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Trump's Asia Trip; Battle against ISIS; Russia Investigation; Kim Jong-un's Wife Appears in Public. Aired 12-12:30a ET
Aired November 4, 2017 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): U.S. President Donald Trump arrives in Hawaii ahead of a 12-day trip to Asia. We'll be taking a closer look at his plans.
Plus ISIS suffers two major defeats in Syria and Iraq.
And the dictator's wife. Why Kim Jong-un's spouse is suddenly in the spotlight.
Thanks for joining us, everyone. I'm Cyril Vanier live from the CNN NEWSROOM right here in Atlanta.
VANIER: Donald Trump is in the U.S. state of Hawaii right now. He's overnighting there before heading to Asia for his first official trip to that region as U.S. president.
Just a short while ago, Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump laid a wreath at the U.S.S. Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor. The president also received a military briefing from the U.S. Pacific Command. On Saturday, he flies to Japan. Then he'll travel to South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Let's get the latest from CNN's Ryan Nobles in Honolulu, Hawaii.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The longest trip of the Donald Trump administration is now underway and the president's trip to the Asia Pacific region, the longest trip by any President of the United States since the George H.W. Bush administration.
And the president, en route to Hawaii, the first leg of this trip, was busy on his Twitter feed, talking about Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton; also talked about Bowe Bergdahl, the Army soldier who deserted his post, who escaped jail time.
The president did tweet once about his trip but he hasn't talked a lot about this trip in the weeks leading up to the event. This despite the fact that it will be vital to his administration and their goals, particularly as it relates to North Korea and the growing tensions with the Kim Jong-un administration.
The president will meet with leaders from South Korea, Vietnam, China, Japan, all who play an important role as it relates to dealing with North Korea.
In Hawaii, the president had a busy schedule as well. He met with the leaders of the Pacific Command; he got a briefing from them and also he toured the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor, meeting with veterans there, the president appearing especially moved by that particular event.
The president will be wheels up from Hawaii first thing in the morning en route to the first of his Asian destinations and that is Tokyo. In all, it will be a 12-day, trip ending in the Philippines next week -- Ryan Nobles, CNN, Honolulu.
VANIER: Let's take you through the different legs of that trip. Mr. Trump arrives in Japan on Sunday. He visits U.S. troops. The next day he meets Japanese emperor Akihito.
Then it's off to South Korea to meet President Moon Jae-in. Worth noting that he will skip the DMZ, the demilitarized zone, the border with North Korea.
In China, the U.S. president will visit the forbidden city with President Xi Jinping. Then he heads to Vietnam for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. And the final stop is Manila for meetings with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the East Asia Summit.
Josh Rogin joins us now. He's a columnist for "The Washington Post" and a CNN political analyst.
Josh, so North Korea is going to be obviously one of the most watched issues here. Everything Mr. Trump says on North Korea is going to be scrutinized.
Does he have anything up his sleeve?
JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are no big deliverables planned on the North Korea issue. Trump will give a speech to the national assembly in Seoul. He'll be meeting with the South Korean president.
He'll be meeting with Chinese and Japanese presidents but there's no announcements to be made. There's no progress to be documented. Basically, what we have here is a situation, where Trump is going to reinforce the U.S. message of pressure and no negotiations. And then hopefully America's allies will concur.
Of course, what the South Koreans and Japanese and Chinese are worried about is Trump may go off script, say something provocative that could provoke response and that could create a risk for confrontation with the North Koreans. VANIER: His national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, has said that Mr. Trump will not dilute his rhetoric during the trip. He doesn't do that.
ROGIN: Well, that's right. You know, the best case scenario is that everyone factors in the fact Trump uses this kind of belligerent rhetoric and it doesn't rattle them too much. I think there are steps being taken to make sure that doesn't happen.
For example, Trump won't visit the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea because it was seen as too risk, a little too provocative, maybe a little bit too dangerous. Also he's going to be focusing on a lot of other stuff on this trip, trade, the South Korean free trade agreement, Chinese trade practices, the U.S. relationship with Asia more broadly, what they call their Indo-Pacific strategy.
VANIER: Hold on. Let me interrupt you there. Tell me about the region more broadly. We know that Barack Obama had a strategy for Asia or at least he professed to have a strategy for Asia.
VANIER: We know he wanted to tie East Asian countries more closely to the U.S. with a trade deal.
We know Mr. Trump disagrees at least in part with that vision because he got rid of the TPP, that trade deal.
Do we know if and what Mr. Trump's vision for Asia is?
ROGIN: We do. When Trump gets to Vietnam, he'll give a major speech on the site of the APEC conference, which will lay out his vision for America's role in the region. They call it an Indo-Pacific strategy. They're trying to define the chess board for U.S.-China and regional relations for the next few years.
Now it's not fully fleshed out. We don't know all of the details. But basically what it's going to set is a broad vision for Donald Trump's advocacy, for things like freedom of navigation, open markets, the rule of law, what we could consider traditional American policies when it comes to East Asia.
VANIER: What's the difference -- because this Indo-Asia is really the buzzword right now in policy circles and think tank circles.
ROGIN: That's right.
VANIER: What's the difference between that and what Mr. President Trump's predecessor did?
ROGIN: First of all, it's going to be defined on interest rather than values. So by tying in India, Australia, Japan into this framework, the frame will be, this is a system that can manage the rise of Asia better than the Chinese alternative.
It won't be focused on human rights. It won't be focused on democracy promotion per se but it will sort of try to say to the countries of Asia and the countries of ASEAN especially that American interests and their interests are aligned.
Of course questions will be raised by the fact the Trump administration pulled out of TPP, doesn't seem to have a lot of progress to announce on its economic agenda and the overall American attention to the region is under question. Those are all legitimate questions.
But this is the beginning of an attempt by the Trump administration to formalize their vision of the Obama pivot and this is basically what it's going to look like.
VANIER: When you analyze this from the U.S. perspective, this trip, this entire 12-day trip, is, if not overshadowed at least rivaled, I should say, by the Russia investigation.
Does that even matter from the Asian perspective, though?
ROGIN: It sends the message that American politics and the American government are dysfunctional and the constant drip, drip, drip of Russia news also distracts the president in particular but also his senior staff from dealing with the things they're supposed to deal with while they're on this trip in Asia.
So it's not good. It doesn't put Trump in the best position. The best case scenario is that he will take this opportunity of being abroad in Asia for 12 days to shift his attention away from the Russia scandal and away from other domestic politics.
If he can do that, if he can stay on task, sort of avoid whatever Russian news will come out over the next two weeks and really focus on the task at hand, which is reasserting America's presence and even leadership in Asia, then it will be a successful trip.
If he can't do that and if he gets sucked into the constant Russia story, even while he's halfway across the world, then the trip will be a failure.
VANIER: All right, Josh Rogin, thank you for joining us. Thanks.
VANIER: And Chinese President Xi donned a military uniform on Friday to address Chinese soldiers serving in Djibouti. In a video chat, he asked them to promote peace while increasing their readiness for war.
Djibouti is home to China's first overseas base; officially described as a logistics facility by Beijing. The African country is also home to American, French and Japanese bases. Remember, we were just telling you about the Indo-Asia strategy.
Well, India has been wary of the naval base since its opening in August as well as the superpower's growing presence around the Indian Ocean. In Iraq and Syria now, authorities there are claiming significant victories against ISIS, saying that two remaining strongholds have been liberated. The towns of Qaim in Iraq and Deir ez-Zor in Syria. That effectively squeezes the terror group at the border between the two countries. You see it on the map.
CNN's Frederik Pleitgen flew to Deir ez-Zor with Russian forces when the battle was in full swing back in September.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The Syrian army's final major push into one of ISIS' last strongholds in Syria. Pro-Assad forces now say they've taken all of Deir ez-Zor City in the southeast of the country, a major victory in the quest to destroy the terror group. Units of our armed forces in cooperation with allied forces completed their duties in reestablishing security and stability to Deir ez-Zor City completely, the spokesman for Syria's Army says.
We flew to Deir ez-Zor with the Russian military, which backs the Syrian Army when the battle there was raging in September.
PLEITGEN: Even though the Syrian and Russian Army (inaudible) support to ISIS back, there's still are a lot of ISIS fighters here in this area. Taking the helicopter is the safest place to get to Deir ez- Zor.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Deir ez-Zor was one of ISIS' most important strongholds right in Syria's oil and agricultural heartland. ISIS' apparent demise in Syria recently leading Vladimir Putin --
PLEITGEN: -- to praise both Russia's and Iran's role in backing Bashar al-Assad.
Thanks to our joint efforts with Iran and also by Turkey, the situation regarding the fight against terrorism in the territory of Syria is developing in a very positive way, Putin said at a meeting with Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani.
Russian and Syrian forces are not the only ones beating ISIS back, U.S. allied fighters have also been rounding the terror group from large chunks of the so-called caliphate it once occupied including Mosul and ISIS' self-declared capital of Raqqa where the U.S.-led coalition is now trying to restore a civilian administration.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as what happens in Raqqa after ISIS has been cleared and Raqqa is liberated, the Raqqa Civil Council is already established and they are already eager to begin work, to restore essential services.
PLEITGEN: Like in so many places in Iraq and Syria, ISIS wreaked havoc on Deir ez-Zor's population, besieging a Syrian government enclave in the city for around three years. Now that the group has been defeated here, both Russian and U.S.- backed groups believed they're in the final stages of crushing the group and ousting its remaining fighters from almost all of Syria -- Fred Pleitgen, CNN, London.
VANIER: We now know that U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl will not face prison time for deserting his post in Afghanistan in 2009. On Friday, a military judge dishonorably discharged him, fined him and ordered his rank reduced. Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years, apologized in court to fellow troops who searched for him.
On the campaign trail, U.S. president Donald Trump had called Bergdahl a traitor who should be shot. In a tweet on Friday, Mr. Trump wrote the sentence was a disgrace.
A Belgian prosecutor says he's studying an arrest warrant for dismissed Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont. A Spanish judge issued the warrant after Puigdemont failed to attend a court hearing in Madrid on Thursday. He's currently in Belgium and says that he's going to cooperate with the judiciary there.
Puigdemont is charged with sedition, rebellion, misuse of funds, among other things. Spain dissolved Catalonia's parliament after regional lawmakers voted to declare independence.
We're going to take a short break. When we come back, this. Donald Trump has high praise for his own memory but when it comes to a meeting in March, when Russia came up, he says he just doesn't remember.
And later Kim Jong-un's wife makes a rare public appearance. Details about North Korea's first lady and the mystery surrounding the couple's child. Stay with us.
VANIER: While President Trump concentrates on his trip --
VANIER: -- new details are emerging about members of his campaign and their contacts with Russians. The latest twist, the campaign's national security adviser, Carter Page, tells CNN that he met with the deputy prime minister while in Moscow last year. Jim Sciutto has the details.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF U.S. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A pressing question: were President Trump and Attorney General Sessions misleading when they denied any knowledge of campaign contacts with Russians?
Here is Mr. Trump in February.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you say whether you are aware that anyone who advised your campaign had contacts with Russia during the course of the election?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I told you General Flynn obviously was dealing, so that is one person, but he was dealing as he should have been.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: During the election?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, nobody that I know of.
SCIUTTO: And here is Mr. Sessions in testimony just last month.
SENATOR AL FRANKEN (D-MN), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: You don't believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians, is that what you're saying?
JEFF SESSIONS, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I did not and I'm not aware of anyone else that did. And I don't believe it happened.
SCIUTTO: In fact court filings unsealed this week show that former Trump campaign Foreign Policy Adviser George Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to making false statements to federal investigators suggested at a March 2016 meeting that Trump meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
J.D. Gordon, a former national security adviser to the campaign, who was in the room for that meeting tells CNN that Trump heard out Papadopoulos and another source tells CNN that Sessions, a top campaign national security adviser and surrogate rejected the idea. The president responded by saying he doesn't remember much of the meeting.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't remember much about that meeting. It was a very unimportant meeting took place a long time, don't remember much about it.
SCIUTTO: Another former campaign foreign policy adviser, Carter Page, tell CNN that he testified before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Thursday that he informed Sessions he was traveling to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, though he said that the trip was not tied to his role with the campaign.
Papadopoulos' account is placing another under Trump adviser under scrutiny, Sam Clovis, who served as deputy campaign chairman. Court documents show that Papadopoulos contacted a campaign supervisor, who the "Washington Post" has identified as Clovis about a potential trip to Russia to meet Russian officials.
The supervisor responded encouraging Papadopoulos to make the trip. Papadopoulos' account was unsealed the same day as indictments of former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates, in relation to their lobbying work for the Ukraine government.
In the indictments, the government alleges that they received tens of millions of dollars for their work and to hide that income, laundered the money through, quote, "scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships and bank accounts."
Manafort and Gates have pleaded not guilty to charges, which cover activities prior to Trump's presidential campaign.
We're learning of another meeting between a Trump campaign associate and a Russian government official during the campaign that had not been revealed before. Carter Page, who served as a foreign policy adviser during the campaign, confirms to me that, in July 2016 during a visit to Moscow, he met with a senior Russian government official; that official, the deputy prime minister of Russia, Arkady Dvorkovich.
Now Carter Page tells me this was not a formal meeting, it was more of a casual hello, that they were both speaking at the same conference at the New Economic School in Moscow and, at that conference, he met with him there, again, saying it was not a formal meeting.
But earlier on Friday, Carter Page was interviewed by my colleague, Jake Tapper, and said that he didn't meet any government officials, Russian government officials, during his trips to Moscow, just business people, academics, et cetera.
This is another case of people, who were in the Trump campaign, who initially denied any contact with Russian officials under questioning or, when other evidence is revealed, admitting that, indeed, there were meetings,
"The New York Times" reporting that this was the subject of questioning during the House Intelligence Committee interview of Carter Page earlier this week -- Jim Sciutto, CNN, Washington.
VANIER: The U.K. is now looking into possible Russian influence in its election process. Parliament has just called on Twitter for a list of accounts tied to a Russian government-linked troll farm, the same one that was scrutinized in U.S. congressional hearings this week.
The U.K. says some of those accounts were also posting content related to British politics. Twitter said in a statement that it will continue to support formal government investigations.
Typhoon Damrey has made landfall in Vietnam. Meteorologist Ivan Cabrera joins us now with the latest.
VANIER: Coming up after the break, Kim Jong-un tours a cosmetic factory with his stylish wife. What this rare public outing could mean for the North Korean regime just ahead.
VANIER: Kim Jong-un and his wife have made a rare public appearance together. North Korean state media released photos of them touring a cosmetics factory. Some analysts believe that Ri Sol Ju's outing could signify stability inside the regime. Find out why with CNN's Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the same time North Korea's Kim Jong-un is flexing his muscles on the world stage, possibly, according to South Korean intelligence, preparing for another missile test, the reclusive, brutal dictator appears to be trying to soften his image at home.
These newly released photos show a scene straight out of a Western democracy. The 33-year-old leader touring a cosmetics factory with his glamorous wife. North Korea's rarely seen first lady, Ri Sol Ju, is believed to be about three years younger than her husband. In the photos, she's dressed stylishly, examining bottles on the production line.
Analysts say this may be a publicity stunt, a trip to a makeup factory intended to dress up Kim Jong-un's image.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This would be an indication that there's stability inside the regime, that Kim is feeling comfortable with the people around him because, when there are times of tension, either severe external tension or internal tension, she is --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- usually not available.
TODD (voice-over): Ri Sol Ju is said to be very image and fashion conscious. Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, after a visit with Kim and Ri, said North Korea's first lady often wears outfits from top designers. The regime is said to want to portray her as a Princess Diana-like figure, which analysts say serves as a critical balance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ri Sol Ju allows Kim to present a softer side of the regime to the outside world and what she provides is this glamorous counterpart to the current narrative about North Korea as a human rights violator and developing illegal nuclear weapons.
TODD (voice-over): Ri Sol Ju comes from Kim's inner circle of trusted elites. Former Air Force General Ri Pyong Chol, one of three top officials who Kim Jong-un often hugs after successful missile launches, is believed to be her grandfather or great-uncle. Analysts say Kim Jong-un was set up with his future wife by the uncle
he later executed, Jang Song-thaek, and by the uncle's influential wife. Ri is also someone not unfamiliar with the spotlight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From what we understand, she was an entertainer with one of the singing groups. She was also one of a group of cheerleaders who visited South Korea, we believe, in 2005.
TODD (voice-over): Now much of the intrigue surrounding this young couple has to do with questions about an heir apparent. Ri and Kim Jong-un are believed to have at least one child, a daughter, Kim Ju- ae, likely born a few years ago. Rodman claimed to have once held the child in his arms. Observers say the question of succession is critical.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She probably does feel some pressure, given that all three Kims have been -- all three Kims who have been leaders of North Korea have been male. So she probably does feel some pressure to produce a male heir.
TODD: If Ri Sol Ju doesn't have a son, could Kim's daughter someday be elevated to be the supreme leader?
Analysts are split on that. Some believe the North Koreans would be reluctant to place a woman in that position. But others say, with this regime, bloodline is paramount and a daughter would be more likely to assume leadership than someone from outside the Kim regime -- Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
VANIER: That does it for us. Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'll be back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.