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3 Americans Released from North Korean Prison; Trump Escalates Media War, Reveals What Fake News Is; Iran Deal Latest in Trump Directly Influencing Foreign Policy Around Globe; Comey Commemorates 1-Year After Firing. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired May 9, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR: So there must be a couple of things that are unnerving Kim at this particular time.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: When you heard Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, his portfolio does not include national security stuff and he teased their release. And then there was this we'll wait and see what happens, it could have been this creation of suspense that we so often see him partake in. What are the consequences of treating detainment with that kind of drama?

CHANG: Well, you know, over the weekend, on Sunday, Korean Central News Agency, the official media outlet in North Korea that is directed to foreigners, actually gave President Trump a propaganda blast and basically for some of the comments that had come from the administration. So that's why I think that the comments from the president were a little bit more restrained this week. And that's a good thing. These are two separate issues, of course, but, of course, they play into each other and they do set a much better atmosphere for the talks that go on. I think it was right for the administration to say, look, their release is a precondition for us sitting down to talk about other things.

KEILAR: Gordon, thank you so much.

Gordon Chang sharing his expertise with us today.

Next, President Trump escalating his war with the media, threatening to pull network media credentials over what he considers negative news coverage. This, as Trump reveals, perhaps for the first time, what his definition of fake news is.


[14:35:43] KEILAR: President Trump today admitting to something many journalists have long suspected, his definition of fake news. Here is President Trump's tweet: "The fake news is working overtime. Just reported that despite the tremendous success, we are having with the economy, and all things else, 91 percent of the network news about me is negative (fake)" -- so negative equals fake -- "Why do we work so hard in working with the media when it is corrupt. Take away credentials?"

CNN political analysts, Brian Karem and April Ryan, joining me to discuss. They both cover the White House.

April, when you think of fake news, there are examples like Pizzagate in 2016 that's not true stuff, the conspiracy around the death of DNC employee, Seth Rich, the pope endorsed the president. He didn't. But when the president calls out fake news, we have long known he's really just talking about stories he doesn't like and then this morning he finally admitted that if it's negative, he calls it fake.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Brianna, here's the bottom line. Over the last 21 years I've seen presidents be dogged by the president but they're dogged by the press from stories that are actually real, they're emanating from here. Bill Clinton, he couldn't catch a break. He used to try to woo the press. It didn't work. I remember him having, what is it, fairs or carnivals in the back on the south lawn. Didn't work. We still did our work. George W. Bush was dogged by the press. Barack Obama was dogged by the press. This president, I don't know why it's such a problem. We are covering what's happening today with the three detainees in North Korea, three hostages in North Korea. We've covered the economy. But you also got to cover Michael Cohen, you also got to cover Russia, and so many different pieces. You also have to cover Stormy Daniels. It's unfortunate that it unflattering for this president but these are real issues in this nation and here in this backdrop, the White House.

KEILAR: Brian, you want to weigh in? Go ahead.

BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I was going to say take your lumps like a man. For heavens takes, every president takes this. For the president of the United States on a day he should be crowing about a victory, by the way, that's what his main topic should be.


KAREM: Take your victory lap on that and shut up and take your medicine. Act like a man. Every president takes criticism. For to you sit there and then tell us to question our voracity because we print things or say things that you don't like. I want you to imagine being in a press room populated only by people vetted by the president. If you turn it around and say, look, you can't get in here unless you write something nice about me, what does that do to free press?

KEILAR: Threatening to revoke the credentials of a free press.

When you think about that, April, we haven't really heard presidents talk about that. We've seen on the campaign trail poll through with that. There were a number of outlets he barred from attending events, "the Washington post," politico, buzz feed among them. This isn't something a president does in a democracy. Do you think the likelihood of it is possible?

RYAN: Brianna, I'm going to say this, this president has introduced this on numbers of occasions. And on the campaign trail when he was candidate Trump vying for the highest office in the land, he was saying things like that. And there was a concern. And, you know, the White House Correspondents' Association was working with him then. And now the head of the association has changed to someone else but this is still a very real issue. And I am going to press this as hard as I can. Our founding fathers -- our founding fathers, these brilliant men who saw far into the future, not knowing there would be social media, an April Ryan or a Brian Karem covering the White House, they understood that there was a piece that need to be there, accountability. It is embodied and embedded in the First Amendment, the free press. And with that, it's about accountability. You have an independent, free press that is able to ask the White House the senior staff or the press secretary, even the president of the United States issues that are on the table so the American public can find out. And, Brianna, this is the key piece. This is my badge. But behind this badge is a lot of vetting. You have to go through security cleanses and what have you. I was cleared many years ago. I have been through clearance and continue to be. I am not a threat to this White House. But what we don't talk about is the fact that when you suppress the press. Senator John McCain is absolutely right, it's dictatorship. But it's not about us. It's about the American people. When you sit us down, you don't find out the necessary information coming from this White House. It not about us.

[14:41:12] KEILAR: I want to ask Brian about that. It may not be about the media and yet if you look at the poll numbers, we have a lot of work to do. Four in ten people in a poll earlier this year could not name a single object of news source. How does the media combat that to make the case to the public that this is an important role?

KAREM: It is an important role.

KEILAR: You should be worried if the president is talking about barring the media.

KAREM: First of all, I think the we have to understand what the president says and what he means. Then I'll give the press part. First of all, I don't think the president really -- I think he says things sometimes. Anthony Scaramucci say things, he likes to tell a good yard, he likes to press his agenda. I don't think he really means it. The danger is people believe it.


KAREM: If you or me, or April, if someone is going to take on White House press at the White House, you got bigger problems than me, I'll tell you. You're going to get in trouble with the Secret Service. I've always been worried about the guy, who will report on the president, who will harm the kid who is freshly to the field of reporters. You cannot play error-free baseball. The president of the United States wants to hold us to a standard higher than his. We admit our mistakes and we go on and we have to let people know the rules have changed under this president, right? The president makes us the enemy. We're not the enemy of the people. We are the people. We are the people represented in that room. And as April said, there is a First Amendment right that we have to be there. We have to remind the people that we are the people. We have to be fair. We have to be fair. That's all there is to it. But at the end of the day, that cannot mean we do not point out the foibles of the president who by saying this proves his unfit to hold office. KEILAR: Brian and April, I appreciate both of you. Thank you so

much. I know you have strong feelings about this.


KEILAR: Next, from the Iran deal to the Paris climate agreement, to Syria, other global disputes, including trade disputes, is President Trump directly influencing foreign policy all around the world? We'll discuss the Trump ripple effect next

And one year ago today, President Trump fired the FBI Director James Comey. How James Comey is now remembering what has become an infamous day.


[14:48:09] KEILAR: We're getting some pretty stunning pictures out of Iran as Iranian leaders react to the president's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal. The country's lawmakers burning both an American flag and a copy of the deal during a session of parliament. And today, they're going to vote on taking reciprocal action against the U.S. The country's supreme leader releasing a statement that included the line "Trump's corpse will also be worm food while Iran stands strong." The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is attempting to moderate Iran's response to Trump's pull out, promising to commit to the agreement for the time being.

Trump, asked what he would do if Iran restarted its nuclear program, he responded like this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iran will find out. They're going to find out. I don't think they should do that. I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. I would advise them very strongly. If they do, there will be very severe consequence.


KEILAR: This decision by the president to withdraw from the Iran deal represents yet another major disruption on the global stage. The president also withdrawing from that Paris Climate Accord. Trump has engaged with unprecedented direct talks with North Korea. He'll be the first sitting president to meet a North Korean leader. Trump has also sent mixed messages on Syria, simultaneously stepping up the involvement there with strikes while also threatening to bring home American troops from the region.

For some analysis, I want to bring in Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the "New York Times."

Nickolas, you wrote an op-ed and you start it by saying, "President Trump's attempt to blow up the Iranian nuclear deal isn't foreign policy it's vandalism."

Tell us what you mean.

[14:49:57] NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It was striking in President Trump's address to the nation, he didn't really outline any coherent reasons for rejecting the Iran accord. To the extent he described what was in it, he pretty much mangled it and misstated its logic. It seems to me and a lot of people that his potential motivation in rejecting the Iran accord, as indeed much of his foreign policy, is simply to overturn President Obama's policies and dismantle President Obama's legacy. So it's not really about foreign policy, it's about vandalism of everything that President Obama had done in ways that I think create real risks ahead for the U.S. and for the world. His own secretary of defense said that the Iran nuclear deal was in the U.S. national interest. Yet, President Trump overturned that. I think that the pessimists may be a little overdoing it in terms of the near-term consequences but I do think we're setting in motion a process that could lead over time to a conflict with Iran. And, boy, we've been through enough wars in the Middle East.

KEILAR: We've seen what's you're talking about, the dismantling has been well reported out, watching President Obama try to push through the overturning of Obamacare. Overturning DACA. Domestically as well. When it comes to -- you just mentioned it -- your concern is war in the region, when you're talking about undoing the Iran nuclear deal without fixing it or allowing the European partners of the U.S. to try to come in and adjust it. What happens then with it undone?

KRISTOF: I think that's the right question to ask. Essentially, what is the strategy here, what is the motivation? That is the problem, that there really isn't one. President Trump is perfectly right, that there is a real problem with Iranian missiles, with Iranian behavior in Syria and Yemen and elsewhere, although there's also a problem with the behavior of our ally, Saudi Arabia, in Yemen. But I think it's impossible to see, based on the tone of President Trump's comments, any kind of new nuclear deal emerging. I think it's impossible to imagine some kind of a new arrangement being reached about Iranian behavior in the region and Iranian missiles and so on. At the end of the day, this looks more like a temper tantrum than a policy, and kind of beseeching Iran to behave better. We tried that. The Bush administration, led by John Bolton when he was at the State Department and U.N., killed a European effort to solve the Iranian nuclear program back then. The upshot is Iran continued with its nuclear developments. And I'm afraid that John Bolton and some others in the administration may think that the solution now is not a new deal but military strikes.

KEILAR: We wonder what the president means. He is saying there will be severe consequence even as he gets out of this deal. Is that a red line? That's a question that we will have to see.

Nicholas Kristof, thanks so much. We appreciate your time today.

KRISTOF: My pleasure.

KEILAR: Moments from now, the White House press briefing is going to take place amid new developments in the Russia investigation. CNN has learned that the special counsel is looking at why Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by a company linked to a Putin ally.

And we'll look back to where this began, with the firing of the FBI Director James Comey, one year ago today. How Comey is marking that anniversary.


[14:58:28] KEILAR: One year ago today started out like any other crazy day in Washington and ended in President Trump's surprise firing of then FBI Director James Comey, a move that would become the centerpiece of his fury.

Here's how all this happened. It was 2 p.m., the White House press briefing was under way, and then the press secretary at the time, Sean Spicer, was being peppered with a slew of reporter questions, including, does President Trump have confidence in FBI Director Comey? Well, at that point in time, this was his response.


SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have no reason to believe -- I haven't asked him -- I have not asked the president since the last time we spoke with this.


KEILAR: Well, whiplash. By 5 p.m., Comey was thousands of miles from Washington, talking to agents in California, when the news broke that he was gone. The fired FBI director learned his fate like the rest of us, by watching television.


ANNOUCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: This is major breaking news. We're interrupting that report.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The president of the United States has terminated the director of the FBI, James Comey.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Confusion tonight on Capitol Hill, around the country and around the world.

BLITZER: An enormous moment in American history that we're watching.

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: The bombshell announcement, something that was completely unexpected to anyone.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADIVSOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: As president of the United States, he needs confidence in his FBI director and he doesn't have it.

Trump, in the letter, wrote, quote, "You are not effectively able to lead the bureau."

UNIDENTIFIED CNN ANCHOR: The president of the United States has fired the man investigating his campaign's ties to Russia.

LEMON: Let's put it as plainly as we can. The president of the United States has fired the man investigating his campaign's ties to Russia.


KEILAR: One year, a special counsel investigation and a book deal later, today, James Comey tweeting his praise for the men and women of the FBI, whom he led for more than three years before his abrupt firing.