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Russia Investigation; U.S.-North Korea Summit; Political Shakeup in Italy; Tariff Trouble; More Evacuations as Wildfires Spread in Western U.S. Aired 0-0:30a ET
Aired June 3, 2018 - 00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): G-7 finance ministers in Canada have a clear message for the United States: we won't take trade tariffs lying down.
Plus Donald Trump's lawyers argue the U.S. president cannot be forced to testify in the Russia investigation. We'll have a look at the letter they sent to the special counsel.
And massive wildfires breaking out in Colorado and New Mexico, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate.
Live from the CNN Center here in Atlanta, I'm Cyril Vanier. It's great to have you with us.
VANIER: I want to begin this show with the Russia investigation. We've got some insight now into how President Trump's legal team plans to keep him from being forced to testify. "The New York Times" obtained a confidential letter written by the president's lawyers and sent to special counsel Robert Mueller.
The lawyers argue it is legally impossible for Mr. Trump to obstruct justice, well, because he's the president.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz breaks it down for us.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: The 20-page letter argues why the president doesn't have to be in interviewed by the special counsel. The president's legal team in their letter was also responding to some of the questions that the special counsel, the FBI and Mueller and his team is seeking to ask Trump.
In the letter they say because Trump is the chief law enforcement officer, that, quote, "that the president's actions could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself and that he could, if he wished, he could terminate the inquiry or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired."
And then some of the other issues that the special counsel has been looking at is Michael Flynn and whether or not the president tried to interfere in that investigation when he fired the former FBI director, James Comey.
And here in an interesting argument from the president's lawyers, they claim that the FBI never told the White House that Flynn was under investigation and, therefore, how could Trump obstruct justice when he didn't know that Flynn was officially under investigation?
They also said the White House had every impression based on what Flynn told them, that he was going to be cleared after the FBI interviewed him.
And they write this in the letter, "There could not possibly have been intent to obstruct an investigation that had been neither confirmed nor denied to White House counsel and that they had every reason, based on General Flynn's statement and his continued security clearance, to assume that that investigation was not ongoing," they say.
Now the letter addresses some important aspects of the special counsel investigation and that has to do with the crafting of a statement by the president regarding the Donald Trump Jr. meeting at Trump Tower.
You'll remember that was with a Russian lawyer. And for the first time, really, the lawyers here, the president's lawyers here write in this letter, basically admitting an admission from those lawyers that he, the president, helped craft a statement.
And the response here from the lawyers to the special counsel, who's looking into that meeting and also the crafting of these statements when it was revealed that this meeting took place, they say essentially that this is private matter.
And the letter goes onto say that the special counsel has received all of the notes, communications and testimony indicating that the president dictated a short but accurate response to "The New York Times" article on behalf of his son, Donald Trump Jr.
Now the significance of this meeting, as you'll recall, was that Don Jr. thought he was meeting with someone who was going to provide dirt on Hillary Clinton. But it really turned out to be that it was a Russian lawyer who wanted to talk about adoptions.
And finally what's really important here is that, since at least January, the president's lawyers have been making these arguments to the special counsel and now some of them publicly why the president should not be subjected to an interview.
And it seems at least, as far as everything we know, that that's not working because basically we are now in June and there's still this ongoing battle with the special counsel about the interview -- Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, Washington.
VANIER: Nine days to go now until the historic summit between U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis is already there for a previously scheduled event.
He's giving every indication, especially when it comes to sanctions, that simply having a summit on the books is not enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Especially now we must remain vigilant. And we will continue to implement all U.N. Security Council resolutions --
MATTIS: -- on North Korea. North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearization.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: That question of denuclearization is only one of the policy and logistical details still to be worked out.
"The Washington Post" reports another, who will pay the North Korean delegation's hotel bill?
According to "The Post," Kim would like to stay at the posh Fullerton Hotel, the presidential suite there rings up at around $6,000 a night. Singapore may actually be asked to pick up the tab.
Let's bring in our Alexandra Field in Seoul.
Alexandra, not long to go before the summit.
What happens between now and then?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not long to go and still so much to be worked out, Cyril. We know that on the question of denuclearization, they're far from any kind of agreement.
President Trump has said himself this meeting will be an initial meeting, a get-to-know-you meeting. And he hasn't ruled out the possibility of several additional summits. He's even said they won't be signing an agreement this time around.
But there are a number of established channels of communications. That means that there's a lot of talking that needs to be done between now and that summit date between the U.S. and North Korea.
Also there's a lot of talking that's been going on between North Korea and South Korea, all to facilitate this summit, not just on the policy questions also on the logistical questions. As far as policy you have the Secretary of Defense Mattis in the
region speaking today, saying it's going to be a bumpy road to the negotiations. He was expressing the fact the U.S. is standing closely with its allies.
He says he and his counterparts are maintaining a strong defensive front in order to enable a position of strength for the diplomats who have a lot of negotiating to do in front of them.
Another big meeting on the agenda before that big summit, the Japanese prime minister will travel to Washington, D.C., this week to meet with President Trump. They, of course, are going to be talking about their position as we head into this historic meeting -- Cyril.
VANIER: And what about this little kink that's been thrown into this story by "The Washington Post," that Kim Jong-un wants his hotel paid for?
Do we know who's going to pay for it?
FIELD: Fascinating report by "The Washington Post." They were citing officials familiar with the talks. They're saying North Korea insist someone else pick up the hotel bill, that it's a $6,000 a night suite that Kim Jong-un wants.
They had initially reported that the White House and the State Department weren't commenting on the report. They've since updated it, saying that a spokesperson for the State Department says the U.S. is not open to paying this bill and they're not asking other countries to foot the bill.
That means the question of who makes the payment will still need to be worked out. But they do go onto say it's likely the U.S. will have to request a waiver from the United Nations for some of the sanctions related to travel costs for the North Korean delegation and for Kim Jong-un.
So the question of who pays the bill still outstanding. But, of course, there's a number of logistical issues that have to be worked out, which is where exactly this historic meeting will take place and how Kim will get there?
We've been talking about the fact this summit was likely to be held somewhere not far from North Korea because we know that Kim Jong-un has this aging fleet of Soviet-era aircraft.
There were questions about whether he could fly very far, directly, whether he'd have to stop in another country for refueling or borrow someone's plane, potentially embarrassing from a diplomatic perspective for North Korea. So a number of questions still to be worked out with just about 10 days until they sit down.
VANIER: Yes, a lot to be worked out and I didn't realize it was that granular, what plane, what flight route, and who foots the bill on that. You have nine days to find out who's footing that hotel bill, Alexandra. Alexandra Field, reporting live from Seoul, South Korea, thank you very much.
Jasper Kim joins me now. He's the director of the Center for Conflict Management at Ewha University. He joins us from Seoul, South Korea. He's also, interestingly for this conversation, author of the book called "Persuasion: The Hidden Forces that Influence Negotiations."
So tell me a little bit more about that. We started talking about it yesterday, Jasper.
Once Trump and Kim are in the room, what can each do to influence the outcome of the discussion?
JASPER KIM, CENTER FOR CONFLICT MANAGEMENT: Well, they both want to figure out, can I trust this person who I'm sitting in the room with?
Donald Trump to Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-un to Donald Trump.
And how do they go about doing this?
Some of it in the West will be some of this rational cost/benefit analysis. But I think with these two particular players, these characters and their personas underneath the negotiator role, I think there's an emotional component that's very, very strong and vibrant.
And they're both trying to figure out, well, what can I do to get a bargaining advantage over the other side?
And they do that through lots of tactics and ploys; we've seen some already, for example, walking out, for example big envelopes. All these nonverbal gestures are part of the negotiation game.
VANIER: See, I would have guesstimated that really their personal relation -- there's so much riding on this, that their personal relation and how they perceive each other actually is going to have very little to do with the outcome because each country has --
VANIER: -- strategic interest and the way they shake hands or talk to each other is not going to override that.
KIM: Studies have shown that most communication is actually nonverbal. And the more emotional it gets, the more that verbal communication -- in other words, using words -- matter less and less. So it plays a big, big role in negotiations generally.
I think with these two specifically,
VANIER: Jasper, do you think that translates when two heads of state are meeting and they've both been prepped by their teams and that they're both looking for specific outcomes?
Do you think then the nonverbal communication and all those things, do you think that still matters?
KIM: Yes, I think very much so, Cyril. It's not just a matter of what the state wants, the U.S. and North Korea, but I think negotiations is a question of how do you get what you want?
And I think what you want is basically at home base in the U.S. and North Korea. But once these two meet in Singapore, how they get it, the process upon which they get the outcome they want, that's where nonverbals play.
And I think specifically these two state actors are very, very different from a lot of state actors that we see in the world today. Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, their past rhetoric and their actions basically stipulate that they're very emotionally driven. And their personalities and egos need stroking from time to time.
And if they feel they're bristled or sort of ignored, then I think they'll react quite significantly towards that.
VANIER: Normally for major peace deals like this, diplomats do the grunt work ahead of time and then the heads of state come in and usually they just put their stamp of approval on it and it's been worked out before.
But here it's the other way around, Trump and Kim meet and then there's going to be apparently more diplomacy.
What do you think that changes, the fact that the order changes?
KIM: Well, I think it's a new paradigm and I think, what's the worse that can come out of it?
A lot of people have this thing called status quo bias. They want their future to look like yesterday. And diplomats, I think for the large part, want this type of process-driven procedure to happen. And they got that in North Korea with the six-party talks, rounds and rounds of six-party talks.
And you could argue the result of that was very little or no progress. So I think Donald Trump comes in with a private sector mindset. Let's not go through a process, although negotiation is process, like he stipulated, but we need to have a new mindframe, a deal-making negotiation mindframe instead of a dispute settlement negotiation mindframe.
There are elements of both and I think Donald Trump sees this as a large part of his role as dealmaking in chief.
VANIER: Jasper thank you for joining us today, Jasper Kim, definitely want to talk to you again before the summit. Thanks.
KIM: Absolutely. Thank you, Cyril.
VANIER: And Italians commemorate the founding of their republic but that is not the only reason many are celebrating. We'll explain why after the break. (MUSIC PLAYING)
VANIER: A CNN team in Northern --
VANIER: -- Gaza is reporting two large explosions on Sunday. They appeared to be part of Israeli retaliation after it claims Gaza militants fired five projectiles toward Israeli territory on Saturday.
The attack appears to have broken a cease-fire agreed to by Hamas and Islamic Jihad but never confirmed by Israel. This comes less than five days after the largest clashes since the last war between Israel and Hamas four years ago.
And tensions also rising in Gaza. Thousands infuriated there after a Palestinian nurse was killed on Friday. The Palestinian news agency says Israeli snipers shot her while she was giving first aid to injured protesters.
Reports say Israel would look into the incident. It has said it was following the rules of engagement during the protests. More than 100 Palestinian protesters have been killed by Israeli fire in just over two months.
Anger is growing in Jordan against austerity measures as the kingdom faces its largest protests in years. Demonstrators are demanding the government scrap proposed reforms, which would hike taxes on some employees and companies.
Unions say it will worsen living standards. The legislation includes recommendations from the International Monetary Fund, aimed at cutting Jordan's massive public debt. The prime minister says it is up to parliament to decide the fate of the measures.
Also this, a day of unity in Italy. The country celebrated the founding of its republic and the start of a new political era on Saturday. Italy's new populist coalition government was sworn in Friday, ending months of political gridlock. More now from CNN's Delia Gallagher from Rome.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Italy is celebrating. The national holiday of the founding of their republic, a day of unity. And victory for the new populist government of the Five-Star Movement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Speaking Italian). GALLAGHER (voice-over): Saviano Posadincini (ph) from Umbria works in finance and says the movement has been an antidote for people's anger against the establishment, which he says has oppressed them.
"From Italy, the message will go out, definitely to Europe and also to the rest of the world," he says.
Five-Star supporters like Emma, a 21-year-old university student, have hope.
EMMA, UNIVERSITY STUDENT: We do think that things are going to change. It will take time. It's not like we say in Italia, Rome was not built in a day.
GALLAGHER: The Five-Star Movement was founded only 10 years ago but they received only 32 percent of the vote. It was not to govern with a majority so they made an alliance with the anti-immigrant right-wing League party.
They have different histories and different agendas but the two will have to stay together in order to govern.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): The new government promises to deport illegal immigrants, raise the minimum wage and guarantee a basic income, programs that will cost money for a country that can't afford it.
GALLAGHER (voice-over): There are challenges ahead for this new government and Italy. But now is their moment to see how long they can make the party last -- Delia Gallagher, CNN, Rome.
VANIER: The meeting of G7 finance ministers in Canada wrapped up on Saturday with six of them ganging up on the U.S. for imposing punishing new tariffs on key allies. Senior officials from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. gave U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin an earful, saying that they were unanimous in their disappointment over President Trump's decision to impose steep duties on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the E.U.
The Canadian finance minister said the action was destructive to world trade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did we ask Treasury Secretary to do?
We said that we were collectively hoping that he would bring the message back, the message of regret and disappointment at the American actions, and concern that they are not constructive. And my sense is that he's going to take that message back to Washington.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANIER: Mnuchin, however, seemed to brush off their complaints.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I don't think in any way the U.S. is abandoning its leadership in the global economy; quite the contrary. What the group was very focused on was obviously the steel and aluminum tariffs, which, again, we're doing to protect in particular our steel and aluminum industries.
So this is -- there was general concern that this could be create and become larger trade issues. We're in conversations with the E.U. about trade issues. And I think, as you know, on China, we've been very focused on the trade relationships with China.
VANIER: And perhaps not surprisingly, the U.S. president was defiant. This is what he tweeted.
"When you're almost $800 billion a year down in trade, you can't lose a trade war."
All of this while U.S. trade negotiators, remember this, are in Beijing right now for crucial trade talks after the administration threatened to levy 25 percent tariffs on $15 billion worth of Chinese imports.
Political analyst Peter Matthews joins us from Los Angeles to discuss this possible potential impending trade war. He teaches political science at Cypress College.
Peter, the countries that Trump targeted with tariffs are about to retaliate with their own tariffs and they are putting, again, the ball in Donald Trump's court.
Where do you think this goes from here?
PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: I think it's going to escalate if we don't calm things down and Trump reverses himself. Otherwise, it could escalate and become another Smoot-Hawley tariff, back in 1930, when exports to the United States were cut at least 60 percent because of the tariffs, because a trade war broke out.
So I would think it would behoove Mr. Trump to backtrack, especially with our allies, our biggest trading partners, the E.U., Mexico and Canada, where he stuck these big tariffs on their products coming in.
And that's going to really, really hurt the exports to the United States, it's going to hurt jobs. The price of goods and services are going to go up right here and they are, have already started going up.
And that's a big problem. Mr. Trump has to look at this very carefully and look at why he's doing this and know it's going to start a trade war and continue the trade war that's already actually begun. VANIER: Well, the U.S. has imposed its tariffs. Now the Canadian counter tariffs don't come into effect for another months; the European tariffs also don't come into effect for at least a few weeks.
How big could this get?
Because we're talking about a trade war, those words are always a little scary. But the former boss of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, says, look, let's not exaggerate the economic impact this could have.
What do you think?
MATTHEWS: I think it begins rather small and it escalates gradually. If we look in past history, back in 1930, again, it began with the tariffs that escalated further and further and retaliation occurred by many, many of our trading partner.
And the whole world was engulfed in a trade war, which escalated the price of goods and services, caused more unemployment and deepened the depression. So this could happen once again here. And I think it's very dangerous territory.
And Trump should understand the main problem here with American exports and import trade deficit is not so much the tariffs that will help but higher wages across the board.
He should have insisted in the NAFTA trade agreement earlier, when it was brought in by President Clinton, that wages should increase in Mexico, raise gradually, step by step, so Mexican workers could have more money in their pockets when American companies go down there.
That way they can demand American exports and buy them as well. The fair trade model is truly based on labor and environmental safeguard being increased, not on these tariffs, which is really a very backward way of looking at things.
VANIER: Could this end up backfiring politically for Donald Trump?
Because the U.S. allies are targeting Republican states with their potential tariffs.
MATTHEWS: Yes, they are. And many Republican states are rural states, where there are many farmers with export products and their products are going to be hit hard by, for example, China, which buys a lot of American soybeans and that's Midwestern farmers that voted for Trump.
So it can certainly backfire on him. And there's a good chance that that's already going to start happening.
And don't forget the gas prices have gone up because Trump got out of the Iran nuclear deal and that made a shortage in the oil around the world. And so you have now gas prices having gone up by at least 50 cents a gallon in many states in the United States, many of the Midwestern states as well. So already Trump's actions, when it comes to the international
political economy, are backfiring on him. And I think it's going to hurt the chances of the Republicans in Congress being re-elected this fall, very good chance that would happen.
VANIER: All right, Peter Matthews, always good to have you on the show. Appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
Also want to tell you about out-of-control flames engulfing part of the western U.S. Massive flames have now forced thousands from their homes. We'll have the latest on that after the break.
VANIER: Massive wildfires in parts of the western U.S. are torching thousands of hectares and forcing hundreds of people to leave their homes. In Colorado, the 416 fire has consumed nearly 450 hectares. It is still uncontained.
Another out-of-control blaze in New Mexico now has grown to 110 square kilometers. Nearly 300 structures there are threatened, with hundreds of firefighters battling the flames.
VANIER: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. We've got the headlines in just a moment. Stay tuned as always to CNN.