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Trump Praises Kim Jong-un; Trump Salutes North Korean General; Inspector General's Report on Clinton E-mail Probe to be Released Today; Trump's Legal Team Plots Next Move on Russia Probe; Interview with Representative Karen Bass; Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 14, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: But today it's more clear the president is a defender of the autocratic leader he once called little rocket man. Listen to this exchange between FOX News anchor Bret Baier and the president on Air Force One.


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: All right, also this morning, the words that you just heard, those words are not the only measure of what seems to be the president's somewhat deference to the Kim regime. Take a look at this video. This is video playing right now on North Korean state media. It shows President Trump saluting a North Korean general.

We're going to get to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon in a moment with why that is significant. And before that, let's go to the State Department, Michelle Kosinski is with us.

Michelle, your thoughts on the exchange that we just heard between the president and Bret Baier.

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: This is not just him saying we can get along or I think we can have a good relationship or he was polite to me. This is him complimenting Kim Jong-un, seeming to make excuses for him and saying that other people have done bad things, too, where here is a dictator that only months ago sent home a young American student in a coma to die. Somebody who just last year had his country added back to the list of state sponsors of terror because he murdered his half brother with a nerve agent on foreign soil.

So you see criticism in the last few days for U.S. allies like the prime minister of Canada, who Trump called weak and dishonest, but none of that for Kim Jong-un. And it is possible that the president starts to say these things and he goes too far without intending to seem like he thinks Kim Jong-un is a hell of a guy. And there is an argument to be made among Trump supporters that he's just trying to set the conditions for a deal that he's in the midst of deal-making here.

But there is also a big argument that as nice as Trump feels he needs to be behind closed doors with Kim Jong-un, is it really necessary to go in front of the American people and the world and compliment this guy and seem like you're making excuses for not just bad behavior but for murder -- Poppy.

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

And now to the Pentagon, Barbara Starr is there.

Barbara, just talk me through this video and let's play it, guys, while Barbara and I are talking, just so people can see this. And why it is so significant that the president would salute a North Korean general.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's keep looking at the video. What you see is this North Korean general beginning this exchange by raising his hand in saluting the president of the United States and Mr. Trump then returning that salute. We do not know if the North Korean was ordered by his own regime to salute the president, but the president made what is a judgment call.

It is his decision about who and when he chooses to salute anyone. So he has -- the bottom line is he's given the North Koreans a video opportunity here that they're continuing to show on their broadcast channels of the president of the United States saluting North Korea, what does that mean? It means the president of the United States giving a military gesture of respect to a nation that is on the State Department's list of, you know, terror nations.


STARR: It doesn't get more odd than that. Let's just --


STARR: Sorry, Poppy?

HARLOW: I was just going to say he did reach out, the president, to try to shake the hand first and then when he was saluted he saluted back.

STARR: That's right. But what is really, I think, so significant here is for everyone to understand what it means for a president, any president of the United States. There is no regulations about a president saluting. It actually goes back to Ronald Reagan's time when he began the custom by saluting the Marines on the helicopter on the South Lawn of the White House, and presidents over time have adopted that custom.

They salute U.S. military personnel, they have saluted foreign military personnel. But no president has really been in the position Mr. Trump was to make that judgment call about saluting what is an adversary nation.

HARLOW: Right. Right.

STARR: And, you know, it's his judgment call that he made, people are going to have to decide for themselves one can suppose whether they agree with it.

HARLOW: Right.

[10:05:04] STARR: Whether it was a good idea, what offense would the North Koreans have taken if Mr. Trump had not returned that gesture. It doesn't catch military people here at the Pentagon by complete surprise, because it is sort of that custom and tradition. I think it catches a lot of people by surprise because it's North Korea.

HARLOW: Absolutely. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thank you for that reporting.

Let's get some analysis of this with our military analyst and retired rear admiral John Kirby.

So let's begin with the video, Admiral.


HARLOW: And you heard Barbara lay out exactly what this was. This was a judgment call from the president. And when you talk about preparing for a summit, it is not just about the words that are exchanged or any concessions that may be made, it is also about the body language. It is also about, you know, what you do in respect for deference and what you withhold and what you don't do with an adversarial regime. What do you make of this?

KIRBY: You know, absolutely, Poppy. And this is all about -- a lot of summitry is about optics and body language and if you remember when President Obama went down to Cuba, you know, there was all this debate in turn --

HARLOW: Right.

KIRBY: -- about whether he was going to raise his hands with, you know, with Castro and of course he didn't do that. He refused to do that. I mean, it matters. This stuff matters, and particularly matters with North Korea because one of the things they really wanted out of this summit was legitimacy on the world stage. They have been wanting this kind of meeting for decades, and they finally got it. And so it's no surprise to me that on North Korean state TV they're showing this video over and over again because it shows the deference and that respect that they wanted to get out of the United States.

HARLOW: Right. So you couple that with the language that the president used in this Bret Baier-FOX News interview about Kim Jong- un. I mean, Bret Baier teed it up for him.

KIRBY: He did.

HARLOW: To condemn these executions, to condemn these human rights atrocities twice.

KIRBY: Yes, he did.

HARLOW: And the president didn't do it.

KIRBY: Yes. Bret was really trying to lead him there.

HARLOW: Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, who has spoken out against the president when he disagrees with the president, just told our Manu Raju, look, I think the president is trying to negotiate, I think anyone who has intellect above a single cell organism understands that when you're trying to negotiate -- he's funny. You're trying to negotiate a deal, you don't walk in and slap your opponent and call him an ignorant slut. Those are his words.


HARLOW: What do you think?

KIRBY: Well, look, there is a logic here that Trump is -- is on a charm offensive of his own, that he is showing deference and respect to North Korea in the hopes that they'll open up. This is the central tenet of the sunshine policy, that if you just be nice to North Korea and you give them some concessions, look, I think also, look, when Trump used the word war games and provocative the other day, that was a sign of deference and respect.

It's this idea that you can open these guys up over time with kindness. Now, look, the sunshine policy hasn't worked in the past. I'm all about engaging. But it has a very checkered history of success.

HARLOW: Right.

KIRBY: So we'll have to see where it goes. I do think, though, that when you're talking about North Korea, as Barbara pointed, this is a special case, this is a -- the world's most brutal dictatorship.


KIRBY: And it's not a problem for the United States president to -- in the same breath as he says I want to reach out and I want to talk and we want to negotiate, to also say, but, you've got to change your behavior --

HARLOW: Right. Right.

KIRBY: You know, with respect to human rights.

HARLOW: Look, and it's not just that he said this about Kim Jong-un, he said this about Putin.

KIRBY: Exactly.

HARLOW: Being asked about Putin being a killer, about Duterte, the dictator in the Philippines. So, you know.

Thank you, Admiral. Appreciate you being here very, very much.

All right. Today, we will see what should be but almost certainly won't be the final word on the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mails. We're told this is a 500-page inspector general report, it is set for public release this afternoon. After a closed door briefing for the president and lawmakers.

Laura Jarrett, our justice reporter, is with us for a preview.

I know we haven't seen the report. We will soon. What can you tell us --


HARLOW: Leading up to it?

JARRETT: Well, good morning, Poppy. This long awaited report is expected to walk through all of the key events leading up to the 2016 election. But the crucial, crucial question to watch later today is to see how the inspector general handles the issue of whether any political motivations tainted the ultimate outcome of the findings by the Justice Department and the FBI. As we all know, Trump on both on the campaign trail and as president had said that the investigation was rigged from the very beginning and that the FBI was biased in Clinton's favor.

But later today, we will finally see a nonpartisan account of whether there is any evidence to support that. And already the Attorney General Jeff Sessions weighing in, saying the public's perception of what this report may show may not be completely born out. Take a listen to Sessions.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it will be a lengthy report and a careful report, it will be released soon. And I think it will help us better fix any problems that we have and reassure the American people that some of the concerns that have been raised are not true.


[10:10:08] JARRETT: As for the man behind this 500-page report, Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the president has heckled him on Twitter already several weeks ago, calling him a so-called Obama guy. But I should note that Horowitz is widely seen as an honest broker and he has served under both Democratic and Republican administrations -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Laura Jarrett, thank you very much. You're going to have a busy day ahead, I know. Laura will bring that news as soon as it breaks.

All right. Still to come, the president's legal team is working on its next move in terms of what the president does with the special counsel. Does he sit down for that interview he says he still wants to. Also a warning from the Republican National Committee chair, she says anyone who doesn't support the president and his agenda is making a big mistake.

And this --

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ed Lavandera in McAllen, Texas. An activist says that an undocumented immigrant mother had her baby taken away from her in a shelter while she was breast-feeding.

I'll have the details of that story coming up.


[10:15:11] HARLOW: This morning, President Trump's lawyers preparing to sit down with the special counsel's team, trying to hash out whether or not the president will actually do this interview with Bob Mueller's team of investigators. The president keeps saying he wants to do the interview, his family, this morning, saying not a good idea and his legal team certainly isn't sold on it.

Evan Perez is live in Washington with more.

Look, Giuliani kept saying, his personal lawyer, we got to focus on the North Korea summit. We have to focus on that. Now that that is behind them, they're focusing on this. What do you know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. Well, we expect actually today, the president's birthday will be spent, at least part of it, with his lawyers going over the plan as to whether or not there is going to be a voluntary interview with the special counsel.

We have been told by sources that the president's legal team actually talked to the president, actually, when he was on his way back from Singapore, from the -- from North Korean summit to start discussing how to proceed with this very big question.

As you mentioned, the president really wants to do this interview or at least that's what he says. His legal team doesn't really think it's a great idea. And now we're hearing from the president's son who also has an opinion. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP JUNIOR, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: I wouldn't do it. I think it would be stupid. I don't think any -- you know, any proper lawyer would say, hey, you should go do it because it's not about collusion anymore. It's can we get him to say something that maybe interpreted as somewhat off or inaccurate and after 50,000 questions maybe make a mistake and that's how we get you, and that's ridiculous.


PEREZ: And Poppy, as you can see, there's a lot of public posturing and negotiating really going on here. The bottom line here is that there is no agreement, the special counsel has the option that they've already told the president -- the president's legal team that they can issue a subpoena. Obviously if that happens, this could lead to a legal fight that could last perhaps a year, go all the way to the Supreme Court and during that time, the special counsel investigation will keep dragging on, which everybody involved says is not in anyone's interest. So we'll see how these two sides can perhaps come together in the next week or so and make a deal if there is one to be made.

HARLOW: Right, if is being the operative word there. Evan Perez, thanks for the reporting.

Our legal analyst Paul Callan is with me.

And Paul, two bits with you, of course I want to get to the inspector general report, but before that, I mean, how long can this drag out between Mueller's team, between the president's team. I suppose, I don't know, what is the deadline on this thing?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it really can drag on until the grand jury investigation has concluded. I mean, on the last day of the grand jury. They could be presented with testimony from the president. And, you know, Poppy, it doesn't surprise me, though, this dispute between the lawyers and the president.

HARLOW: Right.

CALLAN: The president thinks he's the world's greatest negotiator. And he views this meeting with Mueller as a negotiation, whereas the lawyers view it as a very dangerous situation where he could say something that could lead to criminal charges. And I think for some reason they have not been able to get him to understand it's not a negotiation.

HARLOW: Right. Right. That he could perjure himself, which is the argument that Don Jr., his son, was making this morning.

Let's turn to the inspector general report, this is a big 500-plus page report, it comes out this afternoon, it's going to detail whether, you know, what was done right, what was done wrong in the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe, whether political motivations were a key factor, et cetera. The man that is carrying this out, Mr. Horowitz, has been roundly

praised by Republicans, like Trey Gowdy, like the Democrats, like Elijah Cummings. Gowdy called him professional, fair, fact centric and even handed. He's worked under the Bush administration, the Obama administration.

Given all of that, this is still going to be spun always to Sunday politically, right?

CALLAN: Yes, it is going to be political and if the president is happy with the report, he'll join in the chorus that Horowitz is undoubtedly the fairest person that could have done this and you can be sure if some of his conclusions are against Mr. Trump's theory about what went down, Horowitz will be denounced. So it is very, very political, Comey is going to come up in it, McCabe is going to come up in it, just -- it's really, really going to be a comprehensive look at what happened during the election. So I think a very important document.

HARLOW: Interesting to note that Horowitz did briefly overlap with Comey while they were both working in the federal prosecutor's office in Manhattan. Does that -- how does that weigh in here?

CALLAN: I don't think it weighs in. The reason I say that, Poppy, an inspector general, by the very nature of the job, is sort of, although working for the agency, is independent of the agency. They're put in place to investigate the agency that they're assigned to.

[10:20:04] So he works for a lot of different bosses, but he's independent of them. So I really don't think that's an issue. '

HARLOW: The "New York Times'" profile on him this morning is fascinating. And one of the anecdotes at the beginning, it talks about the portrait that hangs on the wall of Horowitz's office, right? And it's a portrait of former attorney general Harry Doherty, who is nearly impeached, disgraced. And a reminder of the times that malfeasance is never far away. As much as politicians on either side may try to undercut him, when this report comes out, is there any ground for that?

CALLAN: Well, I think he sees the -- you know, he sees the absolute importance of this politically. I mean, his report could be the beginning of the road to impeachment, or it could put to rest a lot of charges that have been made against the president and his own job is in jeopardy at all times in a hot button political job like this.

HARLOW: It will be fascinating, hugely important and it comes this afternoon.

Paul Callan, thank you.

CALLAN: OK. Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right. Coming up, a new reality for families separated at the border. What it's like inside of a former Texas superstore where the U.S. is now holding some 1400 immigrant children. We're going to take you inside.


[10:25:42] HARLOW: Welcome back. This afternoon, the Justice Department's own investigator will release his report detailing how the DOJ and FBI handled the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. It is highly anticipated and it is a report the president has even said has taken too long to be released.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. She sits on the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee.

Thank you for being here.


HARLOW: So let's talk about this report because you know how politics goes, and even though this is a report from Mr. Horowitz, who has been roundly praised by Democrats and Republicans alike, it's going to get spun all different ways by politicians of both parties. But here's what former Utah representative Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, said to the "New York Times" this morning about it.. Quote, "Republicans and Democrats alike really need to take to heart whatever he finds, even if it doesn't fit our political agendas. People will spin and throw political barbs, but if you read the actual text, my gut is that's the truth."

Do you agree that politicians shouldn't spin this, should take it as fact?

BASS: Absolutely. I think, again, you know, you cited Horowitz's reputation. I do think that's right. I do agree with Jason. However, I think that the purpose of this report from my colleagues on the other side of the aisle is to continue to develop the narrative that the Department of Justice should be completely discredited, and that Comey, what he did, you know, should weigh into the Mueller investigation when you and I know those are apples and oranges. One is --

HARLOW: Respectfully --

BASS: -- not connected to the other .

HARLOW: So, respectfully, Congresswoman, it's not your colleagues on the other side of the aisle that wrote this report. I mean, Mr. Horowitz worked under the Bush administration, the Obama administration.

BASS: No, what I was saying was how I believe my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will spin the report.

HARLOW: All right, well, let's wait. Let's reserve judgment, OK until that happens. Let's reserve that judgment.

BASS: OK. We'll wait a couple of hours. HARLOW: Let me get you -- all right. Let me get you on North Korea

because you sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

BASS: OK. I do.

HARLOW: And I'd like your reaction to the president speaking with Bret Baier on FOX News and we heard it a little bit earlier on the show, but he was asked about the executions under the Kim regime in North Korea and he responded by saying, look, he's a tough guy, that's a quote, and then he said, quote, "He's very smart, he's a great negotiator, I think we understand each other," and he went on to say, yes, sure, he does these horrible things, but so do a lot of other people, I'm paraphrasing on that. What is your reaction when you hear that?

BASS: Well, when I hear that, I think it's very sad. I also think that on this -- on the world stage, we look ridiculous. He says these comments and goes into these meetings right after completely disrespecting our most closest allies in the G7 and so the way the rest of the world looks at North Korea, they look at him and they just understand how superficial he is.

I wouldn't be surprised if he is not fully aware of the history of North Korea. I'm sure he's not aware of the numerous times that they have made commitments and violated them. He said he had no interest in really preparing for it. And then what happened? Kim Jong-un came right out and said that Trump was going to lift sanctions.

HARLOW: OK. The president didn't say he had no interest in preparing, he said a lot of it was gut instinct. He'd know in the first minute who he was dealing with. His team says they thoroughly prepared him. I take your point. But let me --

BASS: To me, that's pretty close.

HARLOW: Let me see what you think about this because Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana this morning, who does speak out against the president when he disagrees with the president, he said, look, this is the president treating Kim Jong-un with kid gloves, per se, as a negotiating tactic. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think the president is trying to negotiate a denuclearization pact. And meaning no disrespect, I think anybody who has intellect above that of a single cell organism understands that when you're trying to negotiate a deal, you don't walk in and slap your opponent and call him an ignorant slut.


HARLOW: He has a way with words, he certainly does.

BASS: Yes, he does.

HARLOW: But do you think, Congresswoman, that today America is safer from the threat from North Korea than at least it was on Monday?

BASS: Well, you know what, I also think today we are safer than we were when the president was calling the leader rocket man and talking about whose buttons were bigger. So absolutely.