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Journalists Debate How to Label Trump's False Statements; Trump: North Korea's Former Spy Chief Heads to U.S.; Trump Claims Dems will Meddle in Midterm Elections. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired May 29, 2018 - 07:00   ET


MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: In the case of birtherism, he had been carrying on about this for five years. And so it was kind of clear at that point. He had claimed he had sent investigators to Hawaii. It's obviously clear that none of that was true.

[07:00:19] What you are dealing with with Donald Trump in terms of how he promotes things that are not true is something different than we have ever seen with a president. He says so many things that are not true that you would literally be using the word "lie" probably 20 times a day if you were just going -- on a day that he gave speeches or if you were going through the tweets.


HABERMAN: To me that loses power. And also, we are dealing with someone -- and you know this very well -- who tries to create his own narrative and his own fact sets, which is what we're talking about with the conspiracy theories in the first place.

To me it is more important to show what is true and what is not. I understand that everybody is not going to agree, but that is my view.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Important discussion.

CAMEROTA: Maggie, thank you very much. Stick around. We have more questions for you about the news of our day.

Thanks to our international viewers for watching. For you, "CNN TALK" is next. For our U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be a mistake at this point to go to the June 12 meeting without underlying work being done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people want something different. What we were doing was simply not working.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Kim will come to this meeting very prepared.

Trump can't go in there and just pull it out of his keister.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is one day that I had hoped the president would put his narcissism in check.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think anybody should question the president's commitment to our veterans.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our whole country pledges to you, we will never forget our heroes.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Alberto dumping heavy rain across the south, raising the threat of flash flooding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just dispatched a tree down on a motor vehicle with people inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're devastated, as you can expect. They have gone through hell, and now they're facing it all again.


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

CAMEROTA: What do you think of how he pronounces your name? With a real flourish, "John Berman."

BERMAN: He's added a syllable to my name. But the real issue here is he seems to put a question mark at the end of your name.

CAMEROTA: I agree.

BERMAN: As if there's some --

CAMEROTA: Question.

BERMAN: -- open possibility that maybe your name isn't Alisyn Camerota.

ANNOUNCER: Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: "Alisyn Camerota"?

ANNOUNCER: Alisyn Camerota.

CAMEROTA: But I mean, maybe he means is NEW DAY really with Alisyn Camerota? Maybe my position is more precarious now, because he's given you a definite seal of --

ANNOUNCER: John Berman.

CAMEROTA: "John Berman."

BERMAN: With the extra syllable.

ANNOUNCER: John Berman.

CAMEROTA: Wow. We need to take this up with James Earl Jones. How are you feeling?

BERMAN: I feel great, because James Earl Jones added a syllable to my name. He had no question mark at the end of my name.

CAMEROTA: That's right.

BERMAN: So I feel better than you this morning, apparently.

CAMEROTA: Great to have you.

BERMAN: It's great to be here. We have one hour down and a few more to go maybe.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's right. And there's no letup in the news cycle. We begin with breaking news for you.

President Trump confirming moments ago that North Korea's former top spy is on his way to the United States as there is a flurry of diplomatic efforts, trying to save the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, which is still set for two weeks from if today.

BERMAN: Yes. Back with us, Maggie Haberman, CNN political analyst, White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

The president has already written about this today. There is --

HABERMAN: He's written?

BERMAN: He confirmed.

CAMEROTA: In his newspaper?

BERMAN: No. On Twitter he did confirm that this North Korean intelligence official is on his way to the United States. And that's significant.

HABERMAN: Absolutely.

BERMAN: He'll come here to the United States. We presume meet with the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, maybe here in New York. Other things going on. Joe Hagin, the deputy chief of staff is in Singapore to set up a meeting. There's a U.S. official in North Korea. There's a lot going on. I mean, is the presumption at this, Maggie, that this meeting will happen?

HABERMAN: I wouldn't presume that it definitely will, but it is certainly the general direction that they are trying to keep pushing toward.

Look, this whole thing last week when he cancelled the meeting, which he did because he didn't -- as I understand it, because he wanted to essentially beat Kim to the punch. He was afraid that he would cancel first.

BERMAN: "You can't dump me. I'm dumping you."

HABERMAN: Correct. And I understand that. I understand that as a strategy completely. I think that it reminded me a lot of what happened with the first

health care bill in March of 2017 when the president -- the vote was pulled for the first health care effort by the Republicans in Congress, and the president gave every indication that that was it, we're done with this. We're moving on. And then they immediately started working on it again.

He wants this summit to happen. This is something that he is sort of lockjawed on as potentially very good for the world, as you have seen him tweet, certainly for his administration. And so that is where his focus is.

Whether it will end up happening, I am very loathe to say that given all the variables. But they obviously have had some movement, and it's understandable why he is pleased about that.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And I think that we can say, in fairness, that it is the president's unpredictable style that has melted the glacial pace of diplomacy. I mean, we've had pundits on here all week for the past week, saying these things take years. There's different delegations. It's incremental. No, the president decided ,in what seemed to be a whim, witnesses said, "Yes, I'll meet with him," and things have been fast-tracked ever since then.

HABERMAN: He bends people to his will. That's a lot of what this is. And you are seeing him successfully, for the moment, bend what are typically, as you point out, slow kind of creaky gears of diplomacy toward what he wants.

[07:05:10] It doesn't mean that he's going to get the outcome he wants, necessarily, but he certainly has managed to push a path through.

BERMAN: He is giving himself credit for this new boom. One of the things he wrote this morning, on Twitter, he said, "Solid response to my letter." This flurry of activity. Does he think that his letter, his breakup letter, is what got everything back going again?

HABERMAN: He thinks it was a big piece of it, yes. I mean, I think that he -- there's a reason for him to think that, based on what we are seeing. There certainly was a reaction to it, a tone setting, I think, that Kim did not want to lose whatever momentum he had going in, because there are victories that he is going to experience if this goes through.

There are reasons people are concerned about what this could end up meaning, this kind of summit between a U.S. president and Kim Jong-un in terms of propaganda for North Korea's leader. This president is not particularly concerned about that. And so to that end, I do think his letter helped. People can criticize that, but I do think that that is -- that is what got this going again.

CAMEROTA: Look, it's very high-stakes, and it's very unpredictable. Both of these leaders are quite unpredictable. And so what would mean success, in the White House's view, after this meeting? HABERMAN: As you know, success for this president can be kind of a

fungible thing. He will make success whatever he can, based on the existing facts. That he has indicated complete denuclearization is success. That seems pretty unlikely to happen based on what we know. So then it's going to be what sort of lesser series of compromises and give-ins that the U.S. can claim that it got.

I'm not sure that would be enough, given how high the bar is set, and given that you will then have the appearance of this face-to-face meeting, but I think that one is TBD.

BERMAN: You know, I think we've all underestimated how important the fact of this meeting at all has been to him personally and politically over the last three months. I mean, a little bit of the rise in the polls--

HABERMAN: I don't disagree at all.

BERMAN: -- came -- came with North Korea. It's an affirmation in some ways, in a different area than we've seen before, that his behavior works for something.

HABERMAN: Right. I think it's also that, look, it's something that has not been achieved. He tends to look at things that haven't been achieved. We saw it initially with Mideast peace when he came into the White House. "I'm going to get the ultimate deal," as he put it. That does not really seem to be coasting along, despite White House claims to the contrary sometimes.

In this case, I think that he thinks that it is something that he -- look, you know that a lot of this is about grievance for him and a lot of it is feeling that he is not getting his proper credit. And he has continued to feel, since the day he came in, that he is not getting appropriate credit when he does something right. I think that, in his mind -- I'm not saying this is justifiable, I'm just saying this is how he's seeing it -- the people who dislike him or mock him or criticize him or whatever and this "sky is falling" diplomacy crowd will have to acknowledge that something good came out of it if he gets it done. I think that is what he's thinking.

CAMEROTA: In part, part of the problem with him getting lots of positive feedback and credit is that there are all these sort of sabotaging moments or self-sabotaging moments that happen. For instance, the Memorial Day tweet that has been roundly criticized as being --


CAMEROTA: -- tone deaf at best. He starts with "Happy Memorial Day!" exclamation point, as though it's about a barbecue --


CAMEROTA: -- and not a somber day. "Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how our country is doing. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for blacks and Hispanics, and women in 18 years, rebuilding our military and so much more. Nice!" exclamation point.

So we've heard from various veterans at just, I mean, it wasn't just, "Oh, tone deaf." It was "I'm deeply offended."

HABERMAN: Well, because there are people -- Memorial Day is about people who fought for this country and fought to preserve the freedoms that this country allows, which you know, despite everything, are very different than other democracies.

As you are watching democracies fall around the world or get, you know, kneecapped around the world, I think that it is important to remember what happens in the U.S.

And he managed, as he often does, to turn this into something about himself. And speaking for people who are dead, saying, "They would be really proud of what I did," it's going to offend a lot of people. And if he was surprised, he shouldn't have been. If Dan Scavino, his digital director, sent that tweet, that's where you sort of step in and say, "Maybe this isn't a great idea and you don't just send it," because that's what --

CAMEROTA: Do we think Dan Scavino sent it?

HABERMAN: It's one of the two of them, and I'm not sure which one it was.

BERMAN: Maggie, hang on for a second, because again, your lead story in "The New York Times" today is about conspiracy theories, and there's a new doozy of one just posted by the president this morning. So let me read this to you. This is what the president just wrote.

"The 13 angry Democrats, plus people who worked 8 years for Obama working on the rigged Russia witch hunt, will be meddling with the midterm elections, especially now that Republicans" -- parenthetically -- "(stay tough) are taking the lead in the polls. There was no collusion, except by the Democrats."

There is a melange of, like, deep problems with that statement right there. The 13 angry Democrats, he's talking about the Robert Mueller investigation, the people that work --

HABERMAN: Right. And he's clearly making a play on "12 Angry Men," which is the movie about a jury that ends up not convicting at the end of the day.

[07:10:03] I can't even follow the rest of it. I'm just being honest. I don't -- it's so circuitous, I'm not really sure where he's going, but it's -- it is transitive property logic, like, times 1,000. That's like, there's the 13 Democrats and, therefore, this means -- and so -- and look, these are -- the people who are working for Robert Mueller are professionals. These are people who have long careers. He has -- he tries to turn everything into an up/down referendum on himself and make everything left/right partisanship. And that is what that tweet is doing.

CAMEROTA: He's also trying to plant the seed of election meddling. He knows -- as we know, he understands certain catch phrases.

HABERMAN: Yes, that's right.

CAMEROTA: He likes slogans.

HABERMAN: Branding -- branding is the --

CAMEROTA: He brands it. And so he's trying -- I see that as a trial balloon for election meddling. He knows that that's worked in the past --


CAMEROTA: -- with some his supporters, who we've interviewed, who believed that there was all sorts of vast voter conspiracy --


CAMEROTA: -- and vast voting fraud. And so he's trotting that out. Sometimes -- I mean, you tell me. He starts with a -- he starts with a conclusion and hopes that evidence at some point presents itself.

HABERMAN: Not sometimes. He almost always starts with a conclusion and then hopes that evidence will eventually present itself, because he decides what it's going to be.

And this is one of the problems. And this is where it gets difficult, in terms of the word "lie" versus just explaining what things are. He often -- yes, he is often confused. He often doesn't know the facts as he's talking. He just talks.

But he also is a lot more cognizant than sometimes his own staff likes to give him credit for. And so something like "I'm testing out the word 'spy' because it sounds sinister," that's pretty cynical for a president to be doing.

CAMEROTA: And that's the reporting that we associate with that.

HABERMAN: And that is correct. And I think it's true. And that is what you are seeing here. It's just sort of this -- this message testing with something that's pretty significant.

BERMAN: Because in and of itself, there's nothing cogent about that tweet. Not linear. It's really hard to understand.

HABERMAN: I don't -- yes.

BERMAN: But he's accusing the Mueller investigation of meddling in the mid-term elections.

HABERMAN: He knows that we will do what we are doing right now, which is pick up this tweet and try to turn it into something that makes sense and parse it in sort of a conclusive, coherent way, as opposed to it just be a string of whatever. And this is what he does. He will dominate hours by doing this.

BERMAN: We're not going to let him. because you know, we've been talking about John Cusack, a movie star. Turns out --

CAMEROTA: You are now a movie star.

BERMAN: You are a movie star.

HABERMAN: Thanks, guys.

BERMAN: The star of a new series on Showtime, "The Fourth Estate." I want to play a little clip of this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump is about to call Maggie.

HABERMAN: Shoot me questions, please, everybody.

Mr. President, how are you? Good. Thanks for -- thanks for making time.


HABERMAN: I thought I was going to escape without that being shown this morning.

CAMEROTA: Why? What don't you like about that moment?

HABERMAN: No, that moment -- that moment was fine.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, the point is that it shows the sausage being made. And I think that in this time, it's so important, I think, for viewers to understand what journalists do.

I think that we've taken it for granted for a long time that people respect journalists and understand what we do, and this peels back the curtain and shows how hard journalists are working and the standards that journalists are trying to keep and what you're doing and the sacrifices you're making. And I think that it's really valuable, but what's it like to be featured in it?

HABERMAN: I'm glad that was your takeaway.

Really surreal, and I'm not comfortable -- I'm comfortable with this kind of camera being on me. I'm not comfortable with that kind of camera being on me. So it took some getting used to. And there was a lot when we watched it and screened it that felt uncomfortable. But I think to your point, the filmmakers tried very hard to show what we do.

BERMAN: I will also note that the president has, among other things, even though it was a lie, said you had no access.

HABERMAN: That one was a lie.

BERMAN: And we saw the president calling you. I think what this shows is how incredibly hard you work, how incredibly fair you are. And I think it's very representative. Everyone should go look at it. If you already didn't hold Maggie in the highest regard, you will no doubt after that.

HABERMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Thanks so much for being with us.

HABERMAN: Appreciate you guys. Thanks

BERMAN: All right. President Trump will shift into campaign mode tonight at a rally for a Tennessee Republican in a crucial Senate race. How much will this trip help? Former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent joins us next.


[07:18:05] BERMAN: All right. The breaking news this morning, it appears as if the president of the United States is accusing the Mueller investigation, the special investigation here, of potentially meddling in the 2018 midterm elections. Let me read what the president just wrote.

"The 13 angry Democrats, plus people who worked eight years for Obama" -- what he's talking about there is the Mueller investigation -- "working on the rigged Russia witch hunt, will be meddling with the midterm elections, especially now that Republicans are taking the lead in polls. There was no collusion except by the Democrats."

Joining me now, CNN political analyst, former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania Charlie Dent.

Congressman, thanks so much for being with us. Look, you were there a few weeks ago. You were in Congress until a few weeks ago. When the president makes a statement like that, which is not true, is a lie, what's the reaction inside the walls of Congress, inside the Republican Caucus?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I would say, John, that most members who are in marginal or swing districts know they have a tough midterm cycle, the Mueller probe notwithstanding.

Candidly, I don't believe that the Mueller probe and the Russia issue is what's going to drive this midterm. I believe there are other issues. I think health care is going to be a very big issue. Tax reform in some districts could be a big issue.

Bottom line is, I think many of our constituents kind of see this Russia issue right now as a bit muddled. People have fixed views. Some think it's a noble cause. Others think it's a witch hunt. So I don't really think that's going to drive the election. Bottom line, this is going to be a tough election cycle, because Republicans have been underperforming in all the special elections.

BERMAN: Has Paul Ryan and House leadership, though, allowed this to happen, created a safe space where the president can say things like this?

DENT: Well, look, this midterm election is going to be a referendum on the president of the United States and his conduct in office.

BERMAN: You're out of office. You're still talking like you're in office right now.

DENT: But it is going to be. But that's what this election is going to be about. It always is in a midterm. It's about the party in power and particularly the president. And I think even more so.

[07:20:03] So when the president puts up these tweets, I think most -- many of my colleagues do -- they do -- they do cringe at times when they see some of these tweets. I don't think they find them helpful, because they have to spend their time responding to a presidential tweet rather than talking about whatever issues they want to focus on for the moment.

BERMAN: I will say not everything is about the midterms and not everything is about helpful or nonhelpful. There are things that are just flat-out about right and wrong.

DENT: Right.

BERMAN: And there should be times when leadership stands up and says, "This is just flat-out wrong," whether it helps or hurts or not.

DENT: Well, the answer should always be, for Republican members about the Russia probe, is "Let Director Mueller do his job. We'll see what he finds. And then we'll deal with it then." It's that simple. And if the president is innocent, he should act that way. There's no point in interfering with the investigation.

BERMAN: If you are on the Democratic side, what would you run on right now? Because Democrats are struggling with this to a certain extent. Some, you know, talk -- you know, they don't want to go anywhere near impeachment. Some want to step aside from the Russia investigation and talk about issues. Health care is one you brought up.

Others still say that corruption might be the most fertile area, you know, or alleged corruption. You see Ivanka Trump getting -- getting trademark waivers from China right now, for instance. That would be the type of thing they would focus on.

Where do you think Democrats should focus?

DENT: Well, far be it for me to give Democrats advice politically. But I suspect, if I were the Democrats, I'd try to find ways to find issues that resonate with working-class voters. People they've had a tough time with.

I mean, as a Republican, I have often felt that the Democratic Party at times seems to be at war with industrial and agricultural America. I think the Democrats have to focus on that population. Sure, they do great with their base, but they need to broaden their base.

So to the extent they're talking about access to health care, talking about better wages and jobs, I think that's better for Democrats. That's what I would do. I'd talk less about President Trump, because I think people have pretty much fixed opinions about the president and know how they feel about it.

BERMAN: They think what they think.

DENT: Yes.

BERMAN: So stay on health care.

The president going down to Tennessee tonight to campaign for Marcia Blackburn, who wants to be the next senator from the state of Tennessee. The president's travels, you know, where does he help? Where does he hurt? What's the calculation there?

DENT: Well, in a place like Tennessee, I suspect the president would be more helpful. If you're, again, running in a marginal or a swing congressional district in Northeast, in Pennsylvania or New Jersey or New York, it may not be that helpful to have the president come in for you.

But hey, look what happened in western Pennsylvania a few months -- in March. The president came out there to help Rick Saccone, in a district that the president won by 20 points. And Saccone didn't win. And Saccone ran as, at that time he ran as a guy who was going to be Trump's wingman, Trump before Trump.

And I think a lot of folks sometimes have miscalculated the president. You can't always look at these districts, in that case, you can't look at it as a plus-20 Trump district. Look at it as a minus-20 Hillary district. Because a lot of people who voted for President Trump were simply voting against Hillary Clinton or they voted for the president with reservations, and they want their congressman to be a bit of a check.

And I think there we saw a case where, if you do a full embrace of the president in the general election, in a fairly safe Republican seat, didn't go very well.

BERMAN: I get the sense that some Republicans are feeling a little bit better about the midterms now than maybe they would have two months ago, and some of the congressional ballot tests have -- the margins have shrunk a little bit right now. You can look at that. But also, there's intensity of support in some of these specials. How do you see it?

DENT: Well, look, if you're Republican, you'll take a little bit of comfort knowing the generic ballot has closed a bit. But again, I am more concerned about the energy, the intensity, the anger is on the Democratic side.

We've seen several special elections in fairly safe Republican areas where the Republican candidate underperformed the president by 8 to 15 points. That's what I would be most concerned about.

And the generic -- the national generic ballot is less a good indication. I look at it on a district by district basis. In my own district, two weeks before the Pennsylvania primary, the generic ballot was plus 11 to Democrats. So that doesn't bring me much comfort. So bottom line is, I think energy and intensity tend to trump generic ballot.

BERMAN: There's a battle in your own party right now about what to do about immigration in the next month. I mean, it's all got to happen right now. There are some Republicans pushing for this discharge, trying to get a vote on the floor, others who are against that. What do you think ultimately will happen, and what's the effect?

DENT: Well, right now they're up to 23 signatures on the discharge petition including mine which stays on, by the way.

BERMAN: It does.

DENT: Yes, it does. And so they're at 23. And I think they want to get 25. That assumes they get all the Democrats, and that will force this queen of the Hill process. There will be four bills that would be considered, including this one, the Hurd-Aguilar provision that would provide for the DREAMers and some border enhancement enhancement measures.

So I think you're going to get a vote. These members in these marginal and swing districts, people like Jeff Denham and Carlos Curbelo and Will Hurd very much need a vote on this. They believe in the issue, but they need it for political reasons, as well. So I believe they're going to force this vote.

The House Republican leadership has resisted any effort to bring these bills to the floor. So, the Goodlatte bill, which is the more conservative bill that won't pass the House or the Senate, has no chance. So this Hurd-Aguilar bill really is the one, and the speaker will be able to bring up a bill, as well.

So stay tuned. I think they need two more signatures.

BERMAN: Two more.

DENT: And it's -- then get ready -- get ready for some rumbling.

BERMAN: All right. Congressman Charlie Dent, a couple of two new guys talking around the table. Appreciate you being here with me.

DENT: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right. Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: The president's tweet this morning about the Mueller probe and the -- what he calls meddling in the midterm election, what does this new conspiracy theory do to Democrats? Well, Congressman Jim Himes is going to tell us next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump has a new conspiracy theory that he's trotting out on Twitter this morning. Something about how investigators on the Mueller team will meddle in the upcoming midterm elections.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the House Intel Committee.

Good morning, Congressman.

REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: So, when -- when sometimes the president, as we know, floats these conspiracy theories as sort of trial balloons to see what sticks and what doesn't. And so the election meddling that he says is to come is, you know, who knows? I mean, maybe it will stick, maybe it won't.