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Merkel: Challenge With Trump is Finding Common Ground; Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) Discusses Rep. Duncan Hunter, Trump Disagreeing with John Bolton on North Korean Rocket Launches, Trump Attacking Biden on Crime Bill; Meghan McCain Responds to Sen. Amy Klobuchar's Criticism of John McCain; 1st Major Opioid Trail Underway in Oklahoma. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired May 28, 2019 - 13:30   ET



[13:31:29] BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Finding common ground -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that's been her challenge when dealing with President Trump. He's the third president during her tenure as German chancellor but, unlike the first two, relations between Merkel and Trump have been tense, at worst, and polite, at best.

She spoke exclusively with our Christiane Amanpour.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: I just wanted to show you this picture because that went viral around the world. I wonder what you can tell me about your personal relationship and your political relationship, because his own White House says he's only strong with the people he considers friends. Do you consider him a friend?

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translation): I think we have close cooperation, which simply results from problems we have had to resolve together. And this picture also shows that we're, indeed, grappling with an issue.

We had contentious debates. But in the end, we also found common ground. It certainly is always a challenge to debate but I happily take on this challenge.

The president has his opinions. I have mine. And very often we also find common ground. If not, we have to keep on talking and negotiating.


KEILAR: Now the next time that President Trump and Merkel will meet face to face is going to be at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, next month.

California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter is facing questions after admitting, while he was a Marine serving in Iraq, he posed with the body of a dead enemy combatant. Hunter made these comments as he was defending this man, Navy SEAL

Edward Gallagher. Gallagher is facing a court-martial trial. He's charged with murdering a teenage Taliban fighter with a hunting knife and posing with the body in a photo. Prosecutors say the teenager was injured and already in custody at the time.

He's also accused of shooting civilians in Iraq and shooting into crowds. And he's reportedly being considered for a pardon by President Trump.

It's important to note that Congressman Hunter is under indictment himself. He's accused of misusing a quarter of a million in campaign funds. Republican leadership removed him from all congressional committees.

Let's talk with Maryland Senator Ben Cardin. He's a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sir, I want to start with this revelation from Duncan Hunter. Has he, by his own admission, committed a crime in your view, a war crime?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): It may well be. The U.S. code -- military code of conduct is pretty clear as to how our soldiers must conduct themselves in war. America's strength are in our values what, we stand for as a nation, and we hold other countries accountable when they violate international standards.

Our soldiers are going to be held to a high standard, and if they violate that standard, then they have to be held accountable.

There should be no reason to pose with a dead combatant. That's just something that glorifies the loss of a life that should not be done.

KEILAR: Hunter, at the time when he said this, was defending Gallagher, who, according to his fellow SEALs, is guilty of various war crimes. The president is considering pardoning Gallagher. What message do you think that would send?

CARDIN: Clearly, the wrong message. I took to the floor of the Senate last week to speak about the news accounts of the president considering these pardons. We have to let the process go forward.

Those that are being held or responsible for conduct, they need have their day in court. The president should not circuit that out by using the pardon.

So I would hope that the party would recognize that the signal it would send not just to soldiers here in America but to the international community that America will not hold countries accountable for violating international standards in war.

[13:35:14] KEILAR: Let's talk about North Korea. While in Japan, the president said he was not personally bothered by the recent North Korean short-range missile tests. Should he be bothered?

CARDIN: Oh, absolutely. Kim Jong-Un is violating his international commitments. He's violating U.N. resolutions. He is still pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

We have tens of thousands of Americans who lost their life defending the Korean peninsula. Their legacy, we want to have a stable Korean peninsula. The president giving Kim Jong-Un credibility when he's done nothing to eliminate the nuclear threat is just wrong.

We want to have negotiations. We want to see negotiations work, diplomacy, but you don't glorify Kim Jong-Un for violating international commitments.

KEILAR: The president ignored the assessment of the situation that was given by his national security adviser, John Bolton, who took a much harder line here.

You are certainly no fan of Bolton. You called him reckless and you said he was an extremist when he picked his national security adviser. So in this situation, what do you think? What do you think of his assessment here?

CARDIN: Well, I can tell you, I think that the -- that the it national security team around the president, the international -- the Intelligence Community all believe that Kim Jong-Un has taken no steps, to date, to eliminate the nuclear threat.

The first thing you do is make a declaration of all your nuclear facilities. Kim Jong-Un has not done that. He's not taken any concrete steps to remove the nuclear weapon capacity of his country.

It's not just our Intelligence Community. You saw that with the host country in Japan when the president was there. Abe said -- disagreed strongly with the president's announcement on Kim Jong-Un and the tests not violating international commitments.

So I think the president just shot from the hip on his comments. I think Mr. Bolton and the national security team strongly understands the danger of Kim Jong-Un's conduct.

KEILAR: I want to ask you about the latest front in the Trump/Biden engagement here. The president has been taking aim at your former Senate colleague, Joe Biden --


KEILAR: -- over helping to write the '94 crime bill. This has also been a vulnerability for him on the left because of what came of the crime bill. You voted for the bill when you were in the House. This is an issue that Biden is going to have to negotiate.

So I'm wondering, for you, someone who has this hindsight on this bill that you voted for, but we've heard from many Democrats and Republicans who feel that there were unintended consequences here, so you have particular insight on it. How should he negotiate that issue when he's trying to explain his record?

CARDIN: Of course, this was 25 years ago. We were able to bring different views together in a major crime bill. The challenge was very close to the election when we finally passed it, but it included many important provisions for its time.

I mean, it was a compromise. There were a lot of good things in the bill. There were things that turned out not to would be the way we wanted to. That's why we've changed the law enforcement. The First Step that passed in this past Congress was a very good beginning to modify some provisions that need to be modified at the national level.

But to go back 25 years ago, we should be doing more of this today. That is, we should be taking up major issues and trying to resolve them and, instead, in the United States Senate, we've hardly had any debates on major issues.

So I think you've got to put this in context and recognized that there was a lot of good in this bill. There are some things that didn't turn out the way we wanted them to, and we're working to change them today.

KEILAR: So when you're talking about the things that didn't turn out how you wanted them to, he's been asked about that, and he said that the bill did not generate mass incarceration.

There are certainly many advocates, many people who have looked at the consequences of the bill, and they say that's not true. That's how he is even recently approaching this.

Is that the way to -- I mean, that does not run exactly with the strategy of explaining oneself voting for this bill that you just laid out.

CARDIN: Well, there's two parts to mass incarceration, one is the laws that we passed, and the second is, how are they implemented. We saw, over the last 25 years, we've had a lot of chief executives that said we want zero tolerance, anyone who violates our law will be held highly accountable. We saw that in Baltimore City and what happened with arrests in Baltimore.

So I -- I think you have to recognize it's not just the laws but how the laws were enforced. And we went through a period of time where zero tolerance was a popular political position for those who enforced our laws.

[13:40:03] We're now changing that for the good. Our incarceration policies were wrong, not just the laws but how they were implemented. So now we're giving clearer direction that we want to end that policy, and I think we've taken steps to do it. I think Joe Biden understands that. He's been part of recognizing that we need to modernize our federal laws.

A lot of this is at the state level, not the federal level. So we have to work with our state partners.

So I have all the confidence that Joe Biden fully understands that. But going back 25 years ago, that was where we were then trying to deal with some national problems, and I think it was a good-faith effort.

KEILAR: Senator Ben Cardin, thank you so much.

CARDIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: The legacy of John McCain is becoming a political football after a Democratic presidential candidate tells a story about the late Senator. How she's responding to criticism from Meghan McCain.

Plus, the private group that raised over $25 billion to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico says it's already started construction. We have details ahead.


[13:45:41] KEILAR: Meghan McCain has had a blunt message for the presidential hopefuls: Don't use my father's legacy. The daughter of the late Senator John McCain was responding to an incident on the campaign trail where candidate, Amy Klobuchar, was relaying an anecdote about the Senator. Klobuchar said that McCain cited the names of dictators during the president's inauguration.

And Meghan McCain tweeted this: "On behalf of the entire McCain family, Amy Klobuchar, please be respectful to all of us and leave my father's legacy and memory out of presidential politics."

CNN editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, is with me now.

What is behind this?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, I mean, I think that what you are seeing -- and Donald Trump did a fair amount of this before John McCain passed away. But certainly since John McCain has pass aid way, there's a fight over everyone trying to claim what John McCain meant.

So Donald Trump -- clearly, in his mind, John McCain is sort of a Republican in name only. He didn't adhere to conservative principles. Every stump speech he gives about how one Senator give us a thumbs down at 2:00 in the morning. Did that when John McCain was sick and now continues to do it after John McCain has passed away.

The Klobuchar stuff is newish in that you now have some Democrats and trying to claim in some ways -- reclaim what McCain meant to politics, what the Republican Party was like before Donald Trump.

And I think that's why you see Meghan McCain step in. There was an erroneous report last month, that Cindy McCain, John McCain's widow, and Meghan McCain were going to endorse Joe Biden. Cindy McCain came out with a tweet that said, this is not true, Joe Biden, he's been great to our family but we're not going to get involved in politics.

So there's a lot of attempt to -- John McCain had a really good brand, political brand. There's a lot of attempt to latch on to that, interestingly enough, among Democrats, not Republicans.

KEILAR: That's right. So when it comes to the president though, how does he benefit from slamming McCain all the time? CILLIZZA: His base likes it. If you watch any speech he gives us,

the 2:00 a.m. thumbs down, that's OK, we'll repeal health care and it will be better. And he gives that line in every campaign speech. The crowd boos or cheers, whatever he wants them to.

And McCain, this is not true, just because of that one vote on the so- called skinny repeal. McCain was not someone who many conservative Republicans liked. He faced primary challenges in the past. Trump has taken that and put it on steroids.

KEILAR: Chris Cillizza, thank you so much as always.

CILLIZZA: Thank you.

KEILAR: As the opioid crisis ravages the country, a court in Oklahoma, a state hit hard by the epidemic, could change how states take on big pharma companies. We'll have details of this historic trial ahead.

Plus, servicemembers wearing Trump-themed patches on their uniforms at the president's Memorial Day address. Is this appropriate? And does this break rules? We'll talk about that.


[13:53:28] KEILAR: The nation's first major opioid trial is underway in Oklahoma. The attorney general in that state is suing Johnson & Johnson alleging the nation's largest drug maker helped create a public health crisis that killed thousands in his state.

And depending on the ruling, this case could set a precedent for how other states will approach their lawsuits.

CNN correspondent, Jean Casarez, at this trial in Norman, Oklahoma.

And tell us what you are learning from the opening statements, Jean?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're still in the middle of opening statements. And the defendants will begin their opening statement in full right after lunch.

But what we've learned so far is that, from the plaintiffs, that Johnson & Johnson knew that opioids were addictive but the way they marketed it here in the state of Oklahoma was that it was a safe and effective medication for every day plain.

They also say that what opioid addiction does, and the crisis they have right here in Oklahoma, it has destroyed families and communities and marriages and it kills, that it has killed children and parents of children. And some of those victims are going to take the stand.

Why did all of this happen? The plaintiffs' attorneys say, it was greed.

I want you to listen to a little bit of the opening statements of the plaintiffs, the state of Oklahoma. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRAD BECKWORTH, PRIVATE ATTORNEY FOR THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA: There's a very simple truth about this. If you over supply, people will die. The reason we have an opioid crisis is that simple.


[13:55:09] CASAREZ: And the defendants, in their brief opening before lunch, said that the reason they marketed that it was safe and effective to begin with, was because the FDA was doing the very same thing at the time.

And, Brianna, we also heard in the plaintiffs' opening that, once Johnson & Johnson got out of the market here in Oklahoma, they began to market Extra Strength Tylenol to the senior citizen community saying this is something that is not addictive.

KEILAR: Jean Casarez, in Norman. Thank you so much for following this for us.

Right now, millions in the U.S. are at risk at deadly tornados and flooding today after more than 500 reports of tornados in the last 30 day alone.

Plus, just in, Joe Biden's campaign is hitting back hard against the president siding with Kim Jong-Un's insults against the former vice president. Stand by.