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Senators Demand Evidence for Trump Wiretap Claim; U.S. Ambassador to U.N.: Kim Jong-Un is not Rational; Kim Jong Nam's Son Appears in New Video; Samsung Heir's Corruption Trial Begins; Trump Agrees to Meet Kim Jong-un by May; The President and the Adult Firm Star. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired March 9, 2018 - 00:00   ET


[00:00:10] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles. Ahead this hour --

JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Political dodge ball as Vice President Mike Pence and White House staff duck questions about President Trump's unfounded wiretapping accusations.

SESAY: Botched roll out -- the launch of the Obamacare repeal and replace not going so well. Is President Trump the chief cheerleader?

VAUSE: And getting set for a major offensive against ISIS. At this hour, U.S. Marines on the ground in Syria.

Hello everybody. Great to have you with us. I'm John Vause.

SESAY: And I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM L.A. starts right now.

The rising calls of lawmakers including Republicans are demanding evidence, if there is any, for Donald Trump's accusation that President Obama tapped his phones. Senator Lindsey Graham says he is ready to subpoena intelligence agencies for information.

VAUSE: A senior Republican and a Democratic senator are now coming together to ask the FBI and the Attorney General for any material they have to prove the President's claim.

And Vice President Mike Pence is now the most senior White House official so far to dodge a key question. Does he believe the wiretap allegations?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President has alleged that that the former president committed a felony in wiretapping Trump Tower. Yes or no, do you believe that President Obama did that?

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, what I can say is that the President and our administration are confident that the congressional committees in the House and Senate that are examining issue surrounding the last election, the run-up to the last election will do that in a thorough and equitable way. They will look at those issues. They'll look at other issues that have been raised.


VAUSE: Joining us now here in Los Angels, talk radio host Mo Kelly and Republican strategist Luis Alvarado. Guys -- thank you very much for being with us.

SESAY: Gentlemen -- welcome.

VAUSE: Let's start with that non-answer from the Vice President. Luis it does seem it is getting hard to find anybody in Washington who actually believes the President.

LUIS ALVARADO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Quite difficult, obviously. Everybody understands that Donald Trump is not your conventional type politician. Everybody expects some eccentric comments to be made.

This particular comment I think went outside the boundaries of what a Donald Trump expectation would be. And now it's the White House staff, the administration and all Republicans that find themselves having to answer and stand by the President and somehow have a cohesive answer that doesn't throw the President under the bus and allows them to still seem as responsible politicians.

SESAY: So Mo, let me ask you this. In the absence of any evidence being provided to date and Republicans failing to stand by his side, the President that is, what is his next move?

MO KELLY, RADIO HOST: The President, well he's going to have to see this to its end. I don't know what the logical conclusion is going to be.

You saw someone like Lindsey Graham hedging his bet this way. He is going to publicly support the call for the investigation knowing good and well that it may end up the President being embarrassed by there being no evidence while at the same time he still gets to save public face.

You are seeing the individual Republicans making sure that they don't seem like they are crazy, for lack of a better word, while at the same time they can seem like still in lock step with the rest of the party.

VAUSE: We should note that Lindsey graham came out with that statement the day after having dinner with Donald Trump.


VAUSE: Anyway. Ok. The House and the Senate intelligence committee, they're both investigating this wiretapping accusation.

Democrat Senator Adam Schiff says this will be a pretty easy investigation and if the President's claims cannot be proved he says there could very be some serious consequences.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: They've asked us to look into that. And be careful what you wish for. I'd like to have those that were present at the time to be asked the question was the President of the United States being honest? Was he being accurate when he accused his predecessor of wiretapping he and his associates?

Because there needs to be some repercussion to this kind of reckless allegation and in this case I think the repercussion is that we will have high ranking current and former officials telling the American people whether the President was truthful with them.


VAUSE: Luis -- you sort of touched on this just a short time ago. Up until this point, you know, the falsehoods or the misstatements have been fairly inconsequential talking about crowd size or his Electoral College win -- that kind of stuff.

This though seems to be different. If there are to be consequences, as Adam Schiff is talking about, what will they be?

[00:04:54] ALVARADO: Well, the largest consequence to me is that a few days ago he gave a speech to the joint Houses of Congress and was attempting to create a different tone and was attempting to bring some kind of cohesive ground work where there can actually some legislative actions that would help move the country forward.

That has been thrown outside the window if we are going to start going down the rabbit holes of investigations. It doesn't help the Republican Party. It doesn't help the Democratic Party. It doesn't help anybody if this is where Washington is going to be headed.

At the end of the day there has to be some grown ups in the room that actually are going to come in and try to set a tone that legislation that actually is going to be effective for the nation is actually discussed. And we don't see that happening at this point with this specific act or the calling of these investigations.

VAUSE: It doesn't help the Republicans -- I'm not so sure about the Democrats.

KELLY: I would slightly disagree. I would say that the Democrats are somewhat celebrating this because to your point, you had a president who said that he was going to put away all the small-mindedness. And I said on this program, less than a week ago, give it maybe three or four days and he will be back to business as usual. And he is right there.

When you have the high-ranking members of the Senate and also House intelligence committees basically telling you and previewing in a very soft way that they have not seen any evidence to corroborate this, you know it's not going to go well for the President and by extension, the Republicans.

And then when you say by extension the Republicans, you have to worry about this fight to repeal and replace Obamacare. You have the President trying to sell this health care policy which has not been vetted in any well way. So this is going to be problematic for the Republicans moving forward.

SESAY: Any problem for the Democrats in how they navigate --

KELLY: Well, it depends how they play it. You can't treat everything like everything is DefCon One; everything is the greatest scandal in the history of the world. They have to very slowly and methodically lead this up to a point where you have an amalgamation of all these minor errors to construct one large picture of this President.

VAUSE: Ok. The White House really struggling to actually try and explain exactly what's going on here -- another really bad day for spokesman Sean Spicer. And it began with this question at the briefing from a CBS reporter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sean -- is the President the target of a counterintelligence investigation?

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that's what we need to find out. There is obviously a lot of concern.


VAUSE: Ok. Then moments later an aide sort of appears from nowhere, hands him a note and then we have a different answer.


SPICER: There is no reason that we should -- that we have to think that the President is the target of any investigation.


VAUSE: Luis -- this kind of sums up the problems the President has created for himself. Either the allegations are baseless or he is the target of some kind of, you know, a counterintelligence investigation. Is there a third option?

ALVARADO: Well, the problem is that we should be talking about the administration as a cohesive unit that actually is trying to move policy or move the country forward. And we don't even see cohesiveness inside the White House at this point.

When we talk about the executive branch we talk about Trump and his actions or inactions. And that is a very unfortunate moment for Republicans because once again they have to defend the actions or inactions of the White House and the administration. And the administration is consumed with trying to cover for their boss and that can't be good for the nation and certainly not for the party.

SESAY: And, Mo, as they have to navigate all of this, the Republican Party, they have to navigate it with the clock ticking down to mid- term elections. KELLY: Yes. And as we get closer to mid-term elections, if the

Democrats, to your last point, if they handle it correctly, will ramp it up as we get closer to the mid-terms. We saw the right hand introduce themselves to the left hand in that press conference. And it's in complete disarray.

And I don't want to use hyperbole. But that's what's going on where one side of the White House doesn't know the messaging of the other side of the White House. And that that should give any indication over what's going on as far as the strategy to move forward policy then they're in serious trouble.

VAUSE: Ok. Well, Hillary Clinton, remember her, she emerged back on the national stage (inaudible) International Women's Day with a speech at the Kennedy Center in Washington a few hours ago.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Never lose your optimism, your persistence, and your resistance. We can build the future, we envisioned when we started on this journey with vital voices two decades ago -- for women, for girls around the world and for us here at home.


VAUSE: Surprisingly she didn't announce that she is running for 2020.

But let's finish with some good news for Republicans here.


VAUSE: Apparently she's got bad polls in New York. Anyway, Donald Trump according to a new poll is actually significantly more popular than Hillary Clinton. So Mo, losing never looks particularly good but in some ways this sort of opens up the problems for the Democrats as they look for someone to lead the party in this post-Clinton era.

[00:09:58] KELLY: Well, they waited too long to start that search. You have to grow your talent. And they thought maybe it was going to be Julian Castro or someone else but they did not spend that time actually growing their talent in the way that they grew Barack Obama way back in 2004.

There is a four-year run up usually. They have yet to really start that clock and so they're still looking at Hillary Clinton as one of the figure-heads of the party and that's not a good look.

SESAY: Kamala Harris?

KELLY: Possibly but she hasn't taken center stage. She is known but not well known.


VAUSE: Ok. Guys -- thank you so much. Mo and Luis -- thank you very much. Good to see you guys.

SESAY: Now, sources tell CNN President Trump hasn't spoke with his predecessor since the inauguration January 20th but their staff had been communicating.

VAUSE: Why aren't they talking? Why aren't they getting on?

Those familiar with the matter say White House chief of staff Reince Priebus has spoken with the former chief of staff Denis McDonough since President Trump made his wiretapping claim on Saturday.

SESAY: Joining us now to explore the crumbling relationship between President Trump and his predecessor President Obama and the implications is CNN presidential historian and author Douglas Brinkley. Douglas -- so good to have you with us.


SESAY: So we're hearing that President Obama was irked and exasperated in response to Donald Trump's the evidence-free wiretapping claims. I mean the fact is President Obama is essentially being accused of committing a felony here.

Put this in some kind of context for us. Before now have we ever seen a former president assailed by his successor in this way?

BRINKLEY: No, we haven't. Not even in the age of dueling did somebody accuse somebody of a felonious act when you were a sitting president like President Trump has done to Barack Obama. You know, there are -- different presidents have different, you know, rocky relationships. Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter didn't get along. Franklin Roosevelt took Herbert Hoover's name off of the Hoover Dam and changed it to Boulder Dam to punish Herbert Hoover.

So you get kind of petty things that happen if they don't like each other but this was a tweet too far accusing somebody of a felony. And it has kind of shattered the idea of the special relationship, the special club, if you like between ex-president and a sitting president.

SESAY: The current president and his administration appear to be doubling down on this notion of being under siege by the media and the previous administration. Historically when an administration takes on this kind of bunker mentality, if you will, what are the implications for the country?

BRINKLEY: That the country gets unnerved, fear and paranoia spread across the land. True facts get replaced by alternative facts -- we see some of that happening now.

The main role of a president is to unite the country, not just your followers. And Donald Trump has yet to kind of shift into that particular gear.

The attack on Obama is going to create a brouhaha this entire spring. It's not just a distraction. There very well may be hearings that are going on to determine the falsehood of Trump's claim. And so it's a bit nutty.

And the other problem Donald Trump has is in my writing presidents, the successful ones, none of them like the press but the successful ones know how to fake it. People like John F. Kennedy or Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, Ronald Reagan. And in this case you see Trump acting like Richard Nixon when he destroyed the press, see the press as an enemy.

That is somebody who doesn't understand the First Amendment properly. And in the end the press just works double hard to find out things about you and it doesn't really get you anywhere.

SESAY: We're hearing now that President Trump and Obama haven't spoken since inauguration day. I mean this relationship appears to be heading south. But I think the question a lot of people have is how important is it for a sitting president to actually have a good relationship with his predecessor?

BRINKLEY: It's helpful because nobody knows -- you know, Barack Obama knows a lot about what is going on right in the war on terror, what's happening in the Middle East, what's going on with China, climate change. Donald Trump could tap him as a resource.

I mean after all Bill Clinton came in in 1992 and regularly started calling Richard Nixon, the failed Republican president, for advice on Russia because he treasured Nixon's perspective on USSR back then or the Soviet Union.

All I'm suggesting is that it's not helpful. And it's not good for our democracy that Donald Trump has taken this tactic against Obama. But maybe they will find a way to heal it. Perhaps Trump will apologize or else there'll be an investigation and find that indeed Obama didn't wiretap Trump Tower. And maybe we'll move on with this.

[00:15:04] Barack Obama and Trump were doing pretty well together, I think, after the election and even on inaugural day. They seemed to be getting along all right. But things have blown off right now.

SESAY: Yes, indeed.

And you know, to date we have had President Obama, you know, essentially silent. I mean he had said just when he left office that he would speak out if he felt that American values were under attack from the Trump administration. But he has held back from directly taking on President Trump. Do you think that he can continue along that path so to speak?

BRINKLEY: I think largely so. I don't think President Obama wants to respond to every half-baked tweet that Donald Trump does at 6:00 a.m. It would be a never-ending job.

I think that he has to hope that our democratic process takes hold. In this case there will be an investigation of Trump's claim. He will be proven innocent, Barack Obama, and perhaps, you know, we're seeing difficulty with the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare getting repealed and replaced by the Republicans.

So history has a funny way of, you know, really turning things around and I think Obama knows he left the White House with a 60 percent approval rating. He is secure in his role in history and will only go after Donald Trump sparingly on occasion that he really he needs to.

This was so absurd that I think he was best just to have surrogates comment on his displeasure.

SESAY: And so finally, that being said about the former president not taking on President Trump every time he puts out a tweet, what are your expectations for these memoirs? We know that President Obama and the former first lady have signed this multimillion dollar deal to write these memoirs. What are your expectations for those books? And how much insight we're going to get from them, their feelings on what is going on right now?

BRINKLEY: Well, I know that President Obama's book is going to be very definitive and encyclopedic. It's going to be a serious memoir. I've spoken to him about it before.

Most presidents kind of do a slap-dash job kind of cobbled together policy papers, have a ghost writer and assistant do the lion's share of the work. President Obama is a writer. And he is -- that's how he came to public notoriety in many ways.

And so is going to put a lot into this presidential memoir. We'll have to see how much he deals with after, you know, Hillary Clinton loses meaning the end of his presidency whether he wants to get into issues pertaining to the Trump presidency.

But I bet he does, at least in the context of the 2006 (SIC) campaign and his sentiments and what he really feels about Donald Trump.

He was paid a lot of money for these books, so was Michelle. So I'm sure they'll deliver some of the tidbits that we're all going to interested in reading.

SESAY: Yes, we certainly will be.

Douglas Brinkley -- so good to speak to you. Thank you for the historical perspective and insight.

BRINKLEY: Thank you so much.

SESAY: Thank you.

VAUSE: Well, we'll take a short break.

When we come back the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is lashing out at North Korea's leader after the country's latest missile test. What she said about Kim Jong-Un, just ahead.

SESAY: Plus the head of Samsung goes on trial, part of a massive corruption scandal that even reached the president's office.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom means to me that I can have my own thoughts, my own feelings, my own opinions. I don't have to ask for permission to feel or think the way that I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Freedom to me means to be able to think, act, or say what I want.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To me freedom means the ability to make your own choices being unrestrained by another person's power.

VAUSE: CNN is teaming up with young people around the world for a unique student-led day of action against modern-day slavery with the launch of "My Freedom Day", March 14th.

SESAY: Driving all of this is a simple question. What does freedom mean to you? Send us your answer by text, photo or video across social media using the #myfreedomday.

VAUSE: The ambassador to the United Nations says Kim Jong-Un is not rational. Nikki Haley's sharp criticism of the North Korean leader followed a Security Council meeting about Pyongyang's ballistic missile launches.

SESAY: And there's a sense of frustration at the U.N. because all the sanctions and resolutions have really done nothing to stop North Korea's launches but Haley says all options are on the table.

VAUSE: For more on this let's bring our correspondents in -- Paula Hancocks live in Seoul, Matt Rivers standing by in Beijing.

Paula -- first to you. The South Koreans -- are they echoing the tough line which is coming from the United States, from Nikki Haley at the U.N.? Are they on board with what appears to be a much harder position when it comes to dealing with North Korea?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John -- the interesting thing about this is that Ambassador Haley actually attacked the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un himself. In previous attacks from the United States and criticisms they've criticized the nuclear program, the missile program, the country itself.

But to have a personal attack on the North Korean leader goes one step further particularly in the minds of North Koreans. He's almost god- like within North Korea. To attack him personally is definitely a number of steps higher.

It's unlikely we'll see that kind of personal attack here in South Korea but certainly they are standing right behind Washington when it comes to criticizing Kim Jong-Un and when it comes to supporting the THAAD missile defense system being here. They are still ongoing with their military drills but I don't think you're going to see that kind of personal attack against the leader himself from South Korea. VAUSE: And Paula, very quickly, we did hear from the State Department

spokesperson saying essentially because of the improved technology when it comes to North Korean weapons, that they now need to look at alternatives for dealing with North Koreans. What would those alternatives actually be?

HANCOCKS: Well, we heard consistently from this Trump administration that all options are on the table. When you look basically at the options, you have sanctions, you have negotiations, you potentially have the military option which is highly unpalatable to many in the region, many in the U.S. as well.

But they are saying that all options are on the table. Whether this is a negotiating ploy we don't know because at this point we actually don't know the official North Korean policy of the Trump administration yet -- John.

VAUSE: And to you Matt -- South Korea and the United States very quickly shutting down any prospects of talks with the North Korean which were put forward by the Chinese. What is the next move now for Beijing?

MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Beijing has had that position for a long time now ever since the six-party talks broke down a year ago. You heard foreign minister Wang Yi say in a press conference yesterday here in Beijing that North Korea should stop testing their missiles, the United States and the South Koreans should stand down on their military drills.

But as you say, realistically that's not going to happen even though the Chinese really want these direct negotiations to continue.

So I think the next step for the Chinese is the calculation as to how much they're going to continue to play ball at the U.N. Security Council. Don't forget the Chinese actually help draft both rounds of sanctions that were levied against the North Korean regime in 2016.

But if the Chinese continue to see no progress made on their favored position which would be negotiations how much are they going to continue to go along with the U.S. and Japan and South Korea at the U.N. Security Council or are they going to return to previous ways where they were seen as being more obstructionist? That is the calculation for the Chinese moving forward -- John.

[00:25:04] There are also questions being asked about how much influence China actually does now have over Kim Jong-Un especially compared to his father, where you know, Beijing in many ways, called the shots?

RIVERS: Absolutely. And I think that there are a lot of observers who say that the further North Korea goes in terms of developing its weapons technology the less influence Beijing really has. I mean yes, Beijing has more economic leverage over North Korea than any other country on earth. It is the only major ally of North Korea. It is the vast majority -- responsible for the vast majority of North Korea's food and fuel aid and trade. But how much leverage does that really mean if North Korea is not willing to give up its weapons program because on the world stage, Kim Jong-Un's only real card to play is that nuclear weapons program. And so I think many people will tell you that no matter what China does in terms of stemming the flow of that commerce between both sides, Kim Jong-Un is not going to give up this weapons program so easily.

VAUSE: Ok. Matt -- thank you. Matt Rivers in Beijing. Also Paula Hancocks, live in Seoul. Thanks to you.

SESAY: Well, the son of Kim Jong-Un's half-brother has appeared for the first time since his father's murder. In a video posted by a group called Choellima Civil Defense, Kim Han-Sol identified himself.

VAUSE: The group says the family asked them for extraction and protection last month. The young man's father, Kim Jong-Nam died after being attacked with VX nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur last month. Malaysia and North Korea are in a diplomatic dispute over this murder.

SESAY: And in South Korea the trial of Jay Y. Lee, the head of the Samsung Group started just moments ago. It's the next chapter in a political corruption scandal that's rocked South Korea to its very core.

VAUSE: We're told Jay Y. Lee was not in the courtroom for the start of today hearing. He was arrested last month, accused of paying tens of millions of dollars to win the favor of then-President Park Geun- Hye. Lee was hoping those payments would help secure a controversial merger for Samsung.

SESAY: Time for a quick break. Iraqi forces advance into an ISIS stronghold and the militants are fighting back -- the deadly toll in attacks targeting Iraq and Afghanistan.

VAUSE: Also the U.S. military moves heavy artillery into northern Syria. A decisive battle against ISIS could be imminent.



SESAY: More now on our breaking news. U.S. President Donald Trump has agreed to meet directly with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. We don't know where just yet. But South Korean officials say the face- to-face meeting will happen by May.

The White House says sanctions and pressure on North Korea will remain in place and the stunning announcement came after a South Korean delegation met with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang earlier this week, then traveled to Washington to deliver the invitation to Mr. Trump.


CHUNG EUI-YONG, SOUTH KOREAN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he's committed to denuclearization. Kim pledged that North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests and he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.

President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.


SESAY: CNN's Andrew Stevens is live in Seoul and joins us.

Andrew, as the world processes the news that President Trump is set to meet Kim Jong-un, we're hearing that the man in the middle of all of this, South Korea's president Moon Jae-in, has described the upcoming meeting as almost miraculous. And it's kind of hard to disagree with him.

ANDREW STEVENS, CNN ASIA PACIFIC EDITOR: It is. If you think of just a few short months ago, Isha, the amount of rhetoric coming from both North Korea and the U.S. and the level of tension on the Korean Peninsula, the threats of military action by the U.S., the threats of retaliation, missile strikes, nuclear tests, you name it.

And now we have, in the space of a week, not one but two summits. The key summit obviously the U.S. and North Korea, which most people thought this would not happen, certainly not for long time, at least.

President Moon, as you said, described the meeting as almost miraculous and also thanking President Trump and Kim Jong-un for making it possible.

It's important to remember here that this is a big win for Kim as well because both his father and his grandfather had also been pushing for meetings with the United States leader and, for various reasons, they all fell apart. This one is going through.

The question, of course, is why Kim is pushing this completely different policy when we say than just a few months ago. It seems to be the reason is sanctions. We can't say definitely because we still haven't heard anything official from North Korea on this whole process.

The only thing we've seen from North Korea are the pictures. So we can't say definitely it's sanctions, Isha, but certainly if you look at the anecdotal evidence, everything points to the fact that the North Korean economy was being squeezed. It was going to be squeezed harder as more and more sanctions came into force.

And Kim, who's looking at his longevity, sees this as a best way forward. And Donald Trump representing the best U.S. president, if you like, to actually agree to a meeting. Trump likes to pride himself on the art of a deal being a businessman, making executive decisions.

Well, he certainly made an executive decision today on that. The South Koreans weren't even scheduled to meet him but they did meet him, explaining what the Kim offer was, which is a verbal, not a written offer. And Trump pretty much agreed on the spot, catching his advisers completely off guard as well. And this obviously is what Kim had been hoping for. It is said that

he studies Trump very closely and he played to Trump in some ways. And this is the result. Whether something comes out of it, that is the $64,000 question. Kim is still putting conditions on this, this denuclearization offer.

So whether the U.S. is prepared to agree to the conditions, that's the big one, obviously.

SESAY: $64,000 question, Andrew, I think it's worth a bit more than that, this one.

The question has to be, where are they going to meet?

I mean, because this is not just a simple question of --


SESAY: -- you know, just pick a spot. It carries significance, it sends a message, the optics are important.

STEVENS: Absolutely, the optics are incredibly important in this. There's three potential places and maybe a fourth we don't know about yet, is Pyongyang. It's the DMZ, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and there's Washington.

It's very difficult to see a U.S. president going to Pyongyang. That would be giving too much face to North Korea, which I just don't see that happening. The -- a meeting in Washington, would Kim Jong-un be prepared to go to Washington?

That's debatable. We have heard reports from Washington that it's probably not a starter, either, which leaves the DMZ. We know there's a summit there in April between the leaders of North and South Korea and we know that Donald Trump has said that the meeting with Kim Jong- un will take place by May.

So maybe the DMZ is the place to do it. It really is a momentum game at the moment, given that five days ago, Isha, all we knew that was two senior level enjoys were going to Pyongyang to talk to Kim Jong- un. We had no idea or we certainly weren't told what they were going to be talking about.

Five days later, we've got these two big summits. So it's momentum at the moment. So I expect we'll find out fairly soon, given the unorthodox style of Donald Trump so far on this whole issue, fairly soon where the Americans want that summit. And I suspect it will be in the DMZ, you know, which has face (ph).

SESAY: Everyone looking at this very closely, particularly those in the region; I'm thinking specifically Beijing and Tokyo.

Give me a sense of how they view the road ahead. Obviously Beijing wanted these talks sooner rather than later. Japan a little bit more circumspect and concerned and part of that concern may be a sense that they're being left on the sidelines. Talk to me about the regional perspective on this.

STEVENS: There has been a concern in Tokyo that events were perhaps getting ahead of them. It's important to note here as well that Japan and the U.S. and South Korea are in lockstep on the fact that the sanctions, this maximum pressure that Donald Trump talks about, the U.S. strategy towards North is maintained.

All three countries are in total agreement on that. Now with Beijing, their longstanding position on the whole nuclearization and the tensions on the Korean Peninsula is that dialogue is the only way forward.

They've suggested this freeze for freeze, that the U.S. would freeze, for example, the military drills and, in return, the North Koreans would freeze the missile tests. So we've gone way beyond that.

But certainly the bottom line for Beijing has always been about negotiations. Japan has welcomed this and Japan is also very cautious. They point continually to the fact that we have been down this path before, there has been overtures made from North Korea and to North Korea and none of them have actually led to anything.

At the 11th hour, the North Koreans have moved back from any sort of denuclearization at all and kept with that nuclear program because remember, Isha, this is fundamental, it's written in the constitution. Nuclear deterrent equals regime survival. It's always been thus in North Korea.

Has that changed?

SESAY: That is the -- I'm going to raise you. I'm going to go that's the million-dollar question. Andrew Stevens, joining us there in Seoul, South Korea, appreciate it.

STEVENS: A billion.

SESAY: Yes, exactly. Thank you, appreciate it, Andrew.

A story we'll continue to follow for you. Also, that storm that's brewing over the White House; coming up, how the Trump administration is dealing with the latest developments in the Stormy Daniels saga.





SESAY: Recapping our top story, U.S. president Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. A South Korean official says the two rival leaders will meet by May; that official says the North Korean leader is, quote, "committed to denuclearization and is eager to meet with the U.S. president as soon as possible."

The White House says the time and place are being worked out. The South Korean official says Mr. Kim pledged to suspend testing on nuclear missiles during this time.

White House staffers are frustrated and anxious about a lawsuit that threatens to engulf the Trump administration in a drawn-out legal drama. Stormy Daniels is the adult film star who said she had an affair with Donald Trump in 2006. She sued the president on Tuesday, claiming the nondisclosure agreement she signed to keep the relationship quiet is invalid because Mr. Trump himself didn't sign it. Sara Sidner has all the details.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Stormy Daniels may be barred by an arbitrator from talking but that isn't stopping her from baring it all. The porn star turned alleged paramour of Donald Trump is on the strip club circuit, billed as Donald Trump's mistress, making money off her newfound fame.


SIDNER (voice-over): Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, was ordered by a retired judge not to discuss the hush money deal negotiated with her by President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen. But it may be too late after a series of TV appearances by her lawyer, who says the restraining order is not valid...

MICHAEL AVENATTI, DANIELS' PERSONAL ATTORNEY: There were three parties to the agreement.

SIDNER (voice-over): -- and a lawsuit she filed in Los Angeles that detailed the specifics of the nondisparagement agreement she signed in exchange for $130,000.

Among the requirements of the deal, that she turn over to Trump's lawyer images and text messages allegedly exchanged between Daniels and Trump, which the nondisparagement agreement suggests were previously presented to Trump's lawyer to exist.

Her lawyer is being coy about just what evidence his client has and if she's willing to share it publicly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does she still have photos, images, text messages, documents that verify this claim?

AVENATTI: That's a question that Ms. Daniels will have to ultimately answer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know the answer to that question?

AVENATTI: I do know the answer and I'm not at liberty to disclose it this morning.

SIDNER (voice-over): In a 2011 interview with "In Touch" magazine, Daniels detailed her first alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump and how he continued contacting her between 2006 and 2007.

"He always called me from a blocked number," she told the magazine.

"He gave me -- of course, I had Keith, his bodyguard's number. He gave me his secretary's number, Rona, which is his direct office line. Anytime I needed to get hold of him, he always took my call or called me back within 10 minutes if he was on another call or wasn't there."

Jordi Lippe-McGraw is the reporter who interviewed Daniels in 2011. She says Daniels took a lie detector test.

JORDI LIPPE-MCGRAW, JOURNALIST: We had all this information, we wanted to make sure she was telling the truth. And the results came back that she was, in fact, telling the truth.

SIDNER (voice-over): And she says Daniels wasn't the only one listening when Trump would call her.

LIPPE-MCGRAW: She would actually put him on speakerphone sometimes because she thought it was kind of crazy that Donald Trump was calling her. So she would put the phone on speakerphone and let her boyfriend at the time listen.

SIDNER (voice-over): It's not clear if Daniels' lawsuit, asking to be freed of the hush money agreement, will move forward. A judge has not yet been assigned. What is clear is that, even without speaking publicly herself, Daniels' story has not been silenced.

DANIELS: I want to be able to defend myself. That's the worst part is, at this moment, I can't defend myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's got to be incredibly frustrating.

DANIELS: It's incredibly frustrating, especially for someone like me, who has no problem usually defending herself.

SIDNER: The White House and Donald Trump's personal attorney have denied that there was an affair between Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels.

The question is, why, then, go such lengths to try to keep her from talking? -- Sara Sidner, CNN, Los Angeles.


SESAY: The story not going away anytime soon.

Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM live from Los Angeles, I'm Isha Sesay. Stay tuned now for "WORLD SPORT." You're watching CNN.