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Cohen Talks Loyalty; North Korean Denuclearization; Thai Soccer Team Found Alive. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired July 2, 2018 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: See you back here this time tomorrow.
Jim Acosta is in for Wolf Blitzer. He starts right now.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Jim Acosta, in for Wolf Blitzer. It's 1:00 p.m. here in Washington. Thanks for joining us.
President Trump's long time personal lawyer breaking his silence and it could signal trouble for the president. His once loyal fixer, Michael Cohen, showing signs that he might flip on the president. The man who once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump, now shifting his tune on here his loyalty lies. Cohen told ABC, quote, my wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will. I put family and country first.
The divide appears to be deepening between Cohen and Trump as this criminal investigation continues into Cohen's personal finances. And they are weighing on that relationship. A major shift from the close friendship the two men have shared for years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S LONGTIME ATTORNEY: I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.
And I'll do anything to protect Mr. Trump.
I'm obviously very loyal and very dedicated to Mr. Trump.
But one thing Donald Trump is, he's a compassionate man.
He's a man of great intellect, great intuition, and great abilities.
He's an amazing negotiator. Maybe the best ever in the history of this world.
I would say I'm definitely a cheerleader.
He will ultimately, and I've said this so many times, he will ultimately go down in history as the greatest president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: That's quite the mashup.
Now, President Trump is expected to speak next hour. Will he address this loyalty shift?
CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins me now.
Kaitlan, what are you hearing from the White House. Are they shaking in their boots over there about Michael Cohen and what he's been saying on ABC/
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So far, Jim, it's been total silence from the White House and aides are declining to say whether they've even discussed this interview with the president yet. And his legal team also isn't commenting on this. But, Jim, we both cover this president and know how he is. It will be very stunning if he doesn't reply to these remarks that Michael Cohen made in this interview.
What was quite remarkable was what Michael Cohen didn't say. He didn't repeat his past praise and defense of President Trump, saying that he would take a bullet for him in the past. None of that in this interview here. He also made two quite stunning comments. Though in the past he said he acted on his own in that payment to the porn actress Stormy Daniels. He did not repeat that here, saying he could not answer. And he also would not answer either way on whether he knew if the president knew beforehand about that meeting at Trump Tower with Russian officials and Donald Trump Jr. in 2016.
He also broke with the president in several key areas, praising the FBI, saying that they were polite when they raided his house, his hotel, and his office. He also condemned Russia saying that they did meddle in the election and that the -- essentially saying the president should not be citing Vladimir Putin's denials of that.
And he also said, and this is a key one, that he did not believe that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt. Those are all things that are definitely going to grab the president's attention. We likely could hear from him in person in the next hour. But that certainly could also come on Twitter.
But this is quite stunning. This is someone who has said before that he would rather jump out of a building rather than turn on President Trump. But with this interview, Jim, he seems to be calling all of that into question.
ACOSTA: That's right, Kaitlan Collins.
And President Trump has also voiced some doubts as to whether Michael Cohen will flip. We'll have to keep watching this.
Joining me now to discuss this, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Shan Wu, former assistant U.S. attorney Kim Wehle, and CNN's Kara Scannell.
Kim, I want to ask you, President Trump said back in April that he doesn't see Michael Cohen flipping. What do you read when you see Michael Cohen's comments this morning? Does this suggest that he -- it's a done deal, he's going to turn against the president?
KIM WEHLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, certainly now that he has new counsel and we've seen this with other witnesses, right, with Mr. Gates, as well as with Mike Flynn, that there was a decision to corporate after getting a lawyer that is going to negotiate that kind of situation. We don't know why he's out publicly making these statements. But what is stunning to me is what Kaitlin reported in terms of how he's having -- taking opinions on what has been super polarizing across the nation, as well as in Congress, the notion that the FBI is corrupt, the notion that this is -- that Mr. Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt, the idea that Putin is not a threat to American democracy.
And, to me, those are fighting words. It's unfortunate they're fighting words because these are extremely serious issues and the integrity of our Justice Department is something that we should also pay attention to. But I would certainly draw from this a very strong inclination that he's about to cooperate or -- if he's not already in negotiations with the Southern District of New York.
ACOSTA: Sort of laying the groundwork for it.
And Cohen was asked how he would respond if the president or his legal team tried to come after him. Cohen said, I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy. I am not a villain of this story and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way.
Kara, what do you make of this -- this interview. The final breaking of the relationship between President Trump and Michael Cohen? Is that -- I mean, he is making it very clear his loyalties with his family, his loyalties with his country, not with the president, not something you hear very often in Trump world.
[13:05:18] KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: No, not at all, and something that we haven't heard Michael Cohen say. I mean we had that mashup of him just reaffirming his loyalty to Trump no matter what. And this is the first time we've heard Cohen speak since this FBI raid on his home, office and hotel room in April. He very strongly is, you know, attacking these points of things -- of components that Trump has been very strong on and he's saying very clearly, you know, he -- his loyalty to his family, crystal clear.
And this comes after Cohen has been sending up smoke signals through friends that have all been saying Cohen's feeling isolated. He feels angered about some of the comments that the president has made and that his lawyer Rudy Giuliani has made.
So this is really, you know, strong words, first time we're hearing Cohen say, you know, his loyalty is to his family and not to the president.
ACOSTA: Yes, it almost sounds like, Shan, that Michael Cohen feels almost betrayed by the president when asked if the president directed him to pay Stormy Daniels, as Kaitlan Collins was just reporting, the $130,000 hush money. Cohen said, I want to answer. One day I will answer. But, for now, I can't comment further on advice of my counsel. It sounds as if Michael Cohen is dangling that over the president's head.
SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, he certainly sounds like a man who now is very aware of whose hand is going to be potentially feeding him. And he wants to make sure he doesn't bite that hand, backing away from the witch hunt kind of language.
And I think in light of the documents that are now being discussed, I mean he now knows what the government knows. So I think he's clearly worried. That kind of language, my family comes first, is often times code word for being very concerned about the financial strain that this is going to have on him if he continues to fight.
ACOSTA: Meaning if he -- if he doesn't cooperate with federal prosecutors and he -- and this is a long drawn out process, he's essentially signaling the president, Mr. President, you know, as much as I like you and have worked for you all these years, I have to do something to protect my family here.
And, Kim, let me ask you this. I think Kaitlan was also talking about this, and you talked about this as well, a friend of Cohen telling CNN that friends have been encouraging him to get out there, get his voice out there, because they believe that winning over the court of public opinion is important.
I mean can Michael Cohen really win over the court of public opinion? I mean they see him as so tied to this president.
WEHLE: Sure. I mean but the statement that stuck out -- stuck with me was the notion when he said, I want to get my name, my reputation, and my life back. I mean that's a pretty profound statement that through cooperation with the federal government potentially that he could get -- actually get his life back. I mean that's pretty dramatic.
So we don't know emotionally what is behind this interview with George Stephanopoulos but it was obviously carefully orchestrated where his lawyers made sure it wasn't -- there was no audio, there was no video, there was no transcript released. So his statements were cabined in a way that he was not exposing himself to additional liability, which is different from what we're seeing from the president's team, Rudy Giuliani in particular, with respect to the president himself.
ACOSTA: That's true.
And in the interview, Cohen offered -- did not offer any praise for President Trump. He even disagreed with him on several points. He doesn't like the use of the word "witch hunt" for the Russia probe. He says he refuses to demonize the FBI, which I thought was very interesting. He reiterated how he thanked the FBI after they finished sweeping all of his properties. He condemns Russia meddling in the U.S. election.
He seems to be trying to carve out -- he slams the Trump Tower meeting back in 2016 and he goes out of his way to disparage the immigration policy the president's been conducting down on the border separating children from their families. It's almost as if he's trying to detach himself from Trump world, from
the president. I'm no longer a part of your world anymore, Mr. President.
SCANNELL: I think that's right, Jim. I mean, you know, Trump says -- called the raid an attack on our country, and Cohen is saying they were so professional, I shook their hand.
SCANNELL: He's also the one that has this very acute investigation that he's facing and he's starting to have the realization of the impact that it could have on his family. So I think he is going, one by one, on several of these very strong themes that Trump has said throughout the presidency, the witch hunts, the raid on the office, and he is saying, he doesn't view it that way. He is distancing himself respectful of law enforcement because I think he wants to be able to have a relationship with them if he does want to cooperate as it seems to be indicating from this interview.
ACOSTA: Now, Shan, where do you think it goes from here?
WU: Well, I think Kara's right, this is clearly a signal that either his lawyers are already speaking with the prosecutors or they're about to because the message to him is, hey, you better stop attacking the prosecution.
The next step, if he's going to cooperate, that's all behind the scenes. That kind of negotiation is being down and they'll have proper sessions just with the lawyers about him first. So I think it will take some time. But Mueller's team is very aggressive, very fast. And we may suddenly hear that there's a plea deal.
[13:10:01] ACOSTA: Interesting. All right.
Shan, Kim and Kara, thank you so much for all of that. Appreciate it.
The other big news, CNN has learned the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency believes Kim Jong-un has no intention of full denuclearization. This despite the president declaring that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat.
Plus, the trade war gets real. Canada striking back and the E.U. issuing a dire warning as a key Trump ally warns the president this is going too far.
And some amazing news out of Thailand. You've been hearing about the World Cup. Consider this soccer story. A teenage soccer team found alive after nine days trapped in a cave. We will take you there live.
ACOSTA: CNN is learning some troubling new developments on North Korea. According to an administration official, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency believes Kim Jong-un has no intention of giving up his full weapons stockpile. Intelligence officials also tell "The Washington Post" that North Korea is trying to find ways to hide how many weapons it actually has and is also actively trying to hide some of its nuclear production facilities. Recent satellite images from a monitoring group appear to show North Korea is also finalizing the expansion of a ballistic missile manufacturing site.
[13:15:15] And White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, he said that the U.S. does have a timeline for denuclearization once North Korea is fully on board. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We have developed a program, I'm sure that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be discussing this with the North Koreans in the near future, about really how to dismantle all of their WMD and ballistic missile programs in a year. If they have the strategic decision already made to do that and they're cooperative, we can move very quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Meanwhile, a team of U.S. negotiators met with North Korean officials Sunday in the Demilitarized Zone.
CNN's Will Ripley joins me now.
Will, are there now concerns that this whole negotiating process could be derailed?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there certainly are based on what we're hearing from the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has now assessed that North Koreans have no intention of fully giving up their nuclear weapons. That Kim Jong-un's plan is not the complete denuclearization, at least not anytime soon. They've made that assessment based on some of these satellite images that are coming out showing enhancement at North Korean missile and nuclear facilities. Also electronic interceptions, basically the hacking of North Korean computers and on the ground intelligence inside North Korea.
They did have those talks at (INAUDIBLE) on the DMZ over the weekend, presumably to tee up these higher level negotiations between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterparts. Those are expected to happen in Pyongyang in the very near future we're told. And we're told that the Americans will be presenting a detailed list to the North Koreans, things that need to be done right now or in the very near future for these denuclearization talks to move forward.
If the North Koreans are unwilling to do that, then it could be a very short meeting because we know that -- and we've known even before this summit in Singapore, that the North Korean definition of denuclearization is likely vastly different from the American definition. And certainly from the North Korean perspective, not something that's going to happen in a matter of months, even though Trump administration officials have continued to hold out hope.
Now, we have heard a bit of a change in tone, even from President Trump himself, acknowledging that perhaps the deal that he signed with Kim Jong-un could fall apart. Although the deal was such a broadly worded pledge to denuclearization that even if the North Koreans are indeed expanding their nuclear missile facilities, right now they're not actually violating any agreement signed with the United States. They never said they would disarm. They never said they would stop producing components for ballistic missiles.
And so it really does raise a lot of questions, Jim, about what's going to happen moving forward. Secretary Pompeo certainly has a lot of work to do, especially considering the fact that not only are we seeing enhancements at the Chemical Material Institute in Hamhung, which produces components for solid fuel ballistic missiles, but there are also reports, according to U.S. intelligence leaked to a number of different American news agencies, that the North Koreans may be secretly enriching plutonium and uranium and may even be trying to hide some of the warheads in their possession and not fully disclosing to the Americans how many warheads they possess.
I can tell you from many trips to North Korea, including just over a month ago, they're certainly not going to put themselves in a situation where they feel they don't have a way to protect their government and their leader, Kim Jong-un, if these negotiations with the United States fall apart, Jim, because, as you know, the North Koreans have always prioritized protecting their regime over any economic incentives. They've been willing to endure sanctions for many years to keep those nuclear weapons. And it's going to be quite a tough job for Secretary Pompeo to negotiate with the North Koreans to get rid of them quickly as the United States would like.
ACOSTA: All right, Will Ripley, certainly raises a lot of questions about what was actually accomplished in Singapore.
Will, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Joining me here is Bruce Klingner. He is a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea.
You've been in negotiations for -- in the past with North Korea on their weapons programs and so on. And last year you wrote that talking to North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un is a waste of time.
Given what we just heard from Will Ripley and what we're seeing from a lot of the reporting out there, was the Singapore summit a sham, do you think?
BRUCE KLINGNER, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIVISION CHIEF FOR KOREA: Well, it certainly didn't accomplish as much as what many of us had hoped for and certainly what the White House was trying to telegraph, even as they were lowering expectations. So as Will points out, the continued production or expansion of these facilities are not themselves a violation of the Singapore summit, because there really is no deal. They are a continuing violation of numerous U.N. resolutions, which prohibit not only testing of nuclear missiles, but also the continued existence of those programs.
ACOSTA: And we've also learned that the Trump administration will give North Korea a list of tasks that they must undertake to begin this denuclearization process. How do you think Kim Jong-un is going to respond to that?
KLINGNER: Well, North Korea has always defined denuclearization as global arms control. They'll go to zero when we go to zero, or the rest of the nuclear powers. And also they define the Korean peninsula as including things such as the strategic bombers on Guam. So what we need to do is get a much fuller agreement, such as we had with arms control treaties with the Soviet Union, we need to get that with Pyongyang, along with very robust verification.
[13:20:13] ACOSTA: And John Bolton seems to think that denuclearization could be done in a year. Does that sound realistic to you?
KLINGNER: Well, whether it's one year or 15 years, as outside experts call for, really what we need to do is get North Korea to commit to it.
The usual policy would be a very sequential operations of data declaration, interviews with scientists, some inspections, some challenge inspections and then destruction. We could be doing a number of things simultaneously, even as we're verifying the data declaration. If North Korea really is committed to denuclearizing, they could be moving some nuclear weapons to a destruction facility, even as we're verifying how many is actually in the arsenal.
ACOSTA: And as somebody who has been in this field for a very long time and dealing with the North Koreans, dealing with the situation on the ground in the peninsula, when you hear the kind of reporting that you've been hearing over the last several days about the North Koreans maybe doing this, they may not be fully willing to denuclearize their entire arsenal, does it just remind you of the past shenanigans that we've seen this regime engage in? And does it just feel like deja vu all over again?
KLINGNER: Well, it does feel like deja vu. I've been doing it for 25 years. And we see a lot of cyclical actions here. We always hope that each time is different and perhaps this time is different. Perhaps either because of President Trump or Kim Jong-un. But we have to be wary. We have to be very skeptical as we go into this.
ACOSTA: Now, do you get the sense that the president is conscious of that? That he's aware of that? When you saw what was going on in Singapore, did it seem as if he just wanted a show, you know, an interesting piece of television, you know, with himself and Kim Jong- un walking around the gardens in Singapore and that sort of thing, or did it -- did it feel to you, when you were watching it unfold, that this is a serious attempt to denuclearize North Korea that was unfolding in front of all of us?
KLINGNER: Well, certainly the U.S. is trying to get North Korea to denuclearize. The communique from Singapore was itself weaker than previous iterations of agreements and communiques. So there's a lot of work for Secretary Pompeo and others to add meat to the bone. So, you know, they really need to get verification and clear commitment by North Korea to denuclearize.
So perhaps it's different, but we have to, you know, keep our eyes open and our shield up.
ACOSTA: And the president was saying, you know, he's been saying for so long that the Iran nuclear deal was the worst deal ever negotiated. I remember covering that. That was a very intricate and very all- encompassing sort of agreement between the Iranians and the rest of the world. And it just seems as though, when you look at what's happening between the U.S. and North Korea right now, it's almost as if they're trying to denuclearize as they're negotiating as opposed to having an agreement to denuclearize from the beginning in Singapore. But --
KLINGNER: Right. You know, as you point out there, the criticism by the president and the administration, not only of the Iran deal, but really all previous attempts at negotiating with North Korea, really raises the bar pretty high. In a way, any North Korean agreement that the president comes up with has to be better than the Iran deal, the eight previous agreements with North Korea, as well as the 11 existing U.N. resolutions.
ACOSTA: And it's not there yet.
KLINGNER: Far from it.
ACOSTA: All right. Bruce Klingner, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.
One of the president's top allies says his trade war is going too far and it comes as Canada is striking back and the E.U. is sending a very serious warning. We'll discuss.
Plus, live pictures out of Thailand where an amazing story is unfolding there. Twelve teenage soccer players and their coach just found alive after nine days trapped in a cave. It's an incredible story and we will take you there.
[13:27:53] ACOSTA: And we're following breaking news out of Thailand. Members of a youth soccer team who have been trapped in a cave for nine days, get this, they have finally been found safe after an international rescue effort. Just an amazing story out of Thailand. And we're going to take you there in just a few minutes. So, stay with us. This story unfolding right now, 12 kids and their coach found alive after nine days trapped in a cave in Thailand.
And we're going to take you now out to CNN's photojournalist Mark Phillips. He has been on this story in Thailand all week.
And, Mark, just an incredible story. A lot of people thought these kids were not going to be found. What can you tell us?
MARK PHILLIPS, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: That's true, a lot of people did think these kids weren't going to be found. The Thai authorities never gave up hope. They always knew they were
going to be found. They always kept on pushing through.
The thing is, today, they -- day nine, they pushed into the cave system once again. They were pushing for a place called Patia Beach (ph) cave system. As they came up into that system, they didn't see the boys straight away. And at first there was like a bit of concern that the boys had been moved further down. As they went along that chamber, they found the boys at the far end, weakened, but alive.
And relief here. The joy from the Navy SEALs, up to the right of me, the international crew that had been helping out, has been -- they've been ecstatic. The rescue workers have been going around here cheering. There have been monks who have been praying. So all in all it's a wonderful story. A really good, happy ending.
Now, the big problem is, is trying to get the boys out of the cave. They're in a weakened state. And we don't know if some of the caves are still flooded, where they will have to go under water to be brought back out again. But, at the moment, the relatives are just happy that they have their sons back.
ACOSTA: And, Mark, what do we know about the conditions for these kids right now? And what was it like for these children? Do we know yet what they were dealing with when they were trapped inside this cave? How they were able to survive all this time? I suppose, as the hours and days go on, we'll get these details and it'll be a remarkable story. But what can you tell us about that?
[13:30:04] PHILLIPS: Well, the problem is we know very little. We know that they've -- they went up there after playing -- after soccer practice and they went into the cave. We do know that they went to a shop. They bought some supplies