Return to Transcripts main page
Former Trump Aide Sam Nunberg Gives Interviews about Cooperating with Mueller Investigation; North Korea Agrees to Talks on Denuclearization. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired March 6, 2018 - 8:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDREW STEVENS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: -- we had a hydrogen bomb test we believe and an ICBM test. So North Korea looks like, Chris, it's adopting a different strategy this time round. But there are conditions here and there are buts. It does say it will suspend all provocative actions while there are talks between the U.S. and North Korea on denuclearization. They say they are now open to an open- ended dialogue on denuclearization. They also go on to say they would denuclearize if they could have their safety guaranteed and the threat would be disposed of. Guarantees of safety would most likely mean withdrawing U.S. troops from South Korea. So it looks difficult to see how the U.S. would agree to that, certainly at this stage, Chris. So there are conditions, but they are talking.
And it is important that there is going to be a summit between the two Korean leaders. And it's also going to be in the Panmunjom peace house. This is in the DMZ, the demilitarized zone. There have been two summits in the past, but they were both in Pyongyang. So there is a site change there, perhaps a bit of give, but North Korea, yes, there are buts, yes, there are conditions, but they are agreeing now to talk.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, appreciate it. So let us know if there are any more developments on that.
The president is up and tweeting, but not about North Korea. Instead, he's focusing in on reports of chaos in the West Wing. CNN's Abby Phillip live at the White House with the breaking details. A little bit of a surprise, I got to be honest, that he's not seizing on what outwardly seems like success for his administration and instead talking about something that he will never disprove.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The North Korea story is a big one. But the president is tweeting about something completely different. He's responding to the allegations that his administration is in a state of chaos especially when it comes to personnel. This tweet says the new fake news narrative is that there is chaos in the White House. Wrong. People will always come and go and I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change, always seeking perfection. But there is no chaos, only great energy.
It's unclear what exactly the president is talking about. Perhaps some of the reports of chaos around this tariff decision or perhaps this other big story that's been swirling in the last 24 hours, a former Trump aide Sam Nunberg talking at length about his interactions with the special counsel and claiming that he is going to defy the special counsel and not cooperate with that investigation. That report has left the White House in a state of surprise and shock, a series of bizarre interviews that Nunberg has been giving in the last 24 hours.
PHILLIP: Former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg threatening to deny a subpoena to testify this Friday and daring special counsel Robert Mueller to arrest him.
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: They want me over at the grand jury. Screw that. Why do I have to go? Why? For what?
PHILLIP: Mueller's team has subpoenaed all communication Nunberg has had with 10 different individuals since November, 2015, including President Trump. Nunberg later signaling that he may be open to complying.
NUNBERG: I was thinking to save time, I've been advised against this, maybe I'll just give them my password, my e-mail password, because what do I have to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So then you're going to comply?
NUNBERG: Then I would comply, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So now you're saying you might comply?
NUNBERG: I have no problem complying in itself. What I'm not going to do is sit, Erin, for 15 hours --
PHILLIP: Nunberg, who says he has already spoken with Mueller's team once making a series of explosive claims about the investigation.
NUNBERG: Trump may very well have done something during the election with the Russians. They know something on him, and Jake, I don't know what it is. And perhaps I'm wrong, but he did something.
PHILLIP: At other times Nunberg insisting that the Trump campaign did not collude with the Russians.
NUNBERG: The idea that we were the Manchurian candidate, Gloria, we were a joke. Everybody was laughing at us. The idea that we were colluding with the Russians, give me a break.
PHILLIP: Nunberg also making this unsubstantiated claim about President Trump's knowledge of the now infamous June, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between Don Junior and Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump says he knew nothing about the meeting. Do you think that's true?
NUNBERG: No. TAPPER: You don't think that's true?
NUNBERG: No. Jake, I've watched your news reports. You know it's not true. He talked about it a week before.
PHILLIP: Nunberg seemingly referencing these remarks from two days before the meeting.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we're going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you're going to find it very informative.
PHILLIP: That speech never materialized.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Was that because the Trump Tower meeting didn't produce what he hoped it would produce?
PHILLIP: The ranking Democratic on the House Intelligence Committee telling CNN he hopes to interview Nunberg about the claim. But the Republican leading the committee's investigation signaling otherwise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To your expectation this is winding down?
REP. MIKE CONAWAY, (R) HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: As I said earlier, we're closer to the end than we are to the beginning.
PHILLIP: Earlier in the day the White House rejecting Nunberg's allegations.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He hasn't worked at the White House, so I can't speak to him or the lack of knowledge that he clearly has.
PHILLIP: But inside the West Wing, sources tell CNN multiple officials were closely watching Nunberg's freewheeling interviews, calling them bizarre and nuts. Nunberg even attacks the White House press secretary in another interview.
NUNBERG: If Sarah Huckabee wants to start debasing me, she's a joke. OK, fine, yes, she's not attractive, she's a fat slob, OK, fine. But that's not relevant. The person she works for has a 30 percent approval rating.
PHILLIP: CNN's Erin Burnett asking Nunberg very directly about his mental state.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath.
NUNBERG: Well, I have not had a drink.
BURNETT: You haven't had a drink?
NUNBERG: No. BURNETT: Because it is the talk out there. Again, I know it's
awkward. Let me give you the question --
NUNBERG: My answer is no. I have not.
BURNETT: Anything else?
NUNBERG: No, besides my meds. Antidepressants. Is that OK?
PHILLIP: President Trump just reacting seconds ago on Twitter to this North Korea news. He retweeted a report about the latest out of North Korea. And he said we will see what happens. So we're still awaiting an official White House statement this morning on that subject, and we'll also see President Trump this afternoon when he has a press conference with the Swedish prime minister, Alisyn and Chris.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Abby, thank you very much.
Let's bring in CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. So David Gregory, man of few words in the latest tweet, we'll see what happens, about North Korea. But he had a lot of words this hour about something else on his mind, about what's going on in the White House. I'll read this to you and you can compare and contrast.
CUOMO: Sell it.
CAMEROTA: "The new fake news narrative is that there is CHAOS," all caps, "in the White House. Wrong!" exclamation point. "People will always come and go. I want strong dialogue before making a final decision. I still have some people that I want to change, always seeking perfection." I could psychoanalyze that but I'm going to move on. "There is no CHAOS," capital, only great energy.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The whole capitalization subject --
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. I was thinking the same thing. Even with the autocorrect where sometimes when you text it capitalizes for no good reason, I don't think it's the same issue on Twitter.
CAMEROTA: Don't you think if he feels that way, if there's only great energy in the White House, tell that to your staffers who keep talking to reporters and telling them how demoralized they feel by the chaos.
GREGORY: Right. The best way to show that it's not chaotic is to actually act that way and to have a West Wing that is more functional than this one is without leaking, without an erratic president. So taking to Twitter to deny chaos doesn't do anything to quell this, only keep it going. And I just think it's just indisputable that you have not just an erratic, impulsive president, but the fact that he can't keep people in their roles, a shoddy security system, and this issue of securing clearances because of the nepotism in the West Wing has gotten out of hand. So he may love to sell the idea that we get great results through creative energy. I don't think that's going the fly.
CUOMO: Also, look, it's just a great window into one of the ongoing points of frustration for Americans which is, boy, are you being too negative on President Trump? Let's look at just this moment in time, OK. He should be tweeting about what just developed with North Korea.
CAMEROTA: He's missing an opportunity to take credit for it which lots of people are giving him.
CUOMO: And it matters because it's a potentially existential crisis. So there's some sign of progress there. He does two words, he obviously doesn't care about it. Why? Because length is strength to him, so he's going to talk more in-depth about what actually matters. He cannot disprove the chaos, he can only add to it by what he's doing. The facts are demonstrable that he has a problem with who he picks, how he manages them, and the results, he's not going to deal with that.
And then he also tweets about DACA and misstates the proposition of the state of play, saying it's all about the Democrats, they don't want to make a deal. One, you have a judicial proceeding. Two, his party was split, and that's putting it gently, about what to do about this. So who is creating the criticism of the president? He is by going out too far on chaos that is true and he's denying, misstating the DACA deal, and underplaying North Korea. He's relying on us to pump up what the administration just did when that's his job.
TOOBIN: Let's just talk about DACA for a second because these young people are still at risk. That's a very important point to make. There was a March 5th deadline that the president himself created. It is worth remembering that the president created the whole DACA crisis in the first place. If he hadn't overturned President Obama's executive order, the DACA people would be at rest.
However, the courts have now said it is not clear that the president withdrew DACA correctly. But there is no doubt the president has the right at some point to get rid of DACA. So DACA is on borrowed time. We don't know exactly how much time they have left, but the DACA issue is not settled in the courts by any means. DACA is still going to be withdrawn at some point, and the question now is does anything replace it? And that's really on the president and the majority party far more than it's on the Democrats.
CUOMO: He should be reminded he was the one who agreed with Dianne Feinstein when she said let's just do DACA in a clean bill, save these kids and adults, and then we'll deal with other things. He said I'm good with that, and some heads exploded around him from the GOP. And that's what got us here. It's not about progress. It's about political perception.
TOOBIN: Because the Republicans want to tie DACA to the border wall, increased border enforcement. That's a political dispute that has to be resolved. But no one should think that the courts have solved the DACA problem. The fate of the Dreamers is still very much up in the air.
GREGORY: We should just remember, too, that the president could have gotten funding for a border wall, solved the DACA process, and he could have had that, a signature promise, but walked away from that because it didn't go even farther than some of the conservative hardliners wanted on this issue of family immigration and all the rest.
CAMEROTA: OK, let's move on to North Korea, because if you take what's happened this morning at face value, and we're cautioned not necessarily to. But the statements coming out of North Korea are truly remarkable. So David, let me just read a couple of things that we know. North Korea told South Korea that it would freeze its nuclear and missile testing while dialogue is ongoing. And they are having dialogue with South Korea and maybe will with the U.S., another point to bring up. The North clarified its commitment to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and clarified there is no reason to retain their nuclear if the military threat to North Korea is resolved and North Korea's security is guaranteed. Obviously big ifs, who knows how that is interpreted? Will there be inspectors that are allowed to go in? However, the fact that they're stating that and codifying it in a statement to the South is remarkable today.
GREGORY: It is very important. It's always a good idea to pay attention to David Sanger from "The New York Times" who was on last hour who said this is about a lot of groundwork that South Korea has done. And some of the ifs and the buts are important, too. Would the United States agree to end joint exercises with the South? How much assurance will the United States give to a North Korean regime that it doesn't face any peril if it gives up nuclear weapons, and how do you verify that. That becomes very important.
But South Korea and China are always the important players here. China doesn't necessarily want a government that's unified that's friendly to the United States in its sphere of influence. But at the same time they don't want a failed North regime and certainly don't want one that's engaged militarily with the South and with the United States. So there's a lot here that has to be looked at, but you have an administration that's taking a very strong stance, that's forced them to back down on weapons tests, and that's significant.
CUOMO: And indulge me for one second just because I believe that this is a good moment we're having here that is just a clear illustration of what drives the news cycle the way it does, and it starts, emanates from the president.
His first tweet of the morning was about the chaos, OK. It was first, but it's also getting picked up at a rate that is greater than the three that followed. What were they? The next one is DACA is on the Dems, which isn't true. He had a deal on the table. He didn't take it. The next one was we're getting it done, jobs and security, in reference to a "Drudge Report" thing about the USA becoming the world's largest oil producer. Literally just one line about it.
And then the next one is about North Korea, and in response to Drudge again -- Drudge is one of the few outlets that his follows. Kim Jong- un hosts Seoul envoy first time since taking power. We will see what happens.
Jeffrey, you see where the emphasis is for him. For any other president, it would all be North Korea this morning. They said it couldn't be done. Obama couldn't get it done. He didn't do the sanctions that we did. He couldn't work the policy the way we are. He couldn't get the South involved the way I did. Now, we're going to have history.
I may be in the same room with Kim Jong-un, this was seen as impossible before my election, why isn't he making that case? Why is he focusing on things that he can't prove and that only further divide?
He is 71 years old. He is not going to change...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got passed in a triathlon by a guy who was 73, just four months ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I understand...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's because you're weak.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Donald Trump's personality is Donald Trump personality. I mean, you know, he is someone who is obsessed with the news cycle in the United States on cable news and you know, at 71, he is not going to change.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the other point is -- I don't think we should criticize the President for appropriate restraint...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we have no problem with what he said about me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Contain yourself for the sake of your professionalism. We rerack to that -- while we rerack to show our viewers again...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, but my point is, I don't think we should criticize him for having appropriate restraint. I mean, the appropriate reaction is to say, this could be a good sign, why don't I wait to talk to my advisers on this issue, and let's see how it plays out and so there's a little bit of (inaudible), but right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, I think Jeffrey is right that he is really fueled by the cable news cycle, but we have had our priorities straight here, I think, that's important. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, gentlemen, David Gregory, Jeffrey
Toobin, well, men, don't usually (inaudible)...
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: I finished very high on my age.
DAVID GREGORY, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: I am sure and then you'll do very well when you're in your 70s.
TOOBIN: You've caught me to the quick. You've cut me to the quick.
GREGORY: Nothing but admiration.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, ANCHOR, CNN: Former Trump aide, Sam Nunberg cannot stop talking about his subpoena from Robert Mueller. Do his claims with the President have any merit? Republican Congressman Charlie Dent joins us next on this and more.
A whirlwind of accusations from a former Trump campaign adviser, Sam Nunberg speaking about the Mueller investigation, in a series of cable news interviews that left many people scratching their heads.
SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP AIDE: Donald Trump (pauses) because he's an idiot because he decided to give an interview to Lester Holt the day after he fired James Comey and then he decided to have the Russians in the Oval Office. You have to explain that one to me because I'll never understand it.
CAMEROTA: Let's discuss this with Republican Congressman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania. Good morning, Congressman.
CHARLIE DENT, CONGRESSMAN, PENNSYLVANIA, REPUBLICAN: Good morning, Alisyn. Great to be with you.
CAMEROTA: Great to have you. What do you make of Sam Nunberg's comments?
DENT: Well, that's just beyond bizarre. I mean to see that Erin Burnett interview where she had to ask if he was drinking, it seems to me that this man -- somebody needs to stage an intervention on his behalf. He's got enormous problems. He acknowledged that his own lawyer will probably fire him. He should never stand in front of a camera.
You know, I often tell my staff, if I am about to do something destructive, tackle me. Tackle me. And he needs a tackler right now to get him off the camera because it's just clear to me that this man has got a lot of o problems, and I don't know if what he is saying is true or not, but he doesn't want to comply with the subpoena, well, who does?
But most people comply with a subpoena because they don't want to go to jail. CAMEROTA: Well, look, here is the point. I mean, it might be ill-
advised to go and do cable news interviews, however, Robert Mueller certainly thinks he's integral to something. I mean, he sent him this subpoena and thinks that he holds the key to something. He wants to see all of Sam Nunberg's communications.
DENT: Yes, I'm sure Director Mueller has reasons to interview him, and you know, I heard Mr. Nunberg say he was not a subject or a target, so maybe they want to talk to him as a witness.
So, if I were Mr. Nunberg, I would comply. I'm sure it's difficult and time consuming and costly, you know, to go and search for the e- mails, but he's not a target by his own admission or a subject, so he's a witness.
So, I suspect that he might have some information that may be useful. I don't know what Director Mueller knows. No one really knows, but maybe Mr. Nunberg is trying to protect someone or maybe he's got something to hide himself. I mean, it could be all of those things.
CAMEROTA: In terms of the investigations into Russian meddling, you're right, we don't know as much about the Mueller investigation certainly, as we do about the House Intel Committee investigation. I know you're not on that committee, but it sounds like they are really deadlocked in a kind of partisan way, that the Republicans are saying, "It's time to wrap this up, we're done," and the Democrats are saying, "Whoa, time out. We have lots more people that we want to interview and get much more information." What do you think is going to happen on that end?
DENT: Well, as far as the house investigation is concerned on Russia, it has always kind of gone off the rails very, very early on. It just descended into partisan bickering. The Senate has had a much more constructive approach on the Russian investigation, but at the end of the day, it really matters what Director Mueller says. That's the real criminal investigation.
So, I am not holding out a lot of hope that the House Intelligence Committee is going to come up with a bipartisan report under any circumstances. I think we'll have to leave that to the Senate and obviously, Director Mueller.
CAMEROTA: Okay, so some other business that is being done on Capitol Hill, in the White House, the President is getting set to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. You're from Pennsylvania, what do you think of this plan?
DENT: Well, I represent into the City of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Bethlehem Steel was the largest -- the second largest steel producer in the world at one time, an integrated producer. That company no longer exists. We don't make steel in my district anymore.
I would tell you that we do not need to impose these types of tariffs in this kind of scatter shot matter. I think it is a mistake. This represents crony capitalism of the worst type, protecting the few at the expense of the many. On the aluminum side, and by the way, this whole trade discussion,
we're going going after Canada. Canada is not a security threat. They're our friends. They're the biggest exporter of steel and aluminum to the United States. Aluminum -- I'll tell you these aluminum imports or this aluminum tariffs will directly affect my Congressional district. I represent Hershey, Pennsylvania, you know, the sweetest place on earth.
Well, they use aluminum foil to wrap those Hershey Kisses; 70 million Kisses a day are produced in my district -- that's a lot of foil and that's also a lot of loving, 70 million Kisses, but the point I am making is, this is going to have a direct impact on my district.
But if the Trump Administration were smart about this -- and by the way, I had a conversation with Secretary Ross about the aluminum tariffs months ago, last year, about how this would have a negative effect. And I agree that there is overcapacity in China in metal, steel, and aluminum and cement and that, if we want to deal with China, let's deal with China and target them. But why go after Canada? South Korea? Brazil? Germany? And other countries that are -- Japan -- countries that are friendly to us that are not national security threats on steel or aluminum for that matter, I just think this is very misguided. It will impede growth, it will raise costs for consumers, it will not be in our nation's interest.
It will be retaliation. We are already hearing about retaliation, and for the President to one up this and say, "Well, I'm only going to go after their cars," I guess he's referring to the German automakers. Well, BMW, and Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen are heavily invested in the United States. BMW and Mercedes are the largest exporters of cars in the United States. Why go to war with the German automakers? It makes no sense to me.
CAMEROTA: Very quickly in our remaining seconds, there's a special election in your state of Pennsylvania one week from today. Why haven't you endorsed the Republican candidate, state rep, Rick Saccone yet?
DENT: I support the Republican nominee, the election is obviously much closer than it ought to be. This is a district that Donald Trump won by 20 points. All I know is that whoever wins this special election is not going to live in this district for the fall election because the state Supreme Court threw out the whole map.
So, the whole Pennsylvania map is in chaos right now. The field is completely scrambled all over the state. And so, this special election won't be the end of this little discussion.
CAMEROTA: Okay, Congressman Charlie Dent, great to have you on, thanks so much.
DENT: Thank you, Alisyn. Great to be with you.
CAMEROTA: Okay, good.
CHRIS COUMO, ANCHOR, CNN: So, we have huge news on North Korea. And the President has just tweeted about the Oscars ratings. Check it for yourself. But he's also talking about ramping up the rhetoric against Democrats over the fate of the dreamers.
He's saying there's a deal to be made and he's blaming the Democrats. Is that the truth? Senator Joe Manchin is a Democratic and integral to that process. He joins us to make the case next.