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Trump to Halt Joint Military Exercises with South Korea; Trump Returns to U.S. after North Korea Summit; Rosenstein Plans to Call on House to Investigate Its Own Staff; Interview with Rep. Eric Swalwell. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired June 13, 2018 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: -- a combined basis with South Korea. Regrettably it appears the South Koreans weren't consulted about that ahead of time. So a huge win for the North and a big win for the Chinese.
[07:00:18] ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And a lot to talk about with Secretary Pompeo today.
CLAPPER: I'm sure.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. Thanks so much, Director Clapper. Great to talk to you.
CLAPPER: Thanks for having me.
CAMEROTA: OK. We're following a lot of news. NEW DAY continues right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump fell for the Kim family playbook. They front in all of the rewards and delay on the concessions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're in a much better place. We're on the diplomatic path. That's the only real solution.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be stopping the war games. We'll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it's very provocative.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Our allies in the region were unaware of that, and I was unaware of it.
TRUMP: He's got a great personality. He's a, you know, funny guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's trying to be cordial. But I'm a Ronald Reagan guy. I'm a trust but verify.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Apparently, now we live in a world where Canada is our enemy and North Korea is wonderful and has wonderful leadership.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.
CAMEROTA: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. John Berman is on a plane on his way back from Asia right now. So Erica Hill joins me. Great to have you.
HILL: Great to be here.
CAMEROTA: All right. So President Trump is back in Washington after making history with his North Korean summit. The president this morning declared that North Korea is, quote, "no longer a nuclear threat," despite the fact that they still have nuclear weapons and the capability to use them.
HILL: America's top diplomat Mike Pompeo is now in South Korea, where he is sure to face questions about the president's concession to halt joint military exercises with South Korea.
And breaking news. A united bid between the United States, Mexico and Canada wins. The three countries will host the World Cup in 2026. And this will be the biggest World Cup ever: 48 teams, 80 games over the course of 34 days. This comes as the U.S., Mexico and Canada, of course, are embroiled in a trade rift over President Trump's tariffs.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House.
Joe, good morning.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica.
The president is back at the White House after that long 24-hour trip here to the United States. Upon landing, he was overheard indicating that it was a great trip, in his view. He also did some tweeting this morning before he arrived at the White House. Again, very optimistic: "The world is safer than the day I took office," the president tweeted.
Also tweeting that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. "No longer. Sleep well tonight," the president wrote on Twitter.
But there is a big question in Washington, D.C., this morning as to whether the United States gave up more than it got in this deal, if you will, with Jim Jong-un.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump returning to Washington amid criticism over the concessions he made to North Korea in exchange for a vague commitment to denuclearize.
TRUMP: We have some things that you don't even have in the report. We made a lot of progress, tremendous amount of progress.
JOHNS: The president defensing his, quote, "great relationship" with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, tweeting that the world has taken a big step back from potential nuclear catastrophe. But the president's announcement that he is suspending joint military
exercises between the United States and South Korea provoking alarm and confusion in Seoul and Washington.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I think sometimes the president has a tendency to stand up and say things that are ad hoc that haven't been vetted. And sometimes those things are walked back.
JOHNS: Senator Cory Gardner tweeting that Vice President Mike Pence later attempted to reassure Republicans that readiness training and exchanges will continue, although, quote, "war games" will not.
TRUMP: We'll be saving a tremendous amount of money. Plus, I think it's very provocative.
JOHNS: The lack of detail in the joint agreement signed by President Trump and Kim Jong-un also garnering criticism.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: This is the most anemic communique that has ever come out of a U.S.-North Korea engagement.
JOHNS: Critics noting that North Korea has agreed to complete denuclearization multiple times in the past and that the document contained none of the language the administration has previously demanded.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept.
JOHNS: Also raising eyebrows, the president's glowing praise for Kim Jong-un, despite his atrocious human rights record.
TRUMP: He's got a great personality. He's a, you know, funny guy. He's a very smart guy. He's a great negotiator. He loves his people, not that I'm surprised by that. But he loves his people.
JOHNS: The president's complimentary tone in stark contrast to his rhetoric just six months ago.
TRUMP: No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea.
[07:05:06] JOHNS: Mr. Trump insisting that his harsh rhetoric brought Kim Jong-un to the table.
TRUMP: Well, I think without the rhetoric, we wouldn't have been here. I really believe that.
JOHNS: CNN has learned that President Trump wooed Kim with this four- minute Hollywood-style movie trailer to pitch him on the idea of peace.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two men, two leaders, one destiny.
JOHNS: On the Hill, congressional Republicans offering measured praise in the wake of the summit.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: The president has gone down that road and should be given the chance to succeed. But I also think it's important for us to be cautious.
JOHNS: Nothing on the president's schedule this morning. He did tweet also about domestic politics, congratulating the winners in the Republican primaries in Virginia and South Carolina. Alisyn, back to you.
HILL: All right, Joe, we'll take it here. Thank you.
President Trump tweeting this morning that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat. So do defense officials agree? CNN's Barbara Starr is live at the Pentagon for us with more on that.
Barbara, good morning
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Erica.
Well, the U.S. military deals in two facts. They deal with the intentions of adversaries and the capabilities of adversaries.
And as we sand here this morning, North Korea, there is no question, still has the capability, with its missiles and warheads, to fire against the United States and against America's two closest allies in the Asia-Pacific. Perhaps South Korea and Japan. So North Korea no longer a threat, it's simply not accurate. They do retain the capability.
The question of intention of Kim Jong-un. Perhaps, Mr. Trump has a very firm view after a five-hour meeting. Not at all clear. The Pentagon is ready to sign up to that. This is now the big challenge for Defense Secretary James Mattis.
This comes one day after the world learned that Mr. Trump wants to cancel these exercises, these joint exercises in the field. The next one already scheduled for August.
Secretary Mattis, we're trying to figure out if he even knew that Mr. Trump was going to make this announcement. We are told that he was not surprised, that he was consulted about it. But we are not told that the defense secretary actually agreed with the decision to cancel these so-called war games.
So now this is what the big challenge is for Secretary Mattis working with allies in the region. What exactly is U.S. policy? What is the U.S. military presence in South Korea going to be? How far will they go in defending South Korea? The war games, the so-called war games are vital to that defense. It's all about being trained, ready, and quickly being able to flow U.S. forces into the peninsula if Kim Jong- un decides he wants to move ahead with his capabilities someday -- Alisyn, Erica.
CAMEROTA: OK, Barbara, thank you very much for all of that reporting from the Pentagon.
Joining us now to talk about it, we have CNN political analyst David Gregory and "New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristof.
So, Nick, OK, so now the heavy lifting is up to Mike Pompeo and Jim Mattis. If things go south, if things are not as President Trump sees them, can't they just turn the war games back on for August? Can't these -- can't President Trump change his mind and say, "OK, we're back on to joint military exercises"?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: Yes. They can turn their war games back on. What they can't take back the legitimacy that they gave Kim Jong-un, both in terms of having the Senate and also in terms of the lavish praise that was given to Kim Jong-un. I think it's also probably impossible to turn the maximum pressure of sanctions back on.
KRISTOF: Because essentially, we don't really have trade with North Korea that we control ourselves. What really matters is the trade with China and the opportunities for trade with South Korea. And it's pretty clear that both China and South Korea are headed for more economic integration with North Korea. So I don't think that we can, you know, restart that leverage.
HILL: When we look at, too, as we just heard from Barbara that Mattis was consulted, in her words, but she was told he didn't necessarily agree with the decision, David. How detrimental could that be domestically?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, what I'm concerned about most is the credibility of the presidency under Donald Trump. And his casual use of language that he'll just pop off and say, "Oh, well, he's a funny guy. He's a good leader. He wants all these great things." There's no reason to believe any of that. Only that historical evidence points to the fact that that's not true. The fact that he's saying there is no threat from the North Koreans.
I mean, on its face, that's not true. Anyone. You don't have to be an expert in this to know that that cannot be true, just based on a summit meeting. What is true and what I think that the president deserves credit for is engagement.
Now, it may be foolish. It may be that he gave away too much in the way of U.S. credibility, too much legitimacy to the North. But again, we were sitting here. Nick and I were sitting here months ago, you know, worried about a next step or miscalculation that could actually lead to war on the Korean Peninsula.
[07:10:15] So I think engagement is better than any of that, however long it lasts. You know, the Iran deal was predicated on the idea that at least it buys time to keep Iran away from a fully-developed nuclear arsenal.
So if there's engagement, if there is some kind of peace plan or peace discussions, I still think that's a good thing. But this -- the lack of credibility -- we know from this president, we know from people surrounding this president, he'll just change. I mean, he'll just say something tomorrow different from today. That's dangerous on the world stage. And I think that's something that people have to absorb, even as they applaud the move.
CAMEROTA: Nick, where are you on that, what David was just saying? This is, by definition, success because it's buying time?
KRISTOF: I think what really disappointed -- so surely we're clearly in a better place now than we were six months ago. David is absolutely right. It's much better to use the diplomatic toolbox than the military toolbox. President Trump has defused a crisis.
But I must say that I don't think it should get as much credit for defusing the crisis that he largely made himself. And in terms of what came out of Singapore, I think that he is exalting over the fact that North Korea has agreed to denuclearization.
But you know, I've been covering this since the 1980s. North Korea has repeatedly -- they haven't committed to anything new. They've been committing to this since the first 1992 agreement. And in contrast, we really did give up some important things. We gave them security guarantees. We gave them the summit. We gave them the cancellation of the military exercises.
And I was particularly maybe discomfited, because engagement implies some respect for the other side. It doesn't imply, saying that this dictator loves his people. That he's --
CAMEROTA: That he starves.
KRISTOF: Yes. We -- President Trump adopted North Korea's propaganda line about the exercise -- military exercises, calling them very provocative. He said his message to the North Korean people in a VOA interview was, "Yes, your leader really loves you. He's looking out for your interests."
And, you know, I was just thinking, those poor North Koreans who are listening by illegal shortwave radio to this, family members, maybe in labor camps, and hearing this from the American president? Boy, that must be demoralizing.
GREGORY: And Alisyn, you know, think about how hypocritical this is is you're going to criticize the Iran deal. Right? I mean, what was Obama criticized for? Not just the deal but turning his back on democratic -- a democratic movement within Iran. And yet here is President Trump talking this way about the North Korean dictator with his history of atrocities and repreparation and oppression.
But alongside of that is a reality that every country is different that we deal with, and you do have to think what is it that the North actually wants? What do the regional players actually want? And the truth is that it wasn't just Director Clapper was talking about how the narratives were stuck on both sides. There has been a action and reaction that has been playing out now since the '90s that hasn't been broken, that doesn't seem very effective.
Which is the North builds up its nuclear arsenal, tests provocatively. The West tries to sanction, does sanction, makes things worse in North Korea. But there doesn't seem to be any real breakthrough. And so that process has been stuck. And it's -- so, yes, I agree with Nick that, in part, the president escalated the rhetoric to push this along to then, you know, try to get credit for defusing it.
But at the same time, the North has made the kind of progress on its own arsenal that we've seen that did reach a point where they had much more capacity as this president was coming into office than others.
HILL: Also with us now, CNN chief White House press secretary Jim Acosta, who's just made his way back to the White House after that -- after circumnavigating the globe.
CAMEROTA: After time traveling.
HILL: Time traveling, exactly, as Alisyn pointed out.
You know, picking up on the discussion that we're just having here, Jim, is that as we look at all of this, we know you said the president was jubilant on board Air Force One on the way back. And understandably so. He was getting praise for getting to the table, but all of this criticism, as well.
In terms of what's in it for North Korea, the White House clearly making the push that this should be, at the end of the day, solely about the economics here. And that was what, in large part, that video was that they put together that the president showed him.
ACOSTA: That's right. And I think you heard from Nick Kristof there, talking about one of the problems with all of this, one of the dangers in all of this, that the president is essentially parroting some of what the North Koreans have been complaining about.
[07:15:03] The president tweeting just this morning that there's no longer a nuclear threat coming from North Korea. That is, you know, after one day of meeting with Kim Jong-un and signing a document that really doesn't commit the North Koreans of doing much of anything.
I mean, they don't at this point -- they say they will allow, I suppose, inspectors to come in there at some point. But they haven't agreed to what that process is going to be like.
And David was comparing this to the Iran nuclear deal. The Iran nuclear deal, if you go through it, is very technical and very specific in terms of how that inspections process take place and so on. And none of that really seems to be in black and white at this point with the North Korean deal with President Trump.
And so Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the region. He's working on some of those details. But at this point, all they really have is sort of a signed document. It was -- it was as if Kim Jong-un had signed onto buying one of President Trump's condos, sight unseen. I suppose you could argue it's the reverse. The world has signed onto something sight unseen.
And you know, it's just curious at this point how the president, how the White House, how they're throwing a parade for themselves without really producing any kind of tangible document that shows us exactly how all of this is going to play out. And my suspicion is, is that this is going to be a pretty long and arduous process for both sides.
CAMEROTA: Nick, it's also interesting to see how Congress is reacting to this, which seems to be befuddlement or at least bewilderment. I mean, I don't think that they know yet how to react to it. They're trying to get their arms around what this is and what it means.
Marco Rubio responded to you via Twitter. So he says, "Nick Kristof, I'm uncomfortable with suspending military exercises, and if this becomes permanent in exchange for nothing, you are 100 percent correct." So that was your premise. He's agreeing with you.
Then he says, "However, after Trump bent over backwards to be conciliatory, if Kim Jong-un does nothing, international sanctions will be easier to enforce and increase." A different take than you have.
KRISTOF: Yes, that's right. So I mean, I think he's wrong about the possibility of reviving the sanctions. He is right about the possibility of reviving exercises.
But I think what puzzled Congress and puzzles all of us is that it's not as if we don't know what North Korea might promise. Because they've repeatedly promised things. In 2005, they promised to rejoin the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. They -- you know, why wasn't that pledged?
They promised back back in 1994 to freeze plutonium, to have international inspectors go to their site in Yongbyon. They could have done that. They could have given a nuclear declaration. They could promise to halt all missile tests, long-range and medium.
CAMEROTA: But you're saying they're empty?
KRISTOF: None of that was in -- I mean, these are things that would have given some meat on the bones that would have involved some concessions. And sure, they may come later, but it's a little weird that there was no hint of that. And meanwhile, we were making concessions and they weren't.
GREGORY: Or just be cautious about it. I mean, that's what was striking to me, is that there was no level of caution.
Even if the president wanted to say, "Look, this was an opportunity for me to meet him face-to-face, to meet him, to take his measure. We have a long road ahead of us if we're going to make any kind of headway, given that we've been down this path before" but that peace was essential.
I thought something President Trump said that was very effective: if this somehow can -- can avoid the loss of millions of lives and kind of, you know, a confrontation, that was right on point. But then where's the caution?
What worries me about all of this, is that we have a president who's willing to say one thing today and another thing tomorrow. I mean, I covered President Bush, who stood there for his first summit meeting with Vladimir Putin and felt kind of cornered by a question from one of my colleagues about whether he trusted Putin. And he said he did. This was a big deal. Condoleezza Rice, who was the national security advisor at the time, was like this, shaking her head, saying, "You don't say that about the head of Russia." And we came to find out why you don't say that.
That was heavily scrutinized at the time and for years after. And here, the president says, "Well, yes, I'll trust him. But maybe I'll be wrong. And maybe I won't admit it, but maybe I'll just take a different course."
The problem is at this level, if all of a sudden, this all just goes away as a deal, then what's the next play? And then I worry that we -- that our president will just say, "Well, he can't be trusted and therefore, we're on a war footing now."
That's the kind of danger you're playing with. This is not a television show. And yet, there's so many elements within the White House where they just think, "Hey, this was great. We got a great event out of this. Let's move on to the next thing."
CAMEROTA: Hold on, Jim. Go ahead, Nick. You wanted to respond.
KRISTOF: Yes. I think also -- I agree with David. And I think there's also some risk of conflicting narratives. So our narrative, as we understand it, is that Trump's pressure and rhetoric forced North Korea to the table to give up their nuclear weapons.
North Korea's narrative is completely different. It's that their nuclear test, their missile tests, the greater leadership of Kim Jong- un forced the American president to go to Asia to meet their leader as a nuclear equal and then to give up then military exercises. And that -- that collision of narratives can well cause problems down the road.
[07:20:08] HILL: Right. That's what we heard from our report. That's exactly what's being played out. The concessions that the United States gave here, not at all what North Korea did.
Jim, real quickly, go ahead.
ACOSTA: Yes. I was just going to say, I mean, just being face-to- face with President Trump and Kim Jong-un throughout all of this, you know, it is difficult to imagine that they accomplished great deal during one day of talks.
But it was rather remarkable to be in the same room with Kim Jong-un and say that, you know what? Change is coming. That he is going to change. And if President Trump somehow stumbled into some kind of historic moment here where he does bring North Korea in from the cold, I think it will be, unquestionably, a big success for him. But at this point we're talking about a White House where not only did
they struggle with the details; they've struggled with reality. They've struggled dealing with reality. And so I think the question moving forward is that, are they willing to give away the store just to have this legacy item for President Trump? And that, I think, is the dangerous part.
Because as Nick and David were saying, the North Koreans, like the Russians, for decades they have just -- it's like a master's course in global deception. They've done this time and again. And the question is whether or not a White House that has trouble dealing with both details and reality can bring Kim Jong-un to the finish line.
It seemed, just looking at them yesterday or the day before, whatever day it was, that he certainly wants to do this. And he wants to -- his country is starving, and it seems that he wants to make change. The question is whether or not they can close the deal and whether the art of the deal people over here at the White House can make it happen.
CAMEROTA: First of all, the day you're referring to was tomorrow.
ACOSTA: Time travel.
CAMEROTA: Yes, right. But listen, on the president's -- in the president's defense, he would say he is not stumbling into this, that this was strategic and it's all by design. That remains to be seen.
ACOSTA: All right.
CAMEROTA: Gentlemen, thank you very much for all of the analysis.
Meanwhile, this story. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein plans to ask the White House to investigate its own committee staff. A member of the Intel Committee tells us how this battle on the Hill is spilling out into the public. We'll explain all of this next.
[07:26:16] CAMEROTA: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is planning to ask the House Intelligence Committee to investigate its own staff as his battle with the committee chairman, Devin Nunes, spills into public view.
Joining us now to explain all of this is Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell. He is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for being here. The House Intelligence Committee sounds like a mess.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes. Devin Nunes made it a mess when we needed unity back after James Comey told the country that the Russians interfered and that the Trump team was under investigation. He went to protect the president. We needed him to seek to protect our democracy.
CAMEROTA: So what's happening now? What's the beef with the staffers on your committee?
SWALWELL: Well, we're still learning what that exactly means. But what we see is that every week now, Devin Nunes is sending over a new subpoena request to try and reach into the evidence locker of the FBI to apparently give evidence to subjects in the investigation: the White House. And --
CAMEROTA: That's what you think his ulterior motive is?
SWALWELL: So I think he actually wants Rosenstein to say no. I don't think he's interested in even reading it. I think he wants Rosenstein to say no, because then if Rosenstein says no, then he can say, "Look, they're not cooperating. They should go. Mueller, you know, isn't a fair actor here."
CAMEROTA: But Rosenstein has been saying yes to his requests.
SWALWELL: I think he actually needs to start saying no. Because we don't let, you know, subjects or witnesses in investigations look at the evidence file before they come in and interview.
CAMEROTA: But then this crazy thing has been happening, which is even when Rosenstein says yes and allows them to see the stuff to try to debunk Spygate, as the president called it, and the Republicans on your committee and elsewhere say, "Yes, we didn't see anything that the FBI was doing wrong," the president still sticks with that narrative. And Devin Nunes.
SWALWELL: I don't know how many exploding cigars that Republicans on the committee are going to take from Devin Nunes. But whether it was the memo or the Carter Page issues he had, or now the recent allegations that the president's making about a spy in the campaign, they all have backfired. And there's an everybody but Nunes club now, in that they all are saying that what Nunes is alleging and what the president is alleging is just not true.
CAMEROTA: I'm just curious. Do you ever walk up to Devin Nunes and just tap him on the shoulder and say, "Hey, buddy, what's going on?"
SWALWELL: You know, we all had a great relationship with him. And yes, we have. I've seen Mr. Schiff try and approach him and say, "Let's just take this to the sidelines, talk as just normal people, not in front of cameras or anything, and sort out what your issues are and our issues are, because we need to do an investigation into what Russia did, because they're still going to do this again." And we get crickets. Just absolute crickets.
CAMEROTA: He doesn't respond when you try to talk to him?
SWALWELL: They don't want to do it, no. It's too bad. The best antidote for what Russia did and what they're going to do is unity. Hopefully, that takes place in the Senate. It looks like they're on track. But if we do nothing, we should expect the same, which is another attack this fall.
CAMEROTA: The I.G. investigation and report on a probe into Hillary Clinton and how the FBI handled that is due tomorrow. And we understand that Rod Rosenstein is expected to brief President Trump, I think, before the results become public. What are you expecting?
SWALWELL: Well, you know, James Comey did have an investigation going during the election. A lot of people are questioning whether he should have, you know, told Congress before the investigation reached its conclusion. I'm looking forward to hearing what they think about that.
But I also wish that this president would be just as interested in taking a briefing on what the Russians did. And he hasn't been. And it's really concerning to me to hear people come to Congress who lead our intelligence agencies and say that they have no directives from this president to counter what Russians are doing.
That makes us more at risk to an attack, not just from the Russians but also other actors who have similar capabilities. So -- but the Comey report, that's about the presidents. That's why he's interested.
CAMEROTA: But it's also about Comey. I mean, do you think that James Comey is going to be in trouble after tomorrow?
SWALWELL: You know, I expect it to be critical of him. I think, you know, none of us are perfect. But he has been consistent in what he did. And he has -- he has actually been willing to sit in a chair, answer questions, raise his right hand --