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President Trump Trading One Washington For Another; An Extraordinary Historic Past Few Days For The People Of Both North And South Korea, Trump Fueling A Fight With A Us Senator Over A Nominee He Failed To Vet. Aired: 6:00-7:00p ET

Aired April 28, 2018 - 18:00   ET

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


ANA CABRERA, HOST, CNN NEWSROOM: According to the CDC, homicide is the number one cause of death for black men ages 15 to 34. This is obviously a grim statistic, but for this week's "CNN Hero," an ER doctor in Brooklyn, it was a reality that pushed him to take action.

Meet Dr. Rob Gore.

(VIDEO CLIP STARTS)

ROB GORE, PHYSICIAN, BROOKLYN: I don't like pronouncing people dead. It's probably the worst thing that I've ever had to do. I want to preserve life.

When I see patients that are coming in with violent injuries, when somebody that looks like you from your neighborhood, a lot of this stuff really hits home. You realize, I don't want this to happen anymore. What do we do about it?

(VIDEO CLIP ENDS)

CABRERA: To find out more about Dr. Gore's mission, head to CNNheros.com. and while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a CNN hero.

Here we go, 6:00 Eastern, 3:00 in the afternoon out West. You are live in the "CNN Newsroom." You made it to the weekend.

I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Lots to talk about tonight. President Trump trading one Washington for another, ditching the nation's capital to headline a re-election rally in township -- Washington Township, Michigan.

The President is choosing to skip the Annual White House Correspondents' Dinner in DC for the second straight year. The President will, instead, speak to a crowd of his supporters in a state that helped seal his 2016 victory and propel him to the White House.

President Trump was the first Republican to win Michigan since 1988. His live event tonight is scheduled to begin at roughly the same time as the Correspondents' Dinner, long considered a draw for both members of the media and Hollywood heavyweights.

And CNN has a team of reporters covering every angle tonight. White House correspondent Boris Sanchez is inside the Trump rally in Washington Township, Michigan. Correspondent Dianne Gallagher is outside the President's event and White House reporter Kaitlan Collins is live on the red carpet at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington, DC. Let's begin there. And Kaitlan, set the scene for us. Have you spotted any Hollywood stars making their red carpet arrival?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Ana, it depends on who you consider a star. But certainly, one of the most notorious members of the Trump administration has just arrived here behind me tonight that is the former Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Of course, he had a very tumultuous time in the White House that came to an abrupt end last summer when they hired Anthony Scaramucci for a few days, but he has just arrived here on the red carpet.

Now, of course, Ana, you know, this is the second year in a row that President Trump has chosen not to attend this dinner. Last year, he became the first President to not attend a White House Correspondents' Dinner since President Reagan, who at the time was recovering from a gunshot wound.

Of course, last year, no White House aides attended the dinner either in solidarity with the President. But this year, we are expecting several White House staffers to be here, including the current Press Secretary Sarah Sanders.

So, several certainly going on. Sean Spicer here just behind me now, Ana. So, certainly a very different red carpet that you've seen in the past, of course, with former Presidents, this is a type of event that celebrities flock to, but now since President Trump has been in office, we've certainly seen a very different type of audience here tonight, but the President, of course, will not be joining us during this toast to press freedom here tonight, Ana.

CABRERA: And you're right, that was Sean Spicer, not Melissa McCarthy, despite the jokes that we know are going to be coming here in that event. Kaitlan Collins, you look beautiful, by the way.

I want to turn to Boris Sanchez. Boris, tell us what you are expecting to hear from the President in his counterprogramming tonight in Michigan.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Hey there, Ana. Well, if the President's speech is anything like the statement put out by the White House announcing this event on the same night as the White House Correspondents' Dinner, you can expect he's going to have some less than flattering things to say about the press.

One of his favorite targets, of course, the President likely also to mention Montana Senator John Tester, who he tweeted about this morning, saying that Tester should resign. Of course, Tester is the Ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, and he had some role in the sinking of Ronny Jackson's nomination as the Secretary of the VA. So, we may hear from the President on that end tonight. Other topics

potentially up for discussion, foreign policy. He may mention Emmanuel Macron, his meetings with Angela Merkel this week, as well as the discussions about denuclearization in North and South Korea.

The President is known to go in all sorts of directions at these rallies. He's among his supporters. There are several hundred of them packed in here now. This is an area that is fervently pro-Trump. So as far as tonight, he may even mention Kanye...

[18:05:16]

SANCHEZ: ... with the President in this kind of situation, you can expect the unexpected, Ana.

CABRERA: We see the people piling in there behind you, Boris. Meantime, outside the Trump rally, Dianne Gallagher joins us.

Any sign of counter protesters who earlier were about to demonstrate there?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: You know, Ana, you saw those people filing inside behind Boris. I just want you to take a look first at how many people -- they're still waiting to get in. We have about an hour before it begins.

I am going to get -- talking the kind of pull around here so you can also, we're talking about thousands still waiting to get into here.

Now, we did see a few protesters out there. They made the trip up. It's pretty cold out here today, to be quite honest. It's about an hour outside of Detroit, and so the trip is not something that you would make just normally. They've come here, it sounds like most of them kind of want to do the same thing.

They'd like to toast their dislike, distrust, and to be honest, some of them said straight-up hatred for the media.

The President looking for fans. He has them in Washington Township. You can probably see behind me, there is this Trump Unity Bridge that people have been posing with outside here as they're waiting.

Ana, there is no guarantee that every single person here is actually going to get into the rally, but they said that they're willing to risk it. They wanted to come out here anyway to show their support for the President.

There is a lot of support for him here in Washington Township, at least right now. Those counter protesters said they wanted to make their voices heard but are very much outnumbered here in Michigan tonight.

CABRERA: And I look at that float behind you, Trump 2020, to think we're already talking about the next Presidential election when we haven't hit the midterms yet. Here it begins. Thank you so much, Dianne Gallagher, Boris Sanchez, and Kaitlan Collins. I want to talk more about tonight's Annual White House Correspondents'

Dinner. Joining us now from the red carpet, Brian Stelter, CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources" and Julian Zelizer, Princeton University History Professor and CNN political analyst.

So, Julian, let me start with you. Presidents and the press, as we know, have always had sort of a love hate relationship, but this dinner is supposed to be more of a lighthearted attempt to bridge that divide.

It didn't come as a surprise when President Trump said he wouldn't be attending for a second year, but is it a big deal that he is not there?

JULIAN ZELIZER, HISTORY PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It is a big deal. Look, other Presidents have missed this -- Nixon, Carter, Reagan, after the assassination, but this is different.

I mean, President Trump has built the wall. It's between the press and himself, and so he is not showing up means more than I think it did with other Presidents. He's trying to insulate himself from anyone other than sympathetic media.

BRIAN STELTER, HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: You know, you mentioned Reagan, the last time a President didn't attend the dinner, it was Reagan, but it was because of the assassination attempt in 1981.

And even that year, Reagan still called in. He still joined by telephone. This is obviously on a much more pointed snub by President Trump two years in a row.

CABRERA: But, Brian, this year, someone will be representing the administration at the head table, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. What do you make of her attending the dinner this year? Is this supposed to be a warming of relations?

STELTER: I think it shows how hollow the President's attacks really are, how empty they really are. Actually, dozens of officials will be at the dinner tonight from various branches of government.

I noticed last night at one of these house parties in Washington, Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were the stars of the show. Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Sanders and former Press Secretary Sean Spicer have been at lots of parties this weekend. You know, this is a weekend long -- a weekend full of festivities.

And you see a lot of these White House aides, current and former, wanting to be a part of it. Even though Spicer doesn't want to talk to the press here, he still wants to promote his upcoming book with some of the entertainment talk shows.

So, there are a lot of different agendas at play, and although I think the President will continue to attack the media and do it again tonight at his rally, he is going to pour more salt in that wound, I think the fact that Sanders and other White House aides will be here, shows how hollow his rhetoric really is.

CABRERA: Julian, what are your thoughts on the President doing this counterprogramming, his rally in Michigan where he will likely rail against the press?

ZELIZER: Well, he needs the press and he's always used the press as an adversary. It's been central to his presidency, but what he doesn't like to do is allow the press to control what stories are being covered or where they want to move, so this is classic President Trump.

He will control the agenda by having his rally. He has made this event in part about President Trump versus the press, and so this is quintessential, but I think Brian is right, in that, in the end, this is a President who very heavily depends on media coverage to get his agenda out there to shape who he is.

So, the walls are only walls where he can control that access.

CABRERA: And as we've been discussing, he loves the spotlight. So, why do you think, Brian, President Trump was willing to participate in the grid iron dinner, something that was off-camera, but a similar event with journalists...

[18:10;16]

CABRERA: ... but not the White House Correspondents' Dinner?

STELTER: Well, maybe precisely because it is off-camera and because here at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, you have a comedian on stage who is going to roast, yes, the President, yes, the press, but especially the President.

You know, almost every year, a comedian gets up there. Usually it's a pretty gentle ribbing. sometimes it's a more aggressive roasting. The most famous example is Stephen Colbert speaking truth to power when President George W. Bush was a few feet away.

That happened more than a decade ago, but every year, comedians bring some material that is going to make a President uncomfortable.

Normally in the past, we've seen Presidents kind of sit there, accept it, grin and bear it. Not with President Trump, though. I don't think he wants to be in a room with a comedian that is going to be making fun of him, throwing tomatoes essentially his way.

He'd rather have this split screen where there's a bunch of journalists dressed up he's with his voters in Michigan, however, all that said, I think it's a good thing to have an evening to talk about the role of the First Amendment and the role of the press.

Yes, a lot of this tonight is about President Trump and why he's not coming, but ultimately, if the President wants to come next year, he can. Every year, this is the chance to think about the media's role in democracy, and I think a lot of our viewers are feeling that right now in the past 15 months, so much accountability journalism from the reporters who are dressed up here in tuxedos tonight.

There has been so much great reporting from Washington in the past year and that's what tonight's about, celebrating.

CABRERA: Julian, what will you be watching for?

ZELIZER: I mean, well, yes, I mean, the irony of President Trump is by making the media an adversary, he's created a level of introspection among reporters about what they do and how they do it and what the role of the press is in the 21st Century, a conversation we don't have very often.

So, tonight I'll be watching for those kinds of discussions outside of the comedy and listening about how reporters think of their role in the age of Trump and I think that's an important discussion to have, not just for this President, but for all who come after.

CABRERA: Thank you so much, Julian Zelizer, Brian Stelter. We know you'll be keeping us posted from the red carpet.

Stay tuned because we have a special program for you, our special coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner with John Berman and Poppy Harlow begins tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

[18:15:00]

CABRERA: Welcome back. Live pictures. Sean Spicer, former White House Press Secretary on the red carpet at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. CNN's special coverage, again, begins in less than an hour. We'll keep an eye on the happenings there.

Meantime, what an extraordinary historic past few days for the people of both North and South Korea.

That monumental moment when the leaders of both countries shook hands at their border, walked over it together, and then promised to get rid of all nuclear weapons and formally finally end their long war.

President Trump sharing in the positivity, tweeted this morning, "Just had a long and very good talk with President Moon of South Korea. Things are going very well. Time and location of meeting with North Korea is being set."

Our correspondent Will Ripley is in Seoul, South Korea, right now. Will, I am sure the people there of South Korea are still trying to process the past 48 hours or so. They'd have good reason to be skeptical after so many decades of tension and distrust, but is there optimism there today?

WILL RIPLEY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: There is. I mean, people saw something along the demilitarized zone, Ana, that they had never seen before, and that was Kim Jong-un essentially with a disarming almost charm. It's hard to square the smiling, joking Kim Jong-un that we saw with the man described by North Korean defectors and human rights activists, who say that many people in North Korea live in constant fear that any political dissent is brutally crushed. And yet, Kim Jong-un was there with the South Korean President making

self-deprecating jokes about things like North Korea's bad roads, and he talked about the Pyongyang cold noodles. They brought a chef to prepare the noodles for all of the guests.

I mean, it really -- it's almost like two different faces of someone that for the last six years we've only seen from afar and we've heard bellicose rhetoric and threats and we've seen missile launches and nuclear tests.

But there is optimism, people on the ground here are hoping that this time will be different, that perhaps North and South Korea can officially declare the end of the Korean War and sign a peace treaty, something they say they want to do.

They are hoping they can bring about total denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, but they know they can't do that without President Trump and the United States playing a major role and that's why President Moon Jae-in spoke for an hour and 15 minutes on the phone with the President.

We're actually expecting a briefing at the Blue House here in Seoul, a short distance from where I am right now, within the next couple of hours to give us some more information possibly about that phone call. What details did President Moon tell President Trump about the conversations happening inside Peace House behind closed doors?

And if you listen to President Trump talking about all of this, he's very optimistic that his summit with Kim Jong-un is going to yield results.

(START VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Things have changed very radically from a few months ago. You know, the name-calling and a lot of other things. We get a kick every once in awhile out of the fact that I'll be watching people that failed so badly over the last 25 years explaining to me how to make a deal with North Korea. I get a big, big kick out of that, but we are doing very well. I think that something very dramatic could happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RIPLEY: There is a lot of debate here in South Korea and really around the world about how much credit President Trump deserves for this. He obviously gives himself credit. The South Korean government, the Australian government, Japan and a lot of key allies are saying that President Trump is responsible for bringing North Korea to the table, but I would say that I've been -- when I've been in Pyongyang many times over the last several years, North Korean officials have repeatedly told me, they wanted to build their nuclear arsenal up to a certain point so that they...

[18:20:16]

RIPLEY: ... could come to the negotiating table with the United States from a position of strength. Arguably this could all be part of Kim Jong-un's long-term plan playing out exactly as he intended, Ana, but the big question moving forward, is he going to get what he wants, which is economic relief and the ability to keep some of his nuclear weapons or could President Trump convince him to completely disarm? That's what the United States says Kim Jong-un needs to do, but really, there is no indication, at least not now, that he's actually going to do that.

CABRERA: All right. Will Ripley reporting in Seoul, South Korea. You have been on top of all things on the Korean peninsula from the beginning. Thank you.

No honeymoon for Mike Pompeo, his third day as Secretary of State and he is already on a multination overseas tour.

He arrived in Saudi Arabia a short time ago from Brussels. He's talking to Arab and Israeli officials about the Iran Nuclear Agreement, a deal President Trump is threatening to leave.

Up next, on the attack, President Trump calling for a member of Congress to resign. We'll explain why, plus, some live pictures now outside Trump's rally in Michigan.

Protesters on one side, supporters of Trump on the other and you can see police in the middle. we'll take you there, live, coming up.

[18:25:00]

You're live inside the "CNN Newsroom." I want to take you back live now to Michigan, where the President is gearing up for a rally and right now outside that event, protesters are confronting Trump supporters.

Our Dianne Gallagher is also there and set the scene, what is happening there right now, Dianne? We hear people chanting behind you.

GALLAGHER: That's right and the deputies and the police have gotten involved. You can kind of see the sheriff's deputies on their ATVs here. They're here on horseback. They split the two groups up. They were very much in each other's faces with the flags. The protesters kind of behind my photographer here. You can see him.

The Trump supporters and those here to see the President on this side. I apologize for some of the gestures that are being made on camera at this point.

Part of the issue right now, Ana, is that they appear to be at capacity inside the President's event in there. So they started turning the -- it appears to be thousands of excess Trump supporters here for that event away. They told them that they could go and watch on a Jumbotron; not necessarily a Jumbotron, it's a very small television set up outside, but that means that those Trump supporters are now walking back past the small group of protesters who are here.

They had a little bit of this conflict here, but, again, you see the horses out here, you see the sheriff's deputies who came through with these ATVs, kind of beeping the horn, busting through the crowd and telling the Trump supporters who are antagonizing the protesters to keep it moving, go on to the either the Jumbotron or go home, telling the protesters to back up some and stay away from each other.

I've watched them remove when one or the other goes on the other side. I have watched them remove them and push them over here. It's a small number of people on the protesters side, but we do have a large number of Trump supporters coming back this way now.

So, the police are going to stick around this area just to kind of make sure that things stay okay as well.

CABRERA: People are passionate. Tensions are running high. Dianne Gallagher, we know you'll keep us updated. Thank you very much. Reporting live from Washington Township, Michigan. A quick break. We'll be right back.

[18:30:00]

CABRERA: Back live in the "CNN Newsroom." We are staying on top of two events happening right now. One there in Washington, DC, the nation's capital, on the left side of your screen. That is the red carpet for the White House Correspondents' Dinner, a tranquil event right now. People arriving. They are happy.

On the right side though is where the President has just arrived. His rally in Michigan. You see police officers are in full force as we are now starting to see confrontations between the President's supporters who are turning out for his rally and counter protesters who have also shown up to rally against what the President is doing there in their state.

You can hear the chanting, our Dianne Gallagher is continuing to keep an eye on the emotions and the tensions on the ground there, so, far she tells us things have remained peaceful, yet impassioned.

Now, the President has been very busy on Twitter today, calling on Democratic Senator John Tester to resign after opposing Trump's pick to run Veterans Affairs. Senator Tester, however, says it's not going to happen.

In a just released statement, he writes, "It is my duty to make sure Montana veterans get what they need and have earned and I'll never stop fighting for them as their Senator." The President had tweeted this morning, "Allegations made by Senator John Tester against Admiral Doctor Ron Jackson are proving false. The Secret Service is unable to confirm, in fact, they deny any of the phony Democratic charges which have absolutely devastated the wonderful Jackson family. Tester should resign."

The allegations the President is referring to were made by 23 of Jackson's former and current colleagues. The Secret Service has since released a statement saying, it had no record of any incidents involving Jackson, but Jackson has now withdrawn his nomination to run the VA. I want to talk this over with our panel. Joining us, CNN political

commentator Ben Ferguson and CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona.

So, Ben, President Trump could be ending this week, touting major foreign policy with North Korea, with France, with Angela Merkel from Germany. Instead, he is fueling a fight with a US senator over a nominee he failed to vet. Why?

BEN FERGUSON, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, CNN: Well, I think it's because it's personal for him, and I think it's unfortunate that you have someone like this, who all of a sudden information gets leaked out about them that ends up being not true.

The Secret Service has said, he did not wreck a car, which was what people were saying happened. In fact, there are three instances that apparently he had in a government vehicle, none of them his fault, where someone hit him in a car, not his fault. Someone hit him from behind, not his fault. A road rage incident where someone came up and banged on his car, again, not his fault.

[18:35:14]

FERGUSON: And so, I think the President here says, this is -- I am not going to let this man just sit here and be slandered by a US Senator who chooses to come after me, by default by going after my nominee. This is the reason why good people don't want to work in politics.

It's the reason why good men and women don't want to get involved in the process on either side of the aisle because it's turned to this, where people go out and try to destroy your life with false information. It's wrong.

CABRERA: All right, guys, I'm going to hit pause. Hold your thought, Maria. We will come back to this conversation. You talk about people who have left the administration or don't want to get involved in the administration.

Well, hey, look who is there with our Kaitlan Collins on the red carpet, the former White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus. Kaitlan, take it away.

COLLINS: Yes, of course, Ana. We do have the former Chief of Staff of the White House here, of course, Reince Priebus, did not attend the dinner last year along with President Trump, as they held a rally with all of their supporters, but he is here tonight. Welcome. How are you?

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE WHITE HOUSE: I am happy to be here. I am doing great. I am going to hang out with Sally tonight and have a good time.

COLLINS: That's awesome. Welcome to be here. We're happy to have you. So what do you think -- what message does it send for the President to not come a second year in a row? Do you think he should have come this year?

PRIEBUS: No, I think, look, I think President Trump is being President Trump. I hate to say it, but he's playing the media like a fiddle like he always does. He's doing his thing tonight. I think he's doing a great job by getting out and talking to the people, but having his staff here and mingling with the press is a good thing, too.

COLLINS: So, last year no White House aides came, but this year, the President is, of course, still not attending the dinner, but several aides are -- Sarah Sanders, Hogan Gidley, a lot of people from the communications team. Why are staffers attending this year if they didn't attend last year?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think there might be a little bit of a thaw occurring in the West Wing, and maybe next year, President Trump's going to be here, but I think this way the President gets it both ways, he gets the coverage tonight. He'll be on TV, too, but his staff is here and they're doing their thing with the press.

I think it's a good thing Sarah's here. She probably should be here, and I think tonight is going to be -- it's going to be a good night for everyone involved -- the Trump campaign and the people that are here.

COLLINS: Do you think relations with the media between this White House and the press are better this year than where we were a year ago at this dinner?

PRIEBUS: I don't know about that. I think there is, you know, there is -- I think there is too animosity, but from my standpoint, I think that the press is pretty obsessed with Trump and they go out of their way to bring up any negative that they can, but I also think they do it because there is a lot of money to be made. I mean, Trump sells 24/7. Trump makes money for everyone involved and I think that's why a lot of this stuff is happening.

COLLINS: But do you think the President shoulders some of that? Of course, you know, he does constantly go after the media, even today criticizing the media on Twitter and whatnot. What effect does he have with that?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think the President probably feels that he has a right to do it. I think the press feeds on it and they spin it and they make their money, too. So, I think everyone wins in the end.

COLLINS: But you think there is a chance he could attend the dinner next year? Why?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think he killed it at the grid iron. So, in the format of giving a funny speech, self-deprecating, he showed he can do it and he did it quite well the at the grid iron. So, I don't see any reason why he shouldn't do it here, and I think maybe next year, he will.

COLLINS: Yes, he did go to the grid iron dinner, another Washington dinner with a lot of reporters, a lot of press there. The President did go -- he delivered a speech. He was actually quite funny.

A dinner that is not on camera, though, which several White House staffers had told me they think is the difference in him choosing to go to that dinner and not come to the Correspondents' Dinner. Do you think that's what it is?

PRIEBUS: No, I mean, the man is a showman. He stared at a camera on NBC and killed it for what? A dozen years? I would say the opposite.

I think if the camera is there, I think the President might do even better.

COLLINS: Thanks very much, guys. Have a great night.

PRIEBUS: All right, you bet. Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Well, Ana, that was Reince Priebus, of course, the former Chief of Staff in the White House who left last summer when John Kelly took over that role. Someone who many said had tightened restraints on the West Wing, really sought to calm a very chaotic West Wing.

And lately, of course, we have reported that West Wing seems to have returned to that chaos despite the new Chief of Staff. So, Ana, maybe make next year we'll be talking to John Kelly at this dinner.

CABRERA: We'll see. Reince Priebus did just say he believes there is a thaw happening in the West Wing and maybe even President Trump will show up next year. Kaitlan Collins, thank you for that interview. Quick break. back with our panel on the other side.

[18:40:00]

COLLINS: Of course, on the red carpet at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, we have with us two people who work in this White House, of course, the Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, and the counselor to the President, Kellyanne Conway, both joining us now, of course. Welcome to the both of you. You look great.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSEL TO THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you.

COLLINS: So, the President is not here tonight, as he was not last year either. He is instead at a rally with his supporters. But last year, what's different is that no one who worked in the White House attended the dinner last year, but, of course, we have a plethora of aides with us now. Why are you attending this year if you didn't attend last year? Both of you worked in the administration last year. What's the different this year?

SANDERS: I mean, the biggest difference, the President encouraged his staff and all of us to attend, and so we did, and we felt like it was important for us to come out and be here.

CONWAY: Well, as usual, we're doubling the coverage. We're here on behalf of the President and in celebration of the First Amendment and the President is in Michigan touting the very strong economy and the prosperity and security that...

[18:45:16]

CONWAY: ... his administration has brought to bear.

COLLINS: So, you said he encouraged you to come this year. Why did he think that his staffers should come, but he chose instead to go to Michigan for a rally?

SANDERS: I think Kellyanne, made the point best. We have doubled the coverage. He is out promoting the extremely successful first year and a half that he has had as President and we get to do that here and it's going to be, I think a great night both here and in Michigan.

CONWAY: He also encourages us to have fun. He's a really great boss and he believes in having a fun and social workplace. He talks about that often, and I guess I would ask the question, Kaitlan, why wouldn't we come?

COLLINS: What did you do last year during the dinner?

CONWAY: Well, I went to Harrisburg -- no, I went with the President to the Harrisburg area. We went to AIM, it's one of the nation's large wheelbarrow producers, a really incredible success story that is there that the President signed two executive orders, one was establishing his trade office at the White House and another one was some trade measures, and that is so prophetic given the great strides he's made on (inaudible), but trading continues, too.

I am also here to celebrate the successes that we see in Korea. I mean, this President has really set the climate that allowed North Korea and South Korea to literally come together and try to declare an end to decades-long war. And it's really terrific that the President can do that and go to Michigan and we can come and have fun.

I'm so proud of Sarah Sanders, I have to say. She knows I love her to begin with and respect her enormously, but she's representing the President of the United States tonight at the head table.

SANDERS: Thank you, Kellyanne.

COLLINS: Certainly, you'll be at the head table with supporters. Back to North Korea, you just mentioned that, the President, of course is on the phone today with leaders of South Korea and Japan.

When this meeting was first announced, there was a lot of skepticism over whether or not it would actually happen, and of course, cautious optimism we see coming from the President on his Twitter account in recent days.

How likely is it that the President does actually sit down face-to- face with the North Korean dictator here in a few weeks?

SANDERS: Look, I think it's very likely. We've seen tremendous progress has taken place over the last few months due to the leadership under this President. He's been able to work with other leaders around the world, whether it was President Xi in China, President Moon of South Korea, and really bring people together to put maximum pressure on North Korea that's brought them to the table, and I think all of his leadership and efforts you've seen kind of culminate over the last week.

We certainly hope that this meeting takes place because it would be certainly a great thing for the United States, but an even better thing for the world and we're happy about the progress, but not naive about this process either, and the President's going to be -- take things one day at a time, but we're moving forward.

COLLINS: The President says the location choices for that sit-down has been narrowed down to two locations. Can you give us a hint of what those two could be?

SANDERS: Absolutely not. I think that's a great way to wrap up and head on inside.

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: One more question...

CONWAY: Option A and option B.

COLLINS: One more question, Reince Priebus, we just spoke with him, the former Chief of Staff of course in the West Wing, someone who both of you worked with, he said he thinks there is a chance the President could attend the dinner next year. Do you think that that is true?

SANDERS: As the President likes to say, we'll see what happens. There is always a chance and you never know, but we'll see what happens.

CONWAY: And he did a great job at grid iron earlier this year, so he obviously appreciates this time of format. At the same time, I suspect and I predict confidently, Kaitlan, that next year he'll have more great economic and security news to tout, so he'll probably be back out there among the folks who want the President to visit their community and maybe he'll send some of us, but like he says, you never know. He keeps you guessing.

COLLINS: Well, thank you, both for joining us. Enjoy the dinner.

CONWAY: Thank you.

SANDERS: Thank you. Have a good night.

COLLINS: All right, Ana, you just saw, we just spoke with Kellyanne and Sarah Sanders. The Press Secretary. We will toss it back to you and come back if we have any other White House staffers who will join us here on the red carpet at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in Washington.

CABRERA: And we saw Stormy Daniels' lawyer, Michael Avenatti photo bombing a little bit there at the end of that interview. You never know who you're going to run into on the red carpet at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Kaitlan collins, thank you.

Our panel is now back with me, Ben Ferguson, Maria Cardona. Maria, back to you first. Your reaction to what we just heard.

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, it's interesting because they, of course, did not commit to President Trump coming next year. He might not be in office next year, like he says, who knows, we'll see what happens, but I think it's clear that he is not somebody who respects the First Amendment. He doesn't like journalists. He has called the media the enemy of the people, and that is outside of the norm of not just American politics, but I think American civil society.

The media is an incredibly important fourth estate as what we call it here in the United States. It keeps politicians honest. It keeps our leaders honest, which is one of the reasons why I believe Trump really does not like it when they call him out on the lies that he says, the tweets that he does every single day and when he acts un-Presidential, which is pretty much every day.

[18:50:16]

CABRERA: Ben, we heard from some of those Trump supporters, his surrogates who area there -- Sarah Sanders, Kellyanne Conway -- essentially saying the President love this sort of thing. He did great at the grid iron dinner, of course he could do well here. Why isn't he there?

FERGUSON: Look, I think he has got other things he thinks is more important. Talking directly to the American people, and part of it is, I think what you just saw which is -- from Maria, is that kind of nasty smugness about he might not even be in office next year. That's the type of stuff that if I was the President of the United States of America, why would I want to go hang out with a bunch of people that were acting like that towards me?

CARDONA: Because he's the President and he should have thick skin? Because they're journalists.

FERGUSON; I think the job of the President is to talk to the American people, not sit around with a bunch of people that think they're better than the other Americans who are at the White House Correspondents' Dinner dressed up and acting like, you know, and saying things like, Maria just said.

I mean, that shows you the animosity that so many have towards the President and so many in the media that are in that room have towards the President of the United States of America.

If they actually wanted to be kind and polite, and not say things like he might not be President next year, which is to me again, so disrespectful to the Office of the President...

CARDONA: And possibly true... FERGUSON: ... maybe he would show up.

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON: I think it's absurd that you're even saying that, Maria. That is the problem here is that, you say that, but you never said that about Bill Clinton when he was actually being impeached, I am sure. You never said that about Hillary Clinton when she was having issues with the Clinton Foundation, to say...

CARDONA: She was never President.

(CROSSTALK)

FERGUSON; It shows the venom towards the President.

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: Hillary Clinton was not President. Now, Ben, what it shows -- here is what it shows. What it shows is that this President has not acted like he is somebody who is fit to hold the highest office in the land and I am not only one who said this. The Democrats...

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: Come one, one at a time. Finish, Maria.

CARDONA: ... are not the only ones who are saying this, many Republicans say this. This is why he enjoys the lowest approval rating in history after his first year. It is why so many Americans are disgusted. It is why so many women are running for office in record numbers because they don't like what this President is doing to this country.

FERGUSON: That's fine.

CARDONA: So, we'll see what happens in the midterms and then in 2020.

FERGUSON: This is the exact reason why the President without having to go to White House correspondent-like dinners is because he doesn't put up with this and doesn't sit there and act like he's going to be friends with someone who's attacking them on such a vicious level, like you just said right now, and that's why the President said, "You know what? I'm going to go have a rally. I am going to talk to the American people. I'm going to celebrate the fact we have low unemployment. I am going to celebrate the fact that we did done something incredible with North and South Korea."

And what we saw with our foreign policy and I am not going to sit here and deal with this that does nothing good for the country at all.

CABRERA: Hold on, hold on, Maria. Hold your thought, Ben. Maria, hold on, just a second.

(CROSSTALK) CABRERA: Maria and Ben, hold on for a second, let me get in here for

a moment. Ben, just to follow up on what you were say though, should the President be grateful for the democratic process and the fact that America has the free press? Isn't that something to celebrate and couldn't he go to White House Correspondents' Dinner and still talk directly to the American people through that venue?

FERGUSON: Yes, he can also talk to the American people through many other venues including having -- doing interviews and press conferences like he did and taking questions from the press like he did with Angela Merkel...

CARDONA: But he doesn't do that.

FERGUSON: ... and other world leaders like he did with France. He just did it with Angela Merkel. He just did with France, I mean, you can't say he doesn't do that when he just did that.

CABRERA: He hasn't held a solo press conference since, I don't have even remember when.

FERGUSON: Well, are you telling me that it's not a press conference when you have two world leaders come together and people stand up in the press from all over the world and ask questions to the President of the United States of America?

CABRERA: He gets to picks who gets to ask questions, it's like a couple of (inaudible) there.

FERGUSON: So, what President hasn't gotten to pick you that answer questions from -- when they're doing a joint press conference? They call on people. That's normal for protocol for every President of my lifetime to say, "I am going to go to so and so and now as I go to so and now will go to someone in the foreign press." And I will do that. That's totally normal. That's not abnormal at all to say the President doesn't answer questions from the press when he just did it twice on the international stage with world leaders next to him and foreign press there to say somehow this President doesn't talk to the press I think is disingenuous, it's not fair.

CARDONA: He's had the least amount of press conferences, official White House press conferences.

FERGUSON: Right, because he goes direct to the people.

CARDONA: ... of any president, but I actually think it's because he does not respect the media and the way that you were just talking about this room of incredible journalists, Pulitzer Prize winning journalists in the White House Correspondents' Dinner Tonight is exactly how the President feels about the media, which is why he is so dangerous because he is calling them enemy of the people.

FERGUSON: It is not dangerous to disagree with the media. That is exactly what we should be having here...

CARDONA: It is dangerous to democracy. [18:55:14]

CARDONA: It is dangerous to democracy to denigrate journalists and to agree with people like Putin who you know, ultimately...

FERGUSON: Now you're stretching.

CARDONA: ... has put journalists to death and journalists have been faced with death threats because of the things that Trump has said. So at the end of the day, yes, he is dangerous because his attitude towards the media is a danger to democracy.

CABRERA: Got to leave it there, guys. Maria Cardona, Ben Ferguson, thank you both. I always appreciate a passionate conversation.

FERGUSON: Thanks.

CARDONA: Thank you.

CABRERA: I am Ana Cabrera in New York. Stay tuned, CNN's coverage of the White House Correspondents' Dinner begins in just moments. Thank you for being with me. Don't go anywhere.