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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Coverage of White House Correspondents Dinner; President Donald Trump's Rally in Michigan; Trump: We're going To Win The House, "Fight Like Hell"; Trump Snubs Journalist Event Celebrating First Amendment; Trump: Putin Using Russian Lawyer To Cause Chaos in U.S.; Crowd Chants "Nobel, Nobel" As Trump Talks North Korea. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired April 28, 2018 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:00:16] POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: All right. Welcome back to our special live coverage. Two big events happening simultaneously right now, hundreds of miles apart, though. The President is skipping the annual White House correspondents' dinner, a tradition that of course honors the freedom of the press, the first amendment, and the White House press corps. Instead, for a second year in a row, he is holding a rally this time in Michigan. But clearly the White House playing politics and strategy here, in Washington Township, Michigan.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: All Right. Meanwhile, here in Washington, D.C. at the White House Correspondents dinner, our Kate Bennett is on the red carpet with the governor of Ohio, former Presidential candidate and future dot, dot, dot, who knows, John Kasich.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Thanks, John and Poppy.

We are here with the governor. You know, the President is just doing his rally in Michigan. And folks from the audience were chanting "Nobel, Nobel," for the Nobel Prize. How do you feel about President Trump perhaps being nominated for a Nobel peace prize for North Korea?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: It's a long way between the lip and the cup. So here is the situation here. I must tell you that I have a lot of people coming up to me and saying, I'm a Democrat and I really like you or I'm a Republican. I say we don't have time for that anymore. We need to find people who are going to be rational, people who are going to be search for the truth, who are going to be objective.

The people who are extremes on the poles, they are not the ones who can call the tune. It's got to be us, the ocean. And so, those terms are old. And we need to come together as a country.

Secondly, tonight this is a celebration of the first amendment, of the freedom of the press, the journalism, of finding the truth. So with the press we cannot have, you know, hits with clicks and trying to make money off that. Find the truth, be thorough, be disciplined, because you are a very, very important part of America. And one of the most important institutions that supports our country.

BENNETT: Do you think the President should have been here tonight? Do you think that --?

KASICH: I'm kind of glad that he didn't come because it was easier for me to get here tonight. I have been here for many Presidents and it takes forever and traffic jams. So tonight it was really easy. So that made my life easier.

BENNETT: Do you like the less star-studded White House Correspondents dinner? Is it more about you guys?

KASICH: And I think that the press needs to understand, you know, how important they are. And to be able to be together and work together and to talk about the future is really important, because the first thing that happens in a country is the press gets demeaned or dismissed. And that's not the way it can be. But the press does things that I don't like. I'm an elected official, 30 years in public office, you know, even though I'm so impossibly young.

But the fact of the matter is, they matter. They preserve our liberty. And so tonight is a getting together of the press to recognize and realize the things that are critical in our country. But again, no more Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservatives. We're Americans. And people who are extreme will, we'll come back for them later.

BENNETT: And if you are President one day, dot, dot, dot, would you come to the dinner?

KASICH: Oh, I would be here early. I would be at the cocktail reception and have a little --. You know, they say that Reagan, before the state of the union, used to have a little cabernet just to get a little rose in his cheeks. I had a little cabernet, how is it looking?

BENNETT: Looking good.

KASICH: OK.

BENNETT: Thank you so much. You are good, governor. You are looking sharp.

KASICH: Thank you, all. God bless you.

BENNETT: Thanks, governor. John and Poppy?

BERMAN: All right. Kate Bennett, thanks so much, with Ohio governor John Kasich.

HARLOW: Governor Kasich is a comedian.

BERMAN: Well, also addressing his constituency, maybe the press guaranteeing them that he will be at the White House Correspondents' dinner in the future there. He said something very interesting, that has an interesting just a position happening in real time right now. He is saying we should all come together, Democrats, Republicans.

Moments ago President Trump, speaking in Washington Township, Michigan, went after the ranked member of the Senate Veterans Affairs committee Jon Tester. Jon Tester has been in the middle of the spotlight this week because of the nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson to be the VA secretary. Senator Tester released some of the information that he had been told about Dr. Jackson. Let's listen to what the President just said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I know things about tester that I could say too. And if I said them, he would never be elected again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. President Trump saying he basically has dirt on senator Tester. Now threatening senator Tester for what he has done.

We will talk about the situation with Dr. Jackson. That is a little bit of a separate thing than the comments he just made about the senator.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think this is kind of gross, you know. It's not tester's fault that they didn't vet their VA nominee. It's not Tester's fault that they didn't get ahead of this story.

[20:05:06] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.

RAMPELL: And to be fair, even if all of these accusations about Jackson turn out to have been completely wrong, first of all, he still would have been unqualified for the job. But second of all, it's unfair to Jackson to not have gotten ahead of this story, to have not found out what accusations were out there so that they were ready to go out the door to disprove them. So I think they did a huge disservice to Jackson if in fact he is innocent of all of these allegations.

HARLOW: And Kevin Madden, I mean, this is bipartisan concern. I mean, you have Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia coming out and supporting Tester in this. And you have got 20-odd people who say that they witnessed this and came forward, who served with or currently serve with Admiral Jackson, to hear our concerns. And now you have the President threatening him, essentially, saying I know things about Tester.

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, I think Tester still did bring this on himself because some of what he said isn't true or hasn't panned out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't know that.

MADDEN: Wait. But if you are going to make those (INAUDIBLE), I really do think you have to have it locked down, otherwise you give an inch to critics and this President and he will take a mile. And let's remember that this --

HARLOW: You're saying --

MADDEN: This nomination was not going forward, you're right. So why is it that Tester and other --?

HARLOW: But your beef is that Tester came forward with it rather than waiting for the confirmation hearings?

MADDEN: Sure. John Boehner taught me one of the best lessons in politics which is that if your opponent is about to jump off a bridge, whatever you do, don't push him. This nomination wasn't going forward and now Tester has his fingerprints on potentially, so many information that wasn't verified and could, in many ways, look like a personal smear.

JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We need to acknowledge two things. Our reporters are continuing to report out this story. And they are continuing to hear from sources who back this stuff up. I don't know about the wrecked car. You are right, that's out there.

MADDEN: That's the thing. All you need is one little thing.

WALSH: Let me finish. What the President just did was thuggish. That was thuggish. That was gangster behavior. To threaten that man, to threaten Jon Tester, I know things about you, I cannot imagine a President in our history saying something like that, at least on camera. That was dirty.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Hold on a second. Let me just Lauren.

LAUREN BURKE, WRITER, NATIONAL NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION: If it turns out that the information is not accurate, that Tester put out, that's hugely problematic. Of course the bigger problem, as you said, is that Dr. Jackson is not qualified. But still, I mean, it is not fair to put that out and then it's inaccurate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree.

BURKE: And he doesn't get the chance really to sort of defend himself.

WALSH: We don't know that.

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And Lauren, to your point, which is -- what the President says is I could say things about Tester that could make him not get elected. I think what the President is saying, I can --.

HARLOW: I don't think that's what he said. I mean, if you can talk a little bit --. .

BERMAN: I know things about Tester.

HARLOW: I believe he said I know things about Tester --.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: I know things about Tester that I could say.

DENNARD: I know things about Tester I could say. The President could say things. Now if they are unsubstantiated and we are not -- he went ahead and said it, like Tester did, that would be problematic. What is despicable is how Washington, D.C. continues to engage on the politics of personal destruction and tearing down people.

WALSH: Why was Johnny Isakson part of this then? Why are so many Republican continue to be concerned about these allegations? I agree with Lauren, it's problematic if they are wrong.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: When it comes to politics of personal destruction and this President. There's a simple way to solve this. If the White House is so confident that he has been wronged, put his nomination up again.

WALSH: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do it.

(CROSSTALK)

WILSON: Let's send it back -- no, send it back to the committee. If they think this is a complete scam and a lie and Tester is just doing this off the top of my head, then they should just put it back before the committee.

DENNARD: You are missing point.

(CROSSTALK)

WILSON: What can he know about Tester? Maybe Tester's private attorney paid a porn star $130,000.

DENNARD: This is the problem, John. This is the problem. Remember what happened with the senator from Alaska? How they came after him and years later after he died --?

BERMAN: Ted Stevens.

DENNARD: Ted Stevens, he was exonerated.

WALSH: Right.

DENNARD: This is what we do. We say things, we destroy people's credibility. We tear people down, unsubstantiated facts (INAUDIBLE) rumor. Stick it out there and it may or may not be true, give me a break.

(CROSSTALK)

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You mean like when Ted Cruz's dad killed JFK?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about lock her up.

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: Hang on. The leading 33,000 emails is something that is from --

WALSH: Oh, stop it. No.

(CROSSTALK)

HARLOW: Guys.

BURKE: It's been investigated to death.

WILSON: If we're worried about lowering the quality of the dialogue and personal destruction and everything else, Donald Trump is a cat five -- I almost said it -- a cat five disaster for American political discourse.

DENNARD: Hang on. You had --

My parents are on national television on this program. So don't you dare talk about President Trump or anybody else. You need a soft pillow.

DENNARD: You need some character.

[20:10:03] BERMAN: Hang on. OK, guys. I want to ask Kevin Madden at something here. I want to stem bap back, if we can.

HARLOW: We are going back to Switzerland.

MADDEN: Back to being in Switzerland.

BERMAN: Switzerland there.

(LAUGHTER)

WALSH: Kevin.

BERMAN: The situation with Dr. Jackson has been odd from the very beginning. I haven't seen anything quite like it. You know, Jon Tester did come forward with information that was unsubstantiated. That was unusual.

MADDEN: Yes.

BERMAN: However, you know, the multiple sources, the dozens of sources that he says he had there, the fact that Johnny Isakson didn't step in the way, the fact that no Republicans really in the Senate at all stood up to defend him, it was weird. And Jon Tester also, you know this, you know, he is not, you know, the leftist of lefties and a partisan guy.

MADDEN: Yes.

BERMAN: So the fact that it came from him, it was strange. Also, the fact that there were Obama officials who are standing up for him his character. It was the kind of mix we haven't seen before.

MADDEN: Yes, look. I think there is the circus which we witnessed and tweets and accusation and also its innuendo, and then there is the what was really happening behind the scenes, which was the second this nomination went up to the hill, it was met with a lot of skepticism for the main fact that this is a nominee who that they didn't think was vetted and the qualifications related to the huge administrative task of having to lead one of the largest and most important bureaucracies in the federal government. That was where this thing was already problematic and that was taking place much more quietly than what we saw now to the surface.

HARLOW: So then, where --

MADDEN: And this is probably, you know, this is a new era that we are in, Poppy.

HARLOW: So then where is the President taking it now with making this choice tonight, to threaten as John read verbatim?

MADDEN: This is revenge.

HARLOW: I know things about Tester I could say too. I mean, that was a threat. What's the strategy?

MADDEN: As an Irishman, I can witness and I know of revenge when I see it. And I think that's what this is. No matter what you say about Ronny Jackson, the President had a very strong personal relationship for him, a very strong personal affectation for him. And now he is going to (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: All right. Guys, stick around for one moment.

Up next, more on the other breaking news. Does the President deserves a Nobel Peace prize for what is happening in North Korea? Can he come and make peace on this set? The crowd in Michigan just chanted "Nobel, Nobel." We'll discuss.

HARLOW: And the President is speaking live in Washington Township, Michigan. As you see, journalists are sitting down for this big glitzy dinner in Washington. The President says he wants none of it.

We continue our special live coverage next. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[20:16:01] CROWD: Nobel! Nobel! Nobel! Nobel! Nobel! Nobel!

TRUMP: That's very nice. Thank you. That's very in case. Nobel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Yes. People have been saying they haven't seen the President smile or laugh. That's a big smile.

HARLOW: And a little chuckle.

BERMAN: A little chuckle when the crowd in Washington Township, Michigan, chanting "Nobel, Nobel," suggesting the President should get the Nobel peace prize for his efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsula right now and we strike some kind of deal.

Catherine Rampell, listening to that, you know, clearly the President so (INAUDIBLE) eating it up. But it's a hopeful moment with North Korea.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, I'm very critical of President Trump on many issues. I do hope that he succeeds on many things including this. I'm a little skeptical though given that North Korea has signed multiple denuclearization deals before, and then didn't hold up their end of the bargain. So just because there's a meeting happening, just because there seems to be progress, doesn't mean that we should get overly optimistic here especially when it comes to what happens on the peninsula but also with President Trump.

HARLOW: We have, though, Phil Mudd, you know, we have defense secretary James Mattis saying this is the most optimistic he has been since, you know, in the last 50-plus years, that this could actually be something.

MUDD: You get a Nobel for what you did, not what you hope to do. As I learned when I was in the CIA, hope is not a plan. President Obama got the Nobel, mistakenly. That was a mistake. President Trump, people are chanting, get the Nobel for what? For people showing up at a meeting?

HARLOW: Does he deserve it if indeed this comes to --?

MUDD: Maybe. But my question is who else is involved in putting on pressure on the North Koreans, what did the Chinese tell him? What did the South Koreans tell him? I would also say that the people who have gotten this award who deserved it, people who opposed decades of racism in South Africa. And you want to give somebody a Nobel for hope? Obama didn't deserve it, Trump doesn't. I want to see action. I don't want to see hope. Hope is not a plan.

WILSON: I heard you.

BERMAN: Joan, is that you heard (ph) over here?

WALSH: Well, I think we need to know what he has done to deserve the Nobel. So I think it's kind of a crazy thing to be proposing right now. We have no idea if this deal will come to fruition. But I'm going to be happy to go to bed tonight believing we are farther away from nuclear war. And if Donald Trump really is responsible for that, I will give him credit. BURKE: And he should get some credit for this. This is one I think

that is fairly clear that the President should get some credit for this. You know, the pressure was on. And all of a sudden we get this unbelievable peace deal. Nobel, we are not there yet. But certainly, he should get some credit.

BERMAN: It's one of those issues where you say you can go to bed, you know, easier tonight, seeing we are further away from we were. Who cares who gets the credit? If ultimately there is peace.

BURKE: It's huge.

HARLOW: Rick?

WILSON: Look. If North Korea denuclearizes and it doesn't come at the cost of us compromising our security arrangement with South Korea.

HARLOW: Which is the what the Trump administration, even today, said. It has to be irreversible denuclearization.

WILSON: Right. And you know, that is something right now that is a very high held decline and there is media slip twixt the cup and the lip, as they say. And at this point, if this goes to the pattern of North Korea's previous behavior, and there's no reason to believe that Donald Trump has altered the fundamental character of Kim Jong-un in some way. If it goes to the previous pattern, they will exploit this. They will get their trade opened up a little bit, they will get imports of coal and food from China, and everything else, and then they will start to cheat again. This is their pattern for 40 years on all fronts.

HARLOW: OK.

WILSON: And on nuclear for last 25.

HARLOW: Under different leader. Under different leadership. But it is stunning to think of where we were, how many months ago, "Fire and Fury, Little Rocket Man," to where we sit today.

BERMAN: No, it is big difference.

And again, you know, the President said in the speech this going on Washington Township, he hopes to meet with Kim in the next three to four weeks, you know, end of May, beginning of June, it looks like this is going to happen.

You know, Paris, your thought on it?

DENNARD: I think all along this has been part of the President's strategy on engaging with North Korea. I think the reason why he was so tough with maximum pressure in all of these things was because that he knew that this could get him to this point.

But one quick point that I want to make is, you see how everyone is discrediting the President. Well, we don't know how --

(CROSSTALK)

[20:20:12] HARLOW: Did you just hear Lauren, she said he deserves a lot of credit for this.

DENNARD: And I'm saying in general, the media, a lot of people, pundits alike, they won't give him the credit that he deserves now for what's happening as a catalyst for change.

RAMPELL: But nothing has actually changed at this point, right. Under the meeting which North Korea has been requesting for a bazillion years, so.

BURKE: There is something did just happen that has been for 65 years. It is a big deal. And I think, we are giving him credit. I mean, he should get credit. And quite frankly, I mean, this is a good moment, Paris, enjoy it, come on, man.

DENNARD: Let's be clear. There are a lot of good moments that nobody gives him credit for. I go to bed every night --.

BURKE: Give me some examples.

DENNARD: HBCU funding, let's not go there. There are a lot of good things the President is doing. But when it comes to this, you wonder why people outside of Washington, D.C. say, you see, that's what they do. They don't give him the credit, because we sit here and we nitpick. We nitpick. We nitpick.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: You're nitpicking us. You're saying we're not giving credit, I'm sitting next to you saying --.

BURKE: Take the win, Paris.

DENNARD: You missed it. You're totally dismissive of the President's actions and everything --.

HARLOW: For the America first President, there was something that stood out to me that he said at the press conference with German chancellor Angela Merkel. It was not just about America first, Kevin Madden. He said talking about the Korean peninsula and hoping for peace. This is certainly something that I hope I can do for the world. This is beyond the United States. And that was the opposite of the Trumpism we often see.

MADDEN: Yes. And I think he is -- and I think, Paris, I think everybody is being intellectually honest and giving him credit. I think where the skeptical is now, the President is the historical trends that we have seen with North Korea.

But you're right. I think the President is, you know, kind of reaping the fruits of his labor when it comes to, you know, pursuing this policy against a lot of criticism, and is, you know, very confident in some of the working relationships that he has had. We saw him talk very effusively and praise President Moon. Obviously, he has a very good relationship there. He has built a stronger relationship with President Merkel even though there chancellor Merkel, even though that started off --

BERMAN: There was nowhere to go but up.

MADDEN: Right. Exactly.

HARLOW: Fair point.

MADDEN: With that comes some progress and even folks like, you know, Joan Walsh who were critics, you know, offering some level of credit.

BERMAN: Even Joan Walsh, the new standard.

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: I'm sure the President is very aware of Joan's comments.

WALSH: Yes.

BERMAN: We have lot more to talk about. I will also say the fact the Kim Jong-un now seems to have a lot of missiles that can shoot very far and now has many new nuclear weapons, also factoring into the progress in this negotiation. But again, you know --.

HARLOW: Progress is progress.

BERMAN: Progress is progress.

Stand by, everyone. The President is making more news. He just made a big promise about the midterm elections and talked about what would happen if he is impeached.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

[20:26:42] PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: My most memorable experience from this past year actually happened during the second week on the job for me covering the White House. There was a background briefing of chief of Staff Kelly. And about five minutes the door swings open and lo and behold it's President Trump.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Breaking news, President Trump speaking to reporters moments ago in a surprise question and answer session.

BROWN: He was just freewheeling. Fortunately, we were already recording on our phones so we were able to capture everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want citizenship for our dreamers?

TRUMP: We are going to morph into it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I'm looking forward to it actually. BROWN: That is when I thought to myself, this President is

unpredictable. You will never know what you are going to get just a background briefing with his chief of staff could create worldwide headlines by the President barging in.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BERMAN: White house correspondent Pamela Brown talking about a memorable moment on the job.

HARLOW: Two weeks into this new for her (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Two weeks and the President of the United States, his own communications director delivering those communications.

We are in special live coverage. Quite a night, the President speaking in Michigan. And of course, the White House Correspondents' dinner.

Let's go to the red carpet. CNN justice reporter Laura Jarett is there. CNN White House correspondent Kate Bennett is there.

I'm excited about this because comedienne Michelle Wolf will be on a little bit. I have been watching her stuff for the last new weeks.

HARLOW: Great.

BERMAN: She is freaking hilarious.

HARLOW: Yes.

BERMAN: So, I'm super excited for that. What can we expect over the next couple of hours?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, one thing we have seen, John, here is several members of the cabinet, of the administration, coming out in full force, everyone from Kellyanne Conway to White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as a flew of former officials including former chief of staff Reince Priebus as well Gary Cohn.

And it is interesting. We have asked them how come they came this time around, this second year when last year many of them did not show up. And they said they were actually encouraged to come by President Trump, even though he is obviously not in attendance tonight. He is at that rally in Michigan. But they all seem very supportive of the evening.

KATE BENNETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: The other thing that was odd in this sort of fever dream that is the White House correspondents' dinner arrivals, Michael Avenatti was here, Stormy Daniels's attorney. And I asked him. I said, do you think you are going to be in the routine tonight? Do you think you are going to be joked about by Michelle Wolf? And he said, it is possible. I mean, anything is possible when you have got Avenatti standing next to Kellyanne Conway, standing next to the press secretary. He also says there is a natural tension. I mean, everyone likes to

sort of put aside politics this evening and just sort of nerd prom it up. But Avenatti did say there is this undeniable sort of tension in the air. It is part of them feeling. However, as you said, the President himself apparently encouraged several members of his staff to come tonight. And they turned out.

You know, the first one on the carpet, and this was Omarosa. And she was out here fluffing her dress, doing her red carpet thing. And I think, again, like Michelle Wolf should have some fun with the attendees, they will know that they are certainly up for fodder. They are up to be made fun of. It almost becomes a roast in a way, tonight.

BERMAN: Yes.

JARRETT: But one of the things you hear a lot is, you know, it's really an evening about reporters and it's about journalism. In fact, the money that is raised at the dinner tonight goes to journalism scholarships. So at the end of the day, it's really a celebration of the first amendment.

HARLOW: I'm glad you brought it back to that, because that is what it's all about tonight, guys.

Thank you very much. We appreciate it. And we will check back with you in a moment.

Someone who is talking politics a lot today in another Washington far, far away is the President. President Trump holding this big rally in Washington Township, Michigan.

[20:30:08] And he just talked about the midterm elections. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- to keep the House, because if you listen to Maxine Waters -- she goes around saying, we will impeach him, we will impeach him. Then people said, but he hasn't done anything wrong. Oh, that doesn't matter, we will impeach the president. So, I don't think we're going to have a lot of happy people if that happens. I think it's going to be a little bit tough. But she goes around, and some others, we will impeach him. It doesn't matter if you do anything right or wrong. They want to do that. We've got to win the House. And you know what? We're going to win anyway. But we're going to win the House.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Interesting to hear.

HARLOW: We've got to win but we're going to win anyway.

BERMAN: We got to win but we're going to win. And if we don't win, I'm going to be impeached. Three separate messages there all being delivered to an audience. Very interesting to see. Kevin Madden, it is a strategy we are seeing now from Republicans to raise the stakes and say, look, if the Democrats do take back the House, the president could very well be impeached. Is that selling? Does that resonate with voters in the districts that matter?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, let's define districts that matter.

BERMAN: Right.

MADDEN: For base voters in districts that matter, it does matter. But the problem is that the reasons that there districts that matter is there's not enough base voters to win those districts.

HARLOW: Right.

MADDEN: So it's whether or not it's an animating issue for the swing voters that are going to make or break those issues.

BERMAN: Is it?

MADDEN: And it's not. It's not. And because what it does is -- just real quickly, is it makes the midterms a referendum on Donald Trump, which is what you don't want. A lot of these candidates, what they want to do in order to win in these districts is get out of the national Jetstream, localize it and personalize it.

HARLOW: And, Joan, you've even seen some very prominent Democrats warning against running on impeaching the president.

JOAN WALSH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Nancy Pelosi herself has warned against running.

HARLOW: Rahm Emanuel.

WALSH: Right. I mean, people are warning against, there are people do know it's dangerous. People do know it's divisive. Of course it's on the table, if it's proven that he's done something wrong, if Robert Mueller comes back with a long list of findings that are disturbing, no one should take it off the table entirely, no one can take it off the table. But no Democrats are going -- well, my friend Maxine Waters is. But most Democrats are not doing that, wisely, I think. So he's making this up to please his crowd.

BERMAN: We'll they're not campaigning on it. Most Democrats are not campaigning on it. Catherine, is it unfair to suggest -- right now, impeachment, guess would never happen. There's a zero percent chance impeachment will happen with the Republican House. At the Democratic House, that's not a zero number anymore.

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. Certainly, that is the subtexts here. But Joan is right that if you look at what is happening in the races around the country that we've seen so far, the special elections, this has not been a core issue. It's been about health care. It's been about other economic issues, on both sides, mind you, both Republicans and Democrats have been talking about that. I mean you have Republicans who are talking about how much they love Trump, of course. But they're not saying, you've got to elect me because otherwise the president will get impeached. Again, this is the subtext of all of this but it's not really the rallying cry.

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: And once you get into that space, as Kevin correctly pointed out, in the 25 to 45 districts that are swing districts or contested districts right now. Normally, it would be about 25, because the landscape looks so bad for Republicans. It's about 45 seats that are really in play. Once you're playing a base- only game in those districts, you're at a disadvantage if you're a Republican right now because base won't get you there. Base is going to get you to 40, 42, 44 percent in a lot of these places. And what we've seen in the -- in the 40-plus raises in '17 and '18 is that Democrats will crawl over broken glass to vote against people who are supporting Donald Trump. And they're more active and energized right now than Republicans are. And if you end up with that being the qualification, it's saying to Democrats, yes, this is what we're -- this is going to keep us motivated and keep us moving forward, and it's going to say to Republicans, we're only speaking to the tribe, we're not trying to get outside of our base, we're not trying to get outside of the core.

BERMAN: We're going to go back to the red carpet at the White House Correspondents' Dinner right now. Jonathan Martin from the New York Times, CNN analyst is there. And someone who just wrote a story basically on this very subject, the issue of impeachment, how it's being used by Republicans heading into the 2018 elections. Jonathan.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It's extraordinary that you're seeing the president invoke the prospect of his own impeachment, John, at a rally here. But this is kind of where we're at with this president. He and a lot of folks around him believe that this is one of the best ways to rally, the conservative base in a year where is the left has gotten more energy and enthusiasm. But if you raise the prospect, John, of his impeachment that could be what gets out the sort of Trump loyalists, the Trump devotees who may not otherwise support more conventional GOP candidates that their risk of him being impeached could be the kind of motivating tool that his base needs to get fired up this fall.

[20:35:30] HARLOW: So, Jonathan, from the folks you've spoke with, I mean, is that a winning strategy for this president? Is this the beginning of many, many more moments where the president talks about his own potential impeachment?

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. In fact, he used that line about Maxine Waters, by my count, I think four times now in the last six weeks. So this is not a new thing for him. You're seeing creep up and some campaigns. Ted Cruz, for example, mentioned the possibility of impeachment at his campaign launched a few weeks ago. So, yes, I think this is going to be mentioned more and more as we get closer to the summer and the fall, because the Republicans need something to get their folks fired up.

Look, Democrats have an easy turn, however, it's called Donald John Trump. That gets their because fired up. Republicans need something equivalent. And this is by the way, the problem that Democrats and Obama had in the last eight years. How do you get people fired up when the president himself is not on the ballot? But that's what the GOP is now trying to figure out is, how do we get our votes out? And the tax bill clearly does not have the punch as of right now, at least, that a lot of folks from the party thought it would.

So what's the alternative? Trying to scare folks about the possibility of an impeachment trial is one potential way.

HARLOW: Jonathan Martin at the White House Correspondents' dinner.

Jonathan, before we let you go, this is a black tie event. Let me ask you. Who are you wearing tonight?

MARTIN: Right. It's a really great designer. Brook's brothers. They're hot. They're big in Milan all over the runways these days. And, John, when you think -- you think me and my reporting, I know your red carpet is the first thing that comes to mind typically, right?

HARLOW: It is. It is, typically. It's OK. John is wearing checkers and stripes. I'd feel that pointed out.

MARTIN: OK. All right. Thanks, John.

BERMAN: 1978 Monday night football called and wants his jacket back. Have a great night. Jonathan Martin.

MARTIN: And if I give order was a great running back.

HARLOW: All right. Thank you so much, Jonathan Martin. We're awaiting the White House Correspondents' Dinner to officially begin. It feels like it began a long time ago. But that was just all the red carpet and all of that, and then watered down drinks, there's so much said. The dinner is about to begin.

And we have a lot of other breaking news to talk about as well. The president holding this rally in Washington Township Michigan weighing in on that Russian lawyer at the center of the infamous Trump Tower meeting, now saying she's an informant. A lot ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:40:35] HARLOW: Welcome back. Newly surfaced e-mails have emerged about that Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya who was at the center of the Trump Tower meeting back in 2016. You'll remember that Trump campaign officials including the president's son, Donald Trump Jr. were in that meeting and they met with her. You see her there, Natalia Veselnitskaya on the premise, she had dirt on his father's opponent Hillary Clinton.

Now, initially, she said, look, I'm a private attorney, nothing to do with the Kremlin, with the Russian government. Now the New York Times reports that she actually was acting as an informant with very close ties to the Kremlin.

HARLOW: She says she was a Russian government informant. Now, the top Democrat in the House intelligence committee, Adam Schiff has revealed some different details about that meeting and what he calls a mystery phone call.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: Don Junior prior to the meeting, when this is being discussed by e-mail because it's of the sensitive nature and they don't want to do it by e-mail, arranges the call, Emin Agalarov. This is the son of this oligarch closed to Putin. And we have these two calls to Emin. And the significant thing is they're separated by a third call to a blocked number. Now, we sought to find out is that blocked number Donald Trump's blocked number because we found out during the investigation that Donald Trump used a block number during the campaign. We asked to subpoena the phone records so we could match up. Did Donald Trump receive a call at the same time Donald Junior was making that call to find out, did the president's son seek the president's permission the go ahead to go for this meeting? The Republicans refused. They didn't want to know. They wouldn't ask the phone company for those records. That tells you a lot about the fundamental and seriousness that really the heaven-sent approach the GOP took.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OK. That was Adam Schiff. Now, there is a new twist. The president, he's weighing in just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Have you heard about the lawyer? For a year, a woman lawyer, she was like oh, I know nothing. Now, all of a sudden she's supposedly is involved with government. You know why? If she did that because Putin and the group said, you know, this Trump is killing us, why don't you say that you're involved with government so that we can go and make their life in the United States even more chaotic. Look at what's happened. Look at how these politicians have fallen for this junk. Russian collusion, give me a break.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: All right. So this Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, we should all go around the table and say it at least once.

HARLOW: I love how you totally showed me up on there.

BERMAN: Natalia Veselnitskaya. It'll be a drinking game once the Correspondents' Dinner -- Russian informant. One of the things that I find most interesting is this news comes out on the very day the House intelligence committee puts out its report, its conclusive report. The republics in that committee saying there is no collusion. It's as if irony has a very depth scheduler. Lauren, what do you make of this development? The House intelligence committee both sides, Republicans and Democrats covering themselves in glory.

LAUREN BURKE, WRITER, NATIONAL NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION: Yes, it's huge that this came out in this way. And the idea that the president's son and the son in law obviously is campaign chairman in the meeting with a Russian informant is absolutely huge. And of course, you can always tell what this president what really truly bothers him, because it's always the thing that he always brings up, sticks on and keeps talking about again and again and again. And so we'll see how this progresses. But obviously, a huge development took the news right out of the fact that that report comes out.

[20:45:06] HARLOW: Because he thinks it undermines his win, Thelma, because it all comes back -- it all comes back to that. Here is what she, Natalia Veselnitskaya said to NBC. That time, I said it. She said, quote, "I'm a lawyer. I'm an informant. Since 2013, I have been actively communicating with the office of the Russian prosecutor general (INAUDIBLE) in the Kremlin. What is your theory on why now? Because when she was asked that exact question six months ago, her answer, do you have anything to do with Putin, anything to do with the Kremlin? Do you talk to them? Her answer was yet, literally. That's all she said.

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Now you're showing off your Russian. I don't think it's relevant to the investigation.

HARLOW: But why change her story now?

MUDD: I think there is a -- I think the president is onto something. If I'm the Russians, I'm sitting here saying, this guy has been friendly to us. The secretary of state hasn't been. The U.N. Nikki Haley hasn't been, but the president has been pretty courteous to us for whatever, 15, 16 months. Past few weeks, he's been rougher. You could easily draw a conclusion that says why do they decide now to embarrass Don Junior. One quick comment. Cry me a river. I don't care what her background is. If you are a federal official or a campaign official involved in a campaign, and you're meeting a foreign adversary with the idea that you're going to get dirt, I don't care if she's an informant or if she's your mother-in-law, you don't meet her. I don't care about the details, do not talk to about a Russian who's offering a dirt on the campaign. Done deal. I don't care about what he says.

BERMAN: It is interesting you bring that up, Rick Wilson, because so often over the last year and a half, we forget what the agreed upon facts are and how stunning in some ways the agreed upon facts are in this case. Whether or not she was an official Russian informant to a high-level Kremlin official, what she now says she was, we know that Donald Trump Jr. held a meeting because he was offered dirt on Hillary Clinton that he was told was from the Russian government because he was told the Russian government wanted to help Donald Trump and we know that because of the e-mails that Donald Trump Jr. released.

Wilson: Correct. And it's important, I think, to understand one thing. And feels exactly right. This tension has been ratcheting up a little bit because the oligarch class surrounding Putin has been put under some pressure now by the sanctions. OK. Donald Trump had to be dragged kicking and screaming into deploying against the Russians after the overt nature of their interference in our election and the whole variety with their bad acts. But it's important to remember that the Russian oligarch class, Russian intelligence services, Russian organizers, they're all of the piece. They're all seeking the maximum amount of leverage that they can play. And this was the kind of thing -- this kind of dangle where they would go in and say, we'll get you into the pool just a little bit. You put your toe in, then your knee and then you're under water and you're beholden to the Russians.

This isn't -- from the outside, this isn't look like -- to me, it doesn't look like just a coincidental meeting about adoption. It looks like the Russians making a play which they did and we know what they were offering wasn't to talk about adoption or everything else. They wanted to talk about a tradeoff for dirt on Hillary for Magnitsky relief. It was a simple quid pro quo. It's dirty as hell. There's no same person in the world. Even Steve Bannon thought this was a bad idea. Even Steve Bannon thought it's a bad idea. On the pyramid of that idea is Steve Bannon stays at the top, butt-naked, screaming, pay attention. This is a bad idea.

HARLOW: This brings this meeting, which I think even many of the attendees would admit now it's a bad idea to have right back to the four. With this information that she was not a private attorney. She was acting on the behest in somewhere or another of the Kremlin.

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I think what you see happening is a chess. They say what President Trump is doing, the administration is doing and they say, OK, we've got one on you. We'll do something here. We'll say this. It seems that this investigation has become overtly politicized in my opinion with the Republican documents and the Democrat documents and we release ours now and we released this and then we'll put this out. It's all political.

I think at the end of the day that if this investigation is about Russia collusion in the 2016 campaign, be it with president -- candidate Trump's campaign or the Clinton campaign. Let's let the Mueller investigation run its course. Let it come to a conclusion and do it quickly, because what the Russians, we know what they want us to do was sow discord. And when you do things like this in the descriptive -- it continues to sow discord.

HARLOW: Except the president said in the last 24 hours there never should have been a special counsel.

DENNARD: Well, I agree with them because it's the scope --

HARLOW: You just said let Mueller investigation run its course.

DENNARD: Just because he should run his course doesn't mean I think that he should have one. I think that the scope of a special counsel is so broad and so large. We saw that with the Kim investigation. They can go after and do anything. That's why I don't think it should have been done because it's not going to be narrowly tailored to what this thing should have been about.

BERMAN: Quickly, you.

[20:50:56] WALSH: The House intelligence committee was totally corrupt. What we've learned now is that they refused to subpoena, go after just basic witnesses that they -- that they try to cover up not to look for evidence, to cover up evidence. So the fact that this all comes out and steps on their message of no collusion, again, there is no coincidence.

BERMAN: We know the president has been talking about the Russian investigation in public also to his key friends and allies.

Up next, the president wants this comedian to play him on Saturday Night Live. Darrell Hammond joins me to respond.

HARLOW: But the White House Correspondents' Dinner actually begins in just moments. You see the room there set with all 3,000 attendees. The comedian, Michelle Wolf getting ready to roast politicians and the media like. Stand by our special live coverage continues. Next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: All right. We are in between giant moments in this eventual evening. The president just wrapped up a 90-minute speech in Washington Township, Michigan. Very shortly, we're going to see the headliner of the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Michelle Wolf delivering her comedy routine.

Laura, I want to ask you a question. Your 90 minutes the president spoke. We saw a lot of the highlights here. What part of it at any that you think will leave a mark, will have a lasting impact?

[20:55:01] BURKE: I think the chanting of the Nobel, you know, actually be something that people remember. Obviously it's attack on Tester would be the other thing. But they actually already attacked Tester so that was kind of old bit of way. The thought about North Korea then something that's huge and frankly I think it is a big --I think it's a win for him.

BERMAN: It's interesting. It's the first time before the Nobel chant. I think it's not the last.

HARLOW: Rick, to you the headline tomorrow morning is about the rally, is the crowd chanting Nobel?

WILSON: I think it's -- I think it's probably the crowd chanting that and the classic phrase getting ahead of your skis on the security question. It'll come back to bite him if it doesn't succeed. If it does succeed. We'll see. But like I said earlier, (INAUDIBLE) I think that will be the headline there from tomorrow and it'll also be the bigger headline of this is a president who doesn't want to be in the Washington area for a night where he might had his delegate ego dinged a little bit.

HARLOW: You think the president won tonight, at least among his supporters and his base by not being here in Washington.

MARTIN: Yes. Because I don't think they -- I don't think people sort of match the sound bites against each other, instead it's the big picture which is the president is out in Washington with his supporters, rallying with his supporters and the elite is out moving here in Washington, D.C. and that contrast just works perfectly for him. BERMAN: But part of the reason, you know, it's not a battle. It's not two sides fighting each other. The president is fighting what's happening in Washington. Washington, tonight specifically is really focused on itself and we're going to see a lot more of that coming up.

HARLOW: We are. Michelle Wolf, a brilliant comedian is going to be the main headliner, the performer tonight, the White House Correspondents' Dinner special coverage continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)