Return to Transcripts main page


North Korea Meeting; White House Tries to Shift Blame to Media in Roseanne Controversy; Interview With Congressman Eric Swalwell; Pompeo Dining with Senior North Korean Official in New York; Parkland Gunman Details Plot in Transcript Obtained by CNN; New Book Says Obama Called Trump a 'Cartoon'; White House: Trump Not Defending Roseanne But Targeting 'Media Bias'. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired May 30, 2018 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Insisting he deserves an apology from ABC and Disney -- the White House trying to explain Mr. Trump's failure to condemn Roseanne Barr's racist tweets.

And dining with a spy. America's top diplomat meets with Kim Jong- un's enforcer here in the United States tonight. Could their meal lock in a deal for a Trump-Kim summit?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following a breaking news on the fate of the Cabinet member President Trump loves to hate, his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Tonight, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is suggesting the president might fire Sessions after he learns how Robert Mueller's Russian investigation turns out. Mr. Trump is unloading on Sessions once again today for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia probe, saying he wishes he had hired someone else for the job.

This hour, I will talk with Congressman Eric Swalwell. He's a Democrat on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees. And our correspondents and analysts are standing by.

First, let's go to chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, Giuliani is speaking out, as the president has been very busy venting grudges.


Grudges that seem to have the ability to heal at this hour. Wolf, the president's outside attorney Rudy Giuliani, he was inside the White House there, or at least on the White House grounds, telling reporters today what the president meant when he said that the special counsel will be meddling in the upcoming midterm elections. Giuliani said to reporters that if Robert Mueller does not wrap up his before the fall elections, he will essentially be meddling, that that amounts to meddling in the eyes of the president.

But the White House had few answers to justify the president's unproven conspiracy theory that his campaign was spied on and 2016, as a key Republican went rogue and said that federal investigators looking into Russian meddling were just doing their jobs.


ACOSTA (voice-over): When South Carolina Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy was offering his take on President Trump's frustration with Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself in the Russian investigation, a certain viewer down Pennsylvania Avenue was watching.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't think so. I think what the president is doing is expressing frustration that Attorney General Sessions should have shared these reasons for recusal before he took the job.

ACOSTA: It was the president who tweeted a quote from Gowdy's interview: "I would be frustrated too. And that's how I read. Senator Sessions, why didn't you tell me before I picked you? There are lots of really good lawyers in the country. He could have picked somebody else."

And then the president added in his own words, "And I wish I did."

The president's outside lawyer Rudy Giuliani told reporters he doesn't think Mr. Trump will fire Sessions before the special counsel's office concludes its investigation.

RUDY GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: There's no doubt he's complained about him. There's no doubt he has some grievances. I don't know that he had them out yet. He's not going to fire him before this is over, nor do I think he should.

ACOSTA: The president unleashes his fury on Sessions one day after "The New York Times" reported Mr. Trump asked the attorney general to reverse his refusal last year.

The president, who has mocked Sessions as the bumbling cartoon character Mr. Magoo behind the scenes, can't seem to let go of his attorney general's announcement that he's staying out of the Russia probe.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The attorney general made a terrible mistake when he did this and when he recused himself, or he should certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself. And we would have used a -- put a different attorney general in.

So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country. ACOSTA: Gowdy also threw cold water on the president's conspiracy theory that the Obama administration was spying on his campaign dubbed spy gate by Mr. Trump.

Federal investigators, Gowdy argued, were just doing their jobs.

GOWDY: Based on what I have seen, I don't know what the FBI could have done or should have done, other than run out a lead that someone loosely connected with the campaign was making assertions about Russia.

ACOSTA: White House response?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Clearly, there's still cause for concern that needs to be looked at. Let's not forget that the deputy director of the FBI was actually fired for misconduct. The president's concerned about the matter, and we're going to continue to follow the issue.

ACOSTA: The president thrust himself into another controversy, tweeting his frustrations with ABC over its decision to cancel Roseanne Barr's sitcom over her racist tweet about former Obama -- Valerie Jarrett.

"Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that ABC does not tolerate comments like those made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the horrible statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn't get the call?"

The president, notably, did not condemn Barr for her racist remarks. And neither did White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, who demanded apologies to the president.


HUCKABEE SANDERS: Where was Bob Iger's apology to the White House staff for Jemele Hill calling the president and anyone associated with him a white supremacist, to Christians around the world for Joy Behar calling Christianity a mental illness?

Where was the apology for Kathy Griffin going on a profane rant against the president on "The View" after a photo showed -- showed her holding President Trump's decapitated head?

ACOSTA: While the president did not address Roseanne during a rally in Nashville, he did make an insensitive comment, falsely stating African-American voters have been casting ballots for Democrats for a century.

African-Americans did not fully have the right to vote in the U.S. until so the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

TRUMP: African-Americans vote for Democrats for the most part, you know, vast majority. They have been doing it for over a hundred years. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, a source familiar with discussions inside the president's legal team says it's Mr. Trump who is directing the political strategy of going after the special counsel's office.

This source described the strategy as -- quote -- "bad for the country and likely to get worse."

The White House did not respond to that and referred us to Rudy Giuliani. And as for the White House demand for an apology to the president, it's important to note, Wolf, the president rarely ever apologizes for his behavior, whether it's calling Mexican immigrants rapists or peddling the lie for years that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., when, of course, he was -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he was.

Jim Acosta, thank you.

Now to the criminal investigation into the president's longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. Cohen's team confirming today in open court that Mr. Trump's fixer recorded conversations with clients, tapes now being held under lock and key.

Stormy Daniels' attorneys is claiming, without proof, that the president is on those tapes.

Let's go to our national correspondent, Brynn Gingras. She's covering all the developments in New York City for us.

Brynn, so what do we know about these recordings?


Well, Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney, made claims outside the courtroom based on what happened inside the courtroom. But outside the courtroom, he called them Trump tapes.

And, as you said it, he's claiming that there are recordings between Trump and Cohen that have not been released, though he won't say why he knows that or what's really on those tapes. And he's also saying there are recordings of other people having conversations with Michael Cohen.

And he's really demanding that all those tapes be released. Take a listen.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: Our understanding is that there's many, many audio recordings that for whatever reason Michael Cohen created and then kept.

And, ultimately, they will be his downfall, and it may be the downfall of this president. (END VIDEO CLIP)

GINGRAS: And, again, he's making these claims outside the courtroom based on what happened inside the courtroom.

And that was that Cohen's attorney said that they might have recordings out there. And that's the first time we have really heard that claim. And we're talking about recordings in that trove of documents that was seized by the FBI in that raid of Michael Cohen's home in his office and his hotel room.

But it's important to note, Wolf, this was somewhat of a sideshow to what really happened in court today. And that was an update on the documents in that FBI raid.

And Michael Cohen's attorneys said that they have received more than three million items and that they have only been able to process about a million as of now to determine if attorney-client privilege is compromised.

They said they wanted more time to do that, and the judge really gave them a deadline of June 15. And the truth is, they haven't even received all the documents. We learned today that there's two cell phones that investigators haven't been able to access, and also some materials from a shredder, all of which now is with forensics down in Quantico, with the FBI.

So it's going to be awhile before they even receive all of those documents that they need to review -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Brynn, the judge in this case also scolded Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti. Tell us what happened.

GINGRAS: Yes, Michael Avenatti has wanted a seat at the table through this whole thing.

He wanted his hands on the documents as well, because he thinks that there might be some attorney-client privilege issues with his own client, Stormy Daniels. So he has fought for that.

Well, today, in court, when he spoke up, the judge basically scolded him and saying that you're going on a publicity tour and he needs to stop.

Well, outside of court, we saw those comments he made about the -- quote, unquote -- "Trump tape." And then soon after that, he filed a motion saying that he didn't want to be a part of this process, a part of the court proceedings as of now.

So it was certainly a drama-filled day in court, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly was. Brynn Gingras reporting for us from New York, thank you.

In the Russia investigation tonight, we're also learning about a serious split on a key Senate panel. Republicans and Democrats apparently at odds over one of the most significant questions: Was there collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign?

Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

Manu, tell us more about what you're learning.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this a committee that has actually operated on a bipartisan basis for much of the past year, issuing reports done with Republicans and Democrats alike, even agreeing over a key matter that has been rejected by House Republicans, that the Russians in fact did interfere in the 2016 elections with the express intention to help Trump win the presidency, something that the U.S. intelligence community asserted back in January of 2017.


Well, on this issue about whether or not there were Trump campaign associates working to collude with the Russians in an effort to sway the elections, that is an issue that is still dividing this committee along party lines, despite more than a year of investigation.

We had a chance to interview virtually all of the members on this committee. And right now, we are hearing a division along party lines, Republicans saying they just do not see the evidence yet to support the notion from Trump-Russia collusion.

Democrats, on the other hand, say there's plenty of evidence to suggest there was at least intention to collude, and there are a lot of questions and concerns about problematical contacts that occurred between Trump campaign associates and Russians.

And, Wolf, one thing that is prompting concerns about from members from both sides of the aisle is that they believe that they're not getting as much information as the Mueller probe is getting and that Mueller may be the one who's ultimately going to be the one to decide whether or not there was collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Russians, because of the feeling that perhaps they're not able to just simply get nearly the amount of details and information that the special counsel is doing, leaving the big question to Robert Mueller about what exactly happened in the 2016 campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Manu, the president also warning in a tweet yesterday about the Mueller probe meddling with the midterm elections in November.

Can the Senate release their final report without interfering with this fall's elections?

RAJU: Well, this is a big question internally. Right now, a debate is going on about whether or not to release any sort of finding before the 2016 midterms, because of concerns that perhaps it will not be viewed credibly from the public because it will be in the heat of the campaign season, or concerns that it could impact what will happen in the 2016 campaign.

Some Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine saying it's not a good idea to release this in the run-up to the elections. Even Democrat Joe Manchin is concerned about how it would look politically.

Ultimately, this is going to be a question for Richard Burr, the chairman of the committee, Mark Warner,the vice chairman. Both of them would not say explicitly whether or not that specific report will come out before November.

But they do plan to put forward some other narrowly targeted reports, including how the Obama administration dealt with Russia meddling back in 2016. But on this key issue of collusion, it appears that it would be something of a sticking point. It may be not resolved at least before November -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Manu, thank you, Manu Raju with the latest up on Capitol Hill.

Joining us now, Congressman Eric Swalwell. He is a Democrat. He serves on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

And let me get to the issue of collusion.

Legally, all the legal experts suggest it isn't necessarily a crime, so how do you reach a definition that members of both parties can agree on/

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA: Great question, Wolf.

And the way I see it is, you have to separate this from what you can prove beyond a reasonable doubt -- that is Bob Mueller's job -- and just general collusion, which is offensive and concerning.

I have seen plenty of evidence of collusion. You don't need to be a lawyer. You don't need to have access to classified information. When the Russians conducted hacking and then they offered to preview the proceeds of the hacking to Trump family members, Trump campaign numbers, Trump business associates, and the Trump team moves heaven and earth to take those meetings, doesn't tell a single law enforcement official in the world about them, and then the candidate goes on stage and says, Russia, please, do more, to me, they were eager to work with the Russians.

Now, what all that amounted to, that's Bob Mueller job. And I hope we allow him to do that job, so he can tell the American people as soon as possible.

BLITZER: Yesterday, the president accused the Mueller investigation of meddling in the midterm elections. And now Rudy Giuliani just gave us some more context.

Would Robert Mueller risk unduly influencing the midterm elections if he were to release his report, let's say, after September, the timeline the president and his defenders are pushing?

SWALWELL: No, Wolf. And he should do all he can to just follow the evidence and tell the

American people what he's found as soon as he has found it. We have certainly seen in the past that when you consider the political consequences, whether you're intending to interfere with a political election or not, that it could be perceived that way.

But, boy, does this sound familiar from the president, suggesting that the election is going to be rigged. This is what he said back in 2016. It got in the head of the Obama administration officials. I think they were a little gun-shy about telling the American people what the Russians were doing.

And the Russians were able to do more. I hope, if there is meddling from the Russians this time, that our intelligence leaders identify it and attribute it to the Russians immediately, and not to worry that you're playing into the hands of this president's obstructive objective, which is to just stop the Mueller investigation.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the recordings seized in the Michael Cohen radio in New York.

How relevant are these tapes potentially to understanding President Trump's actions and the actions of the people around him?


SWALWELL: Very relevant, Wolf.

I think it shows what we have all known, which is that the president and Michael Cohen are shadowy operators. I don't think most Americans give a rip about what the president did in his personal life.

But if he did act this way with respect to his business deals or he has acted this way in the past with Russians that he has worked with, especially while they were interfering in our elections, that's something we would want to know.

Thankfully, the Department of Justice is using their subpoena power to obtain this evidence. But I still hope that the Senate, as you alluded to earlier, that they're using their subpoena power, because the House Republicans wouldn't use our subpoena power to look into these types of communications, bank records, and travel records.

It's all knowable. And if you're interested in knowing, we can tell the American people and we will better protect us, I think, in the future.

BLITZER: As you know, Stormy Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, is drumming up a lot of attention, a lot of drama around all of this.

Do you worry, though, that that potentially makes it more difficult for Americans to understand the facts?

SWALWELL: Yes, Wolf, I don't think that Michael Avenatti should be able to reach into an ongoing criminal investigation, just as I don't think that Devin Nunes should be able to reach into an ongoing criminal investigation, as he and Trey Gowdy and others were trying to do just a few weeks ago.

The law enforcement investigation is paramount to any other legal proceeding. And so we should let the police examine the evidence that they obtained, and then use that in the way that they need to.

And, of course, when due time comes, they can use that in the civil proceedings.

But I don't think anyone should and obstruct or reach into any ongoing criminal investigation.

BLITZER: "The New York Times" reporting that, last year, President Trump actually asked his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russian investigation.

Do you believe that potentially could be obstruction of justice?

SWALWELL: I do, Wolf.

And many people who defend the president will say, well, how could he be so stupid to do this over and over? How could he be so stupid to admit that he obstructed by firing James Comey and telling Lester Holt? How could he be so stupid to invite the Russians to hack?

And I go back and forth on whether he's just so careless and reckless in the way that he does this or whether he is so bold and he believes that nobody is going to stop him. He has Republicans in Congress who has given him nothing but green lights. And he figures he will just keep pushing the boundaries.

Well, we're not helpless. Whether he's careless or whether he is bold, we certainly have a Constitution to protect. And it's time for Republicans and Democrats to unite as he continues to obstruct justice in broad daylight.

BLITZER: The president once again today had some ugly words about his attorney general. He announced today he wishes had picked a different attorney general to begin with.

So, why do you think he simply hasn't fired Jeff Sessions?

SWALWELL: It's the public sentiment, Wolf.

It's the people who have spoken up who don't normally follow politics who are writing their congressmen and senators and asking them to protect the Mueller investigation.

And he knows that if he were to fire Jeff Sessions, I don't think he would be able to get an attorney general through the Senate, at least not one that he would like. He wants somebody who's going to be a loyalist to him, not somebody who's going to be a loyalist to our Constitution.

So I don't really give him much credit here. I think he's been backed into a corner. But I do think that his efforts to try and shame Attorney General Sessions does amount to obstruction, and that it is being looked at by the special counsel, that he does this at public press conferences.

He does this at public rallies, and he's doing it on Twitter. It seems like he's trying to make Jeff Sessions do something that he knows he can't, which is to resign.

BLITZER: Congressman Eric Swalwell, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

SWALWELL: Of course. My pleasure.

BLITZER: Just ahead: Is the president waiting to see what Robert Mueller does before he fires Jeff Sessions?

We're going to talk about that and also what about the president's response to the Roseanne firestorm. Why is the man who refuses to apologize now expecting an apology?



BLITZER: Breaking tonight, a new explanation by the Trump team of the president's newest conspiracy theory about the special counsel, Robert Mueller, that he will meddle in the midterm elections.

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani talking to reporters outside the White House just a little while ago.

Let's bring in our political and legal analysts.

And, Gloria, I want to play for you and for our viewers what Giuliani just said.


QUESTION: How is Robert Mueller meddling in the midterms?


QUESTION: The president said he's going to meddle in the midterms.


Well, if he doesn't -- if he doesn't file his report by September 1, mid-September, he's clearly (OFF-MIKE)

QUESTION: So, will he fire him if he doesn't file the report by September 1?

GIULIANI: I don't think he's going to fire Mueller. Mueller is -- he's creating his own problems.


BLITZER: He basically says September 1 is the deadline for Mueller to react with his report. If he waits, that would be meddling in the midterm elections. What do you think?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, think he's stirring the pot here, Wolf.

First of all, he's raising the issue of meddling again. Don't forget, the Trump team and the Mueller team have been talking for how many months about presidential testimony? I mean, and what he's doing is, he's putting pressure on Mueller now to say, don't pull a Comey, meaning don't release any report or do anything close to the election, because then you will be as bad as Comey.

But they are the ones who have been sort of stretching this out about the question of presidential testimony.


So, he's trying to apply pressure to Mueller on the one hand, and also to raise this issue for the base, which is, uh-oh, Mueller is a bad guy. He's like Comey. He's going to try and hurt Trump by doing something close to the election, which, of course, anyone who knows the way Robert Mueller operates knows that he would not have done what Comey did during the election, that he would have handled it very differently.

BLITZER: I assume you agree, Susan Hennessey, that Mueller is going to do what he's got to do, but he's sensitive to the fact that there are midterm elections coming up?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. So, I think Gloria's right.

Giuliani is trying to create sort of an external deadline, an external expectation, so that if anything happens after this date, they can claim that it's illegitimate.

Now, there are DOJ guidelines that say that investigators shouldn't take significant investigative steps close to an election. Mueller is likely to sort of take that under advisement.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that that might hold related to a report that Mueller might issue, but there's a lot of things in terms of the timing that Mueller is not in control of here.

There are ongoing court cases where judges and defendants actually get a say as well.

BORGER: Right.

HENNESSEY: So, even if he was inclined to not necessarily release something like a major report, there might still be information coming out very close to the midterm.

BLITZER: This is not a congressional committee who has got to release a report. This is a federal prosecutor, Robert Mueller. Giuliani also didn't rule out, Ryan Lizza, the possibility of the president eventually firing his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Comes after "The New York Times" reported that last year the president actually called Jeff Sessions down to Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach in Florida, to try to get Sessions to un-recuse himself, if that's a word, un-recuse himself from the Russia investigation.


BLITZER: Why is the president so obsessed, so angry at Sessions for having done the right thing and recusing himself?

RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Because his view of what the attorney general should be is a protector of the president's.

I don't think this is correct. But I think he viewed Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch as somehow protecting Barack Obama. He views Robert Kennedy as the sort of protector of JFK. That is what he went into the presidency with very limited knowledge of how Washington works.

That was how he viewed this guy Sessions. This was his right-hand man. This was someone who believed in Donald Trump way before any other Republican politicians did. Remember, I think he was the first Republican senator to endorse Trump.

So, he believed that Sessions was going to play this role of insulating him from any legal jeopardy. And, boom, right in the beginning of his White House tenure, he takes himself out of the investigation that is now a mortal threat to his presidency.

So, this has seized Donald Trump since day one. And I think, at some point, he will have a reckoning with Sessions over it.

BLITZER: He recused himself after all the ethics advisers at the Justice Department said he had no choice, he had to do so, given his role during the campaign.

Joey Jackson, could this potentially be seen as obstruction of justice, the president trying to convince Sessions to un-recuse himself?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, it depends upon who you ask.

And if you ask any Democrat, they are going to say absolutely. If you after Republican, they're going to say nonsense. So let's start with the definition of obstruction.

If we're talking about corrupt intent, we're talking about willfully impairing, impeding and otherwise stamping upon an investigation, you can make a credible argument, if you're a Democrat, that that's, of course, what he was doing.

You want a person in control, so you can drive the narrative. You want somebody there who you know, who you trust, who has endorsed you and who means you no harm. And to the extent that you're controlling that person, and to the extent that they're going to do your bidding, you are obstructing federal process. You're obstructing an investigation.

Now let me turn to be a Republican. The fact of the matter is that the president has Article 2 powers. Those powers say that you serve at my pleasure, and I have a right if I'm the president to appoint people with whom I'm comfortable, with whom I believe can do a job effectively. That's why I appointed you in the first place.

Those will be the narratives. And as long as the Republicans control the votes in the House to thwart impeachment proceedings and the Senate, if there are impeachment articles voted to not convict the president, 67 sixty senators needed to convict, that's going to be the narrative that you see.

And so that's what it's based upon.

BORGER: And the president's lawyers will point out that this meeting with Sessions took place before Mueller was even appointed, and so that the president wasn't just -- this was pre-special counsel, so their argument is, you want to talk about obstruction. Well, how can you do that?

This is even before there was a special counsel, that he just felt betrayed by his good friend and was letting him know it.

LIZZA: Well, but can't -- he could have taken actions pre-Mueller that obstructed the initial investigation, right? Mueller was appointed himself...

BORGER: Yes. He could have. Yes. I'm just saying this is their argument.


LIZZA: Fair enough. Fair enough.

BORGER: I'm just saying this is their argument.

BLITZER: Let me get to another development that's unfolding right now.

Ben Rhodes, he was President Obama's deputy national security adviser. He's got a new book coming out in the coming days, "The World As It Is."

"The New York Times" has some excerpts from the book.

[18:30:12] Let me do a couple of quotes what he writes about President Obama ruminating about the Trump win and the election. Quote, "Maybe this is what people want. I've got the economy set up well for him. No facts, no consequences. They can just have a cartoon." And then President Obama adds, quote, "We're about to find out just how resilient our institutions are at home and around the world."

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm expecting a tweet from Donald Trump on this at any -- at any given moment.

The quote about the resiliency of the institutions seems to me to be very prescient, actually. Because what we -- what we saw in Donald Trump was a candidate who ran against institutions, and he remains a candidate [SIC] who attacks institutions. The institution, FBI, the Justice Department, Congress, you name it. And he remains that way.


BORGER: And the press, right. And he remains that way. And so I think what Obama was saying there really makes a lot of sense right now.

BLITZER: We look forward to having Ben Rhodes on the show when the book comes out.

Guys, thanks very much.

Just ahead, is the Trump White House trying to distract from the Roseanne controversy after the president failed to condemn her racist tweets?

And what's on the agenda as the secretary of state gets ready to meet with a North Korean spymaster and power player who's here in the United States tonight?


[18:36:17] BLITZER: So there's more breaking news tonight. The White House insists President Trump is not defending Roseanne Barr, whose racist tweet led to her series on television being cancelled. The president weighed in on the controversy in a tweet of his own today and inserted himself right into the uproar.

Let's dig deeper with CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter; "CNN TONIGHT" anchor Don Lemon; and CNN contributor Nischelle Turner.

Don, President Trump couldn't help himself but weigh in on Roseanne Barr. This is what tweeted. Quote, "Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that ABC does not tolerate comments like those made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the horrible statements made and said about me at ABC. Maybe I just didn't get the call."

Can the president really expect any apologies when he refuses to give apologies himself?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: No, he can't expect an apology. I mean, he could but, I mean, it's not realistic. But what is realistic about much of what this president does?

It just -- it just shows you that it's all about him. Instead of addressing this situation and trying to raise a level of conversation, instead of uniting people, he is making it all about him. "But what about me? What about me? Why didn't you do it for me?" You would think that the person who's in the highest office of the

land would be bigger than that and would know the grandness of this office, but instead I don't think it helped him it all. I just think it -- it just shows the selfishness of his nature.

BLITZER: Brian, what are the dynamics here with ABC's parent company Disney and Bob Iger?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this part is really interesting, because Iger seriously thought about running for president last year. He talked to his friends and financiers about mounting a campaign against Trump in 2020. Now, Iger eventually decided not to go ahead with that. He renewed his contract at Disney. But I think that's one of the subtexts of this tweet today, Wolf, that President Trump is taking aim at Iger directly, saying that Iger is, essentially, a bad guy.

Now what Trump is doing and what Barr, they're both doing the same thing on Twitter today. They're both playing into the idea of grievance politics or resentment politics. They're saying to their supporters, "Hey, there are these powerful forces that are out to get me. I'm the real victim here."

Trump's doing it by saying that "ABC apologized to Jarrett but not to me." Barr is doing it by retweeting dozens and dozens of her fans who are all saying versions of the same thing: that she's the victim of a liberal media double standard.

Now, I think that's a bunch of bull, but it's a very powerful, emotional feeling. This is a victimhood idea that we see a lot of in the Trump age. They are both portraying themselves as the victim.

BLITZER: Nischelle, I want you to listen to how the White House spun the president's tweet today. Listen to this.


SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president's simply calling out the media bias. No one is defending what she said. The president is the president of all Americans, and he's focused on doing what is best for our country.


BLITZER: What do you think? You buy that?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Short answer, no, with some context. I think that as we've seen a pattern kind of form over the past, what, 18 months of the Trump administration, when they don't really have a defense, they go to the easy target, which is the media.

LEMON: Right.

TURNER: And they go to, you know, "This is the leftist media or the elitist Hollywood people, and they're biased against us." So that's kind of default, so I almost expected something like that. But no, I don't buy it at all. I think that it's a very interesting

tactic by Sarah Sanders. I think it gets her out of a tough spot, because she doesn't really have to address this issue. She punts it again and just says, well, this president, he's trying to be good for the entire country. But I didn't see a tweet that addressed something that would be good for the entire country, and that would be calling out racism, denouncing it, debunking it and bringing people together.

[18:40:07] BLITZER: Yes, good point.

LEMON: There you go, Nischelle. Instead of that, Wolf, we're talking about this instead of talking about exactly what this should be about, and that's how do we deal with racism in this country?

BLITZER: And you pointed out, Don, that the irony of Roseanne Barr's own disrespect of our national anthem. And now we're getting new details on how the president influenced the NFL's new policy on protests during the anthem.

"The Wall Street Journal" reporting that, in sworn deposition, for example, the Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones described this phone call with the president, and I'll read it. Quote, "This is a very winning, strong issue for me. Tell everybody you can't win this one. This one lifts me up."

And the owner of the Miami Dolphins said in his own deposition the president's conversations with different owners were brought up in a league meeting, and he thought the president changed the whole dialogue. So what do you make of that?

LEMON: That it's all about a game for this president. It's all about a win for him instead of, again, what's best for the country. And it shows that he is trying to shift the conversation away from exactly what it is, and it's what those NFL players were taking a knee for. Their right as Americans to take a knee for that. That we don't have to stand and have some pretend patriotism.

And so he's turning the conversation, again, as I said in my first answer, back to him. Back to what is a win for him. And I mean, it just shows you that he doesn't really have, when it comes to this issue, the best interests of the heart -- of the country at heart or of people in general at heart. It's all about him.

And I think his supporters, even his supporters and even the NFL owners and even the people who support him on this issue should see through that. Why doesn't he see it as a bigger issue than something that's all about him? And why --

TURNER: But he knows they don't.

LEMON: Why is he involving himself in a business, right, and try -- and hurting the NFL, which is a business? Which contributes to the economy, which are jobs and on and on.

BLITZER: Nischelle, go ahead. You want to make a point?

TURNER: I'm sorry for jumping in.

LEMON: That's all right.

TURNER: I was just wanting to -- you know, on what Don was saying, the reason they don't -- he knows that his supporters don't see through it. So that's why this continues. I mean, Brian was talking about them playing the game of grievance politics.


TURNER: But in this case I really feel like they're playing the game of identity politics.


TURNER: And they know that this is an issue that is very divisive for the country. He saw the polling. He knew that the majority of the country were on the side of they felt like that the players were disrespecting the national anthem or the flag, which of course, that wasn't what this began as at all. But everyone has flipped it, and he's flipped it; and he's, like, played the Jedi mind trick on so many people and they bought it. So he knows that the can play this game and that he's going to continue to win it.

LEMON: And Nischelle -- and Nischelle, back to Wolf's original point. When you look at -- you know, I brought up the issue of Roseanne and the national anthem. If that wasn't disrespectful, then what was? And the same people, the same supporters, the same people who look down on the NFL players or think the NFL players are disrespecting the flag and the anthem, they are on Roseanne's side and they -- you know, they're wanting to agree with her and they want to lift her up. Why the hypocrisy? Why the double standard her?

And the president is doing the same thing, as well.

BLITZER: You know, Brian, I want -- why don't you weigh in, Brian, on what when he heard from Don, the president so involved in pressuring private company -- these private companies?


BLITZER: Have you ever seen something like that?

STELTER: It's definitely a very unusual situation. And different companies respond in different ways.

We talked a lot about Starbucks yesterday. Not an example of a president -- responding to a president, but Starbucks was trying to be on the right side of history. Trying to take action in support of inclusiveness and tolerance. Disney doing the same thing by cancelling "Roseanne."

But then the NFL is a completely different example, right? The NFL, you could argue, they're not taking a step forward. They might be taking a step backwards by changing the policy.

So it's interesting. We don't see everything moving in the same direction.

With regards to the president pressuring companies, well, look what happened today with ABC. Bob Iger is one of the most powerful CEOs in world. The president targeted him on Twitter, and Iger's just ignored it. Iger hasn't said a word. Sometimes these companies believe they can just lay low and let it pass and wait for the president to find another target.

BLITZER: Good conversation, guys. Thanks very much for that.


BLITZER: Don't forget, later tonight, Don Lemon's 10 p.m. show, "CNN TONIGHT." Important viewing for all of our viewers.

Don, we'll see you at 10 p.m. Eastern later tonight.

Breaking news: a top North Korean official is about to meet with the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in New York City. Can they salvage the Trump-Kim summit?


[18:49:25] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: More breaking news, a senior North Korean official is in New York City tonight to dine with the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as the Trump administration works to salvage the summit June 12th with Kim Jong-un in Singapore. We'd just seen the secretary, by the way, arriving, along with U.S. negotiators for this important meeting.

Let's go our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto. He's also in New York covering all of this.

Jim, Kim Yong Chul is the highest ranking North Korean official to visit the United States in almost two decades.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: And we're still now waiting for his arrival here.

[18:50:01] We saw Secretary Pompeo arrive just moments ago.

And when you think about this, Wolf, this is truly a remarkable face to face meeting. Kim Yong Chul, believed by the U.S. to be responsible, not just for the hack of Sony North Korea, but also for the sinking of a South Korean Navy ship in 2012 that killed 46 South Korean sailors. So, this is a man who was long time head of North Korea's intelligence services. Now, he is in charge of negotiations between the North and South.

But someone who's been at the tip of the spear as it were between some of the most aggressive actions by North Korea, not just against South Korea but against the U.S. as well. Now, he's sitting across the former director of the CIA, Secretary Pompeo, now the secretary of state, discussing the possibility of something even more momentous, a meeting never been seen before between the U.S. president and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The hope here they can iron out enough details here in New York so

that that June 12th meeting or soon after, that planned meeting in Singapore can take place. Here at the order of events, as we know them, Wolf, tonight, they're going to have dinner, they plan to meet twice more tomorrow morning, much to discuss not just the details and logistics of a presidential summit but also the key issues of negotiation primarily denuclearization by North Korea.

BLITZER: We've been showing our viewers some video. Kim Yong-chol getting in his car and driving over to this dinner. What's at stake at this important dinner meeting tonight?

SCIUTTO: Well, you know, it's interesting. Secretary Pompeo tweeted earlier today, saying he was looking forward to meeting Mr. Kim, but he also had language in there which in effect lays out the U.S. position, that the U.S. is looking for complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization by North Korea. To take some wiggle room out of it as it were because we've heard some statements, some signals from North Korea that perhaps the U.S. and North Korea have different definitions of what denuclearization will be.

Now, this administration, President Trump himself has even left open the possibility that that denuclearization would not happen in a day. It can't happen in a day, but that perhaps it will be over time, that that is something the U.S. would agree to. But at least the goal as laid out by Secretary Pompeo now preparing to meet with the North Korean negotiator in this building behind me laid out in very clear terms the U.S. expects something that is complete and it cannot be turned around. That's quite a high bar for the success of these negotiations.

BLITZER: Certainly is. Jim Sciutto is in New York covering these important talks for us, thank you very much.

And just ahead the Parkland, Florida, school shooter details his plot to kill in his own words. It's a CNN exclusive.


[18:57:37] BLITZER: Now a CNN exclusive. The Parkland, Florida, high school gunman detailing his plot to kill in a transcript now obtained by CNN.

CNN's Brian Todd covered the shooting for us in Florida. He's working the story for us.

Brian, some chilling new details in this transcript.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chilling and very distressing, Wolf. CNN has obtained transcripts of three cell phone videos recorded by shooter Nikolas Cruz where he lays out in horrifying details what he plans to do. His cellphone taking into evidence after the February 14 shooting. Authorities have not said exactly when these videos were recorded.

In the videos, Cruz says, quote: Hello, my name is Nick and I'm going to be the next school shooter of 2018. My goal is at least 20 people with an AR-15 and a couple of tracer rounds. He says, quote, it's going to be a big event and when you see me on the news, you'll all know who I am.

And more detail. He says, quote: So here's the plan. I'm going to take Uber in the afternoon before 2:40. From there, I'll go onto the school campus, walk up the stairs, unload my bags and get my AR and shoot people down at the man -- what is it -- the main courtyard, wait, and people will die.

Quote, today is the day, the day it all begins. The day of my massacre shall begin. All these kids at school will run and fear and hide from the wrath of my power, they will know who I am.

Here's another part of the transcript, quote: You're all going to die, Cruz says. Then he appears to make shooting sounds. Then, he says, quote, ah, can't wait. He ends the video laughing.

Cruz killed 14 students and three adults, targeting victims on the first and second floors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He wounded 17 others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You've gotten a response from one of the fathers of one of the victims.

TODD: That's right, Wolf. Our colleagues Diane Gallagher and Meredith Edwards, well, they got an exclusive interview with Andrew Pollack, the father of Meadow Pollack who was killed in the shooting. Andrew Pollack has read the transcript but not seen the video.

Here he is.


ANDREW POLLACK, FATHER OF PARKLAND VICTIM MEADOW POLLACK: He knew what he was doing. He planned it. What time he was going to go, who was going to take him. And so, a premeditated murder. So, I don't see how they're going to want to claim insanity or he didn't know what he was doing, because these 18, 19, 58 knew what he was doing that day.

He was taking a call there, he was going to set up his weapon, he was going to start shooting them, and he was going to be laughing while he was doing it. He laughed in this video and he just planned how he was going to go floor to floor and shoot these -- shoot my daughter and shot her nine times.


TODD: Obviously very emotional and just horrible, Wolf.

BLITZER: Indeed. All right. Terrible, I would say.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.