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President Trump Bragged About Firing FBI Director In Meeting with Top Russian Officials; Trump's Full VIP Treatment in Saudi Arabia; Passenger Plane and Utility Truck Apparently Collided; Candid Revelations from a Friend of James Comey;; Pippa Middleton Tied the Knot Today. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 20, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:05] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I hope your weekend buff to a great start. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
He may be more than 6,000 miles away from Washington, but the President Trump, there is no escape from what is now a full blown crisis for his administration.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
CABRERA: He was the President earlier tonight. Smiling, swaying to the music at this welcome ceremony in Saudi Arabia. This as sources tell CNN lawyers back at the White House are researching impeachment procedures. The President is increasingly under fire.
The "New York Times" now reporting he bragged about firing FBI director James Comey during a meeting with top Russian officials in the oval office. The President reportedly saying quote "I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russian. That's taken off."
Even before that bombshell, close advisers had urged the President to hire an outside lawyer as controversies over Russia mount.
We have every angle of the story covered tonight. Joining me now CNN Presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley. Professor emeritus at Harvard Law School Alan Dershowitz and national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics" Caitlin Huey-Burns. .
Alan, to you first. Do you see the president's comments about Comey as evidence of possible obstruction of justice?
ALAN DERSHOWITZ, PROFESSOR EMERITUS, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL: I do not. The President of is the head of the executive branch, Unitarian executive. Constitutionally, he can control the branch. He could tell the director of the FBI do not prosecute Flynn. He can say prosecute so-and-so. There is no constitutional barrier to the President doing that.
CABRERA: But the fact that Flynn's part of this, investigation was part of his team -- DERSHOWITZ: It doesn't matter.
CABRERA: I mean, in effect, doesn't he say don't investigate me or my people?
DERSHOWITZ: So he has a conflict of interest, that's an ethical matter.
CABRERA: That's not trying to obstruct justice?
CABRERA: Explain to me the difference.
DERSHOWITZ: Because the President has to commit an unlawful act. And Nixon committed an unlawful act. The claim was that Clinton committed an unlawful act, perjury. But a President by simply firing somebody or telling somebody to perform a constitutionally satisfactory function that can't be an obstruction of justice. Nor do I think it can be an impeachable offense. I'll tell you why.
CABRERA: But it impacts the investigation, no?
DERSHOWITZ: Sure, it would impact the investigation if he gave him a pardon also. Would you say that's an obstruction of justice? The President has a constitutional right, right now to pardon Flynn and to pardon everybody in the Russian investigation and say there will be no more investigations. None of that would be in obstruction of justice.
CABRERA: So how do people get around that in the sense of if there is a crime that has been committed by somebody within the administration, and like you said, the President is the top dog, right?
CABRERA: So he may have the power, but if that's the case, I mean, this is a democracy. He is not a dictator.
DERSHOWITZ: Look. It's a democracy and he was elected President. And as a result to being elected president, he has certain authority under the constitution. There's a remedy. It is called election. And next time he runs, people should vote against him if they believe he acted improperly.
There's also impeachment which is more political. The problem with impeachment is what President Trump has done is exactly what candidate Trump did during the campaign. And you can't impeach a President who ran and won based on all the things he has done, all the things he is now doing. He is just repeating. There's not that much new that would warrant either an impeachment, certainly not a criminal prosecution.
Look, I didn't vote for Trump. I was against him. I voted for Hillary Clinton. I wish she was the President of the United States. I'm a civil libertarian. I care deeply about not expanding criminal statutes to fit people we don't like. CABRERA: Sure.
DERSHOWITZ: That's called -
CABRERA: But China, in terms of laymen like me, I'm not a constitutional expert like you, trying to understand, I guess some of the nuance in what you are saying in terms of when something is impeachable offense or something is obstruction of justice, what would have to be proven in order to go there?
DERSHOWITZ: OK. Tearing up evidence, failing to comply with a subpoena, committing perjury, but if a President has the constitutional power to pardon anybody and the President has that constitutional power. If you don't like it, you have two remedies, amend the constitution, don't vote for him, but don't try to expand the existing criminal law in violation of civil liberties to do what Stalin and (INAUDIBLE) did back during the terrible days of Stalinism where Berroa (ph) said to Stalin show me the man and I will find you the crime. That's not America.
CABRERA: OK. Let me get Caitlin in to the conversation here. So whether or not this is obstruction of justice or impeachable, bottom line is the President said these things inside the oval office to the Russian officials as reported by "New York Times." And at this point the White House has not denied that the comments were said. The press secretary Sean Spicer said that - let me show you the quote. He said by grandstanding and politicizing, the investigation into Russia's action, James Comey created pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.
So Caitlin, he is saying Comey was hurting their ability to negotiate, but the President's comments, I'm wondering, I mean, did he just take away some of these leverage in a negotiation by saying the pressure is no you off?
[19:05:30] CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Right. Well, the White House over the past week had been kind of all over the map on this. Remember, we had that interview with Donald Trump and Lester Holt on MSNBC - I'm sorry NBC. And Donald Trump mentioned Russia in his, you know, potential reason for firing Comey. Then you had, of course, the White House saying no, no, it was the attorney general Rod Rosenstein's recommendation.
Now, we are hearing from Rod Rosenstein this week at his briefing numbers of Congress saying, look, I wrote this letter. I stand by it. But in no way was this intended as a justification for the firing. And then --.
CABRERA: In fact Rosenstein said that he believed that Trump was going to fire Comey even before he wrote that.
DERSHOWITZ: When did he write the memo?
HUEY-BURNS: Well, that's the question that a lot of lawmakers on Capitol Hill are wanting to have answered and they have not gotten the answer to this. Besides the legal ramifications, you know, I'm not a lawyer and you are, so I'm looking more at the political fallout of this certainly. We know the President of course is on this trip. I have been talking to members of Congress over the past week. This is certainly, if nothing else, a huge distraction for this President as it pertains to his agenda.
But interestingly, Democrats I have been talking to are trying to kind of tamp down on the impeachment talk. There are some Democrats calling for impeachment, but when you talk to democratic leaders, they are say tamp down on this, see how it plays out. They were happy with the appointment of a special counsel in this case.
CABRERA: And I want to ask Doug about that. Sources tell CNN the White House lawyers are now researching impeachment, although the White House denies it. Here was the President earlier this week reacting to the appointment of the former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel in the Russia probe.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I respect the move, but the entire thing has been a witch-hunt. And there is no collusion between circling myself and my campaign. But I can always speak for myself and the Russians, zero. I think it divides the country. I think we have a divided country because of that and many other things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, Doug, he there calls it a witch-hunt. He can do that. But if there is something to learn from past presidents, how could this President better handle the situation?
DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, first off, everybody likes Robert Mueller. Everybody trusts him. Democrats, Republicans, Independents. So he is going to come up with a verdict here. Now, if Donald Trump has nothing to worry about, Mueller will say just what Alan Dershowitz just said. You know, we can't find any criminal activity. On the other hand, if there is something or perjury take place r if he has lied to the FBI or shredded documents illegally, these sort of things will come to light.
So the good news for America, I think is that we have Mueller in the mix, it kind of get some clarity with all of this. Everybody's bells are being rung, tea pot dome scandal, the Clinton impeachment-Lewinsky woes, Watergate. And usually, the reason we are making these comparisons is because of this special prosecutor.
And so I think all eyes on the country are going to be on Mueller. He has stepped up. And even though Donald Trump can fire Mueller, if he wanted to, as Alan suggested, he would never do that.
CABRERA: But why would he say bring it on? Bring on the investigation. I have nothing to hide.
BRINKLEY: Well, that's what do you understand. That's what Donald Trump should have said from day one, but he seems to be in cover-up mode. And that's why it's ringing the Watergate bell. Every day the Trump White House seems to be covering something up and everybody is wondering what? Why aren't you more transparent? Why aren't you coming forward with it? So we will have to see how this all plays out. But I think the good news is most people can agreed Mueller is going to run an honest investigation.
DERSHOWITZ: So let me give you the bad news.
CABRERA: OK. What's the bad news?
DERSHOWITZ: The bad news, he is going to do it in secret. He is not going to be behind closed doors. He is not going to leak because he is an honest, decent guy. We are going to have people called in front of the grand jury without their lawyers. It will be a kangaroo - look. If you're going to have a kangaroo court, you might as well have a really an honorable kangaroo running it, and Mueller is an honorable kangaroo court as you can get. But it is kangaroo court and it's a secret court. It's a star chamber.
CABRERA: So you feel like they are simply more transparent.
DERSHOWITZ: Of course, there should a complete investigation by a commission appointed by Congress, where we all see the questions. There's an opportunity to cross-examine. We get both sides of the issue and then the truth comes out.
CABRERA: Let me get your legal take on this new development with Michael Flynn. We are learning that Russian officials caught in the intercepted communications say that they had such a great relationship with Flynn. They believed they could use him to influence Trump. And they should Flynn have immunity by any sense of the imagination in order to get more of the details?
[19:10:12] DERSHOWITZ: Not yet. Not yet. He has to make a proffer. He has to come with his lawyer. You tell the prosecutors what he has to offer. If he has enough to offer, maybe. You usually only give a guy immunity only if he can point to a guy higher up. If he gets something on Donald Trump, yes, sure, he will get immunity. But in the end I think Flynn may be one of the people who may be in trouble here. There may be some lying that may be criminal.
CABRERA: Caitlin, we know that James Comey now saying he is going to testify publicly in front of the Senate intelligence committee this might be after Memorial Day. There is not a definitive date yet. But given that it might be in public which is transparent. Everybody is happy to hear that, but how much can he actually said?
HUEY-BURNS: Well, members of Congress want to these memos that have been reported about in the press. And so, they want to see those memos. Whey want to hear from Comey himself. There were questions after the appointment of Mueller, whether Comey, who of course is very close with Mueller, whether he would come out publicly and still testify or if he would try to stay behind the scenes and let this investigation play out.
What this investigation, though, this probe, and also going forth, the congressional investigation do continue is that it does create this kind of lingering crowd over the White House. And traditionally, you would see Presidents let that play out but say, look, we are going forward with our agenda. Here is what we're going to do. Donald Trump has shown no indication that he is able to do that. We saw the tweets coming out this week, calling it a witch-hunt and so forth. If he continue kind of chime in and distract from the road that he could go down on --
CABRERA: If keeps the focus on this Russian investigation.
HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. And you know, this is an ongoing investigation, right? So anything that kind of comes out in the process can be used as well.
CABRERA: I want to remind everybody in the final days of the campaign, then candidate Trump gave this warning about what would happen in Hillary Clinton won. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If she were to within it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis. She is likely to be under investigation for a long time, concluding probably in a criminal trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Doug, did President Trump make the right prediction, just about the wrong person?
BRINKLEY: Yes. You know, that's one of the problems of Donald Trump, the anger, some of the partisan angst, the whole "lock her up" motif which took place at the Republican national convention in 2016 is at hand here.
But I do think the fact -- the big question really ultimately is about where did the Russians influence the 2016 election? Did Donald Trump collude with Russians up to day, a cover of Time magazine when he is in Saudi Arabia showing the Kremlin and the White House blurred together?
And I think the political question is going to be interesting. Will Republicans stick to the brand of Donald Trump or they are going to start seeing him as a detriment. And I think Comey's -- when Comey goes to Capitol Hill, I think that is going to be a big moment. It is going to maybe a TV circus watching him. But the question is if Comey gives up enough information about Donald Trump, you may see Republicans, gang of ten U.S. Republican senators turning on the President.
DERSHOWITZ: But the problem with America is if Trump's prediction comes true and she were elected and there were investigations, the Republicans would now be the ones saying obstruction of justice, expand the statutes. So whether you are Republican and a Democrat, you generally don't care about civil liberties. We need people concerned in a nonpartisan way, whether it will be Hillary Clinton who would be the subject of an unfair investigation or President Trump. Stop the politics.
CABRERA: That's why they have this special prosecutors. I mean, that is way we are --.
CABRERA: He's going to get to the bottom of it and what his conclusion is will be hopefully --
DERSHOWITZ: Prosecutors don't get to the bottom of anything. They hear only one side of the issue. That's why you need public hearings to get to both sides.
CABRERA: We would all like to see the transparency.
Guys, got to go there. Doug Brinkley, Alan Dershowitz, Caitlin, thank you so much all for joining us.
In Saudi Arabia now, let's head overseas. If there's any tension from that Russian investigation back home, the President and his senior staff are certainly not showing it. Let's watch.
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CABRERA: Quite the celebration in Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia. The President, his chief of staff, his secretary of state, his commerce secretary all joining in on this traditional all-male Saudi sword dance. The President is being given the full VIP treatment by his host fare. He described using one of his favorite words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[19:15:16] TRUMP: It was a tremendous day. I just want to thank everybody, but tremendous investments into the United States and our military community is very happy. We want to thank you and Saudi Arabia and hundreds of billions of dollars of investments taken to the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Our senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny is in Riyadh right now.
Jeff, that jobs comment there was the only thing the President really said to the pool. He hasn't given a full-on press conference or anything. Is there any indication that this president plans to address these new developments back home including the bombshell report that he bragged about firing Comey and called him a net dog?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Ana, there's no question the President and the White House want to keep this trip focused here on issues here in Saudi Arabia as well as other stops along the await here and forget about the Russia investigation. Of course, that is easier said than actually done. But he is not scheduled, the President is not scheduled to have any press conferences on this trip at all. Highly unusual for a president on a high profile foreign journey like this. This, of course, is the first trip he has taken overseas as president.
Tonight in fact, he will be sleeping for the first time not in the White House or at Trump-owned golf course or property here. So really is in sort of a new setting here.
But Ana, they do not want to talk about the Russia investigation. Of course, that just not mean it is not on their mind. He is traveling basically with, you know, all of his top advisers. And this is something that is definitely a weighing on him.
The question here will be, as he meets with leaders, and he gives a big speech tomorrow on extremism. He meets a lot of leaders from the Middle East before going to four other countries next week. Will he be treated differently by foreign leaders? They of course are watching all of the FBI firing, you know, very intently. They are watching everything he is doing. They know that he is weaker back home. But on the world stage at least he is very powerful. That was something that so clear here on the streets of Riyadh today.
So there is no question that smile you saw in his face earlier there, he was happy to be here even in the heat of Riyadh today, much you know, welcome, a respite from Washington.
CABRERA: Well, he has been given the red carpet treatment for sure since he stepped up at Saudi. He was given that fancy medal, this great honor, this dance that was part of the big celebration. Obviously, a much different reception that what his predecessor had received. And there, we are showing the video right now, Rex Tillerson with the sort and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross. May be there were couple of guys who you usually see in being a very stiff in front of the cameras. And this is -- I mean, them cutting loose to some degree. Seems like they are in their element. Why such a warm receptions by the Saudis?
ZELENY: Well, look, this is one of the things that's so interests about seeing a President on the world stage here. But I remember being here in June of 2009 when President Obama was making his first visit to Saudi Arabia as well. He received a similar welcome, but then things devolved pretty quickly because of the Iran nuclear agreement. That is one of the reasons that Saudi officials have such high hope of this president because he has talked so much against the Iran agreement. Of course, he has not yet called out of that, though. So going forward here, they definitely have. You know, want to reset this relationship.
But Ana, a very key speech tomorrow here about extremism. And the President is trying to sort of reset that tone. Perhaps also reset his relationship with the Muslim world as well after saying so many harsh things during the campaign -- Ana.
CABRERA: Jeff Zeleny reporting, thank you.
Some breaking news I want you bring you all right now into CNN. A collision on the ground at LAX, Los Angeles international airport, several people are hurt. This happened on an airport service road. A passengers' plane and utility truck apparently collided. The truck overturned. And according to the Los Angeles fire department, eight people who were in that truck are hurt. Thankfully none of the injuries are life-threatening we are learning. But we are gathering more information.
Stay with CNN. These are some live images from our affiliate, KCAL and KCBS therein Los Angeles. Again, as we have more details we will of course bring those to you.
Coming up, candid revelations from a friend of James Comey including what the ex-FBI director thought of this now infamous hug from the President.
Plus, the President prepares for that big speech to the Muslim world with the big question yet unanswered. Will he use the term "radical Islamic terrorism"?
[19:24:08] CABRERA: Welcome back. Live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
As the White House tries to contain the fallout regarding Russia, the firing of former FBI director James Comey, we are learning just how hard it was for Comey to keep his distance from the president from dinner invite that royalty pledges to the phone calls, just to chat? President Trump made himself almost impossible to Comey to avoid.
Here is CNN's Brian Todd.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Now ousted FBI director and the man be who fired him in an awkward television moment that has new meaning.
It started a friend of James Comey's says when the FBI director arrived in the blue room in the White House on January 22nd. Comey was hoping President Trump wouldn't notice him. And even stood as far from the President as possible. Comey's friend says the six-foot- eight director wearing a blue suit was trying to blend in with the blue curtains, but the President singled him out.
[19:25:01] TRUMP: There's James. He has become more famous than me.
TODD: Comey's friend says he was annoyed. Comey didn't want to seem friendly with the President so he tried to avoid getting too close.
BENJAMIN WITTERS, FRIEND TO JAMES COMEY: If you watch the video, he extends his hands, and Comey's arms re really long, and he extends his hand kind of preemptively and Trump grabs the hand and kind of pulls him into a hug, but the hug is entirely one-sided. So one guy in the hug is shaking hands and the other guys is hugging. TODD: Benjamin Witters told PBS his friend Comey did not want to be
at the white House event two days after the inauguration with the President whose campaign he was investigating. But felt he couldn't refuse attending a reception for the law enforcement. (INAUDIBLE) says that moment was one of a few incidents where Comey felt President Trump inappropriately tried to get chummy with him. One time he says the President even telephoned Comey as the director was boarding a helicopter not far in emergency, just to make small talk. (INAUDIBLE) says Comey eventually felt he had to coach the White House to not have the president contact him directly.
WITTERS: The color of the wallpaper was that these were not honorable people and that protecting the FBI from them was his day job.
TODD: Former FBI and justice officials say its protocol for the FBI director to not appear to be personally close to the president.
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: If you have an investigation, if you have an allegations made against the President or against members of his administration or people they are considering for the administration, you don't want the appearance of lack of objectivity, let's say or bias on the part of the FBI.
TODD: Former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes says its possible President Trump simply didn't know better than to reach out to Comey directly, but others believe the contacts were calculated.
What Trump was doing right from the beginning was trying to get close to Comey, trying to feel him out, trying to get him on board. And when that didn't happen, I think Trump realized that there was no way that this guy was going to be on board, and that his only choice in trying to scuttle this investigation was to get rid of the director of the FBI.
TODD: Benjamin Witters says Comey was quote "disgusted with the scene where Trump shook Comey's hand in front of the cameras at the White House. Request the White House repeatedly for response to that or response to Comey's reported account that Trump and his aides are quote "not honorable people and for response to the overall criticism that President Trump behaved inappropriately with James Comey." We got no response from the White House.
Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.
CABRERA: So there you heard James Comey's friend Benjamin Witters say Comey was disgusted when the President gave him a hug at the White House. He even went on to say that Comey thought the President was intentionally trying to compromise him in front of the cameras.
CNN law enforcement analyst and retired FBI supervisor special agent James Gagliano is joining us now.
James, a close source to Comey tells CNN the former director now believes Trump was trying to on influence him. What step could Comey had taken in addition to these reports of his (INAUDIBLE) memos he apparently capped?
JAMES GAGLIANO, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. It's great to be with you Ana. And watching the video of that awkward moment when President Trump called director Comey forward. It was almost palpability how uncomfortable you could tell the director was.
I think the director is being exceedingly cautious by, you know, writing notes and putting those into an electronic communications and touching those to the file every time he had a contact with the President. I don't think that's beyond the pale or outside the realm of what an FBI director should do.
I also have to note though that the day before he was fired, Director Comey was asked when he was questioned by Congress whether or not he felt that there had been any undue pressure on him to cease or to halt or to stinny the Russian collusion investigation. And he adamantly stated no, there had been none. So I think he was just being hyper conscious, I guess, under the circumstances. I think also, not to read his mind, but I think that the director kind of knew that this merge between him and the President was not going to last long.
CABRERA: And now, our new reporting according to sources who are close to Comey are telling us that he does believe that Trump was trying to influence the investigation. Is that just a matter of hindsight being 20/20? Or do you think that they didn't want to believe it initially? I mean, why would he come around to that now, as he just pointed out that he testified he didn't believe so?
GAGLIANO: Sure. And I'm not a lawyer. I mean, obviously, I conducted investigations at the federal level for quarter of a century. And I worked very closely with the professional attorneys, the assistant United States attorneys at the department of justice. And I did here Alan Dershowitz who is obviously an attorney of high regard, speaking about this.
I think it is going to be a difficult case to make unless there is a smoking gun somewhere that is not been leaked to the press yet that nobody is aware of because if you take the President's words as have been related from that quote/unquote "memo," you have to prove intent on an obstruction of justice charge. And when you put intent, it's difficult to do if someone's statements are purposefully fuzzy, vague, elliptical. And as I hear the statements that were apparently chronicled in director Comey's the electronic communication, I just don't see anything where someone could say it was clearly defined that he was telling him to halt the investigation.
[19:30:44] CABRERA: You worked under Robert Mueller, the recently named special counsel for the Russia investigation. How would you expect him to proceed?
GAGLIANO: Well, I had the privilege of serving on protection details for director Mueller on his first trip to Afghanistan in 2003 and on a number of occasions when he came to New York. And I was learn the New York SWAT team. So I know him in that regard. And I had spoken on CNN about the character and discipline (ph) and the more rectitude of director Comey. And I could take all those superlatives and apply them to director Mueller.
There was a reason why he was asked to stay on an additional two years. He had a ten-year terms an FBI director. He was appointed by Republican and then a Democratic president, President Obama asked him to stay on an additional two years. That doesn't happen in deeply divided Washington.
He is an incredible and (INAUDIBLE) investigator. When he was with the department of justice, he was a United States attorney, served in the upper-ish loans, of the department of justice, a man that I have yet to find anyone have a cross word to say anything about. Here's what's troubles me.
CABRERA: You talk about his integrity. But what makes him such a good investigator in terms of like giving us a little peek behind the scenes in terms of how he operates.
GAGLIANO: Sure. Well, when you reach a level like director Mueller and director Comey did, you are obviously not at their pounding on doors and looking under stones and conducting investigations. But you are providing the resources, the guidance and the culture for the organization. And I think both of those men did a very good job establishing inappropriate culture.
Director Mueller was came on at a very different time. The country, it just got through 9/11. The FBI, there was talk about bifurcating in a two separate unit, one was going to be an intelligence agency like MI5 in Britain. He was able to prevent that from happening and basically kind of reconfigure the FBI so that we still conduct investigations, but also became the preeminent intelligence-gathering source inside the United States.
I just think it's the culture that he brought to the FBI. He was a man that he didn't suffer fools. He was not a great communicator. I don't think he was someone that was warm and fuzzy, but you knew that he was held in high regard by FBI agents.
I'm just troubled by the fact that being selected as a special prosecutor, in any other instance I think he would be the perfect fit. But why would you select him if he has a relationship to director Comey? To me it just, I don't understand why that would be an appropriate pairings if you ask me.
CABRERA: James Gagliano, thank you so much for joining us.
Coming up, high stakes for the President's speech to Muslim leaders. Can he really hit the reset button after comments like this?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: A total and complete shutdowns of Muslims entering the United States.
I want surveillance of certain mosques.
I think Islam hates us. (END VIDEO CLIP)
[19:38:00] CABRERA: President Trump will get his first speech abroad tomorrow and it is a big one. He will address leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries. The big question is, will he use the phrase radical Islamic terrorism? Candidate Trump made it clear he believes the U.S. not seek groups like ISIS without using that label. And he also has some tough words about Islam in the past.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think Islam hates us. There's something there that is a tremendous hatred there. There's a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There's an unbelievable hatred of us.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In Islam itself?
TRUMP: You are going to have to figure that out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Let's talk it over with CNN global affairs correspondent Elise Labott.
Elise, given comments like that we just heard along with the fact that this President campaigned on a Muslim ban, would he be able to reset in just one speech if he doesn't say the words "radical Islamic terrorism"?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that was a buzz phrase that was very offensive in the region, Ana. But I think what the President wants to try and do and certainly Arab diplomats that I have spoken to, or hoping that he is, you know, make a nod to this ancient religion that's very diverse and very rich, and largely the word Muslims including those in America are peaceful. And that what he is trying to do is rally the Islamic and Arab countries to make sure their religion is not being perverted by extremists, but hijack by extremism kind of rally the world. One of his aides have said is that they hope that he will be able to present a peaceful vision for the world's Muslims.
So I think if he has try to strike the right tone and stick on script, he will be sending the right message. And Arabs hope that he will come away from this meeting tomorrow with these better with the better understanding of what Islam actually is.
CABRERA: We are showing a lot of the video from today. And we saw the Saudis pull out all the stops for President Trump right now to even making sure they had one of his favorite on the menu. We have learned it was stale with a side of ketchup. How does this reception compare to when President Obama visited Saudi Arabia?
[19:40:13] LABOTT: Well, I can't remember President Obama ever getting this quite of a reception. Certainly the Bush family was close with the Saudis and President George W. Bush and H.W. Bush both received this kind of welcome.
I think the Saudis really wanted this visit to go well. They wanted to make sure that President Trump was treated like a very important leader, someone that they wanted to restore the relationship with after the acrimony of President Obama, and I think largely they did that. I think the smile on the President's face today was genuine, that he felt that he was being treated, you know, like the leader he feels he deserving to be treated.
CABRERA: We have been focusing on the President. But there has been some buzz about the fact that first lady Melania Trump was not wearing a traditional headscarf on this trip. And that, you know, some of the backlash has been partly because President Trump when he was a citizen criticized that first lady Michelle Obama didn't wear one of those headscarf. This is what he tweeted back in 2015 saying many are people saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear scarf in Saudi Arabia but they were insulted. We have enough enemies. So give us a reality check on this, Elise.
LABOTT: OK. Well, President Trump didn't declare his candidacy at that point, but certainly he was considering it. And I just think it's another thing like the Islam thing that it's the rhetoric of, you know, being a citizens or a candidate versus governing. I mean, listen. You know, it's up to every woman who is in an official delegation whether to wear the head scarf. You didn't see any of the other women in the Presidential delegation wearing the headscarf. And I think the Saudis are really not that bend out of the shape about it. I mean, when a presidential delegation comes in, they treat them with respect. And I don't think it made a very big difference outside of social media.
CABRERA: And we saw it with the Bush family, too, not wearing headscarves.
LABOTT: Usually they don't.
CABRERA: Thank you very much. Good to see you tonight.
Coming up, President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia has raised questions about potential business conflicts. We will have a look at the long- standing ties in the region when we return.
You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
[19:46:32] CABRERA: Saudi Arabia rolled out the red carpet for Donald Trump and offered plenty of pomp and circumstance for the President. Also an elaborate signing ceremony in Riyadh.
President Trump and Saudi king Salman inked billions of dollars in business investment, defense deals between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Speaking of deals, the foreign trip has raised some questions about potential business conflicts to the Trump family.
CNN national politics reporter M.J. Lee has that story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
M. J. LEE, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Donald Trump arriving in Saudi Arabia today, the first stop in his inaugural foreign trip as President. Trump hoping to use the nine-day tour to reset his tumultuous presidency at home as questions about his campaign ties to Russia continue to swirl.
TRUMP: We have to get back to running this country really, really well.
LEE: But the highly anticipated Middle East visit ones again racing fresh questions about potential business conflicts, where Trump has a long history of real estate investment.
TRUMP: Saudi Arabia, and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend 40 million, 50 million? Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.
LEE: Trump's vast empire spans the globes including apartment buildings, hotels and golf courses. According to the 2016 financial disclosure, Trump had 144 registered companies with dealings in more than two dozen countries. Eight of them were Saudi companies, and all of them recently dissolved or canceled.
Since Election Day, Trump taking steps to distance himself from his family business, turning control of his company over to his adult sons.
TRUMP: Don and Eric are going to be running the company. They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They are not going to be discuss it with me. Again, I don't have to do this. They are not going to discuss it with me.
LEE: But Trump's critics not convinced that he has severed himself completely from his business empire. A group of Democratic senators sending a letter this week to the Trump organization about its continued ties to the President.
The senator's writing, this continuing financial relationship raises serious concerns about whether the Trump organization is effectively a pass-through for income that violation the constitution's two emoluments clauses.
Trump's second stop in his foreign trip, Israel where he has also had business interests over the years.
CABRERA: That was M.J. Lee, our thanks to her.
This is the picture so many of you have been wading for. What did Pippa Middleton look like on her wedding day? It is like she was once the most famous bridesmaid. But no, today, wedding bells were chiming for her. A look how Kate's little sister celebrated her big day, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
[19:53:30] CABRERA: Welcome back to the NEWSROOM. There will be no triple crown this season.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cloud Computing has defeated classic empire and the Preakness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Cloud Computing, holds off AN upset to win today. Preakness take that win and the Triple Crown hopes on the odds on favorite and always Kentucky derby Always Dreaming. Horse races focus now shifts to the Belmont stakes on June 10th with the big question can Cloud Computing win two in a row.
It wasn't technically a royal wedding, but it sure felt like it. PIPPA Middleton, the sister of Britain's ditches of Cambridge tied the knot today with Hedge Fund billionaire James Matthews. And their wedding party included Hippa's niece and nephew, Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
And as CNN Erin McLaughlin reports, the wedding was a feast for the eyes of royal watchers everywhere.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the society wedding of the year. Newly-weds Pippa Middleton and hedge fund manager James Matthews were all smiles and a kiss for the crowd. Pippa stunned in a scope dress by British designer (INAUDIBLE). Handmade, lace, not a seam in sight.
Stealing some of the spotlight, Pippa's niece and nephew Princess Charlotte and Prince George. Flower girl and page boy looking adorable as the duchess of Cambridge kept them in check. The guest was includes tennis star Roger Fedder and Princess Eugenie (ph).
At the ceremony, no signs of Prince Harry's girlfriend, American actress Meghan Markle. Media reports place her in the UK it's possible she will attend the reception that will take place in the massive marquis on the Middleton family estate.
This scene is just down the road from here but of course the press won't be allowed near the reception. British media reports it will be a lavish affair fit for the sister of a future queen.
Erin McLaughlin, CNN, (INAUDIBLE), England.
[19:55:28] CABRERA: Thanks so much Erin.
Coming up, the Senate intelligence committee has announced James Comey will testify publicly. How much will he reveal about the Russia probe and whether there was any pressure from President Trump? We will discuss here in the NEWSROOM.