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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
America's Closest Allies Blast Trump For Starting Trade War; North Korea Summit to Go Ahead; New 3.8 Percent Jobless Rate Matches 50-Year Low. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 1, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Anyone know of any good hotels in Singapore?
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Trump says that his summit with Kim Jong-un will happen a week from Tuesday, this after an unprecedented meeting with North Korea's spy master. North Korea got what it wanted, so what did we get?
Plus, President Trump could not contain his glee at a glowing jobs report even before the rest of us knew the numbers. But not everything is rosy with the economy, as even our closest allies say there will be consequences for Trump's trade war.
Plus, a sickening discovery -- how a traffic stop for a broken taillight could have saved one woman's life, but led police to a house of horrors.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
SCIUTTO: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto, in for Jake.
We begin this afternoon with breaking news in our world.
We have a summit. President Trump just moments ago announcing that he will meet with North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12, adding, though, that it may take a series of get-to-know-you meetings between the two men, but that ultimately he believes it will be a successful negotiation and that he thinks North Korea is committed to denuclearizing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not going to go in and sign something on June 12, and we never were. We're going to start a process. And I told him today, take your time, we can go fast, we can go slowly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: It comes, just about an-hour-and-20-minute-long Oval Office meeting with North Korea's former top spy, Kim Yong-chol, in which he delivered a handwritten letter to Mr. Trump directly from Kim Jong-un.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And that letter was -- it was a very nice letter. Oh, would you like to see what was in that letter? It was a very interesting letter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: And yet the president minutes after saying those very words there admitted that he had never read the letter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I haven't seen the letter yet. I purposely didn't open the letter. I haven't opened it. I may be in for a big surprise, folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: A confusing moment there.
We have this story covered from all angles, including from CNN's Will Ripley. He is in Singapore, where that summit will take place in just 11 days.
But let's begin with CNN's Elise Labott. She is right here in Washington.
So, Elise, to be clear, North Korea admitted to nothing, at least based on the president's comments, on this key issue of denuclearizing, and yet they secured the first-ever face-to-face meeting with a U.S. president, which, as you know, is something North Korea has sought for decades.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim.
Well, the president and his aides have realized that a nuclear deal that they wanted on June 12 was not in the offing. Still, the president saw enough good will from North Korea to meet in just over a week to get to know Kim Jong-un in what he now calls the beginning of a process.
LABOTT (voice-over): President Trump and Kim Yong-chol emerged from the Oval Office smiling after nearly a two-hour meeting, with Trump telling reporters a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore is back on.
TRUMP: We're going to meet June 12. We will be in Singapore. It will be a beginning. I don't say and I have never said it happens in one meeting. You're talking about years of hostility, years of problems, years of really hatred between so many different nations.
LABOTT: Kim Yong-chol arrived at the White House earlier, hand- delivering a letter to President Trump from Kim Jong-un. TRUMP: I haven't seen the letter yet. I purposely didn't open the
letter. I haven't opened it. I didn't open it in front of the director. I said, would you want me to open it? He said, you can read it later.
LABOTT: While there was no firm commitment from North Korea on denuclearization, a top demand for Trump, the president said the meeting was still worth having.
TRUMP: I think it's going to be a process that we deserve to have. I mean, we really deserve -- they want it. We think it's important. And I think we would be making a big mistake if we didn't have it.
LABOTT: But the president said he was prepared if the talks with Kim in Singapore are not productive.
TRUMP: One thing I did do, and it was very important, we had hundreds of new sanctions ready to go on, and he did not -- the director did not ask, but I said I'm not going to put them on until such time as the talks break down.
We have very significant sanctions on them, but we had hundreds -- we have hundreds that are ready to go. But I said, I'm not going to -- why would I do that when we're talking so nicely?
LABOTT: A word of warning earlier today from the top Senate Republican.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: If you fall in love with the deal, and it's too important for you to get it, and the details become less significant, you could get snookered.
SCIUTTO: So, Elise, we saw the president in effect downgrade expectations for this June 12 summit. In his own words, he called it a get-to-know-you meeting.
So, what are our expectations as to what the takeaways will be from this summit?
LABOTT: Well, Jim, obviously, as he said, the beginning of a relationship, but I think it's still possible that there could be some small deliverables at this summit, such as kind of memorializing what they have already agreed to, which is Kim Jong-un would continue to have a moratorium on testing.
They could agree to further negotiations, access to some nuclear sites. I think now, instead of the kind of historic thing that they have never had before, now they are going to be looking for some kind of show of good faith that North Korea is committed to going down this road, and isn't going to, as the -- Mitch McConnell said, snooker the United States, which is what the president had accused President Obama of doing with the Iran deal. So maybe this lowers the pressure for President Trump to try and get
SCIUTTO: Elise Labott in Washington.
I want to go to Will Ripley. He's live if Singapore, where in just over a week that meeting between Trump and Kim will take place.
Will, you cover the Korean Peninsula a lot. What is the reaction in Asia to the news that the summit is back on?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, it's not a huge surprise to people here on the ground in Singapore, Jim.
Shortly after I landed, I met with U.S. lawmakers who are here who essentially told me a number of hours ago that the summit was back on, it just hadn't been officially announced yet. The teams from the United States and North Korea are on the ground here in Singapore right now doing everything from scouting out locations to finalizing details about how the summit is going to work logistically.
Yet some of the people who may be most surprised, interestingly enough, are actually the citizens who live in Singapore. I mentioned to a number of people next weekend, I'm going to be here next weekend covering. And they say, what are you covering?
They didn't -- I say the Trump-Kim summit. And they said, oh, yes, wasn't that canceled? So, interestingly enough, even though some people are calling this the summit of the century, the people who actually live in this city, it's not necessarily at the top of their minds right now, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Will Ripley, you have been in North Korea a number of times. You were just back there a couple of weeks ago.
The president seems hopeful that there is something different about North Korea's approach to the negotiations this time. Speaking to North Korean officials, do you get a sense that this time is different?
RIPLEY: When I left North Korea last week, Jim, I definitely had a sense that they are serious about making negotiations, making discussions with the United States happen.
And the fact, by the way, that a letter was delivered to President Trump from Kim Jong-un himself, that's highly significant, because a letter is considered the highest form of communication in North Korea. There is no greater sign of respect than sending an official letter from the supreme leader of the country to the leader of another country.
And so I think that does mean that North Koreans mean business and we will see what happens in Singapore.
SCIUTTO: Will Ripley in Singapore.
Joining me now is the former director of the CIA and the NSA, retired Four-Star General Michael Hayden.
General Hayden, thanks very much.
You have negotiated face-to-face with North Korea on the peninsula.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I have.
SCIUTTO: What struck me, North Korea, based on the president's own comments, has not made any commitment yet to do anything.
SCIUTTO: Denuclearize. They have released hostages, but on the nuclear issue -- is the summit itself already a win for North Korea?
HAYDEN: Oh, it is.
Look, you asked Will what was different. Right? What was different now compared to the last two times we have tried this is that North Korea is now an internationally recognized nuclear power. All right?
And so Kim is going to the meeting with what he believes to be a very strong hand. So I think that's why the North Koreans are showing up. They're going to go see what it is they can get from this newfound status.
SCIUTTO: So, the president, interestingly, he downgraded expectations for at least this first meeting, in fact said that this is going to be a series of meetings, the first might just be a get to know you, and no promises about a deliverable from that meeting.
Is it possible that that means we're now back on a more conventional negotiations course here?
HAYDEN: Oh, yes. And thank God, because I had a great fear that the president had built up such expectations that he was going to demand things from Kim.
And, you know, one of the dangers when you start at the head of state level, when the wheels fly off, you have got nowhere else to go, and so that could have led into a very, very dark situation. But I was heartened to see the president talk about get acquainted, set the conditions for success, begin a long-term process, multiple meetings.
I think that's right. Now, you can't have an indefinite shot clock here, because the North Koreans are very, very good at running out the clock and not changing anything. But I'm heartened now that we're not going in there with a zero-sum approach to talking to the North Koreans.
SCIUTTO: It struck me that two days in a row now -- you had the president say today I think that North Korea wants to denuclearize.
SCIUTTO: You had Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, say yesterday after a meeting with his North Korean counterpart in New York that he thinks they are contemplating denuclearizing.
That's not quite an expression of confidence.
HAYDEN: No, it's not.
And we have always had this discussion as to, what does that mean to the North Koreans? And the best I can give you out of that is that, at the end of a very long process, when the geostrategic situation has changed, Pyongyang will then reconsider whether or not they need these weapons or this many of these weapons, which is different from our complete, irreversible, verifiable, and almost immediate destruction of their weapons force.
SCIUTTO: Do you or anyone with experience on the Korean Peninsula, either current or former, in the intelligence community, believe that North Korea will give up its entire arsenal, walk away after all these years of seeking these weapons, which it views as essential to its survival?
HAYDEN: In my heart of hearts, no. All right?
And that's based on the creation mythology of North Korea, the historic experience of North Korea, and the life experience of the Kim family. That's all working in the direction of preserving some sort of nuclear option just for regime. And in this case, regime survival is the same as personal survival.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this.
You have a few years in the intelligence business. You just had North Korea's former top spy -- listen, I'm sure he hasn't take than hat off in his current role -- he sat in the Oval Office for 80 minutes there observing the president, the president and his advisers, the room. Did he learn something?
HAYDEN: Oh, sure.
Now, first, I need to caveat this. I have had to talk to a lot of distasteful people in my career.
SCIUTTO: I hope I'm not on that list, but...
HAYDEN: And so, you know, I have talked to a convicted war criminal, Ratko Mladic. I have talked to Moussa Koussa, the head of the Libyan service who was affiliated with the Lockerbie bombing. All right?
So, I understand why we had to do this. But, yes, he is going to make a trip report. He's going to size up the president.
What I think he's really going to do, Jim, is to note who around the room did the president allow to participate, who among the Americans did the president listen to and defer to and allow to make some of the case? Who in the room seemed to know the most about what it is they're talking about? And he will bring that back to the dear leader.
SCIUTTO: Now back to the dear leader; 2018 is going to be a remarkable year for him. He is going to meet with the U.S. president. He has a commitment now to meet with the Russian president. He's met already with the Chinese president. I have to assume they are going to meet again. And they want to be involved in this process.
It's a remarkable ascent in status on the world stage for North Korean leaders, who crave that status.
HAYDEN: It is. And there's an arc here that you have to give Kim the youngest some credit here.
He really did accelerate the development of weapons and ICBMs. It's really interesting. President Trump is going to the meeting with the belief that he's in a good position because of the crippling sanctions, all right? You realize during those same 16 months Kim Jong-un sprinted to this nuclear status.
So he's probably going to the meeting thinking that he's in a strong position because of what he has achieved. So we will see how the dynamics work.
SCIUTTO: We will be watching closely. General Hayden, thanks very much for your analysis.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: We have some news just in to CNN.
A White House official tells CNN that the president has now read that letter from Kim Jong-un that was delivered to him today. Earlier, you may remember the president told reporters he had not read it, despite just moments before that calling it a very interesting, very nice letter.
We are keeping track.
My political panel is with me here right now.
So, remarkable events today.
We have to remind ourselves today that only a week ago that this summit was completely off. It is back on with confidence now, it appears.
Chris Cillizza, is that already to some degree a political win for the president?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I think 11 days is 11 days with Donald Trump, so, I mean, I hesitate to make predictions solely because, as you point out, Jim, a week ago we were talking about the letter and how it was off. If he gets to the summit, if he arrives in Singapore and the summit
happens, yes, I think the visuals of that at some level are a win for him. And, to give him credit, it would be a historic moment on its face, an American president sitting down face-to-face with a North Korean leader.
What comes of it, how engaged people are on these foreign policy politics, global politics of North Korea and its role on the Korean Peninsula, I'm not totally sure. But that visual, he wants, quite clearly. And I think, if he gets it, yes, it would be a win.
SCIUTTO: Jennifer, do you see a win there for the president?
JENNIFER PALMIERI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I do. I think that if -- if it comes across as Chris describes, that that could be a positive development for him, maybe even a win.
I think I'm with General Hayden that I was relieved to see the president take it down a notch in terms of expectations. I think that's let's assume he doesn't go in, make a broad assumption, that he doesn't go into make a deal, that we're not in a situation where we have to be concerned about him giving away too much.
I think presidents should have the room to do summits that don't have a lot of news or developments come out of them. I think that that -- just having the discussion in and of itself is a positive thing.
And you should give them the room to do it, and not -- and not build up this need that you have got to have a win, you know, something specific to come out of it, because just, you know, engagement is a worthy thing.
SCIUTTO: We did that during Soviet times.
SCIUTTO: Better to keep talking than increasing the risk of shooting each other, which was a real risk earlier this year.
Kristen, it was noticeable today to see the GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell issue something of a warning to the president, don't get snookered by Kim. We've heard that from some Democrats. Interesting to hear it from a Republican.
KRISTEN SOLTIS ANDERSEN, WASHINGTON EXAMINER COLUMNIST: I feel little odd because as a Republican at this table, I'm probably the most critical of what I've seen happen today.
I mean, the fact that you had someone from the highest levels of the North Korean government be able to spend that much time in the Oval Office with the president of the United States, it's one thing to have folks from North Korea coming over, interfacing with folks from our State Department, getting touch with folks in our government to prepare for the summit, doing things in the conventional way, that's fine. That's good. But it's a symbol when you get to sit down with the president.
And something that we have not talked at all and is completely buried out of these discussions is the human rights and the experience of the people in North Korea.
SCIUTTO: And the president said, he did not mention human rights.
ANDERSEN: And I worry we're going to go into this summit and we're looking for this political win and if North Korea is not giving up nuclear weapons and not doing anything to improve the status of the people in North Korea, I don't want us to get had because I think the thing North Korea wants is the prestige of sitting down with the president of the United States and they're getting it no matter what comes out of the process.
SCIUTTO: And this is a president who's been willing to bury, shall we say, the human rights issue with other distasteful world leaders among --
ANDERSEN: I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that had this been a Democratic president, Republicans would have been outraged at a lot of the things that have happened over the last 24 hours. And so, it just -- it makes me nervous.
CILLIZZA: And we talk about, by the way, just quickly, we talk about will this be a political win for President Trump -- this summit -- it's definitely a political win for Kim Jong-un to Kristen's point on the same stage, equal with the president of the United States.
SCIUTTO: No question.
CILLIZZA: That's a guarantee.
SCIUTTO: We'll have more coming up.
It's the economy, stupid, right? So why with such an encouraging jobs report is the president's own party calling him out?
[16:21:23] SCIUTTO: We're back now with the politics lead.
President Trump talking up the May jobs report this morning and those numbers are indeed very good news. Unemployment fell to just 3.8 percent, matching the lowest rate in nearly 50 years. Yet even with this good economic news, the president is seemingly saying if it's not broke, well, still try to fix it, going it all alone on trade by imposing tariffs on U.S.' closest allies and widening a rift even with congressional Republicans.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny has the story from the White House.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are restoring our wealth at home. It's about time.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump hailing today's robust monthly jobs report, an economic ray of sunshine amid rising fears of a trade war.
TRUMP: We have reached yet one more historic milestone with 3.8 percent unemployment.
ZELENY: In May, the economy added 223,000 new jobs, bringing the unemployment rate to an 18-year low. He was so eager to trumpet the news he broke years of presidential protocol, by signaling the strong jobs number in a tweet, more than an hour before the Labor Department's announcement. At 7:21 a.m., the president declared, looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning.
Yet despite sustained signs of a booming U.S. economy, new fears of a global trade war in the wake of the president's new tariffs on steel and aluminum to Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. The U.S. allies denounced the move and vowed retaliation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted the tariffs as totally unacceptable.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: This is not about the American people. We have to believe that at some point common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the U.S. administration.
ZELENY: The Trump tariffs were also condemned by the conservative editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal." It scolded the president for starting a needless trade war with America's best friends. The paper typically supportive of the president went on to say, so much for Donald Trump as genius deal maker. He aspires to be Ronald Reagan but his tariff folly echoes of Herbert Hoover.
The fears of a trade war played out in key red states in the country with unknown consequences. From carmakers in Tennessee to farmers in Wisconsin, and in Kentucky, home of Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell, he said a trade war could stifle economic growth.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: You've got Toyota impacted. You've got farmers impacted. I don't think anything good will come out of a trade war, and I hope we pull back from the brink here because these tariffs will not be good for the economy.
ZELENY: The president pushing back on the criticism today.
TRUMP: They're our allies, but they take advantage of us economically, and so I agree. I love Canada. I love Mexico. I love 'em.
But Mexico is making over $100 billion a year and they're not helping us with our border because they have strong laws and we have horrible laws.
ZELENY: The president making clear, though, just a short time ago on the south lawn here at the White House that a lot of his anger toward Mexico is because of that constant refrain of immigration. Of course, he's been talking about that since he ran for president.
Now, as for the fight with the U.S. allies of Canada, Mexico, and the E.U., the chief economic adviser here at the White House, Larry Kudlow, said earlier it's a family quarrel, suggesting it may be all a negotiating tactic -- Jim.
[16:25:02] SCIUTTO: You know how those allies are reacting. Jeff Zeleny at the White House.
Before he was elected, you may remember President Trump said that the monthly jobs report was, quote, the biggest joke there is. But now that he's in office, how much credit does he deserve for this good economic news? My panel with me here now. We're going to talk about that question right after this.
SCIUTTO: We are back now, continuing the conversation with our political panel.
And, Jen, it's hard to argue a 3.8 percent unemployment rate.
SCIUTTO: You're a Democrat. You worked in the previous administration. It had some economic success, but it's been a long run for the Trump administration. How much credit do you give them?
PALMIERI: Right. I do remember when we worked in the Barack Obama White House, thinking, boy, the next president is going to inherit a really great economy. And, you know, we had hoped that that would be Hillary Clinton.
But regardless of who's in the White House, it is good news that it's not just the unemployment rate at 3.8 percent but the African-American unemployment rate is lower than -- I'm not sure if it's lowest in history, but it's historically low.