Return to Transcripts main page
Source: Flynn to Hand Over Docs to Investigators; Trump Midnight Tweet Leads to Discussion; Massive Bomb Kills 80, Injures Hundreds in Kabul. Aired 6-6:30a ET
Aired May 31, 2017 - 06:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Michael Flynn is going to hand over a batch of documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee.
[05:57:11] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump attorney Michael Cohen says he will gladly testify.
SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: This group isn't acting like people who don't have anything to hide.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The White House refusing to deny whether Jared Kushner sought a secret back channel to Russia President Vladimir Putin.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as the heat is turned up in this investigation, he starts to distance himself from them.
SPICER: He is frustrated to see stories come out that are patently false. The narratives that are wrong, to see, quote/unquote, "fake news."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Powerful car bomb exploded at the German embassy in Afghanistan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bomb felt across the capital.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a Friday (ph), so we can certainly expect casualties to rise.
ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is NEW DAY. It's Wednesday, May 31, 6 a.m. here in New York. And we do have breaking news for you, this out of Afghanistan.
A massive suicide bomb attack has rocked Kabul's diplomatic quarter just a few hours ago. It's killed at least 80 people and injured hundreds. The attack happened near the presidential palace and the German embassy. Several German diplomats are among the injured, so we will have a live report for you from Kabul.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: That's the major headline on today's starting line. Also, President Trump's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, reversing course. He is now willing to turn over subpoenaed documents to Senate investigators for their Russia investigation.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer refusing to confirm or comment on reports that Jared Kushner tried to set up a secret back channel to Russia. And two of the president's top aides are touting his foreign trip in a new op-ed, saying "America first" can come with a foreign footprint.
CAMEROTA: And there is one word that has the world bewildered today, "covfefe." That's the word. That was President Trump trying to say something in an unfinished tweet, sent after midnight that we believe now has been deleted.
We have it all covered for you, so let's begin with CNN Joe Johns that is live -- he's live at the White House for us -- Joe.
JOHNS: Good morning, Alisyn.
Well, what's most notable this morning is the apparent ramp-up in the Russia investigation. It's very subtle, but very important. The congression [SIC] -- the Congress is simply going from requests to subpoenas. It's a legally enforceable document that carries the possibility of even jail for someone who does not comply.
JOHNS (voice-over): President Trump's fired national security adviser, Michael Flynn, now says he is willing to cooperate with Senate investigators to provide them with documents sought by two subpoenas. Flynn expected to hand over the first batch to the Senate Intelligence Committee by June 6.
Congressional investigator are expanding their sights to other Trump aides. Michael Cohen, a personal attorney to the president, flatly refusing a request from the House and Senate committees to offer up information and testify. Cohen lashing out, claiming a lack of evidence to corroborate the Russia narrative, labeling the investigation "a total fishing expedition" and accusing lawmakers of a rush to judgment but later admitting he would comply if subpoenaed.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer facing tough questions about all the Russia revelations when he held his first briefing in more than two weeks.
SPICER: I'm not going to get into it. But your question presupposes facts that have not been confirmed.
JOHNS: The White House refusing to deny whether President Trump's advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, sought a back channel to Russia President Vladimir Putin.
SPICER: Secretary Kelly and General McMaster both discussed that, in general terms, back channels are an appropriate part of diplomacy.
JOHNS: As the investigation is now looking into the intent of Kushner's contacts with Russia during the transition, including why he met with Russian banker Sergey Gorkov, a man with deep ties to the Kremlin. Back in March, the White House claimed Kushner was talking to the
Russians in his role as an official primary point of contact with foreign governments. But the Russian bank offered a different account, calling it a business meeting.
SPICER: Mr. Kushner's attorney has said that Mr. Kushner has volunteered to share with Congress what he knows about these meetings, and he will do the same with these contacts, connected with any other inquiry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the president discuss it, though?
SPICER: I'm not going to get into what the president did or did not discuss.
JOHNS: The White House in spin mode trying to downplay reports about turmoil in the West Wing.
SPICER: I think he's very pleased with the work of his staff. I think that he is frustrated, like I am and like so many others, to see stories come out that are patently false, to see narratives that are wrong, to see quote/unquote "fake news." When you see stories get perpetrated that are absolutely false, that are not based in fact, that is troubling.
JOHNS: Clashing with the media over the president's favorite subject.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Could you give me an example of fake news, Sean?
SPICER: Yes, absolutely.
ACOSTA: Give me an example.
SPICER: Sure. Friday, the president was having a great discussion at the G-7, and someone from the BBC and ultimately, an incoming reporter from "The New York Times" retweeted that the president was being rude by disrespecting the Italian prime minister.
When, in fact, you all and everyone at the meetings that we sit in watch the president with that one ear piece that has been used by other presidents, and yet, that the president did a great job at NATO.
JOHNS: And then abruptly storming out.
JOHNS: And there was also this. Garbled, unintelligible tweet from the president of the United States. Apparently, an incomplete idea that came out just after midnight last night. The president tweeting what appeared to be another jab at the media and the word, if you can call it that, "covfefe," apparently trying to write "coverage," but the sentence was not finished.
We're told just a little while ago the president took that down, but not before social media had a lot of fun with it.
CAMEROTA: Was it "coveefee" or "covayfay"? OK? I mean...
CUOMO: Why are you leaving the "V" silent? Do you believe it's French? Or something like that?
CAMEROTA: Yes, I do.
CUOMO: The urge of sophistication?
CAMEROTA: Is it based in Sanskrit? I'm not sure.
We will get to the bottom of it. Joe, thank you very much for all of that.
Let's bring in our political panel: CNN political analyst Jon Avlon; CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin; and associate editor and columnist, Real Clear Politics, A.B. Stoddard. I was going to leave it as the kicker, but we might as well just go there.
CUOMO: I need more covfefe. It's morning.
CAMEROTA: Just very quickly, it was up for six hours. He just deleted it. The president doesn't drink, we're told.
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That is true.
CAMEROTA: So do you have any theory on this before we move on?
AVLON: Perhaps he was side tackled by a member of the service, who said, "Please don't tweet, Mr. President. We're trying to get better on this"?
So look, I -- obviously, this was an incomplete thought, why he apparently left it mid-sentence. Who knows? But he gave us a gift, people. A new word that we can enter into the lexicon, and I really do need more.
JOHNS: It did give them a little bit of grist for the mill. I didn't know what was go on last night. I started to get all these texts from Trump people, saying, "You see? You guys jump on anything that he does. Even if you don't even understand what it is."
And I said, like, "You know what? They have a point here. Why so much attention on an obviously incomplete tweet?"
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I'd like to raise the possibility. Just because it's funny. It's funny.
CUOMO: There were hours, hours of dominance on social media.
TOOBIN: I think maybe that's just...
CUOMO: It means nothing. He didn't finish the tweet.
CAMEROTA: The fact that he didn't finish it means something. The fact that it means nothing and he didn't finish it means something.
AVLON: It's also just really weird coming from the leader of the free world. That's just also, you know, if Obama had done this, it would be hours on FOX.
CAMEROTA: All right. Let's move on. A.B.
TOOBIN: Now that we've settled down.
CAMEROTA: Now that we've settled that. Unless you have anything to add to "covfefe," A.B., Michael Flynn is going to hand over documents to the Senate Intel Committee by June 6. What's the latest in the Russia threads?
A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATED EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, "REAL CLEAR POLITICS": Well, the Michael Flynn resistance to originally cooperating with committee was, I guess, disappeared because he can't evoke his Fifth Amendment rights. His business can't do so. They were able to sort of get to him another way. And he's probably has been counselled that it's time to be more cooperative anyway.
And it's interesting that Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer to the president, who's now asked for his own cooperation. Resisted at first. But definitely made it clear if he is subpoenaed, he will testify. He will not resist.
So it's spreading. There are -- there's more interest and more people. It seems to be cascading at quite a rate that we are surprised by, actually. And I'm not saying that it's going to go to more players closer to the president, but obviously, the pressure on Jared Kushner and what that does to the dynamic of this investigation or the politics of it is enormous. And I think as soon as he gets before the congressional committees and to the FBI and answers questions about why he was meeting with the former spy, head of a state-run sanctioned Russian bank. A meeting he therefore forgot to put on his FS-86 form. Something that would obviously require any other employee of the president to have the security clearance removed is the looming question that we'll cover all of the news of the day until, as I said, it can be dispensed with by the White House, and they can move on from these Jared Kushner questions.
CUOMO: Let's put up the panel here of the cooperation chart, of who's doing what. You have cooperating with the probe, you've got Kushner. And that is made manifest by his saying he will cooperate. He will talk. There hasn't been any cooperation, but he's promising to do so.
Manafort, who people around him are bewildered that he is part of this at all. He says that he will comply completely, although it has been onerous. Roger Stone, who loves the attention. Michael Flynn, who's saying he will now, but it's been somewhat incomplete. And then you have partially cooperating Michael Cohen and Carter Page, partially because they've said the request's overly broad. They will comply, but they believe that this smells more of politics than a real investigation.
TOOBIN: Michael Flynn is just saying he's turning over documents. He has not said he's going to testify. He's still taking the fifth.
CAMEROTA: You put him in the first category.
TOOBIN: I would put him in the "mostly not cooperating" category.
But I think, you know, we talk about Jared Kushner. Yes, he says -- his lawyer says he will cooperate with the Senate investigation. Why doesn't he hold a news conference? Why doesn't he give an interview?
I mean, all the speculation and, you know, Sean Spicer answering questions about what Sean -- what Jared Kushner knew and when? I mean, he works for the government. Most people who work in the White House, especially people at a very high level -- national security advisor, economic advisor, they give interviews as a matter of course.
CUOMO: I know the answer.
TOOBIN: What's the answer?
CUOMO: The answer is this. The president of the United States believes more completely more than maybe he believes anything else when it comes to his presidency, that this is a false investigation. That everything that's being done is being done to hurt him. So much so that he can't even see the Russian interference issue anymore. He can't look at them separately. So there is zero chance that his son- in-law is going to be outwardly more compliant than the president wants.
CAMEROTA: So what about Jeffrey Toobin's point? They're public servants now.
CUOMO: They are. But first of all, he is -- his type of adviser role is not usually a high profile in front of cameras role. And while you are right it might be a public service for him to speak, if the president of the United States believes that this is a 100 percent witch hunt, none of what you're seeing in terms of cooperation is a surprise.
TOOBIN: I think what you're saying is exactly right about Trump's attitude. But it doesn't mean that it's the right way to behave as a public servant.
CUOMO: Even if you believe that every question is bogus and that there's no proof of anything wrong?
AVLON: We are a nation of laws, not men. That's not entirely -- even though the president of the United States has final say and can pardon -- pardon people from, you know, here to high water. You've got a huge issue with this number of people inside the president's inner circle being wrapped up in this investigation that you can't simply spin away or say the process is unfair.
I mean, at this point, you've got, you know, from Jeff Sessions to Jared Kushner, high-level Russians meetings taken to, obviously, General Flynn not being listed on security clearances or even recalled in official documentation. You've Michael Cohen, who's about as close to the president as you can be as a consigliere in the private organization. This is serious. And simply feeling it's unfair isn't sufficient to dealing with it in the spirit of public service or a spirit of speak (ph) for the truth.
[06:10:15] CAMEROTA: A.B., should Sean Spicer be able to answer these questions a little better than he has about Jared's connections?
STODDARD: I just think he has no choice. He obviously didn't deny it. He tried to make the case that General McMaster and General Kelly had, he said, spoken in general terms, quote unquote, about how back channels are sort of routine in diplomacy. But he did not deny the stuff about Jared Kushner.
And he also didn't try to make the case that he was simply trying in secret to try to further security in Syria, because that story has been counter -- contradicted by the Russian side of the story, which is that he was actually discussing Kushner business with the head of the bank.
So, you know, you can -- the president can think that all of this is unfair, but when you have people, as I said -- it's about the presidency, and it's about the office. They are public servants. When you have people forgetting meetings like this that they made in secret to put on their forms, that's -- I mean, what standard are we holding them to? If Marc Mezvinsky, Chelsea Clinton's husband had done this, Republicans will be burning the city to the ground. So it is about -- there are rules here to be followed.
CAMEROTA: You know, I get my wish of a kicker anyway, because the president just tweeted. And he says, "Who can figure out the true meaning of 'covfefe'? Enjoy."
AVLON: A Ben Cohen (ph) from the dear leader.
CAMEROTA: He is obviously harnessing the fun here and turning it into his own meme.
TOOBIN: Good for him. It beats talking about Russian bankers. You know?
CUOMO: But I will tell you what...
CAMEROTA: Maybe it is Russian.
CUOMO: It does fuel the Trump supporters thinking that the media jumps on every single thing the president does to an unfair degree.
CAMEROTA: I think that that one is peculiar.
CUOMO: It is peculiar. But it's obviously a typo that does not deserve a whole lot of attention.
AVLON: Genuinely absurd, as opposed to this tonnage of absurdity we have to deal with. Seriously.
CAMEROTA: Thank you, panel, very much. We have to get to something very serious. Thanks for being with us.
CUOMO: All right. Here's the breaking news that we're following. The death toll is soaring after a huge suicide explosion rocked Kabul's diplomatic quarter just a few hours ago. From an Afghan official, we're told the blast has taken at least 80 lives. Three hundred more are injured. Many of those are very serious injuries, meaning the death toll may rise.
You see the smoke plume there. Emergency vehicles speeding toward it. The explosion happening during the morning rush. People were heading to work.
CAMEROTA: So diplomats from Germany's embassy in Kabul are among the injured. Jessica Donati covers Afghanistan for "The Wall Street Journal." She joins us now, live from Kabul. Jessica, we're happy that you are OK. What happened this morning?
JESSICA DONATI, CORRESPONDENT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, around the time of rush hour, when a lot of Afghan civilians were going to work at the foreign embassies and the U.S. military headquarters, were on their way to work when we think it's a truck bomb had detonated at the entrance to the fortified part of the city that's known as the Green Zone.
CAMEROTA: You were in the shower, I understand, when this happened. Can you just describe what you heard and saw?
DONATI: Yes, well, I was lucky, because all our windows were blown in and the front of the house was damaged. But I had left my room five minutes previously, and I was in the shower. And the house shook, and there was some dust and stuff. But the shower doesn't have any windows. So I was in a good position.
CUOMO: So this obviously is a targeted bombing and diplomatic quarters, a place of sensitivity. You have so many different international interests there. What do you make of this choice and this extent of damage?
DONATI: So could you repeat that? There was just a helicopter overhead.
CUOMO: Sorry. The diplomatic quarter obviously is a target of opportunity. What do you make of the intentions here?
DONATI: Well, I think -- I mean, the main intention is to get big headlines. And if you detonate such a large bomb right in the middle of town, and in this case they caused damage to a number of embassies, including the German embassy which was right next to the blast. They cause, you know, worldwide headlines and that gets attention and makes the insurgent group look powerful and it makes the situation in Kabul look extremely insecure. And this is perhaps one of their intentions.
There is also a big peace meeting happening here next week. And this will no doubt have an effect on that, as well.
CAMEROTA: And Jessica, just explain to us the diplomatic zone. Is that normally considered a more secure, safe place? Is there more security around there?
[06:15:05] DONATI: Yes, I mean, all the embassies are protected by very high blast walls that are constantly going up. And there's checkpoints. The entrances to all the roads that lead towards this area. So it will definitely be -- it's will be a little harder to penetrate. And it's something that people have been worried about for a long time, that a large bomb could make its way inside this area and cause this kind of damage.
CUOMO: And it is a rather large area. So there's always a little bit of concern about securing the integrity of the entire perimeter. Do you believe that this explosion should be taken of -- as a reflection of the current state of safety in that country?
CAMEROTA: I think her feed froze.
CUOMO: Jessica Donati's feed froze. We'll get back with her if there are any developments.
CAMEROTA: OK. President Trump is back, of course, from his first trip abroad. It seems that he may have alienated a key European ally. Was it by design? Is this a real feud with Germany? We take a closer look next.
CUOMO: The White House is downplaying diplomatic tensions with European allies following the first foreign trip. National security advisor H.R. McMaster and National Economic Council director Gary Cohen pending a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed saying, "America First doesn't mean America alone. We're asking a lot of our allies and partners. But in return, America will once again be a true friend to our partners and the worst foe to our enemies."
[06:20:14] Let's bring back our political panel, John Avlon, A.B. Stoddard, and let's bring in CNN political analyst David Drucker.
A.B., I start with you. What is the play here?
STODDARD: Well, there seems to be this feeling among our allies overseas that the rhetoric coming from Trump is sort of in Congress. That it's America first, but they're going to take a lead, and we'll have these strong alliances, if only we can get some things out of it. More payment from our NATO allies for their own defense. There's obviously some bad feelings at the end of President Trump's trip.
It started out, obviously, very well in the Middle East. So when he got to the NATO part, it didn't go so well. That, you know, he scolded them in public in his speech, which is something that, you know, obviously could be done more gently, and then you could have these more sort of firmer discussions in private.
And for Merkel, Angela Merkel, who is in an election campaign herself. But she's sort of a subtle person. So -- and understated. So for her to come out, you know, upon his departure to say we can no longer depend, you know, on others the way that we have is obviously a message.
And I thought it was really interesting. When the president tweeted back and he focuses so much on trade, it was really interesting to me that, actually, Sean Spicer who was pretending everything was pretty great yesterday and sort of, you know, pushing off a lot of the questions, did try, I thought with some energy, to push back on the president's tweets about Germany and saying that the relationship is fairly unbelievable. And that they built on the bonds that they -- that they began on when her -- when her awkward visit here in Washington. And that, you know, he read her statement to say that they're going to work together in friendship.
And so it was interesting that the White House was actually trying to spin that back as if things with Merkel are great.
CAMEROTA: There's another part of this McMaster-Cohen op-ed that I want to read all of you, because I think that it captures, possibly, the Trump Doctrine and how they feel about the moment. Listen to this.
"The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a global community, but an arena where nations, non-governmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it."
John Avlon, it's the Coliseum, the global community.
AVLON: No, it is fascinating, especially because H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohen are sort of -- this is the axis of adults. And this is an op-ed that really does, I think, try to articulate how the White House sees itself. Right? Trying to put that spin on "America first." It's just not America alone.
But that metaphor itself is gladiatorial. It is not -- it is sort of pushing aside, and there was a dis at the Obama administration. You know, we'll no longer lead it behind at the top. But, you know, put aside this hippie stuff about being a global community. This is about competition. This is about business. This is about force. And America is going to engage aggressively. That's a very strong message, the likes of which we haven't heard from a modern president.
CUOMO: Except he's been saying it all along. Not as articulately as he had the two advisers do it there. But David Drucker, this was part of the main drum beat. You know, America is not getting its due on the foreign stage. It gives too much. It gives too little. It fights everybody's battles. And it's draining all of our treasure and blood and we can't be able to spend here at home. DAVID DRUCKER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think, Chris, I think
this editorial is -- this story is really a whole pile of semantics. And what they're trying to do, it seems to me, is satisfy their boss's need, the president's need to prosecute an "America first" foreign policy while maintaining America's interests to, in fact, not do that. Because we are always going to be, at least for the foreseeable future, the biggest kids on the block. That means we're going to do more. We're going to spend more. We're going to be more on the hook every time there's a global crisis or anything that requires world leadership.
And in fact, if we don't do it, if we step away, because other nations, as is typical, don't pay enough of their fair share or don't want to put enough of their blood and treasure on the line. It's not going to work out more for us to step away. The Chinese will step in. The Russians will step in.
And so putting aside the fact that the president doesn't always seem to understand how this works or doesn't seem to understand how it looks that he soft-pedals Russia and badgers Europe. I think what the -- what McMaster and Cohen are trying do is put some meat on the bones to what the president desires without actually going in the direction that he says he wants to go.
CUOMO: You just described their jobs.
[06:25:04] AVLON: Yes, I mean, but another element, of course, is that nature abhors a vacuum. And that's the thing, is you can't have American leadership in the world and remove yourself from it. And that's the line they're trying to walk.
CAMEROTA: A.B., I want to ask about this other reporting from CNN's Jim Acosta. That while he was overseas, the president asked Macron, France's president, Macron, to exchange personal cell phone numbers, you know, so they can sort of cut out the middle men and have private conversations with each other. This is vintage Donald Trump.
I mean, he's, you know, asked the same of me and countless people. He likes to deal with you man-a-mano without the middle man. But, you know, look, in light of Hillary Clinton using a private e-mail server and the hue and cry, the idea that the president would have these off- , you know, -line calls with another world leader. What are we to make of that?
STODDARD: Well, as you said, this is what he does. And he doesn't want to change. I mean, people who have his cell phone number from the fall before he became president can just call it and reach him sometimes. It really is the way that he's going to do business, and he is not going to stop.
And so Secret Service and all of the intelligence community that is trying to protect our security, with unsecured lines, have been sort of scrambling to keep up with how to protect Mar-a-Lago when he's there and having world leaders there and how to deal with his habits with his phone. It's not going to be something that I mean, he doesn't -- it doesn't
look, four months in, like he's spooked into following the rules. So I think it will always be, you know, a game of catch up and part of his sort of treatment with these people overseas was, you know, if I give them -- if I give you my phone number, you know, we'll have a closer bond, and you can feel like you can reach out to me. I just don't think that there's anyone around him who needs to keep our security in mind that can stop him.
AVLON: Yes. The problem is it's not about you. It's about national security. And that's an idea that somehow hasn't fully sunk in. I mean, this is not about, you know, he's calling up saying, "Let's do lunch. Give me a call." This is about national security and the need for secure lines, because otherwise everything you're being said is being eavesdropped on, on an open-source line.
CUOMO: He knows that, because he paid attention to the Angela Merkel situation when the U.S. picked up on her cell phone. So he's aware it's a vulnerability. I guess he's just playing to his own advantage. He thinks this is a good thing to do.
AVLON: It's not good for national security.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much.
So this story that's getting so much attention, now a full-throated an policy from comedian Kathy Griffin after she posted a gruesome photo of herself holding a bloodied and decapitated head resembling President Trump. Is an apology enough? What's next for Kathy Griffin? We discuss all of that.