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Source: Flynn to Plead 5th, Decline Subpoena; Pence Gets Icy Reception at Notre Dame Graduation; Gingrich Spreads Debunked Rumor on DNC Staffer's Death. Aired 2:30-3p ET
Aired May 22, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Let me begin with a little sound from Mr. Trump during the campaign trail. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People taking the Fifth Amendment. Four people, plus the guy who illegally did the server. You know, he put in the illegal server. So there are five people taking the Fifth Amendment, like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the fifth?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: That was September.
Chris Cillizza, is this another case of the president's past tweets or remarks on the trail?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: It is. He says and does many things that he then says and does the exact opposite and has little price to be paid. But when you say things like that, I think Donald Trump is channeling what the bulk of the public thinks about when someone pleads the Fifth. Obviously, local reasons to do so of what most peel are pleading the Fifth. For Donald Trump, no direct issue here with Flynn. Though what Flynn knew when e he knew it, what Donald Trump knew about Michael Flynn, remember this is one of the first guys Donald Trump hired. This is one of his closest all allies. This is a guy on November 10th that President Obama warned Trump against. Now he's pleading the Fifth. After a number of issues prior. So I think the biggest issue for Trump in the near term is the judgment. Why was Michael Flynn hired to be in the first place? Given what everyone told him, why was he hired and kept on 18 days after the acting attorney general, Sally Yates, said we think he's compromised by the Russians.
BALDWIN: With the president, the day after he fired Comey, meeting with the Russian foreign minister and raising questions. You see the president in Israel saying at the end of the press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, I never mentioned the word Israel in the meeting, in reference to when he disclosed that it classified information with the Russians. My question is this, isn't the question not what he's accused of. The question is, why did he disclose classified information to Russians in the first place. ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY & JUSTICE ANALYST: Exactly right. But
that is a question. Why would you unveil some sensitive information that a third nation asked me not to share to the Russians of all people inside the Oval Office. Now interesting enough, nobody has a positively identified who the third nation is until today. That's the clearest indication you could have what nation and it provided the intelligence. This stuff is compartmented for a reason. You have information that's so sensitive that they ask you not to share. It puts an extra burden on you not to do it. His tweet the next day, "I had the absolute right to do it," not the point, not the point.
BALDWIN: While we're on this trip, Admiral, let me just stay with you in calling out the secretary of state. As a spokesperson, you understand when you go on these major trips and the freedom of the press ask you invite to be part of a news conference. Rex Tillerson holds this news conference in Saudi Arabia with no American reporters. How is that OK?
KIRBY: So there's a couple things in terms of context here. I'll be the first to admit. I don't believe that Secretary Tillerson fully understands ask appreciates the value of traveling with the American media. In particular, the State Department press corps, which is absolutely wonderful and smart and is aggressive and do all the right things. I don't think he fully appreciates that. That said in their defense, he's traveling on air force one not on his own plane. The only American press are the White House press corps. This press conference with foreign minister happened pretty fast. They weren't able to get the American media in place. And they realized at the moment that that was a problem trying to get the transcript to him as quickly as possible. In this case, there were some circumstances beyond the State Department's control that they have tried to make up for. But I don't know they fully appreciate the value of traveling with the State Department press corps and all that entails.
BALDWIN: 20 seconds on that.
CILLIZZA: Admiral Kirby is right. I don't dispute any of the specifics. Context matters. In Rex Tillerson's first foreign trip, he didn't take any American media. Being the CEO of Exxon and being the secretary of state, it's not the same thing in terms of your responsibility to the press and to the public.
[14:34:46] BALDWIN: Thank you. Chris Cillizza, thank you, and Admiral Kirby. It's always a pleasure. Thank you both.
Coming up. from death threats to racial slurs, one congressman shared the very troubling responses he received after calling for President Trump to be impeached. That congressman joins me live in what he's planning to do about it.
Also ahead, commencement protest. We'll talk to one Notre Dame graduate who helped organize this walk out when the vice president of the United States was there speaking. This person is upset that Mike Pence was chosen as the speaker. Also, the vice president's message to them, coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESDIENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[14:40:00] BALDWIN: That was a clear message sent straight to the vice president, Mike Pence, by a group of Notre Dame graduates in walking out, we don't want you here. 100 students silently walked out when the vice president started to deliver the commencement address over the weekend. Other students booed those protesters. This, as the vice president spent a good portion talking about free speech on campus.
And this isn't the first time this has happened within the Trump administration. Remember, this, just two weeks ago when the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, spoke at commencement at historically black college in Florida, drowned out by a lot of boos back in May. And a number of those students stood up and turned their backs on here.
These walkouts are fueling the debates over whether students across the country are exercising their right to protest or suppressing the right to free speech.
Luis Miranda is with me, a Notre Dame graduate who helped organize the protest against Pence. And also with us, Notre Dame graduate, Anyala Tselenski (ph) is here as well.
So first, congrats on graduating. But really just to both of you, why did you feel the need to walk out?
LUIS MIRANDA, NOTRE DAM GRADUATE: Sure, thank you so much. For us, we need to walk out because we wanted to stand here to protect human dignity and we wanted to be with those that are most vulnerable of us and also to seek justice for them. We essentially have classmates, family members and friends who were either with us sitting down there or also have been specifically targeted by Mike Pence either as a governor or vice president. It's something that it's hard. We're talking about classmates from the LGBT community. We wanted to stand with them and support them.
BALDWIN: Forgive me. I don't know, but I'm having a tough time hearing you perfectly.
But that said, I want to continue this conversation.
Anyala (ph), can you tell me, why did you want to get up and walk out? ANYALA TSELENSKI (ph), NOTRE DAME GRADUATE: Yeah, so personally, I
have many loved ones, family and friends and who aren't documented. So I was walking out with them in mind. These people who are attending the graduation they should have the right to feel welcome and feel safe on our campus. So we worked so hard to accomplish as a family. That's kind of what I had in mind as walking out.
BALDWIN: I know that you all have said that you welcome opposing voices on campus. But this wasn't the event that you welcomed the vice president with open arms. Would you have walked out if someone more liberal like Joe Biden were speaking?
MIRANDA: That's a good question. To be honest, there's diversity of opinions in our group. We can't really tell you a specific answer. However, we can tell you that --
BALDWIN: Just someone more liberal. Forget Joe Biden. Just someone more liberal. Would you have sat there and listened?
MIRANDA: If the purpose is to bring up a politician to talk about whatever it is, if the members of the community feel unwelcome, sure, even if they are liberal.
BALDWIN: Anyala (ph), do you agree?
TSELENSKI (ph): So the walkout was in response to members of our own community felt unwelcome, uncomfortable, and even unsafe with Mike Pence. I really believe if that's the case for I would be walking out at their own graduation. So our purpose is this is not appropriate event for this kind of political discipline. That this should have been for all other family members could have gone well for them. So is political discourse should be happening in other contacts across campus.
BALDWIN: I understand.
And, Luis, I heard you a moment ago saying, yes, you would have walked out on more liberal figure just depending on the moment or whoever that was. But college campuses -- this is my last question. College campuses are criticizing for being too liberal, for not considering the other side. Is that a fair stereotype?
[14:45:11] MIRANDA: In my experience, being part of the generation and being a reason is it's hard to have those conversations. And we agree it's an important thing and shouldn't be shutting out.
BALDWIN: You can understand how people are saying, how are you welcoming if you're not respecting, despite the fact you disagree with his views, you're not welcoming the vice president of the United States? Final thought. (CROSSTALK)
TSELENSKI (ph): It would not be appropriate. We have plenty of on campus where others with liberal views are invited to speak in an academic context by different departments. This is not the appropriate context.
BALDWIN: OK. I wanted to hear both sides. You handled it fine.
I appreciate it. Congratulations once again, Luis and Anyala (ph), both of you, for speaking and explaining why you walked out.
MIRANDA: Thanks a lot.
BALDWIN: Thank you.
Coming up next, when a conspiracy theory unravels, even one fueled by the former speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, and at the center of it a grieving family, a murdered DNC staff member. We'll separate fact from fiction, next.
[14:51:08] BALDWIN: Conspiracy theories about the murder of a former employee of the Democratic National Committee just won't go away. The latest person to keep the debunked theory alive is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He went on cable news suggesting a coverup.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee who was assassinated at 4:00 in the morning having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 e-mails and 17,000 attachments. Nobody is investigating that. And what does that tell you about what was going on? Because it turns out it wasn't the Russians. It was this young guy, who I expect was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He's been killed and, apparently, nothing serious has been done to investigate his murder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: Back up a couple steps. It was last summer when Seth Rich was shot and killed in Washington, D.C. Investigator says it appeared to be a botched robbery but conservative blogs began reporting he was killed over alleged links to WikiLeaks. The family debunked the idea but the rumors won't go away.
Oliver Darcy is with me, CNN's senior media reporter, who has been covering this in the last week or so.
Welcome to the CNN family. OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: Thank you.
BALDWIN: Explain how these theories have been debunked.
DARCY: Last week, a private detective went on a local FOX affiliate and made claims he had evidence saying that Seth Rich the d DNC staffer had had leaked documents to them. It's very confusing, but the short story is, we contacted him and he admitted he had no such evidence. The local FOX affiliate put an editor's note in the story saying he's retracted the statements. The problem is, by the time that happened, it's run wild. And it's taken on a life of its own.
BALDWIN: Why is Speaker Gingrich and the likes of his still peddling this?
DARCY: It's not clear. There's no evidence suggesting that this DNC staffer had been in contact with WikiLeaks. We've searched. There's zero evidence.
BALDWIN: Zero evidence?
DARCY: What Newt Gingrich is saying is not true. Maybe he has been misled. We contacted him and he didn't respond to our comments this morning. But it's very bizarre.
BALDWIN: What about this man's family? What are they saying?
DARCY: The spokesperson for the family has been very forceful in saying he's demanded a traction from FOX News national, which picked up a local story, but it has not retracted it. We've made a request for comment. I asked a half a dozen times last week.
DARCY: Nothing. They are not responding to us. And the story is still up on their website and the national FOX News website as they initially reported it.
BALDWIN: Oliver Darcy, thank you so much for all of that.
DARCY: Thank you.
[14:54:12] BALDWIN: More on our breaking news coming up. Michael Flynn will plead the Fifth and refuse to cooperate with the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Russia investigation. We'll get into that, next, on NN.
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