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Republican Congressmen Weigh In on President Trump's Summit with Kim Jong-un; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Visits South Korea to Explain Why President Trump is Ending Joint Military Exercises Between U.S. and South Korea; Corker Slams GOP Colleagues: "We Might Poke the Bear". Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired June 13, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president this morning declares that North Korea is, quote, no longer a nuclear threat after his four hour meeting with Kim Jong-un. The only problem is they still have nuclear weapons, of course, and the capabilities to use them.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: America's top diplomat Mike Pompeo is now in South Korea where he's sure to be facing questions about the president's surprise announcement that he is halting those joint military exercises with South Korea. Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Joe Johns who's live for us at the White House. Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, the president very active on Twitter this morning upon his return from that big summit in Singapore, but the tweet that seems to be attracting the most attention right now is the one indicating that in his view there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. That of course remains, as you've said, a very open question with competing realities here. On the one hand, the door appears to be open to denuclearization on the peninsula. The question is how much the president gave up for that option.
JOHNS: President Trump returning to Washington amid criticism over the concessions he made to North Korea in exchange for a vague commitment to denuclearize.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 defending 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. ROBERT MENENDEZ, (D) SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: 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, SECRETARY OF STATE: The complete and 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 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.
JOHNS: Mr. Trump insisting that his harsh rhetoric brought Kim Jong- un to the table.
TRUMP: 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 holiday 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.
(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: Getting back to business on Twitter this morning, the president has tweeted about OPEC and oil prices as well as the World Cup, and he's also even taking time to tweet just a little bit about domestic politics, congratulating the winners of the Republican primaries in Virginia and South Carolina. Back to you.
HILL: Joe, thank you.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is now in Seoul, South Korea, after that historic summit, of course, landing there earlier today. South Korea needs some clarity on what President Trump meant when he said war games would end. CNN's Nic Robertson is live in Seoul with more on that. Nic?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, good morning, Erica. This is kind of where the hard work begins. Yes, it was hard work to get that big summit, but the actual hard work that's often done before summits which is the details, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now, that ball firmly in his court. He met as he got off the base in the air base in South Korea with General Vincent Brooks who is the commander of U.S. forces in Korea, so perhaps a chance to brief him on some of the president's comments.
[08:05:02] But the real tough talk perhaps coming tomorrow when he meets the South Korean president, South Korean foreign minister, Japanese foreign minister, because what we're hearing from here is they really want to understand better what President Trump meant and what were his implications and his ideas when he said that he was ending these joint military exercises, hugely important for South Korean security and military readiness, so perhaps detail being put on the bones.
Meanwhile, north of the border, North Korea, the media there in their newspapers and on television really amping up the gains that they see their leader Kim Jong-un getting from President Trump, all the things President Trump has given them, they believe. So they're very happy about the situation.
Here, a little more explaining to do. The South Koreans really want to get on board and understand precisely what President Trump and Mike Pompeo are planning. Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: It's important for the South Koreans to know exactly what President Trump meant, so perhaps Mike Pompeo could explain that today. Thank you very much Nic Robertson joining us.
Now to talk about all of it we have Ian Bremmer, he's president of the Eurasia group and author of "Us Versus Them, The Failure of Globalism," also with us CNN political director David Chalian. Great to have both of you.
OK, so Ian Bremmer, 24 hours later the president has landed back at the White House. He certainly thinks he came back with a big win. Here's what he has tweeted this morning, "Just landed. A long trip but now everyone can feel safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong-un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future." So obviously we do seem to be in a much better place than the world felt we were six months ago, but is the president getting a little ahead of himself with making that announcement?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Yes, it's not mission accomplished. I'm glad he didn't tweet that. But he's clearly doing a victory lap that's premature. It's great that he had the meeting. It was a successful meeting. He gave away more than he should've. If he had prepped or he had Mike Pompeo actually handle the details, I feel confident he probably would not have referred to the U.S. as engaged in provocative war games and giving them away. I don't think he would have needed to do that.
But six months ago everyone talking about this conflict was concerned. There was no diplomacy. North Korea was completely isolated. They're expanding their nuclear tests, their ICBM tests. Now they're engaging in diplomacy with everyone in the region, the South Koreans, Chinese, Russians, and Americans. And they've suspended their tests unilaterally even before they even met. So it's not like the North Koreans have done nothing. And actually I think we feel better about the fact that we're unlikely to see military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. At the very least that is a win.
HILL: That is a win. The president seeing it as a win, obviously. Jubilant was the way he was described by our own Jim Acosta on board Air Force One earlier today. And you can point to not only the fact that the meeting happened, David Chalian but to everything we just heard Ian tick off there in terms of things that have happened actually since the president took office. That being said, it's not as if lawmakers are standing up and cheering everything that they saw happen in Singapore. There's still a lot of questions in Washington about this, David.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I would say the Republicans on Capitol Hill weren't even necessarily cautiously optimistic. They were just simply cautious and left it there because they were saying they want to go through a series of steps and of course they want to see any kind of deal come to Congress to be dealt with there.
But here's the thing. All the credit that Ian is talking about, which I think is due to the president, what that leaves is a moment in suspended animation right now to see now where it goes from here. The one thing about the president's tweet this morning, Erica, that -- that's just in his head. There's nothing he can point to that says look here in this document that Kim Jong-un signed as to proving that the threat is completely removed. So that is just President Trump's feeling after his conversations, but he can't actually point and say this is the proof that the threat is removed.
CAMEROTA: Ian, go ahead.
BREMMER: You're righting that there's nothing in the document that proves that, but there's a lot of North Korea's actions over the course of the past few months. Certainly the symmetry between President Moon and South Korea and Kim Jong-un and the confidence building measures that both sides have engaged in is a concrete action that we can point to.
The continued suspension of ICBM testing. Remember, well before we talked about complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization, Trump's initial red line is I will not accept the North Koreans being able to launch a missile at the lower 48 in the United States. They've suspended that program as of now. I'd like to see over the coming months some inspectors go into North Korea and dismantling that ICBM program. It hasn't been done yet. That's hard work that Pompeo needs to actually accomplish.
[08:10:08] But I do think there is reason for some level of cautious optimism that we're heading into a more positive direction for the world. The question is to what extent does it benefit the United States. I do worry that over the medium term as we see more peace, the United States will be more marginalized in this reason in the same way that after the Syria conflict we didn't see the same level of refugees today coming out of Syria, but the United States isn't calling any shots. It's all about Russia and Iran. I could easily see that happening in five years over North Korea.
HILL: But in some ways, David, isn't that what President Trump has been pushing towards, not that he doesn't want to be a player in the world, obviously, but we know the president is looking at this very much as, what's good for us now, not necessarily how does this translate down the road.
CHALIAN: Certainly. He definitely is short-term player in many ways with his politics.
Another thing that one Republican senator told me yesterday who had spoken to the president after the meeting, he said to me that the concern, the caution, even with the praise coming his way for having the meeting from Capitol Hill, may help President Trump down the road in his negotiations, that the blowback that he's getting for potentially giving away more than he got here is something that he can then go back to Kim Jong-un when they're asking for more and say, I got so much heat for giving the meeting, for standing down the military exercises. I really can't give you any more, that some of this blowback may work to his advantage in the negotiations.
CAMEROTA: So Iran, where does Mike Pompeo, secretary of state, start to? Where does he start trying to codify whatever it is that president Trump thinks he got?
BREMMER: That's exactly where I was going, because Pompeo and Bolton can't be 100 percent happy with what Trump was engaged in Singapore, right? And Pompeo's position is, I want CVID before we give any sanctions relief, while Trump is saying I've got a win, and it's going to be hard to pull Trump away from that win to be tough guy because he wants to show his history.
So I think the biggest danger is the other side of what David was just suggesting, which is that you're going to have a lot of internal fighting where Trump wants to be the good guy and Pompeo and Bolton are trying to rein him back. Remember, Bolton was trying to scuttle the actual summit because he thought the United States wasn't being tough enough against North Korea. That fight is going to play out internally.
And right now if you're Pompeo, thing number one you have to do is you're reassuring allies because yet again Trump making concession that's would upset allies without talking to them in advance. Pompeo has to go and say, don't worry guys, we have your back. He has to do the equivalent of what Mattis, secretary of defense, did in Singapore a week ago, Shangri La dialogues, when he was talking to the importance of these alliances and how committed the U.S. is there long-term. Trump is saying that war games is provocative and that he'd like to remove troops over the long from South Korea is a very different message from what Pompeo wants to deliver.
CAMEROTA: Ian Bremmer, David Chalian, thank you both very much. Fascinating to watch all of this play out.
CAMEROTA: So a key Republican rips his own colleagues on the Senate floor, accusing them of cowering to President Trump.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER, (R) TENNESSEE: We might poke the bear, the president might get upset with us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: More on what Senator Bob Corker is doing there. That's next.
[08:17:14] CAMEROTA: Republican Senator Bob Corker who is retiring soon took to the Senate floor to lash out at his fellow Republicans after party leaders blocked his bill to give Congress veto power over certain tariffs imposed by President Trump.
Corker accused the GOP of cowering to the president.
(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've been hearing in the hallways. 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.
Well, we'll do what we can do, but my gosh, if the president gets upset with us and then we might not be in the majority. And so, let's not do anything that might upset the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. Let's discuss all of this with CNN political commentator Scott Jennings and Ana Navarro. Great to see both of you.
Scott, are Republicans afraid of President Trump?
SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think Republicans want unity with President Trump because politics is a team sport and unity has produced results and good results in Washington means good politics for the midterms.
What Senator Corker is trying to do here is attach an amendment to a bill that would kill the bill. This is a defense bill, by the way. The amendment would be vetoed by President Trump any way and all in the name of blowing up the relationship that Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans have built with the White House over the last several months that Republicans are happy with.
So, I think there's a better venue for this. I understand Corker's point. I'm not a huge fan of tariffs. But this was the wrong venue for this tantrum.
CAMEROTA: Ana, how do you see his message?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I think it's too little too late, frankly. It's -- you know, I'm sorry to see that leader in the Senate like Corker get retirement time courage. Look, I think we are having a deficiency of consistency in Washington and a deficiency of courage, particularly in the Republican Party.
Is there a reason for it? Yes, take a look at what happened last night with Mark Sanford. He lost his primary. This is a guy who in Congress has spoken up against and opposed the president at times, even though he's voted with him 75 percent of the time.
Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted against him, you know, just in the middle of the election and he lost his primary. So, I think that after they see people like Mark Sanford fall, fall on their sword, you're going to see even more cowering, and even more cowardice by the Republicans in Congress.
CAMEROTA: Hey, Scott, I want to move on to the different tone and words that President Trump is using to talk about historically our allies like Canada and then Kim Jong-un who, you know, up until yesterday was considered a murderous dictator who imprisons tens of thousands of his people and starves them.
[08:20:05] So, listen to this juxtaposition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They gave out a little bit of an obnoxious thing. I actually like Justin. You know, I think he's good. I like him, but he shouldn't have done that. That was a mistake.
We have developed a very special bond.
He is very talented. Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: All right. So I've actually -- I think he used stronger language against Justin Trudeau, prime minister of Canada, than he played right there. He's called him weak, other insults, and then with Kim Jong-un, he just said yesterday, he's successful, he's smart, he's funny, he loves his people.
Are you troubled, Scott, by the words that the president is using with these different leaders?
JENNINGS: No. I think the president views all these things very similarly. These are transactional issues for him and I think on any given day, if he thinks that slamming you is going to get him what he wants, he will do it. If he thinks that flattering you is going to get him what he wants, he will do it.
He has flattered Trudeau. He has attacked Trudeau. He has attacked Kim Jong-un. He has flattered Kim Jong-un.
I think he believes that these things are all part of some elaborate negotiation and at any given time he can change his attitude if he thinks it'll bring you closer to what he's trying to achieve for the American people. So, I would expect these reactions to go hot and cold as the president sees fit as it relates to his strategy on negotiating.
CAMEROTA: Ana, do you have any problem with President Trump saying that Kim Jong-un loves his people?
NAVARRO: Of course, I do. Take a look at what the people of North Korea look like, take a look at the suffering that they're going through. He is a cruel dictator.
Look, I don't have an issue with Trump meeting with Kim Jong-un and I think -- I'm not sure that there was an option. If I was sitting in Hawaii right now and thinking about and fearing nuclear bomb drills, I would say it's a good thing that they are meeting and hopefully something can happen.
But words matter. It's one thing to meet from a position of strength. Like Ronald Reagan often did and it's another thing to go to North Korea -- or Singapore and practically, you know, just butter him up like he was a butter ball turkey. I mean, this thing was just pretty gross.
You know, Alisyn, I'm really proud that I'm one of the people on TV today that does not have to bend herself into pretzel shapes, which is a good thing because I ain't as flexible as I used to be, five years ago, I couldn't deal with Obama paling around and going to a baseball game with Raul Castro who is a ruthless dictator.
Well, ruthless dictator is ruthless dictator. Americans should not legitimize. American presidents should not use the platform to legitimize and normalize a ruthless dictator whether it's of the left or right, whether it is in Cuba, whether it is in North Korea.
It is not about partisanship. It is about American values. It is about what is right or wrong. And so, people who are today saying they are OK with Trump paling around with a North Korean dictator who oppresses his people but two years were criticizing Obama, shame on them and vice versa.
CAMEROTA: What about that hypocrisy, Scott?
JENNINGS: There's a huge difference between the Cuba situation and North Korea and that is North Korea is aiming nuclear weapons at us and I don't think the president's paling around with Kim Jong-un. I think he's trying to defang Kim Jong-un.
I think he's trying to denuclearize the peninsula and I think --
CAMEROTA: He's wildly flattering.
JENNINGS: Well, and this is what he does. We see him do it in Washington. We saw him do it before he got into politics. This is the way he handles these negotiations.
Now, look, we're at the beginning of a process that may or may not work out, and I am fully aware that the North Koreans may lie, the way they've lied to us for decades. But I'm willing to give peace a chance, and I think we ought to give the president some rope here to see if he can break a log jam that's been the decades in the making by a political establishment that has banged its head against the wall.
CAMEROTA: Got it. Scott, just so that we compare apples to apples, you know there was huge outcry from Republicans, from conservative media when President Trump Obama then Barack Obama, I think he was a candidate, dared to suggest that he might meet with a dictator or North Korea without preconditions. So, how do you square that?
JENNINGS: Yes, and nobody trusted Obama to do the right thing and guess what? It was born out -- the fears about Obama were born out. How about the Syrian red line that he drew and was crossed and did nothing about? I think people trust Trump more than they trust Obama to deal with these people?
CAMEROTA: When he suggested he would meet with North Korea there was hue and cry, when President Trump suggested he would meet with North Korea, there was applause. Just explain it.
JENNINGS: Yes, I think the explanation is it's the president's duty to protect us as the American people from nuclear war. He believed we were on the brink of nuclear war. We're farther away from that day than we were.
[08:25:00] Is all of this perfect? No. Is all of his rhetoric perfect? No. This is a messy situation, but if you want to be farther away from war, then today's a better day than it was yesterday.
CAMEROTA: Ana, ten seconds to wrap it up.
NAVARRO: Yes, two word explanation, tribal partisanship. When my guy does it, it's OK. When the other guy does it, it's terrible.
CAMEROTA: I know. I mean, that is exactly where we are.
NAVARRO: A dictator is a dictator is a dictator, tell the Cuban people and tell the North Koreans that there's a difference.
CAMEROTA: Well, Ana Navarro, thank you very much.
JENNINGS: Root for America. We need less nuclear weapons on that peninsula.
NAVARRO: I vote for American values. I will not compromise them because there is a Republican in office.
CAMEROTA: OK. On that note, thank you both very much for that debate, Ana, Scott.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: The epic antitrust battle over AT&T's merger with Time Warner isn't really over at this point after a judge gave it a green light. The Justice Department could fight back. So the big question, will they?
HILL: A federal judge approving AT&T's blockbuster $85 billion takeover of Time Warner, which of course, is the parent company of CNN. President Trump strongly opposed the merger. The judge warning the Justice Department, though, not to seek a stay on the now approved deal.