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Trump's Former Fixer Set For Public Hearing; Hours Away From First Trump-Kim Meeting In Vietnam; Second U.S.-North Korea Summit; Cardinal Pell Taken into Custody Ahead of Sentencing; Pakistan Vows Retaliation after Indian Airstrikes; Stranded Train Returns to Seattle. Aired 1-2a ET
Aired February 27, 2019 - 01:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[01:00:00] ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Will Ripley live in Hanoi, Vietnam where U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are preparing for their second meeting, a second round of high-stakes talks just hours from now.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I'm John Vause and we're following what could be a blockbuster day coming up in Washington. Michael Cohen, the man once trusted with Donald Trump's secrets, all those dirty secrets now threatening to spill it all in public. Well, the man who once said he would take a bullet for Donald Trump is said to deliver what could be one of the deepest blows ever not just to his presidency but also his business empire in personal life.
In a few hours, Cohen will be publicly testifying on Capitol Hill. And according to his opening statement obtained by CNN, Cohen will describe Trump as a con man, a racist, a cheat, but possibly the most consequential allegation of all comes from the 2016 election campaign. Cohen says Trump was aware a longtime associate Roger Stone was in direct contact with WikiLeaks ahead of a mass release of stolen e- mails containing damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Cohen was grilled by the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, the same committee he lied to about the Trump Tower Moscow project.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER OF DONALD TRUMP: At this point in time, I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to clear the record and to tell the truth. And I look forward to tomorrow to being able to in my voice to tell the American people my story. And I'm going to let the American people decide exactly who's telling the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Political Analyst Michael Genovese joins us now from Los Angeles. And boy, Michael, what a story that will be. Here's some of those sort of the most damaging part, a little bit more about you know, Roger -- Michael Cohen talking about Roger Stone. So essentially this is the opening statement which CNN has obtained a copy of and it's alleged that during the 2016 election campaign, Cohen witnessed Trump taking a phone call from Roger Stone. This is what he says.
"In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump's office when his secretary now said Roger Stone was on the phone. Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on speakerphone. Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that within a couple of days there would be a massive dump of e-mails that would damage Hillary Clinton's campaign. Mr. Trump responded by saying or stating to the effect of wouldn't that be great."
You know, this is the point here. If this is true, this would be the first time a link has been established between Trump and Russia with Roger Stone and WikiLeaks in between.
MICHAEL GENOVESE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. It's explosive. It would be a bombshell if Mr. Cohen has evidentiary -- evidence that he will supply. Apparently, we hear that he has a check that the President signed that was for hush money. Well, that's what Michael Cohen is going to prison for, a felony that he committed that he admitted to. And he admitted to doing it now with President Trump.
If there's evidence to that, it's explosive. Can the president be indicted, can you put a president on trial during his time, no. Impeachment is the only answer. But we don't want to get too far ahead of the evidence. We've -- you and I've been talking about this for a year and a half now. You don't get too far ahead of the evidence.
But this could really build on what we've already known and set the evidence way ahead of where we are today. This could be one of the most explosive days and one of the most threatening days for Donald Trump of his presidency, all while he's trying to make a deal with the North Koreans.
VAUSE: Which is just the bizarre part from all of this is split screen moment of the presidency. You wonder that documentation, we also -- but Cohen apparently has financial records, has some documentation apparently about Trump's wealth and how you inflate it or you know, decrease it depending on what was needed. He also talked about the Trump Tower project in Moscow. The one which Trump repeatedly said he knew nothing about.
Again, according to that opening statement, he says to be clear, Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Tower negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.
And you know, any one of these allegations by themselves is explosive and damaging and damning. Put them together and it is beyond anything I think this country has ever seen.
[01:05:18] GENOVESE: And this is really the collusion link if it's true, that meeting in Trump Tower where Donald Jr. took a meeting and if there's dirt, he's -- he'd love it. The President, remember, wrote a false narrative about that meeting. Now, was the president knowledgeable about that or was he duped as well. This suggests that the President knew all about it.
There's apparently a point in Michael Cohen's testimony where he says that Donald Jr. went behind the desk, whispered to the president but Cohen could overhear him talking about this. So this would be the link to collusion and this would open a Pandora's Box I think for the Russia deal, not just the deal with the trying to get information and get the WikiLeaks material out but also his business ties with Russia might open the door to that.
VAUSE: The Republican Party seems have an obvious choice here right now. They can take notice of someone who has an intimate knowledge of how Trump does business albeit you know, one with a credibility issue. They can just consider what he knows about you know, these alleged criminal conduct in the White House which is apparently a part of the testimony or they go to war, probably launched a campaign on social media including what you just seen, this clip here, using Cohen's own words with a very snarky message at the end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COHEN: He's going to stay true to who he is. He's going to be an amazing President.
Humble, honest, and genuine.
Mr. Trump's memory is fantastic and I've never come across the situation where Mr. Trump has said something that's actually -- that's not accurate.
All Donald Trump wants to do is make this country great again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: Yes. There it is. Have fun in prison. Great school stuff. We also -- there's a tweet from a Republican congressman in Florida threatening to reveal what he said with details of Cohen cheating on his wife, this whole bunch of other stuff as well. This is scorched earth campaign stuff to destroy Cohen's credibility before he says a word about the president, which seems to demonstrate and say a lot about a level of panic among the Republicans right now.
GENOVESE: And we've been talking for months about when are the Republicans going to wake up to what Donald Trump is. When are they going to say he's not a real Republican? He's not a member --
VAUSE: Not today.
GENOVESE: Well, but right now they're doubling down. And the -- e- mail was just disgraceful with the tweet about your wife's going to find out right you're cheating and have fun in prison, is she going to cheat on you when you're in prison. That shows you how low some people are willing to go. If the Republican Party goes there, they're finished.
So the Republican Party needs to find out where their soul is. Are they going to make a break with Trump or are they going to continue to go down, act like not a political party but act like a cult and follow the Pied Piper down wherever the trail may lead. I think this is moment of great importance for the Republican Party, for the leadership of the party and for the future of that party.
VAUSE: We also heard from the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. She says a statement again attacking Cohen's credibility. Disgraced felon Michael Cohen is going to prison for lying to Congress and making other false statements. Sadly he'll go before Congress this week and we can expect more of the same. It's laughable that anyone would take a convicted liar like Cohen at his word and pathetic to see him given yet another opportunity to spread his lies.
Could it be considered to be even more laughable that the statement is coming from a press secretary for a president who in the 759 days since his inauguration has made what 8,718 false or misleading claims, that's according to the Washington Post?
GENOVESE: Well, Michael Cohen has lied and that's the Republican strongest piece of weaponry to use against him. The problem with that accusation though is that if he lies again and people are going to have him under a microscope because they already know that he's lied, if he lies again he's guilty again of perjury and he extends his jail time. So there's no real benefit for him to continue lying.
There is a benefit from telling the truth. You can revive your reputation a bit. You can protect your family's reputation a bit. But you're never -- he's not going to come out of this clean. He is a liar and he's going to prison.
VAUSE: Very quickly, how important is this demeanor -- his demeanor and how he appears on camera for you know, the millions of people who will be watching?
GENOVESE: Well, I think of John Dean when he testified and I'm all but you're not to remember that first hand, where he was almost in a staccato voice, very, very calm, very measured, just read his statement. That I think, the drama of that allowed people to really listen to the words because he was not shaking or jumpy. He -- and I think Mr. Cohen's going to have to read his statement about a 20-page statement. And I think a lot of it depends on whether he comes off as contrite and trustworthy even though we know he's already been a liar.
[01:10:01] VAUSE: OK, Michael it is an incredible day, an incredible story, and it will be incredible ahead.
VAUSE: Great to have you with us.
GENOVESE: Tomorrow is going to be even better.
VAUSE: Yes. A must-see T.V. And for our viewers out there, you can catch Michael Cohen's public testimony right here on CNN. We'll have special coverage and analysis starting at 10:00 a.m. on the U.S. East Coast. That's at 3:00 p.m. in London and thank you to Michael Genovese for setting up that promo perfectly.
The other major story we are following this hour, the second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, CNN's Will Ripley is standing by live in Hanoi, Vietnam with all the latest. Hey, Will!
RIPLEY: Oh, yes. It's kind of easy to forget with all of that happening in the U.S., John, that oh President Trump --
VAUSE: By the way.
RIPLEY: -- hours from now, basically has to sit down and negotiate the nuclear security of the world. I mean, remember, not too long ago the U.S. and North Korea were getting closer and closer to the brink of a very dangerous conflict involving nuclear weapons.
Now, President Trump has to sit down with Kim Jong-un somehow clear his mind, focused, and convince the North Korean leader to get rid of the nuclear weapons that he has spent much of his time and power of promoting, developing his country has invested considerable resources. But he has to praise North Korea, praise Vietnam and tell North Korea that they could be as financially successful as Vietnam is currently with some seven percent growth last year if only they would consider denuclearizing.
Echoes -- President Trump actually made those comments. He's talked about it. I want you to listen to some more sound that we've got on the ground just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a very big dinner tonight as you know, meetings with the North Korea Chairman Kim. And we both felt very good about having this very important summit in Vietnam because you really are an example as to what can happen with good thinking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIPLEY: President Trump signed a trade agreement with Vietnam and he also spoke with Vietnam's prime minister who gave an exclusive interview to CNN's Ivan Watson. He joins me now live from Hanoi. Ivan, what has been your impression. You've spoken with obviously the prime minister of Vietnam. You've walked around the Vietnamese capital as they prepare for this summit. What are you seeing and what are your impressions?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're just seeing some traffic here of guests who are staying at the Metropole Hotel, that French colonial hotel down the street that are being moved out of the hotel to make way for these two leaders who will be dining there this evening in a matter of hours, one of the security precautions that is being taken ahead of this historic summit.
And that's just one of the examples of how Vietnam is hosting this historic gathering here. And the government is clearly very proud of this. It's playing this up calling this an opportunity for peace and saying that perhaps better than most countries, it knows the benefits of potential peace between two enemies or perhaps former enemies because of course Vietnam fought a bloody horrific war with the U.S. and is now a closed trading partner.
And those with some of the themes that the prime minister mentioned during his exclusive interview with me. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NGUYEN XUAN PHUC, PRIME MINISTER, VIETNAM (through translator): We can say that the U.S. and Vietnam relationship is a role model for comprehensive and collaborative development. From enemies, we have become good friends and partners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: And Will, you know, that is what President Trump is selling as well. He's saying, hey, if you make peace, if you get rid of your nuclear weapons, you can enjoy some of the prosperity and economic growth that Vietnam has enjoyed. So again, here's another look at the security preparations ahead of that expected dinner in a matter of hours between President Trump and Chairman Kim. Will?
RIPLEY: At the iconic Metropole Hotel, Ivan Watson chasing the action for us, thank you. So how is this message going to be received by the North Koreans. There's really no one better to answer that question than Joseph Yun, former Special Representative for North Korea policy both under the Obama and Trump administrations. Now, Senior Adviser for the U.S. Institute of Peace and a CNN Global Affairs Analyst. Ambassador Yun Yun, it's great to be back with you.
JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Great to be here, Will.
RIPLEY: What do you make of this case that the U.S. is expected to make that North Korea can learn a lot from Vietnam's economic model. Will they buy it?
Well, Will, I think while it is a great model, there are key differences you know. Number one is of course South Vietnam does not have a South Vietnam anymore. North Korea, South Korea which is you know, in part -- in terms of population where over twice the size in terms of economy, prosperous, open, democratic. So there is a natural fear by North Koreans of being absorbed by South Korea.
[01:15:03] I would say that the second is you know, unlike South -- unlike Vietnam, North Korea is ruled by one guy, Kim Jong-un. And so, you know, and then before that, it was Kim Jong-il, and then a grandfather. Vietnam is -- you know, it's got prime minister, is got secretary general of the Communist Party, is got, president. It's what I call triumvirate. So, that's the difference. And when you have any opening, you're going to have different power centers. Can Kim Jong-un whose biggest goal is regime survival, survive such power centers? I don't know.
And finally, Will, it's about trust. Does he really believe that Trump can deliver what he has promised in terms of economic opening, and so on? Well, it's going to take a while to build that trust. I mean, you know, we all know that history of enmity between North Korea and United States. So, those are all what makes it different, and that's why North Korea's nuclear weapons is a deterrence.
So, until they are assured that regime survival is going to happen, they're not going to open up very much and that's why we're here. How much economic opening for a new denuclearization? Step-by-step it's going to take a while, Will.
[01:16:29] RIPLEY: But how does a North Korean leader who expects to be in power for the rest of his life deal with a country that changes power every four to eight years? How can he ever have that trust? And therefore, is he ever going to ever seriously consider what the United States wants, which is full denuclearization. Complete irreversible denuclearization.
J. YUN: He is not going to consider that until he can trust. And he build that trust not overnight, not over to summit meetings where they Singapore or Hanoi, but through a political process.
This is why I really do believe if something can come out of the second summit that ensures there is a process, there is a framework that we discussed both denuclearization and peace issues, and leave it to working-level, leave it to experts to make those step by step progress, I would call that a success.
So, framework and a process coming out that ensures these issues are discussed so that we reach a new kind of political relationship. Then, then, I think you can have make progress at the same time on denuclearization.
RIPLEY: We know that the U.S. and North Korea at the working level have been in discussions for weeks now about drafting a potential statement that the two leaders may sign at the end of their talks here in Hanoi. But really, nothing has been agreed upon, yet. It is up to Trump and Kim when they get in the room and they have a 20 minute face-to-face.
Then they have a small dinner tonight. Then, the bigger talks tomorrow. But what happens if President Trump, who's obviously going to be distracted by what's happening with Michael Cohen's testimony? What if he gets into the room and he's in not a great mood and things don't go as well as they have? I mean, what is the danger if he is not fully prepared to focus as undoubtedly, Kim Jong-un and his team will be extraordinarily focused?
J. YUN: Well, I've been out in the region in South Korea, Japan, and now in Hanoi for the last couple of weeks. And the thing that comes across from them is the concern of unpredictability of the president. So that is a genuine concern.
RIPLEY: And we need to also underscore that this is really perhaps a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a sitting U.S. president, North Korean leader meeting for the second time with a relatively good relationship. There is a big chance here to do -- to change the course of history. But there's also a lot of danger that comes with that, Ambassador Yun. Thank you so much for your expertise.
J. YUN: Thank you.
RIPLEY: Good to have you being here.
You're watching CNN. We're live from Hanoi. Much more ahead from the Vietnamese capital this hour. Including a look at President Trump's changing strategy on North Korea. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.
[01:21:47] VAUSE: Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump will all soon meet face to face for only to second time when they begin another round of nuclear negotiation to in Hanoi.
President Trump spent the morning meeting Vietnamese leaders, who is under pressure to produce of (INAUDIBLE) results on North Korean denuclearization after the vague promises of last year's Singapore summit.
Philip Yun is executive director of the nuclear disarmament group Ploughshares Fund. He was an advisor on North Korea to the Clinton administration, and he is with us once again from San Francisco.
So, Philip, from what you know, what do you understand about you all the groundwork leading up to the second summit? Do you see any reason to expect to see a thing, of breakthrough? An agreement which actually moves this process forward in a significant and meaningful way?
PHILIP YUN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PLOUGHSHARES FUND (via Skype): Well, I'm hopeful. I'm cautiously optimistic here. I think that we -- I'm hoping that -- you know, he has -- Donald Trump has to get something very concrete. You know, he -- you talked about Singapore summit was very vague. So, I am hoping that they're going to get some kind of extension on the missile moratorium.
There is some discussion about Yongbyon, which is this massive nuclear weapons facility in North Korea. Willingness to shut that down permanently. I mean, this is all about verification, but that is the guts of the North Korean weapons program. They put that on the table, there's something for us to work with.
And so, I'm thinking that, that might be a possibility if it is. Then, I would say the people say it's probably worthwhile to continue the conversation here and worthwhile pursuit.
VAUSE: Before the Singapore summit, Donald Trump -- he was simply playing his own version of good cop, bad cop. And keep saying views to expect a great things, but -- you know, if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen -- excuse me -- and we'll see. You know, there was always an implied threat of other options.
You know, it's a very different sounding U.S. president in the lead up to this summit compare to a year ago. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAUSE: We're not in a rush. So, Philip, you've been there during these negotiations, and North Korean officials hear that. Is that like all their Christmases -- you know, coming at once except the fact that they celebrated it? But you know what I mean. Yes.
P. YUN Yes, it's -- yes, it's not particularly helpful. I mean, the one thing that I think about Donald Trump is doing is that -- you know, I didn't -- you know, I'm thinking about who wants this deal more? Even what's going on in the United States with Donald Trump, he's got a lot of domestic pressures. He needs a win really badly. And the thing is, Kim Jong-un knows this, and everyone else knows this.
So Donald Trump is trying to push back on that but in certain ways, he's creating the wrong kind of message. And this is a -- this is going to be an issue. I don't think there's any question about it.
The North Koreans are very hard negotiators. They leave nothing on the table. And you know, this is not going to be easy. But it is doable.
VAUSE: Yes. Yes, and they did a lot of carrots and (INAUDIBLE) sticks it seems. The U.S. president has also indicate this would not -- most likely, not be the last meeting with Kim Jong-un. We've also hear at Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, talking about -- you know, the very real possibility of a third summit.
You know, in the year since that first meeting in Singapore and now this one Hanoi, listen to how U.S. demand have softened. Here's the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: When we get complete denuclearization, only then, will there be relief from the sanctions.
The American people should know, we have the toughest economic sanctions that have ever been placed on North Korea. And we won't -- we won't release that pressure until such time as we're confident that we substantially reduced that risk.
(END VIDEO CLIP) [01:25:10] VAUSE: OK. So, in 2018, the U.S. position, rock, solid, concrete sanctions are only be lifted -- you know, once says, you know, complete, verifiable denuclearization to (INAUDIBLE) on situation where -- you know, if this been production in the risk, well, you know, maybe we can look at some of the concessions there.
And this is why the Koreans loved dragging these talks out. Because over time, they get this kind of confessions, and they don't have given up anything for them.
P. YUN: Well, I think what's going on is that reality is meeting up and hitting slop. Reality is hitting up against rhetoric here in a very big way. We knew from the very beginning that denuclearization very quickly was not going to happen, really.
We know that this is going to be a process. But I do think that -- you know, understanding that there has to be something really concrete here, there can be some first steps that move this process forward.
Again, as I said before, this is all hypothesis testing. I'm excited about the summit because we have the opportunity on extended days to talk with Kim Jong-un. All of us have been debating about North Korean intent, and now we have an opportunity to figure out what that is. Not only through words but actual testing through actions.
So, this is what we have got to be very careful how to structure. Donald Trump can't do it. But certainly, the people below him and the expert's construction of this in a way that verifies the attempt.
Very similar to the Iran deal, quite frankly. I mean, it's going to be that complex. You can't expect Donald Trump to be able to that on his own.
VAUSE: He used to say well, genius, self-declared one after all. Just curious though. If there is some sort of declaration to the end of the war as opposed to a fall on peace treaty, ending -- you know, the Korean Civil War. Does that then, give the North Korean some kind of legal basis to argue that those U.S. troops currently stationed on the DMZ should be removed?
P. YUN: Yes, they make trying to do so. But this thing can -- you know, there is -- there's a difference between end of the war, and (INAUDIBLE) gone off the war sort of declaration and a peace regime. Those are two separate things. This is ultimately a legal document that a lot of details related to this.
But if you got some smart lawyers, this can be negotiated and dealt with in a way that really protects -- I think the status of U.S. forces in the region. I mean, ultimately, what we're talking about here is that the United States-South Korea relationship has to be -- has to be maintained and remain very strong.
And so, one of the danger is that Donald Trump, who has mentioned about withdrawal of troops many times does that off-the-cuff. My hope is that people are going to guard against that. That could a really bad thing. But I do think that this end war thing is significant because we're talking about a change of a relationship. And that's what -- you know, again, that's what Kim Jong-un says he wants. So, let's see if, in fact, we give him something like that and he acts accordingly.
Again, this is a testing -- a hypothesis testing proposition here. Let's see what happens.
VAUSE: Yes, what -- this play though is a judgment by what they say and what they do. It's pretty simple stuff. Philip, thank you. We appreciate it.
P. YUN: Thank you.
VAUSE: We will take a short break. Well, and after that, we'll be back in Vietnam live with the very latest on the second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
[01:30:30] JOHN VAUSE, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to our viewers all around the world. Glad you could stay with us. I'm John Vause.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Will Ripley, live in Hanoi, Vietnam.
You are watching CNN's special coverage of the second summit between the U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
President Trump is offering strong praise for Vietnam ahead of his first meeting with Kim Jong-un which is set to happen in the coming hours.
He held talks this morning, local time, with the Vietnamese president and their prime minister. And earlier Trump said that North Korea could enjoy the same economic prosperity if it was willing to give up its nuclear weapons.
Now tomorrow here we see a full day of talks between Mr. Trump and Kim Jong-un. They're under pressure -- pressure to produce results on denuclearization after what many saw as vague promises, lots of symbolism but not much summit -- not much substance after the Singapore summit.
For Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the road to this Vietnam summit began really more than two years ago. And it's been quite a wild ride. There's been threats. There've been promises, secret meetings and also secret letters.
And CNN's Michael Holmes tell us now, the pressure is on to deliver denuclearization.
MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As the U.S. celebrated its Independence Day in July 2017, North Korea conducted its first successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Pyongyang claimed the Hwasong-14 could reach quote, "anywhere in the world".
In August, U.S. President Donald Trump issuing his most stern warning yet to North Korea.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.
HOLMES: In September, North Korea conducted a sixth nuclear test. North Korean television and showing pictures of Kim Jong-un inspecting what it said was a hydrogen bomb ready to sit on top of an ICBM.
The New Year began with Trump ridiculing Kim Jong-un on Twitter. He warned Kim that he also had a nuclear button and that the U.S. button was bigger and more powerful. But just a few days later, the White House issued a statement indicating a willingness to hold talks with North Korea.
In February, North Korea sent 22 athletes to compete in five sports at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. The two Koreas marching together at the opening ceremony.
In March, President Trump accepted that invitation to talks with Kim Jong-un. And in April the U.S. President revealed a secret Easter weekend trip to Pyongyang by the then CIA director Mike Pompeo. Pompeo held talks with Kim Jong-un about North Korea's nuclear program.
Two days later, North Korea announced it had suspended all missile tests and that it was shutting down a nuclear test site.
April ended with a memorable hand shake in the Demilitarized Zone between Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in setting an optimistic tone for future relations on the Peninsula.
May saw the released of three U.S. prisoners by North Korea as the newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a second visit to Pyongyang. President Trump then announcing a summit with Kim Jong-un would take place in Singapore on June 12, announcing it via Twitter.
But things took a wrong turn when U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton mentioned the Libya model as a possible blueprint for North Korean nuclear disarmament.
Despite an eight-year gap between the Libyan nuclear disarmament process and the downfall of the country's former leader, Muammar Ghadafi North Korea didn't seem to appreciate Bolton's comments or Vice President Mike Pence's subsequent explanation.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn't make a deal.
MARTHA MACCALLU, FOX NEWS HOST: Some people saw that as a threat.
PENCE: Well, I think it is more of a fact. HOLMES: A high ranking North Korean official called the comparison between Libya and North Korea "ignorant and stupid" and labeled the U.S. Vice President a political dummy.
U.S. President Donald Trump sent a letter to Kim Jong-un canceling the Singapore summit but leaving the door open for possible future talks.
At the time, CNN's Will Ripley was in North Korea to witness what Pyongyang described as the destruction of its Punggye-ri the nuclear test site. He broke the news of President Trump's announcement to his North Korean handlers.
[01:35:04] RIPLEY: Very tense moments. A state of shock amongst not only the journalists but the North Koreans that the summit that hold North Korea nuclear test site destruction was supposed to lead up to had now been canceled.
HOLMES: In a surprising response, North Korea responded to trump's bombshell move without insult or bluster. In response to the crisis, South Korea's president agreed to a request from North Korean leader that the two meet. Afterwards Moon telling reporters that both sides were committed to moving forward.
And then on June 1st, North Korea's top diplomat and former spy master Kim Yong-Chol visited the White House carrying a letter from Kim Jong- un for President Trump. Afterwards, President Trump announcing the Singapore summit was back on.
TRUMP: You both want to do something. We both are going to do something. And we have developed a very special bond. So people are going to be very impressed. People are going to be very happy.
HOLMES: The agreement signed by the U.S. and North Korea leaders reaffirmed Kim's commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. And in exchange Mr. Trump agreed to provide security guarantees to North Korea.
TRUMP: Mr. Vice President --
HOLMES: Then during his 2019 State of the Union, the U.S. President confirmed details of a second summit that had been teased for weeks.
TRUMP: Much work remains to be done. But my relationship with Kim Jong-un is a good one. Chairman Kim and I will meet again on February 27th and 28th in Vietnam.
HOLMES: Michael Holmes, CNN -- Atlanta.
RIPLEY: That piece, John, just brings back so many memories. I remember being in North Korea at the height of the tension in 2017 when Trump would tweet something inflammatory and you were thinking there was really no way out of this.
And yet, here we are now in Hanoi, potentially a monumental moment but there's a lot at stake and President Trump certainly needs to deliver when he meets with Kim Jong-un in the coming hours.
VAUSE: It does raise the question of, you know, how much that was just Donald Trump being erratic and how much of it was strategy which actually got everything to this point -- Will?
Thank you. And we'll catch up to you next hour.
Donald Trump isn't exactly detail oriented but details and specifics are precisely what's been intended into this second summit with Kim Jong-un. The joint declaration after their first meeting in Singapore was so broad, so vague and so lacking in anything of substance, it was almost meaningless.
(INAUDIBLE) itself, for the most part a little naive on the photo op.
So this meeting in Hanoi could avoid a similar fate. The U.S. President and North Korean dictator will need to go deep into the weeds.
A good place to start would be to simply agree on the definition of denuclearization. But precisely what threat is being negotiated by Donald Trump? The North Korean nuclear threat, which according to U.S. intelligence continues to grow or the assessment he heard from Russia's Vladimir Putin.
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ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER ACTING FBI DIRECTOR: And essentially the President said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States. and he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not.
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VAUSE: CNN national security analyst Samantha Vinograd is with us this hour from New York. She served on the National Security Council during the Obama administration. Apparently her role there was also to prepare the President for just these types of high-level meetings.
So Sam -- good to have you with us.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Good to see you.
VAUSE: You know, last month the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared before the U.S. Senate and issued this warning about the North Koreans.
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DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.
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VAUSE: So the President of the United States doesn't believe that. And he has said as much publicly. How does he negotiate an end to it?
VINOGRAD: Well, what I really want to know is how did the President prepare for his summit in Hanoi if he doesn't actually agree with the baseline assessment from his own intelligence community?
As you mentioned John -- I've been in presidential prep sessions. And the very first thing that you do is identify a baseline assessment of what is going on and what to expect from a foreign leader because that is the secret sauce for devising a strategy and identifying a goal.
The fact that the President does not agree with the U.S. intelligence community assessment really begs the question, what information is he going on when he thinks about what he wants to get out of Hanoi?
If he doesn't have baseline assessment as his intelligence community how is he working with his own team -- and I'm going to leave the Russians out for a moment -- to design an actual goal. Is it denuclearization? Is it a nuclear freeze if Kim is not going to give up his nuclear weapons?
What is it at this point and from there devising a strategy, if instead he's listening to someone like Vladimir Putin who historically tried to downplay the threat because he doesn't want an escalation in tensions.
[01:40:06] The whole strategy is going to be inimical to U.S. national security interests and really based on disingenuous representation of what is happening.
VAUSE: And also we have a situation with -- both these summits. The direction is what -- top down diplomacy?
The U.S. President accepted the invitation to meet with the North Korean leader. And it's being driven by a personal relationship that Trump has with Kim. It is a very special relationship. Look at this.
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TRUMP: I like him, he likes me. And then we fell in love. Ok. No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they're great letters.
We fell in love. But you know what, now they'll make -- they'll say Donald Trump said they fell in love. How horrible -- how horrible is that? So unpresidential.
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VAUSE: Yes. How horrible is that? But seriously, you know, it also means that any meaningful progress here can only be made when these two leaders actually meet face-to-face like in Singapore and soon Hanoi. But what level of risk does that come with given that Trump doesn't read the intelligence assessment and if he did read it he wouldn't believe it? VINOGRAD: Well, only fools fall in love in this because it is no
accident that -- that despots like Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin are saying that they will only negotiate with President Trump. It is so very clearly a tactic to get the President in a situation where he doesn't have experts around him, where he frankly he doesn't know his stuff.
Denuclearization is very complex. That's why we have experts that work on it. But he doesn't know his stuff. He wants to be flattered. He wants to be told that he's making some kind of historic progress.
That is why these leaders are going straight to the source and frankly trying to isolate the President from his team. We've seen Putin do that. And we're seeing Kim Jong-un do that now.
And the fact of the matter is, how is President Trump going to sit in a room across from Kim Jong-un and talk about what denuclearization actually means? He is not arms control expert. There are arms control experts in the U.S. government. There are arms control experts at the U.N. And his own narcissism or his own ignorance of reality is leading him to be manipulated by these leaders and agreeing to meet one-on-one and sidelining the real experts.
VAUSE: Yes. And you know, nuclear negotiations are complex and difficult even for a self-described stable genius like the President. But you know -- which is why we're looking at the entire approach. Lets' put aside, you know, the intelligence assessment and whether he uses them or not.
The whole approach, one of official sort of likened to, you know, starting at the top of Mount Everest and skiing downhill you just never know what's going to happen.
VINOGRAD: If only the stakes weren't nuclear in that metaphor. I mean this is a self-inflicted wound though. It doesn't have to be Mount Everest. I worked under two U.S. presidents. There's a reason why you have a policy process. There's a reason why you have a National Security Council.
It is so that you mitigate as much uncertainty as possibly, work experts that come up with a strategy and just don't really wing it. The President of the United States should not be put in a position -- or put himself in a position where he's going with his gut on an issue as serious as nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, North Korea's human rights abuses.
That's why, again, we have (INAUDIBLE) experts in the U.S. government that could help the President if he actually chose to listen to them.
VAUSE: Sam -- thank you. Good to see you.
VAUSE: Well the highest ranking Catholic official ever convicted of child sexual abuse -- we'll find out next month how long he'll spend in jail? And Cardinal Pell's lawyer may have ensured he gets close to the maximum after a series of truly offensive statements during a sentence hearing.
Live to Melbourne when we come back.
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VAUSE: The most senior Vatican official ever convicted of child sex abuse will be sentenced March 13th in Australia. Cardinal George Pell was taken into custody after his bail request was withdrawn. He earlier attended a pre-sentencing hearing.
The 77-year-old was found guilty of abusing two choir boys in the 1990s and faces up to 50 years in prison.
Live now to Anna Coren in Melbourne. So Anna -- we have this actually horrendous statement that Pell's barrister made during the sentencing hearing trying to defend his client and trying to get him, you know, just lighter sentence.
Here's part of it. He argued that the crimes or the offenses were no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating." Pell's lawyer Robert Richter went on to say, you know, he also tried to suggest that "an incident in which Pell grabbed one of the boys by the genital in an attack that lasted seconds was fleeting and not worthy of a jail sentence. The judge disagreed."
You know, this is abhorrent.
ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely -- John. I think every single person who was standing inside that courtroom, and it was standing room only, were shocked. Couldn't believe that these words were coming out of the mouth of Robert Richter.
This is, you know, the most notorious criminal barrister in this country. He's famous for getting gangsters off murder sentences. And to hear these words come out of his mouth, as you say, he described this charge as a plain vanilla case of sexual penetration of a child.
And the survivors of sexual abuse, their parents were just appalled. They could not believe that this was the legal argument from Pell's barrister. Take a listen to what Chrissie Foster had to say.
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CHRISSIE FOSTER, CHILD ABUSE ACTIVIST: It's insulting because, how can they say that, you know, these are children. They're children, my children were treated to such rape, sexual assault. And to hear people speak like that defending someone who would do something like that, it is outrageous, insulting, and that's -- that's what victims have to put up with.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COREN: Chrissie Foster has had such a difficult life as you would have heard there. Two of her three girls were raped by a priest in the 90s at the primary school that they were attending. She would walk them to school, drop them off the school gate and picked them up. Little did she know that the priest was taking them away and raping them during school hours. One of her daughters has since committed suicide.
So for her to hear those words come out of Robert Richter's mouth, she was truly appalled. But as for George Pell, John, he's spending his first might behind bars. He was taking into custody, driven in a prison van to the remand (p) center that is just a few blocks from where we are standing here at Melbourne County court. And that is where he will say until his sentencing on the 13th of March which is two weeks away.
His lawyers had -- had applied for bail and that was withdrawn throughout the day. They said they're going to wait for sentencing. Now, as far as prosecution goes, they are pushing for the most severe sentence possible.
They say that this was a breach of trust. That Pell was responsible for these boys while they were in his care at the cathedral and his attack was humiliating and degrading.
They also mentioned that Cardinal Pell has no remorse. Cardinal Pell to this day maintains his innocence. Now, the judge he has also said that he's not thinking of the low end of the sentencing -- the four indecent assaults each charged carries a maximum sentence of ten years, the sexual penetration that time alone is a maximum sentence of 15 years.
So he is facing lengthy jail time. There's no doubt about it. However his age, his health and the fact that he's a first time offender will be taken into consideration -- John.
[01:50:06] VAUSE: We're out of time. But I'm just wondering what does it say about Pell that his lawyer would say that sort of stuff in court? Anyway. Anna -- thank you.
Well, there's been a sudden and dramatic escalation in tensions between two nuclear rivals in South Asia. Pakistan is vowing to retaliate with what it calls a surprise after India launched air strikes across the de facto border in Kashmir into Pakistani controlled territory. We have more now from Sam Kiley.
SAM KILEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The aftermath of an air strike against nuclear power Pakistan by its neighbor India also a nuclear power.
India said it had sent jets to bomb terror camps inside Pakistan -- Retaliation for the suicide car bombing which killed 40 paramilitary police almost two weeks ago inside Indian controlled Kashmir, a region also claimed by Pakistan. India blamed the mass killings on a Pakistan-based militant group, saying the air strikes were aimed at preventing more attacks. Pakistan has denied any connection with the convoy attack.
VIJAY GOKHALE, INDIAN FOREIGN SECRETARY: In the face of imminent danger, a preemptive strike became absolutely necessary. In this operation a very large number of Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of Jihadis who were being trained for PDEAn (ph) action, were eliminated.
KILEY: India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir. The areas they rule are separated by a line of control which Indian jets briefly crossed.
Pakistan was scornful of the incursion insisting that an empty hillside had been hit but vowed retaliation.
SHAH MAHMOOD QURESHI, PAKISTAN FOREIGN MINISTER: India has committed uncalled for aggression to which Pakistan shall respond at the time and place of its choosing.
KILEY: This region is seen as a nuclear tinderbox. The latest air strikes provoking an immediate call for restraint, not retaliation.
MAJA KOCIJANCIC, E.U. SPOKESPERSON: What we believe is essential is that all exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation of tensions.
KILEY: In India many are delighted at the latest cycle of violence.
KARMELA BA, HUSBAND KILLED IN KASHMIR SUICIDE BOMB ATTACK: The attack in Pakistan today was revenge for my husband's death in the blast. I'm very happy and proud.
KILEY: But it's the instinct for revenge that leaders on both sides must resist to avoid nuclear conflict and mutually-assured destruction.
Sam Kiley, CNN -- Abu Dhabi.
VAUSE: CNN is offering -- partnering rather with young people around the world for a student led day of action against modern day slavery on March 14th. In advance of My Freedom Day, we spoke with actor Ridgely Grant and asked him what makes you feel free.
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RIDGELY GRANT, ACTOR: Freedom of speech living in England where you can say and do whatever you think without being thrown into jail is something worth more than gold to me.
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VAUSE: So tell the world what makes you feel free. Share your story using #MyFreedomDay.
With that and a short break, more news in just a moment.
VAUSE: Amid all the chaos and uncertainty that is Brexit, the deadline was a constant, unchangeable reality. Come hell or high water, March 29th the U.K. is out of the E.U. until now.
Prime Minister Theresa May is offering lawmakers the options for a delay. So here's how it could play out over the next couple of weeks.
[01:55:01] Mrs. May will first hold a vote on her deal by March 12th. If that passes parliament, Britain, will see (ph) E.U. with her deal in place.
If it doesn't which is the most likely, we'll make it into a vote on whether Britain should leave without a deal by the deadline. If that passes Britain crashes out on the deadline. But if that fails, lawmakers will then vote the next day on delay to Brexit, an option the Prime Minister says she would rather avoid.
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THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Let me be clear, I do not want to see Article 50 extended. Our absolute focus should be on working to get a deal and leaving on the 29th of March. An extension cannot take no deal off the table. The only way to do that is to revoke Article 50 which I shall not do.
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VAUSE: Theresa May also dismissed proposal for a second referendum saying it would take the country right back to square one where they never had to worry about Brexit in the first place. We shouldn't say that.
Kim Jong-un may want to toast to a summit with President Trump but he won't be toasting it with some vodka because Dutch Authorities, well they seized 90,000 bottles of vodka, likely bound for North Korea and that is a breach of international sanctions.
The booze was found on board a Chinese-owned ship. Beijing says it's helping enforce North Korean sanctions. Many analysts, no kidding, are skeptical.
Well, nearly 200 people are feeling a mix of relief and just some frustration as well.
They were stranded on Amtrak trains for 36 hours in the Oregon backwoods. The train was towed back to Seattle where their journey (INAUDIBLE) on Sunday afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Long, relatively uncomfortable. But you know, it was not that bad. People were great. The train crew was amazing. They were so professional and so kind. We really wanted for nothing except for maybe some place comfortable to lie down and a shower.
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VAUSE: And to be off the train which was heading to Los Angeles when heavy snow and fallen trees on the track forced it from moving forward. Amtrak said getting passengers on board the train, locked inside unable to leave. One of the stranded was actually the (INAUDIBLE).
You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John Vause. Please stay with us.
The news continues right after this.
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