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Tragedy at Sea; Senate Republicans Hiding Health Care Bill; White House Hiding From Public?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 19, 2017 - 15:00   ET




JAY SEKULOW, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: So, actually the way it works is, you look at the Constitution.


SEKULOW: But let me say this. Do you think...

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: No, hold on a second. Does -- hold on, no, this matters, Jay.

SEKULOW: Well, no.

CUOMO: And I respect you very much as a counsel.


CUOMO: I have researched you a lot. I know who you are. You're a good attorney.

SEKULOW: Thank you.

CUOMO: The president hired well here.

What I'm saying is, look, Mueller is tasked with looking at all of the circumstances surrounding the Russia interference probe, right? That's common knowledge. This is something that he would look at. Comey said as much in his own testimony. That doesn't mean that the president is a target. And for those at home, you have target, subject, witness.


CUOMO: And, you know, we don't know what the extent of it is or if he will even pursue it on any level.

But to fight the notion that Mueller would be looking at this at all seems to be something that only the president wants to be not true. But it makes perfect sense that he would be looking at it. Why fight that notion?

SEKULOW: But -- I'm not -- it's not a question of fighting notions. There's a question of responding to a leak from the Washington -- to "The Washington Post" that set up a predicate that the president was under investigation. That's all I have addressed.

CUOMO: If you're going to spend so much time on this, why don't you pick up the phone and get the answer and then you could actually say, yes, I asked Mueller, he said, no, I'm not, we're not looking at this?

Why don't you pick up the phone?

SEKULOW: We have a lot of lawyers in this case. I'm just -- look, you're asking me to pick up the phone on an investigation that right now we don't know exists.

CUOMO: No, I'm not. You know -- of course you know it's exists.

SEKULOW: So I'm not -- you know, that's...


CUOMO: You know Mueller's looking at this. Why didn't you just pick up the phone and find out? If it matters so much to the president whether or not he's being looked at...


SEKULOW: Well, you -- you know, but you -- you know the difference between -- you know this because you practiced law.

CUOMO: Find out.

SEKULOW: You know there's a difference between investigations, inquiries. I mean, there's a whole series of matters you look at before you get to the level of investigation.

CUOMO: But, I'm saying, you could get the answer.

SEKULOW: I don't know what they're doing. I haven't made that call. That's the end of that -- that line of inquiry.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: That was quite the exchange this morning between Chris and Sekulow.

I have got Dana Bash, our CNN chief political correspondent with me, Mark O'Mara, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney.

So, great to see both of you.

And we will get to the why don't you just pick up the phone bit in just a minute, but, Dana, first to you. You have the president of the United States saying one thing on the investigation. You have his personal attorney saying another. So, you have these contradictions.

This cannot be a good look for the White House.


And it certainly seems to me that the president's attorney, or at least legal adviser, Jay Sekulow, was sent out to do exactly what he did with Chris Cuomo and with other TV outlets, not just today, but yesterday as well, say over and over and over again that the president is not under investigation.

Chris tried to pin him down on how he knows that's true, why he didn't just pick up the phone, but regardless of the fact that we didn't really get a real answer on it, in terms of just the raw sort of strategy, if there is one, seems to be pretty basic, is that the president of the United States wants people on cable television and elsewhere to hear from somebody who is advising him legally that he is not under investigation, period, end of story.

We know that's incredibly important to him, and has been since January, when, according to James Comey, the FBI director he fired, they had multiple conversations about just that. Please tell the public I am not under investigation.

And this is a distract -- you say it's not a good look. It's not a good look for the people who are desperately wanting to actually get things done with a Republican White House and Republicans in Congress. And they feel that time is slipping away to have the ability to actually do that.

And these distractions add to that.

BALDWIN: That's exactly what Senator Santorum said last hour.

He's like, Mr. President, just get on message. Talk about the reasons why Americans voted you in, instead of what we're all talking about.

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: Mark, the argument, it sounds like, is Sekulow correct on this, that the president can't obstruct justice? How can he obstruct something that he, as president of the United States, has power to do?

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I disagree with that concept.

The idea that a president cannot obstruct justice, I believe, is absurd, because we know they can still break the law. Granted, he has certain executive privilege, certain executive authority, where he can look at an investigation, refocus it. He can end an investigation.

But that cat is already out of the bag. We're in the middle of an ongoing investigation, have been for a couple of months, and is going to be for many, many months. And the idea that the executive branch, President Trump or anybody else, tries to get in the way of the investigation is going to cause much more harm than good.

The investigation has to go forward. Though the argument on some constitutional law exam might be that executive authority could stop an investigation, it would be political suicide, and it wouldn't be effective. BALDWIN: And I also just want to add what Chris kept saying, pick up

the phone, or why don't you just pick up the phone to clarify all of this?

It's my understanding that Bob Mueller, the special counsel, they're under no obligation to tell the Trump team whether or not they're specifically under investigation. It's all to play out.



BALDWIN: On the Russia cloud -- no, quickly, go ahead, go ahead.

O'MARA: They don't do that.

He is a very good prosecutor, a very good investigator. There will be -- politics are being played out on Twitter and on daily TV. Mueller is going to do his job as he knows how to do it, as a very good prosecutor, focusing on leads.


O'MARA: And not going back and forth with every tweet that comes out.

BALDWIN: Let's talk Adam Schiff, Dana, the Democrat, the ranking member of the House Intel Committee.

He made news on the Sunday shows for saying this:


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think there is evidence. I can't go into the particulars of our closed investigation.

But I also think there is evidence of obstruction. But, in both cases, I would say whether there is some evidence doesn't mean that there's proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The same people that say there's no evidence of collusion say there is no evidence of obstruction and the president indeed cannot commit obstruction. I don't buy that.


BALDWIN: Do you think for him to come out, Dana, in the wake of all the Nunes-White House drama from what seems like forever ago now, does this impede the credibility of his committee and their investigation?

BASH: He's bumping up against that line, Brooke. And you could sort of see him stop himself as he started to say what he said about obstruction.

He's trying to beat back against the politics of this, the politics of what we were talking about, the Republicans, the White House, the president himself getting his legal adviser out there to say, no, no, no, he's not under investigation, this never happened, nothing to see here.

But at the end of the day, the Congress, the Intelligence Committee in the House and the Senate, they are also doing investigations. Obviously, it's not criminal. It's a different kind of thing, but it could be. You kind of have to see where it goes.

So I think everybody realizes that they kind of need to dial back, and that includes the Democrats as well. And that's why, for the most part, you have seen people -- excuse me -- people like Adam Schiff on the House side and Mark Warner on the Senate side, the lead Democrats, try to not be as partisan as the other Democrats have been on this issue.

They're sort of all their firearms pointed, rhetorically speaking, at the Republicans.

BALDWIN: Right. Dana, stick around.

I have got a couple more for you.

Mark O'Mara, thank you so much.

But let me also bring in another voice here, CNN's senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, because moments ago the White House just held -- I have been calling it the non-briefing briefing. It's this non-audio, non-video press briefing.

And CNN's Jim Acosta was there and said this to me afterward.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And I guess people can say, well, there goes the media again, they're acting like cry babies, because they can't cover things the way that they want.

But maybe I'm old-fashioned, Brooke, but I think the White House for the United States of America should have these questions answered on camera...

BALDWIN: I'm right there with you.

ACOSTA: ... so we can see what they're saying.

And when they don't do this, they're just doing a disservice to the people of this country. And I don't want to sound like I'm getting on my soapbox here.

But when Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, who is pretty highly paid for a government official in this country, comes in and just says you can't record the video or audio from these briefings, that wouldn't be tolerated at city council meetings or at a governor's press conference.

And here we have the representative of the president of the United States saying, no, you can't cover it that way. I just don't know what we're doing. It's not like we're covering a White House anymore, with Kellyanne Conway and Omarosa in the Briefing Room off to the side of Sean, refusing to be on camera.

It's like we're just covering bad reality television, is what it feels like now.


BALDWIN: He went off. He went off.


BALDWIN: And he has reason to be frustrated. You're covering the White House, and the White House isn't talking to you, isn't letting cameras in, isn't letting in even audio recordings, which there are things lost in translation on paper when you read about it.

STELTER: True. Yes.

BALDWIN: He says they're stonewalling. How do you see it?

STELTER: They are stonewalling.

Other White House correspondents have been messaging me saying the same thing that Acosta said to you on air, that this White House is really good at keeping secrets and not very good at keeping the public informed.

We've seen the briefings -- the context for today is that we've seen the briefings get shorter, we've seen fewer on-camera briefings, more off-camera briefings, and we've seen this attempt to hold them less often, so instead of five days a week, four or three days a week.

It was a week ago that there was a on-camera briefing with Spicer. Since then, it's either been off-camera or nothing at all. And in the past couple weeks, the White House has also said you can't air the audio of this either.

So, for a while, we were airing live audio of these briefings off- camera. Even that, the White House says is not allowed. They're forbidding that. So, what we're seeing is inch by inch by inch the administration rolling back on access.

BALDWIN: So, Dana, I wanted to keep you around, because you were a White House correspondent for many years covering President Bush.


And, listen, it's not new any sort of frustration, right, between a press secretary or an administration and members of the media, but still this feels totally different.

BASH: Yes.

BALDWIN: I just want to hear your perspective on what's happened.

BASH: It's different. It's very different. And I just have to say, I cannot imagine kind of let's just go back in

time and let's just sort of game things out and let's say there's a Democrat in the White House, Sean Spicer was still the communications director at the RNC,.

If a Democratic press secretary said, no, no, no, I'm not going to go in front of the cameras, we would just be deluged with Sean Spicer e- mails, oppo e-mails, saying, what does The White House have to hide? Why are they hiding? Why is the press secretary hiding?


BASH: There's no question. He knows this.

I can't imagine that this is actually his choice. This is obviously a much broader discussion about their strategy now and how they're going to deal with it. But, of course, it's terrible. And our colleague Jim Acosta has every right to feel frustrated.

And it's not because we're kind of whiny journalists not getting access. It is about transparency. It's about the way this government was set up. And, no, when the government was set up, there weren't cameras, but guess what? In modern history, there have been.

And we have used them, and there's a reason for it. The more transparent technologically the press can be, as the -- as everything has changed, we have continued to do that. And the White House has played ball with that.

Even at the darkest of times in the Bush White House, even at the darkest of times in the Clinton White House, they did press briefings.

STELTER: Interesting. Right.

BALDWIN: I'm listening to you. And you used the word transparency.

And you and I, Dana, we were on TV two Fridays ago sitting next to you in Washington, and we saw the president in the Rose Garden. He was asked about tapes, and it was a two and two. And he said something to the effect of you will know soon. And then we were promised last week on this whole Comey point.

So, Brian, let me just turn to you and ask, you know, because this was something. It's like the lack of recording, but the question of recording happened today. Where are we on the tape saga?

STELTER: Yes. It's gone on so long, we've got a logo for it, Brooke, right there. Think about this.

This is such a simple yes-or-no answer. The president is wanting this, it seems to be, strung along. The answer from Spicer a few minutes ago was, maybe we will possibly hear an answer to this week.

BALDWIN: Maybe we will possibly hear an answer to this week.

STELTER: Possibly an answer this week. That means possibly not. BALDWIN: Why are they doing that?

STELTER: It makes me wonder if he's erasing tapes. What do you have to wonder? What do you start to wonder?

Listen, I'm sure there's not tapes, but you start to wonder what the big fuss is. I don't think tapes and whether it's taking them weeks to answer is as big a deal as ISIS strategy, Afghan war strategy. It's been months since this White House promised an update to the posture on the Afghan war and how many troops are going to be in Afghanistan.

That was in May. Well, now it's June. President Trump on May 21 said he would have a press conference about ISIS in two weeks. Then three weeks went by. And then on June 12, he said, we're going to have a press conference about ISIS in two weeks.

So, if we're counting it down at home, it's July. It's June 19. That should be June 26, there should be a press conference about the war against ISIS. This president seems to kick that can down that proverbial road.

Maybe it's -- Jim mentioned reality TV. By it is a reality TV-style tactic, right? Keep people waiting for more.


STELTER: Have them wait until after the commercial break or something, but it doesn't work as well for the government.

BALDWIN: One voice, one voice we did hear today, who we haven't in months, and a lot of people have been -- it's almost been a joke.

STELTER: Yes. I turned up the volume for this.


BALDWIN: What does he sound like to hear his voice? I'm talking about Jared Kushner, top adviser married to obviously the president's daughter, speaking today. Let's listen.


JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: We are here to improve the day-to-day lives of the average citizen. That's a core promise, and we are keeping it.

Together, we will unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services in a way that has never happened before. We will foster a new set of start-ups focused on gov-tech, and be the global leader in the field making government more transparent and responsive to citizens' needs.


BALDWIN: Dana, he speaks. He is Jared Kushner. He's talking about this tech summit they're holding today there. This is ahead of his big trip overseas, but, meantime, this is also coming at a time when he's lawyering up, hiring criminal litigators, protectively, presumably.

BASH: That's right.

But let's just sort of focus on the he speaks.


BASH: It is pretty amazing that this is a guy who has been so integral into so many decisions that his father-in-law, now boss, made during the campaign and now in the White House as well.

Putting -- just putting the controversy aside, the fact that he really hasn't had a public profile speaking that much, and he's not that different from Steve Bannon, for example, who I think has publicly spoken once at the CPAC Convention with Reince Priebus right at the beginning of the -- right after the inauguration.



BASH: It's very interesting, given the fact that usually when there is a top adviser to -- somebody as close to the president as a Jared Kushner is, you hear him more than see him. He's much more than of a public voice, now just a public face.

And so I think that's the reason why it was a little bit jarring for everybody to say, oh, he speaks.


BALDWIN: Turn up the volume.

BASH: As our friend Gloria said earlier today, oh, he got a speaking role.


BALDWIN: Gloria.

Dana Bash, thank you.

And, Brian Stelter, thank you so much as well.

Coming up here, attacks just hours apart, Paris and London, both involve drivers using cars as weapons. We will take you there.

Also ahead, Senate Republicans want to vote on their new health care bill, despite many Senate Republicans not knowing what is actually is in this bill. Is there a bill? Now Democrats plotting a big move tonight to protest the secrecy.

And the man who won Rhode Island's teacher of the year stealing the scene with President Trump next to him in the Oval Office. We will talk to him when he joins me live ahead.



BALDWIN: Welcome back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

Here's the breaking news, both on the attacks in London and Paris happening hours apart, vehicles used as weapons in both attacks.

In London overnight, this van just plowed into Muslim worshipers outside a mosque. One person is dead, 10 injured. It is the second terror attack in London in all of three weeks. And police have just identified the driver as a man from Wales. He's being held on terror- related charges and what investigators call -- quote -- "clearly an attack on Muslims."

Then, in Paris just a short time ago, a driver deliberately rammed his vehicle into a police van on the iconic Champs Elysees Boulevard there. We are told the man had explosives and weapons inside the car.

So, let's talk about both of these with our investigative reporter for international affairs, Michael Weiss.

Beginning in Paris, just the fact that I was reading it's the fifth time in four months that security forces have been attacked in Paris alone and this guy had enough explosives to blow up his entire car.


The francophone network of ISIS since 2014, maybe 2015, I would argue has been the most formidable, Paris attacks, Brussels attacks, numerous attacks all over France. A lot of these guys wound up elsewhere in the continent, having fled those two countries.

This is just par for the course for what ISIS has recommended. Take a vehicle, stack it with explosives, if you can -- you don't even need to, right? Vehicle manslaughter is another way to go here. Target national security installations. Target police. Target civilians.

Do it on a symbolic, well-trafficked thorough, of all avenues, right?


WEISS: And then, if you want to look at London, this is sort of macabre and bizarre, same day, not an ISIS-inspired attack, by all accounts and all available evidence.

BALDWIN: Forty-something-year-old white male.

WEISS: Forty-something-year-old white male targets one of the biggest and most prominent mosques in Central London, using the same exact methods as suggested by ISIS to kill the kafir. And what is he doing?

He's targeting Muslims. He's committing, from what we can tell, based on all the reporting, a hate crime, an act of bigotry, an act of terrorism, I would argue, perpetrated against Muslims.

What does this show us? ISIS has always been very clever about not only trying to radicalize Muslims to subscribe to the jihadi ideology, take a knife, take a rock, get in your car, kill the infidels in the West. They have also been adept at trying to push Western societies into this more reactionary, xenophobic and racist mode.

Why? For them, there are two lands. There's no third land. The land of Islam, as represented by the caliphate, and the land of unbelief. And if you live in the land of unbelief, you are honor-bound and duty- bound as a Muslim, by which they mean an ISIS-friendly Muslim, to kill all non-Muslims.

You could not paint a more dastardly and yet better illustration of how ISIS is trying to sow chaos.


BALDWIN: This was a 40-something-year-old white male killing Muslims. Do you think that since he's using the same methodology, just quickly, that this does further embolden ISIS, the fact that he did the exact same thing that they have done to others?

WEISS: Yes, because ISIS will say, you see, we told you. If you live in the West, this is a war on Islam.

Worshipers coming from the Finsbury Park Mosque, they get mowed down maybe a kafir in the car. That's what they say. This is -- there's no place in Western democracies for Muslims. If you're law-abiding, if you're integrated, if you're secular, well, even you're marked for death anyway.

He's playing directly into the hands of this terror -- and not just ISIS, other Islamic radical groups such as al Qaeda.

BALDWIN: Sure. Sure.

I can't imagine just everything happening in London alone and then Paris, as we pointed out, in the last couple of months.

WEISS: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: Michael, thank you so much, as always.

WEISS: Sure.

Coming up next, the heartbreaking stories of seven U.S. sailors who died after their warship collided with this container vessel off the coast of Japan. What happened? We will discuss coming up.



BALDWIN: The frantic search for seven sailors is over after their bodies were found in flooded sleeping compartments on board the USS Fitzgerald.

The vessel was on a routine operation when it collided with a container ship and started quickly taking on water. The heroic actions of the crew who immediately started patching holes are being credited with keeping the ship from entirely sinking.

Back here in the United States, families of these seven sailors are grieving.


DARROLD MARTIN, FATHER OF KILLED SAILOR: It's very hard. It's my only child. It's all I have.

QUESTION: You have matching tattoos?

MARTIN: This is my very first tattoo. And I put it on, and I sent him a picture, and he said, you actually did it. I know how much you hate needles.


BALDWIN: With me now, CNN military and diplomatic analyst retired Rear Admiral John Kirby.

Admiral Kirby, my heart goes out to you and everyone in the Navy community and these families.

I was reading about this. It's $1.8 billion USS Fitzgerald. This is one of the most technically advanced warships out there today. What are your biggest unanswered questions right now?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: I think it's -- my questions would be the same as yours and everybody else. How did it come to be that these two ships occupied the same piece of water in the middle of the night?

And that's what the investigation will be working at. And they will try to do a very clear forensic analysis of exactly how that happened. I think rightly the Navy is very much focused on the families right now and on the crew.


KIRBY: And that's important. But, obviously, we all want to now how this came to happen, because you're right, it's rare and it shouldn't happen.

BALDWIN: Because you think about it, and I have been on the bridge in a ship, and even in the wee hours of the morning -- this was 2:30 a.m., when a lot of people were sleeping, but you still have a bridge. You have people on watch.

KIRBY: Sure.

BALDWIN: If you have a shipping container coming by, how --