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INSIDE POLITICS

Merkel Meets with Trump; Macron Faces Tough Headlines; Trump and Merkel Speak at White House; Korean Leaders Pledge Peace. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 27, 2018 - 12:00   ET

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


[12:00:15]

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

A very remarkable news day.

Germany's chancellor is at the White House this hour. Angela Merkel's relationship with President Trump is frosty. The Iran nuclear deal just one of their big disagreements.

Plus, absolutely stunning image and an even more remarkable promise. North Korea vow the official end of the Korean War is coming, and they vow to remove all nuclear weapons from the long-divided peninsula.

And an INSIDE POLITICS peak at one of 2018's most important Senate races. The Democratic incumbent is venerable. But first, Republicans need to settle a rowdy primary that includes a coal executive who wants voters to forget he went to prison and to remember he loves President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The reason Republican leaders do not want you as the nominee here is because they think that Joe Manchin will beat you easily.

DON BLANKENSHIP (R), WEST VIRGINIA SENATE CANDIDATE: They don't really believe that. That's what they're telling you, so you'll tell the public that. What they believe is that I'm going to win. They don't want me to be there because they know I'm an extreme Trump supporter and that we have to make a change, and that they don't want that change to be made because they're personally benefiting from it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Back to that story in a moment.

Also a packed hour ahead, including new word that Russian lawyer at the center of the controversial Trump Tower campaign meeting is much tighter with the Kremlin than previously know. We begin, though, with breaking news an important lunch hour conversation with a newly arrived international guest. You see her there, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House this hour with a tough sell. She's the senior leader of the European democracy. She wants the United States to stay in an Iran nuclear deal her host views as a disaster. The chancellor's task, even tougher because of another simply mind-blowing world development today, the promise from North and South Korea to make peace.

Merkel, like the French president, Emmanuel Macron, earlier this week, is here to tell the president his disruptive, impulsive foreign policy won't work. The president sees what happened overnight in the DMZ as proof his way is working just fine, thank you.

"Der Spiegel," look here, captures the anxiety about Trump and Trumpism in Germany and across Europe.

We should hear from the leaders any moment and we'll bring that to you ASAP.

The clock, of course, ticking on the Iran question. The next deadline now just two weeks away. And the president told Macron he's inclined to walk away from the deal unless significant new restrictions are added. Iran says that's a non-starter. And the European allies who helped broker this deal with the Obama administration says that at a minimum it's to stretch -- it's a stretch to think any new additional framework can be worked by the next U.S. deadline.

Again, we're waiting to hear from the leaders. Bring you that any moment.

With me to share their reporting and their insights on this big, big news day, CNN's Dana Bash, Michael Shear with "The New York Times," Molly Ball with "Time" and CNN's Abby Phillip.

We should hear from the two leaders any moment. We're going to get more deeper into what we know and the big questions about this remarkable -- beyond remarkable -- I can't find the word -- event today on the Korean peninsula. But as Angela Merkel comes to town on a Friday, trying to convince the president to stay in the Iran deal, trying to convince him privately, your way is wrong, sir, the president, I'm told, is in the West Wing today feeling a little puffy chest, feeling that the -- that he can sit there next to her and say, I told you so.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I think in some ways he's probably earned that. I think this -- over the last six months or so, there was a lot of hammering about what was the strategy here behind the rhetoric about North Korea, did he really know what he was going to do, was this even going to pan out. And now, here we are, and he feels like what he was able to do was force North Korea to the table and that he has matured into his leadership on the world stage. And so, at the very least, it puts him a little bit more on even footing with Angela Merkel compared to where he was when he first got into office. But that being said, on the Iran deal, the president's position on

Iran is less based off of policy and more based off of the desire to fulfill political promises to his base and a desire to not seem like his predecessor that has almost nothing to do with a strategy for Iran or a strategy for the region.

MICHAEL SHEAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": But I guess I would also say -- I mean I agree with all of that, but I also think that if -- when you compare these two leaders, if Donald Trump is the sort of shoot from the hip, don't have a strategy kind of foreign policy person, Angela Merkel is the ultimate in hard-eyed realist. And she's been around and she understands that North Korea -- you know, these are amazing images. I mean no doubt. And -- but we don't know where they're going to lead.

And so to the extent that Donald Trump is sort of feeling like, you know, hey, I've got a real success here, I think she is likely to be telling him privately, there is a long way to go and we've been down this road before. And it's not clear that any of these things are going to actually happen.

[12:05:12] KING: And, oddly, the biggest point of contention between the two of them is Iran. And the president sitting next to President Macron earlier in the week essentially threatened Iran. Said, if you -- if you do anything, you will regret it. That's something Merkel does not like. She does not like that type of language. She thinks you work these things out politely.

Interestingly, though, we don't know what to make of what's happening in the Koreas, but if there's anyone who could help the president of the United States think through the challenges, the risks and the rewards of reunification, it is Angela Merkel, who has lived through the German experience.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL, CORRESPONDENT: Right

KING: You know, another thing --

BASH: She grew up in East Germany.

KING: Again, on this day, where you think this can never happen when you're looking at North Korea, there's Angela Merkel, the Democratic elected chancellor of a united Germany, in a roaring economy, the biggest power economically in Europe, sitting next to the president of the United States.

BASH: Yes. I mean there -- there's that, which is such an important point. And if the president is willing to listen and sort of isn't been made aware of that as part of -- that it should be part of the discussions by his aides, it will be interesting to see what comes out of that.

But also --

KING: He's not always a student of history.

BASH: Thank you. I was trying to be -- trying to dance around it, but that's a more specific way of saying it.

But, look, also, Angela Merkel, as you mentioned, she is the longest serving of these European powerhouses, to her detriment. I mean she barely won re-election. Macron is new, right along with Donald Trump. So if the president, again, can get around the fact that the two have such different personalities, such different leadership styles, I mean they could not be more different, and, you know, maybe learn from that and listen to not only her experience with the reunification of Germany, but, more broadly, governing in Europe over the past decade plus, it will be interesting.

The other thing is, just think about the juxtaposition here of North Korea and Iran. I mean here he is, rightly so, sort of puffing himself out about even the fact that he's gotten the Koreans this far, and that he wants to meet with them to talk about a deal about their nuclear program, and that's out of one side of his mouth. And the other side saying, the nuclear -- the deal to end Iran's nuclear program, done by my predecessor, I want to rip up. So how and why would North Korea listen to the president when he's doing something else with Iran?

KING: Right.

PHILLIP: And it's not even clear that he'd be able to get a deal as good as the Iran deal with the North Korea. I mean it's -- we're not -- we're not there yet. We're not even close to it.

KING: Well, part of it -- part of this seems to be that the Iran deal was Obama's --

PHILLIP: Yes.

KING: And the Korean, whatever we get, the negotiations are his. That's part of it. It's very personal to the president.

But at this moment, you've got to give to get in any negotiation. Is there any indication, any likelihood that the president's critics, Angela Merkel chief among them on the world stage, might have to say, you know what, locked and loaded, fire and fury. We didn't like that. But, OK, you win round one. We're not -- we're nowhere near the finish line here, but it is -- the way -- how big of the Korea credit pie does the president get? We can have a debate about that. But he gets a piece. And he gets a pretty good piece.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "TIME": Sure. Sure. And I think that, you know, if I'm Angela Merkel, that's an opening to say, you did this, you don't have to cancel the Iran deal, right? Here is your foreign policy victory. And, by the way, it was achieved multilaterally. The president having kind words for President Xi in China this morning. Not -- maybe not the Donald Trump of the campaign trail buttering up China, but it was by working together, you know. And she can say to President Trump, it's by countries working together to rein in bad actors that you get things like this resulting in Korea, and that potentially, hypothetically, you get things like the Iran deal and that's why it's worth preserving. I mean Trump so far has not seemed to really want to rip up the Iran

deal. He could have done it on day one if he really wanted to. And not only has he not, he has repeatedly reauthorized it. So despite his grumbling, which as Abby said may be mainly political, he hasn't actually taken the action in part because there are other actors within the administration who support preserving it. So if she can give him an argument that satisfies his ego essentially, then it might be a pretext he's willing to take.

KING: That's a great point, that you're on a high right now, don't mess with it essentially and let's build on it.

Another big question, to the same point is, Mike Pompeo's on his first trip as secretary of state. He's over at a NATO meeting. He just said, we take Russian aggression very seriously. He just said, I want to work with the European allies to strengthen this alliance. It will be interesting to see if Mike Pompeo -- who I think reflexively people say he's a hawk. He wants to rip up the Iran deal. But he was also someone who was, at one point, in favor of regime change in North Korea who went and met with Kim Jong-un.

So we're at an interesting moment, as we wait. We're going to hear from the president and Chancellor Merkel in the Oval Office in just a moment.

It is fascinating. From day one Europe has been anxious, to say the least, about President Trump. We showed you the Der Spiegel headline a bit earlier, who will win the west, with Merkel and Macron nervous about what they view as the firebrand of Trump.

[12:10:00] Look at these headlines for Macron as he went back home after his meeting with President Trump. "Le Parisien," American nightmare. "Le Figaro," amicable, critical, Macron seduces Congress. Not Trump, Congress. "Le Monde," Macron shows his differences with his friend Trump.

At the end of the trip, Despite all the bromance, despite all the hugs and handshakes and, you know, two cheek kisses, Macron, at the end, knew he was going home and he was much, much more critical of Trump, saying, in the short term he understands the foreign policy, but in the long term he viewed it as, quote, insane. That's -- that's not vague word.

BALL: Well, yes, and I think -- I think time will tell how this all works out for Macron, because it isn't clear whether his strategy with Trump was ultimately successful, whether Trump is going to feel burned by his comments on the way out.

SHEAR: And new politicians, and Macron is a new politician, often their initial approach to foreign policy is based on relationships, on personal relationships. And they grow to understand, as Merkel has, that, you know, much of the sort of country-to-country relationship is based on shared interests. And those are what's more important more than the relationships.

BASH: And -- and -- KING: Hold on, this conversation -- just one second.

Take you inside the Oval Office. The president of the United States and the chancellor of Germany.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello.

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL, GERMANY: Thank you. Indeed.

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

It's a great honor to have Chancellor Merkel. And I will say that you can rest assured she was going to win that election, and congratulations on winning. And, by the way, a formal congratulations.

MERKEL: Thank you.

TRUMP: That was a great victory.

We're working on a lot of different subjects, including trade, including NATO, including military of all types, and we have a really great relationship. And we actually have had a great relationship right from the beginning, but some people didn't understand that. But we understand it, and that's what's important.

But a very extraordinary woman. And it's an honor to have you at the White House. Thank you very much, Angela.

MERKEL (through translator): Thank you very much. Thank you very much for this very warm reception and also for the words of congratulations.

You know, we took some time to build the government, and that is certainly true. But that's why it was very important on this first visit outside of Europe to come to the United States, to come to Washington, in order to, yet again, underline that we wish to deepen our relationship further. And I hope and trust and am very much looking forward to the very good talks that I trust we will have today.

TRUMP: Good. Well, thank you very much.

MERKEL: Thank you.

TRUMP: I appreciate it.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the House Intel report (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Yes, we were honored. It was a great report. No collusion, which I knew anyway. No coordination. No nothing. It's a witch hunt. That's all it is. There was no collusion with Russia, you can believe this one. There was -- she probably can't believe it. Who can? But the report was very powerful, very strong. There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian people.

As I've said many times before, I've always said there was no collusion, but I've also said there has been nobody tougher on Russia than me. With that all being said, if we can get along with Russia, that's a good thing, not a bad thing. But there's been nobody tougher on Russia than me.

I was very honored by the report. It was totally conclusive, strong, powerful. Many things said that nobody knew about and said in a very strong way. They were very forceful in saying that the Clinton campaign actually did contribute to Russia. So maybe somebody ought to look at that.

But what we really should do is get on with our lives and get on with a lot of things. We have a lot of great things happening, including potentially with North Korea, Angela, as you see. Aa lot of very positive things happened over the last 24 hours.

We're in total touch with both North Korea and South Korea. We'll be setting up a meeting very shortly. We have -- we have it broken down to probably two sites now, two or three sites, locations. And hopefully we're going to have great success. We'll see what happens, but hopefully we're going to have great success.

So President Moon and I are speaking and we're speaking very much with South Korea and with North Korea. The relationships are building and building strongly. And this will be a great thing for the world. This will be a great thing for Germany. But this will be a great thing for the world.

Angela and I have discussed this over the period of the last 15 months quite a bit, North Korea, the North Korean problem, and I think you're seeing that a lot of very positive things are happening.

QUESTION: Do you expect you'll come to any agreement on Iran today, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I don't know. I think we'll be talking about Iran probably, but I don't necessarily expect it one way or the other. I know we're going to have a very good discussion on Iran, as I did with Emmanuel, who has just left, the president of France. So we'll be having discussions on Iran. We'll be having discussions on trade. We'll be having various discussions.

[12:15:10] QUESTION: What (INAUDIBLE) to insure the Kim isn't just trying to play the U.S. like the (INAUDIBLE)?

TRUMP: Oh, I don't think he's playing. No, I don't think he's playing. And, you know, it's never gone like this. It's never gone this far. I don't think it's ever had this enthusiasm for somebody -- for them wanting to make a deal.

And, yes, I agree, the United States has been played beautifully, like a fiddle, because you had a different kind of a leader. We're not going to be played, OK? We're going to hopefully make a deal. If we don't, that's fine. The United States, in the past, was played like a fiddle. Money going in and nobody knew what was happening. The day after an arrangement was made, if you call it a deal, I doubt it, but an arrangement was made. They start with the nuclear weapons again. That's not happening to us.

We will, I think, come up with a solution. And if we don't, we leave the room. With great respect, we leave the room and we just keep it going.

I also will tell you that President Xi of China has been very helpful at the border. And I want to acknowledge that. I think it's very important to acknowledge.

But President Xi has been extremely helpful to me. We have a very good relationship. He's been extremely helpful to me at the border. So we'll see where it all goes.

But, no, this isn't like past administrations. We don't play games.

Thank you very much, everybody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Let's go. Make your way out! (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go! Make your way out! Let's go! Make your way out!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go, guys! Make your way out! Let's go!

TRUMP: What (INAUDIBLE)?

QUESTION: You said earlier this week that you weren't interested in meeting with the DOJ but that that might change at some point?

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, make your way out! Let's go! We're done her!

TRUMP: Thank you.

KING: A remarkable moment there. Remarkable moments there. The president of the United States, the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, in the Oval Office. Wow, on every front. Number one, the president saying we -- he does not think Kim Jong-un is trying to play the United States or the world as he promises now to make peace in the Koreans. We'll have more of that as we go through the hour.

The president also commenting on the new House Intelligence Committee report put out today. Democrats say it's a sham. Republicans say it proves no collusion. The president was happy to talk about that at the top. Says he'll talk about Iran and trade and other issues with his guest, Angela Merkel.

The substance was important there, but also just the body language. These are two leaders who, when they first met, and every time since, have been frosty. Very friendly. Very warm. The president saying Angela. She seems to be in good spirits about it. The president, we always talk about, his mood can set his day. He's in a good mood about the House Intelligence report. He's in a good mood about what happened in the Korean peninsula. But that was a very different Donald Trump sitting next to the German chancellor, and I would argue she was actually more friendly than she has been in the past as well.

BASH: Yes. No question. That was immediately striking. And it's clear that both of them have a lot to lose by being frosty, as they were in the past, and a lot to gain by warming to one another.

She, obviously, has a lot of experience with this kind of thing. And, you know, she did barely win re-election. And she does have a very tough task at home, as well as on the world stage. And, look, this is the president of the United States. She clearly, you know, is not necessarily the biggest fan, but he's the guy she's got to deal with. And she was -- it was very obvious by her body language, by sort of the look on her face that she's -- she knows she's in it. And that's why --

KING: Right.

BASH: Two handshakes, which --

KING: Yes. Right.

SHEAR: Right.

BASH: You know, I know we're all like sort of looking, counting handshakes because of what happened with Macron on more than one occasion. But with the two of them, the first time they met, there was nothing.

SHEAR: And she also --

KING: Right, and he lectured -- he lectured her on the world stage the first time they met.

BASH: And he lectured her. Yes.

KING: This time congratulating her election victory. Now, she catches him in a good mood. That might be good for her as well.

SHEAR: And -- but she also has experience with what it's like when you have a really good relationship with the American president, right? She and Barack Obama were very friendly and she saw what -- what that --

BASH: Que the backrub.

SHEAR: Yes -- well, right, the backrub, and she saw what that accomplishes and she -- you know, I don't know that she wants to seed everything to the president of France, who's now got the sort of warm bromance.

KING: Right. That's a great point as well, all politics is local. And over in Europe, she still wants to be the boss, if you will.

SHEAR: Right.

KING: A lot more to digest as we go through the hour. A day for the history books, for example, on the Korean peninsula. But just who should get the credit?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:23:36] KING: Welcome back.

New history begins now. That's the message coming from the Korean peninsula after a beyond remarkable day. The leaders of the North and the South, bitter enemies still on paper, doing something they've never done before, standing together in the demilitarized zone, joining hands, talking together, speaking side by side, even at times laughing and exchanging jokes. The leaders say they promise there will be no more war on the peninsula. Later this year, they promise to formalize the official end of the Korean War.

Plus, they say they're committed to the denuclearization of the peninsula. Here in the United States, President Trump cheering the move and, of course, taking some credit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this occasion of this week's meeting between President Moon and Kim Jong-un, I want to express my hope that all of the people of Korea, North Korea and South, can someday live in harmony, prosperity and peace. And it looks like it could happen. When I began, people were saying that was an impossibility. They said there were two alternatives, let them have what they have or go to war. And now we have a much better alternative than anybody thought even possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: CNN's Will Ripley, live for us in Seoul.

Will, thrilled to have the chance to talk to you on this day where I feel, forgive me, that I'm in a parallel universe. You have been to North Korea 17 times, more than any other American journalist. Did you ever think you would see and hear what you saw and heard today?

[12:25:08] WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was really extraordinary to watch today unfold. Surreal, John. Even the fact that Kim Jong-un stood and spoke before the international press. Something that the previous two North Korean leaders have never done because the last two inter-Korean summits were held in Pyongyang, where he could carefully control the media message. Here, he had the press right in front of him and he seemed completely at ease, almost like a politician many decades his senior, from pulling President Moon to the north side of the military demarcation line briefly, an unscripted and pretty cunning move, if you will. I mean Kim Jong-un basically got exactly what he wanted out of this summit today.

Let's go over some of the key developments that came out of this, though.

The commitment to total denuclearization, a pretty general statement, but light on the details. We don't know still what North Korea's definition of denuclearization actually is. Also this pledge to bring about the formal end of the Korean war, which, by the way, can only happen if China, the United States and the United Nations is involved. So it's a pledge, but there's still a lot of work to be done to make that a reality.

Moon says he will travel to Pyongyang at some time this year. Divided families will be reunited. Also saying that the two Koreas will determine their own future. And they're going to open a liaison office in Ksong (ph), which is where that joint industrial complex was located.

A lot of skepticism about what's going to happen moving forward. But, really, now the ball is in President Trump's court, John. Some have actually said President Trump put in a big of a box here because if he pours cold water on this peaceful vibe that came out of the summit, well, then he's going to look like the bad guy. So we'll have to see what happens. President Trump saying just moment ago they've narrowed it down to two or three locations for that meeting, historic meeting with Kim Jong-un.

KING: Will Ripley in Seoul on this beyond remarkable day. Appreciate the reporting.

And more to that point, President Trump being quite optimistic, also extending some credit to the Chinese government, being quite diplomatic at the moment as well. We'll see this one as it plays out going forward. But what you see today is something most of thought we never would. That's progress.

When we come back, remember that Russian attorney at the Trump Tower meeting in the middle of the 2016 campaign. She said she was there to discussion adoption. Now she says she's really close with the Kremlin.

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