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Trump: Would Be "Surprised" If Kim Jong-Un Did Anything Unexpected; Trump Repeats False Claim Judge Said No Collusion with Russia; Kellyanne Conway's Husband: U.S. Nearing "Banana Republic" Under Trump; Podcast Bridges Civilian-Military Divide. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired March 8, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:32:44] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: President Trump says he is optimistic about his relationship with North Korean leader, Kim Jong- Un, despite troubling signs from the regime. Satellite images appear to show the country is rebuilding a facility used to test long-range missile engines. The president says it's too early, though, to tell whether North Korea is restarting its missile testing program, but he's optimistic that that is not the case.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a feeling that our relationship with North Korea, Kim Jong-un and myself, Chairman Kim, I think it's a very good one. I think it remains good. I would be surprised in a negative way if he did anything that was not per our understanding, but we'll see what happens.


KEILAR: Former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is here with us now. He's a CNN national security analyst.

When you hear the president saying that, Director, do you have any concerns that he's not being realistic about what's happening?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I think this is, Brianna, more a result of Kim Jong-Un's charm offensive. Kim Jong-Un has achieved a big thing for the North Koreans because now he's seen as a co-equal with President Trump, which is something the North Koreans have long desired. Accordingly, I think, he's going to be very solicitous of President Trump and their personal relationship. But in the meantime, he's also achieving an objective of his, which is he wants to be seen as a legitimate member of the nuclear club. In other words, another nuclear nation in the world. De facto, he already is. So I think it's very unlikely, and we're seeing signs of that, that they're really going to denuclearize, or if they do, it's not because of what Washington demands, it's going to be because of the relationship with the South.

KEILAR: With the South, not with the U.S. So we can see from this image what appears to be the -- sort of the re-upping of long-range missile capabilities. So even as there's this maybe chummy relationship even in the absence of a deal, that is what's going on behind the scenes. The president has been lauding the fact they're not missile launches. But what if there's a test as these capabilities are restored?

[13:35:04] CLAPPER: One thing, what North Koreans have done in the past is try to distinguish between a rocket and missile used for peaceful purposes, a satellite as opposed to an offensive missile. Now, the technology, obviously, engine technology is the same. So the North Koreans could say that we're doing another -- a peaceful missile launch, and he could even go so far as to pre-alert everybody to include the United States that they're going to launch such a missile if that's their objective but still gain the insight from -- which can be used for, obviously, intercontinental ballistic missiles. I think, from Kim Jong-Un's standpoint, he's pursuing a new strategy.

KEILAR: What's the president's move if that does happen, even if it's under this idea of, oh, it's a peaceful missile launch. What should the president --


CLAPPER: I don't know what we can do about it. Protest and express our concerns, but in the meantime, North Korea is marching along.

KEILAR: So President Trump turning now to some comments he made about Russia and there not being collusion. He's seizing on something that a judge actually did not say. He's misrepresenting what the judge in Paul Manafort's sentencing, which is just under four years, what he said. The judge made point of saying this case is not about collusion -- it's about tax fraud, right? But Trump said, falsely, and he sort of seemed to say this is something he can wear as a feather in his cap, that the judge said there was collusion with Russia. The judge did not say that.

What's the problem with the president representing comments like this?

CLAPPER: Well, they can put out the new phone book in Washington, D.C., and the president will seize on it and say, see, no collusion, because the phone book said nothing about collusion. It's not surprising. It's very consistent. He's going to seize on anything, whether it's relevant or not, to say there's no collusion.

KEILAR: What's the effect of it, do you think?

CLAPPER: To me, it's just being consistent. With every opportunity he gets to say, whether it's relevant or applicable or not, he'll say there's no Russian collusion, even though that's not -- that's not what the judge was addressing.

KEILAR: Repeating it over and over, do you think it sticks? Do you think it convinces people?

CLAPPER: I think it does. I think repeating a lot of things has had impact. The incessant attacks, for example, on the FBI, which is terrible, but I think it's had some effect. Witness the drop-off and applications to be special agents, which is unprecedented in modern times. So, yes, these repetitions are an effective way to educate.

KEILAR: The drop-off of applications to be special agent. That's really interesting.


KEILAR: This week, Axios looked at the Trump-Russia scandal and they said that -- and this was based on talking to a historian. They said this was the biggest political scandal in American history. And talking to historians, one thing that was highlighted was a foreign power being a central player in this scandal is something that, in many of their estimations, makes it worse than Watergate. Do you agree with that?

CLAPPER: I have for some time felt that way. I'm old enough to have lived through Watergate as an adult. And the involvement of a foreign nation, notably, our arch-adversary, Russia, in affecting the outcome of a political process is unprecedented in this country, and I think certainly the Axios -- has to rank right up there with the highest candidates from the biggest scandal ever.

KEILAR: Thank you so much, Director. Really appreciate you being on set with us, as always.

CLAPPER: Thanks, Brianna. Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, with us.

[13:39:04] Coming up, he's one half of a Washington power couple with very different views. Today, Kellyanne Conway's husband, George Conway, is warning Trump's actions may lead to a banana republic.


KEILAR: Compared to previous months, the job creation in February just about ground to a halt. The economy added only 20,000 new jobs last month, and that's the lowest monthly number since September of 202017. Unemployment did fall to 3.8 percent. And you can see the effect on the Dow. They're down more than 100 points right now, almost 150. But while the low jobs number is seen as a surprise, it could actually be a positive. It may suggest the economy is simply running out of available workers. And also employers could be switching part-time workers to work full-time.

The Conways, they're one of the most diverse power couples in Washington. Kellyanne is a Republican counselor to the president, but her husband, George, is just the opposite. He's a fierce critic of Mr. Trump and he is not afraid to share his views. Today was no exception.

CNN's Laura Jarrett is joining us now.

Tell us what George Conway said.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Brianna, George Conway pulling no punches again in Washington on the rule of law, a concept which he says shouldn't be controversial, we should be able to take it for granted. But President Trump puts that in jeopardy.

Take a listen to what he said earlier today.


[13:45:02] GEORGE CONWAY, ATTORNEY & HUSBAND OF KELLYANNE CONWAY: The president suggested that members of his own Justice Department should be locked up for investigating the president. Now, if people were to get indicted or not indicted on the basis of whether the president likes them, we wouldn't have a republic. We would have a banana republic.


JARRETT: Now, that's just a little sampling of what Conway said today. We know he has been a fierce critic of the president on Twitter. And the president has hit back, calling him Mr. Kellyanne Conway, referring to the fact that Mr. Conway's wife, Kellyanne, works as a senior adviser to the president in this White House. But Conway went on to say that he kind of likes the fact that you can tweet at rich public officials without fear of retribution in the courts. So this war continues between the two of them -- Brianna?

KEILAR: It sure does, Laura Jarrett, and it gets more interesting as the days go by.

Thank you.

Coming up, taking on big tech. Presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren unveiling a new plan to break up companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook. Will it give her an edge in the 2020 race?


[13:50:34] KEILAR: This week, for my column "Home Front," where we bring you stories about members of the military and their families as we try to bridge the divide between civilians in the military, I introduce you to two recent naval academy graduates and their podcast, which is called, "Thank You for Your Service." This features some really candid interviews from some of the most prominent retired U.S. military officials as well as experts, scholars and politicians, including, s you can see right there, retired General Stanley McChrystal, who's in this week's episode.

Right now, we have Thomas Kresnican and Nick Paraiso joining me now. They're behind this podcast. They coming to us from Chicago where they're in a master's program at the University of Chicago before they report respectively to a submarine and a destroyer.

Talking to both of you for this column, it's clear that you're both very careful in this podcast to make clear you are not speaking for the Navy. But you're also about to embark on your military careers and you clearly have concerns that the military is walled off from the rest of society. Thomas, tell me why this is something that has been so concerning to

you that you decided to put a podcast together on it.

THOMAS KRESNICAN, CO-CREATOR, "THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE" PODCAST: Right. We're at a policy school right now. We're at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. And so we view this really as a public policy issue. That's the lens that we're coming at this through. And when there's this divide, as you have written about and as so many other people have written about, between the military and society and when people aren't engaged and invested in what their military is doing, maybe because they don't know anybody in the military or know anything about the military, we view that as a first-order policy problem for the military. Because it means that the military and what it does is not being taken into account when people hold their elected officials accountable.

KEILAR: And one of the points that you guys make in this, and that you give voice to people who have this concern is that when people aren't familiar with the military, and even their elected officials, Nick, are not familiar with the military, there isn't as much oversight of the military. I think some people might be surprised to hear, coming from a military perspective, that you're sort of inviting that challenge in a way. But why do you think that's important?

NICK PARAISO, CO-CREATOR, "THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE" PODCAST: I think it's important because the military is an institution just like Congress or the police are and people are invested and engaged in what those institutions are doing. So if people are engaging with what the courts are doing and what Congress is doing and the police are doing, they should be equally invested in what the military is doing.

KEILAR: Have you guys been surprised at how profile the guests are on your podcast? What does that tell you about the desire to have this conversation?

KRESNICAN: Yes, we have been blown away about that. It tells us that there are lots of people -- you know, we are not experts at this. There are a lot of people that are experts at this that have been studying this and practicing it for decades and all of them know how important of an issue this is. We've been very surprised by the enthusiasm.

PARAISO: I think it speaks volume to the fact of that they really want people to know more about military relations, see how willing they are to do these interviews with us.

KEILAR: Certainly. So you guys promise -- it's called "Thank You for Your Service," and then the subtitle, is "A Hard Look at Civil Military Affairs." And to that point, and this is key this week, as we've heard testimony from Senator Martha McSally, who's talked about being raped while she was in the Air Force. You taped an episode with former Senator Claire McCaskill, and you talk at length with you about sex assault in the military. Why did you feel that it was so important to have this as part of your podcast?

KRESNICAN We talked with Senator McCaskill about her work on the Senate Armed Service Committee regarding sexual assault reform -- reforming the way the sexual assault cases are handled in the military. And we know that there's a lot of interest in that and we are glad that there's a lot of interest in that from the public because it is such an important issue. And the reason we wanted to look at it in our podcast is because a lot of the time the discussions are motivated by how people feel about the topic and we really want the discussion to also be motivated by evidence and rigorous analysis like our school, the University of Chicago, teaches.


[13:55:09] KEILAR: You guys, thank you so much for coming on. Thomas and Nick, we really appreciate you joining us today.

And you can read more about their story and their podcast in my column, "Home Front," which is on And you can send your feedback and story ideas to

Coming up, we have some breaking news. The president accusing his former fixer, Michael Cohen, of lying to Congress, saying that he directly asked for a pardon, but he said no. We'll have more on the potential fallout next.