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President Trump Meets with North Korea Representative in Oval Office; President Trump Prepares at Camp David for Upcoming North Korea Summit; New Death Toll Figures from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico Published; Evacuations Underway in New Mexico Due to Wildfire. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 2, 2018 - 14:00   ET


[14:00:00] PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: 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.

One thing I did do, and it was very important, we had hundreds of new sanctions ready to go on. And he did not, the director did not ask, but I said I'm not going to put them on until such time as the talks break down. We have very significant sanctions on them, but we have hundreds that are ready to go. But I said I'm not going to -- why would I do that when we're talking so nicely?


BROWN: CNN's Boris Sanchez joins us live from the White House. President Trump spending this weekend with his family at Camp David, Boris, this as the White House is trying to pull off this historic summit in only ten days. Is the president preparing this weekend?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We understand that he is. The White House not only toning down the rhetoric, as you noted, Pam, but also lowering expectations. Gone are the days of President Trump referring to Kim Jong-un as little rocket man or talking about the size of the American nuclear arsenal, even though he did just a little over a week ago in that letter that called the meeting between the two countries inappropriate. Obviously the meeting now back on.

But at one point the president yesterday decided he would retire the phrase "maximum pressure," saying that though the United States was prepared to enact hundreds of sanctions against North Korea, because of the friendly tone the conversation had taken in recent days, he is opting not to.

Further, it wasn't long ago, as you know, Pam, that the United States refused to sit down with North Korea unless that regime committed to full, verifiable denuclearization. Now the president is sort of moving the goalposts, essentially saying that this meeting is going to be a get to know you meeting, a first step in the long process of denuclearization. The administration and some within the president's own family, like his son Donald Trump Jr., are essentially arguing that this is a process and that the president has the leverage in this scenario. Here's more from the president's son on a Sirius XM radio show this morning. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP JR., EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: The reality of the situation is my father does know negotiation. He understands how that works. The status quo that's been going on in the U.S. for 60 years, that's our worst-case scenario. He maintains that so he can walk away. They can actually do something great for their country, so he has a lot of leverage, he knows that, and he's not afraid to use that.


SANCHEZ: Of course, there are many even within the administration who are much more skeptical of the North Koreans. There is a certain fear that perhaps the president is too eager to make a deal to avoid nuclear war, even being voiced by some within his own party. Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that the United States may get snookered if they attempt to make a deal that ultimately makes the North Koreans more powerful and they wind up in a nuclear conflict anyway. Pam?

BROWN: And President Trump just tweeted, Boris, on China. What can you tell us?

SANCHEZ: That's right. The president citing a source that he often derides and mocks, "The New York Times" putting out an article today talking about comments made by Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the so-called Shangri La dialogue. This is a security conference taking place in Asia right now. And Mattis essentially called out the Chinese for their aggressive actions within the South China Sea. Here's a taste of what he said.


JAMES MATTIS, DEFENSE SECRETARY: China's militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface to air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island. Despite China's claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapon systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.


SANCHEZ: The president tweeting out "Very surprised that China would be doing this," a bit of a sarcastic tone from the president there. Of course the United States has known about China's actions in that part of the world for some time. We do have to point out the backdrop, though, not only the stake that

China has in these talks with North Korea but further the fact that there is an American delegation in China this weekend led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to discuss trade with a potential trade war looming between the two nations. Pamela?

BROWN: All right, Boris Sanchez, thanks for breaking it down for us there from the White House.

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


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That letter was a very nice letter. Oh, would you like to see what was in the letter. How much, how much?


[14:05:05] BROWN: So what was the message in that letter? CNN's international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson joins us live from Seoul. What can you tell us, Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I think the best thing for us we can get is from the president, he said himself just yesterday when he was asked if he'd read the letter while giving a big explanation about his thinking and about saying that the summit was back on again, admitted that he hadn't read it. He said that Kim Yong-chol, North Korea's former spy chief, was just going to drop by the White House to hand over this letter and then stay for two hours of talks.

So right now this oversized envelope that has all the look of a card, a birthday card perhaps from colleagues to a friend at work by the size of it, because perhaps so many people signed it. I mean, we just don't know what's in there. But it does seem on the face of it now to be have been essentially a golden ticket for the former spy chief to get into the Oval Office to talk to President Trump for two hours. So I think at the moment, absent of that letter being published, we really don't know what was in it. And what we've heard from President Trump can only lead us to believe there was nothing substantial on turning over nuclear weapons, verifiably, irreversibly, completely, nothing of that.

BROWN: And as far as we know, the summit is still on. So tell us more about this North Korean ex-spy chief that delivered the letter to Trump. He spent more than 90 minutes with him in the Oval Office, had a warm goodbye with the president. What can you tell us about him?

ROBERTSON: Well, he must be a charming man, wouldn't you think, to be somebody who's under sanctions in the United States. Sure. For somebody to be under sanctions in the United States who can get so much face time with the president and an exceptional walkout, handshakes, and farewell, really it's perhaps indicative of his capabilities. Look, he's widely regarded as a very successful, competent negotiator

for the North Korean regime. He's been at it since 1991 as their principle interlocutor with South Korea. He's a self-made man. He worked his way up through the system. He's a man who has been a former spy chief, is alleged to have been behind the 2014 hacking of Sony after that movie, "The Interview," and is reportedly, again, allegedly, to have been behind the sinking of a South Korean naval ship in 2010 which killed 46 South Korean sailors. So he's a man with a lot of form, but I would say not without his charms.

BROWN: All right, Nic Robertson, thank you very much from Seoul.

And up next, a new report says the death toll in Puerto Rico in the months after hurricane Maria may have been drastically underreported by at least 1,400. Details on that straight ahead. Stay with us.


[14:11:45] BROWN: An emotional scene in these live pictures coming from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Families and friends have placed more than 1,600 pairs of shoes. Organizers say each pair represents someone who died after hurricane Maria. This as we're learning new information from Puerto Rico's department of health. Its status shows at least 1,400 additional deaths in the months after hurricane Maria. The cause of each death is not specified.

Well, this updated figure comes just days after Harvard published a report estimating more than 4,600 deaths. All of which begs the question, were there dozens of thousands, or thousands of deaths, and why is the death toll still unknown? Joining me now from Puerto Rico is CNN correspondent Leyla Santiago. Leyla, you've had a chance to talk to some of these families. What are they telling you?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some of the words I've heard today, "shameful," "tragedy," one gentleman driving by said there are more, and they are talking about these shoes you see. There are more than 1,800 shoes. As I walked by, they have numbers, pictures, names, number 642, Oscar Mendez. They have letters you can see, or some sort of note. This one stood out to me. It says mother of six women. In honor of my mother, I will leave this last footstep here for you. And that is some sandals that have been left here.

Again, there are more than 1,800, a very powerful display in front of Puerto Rico's capital building. I have seen hugs, I have seen tears. All of this a long time in the making. The organizer, when I talked to her, said this is our cemetery. This is the funeral for the forgotten.

This comes at an important time. Harvard University released a study you were talking about in which they estimate there could be, and this is a conservative estimate according to the researcher, 4,600 deaths. The official death toll today still stands at 64, and so for Puerto Ricans, this is a way to demand answers. This is a way to demand a change in the protocol of counting these deaths.

I want to bring in Enrique Treche, I kind of pulled him to the side because I saw him as he was writing on these shoes. He is from Levittown. To put that in perspective, if you're not from here, this is an area that was flooded. I remember being there after Maria as homes, you could only see the rooftops, and all you could see was water. Enrique, first of all, thanks for taking the time because I know this really isn't easy for any of the Puerto Ricans here, but why do this? Why are you here putting these shoes down?

ENRIQUE TRECHE, HONORING LOVED ONE AT HURRICANE MARIA MEMORIAL: I think it's a way to honor the people who died during the hurricane, because there's no words to explain what happened here on my island. There's people who died with their husband on the house for four days. You can't even take out the body. There's people who put the bodies on their backyard, because they don't have any other help to bury their families, their loved ones. And after the hurricane passed, there's people who died because they didn't have electricity, or needed water or a pickup truck to move, and anything.

[14:15:06] So we are here honoring all dead bodies, all the people who can't talk, because we're going to talk for them. For us, this is an injustice they say that it's 64 people who died, and for us I think 64 was in Levittown only, but there's a lot of people who know from Puerto Rico that there's more victims than 64 people.

SANTIAGO: Enrique, thank you so much for your time and your thoughts. I know a lot of people that we have talked to echo those sentiments.

Here's why this is so important I think for the Puerto Ricans here. This is about not forgetting, about acknowledging those who died. And more so on the official capacity, if we don't know -- this is what one of the experts told me, if we don't know who died, when and how, there is no possible way of preventing those deaths in the future. An example that same expert gave me a while ago, Puerto Rico saw that they had quite a bit of carbon monoxide deaths in the interior part of the island. Those same experts then went out and told people not to have generators in the homes in a way to prevent those deaths.

So in the meantime, while people are preparing for the next hurricane season, they are also demanding changes in the death count.

BROWN: Understandably so. Leyla Santiago bringing us this very important story from Puerto Rico. Thank you so much, Leyla.

And much more ahead in Newsroom, but first, here's this week's turning points.


TA'U PAPU'A, OPERA SINGER: It's different than memorizing a football play.

I was five years old when we moved from Tonga to the U.S. I knew that the only way for me to make it to college was through football. I went to River State University, and that's where I played, and I got drafted. I was with the Cleveland Browns for a year, and then the franchise moved to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Ravens. My injury in the NFL that took me out of the sport was I broke the

arch of my foot. I had no idea what I was going to do. This small voice came in me, and I said move to New York and go and sing. I decided that I'm going to go into the restaurant business right across the street from the Met. I wanted to meet opera singers to study them. I worked at the restaurant for three years, and then moved on to Juilliard. I've sung in Italy, Germany, Denmark. The most satisfaction that I have is when I walk off that stage and I know that I have given my all.




[14:22:00] BROWN: Well, evacuations are under way in northern New Mexico as we speak. That is where a massive wildfire has scorched more than 27,000 acres and shows no signs of stopping. Still zero percent containment. Look at this video we have. Since igniting Thursday, the park fire has destroyed at least 14 outbuildings. Nearly 300 more structures remain in the fire's path. And a local boy scout camp has evacuated, though no scouts were there at the time. Mandatory evacuations are in place for the village of Cimarron in Colfax County.

Jim Smith has come face to face with the flames. He joins be now by phone. Jim, you were able to escape your home. Tell us what you saw, what this experience has been like.

JIM SMITH (via telephone): Well, it was not so much as an escape as the fact we noticed the fire on the hillside up above our home, and weren't too worried about it first. We thought it might be a trash fire. But my wife called me back about 10 minutes later and said you'd better get home.

And it's been so dry here that once the fire starts in our part of the country, it expands rapidly. By the time I got home, in about 15 minutes, it was covering probably four square blocks, and half an hour later, almost a square mile. And so when I arrived home, we put some things in the car and just did a voluntary evacuation. And the whole -- our small community just evacuated within about an hour and a half completely. And the fire had spread that time to about four square miles, and now covers 28 square miles as of the fire report today.

BROWN: Yes, it is certainly spreading rapidly. Do you know if it's damaged your home?

SMITH: No, we were very fortunate in Ute Park. There were about 30 structures within the limits of the fire as it went through the park, and none of them were damaged. And we kind of attribute that to the fact that we're all a fire watch community, and by that I mean over the last three or four years we've established 50-yard fire boundaries around each home so that if we do get a fire like we do have now, it can't get much closer than 50 yards around the boundaries of the houses. So that's a program that's pretty much spread throughout the west because of our dry conditions and our fires in the forests out here.

BROWN: And like you said, you sort of evacuated on your own. Have you been getting any information from first responders, very quickly?

SMITH: Yes, we had a fire meeting here in Eagle Nest, which is 13 miles above the fire, about an hour ago. And the response that we had from them is that -- excuse me, the area that is around our house, the area where the fire started, is available for people to return, but they are recommending that we don't because of the heavy volume of smoke in the area.

[14:25:11] BROWN: Yes. You probably don't want to return right now, that's for sure.

SMITH: Yes, we probably will wait another day or day and a half. We have a front that's due to come in tonight and is supposed to bring some rain with it. If that happens, of course, that will give us a good head start.

BROWN: For sure.

SMITH: But the smoke is heavy enough now that it's almost like a fog that you would encounter on the highway.

BROWN: Right. Well, hopefully that rain comes. Jim Smith, best of luck to you. Thanks for talking with us.

And thank you so much for joining us on this Saturday. I'm Pamela Brown in Washington. Newsroom continues at the top of the hour. Have a great day.