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North Korea Willing To Halt Nuclear Tests If U.S. Agreed To Meet; Trump: "Possible Progress" Being Made With North Korea; National Intel Director: "Many Agencies" Involved In Russia Probe; Trump: No Chaos In The White House, "Only Great Energy"; Nunberg Backs Off Vow To Defy Mueller Subpoena. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired March 6, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: -- opening the door for diplomacy with the United States saying it would end its nuclear program if its security is guaranteed. What does that mean though? Officials from Seoul and Pyongyang will host an inter-Korean summit next month, this is following a round of talks that saw Kim Jong-un meet with high ranking South Korean officials including the president there.
For more on these major developments, I am joined by CNN Asia Pacific editor, Andrew Stevens. Andrew, tell us what you're learning.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: Well, it is such a lot to take in all at once, Brianna. This came just a few hours ago after the delegation from South Korea came back to Seoul. And we got this readout from the president.
So basically, there is a diplomatic path which the North Koreans seem to be serious about following, and they have changed their mind on a couple of very, very important issues. Number one, agreeing to sit down with the United States and talk about denuclearization.
It was two days ago they were calling it a preposterous idea that you would include denuclearization as a condition of any talk with the U.S. So, they are now saying they're prepared to do that.
As you say, they're also saying they're prepared to have a fully denuclearized Korean Peninsula if their security can be guaranteed. That is key. And that's also a big ask because there are more than 20,000 U.S. soldiers stationed here in South Korea. There is no peace treaty between the U.S. and South Korea at this stage.
So, there are a lot of unanswered questions about what it would take given the security guarantee. But certainly, it is a major step forward and that other issue you mentioned, the North Koreans are saying they will suspend what they call strategic provocations.
And they explicitly said missile tests, they said nuclear tests while the talks, both with the U.S. and with South Korea, because there is a summit planned for the end of April, while those are ongoing, none of these provocations. So, it really is a big step forward. Particularly if you think just a few months ago, we would have been standing here talking about the latest missile test in late November, that was an ICBM test. That was (inaudible) putting a warhead on an intercontinental missile and launching it hitting the U.S. mainland. So, this is a big, big turnaround. Diplomacy right now is the path that's being followed by the looks of it.
KEILAR: All right. Andrew Stevens, thank you so much for that.
Now President Trump is quick to tweet about North Korea, a short time ago, saying possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned.
The world is watching and waiting. Maybe false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction. For more on the U.S. response, we turn now to CNN Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. Barbara, what are you hearing from government officials?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, we are now getting the first reaction from two key officials in the U.S. intelligence community, testifying at this hour before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, saying he is skeptical of the statement from North Korea.
He is very much in the mode of show me. He wants to see what the North Koreans are really talking about. Also, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley who is the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the head of U.S. military intelligence if you will, even more skeptical about all of this, someone who knows this business in and out.
And I want you to listen very quickly to what General Ashley had to say when he was asked about this from the committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no reason to believe that Kim Jong-un is going to be a changed person. But I think the news last night that he's actually made a response to the message that was sent in that he's ready to negotiate, ready to stop this nuclear activity and testing, do you share my somewhat optimistic view of what happened, General?
LT. GENERAL ROBERT P. ASHLEY JR., DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: Senator, right now I don't share your optimism. That's kind of a show me and so we'll see how this plays out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: So not very much optimism from two key intelligence officials this morning, Director Coats saying hope springs eternal, those are his words, but nobody ready to sign up to embrace what North Korea is talking about just yet -- Brianna.
KEILAR: So, some skepticism for sure. Also, at that hearing, Barbara, there seems to be a little confusion about what President Trump is telling the intel community about countering the cyberthreat from Russia. Listen to this from the DIA director.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a direct contradiction from what we heard from Admiral Rogers when he was before this committee. He said he had not heard from anyone in the administration or the White House about taking any action to respond to what Russia is doing to interfere in our elections. So --
DANIEL COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Well, the NSA, which Admiral Rogers directs, is one component of many agencies that are involved. DHS really has taken the lead on this.
[11:05:10] The White House has been engaged on this. The Department of Defense, other agencies have been engaged on this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, can you tell this committee what is being done?
COATS: Much of what is being done or is being examined to be done would fall in a classified area that --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: That was the DNI, Dan Coats. We're hearing differing things.
STARR: Yes, that's right, Brianna. And you're hearing a lot of frustration from Congress over this key point. Has President Trump actually told the intelligence community and security officials to do something about Russia targeting the midterm 2018 elections?
You can call it meddling, interference, cybercrime, call it what you will, all indications are the Russians are not giving up and that they are targeting the midterm elections. The director of -- he went forward a little bit, he backpedaled a little bit, said he had to talk about it in classified sessions.
It led to a lot of frustration on the committee who said many members indicating that they didn't want to hear the whole government approach, didn't want to hear all these different departments involved. They wanted to know where the buck stopped with the Trump administration on trying to do something about the Russians and the midterm elections.
KEILAR: All right, Barbara Starr for us at the Pentagon, thank you so much.
Let's talk North Korea. Want to bring in CIA North Korea analyst and former deputy national intelligence officer for East Asia, Dr. Sue Mi Terry with us, and CNN national security analyst and former Obama Defense Department official, Kelly Magsamen.
So, Sue Mi, to you first, until now it's -- you hear Barbara's report from the Pentagon, there is so much skepticism. You hear Andrew's report from Seoul where there is so much relief that they're not living in fear at least for a few months here is the hope. But until now, North Korea has repeatedly said its nuclear weapons are not a bargaining chip. Now South Korea is saying the North is indicating a willingness to denuclearize. We should mention that North Korea itself has yet to corroborate that, we should say. If this is true, though, as you look at this, how significant is this?
DR. SUE MI TERRY, FORMER CIA NORTH KOREA ANALYST: If it is true, it is a progress. It is a step forward. But I share the U.S. administration and the intelligence officials' skepticism of North Korea's true intention because we have been down this road before, we have 25 years of dealing with North Koreans, many agreements with North Korea, they have not followed through.
So, I'm very skeptical that North Korea is willing to denuclearize. I think they're trying to buy time. I think sanctions are finally beginning to bite and they're trying to -- they're looking for sanctions relief, looking -- they're also watching very closely what coming out of Washington.
And all this talk of bloody nose and limited strike and so on, I think it spooked them. So, I think they're buying time. Just because they don't test or there is a pause in testing it doesn't mean they're not going to continue to work on their nuclear missile program. We have to see. I'm skeptical. I'm hopeful at the same time, but we have to wait and see what really occurs.
KEILAR: And, Kelly, you have to pay attention to South Korea, which is especially hopeful because they're living in the shadow of this potential conflict. What they're saying North Korea wants. They're saying the North is willing to denuclearize in return for a guarantee of security for the North and the elimination of the military threat against it. That's bye-bye U.S. military, a huge ask.
KELLY MAGSAMEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It is a huge ask. Right now, it is a positive development. I am a little bit skeptical as well. But I think it is certainly better than the alternative which was looking more and more likely like a possible preventive war on behalf of the United States. I think it is the positive development.
I think the key now is for the National Security Council staff, the Pentagon, the intelligence agencies and the State Department to really be putting together a diplomatic game plan. This is not going to happen quickly. This is the hard part, frankly.
If diplomacy is going to succeed with North Korea, it is going to succeed sort of in a phased approach, most likely. We both have maximalist positions. We want denuclearization. The North Koreans want us to leave the peninsula.
I think we have to meet in the middle somewhere and I think that's the hard part. The Trump administration has to have the diplomatic dexterity and discipline to carry out a plan.
KEILAR: It may be too soon to be giving anyone a pat on the back here, but there is some sort of movement or an openness it dialogue. Who gets the credit for that?
MAGSAMEN: Listen, I think it is a few things. Number one, I think the sanctions are biting. I think Sue is totally correct about that. I also think it is a little bit to the credit of the South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been persistent about the importance of diplomatic solution to this problem. And, you know, I think there is a possibility that there is, of course, a diplomacy aspect that succeeded here.
KEILAR: Dr. Sue Mi Terry, this announcement, it is important to note as we did before that it hasn't been corroborated by the North Koreans. Is that problematic? What do you think?
[11:10:13] TERRY: Yes, I would be waiting for North Korea to corroborate this because the Moon government obviously desperately wants this current inter-Korean thaw to translate into Washington momentum and breakthrough between Washington and Pyongyang. So, I think North Koreans need to corroborate this.
But, again, I think the problem is going to be the Trump administration is not going to be giving any kind of relief in sanctions. So, we have to see what kind of diplomatic package we can come up with. I think that is going to be a debate about do we really give relief in sanctions or continue with this maximum pressure policy.
KEILAR: The announcement, Sue Mi, really puts the onus on President Trump, on his administration, as we just heard Kelly describe. So, if they don't move forward, if his National Security Council, if his State Department, and we always see that they're not always on the same page, if they do not move forward in a constructive way, is that something that they will take a lot of criticism for?
TERRY: I think so. I think there is a possibility for that criticism. So, I think the U.S. will sit down with the North Koreans to talk to them. But, of course, talking is not negotiation.
And, again, I think that debate is going to be what do we do with North Korea if they are asking for sanctions relief or lift of this -- some pressure to be relieved because there are going to be those that argue, it is maximum pressure policy that brought the North Koreans back to this position. So, we need to continue the pressure policy.
KEILAR: We are so in the beginning of this, which is clear talking to you. Dr. Sue Mi Terry and Kelly Magsamen, really appreciate both of you and your insight here.
Now still ahead, former Trump aide, Sam Nunberg going from screw that to I have no problem cooperating with the grand jury subpoena from the special counsel. So, what new questions will Robert Mueller have for Nunberg after his national tv gab fest?
Plus, a new twist in the Stormy Daniels saga engulfing President Trump's personal lawyer. There is a new report on Michael Cohen's six figure payment to the adult film actress and it is raising new questions about what President Trump knew and when. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KEILAR: This morning, after a former campaign aide took over cable news threatening to defy a subpoena from the special counsel, President Trump is taking to Twitter to claim there is absolutely no chaos in the White House.
CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. So, she'll be able to tell us the real deal there. Tell us about what the president is saying.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Brianna, he seems to be pushing back on this notion that there is any kind of dysfunction in his White House, tweeting this morning that, "The new fake news narrative is that there is chaos in the White House," he says that's wrong. "People always come and go and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision."
He says, "I still have some people that I want to change, always seeking perfection." And then he adds, "There is no chaos, only great energy." Which is certainly a statement, Brianna, to say the least that a lot of staff in this White House would not agree with.
They actually say that morale is at an all-time low here in the west wing and they often compare it to the early days of the administration when things were especially chaotic. Now, as far as the president's tweets, specifically, he says this line, people will always come and go, he seems to be referring to the recent rash of departures, two just last week, two top aides.
One of those being one of his closest confidantes over the past few years, Hope Hicks, which is certainly a significant departure. And then says he wants strong dialogue before making a final decision.
Now, many people have read that as him referring to this fight that has ensued in the west wing between some of his top trade and economic advisers over these tariffs that he announced during that hastily arranged meeting last week, something that we have reported that Gary Cohn has threatened to resign over.
So, certainly, not a sentiment that many people in the west wing would agree with here, Brianna. They actually think there is a lot of chaos in this west wing. But that seems to be something that the president thrives on.
KEILAR: It sure does. All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you. Now this comes as a former adviser to the Trump campaign is backing off of his steel jaw defiance of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election.
The evolution of Sam Nunberg was both bizarre and somewhat unsetting, and it unfolded live during several hours of rambling and breathless interviews on television. Initially Nunberg said he refuses to comply with the grand jury subpoena, but as you'll see, that did seem to soften as he moved into the evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE (via telephone): They want me over at the grand jury. Screw that. Why do I have to go? Why? For what?
What I'm not going to have is to help Mueller's team target Roger Stone. Roger is my mentor. Roger is, like -- Roger is like a surrogate father to me and I'm not going to do. I was thinking to save time, I've been advised against this, maybe I'll just give them my password, my e-mail password because what do I have to go --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, then you're going to comply?
NUNBERG: Then I would comply, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: All right, let's bring in CNN justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider. Jessica, Nunberg was a short-lived adviser to the campaign, but the special counsel has subpoenaed his e-mails with some of those who are closest to the president. What does this tell you?
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, this really shows that the special counsel continues to look into a wide range of campaign communications. This subpoena served on Sam Nunberg, it requests all documentation with ten prominent people associated with the campaign including the likes of Rick Gates and Paul Manafort, who, of course, have already been indicted.
Gates in fact has pleaded guilty, and the document requested dates back to November 1st, 2015, about five months after Donald Trump announced his run for president. And we're not only seeing Nunberg subpoenaed, but Nunberg himself has also shed some light on the questions he was asked by the special counsel's investigators when he was interviewed last month.
[11:20:11] He said that the questions indicate to him that the special counsel in his words suspects something about the president, possibly relating to the president's business dealings. That was very intriguing.
Then, of course, there was this about what Nunberg thinks the president knew about that June 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Donald Trump Jr. met with the Russian lawyer after he was promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. Here is what Nunberg had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUNBERG: I think he probably knew in advance and --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In advance?
NUNBERG: Yes. I think if I had to guess Don informed him about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SCHNEIDER: And Nunberg did provide no evidence to back up any of the claims and, of course, both President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have denied that the president knew anything about that Trump Tower meeting.
And, of course, Brianna, it is important to remember that Nunberg was this short-lived campaign adviser, he does seem to indicate a lot of bad blood with the president, in fact, he sued the president for $10 million after he was fired.
So a lot of questions about what Nunberg has said, but perhaps it was interesting that he shed some light on some of the questions he got from the special counsel's team when he was interviewed for about 5- 1/2 hours last month -- Brianna.
KEILAR: It certainly was. Jessica Schneider, let's talk about that with our panel, we have CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cilizza. We also have Michael Zeldin, CNN legal analyst and former aide to Robert Mueller at the Justice Department.
Chris, you wrote a column that cracked me up, especially because you said why do I have to go or screw that, why do I have to go, reminds you when your wife tells you need a physical.
CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I respond like a 5-year-old.
KEILAR: That's what we saw last night. The president is responding to this narrative of chaos as he puts it. He says, no, it is great energy. So, what do you think, total chaos or great energy?
CILIZZA: Well, I mean, it doesn't have to be one or the other. You can have energy and chaos. Often you do. But I would say it is hard for the president to sell the no chaos idea when in the tweet where he's selling it, he says and there is still a few people I would like to get rid of on my staff.
KEILAR: There's more great energy to come.
CILIZZA: Right. I mean, I don't think any neutral observer would look at -- let's say the last week of this White House, Ben Carson, David Sholken (ph), Hope Hicks, Sam Nunberg, there are more, and say that this is all energy and positive direction. There is chaos.
And I think some of that is self-created. Donald Trump exists in a world in which he thinks chaos is helpful. He said on Saturday night that he thinks chaos is a good thing. But it seems to me that particularly in the last week you've seen it hugely distracting, many of the principal players in his White House.
KEILAR: In Jessica's report there, Michael, you heard what Sam Nunberg is saying at least opining about, right? He says that Mueller has something on Trump, and he claims that the president knew or would have known about the Trump Tower meeting with Don Jr. set up with a Russian lawyer. If you're Robert Mueller and looking at that, do you say this guy knows something or this guy is mouthing off? MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And so, he's been with the FBI for five and a half hours and I expect that that has been fully covered. Now it may be that the reason that he has a subpoena to bring documents in is because they want to see documentation that supports that opinion.
So, that's one theory of why he gets the grand jury subpoena to bring all these documents in. The other thing is that if you're Mueller, you have to just rely on the facts that you gather. And not the opinions of these witnesses because that's not provable in court testimony that you can put in. So, he's most interested in the writings. If you look at --
KEILAR: Contemporaneous e-mails.
ZELDIN: It is more than e-mails. We look at the subpoena itself, documents are very broadly defined as correspondents, hard drives, discs, memoranda, draft memoranda, so he wants a full layout of the communications that this man, Sam Nunberg, has had with these ten people as a very foundational part of his work.
KEILAR: Did Nunberg's series of interviews yesterday and what he talked about tell you anything about where this special counsel is that you didn't know?
ZELDIN: Well, it confirms something which I surmised, which is that Mueller has as his primary mandate counterintelligence. The Russian indictment, 13 Russian individuals, three corporations, is phase one. That's the social media, outward coming into the U.S., to interfere with the election.
I always thought there was going to be a phase two, the hacking and that would be something that would go either through Wikileaks or otherwise.
[11:25:07] And what Nunberg said that was interesting to me was they want to know about Roger Stone's communications with Wikileaks around the hacked DNC and Podesta e-mails. That seems to me to indicate Mueller has this phase two, he's looking to see who hacked and may see another indictment.
But then he's got the flip side of it. On the social media part of it, that already has been indicted, I expect he's looking at Jared Kushner and Cambridge Analytica and also Roger Stone, Wikileaks, Don Jr., Wikileaks.
KEILAR: Chris, so Nunberg is, as you saw throughout the evening, seems to be moving towards actually cooperating with the special counsel. Is that something that -- is that your read on it?
CILIZZA: Yes, I mean, what was odd in the early part of the afternoon with all of his interviews, it seems as though he was under the belief that he would simply tell Bob Mueller no and that would be the end of it. I told him no, so he goes away. Obviously, that's not how it works legally. Bob Mueller has a number of legal avenues to pursue if Nunberg said no and refused to turn this stuff over. I don't know whether Nunberg, somebody told him that, whether he, you know, was angry and then took a step back and thought, what am I doing here? He still has --
KEILAR: Do I really want to go to jail?
CILIZZA: Right, exactly. He has until Friday to comply. My guess is he probably will. All of this was a lot of show. But to Michael's point, I think it is important to note, we at least now have a copy of a subpoena, that was given to a player, whether, you know, a minor player, and we have some sense of the universe that Bob Mueller is looking at.
I'm not sure he can prove any of that. He would say whatever you want, Donald Trump knew about the Russia meeting. Maybe, but who knows. That is the key. The universe of what Mueller is looking at.
KEILAR: Real quick, Michael, you think -- do you think he complies?
ZELDIN: Yes, I think he's going to comply. I think he's woken up to the reality that he will go to jail if he doesn't cooperate.
KEILAR: All right. Michael, Chris, thank you so much to both of you.
Up next, with just days before the president -- before the president is expected to approve steep new tariffs, he's facing growing opposition from Republicans on Capitol Hill and even from top aides inside the White House. We'll have the details next.