. She could hold a baby. She could play with children. She could read a book to them. And she was sending a message to the public that these are still people. These are still humans. They still need to be loved. And I think that that ended up making a -- making a great impact on people. And it made her formidable in her own right. Because people understood that she was out there doing things that maybe she couldn't necessarily speak about, but her actions spoke louder than her words.

CAMEROTA: Jamie, we have a statement about how former president George H.W. Bush is doing. He is going to be turning 94 in June. Here's the statement from his chief of staff today: "He is, of course, brokenhearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years. He held her hand all day today" -- that was yesterday -- "and was at her side when she left this good earth. Obviously, this is a very challenging time, but it will not surprise all of you who know and love him, that he is also being stoic and strong, and is being lifted up by his large and supportive family. He is determined to be there for them, as well. He appreciates all the well wishes and support."

That's just really touching, you know, because as you point out, they've been married for 73 years. I mean, that alone, what a testament to marriage and their union.

GANGEL: Right. They really did have a great love affair. In addition to that, the one thing I will tell you that I saw time and time again with the Bushes, and this may seem like a small thing. But they were always laughing. They really gave each other tremendous joy. They were funny with each other.

You were talking earlier this morning about having interviewed them and how they would kid around with each other and elbow each other. They loved to tell you -- Mrs. Bush loved to tell you that he was the first person she ever kissed and the only man she ever kissed. And her children used to roll their eyes about that.

But this was an extraordinary relationship, both personally and politically. He used to tell me that she was his not-so-secret secret weapon. And we saw her out there, just beloved. Whatever your political leanings were, when she was out on the campaign trail, whether it was for her husband or one of her sons, everyone stopped to see her.

CAMEROTA: Well, Jamie Gangel and Kristen King Nevins, thank you very much for sharing your personal remembrances with us. It's so important to hear those this morning.

NEVINS: Thank you.

CUOMO: All right. Another big story this morning is this top-secret meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and C-A -- CIA director Mike Pompeo. So what does it mean? Does it mean that a summit between the United States president and Kim is imminent? What does it mean for Pompeo and his political future? Next.