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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Senator Tim Kaine; Republican Congressional Candidate Charged With Assaulting Reporter; Trump Slams NATO Leaders; Trump Travel Ban Blocked; U.S. Official: Concert Bomber Likely Received ISIS Training; Obama Takes Veiled Jabs at Trump With Both on World Stage. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 25, 2017 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news: major setback. Tonight, a new court ruling against President Trump's revised travel ban. his campaign comments about Muslims, they are coming back to haunt him again.
Russia probed push back. As the FBI refuses to hand over documents about James Comey's communication with the president, dramatic new moves in Congress to get answers, with one committee approving blanket subpoena authority and another making new demands and setting a new deadline.
Angry allies. President Trump is front and center at the NATO summit, lecturing other leaders and getting called on the carpet himself by a fuming British prime minister.
And Montana meltdown. Voters are now deciding whether to send a Republican to Congress just hours after he was charged with assault for allegedly body-slamming a reporter. Tonight, the recordings of the stunning confrontation and the political fallout.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news tonight: Legal analysts are calling it a huge loss for President Trump, a federal appeals court ruling against the latest version of his travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority nations, the court upholding a decision blocking the ban indefinitely, the administration now promising to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Also breaking, the Senate Intelligence Committee voting to give its leaders blanket authority to issue subpoenas, the move coming after the FBI refused to give Congress documents or memos about former Director James Comey's conversations with President Trump, citing the special counsel investigation and -- quote -- "other considerations."
The House Oversight chairman is pushing back tonight, making a new request for Comey documents dating back to 2013 and setting a June 8 deadline to get the information, all this as the president's strained global relations has been on display at the NATO summit. Mr. Trump scolding, scolding key allies for not spending more on defense, and he got an earful himself from the British prime minister, who is furious that American officials leaked intelligence about the Manchester terror bombing.
Tonight, Mr. Trump is promising to investigate and threatening to prosecute the leakers.
We're covering all of that, much more this hour with our guests, including the former Defense Secretary, former CIA Director Leon Panetta. And our correspondents and specialists, they are also standing by.
First, let's go to our justice reporter Laura Jarrett with more on the breaking news on the president's travel ban.
Laura, this is truly a significant ruling and a major setback.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf, another significant setback for the Trump administration in this ongoing legal drama over the president's travel ban, this time, a majority of judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a lower court's decision to indefinitely halt the ban, finding that it likely violates the Constitution because its primary purpose was to disfavor Muslims.
The court's ruling was lengthy and scathing, explaining in part that Congress granted the president broad powers when it comes to immigration, but the president's power cannot go unchecked, as here, when the president wields through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individual across the nation.
The Trump administration had tried to justify their attempt to do this ban on six Muslim-majority countries, foreign nationals from six Muslim-majority countries, on national security grounds. But at the end of the day, Trump's own words doomed any legal justification his lawyers could've offered in this case, with a majority of the judge's finding that then candidate Trump's campaign statements revealed that on numerous occasions, he expressed anti-Muslim sentiment, as well as his intent if elected to ban Muslims from the United States.
And we're just getting in this statement from the Department of Justice, which states -- quote -- "The Department of Justice strongly disagrees with the decision of the divided court, which blocks the president's efforts to strengthen this country's national security."
It goes on to state: "This Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the power and duty of the executive branch to protect the people of this country from danger and will seek review of this case in the United States Supreme Court."
Wolf, so, clearly escalating the situation now to the United States Supreme Court.
BLITZER: In the meantime, another major loss, legal loss, for the president.
All right, Laura, thank you very much, Laura Jarrett reporting for us.
BLITZER: Also breaking tonight, the growing pushback in Congress to get information in the Trump-Russia investigation, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee voting to give their chairman and vice chairman blanket authority to issue subpoenas.
CNN's Jessica Schneider is following all the late-breaking developments for us.
Jessica, there's new urgency now that the FBI has refused to turn over documents related to former Director James Comey and President Trump.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, so much urgency that the Senate Intelligence Committee, like you said, is giving Chairman Richard burr and Ranking Member Mark Warner blanket authority to issue subpoenas in its Russia investigation, meaning the full committee does not have to approve it.
Congressional leaders are growing frustrated at the lack of information they're getting from the Justice Department, the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller, and now they're starting to push back.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, the FBI is declining to provide lawmakers any of the memos or documents from fired FBI Director James Comey detailing his interactions with President Trump until it consults with special counsel Robert Mueller.
House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz firing back with a seven-page demand, stating his committee has a -- quote -- "constitutionally based prerogative to conduct investigations and in no way wants to impede or interfere with the special counsel, but needs documents from the FBI to shed light on matters of high public interest."
Chaffetz is requesting all communications between Comey and the White House, the attorney general and deputy attorney general dating back to September 2013, and he set a new deadline of June 8. The Senate Judiciary Committee is also demanding all tapes of conversations inside the Oval Office. The White House has not said if any such tapes exist.
And since former FBI Director Robert Mueller was named special counsel, there is concern in Congress that Mueller's investigation will overshadow the probes on Capitol Hill.
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: We have the exact same rights to proceed with Mueller as special counsel as we had with Rosenstein as acting attorney general, and we should take advantage of that. SCHNEIDER: And with the White House decision to reset its search for
a new FBI director, former Senator Joe Lieberman sent a letter to the president withdrawing his name from consideration, Lieberman citing a potential conflict of interests, since Lieberman is senior counsel at the same law firm attorney Marc Kasowitz worked before Kasowitz was brought on by the White House to represent President Trump in the Russia probe.
JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have your back.
SCHNEIDER: This as Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to law enforcement officers in Memphis today, avoiding all questions about revelations he failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials on his security clearance application.
Sessions met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at least two times last year. A Justice Department spokesperson said Sessions and his staff consulted with an FBI investigator and were -- quote -- "instructed not to list meetings with former dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities."
But Democrats were quick to react.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: That is something that it would be a standard reply when you're doing an FBI background check, whether it's for security clearance or for his nomination. To me, that's information that should have been made available.
SCHNEIDER: And as for those investigations on Capitol Hill into Russia, Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley is growing increasingly frustrated that the FBI has not provided his panel with enough key information and Senator Grassley told CNN he's prepared to subpoena Comey's memos if it comes to that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you, Jessica Schneider reporting.
Also tonight, President Trump, he's now in Sicily after an often tense and rather awkward NATO summit in Brussels, the president calling out U.S. allies over their defense spending and getting called on the carpet himself for U.S. intelligence leaks.
CNN senior White House correspondent Jeff Zeleny has been traveling with the president.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump facing tough questions tonight over whether the U.S. can be trusted with sensitive intelligence.
At his first summit with world leaders, America's credibility on the line, British officials outraged, blaming the U.S. for leaking operational intelligence of the Manchester bombing to the press. It prompted British authorities to stop sharing information with the U.S. about the terror plot.
Arriving at NATO headquarters in Brussels, British Prime Minister Theresa May made clear the incident was a test of the special relationship with the U.S.
THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I will be making clear to President Trump today that intelligence that is shared between law enforcement agencies must remain secure.
ZELENY: The president didn't take questions from reporters today, but later issued a statement, calling the leaks "deeply troubling." He said the "leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security."
He asked the Justice Department to investigate the leak and offered an apology, saying, "There's no relationship we cherish more than the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom."
It was an embarrassing moment for the president's debut on the world stage, Mr. Trump sizing up some leaders for the first time, including new French President Emmanuel Macron, this labored handshake before the two went off for a private lunch. Yet he did not address the intelligence leak while speaking at NATO.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
ZELENY: As he lashed out against extremists.
TRUMP: All people who cherish life must unite in finding, exposing and removing these killers and extremists and, yes, losers. They are losers.
ZELENY: The president then proceeded to lecture his counterparts about their contributions to the alliance. The awkward tension was clear.
TRUMP: Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they are supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.
ZELENY: The president's tongue-lashing hardly out of the blue, given his campaign rhetoric about NATO's mission.
TRUMP: I never studied NATO big, but I said two things. It's obsolete and the United States is paying too much.
ZELENY: But, today, his scolding tone seemed to fall flat with many of his fellow leaders, as he condemned many countries for not paying their full share.
TRUMP: We have to make up for the many years lost; 2 percent is the bare minimum for confronting today's very real and very vicious threats.
ZELENY: After his remarks, the president making a brash first impression, as leaders strolled through NATO's new headquarters, at one point, President Trump elbowing his way to the front of the pack.
(on camera): But it was also notable what the president did not say, and that is what worries many leaders here. Will the United States have their backs against rising aggression from Russia and terrorists attacks here as well?
That is one of the hallmarks of Article V of the NATO treaty, an attack against one is an attack against all. Of course, in the wake of the 911 terrorists attacks, NATO did stand by the United States. Now these leaders are wondering if President Trump will do the same -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jeff Zeleny traveling with the president, thank you.
We have some late-breaking news, that Britain has just resumed intelligence-sharing on the Manchester terror investigation with the United States after getting strict assurances from the U.S. about its handling of the information.
I want to turn back to all the breaking news that we're following, including on the Russia investigation.
Joining us now, the former Defense Secretary, the former CIA Director under President Obama Leon Panetta.
Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.
LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Nice to be with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's talk, first of all, about that FBI memorandum. The FBI has declined now to release that information to the House Oversight Committee at the request of the Oversight Committee. They cited the work of the special counsel.
Should the investigations up on Capitol Hill dealing with this issue have access to those Comey memos?
PANETTA: I think, ultimately, they should get access, but before jumping to any conclusions here, Bob Mueller just got appointed special counsel last week.
I'm sure he's trying to read into all elements of the case. And the fact is that these memos would be very critical to any potential prosecution that might be involved in the future. And so I suspect that the FBI is looking at those memos. They probably want to talk to Director -- former Director Comey in order to determine just exactly what the relationship is.
I hope that the leadership on the Hill takes the time to meet with Bob Mueller. I'm sure that, ultimately, he will cooperate and provide those memos to the investigation.
BLITZER: Yesterday, at this time, I was speaking here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the House Oversight Committee chairman, Jason Chaffetz, who has spoken directly with the former FBI Director James Comey.
Comey told Chaffetz that he wants to speak with Bob Mueller, the special counsel, before testifying.
Here's the question. Do you have confidence that the American public will hear directly from Comey?
PANETTA: I do.
I think that, ultimately, that this kind of testimony, plus the memos, will be provided to those investigating on the Hill. But I also believe that Bob Mueller as special counsel needs to review those memos, needs to talk with Comey to determine exactly what is involved and how it relates to any possible prosecution in the future.
BLITZER: When the special counsel, Bob Mueller, was announced, there were worries that it would slow down the investigations being led in the Congress, the House and the Senate, and block public access to the developments. I suppose we are seeing that happening right now, right?
PANETTA: I have a lot of confidence in Bob Mueller.
He's serious. He has a lot of integrity. He's going to roll up his sleeves and do a very careful job at looking at all the evidence involved here. But it is going to be done carefully.
And I think probably the best approach I would take if I were on Capitol Hill is to stay in close touch with Bob Mueller, talk to him, and get his cooperation ultimately in providing that information to the American people.
I don't think Bob wants to in any way inhibit the American people from knowing all of the facts involved with regards to this Russian interference issue.
BLITZER: The congressionally imposed deadline also passed, Mr. Secretary, for the White House to respond a request for any tapes of President Trump's conversations with Comey. Is that because the tapes don't exist? Do you believe they do exist? Is there another explanation?
PANETTA: No one knows what the truth is right now.
I think that, you know, the president did seem to indicate that there was the possibility of tapes. You're not quite sure whether it was used as a way to perhaps intimidate Director Comey with regards to future testimony or whether, in fact, that is the case. I think, ultimately, that the special counsel has a responsibility to
find out if those tapes, in fact, do exist, because, if they do, they could be very relevant to this investigation.
BLITZER: They certainly could be.
I remember when you served as chief of staff at the White House to President Bill Clinton, and since we're talking about tape recordings in the Oval Office, did President Clinton tape conversations in the Oval Office?
PANETTA: Not to my knowledge.
I think, you know, there was some discussion, but I think, as a result of what happened during Watergate, presidents that followed President Nixon thought very carefully about taping any conversation in the Oval Office.
BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point.
You probably also know the White House now is getting ready to establish what they're calling a war room to handle rapid response to the Russia investigation. The president is also lawyering up, hiring outside legal counsel.
Does that suggest to you that there potentially was wrongdoing or is that just doing their due diligence?
PANETTA: I would hope that the president and the administration would fully cooperate with both the special counsel and the investigations on Capitol Hill.
President Reagan when he was dealing with the Iran-Contra made the decision that it was important to cooperate with those investigations. And that proved to be, I think, the best approach. I think, for this president and this White House, the best approach would be not to go to war against these investigations, but to cooperate fully with them and allow the president to deal with other issues that relate to the presidency.
BLITZER: As the special counsel, Bob Mueller, ramps up his own investigation -- he's only just beginning, as you know -- how precarious a situation is this for the president and his closest staffers?
PANETTA: Well, you know, there's no question that the first priority for the Mueller investigation is to look at what happened with Russian interference in our election process, and whether or not there was any collusion.
Now, if you take the president at his word that, in fact, there was no collusion here between the Trump campaign and the Russian interference, then they have nothing to be worried about.
They have nothing that, you know, would concern them with regards to the course of this investigation. On the other hand, if there is something there, if there is some concern, then they have a hell of a lot to worry about.
BLITZER: Yes, they have to tell the truth in all of their statements to FBI agents, among others, because, sometimes, people get into trouble for lying, even if they didn't originally do anything wrong in the process, as all of us who have covered these stories over the years know.
You also have seen our reporting. CNN learned that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, did not disclose his meeting -- meetings with the Russian ambassador here in Washington, Sergey Kislyak, on his security clearance application.
The Justice Department has now confirmed that. How concerning is that omission in your eyes?
PANETTA: Well, you know, I worry about this kind of tendency to forget about the meetings that individuals had with the Russians and then later on recall those meetings.
There seems to be a pattern here that involves everybody from Flynn to other members that were in the Trump campaign, and for that reason, it concerns, I think, the American people that there's been an effort to not provide all of the truth with regards to the contacts with the Russians here. And that is important.
As Director Brennan pointed out in his testimony, when you look at the intelligence and you look at the fact that there were contacts between the Russians and individuals involved in the campaign, then that raises a question about whether or not it went further in terms of any kind of collusion.
I think it's important to find the truth here. That's what this is all about. The American people are entitled to it because, frankly, this is a national security issue investigation. It relates to our national security.
BLITZER: Yes, it certainly does.
"The Washington Post" has reported that the former FBI Director Comey may have based his decision at least in part on how to handle the Clinton e-mail server investigation on a Russian document that's turned out to be bad intelligence, probably a faked-up document, completely fake. How concerning is that to you?
PANETTA: Well, obviously, this is another one of those issues where we have got to find out the truth and what, in fact, did convince Director Comey to take the steps that he did.
This memo seems to involve a lot of information that is a little loony, to be truthful. And for the director, who is a pretty responsible guy, to kind of assume that that was the truth just doesn't strike me as very realistic. So I would be very careful about coming to that conclusion until we have seen all of the facts involved with Director Comey's decision. BLITZER: Because, apparently, according to the report in "The
Washington Post," no one even -- in the FBI tried to even verify that document that was circulated.
Now, that's a serious -- it could have been verified pretty quickly if they would've spoken to the people who were mentioned in that memorandum, that fake memorandum.
PANETTA: Wolf, it's just doesn't strike me as what the FBI would do when it comes to that kind of memo being provided.
At least my experience in working with the FBI and frankly at the CIA, if we got that kind of memo, the first thing you would do is to try to verify the information in that memo to make sure that it was the truth.
BLITZER: Yes, that would have been a basic step.
I guess the fear is that Russia successfully influenced the director of the FBI in this investigation of Hillary Clinton's e-mail server. That's the fear. And I wonder what your reaction to that fear is.
PANETTA: Well, I think that's the issue that has to be looked at by the special counsel and by these investigations on Capitol Hill.
This was in many ways a direct attack by Russia on the United States in trying to deliberately interfere with our ability to conduct a free election. To have a foreign adversary do that and do it directly in a way that truly interfered with the ability of the American people to exercise their right to vote is unheard of, and it is something that I think directly challenges our national security.
And for that reason, any memo that is involved that comes from the Russians or anybody else has to be thoroughly investigated to determine just exactly what impact it had in terms of interfering with the right of the American people to cast their ballot.
BLITZER: Just moments after you were here with us in THE SITUATION ROOM a few weeks ago, Mr. Secretary, the FBI director was fired.
Since then, we have learned that the president allegedly asked him to shut down the entire Russia investigation, threatened him on Twitter. The president reportedly shared intelligence with Russians in the Oval Office on this issue. There have been several bombshells about the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
You're out of politics now. I want you to step back as a wise Washington hand. Given all that has happened over these past few weeks, where do you think this will end?
PANETTA: Wolf, it's been my experience that no president of the United States can stop the truth from coming out, and that ultimately we will find the truth here. And even if the president and the White House and others are concerned about what the truth will show, the fact is the American people are entitled to the truth. And you can try to interfere, you can try to cover up, you can try to delay investigations, you can try to intimidate people in the process, but, frankly, none of that, none of that works.
We have seen that history before. And the one thing I am absolutely convinced of is that the institutions of our democracy are strong enough to survive those kinds of attempts. We will find the truth in this case.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks so much for joining us.
PANETTA: Thanks. Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: Thank you, Leon Panetta.
We're now joined by Senator Tim Kaine, the former Democratic vice presidential nominee. He's a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: You bet, Wolf. Glad to be with you.
BLITZER: So, the FBI has now declined a House Oversight Committee request for former FBI Director Comey's memos, citing the work of the special counsel, Robert Mueller. Are you confident that all the relevant committees in the House and the Senate, all the investigators, all the investigations up on the Hill, that they will get access to those memos?
KAINE: Wolf, I am confident about it.
I think we're still fairly new into the special prosecutor, just appointed last week, but I'm very confident that the special prosecutor and especially the Senate Intelligence Committee will reach a working accord where they can each pursue their investigations diligently.
They're slightly different, the two investigations. They're both very important, one into criminal conduct and one to determine what happened, so we can protect our electoral system. But I think they will work out how to share the information. Some of it may be shared in a classified way, some publicly, but I have confidence that the special prosecutor will work with my colleagues Richard Burr and Mark Warner to come up with an operating protocol where the information can be shared.
BLITZER: Yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the House Oversight Committee chairman, Jason Chaffetz, told me that when he spoke on the phone with Comey, the former FBI director wouldn't even confirm the existence of those memos. Comey also told Chaffetz that he wants to speak to Mueller, the special counsel, before testifying.
Will the public -- do you believe, will the public hear directly from Comey in open session?
KAINE: I believe that's the case.
And, as you know, Wolf, Director Comey has said he wants to speak publicly, he has accepted an invitation from Senators Warner and Burr, the Senate Intelligence Committee, to come and testify publicly. And so, yes, I believe some time soon after the Memorial Day recess, you will have a chance to hear from the director. And obviously that's going to be a moment of great drama here on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: It certainly will be. The American public will be anxious to hear what Comey has to say.
You also know "The Washington Post" is reporting that Comey may have been influenced in his handling of the Hillary Clinton investigation by what is now seen as a fake Russian document. You were the running mate, you were the vice presidential nominee. Do you believe that the former Director James Comey cost you and Hillary Clinton the election?
KAINE: You know, there's no sense for me doing what-ifs. I'm in the U.S. Senate and I have an important roll to play, Wolf. I'm on the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, as you mentioned.
And much of the work we do on the committees is about Russia. During the campaign, as I was on the campaign trail, I had a son deployed overseas with 1,200 Marines spread on the borders with Russia from the Baltic to the Black Sea. This is serious business.
General Dunford, the head of our Joint Chiefs of Staff, says Russia is our principal adversary. Certainly, this issue that's been reported in "The Washington Post" about Director Comey and this document, that will be obviously fertile ground for questions during Director Comey's testimony.
But we do -- I agree with Leon Panetta's comments -- we have got to get to the bottom of this. A very troubling pattern has emerged over the last few months. And the security of the American democracy is at stake in the investigations that are under way right now.
BLITZER: Do you believe it was appropriate for President Trump to fire Comey?
KAINE: I think the circumstances of the firing, as explained by President Trump, are incredibly suspicious. And they just add to this pattern of suspicion. Wolf, you were talking about the pattern.
You have a decision made by Russia, confirmed by our intel agencies in June or July, that they want to influence the election, defeat Hillary Clinton, elect Donald Trump. You have Donald Trump in late July saying: I encourage Russia to cyber-hack the election and help me win.
You have, after the election is over and Donald Trump has succeeded, he's engaged in conversations
KAINE: ... Trump. You have Donald Trump in late July saying, "I encourage Russia to cyber hack the election and help me win."
[18:30:08] You have, after the election is over and Donald Trump has succeeded, he's engaged in conversations with Director Comey, who he knows is investigating these ties, and he's asking about "Are you loyal to me?" He asked him to drop the investigation into General Flynn.
Not only does Director Comey refuse to drop the investigation, he comes up to Congress in March and publicly discloses the investigation.
Then the president leans on DNI Coats and General Rogers to undermine the investigation or say that it's not really going on. They won't do it.
Then, when Director Comey in April asked for more resources to conduct the investigation, he is at that point fired. President Trump tells the press within two days it's largely because of the Russia investigation and then reveals to Russians visiting him in his office, including Russian officials whose activities are part of this investigation, that he thinks the pressure is now off on the Russia investigation, because Director Comey is gone.
This is a pattern that is just a classic pattern of intent to undermine an investigation and then taking the step of firing Director Comey to try to accomplish that intent, and that is why this has such gravity.
BLITZER: As you know, the White House also failed to comply with a separate Senate Judiciary Committee request to provide any tapes of conversations between the former FBI director and President Trump. Is that an indication that the tapes -- that the tapes of these conversations, first of all, do they exist? Do you believe they exist? Because the president himself in that tweet he mentioned, quote, tapes.
KAINE: Yes, he mentioned tapes and either -- I mean, I think there's two -- there's two possibilities. Either President -- the president in his tweet was mentioning tapes and they don't exist, which is dishonest; or they do exist, and the president is afraid to turn them over.
Everything about what the White House is doing demonstrates a degree of nearly paralysis and fear over this investigation. And from the day that General Flynn resigned, this took on a much different turn, Wolf, because before that resignation, the investigation was largely about the campaign. But the resignation of General Flynn was about lying to the vice president and to the FBI, while he was sitting national security advisor. It took it out of the campaign and put it right in the White House.
And subsequent events -- the recusal of Attorney General Sessions when he was caught giving misleading testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee; the statements about the president's efforts to reach out to DNI Coats and Admiral Rogers and get them to undermine the investigation, the firing of Comey -- this isn't about the election any more. This is now about the election and about the transition and about the administration and whether there's activity underway that would be unprecedented in American history.
BLITZER: What else would you need to see, Senator, before you could make the determination that there was obstruction of justice?
KAINE: You know, that's a legal term, Wolf, and when I went through the -- when I went through the scenario that I went through with the facts, there are a couple of facts in there that I mentioned that, though they had been publicly reported, the White House denies them.
The White House has not -- has not -- has not acknowledged that it made the efforts to reach out to DNI Coats and Admiral Rogers to get them to undermine the investigation with Comey. They haven't acknowledge -- they haven't admitted that yet. It has not been admitted that the firing occurred right after Director Comey asked for more resources for the investigation. There's some dispute about that.
So there are some facts that are in dispute, although most are not in dispute; and that's why these hearings are so important.
And I think frankly, one of the most important things will be to ask all these questions to Director Comey in open setting, and then that's going to raise questions for the president. We wouldn't be able to bring the president here to testify, but he'll be standing in front of reporters, and reporters will have a chance to ask him questions. Because there's going to be some things, I am sure, that Director Comey is going to say where the natural inclination is, "President Trump, what do you say about that?" And I think there's going to be an opportunity for those questions to be asked. And you have to -- you have to get those facts out on the table and hear from both sides before you reach a conclusion.
BLITZER: Senator, CNN learned -- has learned that the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, did not disclose his meetings with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, on his security clearance application. Justice Department has confirmed he didn't disclose that. They said an FBI agent who was helping them said, "You really -- as a senator, you don't have to reveal all your meetings with foreign officials."
How concerning to you, though, is it, that admission of the conversations he had with the Russian ambassador; how concerning is that to you, if it is concerning?
KAINE: It's deeply concerning, Wolf, and I'll tell you why, because it's all part of this pattern. General Flynn has to be fired as national security advisor because he was misleading the FBI and the vice president about the extent of his contacts with the Russians. And since the firing we've even learned more failures to disclose, for example, who paid for his trip to Russia where he had dinner at this RT banquet with -- with Putin. So that is why General Flynn left. And then here we have Attorney General Sessions. He's the head of the
Justice Department. He's supposed to be overseeing this critical investigation. But he has to reduce himself, because in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, he gave misleading testimony about what topic? Oh, coincidentally, it was about his contacts with the Russians. And now we find out in the material he submitted for his security vetting, he left off contacts with the Russians.
These are all pointing exactly the same direction. This is not a series of unrelated mistakes. The things that tripped up Flynn, the thing that has tripped up Jeff Sessions so that he is now recused from the single most important investigation that the Justice Department of the United States is now conducting, and he has to recuse himself as attorney general, it's all about contacts with the Russians that they have been afraid to disclose.
Why are they afraid? Why didn't they do it? That's what is giving this such a sense of urgency here on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: Let me ask you about some legislation that you and Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona have just introduced, an authorization for the use of military force. There have been calls for that, what's called an AUMF, over the years. They really haven't gone that far.
Here's the question, Senator. Why do you believe that the factors right now make you believe that your latest effort with Senator Flake will be successful?
KAINE: Wolf, as you know, since 2001 there was a one-page authorization passed three days after the 9/11 attack, one page. It was open-ended in geography. It was quite open-ended in the groups against which military action could be taken, completely open-ended in duration, and 16 years later we've used it 37 times to conduct operations in 14 different countries.
Jeff Flake and I believe we shouldn't be sending our military into harm's way without them knowing that Congress is behind the mission. Nearly 75 percent of Congress wasn't even here when that authorization was passed.
So what we've done is we've drafted up a new authorization that would authorize current operations against al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban, but that would give it some duration, a five-year limitation with a sunset; would give it some geographic specificity; would define with more precision the groups against which the president is allowed to take military action.
The reason that we think the time is now is a new administration is a new chance to review this and a good time to review this posture. Second, the -- President Trump's own military advisors -- his secretary of defense, Secretary Mattis, his head of joint chiefs of staff, General Dunford -- have said they think an authorization is needed; and the White House is nearing completion of a review that they're doing of the anti-ISIS strategy. So when that review is being done in an new administration, when president's Trump's own military team says it's time for Congress to get in the game, we think the time is right to now put this on the table and ask Congress to exercise their Article I constitutional responsibilities.
BLITZER: Senator Tim Kaine, you've been generous with your time. Thanks so much for joining us.
KAINE: Absolutely, Wolf. Glad to be with you.
BLITZER: Tim Kaine of Virginia.
We're following lots of breaking news. Let's take a break, resume our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
[18:43:24] BLITZER: Breaking tonight, a new deadline set by the House Oversight Committee chairman for the FBI to turn over documents and memos related to former FBI Director James Comey and his conversations with the president and his administration. The Justice Department refusing to comply with an earlier demand, citing the special counsel's investigation and, quote, "other considerations."
Let's bring in our team of analysts and specialists.
Gloria, does this mean that the congressional investigations are now going to have to take a backseat to Robert Mueller's investigation?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it looks like it's heading that way, and I think it's a shame if it does, because they have very different jobs here. The prosecutor wants to prosecute, and if there's criminal wrongdoing, he's going to try and ferret it out. But the congressional investigations are all about getting at the truth for the American people and telling the story for the American people, who want to know the answers.
And don't forget, criminal prosecutions -- and Jeffrey can talk much more about this -- take an awfully long time. And the -- I think the American people deserve to get to the bottom of things a little bit sooner than years from now. And that's what Congress's job is. So I don't think it should take a backseat.
BLITZER: What do you think, Jeffrey?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's a big problem, and it can be worked out. And I think, you know, we need to give both the congressional committees and Robert Mueller a little time to negotiate and discuss this.
But think about this. Senator Warner has said that Director Comey is going to testify the week of June 5th, you know, the week after Memorial Day. But at the moment, it looks like they won't have his underlying memos for him -- at the time of his testimony, so what good is that? I mean, it certainly would make no sense for Comey to testify without having public access to the memos. So, I think that's something to keep an eye on is that if this date holds that he's going to testify the week of June 5th, that they may be -- whether they turn over those documents, I think they will turn them over.
I think Mueller will give them the green light to turn over the documents. They're not going to change. The documents say what they say and I think, you know -- that is going to be -- Mueller will recognize what Gloria was saying, that there is a public interest here that is independent of any criminal investigation.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get to some other developments today and there have been so many of them. John Kirby, on the international stage, you saw the president of the United States lecture the NATO allies. He was complaining that only five of the 28 NATO allies devote 2 percent of their GDP to defense, 23 do not.
REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), CNN DIPLOMATIC AND MILITARY ANALYST: Yes. Look, I thought it was really poorly done and coming off what was pretty successful stop during this trip, he could've come to Brussels with a unifying positive message, carrying it forward. Instead, he lectured and he nagged them about something that they already know, that were concerned about and that many nations are working on to fix it. It will play well to the people who voted for him because he is what he is. This is a president who couldn't play dead in a cowboy movie.
But he had a chance -- he had a chance to make -- to show the United States as the big nation we are. And instead, we -- he made us look cheap and small.
BLITZER: There's another story that's developing right now in Montana, Jackie Kucinich. I want to play the clip, the Republican candidate for this congressional seat for Montana, Greg Gianforte. He assaulted according to local law enforcement, he's now been charged with misdemeanor assault, a reporter who was simply asking a fair question.
Listen to the audio, we have the audio.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BEN JACOBS, THE GUARDIAN: -- the CBO score. Because, you know, you've been waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill, and it just came out --
GREG GIANFORTE (R), MONTANA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We'll talk to you about that later.
JACOBS: Yes, but there's not going to be time.
GIANFORTE: OK, speak with Shane, please.
JACOBS: But, you got to --
GIANFORTE: I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last guy that came in here you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!
GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. You with "The Guardian"?
JACOBS: Yes, and you just broke my glasses.
GIANFORTE: The last guy did the same damn thing.
JACOBS: You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.
GIANFORTE: Get the hell out of here.
JACOBS: You'd like me to get the hell out of here? I'd also like to call the police. Can I get you guys' names?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, you got to leave.
JACOBS: He just body-slammed me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to leave.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: I've been racking my brain. He's now been charged with misdemeanor assault. He has not apologized as far as we know, even though the House Speaker Paul Ryan urged him to apologize for what he did.
I've been racking my brain trying to remember, have I ever seen a politician body slam a journalist, a reporter for simply asking a very fair question?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not the specific incident, I think this is new territory for all of us. But the violence reporters, the getting physical with reporters has been upticking in this country recently. Just a couple weeks ago, a reporter from "Congressional Quarterly" at an FCC hearing tried to ask the commissioner a question and was pinned up against the wall by guards there.
We saw it during the campaign. There were several incidents where you had staff put their hands on reporters, you had overzealous security guards put their hands on reporters. And part of it is this, the rhetoric that has been not only with the president but elsewhere against the press and it just needs to calm down. It needs to stop, because it isn't acceptable in this country or frankly anywhere else.
BLITZER: It's so disturbing, Gloria. That was the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, they came out with their report yesterday. This is a guy that wants to be a United States congressman from Montana. You spent a lot of time in Montana, so disturbing to hear that audio.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it really is. The Republican senator from Montana tweeted today that he ought to apologize and he hasn't and the Democratic senator said the same thing, as did Paul Ryan.
It seems to me that what you're hearing there is a candidate who clearly had dealt with this publication before, felt they were so- called liberal, you heard that in the press release he issued last night and he's frustrated because this shouldn't be a race for him. He should be running away with this, Montana, Trump won by 20 points. This should not even be a race.
The Democratic running against him is an unknown kind of singer with a trail of tax liens. He's not a perfect candidate running against him. This candidate Gianforte ran for governor and lost but he was considered an easy, easy favorite.
[18:50:03] And now, he's got to race and he gets asked a real question about health care and he --
TOOBIN: Wait a second. Apologize? Apologize? He should be arrested.
BORGER: Well, true, yes.
TOOBIN: What if he did it in a bar?
BORGER: Yes, exactly.
TOOBIN: What if he did it. I mean, he'd be arrested.
BORGER: And what if he did it against a woman?
KUCINICH: Well, here's the other thing --
BORGER: What if it were a woman journalist?
TOOBIN: But how -- you can't separate this from the president of the United States tweeting that journalists are enemies of the American people. Well, if we're enemies, we should be body slammed. I mean, that kind of rhetoric leads directly to this kind of action. But the idea that an apology is sufficient is just --
BLITZER: It's not sufficient but it would be a start.
BLITZER: Certainly, that would be a start. So far, no apology.
Everybody, stand by. There's more breaking news right after this.
[18:55:31] BLITZER: Now to the breaking news on the terror attack in Britain. A U.S. official tells CNN the suicide bomber likely received some ISIS training in the months before the attack. Other members of his family were believed to have been radicalized as well.
Our senior international correspondent Clarissa Ward is covering the investigation for us. She's live in Manchester, England.
What's the latest, Clarissa?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're getting some mixed messages here because on the one hand, a U.S. official has told CNN that they do believe that it was likely that the suicide bomber spent time training in Syria with ISIS in the months before the attack.
Now, on the other hand, CNN is hearing from Turkish officials that they do believe the suicide bomber passed through the airport but that he was only in the transit area, that he never actually left the airport and entered Turkey, and as some of our viewers may know, the main or primary route into ISIS-controlled territory inside Syria is through Turkey. So, it's a little difficult to understand how he would have been able to gain access to ISIS territory in Syria without going through Turkey.
Now, here in Manchester, there have been raids going on throughout the past few days. One house in particular in a suburb called Wiggin (ph) clearly attracted a lot of attention. It was cordoned off for almost an entire day after police said that they found suspicious materials. No word of what those materials were. But certainly, fair to say, authorities are still trying to drill down on who may have helped the bomber make this bomb and whether there is a larger network out there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Clarissa Ward in Manchester, England, for us -- thank you.
While President Trump has been meeting with NATO leaders, his predecessor is overseas well. The former President Barack Obama, he's in Germany, taking some veiled -- veiled jabs at President Trump's policies.
Let's go to our senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski. She's in Berlin for us tonight.
So, Michelle, what did we hear from President Obama?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: It was almost a surreal flashback, listening to this Obama speech alongside chancellor Merkel at the foot of the Brandenburg Gate. This crowd officially estimated at 70,000 people, many of them young and very much wanting to hear from Obama who is enormously popular in Germany.
But this was a relaxed President Obama coming off of vacation. He wasn't the fired up and ready to go Obama from the campaign trail. This was him at times very carefully choosing his words, not wanting to get too political. But at one point, he was asked to assess his presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: My hope was that I would be able to get 100 percent of people health care while I was president. We didn't quite achieve that but we were able to get 20 million people health care who didn't have it before. And -- certainly I have some regrets that we weren't able to get everyone health care and obviously some of the progress that we made is now in peril.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: Not once did he mention President Trump by name. But he used some of the same kinds of phrasing he would use on the campaign trail to reference him, saying things like people need to fight against fear, nationalism and xenophobia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: In the eyes of God, a child on the other side of the border is no less worthy of love and compassion than my own child. We -- we can't distinguish between them in terms of their work and their inherent dignity. In this new world that we live in, we can't isolate ourselves. We can't hide behind a wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOSINSKI: Chancellor Merkel also chose to criticize wall building specifically when she in this kind of whiplash of events found herself standing alongside President Trump at the NATO meeting in Brussels where she didn't look too pleased at all to hear his repeated reprimands for countries that don't pay as much as the United States, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point.
Michelle Kosinski, following all these developments, joining us tonight from Berlin -- Michelle, thank you very, very much.
That's it for me. To all our viewers, thanks so much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.