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Trump's Lawyers Trying to Minimize Questions to be Asked by Mueller; Cohen's Taxi King Partner Makes a Plea Deal; President Strongly Hinting that His Planned Summit with North Korea's Leader May Be Off; Former Ambassador Compares Trump Leadership to a Dinosaur; Killauea Volcano Continues to Scorch the Island. Aired 10-11p ET
Aired May 22, 2018 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
[22:00:00] DON LEMON, CNN HOST: This is CNN TONIGHT. I'm Don Lemon. We're live in Washington for you.
Our breaking news tonight, sources telling CNN, President Trump's lawyer are trying to limit the question Robert Mueller might ask the president in an interview. They want the special counsel to agree not to question Trump about -- wait for this -- anything he's done in office which doesn't sound like a deal Mueller would take, since it would mean not asking the president about the firing of James Comey and possible obstruction of justice.
And we got more breaking news tonight. This, on President Trump's fixer, Michael Cohen. One of Cohen's business partners, a Russian immigrant known as the taxi king has quietly agreed to assist federal investigators as part of a plea deal. That is according to the New York Times.
So how much does Cohen's business partner know and who is he talking to? Much, much more on that in a moment as well.
And it comes as the president doubles down on his unproven claims that he is a victim, a victim of so-called, the so-called deep state conspiracy. Repeating the suggestion of spies in his campaign, even though there is no evidence of that. And officials have told CNN, there was no such source planted inside the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign. If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to this country. That would be one of the biggest insults that anyone's ever seen. That would be very illegal aside from everything else. It will make probably every political event ever look like small potatoes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: You know what it would make, it would make absolutely no sense. After all, these hypothetical spies were presumably have been trying to harm Trump's campaign, and they didn't because he won. But that's not stopping the president and his allies from trying to cast doubt on the investigation.
Arranging a Thursday briefing with the Justice Department for Republican leaders, just Republican leaders on highly classified information. That as a president was in no mood today to answer questions about his own handpicked deputy attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any confidence in Rod Rosenstein?
TRUMP: What's your next question, please?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump, I am a reporter from--
TRUMP: You knew, excuse me, I have the president of South Korea here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question--
TRUMP: He doesn't want to hear these questions, if you don't mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, somebody definitely doesn't want to hear those questions and I'm not sure it's the president of South Korea.
And we have more breaking news for you tonight, CNN projects Stacey Abrams will win the Democratic primary in Georgia's gubernatorial race. She now has the chance to become the nation's first black female governor. More on that in a moment.
So let's bring in CNN's Chief National Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, CNN's Chief Political Correspondent, Dana Bash, also CNN Legal Analyst, Laura Coates, and Jack Quinn, former White House counsel to President Clinton.
I got a little sleep, I can pronounce your name tonight. Well, I have trouble with your name tonight. It's a tongue twister.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Tongue twister.
LEMON: But I have a lot -- more on that in a moment. More on that in a moment. So much news to report, Dana tonight.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
LEMON: It's like drinking from a fire hydrant. You have a new reporting. The president is trying to -- his lawyers are trying to narrow the scope of the Mueller question if the president does indeed speak with him.
BASH: Right, big if. So this is a reporting that I did along with Evan Perez and Gloria Borger. And it is as you said that the idea trying to narrow the scope to specifically questions before Donald Trump was in office, and even more so, Russia related questions, meaning because they argue that this whole thing was supposed to be about Russia collusion.
But they also don't want the president to be asked in a face-to-face interview about obstruction of justice which they know that Robert Mueller at least have been trying to probe other witnesses on and obstruction of justice would be about the firing of James Comey.
So we are told by our sources that -- because the Trump legal team understands that that's Mueller point of interest that they would say those questions can be asked and answered in written form.
So, look, the obvious question is whether or not Robert Mueller--
LEMON: Is he going to go for it.
BASH: -- is going to go for it, and the answer is we don't know. What we do know according to sources we have talked to, they were cautious saying look, these negotiations are inching along. One source even -- a couple of sources, I should say, even admitted that Robert Mueller isn't interested in written answers.
BASH: So that may be a bridge too far for him. And this may end up in the Supreme Court if in fact they can't reach an agreement. And Robert Mueller is determined to speak in some way, shape, or form to the president of the United States.
LEMON: If he's not interested in even written answers and narrowing, Jack, to not being able to ask questions post-election, I mean that seems pretty evasive. Do you think that is feasible at all?
[22:05:00] JACK QUINN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT CLINTON: I think the idea of limiting this before the election, the president is frankly crazy. There's no way that Mueller can stand for that.
LEMON: Well, it's his lawyer, I mean, it's a strategy from his lawyer but I'm sure he would like that as well.
QUINN: It is a strategy. But I mean, first of all, it's very clear that obstruction of justice is clearly one of the mandates that Robert Mueller has. Secondly, it is as clear as can be, that when a president takes action in his official capacity, the courts have authority to consider whether that action is consistent with the law.
And here, you know, the president's actions have to be assessed -- his testimony has to be assessed in terms of his veracity. The special counsel needs to sit with him personally, needs to enable him to act to questions, he needs to assess his demeanor and he needs to be able to follow-up the questions that he puts to the president.
He can't rely on written answers. Those written answers are probably not going to come from the witness. My own sense of it is that this is all posturing.
LEMON: You don't think he's -- you don't think that he's going to sit down.
QUINN: I think it's quite unlikely.
QUINN: I think that they are building a case to be able to say they really want to the ends of the earth to try to make this work but Mueller wouldn't be cooperative.
BASH: Yes. And just to be clear, and I agree with you, I think it is pretty obvious that the Trump legal team is trying to pressure Robert Mueller by putting this out.
QUINN: And if I can add just one other point here, you know, the proper way to limit the president's testimony here, and which is supported by case law, is that the president should be called upon to testify only where his evidence is essential to the investigation and where it can't be gathered from other sources.
LEMON: But they are investigating his case. So it seems like he would be essential. But I need to -- I want to get to Jim in the essence of time here. Because it seems pretty absurd that they would want to do this. Because there's so much to look at after the election while he's in office.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I mean, this seems to be in the category, and jack knows better as a lawyer, but in a defense lawyer wishful thinking, right. Because let's just look at the list of relevant topics for the special counsel related to this question of obstruction of justice.
You have the firing of James Comey. You have the loyalty dinner, you'll remember as James Comey has said in his book, as well as in congressional testimony when he went to dinner with the president, invited by the president and ask to make a pledge of loyalty to the president.
You have the oval office meeting with the Russian diplomats, where in addition to it appears the president shared classified information with the Russians but he also spoke again of how the investigation put pressure on him. And how firing the FBI director relieved them pressure, the firing of Michael Flynn, the firing of Sally Yates. Her role in relating to the president that Michael Flynn might have lied and might therefore be a risk of blackmail.
Jeff Sessions recusal from the Russian investigation, of course the president has beaten him up in public repeatedly for that. And then crafting of the false statement about that Trump tower meeting with the Russians, another thing that happened really a year later after where on Air Force One the president with Hope Hicks and others craft statement that gave a false meaning, reason rather, for why Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort met with the Russians when we know that they were offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. He said it was just about adoptions.
We have, I mean, look it out there. That's a list of seven topics that are very relevant. And we know from speaking to witnesses who have been interviewed by the special counsel that these are topics that they've been ask about in relation to this. So we already know that the special counsel has --
BBASH: And the president--
SCIUTTO: -- special counsel's interest in this on the question of obstruction of justice.
BASH: And the president's lawyer argue as you well know, Jim. All of those things are within the president's right as an executive, you know, leader of the executive branch--
LEMON: Within his fight then why would he not want to answer questions about that?
BASH: -- which is why this is -- which is why this is the -- if that is put to the constitutional test you don't think it will be--
QUINN: The point is that courts routinely determine whether or not a president's official actions are lawful.
LEMON: Laura, let me just read the scope to you because I know you want to respond to this. This is what the scope that is set for Robert Mueller's investigation. Any links, and/or coordination between the Russian governments and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump, right, President Donald Trump any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.
COATES: This is this.
LEMON: That's that.
COATES: And of course there's also a third component which talk about jurisdiction list as well. Anything else you my come across where you need additional guidance from Rod Rosenstein to say this is within my jurisdiction or it covers, that's why you have things like the Ukraine and other places coming into play. But remember, you said a great word, Dana, and that was executive. If
he were to try to confine this whole conversation to before he was the president of the United States or there goes your claim of executive privilege if that why you want to try to tailor what you can actually expose.
[22:10:02] Every president would want to have very close to their vest the opportunity to talk to their advisers, kitchen cabinet members and say we want to have this free flowing discussions. As he says I want to limit to a time before I was actually in the executive branch of the government.
Well, they are going to have to test a very noble theory you can apply the executive privilege to that period in time, it's very counterproductive. And really, if he would like to have Mueller narrow down to simply one topic, fine, how about this, what did you do wrong? Now that's a very narrow scope of topic it's only one thing but--
QUINN: He can't possibly get executive privilege applied to pre- presidential.
COATES: That's my point.
COATES: And so the idea that he would say, I'd like to have this, I bet he would still try to assert obviously the Fifth Amendment which is not indicative of whether you're a president or not but also an executive privilege to say at least I don't want to tell you everything.
Now we know that the Nixon case as I already said you can't hide behind executive privilege if you're trying to hide wrongdoing but still it's another step and a counterproductive content.
QUINN: Well, as you all know especially where a criminal investigation is at stake, executive privilege is going to yield if the president is the only one who can provide the evidence that the prosecution is looking for.
LEMON: Laura, I expect though that the Trump folks or the Mueller people are going to be calling you tonight with that since you gave that bit of--
COATES: There's silence on the end of that call. No, no. Thank you.
LEMON: So, I'm going to ask you to be Trump tweet whisperer, OK.
LEMON: Because here's what the president tweet tonight. He says "A person plays very early into my campaign wasn't a spy put there by the previous administration for political purposes, how come such a seemingly massive amount of money was paid for services rendered. Many times hire the normal, follow the money." Exclamation point obviously.
"The spy was there early in the campaign and yet never reported collusion with Russia because there was no collusion. He was only there to spy for political reasons and to help crooked Hillary win just like they did to Bernie Sanders who got duped." OK, so what is he talking about there? It sounds like -- it sounds like we're back in -- this is like September of 2016 again, but go on.
BASH: Yes. So, look, he's -- he continues to, along with his allies, but he has the biggest megaphone, conflate the notion of a confidential source, which we understand one, at least one was trying to get information about Russia, and a so-called spy, which sounds a lot more nefarious. And he's saying that what the FBI paid that person or people was a lot of money, we don't know if that true, we don't know how he has that information.
And big picture, what he's trying to do is muddy the waters and continue to make this whole discussion about Russia, about the investigation look like it is, you know, fruit from poisonous tree.
LEMON: Yes -- I want to move on, Jim.
SCIUTTO: OK. We got to fact check him because there were many factual inaction there. There was no one planned inside the campaign.
SCIUTTO: The FBI in an investigation all time sends confidential source, it sends someone to speak to Papadopoulos and others because there have evidence supplied by a U.S. intelligence partner in Australia that Papadopoulos was talking about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians.
So they sent someone to talk to him, to sort of glean more information from him. That is not planting a spy inside the campaign. As far as the money is concerned there are public records to show that this confidential source is being named by others, but I don't believe we're naming was a contractor for the U.S. government and received money for contracts that he performed to a million dollars not tied to this work, right.
I mean, he did a number of contracts that you know, related to U.S., Russia, China security, that kind of thing. That maybe what the president was referring to but it's presidential tweet so the fact is we don't--
QUINN: And it wasn't just about Hillary Clinton's campaign, it was most importantly the information they got was about Russia interfering in our election. LEMON: But it sounds good. It sounds good for the president to say
that. So this, let's talk about this, Michael Cohen's business partner, his name is Evgeny Freidman also known, Jim, as a taxi king, taking a plea so that he doesn't go to jail, right. So he's going to help prosecutors. How much pressure has this put on Cohen to cooperate?
SCIUTTO: Well, conceivably. Because my understanding if his cooperation deal is that it's for both state and federal investigations, right. Federal investigation involves a man named Robert Mueller.
This guy was facing $5 million in legal penalties, four counts of crime that have sentences up to 25 years. I mean, you would end get 100 years. But still, he was facing a number of years in prison, a lot of money. Bumped down to $50,000 and I believe no prison or at least much less prison.
So he had an enormous sense to cooperate. And when you have that that's not good for the guy on the other end, I mean, Jack knows this better than me.
And just another point I would make, so the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen, a long-time lawyer is now facing the possibility of severe charges. The president's lawyer's partner was already charged multiple times, serious crimes, he didn't pay $5 million in taxes.
[22:15:01] SCIUTTO: You know, there's a lot of messiness, so to speak, around the president.
LEMON: Laura, this taxi king, I mean, he seems like he got a pretty generous offer, what does that tell you about the value of his cooperation?
COATES: Well, the sweeter the deal the sweeter the information they have to give you. There's no incentive if you're a prosecutor to give you some of the generous essentially allocution in deal here unless they are going to give you some information.
Now remember, normally speaking you would hang somebody on that hook long enough to be able to secure the information that you want before you'd actually give the person the final sentence. Because once it's given to them and there's no more one to cooperate.
If you dangle it in front of them longer, Michael Flynn, for example, has a sentencing that's elongated now because they want to have more information and time to get information from him before they say, here's our final break on what you said and should be.
So here he must have really great information for them, but I would caution people against thinking that this is somehow going to link inevitably to Donald Trump. It may be that, but Michael Cohen is in fact the biggest fish they're trying to hook and this person gives them the direct connection to it. LEMON: Yes. What people have been saying that they believe Michael
Cohen is in a lot of trouble here.
COATES: That's good. That's true.
LEMON: He doesn't believe that. He said -- he said tell me he believes everything is going to be above board in the end. So we shall see. Thank you. I appreciate it.
BASH: Good to see you.
SCIUTTO: Thank you.
QUINN: Thank you.
LEMON: Good to see you, guys as well.
When we come back, top Republicans are meeting with the Justice Department on Thursday about a confidential intelligence source. Just Republicans, just them, so why are no Democrats invited?
Plus, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano spewing lava toxic gasses and flaming lava bombs. Lava bombs. This the life for the molten rock this flow.
[22:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The president and his allies are taking aim at the Russian investigation by trying to cast doubt on his own Justice Department and repeating his unproven claims about so-called spies.
I want to bring in now CNN Political Analyst, Brian Karem, the executive editor of Sentinel newspapers, and CNN National Security Analyst, Sir Matthew Rosenberg of "The New York Times." Good evening to both of you.
BRIAN KAREM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Good evening.
LEMON: So, Matthew, the president doubling down on his false claim that there were spies place in his campaign. Here is what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A lot of people are saying they had spies in my campaign. If they had spies in my campaign, that would be a disgrace to r this country. But some men got paid based on what I read in the newspapers and on what you reported. Some person got paid a lot of money, that's not a normal situation, the kind of money you're talking about.
So hopefully that would be, and I think the Department of Justice wants to get down to it. And I can tell you Congress does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: There were a whole lot of a lots in there. A lot of people are saying, right. I also thought that he didn't believe that the newspapers that were all fake news. But CNN is reporting even though a lot of people are saying that there was no spy placed inside the campaign and you've reported extensively on that.
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The FBI had evidence to start an investigation from one of our help, the Australians, an incredibly close ally. So they sent an informant out to kind of question some of the people they were interested in. The informant actually didn't get much information from them it looks like.
But I'm kind of curios about the president, a lot of people are saying he's the president of the United States.
LEMON: Let's just refrain though.
ROSENBERG: This is his government, he can find out any of this. He has access to every piece of intelligence that's produced by our country's national security agencies. I mean, we're in this weird zone where the people who run our country, the president, the parties that control both houses of Congress are claiming to be victimized by the government they run.
KAREM: Well he kinds of make a condition of it. And that's the thing, you know, the very first word that he uses, if.
LEMON: And I go back to Dandy Don Meredith, you know, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts we'd all have a merry Christmas. I think he's gas lighting there. He is spewing that stuff out there because why? What happened today up in New York? Who copped a plea?
LEMON: Yes, Michael Cohen's business partner.
KAREM: Right. So he doesn't want you looking over here, he want you looking over here. So he sits in a pool spray, in a limited pool spray where there are limited access, you know, by reporters who could call on them if he was actually in the briefing room. He gets to spew this nonsense and kicks you out of the room.
LEMON: Then he gets upset if you ask him a question.
LEMON: And he said well, he doesn't want to hear that.
LEMON: Meaning the China -- the president of China doesn't want to hear that.
KAREM: He didn't want to hear that.
LEMON: He doesn't want to hear that. So of North Korea, excuse me. He says he doesn't want to -- you know, we have this controversial meeting, this controversial meeting set up with John Kelly on Thursday, between the GOP lawmakers, the Justice Department and the FBI and the intelligence community on these intelligence source documents. What do we know about this meeting?
ROSENBERG: Well, what we know is you know, they should -- there should be some Democrats there too. This has been bipartisan effort in the past, right. I mean, you share information so they can all go, hey, you know what, it is or it isn't, it is what it is.
Usually what has happened is, you know, the Department of Justice has given, you know, information to the politicians, OK, look, what's it all about and they're not doing it.
LEMON: Yes. Let's listen to Sarah Sanders here's what she said about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE-SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: To my knowledge, the Democrats have not requested that information so I would refer you back to them on why they would consider themselves randomly invited to see something they've never asked to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAREM: Well, I grew up under a Republican democracy and I don't know where I am anymore. Because honestly if you sit there and listen to what she has to say, why wouldn't the Democrats think that they were --
ROSENBERG: I mean the rationale here is oversight. The rationale is, Congress is supposed to have a role to oversee investigations these agencies and that's what we're doing here. But you're not inviting the other party, you're not inviting the people who aren't your backers, you know.
ROSENBERG: And that makes it look political.
LEMON: We keep playing this game, what if, what if, what if. But can you imagine if there was, you now, instead of on the state TV where Hillary Clinton is president? If Hillary Clinton was the president and this happened, or if Barack Obama, you know, Democrats had done this--
KAREM: They would have never let Barack Obama try get away with that.
ROSENBERG: And here's the thing. If they done it they should also be lambasted for doing it and they should have been investigated. LEMON: One hundred percent agree. I'm just saying to try to get
people's perspective on how ridiculous it feels what's happening in Washington, what's going on is just so ridiculous.
[22:25:01] So, do you think that there, that this information with all Republicans, Matthew, that it's going to remain confidential, do you think there will be selective leaks?
ROSENBERG: Look, I'm going to guess for leaks because I know this town. He was just here in the last year and a half.
KAREM: Do you think?
ROSENBERG: I mean, if I'm going to bet on something I'm betting on leaks around here.
KAREM: I think you (Inaudible).
ROSENBERG: I think the question is hours, days and to which outlets.
ROSENBERG: If Chairman Nunes is involved they suspect it won't be to the New York Times, he doesn't really answer our phone calls anymore.
ROSENBERG: I think CNN in the same boat. I know today Nunes was questioned by some reporters in the hallway, he said he doesn't discuss committee business with reporters and then refer everyone to a Sunday appearance on Fox where he frequently discusses committee business--
LEMON: With a reporter. With a reporter.
ROSENBERG: I mean, it's like--
KAREM: So you're given it about a half hour.
LEMON: But the thing is though, maybe he doesn't, I mean, what he's saying is that they're not reporters. Because he's discussing it--
KAREM: Look, keep it in perspective, what they're really saying is that there are reporters that we want the stories we want them to have.
LEMON: Absolutely. Of course.
KAREM: And the rest of you, we don't really want you to be involved in the process. We know you're going to get the information anyway but we're going to get ahead of it by giving it to the people that we want and put our spin on it before the truth makes it way around. LEMON: So he was asked today if he had confidence in Rod Rosenstein
and he said next question. Is that a no?
KAREM: What do you think? Come on. How many times -- well, actually that's a good question in so much that in the past when he said he's a very good man, that means the next day they're out the door.
KAREM: So maybe by not saying anything--
ROSENBERG: Rosenstein is not supposed to be at the meeting, is he?
ROSENBERG: He's off the guest list which is strange. I mean, I don't what that mean, I don't read too much into it maybe he's got the doctor's meeting, who knows but it is a little odd.
KAREM: Well, everyone on the Hill that I know has said that, you know, look, that would be -- that would be a red line for them, if Rosenstein or Mueller canned before the end of the investigation, that will be a red line for them. So I think that what he's trying to do is to play have, you know, his cake and eat it too. He's playing both sides, he wants to pressure these people but he's not willing to take that last step and then hopefully he won.
LEMON: I want to get your respond to the homeland security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen pushing back on the intelligence community's assessment that Putin meddled in the election. Take a look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Do you have any reason to doubt the January 2017 intelligence community assessment that it was Vladimir Putin who tried to meddle this election to help President Trump?
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I do not believe that I've seen that conclusion--
RAJU: The January 2017 assessment.
NIELSEN: That specific intent was to help President Trump I'm not aware of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That was a great question by our very own Manu Raju but did she lose all credibility with that answer?
KAREM: Can I quit laughing first before I answer that, yes. What credibility? I remind you, Don, go back to the point in time where candidate Trump stood up in public and encouraged Russia to look at e- mails and get involved in our election. What more do you need than that? Seriously. I mean, what more do you need?
I mean, the man said it himself from a podium in front of a lot of people.
KAREM: What more does anyone need?
LEMON: Last word, Matthew.
ROSENBERG: I mean, she's either ignorant or being disingenuous.
KAREM: Or both.
ROSENBERG: I don't know which one it is, or both. But look, the assessment is clear. The intelligence community there's a document you can get it online, I've read it, you've read it.
It says Russia in the last election they favored Trump. Now she may disagree with its findings but to claim that she's never seen it. She's the secretary of homeland security. I mean, they were the part of the people that put that together. She hadn't read one of the crucial documents by the intelligence community for the past year and a half? That's nuts.
LEMON: But don't you think it's tough, I mean, if she answers that question honestly in public what happens privately?
KAREM: Well, publicly you have to.
KAREM: She's going to follow his lead.
KAREM: But, Don, they don't answer honestly in publicly ever.
ROSENBERG: But here's the thing. Other Trump appointees too.
KAREM: They only tried.
ROSENBERG: And here's the thing. Every--
KAREM: They want to keep their job.
ROSENBERG: Dan Coats, Mike Pompeo who got CIA and the secretary of state--
LEMON: I got to go.
ROSENBERG: He's answered honestly.
LEMON: Yes. Thank you both. I appreciate it. When we come back what may be the art of no deal. President Trump saying there's a very substantial chance his promised June 12 meeting with Kim Jong-un won't happen. So who holds the cards now?
[22:30:00] LEMON: So the president strongly hinting today that his planned summit with North Korea's leader which was supposed to happen in just three weeks may be off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONADL TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a chance that it will work out. There's a chance. There's a very substantial chance that it won't work out. I don't want to waist a lost of time and I'm sure he doesn't want to waste a lot of time. So there's a very substantial chance that it won't work out, and that's okay. That doesn't mean it won't work out over a period of time, but it may not work out for June 12th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Alright. Robin Wright is here. She is a contributing writer at "The New Yorker," who is a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Good evening, so good to see you in person. Thank you for coming in. So the president says this summit with North Korea may not be in three weeks, what do you think?
ROBIN WRIGHT, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": Well, there's a tremendous iffyness about American diplomacy with North Korea at the moment, both in terms of the date as well as the substance. The president has talked about denuclearization that North Korea has to give up everything first, and of course the North Koreans are not going to give everything up without some kind of incentive.
And they have also started playing hardball, and the one thing that President Trump has learned the lesson of the last of the 11 presidents, is that North Korea is the most mercurial country in the world and the dynasty run by the Kim family through three generations is very hard to deal with and it will be the toughest challenge of his presidency.
LEMON: I know everyone -- people say -- people hate it when you say, I told you so, but when all of this was announced and they were so happy and giddy about it, every expert who came on CNN and on other network were all saying, hey, slow down. We don't know if this is going to happen. We've gotten almost this far with Kim Jong-un before and then nothing ever materialized.
WRIGHT: Well there is an impulsiveness about this summit that the South Korean's have come to suggest the possibility down the road of some kind of summit, but after a period of negotiations.
[22:35:03] After all the trip of the president, with the meeting of a North Korean leader would be the ultimate reward not the beginning of a process. That's the tradition in American diplomacy. And so when the president heard about this suggestion, he said, oh that's a good idea, let's do it and it surprised the South Koreans. And I think the president is trying frankly to catch up --
LEMON: Yeah, and put this up, even making coins. I don't know if we have the picture of the coins, but they made these coins with the date, there it is right there, you know, this meeting, peace talks. And then it's got the president's name on it and of course, you know, and the supreme leader. What do you think?
WRIGHT: Well, they revealed the coin on Monday and by Tuesday he's saying a very substantial chance that the talks won't happen on June 12th.
WRIGHT: I still think they'll happen but I think Kim Jong-un has actually kind of reeled the president in. He's played some hardball and he's now making the president go to him. Kim has defined the diplomacy, how this is going to play out, the pace, and now he's making it clear that he's going to have a lot of demands that the president will have to address as well.
LEMON: And let's be clear, if this does happen, I mean this is very good, but this is just strategizing and, you know, repeating what the president is saying, it may not happen when it seemed in the beginning that it was inevitable that it was going to happen. I want to play, Robin -- this is an interesting exchange between a reporter and the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were reports that when you met with Kim Jong-un, you were looking at a sunset and he allegedly said, wouldn't it be great if there were American hotels lying in the scene? Do you believe that he is open to the idea of American investment in North Korea?
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I do think it is something that if we get this right and we get the denuclearization right, that America would be quite capable delivering them with lots of things that would make life better for the North Korean people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: American hotels in North Korea, as they say wicked smart. That was calculated. He's been reading "The Art of the Deal." He knows his audience.
WRIGHT: Absolutely. When I was on the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea just a few weeks ago right after the summit between the Korean leaders, Kim said the same thing. He talked about, if they had a Trump Tower and a McDonald's in Pyongyang that the Americans would never attack. So I think he actually has made that comment before.
LEMON: So, it has been said that the president appears to be more interested in the pageantry that goes along with it instead of reading the briefings that go into it. And the perils of the summit like this, there are plenty of them, correct?
WRIGHT: Enormous. And that's what both the Clinton administration and Bush administration discovered during the past two attempts to deal with North Korea. The framework agreement in the six-party talks and they thought they were getting very close but this was elaborate diplomacy that play out over a long period.
And I think there is a real concern that there's been so little time that getting Trump up to speed on these details at a time that Kim impressed the South Korean as being in full command, not only of the issues but the room in which they negotiated and the table where they talked.
LEMON: The president spoke favorably of Kim Jong-un saying that he could, you know, assure his safety meaning the safety of North Korea as well. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will guarantee your safety and we talked about that from the beginning. He will be safe, he will be happy, his country will be rich, his country will be hard working and very prosperous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Can he follow through on what he's saying?
WRIGHT: Well, clearly the United States is holding out the possibility, the carat of investment aid they say not by the U.S. government but by American entrepreneurs. The danger is what we can deliver in a fast enough time. This is where you get into sequencing, who gives up, when. And it also sends a very dangerous message to, you know, bad guys around the world. Look, if you have a nuclear weapon the United States will guarantee your safety and will make your prosperous.
LEMON: Thank you Robin.
WRIGHT: Thank you.
LEMON: Always a pleasure. When we come back, the former ambassador who compares President Trump's leadership style to a dinosaur saying, quote, he has to be a boss. If you don't show him deference, he kills you.
Plus, the volcano, Hawaii's big island not letting up on a situation and it's getting worse every day. I'm going to take you there, coming up.
[22:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LEMON: The former American ambassador of Panama who recently resigned is not holding back about what it was like to work for President Trump. He is really not holding back comparing the president's leadership style to a velociraptor.
Joining me now, John Feeley, is the former U.S. ambassador to Panama. That is an interesting comparison. We'll talk a little bit more about that.
I want to get to the heart of this because there's a fascinating profile of you just published in "The New Yorker" and in it you talked about your first -- very first meeting with President Trump. And that he seemed more interested in his hotel there in Panama than what was happening in Panama. Tell us about that meeting and what was it like.
JOHN FEELEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO PANAMA: Sure, Don. You know, it wasn't that he was more interested. What happened was -- and I've briefed presidents before -- what happened was the way that briefing was structured was really unique for me. His very first question to me was, what do we get out of Panama? What's in it for us? Now let's take a look at some of the asymmetries here.
Panama is a country of 3.5 million people. It's got, you know, the GDP compared to the United States that isn't even on the charts. It's a good friend. We do a lot of work together. And there's a Panama Canal through which a significant amount of American commerce goes. His first question really was, what do we get out of it? I was taken aback by that. I gave him a litany of what we get from this relationship, which was clearly asymmetrical.
[22:45:01] And it was at that point where it sort of - as soon as it didn't seem like a threat, as soon as it was clear we didn't have a trade deficit, as soon as it was clear that Panama's working well with us on stopping drugs coming from South America or stopping undocumented migrants coming up to isthmus, as soon as the threat seemed neutralized, it was almost as if he lost interest and asked me about the hotel.
LEMON: Interesting. OK, so this is a quote from the article describing your thoughts on the president, OK. You said in private, he is exactly like it is on T.V. except that he doesn't curse in public. He's like a velociraptor. He has to be boss and if you don't show him deference, he kills you. I mean, do you think -- do you think he's intimidating his way through the presidency and how is that different from other leaders?
FEELEY: Oh, I think a lot of what we've seen is intimidation. And in his personal style, it's very clear. I mean, he actually wrote this in his own book. But you know, I got to be honest, Don. My purpose on being here tonight is not to make ad hominem attacks against the president. It's really to talk about why I left, which was not his personal style, which I don't find adequate to the presidency and I think courses (ph) and demeans the presidency.
But it's really about the values behind many of the policies. The values that undergird what I've supported and my colleagues have supported for over three decades in my particular career, which is a United States that is strong, that is generous, that is open, that seeks alliances that wants to be prosperous but wants others to be prosperous as well. I have through Republican and Democratic administrations have always looked for win-win solutions. And in the president's own books and in his on words, he doesn't believe in win- win situations and that is a fundamental difference with the past.
LEMON: Well, that's where I was going. So let's talk a little bit more about this because you resigned back in December after the president's handling of a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. And you said that you realize that my values were not his values. Explain to me why that was a breaking point for you.
FEELEY: You know, it's interesting. That was a breaking point for me because I was raised in New York City, which is a multicultural place. I was raised by an immigrant. My grandfather comes from immigrant stock and he had told me a story -- and this is also in the New York article -- he told me a story about coming back after the Second World War where he defended another black fireman from New York. My grandfather was an Italian, he was (inaudible), but he was not African-American.
The two of these guys get on a troop ship after fighting their way through the Pacific Theater and they get told in no uncertain terms, the black guy doesn't sleep here. My grandfather and my family and the values that I learned in my school, in the Marine Corps, in everything that I had let me to believe that when white supremacist march with tiki torches in the United States, the first thing any responsible leader does is to condemn them.
I studied like every other American the civil rights movement here in the United States and I thought that we had made so much progress, obviously with a lot more progress to be made. But it just seemed like when he did not condemn those white supremacist, those neo-Nazi, those folks screaming Jews you will not replace me, that we had surrendered the moral high ground.
And you know, one more thing I was an ambassador. An ambassador is the president's personal representative. It's more than just somebody who is working in the bureaucracy, someone who has to be disciplined. We are all disciplined. I swore an oath to faithfully and completely execute the president's foreign policy. And it was on that day where I just realized no, I can't do it any further.
LEMON: So, do you think the president's racist?
FEELEY: I don't know what the president is and again I don't know the president that well. I had one experience with him, which was that one meeting. I think what I can say is that as James Joyce, the artist writer once said, if you want to know what a man really thinks watch what he does.
And so the big issue for me where I see a fundamental betrayal of our values is immigration and I look at what this administration has done on our policies in the way it has almost declared war on not just undocumented migration but on legal migration. The temporary protected status decision a couple weeks ago that takes people who have been here for 10, 15, 20 years living, working with legal status in the community, central Americans, Haitians, legal status ties to the community and now says, oh, sorry time for you to go back. That's just fundamentally not American.
I work with a group down here called Impact Immigration, and when I say down here I'm in Miami tonight. The immigration partnership and coalition, we did a mentoring event tonight and there was a young fellow who was one of he speakers, 24-year-old from Nicaragua, came here just 10 years ago under one of these protected status programs.
[22:50:06] He was 14-years-old when he came here, couldn't speak a word of English. Do you know what he's doing today, Don? He's in AmeriCorps. He is teaching in an inner city Miami school. When the Chief of Staff John Kelly says these people don't speak English, they don't assimilate, I fundamentally disagree with that.
LEMON: John Feeley, enjoyed the conversation. Thank you, sir.
FEELEY: Thank you very much, Don.
LEMON: When we come back, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is shooting lava bombs into the sky and just yards away from a power plant on the big island. We're going to take you there live, next.
LEMON: So here's the breaking news as we look at these live pictures of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano putting on a spectacular show for us, but really causing havoc for everybody nearby, spewing chunks of lava that have burned homes, triggering earthquakes and releasing toxic gases. Let's just get straight to CNN's Stephanie Elam. She was there on the scene for us. Stephanie, hello to you. What is the greatest danger here, toxic gas, ash lava, all of the above?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's so dynamic, Don.
[22:55:00] It's hard to say depending on where you are, one could be more of an issue than the other. We know that since I last spoke to you that from the summit of Kilauea, there was an ash explosion soaring ash up into the sky, some 8,000 feet. So that comes down obviously and that's respiratory problems you can have there. It can make for difficult driving. Luckily, it was the middle of the night here. But that's one issue.
Then on top of it, here in this eastern rift zone, which I know most of us we think of the volcano exploding from the top, but the lava is coming off the side eastern rift, and that's what you see behind me here. And over the last 24 hours, fissures that had calmed down and were not spewing as much lava have begun to get stronger again. And we've seen that lava bubble up and then create those rivers still heading down toward the ocean.
What has happened, well that, those two fissures have bubbled back to life. They have now crossed lava across a geothermal plant in two different streams. And so authorities are watching that. They've said that they've quenched the wells that are there. There are 11 wells there and they've filled them with cold water. They said they're monitoring it to make sure that there aren't any steam events from that.
So you've got that concern. You've got lava that has percolated up from new fissures, new spaces within Leilani Estates. I was in touch with one woman who said it's now behind her house. The street where there is this mass crack -- excuse me -- that was there behind her house, is now full of lava. Luckily, her house is still okay.
And then you've got those gaps as well. Right now today, the trade winds have been blowing in our favor and pushing those winds off the island. But if they stop blowing and they linger, it's really quite deadly and irritating as well if you just get a whiff of it, Don.
LEMON: It's really fascinating, just if you look over your right shoulder there, Steph, you can see that volcano erupting so, there it is. Unbelievable pictures. Stay safe. We appreciate your reporting. When we come back, sources telling CNN the president's legal team is trying to set limits on a way to potential -- on any potential interview between the president and Robert Mueller, but is there any chance Mueller would go for that? We'll discuss.
[23:00:00] (COMMERCIAL: BREAK)