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Trump's Legal Team Planning Out Next Moves; Trump Allies Worry Michael Cohen Will Flip On Him; Dictator's Actions Defended by Trump in Interview. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired June 14, 2018 - 07:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: For U.S. viewers, NEW DAY continues right now.


[07:00:05] BERMAN: President Trump's lawyers gearing up for a potential showdown with the special counsel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The president has legal and political considerations about testifying.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: He's not cooperating, nor do we care because the president did nothing wrong.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Innocent people don't worry about whether someone's going to flip on them.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We're going to get complete denuclearization. Only then will there be relief from the sanctions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a good first step, but it is by far not the last step.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: North Korea is the greatest human rights violator on the planet.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the party of Donald J. Trump.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's going to bring me and the other Republicans across the finish line.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It's becoming a cultish thing, isn't it?


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We have so much to talk about today. Another big news day. So good morning, everyone. Welcome to your NEW DAY. Fresh from the North Korean summit, President Trump appears to be

gearing up for a potential showdown with special counsel Robert Mueller. CNN has learned that, as the president was flying back from Singapore, he was working the phones with his lawyers to game out the next steps, including whether to sit down with Robert Mueller and the possibility of facing a subpoena.

BERMAN: In the meantime, President Trump is continuing to praise the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. In an interview, the president called Kim "tough, very smart, and a great negotiator." And he brushed off Kim's record of human rights abuses. Didn't just dismiss the question or try to deflect. He seemed to justify Kim's record, essentially saying he had to be very tough, because he came in as a very young leader.

Let's start our coverage at the White House. CNN's Abby Philip is live. Good morning, Abby.


When President Trump was on his way home from that Singapore summit with Kim Jong-un, he made several phone calls from Air Force One, including to his lawyers to strategize about what is coming next with the special counsel probe, including a potential interview.

Now, all of this is happening as the president's longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, faces his own legal issues.


GIULIANI: All of us know he shouldn't testify unless we get everything we want and he wants.

PHILLIP (voice-over): President Trump's legal team gearing up for a potential showdown with Special Counsel Robert Mueller over whether President Trump will sit down for an interview with investigators.

GIULIANI: We should get it done in the next week or two. Get a decision done.


GIULIANI: Which means then we go to battling over a subpoena or getting him ready to -- for a small, tailored, limited interview.

PHILLIP: Rudy Giuliani telling CNN that the legal team is eager to get the president's input, now that he's home from Singapore in anticipation of a meeting with the special counsel later this week or next.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you changed your mind at all about being willing to sit with Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: I would love to speak. I would love to. Nobody wants to speak more than me. PHILLIP: This as the president's long-time former lawyer, Michael

Cohen, prepares for a potential legal battle of his own. Cohen is at the center of a New York-based criminal investigation into his financial dealings, including a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels on President Trump's behalf just days before the 2016 election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the president still has your back?

PHILLIP: A source tells CNN that Cohen would not be shocked if he was indicted. Cohen has split with his legal team, and a separate source says he spent Wednesday meeting with at least three firms with experience in the Southern District of New York, which is handling the probe.

CNN is told that money is also a big part of Cohen's consideration.

MICHAEL COHEN, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: They say I'm Mr. Trump's bit pull, that I am his -- I'm his right-hand man.

PHILLIP: The legal shakeup sparking concern that Mr. Trump's fixer could flip on his longtime client, with one Trump ally remarking Cohen is facing the end of a barrel.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of talk about you flipping. Any possibility for that now?

PHILLIP: Giuliani insisting that Cohen is not cooperating with investigators.

GIULIANI: I checked into this last night. It's not so. He's not cooperating. Nor do we care, because the president did nothing wrong.

PHILLIP: As recently as Friday, President Trump would not rule out a potential pardon for Cohen.

TRUMP: I haven't even thought about it. I haven't even thought. I haven't thought about any of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you're not ruling it out?

TRUMP: It's far too early to be thinking about that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But you're not going to rule it out?

TRUMP: They haven't been convicted of anything. There's nothing to pardon.


PHILLIP: Now, today is President Trump's 72nd birthday, and while he has nothing public on his schedule today yet. We know that the inspector general report that he has been eagerly awaiting is expected to come out today. That's going to detail some findings about the FBI's handling of the Clinton e-mail probe -- Alisyn and John.

CAMEROTA: OK, Abby. Thank you very much. Let's discuss it all. We have CNN political analyst John Avlon and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, let me start with you. So as the president was flying back home from this historic North Korean summit, you know, listen, the Mueller probe continues. You know, he has to confront it when he gets home, even after what he considers this huge win.

And so it sounds like, I don't know, does it sound like to you that it's kicking into a higher gear or that decisions have to be made soon?

[07:05:12] JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, they do have to be made soon. But -- but you know, Alisyn, we've been hearing this same saga for months now. He wants to testify, but it has to be a short interview. I mean, they have to make up their mind. I mean, this is ridiculous that this has gone on for this long, the same subject about whether he's going to talk about. And Mueller's people are going to, you know, get frustrated and just drop a subpoena on him.

CAMEROTA: Giuliani makes it sound like they are negotiating. These are active sort of negotiations of what they want and how to keep it contained.

TOOBIN: But that's been going on since January, if not before. I mean, they had actually set a date in January. I mean, there are a limited number of subjects to negotiate about: how long the interview is, how many subjects they will discuss there. I mean, this does not take months of negotiation.

What the -- the Mueller people are being jerked around. And at some point, they're going to get sick of it. And I expect that will be soon. And, you know, he said a week or two in that interview yesterday. He said a week or two before. I mean, you know, I really just don't know when they're going to reach a resolution on that.

BERMAN: No. We're going to have to wait and see. As been noted before, just because Rudy Giuliani, for instance, said something doesn't always mean it's true. You can't take it to the bank on this.

Michael Cohen, John Avlon, you know, Michael Cohen changing attorneys midstream. We'll talk about what that might mean in a little bit. Rudy Giuliani says, "OH, we're not worried about it. Nothing to worry about here. We don't care. Even if he cooperates, there's nothing for him to cooperate about."

JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They feel great about it. I mean, it's all good if Cohen flips. That's self-evidently not the case. The president is terrified by the prospect that Michael Cohen could flip. Do I think that's likely? No. He somebody who's defined himself by loyalty. It would be huge if he actually flipped. They've got 3.7 million documents out there.

But this is just here. This is reality distortion field stuff. This is fairly standard operating procedure for this -- for this crew. But the prospect, the possibility of Cohen flipping would really send tremors throughout the West Wing in the Trump Organization. TOOBIN: John, I actually disagree about that. I think it is more

likely than not that he will cooperate.

Keep in mind that, you know, if he's indicted, 90 percent of the people who are indicted in federal court in the United States wind up pleading guilty. If they indict you, you have very, very little chance going to trial. Michael Cohen does not want to spend many years in prison. And he knows that Donald Trump is not a loyal person. So he's probably not going to get much support from him.

I just think Cohen, who like everyone, has a keen eye for self- interest, may well decide that co-operating is the best decision.

AVLON: The one difference between that and the other 90 percent, though, is that his patron has the power to pardon. And that may be the calculation.

TOOBIN: You know, pardoning Michael Cohen would be a quantum difference from pardoning anyone he's considering. I mean, there is absolutely no public interest in pardoning Michael Cohen. I mean, there will -- there will be people who will assert that pardoning Michael Cohen alone is an impeachable offense. He's not a -- he has no public role. There's no claim that he has any sort of public interest.

Pardoning Michael Cohen --

AVLON: He played a big role in "Celebrity Apprentice," though.

TOOBIN: Well, that may be. But pardoning him would be close to an act of obstruction of justice in and of itself. So anyway, obviously, this is all speculative. But I think counting on a pardon of Cohen is tough.

CAMEROTA: OK. Let's talk about the inspector general report that today the president will be briefed on. This is expected to dissect and review what James Comey possibly did wrong in the Hillary Clinton probe.

So Attorney General Jeff Sessions talked about this. And I thought there was a real headline in here for what Jeff Sessions said to "The Hill." Listen to this.


JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. 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.


CAMEROTA: Some of the concerns are not true? Uh-oh, Mr. Sessions. Donald Trump on line one. I mean, John, what is that telling us? AVLON: You know, the framing of it all, the timing, looks like a

giant birthday present for the president. I mean, what he wants on his birthday more than anything else.

CAMEROTA: Today is the president's birthday.

AVLON: Today is the president's birthday. And it's also Flag Day. But I think more importantly, the president's birthday today.

But I mean, this is something that the conservagentsia and the Trump White House and the allies and advocates have been looking forward to. They see this as the ultimate exoneration day, potentially. Can it create more pressure on Comey? Can it add legal jeopardy to McCabe? And what Sessions seems to be telegraphing there is the birthday present may be a giant nothing burger.

[07:10:11] TOOBIN: I didn't get that. I didn't get that. I mean, I don't know exactly what Sessions was thinking. But, you know, if it slams Comey -- maybe that Sessions was saying, you know, people thought that Comey was fired for no good reason. Now we'll see that he was fired for a good reason. That this I.G. will criticize Comey. And people will be reassured that the president fired Comey for good reasons, not to obstruct justice.

I think it is very likely to be a good day for President Trump and a bad day for James Comey.

BERMAN: It's interesting. It could be a good day for President Trump, a bad day for James Comey. But this is one of the rare days it could be a good day for Hillary Clinton also. A bittersweet day for Hillary Clinton. Because the worse James Comey looks in the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe, you know, she could say, "Hey, look, I told you all along this was unfair," Jeffrey. This was -- you know, this was handled poorly from the beginning, had he not, you know, sent that memo to Congress just days before the election. Things could have turned out differently.

TOOBIN: Does that make it a good day in her campaign for Chappaqua City Council. I mean, you know, I -- I just -- yes, I suppose a tiny measure of indication. But there's not much any inspector general could do to repair the damage that's been done to Hillary Clinton.

AVLON: No. Just I love that vignette of the loneliest John Cheever short story involving Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Chappaqua City Council.

But I mean, the reality is something that seems to have come out of this is, in fact, some sense that maybe he -- insubordination may be used for James Comey. That, you know, some of the pregame has indicated that he will be criticized. And there's plenty of evidence we know to date that he operated outside the normal order.

CAMEROTA: Jeffrey, if he's criticized, is this a possibly bad reputational game for James Comey? Or could there be actual teeth or consequences in this I.G. report?

TOOBIN: I think it would just be a reputational matter. And I don't see any sort of liability.

Andrew McCabe has a much more serious problem, you know, the former FBI deputy director who -- who was accused of making false statements to the I.G. And his matter has been referred to the U.S. attorneys' office for possible prosecution.

I'm not aware of anything involving Comey's behavior that would rise -- that would rise to that level. But the issue of -- you know, he has made himself out as a moral arbiter. He has written this very successful book talking about his, you know, interest in morality and his, you know, and some people find him somewhat sanctimonious on the subject.

If the inspector general, who is generally considered a pretty neutral arbiter, criticizes his behavior, I think that will be really embarrassing. But I think it will only be embarrassing.

BERMAN: And it doesn't necessarily mean, you know, the president fired James Comey because of the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. In fact, that's what he said at the time. But that still stretches the imagination a little bit. We'll see.

AVLON: Just defending her honor.

BERMAN: Right. John Avlon, Jeffrey Toobin, thanks so much.

The president still talking about his great relationship with one of the world's most brutal dictators and brushing aside Kim Jong-un's human rights record; actually justifying that record. Why the president thinks Kim is just a tough guy. That's next.



[07:17:30] BERMAN: The president continuing his embrace of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un while apparently refusing to explicitly call him out for human rights violations.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You call people sometimes killers. He is a killer. He's executed people and --

TRUMP: He's a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father, if you can do that at 27 years old, I mean, that's 1 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 he's still done some really bad things.

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

BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN political commentator, former Clinton White House press secretary, Joe Lockhart; and CNN senior political commentator, former senator from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us.

Every time I hear that exchange, it strikes me as more and more unusual. he president seemed to be to be saying, "Yes, you know, Kim, maybe he killed people, maybe he had people executed, but it was tough coming into office as a young man." The president seems to be justifying it there, Senator. Am I reading it wrong?

RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, I think you are. I think here's -- here's the president just a few months ago was referring to him as Rocket Man, referring to him as a despot, referring to him as, you know, every -- every conceivable horrible thing in the book, saying about Kim Jong-un. And -- and now we see a completely different side.

And it's consistent with the strategy that the president deployed. And the strategy is to engage North Korea, to befriend him. It is sort of a cult of personality. Donald Trump believes that he can bring him into his sphere and -- and work his magic and be able to get concessions and to get -- get North Korea to come and play ball with him. And he believes that.

And he is going to use tactics, which is what you've seen here to ingratiate himself with Kim Jong-un, with the -- with the goal of trying to get a verifiable nuclear deal with them that they will comply with.

So yes. I think if that doesn't work, I think in two months or two years, whatever the case may be, you'll see Donald Trump rip the guy a new one. So it all depends on where Donald Trump is at that particular time.

BERMAN: You think it's that simple? By the way, you say verified. Verified wasn't in the language in the document they signed.

But, Joe, do you think that using this type of language for a guy who's had people executed -- his uncle, his brother -- 100,000 people in gulags, you know, involves his family in the starvation of the people there, you think that's a tactic that might bear fruit?

[07:20:16] JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, I think the least reassuring thing I've heard is "We'll just see where Donald Trump's head is."

He's done more than -- this is more than a tactic. He's vouching for Kim. He's saying, "It's OK to imprison 100,000 people. It's OK to persecute people on religious grounds. It's OK to kill people because, I -- trust me, I've got this."

And this isn't the first time. Remember in the campaign when he was asked about Putin.

BERMAN: We don't have to remember. We can show you that right here.



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 is a killer.

TRUMP: There's a lot of killers. You've got a lot of killers. What, you think our country is so innocent?


LOCKHART: You know, he's putting the U.S. on the same level as Russia, that Putin, who goes out in other countries and assassinates. He's telling America that it's OK that Kim does this.

You know, of all the -- we get numb to some of the outrages. We shouldn't be numb to this one.

BERMAN: Senator, just you personally, again, foreign relations is something you focused on for a long time in the Senate. Are you willing to vouch for Kim the way the president is? Are you comfortable talking about Kim in these terms?

SANTORUM: No, of course not. I mean, I would -- I would never say those things about Kim Jong-un or anybody of that nature.

BERMAN: Why not? Why wouldn't you -- why wouldn't you, Senator, say those things?

SANTORUM: Well, because I don't believe in my ability to befriend somebody and be able to convince them to do this.

But here's what I would say about Donald Trump. I mean, Donald Trump is -- is obviously a very different leader for this country and has done things in a very unorthodox way. And I hate to -- you know, I know a lot of people hate to admit it, has been successful beyond what people have imagined. I mean, no one thought he would win this race. No one thought he would, you know, be able to get some of the things done in Washington that he's been able to do in his very unorthodox way of doing it.

So I just think you have to chalk this up to this is an incredibly unusual president who uses tactics that we have never seen a president use --

BERMAN: Senator, and I want to move on --

SANTORUM: -- before but have a better record of success.

BERMAN: Do you think -- what do you -- if you're a dictator in another country and you see the president using language like this, what are you supposed to think?

SANTORUM: You're supposed to think that is a matter of the -- I hate to say it -- almost of convenience. This is -- this is --

BERMAN: No way. You sit there saying -- you sit there saying, I would think, "President Trump has no problem with this."


BERMAN: "President Trump just said, hey, if I come into office, you know, I have to be tough. I have to suppress my people like this." The president just gave a green light to dictators around the world.

SANTORUM: I don't think so. I think what the president is doing is trying to befriend the leader of North Korea, trying to create a relationship, trying to create a relationship of trust between them. And he's saying things that I find, frankly, disturbing. But I think he's doing it in an attempt to try to get a deal. I would not do that, but that's what I think the president is doing.

BERMAN: While he is talking in flattering terms about Kim, and we heard him talk in flattering terms about Putin, as well, he says the real enemy is not this person who has executed folks and put 1,000 people, 100,000 people in gulags. The real enemy is the American press.

Let me read you, Joe, something the president said. "So funny to watch fake news, especially NBC and CNN. They're fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. Five hundred days ago, they would have begged for this deal. Looked like war would break out. Our country's biggest enemy is the fake news so easily promulgated by fools." I can't say "promulgated." I've never heard the president say it, by the way, so I'm not sure he wrote this. Who knows?


BERMAN: But our biggest enemy is the fake news. Not Kim, not Putin.

LOCKHART: Again, we get numb to the outrages, and here's another one. He is fundamentally underminding [SIC] -- undermining American institutions to serve short-term political goals. But his own personal goals. Not national goals.

The Department of Justice, the FBI are all suffering severe damage now because of what he's doing. The press. These are things that our country is built on. What he's doing, basically, you put all these things together and he's saying, there's not much difference between North Korea and the United States. He's -- all of this is part of a bent towards authoritative -- authoritarian government. And it is damaging, and it will have long-term damage. And it is outrageous. BERMAN: What about what Senator Santorum, though, says, which is that

it's working. You know, it's working, maybe, on the international stage. We'll see. It's working domestically, politically. Attacking the press is popular with his base, so who cares?

LOCKHART: Sure. Sure. And attacking the press, every politician has done it at times. But this goes beyond attacking the press. This is creating, you know, as Kellyanne Conway famously said, alternative facts. There aren't alternative facts.

[07:25:14] And where this becomes important is when we get into an international dispute, and one's -- the U.S. government says one thing and, say, the North Korean government says another thing. Who are you going to believe? Who's the American public going to believe?

You've got 65, 70 percent of the American public right now who do not trust a word out of his mouth. That's a problem.

BERMAN: Senator Santorum, you can see it trickle down inside the cabinet and other U.S. officials. Secretary of State Pompeo was asked about the issue of verification when it comes to the nuclear discussions with North Korea, which is crucial, which I know you know is crucial. There's nothing more important than verification.

But when he was pressed on it, he got indignant. You know, he suggested that the questions, you know, were insulting and ridiculous and, frankly, ludicrous.

Questions about verification aren't insulting, are they, Senator?

SANTORUM: No. But I think the idea that there would not be a verification and that the administration and he doesn't -- excuse me, Secretary Pompeo -- excuse me -- doesn't understand that verification is a sina qua non for any agreement going forward is ridiculous. I mean, that is insulting to suggest that we're not going to require clarification.

BERMAN: But you need specifics on -- it's not insulting to ask for specifics on verification, Senator. It's crucial.

SANTORUM: I think at -- at this point, I think when you're really just at a very high-level discussion as to what the goals of the -- of the agreement are, yes. To get into the details of verification at this point is probably way ahead of schedule.

And I want to make a comment on the media question here. Because look, I agree that Donald Trump's statements, or the statements from the administration, you know, criticizing the press are beyond the pale. But I would also say that the media has some blame here, too. I think both -- both the coverage of this president and the negativity directed at this president, as well as the president's response to that negativity, have both been disruptive. And I don't think there's a really good guy in this whole -- in this whole battle between the administration and the media at this point.

BERMAN: Senator Santorum, Joe Lockhart, a couple of pretty good guys on occasion. I appreciate you being here with me. Thank you so much.


CAMEROTA: OK, John. One year ago today, we talked to Congressman Mo Brooks moments after a shooting during a baseball practice with congressional Republicans. Now they're taking to the field again, and Congressman Mo Brooks is going to join us live with his thoughts on that day.