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Summit Could Still Happen; Info on FBI Source a Prerequisite; Trumps Claim FBI Spied on Campaign. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 25, 2018 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Surprised to know it would take so long. But then it might have been even longer if not for the amazing events of 1968.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: "1968" airs this Sunday and Monday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks so much for joining me. "INSIDE POLITICS "with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

An important Me Too milestone. The disgraced Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, is charged with rape and arraigned in a New York courtroom.

Plus, new reporting on a Russian oligarch's visit to Trump Tower, and new tweets from the president alleging illegal deep state spying, that despite the fact there's zero evidence to support his claim.

And off or on? The White House is back in touch with North Korea to see if the Singapore summit can be salvaged. China is happy with the current state of play. South Korea, furious. The president tells graduating Navy cadets, all is fine.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In every generation, there have been cynics and critics who try to tear down America. It's not working too well lately. They're respecting us again. Yes, America is back. And in case you haven't noticed, we have become a lot stronger lately. A lot.


KING: And we begin on the world stage. President Trump saying the big Singapore summit might not be canceled after all. It is off as we speak right now at this moment. But the White House is back in contact with North Korea today. And the president, listen here, sounds like he hopes he can work things out.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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'd like to do it. We're going to see what happens.

John, everybody plays games. You know that.


KING: By playing games, we assume the president means, in his view, it's Kim Jong-un's behavior that forced things off the track yesterday. China is just fine with the decision to pull the plug. Major U.S. ally South Korea is stunned at the decision that also at how President Trump blindsided Seoul in announcing the big meeting was off. So now what?

With me to share their reporting and insights today, Margaret Talev of "Bloomberg," CNN's Manu Raju, Karoun Demirjian with "The Washington Post" and Rachael Bade with "Politico."

They're back in touch. The White House was happy, supportive of the president's decision to pull the plug. Why the next day are they saying, let's see if we can fix this?

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "BLOOMBERG": I think given where the rhetoric and the moves went with North Korea, the White House had no choice but to do what the president did, but didn't want to be in that position anyway.

I'm not sure that there's unanimity inside the administration about the wisdom or merits of going ahead right now. But if that's what the president wants to do, the structure is there to support him. But the -- the kind of leverage position has to be right. And they just couldn't go into the meeting given some of the things that Kim had said and what we learned yesterday about them getting stood up in a planning meeting and that sort of thing.

You want, in a meeting like this, in a summit like this, for both sides to have some agreed upon deliverables, let's use that word, but something to show that there was a point to it, even if it's not --

KING: But that's certainly what tradition is. Tradition is --


KING: Tradition is you work out 95, 96, 98 or 99 percent before the leaders sit down. And maybe they have a few things, one or two things to fix at the end. The president was applauding this morning. He said he found it good, he found it welcome, he found the right tone. This statement from the North Korean regime. We reiterate to the United States that we are willing to sit face-to-face at any time and in any way. President Trump's statement on the North Korea U.S. summit is a decision that is not in line with the wishes of those who hope for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, as well as the world. So the president applauding that.

But, again, words are not going to get you a successful summit. One of the reasons that some -- within the administration pushed the president to cancel it is because they are not convinced that North Korea means it. That North Korea is going to come to the table and say, yes, we're opening to negotiating getting rid of our nuclear program, which has been our end all be all for 50 years.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right. And, I mean, this is the (INAUDIBLE) problem when you're talking about North Korea is that they can say a lot of things and they can make bold gestures about, look, we are, you know, blowing things up at our nuclear power plant, but it doesn't mean that the other hand isn't kind of just secretly behind their back doing something else. This has been decades now that you've been dealing with the North Korea problem. It is -- it has alluded several presidents running to be able to actually fix it and a lot of people just do not trust that all of a sudden this, you know, hermit regime that has been obsessed with keeping power is going to say, oh, yes, sure, for some economic relaxation we are willing to give up potentially our claim to power in this country because you bring in liberalization politically and it's all of a sudden challenged.

So, you know, if North Korea was pulling power moves back and forth, the United States can pull a lot bigger power moves. And I know the president was, you know, talking about the size of -- the -- we make fun of the fire and fury stuff and that sort of jockeying comparison, but it's truth that the United States can say, we're walking away from this and you guys have no options. And if Russia and China back them up a little bit, that's actually far more (INAUDIBLE).

[12:05:12] KING: And to that point, you hear anger within the administration with China, because they thought things were on track. And then Kim Jong-un has a meeting with President Xi. And then the North Korean behavior changes. The North Korean rhetoric changes. We talked about it before this hour. The last thing China wants is Germany on its border, a reunified Korea.

And so listen this morning to Lindsey Graham. The big question now is what -- what? Will the president go back to tougher sanctions? Will the North Koreans go back to testing missiles and maybe having a nuclear test or some other provocative behavior?

Listen to Senator Lindsey Graham right now saying, the president's mad at China, essentially saying next play is on President Xi.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: He's going to go back to China, I think read them the riot act. If you want a peaceful conclusion to the North Korean problem, help me. If you keep playing this game that we've played for 30 years, there's going to be a war in your backward, not ours, and North Korea is going to lose.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: That's my biggest question, are we going from, let's try to have a summit, let's be more diplomatic. And even if you don't have a summit and even if you don't denuclearize Koreas, at least stop the provocative behavior, which we have had now a period of time where they're not testing missiles, where they're not saying nuclear war. They had one statement the other day. Or are we back now in, there could be a war in your backyard, fire and fury, locked and loaded?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't really know. I think that there has been actually a sigh of relief from a lot of Republicans about the decision to pull the plug on this -- this June 12th summit because the fact that this was a very ambitious time table to have a summit of this magnitude. There were no -- there's no -- it was unclear exactly what the United States was going to get out of this. The president seemed to really, really want a deal. To what end? Was it going to be a good deal for the United States?

So in talking to a lot of the Republicans yesterday, including the Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker told me yesterday that, look, this is a minor setback in his view because I think there was that apprehension about what exactly is the United States rushing into? Perhaps it's better to wait this out, see eventually what happens, and, you know, maybe war could be staved off and they could deal with this diplomatically but just take longer to do.

TALEV: And yet -- and yet I'm not sure the plug has been pulled. I mean it's not just the president saying it could still happen. Talking to administration folks this morning, there's still a sense that actually, you know, we could be --

KING: Well --

RAJU: And that would prompt more fear --

KING: To your -- to your -- to your point about there's a lot you hear from inside the administration that even Secretary Pompeo, the new secretary of state, who's met twice with Kim Jong-un was a bit surprised at how this all happened because he thought we were -- they were still moving forward. Understanding there's still some issues to work out and he blames it on John Bolton working the system. It's an old real estate axiom, proximity does matter. John Bolton has the office across the hall. Is -- are they still tug a war within themselves?

TALEV: Well, you know --

DEMIRJIAN: Sure, to some extent. I mean there's -- there's -- Pompeo has a lot of personal stake in this. He's the guy who went over. He's the guy who's in the picture shaking hands with Kim Jong-un. He is the diplomate now who's supposed to be actually brokering this. So to not have that chance, I'm sure he's upset about as well.

But, look -- and you also can't say that, you know, just because you've called off this meeting that everything that they've done to this point is completely, you know, evaporated. It isn't. They have made contact in a way that others have not for a very long time. There is that chain to pull back. It seems like North Korea got scared by what the president said two days ago. And so that puts them at least not at zero again. It doesn't mean that this is necessarily going to go towards fruition and a successful summit, but, you know, they're starting not quite where they were starting a few weeks ago.

RACHAEL BADE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, "POLITICO": Yes, I have colleagues covering the White House who have basically reported that this was a lot of Bolton's decision and that he really is asserting his power right now and showing that he is having influence over these talks as much as Pompeo is. You know, the president accepted the North Korea negotiation summit without really talking to his team. It was very much a spur of the moment. People were surprised.

But when he announced that he was going to be canceling this meeting, that -- there was put out in a statement, it was discussed with, you know, a whole bunch of people on staff, and a lot of that, we are told, is because Bolton is asserting himself and sort of trying to bring the president in in sort of a spur of the moment type we're doing it, we're not doing it back and forth. And so we're seeing his influence there.

KING: To pull off big things on the world stage you need friends. The South Koreans, who actually have the most at stake, they live in the neighborhood, they live across the DMZ, they're furious because they found out like we did. That's what they say, they found out like we did. No advanced heads up. No notice they're going to pull the plug. They left meetings with the president thinking this was on. It's not the way to do business. Or the decision might be the right one. You're not ready for a successful summit, don't do it. But how they did it has angered a lot of people.

RAJU: Yes. And I think one of the issues -- when something of this significance, you need to have a consistent message coming out of this administration, coming out of the United States government. You're seeing those different, competing interests, different levels of rhetoric. Mike Pence's rhetoric versus Mike Pompeo, and that's led to some confusion on the world stage at well.

DEMIRJIAN: And also, remember, the South Koreans have always wanted this the most at every stage of this they've been pushing for this the hardest and it's others who have said not the right time, we've pulled back or not had those cards to put on the table.

KING: We'll keep an eye on it. The conversation's allegedly going on as we continue today. We'll see. If the summit was June 12th, was canceled, the president says maybe he'll bring it back. We'll keep an eye on that one.

[12:10:07] Up next for us here, the president says the FBI improperly spied on him. But, wait, can you make the case that he's actually the one trying to improperly spy on the FBI?


KING: Welcome back. The president, today, not letting the facts get in the way of a good

tweet. Everyone knows there was a spy, the president said this morning, placed, he says, inside the campaign for sole purpose of political advantage and gain.

Actually, everyone can't know that, because there's no evidence. And the president's conspiracy theory looks even more farfetched today than it did yesterday. Because of pressure from the president, the Justice Department held two briefings with lawmakers yesterday to discuss highly sensitive information about FBI tactics in the Russia meddling probe. The president's right hand man in spinning deep state fantasies, Congressman Devin Nunes, was in both meetings. Nunes talks a lot, especially elsewhere on the TV dial, were what the president says facts or no facts is considered gospel.

[12:15:08] But not a peep from the Intelligence Committee chairman. That should help you tip the scales if you're torn between fantasy or fact and president's deep state spying allegation. Now, it is beyond rare for the Feds to discuss their sources and tactics while investigations are still ongoing. Even more rare, outrageous is a word being used a lot today. The fact that one of the president's lawyers, and his chief of staff, were on hand for these briefings. Democrats say the presence of John Kelly and Emmet Flood is beyond inappropriate. But Mr. Flood's co-council, listen to this. Rudy Giuliani telling CNN's Dana Bash, Flood's presence was a prerequisite. That if the special counsel still wants to interview their client, the president of United States, Mr. Flood has to be there for the briefing. Just odor over the line?

Michael Zeldin has experience with Robert Mueller and experience on special counsel investigations.

Michael, what message does it send for Emmett Flood especially, John Kelly also, but Emmett Flood is the president's lawyer, to be there at that meeting?

MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's not a good appearance for certain. And you have to understand how this meeting was originated, which was to say that the DOJ and the FBI did not want to reveal any of this human source information. But they were essentially forced to. They were brought to the White House and the president said, you shall do this.

Then when the meeting was to begin, and under the guise of congressional oversight, Flood and the chief of staff show up to remind the participants about the need for transparency. I think that's sort of the president saying, remember, DOJ and FBI, I want you to reveal information about what you learned from a confidential source.

And then Giuliani compounds the problem of the appearance by saying, until we know what this confidential source is saying, communication or participation in an interview is a no-go. So they're really asking, John, as you set it up, they're asking for information from the prosecutor before they can make a decision about whether to go forward. That's not really the way it works in the criminal justice system. As the prospective, you know, subject of an investigation, you don't get to know what the prosecutor wants you to know unless the prosecutor tells your lawyer in private about that.

KING: Yes, I'm assuming Rudy Giuliani, when he was a federal prosecutor, a pretty good one, actually, if you look at his history, didn't say -- he ordered an investigation, come on in, I'm going to tell you who your secret source is and what our secret source is telling you. You do have the right to that once you're charged with a crime. Then you do have a right under discovery to find out how the federal government got their information.

But by Rudy Giuliani saying publicly, the president's legal team needs to know and, in his view, has a right to know, even though the president is not charged with anything as yet, that's ludicrous, isn't it?

ZELDIN: Well, yes. And it borders on sort of an abuse of his authority. When he is ordering DOJ and the FBI to reveal information that's relevant to a prosecution or inquiry that he is the subject of, and he has his White House counsel, he doesn't have his personal lawyers there, we have to be careful to make sure that this is understood that Flood works for the government.

But when he's there to, in the words of the White House, insist on transparency, I think that that's sort of, you know, a miss characteristic. I think it's a requirement the FBI and DOJ reveal information and then, as I said, Giuliani then saying, as soon as we get debriefed on what the informant said. He said -- his quote was, what's most important is, what did the informant produce? Once we know that, then we can figure out what to do. That's just not the way the system works, or the way it shouldn't work.

KING: Yes, not the way the system works. But if we're all for transparency, maybe the FBI could say, maybe, sir, but he could release publically all his text messages with his son, for example, during campaign years.

ZELDIN: Well, that's right.

KING: Michael --

ZELDIN: It sets a terrible precedent. It does set a terrible precedent. And when the White House tells the DOJ and the FBI what to do when there's a long history of standing back from those sorts of behaviors.

KING: He's trying to snoop on the FBI. Works both ways, I guess.

Michael Zeldin, appreciate your insights.

ZELDIN: I guess so. Thank you, John.

KING: Let's bring it in the room.

A, the -- the appropriateness or inappropriateness of the president's team being there. Again, they were only there for the start of the meetings. They say they weren't there for any of the information being discussed. But it does sort of send a message that big brother's watching, number one.


KING: And then, number two, I want to start with this, though, the meeting was about, you know, Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, it was initially just supposed to be one briefing with two conservatives, one of whom is a very solid ally of the president on these questions and a -- you know, who wants us to believe essentially that Susan Rice is in cahoots with Jeff Sessions to somehow turn the deep state against President Trump. That's the Devin Nunes view of the world of where we are.

The fact that he was in both of these briefings and has said zip, because there were other adults in the room who could say what he was saying is true or false, that speaks volumes to me.

RAJU: Yes. And I --

DEMIRJIAN: It's not just --

[12:20:00] RAJU: Look, I think you probably are going to expect Nunes to eventually make the case that they need more information. I don't think that this is going to satisfy the conservatives certainly. And the fact that Senate Majority Leader McConnell said what he did yesterday was that he saw nothing particularly surprising in there also tells you something. When we were staking out the meeting yesterday, no Republican wanted to discuss what happened at all. Richard Byrd (ph), the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, who has not been pushing this issue the way Nunes has, avoided reporters at all costs, did not want to touch this situation at all. It seems that what the Democrats are saying, that there is no evidence to support the president's claim is really all what we know that came out of that briefing yesterday. And the Justice Department, as we know, has been privately pushing back at the president's suggestion (ph).

KING: And, listen, you mention leader McConnell. So let's listen here because, again, Devin Nunes has alleged all these conspiracy theories that everybody in the deep state is out to get the president and FBI was somehow illegally, improperly spying on the Trump campaign. What the FBI would tell you, what the former FBI director, James Comey, would tell you is, no, we have confidential sources in investigations, all sorts of investigations. We have rules and the rules were followed.

Again, Mitch McConnell was in the same briefing. And the president says there was an illegal spying operation on his campaign. The Senate majority leader says this.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY LEADER: It was a classified briefing and consequently I don't really have any observations to make about it.

I don't have anything new to say on that subject.

The two investigations going on that I think will give us the answers to the questions that you raise, the IG investigation in the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation. I support both of them. And I don't really have anything to add to this subject based upon the Gang of Eight briefing that we had today, which was classified.


KING: Now, just quick translation, he's not going to say the president is spreading conspiracy theories, the president's wrong, the president's nuts. Mitch McConnell is not going to say that. But he does say, we have two investigations going on. I support them. And I learned nothing today in this briefing to change that opinion. Again, that speaks volumes as does Devin Nunes' silence.

DEMIRJIAN: Devin Nunes' silence, first of all, was not just to the press afterwards. He apparently did not say a word in the room either, as we reported yesterday. So he's just kind of --

KING: But he keeps demanding these meetings -- he keeps demanding these meetings saying you're all up to nefarious things and he doesn't ask any questions.

DEMIRJIAN: Meetings and then he sits there and -- right. Exactly. And so he's not really participating and people are wondering, what are you doing, just kind of taking notes and listening and what are you going to do next?

Mitch McConnell's statement is like the statement of so many other Republicans you've been hearing on The Hill, which is almost -- this almost tired refrain at this point of, I support Mueller's right to do the probe. I think Mueller is a person with integrity. I think that that (INAUDIBLE) to go forward.

They don't want to directly cross the people who are calling for Mueller's head in various ways or taking moves that would end up with us getting there because that would be crossing the president. And yet they just are -- have been saying for months on months on months at this point just like let it happen. We're getting sick of this. We're not going to put these, you know, move -- these resolutions for a second special counsel on the floor, but they can't actually say those words in that much detail because then that would set up a clash with the White House.

TALEV: But, look --

BADE: But I think the way McConnell handled it, because everybody knows McConnell doesn't push back against the president very often. Very -- he's diplomatic about this. He's not, as you said, going to cross the president. But what he -- the way he addressed this really showed that -- how much of a dud it was. The president said there is evidence that this is basically Watergate in reverse, that the FBI had --

KING: Worse -- said worse than Watergate. BADE: Yes, worse than Watergate, in reverse, and that the FBI had

basically set up his campaign, et cetera, et cetera. McConnell comes out, reaffirms his support of the investigation, and basically says, there was nothing surprising in there. So that goes against everything we've heard from the president.

TALEV: But, you know, there are two things that the president is counting on. And one is that the FBI and investigative bodies, Mueller's team, are going to use their normal sort of decorum and sort of posture, which is not to discuss details of stuff. So they're not going to come out and publicly defend tit for tat what they're doing or what they've done. He's counting on that.

KING: Right.

TALEV: And it's been essentially true so far and is counting on the second thing, which is that this -- these details are so in the weeds that the average American is not going to investigate whether anyone was spied on. And it doesn't matter whether the allegations are accurate, whether spygate is a thing or not. The -- what he's counting on is that people will remember that catch phrase and it will distract from the actual investigation. This does not fundamentally change what Bob Mueller can look at or what the facts of the case are, but it can impact the way the public perceives it. There are midterms coming up. There's a re-election campaign underway. And that is what the fence is that he's swinging for.

RAJU: And he's had success in that regard too. He's helped sew public doubt, particularly among Republicans. They need to get Republicans voters out to support this. And that's one reason why, whatever Mueller comes up with, they hope it has tarnished in the views of the public because of that campaign he's been waging (ph).

KING: Silly me to think if your title is president of the United States or chairman of a House committee that you should be in any way beholden to the facts --

TALEV: Held to a different standard.

KING: And reality and planet earth as opposed to other things. Never mind.

[12:24:29] Next, a real life courtroom drama for the movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.


KING: A dramatic day in a New York City courtroom. Disgraced Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, arraigned on sex crime charges, including rape. The charges stem from incidents involving two separate women. Earlier in the morning, Weinstein turned himself into police. He was later escorted out, as you see right there, in handcuffs.

Weinstein's attorney says his client is no boy scout, but he says he is not guilty of a crime.


BENJAMIN BRAFMAN, ATTORNEY FOR HARVEY WEINSTEIN: We believe that at the end of the process, Mr. Weinstein will be exonerated. Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood. And to the extent that there is bad behavior in this industry, that is not what this is about. Bad behavior is not on trial in this case. It's only if you intentionally committed a criminal act. And Mr. Weinstein vigorously denies that.


KING: CNN's Brynn Gingras was at the courthouse at that scene earlier today.

Brynn, walk us through today's court appearance.

[12:30:00] BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, pretty much all this was well orchestrated between Weinstein, the NYPD and the Manhattan D.A.'s office. So by the time Weinstein got in front of a judge, he pretty much knew what he was going to expect. We already know he's out on $1 million cash bond.