Return to Transcripts main page


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on His Way to North Korea; Couple Exposed to Same Nerve Agent Used on Ex-Russian Spy; Russia Continues to Deny Involvement in Poisoning; CNN: Trump Completes Interview with Supreme Court Candidates; Official: DNA Testing Being Done on Separated Kids and Parents; U.S.-China Hours Away from Major Tariff Clash. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 5, 2018 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We're happy to report the young girl is expected to make a full recovery.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Look, not to be all serious here. CPR is so important to know if you're a parent of a young kid who would do anything like that. Just saying.


CAMEROTA: Maybe we need to renew our lesson on that.

BERMAN: We definitely should.

AVLON: Sure.

BERMAN: Time for "CNN NEWSROOM." Christine Romans and Dave Briggs there, running the show this morning. Take it away, guys.

DAVE BRIGGS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everybody. Good morning, I'm Dave Briggs. Hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July. Hello, again.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right. Hello, again. I'm Christine Romans in New York. Poppy has the day off.

Right now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on his way to North Korea facing mounting pressure to produce some kind -- some kind of progress on denuclearization. Sources tell CNN that Pompeo knows he must return home with a concrete plan for the next steps.

BRIGGS: Yes. But the trip comes as satellite photos show the regime is expanding some weapons facilities and one official says many experts including Pompeo are skeptical that Kim Jong-un is willing to give up his nuclear stockpile.

CNN's Will Ripley has been to North Korea 18 times and joins us now. Will, good morning to you. Plenty of reasons to be skeptical this morning.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dave and Christine. Absolutely. So let's look on the bright side first of all. Mike Pompeo seems to have a good rapport with Kim Jong-un. And just saying that sentence alone is pretty astonishing considering where relations between the U.S. and North Korea were just six months or a year ago, when we seemed as if we were on the brink of war.

Now they are all smiles, they're greeting each other. They'll have banquets together in Pyongyang, so they're slowly building trust and trust is slowly earned with the North Korea. I know from experience many, many meetings in Pyongyang, and it's easily torn down, by the way. But there are still a lot of walls up on both sides that need to be broken down and the Americans are going to be going in with some big asks.

Secretary Pompeo is expected to ask for full transparency about North Korea's nuclear weapons program. An inventory of their warheads, where are their missile production facilities, where are the enriching plutonium and uranium? Are there any secret facilities that the world doesn't know about? Will inspectors be allowed in? And then an aggressive timeline potentially for dismantlement. Although you have heard the State Department say that at this point they're not really talking about a timeline which indicates that they know this is going to be quite a long haul.

But the secretary does need to come away with something concrete. Not to mention the fact the North Koreans said in Singapore that they would return the remains of U.S. service members who were killed in the Korean War. There have been, you know, officials on standby. They sent in caskets to accept these remains and it still hasn't happened. So will he get some confirmation when he's there about that? That's another thing we'll have to watch -- Dave and Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Will Ripley for us this morning in Beijing. Thanks, Will.

And joining us now to talk about this, CNN Global Affairs Analysts, Joseph Yun and Max Boot. Joseph is the former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy and Max is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Joseph, let me begin with you here. How much pressure is Mike Pompeo under to get tangible results, real results?

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He's under tremendous pressure. I think what we've seen from Singapore is rather an empty -- empty joint statement and now he has to make something out of it so we've seen the administration move away from, you know, initially was fire and fury to cooperation. What initially was an all in one effort to now face the effort.

So what are we looking for, you know, from Mike Pompeo when he goes there? I think we're looking for precisely as Will mentioned a complete listing of what North Korea has in terms of their nuclear capabilities.

Look, if we don't have a listing we have nothing to negotiate.

ROMANS: Right.

YUN: And they have refused to give that.

BRIGGS: Max, given this is Pompeo's third trip now to North Korea and that vague agreement to work towards denuclearization, what do you think is a reasonable expectation for something concrete?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, as Ambassador Yun said, I think it's imperative that we get a full and complete accounting of the North Korean nuclear weapons program which they have so far not provided. I mean, that's step number one towards complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization, which is something that the administration put out there as their goal, that they have stopped talking about in recent weeks.

I mean, there's really no sign whatsoever that North Korea has any intention of denuclearizing. In fact quite the opposite.


BOOT: I mean, we've seen just in the last few days intelligence leaks from the U.S. intelligence community suggesting that North Korea is arming rather than disarming, that they're actually upgrading their missile and nuclear programs and so if there's going to be any hope of getting Kim Jong-un to carry out his so far empty promises it has to begin with an accounting of his nuclear program including locations that are secret, that have not been revealed, and hopefully locations that we are not aware of, and again that's a bare minimum to show genuine progress and to put some substance behind these empty words that we have heard up to date.

[09:05:12] ROMANS: Well, you know, Ambassador Yun, Max makes a really good point that the Defense Intelligence Agency thinks that Kim has no intention of engaging in a full denuclearization. So where does that leave talks?

YUN: We really don't know. I mean, again, President Trump and Kim appear to make good contact but that's about it for now. What to me is for sure is that Kim Jong-un has made the decision to change the direction of his economy, but as yet we don't see any evidence he's made a decision to denuclearize so we need to press him.

This is a hypothesis that must be tested and I think Mike Pompeo has Will mentioned has a tough, tough job. He's got to come out with something.

BRIGGS: Is anything short of a concrete assessment of what they have a failure? And Max, is there any sense of what North Korea wants if they begin to denuclearize?

BOOT: Well, again, I don't think there is much indication that North Korea is serious about denuclearizing. I think all the indications we've gotten up to date are that Kim Jong-un basically wants to string Donald Trump along. He sees -- I believe he sees the goal of these talks as to take the pressure off North Korea and to legitimate North Korea on the world stage and I have to say Kim Jong-un has been 100 percent successful in achieving those goals so far because remember what happened at the Singapore summit. Donald Trump caved in and agreed to unilaterally end or suspend U.S.-

South Korean joint military exercises.

ROMANS: Right.

BOOT: He legitimated North Korea. He praised Kim Jong-un to the skies and as a result of that meeting de facto sanctions have already been relaxed because China is not enforcing them the way they were in the past. The maximum pressure policy has now become minimum pressure, and so basically I think at this point Kim Jong-un's interest is basically in keeping this going and making more empty assurances that will allow Donald Trump to say that we're making great progress as in fact President Trump did a couple of days ago on Twitter because Trump seems to see talking as a huge victory in and of itself but he's not actually achieving his stated objective.

And instead what we're seeing is that Kim Jong-un is getting what he wants which is to make his regime more powerful without actually having to give up their nuclear weapons.

ROMANS: And, you know, China actually got what it wanted after that Singapore summit. No question. And now tonight we'll get these -- the first of these $34 billion in tariffs on the U.S. and retaliatory tariffs. Where does China stand on this? And we're not talking about China vis-a-vis Pompeo in North Korea but it's clearly a big player.

YUN: China is indeed a huge, huge player. And we've seen that. Kim Jong-un has met Chinese President Xi Jinping three time times. Kim Jong-un went to Singapore on a rented Chinese plane and so you can just see the influence.


YUN: And Chinese, Chinese are not going to let this go. They are going to control their destiny and, in fact, I think we should all begin to question how cooperative China is on the whole project of denuclearization. There are several issues they prioritize over denuclearization and one of them is controlling northeast Asia.

BRIGGS: And they do control that entire situation as of right now.

Joseph Yun, Max Boot, thank you both, appreciate it.

British officials saying this morning the nerve agent used to poison a couple Saturday was in fact the same poison used in the attack against a former Russian spy and his daughter back in March.

ROMANS: British Police say the couple in most recent poisoning was likely not specifically targeted but it happened in Amesbury, just a few miles away from Salisbury where the original attack took place.

CNN International Diplomatic Editor, Nic Robertson is live for us in Amesbury with the latest on the investigation.

And Nic, does it -- is the operating assumption here that this is the leftover nerve agent or poison from the prior attack and these people just happened upon it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: That seems to be the case, however we heard -- when we heard from the Home secretary earlier today when he was asked that specific question, is it the same batch of Novichok, essentially? Does it have the same precise chemical signature, the precise balance, the same amounts of all the tiny chemical components that make it up?

He wasn't able to say yes, because, of course, if he was able to say yes then definitively almost one could say that this was a leftover remnants of that previous attack. And that's what concerns people here.

[09:10:02] Number one that they don't have clarity on this, but of course the idea that a nerve agent attack, an almost-deadly nerve agent attack on their streets just eight miles from here Salisbury three months ago in March wasn't adequately cleaned up by police. There are still two sites in Salisbury that are sealed off by police. More sites here in Amesbury as well where the police continue to search after the latest use of Novichok nerve agent. So people here are concerned that they may still be at risk, that they're children may be at risk.

And this was something that both the Home secretary, when he spoke earlier today tried to allay people's fears by saying that neither of these latest victims had visited a site where that Russian -- former Russian secret agent had visited with his daughter back in March so try to draw the conclusion that perhaps this wasn't a fumbled, perhaps this wasn't a fumbled cleanup operation.

We've also heard the prime minister today addressing that as well saying that her, you know, sympathy and support for the victims but also sort of outreach to the community around here saying that she understands what they've been through, that the police are doing their job so that there is potentially a political price here as well if the authorities haven't been seen to have been doing their job properly first go around.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson, thanks so much. That is fascinating mystery really unfolding there.

BRIGGS: They've got to be on edge there in Amesbury.

All right. The British Home secretary says there's no other explanation other than that Russia was involved here. Russia denying those claims.

Let's bring in Matthew Chance live in Moscow for us.

Matthew, any chance Russia cooperates with this investigation?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what the Russians say, Dave, interestingly is that they are quite happy to conduct a joint investigation with the British, to get to the bottom of what's really behind this Novichok poisoning, but the British, they rightly say have rejected this. The reason the Brits have done that is because they say their intelligence gathering is based on secret intelligence and they don't particularly want to share that with the Russians. They also say they've got their own house experts, so they don't need Russia's involvement. But in terms of other explanations, there is no shortage of those at least as far as the Russian government, the Russian authorities are concerned, the Russian diplomats in fact are taking the lead it seems on social media in proposing alternative theories.

One diplomat from the South African embassy of Russia is tweeting that the poisoning took place near to the Porton Down military facility which is a chemical weapons facility in Britain. What pre-text, he says in a tweet, will be invested to lay blame on Russia this time? And so it's this conspiracy theory, one of many that Russia has been putting out there that this is the work of the British authorities to basically target their own citizens, to make Russia look bad and that's exactly the kind of theory that many Russian officials are trying to push in instances like these, Dave.

ROMANS: Fascinating.

BRIGGS: Sounds like fake news.

ROMANS: I know.

BRIGGS: All right, Matthew, thank you, my friend.

ROMANS: Thanks, Matthew.

All right. The president has finished all his Supreme Court interviews. All done. He's said to finalize his pick as soon as today. We've got the latest from the White House.

BRIGGS: Plus, DNA testing under way to help reunite children separated from their families. One non-profit group helping these immigrants calls the move, quote, "deplorable." The latest from the border.

And more rain will bring more problems for rescue teams in Thailand. The latest on the race against the weather to evacuate those boys trapped in a cave.


ROMANS: All right. CNN has learned the interviews are over and President Trump might settle on a Supreme Court pick as soon as today.

BRIGGS: It's believed, but by no means certain, that when the big reveal comes Monday, the nominee will be one of these federal appeals court judges whom the president met this week.

We also know the vice president has met with some of the candidates and many White House allies and members of Congress are weighing in.

CNN's Abby Phillip at the White House for us this morning. Good morning, Abby.

ROMANS: Hi, Abby.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Dave. We are down to the wire on the Supreme Court pick right now with the president hoping to zero in on a decision either today or tomorrow.

What that set off is this frantic lobbying effort by people outside and inside the White House to make their views of some of these candidates known.

Two of the main forces we are hearing about are Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. On the conservative side, there are some concerns about both of these candidates, but a lot of lobbying in their favor.

Kavanaugh is someone who we've been hearing about a lot. He has a lot of backers in the White House, but some people are concerned that maybe he's not conservative enough. Some concerns about a recent decision that he made on the Affordable Care Act has been brought up as one of the arguments against him.

And Coney Barrett is one of the women on the president's shortlist. And we know from earlier this week that the president is intrigued by this prospect of appointing a women, a conservative woman to the Supreme Court.

But while she is viewed as very conservative, some outsiders believe that perhaps she doesn't have quite enough experience, has far fewer opinions to her name and all of this is being taken in by this president who, as you know, likes to take in opinions from his friends and from his allies.

He's been working the phones the last couple of days on this. White house aides believe that he will settle on his choice, but they're going to be holding that decision very closely and working over the weekend to get these candidates ready for a rollout by next week, by next Monday in prime time.

It's likely that there will be two or three names being worked on, just in case the president perhaps changes his mind, but the idea here is to create some mystery around this pick, keep it closely held in a small group here and, by Monday night, have a prime time decision ready for announcement before the president heads to Europe on a big trip.

He's got a lot of meetings slated with world leaders up ahead, Christine and Dave.

[09:20:01] ROMANS: All right. Abby Phillip at the White House for us. Thank you very much, Abby.

We're turning now to immigration, the government still won't give updated figures on migrant children being held apart from their parents. And now, a federal official tells CNN that DNA is being used to reunite families.

BRIGGS: Our Nick Valencia is at the Port Isabel detention center in Los Fresnos, Texas.

Nick, good morning. You helped break this story. Exactly why is DNA testing being used?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's the outstanding question right now. According to our CNN's Sonia Moghe who spoke with a federal official with knowledge of this, this is to expedite the process of reunification.

But it wasn't the Fed that we first heard this information from. Initially, this came from an immigration attorney named Sophia Greg who has clients inside the Port Isabel detention center.

She says her clients, late last week, were approached by men in blue military-like uniforms and began taking blood and saliva samples from others to check DNA children.

She says she now knows this official in blue uniforms were officials from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. It goes without saying, Dave and Christine, that this has caused outrage here among immigrant advocates who say that they question the intent and if these mothers are giving consent. They question privacy as well and they want to know if these DNA samples are being stored for larger purposes.

Dave, Christine?

BRIGGS: Just to be clear here, Nick, is it being used because they've lost track, because the system is a mess?

VALENCIA: Well, that could be one reason. This has been a painstakingly slow process, Dave. We have repeatedly asked for numbers. We have repeatedly asked the Trump administration for updated figures, breaking down just how many children have been reunited.

And they refuse to give us those numbers. What they have provided is the total number of unaccompanied minors in their care.

The problem is that some children have come across the border in the last several months without their parents. The issue at hand here is exactly the children that came across with their parents, how fast they'll be reunited.

And a deadline is fast approaching, guys. July 10 is the deadline that a federal judge gave the Trump administration to reunite children under the age of five with their parents.

The federal government has until July 26 to reunite all parents with their children.

ROMANS: One of the justifications we heard for the - using the DNA was - so that the government can protect these children from falling into the hands of traffickers or people who really aren't their parents.

Critics will say, no, it's because they lost track of these kids or they don't know who belongs to whom. It's such a mess there.

Fill us in on this complaint from the government, HHS - Health and Human Services - says that those lawmaker visits to these facilities, when they come with cameras in tow to see for themselves what's happening at the border that that's actually slowing the reunifications, they're getting in the way of government business.

VALENCIA: That's what they're saying. That's their official stance. We've seen visits from senators, from congressmen. And the Trump administration is now saying it's these visits that are slowing down the reunification process.

But from what we've seen here covering the story the last several weeks, those visits are few and far between and they come mostly on the weekends. There's a lot of work that could be done during the week.

We've been asking repeatedly for answers as to how this process is going, show us the step-by-step process of how this is playing out. It's something that the Trump administration is not doing.

Dave, Christine?

ROMANS: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you so much. Lot of questions.

BRIGGS: One would think if that's taking away resources, so too is the visit by the first lady who has made two visits to facilities.

All right. This morning, a woman is in federal custody after she climbed on to the base of the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July to protest the separation of migrant families.

Police say she refused to move until all migrant children in government custody were released. She stayed there for three hours. And so, police coaxed her down.

Earlier in the day, a group of women unfurled a banner at the base of the statue calling for the abolition of ICE. At least seven people were arrested.

ROMANS: All right. Moments from now, the opening bell rings on Wall Street. Stocks set to open higher, although overall the backdrop here is a trade fight between the U.S. and China.

At midnight, stroke of midnight, the U.S. and China will hit each other with billions of dollars in tariffs.


ROMANS: All right. So, this is the week that could mark the beginning of a trade war here. It is real and it is here.

On Sunday, Canada slapped tariffs on $12.6 billion in American exports, everything from ketchup to soybeans. Then, overnight, Mexico doubled its tariff on pork imported from the U.S. to 20 percent. That is a huge market for American pork producers.

The European Union already slapped 20 to 25 percent taxes on U.S. soybeans, ketchup, whiskey and motorcycles, among other things.

And at midnight tonight comes the big showdown with China. The U.S. will hit China with tariffs on $34 billion in goods, targeting the high-tech industries Beijing has vowed to dominate.

And China promises to retaliate, at the same time, the tariffs on high-value important American exports - cars, crude oil and cash crops like soybeans.

The big unknown here, Dave, will the White House follow through on its to draw the auto industry into the trade dispute, something that carmakers say would hurt consumers.

BRIGGS: Let's talk about this with Mark Preston, CNN senior political analyst, Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator and senior columnist at "The Daily Beast," and Salena Zito, CNN contributor and the author of "The Great Revolt: Inside The Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics."

And, Salena, let's start there with your book and these Trump supporters who may, in fact, pay thousands of dollars more for American-made cars and it's beginning to hit soybean farmers and the like.

At what point does this hit Trump supporters and do they hold the president accountable?