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Trump's Approach to Russia; Storms Threaten Southeast; Micro- current Facials; Brennan's Testimony on Russia Investigation; Restart on FBI Director Search; White House Budget Cuts. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired May 24, 2017 - 08:30   ET



[08:30:48] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Here is the great debate of the morning. All the things that President Trump has reportedly done and said to influence the Russian investigation, is it part of a plan, or are these acts of desperation?

Let's debate. Joining us now, CNN political commentator and former Obama White House communications director Jennifer Psaki, and Matt Schlapp, former political director to President George W. Bush.

Matt Schlapp --


CUOMO: I give you the first bite at the apple. What the president has been doing and saying is good and justified because?

SCHLAPP: Well, I mean, I think there has been some bungling over in the West Wing on how they've handled this basic question of their interaction with Russia. I think, at the end, Chris, I've heard you say it throughout the hour, there are two things that I'm focused on is, I'd like to hear just one little piece, a shred of proof that there was kind of inappropriate collusion of which we've heard zero. And every one of these people who testifies when they answer that question, they answer saying, actually, there's no evidence of collusion.

And, you know, I think the -- the second piece of this is the underlying charge is somehow this Trump presidential campaign, which one was of the most unorthodox campaigns we've ever seen in the history of our country, that somehow they needed the Trump campaign to -- the Russians needed the Trump campaigns to figure out if they wanted to hack us how to hack us and who to hack. That premise is pretty absurd. I think Vladimir Putin has been trying to hack into our society for a very long period of time. He knows the targets. They know what they're doing. I don't think they needed the Trump campaign's help for any of that. So even the premise is silly.

CUOMO: All right, Jen Psaki, I want your response, but one important clarification. I have heard nobody in any position of authority say, I've looked at everything, there is no proof of collusion. No one. I've heard them say, I don't know. I've heard Brennan say it. I've heard Clapper say it, because they were intel guys, they weren't part of the FBI part. I've never heard Comey give any position on it because the investigation isn't over, but that point I'll clarify.

SCHLAPP: I agree with that. I agree with that.

CUOMO: Abut that's not what you're saying. That's never the spin out of the White House. It's always no collusion.

SCHLAPP: Well, but -- but you're -- but, no, but let me just -- but you are innocent -- you are innocent in this country until people have proof.

CUOMO: Oh, that's true.

SCHLAPP: What you're saying is so far we don't have any proof.

CUOMO: That -- that's true, but it's an ongoing investigation.

SCHLAPP: Absolutely.

CUOMO: So, your response?

JENNIFER PSAKI, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think members of the intelligence community, many of whom I've worked with for years, are the meticulous, they're thorough and they're very careful. This is what you've sort of touched on here. When we heard from Brennan yesterday was really an alarming concern and it worked through the natural process.

This is ongoing. It's going to take months. The FBI investigation will take months. The Senate Intelligence Committee's work will take months. But we've already learned a lot that we didn't know in the fall that has created more alarm bells, which is, at one point Trump said there were no contacts. We know that's not true. At one point he said there was no financial ties. We know that's not true. The Senate Intelligence Committee has requested information.

So there's a lot of threats that have unraveled here. It is right that we have to see where this goes, but the more time passes, the more we learn, the more concerned people get and the more it requires focus of the American public, members of Congress and certainly the FBI in this investigation.

CUOMO: Michael Hayden said it's likely, Matt Schlapp, that this ends up in a position where people did things that were wrong but not illegal, not to a point where they would be guilty of anything. We'll have to see. Let me ask you one question, though, in terms of this being about the president and debating his tactics.


CUOMO: He says, according to "The New York Times," to Russian authorities, that Comey, he's a nut job. I fired him and now that pressure's off me from that Russian investigation. Boy, oh, boy, if President Obama had ever said that, Matt Schlapp's beard would hop of his face and run down the street. How do you justify that kind of behavior from a president of the United States? America first.

SCHLAPP: Well, first of all, I mean, I don't think -- I think Obama did take some heat when his exchange was overheard and we all got to hear him telling Medvedev that he would have more flexibility after the election and we all understood what those words -- what those words --

[08:35:00] CUOMO: You think that sizes up to James Comey, the head of the FBI --

SCHLAPP: What did he mean? Chris, what did he mean?

CUOMO: He's a nut job -- he's a nut job, Matt.

SCHLAPP: What did Obama mean? What did a --

CUOMO: That Comey's a nut job.

SCHLAPP: Chris, let me answer.

CUOMO: I got that Russia pressure off me now. Forget about Obama.

SCHLAPP: Let me answer.

CUOMO: Forget about him. He's gone.

SCHLAPP: Let me answer.

CUOMO: He's in the history books, my friend.

SCHLAPP: Let -- let me answer. I'll --

CUOMO: The question is, what did Trump mean and can you back, do you support him saying that about Comey to Russian officials?

SCHLAPP: Well, maybe you didn't see the article that I wrote about Jim Comey. I think it was perfectly appropriate for him to fire Jim Comey. I had Alberto Gonzales on our radio show and he basically said it was -- it was a perfectly reasonable thing to have done. Those of us who have dealt with Jim Comey over the years -- and a lot of Jen's colleagues who supported Hillary Clinton -- felt like Jim Comey lurched around in a political fashion during the campaign.

CUOMO: You're not addressing the question.

SCHLAPP: Yes, I am.

CUOMO: You're right, lots of lefties attacked him.

SCHLAPP: Well, don't you think that was inappropriate? There's a lot --

CUOMO: He called him a nut job to the Russians and said that the pressure is off him from Russian interference. How do you feel about that? Good move? Strong move? SCHLAPP: Chris, what I -- I -- what I think is this, is that there are conversations that happen in a diplomatic setting. President Obama was overheard. I, to this day, don't know what he meant when he said I'll have flexibility. I think what he meant is he was saying one thing publically and he would be able to do something else differently after the election. I think what President Trump was trying to do is tell the Russians that there is nothing to this collusion. I think they all know there's nothing to this collusion. Now --

CUOMO: You think he needed to tell the Russians there's nothing to the collusion? You think that they don't know exactly what happened and why? They would be the perpetrators here.

SCHLAPP: Yes, that's why they're having an honest conversation about how silly it all is.


SCHLAPP: It's so silly. You think Donald Trump --

CUOMO: It's good to know that -- it's good to know that you believe that the president and the Russians are on the same page about what happened. That's good.

SCHLAPP: Chris, let me -- can I -- Chris, do you think -- do you think that the Russians needed the help from anyone in the Trump campaign to do any of their hacking that they do in our society? Do you think they needed any help?

CUOMO: I don't know what happened and I'm going to have to wait for the outcome of the investigation and I --

SCHLAPP: Well, we're all in that position.

CUOMO: No, you're not, you're trying to spin it every chance you have about this whole righty attack machine trying to twist everything that happens on this show.

SCHLAPP: No, that's -- I've answered your -- Chris, you -- I come on your show and I try to answer your questions and you ask me a tough question and I'm trying to give you an answer.

CUOMO: I know you did.

SCHLAPP: We'll all have to wait for the investigation.

CUOMO: And you answered it by saying, but Obama, dot, dot, dot. But what -- now we go to you, Psaki, because the Democrats --

SCHLAPP: Well, it's true Obama, dot, dot, dot.

CUOMO: Yes, but it -- yes, but it isn't, because not in response to my question.

SCHLAPP: Well, you can't -- you can't just -- you can't just say, how does a president -- CUOMO: Not a response to the question of what Trump did.

SCHLAPP: How does a president, in a diplomatic situation, why does he say words that seem strange? And what I'm saying is, why did Obama and other presidents do similar things?

CUOMO: But it's not a response to the question. It's not a response to the question.

SCHLAPP: I don't have an answer to your question.

CUOMO: It's like one of your kids comes up and you're accusing them of spilling something and they tell you that one of their brothers did something else the day before.

SCHLAPP: No wonder the American people get tired of all this.

CUOMO: Listen, I'm thinking you're part of that reason right now, my friend, but, hold on, Jen Psaki --

SCHLAPP: Whatever.

CUOMO: Democrats overplaying their hand on this, impeachment, impeachment, impeachment. You've got no basis for impeachment. Obstruction, obstruction, obstruction. We don't know that there's any real obstruction. Overplaying the hand, exaggerating the potential outcome, is that as much a mistake of what brother Schlapp is doing?

PSAKI: As much a mistake, no. But I do think there is a risk of overplaying our hand here. Impeachment is hard. It requires the Republicans moving forward on that. We've seen moves --

CUOMO: High crime or misdemeanor (INAUDIBLE).

PSAKI: By some Republicans in Congress. There's a lot we don't know here. But, again, there are pieces that continue to unravel. I thought one of the most interesting developments this week was what Burr and Warner had to say yesterday when they didn't rule out contempt. They said they were going to move forward with subpoenas of Flynn's business. If anybody thought that committee was going to ride into the sunset, they're very wrong.

CUOMO: But even that, legally, the guy wants to plead the fifth, Flynn, and you're going to try and hold him in contempt? You can't do that.

PSAKI: Well, look, I agree that there is value in being able to plead the fifth throughout history. Flynn is somebody who criticized Clinton officials for pleading the fifth. So there's an irony there. What I think we saw from the commitment, though, a Republican and a Democrat, is a commitment to getting to the bottom of the facts. Yes, there's more time this needs to pursue, but there are a number of Democrats who are being responsible, there are Republicans who are being responsible. Those are the people I think we should look to at this point in time.

CUOMO: And there are those who are not and that's why we need good leaders.

Jen Psaki, brother Schlapp, Matt Schlapp, always good to have you on the show. Thank you for making a robust case.

SCHLAPP: Thanks for having me on.

CUOMO: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know if he thought it was good, but we'll check in with Matt.

Meanwhile, President Trump face to face with Pope Francis. They clashed on the campaign trail about some issues. So how did this first meeting go?


[08:43:28] CAMEROTA: Severe storms threatening the southeast today. On Tuesday, the system spawned several tornadoes, as you can see, leaving destruction in many areas, also causing some injuries.

So let's get to meteorologist Chad Myers with the forecast.

What are you seeing today, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I think we could see more tornadoes today, Alisyn, as well. A rough day across parts of the southeast.

This weather is brought to you by Xyzal, the allergy medicine for continuous 24-hour allergy relief.

Now, we will see the potential for tornadoes today across parts of Florida, all the way through the Carolinas. But right now, the first watch box of the day, all the way across northern Florida. Already had one storm that could have put down a tornado very close to Crescent Beach, Florida. That's south of St. Augustine.

Now, this storm runs all the way from Chicago all the way down south to Florida, but the severe weather is Carolinas down to about South Beach. We'll watch that.

Move the radar ahead to 5:00. There are shower, storms, all the way from Chicago, through Toledo, right on down even to Orlando. A bumpy day to be flying around the country today, especially the East Coast. Make sure you keep your seat belt on because there will be bumps and unexpected bumps even when the pilot says, hey, we're doing OK for right now, keep that seat belt on. We will see the flash flooding possibilities as well. We'll keep that -- an eye on that.


CUOMO: Chad, good tip. We'll be checking with you throughout the day, I am sure. Be well.

President Trump now on his way to Brussels to prepare for his first NATO meeting. He wrapped up his time in Rome by meeting with the pontiff, Pope Francis. Vatican officials only saying the men discussed promoting peace. Afterward, Trump tweeted, "it was an honor of a lifetime" to meet the pontiff.

[08:45:07] CAMEROTA: Well, what did we really learn from CIA chief John Brennan's testimony on The Hill yesterday and where are we now with the investigation into Russia? David Chalian is going to join us and give us "The Bottom Line," next.

CUOMO: But first, this week in "Teching Care of Your Health," we look at micro-current facials.

CAMEROTA: I'm interested.

CUOMO: A staple of beauty magazines and a pricey procedure that some celebs swear by.

CAMEROTA: Do they work?

CUOMO: CNN health writer Jacqueline Howard has more.

CAMEROTA: Oh, good.

CUOMO: What you got going on there? Nothing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel a little bit of a tingling. Nothing painful at all, but it's very, very relaxing.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH WRITER (voice-over): This woman is getting zapped with small jolts of electric current to tone her skin. Micro-current therapy has been a trendy skin treatment for two years, but the technology has been around for decades.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Physical therapists started with this treatment. The cosmetic use now took that and said, oh, why don't we stimulate these muscled in our face.

HOWARD: Clinical studies show that this low-level electric current can make the skin appear firm, but does little to reduce fine lines. Those who like the look will have to repeat the process often.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's kind of like exercise. The more you do it, the better it's going to appear.

HOWARD (on camera): Now, micro-current therapy does have detractors, like those who point to the cost and say money could be better spent on more lasting results. But the technology doesn't only have cosmetic applications.

HOWARD (voice-over): It's also been used to help patients with facial muscle paralysis, in addition to their medical treatment. If you are trying micro-current therapy at home or at a spa, the device maker's recommended tool with a frequency of 1 to 100 hertz to help tone your facial muscles and spark a more youthful look.



[08:50:41] CUOMO: The former chief of the CIA says contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives worried him and warrant investigation. So after John Brennan's testimony, where do we stand in terms of what the Russia investigation means? Let's get "The Bottom Line" with CNN political director David Chalian.

What is the political impact of the Brennan testimony?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it clearly wasn't a good day for the Trump White House on this story. You had a high ranking official, former CIA director, giving voice for the first time publically to sort of what he sounded the alarm on last summer. I don't think there was a ton surprising in there, in the sense that we know there's an ongoing investigation into the very things that he said were of concern.

But I think what was most devastating perhaps is the lingering notion when he left office on January 20th that he still had seen intelligence about Trump campaign related folks in contacts with Russians that raised questions and substantial, you know, substantial questions were raised in his mind that further investigation was need. That's sort of where he left off the story and that lingers out there as this investigation continues.

CAMEROTA: OK. So that leads us to naming a new FBI director who would then be spearheading part of this investigation. Seems like it's going to take longer than what President Trump had initially predicted.

CHALIAN: Yes. Do you guys remember last week before he went away on the foreign trip that we were hearing -- the aides were saying maybe we're going to have a name for you before he gets on the plane? They were trying to move through this so quickly because of all the blowback they were getting for firing Comey. And, in fact, sitting in the Oval Office last week, he told reporters that Joe Liebermann was the leading contender and that he was very, very close. That does not seem to be the case anymore. It seems that --

CAMEROTA: Well, what happened with Liebermann?

CHALIAN: Well, it seems that they're back to the drawing board here. It's not clear why Liebermann may not be in contention any further. One theory is that the lawyer that he's hiring, that Trump is hiring, Casowitz (ph), to take on some of this, you know, personal legal challenge for Donald Trump, outside counsel, not part of the White House Counsel's Office, is in the same firm that Liebermann did work for and perhaps there was a conflict there. But I'm sure there's more back story that we're going to learn as they put out more names.

They paraded eight people out in front of the cameras for interviews for this top job at the FBI. He points to Liebermann. That doesn't seem to be happening. And now they're back to the drawing board. I wonder if it's just hard to find somebody to fill this job right now because I can't imagine it's a job that many people would want at this moment with this Comey firing and the entire Russia investigation now in the hands of a special council hanging over it.

CUOMO: Well, the Democrats also pushed back on Lieberman, so maybe he thought he was going to get a layup and it's not going to be one.


CUOMO: Let me ask you something. Trump connected with the working man and women in this country, those who want higher ages, who are living check to check. These Medicaid cuts, what is the chance that he winds up biting into the muscle and bone of his own base?

CHALIAN: Well, without a doubt he will. I mean they're proposed some $800 billion in Medicaid cuts over ten years in this budget proposal. And you guys know, of course, this budget proposal is not going anywhere. I mean even Republicans on Capitol Hill were saying that yesterday. This is just the beginning of a negotiation. But it does show where President Trump's priorities are.

And it's not just Medicate, Chris. I think there are several places in this budget -- let's go agriculture. We know how big he won rural America. You know, there are several places and programs in this budget that are on the chopping block that go to the very heart of some of his core constituencies when you look at his total support network.

CAMEROTA: Last, David, I was doing an interview a short time ago and I accidentally merged the words Trump and Russia and I said Trussia. Do you feel this is a hashtag that could take off today?

CHALIAN: I -- it certainly sounds like a potential viral moment for you, Alisyn. Trussia, I don't know that it will stick. It don't know that it has real legs. It could be one of those that has legs for the day, but not much beyond that.

CAMEROTA: I feel it's catchy.

CUOMO: I think you -- I think you went the wrong way on the combo.


CUOMO: I think --

CAMEROTA: It should have been --

CUOMO: Rump.


CAMEROTA: Of course you do.

CUOMO: I'm just saying.

CAMEROTA: Of course you want to go that way. CUOMO: I'm just saying, put it to the people. Put it to the people. As

Macklemore (ph) would, take it back to the people.

[08:55:01] CAMEROTA: All right. I'll look forward to hearing from everyone. I know they'll be kind.

CUOMO: Trussia or Rump, what do you say?

CHALIAN: Oh, my.

CUOMO: We will make it up to you by giving you "The Good Stuff."

CAMEROTA: I think David just pulled the plug of his own satellite to get off this show. He --

CUOMO: I know. He's very -- he's very proper. He should be English.

"The Good Stuff," next.


CUOMO: All right, today's "Good Stuff." You know, it's hard when we have a disaster or a terror attack like in Manchester to see anything good in a situation like that. But often when we see the worst in humanity, we do see the best. A grandmother being called a hero after helping dozens of kids stranded without their parents after that explosion.


PAULA ROBINSON, HELPED CHILDREN STRANDED AFTER MANCHESTER EXPLOSION: This big explosion just -- just went off. I just shouted, everyone just make your way to the Holiday Inn. And then I put on social media, everyone meet there, if you're missing children, I've got children there.


CUOMO: So she took it upon herself, round up as many kids as she could, took them to the hotel, then put her number out there, went on social media. People who lived near the arena took to Twitter offering food and shelter under the #roomformanchester. And as families mourn the 22 victims lost in this tragedy, many are paying their respects at Manchester's Albert Square with the message, "we stand together." To, yes, look, it is an unmitigated tragedy. This is terrible. It was wrong on every level. But people do step up and try to do the right thing in the face of the wrong thing.

[09:00:11] CAMEROTA: That is beautiful.

Well, time to send now to CNN "NEWSROOM" with Poppy Harlow.