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Trump: It Looks Like it Was Iran Behind the Strikes; N.Y. Subpoenas Eight Years of Trump Tax Returns; Trump Says No to Pyongyang Visit at This Point. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 17, 2019 - 00:00   ET




ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Blame game: the U.S. president inches closer to directly accusing Iran of the attack on Saudi oil facilities.

The polls have just opened in Israel's do-over election. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu fighting to hang on to power. The results are anything but certain.

And candid Cameron: the former prime minister speaks out in a rare interview about his fateful decision to put Brexit to a vote and how he feels about it now.

Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us from all around the world, I'm Rosemary Church and this is CNN NEWSROOM.


CHURCH: The U.S. president is pointing the finger at Iran over Saturday's attacks on Saudi oil sites. Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that the U.S. was locked and loaded to respond but still wanted to verify who was responsible. On Monday, he told reporters it looked like Iran was the culprit but he did not want a military conflict.


TRUMP: I don't want war with anybody.

But I will tell you that was a very large attack and it could be met with an attack many, many times larger very easily by our country. But we are going to find out who did it definitively first.


CHURCH: Iran denies being behind the strikes but its Houthi allies in Yemen claim they were responsible, hitting the oil sites with drone strikes.

Here is the case against Iran so far. U.S. officials say satellite images show the angle of the attacks would have been difficult coming from Yemen. The Saudis say it looks like Iranian weapons were used in the attacks.

Iran also supports the Houthi rebels against a Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The Houthis have launched attacks into Saudi Arabia before but analysts say these latest strikes may be beyond their capabilities.

The U.S. has also told at least one ally, the attacks likely came from Iran. CNN's Kiley Atwood has more now on what we are learning from Washington.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN U.S. SECURITY ANALYST: President Trump is saying that it certainly looks like Iran was behind the attack on the Saudi oil field. That is a change from what secretary Mike Pompeo said over the weekend, saying that Iran is behind the attack and President Trump saying today that the U.S. does not want to get into a conflict in the Middle East.

But sometimes you have to. And claiming that the U.S. is more prepared than any country in history for a conflict.

He also said that if the U.S. does decide to do something militarily, it would include Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia will be meeting with secretary of state Mike Pompeo in the coming days.

President Trump announcing that Pompeo will be making a visit over there and we assume they will be reviewing the U.S. intelligence on this attack and the Saudi intelligence, the two work very closely together, as they are meant to determine what the next steps for the U.S. will be here.

One thing we have learned is that the U.S. officials have told at least one ally of the U.S. in the Middle East that Iran is to blame for the attack and also that the attack likely originated in Iran, meaning that it did not come from one of the Iranian proxies in the region and also that it did not come from Yemen.

Right now the Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attack but both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are saying that it's not what they are finding in their conclusions.

We are still waiting for definitive examples, definitive intelligence from the U.S. that show that Iran was definitely behind this attack on the Saudi oil field and that it did actually originate from within Iran -- Kylie Atwood, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: For more, I'm joined from Denver, Colorado, by Michael Moran, the CEO and chief research officer at Transformative, a risk analysis company.

Thank you for being with us.

MICHAEL MORAN, TRANSFORMATIVE: I'm glad to be here. Thank you. CHURCH: So as the international community calls for more facts to be gathered before placing the blame, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo was very quick to accuse Iran of attacking the Saudi oil facility without producing any definitive evidence to support that claim.

And the U.S. president appears to agree with him.


CHURCH: When you look at the facts available to us, what is your assessment of who is responsible, where this attack came from and whether we are talking about drones or cruise missiles here or something else?

MORAN: What we see is tracking really very heavily toward Iran, in part because of the sophistication of the attack and the accuracy of the attack. The Yemeni Houthis have launched relatively unsophisticated missiles into Saudi before.

They are not guided in a very sophisticated sense; in other words they're not able to hit within yards of a target.

These apparently hit the Saudi oil facility very accurately and did enormous damage to a really critical point of infrastructure, not just for the Saudis but for the global oil infrastructure. So it does suggest a more sophisticated hand than a rebel group in Yemen.

CHURCH: And what would be the motive for Iran attacking Saudi Arabian oil facilities?

MORAN: Well, that's a very good question, Iran may very well be trying to bring the United States to the negotiating table. That is a very fraught strategy with this president already.


CHURCH: It appears a risky gamble to do that, when really, they were poised to meet, the U.S. president and the Iranian president?

MORAN: It does appear a gamble. I do think that the Iranians are very unhappy with the sanctions that have largely shut off the main source of hard currency to their economy.

They are extremely angry that the Saudis are benefiting from a relationship to the United States that is as close as it's ever been and which has been pretty much impervious to the world's anger over the Saudi war in Yemen.

So I think the Iranians may well have felt they had a motive. And it could be that it's ultimately someone within the Iranian hierarchy, whether it's the Revolutionary Guard or some other group that is ultimately tagged with responsibility.

Obviously this is a situation where conspiracy theories will swirl. I tend to find the conspiracy theories unconvincing. On the forensic evidence, it looks very much as though Iran is the main suspect. CHURCH: After the attack, President Trump tweeted that the U.S. was locked and loaded as a response, he's backing away from any military response now.

But how wise was it for Mr. Trump to threaten Iran?

And what would that fight look like, if for any reason, the U.S. president decided to attack Iran?

MORAN: The threat is the threat. The rhetoric this president uses is always overheated. He's always locked and loaded. Let's face it. The fact is, he's been relatively restrained in a military sense internationally.

I think the concern in Washington in this administration -- or any administration -- is that Iranians have a global footprint. They have, as your reporter in the lead-in suggested, they have got influence with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, who have shown that they have the capability to strike beyond the borders of their own territorial control.

They have influence internationally with groups as far afield as areas of South America and in Africa as well. So this is not a case of rolling out of some F-22s and shooting some Tomahawk missiles from submarines. This is a country that can retaliate and can take a punch and wait and retaliate at the worst possible moment.

So the calculus is fairly significant in Washington right now, not eager to get into a war.

CHURCH: Very quickly, why would the U.S. even be considering military options here, given this attack took place on Saudi soil?

How is this America's fight?

MORAN: That's an ideological question and I honestly think that the administration currently in power in the United States has aligned itself incredibly closely to both Israel and to the Saudis.

It has an almost reflexive tendency to back whatever comes out of Riyadh or Tel Aviv/Jerusalem, now Jerusalem, of course, because the administration has recognized that as the capital of Israel. So you have a very different administration in place now.


MORAN: Now having said that, the initial reaction or reflexive reaction may not ultimately manifest itself as policy. They may not go through with anything. And there are so many who think the United States could do short of military action and certainly short of enormous military force that would hurt the Iranians.

CHURCH: We shall be watching to see what Iran's next move is in this. Michael Moran, thank you so much for your analysis, we appreciate it.

MORAN: Thank you. CHURCH: The attacks on the Saudi oil facilities are sending shockwaves throughout the industry. On Monday, Brent crude, the global benchmark for oil prices, spiked nearly 20 percent before giving up gains to end at more than $69 a barrel.

The U.S. benchmark WTI closed out at almost $63 a barrel, gasoline futures are also way up. Analysts believe U.S. gas prices will likely climb in the coming weeks. CNN's John Defterios is monitoring how the attacks are affecting other oil markets from Abu Dhabi.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: It's been an earthquake that has struck the global energy market. Tremors are poised to last because the oil epicenter is Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter.

The market dynamics have certainly changed from one that is oversupplied to a shortage of crude. A record 5.7 million barrels a day gone in a single day. It's a fragile supply and demand balance.

Regional sources tell me that Saudi Arabia has reserves in storage of about 200 million barrels, enough to cover demand for 35 to 40 days.

The multibillion dollar question, can it restore all of its lost production in a month or not?

Two senior Saudi sources telling me this will likely take weeks, not days, to restore full production. Unprecedented was another word used in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. president says he's prepared to tap the strategic petroleum reserve or SPR to cushion the blow to markets.

The timing and scale of that move is what the market is eager to see. What we do know, there has been other major disruptions to oil here in the Middle East in the last three decades. Nothing stacks up to the one day shock that hit Saudi Arabia and now global markets -- John Defterios, CNN Business, Abu Dhabi.


CHURCH: The concerns over oil prices sent U.S. stocks lower across the board on Monday. The Dow closed down almost 143 points, ending an eight-day winning streak. The S&P 500 slipped below 3,000 points and the Nasdaq fell as well. Airline shares were also lower, as investors fear fuel prices will soon rise.

Voting has just begun in Israel's close high-stakes election. Polls suggest it may be a tight race between prime minister Netanyahu's Likud Party and former Israeli military chief of staff Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party.

This is the country's second election in less than six months. Mr. Netanyahu forced the do-over election after he failed to form a coalition to govern the 120-seat Knesset back in April.

CNN's Sam Kiley joins us now from a polling station in Jerusalem. Sam, good to see you. What have voters been telling you about the issues influencing them in this very tight race and have they indicated who they want to see as their next prime minister?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Israelis are very private about -- excuse me -- they're very private about their vote. It's very difficult to get them to tell us who they are going to vote for.

This is a secret ballot and they would like to keep it that way. The polls suggest that it's even stevens between Benny Gantz's Blue and White Party, which is on the center left, and the Likud Party, led by Benjamin Netanyahu. They're showing about 32 seats each, 120 seats Likud.

But it will really depend on the scale of the turnout, the base response for each of the parties. That's always the case in every election but it's probably more important in this election because there is a sense of boredom and frustration that Israel is going to the polls once again after five months, after which Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, failed to knit together a coalition.

Now, at the same time, looming over the incumbent prime minister is a serious personal problem in that he is under investigation in three different cases of alleged corruption and mismanagement.

And, from his perspective, certainly his critics would say, if he gets into power, he'll be able to introduce an act in the Knesset that would actually give him immunity from prosecution.


KILEY: His critics say that would be a gross abuse of democracy. Those are the issues that have exercised the chattering classes, the media. But I have to say, at a personal level, this is not an election that has really gripped people in the coffeehouses all over the country.

People really aren't talking about it a great deal. And I think that might be reflected in the turnout. That said there are communities who are simultaneously seeing this as an opportunity to project greater power into the body politic of Israel.

Notably, possibly, the Arab Israeli voters, who could get 12 seats in the Knesset and then some very far right groups and very extreme groups that opinion polls are showing might get four seats. and that would make it awkward for Mr. Netanyahu stitching together a future coalition.

CHURCH: We will see what the turnout is and what impact that has on the outcome. Sam Kiley bringing us the latest there. We appreciate it.

And you can watch our special coverage of the Israeli elections beginning on 10:00 pm Tuesday as polls close. Becky Anderson anchors our coverage live from Jerusalem. Still to come, a mea culpa from the man who unleashed Brexit on Great Britain.


DAVID CAMERON, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I totally -- if you're asking me, do I have regrets?



CHURCH: Why David Cameron feels haunted by the E.U. referendum.

Plus we will find out what is behind the push to remove justice Brett Kavanaugh from the U.S. Supreme Court. That's next on CNN NEWSROOM.




CHURCH: Regrets, he's had a few. Former British prime minister David Cameron is breaking his silence about his time in office. The man who called the 2016 Brexit referendum is making the rounds to promote the release of his memoirs and he sat down for a candid interview with CNN affiliate ITV.


CAMERON: I totally -- if you're asking me, do I have regrets?


Am I sorry about the state the country has gotten to?


Do I feel I have some responsibility for that?

Yes. It was my referendum, my campaign, my decision to try and renegotiate.


CAMERON: And I accept all of those things. And people, including those watching this program, will have to decide how much blame to put on me. And I accept. I cannot put it more bluntly than this. I accept that that attempt failed.


CHURCH: And our Matthew Chance reports from London on why David Cameron feels responsible for the divisions caused by Brexit.



MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: These remarks are being closely scrutinized because this is the first time in three years that the former British prime minister, David Cameron, has spoken at length about his decisions when he was in office, specifically his decision in 2016 to hold a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union, a vote which, as we now know, was won by the Leavers and which plunged this country into political chaos.

Now he is apologetic. He said he's aware of the turmoil the referendum caused. He also said that he regrets the results and apologizes for his failed strategy to keep Britain inside the European Union.

David Cameron, of course, campaigned to remain and then abruptly resigned shortly after the referendum result.

The former British prime minister also made it clear that he believed that he thought the vote was inevitable and that he would do the same thing again, something that won't endear him to many people in Britain who blamed him for the current Brexit mess that the country is in.

He also had criticism, David Cameron, of some of his conservative party colleagues who campaigned for Brexit ahead of the referendum, including harsh words for Boris Johnson, the current British prime minister.

Mr. Johnson, he said, did not believe in Brexit and backed to leave to, quote, because it would help his political career. Cameron said that Johnson and other prominent conservative Brexiteer, Michael Gove were ambassadors for the expert trashing, truth-twisting age of populism.

They are harsh words from a former British prime minister to a sitting one -- Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


CHURCH: Current British prime minister Boris Johnson will be very keen to find out what the U.K.'s supreme court has decides about what his suspension of Parliament was legal. This hearings are set to begin in less than six hours.

On Monday Johnson was in Luxembourg looking for a Brexit deal. He says there's a good chance of coming to an agreement. But his optimistic words are being overshadowed by images of an empty podium.

Mr. Johnson walked right past it instead of taking part in a news conference. His Luxembourg counterpart carried on without him. Here is how the British leader explained the absence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF THE U.N.ITED KINGDOM: Well, I don't think it would have been fair to the prime minister of Luxembourg to -- I think there was clearly going to be a lot of noise. And I think we -- our points might have been drowned out.


CHURCH: Prime minister Johnson was actually in Luxembourg for his first face to face Brexit meeting with E.U. chief Jean-Claude Juncker. Downing Street says they agreed talks should soon take place on a daily basis.

The U.S. is facing its largest workers' strike in more than a decade. More than 48,000 General Motors workers joined picket lines, walking out of dozens of facilities across nine states.

The United Auto Workers Union accuses America's biggest automaker of putting profits ahead of employees who helped turn GM around after it went bankrupt and took a federal bailout a decade ago.

A source familiar with the negotiations said meetings between the union and GM are ongoing but very tense.

We are learning more about the bankruptcy filing and proposed settlement from Purdue Pharma, the company at the center of America's opioid crisis. It says the settlement should provide more than $10 billion to address the crisis and the more than 2,000 lawsuits that Purdue Pharma is facing.

The billionaire family that owns the company, the Sacklers, hope that the filing will end their ownership of Purdue. They have denied allegations they aggressively marketed prescription painkillers while downplaying the risks of abuse and overdose.

Two dozen states oppose this planned settlement. One attorney general calls it a slap in the face because the Sackler family could walk away with billions without admitting that they are at fault.

This new controversy swirling around U.S. Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh over new reports of sexual misconduct allegations against him. Some Democratic presidential candidates are calling for him to be impeached, saying he lied under oath.


CHURCH: Plus CNN has obtained a warning letter sent to the FBI just days before Kavanaugh's confirmation. Justice correspondent Jessica Schneider reports.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a letter obtained and reviewed by CNN, Democratic Senator Chris Coons urged the FBI to reach out to a witness about Brett Kavanaugh's alleged misconduct at Yale. The letter was dated October 2, 2018, four days before Kavanaugh was confirmed. Coons writes he had heard from several people, who reportedly had key information but had trouble getting through to the FBI. Coons specifically asked the FBI to follow up with a man whose sources say was Max Stier, a possible witness to the incident and a Yale College classmate of Kavanaugh and Ramirez with information relevant to Ramirez's allegations.

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DE): An FBI investigation of --

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Coons played a key role in the confirmation hearings...


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS NEWS HOST: If Judge Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination is over?

SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R-AZ): Oh, yes.

COONS: I would think so.


SCHNEIDER: -- convincing Republican Senator Jeff Flake to call for a supplemental FBI background investigation before Flake would vote Kavanaugh out of committee.

But in a new book, "The New York Times" reporters say the FBI did not investigate Stier's alleged claim concerning another student. The newspaper later clarified, saying that student declined to be interviewed.

Her friends say she doesn't remember the incident. A Coons aide tells CNN the FBI received the letter but never heard back. And a Democratic senator tells CNN, quote, "The broader point is that the FBI investigation was not thorough and credible."

CNN previously reported the FBI interviewed nine people in connection to claims by two other women against Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez.

BRETT KAVANAUGH, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I, Brett V. Kavanaugh, do solemnly swear.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Now almost a year after Justice Kavanaugh was sworn into the Supreme Court, House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler is calling for a renewed inquiry.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We're going to start looking into the adequacy of the investigation upon which the confirmation was premised when the FBI director comes before us next month.

SCHNEIDER: The Justice Department, of course, is not the personal attorney for the president or any Supreme Court justice. Now a Supreme Court spokeswoman said that Justice Kavanaugh had no comment on the new allegation against him or about the calls for impeachment coming from some Democratic candidates.

It's important to note only one justice has ever been impeached. That was back in 1805 and that justice was never actually removed from the bench by the Senate -- Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: The Iranians keep denying they played a role in attacks on Saudi oil sites but the Saudis and some U.S. officials say otherwise. How they are laying out their case -- that is coming up.

Plus an alarming report on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. Why the U.N. says hundreds of thousands of people are still living under the threat of genocide.


ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Welcome, back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. Let's check the headlines for you this hour.


Israel's second general election in less than six months is now underway. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forced the do-over election after he failed to form a governing coalition back in April. Polls suggest his Likud Party faces a tight race against the Blue and White Party, led by Israel's former military chief, Benny Gantz.

Britain's highest court will hear arguments in a few hours on whether the suspension of Parliament was legal. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the controversial move last week. Critics call it a bid to force through a no-deal withdrawal from the European Union.

The U.S. president says it looks like Iran was responsible for Saturday's attacks on Saudi oil sites, but Donald Trump told reporters Monday he was still waiting to find out definitively. Iran denies playing a role, but it's Houthi allies in Yemen are claiming responsibility.

There's been a lot of finger pointing over the attacks, and oil prices are soaring. But while Iran denies any involvement. U.S. and Saudi officials say the evidence proves otherwise. CNN's Nic Robertson has more now from Riyadh.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was an attack from the heart of Saudi Arabia's lifeblood, for which global powers quickly readied a response.

Now, critically important, determining who is behind the coordinated strikes against multiple targets at two key oil facilities, amid claims of responsibility by the Houthi rebel group in Yemen.

REAR ADMIRAL JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: It's clear that this attack was highly coordinated, complex, extraordinarily precise, and it's just not plausible that the Houthis could do this on their own.

ROBERTSON: Commercial satellite images released by the U.S. government show the scale of destruction, from at least 17 strikes at Saudi Aramco's oil plant, and at least two at the nearby Kkurais oilfield. Experts agree, the precision shown would mark a major improvement in the Houthis' military capabilities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can see a very thing point strikes that have gone into those oil tanks. There is no damage beyond where the missile actually penetrated the tent. The fact that they have that precise intelligence indicates that there is some kind of a state actor behind these attacks.

ROBERTSON: Houthi rebels say they used ten drones to carry out the attacks from Yemen. U.S. officials say the images show points of impact on the northwest side of the facilities, which they say would be difficult to do from Yemen. Instead, they claim the attacks more likely came from Iran.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These drones could have conducted their bases' (ph) maneuvers, and they could have come from a number of different places.

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: You're talking about drone swarms. They are very difficult to pick up on radar. The intelligence community has some huge challenges in terms of pinpointing facts from where they originated from.

ROBERTSON: A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition says Iranian weapons were used in the attack. They say the attack did not come from Yemen. But they are still working to identify the actual launch site.

In the past, the United Nations says Iran has supplied the Houthis with drones and missile parts. The Saudi officials demonstrated to us last January.

Iran is disputing U.S. claims, the president saying in a news conference that the attacks are a response by the Houthis to Saudi Arabia's military campaign against the group in Yemen.

But the U.S. alleges an attack by Iran could represent attempts to gain leverage amid America's campaign of maximum economic pressure.

ROBERT BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: If Iran, indeed were behind this attack, they used proxies. Now, whether they were from Iraq or Yemen, it's hard to tell. There will be no smoking gun against Iran. Now how the administration intends to frame this is something else.

ROBERTSON: As the probe continues to determine who carried out the attack, the question remains. Who would stand to benefit most from the attack on the Saudi oil facility?

Nic Robertson, CNN, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


CHURCH: A new U.N. reports that 600,000 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are living in deplorable conditions, under the threat of genocide.


A military crackdown two years ago forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. The new report says those that stayed behind are subject to forced labor, torture, and sexual violence. Myanmar's government blames Rohingya militants for terrorist attacks on innocent people and police stations.

Well, at least eight people are dead, 39 others missing, in a ferry accident in southeast India. Helicopters and divers are searching for survivors, but time may be running out.

Seventy-three people were on board the tourist boat when it capsized on Sunday.

More than two dozen survivors have been rescued. The river had been flooded last week, and the local police chief says strong currents will make it difficult to pull the boat up from the river bed.

An invitation to Pyongyang reportedly is on the table. Coming up, what President Trump is saying about whether he'll go. We'll have more on that on the other side of the break.


CHURCH: Well, prosecutors in New York to get a look at the past eight years of Donald Trump's tax returns. They are trying to figure out if the future president or his organization filed any false business records during the 2016 campaign.

CNN's Kara Scannell has the details.


KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have subpoenaed Mazars. That's the accounting firms that has covered both Donald Trump's personal tax return and the returns of the Trump Organization. The subpoena is seeking those returns going back to 2011.

Now, this is the most recent move in this investigation, which is only a couple of weeks old, where the state prosecutors are looking into the Trump Organization and whether any state laws were violated in the payments, hush-money payments to women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, who had alleged affairs to the president.

As we reported last week, prosecutors from that office interviewed Michael Cohen, the president's former personal attorney and fixer, as part of that investigation. Now, they have also subpoenaed the accounting firm, trying to get both the personal and corporate tax returns of Donald Trump and the organization as part of this investigation, where they looking to see if any state laws were violated.


CHURCH: Well, President Trump denies the affairs ever happened. The accounting firm says it will comply with its legal obligations. The tax returns would likely remain confidential unless they are used as evidence at a trial.

Well, President Trump is refusing to comment on a report that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has invited him to visit Pyongyang. Brian Todd reports for now Mr. Trump is backing off making what would be in an unprecedented trip for a sitting U.S. president.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump has seemingly never been able to resist Kim Jong-un's charms. But today, the president indicated he might have to.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chairman Kim invite you to North Korea?

TRUMP: I don't want to comment on that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you want to go to North Korea?

TRUMP: Probably not. I don't think it's ready. I don't think we're ready for that. I would do it sometime at some time in a later future, and depending on what happens, I'm sure he'll love coming to the United States.

TODD: The questions, seemingly prompted by a report in a South Korean newspaper, saying Kim had invited Trump to come to Pyongyang. CNN has not independently verified the report. Trump has said he would invite Kim to Washington during an impromptu meeting at the DMZ.

TRUMP: I would invite him right now to the White House. Absolutely.

TODD: But a sitting American president traveling to the secretive hermetic North Korean capital would be unprecedented, a truly historic moment. Still, some veteran diplomats agree with the president that it's a bad idea right now.

AMBASSADOR NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Kim would consider this a great victory, a great coup to have Donald Trump in Pyongyang. The president should not do it. The president appears interested in these kind of summits that give him a lot of publicity, but they undercut his authority and his credibility. They make the United States, frankly, look weak on the global stage.

TODD: Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have travel to North Korea to secure the release of Americans held captive there, but they went as former presidents.

Analysts say Kim Jong-un, his father and grandfather have always wanted to have a sitting American president come to see them on their turf, and they're worried about the optics if President Trump ever does accept Kim's invitation.

FRANK JANNUZI, FORMER U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT ANALYST: It's hard to think that President Trump could resist the opportunity to sort of take the drive through the city with adoring children waving at his motorcade, or even to show up to a state dinner at which the North Koreans would fete him with food that's not available to the ordinary North Korean citizen.

So I think the propaganda windfall for North Korea could be quite large.

TODD (on camera): Analysts praised President Trump for trying the diplomatic route and for meeting with Kim three times in an effort to get him to get rid of his nuclear weapons.

But a meeting in Pyongyang with no progress having been made in nuclear talks so far, they say, would give Kim's regime a legitimacy it hasn't earned and might make the North Koreans believe that they could give nothing back in return.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CHURCH: Thanks so much for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Rosemary Church. WORLD SPORT is next, and I'll be back with more news at the top of the hour.







CHURCH: Blame game. The U.S. president inches closer to accusing Iran of the attack on a Saudi oil facility in Israel. A fight for political survival is playing out. Benjamin Netanyahu hoping to maintain power in a race that's too close for comfort.

And candid Cameron. The former British prime minister speaks out in a rare interview about his fateful decision to put Brexit to a vote and how he feels about it now.

Hello and welcome to our viewers.