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Trump To Meet With Kim Jong Un In Singapore June 12; Sources: Cohen Aggressively Pitched Access To Trump; Israel And Iran Trade Fire In Most Direct Confrontation Yet. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 10, 2018 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. We are following breaking news, we now know when and where President Trump will be meeting with North Korea's dictator for their historic summit.
Just moments ago, President Trump announced that he will meet with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12th. The details revealed hours after the president welcomed home three Americans freed from the hermit kingdom.
BOLDUAN: The president and vice president, their wives greeting the men after their plane touched down at Joint Base Andrews just before 3:00 a.m. Their arrival marks a huge diplomatic win for the administration and the president says it shows the North Korean dictator is ready for change.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think he did this because I really think he wants to do something and bring our country into the real world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: The president says the release also puts the U.S. on new footing, his words, as he prepares for the summit to address the North's nuclear program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Proudest achievement will be this is a part of it but will be when we denuclearize that entire peninsula. This is what people have been waiting for a long time. Nobody thought we could be on this track in terms of speed. So, I'm very honored to have helped the three folks. The true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: OK, Kaitlan Collins is at White House. Kaitlan, very late night, early morning for everyone, but now this news coming out about a time and a place for the big meeting. What are you hearing there today?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Kate, it has been a whirlwind of a 24 hours here at the White House. Along with the release of those Americans and now we have an official time and official location for that historic summit between the president and Kim Jong-un.
Of course, the president confirming some CNN reporting from yesterday that the meeting will be held in Singapore. And the president giving us a date of June 12th, saying that it is going to be this highly anticipated meeting and that he hopes it is a very special moment for world peace.
Of course, this does come, Kate, after the release of those three Americans from North Korea who were held, brought back with the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo yesterday. And though the president said he saw the release of those Americans as a gesture of goodwill on behalf of the North Koreans ahead of that meeting, he said it won't change the way he negotiates with the North Korean leader.
He hopes something good can come of that meeting but did not say for sure that something good would come of that meeting. So, a lot of hope, a lot of anticipation for this meeting. But, Kate, it will be a historic meeting regardless of what happens on June 12th in Singapore.
It is the first time a sitting American president and the leader of North Korea have sat down face to face. The president said he hopes that meeting can be something that he one day calls his proudest achievement before he gets North Korea to give up the nuclear weapons. That will be something we wait and see. It will be June 12th and we'll be in Singapore -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. Kaitlan, thank you so much. Let's discuss this, joining me, Kelly Magsamen, CNN national security analyst, who served on the National Security Council under President Bush and Obama, and Bruce Klingner, former CIA deputy division chief for Korea. Thank you both for being here. So, Kelly, Singapore, June 12th, location, does it matter?
KELLY MAGSAMEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think Singapore is a perfect location. Singapore is a very close and trusted partner of the United States. It is seen as relatively neutral in the region and they have very good security apparatus there too. So, that will be good for both of the leaders, of course. I actually think it is quite a good location and a solid choice.
BOLDUAN: Bruce, what do you think about the timing of these things, right? You have the Americans coming home early this morning and the announcement then of the time and place. Connected?
BRUCE KLINGNER, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, NORTHEAST ASIA, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, certainly the release of the Americans removes an impediment to what may have otherwise prevented a summit between the U.S. and North Korea, or certainly would have cast a dark cloud. So, it is another gesture of goodwill by Kim Jong-un. It's really another in a rapid-fire series of foreign policy initiatives. So, it removes the impediment, sets a good tone. But most important is what will be on the agenda during that summit.
BOLDUAN: And, Kelly, if you look at the calendar, like four weeks away. What needs to happen between now and then?
MAGSAMEN: Well, a lot needs to happen. A lot goes into these presidential level summits. I suspect right now the National Security Council staff is holding meetings with the State Department and the Defense Department and the intelligence community to develop the negotiating position, to develop the kinds of things we're going to try to pursue as well as what we're prepared to offer as well to the North Koreans.
A lot of behind the scenes work going on right now. I also suspect there is an intense amount of outreach to our all lies in the region, in particular, Japan, which is quite nervous about the summit and of course, our allies, the South Koreans.
[11:05:07] BOLDUAN: And Bruce, you talked about it being the removal of an impediment to moving forward here. That dramatic return of the three Americans early this morning, does their arrival, just their arrival home, do you think it marks a new day for the U.S. relationship with North Korea as the president suggests?
KLINGNER: We have been down this path before. Of course, we're always concerned when any Americans are detained in North Korea, given the brutal treatment, not only of Otto Warmbier but some other Americans.
But there were, I believe, eight Americans released during the Obama presidency, two of the three that were released today were rested during President Trump's time in office. So, it is usually an action taken by the North Korean security services.
And then when it sorts of percolates up to the leadership, they release the Americans when they either see as it is an impediment to improving relations or want to send it as a gesture of diplomatic outreach.
BOLDUAN: Kelly, do you wonder why Kim Jong-un released the Americans now, not waiting for it to happen as part of a broader deal, as part of their conversation when they sit down in Singapore?
MAGSAMEN: Well, I suspect -- Kim Jong-un has proven himself thus far to be very skillful I think at setting up the diplomacy ahead of the summit. I think this in part was to offer a gesture of goodwill certainly. But I would be careful about reading too much into whether or not it signals his intent to really come to the table on denuclearization.
So, I just would caution, you know, this is really raising the expectations ahead of the summit, the president himself is raising expectations on himself via this, but also the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.
BOLDUAN: I actually am really interested in your take on that. What do you think, Bruce, from your perspective, how that plays into how pulling out of the Iran deal plays into any potential deal or impacts any potential deal with North Korea? Where do you land on this?
KLINGNER: Well, certainly as the U.S. has said, it is sending a signal we're going to not accept an imperfect deal. One could certainly see from a North Korean point of view it calls into question U.S. credibility, if the U.S. can pull out of one agreement, how can they sign an agreement with the U.S. on a North Korean nuclear deal.
On the other hand, this was not a surprise, I think North Korea already factored that risk into its outreach to the U.S. its agreement for the summit. So, I don't think it will have that big an impact because North Korea was expecting it.
BOLDUAN: But, Kelly, do you think at the very least now, and maybe that's what you're saying that any nuclear deal with North Korea must be measured against the Iran deal that the president -- that the president hates so much? I mean, if that's the case, how high of a bar is there now for success?
MAGSAMEN: I personally think the president has set a very high bar for success. I think a lot of people especially in Congress are going to be looking very closely at how he pursues these negotiations and let's be honest, North Korea has a much tougher nut to crack than Iran.
They already have nuclear weapons estimated around 20. So, this is a much more difficult case for denuclearization than even Iran. So, I think the president's withdrawal from the deal, going out publicly and talking about how it is a lousy deal, has actually raised the bar on himself.
BOLDUAN: Bruce, I want to ask you about the president's words, at the same time that he's with -- standing with these three Americans who are held by North Korea, the president also says that Kim Jong-un really was excellent to these three incredible people.
Of course, everyone knows that this is a regime, known for its brutal rule and to completely disregard human rights. What does it -- what does it do to hear those words coming from the president when he's standing there with the Americans?
KLINGNER: Right. Just to expand on the point Kelly made, I think the president has set a very high bar. It is not only any agreement he makes, has to be better than the Iran deal, but also the eight previous agreements the international community had with North Korea and the ten U.N. resolutions and verification measures equal to arms control treaties with the Soviet Union.
I think the president on the one hand was, you know, thanking or acknowledging Kim Jong-un's intervention to release the Americans, which is quite welcome. On the other hand, I think it reflects the president's superlative way of talking, using a lot of adjectives when describing meetings or world leaders.
BOLDUAN: Raises the stakes when these two leaders sit down face to face with each other. Great to see both of you. Thanks for walking through with me. Appreciate it. Coming up for us, cashing in on the president, CNN has new details on Michael Cohen's pitch to sell access to President Trump. One of the very things Donald Trump said he was running against back in the election. Where is the legal line here? How about the ethical one? There is that.
Plus, this, red flag warnings for the blue wave, new polls on the midterm elections show the Democrats advantage evaporating. What's behind the big shift.
BOLDUAN: Make America great again. You saw it on red baseball caps everywhere in 2016. What did Michael Cohen see though? Apparently, dollar signs. CNN has now learned just how aggressively President Trump's personal attorney tried to capitalize off of his client, promising access to Trump businesses far and wide apparently.
Cohen scored big consulting deals with companies like AT&T, Novartis, and an investment firm with ties to a wealthy Russian which sounds eerily similar to the pay to play practice that Candidate Trump ripped Hillary Clinton for and promised to end. What does the White House say about all this now?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Haven't heard the president express any specific concerns about this. I'll refer you to the president's outside counsel to address those concerns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: OK, so there is that. But one seemingly simple question still has no simple answer, is Michael Cohen still Donald Trump's personal attorney?
[11:15:07] If not, when did he stop being Trump's personal attorney? Last month, the president put it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No. No. What else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make those if there was no truth to her allegations?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: You'll have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael is my attorney. You'll have to ask Michael.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: A few days later, the FBI raided Cohen's office, hotel and apartment. The White House was then asked that simple question again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Michael Cohen still represent the president?
SANDERS: I'm not sure. I would refer you to Michael Cohen on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Then just short of four weeks later, the president adds a new attorney to his team and Rudy Giuliani puts it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Michael Cohen still the president's attorney?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S ATTORNEY: No, of course not. It would be a conflict right now to be the president's attorney. I am, in this respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: But after everything we heard from and seen of Rudy Giuliani over the past couple of weeks, we know one thing. Rudy doesn't always have his facts straight or at least that's what the president says. By the way, Cohen's LinkedIn page says he is still Trump's attorney. See why we're so confused?
Joining me right now, CNN's Sarah Westwood. She is joining me right now from Washington. So, Sarah, what are you learning about how aggressively and what Michael Cohen's pitch actually was to these companies?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kate, we're hearing that Michael Cohen saw an opportunity to profit off his proximity to Donald Trump shortly after the election and seized it. Sources tell CNN that Michael Cohen pitched himself aggressively as someone who could provide them with an inside track to Donald Trump at a time when companies were desperately searching for ways to make inroads with this new outsider president.
Now, sources also tell us that Cohen was far from the only Trump associate who did this. There were other former Trump campaign officials who didn't land top jobs in the White House and went on to profit off their relationships with Trump by also doing lobbying work.
But for a president who promised to drain the swamp and promised to crack down on businesses usual in Washington, it could be problematic for him that those closest to him thought they could make money off their relationships with Trump -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: All right. Sarah, thanks so much for laying it out. I really appreciate it.
So, joining me right now to discuss, former Obama White House ethics czar and former ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norm Eisen, and CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz. Thanks for being here. I really appreciate it.
So, Shimon, how does all of this, what Sarah is laying out, how does this all fit into that tangled web that connects Trump's inner circle to Russia?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, for one thing we know that the FBI, remember, when Comey came out and said the former FBI director, they were investigating at some point -- they were investigating the campaign.
And it seems that certainly Michael Cohen's finances have been under scrutiny for some time by the FBI. As it relates to the investigation, everything had to do with the campaign's investigation into the campaign, eventually wound up with Robert Mueller. And it seems that's where all of this started.
We know that in one of the financial transactions, Michael Cohen was being paid by a financial company, an investment company, with connections, with links to a Russian oligarch. Perhaps there was some activity there that caught the eye of FBI investigators and that's how Mueller started looking into it to see if there was any larger connection to Russia interference.
Because the oligarch that that investment company is connected to has been sanctioned by the U.S. government for interference. So, that's where all of this may have started and then probably grew into other questions about some of his finances and some of his business dealings.
Because certainly now we know that his connections and his business dealings with AT&T, a pharmaceutical company, and another company are all being scrutinized. All of that seems to live with the Southern District of New York.
It was yesterday in a court filing that Michael Cohen's attorney basically admitted that the records pertaining to those deals were seized by the FBI in that raid on his house and office. So, it seems like that's where that is now.
BOLDUAN: But, Ambassador, on -- maybe an overly simple level, but you answer this, people pedal influence all the time in Washington. That's not new. So, is there anything wrong from what you can see here with what Michael Cohen was doing?
NORM EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Kate, thanks for having me back. I think that there are some warning signs this may have gone beyond the usual forms of influence pedaling which are bad enough. Here you had somebody feet away from the future president of the United States in Trump Tower during the transition.
You have a large payment from an American company that is linked to a sanctioned Russian oligarch, of course, there is an investigation of Russia's role in the campaign.
[11:20:12] And then a series of other payments that are coming in, Michael Cohen has not registered as a lobbyist, there is foreign entities involved. He is not registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. And what was he offering? Access, influence, possibility something more?
That could be a very serious legal violation. This has the feeling of something beyond the usual influence peddling. It is already under investigation, only time will tell if laws were broken. I can tell you this, for a candidate who pledged to drain the swamp to have his personal lawyer peddling influence and access, that's terrible hypocrisy.
BOLDUAN: Shimon, let me ask you this, I want to get to the hypocrisy in one second, Ambassador, as this information was coming out, especially yesterday, one thing that stuck out to me is AT&T and Novartis say that they were contacted by the special counsel's office in November and December of last year.
And to me that just lays out how little anybody outside of the special counsel knows about what is going on. In the sense that the public is just learning about this six months later than when special counsel was reaching out to Novartis and AT&T. For information about all of this.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. And it just tells you what makes covering this story so difficult. So, little comes out. Really the only way we know this, think about it, is because of the documents that Michael Avenatti posted.
BOLDUAN: Yes, and the --
PROKUPECZ: The wild way it has all come out. Yes, I mean, look, this investigation, we know, is dealing with finances, with meetings, dealing with various contacts that Russians have had. It is clear, we have been reporting this for months this investigation has grown much bigger and farther and wider than it initially started.
It started out as an investigation into Russian interference. And clearly now we see based on what AT&T has told us, based on what the pharmaceutical company told us, this investigation has grown bigger and into finances.
Michael Cohen, it is clear that Michael Cohen's finances have been scrutinized by the FBI, under investigation by the Southern District of New York now. So, this investigation, we know so little in the end.
And when we spend time outside of Mueller's office here, there are people going in and out of that office, on a daily, hourly basis that we have no idea who they are.
BOLDUAN: And so when people say there is collusion or isn't collusion on the most basic level, there is no way of knowing because we're learning six months later about these meetings that the special counsel is having, who knows the ground they made into the six months since.
That's the one thing that sticks out over and over with all of this. Ambassador, you brought up the hypocrisy or -- in the role of Michael Cohen in all of this and what it could mean for the president.
Rudy Giuliani spoke to Dana Bash, he said he's only concerned about this element of it, if somebody says it involves the president. So far no one has said that. Is Rudy Giuliani right to not be concerned at least in term of the exposure for the president?
EISEN: No, Kate, like everything Rudy Giuliani says, it is wrong as a matter of law. Michael Cohen --
BOLDUAN: That's a little aggressive.
EISEN: I have never seen a lawyer do as much damage to a client publicly as Rudy Giuliani has done over the past weeks. And this is another place where he's wrong. Michael Cohen was in close proximity to the president and those around him for years. He worked on his deals, domestic and international.
If there are skeletons in the closet, Michael Cohen has them. Here is the danger. It does seem like there is strong evidence of wrongdoing just to get permission to subpoena a lawyer's files. You have to meet very high standards within DOJ and a judge had to approve it.
If Cohen flips, if the evidence is strong enough, he needs to do a deal to save himself, who is he going to roll over on? The president of the United States. If Cohen knows anything, the president should be feeling great danger. Giuliani is wrong.
One more point about Shimon's good insight. I've done -- I've sat across the table from Mueller and on the same side of the table in litigation and he's totally closed mouth. It is the exception to the rule. And, Kate, you made a great point, we don't know what evidence may be coming out on obstruction or collusion. So, fasten your seat belt, there could be more.
[11:25:09] BOLDUAN: Or none of the above. Who knows at this point? Add it to the unknown of the day or the year or the century. Great to see you, guys. Thank you.
Coming up for us, the Middle East on the brink. Iran directly attacks targets in Israel. Israel answers back. We'll take you there live in this crucial moment in the Middle East.
BOLDUAN: The tension escalating right now in the Middle East after Israel and Iran exchanged fire in the most direct confrontation between the countries to date. This all happening just days after President Trump, of course, pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal. How does this all fit together?
CNN's Oren Liebermann is in the Golan Heights. Oren, you've been watching all of this happen overnight. Take us through what happened, what you saw and where things stand right now.
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This all started shortly after midnight, when Israel says Iranian forces in Syria behind me fired off some 20 rockets aimed at Israeli military positions in the occupied --