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Russian Response to on Trump Giving Russians Classified Info; Media Coverage Varies on Trump Asking Comey to Stop Flynn Probe; Live Stream White House Daily Briefing from Air Force One; Joe Lieberman Added to FBI Director Search. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired May 17, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ETHICS ATTORNEY: It's going to be a disaster for the Republicans. It's going to be a disaster for our country. So we need the facts. We need a special prosecutor to look into all of this. And we need it now.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: So far, we have these committees. We know that they want those memos and they want testimony from Mr. Comey himself. I agree with you, we all, this country needs the facts.
Richard Painter and John Dean, gentlemen, thank you very much.
We are also moments away from that White House press briefing, the first since this bombshell Comey report. We'll take it live from Air Force One.
Also, the Russian response. Speaking of Russia, their response to all of this. Vladimir Putin says, and I'm quoting, "political schizophrenia is breaking out in the U.S." He is also offering a transcript of the Russian meeting in the Oval Office that could help, he says, President Trump. We'll take you live to Moscow, next.
[14:35:13] BALDWIN: Just a quick heads up, we're minutes away from hearing from the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. He's on Air Force One, along with the president as the president heads home from speaking at the commencement at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Stand by for the live audio stream from that plane.
Meantime, let's talk Russia. The president, Vladimir Putin, offering to clear up questions surrounding the Trump White House. Putin is claiming he can prove President Trump did not reveal classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office last week. Mr. Putin is offering to send Congress his transcripts of the president's conversation with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador.
I want to play some sound first. This is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reacting to being asked if this would mean, then, that the Russians bugged the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Secretary, Vladimir Putin is offering Congress a transcript of that Lavrov Oval Office meeting. Do you think the Russians were bugging the Oval Office?
REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I would have no way to know that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think of his offer?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Well, that was quick. President Trump admitted he shared information. Sources tell CNN that information was, indeed, classified.
So let's go live to Moscow to Matthew Chance there.
And so you tell us, what exactly did President Putin say with regard to this offer and what's his motivation to even share it?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question. What he actually said, though, is that basically if the Congress doesn't believe that there was nothing secret passed on by President Trump to Sergei Lavrov, that he has a recording, is what he said, of the conversation that took place in the Oval Office last week, that he will happily send to them. The Kremlin later qualified that wasn't an audio recording. We thought it was at first. It turns out it wasn't an audio recording. It was a transcript that they said they had. Still, it's the first that any of us have heard that there was such a transcript of that very controversial meeting and, of course, if it ever is made public and it hasn't been at this point, it would obviously throw some questions about if he was seeking information that was put across. In terms of the motivation, there are two options, I think. The first is that perhaps Putin was genuinely trying to help President Trump put pressure on the president at the moment, perhaps Putin was thinking, well, if we release this transcript, it will show clearly that there was nothing secret that was discussed. Another perhaps less generous interpretation is that Putin knows very well that the last thing Trump needs at the moment is a helping hand from the Kremlin. He's already in deep water when it comes to his connections with Russia. And perhaps he said these things suggesting there was a transcript, offering to help in this way as a way of causing even more discord in U.S. politics because there's a sense in which many Russians are enjoying what they are witnessing, the United States, their geopolitical rival kind of gripped in this chaos.
BALDWIN: So in essence, then, this, quote/unquote, "help" wouldn't be help for the president at all.
Matthew Chance, thank you very much, in Moscow.
Coming up, just a reminder, we are moments away from the White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer briefing the press on board Air Force One. We'll bring that audio to you live. Stand by for that.
[14:39:00] Also ahead, take a look at the markets here. All the red. Plunging on Wall Street. This afternoon, down 317 points. All of this chaos surrounding the White House. Is this putting, you know, your money at risk? We're back in a moment.
BALDWIN: We're moments away from the audio that will be streamed in live from Air Force One from the White House press secretary. Stand by for that. This is the first time we're hearing from him since President Trump is facing accusations that he asked the now fired FBI director to end the investigation into then-national security advisor, Michael Flynn.
It's interesting to watch how the media has covered all of this.
Take a look at this noteworthy moment from "Good Morning, America." George Stephanopoulos looking directly into the camera telling viewers the fate of President Trump is at risk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC CO-ANCHOR, GOOD MORNING, AMERICA: The Comey notes are the modern Nixon tapes. Congress will get them. Comey will testify. Whether Trump holds the White House will depend on how Comey describes those notes, who Congress believes, how the country responds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That was this morning.
Let's talk about last night when all of this was breaking. FOX News had to tell its viewers not once but twice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You've tried tonight to get Republicans to come out and talk to us, and they are not Republicans willing to go on camera tonight as of yet. We'll see if that changes.
We have asked Republicans to come on to talk about this breaking story. And we wait to see whether we can have someone on the air during this hour.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: One more bit I want to share with you. There was a new editorial in the conservative "Wall Street Journal." The title, "Loose Lips Sink Presidencies." It reads in part, quote, "Mr. Trump needs to appreciate how close he is to losing the Republicans he needs to pass the agenda that will determine if he is successful."
With me to discuss, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "Reliable Sources" here on CNN, Brian Stelter.
As we're on the topic of conservative media, back over to FOX News for a beat, are they living in an alternate universe?
[14:45:24] BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT & CNN HOST, RELIABLE SOURCES: The short answer is yes. The message from a number of conservative news outlets has been, this is not a big deal. Don't worry. An example from the 8:00 p.m. hour on CNBC and FOX as a bombshell story, a major situation, a crisis for the White House. On FOX, lots of other stories instead. The Clinton Foundation, late night comics criticizing Trump, et cetera. I don't want to paint with an entirely too broad of a brush. It's been downplayed. It's about proportionality, Brooke. And there's been an attempt to say this is not a giant problem for the president.
BALDWIN: What about, you know, I read your newsletter you hand out to all of us. You quoted, "If anyone doubts the relevance of newspapers, these past two days should have erased those doubts.
You talk about great capital "J," journalism.
STELTER: "The New York Times" -- "The Washington Post," on Monday -- it's been so long -- "The Washington Post," on Monday, "New York Times," on Tuesday, it's like they are trying to leap frog each other with big scoops about this president whether about the meeting with the Russians or about the Comey memo. Who knows what we'll see today, tomorrow or the next day. Reuters and other outlets have been able to confirm these stories. That means there are sources willing and able to verify this information. It's all beginning with anonymous sources. In some cases, whistleblowers trying to alert the country into what is going on. In other cases, maybe sources with axes to grind. There was a great column by Eric Erickson saying I happen to know who one of these source is. One is a Trump supporter trying to help the president by sounding the alarm. Not all anonymous sources are created equally and many sources are leaking to "The New York Times" and CNNs and "Washington Posts" right now. And they are doing the work that Congress is not, doing the investigative work to find out what is going on inside the Oval Office.
BALDWIN: Kudos to those newspapers.
Let's listen in to the live feed from Air Force One. Here's Sean Spicer en route home with the president.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: -- Pacific islands around the country.
And lastly, the president will continue to meet with candidates for FBI director this afternoon. He'll meet with four more, Andrew McCabe, Frank Keating, Richard McFelly (ph) and Joe Lieberman. That will happen upon return to the White House this afternoon.
And then, again, obviously, I mentioned yesterday there will be additional logistical guidance that will be given to the press close to the pool and to the traveling journalists as far as logistics and questions. The time has been provided on the guidance. It will be an opportunity to make sure both with the pool and with members that are planning on traveling guidance in terms of timing and other movements that will occur and events.
So with that, I'll take your questions. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Does the president support former Director
Comey testifying before Congress about his recollections of their conversations and the investigation, and would he be willing to waive the executive privilege about their conversation to allow him discuss fully the nature of their conservations?
SPICER: The president wants these to remain confident in the event that he's maintained in a truthful -- that he wants the truth to get to the bottom of this situation. There's two investigations going on in the House and the Senate and he wants to get to the bottom of this.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you had a chance to look more into what took place in the meeting between the president and Comey in February? What is the president's side of this? We know that he said he did not ask about the Flynn investigation. Can you tell us more about what the president said took place at this meeting?
SPICER: The president has been very clear that the account that's been published is not an accurate description of how the event occurred.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Could you confirm what else --
SPICER: We've made it very clear. I'm not going to get any further comment on that.
[14:39:57] UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have any evidence to back up -- is it just that the president says that this conversation didn't happen or is there any --
SPICER: The president has been very clear that this is not an accurate representation of that meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are we supposed to take his word, though. He said in a tweet last week. Are there records or transcripts regarding that meeting?
SPICER: I think we've been very clear. We put out a statement regarding that.
UNDENTIFEID REPORTER: Is the president considering having personal lawyers, like White House Counsel, in light of these allegations and things that have come up?
SPICER: I have no updates on that. At some point, I'll let you know.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Some of the characterizations that he had with the Russian foreign minister, it sounds like the Russian president has said that their side is going to release a transcript of the conversation. Do you support the Russians releasing a transcript of that conversation to Congress and were you aware that they were recording the conversation?
SPICER: I'm not aware of anything like that. I don't have an update. Again, I think we put out a statement very clearly about the president that he does not believe that's an accurate representation.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you -- would you make it public?
SPICER: The secretary of state and the national security advisor have been very clear with their recollection of that meeting, their account of that meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The president spoke to Netanyahu yesterday. Can you discuss more about what they talked about, the specific allegations that Israel intelligence was behind it?
SPICER: That phone call was purely logistical in preparation for the trip.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Can you discuss the fact that the source of the intelligence that was --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It seems the president has been quiet in the last 24 hours, at least on Twitter, in making any public remarks outside of the official events. Is there an effort to scale back or any kind of other comments about the issues that have been going on in the White House until he takes off for his trip?
SPICER: I've been clear what our position was and the White House has put out a statement very clearly with our account.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) -- comments of some of the Republicans in Congress are making saying that this is starting to approach Watergate proportions.
SPICER: Very clearly, we are focused -- the president is focused on the speech today, giving widespread praise for what he just talked about, the role of the Coast Guard and the young people who will go out there and defend our homeland. And he's preparing for the meeting with the president of Colombia tomorrow. Looking forward to taking off on this trip.
Thank you, guys.
SPICER: Thanks, guys.
SPICER: I'm not going to give a statement on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he see the video and - (INAUDIBLE)?
SPICER: I know the State Department put out a statement on that.
And thank you, guys. (CROSSTALK)
BALDWIN: There you have it. It was pretty quick there. That was the audio from Air Force One of Sean Spicer, who we normally see each and every day giving his press briefings. He's heading to the White House. A quick gaggle with the press on the plane.
I've got Mark Preston and Gloria Borger standing by.
Mark Preston, to you, first, a couple of different questions, responding to Republicans, i.e., John McCain, talking about approaching a Watergate-size issue or responding to Republicans or why has the president been so quiet, and dodged all of those questions?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Didn't answer it at all. In many ways I don't know how he would answer it and he's been put in a difficult situation going out there and protecting the president, his boss, the leader of the free world being put in a position of indefensible on many different things. Not even John McCain, as you said. And we saw Paul Ryan come out and say that he wants to see this investigation through, so to speak. And last night on our air, we saw the governor of Ohio, John Kasich, come out and say this isn't a time for Republicans to hide. Right now, you're seeing a White House that is in absolute crisis mode because they are not only losing independents but now we're starting to see fissures in their support for the president.
BALDWIN: Also, Gloria, he dodged the question on whether President Putin's offer of the transcript from the other meeting which could help or maybe entirely opposite effect. He totally dodged and started speaking about the president's commencement speech today.
[14:55:14] GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. He wasn't there to answer a lot of questions, obviously. He was very interested in not answering questions. One thing that struck me is that I believe he was asked about whether the president had lawyered up. And he didn't answer that question either. He said he would get back to the reporter on it and I think, you know, that gives you an indication, I mean, if I were in office and had this issue, I would certainly get outside counsel. And we know -- I reported yesterday -- we know he's been unhappy with Don McGahn, the White House counsel, for assorted reasons but he'd clearly need a separate lawyer for all of this and it would not surprise me if he is hiring one.
PRESTON: You know, Brooke, it's worth noting, too, that over and over again, Sean Spicer said that the president has been very clear about it, we put a statement out that we've been very clear about it. The fact of the matter is that the White House has been very ambiguous about everything, quite frankly, all the way down to whether or not President Trump records conversations in the Oval Office. We still don't know if that's true, which is absurd that we don't know if that's true.
STELTER: Yeah. BALDWIN: Being clear, we haven't heard specifically from the president, Twitter, 22 hours.
STELTER: Unusual silence period. It really is. The first time in weeks that the president hasn't been tweeting over the course of the day. The president is, quote, confident in the events. He's been very clear but he's not been very clear. And what's notable about last night's statement, the one denial of this initial bombshell story about the memo is that it wasn't signed by anybody or by Spicer or any other official. It was just an unsigned statement. Increasingly, Trump aides are wary about having to defend their boss.
BALDWIN: Gloria, what about Joe Lieberman being interviewed for this FBI job?
BORGER: You've got me.
BORGER: You've got me. That's interesting. I don't know that he's ever run anything like the FBI. And I think Democrats would be opposed to Joe Lieberman, probably, even though he was a Democrat at one point. He gets along with a lot of Republicans and he is an independent. I think he would -- you know, he would be controversial.
One thing I want to get -- just to what Brian was saying about the president not tweeting, that leads me to believe that he has hired legal counsel because maybe the only one who can tell him to stop tweeting, which would be a smart move, is his actual attorney.
STELTER: The bottom line is that Spicer said nothing and he's boxed in. Spicer boxed in, the same way the president is right now.
Mark, what do you think about Joe Lieberman as FBI director?
PRESTON: I believe before he became a Senator, he was attorney general of Connecticut, but that's not the same thing as running the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Joe Lieberman has fallen off of the national spectrum, so to speak, the last couple of years. I actually ran into him on a flight between D.C. and New York. He's very involved in this bipartisan effort to get rid of political parties, so to speak. But his own political party abandoned him when he ran as an independent Democrat and won. But there was bad blood at that point.
But if his name were to be put forward, his closest allies are John McCain.
(CROSSTALK) BALDWIN: And Lindsey Graham, right?
PRESTON: And Lindsey Graham. It will be interesting if he were to get it. We also heard Frank Keating, the former Oklahoma governor's name as well. So a couple of interesting political names that Donald Trump is looking at now.
STELTER: And Donald Trump is having these four meetings this afternoon with candidates. It creates the veneer, the sense of normalcy, the semblance of normalcy for the president as all of this is swirling around.
BORGER: I think they'd like to get this done before the president leaves and they don't have a lot of time. Originally, they said they'd get it done by the end of the week, and I'm not sure that that can happen right now. There's been a lot of names floated and a lot of names talked down. And I think the bottom line here is that the White House is looking for somebody who is acceptable to Republicans and Democrats, because they don't want a fight on this. It's got to be -- somebody I heard when talking to a source, who talked to Donald Trump, that the question that the president asks people is, is so-and- so a team player. So that's the key concern of this president, is so- and-so a team player. Well, what does that mean in terms of the FBI? Because he probably thinks Comey wasn't a team player, right, one of the reasons he fired him.
BALDWIN: He fired him, exactly.