Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Attorney Threatens Reporter on Tape; America's Closest Allies Blast Trump For Starting Trade War; North Korea Summit to Go Ahead. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired June 1, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: You see Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, the other officials, part of this North Korean delegation.
You know, the long goodbye, I just want to marinate on this moment just for a second. What did you make of -- almost the pageantry of it all?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, it's as if it was produced by the president himself, who wanted the American public to see and who wanted Kim Jong-un, I would wager, to see how well he treated his emissary, bringing him into the Oval Office, which he did not have to do, certainly meeting with him for over 90 minutes, which he did not have to do, having a substantive conversation with him about, among other things, sanctions, as the president told us, which he did not have to do.
He didn't have to do anything of this. And the president coming out of meeting basically said, stay tuned, as long as we're talking about producing this show. He said stay tuned because, if you were doing a word cloud over the president's head today, I think the word process would have come up the most, because it seems to me that what the president is saying, that, originally, the United States had said we want them to denuclearize -- and Elise knows much more about this than I do -- before we even get to step one.
And now it seems to me what the president is saying is, this is going to be a long process, which is more like what South Korea has been talking about, which is set some benchmarks, have them denuclearize, ease a sanction here, a sanction there, and we do it over a long period.
And I think just in reading between the lines today, it seems to me that maybe the president is tending towards that idea more.
BALDWIN: A getting-to-know-you meeting, plus, is again how the president of the United States characterized this meeting.
Elise, I was watching your analysis before this whole thing happened. And you were reminding everyone that normally a leading a meeting of this stature is done months, weeks in advance, right? It works from the bottom to the top. And here you have it flipped.
Do you think in 12 days -- it is June 1 -- we're talking June 12 -- is the president ready for this summit?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I will tell you that I didn't it.
And now I think that the president has lowered the expectations, as Jeff said, of what this meeting is about. A couple of weeks ago, it was about a nuclear deal. Now it's the beginning of a process. It's a get to know you-plus.
I think he's giving Kim Jong-un every opportunity to make a deal down the road. It was pretty clear yesterday, when Secretary Pompeo came out of this meeting, that Kim Jong-un is not ready to take that final step and commit to a timeline for denuclearization, which is what the president and his aides were hoping for at this meeting.
And that's what the team at the DMZ, Ambassador Sung Kim and his delegation, is trying to draft the communique. You can't really draft a communique when you don't have that firm commitment from North Korea. Pompeo said that he thought that the North Koreans were contemplating a path.
And so by inviting Kim Yong-chol to the White House today, speaking with him, obviously, you have heard from world leaders the president can be very charming in these meetings, and through the language and through Secretary Pompeo's language about bold leadership, they know that -- they have realized, they have come to the acceptance even, I think, that the North Koreans are not fully ready, but that there's enough good will and the relationship has improved enough that let's start a process.
Former negotiators have said to Secretary Pompeo -- he's reached out to them -- start a process going. You have gone from fire and fury to here. Get this process going. And I think that that's probably, even though the president has had to lower his expectations, I think that's probably a smarter way of managing it.
The one thing I would say is that the North Koreans are experts at this kind of dragging it out. So I think the real challenge for the U.S. and for President Trump is to really convince Kim Jong-un at this one summit or a series of meeting -- and I'm sure Secretary Pompeo will also be going there fairly regularly over this process -- is that the assurances, the security guarantees are going to come from giving up the new nukes, from keeping them, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Let me ask all of you to stand by.
I have got the voice in all of this joining us, Joseph Yun, Joe Yun, the former point person for the U.S. for North Korea, who has recently retired.
Joe Yun, first just your thoughts out of the gate on these extraordinary moments?
JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, it's simply amazing to watch the developments over last few weeks. And I think Gloria and Elise just hit it out of park. What's happened is that President Trump realized, through dialogue with North Koreans, that their expectations are not going to be met. Gone are the thinking that we can do it all in one Libya model. You're not really hearing much from John Bolton anymore, you know?
And so I think, all things considered, Kim Jong-un has done an incredible job of manipulating South Korea, United States, China. And, yesterday, you saw the Russian foreign minister go to Pyongyang.
I don't know. I mean, it kind of reminds me of watching "Sopranos," saying, you isolate me, I'm going to isolate you, you know?
BALDWIN: What -- Joe, what do you think about just the whole scene and how it will ultimately be seen by Kim Jong-un? What do you think he will think that long goodbye and President Trump's words?
YUN: Well, I think Kim Jong-un has obviously come out through the major foreign affairs stage, and we have seen him. He's no longer a caricature that we're used to seeing him as.
And he's presenting himself with (INAUDIBLE) respectful, but forceful, now through his envoy, who's gotten the highest possible diplomatic treatment, not only going to the White House, president and secretary of state walking him out through the lawn, through the lane, to his car, long goodbye, photo-op with the rest of his delegation.
He's sending a clear message to Kim Jong-un, you know, we can build a relationship. And those are the words that the president used. We are beginning to build a relationship.
You're right. Process was the key work today and yesterday. As we watched Pompeo, he used two key words, process and progress. So they realize now this is a trek and that June 12 is the first step
BALDWIN: Joe, what do you think is in that letter from Kim Jong-un?
YUN: I think it's words, words only, very nice words, saying looking forward to meeting you, really want to build a relationship, we can live peacefully, we can help each other. Our dreams of peace will be realized. And, of course, security concerns will be resolved and so on.
I really doubt there is anything concrete that we will be looking for. Let's imagine a situation in which, in Singapore, it does become getting to know you only meeting, with the promise of next meeting only.
I think there will be a ton of disappointed people throughout not only in the United States, but in Japan and South Korea.
BALDWIN: Toward the end of listening to the president's words there, he was asked, did you talk about human rights? And I'm just reminded of it was Otto Warmbier's parents who were invited to the State of the Union in Washington.
And I realize those other prisoners were allowed home recently, but are you surprised human rights was not part of that conversation?
YUN: No, I'm not surprised. And I think the administration has made denuclearization and a deal on denuclearization the number one goal.
BALDWIN: But shouldn't it have been part of that conversation, human rights?
YUN: That's a tough question, Brooke, because if we load it with human rights, are you are going to include Japanese abductees? Then are you going to include issues like refugees? Are you going to include biochem weapons?
Are you going to include conventional weapons? So, it does become overloaded. So, really, I can understand them for prioritizing. But, again, it will be a disappointment to many folks who are very, very concerned and rightly concerned about North Korean human rights practice.
BORGER: Well, the president said, though, didn't he, Brooke, that he might raise it -- that he would raise it at the -- in Singapore.
BALDWIN: Yes, he said down the road, yes, yes, yes.
BALDWIN: No, just in this particular meeting.
BORGER: Right. He didn't -- he didn't rule that out.
One thing that I would add, which is sort of interest to me -- and we all remember the days of Rocket Man and all the rest -- is that both of these men know that the other one is pretty unpredictable.
And so it -- and by the time we get to June 12, which seems close, but can be very far away, the way Washington operates these days, where are these men going to be, and how will they react to each other face to face?
And that's something none of us, none of us can predict.
BALDWIN: Can predict.
BORGER: And how will that meeting go? None of us can predict that.
(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: Who has the most to lose?
LABOTT: I will say one thing, though, Brooke.
I think that, as Joe said and Gloria nodded to this as well, you have seen the last couple of weeks and months Kim Jong-un kind of come out. This is the Kim Jong-un that everybody had hoped when he took over for his father, Kim Jong Il, when he died. He is a modern -- he went to school in the West, he likes basketball shoes. We can talk to him. He wants to reform his economy.
This is the Kim Jong-un that everybody has seen. The question is whether he's ready to make what Joe and his counterparts would call that strategic choice, that being the darling of the international community and being accepted as a world leader is really the way forward for his country and for regime survival.
That's really what this regime is about. It's about survival. And if he can get it by giving up his nuclear weapons and bringing North Korea into the fold and embrace of the international community, I think that will be the most interesting thing, whether the president can really convince with the deliverables that he's ready to offer, whether he can convince Kim Jong-un that the future of North Korea lies with the international community and not with isolation and a nuclear program.
BALDWIN: But to Elise's point, Joe, this is about regime survival.
BALDWIN: And maybe this is the Kim to perhaps deviate from the path that they have been on in this country for decades and decades and decades, but do you believe that he would do it?
YUN: Well, Brooke, that is the central question.
We are trying to tell North Koreans that you are safer without nuclear weapons than with nuclear weapons. The question is, it's become obvious last few days, they don't quite believe it.
And it's going to take a while for them to believe it. We're going to go step by step to believe it.
I mean, ultimately, what they want is to have nuclear weapons and open their economy.
YUN: They want to be another India, you know?
BALDWIN: Well, they can't have both, can they?
YUN: That's what they want.
LABOTT: Maybe they can, Joe.
BALDWIN: Maybe they can, Joe. Maybe they can.
This is absolutely fascinating. Again, the headline from the president, we will be meeting on June 12 in Singapore.
Joe and Gloria and Elise, thank you so much.
Coming up next: America's closest allies blasting him after Trump starts his trade war. Moments ago, the president respond by defending his decision.
BALDWIN: We're back on a Friday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me.
To the power of pardons now, not just for those who receive them, but for the only man in the nation who can grant them.
President Trump, his close friend just said that the president's new show of mercy has a function. We will get into that.
But, first, let me just focus on the case of disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who may have the rest of his 14-year prison sentence commuted by Trump.
Just last hour, I talked to his brother and co-defendant in Blagojevich's first corruption case who just sent a letter to President Trump asking for his help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH, BROTHER OF ROD BLAGOJEVICH: I'm cautiously optimistic.
If President Trump were gracious enough to commute Rod's sentence and return him to his family, I think that would be a great justice and a reversal of what I think is a major injustice of 14 years in federal prison for a guy who did not take any money and for a guy who I know quite well who had no criminal intent.
My brother was a liberal Democrat. There's no agenda he's got that would be appealing to President Trump. And so my view is it would be an exceptional show of humanity to have my brother reunited with his family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: With me now, CNN political commentator Michael Smerconish, host of CNN's "SMERCONISH" on Saturday mornings and author of the brand-new book out this week "Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right."
Michael Smerconish, good to have you, as always. And let me just quote Roger Stone. I know you have seen this quote. He talked to "The Washington Post," former Trump campaign adviser, who, by the way, this is the same Roger Stone who said two weeks ago he was ready to be indicted, said: "The special counsel has awesome powers, as you know, but the president has even more awesome powers."
Was that message received, Michael?
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Listen, Roger may be a beneficiary.
SMERCONISH: Who's to say which way this whole thing goes in the end?
I don't know what the president's intention is, but even if his intention wasn't to send a message to those who are somehow caught up in the Mueller web, no doubt that's the impact that all of this is having.
In the case of D'Souza, it's a twofer. It's a bone to the base and it's also a message to some of those who might face criminal prosecution or already facing criminal prosecution that he's got their back, that he's going to be loyal to them.
I don't think it would spare Michael Cohen if that case should develop along state charge lines. We really doesn't know. But I'm sure it's having some consequence with these individuals.
BALDWIN: This is how Gwenda Blair -- she's a Trump biographer -- this is how she put it.
"In the way of Trump telegraphing that he's in control of everything, including the DOJ, but there's something about the almost capricious nature of this list" -- the list also including Blagojevich and Martha Stewart -- "that seems like, suggests it's like a little kid's version of being in charge, I can do whatever I want and nobody can stop me."
Is there more to this?
SMERCONISH: Well, and it's true. He can, and no one can stop him because he's acted within the parameters of the pardon power.
Thus far, nobody has said that he's in any way violated the power that's been given to him. I just take note of the timeline, that all of this action is happening.
And what's the common denominator? Because there's there's really no common denominator, politically speaking, as the brother was telling you, between the politics of Rod Blagojevich and that of Dinesh D'Souza.
I don't even know what Martha Stewart's a political leanings might be. The common denominator is you really couldn't identify more high- profile cases. So if you wanted to make sure that everybody in America, including those who are somehow caught up in the Mueller probe, are aware, you pick these high-profile cases, and that's what he's done.
BALDWIN: Let me ask you about -- we just saw Kim Yong-chol leave the White House and you listened to the president there saying this whole summit is on.
I want to play some sound from the Republican Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell. He spoke just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: I think you can anticipate the North Koreans making every effort they can to get sanctions and other relief and give up as little as possible.
It's going to be a quite a challenge. And I think for these situations to work, you have to not want to deal too much. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: You could get snookered.
And, again, to be clear, this is the Senate majority leader speaking before we heard from the president at the White House. But he's basically thing to the president, don't fall in love. And it seems like the president really wants to go have this meeting.
But he did push back from the table and exhibited some willingness not to proceed with June 12 if he thought there was no deal to be made. When I step back from the week that is now drawing to a close, here's what I see, the watercooler conversation.
Take it from me, Brooke. I answer the telephone for a living. I speak to people all across the country. It's a week that was dominated by Roseanne Barr and then in the latter part of the week the C-word.
Let us not lose sight of the fact that the unemployment rate is 3.8 percent and to the president's credit he appears headed now for a sit- down with an adversary in a situation that has not resolved itself for 70 years.
So I'm one of those who has gotten distracted many times in the past by all of the lesser important issues. I think he's got some things to crow about this week.
BALDWIN: Michael Smerconish, we get your book and we watch you on Saturday mornings here 9:00 a.m. Eastern on CNN.
SMERCONISH: Thanks. BALDWIN: Thank you so much.
In addition to hearing the president make news on this upcoming summit in Singapore, he also weighed in on the escalating tensions of a possible trade war after he slapped steel and aluminum tariffs on three of America's biggest trading partners, Canada, Mexico and the E.U.
Here was President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you take the European Union, and you see the kind of tariff they charge, and then we don't, that's called not fair trade.
I want fair trade. I like free trade, but I want fair trade. At a minimum, I want fair trade. And we are going to have it for our workers and for our companies. And you know what? The other side understands it.
To be honest with you, they cannot believe that they have gotten away with this for so many decades.
QUESTION: Canada and U.K., some of our closest allies (OFF-MIKE) long and loud about these new tariffs. What do you say to them?
TRUMP: They're our allies, but they take advantage of us economically.
And so I agree. I love Canada. I love Mexico. I love them. But Mexico's 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. We have horrible border laws. They have strong -- they could solve our border problem if they wanted. But they don't want to.
And when they want to, then I will be happy. But I think we have a good chance of doing some great trade deals that will make America great again, right? That's what we're doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Let's chat about that.
With me, finance expert Monica Mehta and CNN political commentator Catherine Rampell.
Catherine, to you first. I love them. Canada and Mexico, I love them, but they take advantage of us.
CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's a very strange way to show your love to your allies, your military allies and your biggest trading partners.
Look, there are a number of reasons why these tariffs are completely a wrong-headed idea, including that we are imposing them on our allies -- and actually bigger tariffs on our allies than on China at this point. We are justifying them by national security.
Again, these are our military allies. It's not clear how...
BALDWIN: Which is what -- part of Justin Trudeau's point, right, helping us by battles and now...
RAMPELL: Right. Right.
And the E.U., Mexico, Canada, these are very strategically important places to the United States. And we are justifying punishing and alienating them through national security concerns, which is bizarre.
And not only that. It's bad for American companies, right, because these trading partners are retaliating against us. They're threatening or have already placed tariffs on goods from often very politically sensitive places, Kentucky bourbon, Iowa pork, et cetera.
And beyond that, you're raising costs for American companies that purchase steel and aluminum. And the number of companies,the size of the industry, the number of jobs that rely on purchasing steel and aluminum for their products is much larger than the steel and aluminum industries that Trump is trying to protect.
BALDWIN: But, Larry Kudlow, Monica says this is not a trade war, this is a he -- he phrased it -- family disagreement.
MONICA MEHTA, FINANCE EXPERT: Trump is like a carpet salesman that is like out at the side of a highway at a mall. I mean, he's basically using these very out-there negotiating tactics.
And I think there's a bluster in the way that he negotiates. And I'm oversimplifying things a lot. But if we look at these carefully curated trade deals over the past 30 years, they have generally been great for American corporations. They haven't necessarily been so great for American workers.
And I think you have to separate that. And while it's easy to try to draw partisan lines with issues like this, I think what 2015 and 2016 showed us is, this is not a partisan issue. This is really a populist vs. establishment issue.
Trade, tariffs, and fair trade, that concept registers with many Democrats which are on the Bernie -- the populist left side. And it registers with a lot of Republicans. So, the Rust Belt Democrats love this. The AFL-CIO, the unions, love that he's going out there and going to bat and trying to renegotiate these deals.
So I think there's a lot of different constituents that are at play here. And it's not as simple as Republicans, Democrats, corporations, the worker.
BALDWIN: A lot of constituents will be thrilled with the numbers that we saw this morning that the president boasted about a little too early than he was supposed to be out. But the unemployment rate, ladies, I mean, 3.8 percent, Catherine, it's great news.
RAMPELL: Yes, this is good news, certainly.
I want to caution people in evaluating these numbers, in that this is the continuation of the exact same trend that we have seen for like the last eight years. So it's not as if Trump came into office and suddenly we unleashed this tremendous growth, job growth, GDP growth, et cetera.
It's a continuation of the same trend. But, nonetheless, it is very good news. The wage numbers are still not spectacular. And in this particular report, they were weighted much more towards financial services, highly paid people, rather than middle-class, lower -- lower-wage people.
But, yes, generally speaking, the report was good.
MEHTA: You can't complain about this, 3.8 percent.
And, again, as she is saying, this has very little to do with Trump. I don't know that it has a lot to do with Obama either. This is just the continuation of a cycle, and it's a virtuous cycle at this point, right? You have got a strong labor market, so people feel good about leaving their job, because they can find another one.
And that makes people more interested in investing in the stock market, selling their house.
BALDWIN: So, just quickly, I know you say this is all part of a trend that's been going on for a number of years, but given everything we're talking about with our allies trade and tariffs, might that impact these great numbers, depending on which way that goes?
RAMPELL: Yes. Yes.
I mean, if we have a trade war, that would be spectacularly bad for the economy. It would hurt many of Trump's own supporters, including these Rust Belt workers, who are reliant on being able to export the products that they're making to other countries.
And if we impose tariffs and other countries retaliate, that means that our exports are not going to get to them, or at least not as many of them are going to get to them.
You could see lots of job losses, again, if we're in a full-blown trade war. Right now, we're sort of in the opening salvos. But you could see lots of job losses. You could see stock market impacts. You could be lots of negative repercussions.
BALDWIN: All right, Catherine and Monica, thank you both so much on that.
Coming up next here, we want to talk about this tape that has surfaced of the president's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, threatening a reporter. This was back in the summer of 2015.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: I'm warning you, tread very (EXPLETIVE DELETED) lightly, because what I'm going to do to you is (EXPLETIVE DELETED) disgusting.
Do you understand me? Don't think you're going to hide behind your pen, because it's not going to happen.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BALDWIN: The reporter on the receiving end of that phone call joins me next live to discuss what was behind the conversation and why this tape is just now coming out.