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Trump Declares Terrorism "Battle Between Good And Evil"; Ivanka Trump Speaks At Saudi Twitter Forum; Trump Implores World Leaders To "Drive Out" Terrorists; Trump Next Stop: Israel; Comey To Testify Publicly Before Senate Intel Committee; Sheriff Clarke Plagiarized 2013 Master's Thesis. Aired 3-4p ET

Aired May 21, 2017 - 15:00   ET


[15:00:02] NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: So it's a show that this was not a case of him telling them and their countries what to think and what to do. But this was all about shared values and about working together about security for everyone by having a commonality of vision and a commonality of aim.

He touched on issues that are important, particularly for the Saudis. The Saudi king who spoke before him talked about how Iran was the big problem in the region, that ever since the Iranian revolution in 1979 they've been at the front of all the significant terror issues in the region. And that was something that President Trump picked up on as well, talking about Iran's role in the region, Iran's negative role in the region.

But this was a room full of people who were perhaps questioning what President Trump might say because of the comments that he's made about Islam, you know, on his campaign trail. But for the most part, this is a speech as best we can tell in a room like this that went down well.

However, I have to say there were comments late in the evening at another event by the (inaudible) foreign minister who heavily criticized European nations, pointing the finger at the Middle East and saying the problem with radical extremism is in Middle East. He said the problem with it is also in Europe. And unless you do something in Europe it's no good telling us what to do. Unless you do something in Europe, you'll find more extremists coming out of Europe than you will the Middle East.

So, in a way, there was no pushback against President Trump and the United States. But there certainly was some pushback from a senior influential figure in the region that the problem isn't just here. That it shared by partners in Europe as well.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So, Nic, all will highly -- also highly anticipated were the words that people were expecting to hear from President Trump to this Twitter forum to talk to mostly younger people, millennial kind of audience, but instead it wasn't the president that people heard from in that forum just moments ago, but his daughter who's also a White House adviser. Can you talk about what she said or what she didn't say, whether there was disappointment or satisfaction?

ROBERTSON: I can tell you from at least one person in the room. There was huge disappointment. We've been talking about it. The expectation was President Trump would be there and the whole day has been running late. It has to be set about an hour late, almost plus at every event and President Trump had just been at that opening of the Global Counterterrorism Center that the Saudis have set up. And it was quite a long explanation they were given on how it work well, how -- you know, what was on all the different big screens in that room.

So, it was a real surprise when somebody walked up to the microphone at the Tweeps event and said, "You know, sorry, we've got a surprise for you, President Trump is not coming." The camera close up to Ivanka and there was Ivanka thanking the deputy crown prince, the king and the crown prince as well for hosting them and for both taking care of them so well over the past several days.

But, we didn't really hear a full explanation why President Trump couldn't make it and Ivanka Trump talked very eloquently about how, you know, social media is an important tool for the youth in the region, an important tool to communicate ideas and values. But we didn't get to the bottom of why the president didn't show up. We're told he was still at the Counterterrorism Center with the king. I guess in Saudi Arabia, when the king wants you to stay somewhere, you stay there.

WHITFIELD: I guess so. And, Nic, you know, moments ago the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also had something to say. "I think what you heard is the expression of this administration's policy and views, not just toward this region but toward American relationships with the Muslim world here, as well as more broadly. And I think the President clearly was extending a hand, and understanding that only together can we address this threat of terrorism that has befallen all of us, not just in the region, but worldwide." So that was the President's -- or the secretary of state's interpretation of the President's address to the mostly Muslim audience there.

ROBERTSON: Yes. And I think, you know, there was one phrase that the President used in his speech and this will really resonate and we'd heard talk from the Saudis in particular how this was an historic event and the historic reset in the relations between the West and the Arab-Muslim world.

But President Trump in a way went further than that. He said, "Our friends will understand that we will never quit in our support of them." And that's a very powerful message coming -- his administration coming after President Obama's administration, because the sense here in the Middle East was that the United States was drawing back from its involvement in the Middle East.

And his words there almost echo exactly what the Russian foreign minister had said in the region here five years ago, telling Arab league leaders in a forum like this that Russia would never let them down. [15:05:11] And then here you have President Trump saying the United States after everything you've seen in the last administration we will never let you down. The perception there that Russia was trying to move into a vacuum that the Obama administration had created, that -- those words will resonate very well with the Saudis and others here.

WHITFIELD: All right, Nic Robertson in Riyadh, thank you so much.

Let's talk more now with CNN International Correspondent Muhammad Lila, Mike Allen, former Director of the National Security Preparedness Group and Qanta Ahmed, author of "In the Land of Invisible Women." All right, good to see all of you and welcome back.

So Mike, let me begin with you. What was the message that this President can feel most proud of?

MICHAEL ALLEN, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BEACON GLOBAL STRATEGIES: I think the message he can feel most proud of is that he did that with a broad brush condemn the Islamic faith. He said very clearly, "This is a fight between us, the decent people, and the evil people. And we together must partner to do this and fight them on our own."

So I think, you know, for all the doom and gloom about whether President Trump can handle himself on this big stage and in this tight rope, I think he did a fair enough job of saying, "Listen to the world's most populous religion. Listen, we're with you, we can't be there by ourselves. You've got to get out in front, but we're there and it's America -- it's not America alone. It may be America first, but it's not America alone."

WHITFIELD: And, Muhammad, did this message offer kind of an olive branch? Was it an indicator that there is a greater commitment to strengthen the relations between the U.S. and Muslim community?

MUHAMMAD LILA, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think certainly the message was that the United States is seeking to strengthen its relationship with its allies. It may not go so far as to say strengthen its relationship with the entire Muslim world.

I mean, look, if you look at who Donald Trump was speaking to while he was in that room, he was speaking to a number of men, a number of rulers over their countries, monarchs and oligarchs who weren't really, in many cases, elected by their own people. So I think there's a bit of a dichotomy there trying to reach out to the Muslim world, but doing it through countries that United States only considers its allies.

I mean, if you if you were in Syria or parts of Iraq or certainly Iran, maybe Yemen or Bahrain or, you know, even parts of Egypt, I think you'd feel very excluded from the remarks that Donald Trump made simply because he focused a lot on terror and the United States' policies in the region.

But, of course, there are criticisms out there certainly on social media that it was perhaps an exclusive message, exclusive only to the handful of countries that were chosen by Saudi Arabia to attend this summit and not the entire Muslim world in general.

WHITFIELD: There were also messages sent by this President about refugees to these Muslim nations. Take a listen to how he put it.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: I also applaud Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon for their role in hosting refugees. The surge of migrants and refugees living and -- just living so poorly that they're forced to leave the Middle East depletes the human capital needed to build stable societies and economies. Instead of depriving this region of so much human potential, Middle Eastern countries can give young people hope for a brighter future in their home nations and regions.


WHITFIELD: So, Qanta, was there dual messaging there, guidance to Muslim communities, yet at the same time perhaps justification to his ideas and policies toward not accepting more refugees from other nations in the U.S.?

QANTA AHMED, AUTHOR, "IN THE LANDS OF INVISIBLE WOMEN": Not at all. Not at all. First of all --

WHITFIELD: What did you hear?

AHMED: I felt that this was an incredibly skillful speech, not what I had expected. It spokes to Muslims in our language. We must not forget King Salman's incredible foundation for his speech. He spoke about the single most humiliating moment in Saudi history, the 1979 Iranian siege on Mecca, which required international support to be relieved and left 400 people dead. That is how frank the discussion has become.

President Trump talked in universal terms that Muslims understand honoring life. He talked about the soul on several occasions. He made this moving remark about that -- a generation of vanquish dreams. And what he just said now about refugees, it's true. Think about Syria.

Syria was a first world nation when it came to health care. When it came to many sophisticated industries. That has been decimated, the cradle of civilization. The modern hospital here in the west is based on a model that came out of ancient Syrian territory.

[15:10:06] It is a tragedy of extraordinary proportions in the Muslim world. So, no, I don't think this had short comings at all. It went beyond my expectations and I think it definitely reached beyond the Arab world.

It's a mistake to say that there were over 40 Muslim leaders in that room. Whether they are autocratic monarchs, whether they are constitutional monarchs, whether they have democracies, they represent tens, if not, hundreds of millions of Muslims.

And certainly, I did not feel excluded. I felt so moved. By the end, I had tears because this is a speech Muslims have been longing for, not necessarily from the U.S. presidency. Our Islam since 9/11 has been so dishonored by the actions of extremists. We feel ashamed. We are in pain, we are dying, we are suffering and here was a moment that honored our values at the apex of the center of Islam, not just Sunni- Islam. Mecca is the center of Islam and the Saudis are guardians to it. It was phenomenal.

WHITFIELD: So perhaps, it's safe to say this has been a learning experience. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the president is learning a lot during this trip. Listen to his words.


REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Chris, I think this is one of the great attributes of this president, is that he is willing to call issues out, confront them, speak very plainly and bluntly about them.

And in many ways, that motivates these countries who want to understand why the feelings in the U.S. are the way they are, but also to engage to address those. And I think that's what we are seeing in this visit to Riyadh, this visit to the country that is the custodian of the two holy mosques.

And the President himself has said he has learned a lot on this trip and he has learned a lot about the people. He's learned a lot about their culture. And I think this is an -- it's a really important process in terms of how we move forward with this relationship between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world.


WHITFIELD: So, Mike, has this trip, in part, changed the president?

ALLEN: I think so. Listen, this may be naive, but I'm one of the people that thinks, as members of Congress and elected officials go overseas, they are directly in front of the problems that we really only read about or see on CNN back from here in the United States.

They're confronted with the complexities. They understand what fellow leaders and fellow politicians, what problems they have. So, I do think that he is learning a lot on this trip.

I also think that's a little subtle messaging to the Obama administration. We -- you know, I worked in the Bush White House. We like to try and draw distinctions between what our predecessors did and alike that's why I think you see him saying, "Hey, listen, we didn't lecture like Obama did and we're listening, not lecturing like Obama did." So I think those are subtle little jabs that he wants to put out there.

WHITFIELD: And quickly, Muhammad, a turning point?

LILA: I think that's the hope, certainly, that this could be a turning point. But the big question is, you know, what happens next? Will these words translate to action? Will there be efforts by Saudi Arabia and by some of these other gulf countries to build bridges amongst Muslims of different backgrounds and in different areas? Or will this be more of the same? Was this just a big T.R. (ph) experiments as a way to, you know, announce that the United States is open for business with a lot of these Muslim countries?

I think what people will be waiting for is to see what kind of concrete action takes place on the ground. And, of course, we'll only know that several months or several years from now. And, of course, they say hindsight is 2020. Well, we might have to wait for hindsight on this one.

WHILFIELD: All right. Muhammad Lila, competing with the call there and it resonates throughout the city at this hour. I always love that sound. Mike Allen and Qanta Ahmed, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

All right, so while the President is traveling abroad, the Russia investigation is rocking the White House.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: There's no doubt that this cloud is impacting everything else and I think the White House would acknowledge that.


WHITFIELD: All right, this is fired FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify. Then, a sheriff who backed Trump's campaign and now says he is joining Trump's Homeland Security Department is caught plagiarizing. We'll tell you what else we've learned.


[15:18:23] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're now hearing the House Intelligence Committee is asking former Trump campaign communications adviser, Michael Caputo, for more information about his possible ties to Russia.

And "The New York Times" reports that during the president's meeting with Russian officials at the White House, Mr. Trump called former FBI Director Comey a "nut job." Here's what National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who was in the room, had to say about that report.


H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I don't remember exactly what the president said and the notes that they apparently have, I don't think are direct transcript. But the gist of the conversation was that the president feels as if he's hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia, to find areas of cooperation because this had been obviously so much in the news and that was the intention of that portion of the conversation.


WHITFIELD: All right, joining us right now, CNN Correspondent Ryan Nobles and Investigative Reporter Ron Kessler. He's the author of the book "The Secrets of the FBI."

Ryan, let me begin with you. So, what is the latest on the investigation and was that a complete denial that those words were used?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It seems that the White House is in the business of these non-denial denials when they don't specifically address the question in hand. But it's important to point out that, you know, this investigation has been going on for some time.

And even though we have Robert Mueller in place, who was the former FBI director who's going to take over as special counsel, this doesn't mean he's starting from scratch. He's really building on what the Department of Justice and the FBI have already done up until this point. He's just now the lead investigator in this case. And it also doesn't stop the investigations that are happening in the House and Senate Intelligence Committee.

[15:20:03] They're going to continue to collect documents. They're going to continue to interview witnesses, all with the goal of finding out exactly what happened in terms of Russia's attempt to intervene in the U.S. election.

But it's also important to point out that there are many layers to this investigation and among them is the investigation into Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, and then as an extension whether or not the President himself was putting pressure on James Comey to stop that investigation into Flynn.

And, you know, it's important to point out, Fred, that CNN sources tell us that the former FBI director does believe that the president was trying to put pressure on him to stop the investigation, but he's not sure if whether or not that rises to the level of obstruction of justice. So, the big question I think a lot of us in Washington have is now that Robert Mueller is in place, will all these damaging leaks stop?

Republicans in Congress are really hoping that's the case so that they can get back to their legislative agenda. But at this stage of the game, Fred, we're not predicting anything.

WHITFIELD: And then, of course, we're going to hear from the horse's mouth, James Comey, after Memorial Day weekend. His testimony which will be public highly anticipated.

So, Ron, "The New York Times" also reporting that Trump admitted that he fired FBI Director James Comey to ease some of the pressure of the investigation. But you just heard Ryan, Mueller is going to continue on from where the investigation was. So, is there any easing of any pressure anywhere?

RONALD KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE SECRETS OF THE FBI": No. You know, a lot of this is just talk. The fact is there's no indication of any criminal violation either by Trump or by his campaign. In the case of Trump, he's not a target unlike Nixon during the Watergate. Obstruction of justice as your reporter indicated goes beyond just saying, "You know, I'm unhappy about this. Could you ease off?" It means actually making up evidence trying to cover up, paying hush money. In the case of Watergate -- Nixon actually made up some story to stop the FBI investigation, something about a CIA operation that might be compromised. In this case the -- he didn't even order the investigation stopped. It did continue.

And secondly, this recent "Washington Post" story claiming that an aide close to Trump is a target or is a person of interest is purely bogus. I think they were the victim of a hoax because the FBI does not use that terminology in any of its investigations except kidnapping and violent crimes. This is a counter intelligence investigation.

So, you know, apparently nobody at the "Post" knows enough about the FBI to realize that they don't use that term in the FBI lexicon. And as for the campaign, there's no law against collaborating with a foreign power, whatever that means. The only possible violation that I see is one or two individuals not registering as foreign agents, certainly Michael Flynn would be one of those.

WHITFIELD: And then much could potentially be learned or not, Ryan, because now we're talking about a former campaign communications adviser, Michael Caputo, who is both being subpoenaed at the same time saying he willingly wants to testify publicly. So what's the expectation of what will be clean?

NOBLES: Yeah. This is like peeling away the layers of the onion when it comes to Trump campaign and their possible connections to Russia. And Caputo is an interesting figure because before he got involve with Donald Trump he actually did work for the Russian government.

He even worked for a communications firm that was connected to Vladimir Putin. He also did some work in the Ukraine. And he joined the Trump campaign early on, but then actually was fired by the Trump campaign after he tweeted somewhat joy after Corey Lewandowski was fired.

He's somebody that connected to Roger Stone, the dark arts master who is also someone who is still in regular conversation with Donald Trump played a big role in his campaign. But as you mentioned, Fred, Caputo contains (ph) very publicly that he did nothing wrong. He believes strongly that it's actually in his best interest to testify and testify in public because he believes he's got nothing to hide.

WHITFIELD: And then, Ron, you know, there is still people inside Washington and beyond who were seething to see the president meeting with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after the firing of James Comey. This is the point of view of John McCain yesterday.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: I'm almost speechless because I don't know how -- why someone would say something like that. But I know this, Mr. Lavrov is the stooge of a thug and a murderer who used Russian precision weapons to strikes hospitals in Aleppo who's committed human rights violations all over the place, has invaded Ukraine, has taken Crimea, has acted in the most thuggish and outrageous fashion and he had no business in the Oval Office.


[15:25:20] WHITFIELD: And, Ron, is it your view that the image speaks volumes, even though there is so much consternation over what was really said?

KESSLER: You know, first of all, anyone from Hillary to Nancy Pelosi meet with ambassadors from all countries including Russia all the time. And the detail that Donald Trump shared with the Russian officials about this plot possibly involving --

WHITFIELD: Reportedly.

KESSLER: -- bringing down an airliner was nothing compared to what ABC and NBC subsequently reported. They reported about half a dozen additional details that really would pinpoint this plot not only to Russia but to the whole world.

But this hypocrisy by the media, you know, goes on notice. A.P. a few years ago reported that the CIA has an asset reporting on efforts by Al-Qaeda to bring down airliners. Well, guess what, that asset was gone and there was no legitimate journalistic reason for running that story.

There was no abuse. There was no failure. And instead of the press denouncing A.P for running that story, the press ganged up on the Justice Department when it tried to find out about the sources. And Eric Holder restricted efforts to uncover leaks by the media. So, a lot of hypocrisy going on that I think should be pointed out.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ronald Kessler, Ryan Nobles, a strange times for sure. All right, thank you so much.

KESSLER: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Saudi Arabia today, Israel tomorrow. That's where President Trump is hoping to make what he calls the ultimate deal. Straight ahead, what that means and how Israel could react to the administrations arms deal with Saudi Arabia?


[15:31:25] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. President Trump is winding down his visit to Saudi Arabia. Earlier today, he delivered a speech calling on the Muslim world to do more to fight terrorism.

Tomorrow, he heads to Israel and he is expected visits the Western Wall and meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His third stop will be in the West Bank where he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Joining me now to talk more about all of these is Daniel Shapiro. He is the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Good to see you, Ambassador. And you also wrote an op-ed for "The Washington Post" called "Israelis cheered for Trump. But they may miss Obama more than expected." Ambassador, explain what do you mean by that?

DANIEL SHAPIRO, FORMERU.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL: Well, President Obama certainly had some well-known disagreements with Prime Minister Netanyahu and at times the Israeli public felt distanced from him because of those disagreements particularly on the issues of Israeli settlements and the Iran nuclear deal.

However, what I argued in that piece is that President Obama was a stalwart supporter of Israel security and a very steady reliable hand on some of the most sensitive issues regarding Israel security, such as its ability to carry out military operations and it self-defense in places like Syria and Gaza and in the intelligence sharing between our relationship.

After the incident in the Oval Office last week where President Trump passed sensitive -- apparently Israeli intelligence at least as it's been reported to the Russian foreign minister, it raised the question, is President Trump, despite sounding very friendly and certainly he'll be welcomed warmly here tomorrow, is he going to be as steady as predictable, as reliable on those very sensitive security questions as President Obama was? And I think a lot of Israelis are still asking that question of themselves.

WHITFIELD: And so now on the heels of President Trump boasting of this more than $100 billion deal of military and arms deal with Saudi Arabia, does that also fold into the question and the concern now Israelis would have about what used to be Obama's stalwart of security demeanor?

SHAPIRO: Well, some questions were raised today in Israel. One of the Israeli ministers said, "You know, we don't think we've been consulted on this armed package for Saudi Arabia."

Now, Israel and Saudi Arabia really are strategically aligned because of their common enemies like Iran and ISIS and Hezbollah and Hamas. So, Israel isn't unhappy to see the United States and Saudi Arabia having a strong relationship, but specifically they would want to know what are these weapons, how will we -- how will Israel make sure that it maintains the qualitative military edge that the United States has always been pledged to, to help them maintain.

And unless there is a proper consultation, which has always been carried out under President Obama and previous presidents, that will obviously give them some area of concern. I expect that will be discussed during the course of President Trump's visit in Israel.

WHITFIELD: So mostly Abbas was there in the audience during the visit there to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and listening to the President's address. What is going to be the focus of his discussions when he meets with Benjamin Netanyahu off this Saudi Arabia trip? SHAPIRO: Well, I think he's had a pretty successful visit in Saudi Arabia. Certainly, he was warmly received. And he signed the arms deals and the investment deals with the Saudis and he gave the speech which his message was about a united front against terror and extremism. So he's going to want to continue that access -- success here in Israel.

[15:35:01] What success for him here? I think he has made very clear what he wants to do is restart talks -- peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians and push them in the direction what he calls the ultimate deal. Now, that's been very difficult to --


WHITFIELD: And he has said it shouldn't be too difficult.

SHAPIRO: -- from the Obama administration. He has said it shouldn't be too difficult. Now, we know from our experience that it actually is. There's a lot of mistrust between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas and their society. They both face very difficult domestic political constraints.

And so, he's going to really push them. He's actually bringing with them, at least according to news reports, offers from the Saudis of things they are prepared to do gestures of normalization toward Israel like allowing Israeli planes to over fly their air space and communications and trade links that might make it be inducements for Israel to take some steps.

But he's going to be asking the Israelis, what can you contribute, perhaps a partial settlement freeze (ph) in the West Bank. And Abu Mazen, that -- from Abbas, what can you contribute, perhaps stopping to pay salaries to the prisoners in Israeli jails with the blood of Israelis on their hands from terrorist attacks. And if neither they were able to take those moves, it's going to be very frustrating to him that he won't be able to get the peace talks going that he has described this is success he's looking for.

WHITFIELD: All right, Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.

All right, still ahead, our CNN interview with Republican Senator Marco Rubio. He has been a critic of the President, but what he has to say about the investigation into the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia now, also.


[15:40:34]WHITFIELD: President Trump's trip abroad follows a wild week in Washington, which ended with a bombshell report from "The New York Time". It says Mr. Trump told the Russian inside the Oval Office during that meeting right there, that firing FBI Director James Comey greatly relieved the pressure that he was facing because of the FBI Russia probe.

Well, that news came just after the Justice Department appointed another former FBI director, Robert Mueller, to serve as special counsel to oversee the investigation. And our Jake Tapper got reaction to all of that from Senator Marco Rubio this morning on "State of the Union."


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm really interested hearing your response to a specific excerpt from President Trump speech in Saudi Arabia this morning, specifically this part.


TRUMP: We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship, instead we are here to offer partnership based on shared interests and values.


TAPPER: Senator, frankly, I cannot imagine you ever saying anything like that when standing in a country like Saudi Arabia. Are you concerned at all about the president's seemingly abdicating the very public role of the United States in standing up for democracy and human rights?

RUBIO: Well, I mean, yes. That would not have been a part of a speech that I would have delivered for the reason that I think it's in our national security interest to advocate for democracy and freedom and human rights. Now with the recognition that you may not get it overnight, there needs to be a period of transition. I think further in that speech they talk about gradual improvement in places which I think is wise and pragmatic.

That said, I will tell you that the White House and I have a different approach on the issue of human rights. I'm much more forceful and open and vocal about criticizing whether it's Egypt or Saudi Arabia for its human rights record. The White House is convinced they can get better results by addressing those issues in private one-on-one.

And in fairness, you know, there are issues we have raised with the White House, they have then raised it with foreign leaders. And I have gotten results, the job that it was released from Egypt and (inaudible) was released from China.

But those are, you know, one case. There are thousands of these cases around the world. And so we just have a disagreement on the right way to approach it and they have their approach and I have mine. But he's the president. We just have a difference in approach. There's no doubt.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the issue consuming domestic politics here. You're a remember of the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI Director James Comey has agreed to testify publicly before your panel after Memorial Day. What are you going to ask him?

RUBIO: Well, I think that just to the inquiry is going to be obviously about the things that have been reported on and that is, did he keep these memos? What are those memos say and why did he write it and how did he feel? Did he ever feel like he was being put in a position where he couldn't do his job? There's no doubt that that's the questions that are going to get ask and ask repeatedly and the American people deserves to have an answer to that.

And I'm happy that director -- or former Director Comey is going to appear publicly before the intelligence committee to answer these questions so we can get it directly from him and not simply have to rely on a third hand account of how he felt and/or what was in those memos.

TAPPER: The White House has made it very clear they're going to attack James Comey's credibility. Do you think he is a credible person?

RUBIO: Well, my -- I don't know him personally very well. I've interacted with him over a number of years on the intelligence committee. I've always found him to be respectful and forthcoming, particularly on close settings. Very good at explaining what it is he was working on.

I know others have differences with him, but I've never had any quarrel with James Comey. I was found him to be a patriotic hard working American who loved the country. Was he perfect? No.

And so I imagine he would acknowledge that, too. But I, you know, I'm certainly have always had a lot of respect for him. And, you know, we're going to have that testimony and people will be able to make their own judgment.

TAPPER: President Trump, of course, calls all of these a witch hunt. What do you think of that?

RUBIO: Well, I wouldn't use the term witch hunt. Look, these were issues that being raised on the press, OK? People are going to the press who appear to be in the no or at least pretended be in the no. They leak information. The press reports on it. These questions need to be answered.

Unlike some other people, I am one of the 15 people in the Senate that serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee. A lot of people saying you're being very cautious about this. I am and here's why, because the credibility of our investigation depends on every single one of us in that committee going in without any preconceived notions.

I've told everybody, I want to know the truth. I want to know the entire truth. I want us to put it in a report and I wanted share it with you and the whole country so people can reach their own conclusion. But the reason why the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who is a good guy had to recuse himself is because he was taking hard positions in one direction or another on these issues.

[15:45:09] And so, I don't want to prejudge any of this. I acknowledge the media reports raise questions that need answers. But let's get to the facts. Let's establish the facts and then people can make a concrete opinion or take a concrete opinion on these matters. But until then, it's my obligation to reserve judgment on all of this until all the information is in and we've analyzed it together and not just based on media reports. I think that's the right thing to do for the country, because we need an intelligence committee report that people have confidence in. We're not going to have that if the members of the committee are out there in front of the press already having made up their mind before the whole report is together.

TAPPER: I want to play something you said on the campaign trail back in November when Hillary Clinton was running for president. Take a listen.


RUBIO: I would just ask everybody this. Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI? Think of the trauma that would do to this country.


TAPPER: Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI? Obviously it's Trump campaign team, not necessarily him that's under investigation by the FBI, but do you think that this is causing trauma to the country?

RUBIO: Well, let's be clear. Number one, the FBI has not said that the president is under investigation.

TAPPER: Right.

RUBIO: They don't discuss those things. So, let's be clear about that. Second, I would say to you that if in fact he ever becomes or any president for that matter, of course, that's not good for the country. And that's why I think it's important that we finish our work in a way that's credible.

So, the intelligence committee is going to review it with the primary focus on counter intelligence, though I imagine in the process we may discover facts that are relevant to former Director Mueller's look at this.

I think Mueller's appointment is going to look at this in a way that's thorough and I hope that everybody cooperates with this effort so he can quickly reach a conclusion and make a decision about moving forward or not moving forward. That's in the best interest in the country. Quite, frankly, it's in the best interest of the Trump administration to have something that is thorough and fair and above reproach and as quickly as possible so the country can move on in one way or another.

But there's no doubt that this cloud is impacting everything else and I think the White House would acknowledge that. So, we need to get over this once in for all and the best way to do it is have a process in place to arrive at the facts no matter what they are. And whatever those facts are, that's what we need to make our decisions on.


WHITFIELD: And still ahead, a sheriff who says he is joining Trump's Homeland Security Department is caught plagiarizing a master's thesis. We will talk with the member of the CNN investigative team behind that report, next.


[15:51:45] WHITFIELD: Controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and outspoken advocate for President Trump during his campaign, plagiarized sections of his 2013 master's thesis on U.S. Security, according to our reporting. And that's according to a CNN's "KFILE."

Here's an example, Clarke wrote, "It is so hard to break down stovepipes when there are so many stoves that are legally and politically entitled to have cast-iron pipes of their own." That excerpt was lifted from the 9/11 commission report.

And just this week, Clarke announced he will be joining Trump's administration as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. The department did not confirm this, however. CNN "KFILE's" Andrew Kaczynski joins me now. So what else did you find, Andrew?

ANDREW KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR EDITOR, KFILE: So we found that Clark plagiarized 47 different times in this master's thesis that he wrote for the Naval Postgraduate School. We found basically time and again that Clarke was copying from places like the ACLU, who he is actually a big critic of on social media.

We found that he plagiarized from people like George W. Bush. And basically was just time and again Clarke taking these sources, sometimes slightly rearranging the words or like changing something, and then basically posting it as his own without quotation marks.

WHITFEIL: OK. And so you are saying that when he used these passages there was no reference to any prior source --


KOSINSKI: No. So, what --

WHITFIELD: --that he was borrowing sentiment or anything like that?

KOSINSKI: So what Clarke did is actually something very similar to what Monica Crowley did, the former Fox News analyst, who we reported on in January.

WHITFIELD: In her book.

KOSINSKI: Yeah. She plagiarized in her book and her thesis. And we reported that she had basically done the same thing Clarke did. What she did was she would cite the source in the bottom, and then she would take basically paragraph after paragraph.

Now, what Clarke did was he would -- he might take like a paragraph or few sentences and then he would cite at the bottom, but not basically in the paper. Now, the school's plagiarism guidelines basically say you are not allowed to do what Clarke did.

WHITFIELD: OK. And then what has been the response from Sheriff Clarke himself?

KOSINSKI: Well, I mean to make a long story short, we e-mailed Clarke on Friday. We wanted to give him until Monday so he could have three days to respond to go through our story, to, you know, let us know if there's anything that we did that he disagreed with. And then I am, you know, at my home on Saturday checking my Twitter and I see that Clarke has tweeted about the fact that we reached out to him for comment.

He called me hack. He sent, you know, a number of tweets basically disparaging me. He sent an additional tweet today disparaging me, but he has not responded to the substance of our article.

WHITFIELD: All right. Andrew Kaczynski, perhaps you'll get more later and bring it to it. Thanks so much. For more on this Reporting, visit CNN Politics.

All right, the next hour starts right after a quick break.


[15:59:28] WHITFIELD: Hello, again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Washington, D.C.

So with the world watching, President Trump abandons his bombastic rhetoric about Islam and calls for a global effort to fight terror and tells Muslim leaders America is prepared to help.


TRUMP: America is prepared to stand with you in pursuit of shared interests and common security. But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their county, and frankly for their families and for their children.