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Trump Wants to Revoke Security Clearance for Ex Intel Chiefs; Judge Signs Off on Immunity for Five Witnesses Against Manafort; North Korea Wants Sanctions Lifted Before Denuclearization; Trump Is Quickly Rolling Back Environmental Protections of Wild Areas. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 23, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We're back. Quite the bomb shell moments ago at the White House. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says President Trump may revoke the security clearances of a number of former top national security officials.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not only is the President looking to take away Brennan's security clearance. He's also looking into the clearances of Comey, Clapper, Hayden, Rice, and McCabe. The President is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they politicize and, in some cases, monetized their public service and security clearances making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the President is extremely inappropriate. The fact that people with security clearances are making baseless charges provides an appropriate illegitimacy to accusations with zero evidence.


BALDWIN: James Clapper is on that list, the former Director of National Intelligence, I talked to him moments after the announcement.


JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I think it's off the top of my head, a sad commentary. Where for political reasons this is a petty way of retribution, I suppose for speaking out against the President which I think are on the part of all of us, born out of genuine concerns about President Trump.


BALDWIN: Former CIA operative Lindsay Moran is with me. Lindsey, let me footnote one of the names on that list before we chat from Sarah Sanders, Andrew McCabe. This is from Melissa Schwartz his spokeswoman, she tweeted, "Andrew McCabe's security clearance was deactivated when he was terminated according to what we were told was FBI policy. You would think the White House would check with the FBI before trying to throw shiny objects to the press corps."

Just wanted to add that in. Your reaction to all of this?

LINDSAY MORAN, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: This is not particularly surprising. I mean, this kind of petty and personal vendetta out of the theater of Trump really doesn't surprise me. At the end of the day to a certain extent one security clearance as a former intel officer is your ticket to ride in Washington. But I think at this level all of these men and Susan Rice included, really are going to be able to continue professionally. There's no reason to yank any of their security -- your security clearance is tied to what risk you pose to handle classified information.

Being critical of the President or the administration is certainly not grounds for revoking one's security clearance. With regard to McCabe's security clearance already having been revoked, I mean, I can say this is both ironic and again not surprising. This is an administration that has shown zero understanding of security clearances in general. And many members of the administration have either completely ignored or willfully not adhered to common protocol in maintaining your security clearance.

BALDWIN: Let me remind everyone, John Brennan at the top of the list, former CIA director, it was Senator Rand Paul who wanted to revoke his security clearance which then perhaps begat this entire conversation at the White House.

This is what he had put out there. He tweeted just after that Putin summit in Helsinki. He said, "Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to and exceeds the threshold of high crimes and misdemeanors. It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he's wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican patriots, where are you?"

Obviously, he is outspoken as are a number of the other folks on the list. That said, if this is entirely, which it seems like political retribution. At the end of the day if the President wants to yank the security clearance, is it up to the President?

MORAN: I think at the end of the day he can probably do it. I mean, what I find kind of funny, though, is the sheer number, I mean, at a certain point it's almost like when you've had five or six ex- boyfriends or girlfriends break up with you because they say you're unstable, you have to ask yourself is it you? At some point I would think that President Trump might ask himself is it me, when all of these seasoned career public servants are saying the exact same thing, is it me?

BALDWIN: Lindsay, thank you.

We have more breaking news out of the federal court where former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had a hearing moments ago. The judge has just released the names of five witnesses who were granted immunity in the case. We'll take you back to our reporter outside that courthouse for the update in a couple of minutes.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK) BALDWIN: We now know that the criminal trial involving Paul Manafort has been delayed but we also now know the names of five witnesses who have been given immunity who would testify against him.

[15:40:00] Shimon Prokupesz, outside that courthouse, you called it, who are they?

SHIMON PROKUPESZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: That's right. These names, the five names, let me say at the outset they appear to be people who are related to some of Paul Manafort's financial dealings, his mortgages and some of his accounting work. Let me read the names. James Brennan, Donna Duggan, Connor O'Brien, Cindy Laporta and Dennis Raico. These individuals were just granted by the court here this morning.

The judge signed off on this immunity and said he would release the names this afternoon. And just moments ago the court did that. The prosecutors from the special counsel's office were against that, were hoping the judge would not release the names. He went ahead and did so anyway. We've learned from the court just a short time ago the judge saying in terms of the jury, we have a little bit on what the jury will look like. We expect it will be 16 people. The judge said he'll appoint four alternates. He'll bring in the jury pool tomorrow. They will get to answer a questionnaire. They will get to answer the questions.

He also told the attorneys, the prosecutors and defense attorneys, that they cannot ask the juries who they voted for. So certainly, a lot of decisions being made today in anticipation that the trial will now get started on July 31st.

BALDWIN: Got it. Thank you for that latest update. Next here on CNN, sources tell us President Trump is privately frustrated by the pace of negotiations with North Korea. The White House denying that publicly, but we are learning new details about the demands North Korea is making on the U.S. to even move forward.


BALDWIN: Big demands from North Korea today. If President Trump expects to continue talks to denuclearization, Pyongyang indicating the U.S. will need to take a bold move by guaranteeing the survival of Kim Jong-un's regime and begin lifting sanctions. That's it.

This according to an official with close knowledge of North Korea's position. Publicly, President Trump maintaining all is well with this plan to denuclearize. He tweeted today, "a rocket has not been launched by North Korea in nine months. Likewise, no nuclear tests. Japan is happy. All of Asia is happy, and he is very happy."

But here's the but. Sources tell CNN that behind closed doors the President is anything but. He's expressing frustration that the negotiations have dragged on. With me to discuss this, Duyeon Kim, from the Center for A New American Security, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation in North Korea. Welcome back.


BALDWIN: First on the demands, the whole can you guarantee my regime survival and, P.S., lift all sanctions? Thoughts on that first from the North Koreans.

KIM: You know, they're playing hardball pushing these demands now more than ever because two reasons. First, they are more confident now more than they ever have been in the past with their technological advancements of their nuclear and missile front. They've gained the confidence to push their demands, and also President Trump in Singapore, he essentially agreed to the order in which these negotiations might proceed.

If you remember the first three points of the four-point statement, one is normalizing relations. The second is peace regime and the third is denuclearization. And so North Korea's reaction recently since Pompeo's last trip and now basically confirms that this is -- their age-old position of sequencing, they're sticking to that script.

BALDWIN: North Koreans feeling bolder thanks to technology and thanks in part to President Trump lifting them onto a world stage. What do you make of the news that behind the scenes President Trump being frustrated by the time line? I think he wants a snap of his fingers and denuclearization.

KIM: Right. President Trump has finally been hit with reality of what it's like to negotiate with North Korea. They have tricks and tactics, delay tactics, psychological warfare. They're playing hardball. And this is what it's like.

They hardly ever negotiate in a businesslike manner where things progress along as we want them to proceed. And so, it will be a headache. They will frustrate American negotiators. But they will be pushing their sequence and what they want first, their demands first up front. The danger here is that nuclear talks might be held hostage to peace talks. And that's where the Trump administration's negotiators will have to be skillful and savvy. On some level they'll have to play this game the north is trying to push on some level. Be careful. We might end up signing peace with North Korea has nuclear weapons forever, and also is economically vibrant and has diplomatic relations with the U.S.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: So, among a multitude of items that are baffling people out there following this White House closely and we saw the all caps, you know, threatening tweet toward Iran. Right? So, my question is why do you think this American President is willing to accept vague promises from North Korea on nukes, denuclearization, but he scraps that actual tangible working global deal with Iran on nukes?

KIM: Well, who really knows what goes on in the mind of President Trump? We don't know when this will flip, we don't know when President Trump's patience runs out on North Korea. That's my concern. I hope the administration, or he chooses to opt for long- term containment and deterrence instead of seriously revisiting military options, but we see a disconnect between what the President wants and what the permanent bureaucracy wants in the United States administration.

And also, we don't know how President Trump will flip on Iran again. He played tough as you remember last year with fire and fury on North Korea and he suddenly met with Kim Jong-un so, you know, this can go any direction. It's -- President Trump is more unpredictable and actually South Koreans and the Japanese, they're more worried about President Trump than they are Kim Jong-un right now.

BALDWIN: That is precisely what I heard in South Korea last fall. Duyeon Kim, thank you so much.

KIM: Thank you.

BALDWIN: More on our breaking news ahead. The White House says it may revoke the clearance of six former intelligence chiefs. Moments ago, former CIA and NSA director, Michael Hayden tweeted, quote, "I don't go back for classified briefings. Won't have an effect on what I say or write." We are live in Washington, next.


BALDWIN: Just in. The President responding to questions of the explosive tweet against Iran warning the Iranian President not to threaten the U.S. Asked whether he's concerned about provoking tensions with Teheran, the President has just responded.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- provoking with Iran?



BALDWIN: Three little words. That's what you get. Not at all. Not at all concerned on what he said or tweeted. I'm sure Jake Tapper will be all over this on "THE LEAD" but I want to get you to this this. When Donald Trump was first running for President, he made a lot of promises about how to roll back regulations on the coal and oil industries and has president now made good on the promises. But what does that mean? On the ground in wild places like Alaska. Bill Weir went in search of answers to that precise question. Take a look.


BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The coastal plain brims with life from musk oxen to bears, both grizzly and polar. Birds that will migrate to the back yards of all 50 states. But as Florian Schulz has captured over the years, the most common creature is the caribou and not just a few. But hundreds of thousands. The kind of herd unseen since the plains buffalo were wiped away and when he is here with his family, he can't help but wonder how long it will last?

FLORIAN SCHULZ, WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER: Do we need to keep some of the places untouched? We are changing the world everywhere. So fast. But why not leave a few places unspoiled? WEIR: For almost 60 years, that was the rationale that protected ANWR

from this. These are the oil fields of Prudhoe Bay that fill the pipeline and power countless lives. But since there are billions of barrels elsewhere, nature lovers have long argued there's no need to drill here. And for decades that argument held. Until --

TRUMP: One day a friend of mine in the oil business called, is it true that you have ANWR in the -- I said, I don't know. Who cares? What is that? He said, you know, Reagan tried. Every single President tried. I said you got to be kidding. After that we fought like hell to get ANWR. He talked me into it.


BALDWIN: Bill Weir is with me. Tell me what this is about for you.

WEIR: This is about deciding what's worth more, some of the truly last wild places left on earth, kind of bio diversity going away at a staggering rate, or the kind of fuel that fills our cars or the kind of minerals we use in all of our devices and the cost benefit of both of those things. Alaska was ground zero of this fight. Drill baby drill. Republicans dying to tap into ANWR since Reagan, really. The perfect storm of the Congress and the president, as he said there.

[16:00:00] He didn't know what it was until a call from the friend in the oil industry. Now you have got small groups of tribes that share the profits, gung ho about it and then you've got environmentalists, other tribes who say, no, no. It sets up this incredible tension over this sort of thing and it's not just drilling. It's shrinking national parks. We saw that in Utah to frack and mine and those sorts of things.

Just recent days there's been a flurry of activity trying to roll back the Endangered Species Act which, you know, limits the extraction of minerals and drilling in certain lands and so it's like -- this President has set up a modern gold rush in Alaska. No stranger to gold rushes in the past and there has always been an argument over can we have both? Protect the fish and birds and wildlife and also pull out the oil and stuff.

BALDWIN: The difference is --

WEIR: The difference is that unprecedented rate. This is -- he is undoing with this EPA, with this Interior Department, this Congress, he is rolling back protections for wild places unlike anyone before him.

BALDWIN: We'll tune in. The first part of the series. You have a couple airing this week. Bill, make sure you watch tonight 7:00 eastern. Thank you so much.

WEIR: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Thank you so much for being with me here today. Let's take it to Washington to my colleague Jake Tapper. "THE LEAD" starts right now.