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Secretary of State Heads to North Korea; Interview With Arizona Senator Jeff Flake; President Trump Decides Not to Honor Iran Nuclear Deal; Trump: U.S. Will Withdraw From Iran Nuclear Deal; Investigations Opened Into Schneiderman Abuse Accusations. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Trump dumps another Obama deal.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: As he repeatedly promised on the campaign trail, President Trump says the U.S. is now getting out of the Iran nuclear deal. The big question, did the move bring Iran closer or farther away from a nuke?

He went after Harvey Weinstein while allegedly hiding his own history of beating and grossly degrading women. Now New York's attorney general is on the on his way out. What will become of his legal cases against President Trump?

Plus, he's not on the ballot, but he's totally on the ballot. The first major primary night of the midterm elections about to show us the Republican Party that President Trump created.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with the world lead and one of the most important foreign policy decisions of the Trump presidency yet, President Trump announcing this afternoon the U.S. will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, fulfilling a longtime campaign promise and of course defying former President Obama, whose administration negotiated the agreement.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. And we will not allow a regime that chants "Death to America" to gain access to the most deadly weapons on Earth.


TAPPER: President Trump today also called the deal a great embarrassment to him as a citizen and he declared -- quote -- "We have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie."

That is a reference to the presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a few days ago, though top Trump officials, it should be noted, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Director of National intelligence Dan Coats, both of them testified before the U.S. Senate in recent weeks that Iran was in compliance with the agreement.

President Trump also revealed today that Pompeo is on his way to North Korea to continue preparations for the presidential summit with Kim Jong-un.

He said -- quote -- "We will all soon be finding out," when asked whether Pompeo would return with the American prisoners held in North Korea, two of them taken hostage during the Trump presidency.

CNN's Pamela Brown starts us off today with more from the White House.


TRUMP: I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the Diplomatic Room at the White House, President Trump announcing today that the U.S. will abandon the international agreement aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions reached in 2015 under President Obama.

TRUMP: This was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn't bring calm. It didn't bring peace. And it never will.

Since the agreement, Iran's bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen. In light of these glaring flaws, I announced last October that the Iran deal must either be renegotiated or terminated.

After the sanctions were lifted, the dictatorship used its new funds to build its nuclear-capable missiles, support terrorism, and cause havoc throughout the Middle East and beyond.

BROWN: The president outlined his reasoning for leaving the deal, arguing Iran negotiated in bad faith, never intending to give up nuclear ambitions.

TRUMP: At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction: that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program.

Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.

It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement. The Iran deal is defective at its core.

BROWN: But the president's claim that Iran is moving forward with its nuclear weapons program seemingly contradicts recent testimony from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Iran wasn't racing to a weapon before the deal. There is no indication that I'm aware of that, if the deal no longer existed, that they would immediately turn to racing to create a nuclear weapon today.

BROWN: The president today signing a memorandum reinstituting sanctions against the Iranian regime, which will take some time to fully implement.

TRUMP: We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States. America will not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.


BROWN: Now, even though it could take months before the sanctions go into effect, the withdrawal is effective immediately.

The national security adviser, John Bolton, telling reporters today that this withdrawal sends a strong signal to North Korea leader Kim Jong-un ahead of the summit that the U.S. will not accept inadequate deals.

But, Jake, now that the U.S. has withdrawn from this deal, the big question is, what will happen next and what will Iran do?


TAPPER: Indeed.

Pamela Brown at White House, thank you so much.

And joining me now to react to the announcement is Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

You initially opposed the Iran deal back in 2015. Do you support President Trump's actions today?


It certainly could have been a better deal, and it should have been structured differently. The president should have come -- President Obama should have come to the Senate and proposed it as a treaty. And we wouldn't be going through what we are going through now, and I think it would have been a much better deal.

But getting out of the deal at this stage means that Iran has already realized the benefits, the major benefits, the release of funds that were frozen, relief of sanctions. Yet now we let them off the hook with regard to their nuclear obligations.

So, I just don't think it is a wise move at this point.

TAPPER: Pulling out of the deal was obviously one of President Trump's campaign promises.

FLAKE: Right.

TAPPER: You're surely not surprised that he's doing what he said he would do.

FLAKE: No, not at all. Not at all. He did campaign on this. And he is following through on it.

I just don't think that it is a wise move. Oftentimes, when you get into office, you realize that, hey, that may have worked in a campaign or those were -- that was a good line or whatnot, but you realize that it is not good for the country at this point.

Given where we are with negotiations now, especially with North Korea, our allies and our adversaries need to know that we are reliable. And I think that that is missing right now.

TAPPER: Senator, President Trump says that he thinks Iran will be forced to come back to the table, and then the U.S. and others will be able to negotiate a tougher deal. What do you think?

FLAKE: I think we could have negotiated that deal. We could have negotiated additional things or sanctions with regard to Iran's malign behavior in the region, its ballistic missile activity, which were not part of the agreement.

But what we have done now is, we've given Iran license basically to get out, if they choose, of their nuclear obligations. And that is not good for anyone. So I think that we could have -- we could have still negotiated with Iran on those other things while sticking to the nuclear part of the agreement.

TAPPER: Did the president just make the world more safe or less safe, do you think?

FLAKE: I don't think that we're more safe. I agree with what General Mattis said earlier this year, that we should stay in the agreement. I think that has overwhelmingly been the advice of his military leaders and his diplomats as well.

Also, our allies, who have worked on this with us, we're going to need them. We are going to need to work with them for various threats to come, not just this one. And if we're not seen as a reliable partner, then we're going to have a hard time moving ahead.

TAPPER: How quickly do you think Iran will be able to get a fully functioning nuclear weapon?

FLAKE: Well, the saying was before that they are a couple of months away. I think they're probably further away from that now.

Under the agreement, it was structured in a way that they would be at least a year out. So it may take them a while, but if we, as we have done now, unilaterally withdraw, then there is not much of an agreement without us being a part of it.

And so Iran could quickly move back to enrichment or other activities if they choose to do so. And then, if we believed our own intelligence before, they could be within several months a few months from now of the bomb.

TAPPER: Obviously, this all comes at the same time that the U.S. is hoping to sit down at the table with North Korea. President Trump announced that Secretary of State Pompeo is on his way to North Korea right now to meet with the leaders there.

Do you worry that North Korea will look at the U.S. overtures more skeptically now, given the decision to pull out of the previously negotiated and agreed-to Iran deal?

FLAKE: I do. I think -- and a lot of experts have talked about the knock-on aspects of this, what it will mean for other agreements.

And I think, certainly here, if the North Koreans say, well, hey, they only stayed within this agreement for just a couple of years, then they will be more reluctant to sign on the dotted line, in particular to do what we're wanting them to do, and that is to denuclearize, not just freeze, but denuclearize.

So I do think it will knock-on effects.

TAPPER: You're giving a speech tomorrow in which you are talking about the role of the U.S. in the world and your concerns about where President Trump is leading the nation in that regard.

FLAKE: Right.

TAPPER: One of the things you say is: "This nation's transformation into an indispensable nation, a necessary nation was not crafted through military might alone. It was our efforts to build up international institutions and norms aimed at fostering democratic ideals and free market principles that truly secured the global leadership some would now squander."

That sounds a lot like your fellow Arizona Republican John McCain.

FLAKE: Right.

TAPPER: Are you worried that President Trump is leading the United States towards isolationism, and thus leaving a vacuum for China, Russia and others to fill?


FLAKE: You bet.

I think that started as soon as the president announced his intention to withdraw from the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But we saw countries at that time not just say, all right, we're going to wait for to you come around. They moved on. They moved on without us. China is now filling that vacuum.

A lot of these countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, would like to be part of our trade orbit, but now they are sucked into China's vortex. And so, yes, we're giving up our global leadership. And it has implications on the trade side, certainly on the security side.

And I'm very concerned, as are many of my colleagues.

TAPPER: Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, thank you so much. We appreciate your time.

FLAKE: Thank you.

TAPPER: Can North Korea actually trust the United States, or did President Trump just prove to the world he really means what he says?

Stay with us.



TRUMP: My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.

[16:15:02] I've studied this issue in great detail, I would say actually greater by far than anybody else. Believe me. Oh, believe me. And it's a bad deal.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That was candidate Donald Trump back in March of 2016. Today, President Trump is taking steps to fulfill the campaign promise.

Let's dive into it with my panel. We have with us Phil Mudd, Symone Sanders and Amanda Carpenter. Of course, Ms. Carpenter has a new book. It's called "Gaslighting America". It's excellent. Everyone should check it out.

But I'm going to start with Symone.

For all of the chaos of the administration, the president has been very successful in checking off the key campaign promises, he's kept Gitmo open, pulled out of the Paris climate deal, withdrawn from the Transpacific Partnership. That's the Pacific trade deal. And now, he's withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.

He's been successful in reshaping U.S. foreign policy.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, yes. For the worst one could argue.

Look, I think what -- as someone who was a proponent actually of fixing the Trans Pacific Partnership, I could understand why President Trump had the stance he currently has on the TPP.

When it comes to the Iran deal, what we heard the president say today is really important. He noted he's getting out of this because Iran isn't holding up their end of the bargain and everyone in the world -- except for President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu disagree with that.

So, I think this is dangerous. This is not just President Trump saying I'm just going to keep my campaign promise. He is going out there with erroneous and false information that is going to lead us down a path that looks very similar to Iraq.

TAPPER: But, Phil, do you think -- President Trump pledged today because of this action, Iran will be forced eventually to come back to the table and agree to a harsher and tougher deal. Do you believe that?

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Heck no. I would say he used a word here that we ought to focus on, "dismantle". The other parties of this agreement, the U.K., the French, the Germans, the Russians, the Chinese, in contrast to where we were five years more ago, what do you think they'll say about A, sanctions and, B, limits on Iranian oil sales to those countries.

The Iranian president is out saying we think, the deal will continue. I suspect he knows, as well as all of us around the table that the other parties of the deal are going to say, thank you, United States, we'll just keep trading with these guys. And then the second question then kicks in, what's the president is going to do to the Europeans, the Russian and the Chinese when they say, we're going to keep trading? That's an interesting question.

TAPPER: And, in fact, Amanda, I spoke with a European diplomat just before the show and he said that the Europeans heard President Trump's concerns as it spelled in January, and they have been working behind the scenes on trying to meet those concerns about the weaknesses in the deal, and they all -- everyone pretty much agrees the deal could have been better, could have been stronger, and he said that -- the diplomat said they got about 95 percent of the way there and he's not sure whether President Trump even knows about the work that they did.

What do you think?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Here's what I think is really disconcerting. We keep hearing we'll see what happens. We'll see what happens is not a foreign policy strategy. It's not a doctrine. It's not a plan of action.

You could have a lot of complaints about what the Obama administration did and I think there's a lesson for everyone that when an executive unilaterally negotiates these deals without the will of Congress, like the Iran deal, like they did with the Paris climate change, you can't expect it to hold. OK, that's a fair point. We should dwell on that.

Where do we go from here? Where are the officials from the Trump administration saying where they are going to go? Why are they not reassuring the public who is saying what is going on with nuclear weapons in the world? This isn't some trite matter. This isn't a tweet. We're talking about nuclear weapons in the hands of a hostile nation. I want to hear an explanation. I want to hear the foreign policy

officials go to the cameras and say why they're justified in making this decision and what the next steps are. They owe that to us.

TAPPER: And, Symone, one of the big questions right now, of course, is what -- how does this affect North Korea and negotiating with North Korea? Trump fans might say -- Trump supporters might say, this shows that President Trump does what he says. He said he was going to withdraw and he did that and North Korea sees that.

Others say, especially a lot of people in the diplomatic community, how is North Korea supposed to agree to abide by an agreement when the United States has shown its willingness to withdraw from the agreement that they made.

SANDERS: Yes, at will. I think it's a very valid concern. Look, folks look at North Korea and Kim Jong-un is holding on to his nuclear weapons or lack thereof, we don't know. But he's holding on because that is literally in the North Korean side, their mode of survival. And so, he saw what happened in Libya when Gadhafi gave up his nuclear weapons and then Gadhafi was no longer with us. So, I really think that this is a -- this is dangerous territory for the White House.

I want to say one thing about young people. And Harvard has a poll of young Americans every -- like consistently, every year.

[16:20:02] And in the most recent poll, the majority of young Americans, Democrats, Republicans and independents, noted they are more fearful than ever for this country. The decisions like this coming from the White House are reasons why young people across the board are absolutely living in fear and not feeling this administration -- and our members in Congress.

TAPPER: So, Phil, Iran's foreign minister said before the announcement, quote, if the U.S. continues to violate the agreement or if it withdraws altogether, we will exercise our right to respond in a manner of our choosing. You said that you think Iran -- you suspect Iran is just going to keep abiding by the agreement with everyone else except for the United States.

But what's to stop them from going from a year away from being able to create a nuclear device to being able to do it tomorrow?

MUDD: Because you would expect that the Europeans and the Chinese and Russians will see evidence and I don't think they've seen it yet, evidence that says that Iranians are violating the agreement.

Let me tell you one of the most interesting things the president said today, on this question of whether the Iranians proceed and what they have done. The guy quotes Israeli intelligence. Excuse me. I live in the United States. I want to hear what the Americans say.

Quick side comment, he set up Gina Haspel, the CIA nominee, who's got a nomination hearing tomorrow. First question if I were questioning her on the Hill tomorrow is, why did the president not talk about American intelligence on the Iranian nuclear program and is it exactly the same as what Netanyahu did? That set up is going to be pretty interesting tomorrow. I suspect she says no.

TAPPER: But just -- let's drill down on this a second. What did the Israeli presentation show? What did it suggest?

My understanding was that it showed that Iran before the nuclear agreement --

MUDD: Yes.

TAPPER: -- had ill-intent and lying. But did it say where Iran is right now because U.S. intelligence, according to Pompeo and Coats, U.S. intelligence says Iran is complying.

MUDD: Which is why the question to Haspel tomorrow is significant. And I read it the same way you did, Jake, and that is, this is an historic review of documents that are required a long time ago and the presentation was for political purpose, it's an intelligence purposes. It comes a week and a half before the president is going to make his own statement and then Netanyahu comes out with old intel and says they lied.

Why did he do that? Because it's a current indication of where they Iranians are? No. Because he wants to influence popular opinion. That's all it was. Not intel. That was politics.

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We got a lot more to talk about.

The New York attorney general who took on Harvey Weinstein and champions the Me Too movement has been forced to resign after stunning and disgusting allegations he physically assaulted women. Why the impact of his removal may spread far beyond the borders of New York state.

Stay with us.


[16:26:43] TAPPER: Breaking this afternoon, there are now multiple investigations into the abuse accusations against soon to be former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. One of the loudest voices for women's rights officially resigning today at the close of the business in the wake of the scandal.

"The New Yorker" magazine, Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow, detailed four women who claimed he was violent with them, saying he slapped them and choke them, even spat on them, also allegedly telling one of the women, quote, I am the law.

CNN's Tom Foreman is covering how this resignation has a huge impact politically but let's start with CNN's Brynn Gingras in New York City.

And, Brynn, this guy portrayed himself as the number one male ally of the Me Too movement, he even pushed an anti-choking law, though he allegedly choked these four women he dated, the hypocrisy is second only to his abhorrent behavior. BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Jake, hypocrisy is a

word apparently that one of these women alluded to, fueling her to come forward. And just hours ago, the NYPD announced it will investigate the accusations against Schneiderman, and that's in addition to district attorney's cases today in both Manhattan and Suffolk County, Long Island, where the alleged physical abuse occurred.


ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: Are we ready to fight against male supremacy?

GINGRAS (voice-over): Eric Schneiderman, known as a champion for women in the Me Too movement now facing accusations from four women about his own behavior. Two of the women who had romantic relationships with Schneiderman spoke on the record in an explosive "New Yorker" article, saying the attorney general would, quote, repeatedly hit them, often after drinking, frequently in bed and never with their consent.

Michelle Manning Barish who dated Schneiderman for several years describes one incident like this: quote: All of a sudden, he just slapped me, open handed and with great force across the face. He began to choke me. The choking was very hard. It was really bad. I kicked and every fiber I felt I was being beaten by a man.

Schneiderman addressed the allegations on Twitter saying, quote, I have engaged in role playing and other consensual sexual activity, I have not assaulted anyone, I have never engaged in nonconsensual sex, which is a line I would not cross.

Ronan Farrow, one of the writers of "The New Yorker" article said the women were very clear about what happened.

RONAN FARROW, THE NEW YORKER: I just want to relate the message of one of these women and it was a shared sentiment amongst this group, that this was not role playing. That this was not "50 Shades of Grey". It wasn't in a gray area at all.

GINGRAS: Schneiderman's resignation is effective tonight. And it's possible the state's top attorney could soon face his own legal battle.

Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.



TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I'm Tom Foreman.

Team Trump is rejoicing at Schneiderman's fall. Don Jr. tweeting: Hey, Eric, it is not role play if only one is in on it.

Kellyanne Conway adding: Gotcha, all for a man Donald Trump called dopey, a lightweight, a total loser.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His name is Eric Schneiderman. Not respected in New York. Doing a terrible job.

FOREMAN: Schneiderman was a deep thorn in Donald Trump's side. He drove the fraud investigation into Trump University --

TRUMP: Success. It's going to happen to you.

FOREMAN: Which left Trump ordered to pay $25 million to former students.

SCHNEIDERMAN: He's a show-man and doesn't seem to think there is any such thing as a bad headline where he's concerned.