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Trump Launches Twitter Attack on London Mayor; White House: Trump Won't Block Comey from Testifying; Two Terrorists Identified in London Attack. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 5, 2017 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TAPPER: Thank you so much. Really appreciate it. That's it for "THE LEAD." I'm Jake Tapper. I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
[17:00:09] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Lashing out. President Trump launches a Twitter attack on London's mayor, taking his words about terror out of context and calling his words "pathetic." Why is the president responding to the latest terror attack with a tirade?
Attackers identified. Investigators name two of the three men behind the London rampage as police carry out a series of raids in search of accomplices. Were the terrorists on the intelligence radar?
Trump versus Trump. The president blasts his own Justice Department and the executive order he signed just as his administration prepares to defend it before the U.S. Supreme Court. Did the president just make his case a whole lot harder?
And cleared to testify. The White House says the president won't try to prevent fired FBI director James Comey from testifying before Congress as part of the Russia investigation. Comey's appearance is now just days away. What bombshells might he drop?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. The White House is clearing the way for fired FBI director James Comey to testify this Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its Russia investigation.
A spokeswoman says President Trump will not invoke executive privilege to try to block Comey from discussing a conversation in which sources say the president urged him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Also breaking this hour, British investigators have now identified two of the three men who carried out the terror rampage in London that killed seven people and injured dozens before police shot and killed the attackers. Police say one of the men, a British citizen born in Pakistan, was known to security officials, and in the wake of the attack President Trump has lashed out at London's Muslim fa mayor Sadiq Khan who said people should not be alarmed by the increased police presence on the streets of London. Mr. Trump misconstrued Khan's words and accused of him making a, quote, "pathetic excuse."
We're covering all of that and much more this hour with our guests, including Congressman Andre Carson of the House Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and specialists are also standing by.
But let's get straight to the White House and our senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta.
Jim, the president's aides and supporters, they are once again having to defend some very controversial tweets.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Cleanup mode once again, Wolf. President Trump may soon find out that his tweets come with consequences. Not only did he step on his message on infrastructure this week, he may have jeopardized his chances at the Supreme Court to win approval for his long-delayed travel ban and most incredibly the White House was trying to argue that the president was not picking a fight with the mayor of London after the terror attack in London there when in fact he was.
SADIQ KHAN: MAYOR OF LONDON: We will defeat the terrorists.
ACOSTA: With London still reeling from a terrorist attack, the White House is defending President Trump's stinging tweets slamming that city's mayor. Asked about the president's tweet, "At least seven dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and mayor of London says there is no reason to be alarmed?"
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The point is, is there is a reason to be alarmed.
ACOSTA: Deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders insisted the president did not intentionally mischaracterize Mayor Sadiq Khan's response to the attack.
SANDERS: I don't think that's actually true. I think that the media wants to spin it that way.
ACOSTA: But listen to the context. The mayor was urging Londoners not to be alarmed about beefed-up security in the city after the attack.
KHAN: Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. No reason to be alarmed.
ACOSTA: The mayor, who is Muslim, also referred to the terrorists as evil.
KHAN: And I'm angry and furious that these three men are seeking to justify their actions by using the faith that I belong to to justify their actions.
ACOSTA: Also in his response to London, the president renewed his pitch for a ban on travelers coming in from six majority-Muslim countries, the same ban that's tied up in courts. "The Justice Department should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered-down travel ban before the Supreme Court and seek much tougher version," the president tweeted, adding, "People and the courts can call it whatever we want but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN."
The president's use of the term "travel ban" directly contradicts his own aides.
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is not a Muslim ban. It's not a travel ban. It's a -- it's a vetting system to keep America safe.
ACOSTA (on camera): Sean Spicer from that podium said it was not a travel ban. Is it a travel ban?
SANDERS: Look, I don't think the president cares what you call it. Everybody wants to get into the labels and the semantics of it, but the bottom line is he's trying to protect the citizens of this country. The danger is extremely clear.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Top White House officials insist the media are too focused on the president's tweets.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: This obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's his...
ACOSTA: But counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway's own husband, who was under consideration to become solicitor general, said the tweets may jeopardize the administration's push for the ban. "These tweets may make some people feel better," George Conway tweeted, "but they certainly won't help the solicitor general get five votes in the Supreme Court, which is what actually matters. Sad."
Other aides say it's another example of the media taking the president's tweets too literally.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: It's not social media. It's his words, his thoughts.
SEBASTIAN GORKA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT: It's not policy. It's not an executive order. It's social media. Please understand the difference.
ACOSTA: Now Sarah Sanders told reporters her presence today should not indicate that her superior, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, is in any kind of trouble in his role. She said Spicer is taking on more duties now that the White House is losing its communications director and that she will be filling in at the podium when needed -- Wolf. BLITZER: Jim Acosta at the White House with the very latest, thank
Also breaking this hour, the White House says President Trump will not invoke executive privilege to try to block fired FBI director James Comey from testifying before Congress. Our justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, is working the story for us. As you know scheduled, Jessica, Comey scheduled to appear before before the lawmakers Thursday morning.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And that testimony is greatly anticipated, Wolf. It is slated to start at 10 a.m. Thursday, and lawmakers are already gearing up for a long line of questioning, laser-focused on the dialogue between the fired FBI director and the president. And the White House now says it will not stand in the way.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): A declaration from the White House that James Comey's testimony will proceed unimpeded.
SANDERS: President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey's scheduled testimony.
SCHNEIDER: Comey will speak publicly to the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday before moving into a closed session. For lawmakers, the questions about his conversations with the president have been mounting.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We want to find out what Comey was thinking at that time, if he thought it was -- had risen to that level of obstruction, and if it had, why hadn't something been done? Why didn't he act on it? He was still FBI director. If not, was that concern basically filed away for what purpose?
SCHNEIDER: Lawmakers plan to probe his relationship with President Trump and whether the president urged the former FBI director to stop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Flynn's ties to Russia.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The tone, the exact words that were spoken and the context are so important, and that's what we lack right now. And we can only get that by talking to those directly involved.
SCHNEIDER: Sources say Comey kept detailed memos about his interactions with the president, a source close to Comey's thinking says Comey felt disturbed by his conversations with the president but believed he had the situation under control.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers will testify Wednesday when the Senate Intelligence Committee holds had a hearing on expiring surveillance powers. The Russia investigation will be a focus. SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), VICE CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: There
is a lot of smoke. We have no smoking gun at this point, but there is a lot of smoke.
And again, one of the questions that we will have not only for Director Comey on Thursday but on Wednesday for Director of National Intelligence Coats and NSA -- National -- NSA Director Admiral Rogers, I'm going to want to ask them, because there have been reports that the president also talked to both of them, in terms of asking them to downplay the Russia investigation. That would be very concerning to me.
SCHNEIDER: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is also set to testify Wednesday. Rosenstein told members of Congress in May that it's possible Special Counsel Robert Mueller might expand his probe into the firing of Director Comey. In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Rosenstein promised to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller if Rosenstein becomes a focus of that investigation.
CONWAY: People should also look at the Rod Rosenstein memo again to see what the problem was in the department with FBI Director Jim Comey. Rosenstein clearly points out that the integrity and the morale were down; and he clearly points out that Comey had tried to usurp the power of the attorney general, Loretta Lynch.
SCHNEIDER: And tomorrow is the deadline for former national security adviser Michael Flynn to turn over the first set of documents subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee. It is a first batch of business and personal records that Michael Flynn initially refused to hand over -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's -- let's see if those documents are handed over, in fact. All right. Thanks very much. Jessica Schneider reporting.
Let's get some more on all of this. Democratic Congressman Andre Carson of Indiana is joining us. He's a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks for joining us.
REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: So you know the White House today said flatly that had the president will not try to invoke what's called executive privilege to block former FBI Director James Comey from testifying on Thursday. What's your reaction? What was your reaction when you heard this from the White House?
CARSON: Well, I think it's smart. I think that the White House is already under great suspicion. I think at least half of the country, if not more -- I would assert more -- they're already disappointed in President Trump. They're already disappointed in this administration.
[17:10:09] And I think any attempt to block Director Comey from speaking would further add to the flames of discontent that we're seeing amongst constituents and the American people.
BLITZER: Let's get to some other issues. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, as you know, he said Londoners should not be alarmed by the heightened presence of police on the streets of London following the latest terror attack, and in response the president tweeted this: "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his," quote, "'no reason to be alarmed'," close quote, "statement. The mainstream media, MSM, is working hard to sell it."
Why do you think the president is saying this about the mayor of London only, what, two days after the terror attack in that city?
CARSON: Who knows what's in President Trump's head? What I will say is that kudos to Mayor Khan for stepping up and presenting himself to be a great leader during these perilous times. I think he represents all that is great about the Muslim community. To have a Muslim mayor of a major international city step up and speak out against terrorism is commendable.
And I think that President Trump should really think twice about attacking a mayor from a foreign nation during these times when we should be working together cooperatively with our intelligence services and other intelligence services, our law enforcement apparatus and theirs, as well, to get to the bottom of unearthing potential terrorists in the future. And I think for President Trump's impulsivity to be on full display, to me, I question the strength of his handlers and reeling him back, because he's certainly embarrassing all of us at this point. And I think President Trump knows better.
BLITZER: Yes. By the way, the U.S. ambassador, the acting U.S. ambassador in London tweeted a positive tweet about the mayor.
As you know, the president has also been tweeting about the travel ban. He tweeted this: "The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered-down, politically correct version they submitted to the Supreme Court."
He's now officially calling it a travel ban, even though the White House earlier said it wasn't a travel ban. He's calling for a tougher version. He's pegging these needs to the London attack.
But he signed this revised version as an executive order. It's his Justice Department that's making the appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. He's undermining that appeal, criticizing his own Justice Department and his own executive order, the revised version. Why do you see that happening?
CARSON: Well, he's undermining the process. He undermines his staff; he undermines his close advisers. He's undermining America. This is who he is. And I think unless we're paying close attention, I think he will continue undermining even himself. He's already done so.
Wolf, these are very serious times. Thankfully, the Founding Fathers, as complicated as they were, as complicated as we all are, were very brilliant in instituting three separate but equal branches of government, because they had the insight and the foresight to not want to have someone like a Trump come in and attempt to be a dictator. There are checks and balances.
But the fact that he has not given himself the time to be studied in these matters, to show any kind of discipline. I think that his administration is in disarray. I think that he's out of control. He has become the emperor with no clothes.
BLITZER: Quick question about your district in Indiana; I think it's in Indianapolis. You're one of two Muslim members of the United States Congress. Are you facing any hatred, anything along those lines in the aftermath of what's been going on over these past several weeks and months?
CARSON: I'm glad that you asked, Wolf. There's a billboard as we speak off of one of our major highways that -- that is disrespectful toward Muslims. It says very, very vile things against Prophet Mohammed and Islam, and it is a pre-cursor to a planned anti-Muslim march that is to take place around the same time as the pride parade.
And so I think what makes me even more concerned about President Trump's rhetoric is that he has fanned the flames of Islamophobia in our country at a time where we need more Muslims to participate in the political process, where we need more Muslims and we need to highlight the Muslims who are in our law-enforcement communities, keeping America safe and protecting us from stories that we'll never hear about in the news. And I think for this environment to exist and -- and for the polarization that has been caused, of the deepening wedge in our country, led by President Trump, I think it's time for the American people, whether Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, independent, to stand up and say we want our country back in a very real sense.
[17:15:07] BLITZER: Very quickly, that ugly anti-Muslim billboard in your district, do you think it's there because you're the representative of that district?
CARSON: Who knows? I mean, I receive death threats quite often, but at the same time, I've had -- I have Trump supporters who vote for Andre Carson.
So -- but it does say that we're living in a time where -- I just had a great conversation with the local rabbi, Rabbi Sandy Sasso and her husband, Rabbi Dennis Sasso, and we've been talking about expanding this effort that's already taking place of bringing Jewish communities together with Muslims and Christians and Sikhs, even non-theists and Buddhists, to come together and say, "Enough is enough."
I spoke at an LBGT church, Wolf, just this Sunday, and there were -- there were representatives from different religions there, saying, "We want to unify in the wake of the terror that exists in London. We want to unify in the midst of all that is taking place in the name of religion and say we stand together as a global community to fight for justice and peace."
BLITZER: Well, good luck with that effort, Congressman.
I need you to stand by. There's more that we have to discuss. New information coming in on the terror attack in London. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
[17:20:50] BLITZER: We're back with Democratic congressman Andre Carson of Indiana. He's a key member of the House Intelligence Committee. We want to talk to him about the breaking news. Critical new developments unfolding in the London terror investigation.
Our senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, right now is on the scene in London. Brian Todd is watching the situation unfold, as well. Brian, investigators have now identified two of the three attackers. Update us.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They have, Wolf. And just a short time ago CNN learned some important new details about one of the suspects, a known radical Islamist who had been supportive of ISIS.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight newly-released video, a clip of the attackers walking through London's Borough Market, looking for targets. London Metropolitan Police have named two of the three terrorists: 27-year-old Khuram Shazad Butt, a British citizen born in Pakistan; and 30-year-old Rachid Redouane, who claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan.
Khuram Shazad Butt was already widely known as a radical Islamist supportive of ISIS. He's seen here in a British Channel 4 documentary, "The Jihadis Next Door," praying with others in front of a black Islamic flag unfurled at a park. In this ITN video, he protests his treatment by police.
KHURAM SHAZAD BATT, LONDON ATTACKER: Only English white person who's a non-Muslim part of our group, but because he's white and he's English, he can go.
TODD: A friend says Butt told him his wife had given birth to a new baby several months ago.
Khuram Shazad Butt worked for the London Underground for just under six months as a trainee customer services assistant, leaving in October last year.
Police say Butt and two others were in this van when it slammed into several pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday night. Police say the van crashed, and the attackers then went on a stabbing rampage in Borough Market before police arrived and quickly killed all three suspects.
Tonight the third attacker hasn't yet been named by police.
One of the suspects is believed to have lived in this building in East London. That building and other properties in London's Barking neighborhood have been raided by police.
Police tonight are looking for more accomplices. Erica Gasperri, who lives in the Barking neighborhood, told CNN she recently went to the police after she saw a man, believed to be one of the attackers, teaching local children about Islam in a park.
ERIC GASPERRI, NEIGHBOR WHO CONFRONTED SUSPECT: All of a sudden, we saw this individual speaking to the kids and guarding (ph) them, for the last -- it was three afternoon already, and speaking to them about Islam, and showed them how to pray.
TODD: Was that Khuram Shazad Butt? Police say he was known to the Metropolitan Police and MI-5. Erica Gasperri says after she reported the man to police, she's not sure if they followed up on it.
SAIJAN GOHEL, ASIA PACIFIC FOUNDATION: There are some 20,000 people of interest to the authorities, 20,000. It is very hard for them to keep monitoring every single one of them on a continuous basis. It requires huge manpower and resources to monitor just one person. Sometimes two dozen are required.
TODD: This resident of the Barking neighborhood says one of the suspects came up to him the day of the attack as he was loading a van and asked him how to rent one.
IKENNA CHIGBO, HAD ENCOUNTER WITH SUSPECT: He came up to me, and he -- he was a little bit over nice, if you like, and it -- it was quite strange. And he said -- he's quite getting inquisitive about the van. He's saying to me, "Oh, where can I get a van from," just asking real details; how much was it?
TODD: And some additional information we're picking up tonight. One alleged attacker had a connection to Ireland, according to a source briefed by an Irish counterterrorism official, but it's not clear tonight which attacker that was -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you.
I want to go to London right now and get some more. Our senior international correspondent, Clarissa Ward, is on the scene for us.
Clarissa, it's amazing to see that one of the terrorists responsible for this brutal attack was apparently widely known, had even appeared in documentaries on television, as you just heard. If he was so out in the open, how was he able to do this?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the million-dollar question, Wolf. And what authorities here will tell you is that, while he was known to authorities because of his association with this group, al-Muhajiroun, and with this hate preacher specifically, Anjem Choudary, he himself never really raised any alarms. He was known by many people to be the so-called quiet one.
So that's what they will tell you, but the reality is, for any of us journalists who have spent a lot of time covering this and who have interviewed Anjem Choudary, as I have, who have interviewed his associates, such as Abu Rumaysah, another young part of this al- Muhajiroun group, who was an ISIS supporter who ultimately went to Syria and joined ISIS and became the so-called next Jihadi John; to any of us who have been following this closely, it's been clear for some time that this is a real problem.
I think initially these guys, Wolf, were kind of dismissed as clowns with gowns. They weren't taken seriously. They were seen as kind of being over the top. But the reality is that, according to one terror analyst who spoke to CNN, they have been involved in one way or another with about 50 percent of terror attacks or plots that have taken place in the U.K. in the past year, so clearly, they pose a real threat.
The other issue, which was alluded to in Brian's package that you heard there, is this issue of how can you monitor everyone? Surveillance is expensive. It's time intensive. Twenty-three thousand people needing to be watched or under some kind of investigation in the U.K. And police, Wolf, have taken a major slash to their budgets in the past ten years.
All of this fodder for what will undoubtedly turn out to be a pretty bitter political debate -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Clarissa Ward in London for us with the latest there. Clarissa, thank you.
I want to go back to Representative Andre Carson of Indiana, a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, do you believe these attackers had direct ties to ISIS? Was this attack, in other words, ordered and organized by ISIS, or was it inspired, if it was, by ISIS?
CARSON: I can't speak to that at this point, but what I will say, ISIS is a poison, along with other extremist groups who cloak their evil intentions in the language of religion. They purport to be Muslim.
And I think in a very real sense it is time that we work with our global partners. And I know that President Obama's CVE efforts, or counter violent extremism efforts, were controversial, but I think that they had great value in terms of working with the law enforcement community, working with the faith community, working with congregants and essentially saying, "If you see something, say something."
And it's hard to monitor if you're going about your life and meeting your particular obligation to monitor people. But at the same time, given we're in the midst of budgetary cuts for law enforcement agencies, we really need citizens of good will to come together and help law enforcement.
BLITZER: Good point, indeed. I'm sure we're going to be learning a lot more about this terror incident in London in the coming days. Congressman Carson, thanks very much for joining us.
CARSON: Always a pleasure, thank you. BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more on the confusion and the anger
after President Trump via Twitter calls a statement by London's mayor pathetic. The White House now insists the president's tweets are getting too much attention.
BLITZER: We're following multiple breaking stories, including the confusion created by the president's inflammatory tweets about the London terror attacks and the court case over his travel ban. The president's top aides insist the tweets are getting too much attention.
Let's bring in our specialists. Chris Cillizza, let me start with you. The last 48 hours the president has gone after the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, following the Saturday terrorist attack. He's blamed the Justice Department, his own Justice Department, for his revised travel ban that he personally signed as an executive order. What do these actions by the president, these tweets, tell you about this president of the United States?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER AND EDITOR AT LARGE: I mean in some ways, Wolf, it's nothing new, but I think they reaffirmed that he's sort of the anti-president.
So we always thought of presidential as, you wait -- in a situation like London, you wait until all the facts are known. You offer condolences. You say, "Whatever we can do," and that's about it.
He's more Rush Limbaugh as it relates to this stuff, conservative talk radio, than he is anything like we would call presidential. And I say we shouldn't be surprised, because saying that he liked his war heroes not captured during the campaign; getting in a fight with a Gold Star family; saying that Ted Cruz's dad may have been involved in the JFK assassination; saying there were thousands of people cheering from New Jersey roofs on 9/11. I mean, I could go on, obviously. But he is not someone who is reserved, who awaits judgment. And for all the people who thought, "Well, when he's president, things will be different," I'm going to think we should probably give up that idea.
BLITZER: You know, the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, as you know, Jim Sciutto, he said that, when people see an increased police presence in the streets of London, don't be alarmed. In response to that, the president tweeted, "Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who had to think fast on his 'no reason to be alarmed' statement. Mainstream media is working hard to sell it."
What does it tell you about that specific tweet about the president's reaction?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, that he's willing to mischaracterize the comments of a public official and one of our closest allies. I mean, it's as simple as that. It was a lie, in effect, about what the mayor's message was there.
Listen, I lived in London for ten years. I don't know a lot of British friends who like to be preached to from the outside about anything, particularly in a time of crisis. It strikes me that his messaging here -- and Chris would know better than me -- is more for a domestic U.S. audience.
SCIUTTO: Pushing a message about the travel ban and elsewhere.
[17:35:10] And not to discount that, in the U.K., you do have a portion of the population that is very hostile to immigrants. We saw that in the Brexit vote. And uncomfortable as well, not to mischaracterize that position, but uncomfortable with the terror threat, et cetera.
But it strikes me that this was a message to Americans and not to the London mayor, and not to the people of London.
CILLIZZA: To Jim's point just briefly. Remember his language in announcing the withdrawal from the Paris Accords. Foreign capitals and salons. It's clearly -- he -- Donald Trump wants to send a message he doesn't care what Paris or London or anywhere -- any other foreign capital cares, that he cares about the United States. I mean, it's -- over and over again we've seen.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, he also tweeted this about the travel ban. That issue is going before the U.S. Supreme Court. He said this: "The Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered-down, politically correct version they submitted to the Supreme Court."
But he signed that revised version that he said and authorized the Justice Department to take it to the Supreme Court. It's his Justice Department.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It is, and that certainly complicates the effort to defend the travel ban in the Supreme Court, which is now just about -- just about before the justices.
I wouldn't overstate that, though. I mean, the government still is going to have some very strong arguments to defend this travel ban or whatever you want to call it, the executive order. This is a ban about national security supported by the president, the attorney general, the secretary of homeland security, the secretary of state about an area, immigration, that is traditionally reserved to the power of the president. I think he's going to have strong arguments in the Supreme Court, and even though some lower court judges put a lot of emphasis on what the president said in the campaign and afterwards, I think the justices may look mostly at the order.
BLITZER: But you know, Bianna Golodryga, you know the president -- someone that the president was considering to become the solicitor general of the Justice Department, someone who would argue on behalf of the Trump administration before the U.S. Supreme Court, a man by the name of George Conway, Kellyanne Conway's husband, responded to the president on Twitter with this: "These tweets may make some people feel better, but they certainly won't help the office of the solicitor general get five votes in SCOTUS," U.S. the Supreme Court, "which is what actually matters. Sad."
And this is a guy, George Conway, who doesn't tweet much. But that was a pointed rebuke of the president's tweet.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO! NEWS: Yes, minutes after that tweet went out, all the news publications and outlets were quick to see if they could verify that that was actually his account, that it wasn't hacked or somebody else tweeting it for him.
Yes, I mean, it clearly is a big issue, something that would be a huge headache for any legal team much less the president's legal team, and it makes you wonder what's going on in the Conway household? I don't want to delve into their marital issues, but I don't know if this was something that they discussed among themselves, if he's going to be sleeping on the couch tonight.
But of course it makes matters worse for the president, because as justices from now -- judges from two different courts now both went back and said, "Look at what the president said on campaign trail. Look at what the president, in fact, said just this morning." So I do think it makes for a much bigger headache.
TOOBIN: If I can just say, you know, the president's comments were not helpful, but he did say "travel ban." He didn't say "Muslim ban," as he had said during the campaign, so it is not as catastrophic as it might have been, though as I say, it was not helpful.
BLITZER: But Sean Spicer, his press secretary, said weeks ago this is not a travel ban.
TOOBIN: But travel ban or not doesn't really affect whether it's constitutional.
CILLIZZA: It's whether he says "Muslim ban."
TOOBIN: Muslim ban would clearly be unconstitutional. Travel ban is an area where presidents traditionally have had broad discretion. That's what this is all about.
CILLIZZA: The thing I just always...
GOLODRYGA: Wolf, I was...
CILLIZZA: Go ahead, Bianna, sorry.
GOLODRYGA: Well, I was just going to say I was at a dinner over the weekend in Boston, where I had the opportunity to hear justices Briar and Justice Gorsuch speak. And they both really came strong in agreeing that we as Americans and the Supreme Court as a court, as a bench, really has to adhere to their own rulings and judicial independence.
And I think, of course, that was speaking to the larger narrative that's taking place throughout the country, primarily started by the president himself.
BLITZER: Yes, sounds like a great dinner. I wish I had been there myself.
TOOBIN: It was all Marshall scholars, so they're all elitists.
BLITZER: I'm not...
GOLODRYGA: My husband was a Marshall scholar. I was just an attendee.
BLITZER: Stand by. There's more information coming in. We'll take a brief break. We'll be right back.
[17:44:12] BLITZER: Let's get back to our political specialists, and Bianna, let me start with you this time. What did you make of the White House decision, the president's decision not to invoke executive privilege to try to prevent James Comey from testifying on Thursday?
GOLODRYGA: Well, it was a wait-and-see kind of decision on the president's part. If you think back a couple of weeks ago, people would have said, of course, he wouldn't do that. Last week there was speculation that he would.
And once again this is sort of this game that this president, this administration likes to play. Will he or won't he? Obviously, it won't prevent him from tweeting throughout the testimony, as well. But I think we've crossed a big hurdle here and, of course, it's going to be must-see television come Thursday.
BLITZER: You weren't surprised by the White House decision, because apparently, a lot of legal scholars suggested he didn't have much of a case.
TOOBIN: Yes. The only thing worse than not filing is filing and losing, which is -- which is what was likely to happen because, you know, he's an ex-official. The president has already talked a lot about these meetings, waiving any sort of executive privilege. So it's very unlikely that any -- any court would have stopped this testimony.
BLITZER: Jim, how candid will the former FBI Director be?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: I think he'll be the definition of candid. I mean, that's his character. It's his personality.
If you're at home, go on YouTube and watch his 2007 testimony where he describes the famous hospital bed encounter, John Ashcroft, again, challenging a Republican administration, you know, with a lot of muscle in that moment there when they were trying to, I guess, sort of do an end around of the Attorney General when he was in the hospital bed.
He's going to be forthright. And I think that, you know, part of this is personal. He views himself, I think, to some degree as defending his reputation. TOOBIN: And as if there isn't enough drama surrounding this event,
the question of whether his notes will be revealed --
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That's right.
TOOBIN: -- is extremely important because he took contemporaneous notes about these conversations, which, you know, should have a presumption of reliability. If those are released and they are incriminating to the President, that would be important.
BLITZER: How much is at stake for the White House?
CILLIZZA: Oh, I mean, it is hard to estimate. This will be the single most watched political event probably since the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And debates are, frankly, a little more watchable than congressional testimony, right? Usually, if you say to a television executive, hey, we've got Senate testimony, they're not going to say, let's pick that up.
But to Jim's point, I think we kind of know what theme we're going to get from Jim Comey. We've seen him in this setting before. What will be difficult for Trump, not only to Jeff's point, if we do see a revealing of some of those contemporaneous memos, but also Comey is not a guy that is going to come across as a fire breather.
He's not a guy who's going to come across as someone who really has a vendetta, oh, I never liked Donald Trump. He's never going to be like that. He's measured. You know, that's who he is, and he's not going to break from that suddenly because he's not the FBI Director.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, YAHOO NEWS AND FINANCE ANCHOR: But this is the first time that we're seeing Jim Comey as a private citizen testifying. And I agreement with you, I don't think we're going to see theatrics from him. But I do think, and I spoke with his friend Ben Wittes, and Ben said that he thinks Jim Comey is going to come in thinking about the maximum that he can say and reveal that, obviously, won't impact this investigation.
And, remember, he is only human. He is described as a very earnest man. This is all happening after the fact that he's learned that the President, the day after he was fired, to Russian diplomats, described him as a nut job. So it will be interesting to hear whether or not he will reveal more memos and, obviously, to get more of a sense from the personal side as a private citizen as opposed to somebody who is an official.
BLITZER: And we'll, of course, have live coverage Thursday morning.
CILLIZZA: You bet!
BLITZER: Not a surprise.
CILLIZZA: You bet, Wolf!
BLITZER: Ten a.m. Eastern. Coming up, important words left out of President Trump's speech to NATO leaders. A disturbing new report says the omission blindsided top members of the President's national security team, but who did it?
[17:52:36] BLITZER: We have more ahead on the breaking news. We're also keeping an eye on a new controversy over something President Trump didn't say during his recent and already rather controversial speech in front of the leaders of the NATO alliance.
Let's go to our senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski. Michelle, what are you learning?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Trump and his administration's strange back and forth over support for NATO, which started with his campaign rhetoric, is one of those things that has most disturbed the U.S.' closest allies. But, you know, there's always a question, what does Trump really feel about it?
Well, now, it is possible that nothing sheds more light on his true feelings than this new reporting that there was language that was supposed to be in one of his speeches that was taken out at the last minute that would have shown support for NATO's common defense. The absence of which stunned not only NATO leaders but also now some of Trump's own top national security advisers.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): It was the speech heard around the world for the wrong reasons. The faces of European allies say it all.
TRUMP: Twenty-eight member nations are still not paying what they should be paying.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): Trump at NATO headquarters in Brussels last month taking plenty of time to upbraid allies for not paying more into NATO, but not a single word acknowledging the weight of Article 5, that NATO allies are committed to defending one another. All the more conspicuous given that they were dedicating a memorial to September 11th, marking the only time Article 5 has ever been invoked, to help the United States.
DOUGLAS LUTE, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO NATO: It is unpredictable. It introduces uncertainty.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): But, now, according to a report from "Politico" quoting White House sources, language backing Article 5 and supporting allies was supposed to be in that address from President Trump. A senior administration official telling CNN the President's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, had adamantly argued for Trump to explicitly include a commitment to common defense.
LUTE: I think what we heard on May 25th will be recorded as the authentic administration view espoused by the President in that most public setting with regard to his views on NATO. And that's what is especially troubling. You have a gap that emerges between the President and his key lieutenants, which I think is also troubling.
KOSINSKI (voice-over): "Politico" says Trump's original speech was worked on and cleared by McMaster, Defense Secretary Mattis, and Secretary of State Tillerson. And that even that morning, they thought the language they had pushed hard for for weeks would be delivered by the President.
[17:55:13] Whatever the reason for removing it, whoever was behind it, the impact was felt, prompting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to say that the days when Europe could, quote, "rely on others" are over.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO NATO: We've never had an American president who is so weak, frankly, and dismissive of the big institutions that have binded us to Europe over the last 70 years, NATO and the E.U. The Europeans just don't know if they can depend on us anymore. That's going to have big implications for us, all negative.
KOSINSKI: The White House didn't answer questions about this today. The State Department didn't answer questions about this today. But the White House has held that by the President's saying that there needs to be more money for defense, that was his way of expressing support for that commitment. Even if that was the intent, though, for many, the effect was exactly the opposite, Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly was. All right. Michelle, thank you. Michelle Kosinski reporting.
Coming up, President Trump's Twitter trouble. The White House is on the defensive tonight after the President lashes out at the Mayor of London and his own Justice Department.