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Trump on White House: "There is No Chaos, Only Great Energy"; Intel Chief: I've Talked To Trump About Upcoming Midterms; Trump: North Korean Leaders "Seem To Be Acting Positively". Aired 2-2:30p ET
Aired March 6, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:00:24] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Hi there. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me. You are watching CNN.
President Trump will soon take questions from reporters. And obviously, there is a lot to ask him about as he gets ready to hold this joint news conference with the prime minister of Sweden, who by the way is about to roll up to the White House. We could have pictures of that.
This is happening after recent high profile resignation, heated arguments among staffers and with top advisers under investigation.
The president says, though, that this is not a White House in chaos. Check out the tweet all in capital letters. The fake news narrative is that there is chaos. Obviously, he says that is wrong. He says this is, quote, only great energy, energy supposedly so great that the president hinted more staff may be leaving the White House. Tweeting quote, I still have some people that I want to change, parenthesis, always seeking perfection.
And then there is Sam Nunberg, the former Trump aide who declared that he did not want to comply with the subpoena in the Russia investigation, giving hours of wild media interviews, calling into this show, this time yesterday, claiming the president might have done something nefarious involving issue in his conversation with Gloria Borger, and now, Sam Nunberg says he will cooperate with that subpoena.
This as actual White House policy is under deeper scrutiny. President Trump is facing pressure from his own party to withdraw his plan to impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're encouraging the administration to do is to focus on what is clearly a legitimate problem and to be more surgical in its approach so we can go after the true abusers without creating any kind of unintended consequences or collateral damage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: So, let's go to Jeff Zeleny there at the White House, our senior White House correspondent.
And all of this swirling you know this whole, there is no chaos, essentially, that tweets from the president, questioning though, begging the question, can folks in the White House effectively do their jobs? I know we are about to see the arrival of the Swedish PM. But I want to ask you about how the president is weighing in on North Korea, this diplomatic breakthrough, apparently.
What is Trump saying?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, good afternoon. Any other day the North Korean news certainly would be the big headline out of the White House. On a day like today, it is just one of the many headlines since you outline there, but the White House is reacting what I would say a guarded optimism to the news, that the potential news that there may be some times of conversations or a diplomacy potentially breaking out. We have to, you know, sort of have a bit of skepticism because we've seen this before.
But the president, he may weigh in this afternoon at that news conference, but he did talk about the potential development a short time ago on social media, of course. This is what he had to say, Brooke. He said that possible progress is being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The world is watching, waiting, maybe in false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction.
So, certainly the president made after a decision there by not going after Kim Jong-un by name, calling him rocket man, talking about fire and fury. Of course, sounding a little bit more diplomatic, if you will. And as we speak here, we can hear the prime minister of Sweden will be coming in behind me here.
BALDWIN: Here we go.
ZELENY: He will be meeting with the president in the Oval Office, and in the next hour, they'll be having a news conference, but certainly the idea, the prospect of diplomacy is a potential. But look, this is a long way from happening, of course. This, of course, is the second world leader to be meeting here with the president in as many days. The Israeli prime minister here yesterday did not have a news conference. He will be having a news conference today, probably not talking about issues of Sweden. But you see the president there, greeting the prime minister of Sweden. He does not always do that, does not always come out of the doors of the West Executive Building here right behind me. But he is today as we are seeing them shake hand here, Brooke.
And they will be going from here into the Oval Office that have a somewhat of a private conversation, a chance for reporters to ask questions, of course, on issues and news of the day the key questions, Brooke the president has been silent about, let's look there, the potential for questions here. Let's listen.
It appears to be more smiling for the cameras that are not answering questions.
But, Brooke, one thing I have been struck by the president's silent today on that marathon series of interviews with his former campaign aide. We were all watching today, would the president tweet, would he talk about that?
It's my strong suspicion that someone advised him to not weigh in on that and the special counsel.
[14:05:04] So, we'll see if he's asked about that at the news conference this afternoon. But, certainly, Brooke, a lot on the president's plate, a lot on this administration's plate, the trade and tariffs as you said, that's actually the big divisions going on. All the work behind the scenes is happening here on that today, Brooke.
BALDWIN: Much to ask him about at that news conference coming up the next hour, and we will dip in and check out that -- the pool spray in the Oval Office momentarily.
Jeff Zeleny, thank you very much.
Jeff hit on a lot of key topic, let's broaden this out with a couple of great voices. CNN senior political commentator and former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, CNN political commentator Keith Boykin, a former White House aide under President Clinton, and also with me, CNN national political reporter Maeve Reston.
So, welcome, welcome to all of you.
And, Maeve, let me begin with you, the whole chaos tweet from the president. Maybe this is Trump's attempt to say, move along, nothing to see here. But the part of the tweet where he is saying there are some people he wants to change. Who might those people be?
MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, there is any number of people, there is always the constant debate over who's headed for the exits. Last week, we were talking about McMaster. You know, there are always folks on the internal staff that he is thinking about changing.
The thing about the chaos is earlier in the year is Kelly was hoping to have a lot of the exits not kind of roll out in this same way. They wanted them to be done, so that they could focus on the agenda at hand and instead the Russia investigation has completely derailed that. You know, there are a lot of people who are unhappy within the administration, partly because they can't ever stay on topic. I mean, if you look at the way the president has zigzagged last week, he has been all over the place on guns. You know, this trade war that he started came out of nowhere for a lot of people and of course, there are these constant questions about the state of his mental health, which have dogged his administration from the very beginning.
So, you know, there's just a lot of people inside that building who are frustrated, who feel that the president is not -- it's not possible to control him. It's not possible to advance the ball on the way they want to on a lot of issues. I think that that leaves people ready to depart. And Trump would like to say it's all you know under his control. But, clearly, we know that's not the case.
BALDWIN: Well, speaking of no chaos -- Senator, the office of special counsel announced today that Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act not just once but twice, quote, advocating for and against candidates. This all related to last year's Alabama special election. The White House statement actually say that her statements actually show her intention and desire to comply with the Hatch Act.
What say you, Senator Santorum?
RICK SANTORUM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, look, this is in some respects how many angels dancing on the head of a pin? That's an active spin. It's not often used. Let's just put it that way, because there is a lot of flexibility given to people, particularly you know within the senior levels of government.
So I don't see that as necessarily a particularly serious accusation and I think Kellyanne has comported herself. I mean, you talk about all the chaos at the White House the one person who has comported herself exceptionally well through all of this and, by the way, is still there unlike most is Kellyanne, so I don't -- I don't think this is cause for concern.
BALDWIN: Even violating the Hatch Act.
SANTORUM: I'm not saying violation of the law is not something that's serious, but that case --
BALDWIN: You are saying she stuck around, she has in.
SANTORUM: It's a pretty subjective piece of law to be honest with you.
BALDWIN: So, you have, though, Keith the news with Kellyanne Conway, the whole Sam Nunberg, whatever you want to call that media blitz, you know, looking to last week, the Kushner financial dealings, Ivanka's financial dealings -- I mean, this is a president who says he only hires the best people.
KEITH BOYKIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, the facts don't seem to bear that out. Kellyanne Conway also violated federal law last year when she was basically hawking Ivanka Trump's products on national television.
The problem is this administration has chaos from the top. The president now has four or five different communications directors. He's had two chiefs of staff. He's had two national security advisers, two FBI directors. His former campaign chairman is now under indictment. His first national security adviser has pleaded guilty to federal crime.
[14:10:03] This is chaos. We don't even know what's going to happen to his national security adviser H.R. McMaster. There is talk of replacing him. And his national adviser just last week, there were reports that he was threatening to resign over the tariff issue. The president is the king of chaos. And this is causing problems not
only for his communications with the country but also with his colleagues, also with the people on Capitol Hill and most importantly with our allies who have no idea where the United States stand on any important issue.
BALDWIN: Let me hone in on hearing you and then also moving back to Maeve on this whole -- on Sam Nunberg, you know, Sam Nunberg, after a day of threatening to defy the special counsel in a very public way now says, quote, this is according to our reporting, I'm going to cooperate with whatever they want.
Is that -- is that the last chapter in this whole thing?
RESTON: How do you explain that marathon of media interviews yesterday? I mean, there is no other way to describe it as you know other than slightly unhinged. And so, for him to come completely full circle after completely distracting, by the way, from what the Trump administration wanted to be talking about yesterday and bringing the whole Russia issue into the fore, leaking do you means to "The Post", I mean, clearly, that was another situation where the White House just had absolutely no control over someone who used to work for Trump.
But it also shows you the power of the special counsel. I mean, even people who don't want to cooperate with this investigation and claimed that it's a witch hunt, see that there are serious consequences to saying that you are not going to testify, as we saw back in the Whitewater days of the Clinton White House.
BALDWIN: And if you believe amid everything we heard from Sam Nunberg, Senator, if you believe what he said how Mueller is digging into Trump's business deals, getting awful close to that red line that the president drew and Trump I don't know if he's being forced to sit on his fingers on this one or not. He hasn't commented on it yet.
I mean, how do you think -- how do you think he might react to it? Maybe what we could guess is should the White House be worried?
SANTORUM: Well, I think clearly the president is going to be frustrated. If I were sitting in the president's shoes, I think any of us would be frustrated. This was supposed to be an investigation as to whether the Russians colluded with the Trump campaign and tried to disrupt the 2016 election. And it's now off into a voter of different places. I mean, all the charges have been brought forward on his, quote, campaign manager Paul Manafort have nothing to do with the Trump campaign, they have to do with activities well before he was involved with the Trump campaign.
So, this is -- this is a problem with a special counsel. You know, they just keep following, you know, rabbit holes and see if they can find something that's indictable. That's the frustration I'm sure the administration has. I would argue that the American people are having. I mean, it's a fatigue on this. When the indictments were laid down against the Russians, a few weeks ago, there was a claim that there was no collusion. They have no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, yet the investigation continues and with seemingly no end in sight.
RESTON: In that indictment there was no evidence of it.
BALDWIN: Right. Exactly.
BOYKIN: This is just the beginning of the process. And even Sam Nunberg yesterday was saying he thought from the question being asked the special counsel has something on Trump or higher level officials. The thing I think Rick Santorum misses in his analysis there is you don't build a federal case of collusion or conspiracy against the president of the United States or top advisers by shooting at the top. You got to start from the bottom brick by brick. So, yes, you get a George Papadopoulos, who then you get a Rick Gates and then you get a Paul Manafort, and then from there, you are able get a Donald Trump Jr. or Jared Kushner, which takes you directly the White House. You build the case brick by brick.
So, yes, the initial charges may not have direct reference to Russian collusion, but the ultimate charges will.
SANTORUM: Well, the House of Representatives have examined this thoroughly.
BOYKIN: C'mon, no they have not. They have not. Devin Nunes is --
SANTORUM: The Senate is at least according to reports I've seen is in the similar situation where they sort of reaching the end of the line. Again, with all the leaks that have taken place in this investigation and there have been copiously, in fact, almost everything that's been charged has been leaked prior to the charge, the fact that there is no other evidence that's leaking out leads me to believe that we are reaching, you know, we have a dry hole here.
BALDWIN: There is a lot we don't know. Listen, whether you think it's a joke or not, there is a lot we don't know. We all have to agree we have to let Bob Mueller do his job, whatever those findings may be.
[14:15:04] Maeve, and, Senator, and Keith, thank you all so much.
RESTON: Thank you.
BALDWIN: We're going to wrap it for now.
Coming up here on CNN, the head of the U.S. intelligence grilled over President Trump's proposed Russian election hack. Dan Coats says he has personally discussed this issue with the president. So, the question is, what are they going to do about it? We'll take it live to the Pentagon for an update on that.
Also, breaking news today, a remarkable development on the Korean peninsula, North Korea says they're willing to engage in talks with the U.S. to discuss giving up its nuclear program, giving it up. Should we believe him? Is there a catch?
And she had a sky high approval rating just a year ago. The mayor of Nashville today now posing for a mug shot. She has resigned amid felony charges in a sex scandal. What she said on her way out of office.
You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
[14:20:18] BALDWIN: Welcome back to watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.
Another intelligence chief testifying before lawmakers on Capitol Hill about Russia's meddling in the U.S. election and what that means for the upcoming midterms. The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats there says he has personally discussed with the president how to counter the threat to the midterm election, but that directly contradicts what the director of the National Security Agency said just last week.
(BEGIN VIDOE CLIP)
ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: For us, I can't say that I'd been explicitly directed to, quote, blunt or actively stop. It's probably fair to say that we have not opted to engage in some of the same behaviors that we are seeing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been directed to do so, given the strategic threat that faces the United States and the significant consequences you recognize already?
ROGERS: No, I have not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is with us now.
So, from last week to now, it's been a bit of a 180, no?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of bureaucracy at work here, Brooke. The director of national intelligence spoke about this. Let's have a quick listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: It's a whole of government approach. I have discussed it personally with the president of the United States. He has said, I assume you're doing your job, all of you who head up these agencies relative to cyber, but if you need for me to say direct you to do it, do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STARR: What he's talking about it's not so much the elections but dealing with the cyber threat.
I think the complicating factor here is you have a lot of federal agencies all have a part of it the key thing is what Admiral Rogers had to say last week. No direction from the White House to engage in what you might consider offensive cyber war operations against the Russians. That kind of decision is something that usually rests with the president of the United States. And according to Admiral Rogers, he just has not been given orders yet to conduct any kind of counterattack against the Russians in cyber space, Brooke.
BALDWIN: OK, Barbara, thank you very much.
Still ahead here, South Korea says the North Korean dictator Kim Jong- un is willing to talk to the U.S. about giving up his nuclear weapons. How did that idea once referred to as a non-starter by Pyongyang end up on the table and how optimistic is the White House about any of this?
[14:24:26] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- many countries, when they come to the Oval Office, but we'll be discussing many things.
REPORTER: Mr. President, do you consider the events in North Korea a breakthrough, possibly a peaceful breakthrough?
TRUMP: Well, I hope so. I want to see what happens. We're in very close contact. We have come certainly a long way at least rhetorically with North Korea. It would be a great thing for the world. It would be a great thing for North Korea. It would be great thing for the peninsula.
But we'll see what happens. We have -- we have been in a situation that should have been handled for a long time.
[14:25:02] For many, many years, it should have been taken care of. It shouldn't have been waited. But we'll get it done.
TRUMP: Say it.
REPORTER: Do you believe the North Koreans (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: We're going to see. We're going to see. They seem to be acting positively. We're going to see.
I'm willing to go as you probably noticed this morning, where we sent out through a social media statement willing to go either way. Hopefully, it's going to be the proper way. The proper way is the way that everybody knows and everybody wants. But we are prepared to go either way.
I think that their statement and the statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive. That would be a great thing for the world, a great thing for the world. So, we'll see how it all comes about, OK?
I will say this and we've been given tremendous credit because the Olympics was not going well and when they came in out of the blue and they said, we'd love to participate in the Olympics. It made the Olympics very successful. President Moon of South Korea was very generous in his statement, says t the fact that we had a lot to do with that, if not everything. We had a lot to do with it.
The Olympics were beautiful. They were really very successful and as you know, they weren't looking that way prior to.
So, I thought North Korea was terrific. They came out. They went into the Olympics. They went in with good spirits. They did well.
It's -- let's see if we can carry it over. We may carry it over. It may not. It's a very tenuous situation. It's going to be very interesting to see what happens.
REPORTER: You sound more optimistic about this --
TRUMP: I'd like to be optimistic, but I think maybe this has gone further than anyone has taken it before. Nobody has been in a position. This should have been handled long ago. This should have been handled over years by many different administrations, not now. This was not the right time to handle it.
But these are the cards we were dealt. We're handling it properly and again as I said, hopefully, we'll go in the very peaceful, beautiful path. We are prepared to go whichever path is necessary. I think we are having very good dialogue.
And you are going to certainly find out pretty soon what's happening. But we have -- we have made progress, there is no question about it.
REPORTER: Mr. President, would you be willing to meet Kim Jong-un?
TRUMP: We'll see what happens. Let's see what happens.
REPORTER: Have they agreed to suspend any types of tests right now --
TRUMP: We're going to see what happens. I don't want to talk so much about things that we don't know yet. But we have had very good dialogue. I think it was very positive dialogue. And you heard that before, but so far, whether you look at the Clinton administration or the Bush administration or the Obama administration, it never worked out.
That was the time to have settled this problem. Not now. But we are settling it. We're going to do something now.
One way or the other, we have to do something him, we cannot let that situation fester. We cannot let it happen.
TRUMP: We're going to see what happens. I don't want to talk about it. We're going to see what happens.
(INAUDIBLE) TRUMP: Sweden will always be helpful. Sweden has been helpful in the past. They were very helpful recently with respect to something else. They are a great friend and a very competent friend.
TRUMP: Excuse me?
TRUMP: Yes, I do know that. I know that. A lot of people know that. Thank you for pointing it out. But we all know that.
OK. Thank you very much. We'll see you later. Thank you very much.
BALDWIN: All right. The president there, significant comments. That's the first time he tweeted about it, it's the first time we seen the president on camera commenting about this mega news out of the Korean peninsula there. He is sitting alongside the Swedish PM who just arrived before this news conference next hour.
But the news today is that North Korea is apparently now saying it is willing to give up its nuclear missile testing in exchange for talks with the United States. The caveat, the North wants its own safety guarantee. The official statement came from the South, which announced a rare summit between Korean leaders next month.
Keep in mind, this hasn't happened in more than 10 years and for the first time, it will actually happen on the DMZ in an of itself a major, major milestone.
So, David Sanger, you are the perfect person to talk about all of this, and especially what we just heard from the president, our CNN political and national security analyst, and national security correspondent for the "New York Times".
And so are you, Will Ripley, you have been in and out of Pyongyang, I lost count. You are currently in Beijing.
But, David Sanger, first to you, the words of the president, hope so, seem to be acting positively. We'll see. What's your read on that from Trump?
DAVID SANGER, CNN POLITICAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, all head words that are probably appropriate for the moment. He was -- you know, by Donald Trump's standard, that was pretty diplomatic stuff, don't you think, Brooke? So, he is --
BALDWIN: No victory laps, no claiming credit.
SANGER: No claiming credit, no victory laps, he hasn't even made a big deal of the degree to which the --