Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
President Trump Damaging U.S. Alliances?; Trump Set to Meet With Kim Jong-un; Trump Slams G7 Leaders Ahead of Kim Jong-un Meeting. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 11, 2018 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: The president couldn't strike a milk deal. Can he strike a nuke deal?
THE LEAD starts right now.
Countdown to history. President Trump just moments away from sitting down with Kim Jong-un. Kim looking loose, even posing for selfies before the big summit. Is President Trump ready to go one-on-one with a man many considered to be a madman?
And, as President Trump prepares to sit with the dictator, he continues to slam our closest Democratic allies. Where does the world stand after a weekend of anger, drama and mean tweets?
Plus, are you talking to Trump? Robert De Niro F-bombs the president on live TV. Are attacks like this one playing right into President Trump's hand and his next campaign?
Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
We're going to begin, of course, with the historic summit in our world lead. It is 4:00 a.m. in Singapore, where in just hours President Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet in what will be an unprecedented moment in history, no matter the outcome. Never before has a sitting U.S. president met with the dictator of North Korea.
We now know President Trump and Kim Jong-un will first meet one-on-one with only translators in the room. That has worried some U.S. officials, allies and experts, given President Trump's impulsive style, his declaration that he will not need to prepare much for the summit, his aversion to details, and his insistence the success will be more about instinct than any specific strategy.
Despite the gravity of the stakes, with the denuclearization of the rogue regime at the center of the summit, and regardless of the barbarism that has marked the regime of Kim Jong-un and his family, the dictator was applauded as he arrived at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.
Kim Jong-un also toured local sights and poised in a selfie with Singapore's foreign minister, adding to the otherworldly dimensions of all this. Also arriving on the island today, former basketball star Dennis Rodman, who has met Kim before and suggested that he perhaps deserves some credit for the meeting of the world leaders.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live for us in Singapore.
And, Jeff, originally, there was talk about the summit possibly lasting a few days. What is the latest on that?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, there was.
We heard President Trump last week say he would stay one day, two days, even three days if the conversations here were going well. Now we know that he is planning to leave actually shortly after the summit. I am told by a U.S. official here this morning that the president made that switch because Kim Jong-un is planning to leave as well.
He set his departure time shortly after the summit, so the U.S. also wanted to have a departure time in place. Now, we do know the president is going to hold a news conference here after that summit.
But, Jake, we're about five hours away from that summit here. Both leaders are in Singapore, and this city with ripe with anticipation.
ZELENY (voice-over): It is a handshake that could make history, President Trump and Kim Jong-un coming face-to-face in just hours, the first meeting of an American president and a North Korean leader.
The two men will first meet with no aides present, only translators, inside the Capella Hotel on the island of Sentosa, a resort just off the Singapore coast. Later, the two will hold a working lunch with their advisers.
The U.S. making clear the objective is the same. North Korea must shutter its nuclear program.
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the only outcome that the United States will accept.
ZELENY: On the eve of the talks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said North Korea must prove its sincerity, or face even more economic pressure on the regime.
POMPEO: Sanctions will remain until North Korea completely, verifiably eliminates its weapons of mass destruction programs. If diplomacy does not move in the right direction -- and we're hopeful that it will continue to do so -- those measures will increase.
ZELENY: It is the biggest diplomatic gamble of the Trump presidency. He's offering Kim enormous credibility, hoping his personal charm can break the cycle of stalled negotiations with North Korea.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Within the first minutes, I will know.
TRUMP: Just my touch, my feel. That is what I do.
ZELENY: Yet the two leaders could not be more different. Mr. Trump, who turned 72 this week, is more than twice the age of Kim, who is 34.
Only hours ago, he hit the town, spotted visiting an outdoor garden bathed in neon and then a nightclub. Trump, meanwhile, never left his hotel. Kim's family, most recently his father and grandfather, have frustrated a long line of American presidents.
Trump believes he could be the one to break the diplomatic fever.
TRUMP: You know, the way they say you know if you are going to like somebody in the first five seconds? You ever hear that one? Well, I think that, very quickly, I will know whether or not something good is going to happen.
ZELENY: The outcome of the meeting is an open question. The fact that it is happening at all is a sign Trump is taking a far different tack than his predecessors and from his own fiery rhetoric only months ago.
TRUMP: Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.
ZELENY: It has been three months and three days since the president stood in the White House Briefing Room this wide smile, saying he was accepting the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un.
Since then, it has been a roller coaster.
TRUMP: I have decided to terminate the planned summit.
ZELENY: With an abrupt cancellation and a rapid rescheduling.
ZELENY: So, Jake, it is an open question if chemistry can lead to diplomacy here.
But I'm told, behind the scenes, officials from both sides have been working furiously to try and determine if they can sign a joint statement, a communique, if you will, similar to the one the president did not sign at the G7, about a way forward here.
So that is one thing to keep an eye on. But we do know, at least as the schedule sets now, the president and Kim Jong-un are set to leave shortly after the summit -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Jeff Zeleny for us in Singapore, thanks so much.
My panel of experts joins me now.
Gordon Chang, let me start with you.
The U.S. has not been able to get any sort of preliminary agreement ahead of the talks. As you know better than most, usually, all the diplomatic work, or at least a lot of it, is done ahead of time. How concerning is that as we look ahead to the summit? Are these two nations anywhere near close to anything they could agree upon?
GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN: NORTH KOREA TAKES ON THE WORLD": Actually, I don't think so, Jake.
If you go back a month or so, U.S. officials were saying there was going to be no summit unless the North Koreans were going to give a firm commitment directly to the United States to abandon their weapons program.
Now we have a very different tone from the administration, not only from the president, but also Secretary of State Pompeo, which is basically, we're building a relationship.
Well, when that meeting occurs in a few hours, we give North Korea something really important, legitimization. That solidifies Kim's regime back home. That makes it more difficult to get any type of deal with North Korea.
So, you have to believe that some of the air has gone out of our efforts to get the North Koreans to give up their weapons, which suggests also that maybe we want something else. Maybe we want to pry North Korea away from China. Maybe that is more important to us. I don't know. But, clearly, there has been a change in the focus of the administration.
TAPPER: Nayyera, Secretary of State Pompeo today reiterated that the U.S. goal is what he calls complete and verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
What does that exactly mean and how difficult is that to achieve?
NAYYERA HAQ, FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: That is going to be extremely difficult in these circumstances, particularly since the diplomacy has not been done in advance. Right?
The most seasoned diplomats in that room with these two leaders will be the interpreters. And so they are the ones who are ultimately -- the success of the summit is going to rely on their ability to translate what Donald Trump, who often doesn't speak in complete sentences, and Kim Jong-un, who we are unaware of what his English ability is.
So what we have coming out of that, and to know if anything has been accomplished, are the words of the translators and potentially a joint communique. This is why the process and the work in advance is so important, so that you have a common understanding going into a meeting.
Unfortunately, the common understanding we have right now is that this really is an important photo opportunity. Donald Trump has since walked that back, saying that it should be more than a photo-op, but, ultimately, that is what the Koreans want.
North Korea wants a photo opportunity they can sell back to their public of being seen on equal par with the United States. So they don't really need to give anything up at this point to call this a win for Kim Jong-un.
TAPPER: And, Nayyera, staying with you for a second, a lot of viewers might not fully realize that the U.S. has so many troops there. And it is not just because of the nuclear threat. It's actually more because of the conventional threat from North Korea.
President Trump has long complained about the cost of basing so many troops in South Korea. He's floated the possibility of withdrawing them. How big is the concern that he might give that chit away?
HAQ: Unfortunately, we don't -- I think it is a big concern. And that is unfortunate, given the South Koreans are an ally and our military maneuvers in the region, in the South China Sea really are our posture to protect ourselves and the region from China.
So, this is not just a summit about the relationship between North Korea and the United States. It also involves China and Japan, by implicit nature of where we are. We also have a responsibility that we have given to the South Koreans, given that we have not settled an armistice -- I mean, only an armistice. We have not settled a peace deal.
So, this is part of the long history and legacy of the Korean War that could potentially be wrapped up as a result of this relationship we're building with North Korea.
But when it comes to military prowess, that is essential that we have Pacific Command having access in this region. And for Trump to not understand the value of that is very dangerous.
TAPPER: Let me ask you, Gordon, what if the only thing that Trump and Kim agree to is to end the declared state of war between North and South Korea, which remains?
Will the U.S. have still failed, in your view, by giving the Kim regime so much credibility?
CHANG: We certainly don't want to do that, because once we do that, we give people in South Korea, including President Moon Jae-in's closest advisers, the argument about breaking the treaty with South Korea, getting our troops off the peninsula.
The reason why that is important is that South Korea is part of our Western defense perimeter. We would rather face the bad actors in Asia, rather than off the coast of Hawaii.
Now, Jake, I don't think we're going to do that, because there is just so much in the way of what she was just mentioning that it is not in our interest to do that. But, nonetheless, you got people in South Korea, including Moon Jae-in's advisers, who do very much want us off the peninsula.
TAPPER: What is the minimum that has to happen for this to be a successful summit, in your view? The minimum.
CHANG: There needs to be at least a vague commitment to give up nuclear weapons, all ballistic missiles, verification of some sort, dismantlement of the infrastructure for the weapons, and also the Japanese an accounting of the Japanese abductees.
I don't think we are going to get that, but, nonetheless, the United States has a lot of leverage we can bring to bear on North Korea. And we may have to actually work uphill, because, right now, Kim is on this roll.
He's sort of building all these links with countries in the region. And that is undercutting our ability to enforce sanctions. And so although we can actually work against that, nonetheless, it is going to be hard for us to do, much harder than it needs to be.
TAPPER: All right, yes, he's getting a rock star reception in Singapore, for example.
Gordon Chang and Nayyera Haq, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Is President Trump more concerned about upsetting Kim Jong-un than America's longtime allies?
Stay with us.
CHANG: Thank you.
[16:15:44] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: As President Trump prepares to meet with one of America's fiercest long time adversaries in Kim Jong-un, he's continuing a relentless rhetorical assault on key U.S. allies, notably Canada and its Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Mr. Trump calling Trudeau dishonest and weak over trade disagreements during an acrimonious G-7 summit this weekend.
CNN senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski picks up the story.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just hours before President Trump comes face-to-face with Kim Jong-un, America's allies around the world are fuming and confused, following the president's stunning attack of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trump went from praising our allies in front of the cameras --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say that the level of relationship is a ten. We have a great relationship. Angela and Emmanuel and Justin, I would say the relationship is a ten. KOSINSKI: To then suddenly tweeting, Trudeau was dishonest, weak,
saying he made false statements after acting meek and mild in meetings, and rescinding the U.S. support of the joint statement from the G7. A Twitter rant that did not stop once the president landed in Singapore for his summit with North Korea.
Fair trade is now to be called fool trade if it is not reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost $100 billion in trade with the U.S. Guess they were bragging and got caught. Minimum is $17 billion. Tax dairy from us at 270 percent. And then Justin acts hurt when called out.
What set all of this off was a press conference on Saturday where the Canadian prime minister called U.S. tariffs insulting and said he remains ready to impose his own tariffs right back.
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: We're polite, we're reasonable but we also will not be pushed around.
KOSINSKI: The director of the president's economic council, Larry Kudlow, told Jake Tapper on "STATE OF THE UNION", Trudeau made the United States look bad.
LARRY KUDLOW, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL DIRECTOR: POTUS is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around, push him -- POTUS around, President Trump on the eve of this. He is not going to permit any show of weakness on the -- on the trip to negotiate with North Korea, nor should he --
TAPPER: So this was about North Korea?
KUDLOW: Of course it was in large part.
KOSINSKI: Other members of Trump's economic team also not hesitating to pile on our neighbor to the north.
PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: There is a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out of the door. And that's what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with the stunt press conference. That's what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did, and that comes from Air Force One.
KOSINSKI: U.S. allies still reeling from how the G-7 seemed to devolve into the G-6 plus one. German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling his words sobering and depressing. The French government imploring, international operation can't depend on anger and small words. Let's be serious and worthy of our people.
KOSINSKI: Jake, a senior European diplomat says that the conversations with Trump at the G-7 were very intense. They were difficult. They thought they all had consensus, though, on the final wording of the communique, so there was a lot of surprise when Trump pulled away from that. In the words of the source today, the whole thing doesn't make sense -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski, thanks so much.
Joining me now is Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to President George W. Bush.
Stephen, let me start with just these words from Larry Kudlow and perhaps even more stark, Peter Navarro, talking about how Trudeau stabbed President Trump in the back. Navarro calling him weak and dishonest, Justin Trudeau and there's a special place in hell reserved for him.
What's your response?
STEPHEN HADLEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER, PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, it's unfortunate. This is not a youthful spat. I think really what happened was that they got a communique that all seven were going to join and Prime Minister Trudeau was supposed to announce that and he did, but rather than sort of show the unit and response to questions, he then had this point about Canadians won't be pushed around.
[16:20:00] And I think what it probably looked like to President Trump and the people around him was that Trudeau was trying to advance his own standing with his own people domestically at President Trump's expense. No American leader of any leader of any country likes that kind of thing and I think that triggered the kind of response you saw from President Trump.
TAPPER: Well let's play the exact -- the tape. Let's go to the tape and take a listen to what Justin Trudeau actually said.
TAPPER: He was talking about applying retaliatory tariffs which drew the ire of President Trump. Let's play that tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUDEAU: I have made it very clear to the president that it is not something that we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do. Because Canadians -- we're polite, we're reasonable but we also will not be pushed around.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: That is it. That is the whole thing. Do you think that -- that warranted calling him weak, dishonest, Justin Trudeau, for whom there is a special place in hell?
HADLEY: I don't. I thought the reaction was too extreme but I also think Trudeau was unfortunate that he decided to make that sort of bid to his own public opinion. He could have rolled out the G-7 statement and emphasized the importance of it and emphasized that there had been consensus and stop. You know, it's unfortunate. You know, these sorts of things happen.
I think he probably went too far. I think the Trump administration and those who comments went way too far. It's unfortunate. But it is not irreparable.
TAPPER: Michael McFaul, the former ambassador under Obama, tweeted the following, quote: if Trump can't negotiate a deal on milk with one of our closest allies, how is going to get a deal on nuclear disarmament with one of our greatest foes, that, of course, deals with the very high tariffs on American dairy products that Canada imposes.
Bu let's talk about that. I mean, is there any sort of correlation between how President Trump treats U.S. allies versus how well you think he might be able to negotiate in Singapore with Kim Jong-un?
HADLEY: Well, you know, these trade disputes are difficult. We've been working soft wood lumber issue with the Canadians for about 20- plus years. I don't think that tells you much about what's going to happen in Singapore. I think the question is, one, do the two leaders establish some kind of rapport? Two, can they establish some kind of basic set of principles that involves denuclearization as the Americans define it? And, three, can they establish some kind of mechanism for following up and working the details. If they could do that, it will be a successful summit.
TAPPER: You've seen the photographs, I'm sure, released showing what looked like very tense negotiations at the G-7, the one that we have up on screen right now. You've seen it before. It's President Trump with his arms crossed, Angela Merkel leaning forward. It was put out by Merkel's office. Here's another one with the different angle put out by the White House.
As former national security adviser and top former Bush administration official, what do these pictures say to you?
HADLEY: Well, you know, they were intensive negotiations. I remember at the summit, we had in 2008 where the issue was whether Ukraine and Georgia could come into NATO and some very tense negotiations and I remember Angela Merkel sitting at a table with foreign ministers and heads of government in vigorous conversation, mostly in Russian, talking about how we should -- what kind of NATO summit statement should address and how it should address the issue of Georgia and Ukraine.
So, you know, they are intensive conversations. These are difficult issues that need to be addressed. That's what diplomacy sometimes is about. It's not all choreographed and it's not all love and kisses.
TAPPER: I want to ask you also, the president raised eyebrows when he suggested on the way to the G-7 and then at the G-7, that Russia be permitted to come back into the G-7, so it would be the G-8. Obviously, Russia was kicked out after if invaded and annexed Crimea back in 2014.
Take a listen to Larry Kudlow when I asked him about this on Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KUDLOW: But that doesn't mean we shouldn't talk to them. That doesn't mean we shouldn't deal with them. Again, Russia was doing some very bad things years ago when they were part of the G-8. President Trump is just throwing it out there for consideration. There is nothing wrong with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Do you agree? Is there nothing wrong with talking about how Russia should be back in the G-7?
HADLEY: I think it was a nonstarter and everybody knew it was a nonstarter. My guess is that it was something that came to President Trump to sort of change the conversation and disrupt a little bit and put the G-7 -- the other G-7 participants on the back foot. But it is basically a nonstarter I think until we get through our own political system, the investigations that we know exactly what the Russians did with respect to our elections.
And I think it's also going to be very difficult until there is some progress resolving the issue of returning Ukrainian control to the Donbass, that area that Russia basically occupies.
[16:25:06] TAPPER: All right. Stephen Hadley, thank you so much. Always good to have you on.
HADLEY: Nice to be with you.
TAPPER: The president's inner circle seemingly getting smaller and smaller and wait until you hear who he's turning to outside of the White House for advice now. Stay with us.
TAPPER: President Trump is just hours away from one of the most important meetings if not the most important of his presidency.
But half a world away the White House is in chaos. "The New York Times" reporting that aides are burnt out, unhappy, looking to jump ship. The president reportedly is not too concerned about a potential mass exit as he relies less and less on his staff and more and more on his own instincts.
I want to bring in Maggie Haberman, who broke the story for "The New York Times".
And, Maggie, perhaps this is part of it or not, I don't know. You can shed light. "Politico" is reporting the top White House aide Steven Cheung, his last day was on Friday, he was on the Trump communications team. He's been on the Trump team since the campaign.
You tweeted: the purge is beginning.
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": And it is. I think that Steven Cheung will be the first of a couple of people from the communications staff which is --