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Did Trump Take Putin's Advice on North Korea?; Michael Cohen Gets New Legal Team; President Trump Upset About Negative Summit Coverage?; Interview With California Congressman Eric Swalwell. Source: Putin Not Behind Trump Decision on War Games. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 13, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Consulting the counsel. CNN has learned that on his way home from Singapore, the president called his lawyers to talk about what he faces next in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Will Mr. Trump's attorney soon be sitting down with the special counsel?

Putin's plan? Questions tonight about whether President Trump was acting on Vladimir Putin's suggestion when he canceled war games, as he calls them, in a concession to Kim Jong-un. Now the Russian president is celebrating the summit. We will go live to Moscow.

Allies and enemies. As President Trump praises the North Korean dictator, he lashes out at members of his own party and calls the news media the country's biggest enemy. Is the president seething about the summit news coverage?

We want to welcome to our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight.

Growing concern among President Trump's allies that his personal attorney Michael Cohen could flip on the president at any moment, that fear ramping up as Cohen under criminal investigation is now splitting from his own legal team.

We will talk about it with Congressman Eric Swalwell of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. And our specialists and analysts are all standing by.

First, let's go to CNN political correspondent Sara Murray. She has details on the breaking news.

Sara, you're getting new information from your sources tonight.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Michael Cohen is preparing to make this switch with his legal team.

And in many ways, it makes a lot of sense. They're reaching the end of this very complicated fight over who can see the documents that were collected in the raid on his home office and other places. But this is also a move in its uncertainty that's causing a new wave of concern amongst some of the president's allies.


MURRAY (voice-over): Michael Cohen splitting with his legal team amid a high-profile criminal investigation that's likely to lead to charges against President Trump's longtime lawyer, a source tells CNN.

Sources familiar with Cohen's plans say his goal is to hire a new legal team with experience in the Southern District of New York, which is handling the probe. But the move could also signal a change in legal strategy.

A source says Cohen has not met with prosecutors yet to speak about a potential deal. And it's still unclear whether either side is seeking an agreement.

QUESTION: A lot of talk about you flipping. Any possibility for that?

MURRAY: The impending switch comes at a crucial time, as Cohen's legal team is poring over the 3.7 million files seized during an FBI raid of Cohen's home, office and hotel room in early April.

While Cohen has not faced any charges yet, the raid reveals that prosecutors were zeroing in on Cohen's personal financial dealings, including a payment to porn star Stormy Daniels that Cohen made on Trump's behalf before the 2016 election.

Cohen's original legal team was led by an experienced Washington attorney, initially hired to represent Cohen before congressional inquiries. Instead, the team has been shepherding Cohen through a criminal investigation and a complex document fight, with Cohen challenging prosecutors' ability to see all the documents seized in the raid.

The president's personal attorney for more than a decade, Cohen has often professed his loyalty to his boss over the years.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL TO DONALD TRUMP: I protect Mr. Trump. That what it is. If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's, of course, of concern to me. And I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.

MURRAY: But the exceedingly public and expensive legal battle has some of Trump's allies worried Cohen could eventually decide to flip on President Trump.

QUESTION: Do you think the president still has your back?

MURRAY: While Trump has downplayed the amount of actual legal work Cohen provided for him...

QUESTION: Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction.

MURRAY: ... Cohen has been viewed as a fixer for all sorts of issues that could pose problems for Mr. Trump.

COHEN: They say I'm Mr. Trump's pit bull, that I'm his right-hand man.

MURRAY: For the president's part, he took to Twitter in April to predict Cohen would remain loyal, calling Cohen a fine person with a wonderful family and saying "Most people will flip if the government lets them out of trouble, even if it means lying or making up stories. Sorry. I don't see Michael doing that, despite the horrible witch- hunt and the dishonest media."


MURRAY: Now, the reality is, it's probably premature to determine whether Michael Cohen will flip whatsoever.

Wolf, he doesn't even know what kind of charges he could be potentially facing in this criminal investigation. And we know, as we have seen from others who are players in the Russia investigation, that it's a push and pull when you are deciding if you're going to fight this out to trial or if you decide you want to strike a deal and cooperate with prosecutors.

BLITZER: Lots at stake right now. Sara Murray reporting, thank you very much.


Let's get some more on the breaking news.

Our chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us.

Dana, you have had a chance to talk to sources familiar with Michael Cohen's thinking. What does this legal shift say about his mind-set tonight?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Michael Cohen realizes that the legal jeopardy he's in requires a law firm or maybe two firms that have experience with and expertise in the Southern District of New York.

And that's where he is being investigated. In fact, to that end, I'm told that Cohen spent the day today meeting with potential lawyers, at least three firms that fit that bill.

And why now? Well, my colleague M.J. Lee is told by someone close to Cohen that he's fully cognizant, Wolf, of the real possibility that he could be indicted.

BLITZER: And there are also some money concerns here, right?

BASH: Very much.

He doesn't want to spend all of his savings on legal fees. He is making that very clear. He owes a lot to his current lawyer, Stephen Ryan's firm. They have deployed seven or eight lawyers to spend countless hours going through millions of documents for Cohen.

And those legal fees have added up. That's why money is a big part of the consideration that Michael is putting into -- Michael Cohen is putting into who he chooses for his new representation. Now, of course, that financial pressure that I just talked about could always play into concerns that Sara Murray was reporting on from the White House that Michael Cohen could cooperate or he could flip on the president or maybe anybody else in this orbit.

I'm told that those discussions between prosecutors and Michael Cohen or any of his lawyers have not happened yet.

BLITZER: Dana, stand by.

We want to also bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, who has been doing a lot of reporting on this.

Gloria, you and Dana have reported on the imminent decision facing the president, whether to sit down with the special counsel, Robert Mueller, for an interview. What are you learning?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have learned that this is very much on the president's mind and that, in fact, as he was flying back in kind of a euphoric mood from North Korea, calling members of Congress to talk about the summit with Kim Jong-un, he was also calling his attorneys to kind of game out what would happen next.

His attorneys have assembled in Washington. They hope to meet with the president as early as this week and with the special counsel very soon to try and get back to a discussion about the president's testimony.

And, of course, the big question right now in front of them is, will Bob Mueller decide to subpoena the president, or is there some way that the president's attorneys working with the special counsel can hone in on questions that the president would be willing to sit down and answer without a subpoena?

BLITZER: Dana, you had a chance to speak to Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer. What does he have to say about all of this?

BASH: Well, like Gloria was saying, what the legal team is saying that they need to do soon and they hope to do it as soon as this week is to sit down and have what Giuliani called a lengthy, relaxing conversation with their client, the president of the United States, about these issues, which they really haven't had a chance to do, given where the president has been on North Korea and other world events.

And on the notion and the question that is still out there about whether or not -- it's the key question, whether or not the president will answer questions from Robert Mueller, here's what Rudy Giuliani said to me.

He said of the president, "I think he would like to testify in a situation in which we tell him it's fair and he's going to be received objectively."

And Giuliani went onto say: "I think he still wants to carve out a way in which he can testify. And I think it's our job to figure out a way we can do that."

So, it's very interesting that, although, Wolf, people in and around the president have said for months and months and months they think it would be a terrible idea for him to testify, the fact of the matter is, he is the president, he has legal and political considerations about potentially testifying, and they have to really start to nail this down and do it soon.

BLITZER: Gloria, what is the relationship between the Trump legal team and Mueller right now?

BORGER: Well, it's been a long road. And I will tell you that, in talking to my sources, it really hit a bump in the road after the Michael Cohen raid, that the president's attorneys were all set to meet with Bob Mueller's team.

They hear about this in the morning, the raid in the morning. They still met with Mueller's team in the afternoon. But I'm told it was a very tense meeting and that the raid itself was a game-changer, because I think the issue of trust evaporated for a certain amount of time.

And the president, as you heard, came out and said at the time that he thought the raid was a disgrace. So they were very upset. I think, right now, the attorneys and Rudy Giuliani are trying to get back on the right track with the Mueller team. And they have been talking to them about how they can negotiate something that would appeal to both sides.


Whether they will be able to get there, who knows. It's -- the Trump lawyers are kind of thinking maybe, maybe Mueller doesn't want a subpoena, or at least they're hoping that, but they don't know.

BLITZER: Dana, what are you hearing? The Trump legal team, what's their thinking, based on everything you know, about a subpoena?

BASH: Well, as Gloria just said, they're just guessing at this point. They don't really know what Robert Mueller's intent is. Giuliani said to me, for example, he went into some of the

possibilities. It depends, if he does issue a subpoena, how narrow it is or how broad it is. That could determine whether or not Robert Mueller is successful.

But -- and this is the important but -- he and the president and other members of the legal team are hoping that they don't get to that point, that they can negotiate something. And what Giuliani said is that they hope to do that so that they're all in control of it, rather than a court.

They don't know if they're going to get there, but they're certainly going to try. And, again, that is why we're at a very key moment in time with this very important question, because they were putting it off until after the North Korea summit. That's over. The president knows that, his legal team knows that and Robert Mueller knows that.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect things are going to be moving very, very quickly.

Dana Bash, Gloria Borger, thanks for that excellent, excellent reporting.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California is joining us. He's a member of the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Congressman, thanks for coming in.


BLITZER: So the president had a chance. He stared down -- he stared down Kim Jong-un. How do you think he would do if he has an opportunity to sit down with Robert Mueller?

SWALWELL: Well, it's time for him to come clean with Mr. Mueller and sit in the chair. Heck, he's been given the questions that they want to ask him.

But he's shown a willingness to go anywhere in the world and meet with anyone but Mueller. He's now planning a summit with Vladimir Putin. And for the president to complain time after time that they need to wrap this up, the only person who is delaying this investigation is the president and then, of course, his team.

So, when you lie to investigators, when you tamper with witnesses, and when you engage in the bogus allegations, like he made with Devin Nunes last week, investigations take long. If you sit in that chair, we will get to the bottom of this a lot sooner.

BLITZER: As you know, Michael Cohen is now changing his personal legal team at a sensitive moment obviously in this criminal investigation.

Your committee had a chance to interview Michael Cohen, what, last October. Do you think Cohen has information that could help this Russia probe?

SWALWELL: Absolutely.

And we were completely unwilling as a committee, because the Republicans wouldn't use the subpoena power, to look into his communication logs, to look at his travel records, because there have been allegations that he went over to Prague and went over to Budapest during the campaign and met with individuals associated with Russia.

We asked Mr. Cohen for records to show that he wasn't over there, and he never was willing to turn that over. So, I think this has to be a wakeup call for the House intelligence Republicans, that we closed our investigation prematurely and now we're going to learn a lot more about a key witness, someone so close to the president.

BLITZER: Well, if he does flip and cooperates with the federal prosecutors and the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, what do you think that means for President Trump?

SWALWELL: He's in real trouble.


SWALWELL: Well, because you don't flip if you don't have anything to say. And innocent people don't worry about whether someone's going to flip on them.

And, also, Wolf, let's just be real. Honest presidents don't have fixers. And I think we're so in the thick of this that when you take a step back and realize every day we talk about Mr. Cohen is Donald Trump's fixer, that's a problem.

Innocent people don't need fixers. Innocent people fix things by just shooting straight and telling the truth. And so I think this is the beginning of a dark, dark storm coming for President Trump.

BLITZER: Well, Michael Cohen has been working with Donald Trump for a decade, if not longer, long before he became president of the United States. He did a lot of legal work for him and a lot of fixing for him.

SWALWELL: Yes, but he's never had light shined like this on his work. And now I think he's going to have to ask himself, does he want to cooperate with an investigation looking into what an adversary did to America, or does he want to stand close to this president?

And this president, by saying, I can pardon myself, what he's really saying, Wolf, is, I can pardon you.

And that, to me, is also obstructive and may cause problems for the president.

BLITZER: He hasn't been charged with anything, Michael Cohen. If he does flip, though, would it be to his advantage to flip before charges are formally fired or after?

SWALWELL: Always before. But it's not too late after charges are filed.

And that's something that may be negotiated now. As a former prosecutor, you know, the sooner someone is willing to cooperate, the more likely that they are telling you the truth. If you have them coming forward once charges are dropped, you have to be a little bit more skeptical about what their motivation is.

But, still, people who have done very bad things can still be truthful about what they saw around them. That happens every day in America's courtrooms.


BLITZER: But he was the president's attorney for 10 years. Isn't there attorney/client privilege that he can't discuss?

SWALWELL: Well, it looks like he was lawyer-ish, as they described him on "Saturday Night Live" and as the court is now assessing as they pore through these hundreds of thousands of pages of documents.

Only a small percentage have been marked as actually attorney/client privilege, which again suggests that he was just a fixer. And there's no fixer/client privilege.

BLITZER: There's another extraordinary development unfolding as we speak.

The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, he wants staffers on your House Intelligence Committee to be investigated by the House. This is an argument that's unfolded over some time, going back to January. Tell us about that, because it's a little confusing.

SWALWELL: We're learning a little bit more about this too.

And what I can say is that from my observation of Mr. Rosenstein on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee, he has conducted himself in an honorable -- and has been a personal -- a person of integrity.

What I have seen from Devin Nunes and many people on his team is they have sought to obstruct, they have put out bogus claims about the investigation, and they are trying to reach very deeply into the FBI evidence locker, so they can turn over evidence to subjects in this investigation.

We don't do that. We have oversight of what the FBI and DOJ do, but we don't get involved in ongoing investigations. And so I -- all I can say is that I think Mr. Rosenstein has to start saying no to Mr. Nunes, because once he continues to let many Nunes reach into the evidence locker, we're going to start to see the investigation compromised.

BLITZER: But do you know which staffers he wants investigated?

SWALWELL: I'm going to hold back from that, Wolf.

BLITZER: You can say yes or no. SWALWELL: Yes, I do. But I -- I know what's been reported. I have seen a lot of troubling things on the committee, but I can't say more than that.

BLITZER: Do you believe a House of Representatives general counsel special investigation is warranted?

SWALWELL: I can't say right now. I can just say that what I saw, we saw a lot of witnesses coming in who had a lot of information to tell.

And when we asked the Republicans to subpoena them and have them provide us with documents that were relevant, at every single request, we were turned down.

BLITZER: Let's turn to North Korea.

You're on the Intelligence Committee. You study this obviously very, very closely. The president tweeted this morning -- and I will read these words -- "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

"There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

When you saw that, is that credible?


And North Korea's nuclear capabilities are the same today as they were last week. Nothing has changed. I hope it changes. I hope this summit produces denuclearization.

But I also hope that it is not just the United States giving up our security presence in the region and getting nothing in return. North Korea has a long record of deceiving U.S. officials when it comes to denuclearizing.


BLITZER: There's actually reports they may have as many as 60 nuclear bombs right now, plus short-range, medium-range, long-range, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Do they?

SWALWELL: I have seen their capabilities. They should worry all of us. Actions speak louder than tweets.

But the president should also see himself as the leader of America, the strongest country in the world, not as Kim Jong-un's publicist. And right now, I think he is giving too much credibility to a ruthless dictator who needs to be confronted with a forceful leader who is willing to help them rejoin the table of nations, but not somebody who is his new pal.

BLITZER: Let me ask you a question about the president's going after the news media. And I will put it up on the screen. He tweeted: "So funny to watch the fake news, especially NBC and CNN.

They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea; 500 days ago, they would have begged for this deal. Looked like war would break out."

And listen to this: "Our country's biggest enemy is the fake news. So easily promulgated by fools."

What's your reaction to that?

SWALWELL: Well, that could have been issued from Pyongyang. That could have been issued from Moscow. That could have been issued from Ankara, Turkey. That's what dictators sound like.

I wrote the Journalist Protection Act, Wolf. Because the president declared the media the enemy of the state, it allows federal enforcement if any journalist is assaulted by somebody. And it's because of this president. And journalists are being assaulted.

And we see escalating rhetoric and violence against journalists correlated with the president's words. And that's deeply troubling.

BLITZER: Yes, the president has every right to criticize the news media, criticize this he doesn't like. Other presidents have done it frequently. I have been a victim of that over many years.

But to say that our country's biggest enemy is the fake news, so easily promulgated by fools, that is a very, very serious and awful assertion.

SWALWELL: And one of -- I think our country's biggest enemy is the person who the president was palling around with and says loves his people, despite the thousands of people that dictator has imprisoned.

So, I think the president needs to understand who a threat is and who our friends are. And we saw that starting over the weekend when he alienated Justin Trudeau in Canada and President Macron of France.


He's drawing us closer to our enemies and farther away from our friends.

BLITZER: Thanks so much for joining us, Congressman Swalwell.

SWALWELL: My pleasure.

BLITZER: We will have more on the breaking news coming up.

President Trump's longtime lawyer Michael Cohen splitting with his own legal team at a critical moment. What led to this dramatic move?

Plus, President Trump tells Americans to sleep well, assuring them North Korea is no longer a threat. Is this his so-called mission accomplished moment?



BLITZER: President Trump proclaiming victory in his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Both sides are making broad and bold claims about what was accomplished, but with very little to back them up.

Our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown, is working this part of the story for us.

Pamela, what are you picking up over there?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, an administration official telling me tonight that President Trump feels like he has a good personal relationship with Kim Jong-un following the summit in Singapore.

And that is why you're seeing him put so much trust in a regime known for cheating the system.


BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump is back at the White House and taking a victory lap about his meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, tweeting: "Everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

And: "President Obama said that North Korea was our biggest and most dangerous problem. No longer. Sleep well tonight."

Trump's premature victory tweets sounding a lot like former President George W. Bush's mission accomplished speech in 2003.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.

BROWN: And a lot less like Trump's cautious tone at his news conference immediately after the negotiations.

TRUMP: Today is the beginning of an arduous process. Our eyes are wide open.

BROWN: Today's tweets a reminder of Trump's hyperbolic statements made toward North Korea.

TRUMP: We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission. North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.

BROWN: Statements he now says helped facilitate the eventual negotiations.

TRUMP: Without the rhetoric, it wouldn't have happened.

BROWN: But that he now admits made him feel silly.

TRUMP: I think the rhetoric, I hated to do it. Sometimes, I felt foolish doing it. But we had no choice.

BROWN: Meantime, North Korea's state-run media is touting Trump's decision to suspend joint military exercises with South Korea, without mentioning any concessions by Kim Jong-un.

Trump again tweeting: "We save a fortune by not doing war games as long as we are negotiating in good faith, which both sides are."

Once again, a different tone from a few months ago, when Trump argued against stopping the military exercises in exchange for North Korea halting its nuclear program.

TRUMP: We would not accept a so-called freeze-for-freeze agreement, like those that have consistently failed in the past.

BROWN: And while the president has seemingly removed North Korea from the so-called axis of evil, this is what he is now saying about the American free press, tweeting: "Our country's biggest enemy is the fake news, so easily promulgated by fools."


BROWN: And, tonight, the North Korea state-run media is claiming that President Trump pledged to lift sanctions on North Korea.

But administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, say that no sanctions will be lifted until nuclear weapons are no longer a factor.

Meantime, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters today, Wolf, that he could begin round two of negotiations with the North Koreans as early as next week -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela Brown, good report. Thank you very much.

Breaking news coming up. What does Michael Cohen splitting with his own legal team mean for President Trump? Is his personal lawyer about to flip on him?

Plus, the president's lawyers for the Russia probe, they are plotting their own next moves. We're learning new information tonight.


BLITZER: The breaking news this hour: CNN has learned that President Trump phoned his lawyers on the way home from the summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-un to discuss the next steps in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.

[18:33:33] Let's get some more with our specialists and our analysts. And where do you see things going, Gloria? GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's hard to say at

this point. We do know that the president, even as euphoric as he was about the North Korea summit, Dana Bash and I are reporting that he called his lawyers from Air Force One to talk about next steps.

And the lawyers have all -- the president's lawyers have all assembled in Washington. They want to meet with their client very soon, this week. And they expect a meeting with the special counsel either later this week or sometime next week.

And the issue on the table, of course, is the president's testimony. And the question of whether they can strike some kind of a deal of limited questions for this president, or whether Mueller will subpoena the president of the United States. Some of the lawyers are saying they don't expect a subpoena from Bob Mueller, but that is not at all clear to them.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, there's a legal term for what's going on here, which is Groundhog Day. I mean, this has just been going on and on about whether he's going to give an interview.

And you know what? It's a complicated question, but it's not that complicated. You limit the subject areas, you limit the amount of time or you don't do it. And I have to believe the Mueller office is just sick of having their chain yanked, you know, for months now --

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: -- about whether he's going to do this interview.

BORGER: But the president's changed lawyers too, don't forget. So you have to sort of get acquainted with a whole new team of lawyers, including the Raskins and Rudy Giuliani, and go through this -- this song and dance again.

[18:35:09] And remember, the president is telling his lawyers that he wants to testify. And as you know, you guys are -- all of you are lawyers -- you know that most lawyers would say to this client, "Don't do it." But if you have a client who wants to testify, what do you do?

BLITZER: Can they resolve this, Susan, without a subpoena?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Ultimately, that's going to be up to the president. It is -- it is to the benefit of both sides that they actually agree to this voluntarily. So it potentially spares the special counsel's office a lengthy legal battle, and it's going to allow the president's legal team to limit the scope of that. So it really does benefit both sides.

You know, what Trump can do here is decide to fight it. And I think that he can build in quite a bit of delay and cost to the special counsel's office. But he is overwhelmingly unlikely to win on the merits. And I think he knows that at the end of the day. I mean, the larger point here is it's really not possible to expect

Robert Mueller to be able to conclude an investigation that has lots of open questions about the president's mental state -- why he did certain things, what he was thinking at the time -- without sitting down and actually speaking to the president. So to the extent that Trump appears to be really, really frustrated with sort of the delay here, he is kind of the master of his own destiny in deciding to sit down.

TOOBIN: Prosecutors investigate people all the time without talking to them. Most defendants, most suspects take the Fifth. They don't cooperate.

BORGER: But he can't.


SWERDLICK: Yes. The difference is it's a president of the United States and the political ramifications.

TOOBIN: What I'm saying, the idea that he can't complete his investigation without talking to President Trump, I don't think that's necessarily true. I think he will just go on ahead.

I do think he will subpoena him, and he'll try to -- try to talk to him. But if he doesn't talk to him, he's going to complete the investigation anyway.

BLITZER: On North Korea, David Swerdlick, the president gave an interview to FOX, and he said this about his meetings with Kim Jong- un. Listen.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you take over a country -- a tough country, tough people -- and you take it over from your father, I don't care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have, if you can do that at 27 years old, I mean, that's one in 10,000 that could do that. So he's a very smart guy. He's a great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But he's still done some really bad things.

TRUMP: Yes, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things. I mean, I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.


BLITZER: What do you make of that? Because he, at one point not that long ago, he said something very similar about Russia when somebody pointed out the Russians have done some bad things. And he said, "Well, a lot of people have done some bad things."

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's a little bit of a callback to that interview that President Trump did with Bill O'Reilly where he talked about the idea that, "Well, if you say President Putin is bad, well, hey, here in the United States we've done some bad things, too." Which, for one thing, it's startling then and now to hear the president of the United States making that kind of equation. It's also, though, not the point.

It's whether or not we, as the leader of the free world, are going to interact with someone who's widely recognized as a dictator who jails people, who assassinates people in a particular way. And I think that's what people are reacting to.

BLITZER: Susan, what's your reaction?

HENNESSEY: Again, we're seeing this sort of persistent "what about- ism". And I think what we're really seeing is Trump's instinct that sort of the principles and the values don't really matter to him. He has this really transactional approach to the way he speaks to foreign leaders. And so what's startling -- it's startling but it isn't necessarily surprising. Right? This is -- this is clearly part and parcel of the president's world view.

BORGER: You know, presidents have to sit down with people they don't like, in fact, people they disdain all the time. But then they don't have to give interviews and say, "Wait a minute, this guy -- this guy's OK. You know, he had a really tough job, and forget about, you know, the human rights issues and the murders and everything else."

I mean, you just can't sweep that aside. That's what's different. I mean, it's not saying that Trump shouldn't meet with Kim Jong-un. It's what he says afterwards about the man.

BLITZER: Brian Stelter, our senior media correspondent, is with us, as well.

Brian, all of us have seen that tweet from the president this morning. I'll read it to our viewers once again. "So funny to watch the fake use, especially NBC and CNN. They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. Five hundred days ago they would have begged for this deal. Looked like war would break out. Our country's biggest enemy is the fake news, so easily promulgated by fools."

He says the U.S. news media -- not Russia, not North Korea, not China, Iran -- the U.S. news media, what he calls the fake news, is the biggest enemy of the United States.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: And this relates to what he was saying in that interview with FOX. The proximate cause of this really disturbing tweet is the coverage of the North Korea meeting. The proximate cause is his complaints about how the meeting is being covered.

But it also has something that is much bigger than just a single summit or a single meeting. It is no wonder why most Americans think this president is not fit to serve.

[18:40:00] Tweets like this suggest that he doesn't know what has made America so great for over 200 years. And that is the check and balance system between the executive and the judiciary and the press. He seems to still miss that or ignore that.

And I just think we should recognize how extreme his rhetoric is on this subject. He's harkening back to something he said back in February 2017, very early on in his presidency. That's when he called the press the enemy of the American people, singling out this network and a few others. Now he's calling back to that again.

You know, Wolf, I guess-- I wish we could have sat here and said after a rough few months, the president started to understand the role of the press, and he toned down his tweets. But no. Instead he's doubling down, tripling down on this kind of extreme rhetoric. It really is disturbing.

And I think it's worth pointing out the only president in modern times that every talked this way -- and this was only in private -- was President Nixon. Nixon, of course, on those secret tapes was saying the press is the enemy; the press is the enemy.

President Trump, he loves to say it out loud, not just in private. But even in public. It's really a form of poison that continues to infect the public.

BLITZER: Yes. And Jeffrey Toobin, if you believe what the president said, our country's biggest enemy is the fake news, it's a bigger threat, the press, the news media, than al Qaeda or ISIS or any other terror groups. That's -- he says the biggest enemy.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, we're going to look back in 20 years on the Trump presidency, and we're going to read things like that. And either the country is going to move one direction or another. Either we will return to the traditional values in this country that are reflected in the Bill of Rights, or we're going to move in an authoritarian direction like that. And I don't know which way it's going to go.

But that vision of the United States is not one that has ever been shared by a president before in public.

HENNESSEY: I do think it's worth noting that the president does this, strips to this rhetoric, attacks on the press, whenever we doesn't have a substantive defense of the critiques. He went and had this engagement with North Korea. He gave up a lot. He didn't get much in return. He didn't like the criticism for that, and he appeared to not have anything to say to sort of make his case to the American people, make his case to the public, the international stage about why this actually was a success. So instead he immediately pivots to attacking the media.

BORGER: Well, he did say we're safer, right? And that was -- you know, and that was the explanation.

I will say something about Richard Nixon. He had an enemies list. We all know it, but it was secret.

SWERDLICK: Right, right.

BORGER: And he didn't publish it. And Donald Trump has an enemies list, but it's completely public; and it's the media and almost everyone in it. Almost.

SWERDLICK: Yes. No, I would just add to what Gloria and Susan were saying. You know, the president earlier in that same tweet gave away the game when he says, "500 days ago, we would have wanted a better deal." Five hundred days ago we had a better deal. It was called the Iran deal. People don't -- some people don't like it, some people do, but it was an actual agreement hammered out by the major world powers with Iran about their nuclear threat.

And in this case you just have some some sort of kind words and pleasantries and a few, you know, signatures on a scrap of paper between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. Not the same thing.

BLITZER: And very quickly, Brian, just button this part of the story up for us.

STELTER: Well, you know, the banner on the screen talking about this new quote from the president, saying that many countries have done bad things. He is not recognizing the American exceptionalism that involves the press and other -- many other aspects, as well, when he's muddying -- when he's muddying the waters like this.

And I think it does go to the president's fitness. I know a lot of folks are numb, especially to his media attacks, but this does go to whether he's fit for office.

BLITZER: All right, guys. Everybody stick around. There's more news we're following, more breaking news. Why President Trump's allies are worried tonight that his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, might flip.

Plus, what President Trump says he could do about the war in Syria if Russia -- if Russia -- were readmitted to the G-7.


[18:48:30] BLITZER: We're looking at live pictures right now. Take a look at this -- Red Square in Moscow where tonight a source is telling CNN that Russian President Vladimir Putin was not behind President Trump's decision to cancel war games with South Korea, joint military exercises, as a concession to Kim Jong-un.

Our senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen is joining us from Red Square tonight.

Fred, the Russians seem extremely happy with the concessions President Trump made to Kim Jong-un. What are you learning over there?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, it was no secret that the Russians were always highly critical of those joint exercises between the U.S. and the South Koreans because they feel that it undermines their position in the Pacific and also their security as well. And that's why after the summit, talking about the results of the summit, the Russians seemed to be quite ecstatic about what happened there.

In fact, the spokesman for Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, today on a call said that the results of the summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump show that Vladimir Putin was right all the time, that it was only through dialogue and political things that this whole conflict on the Korean peninsula could be resolved.

Also, the Russian foreign ministry came out with a statement saying that it was important for President Trump to stop what they call provocative actions. Of course, President Trump himself called those joint military exercises provocative as well.

At the same time, of course, the Russians very happy with some other things that President Trump has been saying, namely that he believes Russia should be admitted once again to the Group of Eight, the most powerful industrial nations in the world.

[18:50:03] In fact, just a couple of minutes ago president Trump on Trump has been saying, namely that he believes Russia should be admitted once again to the group of 8, the most powerful industrial nations in the world. In fact, just a couple of minutes ago, President Trump on Fox seemed to indicate that he would like to work even closer with President Putin.

Let's have a listen to what he said on Fox.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not for Russia. I'm for the United States.

But as an example, if Vladimir Putin were sitting next to me at a table instead of one of the others and we were having dinner the other night in Canada. I could say will you do me a favor? Would you get out of Syria?

Will you do me a favor? Would you get out of Ukraine? Get out of Ukraine, you shouldn't be there. Just come on, get -- now, I think I'd probably have good relationship with him.


PLEITGEN: And President Putin seems to think that good relationship could transcend between those two, Wolf. In fact, he said he wouldn't mind President Trump coming here to Moscow during the time of the World Cup which, of course, kicks off here in Russia only tomorrow, Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect that's not happening. The timing probably not all that good.

Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us -- a beautiful scene behind you. Thank you very much.

Breaking news ahead, new details about President Trump's legal team and the Russia investigation. Are they about to sit down with the special counsel Robert Mueller?


[18:55:57] BLITZER: The breaking news tonight, CNN has learned that President Trump and his lawyers are discussing their next moves in the Russia investigation, even as his personal lawyer Michael Cohen is splitting from his legal team, raising concern among Trump allies he may flip on the president.

Let's get some more with the host of "CUOMO PRIME TIME", CNN's Chris Cuomo.

Chris, I know you're sitting down with former Trump aide, Sam Nunberg, later tonight. What sort of perspective will he give us on the latest developments in the Mueller investigation, also on the fate of Michael Cohen?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Well, Nunberg knows Cohen and understands this dynamic very well. You know, I often fell that Nunberg's been a little bit out of position, talking about the Russia probe per se. You know he wasn't there at a time where it would have been relevant. So, it's been a little strained to get new information or perspective out of him.

But when it comes to Michael Cohen and the relationship to the president and how that has been strengthened or suffered during this process, you know, we know from filings that Trump campaign cut checks to Cohen of about 228,000-some-odd dollars, supposedly for legal fees, but how much support has there been?

And in these kinds of situations, the strength of the relationship is all but dispositive and the outcome of somebody's disposition towards a prosecution. So, we want to get that perspective from Nunberg and we're going to dovetail it with what we're learning from Rudy Giuliani.

From the beginning, it has seemed, Wolf, that what the Trump legal team is really doing is engaging in a PR campaign more than legal strategy. They want to negotiate. They know it's their best opportunity. They know they're going down the road of legal opposition to Mueller may be a dead end for them.

So, it will be interesting to get his take on where this is going to wind up.

BLITZER: You're also going to be interviewing later tonight Corey Stewart. He just won the Republican Senate primary in Virginia. And you know he's promoted the birther conspiracy theory, defends Confederate monuments. He had the support of one of the organizers of last year's neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

What do you want to hear from him?

CUOMO: And don't forget -- don't forget what his gold star is. Put up the tweet from President Trump. He got the endorsement of the president of the United States. This man, he beat Nick Freitas and these other guys. Freitas was a state rep there.

And he is part of a new movement within that party, part of the invigorated base, as they are known, part of Trump's stronghold. That's why he's backing this guy who's also his state chair within his campaign during the 2016 race.

So, we're going to talk to him about what does he think is working for him. What does he represent in terms of the new face of the GOP? And then, we're going to test him on what he is really about and not about. It's going to be a little bit of a battle of fact versus feelings tonight on "CUOMO PRIME TIME".

BLITZER: You know, a lot of -- a big time Republican senators, they're not endorsing him. They don't want to get involved in this race in Virginia in which he's going to face the incumbent, Tim Kaine.

CUOMO: And he has returned that lack of amity to them and I think he is reflective of some green chutes in that party of a new wave. You know, we had seen a conservative extremism there, but that was policy and ideological. This is different.

This is culture politics that Donald Trump stoked during the 2016 election and this man, Corey Stewart, is emblematic of its early success, that we're seeing in primaries, how we'll do against Tim Kaine. Who knows? He's certainly an underdog, but he is worth having on because people need the know this is the new face of the GOP.

BLITZER: Yes, really disturbing face indeed. We'll see what happens on that front.

Chris Cuomo, thank you. Thank you very, very much.

And an important note to all of our viewers, "CUOMO PRIME TIME" begins 9:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.