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Trump Refers to Kim Jong-un's Brutality as Being a "Tough Guy"; U.S.-South Korea Military Drills Expected to be Suspended Soon; IG Set To Release Report On Clinton Email Investigation; Giuliani: Decision On Mueller Interview In Next Week Or Two; Video Shows Trump Saluting North Korean General At Summit. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 14, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:18] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Top of the hour 9:00 a.m. Eastern. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York, and today the investigator's investigator.

The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Justice set to finally release a report that is sure to be momentous, divisive, and it's all about the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. We'll dig into that in the hour ahead. But first, is President Trump giving a pass to a murderous dictator?

The president says the leader that he met with at that historic summit, Kim Jong-un of North Korea, is a, quote, "tough guy," a, quote, "very smart," and a, quote, "great negotiator." And if you're waiting for the but there isn't one.

Listen to the question that FOX News anchor Bret Baier asked the president and then listen to his response.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You call people sometimes killers. He -- you know, he is a killer. I mean, he's clearly executing people. And --

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He's a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don't care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have, if you can do that at 27 years old, you -- I mean that's one in 10,000 that could do that, so he's a very smart guy. He's a great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.

BAIER: But, I mean, he's still done some really bad things.

TRUMP: Yes, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done. Now, look, with all of that being said, the answer is yes.


HARLOW: Our Michelle Kosinski is at the State Department with more.

Michelle, equivocating there, saying a lot of other leaders and nations have done a lot of bad things, putting them on equal ground to the Kim regime.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: I think this is more than equivocating, Poppy. It's complimentary. It's making excuses. It's explaining away this behavior.

I don't know that the president intends to sound like he's doing that. What we hear from Trump supporters in this incident -- because remember, he said similar things about Vladimir Putin not very long ago. When the word killers was brought up, he said, well, other people do, too, even America has killers.

So he says these kinds of things, Trump supporters will explain this away, as we've heard in the last couple of days, that well, he's setting the conditions for making a deal. He's in the process of making a deal. But from those who don't agree with this, including some Republicans, it's not really necessary to be saying these things publicly about, yes, a murderous dictator who not very long ago sent home an American citizen in a coma to die.

HARLOW: Michelle Kosinski, at the State Department, thank you for the reporting.

Also this, as soon as today the Trump administration is expected to announce that it is suspending planning of major joint military drills with South Korea. This was set to happen in August.

Let's go to the Pentagon. Barbara Starr is there with more.

And Barbara, as we talk about yesterday, we know that the president's announcement that he had agreed to suspend these military drills came as a surprise, needless to say, to the South Koreans, but now the planned exercises in August are off?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know if they're completely off just yet but it's headed in that direction. This may be the first major announcement implementing what the president wanted to have happened post the Singapore summit. All the things that he announced there.

What we do know is that the Trump administration is expected to announce it is suspending planning for this August exercise, military exercise in South Korea that would involve 17,000 U.S. troops. This is something they have done every year. It's a regularly scheduled combat drill. President Trump referring to it as so-called war games.

So we expect the announcement that they are suspending planning for it, but look, you can't go much longer without making that public decision to just call it off because there's a lot of, you know, ships, aircraft personnel that have to be scheduled, that have to be put in place. The question is really what comes next?

The South Koreans are saying they want consultations on all of this. We expect the announcement could come after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returns to the United States in the next 24 hours or so. The Pentagon looking for ways to implement what the president wants to have happened, but not to give up all of their training and readiness efforts, all of their ability to be able to defend South Korea in a crisis from the Pentagon point of view. That's what these drills are all about -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thank you so much.

And before I go to our next guest, take a look at this.

[09:05:02] We have these images just coming to us out of Beijing. And you see that, too, Barbara. That is the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with President Xi of China. A key -- obviously a key party in these discussions with North Korea as they continue. We'll bring you more on that. Of course the readout of the meeting when we have it.

Let's bring in CNN military and diplomatic analyst, Rear Admiral John Kirby, and CNN counterterrorism analyst Phil Mudd.

Nice to have you both here. Admiral Kirby, considering that you were also the spokesperson at the Pentagon and you know political speak, what do you make of the president's answers? Because Bret Baier gave him two chances to condemn the human rights atrocities carried out by the Kim regime and he didn't do it.

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes. Brett was really trying to get him I think to go there and he just, as you said, wouldn't do it. I think what you're seeing is Trump's ham- fisted way of implementing what's known is the sunshine policy. This is -- to many what we're seeing is actually not so much Trump but Xi and Moon Jae-in's influence on Trump.

This is the sunshine policy in action where you praise North Koreans and give them legitimacy. You give them concessions, a big one, in suspending these exercises in the hopes that they will open up and then by opening up, you can get them to start whittle back their nuclear program.

This is the sunshine policy in implementation and it hasn't worked yet. The sunshine policy is great on paper but it hasn't been successful. We'll have to see what the next round of negotiations produced with Mike Pompeo there, but what you're really seeing here I think is President Xi and Moon Jae-in's influence on Donald Trump.

HARLOW: Think don't ruffle the feathers.

Phil Mudd, do you think that there is any logical rational or reason to give President Trump, you know, the benefit of the doubt here because he really is seemingly giving a pass to a murderous dictator?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I can see this half way. I wouldn't go into those negotiations about one issue, that is the nuclear issue, and put everything into the conversation including human rights. That said, in other words, the president should be walking and saying, we have some serious issues on the table, not critiquing I think his counterpart across the table.

The problem with this conversations he seems to go out of the way to praise Kim Jong-un. I don't know why he's doing that. There is a further disadvantage to that. You know, Mike Pompeo is talking to the Chinese, the Russians are watching this closely.

HARLOW: Right.

MUDD: If you're the Chinese and the Russians looking at what the president said and what he tweeted when he got off the plane saying Americans should sleep safer tonight, why wouldn't you, as the Chinese are suggesting, say well, if it went so well, why don't we start releasing sanctions now? If you're so comfortable with Kim Jong-un why don't we start lifting now? I think the president --


HARLOW: Which they won't do.

MUDD: -- even softer policy.

HARLOW: Right.

MUDD: Yes.

HARLOW: Secretary of State Pompeo made very clear that they won't lift those sanctions until they see actual verifiable denuclearization. Admiral?

KIRBY: Yes -- well, no. I think Phil raises a really important point because you've already seen the Russians and the Chinese say, hey, look, it went great so let's ease on those sanctions. If we had gotten more out of this summit, the United States, then I can kind of understand sort of moving the sunshine policy forward. I agree with Phil. You shouldn't be lauding this guy. But I can understand the sort of softer rhetoric. But we didn't get anything out of this. So we are already giving an awful lot and we've got very little in return. Go ahead.

HARLOW: It's not the first time the president has done this, gentlemen. As you know, let's remember that interview about a year ago with Bill O'Reilly on FOX News when he said this about Vladimir Putin.


BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: Do you respect Putin?

TRUMP: I do respect him.

O'REILLY: Do you? Why?

TRUMP: Well, I respect a lot of people but that doesn't mean I'm going to get along with him. He's a leader of his country. I say it's better to get along with Russia than not.

O'REILLY: Putin's a killer.

TRUMP: A lot killers. We got a lot of killers. Why, you think our country is so innocent?


HARLOW: Phil Mudd, how does that play on the world stage when the president has now done this not just once, not just twice, but three times? He did it twice in this interview with Baier.

MUDD: He's done it more than three times. The pattern is pretty straightforward. This is a president who likes to portray himself as a tough guy. Look at the tough guy he's associated with in the Philippines, in Turkey --

HARLOW: Duterte, right.

MUDD: -- in China, now in North Korea. And look at the Democrats he's isolated including the leader of Canada who he just insulted a few days ago. He's also insulted, I think, people like the other Europeans, the British, the French, he insulted Angela Merkel on immigration. So he's clearly said tough guys who can implement the rule of law and provide security without democracy are fine. Democrats who disagree with me, not so much. The pattern's pretty simple.

HARLOW: But to what end, Admiral?

KIRBY: Well, I think to his end he thinks that, you know, this is how you negotiate with brutal dictatorships, with authoritarian regimes. You flatter them and you temporize with them, and you try to get the concessions out of them that way rather beating them up over their head. And his argument is, it hasn't worked in the past with previous administrations have been tough on our adversaries and it doesn't work.

But I think he -- it's a shortsighted strategy and it's actually completely opposed to our values. And what's missing in our foreign policy right now is values. It's all binary and transactional with this guy and there's no adherence or promotion of U.S. values going forward.

[09:10:08] HARLOW: Phil Mudd, let me get your take finally on Secretary Pompeo. So he seemed outraged yesterday at a reporter's questions about why the words verifiable and irreversible about denuclearization were not in that joint agreement, the statement out of the North Korea summit, and he said that it is ridiculous and frankly ludicrous to ask that question.

His argument is that using the term confident in the agreement, they're confident they're going to work towards denuclearization, that that's the same thing. Who's right?

MUDD: Look, Mike Pompeo's a serious guy. I can understand why he said that, but give me a break. We have 100 plus document with the Iranians detailing how they're supposed to comply with the program to cap their nuclear progress over the next 15 to 25 years. And that's not good enough. The president signs a document with Kim Jong-un that says basically nothing, walks off the plane and says we won and Mike Pompeo says I'm ticked that you guys wanted more?

Give me a break. Of course we want more because the president said we had a victory with the North Koreans after 70 years of isolation in the wake of a cup of coffee with Kim Jong-un.

HARLOW: Look --

MUDD: It doesn't make any sense.

HARLOW: The language that Pompeo used in his own tweet last week was complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

MUDD: Yes.

HARLOW: Gentlemen, thanks for being here this morning. Phil Mudd and Admiral John Kirby, I appreciate it.

The Justice Department's watchdog set to release a highly anticipated report on how the FBI handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. What we know so far and how this could have a major political impact.

Also the RNC chairwoman's warning for Republicans back Trump or you're making a big mistake.


HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And this afternoon, the Justice Department will release the results of its own investigation into one of its own largest, most consequential, most controversial decisions and investigations in decades.

It is the inspector general report on the Hillary Clinton email probe as overseen by then FBI Director James Comey.

Our Shimon Prokupecz is here to bring us up to speed. Look, we don't even know if the president has seen this report yet. He has been very vocal about the fact that he thinks it's too slow in coming. He even questioned whether it was being changed.

What can you tell us about this report and its significance?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. And, certainly, Poppy, he has mentioned that. He has said that, the president. Look, it's taken this report more than a year. This is something that the inspector general has been probing, certainly, the FBI's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

The key issue is, how the inspector general addresses the question of whether the decisions by the FBI at the time, by the Justice Department were motivated by politics.

Trump has said the investigation, as you'll recall, was rigged and biased in Clinton's favor. The president is going to get briefed on this at some point this morning. He will finally get to see if that's supported, if, in fact, this was somehow politically motivated, somehow helpful to Hillary Clinton.

Now, the 500-page report we've been told will show that the FBI and its former leaders along with the leadership of the Justice Department, quite frankly, mishandled parts of the investigation.

We're told the report will be critical of the then FBI Director James Comey. Remember, he held that press conference where he announced the results of the Clinton email investigation.

The other key part of this report is the decision by Comey to tell lawmakers just days before the November 2016 election that the FBI had reopened the investigation. And you'll remember that happened as a result of emails that were found on Anthony Weiner's laptop.

Other things that the report, we're told, looked at and is critical of is the former Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She, as you will recall, had that infamous tarmac meeting with Bill Clinton during the campaign as the FBI was investigating his wife.

We're told also that members of Congress will get a preview of this report before its made public today.

And, certainly, the Department of Justice, the attorney general, has already come out and spoken about this, said that he supports the results of this report. And he also thinks that this report, most importantly, will clear up some of the misconceptions that are out there, Poppy.

HARLOW: And, again, it is I think I've heard a 500-plus page report. That's what they're expecting is going to come out this afternoon. Of course, we'll have full coverage here.

Shimon, appreciate the reporting.

So, also, the president's legal team is hoping to get answers from him as soon as today about next steps in the Russia investigation. Of course, the key question, is he going to sit down for an interview with Mueller's team.

The president's lawyers are preparing to meet with Mueller's team any time between now and next week, trying to negotiate the terms of what a sit down would even look like with the president.

The president has said he wants to do this interview. Sources tell CNN that most of his lawyers are very skeptical about whether he should.

Abby Phillip is at the White House with more. Good morning.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. As the president was flying back from Singapore from that meeting with Kim Jong-un, he was working the phones, including talking to his lawyers about what's next with this Russia probe. Now, his attorneys are hoping to have a quiet moment with the president now that that summit is over with, to talk about the strategy to move forward, including about whether or not the president should sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller and what kind of concessions they want Mueller to give in order to secure that interview.

Take a listen to what Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, had to say about those deliberations.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: All of us know he shouldn't testify unless we get everything we want and he wants, but we should get it done in the next week or two.

Get the decision done, which means then we go to battling over a subpoena or getting him ready for a small, tailored, limited interview.


[09:20:01] PHILLIP: Now, the president's lawyers are scheduled to meet with Mueller at some point in the next week or so. And as you know, the lawyers remain concerned that the president could find himself in a situation where he perjures himself wittingly or unwittingly in the context of an interview with the special counsel, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yes. Abby Phillip, appreciate the reporting at the White House.

All right. Joining me now CNN legal analyst Shan Wu. Shan, there's a lot to go through here. What do you make of the fact that - I don't know if it's just publicly they're not on the same page, but at least, and privately they are, but the fact that the lawyers don't want the president to do this sit-down and the president keeps saying he does. Where does this end up?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think with many situations like this with this president, there probably genuinely is a disagreement because they can't get on the same page in terms of their messaging.

I think his lawyers are correct in being very cautious about wanting him to sit-down. You need to spend an enormous amount of time preparing with your client for a sit-down like that.


WU: I think their best move here is they should try to prepare the president, but they really need to focus on setting the boundaries of what that interview is going to encompass.

That's a much safer move for them than trying to rely on the traditional method of preparing a client. HARLOW: We've also learned that the president's former personal attorney Michael Cohen has gotten rid of some of his lawyers. He's looking for new legal representation, specifically lawyers with a lot of experience dealing with the Southern District of New York.

A, what is your read on that and what that indicates? And, B, just your reaction to Rudy Giuliani who said, I checked last night and he's not cooperating because there had been reporting that he was going to cooperate and plead.

And Giuliani says, no, he's not cooperating because the president did nothing wrong. We're very comfortable if he cooperates. There's nothing there.

WU: It's a little bit hard to discern what's really going on with the change in legal representation. From my own experience in the Gates' case, that can be a very complex and ethical land mine for the lawyers.

So, I would expect for the actual lawyers involved in it, you're going to pretty much hear silence. Not true for Giuliani, of course. He's weighing in with his own version of it.

I would take that with a grain of salt. I don't even know how he knows that. If the lawyers on behalf of Cohen have talked to the prosecutors, they wouldn't necessarily be telling him that at this point.

HARLOW: Let's talk about Mr. Horwitz, the inspector general, who has penned this long report that is going to come out this afternoon about how the DOJ and FBI handled the Hillary Clinton email probe, whether it was politically motivated, what was done right, what was done incorrectly.

He is someone who you worked with back in the day. You worked with him at the DOJ. He's been roundly praised by Republicans, like oversight chairman Trey Gowdy, like Congressman Elijah Cummings on the left. What can you tell us about him?

WU: He is an excellent lawyer, good background as a prosecutor. He's very, very meticulous. I remember one anecdote about him that he used to come to these meetings when he was chief-of-staff to the criminal division with only a single note card for notes. So, obviously, very good memory, very thorough.

And he's really one of the best IGs. Really, I've known a lot of the IGs and watched their practiced. And he's very just focused on doing a very rigorous comprehensive job and he's not going to be swayed by anybody else's timetable or anybody else's agenda.

HARLOW: Right. And in the Fast and Furious case, during the Obama administration, the report on the fallout from that, he even gained a lot of credit from members of Congress by recusing himself, Shan, right, from parts of that where he said, look, I have conflicts of interest, I'm going to have other members of my team deal with these parts of this and that gained him a lot of credibility. WU: Absolutely. I think that shows the sort of high ethical duty that he has and that's exactly what an inspector general's duty ought to be.

So, I'm looking forward to seeing the report. I think it will be very enlightening.

HARLOW: Shan Wu, appreciate it. Nice to have you this morning.

WU: Good to see you.

HARLOW: All right. Ahead for us, coming up, is it the Grand Old Party or the party of Trump? A new warning overnight from the chair of the RNC that those who don't embrace the president will be making a big mistake.

Also, we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. This morning, US stocks set to open higher after dipping yesterday as the Fed hiked interest rates and also hinted that faster hikes are on the way.


[09:29:10] HARLOW: Well, this morning, North Korean state media has just debuted some new footage that was shot during the Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore.

Take a look at this. OK. So, the president extends his hand to this North Korean general. The general responds with the salute. The president returns the salute and then both men shake hands.

Why is this significant? Our military analyst, former Rear Admiral John Kirby is back with me. Why is this so striking?

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's so striking because it was, A, released by a North Korean state TV, which means they can see a propaganda value here, and this is basically them showing the level of deference and respect that Trump has paid to them and to their military leaders.

It was an inappropriate thing for him to do from a protocol perspective, but now he's played right into the North's propaganda about their legitimacy on the world stage.

HARLOW: So, what should he have done?

KIRBY: He should have just nodded his head when the general saluted and reached out his hand and did a handshake. That's the appropriate thing.

Look, he's the commander-in-chief. He doesn't even salute his own generals. They salute him. That's the way it works.