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Kushner Role with Russia Examined; Trump Expected to Alter Cuba Regulations; Interview with Rep. Sean Duffy; Interview with Sen. Richard Blumenthal; Discussion of Trump Tweet. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 31, 2017 - 07:30   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: -- that can't be true, I have to report on it.

REP. SEAN DUFFY, (R-WISCONSIN): No, I agree with you.

CUOMO: Jared Kushner --

DUFFY: No, no -- I agree with that. That's, you know.

CUOMO: Backchannel communications happen. We've heard it from a million different sources.


CUOMO: But this way, with a Russian banker who was part of this sanctioned cabal of power around Putin, with sanctions hanging in the air, in a way that was reportedly to stay away from the intelligence community in the U.S., secured by Russia's own intelligence. Do you not believe that's something that requires investigation?

DUFFY: Listen, do I have any evidence that Jared Kushner did anything wrong? No. I mean, if that -- what you just laid out there doesn't lead me to believe that there was anything nefarious there.

CUOMO: What's good about them?

DUFFY: You might say there's a cloud over it.

Well, what's good about when Russia Uranium One is trying to get Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State to, you know --

CUOMO: We looked at it, right?

DUFFY: -- approve this deal, and Bill Clinton --

CUOMO: Talked about it all the time.

DUFFY: -- Bill Clinton went over and got 500,000 --

CUOMO: Jared Kushner meets with this banker, we don't know why. He doesn't report it on his security clearance form.

DUFFY: -- Bill Clinton got $500,000 for a Moscow speech; $500,000 for a Moscow speech as this negotiation was happening. Jared Kushner, there's no evidence that he had any money from the

Russians; he had a meeting. And just -- so, Chris, it's import to note for me, as a -- as a Congressmen who was involved with the Trump campaign -- my chief of staff ran Wisconsin -- you know, Trump for Wisconsin. I had governments reaching out to me --

CUOMO: Sure.

DUFFY: -- after the election, they go, how do we -- how do we meet somebody in the administration? How do we talk to somebody in the administration? Because they had no contacts --

CUOMO: Sure.

DUFFY: I don't think anybody, in the media or in foreign governments, thought that Donald Trump was going to win. And when he did, they were scrambling and go; who's the point of contact? Who do we communicate to make sure we have lines of communication open? --

CUOMO: I hear you, a plausible explanation. And if you were to fill out a security clearance then --

DUFFY: -- And so, this stuff happens.

CUOMO: -- If you were to fill out a security clearance form and you had taken some of those meetings, would you have disclosed it?

DUFFY: Yes, you -- I think, that should have been disclosed --

CUOMO: Why didn't he?

DUFFY: -- I don't know what information or advice he had got from counsel. I don't know, I haven't had that conversation. But because it wasn't disclosed --

CUOMO: But don't you think that -- don't you think it should be asked? Don't you think it should be looked at?

DUFFY: -- does that mean something nefarious? Yes, no it should but does that mean something nefarious happened, Chris?

CUOMO: I don't know I've got to know the answers.


CUOMO: All I know is, you didn't want to disclose it. So why didn't you want to disclose it? I need to ask you now.

DUFFY: You and I both don't know the back-story on what happened. What advice was he given? Was he said -- told that he had to disclose it or not disclose it? I don't know that, nor do you. But it comes back to the point; I haven't seen anything that leads me to believe that there was any wrongdoing by Jared Kushner or by the Trump campaign. And if there is --

CUOMO: Right, they haven't even talked to him yet. DUFFY: -- I'll be the first to come on to your show, Chris, and I will -- and I'll join you and go, what the hell was going on here with -- you know, with this contact that Donald Trump shouldn't have had with the Russians? I'll join you in that -- in that call out. But I haven't seen that evidence yet and so there's a lot of speculation.

CUOMO: I know but with Jared Kushner, you can't be asking for what the proof is on Kushner when he hasn't even talked to anybody yet. He won't give an interview. We've never even heard his voice in a public form. So it's a little premature to say there's nothing there when he's given nothing; he didn't even disclose it. But I guess we'll leave that conversation there until we know more.

DUFFY: We'll leave it there, absolutely.

CUOMO: Congressman Duffy, I got to tell you I appreciate it. You make points the American people need to hear. Thank you, Sir.

DUFFY: It's always good to be with you, Chris. Thank you, have a good morning.

CUOMO: Pleasure's mine. Alisyn?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Chris, the President, urging the Senate to change its rules to speed up healthcare and tax reform bills; Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal on that and more next.


CAMEROTA: Little fallout this morning from the reports that allege that Senior Presidential Advisor Jared Kushner wanted to set up a backchannel communication with Russia, before President Trump took office. That caused Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal to tweet this; only someone with secrets would want a secret and private line to Putin. Kushner owes America an immediate explanation. And Senator Blumenthal joins us now. Good morning, Senator. Thanks for being here.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), C.T.: Good morning. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: You know the other side. You hear what the Trump supporters in the White House are saying. Other administrations, they say, have had a backchannel at times when needed. Look at what RFK did, he set up one between Kennedy and Khrushchev to try to stave off the Cuban Missile Crisis. Your response?

BLUMENTHAL: There have been backchannels and they serve a legitimate, official purpose. When, in fact, they have official authorization and knowledge at the highest levels. And here, what we have is a secret discussion about a secret backchannel using Russian communication facilities. And then, maybe most important, concealment; the non- disclosure on security clearance forms and part of a pattern because Flynn had secret discussions and then failed to disclose them, in fact, conceal them. So did Attorney General Jeff Sessions and now Kushner again with the Russians. So the pattern here and the non- disclosure and concealment are what concern me. CAMEROTA: You know, Senator, we had Governor John Sununu of New Hampshire on yesterday who basically said; blah blah blah, all of this is a teapot. I'm paraphrasing. But he basically said, no one has proven any collusion and until you do, shut up about it. So his point was no lawmakers have been able to prove collusion. The FBI has not been able to prove collusion. What's your response?

BLUMENTHAL: There are ongoing investigations and those investigations need to be pursued with vigor and vigilance so that they are independent and, in fact, aggressive. Number one, the Special Prosecutor is pursuing hopefully -- I have no inside information but hopefully, not only these Russian conversations and meddling by Russians in our election; but, also potential Trump collusion during the campaign. Those investigations has to be pursued.

CAMEROTA: How do you think you can prove collusion?

BLUMENTHAL: There are a variety of elements. First of all, the facts; whether or not the conversations led to support aiding and abetting, in any way encouraging, providing assistance and support. Number two, the potential obstruction of justice; concealing information about that meddling by the Russians.

CAMEROTA: But that's different. I mean, obstruction of justice is different than collusion. Do you think that you are going to be able to draw a line? From what you've learned thus far, being on the Judiciary Committee and being in Congress, do you think you are going to be able to draw a line that connects the dots to collusion?

BLUMENTHAL: What will be most significant is motive and intent. That's what really will make or break this case and that's why we have a Special Prosecutor and why we need cooperation from the Trump administration. Not calling the investigation a witch hunt or a charade. Not belittling it or demeaning it.

What we need is cooperation and support from the Trump administration to establish whether the facts support it. Not only by the Special Prosecutor but also by the Intelligence Committees and by the Judiciary Committee because they have an independent responsibility here.

CAMEROTA: Next topic, Paris Climate Accord. President Trump is considering, basically this morning, whether or not to pull the U.S. out of that treaty, 192(ph) other countries have signed on to it. What happens if President Trump decides to pull the U.S. out of Paris?

BLUMENTHAL: I think what the consequence will be inevitably is the diminishing of confidence in our government, in our commitment to preserving the environment, clean air and water; but most of all, saving the planet from the continuing effect of climate change and global warming. And I think that our credibility will be undermined.

CAMEROTA: But then what happens? Meaning, if you're saying that other countries lose confidence in the U.S. in terms of our belief in climate change, then what? BLUMENTHAL: If other countries lose confidence in our commitment with climate change, they may cut back their commitment. But equally important, they're going to fill the gap. China now is producing jobs and economic progress based on solar and wind investments.

Other countries will similarly, in effect create more jobs and surpass us in that kind of opportunistic -- in a good sense, taking advantage of the opportunities that exist that we have failed to fulfill. And we have enormous opportunities in this area for job creation, for economic growth. And in my own state of Connecticut with fuel cell development, as well as solar and wind, there are enormous economic opportunities if we invest. That's what we need to do.

CAMEROTA: Last, I want to ask you about President Trump suggesting that if the Senate could change its rules, you could get things done much more quickly in terms of creating jobs, and tax relief, et cetera. Here's what he tweeted; the U.S. Senate should switch to 51 votes immediately and get healthcare and tax cuts approved fast and easy. Dems would do it, no doubt. What is your response to that?

BLUMENTHAL: To blame the lack of progress on the Senate rules is laughable. President Trump has yet to suggest a single serious policy proposal. His healthcare proposal was barely passed by the House; it was on life support there. It's dead on arrival in the Senate because of Republican as well as Democratic opposition to a plan that cuts 23 million people off health insurance and reinstates pre-existing conditions. His tax proposal is a single piece of paper with some bullet points.

His infrastructure proposal is nowhere to be found; in fact, he slashes spending and investment on transportation in his budget. And so, I think that there is a need for Republicans and Democrats to come together, hopefully we will, around serious proposals. But it has to be about building on the Affordable Care Act and coming together to help the middle class and establish jobs.

CAMEROTA: Senator Richard Blumenthal, thanks so much it's nice you have you here in the studio.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.


CUOMO: All right, here's a question. Could President Trump be on the brink of changing America's relationship with Cuba? Why he may reverse President Obama's policy, next.


CAMEROTA: President Trump may be about to take a harder line on Cuba. Officials tell CNN that the President is expected to reverse President Obama's opening to normalized relations with the communist nation. CNN's Elise Labott is here with more. What have you learned Elise?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Alisyn. Well President Trump is expected to roll back some of the regulations that President Obama loosened when he went to Cuba and met with President Raul Castro.

Where expected -- as a candidate, President Trump, before the election, had even looked at business opportunities to take advantage of those openings. But since he's elected he's been taking a much harder line and we expect the he will roll back some of those regulations including making it more difficult for Americans to travel to Cuba. Right now it's very easy for any Americans to legally claim that they are going there legally.

And then also he's expected to make it more difficult for business opportunities in Cuba, really shrink that commercial space, and really crack down on those military organizations and working with the military.

Now we expect that a lot of these though will be cosmetic changes. We don't expect him to officially roll back what President Obama opened, but we do think that it will make -- be more cosmetic changes, Chris.

CUOMO: All right Elise, appreciate it. Thank you very much. Let us know, that policy will be very important.

So, the President's Twitter feed has everybody talking again. This is the Tweet, it may be one of the most circulated Tweets by the President and it is absolute nonsense. Why is it dominating so many minds and fingertips? Next.


CUOMO: Words matter, even when they make no sense at all. An unfinished Tweet became the viral moment of the day because it came from the most powerful man in the world. Just after midnight -- bad fact number one, by the way -- "Despite the constant negative press covfefe." That's all there was.

CAMEROTA: Where does the accent go?

CUOMO: And the Tweet stayed up for six hours. It was deleted this morning. President Trump then sent out this light-hearted response, "Who can figure out the true meaning of covfefe, enjoy."

We've been told that the President's Tweets speak for themselves. We've been told that this is the way that he wants to come directly to the American people, that this is what we should assess and that's what we will do.

Let's discuss with CNN's Political Analyst, John Avlon and CNN's Media Analyst, Bill Carter.

I was surprised by the amount of attention that this Tweet got, but it does give one honking message to the President. This is not working for you the way you think it is.

JOHN AVLON: I've just got to say, I'm not sure why covfefe is going to be the thing that finally hammers that home. I mean look, the President has been told by supporters, staffers, nation security agencies to stop going on Twitter especially not late at night. It's not presidential, it's distracting. You have an entire apparatus of government reacting to it, and he's still does.

Yes, this is a great example of an unforced error. Simply just deeply weird. A made-up word. And it should not inspire confidence in anybody, but if anyone's has the hope that President Trump is going to change his behavior right not, that's the triumph of hope over experience, folks.

CAMEROTA: Look Bill, I mean, you know, we have to decide how much weight to give this. Is it a window into his phyche as we -- his soul -- as we've been told that his Tweets can be? Let's in fact recap from the experts on how we are supposed to interpret his Tweets. Listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to stop him from tweeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When he says something to me or via tweet, that's what he means.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT: I think the President's tweet speaks for itself.

SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The tweet speaks for itself, I'm moving on.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-SC: I wish he would sleep more and tweet less.


CAMEROTA: Bill, how do you see it?

BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Well I - obviously it's a source of humor, it's a crazy word, I'd say he clearly fell asleep...

CAMEROTA: On his BlackBerry.

CARTER: With his phone on his hand. Yes, I guess. And that's just an innocent thing if it just happens, but the fact is the country's kind of on edge about a whole lot of things. And what was interesting last night was watching a lot of people trying to say, well, does this mean anything?

Did he have a stroke? People were interpreting in these really outrageous ways as well as making fun of it. And I think there's just - it's just risky, this is the guy who blurted out classified intel to the Russians in the Oval Office.

The idea that he has a phone and that he's falling asleep, should make some people nervous. Is anything monitored, wasn't there somebody to say, Hey, what happened with the President there? It was odd that it lasted all that time for sure.

AVLON: Yeah but also let's be honest. This is a bauble, this is meaningless. This is getting attention because it's just so transparently weird and from the fingertips of a president late at night.

But it's not more important than questions about Russia, questions about collusion, question about back channeling, it's not more important in some ways than the Kathy Griffin controversy in terms of its offensiveness, but it comes from the President and the White House can't have it both ways.

You can't say the tweets speak for the President and then these late night absurdities don't matter and we should ignore them entirely.


CUOMO: And that's why it is just a reflection of a very awkward, arguably abusive, and wrong minded strategy. But you made a good point there - you made two. One, you end that discussion very well for us, thank you. And you begin the next which is Kathy Griffin.

The President tweeted about that as well, saying that she should be ashamed of herself and that his 11 year old son, Barron, is having a hard time with what she did. What did Kathy Griffin do?

Well if you don't know by now, you haven't been alive for the past 24 hours. She held up, in a photo, a picture of the President's severed and bloody head a la, some kind of ISIS effigy or threat. It was disgusting, she has apologized, but is that enough?

Bill Carter, your take.

CARTER: Well I think it was outrageous. When I saw it, I knew it was going to be disastrous for her and the reaction has been very interesting because she's been roundly condemned by left and right. It has not been a partisan issue.

And of course one has to then say, let's look at the other example, let's look at Ted Nugent, who said President Obama should suck on his machine gun, showed a photo of a gun to his head. No one worried about his children seeing that. In fact, he was invited to the White House and spent four hours getting a tour from the President.

So I think those are two interesting examples, I know there is some hypocrisy there.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you know John, that's a good point. There's something almost refreshing that both sides of the aisle can see this as appalling and that people have come out so vociferously. And that Kathy Griffin then apologized so quickly for it.

AVLON: Yes, I do think that's hopeful. The standard which we should be using as Americans is if you're offended when it's done to a President from your party, that's the standard you should apply to the President of another party. There's simply no defense for this, even though it's coming from a comedian, this wasn't funny in any way. It was simply a visible, bloody threat. That said I think the key point is that it was roundly condemned by democrats, by folks on the left, as well as the right. And we're going to need to apply those standards not only when people

are feeling oh I'm so offended because my President just got insulted this way, it's when a Ted Nugent has repeated statements of the nature he did and then campaigns for a candidate and gets a White House tour.


AVLON: That's got to be held consistently too, otherwise it's situational ethics.

CAMEROTA: It's good to know that there is a line...


CAMEROTA: ...that can be crossed in this day and age.

AVLON: Apparently it's a bloody visage, head shot (ph).

CAMEROTA: Yes I guess that that is the line. We found it.

AVLON: We found it.


CUOMO: Question is, what will it mean for Kathy Griffin? We'll have to see.

Bill Carter, Mr. Avlon, thank you very much -- always a pleasure to have you.

All right, we're following a lot of news. We have a live interview with Senator Al Franken. He has a new book with a very funny title. Let's get after it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael Flynn is going to hand over a batch of documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Cohen made it clear: if he is subpoenaed, he will testify.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This group isn't acting like people who don't have anything to hide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House refusing to deny whether Jared Kushner sought a secret back channel to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

SPICER: 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, to see narratives that are wrong, to see quote-unquote fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Powerful car bomb exploded near the German embassy in Afganistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This bomb felt across the capitol.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hospitals are flooded, so we can certainly expect causalities to rise.