Return to Transcripts main page


GOP Moves Closer to Historic Victory on Taxes; Growing Calls for John Conyers to Resign over Sexual Harassment Scandal; New Images of North Korean Missile Launch; Paul Manafort & Rick Gates Working on Bail Agreements. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired November 30, 2017 - 13:30   ET


[13:30:00] SEN. MIKE ROUNDS, (R), SOUTH DAKOTA: -- suddenly, now we are all talking about the fact that it failed and, yet, we are stuck with that. If you take a look at the 1974 Budget Act, we are living with that right now, even though our deficit has continued to right through that entire time period. If they wouldn't have done that do us, we would have been in a better position to respond to the needs today.


ROUNDS: Let's not do that to the next generation of --

BLITZER: Sounds like you don't like those triggers, though some of your Republicans colleagues are still pressing to include them.

ROUNDS: If we can get to 50 percent, it will help us get to 50 votes, I'm willing to look at it. I really don't think it's necessary.

BLITZER: Senator Rounds, thank you very much for joining us.

ROUNDS: You bet.

Lots at stake right now.

There's more breaking news we are following. Growing calls for Democratic Congressman John Conyers to resign amid a sexual harassment scandal. We have also been learning that he is now hospitalized for stress.


[13:35:07] BLITZER: Breaking news. Just moments ago, the assistant Democratic leader and the highest-ranking African-American in the House, Congressman Jim Clyburn, added to the list of lawmakers who wants embattled Congressman John Conyers to resign amid a sexual harassment scandal.

Earlier today, we heard from House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on the issue. Listen to this.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: It's very sad. The brave women who came forward are owed justice. I pray for Congressman Conyers and his family and wish them well. However, Congressman Conyers should resign.

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No one should go through something like that, let alone here in Congress. And, yes, I think he should resign, and should resign immediately.


BLITZER: We are also learning from the aides of Conyers that he is in the hospital due to stress. He is 88 years old.

Democratic Congressman Dan Kildee, of Michigan, is joining us right now.

Congressman, I know you know Congressman Conyers, he's from Michigan like you are. Where do you stand on whether or not he should resign?

REP. DAN KILDEE, (D), MICHIGAN: I think Congressman Conyers should resign. No person, no matter where they work, should have to tolerate the kind of harassment that has been alleged. I took a very close look at the statements made by two individuals. No one likes to believe that a person that they worked with and they respect can abuse their power and harass women like this, and there can be no tolerance for it. Unfortunately, as painful as it is, I have to conclude that Congressman Conyers should resign.

BLITZER: I want to you listen to what the congressman's attorney said just moments ago. Listen to this.


ARNOLD REED, ATTORNEY FOR REP. JOHN CONYERS: It's not up to Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi did not elect the congressman and she sure as hell won't be the one to tell the congressman to leave. That decision will be completely up to the congressman.


BLITZER: How difficult is this for you, because you worked with Congressman Conyers from a long time. You are both from Michigan. How difficult is this whole issue for you and your other colleagues from Michigan?

KILDEE: It's painful. This whole issue is really painful. It's especially painful for the victims who now had to come forward and tell these really difficult stories. They have to repeat the pain they have gone through. It's painful for everyone. There is no joy that anybody takes in this. We just simply cannot, in Congress or on a factory floor, in my home state of Michigan, tolerate the kind of abuse of power that comes with men using their position to harass women or treat them in a way that is degrading. It's a terrible thing. There cannot be a standard that allows this behavior to go on without really severe consequences.

BLITZER: Congressman Kildee, thanks so much for joining us. KILDEE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, North Korea shows off its most powerful missile to date. The new video -- there you see some of it -- featuring Kim Jong-Un celebrating a so-called gift package for the U.S.

Plus, the former U.S. ambassador of the United Nations, Bill Richardson, is here in the studio as the Trump administration warns North Korea has brought the world closer to war. My conversation with Ambassador Richardson, that is coming up next.


[13:42:51] BLITZER: As North Korea releases the latest images of its latest missile launch on television, President Trump tweets insults aimed at Kim Jong-Un, saying, "The Chinese envoy who just returned from North Korea seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man. Hard to believe his people and the military put up with living in such horrible conditions. Russia and China condemn the launch."

Under the direct supervision of Kim Jong-Un, North Korea's massive Wasong (ph) missile 15 blasted through the earth's upper atmosphere on Wednesday 10 times higher than the international space station, theoretically putting all of the United States within striking distance.

Let's discuss this dangerous situation with my next guest, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson.

Ambassador Richardson, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: How concerned are you about this escalating crisis?

RICHARDSON: I'm very concerned. The crisis has escalated again after North Korea, for about 74 days, did not shoot a missile. What concerns me the most is the enormously rapid technological progress North Korea has made. This missile went up to close to 3,000 miles in height and could maybe reach 1,000 miles distance-wise, which is Washington, D.C. There's good developments here. And I try to have good developments. One, it could be that North Korea has reached the pinnacle of what it perceives to be its technological nuclear capability, so maybe they are ready to negotiate. Then again, Wolf, for 74 days, they didn't shoot a missile. Maybe there was some diplomacy going on that seemed to have broken down when we put them on the terrorism list. I wouldn't have done that.

BLITZER: What President Trump has done, and earlier administrations, including the Obama administration -- you served in the Obama administration, apparently, didn't do as much, was squeeze China with has enormous influence on Pyongyang to help out in this crisis. He deserves credit for that, right?

RICHARDSON: Yes, he does. The fact that China is now, with oil imports and coal imports and foodstuffs, North Korean workers in China, has put clamps down, serious clamps. But not enough, I believe, to really endanger the regime. I think they reach a point where they are ready to put some pressure, but not enough.

[13:45:21] BLITZER: You have been to North Korea several times.

RICHARDSON: Well, with you once.

BLITZER: I once went with you. You have seen what's going on over there. Most of the trade and the imports, most of China's exports involved, North Korea's exports involve China, but there are other countries involved as well, including Russia.

RICHARDSON: Right, but 90 percent comes through China. Russia can fill in the gap. Russia is not exactly our friend. They are probably going to do it. What North Korea technologically is getting is support from other states, rogue countries like Syria and Pakistan, on the black market, nuclear materials. So, you know --


BLITZER: It's still worrisome with all the U.S. efforts over the years to denuclearize North Korea failed. Going back to Bill Clinton administration and the Bush administration and the Obama administration. For 30 years, U.S. leaders have been working on this. And right now, North Korea has an intercontinental ballistic missile capability potentially with nuclear warheads despite all of those efforts. Why have they failed?

RICHARDSON: They have all failed because I don't think, through sanctions U.N. sanctions, all kinds of bilateral sanctions, it's enough pressure on North Korea. Now there's two options. One, which I think is unthinkable, the preemptive military strike. And then there's the diplomacy option, which I think we should accelerate now that North Korea, I believe, is ready to negotiate, now that they are maybe able to hit the United States. And there was -- again, no one pays attention to this pause for 74 days. I think the administration must have gone to them and said, don't shoot any missiles. They said on record, for 60 day6s, and North Korea went ahead and did not shoot a missile. Then we put in the designation of a terrorist state. We didn't have to do that. We could have waited. Put that into your pocket. That's called diplomacy and negotiation. I wish we hadn't done it but that's what I think is irritating --


BLITZER: You think that sparked North Korea to do this latest launch?

RICHARDSON: I don't know. I wish they would stop the tweets, the insults. He called him a puppy in one of the latest insults. I don't like the president of the United States being insulted either. But keep this personal diplomacy, these attacks, keep them out. Let diplomacy, let the professionals try to do something.

BLITZER: Is there a dialogue, a back-channel dialogue? China sent a special envoy to Pyongyang. The president tweeted and said, "The Chinese envoy just returned from North Korea, seems to have no impact on Little Rocket Man. Hard to believe his people and the military put up with living in such horrible conditions. Russia and China condemn the launch."

Was anything accomplished with this special Chinese envoy going to Pyongyang?

RICHARDSON: Yes, I do think -- the fact that he's able to talk to the North Koreans. The North Koreans have not talked to the Chinese for a long time. That's good. I don't know what was said. It obviously wasn't enough to bring North Korea to its knees. At least there's some diplomacy going. And maybe the Chinese envoy has sent a message back. But the message back that he probably sent is, "Hey, U.S., what happened? We didn't shoot a missile for 75 days, you didn't give us anything except a designation as a terror --"


BLITZER: You've had a good relationship with some of these North Korean leaders over the years. Are you ready to get back involved?

RICHARDSON: Yes, but I would only do it if the administration asked me. They don't talk to Democrats, so.

BLITZER: You don't expect to be --


BLITZER: -- anytime soon?

RICHARDSON: I don't expect a call.

BLITZER: Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, former Ambassador to the U.N., thanks for joining us.

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

[13:49:00] BLITZER: There's breaking news we're following. We're learning that Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman last year, has reached an agreement with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. We have details. Stand by.


BLITZER: We're following breaking news involving the former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. There is apparently an agreement that could lead to Paul Manafort's release from house arrest and GPS monitoring.

Our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz, is joining us right now with details.

This, potentially, is significant if there is an agreement between Manafort and the Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Right. And shows there are signs they were able to agree on something. This is probably an important victory for the defense, for his attorneys, for Manafort, and they have been trying to do this for now over a month, since he was arrested. He was arrested on October 30th, so a month to the day we get word they have finally come to agreement.

So what this entails is basically Manafort would no longer need to stay in his home. No longer would be required to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. And to do this, he, the judge, would have to approve it. And the special counsel, what they have agreed to is he would put up four homes worth about $11 million to guarantee that he will continue to come to court and continue on this case and won't flee the jurisdiction. He won't be able to travel internationally. And he says, Manafort, he would stay in four states, Florida, Virginia and New York, and then he come to Washington, D.C., to meet with his attorneys. So a small victory here for their attorneys. It's something they've been fighting and trying to get the special council to agree on. And now, hopefully, they will get that, at least they're hoping to get that. And a judge will --


[13:55:08] BLITZER: Because usually, when the prosecutor, the special counsel, in this case, agrees to something like that, he wants something in return. Not just some more houses that potentially could be used as bail, if you will. He wants something specific. And it looks like maybe they are moving in a certain direction.

PROKUPECZ: Perhaps. They have come to an agreement on something. At least it shows they are communicating, that there's an open dialogue. I don't think we can read much more into this right now. But we know his attorney, Manafort's attorney has been fighting this. The issue also for the court and really for the special council here is they wanted to see where the money was going to come from, and it looks like now his homes, and they are satisfied that his homes will be enough collateral to secure that he'll return to work.

BLITZER: What about Rick Gates, his deputy, also charged with these crimes? Is he part of the deal?

PROKUPECZ: He's not part of this deal. But he himself has been fighting and trying to get a bail package that --


BLITZER: Because he's under house arrest, too.

PROKUPECZ: He's under house arrest, too. And the last time the two of them were free to be out of their homes was on Thanksgiving. The judge did allow them out for the day, then they would have to come back, and they could go out the next day as long as they were home by certain time and they were with family. So they have been out of their homes since the arrest, but this will certainly free Manafort a little bit to conduct business, to meet with people. So a small victory here.

BLITZER: Clearly, what the special prosecutor would like is guilty plea and cooperation down the road.

PROKUPECZ: Perhaps. Next month, actually, in two weeks, in December, they are going to court and this was a set trial date. December 11th is the next date.

BLITZER: You will be watching.


BLITZER: Good work.

It's an agreement, but not the full agreement, but it is a step.

Thanks very much, Shimon, for that report.

And this just in. The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democrat Adam Schiff, is criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for not answering questions about whether President Trump had ever suggested hindering the Russia investigation. Sessions met behind closed doors today with members of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff says Sessions should have answered his questions because the president hasn't exercised executive privilege. A source familiar with the hearting said the attorney general frequently said he did not recall in response to lawmakers' many, many questions. We'll have more details on that coming up as well.

Also, there's still furry over the president's tweets at home and abroad. The nasty diplomatic clash that's ongoing that has one British lawmaker demanding President Trump be arrested if he actually enters the U.K.