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Trump: U.S. Withdrawing from Iran Nuclear Deal; Talks Ongoing Over U.S. Detainees in North Korea; Israel on High Alert for Possible Iranian Reprisal. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 8, 2018 - 17:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: That's it for "THE LEADER. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks so much for watching.

[17:00:14] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Walking away. President Trump follows through on his pledge to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal and announces the U.S. will renew its sanctions. Will Iran now renew its nuclear program?

Pompeo in Pyongyang. The president reveals that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has gone to North Korea to prepare for a summit with Kim Jong-un. Could he set the stage by bringing home American detainees?

Irritated. Sources say President Trump has grown irritated and frustrated over the negative coverage generated by his new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Could Giuliani's brash comments on the Russia probe get him and the president in hot water?

And scandal and resignation. The New York's powerful state attorney general resigns just hours after a shocking article in "The New Yorker" magazine, in which four women accused him of violent abuse. I'll speak with one of the co-authors, Ronan Farrow.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. President Trump is making good on this threat to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, announcing a U.S. withdrawal along with plans to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

There's a chorus of regrets from U.S. allies. Israel has gone on high alert, and Iran is warning it's ready to start nuclear enrichment, quote, "without limitations."

I'll speak with the top Democrat in the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Adam Schiff. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by with full coverage.

First let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, the president is making a risky move in withdrawing from the Iran deal.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump is rolling the nuclear dice, pulling the U.S. out of the Iran deal. National security advisor John Bolton briefed reporters earlier this afternoon, telling the press that sanctions on Iran are now in the process of being reimposed.

But by all appearances, the Trump administration does not have much of a plan for stopping Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons. As one top European official put it, there doesn't appear to be a Plan B.


ACOSTA (voice-over): For the U.S., it's a deal no more, as President Trump abruptly pulled the U.S. out of the agreement designed by the Obama administration to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iran deal is defective at its core. Therefore, I am announcing today that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

ACOSTA: The president didn't hide why he's scrapping the Iran deal.

TRUMP: The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump is delivering on one of his first campaign promises: to abandon a deal he repeatedly savaged at his rallies.

TRUMP: It could go down as one of the worst deals in history.

ACOSTA: The president accused Iran of lying about its participation in the agreement despite the fact that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified at his confirmation hearing that he had no proof that Tehran was not in compliance with the deal.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: With the information I've been provided, I have no -- I've seen no evidence that they are not in compliance today.

ACOSTA: The Iran deal is the latest Obama policy dumped by the president, joining the Paris climate agreement, the Trans-Pacific trade deal, the DACA program protecting the DREAMers and the Obamacare individual mandate.

Obama's former secretary of state, John Kerry, who helped broker the Iran agreement, tried in vain to save the deal.

JOHN KERRY, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Our friends are safer if we stay in this agreement. We made an agreement. Iran is living by the agreement. Yes, we have concerns on the missiles, on Yemen, other things, but we should be working on those.

ACOSTA: The president instead sided with Iran deal critics like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and against leaders from important U.S. allies like France, Germany and Britain, who pleaded with Mr. Trump to stay in the deal. BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH FOREIGN MINISTER: We think that what you can

do is be tougher on Iran, address the concerns of the president, and not throw the baby out with the bath water, not junk a deal. Because as I say, Plan B does not seem to me to be particularly well-developed at this stage.

ACOSTA: As the president is pulling back from the Iran deal, he's moving toward his own nuclear agreement with North Korea, announcing Pompeo will meet with regime leaders to continue working on an upcoming summit.

TRUMP: We have our meeting set. The location is picked. The time and date, everything is picked, and we look forward to have a very great success.

ACOSTA: But Democrats worry the president is sending the wrong message to the North Koreans by signaling to the world that U.S. commitments are only good for one administration at a time.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: You're making it harder to go after Hezbollah. You're making it harder to go after Iranian activities that are really dangerous. And you're probably making it harder to come to a North Korea deal.


[17:05:07] ACOSTA: Now as for North Korea, the president was asked about the fate of the Americans being held prisoner there. Mr. Trump hinted there could be an announcement on the detainees soon.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the region now, working on their release, although he told recorders earlier this afternoon that perhaps it's not a done deal just yet, as far as those prisoners being released from North Korean custody.

And as for the Iran deal, there are mixed signals coming out of Tehran that they may resume their enrichment activities while still continuing to work with the other world powers that crafted the original agreement. Wolf, that outcome may mean Iran restarts its nuclear program while isolating the U.S. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of uncertainty right now. Jim Acosta at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's dig deeper right now with our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto. Jim, you know, the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency, says Iran is complying with all the terms of the nuclear deal.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, says the same thing. Mike Pompeo, the former CIA director, now the secretary of state, he says there's no evidence Iran is violating the terms of this agreement. Has the president come up with some specific new violations that justify this action?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: He hinted at something new, but the fact is the intelligence doesn't back it up. On compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, U.S. intelligence agencies, officials, the president's appointees, the current secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, during his confirmation hearing, Dan Coates, the director of national intelligence all say U.S. intelligence supports that Iran is complying with that deal.

What President Trump referred to was new Israeli intelligence about what Iran's intentions were regarding having a nuclear weapons program. Now we know from my colleague, our colleague Oren Leiberman, that when pressed, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that those documents, the most recent documents in that new trove of intelligence, date back to 2005, so more than ten years ago.

We also know that the U.S. assessed in 2007 that Iran ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. That intelligence has not changed. This dates back.

But the president in -- did something of a rhetorical flourish here, saying that that Israeli intelligence shows that Iran having only a peaceful program is, as he said, "a lie" there. But the fact is there is no new intelligence, as far as we know.

I have asked the White House -- I've sent them back this very phrase and said, "Do you have new intelligence to change this assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Committee"? They promised me an answer, but I don't have an answer yet.

BLITZER: If you get it, let us know. Jim Sciutto, thank you.

And also more breaking news. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted he's heading back to North Korea, confirming what President Trump announced earlier in the day. The secretary's tweet says, "Headed back to DPRK" -- the Democratic People's Republic of Korea -- "at the invitation of the North Korean leadership and I look forward to planning a successful summit between President Trump and Kim Jong- un."

Let's go to Brian Todd and tell us more about the surprise announcement and the impact on efforts to free those three Americans being held by the North Koreans.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just a short time ago Secretary Pompeo said he's going to talk about the fate of those three Americans during his meetings with the North Koreans. Tonight, Pompeo's mission is to nail down some crucial details of a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, and there is considerable pressure on both sides for those detained Americans to be released before the summit.


TODD (voice-over:: Tonight the secretary of state is on an urgent mission to North Korea, a flurry of shuttle diplomacy to prepare for a summit which President Trump says it set, a date and location finalized, but not yet announced. The president was asked if the three Americans detained in North Korea will be released.

TRUMP: We will soon be finding out. It would be a great thing if they are. We'll soon be finding out.

TODD: This comes five days after the president's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, announced that the detainees would be released that day.

RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: We got Kim Jong-un impressed enough to be releasing three prisoners today.

TODD: But tonight, according to reporters on Pompeo's trip, the secretary of state said he would raise the issue of the three American prisoners but had no commitments for their release.

Joseph Yun, the former U.S. envoy who secured the release of American student Otto Warmbier from North Korea shortly before Warmbier died, says the previous comments by Trump and Giuliani were risky.

JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE TO NORTH KOREA POLICY: It's Diplomacy 101. You do not say, you know, you're getting prisoner or hostages out before it's done. When I went to get Otto Warmbier, we were on radio silence until we left the North Korean air space.

TODD: American Kim Dong-chul, accused of espionage, has been held in North Korea the longest, since October 2015. The other two Americans, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim, were detained under Trump's watch in the spring of last year. They were accused of hostile acts against the North Korean regime.

[17:10:10] Their fate is in the balance, as Kim Jong-un returns from a dramatic trip of his own, a surprise visit and a crucial consultation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Kim took a private plane to the Chinese port city of Dalian and spoke with Xi with his sister and most trusted adviser, Kim Yo-jong, by his side. The two sides are very tight-lipped on what was discussed, but analysts say Xi was likely briefing Kim on how to deal with Trump face-to-face.

FRANK JANNUZI, THE MANSFIELD FOUNDATION: I think Xi Jinping is explaining to Kim Jong-un what kind of a person are you dealing with. What is his attention span? What does he need for the summit to be a win? What kind of a person is he that he requires this summit to be successful.


TODD: Experts say Xi also likely gave Kim some very important advice on what concessions to make and not to make at his summit with President Trump. And they say this was a key move by the Chinese leader to insert himself as a key player in a nuclear deal on North Korea and not get left out of that mix, Wolf.

BLITZER: Happening on that North Korean front, as well. Brian, thank you.

Joining us now, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, the top Democrat, Congressman Adam Schiff of California.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. I want to be in right with all of the breaking news on the Iran nuclear agreement. Do you believe, Congressman, that the president's decision will lead to a total collapse of this deal and all the ramifications that could unfold?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, it's too early to say whether this will lead to a complete collapse of the deal. Europe still wants to make the deal work. The question is what does Iran want at this point?

But look, this was a terrible mistake by the president. It seems to be motivated by a desire -- a compulsion to eradicate the legacy of his predecessor and not what's in the best national security interests of the United States.

This makes Iran's development of a nuclear weapon more likely, not less. And makes confrontation -- the conflict of potential war with Iran -- more likely, not less. So there's little to be said for this. Iran was complying and the administration has offered no plan for what comes next. And that puts us on a very dangerous road.

BLITZER: The president says he is ready to offer a new deal, to work on a new arrangement with the Iranians, provided they no -- not only give up forever their nuclear weapons program but also give up their ballistic missiles, stop international terrorism, stop menacing some countries in the region, like Yemen and Syria, for example. What's wrong with that?

SCHIFF: Well, what's wrong with it is what incentive does Iran have to come to the table and try to get a better agreement when it was complying with the agreement it reached with the United States and with the other nations? It's the United States that now is no longer complying with the agreement. That's hardly an incentive to enter a new deal.

What you usually do, what I think an ordinary administration would do, is try to build on the agreement you've already reached. So we reached an agreement on the nuclear issue. We then seek to build on that and reach an agreement on the missile issue. And each of these are steps that build confidence that you can actually get to a durable result.

But now the United States has said its word won't be kept and even if a new deal could be struck, other nations have to know, whether it's Iran or North Korea, that that deal may only last the length of the administration or as long as that party is in power.

It has not been the tradition of the United States. What we gave is our word is something that we upheld, and I think we have just reduced our standing in the world with potentially long-lasting consequences.

BLITZER: What the administration will argue -- I'm sure the president will argue -- is that the new sanctions that the U.S. will reimpose against Iran right now will be very tough. He's also warning friendly countries, other countries around the world if they get involved and deal with Iran's nuclear program, they will be sanctioned, as well.

Do you think that kind of pressure on the Iranians could convince them to come back to the negotiating table?

SCHIFF: No. I think what it will do is it will end up isolating the United States. So are we going to sanction our closest allies, Britain and France and Germany, which have said they're going to continue to comply with the agreement, which means they're not going to reimpose their own sanctions.

And if we start sanctioning our European allies, because they're not willing to walk away from a deal which Iran is complying with, then we are going to be the isolated party, not Iran.

What will happen, if we do somehow manage to destroy the Iranian economy and deprive Iran of any benefit of a nuclear agreement, is Iran will simply go back to enriching and probably with far greater speed than it was already. And there's no guarantees, if they throw the inspectors out, that they won't begin the weaponization program that they had previously during the last decade.

So this is a no-win situation for the United States. And the reality is the administration has no road map. All they knew they wanted to do -- all the president knew that he wanted to do was erase the legacy of his predecessor, but it doesn't appear they've given much thought to what comes next.

[17:15:09] BLITZER: Amidst all of this, as you know, Congressman, tensions could escalate dramatically in the region. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is reporting that U.S. officials are deeply concerned right now Iran could be on the brink of launching an attack against Israel. Have you seen intelligence corroborating those kinds of concerns?

SCHIFF: I haven't seen anything that indicates imminent attack on Israel by Iran. But I think what we may see, what may even be more likely than something as overt as that is that the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq start targeting U.S. troops. That Iranian suppliers provide new and more lethal munitions to those that we're fighting with in Afghanistan, to the Taliban.

And so this may put troops at greater risk. I think that's a more likely course for Iran, to essentially lash out than something like provoking overt confrontation with Israel.

BLITZER: At the same time, President Trump is clearly eager to strike a deal with North Korea over its nuclear program. How do you think Kim Jong-un is interpreting today's announcement by the president?

SCHIFF: Well, I would say in a couple of ways, first that he cannot count on Donald Trump to keep America's word. So he has to enter into any potential agreement with a history of Donald Trump reneging on the Iran deal.

More than that, though, he probably realizes in terms of any negotiation, he's in, oddly, a stronger bargaining position, because the president having created one nuclear problem with Iran, is going to be desperate to have some success vis-a-vis North Korea. So I think in a way, this also strengthens Kim Jong-un's hand. Should there be dispute later on about whether North Korea is

complying, and we have seen North Korea cheat in the future [SIC], will the U.S. have credibility, given its track record on the Iran deal?

So it weakens our position with North Korea. It makes North Korea more skeptical, and I think ultimately makes a successful deal in North Korea more unlikely to succeed.

BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff, thanks for joining us.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're staying on top of all of the breaking news. Much more right after this.


[17:21:53] BLITZER: Our breaking news: as President Trump makes good on his threat to quit the Iran nuclear deal and moves to reimpose U.S. sanctions against Iran, Israel's military has gone on high alert right now for possible Iranian reprisals from Syria. U.S. officials share the concern about a possible attack on Israel.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what are you learning?


U.S. military officials telling CNN there are concerns, based on intelligence at this hour, that Iran could -- could -- be preparing for some sort of attack against Israel. Not clear what it would be. Would it come from Iranian elements already inside Syria, proxies in Lebanon or from inside Iran itself, though that would be a major military escalation.

This all does come as President Trump announces a withdrawal from the agreement, but tensions had been rising for weeks now between, of course, Israel and Tehran, perhaps culminating in Benjamin Netanyahu's public appearance, detailing what he thought the Iranian nuclear program was about.

Now, what we do know is that, for some time now, the U.S. has believed Iran is shipping missiles into Syria to be used by Iranian-backed elements there, possibly to attack Israel.

Israel has conducted air-strikes against those elements back in Syria to try and take out these Iranian weapons sites. And now tonight the concern Iran may be preparing for retaliation against all of that. Israel has gone on alert, as you say, in the Golan Heights in Northern Israel. Shelters are now ordered to be open. Everyone is -- including the U.S. military in the region -- watching very carefully to see what the next moves may be. The U.S. very much not wanting to see a military escalation here. BLITZER: And you heard Barbara, you heard Adam Schiff, the top

Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, say that there are now deep concerns that Iranian-backed forces in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria, for that matter, will start launching specific targeted attacks against U.S. military personnel. Have you heard that at the Pentagon, as well, that American troops in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria now have to go on heightened state of alert, as well?

STARR: Well, actually, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, which also, of course, has troops operating in Syria, was -- a spokesperson was asked about that today. So far they say they see no evidence of it.

But this is always a concern because of what you just said, Wolf. In Syria, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, there is growing Iranian influence, and that is no mistake by them. That is something Tehran has very much planned out, plotted to do over the months and years. They want to exercise their influence in those countries, knowing that the U.S. is there, knowing that they want to be a counterweight to U.S. influence there. This is something that is part of the calculation at all times now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Disturbing news, indeed. Thank you.

Coming up, the global fallout to President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

[17:25:05] Also ahead, a rising Democratic star who's been a major proponent of women's rights resigns after multiple women accuse him of physical abuse. I'll speak with Ronan Farrow. He co-wrote the article that broke open the scandal.


BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories right now, including President Trump pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Let's get some insight from our analysts and correspondents. And Jim Sciutto, so where does the U.S. go from here? The president announced the U.S. is withdrawing from this 2005 -- 2015 nuclear deal, but what's the next step?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: We're just getting that information. For instance, in the State Department, there was just a briefing for reporters, and they laid out some of the time frame here. A six-month wind-down for energy-related sanctions. That's, of course, key because Iran wants to sell its oil abroad. Ninety-day wind-down for the other sanctions, including, for instance, civil aviation. That was a big deal in this deal, that Iran would finally be able to buy new aircraft and aircraft parts. They have a lot of Boeing jets in there.

This is key. They are prepared to sanction European companies that do business with Iran. There have been a lot of talk leading up to this, some guidance that, well, maybe this will be half-hearted, that they'll take some time here before they really drop -- you know, drop the anvil on this, but it looks like they're proceeding very quickly and comprehensively. And that could be an issue -- well, it will be an issue with our European partners --


SCIUTTO: -- our closest allies, who say shortly after the president made his announcement, you saw the leaders of France, U.K. and Germany all said, "We're staying in the deal. We still think the deal is working, and we still think the deal applies."

BLITZER: So where do the Iranians, Shawn Turner, go from here? You used to work for the director of national intelligence during the Obama administration. Are they going to stay in the deal with the Europeans, the Russians or the Chinese, or abandon it and restart some sort of nuclear program?

SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, well, Wolf, this news out of the State Department is really key, because there was a significant question as to whether or not there would be time for the Iranians, for our European partners to actually have a conversation about whether or not there was something that could be done to save the deal.

But at this point, now that we have a timeline and we know that the administration is looking to move extremely fast in order to implement these sanctions, there's a lot less incentive for the Iranians to stay in the deal.

I think that -- that if they do pull out of the deal, countries like Russia and China, you know, they've some major considerations here. They've made some economic -- they've got some economic ties to Iran that they're going to be very reluctant to break.

I think it's really key here that the president is willing to impose sanctions on European countries that may break this deal. One of the things that we know about China is that China may actually have the ability to absorb sanctions from the United States, while at the same time maintaining some of the economic relationship that they have with Iran.

So there are a lot of unknowns here, but the fact that they're moving quickly means that Iran does not have a lot of incentive to stick around.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, Gloria. During the campaign, President Trump always said, "I'm going to get out of the Iran nuclear deal, the worst deal ever. It is awful. I hate it."

BORGER: It's insane.

BLITZER: But it took a long time for him to do it. He waited until today, a long time. He's got a new national security team in place.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: How much of a factor was that?

BORGER: I think that's a huge factor. I mean, the former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, national security adviser General McMaster were both not proponents of withdrawing from the deal. And as you know, this had to be renewed every 90 days and -- and so the president unwillingly did that, because he was being advised to do so.

Now you've got John Bolton in there as national security adviser. You've got Mike Pompeo -- who by the way, is of course, on his way to North Korea, as a precursor to that -- that negotiation -- who are on the president's side on this.

And as we've been talking about for, like, I would say, six weeks to two months now, this is a different president from the president who entered office. He believes that he's got control of this thing, that he now knows how to run it and that he's going to keep his promises, no matter what.

And so, while the heads of European nations try to do an intervention, basically, on Donald Trump, meeting with him, talking to him, telling him "Don't do this" in every way they possibly way they could, it seems to me that his mind was -- was pretty made up and that there was nothing, even until the 11th hour, that they could possibly do.

BLITZER: And Bianna Golodryga, the -- so how is this going to affect U.S. relations with Germany, with France, with the U.K.? They basically came here and appealed to him, "Don't do it," and he said, "You know what? I'm doing it."

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It didn't matter if there was personal chemistry with President Macron or the lack of personal chemistry with Angela Merkel. It seemed like the president's mind had been made up, and once again Europe draws the short stick here.

You already hear from European companies, Total (ph), the CEO saying that he's going to put a pause on any sort of deals that they have in business with Iran, given the possibility that the U.S. could be sanctioning them.

The real winners, you could say, are Russia and China. I don't see them pulling out of any business deals with Iran. And Russia, in particular, with Vladimir Putin just being sworn in for his fourth term, man, this looks great for him optically. Think about the reversal of a country that was isolated. Now all of a sudden, he can say, "Look, I'm together, aligned with the Europeans, with China. Who's isolated? The United States."

BLITZER: You know, David Axelrod, the former president, President Obama -- you worked for him at one point -- he put out a statement condemning this decision by the president.

[17:35:10] Among other things, President Obama said, "I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East." As you know, until now he's been pretty reluctant to criticize the

current president. What does it say to you that he has now decided to come up with this lengthy statement condemning this decision?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it says the gravity with which he feels this -- this decision of the president -- you know, President Obama has said that he won't -- he won't speak on a regular basis about what his successor is doing. But that he reserved the right to speak out on those things that he thought were of gravity or violated fundamental principles, and he obviously feels very strongly about this, which is no surprise.

He feels that this accelerates the moment when Iran could get a bomb. It leaves us with -- as has been mentioned, no Plan B but military action. It divides us from our allies. It makes America's word in the world less good. And these are things he feels deeply, so I wasn't surprised.

But I just want to say, you know, I don't think this ultimately was a decision about national security. This was a decision about optics and politics.


AXELROD: Donald Trump from the get-go said that this -- this agreement was a disaster, as he has about everything that President Obama has done. And I think he was just determined to do it. I don't think it's a matter of -- as Gloria suggested, I don't think it's a matter of the national security team suddenly coming on board and persuading him of this. He went out and got a national team who would agree with him.


AXELROD: And the guy who's been quiet on this is General Mattis, Secretary Mattis, who told the Congress in the fall that it wouldn't be in the country's national interests to depart from this agreement.

BORGER: I would agree with David on that. I mean, he brought in these people because he's comfortable with them, and they agree with him. And that's the kind of people he's looking at --

BLITZER: Yes. He's truly comfortable --

BORGER: -- to bring into the White House. He doesn't want anyone who disagrees with him.

BLITZER: He's clearly comfortable with John Bolton, his new national security adviser, and Mike Pompeo, his new secretary of state.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: Guys, stick around. There's more breaking news we'll following. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:42:02] BLITZER: We're back with our political and national security specialists and correspondents.

And Jim Sciutto, as you know, Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, he's either already in Pyongyang or about to land in Pyongyang. A second visit for him. Maybe he'll meet with Kim Jong-un once again, set the stage for this upcoming summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

What's your sense right now, because the president says everything is all set for his summit meeting with the North Korean leader?

SCIUTTO: Well, it's interesting, Secretary Pompeo, he made some comments to reporters on his -- on his plane on the way out, and at least in those comments, things are not set in stone. The date and the location of the meeting, but also the outlines of what this agreement will be.

He made clear in his comments to reporters that the Trump administration is entering this with wide eyes, that they want -- they're not going to go for half measures; that they want real, hard commitments from the North Koreans before they move forward so that they don't repeat, as he explained, past mistakes.

Of course, as you think the Iran deal, the Trump administration trying to be consistent here as they approach North Korea.

He also mentioned the situation of the three Americans held there, saying that that's an issue he was going to raise with the North Koreans on this trip, which is interesting. Now, he may leave there with them. We don't know. But to make a second trip with the fate of those three Americans still a question mark, interesting because it was just at the end of last week that Rudy Giuliani was saying that they might be out by the end of the day.

So clearly, many of the issues in these negotiations are still being negotiated here. Even the preliminary ones like the release of the American prisoners.

BLITZER: You think, Shawn, he would go back to Pyongyang if he doesn't have a firm, hard commitment from the North Koreans that he would leave with the three Americans?

TURNER: If he has gone there under those circumstances, it is a terrible mistake on the part of this administration. These kind of negotiations are very delicate, and when you're talking about U.S. -- U.S. citizens who are being held in a country like North Korea, you want to make absolutely sure that you've got a deal on the table before you kind of float this idea out there that they may be released.

If he comes back and he does not have them, then I think that that looks -- that does not look good for the administration. But it also will play into kind of the tone and tenure of this deal going forward.

BLITZER: He comes out of there, Mike Pompeo, with those three Americans. That would be a plus.

BORGER: That would be a huge plus. Look, you just don't send your secretary of state somewhere for the second time when you don't expect to get something. I mean, if you were having sort of high-level staffers go over, do -- do -- you know, have pre-talk talks, et cetera, et cetera, set the table, if you will, for what was going to come next, that's different. But you're sending your secretary of state for the second time.

Now, Rudy Giuliani has already said these people are coming home. It's a little ad hoc from Rudy Giuliani on a lot of issues, as we know. So he's already said it. The president said, "Stay tuned." He mentioned today that Pompeo is over there. If he comes back empty- handed, I even wonder whether this whole thing will blow up. Right?

BLITZER: Everybody stick around. There's more breaking news we're following, including a prominent Democrat's stunning fall from grace. He was hailed as a defender of women's rights. Now four women are accusing him of physical abuse, and it's cost him his job. I'll speak with Ronan Farrow, one of the authors of the article that broke open this huge scandal.


[17:49:56] BLITZER: We're following the political and social aftershocks after the stunning fall of a rising Democratic Party star.

The New York State Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, has been a vocal proponent of women's rights and for the #MeToo movement. But he abruptly resigned last night, only hours after "The New Yorker" magazine published a stunning article in which four women accused him of physical violence.

Schneiderman denied any wrongdoing in announcing his resignation.

Joining us now, one of the co-authors of "The New Yorker" article, Ronan Farrow.

Ronan, thanks so much for joining us. And tell us a little bit more about these women, why they decided that now was the time to come forward?

RONAN FARROW, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE NEW YORKER: Multiple women doing an incredibly difficult thing, coming forward with really horrific, brutal stories of violence that turned out to be very, very well corroborated, Wolf. And independently, these women described uncannily similar patterns of behavior. Slaps, hitting, choking, very intense verbal abuse with misogynistic epithets.

And I want to make one important point. Because a large part of Eric Schneiderman's rebuttal is devoted to his claim that this is consensual sexual role-playing. These women, one after another, went to pains to say that that was not what they were alleging. And indeed, that they wouldn't have come forward if it was simply that.

What they are claiming was that this was nonconsensual, very often in an entirely non-sexual context. And in one woman's case, not even in the context of a relationship.

She alleges that he approached her and came on to her at an event. This is a prominent lawyer that he had worked with. And that when she rebuffed him, he began hurling slurs, and then slapped her hard enough to leave a mark. And we looked at that picture.

BLITZER: And so why did they decide to speak out now?

FARROW: You know, I think it's a combination of factors. Speaking out about domestic violence and sexual violence is always wrenching, doubly so when it's a powerful figure and when you fear retaliation, which these women did. They feared that he would use the power of his office to come after them.

The reason that, I think, they feel the climate is different is partly because of the #MeToo movement and other women who have spoken, and partly because Eric Schneiderman had become such a prominent voice on women's rights.

And the hypocrisy, in their minds, that was a word that several used, became too much to bear. They felt that they could and ultimately needed to protect the next woman to come along since this seemed to be a pattern of behavior.

BLITZER: As you know, the investigation is now in the hands of law enforcement in New York. Do you believe Schneiderman will end up facing criminal charges?

FARROW: I'm not going to speculate on that. You know, my job was simply to meticulously report out the facts, which I did with my colleague, Jane Mayer, at "The New Yorker."

And, look, I think it's very clear that the activity being alleged is potentially criminal in nature. I'm not going to predict anything beyond that.

BLITZER: Do you believe more women will come forward with similar allegations against Schneiderman?

FARROW: There, again, you know, I'm very careful not to say anything beyond what we've reported. I will say, very clearly, though, that it became apparent, over the course of our reporting, and it was apparent to these women that spoke to us, that this was not just about them as individuals. That this was a repeating pattern of behavior, and that they felt that they needed to speak in order to stop it.

BLITZER: As you know, Schneiderman's office has been pursuing a lawsuit against the disgraced film producer, Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Company. Do you expect that effort will continue even though he's no longer the Attorney General?

FARROW: You know, I would assume that the work of the many excellent attorneys, you know, that surround Schneiderman will continue. That the various initiatives that have policy import, whether they're about Harvey Weinstein or about President Trump, will continue. And that, you know, the people of the state of New York will get an Attorney General that is not under this particular cloud of suspicion.

BLITZER: Ronan, amazing reporting you and Jane have done, but how surprised were you that within, what, three or four hours, he resigned?

FARROW: All I can say is that several women did reach out to me after that resignation and were incredibly moved, moved almost to tears in one conversation. This was a really painful thing for them to do, and they did it with a lot of fear. And it required a lot of strength.

And I think feeling heard and feeling that their stories had an impact, that maybe could help others, is a significant step. It doesn't make it easy. I think it's going to continue to be a period of ups and downs for everyone involved in this story. But I think, for the first time, they feel that this story actually is out in the open and that's doing some good.

BLITZER: Yes. You and Jane, you did a great job, very strong reporting. You guys have been on a roll over there. Keep it up. We deeply appreciate it. Thanks so much.

FARROW: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, there's breaking news. President Trump makes good on his pledge to walk away from the Iran nuclear deal and announces the U.S. will renew its sanctions. Israel is already on high alert. How will Iran respond?


BLITZER: Happening now, Russian payments? CNN has learned that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch about large payments to President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, after -- after -- the election. What was the money for?

Pulling out. President Trump delivers on a campaign promise, announcing he's withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, calling it, and I'm quoting him now, defective at its core. Will Iran respond by restarting its nuclear program?

[17:59:55] Mission to North Korea. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarks on a second trip to North Korea to lay the groundwork for a summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un. Will Pompeo be able to secure the release of three Americans being held by the Kim regime?