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Trump Leaves North Korean Summit Empty-Handed; Michael Cohen Begins Day 3 of Capitol Hill Testimony; Trump Slams Michael Cohen After His Explosive Testimony; Trump Leaves Hanoi After Meeting with North Korean Leader Jim Jong-un; Fourth Quarter of U.S. Economic Growth Increased By 2.6 Percent. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired February 28, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:20] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow in New York. Of course my friend and colleague Jim Sciutto right there in Hanoi this morning, the site of a surprise collapse of the president's second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. We will dig into that in a moment.
But right now we are just moments away from the third and final day of Michael Cohen's test of endurance on Capitol Hill. President Trump's former lawyer and confidant is appearing behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee fresh off an explosive public sessions yesterday before House Oversight -- Jim.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning. Good to be with you, Poppy, and good to see all of you here from Hanoi. As you might imagine, the president had some thoughts on the Cohen hearing, even half a world away here in Vietnam. But the big story here comes down to two little but important words -- no deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You always have to be prepared to walk. I could have signed an agreement today. And then you people would have said, oh what a terrible deal, what a terrible thing he did. Now you have to be prepared to walk.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: CNN has now learned that the president's aides had warned him in advance the North Koreans were insisting on full sanctions relief and not willing to budge. Still, we are told that he thought he might, face-to-face with Kim, be able to work something out -- Poppy.
HARLOW: That's right. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety. And we couldn't do that. They were willing to de-nuke a large portion of the areas that we wanted but we couldn't give up all of the sanctions for that. So we continue to work and we'll see. But we had to walk away from that particular suggestion. We had to walk away from that. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: This is the key, Poppy. So this is the second time that this president flew to the other side of the world to meet face-to- face with the North Korean leader. And the second time that he left that summit without significant progress on denuclearization.
SCIUTTO: Now it is good that the two sides are talking. We remember where we were more than a year ago with genuine fears of military escalation.
SCIUTTO: That said, it is unclear what the path forward is here because as the president showed there, North Korea sticking to a maximalist position. That is, all sanctions must be lifted. That's a distance that the president was not willing to go. So the question is, what is going to bring North Korea back from that position and what is the U.S. prepared to offer in return?
The president said there is no third summit set. Secretary Mike Pompeo said there are no talks scheduled at a lower, at a working level at least yet. He didn't say they're not -- they're going to stop talking. But he said there are no new talks scheduled.
SCIUTTO: So the real question is, you know, the president imagined that with the force of the personality, with the power of this personal relationship that he's struck with Kim Jong-un, that that would be able to move the dial despite the warnings he got from his senior aides.
SCIUTTO: But it was not able to move the dial for a second time.
HARLOW: And Jim, on that front, I mean, we're learning a lot more this morning about how the president was advised by his key advisers like John Bolton heading into this summit, right? And how that shaped him eventually walking away from the table here. What have you learned?
SCIUTTO: That's right. He was told apparently by his National Security adviser John Bolton, but also the special representative from North Korea, Stephen Biegun, that in the days leading up to these talks that North Korea was not budging on these issues, particularly on sanctions. And that he was warned not to give in too much to them. Right? They were conscious of that.
The president felt that he might be able to push North Korea, get Kim to move more than North Korean negotiators had prior to the summit.
HARLOW: Right. SCIUTTO: And the president was disappointed that Kim was not willing
to do that in those face-to-face meetings. So the president then made the decision to, as he said, walk away. He called it a friendly walk away in this press conference earlier this morning.
SCIUTTO: Poppy, here.
SCIUTTO: But it was a walkaway.
SCIUTTO: And that's significant. Now I should say -- and credit where credit is due because leading up to this, you and I spoke about this repeatedly, there was concern even from inside his own administration that he might give up too much. But the president holding the line here.
HARLOW: No, that's exactly right. That's exactly right, Jim.
Look, also really significant and something I think we both don't want to get lost in this conversation of the headlines out of Hanoi is the fact that yet again, Jim, the president took the word, the denial of an autocratic leader at face value.
[09:05:09] HARLOW: About the death and the condition of Otto Warmbier, the American citizen detained in North Korea, who came back under the Trump presidency. Now he is taking Kim Jong-un's word about what he knew about his condition. Shocking.
SCIUTTO: It really was the most breathtaking moment from that press conference. A young American goes to North Korea, is taken hostage by North Korea. And he's sent home brain dead and he dies at home. And the president taking the word of a brutal dictator who repeatedly has killed dissidents at home and abroad, that he didn't know about it. And this fits a pattern.
The president took Putin's word over the intelligence community's on interference in the election. He took Mohamed bin Salman's word, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, over the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that he knew of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And now he is taking Kim Jong-un's word. Listen to how the president said it earlier this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He felt badly about it. I did speak to him. He felt very badly. But he knew the case very well, but he knew it later. And you know, got lot of people. Big country. Lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps you have a lot of people and some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really, really bad things. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why are you --
TRUMP: But he tells me -- he tells me that he didn't know about it. And I will take him at his word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Yes. It was really a Helsinki-like moment, Poppy.
SCIUTTO: Similar to that moment that was heart-stopping moment in Helsinki when he took Putin's word. And here you have him saying again, I take him at his word. A remarkable thing for an American president to say given what we know about the North Korean dictator.
HARLOW: Yes. I wonder what Otto Warmbier's parents are thinking hearing that.
Jim, OK. Stand by because also new this morning, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says no date set for a -- even a potential third summit between the president and Kim Jong-un. He said both sides need to, quote, "take a little time to regroup."
Michelle Kosinski is also with us from Hanoi. And I think that's really telling, Michelle, because it was just -- you know, this past weekend when Pompeo said they were open to a third summit.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Right. I mean, it's not surprising that they need to take a little time considering how frustrating this has to be for this administration at this time to have had this entire thing set up, to have had on the White House's public schedule a signing ceremony for today and then there'll absolutely nothing to sign, nothing to agree on.
So clearly they need to regroup and do this. So we just heard from Secretary of State Pompeo again. He said a few things during the press conference with President Trump. But on his plane now headed to the Philippines he spoke to reporters on the record. He seemed to be in a bad mood. Several times berating the reporters for asking the questions that they did, trying to get more detail.
And what he wants to do is emphasize that there was progress made. But he does not want to give really any detail about that progress. So in the things that the secretary of State just said about what was good coming out of the summit, he's quite cryptic. He says you should not assume that we didn't come to agreement on a whole number of issues. He says, we'll go back and work on these, but we've moved forward and have a shared set of understandings.
And then of course during the press conference he said the progress that they've made over the last two days put us in position to get a really good outcome. What exactly that means and when that good outcome is going to happen, it doesn't seem like they know themselves at this point -- Poppy.
HARLOW: Michelle, thank you very much. Jim.
SCIUTTO: Michelle Kosinski, thanks very much.
I'm joined here now in Hanoi by former Pentagon press secretary, former State Department spokesman and retired rear admiral, John Kirby.
Admiral, great to have you on.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Thanks, Jim.
SCIUTTO: So as we said, credit where credit is due.
SCIUTTO: You know, there was concern that the president might give too much from his own advisers. Held the line. That said, this is the second time a U.S. president has traveled halfway around the world to meet face-to-face and the president had the expectation that that personal relationship and his "Art of the Deal" skills could move the dial.
SCIUTTO: They did not. Is this a failure for this president?
KIRBY: I don't know that I'd chock it up as a failure. But look, I mean, he's dealing with a autocratic tyrant and who doesn't empower anybody below him. So I can understand why the president was willing to sort of re-energize the process which had been moribund after Singapore by coming back out here.
Now I don't believe a third summit with Kim Jong-un really is in order any time soon. I think Pompeo is right, you've got to get the teams back there, you've got to start making some kind of meaningful progress on some sort of a plan to go forward before they have yet another meeting.
[09:10:05] SCIUTTO: And it's notable that not only is a third summit not scheduled at the top level, but Secretary Pompeo said on the plane on the way out here that they have not even scheduled the working level conversation.
SCIUTTO: He said they will have them and they hope to have them but they haven't scheduled them yet.
How do you bridge this distance now? Because with the president's comments there that the North Koreans were demanded a full lifting of the sanctions. That is quite a demand.
SCIUTTO: Offering only to dismantle one of many nuclear facilities. How do you bridge what is the significant gap then between those sides?
KIRBY: It's a huge gap. I mean, and it just shows you how intractable this problem is going to be. So what I think they're probably going to go back to now is whatever progress Pompeo alluded to, start from that perspective and then try to build out a framework for just mid-level talks going forward. And look for low-hanging fruit.
Maybe it is the liaison office. Maybe it is an end of war declaration. Something small that you can start to hang on to and build a little bit of confidence on both sides. Because look, they are so far apart. Now you have to start just chipping away at that trust.
Remember, Jim, this is a country that we've only just recently really started to talk to directly. There is no basis for trust between the North Koreans and the United States. And so they've got to start just finding small ways to build that trust.
SCIUTTO: The Otto Warmbier moment there.
SCIUTTO: This president saying he takes Kim at his word as he has taken Putin at his word, as he has taken crown prince of Saudi Arabia at his word, folks whose word you should not be taking in light of what we know about them and U.S. intelligence community has assessed.
SCIUTTO: How shocking a moment is that for an American president speaking about the death of a young American?
KIRBY: Yes. It kind of took my breath away to listen to that. I mean, I can't but imagine what it must have been like for the -- Mr. Warmbier's parents and their family to hear him say that. It's inexplicable. I don't know why he would just take Kim Jong-un's word.
Look, I mean, it's possible that Kim didn't know at the moment Warmbier was arrested and was put into detention. But clearly when he appeared on TV -- international TV -- when he was charged you've got to assume that Kim Jong-un knew what was going on. And they don't make many decisions in North Korea without Kim Jong-un's awareness and just tacit approval.
So I guess it's a strange credulity and I think it was a real low moment for the press conference today.
SCIUTTO: Yes. Remarkable one.
John Kirby, thanks very much.
KIRBY: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: And Poppy, you know, it was quite a night of news here. And we're going to be dealing with the repercussions of this for some time.
HARLOW: Yes. I have to say, Jim, I was surprised when I woke up this morning and saw all those headlines that this had fallen apart so quickly. And then the press conference, you know, moved up by two hours, et cetera. That was certainly surprising and has really significant consequences.
Thank you. Of course you're going to be with me throughout these two hours. They are live in Hanoi.
Also one day after that explosive public testimony, Michael Cohen is back on the Hill for a third day of questions. He just arrived. There you see him, day three, moments ago.
What are lawmakers hoping to learn today behind closed doors? We'll take you to Capitol Hill.
[09:15:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: Welcome back, just moments from now, Michael Cohen will kick off his third day of testimony on Capitol Hill. This after an explosive nine-hour public hearing on Wednesday.
POPPY HARLOW, CO-HOST, NEWSROOM: In that hearing, Cohen called his former boss now, the president, quote, "a racist, a con man and a cheat." Well, today, what he says will be behind closed doors in private. Our Manu Raju was live on Capitol Hill. I think the big question, Manu, now is A, how will today be different from yesterday other than the fact that we won't see it, and B, where does Congress go from here with Michael Cohen?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I talked to Adam Schiff; the House Intelligence Committee chairman just about that. And he says he wants to drill down much further on a number of the topics that did come up yesterday.
He believes there's much more that they need to ask him, specifically they want to look into whether there was any White House role in editing or the involvement in those false statements that was made to this very committee back in 2017 when Michael Cohen at the time downplayed rather significantly the Trump Organization's pursuit of that Trump Tower Moscow project back in the campaign season of 2016.
Of course, he later pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and suggested that there was a more extensive involvement in yesterday's testimony. He also said that the president was more heavily involved, and he said the White House attorneys had edited -- attorneys to the president had edited those false statements.
Now, this is something that the wider -- attorney Jay Sekulow for the president has denied. But that's something they want to push much further. Schiff also told me, they've been trying to figure out and even were to corroborate some of those claims that Michael Cohen made and expect a lot of questions about what Cohen said yesterday about Roger Stone; that Trump associate telling the president about his outreach to WikiLeaks.
That was something that came up of course, yesterday, but more questions is expected about that today. So we'll see if they learn anything new. But Adam Schiff believes that's going to be a big focus of today's hearing behind closed doors. Jim and Poppy?
HARLOW: All right, Manu, you'll be all over it, thank you very much. Let's bring in CNN legal analyst Anne Milgram and Ross Garber. Good morning to you, guys. And Anne, let me just ask you in terms of, you know, the lack of the use of the word impeachment yesterday by Democrats on the Oversight Committee, it was striking.
And after though, we heard from -- for example, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrat of California saying that when she was asked if the president should be impeached, she said quote, "there is growing evidence that an impeachment proceeding --pleading can be made, but I think that needs to be evaluated."
Did you hear anything from Michael Cohen yesterday that makes you think that impeachment proceedings are now more on the table than they were 36 hours ago?
[09:20:00] ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: So I think what Michael Cohen did was he gave us some additional information that's incredibly relevant to things that we knew and some new information. The one place where I think he gave more testimony yesterday than we've heard before relates to the payments to Stormy Daniels.
You know, the showing of a personal check that was written to him by the president of the United States to cover that up. That's a campaign finance violation, I think we knew it already from the Southern District pleadings, but to actually hear Michael Cohen talk about it and then show that one of the checks that the president had given him to pay him back for that contribution that Cohen had made to Stormy Daniels I think is significant.
But that's still a question of will the house move forward on impeachment for something that happened largely prior to the time that Donald Trump became president. And you know, we can talk about it, but there are some other places where I think Cohen's testimony actually may be more impactful going forward --
HARLOW: Yes --
MILGRAM: Talking about Donald Trump Jr., Roger Stone's conversation, taxes, potentially tax evasion. I mean, those are, I think, the really interesting things that came out yesterday.
SCIUTTO: Yes, well, Ross, to that point, the president claimed in his press conference overnight that Michael Cohen exonerated him on collusion with Russia, not quite clear what he was basing that on. The fact is and I think Anne was referring to this. On the Russia piece of this investigation, Michael Cohen, in fact, said that the president had advance knowledge via Roger Stone of the WikiLeaks releases and that he had advanced notice of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, a heads-up from his son Donald Trump Jr.
Something the president has repeatedly denied. If those two claims are true, that's an "if", if the special counsel has something to corroborate that. How significant in the broader Russia investigation?
ROSS GARBER, WHITE COLLAR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That -- those could be both be very significant. But I think the big issue is that if -- you know, I watched the president's comments, and I almost felt sort of a sigh of relief. I mean, you think about how close Michael Cohen has been to Donald Trump, to his family, to his businesses and for how long.
It almost felt like the president was relieved that it wasn't worse yesterday than it actually was. And in reality, we didn't learn a ton new yesterday. We learned a lot more details and there were a lot more threads about things that we already knew. But in terms of the Russia collusion angle, I think the president actually has a point that Michael Cohen really didn't do much to further that narrative.
HARLOW: Not that narrative, Ross, it's an important point.
HARLOW: However --
GARBER: Yes --
HARLOW: Let's just -- but there is something else. Let's all listen to this exchange, it's between Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi and Michael Cohen yesterday talking about the SDNY. Let's roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D), ILLINOIS: Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven't yet discussed today?
COHEN: Yes, and again, those are part of the investigation that's currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARLOW: Anne, I mean, a lot of the coverage this morning is pointing to that as potentially being the most damning for the president despite the no collusion statement by Michael Cohen. So what else could the SDNY have?
MILGRAM: Yes, I mean, I agree with that. I think probably, the most significant thing Cohen said yesterday is this thing he didn't say where he said, I can't talk about it because there is a pending investigation. And I think it becomes really interesting when we think about the fact that the president is still under investigation for obstruction of justice at the beginning when he fired Jim Comey. It's very interesting what, if anything, Cohen knew at that time, and
any other actions by the president whether it relates to Russia or the other things. Michael Cohen left open -- I mean, he basically said, I know of other crimes, but I can't talk about them because they're being investigated.
That does not mean that the Southern District of New York charges the president or anybody else. But it certainly provides information to us that the investigation in the Southern District is still going strong, and that, there is more potentially to come.
SCIUTTO: Ross, finally, and this is something we heard -- something about before, but Michael Cohen reiterating the conversations about a Trump Tower project in Moscow continued far longer than the president had previously acknowledged well into June, after the president was the Republican nominee.
It was clear he was going to be the Republican nominee. From a legal standpoint, I mean, there are political implications that, but from a legal standpoint, anything wrong with a candidate to the presidency of the United States, continuing discussions with a hostile foreign power about a lucrative business project during the campaign?
GARBER: When you put it like that, it does not sound good. And I think you and Anne actually hit on -- I think the big potential vulnerabilities and issues right now. One is, what was happening with that deal? There are so many questions that we just don't know the answers to.
[09:25:00] And that's an issue that I think we're going to learn more about, that's one. Two though is the Southern District investigation of the president and his businesses. There's -- we just don't know where that's going to go or when. And I'm going to add a third one that I think is really a ticking time bomb.
And that is the obstruction issue. There is a lot that we don't know about, we know that the special counsel has done a lot of investigating, has interviewed a lot of White House staff including the counsel, the White House counsel. That is a potentially explosive area for the president.
SCIUTTO: It's a lot of lines of inquiry, Ross Garber --
GARBER: Sure --
SCIUTTO: And Milgram, thanks very much, we're going to stay on top of it. President Trump flying home from Hanoi empty-handed after his second face-to-face summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was it all worth it? And what's the next move for the Trump administration?
HARLOW: We're also moments away from the opening bell here on Wall Street. It's a really strong fourth quarter numbers in terms of economic growth, 2.6 percent, we're going to watch how the markets respond in just moments.