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Source: Flynn To Plead Fifth, Decline Senate Subpoena; Trump Meets With Israeli PM In Jerusalem; Trump: Iran "Emboldened" By Nuke Deal With U.S.; Trump: "I Never Mentioned The Word Israel" To Russians. Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired May 22, 2017 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:05] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: He will decline the subpoena that was put forth to him by the committee. Flynn's ties to Russian officials, of course, has been a major subject of a federal investigation and many of the investigation on Capitol Hill.
Let's get to this now. Here to discuss with me is CNN legal analyst, Paul Callan and CNN producer, Shimon Prokupecz. So Shimon, first to you, can you lay it out for us? What do we know right now?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: Yes, so basically, CNN's Manu Raju here just confirming moments ago that Flynn will not respond to a request from the Senate Intel Committee for information about his contacts with Russia. They had subpoenaed him. They wanted him to testify.
A source close to him is telling Manu Raju that he does not -- Flynn does not intend to comply with the request and would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against prosecution.
Keep in mind, you know, for months, we have been talking about Flynn and the scrutiny that he's been under by federal investigators, by the FBI, and recently prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have subpoenaed records of his business transactions before the campaign, before he joined President Trump's administration.
So, all of this is ongoing, and the investigation into him, the criminal investigation is really in full swing and it's still moving forward, so, it's not unreasonable. A lot of us had thought this would happen. Just kind of surprising that it came so soon.
BOLDUAN: And Shimon, before I bring in Paul on the legal side of this, can you lay out for us, because there are so many investigations. Obviously, congressional investigations on one side. But when you're looking into kind of the federal investigation and looking into kind of where the FBI is in terms of their investigation, how long it's been going on, Flynn has been at the center of much of this.
PROKUPECZ: That's right. He really has been at the center. You know, as far as we know, since July, perhaps, even. Things didn't really start to escalate with the FBI and federal prosecutors until his conversations with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, came to light and was revealed that he had lied to the vice president about those conversations.
The FBI has been spending months really looking at this whole thing, and recently prosecutors joined the investigation and grand jury subpoenas were issued. We know of at least one business whose records were subpoenaed, a request by the Department of Justice.
They want to look at all of his different business dealings with the Russians, some of which he never reported to U.S. officials. And also, keep in mind there were some business dealings with Turkey that they're also looking at.
I mean, there's a whole bunch of things. And also, as we reported on Friday, there's all these communications that were going on during the campaign in Russia about Russian officials boasting how they can use Flynn, bragging sort of, is what we were told by sources, how they can use Flynn to try to infiltrate the campaign, use him to get to Trump.
All of this is part of the investigation, because I really think the FBI from what we've been told want to know, you know, what exactly was he involved in, what was his relationship with the Russians, and if there was anything that was perhaps missed.
And finally, if I could just say, a lot more is now known. You know, federal investigators know a lot more than they did six months ago because the investigation sort of has extended, has expanded, and they've been able to get records, financial records, business records, look at some of the communications that he was having. So, there is a lot more on the federal investigation that is now known.
BOLDUAN: And of course, all of this, Shimon, this now falls under the purview, the responsibility of Bob Mueller as he takes over the investigation?
PROKUPECZ: That's correct.
PROKUPECZ: So, Bob Mueller -- this is exactly it. He will look at some of this. You know, prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia attached the National Security Division have already been looking at this. Lots of subpoenas have been issued regarding this investigation.
So, he will -- once he steps into this, he will be briefed on all of this, and he may say, hey, you know, this is Bob Mueller, we may need to go in this direction, we may have missed this, we now need to look at this. So, yes, I mean, this is definitely, will be part of his investigation and part of what he's going to be looking at.
BOLDUAN: A very important moment. Shimon, awesome job, as always. Thanks so much. And Manu Raju in his reporting always bringing it to us. Paul, let me bring you in. On the most basic level, because I know it can be complicated, what does pleading the Fifth on the part of Michael Flynn mean right now?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it means that he cannot be compelled to testify under oath before a Senate Intelligence Committee. He may sit in the chair. They probably could get him that far.
CALLAN: But then he will assert the Fifth. They cannot compel him to give oral testimony. Now, this is a privilege that protects you from being forced to testify. It's not so clear that you can protect documents, personal documents that you may have.
[11:05:05]So, you may see a fight here as to whether or not the Senate committee can force him to produce documents or whether they may be protected in some way by the Fifth Amendment as well.
BOLDUAN: And that's an interesting distinction because part of Manu Raju's reporting is that the intelligence committee had asked him to produce all records of his communications with Russian officials by this Wednesday and that he was expected to, it appears, at least, from what we're seeing right now, he's not going to comply with that.
CALLAN: He's not. And his lawyer -- this gets into the weeds a bit, but the courts have held that the act of producing the document might, in fact, be incriminatory, as opposed to what's the content of the document, so that's where they'll be having a fight.
BOLDUAN: So, Paul, as Shimon laid out, how many investigations are under way and that now you have Bob Mueller coming in and he could change the direction of things, and he's about to really get his hands on this. As legal counsel, as an attorney, would you advise your client to do exactly what Michael Flynn did, plead the Fifth, when you're facing this many investigations and what you're doing?
CALLAN: I would say probably yes, that would be the advice that I would give him, but his counsel knows one thing that I don't know, and that is, is he really guilty of some kind of criminal offense? Now, clearly, if he is guilty of a criminal offense, he's going to plead the Fifth and try to impede the investigations. And of course, we go to an old precedent here, the Oliver North case in the Iran contra investigation.
BOLDUAN: Paul, just pause one second. I'm going to jump in for a second. We're seeing right now President Trump sitting down with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Let's listen in.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: -- amazing two days and their feeling toward Israel is really very positive. Tremendous progress has been made. I think a lot of that progress has been made because of the aggression of Iran, and it's forcing people together in a very positive way.
And if you look at King Salman and Saudi Arabia and others that I was with -- (inaudible) so many others. It was very historic what took place over the last two days. But I can see a much deeper path to friendship with Israel, and I think a lot of that's spurred on by whatever it takes, but a lot of it's spurred on by Iran. BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I think the fact that you've taken a very strong position on Iran, a different position, not only helps security, but also helps repel the possibility of reconciliation of peace between Israel and (inaudible) and that will help reconciliation for Israel and the Palestinians. Of course, not all -- (inaudible), but I do look forward to our discussions (inaudible).
PRESIDENT TRUMP: With Iran, Iran should be very grateful to the United States, because Iran negotiated a fantastic deal with the previous administration, a deal that is unbelievable from any standpoint. Some people don't understand even how he even thought of it.
And instead of being thankful and saying thank you, because they were in serious trouble, I think they would have failed, totally failed within six months. We gave them a lifeline, and we not only gave them a lifeline, we gave them wealth and prosperity.
And we also gave them an ability to continue with terror and with all of the things they've been doing, because no matter where we go, we see the signs of Iran in the Middle East.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No matter where we go, whether it's Syria, where we're forced to shoot the missiles. No matter what area we're in, we see -- Yemen, Iraq -- no matter where we are, we see the signs, every sign, whether it's soldiers, whether it's money and guns, it's around.
And instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened. Maybe they figure the deal was so good, we can do another round. They can't do it, believe me. But it was a terrible thing for the United States to enter that deal, and believe me, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. That I can tell you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel. Never mentioned it during our conversation. So, you had another story wrong. Never mentioned the word Israel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How is the visit so far?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please, everyone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's go, out, let's go.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the press, let's go.
BOLDUAN: All right, a fascinating -- we call them a pool spray at the top of a bilateral meeting between these two world leaders, President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. They're going to be sitting down for their bilateral meeting, very much looking forward to and expecting full joint statement from the two men after the meeting. That was just the pool spray going in.
The president and the prime minister spending the bulk of the time taking aim at Iran and the Iran nuclear deal. The president saying, as we have heard him say, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon while I am president.
I want to go right now to Jerusalem. CNN White House correspondent, Sara Murray is there. She's been traveling with the president. Sara, I don't know from your perspective, the audio was a little rough at parts, so it might have been a little tough to hear pieces of that.
But at the very end, the president, he kind of stopped the media, waiting for everyone to kind of calm down so he could make one more statement, and he said, I want to make sure you know, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel.
That has to do with the, I guess, we have to assume that that has to do with the meeting that the president had with Russian officials in the oval office?
SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: I have to imagine that was the context there and that those were the questions being asked of him. Obviously, we'll wait to turn that tape around and listen to it a little bit more closely.
But this is, you know, one of the sort of awkward undercurrents of these meetings here, the fact that President Donald Trump shared highly classified information with Russian officials in that meeting they had together in the oval office and that that information came from one of our allies, Israel.
Now, if you look back at the reporting of that, the reporting never says that in that meeting Trump says, oh, we got this information from our friend, Israel, but it basically says, look, it's not very hard to figure out where this information came from, as evidenced by the fact that a number of news organizations, including sources telling CNN that Israel was the intelligence-sharing partner that that came from.
So, that's sort of one of the awkward backdrops playing out here. I think that you will still see President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after this meeting give more remarks saying that it went very well. I think they'll turn the conversation back to the notion of Mideast peace.
We saw President Trump there essentially saying he feels optimistic about this because Israel and the Palestinians have a common enemy, which is Iran. You know, when you were talking to experts leading up to these meetings, they basically said all sides of this want to have good meetings.
President Trump wants good meetings. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, all of them want good meetings, and so they are going to come out of this saying that everything went well and everything is moving in the right direction.
None of these leaders want to be on President Trump's bad side at this juncture so early in his presidency, but it will be very fascinating to see if the president and the Israeli prime minister have more to say on this this evening.
BOLDUAN: On many of the key issues that -- key sounds even small when you talk about key issues that have been standing in the way of Mideast peace for so long. It will be fascinating to hear what both the president and the prime minister have to say when they come out of this bilateral meeting. We'll get back to you, Sara. Sara's in Jerusalem. A beautiful backdrop there behind Sara.
So I want to discuss what we just heard from the president and the prime minister and also what we're expecting coming out of this very important meeting between the United States president and a key ally.
With me now is CNN global affairs analyst who's advised Democratic and Republican administrations on Middle East and Mideast peace, Aaron David Miller is here, and CNN chief international correspondent, host of "AMANPOUR," Christiane Amanpour.
Christiane, before we get to what we're expecting when they come out of this meeting, I want your take on kind of what we just heard and saw there, that moment when President Trump took, wanted to take care to make sure everyone understood, he said, I never said the words, said the name Israel, which we, again, are just assuming that the context is when he, as reports are, shared highly classified intelligence with Russian officials in the oval office.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, it's just piling more words on and making it more and more of a story, where as you know, the Israeli officials have been studiously quiet about this. They have refused to talk about it ever since the story broke.
[11:15:09]Obviously, former Mossad and other intelligence and other security officials have been quoted as saying that this talk in the oval office to the Russians could probably put the damper and should put the damper on Israel sharing very sensitive information with the United States.
So, there is a big debate in Israel over this, but the prime minister, his cabinet and the government have said absolutely zip about it because they don't want to talk about it and make it more of a deal than it is.
Now, on the other issue that he said, and he went over and over, we will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon on my watch.
AMANPOUR: Essentially, every president has said that. That is standard American policy, that the United States will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Hence, the nuclear deal. And although President Trump spent a lot of time there criticizing the deal and playing into what obviously is the Israeli position, the Saudi and the other Persian Gulf states' position that the deal is bad, the fact is that President Trump has, in fact, continued to honor it.
The State Department signed Iran off as having abided by it, as they do every six months, and the United States has not put any more, you know, re-imposed nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. So, that's where it stands right now.
BOLDUAN: And also an important note as we started this conversation about Israel being the source of the intelligence that the president shared with Russian officials in the oval office, it is just taking a moment to, now that I'm thinking it through -- President Trump, as Sara well pointed out there was never any reporting that the president actually said Israel.
The reporting was that H.R. McMaster came out and said to reporters in the briefing room that the president wasn't even briefed on the source of the intelligence, that he wasn't aware of the source of the intelligence. So that's an important bit of context when you hear what the president says there.
But Aaron, let me bring you in on this. On this note, when it comes to this kind of sticky, awkward moment now that has become a wrinkle in this trip, as of course, they're talking about Iran, they're talking about their shared goal of Mideast peace.
But this wrinkle with regard to sharing intelligence that was shared first by Israel to the United States, the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was asked if the president would offer an apology behind closed doors with regard to that.
And Secretary Tillerson said this morning that there is nothing to apologize for. It kind of seems that might be the case when you see the body language between the two men there, right?
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: I mean, look, if it's a four-eyes conversation, the president actually may, given the sensitivity of the information, want to make some amends to the prime minister if it's four eyes. If it goes beyond that with no takers, I'm not so sure.
There's a lot of broken crockery among professional Israeli military and intelligence officials over this, but on the political level, there's absolutely no doubt that both Netanyahu and Trump have no desire to make an issue of this.
In fact, the president may well believe that a beleaguered -- prime minister may believe that a beleaguered president at home may need his help, and I suspect he's prepared to give President Trump the benefit of the doubt on the Israeli intel matter.
One additional point, you know, right-minded presidents do not go to the Middle East during their first forays abroad for one simple reason, because the Middle East is usually a place, a region where American dreams and schemes and ambitions come to die. And the fact that this president decided to choose Saudi Arabia and Israel as his first two stops I think is a testament to the fact that he absolutely believes and he's been right so far in what has proven to be an extraordinarily well-scripted trip, in Riyadh and so far from what I've seen, and Jerusalem, believes rightly that he's going to get an enormous amount of positive attention and perhaps make some progress.
BOLDUAN: Well, on the progress or on the history-making front, Christiane, we now see that the president, those images that I hope we can show our viewers once again of him going to the western wall, if you would believe he's the first sitting U.S. president to visit the western wall. Why do you think he was the first? I saw this moment and it made me wonder, why didn't Obama do it? Why didn't Bush do it?
AMANPOUR: Well, certainly, Obama did it before he was a president --
BOLDUAN: As a senator, but it makes more of a statement, you know?
AMANPOUR: It certainly does, and the president has made a statement. But to be honest with you, these are very important pictures, if you like, and Aaron will know this much better than myself, very important symbolism. It's important what the president did today at the western wall, but the real issue is not that.
The real issue is can he deliver what he has said in public to make the ultimate deal? He has gone to the Middle East, raising massive hopes that he will bring peace, because he's the deal-maker that no other president could do, actually.
[11:20:13]You know, the actual parameters were laid down when Aaron was there helping President Clinton, and those are the parameters that still exist. And in fact, a previous Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, laid down his parameters and said that he would be willing to even share Jerusalem.
There all the work has been done towards a peace process. The question is, can an American president get both the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian leader to make, I'm afraid that hackneyed phrase, the incredibly hard and difficult and brave choices for peace and compromise? And as yet it hasn't happened.
There are lots and lots of complications, not least the Palestinians, which are embroiled with a whole Hamas side of the equation, and the Israelis that are going further and further to the right. Bibi Netanyahu's government is a very far right government. Its coalition allies are far right.
Since President Trump has been elected, the government in Israel has simply put more and more settlements into the occupied territories. That makes it more difficult. And we know what the parameters of peace are if it's going to be a two-state solution -- land for peace. It's there. The Arabs did it. King Abdullah laid out in 2002 the Arab peace plan.
BOLDUAN: That's why on the most basic level, Aaron, I do wonder, have you yet seen a strategy emerge from the Trump administration side of how they plan to take it any step further, how they plan to reignite these peace talks and get one foot ahead of the other?
MILLER: Right. It's clear they believe deeply in this notion of outside-in, that in fact, the Gulf Arabs in particular can play a facilitative role in exchange for certain Israeli concessions to Palestinians and the resumption of a process.
The Gulf States will take certain steps, telecommunications, over- flight rights, perhaps expansion of commercial interests. And the reality is, and I think Christiane has laid it out extremely well, the reality is that there may well be an opportunity, if aspirations are kept in check, to begin a process.
But I'll be unmistakably clear, and I wish this administration all the luck in the world in trying to broker this deal, but if we're talking about an ultimate deal, a conflict-ending agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that resolves border security, refugees, Jerusalem, recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and end of claims and conflict -- if that is what we're talking about, not only have I not seen a shred of empirical evidence that that right now is possible, unless Abbas and Netanyahu are prepared to make the kinds of decisions required, chances of that happening, frankly, are slim to none.
BOLDUAN: And so when the president comments very recently, saying that Mideast peace is something that, frankly, may be not as difficult as people have thought over the years, he might be thinking very differently once he leaves -- once he leaves the Middle East and Israel.
We have to leave it there right now because we're waiting to see what comments come from the joint statement when the two leaders emerge from their bilateral meeting. Aaron, it's always great to see you. Thank you so much. Christiane, thank you.
Continuing to follow more of our breaking news, the president's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, now saying he will plead the Fifth, not testify for the Senate Intelligence Committee as they have issued a subpoena for his records. What does this all mean now for the investigation?
Plus, the White House is trying to defend the president calling fired FBI Director James Comey a nut job, saying that it takes the pressure off the Russia investigation. So, what is the administration's defense on this one and are members of the president's own party buying it? We'll be right back.
BOLDUAN: President Trump is overseas on his first trip abroad, but the hits keep coming at home in the investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. Michael Flynn is expected now to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights and deny the Senate's subpoena to testify and to produce documents regarding his communications with Russian officials that they had requested.
Well, now a new date to put on the calendar for you all. Former FBI Director James Comey, his first public comments, testimony in a public hearing before Congress, that is expected to come after Memorial Day.
So, this is all in the wake of a "New York Times" report that President Trump told Russian diplomats that James Comey was a nut job and that firing James Comey would relieve great pressure.
With me now to get some perspective on all of this is Thomas Ricks. He's been covering the U.S. military international affairs for decades and his new book "Churchill & Orwell: The Fight for Freedom" comes out tomorrow. Thomas, it's great to have you. Thanks so much for coming in.
THOMAS RICKS, FORMER REPORTER, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": You're welcome.
BOLDUAN: So on this breaking news from the top of the hour, kind of adding a new wrinkle to the investigation into Russia's meddling in the election and Trump campaign's ties to Russia, this subpoena, Michael Flynn denying the subpoena by the Senate Intelligence Committee, now pleading the Fifth, what do you make of this?
RICKS: I think ultimately General Flynn is going to be seen as a side character, not a central figure in the troubles the White House has. I think he doesn't want to go to jail, but I don't think he has that much to trade with prosecutors.
He really was never on the inside on the Russia stuff. He saw Putin, he dealt a bit with the Russians during the transition, but I think the Trump/Russia connections precede Flynn's presence around Trump by years evened a decade or so.
BOLDUAN: But then, you know, after those interactions, right, he's hired as the president's national security adviser.
RICKS: Yes. I mean, it's significant that he was the president's national security adviser, that he was under investigation, that he seems to have misled people, and you can kind of smell obstruction of justice charges down the road.