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Trump Accepts Offer to Meet with Kim Jong-un; Former Trump Aide in Court to Appear before Grand Jury. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Kaitlan Collins at the White House with the very latest. Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, John. We actually just got a brand-new statement from the Vice President Mike Pence. I'm going to read that for you. He said, "North Korea's desire to meet to discuss denuclearization while suspending all ballistic missile and nuclear testing is evidence that President Trump's strategy to isolate the Kim regime is working."

Now, John, let me give you a little bit of the behind the scenes how this all went down here at White House yesterday. Because the president was initially not scheduled to even meet with the South Korean delegation, who was here briefing the national security adviser on their talks with North Korea and then he met with them. They extended the invitation from Kim Jong-un, the president seemed to accept essentially on the spot, and thought the news was just too good to not share. They had the South Korean official come out here on the drive over to the White House last night, in the dark, to tell -- to make this announcement that he had accepted this invitation.

Now, as far as the details of where we go from here, they're still hammering those out, the when, the where. But South Korea is saying that this meeting will take place by May, a very short timetable that the White House is working with here. But that's a timetable that the White House has agreed to. But we do not know when and where this meeting will happen. But to give you a sense of how quickly all of this unfolded, we heard from Vice President Mike Pence just on Tuesday and he said that the posture toward the North Korean regime will not change until, quote, "We see concrete steps toward denuclearization."

Then we heard from the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just yesterday, hours before this invitation was accepted, and he said that, quote, "We're a long way from negotiations." And then the president accepts this invitation, that was extended by North Korea and we're going from here, but John, a lot of risk, a lot of reward at the table here, essentially between these two leaders. Both very dramatic, both very bold, but the president has made clear that he doesn't want to make the mistakes that his predecessors have with North Korea. So we'll be waiting to see where the president goes from here as the White House continues to hammer out the details of this very striking news, John.

BERMAN: The stakes could not be higher. Kaitlan Collins at the White House this morning.

And this morning, no country could be happier about all of this than South Korea. CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul with the very latest. Paula?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you're absolutely right. We have heard from the South Korean President Moon Jae-in who even before he came to power said that he wanted this to happen. He wanted more engagement with North Korea. He has everything that he wanted and more. He has said this is almost a miraculous event. And that really sums up what has happened over recent days, the fact that this diplomatic whirlwind - in fact, to call it as a massive understatement.

We are hearing some interesting color and information from the meeting between the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the South Korean officials, if we just rewind a few days before the South Korean officials went to Washington with that historic invitation to meet with Trump. We did hear that the red carpet was laid out by the North Korean leader, that he applied the South Koreans with bottles of wine, with Korean soju, which is the local liquor here and it was very jovial, saying that he also was very jovial when he was talking about his image outside of North Korea, saying he was very aware of how he was portrayed in international media and how people thought of him. And he was even joking about himself.

So we really saw some quite interesting insights into Kim Jong-un himself. But there are many people here who are welcoming this. There are many who are also insisting a bit of realism needs to be injected into it as well. We know that Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, has just been speaking to the U.S. president, Donald Trump, certainly China will be delighted. This is what they have wanted for some time. They have wanted Washington and Pyongyang to sit down and discuss the denuclearization. But we are hearing some people question whether or not the U.S. president is walking into a massive trap, to actually sit down with the North Korean leader, legitimizes him in a way that some say it really shouldn't. John?

BERMAN: Paula Hancocks for us this morning in Seoul. Paula, thank you very much.

Joining me now, John Park, director of the Korea working group at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Tony Blinken, CNN global affairs analyst, former deputy Secretary of State.

Tony, look, there is a glass half full aspect to this and a glass half empty. Let's start with glass half full first. I know this did not go down the way that major diplomatic breakthroughs normally do. Nevertheless, this is diplomacy. This is a meeting where people will be talking, not shooting, at each other.

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: John, you're absolutely right. Look, a few weeks ago before the Olympics, it looked like we were in a slow motion nightmare heading to conflict and war. Now the president is giving diplomacy a chance. That's a good thing. We should support it and applaud it. Second, I think it is evidence that pressure can work. The administration built on the pressure that President Obama put in place and that's one of the reasons I think Kim is coming to the table.

[10:05:02] But where the realism comes in is this. We're at best at the start line, not the finish line of a process and there are world class hurdles ahead. We know that president Kim Jong-un could actually just simply take the meeting, pocket it and get increased stature that he's looking for. And the North Koreans are masters at three things, at stringing, ringing and walking, stringing out talks, ringing out concessions and then walking away. That's a danger too.

Finally, this needs extraordinary preparation. And if the president goes into this, without the preparation, if he wings it, and goes in alone, that's a recipe for ending up in a very bad place.

BERMAN: You know John Park, to you. Kim Jong-un is getting something that he wants here. Is he giving anything up?

JOHN PARK, DIRECTOR, KOREA WORKING GROUP, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: At this point, it's a statement he's just committed to denuclearization. The May meeting is right around the corner. There's a lot that has to be done like for the time being. It is this commitment to denuclearize and also to freeze on the ballistic missile and nuclear test.

BERMAN: Not even a piece of paper. It's actually a statement that we think he said out loud as translated through the South Koreans right now. So we don't know how firm that is. Mike Pence, we heard his statement. He said this is evidence that President Trump's strategy to isolate the Kim regime is working. The North Koreans are coming to the table despite the United States making zero concessions. True?

PARK: The current formulation, that's what it looks like. We're still trying to piece together what took place. I think more information will be coming out as we come. But the thing is, there are two dominant theories why Kim Jong-un is going this direction, why these sanctions are working, maximum pressure is clear indication that this game plan is coming to fruition in key areas. The other is that he's biding time, that this idea that for the next stage of nuclear weapons development, ever more technically intensive, he was going to be quiet and working in the labs and soldering - along those lines, why not frame it as a freeze as part of a diplomatic off ramp and get some concessions.

BERMAN: Why has every North Korean leader since the '90s wanted this high profile meeting with the U.S. president?

PARK: It is an important element of validation of the North Korean leadership structure itself and also, North Korea views the United States as the source of what they call the hostile policy.

BERMAN: So, Tony Blinken, some of what North Korea might want out of this. You know CNN particularly list from our reporting, North Korea sovereignty recognized, security guaranteed, dramatic reduction of U.S. troops in South Korea, and to scale down the U.S.-South Korean military exercises. How much of this, if any of it, when all is said and done, would the U.S. be willing to give?

BLINKEN: Well you know, we have been here before. And if fact, I think North Korea's aims in any negotiation have been pretty consistent. And you just listed them. At the end of the day, what they're looking for is to get U.S. troops off of the Peninsula to an affect, end the U.S.- South Korea alliance and ultimately from their perspective reunify but on their terms. And all of those things are nonstarters. But where there may be an opportunity is to see if we can give them at the end of a process if they take the steps to denuclearize credible guarantees for their own security and survival. That's where the rub is.

But John, we have to keep this in mind. When we engage in these kinds of negotiations before, for example, with Iran, on its nuclear program or Cuba on diplomatic normalization, it has taken years. It has taken tremendous preparation. It's taken a very detailed and lengthy process. It's taken the right people and experts. None of those are in place.

So, I think we got a long road ahead of us to even get to that point. Finally this is the time when the hypocrisy leader in Washington usually hits the red. It's going to be interesting to see the people who criticize President Obama for engaging with Iran, engaging with Cuba. What is their reaction going to be to this? And those who criticize the Iran nuclear deal, what standard are they going to hold President Trump to if he actually gets into a negotiation with North Korea.

BERMAN: You know, Tony, I am interested, and I know the situation was different with the Obama administration than it is now with the Trump administration, but if you were part of the National Security Council, you know deputy director there for a while. If you were sitting inside the West Wing on a Thursday, the South Koreans walk in and say hey, the North wants to meet, would you have said, yes, let's do it in May?

BLINKEN: Look, I don't think - honestly, we would have been as impulsive as the president was yesterday. I think we would have taken this under advisement. We would have looked to - hardly would have thought about the right reaction. We probably would have started by proposing that someone under the president meet.

But, look, at the end of the day, John, you know, diplomacy is not a gift, it is a tool. And if it can be used to advance peace to advance our security and to get to a deal, then we should support it. So let's see where this goes. I would support the president in moving forward on this, but with the right people, with the right preparation, with the right process to give us a chance to get to yes.

BERMAN: You know, John, it is interesting, no small irony that this happened hours after the United States announced big sanctions against South Korea here. You know the steel sanctions could cost South Korea a lot of money. There are major exporters of steel to the United States. Do you think at this point the United States backs off that and says, hey, wait a minute, you know we'll take this off the table, all this North Korea stuff is going on, because it is just unseemly and unwieldy? [10:10:06] PARK: As I mentioned, different piece of information coming out, and one from yesterday that the South Korean national security adviser put in formal request in terms of an exemption under the steel tariffs for South Korea. That's being considered by the Trump administration at this point.

BERMAN: Do you think it would be wise for the Trump administration to say yes given the sensitivity of the negotiations right now?

PARK: It really depends. I think there is a South Korean effort to link these two issues, but even from a South Korean perspective, the priority is to get the inter-Korean talks and also the U.S. and North Korean talks going. That's the priority.

BERMAN: All right, John Park, great to have you with us. Tony Blinken, always a pleasure to see you. Thanks so much, guys, a lot going on.

Still to come, the Stormy Daniels saga, yet another adult film star is now tied to this scandal. We have new details ahead.

Plus, the former Trump campaign aide who made the rounds on TV this week, he is now testifying before a grand jury inside U.S. district court. What is he saying?

And former President Barack Obama in talks to partner up with Netflix, stranger things have happened. See what we did there?


[10:15:29] (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?

I'm not going to get sent to prison.

Donald Trump caused it, because he's an idiot, because he decided to give an interview to Lester Holt the day after he fired James Comey and then he decided to have the Russians in the Oval Office.


BERMAN: That was Sam Nunberg, the former adviser to then candidate Donald Trump who swore he was not going to testify before the grand jury in the Russia probe. Guess where he is right now? There he is, walking into the district court in Washington, D.C., We believe him to be testifying before the grand jury as we speak.

Our Jessica Schneider outside right now. Jessica, give us the latest.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you saw there, in a week that started off with a show of defiance from Sam Nunberg. He has in fact come here to the district courthouse and he will -- he is appearing before a grand jury this morning. He walked into the courthouse, just shortly after 9:00 a.m. He walked in with his attorney, Patrick Brackley. But everything that happens before the grand jury will be done without his attorney present and it will be done in secret.

So the question is what exactly will Sam Nunberg tell this grand jury? He did appear for an interview with the special counsel just last month. He spent five and a half hours with investigators, telling them what he knew. But, of course, Sam Nunberg was very outspoken, earlier this week. He said a number of things that he didn't actually provide any evidence for, but he did say that he believes that President Trump knew about that June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort and that Russian lawyer.

He also said based on his interview questions from the special counsel, he said he believes that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller does in fact have something on President Trump, of course, again not offering any evidence. So it will be interesting what exactly Sam Nunberg will tell the grand jury today and how long he might be before the grand jury.

Now, it is important to gain some perspective here. Sam Nunberg was really a short-lived campaign adviser to the Trump team, very early on in the campaign. In fact, he was hired by the campaign. And then fired, rehired again, and then finally fired in August 2015. Of course, that was just two months after Donald Trump even declared his candidacy.

So, what exactly Sam Nunberg knows from those few months, it is uncertain. But what we do know is earlier this week the special counsel's team served a subpoena on Sam Nunberg asking for documentation and correspondence between Nunberg and 10 people including the president. Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates among others, all communications from November 2015. Again, that was after Sam Nunberg left the campaign until the present.

So, John, it will be curious to see if Sam Nunberg talks to the cameras after he comes out of the grand jury proceedings, again, unclear how long that will last. He did not talk to the cameras when he was going into the courthouse. And of course, he did tell our Gloria Borger last night, he said, I won't be commenting any more. I don't want to turn into Anthony Scaramucci, a dig on the president's short-lived communications director, Anthony Scaramucci. So despite Sam Nunberg talking extensively, John, at the beginning of the week, he's not saying anything today at least. John?

BERMAN: Not to us. He is saying things to the grand jury, which ultimately is more important. Jessica Schneider, thanks very, very much.

All right, that is one headache for the White House. There is a new one that has emerged very much this week. It is the Stormy Daniels saga, Stephanie Clifford and her lawsuit. She is of course a former adult film actress, her lawsuit against the president. Our Sara Sidner joins us now with more. Sara?

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So there are some new details CNN uncovered. One of the people listed in that nondisclosure agreement, and in that agreement there are several people listed who may have knowledge of this alleged relationship between Stormy Daniels and President Trump.

Now, one of the people listed is listed under the name Angel Ryan. That is actually the legal name of a woman named Jessica Drake. Jessica Drake is also a film star, a porn star. And she knows Stormy Daniels. That is her there. She also spoke out just a month before the presidential election saying that Donald Trump was sexually inappropriate with her. She was sitting beside her attorney, Gloria Allred.

[10:20:06] Now, why this is interesting is because about a few days after she came out with her statement on Donald Trump, accusing him of sexual misconduct, a spokesperson for Donald Trump during the campaign said, and I want to quote it here, basically that "Trump does not know this person, does not remember this person and would have no interest in ever knowing her."

Why is that important? Because less than a week after that statement was made, a woman named Angel Ryan, remember, that's the legal name of Jessica Drake, who accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct at that same Tahoe resort where he and Stormy Daniels allegedly met and had a sexual romp. She was listed on the nondisclosure agreement as someone who would know something about Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump. Someone is not telling the truth. And that is the crux of the argument here being made by the attorney for Stormy Daniels. It is very complicated as you might imagine, and when you have these nondisclosure agreements, they're trying to keep everything secret, right?

So all of these different names, and all of these aliases, for example Donald Trump had an alias of David Dennison. Stormy Daniels had an alias of Peggy Peterson. Stormy Daniels' real name is Stephanie Clifford. It gets very, very complicated. But what is really important to know here is that somebody isn't telling the truth and those details may come out in court. John?

BERMAN: Somebody not telling the truth part is easy to understand. Sara Sidner, following this for us. Thank you very, very much.

Joining me now is Jennifer Psaki, CNN political commentator, former White House communications director under President Obama, also worked in the State Department of important note today, and Rob Astorino, former country executive for Westchester County here in New York, Republican, supporter of President Trump.

And guys, it feels so incongruous to be talking about this breakthrough with North Korea, also phenomenal jobs numbers today, 313,000 jobs added in the economy last month and then there is this news about Stormy Daniels. And then there is Sam Nunberg in court. It is sort of like you know the tale of two cities, the best of times, the worst of times for this White House. But it is always thus, it seems, Rob.

ROB ASTORINO (R), FORMER COUNTY EXECUTIVE, WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NEW YORK: You know, it looks like to me on the outside that Stormy Daniels is trying to maybe extort President Dennison -- I mean Trump, whatever his real name is. And you can see this is a contract that she abided by, that she received money from. And it was broken somehow and now her and her lawyer are really trying to push the president, who would have so much to lose, because he doesn't want to have to be deposed, he doesn't want testimony or discovery or any of that stuff. So they're trying to get something new, maybe more money or something.

BERMAN: That seems unlikely at this point, given the legal tact they're taking here.

You know, Jen, the other side of that, again, you know, for all the issues the Stormy Daniels thing raises, the North Korea development is huge. It is very, very big deal. Do you think that this administration deserves the credit it is frankly asking for this morning?

JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, diplomacy should always be the first resort and certainly there have been decades, years if not decades of time where presidents have not been willing to meet with the leader of North Korea. Now they've made that offer for years. So it is not a new offer. So he deserves credit for breaking the fever, I suppose. I think the issue at hand here is to what end? And what is going to result from this? And I think there is natural, understandable skepticism, no one should be rooting against diplomacy or rooting against success here, Democrats, anyone on partisan lines. But there is a lot of work to be done and I think a long road to go before we can celebrate success.

I just want to walk down memory lane for a second, while I have you here, as a veteran of the Obama campaign. You know I'm old enough to remember in 2007 when then candidate Obama was asked, if he would sit down and meet with leaders from Iran, I think it was Venezuela at that point, and North Korea, without preconditions, and this was his answer.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wouldn't. And the reason is this, the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them, which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration, is ridiculous.


BERMAN: That was Barack Obama in junior high, commenting on meeting -

PSAKI: He looks a bit younger with less gray hair.

BERMAN: -- without preconditions.