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U.S.-North Korea Summit; Russian Oligarch Questioned over Trump Tower Meeting; Irish Referendum; Harvey Weinstein Charged; Kilauea's Explosive Threat. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired May 26, 2018 - 02:00   ET

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


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Yes, no and now maybe. The U.S. president Donald Trump says the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could happen a day after he pulled out from it.

Plus history being made in Ireland, where, according to referendum exit polls, voters are overwhelmingly in favor of legalizing abortion.

And fighting a volcano with nothing but a garden hose. We will meet a man who took on nature and fortunately lived to tell the tale.

Live from CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier, it is great to have you with us.

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VANIER: So here we are, less than a day after Donald Trump pulled the plug on the summit with North Korea's leader, the U.S. president now says the meeting may happen after all.

Late Friday Mr. Trump tweeted the U.S. and North Korean officials were holding productive talks and he told reporters that he was encouraged by the tone coming from North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: 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'd like to do it. We're going to see what happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us from Seoul, South Korea.

Paula, you told me earlier you have not yet cancel your flight to Singapore where the meeting was supposed to take place.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right and I'm not the only one, Cyril. Journalists here are just waiting to see what happens as people around the world are. This has been on and off so many times, there have been suggestions from weeks ago from the U.S. president Donald Trump he may not turn up. He may walk out halfway through the talks if the talks aren't fruitful and we've had a similar situation from the North Koreans.

So it is not completely surprising that we're now hearing from the U.S. president once again that potentially these talks might be back on. Now we have had a very welcome message from the South Koreans. Certainly they are very keen on this going ahead.

The Blue House statement saying it is fortunate that the embers of the North Korean U.S. dialogue are not going out but are coming back up again. We are watching the developments carefully.

So certainly from the South Korean point of view, they want this to go ahead. They went to Washington, the president, Moon Jae-in, just this week to go and see Mr. Trump with the message that the North Koreans still want to meet.

And then even after the U.S. president canceled the summit, we did have that very measured, very coolheaded response from the North Koreans, saying that they are still willing to meet.

So there is still a chance that this could go ahead and as the U.S. president said, if not on June 12th then shortly afterwards -- Cyril.

VANIER: Look, those are the official statements.

But do we have any idea what is going on behind the scenes right now?

HANCOCKS: Well, we did hear from a senior administration official in the United States. And they said that there was supposed to be a meeting between North Korean and U.S. delegations in Singapore last week.

But the U.S. delegation was there; the North Koreans simply did not turn up and they said that since that point they could not get into communication, into contact with the North Koreans.

So this was obviously the backstory of why the U.S. president decided in the end to pull the summit, not just because they believed there was open hostility in some of the articles, some of the statements that we'd heard from North Korea over recent days.

But certainly there is a hope here in Seoul and I expect around the region as well. Certainly in China that this will go ahead whether or not there is a U.S. delegation in Singapore now. There was supposed to be one on the way before this summit was canceled.

We simply do not know. It's really being left very much up in the air. But the U.S., according to the president, said that they are in communication with the North Koreans. So at least the intelligence, the diplomatic channels are open, so presumably we could hear something in the coming days.

VANIER: Paula Hancocks reporting live from Seoul, South Korea. Thanks very much, we appreciate it.

Let us bring in now veteran North Korea watcher Chad O'Carroll. He is CEO of Korea Risk Group and also founder of NK News.

Explain to me, if you will, North Korea's behavior. A week ago we saw angry statements coming out of Pyongyang and insults towards the U.S. and now that the summit has actually been canceled, we're hearing appeasement. Explain this to me.

CHAD O'CARROLL, KOREA RISK GROUP: Yes, last week we had North Korean diplomats complaining at U.S. comparisons to Libya-style denuclearization and also complaining about Vice President Pence's --

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CARROLL: -- remarks. The response that we've seen to Trump's walkout of the Singapore summit has been very restrained, quite mature. I think it looks like they were trying to project themselves as the more rational partner here. And they do seem very interested in still making this summit happen.

And that has led to this response from Trump, which has been very warm and we now seem to be on course, so potentially having the summit on June 12th as originally scheduled.

VANIER: But this is what I do not understand. I do not see how this behavior is consistent or makes sense because if they indeed want the summit to happen, then why did they risk jeopardizing it only a week ago with those incendiary comments, calling the vice president a political dummy and essentially calling for the removal of John Bolton from these talks?

How does that make sense?

O'CARROLL: Well, those things in North Korea just giving a reminder to the U.S. side, if you will, they're not going to be a walkover, that they have interests that they're going to be pursuing, too.

And these kinds of statements are quite common with North Korea when it's in high-level negotiations with South Korea, with other countries. They are often quite on-and-off.

It seems that the Trump administration did read those perhaps a bit too literally and seriously. Many people thought that the North Korean letters, they were not really sincere requests or interests to have the talks canceled.

But it seems that Trump took them that way and decided to show that the U.S. is not interested in those kinds of games. And it seems that what Washington is trying to do under Trump's leadership here is say to the North Koreans that we need you to be deadly serious at the summit.

And if you do these kinds of delaying tactics or don't (INAUDIBLE) your promises, we're not going to be interested in that kind of behavior. VANIER: Donald Trump was asked if he was perhaps being played by the North Koreans. He did not really commit to an answer. But what you are telling me is that you are taking these latest statements from Pyongyang, saying that they want to meet, at face value.

O'CARROLL: Yes, I think Pyongyang definitely wants to make this summit happen. If we do not have the summit, there's a good chance that we could see tensions resume and North Korea probably does not want that. It seems to be interested in making some kind of deal.

I do not believe it is interested in genuine denuclearization but it can actually offer the U.S. a lot on the surface that makes it look like denuclearization is being achieved in some way.

And so if the summit does not go ahead, then, yes, I think Pyongyang would be genuinely concerned about the potential for that harsh return of tension and rhetoric that we saw for much of last year.

VANIER: Mr. Trump has been or at least has appeared impulsive in the way he has handling this entire summit issue from the moment that he agreed to it to then the moment that he canceled it.

Do you think that that is actually helping or hurting the chances of a summit?

O'CARROLL: That's a good question. I think that Trump is more likely if the summit goes ahead to now get major concessions from the North Koreans at the top. The walkout of this, remarks yesterday about a potential for military action again, those things will play on the North Koreans' minds.

And it will make them realize that they're not dealing with administrations of the past, like the Bill Clinton administration, George Bush, when there were doing previous deals.

And combined with John Bolton being on the team, has very high standards for what North Korean denuclearization looks like. I think the North Koreans will be aware that they have to approach this with level of interest in denuclearization that perhaps they would not have been able to muster under previous U.S. presidents.

VANIER: That is very interesting. You're telling us that it may look reckless from the outside but, in fact, it may be bringing extra pressure to bear on the North Koreans and perhaps will yield better results if a summit were to happen.

Chad O'Carroll, thank you very much. You have very useful insights. Thanks.

CNN has learned the Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with a Russian oligarch just days before Mr. Trump's inauguration in January 2017. Video footage shows Viktor Vekselberg, who was recently sanctioned by the U.S., arriving at Trump Tower during the transition period.

In this exclusive report, Matthew Chance tracked down the Russian billionaire.

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MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Vekselberg, a quick question from CNN.

VEKSELBERG: No, thank you, not now.

CHANCE: Mr. Vekselberg, Why did your company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Trump's lawyer?

VEKSELBERG: Not now.

CHANCE (voice-over): He is yet another media-shy Russian billionaire linked with the Kremlin --

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CHANCE (voice-over): -- and mired in allegations of collusion with the Trump team. The FBI questioned Victor Vekselberg about payments to Trump attorney Michael Cohen by his company's U.S. affiliate. They say it was for consulting work. We asked about the payments, too.

VEKSELBERG: Really appreciate. Just later, OK?

Really appreciate. I understand. I understand. But you are so aggressive.

CHANCE: No, I'm not.

VEKSELBERG: Please wait. Please later.

CHANCE (voice-over): We now know that Vekselberg met Cohen even before President Trump was inaugurated. These recently unearthed January 2017 images from the lobby of Trump Tower in New York show the Russian billionaire wearing a hat and coat, checking in at the security desk, lingering for several minutes and then entering an elevator with his business partner.

Cohen hasn't responded for comment but a person familiar with the meeting tells CNN that the two went up to Cohen's office on the 26th floor, although they did not meet the then president-elect himself. They left the building just 27 minutes later.

A person familiar with the meeting told CNN that Vekselberg and Cohen discussed improving U.S.-Russia relations. But what exactly this now sanctioned Russian billionaire expected remains unclear -- Matthew Chance, CNN, St. Petersburg, Russia.

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VANIER: When we come back, a big day for the #MeToo movement as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is charged with rape. More on that in a moment.

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VANIER: Welcome back.

Friday's abortion referendum in Ireland looks set to make history. Voters were asked, in essence, whether or not to legalize abortion and exit polls show that they overwhelmingly answered yes to that question.

Under heavy influence from the Catholic Church, the country had been until recently one of the most socially conservative in Europe. Official results haven't been announced yet but Atika Shubert has the details from Dublin.

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ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly seems like some very decisive numbers coming from Irish broadcaster RTE and their exit polls; 69 percent in favor, 30 percent against. And that is good news for abortion rights campaigners who have been campaigning for decades for a change like this.

Now we, of course, will have to wait for the official results to come in on Saturday morning. That is also when we will find out more about the exact turnout. It does seem, though, that turnout was very high and that would certainly have helped the yes campaign.

And throughout the night now we have been hearing reactions, shouts of celebration on the streets of Dublin and Ireland's prime minister putting out a tweet, thanking voters and saying it looks like history will be --

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SHUBERT: -- made tomorrow.

What is interesting and we will have to wait to see exactly the vote breakdown as it comes out on Saturday. But the exit poll seems to show that the country was not as divided as had previously been feared.

There was especially concerns about an urban-rural divide and yet it does seem that while 72 percent of those urban voters voted in favor, according to that exit poll, 63 percent of rural voters voted in favor as well. If there was any gap, it seems to be generational.

Those under 65 years old voted overwhelmingly in favor, according to exit poll numbers. But the over 65 age group seems to have been the only age group to vote against the amendment.

Again, we're going to have to wait for the full breakdown when it comes in on Saturday but it does seem so far like good news for abortion rights campaigners here in Ireland -- Atika Shubert, CNN, Dublin. (END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Harvey Weinstein, once one of Hollywood's most powerful players, has been charged with rape and sexual abuse. He is out on bail now and he is required to wear GPS monitoring system at all times.

Weinstein has repeatedly denied any allegations of nonconsensual sex. But the arraignment Friday was a victory for more than 80 women, who have accused Weinstein of sexual harassment or assault over several decades. Brynn Gingras has more.

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BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood megaproducer Harvey Weinstein in handcuffs, walking into court today, facing rape charges. They stem from the accounts of two women, including an aspiring actress, who first spoke out in a 2017 "New Yorker" article, alleging Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him at his office in 2004.

Tonight, Weinstein is out of jail after posting a $1 million cash bail but not before surrendering his passport, being forced to wear a monitoring device 24/7 and traveling only between New York and Connecticut.

The criminal charges are the first to be filed against Weinstein after dozens of women including, several A-list actresses, made various sexual misconduct accusations against the media mogul last year, among them, Gwyneth Paltrow...

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GWYNETH PALTROW, ACTOR: We had one instance in a hotel room, where he tried to -- where he made a pass at me. And then I really kind of stood up to him.

GINGRAS (voice-over): -- Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Lupita Nyong'o, Ashley Judd...

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTOR: I fought with this volley of nos, which he ignored.

GINGRAS (voice-over): -- and actress Rose McGowan, one of the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of rape.

ROSE MCGOWAN, ACTOR: We got you. Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

MCGOWAN: To see him in cuffs on the way out, whether he smiled or not, that is a very good feeling.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Weinstein denies having nonconsensual sex with any of his accusers and his attorney insisted today, his client is innocent. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My job is not to defend behavior. My job is to defend something that is criminal behavior. Bad behavior, Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood. And to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about.

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GINGRAS (voice-over): It is a stunning fall for the man behind several major movies, like "Silver Linings Playbook," "The King's Speech" and "Shakespeare in Love," just to name a few, some of which earned Weinstein dozens of awards for his work behind the camera.

But now he is the focus of investigations for alleged sex crimes, not just in New York but also in Los Angeles and London -- Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.

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VANIER: Let's look at some more of what Weinstein's accusers have been saying in the wake of this news. Activist Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement, said "This moment isn't to revel in how the mighty have fallen but to celebrate how the silenced have spoken up, stood up together and survived."

Italian actress Asia Argento compared them to a baroque Italian painter, famous for her portraits highlighting oppressed women.

And Mira Sorvino, another of Weinstein's accusers, thanked all the women who came forward and sent love to all her, quote "sisters today, who stood up to a monster."

One man in Hawaii goes head-to-head with Mother Nature to pick on Kilauea's lava bombs bombarding his neighbor's home. We'll have the story.

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VANIER: Welcome back.

For people who live near Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano, it feels like a never-ending emergency. There does not seem to be any end in sight. Officials are ordering more residents in the area to leave now as lava flows farther onto the streets.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey says seismic events near the summit were occurring every four minutes and the weather service predicts even more hazardous air quality.

Those are live pictures you are watching right now from Hawaii. Dozens of structures have already been destroyed since the volcano erupted three weeks ago. But one man decided to make a stand against the volcano and, yes, it is absolutely as crazy as it sounds. Scott McLean has his story.

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SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kilauea continues to force evacuations here in Hawaii. People are especially reluctant to stay behind because it is almost impossible to protect your home from lava. I say almost because we met a man who took on Mother Nature and won, all to protect a property that is not even his.

STEVE HILL, HAWAII RESIDENT: It's a beautiful place. It's a place that feels very alive.

MCLEAN (voice-over): It was two decades ago that Steve Hill found his slice of Hawaiian paradise. And two weeks ago, he came to grips with losing it.

MCLEAN: You left this place fully expecting you wouldn't come home to it.

HILL: Lost. Lost.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Hill and his wife packed up their furniture and left for the mainland. He even left a shot of gin on the deck for Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, assuming both the gin and his two homes would be swallowed up.

HILL: We left feeling heartbroken. It's like our homes are gone.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But his contractor and close friend, Darryl Clinton, had other ideas.

DARRYL CLINTON, CONTRACTOR: Might want to step back on this one.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Just one week ago, CNN was with Clinton while he was defending Hill's homes against flying chunks of molten lava. Windows had already been destroyed, so had the water catchment tank. Some lava bombs even came crashing through the roof.

Armed with little more than a garden hose, Clinton doused the flaming rocks before they torched the entire house.

CLINTON: These are the ones that catch the ceiling on fire.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The 24/7 task was difficult and even more dangerous. After almost a week, Hill told Clinton to leave and let the houses burn.

HILL: You can't do this, this is unsafe. It's time to stop. Valiant effort. I'm humbled by how hard you've tried.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But Clinton didn't leave until the next day and it wasn't by choice. A line-drive lava bomb broke his leg, severed an artery and nearly took his foot off. CLINTON: Just took my leg out and threw me against the wall. It was the most extreme force I've ever felt in my life.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The extreme heat burned up the deck, the wall and almost an entire dining set. But thanks to a fast-acting neighbor with a water jug, the house survived and so did Darryl.

HILL: You're blessed with neighbors like that.

MCLEAN (voice-over): Hill returned to Hawaii to find his homes and his friend who helped build them both badly in need of repair.

HILL: When Darryl is done rebuilding himself then we'll get on to rebuilding houses.

MCLEAN: He is a journeyman.

HILL: He is a journeyman. He is a beautiful person.

MCLEAN (voice-over): In a place where lava insurance is far too costly to be common, Hill knows that saying thank you isn't saying nearly enough.

HILL: This place stands because Darryl chose not to go home. It stands because he believed that he could save it. I mean, that is it.

MCLEAN: Darryl Clinton has a metal rod in his leg, he's had at least three surgeries and right now he is in Honolulu for another one. He has a long road ahead of him but he does have support.

His friend Steve Hill says that he will do whatever he can to get Darryl back on his feet. And his other neighbors are doing what they can to pitch in as well -- Scott McLean, CNN, Pahoa, Hawaii.

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VANIER: A fierce storm --

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VANIER: -- is hitting the Arabian Peninsula, battering Oman and sideswiping Yemen. At least 11 deaths on the Yemeni island of Socotra have been blamed on the cyclone, Mekunu. Local officials add another 45 people are reported missing there. So unfortunately, the death toll might increase. We will keep an eye on that.

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VANIER: And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I am Cyril Vanier. We've got the headlines in just a moment.