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Report: Government Ethics Office Asks EPA Watchdog to Look into Pruitt Related Allegations; Trump Says He and Kim Have Great Chemistry; Trump Falsely Claims That the IG Fully Exonerates Him; John Travolta Plays John Gotti. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 15, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Just into us, the Office of Government Ethics is being called to investigate Scott Pruitt. In a letter expected to be sent today, the watchdog specifically mentions claims this week that Pruitt used aides to set up meetings with companies in an effort are to get his wife a job. Just this morning, when asked about his EPA chief, the president said, quote, I am not happy about certain things, but adds that he thinks Pruitt has, quote, unquote, "done a fantastic job running the EPA." So, there's that on Scott Pruitt. Now to this, President Trump also praising the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un after the historic Singapore summit this week. When reporters were asking him about the many compliments he paid Kim, a man who leads a brutal and murderous regime, this is what the president had to say.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have spoken to passionately about the circumstances that led to Otto Warmbier's death.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the same breath you're defending now Kim Jong-Un's human rights record. How can you do that?

TRUMP: You know why, because I don't want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family. I don't want to see a nuclear weapon destroy you and your family. I want to have a good relationship with North Korea.


BALDWIN: Let's talk about that. Jean Lee is back with us again the director for the Center for Korean History and Public Policy over at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and also "Washington Post" reporter, Josh Dawsey, who has scoop after scoop after scoop. Jean, when you hear the president saying he wanted to -- he wanted his Americans -- I think he said "my people" to stand up at attention the way that Kim's people do for him, you lived in Pyongyang, right? You know how North Koreans live. You know about the one TV channel they're allowed to watch. I mean, the notion that the president said that. We should be clear the White House says he was being sarcastic. He was joking. But what did you make of that? JEAN LEE, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR KOREAN HISTORY AND PUBLIC POLICY AT THE

WOODROW WILSON CENTER: Well, there's always a little bit of truth behind every joke, right? But I should say that admiration for a totalitarian regime is not what you want to hear from the president of a country that wants to serve as a model for democracy. So, it is very disturbing. I think that the salute that he made to the North Korean general, he did react impulsively. But it was unnecessary, and inappropriate, to be honest. I can tell you that I had to make so many decisions when he was in North Korea when cameras were around.

I recognized that any deference I paid to the leadership would be used as propaganda, they would be portraying that as an American deferring to their leader, even though our two countries are technically still at war. So, I was always careful, and I always made sure that other Americans in my delegation were very careful. And we have seen past presidents also exercise that kind of restraint. When former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea, as a private citizen, to negotiate the release of two Americans, if you look at those pictures, he was very, very stone-faced. Of course, next to him, Kim Jong-Il is just smiling, had a huge grin on his face. But there is a reason why we refrained from some of those gestures. We don't want to legitimize a country -- remember, they are still technically an enemy of the United States.

BALDWIN: At war with us. Josh, you have all this reporting on behind the scenes, what was really going on in those days leading up to the big meeting. You even go into how the president clearly watched the tv coverage from the North Korean perspective, and what he thought of that. Tell me what you know.

JOSH DAWSEY, "WASHINGTON POST" REPORTER: Right. Yes, the president when he arrived in Singapore on Sunday became antsy and wanted to move the summit up by a day. His aides had to convince him you can't just move a global summit like this when folks are flying in. That there is already set television coverage, and everyone has planned a certain time, the North Koreans. And the president was eventually convinced partially that if he moved it up, not as many people would see it. He was a bit fixated on the North Korean state television. He thought the anchor was particularly vivacious in her praise.

BALDWIN: The pink lady.

DAWSEY: Right. He even joked that she could be on Fox News. And he was impressed by how formidable the bodyguards were around Kim Jong- Un, joking to staff members they could even take General Kelly, who obviously, you know, is a respected general in the military. What was most interesting to me in some ways is how the president cast the end of the summit saying what remarkable progress they had made and the terrific relationship between the two figures led to that. What I reported indicated that much of the framework of the deal had been hashed out long before the summit. That's traditional in these sorts of discussions. A lot of the, you know, details are done long before the leaders get on the ground.

But that's not how the president characterized it. The president said all of this was done because of our relationship, which is just not the case. And early on the United States did not make the kind of progress they wanted in negotiations before the summit towards the nuclearization. So basically, what we found is that the president cast this as a rosy accomplishment. And by many standards, it may have been, you know, meeting with North Korea and dictators potentially talking about taking nuclear weapons off the peninsula. But it was also a frantic ad hoc time behind the scenes. And they put their best foot forward when maybe the results weren't as clear-cut as maybe the president sold them as.

[15:35:00] BALDWIN: 20 seconds. What did you make of what the president did this morning?

DAWSEY: It was pretty mesmerizing, talked about his praise for Kim Jong-Un, now there was no collusion in the Inspector General report, which was not the case. He threatened to involve the DOJ. He covered a whole smorgasbord of topics. A lot of his statements were just accurate. But it shows he's emboldened and he wants to be his own communications director and there he was doing what is most comfortable doing out on the White House lawn doing his own press.

BALDWIN: There he was. Josh, thank you so much. And Jean, good to see you again. Thank you both very much. Coming up next, President Trump claims the Inspector General's report fully exonerates him in the Russian probe, even though the report was actually about the Clinton e-mail investigation. We're going to talk about what is really next in the Mueller investigation.


BALDWIN: President Trump on the attack today here after the release of the Inspector General's report. In this extraordinary appearance outside the White House today, the president called the IG report biased against him, even though the 500-page report has no findings about the Special Counsel's Russia probe. It was about the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation and whether or not the FBI mishandled it. So, watch this.


TRUMP: I did nothing wrong. There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. The IG report yesterday went a long way to show that. If you read the IG report, I've been totally exonerated. Take a look at the investigation. Take a look at how it started. Take a look at the horrible statements that Peter Strzok, the chief investigator said, and take a look at what he did with Hillary Clinton.


BALDWIN: Let's start there with Michael Smerconish, host here on CNN. Michael, you, lawyer hat, you think this IG report will make it more difficult to prosecute an obstruction case against the president. Why?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I do. I don't think the president has been exonerated. I've waded through the 500 pages, and I don't see exoneration anywhere in the document. But insofar as it relates to the firing of Comey, what I do see in that report is an affirmation of what Rod Rosenstein wrote in this memo back in May of 2017, where he provided the justification for President Trump to fire Comey. And here's the awkward situation that it sets up. Seemingly, what Mueller will do when he finishes his report relative to obstruction is hand that report to who? To Rod Rosenstein.

And he'll be handing a report to Rosenstein. Rosenstein has skin in this game. I don't know how Rosenstein doesn't have a conflict in so far, he himself is a critical witness to having provided the predicate to the president. Now as you have correctly pointed out, this comes down to what was in the president's head at the time that he fired Comey. But the combination of the IG report, the inspector general report, and the deputy ag report, and the commonality of them, I think it makes it that much more difficult to prosecute the president for obstruction of justice.

BALDWIN: Which is exactly what the Trump legal team is saying in this reporting that Gloria and Evan Perez have. So, there's that, and then John Travolta. I want to get to this clip. I want to get to this clip. You interviewed John Travolta. He plays convicted mob boss John Gotti here in this new movie coming out. Let's watch a clip from your interview.


SMERCONISH: Do you worry that this all glamourizes the life?

JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: I don't, actually, at all. Because how glamorous is it to be dying of stage four cancer in prison and your son who you adore is on the other side, and you haven't -- you can't be with him or the rest of your family? How glamorous is it all these stressful court cases and -- this is a group that lived on a cliff, do you know? I mean, the glamorous part is they had a sexy life, but underneath that, let's look at it, you know? Honestly, I think this -- this film looks at it for the first time in a very truthful way.

[15:45:00] (END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: How did all of this come about?

SMERCONISH: So, we're seated in an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia, Brooke, famous for a mob hit that took place about 20 years ago. And having watched the movie and having questioned John Gotti Jr., I'm aware of the fact that John Travolta went to extraordinary lengths to portray the so-called dapper don. He went --

BALDWIN: Like what?

SMERCONISH: He went to the Gotti residence -- well, for example, wearing his clothes. And he describes for me the scent of John Gotti that is still in all that clothing, and the Gotti family so trusted him that they provided jewelry for him to wear during the shooting of the movie. And he comes across as very telegenic in the same way that Gotti was. So, I thought it appropriate to ask both Travolta and Gotti Jr., are you glamorizing the life. Are you worried about that criticism? By the way, Gotti Jr. said to me, hey, my father died, if you look at the death certificate, by choking on his own vomit while incarcerated, and handcuffed to a hospital bed. So, there's nothing glamorous about that. But I think that might be a criticism that some would take away from the film when they see the way that Travolta portrays Gotti Senior.

BALDWIN: When do people get to watch this interview?

SMERCONISH: Tomorrow morning. Thank you so much for asking. I'm really eager for people to watch the interaction between Gotti Jr. and Travolta and yours truly.

BALDWIN: All right. 9:00 a.m., Michael Smerconish, thank you so much. And again, a reminder, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, the new book out, all kinds of Michael Smerconish love for you on a Friday afternoon. Thank you. We'll see you tomorrow morning on CNN.

Coming up you, Attorney General Jeff Sessions today defending the policy of separating parents from their children at the border. Kamau Bell joins relied to discuss the outcry over the detentions.


BALDWIN: We have a number -- moments ago the Department of Homeland Security secured 2,000 children have been separated from their families at the Mexico border over the last six weeks. Today Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the policy.


JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're not hostile to immigration. We're not against immigration. We're not trying to punish good people who want to come here in a lawful way. We simply are responding to the decent concerns of the American people to end the lawlessness.

W. Kamau Bell and back with me today. And thank you for rolling through and we'll talk about how you went home to Alabama for your show but quickly, this whole crisis on the border what is your take?

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST: Jeff Sessions is quoting the Bible and he has what a lot of people have is selective Christianity, using the Bible when it suits you and not using it when it doesn't suit you. Quoting the Bible to talk about why we are separating families at the border is a ridiculous thing to do. A hurtful thing to do. And a disgusting thing to do. And Jeff Sessions we'll talk about in Alabama is from Alabama. I want to be clear. This is not how all Alabamans think. He is not putting a good face on the state of Alabama which is what I am trying to do this weekend on "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA".

BALDWIN: Let's look at a clip.


BELL: No, my crew is doing OK by most measures. But my dad's is way more impressive. He was the insurance commissioner for Alabama which made him the highest ranking black person in Alabama. The Alabamian to become the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. He's met with multiple presidents. Clinton, Obama -- nope. But before all of that, he was a struggling artist in the bay area. Well that is where I got that from. But his life really started in a shack in Alabama, 100 miles outside of Mobile with a population of 312 and the shack is on land that my family still owns. Right off of -- don't get too impressed -- Bell road.


BALDWIN: Bell road. Yes. What was that like talking to -- having your dad on set with you.

BELL: He's like finally I'm on your TV show.

BALDWIN: You're welcome, son.

BELL: Yes, you're welcome. And I decided to do this episode right after the election and there was talk about division in the country and aimed at the south, before Alabama elected the Randall Woodson and had not elected the senator who had -- who was stalking kids.

[15:55:00] BALDWIN: Before the Roy Moore and Doug Jones.

BELL: I deleted him from my cast, so I couldn't think of his name. So, this was -- it was like I wanted to show those who don't live in the south tend to condescend to the south and a lot have not been to the south and I've been going to the south my whole life and it is an important time to go there and not as an outsider or somebody who has been on the inside and could show it to -- show it to the world.

BALDWIN: Love it. As a southerner, I appreciate it. Kamau, thank you. "United Shades of America" Sunday night 10 o'clock here on CNN. And coming up, President Trump's attorneys talking presidential pardons to a reporter just hours after Paul Manafort was sent to jail.


BALDWIN: Before I go, want to take a moment to introduce you to this week's CNN Hero. He was once in foster care and in 30 years later he and his husband have adopted four kids of their own, so we started a nonprofit to provide foster children with a tangible sign of love.


ROB SCHEER, FOUNDER, COMFORT CASES: Many children in foster care, they're put in a situation where they do feel invisible and they do feel they do not count. That they have no voice. It is up to us to make sure that we're there to help --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's so cute. It is a little angel teddy bear.

SCHEER: And we need to make them feel wanted by all of us.


BALDWIN: Please go to CNN to learn more or nominate someone you know. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thanks for being with me, "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.