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Interview with Rep. Leonard Lance (R), New Jersey; Kim Jong-un Meeting with South Korea's President Moon Set for April 27th; Secretary Mattis Meets New National Security Adviser; Tension Grows as Family Prepares to Bury Stephon Clark; June Deadline Looms Over DOJ Case to Block AT&T and Time Warner Merger. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 29, 2018 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[10:30:00] REP. LEONARD LANCE (R), NEW JERSEY: Potential pardon with President Nixon, I assume the lawyers must have engaged in discussions as to what President Nixon should have said in receipt of the pardon he received, also the Mark Rich Pardon with President Clinton. So I presume lawyers do discuss the parameters of a pardon, but regarding the president himself, John, obviously the pardon power is absolute.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now I'm asking you this as a congressman, as a member of the House of Representatives, who does have a certain oversight role over the executive branch, ultimately once you get the report from Robert Mueller, you ought to read it and find out. If it does turn out that the president asked his lawyer to bring up pardons with these folks, would that concern you?

LANCE: Certainly we would want to know the entire context of that. And President Ford came up to Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee, after he had pardoned President Nixon.

BERMAN: Right. The difference there, of course, is President Ford was never under investigation in Watergate. We don't know if President Trump is specifically under investigation but it's his campaign and whatnot that's being focused on here, so the situation there different in many, many ways.

I want to ask you about your district. You obviously are in a district right now rated as a tossup by the Cook Political Report, although you've done very well there before. I mean, Hillary Clinton won the district, I believe, but you also won, you did much better than Hillary Clinton did.

The congressional ballot test in the new CNN poll shows that Democrats are favored by a six-point margin. That's down from 16 before. Why do you think that gap is shrinking?

LANCE: Well, I think because of those who have received a tax cut, perhaps, across the United States. I didn't vote for the tax bill because of the SALT provision and also I think it exacerbates the deficit, but that might be a reason. The fact that the North Koreans may be coming to the table, and so these are issues that I think will be in the mix. But I'd rather be six points ahead, not six points down, John. BERMAN: There is a huge enthusiasm gap, though. Those who say

they're voting for Democrats are more enthusiastic by 22 points right now. So if you could ask the president, people largely think it is because of the Trump administration, the reaction among some on the left, voters on the left to that, if you could ask the president to do something, what would be helpful to you for the president to do?

LANCE: I conduct myself based upon my personality and I would hope that the president might, as he moves forward, tweet appropriately. There is nothing wrong with tweeting. But I would respectfully recommend that he tweet less and always tweet in a presidential fashion.

BERMAN: Change his behavior, in other words?

LANCE: I -- like my personality, I'm satisfied with my personality, and I think that we should always be respectful of others. I note on the left there are some who are not respectful of Republicans and I try to be respectful, John, of everybody.

BERMAN: You mentioned the deficit and the debt based on the new tax cut. I was looking this week and saw that the Treasury is auctioning nearly $300 billion in debt this week. That's the highest number since the financial turmoil of 2008. That's an enormous figure when the economy is booming and supposed to be the opposite right now.

How alarmed are you about the possibility of just a ballooning deficit?

LANCE: I'm very concerned. That was one of the principal reasons that I voted against the tax bill, and we now have an annual deficit that approaches a trillion dollars. It was down to $450 billion, now it's going back up and I think that this is -- this is the elephant in the room.

BERMAN: But it's caused by this tax cut. This tax cut is making it worse, isn't it?

LANCE: Certainly there are provisions in the tax cut and that was one of the reasons I voted against it.

BERMAN: Congressman Leonard Lance, have a Happy Easter. Great to have you here with us. Thank you very, very much.

LANCE: Happy Easter.

BERMAN: Still to come, a landmark meeting, and it could set the stage for Kim Jong-un's sit-down with President Trump. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:37:58] BERMAN: Developing overnight, there is now a date for the historic meeting between North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and the South Korean president.

Our Ivan Watson has the very latest in Seoul. And Ivan, this is, what, this will be the third meeting between leaders from the North and South?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the last one was in 2007. So this is history, potentially, in the making. They have agreed to have a one-day meeting in that compound on the Demilitarized Zone known as Panmunjom and you'll the South Korean president Moon Jae-in meeting with Kim Jong-un.

Now the South Korean delegate who is at these talks about the talks today with the North Koreans, he says that the agenda has been set for improvement of inter-Korean relations, peace settlement, and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And that is really the elephant in the room.

It is North Korea's nuclear weapons that were being tested just last year, along with many ballistic missile launches, all of which have been banned by multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. North Korea has previously argued that this is a nonstarter, talking of disarming its sacred nuclear weapons, it considers them kind of existential defense, but now we've heard both from the South Koreans and from the Chinese that the North Koreans appear to be open to discussing denuclearization, though we haven't heard that from the North Koreans themselves yet. So that is going to be something vital to look at in the weeks running up to this April 27th inter-Korean summit -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. Listening to what the North Koreans actually say themselves will be very interesting in the coming weeks, not just in regards to South Korea, but the United States as well.

Ivan Watson, great to have you with us. Thank you very, very much.

Also meeting for the very first time today, President Trump's incoming National Security adviser John Bolton and Defense Secretary James Mattis. They apparently have never met before.

With us now, Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

There's a lot of importance surrounding this meeting, Barbara.

[10:40:02] BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: There is indeed, John. And that meeting is supposed to happen here at the Pentagon at 1:30 this afternoon. I mentioned the time because before that, at 11:15, there is even going to be an equally interesting meeting. We're just learning now that Secretary Mattis is going to host this morning the CIA director Mike Pompeo, soon to be secretary of State, if his nomination is confirmed, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and one of the leading Republican senators on the Armed Services Committee, Lindsey Graham.

This according to Pentagon officials, all three coming here this morning, meeting at 11:15. We don't know if they're staying for the 1:30 with John Bolton. That Bolton meeting is going to be important both substantively and in terms of optics. A lot of questions about whether Bolton is too hawkish for Jim Mattis. Is Mattis going to still have his access to the president directly when Bolton takes over? There are some substantive things the men -- the two men disagree on

right now if you look at their records. On North Korea, Bolton hawkish, Mattis for diplomacy. On Iran, Bolton not happy about the Iran nuclear agreement, Mattis has three top generals who are telling him they need to stay in the agreement, and earlier this week, Mattis talked about working with Bolton and he said, I want to quote it to everybody, he said, "I'll tell you right up front, it's going to be a partnership. We're going to go forward, I hope that there is more -- I hope there is some different world views. That's the normal thing you want. Unless you want group think."

So Mattis very much on showing the page that everybody is going to work together happily, meeting with all of these other Cabinet officials, we'll see how long the happiness lasts -- John.

BERMAN: Barbara, you know, it's interesting people are looking for which constituencies inside the West Wing support who, what, where and when. The "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Jared Kushner has been talking to John Bolton a lot in the past apparently.

STARR: Indeed. That article, spelling it all out, and perhaps underscoring that Bolton's appointment as National Security adviser didn't really come as a surprise to anybody. If, indeed, Mr. Kushner had been working with him over the months on key issues that he was involved in, including Middle East peace and Mexico soliciting Bolton's views. And now perhaps talking to Mr. Bolton about what the president's views are on these matters to help him get ready for moving into the White House. No surprise to anybody, John.

BERMAN: All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, great to see you, thank you very much.

As Stephon Clark's family prepares for his funeral today, authorities in Sacramento bracing for a new day of protests over his shooting death. We'll have the very latest next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:47:12] BERMAN: The funeral for Stephon Clark happens later today. Clark was unarmed when shot and killed by Sacramento police in his grandmother's backyard a little more than a week ago. For days now, protesters have flooded the streets of downtown Sacramento demanding the district attorney charge the officers involved. There will be new protests today.

Our Dan Simon outside the church where the funeral will be held.

Good morning, Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John. It is going to be a packed church when this memorial service gets under way in a few hours. As many as 500 people are expected to attend and Reverend Al Sharpton will actually be delivering the eulogy.

In the meantime, no new updates as far as the investigation is concerned, but still plenty of questions linger, namely why those police officers muted the microphones just after the shooting? Earlier this morning, on "NEW DAY," the civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump addressed that issue. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR STEPHON CLARK'S FAMILY: It seems like a very suspicious time to do that. And the family believes that that was when they started to try to conspire, to try to cover this up and justify a shooting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Well, we have yet to hear directly from the police officers, but the police officers association is defending them. They put out a statement earlier -- I guess, yesterday, and this is what it says. "Even as tragic as this event is, we cannot ignore the fact that the shooting was legally justified under the law within police policy and in accordance with training. These officers reacted to the threat as they perceived it as such. Their actions are legally justified."

Meantime, more protests are expected tonight, but perhaps we will not see a repeat of what we saw twice already at the Sacramento Kings arena, when we saw protesters block the entrances to the arena. That's because the Sacramento Kings have actually partnered with Black Lives Matter, where they actually said that they're going to try to create opportunities for black youth in Sacramento, a partnership between the Kings and Black Lives Matter.

They also said that they're going to establish an education fund for Stephon Clark's children -- John.

BERMAN: Dan Simon for us in Sacramento. Again that funeral starts in just a few hours. Thanks so much, Dan.

Happening now, more testimony in the Justice Department lawsuit to block AT&T's purchase of Time Warner. The judge warned attorneys on both sides to speed things up.

Our Jessica Schneider outside the courthouse -- Jessica.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, you said it, the judge in this case issued a stern warning just before they went to break last night. He said, pick up the pace of this trial or else this merger deal could be in serious jeopardy.

Now this case has really been moving at a glacial pace. We are on day five of this trial and we've only heard from three complete witnesses. In fact the fourth witness is on the stand right now, getting questioned by government attorneys.

[10:50:05] The judge initially projected that this case would last six to eight weeks. But both sides combined have about 30 witnesses. So if you do the math on this, that would extend this case well beyond that six to eight weeks that was initially projected. And here's why it matters. Both of these parties, AT&T and Time Warner, they are racing against a June 21st deadline. That is when this merger deal expires and both parties could walk away from this case.

If that happened AT&T would be on the line for $500 million breakup payout to Time Warner. So really here's the timeline of how this case has been going. It was in October of 2016 that this merger deal was announced between Time Warner and AT&T. We're a year and a half past when that merger deal was announced. Then you go back to November of 2017, that's when the Department of Justice after a lengthy review decided that it would in fact sue to block this deal. Then, of course, the trial began in March, about March 22nd, and here we are looking at this June 21st deadline that this merger deal needs to go through by if it does go -- if it does in fact go through at all.

They have already extended that merger deadline deal already once, it was initially up in March. But really the judge in this case saying that a lot of these witnesses are redundant. He has urged both parties, the government as well as AT&T's lawyers to go back and look at their witnesses.

But, John, the government, this is a big case for them. They haven't tried a vertical merger case in more than 40 years. There are a lot of technical details here to work out in what has become really this antitrust trial of the century, but the judge putting out that stern warning. We'll see if they do in fact speed it up -- John.

BERMAN: Jessica Schneider for us outside the courthouse. Thank you very much -- Jessica.

Happening now in Florida, the Orlando Nightclub shooter's wife waiting to hear her fate. Jurors are deliberating again today, whether she provided material support to her husband and whether she obstructed justice by misleading law enforcement. Jury has already submitted a question to the judge asking about clarification on aiding and abetting. If convicted, she could face life in prison, 49 people were killed, 58 more injured in the Pulse Nightclub massacre.

President Trump could address the media as he departs from the White House next hour. Will he talk Stormy Daniels? Wouldn't bet on it. But will those questions be shouted? You want to stick around for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:57:09] BERMAN: The dream dance for Loyola-Chicago continues. Coy Wire with the very latest on March Madness.

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Top of the morning to you, John. The four teams, they have traveled to San Antonio. They arrived yesterday. Villanova had to travel the furthest, over 1700 miles. Kansas traveling the shortest distance, less than half of that.

Kansas, not up their chances of winning, but they believe that history repeats itself, because the last time the Final Four was in San Antonio, they won it all. Today the teams will practice a bit, they'll have some media availability. But right now, put down your coffee, grab a tissue. One of the most inspiring stories of the entire tournament, Michigan's Austin Hatch, he's looking for a fairy tale ending to an unfathomable, tragic yet inspiring collegiate career.

He survived two plane crashes in the span of eight years. The first took the lives of his mom and two siblings. The second took his dad and his stepmom. And that one was just days after committing to Michigan. Austin spent two months in a coma. He had to learn how to walk again, how to talk and play basketball again, and he did. He persevered, he conquered that challenge. He played in five games scoring this lone point of his career for the Wolverines. Austin and Coach John Beilein then decided he best be utilized as a student assistant, helping the coaches and helping players.

But that didn't stop him from being honored. On senior day last month, accompanied by his fiancee, what a special moment for that young man and the entire Wolverine basketball family. Austin Hopes that what he's been through has inspired his team.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUSTIN HATCH, MICHIGAN STUDENT ASSISTANT: Don't get a stat for encouraging guys. Don't get a stat for motivating guys to work hard. It is not going to show up on the stat sheet. No one knows what I'm doing. I mean, that doesn't really matter. Maybe I'm not doing anything. Maybe it's just my teammates say that to make me feel good. I don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: Seeing Austin on the sideline on Saturday in his suit for the Wolverines will be a great testament to the resilience of the human spirit. He'll take his team to face Loyola-Chicago and 98-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean on Easter weekend, and looked to become the first 11 seed ever to win a Final Four game, then the blockbuster matchup of number one teams Kansas and Villanova, all games including Monday's championship bout can be seen on our sister channel TBS.

Mr. John Berman, the hype of Sister Jean is real. Friends at Rocket Apparel have some socks and Mr. Dave Briggs will bring in your very own pair tomorrow, I've just been told, you will have them on your feet.

BERMAN: I'll have a pair of Sister Jean socks.

WIRE: Yes, I heard --

BERMAN: That was an outstanding --

WIRE: I heard if you walk on water while wearing -- you can walk on water if you wear them.

(LAUGHTER)

BERMAN: I can't do all the pool. Apparently I'm almost in very last place in the CNN March Madness pool. All right. Coy Wire, thank you very much. Have a Happy Easter.

Enjoy the March Madness.

And thank you, all, very much for joining us today. That is it here. I'm John Berman. "AT THIS HOUR" starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there. I'm Brianna Keilar in for Kate Bolduan. Just minutes from now, we could hear from President Trump as he leaves the White House on a bit of a road trip.