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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Coverage of White House Correspondents' Dinner. Aired 11p-12m ET
Aired April 28, 2018 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[23:00:00] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: -- at this table, it's controversial on social media. And if you watched the faces of the people in the room, it was controversial inside there as well.
Let's watch a little bit of it now so you can get some flavor for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Wolf Blitzer and I look like a guy rescued from a snow cave just in time. President Trump has been invited to the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Will he decline or attend?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd look pretty thin skinned if I didn't show up. So I'm in. But only under the following conditions. Someone tranquilizes Jim Acosta, I get two scoops of ice cream big enough to bend a shovel and I can use Jeff Bezos as my napkin.
Of course, I'm going. What am I going to do? Hold a rally to harden my ego before I watch it the moment I step off stage?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'd be honored if you wore my clothes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Shepherd Smith going to be there? I can't believe some lucky lady hasn't snatched him up.
MARGARET TALEV, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT: My mother was born American, but like our current president she was captivated by the drive and self-determination of a young dashing immigrant.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Because what you do, it really matters. It provides transparency and accountability. Done right, journalism cannot just inform, but empower citizens. Of course we don't always agree on what's right and what's fair, but that push and pull, that makes us both better.
MICHELLE WOLF, COMEDIAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' DINNER HOST: Good evening, good evening. Here we are, the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Like a porn star says when she is about to have sex with a Trump, let's get this over with.
It's 2018 and I'm a woman so you cannot shut me up. Unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000.
Michael, you can find me on Vendmo under my porn star name, Reince Priebus. Reince just gave a thumbs up. OK.
Of course Trump isn't here if you haven't noticed. He's not here. And I know, I know, I would drag him here myself, but it turns out the president of the United States is the one pussy you're not allowed to grab.
Should have done more research before you got me to do this. But I also want to make fun of Democrats. Democrats are harder to make fun of because you guys don't do anything. People think you might flip the House and Senate this November, but you guys always find a way to mess it up.
I'm not going after print media tonight because it's illegal to attack an endangered species. I've got to get the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of here. Good night. Flint still doesn't have clean water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Minus the bleep, that was the, like, PG version.
BERMAN: Yes. That was almost rated G.
BERMAN: Because what we show -- we really can't show is there were jokes that were about abortion, there were F bombs. She mentioned so many people by name including Sarah Sanders, Mike Pence, Ted Kennedy.
HARLOW: Ivanka Trump.
BERMAN: Ivanka Trump and the list goes on and on and on.
BERMAN: Lots of it got a lot of laughs, some of it didn't. Some people who were in the room, our reporters Kate Bennett, Laura Jarrett, Kaitlan Collins. You know, we're watching from afar because we're at the most exclusive party.
BERMAN: You're at the second most exclusive party. You're in the room. What was it like to be in the room for it?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it was very interesting to see that happened because when the comedian Michelle Wolf got on the stage, there were a lot of laughs and jokes and then she continued on and the room got very quiet as she continued on with those jokes especially when it came to Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. Of course she is the one at the head table representing the administration. We expected jokes about her, but they -- about her appearance, a lot of jokes, it was actually pretty quiet in the room towards the end of Michelle Wolf's appearance.
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) joke about Sarah Sanders (INAUDIBLE) off of Sarah Sanders and other members of the White House Press Corps who -- White House Press Office who were there. They were stony faced. No one was laughing. It felt very uncomfortable. The room felt like that. And Sarah actually physically shifted in her seat a couple of times and for a second, I thought she might actually get up and leave.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: I thought for a minute somebody is going to get up and even charge to get out of here. It was uncomfortable, it was cringe worthy, I think at best. There were certainly a lot of grimaces and groans. I don't know how much you guys can hear back in the studio, sometimes there was silence. Just walking out of here, people were almost in disbelief. I heard several people saying harsh. That was brutal. It was scathing.
COLLINS: (INAUDIBLE) like this comes sit down.
[23:05:02] This is not a comedian we expected to be very friendly to this administration and she said she didn't want to focus on President Trump specifically, John and Poppy. She wanted to focus on the people who were here. Of course it wasn't just Sarah Sanders, but Kellyanne Conway. She said something about Reince Priebus, of course the former chief of staff who was in the audience tonight, with several comments there.
We actually saw Sarah Sanders did not respond but she didn't laugh of course while she was on stage with the comedian just a few feet away. But we did see several members of the administration get up from their seats and leave there in the middle of the comedian, during her set. Clearly very displeased with those jokes -- John and Poppy.
HARLOW: And Kaitlan -- go ahead.
BERMAN: No, no.
HARLOW: Who let -- if you can hear us, we're having a little bit of a hard time hearing you, we're trying to fix the audio, but who -- Kaitlan, who from the administration left in the middle of the routine?
COLLINS: Several members. Not any top officials that we saw and walk about, but we did see one or two leave the room. Of course we know we cannot say for sure that they left because of the routine.
COLLINS: But it was when she was in the middle of her harshest jokes. We saw them got up from their tables and leave. So certainly you would imagine it was that. It was not a routine that would go -- they were laughing at their own expense, she definitely being taken personally. They were very personal jokes. Not just about her performance at the podium during the briefing about Sarah Sanders. Of course Michelle Wolf saying that she believes Sarah Sanders lies a lot. But also about her physical appearance, her makeup. It was very personal, John and Poppy, which is from what I was told
the dinner last year not what I remember but certainly something that had quite a harsh reaction in the room.
BERMAN: Yes. Look.
BENNETT: We've seen comedians before who have been, you know, a little bit harsher than others and the room has gone quiet. I just feel like in this, everyone was sort of holding their breath that this was going to be something that maybe didn't end up being as harsh as it was, to the sort of low hanging fruit, so to speak. And seriously the spirit of camaraderie walking on the red carpet we had, you know, people like Governor Kasich saying this was a night when we all come together.
We had Michael Avenatti admitting to you there is tension in this, but at least we're all here together. So it felt a little bit like, you know, the worst-case scenario might have happened at the end of Michelle Wolf's act.
COLLINS: It was so interesting, because last year of course President Trump did not show up and no one from the White House was here last year. But today dozens of members from the White House were here and not just current staffers, but also former staffers, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus, the former press secretary Sean Spicer, the former director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn.
We had several members who are very close to President Trump. As long as all these people were in this administration now here in the room during those very personal jokes about people in the administration, so it does raise questions about their attendance at this dinner. Of course the question is whether or not the president himself will ever attend.
BERMAN: Look --
JARRETT: And you wonder whether this will make them re-think coming back next year, honestly.
JARRETT: And whether they'll decide if this (INAUDIBLE), is not an event that they can attend which is unfortunate because the beginning of the evening was just this lovely, heartfelt tribute by Margaret Talev of Bloomberg to her parents, to her father, who was an immigrant. She told a really touching story and the tributes to the journalists and the awards which is really the purpose of the evening sort of got overshadowed.
BERMAN: It is interesting because Margaret Talev in her remarks went out of her way to thank Sarah Sanders.
HARLOW: She did. Very graciously.
BERMAN: And you say that there were people where -- you're getting live pictures right now. There is Sarah Sanders. HARLOW: Is that Governor Chris Christie?
BERMAN: It does look like Chris Christie there. And Chris Christie's wife there and I don't know -- that's Sarah Sanders's husband right there? So Sarah Sanders' husband right there. The four of them are speaking.
Margaret Talev, who was president of the White House Correspondents' Association thanked Sarah Sanders for being there and also thanked Sarah Sanders for the access that she has given to the White House Press Corps, and it's interesting because you were saying that there were Trump administration officials who would be quite upset by this. I don't think that most of the journalists in the room, it didn't feel as if the people in the room were giving the parts that the Trump people may have found offensive, it wasn't as if they were giving Michelle Wolf support. In some ways, you might get the sense the White House reporters were sympathetic to Sarah Sanders if she didn't like that.
COLLINS: They certainly did seem sympathetic. I mean, we saw the room was very quiet. The three of us were actually quite close to the stage and actually were very quiet during those sets. (INAUDIBLE) at the beginning of her set. It was a lot of laughs, she was actually quite funny. And then it turns to groans, and then by the end, it was actually quite quiet.
BENNETT: I mean, I looked around our table and tables around us. Stone faced.
[23:10:03] And it's sad because they don't do laugh-out-loud moments in the beginning of that, and like I said, we're here to sort of poke fun at ourselves and the relationship and the sort of weirdness we heard from anyway. So, you know, I looked at Margaret Talev, too, after the Sarah Sanders jokes and she was not smiling either. And I wonder if there was some line that was crossed or any kind of discussion beforehand or what that was, but Margaret certainly did not seem super comfortable with the way the jokes went.
COLLINS: It shows the difference between journalists and comedians. Michelle Wolf can make all of the nasty jokes that she wants, that is essentially a comedian's jobs to be and to make these jokes, attempts to make people laugh. The journalists in the room actually were quite reserved. You know, they do cover this White House on a daily basis. Sarah Sanders is someone we work with on a daily basis. So when they're making comments on her physical appearance it's not funny to the people who cover her.
Because we're objective. That's someone we work with to determine what the president of the United States is thinking on any given day. So I think that was why she got that reaction, a very cold reaction, there in the room just now.
BERMAN: So -- go ahead.
JARRETT: That Michelle Wolf knew that -- how this was going-over, you know, she would sort of chuckle along at certain points, just barreling on through knowing that this was going downhill, but sort of determined to do it.
HARLOW: And she did say at one point, I should point out, Berman, you should have done more research on me.
BERMAN: Should have done more research.
HARLOW: Before you had me here.
BERMAN: But the funny thing is, had they done more research what they would have found is that a big part of her HBO "Comedy Hour" is about Hillary Clinton.
HARLOW: Clinton. Right. And taking on Hillary Clinton.
BERMAN: She -- Hillary Clinton, which is so interesting given what happened tonight. And also she goes out of her way in interviews and in her writings that had nothing to do with this dinner talking about the fact that, as you've noted, that she thinks that people -- it's too easy making jokes about President Trump. She would rather do other things.
HARLOW: Right. And that that was not going to be the core of her routine.
HARLOW: Except that it was.
JARRETT: (INAUDIBLE) at Democrats but they did not last long and certainly not in comparison to how long the jokes were for the members of the Trump administration and the president himself.
HARLOW: You know, I wonder, though, to your point about sort of this furthering the divide between those seen as the coastal elites, the Hollywood elite, if you will, and the people that the president was with tonight and in front of tonight in Washington Township, Michigan. The glitterati, the A-list celebrities aren't at the dinner tonight, although we do have some movie star-looking correspondents here looking beautiful and lovely. All of you ladies tonight. But, you know, the A-list celebrities aren't there en masse tonight.
But I wonder to you, Paris, and to you, Keith, as well, on opposite sides politically, but do you think that she's right saying that this just further divides, you know, those -- the, quote-unquote, elites from the people that the president was in front of tonight? Does this just further that perception divide at least?
PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A hundred percent. If there is one winner tonight, it's President Donald Trump. He's -- and I'll tell you why. He's a winner I will tell you why. He went to that rally and he appeased the base of the Republican Party in Washington, Michigan. Thousands of people got in, thousands of people weren't able to get in. They're good. Then he didn't show up to this --
HARLOW: But he encouraged his staff to.
DENNARD: Right. So he didn't go, but he encouraged his staff to go. He said, I want you to be there. And then he was the talk -- from the very beginning to the very end, it was all about Donald Trump. And then the staff that he encouraged to be there were openly attacked about some woman about their weight, about calling Sarah Sanders a racist and Uncle Tom. And then even if you are a bit pro-choice person, the joke about abortion, telling yes, to really get in there and pull that baby out?
DENNARD: I think this is what the -- people outside the beltway are looking at saying hmm, maybe that's the difference between what I saw --
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me just say why I think Paris is completely wrong. The reality is Donald Trump lived before he was in the White House in this gold plated penthouse on Fifth Avenue, in Manhattan. He was a self-described billionaire TV star. He surrounds himself with billionaires in his Cabinet. He goes down to Mar-a-Lago in West Palm Beach, in Palm Beach, rather, Florida, practically every other week and he's golfing every week.
He promotes his own golf clubs and businesses like the worst type of crook you would expect in any foreign government. And Donald Trump says some of the most offensive things that any president has ever said about other people. I mean, he called Ted Cruz's father -- he accused him of being involved in the JFK assassination. He talked about other countries being, quote-unquote, "shitholes." He life for 5 1/2 years about Barack Obama's birth certificate. He mocked a disabled reporter.
Donald Trump is the epitome of all those things that you said that Michelle Wolf shouldn't be saying or doing, and he is the president of the United States. She's a comedian. I wanted to use the F word, but she's a comedian. He's the president. But she's a comedian. Why do you hold a comedian to a higher standard than you do the president of the United States of America?
[23:15:10] CARRIE SHEFFIELD, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: She is the comedian that was handpicked, hand-selected by the White House Correspondents' Dinner to address this esteemed group that is supposed to be representing the American people.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: She needs to say three magical words. Locker room talk.
WILSON: Because locker room talk --
WILSON: Right. Excuses all the other rhetoric in the world.
SHEFFIELD: Here's the thing. Donald Trump is --
BOYKIN: You're the president of the United States.
DENNARD: He's our president.
SHEFFIELD: Keith --
SHEFFIELD: All these things that you said about Trump bothered me when he was running. I agree with you. I can say that to you, but at the same time what president represents, what he embodies, is basically 50 or 60 years of Hollywood drifting so hard left, it's the new McCarthyism. If you are conservative in Hollywood, you are persecuted, you are (INAUDIBLE). You not allowed to have any sort of jobs in that town.
TIFFANY CROSS, CO-FOUNDER AND MANAGING EDITOR, THE BEAT DC: What he embodies is centuries of systemic racism that he celebrates and highlights. And the fact that we're sitting here saying that Michelle Wolf is the person who divides this country.
BOYKIN: Thank you.
CROSS: When Sarah Huckabee Sanders comes to that podium and apologizes for him calling or doesn't apologizes, rather, excuses him for calling Nazis good people on both sides, as a woman I was certainly offended when he talked about grabbing women by their private parts. As a woman, as a person of color, as an American, as a human being, I am ashamed of what this president says. And the fact that we're on this panel dissecting what Michelle Wolf said, to Keith's point, it is ridiculous to make that false equivalency.
He is not the person -- she is not the person dividing this country. The president of the United States is. And I think anybody in that administration who wasn't going to be offended short of Roseanne Barr, being the comedian tonight, they were going to have a problem with anything because truth-telling to this administration is offensive, which is ridiculous.
BERMAN: Yes. Is it possible though --
BERMAN: But two things can be true. Two things can be true at the same time.
BERMAN: First of all, you know, President trump gave a speech tonight where he threatened a U.S. senator.
BERMAN: And you could say that that is below the standards of the president of the United States. That can be true. Certainly some of the things you have talked about the president doing in the past, if you want to say those are below the standards of this country, should accept, that could be true, and at the same time, Doug, you could say that this performance in front of, you know, a room full of journalists and lawmakers may not have been what it should have been.
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: All true, but the winner is the First Amendment. It's freedom of speech, and Michelle Wolf was allowed to say what she wanted and that's what's great thing about our country. And the one thing we all agree with, she had the right to say what she did. Now some of us find it tasteless, some of us find it funny, but this has become no longer about the press and the White House mingling it up with old chuckles and chummy laughs. It's become almost a monument to the First Amendment.
BRINKLEY: And Michelle Wolf --
HARLOW: Hold on. We got to get to a break. But as was famously said, I may not -- and I'm paraphrasing here, I may not like what you say, but I will fiercely defend your right to say it.
BERMAN: Right. A quick break.
HARLOW: On that note, a quick break.
BERMAN: We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:21:56] WOLF: We are going to try a fun new thing. OK. I'm going to say, Trump is so broke, and you guys go, how broke is he? All right? Trump is so broke.
CROWD: How broke is he?
WOLF: He has to fly failed business class. Trump is so broke.
CROWD: How broke is he?
WOLF: He looked for foreign oil in Don Jr.'s hair. Trump is so broke.
CROWD: How broke is he?
WOLF: He -- Southwest used him as one of their engines. I know. It's so soon. It's so soon for that joke. Why did she tell it? It's so soon. Trump is so broke.
CROWD: How broke is he?
WOLF: He had to borrow money from the Russians and now he is compromised and susceptible to blackmail and possibly responsible for the collapse of the republic. Yay. It's a fun game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: That was comedian Michelle Wolf bringing in some laughs, also some moans and groans and super awkward moments.
BERMAN: Want to get reaction now from comedian W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," whose new season, most importantly of all, if you want to impact one message on you, it's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" premieres tomorrow night, Sunday night, right here on CNN.
Kamau, just flat out. What did you think? Did you get a chance to watch Michelle Wolf? What did you think?
W. KAMAU BELL, HOST, CNN'S UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: I watched the whole thing. I just want to say she talked about how CNN broke the news. It sounds like she broke CNN. You guys are flipping out.
BELL: Calm down, everybody. This is what I want to say. First of all, let me just officially turn down any offer that the White House Correspondents Association wants to extend to me to host this. I will never host it. I don't ever want to host it. There is not enough money in the world.
Stop hiring comedians to host this thing. If journalists were funnier, you guys should host it. Stop hiring comedians. Every year we do this.
HARLOW: Have you met my co-anchor?
BELL: John is the one person I would trust to do it. That's the one person. But the problem is that if you notice really famous comedians don't host this thing because it's too much trouble without enough benefit. So what happens is they get comedians like Michelle Wolf who is doing her thing, she got a Netflix show, but she's not playing for you guys. She is playing for the audience at home who she hopes watches her Netflix show. It's not about you guys at all. It's not about whether you think this joke was offensive or this joke is not offensive. Stop hiring comedians or get rich a little to do it every year. That's what I'd say.
HARLOW: Well, you were just --
BERMAN: I was just looking at (INAUDIBLE) because after Stephen Colbert had the big issue with George W. Bush the very next year --
HARLOW: I think that they do have famous comedians do it.
BERMAN: They did. They did. But this is --
BELL: No, but not like -- not like Dave Chapelle or Chris Rock.
HARLOW: Jay Leno, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel?
BELL: But I'm saying it's been years since they had -- I mean, Hasan Minaj is a good friend of mine. It's this thing now. It's clear they're going to be -- they're going to be introducing new comedians to the audience.
BERMAN: Hasan Minaj --
BERMAN: Hasan Minaj was a good friend of yours. It's so --
HARLOW: Until now.
[23:25:02] BERMAN: No. I'm kidding and obviously this is why I'm never going to host the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
BELL: See, you're too funny to do it, too, John. You're too funny -- you just offended me and Hasan Minaj.
BERMAN: The problem, though, and I think you may have identified the problem here, which is that the comedian Michelle Wolf is playing it to a different audience.
BERMAN: And the issue is she has been invited by the White House Correspondents' Association.
HARLOW: That's true.
BERMAN: To be at this event and the Correspondents' Association wants to be about journalism and you invite all the lawmakers from around the country to be there, and, you know, in the old days, people would get together and they will laugh at themselves, they will laugh at each other, it'd be a few chuckles, but she is operating in a different level doing something different than a few chuckles, Kamau.
BELL: Well, that was before a thing called Twitter and that was before this thing was broadcast on all of the news channels. I think you have to understand, there is no percentage in playing for that room. There's no reason a comedian want to just please that room, the only way you're going to do that is really light level sort of monologue jokes where you're like -- where you're not hitting anybody.
You're trying to play for the audience at home that you want to support you and the rest of your career. I say -- the other question is, is this event still relevant in the way that it was? Should we be making a big deal out of it? Should it be just something for the journalists to do for the other journalists? I think it's just a confused evening all along.
HARLOW: Well, I think the core --
BELL: All of it.
HARLOW: The core of the event and what tonight was really about was not about the comedy skit, that 20 minutes. It's about respecting, honoring, holding up the First Amendment, and honoring those journalists at their best, and the scholarships for the young journalists. That's what it's about. That gets lost.
BERMAN: Yes. It may not be what is remembered after this.
BELL: But does it have to happen -- does it have to happen on TV, Twitter going and it's a trending thing and everything out there?
BERMAN: And Kamau, let me ask you a question because on your show, you go out and talk to a lot of people in a lot of walks of life all over the country and you look at what divides us and what unites us in some ways. Is this the type of thing? Because we've heard from some people around this table tonight who suggest that a routine like this, a performance like this is the type of thing that divides America.
HARLOW: Kamau, you went to Beattyville, Kentucky, right?
BELL: Mm-hmm. Yes, I did.
HARLOW: I was there, too.
HARLOW: We were both there and this is a place that voted over 80 percent for the president. Is this a case of divided Americas?
BELL: I mean, I feel like every time I hear the word Hollywood elites, I just get sleepy. You know what everyone else is doing in America other than watching this, they're going to the "Avengers" movie. That is way bigger than this. And that is made by the Hollywood elites and it's going to make $300 billion. There is no such thing as the Hollywood elites.
HARLOW: That's John's new contract.
BELL: Republicans work in Hollywood, too. The Hollywood elites make movies, there's Republicans who work in Hollywood. There's Democrats that work in Hollywood. There's no such thing as the Hollywood elites.
BERMAN: If I'm reading you correctly --
BELL: Except for me in Oakland.
BELL: I'm a Hollywood elite.
BERMAN: If I'm reading you correctly, Kamau, you're saying Thor should bring us together. We should look to Thor to bring us together and not so much Michelle Wolf or journalists.
BELL: Yes. Look to the relationship between Thor and the Incredible Hulk to figure out how we're going to bring the country together.
HARLOW: OK. On that note, Kamau Bell, thank you, my friend. And make sure --
BELL: And also -- wait. One more thing. One more thing.
HARLOW: OK. Put him back on the camera.
BELL: Yes. Put me back on the camera. Put the Hollywood elite on camera. Her closing line was Flint is without water. Has anybody talked about that? Have we broken that down about why she felt the need to end that way? Now you can go to commercial.
HARLOW: I don't even think I heard that last line. So thank you very much, Kamau.
BERMAN: Kamau Bell.
HARLOW: We appreciate it. Make sure to watch Kamau, the new season of his show. Thank you, Marty, our great director. Now we can put the graphic up, "THE UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" tomorrow night after Anthony Bourdain.
BERMAN: Yes. Don't miss it. It will be fantastic.
The press celebrated in Washington, the president rallied with supporters in Washington Township, Michigan. The president threatened a senator, calling on voters to prevent his impeachment and even drew brutal chants from the crowd that he should get the Nobel Peace Prize. We'll have the breakdown next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) [23:32:44] TRUMP: That's very nice. Thank you. That's very nice. Nobel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: All right. So that's the crowd in Michigan Township -- Washington Township, Michigan, chanting Nobel, Nobel to the president tonight during his rally, saying he should get the Nobel Peace Prize for helping broker peace on the Korean Peninsula if it happens. We have an interesting headline and development out of South Korea on all of this. The press office there saying that in the meeting between South Korea's president and Kim Jong-un of North Korean yesterday, apparently Kim Jong-un said to President Moon, the U.S. will get to know that I'm not such a person to fire nuclear weapons to the South.
BERMAN: I'm not such a bad guy after all.
HARLOW: After all.
BERMAN: This despite the developing nuclear weapons and all the missiles tests, and the back and forth on Twitter with the president.
HARLOW: Now that I have them, the U.S. will get to know that I'm not one to fire them.
BERMAN: Look, you know, Doug Brinkley, you know, CNN presidential historian here with us as the rest of our panel, who's by the way been here a long, long time.
HARLOW: We thank you all.
BERMAN: Thank you all very much for sticking through this long night. But it is interesting to hear now. Clearly the rhetoric of all sides is that a significantly different level.
BRINKLEY: There is no question about it. It's a great moment of hope for the Korean Peninsula. I wouldn't have predicted a year ago that we'd be at this stage, that you'd be able to see them the leaders in the DMZ, from both Koreas.
The Nobel, Nobel chant of Donald -- about Donald Trump is way premature. We haven't even begun the diplomacy that needs to go forward. It's very hard for a president to win a Nobel Prize. Only Theodore Roosevelt, Russia, Japanese, Woodrow Wilson as sitting president won it until Barack Obama did, but Obama didn't do any big act. Trump has got a year or two of diplomacy before I think you're going to get a kind of denuclearization of North Korea if that will ever happen.
BERMAN: You know, on the subject of premature, you brought up Barack Obama there winning --
SHEFFIELD: So whether there was an unprecedented move with the North Koreans, saying that a precondition to denuclearization would not be to remove American troops that has never happened before. That is a huge step. I have done some reporting on the ground from the DMZ. So to me that is momentous. But I do agree, and even the president himself said that, and by the way, no one can say that the president doesn't smile or laugh. He laughed and smiled about that. So there you go.
BERMAN: Because he was so happy they were saying about the Nobel Prize.
[23:35:04] SHEFFIELD: No. But he even said himself that he doesn't deserve it. So he's saying that he needs to do more.
HARLOW: Tiffany, what credit do you give to President Trump in all of this? Because you had the South Korea's foreign minister saying just a few days ago to our Christiane Amanpour, look, the president, President Trump deserves credit here. How much do you think?
CROSS: Well. I mean, again, to your point about receiving the Nobel, I think it's very premature to give him credit because we really don't know what a denuclearized Korea looks like. We haven't seen it. They haven't had a sit down yet. Foreign diplomacy team is very understaffed, very ill staffed. I'd be curious to see what Mike Pompeo, what role he plays in all this? So I'm not --
HARLOW: And he's already played a role going over there and having that critical meeting.
CROSS: Yes. So very secret meeting that we found out during the confirmation hearings about. So -- but yes, we still don't know a lot of the details and what came out about that, and how we got to this point. So I'd be curious to see what happens there. I do -- before I would give the president credit and we all want him to succeed here. I mean, we want -- you know, we want to see a path to peace, but before we do that, I really would hope that the president is more concerned with actually seeing some solid results and making an impact and not having a chanting audience shouting Nobel or giving the headlines.
BERMAN: He might be able to get both. I mean, he's got the chanting audience now no matter what. What happens next.
You know, Josh, it is interesting we do know what this president seems to like more than anything else. No matter what the content or what it's about is the idea of a deal. Any kind of a deal it seems to be what he likes. And if he has the prospect of it, that's what gets him excited.
JOSHUA GREEN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. And he's promised deals in all sorts of areas so I think it's important to him and obviously it was to his audience that he at least made some initial progress toward a possible deal with Korea. But I do think it's premature to kind of jump the gun and start talking about Nobel Prizes.
GREEN: Although to Trump's credit even he seemed to be laughing about this in a sort of a self-deprecating moment, I think.
BRINKLEY: The "Wall Street Journal" op-ed said distrust, but verify in today's world.
GREEN: That's right.
BRINKLEY: I think distrust and verify any dealing with North Korea --
GREEN: Which is a good policy, but certainly I mean I think Trump deserves credit from the standpoint of six months ago he was going on Twitter and lobbing insults that --
HARLOW: I mean, it was fire and fury and rocket man.
GREEN: Exactly. And now we've gotten to a standpoint where at least the two leaders are meeting.
HARLOW: Rick Wilson, I mean, how much credit to the president on this? John pointed out Ian Bremmer's tweet earlier saying --
WILSON: Once again, once again, everyone --
HARLOW: Bringing up the Nobel Peace Prize.
WILSON: Right. Once again no one wants a nuclear armed North Korea with an intercontinental ballistic missile capability. No one wants that. If this is successful, awesome. Great. But what you see with the North Koreans before should require us with a great sense of caution. They have walked away from any number of other deals once they've gotten the temporary economic pressure is taken off of them, they walked back repeated nuclear deals with Republican presidents and Democratic presidents alike.
So having a very cautious long-term plan here and not imagining that there is some sui-generous charm of Donald Trump that has changed everything about the way the North Korean regime operates. And frankly, there's one other thing, I don't think we should be out calling Kim Jong-un an honorable man. This is a government that wholesale murders its people and engages in industrial steel famine --
HARLOW: There are still Americans -- three American citizens.
WILSON: That's right.
BERMAN: That's just the notion what the president wants more than anything is a deal.
BERMAN: And then you can also argue, you know, Keith, there is a problem of consistency here with the way that he is dealing with North Korea and the way that he's dealing with Iran. HARLOW: And a May 12th decision on Iran.
BERMAN: And a May 12th decision.
HARLOW: Do you walk away from that deal when you're getting closer perhaps in North Korea?
BOYKIN: No doubt Iran -- North Korea is looking at what's going on in Iran.
BOYKIN: Iran is looking at what's going on in North Korea. I think there is a historical issue that takes place when we talk about these things. Especially in the current era. I worked in the Clinton administration when we had this great deal with the IAEA in 1994 that we thought was going to be some sort of a step forward and it lasted for some period of time and the International Atomic Energy Agency monitored it. But eventually when the Bush administration came in --
HARLOW: Fell apart.
BOYKIN: -- then they decided that it wasn't working, and it fell apart. So even if there is a deal, who knows how long that deal will last? There is a question of we've been down this road so many times. Do you trust the North Koreans even if we negotiate something or do you wait some period of time before you decide to see what happens?
SHEFFIELD: Well, the wild card that President Trump has been much more effective to date and I agree there is more work to be done, is the China wild card. That is the big thing that no president in modern history has been effective at putting leverage on China and China is the key patron of North Korea. You know, more than 90 percent of the GDP of the North Korean is coming directly from China. So I think the fact for example we just saw that we were flying our bombers in the South China Sea, that is putting pressure on China that is unprecedented, that will help us leverage against the North Koreans. And I think that is what the wild card could be.
To your point on Iran, the huge difference between Iran versus North Korea, Iran is a patron state that gives money to other terrorists whereas the North Koreans receives money. They are the reception of a patron saint.
BERMAN: But the issue --
SHEFFIELD: Big difference in terms of leverage.
[23:40:03] BERMAN: Maybe all of those things, and they certainly are, but they're also a state that is not developing nuclear weapons right now and this government and every government agrees they are not developing nuclear weapons right now because of the nuclear deal.
HARLOW: Because of this.
BERMAN: You know. HARLOW: Right.
DENNARD: John, just real quick to correct you, the president doesn't want a deal. It's a good deal. We've seen a lot of deals. So that's the point that he says that he has the ability. His administration has the ability to go out and negotiate and do things to get better deals, good deals for the American people. So it's not just the fact that just getting something done, it's getting the best thing done for the American people and I think the president deserves credit for being the catalyst to allow the changes that we're seeing.
And everyone had the bar so low for him on all of the things that every foreign trip he's done has been a success. All the relationships that he is building. Look at the relationship with Kim and Macron. Everyone tries to push it down and say it's a bromance. No, this is actually -- we haven't seen anything like this in my opinion, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, since Reagan and Thatcher. It's developing in that way. And so the president deserves credit for doing things on a diplomatic scale and a global scale that nobody thought --
HARLOW: Don't forget --
BERMAN: Keith, quickly, then Doug.
BOYKIN: Except that, you know, you'll recall the Carrier deal, and it was originally was going to be this wonderful package, it was going to save jobs, it turned out to be a scam or a fraud. And I think the problem with the president is that he's so undermined the concept of truth and integrity in government that even if he does come up with some sort of deal, we're going to have to as people in the media and people in the public have to investigate to make sure he is telling the truth and that the details actually line up to what's he's saying there.
BERMAN: Doug, best friendships, you know, Macron, Trump, best friendships?
HARLOW: Dandruff aside. Dandruff picking aside.
BRINKLEY: They have created some kind of friendship that's because Merkel can't stand Trump.
BRINKLEY: You know, and so they need -- and neither did, you know, Theresa May so we needed --
HARLOW: Sure. But Macron also took on some core parts of Trumpism at the end in his address.
BRINKLEY: Of course. But the big thing is the hope we're talking about. It's the Ronald Reagan hope, right? Reagan called him the evil empire. HARLOW: Right.
BRINKLEY: And went after the Soviet Union but then slowly that diplomacy happened. Why? Because the Soviet Union's economy was in tatters. North Korea is suffering right now, not just the starving of the people. You know, he's desperate to get those economic sanctions lifted that gives Trump the leverage in the coming year.
BERMAN: All right, guys, stand by for a second. The president also really seemed to up the steaks with his argument now, his feud with a U.S. senator who claimed that the president's pick to run the Veterans Affairs Department was giving out drugs like candy. President Trump now claims to have damaging information on Democratic Senator Jon Tester. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[23:46:17] TRUMP: And Tester started throwing out things that he's heard. Well, I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said them, he'd never be elected again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: A clear threat from the president tonight speaking at that rally in Michigan. To Democratic Senator Jon Tester, the man that he blames for frankly he being single handedly taking down his nominee to be the secretary of Veteran Affairs, and he says that it's Tester's fault. There is a lot of background here to this story. But tonight the president chose to threaten a sitting U.S. senator with things he says he knows about the president.
BERMAN: Yes, Josh, you know, Josh Green here, it was interesting to hear the president there. The president says he's a counter puncher, but threatening a senator like that, I know things about Jon Tester.
HARLOW: It would make him unelectable.
HARLOW: That's what he says.
BERMAN: It's a threat. Yes.
GREEN: Well, first of all we know this is Trump's mode of politics to start a fight with somebody on the other side and kind of drive that fight into the news ratings. Second of all, we know that he doesn't know something about Jon Tester to disqualify him because Trump can't keep a secret. If he actually did know something he would have said it on the stage. And the third point to make is --
CROSS: On Twitter. GREEN: Yes, right. Exactly. He would have tweeted it. A third
point to make here, though, is that Republicans going into the midterm elections are very nervous about Trump and what he is going to do politically. He is so unpopular in most states in competitive elections that they don't want him involved.
Montana is an exception. Tester is a Democrat. Montana is a state that went red and voted for Trump. It's the one safe sandbox for Trump to start a political fight and he seems to have taken the advice from a strategist that Tester is a safe guy to go after. I think that's one reason why we seem him take several shots at Tester and why they're probably going to continue.
BERMAN: We'll see if it has any resonance around the country or any resonance in Montana right now. You know, again, we'll have to wait and see. Tester has been outperforming a lot of other these red state Democrats in polls there.
BERMAN: We shall see.
HARLOW: All right. Back to that controversial performance tonight by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. We're starting to hear from folks who walked out in the middle of her routine. You'll hear what they had to say, next.
[23:52:22] BERMAN: All right. Some people laughing, some people groaning, a lot of people talking about the performance of Michelle Wolf, the comedian.
HARLOW: We shall see.
BERMAN: Tonight, who performed at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Now we're learning that some supporters of the president, some people who work or worked for the president claimed to have walked out during that performance. Let me read you a couple of tweets that we've seen over the last few minutes. One is from Sean Spicer, he says tonight's White House Correspondents' Dinner was a disgrace. The other from Matt Schlapp, a Republican in charge of CPAC, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ACU.
BERMAN: America Conservative Union and married to Mercedes Schlapp, who works in the White House, says, "My wife Mercedes Schlapp and I walked out early from the Correspondents' Dinner. Enough of elite mocking all of us."
All right, lightning round here. Let's go around the table. Rick Wilson, your reaction?
WILSON: Well, look, this was a rough night for Michelle Wolf. She had a very salty performance and it's framed as everything else gets framed now as where you are on Donald Trump.
DENNARD: You said it best. You said Washington tonight is focused on itself. Tonight President Trump was focused on the people and I think he wins.
BOYKIN: It's comedy. If you support Trump and all the craziness he's done, you have no reason to fight about anything Michelle has said tonight.
SHEFFIELD: There is time to do better next year and get a comedian or maybe bipartisan conservative comedian, liberal comedian next year, or get singers. Get the Frank Sinatra's, I don't know, files.
BERMAN: Doug, will there be a next year? I mean, will there be a next year?
BRINKLEY: I think the White House Correspondents' Dinner is broken. I'm not sure that this helps it continue in perpetuity. You already have news outlets like the "New York Times" saying we're not coming, you have a president not coming, Cabinet people not coming. I think it needs to be re-imagined next year in a way -- with the way that -- what comedian they choose or how they do entertainment. Perhaps find a way to put journalism front and center, not put-downs.
CROSS: I thought Michelle was funny. She had some cringe moments, I agree. I concede about the abortion jokes, but I thought she was funny. I won't criticize Matt Schlapp and his wife for walking out because that would be as ridiculous as criticizing the NFL player for kneeling peacefully in protest, so let him walk out.
GREEN: Don't think this did a lot to advance the cause of journalism but congratulations to Michelle Wolf on her newfound notoriety. I hope --
HARLOW: She does have -- I mean, she has a Netflix show launching in a few weeks and to the point that was made earlier, you know, she is speaking to those folks on trying to please.
GREEN: She got the job done for her, though. Yes.
BERMAN: The chances that President Trump, Josh, remain silent on the White House Correspondents' Dinner over the next 12 hours.
GREEN: You know, the shot at how poor he is I think might actually elicit a response. We'll see.
HARLOW: Do you think he might release his tax returns?
[23:55:00] BERMAN: See, that? That's the kind of thing that would have been so big at the Correspondents' Dinner.
DENNARD: Not funny. Not funny.
SHEFFIELD: Can I ask this question, though?
DENNARD: Still not funny. Still not funny.
HARLOW: You're laughing and you do have great teeth as you --
SHEFFIELD: I have a question on -- so I agree First Amendment and I think at this table it was unanimous, we want to support the First Amendment. But here's my question, my challenge to journalists, and I was a reporter for "The Hill," I was a reporter for Politico, I respect journalism, but here's my question. Again when you see journalists, mainstream journalists, they self identify 80 percent to 90 percent Democrat, liberal. You look at the political donations of people who work in media, it's overwhelmingly Democrat.
So my challenge to you is to say, OK, we believe in First Amendment, but do we have a monopoly on the First Amendment? Is that what social media -- is that what the president is doing by going around the gatekeepers?
SHEFFIELD: To say, OK, let's be a little bit more balanced.
BOYKIN: Be funnier.
BERMAN: All right.
SHEFFIELD: Be funnier. OK.
BERMAN: All right, guys. We are out of time tonight.
HARLOW: Yes. It's been a great five hours.
BERMAN: It only feels like four hours and 59 minutes.
HARLOW: Way to ease in my transition back to work. Five hours on a Saturday night.
BERMAN: Everyone who joined us tonight, all of you out there, thank you so much --
HARLOW: Thank you.
BERMAN: -- for being part of this. "ANTHONY BOURDAIN, PARTS UNKNOWN" starts after a quick break.