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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Cohen's Biz Partner Agrees to Cooperate With Prosecutors; Trump Lawyers Want to Eliminate Obstruction of Justice Questions; DHS Chief "Not Aware" Russia Meddled To Help Trump; Trump: Kim Jong-un Summit May Not Happen. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 22, 2018 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:00] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: -- for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room. Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, breaking news. Michael Cohen's business partner agrees to a plea deal reportedly going to cooperate with prosecutors. Does this spell big trouble for Michael Cohen and the president of the United States?
Plus, more breaking news, the president's lawyers trying to put more restrictions on an interview with Bob Mueller. We've got a big, new demand tonight.
And reporters blocked from an EPA event. One reporter grabbed by her shoulders and shoved out of the building. Is the Trump administration taking its war on the press to a whole new level?
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening, I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. Michael Cohen's long time business partner flips. According to the New York Times, the business partner is a Russian immigrant who has been Michael Cohen's partner for years, and he's agreed to cooperate with the feds as a potential witness. This is a potentially explosive development at this hour because it adds even more pressure on Cohen to flip and work with the prosecutors.
According to the Times, Michael Cohen's business partner, Evgeny Freidman, you see him there, his nickname apparently is the Taxi King. And he's going to avoid major jail time. And when we're talking about a possible 100-year prison sentence. He could avoid that in exchange for assisting prosecutors in state and federal investigations.
Now, there's no saying what he or anyone else would reveal to avoid the fate of a 100-year prison sentence. When it comes to Michael Cohen, who of course the president's personal lawyer, who is under federal criminal investigation, Freidman knows a whole lot. Cohen's taxi cab medallion business is under scrutiny by prosecutors and Freidman, the Taxi King, right, managed to (INAUDIBLE) of over 800 cabs. This is according to a New York attorney general. But don't forget, Cohen is already under criminal investigation. FBI agents have raided his home and office. And even though he has not been charged with anything at this time, legal experts predict Cohen could face a lengthy prison sentence if charged and convicted. This all puts major heat on him tonight. Raising the likelihood that Michael Cohen could flip on the other man you see on your screen, Donald Trump. A man he has protected and praised for more than a decade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: I protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is. If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's of course concern to me. And I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.
Donald Trump is in fact a great unifier. He's a man of great intellect, great intuition and great abilities.
The president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: But as the feds turn up the heat on Cohen, could he soon be singing a very different tune? If he does, that could be trouble for Trump. After all, they are very close.
CNN's Kara Scannell is OUTFRONT live in Washington. And, Kara, obviously, this could end up being extremely significant. What are you learning about this plea deal tonight?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Erin, the New York Times is reporting that Evgeny Freidman who is known as New York's Taxi King and Cohen's long time business partner has reached an agreement where he will plead guilty and cooperate with federal or state officials.
Now, Freidman was indicted last year by the New York attorney general for evading $5 million in state taxes. He pled guilty today to one count for just $50,000 in taxes that he did not pay. So that's quite a significant deal. And under the terms of the agreement, he will not receive any jail time.
Now, Freidman has been a business partner of Michael Cohen's for years, and the New York prosecutors, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, you know, of course raided Cohen's home earlier this year where one of the things that they were looking for was information about Cohen's taxi medallion business. So if Freidman is cooperating, he will know how Cohen operated. He will -- have done -- you know, he's done business with him. He's helped him manage his fleet of taxis.
So he will know how Cohen's operated, he will know about the financial dealings. And if, you know, if -- whatever he has is something that authorities are very likely to question him about.
BURNETT: All right, Kara, thank you very much.
And pretty significant, right? The reporting here. You can turn about a 100 years in prison and all of a sudden because of this plea deal, you're getting zero. Wouldn't think prosecutors would give that deal to somebody unless they thought they had something really important.
Former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean joins me. Along with former New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram and CNN Senior Political Analyst Mark Preston.
I mean, Anne, you're talking about a long time business partner of Michael Cohen. Manages 800 cabs, the Taxi King, Russian immigrant. He knows a lot of things about Michael Cohen.
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: No question about it. I mean, he's going to be somebody who knows all the business dealings. He literally knows where the bodies are buried. And so if Michael Cohen was engaged in criminal activity, he'll be able to talk the prosecutors through it and show them where they'll find evidence of that.
So it's critical -- it's a critical thing for the government.
[19:05:03] BURNETT: And, you know, to the point that Anne's making, John Dean, it sounds like, look, you don't make a deal like this with somebody when they could be facing a 100-year sentence unless you think they have something that's worth not sending them to jail for, right? They think this guy has something on somebody. Right?
JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: That's exactly right. In fact, the key to me in the reporting was what the judge said to him today when they -- when he was taking his plea. He said, do you appreciate what your lawyer has done for you, what he's accomplished? And the Taxi King said, yes, he did.
With that -- what I read that to mean is that he -- his lawyer showed that he had a very strong proffer. He had information of interest to both state and federal prosecutors. And that's the reason they cut the remarkable deal they did.
BURNETT: I mean, because Anne, he was facing four counts of criminal larceny. Each of them a sentence of up to 25 years. That's how we get to 100. And yet he pleads guilty to evading $50,000 in taxes and they say, OK, thanks. So they know, they know a lot about what he can give up. They're not taking a risk.
MILGRAM: So it's common with a cooperation agreement to take a lesser plea, meaning, you only plead to one of the charges. But a big part of cooperation is, knowing that that person has information that's valuable to the government and verifying that information. So it's credible information that the government wants.
And so, it's not uncommon to get a deal like that. To plead -- to go from four counts to one. But, what's also -- what's essential will -- have been that the government made sure that he had valuable information to provide as a cooperator.
BURNETT: So then, Mark, what does this mean for Michael Cohen tonight and where he stands, right? Obviously, he has not yet been charged but, he appears to be at the heart of this.
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, no doubt. Not good news for Michael Cohen. And we should note that what we saw happen today, Michael Cohen's name was not mentioned.
PRESTON: But we do know or at least have seen through the New York Times that that in fact, this deal is attached to whatever dealings Michael Cohen has done, whatever this gentleman can offer up on Michael Cohen. What I also think is very important about this and why this deal is very important is that, you have state and federal authorities who are actually working together on this.
You know, they're not fighting over turf and they've agreed that this is the way forward. That is something because basically what they're doing is allowing this gentleman off scot-free even though he evaded the tax system in New York. And if anybody understands New York authorities, they don't like that. They don't appreciate that.
So Michael Cohen right now, he's going to think to himself --
PRESTON: -- what's going to happen to him.
BURNETT: So, Anne --
PRESTON: What is going to happen to him.
BURNETT: Anne, I mean, I don't want to -- I'm not going to ask you to speculate exactly what it is they think he knows, but I mean, just the simple point is, it's something really big.
MILGRAM: Yes. It has to be significant to get a cooperation agreement of this nature. It's going to be something significant. And remember also that he worked closely with Michael Cohen for years. And so he'll have a lot of information on Cohen and it may be related to taxi business.
It could also be related to other things. So, we really can't speculate, but we know that he knows a lot.
BURNETT: So, John Dean, what does this mean for Michael Cohen? And what comes next for him in terms of his discussions, whether he is going to use the word "flip" on somebody else?
DEAN: Well, I'm sure he has already been thinking about that. And tonight, this action, if he wasn't aware it's going happen, he is now and he's making some decisions talking to his family, and deciding what he's going to have -- how he's going to have to handle this going forward. And I wouldn't be surprised at all if he flips. I would probably go 70-30 that he'll flip at this point.
BURNETT: Well, I got to say I go even higher than that only because it seems to me of almost anyone in that situation would. I -- you know -- I mean, it's -- just the nature of the situation.
Mark, the truth of it is, the president's been consumed with the investigation to Cohen, right? It's made him angry. You know, we showed Michael Cohen say, I'll do anything for the president. We've seen him introduced the president. You see them together all the time, right? They were close.
But then the president did this interview recently on Fox and really at the least distanced himself from Cohen. But certainly imagine if you'd been working for a guy for 12 year and this close to him and then all of a sudden, he turns around and says this is about you.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just tell you that Michael is in business. He's really a business man, at fairly big businesses, I understand. And I don't know his business, but this doesn't have to do with me. Michael is a business man. He's got a business. He also practices law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?
TRUMP: Well, he has a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction. But, Michael would represent me and represent me on some things.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: So all a sudden, Mark, it's a tiny, tiny little fraction, I don't know anything about it. It's got nothing to do with me. The president sure smelled something coming.
[19:10:01] PRESTON: Yes, no question. And listen, he's probably right that it was a very small fraction of the legal work --
PRESTON: -- that the Trump Company does if you want to get down to semantics. But that little bit that Michael Cohen did seemed as we are starting to learn right now to be little bit out of the ordinary than what we would see --
BURNETT: Stormy Daniels obviously on the list --
PRESTON: -- from attorneys --
BURNETT: -- for those who don't remember.
PRESTON: -- payments. Right. Right. So, you know, hush payments. Here's the thing in talking about whether or not he flips. When he hears statements like that, he's got to be concerned. The unpredictability of Donald Trump has got to concern him. And the only thing that would prevent him from flipping if federal charges were brought and Trump was able to get a message to him to say, I will pardon you.
And, it doesn't him like we've seen that message sent.
BURNETT: All right, thank you all very much.
And next, more breaking news. The president's legal team with the new list of demands for a sit-down interview with Bob Mueller. What they don't want to talk about could be extremely telling. You're not going to believe what they're trying to take off the table tonight.
And President Trump says his meeting with Kim Jong-un may not happen. His words. Will Ripley is on the front lines tonight, about to actually go into the nuclear site.
And more breaking news out of Hawaii. Lava bombs sending toxic gas, high into the air. We're live by the volcano.
BURNETT: Breaking news, President Trump's legal team wants any questions about actions President Trump tool since taking office off the table in a potential interview with Bob Mueller's team.
[19:15:01] And that's not it. They also want to take any questions about obstruction of justice off the table.
Pretty stunning. Evan Perez is breaking this news tonight. And Evan, I mean, whoa, these demands are stunning. What else are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, this is part of the negotiation that's been on going now between the president's team and the special counsel's office. And the big thing is that they want to limit the scope of the questions that the special counsel can ask during this potential interview. And, they want to limit the amount of time that this interview would take. But most of all, they say that they want to make sure that these are questions that relate to actions that the president took before he took office.
Things that have to do with obstruction of justice would be off the table. Things that have to do with any actions that the president took while in office would also be off the table. And even for the questions that have to do with Russian collusion, which is what they say this interview should be focused on. They say that they want a narrow scope of questions.
They want to limit what types of questions are going to be asked of the president.
BURNETT: Wow. So all of that, and then I understand some of it they also want to be able to submit in writing, which would mean they could in them -- write -- who knows if the president even has anything to do with it.
I mean, would Mueller even be willing to consider restrictions like the ones you are reporting?
PEREZ: Right, exactly. And that is actually one of the proposals that they have made is there -- in addition to doing a sit-down interview for a short period of time, that they could have a take home test so to speak for the president, right. And he can answer questions in writing.
And -- so Mueller has already indicated that he is not inclined to accept written questions. That's one of the -- at least one of the things that we know from the discussion so far. We don't know exactly where this is going to go because part of the issue here is to try to make deal so that Mueller doesn't have to revert to a subpoena. And -- a subpoena fight that would go perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court and take perhaps more than a year to resolve it.
I think both sides want to try to figure out how to make a deal sometime in the next few weeks, couple of months, and try to make sure that this investigation can be wrapped up perhaps before we get to the midterm elections. Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Evan Perez.
And OUTFRONT now, Independent Senator Angus King of Maine. Member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And Senator, thanks for your time.
I just want to ask you about this news that Evan was reporting. The president's legal team, right, hey, we don't want any questions about anything that happened after he took office, nothing about obstruction of justice. So that means nothing about firing Michael Flynn or Jim Comey. And then -- and maybe some written questions obviously which could be done by a lawyer and not the president.
Is this something Mueller should ever agree to, Senator?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, I'm really -- Erin, you're asking the wrong person. I'm on the Intelligence Committee, we're working on our own investigation and I've really tried to stay out of Special Counsel Mueller's lane. I think this is a different matter. I don't want to disappoint you, but I think this is between the special counsel's office and the president's office. And I understand the president's lawyers' wanting to narrow the scope, but I suspect the special counsel will want to broaden it. And this is something as your reporter just said, is going to have to be decided either through negotiations or subpoena that will probably go for the next several months.
BURNETT: So this news, about this restricting possibly of the interview, comes as the president, Senator, has been ramping up his rhetoric, right, over this confidential intelligence source. He called it the spy in his campaign, right? But this source was used to obtain information during the campaign. And again, he calls it a spy. Here's the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: 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. And it would be very illegal aside from everything else. If they had spies in my campaign, during my campaign for political purposes, that would be unprecedented in the history of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: And now, the White House is saying tonight that the chief of staff John Kelly is going to brief lawmakers, and he's going to brief them about all the highly classified information about this person. Again, this is an intelligence source. The president using a word, a spy, which we are not using here at CNN. Our reporting doesn't support it.
The White House says no Democrats have been invited to the meeting because the press secretary, Sarah Sanders said today, and I want to read you her quote, my understanding is they haven't been the ones requesting the information.
Does that add up to you. Is that rationale OK as to why you and Democrats would not be included?
KING: Well, I think it's always better to move in a bipartisan way. That's what we've done on our Intelligence Committee in the Senate. And I think that's a much more effective way.
I don't understand having a meeting like that to brief people about information if you're not going to brief everybody that has an interest in trying to revolve this problem.
I think, Erin, the problem with what the president is saying about the so-called spy is the FBI had tips. They had information that the Russians were trying to work through and be involved in Mr. Trump's campaign. It would be counterespionage malpractice for them not to follow up on those tips and try to find out was in fact, were in fact people in the president's campaign involved in some way, improper way with the Russians that were -- we all know was trying to influence our election
[19:20:15] The -- if it were my campaign, I'd want to know that. I'd want to know if there was somebody in my campaign that was -- had some kind of improper relation with a foreign adversary. So, I think he sort of got this upside down.
KING: This wasn't anybody trying to spy on, you know, what their debate prep was going to be about. This was about whether the Russians were --
KING: -- had infiltrated the campaign.
BURNETT: But when you say we all know the Russians tried to infiltrate, I have to ask you this because today, the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was talking to Manu Raju, our Manu Raju, and she said she was unaware that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election with the purpose of helping the president. Here she is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Do you have any reason to join the January 2017 Intelligence Community assessment that said it was Vladimir Putin who tried to meddle in this election to help President Trump win?
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, DHS SECRETARY: I do not believe that I've seen that conclusion.
RAJU: The National Intelligence Committee's assessment.
NIELSEN: What I do -- the specific intent was to help President Trump, I'm not aware of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Just pretty shocking. Because obviously, the report that Manu was quoting from was the National Intelligence Community assessment. It's out for more than 16 months. On page two it says --
KING: And that's --
KING: That's the report that our committee review viewed just last week. And our Republican chairman Richard Burr, the vice chair, Mark Warner, issued a statement saying, we find that that report was absolutely done on good trade craft. Good analysis --
KING: -- and totally accurate. And -- so I don't know how escaped that conclusion. They were pretty big part of that report.
BURNETT: I mean, central. Central to the Intelligence Community 16 months ago. And as you point out, your committee on a bipartisan basis, I'll read the quote, the conclusion was, the Russian effort was sophisticated -- extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.
KING: All right.
BURNETT: Is it malpractice? I mean, I guess what I'm asking you is, does she really not know that, because that's malpractice. Or does she know it and did she lie because she doesn't want the president to hear her admit it. I mean, what do you think it is?
KING: The only thing I can speculate is that perhaps she hadn't looked at the thing in a year or maybe she never had look at it. I don't know. But this was a pretty important piece of paper. This report came out as you're saying, January of 2017. It was unequivocal in that conclusion and this is an important -- here's one of the problems, Erin. This is what so frustrating about this whole thing.
The real story here is what the Russians did. And they Russians tried to meddle in our election.
KING: There's no question of it. They also attempted to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. There's not much questions about that. Anybody that looked at it objectively has reached that conclusion.
The problem is for the president and the administration to continue to deny that is, I think just making it more difficult for the American people to understand what happened and how we protect ourselves. The collusion issue was a separate issue.
And if the president said, look, there was no collusion and my campaign wasn't involved, but what the Russians did was wrong and we're going to see that they pay a price for it, that would be helpful to the country because we're never going to be able to fully protect ourselves unless the American people realize what was done to them.
BURNETT: Right. Well, of course, on some level, it appears that he thinks that question is a legitimacy of his victory to even a acknowledge that.
Thank you so much, Senator King. I appreciate your time.
BURNETT: And next, President Trump says his meeting with Kim Jong-un may not happen. This as North Korea says reporters can come to the nuclear site and see it dismantled. Wait until you hear about what they have to do to get there. This is out of a spy novel and Will Ripley is inside North Korea OUTFRONT tonight.
And the EPA blocking reporters. Shoving a reporter says a reporter. Grabbed, pushed out of the room. What does the White House have to say about it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to weigh into random hypotheticals that may or may not exist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:27:35] BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump says the summit with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un, quote, may not work out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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 waste a lot of time and I'm sure he doesn't want to waste a lot of time.
So this is a very substantial chance that it won't work out. And that's OK. 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)
BURNETT: Pretty significant there. He emphasized the word substantial.
It comes as journalists are en route to what you're looking at there. North Korea's main nuclear test site. It is the first time that foreign reporters have ever visited the secret site.
Will Ripley is OUTFRONT and he'll be going to the site where North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006. I mean, Will, that's pretty incredible that you're going to be heading there. You know, the president of the United States today as you're getting ready to go there to the site, you know, comes out and speaks. How are those comments received or going to be received in North Korea this morning?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you, when we arrived, it is certainly -- the uncertainty here is palpable. The fact that the North Koreans don't really like what they're their seeing and hearing out of the United States and South Korea. And given what President Trump has just said, it's really uncertain, a, if they want to go through with the summit, or b, if our trip to the nuclear site is also going to take place.
We don't know when we're leaving, we don't know how long we're going to be there. It's going to be almost a 20-hour journey to go inside the mountains of North Korea, a place for foreign journalists have never been allowed before if we do end up going, Erin.
BURNETT: And -- but this is what's incredible, Will. If you end up going, but foreign journalists have never been there before and you're going to be, if you go there, you're going to be the one with the front row seat. I mean, when we talk about denuclearizing, this is what it's going to come down to in large part, right?
This summit, whether it happens on what you might see in the next day or so. I mean, it is pretty incredible. It is -- you know, you as a journalist are the one with the seat that could determine what actually happens here.
RIPLEY: And it's noteworthy, Erin, that we -- there are no experts, no international experts that are part of our group. Initially, it was thought that they might be flying in as well, but it is simply fewer than two dozen of us journalists with basically our untrained eyes and our cameras be trained at this nuclear site. We don't though how much time we're going to be there. Satellite images have shown that there is some sort of an observation post being set up for us. So after we travel 11 hours by train, four hours by bus and then another hour long hike to get to this site, we'll see how far we're kept away, how much time we're allowed to be at the site. And what actually happens on the ground here in North Korea.
BURNETT: Wow. But you said, an hour long hike then observe. And then you're going to observe. I mean, you don't know exactly what you're going to see, but supposedly, some sort of denuclearization, whatever that term may mean?
RIPLEY: Yes. We are expecting possibly the implosion of some of the tunnels including the tunnel where North Korea conducted their sixth test last year that triggered a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, also expecting to see them take apart some of the buildings on site and remove the researchers and guards. They say they're going to shut off that entire area, Punggye-ri, in the mountains of North Korea.
It should be really extraordinary images. We're going to be out of phone communication for quite some time as we travel there. But when we get back, we're going to show you and the world what we saw.
BURNETT: Well, it is going to be something the whole world is going to be waiting for bated breathe for.
Thank you so very much, Will Ripley. And good luck on that journey.
And OUTRONT now, Sam Vinograd, former senior adviser to the national security adviser during the Obama administration, and Michael Anton, who recently stepped down as spokesman for President Trump's National Security Council.
OK. So, Sam, you're next to me, let me start with you. I mean, this is pretty stunning, what Will's reporting, right? They don't -- they're on their way. Maybe they're going to get there, maybe they don't. You're not allowed to have a phone. You're going to go out of communication for days.
You're going to then end up with an 11-hour train ride, a four-hour drive, one-hour hike. This -- it sounds crazy.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It does sound crazy. And this is literally a show for the cameras. It's pretty telling that Kim Jong-un is letting in journalists and not letting in weapons inspectors.
So, it's pretty clear this is not a move towards denuclearization. This is a PR move by Kim Jong-un and to be clear, Kim Jong-un has said he's shutting the site because he's achieved a nuclear capability. So, this is not some olive branch to the international community.
Kim is having a celebration. He's saying, I don't need this thing anymore, so I'm going to shut it down. I'm not going to let inspectors come in and even verify what I'm doing. Instead, I'm going to use this as another way to boost my image around the world.
BURNETT: I mean, you know, Michael, that's just pretty stunning. You know, Will was very clear, right? There's no scientists on their team, two dozen journalists, no international officials. And he said, you know, we don't we don't know what we're going to be filming or looking for, right? So, what does this say about Kim and his claim to denuclearize when these images are going to be all that American intelligence actually gets?
MICHAEL ANTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL SPOKESMAN UNDER PRES. TRUMP: Well, first of all, we haven't even had the meeting yet. And when we do have the meeting, if we have meeting, there's a whole lot of other sites to be shut down and expected.
BURNETT: Yes, yes.
ANTON: All of that will be covered. I wouldn't expect even the most successful initial meeting to go into all of this. This is going to take months and years.
I agree that this -- what he's doing is essentially a publicity stunt.
ANTON: But if the process is going to move forward, get these sanctions lifted, and he starts to get all the things that he wants, he's absolutely going to have to let inspectors in, not just to this site, but to a whole bunch of sites all over his country and remains to be seen whether he's really willing to do that.
BURNETT: You're right. I mean, you know, we saw with Iran, right, not willing to fully go there in terms of limitations on military sites. We'll see what happen.
But Sam, here's the thing. The president of the United States coming out today and saying substantial doesn't happen and gets moved, right? He's clearly trying to move the goal post. Kim Jong-un was the first one to threaten that.
But yet it's clear President Trump wants this and he wants it badly. Here are some of the flattering things he's been saying or offering to Kim Jong-un just in recent weeks. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will guarantee his safety. Yes. We will guarantee his safety and we've talked about that from the beginning. He will be safe. He will be happy. I'm willing to do a lot and he's willing to I think do a lot. He'll get protections that will be very strong.
I want to thank Kim Jong-un, who really was excellent to these three incredible people.
Kim Jong-un was, he has been open and I think very honorable from everything we're seeing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Honorable, safe and happy.
VINOGRAD: Not the adjectives I think anybody else in the world would use to describe Kim Jong-un, but, Erin, I think this is a sign this was a rushed job.
And to Michael's point, of course, there are other nuclear sites that we're going to have to look at shutting down. Of course, we're going to have to negotiate on whether or not inspectors are going to be allowed in.
BURNETT: We don't know where their sites are. I mean, it's been incredibly opaque.
VINOGRAD: Exactly. We need to inventory their sites.
But what we're seeing is the president play good cop and try to tell Kim Jong-un how great he is, talk about trade and investment, offer all these carrots. Pence is playing bad cop. He talked about regime change. Pompeo can't really tell what his game is. But that's exactly we should have figured out our strategy if we're getting Kim to the table in a meaningful way.
VINOGRAD: Before we agreed to the meeting, it's like we're playing catch up right now.
BURNETT: And, Michael, do you have the president of the United States meet with the North Korean leader before you accomplish all these things or after to shake hands?
ANTON: You can -- look, there's no way you can accomplish all of these things I think before the meeting.
[19:35:04] We're talking about years' worth of work. The North Koreans are not --
VINOGRAD: But shouldn't we waited --
ANTON: -- they don't seem to me to be in the mood to give up all of this stuff in advance. You're only going to get them to do this through meeting with them, through talking with them and working out a schedule of inspections -- of all of it.
So -- and remember, they're the ones that asked for this meeting. The United States did not ask for the meeting, right? I think probably what they're doing is by calling into question is seeing how much we want it and seeing if the United States will make some kind of concessions in advance, which so far the administration has not done.
BURNETT: There is one thing that's already out. That's a coin to commemorate the summit. I know you can laugh and say how significant is this. But here it is, right, it's Trump and Kim Jong-un. It has people upset because it says President Trump and the Supreme
Leader Kim. Not President Kim, supreme leader, maybe some people being upset with president, but supreme leader is not a term we use in this country.
Sarah Sanders was asked about it today and I have to play you guys her response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In terms of the coins, this is not something that the White House has anything to do with. We don't have any input on the design, the manufacturer, the process in any capacity. This is a standard procedure by the White House Communications Agency which has made up exclusively of career military officials.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. So, Michael, this is the White House Communications Agency. It has White House as part of its title. Can Sanders seriously punt this?
ANTON: Sure, look, if you've been around the military at all over the last 20 years, this tradition sprung up of making these things called challenge coins. Individual units make them. They're privately funded, privately made, privately designed.
I just -- I think you know, this is a something that military units do all the time to commemorate events, to commemorate their own unit.
ANTON: And they're looking ahead toward something that if it were to go through, the White House Communications Agency would play a key role in supporting the necessary infrastructure in communications. So, I personally can't through side of that.
BURNETT: I have those coins, we all do.
VINOGRAD: I do.
BURNETT: From when you meet a defense secretary, whatever it might, but nonetheless, Sam, White House Communications Agency, and we're talking about Kim Jong-un as a supreme leader.
BURNETT: But the White House says, oh, it's not us.
VINOGRAD: This is -- Michael, I agree with you. I really like these coins. I have a lot of them. I think it's great we want to commemorate something if it happens, but let's try to keep them to ourselves until we see if the summit is actually forward. John Kelly talked to the White House Communications Agency about the timing of releasing this coin and what it says on it. BURNETT: Right, I mean, supreme leader, I don't know.
VINOGRAD: It's a little much.
BURNETT: It seems a little bit much.
All right. Thank you both so very much.
And next, the embattled EPA physically blocking, removing reporters from Scott Pruitt today. We're going talk to one of the reporters barred from the event.
And a Playboy model mistress. Accusations of pay-to-play, business dealings with convicted pedophile. Who is Trump ally Elliott Broidy?
[19:41:25] CUOMO: New tonight, access denied.
The EPA blocking CNN, "The Associated Press" and an environmental publication from attending a speech given by Scott Pruitt, the chief of the EPA today. They were told there wasn't enough room, but that wasn't true. Inside, they show there was space for more cameras in the back. You see one camera, usually you see a whole flotilla of them.
The "A.P." reporter wasn't just turned away though. She was grabbed by security guards and forcibly shove out of the building after asking to speak to an EPA public affairs representative.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked specifically about the incident today and here's her response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you approve of how that was handled? And will anyone be speaking to the press office over there about it?
SANDERS: Certainly, we'll look into the matter. I've seen the reports. I know EPA has put out a statement. At this point, I'd refer you to them as we look into the incident. I don't have a lot of visibility since certainly we weren't there.
REPORTER: Is there any situation barring a security incident in which you feel -- the White House feels it's appropriate to physically touch or physically handle --
SANDERS: I'm not going weigh into random hypotheticals that may or may not exist. I don't know any information about this specific incident.
BURNETT: It wasn't a random hypothetical, it had happen and it did happen today.
Rene Marsh is OUTFRONT. I mean, Rene, you arrived at the event. You were there representing CNN. You were also told to that. You can't attend. Then what happened?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's worth noting this was an event about harmful chemicals in drinking water. And CNN was there to cover it because the head of the agency, Scott Pruitt, was going t o be speaking. And we should note, CNN didn't learn about it from the learned about it from the EPA, only a handful of media outlets were actually invited. WE learned about it from a subscription service that we have that gives a daily rundown of events happening in D.C.
So, a CNN photographer arrived nearly two hours early. He was told he was not invited and he had to leave. And as he was leaving, that "A.P." reporter was on her way in. And just about five minutes later, our photographer says that all he saw was the doors at the EPA swing open, an arm of the security guard shoving the reporter out of the door, forceful enough that she was having trouble keeping up with her steps.
That reporter told our crew that she told security she wanted to speak to the press office about why she couldn't go. Myself and my producer, we tried to enter through a different door. We were told we were also told, Erin, that we were not allowed to be there because we simply were not invited.
I do want to get in, the EPA telling us in a statement that this was simply an issue of capacity. However, you point out there that there were vacant seats -- Erin.
BURNETT: There were vacant seats and, of course, you weren't invited. Others were. And in fact, it's not just today, Rene, but it's a pattern. This isn't the first time the EPA has had an incident with the press like this, right?
MARSH: Right. So, today's incident, it certainly fits into a pattern of Scott Pruitt trying to avoid journalist's questions and a lack of transparency at the EPA. It's something that reporters covering this agency, they're essentially aware of.
But when we got FOIA documents from internal communications within the agency, it essentially confirms what reporters know. Which is when they plan logistics for these events, they plan it in such a way to avoid Scott Pruitt having to answer any questions from reporters and, you know, really becomes an issue of trying to cover these events and trying to cover policy because you don't get access to the information.
[19:45:04] BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Rene.
And I want to go now to the White House correspondent for "Playboy", Brian Karem.
I mean, Brian, you were there in the briefing room today when Sarah Sanders face questions. We're just playing some of the exchanges there about the press, you know, being blocked, forcibly removed in one case from today's event. She referred questions to the EPA. She said it's hypothetically, wouldn't say this was wrong if it happened.
I mean, what was your reaction?
BRIAN KAREM, EXECUTIVE EDITOR OF SENTINEL NEWSPAPERS: Well, my reaction is this, the president of the United States will guarantee the safety of a despot from North Korea, but will not guarantee the safety of reporters in the United States in an event before a member of this government.
The fact of the matter is, it's never OK to do that, and I don't -- I'm going to give the White House, I guess I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one. I don't think that they were malicious. I think they just don't understand. I just think they don't get it, and I think that the problem is, you know, I went back afterwards. I was very close to interrupting a couple of times, thought better of it, then went back to talk to Hogan and to Sarah, and to them about the issue, and to let them to know that.
You know, the bottom line, you have to come out and say, I think they believe, any way, they've told me on a number of occasions because I've had hands laid on me at the White House and so has Jim Acosta and so has other reporters. And they say, look, that wasn't right, we're sorry. It shouldn't have happened.
But the problem is, is they don't come out publicly and say, look, this is not acceptable. That's because the president of the United States has already declared us the enemy of the people and fake media, so it plays into his narrative a little bit to rough up reporters. The simple fact of the matter was this guy, Pruitt, he is the head of the EPA. He should be open to the public, but he's absolutely one of the most corrupt people on the planet and he needs to be held accountable for what he does.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much for your time. And I appreciate it.
KAREM: You're welcome.
BURNETT: And next, growing questions about Trump, ally Elliot Broidy. New details tonight about how he reportedly profited -- I mean, we're talking about a billion dollars in contracts all by access to the president.
And breaking news in Hawaii tonight: these are the live pictures. These are the lava bombs that are literally exploding out of the volcano. More toxic gas exploding into the air tonight.
[19:51:11] BURNETT: New tonight, new reports showing top Trump donor Elliott Broidy signing close to a billion dollars in contracts promising access to Trump to get them. Broidy even reportedly getting a crony convicted of pedophilia a photo with Trump.
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nothing keeps a campaign running quite like big money. And for Donald Trump, few could fill the tank like Elliott Broidy. The California venture capitalist, Republican Party bigwig, and occasional film producer was a top fund- raiser.
And after Trump won, serious money started rolling into Broidy's pockets, via his business consulting firm in Virginia. Hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts, most from the Middle East and some from the Pentagon, too, according to reports by the "Associated Press" and "The Daily Beast".
So what's wrong with that?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We want to thank you and Saudi Arabia. But hundreds of billions of investment sent to the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.
FOREMAN: Other reports have said the fund-raiser Broidy held out access to Trump as the prize for perspective customers for his private business, all while "The A.P." says e-mails show he was secretly lobbying the president, pushing policies favorable to the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and more.
Broidy's attorney denies he did so on behalf of any foreign governments. Further, the report says this picture of Broidy's business partner, George Nader, with Trump, which would certainly bolster their claim of close ties, was taken shortly after Broidy gave $189,000 to the Republican Party. Never mind that Nader once pled guilty in a child pornography case nor that the "A.P." says he called son-in-law Jared Kushner the clown prince.
It's all very complicated and messy, and Broidy's lawyer says it's also all wrong, telling CNN the "A.P." story is based on false and fabricated documents. As informed "A.P.", their inaccurate reporting is also based on false and misleading statements.
TRUMP: We are going to drain the swamp.
FOREMAN: Still, it's bad optics in the wake of Trump's pledge to wipe out murky backroom deals in Washington. Throw in the fact that Broidy was a client of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, and it gets even sloppier, especially when you consider the one job Cohen handled for Broidy was paying off a Playboy Playmate after, yes, Broidy said they and affair.
TRUMP: Broidy once pled guilty to giving officials in New York state illegal gifts in exchange for a quarter of a billion dollar contract, money he eventually had to pay back. But it's his partner, George Nader, who seems to have caught the attention of the special counsel in the Russia investigation. He's been cooperating since January -- Erin. BURNETT: All right. Tom, thank you very much.
Nader, of course, the one with the pedophilia conviction, who was in a photo with the president.
And next, new concerns in Hawaii. These are live pictures, the erupting volcano. It's now rocketing lava bombs into the air, striking homes.
[19:58:23] BURNETT: Tonight, lava bombs. You're looking at live pictures. This is the volcano erupting right now in Hawaii, now launching balls of searing lava into the sky.
The lava bombs threatening homes, already striking one man, as the volcanoes explosions grow. The cloud of ash is now 8,000 feet in the air.
Stephanie Elam is OUTFRONT. She's there on the scene.
Stephanie, no one has been able to predict where these lava balls will land.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, and if you see the force with which they're forced out of the earth, Erin, you would know that you have to steer clear. There's one place not far from here. It's hard to see during the daylight, but you can see them launched out of these holes in the earth several hundred feet into the air.
That's just one concern. And that is somewhat localized. And that man is one of the very few people that has been hurt in this eruption, in this disaster happening here from the Kilauea eruption.
Now, what we do know is at 3:45 in the morning, local time, there was an eruption of ash from the summit of Kilauea sending that lava sending -- not lava but ash up into the sky at 8,000 feet. It causes difficulty in breathing, and that is one thing that they're worried about. But the other is what you're seeing over my shoulder, and that is still the very active lava that is flowing out of the earth, out of these fissures. And some fissures that have gone down and we're like actually pretty calm have come back to life.
And we've seen one of those fissures rolling their lava down toward the ocean floor. And that's causing another breathing issue there. So, all of that is what they're dealing with here, as well as those toxic gases that are in the air. So, it's a very, very tenuous situation here.
BURNETT: Thank you very much, Stephanie. Just incredible to see that over your shoulder, to imagine actually looking at that and witnessing it.
Thanks so much for that report and thanks to all of you.
Anderson starts now.