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North Korea Summit Back On; Tariff Troubles; Spain's New Prime Minister; Thousands of Criminals Driving for Uber. Aired 2-2:30a ET

Aired June 2, 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): U.S. President Donald Trump says his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is back on but warns it could be just the beginning of a long negotiation.

Europe, Mexico and Canada hit back at the U.S. with their own tariffs on American products and they're specifically targeting products made in Republican states.

Plus a new prime minister soon to be sworn in, in Spain. Pedro Sanchez will lead a minority government. We'll be talking about that as well.

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

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VANIER: It seems like only yesterday that we were talking about Little Rocket Man or a mentally deranged dotard and warnings of fire and fury.

Remember those words?

Now all that seems like ancient history, especially after a remarkable meeting in the Oval Office Friday between U.S. President Donald Trump and the second most powerful man in North Korea.

That is the country's former spy chief, Kim Yong-chol. He handed the president a personal letter from the North Korean leader. And after that unprecedented meeting, President Trump made an important announcement about the on-again off-again historic summit. CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott picks up the story from there.

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ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Trump and Kim Yong-chol emerged from the Oval Office smiling after nearly a two- hour meeting, with Trump telling reporters a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore is back on.

TRUMP: We're going to meet June 12. We will be in Singapore. It will be a beginning. I don't say and I have never said it happens in one meeting. You're talking about years of hostility, years of problems, years of really hatred between so many different nations.

LABOTT: Kim Yong-chol arrived at the White House earlier, hand- delivering a letter to President Trump from Kim Jong-un.

TRUMP: I haven't seen the letter yet. I purposely didn't open the letter. I haven't opened it. I didn't open it in front of the director.

I said, would you want me to open it?

He said, you can read it later.

LABOTT: While there was no firm commitment from North Korea on denuclearization, a top demand for Trump, the president said the meeting was still worth having.

TRUMP: I think it's going to be a process that we deserve to have. I mean, we really deserve -- they want it. We think it's important. And I think we would be making a big mistake if we didn't have it.

LABOTT: But the president said he was prepared if the talks with Kim in Singapore are not productive.

TRUMP: One thing I did do and it was very important, we had hundreds of new sanctions ready to go on and he did not -- the director did not ask, but I said I'm not going to put them on until such time as the talks break down.

We have very significant sanctions on them, but we had hundreds -- we have hundreds that are ready to go. But I said, I'm not going to -- why would I do that when we're talking so nicely?

LABOTT: A word of warning earlier today from the top Senate Republican.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: If you fall in love with the deal and it's too important for you to get it and the details become less significant, you could get snookered.

LABOTT: Concluding that a deal is not possible by June 12th, President Trump has lowered expectations. And he's now calling the meeting with Kim the beginning of a process, a get-to-know-you-plus.

Instead of being a condition of the summit, President Trump's challenge at the meeting is to convince Kim Jong-un to abandon his nuclear program, instead of the president falling trap to the North Korea's familiar playbook of playing for time and giving up as little as possible -- Elise Labott, CNN, Washington.

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VANIER: Alexandra Field is in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on all of this.

Alexandra, first question to you, do you know what was in the letter that was written by Kim Jong-un and hand delivered to Donald Trump?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Cyril, we know the president has the read the letter. He teased reporters earlier in the day, suggesting they would want to know what was in it but didn't give up details. At that point, he said the letter was good, interesting, positive. But he hadn't read it at that point.

We are told he has now read the letter. Delivered to him, of course, by the second most powerful man in North Korea. We're told U.S. officials had been briefed on the contents of the letter before it was delivered.

The Secret Service also had to inspect that package before it could be turned over to the U.S. president. It was characterized as being a positive letter.

We know, from there, there was this 90-minute conversation. That led the president to then come out and announce, in fact, the summit would be on. You heard him earlier say that it would simply be a mistake not to have this conversation at this point.

Of course, the question for everyone though, as the president sets the tone for this meeting and tempers expectations, calling this the beginning of the process --

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FIELD: -- what exactly does the world get from this meeting?

It's got to be more than a photo opportunity. The White House is well aware of that. That's a question that certainly the allies in the region are asking right now. The fact that the meeting is going forward is a big win for South Korea. They have been pushing this kind of dialogue.

Certainly this dialogue was the subject of conversation earlier today when the Secretary of Defense met with his counterpart from South Korea in Singapore. They met a short while ago. We're told the conversation was excellent.

The defense minister from South Korea did speak out earlier, saying that the aim, of course, needs to be complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization. Certainly South Koreans applauding the step forward.

There are also questions again about what we get from this meeting. Those questions are being raised by allies, including Japan. Japan has been supportive of dialogue. They have been supportive certainly of lowering the tension in the region.

But they have pointed to the fact that North Korea has not been trustworthy in the past when it comes to talks about denuclearization. They want to make sure that this is a meaningful conversation going forward.

The counterpart from South Korea was quick to point out that just because the world has been tricked by North Korea in the past doesn't mean it will happen again. He says that this is a time to build trust.

There is a new leader in North Korea engaging in these conversations now. And really, South Korea wants to see this as a step forward toward a new era. Certainly a lot of optimism from South Korea at this point -- Cyril.

VANIER: Alexandra Field, reporting live from Seoul, South Korea, thank you very much

Another top level summit may be in the works, this one between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin. "The Wall Street Journal" says planning for this still in the early stages. The paper says the U.S. ambassador to Russia had been in Washington to help arrange face-to- face talks between the two leaders.

No word yet on date or location. But the contents, Syria and Ukraine, would likely be on the agenda of that meeting if it happens. Presidents Putin and Trump met before on the sidelines of gatherings last year in Vietnam and Germany.

The U.S. Defense Secretary has a blunt message for China. James Mattis says the United States is in the Indo-Pacific. During a speech Saturday in Singapore, he called out Beijing for calling artificial islands it built up in the South China Sea into military outposts, bristling with heavy weapons.

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GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Despite China's claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion.

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VANIER: China claims 90 percent of the entire South China Sea even though six other countries have competing claims. In May, the Chinese military landed nuclear-capable bombers on those islands for the first time.

Now let's turn to the threat of a global trade war. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is in China this weekend to continue trade talks. Beijing was caught off-guard this wee when the White House said it would pursue tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports.

And on another front, Mexico, Canada and the European Union are fighting back against new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. The E.U. filed a formal complaint with the World Trade Organization. Canada's finance minister gave a piece of mind to his American counterpart.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did exactly what I said I would do, which is express in strong terms our opposition to these tariffs in the steel and aluminum sector.

Our absolute view that this is absurd to think that Canada could in any way be a security risk to the United States and also to say that what happens when you put tariffs in place is you harm people. You harm people in the United States, you harm people in Canada.

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VANIER: All of this could make for an awkward meeting next week when Mr. Trump goes to Canada for the G7 summit. Some are now calling it the G6+1, in fact. But President Trump is unapologetic.

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TRUMP: They're our allies, but they take advantage of us economically and so I agree. I love Canada. I love Mexico. I love them.

But Mexico is making over $100 billion a year.

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VANIER: So to understand how disruptive Mr. Trump's trade policies could be to the complex global economy, here's CNN's John Defterios.

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JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: The Europeans are not rushing out of the gate to put tariffs on the U.S., but trade confrontation seems inevitable.

It was a measured response Friday from E.U. trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, but the reality is, the U.S. tariffs will spark a reaction by Europe and possibly, trigger a chain reaction in the U.S.

As soon as June 20th, 28 countries of the E.U. will put forth their final response to match the tariffs of 10 percent to 25 percent on European aluminum and steel respectively. The E.U. list of U.S. products to target in an exhaustive one, ranging from motorcycles to peanut butter and, ironically, U.S. steel products as well.

Malmstrom suggested that the E.U. --

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DEFTERIOS: -- use all channels to avoid confrontation and clearly did not appreciate the added heat by the U.S.

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CECILIA MALMSTROM, E.U. TRADE COMMISSIONER: Our offer was that you take this gun away from us, we sit together as friends and equals and we discuss and eventually this could lead to negotiation. This would of course require a mandate from the member states.

So we never got this. And now, that door, for the moment, is closed.

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DEFTERIOS: And Malmstrom challenged the legislation and premise that President Trump is using to slap on tariffs, based on national security, which dates back over a half-century.

The Europeans, however, introduce a subtle change in strategy to perhaps appease Washington. Like the U.S., they, too, are pointing the finger at China for the global glut of steel. The big difference is, the E.U. supports the World Trade Organization as a means to solve disputes. Donald Trump and his team are adamantly against it -- John Defterios, CNNMoney, London.

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VANIER: Kurtis Lee joins me now. He is a national correspondent with the "Los Angeles Times."

Kurtis, first of all, when you hear the words "global trade war," look, that's scary.

But just to put things in context, how serious is the risk here?

I mean how bad could it get?

KURTIS LEE, "LOS ANGELES TIMES": I think this is very serious. I mean we've seen Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, come out strongly against this policy by the Trump administration, saying it is not good, it's insulting to the relationship between Canada and the United States.

We have also seen Mexico officials coming out strongly against this. And this puts the United States in an interesting predicament. We are seeing our closest allies, decades and generations of allies, coming out and expressing their discontent with the Trump administration.

I mean European Union leaders, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, have come out against this and it really puts the U.S. in a position that we haven't seen a sitting president in, in years, i mean to really have our allies come against us with this trade policy.

VANIER: You know, just as you're talking, we're seeing what Canada, the E.U. and Mexico are targeting for their tariffs. What we didn't see is where they're targeting them. Most of the U.S. states that produce the products that we're seeing on screen right now are Republican states. That is Trump country.

You are talking Wisconsin, Tennessee, you know, all the -- Kentucky. They're doing it on purpose, obviously. It doesn't seem to faze Donald Trump.

Is that something you think he's taking into account, the political calculus here?

LEE: I'm not sure. You saw today a number of top Republicans on Capitol Hill, in Washington, coming out against the president, saying that this is not going to help them, this is not going to help the party, this is not going to help these red states that you just named.

I mean House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is from Wisconsin, has come out staunchly against this, the president on this. And we really are seeing a split with the president and his party on this issue.

I mean Republicans have been at the White House often, you know, having closed-door meetings with the president, saying, hey, do not go through with this. The president has seemed to just ignore those requests and move forward with what he wants.

VANIER: Yes, Republican leadership is dead set against these tariffs. Donald Trump, however, was very positive about the state of the economy today and I wonder whether it could be related. Listen to this.

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TRUMP: We've made about $8 trillion in value. You know, we're double the size of the economy of China. We've picked up a lot of value, a lot of wealth since I've been president, more than $8 trillion and that's a very low number because we're talking stock market wealth. I'm talking about beyond that. Great.

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VANIER: So this is the question that popped into my mind when I heard Donald Trump say that today.

Do you think that Donald Trump thinks he can afford essentially to take a hit on the economy with a global trade war because the economy is starting from such a high point right now?

LEE: We did see those job numbers come out today and the unemployment rate is low, so this could certainly be something that the president is factoring in, in his moves with these tariffs.

And, you know, that's something that you never obviously know where this administration is going on what this administration is thinking on any given day. But that could certainly be something that is in the president's mind at least.

VANIER: How far do you think he's willing to escalate this?

Because I mean if there's a counter measure, a counter tariff from the E.U., Mexico, Canada, how far is Donald Trump going to take this?

LEE: Well, he is going to receive a lot of pushback from the Republicans and his own party on this. You will just -- we'll have to kind of wait and see what that pushback looks like and whether the president is willing to shift course.

We have seen this president do that often. He takes the temperature of his party or the temperature of an issue and then he might revert back. You know, it just all depends. I think only time will tell with how far the president will take this. VANIER: All right. Kurtis Lee, a pleasure talking to you. Thank you very much.

LEE: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: Coming up, the ride share company Uber is on the defensive, having to explain why some of its drivers have criminal backgrounds.

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VANIER: A new government is taking shape in Spain with Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez at the helm. In a few hours he is to be sworn in as prime minister, taking the job from Mariano Rajoy, who lost a no confidence vote.

Years of corruption allegations came to a head last week when a court convicted some of Rajoy's former aides. Sanchez says he understands the gravity of his new position.

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PEDRO SANCHEZ, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I am aware of the responsibilities that I assume in such a complex political moment in our country.

What I can say is that, apart from being totally aware of it, I'm going to face all our country's challenges with humility and commitment and, above all, with a lot of determination, first, to transform and modernize our country.

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VANIER: CNN's Nina de Santos breaks down how Sanchez his new role.

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NINA DOS SANTOS, CNNMONEY EUROPE EDITOR: After seven years as Spain's prime minister, Mariano Rajoy became the country's first head of government to be unseated by a vote of no confidence, one that was tabled by his Socialist Party opponent, 46-year-old Pedro Sanchez, who will now become the country's next prime minister.

Sanchez had to rely upon members of fringe parties and regional parties with separatist tendencies, like those in Catalonia and the Basque region, to make up the numbers. In the end, the parliament voted 180 in favor of that motion of no confidence against Rajoy.

Rajoy said it had been an honor to serve as the country's prime minister but also hopes his successor could say that he left the country in a better state than he found it in, just as Rajoy believed he has done over the last few years of his tenure.

It's expected that Sanchez will probably stick to the legislative agenda that Rajoy set out so far. He said he'll stick to the budget and he'll continue to enact social and economic and welfare reforms.

Elections, he says, he would like to call in the future but he hasn't yet set a date. It's expected he'll start to nominate his cabinet next week -- Nina dos Santos, CNN, London.

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VANIER: Over in Italy, a new political chapter as well. Giuseppe Conte was sworn in as prime minister. The law professor has never held political office. Now he leads Italy's new populist eurosceptic government.

That's unsettling for France and Germany, whose leaders are eager to push for more E.U. integration. Mr. Conte is to present his cabinet next week and will face a vote of confidence.

In the U.S., an Uber driver is being held for investigation of first degree murder after his passenger was shot and killed. It is only the latest in a string of violent incidents that has plagued Uber. The ride share company says its screening disqualifies criminals from driving.

But that's not what CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin found. Here's his report.

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DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Colorado's Public Safety Commission (sic) heard about a man who was allegedly assaulted by an Uber driver, he demanded a list from Uber of all its drivers with disqualifying records.

DOUG DEAN, DIRECTOR, COLORADO PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION: Frankly, we were shocked by what we found.

GRIFFIN: The list Doug Dean got from --

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GRIFFIN: -- Uber included 12 Uber drivers convicted of felonies and others with DUIs or driving on suspended licenses.

(on camera): What does that tell you about the background process?

DEAN: It tells me the background process, as it is in law right now, doesn't work.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): According to Uber, the company's policy disqualifies drivers convicted of felonies, violent crimes and sexual offenses, as well as major driving violations. Yet, in case after case, convicted felons have been approved to drive anyway.

In Maryland, California and Massachusetts, government agencies did additional screening and found what add up to thousands of drivers with disqualifying criminal records, even sexual offenders, approved to work for Uber.

In Texas, approved Uber drivers included a murderer on parole and a convicted felon once accused, though not convicted, of seeking to smuggle rocket launchers in the Middle East. He is now sentenced to 25 years for sexually assaulting a passenger.

Uber sexual assault victims, like this woman, say Uber most improve how it screens drivers.

UNIDENTIFIED SEXUAL ASSAULT VICTIM: If they really want to put themselves out there as the safe ride home, they should really make sure that they are putting these people out there that are going to get you home safely.

GRIFFIN: Uber's response to the problems in its background checks is the company has made, "significant investments and improvements and will continue to work with state and local governments to get it right in the future."

To conduct its background checks, Uber and Lyft both use a company called Checker which uses a potential driver's name and Social Security number to search federal, state and local courts and other databases for disqualifying records. Regulators tell CNN that is not enough. And that government-run background checks that include fingerprinting potential drivers would go further in discovering histories of violence. But Uber says fingerprints don't offer a complete picture of arrests and convictions. And Uber has gone to great lengths to fight any government-run background checks.

MATT DAUS, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK CITY TAXI & LIMOUSINE COMMISSION: That's their game plan in every single city, every single state, we're going to get a law passed that's just for us. It's their own special law for Uber and Lyft.

GRIFFIN: A CNN investigation tallied more than 400 lobbyists across the country hired by Uber, mostly to fight stricter oversight. In many states, even writing the laws. CNN's investigation reviewed all 43 states that have laws or rules on driver background checks. And they are strikingly similar. All but Massachusetts leave background checks up to Uber. And in 31 states, the laws passed reflect Uber's recommended wording on driver screening, in some cases, almost word for word.

This e-mail from an Uber lobbyist to a Wyoming lawmaker shows just how influential Uber can be. The Uber lobbyist writes they have two major issues with a draft of the bill, including the criminal background check provision. The lobbyist tells the lawmaker, "Change it back to the model language." It was.

Three former Uber employees who worked on policy tell CNN Uber wants to control its screening process to get drivers on the road as soon as possible.

Georgia legislator, Alan Powell, says Uber's attitude is states have no business screening its drivers.

STATE REP. ALAN POWELL, (R), GEORGIA: It's, oh, no, we're above the government, we run our own background checks.

GRIFFIN: In response to its lobbying efforts, Uber says, "Everybody lobbies and we're proud to work with elected officials to develop common-sense regulations for a new industry" -- Drew Griffin, CNN, Denver.

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VANIER: Parts of Europe swamped by heavy rain, turning historic streets into rivers. We'll have the forecast next.

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VANIER: Severe weather has brought serious flooding to parts of Belgium and Germany.

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VANIER: Thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I will be back with the headlines in just a moment.