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North & South Korean Leaders Agree to Denuclearize Peninsula, End Korean War; Trump's Interviews, Tweets May Hurt Him Legally; Russian Attorney at Trump Tower Meeting Says She's "Informant"; Pompeo's Strong Warning on Iran Nuclear Deal; Awaiting Trump/Merkel Joint News Conference. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 27, 2018 - 13:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:30:00] MAX BAUCUS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: I think it's important also for us to remember that China's interest in the United States and South Korea is aligned with trying to get North Korea demilitarized totally or freeze. It comes down to verification, to trust, and trust will only occur if we can be very clear that we have almost total and complete verification of what North Korea is or not doing about denuclearizing.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Balbina, a point the ambassador made is there's a point where there appears to be a lot of distance, still, between the parties, because when the U.S. says denuclearize, Trump has said this, that means no nuclear weapons whatsoever. The North Korean impression, is it not, and I think even China's, is because being a freeze or a limitation but not an elimination.

BALBINA HWANG, VISITING PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY & FORMER SENIOR SPECIAL ADVISOR, STATE DEPARTMENT: Oh, this has been fundamentally the problem going all the way back for decades. It's partisan politics about blaming this administration and that administration, about who has done the wrong kind of negotiation. Look, every administration has tried their best. It's really been a very hard process and they all deserve credit for really trying their best.

The point here is, and this is exactly the show that was put on, is that the two Koreas, what they were showing by that show of stepping over the line this way and that way, this is to show that nobody else was in control and that China and United States are not in control, that the two Koreas are succeeding in the process, that this is about the two Koreas and they are going to drive the peace process. That was written into the declaration in 1972, in 1991, 1992, the 2000 declaration, and in this one. I think that's what President Moon has signed and that's what he's going to bring when he meets with President Trump, and that's what he wants President Trump to meet to Kim Jong-Un when they meet.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. Great point.

Balbina Hwang, Ambassador Max Baucus, thank you very much for walking us through that.

HWANG: Thank you. BAUCUS: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, the president's own words again haunting him, politically and legally. This time, his wild television interview making its way into the courtroom in the criminal investigation involving his long-time personal lawyer.

The president will answer questions from reporters at any time now and we'll bring that to you live right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:36:45] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. As we await the president's joint conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, sources within the administration have been detailing his frustration and anger behind the scenes this week regarding, of course, the investigation into is his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. The president publicly unleashing that fury during a wild phone interview with FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FOX ANCHOR: How much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction. But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me, like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal, he represented me. And from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: But as the president downplayed his relationship with Cohen, federal prosecutors were watching that interview, apparently, and taking notes.

CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, is joining me on this.

Chris, it's not the first time we've seen this where the president makes these public comments that have legal consequences.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Exactly. That was that interview with FOX News. Donald Trump, a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work talking about Michael Cohen. Here's the problem. The lawyers who were defending the FBI raid, they said, well, wait a minute. Michael Cohen wants millions of documents protected by attorney-client privilege. If it only a tiny, tiny amount of work that Donald Trump did, there's no way he gets privilege. Whoops. Donald Trump's ostensible reason for firing Jim Comey was that Rod Rosenstein memo that said Comey did all sorts of wrong things during the campaign, Hillary Clinton, et cetera, et cetera.

Well, we have two examples where that is problematic. One, that NBC interview with Lester Holt where Comey said I was going to fire him regardless of the memo. And this tweet, and wording matters, where he said, "I had to fire General Flynn -- and we're talking about General Flynn in this case -- "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the vice president and the FBI." Here's the problem. At that moment, Donald Trump would have had no knowledge that Michael Flynn lied to the FBI. Or he shouldn't have had any knowledge that he lied to the FBI. Now, later John Dowd, who was Donald Trump's attorney at the time, said, I actually wrote it, Donald Trump didn't. OK, next one.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CILLIZZA: OK, Donald Trump during the campaign, you heard this language a lot, "A total and complete shutdown of Muslims in the United States, the only way we can do this." Talking about it's the only way we can do it. Obviously, his travel ban, number three, is being litigated in the courts. One argument being made against it was he said it was a complete travel ban against Muslims. Can you discriminate against an entire amnesty religious group or not? Trump says, this isn't a Muslim ban because hits only one of 10 of the largest Muslim countries in the world. Well, his language here as come up in the proceedings.

I think we have one more. Yes, DACA. Donald Trump's -- ostensibly, he says he has an issue with DACA, that Trump should have never signed it, they're getting rid of it, and they were going to replace it with something better. The problem is tweets and other comments like this, the Democrats were told and fully understand that there can be no DACA, and this is the important part, "Without the desperately needed wall at the Southern border." So a judge has allowed DACA recipients to continue to receive benefits and continue on, based on tweets and comments like this. He says, this is not a policy disagreement, this is a political pro quo quid or a tradeoff with Trump. You get DACA, I get the border wall, and that makes it problematic.

(CROSSTALK)

[13:40:33] CILLIZZA: Again and again and again, his words, tweets, comments, phone interviews matter and get in the way of his priorities.

SCIUTTO: Tweets last forever.

CILLIZZA: Always. I've learned that one.

SCIUTTO: In the president's remarks, specifically about Cohen, you say you're also noticing a pattern with this White House for officials who are under investigation.

CILLIZZA: Yes. Let's pop them up. So what you see, and these aren't all Donald Trump comments, but mostly. These are all George Papadopoulos, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Michael Cohen. These are the quotes. You see them over and over again. I want to point out, this is Donald Trump on Paul Manafort. He said, "He was only with me for a short period of time." The truth of the matter is Manafort was brought on at a key moment of the campaign, around April of 2016, when Donald Trump was trying to lockdown the nomination from Ted Cruz. He left in August. He was there for a very important part of the campaign. That's ridiculous. Only there for 25 days about Mike Flynn. Mike Flynn introduced Donald Trump at every meaningful rally in the home stretch of the campaign. He was the national security adviser. He had his pick of roles. So down the line -- and we know Michael Cohen has been with Donald Trump since Donald Trump -

(CROSSTALK)

CILLIZZA: This idea he did a tiny fraction of his legal work, but Michael Cohen is intertwined in Donald Trump's world, which is why the FBI raid on Cohen makes Trump so unsettled.

SCIUTTO: No question. Now we're learning that executive privilege may not cover everything in that raid.

CILLIZZA: Thanks to Donald Trump.

SCIUTTO: Chris Cillizza, thanks very much.

New questions about the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting. The Russian lawyer at the center of it reportedly making a startling revelation.

And "The Art of the Deal." The French president warmed up to the president, but can the German chancellor close up the deal? The two leaders will give a joint press conference from the White House in a few minutes. We'll take you to it live, and that's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:46:41] SCIUTTO: More now on a major new development involving Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer at the center of the infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016l reportedly revealing now that she is an informant for the Kremlin.

I'll discuss this with my two guests, CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, and CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd.

Samantha, you work for the NSC. You're aware of Russian tradecraft, as it were, here. A lawyer like this coming there, offering what they were offering, dirt on Hillary Clinton, discussing what you might give us in return. Is that classic tradecraft?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This is like national security 101. When a Russian, who says they have information that just may be useful to you happens to get in touch, typically, you would know that this was just spy craft and you would report it either before the fact or after the fact. But it's really interesting that the Russians allowed this news to leak or to go out publicly, excuse me, when they did. We all knew that this woman was not operating as a lone wolf here. But ironically, we're now months after the fact that this meeting has come out, and the Kremlin has cloaked her ties to the Kremlin? I wonder what's with that?

SCIUTTO: Yes. That struck me. She comes out very publicly.

She's working for the Kremlin. She doesn't do stuff without getting an OK. Do you think this could be a deliberate message from Moscow?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think that could be exactly what's going on here. Is it retribution for the sanctions? Is it retribution for the expulsion of the diplomats? Is this a way to thumb the nose at Trump who just today with Merkel said nobody has been tougher on Russia than me? It could be. It shouldn't have come as a surprise to anybody. As Sam rightly said, if you're going to meet with Russians, you have to assume that conversation is not confidential in any way whatsoever. So, yes, the timing is success suspicious.

SCIUTTO: John, Sam, we have a lot more to talk about.

In a matter of minutes, President Trump and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel will hold a joint news conference. We'll bring it to you live when it happens. You can see the crowd gathering there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[13:53:04] MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm confident that that will be a topic on my trip throughout the Middle East as well, not only talking about the concerns that President Trump has expressed consistently but talking about ways to potentially address those shortcomings, finding a solution to the flaws that President Trump has identified for a long time now. There's been no decision made. The team is working and I'm sure we'll have lots of conversations to deliver what the president has made clear. Absent a substantial fix, absent overcoming the shortcomings, the flaws of the deal, he is unlikely to stay in that deal past this May.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Quite a warning there from the new secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, traveling in Brussels.

Right now, we're waiting for President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to arrive in the White House East room for a joint news conference. Iran certainly to be a topic of conversation.

Let's bring back my guests, CNN national security analyst, Samantha Vinograd, and CNN military and diplomatic analyst, retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

John, listening to the new secretary of state there, is that a new warning or is that restating the position?

KIRBY: I think it's restating the policy. Trump has said that himself, that absent a fix, they're going to have to, you know, probably pull out. I don't think this is anything new. I think it's important, though, Jim, to remember that the shortcomings that they cite aren't really valid. He doesn't like the fact that it didn't deal with ballistic missile. You covered the Iran deal. If we tried to lump in the ballistic missile, Iran wouldn't have gone for the deal. He doesn't like the fact that there are sunset clauses, to maybe go back and enrich uranium but they're committed to never pursue a nuclear deal. And the third thing they complain about is the inspection regime, not strong enough. It's the strongest arms control inspection regime ever imposed by a foreign country by and international body in history. So it's hard to see how you make that any tougher.

[13:55:08] SCIUTTO: And we heard Defense Secretary James Mattis reiterate that Iran is complying with that and that U.S. intelligence has confirmed that.

Sam Vinograd, after we saw the bromance play out when Emmanuel Macron was here, and it seemed like -- you're reading tea leaves about their private conversations, but it seemed like Macron might have been able to bring Trump back from the edge, positive statements there, but now you're hearing Pompeo and others saying, no, we're not there. Angela Merkel has her work cut out for her.

VINOGRAD: She does. This was a smart one-two punch by the Europeans. Merkel and Macron have their issues on the continent. They're vying for power within the European Union. It seemed they were able to put their differences to the side and coordinate on how to get Trump over the finish line. Macron comes in, sets the mood, gets the president happy and ready to negotiate, and Merkel comes in for this three-hour visit to probably close the deal. I think Trump will wait until it gets closer to the deadlines on Iran to announce what he'll do, because that's what he does, keeps us on the edge of our seats, but this is really a show of European unity.

SCIUTTO: We'll go to Pamela Brown is there in the East Room as we await the president and the German chancellor.

Pamela, beyond the Iran deal, what is the president likely to be pressed on?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPNDENT: Well, you can imagine North Korea will be a topic of discussion here on the heels of the historic summit of the leaders of North and South Korea meeting and what the preconditions are for the president to meet with Kim Jong-Un. He has said that -- he has drawn the line, said he needs to get rid of the nukes, that that is really the condition. How will the president verify that ahead of any particular meeting? But he showed optimism today after the historic summit between the North and South Koreans, saying it was a very good thing and that it a great thing for the world if the tensions can be eased.

You can really feel they are cautiously optimistic in terms of a potential meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. The president said essentially today the past presidents had been hoodwinked by the North Koreans, saying they have been played beautifully like a fiddle. The president saying, declaring that will not happen with him, that he's going to make sure the conditions are set, and also said there were two or three locations already picked out for the meeting with the leader of North Korea.

Also you can imagine trade will be a topic of discussion, whether the E.U. will be exempt from this deal of aluminum tariffs. That is something you can imagine German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be stressing as well, in addition to Syria and other foreign policy issues that are important to these two allies.

SCIUTTO: John, is there a danger with different definitions between the parties here, is there danger of the U.S. and the west getting played by North Korea again, to borrow the president's term?

KIRBY: Sure there is. I think that's an essential issue, what does denuclearization mean, how do they interpret it? It's unlikely that Kim Jong-Un will barter that away for nothing or barter it away at all. We have to figure out what we mean by it and then make sure it's concretely understood by both sides. But it's a good thing these discussions are moving forward. I think everybody should feel good about that. But the work of diplomacy is the work of often months, years and generations. We all have to get saddled up for the long haul here. This is not going to get solved in May or June, whenever he sits down with Kim Jong-Un.

SCIUTTO: Sam, the Merkel/Trump relationship has not been a particularly warm and fuzzy one.

VINOGRAD: It hasn't, but that's OK. Leaders doesn't have to be best friends. They can talk about their differences publicly, like Macron did before Congress in talking about climate change. They don't have to fist pump to have a solid alliance. And Merkel is here with a specific agenda on things like trade, on things like Russia. He wants German firms exempted from U.N. sanctions. So she has a lot on her plate.

SCIUTTO: There's a lot of business between German -

(CROSSTALK)

VINOGRAD: Indeed.

SCIUTTO: It was Russia.

VINOGRAD: Yes.

SCIUTTO: They've got that skin in the game, as it were.

VINOGRAD: Yes. There's $10 billion worth of Russian gas that goes to Germany. This is an example when Trump is going to be in the room and maybe pushing another country to be tougher on Russia than the United States.

SCIUTTO: Interesting. We're going to be following it.

Sam Vinograd, John Kirby, Pamela Brown is in the East Room as we wait to bring you this press conference there. Certain to be discussions of the Iran nuclear deal. We're just a couple of weeks away. We see the principals coming in, Sarah Sanders, John Bolton, the new national security advisor entering, some members of the German delegation, as we get ready for the president and the German chancellor to come in. Iran deal, North Korea, also new developments in the Russia investigation.

I'm going to turn you over to our special coverage as it continues with Erica Hill. She is in New York live. Stay with us.

[14:00:07] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. I'm Erica Hill, in for Brooke Baldwin today.

We're just moments away from a joint news conference with President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.