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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Trump Ignores Questions About Vicious Tweets Attacking Anchor; Interview with Adam Schiff (D) California. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired June 29, 2017 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[19:00:10] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT next, outrage growing over the president's attacks on a female news anchor and the White House's really shameless defense of it. A top Republican speaking out calling it "indefensible." He'll be our guest.
And breaking news, House investigators in the Russia probe threatening to subpoena the White House. The top Democrat of the committee is out front. Plus, the secretary of state not happy coming to blows with the White House. Let's go out front.
Good evening. I'm Jim Sciutto in tonight for Erin Burnett. And out front tonight, breaking news, the president just moments ago ignoring repeated questioning on whether he regrets vicious and personal tweets he post this morning attacking a woman. Reports asks questions to Trump about the tweet before dinner, but the president of South Korea at the White House, it is in a word really, a shameless White House today defending the attacks. They may be his most defensive tweets since taking office and that saying something.
The president tweeting early this morning and I'm quoting here, "I heard poorly rated Morning Joe speaks badly of me. Don't watch anymore. Then how much low IQ, crazy Mika along with psycho Joe came to Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row around news years eve and insisted in joining me. She was bleeding badly from a facelift. I said no.
The tweets, and remember, the White House has repeatedly said that the president's tweets are the equivalent of presidential statements have withdraw -- have drawn wide-spread condemnation. Many Republicans are calling for the leader of the free world to simply knock it off and act presidential. And, yet, the president spokesperson had one talking point about the mess. And she's sticking to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, DEPUTY WHITE HOSUE PRESS SECRETARY: And I think that the president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program and I think he's been very clear that when he gets attacked he's going to hit back. I don't think that it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire. Everybody wants to make this an attack on a woman. What about the constant attacks that he receives or the rest of us?
(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: It's not clear that the White House even saw the reaction to Trump's words. So here is what some in his own party are saying. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, "Stop it. The presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down."
Senator Susan Collins of Maine, also Republican, "This has to stop. We all have a job. Three branches of government and media. We don't have to get along, but we must show respect and civility." Where does the president draw the line? And does he even care? Our Sara Murray is out front tonight from the White House.
Sara, really remarkable here and more extensive than we've seen in the past from Republicans. The president's own party condemning his statements tonight. Is there any acknowledgment inside the White House that this may have been a mistake by the president?
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Their only public defense is what you heard from Sarah Huckabee Sanders that the president has no regrets that he feels like he's under attack and that he hit back. But the reality is there's a lot the president could have been talking about today. There is a big health care vote that sure to come up soon in the Senate. He is trying to get Republican senators on board with this plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. He has a big foreign trip coming up. He's expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time face to face on the sidelines of the G20 and this in case you forgot, was supposed to be energy week and the president did deliver a speech on energy today.
He vowed to cut back on regulations. But this was all overshadowed by the tweet and I think that is why you saw the outpouring of frustration that you did on Capitol Hill from both Republicans and Democrats saying, you know, not only did this distracting the agenda, it's beneath the dignity of this office, in fact (ph), we saw it coming in in a way that we haven't seen so much from some of his past statements. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Sara Murray from the White House. The people's house. Out front tonight, Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin joins us. Congressman, thanks for taking the time tonight on what is (INAUDIBLE) difficult subject. You of course saw the president's tweets. I want to ask your response?
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R), FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE well, I'm certainly not going to stand here tonight defending these tweets. I look at it as a missed opportunity. He does have a very effective tool. Twitter when you have over 30 million people following you, you could wake up in the morning and be talking about how you could make the economy rift with tax reform. You can talk about what you're doing to help our veterans or a more effective foreign policy. But when you wake up in the morning and you engage on Twitter to this particular level, what happens is the -- in a way 24-hour news cycle works so many missed opportunities instead of talking about your legislative agenda, instead people are talking about this back and forth over Twitter.
[19:05:03] SCIUTTO: But is it really just a missed opportunity? Because this is not a sin of omission. He took an active step here, very personally attacking a woman in public from the pulpit of the White House.
ZELDIN: Well, again, I'm not going to defend his tweet. It was ugly. And I personally do hold the president of the United States to a higher standard. I will say that I wish that some of the attacks that were on him weren't so good for ratings of the subject of who he attacked on Twitter.
Again, the tweet he put out this morning is indefensible, but it's unfortunate that we have seen so many attacks on the part of that particular subject on this president. So, here in this country, you know, it shouldn't be good for ratings when people are, you know, calling the president a fake president and you're posting pictures mocking hand size and, you know, accusing the president of having dementia.
Listen, there might be people out watching this right now saying, yes, I agree. But that shouldn't sell. And as far as the president of the United States goes, he is the president of the United States. He is the most powerful person in the entire world, and a lot of people look up to that position and with regret respect, including kids. So, you have to set that high as possible standard and that compass because you are a leader in many ways.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. You are not the only member of your party who has come out strongly against the president today. Here are some of your colleagues today echoing your point of view.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Obviously, I don't see that as an appropriate comment.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: The president's tweet was completely inappropriate.
REP. LYNN JENKINS (R), KANSAS: It's just not acceptable. We need to demand better. Folks in positions like myself, the president --
PAT TOOMEY (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This is maddening, it's maddening frustrating because this is beneath the dignity of the president of the United States or at least it should be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this. He's the standard bearer of your party. It is still quite a small minority of Republicans who come out with vocal public criticism. I wonder and I'm giving you credit here for taking that something that is frankly could be politically risky for you. Do you believe that GOP members have a responsibility to publicly reject this kind of rhetoric for the sake of the respect of the White House, but also for the sake of your party's reputation and agenda?
ZELDIN: Well, beyond looking at the president of the United States as a standard bearer for my party, I look at the president of the United States as a standard bearer for my country. And I want to see him successful. President Trump, I want to see great success.
So when we're debating health care and tax reform and, you know, what to do about North Korea or Iran or fighting ISIS and taking care of our vets, I want him -- when he talks about winning and that our country will get tired of winning, you know what, that's what people voted for.
And this morning's tweet, I don't know if that's what the American public and people who voted for him had in mind of what winning looks like. So, I'm rooting for him. I want to see good things get done and I want to help him. And I would hope with his, you know, over 30 million people that follow him on Twitter and everyone that follows him on other social media platforms as well that there will be a better message.
And, you know, as far as, you know, what is getting lobbed at him, you know, it's -- it's a great responsibility, a great power. Here we are for you. It's, you know, prime time on CNN and people are watching and, you know, obviously you're not sitting here, you know, mocking the president of the United States, but for others, you know, who choose to do that because it helps ratings, that's a missed opportunity on the part of the media to be talking about, you know, vetting policy instead of, you know, just having an attack that might get, you know, some added interest or some added follows on their twitter account.
SCIUTTO: Well, Congressman Zeldin, I appreciate you taking the hard questions tonight.
ZELDIN: Yes, thank you.
SCIUTTO: Also out front tonight we have Alice Stewart. She's a former Communications Director for Ted Cruz, Jennifer Granholm, she's the Democratic former Governor of the great state of Michigan and Jason Miller, he's a former Senior Communications Advisor for the Trump campaign, and also Jen Psaki, former White House Communications Director under President Obama.
Jason, if I could begin with you, you heard Republican Congressman Zeldin just now. He called the president's comments ugly. You heard from other Republicans today using very strong words, including the speaker of the house saying that this was inappropriate, unacceptable, beneath the dignity of the office. Are they wrong?
JASON MILLER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, Jim, if I were inside the White House and advising the president, I would have recommended a little bit of a different course today. And what I would have said is, look, let's go and call out the fact that Joe and Mika had been attacking you with this vicious and personal attacks for weeks and months now and (INAUDIBLE).
[19:10:06] I mean the fact that they have attacked his mental state that they compared him to someone with dementia, they call him an embarrassment on the world stage and go and lay these different comments out and make them go and defend their previous comments. I think the way the president laid it out, it gave an opening for folks to come back and criticize him.
But I think, look, he has the right, every right to come back and push back. I think today got a little too heated and obviously that's why we're talking about it right now. But I do think it is important that we call attention to the fact how much negativity has been there. And one other point I would say, two, I think she really missed an opportunity --
SCIUTTO: Let me pause (ph) for a moment on that. He is the president. And presidents, by the nature of politics, people will criticize the president. Is it presidential to shoot back even harder? I mean, the first lady said if he gets hit, he'll hit back ten times harder. Is that presidential in that view?
MILLER: Well I'd say that the president has his own unique style and I think people appreciate his candor and I think that's part of the reason why the president won this last year and got 306 electoral votes. But another important point that I take is I think Mika missed an opportunity to take the high road in her response and to go and tweet back attacking the president on his hands shows there has been a lot of tension in this relationship back and forth. The one final thing I'm going to throw in here also is -- isn't just the president ---
SCIUTTO: Quickly. Because I want to give the other panelists a chance.
MILLER: It isn't just the president that show has been attacking. Look at their attacks against Kellyanne Conway, their attacks against Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I mean I think this is gone way too long.
SCIUTTO: Let's set that aside just for a moment because we are talking about the president here. Governor Granholm, your response?
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN: Yes, I would just say. I mean, Jason, as y/you know, it is tough inside the White House. Grow up, everybody. I honestly wonder what is wrong with him. He has no doubt heard from a zillion people to knock it off, not just today but before. He is so -- his ego is so fragile. He's such a snowflake that anything like that sets him off.
I think our -- you know, our enemies look at him and say, this is the man who can be goated by flattery baited by a tweet. His hands are near the launch codes. It is really -- I am -- you know, it's embarrassing at a minimum. But it's a bit frightening that this man who was so unhinged will go off after an anchor.
I mean, everybody gets insults. Hello. That's what this social media and media do. They promulgate a lot of flow of information. But you have to be big enough and honestly noble enough as president to let it -- to rise above it, and he just can't do it.
SCIUTTO: Listen, everyone stay with me. We are going to have much more to talk about after the next break. Out front next, Trump's nasty tweets are the latest in a long line of shocking remarks by the president, specifically about women. What's behind them? And breaking news tonight, House investigators looking into Trump and
Russia threaten to subpoena the White House. Plus tension between the Secretary of State and the White House senior staff now coming out in the open. We'll tell you what Rex Tillerson is mad about tonight.
[19:17:05] SCIUTTO: Welcome back and breaking news. We just got video of the president ignoring repeated questions about his slew of morning tweets attacking a female news anchor. Have a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, do you regret your tweets this morning at all?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, how do you get china to cooperate with North Korea?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, no regrets over your tweets you sent out this morning?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Stow wick President Trump you might say there waiting to greet the South Korean president tonight. His vicious tweets of course not the first time that we've seen Trump speak graphically about women. Jason Carroll is out front with more tonight.
SANDERS: I don't think it's a surprise to anybody that he fights fire with fire.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House not backing down and given Trump's history, many GOP leaders say enough is enough. Trump's Twitter attack against MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski the latest in a long history of disparaging comments Trump has made about women. Earlier this week, eyebrows raised when Trump made a comment to an Irish TV reporter during a diplomatic phone call.
TRUMP: Go ahead. Come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press. She has a nice smile on her face so I bet she treats you well.
CARROLL: The reporter later described it on Twitter as a bizarre moment. Many of her followers called Trump's comments sexist. Even before he became president, Trump had accumulated a list of unsavory comments about women. As early as 1992 with then-businessman Trump caught on an escalator talking about a 10-year-old girl.
TRUMP: Are you going up the escalator? I'm going to be dating her in ten years.
CARROLL: There was that widely publicized ongoing feud Trump had with Rosie O'Donnell when he referred to as a fat big and ugly. When Trump became a presidential candidate, many of his supports he would pivot the tweeting, the name calling would stop, and he would be more presidential. Then came the comments about his primary rival, Carly Fiorina. "Can you imagine that, the face of our next president? I mean, she's a woman and I'm not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
CARLY FIORINA, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Trump said.
CARROLL: Fiorina did later endorsed Trump for president. Former Fox News host Megyn Kelly took Trump to task about his comments during the first Republican debate. Following the debate Trump retweeted someone who called Kelly a bimbo. Then on CNN, Trump's critics suggest he made reference to Kelly's menstruating being responsible for her line of questioning.
TRUMP: You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.
CARROLL: Trump denied he was making such a reference but later apologize to Kelly.
During the primary campaign, he also criticized the looks of Ted Cruz's wife, retweeting a less than favorable photo of Cruz's wife, prompting an angry response from the Texas senator.
[19:20:08] SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: But you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that will do it every time. Donald, you're a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.
CARROLL: Then last October, the leaked Access Hollywood video of Trump talking about grabbing women by the genitals.
TRUMP: And when you're a star they let you do it. You can do anything.
BILLY BUSH, AMERICAN RADIO HOST: Whatever you want.
TRUMP: Grab them by the pussy.
CARROLL: Many of Trump supporters dismissed the comments as locker room talk. They stood by him then and many female supporters still standby him.
SHANNON ARGIS, TRUMP SUPPORTER: He clearly has daughters and one of them is very important to his business and in the White House, so I don't think he's completely disrespectful to women.
JACKIE LEVINE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I think everybody should be entitled to their opinion. It doesn't mean he hates women. They really don't bother me the tweets, to be quite honest with you.
CARROLL: Well she may be in the minority there, Jim. We have spoken to a number of Trump supporters. You've heard so much about Trump's base and how dedicated they are to him and the Trump supporters we spoke to still are dedicated to this president, but overwhelmingly they also tell CNN they want him to stop tweeting and they want him to get back to focusing on the promises that he made out there on the campaign trail. Jim?
SCIUTTO: That may be the difference. Jason Carroll thanks very much. And now back with our panel and Alice, if I could begin with you, you were a Trump supporter, a Trump voter. What is your response to all this? Does it matter to you?
ALICE STEWART, FMR. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN: It certainly does. And Jason's piece there sums up one of my sentiments, is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But one of these comments or one of these tweets is bad. All of them put together shows a pattern of complete disrespect to women.
And look, I was with Ted Cruz during the campaign when he made the attack against Heidi Cruz and that was extremely upsetting and needles to say, Ted Cruz fired back. But for the White House to come out and say that the American people voted for President Trump because they knew that he would stand up and if he was attacked he would attack back.
Many of these instances that we just saw, he wasn't attacked. He just went forward and attacked women. I think that is a big problem. And I would like to see if he is going to flex his muscle, let's do that with North Korea, let's do that with Vladimir Putin. That's what the American people want to see and not these attacks against women.
Look, I did vote for Trump. I support many of his policies, but I think what he did today was unacceptable and extremely unpresidential.
SCIUTTO: Unequivocal words there. Jen Psaki, from the governor. Jen Psaki, part of the White House defense pointing the finger back in effect at President Obama, Sarah Huckabee Sanders answering questions today by invoking the administration you work for. Let's let our viewers have a listen to what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: If this had happened in the previous administration, the types of attacks launched on this program, the things they say, utterly stupid, personality disorder, mentally ill, constant attacks calling multiple members liars, liars to their faces while they're sitting on their programs. The rest of the media would have said, guys, no way. Hold on. But nobody does that. But the president, he's not going to step back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: In fairness, I should remind our viewers that President Obama was attacked throughout his presidency by none other than private citizen Mr. Trump himself. I wonder what your response is to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Jen.
JEN PSAKI, FMR. COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: If I could articulate an eye role on television effectively I would Jim. I think I was in the administration in and out for eight years. It requires almost a suit of armor some days to be in the White House. You get attacked from all angles. That's part of the job. You are the president of the United States. You are speaking on behalf of the president of the United States and the answer has to be better than that.
And the reality here is that if you lie, you are going to be called a liar. If you have a failing agenda and you are not getting anything passed, people are going to say it is a failing agenda. If you are attacking women, people are going to say that's sexist. We have free press, people have freedom of speech in the country, and I think they need to toughen you have a bit.
SCIUTTO: Jason Miller, I want to ask you because you are a dad, too, right? This idea from the White House that if you hit the president he's going to hit back or hit back 10 times harder, I mean, I got kids. It's not what we tell our kids to do, right? We tell them to be the bigger man or woman in the conversation. I just wonder inside the White House, is anybody telling President Trump that?
MILLER: Well, I think you bring up an important point here and, look, I mean I have had a number of conversations with my eight-year- old regarding the political discourse that we have seen over the past four, five months. And I think it is also important to look at that a lot of these attacks are coming at the president. I mean we had to have a very tough conversation about the Kathy Griffin picture that she took with obviously the beheading of president Trump and all the backlash that ensued. And so it really does go both ways here.
[19:25:08] But, look, I can only speak from my experience of dealing with the president and how I have seen him treat women with dignity and respect. Look at the strong women that he surrounded himself with in the White House. And so from my interactions with the president, I have seen him be very gracious and very humble and someone who I think is a much different image than frequently we see in a lot of coverage. But, look, the president does have a unique style where he's going to go and fire back when he's being attacked and that's part of who he is.
SCIUTTO: Governor Granholm,, you have seen his public comments about women. I wonder how you would respond to that defense.
GRANHOLM: Well, first of all, let me say one thing really fast in response, especially to Jason and to Alice. What Alice did right then is to say, this is not acceptable from the Republican side either. And I just think it is so important. I mean it's one thing for people on the left, like me, to criticize the president.
But if you want to create culture, sometimes it's top down. Sometimes it is bottom up. And I think that the Republicans who are quiet on this are an accomplice to this kind of behavior. Yes, it is an attack on women and I would just echo with Carly Fiorina said I'm sure that women all across America understood very well what Mr. Trump was saying. SCIUTTO: Alice, you will remember that during the Republican
convention last year, Melania Trump, one of the strong women surrounding the president said she wanted to make cyber bullying her priority as first lady. Let's remember those words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Our culture has gotten too mean and too rough. We have to find a better way to talk to each other, to disagree with each other, to respect each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: After her husband's tweets this morning, however, her spokesperson released this following statement, "As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder." Alice, what do you make of the First Lady's response to all of this?
STEWART: Well, I will say this about Melania, she certainly has always been extremely supportive of her husband regardless of the situation and from a female, woman to her husband, I completely understand that. However, politically speaking, it's very difficult, if not impossible, for her to be rolling out a cyber bullying campaign when her husband is the poster child for whatnot to do.
And look, when you were president of the United States or any elected office, Governor Granholm, an example of when you take that oath, when you are sworn in, you put your man pants on and you brace yourself for incoming fire that comes from your opponents, that comes from the other political side of the aisle, that comes from the press and you deal with that. And I wish he wouldn't do those tweets because they have had a strong week and a good message of furthering our energy policies and they had good energy roll out today. And we're on the 11th hour of getting some true health care reform. And I wish he would focus his time and energy on that. However, we spent an entire day responding once again to some tweets that never should have happened in the first place.
SCIUTTO: Jen Psaki, final quick word before we have to go.
PSAKI: Look, I think what everybody -- what Governor Granholm said, about what Alice said is really important here. This is not just democratic women saying this is unacceptable. There has been on outpouring of Republican women saying this is unacceptable. Nicole Wallace came out and said that -- and she is a former Bush communications director, that women in this White House should not find this acceptable. I think that's a really important point here. There shouldn't be a partisan fight back and forth and hopefully it's not.
SCIUTTO: Listen, thanks to all of you. Appreciate your thoughts tonight. Out front next, House investigators threaten to subpoena the White House in the Russia investigation as Susan Rice agrees to testify. Top Democrat of the intelligence committee is my guest. And the secretary of state's frustrations with the White House
coming out in a very public way. We're going to tell you in a very public way. We're going to tell you exactly what happened.
[19:32:24] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Breaking news: the House Intelligence Committee now threatening to subpoena the White House. This centers on President Trump's suggestion that there may have been tapes of his conversations with James Comey. You may remember after letting that unsubstantiated claim hang out there for weeks, President Trump finally announced via Twitter that he, himself at least, did not have any tapes and the White House sent the letter to the committee, simply referencing back to that tweet.
Today, in a bipartisan response, the committee said that's not enough.
Manu Raju, he's OUTFRONT from Capitol Hill.
So, Manu, what proof now is the committee looking? Or are they just looking for something more than a repetition of the president's tweet?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yes, they are looking for something more, Jim. In fact, they are looking for any records, any documents, any memorandum that actually heard in the interactions between President Trump and now fired Director James Comey. As you know, Jim, James Comey, of course, alleging that the president urged him to back off that investigation into the president's former national security advisor Michael Flynn. In addition, asking allegedly for a pledge of loyalty. Both things that the White House has denied.
The committee saying that we're prepared to subpoena if there are no records turned over to them in a timely manner. Now, Jim, this comes as other members of Trump's inner circle are now under scrutiny on Capitol, including Jared Kushner, who the Senate Judiciary Committee is calling for records, records related to his security clearance forms and whether or not he adequately and properly disclosed contacts he had with foreign officials.
Earlier today, I talked to Senator Dianne Feinstein about this, and she said it's important for him to turn over these documents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: One needs to know what was the reason that the security form was not addressed correctly. And I'm not to say what reasons are. We want to know what his reason is for making that error because it's a substantial error.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Now, Jim, this comes as the Senate Intelligence Committee is now reviewing what Mark Warner is saying are two batches of documents from the Treasury Department, looking at any financial links that may have occurred between Trump officials and Russian officials, Jim. SCIUTTO: The committee now will call Susan Rice. She's, of course,
been a lighting rod, because Republicans have tended to focus on her for the unmasking questions. Democrats more interested in the Russia investigation. Do we expect that kind of split among Republicans and Democrats when she appears before the committee?
RAJU: Yes, I think we do, Jim. Sources are telling us tonight that behind closed doors, Susan Rice has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. Republicans, of course, have targeted her, believing that she was involved in so-called unmasking of the identities of Trump transition officials in intelligence reports.
[19:35:06] She has vehemently denied that she has done anything wrong, but she has agreed to testify, Jim. And that's going to happen as the committee plans to interview a number of big name witnesses next month, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Thanks very much, Manu Raju on the Hill.
RAJU: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT now, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California.
Congressman, thanks for taking the time tonight.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks, Jim.
SCIUTTO: We noticed what was really a strong bipartisan statement from your committee today, saying that the White House response to the question from the committee on any potential Comey tapes in the words of the statement stopped short of clarifying. I thought this was key, too, threatening compulsory action if your committee doesn't get the answers it wants.
Are you saying that if you don't get confirmation, you are prepared to subpoena the White House on this question?
SCHIFF: You know, our practice has been, we always seek voluntary cooperation from anyone we approach for our testimony or documents, but if we don't get it, then we are prepared to use a subpoena. Here, we made a request of the White House, whether the White House was aware of any tapes of conversations between Director Comey and the president or documents a memoranda reflecting those conversations.
And what we got back didn't answer our questions. It was a tweet essentially from the president memorialized in a letter that basically said that the president wasn't aware of tapes, didn't have possession of tapes. That didn't answer the broader question of whether the White House was aware of any recordings, and it certainly didn't answer the question of whether that had been -- those conversations had been put in writing by any of the staff at the White House.
So, we've gone back to them to insist on a full answer to our question. But I think the presumption is certainly as it is in other cases. If they don't comply, then we'll have to use a subpoena. SCIUTTO: You know, this is all based on the president's original
tweet, as you know, some weeks ago, saying that Comey better hope there are no tapes. I mean, there is really no other proof or indication that there are. Is there a danger here that your committee is being led on something of a wild goose chase, wasting a lot of time and money finding tapes that there is really no hard evidence that they actually exist.
SCHIFF: We certainly don't know if they exist or whether this was an effort to somehow try to intimidate potential witness, James Comey. But we have an obligation to find out. And it doesn't require a lot of effort to do so.
We sent the White House a letter. They didn't give us an adequate response. We're going to send another letter. If we still don't get an adequate response, I think we'll have to subpoena them. That's going to take very little time.
But the bottom line is, we do need to get an answer and we need to find out was this a hallow threat? If so, why was the president threatening James Comey? But more significantly, if there is evidence that would corroborate James Comey's account of what happened in those meetings or any other, then we need to make sure we get that.
SCIUTTO: We learned today that President Obama's former national security advisor Susan Rice, she's now agreed to appear before your committee. I imagine that Democrats and Republicans on the committee have a different focus or we might expect a different focus on their questions.
Are you concerned Republicans may want to use their testimony to change the conversation away from the president back to this eternal question of unmasking?
SCHIFF: You know, we're quite focused on the Russia investigation. Mr. Conaway and I, that's really the direction that we are headed.
You know, there are a number of witnesses that can certainly shed light on that without commenting on any particulars regarding Susan Rice. I think she could have a lot to tell us about Russian intentions, Russian engagement, how Russian active measures work.
You know, as we have commented on in the past, Chairman Nunes is doing an unmasking effort and we are trying to keep that quite separate and not let us be distracted from the focus of our Russia investigation.
SCIUTTO: On the question of current and future Russian cyber threats, you said it could be dereliction of duty for President Trump if he fails to act on the threat from Russia. The White House today confirmed President Trump will actually meet with Vladimir Putin during the G-20 Summit next week in Germany.
But one of Trump's top aides could not say whether he would discuss Russian interference in the election. What's your response to that?
SCHIFF: Well, I think that's wholly unsatisfactory and more than that, it's just going to need the perception that Putin has that the United States is not going to confront Russia over interference in the past and we very well may not confront Russia over its interference in the future.
That would be a disastrous message to send or reinforce by not even making this a part of the agenda. The president of the United States ought to confront Putin, let him know on no uncertain terms we're aware of what the Russians did in our elections.
[19:40:06] We are not going to tolerate it. Russia is going to pay an increasing price for it and we're not only going to deter Russia for interference in our democratic affairs, we're going to work with our allies to make sure they don't interfere in the democratic affairs of our allies either. There is a lot to talk about there, and I would hope the president will confront Putin on these issues.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Schiff, very happy July 4th to you and your family.
SCHIFF: To you, too. Thank you very much, Jim.
SCIUTTO: OUTFRONT next, simmering tensions boiling over in the White House. The secretary of state lashing out.
And ISIS on the run, as the terror group is on the verge of really a massive defeat. We have a special report from the front lines.
SCIUTTO: Tonight, as Republican lawmakers reel and reprimand the president for his inflammatory tweets this morning, tensions also rising within the president's own cabinet, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson facing off with the White House.
Elise Labott tonight is OUTFRONT with more.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, Rex Tillerson's frustration with the White House out in the open. The secretary of state coming to blows with President Trump's aides over the process of filling dozens of key vacancies at the State Department.
[19:45:04] REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'd like to go faster.
LABOTT: In a meeting first reported by "Politico", Tillerson made clear to chief of staff Ryan Priebus, Johnny DeStefano, the head of presidential personnel, and Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior advisor, he wants to pick his own staff. White House aides describe the discussion as intense and uncomfortable, blaming Tillerson for the gridlock.
A Tillerson aide told CNN, quote: The secretary is working on a process of evaluating people on merit. He wants to put forward the best candidate for the job. The desire for political patronage does not overcome a lack of confidence.
JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: We have this tradition in Washington of, let's just bring in our tribe and our tribe will run things. Well, first of all, almost none of these guys have a tribe. You know, Tillerson certainly doesn't have a State Department tribe. And so, he in a sense is building his tribe.
LABOTT: The president hired the former ExxonMobil CEO for his global deal-making skills.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You really have had a tremendous life heading up one of the great companies of the world and doing it magnificently.
LABOTT: But America's top diplomat doesn't enjoy the same autonomy. Case in point: while Tillerson tries to mediate a dispute between Qatar and other Gulf countries, President Trump has openly sided with Saudi Arabia.
TRUMP: The nation of Qatar unfortunately has historically been a funder of terrorism at a very high level.
LABOTT: Trump has also taken much of Mideast policy, including the peace process of Tillerson's plate, giving it to Kushner instead.
And as Tillerson seeks to reorganize his State Department, the White House has pushed him to make major cuts, slashing a whopping 30 percent of his budget, shocking lawmakers who called the proposal a waste of time.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My reaction is, it's probably dead on arrival.
LABOTT: Former deputy secretary of state, Tony Blinken, now a CNN global affairs analyst, says the end result is a weakened State Department, unable to shape and execute foreign policy.
TONY BLINKEN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: If you look at, one, the budget and, you know, show me the money and I'll tell you what your priorities are, clearly, the State Department is not their priority. And second, personnel, you've got to have the people to run the place. In the absence of both, the State Department plays a diminished role.
LABOTT: Now, officials say President Trump's loyalty test is also slowing down the nominations process across the government. The president ruling out many candidates who criticized him during the campaign.
Now, Tillerson aides say the confirmation of his deputy, John Sullivan, has sped up the nominations at the State and as a result of that White House meeting, everyone's concerns are now out in the open and they expect the process to run much smoother going forward, Jim.
SCIUTTO: Elise Labott, thanks very much. OUTFRONT now with more, we have Chris Cillizza. He's CNN politics
reporter and editor-at-large, and David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst and long-time veteran of many White Houses.
David, we have some divisions here breaking out within the president's own party. You have a secretary of state complaining to the White House about his level of control and then on this tweet, you have many Republicans calling the president not presidential. I wonder -- it's not the first time we have seen that kind of criticism from inside the party. But I wonder if you see any significance with more of this breaking out into the public eye.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's a little unclear that unleashed it all. I think that the frustration by Secretary of State Tillerson has been building for a long time, Jim, and I must say, he has every reason to be frustrated. I had a tour at the State Department many years ago, and I can just -- it's unimaginable to me that with 124 positions at the State Department that are supposed to represent nominees of the president and then confirmed by the Senate, of those 124 positions, only 9, only 9 are filled today.
And it has left many people at the State Department, many Foreign Service officers rudderless. I keep hearing tales from them about how people are sitting around not knowing what they are supposed to do because there is very little leadership. It is Tillerson at the top and a handful of corporal guards, but that's it. And -- but I do -- also I think that secretary of state does bear some responsibility for this because it is demoralizing for the State Department when their own secretary won't stand up and fight against the White House and this 30 percent cut.
SCIUTTO: Chris, as you know, it is not just the State Department. You have Republican lawmakers that took to Twitter today to beg the president of their own party to get back on track. We had a Republican congressman call his behavior ugly today.
Here is Senator Tim Scott tweeting the American people need us to be focused on health care and tax reform, not Twitter fights and cable news.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, I should remind our viewers, a key vote in the whole health care debate, she tweeted directly to Trump: Do you want to be remembered for your tweets or your accomplishments?
[19:50:01] I got to ask you, Chris, do these comments from Republicans make a measurable difference with this president?
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & EDITOR-AT-LARGE: No. They just don't. I think it's important to remember, Jim, that this is not someone who came up through the Republican ranks, or owes anything to the Republican establishment. He expressly ran against that during the campaign.
He is the first president without any military or elected office experience. So, you know, would he prefer Lisa Murkowski be on his side? Sure.
Is he going to sweat that she was not happy about it? I don't really think so.
You know, there is no one -- one thing we know for a fact, there is no one in this White House who can stop Donald Trump from Donald Trumping, right? He's going to do what he wants to do. He's a 71- year-old man who has had a considerable amount of success both in the private sector and now in elected office.
He's going to -- this is him, right? The idea that someone's going to come in, or Ivanka or Steve Bannon or Reince Priebus, it's just -- they've all fallen by the wayside. Trump is Trump. This is who he is.
He won by running against all these conventions. And in several years and it is several years from now, the American public is going to have to judge if this is what they want out of a president or if they want something different.
SCIUTTO: David Gergen, you've advised a lot of presidents. You've had, I imagine, a lot of difficult conversations with presidents. When you look in this White House, who do you see that the president might listen to on something like this?
GERGEN: Well, I think there are two questions there, Jim. Who would talk to him straight, and then would he listen. And on the first one, I think probably Jared Kushner comes as close as anybody who can go in and talk to him. And he actually does have enormous amount of influence. I don't think it's healthy for the secretary of state to be clashing with Jared Kushner. It's not good for either one of them on foreign policy.
So -- but on the second one, whether he would listen? I don't see much evidence that he listens.
SCIUTTO: Yes, not the way he structures his businesses, and apparently not his White House.
David Gergen, Chris Cillizza, thanks very much.
I should remind our viewers Chris just launched a newsletter. It's called -- you can sign up for that at CNN.com. It's called "The Point". It is a must-read in Washington.
OUTFRONT next. CNN is right on the front lines in a massive battle against ISIS. The struggle to take back that crucial city from the terror group.
[19:56:32] SCIUTTO: Tonight, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS says that while the fight for the key Iraqi city of Mosul isn't over, the city's liberation is, quote, imminent. Just days, rather than weeks away.
Our Nick Paton Walsh was with Iraqi security forces during the battle to free Iraq's second largest city, and he brings us this report.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Winning here comes only with dust and ruin. This was a day Iraqi special forces were meant to take back the symbolic al Nuri mosque of Mosul's old city. But it ended up the day their leaders declared victory while they were still bitterly fighting.
(on camera): Just literally to the side of the mosque is where ISIS have been.
(voice-over): The aim was to encircle the sacred minarets ISIS themselves destroyed.
Yet they've lost so many to ISIS. They move carefully against an enemy even with high-tech help they rarely see.
When an ISIS fighter is spotted, the artillery rains down, throughout the day.
There's political impatience for this fight to be over (INAUDIBLE). News reports cited Iraqi officials elsewhere are saying the mosque could be retaken. A bizarre scene, given how lethally, painstakingly they were advancing.
Huge political stakes here for Iraq, yet this fight is spearheaded by a few dozen men, two bulldozers. A burrow. A drone. (INAUDIBLE) are being shot down.
(on camera): Fighters have been relatively quiet during the day. But it seems a drone put up in the sky to work out more about the defensive position, sends some incoming rounds towards us here.
(voice-over): More gunfire exchanges. And as they grind slowly towards the edge of the mosque, more Iraqi officials announce they have retaken it.
But that's just politics, and here is the ghastly reality. Civilians held as human shields by ISIS, risking death to flee from its certainty.
They're held back, feared as possible suicide bombers.
The agony becomes too much. There is nothing really to say when hell is behind you, and just dust before you.
We've been shelled in the rubble, he says. The injured piggyback out.
Fear so strong, it led this woman to walk out with pins in her leg to get her family out.
Mortar landed on their home. That's the only word little Toka (ph) can say.
There's been no liquid for days. My little ones were dying of hunger. We didn't see anybody, no ISIS, only the military.
This day, perhaps prematurely, Iraq declared ISIS vanquished, yet their three years have likely consumed all of hers and the ruins from which she fled and which ISIS lie will take more declarations of victory to rebuild.
Nick Paton, CNN, Mosul, Iraq.
SCIUTTO: Just harrowing stuff. Thank you for joining us.
"AC360" starts right now.