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Trump Heads to Summit with North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Un; Cohen to Testify 3 Times on Capitol Hill This Week; Trump Faces Growing Opposition over National Emergency Declaration; 58 Former National Security Officials Rebuke Trump's Emergency Declaration; R. Kelly's Attorney Enters Not Guilty Plea on All Counts. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired February 25, 2019 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And now she is an adult. There's not much the parents are able to do. They just feel they were able to get beside her.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. Incredibly sad and hard to hear.

Sara Sidner, thank you reporting on this from the start and for being in court today. Keep us posted.

Thank you all for joining us today. I'm Poppy Harlow.

"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts now.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

President Trump is about to head off to meet with one of the most oppressive dictators in the world, North Korea's Kim Jong-Un. This marks the second face-to-face between President Trump and the leader of the repressive and rogue regime.

As he flies off to Vietnam, he will be leaving behind plenty of political baggage in Washington, though. This week, the president's long-term personal attorney, Michael Cohen, will be testifying three separate times on Capitol Hill. That is the same Michael Cohen who is now a convicted felon and has implicated the president in his crime.

Add to that, Congress is set to vote on whether or not the president's national security declaration should be cancelled, the declaration the president used to go around Congress to get more money for a border wall.

Much more on those two stories in just a moment.

On the high stakes summit with North Korea, the president is once again touting what he calls a very good relationship with Kim. When it comes to the ultimate end goal, at least as was originally stated, complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization, Trump now says there's no rush.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 another. What is 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 are happy.


BOLDUAN: Let's get to it. CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House. Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill for us.

Sarah, let me begin with you.

We all remember that after the first meeting with Kim Jong-Un, the president declared that North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat. They're not saying that this time. So what's the goal of going in?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Kate. Officials say they want to see from North Kora is a clear verifiable step toward de-nuclearization, one that can perhaps demonstrate that North Korea is willing to start giving up its nuclear capabilities. At the moment, it's not clear that North Korea is willing to denuclearize. There has been disagreement between intelligence officials and President Trump about whether North Korea is committed to maintaining its arsenal. President Trump has continued to sound an optimistic tone that we'll see progress out of the second round of stalks in Vietnam. We expect that these will be more substantive, more intensive than the inaugural round of negotiations that we saw in Singapore that was little more than a meet and greet. The optimism is not shared throughout the administration, however. There's skepticism that this could be as successful as President Trump is building it up to be. We expect the primary message from the U.S. to North Korea to be, look at the kind of economic prosperity that could be possible for the North Koreans if they were to denuclearize. The White House hopes to use the back drop of Vietnam, which was once hostile towards the U.S., as an example of the kind of economic revival that could be possible for North Koreans if they were to denuclearize. But, Kate, there's concern among the president's advisors that he could give up too much in pursuit of that goal.

BOLDUAN: Sarah, thanks so much.

A little preview of what could be coming.

Phil, let me head to Capitol Hill, because you have been basically everything else that the president is leaving behind as he heads off. First and foremost, Michael Cohen and his testimony. What is going to happen here?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The long- awaited week of Cohen is officially here on Capitol Hill. Michael Cohen, the close adviser, lawyer, confident of the president for more than a decade, will be in front of three different committees. There are two different ways this is going to happen. The House Intelligence Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee will be meeting with Michael Cohen behind closed doors. Probably won't hear much about what is happening in that setting. I am told it will more or less be like a deposition. Their questions will be related to the Russia investigation. Most notably, Michael Cohen's lies to the committee in the past related to that investigation.

Then on Wednesday, you will have the House Oversight Committee hearing that will be public with Michael Cohen. Now, that committee and its chairman, Elijah Cummings, have made clear that the Russia investigation, after consultations with the Intelligence Committee and the Justice Department, will not be privy to what they are discussing. But they have laid out 10 bullet points of things that will be discussed, including compliance with federal tax laws and federal campaign laws, how the president speaks, and whether or not the president himself is truthful. Those will all be issues. When you talk to Democrat aides acknowledge there will not be a huge amount of new ground broken but there will be headlines. As to headlines, Republicans are already laying the groundwork to rebut, pointing out that Michael Cohen is a convicted felon and has been charged with lying and has lied in the past. You will see a lot of partisan battles as it relates to Michael Cohen.

Kate, it is worth noting that that is not the only thing going on, on Capitol Hill. The president's national emergency declaration, on Tuesday, the first Cohen closed-door hearing, will get its first vote to get struck down by the House. House Democrats have set up a vote on a resolution to terminate the emergency declaration. It is expected, with House Democrats in power, they will pass that easily and send it to the Senate. In the Senate, we are hearing they will have enough votes to pass it on a simple majority vote threshold.

[11:05:28] Here is the rub and the crucial issue for the administration as they look to use the emergency declaration to obtain about $3.6 billion to fund the border wall. The president has said he will veto whatever Congress sends his way, which means Congress will need to find out whether or not they have the votes to override the veto. As it currently stands in the House, only one Republican has signed on to that resolution. They will need more than 50 if they want a veto override majority. In the Senate, they look like they'll be well short of the 20 Republican Senators Democrats will need to join them to override the president's veto.

So a lot going on right now. Clearly Democrats want to talk about this issue, but will it actually strike down the emergency declaration? At this point, it looks like no -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: Stand by to stand by. Phil, great to see you.

Sarah, thank you guys. Really appreciate it.

Joining me right now, CNN chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, and CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot. He's a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Dana, let's talk about the emergency declaration first. There's a chance that it gets to the House, there's a chance it could get through the Senate, but it comes down to the margins, as Phil was laying out. If it gets through, we know the president says he will veto it. If it does, how big of a problem is that for the president? If it doesn't pass the Senate even on the first step, where does the focus turn?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, let's just go with the first hypothetical, which probably is more than a hypothetical when you look at the votes, that it is more likely than not because in the House it is a Democratic-led House that it will pass the House. And in the Senate even though it is run by Republicans, the resolution is written in such a way that the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has no choice but to bring it to the Senate floor. It is probably more likely to pass than not. So assuming that that happens, it is going to go to the president's desk. What we will see is something historic for the Trump years. We haven't seen him veto a piece of legislation. It would be the first time he does that on a pretty significant signature issue, obviously, for him to do that. Now, Phil 's right, it is very difficult. It's a very uphill climb for Democrats to get a veto-proof majority. But before we get there, it will be noteworthy if the president has to use his veto pen for the first time to defend a controversial move to build his wall.

BOLDUAN: It sure will.

Max, add to all of this, you have 58 former national security officials saying this is not a national emergency at all. The way they put it in this statement is there's no factual basis for the declaration. Yes, there are some Republicans on the list and some very noteworthy people. Do you think the statement changes hearts and minds of any of the lawmakers who are facing this question right now as Dana is pointing out?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I doubt it. I mean, it is shocking to see that only House Republican has come out against the state of emergency which is an afront to everything that Republicans purport to believe. They claim to be they are in favor of the military and yet this is taking money away from the defense budget. They claim to be in favor of private property rights and yet this will take private property via imminent domain. And most importantly, Republicans claim to be constitutional conservatives. It says right there, Article I of the Constitution, that only funds may be spent if they are appropriated by Congress. This is not money that has been appropriated by Congress. This should not be a hard call for Republicans. Sadly, I fear that they are going to put their loyalty to the president above their loyalty to the Constitution.

BOLDUAN: I mean, it is going to be a really interesting week on this front.

Including this one, Dana. On North Korea, we have been seeing for, I would say for weeks now, that the president and top officials are lowering the bar of what would be a win.

Let me play you just for our viewers what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said to Jake Tapper yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?


TAPPER: But the president said he doesn't.

POMPEO; It's not what he said.


TAPPER: He tweeted it is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.

POMPEO: What he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore, this commitment that Chairman Kim made, have substantially taken down the risks to the American people.


BOLDUAN: I wonder if it is clear what a win is out of the summit. It really isn't clear. It was, North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat from the president, from his own fingers to his own Twitter account, and now it's clearly not.

[11:10:15] BASH: Of course not. Obviously North Korea is a threat, has been a threat. Whether it is Secretary Pompeo or other members of the administration, they are doing maybe among the most traditional thing that we've seen out of this White House, which is to follow the lower the expectations play book before a major summit.

BOLDUAN: Right, right, right.

BASH: We usually see the opposite of that. And it is interesting to see that, especially given the fact that over the past four presidents, Democrat and Republican, never mind a face-to-face summit which is a huge deal, just a prerequisite for discussions by the U.S. in particular has been North Korea you have to completely denuclearize. And if even if they are moving away from that, which they seem to be, to something that is a little bit more of a give and take, it's newsworthy and noteworthy.

BOLDUAN: And, Max, add to that, there's softening language on what should be required before the U.S. will ease sanctions. Mike Pompeo on the "Today" show last week changing the language.

BOOT: That's right, Kate. I think what you are seeing is the goal posts are getting moved so much you can't even see them anymore. They're not even on the field. Remember, prior to the Singapore summit last June, the administration said they were going to demand complete, verifiable, irreversible de-nuclearization of North Korea.


BOOT: Nobody even talks about that anymore if you listen to what President Trump yesterday. He said he would be happy if North Korea does not test their nuclear weapons or missiles. BOLDUAN: Right.

BOOT: They were not testing them prior to the Singapore summit. So that sets expectations very low. I think there's the possibility that you might have showy gesture from North Korea, such as offering to destroy part of the nuclear facility, to somehow put meat on the bones of denuclearization. Just because they promise that doesn't mean they will deliver. They have made many promises in the past and have not carried them out. In turn, I think there's a real chance President Trump will make further concessions, such as a peace declaration, relaxing sanctions, and conceivably pulling U.S. troops out of South Korea. I think a lot of people in the administration are worried about what happens when President Trump and Kim wind up one-on-one in a room together. What is Trump going to do? Very unpredictable.

BOLDUAN: We have gotten to a place where they are talking. That was already a first hurdle a lot of people were not ready for. Talking is one thing. Where the end goal is and where the goal post is now for each meeting is so blurry, it is so hard to follow, even for experts like you, and especially for laymen like me and us. I am very interested to see how this is all --


BOOT: The only thing I can guarantee you, Kate, is whatever happens Trump will claim this is the greatest deal ever. It's a huge summit, there's no more threat. He will tout it to the skies. If you look at the fine print, I think most experts are skeptical that North Korea will do anything to substantially denuclearize. And certainly the U.S. Intelligence Community has said they are not going to denuclearize.

BOLDUAN: Let's see the meeting and what is said afterwards and then let's check it.


BOLDUAN: Great to see you.


BOOT: Hope for the best but fear the worst.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Max.

BOOT: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Dana, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: I appreciate it.

Coming up, the special counsel slammed former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, saying he brazenly broke the law. Now Manafort has until today to respond. So what will his response be? Plus, after years of allegations, singer, R. Kelly, pleads not guilty

on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse against four victims. Could double jeopardy play into this? Why is that being brought up now? We'll have a live report.


[11:18:07] BOLDUAN: It is a big deadline day for President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. His legal team must respond today to the scathing sentencing memo from the special counsel, which called Manafort a bold criminal who, in their words, "repeatedly and brazenly broke the law." It also said this: "Manafort's conduct after he pleaded guilty is pertinent to sentencing. It reflects a hardened adherence," they write, "to committing crimes and lack of remorse."

So, how do you respond to that?

Joining me now is CNN legal analyst, Elie Honig. He's a former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.

Elie, what is your biggest take away from the Manafort sentencing memo that was filed by the special counsel?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Mueller just drops the hammer on Manafort.

BOLDUAN: Really?

HONIG: Oh, my gosh. A lot of times, on sentencing memos, you will see balance. We saw this in the Michael Cohen sentencing memo, the Michael Flynn sentencing memo, saying he gave some cooperation, he at least accepted responsibility. There's none of that in Manafort. It's straight, hit him with the max, Judge, essentially. Manafort is in a really tough spot.

BOLDUAN: How does his legal team respond?

Sympathy. Sympathy. I think that's all you have at this point. You have to argue, he is almost 70 years old. He did bad, no question. He has health issues now apparently. He doesn't deserve necessarily to die in prison. That argument does have resonance sometimes with judges when you have older defendants. The notion of somebody potentially dying in prison is a grave thing. You can get sometimes some resonance. Give him a shot to serve a sentence and still have some life afterwards.

BOLDUAN: Let me switch directions and get your take on Michael Cohen, Trump's long-term attorney testifying this week. What do you want to learn or what do you think they should be asking him?

HONIG: It is going to be fascinating. It's going to be dynamic. I think we will see a little like with the prosecutor/defense lawyer dynamic with a cooperating witness is on the stand at trial.

BOLDUAN: Yes. HONIG: I think the Democrats will be focusing on the crimes he committed and who else he committed them with. So the first place I would go if I was on that panel is look at the campaign finance crimes, the hush money payments, who else was involved in that. Cohen said in his guilty plea he did that for and at the direction of the president. There were people inside the Trump Organization, according to Cohen's plea documents, who were involved in that, Executive One and Executive Two of the Trump Org. I'd ask him who is Executive One, who is Executive Two, the people that cut that check?

[11:20:28] BOLDUAN: We often say lawmakers are not the best interviewers when it comes to -- down the path you are looking for. Do you think this is a forum where he will reveal new information? I tend to think no.

HONIG: I think there will be new information because it is such an uncontrolled forum. They can ask him questions like that. Who else was in the room with you? I'll give you another example. Cohen pled guilty to testifying falsely in the Senate about the Moscow Project. In the plea memo, it says Michael Cohen sort of ran the testimony by and coordinated with other people. I would want to know who. Who did you meet with? Who did you run this by? Did you lie on your own or were there other people involved? We should be picking up new details on Wednesday.

BOLDUAN: We will find out together. That's for sure.

HONIG: It's be fun.

BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Elie. Appreciate it.

HONIG: Thanks.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, R. Kelly back in court this morning pleading not guilty to charges of aggravated sexual abuse against four victims. And he could be staying in jail. We're live at the courthouse. That's next.


[11:26:06] BOLDUAN: Moments ago, a lawyer for singer, R. Kelly, entered a plea of not guilty on all counts of sexual abuse filed against the singer. He has been indicted on 10 counts of aggravated sexual abuse against four victims, three of them ,the district attorney says, were under age at the time of the alleged attacks.

Joining me now is CNN national correspondent, Sara Sidner, from Chicago with much more on this.

Sara, what happened in the court?

SIDNER: There were two hearings today. The first one was brief, about 10 seconds, in front of Judge Martin. He basically gave the name of the judge who will be presiding in the cases in the future. Judge Lawrence Flood will be the judge presiding in these cases. We saw R. Kelly in the first case this morning. He was wearing an orange jump suit with a typical jail jump suit. Then he moved to the second court. We saw him come in. His attorney was there. He was flanked by three sheriff's deputies. He was also wearing the orange jail jumpsuit. The judge read out the charges against him. He mentioned the aggravated sexual abuse charges -- there are 10 counts -- and the indictments that involve four women, three of whom were minors at the time, according to the state's attorney.

Mr. Kelly was very quiet. He was very, very quiet. We could only hear him, almost a whisper, when he acknowledged that he had heard what the judge said. Then his attorney, Steve Greenberg, went in front of the judge and pleaded not guilty on all 10 counts. Then the judge went ahead and marked March 22 for the next hearing. So that's where we are.

What we do also know is that R. Kelly has been in jail for the past 48-plus hours because his attorney says he cannot afford the $100,000 in bail, that he would have to pay 10 percent of the million-dollar bond that the judge ordered on Saturday. What they are doing is trying to rustle up the money. For now, R. Kelly is back in custody.

BOLDUAN: Sara, thank you so much for the update. Appreciate it.

Joining me now to discuss this, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson. He's back here with me.

Joey, he wasn't able to post bail, as Sara points out. If he doesn't come up with it, does that mean he just stays in jail until trial, which could be when?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It could be whenever the trial is, which could be some months down the line. I would suspect that at some point, if it is not from his own holdings, I know there are reports of child support, reports about a whole array of things, money management, et cetera. I suspect, whether he has friends of something else, that he will come up with it and be in a position to fight it from the outside. But that's a part of our system. Bail is to ensure you return to court. The judge felt it appropriate to set $250,000 as to each particular victim. Some were arguing whether he would be let out at all, being remanded and not having the option of bail. The fact that he has option of bail, Kate, is a good thing. Whether he comes up with it now is going to be up to him and his associates.

BOLDUAN: There's a long road ahead on how this is going to go.


BOLDUAN: There will be another hearing, as Sara says, next month. His attorney is making the case already that one of the alleged victims now is one of the alleged victims from his earlier trial where he had been acquitted. He was indicted in 2002. Trial was in 2008.

JACKSON: That's right.

BOLDUAN: He says that means double jeopardy, so that victim shouldn't be involved in this case at all. Do you have enough information to decide if that's right? JACKSON: Put it this way, Kate, no one, I think, has all the

information. As the matter goes forward, there's discovery that changes hands, meaning the prosecutor has documents and facts and figures and audios and videos or anything else they have, police statements, that his attorneys will get and evaluate. But on the evidence as it stands now, there are concerns about the double- jeopardy argument. The first trial you alluded to, 2002 arrest, trial 2008, related to the issue of possession of child pornography. That is separate and distinguishable from the current offenses he is charged with, which is the actual sexual assault aspect of it.

[11:30:07] BOLDUAN: Right.

JACKSON: So remember, what double jeopardy is.