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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Salutes Kim; Stewart on Campaign Supporters; Corker's Cult-Like Comment; White House Warns over ZTE; DOJ Releases IG Report; Antarctica's Ice Is Melting Faster. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired June 14, 2018 - 09:30   ET

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


[09:30:00] REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: General saluted and reached out his hand and did a handshake. That's the appropriate thing.

Look, he's the commander in chief. He doesn't even salute his own generals. They salute him. That's the way it works. And you certainly don't do it with leaders of foreign military and you most certainly don't do it with the leaders of foreign militaries of an adversary nation.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Look, in the 48 hours since this summit, he has been incredibly flattering and complimentary of Kim Jong-un.

KIRBY: Yes.

HARLOW: He has equivocated when asked by Fox News, well, what about the human rights atrocities, what about the execution of his own people. And now this. Are you surprised?

KIRBY: I wish I could say I was surprised, Poppy. I'm not. He is on a charm offensive of his own. A charm offensive that I think is being orchestrate, to some degree, by President Xi and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, who want to revert to the sunshine policy, to show deference to the North so to get them to open up at the negotiating table. And this is just another ham-fisted Trump way of trying to do that.

HARLOW: The question is, does it help us get to the end goal? Does it help towards denuclearization, right, and then --

KIRBY: Well, that remains to be seen, Poppy. I mean, look, I mean, playing devil's advocate, there's a logic here that, you know, his -- his own charm offensive might, in fact, lead to the North loosening up a little bit and making some big changes over time. And I think we just have to wait and see if that pans out.

But I would remind your viewers that the sunshine policy in the past has not worked.

HARLOW: Hasn't worked.

KIRBY: I'm all -- I'm all -- I'm all for engagement and discussion, but I do think that President Trump is going overboard here. HARLOW: Admiral Kirby, appreciate you being here. Thank you very much.

KIRBY: You bet.

HARLOW: Also this morning, President Trump touting the strength of the party, the Republican Party. He writes, the Republican Party is starting to show very big numbers. Results are speaking loudly. North Korea and our greatest economy are leading the way.

This comes after the head of the Republican National Committee overnight warned anyone that is not embracing the president's policies.

With me now, CNN's senior political analyst Ron Brownstein.

So we'll get to that tweet from Rona McDaniel in moment.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

HARLOW: Good morning to you.

But let me ask you about something that's getting a lot of attention within the president's own party from someone that the president has endorsed and supported, that is the Virginia Senate candidate, Corey Stewart, on with Chris Cuomo last night talking about his history associating with white supremacists like Jason Kessler, who organized the Charlottesville march in which Heather Heyer died. Also Paul Nehlen, an outspoken anti-Semite, who at one point in time Corey Stewart called his personal hero. He has since disavowed him.

Here's the exchange between Stewart and Chris Cuomo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, "CUOMO PRIME TIME": You haven't denied a single fact that I've suggested, Mr. Stewart, do you know that?

COREY STEWART (R) NOMINEE FOR SENATE IN VIRGINIA: Is a -- in an in- kind contribution to his campaign.

CUOMO: Did you take his endorsement, Mr. Heinz, yes or no? Did you take it?

STEWART: I'm -- I take support from whoever wants to give it to me. That doesn't mean I support their views, Chris.

CUOMO: No matter -- hold on a second. So you think that you can take the support of somebody --

STEWART: That does not mean I support their views, I do not want anything to do with anybody who's racist or bigoted or anti-Semetic. And I --

CUOMO: Hold on a second. Hold on. Hold on a second. Let's just -- let's just unpack that. STEWART: I just told you, I'm the world's foremost expert on what I believe. And I don't believe any of those things that you're trying to accuse me of.

CUOMO: Listen --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: I take support from whomever gives it.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

HARLOW: This is someone the president congratulated on his primary victory this week. What does this mean for the party?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, it's an example of lines that used to be very bright becoming suddenly blurry in terms of isolating those sorts of extremist white nationalist voices outside of the mainstream of American politics. They are now finding a home in some cases on the edges of the Republican coalition. I mean Stewart's victory is a reflection of the changes in the party that Donald Trump himself has benefitted from in terms of the growing strength of the more blue collar, the non-urban, the voters who are the most uneasy with the way America is changing. And we've seen that play out in -- and we've seen that play out in -- we've --

HARLOW: But, Ron, is that -- is it really -- is it fair to say it's reflective of the party?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I was going to say --

HARLOW: Because I mean you and I both spent a lot of time in Trump company --

BROWNSTEIN: Right.

HARLOW: And none of the people that I've interviewed that are big supporters of the president would be comfortable at all with anti- Semitic views or actions.

BROWNSTEIN: What -- what he -- what is happening, though, in Virginia, and from the president's own words in Virginia of very fine people, is, as I said, these bright lines are getting blurry. It doesn't mean that everyone in the Republican coalition by any means accepts these views. They are finding it harder, though, to find -- to draw that line and say this is clearly beyond the pale because, you know, under Trump, the president, you know, is making arguments along a continuum that essentially are -- started with rapists and murders coming down, you know, from coming down the escalator on the first day --

HARLOW: Right.

BROWNSTEIN: To the way he talks about immigrants as animals. You know, the -- MS-13 as animals. Now he --

HARLOW: But he was talking about the gang. Hold on, he was taking about the gang MS-13.

BROWNSTEIN: He -- as I said, he was talking about MS-13 as animals. And as animals.

So there's like -- there's a continuum here that is making it harder, I think, to draw the line as unequivocally as they used to.

[09:35:01] HARLOW: So -- so and to your point, we heard from Republican Senator -- Republican Senator Bob Corker yesterday --

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

HARLOW: And he said -- I had a brain freeze there for a moment -- and he said this is cult-like behavior. Listen to this.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: We're in a strange place. I mean it's almost, you know, been a -- it's becoming a cultish thing, isn't it? It's not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of -- purportedly of the same party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: OK, notable that he said purportedly the president is of the Republican Party, OK.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, interesting. Yes.

HARLOW: But also, we should note that he's not running again and a large reason why he was facing a tough primary challenge if he did run again is because of how critical he was of the president. But given those things, does hearing something like this from a Republican sitting senator move the needle at all?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look, I think it is Donald Trump's party now, but that is as much by default as by knockout. I mean, as we said, I mean clearly one of the reasons Trump is in such a strong position inside the Republican Party is because he reflects its evolution into a more blue collar, populist popular that is animated by dislike of elites of all sorts.

But another reason for it is because those in the Republican Party, who have objections to his vision, for example, on foreign policy, on abandoning or questioning the American alliances since World War II, on trade, on immigration, they have failed to offer an alternative vision or to really providing any kind of message to the Republican coalition that there is another way. And so for Bob Corker to kind of say, well, it's become a cult, it's because a cult in part because those who have doubts, like Corker and Flake and Lindsey Graham and others have not found the will to offer any alternative to the party.

HARLOW: Right. And, look, the president's polling, so strong in his own party, 87 percent support him.

Thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Still have a --

HARLOW: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: All right, so, real quick, still a potential for more of those white collar Republicans to respond to another vision.

HARLOW: Yes.

BROWNSTEIN: He only won one-third of them during the primaries and many of them are conflicted about Donald Trump.

HARLOW: Nice to have you here, Ron, thank you.

BROWNSTEIN: Thanks. Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Ahead for us, the White House is warning senators not to push back on this major deal with a huge Chinese tech firm. Are lawmakers going to buy that or will they keep pushing against the White House? We're talking to one senator about it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:36] HARLOW: This morning the White House is warning U.S. senators not to overstep their authority as the Senate considers a vote to block the president's decision to ease sanctions on Chinese tech giant ZTE. Here's a refresher on why this matters so much. ZTE had been banned from buying American technology after it violated U.S. sanctions by doing business with North Korea and Iran. Then a 2012 congressional report found ZTE was a security threat because of its efforts to extract sensitive information from American companies. Needless to say, this is serious stuff.

Joining me now is Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Senator, nice to have you.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D), MARYLAND: Poppy, great to be with you.

HARLOW: You've been very outspoken about your opposition to the deal that the Commerce Department struck. It fines ZTE a billion dollars. It makes them put $400 million in escrow, should they violate sanctions again. Your Republican counterpart, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas. said, quote, the only fitting punishment would be to put ZTE out of business in the United States. Is he right?

VAN HOLLEN: He is right. And that's why I teamed up with him to offer the amendment, which is now included in what we call the manager's package. And I'm confident that that's going to pass the United States Senate in the coming week.

Look, the Commerce Department had the right penalty back in April when they announced that because ZTE had not only violated the U.S. sanctions policy against North Korea and Iran once, but they did it repeatedly and then when they were caught they said they were going to come clean and instead they engaged in a big cover-up and did it again. That's why the Commerce Department did what it did. And that would be the penalty today except for the fact that President Trump then tweeted out that he wanted to help ZTE and help -- help save jobs in China.

HARLOW: So -- so here's what --

VAN HOLLEN: And so our -- go ahead.

HARLOW: Here's what the White House says its --

VAN HOLLEN: Our view is we should stick with the original penalty.

HARLOW: And the view of the White House is this. The view of the White House from Hogan Gidly (ph) yesterday is that they think this deal ensures that ZTE pays a pretty penny, right, a billion bucks plus 400 million in escrow for this violation, but they say that it also prevents harm to American companies and their suppliers. And as you know, ZTE buys products from the likes of Qualcomm, Broadcom, Intel and a lot of other smaller optical companies. And you've got companies -- just an example, right, in Massachusetts, you've got a company named Akssia (ph). They sold about $116 million worth of goods to ZTE last year. That's about 30 percent of their annual revenue. So understanding that these companies aren't in your district, aren't in your state, do you have any concerns about the negative impact on U.S. businesses as a result of ZTE going out of business?

VAN HOLLEN: I always think we need to take into account the impact on U.S. businesses, but I think we, most of all, have to look out for U.S. national security interests. And as you laid out in your remarks there, way back in 2012, the House Intelligence Committee, after getting testimony from national security experts, concluded on a bipartisan basis that ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese telecommunications company, posed a threat, a risk to U.S. national security.

And that hasn't changed. In fact, as recently as February, you had the director of the FBI, the head of the CIA, all the other intelligence folks say, it's a bad idea to allow ZTE or Huawei to be doing business in the United States. The Federal Trade Commission has recommended that U.S. telecom companies not do any business with ZTE.

[09:45:14] So this is a national security issue, which is why another part of the amendment that Senator Cotton and I proposed would prohibit U.S. government agencies from purchasing phones or equipment from ZTE.

HARLOW: Let me ask you about North Korea. In the wake of the summit that President Trump had with Kim Jong-un in Singapore, do you believe that America, senator, is safer today from the North Korean threat than it was on Monday?

VAN HOLLEN: I do not believe that the threat has changed, and here's why. Because North Korea still has the same nuclear arsenal both in terms of nuclear weapons and missiles that it had 48 hours ago. Now, of course, it's a good thing that the temperature has decreased. Of course the temperature rose largely because of what President Trump and Kim Jong-un had done previously.

But the fact remains that their arsenal has not changed one bit. And here's what we also know, that North Korea achieved two of its goals. North Korean leaders have wanted for a very long time to have a summit meeting with the president of the United States. They got that. They got a big photo op. they got the president of the United States praising them and they got an end to -- a suspension of U.S. joint military exercises. We've got a lot of vague, possible commitments and we have no timeline for when they're going to be implemented.

HARLOW: Senator, before you go, I do want to get your take on the IG report that's set to come out today on the Hillary Clinton email probe this afternoon.

Here's what former Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz said about this report ahead of it, quote, Republicans and Democrats alike really need to take to heart whatever it is that he finds, even if it doesn't fit our political agendas. People will spin and throw political barbs, but if you read the actual text, my gut is that it's the truth.

Do you agree with him that even if this looks bad, say, for Hillary Clinton, for Democrats, for James Comey, that Democrats, Republicans alike, should take it as fact, not try to spin it?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, we should certainly look at the facts. We should certainly find out what's in this report. I'm looking forward to seeing what's in the report.

But Republicans have already been spinning it in this way. They've been trying to argue that if there's any misconduct shown in the Hillary Clinton email investigation, that somehow that should taint the Mueller investigation. The Mueller investigation is a completely independent investigation and has nothing to do with that original email investigation. So let's find out what this report says about the Clinton email investigation, but let's not try to, quote, spin this to undermine the very important independent Mueller investigation.

HARLOW: Senator Chris Van Hollen, it's nice to have you here. Thanks for the time.

VAN HOLLEN: It's good to be here. Thanks.

HARLOW: We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:52:36] HARLOW: Welcome back. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York.

And a new study shows the rate at which ice is melting in Antarctica has tripled in the last six years. This is a team of 80 scientists that came to this conclusion. And their study argues that 200 billion tons of ice is now pouring into the oceans. Let's go to our meteorologist Chad Myers with more.

What do you make of the study and what does it mean for the American cities that are most at risk because of rising sea levels?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We know that the sea level rise rate has gone up worldwide. But truly didn't know where it was all coming from until this study came out and we know that a lot of it is coming from west Antarctica. East Antarctica is melting but not at the rate that west Antarctica is. We're losing -- drastically we're losing ice off of that, melting into the ocean, much of it from under the glacial sheets because the water is warmer, melting the ice from below.

But it's the drop off that's most concerning. Between 1992 and about 2012 we were losing 76 billion tons a year. The last few years, 219 billion tons.

Now, there are big pluses and minuses there. And even if you put plus on the one side, minus on the other, you still get a significant rate rise. So since 1900, the ocean has gone up 7.7 inches. But since 1990, the ocean has gone up 2.6 inches. So it's that rate of how quickly it's going up that we're most concerned about, and that's the sea level rise problem that we're facing here across the globe.

HARLOW: Yes. And you think about, you know, those cities along the coast at sea level, a lot of major concerns, Florida and the like.

Thank you, Chad, appreciate it.

[09:54:13] Coming up, defending a dictator. President Trump calls Kim Jong-un a tough guy who may have done some bad things, but then the president adds, so have a lot of other people. Reaction to that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARLOW: Top of the hour. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. So glad you're with us.

This morning many questions still unanswered in the wake of President Trump's historic meeting with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un. But today it's more clear the president is a defender of the autocratic leader he once called little rocket man.

[10:00:09] Listen to this exchange between Fox News Anchor Bret Baier and the president on Air Force One.