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Theresa May's Government in Turmoil Ahead of Trump's U.K. Visit; Trump Again Rips NATO Allies Ahead of Tense Summit; Trump to Announce Supreme Court Justice Pick Today; Justice Department Asks for More Time to Reunite Separated Families; Jordan Fights Back Against Claims He Ignored Sexual Abuse. Aired 1:30-2p ET
Aired July 9, 2018 - 13:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[13:30:00] NINA DOS SANTOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Now whether or not she stays in the job, Wolf, depends on a few things. One, whether other government ministers decide to resign from high-profile posts over the next 24 hours. Two, whether Boris Johnson, who's been quiet since resigning four or five hours ago, decides to openly challenge her for the leadership.
In order for a challenge to take place, you have to have about 15 percent of the Conservative Party, sitting M.P.s, writing to a particular committee to say they want a new change at the helm of the party. So far, there's no indication that we've seen that.
But essentially, all of this was set in motion after it was feared by David Davis, the key Brexit secretary, that he could not put forward credibly the plan that she had managed to secure over the course of the last week to the E.U. He was saying she was too soft on Brexit.
And she's also being goaded by the other side of the House of Commons, by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: Cabinet agreed a comprehensive and ambitious proposal that provides a responsible and progressive basis towards for addressing negotiations with the E.U. towards a new relationship after the 29th of March next year. It is a proposal that will take back control of our borders, our money, and our lawyers.
JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, U.K. OPPOSITION PARTY: We have a crisis in government. Two secretaries of state have resigned. And still we're no clearer on what future relationship with our nearest neighbors and biggest partners will look like.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOS SANTOS: Well, all of this is extremely significant. The timing of this, Wolf. Obviously, the U.S. President Donald Trump is about to visit the U.K. later on this week. He's also set to go to NATO as well. This as a time when the U.K. is at the center of a big political and security crisis with news overnight that one of the two victims of the latest Novichok poisoning has lost her life. So there's a murder investigation underway. The foreign secretary post is open. The post of the position of the person who is negotiating with the E.U. is still temporarily, but whether or not the prime minister will stay is the next big question that we have to answer here -- Wolf?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes. We'll watch it very closely, including the meeting with President Trump this week.
Thanks so much, Nina Dos Santos, joining us from London.
Let's get some analysis from our CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot, who's joining us now.
Max, this comes one of just a few days before the prime minister's meeting with the president of the United States. What do you make of these late-breaking developments?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Wolf, to me, this is a sign of how Western politics is increasingly being polarized in country after country. You're seeing, on the one hand, the loony left, represented by Jeremy Corbyn. On the other hand, you have the rabid right, represented by Boris Johnson, the hardcore Brexiters. Theresa May is trying to navigate a centrist's course between them, trying to negotiate a soft Brexit that will not cut off all the trade advantages that Britain enjoys in trade with the E.U. Of course, that's not good enough for the hardcore ultranationalist faction in the Tory Party. So this is a very difficult situation. I fear it'll only be exacerbated by Donald Trump's entrance into the scene because, of course, he's been very sympathetic to the pro-Brexit forces.
BLITZER: Yes, he certainly has.
Let's talk about the NATO summit this week in Brussels. President Trump is going to that summit, now complaining once again very openly, very bitterly about defense spending or lack thereof from his perspective by many of the NATO allies. What's the fear here? Could the president be permanently weakening NATO as an alliance and potentially further emboldening Russia?
BOOT: That is the fear. And he is definitely weakening the alliance. The question is whether it will survive his presidency or not. Part of that will depend, I think, on how long he stays in office. But it is really striking, the degree of hostility that Donald Trump evokes against NATO. Have you ever heard him say anything positive about NATO? Maybe some boiler plate and scripted speeches. But off-the- cuff in rallies and tweets, it's always criticism, criticism, criticism. Not just of NATO but also the E.U., the two great institutions that have created the post-war European order, founded upon peace and prosperity. Donald Trump is really calling all that into question with his hostility towards our allies and alliances, at the same time, his sympathy for Vladimir Putin, who is also trying to destroy NATO and the E.U. And there seems to be a convergence of interest here between Trump and Putin, which is very dismaying and disturbing.
BLITZER: But Trump has been saying these things about the NATO allies not since taking office, not since the campaign, but for so many years earlier. I interviewed him on many occasions over the last many years. He was always railing against the lack of defense spending by key NATO allies. So this is nothing new.
BOOT: It's nothing new, but that shows this is truly a deeply held belief of his, and he will not be swayed from it. Remember that last year, it took everything that H.R. McMaster, who was then the national security adviser, could do to get Trump on his previous trip to the NATO summit to siM.P.ly avow he would support NATO Article V, the mutual defense provision. Now H.R. McMaster is gone, and there's a sense that the axis of adult has lost power in the White House. They can't restrain Trump anymore. He's feeling his full Trumpiness, as it were. So he's acting on his most deeply held beliefs, which includes this innate hostility towards America's allies and trade partners, which goes all the way back to the 1980s.
[13:35:17] BLITZER: He always, for many, many years, has raised serious questions. Why does the United States need troops in Germany, need troops in Japan, need troops in South Korea? That's another issue we can discuss down the road.
Let's talk about North Korea very quickly, while I still have you, Max. Wrapping up some high-level talks, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in North Korea over the weekend. He left and issued this statement. This is the North Korean state, I should say. "The U.S. is fatally mistaken if it went to the extent of regarding that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea would be compelled to accept out of its patience the demands reflecting its gangster-like mindset."
That was a statement from the North Koreans about the talks with Pompeo.
The president tweeted this in contrast, quote, "I have confidence that Kim Jong-Un will honor the contract we signed and even more importantly our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese trade. Hope not."
So what's your analysis?
BOOT: Well, I'm just amazed by Donald Trump's credulity. He thinks he has a contract with Kim Jong-Un and that Kim Jong-Un will honor it? By the way, this is the same president who's been repeatedly sued by his own contractors for not honoring his contracts. But there was no contract. There was no real agreement in Singapore beyond these vague assurances from North Korea that they would work towards complete denuclearization at some unspecified point in the future. They've never delivered any specifics. They've never shown any evidence they're going to give up their nuclear weapons.
The only question to my mind now is, how long is Donald Trump going to keep this charade going. How long is he going to keep pretending that there was a serious agreement and that it actually amounts to something? I suspect he will try to keep it alive, at least through the election so he can claim he reached this great deal. But it was obvious from day one to every objective observer that there was no deal, that Donald Trump was being taken to the cleaners. You know, the big question I have now is, how will Trump react when he's been duped or rather when he's duped himself into thinking that he had solved the North Korea problem, as he said right after the summit.
BLITZER: I think he's referring to the joint agreement that Kim Jong- Un and the president signed in Singapore at the end of their talks. They both signed it. It was a document that they signed. The president is now calling it a contract. You say that's ridiculous to call that joint agreement a contract?
BOOT: There's no specifics in it. A, it's not legally binding. B, even if it were, it doesn't mean anything because the agreement talks about how North Korea wants better, peaceful relations and it will work towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. You can work towards something and never actually get there. This is exactly the kind of language that North Korea has been using since the 1990s. It's not a specific commitment. It's ironic that Donald Trump criticized the Iran nuclear deal as being the worst deal ever, but that included vastly more specific commitments, which Iran has, by and large, honored, giving up 98 percent of its fissile material. There was no such commitment from North Korea. They haven't even given a full accounting of their nuclear weapons program. Donald Trump pretending this is a contract just shows he fundamentally does not understand how the world of international diplomacy works.
BLITZER: And I was very much -- I noticed the fact. and it was very significant, that Kim Jong-Un did not receive Secretary of State Pompeo when he was in Pyongyang over the weekend.
BOOT: Right. Right. Yes.
BLITZER: I thought that was significant, in and of itself.
BOOT: That was the first time on Pompeo's three visits to Pyongyang that he was not received by Kim Jong-Un. The two previous occasions were before the summit. The strong sense I get is that Kim Jong-Un has basically gotten what he wants out of the summit without having to give anything up. He's gotten de facto relaxation of sanctions. He has gotten legitimacy on the world stage. Donald Trump has recognized him as an equal of the American president. He no longer feels the need to make any real concessions because that's what he wanted. So now he kind of gives Pompeo the back of his hand, doesn't even agree to see him, and has his government issue this statement blasting the U.S. for gangster-like behavior.
BLITZER: Yes, all right. Max Boot, thanks very much for your analysis.
BOOT: Thank you.
[13:39:27] BLITZER: Up next, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell chased out of a restaurant by protesters. What they said.
And we're just hours away from learning President Trump's U.S. Supreme Court pick. Why just one sitting Republican Senator could keep potentially the president's choice from taking the bench.
BLITZER: Just a few hours from now, the president of the United States will appear on national television to reveal his pick to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. The expected front runners are federal appeals court judges, Amy Coney Barrett, Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, and Raymond Kethledge.
Joining us to discuss the potential candidates and more, CNN political analyst and congressional reporter for the "Washington Post, Karoun Demirjian, and CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, April Ryan.
April, clearly, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, he's got his preferences. Do you believe the president will necessarily accept the recommendation from the majority leader who's got to push this through a very narrow U.S. Senate?
[13:44:48] APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. President Trump is going to do what President Trump has always done. He thinks for himself. He may take advice, but he is going to do what he wants to do. And according to a Republican source, who just reached out, you know, the decision is not made until it's made tonight. But what we're hearing is that, right now -- and it's not final because he could flip -- it's Hardiman and Kavanaugh. It's really about the fact that he doesn't feel, according to sources, the president does not feel they would waiver on the issue of Roe v. Wade. Amy Coney Barrett is not in the running, apparently, right now, because they feel that -- the president feels she could waiver on Roe v. Wade. This is something that could still change at a moment's notice. This president could change --
BLITZER: Amy Coney Barrett, one of the four so-called finalists right now.
They need -- the Republicans, assuming no Democrats -- a big assumption -- no Democrats vote to confirm, they'll need every Republican on board. A couple of those Republican Senators have concerns.
KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, you've seen Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski basically say they have concerns about people that would be not adhering to precedent on things like Roe v. Wade and might overturn it. I think you have to think those two Republicans and the three Democrats that there's a chief focus on, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, and Heidi Heitkamp, as one group. Because if Collins and Murkowski don't vote for the nominee, that gives cover to some of the conservative Democrats who are facing tight races in states that voted for Trump.
I agree with April, we don't know what the president is going to do until he actually does it because we're dealing with a fairly capricious president. But he wants a win on this. Gorsuch was a big win for both McConnell and President Trump. They want to repeat that. They don't want to have that legacy of the court is the thing we won on fall apart. So they have to think about the math going forward and who can both have faith in to stick by the principles he wants but is not going to be dead on arrival or take inordinate amounts of arm twisting to get those really needed votes on board.
BLITZER: Let me switch gears with both of you.
April, tomorrow is the deadline a federal judge imposed on getting children under 5 years old reunited with their moms and their dads. The administration is asking for a delay. They say they need more time. But it's so, so disconcerting, so worrisome that a lot of these kids and their mothers and fathers, the government itself is unclear who's where and what's going on.
RYAN: We're now at a point of DNA testing. We're at a point where they're really scared to put out the visuals and really talk about it because it makes them look like they're not as confident about reunifying these children with their parents as they once were at the beginning of this controversy. If, indeed, the deadline comes and there's a problem, there could be a fine. What's a fine to the United States government?
What it does do is create a bigger issue with the psyche of the American public and with the global leaders. What are the world leaders thinking? What is the world thinking about us when we cannot reunify parents? There's a strong possibility some of these kids will not be reunified with their parents. Then what happens?
BLITZER: It's so heartbreaking. We're talking about 3,000 children who have been separated from their parents by the United States government under the orders of the United States government, and there's deep concern that some of them, that they don't know where the mothers and fathers are, where the kids are.
DEMIRJIAN: And what happens? How long does it take? Even if you reunite them, how long does it take? How much psychological damage has there been to those children in the meantime? The longer this goes on, the more people -- you've seen politicians of all stripes saying this isn't who we're supposed to be. This isn't how we're supposed to treat people that come to our borders and shores. The worse it looks the longer it goes on. It's already not a good optical. The optics are already bad. If it continues, and you end up having a large number of children that never find their parents, again, that's just --
RYAN: In the foster system in this country.
BLITZER: And you hear these heartbreaking stories of kids who are reunited with their mothers. They cling to their mothers. They refuse to let go. It's so heartbreaking to see.
BLITZER: You don't know what long-term damage could develop as a result.
All right. We'll watch it closely with you guys.
Thank you very, very much.
[13:49:03] Check out the plane banner flying over Columbus, Ohio, calling on Jim Jordan to resign over allegations he turned a blind eye to abuse. The Republican is back here in Washington, up on Capitol Hill today. He's fighting back. We have details. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan returns to Capitol Hill this week. He's showing no indication he will resign as more former Ohio State University athletes have come forward claiming Jordan turned a blind eye to sexual abuse while an assistant wrestling coach there decades ago. The former students claim they were sexually assaulted by a team doctor and Jordan knew about the abuse.
An airplane banner flying over Columbus, Ohio, demanding that the congressman resign. Jordan suggests the attacks on him are politically motivated and insists he's done nothing wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN, (R), OHIO: I never saw, never heard of, never was told about any type of abuse. If I had been, I would have dealt with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Our congressional correspondent, Sunlen Serfaty, is joining us now.
Sunlen, is there any serious pressure from within his Republican Party for Jordan to step down?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: At this point, Wolf, not publicly yet. But this is certainly a very critical week for Jim Jordan as he returns to Capitol Hill after spending, like many other lawmakers, a week back at his home district as this controversy broke. And this controversy has been growing for him by the day as we're hearing more allegations from additional wrestlers saying not only did Jim Jordan know about the abuse at the time, but he went on to do nothing about it.
Interesting today, we are seeing a more aggressive push-back from his office. Certainly, trying to reframe the narrative going into this week. His office releasing a list of four former coaches, former wrestlers at that University, giving something of a character witness. One saying that he has good judgment, he's honest and fair. Another saying point-blank that he knows that Jim Jordan did not know about this abuse. So certainly interesting, Wolf, here as the controversy shifts to Jim Jordan and his political future. His office certainly trying to be more aggressive in their push-back as he will fight for his political life.
[13:55:43] BLITZER: Some Democrats are looking for a formal congressional investigation into all of this at the same time in contrast to the Republicans. We'll see what happens.
Sunlen, thank you very much. Sunlen Serfaty up on Capitol Hill.
Did Michael Cohen, the president's long-time former lawyer and fixer, just draw the battle lines against the president and his team? Sources say Cohen is sending a very clear message after Rudy Giuliani orders him to cooperate.