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North Korea Says It is Still Willing to Meet Trump; White House Lawyer Attends Start of Briefings with Lawmakers on FBI Source. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 25, 2018 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've decided to terminate the planned summit in Singapore on June 12.
[05:59:15] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The vice minister saying that "We iterate to the United States we are willing to sit down with them at any time."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to make sure that when we have the meeting it's going to be something that's productive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was an unannounced visit. Emmet Flood was not on the list.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That looks like advocacy. It doesn't look like a neutral investigation of the facts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't see what the problem is with the president wanting transparency.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to turn himself in later today.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Many of these women feared the power that Mr. Weinstein had.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is huge news. He could be facing decades of jail time.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It is Friday, May 25, 6 a.m. here in New York. And I'm so happy to have my old friend, Dave Briggs, join me.
DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Good to be here, my friend.
CAMEROTA: Great to have you here. We have a very big day.
BRIGGS: We do.
CAMEROTA: It's not a slow Friday. BRIGGS: No. No time to waste.
This is kind of the NEW DAY purgatory, I think, between Cuomo and Berman. But --
CAMEROTA: Can you frame it a little bit more positive? I'm delighted to have you here.
BRIGGS: Good to be here.
CAMEROTA: All right. Here's our starting line.
North Korea says it is still willing to meet with President Trump after he abruptly canceled the planned summit with Kim Jong-un. The North's carefully-worded response to Mr. Trump's letter is devoid of the usual inflammatory insults. The focus now shifts back to how the president will respond today.
And those much-hyped classified briefings between the Justice Department and top lawmakers yesterday appeared to have revealed no truth to President Trump's claim that an FBI source was planted in his campaign. And lawmakers are not happy about a White House lawyer being in attendance.
BRIGGS: Mr. Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, telling CNN that they want to know about the FBI's confidential source as a prerequisite for any interview between the president and Mueller's investigators.
This comes as we learn that Trump's legal team discussed a potential interview months ago, but it was rejected by the president's lawyers.
Also, CNN has learned that disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is expected to turn himself in to New York police this morning on sex crimes charges. The charges follow an avalanche of accusations against Weinstein by dozens of women.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Will Ripley, live in Wonsan, North Korea, with our top story. Good morning, Will.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave.
It has really been a surreal 24 hours on the ground here in North Korea. First of all, we visited the Punggyie-ri nuclear test site. Spent nine hours on the ground, watching them explode three tunnels, all of the buildings on the site, telling us the site is unusable, even though we have no way to actually verify those claims, because there were no nuclear weapons experts in our group, only journalists. So we saw those dramatic explosions. Unsure of really what exactly we're seeing and if these were authentic steps towards denuclearization, as North Korea claims.
But it was really -- the drama only stepped up on the train ride back. It was late in the evening when I got the phone call from the United States that President Trump wrote a letter to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, canceling the summit. They were angry about a statement that was put out by North Korea, blasting the vice president, Mike Pence, calling him a political dummy because of comments he made, comparing North Korea to Libya whose dictator was overthrown just three years after giving up his nuclear weapons and killed by U.S.- backed rebels.
Now, we were expecting an angry response from the North Koreans, because when we were on the train and we broke the news, there was shock. It was a real sense of, you know, people feeling they had just destroyed their nuclear site and then all of a sudden, the summit that they were working towards was called off.
But the statement that came out of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs very diplomatic. And I'm going to read you a portion of it. It says, quote, "Talking about the historic summit, we highly appreciate the fact that President Trump made a brave decision that no president in the past has made and put efforts to make the summit happen."
Now, you compare that to the letter from President Trump. His language, for the most part, was friendly towards the North Korean leader. But he did also include one ominous threat, saying, "You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God that they will never have to be used."
I will tell you the sense that getting on the ground here right now, the North Koreans do want this summit to happen. At some point, they want a dialogue with the United States. Because they're focusing so heavily on trying to build up their economy.
The beach behind those trees behind me, it was used for live fire artillery drills just a year ago. Now they're building a luxury beach resort, hoping to attract tourists here. But they need a dialogue with the United States to grow their economy, and they're hoping to make that happen. But before they can do that, they need to talk with the U.S. And right now, the summit has hit a major road block. They're waiting, just like the rest of the world, to see how President Trump will respond later today -- Alisyn and Dave.
CAMEROTA: Will, it is so good to have you right there at ground zero of where all of these developments are happening. Thank you very much. Obviously, we'll check back with you throughout the whole program, because things are joining quickly.
So joining us now, we have a columnist for "The Daily Beast," Gordon Chang. He's the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World and the Coming Collapse of China." And CNN political and national security analyst David Sanger.
Gordon, you heard Will just call this surreal, everything that's happened over the past 24 hours. When he read that statement from the North's foreign ministry saying that the president "has made a brave decision," referring to how he was going to sit down with the North, and I mean, do you hear this, as I do, as so conciliatory, complimentary. So what's behind this?
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": That statement capped a number of them yesterday from North Korea, which were unusually conciliatory and friendly. I think the North Koreans think that they overplayed their hand.
Because there was a series of three or four days where they were very provocative. And of course, they stood up the U.S. logistical team in Singapore.
The North Koreans need to speak to the United States. They need sanctions relief. They don't want the U.S. to strike their military facilities. They would like a counterweight to China. And of course, Kim wants the legitimization of meeting President Trump.
[06:05:11] So institutionally, I think there's a lot of reasons why North Korea will go ahead with this summit if the U.S. keeps the door open.
BRIGGS: David, was this the right move to walk away at this point for the president?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Certainly, Dave, as you looked at the way the summit was taking shape, there wasn't a whole lot of reason for the administration to believe that they were going to come out with it with anything more than a handshake and, as Gordon said, the legitimization of President Kim.
They had sent a team to Singapore to work out the logistics. The North Koreans never showed up. They had made phone calls back and forth to begin to try to figure out the final agenda. The North Koreans didn't respond to those.
And I think what that may reflect is that, even while the administration itself had the though there were divisions of leaping right into this. You'll remember the president took the invitation without consulting from his aides to go into the summit. I think the North Koreans were split, as well, about how to respond.
And I think they were trying to figure out how they make general commitments without making it appear that they're just going to turn over their weapons before they got any sanctions relief, which was the core of the American demand.
CAMEROTA: The -- President Trump's letter to the North is also just fascinating. Let's just read a portion of this. "If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. The missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.
I mean, do you think that President Trump, being so willing to, you know, just stop this on a moment's notice, do you think that there is cunning in this strategy? Because it seems that North Korea is now back on their heels.
CHANG: Yes, well, he's doing something right. You know, I think that we had to actually slow down the process. Because the North Koreans, you know, as David said, were divided on this. You know, I think Kim was a little bit worried. He had created
expectations inside North Korea. And I'm sure the generals were pretty upset about even the talk of giving up their most destructive weapons. So I think Kim was really feeling pressure from below. You know, the only thing that Kim right now should feel good about right now is China, because China has been backing him for the last three or four months in a way that we haven't seen recently. But apart from Beijing's support, I think Kim was feeling a little bit tenuous right now.
BRIGGS: President Trump has talked a lot about China's role in this, Gordon and David. Even that May 8 meeting between Xi and Kim seemed to be a tipping point for these negotiations. What was China's role and what will it be as we move forward?
SANGER: China was doing a pretty good job of backing the sanctions against North Korea for, I would say, the first year as the president built up this sanctions policy.
But then after Kim began the first of two trips to China to see Xi Jinping, the Chinese president. Trade seemed to reopen, the pressure seemed to lift, and the tone, as the president himself noted the other day of the North Korean statements, turned a lot more hostile.
And so it seems as if Kim felt that, no matter what he said or did, the Chinese had his back. I think the president understood that he was appearing to overeager. We were all writing this at the beginning of the week. I wrote a fairly lengthy piece in "The Times" that described how the president himself was nervous, not only that he wouldn't get very much out of the North Koreans, but the entire trip can could turn into something of a fiasco. And I think he recognized that he had violated one of the rules in "The Art of the Deal," which was he looked like he wanted this thing just too much.
And now I think by pulling back, as Gordon said, he sort of rebalanced this a bit. And I think the North Koreans now recognize they're going to have to chase after him a bit.
Now, the problem here is the chances for miscalculation between North Korea and the United States are always high. The chances of miscalculation between two relatively volatile leaders in Kim Jong-un --
SANGER: -- and President Trump are very high, right?
So that's -- that's the fear here, that you could end up back where we were last summer in the "fire and fury" and "dotard" statements.
CAMEROTA: Yes. But again, at the moment, the unpredictability seems to be working in the U.S. favor.
SANGER: That's right.
CAMEROTA: You're getting this quite conciliatory tone and note out of North Korea.
President Trump said that what the impetus was for pulling the plug on this, was that the North had said -- had insulted the vice president by calling him a political dummy or something like that.
[06:10:04] CAMEROTA: But that's not true. Right? That -- is that cover?
CHANG: Yes, I mean, I think it is cover. You know, and the North Koreans used cover, too. They used John Bolton as cover. Because you know, Bolton made those provocative comments at the end of April, and then the North Koreans released the three Americans, which means it couldn't have been that upset. Then then say, "Oh, yes, we're sort of very upset because of Bolton."
So you know, both sides are using incidences, which sort of not really what is at stake here. And I think, you know, what David said is really right. You know, the Chinese have been sanctions busting to a degree, which is really disturbing. And President Trump is going to have to do something about it. And we've got the trade disputes. We've got North Korea. We've got the military disputes.
Those three things are intersecting among themselves, and they're creating a very difficult, very toxic group. That this is a point where U.S./China relations are unhinged. And we could see very different relations going forward from here.
CAMEROTA: Fascinating. Will Ripley is there for us, obviously, so anything can happen over the next couple of hours. Gordon, David, thank you.
BRIGGS: Meanwhile, growing questions today about why a White House lawyer attended part of those classified briefings on a confidential source in the Russia investigation. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appearing united on there being no smoking gun on President Trump's claim that a spy was planted in his campaign.
CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with more. Joe, good morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Dave.
Lawyers show up when it's in their client's interests. The presence of one of the president's lawyers at those briefings held by the Department of Justice just yesterday created almost immediate blowback. One congressional staffer telling CNN's Jake Tapper, "It's the craziest expletive I ever heard."
A senior administration official telling CNN also they're not sure what they got out of the presence of the White House at those briefings. But one of the president's lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, telling CNN he doesn't understand what all the fuss is about.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS (voice-over): Rudy Giuliani defending the surprise appearance by White House lawyer Emmet Flood at two classified intelligence briefings about the Russia investigation that directly involved the president's campaign.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: They see themselves, the Trump team, as being invincible. I do think it's an effort to try and bully the Department of Justice.
JOHNS: Giuliani responding to critics telling CNN that he can't understand why it is inappropriate for the White House lawyer to go, noting that he assumes that Flood attended because the president wanted him to.
Earlier in the day, the White House explained both Flood and White House made a brief remark before the meeting started to relay the president's desire for as much openness as possible under the law.
TRUMP: What I want want from Rod, from the FBI, from everybody, we want transparency.
JOHNS: Giuliani telling CNN the legal team's interest in the meeting was directly related to the special counsel probe, stressing that information about the confidential source, who spoke with at least three members of the Trump campaign in 2016, is a prerequisite for any Trump interview with Robert Mueller's team.
The top Democrat in the House Intel Committee, Adam Schiff, who attended the meeting, citing Giuliani's remarks in a statement, criticizing Flood's appearance, noting the president's legal team expects to use information to glean improperly from the Justice Department or the president's allies in Congress to their legal advantage.
Chairman Devin Nunes, who also attended both briefings, has been demanding documents from the Justice Department about the use of surveillance in the Russia probe. We're not going to go to another meeting where we don't get documents.
JOHNS: But a source tells CNN that Nunes and Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy did not get the documents they requested. And even Nunes, nor Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy have commented. House Speaker Paul Ryan also refusing to comment but saying he looks forward "to the prompt completion of the House Intelligence Committee's work, now that they are getting the cooperation necessary."
Both Schiff and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say they did not see a smoking gun.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Were you surprised with what you learned? SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing particularly
surprising. But again, it was classified, so there's no real reporting I can give to you.
JOHNS: President Trump travels up the road to Annapolis, Maryland, today to deliver the commencement address at the United States Naval Academy. Later today, he's expected to meet with the secretary of state one day after canceling the North Korea summit.
Alisyn, back to you.
CAMEROTA: OK. Joe, thank you very much for all of that. So why, really, was the White House lawyer Emmet Flood at those briefings? And did his presence change something? We discuss all that next.
[06:18:51] CAMEROTA: OK. Nothing much has leaked from those classified briefings on the FBI.
BRIGGS: Breaking news.
CAMEROTA: I mean, honestly, because people were saying, oh, immediately, that will happen. Thus far we don't really know what was said there. But o lawmakers are indicating that there was any kind of smoking gun to back up the president's claim that there was a spy planted in his campaign.
So the big question is why was White House lawyer Emmet Flood at both those briefings. That's highly unusual.
Joining us now to talk about it are CNN political analyst John Avlon. He's currently editor in chief of "The Daily Beast," but he will be joining us here full time at CNN next month. Congratulations.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: So happy to have you.
And then we have CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell. He's a former FBI supervisory special agency.
OK, John, let me start with you. They -- there has not been a clear explanation for why Emmet Flood, the White House lawyer, had to be at these briefings. Generally, when the Gang of Eight meets, and if it's a classified intel briefing, there is no White House representative.
What the White House said, what Sarah Sanders said is to put off this statement about why he was there. Chief of staff John Kelly and White House lawyer Emmet Flood also conveyed the president's understanding of the need to protect human intelligence services and the importance of communication between the branches of government.
[06:20:07] That is absurd, because the whole point was that he wasn't checking the human intel. The person that he calls a spy, the informant, that's who was basically outed in the whole course of this. That's the opposite of what she's saying he wats.
AVLON: Hold on now. Are you saying these words do not mean what they say it means? Yes.
Look, the reason this is problematic on the most fundamental basis is a little something called separation of powers. And when the White House lawyer attends with the chief of staff at the opening of these meetings, it's a bit of a brushback pitch. You know? It's saying, look, we're not going to participate in these meetings. But just so you know, I'm here for the president and here's what he wants. Here's what he expects.
And the public statement, of course, it contradicts the real motivation on this issue. So yes. Are we through the looking glass? Hell, yes. We've been here for a while.
BRIGGS: But it is important to point out, he was not there for the classified portion of these reports is there to kind of set the tone. Here's what Jonathan Turley, George Washington professor, says about the presence of Emmet Flood, who called it a blunder of the first order.
He says, "Flood undermined the integrity and the stated purpose of the meeting. He created the impression that the briefing was first and foremost about the defense of the president personally. He risked everything and virtually nothing to gain from his attending the meeting."
Pretty strong stuff from Jonathan Turley. Josh, what do you make of his presence there?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: We learned yesterday that someone working on behalf of the government was sent into a meeting to collect information under questionable circumstances and to report that back to his handlers. I'm not talking about an FBI spy. We're talking about the lawyer for the president of the United States.
Now, I spent the better part of yesterday defending the White House and saying, you know, "Let's give him the benefit of the doubt." This is probably an optics problem, just a perception issue.
And then, as he's prone to do, the president's other lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, blew that out of the water by coming out and saying, "No, this is a strategy." We're going to benefit from this information. It is the definition of inappropriate. These are conflicted parties.
CAMEROTA: Are you saying that Emmet Flood was sent to spy on the Gang of Eight.
The irony here is hard to miss.
AVLON: That's incredible.
CAMEROTA: I mean, come on. And so here's what the top Republican who was here, Mitch McConnell, and the top Democrat on the Intel Committee had to say about what they learned from these important classified briefings.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Were you surprised with what you learned?
MCCONNELL: Nothing particularly surprising. But again, it was classified. So there's no real reporting I can give to you.
SCHIFF: Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: No spy in the campaign. Can we put this to bed now?
AVLON: One would think, but of course, that's not in the president's interests. He's going to come up with a catch phrase for a conspiracy theory to keep it alive as long as possible.
But the intelligence probably not going to result in what folks who are hyper partisans might want it to on this. Whether that will let this dog die, we shall see. But one thing: if there had been something that they could hang their hat, you would have seen Devin Nunes rush to the cameras after the briefing.
BRIGGS: He is known for his subtlety and staying quiet about things.
CAMPBELL: Can I add something else on that point? Obviously, I used to work for the FBI. And, you know, I called balls and strikes whenever they screw up. I'm the first one to say they screwed up. Where they do something well, we should celebrate that. What has happened here is we have cast a cloud. Not we, the House Intelligence Committee, over the FBI.
The White House has essentially said the FBI was engaged in illegal activity, spying on behalf of, you know, some sinister operation. That does not appear to be the case. When are we going to hear that apology? This cloud that's been cast upon them, when is that going to be lifted?
BRIGGS: Don't hold your breath.
BRIGGS: The damage done, regardless of what comes out of this, it's like the wiretapping Trump Tower. It's like the three million illegal votes. The damage done is the narrative out there, regardless of the truth?
CAMPBELL: Only if those who actually believe in the rule of law allow it to continue that way. We have to have people stepping up and saying this nonsense has to stop. Let's not forget the larger picture here. There is a threat from a
hostile intelligence service that continues to this day. And the FBI was investigating that. That should be the focus. Everyone wants to make it personal and say, you know, "My campaign, or my office, my operation." This is a country that's been under assault here by a foreign government.
AVLON: That's right. And to simply flip the script for partisan purposes and distract and deflect from that main urgency and focus is a real disservice to the national debate. That's where the focus should be, because that's where the debate is.
But Josh, I am curious, because obviously, you still have some friends and associates in the FBI. You know the president was trying to backpedal yesterday, saying, "I know FBI agents. I love FBI agents." After he had poisoned the well by saying that they're tainted. I mean, I could list the laundry list of things he has said that have denigrated the FBI.
[06:25:07] What is the feeling?
CAMPBELL: And they can -- and they can list that, as well. I was talking to some former colleagues who say there was actually a running list in one office about some of the negative things that have been said about them. And it really helps you, you know, view kind of in one sense this whiplash the organization has undergone, where you have first the White House saying the FBI is corrupt. And then, well, not everyone. Just the leadership.
And then to come out and call them Nazis and storm troopers and to say that agents here in New York, who are executing a lawful court order, were busting down doors, I mean, this is something that they take to heart. So, you know, as I said, I don't speak on behalf of the FBI anymore, but I would imagine if you're in the organization now, you feel under assault.
CAMEROTA: Josh Campbell, John Avlon, thank you both very much.
BRIGGS: All right. Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein reportedly, about to turn himself in to face charges, including rape. We are live with the latest details next.
CAMEROTA: We have some breaking news for you. At least 15 people have been injured in Canada, three critically in this explosion at an Indian restaurant in suburban Toronto.