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President Trump Decides Not to Honor Iran Nuclear Deal; Secretary of State Heads to North Korea. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 15:00   ET



MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: But this is the first we are getting real confirmation of this.

And we know that Pompeo has taken two pool reporters with him on this trip. So, we are starting to get the first reports of them of detailed what exactly is going on here.

So, he is now en route to North Korea. He doesn't even know at this point, according to these reports, who he will be meeting with there. But we know what the outlines are about, that this is about setting up the summit which is supposedly soon to happen between Trump and Korean leader -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

So, State Department officials are saying they are looking for a real change in stance here from North Korea. They want to see that they are absolutely ready to sit down and not just talk, but they really are thinking and looking and willing to do something, most importantly, towards denuclearization.

On the subject of the three American detainees in North Korea, these officials, and the secretary of state, Pompeo, himself were asked about this on the plane. He said that they have been asking for the return of these Americans for 17 months.

At this point, he says they don't have a firm commitment from North Korea that they will be returned, but they are going to be bringing it up again and talking about it. And he is hoping for a positive outcome there.

So, the big question of this trip was, was this going to be him coming home jubilantly with the return of these three Americans? So we still don't know the answer to that yet. But what they are hoping to get at the very least from this trip is a real outline and a real schedule of what the summit will look like between Trump and Kim.

And that means the location, the date, and the time, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the president shaking the announcement that Mike Pompeo is just outside Pyongyang. For all we know, he may have arrived by now. We will, of course, get details.

Let me just repeat the major headline right now, the president of the United States announcing just a little while ago in a 10-minute address to the nation, indeed to the world, that the United States is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal that was worked out during the Obama administration back in 2015 with the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.

The president also announcing that the United States would immediately reinstate very tough sanctions against Iran. And he warned other countries that if they get involved in helping the Iranians at all in their nuclear program, the U.S. will sanction them as well.

Listen to the president.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.

Last week, Israel published intelligence documents, long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranians' regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.

The fact is, this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn't bring calm. It didn't bring peace. And it never will.

Since the agreement, Iran's bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen. In light of these glaring flaws, I announced last October that the Iran deal must either be renegotiated or terminated.

Three months later, on January 12, I repeated these conditions. I made clear that, if the deal could not be fixed, the United States would no longer be a party to the agreement.

Over the past few months, we have engaged extensively with our allies and partners around the world, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. We have also consulted with our friends from across the Middle East.

We are unified in our understanding of the threat and in our conviction that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon.

After these consultations, it is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen.

In just a short period of time, the world's leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world's most dangerous weapons.

Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.


BLITZER: There is the president. I want to go to our White House reporter, Kaitlan Collins. She's over

at the White House for us.

You are getting some new details from behind the scenes, Kaitlan. What are you learning?



We actually just had a briefing with the new national security adviser, John Bolton, really walking through the details of this agreement after the president -- of this announcement after the president made that announcement earlier in the room here at the White House.

And he did say, we are out of the deal. That's what John Bolton told reporters. I believe this is the first time that John Bolton has addressed reporters publicly since he became the new national security adviser here at the White House, someone who was often on television before he took a job here, but hasn't been as much anymore.

But he was walking reporters through this. He said that those sanctions will be imposed right away, these sanctions that existed before this deal. He said that that would block any new business contracts from happening. And as far as those business contracts that already exist, he said that there would be a wind-down period that will be explained in further detail by the Treasury Department later today.

He was very blunt, Wolf, about one thing, and that was, if this announcement by the president that he is getting out of Iran nuclear deal preludes any military intervention over there, and John Bolton said very quickly, no, it doesn't. Those people who believe that are sadly mistaken.

And then he also made one other noteworthy point, Wolf, which is regarding North Korea. Of course, during that announcement, the president said that the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is on his way to North Korea to meet with several officials ahead of that upcoming summit between President Trump and the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.

Of course, Wolf, as this discussion about whether or not the president would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal has happened, critics have said that it could be sending the wrong message to North Korea as we're negotiating with them regarding their nuclear weapons, and maybe it would not send the message that the United States would follow through on those agreements.

John Bolton does not see it that way. He said that is not the message that today the president's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal sends. He actually said it sends the opposite deal, which is that the United States wants a real deal and will not accept any inadequate deals, so right there going against what the critics have said, Wolf. The White House sees this as a promising thing ahead of those

negotiations with North Korea.

BLITZER: Very interesting stuff. I'm sure we're going to be hearing a lot more from John Bolton and others at the White House as well.

We're just getting reaction from the Iranian leader, Hassan Rouhani. Let's listen to this.


HASSAN ROUHANI, IRANIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Based on what we have been saying since 40 years ago, and we have been repeating this, and that is, Iran is a country that adheres to its commitments, and the U.S. is a country that has never adhered to its commitments.


BLITZER: So, there is the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, saying that Iran agrees to live up to its commitments.

Clearly, he says, the United States does not.

Kelly Magsamen is joining us right now.

You spent years during the Obama administration working on sanctions against Iran, working in favor of this agreement. What's your reaction?

KELLY MAGSAMEN, FORMER DIRECTOR FOR IRAN, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: Well, I was watching Rouhani's reaction. I'm not surprised by that.

I think the Iranians will try to use this as an opportunity to split the United States from its European allies. But I think one thing that hasn't been talked about really is what the Chinese and the Russians may react to in this situation.

And, of course, Chinese purchases a large amount of Iranian oil. So, I'm actually interested to see how the Chinese react. We have been focusing a lot on the European piece. But there is also the Chinese and Asian ally aspect.

I actually think that the first impact could potentially be our Japanese and Korean allies as well in the oil sanctions space. So, I'm watching that very closely.


BLITZER: You mean if they stop purchasing?


BLITZER: But there is no indication that they are going to do what the United States has now done, withdraw from the agreement or impose new sanctions.

MAGSAMEN: Yes. Right, but that they may be the first at risk from U.S. reimposing sanctions as it relates to oil trade.



SCIUTTO: I remember, covering this, that getting China in particular on board to the sanctions, to agree to not buy Iranian oil, was a big deal at the time, China not a partner, not an enemy, but not a U.S. partner, and because it was not really in China's economic interests, right?

You want to buy oil from wherever you can. China needs oil. Its economy is growing. The U.S. got China on board to that. So, what -- it's a great point. What do they do now? Do they start buying and say, listen, it's in our interests now? Do they stay in? It is a big question.

BLITZER: But it's important to note that when the president said the U.S. was going to reinstate the sanctions against Iran, he also said the U.S. would impose sanctions against countries that help Iran in its nuclear program.

MAGSAMEN: Exactly.

BLITZER: That seems to be pretty specifically targeted.

SCIUTTO: It's not -- well, it does. It does.

And this is the thing. So, if you are a European company, say, or a Chinese company, for that matter, do you believe the president's promise there, that you will not be subject to sanctions, maybe not today, but how about in three months' time?

And you have got to make decisions and invest your millions and billions of dollars dealing with this, under already difficult circumstances.


Do you take the president's assurances there at face value and go ahead with those business deals, when already the business environment in Iran was difficult while this deal was still alive?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And how do you defend -- how do you define help? Maybe we will have more information beyond what the president said in that speech.

But could help be buying oil, giving the Iranians more money to spend?

SCIUTTO: It's where the money goes.


JASON REZAIAN, JOURNALIST DETAINED IN IRAN: During the pre-deal sanctions up until 2014 and 2015, there was exemptions built into that. I And wonder if that will be the case this time around, or there will be stricter regulations on people.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you never know with this president.

REZAIAN: Exactly. Exactly.


BORGER: Because he tends to put in exemptions after he announces policy. So, that could very well be the case again. But we don't know at this point.

BLITZER: Kelly, the president said, in addressing where to go from here, he tried to lay out a plan.

He said the Iranians have to stop any hopes of ever, ever, he said, getting a nuclear program, they have to eliminate their ballistic missile program, they have to stop terrorism. As you know, the State Department regards Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.

And they have to stop menacing other countries in the region. He was referring to Yemen, for example, Syria, other countries in the region. Is any of that realistic right now?

MAGSAMEN: Well, it all sounds very good, but I haven't seen what the actual plan to achieve any of that is from the Trump administration.

I think, to previous points, they have eliminated the leverage that they had the minute they pulled out of this deal and put the United States in violation of the deal.

And I -- as somebody who put together the sanctions campaign in 2009 and 2010, I mean, that was painstaking diplomacy through our Treasury and State departments to really impose a set of international sanctions and unilateral sanctions against Iran.

I just don't see a pathway for that going forward. In the region, I think the administration -- there is nothing that prevents the administration from putting pressure on the Iranians in the region.

President Trump has the keys to the castle in that regard, with U.S. presence in Syria, which he has already talked about withdrawing U.S. presence in Syria. That's a win for the Iranians.

There is the committing to help Iraq become a stable democracy. If he doesn't commit to that, that's a win for the Iranians. There is nothing that prevents the Trump administration from imposing pressure on the Iranian and their bad behavior in the region on top of the deal.

BLITZER: And, David, I want your reaction.


BLITZER: Because the president says he wants Iran to stop supporting terrorist organizations.

And, as you know, the U.S., the State Department regards Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. Is there any indication you see at all that that's going to happen, that Iran is going to stop supporting Hezbollah or Hamas?

URBAN: Well, listen, it hasn't happened to date.

And that's why we are here today. Jason said -- I asked him earlier, how did you get out of prison in Iran? The sanctions regime. You talked about how sanctions actually work. Jim talks about how restricting capital flow to Iran gets people to the table again.

I think you are going to see it all again. I think that you will have increased sanctions. The Europeans will follow. I think capital will not flow into Iran, and you will get back to the table.

This president -- look, if you look at all the deals, all the multilateral deals, right, the Obama doctrine of multilateralism, right, was dismissed wildly and loudly by John Bolton and others.

This president loves bilateral deals. You look at NAFTA barely squeaking along. TPP blew up. Paris accord. This president likes to negotiate with people across the table. I think that is what you are going to see.

BORGER: But what will this do to Israel in terms of Syria and Lebanon? Is this going to make them a little more muscular now? Is this going to embolden them to do more in terms of that part of the world, now that you have got Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump on the same page here vis-a-vis Iran?

URBAN: I would say look before the raid on the reactors in Iran at Osirak years ago. I don't think that...


URBAN: Excuse me. I don't think the Israelis were asking our permission then. And I don't think they will ask our permission now. They will act what is in their best interests.

BORGER: I'm not saying they will ask our permission.


URBAN: No, but I think they will act whatever is in their best interests.

BORGER: Are they going to assume they have our support?

BLITZER: Well, everybody, stick around.

We are covering the major breaking news right now. The United States -- the president of the United States announcing that it was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Plus, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, right now on his way to

North Korea. For all we know, he may already have arrived in Pyongyang. Will the Americans being held prisoner in North Korea be freed? We will be back.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our special coverage of President Trump's announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

I'm Brianna Keilar, in for Brooke Baldwin.

And among the president's reasons for backing out, he cited Israeli intelligence showing Iran pursuing nuclear weapons. But that goes against his own top intel leaders, who said this in the last two months:


TRUMP: Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.

Last week, Israel published intelligence documents, long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranians' regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.

The fact is, this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn't bring calm. It didn't bring peace. And it never will.


KEILAR: Joining me now is Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. She served as deputy energy secretary and was senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council.

Elizabeth, I do wonder what you make of the president there seeming to defer to Israeli intelligence, not citing U.S. intelligence, which is different. And, obviously, at some point, this needs to be sorted out. Is he disagreeing with U.S. intelligence?



I think this is a reckless strategic mistake, for three reasons. First of all, the president based this decision on what he said was a fiction, that the deal was negotiated because we believed the Iranians had only a civil nuclear program, so it was based on a lie. That's fundamentally false.

The reason that the Obama administration and the Bush administration before that aggressively pursued a sanctions regime and then negotiation of a nuclear agreement was to put a stop to what we knew was the Iranians' deliberate effort to acquire nuclear weapons.

Second, the president said that the Iranians had been cheating, based on that Israeli intelligence that you cited. But, in fact, his own director of national intelligence and his former CIA director, now the secretary of state, both testified before Congress recently that they have no evidence of Iranian cheating.

And, indeed, what Netanyahu reported did not provide any new information to us about what the Iranians have been doing.

Third, and most important from the perspective of our national security interests and the interests of our allies around the world, the Iranians have been implementing the agreement. They have taken 97 percent of the enriched uranium out of the country. Their plutonium production reactor can no longer produce the kind of plutonium that would make a nuclear weapon.

And what we know is that they have been moving deliberately to implement with the most intrusive verification, inspection and monitoring of any arms control agreement in history.

So, it is on the president now. The onus is on the United States. We have left this agreement that is delivering security to the United States, our allies and indeed to the world. The question on the table is, what is he going to do next?


KEILAR: When you look at that citation of Israeli intelligence, it seems over U.S. intelligence, specifically on that point that you bring up, what is your concern there?

So, there is nothing, as far as you know, to indicate that that is corroborated by U.S. intelligence, right?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Look, I don't see the intelligence today that I saw when I was in the administration.

But the important fundamental point is that we knew the Iranians wanted a nuclear weapon. And so we began intensive negotiations to constrain their ambition to acquire nuclear weapons by doing the most important thing.

You can't get rid of nuclear know-how. What you can do is prevent access to the fissile material that makes nuclear bombs. And what this agreement did was achieve that goal.


KEILAR: Are concerned that there didn't -- the last word that we have heard from the intel community is counter to what we are hearing from Israel when it comes to this intelligence that he is citing?

If there is some sort of corroboration, should that have come out as part of this, rather than him leaning on Israeli intelligence?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Of course, my view is that I rely on the American intelligence community to provide me with the information that I have high confidence in.

And, in this particular case, what we know is that the implementation has been moving forward effectively without any evidence of violation. In addition, the agreement has mechanisms built into it where, if there is any suspicion of a violation, we can immediately go to a commission that was established, with multiple countries participating, to ensure that the Iranians come clean.

What we have now done again is walk away from that, breaking the system that was built to hold the Iranians accountable for their agreement. And now the onus is on us for breaking it, rather than on the Iranians.

KEILAR: So, what happens now?

Because there is going to be some time before these sanctions go into effect. You have the president. He just made the case that this is actually going to bring Iran to the table. You are hearing something very different from Iran. They are saying they are not going to add to this agreement and they are not going to broker a new one.

What happens now?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: So, Brianna, this is the key question.

We know from negotiation experts that the most important thing you have to consider when you are negotiating is, what is your best alternative to a negotiated agreement, what Bill Ury called your BATNA?

My question here is, what is our best alternative? A cynic would say that what the Israeli -- what Benjamin Netanyahu was driving toward in his presentation last week was pushing the United States to go to war with Iran before Iran has a nuclear weapon, because once it has a nuclear weapon, it would have a deterrent.

So, now the question is, how do we get the Iranians to come back and work in a constructive way? How do we hold them accountable for implementation? What happens when the rest of the world is wondering why the United States does not lead? Why do we walk away from an agreement that is working for everybody?

KEILAR: There is a statement just in now from former Secretary of State John Kerry, who, of course, was in power when this deal was brokered. He had been talking with Iranians, with the Iranian foreign minister, other officials, through all of this, including allies of the U.S.


And so here's what it says.

It says, "This weakens our security and breaks America's word."

We heard something similar from Rouhani, where he said that the U.S. isn't living up to its word.

Was it appropriate for Kerry to be speaking with the Iranians behind the scene? Did that just give ammunition to Donald Trump? He is speaking out now, which seems pretty normal for him to have a response, but speaking behind the scenes?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: Look, I think it's profoundly important that the United States stand by our word.

Our credibility in the world when we are negotiating, our credibility is essential to our ability to hold those with whom we negotiate accountable. And, ironically, the president is beginning a negotiation with the North Koreans, who now have multiple nuclear weapons.

And the question on the table is, how does he have credibility to negotiate, when he has just walked away from the most recently negotiated arms control agreement that stood in the way of the development of the Iranian nuclear program?

So, it undermines his credibility as a negotiator, and indeed would embolden anyone with whom he negotiates to conclude that it's not necessary to stick with what is agreed to because the United States will not be good for its word. That is incredibly damaging to our brand in the world.

KEILAR: But does it bolster his role when you have someone behind the scenes, arguably from the Trump administration's point of view, meddling?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL: I don't believe that former Secretary of State Kerry was meddling.

As we well know, former secretaries of state and other former Cabinet members have ongoing ties to their former counterparts in various countries. And I believe that Secretary of State Kerry, who negotiated so intensively for this agreement, is seeking to find a way forward to ensure that we remain in this agreement and that we continue to advance our national security interests, as well as those of our friends and allies around the world.

KEILAR: Elizabeth, thank you so much, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall with us.


KEILAR: We do appreciate your time.

President Trump also just announced that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on his way to North Korea right now -- what he told reporters on the plane about the goal of his trip.

Plus: the New York attorney general who has been a thorn in President Trump's side forced to resign over allegations of abuse. What does this mean for his pending cases that are against the Trump administration?