Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START

U.S. Team Negotiating With North Korea; Flash Floods Cause Havoc In Maryland; Italy's Political Crisis; Trump Blasts Mueller's Probe In Series Of Tweets; Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 04:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[04:00:00]

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN NEWSROOM SHOW HOST: Negotiating in North Korea. U.S. Diplomats are in Pyongyang laying the ground work for a possible summit between the U.S, president with the leader of North Korea.

Plus this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: State of emergency. Torrential flood leading a historic town leave Baltimore deep under water.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: And new this hour. Political uncertainty leaping in Italy, we take you live to Rome for details on this latest crisis. Live in CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: And I'm Rosemary Church. "CNN Newsroom" starts right now.

A U.S. Delegation is in North Korea. The clearest sign that the summit between leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump may still be on.

HOWELL: Head on Sunday, Mr. Trump tweeted that United States team is making arrangements for June 12, summit saying quote, I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial nation one day. Kim Jong-un agrees with beyond this. Just three days earlier, the President had released a letter that he sent to Kim Jong-un outright cancelling that meeting.

CHURCH: So, it seems the summit is still on at least for now. South Korea's President has been working find and to make it happen. And we have learned that Moon Jae-in met with Kim Jong-un at the Demilitarized Zone on Saturday. Seoul says it told Washington about the meeting beforehand.

So, let's bring in Matt Rivers with the view from Seoul, South Korea. Good to see you, Matt. So, now that President Trump's summit with Kim Jong-un, is apparently back on track for June 12th, we are also learning that the U.S. delegation is in North Korea to plan for that summit. What more do you know about this?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we know that, well, there are kind of two parallel U.S. Teams that are operating right now, in this part of the world. Let us start with what is going on closes to us, at the DMZ right now, we know that there is a U.S. Delegation is being led by Sung-Kim, he is the current Ambassador to the Philippines for the United States. He used to be the ambassador here in South Korea. And he is a veteran negotiator, he is one of the few people in the state department you could very clearly call an expert on North Korea.

He was involved in the six-party talks that ultimately ended up failing with North Korea in the mid-2000s. But this is clearly a guy who knows North Korea, who knows how tricky it is to negotiate with the North Koreans, come up with what sort of deal with his counterparts from Pyongyang. But he has led the delegation to the DMZ to try and work out the agenda of this potential summit that could happen on June 12th. He is there meeting with the counterpart. The vice foreign minister, the second vice foreign minister from North Korea. And so they are kind of up their hashing things out ahead of the summit.

Meanwhile, down in Singapore, there is the logistics team that is going on. So we know that an advanced team from the United States went to Singapore, they are there, trying to figure out, OK, how is this going to works and where is it going to happen, what is the media situation going to be all that stuff. You have two parallel things going on here. Both of which are crucial if any summit is actually going to happen.

CHURCH: Yes. And of course, everyone is hoping that this does go forward. Bur we don't know for sure that this will be the case. Because there are a number of issues that could derail it. One of them being, of course, this definition of what constitutes denuclearization. And analysts had suggested that it would be wise to settle this before the summit and to map out a deal that can be signed at the face-to-face meeting. Is there any sense that this is all being worked out before the two leaders actually meet on June 12th, if this happens?

RIVERS: Yes, Rosemary, in a sense here, what you are seeing is both sides struggling with issues that have had been the same sorts of problems that had plagued negotiators for a very, very long time now. The issues that are being worked out or attempting to be worked out behind the scenes, they are not new. I mean, take denuclearization, as you mentioned there for example. When the North Koreans talk about denuclearization, general, that includes removal of the U.S. military troops from South Korea. They view the U.S. presence in South Korea as a nuclear threat. Even though the U.S. has not had nuclear weapons physically stationed in South Korea since 1992. That is not how the North Koreans view it.

When talk on the other side, the Americans to South Koreans, they say, well, there is only one country on the Korean peninsula that has nuclear weapons and that is North Koreans. So that would mean they need to disarm. So that is one of the issue that keeps the sides very far apart. And that is the criticism here of this summit. How can you get all of these problems worked out that have been in

place for the better part of two decades now? How are you going to work those out in just a couple of weeks? Proponents of the summit would say though, you know what, you have to start somewhere. This is going to be a historic meeting and we should get these two leaders face-to-face, so we can maybe, do what many would call impossible and work out some sort of lasting peace deal on the Korean peninsula.

[04:05:11] CHURCH: We are watching very closer to see if this all goes forward. Matt Rivers joining us from Seoul in South Korea. Just after 5:00 in the evening. Thanks so much.

HOWELL: And now let us bring in John Delury. John is an associate professor at Yonsei University Graduate School of International studies, live for us this hour. It is a pleasure to have you here on CNN to talk about this. A lot of details are surely to be worked out, but there is also this issue of big picture optics of the simple idea of creating a good rapport here. I want you to listen to the former director on National Intelligence here in the U.S., James Clapper talk about optics. Let us listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think, there is value having gone this far. There is value in meeting and greeting, griffin and grinning and just establishing a rapport. I think it is -- I think it would be important to have the summit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So your opinion here, do you think that is indeed the case? These big picture optics? Just as important as the details in reaching an agreement and these possible meetings?

JOHN DELURY, PROFESSOR, YONSEI UNIVERSITY GRADUATE SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, yes, it's both. And actually listening to that segment from Director Clapper. He talks about rapport. Which is a little different than optics. You know, I think, he has good insight impart, because he went to North Korea. One of the very few senior American officials who has been there during the whole Obama period. And you know, he gained insight that when you go there, when you meet with North Korean officials, you start to understand some of the complexity that is not as simple as we often think from the outside listening to their statements.

So, I think the notion as Clapper talks about rapport, I would suggest the term relationship, is a big part of what is really going on here. You know, I think, what Kim Jong-un is open to is fundamentally transforming the nature of the relationship between the United States and North Korea. And I think that is actually something that President Trump is putting on the table. And you can't do that if you don't, you know, get in the room and really move that process forward through a summit.

HOWELL: John, very interesting as of really, three layers as you see it, I guess, as we see a lot of images like this. There is Instagram type images, right? And then you see the layer of rapport. You know, do they get along? And then the layer of details. That is what I want to ask you about next. We know that North Korea surely wants security guarantees. United States focused on denuclearization. Are both sides here close or far apart on this? Can they make head way when it comes to these dirty details?

DELURY: Yes, well, it is hard to know. You know, I mean, we are left guessing a little bit. It is very encouraging that there is so much dialogue going on. And really it has been a desert. You know, it has been almost 10 years where we have not had this level of intensive dialogue at high levels between not just Americans and North Korea counterparts, but of course, the South Koreans, Kim Jong-un had met twice with President Moon Jae-in and twice with Xi Jinping.

So, you know, it is hard to believe that we have this much effort, including seasoned diplomats like Ambassador Sung-Kin, as you mentioned is, I guess in Pyongyang now or talking to North Koreans now and you know, I don't think we would have gotten this far if all of these people did not see that there is really a window of opportunity. Now whether, you know, how far you can close that gap as Singapore, I'm skeptical they can really close the gap and meet in Singapore and sign a piece of paper and it is all over. But it is close enough that both sides, OK, we want to go ahead. And maybe Singapore is the first in what will be a series of summits, maybe over the course of a year that will show we really are transforming this relationship. We are taking big steps on both sides and we're moving to realize the framework of peace and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula?

HOWELL: All right. Also, when it comes to economic aid for North Korea. We know the nation is interested in that, but there has been pushback on the idea of outside investment from private companies. The type of private investment that President Trump has suggested. What do you believe North Korea would be looking for instead of that?

DELURY: I think, if you know how to read North Korean statements and the economic parts is really important. I am glad you ask about that. I think what they are pushing back against is the notion that, you know that, their nukes are for sale. That you kind of skip the security part of this, skip the peace part and just go straight to, OK, we will lift sanctions and we will give you aid and investment and then you give up your nukes. Because there is a first phase of this process that is really focused on political and military and security issues on both sides. And just like we have specific expectations of the North Korea in terms of giving up their nuclear and missile capabilities.

[04:10:06] You know, they are going to have expectations of us in terms of a peace regime, you know, and how do we change especially United States and South Korea. Change the core structure and the posture and the practices so they are not threatening, they are not hostile anymore. You know those are going to be the steps we have to take. So, that is the security part and you can't just fast forward through that and get to the economic part. In the long run, the economic driver is very important. Kim Jong-un has said, he wants to really be the leader of North Korea who makes it a prosperous normally state economy. So, that is the long-term driver. But we cannot skip through the first hard part of the addressing security concerns on both sides.

HOWELL: We have to see John, where this goes. John Delury. Thank you so much for your time. That is, if it happens, but it seems like it is on track. Maybe. Thank you for your time. Good to talks to you.

CHURCH: well, the U.S. President renewed his attack on the Russia investigation in a series of tweets on Sunday. And Donald Trump's attorney is defending him.

HOWELL: That attorney Rudy Giuliani says the president's tweets are part of strategy to avoid the threat of impeachment. Boris Sanchez explains.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: The Russia investigation clearly top of mind for President Trump this weekend as we saw in a number of tweets in which he called the Russian investigation a witch hunt and referred to Russia's role in the 2016 election as so-called meddling. The President in one curious tweet referring to young and beautiful lives that were destroyed by the Russia investigation. I did get a chance to ask some White House officials, specifically who he was talking about. They did not send me a response. Though the President's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was on "State of the Union" Sunday morning with Dana Bash.

And he called the Russia investigation during the interview an illegitimate, again repeating claims that were previously made by the president suggesting that there is a wide conspiracy theory and spy that was implanted by the Deep State within the Trump campaign to try to benefit Hillary Clinton's campaign. Something that neither the President nor Giuliani nor lawmakers on Capitol Hill provided any conclusive evidence for.

Giuliani argued that the reason that they continue propagating these claims is not necessarily a legal strategy to try to defend the President from the special counsel investigation, but rather a public opinion strategy. One meant to sway the public to believe that the investigation is not valid and further one that is designed to protect the President from the threat of impeachment. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GUILIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: They are giving us the material. I could not do it if they didn't give us the material. They are giving us the material to do it. Of course, we have to do it in defending the President. We are defending -- to a large extent, remember, Dana, we are defending here, it is the public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach -- not impeach. Members of congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So a jury is the American and it should be, is the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SANCHEZ: Dana also pressed Giuliani on the question of whether the

President would sit down with Robert Mueller for a one on one interview. Something that we long speculated about -- recently, sources have indicated that both sides, the Trump legal team and special counsel have been discussing logistics and the subject matter of that potential interview. Giuliani made the case that the investigation would be wrapped up were it not for the President's adamants stance that he wants to sit down and be interviewed by Robert Mueller. Boris Sanchez, CNN, at the White House.

(END VIDEO)

CHURCH: All right. So let's get more now from the Inderjeet Pamar, he is a professor of International Politics at City University and joins us from London. Welcome, thanks for being with us.

INDERJEET PAMAR, PROFESSOR, INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, CITY UNIVERSITY: Good morning.

CHURCH: So, let's start with one of President Trump's tweets from over the weekend that had a few of us a little confused. This is what he said in part regarding the Russia probe. Who is going to give back the young and beautiful lives that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia collusion witch hunt? So, who is he referring to in that tweet?

PAMAR: I think you have to ask President Trump. I have no idea which young and beautiful people's lives have been ruined by this. It is clearly a reference to some of the older people that had been investigated and now are going to be probably had been indicted or again to be charged at some point. But it does seems to be a little bit off the mark that particular one.

CHURCH: Yes. The young part very confusing. So let's take a listen to what Republican Senator Jeff Flake revealed about his concern regarding the investigators in the Russia probe. Let's bring that up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: I can tell you behind the scenes there is a lot of alarm. There is concern that the President is laying the ground work to move on Bob Mueller or Rosenstein and if that were to happen, obviously, that would cause a constitutional crisis.

[04:15:03] There is concern behind the scenes. I have vented the concern we have not spoken up loudly enough and told the President you simply cannot go there. And he is obviously probing the edges as much as he can to see how far congress will go. We have to push back harder than we have.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Now it is not the first time, of course that we heard Mr. Trump threaten to do this. But how likely is it that he would get rid of Mueller or Rosenstein given the great risk involved in triggering a constitutional crisis or perhaps even impeachment proceedings? PAMAR: I think that reduces the risk of that actual move occurring.

But he will, I think continue as sort of guerilla warfare's. I think Guiliani is right. And you know, this is something in which anybody who has been observing the Trump administration were (inaudible). He has rarely ever -- rarely ever forgets the electorate and the upcoming elections. And I think he looks at the optics and everything. And I think what he wants to do as much as possible is hit against his critics.

He wants to ramp up the war of words, but at the same time, suggest that the whole investigation is illegitimate or rigged and so on. And I think there are some legitimate questions about this as well. Because, if you like, the 2016 election threw up a very, very interesting set of candidates and there was quite a lot of disturbance within the establishment Party leadership. Both about the Trump candidacy, but also about the founders challenge from the left on the Democratic Party.

And I think a lot of this is really to do with the internal division within American political elites and that division at the time obscured some other things which was. Really a lot of people in America, the electorate were very, very unhappy on left and right with the way the country was going. That hasn't stop, but this show which has carried on since President Trump election. It is really obscuring many, many deeper problems. I mean, last week, there were so many reports from various sources showing that 40 percent of Americans could not afford a $400 emergency debt. Emergency cost, that executive pay as kind of out stripped 5000 to 1 ordinary median worker's pay.

I think those are the big issues in which this war of words, which I think if you investigated deeply, I think there is a lot of murky stuff going on -- on the Democratic side and FBI and on the side of Donald Trump. And I think it obscures too many other big issues.

CHURCH: Inderjeet Pamar, thank you so much for your analysis. Ae appreciate it.

PAMAR: Thank you.

HOWELL: Young and beautiful lives. That is a question. That tweet.

Still ahead, small town we are following in the U.S. State of Maryland, it is in a state of emergency right now. Just take a look that. This was Ellicott City on Sunday. Submerged under raging flood waters for the second time in two years.

CHURCH: Plus, the U.S. Gulf Coast is bracing for a major storm on Memorial Day and we have your weather update next. Stay with us.

[04:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOWELL: We hear that water, that is the scene right there, across Ellicott City near Baltimore. The U.S. State of Maryland. This happened over the weekend. You see those buildings, they are toppled as flash floods poured through the streets. Some residents were trap and you can see the SOS. Sheets hanging from the window there. Thankfully, no injuries or fatalities have been reported at this point. But the governor of the state did declared a state of emergency and police trying to warn residents to get out of hard-hit areas.

CHURCH: And it worth pointing out the city has been recovering from flood damage in 2016. But as one resident puts it, the new round of flooding seems to have sent the area back to square one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The destruction was unbelievable. There were trees sticking out everywhere. And cars standing up straight, fully upright everywhere. Buildings wiped out. Windows gone. Inventory from the stores everywhere, juts all wiped out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHURCH: Incredible. And multiple rescues are under way. Of course, our CNN meteorologist say more rain is on the way.

Meanwhile the U.S. Gulf Coast is bracing for sub-tropical storm Alberto. Heavy rain and winds could impact the Memorial Day celebrations in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.

HOWELL: Our meteorologist, Allison Chinchar, is here in the CNN World Weather Center. And Allison, more rain on the way on the Gulf State and possibly even areas like Ellicott City.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, METEOROLOGIST, CNN: Yes. That is right. The wide spread concern really with the storm is going to be the rain. Not just along the Gulf Coast, because the thing is once the storm moves in, it doesn't die instantly. So, let us take a look what the latest is, sub-tropical storm Alberto currently still sitting over the Gulf of Mexico. Winds at about 100 kilometers per hour moving northwest at about 14 kilometers per hour. We expect landfall to take place within the next 12 hours.

So there is not much time left before it finally does cross inland. The good news on that is it really doesn't give it much time to strengthen much more than it already is. So we are most likely looking at tropical storm strength, give or take at the time of landfall. As it moves inland, though it will weaken very quickly. By the time it gets say, the middle of Alabama, it is expected to be just a remnant low at that point.

Winds will not be as strong, but again the main concern with this system is going to be the rain. Not just for where it makes landfall, but look at how wide spread some of the outer bands reach. We could be talking areas like Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Yes, they were still trying to recover from the big flooding event on Sunday. But also areas of South Florida. Take a look at this, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, around areas of Fort Myers, who are all dealing with above average rainfall for the month already.

[04:25:05] Now you are going to be adding more. Take Fort Lauderdale for example. It already has 10.5 inches above average. Now we are talking about adding an additional perhaps 4 to 6 inches on top of what they already have.

CHURCH: Unbelievable.

HOWELL: All right. Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.

CHURCH: Thank you.

HOWELL: Well, now to the U.S. State of Hawaii, to tell you about more evacuations that are under way near the state's Kilauea volcano, because of lava flow. The volcano erupted more than three weeks ago and has not slowed since.

CHURCH: Yes, and this gives you the sense of what President's face right now. Many of them are wondering if this is their new normal. CNN's Miguel Marquez has more now from Hawaii.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are in Leilani States that is fissure seven and it is one of the most active fissures in this is massive complex of fissures and volcanic activity. 24 fissures now have opened up in this area. When you look out at the end of that road, where that light is, that is a car. This road used to go through where the lava is now fountaining. That is 20-25 feet of lava and it fountaining above. This is not the only problem, though, the air quality is about to get worse for many residents of the big island.

The wind is about to change direction blowing more of that smoke and haze and volcanic smog toward Hilo and toward Pahoa, much bigger population areas and that will cause problems for many, many on this island. Miguel Marquez, CNN, in Leilani Estates, Hawaii.

(END VIDEO)

HOWELL: Miguel Marquez there on the story. We will have to stay in touch.

CHURCH: Yes. Absolutely. Well, there is more political uncertainty in Italy. The man expected to become Prime Minister is walking away from the job and they are off course to the president's impeachment. We will go live to Rome for the very latest.

HOWELL: Plus voters in Ireland now turned to lawmakers to get things moving after a briefing to repeal that nation's decade's old abortion banned.