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Mueller's Office Disputes BuzzFeed Report; Pelosi: Trump Leaked Her Afghanistan Itinerary; U.S. Government Shutdown Showdown; Second Trump-Kim Summit Set for February; Police Officer Sentenced to 81 Months for 2014 Shooting; Interview with Jeffrey Lewis, Nuclear Expert; Yellow Vest Protests for 10th Straight Week; Let Them Eat Hamberders. Aired 5-6a ET
Aired January 19, 2019 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): A rare rebuttal. The special counsel's office responds to a BuzzFeed News report about Donald Trump, calling it not accurate.
GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus hundreds of flights have already been canceled as cities on the U.S. East Coast prepare to be hit with yet another severe winter weather storm.
ALLEN (voice-over): Also this hour, President Trump confirms a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. But a new report reveals North Korea's hidden and unnamed nuclear facilities. We will speak with the author of that report this hour.
HOWELL (voice-over): Live from CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta, welcome to viewers here and around the world, I'm George Howell.
ALLEN (voice-over): I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.
ALLEN: Our top story, an explosive new story by BuzzFeed had official Washington going full speed with talk of possible impeachment until special counsel Robert Mueller suddenly pumped the brakes.
HOWELL: This story had a lot of people talking, it strongly suggested obstruction of justice by the president. It was out for almost 24 hours before Mueller's office issued a rare statement, saying it had an issue with some of the reporting. The catch here is that it didn't say exactly what the problem was.
ALLEN: It also did not say the article was wrong, only that some details missed the mark. Here's what it said.
"BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the special counsel's office and characterization of documents and congressional testimony obtained by this office regarding Michael Cohen's testimony are not accurate."
HOWELL: Here are the specifics of the article. It alleges the president directed his then attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow. The editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, tells our colleague, Anderson Cooper, he stands by the reporting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BuzzFeed: We spoke to, as we described, to federal law enforcement officials involved in the investigation. We're not playing games with that characterization, who told us that the president directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Do you know who those two sources are?
Because I know -- yes, this was two reporters.
SMITH: Do I know?
SMITH: Of course, I know.
SMITH: Yes. And, you know, and we've been reporting on the Trump Tower Moscow, which is at the heart of the Russia investigation, for months. We broke, you know, we broke stories about it before it was at the center of the Cohen indictment.
And that was Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier.
We hope that, with the Special Counsel release this, honestly, this vague statement disputing the piece and we really urge the Special Counsel to make it clear what he is disputing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: So a lot of questions certainly have been raised. For more, though, on Mueller's response our colleague, Sara Murray, has the latest from Washington.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The special counsel's office on Friday taking an extraordinary step and disputing a report in BuzzFeed News. That report had said that President Donald Trump had convinced his long-time personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal.
MURRAY: We very rarely hear from the special counsel's office. Here's what the spokesman, Peter Carr, said in a statement. "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the special counsel's office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office regarding Michael Cohen's testimony are not accurate," Peter Carr said.
And we also got a statement from BuzzFeed on Friday evening and they are not backing away from their story.
They said, "We are continuing to report and determine what the special counsel is disputing. We remain confident in the accuracy of our report."
Now that report sent Washington into a frenzy on Friday. We saw a number of Democratic lawmakers coming out, pointing to the BuzzFeed story and saying, look, if this is true, if Donald Trump did, in fact, convince a witness to lie, if he did try to obstruct justice, that is grounds to move forward with impeachment proceedings.
One of the questions for the lawmakers is they want to see the underlying documents the BuzzFeed report was based on. What we see now from the special counsel's office is they're saying, look, these underlying documents and underlying witness interviews do not show what this BuzzFeed story says they're going to show.
And it's so, so rare for the special counsel to speak out about anything, just to give you a sense. Last year they refused to even comment in "The New York Times" about what one of their prosecutors was having for lunch at Paul Manafort's trial.
That suggests an extraordinary day here in Washington -- Sara Murray, CNN, Washington.
ALLEN: In the coming hours, President Trump plans to make a televised announcement about another story we are following, of course, about what he --
ALLEN: -- calls the humanitarian crisis at the southern U.S. border.
HOWELL: You see the government shutdown there, 28 days, it's just continuing on and on. A senior administration official says the White House address, Mr. Trump, he will offer concessions to Democrats to get them back to the negotiating table.
However, though, he will not likely budge on his demands for a border wall. Earlier, his press secretary was tightlipped about the details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Obviously, I'm not going to get ahead of the president. But I can assure you he will continue to fight for border security. He will continue to look for the solution to end the humanitarian and national security crisis at the border.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HOWELL: With the president continuing to push for money for his wall. Democrats are also in Congress pushing back.
ALLEN: The standoff over reopening the government seems to have devolved into petty sniping. Our Phil Mattingly has that part of the story.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The government shutdown drags on. As opposed to the negotiators getting closer to a deal, digging themselves out of this, everybody seems to be driving themselves further apart.
You had Speaker Pelosi suggest the president move the State of the Union address, currently scheduled for January 29th. The president responded by taking away the Speaker and the congressional delegation's use of military aircraft to make a trip to Afghanistan to visit the troops.
And then because of that letter or because the president decided to do that, the Speaker and the delegation saying they were informed by the State Department that they had been put at risk. The troops on the ground had also been put at risk.
On top of that, when they tried to make commercial arrangements to make the trip, that was leaked out, something that nobody does on trips like that. The White House says that's a flat out lie. This is how the Speaker responds. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CALIF.), HOUSE SPEAKER: That the president outing our trip had made the scene on the ground much more dangerous, because it's just a signal to the bad actors that we're coming.
It never, you never advance, you never give advance notice of going into a battle area. You just never do. Perhaps the president's inexperience didn't have him understand that protocol. The people around him, though, should have known that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: It's worth noting the Speaker's office says they got calls from reporters about potential commercial flights, the reporters, according to the Speaker's office, said were coming from administration officials and the administration would have been aware of any commercial efforts to fly to Afghanistan.
But the back and forth aside, it's obviously a pretty intense and explosive back and forth, the reality remains these are the two or the three individuals, if you add Senate Democratic senator leader Chuck Schumer, who would be responsible for reaching a deal to end the shutdown.
Here's where things stand. House Democrats controlled by Speaker Pelosi have passed numerous bills, eight at this point, to reopen the government. Senate Republicans have refused to bring them any of them up until the president supports them.
The president says is not willing to open up the government until somebody agrees to negotiate with him on border security and fund his wall. Democrats say they want to reopen the government. Then they're happy to have that conversation.
As long as those two baselines stay the same, a shutdown that has gone 28, 29 days will go on longer. Here's the bottom line that matters more than anything else. With all the back and forth over the course of the last 24-48 hours, there have been no meetings between the key negotiators, no phone calls between the key negotiators.
There have been no proposals traded between the key negotiators. In other words, we are no closer to a resolution now than we were 28 or 29 days ago. That's not great news -- Phil Mattingly, CNN, Washington.
ALLEN: Let's talk about this and the BuzzFeed article with Leslie Vinjamuri in London. She's the head of the U.S. and Americas Programme at Chatham House think tank, a frequent guest of our program.
Hi, Leslie, good to see you.
LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Thank you.
ALLEN: Let's start with the shutdown. It is almost surreal how long it's gone on, what or who or how do you see it come to an end?
I ask that as we know the president says he will make an announcement on Saturday.
VINJAMURI: That's right. Well, if I had my crystal ball in front of me, I might be able to give an answer that actually nobody appears to have. It's a little bit like Brexit, we don't know where it's going.
Really, I have to say, not only are we looking at so many people without paychecks and the numbers of stories we are hearing surrounding what's been created, made up as a crisis which simply doesn't exist on the border.
But there is no foreseeable way future. Looking at it over here from London, I have to say, it's tremendously damaging for America's leadership, for its standing in the world. The president is now not going to Davos. We don't know.
Tomorrow marks the second year mark for him and will have been in office for two years. We don't even know if he will be giving a State of the Union address. The U.S. government is shut down. The optics are tremendously damaging. And there really is no obvious solution for how the American government is going to reopen.
ALLEN: Right. They're still pointing fingers at who is to blame.
How difficult or challenging is this for the Republicans --
ALLEN: -- kind of staying mum on the sidelines because they're standing with the president. Some polls are indicating his support of his base has slipped a tad since this shutdown has continued to drag on.
VINJAMURI: That's right. There is, you know, some walkback from the base in terms of its support. The public blames the president and Republicans in Congress far more than they are blaming the Democrats.
And there are Republicans who would like to see this resolved. But Mitch McConnell is standing firmly in the way, refusing to do anything, to put any legislation forward that he doesn't think the president will sign.
So the House is, of course, trying many bills, trying to move things forward, is taking border security more seriously but isn't giving in on this key issue for the president, which is that wall. Again, there is no evidence to suggest that that wall is necessary or that that border is any more insecure than any other border that America has.
So it's really a manufactured crisis. The president did, of course, back off calling this a national emergency, I think wisely. But the fact that the government, it's made it actually ironically even harder to come up with a resolution to shut -- to reopen the government.
So just tremendously disturbing way to start the new year and for the president to begin his third year in office.
ALLEN: Right. And he hasn't showed very much empathy for the federal workers, who are hurting right now.
I want to turn to this BuzzFeed article. They are standing by the story, despite the statement from the prosecutor's office that it's not accurate. BuzzFeed is pointing out the statement didn't say there's nothing do it.
But the interesting thing here is the special counsel has been mum for two years.
All of a sudden, why this story caused them to say something?
VINJAMURI: Well, this story is deeply consequential. And the reaction to it in Washington and well beyond has been extraordinary, unsurprisingly, because if accurate, it would be the first very clear sign that the president was directly aware and directing his attorney to lie to Congress about his engagement with Russia.
So the story would be very significant. So you can see why, if it's not accurate, it would make sense for the special counsel to at least draw a line. That's all he's done, is to draw a line to create a holding space and just to say it's not accurate. It doesn't mean it's entirely wrong. It's clearly not entirely right.
But we're basically put into a holding pattern to wait and see. The special counsel will control, probably as he should, whatever information we eventually will learn about exactly what's happened. I think, you know, at some level, you can argue it is quite wise. It is deliberately ambiguous. It says wait, wait until the investigation is concluded.
ALLEN: Yes. We have been waiting but, yes, he's doing it his way, certainly. So at some point, what is there will come out. Thank you as always for your insight in London, thanks, Leslie.
VINJAMURI: Thank you.
HOWELL: A major announcement from the White House Friday. The second summit between the U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place next month. The exact time and place not known.
ALLEN: The announcement came after North Korea's top negotiator met with U.S. secretary of state and spent more than 90 minutes meeting with President Trump in the Oval Office. It comes one day after the president rolled out a Pentagon report that says North Korea is still an extraordinary threat to the United States.
HOWELL: Our Matt Rivers is following this story live in Beijing this hour.
Matt, the question here, will this be a summit more about substance or more about optics?
MATT RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, the simple answer to that, George, is, we just don't know. And if you remember back to the first summit, back in June of 2018, you know, there was all kind of speculation going into that summit.
What was the United States going to come out with?
What concessions were the North Koreans willing to make?
What concessions were the Americans willing to make?
The end of that summit was just a vague agreement from both sides that both sides would work towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. What you didn't see is a distinct commitment on the part of the North Koreans to unilaterally take away or dismantle their nuclear program. That is the ultimate goal of the United States.
There was a couple of smaller concessions made on both sides. The United States stopped its military drills with the South Koreans. The North Koreans haven't fired anymore missiles. They released some hostages.
But the United States still has sanctions in place. The North Koreans have shown zero signs in terms of taking verifiable, public forward steps --
RIVERS: -- dismantle their nuclear program. So where we are now, compared to where we were 10 minutes after that summit between those two men in June of 2018 is really no different.
So if you are looking forward to the second summit, you know the United States is going to want more concrete steps from the North Koreans towards dismantling the nuclear program.
You know the North Koreans will want more concessions from the U.S. perhaps in the form of sanctions relief. Those sanctions have been in place in North Korea and debilitating for the North Korean economy.
Whether both sides can make progress or remain entrenched on either sides and we remain in this stalemate we've been in since June, really, is anyone's guess.
HOWELL: Matt, you know, CVID, the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The question here is, of the things we have seen so far, is there any indication that North Korea has taken steps towards CVID?
RIVERS: No, it's a very simple answer. The answer is no, George. We have seen zero public events that would suggest that they're doing anything of the sort.
You know, some people might point to the fact that they destroyed that tunnel in northern North Korea, where journalists, including a CNN team, watched that tunnel explode, where nuclear tests have been conducted before.
But experts will tell you, CNN reported at the time, there was no way to verify that that tunnel was actually permanently destroyed, that it couldn't be restarted. That would be the closest thing that we have to a verifiable step.
Other than that, there has been absolutely nothing. And I think that's why you have critics basically saying, what is the point of having a second summit here, what is the point of granting the North Korean dictator another audience with the president if they haven't done anything that the president thought they were going to do and told the American public what they were going to do after the first summit?
That said, talking is always better than war. Maybe the president thinks he can convince Kim Jong-un to take those kind of steps. But what has changed between June 2018 and now that would convince Kim Jong-un to do that, it's just not clear.
HOWELL: Well, we have to see where it goes. Matt Rivers live for us in Beijing on that story. Matt, thank you.
ALLEN: Worldwide event coming up. Six continents, 30 countries and hundreds of marches. Women all over the world are standing in solidarity Saturday for the third annual Women's March.
HOWELL: Almost 300 events are scheduled in the United States alone; this year's theme is #WomensWave, focusing on ending violence against women.
ALLEN: The march started in 2017 as a protest of Donald Trump's election as president. It was praised for bringing together women of all races, ethnic groups and religious. But that sense of unity has frayed somewhat.
HOWELL: The movement now faces accusations of anti-Semitism after the co-president of the march attended an event where a black nationalist made anti-Semitic remarks. She later praised him on social media.
The march's leadership says they are working to make all women feel welcome but the damage may already be done. New York City is set to hold dueling marches on Saturday.
ALLEN: A state of emergency has been declared in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
HOWELL: All of this ahead of a powerful storm moving across the U.S. The latest on the forecast. Stay with us.
HOWELL: A former Chicago police officer was sentenced Friday to six years and nine months in prison for killing a black teenager in 2014.
Veteran officer Jason Van Dyke was convicted in October of second degree murder and aggravated battery. At the shooting, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times over 15 seconds.
ALLEN: Van Dyke says it was self-defense. But dashcam footage showed McDonald walking away when the shots were fired. The killing and video sparked mass protests, a civil rights investigation and the forced resignation of the police superintendent.
HOWELL: It was a hectic scene in Mexico, where at least 21 people were killed when a pipeline exploded and 71 people were injured.
ALLEN: The state oil company blames the blast on the illegal tapping of the line for gasoline. Mexico recently closed several pipelines to crack down on theft. But that has only added to the fuel shortage.
Thousands of Central American migrants crossing into Mexico has been processed under a new visa program.
HOWELL: Officials say the plan seeks to regulate migration in a safe and legal way. It's part of the president's new policy that promises more humanitarian treatment. Once migrants are registered and accepted into the program, they will be able to travel into the country.
ALLEN: More than 1,800 flights have been canceled here in the U.S. over the weekend as a powerful winter storm moves across the country. Snow and ice, we are not sure exactly who will get hammered by what.
HOWELL: The bombshell BuzzFeed report that raised the temperature on the U.S. president's legal jeopardy. Coming up, how a most unlikely source came to the rescue of Donald Trump and brought a quick end to the latest questions about impeachment.
ALLEN: Also ahead here. A second summit between President Trump --
ALLEN: -- and North Korea just around the corner. But a new report suggests North Korea's nuclear program has not disappeared. It's just been hidden. More about that.
HOWELL: Welcome back. This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.
ALLEN: I'm Natalie Allen.
Our top stories:
HOWELL: Back to the developing story we are following. The strange developments over the last 24 hours, this bombshell news report by BuzzFeed News had officials in Washington in an uproar about possible obstruction of justice by the U.S. president. That was until the article was tamped down by special counsel Robert Mueller's office by a rare public statement.
ALLEN: What is not clear is what Mueller's office found objectionable. That was especially aggravating to BuzzFeed's --
ALLEN: -- editor-in-chief. He indicated unless the special counsel can point out where the reporting fell short, he and his reporters will stand by it.
HOWELL: The BuzzFeed article alleges President Trump directed his then attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow.
HOWELL: Let's talk more about this with Harry Litman, a former U.S. attorney and former deputy assistant attorney general as well as Daniel Lippmann, a reporter for Politico.
Gentlemen, thank you for taking time to speak about this.
Harry, it is important to point out the statement from the special counsel did not say there's nothing to the story but rather takes a very specific response in describing it. Let's talk about the statement.
"BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the special counsel's office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office regarding Michael Cohen's testimony are not accurate."
So when you see the way Mueller responded here, do you get a sense they are not entirely denying the greater story that's being alleged here?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that's exactly right. It's cryptic but it's much less than a full denial, indeed. It seems like the core of the story, not only not denying but holds up with the whole chronology and having had Cohen plead to this in the first place.
You then ask, why are they doing this cryptic and partial statement?
It's so out of character for the Mueller gang. And my best guess is there's some way in which -- I don't think they are trying to show themselves, that they follow the rules, everybody knows that. I think they are concerned that the great reaction that the BuzzFeed story provoked is somehow off base and people are galloping ahead in an imprudent direction.
HOWELL: Daniel, your thoughts on that question from a reporter's perspective.
DANIEL LIPPMAN, "POLITICO": I think they wanted to fix certain details of the story without discussing them in specifics. So BuzzFeed is under pressure to try to adjust their reporting, if anything is incorrect. But the special counsel was not very clear in saying whether the story was true or not.
You have a lot of senators and congressmen, who are reading this story, saying that if this proves to be true, this is very serious for Trump. Even Republicans say that it could lead to some consequences if proven accurate.
These reporters have done very good work in the past on this issue of the Trump Tower in Moscow.
HOWELL: Daniel, let's push forward on that a bit. You point out the reporters' history, their background. The reporters made it clear in the report, it was based on evidence including but beyond what Cohen had to say, citing two law enforcement officials involved in the investigation matter.
BuzzFeed continuing to back the accuracy of their reporting but looking into what the special counsel is disputing, remaining confident in the accuracy of what they are putting out there.
Overall, as other agencies try to track down the information. no one was able to confirm or corroborate what was in the report.
LIPPMAN: Not as of yet but Michael Cohen's lawyers did not dispute the account. It will be interesting when he testifies on Capitol Hill. He will be asked about this.
You know, Democrats want to know from the horse's mouth if this is actually true, if President Trump instructed him to lie about the timing of all of these dealings.
You have a fact that -- or the allegation that Trump and Cohen had 10 sitdown meetings in 2016 about updates on this project. You know, there is some speculation that the sources were the FBI agents involved in the matter from the Southern District of New York, from that area, instead of Robert Mueller's team.
So Mueller could be saying, well, it's not coming from us. We are not doing leaks. But you have to look further afield and the FBI agents have all the evidence they have seized over the last year or two.
HOWELL: To your point, when Cohen testifies, it is important to point out there will be restrictions on what he is able to talk about. At the same time, it is interesting what he has to say.
Harry, this question to you touching on what Daniel pointed out here. It is incredibly rare to hear Mueller's office respond. But they weighed in --
HOWELL: -- on this BuzzFeed report that the president directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress, essentially throwing water on this report.
Why did the special counsel feel the need to speak out?
LITMAN: You are right, it is incredibly rare. They have been the most tightlipped operation of their sort in history. That's why I think there's more here than simply trying to acquit themselves of any suggestion that they were the source, which BuzzFeed pretty well suggests they are not anywhere, not the exclusive ones.
And people are sort of pointing toward FBI, SDNY, these are people that we know were on the case before Mueller came.
I think, again, that they are -- that the public reaction lurched in a certain direction perhaps in terms of contemplating impeachment on the assumption that Trump had issued direct orders on paper or something like that. And that is more than they actually have as proof. That's what "The
New Yorker" is now suggesting and it might be that the basics of the story are true but it may be something as mild as Cohen wasn't getting direct instructions from Trump but was tailoring his conduct to his understanding of Trump's public statements, something like that.
But I think they are trying to caution people away from going too strong on the BuzzFeed story.
HOWELL: All right, Daniel Lippman and Harry Litman, again, both of you, thank you for your time and giving us the context on all of this.
LIPPMAN: Thank you.
ALLEN: Well, the second summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be late next month. That news from the White House Friday.
HOWELL: North Korea's top negotiator met with the U.S. secretary of state earlier in the day in Washington then met with President Trump for more than 90 minutes in the Oval Office.
We are still waiting to learn exactly when and where that summit will take place and as well as any details of what they're hoping to accomplish from it.
We often see the North Korean leader visiting industrial and military sites in his country. Those visits usually highly touted by state media. But a new report looked at trips dating back to 2006. It uncovers what North Korea deliberately hides about some of those sites believed to be linked to the country's missile program.
ALLEN: Researchers found that, among the sites, three are believed to develop missile launchers. One is believed to produce missiles. One produces circuits crucial for space and missile applications. Still another manufactures rocket motor casings and gas centrifuge rotors.
Joining me now is one of the authors of that report, Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Non-Proliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies and also a nuclear expert. He joins me via Skype from Middlebury, Vermont.
Thank you for joining us.
JEFFREY LEWIS, MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: It's a pleasure.
ALLEN: In your report, you highlight 12 visits by North Korea's leaders the country's state media has tried to keep hidden, visits to six different specific sites or factories within the country, some with links to missile development. Tell us how you came up with this conclusion. LEWIS: Well, it was really straightforward. We always try to locate any visit that a North Korean leader makes. Here were 12 cases where the North Koreans are trying to obscure the nature of the visit.
So we looked at all the images and video we had of the visits they were trying to hide. We compared that with known facilities throughout North Korea. It turns out most of them we knew about, although there was one surprise.
ALLEN: What was the surprise?
LEWIS: It's a facility for making integrated circuits involved in missile guidance, which is a previously unreported facility that's actually in the capital of Pyongyang.
ALLEN: So why do you think North Korea tried to cover these visits up if the country is promising denuclearization?
LEWIS: Well, the visits largely occurred in the lead-up to the missile testing that we saw in 2017. So in general, I think what the North Koreans were doing is some facilities were the subject of cyber attacks. They wanted to keep their locations secret.
In other incidents, they were facilities that were later involved in many of the missile tests we saw in 2017. So I think they did not want to tip their hand about what was coming.
ALLEN: Kim Yong-chol, the former North Korean spy, was in Washington Friday, met with Trump in the Oval Office. The White House announced a summit will take place next month between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un.
White House chief of staff (sic) Sarah Sanders was pressed by reporters on why the U.S. should believe North Korea's promise of denuclearization. Let's listen to her response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We continue to make progress. We're continuing to have conversations. The United States is going to continue to keep pressure and sanctions on North Korea until we see fully and verify denuclearization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALLEN: Do you believe, Jeffrey, that North Korea is doing what it can to get rid of its weapons program?
LEWIS: Well, I really think that this is a bit of dishonesty from the administration. North Korea has never offered to give up its nuclear weapons. When the North Koreans talk about denuclearization, what they really mean is reducing the attention given those weapons in those state media.
They're not actually I don't think planning to give them up. I don't think they have said that they are. So you know, while I am hopeful that we can find some kind of diplomatic way forward, I think whatever that way is, is not going to involve North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons.
ALLEN: President Trump announced the Pentagon's newly unveiled missile defense review. It states North Korea remains an extraordinary threat to the U.S. We don't normally hear that message coming from President Trump when he mentions Kim Jong-un.
How do you think moving forward the president is doing, gauging the threat to the U.S. and the world from North Korea and his relations with how he deals with North Korea?
LEWIS: Well, I mean, it's one of the things that's is the oddest aspect of the way the president is approaching this, which he is treating it really as a personal relationship. And so I think that in the beginning we saw that that personal relationship was very warm. He talked about receiving love letters.
And then you know I think the thing we all worry about is, like many personal relationships, if it turns out that he feels disappointed, that might go from love to bitter resentment. So I'm a little nervous that the president, if he's disappointed, won't take it quite as well as he perhaps should.
ALLEN: So when if this next summit happens what will you be listening for, from North Korea?
LEWIS: Actually, I think the North Koreans have been pretty straightforward. What I am looking for is not the North Koreans to offer to give up the weapons, which I don't think is a thing that is really feasible.
But what I am curious is, is whether the Trump administration is going to back off this rhetoric about North Korea abandoning their nuclear weapons and settle for less.
If they do that, then I think there is some possibility that this engagement will work. But if not I think there is a good chance the process will collapse and we'll be back to the threats of last year.
ALLEN: Jeffrey Lewis, we appreciate your insights. Thank you for joining us.
LEWIS: It was a pleasure.
HOWELL: In France, the president of that nation, Emmanuel Macron, is holding what he calls a great debate. Hear what people around the country have to say about the French economy in the Yellow Vest protests. That's what you see this live image from Paris. Those are still images on the streets. We'll have that story next.
ALLEN: Live video here out of Paris. It has been 10 weeks now and the Yellow Vest movement is still going strong in France. In Paris, the protests are about to begin. The Yellow Vests calling for economic reform and demanding that French president Emmanuel Macron resign.
HOWELL: They say he's not doing enough to address inequality in that nation. Last week, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds that had come together near the Arc de Triomphe. Our Jim Bittermann is following this all live from the French capital.
Jim, we are looking at this live images right now, 11:46 in the morning there. It seems the Yellow Vests are back at it again for a 10th weekend.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, except this weekend, there is a little bit of a difference in the sense that the French this weekend can choose between two of their favorite activities, whether to protest or to debate.
What's changed since last week is the president has launched what he is calling the great debate in which he is trying to get people across France to talk over their grievances instead of protesting in the streets.
It seems to be working to some extent. The fact is something like a couple hundred different debates that have been organized in town halls and regional centers and all sorts of other locations across the country today that are taking place and are going to continue to take place for the next two months.
It was his way of trying to head off the demonstrations taking place like the ones we are seeing today. Now the police say today they are preparing for something similar to last week. They've mobilized 80,000 police in the streets in the country and about 5,000 here in Paris.
They're blocking off a few areas and the demonstrations today are a little more organized in the sense that they have organized a circuit, a very large 15-kilometer, almost 10-mile circuit around the Left Bank, reaching almost to the extremities of Paris.
So it should be a very interesting day. What usually happens is these things start off quietly. During the day, troublemakers come into the crowd and that's when the trouble really starts.
HOWELL: That's the other question, Jim, as we see these great debates pick up, the question here, among the group of protesters, are you seeing the people who had those legitimate concerns?
Does it seem like they are more interested in these debates than the people that tend to cause trouble?
Are those people out on the streets?
Is that still a concern of officials there?
WEDEMAN: Well, from what we can tell this morning, the people on the streets are fairly quiet, fairly well behaved in the sense that they are serious about their demands.
But the past Saturdays now -- this is the tenth Saturday -- in fact, folks come in towards the end of the demonstrations, towards the end of the day. And that's when the trouble really starts.
So it's a little early to say whether the troublemakers will be there again this time. The police, I must say, are doing a very thorough job of checking people. Just on the way to the office this morning I was stopped four different times and asked for my identity card as well as a check of my briefcase. So it's going on all across Paris and France in some way -- George.
HOWELL: Jim Bittermann, thank you.
Again, these live images we are seeing to make sure it's clear people there, many have legitimate gripes about the French economy. Many frustrated with the French president.
HOWELL: The French president now having great debates across the country to air those concerns among citizens.
ALLEN: All right. Everyone makes a typo now and then. But when the U.S. president misspells, it makes news, especially when it's about fast food. That's next.
HOWELL: Welcome back. So make no doubt about it. Clearly this U.S. president known for his use of Twitter. Uses it a lot at this time. He makes a mistake, people talk about that. This time it was his choice of menu and a reception that had a lot of people talking and a misspelled word in that tweet.
ALLEN: Instead of the usual gourmet spread, as you know, Mr. Trump served fast food to the national college football champs. Then when he tweeted about it he set the 'Net on fire again. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Feast your eyes on a fast food feast where you can wipe remnants of a Wendy's burger off your mouth with a White House napkin.
Members of the Clemson Tigers were spotted balancing seven somethings and sniffing at other things.
And guess who picked up the tab?
TRUMP: Paid for by me.
MOOS (voice-over): Quarter Pounders by candlelight.
MOOS (voice-over): Naturally, the president got a makeover as the Hamburglar and Ronald McDonald.
What would Lincoln think about White House gravy boats being used to hold McNugget sauces?
But the golden nugget was the one President Trump dropped in a tweet, boasting of serving over 1,000 ... hamberders?
"Hamberder is the new covfefe," read one tweet.
Next thing you know, aides who work for the president are being referred to as Hamberder Helpers.
Burger King jumped in, "Due to a large order placed yesterday, we're all out of hamberders, just serving hamburgers today."
Someone else advised, "Be sure to wash down that delicious hamberder with a cold glass of malk."
"The Washington Post" concluded that the president shelled out 2,400 to almost 3,000 bucks on the spread, though it's hard to crunch the numbers when the president first estimates...
TRUMP: We have 300 hamburgers, many, many French fries.
MOOS: -- but later the same evening, the burger cap spiked.
TRUMP: One thousand hamburgers, Big Macs.
MOOS: No word on the number of Domino's pizzas.
But an ocean away, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, was asked by an 8- year old...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Has the queen ever had pizza?
MOOS: Has the queen ever had pizza?
CATHERINE, DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE: I don't know. I don't know. Maybe next time I see her, shall I ask?
MOOS: But who needs royalty in the land of the hamberder?
This is the kingdom of Berder King -- Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
ALLEN: And that is CNN NEWSROOM. Thanks for watching. I'm Natalie Allen.
HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is ahead.
You are watching CNN, the world's news leader.
ALLEN: See you tomorrow.