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North Korea Summit Preparations; Trump Stirs Controversy With Memorial Day Tweet; Trump Administration Loses Track of 1,500 Immigrant Children?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 28, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:33]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: And, as we remember the fallen, I just want to say thank you to all of the men and the women in the military.

Let's start this hour with CNN senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown.

And, Pamela, on the president today, we know we saw him paying respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. How is he spending this Memorial Day?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, while the president has honored the fallen service members in tweets and also there at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Brooke, it is clear that he also has some other things on his mind on this Memorial Day.

In a tweet just before he went to Arlington National Cemetery about Memorial Day, he also touted at his own accomplishments as it pertains to the economy, the unemployment rate as well.

And, Brooke, once again, he attacked the Russian probe in a series of tweets this morning as well. This follows a number of tweets over the weekend where the president also attacked the Russian probe.

In this particular tweet, he said: "Why didn't the 13 angry Democrats investigate the campaign of crooked Hillary Clinton? Many crimes, much collusion with Russia. Why didn't the FBI take the server from the DNC? Rigged investigation."

Now, just to fact-check this quickly here, Brooke, it is true that 13 of the at least 17 lawyers on Mueller's team have previously registered as Democrats. Eight of them have given to Democratic candidates.

But what is missing -- the point missing here is that the man overseeing the probe, Robert Mueller, is a registered Republican, as was the person who appointed him, Rod Rosenstein, a registered Republican as well.

And what appears to be a coordinated effort here with his attorney in the Russia probe Rudy Giuliani, he echoed the similar sentiments in interviews over the weekend, Brooke, saying that the Mueller probe is rigged, talking about the 13 Democrats on the Mueller team. And in a stunning admission, Brooke, Rudy Giuliani said that basically the effort here, the strategy here is basically a P.R. campaign to sway public opinion about the Mueller probe, to undermine it, so that it doesn't carry as much credibility in the court of public opinion.

Rudy Giuliani making the point that that's important because if it comes down to whether to impeach or not impeach the president, that lawmakers will be listening to their constituents.

A pretty stunning admission there. And also for the first time Rudy Giuliani came out questioning the legitimacy of the Russia probe. So it's clear, Brooke, that not only are they looking at a legal strategy, but also a P.R. strategy with all of this -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Significant, what Rudy Giuliani told Dana over the weekend. We're going to play some of that here in just a second.

Pamela, thank you very much at the White House for me.

But I do want to get now to the president's summit, on-again/off-again with North Korea. So, for an event he canceled last week, there sure is a lot of action, as in right now Americans are in North Korea.

This is what the president tweeted on this -- quote -- "Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the summit between Kim Jong-un and myself. I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial nation one day. Kim Jong-un agrees with me on this. It will happen."

Here is the negotiator for the U.S. who is meeting with his North Korean counterpart. Reportedly, both of these officials were part of negotiations back in that 2005 between Washington and Pyongyang.

So, to our CNN international correspondent, Matt Rivers, we go in Seoul, South Korea.

And, Matt, that date on the calendar for the summit, it was supposed to be June 12. Does that date stand?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As of now, it would appear that way, although let's check back in 24 and 48 hours, Brooke, because over the last four or five days here in the Korean Peninsula, things have really changed quite drastically.

But look at -- let's look at what's happened recently here. What you're seeing is concrete steps from the American side to push this summit forward. So, you have got a logistics delegation from the U.S. down in Singapore right now trying to figure out all of the kind of basic details, where's the summit going to be held, what kind of media access will -- will there be.

But then the more important part there, you could argue, would be what's going on just north of U.S. at the demilitarized zone. That's where that American delegation, led by Ambassador Sung Kim, who you just showed his picture on the screen, went into the North Korean side of the DMZ and met with the North Koreans. There,they are trying to figure, well, what is this summit going to look like? What is the agenda? What can be accomplished? What is President Trump going to sit across the table from Kim Jong-un and talk about?

[15:05:05]

That's the hard part. That's where it becomes difficult. But taken in totality here, Brooke, what you have seen over the past couple days, even if we don't have an official announcement yet that this summit is back on, all the stakeholders, the North Koreans, the Americans, the South Koreans, everybody is taking the necessary steps -- steps to push forward to make this summit a reality.

How successful the summit will be, though, is another question entirely.

BALDWIN: Sure seems like they want it, though. We will talk again in 24 to 48 hours.

Matt Rivers in South Korea, thank you very much.

Let's have a bigger discussion now.

With me now, CNN political analyst Karoun Demirjian, who's a congressional reporter with "The Washington Post," and CNN legal analyst Paul Callan.

I really wanted to hone in on what -- the point Pamela was making earlier about Rudy Giuliani. He comes on CNN over the weekend. He talks with Dana Bash. And he makes this huge admission.

Karoun, to you. You he said team Trump is trying to discredit Mueller in the court of public opinion, that their political -- that their strategy is political, not legal. Here he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: they are giving us the material.

I -- I couldn't do it if I didn't have the material. They are giving us the material to do it. Of course, we have to do it in defending the president. We are defending -- to a large extent, remember, Dana, we are defending here, it is for public opinion, because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach, not impeach.

Members of Congress, Democrat and Republican, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. So, our jury is the American -- as it should be -- is the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, I want to hear from both on this, first just on the piece and then from a from a legal perspective.

Karoun, I mean, he's admitting this is about the court of public opinion. This is political.

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's being very honest.

I mean, look, there are always two audiences here. One is how Trump is going to interface with the actual legal investigation with Bob Mueller's team and how he's dealing with the actual investigation.

The other half was always going to be the court of public opinion. Look, the track record -- I mean, the pace at which the special counsel's investigation is proceeding right now, odds are we end up at least in the same realm as the November 2018 midterm elections, by the time we get any place that looks like anything like the end of this probe.

And so if the House of Representatives flips, there's probably going to be some sort of impeachment proceedings happening. And so the president has been playing this to the public for a long time, because it really doesn't matter in terms of how his fate continues after November 2018.

And it also matters because this is kind of working for him, to an extent. He may not be gaining the respect of the special counsel and his team. But he does seem to be earning sympathy points from the public. And that counts too, especially if he isn't ultimately going to be indicted as a sitting president.

And that's an open question. So Giuliani's being brutally honest about the fact that there's been two tracks going here at the same time. It's not what you would expect to hear the president's lawyer, but it is the situation that we're in.

BALDWIN: Brutal honesty, is that the legal strategy you would be taking here?

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, listen, honesty is always a good strategy.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CALLAN: But Dana Bash asked him this question, Giuliani. Are you trying to undermine this investigation? Now, normally, what a lawyer will say is, we're being fully cooperative with the investigation, we think they are wrong, we think they reached the wrong conclusion, but we will cooperate as the law requires.

BALDWIN: Instead...

(CROSSTALK)

CALLAN: Instead, Giuliani says, yes, we're trying to undermine the investigation.

BALDWIN: Yes.

CALLAN: And they have given us the material to undermine the investigation.

Now, when a lawyer says that, it sounds to me like he's recommending an obstruction of justice.

And I think Giuliani's getting perilously close to stating things that are unethical for an attorney to state. I will just give you one quick example, OK?

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

CALLAN: Let's say a large business was being investigated because of embezzlement, and a vice president in the business said, we're not going to cooperate with the cops. We're going to do everything possible to undermine that embezzlement investigation, like hide the records, OK?

Well, that would be a criminal obstruction of justice. And, yes, maybe it would help him in the court of public opinion and his product would sell better.

BALDWIN: But in actual court court...

CALLAN: It's still an obstruction. And Giuliani's perilously close to advising his client to commit a crime. And I think it's disgraceful.

BALDWIN: Wow. Wow. Paul Callan coming out swinging on Memorial Day.

CALLAN: OK.

BALDWIN: I hear you.

Also, though, if they want to talk politics, Karoun, let's just take a step back here. Again, it is Memorial Day. And when you look at what the president has attacked -- and I just want to make sure we're not getting numb to any of this -- in 24 hours, you have a president of the United States who's attacked an active investigation involving him accusing FBI, DOJ and Democrats of colluding with Russians.

He's called the Mueller probe rigged, without providing any evidence. And he has attacked the Russia probe here on Memorial Day before he walks into Arlington National Cemetery.

DEMIRJIAN: Yes, I mean, Well, this is the two sides of President Trump, OK.

His Twitter account is the most raw representation of who he is and who he is on the stage. He gave a very good speech at Arlington. And that was written by somebody else.

[15:10:03]

And he did deliver it very well and hit all the right notes for Memorial Day. But at the same time, when he's off stage, he is delivering his own feelings on Memorial Day, which don't seem to have as much to do with remembering the fallen as they do with expressing his own feelings and opinions about things that are involving him right now.

So it's kind of like any other day, almost, with how the president is opining about both the Russia probe and other matters as well.

BALDWIN: And then there was this -- here's a clip from Democratic Senator Chris Coons, as he is suggesting Trump Jr. Don Jr., may be lying about foreign contacts and needs to come back and testify. Here he was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: I'm concerned that, in reviewing the transcript of Donald Trump Jr.'s questioning by staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that there's a clear tension between his firm answers that there was no efforts by a foreign power to provide assistance to the Trump campaign and recent reporting that there were meetings that he participated in where representatives of Gulf states were offering some assistance to the Trump campaign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: What are the chances, Paul Callan, that he does not? What options lay on the table for these lawyers?

CALLAN: To -- in terms of obstructing the -- the investigation?

(CROSSTALK)

BALDWIN: Don Jr. going back.

CALLAN: Well, if he gets called back in, he's going to have to go back in and give the information. So I don't think that they have a lot of options available to stop it from happening.

And I also think -- and I have always thought with respect to this entire investigation, if any of these investigations start to get close to the Trump children, that's when you're going to see real pressure put on the president, more so than anything else.

I mean, he's very confident about defending himself and saying it's all politics.

BALDWIN: But everybody changes when your family is involved.

CALLAN: Yes, if he sees his kids getting hurt by it, that's a real pressure point.

And let me tell you something. Prosecutors use family members against potential suspects all the time. So, it could happen here.

BALDWIN: Paul, thank you very much.

CALLAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And, Karoun, thank you as well.

Coming up next: President Trump outs his own record of achievements in a tweet to honor our fallen troops, and it has some veterans in this country absolutely outraged.

Also ahead, catastrophic flooding in one Maryland city. At least one man is missing after he tried to help a woman's cat from drowning in the water. I will speak to one of his friends.

And, later, children as young as 18 months old being ripped from their parents' arms at the border, it's happening right now in the U.S. We will fact-check what's really happening with this new Trump administration policy.

Stay with me.

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[15:16:39]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To every family member of the fallen, I want you to know that the legacy of those you lost does not fade with time, but grows only more powerful.

Their legacy does not, like a voice in the distance, become a faint echo, but, instead, their legacy grows deeper, spreading further, touching more lives, reaching down through time, and out across many generations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: President Trump pausing this Memorial Day to honor the nation's fallen service members. He spoke there at Arlington National Cemetery, while also laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The president is also taking the day to celebrate his own achievements, tweeting -- quote -- Happy Memorial Day. Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades. Lowest unemployment numbers for blacks and Hispanics ever (and women) in 18 years, rebuilding our military and so much more. Nice."'

So, let's start there with CNN military analyst Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He's a former Army commanding general. And CNN politics commentator Paris Dennard, he is a member of the Trump Advisory Board.

So, gentlemen, nice to have both of you on.

And, General, as always, thank you so much for your service to this great country. On the president's tweet -- and I'm sure you saw retired REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY's tweet earlier that he found the president's message to be -- quote -- "inappropriate, ignorant and tone-deaf."

Is that going too far? How do you feel?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I'm with Admiral Kirby, Brooke.

I know I don't speak for all veterans, but I was extremely disappointed in that tweet too, even a little bit saddened by such an emptiness of understanding of what today is all about and such a lack of situational awareness.

I know that there are -- were a lot of Gold Star families who either read the tweet or heard about it, because it's been on the news now, and I'm sure it was hurtful to them as well.

The best way on Memorial Day to honor the fallen is to make the message about them or about the families that are trying to survive after the death of their loved ones.

So, yes, I'm with that Admiral Kirby on that, and said so myself. This day is supposed to be about the families and about the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

BALDWIN: Paris, how do you see it?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: First of all, thank you having me here on Memorial Day. And my thoughts and prayers go out to all of those families who dealt with the ultimate sacrifice of having their family member killed on the battlefield.

And I want to look at what President Trump and say, the president was right. The soldiers who fought, bled and died did so for the freedoms of America. They did so, so that we could have the opportunity to live in a free enterprise system, where we do have a strong economy.

They did so, so that we would live under American rule and not under rule of communism or socialism or under the Islamic State. And so because of their sacrifices and because the people who serve right now fighting for us and protecting us, we have had the freedoms and the free enterprise system the capitalist system that allows us to have an amazing economy, a strong government, and a sense of pride in being American and in seeing America grow and rise, and a Congress and a president especially who is leading the charge to have more funding for our military.

[15:20:21]

So the president's remarks via Twitter and his remarks there are at Arlington were -- were heartfelt and were appropriate. And I don't think anybody should question the president's commitment to our soldiers, our veterans, and our Gold Star families.

When you look at his chief of staff, General John Kelly, and the ultimate sacrifice that his -- his family gave and the loss of his son back in Afghanistan and 2010, the president understands that because he can just walk right down the hall and hear it from his chief of staff, who talks to him regularly.

So I think the president is acutely aware of what Memorial Day is and that's why we celebrate and honor the sacrifice of our -- of all of those families first. We celebrate our families, their courage, but we also remember and pay respect to those who fall, who have -- fell, who have fallen.

BALDWIN: I wanted to hear you in full. And I'm also listening to the general really closely. And so I understand you're saying that our men and women fought for this great country. But then why -- the president, his words were beautiful at Arlington. Why not just leave it at that and not also tweet about this spy conspiracy and Russia, before going to Arlington and laying that wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier?

Why go there, today of all days?

DENNARD: Well, I think the president is able to tweet and talk about multiple things.

The president decided to talk about other things as well. But I think the president's tweet about -- his multiple tweets, I should say, if we're going to be fair, his multiple tweets about Memorial Day and his wreath-laying ceremony and his remarks at length at Arlington were all appropriate.

And I think the president has a right. We all have freedom of speech, which is one of things that those soldiers, they protect us for, the Constitution, for us to able to tweet and to speak how we want to freely.

But the president, give him credit. He did tweet on multiple occasions about Memorial Day specifically, without any other factor or anything else inserted in there. At least four to five tweets were specifically about Memorial Day.

BALDWIN: OK.

I want to leave this, but one more opportunity. General, do you want to respond? And then I want to move on.

HERTLING: Yes, I want to respond, because, actually, I'm seething by what Paris is saying, because, first of all, the president doesn't understand the sacrifices of anyone, because, I'll tell you, having not given my life on the battlefield, my family doesn't understand the pain other families feel.

So he doesn't. I don't care if General Kelly works down the hall from him or not. It's not a matter of that.

There's a lack of situational awareness of what this day is all about. And, yes, the president did tweet later, after his speech, about all of the things he said at the memorial service. And I would guess that that was probably his staff tweeting for him to counter what he tweeted out at 10:32 this morning, about a half-hour before that service went down.

And what I say -- tell you again, Brooke, he doesn't get it. There's a lack of situational understanding when it has to -- when it comes to the veterans and what veterans are looking for in terms of their leader, their commander in chief.

So I will just leave it at that.

BALDWIN: OK. OK.

General, let me just stay with you, because I want to ask you about how -- we know the president has been planning on this trip to the U.K. He's planning on going at some point this summer.

And so in an interview with "The Guardian," Chelsea Clinton seemingly calls the British to protest his trip.

And in part, she says: "If I lived in Britain, I would show up to protest because I don't agree with what he's doing to degrade what it means to be an American."

"Degrade what it means to be an American," what do you think she means by that?

HERTLING: Well, I think some of the comments he's made about many of our alliances, especially the alliance with the U.K., with NATO, with others, is what Ms. Clinton is talking about.

And she has a free voice as well and can voice her concerns. I'm not sure it's appropriate to request other people boycott, but in this -- especially other people from a different nation, but I can understand her sentiment, because it is somewhat embarrassing the way our president, our commander in chief has been interacting with other nations, especially those that are part of an alliance.

BALDWIN: What did you think of those comments, Paris?

DENNARD: Well, listen, Chelsea Clinton can say whatever she wants. It's a free country.

But I think that her comments were -- her tweets were inappropriate and rude. I don't think she would have wanted anybody to say something like that about her father, who is a former president, or about her mother, who tried to be president several times over.

So I just don't think that she is actually being fair and would really want that to be done to members of her own family. It's unfortunate that she, as an American, who reaps the benefits of being an American, would call on others outside of our country to protest and to do something so disrespectful to the leader of the free world, especially on a diplomatic mission going overseas.

[15:25:22] And so it's just unfortunate, but I'm not surprised.

BALDWIN: OK.

Paris and General Hertling -- yes.

HERTLING: This may be a direct reaction to some of the things the president has done in terms of disrespecting the people of London, the London mayor, and many of the political entities within the U.K.

BALDWIN: Yes.

HERTLING: I'm sure they were disrespected by many of the things President Trump said as well.

DENNARD: Well, if they so disrespected, they would not have invited him to come out to visit their country, which they did do. And so, they don't want him there, they should not have invited him, and they have. And that's what's Theresa May has done.

And so she understands diplomacy. I think that France understands that. North Korea is soon to see it, South Korea, China. The list goes on and on. The president is doing a wonderful job internationally and he deserves to have that respect given to him, like she would have asked for her mother or her father.

BALDWIN: OK. OK.

Two perspectives, we want to hear them both.

General Hertling and Paris Dennard, thank you, gentlemen, very much.

DENNARD: Thank you.

HERTLING: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming out next, the Trump administration under fire after losing track of nearly 1,500 immigrant children. Where are they? We have got the facts coming up.

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