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AT THIS HOUR
Congress Reacts to Senate Judiciary Committee Document Dump on Trump Tower Meeting; Trump to Speak for First Time Amid North Korea Threatened to Walk Away from Summit; Trump Dismisses Criticism He Caved to China on ZTE; Senators Grilling EPA Chief Pruitt on Spending, Ethics Investigations. Aired 11:30-12p ET
Aired May 16, 2018 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:33:22] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Capitol Hill reacting this hour to the document dump in the Russia investigation. Nearly 2,000 pages released from the Senate Judiciary Committee about the now infamous Trump Tower meeting during the 2016 campaign. Transcripts from the closed-door questioning of five of the individuals who were there.
CNN senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill.
Manu, what are you hearing there now about what has been released?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As you can expect on Capitol Hill, you are hearing a partisan divide about what this actually means. Republicans believing this essentially shows what they've been saying, that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. Democrats saying there are significant contradictions, misstatements and the investigation that the transcripts ultimately revealed.
Heading into a meeting early this morning with Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, whose committee conducted these interviews with these participants in this Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr, and Grassley made the case that this gives the public a sense of exactly what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R), IOWA: The public's business ought to be public. What we've done so far, in a lot of cases, has been closed. And the public has a right to know. And the public can go through these 2,000 pages and make up their own mind and draw their own conclusions. They don't have to have it deciphered by members of Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Democrats are saying that the transcripts revealed that there was an effort by the Trump campaign to get this incriminating information knowing it was coming from the Russian government. And then when they were caught they issued a misleading statement to conceal the true intent of that meeting. And they say this requires further investigation.
And Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on that committee, released a statement, saying, "The June 9, 2016, meeting is one piece of a much larger puzzle and confirms that the Trump campaign was willing to accept Russia's assistance. There are more questions than answers given the lack of cooperation by many of the individuals involved."
And, Kate, it's important to note that five of the eight participants were interviewed by this committee. Among the people not interviewed, Jared Kushner, senior adviser and son-in-law, along with Paul Manafort, of course, indicated, facing those federal charges from the special counsel's investigation -- Kate?
[11:35:36] BOLDUAN: Ah, yes.
Great to see you, Manu. Thanks again.
Coming up for us, we will hear from President Trump for the first time since this, and since North Korea threatened to walk away from the United States. What will the president say about this abrupt change in course in town from the North?
We'll be right back.
[11:40:14] BOLDUAN: North Korea's threat to cancel talks between its leader and President Trump has us wondering, is Kim Jong-Un reading "The Art of the Deal" or, at the very least, is he reading Trump's tweets about his best-selling playbook?
Let us dive in and remember. Here's one quote for you: "The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it." Here's another: "Know when to walk away from the table."
And on that one, we do know that President Trump has been taking his own advice for quite a long time. Remember his threat to abandon NAFTA?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: NAFTA has been a disaster. We are renegotiating NAFTA, as I said I would, and if we don't make a deal, I'll terminate NAFTA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And then there was a threat to leave NATO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They haven't been paying. I said you have to pay. You have to pay. You have to pay.
TRUMP: And now they've taken in because of that. I guess, I applied if you don't pay we're out of there, right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And of course, was there the threat and then the follow through to pull out of the Iran deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If that deal doesn't conform to what it's supposed to conform to, there's going to be big, big problems for them. That I can tell you. You're going to see that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: And even when it comes to the very issue at hand, North Korea, the president has made clear he is at least saying he's sticking to his playbook.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If I think that it's a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we're not going to go. If the meeting, when I'm there, is not fruitful, I will respectfully leave the meeting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: So, is Kim Jong-Un out-trumping Trump right now?
Joining me to discuss, Max Boot, CNN global affairs analyst, senior adviser for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Kelly Magsamen, the CNN national security analyst who served on the National Security Council under Presidents Bush and Obama.
Great to see both of you back.
The big issue that North Korea has, at least according to its statement, is John Bolton's statement that they're going to be following the Libya model. Why do they have such a problem with this?
MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Not hard to see why. Look what happened to Moammar Gadhafi. He gave up his weapons of mass destruction and, lo and behold, a few years later, he was overthrown and killed. And the last thing any dictator would want to do. And I have to wonder, in throwing out the Libya model, whether John Bolton was deliberately trying to sabotage the process of negotiations --
BOOT: Well, because we know what the Libya model means. And North Korea has repeatedly said we're not going to go the way of Saddam Hussein. We are not going to go the way of Moammar Gadhafi. And so when the national security adviser, who just a few months ago was talking about how he wants to wage a preventative war against North Korea, when he says, we insist that you go and do exactly what Libya did, that's not a message that's designed to reach an agreement. And it's designed to provoke this kind of reaction, I think.
BOLDUAN: What's your take, Kelly? From what North Korea is saying right now, is this a negotiating tactic ahead of the meeting? If it's not, then what is it?
KELLY MAGSAMEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It could be. Certainly, the North Koreans are probing on two fronts. First, on denuclearization. They're probing on whether the president has personally invested enough in the summit that he basically overruled some of his adviser's positions, specifically John Bolton's. That's one piece they're doing. And by canceling the South Korea/North Korea military talks, he's trying to test the strength of the alliance and whether the South Koreans will then come to the United States and talk to President Trump about postponing exercises. This is very classic North Korean strategy. For North Korean analysts, like myself, this is not surprising. These traditions are very long held, and the statement made that very clear.
BOLDUAN: Max, the U.S. has said that there aren't going to be any, listen, payoffs ahead of getting to the table, but from where we are right now in this chess match already, is that what's going on have to happen to get there?
BOOT: Clearly, North Korea will not give up its entire nuclear arsenal in return for nothing. That's not going to work that way. I would imagine they would insist on major concessions, and possibly including the removal of U.S. forces from South Korea. We will have to wait and see. But as you were highlighting with your comment, Trump's negotiating style, his rhetoric has gotten away from the facts on the ground. He was talking as if North Korea had already agreed to denuclearize and his supporters were already preparing for the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Whoa! You have to be less eager to reach an agreement. And North Korea can sense that desperation on Trump's part and now they're rattling his cage to see how desperate he's going to be for this agreement.
[11:45:00] BOLDUAN: Kelly, here's one line from the North Korean statement: "If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such a dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding with the summit."
Unilateral nuclear abandonment. It's that the stated goal of the United States. Am I missing something here?
MAGSAMEN: Yes. There's a huge disconnect on the issue of denuclearization, and that's what the issue is about. This is North Korea laying out its maximalist position. John Bolton went on Sunday talk shows this weekend and laid out the U.S. maximalist position. This is the start of the negotiation and this will play out, and we'll see what President Trump does.
BOLDUAN: We all will have to wait and see on that moment. We might hear from him this hour. Max, we talked about John Bolton off the top with what he said. What
do you think this means for John Bolton? The statement for the North Koreans focused more on John Bolton than it focused on Donald Trump.
BOOT: Yes. I think the North Koreans paid pretty close attention to U.S. politics. And I think they're trying deliberately to drive a wedge between President Trump and his national security adviser because they know that Bolton is going to be --
BOLDUAN: To get him out, yes.
BOOT: It would be good for them -- yes -- because Bolton will be far more skeptical of any agreement. And it's hard to imagine what North Korea could do to convince John Bolton that they are being sincere about disarming. Even if they want to disarm, he would never believe they're doing it. So it seems to me what they're basically doing is signaling to President Trump, hey, if you want your Nobel Peace Prize, you have to shove Bolton to the side. Don't listen to the hardliners, go with me. And that seems to be how they're trying to manipulate U.S. politics.
BOLDUAN: There you go. You can weigh it. Nobel Peace Prize or John Bolton, your choice.
Max, Kelly, thanks for coming in. I appreciate it.
BOOT: Thank you.
BOLDUAN: President Trump, coming up for us also today, is talking about China. In a series of tweets, he dismissed criticism that he was caving to China's trade demands to save China's telecommunications company, ZTE, and says that nothing has happened with ZTE yet. It hasn't happened so there's nothing to worry about.
CNN's Maggie Lake is at the New York Stock Exchange with much more on all of this.
Maggie, how are the markets reacting to all of this back and forth and quite a bit of confusion with regard to China and trade?
MAGGIE LAKE, CNN MONEY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, nothing to worry about. Tell that to the market. Kate, there's a lot of confusion and concern, frankly, that exactly what the trade policy is coming from the Trump administration. And it really falls into two camps. First, there are the industry groups, company executives and agriculture, and retail manufacturing, who remain concerned about the threat of punitive tariffs. And then there are others. We're hearing more from them lately, economists and analysts who think that Trump may get a deal and get concessions from the Chinese, but in order to do that, he'll give away too much when it comes to technology and intellectual property. And that's the back and forth on ZTE fits in and really feeds into that worry. So a lot of headline risk out there with trade and with the rising interest rates. And that's weighing on stocks, even though we had really good earnings coming through for Macy's today. We had a list at the beginning kind of flat and directionless. Now, certainly a lot of crosscurrents.
And we'll catch up with Bob Nardelli, who is the former CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler, to talk about the Trump administration's policies and the direction of the markets, coming up in the next hour, at 12:45, on "MARKET NOW" over on CNNmoney.com.
BOLDUAN: Trying to keep track of it all exactly.
Great to see you, Maggie. Thank you so much. Really appreciate it.
Right now, on Capitol Hill, embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is facing a grilling over questionable spending and many, many ethical concerns. He's facing now, I think last time we checked, it was 11 investigations by the inspector general of the EPA. We will go live to Capitol Hill to hear the very latest.
[11:53:14] BOLDUAN: Embattled EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is back on Capitol Hill today and he's being grilled right now by Senators about his spending at the department and the laundry list of ethics investigations he's been facing since taking office. For weeks, Pruitt has been at the center of a series of controversies, from his first-class travel to his 24/7 security detail, and a whole bunch of stuff in between.
CNN's Rene Marsh is joining me right now.
Rene, it feels like Scott Pruitt keeps getting called up to Capitol Hill to answer to more and more questions being raised about how he's running the department. What's he saying today?
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION & GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely right. That two-hour hearing just wrapped up a few minutes ago. Keep in mind, this was a budget hearing for fiscal year 2019. But a large focus of this was on Pruitt's ethics scandals. And I'll tell you, Kate, it was quite something to watch. As Pruitt gave his opening statement, protesters stood up behind him holding signs that said, "Fire him." Senator Patrick Leahy slammed Pruitt's security excuse for flying first class on the taxpayers' dime, saying, quote, "What a silly reason to fly first class. Nobody even knows who you are."
And there's more. There was a very stunning moment this morning. Despite 12 federal probes into Pruitt's conduct, that he essentially appeared defiant today, pointing out all the good regulatory work he's done and saying a lot of the scandals were unfounded and exaggerated. But here was another very stunning moment this morning at this hearing. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. TOM UDALL, (D), NEW MEXICO: Let's get the record straight. Did your security detail use sirens while you were in the car for non- emergencies, yes or no? Yes or no?
SCOTT PRUITT, DIRECTOR, EPA: Let's do this.
UDALL: Yes or no?
[11:55:00] PRUITT: There are policies in place that governs the use of lights. Those policies were followed to the best of my knowledge by each of the agents that serve me.
UDALL: Here we go.
There have been reports that you encouraged the use of lights and sirens on your motorcade, even though there wasn't an emergency. Is that true?
PRUITT: I don't recall that. I don't recall that happening, Ranking Member Udall.
UDALL: You went shopping --
PRUITT: There are policies that the agency follows, the agents follow, and to my knowledge, they followed it in all instances.
UDALL: And you personally requested that the sirens and the flashing lights occur, is that right?
PRUITT: I think I've just indicated that the agency followed those policies to the best of my knowledge.
UDALL: That you personally requested that on a number of trips?
PRUITT: That's -- no, I don't recall that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARSH: Democratic Senator Tom Udall fact-checked him on the spot, pulling out an e-mail from Pruitt's head of security at the time. And the e-mail plainly stated, Kate, that Pruitt, quote, "encourages the use of lights and sirens." So definitely contradicts what you just heard there.
BOLDUAN: Facts are a tough thing.
Great to see you, Rene. Thanks so much.
Coming up, we'll hear from President Trump in the Oval Office for the first time since North Korea threatened to walk away from the big summit that he's planning. What will President Trump say about it?