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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Source: Kim Jong-un's Top Aides "Have Certainly Disappeared"; 2020 Presidential Candidates Flood California This Weekend; Kfile: Trump Warned Of Wolf Packs Of Adolescent Criminals Undercutting Criticism Of Biden's '94 Crime Bill; Radio Host Compares Warren To Rachel Dolezal; Judge Rules For Last Legal Abortion Clinic In Missouri To Stay Open Until Hearing Next Tuesday. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired May 31, 2019 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:34:40] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back.
Dead or alive. A diplomatic source telling CNN it's clear the top North Korean officials involved in the failed February summit with President Trump in Hanoi have disappeared, but it is not yet known whether they were executed or imprisoned by Kim Jong-un as reported in a South Korean newspaper.
As CNN's Michelle Kosinski now reports, one of the North Koreans who has gone missing met with President Trump in D.C. last year.
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveling in Europe today had very little to say on the explosive reporting out of South Korea that five of North Korea's negotiators with the United States have now been executed following the failed Hanoi summit with President Trump back in February.
[16:35:07] MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're going our best to check it out. I don't have anything else to add to that today.
KOSINSKI: According to a newspaper, "Chosun Ilbo", citing an unnamed North Korean source, top diplomat, Kim Hyok-chol the North Korean envoy to U.S. negotiations, was executed in an airfield, along with four other working level diplomats. The newspaper says they were charged with being recruited by American imperialists and betraying the supreme leader.
Pompeo's counterpart, the former spy chief, tough negotiator, Kim Yong-chol, seen here in the Oval Office with President Trump and Kim Hyok-chol last year, was allegedly sent to a labor camp. Even the interpreter, according to this report, has been imprisoned for making a mistake.
CNN has not independently been able to verify this reporting. South Korean reports of North Korean executions have at times been inaccurate. But when rumors started to surface about possible executions earlier this month, Pompeo was asked about it on ABC.
POMPEO: It does appear that the next time we have serious conversations that my counterpart will be someone else.
KOSINSKI: One senior diplomatic source familiar with U.S./North Korea negotiations says the two top officials, at least, have certainly disappeared. But there's not any independent intelligence or information at this point on what exactly has happened to them.
The White House saying only this.
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I am not going to comment on intelligence one way or another. I can tell you, we're monitoring the situation and continuing to stay focused on our ultimate goal, which is denuclearization.
KOSINSKI: But executions are part of Leader Kim Jong-un's style. Human rights advocates have reported witnesses say he's had people killed by flame thrower, wild dogs, and shredded with powerful anti- aircraft guns. The U.S. believes Kim murdered his own uncle and his half brother.
KOSINSKI: One senior diplomatic source tells us that Kim Jong-un did seem to be flustered and furious with his own team after Hanoi fell apart, even though there was no guarantee there was going to be any deal there. Remember, going into this summit, there was not even any agreed upon definition of denuclearization -- Jake.
TAPPER: High stakes.
Michelle Kosinski at the State Department, thanks so much.
More than a dozen 2020 candidates are going west to Senator Kamala Harris' own backyard, but there is one key name missing from the list. Who is it?
Stay with us.
[16:42:06] TAPPER: In our 2020 lead today, the motto for 2020 Democratic candidates this weekend might be West Coast/best coast. Ever since California moved up its primary date, the state holds much more potential influence.
CNN's Kyung Lah now explains it's why 15 potential Democratic candidates are hitting the Golden State hard this weekend.
KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Democrats, go west. The largest group of presidential hopefuls this cycle, 15 of them, descending on California all at once.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It looks like Pasadena is ready for a political revolution.
LAH: Senator Bernie Sanders already in the state rallied in Pasadena. He and the other candidates will be at the California state Democratic convention this weekend. California's move up the primary calendar to Super Tuesday, could give the state new heft in determining the nominee.
Why you hear California Senator Kamala Harris --
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, it's good to be home!
LAH: -- play up the home turf advantage.
Harris rolled out 33 state legislative endorsements, more than half the Democratic assembly caucus. One of them is assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, who helped organize the winning campaigns of Obama and Clinton in the state.
BUFFY WICKS, CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN: It's not just an ATM anymore, you know? It does serve a broader purpose. It is a delegate-rich state that will have a big impact on the outcome of who becomes the nominee.
LAH: But Wicks and the Harris camp say they're not taking home field advantage for granted.
Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Joe Biden have all been campaigning in the state.
But the field's front-runner isn't heading to crowded California this weekend. Biden will be in Ohio instead, staking his own lane.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Now please welcome, Senator Michael Bennet.
LAH: Biden's more pragmatic path is one Michael Bennet aimed to bite into at the CNN town hall, swiping a Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-All plan.
SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D-CO), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Bernie is proposing that if you like your insurance, we're going to take it away from you, from 180 million people who get it from their employer, 80 percent of whom say they like it.
LAH: Now, as these Democrats start to descend on San Francisco, one Democrat already getting her message out. This is a billboard that Elizabeth Warren has put up in San Francisco. And it says: Break up big tech.
A reminder, I'm in San Francisco, a lot of the offices of big tech are just down the street. It also is strategically poised to be right across from the bus terminal that a lot of tech companies used to commute down to Silicon Valley. So, Jake, the convention starts in heft tomorrow.
TAPPER: All right. Kyung Lah in San Francisco, thanks so much.
I want to start with some reporting from CNN's KFILE Team. President Trump has been in recent days quite critical of former Vice President Biden for steering the 1994 crime bill to make it become law. However, in Trump's book from the year 2000, "The America We Deserve," the now president took positions that supported similar measures, tougher sentencing, street policing.
He wrote, quote: A government study of crime in America warns that when the population of adolescent males rises early next century, we're going to have wolf packs roaming the streets and not only downtown if these kids are anything like those who terrorized urban America in recent years or in for a very bad time.
Toluse, let me start with you. I mean, can President Trump really attack Biden on this issue with any credibility?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He's going to try to. I think it's a big part of the President's strategy going into 2020 is to find issues where Democrats have some dissension, where there's some differences between the candidates and really dig in and try to sort of throw bombs from outside the primary and see whether or not he can shake up some of these candidates.
Specifically, Joe Biden has been the one that he's been focusing mostly on. And I think he realized in 2016 he had some success sort of hitting Hillary Clinton from the left on issues like criminal justice, taking her on over the so-called superpredator comment and they're going to try to use that strategy again and try to make sure that any progressives that may be thinking about voting for Joe Biden who see him as the most electable candidate may have second thoughts based on the President's own commentary and also on the President's record.
He's going to be touting his first step back and his proposal for a criminal justice reform and trying to use that to put some distance between specifically progressive voters, African-American voters, and Joe Biden who President Trump and his campaign see as the front-runner right now.
TAPPER: But let me ask you, Robby. Do you think it's about winning votes or do you think it's about suppressing black turnout has happened in 2016.
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You're hitting the nail on the head. He's not trying to win anybody over, he's claiming that. He's claiming that but he's not. Because 2016 is a great example. He would -- he would cast aspersions on Hillary Clinton who by the way never voted for that crime bill. You know, her husband was the president but you know, she never cast a vote for it.
MOOK: But then at the same time at his rallies, he'd say there's crime in the streets, we've got to get control of crime. He made racist comments all the time. This is not a man who wants to win African-American votes. This is --
TAPPER: Hold on. Let him finish.
MOOK: He made racist statements constantly during the campaign. This is not about winning those votes, it's about getting people to stay home and feel disenchanted with the Democrats.
TAPPER: You disagree with that?
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So first of all, I took -- we did -- we did round tables in the city of Philadelphia with African- American community leaders, ministers. We weren't doing that to suppress the vote, we were doing it to hear what they had to say, what folks had to say in the inner cities to get votes not to suppress votes.
Number two, the first step act is a seriously great step lauded by everybody, the far right and the far left. The President took on a lot of water. This president took a lot of water from his base and from others, had to twist arms on Capitol Hill, McConnell and others to pass the first step act.
That's not something you do if you're trying to suppress African- American votes, that's something you do to try to reach out to African-Americans.
TAPPER: I want to -- I want to turn to another candidate, Elizabeth Warren, who stopped by The Breakfast Club and talked to the Charlamagne tha God. Hey had a very long conversation and in it he said a lot of very nice things about her and all the plans she has, proposals. But there was one very buzzy moment that isn't one that I'm sure she liked. Let's run that clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLAMAGNE THA GOD, RADIO HOST: He's kind of like the original Rachel Dolezal a little bit. Rachel Dolezal, a white woman pretending to be black.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): This is what I learned from my family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Just to remind you, if you don't remember, Rachel Dolezal was this woman who I said she identified as black but she was born white. She later called herself transracial. This is an issue that a lot of voters don't seem to really care about according to our reporters and other reporters, but it is one the comes up in the media and obviously by President Trump.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And Republicans have seized on it to use it as a sticking point to criticize Elizabeth Warren and they've had success branding her as that making that one thing about her even though she tried to get ahead of it by releasing that test. But it's something that President himself is used to try -- he picks one thing of each candidate and tries to seize on that. And we've seen it and expect that --
URBAN: She lacks authenticity.
TAPPER: All right, everyone, stick around. We have some news, good news if you're an abortion rights supporter especially in Missouri, but the celebration might not last very long. Stay with us.
[16:50:00] TAPPER: In our "NATIONAL LEAD," a judge in Missouri has ruled to keep the last legal abortion clinic in the state open for now. The license was set to expire today. CNN's Alexandra Field joins me now from St. Louis. And Alexandra, what does this ruling mean for that Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis long term?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really just a temporary victory, Jake. It means they can continue to perform abortions but potentially just for a few more days, at least until the case goes before a judge again next week.
Right now, Planned Parenthood is essentially saying that the state didn't renew their licenses essentially part of a war on abortion. They say the state is basically trying to regulate abortion out of existence and that the licensing process has become politicized.
The state says no, they didn't renew the license for the abortion clinic because of health violations and an ongoing investigation. But the stakes are big here because this is the only abortion clinic in the entire state of Missouri. And this is a state that is now staring down the barrel of being the only state in the country not to provide access to abortion for women for the first time in more than 40 years.
Missouri is one of just six states that has just one abortion clinic. So, Jake, you've got to believe that people in those other five states will be watching closely to see if Missouri loses access to abortion not by changing a law but through regulation.
TAPPER: Although the state did also just sign -- the governor signed a law that would essentially ban almost all abortions. Alexandra Field, thank you so much. Coming up, a member of the House Judiciary Committee weighs in on the breaking news. Stick around.
[16:55:00] TAPPER: Tune to CNN this Sunday morning for "STATE OF THE UNION." My guest includes Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan. We'll talk about the border and the President's new threat of tariffs. We'll talk to House Majority Whip Congressman James Clyburn of South Carolina about impeachment and the Democrat's agenda. And we'll have an exclusive interview with Democratic Presidential
Candidate Congressman Seth Moulton of Massachusetts about his struggles with post-traumatic stress after fighting in Iraq. It's at 9:00 a.m. and noon eastern Sunday morning.
You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter @JAKETAPPER, you can tweet the show @THELEADCNN. We actually read your tweets. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Have a great weekend. I'll see you Sunday morning.