Return to Transcripts main page
Ken Starr On Whether The President Should Talk With Mueller; Border Wall Battle Heads To Court; V.P. Pence Seated Feet Away From Kim Jong Un's Sister. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired February 9, 2018 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:33:07] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: All right.
There are still questions about whether President Trump will sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller's team. Most of the president's lawyers are reportedly advising him against it but sources tell CNN the president is still eager to talk.
Let's discuss all of this and more with former independent counsel Ken Starr. His team, of course, interviewed President Clinton as part of the investigation into Clinton's real estate investments which, you all remember, ultimately led to President Clinton's impeachment.
Mr. Starr, good morning.
KEN STARR, FORMER JUDGE, SOLICITOR GENERAL, AND INDEPENDENT COUNSEL: Good morning.
CAMEROTA: If you were the president's attorney would you have him sit down with Robert Mueller?
STARR: I would advise him of the risk. You've got know your client and you've got to know the facts. And I gather from the reports that we're seeing is that his lawyers -- the majority of them -- are saying Mr. President, just don't go there -- don't do it.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but you know this client. You know Donald Trump. Do you think he should sit down with Robert Mueller?
STARR: I don't know all the facts. If I had known all the facts, if I'd interviewed the client, and so forth -- but I would advise him of the risks. This is a risky process.
Look, we have two guilty pleas for false statements to the FBI. This is very serious business. This is not a press conference, so the risks are extraordinarily high.
Now, on the other hand, he is the President of the United States and the defense lawyers know that. I note that one of his lawyers, Ty Cobb, has said yes -- as I understand it, yes, he's going to go -- my advice is that he needs to forward.
As a practical matter, I think he will go forward or certainly, he needs to go forward. Otherwise --
CAMEROTA: Meaning -- hold on. As a practical matter --
CAMEROTA: -- you think the president will sit down for a face-to-face interview with Robert Mueller?
STARR: Either that -- it's a predictive judgment. That's the way I think it's going to turn out because if not, I think, depending on what Bob Mueller knows -- and we don't know what Bob Mueller knows, but depending on what he knows he will want to talk to the president. If the president resists, then Bob Mueller has subpoena power.
[07:35:05] CAMEROTA: And what if the president resists the subpoena?
STARR: Then it goes to litigation and we see it in court, and I don't think that's a very attractive spectacle for the president, frankly. There's a huge risk, I think, in being seen as fighting the special counsel who is duly appointed and is carrying on his work.
CAMEROTA: And that's what happened with Bill Clinton, yes? He refused your request -- your initial request -- am I right -- to sit down and then you had to go -- you had to do it -- use a subpoena.
STARR: Well, there was a process. Earlier, he had, in fact, cooperated with different parts of the investigation. So again, these are judgment calls. Eventually, yes, we did, in fact, work out an arrangement.
I think subpoenaing the president is not a last resort but it's almost a last resort just out of respect for the dignity of the presidency. You want to have a negotiated agreement --
STARR: -- and I think that what's going to happen.
CAMEROTA: Yes, but listen, I mean, it sounds like you're saying two things which is that you would advise your client, if he were Donald Trump, that there are big risks --
CAMEROTA: -- in sitting down.
So that would mean you'd be disinclined, I would imagine, to sit down because sometimes the president, as you know, can say conflicting things. But, you think that he --
STARR: Well, but it's --
CAMEROTA: -- should sit down.
STARR: Yes, because it's his judgment. The lawyer's job is to do his or her job and say hey, this is what could happen and it's not a pretty picture.
Look at what happened to Gen. Flynn. Look at what happened Mr. Papadopoulos.
So this is very serious business. This is, again, not just a conversation. But once the president, as with any client, is advised of the risk --
STARR: -- it becomes his choice. But his choice, I think, is guided by the fact that he is the President of the United States.
CAMEROTA: OK, so listen. Peel back the curtain for us and tell -- we assume negotiations are happening right now.
What's happening with those negotiations? What are his lawyers asking for? What's the special counsel asking for?
STARR: I'm going to project that what's -- what the defense lawyers are saying is limited time and definitely limited scope.
You're not going to be talking to him about the financing of some Russian hotel project that has zero to do with why you were appointed, which is collusion. The questions have to be specifically on collusion.
And you're not going to sit there and tire him out. He is -- he's very vigorous but this is going to go on for x hours and not a minute longer. We're going to have breaks and so forth.
The president's going to be able to consult with us, take breaks anytime he wants to or we think that it's advisable, etcetera. Just sort of the terms - the framework of -- essentially, it's going to be a negotiated settlement.
CAMEROTA: Is there any way that Robert Mueller agrees to just written answers?
STARR: He could agree to that. You said just -- he could very reasonably agree to that as step one.
It's frequently done in litigation. You have written interrogatories. It's obviously done in civil litigation more so than this kind of investigation.
But there's nothing to prevent the special counsel, reasonably, from saying OK, we'll do that but then we will have a follow-up interview.
CAMEROTA: Very quickly, yes or no. Is there any scenario by which this ends up in the Supreme Court?
CAMEROTA: So if he fights the subpoena -- I know I said yes or no but I want to hear more. So if he fights the subpoena, that's the scenario you see playing out.
STARR: Right. It goes to litigation, motion to quash. That just means hey, judge, throw this thing out.
If the judge doesn't then there are mechanisms, even though it's not a final judgment, that you take it up to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals says whatever it does. One side or the other takes it to the Supreme Court of the United States. It could happen.
CAMEROTA: Ken Starr, thank you very much.
STARR: You're welcome.
CAMEROTA: John --
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. The border wall goes to court today. President Trump has a history with the judge presiding over the case. A live report, next.
[07:42:30] CAMEROTA: We have an update now for a story that we brought you yesterday about that Kansas professor who entered the U.S. lawfully from Bangladesh and has lived here for 30 years.
A court has granted Professor Jamal a temporary, 10-day stay, meaning that for these 10 days he will not be deported. Syed Jamal's attorney says Professor Jamal will stay in jail while this immigration court hears his case.
ICE agents arrested Jamal in front of his children last month as he prepared to take them to school.
BERMAN: The battle over President Trump's border wall heads to court today. The state of California and several other groups challenging the right of the Department of Homeland Security to waive environmental laws in order to build it.
The judge presiding over the case a familiar name to many in the White House.
CNN's Sara Sidner live in San Diego with the latest on this. Some irony here, Sara.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very much so, John.
You know, as a candidate, Donald Trump made several remarks condemned as racist against this federal judge. Now, as luck would have it, Judge Gonzalo Curiel is about to hear a case that aims to stop the border wall from being built or at least slow it down until the Department of Homeland Security complies with environmental laws.
SIDNER (voice-over): This border wall battle begins where the ocean meets the land in San Diego and goes 14 miles inland right through a national wildlife refuge.
BRIAN SEGEE, SENIOR ATTORNEY, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY: That area is an environmental hotspot. It has habitats for endangered species along its length. It has protected federal lands, national parks, national monuments, national forests.
SIDNER: The state of California and environmentalists sued the Department of Homeland Security, saying it is using waivers to thwart environmental laws in order to build a border wall where a fence already exists.
SIDNER (on camera): How many laws are being circumvented with these waivers?
SEGEE: More than 30. So, no environmental impact study, no public outreach, no consultation with experts, no specific look at endangered species. They waived more than 30 other laws that aren't at issue in our lawsuit like Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act.
SIDNER (voice-over): In 1996, Congress authorized waivers to speed up the process of building border barriers by bypassing certain federal and state laws. DHS is arguing it has the authority to continue to do so. That is how this fence ended up being built in the first place.
The agency would not comment on the current case.
Now, the case that could impede Trump's biggest campaign promise has been assigned to Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
[07:45:03] DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump -- a hater. He's a hater. His name is Gonzalo Curiel.
SIDNER: Then-candidate Donald Trump launched attack after attack against the federal judge as he presided over the Trump University fraud case.
CNN's Jake Tapper questioned Mr. Trump about it.
TRUMP: I've been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage.
I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall. I am going to do very well with the Hispanics, the Mexicans --
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER", CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: So no Mexican judge could ever be involved in a case that involves you?
TRUMP: Well, he's a member of a society where -- you know, very pro- Mexico, and that's fine. It's all fine. But I think -- I think he should --
TAPPER: Except that you're calling into question his heritage.
TRUMP: -- recuse himself.
TAPPER: Because he's Latino?
TRUMP: Then you also say does he know the lawyer on the other side? I mean, does he know the lawyer? You know, a lot of people say --
TAPPER: But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about --
TRUMP: No, that's another -- that's another problem.
TAPPER: But you're invoking his race when talking about whether or not --
TRUMP: Here's what I'll say.
TAPPER: -- he can do his job.
TRUMP: Jake, I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall. I'm trying to keep business out of Mexico.
Mexico's fine. There's nothing --
TAPPER: But he's American -- he's an American.
TRUMP: -- a Mexican -- he's of Mexican heritage and he's very proud of it.
SIDNER: At the time, Trump's comments were condemned by many.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.
SIDNER: We asked the White House for comment on whether President Trump has changed his stance on Judge Curiel as he hears arguments in another case that could seriously slow down the building of a border wall.
SIDNER: Now, the White House did not respond to our request for comment.
We should note that previous challenges to these waivers have been unsuccessful. We should also note that federal Judge Curiel has never publicly uttered a word against Donald Trump -- Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK. Thank you, Sara, very much for that update.
So, Vice President Pence is taking in the Olympic ceremony but look at this. He is just feet away in the same suite from Kim Jong Un's sister. We have a live report from PyeongChang for you, next.
[07:51:09] CAMEROTA: History is being made at the Olympics. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, that you see there, shaking hands with South Korea's president. This is at the opening ceremony.
But another history-making moment just happened. Vice President Mike Pence is seated just feet apart from the dictator's sister.
BERMAN: He sat four people away.
CAMEROTA: Wait for it -- and there he is.
CNN's Will Ripley is live in South Korea with all of these breaking details. What's happening, Will?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Awkward seating arrangement. President Moon sitting right next to Vice President Mike Pence and the North Korean delegation one row behind.
Now, the vice president skipped out on a dinner earlier in the evening with Kim Yo Jong and the other North Korean delegate Kim Yong Nam. He had a regularly scheduled dinner with the U.S. Olympians.
But nonetheless, he was trying to avoid any run-ins and yet, you can't really avoid the seating chart when all the world leaders are there watching the opening ceremonies.
Pretty significant differences in how the vice president is handling things and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in.
You had Vice President Pence with the father of Otto Warmbier, embracing North Korean defectors, saying that the U.S. stands in solidarity with the North Koreans who yearn for freedom.
And then you had President Moon shaking hands on a couple of different occasions with North Korea's ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam.
And, perhaps significantly, he's hosting a lunch tomorrow at the Blue House in Seoul with Kim Yo Jong and several diplomatic sources are telling me there's a very good chance that at that luncheon she could invite President Moon to visit South Korea (sic) at some point later this year.
Now, this is something that North Korea wants. They want to extend this buffer period. They want to engage with South Korea.
A lot of analysts believe they are trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul which may be why Vice President Pence has stated that there's no daylight, no difference between U.S. and South Korean approach here in dealing with North Korea.
But clearly, Kim Jong Un sending his sister here with a mission to try to warm up the South Koreans and divide them from the United States.
BERMAN: All right. Will Ripley for us at the Olympics. Will, thanks so much.
Let's discuss these history-making moments with Ian Bremmer. He's the president at the Eurasia Group and editor-at-large of "Time" magazine. You know, Ian, it's fascinating. Let's put this picture back up again because, you know, this is an extraordinary sight when you see the Vice President of the United States in the same box -- and if we can get that picture it would be great -- just four seats and one row away from the sister of Kim Jong Un.
He could have walked out, right? He didn't have to be sitting there.
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "TIME" MAGAZINE: You know that there was massive protocol fight here, right? I mean, the North Korean's dictator's sister and Vice President Pence are, in a sense, the two most important dignitaries for the South Korean president.
I'm sure they would have said let's put you together -- no. How about one apart -- absolutely not. Two -- OK. Four apart, but one-row distance.
That clearly was the discussion of hours, maybe days, between protocol teams. This is -- it's both extraordinary tableau but it's not exactly warmth and extended diplomacy.
So far, Pence and Trump have provided no public opening to engagement with the North Koreans despite the fact that the North and South are doing everything possible to show that they want this to be the beginning of something much bigger.
CAMEROTA: And just to let people know, she is the one wearing the credential -- the blue credential around her neck. She is in black. You can see her smiling, talking to the man next to her.
BERMAN: They're looking in different directions. Symbolically, Vice President Mike Pence and Kim's sister looking in opposite directions.
CAMEROTA: But is there any way the Pence's could have said no, we're not going to share a box with her? I mean, is the fact that they have said --
CAMEROTA: -- they've agreed to --
BREMMER: They're there -- they're there -- absolutely.
I mean, so -- and I'm clearly not trying to create an incident but not showing yet, at least, any openers.
Trump has said himself on numerous occasions that he is prepared to sit down and talk to Kim Jong Un. Since then, it's been only under the right conditions.
Nikki Haley, ambassador to the U.N., saying only if they make concrete steps toward denuclearization which obviously is not going to happen, so there's conditions.
[07:55:04] But we know that Trump's ability to pivot is very significant irrespective of what he's said before.
So, I mean, if you look at what we're going to see, which is an extraordinary outpouring of warmth between the athletes on a combined women's ice hockey team, the extraordinary engagement with a very meaningful, several-hundred-person delegation including some of the top leaders in North Korea, there is an opportunity for the United States to take that and run with it.
We may --
CAMEROTA: Is there? Aren't they cut out of it? I mean, isn't the U.S. -- the North and South are having these warmer relations because of it but where is the U.S. in this dynamic?
BREMMER: Right now, the United States is saying we're going to increase sanctions against North Korea. Now, since we already don't do any business with them that means tougher efforts against Chinese banks, Chinese corporations that are working there.
And we're also saying we're going to continue our tougher military engagements in the region. We're showing a lot of strength, we're expanding exercises, that sort of thing.
So again, publicly, since this has happened there's been nothing but we are squeezing.
But why do you think this is happening? Why are the North Koreans doing this? They're doing it in large part because the Trump administration has actually really flexed its muscles and made them believe that the possibility of preemptive strikes is real.
Let's remember, the person who is not in that tableau is the American ambassador to South Korea because we don't have one.
BREMMER: He was saying -- Victor Cha -- he was going to be appointed. And then he said privately to H.R. McMaster, national security adviser, and others that he opposed the idea of a preemptive strike and so they got rid of him.
So, you know, Trump's credentials on 'I might just do' this are real and that means that there has been movement towards diplomacy. Now if Trump wants to then take all of that and say OK, now I'll engage, this could be a win for him.
If he decides no, I'm still moving towards preemption unless they get rid of their nukes, which they will never do, then we could be heading to a war in the --
BERMAN: And that's what you write about in this great piece in "Time" here.
And you know, Ian, that there's something happening now whatever the United States chooses to do. It's happening between North Korea and South Korea. Obviously, you know, they are trying to reach warmer relations there.
North Korea has nuclear arms -- they do. They have these weapons, you know. Whether or not the United States chooses to act on that or not now is another thing, but it's happening and the U.S. is at a pivot point.
BREMMER: The United States is really good at expressing policies that are philosophical and have no bearing in reality.
Russia must leave Crimea. Assad must go from Syria.
That wasn't Trump. That was the Obama administration. But you know what? Russians are still there, Assad's there, Obama's gone.
Now we say the North Koreans must denuclearize. That's not a policy. It's an aspiration that is unmoored from reality. And I'm not suggesting that we need to say oh, know, that's -- it's OK that you have --
BERMAN: You don't have to like it.
BREMMER: You don't have to like it but you have to -- your policy, at some level, has to be based on reality, especially when we can't call all the shots anymore because if not, South Koreans, the Chinese, and others are all going to get on board and say you know what, we're just going to find a way to work with these guys.
CAMEROTA: Just out of curiosity, is it possible for the -- some North Korean athletes to defect while they're in South Korea, and then what?
BREMMER: Look, I think that this -- this is -- all this is very fragile. So, I mean, we have to remember that the North Korean regime is incredibly repressive and violent and Kim Jong Un, himself, is incredibly repressive and violent.
And anyone that decides they want to get out -- and there are lots of reasons. They've vetted these athletes very, very carefully, they have vetted the cheerleaders very carefully. They'd still love to have an opportunity to get the hell out of this country.
CAMEROTA: So you mean it's possible. Even though they would -- they would be terrified to do it, it's possible it could happen.
BREMMER: Sure, and if that happens there's a major diplomatic flap and the South Koreans wouldn't want to send them back because, you know, look at what they'd be sending them to. So I think there's that.
There's a huge possibility that the North Koreans have great relations -- have better relations with South Korea but they still need to prove their ICBM's.
They just did this big military parade. I know we like the idea of that here right now, too.
A couple of days ago displaying eight ICBMs. They've never done that before either. They want to still show the Americans that they have that deterrent.
There's lots of ways that after these Olympics are over this could all blow up. But the next couple of weeks, at least, let's talk about them coming together.
BERMAN: And this is just day one. I mean, the symbolism here over the next two weeks will be extraordinary.
CAMEROTA: Ian Bremmer, thank you very much for all of that great context.
All right. So we're following a lot of news this morning. Let's get right to it.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CAMEROTA: All right, good morning, everyone. Welcome to your new day. It is Friday, February ninth, 8:00 in the East.
Chris is off. John Berman joins me.
Every hour gets more peculiar here. We thought that the shutdown was going to be over but no, it's not.
BERMAN: We're in a shutdown.
CAMEROTA: We are currently in a shutdown. The shutdown is still happening at this hour. We are told -- OK, so a shutdown as of right now has been lasting for eight hours.
We are told the government will not reopen until President Trump signs this massive budget bill that lawmakers passed early this morning and we don't know when that's going to happen or why the president has yet to sign it into law.
Federal workers are awaiting word on whether they go to work one hour from now.
Congress has passed this two-year, $400 billion bill. It gives Republicans a big boost in defense spending.