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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Lawyer At Trump Tower Meeting Says She's Kremlin Informant; Sources: Jackson Has Returned To The White House Medical Unit But Has Not Returned As The President's Physician; Historic Handshake Between North and South Korea Leaders; House Chaplain Forced Out, Lawmakers Demand Answers; Anthony and Anderson Drink Big Beers; Republicans Release Disputed House Intel Report. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired April 27, 2018 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: And thanks for joining us. Don't forger, you can watch OUTFRONT any time, anywhere, just go to CNNGo. "ANDERSON" is next.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Russian lawyer, at the center of the Trump Tower meeting at the center of the Russia investigation, had far closer Kremlin ties than she said or we knew. John Berman here in for Anderson. She said she was a Russian informant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, RUSSIAN LAWYER: I'm an informant. I am a lawyer and an informant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: And very nearly, at the same time, this story broke, the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee released its final report. The conclusion, no collusion. It says if irony has the world's greatest scheduler. Yet even as it was revealed that one potential colluder, Natalia Veselnitskaya, who has denied any Kremlin ties at all is in fact an informant, the president was taking a victory lap.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a great report. No collusion, which I knew anyway. No coordination, no nothing. It's a witch hunt, that's all it is. There was no collusion with Russia, you can believe this one. That was -- she probably can't believe it, who can? But the report was very powerful, very strong. There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian people. As I've said many times before, I've always said there was no collusion, but I've also said there's been nobody tougher on Russia than me.
With that all being said, if we can get along with Russia, that's a good thing, not a bad thing, but there has been nobody tougher on Russia than me. I was very honored by the report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: The intelligence committee report from which Democrats on the panel descended says the committee found no evidence that the Trump campaign helped with Russian meddling in the election. As for the Trump Tower meeting, which Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, campaign chair Paul Manafort attended, and Trump Jr. was promised would include damaging Russian intelligence on Hillary Clinton.
The intelligence committee merely called their eager attendance and apparent willingness to collect Russian information from their America's cheap nuclear adversary and active "poor judgment". This is the meeting, just to remind you, that Donald Trump, Jr. was so hyped about beforehand. He wrote to the guy pitching it about the promise dirt, "If it's what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer". "I love it", he said after being promised, "high-level and sensitive information", part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump.
"I love it", he said about a meeting we now know ultimately included a Russian informant. This was the meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. and later the White House, made misleading statements about saying it was primarily about adoption. Don Jr. and the others at the meeting say the promise dirt never materialized. The fact is, though, no one except the participants knows what was actually said or where things went from there, if they went anywhere at all and what, if anything, candidate Trump was told about it in the building, in his office, on that day, in his office just a floor away from where the meeting happened.
What we do now know is that one of the key players was lying about a key fact, her Kremlin connection. This morning, CNN's Manu Raju asked the Republican who led the house intelligence investigation if he had known about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: Not that I recall. That's new information.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And do you think that's relevant to what happened in the 2016 campaign that she was a Russian informant?
CONAWAY: Well, there are lots of Russian informants throughout the world that may or may not have any impact. I don't think you can talk about the 2016 campaign, what the Russians do. We're pretty extensive on that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: So it was news to Congressman Mike Conaway, new to the man who just today release a report saying, no collusion. The Trump campaign met with a Russian informant, but to him, not significant news and not worth reopening the probe. In fact, nothing Natalia Veselnitskaya had to say was important enough for Republicans to even invite her to testify in the first place.
And the (ph) Democrat, at a descending minority report, had a long list of people, they say the committee should have spoken to but didn't and she was on it. So it was Reince Priebus, senior policy advisor, Stephen Miller, senior FBI officials, Russia expert. Their list runs through more than 30 names which they say is symptomatic of a committee that simply was not interested in getting the full picture, including a phone call that Don Jr. made prior to the Trump Tower meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: We sought to find out, is that blocked number, Donald Trump's blocked number, because we found out during the investigation that Donald Trump used a blocked number during the campaign. We asked to subpoena the phone records so we could match up, did Donald Trump receive a call at the same time Donald Jr. was making that call to find out, did the president's son seek the president's permission, the go ahead to go forward with this meeting.
The Republicans refused. They didn't want to know, they wouldn't ask the phone company for those records. That tells you a lot about the fundamental unseriousness, the really the head in the sand approach the GOP took.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[20:05:05] BERMAN: And keeping the modesty approach the Republicans took has come in for more than a little criticism, unlike its center counter -- Senate counterpart, which is said to be a model of bipartisan cooperation. Committee Chair Devin Nunes who, as you know, has been accused of carrying water for the administration and was exposed doing it in at least one occasion when he rushed to the White House to allegedly brief officials on what he said was damaging information he'd received about surveillance of Donald Trump.
Just days later, it turned out the whole thing was a scam. And that the information he supposedly just had to tell the White House was actually given to him by the White House. That actually happened in America.
Anyway, Nunes has also launched a probe of the FBI itself and publicly declared he has no faith in special counsel Mueller's investigation. And back in February, Republicans on the committee released a memo accusing FBI and Justice Department officials of abusing their powers to spy on a former Trump campaign advisor suspected of being an agent for Russia. Which conveniently echoed administration claims at the time, and you remember, they released over the Republican Trump- appointed FBI director's grave concerns about its accuracy.
Any one of those items would raise concern, every one of them and there are more, raised questions that we will talk about tonight.
First, joining us is Sharon LaFraniere, one of the two "New York Times" correspondents on the Russia lawyer/informant now story. So Sharon, so how was Veselnitskaya gone from telling the Senate Judiciary Committee that she operates "independently of any governmental bodies" to admitting she is a Russian informant? SHARON LAFRANIERE, CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think
what happened was that she was a little bit taken by surprise because we and NBC News obtained a series of e-mail exchanges between her and the Russian prosecutor general and an NBC news correspondent chased her down in Moscow. And I think she just blurted it out in her initial response when she was asked, what's your relationship with the prosecutor general? She said, well, it's a dual -- I have a dual role, I'm a private attorney and I'm an informant. And from thereon, she backtracked.
BERMAN: The heck of a thing to have on your business card. And this person she says she was an informant for the Russian prosecutor general. Can you explain who he is, what role he may have played in this scenario and perhaps what role he may have played in terms of wanting to get information of the Trump campaign?
LAFRANIERE: So he's a key Kremlin official for sure. He's very high up. He's part of the Russian security services. And, he was the one you might remember who was mentioned in an e-mail that Rob Goldstone, the intermediary sent to Donald Trump, Jr. in 2006 when he was trying to set up the Trump Tower meeting. And in that e-mail, he said that this information that would -- was part of the Russian government's attempt to help Donald Trump's campaign, this information would be delivered by a Russian government attorney.
But, Natalia Veselnitskaya said -- insisted she wasn't a Russian government attorney, she was just a private attorney. But, you know, that -- by this point, I think her -- that assertion is pretty well shredded.
BERMAN: Yes, I mean --
LAFRANIERE: And -- yes.
BERMAN: I mean, look, you know, he was the guy, yes, listed in the e- mail, the conversation to Donald Trump, Jr. is the one providing the dirt on Hillary Clinton. She now we know as an informant for this guy. Any sense of just how long Veselnitskaya was or has been an informant to the Office of the Russian Prosecutor General?
LAFRANIERE: I believe at one point, she worked for them or she worked for the regional office of -- that was connected to them and she has had close ties with them over the years. In this case, in 2000 -- the e-mails that we obtained this is 2014, so two years before the Trump Tower meeting, right? And she and the prosecutor general's office were working hand in hand to secretly -- secretly hand in hand to respond to a Justice Department request for evidence in a civil fraud case that was brought in a federal court in New York.
And, what the situation was that our Justice Department had asked the prosecutor general to give us evidence against a Russian businessman who was accused of money laundering and Veselnitskaya was this businessman's defense attorney. And what happened was that behind the Justice Department's back, the prosecutor general went to Veselnitskaya and together through a series of like 11 e-mails, they crafted a response. [20:10:01] BERMAN: She's got a history. A history of operating --
LAFRANIERE: Yes, a long history.
BERMAN: -- in this country. Sharon LaFraniere, thanks very much for being with us.
LAFRANIERE: Thank you.
BERMAN: I appreciate it.
Perspective now from former CIA chief of Russia operations, Steve Hall, also "New York Times" Matthew Rosenberg, he and Steve are also CNN national security analysts. And joining us as well, former Trump campaign, deputy communication director, Bryan Lanza.
Steve, I want to start with you here. When you hear a Kremlin-linked attorney acknowledge she is a Russian government informant, what kind of light does it shed for you now on what that Trump Tower meeting was about?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, John, you have to be careful not to sort of impose our western rule of law view on this. There's a lot of titles, you know, informant, you know, things that are being thrown around. The fact of the matter is, Vladimir Putin runs an autocracy. And when Vladimir Putin says, I want something done, it gets done. It doesn't really matter what your title is. What matters is when he looks around, who can he see to help him.
So in this particular case, apparently he used the prosecutor general, Mr. Chaika, and said, hey, do you guys have anybody who you can send in to see whether there's an avenue here into the Trump campaign. And sure enough, there was. I think if you step back and say, OK, what do we know for sure? We already know for sure that the Russian government was intent on attacking our elections, our own intelligence services have told us that.
We know that Veselnitskaya got that meeting and we know that sensibly the reason for the meeting was because of the dirt on Hillary Clinton. What we don't know yet, obviously, is whether or not there is any reciprocity from the other side, from the Trump team, whether --
HALL: -- or not there was anybody who was willing to cooperate or wanted to try to get that information. So, you know, we have to remember what we're dealing with when we're dealing with the Russian government. It's a unitary approach and they'll use whoever they want, people like Veselnitskaya, to get whatever they want.
BERMAN: We do know that Donald Trump, Jr., when told that he was going to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, he said, "I love it." You know, Bryan Lanza, now that we do know, at least according to her, that there was a Russian informant in this meeting at Trump Tower. Does it seem to you more than just the poor judgment that the House Intelligence Committee called it today? BRYAN LANZA, FORMER DEPUTY COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN:
You know, I think what we know is that she lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee. And so when you have to look at the veracity of somebody's credibility, that comes into play. So we don't know what angle she has to play by saying that she was an informant. Maybe it's to sow confusion, maybe it's to get the media worked up, maybe it's to get, you know, the Democrats all worked up to say, hey, maybe this investigation isn't (ph) concluded.
But you can't put a lot of weight on somebody who lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee and is just creating all -- and just sewing all of this descent when people have already come to a decision. It's also possible, she says she's an informant -- because she's an informant.
LANZA: Sure, absolutely. But it's also correct that if she's making that claim, she lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is a crime, which goes directly to her credibility and she probably has limited --
BERMAN: I mean, if it's true that she was an informant, it's also true that she was trying to give dirt, you know, about a candidate to another candidate in the United States.
You know, Matthew, the fact of this meeting a year ago has always -- you know, when we learned about it a year ago, it's always been an extraordinary thing, that the son of the now president was offered dirt from the Russian government on the opposing campaign. So it's always been extraordinary when you look at it like that.
Now that we know, at least according to her, that there was a Russian informant in the room who maybe was there to deliver that dirt. What more did it tell you?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think it -- the reason (ph) of the question, why are investigations being pushed to end when this seems like the kind of thing you would want to dig into and find out, is she lying? What is her relationship with Vladimir Putin. Why were they meeting with her? Why was she there? What does this tell us about the relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, if there was any?
And I also want to talk more of Bryan just brought up, questioning saying, well, you know, she lied once, so do we really know she's credible or not. I mean, this has become a very familiar kind of line of attack for President Trump supporters, whenever information is presented that is unfavorable to the president, whether it is Natalia --
ROSENBERG: I'm not going to mess up her last name on TV. Whether it is what she said today or the dossier, put together by Christopher Steele, the former British spy, your -- or always what will -- do we know this, was it -- is it really just Kremlin disinformation and that seems to be a familiar line of attack now from President Trump supporters. That when presented with information that's potentially damaging to the president, it's -- well, maybe, this is the Kremlin trying to get it out here to sow dissension in the U.S. That could be the case but we need a little more evidence on that.
BERMAN: Well, worth investigating more (ph), and Matthew said, recent (ph) investigating more, she said she's an informant.
LANZA: You know, I think you have the Senate investigation that's going on, you have the Mueller investigation that's going on. So I mean, this House partisan investigation is never -- was never going to be the one that got to the truth of anything. It became nothing but a leak factory for the Democratic Party and then now, you know, and then it also became an issue where we brought up some possible malpractice at the FBI. That's all this sort of House investigation --
BERMAN: Well, it was also of Devin Nunes who had to recuse himself --
BERMAN: -- because --
LANZA: Sure, absolutely.
BERMAN: -- of questionable activity.
LANZA: And it's also the FBI that refused to turn over documents to the House and -- to the House Committee investigating this up (ph).
BERMAN: I want to get back to our intelligence guy in just a moment, but Matthew, we can assume that Robert Mueller is all in on Natalia Veselnitskaya?
[20:15:05] ROSENBERG: I would have to imagine, you at least be looking at her. You know, I can't imagine they would be saying, oh, we don't worry about that. I mean, she's got to be somebody they're looking at and what her role was, and why she was at that meeting.
BERMAN: So Steve, you say that we have to look at this with a big picture. And remember that Vladimir Putin is an autocrat, and runs the government from the top down. Given that we now know that this woman who says she was a Russian informant was at this meeting. Fair to assume that, you know, the highest levels at the Kremlin knows everything about this meeting, were told everything about this meeting?
HALL: I -- almost absolutely. You have to remember Vladimir Putin, you know, is a former intelligence officer himself so he's going to take an interest in, you know, what at the time must have been, you know, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, influence operation that he had going on at the time looking, you know, straight into the White House and to the candidates involved.
But, you know, again, I have to get back and emphasize the point that everybody in that, every single Russian in that room, when they return to Moscow, was probably debriefed by the FSB or the SVR, one of the two Russian intelligence services. So whether one of them calls themselves an informant or has whatever ties they have, they are all going to go home and pay the piper, they're going to talk to the services or to, you know, Vladimir Putin whoever he says and they're going to get fully debriefed on what's going on.
What would be interesting to know was whether Veselnitskaya had any additional tasking, whether she was told, hey, if you do get this response from Donald Trump, Jr. or anybody else in the room, we'd like you to do this, or we'd like you to do that. That, we don't know yet, which is something that I would entrust folks like the Mueller team to try to get to the bottom of.
BERMAN: Is she the type of person who would be used to deliver dirt on a candidate? Is she type of person who would be used not just to gather information but to deliver it?
HALL: Sure, there's a whole bunch of roles for these different types of folks. I heard Phil Mudd earlier talk about access agents, which is somebody who simply has access to somebody that you want, like Donald Trump, Jr. There's also agents of influence, people who can be told, hey, we want you to try to spin a message to people who are in the room to try to get a particular message across.
Veselnitskaya is somebody who could very easily be somebody like that, in my view.
BERMAN: All right, Steve Hall, Matthew Rosenberg, Bryan Lanza, thank you very much for being here. And I -- you know, breaking news in the Stormy Daniels case, not the federal Michael Cohen criminal hearing in New York over access of documents seized from him know the lawsuit against Michael Cohen in California. The judge in that one has put things on hold for 90 days while the criminal investigation back here in New York can proceed.
Michael Cohen had asked to halt the lawsuit because he plans to assert his independent (ph) right not to incriminate himself. The judge says that because Cohen was the alleged mastermind behind the hush agreement and settlement payment with Daniels, he would have to choose whether he would take the fifth to defend -- or defend himself on every major aspect of the details of the case. So he says -- or the judge says time out for now.
A lot more to come tonight, next, a breaking news, Dr. Ronny Jackson and his current status at the White House. Also, more on those allegations that he has that all kinds of pills, like so much candy, in fact, checking the president's claim that the demise of this V.A. nomination was due to a partisan witch hunt.
Later, what comes after the historic handshake between Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart?
[20:21:54] BERMAN: All right, breaking news just into us. Dr. Ronny Jackson, the White House -- a White House official says that Dr. Jackson has returned to the White House medical unit, but has not returned as the president's physician. The official says, it is unclear if that will happen.
Another physician, we are now told, has been serving as the president's doctor since the Jackson nomination, that he was nominated to be secretary of Veterans Affairs. Although he may have pulled the plug on his bid to run the Veterans Affairs Department. The questions that torpedoed his nomination have not gone away. And we now have new reporting on that tonight. We'll bring that to you momentarily. First, though, the president's two-word take on it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP_
TRUMP: They have this witch hunt going on with people in the Justice Department that shouldn't be there. It's a witch hunt.
It's a witch hunt, that's all it is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: A witch hunt, he says, but that's not quite all he says.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Ronny Jackson, admiral doctor, is one of the finest men that I've met over the last long period of time. High quality. High- quality family. I just met them. And, I explained what happened. I explained that Washington can be a very mean place to make statements of things that most people said never happened. Never even happened. Calling him names was to me a disgrace. An absolute disgrace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: And sure, Washington really can be a rough and tumble place where your only friend, as someone once said, is a dog. Still, it is a little rich for the president, this president to call anyone out for name calling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Crooked Hillary Clinton.
Little Marco. Lyin' Ted Cruz, Lyin' Ted.
Oh, I don't know what I said. Oh, I don't remember.
Rosie O'Donnell is disgusting. I mean, both inside and out. You take a look at her, she's a slob.
He is a war hero. He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured, OK. I hate to tell you that.
Rocket Man should have been handled a long time ago.
Jeb Bush is a low-energy person. For him to get things done, it's hard. Maxine Waters, a very low I.Q. individual.
We have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: On a more serious note, the president specifically objected the Democratic Senate Veterans Affairs Committee member, Jon Tester, coming forward with many of the allegations against Dr. Jackson, including that some people call Dr. Jackson "the candy man". What the president did not say is just for the long tradition of bipartisanship the panel actually has when it comes to the V.A. and who runs it.
But more now on the bipartisan concerns about Dr. Jackson and what the lingering allegations mean for his current job as White House doctor. We're joined by CNN's Phil Mattingly.
So Phil, just to be clear, when it comes to Dr. Jackson, the concerns expand across the aisle, correct, that it wasn't just Democrats who had issues here?
[20:25:00] PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, if you really want to look back, John, the reality is this nomination was on thin ice before the allegations even came out. I talked to a number of Republican senators weeks ago who were very concerned about the qualifications that Dr. Ronny Jackson brought to the job, and we're very frustrated with the fact that there's almost no consultation if any at all before the nomination by tweet that we saw that brought him to the table.
Now, that actually has real meaning because when these allegations came to light, there were no natural allies that were willing to come out and fight for him. There's not a lot of enthusiasm. And so, as each allegation came out, you would talk to senators and one told me flatly, so basically, if any one of these is true, this nomination is done and, John, as we all know now, it didn't even take that.
BERMAN: How much of the blame are lawmakers laying on the White House right now for not vetting Dr. Jackson more thoroughly or at all, frankly?
MATTINGLY: Yes, it's a major focal point of theirs right now. Not vetting and also not communicating. Take for example, the top Republican on the committee overseeing the nomination. When these allegations started to surface, he called White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, he told him of what he was hearing, raised the concerns and said, kind of what do you want us to do next. He got nothing in return is what I'm told.
You had several senators as the allegations came out and became public who also called the White House. Sources tell me they got nothing in return. You, basically, had senators and staff who were operating in a compete vacuum of information. In fact, when the pushback actually started from the White House, we just saw rather fiercely a little bit after these allegations came out, they put out a two-page fact sheet that they sent to Capitol Hill. That fact sheet reached staffers after it reached the media. These are all major problems when you're trying to rally a defense to a nominee that's in trouble.
BERMAN: So there will still be a determination here because he's back being the president's doctor despite these serious allegations.
MATTINGLY: Yes, that's exactly right. He's working day to day, and look, the primary reason he's working day to day in the White House right now is the president. And there's no shortage (ph) of support from the president. We saw that once again today about how much the president thinks of Ronny Jackson, how much he thinks of his family. But the reality is there are a lot of allegations, some of which are very damaging.
I can tell you, there's a lot of Republicans who didn't support the nomination who are uncomfortable with the fact that none of them have been confirmed to be true yet. But as you noted, that should come in the future because the Senate still has a say over what happens next with Ronny Jackson.
BERMAN: Phil Mattingly on Capitol Hill, thanks so much, Phil.
Now, MJ Lee joins us with more news on Dr. Jackson in questions about his drug dispending practices. MJ, you're learning some new things about the White House medical unit. What can you tell us?
MJ LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, you're right. That medical unit is a clinic at the White House run by Jackson and we have some new reporting about a number of troubling practices there. We spoke with five former and current employees who worked for Jackson at the medical unit. And they described a grab-and-go culture there when it comes to the medication. Our White House staffers and officials could get prescription drugs without so much as consulting with a doctor first. They could casually pick up Ambien, this is a very powerful sleeping aid, not just for themselves but even for their children.
And sometimes, we were told, that prescription was written for someone other than the person that the medication was for. And the key here, John, is that according to our sources, all of these questionable practices were endorsed by Jackson himself. Now, there was such loose control of prescription drugs that multiple people said there was sometimes even a scramble to try to account for these missing medications.
Now, Jackson did not comment for the story that we broke today, but do keep in mind that when he withdrew his nomination for V.A. secretary yesterday, he said the allegations made against him were completely false and fabricated and that he always adhere to the highest ethical standards.
BERMAN: MJ, I understand you're learning some specific examples of when things like this happen.
LEE: Yes, two examples I want to draw attention to, one, we were told that a well-known Obama official was leaving the administration. And he went to the medical unit to get some Provigil, this is a prescription medication that helps you stay awake and alert. The person was given around 20 pills and it was treated as a kind of parting gift for that official.
And the second example, is that one Obama White House staffer went into that clinic and demanded that he needed Z-Pak. Z-Pak is a strong antibiotic that treats infection. And one of the doctors at the clinic said, no, you need to first get an exam because there are serious heart issues that can come from taking this antibiotic. And that White House staffer then got frustrated and responded, Dr. Jackson said, I can just pick it up and I don't have to be seen. And ultimately, we are told that that person was given the Z-Pak without any kind of exam.
So that certainly gives you a sense of the casual way in which we were told people could get prescribed meds at the clinic. And the question tonight, of course, is whether Jackson will be able to keep his job. John.
BERMAN: And MJ, at this point, we know that he's not serving as the president's doctor, though, he is --
[20:30:01] BERMAN: -- working in the medical office. We're getting more information on that as we speak. MJ Lee, thanks so much for that report. Appreciate it.
Coming up, the historic handshake, a commitment from North and South Korea for peace and unity will at hold and how much credit does President Trump deserver. We'll talk about it next.
BERMAN: Truly remarkable day on the Korean peninsula. A day long summit between the leaders of North and South Korea resulted in a sign declaration, a commitment to denuclearize and bring a formal end to the Korean War. An agreement if it holds will be 65 years in the making. North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in the demilitarized zone, shook hands and spoke alone for more than 30 minutes.
But for the first time in history, a North Korean leader stepped across the demilitarized zone into the south. Addressing the international media at live on television for the first time, Kim said the Koreas will be reunited as one country.
Kim is also expected to be with President Trump in the coming weeks. Today, the President said that North Korea has played pass president like a fetal, but to this time it will be different.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We get a kick every once in a while, either the fact that I'll be watching people that fail so badly over the last 25 years explaining to me how to make a deal with North Korea, I get a big, big kick out of that. But we are doing very well. I think that something very dramatic could happen. They're treating us with great respect. This should not have been left to me to handle. But we will handle it, we're handling it well. And hopefully, there'll be peace for North Korea, South Korea, Germany, I mean everything is included, Japan.
BERMAN: Joining me now, David Axelrod and John Kirby.
I think we all agree, this was an incredibly hopeful picture to see. And something that the whole world is rejoicing in its own way. President Trump is taking a victory lap for this moment and while there is a long way to go, Admiral, you know, is he wrong? Should he get credit for this break through?
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think he certainly deserve some credit John, no question about. Trump administration really did help spearhead. Much more aggressive international campaign of economic pressure that obviously is taken its whole on the North. So, I think yes, he deserves some credits here.
Plus, the uncertainty, I mean his bellicosity and uncertainty, I think is rattled people not just on the peninsula but elsewhere in the region. But he isn't just him John. President Moon Jae-in deserves a lot of credit, he was elected impact, because of his platform of wanting to engage with the north, he got ahead of this administration when he invited North Korean athletes to participate in the Olympics. He's been driving a lot of this.
And number two, is Kim Jong-un, I mean he's not his father, he's going to be able to come into these negotiations much more capable with his nuclear and ballistic program which makes him more credible at that table. So he's also driving this. And he would be foolish not to take advantage of the moment that he finds himself and both from his own capability and from having a South Korean president across the border who is willing to talk and to engage.
BERMAN: David, just a few months ago, President Trump was trading these huge insults with Kim Jong-un on Twitter, bragging about who has a bigger nuclear button on his desk. Today he said, that the United States in the past was quote, "played like a fiddle". He means past presidents, he means President Bush and President Obama. You know, looking back, is that a fair criticism? Were those president play like a fiddle?
DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's a fair criticism that past presidents have not been able to solve this problem. And in fact the North Koreans have defied the world community and they have not been trust worthy in past agreements. And so rather than spiking on the 20-yard line, I think the President should learn from that past experience and understand that it's hard to get from A to B here and then to C. And what is said at that negotiating table and what follows in terms of the actual fleshing out of any framework is going to be very, very important. North Korea is the least transparent country in the world probably. They have never shown a pension for opening up their borders to inspectors and the kinds of processes that would be required to enforce some sort of agreement. So you know, when hopes, that my concern about the President, I agree with everything that John said. My concern about the President is just his -- I bet he's not be over eager to say that he has won a great victory that no other president has won, because there is a long way to go here.
BERMAN: Admiral, you know, there are so much criticism and so much, you know, focus on the words that President Trump has chosen over the last year and if exchanges with Kim Jong-un. But looking back now, you know, is it possible that this mad man theory might actually have worked?
KIRBY: Yes, John. But I -- again, I don't think it's been the sole factor. I do think he has bred some uncertainty in the minds of the South Koreans and the Japanese and even the Chine. I do think that there's something there. But to hanging all on that, I think would be way premature and not a full some understanding of what's going on here. Again, politically, you got a different administration in Seoul that wants to engage. Kim Jong-un now has capability that is undeniable that gives him more credibility at the table. There's a lot more into this and I -- so I would be loath to give Trump credit for his bellicosity, the reason we're here. I just don't believe.
BERMAN: You know, David let's see the President, he exudes confidence, that he is the only person, the right person to get all of this done. How will that confidence serve him well in negotiations and how might it handicap him?
AXELROD: Well look, it's gotten him here OK, so that's a plus. He -- what's important in these situations is to know what you need to know and know what you don't know and this is not a real estate transaction. This is deadly serious business and it's very complex. And so you want people around you and you want to rely on them who understand those complexities, so that you're not in service of making a deal agree to things that ultimately are not enforceable, bad for our national security. One thing John, that I noticed today was when that discussion shifted to Iran, you heard some of the same bellicose language that you heard about North Korea a few months ago. So obviously he believes bellicosity and threat work.
BERMAN: All right David Axelrod, Admiral John Kirby, thanks so much for being with us. Have a great weekend.
[20:39:57] Up next, a mysterious dismissal on Speaker Paul Ryan asked the House Chaplain to resign, but no real explanation. Now, lawmakers on both sides of the isle was demanding answers. I will speak to one of them in just a moment.
BERMAN: There is outrage on Capitol Hill over mysterious ouster of the House Chaplain. Father Patrick Conroy spend nearly 70 years on the job before announcing last week he would be involuntarily stepping down. His last day will be May 24th.
House Speaker Paul Ryan asked for his resignation, according to House Republicans that a close meeting this morning, Ryan told the caucuses decision was not tied to political pressure or even a prayer that he Catholic priest gave on the House floor last fall. Instead, Ryan said there were complaints that Father Conroy wasn't doing enough pastoral care on Capitol Hill. 184 House members including some Republicans are furious. They have signed a letter to Ryan demanding answers. Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly is one of the lawmakers. We have a chance to speak a little earlier.
BERMAN: Congressman Connolly at this point, do you have real understanding of why Father Conroy was fired?
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY, (D) VIRGINIA: No. Frankly, Speaker Ryan has given no official reason at all. It -- the reason to fire Conroy, he didn't give a reason to leader Pelosi. Apparently and his caucus this morning he indicated vaguely that there were some members in his caucus they were felt that they had not been properly responded to in terms of ministerial needs. There are other Republicans spoke up saying that was too vague. And they didn't accept that explanation. And certainly on the Democrat side we don't accept that. We've never had a complaint about Father Conroy in seven years.
[20:45:10] BERMAN: The chaplain thinks that part of the reason he was fired was a prayer that he gave in the House floor back in November which he said to Speaker Ryan's office took issue with as being too political, let me read this to you. May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.
Do you read that prayer as being political at all?
CONNOLLY: No. No, I think that's just kind of classic standard spiritual guidance. And very consistent with catholic social justice that I might add. In fact, it's almost laughable except it's not that invoking fairness and remembering those less fortunate, apparently is not, you know, firing offense here in the House of Representatives.
I mean, with that kind of logic, I'm surprised Paul Ryan didn't attempt to fire Pope Frances when he came to town. Because believe me, he not only believes that, would say that, he'd go further.
BERMAN: Well, the Speaker's office says it's not political, again that's coming from some things that Father Conroy does. Go ahead.
CONNOLLY: Well, of course, what else are they going to say? But, you know, in the old expression, you know, when this says not about money, it's about money. When they say its not political, its political.
BERMAN: What your Republican colleagues Mark Walker who is part of the group searching for the next chaplain suggested that the replacement base they find it and this is according to him. They want to replacement they can connect with the bulk of lawmakers and the problems they face with children or a spouse. So suggesting they want to find a chaplain who has children which would rule out any catholic priest. Do you think that is fair?
CONNOLLY: That's not only -- not fair it's a bigoted statement. It is clearly discriminatory on its base. And no Catholic missed that. But you don't have to be catholic to pick up discrimination and bigotry. And now, I will give Congressman Walker his credit. He has spent a good part of this morning on the floor one-on-one talking to those of us who are involved in this issue, to apologize and to rec -- and to acknowledge that he recognized the impact of his words. And we'll work to do better. I admired that, I accepted his apology and I hope that now a better informed is a member of the search committee for a new chaplain, he'll bring new sensitivity to that job.
BERMAN: It's good to know there is that dialogue. I did not know --
BERMAN: -- that he's been speaking to people.
CONNOLLY: And to his credit as a gentleman.
BERMAN: The resolution calling for investigation to why that chaplain was barred was voted down today. Is there any other further recourse at this point that could help get Father Conroy back? Any other repression?
CONNOLLY: I think -- well for one thing, I just closed the letter today with my republican friend Walter Jones with 150 signatures on it, it's going to Speaker Ryan asking for a detailed explanation and justification for this action. We look forward to Speaker Ryan's response. If it's not a response, or it's not adequate, then I think we're going revisit this issue on the floor. Today is privilege motion is the opening salvo of what I think is going to be an ongoing problem until Speaker Ryan is more forth coming.
BERMAN: Congressman Connolly, thanks so much for being with us. Have a nice day ahead.
CONNOLLY: My pleasure John. Thank you.
BERMAN: Coming up, breaking news on the Russian informant who met with the Trump campaign, also late reporting on the status of White House Dr. Ronny Jackson. Stay with us.
[20:52:54] BERMAN: A new season of Anthony Bourdain "Parts Unknown" starts this Sunday night here on CNN. The first episode of the new season takes Anthony all the way to West Virginia. Take a look at a quick clip. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST: To think about much less empathize with somebody who comes from five generations of coal miners in a place that looks like this. Is to wearing doing shame unthinkable. Why can't these coal miners get retrained? Maybe put up solar panels for a living. Why would these conservative deeply religious people vote for a tries married billionaire New Yorker? Well, I went to West Virginia. And you know what, screw you.
Here in the heart of every belief system I ever mocked or fought against, I was welcomed with open arms by everyone. I found a place both heart breaking and beautiful.
BERMAN: Anthony and Anderson recently talked about the new episode at Heidelberg Restaurant here in New York where they drank beers that were very, very big.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Cheers.
COOPER: How can you not get any stuff on your face?
BOURDAIN: Practice. Practice. Practice.
COOPER: So this episode you go to West Virginia.
COOPER: Why West Virginia?
BOURDAIN: Because I like to do counterintuitive shows, right. I figure they live very differently from what I understood in West Virginia than the neighborhood I grew up in.
COOPER: Have you ever been?
BOURDAIN: I've never been, OK. They believe very different things, by enlarge, it's very conservative state. They went solidly for Trump.
BOURDAIN: It's god, guns, Trump and football country. And, you know, some of the most rewarding experiences I've had overseas have been in places in a very different than the world I grew up in. And I enjoy going to places in America and my own country with the same attitude.
COOPER: So what was different? What did you learn in West Virginia?
BOURDAIN: Well first of all, it's spectacularly beautiful. I mean it is really incredibly beautiful there. There's a reason people live there. There's a reason that people have stayed there for so many generations. What really surprised me or what I learned was how deep coal cultured goes.
[20:55:16] COOPER: It's generational.
BOURDAIN: We're talking almost everyone I met. With third, fourth, fifth generation coal mining families. They're very, very proud of that tradition. You know, coal culture, you're going to grow up to be a coal miner if almost literally taught in school. You simply encouraged. So, to suggest blindly, well we can just retrain this coal miners to install solar panels is a kind of elitist, ignorant and a frankly offensive talk that's not going to making any friends and not going to help you win elections that's for sure.
COOPER: Is there a particular cuisine that that?
BOURDAIN: Yes. Appalachian cuisine is really interesting. Basically, it's traditionally a hunting and gathering culture. So, a lot of their food is based on what's available. And how, you know -- how to make it delicious, you know, when you're -- you're dealing with squirrel you got to get creative. I'm not saying everybody eats squirrel all the time, not it's a staple of West Virginia cuisine. But it's just about everybody I met down there knows how to dress one if they need to.
BERMAN: Tune in for "Parts Unknown" Sunday night at 9:00 eastern right here on CNN.
And next for us on 360, what could be a significant development. The Russian lawyer who attended the infamous Trump Tower meeting has just revealed herself as of an informant to the Kremlin. That and breaking news on the status of Dr. Ronny Jackson as the President's physician as allegations against him continue to grow.