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THE SITUATION ROOM
CNN: Special Counsel And Trump's Lawyers Discussed January Date For Presidential Interview With Mueller; Trump Touts Military Might After Canceling Kim Summit, Says U.S. Ready If North Korea Commits Foolish Acts; Lava Surging From Fissures Around Volcano. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 24, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Summit collapse. President Trump suddenly pulls the plug on a planned summit with Kim Jong-un, warning that the U.S. military is ready if North Korea does anything foolish. So what went wrong? We'll go live to North Korea.
[17:00:19] Classified briefings. Congressional leaders are briefed on the confidential FBI source who contacted Trump campaign aides as part of the Russia investigation. Democrats say there was no evidence shown to back the president's claim of spying.
Volcano destruction. Rivers of red-hot lava surge from fissures around Hawaii's erupting volcano, putting lives and property at risk. We have extraordinary new images.
And walking away. President Trump went all out to arrange a summit with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Why is he now walking away from what could have been a history-making event? Does it have anything to do with his art of the deal?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, President Trump is touting U.S. military might right now, warning North Korea not to do anything foolish or reckless after his surprise cancelation of a planned summit with Kim Jong-un. But in an exchange of harsh rhetoric, the president is open to future talks, saying he's waiting if Kim decides to, quote, "do what is right."
I'll speak with Jake Sullivan, who advised former Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. And our correspondents and specialists, they're standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with the breaking news as President Trump scrubs his summit with Kim Jong-un.
Let's go straight to our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, what are you learning about this sudden move?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a senior White House official is saying tonight that the summit was canceled by the president after a string of broken promises, with the name calling of Vice President Pence and the threat of nuclear war, the most recent North Korea statement being the final straw.
But despite that, Wolf, the president is still keeping the door open for the summit to happen down the road.
BROWN (voice-over): President Trump canceling his would-be historic summit with North Korea today.
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Based on the recent statement of North Korea, I've decided to terminate the planned summit in Singapore on June 12.
BROWN: Warning that if North Korea were to retaliate, the U.S. military is standing by to respond.
TRUMP: Hopefully positive things will be taking place with respect to the future of North Korea. But if they don't, we are more ready than we have ever been before.
BROWN: In a meeting with South Korean President Moon earlier this week, Trump hinted the summit may not happen on its original time line.
TRUMP: It may not work out for June 12, but there's a good chance that we'll have the meeting.
BROWN: But the real trouble started Wednesday night, when North Korea's vice minister of foreign affairs released a statement calling Vice President Pence "a political dummy," and saying, "Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear to nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States." The insult targeting Pence, coming after his Monday interview with FOX News, where the vice president brought up the Libya model.
MIKE PENCE (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn't make a deal.
BROWN: In that case, after agreeing to disarm, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed several years later.
Sources say Trump and his aides were infuriated by North Korea's statement on Pence, and one senior official said the threat of nuclear war was the final straw. A U.S. delegation in Singapore making final preparations for the summit was stood up by its North Korean counterparts last week, and the North Koreans went silent amid attempts to discuss the summit's agenda.
A source telling CNN the president made the decision to cancel the summit this morning. The news delivered in a hand-signed letter that an official says was dictated by Trump. It boasted of the United States' nuclear prowess. "You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used." And called the missed summit "a truly sad moment in history."
The president saying today he had a wonderful dialogue with Kim Jong- un, starting with the return of three detainees from North Korea.
TRUMP: The dialogue was good until recently. And I think I understand why that happened.
BROWN: Anticipation for the summit had been building for weeks.
TRUMP: I'll be meeting with Kim Jong-un to pursue a future of peace and security for the world, for the whole world.
BROWN: With crowds chanting for Trump to win a Nobel Prize.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!
TRUMP: That's very nice. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you deserve the Nobel Prize, do you think?
[17:05:00] TRUMP: Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it.
BROWN: But today Trump leaving the door open for a summit in the future.
TRUMP: It's possible that the existing summit could take place or a summit at some later date. Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right.
BROWN: But only if North Korea agrees to denuclearize.
TRUMP: That bright and beautiful future can only happen when the threat of nuclear weapons is removed. No way it can happen otherwise. If and when Kim Jong-un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting.
BROWN: And the senior White House official saying tonight that, in order for the summit to be put back on, that the administration would need to see the opposite from North Korea than it has seen in this past week. But what is clear, Wolf, is that President Trump does want this summit to happen eventually, even if it doesn't happen on June 12 as originally planned -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Pamela. Thank you. Pamela Brown at the White House.
There's more breaking news tied to the investigation of Russia's election meddling. In a pair of meetings, intelligence officials have briefed congressional leaders on the confidential source used by the FBI to contact Trump campaign figures. President Trump has been crying conspiracy, calling that source a spy, and in a very surprising move, a White House lawyer was at the meetings.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju. Manu, how did the meetings go? Did Republicans get what they wanted?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Republicans have been silent since leaving this meeting, Wolf. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would not answer questions. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr left in an opposite way from where reporters were standing, avoiding reporters at all. And House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, one on the forefront, pushing this issue, questioning whether or not there was, in fact, a spy implanted by the FBI to spy on the Trump campaign, he has yet to issue a statement and would not answer questions about what he heard in two briefings that he attended today.
But Democrats, on the other hand, who did attend the hearing have a different view. They view that what they heard from these classified briefings does not substantiate what the president has been alleging for the last several days, that there was someone in the Trump campaign spying on the campaign and reporting that information back to the FBI and the intelligence community.
Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee, who did attend two briefings on this issue today, came out and made that case to reporters just moments ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, before the briefing, House Speaker Paul Ryan talked about this issue, as well. I had a chance to ask him directly, does he believe what the president has been saying, that there was a spy implanted in the campaign and that perhaps this is the biggest political scandal in history?
And the speaker sidestepped the question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Is it appropriate for the president to float the notion of spies implanted in his campaign, and this could be the biggest political scandal in history, without having any evidence to support that notion?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Look, we know Russia meddled in our election. We know that there was an effort to get to the bottom of that. And we're going to find out how all that took place. A lot of this is classified. So I'm just going to leave it at that. We're going to have more briefings on just this today.
RAJU: Do you honestly believe that there were spies --
RYAN: I don't know the answer to that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: So after the briefing, Ryan did put out a statement saying that he believes that there was a valid reason to ask for this information because of congressional oversight, which he said is essential in dealing with the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, needs to get questions -- answers to their questions.
But he would not get into the substance, at least not in that statement, saying that that issue is classified and he did not want to get into the merits of the argument. So a big question going forward is whether or not the Republicans or the White House got any information that they believed could substantiate what the president has been making, some major allegations over the last several days here, Wolf.
BLITZER: Why, Manu, was the new White House attorney, Emmet Flood, at that intelligence briefing?
RAJU: Well, it's -- it's still an open question about his appearance there. There was -- he was not on the list of attendees when the Justice Department put out that list last night. And initially, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that there would be no White House official at this meeting at all. But not only did Emmet Flood appear but also John Kelly, the White House chief of staff.
Now, Flood's appearance raised a lot of eyebrows, because he has been involved in the Russia investigation. So there were a lot of questions about whether he was trying to get any information that could help their case against Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
[17:10:06] Now, the White House did put out a statement belatedly, after Flood was spotted at these two separate briefings, saying that he actually did not attend the full briefing. It said that "Neither Chief Kelly nor Mr. Flood actually attended the meeting, but they did make brief remarks before the meeting." And they said that he conveyed the president's message for as much openness as possible and they said he emphasized the need to protect human sources.
But still a lot of questions, Wolf, about why he needed to come, both to Capitol Hill and the Justice Department, to make that case to these members, even if it was before the meeting actually got into the details.
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee came out afterwards and said this, Wolf. He said, "Never seen a Gang of Eight meeting that included any presence from the White House. Those individuals left before the substance of it. Unusual times." So it seems that he -- Warner agrees that they didn't see any -- hear
any the details, the merits of the president's concerns. But rather unusual, in the words of Senator Warner, to have a White House official, but particularly dealing with such a sensitive issue, to attend a meeting like this, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu. Thanks very much. Manu Raju reporting from Capitol Hill.
Joining us now, Jake Sullivan. He was an adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden; also, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Jake, thanks very much for coming in.
JAKE SULLIVAN, FORMER ADVISOR TO BIDEN/CLINTON: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: I'll get to the briefing in a moment. Let's start with North Korea, the cancelation of the summit scheduled for June 12; now off. Do you think calling off the summit -- the president did that this morning -- was the right decision?
SULLIVAN: Well, it's really hard to answer that question. Am I glad that Donald Trump didn't go to Singapore and meet with Kim Jong-un and have it all blow up in his face and end in spectacular failure? Yes. I'm glad he didn't do that.
On the other hand, should he have not made an impulsive and rash decision, with no preparation to announce the summit in the first place? No. He shouldn't have.
So he's gotten himself into a situation that was not just predictable, it was predicted by the exact experts who said all of the obstacles that they've now encountered are going to come up, the same experts Donald Trump dismissed.
So hopefully, going forward, the president and his team will actually try to prepare, try to be sober, try to be consistent and not do this erratic zigging and zagging that we've seen.
BLITZER: Because it's interesting. Yesterday afternoon, out on Long Island, the president taped an interview with FOX News that aired this morning; and in that interview the president said there was, quote, "a good chance" the summit with Kim Jong-un would happen. He said that yesterday afternoon. It aired this morning. And just a few hours later, the president canceled it. That's pretty quick.
SULLIVAN: Well, it's clear that this was basically another spur-of- the-moment decision because, first, he didn't contact our close ally, South Korea, and let them know, or Japan for that matter, that he was canceling the summit.
Second, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, seemed a bit off-guard this morning in his testimony before the Congress, as though he wasn't quite prepared to answer follow-up questions about why this had happened. And third, I think Donald Trump was legitimately getting worried that it was possible that North Korea itself would pull out, and he wanted to pull the kind of "You can't fire me; I quit" move which I think is part of what is behind his decision.
BLITZER: Because you heard Pamela Brown's report, White House officials saying that there was an advance team that showed up in Singapore last week to coordinate, go through all the logistics. The North Koreans never showed up. And then Pompeo apparently couldn't get his phone calls from his contacts of North Korea returned.
The president in recent days has also suggested China may have played a role. He said that following the second meeting between Kim Jong-un and Chinese President Xi, the North Korean attitude changed a bit. The North Korea-South Korea -- North Korea, excuse me, China border was more porous, he said. He seemed to be laying at least some of the blame on China.
SULLIVAN: Well, this goes back to his decision to move quickly to having this summit diplomacy. He did that at a moment he was going around touting maximum pressure. And in fact, I gave him credit. I gave the Trump administration credit for having built up these sanctions and squeezed North Korea economically. That relied on China following through.
As soon as Trump said, "Hey, I'm going to sit down and meet with Kim Jong-un." That was an invitation to the Chinese to basically let their foot off the gas, and that's what happened.
If you don't plan for that, if you don't have a systematic strategy to be able to deal with that, which the Trump administration didn't, this is where you end up: in a situation where you don't have a meeting and where the sanctions are weaker, because both China and South Korea have started opening up economically to North Korea.
BLITZER: In that letter to the North Korean leader, the president supposedly dictated every word. It had clearly his earmarks. What do -- you read that letter carefully. It raised the possibility of maybe you could meet down the road. But it also had a pretty direct threat to North Korea: "The U.S. has the greatest nuclear power in the world."
SULLIVAN: Right. The letter's interesting, because it clearly reflects a president who wants to have this meeting at some point, who's frustrated by the fact that it turns out diplomacy is hard.
[17:15:06] But it's also a president who has a certain -- you know, he's got his back up a bit. And so he just sticks in the middle of an otherwise kind of friendly letter this incredibly grave threat of nuclear annihilation.
Again, this is more of the inconstancy, inconsistency that we just need to move beyond. We need Mike Pompeo and the team around Trump to get their hands around this policy and do their best to try to move it forward in lockstep with our allies. BLITZER: Does the cancelation of the summit raise the possibility --
and all of us hope it doesn't -- but do you believe it raises the possibility, increases the possibility of some sort of military confrontation?
SULLIVAN: It certainly increases it. The fact that we were on a diplomatic path was a positive thing. And even those of us who criticize Donald Trump were positive about the fact that they were pursuing diplomacy.
Bow that they've canceled the summit and done so while threatening the possibility of nuclear annihilation, this could prompt a tit for tat that could easily lead to a military escalation. Let's hope that what President Trump said today, which is that he'd like to get back to the table, is the way that they to go. Not with Trump flying off to meet with Kim Jong-un immediately, but with his team starting painstakingly doing the hard work of diplomacy that before they said, "Oh, that's just the old way of doing things." This is what's required in order to avoid this.
BLITZER: You heard the North Koreans blame John Bolton, the national security advisor, and the vice president, Mike Pence, for raising the so-called Libyan option. And they're very concerned about that. We all know what happened to Gadhafi in the end. Do they have some -- do you think the North Koreans serious about that or using that as an excuse.
SULLIVAN: No. I think this is something that strikes deep at the core of the North Korean psyche and especially Kim Jong-un's psyche.
The idea that he would potentially give up his nuclear weapons and then end up being killed as a result of it is probably the dominant theme of his decision making about his nuclear program. So to have John Bolton raise that, then to have Trump walk it back, and then to have Pence double down on it, that was not particularly coordinated messaging on our side, and it was like a red flag with a bull to Donald Trump -- to Kim Jong-un.
BLITZER: As you know, President Trump won the election, in part, because he said he was unpredictable, he would have a different kind of foreign policy. He would do things very differently.
Does anything he's done so far on foreign policy -- and that's your area of expertise -- has anything on that front shown benefits?
SULLIVAN: I can't say yet. I mean, there have been three areas where he's decided to make really dramatic moves.
On Iran, ripping up the Iran deal. On China, threatening $150 billion in tariffs. And then on North Korea with "fire and fury" and Little Rocket Man. If you look at the ledger on all three of those things, right now on Iran, he can't even wrangle our allies to help us out with it. On China, he ended up backing down last week. And on North Korea, now he's canceled the summit.
But look, we all have to be Americans. We all have to root for this White House learning some lessons from this, recognizing that the best way forward now is not just to rely on the mythical deal making of Donald Trump but to rely on professional diplomats to help us get the job done.
BLITZER: On the Iran nuclear deal, which the United States walked away from, as you know, can the Europeans and China and Russia, who still support that Iran nuclear deal, can they preserve it without U.S. support?
SULLIVAN: I think it will be very difficult for Europe to resist American sanctions pressure. European companies and banks aren't going to want to trade with Iran instead of trading with the United States but they're going to drag their feet and make it more difficult to implement the sanctions. And I do think the Chinese will very much resist following through on American sanctions.
And here's the thing, Wolf. These two issues are connected, North Korea and Iran. Because now the United States is going to go to China and say not only do you have to do a whole bunch of stuff for us on Iran, but you've got to do a whole bunch of stuff for us on North Korea again, as well as a whole bunch of stuff on trade, and one of those things is going to give. It may be Iran. It may be North Korea or it may be trade. But we're not going to get them all.
BLITZER: Let's talk about these very, very highly-classified, very sensitive briefings, two briefings today that the Justice Department had for members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans.
As you know, the president has asked the Justice Department to investigate if any members of the Obama administration -- and you served in the Obama administration -- used an FBI confidential source to spy on the Trump presidential campaign, to spy for political purposes. What's your reaction to that?
SULLIVAN: My reaction is that this has been entirely cooked up, and it is not based on any evidence. And as you heard from Adam Schiff today, having sat in that classified briefing --
BLITZER: He sat on both of them.
SULLIVAN: He heard directly from the FBI and the intelligence community, and he came out and said, "We heard nothing to substantiate this claim of a spy."
What has happened here is the FBI got concerned that there was potential coordination or contacts between Russian government officials and members of the Trump campaign. Naturally, they opened a counterintelligence investigation. You had to investigate that like you would investigate any other potential breach by a hostile foreign power, and so far, everything we have learned about that is that they followed the appropriate protocol.
[17:20:17] BLITZER: Why do you think the White House orchestrated these two briefings today?
SULLIVAN: I think that they're trying to throw as much mud and dirt up in the air, toss around the word "spy," shout "no collusion" from the rooftops, all in an effort to undermine and discredit not just Bob Mueller's investigation but the hard-working men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the intelligence community. They'll bring the whole house down with them if they have to.
And I think the problem with that is that America relies on these folks to keep us safe, and if the president's undercutting them at every turn in order to distract from this investigation, that will do long-term damage to our democracy.
BLITZER: I want you to listen to what James Clapper, retired General James Clapper, former head of the director of national intelligence, told our Dana Bash last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The parallelism between what the Trump campaign was doing and saying and what the Russians were doing and saying -- doing and saying was remarkably parallel. Particularly, when it came to attacks on Hillary Clinton, all her alleged physical and mental maladies. And there was almost an echo chamber between the two.
Now, again, I've got to make clear. I'm not saying there was collusion there but just the appearance of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So you worked on the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. What do you think?
SULLIVAN: It was an echo chamber. It really was an echo chamber.
BLITZER: Explain what you mean by this.
SULLIVAN: So the Trump campaign, first of all, would literally go out and read from the very WikiLeaks documents that the Russians had hacked, stolen and then published. So there's that level.
But then below that on various themes: on Hillary Clinton's corruption, Hillary Clinton's health, Hillary Clinton's lies, Hillary Clinton's this, that and the other thing, what "Sputnik" and "Russia Today," which are two Russian government propaganda machines basically, and the Trump campaign and their allies were putting out in terms of content and material echoed one another, reflected one another. They were driving the same messages to the same audiences.
And whether or not there was coordination in that is one thing. They may just have seen each other doing it and picked up on it. But at a minimum, there was common cause between these Russian propaganda outlets and the Trump campaign.
BLITZER: Jake Sullivan, thanks for coming in.
SULLIVAN: Thanks for having me. BLITZER: Up next, the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani says that the
summit has been killed, the White House legal team has more time now to weigh a possible interview with the special counsel, Robert Mueller.
And red-hot lava surging from deep, deep cracks around Hawaii's volcano. What lies in its path?
[17:27:22] BLITZER: There's more breaking news. The president's lawyers and Special Counsel Robert Mueller discussed a date for an interview with the president.
Let's bring in our justice correspondent Evan Perez and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, what are you guys learning?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, sometime in early to mid-January, the president's legal team sat down with the special counsel and, at that time, the president's legal team really wanted to get this investigation of the president over with. And so, they were talking about a potential interview.
And this special counsel suggested a date, Saturday, January 27. An interview that would last anywhere between four and five hours, we were told. And the president's team just kind of sat there and took it all in, and then when they got back together, they were actually to the point where they were thinking, "Where can we have this interview? Maybe we should have it at Camp David to keep it kind of private."
Eventually, though, on January 29, two days after the interview was supposed to take place, John Dowd, who was then the president's lead attorney, wrote them a 20-page letter saying absolutely not.
BLITZER: This is the attorney before Rudy Giuliani came into this scene.
BORGER: Right, exactly.
BLITZER: So there's a different set of attorneys, for all practical purposes.
BORGER: Well, no. Jay Sekulow was still -- was still an attorney then. But the point was that they actually came up with a date. They were seriously talking about an interview. And then it all fell apart. And one of the reasons was because the lawyers on Trump's side disagreed about what to do.
BLITZER: It's clear that Mueller's team, they wanted this interview back in January. Now it's May.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Exactly, Wolf. It really shows you how, perhaps, this is as close as they ever got. This is -- as far as we're told, this is the first time and the only time that they've actually discussed an actual date, which is January 27. It was a Saturday.
And there was a lot going on at that time, but there was certainly signs that the investigation was intensifying and the talks were intensifying, trying to find a way to -- to wrap this investigation up.
And, look, if it had gone ahead on January 27, as the discussion had decided, it's quite possible that all of this -- the obstruction investigation, all of this stuff might be behind us now.
The president, president's legal team is still -- obviously, still in negotiations with the special counsel, and as far as we can tell, they're now further away than they ever were in January from ever even getting to -- to an agreement on an interview. The most recent talks we've heard, we've heard that they've been trading proposals. And it just seems like they're further away now than they were in January which, again, they even had come up with some logistics of having it in Camp David.
BORGER: Yes, and, you know, what they got from Mueller -- and this is all verbally. This was not in any written proposal (INAUDIBLE). We were told kind of 16 subject areas. Now, we've heard of 49 questions, but these were -- at that point in January, 16 subject areas they'd like to question the President on. And the, you know, it seems to us in talking to our sources that the President's legal team was more inclined at that point to do it and then shifted. And then shifted and said, look, John Dowd, in particular who signed the letter to Mueller saying, you know what, a 20-page letter, here's why we're not going to do it.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I want to bring in our political and legal analyst. Joey Jackson, you're a legal analyst, what's your reaction?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN POLITICAL AND LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, the reaction I have is that this is not going to happen and the American people are being punked straight out. Now, think about this. Number one, Trump hates the investigation. Number two, he believes it undermines his presidency. Number three, he comes, what, up with conspiracy theories every other day, you know, as to the investigators and the investigation and discrediting the investigation. And what happens is that the legal people are in a box. Why are they in a box? In a box because you asked the President would you like to speak to the legal, you know, Mueller's team. I would really like to. Yes, I will.
And then, on the other hand, he says, well, people who exercise their Fifth Amendment Right, why would you do that? You have to be connected to the mob. The fact is that if I'm his lawyer, there's no upside at all to be sitting down with the investigators. There's just not. If you want to find collusion, you could find that from the President's principles, right? The people who work with the President, you can certainly establish that there's collusion based upon monitoring what if any contacts they had. If President Trump sits down with the special counsel, now, you can get to the issue of corrupt intent. Right? We need corrupt intent if you want to find obstruction. He gives him that because the only one, Wolf, who can tell us what he was thinking is him. So, you talked to him and you will get his intention. And then, you get to that other issue called perjury.
So, there's no upside to do it, but from a political perspective, there has to be wrangling and negotiations to look like you want to do it. But at the end of the day, I don't believe it's going to happen, whether it's the summit, we'll wait until after the summit, we'll do it a little bit later, now, we learn in January they were going to do it. It's just not going to happen and we have to come to the realization of that point.
BLITZER: But, Joey, what do you make -- you heard Gloria and Evan's reporting that Mueller already had a date in mind, January 27th. Already had a location in mind, Camp David. Already had a duration of the questioning, five hours or so, in mind. Those are pretty specific details.
JACKSON: Yes, well, but the only problem is that in any negotiation there are two sides. I mean, you know, there are a number of things that I have as it relates to my client. There's a wish list, I have dates, I have times, I have places, I have sandwiches, but at the end of the day, the other person has to be on board. And so, therefore, it goes to show if you had a date certain, you had a place certain, clearly, the White House was not interested. They wanted nothing to do with it. That was January 27th. We are going in to June. It has not happened and we're told it'll happen after the summit, it'll happen next week, it'll happen next year. It just is they're not inclined to do it, not -- and the -- and the President will hide behind the fact that his lawyers said that I shouldn't do it and I can't do it, but I really want to do it. He doesn't want to do it because you get to the issue of obstruction and you get to the issue of perjury, and the President has a real, real big problem with telling the truth.
BORGER: You know, I don't think that there was a clear demarcation, and all the President's lawyers agreed that they didn't want the President to do this. Because from our reporting, we have learned that there was disagreement about, in fact, you know, weighing, getting it over with quickly versus dragging it out. So, what should -- what should the lawyers do? And they finally came to the conclusion, and the President read the letter that John Dowd sent, we are told, and approved of it. So, they finally came to the conclusion, no, but --
PEREZ: Wait, remember, in January --
PEREZ: -- of this time, when this discussion is going on, the President was actually playing nice. If you -- if you look at the analysis, I think we have analyzed how many times he's using the word witch hunt around that time. He was not using it as much. He was certainly playing nice and sort of not attacking the investigation and the investigators as he's doing right now. So, I think there's definitely something that has changed. I think that between January and now.
BLITZER: Bianna, you know, the President -- the President's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, keep saying the President really wants to do this interview. He's my client. I got to keep my client -- he's making it sound like the President really wants to sit down with Mueller's team, but there's some problems.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: But as Evan just mentioned, a lot has transpired between January and today. You could call those the quieter days. Everything is relative, obviously. But remember what happened just two weeks after that, 13 Russians were indicted by Robert Mueller. Then, you had the Russian oligarchs a month later who were stopped at the airport.
[17:35:03] Obviously, the raid on Michael Cohen's office a month after that. And this was all happening before Stormy Daniels became a household name, and you're absolutely right to watch the President's ire and anger build between then and now, and the use of the words, witch hunt. The President was talking back then about possibly meeting with Bob Mueller openly.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: I've always thought -- contra Joey, I've always thought that the President want -- actually did want to do this because he valued the one-v-one nature of it. I know it's not just the two of them, but this idea that I'll show Bob Mueller. Everybody says Bob Mueller is so great. I'll show him. I know how to sit across the table from someone. This week is when I thought maybe not, and the reason is Giuliani, this week, has started to say, well, we'll see what we learn about this informant, and then that will -- that will inform whether we do this meeting or not. These are not apples and -- these are apples and oranges. The idea that what is learned about a thing that honestly Donald Trump, based on the facts we know, has literally made up the idea that there was a spy embedded in the campaign. Adam Schiff -- you were saying this early, Wolf -- Adam Schiff said, I saw this -- I was in both briefings. There's nothing we've learned that would suggest that everyone -- that CNN and everyone else (INAUDIBLE) is not the case. The idea that there's secret documents that need to be provided in order that he sit down, feels like putting a hurdle there that you know cannot be cleared so that you can say, well, we didn't clear this hurdle and now we have a reason not to do it.
BLITZER: You know, the only advantage I see for the President actually sitting down and answering questions from Robert Mueller and his team is it may speed up this whole investigation and it could be over if they had done it in January, maybe it would have been over by know.
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And you wonder, Wolf, if there's any regret on the part of the President, his advisers, that they didn't just get this over with in January. But as the President has made very clear publicly and privately that he does want this investigation over with. Even before he made that turn to really be antagonizing Mueller, taking him on in a very public fashion. The President wanted what he's called this cloud removed from his administration. He wanted to move on and be able to talk about things he wants to talk about and do the things he wants to do. You have to wonder, does he wish he had done that interview then so he isn't where he is now, calling this a witch hunt, and you know, because he made that turn publicly into saying this is a witch hunt, saying it's politically motivated, how does he now sit down with Robert Mueller and lend credibility to that investigation?
BLITZER: You know what, Joey, the fact is that had he done it in January, that was before the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's home, office, hotel room, safe deposit box, his long-time personal lawyer and fixer, it was before the whole Stormy Daniels story erupted as well, and he could have -- maybe he could have had it done before those two events.
JACKSON: Yes, he certainly could have. In the event that there was a willingness for him to do that. I think, look, there's a political issue here. The issue is that if you don't sit down, what's the appearance? It's a consciousness of guilt. If you have nothing to hide, go in and say, look, this is what I know. This is what I did, this is why I did it, and express yourself and explain. The President, however, again, has a penchant for fabrication. That's just a fact. And that puts him in some peril. He could lie. In the event he lies, he perjures himself.
Again, I say and I would argue with the lawyers in the room advising the President, if you're looking at the issue of intention, the only way to examine a mind is to ask the person who's making the decision. What is the basis for that decision? He gives them that. And so, yes, a lot has changed between January and May, but I will tell you in my view what will not change between May and this coming January and that's the President's movement to sitting down with the President -- with the special counsel and telling them what he knows.
BORGER: You know, and then, Evan and I were told in our reporting, that in fact, in the meeting with Mueller, Mueller made the case that Joey's making, which is, we need to sit down with the President in order to know his intent, and that is, of course, regarding the issue of obstruction.
BORGER: And that is the -- you know, and his lawyers argued back on constitutional grounds, and by the way, you have all the information you need because of the millions of pages of documents we've given you that -- and notes that were taken contemporaneously by people who were with the President at the time.
BLITZER: Great reporting Gloria, Evan. Appreciate it very much. Everybody, stick around. There's more news we're following including more breaking news. Look at this live pictures coming in from Hawaii right now. We're going there live. There are new developments. Stay with us.
[17:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: We're following major breaking news right now. President Trump canceling next month's summit meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un. The announcement came hours after North Korea made a big show of destroying some buildings and tunnels at its nuclear test site and a top North Korean officials scathing criticism of the United States. We're going to have a live report from North Korea coming up in just a little while. And our diplomatic and military experts are with us as we watch the story unfold. Let's start with CNN's Senior Diplomatic Correspondent Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, what are your sources telling you about what happened because the President seems to be setting mixed signals.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BLITZER: There could be a nuclear war, on the other hand, maybe there'll be a meeting?
KOSINSKI: You know, there have been mixed signals for the last several weeks. As the world tries to decipher what exactly is going on here, and this kind of reads like everybody's worst relationship. You have the initial giddy excitement, maybe rushing in a little too fast. And now you have last week, a U.S. team in Singapore stood up on a date by North Korea, then ghosted by North Korea. They're not even responding to U.S. overtures, and today, of course, culminating and name calling, a very awkward break-up letter. Oh, and by the way, the threat of using nuclear weapons. But even two weeks ago, sources of ours who talked to North Korea frequently said that they had major doubts that this was going to happen. Partly because of the comments over the Libya model.
[17:45:01] we know that that does bother North Korea deeply. But they feel the biggest issue has been and continues to be this impasse as they called it over how denuclearization would happen. North Korea wants it to be slow and fazed, and every time they take a step they get something in return. The U.S. says, no, they want this to be rapid. And they say that gap is so wide according to these sources, they didn't see how that was going to be bridged enough to cobble together the summit.
BLITZER: And Barbara Starr, you're over at the Pentagon, the President was very firm in threatening the North Koreans saying the United States has the greatest military power, the greatest nuclear capability. Where -- what's the Pentagon doing right now? How are officials over there and military personnel dealing with this apparently heightened threat of some sort of military confrontation?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, I have to tell you, Wolf, over here at the Pentagon, the words you're hearing are "steady state." They are here really trying to cool this thing down. They're talking about the fact they're keeping everything in place so they are ready if there was to be a North Korean provocation. There are aircrafts, satellites, radars, listening elements, troops on the ground. Everything that was there three weeks ago, six months ago still essentially there, still in place, watching North Korea around the clock.
Top general here at the Pentagon today said, nonetheless, they will be watching very carefully over the next few days to see if there is a provocation but the message they are trying to put out from the U.S. military is, yes, we are ready if you do something but we'd much rather have it a steady state, let the diplomats work out the problems. Wolf? BLITZER: Yes, you know, John Kirby, you know, this -- when I heard the President speaking, on the one hand, he was saying, well, maybe they can work out a date down the road, it would be good for North Korea, good for the world. On the other hand, he had some pretty blunt threats to the North Korean leader.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think, though, Wolf, he was really trying to leave open the door for negotiation to go forward and for summit to happen. In fact, he even said the existing date of the summit is still in play. I think he was really trying to have it both ways there, and I don't blame him for that. I mean, this could be a brinksmanship tactic that might work, but the problem is it really puts President Moon in a bad spot. I mean --
BLITZER: The South Korean President.
KIRBY: Yes. Sorry, South Korean President. He wasn't consulted on this, so he's going to be embarrassed by this, and it helps Kim drive an ever deeper wedge between us and our South Korean allies.
BLITZER: Because the South Korean President, he was here just a few days ago. His National Security Adviser said that the prospects of a meeting taking place on June 12th, 99.9 percent certain that it was going to happen. Guess what?
KOSINSKI: Yes, well, and days like this, I guess, even on one day you have 99.9, the next day I think go down to zero. I mean, things can change quickly as we keep seeing. But I think it was also telling today when you heard Secretary of State Pompeo on the Hill talking to Senators. They wondered how much the administration's constant comments about this Libya model, where Libya gave up its nuclear weapons and then years later, Gadhafi was taken down and killed. We know that that bothers North Korea. So, the Secretary of State was asked repeatedly, how was that a good idea? How could North Korea have interpreted that any other way but badly? Do you agree with this? And the Secretary of State did not have an answer. He wouldn't answer whether it was a good idea, whether he agreed with it. You can see the problem there.
BLITZER: Apparently, he -- the Secretary of State was having trouble contacting his sources, his contacts in North Korea in recently days to see what was going on. The U.S. was clearly in the dark and they showed up for a meeting in Singapore, an advance team, the North Koreans were invisible at that place, as well. All right, guys, there's more on the story coming up. But there's other breaking news we're following in Hawaii right now, where we're seeing lava continuously surging from fissures around a very dangerous erupting volcano. And what you don't see including toxic gases also poses a very serious threat to homeowners and a major power plant. CNN's Stephanie Elam is in Hawaii for us. Stephanie, what are you seeing right now?
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Wolf, as you probably can tell, it is extremely windy here on the big island where I'm standing here. That is a good thing as far as pushing those toxic gases away, but still a very big concern as they are going to cross over Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens which have been really terrorized by these volcanic eruptions within those subdivisions there. What I can tell you, though -- excuse me -- is that we do know that a new stream of lava has made its way into the ocean since we last spoke. And also, on top of that, we can tell you that the concern about that geothermal plant, the Puna Geothermal Venture, we do know that no new lava has encroached the property there.
They continue to work on quenching those wells there, and keeping everything away. But right now, they say that they're stable, they say that they're monitoring for sulfur dioxide as well as hydrogen sulfide which they have detected none of that right now. But still, they're asking people who live in this east (INAUDIBLE) area to be prepared to voluntarily evacuate if necessary to get out of there if conditions do change here. All of this as we continue to see that there are more and numerous ash explosions from the summit of Kilauea.
[17:50:13] So, it's almost like every day is waking up and checking to see what the conditions are everyday because all of these as well as the lava flow, and I know that the lava fountain behind me is not as big today as it was yesterday, but it all can wrap, it can all come back stronger, and so that's what we have been continuing to watch here and as this moves on here, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to get back to you, Stephanie, thank you very much. There's more breaking news, while President Trump's announcement that he's canceling the North Korea Summit was unexpected, today, it's right in line with the way he's done business for years. Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, this tactic seems to be out of the Trump playbook.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Wolf. Now, while many were surprised by today's announcement, the journalists who have covered Donald Trump for decades and written biographies of him say this is a classic Trump tactic, build up an agreement, promote it, but always be ready to walk away. It's right out of Trump's memoir, "The Art of the Deal."
TRUMP: Nobody should be anxious, we have to get it right.
TODD: President Trump walks away from what could have been the deal of a lifetime. A letter to his excellency, Kim Jon-un, terminating their planned summit, citing Kim's "open hostility" in a recent North Korean statement. A letter from Trump touting America's nuclear might, a letter that analysts say is extraordinary for its personal nature.
RYAN HASS, FORMER NSC OFFICIAL: It's unusual that the President would use threats of nuclear weapons in a communication with a foreign counterpart. It's unusual that the President would use "I" and "you" and such personalization.
TODD: But according to his biographers, not unusual for Donald Trump. They say the buildup to a summit, the tease and then the walk back is classic Trump, a tactic he used to build his real estate empire. MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": The President's Art of the Deal strategy has always been to first ask for the world and intend to settle for half of it, and also be able to stake any position out in the course of negotiations. So, the notion of walking away is something that he's always advocated. He's said that you should never enter a negotiation wanting something too much.
TODD: For decades, Donald Trump has sold himself to potential business associates and then to voters on his ability to strike deals with difficult partners like Kim Jong-un.
TRUMP: With deals -- that's what I do, is deals. I make good deals. That, you know, it's a talent, it's a talent. You can't be a politician.
TODD: Now, in his letter to Kim, Trump says he's pulling out because of the "anger and open hostility" in North Korea's most recent statement, where they called Vice President Pence a "political dummy." Trump biographer, Mike D'Antonio, isn't buying that explanation.
D'ANTONIO: This, after all, is a situation where Trump himself has been insulted many times and he's traded barbs back. What we're really seeing here is the President seizing an opportunity to get out of a situation which I think he felt was not going his way.
TODD: Another classic Trump move in deal breaking, a taunt. Trump tells Kim, "You talk about your nuclear capabilities but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used."
D'ANTONIO: The taunting in the President's letter is one of those mine-is-bigger-than-yours moments.
TODD: How do you think Kim Jong-un might react?
HASS: Well, I think it raises likelihood that Kim Jong-un will react by resuming the verbal taunts that were so evident last fall. And depending if (INAUDIBLE) things go from there, there is a higher risk that we could see a return of testing, you know, missile testing or perhaps nuclear testing.
TODD: President Trump and senior administration officials now say the door is not closed to the idea of a summit at a later date. Korea analysts say for Kim Jong-un, that's going to mean swallowing his ego which may not be likely anytime soon. Can Trump swallow his ego to do it? Well, Trump biographer Mike D'Antonio says it is possible if it means Trump is going to get what he wants, the world's approval and possibly a Nobel Peace Prize, Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, another key portion of President Trump's letter today seems to hint that the President and Kim Jong-un had actually spoken to each other, though, it's unclear. Have they spoken?
TODD: Still a mystery, Wolf. In the letter, Trump says to Kim, "I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me." We've been pressing the White House on whether they've actually spoken directly. A senior administration official says, the President and Kim have communicated through diplomacy and through Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, but this official did not specify whether the two leaders had actually spoken directly or not.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting. Coming up, the breaking news, CNN has learned that the President's legal team and Robert Mueller discussed a date for a multi-hour Presidential interview with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller. How close did they come, and could a sit-down still be in the works?
[17:55:08] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, Trump interview dates. We're learning about a potential deal that the President's lawyers discussed with the special counsel on the terms for Mr. Trump to talk. We're going to tell you where and when it was supposed to happen, and why it all fell apart.
Failure to summit, President Trump tells Kim Jong-un their June meeting is now off after new insults and threats by the North Koreans. We're standing by for a live report from CNN Correspondent Will Ripley, he's inside North Korea. He broke the news to members of the Kim regime.
No evidence, after a meeting with the Justice Department officials, a top Democrat declares there is nothing to back up the President's claim that the FBI spied on his campaign. We're getting new information about two classified briefings, and why a White House lawyer was there.
And lave explosions, the volcanic blasted Hawaii now hotter than ever. The fiery red and orange sea giving way to searing --