Return to Transcripts main page
Trump in Saudi Arabia as Controversies Swirl at Home; GOP Frustration Rises as Trump Woes Pile Up; Trump Lawyers Research Impeachment Procedures. Aired 3-4p ET
Aired May 20, 2017 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[15:00:17] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. Thank you for being here. I'm am Ana Cabrera, in New York, and it is 3:00 in the afternoon in New York, 10:00 p.m. in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Where President Trump is finishing his day, one of his first stops abroad, as he's traveling overseas. Right now, he's having dinner with Saudi Arabia's king. The president has been absolutely lavished, getting the royal treatment from Saudi leaders. He was even seen dancing this evening during a ceremony outside the palace.
Yet, while the president enjoyed the pomp and circumstances, his staff is still scrambling to contain the fallout following a flurry of explosive stories. They're so explosive, in fact, that sources tell CNN White House lawyers are researching for impeachment, preparing for what they as a possibility.
There's also concern from at least one campaign staffer who is now asking for help paying legal fees.
The White House has not denied the blockbuster report that President Trump discussed the firing of FBI Director James Comey with Russian diplomats or report that the president told the Russians Comey was a, quote, "nut job." The Russians are denying it.
CNN's senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, has that story from Moscow -- Ivan?
IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, Russia's diplomat on Saturday denied any reports that the issue of James Comey being fired were discussed with President Trump at that meeting at the Oval Office on May 10th. He said, on Saturday, "We did not touch that subject." That fits with a broader pattern where the Kremlin denies many embarrassing reports that are coming in the U.S. media, either about what was discussed during that meeting on May 10th or previous reports about alleged ties or links of the Trump campaign and of the runup of election and Kremlin. You've got top officials who've dismissed these charges and basically accused the Washington and the media and the leaks coming out of there of being some kind of conspiracy to hurt Donald Trump. President Putin here saying this was political schizophrenia. The Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying this was (INAUDIBLE). In the past, the Russian government welcomed the election of President Trump. But what's notable, in recent months, he's no longer gracing the front page of Russia's newspaper and is no longer of the top of news bulletins on Russia TV.
There's an interesting trend also. The Kremlin avoids directly criticizing President Trump just as we've see Trump avoids criticizing Russia, even though his cabinet secretaries often have harsh words for the policies and strategies of the Russian government -- Ana?
CABRERA: Thank you so much, Ivan Watson.
These breaking stories have been flying out of Washington at warp speed, and each on its own can take up an entire news cycle that we are getting two or three each day.
I want to bring in our crime and justice producer, Shimon Prokupecz, who has been in the thick of it.
Shimon, one of the latest reports breaking since President Trump left on this trip overseas has been on Russia's relationship with Michael Flynn. What more can you tell us about that?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE PRODUCER: That's right, Ana. We have done a lot of reporting on Michael Flynn and the situation with him and the investigation. It seems like every time we go back and try to dig in on some more stuff concerning Flynn, we learn that there are more conversations dating back to the campaign. We were told by several sources that during the campaign, the Russians would brag in conversations of Russians, in Russia, talking to each other, they would talk about their relationships with Michael Flynn and sort of the idea that they could use him to try to get in the campaign and influence then-Candidate Donald Trump.
CABRERA: Well, "The New York Times" also with a pretty explosive report saying Mr. Trump bragged to Russian officials during that Oval Office meeting that's come under fire of firing James Comey. The White House did not deny he said some things that were controversial, including calling Comey a nut job. And it also creating questions about whether what he said may be pointing more towards obstruction of justice. Explain.
[15:04:54] PROKUPECZ: That's exactly right, Ana. The friends we've spoken to since James Comey had been fired and who have talked to Comey, it was clear that Comey, at the time, during his conversations with President Trump in the Oval Office, where Flynn came up, it did not seem, to Comey, at least, at that time, that the president was trying to influence the investigation. It was viewed as an inappropriate contact between the president and the FBI director. And so that is sort of how Comey looked at it. Since then, given what Trump has been saying of Comey and this story came out in "The New York Times" where he said to the foreign minister of Russia, Sergei Lavrov, "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I face great pressure because of Russia, that's taken off." And certainly, people who are investigating Russia, folks on the Hill and the FBI and now the special counsel, former FBI director, Bob Mueller, it will be interesting to see if they view that as sort of was that conversation between Flynn -- President Trump and Comey in the Oval Office, was Trump trying to influence, sort of after the fact? Can you take everything that Trump has said since he's fired Comey that to show that maybe there was some kind of attempt to obstruct the investigation.
CABRERA: It will be interesting when Comey goes before the Senate Judiciary, or Intelligence Committee, I should say, which we learned yesterday he's planning to after Memorial Day.
Shimon Prokupecz, our thanks to you.
Now, as the Trump's White House tries to hold off all of these, and as the woes pile up, some Republicans are expressing frustration and dismay. I want you to see this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say this to President Trump, this cannot continue for a whole lot longer.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the shot to the body is it's now considered a criminal investigation.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: I think it is reaching the point where it is of Watergate size and scale and a couple of other scandals that you and I have seen.
REP. CARLOS CARBELO, (R), FLORIDA: This daily dose of controversies of scandal and instability is bad for the government and also very taxing on the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Now, we are also hearing from other Republicans who say many crucial questions still need to be answered before final judgments are rendered. Nevertheless, the stream of controversies flowing from the Trump's White House has become a distraction for the president's own party, even as Republicans control both chambers of Congress.
We'll talk it over with Texas Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold, a member of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees.
Congressman, thanks for spending time with us on your weekend.
We've learned White House lawyers are now starting to research impeachment procedures. How much hot water do you think the president could be in?
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD, (R), TEXAS: I don't think he's in any serious hot water. There is no real evidence of any crime yet. We got a special counsel looking at it and I am confident that he will be cleared of everything.
CABRERA: We have some live pictures before we continue our conversation. I want to take everybody to Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia. Additional pictures from the president's first foreign trip abroad. He appears to be in a small vehicle there among the dignitaries in Saudi Arabia, continuing his lavish trip. We are just watching. I am not sure where this is, guys. Inside some kind of building there. We'll get a read from our producer who is at the scene with the president as he continues to be hosted by the king and many members of the royal family.
Back to our conversation about what's happening here at home as the president continues to represent the United States abroad.
Congressman, I am wonder, you don't see him being in too much hot water at this point, but do you defend President Trump's comment in the Oval Office, which we learned he shared classified information and he called Comey a nut job, saying Comey's ouster eased the pressure.
FARENTHOLD: Comey has been becoming a distraction because he's more interested in being on the news than doing his job as the director of the FBI. As far as sharing classified information with Russia, the president has full authority to declassify anything he chooses. And he made a decision to share some information with the Russians to get their help in combating our mutual enemy, ISIS. And I think that --
CABRERA: So you do defend the president and the comments he made in the Oval Office?
[15:10:48] FARENTHOLD: I think his intent was to bring Russia on board and get more cooperation in fighting ISIS, one of the campaign promises that the president made, and one of the appropriate priorities for our government, is to win the war on terrorism, and if we can get Russia as an ally in the limited area, I think that's a win.
CABRERA: I want to read you what Richard Painter, the White House ethics lawyer under George W. Bush, has been tweeting. He, quote "Nut job, how about giving up classified intel and admitting obstruction of justice all in one conversation with the Russians." Also this, quoting President Trump, "I face great pressure because of Russia." Painter says that's taken and that's taking off, admission that the firing was intended to obstruct the Russia investigation.
Are we getting closer to moving the ball when it comes to obstruction of justice?
FARENTHOLD: I don't think we are anywhere close on that. The president is working forward with his agenda. The Comey's firing, you had an entire memo to back it up. I think it was entirely appropriate. And I think there is a feeding frenzy on the part of the media and some Democrats and, quite frankly, even a few Republicans that are looking to undermine this president and stop his agenda from moving forward. We are not talking about the successes the president has had. You look at our stock market is up and our unemployment numbers are at a 28-year low.
CABRERA: Congressman, do you have any question s of the president's conduct or any of the news that's broken this week?
FARENTHOLD: I am waiting to hear what the special counsel comes up with. I think if we can keep it out the headlines and let them do their job and investigate, we'll get a report, and that's when it is time to make a decision.
CABRERA: What questions do you have for Comey when he testifies before Congress?
FARENTHOLD: It is going to be -- I want to know what his intent was when he wrote that memo, if he felt he was being pressured to stop the investigation. There is a difference between, hey, he's a good guy, cut him a break, or saying, quit this investigation or you are going to be fired. We need to know more of the details of the conversation. Quite frankly, I am skeptical of Comey as a witness. He's a man who has been terminated by the president and may have some ulterior motive.
CABRERA: Congressman Blake Farenthold, thanks for your time.
FARENTHOLD: Thank you.
CABRERA: Here in the NEWSROOM, as controversies swirl at home, the president is lavished in Saudi Arabia with an extravagant royal arrival. Continuing to look at pictures there. I understand he's in the national museum. As the president continues on his trip, can he turn the page on the controversies surrounding his administration? More on this, next.
[15:16:47] CABRERA: Trump and the first lady, the entire staff is overseas right now. Live pictures from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. You can see it is 10:00 p.m. at night as the president continues his overseas trip. This is inside the national museum where King Salman is hosting President Trump. We've seen them touring the museum just a short time ago. We know the president met with the prince of Saudi Arabia in the capital city. And earlier, some type of business with the Saudi Arabia king, signing a stack of agreements. One of them approving $110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and another was a long-term deal of $350 billion.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with the president.
Jim, it is certainly a warm welcome for the president. And here at home, the White House's lawyers, we're hearing, are researching impeachment procedures. Are you hearing of any echoes of what's happening back home where you are?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Ana, you look at the warm welcome that the Saudis offered President Trump here and it is no secret or a surprise why the president was eager to get overseas on this trip. The Saudis have really shown a lot of pride in the fact the president choose their country as the stop in his first overseas trip. We have seen this all day long. A few moments ago, to cap some of the remarkable pictures that we see here, we saw King Salman driving President Trump in his king mobile, I guess, a supped-up golf cart, which he was driving around Murabba Palace, just down the road from here. It's where we saw Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross engaging in some sword dancing there at the palace. And so this is capping a day of pomp and circumstances.
We can report that the topic of Russia did come up briefly. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a news conference here with his Saudi counterpart, Foreign Minister al Jubeir, and during that news conference, the secretary of state was asked about reports of the Russia investigation, the secretary did not have much to say. He said he did not have any information on the subject.
And shortly, after the news conference ended, I will tell you, Ana, the big news that we are tracking here, and I think it will extend into tomorrow, is the president's speech to the Muslim world, which he will deliver on Sunday. During, I guess, the moments after the press conference, we had a chance to briefly catch up with the secretary of state and the Saudi foreign minister and ask them what they are expecting from the speech, and they would only say they expect it to be a positive speech. I asked the secretary whether the president will use that phrase "radical Islamic" in his speech, if that phrase appears in the text. Remember, that was a phrase he used time and time again out on the campaign trail. He chastised President Obama for refusing to use that term, and the president used that term himself in a speech to a joint session of Congress this year, despite the fact that his national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, was advising against it. That's something that we'll be looking forward tomorrow.
Today was the pomp and circumstances, rolling out the red carpet for the president. Tomorrow, we'll get into some substance and that speech that the president is going to deliver tomorrow, which was crafted by his policy adviser, Steven Miller, who helped craft that travel ban that impacted majority Muslim countries, tied up in courts. That speech delivered tomorrow will say a whole lot about how the president will be conducting himself on this foreign trip. Will he tread more lightly with these diplomatic landmines or is he going to continue with that red-hot rhetoric that was a trademark of his campaign? That's what we'll be watching tomorrow --Ana?
[15:20:46] CABRERA: How will his speech be received is the other big question.
Jim Acosta, traveling with the president in Saudi Arabia, thank you.
Much more of our live coverage of the president's first overseas trip to Saudi Arabia when we come back.
[15:25:13] CABRERA: Welcome back. You are live in the NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera.
He may be more than 6,000 miles away from Washington, but for President Trump, there is no escape from what is now a full-blown crisis for his administration.
Let's bring in our CNN national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem; and also our global affairs analyst, Kimberly Dozier.
Juliette, we'll start with you.
He spoke with Representative Farenthold, a Republican, and a defender of President Trump who said he does not believe the president is not in any hot water than he was before the start of this week. There is no proof of collusion or obstruction of justice. Do you agree or do the events of the past week and the news that we have learned make you believe otherwise?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Farenthold can say that all he wants. He's not part of the investigation. It takes a certain amount of collusion. I don't mean to be critical to say that none of this matters. No one looking at this, no serious person in law enforcement investigations would look at all the data and all the pieces that have come out and say everything is just fine.
Now, as I have said many times on your show, you build cases, and each article, each story and each headline and breaking news creates a narrative of what has or has not happened. The fact that it is not collusion does not mean we'll never get to it. The investigation has to deal with financial dealings or other family members or Mike Flynn. When the congressman says that I think it is really -- it is so insulting to the CIA and the FBI about what they're trying to do to really unearth what's going on and impact of what the Russians have done. I view it as political talk more than reality talk, to be honest.
CABRERA: Kim, we learned from "The New York Times" reporting this week that President Trump in that Oval Office conversations with Russian foreign officials called James Comey a nut job and that dismissing him was helpful to him and relieved some of the pressure in terms of dealing with Russia. Should the president be more concerned by those words in terms of now he's abroad and in terms of acting of foreign officials and leaders.
KIMBERLY DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The remarkable thing about "The New York Times" report is that Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not push back on it. He tried to justify it, saying, hey, this is all about positioning with the Russians and letting them know that they put Trump in a difficult spot and they should work harder. Of course, that's not how it works. You don't share something so vulnerable with a foreign official who's been an adversary.
What it means in terms of the meetings he's having over the coming weeks, from different diplomats I have spoken to in advance of the meeting, they've said, look, we know we don't know what's going to come out of Donald Trump's mouth. We know what we are hearing from the national security team around him. We trust them and he seems to be listening to their advice and following through with their plans. So they'll humor him and be ready for the roller costar of whatever he will have to say. Meanwhile, we are watching the tangibles deliverables, like this $110 billion weapon deal, including some sophisticated weapons that the Obama administration hadn't wanted to hand over to Saudi Arabia.
CABRERA: Kim, I want to ask about your reporting on Trump and Flynn's close relationship. We can't confirm this, but you say in your reporting that Flynn did not want the national security adviser's position but Trump insisted?
DOZIER: We've had a close friend of Mike Flynn's tell us that and got confirmation from a White House official that, yes, he maybe wanted something like the director of National Intelligence job. Really, he was going to be returning to the private sector. That's what he told some who were close to him and who he had been in business with. There is a certain amount of guilt possibly on the president's part that Flynn took a job that he did not go after, because Donald Trump trusted him, and now that led to this investigation that really means every aspect of Flynn's life will be examined. Things like that speech to "RT" that the military has been tangently aware of but had not gone after him for. Now, they are.
CABRERA: And you also say that the two stayed in close contact?
[15:30:00] DOZIER: We have some reporting that at least Donald Trump has wanted to talk to him on a regular basis and has managed to somehow pass a message to Flynn that he's rooting for him.
CABRERA: Does that surprise you at all, Juliette, if that's the case, the truth?
KAYYEM: Yes. It is surprising and shocking -- everything about it. At some stage, it had become clear that Donald Trump did not take the allegations of Russia seriously or he's concerned about them that he doesn't want Mike Flynn to potentially talk or, as we heard, he had not satisfied some of the subpoenas yet. I don't make much of that. He has good lawyers who are probably telling him don't do anything until we can get potentially a deal with the FBI.
But, this inability of Donald Trump why he can he quite Flynn is the essential question of this investigation. It has something to do with either -- something that's criminal or a casualness about potential illegalities both during the campaign and after. That's equally concerning. Kim is saying it is reflected in what he said in front of the Russians of this casualness and carelessness about serious intelligence and what it means for our standing in the world and what it means for our asset from Israel, who was potentially part of ISIS, and what it means for how the world reacts to us. As Kim said, they are reading the newspaper. The Saudis are essentially playing us right now. They are kissing the rings and praising Trump. The Europeans are on record saying that they think he's a fool. That's some of the reporting today.
And so, you know, this is something where Trump's taking seriously both the allegations but also his role in the world would benefit I think both the White House and also the United States.
CABRERA: Kimberley Dozier and Juliette Kayyem, thank you. We have to leave it there, ladies.
Coming up, cries of obstruction from Democrats are growing as details of the Trump/Russia probe heat up. So where does all this lead, the turmoil, for the GOP? We'll discuss after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[15:36:26] CABRERA: President Trump is getting the royal treatment in Saudi Arabia, the debut of his first international trip since taking office. Earlier, the president was spotted dancing here during the ceremony outside of the Murabba Palace.
As Trump makes his global debut, back at home, the White House and the staff scramble after the latest wave of controversies, bombshells and allegations about President Trump revealing highly classified information to Russian diplomats, the appointment of a special prosecutor to look into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. So how are Republicans holding up?
Let's talk it over with a couple of Republican strategists, Ana Navarro, who supported Jeb Bush's presidential bid; and Alice Stewart, former communications director for Senator Ted Cruz's presidential bid.
Ana, I will start with you.
And hear what Jeb Bush had to say yesterday. He says, quote, "I think we need a special counsel. And I don't think the president should tweet. When he tweets, he gives our enemies all sorts of nuances and insights. These things matter and we're living in a dangerous world. He's the leader of the free world."
Ana, you supported Jeb Bush. How would you like to see Republicans and lawmakers handle President Trump in light of what we are learning this week?
ANA CABRERA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, Ana, I supported about 15 Republicans other than Trump that was running in the primary. I think at one point I may have supported a plotted plant instead of Trump. This week is a game changer. And the eye is beginning to crack in Washington. The significance of that is not lost on Republican lawmakers. Nobody wants to become complacent in some of that stuff. You are talking about national security and you are talking about a president who was a blabbermouth and cannot stop himself from divulging information to a Russian. I remember when Mitt Romney calling it to our political foe and some people laughed.
CABRERA: Could some of the people defending President Trump, like Representative Farenthold, earlier this hour, could some of his conversations with the Russians simply be a negotiating tactic and people are looking unfairly at what he said in that Oval Office meeting?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: A lot of that will be determined when we get the final results from the investigation from the special counsel. I agree with what Jeb Bush said. The president needs to stop tweeting about Russia and focus on the tasks at hands. I agree with a lot of Republicans said in Washington that we need to let the special counsel do its job, and let them focus on the bottom of this investigation, and let Congress focusing on executing the promises they make to the American people. What we are seeing is -- really in Washington and regarding many of the GOP standing up in supporting and defending the Russian situation right now because they want to let special counsel investigate and not jump to conclusion and speculate prematurely. Let it play its course. Meanwhile, this Russia investigation can go on, and they are going to continue to work on tax reform. This overseas trip was a perfect time for us to show our strengths around the world. Today was a tremendous day for the administration, not only the Saudi Arabia event, and the optics looked great, but it is a great way to show we're working with word partners to fight and combat terrorism across the world.
[15:40:17] CABRERA: Back to what's happening here at home, Ana, there has been some Republicans who have said that this was a turning point this past week. I am looking at Representative, Congressman Kaufman, from Colorado, said this week, quote, "It is not a question of what the president can do but it is a question of what the president can stop doing. He's not been able to make the pivot between being a candidate and being the president. What he needs to do is be the president."
Ana, do you believe that we are going to see a shift among more Republicans in Congress this week that may in effect change the president?
NAVARRO: I am not sure of anything changes this president. Certainly, he's got three wives and the entire staff is trying and leaders in Congress sending him messages and asking him not to tweet and asking him to be presidential. None of that work. I am not a believer in changing a 70-year-old man. Maybe Pope Francis can do something about it while President Trump visits him.
What I do think is it is an evolving situation that's not going to go away. We are going to see and we read former Director Comey is going to testify in front of Congress. I can tell you that's going to get more viewer ship in the last season, the finale of "Who Shot J.R.?" The American republic is demanding the truth. You are going to keep hearing about this.
CABRERA: Alice, the president has called it a witch hunt. Do you agree?
STEWART: No, I think is part of the process. We have allegations out there that needs to be investigated and that's what is being done. I think the House and Senate will continue their investigation and the special counsel. It is important to respect the process that we have. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that as we are seeing what's coming out of Comey, what he's speaking about here in Washington. People will be watching that unprecedented moment because he has a lot to say. At the same time, he needs to be careful because he has the opportunity coming forward with what he thought of evidence of obstruction of justice of the president and he did nothing but put it in a drawer and put it in a memo. I think who comes out unscathed in this process remains to be seen. There is going to be a lot of people that's going to regret the situation ever coming out in the first place.
CABRERA: Alice Stewart and Ana Navarro, thank you both very much Trump had called the Russia investigation a witch hunt. Our next
guest would argue he's wrong. We'll talk about the president and persecution, next.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[15:47:39] CABRERA: President Trump calls the Russia's investigation "a witch hunt, and a made-up story." The White House attorneys are taking it more seriously. Sources tell CNN the president's attorneys have started researching impeachment. It's our understanding they don't think it is in the cards but they want to be prepared just in case, no matter how distant the possibility is.
Joining us for more on what this could mean, CNN political analyst and professor and historian at Princeton University, Julian Zelizer.
Julian, thanks for being with us. It's good to have you.
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you.
CABRERA: At what point do we look back at history at Nixon's impeachment, Clinton faces impeachment hearings, at what point did their counsels start researching on how to deal with the process?
ZELIZER: Very early. You have to remember in both cases their processes went over for a longer period of time. The Nixon investigation were going on for over a year and it was clear this was a possibility. This whole thing is moving quickly compared to those. This is probably a little bit earlier that they at least try to outline what could happen. We have to remember the speed of the process.
CABRERA: So, to you, it is not unusual for the Trump's team to be doing it?
ZELIZER: It is unusual that he's in this situation and the news that we see every day is unusual. This is not the normal second 100 days of a presidency. The fact that counsel can would look into what can happen next, at this point, we have a special counsel appointed, we have multiple congressional investigations, that would be expected. It does not mean they think it will happen, but they understand it's in the realm of a possibility.
CABRERA: New reporting that at least one Trump campaign staffer is asking for help paying legal fees because he's been asked questions regarding this Russia investigation. Did these past presidential administrations help with legal fees of campaign staffers or other members of their administration?
ZELIZER: This is a burden of serving in a scandal-prone administration. This is where the pressure starts to mount, financial pressure starts to mount on members who are often worried about how they're going to pay for their counsel, and professional, they'll start to worry, what if the president throws me under the bus? What if I start to become the focus? This is a vulnerability for President Trump because this is when people might be willing to speak in ways they wouldn't if they didn't face this.
[15:50:05] CABRERA: The president talked about the appointment of special counsel earlier this week. I also want you to hear what he said at the Coast Guard graduation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Is that an accurate statement? Has he been treated more unfairly?
ZELIZER: No I don't think that is an accurate statement. The thing behind all this first came from the report of the intelligence agencies, not the Democratic Party about the Russian hack. This has been driven by his own statements, but very clear and disturbing evidence, including his firing the FBI director -- no one did that for him -- and subsequent mark remarks he did it because of the Russian things. This is not a partisan witch hunt. This is based on substance. And this is part of why that Republican firewall on Capitol Hill is cracking a bit and more Republicans are saying we need more information, we need to investigate. That's not a witch hunt.
CABRERA: What about the leaks the president and his team keep on saying should be a greater focus? Are there more leaks for his administration?
ZELIZER: There are a significant number of leaks. President Obama faced this as well. He was very aggressive against leakers, which angered a lot of press. We do seem to be having a lot of information coming out of this White House and we don't know why. It's not good to have too many leaks. But these are being driven, it seems, from serious concern within this White House and the executive branch that something is wrong with what the president is doing. And that is at the heart of the Comey memo, for example. So, yes, leaks are a problem and there are a lot of them, but I don't think that's the issue right now. The issue is what's the substance in those leaks. And that points to problems with the president.
CABRERA: Is it important that, despite the leaks and issues, with that aside, the information that's coming from that, you believe, needed to be out there and exposed?
ZELIZER: Sometimes leaks are important. The most famous leaks of all are the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the wrongdoing of Lyndon Johnson and the Nixon administration in the Vietnam War. And leaks are not always malicious. Sometimes they're efforts by people who see bad things happening to tell the press, you need to investigate, or tell Congress, you need to look into this. Sometimes leaks have a purpose. And that's might be what we're seeing, given how disturbing the information has been. Again, not just the Democrats, but more Republicans on Capitol Hill.
CABRERA: Julian Zelizer, thanks for your voice and perspective. We really appreciate it.
ZELIZER: Thank you.
CABRERA: Turning to President Trump's international trip beginning in Saudi Arabia. The country's neighbor, Iran, has now reelected its president for a second term. This was an election the U.S., of course, was closely watching. President Hassan Rouhani beat out his more conservative opponent by a comfortable 57 percent. Rouhani was a key architect of the controversial nuclear deal with the U.S. back in 2015, one that Trump has repeatedly criticiz3ed. In a speech after his win, Rouhani says he hopes to improve relations with the U.S. and the rest of the world. Iran and the situation and dealing with Iran will no doubt be a topic of conversation with Saudi Arabia as the president continues his visit there.
We'll be right back.
[15:58:02] CABRERA: Two sisters were determined to finish a half marathon at Disneyland, and when one of them was diagnosed with cancer, they promised they were still going to move forward and finish it anyway.
Here's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sisters Jackie and Karla Solano are training for a half marathon at Disneyland.
KARLA SOLANO, MARATHON RUNNER: We are big Disney fans. We forget that we're adults. We hold hands and we skip into the park because we're excited.
GUPTA: The sisters bond through running. Having raced dozens of events through the years, yet the next race is different.
JACKIE SOLANO, CANCER PATIENT & MARATHON RUNNER: Hearing the words that I have cancer was probably the hardest thing I've had to hear.
GUPTA: Last October 31-year-old Jackie Solano was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She's gone through three rounds of chemotherapy limiting her strength and immune system but she's determined to finish the race with her sister.
JACKIE SOLANO: Right now, I'm halfway through treatments, I want to feel normal.
KARLA SOLANO: Cancer, that's not what defiance my sister.
JACKIE SOLANO: Cancer is definitely not stopping me from running. Not at all.
GUPTA: This "Star Wars"-themed Disneyland half marathon takes a run through the Magic Kingdom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Runners, set, go.
GUPTA: Five miles in, the strain on her body is wearing her down, but her team was there to help her.
GUPTA: By mile 12, she got up, to finish on foot.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There you go. Finish it strong.
JACKIE SOLANO: Really emotional crossing that finish line.
KARLA SOLANO: That's just one finish line she will be crossing. Once she is cancer-free, that's another finish line that she'll cross.
JACKIE SOLANO: Cancer or no cancer, I finished the race.
[16:00:13] CABRERA: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera.