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Man Attacks Muslims in London with Car; President Trump's Tweets about Possible Special Counsel Investigation Examined. Aired 8- 8:30a ET
Aired June 19, 2017 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get right to it.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to your NEW DAY. It is Monday, June 19th, it's 8:00 am in the east. And we do have breaking news. A van plowed into Muslim worshipers near a mosque in north London. At least one man is dead, eight others hurt. British Prime Minister Theresa May is calling the attack a terror attack.
CAMEROTA: The alleged attacker is in police custody. He was detained by bystanders who sprang into action until the authorities arrived. This is the third vehicle attack in the U.K. in the last four months but the first to target Muslims.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Phil Black. He is live at the scene in north London. What have you learned, Phil?
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, good morning. We have these exclusive pictures of the man which witnesses say was responsible for carrying out the attack. They say this is the man who drove a white van, swerving deliberately into a crowd of people that had just emerged from a local mosque.
Just after midnight Monday morning local time, they had been attending prayers, observing the holy month of Ramadan. The say he served through, plowing through these people. And then some of those bystanders actually intervened, grabbing this guy, pulling him out of the vehicle, pinning him down to the ground. They say he fought the whole time, punching and biting and scratching at them, while also saying things like "you deserve this. You guys deserve this."
About an hour ago outside her residence at 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned this attack, saying it was just as sickening as any other attack this country has experienced. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEREA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It was an attack that, once again, targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives, this time, British Muslims as they left a mosque, having broken their fast and prayed together at this sacred time of year. Today, we come together as we have done before, to condemn this act and to state once again that hatred and evil of this kind will never succeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLACK: Members of the local Muslim community we've been speaking to this morning are in no doubt. They believe they were deliberately targeted. They say this is simply an escalation of the sort of hate and bigotry they have been experiencing increasingly on the streets of this city following the other Islamist terror attacks. The two that have taken place in London and, of course, that terrible bombing in Manchester. Chris, back to you.
CUOMO: Obviously, Phil, terror is going to have a heavy dependency on motives. So we're waiting to hear when that suspect is interviewed and why he says he did it. Phil Black, thank you very much.
Our other top story this morning is that a member of President Trump's legal team is contradicting the president. The president tweeted his dislike of being investigated by Bob Mueller. And his attorney says he's not being investigated.
CNN's Joe Johns live at the White House with more, the latest in the spin cycle. Never easy from there.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Chris. A little bit of deja vu here. Damage control, familiar territory that started on Twitter. The president's legal team trying to clear up any confusion about whether the president believes he's the target or subject of any investigation. It's pretty clear right now the special counsel is looking into whether there's any evidence or enough evidence to start an obstruction of justice investigation.
JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP LEGAL TEAM: The president is not under investigation. The president is not under investigation. The president is not and has not been under investigation.
JOHNS: President Trump's personal legal team denying that he is the target of a probe despite the president's own tweet seemingly acknowledging that he is being investigated for firing FBI director James Comey, taking a swipe at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed special counsel, and characterizing the purported investigation as a witch hunt.
NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Trump has a compulsion to counterattack and is very pugnacious. I don't think it serves him well. I don't think that tweet helped him.
JOHNS: The president's attorney Jay Sekulow offering this explanation.
SEKULOW: That tweet was in response to a "Washington Post" story that ran with five unnamed sources, without identifying the agencies they represented, saying that the special counsel had broadened out his investigation to include the president.
JOHNS: Before appearing to blame social media for the misunderstanding. SEKULOW: It was 141 characters. There's a limitation on Twitter as
we all know. And the president has a very effective utilization of social media.
JOHNS: Sekulow conceding in a different interview that he could not know for sure.
SEKULOW: No one has notified us that he is, so I can't read people's minds. But I can tell you this. We have not been notified that there's an investigation of the president of the United States.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: It is in the best interest of the president and the country to have a full investigation.
JOHNS: Despite the confusion prompted by Friday's tweet, the president continues to attack the special counsel's investigation.
[08:05:04] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: What's happening here is the president wants to take down Bob Mueller. They're essentially engaging in a scorched earth litigation strategy that is beginning with trying to discredit the prosecutor.
JOHNS: Top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee insisting Sunday that the Russia investigation is just beginning.
SCHIFF: I think there is evidence. I'm not prepared to say there's proof you can take to a jury. But I can say that there is enough that we ought to be investigating.
JOHNS: So I guess we're just about to find out what Jay Sekulow is saying today. Yesterday he said the president may, may this week release information about whether there are recordings of the president's conversations with the fired FBI director James Comey. Chris and Alisyn?
CAMEROTA: OK, Joe, thank you very much.
Let's bring in our political panel. We have CNN political analysts David Gregory and John Avlon, and chief White House correspondent for the Associated Press Julie Pace. Great to see all of you. John Avlon, it's confusing what Jay Sekulow was saying yesterday, in part because sometimes in the very same interview he said different things. Let me play for you a portion of him talking to Jake Tapper and then Chris Wallace, that sound diametrically opposed. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we take that tweet from the president as confirmation that the president is under investigation?
SEKULOW: Let me be clear. The president is not under investigation.
Now he is being investigated by the Department of Justice because the special counsel under the special counsel regulations reports still to the Department of Justice, not an independent counsel. So he's being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general, deputy attorney general, recommended him to take by the agency who recommended the termination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: How do you make sense of this?
JOHN AVLON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that doesn't make any sense because it's a complete contradiction. But that's what you do when you are out there spinning, trying to get people to ignore what they've seen with their own eyes.
It makes sense that the Mueller investigation, what we mow of it, "The Washington Post" reporting inclusive, that it would evolve into this kind of an investigation for the president. For Sekulow to come out and outright spin and say that president -- disregard the tweet and he's not being investigated just isn't rooted in fact or common sense. So he gets tripped up on it. And that's what we saw this weekend.
CUOMO: So David Gregory, is what they're trying to do here, play to an advantage of the source of this reporting and say this is really about leaks, ignore the substance of any of those leaks because leaks are bad?
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The leaks are bad, and that's part of the political war that the president is waging, which is to discredit the leakers, the source of the information, the information itself, and the investigators, Mueller, his team, Comey, all the rest, and include the news media in that and liberals in that so that this entire investigation, however it plays out, will be through a kind of daily jab by the president will be undermined whatever conclusion it ultimately reaches. The president doesn't seem to realize at the same time that he is being self-destructive and at the same time he's getting in his own way when he could be trying to isolate this and do other things.
CAMEROTA: Julie, how do you see it?
JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think David has got a great point here. Part of what we've seen is that the investigation could be continuing on this separate track but the president himself keeps getting directly involved. The fact that he's tweeting about this, the fact that he's commenting on stories that break about this, commenting on coverage, on decisions that the Justice Department is making is pretty unprecedented, and it hinders his ability to try to push forward on his agenda, which he claims is his top priority. But when he continues to tweet about the investigation, you really have to wonder if that's the case.
CUOMO: Look, and also, who knows it isn't playing, at least incrementally, to political advantage? Because you saw this group of voters with Alisyn. They were all mixed up about what to value, what not to value on this. The president has got a hand in that. I'll tell you what, none of them answered any of the questions saying I don't care about this because I need to deal with this health care thing that's such a secret that the Republicans are doing it in a way that not only did they mock the Democrats for, the Democratic version of Obamacare was like truth and light compared to this process that's going on right now. So maybe the distraction is helping him.
AVLON: I think you can make a case on two levels. First of all, the president has used social media more effectively in terms of distracting the conversation than certainly any major political figure we've ever had before. And when you light things on fire, it draws attention. So people will talk about it and they may ignore the substance.
I think the fundamental problem is that when the president keeps lighting things on fire with late night, early morning tweets, he's driving his own lawyers crazy and his Justice Department and the folks in the White House counsel's office and the outside counsel because he keeps contradicting the message they're carefully trying to craft to minimize the damage to him both legally, personally, and politically in terms of pushing things like the travel ban. That distraction may serve to turn the conversation, but it hurts him on the fundamental substance of getting his agenda passed. There's no way you can spin your way out of that.
[08:10:07] GREGORY: Can I just say I think history is going to look back on this period and see the ultimate silliness of how this whole Russia issue was being debated even as it was being investigated, for a failure on the part on an administration to dig in, be serious about the attack on America that occurred, and fight any future attempt to do so, because what happened in 2016 may look tame compared to what the Russians may pull off in the future. And this was the moment that America was sleeping because the Trump administration was sleeping, never dealing with the underlying offense.
CAMEROTA: OK, so Julie, let's talk about the president's agenda or certainly lawmakers' stated agendas and what voters say they care so much about, health care. So what can we expect from this secret process that Republicans in the Senate have been undergoing?
PAGE: It is a secret process. It's happening largely behind closed doors, which of course is ironic given the fact that Republicans were so critical of pieces of the Obamacare legislation that were done in private. This is something that Republicans really feel like they have to take a vote on it. The Senate feels like even if you don't get a final package, even if you can't resolve something that the Senate may pass with what the House passed earlier this year, that these lawmakers have to put down a marker on this simply because they have been promising their constituents for years that this is something that they're going to move forward on. So the vote is almost the most important part for them right now. But no one should think that this is going to be an easy process even if the Senate can get something done because what the Senate would do and what the house has done are going to be incredibly different and resolving those two pieces of legislation will be lengthy and, frankly, pretty ugly.
CUOMO: But David, you know, there's an unanticipated element at play here, which is it's not just this eye-popping number about 20-some odd million people who might not have access. It's who they are. A lot of those people are Trump folk. A lot of those people are going to be older people, white people, non-college educated people from the states that made a difference for him. And as that becomes more known, this is a real risky proposition, is it not?
GREGORY: And if they get it passed in the Senate and try to reconcile with the House, as Julie is talking about, then you're looking at 2018 really at the start being a debate about the effect of a new health care plan, a Trump health care plan which they will take to voters as a party as they try to defend Congress, which I think could be very difficult.
There are a lot of problems with Obamacare as it now exists. And there are potential remedies, and there are serious people who are working on the policy aspects of it. But that's not really what we're talking about, because it's got to be about wholesale change. That's what's going to be so disruptive to the market. And whatever happens, if they do pass something, understanding that impact would take time beyond 2018. But that would be the political football.
AVLON: This is all predicated upon an important idea, which is that policy matters, because right now one of the whole arguments Trump advances, he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn't lose any support, that the heat matters more than the light. And we'd like to think that the policy and its real world impact matters politically, but that's a jump ball right now in our democracy.
CUOMO: Even he said the current bill is mean.
AVLON: He did.
CAMEROTA: Panel, thank you very much. We should let everyone know that coming up in just minutes we will speak with President Trump's private attorney, Jay Sekulow.
CUOMO: President Trump's tweet and Sekulow said different things. Why does it even matter? What were they trying to do by digging in on whether or not the president is being looked at for firing Comey? Where is the advantage? How about Trump supporter and former governor of New Hampshire John Sununu? He can make a case. Let's hear him, next.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump, seemingly at odds with his own attorney. The president acknowledged on Twitter Friday that he is being investigated or at least he said that, for firing FBI Director James Comey. He said, "I am being investigated for firing the FBI director." But the president's attorney sent mixed messages about that on Sunday. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "STATE OF THE UNION": Should we take that tweet from the president as confirmation that the president is under investigation?
JAY SEKULOW, MEMBER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEGAL TEAM: Let me be clear. The president is not under investigation.
Now he's being investigated by the Department of Justice because special counsel under the special counsel regulations report still to the Department of Justice, not an independent counsel. So he is being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommended him to take by the agency who recommended the termination.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Joining us now is former governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu. Good morning, Governor.
JOHN SUNUNU (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW HAMPSHIRE: Good morning, Alison. How are you?
CAMEROTA: I'm well. Is the president under investigation or not?
SUNUNU: Mueller is investigating the Russian involvement in the election, and probably involved in that is an examination of what happened with the Comey firing. That's a broad investigation. I think what you are hearing from Sekulow is that the White House hasn't been notified that the president is being personally investigated. I don't think there's an inconsistency between those two points and I think those are the only facts that we know on the table. People should understand that's what's going on.
CAMEROTA: Should the White House know if the president himself is being investigated for obstruction of justice?
SUNUNU: The White House -- if the president is being investigated for obstruction of justice, the White House should have been officially notified and Sekulow is telling you that that hasn't happened. I think we have to take that at face value until we hear otherwise.
CAMEROTA: So you don't think that the reports are accurate that the president is under investigation by Bob Mueller for obstruction of justice?
SUNUNU: Look, that all came from "The Washington Post." Remember what Ben Bradley, the iconic editor of "The Washington Post" used to say about "The Post"? "The Post" doesn't print the truth. It prints what we're told. I think it falls in that category, somebody told them that and they chose to print it.
CAMEROTA: Are you bothered by any of these possibilities?
SUNUNU: I'm bothered by the fact that -- what bothers me the most, and there must be a reason for it -- is Mueller making four of his first hires so blatantly biased lawyers pro-Democrat lawyers with a bias, certainly, against the president.
[08:20:12]Now, Mueller must have some idea in mind. And if I put the best gloss on that I could possibly do is that maybe Mueller has decided internally that this isn't going anywhere and that the only way he can have credibility on a decision saying that there's nothing there is to have that decision come from a group of lawyers that are so blatantly biased against the president.
CAMEROTA: Are you talking about the three lawyers, at least that I know of -- maybe there's another one -- who contributed to Democratic candidates, one of whom contributed to both Democrats and Republicans, but more so to Democrats? Is that what you're referring to?
SUNUNU: Yes. They're included in there. There's a lawyer there who has a history of a kind of strange perception of what obstruction of justice is and has had some difficulty having that sustained in appeal. Those are the kinds of things that I'm surprised that Bob Mueller would take a chance on.
It's a not -- I'm not arguing that these folks can't come to a constructive decision. I'm surprised he didn't take that into account as he built the team.
CAMEROTA: So are you saying that you are losing faith in Bob Mueller?
SUNUNU: No, I'm not. I actually think Mueller was a good choice. I think the White House is making a mistake attacking Mueller. I think Mueller can come to a constructive conclusion. I don't think they ought to be pushing him into a corner where he might feel defensively that he has to come out with a conclusion he might not otherwise have come out with.
I'm just saying that we live in a Washington where you don't always get in trouble just for doing something wrong. We live in a Washington where you can get in trouble for doing something right in a way that your enemies can make it look as if you did something wrong. And I think that's the fundamental problem with what we've seen over the last three months.
CAMEROTA: Governor, I've been struck the last few times, you and I have spoken, about the length that you now go to, to not blame Donald Trump for any of this. Since you were such a vocal and colorful critic of Donald Trump during the campaign, why do you not talk about the fact that his tweets are getting in the way of this investigation or anything critical?
SUNUNU: I agree they are. I agree the tweets are getting in the way. I think there's been a little bit of self-destructiveness in the intensity of the tweeting. And I certainly have told this to folks down in Washington at the White House.
I think the tweeting, if -- you're not going to stop it, but I do think there has to be a little bit of filtering or more control and a little bit of understanding of that last point that I made, that he may be completely right in what he's saying, but he can't do it in a way that makes it easy for people to twist it around to make it look as if he has done something wrong.
CAMEROTA: Remember during the campaign when you said this -- this was January 3rd. You said Trump is clearly a man with no philosophy, no plan, no experience and no understanding. We must not drink the Trump Kool-Aid. Have you come around to being more -- feeling more sympathetic towards Donald Trump?
SUNUNU: Well, that was before he picked Mike Pence, for example, as his vice president. I think Pence has brought a lot of rationality into the system. I think he brought a number of people into the game that really, I think, put a little bit of direction in the campaign.
That was in -- I brought that up in the campaign when, frankly, they were running aground. I do think that people can begin to have a focus. I certainly hope that the president remains consistent with what I have seen as the leaning towards the conservative side.
I certainly hope that he uses his influence with Congress to get the legislation through. So, yes, I had a choice between Trump -- I had a choice between Trump and Mrs. Clinton. It was not a difficult choice at all.
CAMEROTA: I understand but you are the person who said that he's a man with no philosophy, no plan, no experience, and no understanding and so --
SUNUNU: At the time that was correct and between then and now I think he has developed an agenda, a commitment to a Republican agenda in Congress. He has done things on foreign policy that I think have been very significant and positive. As he continues to do the things that fit what I think ought to be done, I'll continue to support him.
CAMEROTA: And do you think he now has an understanding of those things that he didn't use to understand, in your mind?
SUNUNU: I think he has a much better understanding, including how complicated it is to deal in Washington with a vindictive and frustrating media.
CAMEROTA: Is that a swipe, Governor?
[08:25:01]SUNUNU: Yes, it is a swipe at the media. You guys are fixated on an investigation that still has no clearly defined commitment of something wrong in the process. And you dwell on the nuance difference of what Sekulow might be saying and the fact that Mueller has an investigation going without pointing out to people that both of those can still be consistent and that the president's tweets and what Sekulow said can have a consistency with them.
CAMEROTA: Not exactly, Governor. I mean, if you're not under investigation --
SUNUNU: You're looking for the problem instead of identifying the facts. I'm sorry. I missed that.
CAMEROTA: Only that you're saying it's consistent. It really, in particular, this is not consistent. I am under investigation. The president is not under investigation. That is actually not consistent. SUNUNU: Actually, it is. When Sekulow speaks as a lawyer, he's talking whether or not there's been a formal notification of the White House. When the president tweets, he is talking about it in context, of Mueller being there, and looking at the Russian situation and certainly the campaign that Donald Trump and his folks ran.
So there can be an investigation of the Trump activities in the broad term, the Trump campaign activities in broad terms and what happened there, and Sekulow telling you that there's been no official notification to the White House that the president is under investigation.
CAMEROTA: OK, that is a nuance. The president hasn't explained but we appreciate you explaining it and the good news --
SUNUNU: That's my job.
CAMEROTA: It is. We have Jay Sekulow coming up right now so that he can explain it better to us. Governor, thank you.
SUNUNU: Thank you.
CUOMO: The governor taking rich benefit of an assumption that is not a fact and that is that you're not under investigation unless you are told you are. That is not the case.
But that is something that supporters of the president are playing at. So we'll have the president's attorney on, Jay Sekulow. He is the spokesperson for the president on this issue in addition to being his counsel. How does he answer the questions? Next.