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Trump Considers Pardoning Muhammad Ali; Trump Arrives in Canada for G7 Summit; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired June 8, 2018 - 10:30   ET

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


[10:30:00] JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT In this case, James Wolfe charged with lying to federal investigators. And what's also of note here is that part of this investigation the FBI actually seized some of the records from the communications from phone and e- mail of a "New York Times" reporter who had been in communication with James Wolfe, so a very significant prosecution here and really we're seeing some of this become public for the first time in the Trump administration -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Certainly is significant, Jessica Schneider, thank you so much.

President Trump says Muhammad Ali may be next to pardon. But here is a problem. Muhammad Ali doesn't need a pardon. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, President Trump is soon to land in Quebec for what for him will be an abbreviated G7 summit. But on his way out of Washington this morning he also talked about pardons and firings and the NFL.

I'm joined now by CNN political director David Chalian and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

[10:35:05] It was clear the president wanted to get a lot off of his chest this morning, gentlemen. I mean, he really talked about an array of topics. Particularly when it comes to pardons, David Chalian. He made some news when he said he was thinking about pardoning Muhammad Ali.

Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was not very popular then. He certainly -- his memory is very popular now. I'm thinking about Muhammad Ali. I'm thinking about that very seriously and some others. And some folks that have sentences that aren't there, but I am thinking about Muhammad Ali.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: So shortly after he made that comment, Muhammad Ali's attorney released a statement saying, "We appreciate President Trump's sentiment, but a pardon is unnecessary. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Muhammad Ali and a unanimous decision in 1971. There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed."

Sort of like thanks but no thanks.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think it is safe to say this didn't -- this thinking of Muhammad Ali initially probably didn't go through a process at all because the president would have learned that in advance and probably been aware that a pardon may not be necessary here. But this is clear, he is enjoying the feedback he's getting from his pardons this week, the Alice Johnson pardon, Kim Kardashian went in to his -- into the Oval Office and made the case and he's enjoying the feedback he's getting on that.

He thinks this is an issue that is working for him. He's been able to cross party lines on some of this stuff, with Van Jones and what have you. So he's in a moment that he wants to repeat and he likes to attach himself to celebrity. And there's nobody more popular than Muhammad Ali. He's a beloved global figure and Donald Trump wants to, you know, in a proverbial sense, have his arm wrapped around him.

BROWN: He enjoys it. It's clear he enjoys pardoning people, particularly celebrities.

I want to bring you in, Jeffrey Toobin, because something else was brought up whether he's considered pardoning Michael Cohen, his personal attorney, or Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman and manager. Here is what he had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I haven't even thought about it. I haven't even thought -- I haven't thought about any of it. It certainly is far too early to be thinking about that. They haven't been convicted of anything. There is nothing to pardon. It is far too early to be -- it is far too early to be thinking about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: It is true they have not been convicted. I find it hard to believe, Jeffrey Toobin, he hasn't thought about it at all. It was clear, though, that he didn't rule it out there.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, and you don't need to be convicted to have a -- to receive a pardon. Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon who hadn't even been charged yet. This is an area that has a great practical significance to the Mueller investigation because if the subjects and targets of the Mueller investigation believe that pardons are a possibility, they're not going to plead guilty or they're not going to cooperate.

I mean, a very interesting question, which wasn't asked, is what about Michael Flynn? The former National Security adviser. He has pleaded guilty. He is awaiting sentencing. He is supposedly cooperating. If he knew that a pardon was a possibility, that could dial back his possible cooperation. This is why pardons can be so intrusive in an ongoing investigation, and the fact that the president hasn't ruled it out certainly complicates Mueller's task in pursuing these cases.

BROWN: You're right. Michael Flynn would have actually been potentially even more interesting one because he has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and the president seemed more sympathetic to him outwardly. He allegedly asked James Comey to drop the investigation into him.

So he talked about pardons. He talked about this controversy, as you know David Chalian, about the Philadelphia Eagles being disinvited and, you know, tying that in with the national anthem and protesters. Here is what he had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We have a great country, you should stand for our national anthem. You shouldn't go in a locker room when our national anthem is played. I am going to ask all of those people to recommend to me, because that's what they're protesting, people that they think were unfairly treated by the justice system and I understand that. And I'm going to ask them to recommend to me people that were unfairly treated, friends of theirs, people that they know about, and I'm going to take a look at those applications and if I find, and my committee, finds that they're unfairly treated, then we will pardon them or at least let them out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Pardon. Go ahead.

CHALIAN: Pretty clever strategy here on the part of the president. He gets to make the pitch that he's been making about the flag, and patriotism, but this time, giving some credence to the underlying protest, not necessarily of police shootings.

[10:40:04] But of racial injustice in this country and he is presenting himself as open to trying to rectify some of those injustices in this case if indeed there was unfair treatment in the judicial system. It is sort of an olive branch where he gets to both still hit the patriotism note but not look completely unwilling to hear out some of their concerns.

BROWN: And we have heard from him.

TOOBIN: But let's -- but wait. Let's also remember, let's also remember that, you know, President Obama, remember him, he was the one before Trump. He had a process, he had a process for nonviolent drug offenders to submit applications for commutations and pardons and he granted more than a thousand commutations and pardons. There wasn't this great theater, there weren't a lot of celebrities involved, there were no celebrities, but I mean, that is how you impact a lot of lives.

You know, this is yet another example by fighting with the NFL players, by fighting with the UCLA basketball players, by his comments in Charlottesville, President Trump gets to fight with black people, which he thinks is a great advantage politically. And, you know, this is not an olive branch. This is a more opportunity to define himself.

CHALIAN: Jeff, but you don't think he's employing -- you don't think he's employing the political strategy to try to portray himself as being open to their concerns? I think that's clearly what he was doing on the South Lawn.

TOOBIN: Yes.

CHALIAN: Whether or not it's genuine or not, you can call that out, but that's clearly the political strategy by what he said.

TOOBIN: Well, yes, I mean, there is pretend political strategy and there is actually what is going on in the real world and I think in the real world whether it is -- in terms of voting rights in the Justice Department, this is a president who has used fighting with black people as an opportunity for political advancement. And let's never forget that this is an individual who made his political career by lying about the birth place of the first African-American president.

So, you know, yes, it is true, I think, you know, his -- whatever that was, you know, write me a letter about people you think are unjustly incarcerated. It is an olive branch of sorts, but I don't think that should be a distraction about one of the defining aspects of President Trump's presidency.

BROWN: All right. We have to leave it there, gentlemen. That took a turn to become a very interesting discussion there.

Jeffrey Toobin, David Chalian, do appreciate it.

Well, no new deal, no NAFTA, President Trump's new warning to allies up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:47:05] BROWN: And let's go live to Canada. That's where the president's plane has just landed for the G7 summit. It should be an interesting day or two there with the president meeting with world leaders that he's been sparring with over Twitter. He's going to be cutting out of there early to head to Singapore. He'll be cutting out tomorrow on Saturday to head there to meet with Kim Jong-un at -- for the North Korean summit.

I want to bring in global affairs analyst Kimberly Dozier and David Rohde to discuss, so much going on. The president's first meeting, bilateral meeting is with French President Macron, Kimberly, who he's been in a Twitter spat with ahead of this and then Macron said on Twitter that other world leaders could possibly sign a deal without the U.S. signing on.

Boy, would you love to be a fly on the wall during that meeting.

KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. This is -- forget the pomp and circumstance of the parade that they had when Donald Trump visited in Paris, what you have now is an all-out rhetorical trade war. What you have are the European leaders reacting to what they consider provocation by this White House, but some European officials that I've spoken to have said, look, this situation has been sort of static for a long period of time. On the positive side for the U.S., they're forcing us to relook at this issue.

On the negative side, they're forcing the EU countries to work together again in a way that they haven't for a while, and that's going to be hard long-term for the United States. Especially when the U.S. asks for something difficult like extra troops for a future mission in Afghanistan, for instance.

BROWN: He's going into this, David, where tensions are clearly very high, of course in the wake of the tariffs on steel and aluminum. You have the tweets, the back and forth tweets with Macron and then you have him saying this morning that he may want to pull out of NAFTA. Here is what he said about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: If we're unable to make a deal, we'll terminate NAFTA. We'll have a better deal. If we are unable to make a deal, we will be better off. Right now we are not going to live with the deals the way they are. European Union treats us very unfairly. Canada, very unfairly. Mexico, very unfairly. With that being said, I think we'll probably very easily make a deal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Your reaction, David?

DAVID ROHDE, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: This sort of bluster that's going is not working. Mexico has put a tariff on pork imports for the United States, pork farmers are saying this is going to hurt their business. Canada has prepared billions of dollars in new tariffs that, again, will hurt average Americans. The Europeans, same thing.

They're not going to blink. They can't blink. All politics is local. So Trump needs to sort of look tough for American voters, you know, Prime Minister Trudeau in Canada has to look tough as well.

[10:50:04] He cannot back down to President Trump. So this rhetoric just, you know, backs everyone into a corner.

BROWN: All right. Let's talk about another headline the president made this morning, speaking to reporters, he said that he would like to bring Russia back to the negotiating table to turn it back into G8 from the G7. As we know Russia was kicked out several years ago for the annexation of Crimea.

Kimberly, that's no small thing. What is your reaction to the president saying, hey, let's bring them back? What do you think our allies think about that?

DOZIER: Well, the allies already think that -- the diplomats I've spoken that the president doesn't pay enough attention to details large and small. And this is just going to be more proof for them that he seems to have been so convinced by his -- what some have called almost bromance with Vladimir Putin that he's overlooking major issues with Russia.

When they talk to U.S. security officials, U.S. diplomats, they say they hear the right thing, but then something like this comes out of the mouth of Donald Trump and it makes them all doubt his understanding of what is happening on the world stage.

BROWN: Let's look at big picture here, David, because you have the president who doesn't really want to be there in the first place. Our reporting indicates that as of last night, he was complaining to aides why do I have to go, is anything going to come out of this, he's cutting out early to go to Singapore to meet with rogue dictator Kim Jong-un and then he's sending an overture to Vladimir Putin saying Russia should be brought back to the table.

Big picture, what is sort of the bigger signal to you? What does this say to you?

ROHDE: It's, you know, 50 years of American diplomacy sort of turned on its head, you know. We fought shoulder to shoulder in two world wars with allies and the G7. Japan we're fighting against. But in terms of Europe and Canada, it's been an incredibly successful alliance, and, you know, President Trump is being friendlier to authoritarian leaders as you mentioned Kim Jong-un and now towards Putin than he is to our long time allies.

He declared our European allies and Canada, national security threats to the United States, but he's, you know, welcoming Vladimir Putin back to this meeting after Russia was expelled for seizing Ukraine's territory, for innovating another country. So this is extraordinary. Nothing like this has happened in decades.

BROWN: That's important perspective. We're waiting for the president to go off Air Force One. My producer is speaking to me. We're going to take a quick break. Well, stick around, Kimberly Dozier, David Rohde. We have a lot more to discuss as the president is about to disembark from Air Force One there in Canada to meet with our allies. Take care.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Welcome back. I want to bring back Kimberly Dozier, David Rohde, as we await President Trump to disembark there from Air Force One.

[10:55:05] He's going to first be meeting with President Macron of France on the heels of this Twitter spat between the two over trade, tariffs, President Macron even saying that he's willing to reach a deal with the six leaders and let President Trump be an isolationist.

David Rohde, what do you expect to come out of this meeting with President Macron?

ROHDE: I -- you don't know because there was a sort of chemistry it seemed between, you know, President Macron and President Trump that developed. But Macron came to Washington, he spent a great deal of time trying to talk President Trump into trying to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal and it didn't work. It was a failure, so-called, you know, bromance between the two leaders didn't exist.

And, again, you know, Macron has to think of voters in France. That was a humiliating experience for him. So Macron, you know, can't constantly beg Donald Trump to forgive him, Macron needs to produce results for his own political survival. So, you know, maybe something comes out of this meeting, but there is a higher chance of Macron standing up and pushing back against Trump because that makes him look strong to French voters.

BROWN: It does come down to politics at the end of the day. And Kimberly, you expect there to be differences among allies, even though they are allies, of course, they're going to have varying views, but to see those differences spill out into public view on Twitter before the G7 summit, it's pretty extraordinary.

DOZIER: It's kind of like being caught in a big business negotiation, isn't it? Interesting pattern that the president is developing that he reserves his harshest words for his friends, and his more obsequious tone for dictators overseas. What you might be seeing is this is arguing among brothers. We heard about very combative sort of tone during his campaign. So we hear about combative meetings behind the scenes, so perhaps this is Macron and others going, OK, we understand, you only respect harsh rhetorical blow for blow, so we're going to meet you in that space and see if we can get somewhere with this.

Also, think, Macron and the other European leaders, they really thought that they were close to a deal on Iran and that fell through at the last moment, so they're a little bit disenchanted right now and getting annoyed with him and showing it.

BROWN: And it seems the president probably knew what he was walking into, our reporting indicates that he really didn't want to go. He was asking his aides why is it important for me to go. They warned him in return you should go. This is important.

We see President Trump there as he has now left Air Force One. Again he's going to be heading to his first bilat with President Macron.

Why is it important, David Rohde, for him to be in attendance there at the G7 summit and also what is the significance of him cutting out early?

ROHDE: This is incredibly important because this is about the American economy. He is, you know, in the very early stages of a possible trade war with many of the countries that will be at the G7. He is, you know, some say he inherited the economy, some, you know, supporters say his tax cut, the economy is growing right now. And American politics as Bill Clinton said, it is the economy, stupid.

If he starts a trade war, and that causes a drop in the markets and a drop in economic growth, that could be politically nearly fatal for this president. So this is an incredibly important meeting and how he treats our biggest trading partners, Canada is our biggest trading partner, then Mexico is number two and then Europe. Russia is obscure and meaningless to the American economy. This is, you know, again, a very important meeting economically and politically for the American people.

BROWN: And, of course, he's coming there as he made the headline, Kimberly Dozier, that he wants to bring Russia back to the negotiating table. I imagine some of the world leaders there at the G7 were taken aback by that notion because of course Russia was kicked out of the then G8 due to the annexation of Crimea.

DOZIER: You can imagine that that's one of the first things that they're going to be explaining to Donald Trump, look, there is a reason Moscow isn't here. And if you offer them a way back in, without having them learn lessons and at least stop supporting the separatists in Ukraine, then you resolve nothing.

BROWN: What do you think, David Rohde, is the most important meeting that the president will be a part of during the G7?

ROHDE: I think the group meeting because, again, I think, you know, the tariffs are very small at this point. But this is the biggest trade war and an economic drop in the United States is the biggest threat to Donald Trump politically. It is not the Trump-Russia investigation. I think it is this economy slowing down. And this is a very serious thing. Again, with this tone, this kind of bullying, backing people into corners, the U.S. first imposing sanctions, you know, sorry, tariffs on these other countries, it is very dangerous. It is making these leaders angry and again it back them into a corner. They are not going to back down.