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NEW DAY

Flurry of Diplomatic Activity to Save U.S.-North Korean Summit; Trump Brags about Achievements in Memorial Day Tweet; 'Washington Post': Trump Calls Shots, Aides Follow in West Wing; Ivanka Trump Awarded 7 New Trademarks in China Amid Trade Talks. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired May 29, 2018 - 06:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of people are working on it. We're looking at June 12 in Singapore.

[05:59:30] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does feel somewhat rushed. If they need more time, they should push it off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been at it for several decades, and everyone has failed. And so Trump seems to have moved us closer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not a day for the president to put his narcissism on full display.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president is acutely aware of what Memorial Day is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best way to honor the fallen is to make the message about them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Flooding is a concern. We're expecting a lot of water.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a freak of nature. I have never seen an event like this one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all keeping up hope. It is tough to sit here and wait knowing you can't do anything about it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome your viewers in the United States and around the world. It is a NEW DAY here. It is Tuesday, May 29, 6 a.m. here in New York. How did that sound, John Berman?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: That sounded awesome. That was Darth Vader. That was James Earl Jones just saying my name, which is really all I ever wanted in life. Can we actually -- can we hear it again. Can I hear James Earl Jones. ANNOUNCER: John Berman.

BERMAN: Yes, there we -- one more time?

ANNOUNCER: John Berman.

BERMAN: Thank you. OK.

CAMEROTA: There's a certain theatrical flair to "John Berman" that I've never heard before.

BERMAN: It's my British roots. As you know from covering the royal wedding, you know, I have deep roots in Sussex, and James Earl Jones appreciates that.

ANNOUNCER: John Berman.

CAMEROTA: I kept hearing about you. John, it is so great to have you here on NEW DAY as we navigate through this new cyclone. I'm so happy to have you as a co-pilot.

BERMAN: I'm so incredibly thrilled to be here every morning, 6 am to 9 a.m.

CAMEROTA: Yes, did I mention that? It is Monday to Friday.

BERMAN: It's -- you've been so wonderful to me. I still have that new anchor smell. So I think it's easy -- it's easy to like me now. We'll see how you feel at the end of the week.

CAMEROTA: How about just at the end of the show today. Let's see.

BERMAN: Set the bar low.

CAMEROTA: Let's see how it goes. A lot of people asked why I've switched seats. Is this the alpha seat? No, it's I like my hair better on this side.

BERMAN: People were saying, you know, it's a big deal. You know, you're starting on Monday -- on Tuesday, I guess it is. I said really, the big change is Alisyn is moving chairs. Don't lose sight of what's really happening here, which is there's been a chair shift.

CAMEROTA: All right. Well, should we get to it?

BERMAN: Let's do it.

CAMEROTA: OK. Here's our starting line. Diplomacy is accelerating at breakneck speed today to save the president, President Trump and Kim Jong-un's summit. And there are reports that North Korea's former spy chief is heading to the U.S. tomorrow as a White House delegation is in North Korea, already hammering out the details for this historic summit in Singapore, which still seems scheduled for two weeks from today.

Meanwhile, President Trump's Memorial Day tweet touting his own accomplishments struck many as tone deaf, but how did military veterans hear it?

BERMAN: It's been two months since Hope Hicks left her post as White House communications director. And this morning "The Washington Post" report said the president has essentially found the perfect replacement. The name? Donald J. Trump. So that must have been some job interview. "Do you have the best words?"

"Why, yes. Yes, I have the best words."

Well, what are the implications of essentially being surrounded by yourself and, yes, people? We will discuss that.

And a tragic story out of North Carolina. Two journalists have been killed covering Alberto, the first named storm of the season. While a search continues for a National Guardsman swept away in flood waters in Maryland. We have it all covered for you.

Let's begin with CNN's Kaitlan Collins, live at the White House -- Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Alisyn, today we are two weeks away from when that big summit with North Korea is supposed to happen, and we're just five days off from when President Trump cancelled the summit saying it was inappropriate at this time to hold the summit.

Now, despite all that and despite that there are national security concerns, this summit is happening too soon too fast and, despite the fact that it hasn't officially been called back on yet, the president and his staff are acting like it is.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS (voice-over): President Trump ramping up the pressure on negotiators, just two weeks ahead of the on again/off again high- stakes summit with North Korea. Despite concerns there's not enough time to prepare, officials say the president is pushing his advisers to move ahead with the talks as scheduled.

TRUMP: A lot of people are working on it. It's moving along very nicely, so we're looking at June 12 in Singapore. That hasn't changed.

COLLINS: South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports that high-ranking North Korean official Kim Jong-chul will travel to the U.S. as early as tomorrow for talks after a stopover in Beijing.

A close aide to Kim Jong-un arrived in Singapore late Monday to discuss logistics with U.S. officials, meetings North Korea never showed up to two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, a top White House official is leading a delegation in North Korea. Those talks happening in the Demilitarized Zone. Officials trying to determine whether North Korea will agree to complete denuclearization and what Kim Jong-un will demand from the United States in return. Sources say that some Trump aides, including national security adviser

John Bolton, have told the president that even a cursory meeting with Kim would be a diplomatic victory and could lead to more serious talks.

"The Wall Street Journal" reports that the White House was preparing to announce new sanctions against North Korea but decided to halt those plans as they try to salvage the summit. President Trump agreeing to meet with Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, during a phone call on Monday.

The president taking time to honor the nation's fallen service members on Memorial Day, laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

[06:05:07] TRUMP: Today our whole country thanks you, embraces you and pledges to you we will never forget our heroes.

Reporter: but his comments were overshadowed by what critics say was a tone-deaf tweet, touting his administration's accomplishments and insisting that the fallen would be very happy and proud of the economy.

Former chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, responding, "This day, of all days of the year, should not be about any one of us.

And the veteran's group Vote Vets calling the president's self- fruition (ph) appalling, adding, "It's the most inappropriate Memorial Day comment ever made by a president." The group also accusing the Republican Party of trying to profit off the holiday by offering a 25 percent discount on Trump campaign merchandise with the code "remember."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, we should have a better idea of the chances of this summit actually happening as these talks continue, and we'll likely hear what the president's latest thoughts on all of this are tonight in Nashville as he holds a rally. Of course, the state of Tennessee right now is trying to hold onto -- or the Republican Party is trying to hold onto a crucial Senate seat in Tennessee -- John and Alisyn.

BERMAN: All right. Kaitlan Collins for us at the White House. Kaitlan, thanks so much.

Joining us now CNN military and diplomatic analyst, Rear -- retired Rear Admiral John Kirby. And CNN political analyst David Gregory.

Admiral, I want to start with you. Kim Yung Chol, this former intelligence official, apparently on his way to the United States. He would be the senior most North Korean official to come to the United States since way back in the year 2000. Talk to about the significance of this visit.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, this definitely indicates that the -- that the progress is advancing pretty quickly towards a summit. Now, whether it happens the 12th or not we have to see.

But that he's coming to the United States, that sends a strong message that the North Koreans are very serious about wanting to sit down with President Trump and where it goes from now.

Now look, John, as we've been talking about for many weeks, all this activity, the release of the American hostages, the back and forth over whether it's going to happen or not, all that means that we're getting to a summit and that should give us some confidence. It doesn't necessarily mean that the summit will be successful.

CAMEROTA: Well, for sure. But just getting to the summit. I mean, President Trump has broken the mold, I think it's fair to say.

KIRBY: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Because as we all know, diplomacy often moves at a glacial pace, obviously, and he's, you know, just like charged it, supercharged it into high gear. Here are the things -- I mean, this was in Kaitlan's piece, just to put it up on the screen in a full screen for everyone.

These are the developments, OK, that are happening rapid-fire, David Gregory. The U.S. delegation arrived in North Korea, as we said. This top North Korean official has landed in Singapore to begin planning. Japan's President Abe hopes to meet with President Trump and is planning to meet with President Trump before the summit. Kim Jong-un's right-hand man, as we've just talked about, is headed to the U.S., we believe for tomorrow. And then the White House has halted the new sanctions that President Trump had said he was going to impose on North Korea but is now holding off to see if the summit happens.

So all these things are happening in rapid fire. And I just wonder if he's sort of changed the model permanently for how fast diplomacy can happen?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that really will depend on the results of all of this. There's no question that we're moving toward the summit being back on and that both sides want it. I think there's two cautionary notes here.

What's striking about how all this happening is that it's so high- level that at the presidential, at the leader level, a lot of this is being dictated, as opposed to it being agreed from the bottom up, where you get some things hammered out and then the summit really just kind of captures all of that and seals it. Instead, this is really going from the top down.

The danger in that is that the second cautionary point which is if there's incremental progress being made, that could remind us of past promises that were not kept by the North, going back to the '90s, where there were steps to be taken toward denuclearization, and those steps would be rewarded by the United States; and then ultimately, North Korea didn't keep those promises. So I think what you have to worry about here, you can respect that

there's a process, respect the unpredictability of it in terms of the president getting what he wants, but you also want to be careful about going down a process path where the North could ultimately just not deliver, which is what we've seen before.

BERMAN: What we are seeing, though, is the signs that this really is on the way to happening right now, not just is this North Korean official coming to the United States, but it's the deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin, a guy that David Gregory and I both covered. He's the guy who goes to make things happen. He's the guy who goes to actually set up the process for this. So it looks like something is going to happen. Again, whether it's the 12th, who knows?

Admiral, the question Alisyn was getting to this, what if it's just a meeting? What's wrong with all they actually achieve is to sit across the table face to face, given how reclusive the North Korean regime has been, given how little has been known about this man? Isn't that enough for some progress?

[06:10:10] KIRBY: You know, you bring up a really good point, John, because first of all, there isn't anything -- in my view, there's nothing wrong with the two leaders talking. I think it's a huge concession Kim to give him this meeting with the president of the United States. But we're going to get something out of this, too, and that something is dialogue and, potentially, relationships.

Look, I mean, all -- all this effort that's been going into this summit, whether it even happens or not, has resulted in conversation, in communication between the United States and North Korea directly, which has -- which has not happened in decades. And so all that's good, because you're starting to build some personal rapport that maybe can pay off later down the road.

Now, look, I think what they're probably working on -- I don't think this is just going to be a meet and greet. I don't think it will be substantive in terms of details on arms control negotiations. But they'll probably come up with a framework for future dialogue, for future discussions, maybe even talk about setting up a liaison office somewhere so that those conversations can continue. And all that's good. I've never seen problems that were harder to solve in the world than with countries where we didn't even talk to one another.

GREGORY: Well, I also think it's important. Again, you have to think about the roll of China. What the North wants above all else is to be secure, to be assured that the United States is not going to invade, not going to try to depose the leader. And I think with China's help, they may get those kinds of guarantees down the line, or at least get the introductory paragraph written to those kinds of guarantees in a summit.

CAMEROTA: John, I want to ask you about President Trump's Memorial Day tweet that he sent out yesterday that struck some as tone=deaf on Memorial Day. He says, "Happy Memorial Day!" exclamation point. People generally avoid saying, "Happy Memorial Day," since it's a somber moment, but either way. He said, "Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades. Lowest unemployment numbers for blacks and Hispanics ever, and women in 18 years, rebuilding our military and so much more. Nice!" exclamation point.

How did that sound to you?

KIRBY: It bothered me greatly. It deeply offended me. I haven't -- I'm not a combat vet, but I've -- I've known friends that have been killed in these wars over the last 17 years. And I can assure you that they didn't feel like they were going there to fight and to potentially give their lives so that the American economy could thrive.

And you know it was -- it was incredibly inappropriate for the commander in chief -- and that's what he is -- he's not just the president; he's the commander in chief -- for him to talk about Memorial Day in that fashion. And so I joined the many, many veterans who were deeply offended by that.

BERMAN: And I think, you know, we have Admiral Kirby here. We also had from the Army side General Dempsey, I think, made a statement, as well. We're going to put that up. General Dempsey says, "This day of all days of the year should not be about any one of us, no matter how prestigious or powerful, no matter how successful we perceive ourselves to be. Rather, this day should be about those who gave their lives so that we could live our lives in freedom. #MemorialDay."

You know, David Gregory, the word that you heard yesterday so much was narcissism.

GREGORY: Yes. And, you know, you -- this is an answer to the question you posed earlier, which is you have a president who's surrounded by people who are unable to say to him, "No. That's not how you're going to express yourself."

You know, I mean, he's just -- it's so unfortunate that -- that this instinct of self-aggrandizement and the wrong moment -- no shame, no real compassion -- comes through from this institution, from the presidency of the United States and there's nobody around who has the ability to say, "No, that's just not something you're going to send out on a day like this."

It's a real disrespect, I think, for our military and for what the meaning of the day was.

CAMEROTA: We will get into that conversation about what the new communications strategy is from the White House.

John Kirby, David Gregory, thank you both very much.

GREGORY: Congratulations, Berman.

BERMAN: Thank you very much, David.

CAMEROTA: All right. BERMAN: He knows me. He's known me for too long, so he knows the

truth.

CAMEROTA: He knows how shocking it is.

BERMAN: Exactly. He really knows what victory this is for the underdog.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my God. All right.

Meanwhile, senior White House staffers are reportedly taking a backseat to one person who's really running the West Wing. Who is that person that President Trump likes so much? Who's in charge? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:17:57] CAMEROTA: "The Washington Post" reports that a group of senior staffers in the White House have been sidelined by President Trump himself. The president is reportedly calling all of the shots.

Joining us to discuss, CNN political analysts John Avlon and David Gregory.

OK, John Avlon, obviously, the president can call the shots. He's the president.

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes.

CAMEROTA: The point is that there's the White House communications director position that was vacated by Hope Hicks when she left has now been empty for two months. S he's running the communications shop, and he has filled his staff with people who are more in lockstep with him philosophically. So what's the upshot?

AVLON: What could possibly go wrong? I mean, the whole point of having advisers is so you have perspective from people beyond your own melon. And this president seems to just double down wanting a self- reinforcing strategy.

The president should be paying attention to the country, not his communications shop. But for him, the two are really entwined. This will not go well. When previous presidents have tried to get rid of chief of staff, it's been a disaster. This is even more minutia. This is not a good sign. But for the reality show drama that is, as the West Wing turns, it will absolutely make for a great season.

BERMAN: You say beyond your your own melon. You're suggesting you want a fruit cup with more than just cantaloupe? Is that --

AVLON: Yes. Yes, I am.

CAMEROTA: Wow.

BERMAN: So David Gregory, it's not just that the president is serving as his own communications director and maybe his own chief of staff. It's that the new people he's brought in -- Rudy Giuliani, John Bolton, you know, Larry Kudlow -- these are people who are very much like the president in many different ways in, you know, advancing themselves by praising the president and only focused on that.

GREGORY: Well, and the national security advisers is really the most sensitive of these posts, because it's someone who -- whose responsibility is to be the chief national security/foreign policy adviser to the president but to also really bring in all the different viewpoints, make sure they're well-represented. And there's questions about the extent to which Bolton can do that.

I think, you know, we can talk about whether this is right or wrong. I think what's striking about it is that you have a president who very much is -- is keen enough about the media landscape, about how to drive it, how to manipulate it in the way that he wants. So there's really no one who can advise him, whether they should or not, like he can advise himself.

[06:20:18] But, unlike other administrations that were kind of cut off from the outside world by their own choosing, this is also a president who I think gets a lot of outside input. So he -- he's contradictory in some ways in that I think he does listen to outside people a lot, but not as much on the inside in terms of different views.

CAMEROTA: We need to talk about the Trump Organization empire. OK? Because so many ethics czars, as you all know, have said something stinks to the high heavens, the fact that they continue to get -- become enriched. And here is yet another Exhibit A.

OK. In the past two months -- no, sorry, this month only, China has awarded Ivanka Trump seven new trademarks across a broad collection of businesses including books, Housewares and cushions.

And this -- look, here's the time line. May 7, China says it approves five of her trademarks. May 13, the president says he's working to save jobs at the Chinese high-tech company ZTE. This gets all sorts of eyebrows raised. Even among Republicans, even among some of his staunchest defenders. This is a company that has been cited for espionage in the past. This is related to national security. Then a week later China awards Ivanka Trump two more trademarks.

You can, I guess, pretend that things aren't connected and you can't draw dots between these things, but it certainly raises a lot of suspicion, John.

AVLON: It sure does, and it should. This is why we have two traditions in the White House.

One, you don't hire your friends and family members, in particular. Your children don't serve in the White House in official capacity.

The second is you don't have active business interests in the Oval Office. Jimmy Carter put his peanut farm in a blind trust. This is a global business empire.

And Ivanka Trump applied for five of these trademarks while the administration begun in March of 2017, while she was ostensibly serving in the White House. So, there's nothing about this that doesn't stink. And people like Marco Rubio, Republican senator from Florida, are right to criticize the ZTE deal in conjunction with all this.

BERMAN: ZTE is a controversy in and of itself and doesn't need this whole Ivanka possible connection here, to be an issue, David Gregory. Right? I mean, Marco Rubio is out there complaining about ZTE, because he doesn't think this is a company that should be given any favors when this company has been catering to some of America's, you know, biggest adversaries.

CAMEROTA: And why is the -- just one more thing. The president said he wanted to save jobs at ZTE, and that struck many as, huh, why not in the U.S.? Why ZTE?

GREGORY: Well, and there's a couple things going on here. The way the administration is approaching China, being very tough on the prospect of tariffs, then backing off of that.

China is such an important player in whatever is going to happen with North Korea. So the administration is trying to juggle a few things it wants and maybe compromising itself in the process.

I'm with John on this. You don't hire your children. That should be obvious. It should be obvious to Ivanka Trump, who's running a business, that she should avoid even the appearance of impropriety, having her company enriched at a time when there's so many delicate, you know, pieces to this negotiation with China.

But ultimately, Congress has to scrutinize this. You know, there's so many stories that we're covering out of this administration of so much importance, some distraction, but this is where Congress has to do a job to oversee this and hold them accountable. Otherwise, it's just journalists doing this, raising questions.

We don't know what all the -- all the process is here, whether there's something inappropriate, but certainly, the appearance of it, starting with your child running a business and then having this role in the White House, is -- is inappropriate.

BERMAN: Look, Congress says it will. We will see. We will see if the Republicans in the Senate and the House do take this up.

John Avlon, I want to play some sound for you in particular, because Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of planet earth, was at Yankee Stadium yesterday, which was his special place, right?

AVLON: Is.

BERMAN: OK. Well, is his special place. Listen to what happened at Yankee Stadium when the Yankees wished the former mayor a happy birthday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The New York Yankees wish a very happy birthday to Mayor Giuliani.

(BOOS)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: That didn't sound like "Happy birthday," John.

AVLON: No. No, this is when your happy place turns on you.

And John, I know this must warm the cockles of your Red Sox heart, but I mean, this really is cold. This is Rudy Giuliani's birthday. The thing he has loved most and longest in his life is the New York Yankees.

CAMEROTA: But why are they booing him?

AVLON: Because I think it shows the cost of defending Donald Trump in this way. Both are New Yorkers. But this shows, I mean, they have lost their hometown to some extent and even Yankee Stadium. It is the cost. Because this is a guy who saved New York City and has been cheered at Yankee Stadium for decades, getting booed because of this offense.

BERMAN: I was taken aback by that. I was surprised that that happened.

John Avlon, David Gregory, thanks very much.

Severe weather turning deadly in the southeast. Two journalists were killed while covering Alberto, and the threat is not over. We have a live report next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[06:29:29] BERMAN: We're following two severe weather stories. Flooding fears remain in the Southeast United States as the first named storm of the season, Alberto, is expected to dump more rain. The storm is blamed for two deaths, the deaths of two journalists in North Carolina. While in Maryland a National Guardsman is still missing as the people in a flood-ravaged city slowly begin the recovery process.

Our Nick Valencia is live in Panama City, Florida, with the latest -- Nick.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, good morning, John.

Hurricane season in 2018 got a little earlier than expected start with Alberto making landfall in Florida, but overnight it has been downgraded to a depression. It still, however, has a major threat to the south, where there is an expectation it could bring severe flooding.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VALENCIA: The southeast bracing for potentially life-threatening flash flooding.