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White House Announcing Conditions on Trump Meeting with North Korean Leader; Attorney Used Trump Organization E-mail In Porn Star Deal; Gun Restriction Sparked By School Massacre Become Law; British Troops Deployed In Nerve Agent Attack Probe Russia Offers To Help But Is Seen As Key Suspect. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 9, 2017 - 17:00   ET


[17:00:17] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. New conditions. A day after the president's shocking announcement promising to meet North Korea's Kim Jong-un, the White House is now setting conditions for the meeting and defending the chaotic way the announcement was rolled out.

You've got mail. He said he was acting on his own, but there's now new proof the president's personal lawyer used Trump Organization e- mail to negotiate the payoff aimed at silencing porn star Stormy Daniels.

Florida acts. Florida's governor signs the first gun law enacted in the state since the Parkland school massacre. It tightens gun controls but allows some teachers to be armed. Will it help?

And warning from Moscow? As hundreds of British troops deploy to aid the investigation into the nerve agent attack. Did Russia poison its former spy as a warning to others?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: There's breaking news. Hours after President Trump's stunning declaration that he would meet face to face with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the White House is now saying not so fast, stressing there can be no talks until North Korea takes, quote, "concrete and verifiable steps toward denuclearization."

Also breaking, new evidence in the attempt to silence Stormy Daniels, showing the president's lawyer used a Trump Organization e-mail account to manage the hush money payment to the adult film actress.

Our correspondents and specialists are standing by. We have full coverage. Did the president accept North Korea's offer of talks before anyone in his administration had thought it through?

Let's go straight to our senior White Houses correspondent, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, the White House apparently now playing catch-up.


There's no question here that any meeting of this magnitude certainly is complicated, to say the least. The president clearly getting out in front of this yesterday evening, announcing this himself as we came on the air just 24 hours ago. But now the complicating part begins on this. Under what condition would this meeting happen?

A White House official just told me a few moments ago the invitation has been extended and is still accepted. The questions remain, though, the complicating questions over will have they have the meeting regardless? Do they believe North Korea? Those questions tonight are still unanswerable.


ZELENY (voice-over): The White House is scrambling tonight to follow through with what could be the biggest diplomatic gamble in generations: face to face talks between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

But one day after the president stunned the world by accepting Kim's invitation on the spot, it became clear just how complicated and confusing arranging a meeting with the two leaders will be.

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president will not have a meeting without seeing concrete steps and concrete actions take place by North Korea.

ZELENY: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tried delivering a clear message today.

SANDERS: The maximum pressure campaign, we're not letting up. This maximum pressure campaign and this process has been ongoing since the president first took office. The United States is going to continue that maximum pressure campaign.

ZELENY: But left many questions unanswered about the future of North Korea's nuclear program.

(on camera): How will the president and he United States be able to verify this before the meeting? How will they be able to verify the denuclearization?

SANDERS: That's something that will be determined through the national security and intelligence community.

ZELENY: The president has said repeatedly that previous presidents, his predecessors have mishandled this and misplayed this. Why can he be so confident that this is the right move when just in October he was telling his own secretary of state it would be a waste of time to talk directly?

SANDERS: Well, I think it's really clear that they've misplayed it or we wouldn't be in the position that we're in. The president wouldn't be having to clean up the mistakes of the previous three administrations. The president is getting promises out of North Korea that haven't been made in any recent years.

ZELENY (voice-over): But delivering on those promises may be another story, particularly by May of this year, when the two leaders agreed to meet.

When the invitation was delivered to the White House on Thursday evening, the South Korean national security adviser said only that Kim is committed to denuclearization, not that he would take concrete steps before meeting Trump.

When asked whether the meeting could be called off if those steps aren't met, Sanders said this.

SANDERS: I'm not going to sit here and walk through every hypothetical that could exist in the world, but I can tell you that the president has accepted that invitation on the basis that we have concrete and verifiable steps.

ZELENY: The look on the president's face spoke volumes when he ducked into the White House briefing room on Thursday afternoon to tease the announcement.

[17:05:05] Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, traveling in Africa, had expressed skepticism only hours earlier.

REX TILLERSON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: In terms of direct talks with the United States and you guys' negotiations, and we're a long ways from negotiations. I think it's -- we just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it.

ZELENY: The countdown to an historic meeting, should it go forward, comes after a roller coaster of red-hot rhetoric. Seven months ago, the president sounded the alarm when he said this.

TRUMP: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and frankly, power the likes which of this world has never seen before.

ZELENY: A month later he belittled Kim during a speech at the United Nations.

TRUMP: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime.

ZELENY: Then the president admonished his secretary of state, saying he was wasting his time trying negotiate with Little Rocket Man.

Visiting South Korea one month later, he had this message for Kim.

TRUMP: I say to the North, do not underestimate us. And do not try us.

ZELENY: But recently Trump's words have been far more diplomatic.

TRUMP: I thought North Korea was terrific. They came out, they went into the Olympics. They went in with good spirits. They did well. It's -- let's see if we can carry it over. We may carry it over. It may not. A very -- it's a very tenuous situation.

ZELENY: Trump remained out of sight today after calling China's president, Xi Jinping, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It remained unclear not only where the meeting would be but who would attend.

SANDERS: At the end of the day, the ultimate person to lead that negotiation or that conversation and be at the table will be the president.

ZELENY: Despite the magnitude of the North Korea talks, it didn't entirely sweep away the ongoing saga of porn star Stormy Daniels. But unlike earlier in the week, when Sanders repeatedly said the president had won the case by arbitration, today she declined to answer questions.

SANDERS: I don't -- we've addressed this extensively, and I don't have anything else to add.


ZELENY: So Wolf, tonight on that front, the White House is not answering questions about the legal developments in the Stormy Daniels case as we end a busy, chaotic week here, Wolf, on a Friday. Those questions do remain, even as the White House, of course, is looking for the North Korean diplomatic talks.

Several controversies remain. The Russia investigation and Stormy Daniels, Wolf. The president still has not weighed in on that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeff. Thank you. Jeff Zeleny over at the White House.

Also breaking, there are some new details about the pre-election payoff to the porn star Stormy Daniels. CNN has obtained an e-mail showing Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, actually used his Trump Organization e-mail account for communications at the time of the payment.

Let's get the latest from our national correspondent, Sara Sidner.

Sara, the critics are suggesting that these are new questions about what the future president may have known.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They absolutely are. And Stormy Daniels' attorney spoke to that today. So did Stormy Daniels' friend. We talked to her here in San Diego.


SIDNER (voice-over): As Stormy Daniels continues making big-money appearances at strip clubs across the country, there is new potential evidence in her case. This message from a New York bank, showing Donald Trump's personal

lawyer was using his Trump Organization e-mail account to arrange a $130,000 payoff to keep Daniels quiet.

Until now, Michael Cohen has maintained he facilitated the payment to the adult film star himself and that the president or the Trump Organization were not involved. It's thought the payment was to keep Stormy from talking in the days before the election about allegations she had a sexual affair with Trump.

Stormy Daniels's attorney had this to say.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS' ATTORNEY: We're going to be able to obtain discovery and documents and testimony that's going to show, I am highly confident, that at all times Mr. Trump knew exactly what was going on.

SIDNER: The e-mail stream confirms money was transferred into a checking account, apparently controlled by Cohen, which he then forwarded to Stormy Daniels's lawyer on October 25. At the time as proof that the payment was coming.

JESSICA DRAKE, ADULT FILM STAR: In the penthouse suite I met Donald again. When we entered the room, he grabbed each of us tightly in a hug and kissed each one of us without asking permission.

SIDNER: The scandal surrounding the hush money agreement signed by Daniels has now bizarrely widened to include another porn star.

Just a month before the 2016 presidential election, Jessica Drake accused then-candidate Donald Trump of sexual misconduct. She claimed Trump harassed her in 2006 at the same Lake Tahoe Resort golf tournament where Daniels and Trump met and took this now infamous photo.

[17:10:19] At the time, Trump's spokesperson fired back at Drake, saying, "Mr. Trump does not know this person, does not remember this person and would have no interest in ever knowing her."

But Drake has pictures of her and Trump showing they at least met.

And Drake's legal name, Angel Ryan, is listed on the non-disparagement agreement Trump's lawyer drafted to keep Stormy Daniels quiet, saying she was one of the four people with confidential information about Daniels and the alleged sexual relationship with Trump, which his team has denied.

Adult film actress Alana Evans was also in Tahoe in 2006.

(on camera): How do you know that Jessica Drake and Donald Trump met in 2006?

ALANA EVANS, STORMY DANIELS'S FRIEND: When I ran into Stormy in Tahoe and she joined my friend and I in the tattoo parlor, it was part of her story. I spoke to Stormy on the phone, asked her how it went, and her

response to me was that he chased her around the hotel room in his tighty-whiteys.

SIDNER: What does Jessica Drake know about the relationship between Stormy and Donald Trump?

EVANS: Well, I would imagine Jessica and Stormy at the same time were under contract with the same company. Girls talk. People in our industry talk. So I can only imagine the details that Jessica would have known.


SIDNER: Now, Evans made clear that Stormy Daniels and Jessica Drake were not friends, that they simply work together. She said that Stormy told her that it was Drake that was trying to approach Donald Trump, not the other way around.

Now as for those e-mails that you heard about, now Mr. Cohen has responded, telling CNN about those e-mails. He said, look, he used a Trump Organization e-mail to sends e-mails to his friends and family, as well, and that he took out a home equity line of credit, transferred money from one account at the bank into the LLC, and then wired those funds to Miss Clifford's attorney in Beverly Hills. He says he has said that information before and that the information is not new.

But earlier today, after the e-mails were reported, Stormy's attorney said, well, he smells smoke. Cohen has responded, saying, and I quote: "He should either evacuate the room he's standing in or immediately seek the attention of an ENT doctor."

The war of words going really strong at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Indeed. Those war of words intensified. Sara, thank you very much. Sara Sidner reporting.

Let's bring in our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, along with former FBI supervising special agent and CNN law enforcement analyst, Josh Campbell.

Let me start with you, Jeffrey. Cohen is fiercely loyal, as we all know, to Donald Trump, has been for many years. But did he make a key mistake here in the way he transferred those funds, he says his personal funds, to Stormy Daniels? And he did so using that Trump Organization e-mail account.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, I think it's hard to blame Michael Cohen for a problem that Donald Trump created. But I mean, if you are going to transfer money and try to do it in a surreptitious way, you might do it in a more savvy way, I mean, not using your own name. Not using your own e-mail address. And, you know, perhaps using a nominee.

But you know, the fact remains that $130,000 was passed to this women on the eve of the campaign in what was very explicitly hush money. And the idea that Donald Trump is unaware of that, or knew nothing about it at the time strained credulity when we heard about, and as more details come out, only seems less plausible.

BLITZER: Yes. He -- this is what he said. He says -- and let me bring Josh into this, as well -- "I sent e-mails from the Trump Organization e-mail address to my family, friends, as well as Trump business e-mails. I basically used it for everything. I'm certain most people can relate."

Josh, what do you think?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I think if you look at the big picture here, I mean, he's basically opening himself up. Now if you're the FBI -- I know there's been this debate as far as whether, you know, this association with the Trump camp, or the Trump Organization is what we're going to hang our hat on here. Now that's something that a lawyer might look at and say, "Aha, there's association." But as an investigator, I'm past that.

Because what this gets me now is probable cause to look into other things. If you make that association with that Trump connection, now you can look at other e-mails. Now you can look at other communication facilities, possibly bank records and other contacts. So I think that's what it gets us.

The second thing that I want to back up and -- you know, if I can -- and this is just an investigator's suspicion. I think if you look at Robert Mueller and his investigation -- this is a suspicion, but I think he may have a bigger role here than we possibly think.

[17:15:10] Because if you look at the time line for when the payments were made and when the bank filed its suspicious activity report, a year had gone by. Now what would cause a financial institution to go back and look through their records and then flag something as potentially suspicious? I don't think that that's something that would happen, you know, as a likely occurrence.

But if you look at the time line -- again, this is suspicion -- if Mueller's team had -- you know, was in the middle of an investigating finances and went to the bank and served them with a subpoena and gathered information, it wouldn't be unusual for the bank to then go back and look through their own records, because you have investigators looking at a client and then themselves think, "Wow, this is an odd pattern."

So I would stay tuned. I think there's maybe a greater role here than you think of the special prosecutor.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting, Josh, that Mueller's investigators are looking into this whole Stormy Daniels matter?

CAMPBELL: I don't know that they are, but as I look at the time line, things start to add up. Again, if you look at the suspicious activity report, when that was filed, it was filed a year after the payment was actually made, and that would have been around the same time that Mueller's people would have been actively investigating those records and those financial transactions.

BLITZER: Jeffrey -- yes, go ahead.

TOOBIN: It just -- this whole idea that Michael Cohen has to go into his home equity line. It's not like he has $130,000 sitting around. He has to take a -- in effect, a home equity loan in order to pay Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet for an affair or a relationship that she had with Donald Trump.

Lawyers don't do that. They don't do that with their own money. It's -- it's not ethical. It's not proper to do that without talking to the client. And it also just doesn't make any sense. I mean, it's one thing if he just was such a, you know, billionaire, he had $130,000 sitting around. But the idea that he goes into a home equity line and then writes the check and just does it out of the goodness of his heart? I just -- it's just unbelievable.

BLITZER: Well, Josh, the argument he makes is for years, for at least a decade or so, he's been a personal lawyer to the -- to Donald Trump, and he's fiercely loyal to him. And he suspected something could come out that would be damaging, out of his own money, he wanted to take care of it.

TOOBIN: Well, I understand his point. I understand what he's saying. I'm just saying, I don't think a lot of people are going to buy that when you look at the totality of the situation. Because if you were in a situation where you're running for high office, the people around you have to be hyper sensitive to the fact that anything they do on your behalf to include any payments that they make, they're going to be looked at, not only through the lens of, you know, the court of public opinion but also through the lens of investigators at the FEC, and at the FBI and Department of Justice.

So you know, I don't -- I don't know what his mindset was at the time, but I think that we can at least question his judgment. Because as someone in his position, providing counsel to a candidate for high office, it looks like incredibly terrible judgment.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have more on this.

TOOBIN: But let's -- but --

BLITZER: Go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: I mean, well, just let's remember: Donald Trump won the election. And Michael Cohen kept the story quiet until here we are in March of 2018. So, you know, maybe he didn't do the savviest job, but he got job done against Hillary Clinton. And that was pretty important.

BLITZER: Yes. That was days before the actual election when that transfer was made.

TOOBIN: Right.

BLITZER: There's more on this story coming up. Everyone stand by. There's other important news we're following.

Great risks and potentially great rewards for President Trump and Kim Jong-un. We're going to take a look at the extraordinarily high stakes for their proposed one-on-one meeting.

And as Britain steps up its urgent investigation into a nerve agent attack on a former spy, did Russia carry out the attack as a warning to others?


[17:23:15] BLITZER: Breaking news, the White House seems to be struggling to catch up to President Trump's sudden and stunning announcement that he would be meeting with Kim Jong-un. After the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, stressed there will be no talks until North Korea takes concrete -- concrete steps toward denuclearization, a White House official now says the invitation has been extended and accepted, and that stands.

The stakes are enormously high for both leaders.

Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, there are great risks but potentially great rewards, as well.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Capitals around the world are abuzz with this tonight. This is full of amazing possibilities, and it's fraught with danger.

Tonight, officials in Washington and Pyongyang are beginning the crucial process of figuring out where the summit will be held. Switzerland is a possibility.

And the even more important task of learning what the other side wants to get out of the meeting.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight in Washington and Seoul, a mix of genuine optimism over the possibility of a ground-breaking summit and real concern over what could go wrong.

EVANS REVERE, FORMER U.S. DIPLOMAT IN SOUTH KOREA: This has been somewhat haphazardly prepared and very, very quickly prepared. And I'm concerned about this.

TODD: Analysts say so much of the success or failure of a meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un depends on the personalities of two very unpredictable leaders.

JIM WALSH, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, MIT: You know, you have the two most unusual leaders on the face of the planet walking in together to meet for the first time. You know, what could possibly go wrong? If those two hit it off, that could really advance things, and things could go pretty well pretty quickly. If they don't hit it off, the opposite could be true. TODD: Tonight U.S. and North Korean officials are pressing their intelligence agencies and diplomats for more information on what the other side is after in a possible meeting. President Trump wants North Korea to commit to drawing down its nuclear arsenal, White House officials say, and won't even meet until that happens.

[17:25:04] What does Kim want to get out of a summit? And does he win just by having Trump show up?

REVERE: He wants the legitimacy that comes from a meeting with the president of the United States, a legitimization of his reign and rule and status in the world. Something that his father and his grandfather were never able to achieve. And if the American president goes through with this, he will have given that important gift to the North Koreans for virtually nothing.

TODD: Tonight veteran diplomats and security officials are warning that Kim Jong-un could be playing President Trump and that Trump could be walking into a trap. They say Kim will never give up his nuclear weapons. And even if he promises Trump he'll freeze his program for a while, he could still keep building that program in secret.

MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: North Korea has cheated on every diplomatic deal with the U.S., with the U.N., with South Korea, with China, the six-party talks. They have a perfect track record of cheating. And so even with a significantly large amount of pressure on the North and pain, which we're imposing, I'm very skeptical. And I think most people who have dealt with North Korea are very skeptical that they'll keep any deal.


TODD: Another word of caution: We're hearing tonight that, if this meeting is canceled, or if it does happen and goes poorly, the U.S. might have few options left to get North Korea to draw down its weapons than to move toward a military confrontation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, you're also hearing of a key concern of something that needs to happen ahead of this summit that may not necessarily happen. What's going on?

TODD: That's right, Wolf. One diplomat who's negotiated with North Korea says before the summit, a senior U.S. envoy has to travel to Pyongyang, has to look Kim in the eye, take his measure, ask the tough questions that need to be asked in order to prevent President Trump from walking into a trap.

But the problem tonight is the Trump administration has no senior envoy right now. They have no ambassador to South Korea. Their senior envoy for North Korea quit a week ago. Who are they going to get to go to Pyongyang? It's a crucial job. They have no one to do it right now.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thanks very much. We'll stay on top of this story. Coming up, a surprising twist in a nerve agent attack on a former

Russian spy who is living in England. Why are the Russians now offering to help investigators when they're suspected of being behind the attack?

Plus, more on the revelations that President Trump's personal attorney used A Trump Organization e-mail account to help set up the payment to a porn star,


[17:32:08] BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories including now some new revelations that one of the president's personal attorneys used a Trump organization e-mail account while setting up the pre-election payout to the pornstar, Stormy Daniels, who says the payment was to buy her silence about an alleged affair with the future president. Let's bring in our reporters and our analyst. And Kaitlan, you've been covering this for a long time now. In January, we first heard -- thanks to the Wall Street Journal's reporting -- about this hush money payment by the president's long- time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to Stormy Daniels. And all of a sudden, since then, the story has escalated.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It certainly has, and we're seeing it only get closer and closer to the president himself. Because initially, when we first learn about this Michael Cohen, the president's private attorney, said he made that payment of $130,000 to Stormy Daniels out of the goodness of his own heart and that the president was unaware of it. Now, we've learned with more reporting that he was actually complaining to people that you couldn't get in touch with the president those last few days leading up to the election. He was also complaining that he had not been reimbursed yet.

And today, we find out that he was using his Trump organization e- mail, which makes it seem as if he was operating in an official capacity on behalf of the Trump organization when he made that payment with those conversations with Stormy Daniels and her attorney about that payment. So, it certainly seems like it's drawing it closer and closer to the president himself. But the White House is still trying to maintain their distance, especially after Sarah Sanders admitted during that briefing the other day that had been arbitration, which she said the president had won the first he was directly tied to this payment. But now today, they're refusing to answer any more question of give any more details on this.

WOLF: He says, he used that Trump organization e-mail account, Sabrina, for a lot of personal business. He says, tell CNN I sent e- mails from Trump Organization -- e-mail address to my family, friends as well as Trump business e-mails I basically used it for everything. I am certain most people can relate. He's well-known as someone fiercely, fiercely loyal to Donald Trump going back many years, even yesterday's Brian Todd's piece about his background, a piece in he had described, Michael Cohen, as a fixer, compared him to Ray Donovan -- the fictional character. Michael Cohen tweeted this: "Thank you, Brian Todd, CNN, for your accurate depiction of me and my role for our POTUS @realDonaldTrump. #Loyalty #RayDonovan #Fixer"

SABRINA SADDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: It is true that he is someone who's incredibly loyal to Donald Trump and always has been. But in part, because of the closeness of that relationship, it is just not plausible that he would've made this payment of his own volition and not notified Trump of that decision.

First of all, that's not what you do, you don't just not notify your client that you're making this payment, in part, to protect him, especial when he is running for the highest office of the land. I also think that with the way NDA is set up, Trump would've had to sign it or authorize it himself. So, either it's void because he didn't sign it, and that enables Stormy Daniels to tell her side of the story. Or potentially, is also a campaign finance violation because he would have had to disclose that payment during the course of the campaign.

[17:35:18] BLITZER: As an in-kind campaign contribution.

COLLINS: We should also point out that Michael Cohen was in West Palm Beach at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend on Friday when the president was also there, which is incredibly unusual because he's not a member there and he is not spotted there very often. So, it's very unusual for him to be there, especially in the middle of all of this.

BLITZER: In Palm Beach, Mar-a-Lago, not West Palm Beach.

COLLIN: Palm Beach, excuse.

BLITZER: Very sensitive -- they're all very sensitive of that distinction between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach. Let me ask, Phil, how do you see it all?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: I want my $130,000 for not having an affair with the president. Look, we know what happened here. If he's a fixer, what's he fixing? The White House is saying there's nothing to fix because there was no affair, but there's a hush agreement where 130,000 bucks (INAUDIBLE).

There's only one question here, it's not whether something happened between a porn star and the president, it is whether something happened that, for example violates, federal election laws. I think that's where the issue comes into play here. We're not -- we should not be debating whether something inappropriate happened, otherwise, attorneys don't write checks for nothing.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, go ahead.

TOOBIN: You know, this story is now in the courts, and this is the real problem, is that once there is actual litigation, the story is out of the control of Michael Cohen or anyone affiliated with Trump. There's going to be a judge who can order depositions, who can order discover. And you know, just ask Bill Clinton about what happened when the Paula Jones law suit started percolating through courts. Like, these things take on life of their own. And the problem here is that there's an inherent unbelievability about

the story that Michael Cohen is telling. The idea that he paid this money out of his own pocket, on his own volition without telling his client is something that is going to be hard to sustain, especially if he has to start producing discovery, you know, checks, documents, wire transfers, e-mails, and he has to testify under oath.

BLITZER: Let's talk about North Korea for a moment. Yes, Kaitlan, as you know, the White House said flatly in the next two months before May, the president of the United States would sit down with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. They would meet because there was a suspension of the nuclearization -- the nuclear program in North Korea. Today, the press secretary seem to walk that back a bit saying there will be this meeting if there are "concrete steps toward that".

COLLINS: Yes, she raised a lot of questions -- Sarah Sanders said -- during that briefing today. Because she did make that comment saying the meeting will happen. But yesterday, the South Korean and the administration officials said that it would happen, they agreed to the May timeline for this meeting. So, it certainly raised a lot of questions with her seeming to give hit this pre-condition. And she also said that North Korea was -- they've committed to denuclearizing essentially the pre-condition for this meeting which is not what the South Korean national security adviser said when he was on the lawn of the White House.

He actually said that they just were committed to denuclearization overall, not that it was a pre-condition for those talks. But a lot of people thought that Sarah Sanders is walking back the agreement to that invitation extended by North Korea, that the South Koreans extended on their behalf. When she made that comment that the meeting wouldn't happen unless there were any concrete actions.

Yesterday, they never brought up what concrete actions they would like say. So, we've reached out to the White House, they've said that the invitation still stands, their acceptance of the invitation still stands, but they do want North Korea to comply with what they told the South Korean they had agreed has too -- which was no more missile testing and they would not object any military exercise between the United States and South Korea.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Phil, will this meeting take place? Should it take place?

MUDD: I think it should take place. But look, picking up quickly on what Caitlan said, the White House gained themselves a lot of room for maneuver. All the North Koreans have to say is: we've committed to a concrete stoppage in missile testing, for example, for 180 days. And if I'm the White House, I'm saying that's a victory. Whether that's a success, I'd put very limited odds on that, but I don't see the problem talking, and we're not getting another one otherwise.

BLIZER: Everybody stick around, there's more to discuss. An important programming note as well: Stormy Daniels' attorney will talk to our own Anderson Cooper later tonight on "AC360", that's on 8:00 p.m. Eastern. [17:40:26] Coming up, there are new developments on the apparent attempt to assassinate a former Russian spy whose been living in England. Why are the Russians, who are suspected of being behind the attack, now offering to help investigators? Also, there's more breaking news in Florida, where new gun restrictions sparked by last month's school massacre became law this afternoon.


BLITZER: There's breaking news in the wake of the school massacre in Florida this afternoon. A few hours after the teenager accused of 17 murders appeared in court. Florida's governor signed a new gun control measures into law. Let's go to our National Correspondent, Athena Jones, she's in Tallahassee for us. Athena, tell us more about these new gun restrictions.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, this new law would do a number of things. It would raise the minimum age to purchase a weapon -- a firearm to 21 years old from 18 years old and require a three-day waiting period. It would also ban bump fire stocks -- that's the accessory that allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire more like an automatic weapon. It would give police more power to seize weapons and ammunition from those who have been deemed mentally unfit or otherwise a threat.

It would provide additional funding for armed school resource officers and for mental health services in schools across the state, and it would allow some school staff to be armed after a proper training. And before signing the bill, the governor talked about the compromises that were necessary to get this legislation to his desk just three weeks after the shooting Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School. Watch.


[17:45:31] RICK SCOTT, GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: At the beginning of this process, I said that we should give -- all have to give a little and make compromises, and that includes me. I know that many wanted more gun control than what is included in this bill, and I know that many believe this bill has too much gun control. I respect the sincerity and ability of both of these new bills. To the students of Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School, you made your voices heard, you didn't let up, and you fought until it was changed. You helped change your state, you made a difference you should be proud.


JONES: And I should mention that those students the governor spoke about, many of those Parkland students wanted to see an assault weapons ban included in this legislation -- it was not included. And those same students of them did not want to see school staff be armed, be allowed to be armed which is included. In fact, that is the most contentious provision in this bill by far. In fact, one that Governor Scott himself has been a vocal opponent of.

And the Florida Education Association, which represents more than 140,000 teachers and other school staff had been urging the governor to use his line item veto power to veto the $67 million in funding set aside for that program -- the guardian program; arming teachers. He chose not to do that. He said, instead that he's glad the program isn't mandatory, and that he instead wants to talk with the legislature about making sure that any of that $67 million isn't used to arm school staff is set used to increase police presence on school campuses.

Meanwhile the NRA has said it is not pleased with this legislation, it is disappointed. The governor signs this bill because of the gun restriction. But several of the families in Parkland, victims, who spoke after the signing said this is an important firm step along the journey to making school safer, and they want other states to follow Florida's lead -- harden schools to try to prevent another mass shooting. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Athena, thank you very much. Athena Jones reporting from Tallahassee. Coming up, as hundreds of British troops deployed to aid the investigation, it's a nerve agent attack on a former spy. Did Russia carry out the poisoning as a warning to others?


[17:52:27] BLITZER: Close to 200 British troops have been deployed to aid in the investigation of the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter. Western intelligence services suspect Russia is behind the attack, but ironically, Russia is offering its help. Let's go live to our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen who's joining us from Moscow. Fred, what are you learning?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf, yes, there certainly are some questions as to how sincere the Russians actually are when they are offering help on all of this. This came in the form of Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister, who's currently in Africa. And he said, look, if there are efforts to try and solve this, and if Russia's help is needed. Both are trying to solve who was behind the poisoning of that former Russian agent and also as he called it with rumors of election meddling in the U.S. election, the Russians would be very happy to help. But they say at this point in time, they aren't getting any information from the Brits as to how they could potentially help or what exactly happened there. He said a lot of what the Russians are getting is what he called anti-Russian propaganda.

But you know, it's also very interesting, Wolf, with this man who was poisoned, Sergei Skripal, that Former Russian Agent, the Russians are not referring to him any more as a former Russian agent, they're now referring to him as an MI-6 agent, which seems to indicate that they believe that he was certainly working for the Brits, but also, that they believe that in some ways shape of form, he might have still been active, unclear exactly how. And you know, it's also interesting because I spoke to an expert earlier today and he said that if indeed, if the Russians were behind this, that potentially the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, of this former agent, could be a signal also to other Russians who might be keen on potentially helping the Mueller investigation or others, seeking any sort of evidence of Russian election meddling. The message there being very clear, Wolf, you can't be protected anywhere no matter where you go Europe or United States or anywhere else, Wolf.

[17:54:19] BLITER: All right. Fred, thanks very much for that update. Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. Coming up, a day after the president's shocking announcement promising to meet North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, the White House struggles to define the terms for the meeting and defends the chaotic way it was rolled out.


BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, concrete actions. Day after President Trump shocked the world by agreeing to talk to Kim Jong-un, the White House suggests North Korea must meet some conditions first and then tries to walk it back. Will the promise of the historic face-to-face meeting actually pan out?

Kim's calculation. What does the dictator hope to get out of this offer to beat with the United States' president? He's mocked and threatened with nuclear attack. CNN is live on the Korean Peninsula with new insights into what Kim wants.

Stormy fees. The president's lawyer keeps insisting that Mr. Trump had nothing to do with the hush money payment to the porn star, Stormy Daniels. So, why did Michael Cohen arrange the payoff using Trump organization e-mail? We have a new explanation from Michael Cohen himself this hour.

And in jury. After a bizarre and defiant round of T.V. interviews, Former Trump Campaign Aide, Sam Nunberg, does exactly what he claimed he wouldn't do -- he faced the federal grand jury here in Washington. What did he reveal in the Russia probe?

[18:00:06] We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in "THE SITUATION ROOM".