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INSIDE POLITICS

U.S. May Settle for A Nuclear Freeze, Accepts N.K. As A Nuclear Power; Trump and Kim Jong-un Agree to Restart Nuclear Talks; Critics Hit Trump for Meetings with Kim, Putin, MBS; Harris vs. Biden Dynamic Plays Out Post-Debate; Ivanka Trump's Role Scrutinized at G20. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 1, 2019 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[12:30:00] NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: A possible shift in terms of their approach to North Korea.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially they're saying that thanks to the president's impromptu summit, these talks that were largely stalled have now re-started but of course the question of what those talks are going to look like now in light of this New York Times report is another question. Now the National Security Adviser John Bolton has responded to this story specifically saying he read it out of curiosity and that, quote, neither the National Security Council staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to settle for a nuclear freeze. He says this was a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the president and he says there should be consequences.

But of course, he says the president sounds like he's being boxed in. But it could be John Bolton being boxed out, Nia, because we know that we reported over the weekend he was not at the DMZ for this summit with Kim Jong-un, something that is pretty stunning, given that he is the national security advisor. But an aide said he was on a flight to Mongolia for a pre-scheduled trip when of course the president's trip was something that happened at the last minute.

Now, if this New York Times report is true and if this is what the administration is going to go forward with, something they have not denied I should note, that it is going to be a far cry from what we've heard from the president and even from the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who once set a goal of January 2021 for denuclearization. And now if they're going for this nuclear freeze, it's going to look a lot different than what they've been talking about for the last 20 to 30 months.

HENDERSON: Indeed. I mean, the last 20 to 30 years in terms of U.S. policy towards North Korea. Thanks for that report, Kaitlan.

CNN diplomatic and military analyst retired Rear Admiral John Kirby joins our conversation. And John Kirby, we will get to you in a minute. I first want to go to you because you were there for this historic moment, this real, you know, sort of some people call it just, you know, sort of photo-op diplomacy. What was it like being there for this moment? SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It was in the words of Ivanka Trump, surreal. What was really fascinating to me throughout the day was that he just -- we know the president is a showman, we know he's the reality show president. We know he's a producer and just how much he just kind of built up this moment throughout the day. You know, we -- I wasn't quite sure on Saturday whether this meeting would actually happen. You know, the North Koreans had said there hasn't been an official invitation. But then in his first remarks since Seoul, he said we're in the final stages essentially hinting that this would happen and then obviously announced it at the press conference at the Blue House.

But it's still seeing that moment. You know, seeing the president of the United States walks across this concrete barrier, knowing that you're watching the first sitting U.S. president step onto a North Korean soil, it really is a remarkable moment.

Now what does that get the White House, what does it get Kim Jong-Un? There's a lot of propaganda images being spread across right now in the North Korean media. And the president seems to not have gotten much out of this meeting except restarting the talks that he himself, you know, walked out of in Hanoi in February.

HENDERSON: And Chairman Kim certainly got a lot out of this meeting. For one, just praise from an American president.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my honor. I didn't really expect it. We were in Japan for the G20. We came over and I said, hey, I'm over here. I want to call up Chairman Kim. And we got to meet and stepping across that line was a great honor.

A lot of progress has been made. A lot of friendships have been made. And this has been in particular a great friendship. So I just want to thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Yes, that word honor really sticks out in that sound, Kirby.

RET. RDML JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Yes, I think that's rhetoric I wouldn't have recommended he use with a guy like Kim Jong-un, a brutal dictator who literally, you know, massacres his own people. But look, I mean, it's -- there's propaganda value to this. Kim is going to take advantage of this. It is yet more legitimatization of him and his regime by Donald Trump.

If this does actually mean a restart to the talks because Steve Biegun has been sort of, you know, thrown off rails here lately. That's a good thing. But we're a long way from -- even if the New York Times report is right, from a freeze or any sort of method to denuclearize the peninsula, there's a long way to go and there's big differences between both sides. So -- I mean, I don't have a problem with the meeting, I'm not crazy about the honor rhetoric and photo-op, but I think what now needs to happen is a serious discussion about trying to bridge the gaps between the two of us and move the process legitimately forward in tangible ways.

HENDERSON: Yes. And the Wall Street Journal, a pretty critical assessment of this meeting, and this is what this editorial board had to say. "Mr. Trump is betting, as he always does, that flattery and personal engagement can persuade Mr. Kim to give up his nuclear weapons. Personal diplomacy has its uses, as George H.W. Bush, in particular, showed as president. But Mr. Trump doesn't need to flatter tyrants as if they are great leaders. These hard men will make decisions based on raw national interest, not because they like Mr. Trump."

But this has been his way with many dictators in some ways and autocrats.

[12:35:01] But it's hard to know what the deliverables were at this point in this kind of series of meetings that we've seen.

JULIE PACE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Beyond, as John said, seems to be restarting talks, I don't think there were any deliverables. And Trump is basically -- I mean, this a risky calculation, that's what he's making but as a risky calculation and one of the reasons other U.S. presidents haven't done things like what we saw over the weekend is because there is propaganda value for the North. You know, in North Korea having these images of an American president smiling next to a North Korean leader, there's real value there. And so American presidents have said we're going to hold off on giving them that until we get something tangible, not just talks.

Trump is trying to flip the calculus on this. We don't know yet if it's going to work. But there -- if this kind of thing not in the dramatic fashion that we saw has been discussed in previous administrations and the calculus is always no, they want that too much for us to give them that without getting something real on the nuclear program.

HENDERSON: Go ahead.

KIM: And a really important unanswered question right now is what exactly happened inside that bilateral meeting with Kim and Trump. Because all weekend the president had said we'll just meet for two minutes, it'll be a handshake, it'll be -- it seemed like there be nothing more than a quick photo-op. But they were in there for 53 minutes. We asked repeatedly on the plane ride home to White House officials who were in the room? Was it just them and the interpreters, who were the senior officials in there? It was a very small room so there was not a lot of room for other senior officials. We don't know what happened and that's going to be a question we'll have to keep on chasing.

HENDERSON: And Jeff, something that did emerge from this really 96 hours with the president overseas there, is you did see him kind of cozying up to dictators, whether it'd be sort of Putin, an autocrat, or Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. Mitt Romney tweeted this, "The president's praise for MBS, the man who U.S. Intel says ordered or authorized the heinous murder of a Washington Post columnist and Saudi dissident sends the wrong message to the world. It's past time for Congress and the administration to impose sanctions for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi."

This is what we saw, a very remarkable I think tableau of the president praising enemies really of the United States and not very similar praise for traditional allies.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Without question and we've seen it sort of every time the president goes overseas on every one of these trips, if it's to a NATO or the other G20s. But this I think was just framed in a book-end. You know, really in a weekend period as Americans were enjoying a summer weekend here, their president, our president, was watching -- you know, was doing things he's done individually but sort of this 100-hour block of what he's done, it is a vast departure from American foreign policy at any recent time.

You heard Mitt Romney, one of the only real Republicans of stature out there speaking. You know, it is a summer holiday but that does not mean that, you know, things should take a break. So I'm a little bit surprised again by what is, a, becoming this Republican Party. This is not a Republican Party that even looks the same as the Reagan administration or either Bush administration in terms of how they interact with other leaders.

I think that photo-op, we'll see if it actually brings something tangible, it's a good thing. But up until now, we have zero reasons to believe that it will.

HENDERSON: And Kirby, typically an American president really wants to tout American values, highlight human rights, and highlight and criticize other regimes for human rights violations. That's not what this president has done and probably will do.

KIRBY: It doesn't have to be a zero-sum game, and he looks at it in a very binary way. Like if I bring up human rights or I chastise him even publicly, well, that's going to undo some other diplomatic achievements I'm trying to make. And that's just not the case, Nia. Sometimes our allies or even those nations that were not necessarily aligned would need to hear that we stand for something, that foreign policy is about values, it's not just about hard, cold national security interests. And so I think many opportunities were lost in the G20 for him to advance American values, not just our interests.

HENDERSON: Yes. These presidency things vary differently.

And as we go to break, a flashback to 1991. On this day, then President George Herbert Walker Bush held a press conference to announce his pick to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall. Of course, that was Clarence Thomas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you say to critics who say the only reason you're being picked is because you're black.

CLARENCE THOMAS, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I think a lot worse things have been said. I disagree with that, but I'll have to live with it.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Refer them to the president. How about that for an answer?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:43:56] HENDERSON: Kamala Harris -- the Kamala Harris campaign is pushing new endorsements from two congressional black caucus members today saying she's the candidate who's gotten the most backing now from the CBC. Endorsements are just the latest chapter in this ongoing Harris versus Joe Biden dynamic that's been playing out since Thursday's debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think Joe Biden is out of touch?

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't -- no, not necessarily, I don't think that necessarily. I just think that he and I have a difference of opinion about the significance of who those people were and our perspective on perhaps how we think of them in terms of their reputation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Race and the role of busing aren't the only topics exacerbating this Democratic rift. Harris also takes issue with Biden on immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You said that you thought the Obama administration was potentially out of step on some of these immigration policies. Do you think Joe Biden understands what has changed since then or not?

[12:45:00] HARRIS: I think the voters are going to have to decide. I mean, I'll tell you where I am on it. I do not condone or -- and support any policy that is about picking up, arresting, and detaining undocumented immigrants who have not committed a crime. And that was where I disagreed with that policy of the administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: And Heather, you've done a lot of reporting on particularly the CBC aspect of this which really is a debate about, you know, who's going to get African-American support, who's going to get momentum? And if Harris is the one to take it away from Joe Biden, is this where Harris wants to be? What's your sense of what's going on here?

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, I think she has definitely courted the CBC. And what we saw another senator, Cory Booker, who's also a member of the CBC, he's went to CBC meetings since he's been in the Senate, things like that. Harris more recently started showing up. They have weekly Wednesday meetings last year. More often than not she would bring an entourage. That kind of turned off some members at the CBC and a lot of them have loyalty to Joe Biden because they served with him for a long time, including the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, Jim Clyburn, who is a kingmaker in South Carolina. He hasn't come out and endorsed. He said he won't endorse before the primary but he talks very lovingly --

HENDERSON: But he sort of all but endorses Joe Biden.

CAYGLE: He talks very lovingly about Biden. He was one of his strongest defenders after his segregationist comments a few weeks ago. So, you know, I think Harris knows that Biden is probably her strongest competition within the CBC.

HENDERSON: Yes. And you have Biden obviously trying to push back against this focus on his record, his focus on busing. And here's something that he had to say in terms of his civil rights record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I heard and I listened to and I respect Senator Harris. But, you know, we all know that 30 seconds to 60 seconds on a campaign debate exchange can't do justice to a lifetime committed to civil rights. I want to be absolutely clear about my record and position on racial justice including busing. I never, never, never, ever opposed voluntary busing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENDERSON: Jeff, how worried is the Biden campaign about this? I mean, this is a story that has been going on since the debate. What's your sense of how they are seen and whether they are afraid of some blowback, particularly from African-American voters?

ZELENY: The Biden campaign right now I think realizes that this presidential campaign is not going to be won or lost on busing. And this is a conservation being had right now. I think the bigger challenge is, is this an example of something else where Joe Biden simply represents the past, not the future. That's their biggest worry, that he is sort of cast in this view of history not going forward here. So anything that is an example of that, and this is.

The question is so many supporters of Biden, admirers of Biden that I have talked to wonder why he can't pivot on this and say, look, the country has changed. Thank God the country has changed. And have an example like gay marriage or something where he was a leader in terms of the Obama administration. Why can't he make that pivot?

But he seems very sort of set in his ways and stubborn on this. But there is a sense and the Biden people are pushing this. And we have to see how this plays out. That some of his black supporters in South Carolina and other places will stick with Biden through pretty much anything and they are pushing the notion, you know, through some surrogates like Senator Carol Moseley Braun who thinks Biden --

(CROSSTALK)

ZELENY: -- who's going after Harris, but I want to point out, she is with Joe Biden thick and thin through.

HENDERSON: Ride or die. And this is what she had to say in a Politico article. Jeff, thanks for queuing this up. "We can be proud of her, nonetheless, she, of course, talking about Harris, but her ambition got it wrong about Joe. He is about the best there is, for her to take that tack is sad." That was from Carol Moseley Braun.

Jesse Jackson who of course the former vice president was speaking there in front of his group the Rainbow Push coalition and this is what he had to say. "He's for voluntary busing, I'm for court-ordered busing. Well, everyone's for voluntary busing, Jackson said. The federal government had to order the abolition of slavery, the federal government had to order the right to vote."

That's that split, right? And in some ways, maybe it's a general racial split, they're certainly of Biden's generation in many ways. What do you think Harris is up to here and when will we know if it's actually working?

PACE: Yes, I think look, Jeff is right, the campaign is not going to turn on busing, right? But it does speak to sort of this broader idea that Biden on both his policies and his rhetoric is out of step right now. And what I have heard from a lot of people who are really sympathetic to Joe Biden is they just don't understand. You come into the race with a 40-year record, you know it's going to get picked apart.

Biden's instinct is to defend that record. He's really struggling not just to pivot rhetorically but to show that his vision is forward- looking. To show that he doesn't want to fight these fights of the past, that he wants -- he's got a proactive, forward-looking agenda and the attention is all backward leaning.

[12:50:05] And a lot of that is because of him. That's where he keeps going on this.

HENDERSON: Even when he tries to dig out, he sort of makes a miss step. When he was out in Seattle talking about the evolution of sort of acceptance and tolerance among -- for gay Americans, it didn't go so well. He got booed. So this is --

PACE: Yes, and look, with Joe Biden you do have to accept that there is going to be a certain amount of rhetorical gaffes that are going to come with him. The problem for his campaign is if it becomes overtaken by those.

HENDERSON: I'm going to have to end it there. Up next, Ivanka Trump attended the G20 alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump. But did she steal the show like her father said?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Has anyone ever heard of Ivanka? All right, come up, Ivanka, come on. She's going to steal the show. What a beautiful couple. Mike, beauty and the beast.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:55:42] HENDERSON: One of President Trump's advisors is returning home from the historic Korea trip to a mixed reaction. Among the headlines today, the New York Times with, quote, Ivanka Trump tests her diplomatic chops and riles a legion of critics. The Financial Times reading, Ivanka's G20 performance puzzles world leaders. And in the U.K., quote, frosty glances as Ivanka Trump joins G20 chat.

Ivanka's unusual role was never more obvious than when the U.S. and South Korean delegations lined up for a photo-op and left alone, pacing looking for his place was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Seung Min, you were there. Awkward.

KIM: A little bit, to say the least. I mean, for me it was one thing. I mean, a lot of the theme of the G20, a lot of the forums touched on the issue of women's empowerment which is something that Ivanka has taken up since she joined the White House as a senior advisor so she spoke at a forum based on that. So that's one thing.

But she was sitting in on a lot of critical meetings. First of all, she was in the bilateral with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Not sure that trade policies and the tariff war are necessarily in her portfolio. And also she was part of a lot of critical meetings with the South Korean president Moon Jae-in in which was the -- in the hours before the president was making this historic meeting with Kim Jong-un.

So, you're kind of left wondering, what was her role there, what were you doing? And also just a reminder that aside from the president of the United States, Ivanka herself and her husband, Jared Kushner, also stepped into North Korea.

HENDERSON: And this is a statement from the White House deputy communications director. It is sad but not shocking that the haters choose to attack Ivanka Trump, a senior advisor to the president when she is promoting U.S. efforts to empower women through strategic partnerships with world leaders at the G20. And ROK visits were substantive and historic thanks to President Trump's leadership. Our country is more prosperous and secure.

Not a lot of transparency in terms of, a, what her portfolio is, b, what she brought into those meetings, what she got out of those meetings. She's not a cabinet-confirmed position at all unlike somebody like Mike Pompeo. This is strange.

PACE: There's always this funny thing that happens when you question Ivanka Trump's role in the White House. It's the haters. This would never happen, you know, to anybody else.

HENDERSON: Of course it would.

PACE: OK. If she's a senior advisor to the president and she's going to be holding, you know, her own meetings, sitting in on billets, what are the accomplishments? What's her role? What did she bring to the table there? What were the questions that she asked? What was -- what did she offer there?

If she's going to be a senior advisor, yes, she's the daughter of the president, but she should be questioned and sort of held to the same standards, we would be asking the same exact things about and we do about Mike Pompeo, about John Bolton, about any other senior member of that --

ZELENY: And frankly, she should be answering these questions herself. I can't recall another senior advisor to the president having a spokesperson, a low-level spokesperson essentially putting out a statement defending her. If she's a senior advisor to the president like Valerie Jarrett was, like Karen Hughes was in the Bush world or Karl Rove (INAUDIBLE) whoever, they talk to reporters directly and said what their meetings were. So, you can't be a senior advisor and then also treated like daddy's little girl up there. And that's what he was doing at that rally. So that's why this is just unusual.

HENDERSON: It is very unusual but in some ways not unusual for this White House. It does seem to, you know, have a policy where it's almost every day is bring your daughter to work day.

Thanks for joining us on INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar starts right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Brianna Keilar live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

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