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White House Daily Briefing Focuses on Trump/Kim Jong-Un Meeting; Stronger Than Expected Jobs Report, Dow Gains Amid Trump Tariff Announcement. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No, I'm simply saying that a time and place haven't yet been set.

QUESTION: OK, and so moving on from that point, can you kind of explain to us how this did end up coming about last night? Because we had the president (inaudible) us out of here at roughly the close of business, and say the supporters were around; that there was going to be this announcement.

SANDERS: Maybe that's y'all's close of business. Our hours must be a little later than yours.

QUESTION: Yeah, my --

SANDERS: I'm pretty sure you guys were all still here.

QUESTION: So popped his head in here, though, and said that there would be an announcement coming around 7:00 p.m. from the South Koreans. Then the White House ends up telling us that it will be here on this property. Then it wasn't until an hour after that that you even sent out a statement affirming the details -- some of the details, not the main part -- what -- of what this announcement that President Trump would be meeting with Kim Jong-un. Can you walk us through how that all happened, from the -- the president popping in here, to the fact that a South Korean official, not the White House, briefed us on our own property outside?

SANDERS: Again, this was the result of the South Korean delegation, who had met with the North Koreans earlier in the week, coming here to give us an update on their conversations and their meetings, and relaying that information, and us responding to that.

QUESTION: So what (inaudible) the White House?

SANDERS: And the reason for the South Koreans, I believe that was the end of your question -- addressing is because those were the individuals that had directly spoken with the North Koreans, and they were the ones that were making that response.

QUESTION: So it was the president's idea -- it was the president's idea to come in here and -- and -- and make that statement?

SANDERS: Yeah, absolutely, it was the president's idea to come into the briefing room and alert you all of an announcement coming a couple of hours later.


QUESTION: On the issue of denuclearization, and going back to Peter and Jeff, there's a black hole when it comes to intelligence as to what's really happening in North Korea. What is going to be put in place specifically to qualify and quantify what is actually there?

When you talk about denuclearization, what are you denuclearizing? How many? We don't know specifically what is in place. Are you going to employ more (ph) bodies beyond what you have? What is in place? What do you plan on doing?

SANDERS: That's something that's going to be determined by the intelligence community, the national security team, and not something that I would relay from the podium to all of you.

QUESTION: But it's very important, when you have something, some kind of meeting of this nature, it's very important to understand what is at play. Because he could say I'm denuclearizing, and not denuclearize everything.

SANDERS: I think it's very important for our intelligence communities and our national security community to understand that, and they do. And that is going to be a major part of any conversation, and something though I'm not going to relay at this point, certainly ahead of any conversations.


QUESTION: One more -- one more subject, last question. Did president Trump -- when did President Trump, after that photo, see Stormy Daniels? In text, e-mail, do you have any other information?

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

Deborah (ph)?

QUESTION: I have a California question. On Wednesday, Governor Brown said that the Donald Trump is declaring war on California. Now I know that the president's given him -- given Jerry Brown money to his campaigns before.

Have they talked on the phone recently? And when the president goes to California next week, will it be war or will it be peace?

SANDERS: I'm sorry, I couldn't hear the last part.

QUESTION: Will it -- when the president goes to California, will it be war or will it be peace?

SANDERS: Look, I think if anybody is stepping out of bounds here, it would be someone who is refusing to follow federal law, which is certainly not the President. And we're going for what we hope to be an incredibly positive trip. The president's going to look at prototypes along the border. And also meet with and speak to the members of our Armed Services. He'll be speaking with members from all five branches of the military, and I don't think that could be anything but a positive thing.

John (ph)?

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you, Sarah. Two brief questions. Stating the date coming up and who might accompany the president or who's expected to accompany them, could we assume then that General McMaster will remain national security adviser throughout the duration of the negotiations?

SANDERS: I have no reason to believe otherwise.

QUESTION: And that means so it could be in the fall of this year, it could be later, but he'll still be on there to advise?

SANDERS: Look, I don't have a crystal ball to predict into the future, but the president's national security adviser is General McMaster. He's a valued member of the president's team and an important part of this process.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

SANDERS: I'm sorry, I can't hear you.

QUESTION: He's not leaving anytime soon?

SANDERS: Not that I'm aware of, no.

Brian (ph), go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. A different policy question for you. Three weeks ago, the president came out in a speech, he said we're going to have the largest nuclear force ever; hopefully we'll never have to use it, but we're going to be so far ahead of everyone else in nuclear like you've never seen before, far in excess of anyone else. And as far as disarmament, he said, we won't lead the way; we will go along with them.

A day after that, OMB Director Mulvaney came in here and said that you all were going to spend close to -- or proposing to spend close to $50 billion to upgrade and enhance the nuclear arsenal.

A week after that, the president -- or the head of Russia came out and said he has a first-strike weapon. Now whether or not you believe he has a first strike weapon, isn't it inherently dangerous for the owners of the two largest nuclear arsenals to engage in brinkmanship?

And why are we abandoning our role as a peacemaker in disarmament?

SANDERS: I don't think that's the point anyone's making. The president wants to make sure that we have the most robust and modern military. He's been in constant conversations with the secretary of defense, and acting in large part on the recommendations of the secretary. And I think everybody can certainly rest assured knowing that Secretary Mattis is making good decisions when it comes to how best to rebuild and modernize the military.

QUESTION: But this is global thermonuclear war we're talking about. There's -- you don't come back from that. Isn't it dangerous to talk about brinkmanship?

SANDERS: I think it's dangerous to push something that is -- a narrative that is not at all what this administration is pushing. We're talk -- I'm talking. We're talking about the safety and security of this country. We're talking about making sure we have the strongest military in the world, so that we can operate from a place of strength and that's what we're doing.

We'll take one -- sorry, I'm going to keep moving. I'm going to take one last question.


Callie (ph)?

QUESTION: There's two questions, Sarah. Clarifying what you said from the podium. Is there a possibility that these talks with North Korea with Kim Jong-un may not happen?

SANDERS: Look, they got to follow through on the promises that they've made. And we want to see concrete and verifiable action on that front.

QUESTION: So it's possible that could not happen?

SANDERS: I mean, there are a lot of things possible, 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.

QUESTION: And then second, you said from the podium, you acknowledged that the president -- to follow up on April's question, knows about the arbitration involving Stormy Daniels. So does he remember speaking with his lawyer about that? Does he remember meeting Daniels --

SANDERS: I've addressed this extensively, I don't have anything else to add. I -- sorry, I did tell Trey (ph) I would take one last question.

QUESTION: Thanks, Sarah. Quickly, on North Korea, what specific steps is the President taking to prepare for this major summit with Kim Jong-un?

SANDERS: Look, the president has been preparing for this for quite some time in his regular briefings with the intelligence community, with the national security team. He's going to continue doing that and with other subject-matter experts.

But also the president is I think the ultimate negotiator and dealmaker when it comes to any type of conversation, as I think is reflected in Senator Graham's statement. And we feel very confident in where we are.

Thanks so much, guys. Have a great weekend.

[14:37:58] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right. There is a lot there. Let's dive right into it. I have David Chalian, our CNN political director. And also with us, another important voice, Tom Countryman, former State Department employee.

And so, Tom, let's me begin with you, because in theme kept coming up, questions about the KJU/Trump meeting. And the theme was, I kept hearing from Sarah Sanders, there have to be concrete and verifiable actions must take place in order for this meeting to actually occur. Correct me, but I thought that the president in making the news yesterday evening said, yes, he will meet with KJU at location TBD. And now Sarah Sanders saying, well, actions need to match words and not just in halting testing, but also in proof of denuclearization. How do you prove that?

TOM COUNTRYMAN, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND NONPROLIFERATION: Well, I think as has occurred before at these briefings, there is a little bit of confusion there. What the North Koreans have promised to do is not to conduct nuclear ballistic missile tests prior to and during these negotiations. And they have said that the goal is denuclearization, but they have not said that denuclearization will occur before this meeting takes place. So she was confused, or confusing on that particular point. It is important to verify that North Korea sticks to the very specific commitment it has made of no ballistic missile or nuclear testing during this period. If they break that commitment, that would be a circumstance for not having what potentially could be a very positive and productive meeting.


BALDWIN: David, on the same point.


BALDWIN: Go ahead.

CHALIAN: Sarah Sanders also would not spell out when Jeff Zeleny asked what that verification process would look like --


CHALIAN: -- to accomplish this goal of verifiable steps. We have not gone in the last -- I don't know, 18 hours whatever it has been -- we have gone from the president coming into the briefing room saying may, guys, big announcement, huge announcement coming at 7:00 and I hope that you'll give me credit for it, huge. And we learned that he accepted the invitation, to now Sarah Sanders throwing up blockade after blockade. It sounded like she was sort of reining in from where the president was last night.

BALDWIN: That's exactly right.

COUNTRYMAN: I'm not sure I would overinterpret that. The important thing is not what the White House press secretary says, it is what --

BALDWIN: But she is the one talking to the president --

COUNTRYMAN: -- U.S. and North Korea officials say.

BALDWIN: But she is the one talking to the president, right?

COUNTRYMAN: Presumably. On some topics, she does. The question is whether U.S. and North Korean officials are going to roll up their sleeves and do the active work that is needed to prepare such a summit. I think that it would be a very risky thing if these two gentlemen, each of whom is convinced of their own special genius, were to have a meeting tomorrow. There is a necessity for very careful preparation. And we should all be encouraging the White House to make sure that the president draws on the full strength of his national security establishment and not walk into another seat-of-the-pants negotiation.


CHALIAN: That is, no doubt, true. I just think that what we heard from the podium today from Sarah Sanders, who does speak on behalf of the president of the United States, was to put more metrics into that process that were not clear last night at all to actually achieve even to getting to a meeting.

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, let me get a quick break in. We have so much more to discuss in all of this. Also want to back into the briefing room here.

Quick break. Back in a moment to talk about this KJU/Trump meeting.


[14:46:12] BALDWIN: Let's go back inside the briefing room where Jeff Zeleny asked questions of Sarah Sanders on this upcoming meeting between the leader of North Korea and the president of the United States.

So, Jeff Zeleny -- Tom Countryman with as well.

Jeff, I mean, 22 hours ago, you essentially had the president of the United States pop his head in the briefing room, thumbs up, this meeting is on, and now listening to Sarah Sanders, it is almost like asterisk, asterisk, footnote.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is no question, when the president stuck his head here into the briefing room just behind me -- you can't see it off camera -- but just about 10 feet behind me or so through a sliding door, he had a smile on his face and he clearly was eager at the anticipation of the announcement of this invitation. And he wanted to accept it obviously.

But of course, things become much more difficult when you start asking questions about how this would work, how -- where it would happen, who would join him. So there is no question that the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders here at the briefing was walking it back, I would say, a tiny bit just in terms of saying concrete steps have to be taken before the meeting. She was asked directly, is there any chance the meeting would into the happen. She hedged on that somewhat and said, again, concrete steps have to take place.

Now, the question is, they are talking about a time frame here in a couple-months' time. Even less than that. Very hard to believe how you can achieve denuclearization by then. So is it the process toward reaching denuclearization or a final process. And that is unclear here. Also unclear, you know, who would join the president for this kind of meeting. I asked her that specifically. This is one of the issues that this White House has dealt with. They simply to not have the staffing in some areas of the State Department, the ambassador position in South Korea is indeed open. She said, of course, he would be surrounded by good people, but made clear that the president would be leading any of these talks and negotiations.

So as we stand here sort of 24 hours after all of this, it is clear that there are plane questions yet to be sort of worked out, many details in terms of where the meeting would be. Many are recommending Geneva, a neutral place here. But again, so many things would have to happen before then. So we'll see what happens, Brooke.

But no question, this is still, regardless, a significant development in the 70-year long history here, this standoff. So the White House is scrambling to essentially catch up with what the president did yesterday.

BALDWIN: She also -- Jeff, thank you so much.

Tom, this is for you.

We kept hearing Sarah say Trump is making no concessions, no concessions. But isn't a major concession, Tom, the fact that Trump would even be going to Kim Jong-Un?

COUNTRYMAN: Well, yes. Previous presidents have certainly resisted the efforts of the North Korean leader for a summit meeting knowing that this is, in fact, a major piece of the agenda for the North Koreans is to have their leader seen as the equivalent of the U.S. president. So in a sense, it is a concession. I wouldn't criticize him for on it. It is a necessary concession, if we're going to pursue this very long, winding road towards a peaceful solution, because that is a much better than a short and bloody war.

[14:49:40] BALDWIN: Tom Countryman, thank you so much.

More on our breaking news here on, of course, all things North Korea.

But also this. What did Trump know about a payout to keep a porn star actress, Stormy Daniels, quiet about their alleged affair? We are now learning that President Trump's personal attorney used a Trump Organization e-mail address to negotiate that $130,000 payout. Why that could be very significant. That is ahead.

Also we're keeping a close eye on the markets on this Friday afternoon. Take a look at the numbers with me. Huge upswing, up 372 points. An hour left of the trading day. What is behind the rally? We'll be right back.


BALDWIN: Positive news for you on Wall Street. Check it out. The Dow surging after a bit of a rocky week with the market on edge amid President Trump's tariff announcement. The February jobs report is out. It is beating expectations.

"CNN Money's" chief business correspondent, Christine Romans, has the details -- Christine?

[14:55:06] CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brooke. Hiring surged in February, really great start to the year. The U.S. economy creating 313,000 jobs. December and January were revised higher. That February number, the strongest month since July 2016. Now, the jobless rate held steady, 4.1 percent. That is a 17- year low. And more people entered the labor force. That is important here. Here is the number Wall Street was watching for. Wages grew at an annual pace 2.6 percent. Not as strong as expected. That is what you see in your paycheck. So that is calming inflation fears. That is why stocks popped on these numbers. Remember the January jobs report with its big jump in wages that freaked Wall Street out and led to a wave of selling. That may have been an anomaly. February is more typical wage growth, could signal that the Federal Reserve may not have to raise rates aggressively. Everything from retail to construction and manufacturing, health care, mining, all adding thousands of jobs -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Good deal.

Christine, thank you.

Back to our breaking news. We have learned President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, actually used his own Trump Organization e- mail account to negotiate in paying off of the porn star, that $130,000. Why that can be an issue. And why this story may not be going away, next.