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THE SITUATION ROOM
Honoring The Fallen; Interview With Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D- VI); Trump Offers To Work With Pelosi And Democrats; Trump Says He Isn't Looking For Regime Change In Iran; Millions In U.S. Face Flood Warnings And Severe Storms; Trump Echoes North Korean Propaganda. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 27, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Severe weather risk. At least 25 million Americans are in the strike zone for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes today, after storms led to the deaths in Midwest -- in the Midwest U.S. over. Tonight, millions -- 10 millions are facing the prospect of catastrophic flooding. We will tell you where the severe weather is headed.
And honoring the fallen. From the moving ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, to quiet prayers at grave sites across the country, Americans pause to remember and give thanks for friends, relatives and unknown heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And this is THE SITUATION ROOM special report.
President Trump spent his Memorial Day in Japan. But he created a firestorm back here in Washington after he downplayed North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un's recent missile tests. Those tests are a source of alarm in Japan and concern among the president's own national security advisers.
While standing next to Japan's prime minister, Mr. Trump also told reporters he agrees with North Korea's recent insults aimed at his potential 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
Meantime, the president said he's open to working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats only days after calling a news conference specifically the slam the door on that idea.
I will get reaction from House Oversight Committee member Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat from the Virgin Islands. And our correspondents and analysts have full coverage of the day's top stories.
Let's begin with CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown.
For President Trump today, politics certainly did not stop at the water's edge. Isn't that right, Pam?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jim.
President Trump and Prime Minister Abe aimed to demonstrate that they have an unshakeable bond. But that bond had some clear cracks when it came to North Korea, with President Trump breaking from the prime minister as well as his own national security adviser by refusing to criticize North Korea after the recent missile tests.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight, President Trump on foreign soil and on an island when it comes to his unwavering support for North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and that regime's dislike of fellow American and former Vice President Joe Biden.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kim Jong-un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-I.Q. individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that I'm not a fan.
BROWN: All while playing down North Korea's recent missile firings, saying:
TRUMP: Perhaps he wants to get attention, and perhaps not. Who knows? It doesn't matter.
BROWN: That statement putting him at direct odds with his own national security adviser, John Bolton, and his host, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Both say the rockets are a violation of U.N. resolutions.
Trump instead choosing to side with a brutal dictator.
TRUMP: I view it differently. All I know is that there have been no nuclear tests. There have been no ballistic missiles going out. There have been no long-range missiles going out. And I think that, someday, we will have a deal. I'm not in a rush.
BROWN: On this global stage, the president also levying new attacks on Joe Biden over the Iran nuclear deal.
TRUMP: Look at what's been done by our vice president and the president, when I look at the horrible Iran deal that they made.
I can tell you that Joe Biden was a disaster. His administration with President Obama, they were basically a disaster when it came to so many things.
BROWN: And when asked about Japan's offer to be an intermediary with Iran, Trump expressing optimism he can cut a deal.
TRUMP: I know so many people from Iran. These are great people. It has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership. We're not looking for regime change. I just want to make that clear. We're looking for no nuclear weapons.
BROWN: Trump also calling out House Democrats for their oversight subpoenas on his administration, tweeting: "The Dems are getting nothing done in Congress. They only want a do-over on Mueller."
TRUMP: If you look at Comey, if you look at McCabe, if you look at -- probably people -- people higher than that. If you look at...
TRUMP: ... Strzok, if you look at his lover, Lisa Page, his wonderful lover.
BROWN: And he's getting at least one Republican support for his questionable claims of treason regarding how the Russian probe came to be from the former vice president's daughter, Liz Cheney.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (D), WYOMING: We have had people that are at the highest levels of our law enforcement in this nation saying that they were going to stop a duly elected president of the United States. That sounds an awful lot like a coup, and it could well be treason.
BROWN: Trump's visit to Japan was meant to showcase the personal relationship between the two leaders, including a weekend of golf and sumo wrestling. The question now, can they remain standing in the ring together despite these major differences?
BROWN: Now, after the press conference here in Tokyo yesterday, I was able to ask President Trump as he walked by me after the press conference.
And I asked him whether he still had confidence in his national security adviser, John Bolton, after he publicly broke with him there at the podium. And President Trump in response nodded his head and said, "Yes, I do."
Now, in terms of the criticism of Joe Biden that the president echoed in a tweet as well, Biden's camp says that it was erratic and unhinged -- back to you, Jim.
ACOSTA: All right, Pamela Brown, thank you very much.
Not everyone is comfortable with the president taking political potshots at his opponents overseas.
Let's bring in CNN Congressional Correspondent, Phil Mattingly.
The president's attacks on Biden are being criticized by a top Republican. Isn't that right, Phil?
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a member of the Air National Guard, tweeting yesterday, on top of the president's tweet: "It's Memorial Day weekend and you're taking a shot at Biden while praising a dictator. This is just plain wrong."
So kind of aligning with the Biden campaign to some degree there. But it's also, Jim, I think, an interesting window into where Republicans are right now as it pertains to the president's negotiations or lack thereof really with Kim Jong-un and North Korea.
They have felt like they have been out of the loop, according to both House and senators, Republicans, that I have been speaking to, related to where these negotiations are going. I think there's a clear question right now as to what the president's endgame is.
And to be clear, they have given him a lot of space publicly, rhetorically and otherwise, to try and reach some kind of agreement. But given the fact that talks have broken down, and given the fact the president continues to appear to side with Kim Jong-un in order to try and keep some type of deal alive, you're hearing more and more Republicans who are growing impatient, trying to figure out how this all ends, if this all ends and, frankly, when this all ends -- Jim.
ACOSTA: And, Phil, the president's attorneys have reached an agreement with Democrats going after his financial records. This battle has been going on for a long time. What's the latest?
MATTINGLY: Yes, at least for the moment, a brief pause between lawyers for House Democrats and President Trump's personal attorneys.
And this is related to subpoenas related to Citigroup -- sorry -- to Deutsche Bank and another bank, related to the president's personal finances, as well as business entities related to Capital One.
Now, you will remember that a district court judge last week sided with Democrats in their subpoena for these documents, saying that they were within grounds to receive those documents.
But in a filing yesterday in the Southern District of New York, both sides agreed to not require the turnover of those documents as the Trump Organization lawyers appealed, so they will wait for the time being, a brief respite perhaps in the battle, but one that is certain to continue, as the administration and House Democrats continue to battle out on several fronts in the court for those subpoenas and those requested documents.
ACOSTA: And, Phil, the president now says he will work with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after cutting off the possibility last week. Things got awfully feisty between those two. What are Democrats saying about this now?
MATTINGLY: Yes, I think just kind of shrugging and trying to figure out where things stand.
An interesting thing happened last week when the president made that announcement. It took people on Capitol Hill, both Republicans and Democrats, by surprise.
To put it in context, just one day prior, the Republican and Democratic leadership met with top White House aides on a budget. They felt like they'd made progress on that behind the scenes. On prescription drug costs, the speaker's team has had staff level discussions with the White House.
On USMCA, the key trade deal the White House says is their number one legislative priority, they have been negotiating over whether or not Speaker Nancy Pelosi will take that up, put it on the floor and give it an opportunity for passage.
I think there's a recognition here to some degree inside the White House that despite what the president proclaimed, putting a freeze to everything, that's not necessarily reality-based if they want to get something done.
Now, the question is, all of those issues they were in talks with at least on the staff level are complicated. They're going to require the president to come to the table, try and make a deal with Democrats, and still at a pretty early stage. But there's at least some sign that perhaps the president is backing off at least for a couple of hours.
I think caught everybody off guard on Capitol Hill and made people wonder if any legislation of any kind is going to happen over the next couple of months, whether required or just something they want to do at some point. We still have to wait, though, to see if any will actually happen.
ACOSTA: OK, Phil Mattingly, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Joining us now is Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett. She is the Democratic delegate from the Virgin Islands and a member of the House Oversight Committee, where she has a view of a lot of investigations that are going on right now.
Thank you very much, Delegate Plaskett, for joining us.
President Trump, as you saw in that piece of a few moments ago from Pamela Brown, siding with Kim Jong-un in attacking the former Vice President Joe Biden. Your thoughts on that?
REP. STACEY PLASKETT (D), VIRGIN ISLANDS: Well, I understand that there's a campaign going to be coming up, and the president sees former Vice President Biden as an adversary.
But being in a foreign place and having a discussion about senator -- with Vice President Biden at that time was completely inappropriate. That should be something that should be left for the campaign trail.
And to side with a dictator, an individual who you're negotiating with, who negotiations fell apart with, decide with him against a fellow American seems to be untenable.
ACOSTA: And what's your response to President Trump referring to Vice President Biden as a low-I.Q. individual, he put it? Obviously, we don't want to get into the weeds too much on these personal attacks, but, I mean, this is a president on the world stage, taxpayer dollars being used, and he's engaging in some pretty lowbrow political attacks.
PLASKETT: Well, I guess the president believes that it's worked for him in the past, and why not have a go at it again for 2020? We will see what the American people think of that.
I propose that most people are really sick and tired of that. They're much more concerned about finding out what their jobs are going to be, if there's going to be a relief from the tariffs in China. Will the farmers be able to be assisted? What's going to happen with higher education?
Those are the things that most of us that are here in Washington are concerned about and what we have been working on since coming back in January. And it would be our hope that the president would focus on that right now as well, do his job, be president, assist us in getting legislation across the aisle.
ACOSTA: And the president says he's not personally bothered by these recent missile tests by North Korea.
What is the president's motivation here? And do you think he's giving Kim Jong-un a pass here?
PLASKETT: Well, I -- he definitely did by saying that he doesn't know what his motivations are, he doesn't have -- the president doesn't have any problems with it.
This is a violation of sanctions. Whatever Kim Jong-un's are, are -- regardless of what they are, those are meaningless to the tenets of the U.N. sanctions. And so that's what the president should be focusing on.
He could have said, yes, we believe that those are violations, but for the moment, we're going to put those aside while we work forward on these negotiations.
But that wasn't the case.
ACOSTA: And are you getting mixed signals from the White House in terms of what the foreign policy approach is to Iran?
The president contradicted his own national security adviser on North Korea and on Iran, saying he doesn't want regime change. Are you -- are you getting mixed signals from this administration?
PLASKETT: I think what you have seen is, Democrats and Republicans, as you reported just a few moments ago, have given the president quite a bit of latitude in his discussions with Iran. We're concerned about the language that he said. We're concerned about the negotiations that he has with Korea as well.
But we have given him the authority, as president, to engage in those. What we will see in the next couple of weeks is if in fact this back and forth, this seesawing that he does, continues. Then it will be Congress, I believe, the Foreign Affairs Committee and others, who will come in, the Intelligence, and say, wait, we need a clear-cut plan on where you're going with these negotiations.
ACOSTA: And let's turn to your work on the House Oversight Committee.
The president's lawyers have struck this deal with your committee, two other committees to put on hold some of these subpoenas for financial documents as this appeals process takes place. Apparently, we may get some kind of hearing on all this several weeks from now.
Are you worried that this could be dragged out in the courts now and you're not going to get your hands on this information?
ACOSTA: You have been trying to get this for some time now.
PLASKETT: First, I think the president should say thank you to us for agreeing to have a...
ACOSTA: You think he's going to do that?
PLASKETT: Well, we will see. We will see what he tweets about in the next couple of hours.
But we agreed to say that, listen, we won in the lower quote courts. We understand the president and his attorneys want to move for appeals. And so we will wait to see what the court has to say. We, Congress, recognize that there are three branches of government. And we're going to let them work, so that the American -- American people can have confidence that at least one branch is doing its job.
ACOSTA: And how soon do you think you will get access to those documents from Mazars, the president's tax and accounting firm?
PLASKETT: Well, again, that was part of the negotiations.
ACOSTA: You really want to see those documents.
PLASKETT: We do.
There were things that were brought up in several hearings. There are investigations that we're doing that are related to a number of issues, related to his attempted purchase of the Buffalo Bills, related to the Emoluments Clause. Has the president -- is he getting pecuniary benefits from foreign adversaries and foreign countries, which are against the Constitution?
Those are things that oversight -- that is our job, and that's what we're going to be looking at. But I want the American people to know that, at the same time that we're doing those investigations on oversight, we just had a hearing the other day where Chairman Cummings, as well as the ranking member, Jim Jordan, were in agreement about artificial intelligence.
We're having discussions on drug pricing. We're doing other work. We're passing legislation. Our request is that the Senate, the head of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, puts forward the bills that we pass on the House, so that the American people can see that the Democrats are doing their job.
ACOSTA: On impeachment, you said you're against moving forward with impeachment. Would you rather see these proceedings, these almost oversight functions that you have been trying to attempt in the House, move to the courts and have the courts rule on all of these various records that you want to get ahold, the financial records from Mazars, the tax returns and so on?
PLASKETT: I think what we're trying to do is, do our function, and when there is a question of whether we're overreaching or we're outside of the scope of the Constitution, allowing the judiciary branch to do its job and rule on that procedural issue, and then allowing us to move forward.
ACOSTA: And if the courts come back and say, hand over the documents, you're going to insist on that?
PLASKETT: We're going to insist on it.
We're going to enforce the subpoenas and we're going to move forward on the investigation. Let the American people see where the information leads, and let them let us know what they want us to do next.
ACOSTA: OK, Congresswoman, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Thanks for joining us.
And just ahead: President Trump disregards protocol, as he gets political during an overseas news conference and contradicts his hawkish national security adviser about the threats posed by North Korea and Iran.
ACOSTA: During a news conference in Japan, President Trump went out of his way to play nice with Kim Jong-un, agreeing with the dictator's criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden and downplaying concerns over North Korea's latest missile tests.
And let's talk about that with our national security and political experts.
Ryan Lizza, let's play a little bit of what the president had to say at this news conference in the middle of the night here, but in Japan earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: My people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently. I view it as a man, perhaps he wants to get attention, and perhaps not. Who knows? It doesn't matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Ryan Lizza, it sounds as though the president is being his own national security adviser here.
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He is.
Look, he's contradicting a couple of key people right here, right? He's contradicting the Japanese, who believe this is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. He's contradicting Bolton, his actual national security adviser.
Look, I'm of two minds about this. On the one hand, Bolton has a reputation as being someone who, frankly, exaggerates threats, right? So the fact that -- the fact that the president of the United States is not hyping this isn't -- is not necessarily a bad thing.
What's bad is, he's not on the same page as his own government and as our most important allies in the region. But I don't think I -- I don't think I hit Trump on this one for not exaggerating the threat from North Korea. He's obviously extremely inconsistent on this subject.
And part of what he's doing here, I think, is trying to create this fiction that he has somehow solved the North Korean problem, which remember he has previously said. But keeping things in perspective about these launches is not a bad thing.
ACOSTA: And, Samantha Vinograd, President Trump may be playing the dove, is Ryan Lizza is suggesting here, but what about when you're in national security apparatus, and you have the president and the national security adviser really on two different pages here?
How do you deal with that?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, I'm on a totally different page than Ryan Lizza on this one, Jim...
VINOGRAD: ... shockingly, in that this isn't a question of exaggerating or not exaggerating what happened.
A ballistic missile is a ballistic missile. It's not rocket science. And if Kim Jong-un...
LIZZA: Literally is.
(LAUGHTER) VINOGRAD: If Kim Jong-un launched a short-range ballistic missile, that's not an exaggeration. That's a violation of international law.
And in his press conference today, Donald Trump said, well, it doesn't really matter.
I'm old enough to remember when international law really mattered. Donald Trump thinks that ballistic missile tests that Iran conducts are illegal. But when it comes to North Korea, he's willing to brush that under the rug. So it's not an exaggeration for John Bolton and Shinzo Abe to focus on these missiles.
It's a question of upholding national -- international law. And in terms of what the national security team does now, they have to play cleanup again, Jim. They're going to have to spend days trying to call our allies and explain what we thought these tests were, what the president meant. God knows what he really meant.
And they're doing all of that, instead of focusing on the real issue here, which is that Kim Jong-un is launching short-range missiles. The national security strategy under President Trump is to play cleanup for the president, rather than to take a proactive stance on how to keep our country safe.
ACOSTA: And, David Swerdlick, one of the allies that the president's team may have to be calling here in the next couple of days will be Japan, where the president was just visiting.
And Shinzo Abe, who was just bending over backwards to try to woo the president to essentially come to his position on a whole range of issues, including North Korea, and here you have the president diminishing those concerns and sort of picking and choosing which areas to be outraged about.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: Right.
Prime Minister Abe has been doing this sort of waltz with President Trump for a while now, recognizing that he needs the United States as an ally and at the same time having to protect his own interests. For Japan, a ballistic missile test is a much more direct threat because of the proximity to North Korea.
That being said, I think what is maybe more distressing about the president's remarks that you played there, Jim, is that the president wants to frame everything with his personal relationship to Kim Jong- un.
In other words, no, no, I know this guy. Maybe he's doing this to threaten people. Maybe he's not. But we're building this beautiful relationship, not to address this as the United States' interests, the interests of an ally, and then the contradictory interests of North Korea, which is clearly still an adversary, even if there's not that direct threat right at this moment.
(CROSSTALK) ACOSTA: And, Susan Hennessey, your thoughts on the president echoing Kim Jong-un and echoing North Korea, going after Joe Biden as a low- I.Q. individual? Obviously, he's not.
What are your thoughts on that?
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it really hard to be surprised or shocked by anything Trump says these days.
That said, it's still incredibly shocking to hear this, right? This is -- I think that what Kim Jong-un has realized is what many allies and adversaries have realized, that the way to work the president of the United States is to flatter him personally and to assault -- insult his perceived opponents.
And so that's what he's doing here. The reason why Kim Jong-un was insulting Joe Biden was because Biden had called him a tyrant and a dictator. That's objectively true.
And so the president of the United States, who had a choice whether or not you agree with the former vice president on an objectively true statement about a murderous dictator who oversaw the execution of a U.S. citizen less than two years ago, something that Trump has personally talked about, vs. Kim Jong-un calling Joe Biden a low-I.Q. fool, Trump decides to side with the dictator.
And that isn't shocking. The fact that it isn't shocking really does show us how far our political discourse has moved.
It's also really surprising to see the president of the United States acting like this on the world stage. When the president is abroad, when he is engaged in foreign diplomacy, we really expect him to present an especially united front, sort of a demonstration of the resolve of the United States and its allies.
The idea that he's still engaging in sort of petty politics, these little insults related to the campaign, I really think it is -- it's another example of him failing to really rise to the occasion of his office.
LIZZA: Yes. And this one, this is just dangerous.
I mean, it's a great example of, you read that tweet, and you think, oh, that's just Trump business as usual, nothing new. And then you think about what he's actually doing. He is giving a green light for our worst adversaries to meddle in our internal affairs.
SWERDLICK: Go ahead.
LIZZA: And he's learned nothing from the Russia experience. Remember, North Korea is a very hostile actor when it comes to
hacking, right? They were responsible for the Sony hack.
LIZZA: We're on the cusp of another presidential election. And he's basically saying, I'm going to side with you if you go after my political opponents.
Today, it's agreeing with a crazy editorial in the North Korea press. Tomorrow, it could be something much different, much more similar to what the Russians did in 2016.
SWERDLICK: Yes, right. I really think it is about that pettiness.
The president could have found -- I mean, we're a long way away from sort of politics ending at the water's edge.
But there was a way, even if that norm has long ago been broken, for the president to disagree with the Obama administration's policy, or to say he's doing something that the Washington establishment doesn't agree with, whether you take the side of him being right or wrong about that, without going to this insult level and saying, oh, yes, Kim Jong-un insults Joe Biden. I like that, especially when, again, not only, as you pointed out, it's his opponent, but it's also the former vice president of the United States.
ACOSTA: And, Sam Vinograd, it sounds like -- forget about the water's edge. It doesn't stop at the dictator's edge now.
VINOGRAD: Well, that's exactly the point.
I mean, American voters need to take a step back for a second and think about the fact that the president of the United States likes having despots endorse him for 2020. The people that are supporting President Trump abroad so far are Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin.
They prefer him as a candidate because he's been pretty good for them. He's been good for Vladimir Putin. He says that he believes Putin when he says he didn't interfere in the 2016 election. He's been good for Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-un is still making missiles as we speak. Those two despots are endorsing President Trump, and he's OK with it.
Give it time. I think that we might see, I don't know, Erdogan, Duterte and God knows what other dictators pile on to the Trump train, because they know that he's very good for what they're trying to do domestically and around the world.
ACOSTA: All right, just trying to picture all of those names on the same bumper sticker.
ACOSTA: All right, guys, stick around. We have more to talk about on the other side of this break.
Stick with us. We will be right back.
ACOSTA: And this is a SITUATION ROOM Special Report. We're back with our political and national security experts. And I want to turn to what the President was saying over the weekend in Japan, that, okay, now, maybe he can work with the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, after he was saying late last week that was impossible because of these investigations in the House. What is going on here, Ryan?
LIZZA: I mean, if he truly was trying to get leverage over the democrats to get them to back down from some of these investigations by saying, you know, I'm not going to be your partner on any legislation, I don't think that was a very good strategy to begin with. It probably wasn't going to work no matter what.
But this makes it look even more foolish because it barely lasted a few days. And now, he's coming to them saying, okay, we can make it work on this issue but, you know, of course, only the issues he wants to work on, not the ones that they care about.
ACOSTA: And, David Swerdlick, I mean, does this say that Nancy Pelosi won that battle last week?
SWERDLICK: Yes, she won that battle last week. She knows how to push the President's buttons in a way that makes it hard for him to, as he says, counterpunch back. That doesn't mean he hasn't tried, but she clearly got the upper hand in that series of exchanges over the last few days.
I will say that democrats have a decision to make about how hard they are going to play hardball here, right? I mean, in theory, I'm not saying this is going to happen, they could continue to pass C.R.s to keep the government open and probably have to vote to raise the debt limit when that comes up. But refuse to work with the President on trade, refuse to work with the President on the NAFTA part, the USMCA, if they wanted to. The question is, is their caucus going to stick together under Speaker Pelosi to basically say, we're going to wait for the next election and not move any major legislation forward.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: No. Like, of course, Nancy Pelosi was going to win because the President's strategy, if we can even call it a strategy, was absurd.
It was essentially just being petulant, saying, unless you stop doing your job, unless you do what I want and stop investigating with me, I'm not going to work with you, na, na, na, na, na, na. I mean, that really was the extent of sort of how well considered this is.
And so I think what we are seeing now is that didn't work out very well. There was a ton of blowback. And that, really, Pelosi -- this is asymmetric. Pelosi can continue to aggressively engage in oversight from the House and also aggressively attempt to work with him.
And so the President isn't going to be able to present a message to the American people of, well, if both sides refusing to come to the table, refusing to work together, something that has worked in the past, even during the government shutdown, now, it's going to be quite clear that it's the President who was obstructing any kind of bipartisan work and then he's doing it because he is scared of oversight.
ACOSTA: And it also sounds like if the President blows his top, you can wait that out.
But, Sam Vinograd, let me ask you about what the President is saying about Iran over the weekend. I'm sure you saw these comments, where he essentially volunteered the comment that he is not in favor of regime change in Iran and contrast that with just the hawkish statements coming from other parts of his national security team. There is a theme here. What did you think when you heard that from the President?
VINOGRAD: Well, it's not just members of his national security team that he's in contrast with. He's contradicting himself here. He hit a double on this one. He is contradicting John Bolton and Secretary of State Pompeo, and even Secretary Mnuchin at the Treasury Department who have really implemented a very public P.R. campaign to identify members in the Iranian regime that's corrupt and to paint them really as animals domestically in Iran.
And at the same time, President Trump himself has gone after members of the regime. So I don't think anybody believes that he's not interested in regime change. And later in his remarks, Jim, he said, well, all I really want is a nuclear deal with Iran.
The fact of the matter is, we had a nuclear deal with Iran and President Trump broke it because he said it was too narrow and that he wanted to focus on nuclear issues, support for terrorism and other Iranian maligned activity. So everything that he said today is contradictory to what ostensibly U.S. policy is.
And I'm just going to give it another 24 hours before he flips back to insulting the Iranian regime and saying the he needs an all encompassing deal. What we saw in Japan was President Trump adlibing on the podium on Iran, and tomorrow is a whole new day.
ACOSTA: All right. Guys, great comments, all of you. Thanks very much and Happy Memorial Day. We appreciate.
Just ahead, for millions across U.S. this Memorial Day is a fight to cope with flood waters and the threat of more severe storms later as President Trump sides with Kim Jong-un's insults of Joe Biden. North Korea overhauls the look of its propaganda machine.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:40:00]
ACOSTA: Tonight, 10 million Americans are under flood warnings, the result of days of catastrophic storms across the Midwest. At least 25 million others are at risk of severe weather today. CNN's Ed Lavandera is just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ed, what is the situation at this hour there?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the concern here, Jim, is flooding. And this is an amazing scene behind me. We are nearly a mile away from the banks of the Arkansas River. And we came into this neighborhood, this is as far as we can get. We hit the road block here. And it's really the beginning of another week of what has already been a long week of severe weather in the central part of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy cow.
LAVANDERA: Monday afternoon, residents stood and watched near Charles City, Iowa, as they captured cell phone video of a massive tornado churning its way through open farm fields in the northern part of the state. And in Oklahoma, deadly tornadoes are the story.
GOV. KEVIN STITT (R-OK): It's just unbelievable how violent and you just can't imagine anybody being able to survive.
LAVANDERA: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt toured the site where an EF- 3 hit a motel and mobile home park in the town of El Reno, just west of Oklahoma City.
STITT: When you look at it, people that on the top floor of that hotel, it was just kind of wiped out. One had the floor there but a lot of them just kind of were -- just kind of -- it looked like they were blown up.
LAVANDERA: The tornado was on the ground for just four minutes before shredding its way through the buildings and killing two people.
MAYOR MATT WHITE, EL RENO, OKLAHOMA: It's a very trying time for us. Excuse me. And we're going to get through it.
LAVANDERA: But the worst may be yet to come. Now, severe flooding is threatening 10 million Americans in the central states, from West Texas to Illinois. Oklahoma's Governor signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in all counties.
STITT: We're not out of the woods yet. We're still monitoring the inflows coming into the water shed and into the arc, into the Keystone reservoir. So it still could get worse.
LAVANDERA: The Tulsa County Sheriff's Office captured these images showing the extent of the flooding in this West Tulsa neighborhood and the difficulty facing first responders. The Arkansas River here is expected to exceed record flooding levels in the coming days. The threat is forcing the army corps of engineers to accelerate the release of water to take the pressure off its levees.
Sunday's extreme weather comes after a brutal week of violent weather that already brought deadly tornados and flood waters killing at least ten people in the region.
WHITE: These guys have been working their tail off now. I mean, we've gone through situation after situation after situation. And they've gone nonstop. During the flooding, they had over 40-something boat rescues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAVANDERA: And, Jim, we've seen residents in this neighborhood launching flat bottom boats to go check on their homes. Some of the residents we talked to say most of the homes have between two to six foot of water. The flood waters they say they are continuing to rise.
And the concern isn't here in Tulsa, east of here towards Fort Smith, Arkansas. As the Arkansas River winds from Tulsa into Ft. Smith. So, over the next couple of days, that flooding will be a major concern -- Jim.
ACOSTA: All right. I hope everybody stays safe on this Memorial Day.
Ed Lavandera, thank you very much for that.
Just ahead, President Trump echoes Kim Jong-un's insults of Joe Biden just after the North Korea dictator orders up a propaganda makeover.
[18:50:38] ACOSTA: Among our top stories, President Trump telling reporters in Japan he agrees with North Korea's recent insult leveled at leveled at former Vice President Joe Biden. This comes as the North Koreans just overhauled their propaganda efforts.
CNN's Brian Todd has more on that.
Brian, what has changed?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we have recently been seeing sleeker looking newscast on North Korean state TV -- younger anchors, a more western looking production. This is part of Kim Jong- un's propaganda makeover and includes the phasing out of a woman who became something of a TV legend in North Korea.
TODD (voice-over): She is called the Pink Lady, North Korea state television's version of Walter Cronkite. For decades, Ri Chun-hee delivered North Korea's most grand announcements with breathless energy.
Once even donning all black and crying openly as she announced the death of Kim Jong-un's father.
But tonight, it appears that North Korean state television is looking to refresh its image, putting Ri Chun-hee into semiretirement. The Pink Lady's traditional dress and artistic backdrop have been replaced with younger anchors and a sleeker studio look for its propaganda- filled newscast. While it's all still propaganda, it looks decidedly Western, with reporters out into the field covering regular North Korean citizens and fancy graphics, drone footage and even time lapse video.
JEAN LEE, THE WOODROW WILSON CENTER: This is something they want to tell our people, we are modernizing under our young leader, and with his youth comes a whole new level of technology.
TODD: In one instance, they even stage an corruption on set. A presenter walks in and hands the anchor papers with a breaking news update on how a steel factory is doing.
Analysts who study the regime's media and propaganda machine say the change in North Korea's state TV broadcast could be influenced by more content coming in from outside North Korea.
LEE: They do also have the ability to go to the local DVD shop and buy Russian, Romanian, Chinese TV soap operas and movies. And so they are aware of foreign content, and some of that is certainly seeping into how they present their TV.
TODD: Analysts say this is also part of Kim Jong-un's broader makeover, a retooling of North Korea's image from that of a stodgy Cold War era Hermit Kingdom to a portrayal of a modern, vigorous country with young leadership. Part of that effort, analysts say, involves Kim promoting his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, to powerful positions, even putting her front and center at international events such as the Winter Olympic.
Cameras are even allowed to capture Kim at pop concerts with his glamorous wife, Ri Sol-ju, a former orchestra singer.
BALBINA HWANG, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Kim Jong-un is trying to show his audience that he is the younger leader, he's dynamic, that he's actually the younger generation, that he's in touch with pop culture.
TODD: As for those sleeker propaganda casts, experts believe they are part of Kim's plan to keep younger North Koreans in line with the regime.
LEE: He wants to get these kids hooked on drones, on devices, on technology, on cellphones. He dangles them as enticements for what their future may hold, what kind of creature comforts may lie in store for them if they're loyal to the regime.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD: Analysts say there is a danger to this technology and propaganda makeover. That with faster paced newscasts still not airing live but turned around much quicker than they were before and with the technology moving faster than the regime can sometimes keep up with it, there is a risk that Kim and his inner circle could lose control of some of that message -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Fascinating story. Brian Todd, thank you very much.
And there is more news just ahead.
[18:58:56] ACOSTA: Vice President Mike Pence led today's memorial ceremony laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That was just part of today's events honoring fallen service members.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today is the day when all across America we pause to honor and remember those who served our nation but did not come home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Larry was killed on Mother's Day 2005.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was in Afghanistan on Mother Day's, May 8th, 2005. The same time of the day --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got a knock on the door.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nicholas and Larry are here and all of the rows in front of them represent lives that were lost, and this is Memorial Day, so this is where we need to be.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please don't forget the brothers and sisters in arms that serve beside these men and women.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: On this most solemn of U.S. holidays, we join with millions across the country in acknowledging the service and sacrifice made by generations of Americans.
I'm Jim Acosta. Thanks very much for watching. Wolf Blitzer will be back tomorrow.
In the meantime, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.