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U.S.-North Korea Summit; Russian Oligarch Questioned over Trump Tower Meeting; Irish Referendum; Harvey Weinstein Charged; Kilauea's Explosive Threat; North Korea Claims to Destroy Nuclear Test Site. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2018 - 03:00   ET





TRUMP: Everybody plays games. You know that. You know that better than anybody.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): The on-again off-again summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. For now it's on again -- maybe.

Plus this:



VEKSELBERG: No, thank you, not now.

CHANCE: Mr. Vekselberg, Why did your company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Trump's lawyer?



VANIER (voice-over): CNN confronts the Russian oligarch who met with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen and who was questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller.

And Ireland appears to have voted for significant change to its constitution. We'll be discussing that as well.

Live from CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It is great to have you with us.


VANIER: So the Trump administration apparently is working on the assumption that a summit with North Korea may happen after all. One day after the U.S. president sent a letter to Kim Jong-un, explicitly canceling their June 12th summit in Singapore. Mr. Trump now says both sides are holding, quote, "productive talks" that could revive the historic meeting.

Earlier, he told reporters that he was encouraged by the conciliatory tone coming from North Korea. CNN's Matt Rivers is following these developments for us in Seoul, South Korea.

Matt, I would not like to be in your shoes. I would not like to be on the receiving end of these questions. There are a lot more questions than answers today.

But what is going to happen now?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is anybody's guess at this point. I mean, it is hard to overstate the amount of whiplash that the Korean Peninsula has undergone over the past 36, 48 hours or so now since that surprise announcement from President Trump.

It was right after that announcement was made. There was severe disappointment here in South Korea. This was a major setback. This was something that the South Korean government had been working toward for a long time. This was the end goal. This was the historic summit.

And just like that, it was off. South Korean President Moon Jae-in gathered his national security advisors for a midnight meeting. There was a sense of deep disappointment here

And yet fast-forward a little bit longer and now it might be back on again and we do not really know what is going on behind the scenes.

But the silver lining to all of this, at least in the beginning hours have been on both sides, the North Koreans and the Americans, left the door open for a potential summit and now I think you could say that there is cautious optimism that this summit will take place and maybe it will even take place on June 12th, who knows.

VANIER: Wow. That is just stunning. So just to be clear, do the South Koreans now believe that this summit is alive again?

RIVERS: This is obviously the first question that we have asked the South Korean government. We did get a statement from a spokesperson for the office of the president that the spokesperson, saying in part, "It is fortunate that the embers of the North Korea-U.S. dialogue are not going out but are coming back up again. We are watching the development carefully."

So not really tipping their hand either way, Cyril. I think perhaps there are some lessons being learned within the South Korean government. Remember, that it was right before President Moon Jae-in went to visit Donald Trump a couple days ago in Washington, D.C., that the president's national security advisor here in South Korea putting 99.9 percent chance on the fact that the summit was going to happen, he was kind of made to eat those words after the summit was canceled.

And even though it might be back on, I think you are going to see a bit more caution in public statements from the South Korean government until the summit is put back on again, if it is.

VANIER: You have to be -- we were cautious before this. But now we have to be deadly cautious. Matt Rivers, joining us live from Seoul, South Korea, following this for us, thank you very much.

And earlier I also spoke about this with political analysts Peter Matthews and Daniel Pinkston. Take a listen.


VANIER: Just a week ago, they were essentially -- they were putting signals out there that they had to know were going to anger the American side. And now they are acting like they are surprised that Trump has canceled the summit. And they are saying we're ready to do this.

So what is the coherence from their point of view?

PINKSTON: There's party discipline in North Korea. All officials follow the party guidance. All state institutions are under the guidance of the Korean Workers' Party. The leadership at the top of the party wants this summit to take place. They want a meeting to take place.

North Korean leaders have wanted to have a meeting with a U.S. president for decades. This is not new. So the low-level --


PINKSTON: -- officials, the vice foreign minister, the foreign minister last week, the statements that came out from the foreign ministry are in line with that party guidance.

VANIER: Peter Matthews, Trump was asked whether the North Koreans were playing him. This is what he replied.


TRUMP: Everybody plays games. You know that. You know that better than anybody.


VANIER: So, Peter, is everyone just bluffing here?

And if so, if this is a big game of bluff, then who is winning?

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: This a very dangerous game. But on the other hand, I think what it has to do with is the view of denuclearization is different on both sides. The president, our, the American side believe that it should be complete denuclearization right away on the part of North Korea.

North Korean leadership didn't believe that. They believe it should be gradual. It should also be accompanies with South Korean reductions of U.S. troops in South Korea and a few other things. So there was a little different view of what was going to take place.

And that is when John Bolton stuck his mouth in there and said, we should perhaps pursue the Libya model if North Korea doesn't comply with our wishes.

Libya model?

That means that Gadhafi, who was thrown out of power after he gave up his nuclear weapons program, would be the example of what Bolton was talking about. And that made North Korean leadership furious. And they said, no, we're not going to take the Libya model.

We have always -- be concerned about what happened in Libya and we're not going to give up our nuclear weapons that easily.

So this really threw a lot of salt on the wound when Bolton came out of with that statement and Vice President Pence repeated it to make it even worse. And that's when things deteriorated after that.

But now we'll see if this is back on track again.


VANIER: And if the Trump-Kim summit does end up taking place, it will be bringing together two of the world's most volatile and unpredictable personalities. CNN's Brian Todd sank his teeth into that.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The roller coaster swings upward again and President Trump declares a summit with Kim Jong-un could happen, maybe even on June 12th.

TRUMP: Everybody plays games. You know that.

TODD: The president says he's pleased with the statement the North Koreans just put out after he cancelled the summit. Pyongyang saying it "appreciated 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.

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR: If you want him to do something, you praise him, you tell him how wonderful he is, how much you appreciate his greatness.

TODD: Tonight, biographers and former intelligence analyst who've studied Trump and Kim, say the fate of a summit and the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula, now depend on the personalities of two scorpions in a bottle. Volatile leaders with egos which constantly that need to be stroked. A telling example: how each men responds to be insulted.

TRUMP: The little rocket man.

SUE TERRY, FORMER CIA ANALYST: I think Kim Jong-un responds to an insult very badly. He's famously known to have thin skin. This is a man who executed one of senior officials because he fell asleep while Kim Jong-un was speaking.

TODD: Trump biographer say, he also responds impulsively to any insult. And over the past year and a half, North Korea's propaganda machine has leveled some creative ones.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mentally deranged. U.S. dotard

TODD: Each man experts say, expects to be treated a certain way by those around him and has set up his inner circle accordingly.

JOHNSTON: He surrounds him with people who express complete loyalty to him and telling how great he is. He doesn't do it all well with anyone suggesting there's a better way to do it or you might improve your technique here.

TODD: A former CIA analyst on North Korea says, that sounds familiar.

TERRY: No one can challenge Kim. No can say you're doing something wrong. No, one can give him orders. I don't think there's anyone in North Korea who can do that except his sister and his wife, perhaps, in a very indirect way while stroking his ego.

TODD: Analysts now worry about the outcome of this diplomatic seesaw with two leaders so image obsessed that neither may feel he can compromise. Who, in the end, might prove to be more impulsive and unreliable?

JOHNSTON: Donald Trump is going to be more unreliable overtime. He's become increasingly erratic in office because he doesn't have the tools and the knowledge for the job.

Kim, on the other hand, well, he looks to us to be crazy, has played a very smart game here, getting the U.S. to come to him.

TODD: What analysts are concerned about now is that, if there does end up being a personal dialogue between Trump and Kim Jong-un and it breaks down, that there could be a war of words even worse than before and the two could insult each other into a confrontation that no one will be able to pull back from -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


VANIER: CNN has learned Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with a Russian oligarch just days before Mr. Trump's inauguration back in January 2017. Video footage shows Victor Vekselberg, who was recently sanctioned by the U.S., arriving at Trump Tower during this transition period.

In this exclusive report, Matthew Chance tracked down the Russian billionaire


[03:10:00] CHANCE: Mr. Vekselberg, a quick question from CNN.

VEKSELBERG: No, thank you, not now.

CHANCE: Mr. Vekselberg, Why did your company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Trump's lawyer?


CHANCE (voice-over): He is yet another media-shy Russian billionaire linked with the Kremlin and mired in allegations of collusion with the Trump team. The FBI questioned Victor Vekselberg about payments to Trump attorney Michael Cohen by his company's U.S. affiliate. They say it was for consulting work. We asked about the payments, too.

VEKSELBERG: Really appreciate. Just later, OK?

Really appreciate. I understand. I understand. But you are so aggressive.

CHANCE: No, I'm not.

VEKSELBERG: Please wait. Please later.

CHANCE (voice-over): We now know that Vekselberg met Cohen even before President Trump was inaugurated. These recently unearthed January 2017 images from the lobby of Trump Tower in New York show the Russian billionaire wearing a hat and coat, checking in at the security desk, lingering for several minutes and then entering an elevator with his business partner.

Cohen hasn't responded for comment but a person familiar with the meeting tells CNN that the two went up to Cohen's office on the 26th floor, although they did not meet the then president-elect himself. They left the building just 27 minutes later.

A person familiar with the meeting told CNN that Vekselberg and Cohen discussed improving U.S.-Russia relations. But what exactly this now sanctioned Russian billionaire expected remains unclear -- Matthew Chance, CNN, St. Petersburg, Russia.


VANIER: There could be history in the making in Ireland and a major victory for supporters of abortion right. We will go there live.

Plus he once called the shots in Hollywood. Now he is facing felony charges. The latest in Harvey Weinstein's fall from grace and the #MeToo (INAUDIBLE).



(MUSIC PLAYING) VANIER: Ireland could be on the brink of a historic moment for

abortion rights. Exit polls find voters rejected some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the developed world in the referendum on Friday. Our Atika Shubert is there now, watching it all from Dublin Castle.

First of all, Atika, when do we actually find out the official results?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Those will be coming in the next few hours, but for many people in Ireland, this is what they are waking up to. "It's a Yes," the headline at the "Irish Independent." And you can see some of the exit poll numbers here in the "Irish Times."

According to RTE, the Irish broadcaster, nearly 70 percent voted in favor of changing the constitution and decriminalizing abortion. Only 30 percent voted against.


SHUBERT: Again, those are just the whole numbers. The official vote count will get underway in a little less than an hour. And the vote tally will actually come here to Dublin Castle and then we should get the official results.

At that point we'll have that live for you in what looks to be an historic day -- Cyril.

VANIER: Yes, and right now it is looking like a landslide, it is hard to -- yes, it is just that the exit polls for the moment, not the official results. But it is hard to beat that kind of margin and those numbers.

Look, how did we actually get to this point because, for decades, longer than that in fact, Ireland has been one of the most socially conservative countries in Europe with a very, very dark past, especially when it comes to abortion.

So how do we get to today?

SHUBERT: Absolutely, it's had some of the most restrictive laws certainly in Europe and the Western world. And, of course, what it really hinged on was this constitutional amendment, what was known here as the Eighth Amendment. And this was actually voted in, in 1983, with a referendum.

And what it basically did was it inserted a clause in the constitution that said the rights of the unborn are equal to the rights of the mother. And that effectively banned abortion in Ireland.

However, later amendments changed it, allowing Irish women to seek terminations of pregnancy but only if they traveled abroad. So what was really happening here with this vote is that they're voting to change the constitution but really it is not whether or not Irish women could get abortions but whether or not they could seek terminations here in Ireland.

And it does seem from those exit poll numbers that, overwhelmingly, the Irish republic has seemingly voted in favor of decriminalizing abortion here in Ireland.

VANIER: If those exit poll numbers are confirmed by the official results and it does seem that they will be, what happens next, because there needs to be a law, correct?

SHUBERT: Absolutely. Once we get the official results, it does not automatically mean that abortion is legal in Ireland. It still requires parliament, the government to submit a bill for it to be debated and voted upon.

And that is what really where a lot of the debate is going to come in, what are going to be the specific regulations, how are they going to define the terms. And I think you can expect a very vociferous debate about that in Parliament.

So it's going to take a while. It is not going to happen automatically. But this certainly clears the way to legalize abortion here in Ireland.

VANIER: And the Irish prime minister was taking a bit of a gamble when he organized this referendum. It does look like he -- like that is going to work out for him. Atika Shubert, live from Dublin Castle, thank you very much. We will be speaking to you next hour as well. Thank you.

Harvey Weinstein, once one of Hollywood's most powerful players, has been charged with rape and sexual abuse. He is out on bail and he is required to wear a GPS monitoring system at all times.

Weinstein has repeatedly denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex but the arraignment Friday was a victory for more than 80 women who have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault over several decades. Brynn Gingras has more.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood megaproducer Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs, walking into court today, facing rape charges. They stem from the accounts of two women, including an aspiring actress, who first spoke out in a 2017 "New Yorker" article, alleging Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him at his office in 2004.

Tonight, Weinstein is out of jail after posting a $1 million cash bail but not before surrendering his passport, being forced to wear a monitoring device 24/7 and traveling only between New York and Connecticut.

The criminal charges are the first to be filed against Weinstein after dozens of women including, several A-list actresses, made various sexual misconduct accusations against the media mogul last year, among them, Gwyneth Paltrow... (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GWYNETH PALTROW, ACTOR: We had one instance in a hotel room, where he tried to -- where he made a pass at me. And then I really kind of stood up to him.

GINGRAS (voice-over): -- Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Lupita Nyong'o, Ashley Judd...

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTOR: I fought with this volley of nos, which he ignored.

GINGRAS (voice-over): -- and actress Rose McGowan, one of the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of rape.

ROSE MCGOWAN, ACTOR: We got you. Yes.


MCGOWAN: To see him in cuffs on the way out, whether he smiled or not, that is a very good feeling.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Weinstein denies having nonconsensual sex with any of his accusers and his attorney insisted today, his client is innocent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My job is not to defend behavior. My job is to defend something that is criminal behavior. Bad behavior, Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood. And to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that is not what this is about.


GINGRAS (voice-over): It is a stunning fall for the man behind several major movies, like "Silver Linings Playbook," "The King's Speech" and "Shakespeare in Love," just to name a few, some of which earned Weinstein dozens of awards for his work behind the camera.

But now he is the focus of investigations for alleged sex crimes, not just in New York but also in Los Angeles and London -- Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


VANIER: And we are hearing from more of Weinstein's accusers. Here's activist Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement.

She said "This moment isn't to revel in how the mighty have fallen but to celebrate how the silenced have spoken up, stood up together and survived."

Italian actress Asia Argento compared them to a baroque Italian painter, famous for her portraits highlighting oppressed women.

And here's Mira Sorvino, another of Weinstein's accusers. She thanked all the women who came forward and sent love to all her, quote "sisters today, who stood up to a monster."

Kilauea is turning parts of Hawaii's big Island into a volcanic wasteland. More people are being forced to leave the area as molten lava flows further onto the streets towards their homes. Active fissures are bubbling, pushing lava up to the surface of the big island with ash flumes being thrown some 3,000 meters into the air.

Officials have also been urging people to stay away from where lava is entering the Pacific Ocean and the dangers do not seem to be going away anytime soon. In fact, we're watching live pictures right now from Pahoa, Hawaii.

On Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey says there were 90 earthquakes at the summit in the span of six hours. And the weather service predicts even more hazardous air quality in the coming days.

Also weather wise, a fierce storm hitting the Arabian Peninsula, battering Oman and sideswiping Yemen. At least 11 deaths on the Yemeni island of Socotra have been blamed on cyclone Mekunu. That's what it's being called.

Local officials add that another 45 people are reported missing there so that death toll may increase by, unfortunately, a large number.



VANIER: We've got something special for you before the end of the show. We want to go back to something that happened Thursday. North Korea put on a dramatic show for journalists.

Of course, that news quickly got overshadowed by the fact that Donald Trump canceled the summit with Kim Jong-un. But it is noteworthy because Pyongyang blew up tunnels and buildings that it used as a nuclear test site.

CNN's Will Ripley was among those invited to be eyewitnesses. And, as always, his trip was tightly controlled but he filed this reporter's notebook about his extraordinary journey.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the moment I landed in Wonsan, I knew this story was unlike any other: 18 trips to North Korea and this country still keeps me guessing.

For more than 24 hours, we didn't even know if our trip to the Punggye-ri nuclear site would happen. The rhetoric with the U.S. was really heating up. Only when we boarded the bus did we know it was a go. We rode for more than 12 hours on a North Korean luxury train. It was

surreal, a 10-course banquet with all the blinds closed and strict orders not to film outside. We also couldn't film on the drive to the nuclear site.

Arriving at Punggye-ri was surreal. The buildings were log cabins, almost like a summer camp, it was definitely not what I expected. We had to carry our gear and hike, for what felt like ages, up steep ravines to get to observation posts built specifically for us.

We visited tunnel after tunnel, the same tunnels North Korea has used to conduct six nuclear tests since 2006, all of them full of explosives, football-sized bags strung with wires. We even had lunch provided by the North Koreans, ham and cucumber sandwiches, surrounded by buildings that would be blown up just hours later.

The explosions were huge, earth-shaking. They sent rocks and debris flying. We found some of it scattered later hundreds of feet away. I can only imagine what it felt like during those nuclear tests.

It was totally impossible to verify if what we were seeing, if all those dramatic explosions, actually made the nuclear site unusable as the North Koreans claim.

For the nuclear officials onsite, there was almost a sense of sadness, watching more than a decade of hard work go up in smoke -- Will Ripley, CNN, at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, North Korea.


VANIER: Always great to get Will's reporting. Thanks to him.

And thanks to you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I've got the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.