Return to Transcripts main page


Stormy Daniel's Attorney Using Trump's Words Against Him; McCain Goes After Trump in Memoir; Trump's Immigration Stance Faces Test as Caravan Arrives at Border; Trump Says Could Meet North Korean Leader at DMZ Next Week; Is "National Enquirer" Turning on Cohen a Sign Trump Will Turn. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired April 30, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's filed this in New York against the president of the United States. This is the second lawsuit Michael Avenatti has filed against Donald Trump -- Brooke?


Let me bring in Dana Bash and Karoun Demirjian. Dana, our CNN chief political correspondent, and Karoun, our CNN political analyst. She's also a congressional reporter for "The Washington Post."

Ladies, she's back. Did she ever go away?

Dana, this would be an example, I guess, according to Michael Avenatti, they're using Trump's words against him. Something we've heard before. The notion that Avanatti is bringing the lawsuit. He's following through on his word. Is this, again, brilliant P.R. strategy on their part to keep it front and center? Is that what this is about?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's exactly right. Look, I mean, she could have a case. That's certainly a legal question. When it comes to the optics, the politics of this, the tweet that Sarah put up, that Stormy Daniels is suing about, that was the first time that we saw or heard the president refer to or acknowledge Stormy Daniels. The reason he did it, he was baited by Michael Avennati, Stormy Daniels' attorney, on the appearance on "The View" that Sara was talking about. Look, they -- it seems as though in terms of somebody who understands theater, who understands the chess game of public relations, the president may have met his match in Stormy Daniels' attorney. And we're seeing that play out with every baby step he takes here.

Unclear, at the end of the day, whether it's going to matter legally. But certainly, politically, and in terms of keeping his clients story out there, it seems to be working.

BALDWIN: Karoun, what do you think?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that you knew that a defamation lawsuit was the move they were going to take. If Trump started commenting on that at all in a may be one of the reasons the president was keeping his mouth shut for a long time. Because this is definitely a way they can go to pull him back in. There's questions about the president saying he had no involvement. It wasn't going to go all the way up to him. The second he starts weighing in, that kind of opens the potential for them to go in this direction, which as Dana was saying, it's good for keeping it in the headlines, good for keeping it at Trump's heels. Where this goes from here we'll see. It's the latest move from a lawyer that seems to be really primed to make any move he can, in order to keep this story -- it's not just to keep the story afloat. He's trying to help his client here. It was a possibility they would do something like this, ever since the story came out.

BALDWIN: So we'll follow that.

Let me ask you, Dana. I know you've been covering Senator John McCain for years and years and years. He's coming out with this memoir, called "The Reckless Wave," where he writes about his mortality, and he goes after President Trump. So let me read this excerpt and we'll talk. He writes, "He has declined to distinguish the actions of our government from the crimes of the despotic ones, the appearance of a reality show facsimile of toughness seems to matter more than any of our values."

You know, does that sound like the John McCain you know, you've been cover?

BASH: Yes. And now the John McCain that people before he had to go back to Arizona to deal with his brain cancer since President Trump has been in office, time after time pushing back on him, the way that McCain feels that the president is eroding the basic tenants of American institutions that John McCain has spent 81 years fighting hard for in the United States Navy, and then in the United States Congress. There's no question about it, he says, look, I'm unshackled, I'm not going to run again, and I can talk about the fact that I like compromise, I like working on things together. There were times he was as open in the past with that as he is now. One thing I thought was so classic McCain. He wrote this with his longtime adviser. At the end of the excerpt that we have, he quotes the character Robert Jordan from "For Whom the Bell Tolls." He's a voracious reader. He loves literature. And this man, this character is sort of who he emulated himself on, and he was quoting Robert Jordan, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for. And I hate very much to leave it." He said, spoke my hero. And it's very poignant.

[14:35:07] BALDWIN: You know, the man has served his country for years and years, Karoun, and you can feel that continuing of emotional -- Dana quoted it. It's this emotion of leaving the world, he asked the country to come together and says, we're more alike than we're different.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes, I mean, John McCain knows how serious the condition he has is, and that he probably is not going to be around forever with it. He's always been a unique voice in the GOP. Especially at this point, which you know, many people are younger than he is, he has the record of service that he has. The record of having been tortured in Vietnam that he does, and he's one of the few people that he's been willing to stand up for what he believes in. And stand up to the president when it comes to issues of national security as well. I think that this is both in a way to be poignant for him. It's going to be one of the final pieces we see from him. Before listening a little bit more closely and a little more softly to what McCain is saying, even though he's been talking this way forever. It has an extra significance now. Every time we hear from it, we may be parting words. That's why there's the poignancy from both ends really. Both the author and the listener, the reader.

BALDWIN: Karoun and Dana, thank you both so much.

Coming up here, a showdown at the U.S./Mexico border. President Trump's immigration stance facing a major test as this caravan of migrants arrives at the border seeking asylum from violence and vowing to stay until they're allowed in this country. We will talk to one of the organizers of this group, next.


[14:41:21] BALDWIN: Back to the breaking news, the standoff at the border. President Trump spoke at the White House, was asked about what's happening here, these dozens of migrants who are vowing to remain outside an immigration processing center until they're all admitted to enter the United States and granted asylum. That's according to the organizer of this caravan. It's a group of migrants who spent the last month traveling through Central America, from places like Honduras and El Salvador.

Here's the response from President Trump minutes ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our immigration laws in this country are a total disaster. They are laughed at all over the world, they're laughed at, for their stupidity. We have to have strong immigration laws. I think if I apologize, it wouldn't make 10 cents worth of difference to them. There's nothing to apologize for. We have to have strong immigration laws to protect our country.

And I've been watching for weeks as the caravan came up. And the Mexican laws are tough on immigration. Extremely tough. And it started out with way over 1,000 people. I guess now it's been to 100. Going through Mexico. People don't realize what a big country Mexico is. But it came down by a lot. And now we're working on the border with the worst laws in any country. No matter where you go, they can't believe it. We're doing the best we can with it. We have to have changes in Congress, and we have to have it quickly.

You see that right now, where they are even though it's not a particularly good wall. A small percentage can climb to the top. They have to be in extremely good shape. But a small percentage can climb that particular wall. We have a wall that's much more difficult. But if you didn't have that, you would have thousands of people pouring into our country.


BALDWIN: Joining me now, one of the organizers of this caravan who says the migrants will stay outside the migrant processing center until every last one is admitted into the U.S.

Here's Tristan call, with the organization. He's on the phone with me.

I know you're in Tijuana. We're looking at pictures of these men, women, children. Are they being processed.

TRISTAN CALL, MEMBER, PEOPLE WITHOUT BORDERS (via telephone): We're here with parents and kids of the caravan. So far, what's happened, since about 4:00 p.m. yesterday, waiting right next to the door where they're able to pass through the port of entry. So far, for 18 hours, they have not been processed in anyway. What the parents decided last night, they would wait and call on people all over the country to send messages to the port director, to follow the law as the Department of Homeland Security said they would, and go ahead and process asylum claims of these refugees who have been notified for weeks that they're on their way.

BALDWIN: Not a single person has been processed. What's the explanation they're being given?

CALL: So far, the explanation that they're given, the port is full. They don't have space to let a single person in. There's no provision in U.S. law to limit the number of people who are able to come in at any single given day, to apply for asylum at the border, we're talking about a law enforcement agency. The largest in the entire continent. They were able to move thousands of people through the border region in a single day. Who are able to transport and incarcerate thousands of people. They cannot process a single individual for over 18 hours is a joke.

[14:45:28] BALDWIN: Tristan, we'll stay in close contact with you and all these people to find out what is going on. I did read that what you're hearing, they have reached capacity.

Let's keep in close contact with you and this 100, 150 or so men, women and children and see what happens over the course of the next couple days.

Tristan, thank you so much, with People Without Borders.

I want to move on and talk about President Trump now saying his meeting with Kim Jong-Un may happen in the next couple weeks. And he has now suggested a possible location for the summit, the DMZ.


TRUMP: We're looking at various countries, including Singapore. Peace House, Freedom House. And there's something that I thought was intriguing. I think that some people don't like the look of that, and some people liked it very much. I will say this, if it's not a success, if it's not a success -- you have to get rid of the nuclear weapons. If it's not a success, I will respectfully leave. It's very simple.


BALDWIN: North Korea saying it will abandon its nukes and invite journalists in to watch the dismantling. As long as the United States does not invade. Never mind the U.S. has made no threats towards the North. This report is coming from a South Korea official to "The New York Times."

Meantime, South Korea's president told his cabinet he thinks President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending the stand- off between North and South Korea. And Trump supporters agree.



TRUMP: That's very nice. Thank you. That's very nice. The Nobel.



BALDWIN: With me now, Balbina Hwang, former senior adviser for the State Department, and Bob Baer, CNN intelligence and security analyst, and former CIA operative.

To both of you, I mean, this is entirely fascinating.

Balbina, to watch how quickly this story has moved, from the pictures of the DMZ of President Moon and Kim, to Kim's total 180 from the past couple months. What is behind this?

BALBINA HWANG, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT: Well, look, there's several things behind this. I think it's what's very important to understand is, the peace process is very separate from the nuclear issue, I think what's happening here is an attempt to try to combine she's two things and what the two Koreas are trying to do is to separate them, it's very important to understand they are very separate issues I think the United States should be handling the nuclear issue, which is very important. It's a global security threat. And the peace process is a very separate issue and should be handled separately.

BALDWIN: But, Bob, Kim Jong-Un is a smart, calculating dictator. Are you -- how optimistic are you or do you think there's something else going on?

BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE & SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Brooke, I mean, I, frankly -- I worked in the Cold War. I worked against North Korea. And the idea that North Korea would open up its country for inspections to journalists or the IAEA. I don't find that possible. We had a nuclear agreement. Neither country benefited from it, basically. It's we have so far to go in this. And the president has lowered expectations, I'm going to show up, I'm going to listen. If we can move this forward and he's absolutely right. It's much better than when you and I were talking six months ago, and it looked like we were going to go to war. I'll remain optimistic, but not very.

BALDWIN: Earlier, at the White House, he defined success as saying no nukes. Depending on what the next couple chapters look like of this story, Balbina, do you think, do you agree with President Moon that President Trump should get the Nobel Peace Prize?

[14:49:53] HWANG: I think that Kim Jong-Un can open up one particular nuclear site. I don't know if he specified which one. The messages come through South Korea, perhaps the journalists can come. At the very end of the W. Bush administration, North Korea did blow up one cooling town. And in return, president removed North Korea from the terror sponsor list, this was part of the six-party agreement. When North Korea has signed certain agreements, it did follow through. But then again, these deals have fallen apart. Perhaps we can enter into part of this agreement that doesn't mean we shouldn't be optimistic to a certain degree. I don't think we should be that optimistic, I don't think anybody should get a peace deal because nuclear agreements does not mean a peace deal between these two countries that are still at war.

BALDWIN: You say maybe no.

What about, Bob, the location of this actual meeting. The president, a minute ago, at the meeting was saying, maybe Singapore, maybe the DMZ, which is where we saw Moon and Kim a couple days ago in those extraordinary photos. Why do you think Trump would want to do it along the border?

BAER: First, the North Koreans don't have planes to make it to Singapore, and it wouldn't look good if they borrowed a Chinese one.


I don't think it's a bad idea. Symbolically, it's important. Remember, this is pretty much show up to this point until we get an inspection agreement and a true agreement. Meeting there, I thought was a fantastic show crossing the DMZ like they did, North Korea and Kim Jong-Un. So why not?

BALDWIN: Why not? Why not?

Balbina and Bob, thank you so much on all things North Korea and President Trump.

Meantime, the "National Enquirer" turning on President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The question is, why.


[14:55:03] BALDWIN: The Trump-friendly tabloid, the "National Enquirer," is going after the president's personal lawyer now, Michael Cohen. The "National Enquirer" just published a three-page spread listing all the legal woes dogging Cohen. We'll show you the front page. You'll see the current issue. The "Enquirer" has been accused of shielding Trump from embarrassing stories for years and years. Now the attorney for adult film star, Stormy Daniels, says the tabloid is at it again.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: It's very clear to me, Jake, what's going on here is that Mr. Trump and the administration have concluded what I've been saying for weeks, that Michael Cohen is in a lot of trouble and he's going to flip on the president. So this is the first effort on their part to undermine Mr. Cohen's credibility, so they can claim when he does flip that he is a liar, that he has no credibility, et cetera. I want you to recognize this is only one week after Mr. Trump last weekend sent out his tweet, effectively, coming to the defense of Michael Cohen or attempting to send a message that he had his back. And here we have AMI, less than a week later, putting this on their cover. It's pretty transparent what's going on here.


BALDWIN: With me now, Maeve Reston, CNN national political reporter, and Maxine Page, former executive editor of AMI Media, Inc., the parent company of the "National Enquirer."


First of all, Maxine, you know "Enquirer" speak. What does this front-page cover story signal?

MAXINE PAGE, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, AMI MEDIA, INC: I think Avanatti is completely spot on the money. If anyone thinks there's not another agenda at play here, they're crazy. There's a reason they've done this abrupt turn and suddenly attacking Cohen. I think, yes, Stormy Daniels' attorney has got it spot on.

BALDWIN: Maeve, what do you think?

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: I think that we don't know that yet. But obviously, this is an incredibly important relationship in Trump world between Trump and David Pecker over the years. It's been mutually beneficial. And they have, the "National Enquirer" has protected President Trump over and over again, the catch and kill stories that were so much in the news over the last couple months. But it's -- there may be sort of a game of leverage here. We don't know at this point what is running through Michael Cohen's mind, other than he's in a lot of trouble. And clearly, we do know that Trump's lawyers are more concerned about this web of cases than they are even about the Mueller probe. This could well be Trump talking to his friend, trying to get some leverage over his attorney. But it's a complex relationship, and there's a lot of twists and turns to go in all of these various investigations.

BALDWIN: On the twist and turns, Maxine, with your time at AMI, do you have any idea how often Trump would be in touch with David Pecker and if they're still in touch.

PAGE: I don't know right now. I know, from the time, I was there, they were in contact regularly. And David Pecker liked to boast they are very close friends. He had just flown in on Donald's jet, he's dining with him. He had bragging rights attached to Donald Trump. I would assume that's still going on. Like I said, I can't speak for, right now, I know they spoke regularly before. I think it's safe to say that any story that comes out like this has got to have been passed by Trump beforehand. I can't see how they run a piece like that without passing it by him. It makes no sense.

BALDWIN: We don't know that for a fact, if that is the cases. And if you are Michael Cohen, knowing what you know about how Trump, and the "National Enquirer" and AMI work so closely together, how concerned should Michael Cohen be?

RESTON: Every piece of his history now with Donald Trump is potentially before investigators. We don't know what documents and transactions were seized. He's clearly in lots of legal jeopardy on a number of different cases. And you clearly see Stormy Daniels lawyer trying to keep the pressure on there and serve as kind of a master provocateur of Trump. So this is a very complex legal situation for Cohen, and clearly also for Trump, who really doesn't want his longtime friend and loyalist to flip. It was Michael Cohen who said he would take a bullet for the president, and we'll see how true that ends up being.

BALDWIN: Maeve and Maxine, thank you, ladies, so very much.

PAGE: Thank you.

RESTON: Thank you, Brooke.

[14:59:53] BALDWIN: We continue on.

Top of the hour. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We begin with a major development involving the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump is signaling that he is leaning towards pulling out of the accord after a call with the leader of Israel over weekend. And in this news conference earlier this afternoon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel --