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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Republican Lawmakers Afraid of Trump?; Did Trump Give Away Too Much to Kim Jong-un?; Trump: I Felt Foolish With Tough Rhetoric On North Korea; Judge Rules In Favor Of AT&T/Time Warner Merger. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 12, 2018 - 16:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[16:30:01]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Which pointed to war games as a reason to build their nuclear arsenal.

We have correspondents around the world covering the reactions to Trump's announcements today.

Let's start with CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, who filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kim Jong-un has always wanted two things from the Pentagon, no more U.S. war games with South Korea, and removal of the 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula. Kim might be getting one of this wishes.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money.

STARR: And President Trump's signaling even more for Kim could be on the table, against the advice of many in the national security community.

TRUMP: I want to get our soldier out. I want to bring our soldiers back home.

STARR: The president taking words out of the North Korean playbook, calling his own military's exercises with South Korea provocative.

TRUMP: We're bombing empty mountains for practice. And I said I want to stop that. And I will stop that.

STARR: These are major military concessions even before Kim takes any verified steps to end this nuclear program.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: I think the president is trying to butter the guy up to make it easier to get a deal with him.

STARR: But there are security risks. GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (RET.), CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The whole

defense of South Korea is based upon our ability and the South and North Koreans' knowledge of our ability to flow forces to the peninsula quickly for the defense of South Korea. That is why we do the exercises.

STARR: The president even critical of spending money on Air Force bombers flying in from Guam on training runs.

The Pentagon will now review all air, naval and land exercises to see what exactly will be canceled. A U.S. defense official says the military also wants to know from the White House whether there are any conditions that North Korea would need to meet first.

The next exercise already scheduled for August. But the South Korean government, a close ally of the Pentagon, clearly was surprised, issuing a statement saying, "At this moment, we need to find out President Trump's accurate meaning and intention."

The Pentagon says Defense Secretary James Mattis was consulted and not surprised by the statement on ending exercises. Nobody is saying if he supported the decision before it was announced.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: So, how confusing is all of this at the end of the day?

Senator Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, said that Vice President Pence told members on Capitol Hill that some training will continue. The vice president's spokesperson said, no, it won't. We will have to see -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you.

President Trump's military move will directly impact one of the strongest U.S. allies in the region, South Korea, a country with the most at stake here, of course, with 25 million people within range of North Korean basic artillery. Forget the nukes.

South Korea responded to his announcement that they needed to figure out what President Trump meant by ending what he called war games.

Let's bring in CNN international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson in Seoul.

Nic, were South Koreans, was the government blindsided by this?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Certainly seems to be so at the moment, Jake.

That statement you just mentioned there came from the Defense Ministry, and it came within a couple of hours of President Trump making that announcement during the press conference.

What we have heard from the prime minister, Prime Minister Moon's office and his foreign minister's office here -- President Moon, of course, talking by phone to President Trump as President Trump was headed back to the United States on Air Force One -- that conversation, the readout we have been given, they both complimented each other.

The South Korean president, President Moon, said that this is a good foundation, the summit so far.

But, at the end of the statement it said that President Moon said it is important that the United States and South Korea cooperate more as the United States builds this new relationship with North Korea. And that is precisely the same language we heard the South Korean foreign minister using about his phone conversation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

TAPPER: And, Nic, these drills are obviously a big part of the U.S.- South Korea alliance.

How could ending them impact the relationship?

ROBERTSON: Yes, ready to fight tonight, that is the position of South Korea and U.S. forces here. This is the reason that they have these big military training exercises, so they know how to fight together, they know how to be prepared for any threat that could come at a moment's notice from North Korea.

What we're hearing here -- I was speaking earlier with a senior national security adviser to President Moon here who has been involved in many conversations between the South Koreans and North Korea in the past.

He said, look, it is not up to the president of the United States to unilaterally go ahead and suspend these -- this military cooperation. This is a joint agreement. And it is going to take both sides to do that.

[16:35:10]

So, I think his sense was that President Moon will push back against that as they try to get more information about the intent. But this is not a done deal at the moment, not from the South Korean view.

TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson in Seoul, South Korea, thank you so much.

A White House adviser finally saying sorry after insulting one of the U.S.' closest allies, although we know how apologies go over with President Trump.

Stick around for that story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: And a lot of them would vote for it if it came to vote. But, no, no, no, gosh, we -- might poke the bear is the language I

have been hearing in the hallways.

[16:40:03]

We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us, as United States senators, if we vote on the Corker amendment. So we're going to do everything we can to block it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: That is Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon accusing his party of being afraid of President Trump and blocking his proposal that would take back some control when it comes to Trump's ability, the president's ability to impose tariffs, which Corker thinks are not helpful to the economy.

I'm back with the panel.

Bobby, let me start with you.

Corker wants Congress to have more power to check the president's ability to impose these tariffs. He's not even going to be able to get a vote on it. You heard him talking about how Republicans there fear of poking the bear. Is he wrong or right?

BOBBY GHOSH, FOREIGN AFFAIRS ANALYST: It seems pretty self-evident that he's right. The Republicans seem afraid even to whisper a negative word anywhere in the sort of vicinity of this president.

And, in the process, they seem willing to go against their core belief, the things that have sustained this party for decades. And that is astonishing, not just to Americans and Republicans in this country, but the message it sends to the rest of the world, that this is an imperial president, that his own party doesn't dare question him.

The American system of checks and balances is something that is -- that we have boasted about for decades, quite rightly, and has been looked at from a distance by people who don't have those checks and balances in their own countries with great envy.

Now they are seeing that system collapse in front of their very eyes. And they are turning around and thinking, well, the American system is not that much better than ours.

TAPPER: Scott Jennings, let me ask you.

Corker said in his speech on the Senate floor that he would guess that 95 percent of the Senate Republicans would agree with the substance of his amendment to try to hem in, to try to stop these tariffs imposed on Canada and others.

Do you think that is right? Do you think there is that much support for the principle of free trade? SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the politics of

this are very murky inside of the Republican Party right now.

It may be that more senators than not would vote for it. But I think inside of the party at large, the president is remaking this issue in his own image. And his image of trade is we're being cheated and we have got to do something about it.

And so it is one thing to have Corker's view. And it's another thing to have to be responsive to the Republicans and the constituents back home. And some of these senators I think are still trying to sort it out.

The reality is, if Corker and Flake and some of these guys who have been upset with Trump really wanted to shut down the United States Senate, they would. They would have already done it. They would have done it last summer. They would have done it today. But they are not doing that.

So I think we're hearing a lot of complaining. And I understand that he's on his way out of the door, but, my gosh, one senator can basically upend the thing. We have seen Rand Paul do it time and again. So if he's that mad, go ahead and go for it. But I don't think he is going to go all the way.

TAPPER: Let's turn back to the North Korean deal.

Joan, I want you to listen to some sound from President Trump today in which he seems to be suggesting that some of the harsher rhetoric we have heard from him about Kim Jong-un last year was not how he really felt, but he felt like he needed to do it. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Other administrations, I don't want to get specific on that, but they had a policy of silence. If they said something very bad and very threatening and horrible, just don't answer. That is not the answer. That's not what you have to do.

So I think the rhetoric, I hated to do it. Sometimes, I felt foolish doing it. But we had no choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It is interesting. It seems to be saying that he found...

JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He felt foolish.

TAPPER: He felt foolish even saying things like -- I would guess fire and fury was the most stark example.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Rocket Man.

TAPPER: Rocket Man. My button is bigger than yours. WALSH: My button, yes.

TAPPER: But if the idea was he was saying that in order to get Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table, does he deserve any credit?

WALSH: I have already said I'm willing to give him some credit, Jake.

But, again, I'm not willing to suspend all of my faculties and consider this a done deal. And I'm also not willing to say that I have no regrets or recriminations about the fact that he used that kind of language to begin with.

These are our choices, appeasement or calling someone rocket man and threatening fire and fury? Really? Those are the only choices available to the American president? I don't think so.

TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted today -- quote -- "While very light on substance, Trump and Kim Jong-un's meeting is a positive step in de-escalating tensions and addressing the threat of nuclear -- of North Korea's nuclear weapons."

Democratic Senator Mark Warner tweeted: "Diplomacy is the most viable option for pursuing the dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program."

Bobby, is this an area where the president can get Democratic support, or, in Bernie Sanders' case, independent support?

GHOSH: If he could demonstrate that he's making progress, then yes.

It would take a little more, I suspect, than the outlines of the deal that he's coming back with. If there is actual movement on the ground that is more than just a photo-op, if -- if we start seeing the North Koreans dismantle their nuclear weapons, then then yes he not only would, he should get the support of all sane people around the planet. Here's the thing though.

[16:45:00] If we could go back for it for a moment to look at what happened the last time there was there -- was a president reached across this big divide which with Reagan and Gorbachev, we only began to trust Mikhail Gorbachev when he started to give his own people a break. We need to see that with North Korea. We need to see this man treat his own people better. That makes him trustworthy. As long as he's treating his people like he's running a gulag, he's not trustworthy.

TAPPER: All right, we have some breaking news right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

TAPPER: Breaking news, a judge has just ruled on the AT&T and Time Warner merger. Of course, we need to point out that CNN is a unit of Time Warner. CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is live for us at the Courthouse. Jessica, what can you tell us?

SCHNEIDER: Well, Jake, quite simply the judge in this case, the Federal District Court Judge has essentially approved this merger between AT&T and Time Warner, AT&T's acquisition of Time Warner. I just got out of the Courtroom, Judge Richard Leon for 30 minutes read his opinion and at the end of it he said that basically the government's three theories of harm, all three theories they were few -- they did not meet their burden of proof to show that there would be a substantial lessening of competition if in fact AT&T acquired Time Warner.

So again, this was a six-week trial. The Judge ruling today that this merger can in fact go forward. And beyond that I mean, this is really a complete and total win for AT&T. And what could happen at this point forward is that the government after losing in this case, they could ask for a stay of this opinion as they go for appeals. And what's important about that is that could effectively render this deal dead. You know, this deal would have to go through by June 21st. That's the merger deadline that has been set by both AT&T and Time Warner that at which point either party, either company could walk away.

So at the end of his ruling here, after the judge said that the government has failed to prove that the judge should deny this merger, the Judge went even further than that. And the judge said to the government and very stern words think before you go to the appeals process with this. Think before you move for a stay here. He said that AT&T had already suffered harm in this given that the government has been working to block this merger since this -- since the lawsuit in November and since the trial started in March. I just want to -- you know a bit of the language that the Judge gave here, again, it was quite stern toward the government. He said I hope the senior leadership of government will see how unlikely it will be to get a stay and how manifestly unfair it would be when deciding whether to seek this stay.

So the judge warning the government after the government has lost this case which the government argued for six weeks here at this federal courthouse saying to them think twice here before you move forward with any motion to stay, whether you move forward with any plans to appeal because again, Jake, this merger deadline is just days away on June 21st. If the deal doesn't go forward by then, either party could walk away from this. So that is why the judge had to get this ruling out today to allow that appeals -- time for appeal. So again, Jake, to reiterate the judge here in this case has effectively approved this merger to go forward pending any appeal or motion to stay by the government but again the judge warning the government think twice before you do this because the judge says I don't think you have a great case on appeal. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Jessica Schneider at the courthouse for us. I want to bring in CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey, on the face of it, it looks like a setback if not a big defeat for the Trump Justice Department. What's your take?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I would say it's a setback and a big defeat for the Trump Justice Department. I mean, this was a scathing and total rejection of the government's theory that this merger would violate antitrust law we have not yet had access to the 470 page opinion of Judge Leon but you know he went through each of the government's theories of why this merger would lessen competition and be bad for consumers. And in each case, he rejected the government's contention that this would be a bad merger for consumers.

And then as Jessica told you, a really unusual part of his opinion was him saying to the government look, don't even bother appealing because if you appeal, if you get a stay, you will kill the deal even if you lose -- that the Appeals Court ultimately sides with AT&T and Time Warner, that the procedural will take over for the substance. So he was saying look, admit you lost and let this deal go forward. You can sue later, he said to the government to break up the company but don't try to stop this merger at this late date. That was a very unusual thing that the judge did and it's basically a sign of how much he rejected the Trump Justice Department's arguments on -- in this case.

[16:50: 41] TAPPER: And Jeff, let me ask you. President Trump when he was just Candidate Trump during the 2016 Presidential Campaign, he expressed opposition to this deal. Now on its face, his opposition his political opposition seems rooted in the fact that he obviously does not like CNN and Time Warner is our parent company. The Justice Department Attorney arguing against this merger on antitrust grounds, how much if any of it had to do with President Trump's political arguments and stated animus toward CNN?

TOOBIN: You know -- you know, Jake, that is in many respects the most interesting part of the case and it never appeared in the courtroom. Judge Leon at the very beginning of the case said to both parties, I am NOT going to examine the political motivations of the Justice Department. I am not going to even let Time-Warner look at whether there were communications between Candidate Trump, President Trump and his Justice Department about this case. I am not going to allow that to be in the evidence presented at all. So that was not part of the case. The Judge decided this case solely on the grounds of antitrust law, not on the motivations of the Justice Department. Now, in light of this extremely comprehensive rejection of the government's theory, certainly many people will ask why did they bring this case at all because of Candidate Trump's outspoken opposition to it. But in terms of the evidence in the courtroom, Donald Trump -- President Trump's statements about the merger never played a part.

TAPPER: Fascinating. Stay there Jeffrey, I want to bring in CNN Senior Media Correspondent Brian Stelter. And Brian, what stands out to you about this decision by the -- by Judge Leon.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a ruling that will be heard throughout the business world. It's a shot that's going to cause a lot of other reactions. We're going to see Comcast in the coming days go ahead and challenge Disney for Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox assets. We're going to see other mergers and acquisitions now as a result all because there was essentially a holding pattern. All are waiting for this ruling. There were many companies watching on the sidelines wondering what the judge would do. And now that we have the answer and the answer is so clear you know, this is not a ruling with a lot of conditions as many expected. There are not a lot of strings attached. It sounds that there are no strings attached. It is a very clear and comprehensive ruling so it's a giant thumbs up

for the American business world. And that's way beyond just the media industry, it's an important moment for American business that there begin to give it a thumbs up to go and pursue some more of these deals. In terms of our channel and our parent company, we're going to see a AT&T move quickly to try to close this deal now. It's been more than 18 months since the deal was struck, since this attempt to do this acquisition was announced. It's been a very long road. There's an opportunity cost associated with this -- with this trial and with the long delay. And so now AT&T unless there's there -- unless there is a stay, unless there is an injunction, unless the government goes dead and tries to get that, then we'll see these two companies come together next week. So just six days from now CNN will be owned by a AT&T.

TAPPER: And let's go back to CNN's Jessica Schneider who's live at the Courthouse. And Jessica you have a statement from the lawyer, from the Justice Department, from the Trump Justice Department about the case. What does he have to say?

SCHNEIDER: Right, Jake, a swift reaction from the Department of Justice. Makan delRahim, he's the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division. He was in the courtroom today. He was in the courtroom throughout the six-week trial just now issuing a statement here. I'll read it for you. He says, "We are disappointed with the court's decision today. We continue to believe that the pay- T.V. market will be less competitive and less innovative as a result of the proposed merger between AT&T and Time Warner. We will closely review the court's opinion and consider next steps in light of our commitment to preserving competition for the benefit of American consumers." So the Department of Justice there Makan delRahim not saying whether or not the government might seek a stay, might go forward with an appeal.

Of course, that's something the judge warns sternly against and it's interesting that the Department of Justice in this statement still holding to their argument that this acquisition, this merger would be anti-competitive especially because the judge just spent 20 minutes in court knocking down each and every argument line by line, bit by bit. The judge in fact at one point in terms of one of their arguments put it this way. He said neither category of evidence was effective. It was too speculative in nature. It was contradicted by the government's own evidence. And at the end he said, this evidence had little to no value. But in this statement from the Department of Justice, Jake, the -- Makan delRahim, the Deputy -- the Antitrust Chief seeming to stick by the government's argument and not giving any indication whether they will take heed in the judges warning not to move forward in any appeal. Jake?

[16:55:45] TAPPER: All right, Jessica, thank you so much. Let me bring back a Jeffrey Toobin. And Jeffrey, obviously just to remind our viewers CNN has a vested interest in this major case because Time Warner is our parent company. Putting that aside for a second and putting aside whether or not this is the right decision by Judge Leon or not, is it consistent with the Trump Justice Department and its attitude towards business, in other words, does trying to stop this merger make sense because of the other principles and ideals that the Trump Administration argues for either and through the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department or elsewhere?

TOOBIN: You know, Jake, that is an incredibly important question. And that is why there has been so much suspicion about the motives behind the Justice Department's decision to try to stop this merger. Republicans in general, conservatives, in general, going back to the days of Robert Bork who was sort of the great genius of conservative view of antitrust law have taken a hands-off view towards mergers. They have basically had a Laissez-faire approach. The government should stay out of the business of regulating, of stopping mergers. What makes people -- what made people so suspicious of the government's motives, in this case, was that here you have a Republican Justice Department trying to challenge a merger.

Even more unusual was the fact what this is known as what's called a vertical merger where AT&T and Time Warner are not competitors they are -- Time Warner is a supplier of content to AT&T. Vertical mergers like that are almost never threatened -- are never challenged by any Justice Department Democrat or Republican. The horizontal mergers when competitors merge that tends to be when the government gets involved. So the fact that this was a Republican administration challenging a vertical merger suggested perhaps that some other motives were in play other than simply a neutral application of antitrust law.

TAPPER: I want to bring in Timothy Wu right now. He's a Professor at Columbia Law School. Timothy, what's your take on the rule?

TIMOTHY WU, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL: Yes, I mean, I haven't read it like everyone else but my suspicion is that it may go so far that the Justice Department will want it -- wanted appeal this. You know, they -- a lot of people in Antitrust Law have been wanting to bring back scrutiny of vertical mergers, the idea that the government loses this case totally seems seem strong they did they didn't present a lot of evidence. So I wouldn't be surprised if Justice does seek the appeal as -- even despite the District Court Judge telling them not to.

TAPPER: And what would be the effect of that? Would that have the effect of freezing the merger, ending the merger just the active of appealing?

WU: It totally depends on what the Appellate Court does. They may not think it's enough an emergency to stay the merger. They may stay the merger. Even the merger stayed, it doesn't necessarily mean the merger has to be abandoned. But I think it's possible that because the government thinks these principles are important enough that they really want to appeal this.

TAPPER: Do you think that judge made the wrong decision today?

WU: Well, I haven't read the decision and I didn't see as much evidence he does. It sounds like he's gone pretty far. It sounds like you stuck to sort of the 1980s more Robert Moore kind of Bork line on Chicago line on Antitrust. You know, we never do anything and I think the law has evolved since then and economic research has evolved. So this decision may be vulnerable to appeal for those reasons.

TAPPER: We only have about 30 seconds left but as quickly as you can, I recognize you'd probably speak for six hours on it. Why would such a merger be a bad idea?

WU: Yes, it's just basically the idea that vertical mergers also cost consumers money, also interfere with competition, and you know this ruling, again, I haven't read it but it sounds like the old 1980s Reagan style, nothing vertical is ever suspect. This was a very big vertical merger and if he's gone too far, the opinion -- the opinion may be very susceptible to an appeal.

TAPPER: All right, Professor, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it. That's it for THE LEAD today. I turn you over to Wolf Blitzer, he is in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Thanks for watching.