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Trump to Meet with DOJ And GOP Lawmakers Thursday; Trump Says No Deal Yet on ZTE Called an Intel Threat; Rubio Says China Out- Negotiating Trump on Trade; Pompeo Will Do What He Can to Make North Korea Summit Happen. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 22, 2018 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Who want this information from the DOJ. and the Democrats are saying no, you shouldn't be turning over your confident information and confidential source. Somebody asked Sarah are Democrats invited to this meeting? She said we'll keep you posted but nobody's shown interest. Shouldn't the meeting be bipartisan?

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST: It should be but before we get that deep in the weeds, let's look at this meeting for what it is, which is a red herring in which the president of the United States once again has tried to introduce the idea that he is the victim of a deep state conspiracy of which the FBI investigation, the Mueller investigation has been tainted by efforts to persecute him instead of to try to find out what happened with the Russians and indeed other matters that the special prosecutor is charged with investigating.

So now we have this meeting to investigate the investigators that has been demanded by the president of United States who is himself the subject of the investigation. That's the bottom line here. Who attends this red herring of a meeting is much less important than his intervention. The Democrats might well be admitted and get to see this information, but what we are witnessing is the president trying to put on a parallel and equal split screen track investigate the investigators, not the Russians what they did, not the possibility of collusion and it is all part of a coverup.

And it remains to be seen whether he will let this investigation go forward to its conclusion, an investigation which, as I've indicated by reading Chris Christie's comments is making real progress according to Mr. Christie. I think that's the kind of things that Republicans in particular ought to pay attention to rather than the notion of a deep state conspiracy of which there is no evidence that it exists.

BALDWIN: Stay with me, Carl. Joseph Moreno, former DOJ prosecutor and former national security prosecutor also with us as well. The DOJ expanded this inquiry into the source after Trump demanded it. Did the DOJ's response enable or diffuse the situation in right move or wrong move?

JOSEPH MORENO, FORMER DOJ PROSECUTOR: It's hard to say, Brooke. I remain confident in our institutions at the Department of Justice, I remain confident in Rod Rosenstein, and Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General, and Chris Wray at the FBI. And I hope if they were being asked to do something improper that they would push back. That's one of the last sets of individuals that I still think we can have tremendous confidence in. I think as a trip wire, hopefully that's still in tact. I mean, the president is head of the executive branch there's nothing with implicitly wrong of him asking his department to investigate an allegation of something that could have gone wrong. That being said, as we know this is not a president who's going to sit idly by and let this investigation unfold. It's a distraction. Mr. Bernstein is right. It's a red herring and a way to distract from the underlying subject matter.

BALDWIN: Are you saying the deputy attorney general felt he wasn't being asked anything improper?

MORENO: I have to think if he were, knowing Rod Rosenstein, he must have pushed back. He must have made a decision that what he was doing was still within the realms of appropriateness. It probably will not play out to anything. It probably will not bear any fruit, but it's probably not improper, at least at this stage. I have to think he made that determination.

BERNSTEIN: I think we need to look at the question once again of Rosenstein trying desperately to protect this investigation. And say, all right, Mr. President, I will call this meeting. We'll take a look at this because if he doesn't, he's subject to being fired by the president of the United States. That's the underlying theme here. And of course, the president has the authority to fire him for good or ill. Whether it's an obstruction of justice if he fires him is another question. We keep coming back also in this discussion to the question of what the president indicated would be a spy, quote, in his campaign as opposed to what the FBI calls confidential informant.

BALDWIN: Confidential sources.

BERNSTEIN: Confidential informants or sources. I've looked at many investigations by the FBI in my career. They are riddled confidential sources and informants. And the job of those people and often they are not choirboys and choir girls, is to obtain information relevant to the purpose of the investigation. Thus, the person that has been alleged to be a spy, quote, the confidential source, his purpose and task from what we know was to find out through questioning, whatever means seems appropriate of some people in the Trump campaign, even perhaps leading them on with some questions, to find out whether there were some nefarious dealings with foreign powers.

[15:35:00] That's what this is about, and my guess is that is what Rod Rosenstein is going to see developed at this meeting. But indeed, this is another opportunity, we got to see very clearly the president of the United States has been very successful, maybe 45 percent of the people of this country believe that this investigation is a witch hunt depending on how accurate those polls are by a few percentage points.

There is no evidence that this is a witch hunt and yet we have a whole political party going along with the fiction of which hunt because, one, that political party in Congress is afraid of President Trump's base and won't contravene that base. And, two, they are demonstrating that they're not interested in the truth of what happened here, they're interested in their ideological and partisan success at the expense of the rule of law in the national interest and the common good. And it will be for history to judge whether or not they were right in their actions.

BALDWIN: Carl Bernstein, thank you. Joe Moreno, thank you as well. Coming up, President Trump is laying out deals with a Chinese telecom company that we'll discuss whether the president also won this round. President Trump now saying his summit for North Korea which is set for next month may or may not happen. What's the story behind this challenge coin, this is what Sarah Sanders was asked about and said the White House had nothing to do with it. Did someone print this too soon? Coming up.

[15:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: President Trump is denying reports that the U.S. and China have reached a deal that would save this controversial Chinese tech firm called ZTE. According to "The Wall Street Journal" these two nations have agreed on this broad outline of a deal to settle this trade dispute. If it goes through "The Wall Street Journal" reports that the U.S. would lift a crippling sales ban on ZTE. And call for management changes and ZTE would possibly face big fines. While Trump is facing criticism for even negotiating a deal, he says it will help American companies.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We caught them doing bad things. We caught them. Not anybody else. We caught them doing bad things and we essentially made it so difficult that it was shut down. By shutting them down, we're hurting a lot of American companies, really good American companies. And I will tell you, don't think that we didn't hear from them by shutting down this massive phone company. So, what I envision is a very large fine of more than a billion dollars, could be a billion-three. I envision a new management, new board and very strict security rules and I also envision that they will have to buy a big percentage of their parts and equipment from American companies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now CNN senior economics analyst Stephen Moore back with us, a former Trump economic adviser. And also, with CNN political commentator Peter Beinart. Peter, listening to the president that this would benefit American companies, is that spin or is it truth?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: What's bizarre about it is it really completely contradicts the broader argument he's been making, if you think about the argument for steel or aluminum tariffs. There are lots of U.S. companies that are hurt by the fact that they would have to pay more for steel and aluminum. Think about car manufacturers for instance if they can't get price for those components of what they make overseas. The logic that Trump is offering that we need to help this Chinese company because they sell things to American companies is exactly the logic his critics were using against his protectionist policies generally.

BALDWIN: Marco Rubio for one, Republican, calling out the president's deal making ability. You have Chuck Schumer saying president got played. This is the type of insult that will no doubt infuriate President Trump. This has been one of his signature issues for decades and these are the reviews. Stephen Moore.

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: A couple of things. First of all, Donald Trump is the first president in a long time to take on China in a very frontal way and stand toe to toe with Beijing and say no more. We know they've been cheating we know they've been stealing to the tune of about $300 billion to $400 billion a year. I'm a free trade guy as Peter knows but I believe it is time that we have a president that stands up to China and demands concessions from them.

Bringing this right up to date, I think ZTE is a poker chip in this grander negotiation, which is whether China will stand down and make concessions. The latest I'm hearing is that President Trump is getting frustrated that there has been not as much progress as we'd like to see that Beijing is stone walling right now and the big question ahead of us putting aside of ZTE issue is whether or not there will be these very large tariffs imposed on China as a way to punish them. That's on hold for now but I think it's only a slight reprieve. I think we're going to have to force China back to the bargaining table here. It's a big problem. We can't continue with them stealing and cheating.

[15:45:00] BALDWIN: Isn't this also zooming out Peter and we've been talking about North Korea in this impending summit, will it or won't it happen next month? China is a key player here. We're hearing from the U.S. administration that it's China who maybe influenced Kim Jong un in the last week or so to back off this potential for the summit. Would it explain how the president is behaving toward China and ZTE and tariffs to make sure this whole thing happens. You with me?

BEINART: Yes. I feel like Donald Trump seems not to recognize is that America doesn't have unlimited leverage over every country. Other countries have leverage over us. The most important thing you have to do in foreign policy has in life is to prioritize. What is most important for you?

If you pick fights with everybody simultaneously, you're not likely to win on any of them. And this is what we are seeing here. We can't continue this maximum pressure campaign on North Korea without Chinese help because they are North Korea's most important economic partner. If we're simultaneously picking a massive fight with them, get to the brink of a trade war, what do you think the impact of that going to be on our ability to get them to do what we want on North Korea? The president has to prioritize. That seems to be what he's unable to do.

MOORE: Let me just respond to that. First of all, North Korea is just a puppet regime. They do whatever Beijing tells them to.

BEINART: That's not true. No serious North Korea watcher would say that. MOORE: I believe they're a puppet regime. North Korea -- South Korea

is the only country they do business with. These are both big priorities. We have to denuclearize North Korea. We need to -- we can't stand down here. I think that's the point. There's too many people, I think, on the liberal side or basically --

BALDWIN: Gentlemen, for give me. Surprise, it's the secretary of state at the state department briefing. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Creating conditions such that the North Korea regime no longer threatens the world. Final thought, I gave some remarks yesterday on the president's strategy with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran and I think it's important that I reemphasize that the tasks that Iran needs to undertake aren't that difficult. I've seen reports that these are a fantasy and they can't happen, but we asked for things that are really very simple that, frankly, most nations in the world engage in.

We asked them to stop firing missiles into Riyadh. It's not a fantasy to imagine the Iranians not to fire missiles into another nation and threatening American lives that travel through that airport. It's not a fantasy to ask them to cease engaging in terror. These were all a set of demands, demands we put on the rest of the world. If it was the case that some other country in the middle east desired to build a nuclear weapons system, we would work to stop them, too. These are a set of simple requirements that the Iranian regime could quite easily comply with and it would benefit the Iranian people to an enormous extent. Frankly, what we laid out seemed like a pretty straight forward set of requirements that we would put on any country in the world, to stop maligning behavior that threatens its neighbors and other areas of the world. I will take a couple questions.

Yes, Matt, good to see you in Washington. Good to see you, too. I had to think where I was for a second.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's certainly not Pyongyang. That's for sure. Just on North Korea and the meetings today. We have just met but if you were a betting man, but if you were a betting man, what would you say the odds are this meeting actually coming off at the date and venue that's been set? Are you prepared to go back or to meet again, wherever, with Kim Jong un if that is decided -- if that's necessary to actually fully prepare for a summit?

[15:50:00] POMPEO: I'll take your second question first. Second one is we will do what it takes to make sure that this is a successful meeting, whether that's meeting with the North Koreans in some third country or whatever it may take. We are prepared, the president will ask us to ensure that we've done all we can to make sure that we have the real opportunity to have this historic successful outcome, and I'm not a betting man. I wouldn't care to predict whether it would happen, only to predict that we'll be ready in the event that it does.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, thanks very much. There were reports that when you met with Kim Jong-un you were looking at a sunset and he allegedly said won't it be great if there were American hotels lining the scene. Do you believe that he's open to the idea of American investment in North Korea and can you also give us your thoughts on what would explain the change in tone from North Korea, the president said he thought China had something to do with this?

POMPEO: You mean the tone -- this past week?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the past week.

POMPEO: The trajectory. No, I'm not going talk about that -- speculate about that and we're continuing to do our work and lay the foundation for a successful meeting and I'm confident we'll get there. With respect to Chairman Kim, I haven't spoken publicly about the conversations we've had. They were between he and I. But I do have a real sense that he would -- he would find American investment and American technology and know-how of real value to his people and it is something that he and I had a chance to speak about generally. And I do think -- I do think it is something if we get this right and we get the denuclearization right, that America would be quite capable of delivering them with lots of things that would make life better for the North Korean people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. The South Korea government put the chances -- not talking specific numbers but at 99 percent --

POMPEO: I heard that. I heard they said 99 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there something that gave President Trump pause in direct conversation that this government had with the North Koreans and how would you describe since you've left Pyongyang what kind of communication the United States has had with the government of North Korea?

POMPEO: I couldn't characterize that. If anything is giving us pause, Chairman Kim asked for the meeting. President Trump agreed to undertake it. We worked to find the date and location and got those set and since then we're driving on. It is clear, we're working to make sure that there is a common understanding about the contents of what will be discussed. But I'm optimistic. But again, it could be something that comes right to the end and doesn't happen, as the president said we'll see and that is the place that we find ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, the president said -- thank you. The president said that the summit might be delayed. Are you discussing now the -- the possible new date or it being delayed with the North Koreans and what are the issues that would prevent it to be on June 12th? Are there logistical or things you want to discuss with them?

POMPEO: We're still working toward June 12th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're discussing this with them?

POMPEO: We're working toward June 12th.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, if I could turn to Iran, in your speech yesterday you talked about this unprecedented financial pressure that you want to bear on Iran. I think your critics when they bring up the idea of a fantasy they say it is because the Europeans won't go along with you on the sanctions and therefore you can't re-create this tremendous financial pressure. What do you say to those critics? How do you get the Europeans to go along and then others like China or Russia who continue to abide by the agreement?

POMPEO: It is straightforward. This is a global challenge, this is a global challenge. I mentioned in my remarks yesterday, Quds Force assassinations in European countries. This is a shared threat across the world and I'm confident that we can collectively develop a diplomatic response that achieves the simple outcomes -- we wouldn't tolerate Iceland doing what the Iranians are doing. We wouldn't tolerate Chad -- I'm tripping through the alphabet.

[15:55:00] We wouldn't tolerate another nation behaving with terrorist activity by putting proxy forces that threaten Americans in Iraq -- the list is wrong. We wouldn't tolerate that. If someone created the equivalent of Hezbollah, would we sit by? We wouldn't? Neither would the Europeans. Neither will the other Arab countries. Russia and China don't see that as a positive impact around the world either. So, I'm confident there is a set of overlapping values and interests that will drive us to the same conclusion about the need to respond to the Islamic Republican of Iran's threats to the world --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to move along.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we could just go back to the president's comments discussing China and he was -- he caused some alarm when he spoke about Xi's second meeting with Kim Jong-un and do you know any more about that meeting and why he's so hesitant to say the Chinese were helpful in that meeting.

POMPEO: I don't have anything to add to what the president said there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are the Chinese helping push forward the U.S. and Kim Jong-un summit? Can you talk about that role?

POMPEO: The Chinese have offered historic assistance in the pressure campaign. Literally historic assistance. President Trump made clear and I have, too, it is central that the pressure remain in place and that China continue to participate in the pressure campaign and we have ever reason to expect they will continue to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Rouhani said yesterday that he questioned, who are you to tell another nation what to do in its foreign policy. Who are you to tell them, and what response do you have to him?

POMPEO: I didn't see those remarks. The Iranian people get to choose. The Iranian people get to choose the kind of leadership and the kind of government they want. They get to choose the individuals who lead their country and then they get to live with the choices that those leaders make. I wasn't describing what Mr. Rouhani should do or what Mr. Zarif should do. I was only articulating what America intends to so. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. So my question on

Iranian hostage, yesterday you mentioned that the government is working very hard to bring the American hostage home. Could you please give us an update and elaborate what effort is underway giving the frosty relations --

POMPEO: Yes, I suppose one might have two months ago described the relationship of the United States and DPRK as frosty and we returned three Americans. We almost always have our citizens detained by countries that aren't friendly to us. We work -- we work to find mechanisms that deliver these important outcomes. I've talked to many family members and I know how central that is. You can rest assured that not only is the State Department but the entire United States government working diligently to bring each -- I mentioned a handful of names yesterday. There are more around the world. I didn't identify them yesterday in the remarks. You should know we're working diligently along every avenue that we can develop to get these folks to return back home. Back to their families. I'll take one more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thanks. I'm trying to make this worth our time. On Iran --

POMPEO: That would be useful.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since it is our last question. The demands, whatever you want to call them, that you laid out for Iran yesterday, it seems like -- partially because you laid them out and because of what they are, there is not much room for negotiation, if any, on any of those. Would you agree with that and because of the way that was put out there, what makes you think that Iran is going to be willing to work with the U.S. on this, if it is sanctions won't that take a very long time at this point?

POMPEO: I don't know which of those demands, but should we allow them to be terrorists? Is that when we should compromise on? How many missiles are they allowed to fire. The answer is -- the benchmark I set forth yesterday is very low standard, the behavior we expect from countries around the world. There aren't a special set of rules we set forward for Iran and we simply asked them to behave the way normal nonbelligerent countries behave. That's it. It's simple.

[16:00:00] There's not a special category of people who are permitted to fire missiles into Riyadh. We just asked him to behave like a normal nation. And so, I have every reason to think that the Iranian people want that for their country as well. This is a -- this is rich country with a deep civilization and a wonderful history. And I'm convinced that the people of Iran when they can see a path forward, which will lead their country to stop behaving in this way, will choose that path. Thank you all. I look forward to seeing you down here. Everybody, have a good day.

BALDWIN: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo making headlines both on Iran and North Korea. Barbara Starr, I have you for 30 seconds, your takeaway.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I think he is speaking partially to the people of Iran and hopes they hear him and hear a reasonable message in his view from the United States so he's talking to the people of Iran. On North Korea, he's talking to Kim Jong-un. I think he is telling Kim, stick with us, stick with the summit, it will be OK. That we believe that we can make a deal happen. There was doubt earlier today from Trump, Secretary Pompeo trying to be more positive about it all.

BALDWIN: And we are working toward June 12th and that date for the summit. Barbara, thank you. And thanks for being with me, "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.