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White House Declines to Talk About 49 Mueller Questions for Trump; Trump Claims Justice Cannot Be Obstructed If There Is No Crime; Deputy AG says on Trump impeachment threat the DOJ will not be extorted; Kim Jung-Un Agrees to Meet Trump At DMZ. Aired 3:30-4p ET
Aired May 1, 2018 - 15:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Moments ago, you saw the White House press secretary dodging questions about the leak to "The New York Times." at least 49 questions that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller would like to ask President Trump. The president this morning called the leak a, quote unquote, disgrace.
But his press secretary kept referring all questions to the president's personal attorney except for this one.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the White House concerned as Congressman Adam Schiff has said that so many of the questions point to obstruction of justice?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We here at the White House try not to be concerned about anything dealing with Adam Schiff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Adam Schiff is the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Our CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is here to walk us through of these questions. All these themes, 49 questions, it's a lot. Show us how the scope of the questions is indicative of what Mueller may be looking for.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, you said a lot of questions here. They really do showcase the broad scope of the special counsel's probe and they incorporate within all these questions two threads of inquiry that we have reported on extensively already. Possible campaign collusion with the Russians and obstruction of justice. To get really out those larger questions, we do know from sources that Mueller's team they are focusing on several areas.
They include the president's actions while he's been in office, activity from his campaign in 2016 and even before that, and then the president's business dealings and in particular his 2013 trip to Moscow when he hosted the Miss Universe Pageant. I will get you more on that in a minute. But we do know that Muller's investigators they met with the president's lawyers back in March and the president's team at that point we know from sources took notes about the various topics that the special counsel wanted answers on, incorporating all of these areas as well and it was just last night that "The New York Times" compiled a long list of questions they had paraphrase paraphrased.
So, let's begin with some of the first questions when it comes to obstruction. There will be three key players Mueller's team is focused on, fired FBI Director James Comey, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mueller's team wants to know about the president's interaction with all of them, including James Comey. They want to know in particular when and why did the president decide to fire James Comey?
That question is key because official word from the White House at the time was that Comey was fired for mishandling of the Clinton e-mail probe. A few days later the president said in an interview that he had Russia on his mind when he fired Comey. Mueller's team is trying to get to the bottom of that. Then another line of questioning is the campaign itself. And in that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Junior, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, as well as a Russian lawyer and some others.
Mueller's team, they want to know when did the president become aware of that Trump Tower meeting that happened at the height of the campaign, since of course Donald Trump Jr. and the president, they say President Trump knew nothing about it at the time. A second question relating to this is what kind of response, did the president have regarding the response of the e-mails about it. The initial response said that meeting was just about Russian adoptions and failed to mention except for a subsequent statement that Donald Trump Jr. was actually promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. So, all of these questions, about 50 in all, these will be the focus of Robert Mueller as he continues this probe. Of course, Brooke, he wants to talk to the president. And still a lot of questions as to whether or not the president will sit down with Robert Mueller's team.
BALDWIN: Jessica, thank you. We will fact check the president's claim on whether you can obstruct justice if there is no crime. Stand by.
[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: We're back on all these questions that were leaked to "The New York Times," all these questions that the special counsel Robert Mueller would like to ask of President Trump. Jennifer Rodgers and Daniel Goldman are with me. We threw up the president's response today. The president's response suggests you cannot obstruct justice if there is no crime. I assume you disagree.
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Of course. this is an easy one actually. You just have to obstruct an investigation, it has to be an actual investigation, but the investigation does not have to successfully lead to a criminal prosecution.
BALDWIN: What do you make of the president's words, the president's behavior, if no harm no foul, no wrong, no crime is been committed?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think the president consistently gets the law wrong. But more importantly I think he is consistently shooting himself in the foot by sending tweets like this, by talking so much. You can see it in the questions that Mueller wants to ask. So many of those questions relate to things that President Trump has tweeted, has stated, presumably without much vetting from legal advisers because they are contrary to his interests. And he continues to get himself in hot water by doing that. He did it last week when we went on "Fox & Friends" and two hours later the southern district of New York included a comment that he made on "Fox & Friends" in a court filing to use against him in his effort to review the documents.
[15:40:00] So, yes, Jennifer's right. He gets the law wrong pretty consistently in his tweeting. There are about three or four absolute falsehoods in that tweet alone, including who the leaker is. We can almost be sure it is not Bob Mueller in fact "The New York Times" story said it came from someone close to the president's team. It's just a kind of deception and a misinformation campaign that he's been waging on Twitter and it is not helping him.
BALDWIN: We don't know this but one of the theories of why it's been leaked is to spook President Trump into seeing the questions and not wanting to sit down with Robert Mueller. We are going to leave it Jennifer and Daniel, thank you both so much on that.
As the president says a decision will be revealed on where he will meet with Kim Jong-un, I will speak with the state department's former point person for North Korea who recently left. Hear what he thinks will happen.
[15:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: Back to the breaking news. We heard from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defending the Justice Department against attacks, including attacks from the president. Laura Jarrett was there. Laura Jarrett, what was your big takeaway?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is not pulling any punches today at an event here in Washington. He told me essentially the Department of Justice will not be extorted by members of Congress who continue to try to cause a ruckus, cause a fight about documents over the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, about the surveillance warrant over Carter Page and other federal probes. He was in a good mood, joking, at one point someone passed him a piece of paper, and he said is that a subpoena. The crowd laughed. He pulled out his pocket constitution from his breast pocket. He was in a good mood when it came to those congressional probes, those protracted fights that we have seen over and over again with House Republicans over all of these tense political issues, he really was not holding back anymore, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Someone who the public rarely hears from. As he is center stage, the head of this Mueller probe, it was nice to hear from him and for you to get a question in. Laura Jarrett, thank you so much. More on the president's former doctor claiming he was raided and members of the Trump inner circle taking his medical files. CNN is learning that may not actually be the case. Stand by for new details. [15:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BALDWIN: A source is now telling CNN South Korean President Moon Jae- in has convinced North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un to hold his upcoming meeting with President Trump in the demilitarized zone. It is an idea Trump is enthusiastic about. Few know about the ins and outs on the policy in the Korean Peninsula like my next guest, he is Joseph Yun, CNN global affairs analyst who was at the State Department until very recently is the chief negotiator with North Korea. Joe, a pleasure and welcome.
JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Thank you very much. Good to be here.
BALDWIN: So, you recently left -- you retired from the State Department. Can you tell me -- can you tell me why and how much of the why is related to any frustration with the Trump administration?
YUN: Well, Brooke, to be frank with you, I believe when I left about two months ago, that's when I left my position, that as diplomats and as State Department, we were being marginalized and felt our role was not as it should be and so that is the reason why I left.
BALDWIN: The diminishing role of state. Let me ask you about the current situation with North Korea. Because here you have Kim Jong- un, he goes from threatening to turn the U.S. into a sea of flames, that was last fall, to now agreeing to sit eye to eye with a man who referred to him as little rocket man. What is with Kim's apparent 180?
YUN: Well this is really a very significant turn of events. We've seen, as you say, matter of a few months going from one extreme to the other. I mean, I'm sure many people are confused. I think that there are three key reasons why this has happened.
Number one, this has not been said enough, is that South Koreans have played an enormous role. Especially President Moon has completely brokered these -- I would say -- tension reduction using the Olympics and then of course the summit that followed. So, he has convinced both the North Korean leader and President Trump to have this meeting.
And the second reason is of course North Korea has the weapons, they have the nuclear capability and the delivery system. So, I do think to some extent they feel more confident.
The last reason is also we must give credit. Maximum pressure has, indeed, put pressure on North Korea. Not just North Korea, but South Korea, China and the community. For all of those reasons, we'll be seeing a fascinating summit that will come up in about a month or so.
[15:55:00] BALDWIN: Back on your reason number one in the role of President Moon, as you watch Kim and Moon holding hands, stepping across the DMZ, Joe, what was running through your mind? Did you ever think you would see the day?
YUN: Well, this is the third summit between the two Korean leaders. And this is, I think, the most significant summit. And really for most of Korea and Korean Americans it was a momentous moment and maybe there is something different in the feel to the third one, the one that just happened, than the previous two. Certainly, there are a lot of hopes and we'll see what happens. And also, a lot of hopes on the Trump-Kim summit that will take place in a month. We need to see the content of the summit and it has to be more than rhetoric. We need some substance coming out.
BALDWIN: The Trump -- let me ask you about the Trump and Kim Jong-un meeting, this notion it could be at the DMZ. Do you think that that is a good idea, location-wise, or are there risks involved in that location?
YUN: I don't think there are much risks. I think it is a good idea to have it on DMZ. Certainly, for the North Korean leader, that is the most comfortable place outside of North Korea. And for President Trump, he will have tremendous support from the South Korea and the United States has a very big military presence, about 29,000 troops, so logistically it works for both and also optically it works. This now -- DMZ and divided line, 38th parallel, I think it works.
BALDWIN: Do you think, depending on how all of this plays out, and whatever success means, success according to the president is denuclearization of North Korea, president moon has said that President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. Joe, would you agree?
YUN: Well, I think denuclearization immediately is certainly not in the cards, nor even denuclearization soon, that is not in the cards. I mean, North Korea has gone through this many times and really, I don't see that they will denuclearize soon --
BALDWIN: Is it ever in the cards, Joe?
YUN: I think it is sometime very distant future, it is in the cards if the United States, South Korea meet the conditions and so that has to -- I'm a diplomat. You have to have diplomatic negotiations. We don't just get there from A to B. You have to have a process.
BALDWIN: It is like that A to Z. So, what does B Look like? Let's imagine the summit goes well, perhaps at the DMZ, what does immediate success look like from the U.S. perspective and from the North Korean perspective?
YUN: Quite honestly, Brooke, I'm surprised North Korea has given already three items. One, no tests. No tests of nuclear and missiles. Two, no objections to joint military exercise. And three, agreeing to get rid of their nuclear detonation facility. So already we have them. So, I think setting up the expectation that it has to be denuclearization now is nothing -- that is not going to work. We have to be martyr -- we have to be patient and let the process and net negotiations continue.
BALDWIN: Quickly, the three Americans being detained in North Korea, do you believe their release is imminent in these pre-Trump and Kim Jong-un meeting discussions? YUN: I would certainly hope so. I know I've spoken to my colleagues,
they have raised the issue. And I would really hope -- in fact I was hoping when CIA Director Pompeo went to Pyongyang, that he would bring them back. So frankly, it is a bit of a disappointment for me as well as many, of course, that he did not. This has to happen. Frankly, they've done nothing wrong. The worst thing they've done is to be missionaries.
BALDWIN: Joseph Yun, thank you so much. A pleasure. Let's speak again in the weeks leading up to the summit. I'm Brooke Baldwin. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.