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Trump Announces Time/Place of North Korea Meeting after Prisoners Released; Trump Team: Democrats Voting Against Haspel Are Sexist; Lewinsky Disinvited to Event After Bill Clinton RSVPs Yes; Pentagon to Release Final Report on Niger Ambush of U.S. Solders; Showdown Between Congress & DOJ Over Russia Investigation. Aired 1:30- 2p ET
Aired May 10, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[13:30:00] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We very much appreciate that he allowed them to go before the meeting. And we sort of understood that we would be able to get these three terrific people during the meeting and bring them home after the meeting, and he was nice in letting them go before the meeting. Frankly, we didn't think this was going to happen, and it did.
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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The release of the American detainees followed a 13-hour visit to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We are now learning new details about the trip, which included a 90-minute face-to-face meeting between Pompeo and Kim Jong- Un. They discussed plans of the summit with President Trump.
Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is joining us from London.
Christiane, the date is set, the detainees are now back on American soil. Could the U.S. be headed to a breakthrough in relations with North Korea?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that's really putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. It is great news those Americans were freed. They should have been freed a long time ago. We all know regimes like this take Americans and other foreigners. They do it to have leverage. And certainly they have done, according to President Trump, a goodwill gesture releasing them earlier than anticipated, but of course, they never should have been arrested in the first place.
That being said, it does soften the atmosphere around the upcoming summit. Both leaders want a good atmosphere going into the summit. And yet there is so much substance to be able to achieve before we know if a breakthrough has been made.
Clearly, though, there is a big change in tone from what we were hearing from both leaders. Certainly ever since September, it really ramped up in he were earnest with the "fire and fury", and "Rocket Man," and Kim responded in kind, and we thought they may be on the verge of a horrible confrontation. And then Kim Jong-Un starts to deescalate over the new year and make all sorts of outward gestures leading to the Olympics in Seoul and all the diplomacy that's come since then including the invitation to the president to come meet.
BLITZER: How much leverage, Christiane, does the United States have leading into this summit in Singapore?
AMANPOUR: A lot of leverage. The United States is the most important, more power country in the world. No matter what Kim Jong- Un has, which is, unlike Iran, nuclear weapons and international ballistic missiles that intelligence and other U.S. experts believe can reach the United States. This is something they have which Iran does not have. But the U.S. is much more powerful. And so the threat of getting into a war with the United States is one that North Korea presumably does not want to engage in.
However, what is Kim Jong-Un ready to put on the table? He keeps talking about denuclearization. What exactly does that mean? This is the real question. What are his intentions vis-a-vis just that aspect of it, denuclearization? What does he mean?
Does he mean, you know, getting rid of all the things that I just mentioned right now, getting rid of his past program, getting rid of the program forever? Does he mean trying to drag the United States into a co-denuclearization, which has been the North Korean aim from the start? We don't know. We haven't heard those kinds of readouts if there have been any parameters set and issues sort of sorted out in the meetings with the secretary of state. So we don't really know. But President Trump needs to get more than just a promise of a freeze on nuclear tests or ballistic tests. The bar is quite high but it's better to have talk than war.
BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, always helping us. Thank you very much for that.
Coming up, the Trump team has a message for the Democrats who vote against the CIA nominee, Gina Haspel. That message? You're a sexist. We have details on the party's sudden embrace of the gender card.
Plus, "Town & Country" magazine is playing cleanup after Monica Lewinsky calls out the magazine for a major etiquette faux pas, and it all ties back to President Bill Clinton. We have new details. Stay with us.
[13:38:36] BLITZER: One day after a contentious hearing, it still remains unclear if Gina Haspel will have enough Senate votes to become the first female CIA director. The White House says Democrats need to confirm her if for no other reason because she's also a woman. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted, quote, "There is no one more qualified to be the first woman to lead the CIA than 30-plus year CIA veteran, Gina Haspel. Any democrat who claims to support women's empowerment and our national security but opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite." When asked about the women's' empowerment pitch, Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein responded, quote, "Well, that's very interesting. I'm delighted to hear it. Is that coincidental or is that purposeful?"
Fellow Senator Kamala Harris had a similar statement, a similar sentiment. Listen to this.
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SEN. KAMALA HARRIS, (D), CALIFORNIA: I've seen the first women in senor positions. It's very important to have women in these positions. But I'm not going to accept a false choice that you either accept a woman or you accept someone who has not admitted that torture is morally wrong. I think we can have both.
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BLITZER: Let's get to our guests, national affairs correspondent for "The Nation," Joan Walsh, and host of S.E. Cupp's "UNFILTERED" on HLN, S.E. Cupp.
S.E., you've written an op-ed. What's your bottom line?
S.E. CUPP, HLN HOST, "UNFILTERED": I'm was really offended by it.
BLITZER: By what Sarah Sanders --
[13:40:04] CUPP: By what Sarah Sanders said, "I'm inclined to support Gina Haspel and I'm also a woman." On the one hand, what we conservatives is critical of liberals doing a lot is saying if you're a woman, you must support liberal or you must support X, Y, Z. We try not to do that and that's exactly what she was doing. But it's also just flawed. There is nothing hypocritical with caring about women's empowerment, caring about national security and asking tough questions of a woman who would take on a very high position.
In fact, at worst it's maybe partisan, at best it's actually quite principled. Then the idea that you must -- to support women's empowerment, you have to support every woman and every policy position she has is just absurd. I agree that Gina Haspel is the most qualified person for this position. I wish Sarah Sanders hadn't brought up the fact that she's a woman to prove it.
JOAN WALSH, NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION: Yes, I think it's incredibly condescending, Wolf. She stands or falls on her merits. She's very, very qualified but some Democrats and Republicans, notably John McCain, are worried she wouldn't say torture is immoral. That's a valid position to hold. I think the notion that feminism requires some kind of special pleading or get over your reservations, surrender your own moral judgment because someone is a woman, that's never -- conservative, liberal, feminist, that's never what women have been asking for.
CUPP: It also doesn't make sense. The argument she's trying to make with Gina Haspel being the most qualified person, then why hold women to a standard of this is about women's empowerment if you don't approve her? She's either the most qualified or she isn't.
BLITZER: During the presidential campaign, Joan, the Trump campaign frequently argued that women shouldn't necessarily feel obliged to vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a woman.
Listen to Kellyanne Conway, what she said about all of this in 2016.
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KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I love using that word because it's a word that the left and Hillary Clinton's Democrats love to impose if you're not in support of Hillary Clinton. If you're not in support of Hillary Clinton, you're a sexist.
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WALSH: I mean, Hillary Clinton was the most qualified candidate in the race for sure. Like her, hate her, whatever, that was certainly true. It's ridiculous. Someone at the RNC admitted in the "Daily Beast" today that it's flat-out trolling. They know they're trolling Democrats. They know they're trying to shove people's noses in their own arguments. They don't believe this for a minute, and I believe she's going to get a vote and it's not going to matter that she's a woman, it's going to be because she calls them immoral.
BLITZER: Let me switch gears. "Town & Country" magazine originally invited Monica Lewinsky to join in an event, then they learned that Bill Clinton, the former president, would be there as well, so "Town & Country" disinvited her. She tweeted about it. She was obviously upset. The event took place. Bill Clinton was there. They have since apologized to Monica Lewinsky saying, "We apologize to Miss Lewinsky and regret the way the situation was handled."
CUPP: That sounds a little like there was some miscommunication. I think "Town & Country" made a decision that Bill Clinton's attendance and comfort level at this event was more important than Monica's attendance and whatever message she has. Just go through this week's news with Eric Schneiderman and Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer, also back in the headlines. How tone deaf is it to think we're still back in the '90s when bringing Bill Clinton to an event is more important than listening to a woman whose story was proven true 20 years ago and is still disrespected?
WALSH: And who was mocked and treated so poorly by both sides. It's so awful. Have an event, be adult. If Bill Clinton wants to come or doesn't want to come, that's his decision. You invited them both, let them both come and be adults, but it's so insulting to her.
BLITZER: They made a major, major blunder and they're obviously regretting that blunder. (CROSSTALK)
BLITZER: Guys, thank you for that good discussion.
WALSH: Thank you.
[13:44:25] BLITZER: As a showdown brews between Congress and the Justice Department, the chairman of the House Intelligence and Oversight Committees have just been briefed by the Department of Justice by officials over there over the Russian investigation. We have new details when we come back.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news from the U.S. Defense Department. The Pentagon has just released a report on the deadly ambush of U.S. troops in Niger. Four U.S. servicemembers were killed in the attack by more than 100 ISIS fighters last October. The investigation concluded a series of failures led to the ambush.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, has just emerged from a briefing over there.
Barbara, there still seems to be confusion over Sergeant LaDavid Johnson and the search for his body. Listen to this
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MAJ. GEN. ROGER CLOUTIER, U.S. AFRICAN COMAND CHIEF OF STAFF: The search for Sergeant LaDavid Johnson began immediately as it did with the first three fallen heroes. There was a report that indicated there could be a soldier held hostage somewhere north of Tongo Tongo. Of course, that report was taken seriously, and assets began looking there for signs of life or anything like that. It turned out to be an errant report. But the search for Sergeant LaDavid Johnson never stopped. He ran 960 meters. He ran a long way from where he was last seen. And he made his last stance where he fought until the end under a dense thorny tree.
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[13:50:12] BLITZER: Barbara, was there a delay in searching for LaDavid Johnson? What happened?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Look, Wolf, the Pentagon insisted is this briefing there was no delay, even though the eight- page summary that they handed to reporters -- and it was only a summary of a 6,000-page report we have not seen. That summary said it did lead to some delays. This is only one of the many confusing items, still seven months after the ambush, seven months after four American soldiers and a number of Nigerians lost their fight there are questions there are no answers to. There was confusion.
The troops were separated. The rescue and Medevac forces took hours to get in there. It was so remote. The real question is, what were they doing there in the first place? They are not authorized to be in combat, not authorized to be going after high-value targets. That was one of their missions during this entire two-day episode. Confusion all around.
Perhaps equally disturbing now they say they're going to fix a number of problems, that troops now in this area will be given the option of armored vehicles and better weapons, all of this seven months after four Americans died -- Wolf?
BLITZER: They better learn some important lessons to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Barbara Starr, thank you for that report.
Other news we're following, with a possible showdown looming between Congress and the Justice Department, two Republican lawmakers were given a special briefing on Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. The House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devon Nunes and House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy were briefed at the Department of Justice in Washington. They left the DOJ just a few moments ago. Nunes has threatened Justice officials with contempt of Congress charges, which led to this from the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.
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ROD ROSENSTEIN, U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I can tell you there have been people who have been making threats privately and publicly against me for quite some time, and I think they should understand by now the Department of Justice is not going to be extorted.
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BLITZER: Here with me is our legal and national security analyst, Asha Rangappa.
How unusual, Asha, is a briefing like this?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think what's unusual is the circumstances under which it's happening. We have an ongoing investigation right now. Congress obviously has broad oversight authority. Typically they're looking at something after an investigation has concluded. What we have right now is the Department of Justice pushing back and saying this is going to threaten national security and may get one of our sources killed if we give you this information. And it's also not really happening in the context of a full congressional investigation. That was ostensibly concluded when Republicans issued the report. I think all of this makes this somewhat out of the ordinary.
BLITZER: We know Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, he separately, we're told, is going to be briefed on this.
RANGAPPA: I think they're going to be trying to come up with some negotiation compromise where they can satisfy Congress's request while still preserving the national security concerns. You need to remember, Wolf, it's not just about the danger to the source in this particular case. This impacts the FBI and CIA's ability to gather sources generally. They have to assure people that the FBI, CIA, the government will protect them, and this is sending a strong message for all kind of cases to these sources that the government may not be able to do that for them. It's pretty important for Justice to find some middle ground here I think.
BLITZER: What's extraordinary is that Devon Nunes has threatened the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, with contempt unless he does what they want him to do. The White House is backing Jeff Sessions. Speaker Ryan seems to be backing the Republican leadership of the House Intelligence Committee. Does today's briefing you think bring this fight to an end?
RANGAPPA: I hope so. This is going to be a separation of powers clash. Again, you have different interests from different branches of government. Ideally, you don't want to compromise national security. You also don't want to see the head of the Department of Justice go to jail for contempt. So they should be able to find a middle ground, I hope. And also, I hope that to the extent that these members of Congress are accommodated, that there won't be a leak because of apparently how sensitive this information is.
[13:55:03] BLITZER: Especially if the release of what they described as the most sensitive classified information sources and methods could lead to the death of a U.S. source. That's an awful situation.
RANGAPPA: And we are talking about Russia here. And we know what happened in Salisbury, England, that Russia is not above going after people who are helping other intelligence agencies. So I think the threat is very real here.
BLITZER: Thank you, Asha, for your --
RANGAPPA: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- excellent help, as usual. Appreciate it.
RANGAPPA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, pay to play? CNN has learned Michael Cohen promised access to the president to a host companies, scoring very lucrative consulting deals amounting to millions of dollars. We have new details.
Plus, fears of war as Israel and Iran strike each other in the wake of President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. We're going live to the region.