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President Trump and Kim Jong-un to Meet in Vietnam; Michael Cohen on the Hill for Public and Private Hearings This Week; Venezuela's Power Struggle; Kamala Harris on What Blew Up Democrats' Blue Wall; Aired 8-9p ET
Aired February 24, 2019 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Strengthening the social safety net is not socialism. And while far-left economic policies may end up being political kryptonite in the general election, don't believe the hype that the choice we face between capitalism and socialism. Just doesn't fit the facts. And that's your reality check -- Ryan.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN ANCHOR: John Avlon, thank you very much.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ryan Nobles in for Ana Cabrera. And we are on the eve of what will be a wild week for President Trump. One that includes the pressure of a second summit with Kim Jong-un, a national emergency fight, deadly clashes in Venezuela, and, oh, yes, a little hearing involving his now convicted former fixer Michael Cohen.
No time to waste so let's get right to it. CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House.
Sarah, you look at the calendar and it's incredible to think that on the same day that President Trump is meeting with Kim Jong-un, Michael Cohen will be testifying in public on Capitol Hill.
How is the White House preparing for the next few days?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ryan, the White House says that President Trump is completely focused on preparations for his meeting with Kim Jong-un. They say that he won't be worried about the testimony that his former lawyer will be delivering. But, of course, there are concerns here at the White House that Cohen's testimony could overshadow the president's diplomatic efforts.
It's going to be quite the split screen on Wednesday when Cohen is testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the same day that President Trump is sitting down with Kim Jong-un in Vietnam for his second summit with the North Korean leader.
Now the White House hopes to use the backdrop of Vietnam, which was once hostile toward the U.S., as an example of the kind of economic revival, the prosperity that could be available to the North Koreans if they would stop in their stance toward the U.S.
Trump acknowledged that point in a tweet writing, "Chairman Kim realizes perhaps better than anyone else that without nuclear weapons his country could fast become one of the great economies powers anywhere in the world." Then he goes on to say, "Because of its location and people, and him, it has more potential for rapid growth than any other nation."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo today raised some eyebrows when he told our Jake Tapper that North Korea still poses a nuclear threat. Some mixed messaging there because President Trump has of course declared North Korea no longer a threat to the U.S.
Take a listen to what Pompeo had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes.
TAPPER: But the president said he doesn't.
POMPEO: That's not what he said. I mean, I know for a fact he --
TAPPER: He tweeted there's no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.
POMPEO: What he said is that -- what he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore, this commitment that Chairman Kim made, have substantially taken down the risk to the American people. It's the mission of secretary of State and the president of the United States to keep the American people secure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: Now officials say a major goal of this summit will be to gauge North Korea's willingness to denuclearize. Pompeo said today that the administration will be looking for a clear, verifiable step from North Korea toward that goal -- Ryan.
NOBLES: All right. And, Sarah, the president making some news tonight about a big announcement regarding tariffs in China. What can you tell us about that?
WESTWOOD: Well, that's right, Ryan. President Trump said that he will push back the deadline for negotiations with the Chinese delegation about trade. Remember that on March 1st, tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods were set to go up from 10 percent to 25 percent, but President Trump pushed that off by saying that there's been tremendous progress made between Chinese and American negotiators, saying that he and president -- Chinese President Xi Jinping plan to seal the deal at a Mar-a-Lago summit in the near future -- Ryan.
NOBLES: All right. Sarah Westwood live from the North Lawn of the White House for us tonight. Sarah, thank you so much.
Joining me now to talk about all of this, CNN national security analyst and investigative correspondent for "The New York Times," Mark Mazzetti. He was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize last year for reporting on Trump advisers and their connections to Russia.
Also here, CNN presidential historian and a former director at the Nixon Presidential Library, Timothy Naftali.
All right, Mark, let's start with you and let's talk about Michael Cohen first. He's going to be testifying for three days on Capitol Hill. Two of these sessions will be private. The one on Wednesday is the one that's going to be public. And I want you to take a listen to what Republican Congressman Jim Jordan had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO: They're bringing in Michael Cohen to testify in front of Congress next week. Michael Cohen to testify in front of Congress and in two weeks Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: I mean, he does have a point there, doesn't he, Mark? What do Democrats have to gain from that hearing Wednesday beyond just embarrassing the president?
MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we know that Michael Cohen is not going to be talking about some of the central questions, which is of course the Russia investigation.
[20:05:03] He's not going to be talking about anything related to the Mueller probe. So as you mentioned, the Republicans clearly want to discredit the witness, call him a liar and say nothing he says is possibly credible.
But the Democrats would want to get into Cohen's relationship with Trump, the relationship over time at the Trump Organization, what type of businessman Donald Trump was. They clearly see a strategy that they can embarrass, as you say, the president at a time when the president is thousands of miles away, trying to be presidential at a summit in Vietnam.
NOBLES: Yes, and so, Tim, to that point, the president going to the summit with Kim Jong-un. The testimony is actually going to be happening while he's meeting with Kim Jong-un. There's an optical issue here for the president, a public relations issue, but there's also a significant policy for him as well.
I mean, how crucial is this week in the Donald Trump presidency because, oh, by the way, there's also a crisis in Venezuela that he has to deal with?
TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, well, this is -- I don't know if it will be a turning point because often you don't know if something is a turning point until it's happened, but the president's challenge is that he wants whatever happens in Hanoi to distract from what Mr. Cohen will say.
One of the things that happened in the Watergate period was that the American people heard testimony for months about the misconduct of the Nixon administration well before the impeachment process began.
I'm not suggesting that an impeachment process will begin in this case but most of what the public has heard is learned either from the media or from Mueller's indictments. We're about to get the Mueller report. So it is -- it's a good time for the American people to learn more about the nature of the Trump Organization and the president's campaign and then sort it out themselves, but this will increase, I think, the amount of public information.
At the same time, the president has to be careful not to rush some kind of symbolic agreement with the North Koreans in order just to distract from his political problems at home.
NAFTALI: In 1998, Bill Clinton was attacked, I believe wrongly, for wagging the dog. In other words, for trying to distract from the Monica Lewinsky case by going after bin Laden. He was absolutely right to go after bin Laden. People just didn't understand what a threat al Qaeda was. But a lot of people felt that Bill Clinton was using foreign policy for political reasons. They were wrong in '98 but they could be right in 2019.
NOBLES: So, Mark, Tim mentioned the Mueller report, which could be coming any day now, probably not this week but maybe the week after. Democrats are already fighting to make the findings of this report public. Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, we will obviously subpoena the report. We will bring Bob Mueller in to testify before Congress. We will take it to court if necessary. And in the end, I think the department understands they're going to have to make this public. I think Barr will ultimately understand that as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: That's, of course, Adam Schiff, who is the chairman now of the House Intelligence Committee.
Mark, how much of this report do you actually think we'll see? Do you think there could be a situation where this report is issued and anybody in the American public will be able to read it from top to bottom?
MAZZETTI: I mean, I happen to think that we will see the entire report at some point. Maybe sooner rather than later. That even if it gets hung up in terms of the battle over how much is released, you know, things leak. You know, I think eventually the American public will see what Robert Mueller has found.
Now, you know, the big question, of course, is in the interim how much the Attorney General Barr will make public, how much of this summary is going to be a real cliff notes version or is going to be more fulsome. Barr has said he wanted it to be more fulsome. But, I mean, as you see with Schiff's comments, anything short of the full disclosure is going to create this continued firestorm about the conclusions.
People won't accept them unless they see the full conclusions. And I should say, even after we see the full conclusions, we know we're already seeing positioning about, you know, what to expect. Some are dialing down expectations and some on the president's side are saying, well, you know, nothing short of clear conspiracy between the president and Vladimir Putin would make this whole thing worthwhile.
NOBLES: So -- and to that end, Tim, shouldn't President Trump want the whole report out? I mean, wouldn't it be to his benefit? And shouldn't he instruct William Barr to make the whole thing public?
NAFTALI: Ryan, it depends what's in it. But let me tell you that there's much more at stake here than the future of Donald Trump's legal status. We also want to prevent our country from being vulnerable to Russian penetration in the 2020 election. One of the things that I'm looking for is the evidence that gave our country certainty that Vladimir Putin not only ordered this attack on our democracy but had a clear favorite. Now the CIA and the FBI had high confidence that his clear favorite was Donald Trump.
[20:10:04] My concern is that sources and methods, and that's the kind of stuff that get redacted. I believe for the health of our democracy we shouldn't just be asking to what extent does this make Don Jr. or President Trump --
NAFTALI: Put them in jeopardy. We should be asking, to what extent does this report make our country safer so that 2020 is not a repeat of 2016 in terms of Russian intervention?
NOBLES: OK. So, Mark, speaking of memos from the special counsel. We did see the Paul Manafort sentencing memo come out. I mean, do you think that there was anything that we can glean from where the special counsel is heading or was it just primarily related to Paul Manafort and his future?
MAZZETTI: Yes. Truthfully it's really the latter. You know, a lot of people were and perhaps anticipating that this memo would be this real fulsome description of a conspiracy case, how Paul Manafort and some of his associates fit into this broader case of what people have called collusion. It really was -- it was a kind of rehash of some of Paul Manafort's now well-documented crimes and, you know, the special counsel threw the book at him. But there was not any more of the narrative of what -- you know, as Tim said, the bigger story here is with the Russian interference to the election and how Trump and his associates fit into this.
So certainly for some people who were expecting that, they were disappointed yesterday.
NOBLES: Yes. All right. Mark Mazzetti, Tim Naftali, thank you both for being here. We appreciate it.
MAZZETTI: Thank you.
NOBLES: And Venezuela, at the tipping point. Reports of at least five people killed, hundreds more injured and several aid trucks set on fire and destroyed this weekend.
Plus, Virginia's embattled lieutenant governor comparing himself to Jim Crow era lynching victims. Details from his surprise speech as he battles sexual assault allegations.
[20:15:56] NOBLES: The deepening crisis in and around Venezuela has sparked an emergency summit of Latin American leaders. That will happen tomorrow and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will be there as well.
This is the reason. Burned out delivery trucks that were loaded with food and medicine for the needy people inside Venezuela. They were either set on fire or blocked this weekend on the border while frustrated people battled police and troops still loyal to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. At least five people were reported killed.
Here is the U.S. secretary of State on CNN earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POMPEO: So yesterday was a tragic day, multiple deaths but mostly a tyrant who denied food to hungry people and medicine to those who are sick. There's talk about four or five deaths yesterday. But the truth is there have been hundreds and hundreds starved to death by Maduro.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, he is on the Venezuelan border and he shows us the desperation that is fueling those deadly clashes.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It had been billed as a new dawn when the opposition planned waves of Venezuelan refugees would simply take aid back into their homeland across the busiest border bridge with Colombia. But it was closed, blocked physically by Venezuelan riot police and behind them violent pro-government gangs.
The young police taunted or begged into changing sides.
"I'm Venezuelan," she says, holding up her ID, "and my father was a sergeant. How will you stop me crossing?"
But they were Venezuelans, too, and also knew its collapse, its hunger and here, the heat and thirst.
"But the water you're drinking," she says, "it's Colombian because your president doesn't give you any. Bring him out here to us."
"I eat or drink soda whenever I want here," he says. "But the hardest pain is how my grandfather died because he didn't have medicine."
For a brief moment, the anger dissipated, the police lowered their shields, talked calmly. But down the road, the promised aid convoy arrived and a huge crowd intent on pushing through.
(On camera): Tension mounting here, the shields have gone back up again. And the protesters are recommending people start to move back.
(Voice-over): This was why, a slow march of opposition protesters. Peaceful in as far as they would not take no for an answer. It fast collapsed into tear gas.
The day's lofty goals soon lost in a routine exchange of hatred. Rocks against rubber bullets and rocks thrown back.
(On camera): Did you expect to have blood on your shirt today? Did you expect that to happen today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Venezuelan people is (INAUDIBLE).
WALSH (voice-over): And as they lost staff on the bridge, the protesters took their fight underneath. They are many but Maduro's police are mightier. They have only whatever they could make.
None of this chaos got any aid across here. But it showed the uncompromising ferocity of the Maduro government and it led throughout the day to Venezuelan soldiers giving themselves up.
One here carried out, the mobs both cursing and cheering. The opposition had promised defectors amnesty, but this will only get uglier, seeing the mobbing of pro-Maduro militia here, battered by the crowd and spared only by Colombian police.
And if the symbolic bid to get aid in peacefully failed, then these scenes are what Venezuela is left with.
[20:20:07] NOBLES: That's Nick Paton Walsh, reporting from Colombia.
Coming up, presidential candidate Kamala Harris and the tricky question of what blew up the Democrats' blue wall. Her answer, next.
And three generations, two presidents, one powerful family. "THE BUSH YEARS," narrated by Ed Harris, it premiers next Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
NOBLES: Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris campaigning through Iowa and getting pressed on what she thinks blew up the Democrats' blue wall in 2016.
[20:25:04] Here's her exchange with CNN's John King.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Trump blew up the blue wall, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin. This state has been right in the last four and eight out of the last 10 presidential elections. Thirty-one countries that voted twice for Barack Obama in this state alone switched to vote for Donald Trump. How and why did that happen?
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'll leave that to the pundits but I'll tell you --
KING: Can I stop you for one second?
KING: If I'm a Democratic voter.
KING: And I want Trump gone.
KING: I want a better answer than that in the sense that, don't you have to know why it happened to know how to fix it?
HARRIS: No question. But I -- but not only why it happened. I think that the bigger question is, what do the American people want from their leader? That's the question that I ask. And when I sit down with folks in their living rooms, in a coffee shop, in a town hall, what they're talking about is the need to be able to -- to be able to work hard and be able to pay the bills at the end of the month.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Joining me now to talk about this, Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona, and conservative commentator Ben Ferguson.
So, Maria, you know, listening to John ask this question and I asked candidates process questions before. That's what this is. It's a process question. They always hate it. They always say they only want to talk about the issues.
But, Maria, shouldn't she have a better understanding of what blew up the blue wall in 2016? I mean, that could be an important lesson for the Democratic nominee to understand. Right?
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Sure. Of course, Ryan. But you know as well as all of us that we talked about this ad nauseam after Donald Trump's surprise win. And we can all talk about a whole slew of issues -- the Russians, Jim Comey coming in at the end and putting his thumb on the scale, Hillary Clinton perhaps not visiting Wisconsin or these states as much as she should have. There are a whole slew of reasons why.
I think that what Kamala was trying to get to was probably as a Democratic candidate the most important one. Because I think at the end of the day, we can say that the Democratic message was not resonant enough with the folks in these states for them to come in and pull the lever for the Democratic candidate.
So that's why I think she was focusing on the issues. But I think moving forward, what we're seeing in those states that were the blue wall is the rebuilding of that blue wall, Ryan. The Gallup poll came out just now and Donald Trump is completely upside down in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and in Iowa, where John King and Kamala Harris were having that conversation, he is at a 52 percent disapproval rating.
Not that we can take anything for granted as Democrats because we absolutely cannot. This is not going to be a slam dunk. But it's a good place to start to be talking about the issues.
NOBLES: All right. Ben, respond to that quickly but then we do have some breaking --
BEN FERGUSON, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Yes.
NOBLES: So just quickly respond to what Maria just said.
FERGUSON: One -- yes. Senator Harris should definitely hire Maria because Maria at least is being realistic about what happened with Democrats and I don't think she understands that. I think that's the reason why her answer was so awkward is she doesn't understand that there were American voters that clearly felt like the Democratic Party had abandoned them, was not representing them, was not listening to them on jobs, and the economy, and their real day in and day out struggles.
That's the reason why Donald Trump won in these areas because people said under Obama and under Hillary Clinton and their leadership, they did not listen to us. They did not help us. They did not bring back jobs. Remember the president at the time, Obama talked about, look, jobs, manufacturing jobs are gone. They're never coming back and Donald Trump said no, they are going to come back and I'm going to be the one to do it. And that's the reason why he won.
I think this is concerning for Democrats and other candidates should pay attention to this moment and realize if you don't understand why people rejected you last time, you have no shot of winning this time. And I think this was a big oops for her, a big oops for her campaign and I would be shocked if other Democrats running against her do not seize on this thing.
You have no idea what these people have gone through and their hurts. You have no idea what their concerns are. You just want to be president and that's not good enough.
NOBLES: All right. We do have some breaking news that I need you guys to respond to so just hang with me here for a second.
NOBLES: Just moments ago, President Trump spoke at the Governor's Ball where he was hosting the nation's governors. So this is President Trump at the White House tonight, hosting the nation's governors. Listen to what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now that's a big -- that's a big thing. And I'll give you a little advance information. I see Steve Mnuchin is here and Ambassador Lighthizer. We just left a big meeting with China. And we just put out a statement and we're doing very well with China. And it was a long weekend. They decided to stay for 2 1/2 more days. They'll probably be leaving late tonight.
They're going back and, if all works well, we're going to have some very big news over the next week or two. And it's really been terrific. I tell you that the whole relationship has been outstanding. We put ourselves into a position of strength for the first time in about 35 years, or probably a lot more than that. But, China has been terrific, we want to make a deal that's great for both countries and that's really what we're going to be doing.
And I think as governors, most of you -- many of you are governors and doing an incredible job. And so many have come up and said how are you doing with China, which is a very unusual question for people to come up and ask, almost every one.
Sir, how are you doing with China? Because it affects your state so much, China is everywhere. I think you'd be very -- really amazed with what you see, maybe, let's see what happens. We still have a little ways to go. Would you say that's correct, Mr. Ambassador? We have a little bit. But, I want to thank you, Bob, you've been working 24 hours, around the clock.
And I will say this publicly, when I was able to be lucky enough to win the presidency, I called Bob Lighthizer because for years, people have known he's the greatest trader that we have on this type of trade. We have many different types of trade. And I really understand now why. Thank you very much, fantastic job, and Steve. Thank you all.
And also, I was going to leave very early tomorrow, but now, I'm going to do it a little bit later. I had an option to do it at 6:00 in the morning or 11:00, and I chose 11:00. This way, we can spend a little bit of time with you tomorrow morning, because you're having a breakfast, and I'll come to the breakfast.
But, literally, I said, what kind of an option is that? I can leave at 6:00 in the morning or 11:00? They said you can leave at 6:00 or anywhere between 11:00 and 12:00. I said I'll take 11:00 to 12:00.
But, you're having a breakfast tomorrow, so I'll be with you at the breakfast, but we'll be leaving for Hanoi, Vietnam. And we'll be meeting with Kim Jong-un. It's a very interesting thing to say, but I've developed a very, very good relationship. We'll see what that means. But he has never had a relationship with anybody from this country, and hasn't had lots of relationships anywhere.
And I always say, you know -- the media sometimes will say, well, what have they given up? We've given up nothing. The sanctions are on, everything is on, but we have a special feeling, and I think it's going to lead to something very good, and maybe not.
I think, ultimately, it will, but maybe not. And I'm not pushing for speed. But we're not removing the sanctions. And we're going to have, I think, very interesting 2-1/2 days in Vietnam. And we have a chance for the total denuclearization of an area of the world that was very dangerous.
When I first came in or, more particularly at the end of the last administration, there were rockets going up. There were missiles going up. There were bombs going off. There were massive canons being tested.
If you ever saw the picture of the beach, I've never seen anything like it where you had literally thousands of canons on the beach, shooting out into the waters, and there was nuclear testing. In fact, they thought it was earthquakes. They said there are massive earthquakes.
And then, they realized it was North Korea. They said, wow, I think, it's maybe not an earthquake. Now, there's no testing, there's no rockets, there's no nuclear testing, and we get along well, very well.
So, it will be very interesting to say. And I -- as I -- as I tell Chairman Kim, he has a chance to have a country that is so vibrant economically, maybe one of the most in the world. He has a location that's unbelievable. As a real estate person, I've always done very well with location. But, he's right between China, Russia and then on the other side, South Korea.
So, they can't touch each other, unless they go through North Korea. And I say, you have one of the greatest locations. They have incredible people, hard-working people, smart, energetic. And I think it can be really one of the great -- one of the great financial and economic countries anywhere in the world.
So, I tell him that. I said, but you can't do that if you're going to keep nuclear. If you're going to do nuclear, that can't ever happen. And we see eye to eye, I believe, but you'll be seeing it more and more over the next couple of days, one way or the other. What's going to happen? I can't tell you.
I think, eventually, it would, but I can't tell you. And I'm not in a rush. I don't want to rush anybody. I just don't want testing. As long as there's no testing, we're happy. And so, we've done, really, something, I think, very special with respect to North Korea. And it's a long flight. And I'll be back at the end of the week.
But we have two very interesting days planned, and I think it's a very important -- it's a very important thing. Prime Minister Abe of Japan, said he can't believe what's happened in such a short period of time because rockets were being fired over Japan, rockets and missiles, both.
[20:35:03] And now, that hasn't happened in -- long time, 16 months, 17 months, no more testing, no more rockets, no more checking to see whether or not this stuff works, so you'll be seeing it. And I think it's going to be interesting for people to see.
But there's a chance to do something very, very special. It's very exciting. And likewise, if we can do the great economic, it will be the largest trade deal ever made, by far, if you look at it, it's our trade with China. And we truly are very close.
So, those are a couple of very interesting things. But our country is doing incredibly well, economically. We've picked up, in terms of value, worth $18 trillion. Now, China -- I don't want this, but China has lost about $24 trillion, so they were catching us, catching us, catching us. And now, we've zoomed out.
And I can say this, as long as I'm president; they're not going to catch us. And they're going to do well, but I want them to do well, but they're not going to catch us.
So, I just want to give a toast to the incredible people in this room and to our unbelievable country. We have a very, very special country. I want to thank our First Lady for having done -- this is such a beautiful job, so Melania, I just want to thank you very much. I want to thank you.
And I would like to ask Governor Bullock to come up, please, from a very special place that I like very much for the obvious reason, and perhaps, you could give it to us. Please. Thank you, Governor. Thank you very much.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN HOST: All right. That is President Donald Trump, tonight, at the White House, for the Governor's Ball, it's an annual gathering of governors, both Republican and Democrat, who meet at the White House during the meetings that they had in Washington this week.
He had quite a bit to say, as I bring back in Maria Cardona and Ben Ferguson. I want to specifically point you to what he had to say about his expectations for this summit with Kim Jong-un. And Ben, it seems to me that he seems to be dialing back those expectations quite a bit. I mean, after the first summit --
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I --
NOBLES: But just let me finish. He'd said that, you know, the Korean Peninsula was basically no longer a nuclear threat. But now, he's saying that he doesn't want to rush anyone, that it's all just about testing, as long as there's no testing, that he'll be happy. I'm not saying that this isn't a smart strategy on behalf of the President, but isn't he certainly painting a different picture than he did the last time around?
FERGUSON: Look, I think, the first time around, he was trying to have a dialogue and have a conversation with a leader that had been completely isolated from the world, that was a nuclear threat to the world, and a threat that even the last president told the president about, that this is one of the biggest threats you need to know about, referring to North Korea. That's what Obama told him.
So, the President was trying to get a dialogue and a lot of this conversation they were having was, I think, him, trying to encourage that dialogue in public, and talking about how he wanted them to have a conversation. He wanted them to meet. It was great news and they were coming in the world and have these conversations.
I also think he's a realist. And he's saying, look, this may not happen, "we'll see." But we're certainly going to work on it, and these two days, coming up, are very important. And I think, it's also when you're going to meet with someone like Kim Jong, you've got to let him know, look, we are wanting to do a deal, but we're not desperate.
We want to bring you into the world, but we're not going to do something stupid. There is no clock for this. The sanctions are still there. And I think this is part of the art of the deal. And I -- me, personally, I don't think this is political of Republican, Democrat.
I think everybody in the world should be rooting for denuclearization and bring North Korea into the world in a responsible manner where they're not a threat to everyone. And I hope that the President is successful in this. And no matter who the president is, if you're able to get someone like this, to the table, and to actually, possibly, denuclearize, we should all be wanting it and rooting for it.
So, I hope the President accomplishes this. There shouldn't be anything political about it.
NOBLES: Yes. So, Ben -- Maria, just describe President Trump, as it relates to this issue, as a realist, in terms of how he's approaching it. Do you think that the way, I mean, these remarks we heard tonight, are much more tempered than the way he has talked about this in the past? Is that how you'd describe the President, as a realist in this approach to North Korea?
MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: No. I think he's actually incredibly naive and he, as always, tries to paint a picture that is actually very non-realistic. Look, I agree with Ben in that, it is better to have our countries speaking, than not, because if we're speaking, that means that we're not on the brink of war.
Though, who knows what could happen and what could come out of the President's mouth or of the dear leader's mouth that could change that immediately. The problem that I see with what Trump is doing is that North Korean has given up absolutely nothing.
[20:40:01] And in fact, we have given them something that Kim Jong-un has desired for so long, from the moment that he took power and what his dad and his dad before that had desired too, which was a seat at the table with the big boys. No one else has given him that, except for Donald Trump.
So, what is the incentive for North Korea to give up anything? They are not going to give anything up. And I think that anybody who really believes that, that they're going to do that without a strategy. And I think that's the bottom line. What is the strategy here? You know, Donald Trump --
FERGUSON: Maria, this is -- this is nothing. The old strategy didn't work.
CARDONA: Hang on. Hang on. Donald Trump tweets, not too long ago, that North Korea is no longer a nuclear danger. Mike Pompeo says today that North Korea is still a nuclear danger. What kind of strategy is that? What kind of message is that going into the summit?
CARDONA: It makes no sense.
CARDONA: It certainly doesn't make me feel safer.
FERGUSON: Maria, I'll say it again. I'll say it again. When you're dealing with someone like Kim Jong -- when you're dealing with someone like Kim Jong, you clearly know that he is an individual who is incredibly paranoid and also is doing everything he can to show his muscles with nuclear power. And I think what the President was trying to do early on --
CARDONA: Two peas in a pod, maybe?
FERGUSON: Let me finish. Let me finish. I think the President understood two things. One, our old strategy of isolation, and not giving him a seat at the table with, "the big boys," clearly was bringing us closer to war, so you stroke this individual's ego.
You have a dialogue. You try to get them talking with South Korea, which also worked. You have them meet with South Korea, which also has worked. You try to give him a little bit of respect. That is clearly what he wants.
CARDONA: What do you mean has worked? Has worked to do what? They're not denuclearizing.
FERGUSON: Having a dialogue -- having a dialogue is the first starting point. And the old strategy, which had been done by Republicans and Democrats, of total isolation, clearly was a failure. That's the reason why Barack Obama said to Donald Trump--
CARDONA: They had continued to talk, though, Ben.
FERGUSON: -- you need to be worried about this.
NOBLES: All right, we're going to stop.
CARDONA: There was always dialogue. There's nothing different now.
NOBLES: All right. We --
FERGUSON: Look, you said it, the big boys' table.
NOBLES: Guys, we've got to stop. Ben, sorry, we've got to go. We're out of time. Appreciate you guys rolling with the punches with the breaking news. Thank you. I'm sorry I have to cut you off.
CARDONA: Thanks, Ryan.
NOBLES: That's just the way television works.
NOBLES: Ben Ferguson, Maria Cardona, thank you for being here. And we're going to take a quick break and be right back.
[20:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
NOBLES: Virginia's embattled Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, comparing himself to victims of lynching in a surprise speech on the State's Senate floor, Fairfax was defending himself against those calling for his resignation amid a sexual assault scandal. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. GOV. JUSTIN FAIRFAX (D), VIRGINIA: If we go backwards and we rush the judgment and we allow for political lynchings without any due process, any facts, any evidence being heard, then, I think we do a disservice to this very body in which we all serve.
And I want to stand in this moment, in the truth, not only which has tested my constitution, personally, but is testing the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia and of the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: House Republicans have announced plans to hold a public hearing, where Fairfax and two women accused of assaulting -- are accusing him of assault, I should say, could publicly testify. Earlier this evening, I spoke to Former NAACP President and long-time Virginian, Cornell Brooks, and I asked him how he felt about Fairfax, using the term, lynching, to defend himself against these accusations.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CORNELL BROOKS, FORMER PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: I think it's important for us to appreciate the history here. So, where they were, at least, 4,000 people lynched in America between the end of reconstruction in 1950, at least, 100 or so, in the State of Virginia.
To create an analogy or make the analogy with lynching, is a very serious thing. And so, I want to note a couple of things that are very different. The two people who are accusing him of a crime, are not two white men in hoods, but rather, two African-American women, point one
Point two, lynching was, in fact, an extra judicial -- lynchings were extra judicial murders. That is, vigilante injustice. These women are not seeking to have him at the end of a rope, but rather, in front of a committee, or in front of some kind of investigatory body. And so, the analogy with lynching is inaccurate and inappropriate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: That was Civil Rights Attorney, Former NAACP President, Cornell Brooks, talking with me a short time ago. And we should point out tonight, Debra Katz, who is the attorney for Vanessa Tyson, she is one of the women, accusing Justin Fairfax of sexual assault. She tweeted this, not too long ago, saying that they've received numerous press inquiries of regarding his comments today.
They are referring reporters back to a statement that they issued on Friday, which essentially says that they want the opportunity for Vanessa Tyson to be able to tell her story, publicly, and in a nonpartisan forum. But, nonetheless, it shows that they are paying attention to what the lieutenant governor had to say today.
Meanwhile, actor, Terrence Howard, speaking out after the arrest of his television son, Jussie Smollett, his message to fans who say he shouldn't be supporting his co-star after an alleged hate crime hoax.
[20:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
NOBLES: Actor and Empire star, Terrance Howard, is showing support for his television son, Jussie Smollett, after Smollett was charged with staging a hate crime in Chicago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Howard posted this video of a baby sitting on Smollett's lap and breaking into fits of giggles when he tickled him. It was captioned, all you little homies, we love the hell out of you. Smollett was made national headlines when he claimed two women attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, putting a rope around his neck and pouring some sort of chemical on him.
But police say, after putting hundreds of hours of man power into the case, they determined that Smollett, who've been -- paid two men $3,500 to stage the attack, all in the hopes that the publicity would earn him a bigger salary.
After a fan criticized Howard for showing Smollett support on Instagram, the actor replied in the comment section.
He said, "The Jussie I know would never even conceive of something so unconscious and ugly. His innocence or judgment is not for any of us to decide. Stay in your lane and my lane is empathy and love and compassion for someone I've called my son for five years. It's God's job to judge and it's ours to love and hope, especially for those that we claim to have loved."
[20:55:14] I want to bring in Pop Culture Expert, Jawn Murray, he knows Jussie Smollett, personally. Jawn, Smollett surprised a lot of people this week when he went straight from the court house, to the set of Empire, and then doubled down on his innocence to his cast mates.
How much backing does he have on the set of the show, right now, especially because he was written out of the final two episodes of the season?
JAWN MURRAY, POP CULTURE EXPERT: Well, Ryan, you know, optics are everything. And Empire and FOX had to make a decision that was best for the show and best for their franchise. But I've been talking to people very close to the Empire set, some of the higher ups.
And they tell me that they are conflicted, because they saw the press conference, they saw what the superintendent in Chicago presented in their case, about Jussie Smollett, but they feel like they know him personally, they have a relationship with him. And they believe their guy.
And so, they're not joining the cancel culture, the bandwagon mob mentality, where everybody tells you what you are to believe and how you are to execute those beliefs. And Terrance Howard, in particular, has always been an outlier, so he's never going to abandon somebody that he calls friend.
You know, the cast of Empire season, really, is a family. They are going to stand by their guy because their guy is standing by his story.
NOBLES: You know, obviously, there's been a lot of criticism in Jussie Smollett's direction, but, you know, there's a season for all of these things, right? Is there a possibility that you could see him redeeming himself and that he could end up working in Hollywood on a regular basis again?
MURRAY: Ryan, this is either going to make for one hell-of-a-lifetime movie or it's going to be the most amazing crossover episode between Empire and Law and Order.
But, this is what I know for sure, if the criminal justice system does find him guilty, I don't believe there's a space for him to work in this business, because as a person who was the face of two marginalized groups, who said these things happened to him, if it turns out to actually be a hoax, I don't believe Hollywood would welcome him back in any regard.
If he turns out to be telling the truth, and he's got Mark Geragos now, out and the stories have been coming out, contending the things that the superintendent in Chicago has said all weekend long, if they can prove that this guy is innocent, well, he'll be back to work on Empire.
NOBLES: So that same judge, who oversaw the Smollett bond hearing, oversaw R. Kelly's hearing yesterday, and they set his total bond at $1 million on sex abuse charges. R. Kelly is still in jail tonight because he couldn't come up with the money.
A part of the problem is that he does owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdue child support payment. He's also facing eviction from his studio. Should we be surprised about his financial situation, given the millions of dollars that he's earned over the course of his career?
MURRAY: Well, I'm not surprised because I've known people very close to R. Kelly's camp. And I've understood that there's been a history of mismanagement of funds, of him, selling off parts of his publishing. But here's the thing, the general public? They're pretty shocked.
This guy has done 17 studio solo albums. He's done a movie, the Trap in the Closet series for FX. He's done DVDs and soundtracks and he's written hits for some of the biggest stars known to man. But the reality is that, he has sold off parts of his publishing over years. Universal music dropped him even before Sony Music parted ways with him back in January.
But what I believe is happening here is, R. Kelly is hoping for the workweek to start and he'll probably approach companies like SoundExchange and BMI who do performance rights revenue and try to get advanced money from them, which will help him make his bail.
I did see that one of the fans started a GoFundMe page, but it only raised $370, so they're a long way from meeting the goal of bailing out their favorite singer.
NOBLES: Yes, a long way. That's a good way to put it. Now, you have interviewed R. Kelly before, and you know people that work at his house, in Chicago, we've only got about a minute left, before the end of program tonight, and what's the reaction from the people that you're talking to, now that he's facing these very graphic charges?
MURRAY: Well, I don't want to share specific stories about what the people told me that were working in the house, but I will say this, the things that they told me are worse than I've heard from most horror films. The things that R. Kelly has done, according to the folks that I know that was working there, were horrendous.
Now, when I met R. Kelly and I interviewed him at his house in Chicago, he was a very charismatic, very nice guy, and we talked openly about him being illiterate, his work with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, a lot of other things.
So, I can see how people can be engaged by him. I see why some of his fans are sticking with him. But R. Kelly, he's got justice to face.
NOBLES: Wow. Jawn Murray, terrific insight. We so appreciate you being on with us. Have a terrific night.
MURRAY: It is now, Ryan.
NOBLES: All right. And that does it for me tonight. I'm Ryan Nobles. Thank you so much for watching. Up next, it's a CNN special report, The Two Faces of Kim Jong-un. Thanks for watching. Have a great night.