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Trump Pulling U.S. Out of Paris Climate Accord; Comey to Testify Next Thursday on Trump; House Intel Committee Issues Subpoenas to Trump & Obama Officials; Dems Send FBI Letter Questioning Honesty of Jeff Sessions; Trump Officially Pulls Out of Paris Climate Accord; Sen. Rand Paul Agrees with Trump on Paris Climate Accord. Aired 2:30- 3p ET
Aired June 1, 2017 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:00] JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Just to read this to you, Ana, it says, "The Paris Accord, and this is according to the White House, is a bad deal for the Americans and the president's action today is keeping his campaign promise to put American workers first. The accord was negotiated poorly" -- this is the words of the White House -- "by the Obama administration and signed out of desperation. It frontloaded costs on the American people to the detriment of our economy and job growth while extracting meaningless commitments from the world's top global emitters like China."
Strong language coming from the president and his staff here at the White House. This is very much a preview of what I think we'll hear from the president in the Rose Garden within the next hour. If anybody was thinking that the president was wavering on whether to bull the U.S. out the Paris climate deal, we're being told by members of Congress, their staffers, and I'm also hearing in the last several minutes from conservative groups also saying that they heard from the White House that the president is indeed going to fulfill the campaign promise and pull the U.S. out the Paris climate deal -- Ana?
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Jim, yes, this was a campaign promise. It sounds like he's pretty firm on keeping that promise right now. But in the last few days, even the last few weeks as he's been making this decision, we heard from hundreds of businesses, including businesses like exon, Chevron, B.P., petitioning the president to stay in. We're hearing from allies around the world who say it's in the U.S. and the globe's best interests for the U.S. To stay in this deal. Who exactly is influencing the president to withdraw?
ACOSTA: Well, most notably, Steve Bannon, the president's chief strategist, I think that is a big part of this. Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator. But I was talking to a source close to the White House, Ana, who said, listen, this is an opportunity for the president to make good on a campaign promise. He said this time and again that he was going to do this and we've seen a number of instances over the last few months of this administration where the president hasn't fulfilled his campaign promises and hasn't pulled the U.S. out of NAFTA. He didn't declare a China currency manipulator as he said he would on day one of his administration. He once referred to NATO as obsolete and now he's not making that case anymore. And so there have been a number of examples where the president has not made good on campaign promises. This allows him to do that. But I will tell you, yes, not only do you have those CEOs that you're talking about, you have members of his own administration, Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, former CEO of ExxonMobil, urging the president to stay in this. We were just on this foreign trip over the last couple of weeks with the president where other members of the G-7 were pleading with the president behind the scenes to stay in the Paris climate agreement but the president told the French president macron that he was under heavy pressure back home and the way the people feel in the U.S., they want to get out of this Paris climate agreement. If you look at the polling, that is not the case. More Americans want the White House to stay in this agreement but the president is very much bowing to conservative political pressures. Had he not done this, I think you would have heard that he's not making good on everything that he was saying out on the campaign trail. This would have been damaging politically to the president had he not pulled out of the Paris climate agreement. You're going to hear people saying, well, this may be damaging to the world, this may be damaging to the president to pull out of this climate agreement because now he's signaling to polluters like China and India and so on that they can do this, too. That's the domino effect that a lot of people are concerned about.
CABRERA: It's interesting when you talk about the public polling that came after the election. 70 percent of American voters had said they are supportive of staying in the agreement, including 51 percent of Republicans who were polled in that.
CABRERA: Jim Acosta, we know you're staying on top of these latest developments. Thank you.
That announcement moments away. We'll bring it to you live here on CNN.
More breaking news we're following, many people and many moving parts, talking to us about Comey and what is happening in the Russia investigation.
First, we have a new date of what may be the most compelling testimony against the president so far. We now know James Comey will testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next Thursday. That's in just one week. And as CNN first reported, the fired FBI director is expected to confirm bombshell accusations that President Trump pressured him to drop a case against Michael Flynn, his national security advisor at the time.
Meanwhile, the House Intelligence Committee issues its first subpoenas. And some of them are directed towards not just Trump officials but these three top members who served the Obama administration.
And there's more. First on CNN, letters from two Senators that seriously question the honesty of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The two Democrats are pushing the FBI to dig into Session's contacts with the Russian ambassador. Let me bring in CNN crime and justice producer, Shimon Prokupecz, who is following the twists and turns.
Shimon, tell us about this letter regarding Sessions that Senators have requested further investigation into his contacts. What are the Senators asking for?
[14:35:12] SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE PRODUCER: So this came to light yesterday after our reporting that there was some talk, some investigation by the Hill, and then after our report, Senator Franken went on another network and said we sent a letter actually asking for this information to the FBI. And they've been asking questions about whether or not Sessions had more meetings with Kislyak than he has revealed, specifically at a speech that then candidate Trump gave back in April at a hotel, the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.
CABRERA: And they are suggesting that Sessions may have lied about that as well, that's another one that he -- if there was this meeting, he did not disclose.
PROKUPECZ: They will not go that far but there appears to be some information that indicates Sessions hasn't been forthcoming about all of the meetings he has had. Now, Sessions and the Department of Justice have denied that there have been any other meetings. You know, obviously, a lot of questions have surfaced over his recollection about meetings and how many meetings he had. He had testimony at his confirmation hearings. So I believe -- I've been talking to some U.S. officials. There are still some questions surrounding whether or not other meetings took place because there seems to be some information out there that indicates maybe something else there was another meeting somewhere.
CABRERA: Let me ask about the subpoenas, that we just learned that the House Intelligence Committee sent four subpoenas, including Comey, and three were issued to people linked to the Obama administration and unmasking. What can you tell bus that?
PROKUPEXZ: That is kind of separate. And Devin Nunes who recused himself --
CABRERA: You say he stepped aside?
PROKUPEXZ: He stepped aside. According to what Adam Schiff told Wolf Blitzer today, he, on his own, did this. He put this request in for unmasking information. He wants to know who in the government asked that certain U.S. officials and citizens be unmasked. This is coming from intercepts, channels of communications that the U.S. government may have captured overseas, and he wants to know how certain names may have come to light and may have been made public. This has a lot to do with his focus on leads and the White House's push and the president's push that the FBI and government need to focus on the leaks and not so much of the Russian investigation and the meddling.
CABRERA: Shimon Prokupecz, appreciate it. Thank you for that information.
I want to bring in our panel. Joining us is Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor who used to be former FBI Director Robert Mueller's special assistant at the Justice Department. Mueller is now leading the Russia investigation as a special counsel. Also with us, Shawn Turner, former press secretary for foreign affairs of the National Security Council.
Shawn, Sessions is now back in the spotlight. Democrats are asking the FBI to investigate meetings with the Russian ambassador. If Sessions failed to disclose a meeting with the Russian ambassador, how big of a deal is that?
SHAWN TURNER, FORMER PRESS SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: It's another drop in the bucket with regard to this investigation. Sessions has had ample opportunity to go over what he recalls at these meetings and to adjust the record as we see fit and time and time again, what he's done is waited for the next shoe to drop. And I think that, in this case, this one is particularly egregious. If the reporting is correct, this was not one of those situations where you had Sessions in the same room with Kislyak and hundreds of other people at a major event. The reporting would seem to indicate that this might have been something that was much more intimate and the real question here, as is the real question with all of these meetings is, what was the substance of these meetings? Why were they coming together and why weren't they disclosed? We've really got to get this dark cloud from hanging over us here and, until we get answers, we're going to continue to have real concerns with this attorney general.
CABRERA: Michael, the answer so far as to why these meetings were not disclosed until now is that there were lots and lots of meetings, these may have been left off unintentionally. They simply forgot. Is forgetfulness a reasonable response?
[14:39:58] MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR & FORMER FBI SPECIAL ASSITANT TO ROBERT MUELLER: Well, maybe at the outset when you're first completing your government forms and you have to complete this stuff. But as time passes and the investigation matures and in the interest of the government agencies investigating on the Hill and Mueller becomes what contacts were there. Maybe a bit of memory searching and soul searching is in order and Sean says you correct the record. I think we're at a point where, as this is maturing this way, the forgetfulness offense is a little less availing.
CABRERA: Let's talk about these Comey memos because that, in some ways, was designed to not forget, to remember these conversations reportedly between James Comey and then President Trump. He had already become president when these reported conversations took place. Would I ask for Comey's loyalty, when he asked for him to drop the investigation against Michael Flynn? He asked about these memos at this upcoming testimony next week.
What questions, Shawn, do you want answered?
TURNER: I think there are a few people who are more sensitive to what they can and can't say with regard to this investigation. I think that this will be somewhat liberating for Director Comey in that he will certainly be able to go farther than he was able to go in his testimony. But I think that, for those who are concerned about him talking about this in an open hearing, I think those concerns are unfounded. What I really want to know, more than anything, is whether or not the conversations that he had with the president were conversations that he routinely and regularly made notes of and whether or not those memos actually exist and I think, much like everyone else, we want to know the context of those memos. People have questioned whether or not those memos necessarily represent truly and accurately represent those conversations between the president and the director. You know, that's for the investigation to determine. But I think that, more than anything, we need to know what was said, what was Director Comey's recollection of what was said and what it means with regard to a potential obstruction of justice.
CABRERA: And, Michael, we're learning that he's not likely to touch what the findings were during the FBI investigation into the Russia meddling. So really the focus of this hearing in terms of what he'd be able to speak of, according to CNN's reporting, is his interactions with the president and the obstruction of justice or abuse of power. Some critics of Comey have suggested the fact that he went over parameters, apparently, in terms of this testimony and talked about it with the special prosecutor, Mueller, here in the Russia probe, could it be a conflict of interest or even seen as witness tampering?
ZELDIN: No, hardly. In fact, this is not the forum that you want Comey to give his first detailed descriptions of his reactions to the president, what was his state of mind in coming out of those meetings. These are important questions that a prosecutor has to evaluate in determining whether or not there is an obstruction of justice and whether that conduct is something which will rise to the level of an impeachable offense. That said, Mueller seemingly spoke to Comey. They went over the parameters of what Comey will testify in public session and closed session. I expect he's confident whatever he says in those Sessions that Mueller feels confident there won't be two separate stories to impeach Comey were there ever a hearing like a trial or impeachment hearing on these matters, which is a big concern of any prosecutor.
[14:44:06]CABRERA: OK. Michael, Shawn, thank you both.
We're just moments away now from the president's big announcement. First on CNN, we're told he will withdraw from the Paris climate deal.
Special coverage continues right after the break.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. I'm Jake Tapper, live in Washington. I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world.
This is CNN's special live coverage of the breaking news that President Trump has decided to withdraw from the landmark international climate change agreement, an agreement that most every country on earth has signed up for. 147 countries have ratified the agreement but now the U.S. joins Syria and Nicaragua, the only other countries that have rejected it.
You're looking at live pictures right now from the Rose Garden of the White House where, any minute now, we're expecting President Trump to come out and discuss his decision.
Of course, this decision might come as very little surprise for anyone reading the president's Twitter account back in 2012 when he called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, which, of course, it's not.
The goal of the Paris agreement is to get the world to, quote, "undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so," unquote. The United States is historically the biggest contributor to the green-house gas to the atmosphere. Currently, China is the biggest carbon polluter at twice the rate of the United States.
Many of the biggest businesses on earth, Google, Facebook, Apple, B.P., just to name a few, say that leaving the Paris Accord is not only the wrong decision for the environment but will mean fewer jobs in the U.S. But the Trump administration insists that staying in the agreement will hinder job creation. And he's expressed to advisers that he's especially concerned about job creation in blue-collar regions in the United States, ones that rely on manufacturing, ones that rely on fossil fuels, where some of his strongest and most ardent supporters live.
Let's go live to Jim Acosta, who is CNN senior White House correspondent.
Jim, what are you learning about the decision?
[14:50:41] ACOSTA: Jake, from what we understand, the White House has informed members of Congress, their staffs that the president does plan on pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. We're also hearing that the White House also held a conference call with conservative groups to lay out some of the talking points that the White House will be using over the coming days.
I've got some of these talking points in front of me. Not surprisingly, as you mentioned, the president is expected to say and they will say over the coming days that the Paris agreement is bad for business and that's what this talking point says here. He says, "The Paris Accord is a bad deal for Americans and the president's action today is keeping his campaign promise to put American workers first. The accord was negotiated poorly by the Obama administration and signed out of desperation," these talking point, "and it frontloads costs on the American people to the detriment of our economy and job growth while extracting meaningless commitments from the world's top global emitters like China." Interesting, Jake, on a couple of fronts in that they are trying to
frame this as an economic decision that the president is making, after all those years of tweets and statements from the president that climate change is a hoax and so on.
Jake, nowhere is it mentioned in these talking points that climate change is not happening. So the White House, by omission, appears to be acknowledging that climate change is happening, that human activity is contributing to climate change, although it doesn't state that. It very much here. It talks about carbon emissions by the U.S. being reduced already and cast doubts on what the commitments might be like from China and other big polluters in terms of bringing climate change under control. And we know the scientific community, and even companies like ExxonMobil and B.P., are all convinced that climate change is happening. Anybody who says otherwise may be full of covfefe or something, Jake.
But in the meantime, we're hearing that the president does intend to fulfill a campaign promise. I spoke to a White House spokesperson that says this is part of the president's calculus. There have been a few occasions where the president hasn't kept his campaign promises, and hasn't pulled out of NAFTA, didn't label China as a currency manipulator and so on and so on. And so this is an opportunity that they feel where the president could do that.
But you'll hear a lot of people around the world saying this is very damaging to the planet. The president of the United States is the leader of the free world and the United States is the leader of the free world and the leader of the free world is pulling out of an historic climate agreement -- Jake?
TAPPER: Thank you, Jim. Stand by. We'll come back to you.
I want to bring in Mark Preston, who is CNN's senior political analyst.
Mark, what are the real-world consequences of the deal?
MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are a couple we should look at. We should look scientifically. China is the worst emitter of carbon dioxide worldwide. Scientists are in agreement, or a majority anyway, say that we'll see temperatures rise.
Let's look at what that means scientifically. Rising seas. We could see the seas continue to rise. We could see flooding in major cities such as New York City to shanghai. Deadlier heatwaves would be abundant. Droughts. Ecosystems would be disrupted. Coral reefs and low-lying countries such as the Marshall Islands would disappear completely.
We've seen China and Russia make statements in the last few hours about how they are willing to step in and fill the void. This could be problematic when it comes to how other countries look at us as good partners, fighting the war on terrorism and other things. China is taking the lead, the worst emitter of carbon dioxide right now. They are trying to cut back on it. And this is where the big rub is in the Republican Party. It's going to infuriate American big business, Tesla, exon, Apple. They are for the Paris Climate Accord. And, of course, Donald Trump pulling out of it is only going to infuriate them -- Jake?
[14:55:04] TAPPER: Mark Preston, thank you.
Joining me is Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He supports withdrawing from the climate agreement.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
The president is expected to announce that he's withdrawing and he might want a better climate deal. What might that look like?
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: First, you wouldn't lose six million American jobs. I think one of the reasons that President Trump was elected is he promised to defend American jobs. There are estimates that this agreement, which is unfair and punishes America in a much greater fashion than other countries, that we would lose 6.5 million jobs. Meanwhile, countries like India and Iran, we would have to pay them to reduce their carbon emissions. I can't imagine a worse agreement for the American worker. This is something that President Trump promised the voters. He was going to keep American jobs here and not sign crazy agreements that don't have our best interests at heart.
TAPPER: Where would these six million American jobs come from? It seems like a rather dire prediction.
PAUL: They are in the energy industry. We've lost close to 90,000 jobs due to this. If China doesn't have to reduce their carbon footprint at all, how could that possibly be fair? Who in their right mind would sign something that says China doesn't have to do anything and when you reduce your carbon footprint, that means you have to reduce your energy output or convert to other sources but there may not be enough energy from the other sources and so then we're talking about going without energy.
TAPPER: How much should the U.S. reduce its carbon footprint?
PAUL: China doesn't have to reduce it at all. I don't think anybody could tell you the number right offhand. We should try to constrain and control pollution. I think we've been doing that for 50 or 60 years. But your previous guest sounded like, my goodness, the sky is falling, mass extinction. Really? I don't think we should be alarmists about this. The planet is 4.5 billion years old. We've gone through natural and now a manmade influence as well but these people, the question I always ask the alarmists is how much is nature and how much is man? They act as if it's a given that man is the only source of climate change. My goodness, the great climate changes in our history happened before the industrial revolution. So is there climate change? Can man have an impact? Yes. But let's not be such alarmists that if we don't sign the Paris Accord that there's going to be mass extinction. That's a ridiculous statement.
TAPPER: I don't know if it's a direct cause and effect relationship but, obviously, scientists, you can go on to the nasa.gov website and see what the effects are.
PAUL: But if you look at the accord, even the inter-governmental committee that promotes all of this, even they say it might be .2 degrees over 100 years. And you need to make sure that your viewers know that most of their models have been wrong. They adjust it because they haven't been good at predicting things. Predicting the future is notoriously difficult and it's not an exact science.
TAPPER: Absolutely. But they have been predicting for years that the temperatures would go up, that glaciers would shrink, sea ice would disappear, oceans would rise, the sea level would rise and there would be longer and more intense heatwaves and all of that has happened.
PAUL: Jake, before man was even on the planet, before we were even burning fires, the ocean is 300 feet shallower. When people walked across from Asia about 20,000, 30,000 years ago, maybe up to 100,000 years ago, the seas were 300 feet shallower. That's why they could walk across the Bering Strait.
TAPPER: Are you saying that man is not contributing to the climate change?
PAUL: No. What nobody looks at is, how much is nature and how much is man? I'm perfectly willing to admit that man could have an influence and minimize our pollution. But those who say it's all man and don't acknowledge that the 4.5 billion-year-old planet has gone through massive climate change based on natural effects --
TAPPER: It has gone through climate change, absolutely, but not to the degree that we've seen in the last century. And let me just --
PAUL: No, you're absolutely wrong. Absolutely incorrect.
PAUL: Absolutely incorrect. When you look at climate change, the most dramatic ice age and warming on the planet all happened before man was even around for the most part.
PAUL: Even when man was here, man was only burning fire --