Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Still Talking To North Koreans "Right Now"; Russian Oligarch Met With Cohen At Trump Tower During Transition; White House Lawyer At Start Of Lawmaker Briefings On FBI Source; Weinstein Charged With Rape, Other Sex Crimes In New York. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 25, 2018 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. It appears the princess bride had it right once again, to paraphrase, mostly dead is not all dead. And when it comes to the president's summit, with North Korea, the president is suggesting that the summit is slightly alive.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We're going to see what happens. We're talking to them now. It was a very nice statement they put out. We'll see what happens. It could even be the 12th. We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We would like to do it. We'll see what happens.


BOLDUAN: That jarring whiplash reversal, just 24 hours after abruptly canceling his talks with Kim Jong-un. President Trump even saying as you heard right there that the meeting could still happen on the June 12th date that he just canceled.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the U.S. Naval Academy where the president just delivered the commencement speech just minutes ago. Jeremy, the president, we heard, had been furious about the rhetoric coming from North Korea. It certainly doesn't seem he is so much today.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, that's right. Well, you know, if you were feeling a case of whiplash right now, Kate, I don't think anybody would blame you. Less than 24 hours after the president sent a letter to Kim Jong-un to cancel this planned summit in Singapore next month, the president now appears to say well, this summit could be back on the table.

He suggested that the U.S. and North Korean officials are once again speaking to each other, once again communicating potentially about the logistics of the future summit between himself and the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.

This would be, of course, the first summit between a U.S. and North Korean leader. But it is difficult to see what exactly has changed beyond that communication. Yesterday, the North Koreans put out a statement signaling they were still open to the prospect of diplomacy despite the president canceling on them.

But the gap on the issue still remains. One of the reasons why the summit was canceled is because the U.S. and North Korea were not yet on the same page with regards to denuclearization.

There is still a lot of questions that would take place on whether indeed the North Koreans are truly committed to denuclearizing as the president certainly hopes that they are. But, again, the president expressing some optimism this morning about this, he has not addressed it here at this commencement speech.

Instead, he has hinted at the U.S. military buildup that has taken place during his presidency, which is also, of course, notable as we look at whether the situation with North Korea is going to be headed for more diplomatic opening or perhaps for the alternative, which the president has made clear is the military solution -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's right. All right. Great to see you, Jeremy. Thank you so much.

Joining me right now to discuss this and where things are right now, Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and someone who has had high-level negotiations with North Korea in the past, and Tony Blinken, CNN analyst and former deputy secretary of state under President Obama.

Tony Blinken, I would love to hear your favorite princess bride quote here. You thought that Donald Trump needed this meeting more than Kim Jong-un. Then yesterday happened and the date was off and now it is -- how would you describe it?

TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, Kate, I think it is a little bit early to be singing the summit time blues because this is really a very high stakes game of international chicken. Each leader thinks the other needs the summit more than he does.

And so, they're both ratcheting up their demands. I think they both need it and that's why I think it is too early to cancel your reservations for Singapore. For Kim Jong-un, this is the -- if the meeting happens, it is the legitimacy that he secures that his predecessors, his father and grandfather, couldn't get, by meeting with an American president.

For President Trump, he is so hyped his ability to deliver what his predecessors couldn't that he wasn't this to happen and failure in advance is a big embarrassment for him. So, I think there is still a real possibility this comes off whether it's on the 12th or a little bit, we'll see.

BOLDUAN: Governor, you also think that both sides need this meeting. I'll read for you just a reminder what some of what the North Koreans said in response to the president canceling the meeting. We're willing to give time and opportunity to the U.S., always with a big and open mind, we reiterate to the U.S. that we're willing to sit face to face at any time in any way. Not the usual we're going to annihilate you and reduce you to ashes that we hear sometimes from North Korea when messaging. What do you think -- what message are they trying to send then?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER NEW MEXICO GOVERNOR: Well, that message was (inaudible) who has been their nuclear negotiator for many years. It is very authoritative. What the North Koreans did I think they overplayed their hand on the rhetoric side.

Even though they always do this, they don't show up to meetings to discuss the logistics of the summit, they call the vice president a nasty name, they talk about nuclear annihilation.

I think what happened was they overstepped their boundaries, and this caused obviously the president to be upset. So, my view is like Tony's. I think the summit will happen. I think it will be relatively soon. I'm not sure it will be the 12th.

[11:05:03] I hope it is not the 12th because I want -- there are still fundamental issues that is that there is substantial disagreement. The phase, scope of denuclearization, the North Koreans don't want to denuclearize. They're ready to put limits, curbs on the use, we say total denuclearization.

North Koreans are not going to do that. I think the president already signaled a little flexibility on that when he says, well, maybe phased denuclearization. This is a negotiation that still has to happen, but, you know, welcome to the Trump roller coaster foreign policy.

BOLDUAN: It is a fun ride. Tony, is -- do you think China is to blame for the recent falling out? I ask because the president seemed to suggest that when he said that Kim changed in his words after the second meeting with President Xi. What did China tell Kim in that meeting do you think?

BLINKEN: Look, Kate, I don't think China is to blame. I think they did a very good job reinserting themselves into this process. They were a little bit afraid of being left to the side of the road. They got back in the middle of it, which is where they wanted to be.

But no, I think it is exactly as Governor Richardson said, the problem is the president set the bar almost impossibly high on himself, which is the virtual immediate complete denuclearization of North Korea. That was never going to happen.

And ironically, what could happen and there is at least a possibility is to get some kind of deal, a little like the deal that the president trashed with Iran, where they take a series of steps overtime that are reciprocated, that start to curb their program, not eliminate everything but get it in check.

Unfortunately, the president setting this bar so high makes it very, very hard for him to succeed and the idea that he would even get something as effective as the Iranian agreement that he threw out.

That is all dismantled and virtually the entire program in North Korea upfront, the most intrusive inspections regime in history, that's a very high bar. So, here is an opportunity for him to reset expectations a little bit before a meeting which I still hope happens.

BOLDUAN: Governor, what do you do if you're Secretary of State Mike Pompeo right now. The day before the president pulled out of talks he seemed optimistic they were going to happen and then this, and he was left to answer before it before a Senate committee.

RICHARDSON: Well, what I would do, if I'm Secretary Pompeo, is I would go to the president and say, Mr. President, I have to be the lone voice, the lone messenger of North Korea, can't be the national security adviser, the vice president. I mean, this is --

BOLDUAN: Good luck with that.

RICHARDSON: But the problem is too many messengers, too many messages. White House press office, the president, the vice president, Bolton, it should be the secretary of state. This is diplomacy. It was Pompeo that got the two meetings with Kim Jong-un that set up the intelligence channel.

Let him run the show. I think he has been hampered a bit by individuals in the White House that didn't want this summit to happen, that's my observation. Now, I don't have any inside information, but I do think it is important that the summit take place, that the administration prepare.

That the president really prepared, that he listened to substance on what is achievable, I think there are some things that as Tony said that are achievable. But total denuclearization, by North Korea, it is not going to happen.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and one thing that might be their first challenge among many is speaking with one voice, coming out of the administration, if we look at the recent history of coming out of the White House and beyond. Great to see you both. Thank you so much.

We are following some breaking news that is coming in just now to CNN. Breaking news on the Russia investigation. We're now learning President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, that he held a Trump Tower meeting with a Russian oligarch who has been questioned by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

This meeting unknown until now came during the transition to the White House, focused on improving relations with Russia. What does this all mean and what really do we know?

Let me bring in Shimon Prokupecz. He's working his sources. He's got all of this. Shimon, bring us up to speed, please.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Kate. So, this meeting took place in January, around January 9th of 2017, as you said. During the transition. It happened at Trump tower, Victor Vekselberg, who as we've done a lot of reporting, and you may recall, is a very wealthy, a billionaire, worth some $15 billion, Russian oligarch, who has been sanctioned by the United States.

He was also recently questioned by FBI agents working for the special counsel after he flew to the U.S. in a New York area, he was pulled off a plane, and questioned by FBI agents. Now, at this meeting at Trump Tower, and you see there is video there of Mr. Vekselberg, there with the hat, his back is to the camera.

He's accompanied by his cousin, a man by the name of Andrew Intrader. Now, as you may recall, we did some reporting regarding Andrew Intrader. He was eventually hired by Michael Cohen as a consultant, was paid about $500,000 by Michael Cohen for what we were told was consulting work.

[00:10:03] And now this new video which we have reviewed today shows that these two men, Andrew Intrader and Viktor Vekselberg were at Trump Tower and as you said, we were told the meeting was about improving U.S. and Russia relations.

And this meeting we're told was with Michael Cohen, the president, was not there, Donald Trump was not in the meeting, the meeting lasted about 30 minutes and then the two men left.

And as you now know, Kate, pretty well there has been a lot of reporting about Victor Vekselberg, about Andrew Intrader and it all tells us why the special counsel is so interested in Viktor Vekselberg.

We also know that at some point Andrew Intrader was also questioned about the FBI. Now, also keep in mind, Kate, Viktor Vekselberg was at Trump's inauguration. There is some history with him and Vladimir Putin.

He was at an RT dinner that as you may recall Michael Flynn was at. So, all of this, obviously, created some suspicion and some concern for the FBI and the special counsel team that has been looking at Russia collusion.

And that's why they wanted to talk to him and certainly this again raises some questions as to exactly what was Viktor Vekselberg doing there, who thought this was a good idea for this man who is a very well-known Russian oligarch, who has connections to Vladimir Putin.

You know, who would think this would be a good idea for this man to appear to show up at Trump Tower during the transition?

BOLDUAN: And also, how that is, if that is connected to that huge dollar amount that the private equity firm paid then to Michael Cohen for consulting services. How that all fits together, that's what they're looking at. Great to see you, Shimon. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, the backlash over the briefings, lawmakers ripping the Trump administration for involving a White House attorney at a confidential briefing among the gang of eight and talks about the source in the Russia investigation.

Plus, did they learn anything new? With all that leadup ahead of time. We'll discuss.

Also surrounded by cameras, without a red carpet in sight, Harvey Weinstein walks into a New York City courtroom, walks into a New York City courtroom in handcuffs after being charged with rape and other sexual offenses. What his accusers are saying now.



BOLDUAN: Backlash and bewilderment for both sides of the aisle this morning after one of the president's lawyers, Emmet Flood, and his chief of staff, John Kelly, attended the beginning of two classified Justice Department briefings on Capitol Hill.

The briefings were about a confidential source in the Russia investigation. Information Trump and his Capitol Hill allies have been lighting their hair on fire about to get.

Finally, the meetings happened. Coming out of the meetings, pretty much crickets. Really? After all this buildup? And why were the president's men there in the first place?

CNN justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, has more details. Laura, there is outrage over who attended the meeting, but honestly, what do we know about the substance?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Kate, after all of the anticipation and speculation, building up to yesterday's briefings, it really landed with something of a thud. None of the fireworks that the president's Twitter feed might suggest, the Democrats came out and said they heard absolutely nothing to suggest that the FBI placed a spy in the campaign.

But we have heard virtual silence from Republicans on Capitol Hill, including Chairman Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, the main one pressing for the confidential source documents. But the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this was basically not a game changer. Take a listen.


BRETT BAIER, FOX NEWS HOST: Were you surprised with what you learned?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing particularly surprising. But, again it was classified, so no real report I can get to you.


JARRETT: Yet none of this has stopped the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, telling the CNN's Dana Bash that essentially they plan to use the information on this confidential source as some sort of bargaining chip or pretext to the president sitting down with the Special Counsel's Office, Robert Mueller obviously leading the Russia investigation, leading some to question whether any of this entire ordeal was ever about congressional oversight in the first place or really part of a PR strategy -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. Great to see you, Laura. Thanks so much.

Here with me now to discuss this, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cilizza.

So, Dana, weeks of leadup to this meeting, it's almost like the North Korean summit at this point, then it happens, and it is either crickets or Democrats saying nothing new or Mitch McConnell saying nothing surprised him. I mean, I don't know, do you think people should conclude at this point that this was blown out of proportion.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends what you -- how you frame this. So, the fight with Congress and DOJ really started with the president's allies like Mark Meadows looking for documents and really digging into to get more information about this confidential source and other bits of information.

So, remember that even they said that what was eventually arranged, this meeting yesterday, to get a briefing and to get sort of topline information data points was not enough. So, when it comes to the kind of tug of war between the president's allies on the Hill and DOJ, that's not over.

So, it is not as if this settles it at all. But the point that Laura just made is a really, really good one, which is the fight that they're having, that they're waging on Capitol Hill, is it really for oversight, maybe in part.

But it is also pretty transparent that it is about the president's legal team and legal strategy to get as much information as possible about the investigation, of which the president or at least his campaign is a subject and is being looked into, which is really unbelievable that, A, that that's even happening.

[11:20:11] But B, that the president's legal team is so transparent about it. And Giuliani told me, point blank, that he needs to see, they want to see whatever information that they can about this confidential source that this -- that they call an informant, before there is any interview with Robert Mueller and the president of the United States because he doesn't want to send him into a trap.

Now, that is a very strategic, very carefully choreographed thing to say to the press as they are trying to kind of do a dance about whether or not to do an interview, which, by the way, the president's legal team doesn't even want him to do and they keep saying that their client, the president, is still insisting he wants to.

BOLDUAN: There is -- there is always like eight caveats when it comes to this. To that point, what Giuliani told dana, why then is that a totally irrational quid pro quo in your mind

CHRIS CILIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, because Donald Trump sitting down with Special Counsel Bob Mueller shouldn't be predicated on information gathered on something that appears based on all publicly available facts to be totally from whole cloth.

This idea that a spy, Donald Trump's word, was embedded in the Trump campaign, there is no public evidence that that is the case. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence to suggest that's not the case at all.

So, to say, well, I made up this thing over here and therefore, unless I find out that it is real, I'm not going to do this other thing, seems a little bit like a strongman. Don't see the connection there.

I just don't see the connection. I can understand to Dana's point from a strategic point of view what they're trying to do. It's part of a broader effort to disqualify, discredit the DOJ, the FBI, Special Counsel Bob Mueller, but from a logical perspective it doesn't make much sense.

BOLDUAN: I do, though, regardless of what they were told in the room, Dana, I do on some level think that it is somewhat inconceivable that Republicans, president's allies will shift and accept there was no, quote/unquote, "spy" in the campaign. How do Republicans handle it then?

BASH: They're going to keep plugging away and keep pushing DOJ as I said, you know, even the concession that the Republicans on Capitol Hill, who were pushing for more information got with these briefings yesterday was sort of not even close to being enough.

So, it is not over with regard to the pushing. Remember what this is about. This is, again, very transparent. And I think therefore we should sort of be underscoring it over and over again.

This is about undermining the investigation. This is about planting seed after seed after seed of doubt into the public zeitgeist and if you look at polls, it seems to be working.

BOLDUAN: And if you look at what Lesley Stahl said she was told by Donald Trump, why does he hit the press, why does he do things like this, because he wants to make sure the people don't believe it when negative things come out.

CILIZZA: By the way, Kate, just for the billionth time and I know the three of us know this, Donald Trump doesn't hate the press. Donald Trump loves the press. Donald Trump is more interested in cable news, in print media than almost any president that has come before him. He certainly consumes more of it than any president that has come before him.

This is a strategic gamble. The same way this alleged informant embedded in this campaign, by the way, not true, this is all an effort to discredit, disqualify so that the narrative he prefers, which is often unward from the facts, is the one that his supporters believe and accept.

BOLDUAN: Chris, please bring it to the show when you receive your love letter from President Trump. I would like to see it.

CILIZZA: I will let you know. I will call you as soon as that happens. Wait by your phone.

BOLDUAN: Perfection. Waiting all the time for your call. Great to see you, Dana. Great to see you, Chris. Thank you.

Coming up, Harvey Weinstein, arrested and in handcuffs. Dozens of accusations against the movie mogul. Now he's facing the first charges. Hear from women who said he used his position, his influence, his power to assault them next.



BOLDUAN: Weinstein, arrested. Weinstein, in handcuffs. Words many women thought would never be spoken. But after dozens of accusations including rape, assault and other forms of sexual misconduct, the disgraced Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, has surrendered to authorities today on felony charges of rape and other sex crimes.

This morning, he entered a New York courtroom, his hands bound, his freedom in jeopardy. This is a long road, though, after numerous women felt free enough finally, look at them all, to tell their stories to "The New Yorker" and "The New York Times" back in 2017 which, of course, triggered the "Me Too" movement.

One of Weinstein's first accuser was actress, Rose McGowan. The sight of him in handcuffs this morning had a profound effect.


ROSE MCGOWAN, ACTRESS, ACCUSE HARVEY WEINSTEIN OF RAPE: I have to admit, I didn't think I would see the day that he would have handcuffs on him. But I have a visceral need for him to have handcuffs on.


BOLDUAN: Another accuser, the Italian actress, Asia Argento, tweeted this after the news today, "Today Harvey Weinstein will take his first steps on the inevitable descent to hell. We, the women, finally have real hope for justice."

Argento ripped into Weinstein last week in a speech at the Con Film Festival. She claims the annual event was his hunting ground.


ASIA ARGENTO, ACTRESS, ACCUSES HARVEY WEINSTEIN OF RAPE: In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein. I'm 21 years old.