Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Prepares at Camp David as NK Summit is Back on Again; Kim Jong-un Sends Massive Letter to President Trump; Bannon Predicts U.S. Government Shutdown over Border Wall. Aired 11-12n ET

Aired June 2, 2018 - 11:00   ET



[11:00:18] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good Saturday morning. Thanks for joining me. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Fredricka Whitfield.

After weeks of back and forth, confusion, and very few details the North Korea-U.S. summit is officially back on according to President Trump. It is now crunch time with just ten days until the two leaders meet face-to-face in Singapore; the harsh rhetoric starting to soften once again.

North Korea's ex-spy chief personally delivering a massive letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump in the Oval Office. The Secret Surface -- Secret Service rather -- carefully examining that letter for anything potentially dangerous before it was presented.

But these formal pleasantries don't erase the volatile past. Both countries with a lot on the line for this highly-anticipated meeting.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will be a beginning. I don't say and I've 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.

But I think you're going to have a very positive result in the end. Not from one meeting. I didn't cancel the meeting. I canceled it in response to a very tough statement.

And I think we're over that, totally over that. And now we're going to deal and we're going to really start a process.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe Kim is committed to denuclearization?

TRUMP: Yes, I do think so. He would like to see it happen. He wants to be careful. He wants to be, you know, he's not going to run and do things but I told him, to be honest with you, look, we have sanctions on. They're very powerful sanctions. We would not take sanctions off unless they do it. But the sanctions are very powerful.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us live from the White House. President Trump is at Camp David this weekend -- Ryan. Do we know what he's up to there? And how will the White House pull this off in time?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, Pam -- we know that the President is at Camp David with many of his children and we're told that he is beginning preparations for this summit in North Korea.

But to answer your question about how he's going to pull this off, it seems as though he's going to pull it off by scaling back the expectations of this summit in a big way.

You'll remember when this meeting was first announced by the White House they declared that it was going to be the start of lasting peace on the Korea Peninsula, the beginning of a denuclearization by the Kim regime. And now the President describing it as a much more of a just get-to-know-you meeting, perhaps start the process to talk about some of those big ticket items that are on the table which is really a big win for North Korea.

They've never had the opportunity for their leader to sit in front of the President of the United States. But there's a number of things that will eventually have to be talked about, whether or not they're going to completely abandon their nuclear program, whether or not they're going to address some of the human rights abuses that have been at the hands of the Kim regime.

And then on the American side, what about the high number of troops that are currently stationed in South Korea, just to the south of Pyongyang. According to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right now that conversation will not be a part of this summit. Take a listen.


JAMES MATTIS, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: That issue will not come up in the discussions with DPRK. And as you all recognize, those troops are there as a recognition of a security challenge. Obviously, if the diplomats can do their work, if we can reduce the threat, if we can restore confidence-building measures with something verifiable, then of course, these kinds of issues can come up subsequently between two sovereign democracies, the Republic of Korea and the United States.

But it is -- that issue is not on the table here in Singapore on the 12th. Nor should it be.


NOBLES: So that gives us an indication right there, Pam, of just what to expect when this meeting actually does take place. It doesn't look like there's going to be a ton of substance. Instead it's just going to be a feeling out process by these two powerful men to decide whether or not they trust each other to take the very next step.

It will be anybody's guess as to how that's perceived by the global community -- Pam. BROWN: And we shall see. And this appears to not be the only summit the White House is working on -- Ryan. What can you tell us about the new -- the "Wall Street Journal" reporting -- this new reporting on a possible summit with Putin?

NOBLES: Yes. Well, Pam -- this is something that President Trump has talked about publicly on a regular basis, that he would like the opportunity to have a bilateral meeting with President Putin, sit down with him one on one and talk about the variety of issues that stand between the United States and Russia, including the problem in Syria.

The "Wall Street Journal" reporting that Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who was here in Washington yesterday and met with a number of leaders at the White House and also at the State Department is taking a lead on these negotiations to set up this bilateral meeting.

[11:05:04] Now officials from the National Security Council could not confirm that definitively to me. But if Ambassador Huntsman is doing the President's bidding in Russia, and we know that in the past President Trump has said specifically that this is something he wants to see happen, you could easily connect the dots in that respect.

But according to the "Wall Street Journal", the thought is that if this summit is going to take place, they are in the very early stages of these negotiations and that the President himself won't even begin to think about it until the North Korea summit is already complete.

BROWN: That would make sense.

All right. Ryan nobles -- thank you so much.

Now President Trump is feeling pretty good about the mysterious giant letter from Kim Jong-un.


TRUMP: That letter was a very nice letter. Oh, would you like to see what was in that letter?


TRUMP: How much? How much?


BROWN: The thing is when he said that, he hadn't even read the letter yet. But the big question is, what was the message in that letter?

CNN's Will Ripley joins us live now from Singapore. So after he spoke to reporters there, Will -- he did go back to the Oval Office. He read that letter. What can you tell us about it?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He hasn't revealed the contents of the letter yet -- Pam. And is that really such a big surprise? You know that President Trump is all about suspense and kind of keeping the drama and the narrative going. So all we have to talk about with this letter right now, frankly, is its size. It's the size of a newspaper folded in half. A grandiose gesture from the North Korean leader to the U.S. President -- a U.S. president who likes to be flattered, who likes big gestures. And on the North Korean perspective a letter is the most formal, most respectful form of communication you can send to another person.

So a letter from the Supreme Leader of North Korea to the President of the United States is the most respectful way of communicating whatever message Kim Jong-un has decided he wants to send to President Trump.

And apparently President Trump thinks that the message is favorable. He certainly had quite a lengthy conversation with Kim Yong Chol, North Korea's ex-spy chief who was in the Oval Office. Remember this is the man who was believed to have orchestrated the attack -- the hack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, the bombing -- torpedoing of a South Korean naval ship that killed dozens of South Korean sailors, a man who's part of the leadership that is alleged to have jailed tens, if not hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in these political re- education camps that have been called gulags by human rights authorities around the world. And yet here he was, smiling next to the U.S. President, holding a very big letter.

Let's see what the letter says when we find out maybe in the coming days -- Pamela.

BROWN: We'll have to wait and see. Now as you pointed out this man is Kim Jong-un's right-hand man. How is this being viewed in North Korea? The fact that he was welcomed into the Oval Office, the President spent more than 90 minutes with him? We saw the good-bye where he warmly shook his hand. Will this be used as propaganda in North Korea?

RIPLEY: Potentially. I mean I was shocked when I was flying into North Korea last week and on the second page of the "Pyongyang Times" there was a picture of the Chairman Kim and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo smiling together in Pyongyang and the article was very favorable and positive. I never have seen positive press coverage of the United States like that in North Korea.

And it does go to show that the North Koreans are all in here. And they have been studying President Trump for more than a year, trying to figure out exactly what makes him tick, how to get inside his head -- and flattery and praise is one way to do it.

And so this is, perhaps, all playing out exactly as the North Koreans had hoped. Now the big question, Pamela -- what's going to happen here in Singapore on the 12th when they actually have to sit down and talk about the issue of denuclearization, which means something very different to the North Koreans potentially than to the United States. Certainly the timeline and the time frame and what North Korea is willing to do right away.

So will they still be all smiles when they walk out of that summit here in Singapore in just over a week and a half? Well, as the President likes to say, we'll have to wait and see. BROWN: Yes. A lot of big, important questions loom over the summit.

Will Ripley -- thank you so much.

And I want to talk more about this with our panel: David Swerdlick, a CNN political commentator and assistant editor of the "Washington Post"; also joining us Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun Times"; and Shawn Turner, a CNN national security analyst and former communications director for U.S. National Intelligence.

David, I want to start with you because if you listened closely to what the President said yesterday, it almost seemed like he's trying to move the goal post in terms of lowering expectations, saying look, this is going to be one of many meetings with North Korea. We have this history with each other -- a lot to be worked out, a history of hostility. What do you make of that?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's right -- Pam, and good morning.

At the same time the President is trying to lower expectations and move the goalpost, ratchet it down, substantively ratchet down from total denuclearization to we're just getting to know each other.

He also, over the last week or so, has ratcheted up the level of drama around just getting the meeting set. I think my own theory is that one of the reasons he sent that letter last week, canceling the meeting, was to make it appear as if it was harder just to get the people to the table.

[11:10:05] So at the end of the day it looks like more of an accomplishment just to have had the meeting take place at all. Sort of a letter saying hey, nice talking to you, this isn't working out but maybe this isn't so good.

And now all of a sudden it's like we have these guys back to the table because we're in here working so hard. There's this thing -- if you read chapter two of "The Art of the Deal" the President underscores this idea of not wanting to look like you want a meeting too badly. And I think that's the strategy that's in play.

BROWN: Because then you lose your leverage.


BROWN: And every step of the way, everything you see is critical. I mean this meeting yesterday, Sean, is a critical part of all of this. You know, we're so focused on the summit. But the President spent more than an hour and a half with Kim Jong-un's right-hand man.

And there is a warning that came from the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about all of this. Let's take a listen to what he said.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: It's going to be quite a challenge. And I think for these situations to work, you have to not want the 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.


BROWN: What do you think? Is that already happening here?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think to some degree, it is. I mean look, we have gone from a situation in which the administration was seeking clear, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear program to a situation, where as David pointed out we have two guys sitting down to kind of get to know each other.

And so -- and when the President goes into this meeting with the understanding that North Korea is not, under any circumstances, going agree to completely dismantling their program in this meeting, if the President stays at the table at that point then that is a clear victory for North Korea at that point because they simply got the meeting.

That's what's interesting here is that there's no question about what the United States wants. So the real question, going into this meeting will be how much is North Korea willing to give? And we know for a fact now they're not willing to give exactly what we want. So as --

BROWN: Because -- I mean, the nuclear program in North Korea is key to the survival of the regime.



BROWN: I mean that's how it's viewed.

TURNER: Absolutely. And there were two buckets of negotiations here. One is the economic side and the other is the denuclearization side.

And so one of the things the United States is really focusing on is this idea that you make some economic concessions to North Korea and maybe that way you can get them to move on the denuclearization side.

But for North Korea, this is about security. This is about making absolutely sure that they maintain a high level of security in the region. So I think that we go into the meeting kind of with these disparities; and for the United States, you know, it's unclear why we are elevating Kim Jong-un so easily, because it's already a case that one could argue that he has kind of won this negotiation.

BROWN: And let's not forget, Lynn -- Kim Jong-un is a dictator, responsible for the recent death of a UVA student, an American. And yet we're seeing all of this play out.

President Trump was asked yesterday whether he raised human rights abuses in that meeting with the former ex-spy of North Korea. And he said he didn't. Was that a mistake in your view?

LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Well, it took something off the table to talk about. And I was at the White House yesterday. And there was a sense of marvel.

Diplomacy is usually scripted, as we alls know. And this was more of an improv play as each minute went by and this meeting went longer.

And here is a death of a United States citizen -- this is exactly the kind of issue that you would think Trump would embrace. And in this back and forth, it was -- even if you don't want to say, Trump, I'm going to take on human rights writ large -- to take it off the table the way he did as some kind of -- I don't want to sound unhumane, but it is something you bargain with.

Because it is giving North Korea an enormous break if you basically say not only am I meeting with the official, the spy master who is responsible for treacherous acts, but we're kind of saying let's just make a deal and we'll put that on the side.

Usually in diplomacy, you use every arrow in your quiver. And this is just -- it's worth noting that he gave it up without yet getting something, an advantage, or not having a future gain.

BROWN: When you look at this Oval Office meeting yesterday, who wasn't there is just as interesting -- David. Mike Pence, the Vice President was not there; John Bolton, national security adviser, wasn't in that meeting. What do you make of that?

SWERDLICK: I make of it that those who have pursued a more traditional Reagan-esque Republican foreign policy in the past are slightly on the sidelines of this back and forth. And the President and Kim Jong-un have the lieutenants, if you will, that they like in the room.

In this case you have Kim Yong Chol, as Lynn was pointing out meeting, with President Trump. You have Secretary of State Pompeo meeting with Kim Jong-un. These are the guys who seemed to have stepped in and are speaking on behalf of their respective principals, who their principals clearly seem to trust to negotiate with the other side.

[11:15:07] BROWN: And just quickly, I want to ask you about the other factors here and that includes Russia and China. President Trump said he wasn't very happy with Russia meeting with North Korea, but it could be positive. How do they factor in all of this?

TURNER: It's really interesting. When you look at those relationships and you look at what North Korea's relationship, particularly with Russia -- those dynamics are going to play a significant role as the President goes into the summit.

I think about security region (ph) with regard to Japan and what Japan and China, what others are interested in and the President getting out of this meeting and what they're interested in him walking away with.

I think that one of the concerns that I have is that there is not enough focus on those other dynamics with those other countries as we go into this meeting. I will tell you that, you know, someone recently said to me that if, for example, if Kim Jong-un gives up his long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, well guess what, the medium range missiles can still reach Japan. So that's a major concern for them.

BROWN: Right.

TURNER: So those sorts of concerns really need to be dealt with by this administration.

BROWN: And Japan already warning the U.S. not to reward North Korea just for coming to the summit showing up for a meeting.


BROWN: All right. We will see what happens here. Really interesting discussion. David Swerdlick, Lynn Sweet, Shawn Turner -- thank you so much. >

And still ahead former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon with the dire prediction.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I believe he will shut down the government. I believe the government will actually shut down in the run-up to the election.


BROWN: Could the fight over the border wall come to a head just before the midterms, causing a shutdown; or is this Bannon's way of talking strategy to the President?

We'll be back.


BROWN: Well, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is making a bold prediction about one of the President's main campaign promises. Speaking to CNN's Fareed Zakaria Bannon says he believes President Trump will shut down the government if he doesn't get funding to build the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.


BANNON: I think that President Trump nationalizing this, the wall is central. The wall is not just. The wall is absolutely essential to his program. I believe that what he's going to do, as we come up on September 30th if that appropriations bill does not include spending to fully build his wall, not some $1.6 billion for prototypes, I mean to build the southern wall, I believe he will shut down the government.

I believe the government will actually shut down in the run-up to the election. We have to limit massive illegal immigration. And you're starting to see this in the Trump administration, what he has done to limit mass illegal immigration, that's why we have the lowest black unemployment in history, lowest Hispanic unemployment in 20 years and wages are starting to rise particularly in agriculture, and in all field services and construction.


BROWN: And joining me now to discuss this is a man who knows Steve Bannon very well. Kurt Bardella is Politico columnist for the "Huffington Post" and "U.S.A Today" and he is a former publicist for Breitbart News, the conservative Web site where Bannon once served as the executive chairman.

Kurt -- thanks for joining us.


BROWN: So first of all, how much weight should we put into what Steve Bannon is saying right now? Because as we know, he is no longer an adviser to the President; and do you think that he is right? that the President could shut down the government if he doesn't get funding for the wall?

BARDELLA: Well, I think what we know about this president is he's likely to do anything. So you can never take anything off the table.

But Steve is really talking to an audience of one. It's not that he thinks Trump is going to do something; it's that he believes -- he's trying to give advice to Donald Trump and he's using CNN and Fareed to do this kind of rehabilitation tour he knows that Trump loves/hates to watch CNN especially in prime time.

And so he is communicating with Trump for his favorite meeting and trying to get back in his good graces. And really trying to set up the stage where if things are bad come the end of September, if it looks like Republicans are going to get wiped out in the midterms well, here is Steve Bannon positioning himself as a savior with a big idea that could change the game.

BROWN: So you're sya8ing he's trying to communicate (INAUDIBLE) to the President, through the air waves, through CNN. Does he still talk to the President, do you know?

BARDELLA: I don't think he does.

BROWN: Ok. Ok.

BARDELLA: I mean -- and I think that -- and if he did, I think you would hear a lot more about that. Steve has been in basically permanent political exile since January. He was in Italy when he did the interview --

BROWN: The "Fire and Fury" book.

BARDELLA: And when he lost his position with Breitbart, when he lost his benefactor, the billionaire Mercers that funded all of his ventures -- he has been traveling abroad because he is persona non grata here in America and Donald Trump has made that very clear in this tweet, and disparaging remarks about Bannon.

So now Steve, you know, halfway through the year, trying to make a bit of a comeback and he's going to use the media to try to make that happen.

BROWN: So let's go back to what he said. You know, shutting down the government for not getting funding for wall, that may play well to Donald Trump's base. But how would that play for the GOP who is trying to, you know, get re-elected in some of these tough states?

BARDELLA: You know, the reality Democrats are trying to nationalize this election, make the midterms a referendum against Donald Trump. The last thing that Republicans want is Donald Trump this close to the election at the end of September when this would theoretically happened do something so massive that it would make the election all about him.

Republicans are trying to run away from Trump. They're not inviting him to campaign for them in their districts. The worst news that a campaign could get right now is Donald Trump calling saying hey, I want to come campaign for you in your district. That would be a disaster for them.

So I don't think that the Republicans, Mitch McConnell -- they don't want to see a shutdown.

BROWN: And I want to go to what else Steve Bannon said. He also tried to make the case that the President is not an isolationist. Here is what he said.


BANNON: Donald Trump has looked at this in a very practical businessman saying you can't bifurcate these; these are inextricably linked. Both are trade relationships, international security. And that engagement -- so, people, the first thing the opposition party media says about him, he's an isolationist. He wants America just to go alone. It's the exact opposite.

If you look at everywhere it's engagement, including in Iran. Remember in Iran it's the front line nations of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel, and Jordan and Bahrain that are the ones of the biggest cheerleaders for what he's done. So if you look around the world it's the exact opposite as he has been portrayed.


[11:25:06] BROWN: Is that true? I mean, you look at the U.S. pulling out of trade deals, the Paris Accord.

BARDELLA: Paris Climate agreement.

BROWN: Exactly. Tariff that he's been imposing -- I mean is that true?

BARDELLA: I mean I think you look what he just did this week with the tariffs with Mexico and Canada.

BROWN: Exactly. Canada and the E.U.

BARDELLA: Our neighbors, our allies, our friends, people where we actually run a trade surplus with and he's penalizing them. I don't know how you can look at that and not determine that he's not an isolationist.

BROWN: Right. It just -- it makes you scratch your head.

BARDELLA: That's what Steve does. He puts out kind of this bizarre propaganda. But again it's message for Donald Trump, not anybody else. He is hoping that Trump watches this interview, sees it and goes, yes, Steve's right. I'm not an isolationist. The opposition media -- notice how he used that term in that sound bite -- opposition media. He's speaking in coded language to Donald Trump.

BROWN: All right. Kurt Bardella -- thank you so much for that perspective. Appreciate it.

And you can catch Fareed's interview with Steve Bannon tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

Well, the President and his pardons. President Trump now floating the idea of pardoning Martha Stewart and commuting the sentence of convicted politician Rod Blagojevich. So why now? and Is the President trying to send a message to his former allies caught up in the Russia probe?



PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the president, the governor and the businesswoman. President Trump now looking at possible pardons for a few of his former "Celebrity Apprentice" contestants. Trump is floating a pardon for Martha Stewart and commuting the sentence for former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich.

Stewart spent five months in prison for lying and obstructing justice in connection with a 2001 stock deal. Blagojevich was caught on tape attempting to sell the Senate seat vacated by President Obama in 2008. He is currently in year six of a 14-year sentence.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst and former special assistant to Robert Mueller at the Department of Justice, Michael Zeldin. So, the big question here, Michael, is why? What is the strategy? Why float these pardons now? What do you make of it?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, I don't think there's a strategy. I think that the president recognizes that he has the power of pardon and that when someone whispers in his ear, whether it's Vicky Tunsing about Scooter Libby or Ted Cruz about Sousa and he feels a compelling need to act, he acts.

I don't think it's strategic in a sense that it has been talked about, which is him sending a message to others involved in the Russia investigation. I just don't -- I don't want to say it this way, but I don't credit him with long-term strategic thinking as it relates to his use of the pardon power. I think it's give me a case. If I like it, like with the boxer, then I'll do it.

BROWN: It is interesting. I spoke to a White House official about this, who said look, a lot of us didn't even know that Comey had a hand in the prosecution of Martha Stewart and so forth, and that SDNY was involved in Dinesh's prosecution of a conservative commentator whom he pardoned.

It does take way from the speculation that he was trying to send a larger message. It also came on the day where the White House announced tariffs on key allies, Canada, E.U., Mexico. What do you think in terms of him mentioning this to be a distraction? Do you not even give him credit for that?



ZELDIN: I honestly don't. Take Martha Stewart's case. Jim Comey was the United States attorney, but Karen Seymour tried the case. She was a regular line AUSA. So, this was a decision made down the line by seasoned prosecutors to determine whether or not Martha Stewart lied to them in the course of their investigation.

This wasn't, you know, Comey orchestrating this against some Trump ally at the time. I think when you issue a pardon or prospective pardon and you say, well, you know, this person has this connection to Comey, who has this connection to Fitzgerald, who has this connection -- you know I just think it's too attenuating to take seriously.

That said, were I advising the president, I would say because of this narrative, the potential of this narrative, don't do it this way. Follow the OJ policy. Do it according to the book.

BROWN: What would DOJ policy be for those of us who don't know?

ZELDIN: Well, there's a pardon attorney, people who represent those like Scooter Libby. You file a petition with the pardon office. You explain what the exigencies are of your client's case. They review it and make a recommendation to the president, who generally follows it.

BROWN: He has yet to do that if I'm not mistaken.

ZELDIN: He has yet to do that. Now Bill Clinton bypassed that process about 40 times so that's the prerogative of the president. But in the midst of a Russia investigation where we're talking whether or not this an effort to send a signal or obstructionist behavior 103? I think the sage counsel to him would be don't do it this way.

BROWN: Hold off? ZELDIN: In this case, do it by the book.

BROWN: Let listen to what former Attorney General Eric Holder had to say when the issue of pardons came up when he was speaking in New Hampshire.


ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm a little concerned about what's going on now where I think the president is trying to send a message to some people who potentially might be involved in the Russia investigation.

You know, Dinesh D'Souza. People who deserve a pardon, I think about what contrition has he shown?

[11:35:10] And you know, Arpaio, another one who if you use all the typical methods, very few of these people would be considered candidates for pardons.


BROWN: But what's interesting here is that if you look at the people, particularly the ones that he's floating to pardon, they've already paid sort of a hefty fine in many ways or paid the consequences, right?

ZELDIN: Well, that's right.

BROWN: What do you make of that?

ZELDIN: Blagojevich is in prison, served six of 14 years. Martha Stewart went to jail for 5-1/2 months. So, it's not as if these people have gotten off scot-free. You know, they suffered a hefty penalty for this.

Of all these people that he is considering pardoning, Martha Stewart probably makes the most sense from the standpoint of what Eric Holder was talking about, contrition and recognition of wrongdoing, having served her time, et cetera.

The other ones I'm not as sure. And Eric and I -- I think, are making the same point. You go through the pardon attorney and get their recommendation and let it go. That said, of course, Eric, I think, was in the Department of Justice when Bill Clinton pardoned Mark Rich.

BROWN: We all remember that.

ZELDIN: I think Eric was there at that time and so, these things happen. Presidents exercise their constitutional prerogatives and pardon who they want to pardon.

BROWN: They do not have to go through DOJ.

ZELDIN: They do not have to go through DOJ.

BROWN: All right. Michael Zeldin, thank you so much.

And still ahead, MSNBC host, Joy Reid, apologizing again for recently uncovered blog post she made years ago. The latest included a PhotoShopped image depicting Senator John McCain as the Virginia Tech shooter. We'll be back.



BROWN: MSNBC anchor, Joy Reid, is apologizing again for blog posts she wrote years ago. Newly uncovered include a disturbing PhotoShopped image of John McCain's head on the body of the Virginia Tech shooter and other conspiracy theories.

Reid released a statement saying in part, "There are things I deeply regret, am embarrassed by, things I would have said differently and issues where my position has changed. Today, I'm sincerely apologizing again."

Well, some of Reid's previous writings included anti-gay remarks. CNN's Randi Kaye has more on the latest controversy.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look closely, that's Arizona Senator John McCain's head PhotoShopped on the body of the Virginia Tech shooter, who killed 32 people back in 2007. The offensive blog post was first discovered this week by "Buzzfeed" on a now defunct blog called "The Reid Report."

The blog once belonged to MSNBC host, Joy Reid. This post was titled "Baghdad John strikes again" and published in October 2007. That discovery just one day after "Buzzfeed" found another disturbing post from 2006, in which Reid urged readers to watch loose change 9/11, which was produced in part by conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones of Info Wars Fame.

The film series promotes the widely debunked theory that the September 11th terrorist attacks were planned and carried out by the United States government. The blogger, who could be Reid herself, asks the fundamental question is, do you believe the official story of 9/11?

Long before this week, Reid was already under pressure for homophobic blog posts more than a decade old, one post suggests Anderson Cooper is the gayest thing on tv, writing that most straight people cringe at the site of two gay men kissing.

A Twitter user first discovered many of the anti-gay posts including one that calls homosexual sex gross.

(on camera): Reid's original explanation? Hackers. She hired a cyber security expert to investigate and her attorney said the FBI had opened a probe. In a statement he suggested the alleged hackers may have found a password on the dark web to access Reid's account.

JOY REID, MSNBC HOST: Frankly, I couldn't imagine where they come from or whose voice that was.

KAYE (voice-over): In December, Reid issued a statement apologizing for the blog she wrote a decade ago and her choice of words and tone. That was all she said until late April, when she said she actually had no proof hackers being responsible, so she apologized again for the post, but still didn't take responsibility for writing the posts.

REID: I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me. But I can definitely understand, based on things that I have tweeted and have written in the past why some people don't believe me. I've not been exempt from being dumb or cruel or hurtful to the very people I want to advocate for. I own that. I get it. And for that, I am truly, truly sorry.

KAYE: In a statement, MSNBC called the posts hateful and hurtful, adding that Joy Reid has grown and evolved in the many years since. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


[11:45:09] BROWN: And joining me now to discuss is CNN media analyst, Bill Carter. Bill, thank you for coming on. So, Joy had nothing to say about this on her show this morning. She was there, but she did apologize in that release statement.

The network also responded, saying in part, "Joy has apologized publicly and privately and said she has grown and evolved in the many years since and we know this to be true. What is your take on that statement from the network?

Does that seem like they're moving on from this, that they look at this as something that happened in the past and she should be forgiven for?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well, that's clearly their intention. And I guess you could say their strategy. It's a troubling situation, Pamela. I mean, these are pretty outrageous statements.

And if I were the network, I sure would have wanted to know when I hired her or gave her a prominent job what she had in her past that we should be concerned about. I mean, I think she should have revealed this, that she had a blog that said some of these outrageous things way back, even if it was only -- ten years ago.

It wasn't way back when. Look, I believe in the power of redemption and people should be able to say that was something I regret. I mean, you know, Robert Burr, the senator, was in the KKK and later got 100 percent voting record from African-Americans and Christians know the story of St. Paul. I mean, everyone can have redemption.

And I believe Joy. I think she's a very talented anchor. But I think it's a troubling situation that keeps coming forward and certainly the aspect of hacking she hasn't really addressed, you know, it leaves me with a lot of questions about this and how MSNBC is handling it.

BROWN: Right. Because both statements from the network and hers do not address this claim she had in the past that look, you know, my blog was hacked into. This isn't really what I said. Now she's sort of taking ownership of what has been surfaced on her blog post saying I don't recognize this person, but I apologize. How does that square with what she said in the past, that it was a result of hackers?

CARTER: It doesn't square. And she's trying to now, I think, bury that. I think most people feel like that was a desperate explanation.

BROWN: How can you bury that? I mean, that was a lie.

CARTER: You can't. You have to acknowledge that, too. You have to say, look, I felt desperate and I sort of made that up. That really goes to her current credibility, which is why I don't the network is really compelling her to do that.

Look, NBC values her, that's clear they valued her. They made certain decisions about her that you can say why is this inconsistent with things they have done in the past? People have mentioned the Brian Williams case in which they suspended Brian.

But I think the more interesting case is Billy Bush. I mean, Billy Bush was involved in the famous "Access Hollywood" tape with Donald Trump, and he came forward and said that was awful and appalling and I'm not that person. And they fired him anyway --

BROWN: What do you think is more problematic potentially for her, is it the comments she made ten years ago or is it the credibility issue of saying, hey, it was hacked into and that may not be actually what happened?

CARTER: That is definitely the latter because as I've said, you can apologize and say I've changed my opinions, I've changed my position from ten years ago. No matter how ugly they are, and some of them are pretty ugly, attacking people for being gay, et cetera.

But I think now it's a credibility issue. She is a news person, on a news channel, and credibility is really important. I think she's very good on the air. She's a talented journalist, but this is going to dog her because she has not addressed it correctly.

BROWN: All right. Bill Carter, thank you so much.

CARTER: Thank you, Pamela.

BROWN: We'll be right back. Stay with us.



BROWN: We are getting dramatic new video this morning of Hawaii's Kilauea expanding volcano crater. More than 80 homes have been destroyed since the volcano began erupting four weeks ago.

Hawaii's Civil Defense has issued new evacuation orders for several neighborhoods of the big island as lava threatens to trap residents. It's not just people and property. As Miguel Marquez reports, Kilauea is also taking a toll on Hawaii's bottom line.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lava. Typically, in draw to Hawaii's big island, now fountaining 200 feet in backyards.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is insane.

MARQUEZ: Devastating homes, the land and the economy of those living close enough to hear it roar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're used to lava but not used to it coming out in our subdivisions.

MARQUEZ: Amadeo Markoff runs two businesses in Pahoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aren't those cool?

MARQUEZ: He also heads up the tourism board.

(on camera): How much is tourism down?


MARQUEZ: Eighty to 90? Over the last three weeks?

MARKOFF: Three weeks, yes, since the event began.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Pahoa sits just outside the exclusion zone. Leilani Estates and Lani Kuna Gardens where the lava so far shows no signs of slowing down.

MAYOR HARRY KIM, COUNTY OF HAWAII: For the people here, meaning Southeast Kilauea, Puna, it is very bad.

MARQUEZ: Sitting below the eruption's orange glow, Kaleo's, a popular restaurant, typically packed. Not these days.

JANELLE DELACRUZ, EMPLOYEE, KALEO'S BAR AND GRILL: We had to cut our staff, reduce hours. We even have to shut down every Tuesday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ship anywhere.

MARQUEZ: For people here, it's like being hit twice. The lava destroying their homes, tourists staying away, damaging their livelihood. The impact to the entire island, unclear.

[11:55:12] Arrivals by plane to the big island are up 25 percent, but future hotel bookings are down. Its national park, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, has been closed for weeks and Norwegian cruise line has decided to forgo weekly stops in Hilo at least for now. All of it costing millions.

KIM: I think a lot of people are not fully aware of the island. So far, it's covered 2,000 to 3,000 acres but this island is 4,000 square miles.

MARQUEZ: It really is a big island -- where life goes on, even in the shadow of Kilauea, as the community hopes the volcano goddess, Pele, takes a breather soon. Miguel Marquez, CNN, Pahoa, Hawaii.


BROWN: And there is much more ahead of the NEWSROOM after this short break. Stay with us.