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Trump: June 12 Summit with Kim Jong-Un Back On; Russia Sending Top Diplomat to North Korea Ahead of Summit; Wilbur Ross to Lead U.S. Delegation to China for Trade Talks; Bannon: U.S. Not Trying to Go It Alone Around the World; Is Trump Risking Booming Economy with Tariffs on Canada, Mexico, the E.U. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired June 2, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:24] PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. Thanks so much for joining me on this Saturday. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Fredricka Whitfield.
Lots to cover on this Saturday. The North Korea/U.S. summit is officially on again, according to President Trump. This is just the latest turn in the whiplash diplomacy between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. And it is now crunch time with just 10 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. But these formal pleasantries don't erase a volatile path. Both countries with a lot on the line for this highly anticipated meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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. One thing I did do, 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 that. But we had hundreds. We have hundreds that are ready to go. But I said I'm not doing to put -- why would I do that when we're talking so nicely?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us from the White House.
Boris, the president spending this weekend at Camp David preparing for this summit, only 10 days away from now.
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Pam. And the White House not only softening the rhetoric, but sort of lowering expectations. Gone are the days when President Trump was referring to Kim Jong-Un as Little Rocket Man, talking about the size of the American nuclear arsenal, and threatening to use it. Now he doesn't even want to use the phrase "maximum pressure." Yesterday, he essentially said though the United States has lined up these hundreds of sanctions and are prepared to enact them against North Korea, he doesn't want to do that because of the friendly tone they've struck in conversation.
Further, the president is marking a shift in American policy. Gone are the days when the United States refused to sit down with North Korea unless the regime totally committed to denuclearization beforehand. You heard President Trump there essentially say there would likely be no grand bargain coming from this meeting, that this was going to be a get-to-know-you meeting, a first step in the long process of denuclearization.
You have the administration and even figures within the president's own family suggesting that any progress made is better than the status quo. That's essentially what Donald Trump Jr said this morning on a Sirius XM radio program. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)
DONALD TRUMP JR, SON OF PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The reality of the situation is my father does know how to negotiate. He understands how that works. The status quo has been going on in the U.S. for 60 years. That's our worse-case scenario. He maintains that he can walk away. They can actually do something great for their country. He has a lot of leverage. He knows that. He's not afraid to use that.
(END AUDIO FEED)
SANCHEZ: Of course, the fear from some foreign policy experts is it's actually on the North Koreans side, the leverage.
Note that just yesterday, Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, was talking about the potential for the United States to be snookered, if they were too eager to make a deal to avoid nuclear war.
We've seen North Korea essentially rip up previous deals, previous treaties. The fear is that the United States could wind up putting the North Koreans in a more powerful position and still not be able to avoid nuclear conflict -- Pamela?
BROWN: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks so much from the White House for us.
Let's talk more about this. These negotiations, as we all know, have been back and forth for weeks now. The summit finally moving forward it appears.
I want to bring in CNN's global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott.
You just heard him discuss Don Jr saying he's not afraid to use leverage on North Korea. How much leverage does the president actually have?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think he has the leverage of keeping the relationship going. Kim Jong-Un obviously wants some kind of rapport with the president. Doesn't want to hear about conflict, doesn't want to hear about fire and fury. And now he's been, I think, Kim Jong-Un has played this pretty well. Now he's not an outcast anymore. He's not a pariah. He's going to be sitting down with the leader of the free world. And I think, you know, they both have a little bit of leverage if they want to keep this going. The question is, what is really achievable. The president obviously concluded that that grand bargain that Boris spoke about was not possible. You heard just a couple of days ago senior State Department officials saying that for this summit to take place, that the U.S. was looking for something historic from the North Koreans, a historic commitment to denuclearization. Now it's more of a get-to-know-you. It's -- I think --
[13:05:14] BROWN: Moving the goal post.
LABOTT: Moving the goal post. I think more realistic expectations of what's possible. It's not that nothing is possible out of the summit, but I think the best they can hope for now is some kind of road map for how they want the relationship to progress and how they want some kind of negotiations to progress.
BROWN: It would still be historic obviously --
LABOTT: Yes, very much.
BROWN: -- if the two men meet, Kim Jong-Un and the president of the United States.
LABOTT: Yes. But I think it's in a more realistic place right now.
BROWN: Exactly. That's certainly what it seemed like there, listening to the president yesterday.
All of this comes amid Russia sending one of its top officials to meet with Kim Jong-Un ahead of the summit. What is the significance of that? What role does Russia play in all of this?
LABOTT: I think Russia plays a huge role. The Chinese and the Russians don't want to be left out of the party. They're meeting Kim Jong-Un. They're giving him that additional international legitimacy when he meets with President Trump. And also at the same time, they're talking about siding with the North Koreans on how any nuclear deal would progress. It doesn't have to be up front. You heard the Russian foreign minister talking about it should be some kind of action for action. Exactly what the North Koreans want. Exactly what the U.S. doesn't want. And now Kim Jong-Un's going to be meeting with President Putin. So he's going into these meetings not an international pariah but now seen on the world stage as someone who's appearing to be a statesman. We know, given Kim Jong-Un's history, he's anything but.
BROWN: You have Russia, you have China, you also have the concern of potential a trade war with China. LABOTT: That's right.
BROWN: The announcement just came out that the U.S. will be sending this official delegation to lead the trade talks this weekend in China. What can you tell us about that?
LABOTT: Well, Wilbur Ross is arriving tomorrow for talks with China. There was talking on whether both countries would slap tariffs on each other. The U.S. went ahead right before these talks, I think, to gain a little leverage and announce they're going to launch, you know, billions of dollars of tariffs on the -- on China. They want more access to Chinese markets on energy, on agricultural. And the Chinese have said that they'll do it, but now Ross wants to go there and get more specifics about how that's going to go. I think they've held back because they didn't want China to slap tariffs on them.
Also, you do have this North Korea situation where China could have been kind of useful player. Now I think they're trying to isolate China a little bit, not just through diplomacy in North Korea, but with this trade that kind of puts China a little bit on the outs. They could use that with their leverage with Kim Jong-Un. It's going to be very interesting to watch.
Thanks for breaking it down for us, Elise. I do appreciate it.
Now I will bring in my panel to dig a little deeper on this discussion. We have Amie Parnes, a CNN political analyst and senior political correspondent for "The Hill," Julian Zelizer, a CNN political analyst and historian at Princeton University, and David Andelman is the former Southeast Asia bureau chief at the "New York Times and a visiting scholar at Fordham Law School's Center of National Security.
Quite the lineup here.
Guys, thank you so much for joining us.
Amie, I want to start with you.
Is the president scrambling for political victory here? Do you think he wants this to happen too much, where he could lose leverage?
AMIE PARNES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I definitely think so. I think this is something he wanted all along. He wanted to kind of show he had the foreign policy chops to make something happen that hadn't happened for many years. And, you know, people were talking about maybe this would lead to a Nobel Peace Prize. So I think this was important to him. I think on the heels of Russia and everything else that's looming over his White House, he kind of wants a win in the foreign policy category. And so that's why I think he was eager to kind of make this happen and why he said in his letter a week ago, you know, I'm open to talking, I'm open to hearing from you, North Korea. And I think he was willing to do that all along. BROWN: Right, sort of like he was extending the olive branch, while
also saying he was canceling it. He said yesterday that, look, I didn't really cancel it, I only did it in response to the hos hostile letter from North Korea. It's clear he's happy this is back on.
But also it seems he's lowering expectations, right, David?
DAVID ANDELMAN, VISITING SCHOLAR, CENTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY, FORDHAM LAW SCHOOL AND FORMER SOUTHEAST ASIA BUREAU CHIEF, NEW YORK TIMES: Yes, absolutely. There's no question about that. And he does -- he loves this idea of being first. You have to look back to history. In October 2000, President Clinton became the first American president to welcome a senior North Korean official to the White House. It was the father of Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il. He sent his senior deputy to carry a letter proposing a series of measures back then that could have led to denuclearization.
Clinton, in turn, sent Madeleine Albright, secretary of state, to Pyongyang. It never happened. They just never seemed to think they wanted to give the North Korean leader the kind of pedestal standing next to an American president. Ironically, if October of 2000, that same month, the South Korean president won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to seal the rift between North and South Korea. So this is 18 years ago. This has never happened in all the administrations since then. It's really hard to see how this is going to happen effectively now without the fact of there being some kind of quid pro quo we may not want to live with.
[13:10:30] BROWN: I want to talk about the significant, Julian, of the president of the United States inviting in the second-most- powerful man in North Korea to the Oval Office, spending more than 90 minutes with him, sort of being there for the photo op where he's wishing him good-bye, smiling, shaking his hand. What is the significance of that? And do you believe that that really is sort of a win for North Korea that could be used as propaganda?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a very important moment. Clearly, the North Korean regime, one of the major goals is to gain international legitimacy. So to have a representative there meeting with the president for so long achieves one of those goals. And as you said, there's already other meetings that are going to take place. This is very much what the regime desires. That said, just because North Korea gained something doesn't mean that the United States can't gain something as well. This is the opening of a dialogue. In the first year, the key in many ways is just to keep the dialogue going, just to make sure it can be sustained rather than necessarily achieving the final agreement right off the bat.
BROWN: And let me just quickly ask you -- Amie, I want to bring you in, because we really haven't heard much from the White House in terms of concessions, what is it willing to give up. What do you think is realistic in that point?
PARNES: I think maybe the easing of sanctions from the White House. I think maybe that could be an option for them. You're hearing Trump already kind of talk about that. Why would we implement more sanctions when we're having this nice dialogue, as he put it? So I think maybe they would be willing to kind of give there. But I think ultimately what the U.S. wants is to get rid of and eliminate his nuclear weapons program, and that's the end goal here. I just don't see how -- what the processes of getting there. I know Trump wants to say this is the beginning and it's going to require many, many years, but I don't think North Korea will ultimately be willing to give that up at all. This is how they're taken seriously, and this is not something they're willing to discuss.
BROWN: David, I want to bring you in and go to this exclusive interview with CNN that was with former Trump strategist, Steve Bannon. He explained why he didn't think the U.S. was trying to go it alone around the world. Have a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE BANNON, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIST TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: What he's doing, whether it's in the Northwest Pacific with Japan or Korea, right, he's engaging his allies to say, look, this has to work for America overall. So, Korea, I'm going to renegotiate our trade deal. At the same time, we talked about the security lines. At the same time, we talk about the THAAD system. At the same time, we talk about you paying for the THAAD system. The same thing in Japan. And by the way, it's the foreign policy community that has bifurcated this. Donald Trump has looked at this as a very practical businessman, saying you can't bifurcate these. These are inextricably linked.
BANNON: Both our trade relationships and our national security and that engagement. So people -- the first thing the opposition party media says about him, he's an isolationist, he wants America to go it alone. It's the exact opposite.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So the White House just confirmed Wilbur Ross is heading a trade delegation to China. This goes along with what Steve Bannon just said, that trade and security are inextricably linked. This does this show, in your view, David, that Trump isn't being an isolationist?
ANDELMAN: I don't think that has anything to do with whether or not he's an isolationist. What it does have to do with is the fact that all these countries in this region have an enormous stake in this whole issue. Remember, for five years, back in the early 2000s, there were six-party talks in Beijing between the six countries concerned about this, China, Japan, North and South Korea, Russia and the United States. Russia and China all have borders with North Korea.
All of these countries have a stake in all this. They all dealt with this for five years and never managed to resolve a single thing. So there are a lot of intertwinings here. A lot of red lines, I must say as well, that aren't being -- that should not be crossed. But at the same time, it's not very clear at all that Trump understands how all of these things come together. In effect, it's like playing three- dimensional chess and most of the time he seems to be playing checkers.
BROWN: I just want to go to you and finish with you, Julian, on just sort of the big picture, taking a step back. Even though the president is sort of downplaying the expectations now, lowering expectations in terms of what will come out of the summit, what is the significance? What will the history books say about the summit between the president of the United States and a leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un?
[13:15:08] ZELIZER: Well, I don't know what the history books will say because it will really depend what comes out of it. I would say one summit is usually not sufficient to reach a deal of this importance. But it shouldn't be downplayed as a first step. So, ideally, this continues after the June meeting, if it takes place, happens. And if in the end, we have an agreement in the region, an agreement that can be sustained over time, I think it will be a historic moment in this tension. But the president goes in without a strong State Department staff, without great knowledge of diplomatic issues. And I think that is what many people are worried about. So we'll see what he can make out of this first meeting.
BROWN: All right, Amie Parnes, Julian Zelizer and David Andelman, thank you so much.
ANDELMAN: Thank you.
BROWN: Still ahead, the unemployment rate hits its lowest level in half a century. By nearly all accounts, the economy is booming and President Trump is getting the credit. But is the president risking it all by slapping tariffs on goods produced by U.S. allies, stoking fears of a trade war?
[13:20:38] BROWN: No matter how you slice it, the economy is booming. A new jobs report shows an unemployment rate in the U.S. at just 3.8 percent. That is the lowest in 18 years and also matches a 49-year low.
A "New York Times" headline reads, "We ran out of words to describe how good the job numbers are."
But it's not just unemployment. Wages are up as well. Hourly earnings have risen 2.7 percent in the last year.
Here to crunch the numbers, CNN senior economics analyst and former Trump economic adviser, Stephen Moore, and senior finance correspondent for "Business Insider," Linette Lopez.
Thank you both for coming on. We do appreciate it.
Stephen, no doubt about it, the numbers are really good. What's behind the growth?
STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, I think there's a Trump effect here. (CROSSTALK)
MOORE: I'm a little biased. I was one of his advisers on the economy.
But, you know, it's funny, I saw the president a few weeks ago in Mar- a-Lago and we chatted for a few minutes. I said, look, the economic performance, this tax cut is working better than we anticipated.
BROWN: You think it's the tax cut?
MOORE: I think it's the whole package. The fact we have a pro- business president, the deregulation, the pro-American energy policy. And the tax cut on top of that really has worked.
You mentioned on top of the really good economic jobs numbers, we also had the forecast for the second quarter GDP. It's now 4.7 percent, which is off the charts.
The other one that came in that was really strong was the revenues. The revenues for the government in April came in 12.5 percent above last year. So we're getting job growth, we're getting economic growth, we're even getting revenue growth for the government. Not much to complain about. In fact, When I talk to businessmen and women around the country, you know what their number one complaint is now? Finding workers to fill all these jobs. That's kind of a nice problem for a country to have.
BROWN: It certainly is.
Linette, I want to bring you in, because, certainly, it all looks great on paper but is the average American seeing the benefits?
LINETTE LOPEZ, SENIOR FINANCE CORRESPONDENT, BUSINESS INSIDER: You know, we've noticed that this recovery is not only uneven. But, like Stephen said, you know, things are looking good. What we really have to understand is this is a continuation of 10 year of a wonderful economic rally since the financial crisis. The only thing this president can do now is ruin it.
When I talk to business leaders, they tell me they're afraid of a trade war. I'm old enough to remember a time when Stephen Moore might come on this program and say a trade war with our allies would be a problem, you know. I'm pretty old so that was a long time ago.
But, you know, he might also say that having American companies buy energy from failing coal and nuclear plants is a problem, too. And that's what the Trump administration is thinking about doing. These are anti-capitalists, anti-American, anti-free market policies that have gotten other countries like, say, Argentina in trouble in the past and we're heading down the exact same path.
BROWN: OK. So let's talk about this, because she makes the point about concerns over a trade war. Just days after the White House announced that it's imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum on some of our closest allies. You have Canada, the E.U., Mexico. Why make that move when the economy is doing so well?
MOORE: Good question. Good question.
I was actually over at the White House earlier this week meeting with a number of senior economic advisers. And I made exactly that point. You know, why would you do this now at a time when we've got -- everything's cranking up so well? I do agree that this is a risk to the economy. Tariffs are taxes. They will hurt American consumers. The Chamber of Commerce says this could cost America jobs rather than gain jobs. Now, look --
LOPEZ: We know very specifically what this will do. We know Harley- Davidson has put out a statement saying their sales in Europe are going to get crushed. That's 20 percent of their revenue. The Europeans are already talking about putting a tariff on that company specifically. A company that Trump held up during his campaign as this great American manufacturer. Which it is. And they're also concerned about the cost of their steel imports. They have to make bikes from something. It's not great when the price of that something goes up. More American companies use steel then make steel. So we're --
MOORE: A lot more.
LOPEZ: -- talking about this being an inflationary force in our economy. Bringing up prices at a time when, you know, the data looks good for jobs. But if you look at American credit cards, if you look at debt, if you look at -- you know, wages are just starting to tick up. We're really starting to feel this economy now after years and years of working hard. And, you know, this is a long time coming. This is not something that happened in the blink of a Trump eye. And so we need to consider all the ways that this administration is tipping the balance in the wrong direction.
[13:25:23] MOORE: And let me, let me --
BROWN: And you were just -- you had the perspective of just meeting with some of the economic advisers.
MOORE: Yes. First of all, this idea that this is a continuation of this rally that has continued for 10 years --
LOPEZ: I was just waiting for --
MOORE: Come on.
(CROSSTALK) MOORE: The economy was decelerating. The economy only grew 1.6 percent in Obama's last year. Most economists thought we were headed to a recession. And I'll never forget being on this set, on CNN, the day after the election and all these economists say Donald Trump was going to cause the second Great Depression. Now we have this economic boom and they say it's Obama.
Look, the reason that's not a credible claim -- I helped put the economic program together. We've reversed everything Obama did. We reversed the tax increases with tax cuts. We repealed his tax increases. It was a year ago we pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. All of these things have been positive for the economy.
But look, the trade thing is problematic. And, you know, when I went over there, I said, look, the problem in the world today is China. We have a legitimate beef with China right now. They are stealing a lot of our technology.
LOPEZ: You're right. We do have a legitimate beef with China. But the problem is --
MOORE: So let's focus on China.
MOORE: Let's focus on China.
LOPEZ: -- this administration has a completely wrong solution. Instead of banding together with our allies in order to --
MOORE: No. No, I agree.
LOPEZ: -- to play fairly on the global stage, we're taking our friendships, our relationships, and throwing them in the trash.
MOORE: I agree.
LOPEZ: It makes absolutely no sense. This is how economies fail.
MOORE: You're right.
LOPEZ: And we have no plan for the future.
MOORE: Now wait --
LOPEZ: -- and China has a 2525 plan and we have no plan. Everything you're talking about, tax cuts and policies that the Trump administration is thinking about is negative. And these tax cuts are not going to propel us into the next decade.
LOPEZ: I mean, it's a nice Band-Aid.
BROWN: Because to Stephen's point, you know, he brought up the whole continuing of the economy's heading into a positive direction. How much credit does President Trump get versus President Obama? I mean, it's been more than a year. The economy continues to go up and up and up. How much credit do you give President Trump for his policies leading to this economic --
LOPEZ: How much legislation has Trump actually passed? How much policy has he actually been able to see through, aside from the tax cut? Deregulation is something, but that's also -- that's mostly great for the energy industry. Now he's going to turn around and slap nat gas with coal and nuclear, basically subsidies is what he's giving them. Which, again, like I said, anti-American, anti-free market.
LOPEZ: The little good that Steve says he's doing, he's trying to reverse with bad policy.
BROWN: Really, quick, final word.
MOORE: Look, I think the main effect of Donald Trump has been we have elected a pro-business president. Donald Trump, whether you love him or hate him, he is pro-American business. And that change, it's almost an attitudinal change in Washington. That everything that we're doing now --
LOPEZ: Attitudinal changes do not add points to the GDP.
MOORE: They do.
LOPEZ: They do not.
MOORE: And top of that, look at what happened to the confidence levels of small businesses and companies. It happened the day after the election. Consumer confidence and business confidence went through the roof. And that's led to more investment. I mean, I'm very bullish on the economy. I think we're at the start of something really big now.
BROWN: All right. We shall see what will happen.
Stephen Moore, Linette Lopez, thank you so much.
MOORE: Thank you.
LOPEZ: Thanks. BROWN: President Trump is spending the weekend with his family at Camp David. But here's someone missing. His wife, Melania. The first lady has not been seen publicly in more than three weeks. How unusual is for someone from the first family to vanish from the public eye? We'll discuss.
[13:33:42] BROWN: So it's been 23 days since we've seen the first lady. Adding to the speculation surrounding that public absence, her decision to not accompany the president on a family trip to Camp David this weekend. The president was joined by three of his children and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. The White House says Melania Trump was treated for a benign kidney condition in May and has been recovering at the White House.
A few days ago, she tweeted, "I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am and what I'm doing. Rest assured, I'm here at the White House with my family, feeling great, and working hard on behalf of children and the American people."
Back with me to discuss this is CNN political analysts, Amie Parnes and Julian Zelizer.
Amie, did that tweet from the first lady put an end to the mystery or did it spark more speculation?
PARNES: No, it sparked a lot more speculation, because if she's feeling great, a lot of people are saying why don't you accompany your husband to Camp David.
PARNES: I think what the White House did, it's a messaging problem. If she's not feeling well, she -- they should just admit she's not feeling well. They should kind of put that out there and say as much. That would kind of put an end to it. But I think anyone would wonder, if this happened in the Obama administration and Michelle Obama had had some kind of surgery or procedure done, you know, why -- what was her status and why she wasn't doing that and what's what. I think that's what's going on here.
[13:35:09] BROWN: Just for perspective here, Julian, how unusual is this for a first lady to disappear like this from public view and skip a family weekend at Camp David?
ZELIZER: It's very unusual in the modern era for reasons unexplained like this. We'll have to take it on face value. But this is a moment in American history where we follow the first family, we know everything that's going on. The press is usually briefed if there's some kind of illness. And this time, there doesn't seem to be that kind of information. The convergence of the tweet and him going without her raises questions. Obviously, there's questions about him and her that --
BROWN: Right. ZELIZER: -- surround the entire history of the White House since it began.
BROWN: So the president recently assured the public that Melania was just fine. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How's Melania?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She's doing great. She's right there. She's doing great. She's looking at us right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So, Amie, does the president have an obligation to be more forthcoming on the first lady's whereabouts and her health or not?
PARNES: Definitely. I think, as the president, as her husband, he kind of has to come out there and say, you know, she's still not feeling so well, but she's doing better, or at the very least, tell senior aides to kind of telegraph as much. Because something is happening here.
Either the senior aides aren't in the loop on what's happening here and they're trying to, you know, cover it up and say that everything is well, or, you know, or something else is happening. And so I think that's what has to happen. Either the American public has to hear it from him directly or they have to -- he and his wife have to communicate that to their senior aides to put that out there and to kind of put an end to this.
BROWN: Because it's been, what, 23 days. The longer this goes on, the more the mystery grows, Julian. It could just go away if Melania made a public appearance, or is there a case to be made it's none of our business?
ZELIZER: There's a case to be made that it's none of our business, but I don't think many people agree. If you are the first family, you have a public role, and the public has a right to ask where the first family is. My guess is the president doesn't mind some of the intrigue. This is an ongoing story. He likes mystery. He likes stories like this. And they tend to keep everyone focused on this kind of question as opposed to other more difficult questions he might have. But the public and the press has every right to try to understand what's going on. That is to be expected of everyone in the president's family.
BROWN: All right, Julian Zelizer, Amie Parnes, thank you very much.
ZELIZER: Thank you.
PARNES: Thank you.
BROWN: Still ahead, on this Saturday, thousands of criminals cleared to be Uber drivers. What a CNN exclusive investigation discovered, up next.
[13:40:44] BROWN: A Colorado Uber driver is suspected of shooting one of his passengers to death. Authorities say there's probable cause the 29-year-old Michael Andre Hancock fired at least 10 shots at the passenger, who police found laying on the floor of Hancock's car. Uber says it is deeply troubled by the events. The company's policy prohibits both passengers and drivers from carrying firearms.
And this latest incident is fueling concerns about whether Uber is properly vetting its drivers. Now CNN uncovers troubling records revealing thousands of criminals cleared to be Uber drivers.
Here's CNN senior investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Colorado's Public Safety Commission (sic) heard about a man who was allegedly assaulted by an Uber driver, he demanded a list from Uber of all its drivers with disqualifying records.
DOUG DEAN, DIRECTOR, COLORADO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION: Frankly, we were shocked by what we found.
GRIFFIN: The list Doug Dean got from Uber included 12 Uber drivers convicted of felonies and others with DUIs or driving on suspended licenses.
(on camera): What does that tell you about the background process?
DEAN: It tells me the background process, as it is in law right now, doesn't work.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): According to Uber, the company's policy disqualifies drivers convicted of felonies, violent crimes and sexual offenses, as well as major driving violations. Yet, in case after case, convicted felons have been approved to drive anyway.
In Maryland, California and Massachusetts, government agencies did additional screening and found what add up to thousands of drivers with disqualifying criminal records, even sexual offenders, approved to work for Uber.
In Texas, approved Uber drivers included a murderer on parole and a convicted felon once accused, though not convicted, of seeking to smuggle rocket launchers in the Middle East. He is now sentenced to 25 years for sexually assaulting a passenger.
Uber sexual assault victims, like this woman, say Uber most improve how it screens drivers.
UNIDENTIFIED SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM: If they really want to put themselves out there as the safe ride home, they should really make sure that they are putting these people out there that are going to get you home safely.
GRIFFIN: Uber's response to the problems in its background checks is the company has made, "significant investments and improvements and will continue to work with state and local governments to get it right in the future."
To conduct its background checks, Uber and Lyft both use a company called Checker which uses a potential driver's name and Social Security number to search federal, state and local courts and other databases for disqualifying records. Regulators tell CNN that is not enough. And that government-run background checks that include fingerprinting potential drivers would go further in discovering histories of violence. But Uber says fingerprints don't offer a complete picture of arrests and convictions. And Uber has gone to great lengths to fight any government-run background checks.
MATT DAUS, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK CITY TAXI & LIMOUSINE COMMISSION: That's their game plan in every single city, every single state, we're going to get a law passed that's just for us. It's their own special law for Uber and Lyft.
GRIFFIN: A CNN investigation tallied more than 400 lobbyists across the country hired by Uber, mostly to fight stricter oversight. In many states, even writing the laws. CNN's investigation reviewed all 43 states that have laws or rules on driver background checks. And they are strikingly similar. All but Massachusetts leave background checks up to Uber. And in 31 states, the laws passed reflect Uber's recommended wording on driver screening, in some cases, almost word for word.
This e-mail from an Uber lobbyist to a Wyoming lawmaker shows just how influential Uber can be. The Uber lobbyist writes they have two major issues with a draft of the bill, including the criminal background check provision. The lobbyist tells the lawmaker, "Change it back to the model language." It was.
Three former Uber employees who worked on policy tell CNN Uber wants to control its screening process to get drivers on the road as soon as possible.
Georgia legislator, Alan Powell, says Uber's attitude is states have no business screening its drivers.
[13:45:03] STATE REP. ALAN POWELL, (R), GEORGIA: It's, oh, no, we're above the government, we run our own background checks.
GRIFFIN: In response to its lobbying efforts, Uber says, "Everybody lobbies and we're proud to work with elected officials to develop common-sense regulations for a new industry."
Drew Griffin, CNN, Denver.
BROWN: Still ahead --
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UNIDENTIFEID MALE: We're used to lava, but we're not used to it coming out in our subdivision.
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BROWN: Life on the big island in Hawaii is grinding to a halt as lava continues to slowly eat away the landscape and force residents from their homes.
We'll be back.
[13:50:34] BROWN: Hawaii officials are issuing a dire warning for residents in the volcano danger zone, evacuate or get arrested. Adding to the seriousness, emergency responders say they have no plans to rescue anyone who does not evacuate. This order comes as lava from the volcano continues to swallow up anything in its path. More than 80 homes have already been destroyed.
I want to bring in CNN's Scott McLean. He's on the big island in Hawaii.
What is the situation there now, Scott?
SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Pam. Well, Kilauea has been erupting now for more than four weeks, almost an entire month, and it took until yesterday for officials to finally tell people, you have to get out, we will not come rescue you if you remain inside this area. So beyond this checkpoint is about half a neighborhood that had to heed those warnings and get out. The reality is, there are these volcanic fissures. One is shooting lava some 200 feet into the air at times. And when you have that much lava, it's got to go somewhere. And officials are finding it more and more unpredictable to figure out exactly where it will go and when.
If it's not the lava that's a threat, we spoke to some people yesterday that said it might be the gas. Listen.
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JIM MCCORMICK, HAWAII RESIDENT: You live on a volcano, you have to expect this in your lifetime.
The fumes get so bad, I don't want to be in there even with a respirator. Your eyes are burning. Hair is getting in your eyes. It's miserable. It's hell on earth inside there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCLEAN: So, Pam, here's the other big threat that we're watching. There's a stream of lava that is heading directly to the coast. There are people who live along that coast sort of on the southeastern part of the big island here. And if that lava reaches there or even close to it, it will cut off a major highway in that area, which is really the last remaining escape route for these people. At last word, that lava was only about 150 yards away from that highway. Officials were telling people to get out yesterday by 2:00 in the afternoon local time. The lava has not crossed yet, but they are saying it should cross there imminently. So if people hadn't left already, they need to, otherwise they will literally be on an island of their own, stranded by lava in all directions -- Pam?
BROWN: That is frightening.
Scott McLean, thank you so much, live for us from Hawaii.
And witnesses are calling it an absolute miracle. The pilot of a small plane says she was experiencing engine trouble and was forced to land in a busy southern California neighborhood right in the middle of rush hour. Somehow she didn't hit anything or anyone and walked away without a scratch. She was doing practice work at the time and didn't have any passengers. Neighbors say she was calm and seemed unfazed as she waited for help to arrive. The FAA is investigating.
We'll be right back.
[13:57:56] BROWN: The epic romance between former President H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, lives on even after her passing. Bush 41 tweeted this message, "Enjoyed a great book and a wonderful walk down memory lane this morning, yet another reminder of just how lucky I have been in my life."
The tweet includes a photo of the 93-year-old Bush in his hospital bed holding the copy of "George and Barbara Bush: A Great American Love Story." The book, co-authored by his granddaughter, chronicles the Bushes' 77-year relationship. The former president, meanwhile, is expected to remain hospitalized for several more days after experiencing low blood pressure and fatigue.
And CNN's Kamau Bell goes back to college. Here's a preview of tomorrow night's "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA."
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W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": If you are like me, you went to college. If you're not like me, you actually graduated from college. When I think college, I think 8:00 a.m. classes, sleeping through 8:00 a.m. classes, and football. Most colleges, the exciting part about football is the game. But at some colleges, the exciting part is what happens at half-time.
BELL: On this episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," we're talking about historically black colleges and universities and why they were and why they still are relevant. And maybe I'll even learn how to do some of this.
(MUSIC) BELL: It's not going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Catch an all-new "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" tomorrow night at 10:00 right here on CNN.
Hello. Thanks so much for joining me on this Saturday. I'm Pamela Brown, in for Fredricka Whitfield.
The North Korea-U.S. summit appears to be officially back on. This is the latest turn in the whiplash between President Trump and Kim Jong- Un. And it is now crunch time with just 10 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. But the pleasantries don't erase the volatile past.