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U.S. Adds 138,000 Jobs in May, Unemployment Rate Drops; White House: Trump Will Decide on Blocking Comey's Testimony; Source: Comey To Testify About Trump Confrontations; President Defies World, Quits Paris Climate Deal. Aired 9-9:30a ET
Aired June 2, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:02] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with breaking news. The jobs report out moments ago, the headline is here. Mixed results. When it comes to jobs added to the economy, the number is lower than expected.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, but there is good news. The unemployment rate at the lowest level since May 2001. I want to get right to CNN's Chief Business Correspondent Christine Romans. Some, you know, glaring numbers here both ways.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Let's look first at the unemployment rate, 4.3 percent. This is a level that most economists and, frankly, business leaders consider to be to be full employment. This is when you have a hard time finding workers, and you got to do something to get them off the sidelines, right? 4.3 percent, the lowest since 2001, and it's a time, by the way, we thought the economy was roaring on all fronts.
But job growth this time this year seems to be slowing a bit from where it was last year and the year before. Let me say that again. Job creation not as brisk right now, say from February to May, as it was the year before and in 2015, 138,000 net new jobs.
For President Trump to make his promise of 25 million jobs over 10 years, he's going to have to see almost twice that, more than 200,000 jobs every single month. And we know that April was revised lower and the month before that was revised. March and April were revised lower.
Let me show you where the job gains are because I think this is pretty instructive. Manufacturing jobs down about a thousand. Not a surprise there. Mining and logging up 7,000. And we dug into this number. About 400 coal mining jobs added. That is a real focus of this President.
Health care jobs. Look at the comparison between mining and logging and health care, 24,000 new jobs in health care. Every single month, you guys, we see strong growth from hiring in hospitals, ambulatory care facilities, a lot of growth in health care sector. That's where a lot of energy has been. Overall, 80 months in a row, a record. Eighty months in a row of private sector job growth.
HARLOW: Right. So good top line number in terms of the jobs added. Not as much as economists were expecting. The White House came out this week and said we have created a million private sector jobs. The President himself used those words, "a million private sector jobs." That is not what the Labor Department shows, is it?
ROMANS: No, the official labor market statistics do not show a million private sector jobs. They show just about half of that. The President's advisers say he's pointing to something called the ADP, which is private payroll service which, I think, surveys about 12,000 employers. So a very small survey.
HARLOW: An estimate.
ROMANS: It's an estimate, and that shows 1.2 million private sector jobs. But this Bureau of Labor statistics report does not even match, you know, that private sector forecast that we got this week from ADP. I suspect what you'll see here, the President thinks he is revving up the economy, and he will use numbers that match that to tell that story. That's what he did yesterday.
HARLOW: Yes. All right, Christine Romans, thank you.
HARLOW: New this morning, former FBI Director James Comey will testify next week. Or will he? The White House says they are OK. Or are they?
Just a short while ago one of the President's top aides would not rule out the White House using executive privilege to try to keep Comey from testifying. Joe Johns is live at the White House with more. What are we hearing?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy. Well, this is drama. And the date is now set, obviously, next Thursday, June 8th, for James Comey to testify.
The big question, what will he say? What won't he say? Is there anything he can't say because there's a Special Counsel investigation under way?
And there's also drama surrounding the question of whether there might be some last-ditch effort by the administration, by the President, to keep Comey from testifying at all by invoking something called the executive privilege. And this is a privilege essentially designed to protect certain communications between high-level government officials including the President.
So listen to presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway this morning on another network talking about the possibility of Comey testifying next week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Does he want former Director Comey to testify before Congress? KELLYANNE CONWAY, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well,
we'll be watching with the rest of the world when Director Comey testifies. The last time he testified under oath, the FBI had to scurry to correct that testimony.
He was off by hundreds of thousands in his count, his sworn testimony count of the number of e-mails that Huma Abedin allegedly sent to her husband, Anthony Weiner. He said there were hundreds of thousands. It turns out that was off by hundreds and thousands, and they really were classified.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So the President is not going to invoke his executive privilege?
CONWAY: The President will make that decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: "The President will make that decision," so it sounds like that decision has not been made, at least coming from presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway. If the administration were to decide to invoke executive privilege, a number of problems with that.
First of all, James Comey is no longer an employee of the United States government. He was fired by the President of the United States. But a larger problem, perhaps, is the problem of waiver. The President has talked so much about Comey, the Russia investigation, and tweeted about his conversations with Comey, he may have actually waived that privilege because, John and Poppy, as you know, if you talk about a conversation, you can't later claim that it was secret.
[09:05:08] BERMAN: No. Joe Johns at the White House. Very notable. Kellyanne Conway given a chance to rule out executive privilege, she would not. At least not this morning.
But wait, there's more. New questions surrounding conflicting stories about Jared Kushner's meeting with a Russian banker. CNN's Dianne Gallagher live in Washington with details on this. Good morning, Dianne.
DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John, Poppy. You know, it seems like Jared Kushner and this banker can't seem to get on the same page about why they actually met in the first place, which, A, just doesn't look good, but, B, it has a potential to be a serious problem in the future because according to a U.S. official the FBI is looking into those very discrepancies.
So who is Sergey Gorkov? Well, he's the chairman of U.S. sanctioned Russian bank. He is also a former spy with, we're told, close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
Now, the White House says that Kushner met with him in his official transition role, basically along the lines of foreign relations. The bank, though, said that it was strictly business, as in private business, that Kushner was not a representative of Trump. So when exactly did this meeting take place? Well, sometime in
December. But beyond that, it's pretty hazy. CNN has reported that the Russian Ambassador, Sergey Kislyak -- that guy, again -- well, he also had a secret meeting with Kushner back in the first days of December. That's where our sources say the Ambassador urged the President's son-in-law to then meet with Gorkov.
Well, according to some great reporting by "The Washington Post," a 19-seat, twin-engine private jet linked to Gorkov flew from Moscow to the States on December 13th, though the "Post" said that they could not confirm if Gorkov was actually on that flight.
Well, the plane then left from New York to Japan the next day. And on December 15th and 16th, Putin was in Japan. Russian media had said that Gorkov was going to be joining him there.
Now, here's the thing, Kushner initially left this meeting and the Kislyak one off his security clearance forms but added them a day later once they were reported in the media. Now, we have reported that Kushner has agreed to speak with the Senate Intel Committee about the Russian investigation. And one more thing, our Matthew Chance tried asking Gorkov for clarification this week, but he just said no comment.
BERMAN: Yes. He didn't seem to like that one bit.
HARLOW: As noted in "The Washington Post."
HARLOW: Our Matthew Chance asked again and again and again like the dogged reporter that he is. Diane Gallagher in Washington. Thank you.
Let's discuss all of this with our panel. Jackie Kucinich, our political analyst and Washington bureau chief for "The Daily Beast" is here, along with Lynn Sweet, Washington bureau chief for the "Chicago Sun-Times," and Matt Lewis, CNN political commentator and senior columnist at "The Daily Beast."
So you guys heard the exchange with Kellyanne Conway on "Good Morning America." Two points here. The first one, Matt Lewis, to you. The White House is not ruling out or hasn't decided yet, it sounds like, on executive privilege. What does that tell you?
MATT LEWIS, SENIOR COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I think they're, obviously, very concerned about what James Comey might have to say. I've sensed an attempt by the administration or by some surrogates of theirs to try to sort of impeach him, you know, to put him on trial, and that could be one strategy. Another strategy would be to simply try to prevent him from testifying. But as was mentioned earlier, that's sort of tough to do. He's no
longer the FBI Director, so invoking executive privilege is a little more complicated perhaps. And on top of that, you know, President Trump has talked about it and tweeted about him, and so to now try to shut down that conversation, which I think is a valid question. The American people have a right to know this information, so I suspect that he probably will testify.
BERMAN: Yes. You know, Lynn Sweet, to Matt's point there, Kellyanne didn't seem prepared for the executive privilege question, and her answer was the President will have to decide. I was surprised she wouldn't rule it out. But the more glaring thing to me was how ready she was to go after James Comey.
BERMAN: And this is something that Matt Lewis saw firsthand with some allies at the White House the other night, where people were starting to say things about James Comey out loud and very publicly to maybe muddy the waters here. How much of that do you think we'll hear and how effective? Or maybe, what's the danger in that?
LYNN SWEET, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Well, let me take it, slice it, and then take your last point first. The danger is, of course, it could backfire and that you create sympathy for Comey, where you have such a split decision on him going into this episode. Remember, we started this with Democrats being mad at him for spilling the beans and talking, what now some say is out of school, on Hillary Clinton.
But here's the strategic issue, I think, that the White House is facing. They're just not sure. They are throwing this out there. Well, we may do this, we may do that. And I think they just want to see where things are going.
If they learn more, if any more of Comey's friends drop more hints about what he might say, so that if they invoke executive privilege, that could be a sideshow in a fight, buy some more time maybe to their advantage.
[09:10:06] BERMAN: Jackie Kucinich, you know, I'm struck by the -- I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cut you off.
SWEET: No, no.
BERMAN: But just next Thursday, you know, 10:00 a.m. --
HARLOW: Big day.
BERMAN: -- big day.
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Big day.
HARLOW: During this show.
BERMAN: Yes, during this show, which, of course, they pegged it to be on this show right now.
BERMAN: But, no, it just seems to me, when James Comey does this, he's no longer an unanimous source, right? If James Comey goes out there and testifies under oath that the President tried to pressure him to stop the investigation, you know, into Michael Flynn, he's not a unanimous source. That's a big thing. And then there are very big real questions that members of Congress are going to have to face.
KUCINICH: Well, this also isn't James Comey's first rodeo when it comes to standing up to an administration that's still in office. He did this during the Bush administration with Alberto Gonzales and Andy Care and John Ashcroft and that whole incident. So he will be prepped for this.
This could be very damaging to this White House. And, frankly, this whole decision to fire him as FBI Director is coming back to bite them again. This wasn't thought through.
If he was still an employee of the federal government, the President would have a lot more ground to stand on with, you know, using executive privilege. Not to mention, as Joe Johns said, the President himself talked about this so much that he might not be able to use that anyway.
But there are just so many missteps leading up to this testimony. If they try to throw the executive privilege thing out, it will look like they have something to hide whether or not they do. This is another problem of this administration's own making. And you're absolutely right, senators will have a lot of questions for him. And you know, you have to imagine, he's going to be prepared with some very compelling answers.
BERMAN: He may have some notes or memos, I'm told, that he could review before going in.
KUCINICH: Some memos.
HARLOW: Memo man. Guys, we're going to get back to Russia in just a moment, but I do want to get your take on the reaction, the global reaction, to the President pulling out of Paris Climate Agreement.
Matt Lewis, whether it's Gary Cohen being asked by our Wolf Blitzer four times, repeatedly, if this White House thinks climate change is a hoax or EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt being asked multiple times by Jake Tapper, no one from the White House will answer that central question. Why?
LEWIS: Yes. Well, I think it's a mistake. But I think maybe it's because they don't know what Donald Trump really believes or maybe there's political considerations. Maybe they want to pander to a certain part of the Republican base that is not just skeptical but denying climate change.
But, look, you know, I really still think that you could be a firm believer in climate change and believe that it's a serious problem and still oppose this deal just on the merits of it being a very bad deal. That's what they should be talking about in my opinion because I think they have a lot of ground to stand on there.
BERMAN: But it is different, Matt Lewis. You know, saying it's a bad deal and saying climate change -- or refusing to say climate change is not a hoax are two very different things. And it is notable, their lack of an answer there.
Lynn Sweet, let's tie all of this together, shall we? Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump not there yesterday because of Jewish holidays, because of previously scheduled meetings, whatever you want. Obviously, they are known to have been pushing against this decision to remove the United States from the Paris climate deal.
What does this say about Jared Kushner? Is Russia seeping in, perhaps whittling away at his influence inside the White House?
SWEET: Well, I would take it issue by issue because this is one where Ivanka and Jared had unified front. And, yes, it was the second day of Shavuot yesterday so, you know, they were in synagogue and then he went to the White House. The point here on that one is that they don't have the influence on all the issues. If anyone thought they did, they don't.
And to tie it together, I think this means that any time that Trump can find ambiguity, he likes to live in that space. Maybe I like climate change. Maybe I don't. He thinks it's strategic advantage not to say because then he's pinned down. That's not place he likes to live.
BERMAN: All right. Lynn Sweet, Jackie Kucinich, Matt Lewis, thank you very, very much.
A lot going on this morning. If the White House does not try to block the testimony from James Comey, what do you want to know? We're going to speak with someone who has been in hearings like this, chair hearings like this, and got to ask a lot of questions.
HARLOW: And business backlash. The President pulls the plug on the Paris climate deal. Some of the biggest named CEOs in the world saying publicly he is wrong, quitting his councils, you name it. In minutes, we're going to speak with Sir Richard Branson.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: We are six days and 41 minutes from what could be the most important testimony on Capitol Hill since Watergate. Who's counting? FBI Director James Comey expected to lay out his private conversations with President Trump.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now is Pete Hoekstra, former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, someone who supported the president during much of the campaign. Thank you so much for being with us, sir.
Just moments ago, Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President Trump, she was on TV and she would not rule out the president using executive privilege to keep James Comey from testifying. Do you think there's a valid claim of privilege here?
PETE HOEKSTRA (R), FORMER HOUSE INTEL CHAIRMAN: Absolutely. I mean, I think one of the things that many people would love to hear for news purposes or just for the intrigue, those types of things, they would love to hear about the Comey's interpretation and description of the private conversations that he had with the president of the United States. That makes news.
As a former policymaker in Washington, I don't think that that's necessarily helpful. It sets a dangerous precedent that the president's conversations, you know, private conversations can be revealed. It would be a "he said, he said" type of thing. It's one side of the story.
I don't think that helps the process move forward. So in that case, the president can and would rightfully exert executive privilege.
HARLOW: Congressman, there's a lot to unpack there. Let's begin with the fact that you say it would be one sided. Right now, sir, is one sided. It is he said as in the president said because he's talked about their private conversations on multiple occasions on network news interviews and on Twitter.
[09:25:13]So why does the president then have the right to do that but the FBI director should be blocked from doing so?
HOEKSTRA: Because he's president of the United States. Same thing happened --
HARLOW: That doesn't give him anymore authority to talk about it, does it?
HOEKSTRA: Absolutely it does. It's the same thing that, you know, this brouhaha a couple of weeks ago about discussing so-called classified information with the Russians. The president is the top intelligence officer in the country. He decides what can and cannot be shared.
The president has a tremendous amount of latitude. Sure, in the future can someone go back and try to peel this and see what some are saying is a criminal case? Sure. They can do that.
But in terms of, you know, the president is the head of the executive branch and he can protect those conversations if he deems they need to be protected.
BERMAN: Does the president have the right to ask the FBI director to stop an investigation? Does the president have a right to do what some would construe as obstruct justice because that's what a lot of the he said/he said hinges on here, sir? HOEKSTRA: No, the president does not have the right to obstruct justice. No president has the right to do that. That's a violation of the law. The president cannot go there. This is not going to be determined as to whether he obstructed justice is not going to be determined in a Senate hearing with one witness testifying and those types of things. I don't think we're close to having that type of a discussion about this president, this White House, or those types of actions.
HARLOW: Congressman, it sounds like you're saying that you believe that the testimony of the former FBI director is not relevant in determining if there was obstruction of justice. Is that correct? Is that what you're saying?
HOEKSTRA: No, no. Again, what you're doing is you're twisting my words.
HARLOW: No. I'm not. You just said -- you just said it's not important for people to hear Comey's side of this.
HOEKSTRA: The FBI director's version of what happened clearly is relevant. Whether a congressional hearing is the best or the most appropriate way for that information to move its way through the process I think is a whole different question.
They've set up a special counsel in the Department of Justice that will get into the Russia stuff and may get into this stuff. Probably will go back and look at Hillary's e-mail server and those types of things as they go through the investigation.
The most appropriate way to determine whether there was any violation of the law is to go through the Justice Department. I have been on Capitol Hill. Congress is absolutely the worst place for that to happen.
BERMAN: Well, Congressman, let me ask you this because we asked you at the beginning if you thought he had the right to invoke executive privilege. You are someone at the White House will listen to. You've advised them during the campaign and the administration as well. Would you advise the president six days before the scheduled testimony of James Comey to try to invoke executive privilege?
HOEKSTRA: I don't know what the president and James Comey talked about. The president does -- he may have shared that with some of his closest advisers in the White House. They will then make the determination as to whether executive privilege is warranted or not. I don't know the content. I can't make that judgment or provide him with a recommendation in that area.
HARLOW: Congressman, quickly back to one point you made before. You said, of course, the president has the right to do this, you know, as president. Certainly he can declassify anything at any moment.
Do you think it's right for the president to come out on multiple occasions and talk about these private conversations and then if he does invoke executive privilege try to block James Comey from doing the same? Is that something you would advise that the president continue to talk about publicly?
HOEKSTRA: I think again the president knows what was in these conversations, the context and those types of things. For a congressional hearing to go into that and try to delve that -- because they won't get the president to testify there.
The most appropriate place for this type of discussion to do is behind the closed doors until there's a full evaluation of all of the events, all of the circumstances, is what they have put in place, and that is the special counsel through the Department of Justice.
HARLOW: It's not what I asked, but one could argue that the president testified to the American public through these interviews and through Twitter. We're out of time. Congressman, we appreciate you being here.
HOEKSTRA: Great. Thank you.
HARLOW: Markets are booming on news that President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement. CEOs though ripping into that decision. We'll talk to one of them next, Sir Richard Branson.
BERMAN: All right, this morning world leaders slamming the president's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. They are also throwing cold water on the president's notion that the U.S. can renegotiate a better deal.
HARLOW: In a joint statement, they say there's no room for negotiation. The French president went a step forward tweeting the president's slogan with a tweak. CNN senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen joins us from London with more.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Poppy. Yes, and there is really international criticism coming in especially from European leaders, but also from some of America's other very close allies like for instance, Canada. We've had reaction, for instance, from Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada saying that they are deeply disappointed there.
Angela Merkel of Germany saying the position of the United States is very regrettable, but she also said that no one would be able to stop Europe and Germany from holding on to their --