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Trump Compliments Kim Jong-Un Who Just Made Threat; Joe Biden Leads New Poll Among Iowa Voters; Buttigieg Shows Big Gains Among Iowa Voters in New Poll; Pence Responds to Buttigieg's Criticism of Pence's Stance on Marriage Equality, Homosexuality; NYT: Trump's Sister Retires Judgeship to Avoid Family Fraud Investigation. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 11, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:32:08] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We heard what President Trump said a short time ago about North Korea's Kim Jong-Un. Speaking in the Oval Office, he says they have a good relationship. He also talked about the possibility of another summit.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A third summit could happen. And it's step by step. It's not a fast process. I've never said it would be. It's step by step. I enjoy the summits. I enjoy being with the chairman. I think it's been very productive. And it really is. It's a step by step. It's not going to go fast. I've been telling you that for a long time. If it goes fast, it's not going to be the proper deal.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is a three-way summit with the leaders --


TRUMP: I think that's possible also. That would be largely dependent on Chairman Kim.


KEILAR: The president said he wants to keep sanctions in place but isn't ready to make them stronger.

All of this follows comments by Kim Jong-Un. At a Workers Party meeting, he declared North Korea would deal a, quote, "telling blow" to hostile forces who have thrust sanctions on North Korea. That would, of course, be the United States. He also called on his country to become more self-reliant in the face of those sanctions.

Balbina Hwang is a former senior adviser for the U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

And it seems like this would be a direct slap at the United States in the fact that they failed to make a deal during the Vietnam summit. How do you interpret this idea of a "telling blow to hostile forces?" What -- what is he trying to do here?

DR. BALBINA HWANG, FORMER SENIOR ADVISOR FOR THE U.S. AMBASSADOR TO SOUTH KOREA: Oh, absolutely. Kim Jong-Un was absolutely trying to set the very highest standard for sending a message to the United States that, you know, sanctions need to be lifted because this is -- this was Kim Jong-Un's priority, and this was exactly what he wanted to accomplish when he was going to Vietnam to meet President Trump.

KEILAR: When the president was in the Oval Office, he was saying -- he said a lot of things about North Korea, obviously, that another summit could happen, a two-party summit or a three-party summit with South Korea. He said North Korea has tremendous potential. He said there's a great relationship. He also says he wants to extend, "his warmest wishes to Kim Jong-Un and the people of North Korea." How do you interpret what he was doing?

HWANG: This was Trumpism. I mean, this is sort of, you know, modern art in the abstract, meaning that one could interpret Trump's statements however one wants to. And I think, you know, we'll just have to see what comes out of the meeting with President Moon. I think that President Moon has come on this trip and we'll seen how President Moon handles President Trump. Thus far, President Moon has been one of the world leaders who has actually managed to handle President Trump extremely well. And I think President Moon has actually come on trip not actually to accomplish a deal on the nuclear issue because actually, on this, President Trump has been pretty consistent since the first Singapore summit. He's essentially said that the nuclear deal is going to take a very long time. On that, he's been consistent. What President Moon needs to do actually here is to get a few concessions, not on lifting of sanctions overall, but actually just enough so that South Korea can get some deals with North Korea going.

[13:35:24] KEILAR: Balbina, thank you so much for your perspective. Balbina, we appreciate it so much.

And a brand-new poll out of Iowa showing some big gains for Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

And Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar under fire again, this time for comments she made about 9/11.


[13:40:16] KEILAR: Just in, fresh polling numbers reveals who voters in the key state of Iowa are likely to back to take on President Trump in 2020. And according to Monmouth University, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the crowded pack by double digits at this point.

Patrick Murray is the director of Monmouth University Polling Institute.

And, Patrick, we see who voted, who voters are leaning towards here, but what are the issues that are most important to Iowans.

PATRICK MURRAY, DIRECTOR, MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY POLLING INSTITUTE: I think that's the key is right now looking at issues because these numbers are really in flux and based a lot on name recognition. But when we look at top issues that Iowa Democrats say is driving their vote, healthcare, clearly the number-one issue, with 51 percent saying that's an issue. But then we look at the environment. So you've got climate change and other environmental concerns together, almost three in 10 voters say this is a top issue, where they are going to look at and evaluate the candidates when they get to know them better. Because right now when we break those issue voters down, there's no candidate out there that has a clear lane with environmental voters. So that's a wide-open issue where there's a candidate who can come in and probably stake a claim on that and really get some support behind them.

KEILAR: Tell us about this one candidate who stood out in this polling, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Why is he standing out?

MURRAY: He's standing out because of his incredible high favorability ratings among voters who know him. So he's getting 9 percent in the poll. And 9 percent, 3 percent, 4 percent doesn't matter that much in the poll. It's the fact that he has an overwhelmingly favorable opinion. Very few Democratic voters in Iowa have an unfavorable opinion of him. And half of Iowa Democratic caucus-goers don't know him yet. If he can continue that going, that pace going, he can become one of the front-runners, clearly, if the voters like him.

The only thing I would say as a caveat to that, what we're seeing the folks who like him right now, clearly leaning towards a very liberal end of the party. And it's the moderates who have yet to tune in. And when those moderates start tuning in -- right now they are favoring Joe Biden. But if they are looking for a different candidate, there are other candidates who have similar numbers like Pete Buttigieg who could go the other direction. For example, Amy Klobuchar, who is polling at 4 percent in the horse race but has high ratings among hard-core Democratic partisans who have been around the party a long time in Iowa, the kind of voter who may have backed Hillary Clinton four years ago. So there are other voters in here and the polls suggest there's still a wide room for anybody to break out of this pack.

KEILAR: There's time yet.


KEILAR: Patrick Murray, thank you so much.

MURRAY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Let's discuss Buttigieg's momentum some more. Ryan Cillizza (sic) is a CNN political analyst, and A.B. Stoddard is the associate editor and columnist for "Real Clear Politics."

You know I called you Ryan Cillizza.


(LAUGHTER) KEILAR: No offense to either of you.

OK, how promising are these numbers at this stage for Mayor Pete? Should his rivals be concerned or is this just people like him because he's introducing himself?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITIAL ANALYST: I think at this early, early polls, if you are -- I look, first, at these early, early polls, if you're a really famous candidate, like Biden and Sanders, where every Democrat knows who you are, then these numbers are a little disappointing, I think. If you're as well-known as the former vice president and as well-known as Bernie Sanders, you want to be dominating the race the way previous, you know, front-runners dominated, whether it was Hillary Clinton or Al Gore, and they are not. That's the first thing I take away from this. It's a much more open race, very fluid. And if you're not well known at all, who is popping, who is actually getting into that top tier? So we've seen a little bit of a pop for Kamala Harris in some of the previous polls because she had a really strong start. And now we're seeing a bit of a pop for Pete Buttigieg. And that's partly based on because we're talking about him a lot. He's getting a lot of coverage. But I think he's broken through the din of this -- of this campaign and it's starting to show up in the data.

KEILAR: He's taking aim at Vice President Pence, over the weekend, and his stance on marriage equality and homosexuality. Keeping in mind, of course, these two men had a working relationship. Buttigieg was the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, while Pence was governor of Indiana.

And Pence actually responded to that this morning. Let's take a listen.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had a great working relationship. And he said some things that are critical of my Christian faith and about me personally. He knows better. He knows me.


PENCE: But I get it. You know, it's --


PENCE: -- when you have 19 people running for president on that side.


[13:45:01] KEILAR: Pence characterizing it as an attack on his faith. Buttigieg is characterizing it as Pence's kind of disingenuous when it comes to moral issues being supportive of President Trump. But what do you make of this feud?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR & COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: I think it's very interesting and it's very shrewd of Pete Buttigieg in many ways. Number one, no one has opened a front on Mike Pence yet and this is a real interesting moment because every Democrat in the primacy campaign is either attacking Trump or trying to not talk about President Trump. And then you have, all of a sudden, Mike Pence, who would be the successor to President Trump at some point, having to take on this heat. What Buttigieg is doing is telling Democratic voters, number one, I've been discriminated against as a white man. I have faced it. People believe that I chose to be gay and the evangelicals


STODDARD: But people think you can choose to be gay.


STODDARD: And you can't choose to be gay. My creator made me this way. So he's really taking the conversation to primary voters who think he's another white the man in the race. He's also taking the conversation to the entire electorate saying this is the first openly gay candidacy for president, I know some of you think this is a little bit weird, but let's have a conversation about how I'm a religious man who did not choose this life. And it's actually, whether he did it intentionally or not, it's very smart.

LIZZA: And I think in the debate about religion and politics and gay issues, we are not used to having a gay leader on this issue. We're not used to a gay man or woman who has very strong religious views, considering themselves a devout Christian, getting up and saying Pence or whomever on the right doesn't understand the Bible or doesn't understand Christianity. And here's how my own sexually can fit into a life of faith. We haven't had that much at the international level. I think Pence's response where he said, oh, it was just a personal attack, it's almost like he wasn't prepared or didn't quite understand how to react.

KEILAR: Yes. That's clear that that's the narrative that he's trying to project. Karen Pence was asked about it as well, and she repeated what her husband said, essentially, that this is an attack on their faith.

STODDARD: Listen, there's no question, this is up to interpretation of the scripture. And many, many, many Christians in this country will say I'm not going to be attacked for my belief and my interpretation that marriage is between a man and a woman.


KEILAR: Also if I may --


KEILAR: -- Buttigieg has also attacked Pence not just for his views on homosexuality --

LIZZA: That's right. That's right.

KEILAR: -- but for cheerleading --

LIZZA: A porn-star presidency.

KEILAR: -- a porn-star presidency. So that's -- that's -- I mean, I think that's -- it seems like the scripture may be clear on that one.


KEILAR: Ryan Lizza, A.B. Stoddard, thank you so much.

LIZZA: Thank you.

KEILAR: Really appreciate it.

The president's sister retiring as a federal judge over a family fraud investigation.

And why police say black metal music may have played a role in the arson of three African-American church in Louisiana. What is that about? We'll talk about it.


[13:52:27] KEILAR: President Trump's older sister retiring from her job as a federal judge ending an investigation into alleged tax misconduct by the Trump family. This is according to the "New York Times." The paper says the Judicial Council was looking into whether Maryanne Trump Barry took part in tax fraud schemes along with her siblings. Judge Barry stopped hearing cases and went on inactive status soon after President Trump's inauguration.

And Russ Buettner in an investigative reporter with the "New York Times," who co-wrote the story, along with Suzanne Craig.

Tell us how this scheme worked and also why it just seems to kind of close out or go away with her stepping down.

RUSS BUETTNER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, do you mean how the complaint against her worked and how it was handled by the courts?

KEILAR: Briefly explaining to people, the scheme to people, this idea that what she may have participated in and then what it means that she steps down to avoid some sort of punishment if she's found to have had wrongdoing in this case.

BUETTNER: For several decades, the -- Fred Trump, the patriarch of the Trump family, had a colossal real estate empire. They were concerned, if he died, the entire empire would have to go through the estate tax system and they could lose, at that point in time, up to 55 percent of that. So the family devised several schemes in order to get money to the children, Donald Trump, Maryanne Trump Barry and two other siblings, outside of that process before he passed away. In doing so, they created a shell corporation that served no purpose other than to pad invoices and ship money to them. They grossly undervalued his estate, his buildings, and then took those buildings through a trust, paying a diminuend amount of tax, relatively speaking, on that. During that time, Judge Barry was both a presiding judge overseeing criminal and civil cases and also had sort of almost a board member role in many of the operations and was in a position to influence the things that they -- that they did to get that money out of their father's hands.

KEILAR: And that is pretty stunning. And what happens now with her stepping down? This just goes away?

BUETTNER: It just goes away. It is one of the great privileges of being a judge. If you are put under investigation for almost anything, in some cases it is sexual assault accusations, anything, you could literally file your retirement papers and the Judicial Council no longer has jurisdiction to look into your prior behavior. You collect your pension for the rest of your life, which is the salary at the day you stop being an active judge, and you go off to life after that.

[13:55:14] KEILAR: It is pretty stunning. It's a great report.

Russ Buettner, thank you for being with us to discuss it.

BUETTNER: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: President Trump, quote, "very happy" with the Attorney General Bill Barr's claim that there was spying on the 2016 campaign.