Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Meets with Top Kim Jong-Un Aide in Oval Office; White House Pushes Back on Critics of Trump's Pardons; U.S. Allies: Trump Threatens Global Trade War; New Tariffs on Mexico Threaten Increased Tensions; Impressive Jobs Report Released. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired June 1, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Isn't that amazing, though -- sorry about that.
LABOTT: Isn't it amazing? This is the Kim Jong-Un that everyone hoped in 2011 that they would get, this kind of reformer, modernizer, that was going to bring North Korea out of the cold. All of these years, they've been kind of waiting for this statesman that they're considering him right now. We just don't know if it's for real or we just don't know if it's --
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Can we drill down on what you said, Sam, because we're looking at this picture. There's a senior North Korean diplomat inside, not just the White House, but the Oval Office. We're trying to see what's happening inside that window because it is really mind-blowing. It really is.
They could have met in the Roosevelt Room. They could have met in a number of other sort of, you know, ornate rooms, but this sends a very clear message that only one person wanted to send, and that is the president of the United States, the man who resides in that office. That he wants to make such an impression and wants to make such a statement that he invited this guy who has done some really bad stuff, personally, never mind the regime that he represents, into that intersanctum.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: It's the "Nixon goes to China" potential moment that -- I've heard it from several of the president's advisors. That's what he thinks. He thinks he can do what other presidents.
You worked for President Obama. President Obama couldn't do it. Bill Clinton, he tried with Madeleine Albright. Couldn't do it. He thinks this is a moment that he might be able to do what earlier presidents failed to do, denuclearizing the Korean peninsula. It's a huge challenge and it's by no means a done deal. But he is determined to try to achieve that particular moment.
We have to take another quick break. We're watching history unfold at the White House. We'll be right back.
[13:36:18] BLITZER: We're following the breaking news out of the White House. The North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, has been in the White House now, I'm guessing, for about 20 or 25 minutes or so. We saw him being escorted into the White House by the White House chief of staff, John Kelly. He's bringing a letter from North Korea leader, Kim Jong-Un, to the president. We're anticipate that letter is being delivered in the Oval Office.
We're waiting for statements. Looking at video from moments ago when he arrived at the White House walking down the Colonnade into the West Wing of the White House. Kim Yong Chol. We'll continue to follow this. As soon as we get the video tape of what's happening in the Oval Office, as soon as we see the statements, whether on tape or live, of course, we'll have that for our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
But there's other important news we're following in the meantime. The White House now pushing back against criticism over President Trump's use of pardons. Critics say he's trying to send a message to allies caught up in the Russia probe.
Even Trump ally, Roger Stone, tells the "Washington Post," and I'm quoting now, "It has to be a signal to Mike Flynn and Paul Manafort, even Robert S. Mueller III, indict people for crimes that don't pertain to Russian collusion and this is what could happen. Special counsel has awesome powers, as you know, but the president has even more awesome powers."
That from Roger Stone.
Let's bring back our panel.
Seth Waxman is joining us right now.
How widespread is this presidential pardon capability? Can he pardon anyone he wants with any reason or for no reason he wants, because someone suggested there are some restrictions.
SETH WAXMAN, CRIMINAL DEFEENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, and I'm one of those people that believes there are restrictions. The Constitution lays out the pardon power, and it is exclusive to the president. There's no other person in the world, or at least in the United States, that can issue a pardon. But it's not absolute.
The Constitution has plenty of provisions where there are restrictions. The freedom of speech for the American citizens, we all think that's an important power, but we all know we can't run into a crowded theater and yell "fire." So the notion that something is written in the constitution is sacrosanct and there could be no limits, I just don't buy into that. The way Mr. Trump is using this, if it was any other criminal subject or target of an investigation, it is the definition of the obstruction of justice, to dangle a carrot out there to entice people to either save their testimony or not cooperate with law enforcement is the definition of obstruction of justice. BLITZER: Dana, you heard the criticism about the president that he is
trying to send a signal to people like Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman, who has been indicted, or Mike Flynn, his former national security adviser, who has already pled guilty to various charges, sending a signal, you know what, I might have your back.
BASH: Right. By way of context, it bears repeating in this proceeding that traditionally presidents don't just issue a pardon in the middle of their term, never mind in the second year of their term. It usually is done maybe sometime around Christmastime but mostly at the end of their term. That's how incredibly unusual this is.
The other thing I keep thinking is, can you imagine if a Democratic president did this? Can you imagine if Barack Obama, who Republicans called the imperial president because he used his executive power so much, did this, or Bill Clinton?
BASH: Pardon me?
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Or a foreign leader.
BASH: Or a foreign leader.
BASH: Yes, exactly. It is incredibly transparent why he's doing it. And Roger Stone has probably never spoken truer words than what he said to the "Washington post" in saying that this is clearly a message to the people under investigation, don't rat me out because I've got your back.
BLITZER: The former attorney general, Eric Holder, who served under President Obama, he said this about the whole pardon capability. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[13:40:04] ERIC HOLDER, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you pardon somebody, well, that means that they are -- they don't have much to worry about with regard to whatever the pardon covers. But if Bob Mueller, for instance, wants to take a pardoned person, put that person before a grand jury, that person no longer has the ability to say, I'm going to invoke my Fifth Amendment right. That's been stripped away. You have a pardon. That person then becomes a perfect witness for the special counsel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Seth, you're a former federal prosecutor. What do you think?
WAXMAN: That's true, they wouldn't have a Fifth Amendment right. You get into a weird scenario where that person who is pardoned is now brought before a grand jury, and let's just say, lies. That person is subject to perjury charges. Does President Trump then pardon him once again, or that person once again for the lies to the grand jury? And you can kind of get in this circle. It's a slippery slope.. And the idea the president is using that power in this manner, in my mind, is an abusive power.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around.
There's more unfolding at the White House right now. North Korea's top former spy chief is inside not only the West Wing but probably the Oval Office delivering a letter to the president of the United States from North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un. We're waiting for details. Waiting for the videotape. History unfolding at the White House right now.
Plus, a trade war begins. And U.S. allies are blasting President Trump over his new tariffs. What are they saying, how are they retaliating? We'll have that and much more. Lots of news. We'll be right back.
[13:45:43] BLITZER: Once again we're waiting for the videotape. The president of the United States has been meeting with the North Korean official, Kim Yong Chol, now for about a half an, we're told. He's been in the Oval Office hand delivering a letter to the president from the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un. We're going to have extensive live coverage of this historic moment unfolding in Washington. The first time in 18 years a North Korean official has been allowed to come to Washington, has been allowed to come to the White House and meet with the president of the United States. Stand by for that.
There's other news we're watching, important news involving international trade. "Unacceptable and unlawful" -- U.S. allies blasting President Trump's tariffs on steel and aluminum saying they threaten to spark a global trade war. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: For 150 years, Canada has been the United States' most steadfast ally. Canadians have served alongside Americans in two world wars and in Korea. From the beaches of Normandy to the mountains of Afghanistan, we have fought and died together. That Canada could be considered a national security threat to the United States is inconceivable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Strong words from the prime minister of Canada.
Joining us now, CNN correspondent, Paula Newton, CNN senior international correspondent, Atika Shubert, and CNN Money's emerging markets editor and anchor, John Defterios.
Paula, let me start with you.
The president tweeted this about Canada, and I'm quoting the president, "Canada has treated our agricultural businesses and farmers very poorly for a long period of time, highly restrictive on trade. They must open up their markets and take down their trade barriers. They report a really high surplus on trade with us. Do timber and lumber in U.S.?"
Paula, what's the reaction from Ottawa? We heard the prime minister. He's clearly so disappointed, so upset at what the president has announced.
PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Offended, even, Wolf. Canada has decided, look, it's going to get as good as it gets, and he doesn't mean in tweets. Justin Trudeau, "Matching dollar for dollar, nearly $13 billion worth of tariffs, those begin on July 1st." Not just on steel and aluminum, Wolf, but on products, everything from yogurt to dishwashers.
They're trying to target American jobs in key swing states into the fall, trying to tell the president, saying, look, you might think this is a good negotiating strategy in terms of trade or a good political move. It is not. That's why Canada says, look, they're even willing to escalate this. The key thing is it will cost American consumers more going forward. And in terms of timing, Wolf, just a reminder, next week, G-7 in Quebec. Canada, hosting with four European partners alongside the president, all angry about this trade policy.
BLITZER: Atika Shubert is in Berlin for us.
Atika, there are also some reports emerging in Germany that the president wants to ban all German luxury imports into the United States. How are politicians reacting to these latest developments?
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, like Canada, here in Germany, many people find the tariffs incomprehensible, Wolf, and German foreign minister saying that the tariffs are illegal. Considering how many billions of dollars the German car industry has invested in the U.S. economy, consider that Germany exported thousands of cars last year to the U.S. last year, that seems like a lot, but that's actually a small figure compared to the number of Germans cars made in the U.S., 800,000.
BMW's biggest plant, for example, in actually in Spartanburg, South Carolina, employing 10,000 workers. So as far as Germany is concerned, its cars are helping the U.S. economy, Wolf, not hurting it.
BLITZER: And John Defterios, the European Union clearly not very happy. They're very disappointed in Trump administration's approach. But did not rush to judgment with tariffs straight away, although, those are clearly being threatened right now. What's the latest on that front?
JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN MONEY'S EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR AND ANCHOR: I think the Europeans, Wolf, want to be seen as taking the high road, but the reality is trade confrontation is going to happen in the next 20 days. The E.U. trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, took a measured approach, but she singled out the Trump administration for a faulty premise, and that is using national security for a reason for slapping on tariffs. They said they didn't like the approach of putting the gun to their head before getting to the negotiating table.
If there's common ground, it's over China. The Europeans say China is responsible for the global glut of steel right now and the violation against intellectual property rights as well, like technology goods. Bottom line, though, Wolf, the Europeans support the World Trade Organization. Donald Trump and his team are flatly against it.
[13:50:33] BLITZER: Interesting.
New U.S. tariffs for global imports are clearly threatening a trade war.
Mexico has been a frequent target of President Trump. Now these tariffs on aluminum and steel could add new tension between the neighboring countries.
Joining us now, Mexico's ambassador to the United States, Geronimo Gutierrez Fernandez.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us.
Let me get right to the key issue. Mexico has promised comparative penalties on American lamb, pork, fruit, cheese, flat steel. Are other products being discussed as possible retaliation for what the president has now the ordered against Mexico?
GERONIMO GUTIERREZ FERNANDEZ, MEXICAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Yes, Wolf. We don't have a definite list yet. The products you mentioned are already part of that list, which should be published in Mexico over the next few days and begin immediately after its published. What we intend to do with these measures that we have taken is two objectives. First, obviously, we don't want to disrupt the supply chains any farther. And, second, we do want to send a signal that actions have consequences.
BLITZER: How do these tariffs, directed by the United States, impact the ongoing negotiations on NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada?
FERNANDEZ: Well, it's certainly not helpful to the overall environment of the negotiation. It has been said we don't believe that using national security arguments apply in this case. Mexico has been consistently and constructively engaging for the past year on NAFTA negotiations. And we just simply don't agree with the fact that this is a right policy. This will actually affect competitiveness in North America. The steel industry is actually quite integrated in North America and we don't see why these measures would make sense to Mexico, certainly, the U.S. or Canada.
BLITZER: Mexico's currently the fifth-largest auto parts producer worldwide, one of the largest suppliers to the U.S. market. How will these tariffs affect the auto industries in both countries?
FERNANDEZ: As the auto industry has already expressed, it will simply raise costs. Mexico and the U.S. trade a lot of products every year, Wolf. But the future is not only about how much do we trade and invest with one another, which it's important, but it's about how do we produce together to complete globally? And this is why this type of measures in our view are just simply not a decision, not a step in the right decision.
BLITZER: Very quickly, because we're out of time, Ambassador, before I let you go, the president says Mexico will pay for the border wall and eventually you'll be happy to pay for the border wall. Your reaction?
FERNANDEZ: I beg to differ. That has been very clearly stated by President Pena, Mexico will not pay under any circumstances for a wall. We're in favor of border security but we certainly differ on the ways to achieve that objective.
BLITZER: Ambassador, thank you so much for joining us. The Mexican ambassador to the United States.
FERNANDEZ: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me bring Dana and the rest of the team back.
With a very impressive jobs numbers here in the United States. The unemployment level reaching low of some 50 years. It's only happened twice before, 3.8 percent. More than -- take a look at this, 223,000 jobs created, 3.8 percent. The wage growth has gone up 2.7 percent. All very, very impressive.
BASH: All incredibly impressive, which is why there are a lot of Republicans in this town and around the country really worried that this potential trade war that the president is engaging in that you were just talking about with our correspondents around the world could take away from that. That really is the concern. Talking to Republican strategists, who are doing a lot of polling on a lot of important races that will come up in November, they say people are feeling really good.
There's usually, historically, nothing more important than that so- called right track, right track, and the economy. This is a different era because people are not thrilled with the conduct of the president and his tweets and so on and so forth. But pocket books matter more than anything, and that's why there's such a concern about this trade situation.
[13:55:04] BLITZER: The Clinton administration, James Carville, said, "It's the economy, stupid." That's clearly a critically important political factor.
DEMIRJIAN: More than words. Look, the president has put out a populous message that does not always match with the raw numbers of how economics works. We can use immigration as an example of that. But this is something that the push and pull that Dana was describing is going to be felt by his own people across the country where they have bought into this populous message about trade. But if it hits the industries and the products that matter at home, it's going to cost jobs. That could be a point where it breaks.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers live pictures from the White House where North Korea's former top spy chief, am emissary of the North Korean leader, is in the Oval Office, has been in there apparently for about 40, 45 minutes meeting with the president of the United States, delivering a personal letter from Kim Jong-Un to the president. We'll have the very latest when we come back.