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Kushner's Sister in China; North Korea Detains American Citizen; Trump Blames Obama for Flynn Vetting; Sally Yates To Testify; Drug Policy Office Cuts. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 8, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:30:53] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: So, Jared Kushner's sister stoking controversy after trying to court wealth investors. Not trying to, she was courting wealthy Chinese investors, asking them to put up 500 grand of a New Jersey construction project and the promise of a path to the U.S. through an EB-5 visa. Nicole Meyer mentioned her brother's work in the White House.

Joining us now to discuss are Ambassador Norman Eisen, a CNN contributor and co-founder of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and Stephen Moore, CNN's senior economics analyst and former economic adviser to the Trump campaign.

Mr. Moore, good to have you here. Mr. Eisen, good to have you, as always.

We're not talking about illegality here, I don't believe. This is about doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing. Stephen, why is this OK?

STEPHEN MOORE, CNN SENIOR ECONOMICS ANALYST: Well, I'm not sure it is. And, look, I don't know all the details of what happened. I do believe that Kushner, who I know pretty well from the campaign, I think he's a very smart guy, I think the whole attitude of the Trump administration when they go overseas is to try to get more investment in the United States to create more jobs here. Whether this crossed the line, I'm not -- you know, I'm not --

CUOMO: Right.

MOORE: Very familiar with the laws, but it certainly smells funny.

CUOMO: Well, but she's not a U.S. agent, right, so this is about putting money --

MOORE: Exactly. So this is --

CUOMO: This is about putting money in her pocket. She's trying to raise $150 million and she's going to these Chinese pockets and saying, if you give me the 500, you get the EB-5.

MOORE: And she's not -- and she's not a member of the -- she's not a member of the administration. So --

CUOMO: She is not. Not as far as I know.

MOORE: Right.

CUOMO: But -- so, Councilor (ph) Eisen, how do you see it?

AMBASSADOR NORMAN EISEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it's the latest in a series of Kushner and Trump family efforts to exploit the presidency, Chris. I agree with Steve, it smells funny. And that smell is emanating from the rot of corruption. It starts at the top with the president keeping his businesses, a third of his time there, he did it this weekend. It spreads through his closest advisers, his daughter and his son-in-law. And the Kushners were pretty open about it, trading on the influence and access, mentioning Jared, a slide, including a picture of the president at the top of the decision tree. It stinks.

CUOMO: Not a single Republican is front-running these types of questions, Steve, and this was one of the mantras during the campaign. Why was Bill Clinton taking money from Russia? What's going on with that foundation? What will happen if she's president and you have that kind of access and this kind of apparent and, you know, feared collusion that's going on? Now look at us. How come nobody's asking the same questions now?

MOORE: Well -- well, look, I think, Chris, that the Trump administration -- people affiliated will the administration are going to have to cease and desist this kind of activity. As I said before, I do think there's a fine line between representatives of the Trump administration going overseas and trying to convince foreigners to invest more in the United States. We saw that, remember, Chris, at the beginning of the Trump administration where Trump negotiated deals with companies relocating here. But it can't be done -- it can't even be seen as -- you know, I don't even want the appearance of impropriety in terms of anyone having a private game (ph).

CUOMO: Well, that's the ethical standard that you just articulated.

MOORE: Right. Yes.

CUOMO: A semblance of impropriety.


CUOMO: What you keep hearing from defenders is, hey, there are no laws on the executive the way you have with Congress.

MOORE: Well, there should be. There should be.

CUOMO: But that doesn't mean that there's no standard of behavior. And, I mean, really, that's where you come up with this. Ambassador, we know you have a lawsuit about this and it does keep speaking about transparency. Even if you look what happened with his son, Eric Trump, some reporter says that Eric Trump said that they made it through the recession raising money for golf courses because they had access to Russian capital so they didn't have to worry about the U.S. liquidity issues. He now says that's not true, Eric Trump. He said, you know, it didn't happen. They never had any Russian money.

Eisen, if he shows the balance sheet of those golf courses, we'll know. He can make his own case and blow up this entire suggestion. Where's the transparency? That's the answer.

[08:35:10] EISEN: Well, it's correct. And Eric Trump is now denying he said that, but Donald Trump Jr. said they see a lot of Russian money flowing into their properties. So there's cohobating evidence. If we had the president's tax returns, we could trace some of the trail of bread crumbs, Chris.

Look, the problem with all of this, whether it's China or Russia, when you have the president sitting there with his two closest advisers, his son-in-law and his daughter, all of them have multiple conflicts and there are standards. It is a federal regulation, no appearance of conflict. And when all of them are sitting there alone and making tough calls on Russia and China, like the North Korean missile crisis, they've got to get China to do the right thing. Are they going to hold back, consciously or subconsciously, because of this web of financial ties? We need the transparency, but they also have got to cut off the financial ties. And we've been calling for that. And I have to say, I agree with Steve, they've got to keep away from it.

By the way, I think this EB-5 visa program, if done properly, can create American jobs, but it's being abused in instances like this in places where there's not big job growth.

CUOMO: Well, it's part of the statutory language --

MOORE: You know, and (INAUDIBLE), Chris --

CUOMO: Steve.

MOORE: This -- just this -- this idea that, you know, Trump, his closing argument, you know, when he -- in the election was drain the swamp of special interest privilege and so on. And -- and this undermines that.

I think for this to stop, it's going to have to come from Trump himself. And he's going to have to set his own standard of behavior and make sure that filters down to his family members, other people in the administration, because, you know, corporate chromium is something that conservatives have long been against. And -- and that -- look, I don't know the details of what happened here, but -- but the appearance is very troubling.

CUOMO: Well, again, it's going to be hard for the president to lay down the law when he's not going to follow it, though, right? I mean this is a man who doesn't want to disclose his taxes, says he would sign up a blind trust that's not a blind trust.

MOORE: Yes, but that's not -- that's not -- that's not a violation of the law. I mean, look, you -- he has the right to or not to -- CUOMO: Well, but you just said, it's about semblance of impropriety. What about that ethical responsibility? What about that responsibility as president to set a standard about what is right, not just because you have to, but because you should?

MOORE: Well, I think the -- the -- look, this is (INAUDIBLE) --

EISEN: And if the law does --

MOORE: Go ahead.

CUOMO: Go ahead, ambassador, make a point. What does the law say?

EISEN: The law does come in -- the law does -- the law does come in, gentlemen, because the Constitution forbids the president from accepting government payments and benefits, whether from foreign governments or the federal government or the states. And he's doing that. That's what our lawsuit is about. Those taxes are needed to establish the extent of that. We're going to seek him in discovery in the lawsuit. It's not too late for the president to step away from all this as he kicks off early day of his second hundred days and say, fine, I get it, I'm going to cut off, I'm going to give my ownership interest to a trust, I'm going to give you my taxes, I'm going to get on with managing the country. I wish he'd do it.

CUOMO: A private equity guy I know said, there's so much capital on the sidelines here in the U.S., why did you have to go to China? Steve, that would be an interesting conversation for us to have a different time.

Appreciate your perspective, as always.

Ambassador Eisen, always a pleasure. Thank you.

EISEN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: North Korea detains another American citizen. Why is Kim Jong-un doing this? That's next.


[08:42:40] CUOMO: Time now for the "Five Things to Know for Your New Day."

A Senate committee set to hear testimony from former acting Attorney General Sally Yates and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. The subject, Russian election interference. President Trump tweeting about Yates and Michael Flynn before the hearing.

CAMEROTA: Former President Obama defending the Affordable Care Act. He's calling on lawmakers to find, quote, "the courage" to fight for the sick and vulnerable. Republican senators are planning to write their own health care bill. CUOMO: The Justice Department heading to a federal appeals court today in Virginia in hopes of removing the court-imposed halt to the president's travel ban. The executive order was blocked in March based on statements that President Trump made during the campaign.

CAMEROTA: President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin among the world leaders wishing Emmanuel Macron well following his decisive victory in France. The president-elect vowing to reunite France following a bruising and divisive campaign.

CUOMO: Did you see this? A 10-year-old girl fights off an 8-foot alligator after it attacked her and bit her leg. The girl poked it in the nostril, a technique she says he learned at the Gator Land Theme Park. And she says she was able to pry its jaws apart to flee her leg. She got some stitches.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh.

CUOMO: She's OK.

CAMEROTA: That is scary. We should all practice the poking of the alligator in the nose.

CUOMO: Gator Land?


CUOMO: You want to drive or you want to fly? Road trip?

CAMEROTA: Let's do it.

CUOMO: Favorite snack?

CAMEROTA: Funyons.

For more on the "Five Things to Know," you can go to for the latest.

CUOMO: All right, we do have breaking news from you. We're hearing from the wife of an American professor now detained in North Korea, accused of planning hostile acts.

CNN's Ivan Watson live in Seoul, South Korea, where he spoke with the professor's wife.

What did you learn?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, imagine the distress to learn that your loved one has been detained in North Korea with this charge, suspicion of preparing hostile acts. So I spoke just moments ago with the wife of this naturalized American citizen. She said she waited at a train station in China for him to get off the train from Pyongyang on Saturday and he never showed up. I asked her, what is your message right now to North Korea? Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KIM MI-OK, KIM HANK-SONG'S WIFE (through translator): We are all the same people. We have been serving the people we love. So I hope this detention issue is solved in a humanitarian way and he is sent back to our family. Members of our family are waiting.


[08:45:28] WATSON: The wife says that her husband has been falsely accused. He's the second person working at this university in Pyongyang, U.S. citizen, to have been detained in just over two weeks in North Korea.


CAMEROTA: OK, Ivan, please keep us posted on all of the developments coming out of there. Thank you for that.

Now we have a look at some extra headlines.


ON SCREEN TEXT: Officer retires, son joins force on same day.

Ninety-eight-year-old starts new business.

Man makes lightsabers for "Star Wars" Fans.


CUOMO: The president pinning the issues with Michael Flynn on the Obama administration once again. Why does he keep making this argument? Well, I guess it's because he thinks it works. But does it? Part of "The Bottom Line," next.


[08:50:05] CUOMO: Today is a huge day. It really matters. You know how we know? Because the president is clearly worried about it. President Trump blaming the Obama administration for vetting his fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, just hours before former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifies before Congress. The president tweeting, "General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama administration, but the fake news seldom likes to talk about that." One, this is demonstratively false. We talk about it all the time. Two, the White House, meaning the president and his staff, don't do the clearance. It's done by agencies. And, thirds, remember, they fired him and Trump chased after Flynn to have him be his major security adviser. He doesn't want to own the background? And then he tweets again, "ask Sally Yates under oath if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to the White House Council." Word choice aside, counsel is c-o-u-n-s-e-l.


CUOMO: The leaks matter, but --

CAMEROTA: Please resubmit after the spelling correction.

CUOMO: The -- the substance of what Yates told the White House. Spicer saying it was a, quote, "heads up." He used that word, quote, "heads up." If she says it wasn't a heads up at all and they had weeks and did nothing after being told, that could matter.

Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN senior political analyst and senior editor of "The Atlantic," Ron Brownstein.


CUOMO: How do you see the urgency and president's preemptive tweeting?

BROWNSTEIN: Look, I think this is not about winning arguments, this is about providing talking points. I think President Trump has been less interesting I think than any president I've covered in kind of winning the argument with the broad country. He is mostly interested in providing kind of a set of marching orders or guidance to his conservative base and particular to kind of the conservative information ecosystem to kind of provide them an argument.

And, you know, there's evidence that it's working. I mean you look at the polling, for example, the percentage of people who voted for President Trump who believe that he was wiretapped by President Obama. And this is -- I think this continuous in that vein. I mean the idea that whatever happened in the Obama administration in terms of a clearance for General Flynn is relevant to whether the Trump administration sufficiently vetted him is kind of like, you know, it just doesn't connect, but yet it is -- it is a talking point. It is a response and it provides those who want to defend him a way to kind of, you know, have a purchase on this story.

CAMEROTA: So, Ron, help us set our expectations for today. What might we learn from Sally Yates?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, I think you're going to learn whether it was a heads up or something more than that when she raised concerns about General Flynn's contacts with the Russian ambassador during the transition. And all indications from the preliminary reporting is that it's going to be a great deal more than that. And so I think that is going to be probably the most important thing we learn. And, you know, it's just a reminder when John McCain, a couple weeks ago, said this story was a centipede in that there were so many shoes to drop, there are so many different angles of the question of the relationship between the campaign and Russia and any possible collusion in the Russian involvement to try and destabilize the 2016 election that it just basically -- there's a lot of fuel here and this is going to be going for quite a while as we've been hearing from members of Congress that this may bleed into 2018. So none of this is going away any time soon.

CUOMO: All right, second topic, a White House memo proposes 95 percent cuts to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. They would be seen as the tip of the sphere in terms of the opioid epidemic.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. CUOMO: How do you reconcile the White House's promises of taking this on? We just came back from New Hampshire a few weeks ago where the president went to the firehouse up there and they are the first line of defense on these opioids and said, I will be there for you, with a 95 percent cut?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Look, I mean, it -- not only is there a 95 percent cut proposed here, but if you look at what's happening in the health care bill passed last week with Medicaid. You know, in Kentucky, for example, seven times as many people are receiving substance abuse treatment under Medicaid as they were two years ago because the state has added so many people in coverage. And you're talking about removing 14 million people, $880 billion from Medicaid. I mean, look, this is a broad issue about whether the Trump administration is in fact delivering on the promises and for the voters who elected him. I mean we talked about this many times in health care, that the biggest losers in the bill are older, lower income, working age adults who are primarily white and who were primarily Trump voters. So that -- this kind of goes along with that pattern. Are they delivering for the coalition that elected them?

CAMEROTA: OK. Ron Brownstein, thanks so much for being "The Bottom Line."

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

CUOMO: A little Monday motivation? A little "Good Stuff"? What do you way?

CAMEROTA: I say, yes.

CUOMO: Next. Well, that's it. It's a done deal.


CUOMO: That's the --


[08:58:45] CUOMO: Time for "The Good Stuff."

When neighbors heard about a veteran having a hard time getting in and out of his Michigan home, guess what they did? They sprang into section. Ten volunteers went to the house and built a ramp for Justin Flowers (ph). He's wheelchair bound after becoming paralyzed, not in Iraq, but during treatment in a V.A. facility.


JUSTIN FLOWERS, VETERAN: Something popped in my back. I walked into the facility. After that, I wasn't able to walk again.


CUOMO: The lumber for the project, the tools, donated, in what is now becoming, you know, a very cool thing here. You know, you've got home improvements for an Iraq veteran. And it was done by the people in his own community because they cared enough to make a difference in his life.

CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, that's so wonderful. People are generous, you know?

CUOMO: Right. That's them building the ramp. They did it. Look, they knew what they were doing, but they took their time, they took their effort and it will mean something to him for the rest of his life and it should mean something to the rest of us as well.

CAMEROTA: That's a good "Good Stuff."

CUOMO: It is, right?

CAMEROTA: Yes. Is that redundant?



CUOMO: Can't have enough good.

CAMEROTA: No, no, the good, good, "Good Stuff."

Time for CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow and John Berman.

CUOMO: John good good Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And John Berman -- and John Berman. We like redundancy here.

All right, Alisyn --

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: He's -- he's the good -- he's the good stuff this Monday morning.


HARLOW: Good morning, you guys.

BERMAN: All right, a lot of news, let's get started.