Return to Transcripts main page

STATE OF THE UNION

Mueller Set to Deliver Trump-Russia Report; Crisis in Venezuela; North Korea Summit; Interview With Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; North Korea Summit, Mueller, Cohen And Border Fight Loom Over Trump; 2020 Democrats Weigh In On Violent Venezuela Clashes; Sean Spicer As New Correspondent With "Extra" In This Week's "State of the Cartoonion". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 24, 2019 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:19]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Rogue regimes. President Trump prepares for his second summit with Kim Jong-un.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Everything is on the table.

TAPPER: Under pressure for tangible success, as deadly violence breaks out in Venezuela and the embattled president digs in for a fight. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joins us to discuss next.

Plus: waiting for Mueller. The special counsel is about to hand in his report, and House Democrats are already demanding the public be able to see it. Should President Trump be worried about Mueller's findings?

TRUMP: There was no collusion.

TAPPER: Two former Justice Department insiders break down the latest.

And getting in the game. The president has a new high-profile challenger. And Bernie Sanders says, this time will be different.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win.

TAPPER: As aides say President Trump isn't going to jut sit back and watch.

TRUMP: They are becoming the party of socialism.

TAPPER: The president's new strategy to cause chaos and divide the Democrats.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is eating our Wheaties and preparing for a wild week ahead. This could prove to be one of the most consequential weeks in the Trump presidency, which is saying something.

President Trump is preparing to leave for his second summit with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, an attempt to get North Korea to denuclearize and get himself a Nobel Peace Prize.

With the president abroad, his former fixer, Michael Cohen, will be testifying publicly before the House Oversight Committee.

Also this as the Trump administration is facing an urgent foreign policy crisis in Venezuela. The Maduro government's efforts to block delivery of humanitarian aid this weekend led to violence and reportedly at least five deaths.

The country's president, Nicolas Maduro, vows to remain in power, despite international calls for him to step down.

Tomorrow, Vice President Pence will meet with opposition leader and self-declared President Juan Guaido, to reiterate U.S. support.

And joining me right now is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Secretary Pompeo, thanks so much for being here.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Jake, it's great to be with you. Thanks for having me on the show this morning.

TAPPER: So, I want to start with the situation in Venezuela, because it's really dire right now. Yesterday, you said -- quote -- The U.S. will take action against those who oppose the peaceful restoration of democracy in Venezuela."

Exactly what action are you prepared to take?

POMPEO: So, yesterday was a tragic day, multiple deaths, but mostly a tyrant who denied food for hungry people and medicine to those who were sick.

There's talk about four or five deaths yesterday, but the truth is, there have been hundreds and hundreds starved to death by Maduro.

America's policy has been very clear. We have supported the Venezuelan people. We will continue to do that. There will be a meeting of the Lima Group on Monday where further action will be contemplated. There's more sanctions to be had. There's more humanitarian assistance, I think, that we can provide.

I think we will find other ways to make sure that food gets to the people who need it. And we will. We will ultimately, I believe, and the Venezuelan people will, ultimately, I believe, hold accountable those who have done so much harm to the fundamental basic rights of the people of Venezuela.

TAPPER: I want to give you this opportunity to respond to some of the criticism that U.S. foreign policy in Venezuela is facing.

There are many in the international community, including your former ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, who are calling for calm, who are calling for tensions to be defused.

Jacobson is now publicly questioning in an interview in "The Washington Post" whether the Trump administration is actually trying to calm things. And you know that there are some humanitarian groups who suggest that the U.S. is using humanitarian aid as a way to force regime change, as a political tool.

What's your response?

POMPEO: This aid went in, Jake, at the request of the legitimate president of Venezuela. He said, please bring food to my people. Please bring medicine to the sick who are here.

That's what we have been working on these past few weeks. The American taxpayers provided several hundred metric tons of food, supplied medical kits, hygiene kits that we delivered to Brazil and to Curacao and to Colombia, trying to get it to the place that it is so desperately needed.

That was our objective yesterday. It's our objective today. It will be our objective tomorrow as well.

TAPPER: What do you say to the skeptics who say, look, in the past the United States, not the Trump administration, but the United States has tried to smuggle arms into countries through the guise of humanitarian aid?

And, in fact, the Trump administration's envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, was involved in a scheme like that during the time of Nicaragua and the Contras. And they're skeptical. They say, how do we know this is just humanitarian aid?

POMPEO: It's just humanitarian aid.

TAPPER: So, I want to ask you...

POMPEO: Take the pictures. Look at the videos.

It was USAID-marked. By the way, there were other countries. European countries assisted. We're very appreciative of Canada. The Colombians were fantastic. They took real risk yesterday.

[09:05:03]

This is a serious effort to address a very, very serious need.

TAPPER: Another item of skepticism in the region, Maduro said yesterday that Guaido is a puppet of the White House. And he's said in the past that the United States wants to exploit Venezuela's as oil.

And skeptics point to a statement from National Security Adviser John Bolton last month, when he said -- quote -- "It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies really invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela." How much does Venezuela's oil reserves, oil capabilities factor into what the United States is doing in Venezuela?

POMPEO: We're aimed at a singular mission, ensuring that the Venezuelan people get the democracy that they so richly deserved, and that the Cubans and the Russians, who have been driving this country into the ground for years and years and years, no longer hold sway.

We have -- we have asked the military. We saw what happened yesterday. These were mostly colectivos, random groups, gangs, if you will, that conducted these activities yesterday at the border crossings.

We have asked the military, take -- take back -- take back the role that you have had in protecting your citizens. It's what the acting -- the acting leader, Maduro, doesn't understand. It's what Mr. Guaido does understand. These basic rights for the Venezuelan people are important.

We hope that the Venezuelan military will take that role back of protecting their citizens from these tragedies. And, if that happens, I think good things will happen, including the restoration of the wealth that was created by those oil fields that you spoke up.

TAPPER: But it seems as though Maduro is not going anywhere near this plan, that he's holding onto power, and the military seems to be staying with him, at least the military leaders.

POMPEO: It always seems that way, until the day it doesn't.

I remember, when I was a young soldier patrolling the then East German border. No one predicted on that day in 1989 that that wall would come crumbling down. Predictions are difficult. Picking exact days are difficult.

I am confident that the Venezuelan people will ensure that Maduro's days are numbered.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the summit on Wednesday with North Korea.

Vice President Pence just said a few weeks ago -- quote -- "We still await concrete steps by North Korea to dismantle the nuclear weapons."

Researchers at Stanford University, as you know, estimate that North Korea added about seven nuclear weapons last year.

What does North Korea need to do at this summit, what do they need to pledge to do for you to consider it a success?

POMPEO: You have to go back to where we entered this in the Trump administration to think about the path forward.

We have always known this would take time and it would be a step forward, and slower than the world has demanded, right? This is a U.N. Security Council resolution that we're attempting to achieve by getting North Korea fully denuclearized. We started when the Obama administration had a policy, which was

essentially test, pray and cower, right? Let them test missiles, let them test nuclear weapons, pray they stop, and cower when the North Koreans made a threat.

TAPPER: Well, they did sanction also.

POMPEO: Not remotely what this administration has done. And they didn't build out a coalition, an enormous global coalition we built out through the United Nations, to put that pressure in place to allow us to begin to have what have been real negotiations over the past now six or seven months.

I'm hopeful that, when President Trump and Chairman Kim get together, they will make a big step towards realizing what Chairman Kim promised. He promised he would denuclearize. We hope he will make a big step towards that in the week ahead.

TAPPER: So, what would a big step be? What's the -- what's the kind of pledge that they need to do?

I mean, last summit, it was nice, and the remains of U.S. service members were brought back to United States, but there wasn't any concrete step in terms of denuclearization.

POMPEO: I concur.

Look, we have got work to do on the denuclearization pillar. We have got remains back. We have had testing stopped. Those are all good things. Tension along the border is reduced, if you ask the military leaders, frankly, on both sides, from South and Korea North Korea. Tensions are reduced up.

There are many things he could do to demonstrate his commitment to denuclearization. Our negotiating team was on the ground the last three days. And they will be on the ground again today. I will be there tomorrow to continue these discussions.

There are -- I don't want to get into the details of what's being proposed, what the offers and counteroffers may be. But a real step, a demonstrable, verifiable step is something that I know President Trump is very focused on achieving.

TAPPER: So tensions in the peninsula have alleviated, but your successor, CIA Director Gina Haspel, told Congress -- Congress last month that North Korea is -- quote -- "committed to developing a long- range nuclear armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States."

And President Trump after the last summit said -- he tweeted -- quote -- "There is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

Does he still believe there's no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea, even though Gina Haspel, the CIA director, says North Korea is committed to creating this missile to hit the United States?

POMPEO: Having been the CIA director not too terribly long ago...

TAPPER: Yes.

POMPEO: ... I'm very familiar with the fact pattern.

We do know the history. We know the history of the North Koreans making promises and making commitments, lying, taking American money, when President Clinton said,we have got this resolved back in 1994.

This administration is not going to do that. We -- we have charted a different path. Frankly, we have been criticized for taking that path, where we work, we negotiate, and then the two people who can actually effectuate the denuclearization of North Korea and a brighter future for the North Korean people will gather for a second time.

[09:10:01]

We have economic sanctions in place. We know the standard for relieving those sanctions. And I'm very hopeful that we will make a substantial step towards achieving the full denuclearization in a verifiable way in North Korea.

The South Koreans, the Japanese have been great partners in this, and we're very hopeful we can get a good outcome.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Do you -- do you think North Korea remains a nuclear threat?

POMPEO: Yes.

TAPPER: But the president said he doesn't.

POMPEO: That's not what he said.

I mean, I know -- I know precisely...

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: He tweeted: "There's no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

(CROSSTALK)

POMPEO: Right. What -- what he said is that the -- what he said was that the efforts that had been made in Singapore, this commitment that Chairman Kim, may have substantially taken down the risk to the American people.

It's the mission of the secretary of state and the president of the United States to keep the American people secure. We're aiming to achieve that.

TAPPER: OK. I mean, that's just a direct quote, but I want to move on. Just a few days ago, you said sanctions against North Korea won't be lifted until -- quote -- "We're confident that we have substantially reduced that risk," the risk of a nuclear attack.

But that standard, a substantial reduction of risk, it seems different from what you said just last June. Take -- take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, June 13, 2018)

POMPEO: We're going to get complete denuclearization, and only then will there be relief from the sanctions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, I guess the question is, has the Trump administration changed the conditions for sanction relief from complete denuclearization, as you said in that clip, to substantial reduction of risk?

POMPEO: No, Jake, there's no change.

Remember, these sanctions cover a broad array of activities. The core economic sanctions, the sanctions that prevent countries from conducting trade, creating wealth for North Korea, those sections are definitely going to remain in place.

There are other things we could do, exchanges of people, lots of other ways that North Korea is sanctioned today, that, if we get a substantial step and move forward, we could certainly provide an outlet which would demonstrate our commitment to the process as well.

TAPPER: So it's kind of a sliding scale, substantial reduction, some sanctions are relieved, but not all, and then complete denuclearization, more sanctions are relieved? Is that right?

POMPEO: Jake, remember, the -- the core sanctions, the core U.N. Security Council resolution sanctions, we have said consistently full verified denuclearization, that's the standard for relieving those sections. That policy has not changed since -- I think since the day President Trump took office.

TAPPER: Take a listen to what the president's director of national intelligence said just last month about the threat from North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN COATS, U.S. DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently assess that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: How do you convince Kim to give up something that he thinks is critical to his regime's survival? What is the United States offering that's better than that?

POMPEO: We have made it very plain to Chairman Kim the alternative to giving up his nuclear weapons is remaining a pariah state, remaining a nation that is unable to trade, unable to grow, unable to take care of its own people.

We have made the argument that it would be far better, far better for Chairman Kim himself, his senior leadership, all of the people for North Korea. We have also shared with him that we are happy to make sure that North Korea's security assurances -- they're worried about China, that the security assurances that they need can be provided in a way that is reasonable.

And we have also told them there will be -- there will be real opportunities, that countries from around the world will come, make his economy one that looks more like South Korea's economy than the one that exists in North Korea today.

Those are the kinds of things. I have had these conversations. I have been with Chairman Kim, I think, more hours now than anybody, including Dennis Rodman.

(LAUGHTER)

POMPEO: We have had these conversations now over an extended period.

And what Senator Coats, what Director Coats said is the history, and we're hoping to move forward and change that history fundamentally.

TAPPER: North Korea wants the United States to end the declaration of war, of the Korean War. Is that on the table for the summit?

POMPEO: Talked about a lot of things, Jake. I would just before not to get into where the negotiations may stand today.

TAPPER: I want to ask you about Russia, because, earlier this month, the United States announced it was pulling out of the Intermediate- Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.

In the wake of that treaty's cancellation, Vladimir Putin this week threatened to respond to any new U.S. missiles in Europe with missiles of its own pointed at the United States.

I didn't -- I haven't heard any response from the United States government about that, but that seemed like a fairly threat -- a dire threat.

POMPEO: Lots of bluster out of Moscow, for sure.

I think that bluster is aimed at covering up the core challenge, right? He was talking about America's decision to withdraw from the INF Treaty, which covers mid-range, intermediate-range missile systems.

The Russians violated that treaty. There were only really two parties to the treaty. The Russians violated. It made no sense for the American people to suffer under the constraints of that treaty, given that the Russians had decided they weren't going to continue to adhere to its constraints.

And now it's time to figure out how to move forward, to come up with a solution that the Russians will actually live by. Vladimir Putin chose not to do that. His bluster is aimed at trying to convince the world, to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe, when everyone's fully on board.

[09:15:06]

The Europeans were fully supportive of our decision. And we will move forward together in ensuring the security of the United States people.

TAPPER: One last question for you, sir.

And I know that Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, is a close ally of President Trump, close ally of yours. You just met with him.

Several major Jewish American groups, ones very supportive of Israel, this week condemned Netanyahu for outreach he's conducted to an extreme right-wing -- an extremist group, really, a Jewish group, as he is seeking his fifth term in office. The group is called Otzma Yehudit.

It has its roots in the racist radical Kach party that was banned in Israel. It was just called racist and despicable, this party, by AIPAC.

Does the Trump administration have any concerns about Netanyahu extending outreach to this racist political party?

POMPEO: Jake, the United States' relationship is with Israel. We're not about to get involved in the election, to interfere in an election of a democracy.

Election campaigns are tough. We will allow the Israeli people to sort this out. And I'm confident that, when the election is over, the United States will continue to have a strong, important, very, very deep relationship with Israel that protects the American people and benefits Israel as well.

TAPPER: Is it not the responsibility of an ally of Israel to reach out and say when you think the prime minister is doing something wrong, doing something that violates the values of that relationship and the values of the Jewish state?

POMPEO: This administration has been very vocal when we see human rights violations wherever we find them. Friends, foes, adversaries, allies, we have been very consistent.

We do it in different ways. We do it at different times. We will certainly continue to do that. It's a deep, important tradition of the United States of America. And the Trump administration will continue to do that as well, Jake. TAPPER: That's all the time we have.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, please come back. It was a -- it was great having you here.

(CROSSTALK)

POMPEO: Thank you very much, Jake. I appreciate it.

TAPPER: As the president heads to Hanoi for the summit with Kim Jong- un, Robert Mueller is preparing to file his final report. When will it be delivered? What will it say? What will the public be able to see?

Two former prosecutors join me next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:21:00]

TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.

Special counsel Robert Mueller just filed what could be one of the last major moves of his investigation.

Prosecutors in a new memo slamming former campaign chair Paul Manafort, saying his crimes were bold and that he lacks any remorse.

Top House Democrats, meantime, are already demanding that Attorney General Bill Barr allow the final Mueller report, which is different, to be released publicly.

What we do know will be public, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen's testimony before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

With me to talk about all this, former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, and Lisa Monaco, who served as counsel and chief of staff for Robert Mueller at the FBI. Ultimately, she also worked as a senior official for President Obama.

Preet, let me start with you.

This was Mueller's last real chance to tell us anything about his investigation prior to his actual final report. There were no direct references in this Manafort document to conspiracy between the Trump team and Russia, but some observers did note there were references to the charges that involved Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik, the man with alleged ties to Russian intelligence, with whom Manafort shared polling information during the 2016 campaign.

What do you make of it all?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the most important thing, the takeaway from the document filed in connection with Manafort's sentencing, is that the special counsel team is not happy with Paul Manafort, and they think his crimes were serious. They referred to him as hardened in his interest in committing crimes, that he's incapable of being rehabilitated, and they're looking for a very, very long sentence. So I think that's the main takeaway.

With respect to other issues, and reading between the lines of whether or not there are other things to come, I think we should be careful about that. It is true that, separate from this document, there was an open court proceeding in which Andrew Weissmann of the special counsel team talked about their deep interest in this meeting between Manafort and Mr. Kilimnik, who's also under charges.

But I just want to be very careful about assuming too much, not knowing what other documentation may be forthcoming, what's going to be in the report.

But I think the key thing here is, they think Paul Manafort should go to jail for a very long time.

TAPPER: All right, Lisa, let me ask you, because Mueller was FBI director for 12 years.

LISA MONACO, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right.

TAPPER: You worked under him, closely with him, for eight of those years. You know how he works.

Do you think that Roger Stone was likely the last indictment, and that, ultimately, Mueller, because of the clues he's left out, will or will not provide direct evidence of conspiracy between anybody on the Trump team and Russia?

MONACO: Well, first, I think Preet's caution about predicting too much is wise in this area as well.

And you're right. I worked -- had the privilege to work with Bob Mueller for many years. And what I can tell you about his approach to how he's going to use this report and approach this report is, he's going to be guided by the regulations and his mandate.

And he's going to hew very closely to that. And, very importantly -- and I know this from years of working with him -- whether it's a mundane speech or a very high-profile matter, he's not going to say anything or write anything that he doesn't have absolute support for.

So, you can -- you can bet that this is going to be a very tight report. In terms of final indictments, I think it's -- it's hazardous to predict. It may be the final -- we may not see any other special counsel indictments, although unclear at this point.

But, remember, the special counsel has farmed out a number of matters. Obviously, we're all watching the Southern District activity. But there may well be other matters that have already been farmed out that we're not aware of other to U.S. attorney's offices or that may yet, and that Mueller's report to the attorney general becomes a road map for further indictments of other U.S. attorney's offices. TAPPER: Preet, House Democrats, led by Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler from New York, they're already demanding that Attorney General Bill Barr make the final Mueller report public.

Barr is under no requirement to do so, only to provide something. It could be a summary to Congress. Bottom line, do you think the public is going to see what Mueller puts in the report, with obvious redactions for sources and methods?

[09:25:09]

BHARARA: Yes, I think, ultimately, that will probably happen.

How circuitous a route it will be until we get to that point, it's unclear. As you say, the regulations do not mandate that the attorney general provide any particular kind of information to the Congress, unless it is the case that the attorney general overruled some prosecutive action that the special counsel wanted to take.

That one thing, it's clear from the regulations. But, other than that, there are all sorts of reasons why whatever he gives to Congress, if anything, will have removed from it a variety of pieces of information, including on the basis of classified documents or grand jury information, and also the longstanding policy of the Justice Department to be careful about not saying derogatory things about people who don't get charged.

Some of that information could relate to Donald Trump. Some of that information could relate to his associates or his relatives. It just remains to be seen.

The reason why I have some optimism that we will ultimately see it is that there's so much public interest. And there's -- there's been this long investigation over a period of time, that it would seem odd and unusual if, at the end of the day, we didn't get the gist of what was going on.

TAPPER: It does seem, Lisa, as though a lot of Democrats are pushing for what are called the declinations. That's the things, the matters that Robert Mueller declined to prosecute...

MONACO: Right.

TAPPER: ... because he didn't have compelling enough evidence that he thought that he would be able to win in court. That's what prosecutors always do.

And that might be shady things, things that look weird, Trump Tower meeting, et cetera, but stuff that isn't necessarily criminal. Democrats want that out.

MONACO: So, look, they may well be disappointed, at least initially, right?

I mean, the special counsel regulations provide that the special -- the special counsel has to provide to the attorney general a confidential report laying out prosecution decisions and, as you point out, decisions not to prosecute.

But the special counsel's going to be, I think, also not very showy, consistent with who Mueller is as a man and as a leader. He's not going to put in a lot of sensational pieces that he can't back up.

Now, ultimately, I agree with Preet. The conclusions that he reaches are going to be in the public domain, not least of which because we have Democratic chairmen with subpoena power, and there may well be an oversight fight about getting all of that material.

But, ultimately, I think that does see the light of day, and it becomes the topic of at least oversight hearings.

TAPPER: This will not be the Starr report part two.

MONACO: It won't. And, indeed, the special counsel regulations were drafted in 1999, when I was a young lawyer in the Justice Department, precisely with that in the background, and trying to move away from that type of sensational report.

TAPPER: From, yes, seedy footnotes and the like.

Preet, let's turn to Michael Cohen. Cohen is going to speak next week behind closed doors to the House and the Senate Intelligence Committee, and then in public before the House Oversight Committee.

Sources tell CNN Cohen is not expected to answer questions on topics related to the Mueller investigation.

What do you think he might talk about that could be important?

BHARARA: Well, the House Oversight Committee has made clear, the chairman, that he wants to talk to Michael Cohen about a whole slew of things, including Donald Trump's business practices, including Donald Trump -- Donald Trump's compliance with tax laws, including arrangements that were made to make payoffs before the 2016 election.

Some of those things are the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Southern District of New York. So I think there's going to be a lot of interest in having Michael Cohen talk about things that are damaging and potentially embarrassing to the president.

We already have in a court document -- we should never forget -- by the Southern District of New York and also in a plea allocution by Michael Cohen in open court that he was directed to make certain payments, and he made them in coordination with and at the direction of, famously, Individual 1, who's the president of the United States.

It may be that the Southern District of New York, my former colleagues, didn't find Michael Cohen to be a good enough witness to sign up to a formal cooperation agreement. But Congress has a lower threshold.

And so I think they're looking to ask a lot of questions that will -- that will throw up a lot of -- a lot of mud. TAPPER: One of the things that the ranking Republican on this

committee, Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio, says is, Michael Cohen is going to come testify before Congress, and then, in May, he's going to go to prison for lying to Congress. Why are Democrats investing all this time in bringing a liar to Congress, with the obvious answer is that they want to embarrass the president?

MONACO: Well, look, I think the set of topics that the chairman has made quite clear they want to discuss with him is quite broad.

And people have to remember that Michael Cohen has a real incentive here, A, not to make the prosecutors angry, and so he's not going to stray into areas where it could disrupt ongoing investigations. But he's got an incentive to be truthful, because he's hoping for, down the line, something called a 35K letter, where he can get perhaps a reduction in his sentence down the line.

[09:30:00]

TAPPER: Lisa Monaco and Preet Bharara, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The White House claims aides are not worrying about the Mueller report. They're focused on North Korea and economy but is it all putting more pressure on the president to deliver a foreign policy success? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, I think we're always prepared for a number of things that come at us. But right now our focus is not on the Mueller report but it's on doing our jobs. It's on focusing on the things that Americans care about. Right now it's focusing on preparing for the meetings that will take place next week and looking forward to having a great trip.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Sarah Sanders understandably trying to keep the focus on North Korea. This is going to be a huge week for the president, not just because of North Korea. There's a national emergency fight, three days of Cohen testimony, that summit, Venezuela. I'm already tired talking about it.

But, David, let's start with you. This is a big week for the Trump presidency.

DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. It's a huge week. You have the summit in North Korea. There's lots of expectation. I think the fact -- I think success is just that the fact that they are continuing to talk. There's no more nuclear testing. No missiles flying. That's been a success.

You have what's going on in Venezuela. You have this testimony on the Hill from Michael Cohen. You know, it's hard to see what's going to lead the news any particular day.

TAPPER: Is it possible -- you are a former White House communications director. Is it possible to only focus on the good stuff that you want to focus on when there's all this other stuff, including Michael Cohen, Robert Mueller?

JEN PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it should come as a surprise to no one that that's what they're saying. And that's what they should say. But there's no scenario where in the White House they are not thinking about the fact that Michael Cohen, the president's former fixer and adviser is about to have a very public circus-like testimony that's going to dominate the news this week.

There's no way they're not thinking about the fact that the Mueller report is going to come out in the coming weeks. Of course that's in their minds. But they are right strategically, publicly, to try to direct the focus to bigger policy events.

TAPPER: Let's talk about North Korea. Take a listen, Chairman Rogers, to what Trump had to say about the upcoming negotiations with Kim Jong-un.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is on the table?

TRUMP: You really want me to discuss that now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do.

TRUMP: Everything is on the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Is that the right answer? Everything is on the table with Kim Jong-un? He really truly has not given up nothing anything other than the remains of some soldiers from the Korean War.

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: No testing which is important. Doesn't sound like a lot but there's not been another nuclear test.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Yes. But that wasn't part of the deal though.

ROGERS: However, I mean, there are -- this is really an important summit if they're going to walk away with some concrete denuclearization path. They don't have to have it all. They don't have to get it all but they have to have some path. Otherwise, this is just two folks talking a lot.

Engagement is important. I'm OK that. The only problem is now you've made Kim Jong-un an international figure.

He gets to travel to China and Japan and other places as this respected leader of North Korea. That's a problem in these negotiations. They are going to have to fix that. And I think the way they have to fix it is they have to come out of this negotiation in Vietnam with something that they can lay on the table, starts that path to denuclearization.

TAPPER: And, of course, Symone, a lot of people especially Democrats are paying more attention to Michael Cohen's testimony coming up on Wednesday and also the final Mueller report. I want you to take a listen to something that Massachusetts Democrat Congressman Joe Kennedy said to my colleague Van Jones about his expectations for the Mueller report.

[09:35:07]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOE KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It is probably too much to hope that what Mueller's report is actually going to say is nothing to see here. Nobody did anything wrong. We got everybody already and case closed. That's what I hope it says.

He has given us plenty to beat him up for in office. We don't need the rest of it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: And I've never heard a Democrat before that clip say that he hopes that it says there's no collusion, no conspiracy. We got everybody that we needed to.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, no one, no one, Democrat or Republican -- Democrat or Republican or independent wants the president to have been in bed with the Russians if you will. I don't think that's something anybody wants but that is something folks think has happened. So that's why this Mueller report is important.

I think especially for Democrats who are out there on the campaign trail that they need to stay as far from this Cohen testimony this week as possible. And should be focused on talking about the issues. Focused on their policy proposals. Focused on talking to folks in Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire.

Do not get caught up in the conversation about Russia. Do not get caught up in the conversation about the Mueller report and Michael Cohen, because, frankly, that -- the report will come out when it comes out. But the voters on the ground, that's not what they want to talk about and I think it has the ability to trip some presidential candidates up.

TAPPER: Why are you giggling?

URBAN: Because Symone is a very smart communications expert, right? She and Jen would advise that across the board. However, as you will see this coming week, members can't help themselves, right? They'll be running to the microphone. They'll give these -- they'll give these impassioned five-minute, you know, opening statements which are their positions to run for president at some point in time. So if they're wise, they'd he's what Symone has to say, stick to the issues, not the circus as Jen points out.

TAPPER: And then the other -- another big thing that's going to happen is that the House Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi are going to push forward this resolution condemning President Trump's declaration of a national emergency and then it will go to the Senate and they have -- it's called a privileged resolution which means the Senate has to take it up.

PSAKI: That's right. And I think what Pelosi is trying to do is smart politics. I mean, she's trying to force senators many of whom will be vulnerable in the 2020 election to take a vote on this. And there's a big substantive question. Are you going to support the wall, which is President Trump, the leader of your party's big initiative, or are going to stand on the other side of it? And she's trying to force that.

Now this will likely or could likely go to the courts so this could be a long embattled fight. But there are a lot of opponents to this. There are moral opponents to it, there are constitutional law opponents to it.

TAPPER: Justin (ph) Amash (ph) (INAUDIBLE).

PSAKI: Exactly. So this could play out in an interesting way as we watch over the coming weeks.

TAPPER: Stick around. We've got a lot more to talk about.

When we come back an unexpected issue dividing Democratic candidates running for president in 2020. And President Trump's new election strategy. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:42:04]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: We have been criticized, correctly so, for running a campaign that was too white and too male oriented. And that is going to change. We're going to have a very, very diverse campaign staff, and we're going to do a better job reaching out to every community in this country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Senator Bernie Sanders trying to get out ahead of criticism of his young presidential campaign pledging more diversity than during his 2016 White House run. But will these promises be enough to win him the nomination in a very diverse field?

Let's discuss. Symone Sanders, you were part of that very white, very male --

SANDERS: I was the diversity. I'm kidding. There were lots of people --

TAPPER: I know --

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Symone is gone --

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: It wasn't just you. Nina Turner. There are a lot of --

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: Me and Nina Turner, you know.

TAPPER: But what do you make of this? Obviously there were a lot of criticisms for his personal perceived tone deafness when it came to racial issues and, obviously, there are a lot of women who were harassed on his campaign and that was an issue too. But why is he doing this?

SANDERS: One, I think it's very important that the senator is saying this. He is not -- he is actively saying that, look, I hear you. I hear you. I hear the criticism. I understand it, and I am making a change.

And I think he started with his campaign manager. His campaign manager will be the first Muslim American to lead a presidential campaign. That is historic. I think this entire field --

TAPPER: In a major party.

SANDERS: In a major -- in a major party. But, I think, that's historic because this entire field of Democrats candidates we see campaign managers, senior advisers who are women and people of color. We have a lot of firsts this cycle.

So, I think, the senator heard the criticism. And he's trying to correct. Look, I think he really wants to be president. Obviously, he's running for president again. And when somebody asked the other day was he running as -- just to get his ideas out there? No, I think, Bernie Sanders really would like to be president.

Now -- the person that's going to be the Democratic nominee will be the person in my opinion that can bring a diverse coalition together. But a key part of that coalition is black women. So Bernie Sanders will have to get those black ladies, anti-voter (ph) as I would like to say to come on out and vote for him.

TAPPER: Chairman Rogers, the politics of foreign policy came to the campaign trail this week. A lot of people talking, commenting on escalating tensions in Venezuela. Take a listen to what California Senator Kamala Harris had to say on the trail just yesterday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I don't believe at this point that military force is required, but there's no question that what has happened in Venezuela presents issues of human rights abuses and abuses of government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What do you think?

ROGERS: I would be very careful if I were the senator talking about -- even implying that military force would be used in Venezuela.

One important thing, I think, the Trump administration has done is re- enlivened the deterrent factor. That if they say there are going to be military intervention, you better believe they might actually do it. That's an important piece to being successful in a peaceful, diplomatic solution.

And so I think that part will work for them. I think talking about military intervention in Venezuela is not a great idea.

[09:45:02]

It's way too early. I think trying to help the recognized leader, Guaido, in Venezuela, through using aid as an important tool to get help and assistance to people who are absolutely in need, and by the way it also helps our friends in Colombia who are under siege, by the way, from people crossing the border.

TAPPER: Yes.

ROGERS: All of that is really, really important. I just -- I would be -- I would be a little reluctant if I were candidates of either party trying to put military action up front. There are lots of other options that we need and must do in Venezuela before we get there.

TAPPER: And yet the pressure, I think, on Democrats, a lot of it is coming from the left. People who look at President Trump and Secretary Pompeo and say, this is about oil. They are trying to foster civil war. This has nothing to do with human rights. And so it's a tough line for Democrats to walk.

PSAKI: It's very tricky. And also most of these candidates don't have a background in foreign policy so they are quickly getting up to speed. I don't think that's a problem. They're educating themselves on the issues but they're getting up to speed on them.

But they can very easily jump into this in a way they think is politically advantageous to them. Where they're trying to differentiate themselves. That will be problematic to them later on.

The reality is any of these candidates, they want to be not just the nominee they want to be the president of the United States and they want to say things and give themselves room on these issues if they're going to be sitting in the Oval Office and making the decision.

TAPPER: And there is also this subtext which is President Trump attacking socialism. President Trump attacking Democrats as socialism. President Trump attacking Maduro and Venezuela as examples of what Democrats are all about.

I mean, that's also part of the political construct even though it may not be fair.

URBAN: Sure. Look, it is part of the political construct. You see a failed government in Venezuela, right, socialist. I'd push back on the notion that you hear that the United States wants the oil for Venezuela. We are exporting more oil than ever.

The government is doing -- the U.S. government is doing quite well in that regard. The U.S. economy is doing quite well in that regard. This about the poor people in Venezuela suffering for years and years because of failed socialism.

TAPPER: So Donald Trump has made it very clear, according to Jeff Zeleny's great reporting, that he wants to play an active role in the Democratic primary fight and -- quote -- "cause chaos from the left and right." That's Zeleny's reporting I'm quoting not the president.

Take a listen to Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet. He is possibly going to run for president in 2020. Take a listen to what he has to say about this tactic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MICHAEL BENNET (D), COLORADO: He's trying to disqualify Democrats by calling them socialists. Democrats are Democrats. We're the Democratic Party. That's what we should stand for.

I think we should also be strategic and not walk into -- not make it easier for the president to disqualify ourselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: How do you -- how do you interpret that remark?

SANDERS: I'm going to take the -- I'm going to take Michael Bennet at his word. I like Michael Bennet.

Look, he -- I think that Donald Trump thinks that using the term socialism is really going to whip up something on the left and cause all this chaos. And it's actually not.

You know, I'm a millennial. We were just discussing millennials. I'm a millennial. And the word socialism doesn't have the bite that it has for folks under the age of 35 that maybe had, you know, 40 years ago. So I -- and also no one is a socialist that's running. I know someone that's a Democratic socialist.

TAPPER: Bernie Sanders is a Democrat.

SANDERS: Bernie Sanders is a Democratic socialist. That's very different than socialism. But at the end of the day --

ROGERS: It just has more letters --

(CROSSTALK)

SANDERS: And a little bit of a different meaning, Mr. Chairman. But at the end of the day, look, I don't think Democrats should be distracted by the socialism conversation. They need to run their own races. They need to talk specifically about the issues.

Do not get caught up in the Donald Trump trap. I have said before, nobody is grimier than the president. He fights dirty. He gets low and you can't beat him at that game. So you always have to elevate the conversation.

URBAN: I would just say quickly to point out -- so when you say two quick things, right, people under 35, socialism is not a bad thing, right? People over 35 who turn out to vote a lot, it is a bad thing.

TAPPER: Disproportionately --

(CROSSTALK)

URBAN: Yes, disproportionately. Number two, the Green New Deal, where -- paying people not to work, sounds a little bit like socialism to me. I'm just saying, sounds a little -- and everybody --

TAPPER: That was in an early document.

URBAN: OK. Well, but still, everybody can't run quick enough --

TAPPER: OK.

URBAN: -- to endorse that, embrace that and run to the left. The caravan of candidates is running that way.

TAPPER: Last word.

PSAKI: Look, I think what Michael Bennet and Kamala Harris and others are trying to do is back away from exactly this division because Democrats have more in common than they have different. They agree on health care. They agree on climate change being an issue and this sort of divisiveness is driven by using socialism as a term and also by the Republican Party.

TAPPER: Thanks one and all for being here.

The Trump administration is known for its revolving door. But could one former White House staffer go from the White House briefing room to the Oscars' red carper. Sean Spicer is actually a new correspondent with "Extra." That's real fact and that's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:54:08] TAPPER: It's Hollywood's biggest night and things could get a little spicy on the carpet. That's the subject of this week's "State of the Cartoonion."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER (voice-over): Sean Spicer is now a correspondent for "Extra," the syndicated entertainment show. No this is not a joke. The former White House press secretary has already interviewed the secretary of state.

SEAN SPICER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcome to "Extra."

TAPPER: And he got his take on a very important topic, his Oscars' pick.

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You know, gosh, I love "Bohemian Rhapsody."

TAPPER: We're guessing that "Bohemian Rhapsody" might be the favorite pick of another Trump insider as well.

Are they going to send Spicy to the red carpet this year putting his Trumpian (ph) spin on everything?

SPICER: My focus is on advancing the president's agenda.

[09:55:01]

TAPPER: Will he draw comparisons between the movie "The Favourite" and the Trumpian (ph) court with Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner duking it out for the president's affection?

TRUMP: They're getting along fine.

TAPPER: He says he wants this to be bipartisan. Maybe he sees Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as "A Star Is Born."

When he sees Christian Bale who just played Vice President Cheney in "Vice" and is up for best actor, does he think of Vice President Mike Pence? Of course the red carpet moment we're all waiting for Spicer interviewing the doppelganger who played him on "Saturday Night Live," best actress nominee Melissa McCarthy.

MELISSA MCCARTHY AS SEAN SPICER: That's the old Spice. And this is the new Spicy.

SPICER: Sometimes we can disagree with the facts.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TAPPER: "FAREED ZAKARIA" picks up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:00:00]