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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump: North Korea Summit Could Be Back On; Russian Billionaire Met with Michael Cohen Before Inauguration; Trump Continues to Push 'Spygate' Conspiracy Theory; Kim Summit May Still Happen, "Everybody Plays Games"; Movie Mogul Harvey Weinstein Arrested On Rape Charges. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired May 25, 2018 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now. On second thought. President Trump now suggests his meeting with Kim Jong-un could be back on, a day after saying it was canceled. Explaining the sudden turnabout, he ow says, quote, "Everybody plays games." What did the North Koreans say to change his mind?
Conspiracy theories. After claiming the FBI planted a spy in his campaign, the president and his supporters can't provide any evidence to back it up. It's just the latest in a growing list of conspiracy theories the president has pushed to try to derail the Russia investigation.
And Weinstein charged. Former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is charged with rape and sexual abuse seven months after women came forward to tell their stories. Tbt tonight the alleged victims react.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Just a day after scrapping his summit with Kim Jong-un, President Trump now says the meeting could be back on, following what he calls "a very nice statement" from the North Korean regime expressing a willingness to meet at any time.
As for the posturing and the brinksmanship of the summit negotiations, the president says, "Everybody plays games."
Ill speak with Congressman David Cicilline of the Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees. And our correspondents and specialists, they are standing by with full coverage.
Let's begin with the off-again, on-again summit with Pamela Brown standing by. Pamela, so what's behind this turn-around, and where do things stand now?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I just spoke to a White House official who says administration officials are way more optimistic than expected today that the summit will happen on June 12, as originally planned. Now the communications with North Korea have reopened. And this more positive outlook comes in the wake of North Korea's more conciliatory statement last night.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight President Trump indicating the summit he already canceled with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un may, in fact, still happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, is the summit still on?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to see what happens. We're talking to them now. It was a very nice statement that they put out and could even be the 12. We're talking to them now. They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it. We're going to see what happens.
BROWN: Just one day ago citing North Korea's open hostility toward the U.S., President Trump declared the meeting was off but did leave the door wide open.
TRUMP: If and when Kim Jong-un chooses to engage in constructive dialogue and actions, I am waiting.
BROWN: He didn't need to wait long. The president's apparent 180 on the meeting comes after what Trump called a, quote, "warm and productive statement" from North Korea in a tweet, that statement praising the president, saying, "President Trump made a brave decision in his efforts to make the summit happen. And the summit is desperately needed for the improvement of the relationship. We reiterate to the U.S. that we're willing to sit face-to-face at any time and in any way."
When asked today if he was worried the North Koreans are playing games, the president said --
TRUMP: Everybody plays games. You know that.
BROWN: And Secretary of Defense James Mattis is expressing optimism.
JAMES MATTIS, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We will give and take, you know, trying to put together a big summit. So diplomats are still at work and from our point of view here at the Defense Department, that's a fine thing.
BROWN: Tonight the White House is reiterating that the president is serious about the meeting.
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president is not just looking to have a meeting. He's not looking for just a cheap political stunt. He wants to get something that's a long-lasting and actual real solution. And if the meeting takes place on June 12, we'll be ready. If it takes place on July 12, we'll be ready. And we're going to do whatever is necessary to prepare for that on that front. BROWN: As uncertainty looms over that potentially historic summit,
the president is sowing more confusion over the FBI's use of a confidential human source to better monitor Russian activities. A source that made contact with several Trump campaign advisers.
Trump is once again alleging a massive conspiracy with zero evidence, tweeting, "Can anyone even imagine having spies placed in a competing campaign by the people and party in absolute power for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain?"
But Republican lawmakers confidentially briefed Thursday on the use of that confidential source aren't yet coming to the president's defense or saying much at all.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Were you surprised with what you learned?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER: Nothing particularly surprising. But again, it was classified, so there's no -- no real report I can give to you.
[17:05:02] BROWN: And press secretary Sarah Sanders defended the participation before that classified briefing of Emmet Flood, the president's lawyer in the Russia investigation, and chief of staff John Kelly, saying they simply went there to facilitate the meeting and convey the president's wishes of full transparency. And then they left as expected.
However, a congressional source tells my colleague Jim Acosta that some of the lawmakers there said that it was inappropriate for them to be there, and that was one of the reasons they left -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown at the White House. Thank you.
We're also learning that just days before the presidential inauguration, Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had a meeting with a Russian billionaire who was caught on camera walking into Trump Tower in New York City. The meeting focused on improving U.S. ties with Russia. That Russian oligarch has been questioned by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and his team.
Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, what are you hearing specifically from your sources?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know at that meeting that occurred on January 9, 11 days before the inauguration, that Viktor Vekselberg and his cousin, Andrew Intrater, went to meet with Donald Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in his office. And a source familiar with the meeting tells us that they discussed ways to improve U.S.-Russia relations.
Now, we're told that Vekselberg was a late addition to the meeting. He wasn't planning to be there. And that even though they were on the 26th floor, just down the hall from Donald Trump's office, they did not meet with the president-elect at that time.
The meeting lasts about 27 minutes. We can tell from the tape. And of course, you know, Viktor Vekselberg is a Russian oligarch who's close to the Kremlin. He was questioned by Mueller. And his cousin runs this U.S. investment firm that later hired, just days after the inauguration, Michael Cohen on a $1 million contract of which they ended up paying him $580,000.
BLITZER: Five hundred eighty thousand dollars, a lot of money.
CNN in Russia caught up with Viktor Vekselberg to ask him about the payments to Michael Cohen. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vekselberg, quick question from CNN.
VIKTOR VEKSELBERG, RUSSIAN OLIGARCH: Thank you. Not now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But quickly, why did your company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to President Trump's lawyer?
VEKSELBERG: Not now.
I really appreciate -- just later, OK? Really appreciate -- we understand. I understand. You're so aggressive.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'm not at all.
VEKSELBERG: Please --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it to buy access to the president?
VEKSELBERG: Please, later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you get for the money?
VEKSELBERG: Please leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are questions, sir. Please answer them.
VEKSELBERG: You have to understand -- I will tell everything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the FBI question you about?
VEKSELBERG: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So why is Robert Mueller and his team so interested in Vekselberg?
BROWN: Well, I think it's a question of follow the money. So Viktor Vekselberg was questioned when he arrived in the U.S. on his private plane earlier this year. He was asked about political donations that his cousin had made to the Trump inauguration fund, to the RNC and to the Trump victory fund. And he was also asked about this payment to Michael Cohen.
Now the reason why they're asking Viktor Vekselberg this is because his company, Renova, is this big Russian conglomerate. They're the largest investor with Columbus Nova, the company that his cousin runs, the one company that paid Michael Cohen and, of course, his cousin's donation. So you know, the thing that the special counsel is looking at is whether any money was funneled through straw donors or intermediaries into the campaign, which would be a violation of FEC rules.
There's no indication that they have found that. But that's the reason why they're asking Vekselberg these questions.
They also interviewed Intrater, and his company gas said they were not a conduit for Vekselberg's money. This was a decision made purely by the Americans who run that company to hire Michael Cohen, because he was close to the president.
BLITZER: How does this meeting over at Trump Tower fit into the whole series of meetings at Trump Tower that clearly are under scrutiny right now.
BROWN: So it's now, like, the fourth one that we've learned of. There's the June 2016 meeting. That involved Donald Trump Jr., the Russian lawyer, where there was the promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Then "The New York Times" reported there was a meeting in August between an Australian-Israeli social media personality who runs a company that was offering their services to the election, according to "The New York Times."
Then there was the meeting in December 2016 between Jared Kushner, Michael Flynn, who was then Trump's incoming national security adviser, and the Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
So now we learn of this meeting now, several weeks later between Vekselberg, the oligarch, and Michael Cohen.
BLITZER: Vekselberg has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department?
BROWN: That's right. The Treasury Department announced sanctions against him and his company last month as part of, among other things, potential meddling in the election.
BLITZER: Very interesting developments, indeed. All right, Kara. Good reporting. Thanks very, very much.
Joining us now, Congressman David Cicilline of Rhode Island. He's a member of the Judiciary and the Foreign Affairs Committees.
[17:10:06] Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Let me get your quick reaction.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND: My pleasure. BLITZER: How does Viktor Vekselberg, that meeting he had over at Trump Tower in New York City, play into the investigation. There is a criminal investigation underway. The U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York involved. The criminal investigation of Michael Cohen.
CICILLINE: You know, I -- Wolf I think we don't know. Obviously, this is a very significant development. This is, again, a sort of pattern of Russians who -- who continue to come to Trump Tower for meetings that everyone seems to forget about.
This was a meeting, obviously, that involved Michael Cohen and the payment of Columbus Nova of about $580,000 and a $380,000 gift to the RNC. The principle investor of that, of course, is his cousin. And, you know, the question is, what were those payments for? So I think Mr. Mueller is focused on that.
To be sure, these are individuals who are subject to sanctions because of their potential involvement in interfering in the presidential election. And of course, Mr. Mueller, I think, is very interested in following the money to completely understand what was the purpose of those payments and what role did Michael Cohen play and what did he do with those funds?
BLITZER: Yes. We're showing video of Vekselberg arriving and then leaving the Trump Tower in New York City. We had a pool camera inside the lobby so everybody was walk in and out and eventually got on camera. Viktor Vekselberg was there only 11 days before the inauguration of the president.
As you know, President Trump also continues to promote a baseless conspiracy theory that the FBI planted a spy inside his presidential campaign. What kind of damage is he doing, potentially?
CICILLINE: Well, I mean, what's so dangerous about this completely unsubstantiated claim is it's an effort to undermine the rule of law, to delegitimize the serious investigation that's underway. As Adam Schiff said after the briefing, there is no evidence to support this claim. The president continues to say it in the hopes that he can convince the American people there's some truth to it. There is none.
And it's really part of an ongoing effort by this president to undermine the very serious investigation that's underway. It underscores the importance of protecting Mr. Mueller from any political interference to make sure the special counsel has the resources he needs to complete his job, to find the facts wherever they lead us.
But a president, I think, was increasingly worried about the direction this investigation and very interested in doing everything he can to attack the investigators so that, when they conclude their work and present a report to Congress he can attempt to delegitimize those facts.
This is really dangerous. This is unprecedented, of the president of the United States making a factual claim which is completely untrue in a desperate effort to protect himself from the conclusions of this very serious investigation.
BLITZER: Yes. Even the majority leader, Mitch McConnell yesterday emerged from that so-called Gang of Eight meeting, the highly- classified briefing, saying he really didn't learn much new during the course of that briefing.
Let's turn to North Korea, Congressman. One day after calling off the summit with Kim Jong-un, President Trump now says it may happen after all. Do you see any reason at all for optimism?
CICILLINE: I see more reason for concern. I mean, I think like most people, I was cautiously optimistic that maybe something would come -- something positive could come out of this summit. But this is just more chaos, more confusion. Evidence that there's not a well- developed strategy.
And the president said everyone is playing games. You know, this is serious business. This involves an effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, And I think what the president has demonstrated is the absence of a plan, a real strategy, the absence of a lot of expertise to help develop a good strategy here. So I'm concerned about it.
I don't know whether the summit will happen. But if it does, the president needs to understand the history on the Korean Peninsula, what kind of actions the North Koreans have taken in the past, where they promised to do something and then broken their word. He needs to go into this in a very sober way to understand their intentions and to attempt to craft a diplomatic resolution of a very serious threat to our country.
BLITZER: Should there be some preconditions before this meeting takes place?
CICILLINE: Well, I think for sure there ought to be preparation. You know, what normally happens is the parties will meet before the summit and map out the contours of an agreement. Apparently, when the American delegation went to Singapore, the North Koreans didn't even show up, which is odd.
But there ought to be a -- a plan and a lot of preparations so that when the president goes into that meeting, he understands the objectives and he has a reasonable chance of achieving those.
Look, we should all want success here. There is not a military solution to this problem. There is only a diplomatic solution. So we should want the president, of course, do want the president to be successful. But that requires a lot of preparation and reliance on a lot of expertise, people who understand the history of the region; and a certain amount of seriousness as you approach this.
[17:15:06] And sometimes you hear the way the president talks about it, it almost is as if he's talking about a television show, and this is the next episode. This is deadly serious. And the president ought to be well-prepared, and he ought to have a specific plan and a strategy in place. And I don't see any evidence that that is the case. BLITZER: But do you think it's really realistic to believe that Kim
Jong-un is ever going to give up his nuclear capabilities?
CICILLINE: I do not. Look, there's a reason no prior president would not meet with this brutal dictator or his father or grandfather. It wasn't that we didn't -- that we were attempting meetings and we couldn't get it. President Trump announced it as if it was some achievement. Previous presidents refused to meet him, because they recognized that they weren't serious about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
I think Kim Jong-un sees possession of nuclear weapons as essential to maintain the regime. When you have members of administration talking about regime change, people like John Bolton, it undermines the ability to get a diplomatic solution.
So I think this is going to be a very difficult thing to achieve, but obviously, I support them talking if it can produce that objective. But this is serious stuff that requires a lot of preparation and thought and careful planning. And this sort of on-again, off-again talking about everyone is playing games seems to me not to reflect the very serious nature of this negotiation.
BLITZER: Do you believe destroying a nuclear site, as the North Koreans said they did yesterday. We got video of the explosions. Take a look at this. You'll see it. There it is. Do you think that's a serious gesture on behalf of North Korea?
CICILLINE: I don't. Look, we have seen a pattern on two prior occasions when the North Koreans have been subjected to international pressure, they've been very bombastic in their actions. And then the international community responds, and they promise to do certain things and to take certain steps.
And then while they are negotiating and expressing their intention to do that, they're going behind the back of the other parties and pursuing their nuclear programs.
So I think there's a lot of reason to doubt whether this is serious, but we can only discover that by engaging in a significant diplomatic effort. But I think we should go in with very wide eyes, without any expectation that the North Koreans are going to keep their word. And it requires a serious negotiator who's fully prepared with a full understanding of the history of the peninsula.
BLITZER: Congressman David Cicilline, thanks so much for joining us.
CICILLINE: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Up next, President Trump is again claiming the FBI planted a spy in his presidential campaign. But lawmakers on both sides now indicate that the briefings arranged by his allies revealed no evidence to back up that claim. Why is the president, though, still pursuing a baseless allegation?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [17:22:09] BLITZER: Tonight, the president's top allies are surprisingly silent about a topic they've been buzzing about all week. That would be the president's unsubstantiated tweets and his claims alleging a government spy was inside his presidential campaign.
Instead, both Democrats and Republican leaders, they say they learned nothing really new or surprising during yesterday's top-secret briefings by serious and senior Justice Department and intelligence officials.
Let's bring in our political, legal and national security specialists. And Shawn Turner, you've studied this for a long time. You used to work in the intelligence community. What does it tell you, that not just the Democrats but the Republicans emerged from those sessions yesterday, and they're really not saying much?
SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it tells me that when they went into this session, that the FBI and the Justice Department were able to demonstrate without a shadow of a doubt that they -- that they followed standard procedures and protocols in the use of a confidential informant.
A lot -- what a lot of people don't understand is that there is a guideline for using confidential informants, and as long as the FBI follows all of those guidelines and checks all those boxes, then they can -- they can use confidential informants.
Devin Nunes knows that, and he also knows that his -- his allies are not going to come out and say that the president -- that there was something untoward here. So I think that's why he's keeping quiet.
BLITZER: Yes, I'm surprised that it has been 24 hours now. We really haven't heard much of anything from Devin Nunes and the other Republicans. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, said he didn't really learn anything new or surprising. And that's what Adam Schiff, the top Democrat of the House Intelligence Committee, said, as well.
Is there a strategy, Rebecca, behind the president promoting these kind of false claims?
REBECCA BERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we might be giving the president a little too much credit, Wolf, to assign a strategy to this. Insomuch as there might be a strategy, the president seems to believe that he has been unfairly targeted by the intelligence community, especially during the Obama administration and that they might have looked at his campaign in an unfair way, which is why he has latched onto these conspiracy theories.
But I think what this is more about is just Donald Trump personally. He believes he's been victimized here. He is trying to give credibility to his -- to his claim that the Mueller investigation is a witch hunt. And so he's trying to show any proof that he can and also not admit that he's wrong about this.
BLITZER: You know, Ryan Lizza, the president has a history of promoting these kind of conspiracies, these theories. Let me put a few of them up on the screen.
The FBI embedded a so-called spy in his presidential campaign. At Trump Tower in New York, during the campaign, it was wiretapped. Improper unmasking of Trump aides. That the Oval Office, that there were Oval Office tapes of the fired FBI director James Comey. No such tapes exist. And that there is a secret society in the FBI working against him. And that that unsubstantiated dossier triggered the entire Russia probe. What triggered the probe was George Papadopoulos getting -- speaking in London to an Australian diplomat, saying the Russians were involved.
[17:25:10] RYAN LIZZA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And what is common through most of those is these things often start with some, you know, kernel of a fact in the conservative media. It gets Congress excited, and they start pressing the Justice Department asking for questions. And then, frankly, by the time it gets into the president's hands, it turns into some much more elaborate, frankly, lie and conspiracy theory.
And what they all have in common is they have -- almost all of these have taken, frankly, common, routine law-enforcement tactics, whether it's the FISA warrants against Carter Page, which somehow was turned into spying on the campaign; or it's this confidential informant that the FBI used, which is again turned -- by Trump turned into spying. These are all pretty normal FBI tools that the administration or particularly the president has turned into conspiracy theories about an overly broad, overly aggressive investigation.
BLITZER: And Joey Jackson, you're our legal analyst. Just give us some legal perspective. How do you see all of this unfolding, because there are enormous legal ramifications?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, of course there are enormous legal ramifications. Let's go back, for example, if you look at this -- you know, this latest meeting that was had with a Russian person who happens to be an oligarch.
You know, it's a data point about what is happening here. If you look, for example, at that meeting in isolation, then you might suggest or otherwise say that, you know, there's nothing untoward here. But you have to go back to Sessions and you have to go back and look at "I don't know any Russians" during his confirmation. And the Senate intelligence hearing. What is he saying, Wolf? He's saying, again, "I don't have nothing to do with Russia." He has to come back. He has to explain.
You look at Jared Kushner and filling out his forms and he says nothing about Russian contacts. And then said he has to amend the form and say he filled it out prematurely.
You have conspiracy theories by the president, the constant attack of the investigation, the attack of the FBI, the attack of the people who actually do it. And it just leads you to wonder if there's nothing untoward, inappropriate or illegal, what are you hiding about -- what are you hiding from? What are you twisting and turning? And what are you saying things without any factual or legal basis whatsoever? It just raises major concerns and makes you think that perhaps there's something "there" there.
BLITZER: You were in the intelligence community, you know, Shawn. Let me read to you a tweet the president posted this morning: "The Democrats are now alluding to the concept that having an informant placed in an opposing party's campaign is different than having a spy, as illegal as that may be. But what about an informant who was paid a fortune and who sets up way earlier than the Russian hoax?"
TURNER: Yes, it's really unfortunate, because it demonstrates that the president might not really understand what the intelligence community is and what the intelligence community does.
Look, when we talk about spies, we're talking about individuals who are focused on foreign intelligence collection. We do not use spies in this country in the FBI to do the work of law enforcement. There is a process through which we use confidential informants and sources and other ways of gathering information.
So when the president uses this word and other language like this, he understands the more than anyone that words matter. And to be candid, he's only speaking to a particular sector of our population. And he knows that as long as he continues to use language like that, that it's going to resonate with his base.
LIZZA: I mean, the thing that I just can't wrap my head around is the president cares more about these phantom spies that he has manufactured than the real spies that tried to infiltrate and mess with our election in 2016. And that to me is the fundamental problem with his attitude towards all of this.
BLITZER: And according to his own intelligence community leadership right now, the DNI, the CIA director, his own top people, the Russians are still doing it and looking ahead to the mid-term elections.
LIZZA: Yes. And unless we grapple with what really happened in 2016 with what the Russians did, not what the FBI did, how are we going to fix the problem going forward?
BERG: Right. And ultimately, the president is putting his personal interests first and his personal priorities over the security of the next election, by choosing to ignore that problem, and over the credibility of the intelligence community, which he erodes every times he raises conspiracy theories.
LIZZA: He had two ways to look at this story. The one way would have been, "Thank God the FBI investigated these suspicious connections with these peripheral characters in my campaign." Donald Trump doesn't care or know much about Carter Page and George Papadopoulos and Sam Clovis, the third person that this person met with.
Most candidates, seeing that, would have said, "You know what? If those guys had some weird connections with the Russians, thank God the FBI was there to figure it out."
Instead he has now held those three people a lot closer and said that this was an attack on his campaign. Where previously, he was arguing that they weren't that important. And that to me is one of the most suspicious actions he has taken, because it suggests he's trying to cover something up.
BLITZER: Joey, go ahead.
[17:30:00] JACKSON:: Well, you know, Wolf, the problem is, is that these are things that resonate, right, with the public. They resonate with not only his base of support, but perhaps some other people. You know, when you start attacking investigators, attacking investigations, there are people who question authority, of course. There are people who believe that whatever the government does, there must be something mysterious, there must be something untoward, inappropriate, illegal; he's onto something. But to do it without any basis whatsoever, and then to have conspiracy theorist believes it and otherwise undermine the confidence in the investigation itself, that becomes problematic.
In the court of law, you raise factual issues and that's you how you defend. You don't just say things which happened, perhaps, to benefit you politically which have no basis, in fact, which have no merit at all, but which may sound good, and you just talked about, Wolf, when you put up the listing, right, you talk about all of the things that the president has stated and that have just never come to fruition at all: from wiretaps to anything else. And it's very troubling that you have a president who could say anything, do anything, and his base of support just stays the same.
BLITZER: Yes, well, that's a political issue as well. You know, Shawn, let me get your reaction to the news that we've been reporting and other news organizations as well. We now know that 11 days before the inauguration, this Russian oligarch, Viktor Vekselberg, was seen walking in and out of Trump Tower in New York; going to a meeting with Michael Cohen, president's long-time lawyer and friend, his fixer. He's a billionaire oligarch, obviously, with very close ties to the Kremlin, he has since sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department, why is this such serious concern to the FBI and Robert Mueller's investigation?
TURNER: Sure, yes. And you know, joy touched on this a little bit. There's just issue of disproportionality. You know, there are a lot of countries across the world who have an interest in influencing U.S. policy. And if you concede for the incoming Trump administration that it is OK for certain individuals in the administration to meet with individuals from other countries, then you can understand that those meetings would happen and it's not a big deal. But there's this issue of meeting after meeting, after meeting with Russians.
We're not talking about meetings with China or meetings with Mexico or other countries that have an interest in the U.S. policy, but it's all about Russia. So, the question is: why is it that, one, they have a disproportionately high number of meetings with Russians? And two, why is there this air of secrecy, and mystery, and deception around these meetings. Look, we still don't know -- Mueller's investigation is not done, so we still don't know exactly what happened with regard to these relationships with Russia. But we do know that there were way too many meeting, and there was way too many interactions, and those are continued well into the administration.
BLITZER: Is there anything illegal here potentially, Joey, and you're the legal analyst, about Michael Cohen let's say working out a deal to get half million dollars from an associate, or relative, a cousin of Viktor Vekselberg.
JACKSON: Look, the point is that if you want to enrich yourself and you want to sell influence, you know, you do so, right? And if you want to strengthen laws to prohibit that, you do that. And so, it's not the question of not illegal per se on the face, but it just raises other issues about what was the purpose of doing that, what was the nature, what exactly were you doing? And when you -- and remember this, Wolf, you can't look at any transaction in isolation, you have to look and you have to figure out the larger picture. In law, there's distinction between direct evidence, aha!
We have a smoking gun and circumstantial evidence. And so, what are you selling, why are you selling it, and why are you denying it? The truth remains the same. And so, why are people pleading guilty to lying about Russian contacts from Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, I don't know anything that occurred. And so, it just looks very bad. And at the end of the day, perhaps on its face there's nothing illegal, but let's take a wait and see because Mueller has this investigation, it's been ongoing, it'll come to close at some point, and let's see what the specific findings are when the dots are connected.
WOLF: Let's not forget, Viktor Vekselberg was questioned by the FBI when he arrived in the United States and Mueller is clearly interested in him right now. There is one potential illegality, if you are taking money on behalf of a foreign source, you have to register with the U.S. Justice Department as a foreign agent. It's called a Foreign Agent Registration Act.
LOPEZ: FARA. And we know that Mueller has been very aggressive in the Manafort indictment about going after Manafort and Gates for FARA violations. So, if Cohen took money from a foreign agent and he was lobbying on behalf of a foreign entity -- doesn't have to be a government. If they decide that Vekselberg was a cut-out on behalf of the Russian government, that can be a FARA violation and Mueller has shown he's going to be very, very aggressive in enforcing the FARA Law.
BLITZER: Let me get your quick thought, Rebecca on North Korea right now. Yesterday, the meeting is off, today it might be back, and we saw what happened -- we have CNN cameras at the so-called nuclear sites in North Korea that were exploded in front of the world because that's what the North Koreans wanted to show. There were no inspectors there. So, there's just a bunch of journalists who really didn't have a whole lot of firsthand knowledge of what exactly was destroyed, but this off-again-and-now-on-again summit, what do you make of this?
[17:35:20] BERG: Right. It really put the president's comments today, Wolf, really put the letter to Kim Jong-un yesterday in a different light. Many people read that letter as an end to these negotiations for the time being, as a signal that this meeting was off indefinitely. But now, it looks much more like a negotiating tactic on the part of the president. A wake-up call that he was sending to North Korea when they stood up our diplomats in Asia, when they weren't returning our phone calls, and a sign from the president that he needed them to take us seriously -- and it appears to have worked because North Korea now puts out a very nice statement, as the president acknowledged, and the potentially the gears are again in motion. But really, developments that, I think, surprised a lot of people who assumed that was the end of it.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown is reporting from the White House, and the senior administration official Ryan says they are involved in the North Korean summit preparations. They are way more optimistic today than they were yesterday.
LOPEZ: I mean the North Koreans are learning what we all learned as covering Trump as a politician. Anything that comes out of his mouth or written down is completely situational. And it means nothing necessarily the next day. Now, the only other entity in the world that really kind of negotiates like that are the North Koreans. So, it is this kind of unique confrontation between two leaders who use very bizarre situational arguments one after the other. I'm sure the summit will be on and off again 10 times between now and the 12th.
BLITZER: When it comes to North Korea, what really is going on?
TURNER: North Korea is what we call a hard target. You know, we get the best intelligence we can but the one thing that I can see about North Korea right now through all of the discussion of summits that are on and off and everything that's going on between Kim Jong-un and the president, the one thing that has not changed is the assessment of North Korea's desire to obtain a nuclear weapon, and to be a fully capable nuclear nation. So, at this point, whether the summit happens or not from an intelligence perspective, we still see Kim Jong-un as someone who is a staunch adversary of the U.S. and someone who should be watched very closely as a threat to the region.
BLITZER: The president clearly wants to have this meeting, Ryan.
LOPEZ: I think he does. You know, even in the kind of very weird Trumpian letter yesterday, there were hints he kind of -- there was a bit of an olive branch saying, you know, you do the right thing and this summit will be back on. I think he sees this as a sort of status project, right? That if there is one -- if he unlocks the North Korean dilemma, no recent president has been able to do it, of course, I think he would be -- you know, he sees this as something incredibly important.
TURNER: That's right. The motivation is personal. It's a lot less about the issue of nuclear weapons and much more about his legacy.
BLITZER: Let's see if those hotel room reservations in Singapore are going to be --
(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: -- are refundable. All right, guys, stick around. There's more we're watching. Coming up, he was one of the most powerful men in Hollywood for years; tonight, Harvey Weinstein faces rape charged that could put him behind bars.
[17:42:06] BLITZER: Tonight, the disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein faces rape charges that could send him to prison. He was arrested and arraigned today not in Hollywood but in New York City. Let's go there. CNN's Brynn Gingrass is joining us. Weinstein is free on bail tonight; he denied the allegations.
BRYNN GINGRASS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he continues to say everything was consensual, Wolf, even his attorney said: Weinstein didn't create the casting couch in Hollywood, possibly giving us a little bit of insight into the defense, we'll see as this could be the first of many criminal charges to come.
GINGRASS: Hollywood megaproducer, Harvey Weinstein, in handcuffs walking into court facing rape charges. They stem from the accounts of two women, including an aspiring actress who first spoke out in a 2017 New Yorker article, alleging Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him at his office in 2004. Tonight, Weinstein is out of jail after posting a $1 million cash bail, but not before surrendering his passport, being forced to wear a monitoring 24/7 and traveling only between New York and Connecticut. The criminal charges are the first filed against Weinstein after dozens of women, including several actresses made various sexual misconduct accusations against the media mogul last year. Among them, Gwenyth Paltrow.
GWENYTH PALTROW, HOLLYWOOD ACTRESS: We had one instant in a hotel room where he tried to -- where he made a pass at me and then I really kind of stood up to him --
GINGRASS: Angelina Jolie, Salma Hayek, Lupita Nyong'o, and Ashley Judd...
ASHLEY JUDD, WEINSTEIN ACCUSER: I fought with this valley of "nos" which he ignored.
GINGRASS: And actress Rose McGowan, one of the first women to publicly accuse Weinstein of rape.
ROSE MCGOWAN, WEINSTEIN ACCUSER: We got you. Yes. To see him in cuffs on the way out, whether he smiled or not, that's a very good feeling.
GINGRASS: Weinstein denied having none consensual sex with any of his accusers and his attorney insisted today his client is innocent.
BENJAMIN BRAFMAN, ATTORNEY TO HARVEY WEINSTEIN: My job is not to defend behavior. My job is to defend something that is criminal behavior. Bad behavior. Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood and to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you stay positive, you have a shot and so will I.
GINGRASS: It's a stunning fall for the man behind several major movies like "Silver Lining's Playbook", "The King's Speech"...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart belongs to you buy I will marry Wessex a week from Saturday.
GINGRASS: And "Shakespeare in Love", just to name a few. Some of which earned Weinstein dozens of awards for his work behind the camera. But now, he's the focus of investigations for allegedly sex crimes not just in New York, but also in Los Angeles, and London.
GINGRASS: And on top of those investigations, a grand jury continues to hear testimony from at least four accusers, according to a source along with other evidence. Mr. Brafman, Weinstein's attorney, has to decide if Weinstein himself will give testimony to that grand jury. But when it comes to these specific charges, Weinstein will be back in court in July. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Brynn, thank you. Brynn Gingrass in New York. Coming up, so what's behind today's sudden switch to more hopeful language about the possibility of a summit between Kim Jong-un and President Trump. Is it, as the president told reporters today, a case of everybody playing games?
[17:45:36] We'll go live to North Korea; CNN's Will Ripley was one of the few western journalists to witness what the North Koreans claim is the destruction of a nuclear test site.
BLITZER: Our top story, just a day after pulling the plug on the summit with Kim Jong-un, President Trump now says the meeting could be back on. That follows the North Korean statement that said that's just what the president wanted and needed to hear. Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. Brian, two explosive personalities, each obsessed with his own image. Is that driving these negotiations right now?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it seems to be, Wolf. You know, these days, it seems that at any given moment, an insult from one side puts the summit in jeopardy, then a compliment brings them closer together. We're told we can expect that in the coming days from two combustible leaders who don't seem to mind that the security of the Korean Peninsula could be riding on their egos.
TODD: The roller coaster swings upward again, and President Trump declares a summit with Kim Jong-un could happen, maybe even on June 12th. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everybody plays games.
You know that.
TODD: The president says he's pleased with the statement the North Koreans just put out after he cancelled the summit. Pyongyang saying it "appreciated the fact that President Trump made a brave decision that no president in the past has made and put efforts to make the summit happen.
[17:50:35] DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR: If you want him to do something, you praise him, you tell him how wonderful he is, how much you appreciate his greatness.
TODD: Tonight, biographers and former intelligence analyst who've studied Trump and Kim, say the fate of a summit and the nuclear standoff on the Korean Peninsula, now depend on the personalities of two scorpions in a bottle. Volatile leaders with egos which constantly that need to be stroked. A telling example: how each men responds to be insulted.
TRUMP: The little rocket man.
SUE TERRY, FORMER CIA ANALYST: I think Kim Jong-un responds to an insult very badly. He's famously known to have thin skin. This is a man who executed one of senior officials because he fell asleep while Kim Jong-un was speaking.
TODD: Trump biographer say, he also responds impulsively to any insult. And over the past year and a half, North Korea's propaganda machine has levelled some creative ones.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The mentally deranged. U.S. dotard
TODD: Each man experts say, expects to be treated a certain way by those around him and has set up his inner circle accordingly.
JOHNSTON: He surrounds him with people who express complete loyalty to him and telling how great he is. He doesn't do it all well with anyone suggesting there's a better way to do it or you might improve your technique here.
TODD: A former CIA analyst on North Korea says, that sounds familiar.
TERRY: No one can challenge Kim. No can say you're doing something wrong. No, one can give him orders. I don't think there's anyone in North Korea who can do that except his sister and his wife, perhaps, in a very indirect way while stroking his ego.
TODD: Analysts now worry about the outcome of this diplomatic seesaw with two leaders so image obsessed that neither may feel he can compromise. Who, in the end, might prove to be more impulsive and unreliable?
JOHNSTON: Donald Trump is going to be more unreliable overtime. He's become increasingly erratic in office because he doesn't have the tools and the knowledge for the job. Kim, on the other hand, well, he looks to us to be crazy has played a very smart game here getting the U.S. to come to him.
TODD: What analysts are concerned about tonight is that, if there does end up being a personal dialogue between Trump and Kim Jong-un and it breaks down, well, there could be a war of words that was even worse than before and the two could insult each other into a confrontation that no one will be able to pull back from, Wolf?
BLITZER: Pretty scary stuff, as you know, Brian, one of the president's allies suggested today that the president is going to admonish China regarding their recent meetings with Kim Jong-un, right?
TODD: That's right, Wolf. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said today that President Trump is going to read the Riot Act to China for seemingly undercutting America's diplomatic efforts with North Korea. As we reported, President Trump believes that Kim Jong-un changed his tone regarding the summit after Kim met with Chinese President Xi Jinping a few weeks ago in Beijing. The Chinese, of course, have denied at all interfering.
[17:53:29] BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you. Brian Todd reporting. Coming up, CNN has learned that right before the inauguration, Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, had a meeting with a Russian billionaire in Trump Tower in New York City. So, why is this Special Counsel Robert Mueller so interested in that Russian oligarch?
[17:59:25] BLITZER: Happening now, summit reversal. We have new details tonight about President Trump's efforts to revive his meeting with Kim Jong-un only a day after the U.S. cancelled the talks. Is the dictator telling the president what he wants to hear? CNN is live inside North Korea.
Russian relations. We're learning about a questionable Trump Tower meeting during the transition. The surprising guest caught on video. Why did a Putin ally, who's been interviewed by the special counsel, meet with Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen?
And charged the rape. Disgraced Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein, surrenders in handcuffs and is hit with a $10 million bond tonight. As his accusers seek justice, Weinstein's lawyer is offering a stunning defense of the "casting couch".