Return to Transcripts main page

CNN NEWSROOM

Report: Trump Abandons Rhetoric On "Radical Islamic Terror"; Top Intel Dem Says Comey Wants to Meet with Mueller; Message to Congressman -- You'll Be Hanging from A Tree. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 22, 2017 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And you in your piece talk about the political correctness and call him a coward.

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the coward is someone who says things behind someone's back they wouldn't say to their face. And President Trump ran as a truth teller. Especially, about Islam, right. Not just a truth teller but someone who said extraordinary offensive things. He talked about Islam hates us and particularly about the Saudis were responsible for 9/11. And then he goes to Saudi Arabia, he never uses the signature phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" that he countless times attacked Hillary Clinton for not using. He didn't use it himself when faced with the people he was supposed to be telling truths to. Also, he basically flattered his host. So, I think it was cowardly.

BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it was Presidential. And I think most Democrats would be saying if the President went out there and said in a radical way the things that you criticize that that was putting people's lives at risk. You saw Donald Trump be Presidential. You can't have it both ways. There's so many people during the campaign that were terrified that Donald Trump would not be Presidential. That he would be the guy he was on the campaign trail if he became the President and that would start world war III. What you saw is someone who is learning quickly when you go around the world and speaking with world leaders, your words have meaning to them. They can have a negative or positive effect. They can be used against you. You saw a President that was measured. You can't say it's cowardly when it's Presidential.

BEINART: It shows how blatantly he was lying. The signature element of his entire counter-terrorism strategy was this blunt talk about radical Islamic, he said it countless times and then in the place where he actually has to speak truth to power, he doesn't, so yes, you are right.

FERGUSON: How many Republicans think he was a liar or somehow defrauded them? I haven't talked to any. Most of the people I talked to that are Republicans that voted for him thought the way he talked about Islam, the way he talked about radical Islam and having the united front, but having countries come together and using a real threat in the world was exactly what they wanted from the President. They don't need the rhetoric as much as they need action from it. He did talk about the radicalization of individuals and how they are a cancer and how we have to come together. He even talked about that. He was clear. Whether it be Iran or ISIS or al Qaeda, he named every group that supports al Qaeda and ISIS by name. You would have criticized that.

BEINART: That's what he did with the wall. Again, another signature phrase that he duped people with that is basically paying for wall.

FERGUSON: You're telling me you believe Donald Trump is not fighting terrorists.

BEINART: I don't think either Donald Trump or that means.

FERGUSON: I know exactly what it means.

BEINART: Any serious definition of radical Islam would include the Saudis who have done more to propagate.

FERGUSON: This is what I would say. You cannot have it both ways. You act like as if the President comes out and has a tough talk, that's putting people's lives at risk. He acts Presidential, has conversations behind closed doors and makes it clear who the enemy is. He's saying he lied to supporters. You can't have it both ways.

BALDWIN: We have to go. We're going to continue this after the commercial break. Stick around. I'm being told we have breaking news in the Flynn investigation. We have been reporting that apparently, he's going to be taking the fifth. What we're now learning from the ranking member of the Senate intelligence committee to whom he's set to plead the fifth and what we're hearing from James Comey, the now fired FBI director. What he wants to say to the special counsel in charge of the separate investigation. Let's tackle all of that, get you to discuss that, coming up.

[15:35:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Let me take you to Capitol Hill. We have just spoken to the ranking member of the Senate intel committee. Senator Mark Warner. This is all in conjunction with the story we have been reporting about the fired NSA chief General Flynn who now we're hearing wants to lead the fifth. What did Senator Warner share with you?

MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: I asked him directly does that mean you may pursue contempt of Congress charges. He would not rule that out. He said this is something we're going to discuss. He wants to discuss this with the chairman, the Republican who does head the intelligence committee. But did raise concerns about Michael Flynn not complying with the request. But also, acknowledging that that was expected that he would not provide that information. We also talked about this upcoming testimony that's highly anticipated testimony for James Comey the former FBI director expected to come before the Senate intelligence committee.

[15:40:00] This he said is expected the week after Memorial Day. Not next week, but the week after. He thinks that's when Comey can testify in public. One thing I asked was whether or not Comey's testimony may be limited that this ongoing special investigation is now not next week, but the week after. He thinks that's when Comey can testify in public. One thing I asked was whether or not Comey's testimony may be limited that this ongoing special investigation is now occurring with Robert Mueller, the former FBI director leading this investigation. He said that Comey and Mueller are going to discuss exactly what he can say publicly given that Comey does not want to trample on what Bob Mueller is doing.

Also, Warner telling me that he and Byrd do want to meet with Mueller at some time this week as the Senate is this session before a recess to discuss areas they are not going to conflict what their investigation and special counsel's investigation. I asked about what President Trump did with within revealing highly classified information with Russian diplomats in the oval office. And he said the white house should provide records of that meeting. Are you prepared to subpoena if the white house does not provide information? He would not go there and not rule it out. He wants to have more discussions with the chairman of the committee. So, a lot for the committee to go over here in the coming days during the investigation.

BALDWIN: From ranking member Warner, let me throw in another headline and bring these two guys back in. So, we have Jake Tapper reporting, this has been handed to me. This is from a source close to Comey and apparently when the President and Comey had a meeting February 14th, the President expressed irritation about news stories about private phone conversations he's had with leaders of Mexico and Australia. He wanted Comey to pursue the leakers. Comey tried to explain that leak investigations are difficult to do because often law enforcement ends up having to threaten to jail journalists. The President responded he should throw the journalists in jail.

FERGUSON: I'm not surprised at this, someone close to Comey who does not like the President and you have seen a lot of people leaking things every single day and just letting it drip and drip and drip. And the best part is we don't have to worry about getting caught.

BALDWIN: What about the substance of the information?

FERGUSON: I'll say this. I don't know if somebody who obviously is protecting Comey and trying to make the President look bad if it's true or credible that he said throw journalists in jail. What I do think is it's probably plausible you had a President that said I'm incredibly upset I'm having private phone calls with leaders of countries. Any President should be angry and upset about that. You're seeing people that are loyal to Comey that are upset that their good friend was fired. They are putting out information for one reason only. That's to try to hurt the President and make him look bad. When the President should be outraged. If he's speaking on the world leader and reads what he says out on the newspapers because somebody leak it is.

BEINART: The reason to take this reporting seriously, Comey testifying we'll learn more, it fits with the pattern for Donald Trump the way he's talking about the press. He's not been a normal Presidential candidate in the way he's talked about the press. Last fall talked about how maybe someone needs to go after Jeff Bezos's taxes. Someone who is consistently called the press the enemy. Someone who has talked about changing liable laws. Would it be out of character for Donald Trump, we don't know, not at all.

FERGUSON: I have no doubt the President would be angry and upset in that scenario. But again, it's interesting that only after Comey was fired is all of this stuff come out about Donald Trump. Of all these conversations that supposedly happened and we have none of these leaks while James Comey was still on the job. Whether they start acting this way, it's about before James Comey was fired. If you're saying he went rogue, why weren't you leaking it beforehand. You want to make the President look bad.

BEINART: It has to do with the question of why he was fired. Was he fired a because Trump was trying to obstruct the kinds of investigations he was doing. Trump was trying to make him do investigations in Trump's political enemies. That's an important question.

BALDWIN: The truth should come out to your point. Comey will be testifying as a private citizen now. Thank you both so very much. The news just keeps oncoming.

Up next, racial slurs and death threats left on the voice mail of the Congressman who was calling for the President's impeachment. He joins me live to respond.

[015:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: A warning now about some bigoted backlash. One Texas Congressman is receiving. You're about to hear ugly and offensive language, language that was aimed at Congressman Al Green who became the first lawmaker to call for impeachment of President Trump from are the house floor. Mr. Green played the messages from his phone line during a recent town hall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GREEN, CONGRESSMAN, TEXAS: Friends, I want to assure you that no amount of threats and intimidation will stop what I have started, I promise you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Congressman Al Green joins me now live. Congressman, welcome.

GREEN: Thank you for having me.

[15:50:00] BALDWIN: Congressman Green, to play those voice mails over the weekend, that cannot have been an easy decision to make, that language for your constituents. Why did you want to do that?

GREEN: It was not an easy decision, but it was a necessary one. Can you not hide hate? You have to confront hate. If you allow it to be hidden, there will be people who are quite frankly not believe that the level of hate that exists is there, and it's so unfortunate that many African Americans have to live knowing that they can be threatened with lynching, and it really doesn't matter where you are in life. Your station in life is not as important as what these people will say. You can be the CEO of a major corporation or you can be one of 435 members of Congress, and you can still be threatened with murder because that's what that was all about. Lynching is murder, and people make these threats and we have to expose them.

BALDWIN: Did you -- did you call police, or did you call the FBI?

Green: We've called the capital police which is what we're instructed to do. And there is an investigation. We are hopeful that there will be a prosecution and we're continuing to monitor our calls. There are other things that we're doing to make sure that we're properly secured. I'm honored to say that the honorable Jim Clyburn called me, and he is advising me. He is the assistant speaker, and the honorable Bennie Thompson who is a ranking member on homeland security called me, and they are counseling me, and I'll be doing some other things but I won't -- I won't be turned around. This is not about the persons who actually made these threats. It's really about something that has an impact on our democracy, and we're going to stay the course.

BALDWIN: From what I understand, you know, this was in part really in reaction to your calling for President Trump's impeachment. We're in the midst of multiple investigations. The results have yet to be announced. Even your leader in the house Nancy Pelosi says she in essence doesn't subscribe to impeachment. Here she was.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, CONGRESSPERSON, CALIFORNIA: If you're talking about impeachment, what are the facts? I don't like his hair. What are the facts? I don't like what he said about this. What are the facts that -- that you would make a case on? What are the rules that he may have violated? If you don't have that case, you're just participating in more hear say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Now since then leader Pelosi has said the President has made himself, quote, unquote, very vulnerable but that she still doesn't want to feed the impeachment talk. I mean, that is your party's leader on the house side. Do you, Congressman green, think your call for impeachment is premature?

GREEN: Let me say this is really not about Democrats. It's about democracy. It's about government of the people, by the people, for the people and it's not about Republicans. It's about the Republic. It's about what Benjamin Franklin said when he said you have a Republic if you can keep it. It's about keeping the Republic, and let me just share some facts with you. The President confessed. He confessed on national television. He said that this whole Russia thing is made up, and he went on to say that he thought about that at the time that he made his decision to just do it. When he did that and then he fired Comey. That was an impeachable act. If he hadn't fired him you wouldn't have had an impeachable act.

If he hadn't said he did it because of the investigation, you wouldn't have an impeachable act, but when you combine these two things you have an impeachable act, and the bar of justice for this type of impeachable act according to article 2 section 4 of the constitution is the Congress of the United States of America. He won't be found guilty if he's impeached. The Senate tries the case, but the house can find the President guilty. I'm 1 of 435 members. Every member can bring a resolution of impeachment. If I choose to bring, it I will have it heard. What the results will be I do not know, but this is not about Democrats. It's not about Republicans. It's about the country.

BALDWIN: We'll let the results of these investigations play out and also that of Bob Mueller, the special counsel. The final question. You start talking about you need to confront hate. Congressman green, if you were -- if you could talk to one of the individuals on the other end of that phone leaving those racist voice mails, what would you say to them, one-on-one?

[15:55:00] GREEN: I would want him to know, first, that you are in the midst and in the company, I am sure of some African Americans, and I'm just concerned about your behavior towards them and how you would treat them. I would also want them to know that there are little black girls and boys who grow up in this country and we don't want them to be exposed to the level of hate that they would perpetrate. This is a great country. It can be made greater if we can eliminate the hate against African Americans, also other communities, LGBT, persons who happen to be of a religion that you don't respect. These are the things that we have to fight constantly. If we don't fight them, hate will rule, and if hate rules, we lose our democracy. I want you to know we're going to protect our democracy.

BALDWIN: Congressman Al Green, thank you for your time, sir. Appreciate you coming on. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Fired "Today" show host Billy Bush is breaking his silence about his role in the infamous Donald Trump "Access Hollywood" tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's the girl's hottie in the purple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the Donald has scored!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you?

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm doing very well, thank you. Are you ready to be a soap star?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BALDWIN: Seven months since that tape first surfaced. Billy Bush disappeared after getting fired from the "Today" show until now talking to the "Hollywood reporter." With me is a senior writer with the "Hollywood Reporter" who did the piece. Nice to see you.

MARISA GUTHRIE, CORRESPONDENT, HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Nice to see you.

BALDWIN: When you see the pictures of him with his three daughters and wife in front of the Christmas tree, this is a guy surrounded by women. How did they respond when this story broke?

GUTHRIE: They were upset. His daughter Mary, 15 at the time, 16 now cried and said how could you laugh at that. It wasn't funny. They were all very upset, but they -- but their husband and they know him.

BALDWIN: Stood by him.

GUTHRIE: He said what do I need to take out exactly.

BALDWIN: I know he's only looked back at the tape a few times. Like what did he say? Did he wish he had stopped then candidate? Or then just Donald Trump? What was that, 2006? What does he wish he would have done?

GUTHRIE: Wished he had shut down the disgusting conversation, and he admitted he didn't have the strength of character to do it. He said he was something of a sycophant. His main assignment was Donald Trump. Donald Trump was the biggest star on NBC then, and his main assignment was to get Donald Trump on "Access Hollywood" so Donald could say outrageous things.

BALDWIN: And a younger Billy Bush allowed it as we saw the video. Wished he had the strength of character. Last question. What has he been doing?

GUTHRIE: Spent a lot time with his family, a lot of soul-searching and re-evaluating and just remorseful and gutted.

BALDWIN: He literally walked over coals.

GUTHRIE: Yes, Tony Robins. I think he's changed a lot.

BALDWIN: "Hollywood Reporter" with the scoop and the interview with Billy Bush who no one was really heard from in months and months and months. Thank you so much for swinging by CNN and sharing this piece with him. I appreciate it. Appreciate it, and appreciate all of you for being here with me on this Monday afternoon. I'm Brooke Baldwin here in New York. Let's go to Washington. "The Lead" with Jake Tapper starts right now.