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"The Fixer's" Relationship with Trump; North & South Korea Met, Make History; Trump to Hold Rally During White House Correspondents' Dinner. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 28, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: -- Russian lawyer from that 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which was arranged on the premise of sharing political dirt on Hillary Clinton. The same Russian lawyer who insisted she is just a private attorney, now changing her tune. Watch.
CABRERA: She says she is an informant. More on that in just a moment. But first, I want to get back to President Trump trading one Washington for another, ditching the nation's capital to hold a re- election rally in Washington township, Michigan. Now, Trump is choosing to skip the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner that's happening back in D.C. for the second straight year.
Let's get to Boris Sanchez in Washington township, Michigan. Boris, what are you expecting to hear from the president tonight?
BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Ana. As you know, you can expect the unexpected when Trump speaks to his supporters. He's here at a rally in Maycomb County. This is a county that he won handedly over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
There are several hundred supporters on hand. We are expecting the president to talk about a number of issues tonight, notably, possibly, the communications between North and South Korea this past week.
There are talks over potential denuclearization, his upcoming possible meeting with North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. Further, the president can go into a number of different topics including, as you noted, the Russia investigation.
The president has repeated that refrain that it is a witch hunt and a hoax perpetrated by Democrats to explain their loss in 2016. The president also could potentially go after Democrats, as he often does at these rallies.
Earlier today on Twitter, he attacked Montana Senator Jon Tester for his role in downing the nomination of Ronny Jackson, the man that the president had pushed to be the next secretary of Veterans Affairs.
And as you noted, the president is skipping his second White House Correspondents' Dinner, so we may hear him go after the press today as well -- Ana.
CABRERA: And any sign of counter-protesters there, Boris, who vowed to rally near the event there tonight?
SANCHEZ: There were reports that there could potentially be some protesters outside the event. My colleague, Dianne Gallagher, was on hand. It appears that it was a relatively small crowd. Nothing of the sort that we've seen in other occasions, where those demonstrations tend to get out of hand, though, we'll, keep an eye on it and keep you updated -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Boris Sanchez in Washington township, Michigan, as we get closer to that Trump rally at 7:00 Eastern. Thank you.
Now to the major revelation that the Russian lawyer at the 2016 Trump Tower meeting is actually a kremlin informant. The lawyer and self- confessed informant, Natalia Veselnitskaya was one of the four Russians at that meeting that also included Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr., and Paul Manafort.
Here's CNN's senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen with some of the questions that this revelation now raises.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, there's two main questions here. On the one hand, the question is, what exactly does Natalia Veselnitskaya means when she says that she was both a lawyer and an informant?
And second of all, why is she coming out with this information now. Now, Bill Browder, the Kremlin critic, he was on Erin Burnett show last night. He was saying he believes plain and simple that Natalia Veselnitskaya was an agent of the Russian government and she was there to undermine U.S. policy towards Russia.
Now being an informant, she herself seems to mean less than that. It's unclear whether or not she has some official role for the Russian government, but she has always maintained that she is a private lawyer and any interaction that she has with the Russian state purely has to do with her role as being an attorney.
However, some of her e-mails seem to have been hacked and leaked by a journalist group. And those seem to indicate that her relations, specifically with the Russian state prosecutor, Yuri Chaika, seemed to be a lot deeper and a lot closer than she has been letting on.
Now, there's one case specifically that happened that in 2014, where the U.S. Department of Justice was in a case against a Russian businessman in the United States, and there, she seemed to have very, very close contact with Yuri Chaika.
She's one of the reasons why some believe that she might be closer to the Russian government than some people are letting on. And in the end, we also have to keep in mind that when this meeting took place in Trump Tower in June 2016, Rob Goldstone wrote an e-mail to Donald Trump Jr., saying that they would be meeting with a Russian government lawyer. It so seems as though she herself has had a lot deeper contacts with the Russian government than many people have known so far. And that could also, of course, be something that would interest the Mueller investigation as well -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. Fred Pleitgen, thank you very much. Let's try to get some answers to these questions. Joining us is CNN political analyst and "New York Times" politics editor, Patrick Healy, and CNN national security analyst, retired CIA chief of Russia operations, Steve Hall.
[17:05:01] So, Steve, why would Veselnitskaya admit this now about being an informant? Is she going rogue or likely doing this with Putin's permission?
STEVE HALL, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Ana, I think that there's probably a great deal of confusion with regard to this informant thing. And I think it's a lot less important than what her actual job title is or how she describes her or when she describes herself.
I think those of us who have been following Russian intelligence operations for a number of years have held for a long time that this visit that she paid to Trump Tower to meet with key members of the Trump team was always part of a larger operation being run by the Russian government, by the Russian intelligence services.
And that she was part of that. Her denials that she was just a lawyer, that she really wasn't involved, I mean, they don't hold a whole lot of water when you start looking at it. Why she's talking about it now, perhaps because those e-mails were leaked, and it looks kind of funny that she has said one thing and now something else is coming out.
But there really isn't any doubt at least any mind from a counterintelligence perspective that her first goal was to assess who was in the room, what they were like, and then perhaps to get to the second step of that operation, would be to see if anybody in that room, Donald Trump Jr., Kushner, or any of the others were interested in establishing a discreet or clandestine relationship with the Russian government, and she was always I think a key player there.
CABRERA: Now there's another revelation, Congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, says Veselnitskaya actually followed up with the Trump campaign after the election. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes, Veselnitskaya reaches back to the Trump family right after the election saying, we want to follow up now on this will request we have on the Magnitsky Act. So clearly, there's an expectation there on the Russian side that they may now have success with the Magnitsky Act.
Given that the prior meeting and communications dealt with the offer of help and request on the Russian part to appeal Magnitsky, it certainly seemed like the Russians were ready for payback.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Schiff says the Russians appeared ready for payback. Steve, would the Russians have contacted the campaign for payback if they had never delivered the dirt they had originally promised?
HALL: Well, all I can say, this is very consistent with Russian modus operandi in terms of how they would do this. Yes, they would go in initially with something, perhaps not all of it, though, because, they're going to want to put their toes in the water before they actually provide, you know, their best information, sort of that pay dirt situation.
But they would, of course, want a quid pro quo. They would want something back. This is the very beginnings of what I think John Brennan, my former boss used to call, where people end up in traitorous relationships with Russia, but they don't realize it until they're pretty far down the road. It's because of this incremental approach that the Russians oftentimes take -- Ana
CABRERA: It's so interesting. Patrick, it's interesting to think about the intelligence side of this, but there's also this political spin. And the timing of these new revelations come as we now have a look at the Intelligence Committee's report from the House, in which the Republicans say their investigation, essentially, showed no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. And the president is jumping all over this saying it is vindication. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We were honored. It was a great report. No collusion, which I knew anyway. No coordination, no nothing. It was a witch hunt, that's all it is. I was very honored by the report. It was totally conclusive, strong, powerful. Many things said that nobody knew about and said in a very strong way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Do you think these new revelations impact that report?
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I mean, President Trump has been sticking to this line for more than a year now, in terms of no collusion, no collusion. That is very much the message that he wants voters and his base to believe. Even before there was any report, any sort of evidence, which is something that he repeats without, you know, without any reason.
CABRERA: And the polls show that it is working among Republicans.
HEALY: And it is working. That's the thing. From his point of view, sort of, if you repeat something long enough, he believes that people will go along with it. And that was sort of his -- part of his theory of the case during the election. But the problem for him, though, ultimately, is that somehow, people very close to him, including his son and his son-in-law, allowed what it appears like is a, you know, a person very close ties to the kremlin, to be inside Trump Tower, essentially, assessing the campaign's willingness to accept Russian dirt or what seems like Russian intelligence on Hillary Clinton.
And the willingness that it seems like at least Trump family members were open to going along with that. It may not be, it may not be collusion. Collusion is sort of right now a circumstantial idea and it is really Robert Mueller's investigation.
[17:10:10] CABRERA: And by the way, collusion isn't even a legal term.
HEALY: It is not a legal term.
CABRERA: It's not a specific crime.
HEALY: But what -- fundamentally, where the investigation sort of begins from is why was this person in Trump Tower meeting with the Trump campaign. And how open were they to getting what essentially would be Russian intelligence on Hillary Clinton, and then what happened with that?
I mean, in terms of her coming back later and sort of expecting payback or seeking payback, again, those are some dots out there that the Republicans connect one way and the Democrats connect another.
President Trump does have the advantage of very loud bullhorn. He's able to say, no collusion, no collusion, in his press conferences or on Twitter, and that does have an effect right now. It's still ultimately Robert Mueller's game.
CABRERA: And who knows what else he already has uncovered because we haven't seen any conclusion just yet, Steve. But as we try to connect some of these dots, Schiff is telling us Veselnitskaya did reference the Magnitsky Act in the follow up when she reached back out to the campaign following the election. And the Trump campaign, you'll recall has claimed that is what was discussed at that Trump Tower meeting. So, does this actually perhaps help the campaign's case?
HALL: Well, the Magnitsky Act and a lot of other policy positions that I think the Russians were hoping that a new Trump administration should that have come to pass back in 2016, they were hoping that the Magnitsky Act and a couple of other things would -- the Trump administration would take a different direction.
This is, again, sort of a classic part of an influence operation. First, you make contact with people who are in a position to make these policy changes, and then you try to actually influence them to do so.
But when you look back at this meeting, there's really only one of two things that could have been happening. Either, as I was just describing, it was part of a much broader, actually, influence operation that the Russians were running in 2016 to attack and impact our elections, or it was Veselnitskaya and her buds getting together and saying, hey, I got an idea.
How about we try to score a meeting with guys like Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. in Trump Tower? What do you think? There is no way that the Kremlin would have allowed that to happen. There is also no way they would have done that knowing the consequences like that freelancing like that would have brought when they got back to Moscow.
The Kremlin would have taken a very dim deal with that sort of kind of let's just get in there and see what we can do. It just doesn't happen that way in Russia.
CABRERA: Patrick, very quickly, if you will, we have the midterms coming up. More drip, drip, drip from the Russia investigation. What do you see as the impact?
HEALY: It's a real concern. We have a story in "The New York Times" up today about how President Trump is privately rejecting Republican warnings that they are likely to lose the House and maybe even the Senate. That he really believes that this is not a problem. That everything is going to work out.
That just like people underestimated him in 2016, they'll do so again in 2018, and he keeps sort of rejecting it over and over again. But the problem is, A, he's not on the ballot, and B, the Russian investigation, the drip, drip, drip aspect of it and his ability to sort of go off-message, he's not able to sell the Republican tax cut.
He's not able to really stick to the message on the economy. Instead, he gets so sort of rattled and frankly sort of incensed by aspects of the Russia investigation that it makes the Republicans' job that much harder to prosecute.
CABRERA: Especially when he goes on Fox News like he did this week and starts talking about potentially doing something about the Justice Department and throwing things out like that, that could impact the investigation.
CABRERA: I know I'm keeping this conversation going when I'm being told, that's enough! Thank you, guys. Steve Hall, Patrick Healy, always good to have you both and hear your insight and expertise.
Still ahead this hour on the attack, President Trump calling a member of Congress to resign. We'll explain why.
Plus, history on the DMZ, a series of stunning scenes play out between North and South Korea, handshakes, tree planting, and a promise to finally end the Korean war. Did Trump diplomacy play a role here?
And later, uncertain future, our Leyla Santiago takes us to Mexico to meet a pregnant mom and her two boys, hoping to cross the U.S. border. Their remarkable journey, coming up, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: President Trump is calling for the resignation now of Senator Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who raised concerns over the slew of misconduct allegations against Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson, Trump's pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs who withdrew his nomination this week.
Well, the president tweeting today, "Secret Service has just informed me that Senator Jon Tester's statements on Admiral Jackson are not true. There were no such findings. Tester should lose race in Montana. Very dishonest and sick."
Senator Tester released a statement today, as well, saying this, "It's my duty to make sure Montana veterans get what they need and have earned, and I will never stop fighting for them as their senator."
I want to get right to CNN politics senior writer, Juana Summers, who has been breaking all sorts of stories about this ongoing fight. Juana, let's back up for a moment. Take us through what exactly this is all about.
JUANA SUMMERS, CNN POLITICS SENIOR WRITER: Hey, Ana. So, here's what's going on. It's not exactly clear what allegation the president is referring to in that tweet. Montana Senator Jon Tester earlier this week released a document that he compiled after speaking to nearly two dozen former or current colleagues of Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson.
And in that document, there are kind of these three pools of allegations. They alleged that Jackson improperly dispensed prescription drugs, that he was intoxicated on duty, and that he oversaw a hostile work environment.
Let's get to where the Secret Service comes in on this. In that list of allegations, there's an allegation that Jackson attended a Secret Service going away party, that he was intoxicated, and he wrecked a government vehicle.
[17:20:02] Jackson on Wednesday told reporters that he didn't wreck any vehicles, and a White House official tells CNN that it asked GSA to pull records about Jackson's driving and it didn't find any evidence in those documents that he was drinking on the job.
A White House official telling CNN, I'm quoting here, "There would have to be a massive cove cover-up or government conspiracy for him to crash a government vehicle without any paperwork."
Ana, separately from that, CNN has exclusive reporting, we spoke to four sources, including one with direct knowledge of this, that during the Obama administration, that Rear Admiral Jackson was intoxicated.
He went to the hotel room door of a female employee, was banging on her door, loudly. Secret Service became involved, according to a source, because of concern that Admiral Jackson would wake President Obama with his loud and drunken behavior.
Now, the Secret Service has released a statement after the publication of our reporting on that, saying that they don't believe this happened. They say a thorough review of internal documents related to all presidential foreign travel that occurred in 2015, in addition to interviews of personnel who were present during foreign travel that occurred during the same time frame has resulted in no information that would indicate the allegation is accurate.
Now, after that Secret Service statement, a source with direct knowledge of what happened that evening told CNN that there was a conversation between the White House Medical Unit and Secret Service staff at the time in which the Secret Service expressed concerns about Jackson's loud and drunken behavior.
CABRERA: So, Juana, does this just put it to bed, or -- those statements certainly suggest the proof, the president says, that the allegations against Jackson are false, or at least some of them, but it isn't all-inclusive. There are many other allegations, right?
SUMMERS: It is. And I want to be clear here, that document that Senator Tester and members of the Democratic staff put out, they say that came to pass after they spoke with nearly two dozen of Jackson's current and former colleagues.
And in this White House Medical Unit, most of those will be active duty military, retired military, who say they had concerns about how the man leading this office behaved. I want to make very clear that these are allegations that these staffers have raised to the Senate committee.
Some of which they have discussed with CNN and other reporters, but there's not a lot of documentation. The Senate committee had been working to corroborate those details and to learn more about those allegations.
CABRERA: And you are learning about new allegations about how Ronny Jackson ran this medical unit. Tell us.
SUMMERS: We are. This is a medical unit that people didn't know a lot about, but it's incredibly important, because it's not only to care for the president and vice president, but for a number of senior staff and folks traveling on behalf of this White House.
We spoke to roughly a half dozen former and current staffers who didn't want to be named, but they describe to us a grab and go clinic, where from the mid-level staff to the most senior officials were able to obtain prescription drugs without being examined by a doctor and being asked some routine questions.
We spoke specifically to four current and former medical employees and they tell us that prescription medication was handed out readily and even some of the most basic consultation unnecessary. Now Jackson didn't respond to our request for comment for this story, but he said allegations against him were false. And I want to point out that there are some former Obama administration officials who have been defending Jackson. They say that they were only given things like sleeping aids after being asked routine medical questions. That he'd asked staffers, you know, how long they wanted to sleep, but they needed to get work done. They say everything he did was above the board.
CABRERA: Well, it doesn't sound like this is the end of the story. We spoke with Ted Lieu a couple of hours ago, who told us that he believes that Jackson should not be working in the White House. He still is, obviously, working as part of that medical team. Juana summers, thank you very much for sharing your reporting with us.
Up next, he's long been called Trump's fixers, one of his closest allies, but this week, the president said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?
PRESIDENT TRUMP (via telephone): Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, which is it? A closer look at a Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: A porn star's lawsuit against President Trump's personal attorney has been put on hold for 90 days. A federal judge in Los Angeles halted the case against Michael Cohen, in part to let events play out in a criminal investigation underway against Cohen in New York and warned Cohen likely faces a criminal indictment. But who is Michael Cohen and what is it, exactly, he does for President Trump?
Here's CNN's chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Ana, lately, Michael Cohen has been in the news almost as much as his famous client, Donald Trump, but their relationship goes back more than a decade.
BORGER (voice-over): In the soap opera in which a porn star accepts a payoff to keep quiet about her affair with Donald Trump, there's got to be a guy who gets it done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is Michael Cohen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where's Mr. Cohen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is this guy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is this guy?
BORGER: Michael Cohen is where he's been since 2007, standing behind Donald Trump, or closer in his back pocket.
SAM NUNBERG, TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Michael was, I would always like to say, the Ray Donovan of the office.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll take care of it.
NUNBERG: He took care of what had to be taken care of. I don't know what had to be taken care of, but I knew Michael was taking care of it.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN: He's the guy you could call at 3:00 in the morning when you have a problem.
BORGER (on camera): Do you know stories of Donald Trump calling him at 3:00 in the morning?
SCHWARTZ: Donald Trump has called him at all hours of the night. Every dinner I've been at with Michael, the boss has called.
BORGER (voice-over): But Cohen did not call the boss, he says, when he decided to pay Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket, 11 days before the election.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's ludicrous.
BORGER (on camera): So, you believe 100 percent Donald Trump knew?
AVENATTI: One hundred percent.
MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR: There's not a meeting that takes place, there's not an expenditure that is authorized that he doesn't know about it.
BORGER (voice-over): Cohen wouldn't go on the record for this piece, but his friends claim it's all part of his job in Trump world, giving the boss deniability and protection.
DAVID SCHWARTZ, FRIEND OF MICHAEL COHEN: If you know the relationship between the two people, he took care of a lot of things for Mr. Trump without Mr. Trump knowing about it. That's part of the overall structure, is that Michael had great latitude to take care of matters.
BORGER: In Michael Cohen, Trump hired his consigliere, a version of his long-time mentor of the lawyer, Roy Coe (ph), a controversial figure and an aggressive defender of all things Trump, no questions asked.
After D'Antonio finished his book on Trump, he got the Cohen treatment in what turned out to be an empty threat.
D'ANTONIO: Then he got mad, and it was, you just bought yourself an f'ing lawsuit, buddy. I'll see you in court.
BORGER: In 2011, Michael Cohen described his job this way.
MICHAEL COHEN, DONALD TRUMP'S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: My job is, I protect Mr. Trump. That's what it is. If there's an issue that relates to Mr. Trump that is of concern to him, it's, of course, of concern to me. And I will use my legal skills within which to protect Mr. Trump to the best of my ability.
BORGER: Cohen, a sometimes Democrat, first came to Trump's attention after buying apartments in Trump developments. Then went to the mat for Trump against one of his condo boards. And won.
SCHWARTZ: Trump loved him for it. That was the beginning of it. And then after that, they became close. It was much more than an attorney/client relationship. It was something much deeper, almost father and son, kind of thing. Always hot and cold. Donald Trump could be yelling at them one second and saying he's the greatest person in the world the next second. Donald Trump knew that Michael always had his back.
BORGER: For Trump, it wasn't about pedigree. Cohen, who is 51, got his degree from Western Michigan's Cooley Law School and had some initial success in the less than genteel world of New York taxi cab medallions.
SAM NUNBERG, TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: If you look where Michael came from in his legal career, before he started working for Trump Org, it wasn't like he came from a white-shoe law firm. He came from, you know, a hard-nosed New York trial firm. Trump has an eye for talent. And this was somebody that, I mean, he used to call him his bulldog, his tough guy.
BORGER: At the Trump Organization, he's done a bit of everything. Running a mixed martial arts company, securing real estate branding deals, and even taking care of transportation.
NUNBERG: You know, the famous Trump plane, there was an engine issue that he actually took care of and got a really good deal on.
SCHWARTZ: Watching him is -- it's like a reality show. He's got three phones, he's got the hard line, he's got two lines, he's texting, he's on the computer.
D'ANTONIO: You can almost say this is Donald Trump's mini me. For a guy who started really in the middle class on Long Island to now be quite wealthy himself, known internationally and, yes, he's in a bit of a jam with the Russia scandal.
GLORIA: In the eye not only of Stormy, but now under criminal investigation in New York, including a stunning raid on his home, office, and hotel room with a search warrant that mentioned not only Cohen's businesses, but the president himself, causing a fight and a circus in court. Not to mention the continued interest from the special counsel and Congress.
COHEN: I look forward to giving all the information that they're looking for.
BORGER: During the campaign, when Trump said he had no contact with Russia, Cohen was privately trying to cut a deal for a Trump Tower Moscow. It never happened, but Mueller has asked about it.
NUNBERG: The sad reality is that Michael pursuing that Trump Tower deal in December is just another factor that goes into this whole Russian narrative.
BORGER: Cohen's name was also in the infamous dossier, which alleges he traveled to Prague to meet with Russians. He's completely denied it.
SCHWARTZ: It's immeasurable, the damage that has been caused to him, to his family.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will faithfully execute --
BORGER: When Trump became president, he did not bring his brash wing man to Washington.
(on camera): Do you think he wanted to be in the White House, be White House counsel or --
D'ANTONIO: There must have been a part of him that was dreaming of a great job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But he's also the guy who not only knows where all the bodies are buried, he buried a lot of them himself. And that, ironically, disqualified him.
[17:35:15] COHEN: And they say, I'm Mr. Trump's pit bull. That I am his -- I'm his right-hand man. I mean, I've been called many different things around here.
BORGER (voice-over): Now he may be called to testify, with the Stormy Daniels case in federal court.
SCHWARTZ: I know Michael Cohen for over 21 years and I know that he will not rest -- he not will not sleep -- he doesn't sleep anyway, right -- until he recovers every single penny from Stormy that's due the LLC.
AVENATTI: I've seen a lot of attorneys use intimidation tactics. The problem is, if that is your speed and you are a one-trick pony and you use that in every case, when, all of a sudden, you run up against somebody that doubles down and that isn't intimidated, well, then you're lost.
BORGER: Cohen flew to Mar-a-Lago to dine with the president the night before Stormy Daniels appeared on "60 Minutes," because if you're Michael Cohen, you've always been the ultimate loyalist.
COHEN: The words the media should be using to describe Mr. Trump are generous -- BORGER: And that loyalty --
COHEN: -- compassionate, principled --
BORGER: -- is what the president and his allies are counting on as Cohen faces the feds.
(on camera): We'll just have to wait and see who wins that test of loyalty -- Ana?
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Gloria Borger, thank you.
On the new season of "PARTS UNKNOWN" -- it kicks off tomorrow -- Anthony Bourdain explores West Virginia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST, "PARTS UNKNOWN" (voice-over): Everyone who comes here tends to tell the same story. But I wonder, what does everybody miss?
If you were describing all those in this area, small families, beautiful countryside, uniquely beautiful. How many places look like this?
I don't say grace before dinner, but every meal I've had here, people do. I believe these are straightforward, heartfelt expressions of something people deeply believe in. So is this the south?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I consider it more just, we're not on the morals of --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:42:32] CABRERA: The world is still shaking from the enormous impact of this moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, smiling, hand extended, stepping over the border, into South Korea, something his father and grandfather never did when they were leaders. Welcoming him, South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in. And the two men would go on to write even more history, agreeing to wipe out nuclear weapons on the peninsula, and agreeing to formally end the war they have technically been fighting for 65 years.
Jamie Metzl is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and a former staffer at the U.S. State Department. And he joins us now.
Jamie, President Trump has not outright claimed he did this, but he is taking some credit. How much does he deserve?
JAMIE METZL, SENIOR FELLOW, THE ATLANTIC COUNCIL & FORMER STATE DEPARTMENT STAFFER: Very, very little, because the thing that he is calling for hasn't happened and probably isn't going to happen. President Trump has said that North Korea needs to give up its nuclear weapons. North Korea has made no signs that it's willing to give up its nuclear weapons.
CABRERA: But there are signs that they're dismantling one of their nuclear testing sites.
METZL: They don't have to test anymore, because they have deliverable nuclear weapons. So if the United States can live with that, then we can have all the feel-good measures that we want. There will be lots of opportunities for confidence building between South and North Korea, and with the United States. But if President Trump is still pushing for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, he's actually further behind than even President Obama was.
CABRERA: You don't think this would have happened, though, if he hadn't had his high-pressure campaign? I mean, say what you will about his rhetoric, there have been more sanctions leveled during this administration, as well.
METZL: I guess the question is, what is this? And if this is about improving relations between North and South Korea, certainly, President Trump played an important role, because he terrified the South Koreans, and the South Koreans became stakeholders in improving relations with North Korea. But if his goal is getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, we are further away from that goal than we were even a month ago. So it's a question of, what is the goal? And that's my big concern, is that if the goal getting rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons, President Trump has already been checkmated and he doesn't even realize that the game -- he doesn't even know the game has already begun.
CABRERA: Why do you think he's been checkmated, though? Because what we saw come from this summit between North Korea and South Korea was, they signed a declaration of denuclearization.
[17:45:09] METZL: Well, they've done that many times before. And when the North Koreans say "denuclearization, they don't mean the "denuclearization." It doesn't say the denuclearization of North Korea. It says of the Korean peninsula. So what does that mean to the North Koreans? It means the U.S. withdrawing its nuclear umbrella from South Korea, potentially, it means the U.S. withdrawing troops from its alliance with South Korea, potentially removing U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula. And so there's no agreement on what denuclearization even means. And there's no sign whatsoever that the North Koreans are willing to give up their nuclear weapons. That's not what they're saying internationally, that's not what they're signing, and that's certainly not what they're saying at home.
CABRERA: What we're seeing, though, I think is remarkable. Some of these pictures.
CABRERA: These two leaders, holding hands, lots of smiles, embraces.
CABRERA: Them raising the glasses and toasting to each other.
METZL: Yes --
CABRERA: You don't think this is the dawn of a new era?
METZL: It could be. If the United States can live with a nuclear- armed North Korea, this could be a new era. Just like when President Nixon went to China, the United States accepted that China would be a nuclear power. And that was the foundation of those better relations. So if Donald Trump will accept that North Korea will have nuclear weapons at the end of this, then there's a lot that's possible. But if Donald Trump is still trying to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, he's definitely not going to be able to get the South Koreans or the Chinese to go along with a continued pressure campaign against North Korea. And that's what I -- when I say that he's been checkmated before he even realizes the game has begun, he's already given up all of the leverage that he has. So if Donald Trump goes and meets with Kim Jong-Un, as he very likely will, and they -- for the North Koreas, now that they have nuclear weapons, they are incentivized to have a series of confidence-building measures and to improve relations and to negotiate for years. Donald Trump, on the other hand, he will say, no, we need to get rid of nuclear -- of North Korea's nuclear weapons on day one. So, but to keep the pressure campaign going on North Korea to make that possible, he is going to need China and South Korea to support his position. But there's no way that they're going to do it, now that we have these very feel-good images, and South Korea and North Korea competing together in athletic games. So the United States has given away its leverage before the negotiations have begun. And that's the problem.
CABRERA: Did you learn anything about Kim Jong-Un this week, given that he's been such a mysterious figure --
CABRERA: -- and him opening himself up a little bit more to the rest of the world, what was your takeaway?
METZL: Yes. Not about his personality, but he's a very smart leader. And when North Korea -- and I was here with you many times --
CABRERA: All these missile launches last year.
METZL: With all of those missile launches, it was a very smart strategy. Their plan was, we are going to get nuclear weapons. We're going to get -- develop a credible nuclear deterrent. And then once we have that, then we can tact towards better relations. Because the North Koreans, they look at what happened to Gadhafi in Libya, they look at what happened to the Ukrainians, and they look at the case of Saddam Hussein. And the lesson they take away is you need to have nuclear weapons for a regime like this in order to survive. But once you have it, then you can be more magnanimous. The North Koreans are getting everything they want. They're getting the legitimatization of a meeting with the U.S. president, improved relations with everybody else. It's going to be almost impossible for the United States to keep the sanctions pressure on North Korea, because China is really the country that determines how much trade North Korea has. And so they've already won. And so if you are Kim Jong-Un, why would you give up your nuclear weapons? What pressure could Donald Trump put on you?
CABRERA: We'll see.
CABRERA: It will be interesting to see what happens with this upcoming summit.
METZL: Yes, yes.
CABRERA: Jamie Metzl, thank you as always.
METZL: Always a pleasure.
[17:49:04] CABRERA: And I want to show you live pictures right now from the red carpet in Washington, D.C. Tonight, of course, is the big White House Correspondents' Dinner. These are live images. We have Omarosa apparently participating in the event.
Of course, the president will not be there, as we've been talking about. He is holding counterprogramming, a rally in Michigan with his supporters. That's about to get underway. Why isn't the president attending, though? We'll look at one possibility, next, live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: You're looking at the red carpet where tonight on CNN you will see the White House Correspondents' Dinner. President Trump, he won't be sharing in the laughs in Washington, D.C. Instead, he'll be in Washington Township, Michigan, for a political rally in front of his supporters.
The president loves to dish it out, but it may be moments like this that are keeping him away. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON IMUS, RADIO SHOW HOST: When Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive record, the president was at Camden Yards doing play-by- play on the radio with John Miller. Hit a double and we all heard the president in his obvious excitement, holler, "Go, baby."
I remember commenting at the time, I bet that's not the first time he's said that.
Remember the Astroturf in the pickup?
And my point is --
STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, THE LATE SHOW: I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[17:55:22] CABRERA: Well, this year's host is Michelle Wolf. And despite some of the trouble past speakers have encountered, she is promising to not hold back.
CNN's live coverage begins tonight at 7:00 p.m. Eastern with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.
So is medical marijuana the answer to the opioid crisis? CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta has a new groundbreaking report that explores that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Americans are dying. Opioids, the worst and deadliest drug crisis in American history.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was completely hopeless.
ANNOUNCER: Can pot save us?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Did it help you get off the opiates?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It gave me an alternative.
ANNOUNCER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta --
ANNOIUNCER: -- with a groundbreaking report on medical marijuana.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will the medical community catch up with their patient populations?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cannabis has given me a reason to live.
ANNOUNCER: CNN's special report, "Weed 4: Pot Versus Pills," tomorrow at 8:00.
(END VIDEO CLIP)