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Trump Meets with Japanese Prime Minister; Trump Complains about G-7 Summit; Trump Strays in Hurricane Briefing; Sanders on White House Job; Justice Department Inspector General's Report. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired June 7, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:09] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. It's 1:00 p.m. Thanks so much for joining us.
Up first, we're following breaking news. We're only just five days away from President Trump's very high-profile summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. And a crucial ally in the region is now weighing in. The president is meeting right now with the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, at the White House. The prime minister says he wants to make sure he's on the same page with President Trump, his words. The two leaders will hold a joint news conference right at the top of the hour. We'll, of course, bring you that live.
You're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House right now. Just moments ago, the president said he expects the summit with the North Korean leader to be very fruitful.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this will not be just a photo op. This will be, at a minimum, we'll start with perhaps a good relationship, and that's something that's very important toward the ultimate making of a deal.
I'd love to say it could happen in one deal. Maybe it can. They have to denuke. If they don't denuclearize, that will not be acceptable. We cannot take sanctions off. The sanctions are extraordinarily powerful. We cannot -- and I could add a lot more, but I don't -- I've chosen not to do that at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Meanwhile, the president is apparently not looking forward to that other summit. We're talking about the G-7 meeting of the world's wealthiest nations. That begins tomorrow in Canada. And it comes as tensions escalate between the United States and several of those key allies over trade and tariffs, among other issues.
Let's go to our senior White House correspondent, Jeff Zeleny.
Jeff, first of all, give us a preview of the president's meeting with the Japanese prime minister that's ongoing right now standing by for this joint news conference.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the president is meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who's one of the allies -- the allied leaders that the president has met with multiple times. He has a very strong relationship with the Japanese prime minister. He's played golf with him several times. You can see their easy and warm friendship there.
There's no question here, though, the Japanese prime minister wanted to come to the U.S. to talk about that summit next week with Kim Jong- un. He also, you know, wanted to make clear that Japan has many interests in the region. But the president, after the photo op there, was asked how he is preparing for that summit in Singapore. Watch what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think I'm very well prepared. I don't think I have to prepare very much. It's about attitude. It's about willingness to get things done. But I think I've been preparing for this summit for a long time, as has the other side. I think they've been preparing for a long time also. So this isn't a question of preparation, it's a question of whether or not people want it to happen, and we'll know that very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZELENY: So, Wolf, that certainly is interesting.
Of course the president has been preparing for this behind the scenes. He has been learning some things about Kim Jong-un. But that is typical of his style, saying, you know, I'm essentially just letting the meeting unfold and his charisma and personality can take over any details, perhaps. But that is something that some of his advisers are wondering about, because, of course, he has a lot on his plate.
He's going to the G-7 in Canada. I mean he certainly is going to face the wrath of many of our, you know, longstanding allies here, even as the North Korea summit is looming with a foe. So certainly an interesting five days of diplomacy, no question. But the president playing it pretty calm there saying he does not have to prepare all that much. We'll see what his aides have to say about that, Wolf.
BLITZER: And he's obviously got a lot of work to do to try to repair the relationship with those key allies. He's going to be meeting with the leaders of not just Canada, but France and the U.K. and Germany at this summit in Quebec starting tomorrow.
ZELENY: No question. And, you know, all U.S. allies and all essentially to a country furious at the president over his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum and other matters here. So certainly he's trying to use that as a hard line stance in other negotiations on a NAFTA and other matters.
But he's largely at odds with his own Republican Party here as well. Red state Republicans very concerned about the escalating rhetoric and certainly what that is going to do for farm prices, to the price of automobiles, et cetera. So the president not eager to go to the G-7, we're told, because he doesn't want to be lectured to or confronted. But he is going to the G-7. He's leaving tomorrow. And then from there in Canada he'll be going to Singapore, where, of course, that North Korea summit is occupying most of his time.
Wolf, all this is happening as he has been tweeting up a storm this morning about the FBI, the Justice Department. So clearly a lot weighing on his head and we'll see him answer some questions later this hour at a news conference in the Rose Garden.
[13:05:00] BLITZER: Yes, you're absolutely right, even as he's focusing in on the G-7 summit in Canada, focusing in on the big Singapore summit with the North Korea leader. He can't help himself. He's tweeting a lot about the whole Russia investigation, the Mueller investigation. going after the team over there, the prosecutors.
Jeff Zeleny, we'll get back to you. That news conference coming up right at the top of the hour.
In the meantime, let's get some insight from our panel. We have our CNN global affairs analyst Tony Blinken, "Bloomberg News" White House reporter Shannon Pettypiece, and CNN's senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski.
And, you know, Michelle, the president says he's prepared. He doesn't really to do -- need to do a whole lot more preparation for this upcoming, very historic meeting, the first meeting in decades between an American president and the North Korean leader.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: I mean that's been a concern from the beginning, how ready is the U.S. team going into this. I mean we didn't see the usual course of having meetings starting at the bottom and then moving up at the top. All of a sudden we have this announcement that a meeting is going to happen, taking some off guard, taking the North Koreans off guard, taking some in the administration off guard. So you know that even within the administration there are questions that are not public as to how well is this going to turn out for U.S. interests? How significant is this going to be? You heard the president just say that it's not just going to be a photo op.
But we saw expectations seemingly downgraded by the administration itself over the course of 48 hours last week. So I think this is, you know, depending on who you talk to, this is something much different and it seems to keep changing.
CNN's Steven Collison (ph) has an interesting analysis that he posted on cnn.com. Let me read a couple sentences, Shannon, for you.
Kim will join a stable of autocrats, including Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping, who has earned Trump's gushing praise to the consternation of some of America's oldest friends. At times it seems American foreign policy has been turned upside down. What do you think?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "BLOOMBERG NEWS": Well, and I was at that sort of remarkable moment outside the Oval Office where the president and the North Korean delegation were there and came out all smiles shaking hands, posing for photos together. It was really a remarkable moment to see, this friendly, warm body language between the president and the North Koreans. So, I mean, it certainly is -- diplomacy is on its head.
And I'll just add a little bit on this preparation point, to the point Michelle was making.
From our reporting, we've been told that the president has been doing about eight to ten hours of preparation a week since this meeting was first announced. Pompeo has been leading that. He's been doing a lot of the briefings. Andy Kim (ph), who has led the CIA's operations in Korea for a while, has also been involved in those. How does that compare to other presidents. You know, it's hard to tell, because, to Michelle's point, usually you would have a lot of more diplomacy on the ground level going into this.
BLITZER: Well, let's ask Tony Blinken, who used to work for President Obama over at the National Security Council. You were deputy secretary of state. How does his statement about, you know, he's prepared, doesn't need a whole lot of preparation. He's going into the -- he knows what he wants. Compare, for example, with how President Obama would have prepared for an historic meeting like this.
TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Wolf, you know, I think we're all feeling, why did we spend all that time in all those meetings reading all of those briefing books? Apparently you don't have to do it.
But in all seriousness, look, typically, and Michelle's exactly right, this kind of meeting would be a culmination of months and months and months of preparation and pre-negotiations at a lower level. So they've kind of put the cart before the horse.
Look, I'm very glad President Trump is pursuing diplomacy. He's creating an opportunity and we've got to wish him success in doing that. But the devil really is in the details. This is an incredibly complicated undertaking. The North Koreans have perhaps 60 or more nuclear warheads, dozens of intercontinental ballistic missiles and ballistic missiles of one kind or another, and a program that has spread throughout the country. Getting a grip on that, figuring out what we're prepared to give, as well as what we're prepared to get, what the sequencing is, what the verification looks like, the monitoring, all of that, incredibly complicated stuff. And what we don't want is to get into a situation where Kim gets what he wants up front, which is a peace agreement with Korea and with the United States and gives nothing in return.
BLITZER: But that doesn't even include his conventional military. He's got a million man army. He's got thousands, if not tens of thousands, of artillery and mortar and missiles aimed at South Korea and Seoul, a city of, what 20 million or 30 million people.
BLINKEN: That's exactly right.
BLITZER: Only about 20 or 30 miles away.
Hold -- everybody hold on for a moment.
I want to bring in CNN political analyst Josh Dawsey, he's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post."
Josh, you've been doing some excellent reporting. First of all, tell our viewers what you've learned about the president's griping about this upcoming -- tomorrow is supposed to begin the G-7 summit in Canada.
JOSH DAWSEY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
BLITZER: The president, you've reported, he really -- if he had his way, he wouldn't even go.
DAWSEY: Well, he's not looking forward to it, Wolf. He has a whole number of allies who have diametrically different positions, particularly on trade with him. He also thinks these summits are, you know, not necessarily a good use of his time because a lot of the other leaders try to lecture him, share facts and info that he doesn't want to hear and try to get him to make deals that he doesn't want to make.
[13:10:10] And he's also griping a little about Trudeau and the recent retaliatory trade measures that China has made against the United States. So, the president is looking forward from, by all accounts, to being in Singapore next week. He keeps telling his friends and his allies about what a historic meeting this could be and how he could do things that other presidents haven't done.
But the G-7 summit in Canada is just not what he's looking forward to doing.
BLITZER: Yes, he's going to go -- by all accounts he's still going to go. You don't think at this last minute --
BLITZER: He could decide to send the vice president, Mike Pence? That has happened before.
BLITZER: There was a summit in South America that he passed on.
DAWSEY: I certainly think he's going to go. Aides told us yesterday when we were inquiring about some of his frustrations that he was definitely going. There was no way he was going to back out of this summit.
Now that said, we don't know that he's going until the plane takes off. So you've learned with this president not to predict too much in advance because anything can happen.
BLITZER: While I have you, Josh, you also have a separate story in "The Washington Post" today. Really amazing. You guys got the audio. Once the president and all of his cabinet, they were at a FEMA briefing yesterday at the start of the new hurricane season. Once the cameras left, you had access to the audio. How the rest of that meeting behind closed doors went. And it's pretty remarkable. Tell our viewers about that.
DAWSEY: It wasn't about hurricanes once the camera left. The president went through a whole siliques on his popularity, how he's helping the Republican Party, his negotiating prowess, particularly on airplanes and really lambasting the fact that the government can't negotiate quite as well as he can, saying that he's going to the land of the unknown in North Korea. Maybe he'll make a deal. Maybe he won't. Discussing poll numbers, the generic ballots for midterms.
The president was ensconced in a room with hurricane officials, his cabinet, top people in the administration ostensibly to talk about the hurricane season that just began. But once the president began talking, hurricanes was not on his mind. And as we've learned time and time again, Wolf, the president says what he's thinking in that moment often. And yesterday he was not seeming to think about hurricanes.
BLITZER: And, correct me if I'm wrong, he barely mentioned Puerto Rico, is that right?
DAWSEY: Right. He gave a two (INAUDIBLE) mention that -- and the fact he thanked Governor Rick Scott in Florida for helping in the Puerto Rico recovery, and in another point of the meeting he was ticking off storms and he mentioned Puerto Rico in a list of storms that the U.S. had dealt with the past year. But there was no analysis of Puerto Rico, no thanking -- you know, folks on the ground here, no commemoration for the victims. It was very minimal.
BLITZER: Josh Dawsey doing really strong reporting for his readers in "The Washington Post" and for all of us here at CNN as well.
Thank you, Josh, very much.
And, very quickly, Tony, when the president says -- and his commerce secretary, secretary of the treasury, they're going to impose new tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum into the United States from Canada and Mexico, and they have the authorization to do so for national security concerns. You used to work on the National Security Council.
BLINKEN: Yes, it's --
BLITZER: Explain their rationale.
BLINKEN: There isn't a rationale. It's an entirely bogus argument that somehow these imports are damaging our industries and are thus damaging our national security. These are our closest partners that have actually been with us, shoulder to shoulder, on the battlefield going back for decades. And he's heading now into this -- I can see why he doesn't want to go to the G-7. The G-7, it's been around for 45 years. It's always been U.S.-led. It's now turning into the G-6 versus one, the United States. We're totally isolated.
And it's not just a disagreement, Wolf, there's real anger on the part of our closest partners. The climate deal, pulling out of that. The Iran deal. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, and now these tariffs. And they're not retreating. They're retaliating. And this is going to damage us. It's going to damage them. It's a race to the bottom.
BLITZER: Yes. We're going to have a lot more on this if the -- look at the relationship the president has with these leaders who are -- he's going to see tomorrow, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron. Shinzo Abe is meeting with him today. Not good, these relationships right now.
Everybody, stick around. There's a lot more we're watching, including this, how the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, is waging a major battle for her own credibility. Our Kaitlan Collins will join us to explain.
Plus, former FBI Director James Comey now facing some very tough new criticism over his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.
And later, President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, speaking his mind and making some extraordinary headlines.
Stay with us.
[13:18:37] BLITZER: A crisis of credibility. The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has come under a lot of fire for answers to some tough questions defending the president's changing stories and chaos in the West Wing. But even as the questions swirl around her future, Sanders says she's very comfortable with her credibility.
Let's go to our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. She's working this part of the story for us.
Kaitlan, Sanders is certainly a major face of the Trump administration, which isn't very easy under normal circumstances.
How's she handling, from everything you've learned, the day to day pressures and the rumors about her possible future?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're learning a lot more about the pressure that she is under. That pressure to maintain her credibility while also maintaining -- while also staying loyal to President Trump here. The strategy she takes is often Trump first, accuracy second, as we've seen reflected in recent days with her refusal to acknowledge that her statement on who dictated that statement about Donald Trump Junior's meeting with Russian officials, compared with what the lawyers say. The lawyers say Trump dictated it in the fall, of course. Sarah Sanders said he did not. So that just is one example of how Sarah Sanders is under this pressure here to maintain her credibility, but also work for the president and say the answers that he wants her to say when she is out there at the -- during the press briefings.
[13:20:04] It's a very challenging job that critics would say she is willingly taking on a challenging role to be the face of an administration where the president is at the top, a president who often undermines his own spokespeople, and sometimes even himself here, Wolf. So we've really seen that.
It's really a deep dive as well into how Sarah Sanders learned to challenge President Trump and to persuade him on certain things where she thinks certain things are better than ideas he's suggested. A lot of that came from watching how Hope Hicks did it before she left the administration in March.
So, Sarah Sanders' here with this pressure about her credibility obviously raises the question of just how long she can last in an intense role like the one that she is in. Now, she's told friends and allies she wants to stay around for a year. She is nearing that one- year mark, or possibly longer, depending on what President Trump wants.
Certainly, Wolf, some people could see her leaving near the midterms if it does come to that because it is such a trying role. But really the bottom line of this is, the president is his own best spokesperson, he believes, so it's going to be a tough job for whoever is filling this position here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, there's been a big shake-up, as we know, over the past year in the West Wing of the White House among the communications team over there. And she certainly does have a very, very tough job.
Kaitlan Collins, doing excellent reporting for us, as usual. Thank you, Kaitlan.
Straight ahead, CNN has learned some new details from the highly anticipated report by a Justice Department watchdog about the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. And it spares no criticism of the former and fired FBI director, James Comey.
And later, Senate Republicans accuse the Obama administration of secretly working to allow Iran to take advantage of billions of dollars in the U.S. financial system. We'll have details. Stick around.
[13:25:48] BLITZER: Criticism for the former FBI director James Comey and new rules for future investigations. That's part of what is expected from the Department of Justice inspector general's investigation. CNN has learned some details from this highly, highly anticipated report.
Let's go to our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett. She's joining us, doing a lot of excellent reporting on this. Comey and the former attorney general, Loretta Lynch, they're both
being criticized. Take us -- walk us through, Laura, first of all, what you've learned about this report that's expected to be released in the coming days.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, sources tell us to expect a thorough and lengthy review of all of the crucial events leading up to the 2016 election. In particular, you can expect a frank assessment of a variety of steps taken by the former top officials at the FBI and the Justice Department. Now, former Director Comey has said on a variety of occasions that he welcomes this review.
He should be -- he says it should be aired out, in the open. And we expect that it will particularly focus in on his decision to come out without Justice Department authorization back in July of 2016 to announce that he had found that Hillary Clinton was extremely careless in her handling of classified information, but also recommending no charges. And we also expect that it will address his decision to come out just days before the 2016 election in November of 2016 and announce that he was essentially reopening the Clinton probe after they found some additional e-mails.
But we also expect the attorney -- inspector general, rather, will not pull any punches on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. You remember she came under scrutiny for that infamous tarmac meeting with President Bill Clinton in the midst of the Clinton investigation, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it's going to be a 500 page report. That's going to be very, very biting (ph).
Laura, thank you very much.
President Trump tweeting about that today. This is what he said. Quote, when will people start saying, thank you, Mr. President, for firing James Comey?
Joining us now from Los Angeles, CNN law enforcement analyst, former special assistant to former FBI Director James Comey, Josh Campbell is with us. Here with me in Washington, CNN legal analyst Laura Coates.
So, Laura, James Comey was always expected to be taken to task by this report. You used to work at the Justice Department. You were a federal prosecutor. This inspector general, Michael Horowitz, I think, he's really worked hard preparing this document and he has an enormous amount of credibility.
: He does and that's a good thing because it's a watchdog. The whole job of the IG is to ensure that there is credibility and that no one is trying to abuse their power or the system, which is in direct contradiction to the allegations made by the president of the United States about the Department of Justice. When you ask for investigations, here's the person who's doing it. So it should be lengthy, it should be comprehensive.
And having been there, I, too, was critical of James Comey. It should not shock anyone to think there was a usurpation of the authority of the prosecutors in charge of that case, of whether or not to charge Hillary Clinton, then candidate and the DNC nominee. It was an erroneous decision to make and one in which we've seen flushed out. Even now the -- the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, has talked about that issue.
What may not be anticipated is having Loretta Lynch also be taken to task in the same vein about this because it calls a lot on what James Comey potentially had to say about whether her ambivalence towards the Clinton investigation is what prompted him to do that usurpation of authority. And so you may have a chicken in the egg thing going on about how much blame the IG accesses between each of them, and that may be very impactful.
BLITZER: Josh, once again, you used to work as the special assistant to Comey. But the biggest criticism of his -- of him was that in July, when he released his report, he should not have released the recommendation on criminal charges against Hillary Clinton. That is not the FBI's role. They provide a lot of information. They do the investigation. But the prosecutors, whether a U.S. attorney or an assistant or a deputy attorney general, or the attorney general, himself or herself, they make those announcements, not the director of the FBI. And the other criticism he received is that only a few days before the election, he goes out and makes this additional charge against Hillary Clinton.
What's your reaction? Because Comey has come under enormous amount of criticism for those two decisions.
[13:30:05] JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: That's right. And one doesn't assume the job of FBI director, one of the most powerful positions in the United States government, without understanding that you're going to be held to account.