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Trump: Nuclear Summit with Kim Jong-Un Back On; The Lasting Global Impact from a Trump/Kim Nuclear Summit; Trump Administration Separating Migrant Children from Parents. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 2, 2018 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: -- with me. We have breaking news in the obstruction investigation into Trump. "The New York Times" reporting this hour that his attorneys sent a 20-page letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller arguing why a president cannot obstruct justice.

According to the "Times," a letter was hand delivered back in January and was sent as an attempt to head off a possible subpoena for President Trump to testify. We are covering all angles of this.

CNN crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is in Washington, and White House correspondent, Boris Sanchez also at the White House in Washington. Shimon, first to you. You've had a chance to read through this letter. What are the key revelations? What do we need to know?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, there are several revelations in this letter and really ultimately what this is about is an argument that the president's lawyers were making as to why the special counsel can't compel the president to appear before them, to come and testify.

They lay out all sorts of different reasons and also was seeking to respond to some of the questions that the special counsel wants to ask the president about. Certainly, some of the legal arguments, let me read straight from the letter here, this has to do with the Constitution and constitutionality of whether or not the president can be forced to appear before the special counsel.

And here's what it says. This is coming from, of course, the letter, "It remains our position that the president's actions here by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired."

So, here, clearly, the president's lawyers arguing one of the things that he can't do, that is the president can't obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer. Now, some of the other issues as we know that the special counsel has been looking at is the Flynn -- is Michael Flynn and his conversations with the Russians, also the Michael Flynn -- the FBI investigation, whether or not the president tried to interfere in that investigation.

And here's an interesting argument from the lawyers in this case, because they're arguing, essentially, that the president didn't even know that Michael Flynn was under investigation and therefore because they -- he didn't know that he was under investigation, how could he obstruct justice?

Let me read that part of the letter to you. It says here, quote, "There could not possibly have been intent to obstruct an investigation that had been neither confirmed nor denied to White House counsel, and that they had every reason, based on General Flynn's statement and his continued security clearance, to assume was not ongoing."

There's a part in this letter, Anna, where they talk about how Michael Flynn and certainly folks at the White House were under the impression that the FBI was going to clear Michael Flynn, that he was not under investigation, that they did not believe that he lied and therefore, there's no way that the president could obstruct justice in this case.

And finally, I think one of the more important things here is the meeting that occurred at Trump Tower with the Russian that Don Jr. participated in. There's a -- some requests from the special counsel for information regarding that, specifically a statement that the president helped draft.

And here for the first time, we have an admission from the president's lawyers that he helped craft this statement, and the response here from the lawyers to the special counsel on that matter reads as such.

"You have received all of the notes, communications, and testimony indicating that the president dictated a short but accurate response to "The New York Times" article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr."

Now, of course, this is relating to the Trump Tower meeting with the Russian lawyer, where they were supposed to talk about adoptions. There was misleading information about whether or not this was going to be about promised dirt on Hillary Clinton that Robert Mueller and his team is also investigating.

And finally, this letter goes on to say that that meeting that Donald Trump Jr. meeting and the statement that the president winded up crafting is a personal matter, and that the special counsel has really no right to investigate that.

But I think what's really important here, also, is that since January, at least, the president's lawyers have been making these arguments to the special counsel as to why the president should not be subjected to an interview.

And it seems at least as far as from everything we know that that's not working because basically we're still in June and they're still arguing with the special counsel about the fact that he should not be subjected to an interview. CABRERA: And of course, that letter was delivered in January. He has largely a different legal team now. Is there any reason to believe or is there any indication that this legal strategy has changed since that letter was delivered?

PROKUPECZ: No, there is no indication. In fact, I think it's still ongoing. They're still using the same arguments, and we've heard certainly from Rudy Giuliani, from other lawyers that are working for the president, make these same arguments now for several months.

What's also interesting, Anna, here is that this letter was hand delivered some two days after the president -- there had been a potential date set up of January 27th where they were going to set down for an interview.

[17:05:11] If you remember, we were just reporting that the other day. So, this, something happens, there was supposed to be -- they had a tentative date scheduled, something occurs.

And then the president's lawyers decide, you know what, we don't want him to do this interview, and now we know what appears to be two days later, this letter is hand delivered to the special counsel.

CABRERA: And then Boris, the president is already reacting to this report. Fill us in.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. In fact, the president reacted before this article was even published. He sent out a tweet that left us scratching our heads, and shortly after "The New York Times" published this piece, the president had tweeted out, quote, "There was no collusion with Russia except by the Democrats. When will this very expensive witch hunt hoax ever end.

So bad for our country. Is the special counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers' letters to the fake news media? Should be looking at Dems corruption instead." So, the president not only preempting this piece but also seeking to frame it as a potential leak coming from his own Department of Justice and from the special counsel.

Perhaps this shouldn't come as a surprise. The president has frequently attacked his own Department of Justice, including the man that he named attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Further, he's been propagating conspiracy theories about a deep state implanting a spy in his campaign to help the Hillary Clinton campaign, something the White House has not offered any proof for.

We've yet to get any indication that indeed anyone at the Department of Justice or the special counsel provided these letters to "The New York Times." I did ask Sarah Sanders about this. She forwarded all of our questions about the president's tweet and the article to outside counsel -- Ana.

CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez, Shimon Prokupecz, thank you, guys. Joining me now, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee and also a Democrat. So, thank you, Congresswoman for joining us. You are a lawyer, so I want to get your reaction to this letter sent back in January and do you think the president's attorneys are right or wrong in their assessment?

REPRESENTATIVE SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: It's good to be with you. This is part of the tricks of defending someone who clearly has a rocky path forward. What the lawyers are trying to do is obviously create their own narrative that matches the tweets that the president's been sending.

You'd have to ask the question, certainly, the president has constitutional powers, but you have to ask the question, why he's afraid to have such an interview. Number two, you'd have to imagine that he knows that he's engaged in obstruction of justice, as evidenced by the interview that he did with NBC.

And he clearly said, well, the reason that I fired Comey was because he didn't stop the Russian investigation as a matter of --

CABRERA: He said that I was thinking about this Russian thing is I think what the words or the quote was directly. But in this letter, they seem to argue that the president just can't obstruct justice, period.

In fact, let me read you the words so you can respond to this. And I quote, "It remains our position that the president's actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself.

And that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired." So, Congresswoman, to a layman, that sounds a little like a word salad. Whether you agree with it or not, is it a solid legal argument?

JACKSON LEE: No -- well, I don't agree with it and I think it has a legal argument that can be rebutted, because first of all, yes, the president has constitutional powers. He has constitutional powers to pardon, constitutional powers that involve the executive privilege.

But he's not above the rule of law. What the president has consistently done is raise questions about his willingness to adhere to the law. He has probably documented instances of obstructing justice.

And the question has to be, really, possibly, a congressional question is whether the president has abused power. Remember, President Nixon took to firing any number of his cabinet officers. That could be considered obstruction of justice.

Ultimately, it was decided upon by the United States Congress as it relates to an abuse of power. So, they're creating a narrative to avoid or to say to the Mueller investigation that he is immune from prosecution. I'm going to allow the Mueller investigation to continue and give us their interpretation and their results, but this is what lawyers do. They set a narrative. I don't agree with their interpretation, because I don't agree that every manner of action by a president of the United States is protected by executive privilege, and as well, that a president cannot be questioned about the obstruction of justice.

What will settle this is if the president subjects himself to the interview, which they are both rejecting that and also want the American people to believe that any president, all presidents are above the rule of law, and are in totality immune from prosecution.

But I think that there is a posture for presidents in the three branches of government, equal as they are, to certainly not be in the position of abusing power. That is not the kind of leadership the American people deserve.

And the questions about his abuse of power should be raised by members of the United States Congress as the Mueller investigation continues and provides the Congress with a report.

CABRERA: OK, I want to ask you about some new developments in Puerto Rico right now, because we have new numbers about the number of people who died following Hurricane Maria last September, and the numbers are staggering.

Harvard study this week says it could be as many as 4,600 people who died in some way connected to the hurricane, as a result of not being able to get medical care, perhaps, because of the situation that the hurricane left behind.

Now, we have new numbers that came out in the last 24 hours from the Department of Health in Puerto Rico saying that there were at least 1,400 more people, who died in the months after the hurricane hit compared to the number of people who died in those same months the year before. You want to open an actual inquiry into this. Tell us about what that would look like.

JACKSON LEE: Absolutely. I think it is imperative, and I'm joining my colleagues, some have asked for the Government Accountability Agency. I believe the United States Department of Homeland Security should engage in an inspector general investigation.

That is because, of course, one of the agencies who I know tried to work very hard, but it really comes from the top. If the president of the United States had no clue and no understanding, no experience with dealing with natural disasters, I've dealt with Hurricane Katrina because tens upon tens of thousands came to Houston.

In addition, 1,500 people died in Hurricane Katrina. They drowned when the levees broke. I've dealt with Hurricane Rita just recently, Hurricane Harvey. Deaths occur, and deaths occur in the extended period after the hurricane.

Everyone should have known, including the president of the United States, that when you leave an island in the devastation that Puerto Rico was and the Virgin Islands without electricity, without food, that the death that came about were attributable to Hurricane Harvey.

The deaths that came about because kidney machines didn't work, because elderly didn't get food, because infections started, because people drowned in small amounts of water, was attributable to the lack of consciousness of this administration as evidenced by the visit -- tragedy of this administration, when a paper towel was thrown.

So, in order for us to do better as we enter into the hurricane season, I'm here in Houston, Texas. I've been spending time with high school graduating classes, some of whom I had to say to them that they made it through Hurricane Harvey in a devastating way and we're about to enter another season.

We must have pre-planning for the territories. We must pre-position hurricane equipment and staff, and we must do that on the gulf region as well. This was a fault and a failure of this administration and now they must fix it. They must find out the actual facts.

They need to find out why it happened, and they need to cure it for this hurricane season, and they need to stop hiding that in actuality, their failure of taking seriously the tragedy in Puerto Rico and in the Virgin Islands in terms of not having food, equipment, electricity, was really a failure of the administration.

CABRERA: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, I really appreciate your time. Thank you for being here.

JACKSON LEE: Thank you for having me. I do want to just congratulate everyone who's graduating this year. Thank you.

CABRERA: Absolutely, especially because it has been a tough year for a lot of these high school students, especially in Texas. Our hearts are with those in Santa Fe, Texas, this weekend too. We know their graduation was yesterday. Thank you again.

I want to discuss more of these revelations, especially concerning the Trump letter with our panel. Let's start there with CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan, editor of "The Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol, and CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.

Paul, this letter, 20 pages, President Trump's attorneys sent to Robert Mueller back in January. I'm not sure if you've had a chance to read all the way through, but Shimon went over some of those key parts. Do you think Trump's team has a solid case?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I have had an opportunity to look at the letter. Of course, a lot of this material has been coming up in bits and pieces over the last few months. This issue of whether a president can be compelled to testify before a grand jury, the courts have never been crystal clear about it.

For instance, going all the way back to Thomas Jefferson, he was subpoenaed to testify in the trial of Aaron Burr. Burr was on trial for treason.

[17:15:11] You know, you think we have problems today. That was what was going on then and of course, Burr had killed Secretary of State Alexander Hamilton, and Jefferson refused to appear to testify. He did ultimately submit some personal papers for the court to consider.

So, he resisted it. Under the Nixon administration, Nixon finally agreed and was compelled by the court to produce the Nixon tapes, but Nixon never personally testified. And the only examples we have of personal testimony are situations where presidents have voluntarily agreed to testify.

Bill Clinton did that, for instance. So, it's still an open question whether a resistant president could be compelled to appear in front of a grand jury.

CABRERA: Ron, the president is accusing the Mueller team of leaking this letter. Who do you think is helped more by having it out there?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a really good question. There has not been a lot of leaking that you could trace back to the Mueller team. I think, you know, this -- usually, when you get this kind of leak, there is some level of dissent within a team, and I would assume within the defense team.

I mean, the real question -- to me, there's kind of a contradiction at the heart of this, which is the argument from the lawyers seems to be that the president cannot obstruct justice, cannot obstruct an investigation because his power over federal investigations is virtually unlimited.

Well, that would be news to the House of Representatives in 1974 whose Articles 1 and 2 of Impeachment against Richard Nixon referenced obstruction of justice, acting to impede and obstruct an investigation.

And certainly, the Republican majority in the House in 1998, Article 3 of their impeachment against Bill Clinton, referenced obstruction of justice, and it, you know, the question of whether that ultimately would hold in a court of law may be somewhat secondary.

Unless you believe Robert Mueller's going to challenge the Justice Department rulings in the '70s and the '90s that you cannot indict a sitting president. Ultimately, these questions will go before Congress and they have twice now, in recent memory, said that they believe obstruction of justice is an impeachable offense.

CABRERA: I want to touch on just a detail in this letter, Bill. The president's attorneys acknowledge he did dictate his son's misleading statement about that Trump tower meeting with the Russians that was in the summer of 2016. That's not what the president's attorney, Jay Sekulow, or Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the American people. They denied Trump had any involvement.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, that is a striking concession. When you read through the letter, I've done it quickly, it's not a letter designed to persuade Robert Mueller or any serious lawyers of anything.

It's designed, ultimately, for public consumption, to be released publicly, to try to make their case to their own supporters, primarily, to justify not testifying and to justify pardons and to justify a generally hostile stance, I would say, towards the investigation.

So, I think, a, this is not an internal legal document, really. It's a public relations document if you just read through it. If any serious lawyer reads it, there's not detailed legal arguments in there. They're broad, extremely broad assertions and a lot of rhetoric.

And getting some things on the record, as you just said, which maybe they need to kind of correct a little bit for ultimately where their defense going to be. But then the question is, why did they leak it now?

I assume they leaked it. Mueller's team has been airtight, and I think Rudy Giuliani gave us a clue to that a few weeks ago. On the Stormy Daniels thing, I can't remember which detail it was, he said something.

And they said, why'd you say this, and he said, you got to get this stuff out ahead of time, so you can make your case and I think this is a case of there must be either, I would suspect, either they think a subpoena is coming soon or indictments are coming soon on obstruction.

For some reason, they want to get their argument out there so their people can get used to making this very broad and difficult to sustain argument but nonetheless an argument that's got at least the pretense of legal backing, 20-page memo, you know, Trump's supporters can start making this argument now. For me, the question of why leaking it now is very interesting.

CABRERA: Paul, do you agree? It's more public relations than maybe legal defense?

CALLAN: I absolutely agree with Bill, and by the way, a lawyer can write 20 pages about almost anything, so, you know, the length of this doesn't determine its persuasiveness, and I think, essentially, what they want to say and what they want the public to believe, ultimately, is that, hey, we've been as cooperative as possible throughout offering this level of information.

And it's Mueller who's being unreasonable and treating the president with disrespect. And I think Bill emphasizes this fact. This whole process is a political process, an impeachment is a political act, and you have to have the votes for impeachment and so it is a public relations battle.

[17:20:04] CABRERA: Ron, when you look at this issue of potential collusion, which we know is not a legal term, but, you know, what could be entailed when we're talking about collusion. That's why I come back to what they revealed in this letter regarding that meeting at Trump Tower. Because there's always been that lingering question as to whether Trump knew about that meeting. Why would he dictate a statement about a meeting that he supposedly knew nothing about and then, I mean, they're saying he dictated it.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, and I can't answer that. I mean, right. You know, we have the whole -- we have the whole kind of hanging detail out there of the blocked cell phone number that Donald Trump Jr. called around the meeting, which the Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said the Republicans refuse to follow up on. You know, and obviously raising the question of whether he informed his father about what went on.

I think most people think that, you know, at this point, the personal liability of the president, his own personal involvement, if there is, is more on the question of obstructing the investigation than on what happened with Russia or did not happen during the campaign since presumably anything that did happen would have occurred well below his level with, you know, many layers of deniability.

And I just go back to bill's point here. I mean, this -- this, like many things, you know, rhetorical arguments and policies alike in the Trump administration, are much more about mobilizing and consolidating their base than trying to make a case to independent swing voters.

And we saw, you know, both particularly in the Nixon case that there were substantial number of Republicans across party lines who were willing to uphold the idea that there were transcendent standards, transcendent rules of law that applied to everyone, whether they were in your own party or not.

This document seems to be banking on the opposite, on the belief that if you put any argument out there, this maximalist view, that your side will rally around that flag, however flimsy the legal underpinning is, and that's why I think this is going to get more turbulent, not less, as it goes forward.

CABRERA: Gentlemen, I got to leave it there. Bill Kristol, I owe you the first question next time. Thank you all for joining us. Bill Kristol, Ron Brownstein, and Paul Callan, I appreciate it.

Coming up, Puerto Rican officials now acknowledging a higher death toll from Hurricane Maria, but we're only finding this out because researchers took the government to court for new numbers to be released. So, why did officials maintain a lower number for so long? And will the true toll ever be known? We're live in San Juan.

And the president this hour is prepping for his upcoming summit with Kim Jong-un. As new reports emerge that the U.S. is looking for ways to cover Kim's hotel bill. Is the U.S. making too many concessions to the North with nothing in return? We'll discuss.

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[17:26:58] CABRERA: Puerto Rico is bracing for another hurricane season without even having recovered from the last one. When Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in September, the death and the misery were shockingly plain to see in the aftermath immediately.

But we're now learning the true death toll may be massively higher than the 64 deaths first reported. Puerto Rican officials just released numbers showing upward of 1,400 additional deaths in the months after Maria compared to the previous calendar year and their numbers follow a Harvard study putting Maria-related deaths at more than 4,600. That's a conservative estimate, they say.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is joining us now from San Juan. These reports are very nuanced. Can you help parse the numbers for us?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, here's another number. More than 2,000, that's what we're seeing in terms of the number of shoes that Puerto Ricans have put out today starting yesterday in front of the capitol building to represent each life.

Number 791, Nidia Morales, number 836, Maria Cristina, 839 (inaudible) Ferrer, and many of them leave notes. Number 784 is Marsan Davila (ph) and he writes, dad, I bought you these new shoes because you left us barefoot. I love you, dad.

And this has been here since yesterday. Again, more than 2,000 shoes right now at the capitol building. It's quite the sight to see. The words that I have heard today, sadness, tragedy, shame. Many Puerto Ricans calling for a death toll that makes sense to them.

Currently, the government official death toll is at 64. People have been coming here almost to mourn. The organizers said to me something that stuck with me. She said, this is a funeral, and this is our cemetery.

There's also another woman that, when she arrived, her name is Emma Rodriguez, she's from Aguadilla, far from where we are now and when she arrived, I could see she became overwhelmed with emotion.

She had two pairs of shoes that she put down for people that she knew that died and when I asked her how she was feeling, she said, I can smell the death. This is death. And the timeliness of this, not only are people here feeling sad, feeling emotional, feeling quite frankly forgotten, but there is also anxiety because it is June 2nd.

It is day two of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, and as we have spent the week going across this island to some of the most affected areas, we are still seeing people without power. We are still seeing people with blue tarps, 30-day blue tarps, still protecting some of the homes on this island as we enter into the hurricane season.

So, while the Harvard study that says more than 4,600 people is an estimate had certainly brought this to light again, many are saying the conditions that led to some of these deaths are still around and need to be put out there, need to not be forgotten.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: We need to -- we can't forget. We need to get to the bottom of it.

Leyla Santiago, thank you for that report.

Coming up, the on-and-off again U.S.-North Korean summit back on. This after a 90-minute meeting between President Trump and a former North Korean spy in the Oval Office. So, how is the president now preparing for the historic meeting with Kim Jong-Un? Details ahead.

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[17:35:07] CABRERA: Right now, President Trump is at Camp David, back in North Korea-prep mode since he announced the Singapore summit with Kim Jong-Un is back on schedule. This moment in the Oval Office before the president made it official, a senior North Korean representative hand delivering a personal letter from the North Korean leader. No word from the White House yet on what exactly that letter says.

Our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson, is in Seoul, South Korea.

Nic, we are now 10 days out from this historic summit, if the current plan holds. Where you are standing there in South Korea, what are they saying? How do they view this upcoming summit?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Sure. Look, I think the South Koreans are very clear -- very keen and it's been clear from the beginning, to get to some talk in between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. They're saying that they're watching this carefully. They're saying that don't let what North Korea has done in the past be a prejudge of what North Korea may do this time. Of course, everyone knows that North Korea's lied in the past and a lot of people are saying they could lie again. So, the South Koreans really wanted to -- want to be more optimistic, really sort of putting, if you will, as much pressure as they can bring to bear, if any, on the White House to make a go of this, to have this meeting. As President Trump has said, it's just kind of getting to know you at first.

But America's other allies in this region, particularly Japan, that really feels wrong-footed by all of this. They're concerned. They're saying, look, Kim Jong-Un shouldn't get to the table with President Trump just for this kind of meeting. He should be delivering something, the complete verifiable, irreversible denuclearization should be, you know, on the table before they get going, and we should bring into these chemical weapons, biological weapons, North Korea's ballistic missiles. So Japan really feels that President Trump is getting ahead of himself, that he's giving in too much, giving too much ground here.

They're also concerned about what President Trump is saying about sanctions. You know, President Trump has said, look, I've got lots of other sanctions I could put on, but while North Korea's talking nicely, and we'll remember just a week ago he said they weren't -- while they're talking nicely, I'm not going to do that. He said I won't use that expression, maximum pressure. So, Japan feels confused. The defense minister today was saying, well, what is this? Is it maximum pressure or are there sanctions? Where do we really stand on this?

So, you know, confusion, concern, if you're Japan. Hope, I think, if you're South Korea right now.

CABRERA: All right, Nic Robertson, in Seoul for us, thanks for the update from the region.

Now, what about the results, the lasting global impact that could come from this summit if it really happens. CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, is with us now. And also joining us, Dr. Sue Mi Terry, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and who used to be the CIA's point person for all things Korea.

Elise, first, looking forward to this summit, 10 days from now, logistics matter, and there are a lot of logistics to tend to. What are those challenges right now?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, anything from protocol, who's going to sit where, how they're going to walk in, who gets there first, all those little details. But then there's also everything from whether there's going to -- going to be an agreement, what they're going to sign, the handshake. There are all these little details, but those can be worked out. I think what's really important is that they're able to work out something for a summit. I mean, there was an article this morning in the "Washington Post" about how -- who's going to pay for the North Koreans, because they are demanding that someone pay for their hotel, and clearly, they don't want the U.S. to do so, so there's all those little things. But I think, again, the substance of the summit, whether they're going to be able to have any kind of agreement, even if it's a road map for better relations, a road map for further negotiations, I think that's really the main thing that they need to nail down. and they really don't have any specifics on that yet.

CABRERA: Sue Mi, what are the chances of something very substantial coming from this summit? Number one, of course, being denuclearization, which is what the administration keeps saying is the end game.

DR. SUE MI TERRY, SENIOR FELLOW, KOREAN CHAIR, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES & FORMER NORTH KOREA ANALYST: I'm not sure about very substantial. It's still unclear that North Korea is going to put denuclearization as we define it, complete, irreversible denuclearization of the north nuclear program because they always defined denuclearization as something else, denuclearization of the Korean peninsula if the regime's security is guaranteed, if the U.S. hostile policy ends? And of course, what does that mean? End of U.S.-South Korea alliance commitment, troop presence in South Korea, and extended nuclear umbrella that we have over South Korea. It's very unclear that we have bridged this gap and that North Korea's actually willing to talk about complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of their nuclear program.

[17:40:11] CABRERA: There are a lot of reasons, Elise, to be skeptical because the U.S. has been down this road with North Korea before, and we know North Korea has not kept up its end of the deal when a deal was struck. What's different this time?

LABOTT: I think what's different this time is you have the two leaders involved. Now, that could be a blessing and a curse, because as we know, these things usually come from the bottom up. Negotiators meet for weeks, if not months, before a summit like this, and then the leaders show up and shake hands and sign the agreement. That's not happening this time. And so the leaders are really coming together with just the idea of wanting to, as Trump said, get-to-know-you-plus. But I think the engagement of the two leaders and wanting to move this forward, I think, is the best thing that they have going for now. But as Sue Mi said, I think it's difficult when North Korea really hasn't agreed to the basic idea of what the U.S. wanted. Remember, just a few days ago, top U.S. officials were saying we want to see something historic from the North, something they've never done before, before this even summit took place. That was the condition. Now, the challenge for President Trump, I think, is to not get into this kind of typical North Korean vortex, getting sucked into the idea that North Korea will try and drag this out while giving away as little as possible and getting as many concessions from the U.S.

CABRERA: Sue Mi, I imagine it's a bit of playing chess going on between, you know, what's beginning on within the U.S. administration and the North Korean leadership there. Given Mike Pompeo has had such a significant role up to this point with meeting directly with Kim Jong-Un, meeting with the North Korean spy master, who was just in the U.S., who delivered that letter in the Oval Office. He has a huge intelligence background. He was the former director of the CIA before he took on this new role as secretary of state. Is that going to work in the U.S.'s favor?

TERRY: Well, whether it does or not, he is -- we're using that intelligence channel, right? He's using people from the CIA, like Andrew Kim, who went with him to New York to meet --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: I'm just thinking, he's reading the North Koreans in the process of these face-to-face meetings.

TERRY: Yes. Right. Right.

(CROSSTALK)

TERRY: What's interesting is CIA guys are usually not part of the diplomacy channel, and they are involved in this. But I do have faith in my former colleagues because they are very clear-eyed about North Korea, and they know North Korea quite well. But what's interesting is that President Trump did walk back from this very high expectation that he did set before. He has changed tune now. He's talking about phase approach, the meeting with Kim Jong-Un. So he's now lowered expectations. So we'll see what happens in this -- when they actually sit down and meet each other.

CABRERA: Yes. Ladies, thank you both. Elise Labott, Sue Mi Terry, I appreciate it.

Coming up, we get rare access inside a migrant detention center in California and talk to two mothers separated from their children for over a month now. Their story ahead.

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[17:47:51] CABRERA: Migrants are coming across the southern border. Children and their parents are being separated. The Trump administration threatened this, now we've confirmed it is happening. Parents are getting their children taken away from them. They don't know where they are.

Our Gary Tuchman reports.

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(CROSSTALK)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These two Honduran women crossed into the United States and asked for asylum because of violence at home. They are now being held in a California immigration detention center, but something is missing, their children, who traveled with them.

Marbel just turned 35 years old. Immigration officials separated her from her 8-year-old son, Jerry, right after they crossed the border together. He has since been sent across the country to a government facility in New York State.

(on camera): Are you scared?

(SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

TUCHMAN (voice-over): She tells me, "Yes, I'm scared, because they took him from me. If I had him with me, I wouldn't have any fears."

Olga is 31 years old. Her four children, ranged from 8 to 17, have also been sent to a government facility in New York. She says when her three daughters and son were separated from her, she didn't know what was going on.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

TUCHMAN: Olga says, "I'm not sure why they did that. They never let me say good-bye. They didn't tell me anything."

The lawyers for both mothers don't want the women's last names used and don't want some details from their cases being revealed because they feel it could be used against them.

The mothers tell us they did not have the faintest clue that their children could be taken away from them. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

TUCHMAN: Marbel told us, "For me, it was really hard when immigration took him away from me because my son was crying and didn't want to be taken away, and they didn't want to listen."

For around two weeks, the mothers say they did not know where their children were. Even now, they've been separated from their children for over a month. They say phone contact is infrequent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

TUCHMAN: "My kids have never been separated from me," says Olga. "My son told me on the phone he misses me and when am I going to be with them again. I told him I don't know."

The immigration attorney for the two women says she doesn't know either.

[17:50:02] MARY MEG MCCARTHY, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: So it's unknown how long these mothers are going to be separated from their children. They're in proceedings and their children are in proceedings in two different courts.

TUCHMAN: Neither woman had a cell phone when they left Honduras, so not only do they not have their children, Marbel only has one picture of her son, Olga has no pictures.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

TUCHMAN: "I want to live a good life with my kids," says Olga, "and for them to have a good future. Not the same as I've had."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

TUCHMAN: Marbel tells us, "I love him so much. I never thought I'd bring him to have him separated from me. If I would have known, I wouldn't have brought him. I just wish him to be together with me."

After our interviews, both women go back to their cells with no idea whatsoever what will happen to their lives or the lives of their children.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, California.

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[17:55:21] CABRERA: During his medical training in Peru, this week's "CNN Hero" noticed sick children sleeping on hospital floors, waiting for treatment. Dr. Ricardo Pun-Chong decided to help.

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DR. RICARDO PUN-CHONG, CNN HERO: The journey, it's very difficult. They come here, and it's very expensive to stay here. They don't have

enough money to continue their treatments. Sometimes families, they have to sell everything they have. They feel helpless.

(CRYING)

PUN-CHONG: So, I decided to do something for them. I want them to know that they are not alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: That smile is just priceless.

To check out the program, head to CNNheros.com. And you can also nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero."

I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York. I'll be back here at 8:00 p.m. in the CNN NEWSROOM.

"SMERCONISH" is next.

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