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President Trump to Decide on U.S. Remaining in Iran Nuclear Deal; President Trump; Criticizes John Kerry for Shadow Diplomacy on Iran Deal; President Trump Criticizes West Virginia Republican Senate Primary Candidate Don Blankenship. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired May 8, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Tuesday, May 8th, 8:00 in the east, and we do begin with breaking news on two major foreign policy issues. The first one, the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un meeting with the leader of China in northeastern China just ahead of nuclear talks with the U.S. President Trump says now that he is going to speak with the Chinese leader this hour. The president tweeting this, "I will be speaking to my friend, President Xi of China, this morning at 8:30. The primary topics will be trade, where good things will happen, and North Korea, where relationships and trust are building."
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Also breaking, in just hours President Trump will announce the most consequential national security decision of his presidency. The president is widely expected to end the waiver of sanctions against Iran, ignoring pleas from some U.S. allies, in effect leaving the historic nuclear deal. Ahead of this big announcement, the president is attacking former secretary of state John Kerry. Mr. Trump tweeting, "John Kerry can't get over the fact that he had his chance and blew it. Stay away from negotiations, John. You are hurting your country."
Let's bring in CNN politics reporter and editor at large Chris Cillizza and CNN political analyst John Avlon. OK, there's so much news to get to. John Avlon, let's start with this conversation that President Trump is announcing that he is having with President Xi. What do we think this means for the possible meeting with Kim Jong-un, what do we think he's going to say to President Xi?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: First of all, I'd say that calling Xi his friend is probably not the most accurate assessment of the relationship. China's a strategic competitor. Trump's clearly putting a lot of stock in personal diplomacy, but the Chinese generally don't play that way.
That said, they are vitally important to that region of course. They have been a major benefactor of North Korea, and any attempt to contain North Korea nuclear ambitions is going to need to involve China as a key partner in some capacity. So that's an important step forward. On the flipside, taking action against Iran today and undercutting the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran could also make that North Korean negotiation more tricky because it raises will questions about the United States constancy in these multi-lateral negotiations if they lead to contain nuclear ambitions.
CUOMO: So Chris Cillizza, one more beat on this and then we want to get to what's happening with John Kerry right now. The timing of this, so we hear that the president of China is meeting with Kim Jong- un, and then the president comes right out saying, I'm going to call him. It fuels suspicion that -- we would assume they would know, right? Is that a Felix Unger assumption, or do we believe the timing is relevant? How so?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER: Well, I usually think that the best way to understand this White House is to assume that he, Donald Trump, is just saying and doing things and that we are putting a broader strategy to it or his White House is trying to put a broader strategy to it when, in fact, the strategy is to do just do stuff.
I think, and I certainly don't know, I think that this would suggest an attempted orchestration. This would be the kind of thing, John mentioned this, would be the kind of thing you would want to have a conversation about prior to this expected summit with Kim Jong-un, right? He's talking to the president of China, we want Donald Trump talking to the president of China because China is an integral player in all of this.
The problem is that is a very conventional way to look at how diplomacy in the White House and the presidency operates. Donald Trump, this is not breaking news, Donald Trump is not a terribly conventional politician. He said I'll just walk away from this if we don't get what we want. So this looks like a very traditional buildup to a very fraught but also real potential meeting. I just don't know, if past is prologue, we're giving too much strategic credit to this because it's just, he saw that the Chinese president was meeting with Kim Jong-un, so he said we're going to talk to him.
CAMEROTA: Let's move on because there's still more international breaking news, and that of course is that there's announcement from the White House that at 2:00 p.m. the president will be announcing what his thoughts are on moving forward or more likely not moving forward with the Iran deal, and once again reinstating sanctions on Iran which would make the deal basically null and void. John, what do you think this means for the U.S., for our allies?
AVLON: Not a news flash, Donald Trump does not like the nuclear deal. He campaigned on it. This has been a mainstay, so it would be foolish to assume he's going to sustain it any meaningful way of the what I'm listening for is 2:00, is this an end it conversation or amend it conversation. If he reinstates sanctions as a stick, which is what a lot of folks want, the Iranian economy is kind of shaky, does that scuttle the deal entirely, or, as he suggested standing alongside Macron, is this about dealing with containing Iran's regional ambitions, about containing their ballistic missile program, is it about containing the most contentious part of the deal which is that it sunsets at 2025.
[08:05:00] If it's amended conversation with tough tactics, that could end up good if the long run. But it's high stakes because of not only the tinder box that is the Middle East and Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the North Korean negotiations coming up.
CUOMO: Be very clear, Iran has done more since 2015 to be a malefactor if the region, but all of these considerations were debated at the time. How do we teal with that part, the perniciousness of their actions in the region and what they're doing to seed discontent and fuel the Sunni-Shia strife. They just thought this was a better move to cap the overall capability. The test for Trump, the easy part is to get out of the deal because of the leverage he has. The hard part is what will you do that is better?
He is choosing a political fight right now at the same time which is with John Kerry. John Kerry, you stink. You missed your chance. Stay out of it. Is he right, Chris? Here's some sound from John Kerry who is in Italy right now being asked about this and talking about it. Here's what Kerry says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm not negotiating with anybody. I have conversations with leaders in the world who are friends of mine and people that I've met when I travel, and I continue to have conversations. And I've simply urged people to do what is pretty obvious which is, I think the deal is working and I think people should stay in the deal. But I'm not doing any kind of major diplomatic initiative on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CUOMO: President Trump calls it shadow diplomacy. Is John Kerry ripe for rebuke?
CILLIZZA: Well, he I think is downplaying amid a little bit controversy -- I shouldn't say downplay -- clarifying what his role is. He's a former secretary of state, he's a former United States senator, he's a former presidential nominee. I think it is normal that as he travels around the world he's going to have some conversations and make his views known.
The issue, and I don't see how he can do this given the difference in their policy views, the issue is if he's trying to cast himself as there's a backchannel here that exist that's we can make work, we can end run Donald Trump. I don't see how that's a possibility. If John Kerry wants to have his voice heard, that's fine.
I think Donald Trump is always about winning and losing. It's a zero sum game. If he's up, the other guy's down, if he's down the other guy is up. So he does well with enemies and opponents. I don't think that John Kerry is talking about the Iran deal around the world as he meets with people he probably came into contact during his time in the Senate because he lost a presidential campaign in 2004. So I think that it doesn't have any material impact. It gives Donald Trump an enemy. He likes that. He likes to attack people. He likes to make an enemy and say, see this guy's bad and I'm good.
But I think he's getting out of this deal from the start. I think we're overthinking it. It's like the Paris climate accord. We spent all this time in the run up to it. Maybe he won't get out of it. Maybe Ivanka will change his mind. And ultimately he just walked away from it because his basic commitment is to do what he said he would do on the campaign trail. That's what he adhered to.
AVLON: The larger commitment, of course, is to the responsibilities of governing over grandstanding. And that's why consequences matter, and you may feel the impulse to let the chips fall where they may but you've still got responsibility for what comes next.
John Kerry, the idea of being a backchannel -- backchannel to what? John Kerry has relationships. He doesn't have leverage. So Logan Act can be put aside on this one as it always is when it's invoked. But Donald Trump should be focused if he's going to go out of the deal. He's got to have a plan as leader of the free world for what comes next, otherwise you may try to scuttle the Iranian economy in the short run but you basically give them license to start ramping up their nukes, and it's hard to say how that's in anyone's interest.
CAMEROTA: Therein lies the rub, Chris Cillizza. We just heard Britain's Boris Johnson says that he doesn't see any plan b.
CILLIZZA: That's right.
CAMEROTA: So not a huge fan of the deal, thinks there are imperfections, for sure, but thinks it can be somehow built on as so many as of the allies have said. So today if he pulls out for all intents and purposes, then what?
CILLIZZA: We don't know. Honestly because there hasn't been anything -- you heard Emmanuel Macron a few weeks ago, you heard Angela Merkel a few weeks ago all say, look, this deal is not perfect. But to try to get everybody on board, this is the best thing that we came up with. It's known as compromise. It's how governing has traditionally worked.
There's a big difference between campaigning and saying, Chris mentioned this, saying we've got to get out of this. It's a bad deal. We're giving them billions of dollars in cash in barrels. You've heard him say that time and time again.
There's a difference between that and then what does getting out -- the instability created by ending this deal that was what many countries viewed as the best thing they could get, what comes next? Donald Trump is not great -- has never been great as a candidate or as a president on what comes next. He is good at, we need to get rid of DACA, we need to do this, that, and the other thing. But the solution is the thing he's always struggled with and that's very much the case here.
[08:10:06] CUOMO: Winning is the mantra. Salena Zito was just talking about her new book that people should really should read for an understanding of why Trump is president. But we're seeing his biggest challenge also. On the economy, he has to say Obama was terrible. Why? It makes a win for him with the current numbers even though they shadow what we've been seeing at high points for a while. This deal is another example. This deal is terrible. I'll get us out of it. But can you make something better? That's the challenge.
It's primary day in four states, Ohio, Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia. This is officially kind of the first super Tuesday of the primary season. Now in and extraordinary move, President Trump is pushing voters to stay away from one of the candidates in West Virginia's Senate primary because he fears that the man, Don Blankenship, won't be able to beat the Democratic incumbent in November. We have CNN's Joe Johns live in Charleston, West Virginia. It is an open question to how strong a candidate Blankenship would be in the general. Some say he could beat Manchin. But it's the reasoning. President Trump says he can't win, he's not talking about the ugly things that this man is saying, and that makes it even more obvious, Joe.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Chris. The president is not talking about the merits of the race or Don Blankenship who has used some harsh, some say racist language. But this is a huge test, control of Congress hanging in the balance. The president, of course, won West Virginia last election by 40 percentage points, so the question is whether the voters will follow the president's lead in suggesting Don Blankenship is not their guy or if the voters will go another direction.
Make no mistake, there are six Republicans in this primary but the focus is very much on don Blankenship, the former coal executive, also ex-convict, served a year for conspiring to violate the coal mining regulations. He, of course is running hard here.
But when we talk about what's going on in Washington, many Republicans have a lot of heartburn about the idea of him running against the incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin. At the same time the president has been persuaded to come out against this individual Blankenship. The big question in West Virginia is whether a former coal executive who, in fact, went to jail after 29 people died in a coal mining accident is the guy who they say they want to send to Congress or if this is just a redemption election for him.
CAMEROTA: It will be a very interesting day there, Joe. Thank you very much for being on the ground for us.
So some White House insiders are now complaining about Rudy Giuliani. Is he helping or hurting? We will speak with one of Giuliani's former staffer dating back to his days as New York City mayor and whether or not she thinks he's changed and whether he is helping or hurting.
[08:16:50] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Some White House officials and a source close to President Trump's legal team tells CNN that they continue to be concerned about Rudy Giuliani's media blitz, but the president seems to be sticking with him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I didn't speak with him specifically about his feelings about it, but certainly feels that he's an added member -- added value member to his outside special counsel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Our next guest, Susan del Percio, knows the former New York City mayor well. She served in Giuliani's administration as deputy commissioner for finance and administration.
Susan, great to have you here.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, FORMER GIULIANI ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Great to be here.
CAMEROTA: How long did you work with Mayor Giuliani?
DEL PERCIO: I worked in the administration for about six years.
CAMEROTA: So you knew him well?
DEL PERCIO: Yes.
CAMEROTA: I mean, you know, if you work for somebody for six years, and I guess the question is, is this man that you now see representing President Trump, do you recognize this Rudy Giuliani?
DEL PERCIO: When I went into the administration in my mid-20s, I worked for someone who was so disciplined, methodical and inspiring leader, and that's not who I see right now. That's who I want to see right now. That's the Rudy that changed New York, that made changes that throughout -- that affected the country in essence in his policing and everything else.
But again, the thing that is most disappointing to see is the lack of discipline.
CAMEROTA: And how? Where are you seeing things that are troubling to you?
DEL PERCIO: On the messaging. I mean, if the mayor was brought in to handle the Mueller negotiations for an interview. Now, he's wrapped up in Stormy Daniels and what Cohen did and what he didn't, and he's conspiring with Donald Trump. I mean, two of them are just chatting, that's not discipline to show a message. You're supposed to have a legal strategy and have the PR, match it, not the other way around.
CAMEROTA: Let's just play a couple of things that have raised eyebrows about some of Rudy Giuliani's recent media appearances. So watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: They funneled it through the law firm?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: Funneled through the law firm and the president repaid it.
HANNITY: Oh, I didn't know -- he did?
HANNITY: There's no campaign finance law.
He didn't know the details of this until we knew the details of it which is a couple weeks ago, maybe not even -- maybe ten days ago.
The facts I'm still learning. This is, you know, 1.2 million documents. I've been in the case for two weeks.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: So, did Michael Cohen make payments to other women for the president?
GIULIANI: I have no knowledge of that. But I would think if it was necessary, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEL PERCIO: So, I mean, even things like repeating the question, oh, funneled money through, that's not a mistake that Rudy Giuliani, the mayor, former prosecutor would make. This is something that he was very comfortable in interview and he enjoys being a talking head and having a conversation, that is not helping his client, the president, right now.
CAMEROTA: You think he's hurting not helping?
DEL PERCIO: He's certainly, unless the strategy is to completely muddy all the waters so no one knows what anyone's talking about, he's not helping.
CAMEROTA: In terms of him being undisciplined, is this Rudy having gotten rusty or do you have any larger concerns? And I only ask because, look, obviously, I'm not a doctor, I don't know how to diagnose people, but enough have raised the question of his like mental acuity. Do you see any signs --
DEL PERCIO: I would never go down that route.
[08:20:01] As a matter of fact, I was critical of the mayor when he tried to judge Hillary Clinton's mental - physical health back in 2016.
But I think the mayor is -- he's evolved, certainly, and he's used to being an executive. He's used to being out there speaking about himself, for himself, not on behalf of someone else like he's doing right now.
CAMEROTA: That's interesting. So, you think that this is just a different set of muscles that he's been using rather than when we all knew him as mayor? DEL PERCIO: Absolutely. I mean, he has not had to show that kind of
leadership in many years, but again, I don't think this is the role that best suits Rudy Giuliani. He is bright and purposeful and maybe in his mind, he has a strategy that he sees that can work, but it's a different environment. When he was mayor, you didn't have Twitter, you didn't have this kind of environment. I don't think he's up to the challenge in that regard.
CAMEROTA: Another person who had worked with him for many years, Bromwich, Michael Bromwich, I figure his first name, tweeted this: For those of us who have worked with Giuliani 30 plus years ago, his decline over the past 30 years had been sad and embarrassing to watch his recent unhinged attacks on the FBI, Comey, Mueller and Southern District of New York, have brought him to the lowest point yet.
Have you felt those same things in terms of --
DEL PERCIO: No, I would not go that far. Yes, it was very disappointing to hear him go after the FBI and Comey, but as far as unhinged, I think that's irresponsible. I think we see a different person than what we all knew 20, 25 years ago.
CAMEROTA: I mean, look, Chris has pointed out, he used the term stormtroopers for the raid on Michael Cohen's office and apartment. And Michael Cohen has said, no, they were quite respectful.
And so, what's Giuliani doing there?
DEL PERCIO: Again, I think he's moved into the Trump model which is exactly what you don't want from someone who's your spokesperson. You're supposed to compliment and temper them, not do -- not play into their worst attributes.
CAMEROTA: You know, for those of us who were not New Yorkers but who watched Rudy Giuliani evolve into America's mayor after 9/11, he was such a voice of -- he was a cool headed voice during that, you know, horrible time, he was a voice of reason, he was a voice of compassion, he was comforting to listen to.
And so, what do you think this new chapter does for that legacy?
DEL PERCIO: Let me just also add, after he left office, he would endorse candidates but he would not go negative against candidates, for a couple of years, because he didn't want to take that vein after serving the role he did as America's mayor.
CAMEROTA: Meaning what, he didn't want to taint his own reputation with negativity?
DEL PERCIO: Yes, he just didn't want to go down that road. He was not about attacking someone else, so what we see now so many years later -- it is jarring. It's just not the leader that I know and it's almost as if he's willing to disregard his legacy as mayor, which is so much more important in my mind in the things that he was able to achieve and we still see in New York, like low crime. That is because of Mayor Giuliani. CAMEROTA: But why is he changed? Why is he doing this?
DEL PERCIO: I can't guess to that. I can't guess the state of mind. But it is a transition. You know, elected officials are very ego- driven. It's usually about them, of course. It's how they get up every day and face the negative stuff as well as the positive.
But it is very hard to make that transition and most of them really just want to stay relevant in the conversation.
CAMEROTA: There you go. I mean, relevance, that's -- we hear that a lot.
Susan del Percio, thank you for all of your personal reflections on Mayor Giuliani.
DEL PERCIO: Great to be here. Thank you.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Key decisions are going to be made over the next few hours with President Trump deciding the potential fate of the Iran nuclear deal and a big call with the president of China in just minutes. What is the bottom line? You get it, next.
[08:27:45] CUOMO: So, we understand that in just minutes, President Trump is going to speak to with China's president after learning that the Chinese president just met with Kim Jong-un, North Korea's dictator. And President Trump will announce his big decision on the fate of the Iran nuclear deal this afternoon.
What's the bottom line?
We have political director David Chalian.
Size it up for us.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Huge foreign policy, national security week at the White House. You mentioned two those things culminating with the move of the embassy to Jerusalem. So, this is a big foreign policy week for the president, Chris.
But this issue of North Korea -- have you seen something move so rapidly? And we'll see obviously. There are a lot of questions remaining. We'll see the president's teasing that he's firmly decided the when and the where of his summit with Kim Jong-un. We wait for the reveal of that, but things have been moving a pace here ever since the South Koreans came to the White House and President Trump seized the opportunity and said, yes, I'm going to meet with Kim Jong-un.
In large part because of some of the pressure the United States has been applying to China to do their roll in this which I think you see in this meeting that you're talking about, we'll get the readout of the call between the president and the leader of China but everything here is sort of putting the chess pieces in place on the board leading to what is going to be this historic summit most likely to take place between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
CAMEROTA: You're so right, David. I mean, a problem that had seemed intractable for years and different administrations now every day -- well, whatever, every week we're having some sort of breaking news about this. And so, what do you think the president is going to say to President Xi today? What's the point of this call?
CHALIAN: I wonder if this call is more about listening, right? What did Xi learn from Kim Jong-un that tease up where Trump may find the potential openings in a conversation, this to me feels like president Trump preparing for the eventual summit. He got a readout from the South Korean leader after Kim Jong-un traveled there.
This is to me all the folks in the region sort of preparing President Trump for his moment in this. And, Alisyn, yes, we do get a lot of these developments once a week like you're saying. What we don't know is, if it remains an intractable problem or not.