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White House: "We Are Not Going To Comment" On Kushner; Trump Heads Home Amid New Accusations About Son-In-Law; Sources: Comey Acted On Russian Intel He Knew Was Fake; Melania Trump Wraps Up International Debut as First Lady; Security Heightened During V.P. Pence's Indy 500 Visit; Solving Hair Problems Through Science. Aired 12-1p ET
Aired May 27, 2017 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: -- is that the rumors that they're trying to deal with this by standing up a war room and by going to battle with, in fact, the investigation and that's the absolute wrong approach.
If the president is right and there's nothing there, and if the president is right when he says he wants these resolved quickly, the best way for him to do that and for this White House to do that is wrap their arms around this investigation, open up to it and fully support it. You don't have to stand up a war room to try to battle it.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Rear Admiral John Kirby, David Rohde, Mike Shields, Tim Naftali, thanks to all of you, Gentlemen. We will hear from you again very soon. We have so much more straight ahead in the NEWSROOM and it starts right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We travel the world to strengthen long-standing alliances and to form a partnership among nations devoted to the task of eradicating the terrorism that plagues our planet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: President Donald Trump speaking at a U.S. military base overseas there in Italy before boarding Air Force One ending a five- nation, nine-day swing and heading home into a cloud of new reports on the Russian investigation.
This time, involving the president's own son-in-law. Jared Kushner accused of considering -- creating a secret communication back channel with the kremlin.
Plus -- what the first lady revealed about herself and her marriage during this trip. CNN NEWSROOM starts now.
All right. This is the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Thanks so much for being with me.
This breaking news, the White House responding to an explosive new report involving the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as of Russian official contact.
Sources tell CNN Kushner discussed setting up a secret communication line with the kremlin in a December meeting with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. Well, today, White House officials were asked about the new details first reported by "The Washington Post."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not going to comment on Jared. We're just not going to comment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: General, generally speaking, General, would you be concerned if somebody on the National Security Council or in this administration were to seek a back channel communication system with the Russian embassy and with the kremlin, would that generally concern you not to even address Kushner specifically but in general terms?
GENERAL H.R. MCMASTER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: No, I mean, we have back channel communications with a number of countries, so generally speaking about back channel communications, what that allows you to do is communicate in a discreet manner so it does not predispose you toward any sort of content of that conversation or anything so, no, I would not be concerned about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: That was an off camera news conference with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, the last voice you heard, prior to that National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn traveling with the president and you saw the president has now left aboard Air Force One, left Italy.
All right. We have a team of reporters covering all of this. Let's begin with CNN Washington correspondent, Ryan Nobles. So Ryan, explain to us further about what we know about this reported back channel with the kremlin?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, a source with knowledge of the situation confirms to our Jeff Zeleny that after the election last fall, Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Donald Trump, and a senior adviser to the president, explored the idea of setting up a secret line of communication with Russia to discuss military operations in Syria and other matters, even though it's unclear why it would be necessary to set up such a channel to discuss issues like this secretly.
Now, Kushner first discussed the idea during a meeting in December with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. The line was never established, but the line of communication would have given Kushner and the incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn a secret channel of communication with Russian leaders that would have been outside the purview of the Obama administration. Now this story initially reported by "The Washington Post" and the "Post" revealed that Kislyak actually told his superiors about the proposal. Kislyak telling his bosses, that the channel was Kushner's idea and would have been established inside Russian diplomatic facilities here in the United States.
Now, according to the "Post," Kislyak was actually taken aback by the proposal because of the potential security risks that it could create for both the Russian government and the Trump transition.
Now Ellen Nakashima is the reporter who broke the story and did caution that this could be another attempt by the Russian government to confuse the public about the Trump administration's connection to Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLEN NAKASHIMA, NATIONAL REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": I caution that this is based on reporting by Kislyak up to his superiors in Moscow and that reporting was captured on intercepts and, you know, this could be Russian -- intelligence agencies are known sometimes to put disinformation into their feeds in order to sew confusion.
[12:05:06]Sometimes senior officials in their reporting can exaggerate a bit, but if this report is true, then it means that Kushner was seeking a secure channel during the transition period in the weeks leading up to the inauguration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: Now at this point, Jared Kushner has not denied this report and hasn't even responded to it. As you heard senior White House officials have refused to comment as well. This development, once again, raising questions about the depths of Kushner's involvement with Russia and the role that it could have played in the campaign.
Now at that time, Kushner was, indeed, a private citizen but that may not matter legally because he was an official member of the transition and actually already provided an interim security clearance at that point and his attorneys have said he will cooperate with investigators. That includes meeting with members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Ryan Nobles, thank you so much. We'll talk more about this.
So meantime back to President Trump, he is in the air now, back on Air Force One, heading back to Washington, D.C. amid all of these new reports. The president making no mention of the unfolding allegations involving his son-in-law as he spoke to U.S. military personnel and their families at the Naval Air Station there in Sicily.
Jim Acosta, CNN senior White House correspondent, was there as the president made his final remarks. Again, no mention of Kushner but instead he detailed what he called a quote/unquote "historic week." JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. It was a chance for President Trump to wrap up this week, his first foreign trip abroad overseas and at that naval air base the president once again went back to the controversial comments he made at NATO earlier this week where he scolded some of the NATO alliance partners for not paying their fair share into the partnership. Here's more of what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Then I traveled to two summits with our key allies, first at a NATO summit in Brussels, where we agreed to improve the burden sharing among members of our alliance, and to further confront the shared threat of terrorism. Other member nations must pay more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Now we should also point out that the president tweeted that he's going to make a major decision later on next week about the Paris climate agreement that was talked about so much during this overseas trip with the president.
He tweeted earlier today, "I will make my final decision on the Paris accord next week." Fredricka, we can tell you from talking to a French official that President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron had a conversation about this at their meeting at the NATO Summit in Brussels.
And during that meeting the president relayed to President Macron that he is under, quote, "heavy political pressure" back in the United States as a result of this climate agreement. He said a lot of people back home referring to conservatives, of course, do not want him to stay in that Paris agreement.
And so interesting that the French are telling us that President Trump is indicating he may pull out of this climate agreement. Now, of course, when we asked senior White House officials earlier today about all of this they said no final decision has been made. The president is going to do that next week.
But -- and, of course, we didn't have an opportunity to ask President Trump about this but the French are indicating that President Trump is hinting very strongly that he may pull out of that climate agreement which will have reverberations all over the world as that was a historic agreement that was signed by dozens of countries in Paris, crafted by the Obama administration, two years ago -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: All right. Jim Acosta, thank you so much traveling with the president, although again the president has taken off, Air Force One, soon after Jim Acosta will be on his way back to D.C. too. Thanks so much.
All right, let me bring in my panel now, talk more about all of this, CNN political analyst, Julien Zelizer, a historian and professor at Princeton University, Jay Newton Small, a contributor for "Time" magazine, CNN law enforcement contributor, Steve Moore is a retired supervisory special agent for the FBI, and CNN legal analyst, Page Pate, is a criminal defense attorney. Good to see all of you. Thank you so much.
All right, Steve, let me begin with you because we already heard from, you know, Admiral John Kirby that there are secure channels in place that Trump's predecessor has used to be in connection with Russia or anybody else.
Can you describe would there be a legitimate reason why there would need to be a new kind of back channel that would be as "The Washington Post" and CNN reporting has described, that would involve a Russian interest building in D.C. for this new administration?
STEVE MOORE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CONTRIBUTOR: My understanding of the political nature here is that when you have a newly elected candidate, frequently they want to establish communications with allies and others through back channels so that their intentions, their policies, are not stifled by the current administration.
[12:10:10]Also, they -- they need kind of -- they feel they need a head start into the month or two before the inauguration.
WHITFIELD: So Julian, the former director of the National Security Agency and CIA, Michael Hayden, weighed in this morning on this very matter. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: General Hayden, is this nefarious or is this naivety?
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, Michael, right now I'm going with naivety and that's not particularly very comforting for me. I mean, what manner of ignorance, chaos, hubris, suspicion, contempt would you have to have to think doing this with the Russian ambassador was a good or appropriate idea? So again, the naivety out, doesn't make me feel very good about many things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So Julian, how will this White House go about explaining whether it is naivety or something nefarious?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it will try to choose a third option and the option was this was an effort to lay the groundwork for a diplomatic breakthrough with Russia in dealing with issues such as Syria. I don't think they want to say that Kushner was naive, nor that he was doing something illegal or treasonous.
The problem is the context, the context is the Russians are trying to -- were intervening in the election, they were intervening for one side over the other. They were interested in easing economic sanctions and we have a long record of official officials in the Trump campaign including Kushner not being forthcoming about these contacts.
So with all of that, Congress watches, the special counsel watches and the FBI watches and they are suspicious of what were the intentions and the substance of this relationship.
WHITFIELD: So Page, a few things here, because at the time while he wasn't the official adviser, you know, he was certainly in the camp and --
PAGE PATE, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes.
WHITFIELD: -- part of the transition team. He was a civilian, however he had security clearance and there was no mission in that special form that SF-86 where that kind of interaction was the Russian ambassador at Trump Tower should have been documented.
WHITFIELD: So given all of that, how problematic is this potentially for Jared Kushner?
PATE: Well, if he made a false statement on the form, very problematic. That's a federal crime. I'm certain that the special counsel will look into that. It's not the fact that they're talking to the Russians. It's the context as one of your other guests mentioned and it's the amount of conversation.
What are they talking about and why does it necessarily have to be kept from the Obama administration? Is this just traditional let's set up our own foreign policy or is it something different? Is it something nefarious?
WHITFIELD: And especially after the Obama administration reportedly, I mean, had been very detailed about here are some of the things you need to be very aware of.
WHITFIELD: And it entailed Russia and intelligence that the Obama administration had already gathered, particularly during the election season as well.
PATE: Exactly. You can say well Kushner is a rookie, he doesn't realize everything that's going on, but Michael Flynn was not a rookie. He knew exactly what was going on and apparently was under suspicion at the exact time these communications --
WHITFIELD: Michael Flynn was in that room reportedly in December 1st or December 2nd at Trump Tower. So Jay, you know, key Democrats and Republicans are asking Special Counsel Robert Mueller to detail exactly in light of all of this what his investigation is targeting. Even if they find nothing nefarious, whether it be about Jared Kushner's involvement, et cetera, the optics are potentially damaging especially on a world stage.
JAY NEWTON SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Absolutely, Fred. I mean, again there's been so much smoke here. Our eyes are burning, our throats are burning. It's just, you know, there seems to be clearly some amount of fire and the question is, where is that fire and how close to the president does it lie? Is it Jared Kushner? Now most of the stories this week were careful to say that Jared Kushner was not actually a target of the investigation, that he just was somebody was a person of interest they want to hear what he heard in these conversations that he wasn't a suspect in any wrongdoing at this point.
And he was of a different category of those other people like Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort who are actually targets of the investigations, but it is notable that you now have Hill committees asking the Trump transition to save all of their records and produce them for all of their phone calls and all of their contacts because there have been so many misreportings on these contacts.
WHITFIELD: Does Mueller have to explain to these Dems and Republicans exactly what the target is? I mean, why would he want to do that?
SMALL: He actually doesn't and, in fact, he could make the case quite convincingly that it hampers his investigation to say exactly where it's going. That just assigns people to where it's going to lead. I think he's probably not going to say much to the Hill.
[12:15:04]WHITFIELD: Right. Page, transparency can be one thing if that's the argument, but then interference, hampering is another argument.
PATE: Right. Absolutely. There's a lot more to be looked into here and to name targets at this stage of the investigation that would be very unusual. So they're going to talk to Kushner at some point. He's willing to come forward and make a statement. I think the investigators first want to gather all the evidence they can so they know whether they can label him as a target, a subject or just a witness in the case.
WHITFIELD: All right. So much. Thanks to everyone. Really appreciate it. Steve, Julian, Jay, Page, we'll have you back very soon. Look at the clock and count the minutes.
All right, coming up next, another bombshell from the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. The very real effects of some bogus information from Russia. That's straight ahead when the NEWSROOM" continues.
WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're learning that a controversial move by former FBI Director James Comey during the presidential campaign was prompted by Russian intelligence that Comey knew was fake. CNN's Dana Bash has more.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: CNN has learned that then FBI Director James Comey knew that a critical piece of Russian information related to the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation was fake. But he felt that he needed to take action anyway because he was concerned that if the information became public it would undermine the investigation and the Justice Department itself. This is according to multiple sources talking to my colleagues, Shimon Prokupecz, Gloria Borger, and myself.
These concerns were a major factor in Comey deciding to publicly declare that the Clinton probe was over last summer without consulting then Attorney General Loretta Lynch. You may remember earlier this week "The Washington Post" reported on this intelligence and doubts about its credibility.
The fact that Comey felt he had to act based on Russian disinformation is a stark example of how Russian interference impacted decision- making at the highest levels of the U.S. government during the 2016 campaign.
The Russian information at issue claimed to show that then Attorney General Lynch had been compromised in the Clinton investigation because of emails purportedly emails between then DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and a political operative saying that Lynch would make the FBI-Clinton probe go away.
Now according to one government official in classified briefings, Comey told lawmakers that he was afraid that the information would, quote, "drop and undermine the investigation," but Comey didn't tell lawmakers that he doubted the accuracy of that information even in a classified setting.
Now according to sources close to Comey the FBI director felt that the validity of the information didn't matter because if it became public they had no way to discredit it without burning sources and methods.
Now think about the chain of events that all of this help sent off. When Comey held his press conference in July of 2016 announcing no charges against Clinton, he also took the an extraordinary and what many people say inappropriate step of calling her extremely careless.
Clinton aides are convinced that her reputation was damaged with voters and she never recovered. Now that probably wouldn't have happened without Russian interference. Also talking to many officials on Capitol Hill and elsewhere dissemination of fake information is still a major issue.
Multiple sources tell us that Russia is still trying to spread false information in order to clout and confuse ongoing investigations. Dana Bash, CNN, Washington.
WHITFIELD: All right, let's bring back Steve Moore, a retired FBI special agent and CNN law enforcement contributor. So what's your view of this new reporting?
MOORE: Fredricka, I think this is a symptom of a crisis that we are going through in the United States right now that I think people aren't grasping at this point. If the Russians were sending disinformation through intel channels, if the FBI was picking it up, if NSA or CIA, if we were all picking it up, what does it matter if it's never leaked?
It doesn't matter. It stays within the intelligence community. The Russians are depending on somebody to leak this information and apparently they have good reason to believe that it will be leaked.
And once this information, once there's a hole in this information stream, it gets out and then the Russians can push us left or right any direction they want and you see Comey feeling like he had to act because it was going to be dropped anyway.
WHITFIELD: So you feel like it should have been discussed in a classified setting?
MOORE: Yes. Think about it this way, Fredricka. If you knew that this was false, then it's nothing. You walk away from it and you file it and you say, now we've got more information that Russians are trying to influence us. But no, Comey was so concerned that this was going to get dropped that he went public, specifically based on Russian intel that was intentionally meant as a poison thing.
WHITFIELD: He gave it fuel?
MOORE: He gave it fuel. He was afraid it was going to leak. So he decided to leak it himself. The problem here is that Comey shouldn't be talking about a candidate for the presidency of the United States during an election, but the Russians made it happen.
And I think right now, we see the stream of leaks. I mean it's every single day. And so while the information that's being reported is important to note, the special prosecutor is on it now. What concerns me, is who is in there leaking this stuff so reliably for the Russians.
[12:25:05]WHITFIELD: So how would you describe Comey's, you know, choice of action here? He had used the word very different circumstance, used the word careless to describe Hillary Clinton and the whole e-mail thing. Was this a careless, you know, move for Comey to use information that he knew was fake?
MOORE: I believe that Hillary Clinton's behavior with classified material was even more than careless. However, this is the FBI and this is a presidential election. That smacked of being political and that should not have been public. I'm sorry.
I mean, I just -- regardless of how strong anybody's feelings are, you don't allow FBI information that should remain private to influence a presidential election. So, I would say he was being careless but he was trying so hard. I think he just flat made a mistake. He's a man of integrity, but he made what I think is a very significant mistake.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And I think even seeing your angst on how to describe this really does underscore that this is beyond complicated. It's become so incredibly complex and there really is no straight line in looking at a lot of these components, but you, like everybody, trying to piece it all together, to get the real meaning and motivation behind so much of this.
MOORE: Yes. It's hard to follow all the players, but right now, the Soviets are using a leak to move the public opinion left and right in the United States.
WHITFIELD: Wow. All right, Steve Moore, thanks so much.
MOORE: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right, still ahead, the president on his way back to Washington, so how will his first trip abroad be remembered overall. We'll discuss all of the big takeaways next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[12:31:14] TRUMP: Peace through strength and that's what we're going to have. We're going to have a lot of strength, we're going to have a lot of peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Peace through strength, that was President Trump's message as he wrapped up his first trip abroad. At the moment, he is en route back to Washington on board Air Force One.
So during the president's week-long trip, a little over a week, he met with leaders in Saudi Arabia and Israel to talk about the war against ISIS and Middle East peace before stopping in Rome for a visit with the Pope. And wrapping up today by meeting with leaders from other NATO countries at the G7 summit that took place in Sicily. I want to bring back Julian Zelizer and Jay-Newton Small.
So during this trip he had a lot of high points that he really wanted to underscore when he was talking to military members and their families there in Italy before boarding Air Force One. He talked about signing that $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, talking about the recommitment with Saudi Arabia. He became the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall, and met with Pope Francis. But then there was also this, a moment from the trip that has been getting a lot of criticism. President Trump's scolding of NATO member countries. Listen to what he said to some of the U.S' closest allies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: NATO members must finally contribute their fair share and meet their financial obligations. But 23 of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they're supposed to be paying for their defense. This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: All right, Trump reiterated that sentiment last hour when in Italy when he was talking to those at the naval air station there in Italy. So Julian, overall, how do you rate the president's first trip abroad because he said it's measured in lots of successes?
JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, look, overall, the biggest accomplishment was not to make a big mistake so the bar is somewhat low. He was able to deliver speeches, he was able to conduct most of the meetings without incident. There weren't any real surprises. The relationship with the Saudis is not a diversion from many of the arguments he has made about how to achieve stability in the Middle East. He didn't achieve any kind of diplomatic breakthrough that we know of in the Middle East.
And there were many moments of tension, including basically reprimanding NATO at a moment when many were hoping that the president could show a different disposition toward international alliances. So, the biggest accomplishment is not to make a mistake. And I don't think that's a hugely successful overseas trip.
WHITFIELD: And so Jay, how do you see many of these leaders interpreting or seeing Donald Trump on this trip?
JAY-NEWTON SMALL, CONTRIBUTOR, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, Fred, I think it depends on what area you're looking at. I mean, certainly for Saudi Arabia and Israel, they came away pretty happy with Donald Trump's pivot away from Iran which was really the goal of both of those countries. But certainly for Europe, NATO and those countries, it was not the Donald Trump they were hoping for and this is something that he's really gone back and forth on.
You'll remember during the Republican National Convention he first came out with his opposition to NATO saying he wasn't sure he could be committed to it and in the New York Times article or New York Times interview. And since then during his transition he's actually softened that rhetoric sort of saying well of course NATO is important and we support it. But now he seems to be going back to his original take that NATO is only worth supporting if they pay up and pay more into this treaty.
[12:35:00] And so, with Europe it really -- he doesn't -- he seems to have a strained relations with Angela Merkel, with Macron. They had this incredibly really tight handshake that lasted -- it was a white knuckled handshake that lasted a very long time. So that was another memorable moment of the trip but certainly it was the Abe, that Abe moment way back when.
WHITFIELD: So speaking of, you know, just kind of reading the body language, it was a topic of discussion, you know, on the trip and other moments too after his NATO address. The president was seen, you know, kind of shoving his way in front, pushing aside the, you know, leader of Montenegro. I'm not quite sure, I don't think anyone is really sure what that is all about Julian but, you know, moments like that become magnified, don't they is it?
You know, saying -- is it interpreted as he wants to make sure he's out in front, you know, thinking about the cameras or there it is right there, or Montenegro, who are you. I mean, what was that?
ZELIZER: I think those kinds of physical actions become magnified because they play into things we know about our presidents. So the shove in many ways represented what many feel is his attitude about international affairs and alliances. He wants to be out front, he wants to be the first person in front of the cameras. He doesn't really respect others in the room.
The hand holding with Melania is also people reading a certain amount of coldness and tension in the relationship. So I think that's when we pay attention to those events. But I think the shove in some ways might be the most significant of all those physical moments because that embodied some of the tensions we now face in the United States with our closest allies because of some of the positions and disposition of this president.
WHITFIELD: Jay, you want to add to that?
SMALL: It was definitely a Daffy Duck moment where -- I mean, it's almost cartoonish where remember Daffy Duck had insecurity complex because Mickey was always the more popular one and it was -- it was this kind of moment where, you know, look, I'm important, I'm really -- I'm important, I'm president of the United States. And it's like, of course you are important, you are president of the United States. You don't need to like push your way to the front. But -- and I think that's -- those kinds of moments go viral because they underline a mean that already exists. And I think that's why you saw that happen.
WHITFIELD: Yes. A little levity with a lot of serious moments too, over nine days. All right, thanks so much Julian Zelizer, Jay-Newton Small, appreciate it.
ZELIZER: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: OK. Let's talk a little bit more about that moment that Julian was calling a little cold, some call it the flick of a wrist. Speculations swirling now, what can be read between the lines?
[12:41:46] WHITFIELD: While the president is wrapping up his first big overseas trip, so is the first lady who spoke last hour as well in Sicily.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, U.S. FIRST LADY: This trip for me has been very special and I will never forget the women and children I met. As one of the kids at the hospital that I visit (inaudible) a picture he drew for me, we are all the same.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Melania's international debut allowed the world a rare glimpse of her and surprise to many her Catholic faith. And with that moment that simple flick of the wrist perhaps a peek inside the marriage a lot of folks are trying to evaluate that moment on that red carpet. I want to bring in CNN contributor and author of the book "First Women", Kate Andersen Brower.
From this point forward I'll call you Kate A.B. because we've got another Kate. CNN White House reporter and co-author of CNN Politics Cover Line, Kate Bennett. Good to see both of you ladies.
All right, so Kate A.B., we have to start with that video. There were a lot of wonderful moments for the first lady and she, you know, kind of reviewed some of that during her speech, her remarks there in Italy. But at this moment, this video that keeps going, you know, that has gone viral, what was happening there, did he kind of nudge her off the red carpet and then she was like forget it, I got it, I don't need your hand now. What do you read into that moment?
KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well that's how it looks. I mean, they're a very private couple. We don't hear a lot of leaks about their relationship and it's just -- it's a stark contrast, right to the Obamas who were, you know, constantly affectionate and Bush 43, you know, W. and Laura Bush, and then Nancy Reagan and Ronald Reagan. I mean, we're used to very overtly affectionate first couples and this is -- this seems to be a sign that, you know, they live two very separate lives and she doesn't live with her husband which we've never seen before. She doesn't live in Washington.
WHITFIELD: And, you know, that's an interesting point because, you know, Kate, she said that before, you know, that you can't change people. You know, we are both separate people, we have our own, you know, independence. And perhaps that's what we saw on display?
KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes, I think so. And I think what's interesting about their personalities, we saw -- we learned about Melania Trump this trip and that she's compassionate and she, you know, she went to hospitals to visit children and she's calm and patient and quiet. Sort of the exact opposite of what we saw from the president on this trip where he was sort of bluster and bold and forward. So their relationship is a very interesting dynamic where those two sides kind of have to meld and this was the longest consecutive period of days that the two have been together that we've seen since he took office.
So it's interesting to watch the dynamic. Now they had the hand moment, they also held hands a number of times. Even today she gave him a kiss before he spoke and he had to wipe the lipstick off his cheek.
So I mean --
WHITFIELD: But he explained it was the lipstick, right? He wasn't wiping the (inaudible).
[12:45:00] BENNETT: Exactly. So the dynamic of husband and wife is always interesting. And this is a couple as Kate said that we really haven't seen before together.
WHITFIELD: Yes. And then, you know, Kate A.B., what do we think about, you know, her Catholicism that many people didn't know about it. She gets a chance to meet, you know, with the Pope that moment there, and then there was like a little joke about, you know, the (inaudible) that she likes to feed him (inaudible) or bread?
BROWER: It's sweet. You know -- I mean, we're seeing a side of her we've never seen before. She's only the second first lady who's been Catholic. Jackie Kennedy, of course was catholic and Jackie's meeting with the Pope in 1962 was also really special. And I think we saw some of that here. She kind of brought lightness to the meeting, a very heavy ceremonial meeting, and I thought it was a nice, light moment between them.
WHITFIELD: And then Kate B. of you know -- Kate, you also mentioned, you know, Jackie O. Kate B. I mean, everyone thinks about the style of a first lady, lots of references with Michele Obama who was known, you know, for wearing designers who weren't necessarily on the big stage, but then as soon as she wore them they became, you know, hot designers. And this first lady who is using, you know, very established designers, her good friends Dolce & Gabbana, you know, with that jacket on the far left and then also, you know, of course, it has a big price point there. But then there's also the Michael Kors, et cetera. What do you read into her style choices and it's not a superficial conversation that we're having about style because there is a message that first ladies are often sending by way of their dress?
BENNETT: Right. I mean, I -- we call it fashion diplomacy and it was something Michele Obama used very well, wearing the designers, you know, from a host country or incorporating American designers when she travels abroad. Melania Trump appears to have done the same thing.
You know, the White House told us that her strategy was to pack a separate bag for each event and there are many events on this nine-day trip. And she also spoke with State Department officials to really learn the protocol. I mean, we see some of these reflected -- the black jump suit sort of felt a little bit like an abaya, the Muslim traditional gown, you know, wearing white in Israel.
WHITFIELD: And that is Stella McCartney.
BENNETT: Right, exactly.
BENNETT: Wearing white in Israel, sometimes a symbol of peace and purity in Judaism. So -- I mean, she was definitely very, very thoughtful. I thought she nailed it. We have to remember too she's also a former fashion model so she's a woman who's knowledgeable about clothing and style and fashion and, obviously, not afraid to wear high-end designers and sort of appreciate, you know, the flowered Dolce & Gabbana coat was $51,000, however it was straight from the runway, very (inaudible) guard and fashion forward.
WHITFIELD: Which is apparently are sold out. There are waiting lists for that. Even before her wearing it.
WHITFIELD: Except that's $51,000 for a jacket.
BENNETT: Right, and she's not afraid to wear it. I think we're also learning about her. Like you said, it's not a superficial conversation, we have to look for these nonverbal cues because she's not a first lady who really has given many public speeches.
BROWER: I think she has to be careful though with a really expensive jacket. Like Nancy Reagan did that, and she wore a $46,000 dress to her husband's second inauguration and that -- you know, she was called Queen Nancy for a reason. And I think Melania has to be careful not to do that too often. People can really chew it at all.
WHITFIELD: Great points.
WHITFIELD: All right, ladies, thank you so much. Kate Bennett and Kate Andersen Brower. Good to see both of you ladies. And we'll be right back.
[12:52:36] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. It's Indy weekend. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to return to his home state for tomorrow's Indianapolis 500. And after the attack at an area in Manchester, England, security is being ramped up at this event. Coy Wire is already at the track. So Coy, what can be expected?
COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi Fred. Indiana State Police Captain David Bursten said that part of a good plan is not sharing specific details that could educate the very element that seeks to do harm. But, here's what we've learned from track officials at Indianapolis motor speedway. There will be more than 1,000 law enforcement and security personnel on-site this weekend.
They have added quick response tactical teams to their security apparatus. And they've found a unique way to remind fans if they see something, say something, they have the drivers have recorded PSA's. They plant them on video boards here at the track. They have a plan in place to keep safe the more than 300,000 people expected to be here for the Indy 500 Fred. It is the largest single day sporting event in the world.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my goodness. And then there are 33 drivers that are, you know, in the spotlight, but really in the spotlight is the one woman, right. And I love her name is Pippa Mann.
WHITFIELD: What's up with Miss Mann?
WIRE: What an inspiration. Pippa Mann is the newest, fastest woman at Indianapolis motor speedway. This will be her sixth attempt at winning the Indy 500 but at practice she became the only female driver to hit speeds over 230 miles per hour, breaking the record. She's racing for the trophy but racing for a much bigger cause too. Her car -- her vehicle raises awareness for Susan G. Komen in cancer research. She's auctioning off pieces of memorabilia like her race helmet. What an inspiration to young girls, to men and women all around the world. She is a quite the scene here at Indy 500 and there are many of them.
WHITFIELD: Oh wow, that's fantastic. All right, thanks so much, Coy. Appreciate that.
WIRE: You're welcome.
WHITFIELD: All right, NEWSROOM continues right after this.
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WHITFIELD: Hello again everyone and thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.