Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Scouting Locations for Second Trump-Kim Summit; One- Million-Plus Ex-Felons Regain Right to Vote; Russian Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya Has Been Charged by Prosecutors in New York with Obstruction of Justice in Separate Case. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired January 8, 2019 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un making a surprise three-day visit to China. This comes just days after Kim suggested that his country may find a, quote, "new path" if the U.S. keeps up sanctions on North Korea.

Meanwhile, CNN's own Kylie Atwood reports that the White House is already scouting teams - scouting locations for a potential second summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump. Those sites include Bangkok, Thailand, Hanoi, Vietnam and Hawaii.

Let's discuss now with Joseph Yun. He's a former U.S. representative for North Korea Policy. Joseph, thanks for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So you and I were in Singapore - what is it -- six, seven months ago for the first summit when lots of bold pronouncements were made, the president saying the threat from North Korea - the nuclear threat is over. Since then, has North Korea made any discernable, verifiable, irreversible progress on denuclearization?

YUN: I'm afraid the answer to that, Jim, is no. There has been very little progress. And what is most worrisome is that the two sides won't even meet one another. They don't agree on the very fundamental issue of the definition of denuclearization. So we are at an impasse. And I think really that's a problem for everyone.

SCIUTTO: So with an impasse in the actual negotiations which are the extensible goal of speaking to Kim, and yet the president appears to be committing himself to meeting him face-to-face again. Does that do damage by awarding in effect North Korea with this high profile meeting without requiring North Korea to take steps to denuclearize?

YUN: I would say that if there is another summit between Kim and Trump over the next you know two months or so, without making any progress or any prearrangement on what they would agree on denuclearization steps, what would be the point? Because it would be very bad news for nonproliferation, very bad news for our allies, principally Japan and South Korea. But worst of all, it is very bad news for our own Homeland Security because these weapons are legitimate threats to Homeland Security.

SCIUTTO: So we have Kim in China now. China has played an interesting role here because they have -- actually there is evidence according to U.S. Intelligence that China has undermined U.S. and western sanctions on North Korea since that summit allowing trans-shipment, et cetera. When Kim goes to China and says that he may be open to another path. What do you think he is talking about?

YUN: Well, I think right now it is becoming increasingly clear that the relations between China and North Korea are becoming closer still. And so Kim going to China, there is an underlying message for Trump which is I have a big brother there and he is going to cover me. And also, this happens to work out quite well for Xi Jinping who has his own problems with the trade war, arguments over Taiwan. So for both of them, it is really their audience, it's Washington, to show Trump that increasingly, that China is the player and for Kim to show Trump that he has this China card.

SCIUTTO: Quick question before we go. I wonder if it's possible that the Chinese president would link North Korea talks to the trade talks with the U.S. because it knows that the president wants progress on both and say, hey, listen, if you want help with Kim, you have to cut us slack on trade. Would China make that connection?

YUN: I think China could very well make that connection. Of course, they are not going to come out and say publicly, but, you know, in Beijing, everything is related to everything else. And for us to say that you know we are going to keep on separate lanes on these two items, well, it doesn't quite work out that way with the Chinese.

SCIUTTO: Joseph Yun, thanks as always.

YUN: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: An important story to stay on now. It has been 14 weeks today since Jamal Khashoggi was killed allegedly dismembered at the consulate in Istanbul. The Saudis have presented shifting stories about Khashoggi's fate, initially denying any knowledge.

[10:35:02] Before then, admitting the murder took place, but arguing that a group of rogue operators - many of whom actually belong to Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman's inner circle that they were responsible for the journalist's death. All of this as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Jordan this morning. This is the first leg of his Middle East tour which will include a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Something to watch very closely is how Pompeo addresses - if he addresses the administration's response to Khashoggi's death. To countries in the region, we promised to stay on top of all the developments from Secretary Pompeo's trip. 14 weeks ago today Jamal Khashoggi disappeared and was murdered. We're going to stay on top of that story. Many of them have managed to turn their lives around, but one thing has remained out of reach for more than a million ex-felons, the right to vote. Today in Florida, that changes.


[10:40:29] SCIUTTO: Welcome back. A real game changer for future elections in the state of Georgia. Starting today, voting rights will be restored to about 1.5 million nonviolent ex-felons in the all- important swing state.

My next guest is an ex-felon himself who helped lead the effort to get this new law passed. Desmond Meade, in fact, he had the first ticket at his county elections office to reclaim his right to vote, registering to vote. And he joins me now. Desmond, thanks for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So you were the first in there to register today. I know you were eager to a restore this opportunity. Tell our viewers what led you to lead this fight.

MEADE: Right now, you see a big smile on my face, Jim. But I know when I walked in to the supervisor of elections there were tears of joy that was streaming down my face. In a speech to what led me to even start this fight, there was a really new-found appreciation of the value of the right to vote and how treasured this right is. You know when I walked in that office this morning, I thought about how you know moms and dads back in the civil rights era, when they went to vote, they were able to take their family to go vote with them.

And this morning I had my family with me. And when we walked in that door, you know, I thought about the fact that now for the first time in my life I'll be able to take my family, lead my family into a voting location. And that's what we fought for, just restoring dignity, restoring pride and giving every American citizen an opportunity to have their voices heard.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, because some state officials are still challenging what is known as Amendment Four there because for instance the language as I understand it includes that voting rights shall be restored for those with felony convictions who complete all terms of their conviction. I understand there is debate about what constitutes all terms. Is there still a question as to whether those 1.5 million felons will get that right to vote?

MEADE: This is what we do know that this language went before the Florida Supreme Court over a year ago. And every single Supreme Court justice had an opportunity to poke and prod and dissect, every syllable of this new law. And every single Supreme Court justice unanimously approved it. And that's something that you rarely see with every judge believing that this language was clear. It was not confusing. It got to the point. And so, we're satisfied - they were satisfied with it. We are, too, as well. And what we do know is this. Today is a day of celebration. And we are expecting every elected official, every public official to be celebrating right along with us because today what we see is an expansion of democracy. Today what we see is a celebration of love. Because there was love that got us to this point.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this finally because as anybody watching knows, Florida is a swing state. The votes there in presidential elections and statewide elections decided sometimes by hundreds, of course, in 2000, sometimes by just a handful thousands of votes. We are talking about 1.5 million voters here. In your view, how might this change the political landscape in Florida?

MEADE: Well, I can tell you right now, Jim, what we are looking at because over 5.1 million people voted for Amendment Four. All of those votes, none of them were based upon hate, none of them were based on fear. They were based on love. And we had over a million more people voting for Amendment Four than any elected official or any candidate that was on the ballot.

As a matter of fact, over a million people who voted for our government, also voted for Amendment Four. So that says something real special. What that says is that this issue was something that people from all walks of life, all political persuasions were able to wrap their hands around and love won the day on November 6th. Love is winning the day today.

Love is saying that every elected official should take notice that there are 1.4 million Americans that's going to be able to have their voices heard. And we are not talking about changing the political landscape. What we are talking about is changing the policies, policies that impact each and everyone of us, policies that impact us through the criminal justice system. We want to make our communities safer. And we are looking forward to working hand in hand with our elected officials moving forward.

[10:45:03] SCIUTTO: Desmond Meade, we wish you the best of luck.

MEADE: Thank you so much. Love won today. And love is going to continue and carry us through 2019.

SCIUTTO: I like that message, as well. Good luck to you. Thanks for taking the time.

We do have this news just in to CNN. We are learning now who will deliver the Democratic response to President Trump's primetime address tonight on his desired border wall. Manu Raju joins us now with details. So who is going to take up the mantel here, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer are going to be delivering this address to the president in the hallway of the speaker's balcony here in the Capitol.

Now it is interesting for some reasons because often times when you see this response to the presidential address, whether the State of the Union and the like, Democratic leaders, opponent's leaders, like to put forward a new face, a fresh face, someone who can present certain image for this party. In this situation, the leadership decided that it is best that their message comes from them, their response, their pushback because in so many ways they are the central players in this fight over the shutdown with this president.

And we'll hear directly from the House Speaker herself with the Senate Minority Leader who are leading this strategy here in Capitol Hill among Democrats to push back against the president. So expect to hear their concerns about the president moving forward and declaring a national emergency.

Expect them to discuss their plans to reopen the government including in the House side to move individual spending bills to open up individual agencies of the government. The House plans to move forward on that. This week, to put pressure on Senate Republicans to move forward and expect them to push back on some of these president's claims about the effectiveness of a border wall.

This message tonight are going to come back from the House Speaker and the Senate Democratic leader making the case about the shutdown and concerns about it and their pushback immediately after the president's address to the nation. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Manu, quick question. It's maybe too early but do we know how many networks are planning to broadcast the Democratic response?

RAJU: We haven't heard from all the networks yet, but I have seen some reporting suggesting that a number of them likely will carry this address. Of course, CNN does plan to carry this live afterwards. But I believe there is an expectation that most if not all will have this rebuttal from the Democrats tonight. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Manu Raju on the Hill, thanks very much. And we will be right back.


[10:52:06] SCIUTTO: This breaking news just in to CNN. A Russian lawyer who helped organize a meeting at Trump Tower in 2016 between members of the Trump campaign and family and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton has now been charged with obstruction of justice in a separate case. CNN Crime and Justice Reporter, Shimon Prokupecz joins us now with the details. Shimon, what do you know?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that's right, Jim. So, she is charged with obstruction of justice in connection to a case out of the southern district of New York. It has to do with a civil money laundering and forfeiture investigation. What is important about this case and this investigation is that it details her deep ties, he close connections to Russians, to senior level members of the Kremlin, certainly. And that is what is so significant here. Really, certainly, this charge - this indictment of her, clearly shows that she has connections to the Russian government. At least that is what the FBI and certainly the Department of Justice believes. Now it's important to note this is not in any way related to the Trump Tower meeting that she helped organize, that Donald Trump Jr. was present and Paul Manafort and other people associated with the Trump campaign. Obviously, that investigation is still ongoing with the special counsel and Robert Mueller and his team. But this certainly is significant in the sense that it really for the first time we have members of the Department of Justice, the FBI here showing her deep connections to the Russian government. And obviously, that part of the investigation, her connections to the Russian government and what actually the meeting at the Trump Tower was about, that is still under investigation by the Mueller team.

SCIUTTO: Shimon, question. The fact that this is being done by federal prosecutors here in New York - the Southern District of New York and as you say not related to the Trump Tower meeting, does that mean that Robert Mueller is not interested in her for other issues? Or could both pads be open?

PROKUPECZ: No, both paths could certainly be open, Jim, because we don't know yet if the Mueller team is done with this part of the investigation. We know they had shown interest in it. They have questioned people who have appeared before them about the Trump Tower meeting. This specifically just has to do with a completely different investigation. We don't know for how long the southern district of New York. This is the same office now that obviously indicted and where Michael Cohen pleaded guilty and had partially cooperated with them.

So it is significant. It's coming out of the New York office. They have been looking into her for quite some time. And I think the most important thing out of this is that this really gives us the first definite connection or allegations that she is connected to the Russian government.

SCIUTTO: Good point documented now. Shimon Prokupecz thanks very much. Please stay with us.

[10:55:00] We are on top of all the breaking news as well as the president's primetime address tonight.