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AT THIS HOUR

Ex-North Korean Spy Chief to Deliver Letter to Trump; Putin Invites North Korean Leader to Visit Russia; Trump Calls for Firing of Samantha Bee; Joy Reed Backs Away from Hack Excuse; Bannon: Trump "Wrong" to Criticize Jeff Sessions; Reporter Recorded Michael Cohen Threatening Him in 2015. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired June 1, 2018 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea's former spy chief is expected to arrive at the White House soon. It is important to note this envoy for the North Korean leader really shouldn't be anywhere near the White House. He shouldn't be able to get into the country since he's on a sanctions list that bars him from coming in. But he's coming, he's here and he's got mail. Carrying a letter from Kim Jong-Un to be hand delivered to President Trump.

This comes as there are more and more signs the nuclear summit between Trump and Kim Jong-Un will take place. And it could be just days from now.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, after meeting with Kim Yong Chol, said real progress has been made.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: This is going to be a process that will take days and weeks to work our way through. There will be tough moments. There will be difficult times. I've had some difficult conversations with them as well. They have given it right back to me, too. There's a -- there are decades to this challenge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: CNN global affairs correspondent, Elise Labott, joins me now.

Elise, what more are you hearing about this White House visit today?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPNDENT: Well, Kate, Kim Yong Chol is bringing, as you said, a hand-drafted letter to President Trump from Kim Jong-Un. And we understand that it is a response to President Trump's letter from last week, canceling the summit, expressing Kim Jong-Un's interest in having this summit. And I think that's really what it is about.

You saw these meetings that took place yesterday between Kim Yong Chol and Secretary Pompeo and, yes, he did say that there was progress, but what he went on to say is there was essentially progress about everybody putting their cards on the table. One of the reasons that President Trump canceled the summit in the first place is because they didn't know whether denuclearization would be on the table. And I get the sense, Kate, they still don't know. You heard Secretary Pompeo say the North Koreans are contemplating a path forward, which says to me, that they don't really know at this point. So I assume those conversations will continue today.

But it doesn't look, Kate, like the North Koreans have given that firm commitment that they are ready to set a timeline for giving up the nuclear weapons.

BOLDUAN: That seems to be everything.

LABOTT: Yes.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Russia -- I want to ask you about Russia's involvement here, they invited Kim Jong-Un to Moscow for a summit later this year with Vladimir Putin. Is this all related?

LABOTT: It is all related in a sense. But I think what is most interesting about this is, since the Olympics and since Kim Jong-Un has kind of come out of the cold, if you will, that he's been really giving this world leader status. He's met twice with Chinese President Xi. He's met with -- twice with Korean President Moon. And now he's being invited to Russia by President Putin.

So, you know, several months ago, he was an outcast and isolated by the international community. But now this warming not just with South Korea, but the United States has almost catapulted him on the world stage. The North Koreans are now given this legitimacy. I think if things don't go well with President Trump, whether they have the summit or not, it will be hard to put the genie back in the bottle, Kate, because now these world leaders are dealing with Kim Jong-Un in the way he wants, as a world leader.

BOLDUAN: That is a fascinating -- that's a fascinating way to put it. It is also interesting how quickly this turnabout, at least appearance, has really happened.

LABOTT: Right.

BOLDUAN: It's really amazing.

Great to see you, Elise. Thank you.

Coming up, Comedienne Samantha Bee apologizes for her vulgar slur toward Ivanka Trump. But that's not enough for President Trump. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:38:01] BOLDUAN: For a president who has had little, actually nothing to say about Roseanne Barr's racist remark, President Trump seems quite interested in weighing in on another comedian, firing back at Samantha Bee for calling his daughter, Ivanka, a sexist slur. The president tweeting this: "Why aren't they firing no-talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low-rating show? A total double standard. But that's OK, we're winning, and we'll be doing so for a long time to come."

Samantha Bee apologized yesterday, and I'll read her statement. She said, quote, "I would like to sincerely apologize to Ivanka Trump and to my viewers for using an expletive on my show to describe her last night. It was inappropriate and inexcusable. I crossed the line and I deeply regret it."

Samantha Bee's show is on TBS, and TBS and CNN are owned by Turner and division of Time Warner.

With me now to talk about it, Brian Stelter, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

Brian, Samantha Bee is now, and Turner and Time Warner under pressure from advertisers. What do we know? Where are we?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, "RELIABLE SOURCES": Two advertisers have publicly said, hey, we don't want to have ads on her show anymore. That's Auto Trader and State Farm. Sometimes it happens in these cases you have other advertisers that privately call up and say, get me away from her show. Those boycotts don't usually last long. We'll see what happens in the case. We'll see if there's a snowball effect.

Right now, there's no indication that TBS is walking away from her show "Full Frontal." The statement yesterday, her apology and the network's acknowledgement that it a mistake, too, by airing this in the first place, that was yesterday's announcement. I don't expect anything more from the network.

It is notable the president is saying, why hasn't she been fired? He's trying to draw an equivalent between Barr and Bee, though they're two very different cases. What they have in common is they're both examples of celebrities who should know better, who are lowering the bar rather than raising the bar in the culture. It will be interesting to see if she says more about this on her show next week.

BOLDUAN: That will be interesting.

I had a lot of conversations with folks who say, here is the difference. If that's a similarity, here is the difference. You have a woman making a sexist remark about another woman. A white woman making another sexist remark about another white woman. You have then a white woman making a racist remark about a black woman, one with context in history that is dehumanizing to African-Americans. Different.

[11:40:16] STELTER: Yes. Very different.

BOLDUAN: Very.

STELTER: And yet, sometimes, especially in social media, folks try to put them together. It's like you get one scalp, we get one scalp. Conservatives lose Roseanne, they want liberals to lose Samantha Bee.

BOLDUAN: Yes. STELTER: It's one of the sad parts of our culture right now. There's an attempt to draw equivalents. But both cases were ugly. You see the president say, maybe she should be fired, I think that's also ugly. There's a lot of ugliness to go around. Whenever you see the president weighing in on areas of free expression, that can be concerning, too.

BOLDUAN: And on one and not the other.

STELTER: Right.

BOLDUAN: Brian, there's another thing we're hearing more details, new details about, MSNBC host, Joy Reed. Speaking of ugly things out there now. This all gets back to an old blog that she had. What is new?

STELTER: Right. Yes, this is an old blog, 10 years old, that had resurfaced, first, a number of months ago. There were anti-gay comments she had posted back more than 10 years ago, and she apologized for them. In April, more of those comments resurfaced and instead of apologizing again, she said maybe she was hacked. She indicated she had been hacked by some. She couldn't prove it. She half backed away from that excuse.

BOLDUAN: Now backing away from the hack.

STELTER: It seems that way. But what is new this week, there are stories from "Buzzfeed" and others about more strange posts on her blog. Really inappropriate posts. Again, more than 10 years ago, about a 9/11 conspiracy theory, promoting a documentary that says it was a hoax.

So more and more and more of the blog posts keep resurfacing and MSNBC has been silent about it. Joy Reed also has been silent about it. There's more pressure for her to address this and explain, does she really think she was hacked, does she admit she posted this stuff 10 years ago? The bottom line is, even if this was way in her past, she claimed recently she was hacked. So it is a credibility issue now even though the posts are very hold.

BOLDUAN: Sure is.

Great to see you, Brian. Thank you very much.

STELTER: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Coming up, President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, says the president is wrong about Jeff Sessions. The CNN exclusive interview. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:46:42] BOLDUAN: Now to a CNN exclusive. President Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, sitting down with CNN's Fareed Zakaria and standing up for one of President Trump's favorite targets, Jeff Sessions. Just as CNN confirmed that President Trump repeatedly pressured Sessions to un-recuse himself from the Russia investigation, not just the one time that we heard of to this point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS: Donald Trump now says he wishes he picked another attorney general. Is he right?

STEVE BANNON, FORMER CHIEF STRATEGIT TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: I think the president is wrong. I think the president has been wrong from the beginning about -- if I can respectfully disagree with the president. I think that -- I think the whole concept of recusal is not even an issue. I think that Rudy Giuliani, Chris Christie, Jeff Sessions, anybody associated with the campaign would have had to recuse himself before Grassley's committee even voted him out to go to the floor for a vote. So I think the recusal is an issue --

(CROSSTALK)

BANNON: Yes, an issue dealt with and had to be dealt with. Whether you picked Rudy or Christie -- by the way, this thing about Sessions was not first pick. Rudy was always the first pick. Jeff Sessions and Rudy all among the secretary of state. So even Rudy knew at the time there was going to be this issue of recusal. I think the president is wrong. I think if you look at what Jeff Sessions had done on immigration, on migration, all the key issues at the Justice Department, I think Sessions is personally done an excellent job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me now, Ned Ryun, CEO of American Majority, a conservative grassroots group, and Joe Trippi, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist.

Great to see you both.

Ned, I'm asking this of everybody. Give me your take. Why doesn't Donald Trump just fire Jeff Sessions?

NED RYUN, CEO, AMERICAN MAJORITY: Well, I think we have gotten to that point, Kate, to be honest. This goes back to the decision that Jeff Sessions made to recuse himself. And I think he should have had that conversation with Donald Trump and said, hey, if I recuse myself, I probably shouldn't continue on in being attorney general. I think it has gotten to the point. I think Donald Trump needs to fire Jeff Sessions or Jeff Sessions needs to resign. I don't think this will last that much longer. And it really is starting to look like a very ugly breakup on a very public street corner and it's really getting awkward for everyone.

But I would hope that Donald Trump has a plan, that he wouldn't do anything spur of the moment. Kate, I would like him to wait until after the midterms. I think there's a legitimate chance that maybe Mueller clears Trump, maybe in September. I think day by day, getting a better chance, Republicans keep the majority in Congress. And in November, Trump could go to Jeff Sessions and, quite frankly, Rod Rosenstein and say, I would like letters of resignation and we move on from there. BOLDUAN: Come on, Ned, half of what the president does is spur of the

moment. Part of his charm. That's what he loves. Come on, man.

Joe?

(LAUGHTER)

RYUN: No, no. Really quick, Kate, on that front, if he decides in the summer in June or July he'll fire Jeff Sessions, he has to make a political calculation. Will this cause harm? It won't cause him harm with the base. And I think Mitch McConnell would move quickly, find somebody --

(CROSSTALK)

RYUN: Maybe find somebody like --

(CROSSTALK)

RYUN: --and we get somebody new.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

Joe?

JOE TRIPPI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR; It will cause him unmitigable harm on Capitol Hill with his own -- look, no one is buying any of this. Trey Gowdy is saying that there wasn't a spy. The Senate Intelligence Committee is not going along with any of this. And I think it's been clear to the president and the White House from the beginning that both Jeff Sessions and others, as you go down through Wray and Rosenstein, that there's no way that they're continence that, that crossing of the line. If the president goes after any of those people, I think it's a huge mistake.

And for one, he should listen to Steve Bannon on this. Steve Bannon is right. It doesn't matter who of Giuliani or Christie or Sessions the president would have appointed, they would have had to recuse themselves because of their playing roles in the campaign. So, so -- Sessions couldn't have said, hey, I'm going to recuse myself, don't appoint me. That would not have --

(CROSSTALK)

[11:50:53] TRIPPI: No matter who the president appointed --

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: -- outside his campaign

BOLDUAN: He technically could have.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Regardless, regardless, it did not happen. But, Joe, are you saying that Donald Trump should listen to Steve Bannon? The same Steve Bannon that President Trump put out this statement about, oh, not so long ago. When he was hired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind. I mean, what are the chances -- oh, I don't know. Of course, he could be listening to Steve Bannon.

TRIPPI: I think on this one, Steve Bannon is right. He's wrong about a lot of things. I think he's wrong about firing Ross and others --

(CROSSTALK)

TRIPPI: -- that he's urging the president to do, yes. But I think he's right on this.

BOLDUAN: Ned? Final thought.

RYUN: No. I think we'll have to see how this plays out. If he were to fire Jeff Sessions, what is the calculation with his base? I don't think his base would mind. It would be kind of a bit of a shrug.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: They wouldn't care!

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: That's why I think, with all this stuff, the folks that support Donald Trump, it doesn't matter even if he goes against what they're saying. Honestly, I think he could say, you know what, tariffs are a horrible thing. And all the folks that supported him because he was going to go hard on tariffs are going to go, OK, we still love him. I do think that, with no basis of fact because that's what I do. I say things with no basis of fact.

(LAUGHTER)

Ned, Joe, great to see you.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

TRIPPI: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Fareed Zakaria's exclusive interview with Steve Bannon airs tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Coming up for us, President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, threatened a reporter and the reporter records it. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: In Cameroon, many families travel from remote areas of the country to Lima to access medical care for their children. And they sleep on the hospital floor because they have nowhere to stay. This week's "CNN Hero" started a non-profit to fix that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[11:54:56] UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: It's a journey that's very difficult.

They come here, it's very expensive to stay here. They don't have enough money to continue their treatments. Sometimes families, they have to sell everything they have. They feel helpless.

(CRYING)

UNIDENTIFIED CNN HERO: So I decided to do something for them. I want them to know that they are not alone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: An impossible choice for these families he's making a little bit easier. For the full story, go to CNNheroes.com, and while you're there, nominate someone you think should be a "CNN hero."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN AUDIO FEED)

MICHAEL COHEN, PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Mark my word, I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we're in the courthouse and I will take you for every penny you still don't have. And I will come after "The Daily Beast" and everyone else that you possibly know. Do not even think about going to where I know you're planning on going. And that's my warning for today.

(END AUDIO FEED)

BOLDUAN: "Wait for tomorrow. I'll take every penny you still don't have. Would you like to get that call? And what if that call was from Donald Trump's personal attorney?" That is what Michael Cohen was threatening after a journalist wrote a story in 2015 about Trump and his first wife, Ivana Trump. Now that threat we're hearing in Cohen's own words for the very first time.

Joining me now, CNN national correspondent, Brynn Gingras.

Why are we hearing these tapes now?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's why it's so significant, because this is the first time we're actually hearing the voice of Michael Cohen, who is widely reported all around that he's made threats on behalf of the president as his personal attorney, right?

What happened was this journalist worked for "The Daily Beast" in 2015. He was calling Michael Cohen for comment on a story. They had this long conversation. And he knew about this, he reported on it back then. But now, he works for NPR. And NPR says, you know, we want to talk about this string of threats that we always hear from Michael Cohen. He digs up this audio and says, here you go, this is what I have. So that's why it was made public, that actual audio.

But Michael Cohen has not commented particularly on the release of the audio. He did back in 2015 after this tirade. He said it was inarticulate, I think is what he said, and basically admitted it was a tirade.

BOLDUAN: Did he make good on his threat?

GINGRAS: No, I don't believe so.

(LAUGHTER)

I don't believe so, but again, it speaks to the string of threats that happened.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's also fascinating because Michael Cohen is known to record conversations.

GINGRAS: Right. But he's the one that recorded the conversations, the journalists, not Michael Cohen. It's part of those recordings that we've been reporting.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: It's great to see you, Brynn.

GINGRAS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you very much.

Thank you all so much for joining me.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.

[12:00:05] JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Thank you, Kate.

And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

A gangbusters jobs report matching a 50-year low in the unemployment rate.