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THE SITUATION ROOM
Soon: North Korea's Kim Jong Un Crosses to the South for Historic Summit; Bill Cosby Now A Convicted Felon Found Guilty Of Sexual Assault, White House Is Looking Ahead To The President's Planned Talks With Kim Jong-Un, President Trump On Fox News Going After The Justice Department. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 26, 2018 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, SITUATION ROOM: ... delivering one bomb shell statement after another. We are following the fallout on multiple fronts this hour.
Special master, a former Federal judge is tapped to review the documents seized from Michael Cohen as prosecutors used new comments by the President against him and his lawyer. How vulnerable is Mr. Trump to having his legal secrets exposed.
Meeting at the DMZ. Kim Jong-un is about to take a historic walk at the border for a summit of the South Korean leader's turf. This as we are getting the first look at Kim's secret meeting with President Trump's incoming Secretary of State.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, I am Wolf Blitzer, you are in the "Situation Room."
Breaking tonight, TV icon, Bill Cosby now a convicted felon found guilty of sexual assault in a retrial that's been seen as a water shed moment in the #MeToo Movement. The 80-year-old Cosby may have to spend the rest of his life in prison. He's still out on bond awaiting sentencing and promising to appeal.
Also tonight, President Trump appears to have added to his own legal troubles after unloading in a new TV interview about the Russia investigation.
The criminal probe of his lawyer, Michael Cohen and the Stormy Daniels' case. I will talk with a key member of the House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, Congressman Eric Slalwell and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. Brian, a powerful verdict against Bill Cosby.
BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: A very powerful verdict, Wolf, one that clearly sends a signal to other women who have been victims of sexual assault. One of bill Cosby's accusers says she's been "vindicated and validated."
There was a lot of pent up emotion this afternoon on display inside and outside the courtroom. (START VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: The man once known as America's dad, and considered among the most powerful people in Hollywood feebly clings to a member of his legal team after being found guilty of aggravated indecent assault. Bill Cosby convicted on all three counts.
One of his accusers said she was so overwhelmed with her emotion. She banged her head on a bench in the courtroom. Outside, she was simply ecstatic after years of trying to bring the disgraced 80-year-old comedian to justice.
LILI BERNARD, COSBY ACCUSER: I was just full of joy, full of gratitude for the prosecution, for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for Andrea Constand and the five prior bad acts witnesses.
My survivor sisters who courageously stood on that bench. I was also just shocked. I did not expect this kind of verdict. The jury has restored my faith in humanity and I feel like I am dreaming and I need to be pinched to be woken.
TODD: Lily Bernard says Cosby drugged and raped her while he was mentoring her for on an appearance on "The Cosby Show."
But this case centered on the accusations of Andrea Constand, a former employee of the Temple University basketball team who testified that Cosby who was a powerful trustee at the Temple drugged and sexually assaulted her when she visited his home to ask for career advance in January of 2004.
KEVIN STEELE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: He used his celebrity, he used his wealth. He used his network of supporters to help him conceal his crimes. And now, we really know today who was behind that act, who the real Bill Cosby was, and a jury has spoken with one voice.
TODD: More than 50 women have publicly accused Bill Cosby of sexual misconduct stretching back decades, many described similar encounters accusing Cosby of luring them into private meetings where he would give them advice then drugging them and raping them.
During his trial and other legal in recent years, Cosby would appear in public as a weak and timid figure often leaning on others. But according to a CNN producer inside court, after today's verdict was read and the prosecutor asked for bail to be revoked, arguing that Cosby has a private plane and could be a flight risk, Cosby stood and yelled loudly that doesn't have a plane, "You asshole."
Cosby's attorney who argued that his interaction with Andrea Constand was consensual and called her a con artist was defiant outside court.
TOM MESEREAU, BILL COSBY'S ATTORNEY: We are very disappointed by the verdict. We don't think Mr. Cosby is guilty of anything and the fight is not over.
TODD: And when he was asked if he'll appeal this verdict, Cosby lawyer, Tom Mesereau said, "Yes, very strongly." A sentencing hearing has not been set, but Cosby faces up to 10 years in prison on each of the three counts and he'll likely serve those terms concurrently, Wolf. He went home. The judge did not revoke his bail.
BLITZER: Why not?
TODD: Because Wolf, even though the prosecutor did say that he believes Cosby is a flight risk and that he's got this private plane. Judge Steven O'Neill disagreed with that citing Cosby's age. He is 80 years old and citing the fact that Cosby has attended every single hearing in every case that he's been involved in for the last two and a half years. He said he has had good attendance record, but the judge did rule that Cosby cannot leave his home in Pennsylvania and he has to be fitted for a GPS tracking device.
BLITZER: Let's see whether his sentence comes down. All right, thanks very much, Brian Todd for that report.
Let's go to Pennsylvania right now where the Cosby trial played out. CNN correspondent...
BLITZER: ... Jean Casarez and CNN legal analyst, Joey Jackson. They are there for us. They've been covering this high profile case. Jean, you were inside the courtroom, describe what it was like.
JEAN CASAREZ, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, the feeling was everyone was everyone was nervous. The prosecution team which I was sitting closer to, extremely nervous. The defense so focused, so serious, I watched the jury come in. They did not look at Andrea Constand.
And that can always be a sign of acquittal because they don't look at who was the victim in this case. They sit down, the foreperson starts to read the verdict and you just start hearing in this courtroom, "Guilty, guilty, guilty." And the alleged victims that were all in the back of the courtroom that have lived with this for so many years, you just heard "Ah," like that.
They were escorted out in the courtroom immediately because there's heavy security all around. The jury was polled. It was their verdict. Bill Cosby -- no reaction, just stood and sort of looking at the table like that. No reaction from Andrea Constand, the victim in this case.
The jury left and then it was the issue of revoking the $1 million bail. State attorney stands up, he says, "Your Honor, we believe that this bail should be revoked. We believe that Mr. Cosby at this point in time could be a flight risk." "Why?" the judge asked.
He says, "Because he has a private plane." And that is when Bill Cosby turned to the elected state attorney that actually is the lead attorney on this prosecution and said, third person, "He does not have a plane, you asshole," and it was a silent formal courtroom, but the court reporter is taking it down and it is on the record now as part of the end of this criminal retrial for Bill Cosby. BLITZER: So, Joey, he was allowed to go home after the verdict was
read awaiting sentencing, so what happens next?
JOEY JACKSON, LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Listen, this is a big moment in time. It's a huge moment in history, I think. Look, I believe in the jury process. I think there certainly will be an appeal in terms of what happens next. Prosecution putting forward a compelling case.
I think that appeal, Wolf will be predicated upon the five prior accusers who were allowed to testify. I believe that will be front and center of any appeal. So, what technically should happen next is within the next 60 to 90 days, he would be sentenced.
We know he faces 10 years on each count. He's 80-year-old. That's a life sentence for him. I think his lawyers will do legal maneuvering to ensure that he doesn't spend a day in jail.
What they'll say is allowing five prior accusers to testify is overly prejudicial. Is there a precedent for it? Yes, a judge is permitted if there are prior bad acts that are similar to what you did hear are alleged to do, you can allow it.
But at what point does it become so compelling that a jury is so focused upon what you did in '82 and '84 and '86 that they said, "You know what? You did this, too." And so I think the defense will put forward motions, put forward their papers and allow their client to be out or at least ask a court to allow their client to be out while an appellate court evaluates whether the trial court got it right.
And so that's what I think will happen moving forward, Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Mesereau, his attorney says they will definitely appeal. So, he's convicted. Each felony count 10 years but 10 years, that could be served concurrently, meaning he could get a total of ten years or less, is that right?
JACKSON: Well, you know what? He can and in fact, you know, a judge can stack them which would mean they would be consecutive and of course, a judge can do what you just said, Wolf, is say, it is concurrent time.
But if you give someone ten years and they are 80 years old. I mean, it is unimaginable. Now, the other point of the view is look, you know, Andrea Constand was there representing not only herself. Clearly, this was as to her, but she stood on many shoulders and many shoulders, you know, other people stood on her shoulders. She was the only one, Wolf, who had a viable criminal claim based upon the statute of limitations.
And so, I think this sends a shock wave in terms of its deterrent value moving forward, in terms of relation between men and women, in terms of the #MeToo Movement and we are seeing so many powerful men who could not be touched before being taken down. And so, this is a water shed moment in our time.
But again, facing ten years as to whether he spends one day in jail based upon his lawyers planning to appeal, that's the open question here.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens in the coming weeks. Joey and Jean, guys, thanks very much.
Also, breaking tonight, the White House is looking ahead to the President's planned talks with Kim Jong-un after Mr. Trump stirred up new controversy and legal questions in a very wild and wide ranging interview earlier in the day.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the White House revealed a remarkable photo just a little a while ago.
JIM ACOSTA, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: That's right, Wolf. It could be a sneak preview of coming attractions. The White House is sending off another signal that President Trump's meeting with Kim Jong-un could actually happen by releasing these photos...
ACOSTA: ... of new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un during their visit over Easter weekend. These photos just coming out of the White House earlier today.
President Trump by the way wasn't sounding so sure about this when he was on Fox earlier today in terms of his visit with Kim Jong-un. He was also sounding consumed with anger for much of the day as he vented his frustrations on a slew of topics from his failed pick to run the VA, Dr. Ronny Jackson to the clouds still hanging over this White House, the Russia investigation.
(START VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: Talking to children gathered in the Rose Garden.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, we only ask friendly questions today. We don't want to embarrass the children.
ACOSTA: President Trump used some adult language to complain about White House doctor, Ronny Jackson's decision to withdraw his name from consideration for Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
TRUMP: He's a great man and he got treated very, very unfairly. He got really unfairly. He's a hell of a man.
ACOSTA: The President was already fired up about Jackson after a wild phone interview on his favorite morning TV show "Fox and Friends" where he threatened to go after Democratic Senator, John Tester for raising questions about the White House doctor's past.
TRUMP: I think John Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana because I don't think people in Montana -- the Admiral is the kind of person that they respect and admire and they don't like seeing what's happening.
ACOSTA: Sometimes shouting into the phone, the President made other threats sounding as if he won't cooperate with the Special Counsel's Russia investigation.
TRUMP: They have a witch hunt against the President of the United States going on. I have taken the position and I don't have to take this position and maybe I will change that I will not be involved with the Justice Department. I will wait until this is over.
ACOSTA: He also weighed in on former FBI Director James Comey who claims the President denied spending the night in Moscow in 2013 when as alleged in a dossier written by a former British spy, Mr. Trump watched prostitutes urinate on each other.
But the President seemed to confirm that he did spend a night in Moscow in 2013.
TRUMP: He put a lot of phony stuff. For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant, so I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow.
So, I go to Russia, now I didn't go there -- everybody knows the logs are there, the planes are there. He said, I didn't stay there a night. Of course, I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time, but of course, I stayed.
ACOSTA: The President also acknowledged for the first time that he is represented in the Stormy Daniels saga by his personal attorney, Michael Cohen...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you feeling today?
ACOSTA: Who is also under Federal investigation.
TRUMP: He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me and you know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.
ACOSTA: When the conversation turned to North Korea, the President said his upcoming meeting with dictator Kim Jong-un, may not happen after all.
Still, the White House teased the potential sit down by releasing these stunning images of new Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo with the North Korean dictator over Easter weekend.
TRUMP: It could be that I will walk out quickly with respect, but it could be. It could be that maybe the meeting doesn't even take place. Who knows? But I can tell you right now they want to meet.
ACOSTA: As the President ranted and raved, it was the Fox host who seemed to cut-off the interview.
TRUMP: There is no collusion with me and Russian and everyone knows it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone. We could talk to you all day, but it looks like you have a million things to do, but I hope you could join us again Mr. President. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.
ACOSTA: On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, another Cabinet headache for the President played out as EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt addressed a series of heated questions about his ethical behavior.
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: Now, I have made decisions to switch and make sure that that changes from first class back to coach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are unfit to hold public office and undeserving of the public trust.
ACOSTA: Now, of course, aides to the President were watching his performance on "Fox and Friends" as one official described, the two staffers were wincing over some of the President's comments especially his remarks about the Russia investigation.
Even to friendly media outlets, Wolf, his aides wished he just would not go there as one official described it, he did not help his cause today, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim, thank you. Jim Acosta at the White House. Joining us now Congressman Eric Swalwell. He is a Democratic member of the Intelligence Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees.
Congressman, thanks for joining us. You heard President Trump on Fox News going after the Justice Department, he thinks in his words there is a deep seated group of people over at the Department of Justice who are carrying out a witch hunt, making up charges against him. How concerning is that to you?
ERIC SWALWELL, US CONGRESSMAN, CALIFORNIA, DEMOCRAT: Very concerning, Wolf. He continues to attack the rule of law. The President should follow his own advice whether it is the advice that he gave to Bill Cosby or the advice that he gave to Hillary Clinton during the campaign which is that if you are suspected of doing something wrong and you're innocent, you should just talk.
I can't imagine what families are thinking in this country who are counting on him to fight for their kids, to fight for infrastructure, to fight for their healthcare, security and they listen to him just...
SWALWELL: ... going off the way he did this morning on "Fox and Friends," he's distracted. He should just be forthcoming so we can get this behind us.
BLITZER: On the Justice Department, the President also said, and I am quoting him now, "I have decided that I won't be involved," but then he quickly added, "I may change my mind at some point." What do you think that means?
SWALWELL: Well, it means that he will continue to obstruct and the best thing that we can do in Congress is to now pass the bipartisan legislation that have been passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee where four Republican senators joined every Democratic senator to say that Bob Mueller should be protected, that he should only be able to fired if there is cause. That should be brought immediately for a vote in the Senate and the House.
And then, it does not matter what the President says because it will be an independent party judges who would decide whether or not Bob Mueller could go. That's what we should do to make sure that the rule of law is protected and that the President, he can just call in on "Fox and Friends" every morning and tell them what he thinks, but it won't really have any effect.
BLITZER: And I noticed you said, the President will continue to obstruct. Are you already suggesting he has obstructed justice?
SWALWELL: Yes, I believe he obstructed justice when he fired James Comey. I believe that he continues -- and the threats that he makes to Bob Mueller, the threats that he makes to Rod Rosenstein and Jeff Sessions. These are individuals who are investigating him or overseeing the investigation.
We should now allow that investigation to play out but protect Bob Mueller and then when you finally have enough courage in Congress, investigate that obstruction on the House Judiciary Committee.
BLITZER: The President is denying what James Comey wrote in one of those memos that during a meeting when Comey was the FBI Director, the President told him he did not stay overnight in Moscow. Now, he's accusing Comey making that up.
The President now acknowledges in that interview on Fox that he did spend a night in Moscow. What do you make of that? Is that important at all?
SWALWELL: Well, there is two individuals here, James Comey and the President of the United States. There is only one version of the truth. Only one of those individuals has raised his right hand a number of times, under oath, that's James Comey.
His testimony us uncontradicting. So, if the President wants to tell his story, he should either sit down with Bob Mueller or come to Congress and tell us what happened, otherwise, the record is a credible one from what James Comey said.
We also have independent evidence, Wolf that he did stay the night in Moscow and more and more of what happened in Moscow has become concerning particularly what we are learning about Michael Cohen and his shadowy operations.
He was dealing with Felix Saider who was a Russian-American who helped finance Trump projects and they were talking in October 2015 when Donald Trump was a Presidential candidate about putting a Trump Tower over in Moscow.
So, we're starting to learn more and more about the President's personal, political and financial ties to the Russians at the early stages of his campaign.
BLITZER: The President is accusing Comey of leaking what he described as classified information, but he also says the memos that Comey wrote are phony, can both be true?
SWALWELL: Well, the memos again are uncontradicted and they are actually backed up by other individuals who have spoken to them. And then you've seen reporting in the press about, you know, other individuals that Comey talked to who believe that he was memorializing what he saw at the time.
Now, you know, Wolf, James Comey had the power of declassification at the time that he released the memos, or at the time that he wrote the memos, and of course, he was no longer an FBI Director when he released them.
But again, I think this is all an effort to distract from the conduct that really alarmed James Comey which was a President who was asking for loyalty oaths from the FBI Director and a President who was asking for a case against his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn to go away. That's what should be most alarming.
BLITZER: How significant is it, Congressman that President Trump says Michael Cohen, is a long time personal attorney, handled the Stormy Daniels' case for him but only handled over the years a tiny, tiny small, and I quoting him now " fraction of his legal work."
SWALWELL: Well, it creates a number of issues. It ties closer together Michael Cohen and Donald Trump as it relates to Stormy Daniels, but that is of zero interest to what we are doing here.
What is of high interest to us is that Michael Cohen probably was not straight with Congress when he came and testified to us. And that's why it was all of the more irresponsible that Republicans shuts down our investigation now that we have learned how willing Michael Cohen is to go out and operate in the shadows for the President.
But as far as his legal exposure, well, if Michael Cohen is telling the court that he has a high interest in the attorney/client privilege and that they should not be able to look at the documents that were seized and the President is saying that there is not much there in the relationship, well the President may have just undermined Michael Cohen's case in court.
BLITZER: As you know, the Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he won't recuse himself necessarily from the Michael Cohen investigation.
BLITZER: He recused himself from the overall Russia probe. Do you want more information on precisely where he stands, the attorney general?
SWALWELL: Yes, Jeff Sessions should be nowhere near anyone involved with the Trump campaign or the Trump businesses. He wasn't involved unfortunately in the firing of James Comey, I think that was inappropriate, but he should not be a part of this investigation one bit and you know, that's something that if we were conducting ourselves as an oversight committee in the House Judiciary Committee, we would be willing to bring General Sessions in and ask him those questions. Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues have shown zero interest in putting any stop light, stop sign or cop on the beat for this President and his administration.
BLITZER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks so much for joining us.
SWALWELL: Yes, my pleasure.
BLITZER: All right, just ahead, prosecutors use the President's own words against him in the Michael Cohen investigation. What will it need for Mr. Trump and his lawyer, now that a judge has ordered an independent review of Cohen's records.
And the President suggest he may intervene in the Russia probe, "at some point." is the Special Counsel in any greater danger now of being fired?
BLITZER: Tonight, a former Federal judge is now in charge of conducting an independent review of documents seized from Michael Cohen during FBI raids targeting the President's personal lawyer.
The special master named after prosecutors seized new comments by the President about Michael Cohen and the work that he's done for him over the years.
Let's bring in our crime and justice reporter, Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon, tell us more about this so-called special master. What happened in court today?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER, CNN: Yes, so the special master was appointed by the judge. She, herself, the special master is a former judge, a former prosecutor, it was a name that was suggested by the judge and essentially all the parties have agreed that she will now take hold of this evidence and review all the evidence that the FBI seized.
This is something that initially prosecutors had objected to, but in the end today, in a surprise move agreed to it. But Wolf, it was really some of what happened outside of court today that was really making a lot of news in that the President this morning in his statement in his interview on Fox News, sort of bolstered the case of prosecutors where they have been arguing that Michael Cohen has really not been doing a lot of legal work and here is what the President had to say.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?
TRUMP: Well, it's a percent of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction. But Michael would represent me and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me...
PROKUPECZ: So, Wolf, basically, this was where arguments that prosecutors have been making that Michael Cohen hasn't been doing a lot of legal work and that he's sort of hiding behind this idea of privilege and they even filed documents this morning at court where they used the President's words, his own words this morning within an hour after the President had made these remarks on Fox News.
The prosecutors there filed documents with exactly those comments saying that basically this goes to show that they don't feel that there is going to be a lot of privilege materials in the documents that the FBI seized.
BLITZER: Will the President and Michael Cohen now be able to review and see all those documents that were seized?
PROKUPECZ: Yes, essentially, that does not change. That is still ongoing, in fact, prosecutors today said they have already delivered some material to Michael Cohen's attorneys. They did reveal a little more information about what the FBI seized, some 16 electronic devices, cell phones, iPad
They said they have eight boxes of documents. A lot of that they are working through to hand over to Michael Cohen. And then essentially, what is going to happen is Michael Cohen's attorneys are going to review that information and then hand what is relevant to the President, to the President's attorneys, that attorney, Michael Cohen's attorney will be the one who will give that to the President.
BLITZER: So, what's the next step in this criminal investigation of Michael Cohen?
PROKUPECZ: So, essentially the prosecutors now want this evidence. They have not been able to review any of the materials that they obtained in the FBI raid and it seems that they want to get their hands-on. This is part of why they agreed to the special master in hopes of moving along the case because it seems that they are ready based on everything they have said in court to move forward with their investigation and Michael Cohen, right now, it would appear could be in a lot of trouble.
BLITZER: As you know, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, he was in that Federal courtroom today as well, what was he doing there?
PROKUPECZ: Right, so he came in. He wanted to intervene as well. He filed documents just like the President's lawyers and just like the Trump organization. He was intervening saying that he has concern that some of the items that were seized by the FBI could involve conversations that Michael Cohen was having with Stormy Daniels' previous attorney and so perhaps, that could fall under some privilege.
But you know, it's important here and in reading through the transcript from the court proceeding today, the prosecutors, they are right now are not agreeing to allow Michael Avenatti into the case and they are saying because right now based on what they have seen, they have no evidence to suggest that Michael Cohen has privilege materials of relating to Stormy Daniels.
So, they're saying that right now, they are not going to allow Michael Avenatti into the case.
They still want to review what Avenatti submitted, and then they're going to make a decision. But essentially, he wants to protect Stormy Daniels' rights here. It's why he's intervening.
[18:30:25] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Crazy developments.
BLITZER: They're going to continue for a while. Shimon Prokupecz, thanks very much for that reporting.
Just ahead, President Trump's trip to Moscow in 2013 and why he's taking issue with the details in James Comey's memos.
And the White House releases photos of the historic meeting between Mike Pompeo, the new secretary of state, and Kim Jong-un just a few weeks ago in Pyongyang. We're going live to the Demilitarized Zone, where Kim Jong-un is about to hold another historic meeting, this time with South Korea's president.
[18:35:37] BLITZER: Tonight, President Trump is once again fanning fears that he'll try to fire the special counsel, Robert Mueller, after he warned in a TV interview that he might take action against the Justice Department and the Russia probe "at some point." His words, "at some point."
Let's bring in our political analysts and our experts. And Gloria, let me play for you and for all of our viewers precisely what the president said on "FOX & Friends" earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via phone): I'm very disappointed in my Justice Department. But because of the fact that it's going on, and I think you'll understand this, I have decided that I won't be involved. I may change my mind at some point, because what's going on is a disgrace.
I'm fighting a battle against a horrible group of deep-seated people -- drained the swamp -- that are coming up with all sorts of phony charges against me, and they're not bringing up real charges against the other side. And you look at the corruption at the top of the FBI, it's a disgrace. And our Justice Department, which I will try and stay away from but at some point, I won't. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How concerning is that?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's -- I think it's very concerning because the president really doesn't seem to understand the separation of the branches of government and the fact that he ought to stay away from the Justice Department.
And I think if you are Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, who is now in charge of the Mueller investigation, you listen to that, and you worry whether your job is going to be on the line, because the president doesn't like the fact that Mueller is there and also, quite frankly, was enraged, we are told -- was enraged by the raid of Michael Cohen's office.
And so you put all those two things together, you've got the president's attorneys telling him, "Don't fire anybody. This is not the time to do that. Hang back," which is what the president hinted at. But then he said, you know, "At some point, I may decide to make some changes."
And so, it's -- you know, it's very, very uncertain. And by the way, these are his people whom he appointed to run the FBI.
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The head of the FBI leadership now is all his folks.
BORGER: Exactly. These are his folks.
BLITZER: The Justice Department, the attorney general is a Republican. The deputy attorney general --
BORGER: Is a Republican.
BLITZER: -- is a Republican. The special counsel, Robert Mueller, is a Republican. Christopher Wray, the head of the FBI is a Republican. The leaders are all people who were named during the Trump administration.
But there are some Sabrina who believe he's trying to lay the groundwork among his base to reject whatever findings Robert Mueller may eventually come up with.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, "THE GUARDIAN": Well, certainly, at a minimum, he is laying the groundwork to continue with this campaign to discredit the work of the special counsel. We've seen him and his allies mounting this campaign to really undermine the integrity of their work.
But I think because he hasn't explicitly ruled out firing Rod Rosenstein or the special counsel, Robert Mueller, it leads to concern that perhaps there's more to this, that he's laying the groundwork instead to remove some of the officials who are tasked with overseeing the investigation into whether or not his campaign colluded with Moscow, as well as whether or not the president sought to obstruct justice.
But I think to Gloria's point, we become almost immune to the president attacking the FBI and the Justice Department. But he is openly threatening to involve himself in what is supposed to be the independent work of the nation's top law enforcement agency.
BLITZER: We're getting some new information. I need to take a quick break. We're going to resume our analysis, our discussion right after this.
[18:43:40] BLITZER: President Trump is making a new admission in connection with the Russia investigation, acknowledging that he did stay a night in Moscow back in 2013. The president denies he told James Comey otherwise. But the fired FBI director retelling his version of events on CNN overnight, and the president apparently was watching. He says he was watching.
I thought Anderson Cooper did a very, very good job in the process of moderating that town hall.
You know, Rebecca, let me replay the clip of what the president said this morning on "FOX and Friends" on his trip to Moscow back in 2013.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP (via phone): Those memos were about me, and they're phony memos. He didn't write those memos accurately. He put a lot of phony stuff.
For instance, I went to Russia for a day or so, a day or two, because I own the Miss Universe pageant. So I went there to watch it because it was near Moscow. So I go to Russia. Now I did not go there -- everybody knows the logs are there, the planes are there. He said I didn't stay there at night. Of course, I stayed there. I stayed there a very short period of time but of course I stayed. Well, his memo said I left immediately. I never said that. I never said I left immediately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what do you make of that?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's the president's word versus Comey's. And obviously, everyone in the American public will decide who they believe. James Comey was meeting with the president. But you have to think through, Wolf, what motive with each of these men have for misrepresenting the story.
[18:45:02] James Comey was meeting with the president. The president he said told him multiple times that he did not stay overnight as a way of trying to discredit this dossier that claim -- made these salacious claims about President Trump and his activity in Moscow. What incentives would James Comey to make it up? Whereas, the president, his incentive to say that he did stay
overnight and Comey misrepresented it is to discredit James Comey, who is making allegations that he could be very damaging to the president. So, we'll see how it plays out. For now, it's one man's word against the other but there could be more evidence.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Mark, how do you see it?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen, it would be great if we can just put them both on lie detector test, right, and just say, you know, let's have at it. The difference between James Comey right now and Donald Trump, at least from what we can tell is that Donald Trump has a history right now of lying, of telling falsehoods and we have chronicled that.
We haven't necessarily seen that with Comey, although some of his actions, you know, might come under some consideration.
But, Wolf, I'd just say you one thing, we are heading into this weekend for the White House's correspondent dinner. What we saw this morning with Donald Trump on "Fox and Friends" might pale in comparison what he does in Michigan on Saturday night, because he seems to be very fired up. He's had a very tough week with Scott Pruitt, with the new head of the V.A. which is now not the new head of the V.A. He's now going to go back and become his doctor.
There's a lot of problems going on right now for Donald Trump and his --
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Not the mention the Michael Cohen raid.
PRESTON: And not to mention the Michael Cohen raid and his universe is getting very, very small.
BLITZER: Speaking of Michael Cohen, listen to what he said about the legal work, Gloria, that Michael has done for him over the years.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HOST: How much of your legal work that was handled by Cohen?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work -- a tiny, tiny little fraction. But Michael would represent me and represent me on something. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, that sounds detrimental to what the president earlier had been saying.
BORGER: Well, the truth of the matter is that the president had a lot of lawyers and that Michael Cohen did represent him on a small percentage of his legal work. The stuff he represented him on was like the Stormy Daniels stuff. The legal -- how this affects the legal case is interesting because the prosecutors say, hey, wait a minute, if he didn't represent you on a lot of stuff, then there's not going to be a lot of attorney/client privilege when we go through all of his devices and all of his documents in his office. So, maybe there is not a lot of that that you can claim.
So, in a way, what the president did was kind of hurt his own case to a degree, although, you know he maybe actually telling the truth in this case because I know for a fact that the president did have many lawyers within the Trump Organization, Michael Cohen did certain things. He had an office a couple of doors down the hall from the president. They worked together closely but what percentage of his legal work it was? We really -- you know, we don't know.
BLITZER: But I assume, Sabrina, that the president's current lawyers are not very pleased he's talking about all this stuff for half an hour of phone interview with "Fox and Friends".
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: This is exactly what the president's legal team has been trying to prevent him from doing the past few months, which is speaking about the Stormy Daniels case. He's now contradicting his earlier suggestion that he knew nothing about this payment. He may compounded his legal woes, Gloria mentioned, an important point about attorney/client privilege and whether there is none based on the comments that he made.
But I also think that he feels this was a private conversation when, in fact, this is a televised nationwide interview and now, he's truly his own enemy in this case because he's currently constantly making the legal teams work more difficult for his team.
BLITZER: All right, guys. There's more news we're following.
Just ahead, as the White House releases a photo of a top Trump official with Kim Jong-un, Mike Pompeo, take a look at him, he's now the secretary of state. Is the Korean dictator about to make history at the Korean border? We are going there, we'll have a live report.
[18:53:48] BLITZER: We're standing by for a truly historic move by the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. A little over an hour from now, he'll walk through the demilitarized zone dividing the Koreas, crossing to the South for talks with South Korea's president. The outcome will set the stage for a very high-stakes summit that's now in the works between Kim Jong-un and President Trump.
CNN's Will Ripley is on the scene for us. He's right near the DMZ.
Will, tell us what we can expect in the coming hours.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just a few minutes from now, South Korea's President Moon is expected to leave the Blue House and begin the drive here to the demilitarized zone where he will cross the Unification Bridge just behind me and head to Panmunjom where we are expecting some truly extraordinary images. Kim Jong-un and President Moon, shaking hands, meeting face-to-face for the first time.
Kim Jong-un crossing the military demarcation line, the first time a North Korean leader has set foot on the south side of the DMZ. He'll walk to the Peace House and they'll begin those negotiations.
And while there will be a lot of photo-ops, the big question is whether the discussions will lead to the kind of change that needs to happen for the United States to be willing to engage further with North Korea. They're going to talk about the definition of denuclearization.
[18:55:01] What does denuclearization mean to North Korea? What does it mean to South Korea and the U.S.?
We know that there are two very different views. North Korea doesn't want to give up their nuclear weapons. They haven't said yet that they're willing to do so, even though they have said they will freeze nuclear testing for the time being and also scale back their missile program. They're also going to be talking about potentially a peace treaty, bringing about a formal end to the Korean War, replacing that armistice deal that's been in place since 1953.
But we know from past negotiations with the North Koreans, including the agreed framework back in 1994 where North Korea agreed to give up their nuclear weapons, but it turned out they were secretly enriching uranium, these things can certainly fall apart. There's a big lack of trust going into all of this.
President Moon will then be getting on the phone almost immediately after his summit. He'll brief President Trump about what he learned from Kim Jong-un. And then from that, President Trump will make the decision if he wants to move forward with a summit meeting with Kim Jong-un, the first time that an American president would sit down with a North Korean leader. If it happens, we expect it could happen in late May, or early June, the location still yet to be determined -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The president said this morning there were five possible locations. We'll see if anything emerges from that.
Will Ripley, thanks very much. We'll stay in close touch with you.
And now, we want to tell you what's coming up on CNN this weekend. W. Kamau Bell is returning, good news, with an all-new season of the original series "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA". In the premiere episode, the U.S./Mexican border to see what life is really like on both sides.
Here's a quick preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
W. KAMAU BELL, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: Back in Nogales, Mexico, to check out a place that sees the human cost of America's immigration policy, Latino border initiative, and our meeting with one of its leaders, Father Sean Harris (ph).
Tell me where I'm at right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is a place where we provide two meals a day, mostly to deportees.
BELL: This is their first welcome back to Mexico?
UNIDENTIIFED MALE: It really is, essentially. We provide food, clothing, support. This is a critical work on the border.
BELL: Are there people who are coming here who have like been in the States for years?
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: Yes. We're seeing an increasing number of people who have been living in the United States for a long time, who are being deported, in comparison to last year.
BELL: Father, for some people, they thought their life was set up there. Then suddenly, they're deported and they find themselves in this room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sometimes almost overnight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: W. Kamau Bell is joining us right now.
Kamau, you spoke to people on both sides of the southern border. What did they tell you about what life is like there right now?
BELL: The main thing I think I got from this is that people on all sides of the border and all sides of the issue don't believe that a wall is going to help things down there. That was the thing I was most interested to learn. We talked to border patrol agents who are like, we don't think a 30-foot wall is going to solve every problem. And we talked to white people who are like, we think there's too much security already.
And then we talked to people in Mexico who say, the more security you put on the border, the more you hurt both sides of the border. We were -- again, we were in Nogales, Arizona.
BLITZER: I know you also toured parts of the wall that already exist. There are some areas that do have a wall. You went on a ride-along with members of the border patrol.
What's the most important thing people don't understand right now about border security and how it actually works?
BELL: I think the thing that surprised me is that it is super easy to walk into Mexico from the U.S. side. There is no line. There's no anything. Coming into the United States from the Mexico side, even if you are coming with your documents and your papers, it takes a long time, because we've created a military feel down there. And what it does it slows down commerce.
So, it's strange to say this, but the American side of the border in Nogales, Arizona, is having a rough go of the economy because they can't get people from Mexico to come over and spend money in America. So, we're actually hurting ourselves by putting all that security down there.
BLITZER: You also got enough close look at what happens when migrants try to cross the border, they either get sent back or they don't make it across in the first place. Tell us about that.
BELL: Yes, we actually -- you saw the clip, we went to the Latino border initiative, that's for people who are getting deported. But we also went to the Pima County morgue where we got to see what happens when people don't make it across the border, and don't get picked up by border patrol, end up dying in the desert.
And, you know, so it's like these are real -- there's a real cost of life being paid down there.
BLITZER: What surprised you most about your visit to the border?
BELL: You know, the thing that surprised me most is the Mexico side of the border was way more fun and lively than the American side of the border. There's a lot of people in this country, some of them live in the White House, who act like the Mexico side is full of crime and pain and people are dying to get over here. But really, the U.S. side was really depressing and the Mexican side was a lot more fun and lively.
BLITZER: We're looking forward to the new season, Kamau. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks so much for doing what you're doing.
Season 3 of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" premieres Sunday after "ANTHONY BOURDAIN", only here on CNN.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.