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President Trump Sending Message With Latest Pardon?; Will North Korea Nuclear Summit Happen?; Interview With Rosie Perez. Aired 3- 3:30p ET

Aired May 31, 2018 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you for being with me.

We're going to begin this hour with this new or proposed pardons from President Trump that begs the question, is he sending a specific message through his mercy?

President Trump declared via Twitter he will pardon conservative commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza. He then told reporters that he is considering commuting the sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and pardoning Martha Stewart, the media mogul.

And just take note of some of the crimes that these people are guilty. For D'Souza, it's federal campaign finance violations. For Martha Stewart, it's lying to federal investigators. And Blagojevich, it's 18 felony corruption charges.

Trump has already issued four pardons. And his critics have said most of them have been political moves.

So, begs the question, what kind of message is the president trying to send and, perhaps more importantly, who does he hope is listening?

With me now, CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and CNN contributor Walter Shaub, who resigned from his job leading the Office of Government Ethics under the Trump administration.

So, good to have both of you on.

And, Dana Bash, let's just start with today's pardon, Dinesh D'Souza. Remind us who he is and what is this all about?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He is a very well- known conservative writer and filmmaker, and well-known certainly in the conservative world.

He was convicted and admitted to making up names in order to give more money than was legally allowed to a Republican Senate candidate in the state of New York. He violated campaign finance laws in a pretty brazen way.

He was, as I say, convicted. He didn't serve time, but he has that very big blemish on his record. And, more importantly, because of that, he couldn't vote. He did not vote in 2016. And so this is obviously kind of a very important cause to a lot of conservatives.

Apparently, Ted Cruz is among those who have been asking the president to either commuter his sentence or pardon. And he decided to do that today.

Now, the question that you asked is about the politics and about the message-sending.

BALDWIN: Mm-hmm.

BASH: It's hard not to see a message in and not just this, meaning he is somebody who is on his side. He is somebody who speaks up for conservative causes in a very big way, but then also doubling, tripling down, playing with the press and others by saying, well, maybe Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich too.

Well, there's a whole bunch of history with those two in and around the district, the court that ended up, at least for Martha Stewart, that ended up putting her in jail cell.

So, and then there's also a history with the prosecutor who put Rod Blagojevich in jail. It just so happens that he's James Comey's lawyer now. All a coincidence?


BASH: Are there coincidences here? Hard to see.

BALDWIN: Question mark.

To one of Dana's great points, Walter Shaub, do you think, like, taking the one concrete pardon we have today in Dinesh D'Souza, how much of this is about Dinesh D'Souza, vs. the likes of a Paul Manafort, a Michael Cohen and a Michael Flynn?

WALTER SHAUB, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I take much significance from the timing of the pardon.

I mean, usually -- they have been bad pardons before, but usually if a president was going to issue a questionable pardon, it's at the end of the term of the president as they're walking out the door.

Pardoning him now is sort of a brazen act that sends a message that he's going to intervene and issue pardons basically on his own whim. This one didn't go through the Department of Justice's formalized process for reviewing pardons. It involved campaign finance violations, which is something Cohen might be under investigation for and may be facing some legal jeopardy for.

And so it just sends a message that the president is going to act outside the normal bounds of how we go about giving these kind of pardons.

And I read it as a signal, stay loyal, I will take care of you. BASH: Exactly.

BALDWIN: Well, what was your point? You had this great tweet about Nixon and his henchmen. And how did you relate that to this?

SHAUB: Right.

What I said was that a president clearly is not above the law, but the president has the power to place his henchmen above the law. So, imagine if Richard Nixon had been sitting around waiting in the White House with a stack of pardons for the plumbers who broke into the Watergate Hotel to come back and collect their pardons, having been dispatched specifically to commit crimes?

Well, that's an extreme example that never happened. But we're moving closer toward that in this current environment.


BASH: But I think -- I think that is potentially one part of it.

The other message that the president could be sending -- and I don't -- I don't think it's a stretch to think that it's even more probable than possible -- is people like you mentioned, Brooke, Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, who -- Rick Gates, who have the potential to spill whatever it is they potentially have to Robert Mueller or federal investigators in general, Michael Cohen even, federal investigators in general, if they get -- to lower their sentence if they give information.

The message here seems to be, I'm not -- it's easy for me. I'm not -- I'm not I'm willing to use my -- the power of my pardon. So take whatever you get in terms of a sentence. Just keep your mouth shut, because you will be fine because I'm the president.

BALDWIN: And also what's the message he -- Walter, he's sending to the DOJ?

I mean, you mentioned a second ago that he is not even going through the Department of Justice. And I had a guest on last hour saying flat out that he's undermining them.

SHAUB: He absolutely is.

The Department of Justice has over the years created some very significant standards for what pardons they will recommended. And these are outside those.

I think another thing is, there's a common theme here, in that at least some of the pardons that he's talking about today, the idea of Martha Stewart, the idea of Rod Blagojevich, and the one with Dinesh D'Souza, as well as the one with Joe Arpaio, are ones where it's undermining the system.

It's -- these are corruptors. You have got Rod Blagojevich soliciting bribes, Martha Stewart engaging in insider trading, Joe Arpaio ignoring court orders, and, of course, Dinesh D'Souza attacking our country by violating campaign finance laws.

So, all of these are actually consistent in sort of the fact that the crimes involved have corrupting and corroding influences on a society. And that seems consistent with the assault on our institutions that the president has launched and for which his campaign is under investigation.


One more. Dana this is to you, separate from the pardons, tell me about your new reporting on Rudy Giuliani and how he's defending this conspiracy theory that President Trump continues to push, with zero evidence, that the FBI put this spy in his campaign.

BASH: Well, a couple things.

One is, he is saying, continues to say what we're hearing more and more from the president's allies in the House of Representatives, which is, this briefing that Trey Gowdy and other leaders in the House and the Senate -- and the Senate got about this confidential source was not enough, that they just were told about the information, they didn't actually get to look at documents.

So, that's the new front or the current front in that -- in that battle. But on a personal level, the comments by Trey Gowdy, who was one of those who was briefed, who came out, of course, earlier this week and just basically tried to blow up this notion of this conspiracy theory that this was a spy in the Trump campaign, saying that he didn't see anything that was not going by the book by the FBI.

Giuliani, I spoke to him this afternoon, is really lashing out at Trey Gowdy, saying that he drank the Kool-Aid. He also went after Gowdy for the way that Gowdy handled the Benghazi investigation. Remember, he was in charge when Hillary Clinton was that -- Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state -- look on the screen.

This is what Giuliani said: "I never understood what he did with the Benghazi investigation either. He really screwed that up. I don't know what he was doing."

So, it's personal. I should also tell you that Gowdy's office declined to comment. But this is personal and this an intra- Republican fight, clearly showing, A, that they're not backing down, and, B, maybe not a surprise, not happy that Trey Gowdy is trying to come out and say this is not real, the FBI did nothing wrong, trust me, I looked at it.

BALDWIN: Dana and Walter, thank you both very much.

Let's -- let's get back to Samantha Bee.

Samantha Bee, she is now apologizing for using offensive language during a bit on her show where she targeted Ivanka Trump -- what she says is outrageous and unacceptable.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAMANTHA BEE, HOST, "FULL FRONTAL WITH SAMANTHA BEE": Ivanka, who works at the White House, chose to post the second most oblivious tweet we have seen this week.

You know, Ivanka, that's a beautiful photo of you and your child, but let me just say, one mother to another. Do something about your dad's immigration practices, you feckless (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


BEE: He listens to you. Put on something tight and low-cut and tell your father to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) stop it.


BALDWIN: Moments ago, Samantha Bee tweeted this: "I would like to sincerely apologize to the Ivanka and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed a line. And I deeply regret it."


And I should add on to that, TBS, who is owned by CNN's parent company, Time Warner, said -- quote -- "Samantha Bee has taken the right action in apologizing for the vile and inappropriate language she used about Ivanka Trump last night. Those words should not have been aired. It was our mistake and we regret it."

So, with me, comedian Heather McDonald. She is the host of "The Juicy Scoop" podcast and a former writer for "Chelsea Lately," and comedian Chuck Nice. He is the host of "Not So Nice Advice."

It's great to have both of you on.



BALDWIN: On Samantha Bee -- and I went on a whole thing last hour -- and I will spare you the details -- basically what she said was so wrong on so many levels. She's apologized for it.

And especially, just as a woman using that word, what did you think?

MCDONALD: I think it's terrible. And I think that Hollywood is the most typical hypocritical group of people ever.

We have seen it over and over again. And for her to be so not aware to do this, right in the light of Roseanne, I'm guessing -- I don't know when it was taped, so maybe it hadn't come out. But I'm guessing the Roseanne thing had happened and then this show came out, or at least she would have known to maybe cut that part out or something.

So --

BALDWIN: Why would the Roseanne thing even matter? (CROSSTALK)

MCDONALD: But make yourself even that much more aware.

BALDWIN: Yes, the timing would make it worse, but --

MCDONALD: Right, but if you're going to all go and attack her for what she's done and said, you think you would be a little more conscious of now what you're going to say about not only anyone in the world, but a female.

So she said a really awful thing about another mother, a female. And what kind of bothered me about the thing leading up before the C-word is that she was mad that Ivanka had posted a photo with her child on Instagram, in light of what's going on.

Well, I'm sorry. Everyone uses Instagram. If I show a child, my child winning an award at school and that day there happens to be a horrible tragedy that happens at a school, am I a huge jerk for doing that?

Like, so is she not allowed to celebrate her own children because there's other children suffering in the world and she works in the White House?


BALDWIN: A lot of people jumped on her this week, but I hear you loud and clear.


MCDONALD: But where do you draw the line of that, when we're all using social media to further our careers?

It's very hard to say you can -- what's wrong or right, what to post, what's appropriate to post or not.

NICE: Yes.

BALDWIN: Chuck Nice?

NICE: I have to say that I think it's reprehensible. It's never acceptable.

But as a man, I don't know the rules of the C-word. Is it like the N- word, I get to say, but you don't? I'm not sure, woman to woman, how it actually goes down. So --

MCDONALD: Actually, I don't like how women are throwing the B-word around all the time at each other.

NICE: Right. Yes.

MCDONALD: And they're doing it in a funny way.

NICE: Right.

MCDONALD: And I don't think -- I think that's something we need to stop doing. I don't like it. I don't think it's cool. I don't think it's funny.

NICE: Yes.


MCDONALD: We wouldn't like it if a man called us the B-word.

NICE: Right.


BALDWIN: Demeaning.

MCDONALD: So I don't see it as much with the C-word.

But the B-word, I think is just as rude.

NICE: Yes.

Well, for transparency's sake, my friends and I call each other the B- word all the time. So I'm just saying.


But the thing is -- there's a lot of layers to this whole story, but to your point the show is taped, right? So when you watch "Samantha Bee," they have it on tape. They had it for five or six hours.


BALDWIN: Obviously, it was a scripted line. So I don't know how many -- you guys work on shows. The writers, producers however many people --


NICE: On the one hand, you could -- on the one hand you could -- if this were like a live comment, you could actually claim that it was an excited utterance.



NICE: I got caught up in the moment and I said something because -- and I shouldn't have said it.

However, this a scripted show. And you and I both know that comedy writers and the way comedy happens on this show, it is very meticulous the way they chronicle everything that's going to come out of the host's mouth. Sometimes, you do have an ad-lib, yes. Whether or not that was an ad- lib, we don't know. Most likely, it wasn't, and they had an opportunity not to have that happen.

MCDONALD: Right, to cut -- yes.

So then you have the editors go through it. Then they send the final thing. And then the person at TBS has to say OK.


NICE: Right. And it shouldn't have happened.

BALDWIN: It shouldn't have happened. They have apologized. I'm waiting to see how she addresses it, if she addresses it on her own show.


MCDONALD: Are you really apologizing? Because you have said awful things this whole time? So, oh, I'm sorry that I said one step further and people are losing their jobs. And I'm a mom who is the main supporter of my family. I'm thinking she is -- I don't can't lose this job. I don't want to lose my job, the way Roseanne did.

And so, yes, she's apologizing. But the whole thing is like -- you just have to be careful, you know?

BALDWIN: You have to be careful. Words matter. Just words matter.

Secondly, speaking of words mattering, the cover of "The New York Post" today, right?


BALDWIN: We know Kim Kardashian went to the White House yesterday for a very serious, right? She's petitioning for prison reform. And then you have this on the cover of "The Post," which, if you look at the top, you have, "The Other Big-Ass Summit." "Kim Thong un." "Trump Meets Rump."


NICE: I can't believe that "The New York Post" is making me do this, but I'm going to do it.

I'm going to defend Kim Kardashian on national television. I can't believe. That is wrong.

BALDWIN: It's wrong.

Kim Kardashian is doing a good thing. Anyone who is incarcerated for life for a nonviolent drug offense is a travesty and a miscarriage of justice, to say the least.

The fact that she is trying to do anything about this is a good thing. And she should not be mocked and ridiculed. She should not be -- Kim Kardashian did a good thing. Oh, God, oh, God, what have I done?


MCDONALD: People are so upset about this.

And, again, the hypocrisy. Look how many Hollywood stars had meetings after meetings after meetings with Obama that they did not know -- have formal education in.


BALDWIN: It's not about the meeting.


BALDWIN: It's the rump on the cover of "The New York Post"? Hello?


MCDONALD: That saying is very rude, yes.

But I'm saying the outrage that she even had this meeting, what does she know about it?



MCDONALD: And it's like, again, you have a hundred million, whatever it is, followers. If you can get some action behind something good, you should be able to do it.

NICE: That's right.

MCDONALD: He is in office for the next couple years, so try to make it happen.

NICE: That's right.

MCDONALD: And she is a 37-, 38-year-old mother of three, huge business owner.

So, to always constantly going back to that, like, she can evolve and try to do things with her -- that are good for people.

NICE: Absolutely.


NICE: Yes. It's unfortunate that we live in -- we are living in a time where the default reaction to everything is to divide, get into camps, and attack.

But that somehow is where we are.

MCDONALD: Right. BALDWIN: We got to fix that.

NICE: Yes. That's something that we have to fix.

BALDWIN: You guys can help us with that, all right?

NICE: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Chuck and Heather, thank you both so much.

MCDONALD: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Nice to both of you guys in person.

Coming up next, North Korea's former top spy is on his way to Washington, D.C., right now to hand-deliver a president to -- a letter to President Trump. This is happening at the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, says real progress has been made on a nuclear summit. We have that for you.

Also, Puerto Rican-American actress and activist Rosie Perez joins me to discuss this stunning new death toll from Hurricane Maria and her efforts to help her -- this island rebuild.

And stocks taking a hit today, as President Trump announces he's moving forward with steel and aluminum tariffs on our friends Canada, Mexico and the E.U. And the reaction has been fast and swift from our allies.

Stay with me.



BALDWIN: Breaking developments in this once canceled summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Despite a top North Korean diplomat on U.S. soil -- a first, by the way, in like 17 years -- despite his waiver to get to meet President Trump in person, moments ago, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he still does not know if President Trump will meet North Korea's dictator in person.

But Pompeo said -- quote -- "Real progress has been made" in his meetings with the North Korean official who was once Pyongyang's top spy.

The secretary says the U.S. is trying to undo decades of the North Korean logic about its nuclear weapons.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The effort now is to come to a set of understandings which convince the North Koreans of what President Trump has said. If we're able to achieve it, if the North Koreans are prepared in fact

to denuclearize -- this includes all elements of their nuclear program -- if we convince them of, that in fact their security is greater, that in fact the real threat to their security is the continued holding on to of that nuclear -- nuclear weapons program, and not the converse.


BALDWIN: With me now, Lindsey Ford, who is the director of political security affairs at the Asia Society Policy Institute. She's also a former senior adviser at the Defense Department.

So, Lindsey, nice to see you.


BALDWIN: So, this North Korean ex-spy chief is set to meet with President Trump tomorrow in the White House.

What could be in this letter and how significant is this moment?

FORD: It's extremely significant.

You have to look at this as this the opportunity for the, no kidding, is there enough there that we can really move ahead with this summit? Have we found a way to bridge the gaps between us to make this worth our time?

And you will know that because this is the direct response from Kim Jong-un to the president. And, ultimately, those are the two people who have to make that decision.

I think the good news coming out of the meeting today with Secretary of State Pompeo, his tone was realistic. He was positive that they had made progress, but he was also honest in acknowledging there's a lot of hurdles to overcome here. This is not an easy process.

Even the president was slightly more circumspect than we have heard him at times. There was no talk of huge historic deals for all time. It was sort, you know, hey, maybe we can do this, maybe we won't. Maybe it will even take a couple meetings.

He threw that on the table for the first time, I think acknowledging the recognition that this is going to be harder and probably slower then maybe he originally anticipated.

BALDWIN: I was talking to Christiane Amanpour about this. We had just listened to Secretary Pompeo's remarks. And she was just making this point about putting the cart before the horse, right?

When you have -- when you have the likes of a President Trump and a Kim Jong-un coming together and everybody's been hanging on every word over will this or will this not happen, at the end of the day, it's about, well, what comes out of it, right?

Do we -- has that been established?

FORD: Yes, I think the cart before the horse is a good point. It's part of the reason why I think most experts would have said to you, starting at the presidential level is backwards. It's not the way you do it. You start from the bottom up leading to a deal.


But you know what? Regardless of how we got here, we are where we are. And so I think the thing that you need to focus on ultimately, what you really want to come out of this meeting with is some sort of top cover statement of principles that broadly we all agree that it's worth our time to move forward, and we're going to set up a process.

And that is actually when the hard work begins, right? That's actually when you get to where we were with Iran, where you have the technical experts and the diplomat spending years hashing out the real terms of an agreement.


FORD: And that is what is going to be particularly tricky.

BALDWIN: Right. No, and they acknowledge this would be the beginning of a series of conversations certainly over all of this.

FORD: Right.

BALDWIN: Lindsey Ford, thank you very much.

Coming up next, activist -- actress and activist -- easy for me to say -- Rosie Perez makes this emotional plea for Americans to wake up, wake up to the tragedy still unfolding in Puerto Rico right now eight months after Hurricane Maria and one day before the hurricane season.


ROSIE PEREZ, ACTRESS: These are our fellow citizens. They are Americans. These are our neighbors. And we're treating them like complete crap. We must take care of them.