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Search for New FBI Director; White House Recordings Not New; North Korea Claims It Can Strike U.S. Mainland; Melissa McCarthy Back as Spicey; U.S. to Expand Electronics Ban; Anthony Bourdain Explores Laos' Food and History. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired May 14, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: institutions are under assault internally.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Internally from the president?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Clapper held key intelligence roles in both the Obama and the George W. Bush administrations.
Meanwhile, President Trump is vowing to quickly name a new FBI director to replace Comey. At least eight candidates are being interviewed for the job. Trump may reveal his pick, he says, before he departs Washington Friday for his first international trip since taking office.
I want to bring in CNN White House correspondent Athena Jones.
Athena, what are you hearing about the president being surprised over the backlash he is now facing over firing Comey?
ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana, this is both remarkable and telling, the fact that the president was surprised at the response that that move got. Listen to what he had to say on FOX about what he thought would be the response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I guess I was a little bit surprised because all of the Democrats -- I mean they hated Jim Comey. They didn't like him. They wanted him fired or whatever, and then all of a sudden they come out with these glowing reports.
Look, I thought that this would be a very popular thing that I did when I terminated Comey because all of the Democrats couldn't stand him. But because I terminated him, they said, ah, we get some political points, we'll go against Trump.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: And so it's interesting to hear the president talk about how surprised he was. He thought this move would be celebrated because of the past criticism from Democrats of Director Comey. But Democrats had come to see Comey as a straight shooter, someone that they wanted to see continue to head up this Russia investigation. So a lot of folks would say, why is the president surprised that Democrats are responding that way?
And some of our reporting points to the reason why, and that is that the president has taken much more of a go-it-alone approach on this move. He didn't loop in a lot of people. We often see the president or hear that the president likes to hear the opinions of the people around him on any number of issues, if he's considering making a big decision. He didn't do that with this decision. He kept this move, the fact that he was going to do it close to the vest. Didn't even loop in the communications team until about an hour before, and so that is why you have a situation where because of not enough seasoned political hands were involved in the decision, there was no one there to say, look, this is not going to be received well.
Yes, the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, argued against it but it's clear the president didn't listen to him -- Ana.
CABRERA: Athena Jones, thank you.
Let's bring in our panel, joining me CNN senior political analyst and former adviser to four presidents, David Gergen, senior congressional correspondent for the "Washington Examiner, " David Drucker, and "New York Times" editor Patrick Healy, both CNN political analysts as well.
David Gergen, first your reaction to what we heard from the former director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, saying he believes the president of the United States is destroying our institutions. Meantime we have President Trump saying he thought his decision to fire Comey would be popular.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let's start out with Clapper. I think it is a very significant statement on his part. He clearly is angry. He is angry at the president because he thinks he was used. The president has been citing him a number of times for saying in earlier testimony that he was not aware of any collusion between the Russians and the Trump associates. And Clapper said -- you know, said in the last 48 hours, wait a minute, I didn't say there was no collusion. You keep quoting me as saying there was no collusion. What I said was I don't know one way or the other. That's very different.
CABRERA: That he didn't have all the information to make --
GERGEN: Yes. Let me just go to the second point about this, the president being surprised. I'm very skeptical of that story, very skeptical. Donald Trump read the public mind better than any other candidate in this race, one of the reasons he's president -- the main reason he's president is he gets the public. I personally think the very strong likelihood is he expected a backlash. He thought his base might stay with him, which he's got a pretty sturdy support from his base. And very importantly, he knew he would pay a price with the press and everything else but it was worth it to him. The trade-off was, do I have to keep this guy or can I get rid of him and pay the price?
CABRERA: Worth it to him because of the Russia investigation?
GERGEN: Because -- yes, he wanted to slow things down. He wanted to change the conversation. He wanted him out of there, rid me of this priest.
GERGEN: That's what he did.
CABRERA: Interesting. David Drucker, the Republicans have been largely towing the line, standing behind the president. We heard James Clapper also today say he wants more Republicans to speak up and take a stand. Why aren't they?
DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, I think Republicans are trying to assess exactly what they're dealing with here. I mean the real problem we have here with the president's decision to fire James Comey is the way in which he went about it and the fact that they keep changing their story. There is a case to make -- and look, I talked to Democratic voters at a town hall in southern New Jersey in the past few days who said, yes, we think James Comey should have been fired for how he handled the Clinton investigation. We just don't think this is why Donald Trump fired him.
That's the problem Democrats have. Had the president called in some senior Republicans and Democrats and said, look, I want to make a change.
[20:05:05] I think that the FBI needs fresh leadership. Spent a week to 10 days talking to a lot of people, meanwhile you start to leak names of high-level, unimpeachable, credible law enforcement people you would like to maybe appoint to take over the FBI, then you reach a decision that appears deliberative and appears thought-out.
You already have laid the ground work that it's not about politics necessarily because of the names that would replace Mr. Comey, and at that point you still will have people yapping about Russia and there's -- there are obvious concerns there, but the president's impulsive nature in doing this, the fact that he contradicted his own staff after 48 hours including the vice president, is what makes this look really fishy. And it's the president's unilateral way of acting. In a sense he is running the White House the way he ran his family business that makes this so troubling.
CABRERA: The family also haven't been coming out and defending him this week, either, by the way.
DRUCKER: And -- well, yes.
PATRICK HEALY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They've been very frustrated. And I think to David's point, it's the family business but also the campaign. Donald Trump when he was running for president oftentimes went to a kind of high risk, high reward strategy. That's sort of what he thought. He saw himself as very much in opposition to all of these sort of typical politicians who ran, you know, with talking points, who followed sort of logical progressions of political strategy in Iowa, New Hampshire.
He was a guy who saw himself as very much like the original bomb thrower. It's what attracted him to Newt Gingrich, for a time what attracted him to Chris Christie. You know, he sort of saw himself as someone who shook the apple cart. And I think in some ways, even in the White House, even in these first few months you still see a president who is more comfortable -- I remember walking into his office, you know, Trump Tower, during the campaign and he'd be all by himself and he would sort of be calling -- very much calling the shots sort of on his own.
And in that kind of campaign mode where he could be impulsive, where he could lean into his instincts on Twitter and on the campaign trail, that's what he likes. The problem is, these repercussions. He is running an entire government.
CABRERA: Right. And I want to show you some of those repercussions because we look at the new numbers from this NBC-"Wall Street Journal" poll, only 23 percent of Americans approve of the GOP's health care bill, 29 percent approve of Comey's firing, 39 percent approve of President Trump's performance.
David, we were just talking about how eventually you've got that turning point with Republicans. Should Republicans be worried?
GERGEN: Definitely, especially when they've got this health care fight coming up and they've got a health care bill coming out of the House that only commands the support of less than a quarter of the people of the country and, you know, it has 2-to-1 opposition against it. Where do you go with that when you've got to ask people to walk the plank for some very, very tough decisions? And I think this cumulatively could have an impact over time.
I continue to believe, watch the public opinion polls. If his base cracks more, if it erodes more, I think Republicans will go the other way. But until then, I think as long as he can hold his base --
GERGEN: He can make it through this.
DRUCKER: And I tend to think, David, he's going to hold his base. And I think he's going to hold a decent part of the Republican Party because they feel like they were persecuted under eight years of Obama and they're just not going to let go. However, I think what the president did -- and you're right about the agenda that they're trying to move through. When you have tax reform, and health care reform and a spending bill and then you threw this hand grenade into the middle of the Senate because Republicans in the Senate are on the hook for confirming another FBI director.
CABRERA: Yes. DRUCKER: And then on the House side, even though Republican House
districts are pretty safe, you've got 24 -- 23 Republicans in districts that Hillary Clinton won and it's a 24-seat majority. And in these suburban swing districts the Republicans could be in a world of hurt. But the Senate is not in play. They could miss out on an opportunity to gain seats, but it's not in play. But in the House because of the way these seats are structured where Hillary won 23 of these particular seats that in a sense where if this got out of control they could be in deep trouble.
CABRERA: So we got an opportunity here for the president to make a decision that might swing some popularity back in his favor, right, when he picks who is going to be the next FBI director. And you talk about the senators having some real influence, what happens in the Senate, Lindsey Graham spoke out and gave this advice to the president today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The president has a chance to clean up the mess that he mostly created. He really I think did his staff a disservice by changing the explanation. So I would encourage the president to pick somebody we can all rally around, including those who work in the FBI.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, Patrick, what can the president do to fix this mess, as he puts it?
HEALY: Well, one thing I think a lot of people are concerned about, including in the Senate, is that he may end up picking a politician who will raise questions of whether President Trump put a loyalty test to him, sort of a loyalty oath. I mean, this came out through powerful reporting by CNN, by "The New York Times," that President Trump basically confronted James Comey on occasions and asked him essentially for loyalty, for honesty, you know, for both.
[20:10:11] And it kind of went beyond what I think typically a president would do with an FBI director. And now you're looking at the Senate who is going to say, look, we want to try to get back to legislating. We want to try to get back to tax reform, to health care, and we don't want to have a long fight about this. The reality is that nominee could be divisive.
GERGEN: I think we could have a real log jam over this nominee. There are a lot of Democrats who believe -- no matter who you put in there, the system is going to be run by the president and by the AG --
CABRERA: Because it is the president and AG selecting this person.
GERGEN: Absolutely. And Sessions said he was recuse himself and then he was right in the middle of this -- of the firing of Comey? That's recusal? Now so there are a lot of people who say, if you leave it to these people you can't trust the outcome. So, yes, we will vote, Mr. President, for your FBI director if you give us an independent prosecutor for the case. Take that piece off of what the FBI director does and give it to a special prosecutor, let the FBI director, the new person, run everything else, but if we really want to have an outcome in which people are going to have faith, then why not put it under an independent prosecutor? If you're not willing to do that --
CABRERA: There could be inherent question about White House --
HEALY: Why would he do that when he believes, and he still does, the comment he made during the campaign that he could go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and his voters would still stick by him? I totally agree about the opinion polls and that's really -- David's right, the numbers that we have to watch. But the president's certainty of himself, that he alone can fix it, that -- like we saw on "Saturday Night Live" last night, sort of Paul Ryan coming in and kind of waiting on President Trump and doing whatever he wanted, that may not be reality but from his point of view he still thinks that he can take these actions and drive the press corps crazy and drive these Republicans crazy, and that the voters will still stay with him.
CABRERA: I really quick want to play what Nikki Haley had to say today because she brought up the importance of loyalty to this president, and here is how she sees it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I think when you take the job you automatically assume that you work for the president, and you are part of a team, and loyalty is a big thing. It's -- you know, as a former governor, I can tell you loyalty and trust is everything when you're a CEO. And so I can totally understand why he's looking for loyalty and trust because --
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Loyalty to the Constitution first. Correct?
HALEY: Of course.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: David Drucker, what did you make of that?
DRUCKER: Look, if -- I think we all know that whether you're a president, whether you're an FBI director or whether you're a lowly bureaucrat, so to speak, you take an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. You don't even take an oath to protect really the country. You don't take an oath of loyalty to the United States. You take an oath to the Constitution, our system of government. The protections that our democracy has.
And I think that these are the kinds of things that the president wants to hear, but even in the president in his interview on FOX News discussing the fact that he thought it would be good for an FBI director to express loyalty to the country, I even think that misses the point of what makes us different as a country and what is expected of our public officials.
And I think that is a part of this, because I think that Trump -- and it gets back to how he views himself in the Oval Office. He sees himself as the CEO of the United States, but he's not.
GERGEN: He's not, thank you. Thank you.
DRUCKER: We are -- and it's kind of annoying, and I know a lot of politicians --
GERGEN: Yes. Very annoying.
DRUCKER: -- think it's annoying, they actually are our employees and we are the CEOs. And I think that he has to wrap his arms around that. We have installed him in a position to do a job, but he's actually the employee. And I don't even necessarily think he means ill by this, but I think it's hard for somebody who has worked for himself his whole life, especially at this age, who is not steeped in conservative or liberal principles, and in government institutions to really understand that.
CABRERA: I know we could talk on and on about this, gentlemen. We got to leave it there. Thank you all for joining us. We appreciate it, David Drucker, David Gergen and Patrick Healy.
Coming up, tale of the tape. A look at the tradition of presidents secretly recording conversations and why some wound up regretting it. And then later, Spicy takes the podium for a spin. The epic return of "SNL's" White House press secretary.
[20:18:37] CABRERA: President Trump raised the specter of Richard Nixon this week when he hinted at having secret White House tapes in a tweet directed at fired FBI director James Comey. But Nixon didn't come up with the idea of recording conversations in the Oval Office. That belongs to Franklin Delano Roosevelt who hid a microphone in a lamp after he felt he had been misquoted by the press. What followed was a three-and-a-half decade stretch of U.S. presidents taping in the White House.
I want to bring in CNN presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.
Douglas, of the presidents that we know of who did this, was the fear of being misquoted usually the big motivation?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Absolutely. People wanted to have a transcript of something significant that took place for history or wanted to have a record if they had an adversary and, you know, wanted to make sure that they could be proven right in the end.
Each president kind of used this taping system in a different way. John F. Kennedy used it quite effectively during national security meetings, trying to get all the arguments of everybody. Famously during the Cuban missile crisis. Johnson loved the telephone and he liked to wheel and deal on the phone, and so they're incredibly fun to listen to this sort of Texas cowboy twang of Johnson trying to wrangle votes out of senators and congressmen.
But Nixon brought it to a whole new level because he had this brand new technology called voice-activated taping which could pick up things in rooms all over the White House.
[20:20:06] It could be in a parlor, in a bedroom, you could just be having a cup of coffee and suddenly these tapes picked things up. So we have the scholars, thousands and thousands of hours of Nixon tapes.
CABRERA: Well, do you see any parallel today, given Trump's own tumultuous relationship with the media that could lead him to want to tape his conversations?
BRINKLEY: Well, I think there's something about a grand ego, about wanting to tape. Like my words are so important someday people will hear them in history. Barack Obama just said yesterday that he did not do systematic taping of any kind in the White House, but I remember when he went to the Lyndon Johnson Library he was playing the machine over and over again, listening to some of these Johnson tapes and he liked them because, you know, you do get to capture your gold star moments, and later they're in a museum or they're used for documentaries and the like.
So it is possible that Donald Trump decided -- he is a reality TV mogul -- that he was going to set up some kind of modern bug, a pick- up device, and would collect conversations. I don't believe he did that. I don't think he had the time or the wherewithal to do that, but we'll have to find out. He says he -- intimated that he made one.
CABRERA: Right. And Barack Obama, going back to the former president, we did talk with David Axelrod who said that they did from time to time tape conversations with journalists just to have like a backup, to make sure that the articles were completely accurate, but no systematic recording.
CABRERA: U.N. Ambassador, meantime, Nikki Haley was asked this morning about a possible White House taping system right now under President Trump and here is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you ever assume that you were being taped in the White House?
HALEY: I did not. But, you know, I assume I'm being taped everywhere so I never worry about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Douglas, she said she just assumes she is being taped everywhere. Does she have a point? Is that how people should operate?
BRINKLEY: She has a good point. That's a 21st century modernist point. You never know who is filming you, who's taping you, hacking into your e-mails. This is kind of a strange era where private identity and private moments seem to be going by the wayside. But that does mean that she operates with a kind of caution, no matter where she is. She's thinking somebody might have a listening device.
It is so easy today to have a cellphone pick up things or there are little gizmos you can get from a spy store in Greenwich Village. And pick up things from across the room. So it would behoove Washington politician to be very careful and try to talk in places where they know they're not being recorded. I don't --
CABRERA: Yes, don't say anything you don't want to be repeated, right?
BRINKLEY: Well, exactly. And I mean, even during World War II I read at Fort Hunt, Virginia, we brought over German POWs and they all went out to smoke cigarettes in a grove of trees thinking they could talk and the U.S. government had bugged the trees they were smoking the cigarettes under. So we had tapes about all of these German secrets. So bugging is a big part of government operations.
CABRERA: This is also interesting to me. I do want to ask you real quickly about some new information we just got in. Preet Brarara, the fired U.S. attorney in New York, just wrote a newly-released op-ed for "The Washington Post" and I want to read you one line.
"And in the tumult of this time," he writes, "the question whose answer we should perhaps fear the most is the one invoked by that showdown. Are there still public servants who are prepared to say no to the president?"
Douglas, are people -- are there people out there who will say no to President Trump? Was this an issue for Nixon as well?
BRINKLEY: It is. It was. I mean, everybody was afraid of the boss because Nixon would throw a temper tantrum. People couldn't say no to him. They were all sycophants. People like Henry Kissinger would walk in and Nixon might say, we're going to go bomb this country, and Kissinger would say yes, sir, and not even carry out the order.
Donald Trump is an island to himself with the exemption of Ivanka and Jared who are really kind of just family there. He has no alter ego, nobody like Colonel House with Woodrow Wilson or Ted Sorenson with John F. Kennedy or James Baker with Reagan. There's really nobody he can really open up to and debate, talk on an equal footing. And that's a big thing that's happening here. Only Donald Trump knows what he's doing and he's doing a lot of ridiculous things, particularly with his tweets.
CABRERA: All right, Douglas Brinkley. Thanks again for being with us. BRINKLEY: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, we have breaking news. A dire threat from North Korea directed directly at the U.S. The regime saying this weekend's test was to see if a missile could carry a large nuclear warhead. And the North has a warning for the United States about how and what it claims it is now capable of.
That's ahead. We're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[20:29:07] CABRERA: Breaking news. A chilling new threat from North Korea is directed squarely at the U.S. North Korea claims its newly tested missile can successfully carry a large nuclear warhead. This ominous warning comes 24 hours after a ballistic missile test Kim Jong-un described as a victory. The rogue nation warning the U.S. not to provoke it because North Korea claims the U.S. mainland is now within range of its missiles.
Let's bring in international correspondent David McKenzie in Beijing.
David, is there any way to verify these frightening claims by Kim Jong-un's regime?
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can verify certain aspects of these claims, Ana, and it is a very disturbing and successful, it appears, missile test from Pyongyang, from Kim Jong-un, who according to the state media, personally supervised the launch of this missile.
Now what we do know, what lines up between their account and experts and U.S. officials that this was a missile launch that appears to be a medium-range ballistic missile fired from northwest of the capital.
[20:30:15] It flew at a very high altitude of around 1300 miles towards the East Sea, the Sea of Japan, and landing somewhere close- ish to Russia. It's really drawn condemnation from the White House, from President Trump, from the Chinese, and from the Russian President Vladimir Putin who's here in Beijing. And it all comes at a time when China is hosting this major trade summit so it's a real slap in the face for the Chinese leader -- Ana.
CABRERA: All right. David McKenzie in Beijing for us tonight. Thanks.
High rates of poverty, drug addiction and sexual violence all part of the dark side of life on an Indian reservation. On tonight's episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" W. Kamau Bell travels to a reservation to hear about some of the struggles Native Americans are grappling with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
W. KAMAU BELL, HOST, "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA": What do you think was the future of Native Americans in this country? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People don't realize how tough it is on the
BELL: 97 percent of the people here live below the poverty line.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have all of these issues and there's no help.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need more resources.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tribal nations have a history of being disempowered. We were emasculated as a warrior people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It has been clinically shown that it actually harms the youth to see this racial stereotype. Can you imagine a team called East Asians?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They like us in the 1800s.
BELL: They like us in the 1800s, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you know, Sean is fulfilling his duty as an officer in the Naval Reserve, and that is why he cannot be here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm pretty sure I can see him hiding in those bushes?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You are clearly articulate and charming whereas Sean is bullish.
MELISSA MCCARTHY, ACTRESS: You know why I had to put your pants out, because your bones starts lying in there. Pants lying. Yes, yes. You lie all the time, your pants get on fire. Liar, liar, pants on fire.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Well, looks like Sean Spicer's out of the bushes, back on the "Saturday Night Live" spotlight. Melissa McCarthy returning to host last night's episode. She played her well-known role as the White House press secretary. And here's just a little more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: I promise I'll talk better.
Mr. Trump, I need to talk to you. Have you ever told me to say things that aren't true?
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Only since you started working here.
MCCARTHY: I don't think I can do this anymore, Mr. Trump. They're going to -- they're saying that you're going to replace me with Sarah.
BALDWIN: Sean, come on. I would never do that. She doesn't have your special spice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Here with reaction, CNN.com contributor and host of "The Dean Obeidallah Show" on Sirius XM, Dean Obeidallah. And also with us from L.A. senior CNN reporter and for media politics Dylan Byers.
Great to have both of you.
Dean, I just want to get your reaction. What did you think about last night's episode and Melissa McCarthy's portrayal of Sean Spicer?
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: It's fabulous. It is such great political comedy, and I hope people appreciate it's the highest form of political comedy. You're learning and you're laughing at the same time. And I think what they did with this show was amazing. Melissa McCarthy was very nuanced. She almost made Sean Spicer sympathetic. And if Donald Trump is watching, and I wrote about it for CNN today, please don't fire Sean Spicer. America needs the comedy. We really do.
CABRERA: You don't think it has played out?
OBEIDALLAH: No, I don't think so.
CABRERA: Those scenes over and over again?
OBEIDALLAH: I think that Trump -- Baldwin as Trump, a little bit so, but I think this hasn't yet. It was fun. And this was a really nuanced portrayal if people watch it. You become sympathetic for Sean Spicer at some point through Melissa McCarthy's depiction. And then you find out that Donald Trump is the heavy in the sketch, saying, I'm the one lying to you. And I think that's a great political point as well. It's funny. I think it's making a point many on the left are saying that it's Trump giving Sean Spicer lies. Spicer is complicit a bit. But I think it's a really good political point and comedic point as well.
CABRERA: Well, Dylan, speaking of Sean Spicer, there are some rumors that he could be replaced. He was obviously earlier this week on some naval -- Navy duty, and Naval Reserve duty and that's why we saw Sarah Huckabee Sanders come in. But is there any truth to this possibility that Spicer's on thin ice?
DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR MEDIA AND POLITICAL REPORTER: There's absolutely a possibility, Ana. It's really hard to know, like so much of what comes out of this White House. It's very hard to know what's true and what's not. You know, both Sean Spicer and Sarah Sanders sat down for a meeting with the president on Friday morning, came away from that meeting with the impression, according to the sources I've spoken with, was that they had the president's full confidence.
Lo and behold later that day the president goes and gives an interview in which he effectively throws his communications team under the bus. And when he's asked repeatedly, will Sean Spicer be in this job tomorrow, he refuses to give a clear -- a clear answer, a clear affirmative, a clear endorsement of the spokesperson who has been with him since the beginning.
I would just say to Dean's point, you know, there is something true about -- you know, there's truth to all of these skits that "Saturday Night Live" has been giving us since Trump came into office.
[20:40:02] And the truth here is that Trump would love to blame the bungled Comey firing on his communications team, and I do think he actually legitimately believes that his communications team is to blame for how poorly this went. And of course that's not the case. The buck in this case very much stops with the president, or at least it should stop with the president. He failed to anticipate the blowback that was going to happen here.
He failed to brief his communications team on exactly how everything went down, on what his thinking what, only letting them know about this about an hour before he made the decision. So, you know, as much as we want to laugh at Sean Spicer, laugh at Sarah Sanders, the most comedic figure here is really the one played by Alec Baldwin and that's President Trump.
CABRERA: Dean, you talk about the importance of laughter in these day and age when things are so tense right now, but in your op-ed you wrote for CNN.com you referenced earlier, you write, "There's a fear of comedy, where that comedy will minimize the grave risk Trump poses to America, at least as seen by those who oppose him." Do you think that's happening?
OBEIDALLAH: I don't -- I think that "SNL" is very aware of that. I'm not trying to get into their head. I worked for "SNL" for eight seasons. I haven't talked to any writers there now. I don't have any idea what they're thinking. But last night's sketch really made this point. You had Sean Spicer as a sympathetic character. They didn't have Donald Trump as a sympathetic character. He was the heavy, he's the bad guy. He's lying and saying, I lied to you, you're lying for us.
So I think the fear is -- even Alec Baldwin, when I wrote an article a few weeks ago, is aware of it. And he goes, maybe America don't want to laugh at Donald Trump anymore. There are people on the left, my fellow progressives, saying if you keep mocking Donald Trump he becomes almost likable. He becomes buffoonish. And there are many communities -- I'm Muslim, my community is very concerned about Donald Trump. Immigrants are very concerned, women are very concerned about Donald Trump on a whole different level.
It's not political, it's personal. I keep telling conservatives that it's not political. Our concern about Donald Trump is very personal. So I think they're doing a great job with the humor not making him likable, making him the bad guy.
CABRERA: You know, that leads me right into this next question for you, Dylan, because you talk about people feeling this urge to really speak out right now. Sports normally a Teflon world where athletes and coaches go out of their way to avoid making waves with the media. And one of the most understated coaches, the five-time championship coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich, he's usually understated but he was anything but that here. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREGG POPOVICH, SAN ANTONIO SPURS COACH: It was a very weird night for many reasons, which I don't think any of us can, you know, grab on to. It's like trying to figure out the presidency, same-same. Just I feel like there's a cloud, a pall over the whole country in a paranoid, surreal sort of way. It has got nothing to do with the Democrats losing the election. It has got to do with the way one individual conducts himself. And that's -- it is embarrassing.
It is dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. But for this individual, he's in a game show, and everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people or our country. Every time he talks about those things, that's just a ruse. That's just disingenuous, cynical and fake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Dylan, he had a lot to say there. And we all turn to sports often as a diversion to get away from the politics. What do you make of this?
BYERS: Well, first of all, that -- those are just more words than Gregg Popovich has said in the last five years right there. So that's really remarkable.
BYERS: And I mean he really is, as our colleagues at TNT know, he's rather silent. No, I mean, you know, extraordinarily poignant. You know, and look, I think you and I know this, everyone knows this. It is impossible to avoid politics right now. It is impossible to avoid Trump. It is the only story. It is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room.
There's certainly debate happening out there about how political sports have become, whether or not sports should continue to be sort of off on the side as a diversion. And you know, I think my take on that is how? How can you possibly avoid what's going on in the country right now? How can you avoid the political climate that we live in?
You know, look, my condolences to Popovich because they blew a 23- point lead that they had in the third quarter just a few hours ago.
CABRERA: Right. And they lost by two points in the end. BYERS: So, you know, my condolences there. And, but look, the fact,
he's coming off that game and he's still got Trump on the brain. It's impossible to ignore this story. It's why we talk about it 24/7 and it's an important story to cover.
CABRERA: Dylan Byers, Dean Obeidallah, thank you.
OBEIDALLAH: Thank you.
BYERS: Thank you.
CABRERA: Coming up, a source says it's no longer a matter of if but when. The airline industry preparing for what could be the biggest security change in years.
You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[20:49:10] CABRERA: Tonight the airline industry is bracing for some turbulence from angry European passengers. The Trump administration is considering expanding this laptop ban and other electronics in the cabins of flights bound for the U.S.
CNN's Rene Marsh has the details.
RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: As the U.S. moves towards expanding its ban on all electronics larger than a cellphone from the main cabin of U.S.-bound aircrafts, airlines are in preparation mode. The Department of Homeland Security is preparing to announce it will expand its electronics ban to Europe.
Right now the ban is in place for flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim majority countries. An expanded ban, though, could impact more than 350 flights a day. The Europe-to-U.S. track is the world's busiest international corridor. Delta, United as well as American Airlines are the U.S. carriers that would be impacted the most.
[20:50:06] They have the most flights on this route. Right now airlines are trying to figures out new protocols and policy for how to check passengers for compliance. They are also working with international airports to reconfigure the setup to isolate passengers and flights bound for the U.S. DHS says that the ban was put into place because intelligence suggests that terrorists have perfected their ability to hide explosives in the battery components of these electronics.
Now European officials, they are voicing safety concerns that there will be a large number of electronic devices with lithium-ion batteries in the cargo holds. But the FAA says the dangers associated with these batteries are reduced because they are spread out in bags, in pieces of luggage, and they are not stored together and on top of each other.
Rene Marsh, CNN, Washington.
CABRERA: Our thanks to Rene.
Coming up, it's a land of stunning scenery, exotic cuisine, and a mysterious history. Anthony Bourdain gives us a preview of tonight's brand-new episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN: LAOS."
[20:55:37] CABRERA: In tonight's new episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN", Anthony Bourdain takes us to a country he calls magical where the people are some of the most generous he's ever met.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST, "PARTS UNKNOWN": Back to Laos, one of the most beautiful, enchanting, lovely, magical, mystical places on earth. All I can tell you is they are some of the nicest, kindest, most hospitable, food crazy, generous people known.
So glad to be back here. So pretty. It's just incredible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: I recently sat down with Anthony Bourdain to talk about the food and culture he explored there.
BOURDAIN: Laos has opened up to some degree, probably out of financial necessity, you know, like so many of the communist states over time, they had to. The people demanded it. The situation demanded it. But this is a country, the mountainous, very rural, agricultural nation that a lot of people don't know much about, it's also a country that was just, you know, where a CIA funded and managed Secret War persisted from the late '50s up until the mid-'70s and an air campaign that dropped more bombs on this tiny little country than all of Europe and Japan combined during the entire length of World War II when many of that -- a lot of those munitions are still on ground and active.
CABRERA: So there's an impact today from that war back in the '60s?
BOURDAIN: There is. And the government are -- I would say paranoid about maintaining order. Unlike Vietnam where President Obama was greeted, you know, very warmly and overtly and there were cheering crowds in the streets, I'm told or I was told when I was there when President Obama visited Laos, the shopkeepers, some people were told to stay inside and not display any signs of happiness or encouragement.
I think they're very, you know, haltingly entering a new phase, but people were less -- people will talk openly in Vietnam or much more openly. And even Cuba than in Laos where people were very, very careful about how their words might be perceived.
CABRERA: Did that sense of guardedness surprise you?
BOURDAIN: It's something I have experienced before. I guess I was saddened by it, but I mean, this was -- we employed a lot of Hmong, particular ethnic Hmong tribes, people doing the Secret War to fight other Hmong and other Laotians. And so there's that I guess fear of an enemy within that's always present.
And we had to be really sensitive to that. You don't want to get -- you know, I can come back here and say anything I want. I have to think about the people who I was speaking to there.
CABRERA: Culturally sensitive.
BOURDAIN: Well, how they might be implicated in something that I say.
BOURDAIN: Like I say, you know, I can say what I want and go out to lunch now. They have to live with the consequences of what I say.
CABRERA: What defines the food in Laos?
BOURDAIN: The ocean cuisine is influenced -- powerful influence in neighboring Thailand, the (INAUDIBLE) region in particular. Some of the northern parts of Vietnam are very ethnic Laos. So similar food but delicious in its own way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Don't you just love Anthony Bourdain? A mystical land (INAUDIBLE) by legacies of war. "PARTS UNKNOWN" tonight, it's the Laos edition here on CNN.
I'm Ana Cabrera. Thanks so much for joining us. Happy Mother's Day. Mom, I love you. Have a great week, everyone.