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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Will Mueller Subpoena Trump?; President Trump's Top Lawyer Quits. Aired 4:30-5p ET
Aired May 2, 2018 - 16:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A possibility, I should say, a possibility considering, if, as David says, the House flips in November, which even the smart Republicans will tell you, it is at the very least 50/50 right now, their chances.
And also they think it could galvanize the base. So, yes, they talk about impeachment as something that is out there, but, that being said, this is a president who for a long time has been frustrated that his lawyers have been holding him back in some ways.
They have been telling him, as you heard Corey just tell you a few minutes ago, that it was supposed to be over months ago. And it is not.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Based on what we don't know. But they have been telling him that, yes.
PHILLIP: We're in May now, and the president wants people who are going to be bulldogs for him, and he may have that in his legal team.
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: It is really important, though, that people not take this impeachment thing as a Democratic- engendered thing.
Like, as Abby just said, the Republicans want people to talk about impeachment. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democrats are on the campaign trail talking about jobs.
DAVID URBAN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: See, Hilary is smart. Hilary is really smart.
ROSEN: Talking about how the jobs did not come back. Those Carrier jobs the president saved in Indiana actually did go to Mexico.
That is what Democrats are talking about. And they do not -- they are not talking about impeachment. They do not -- they are not campaigning on impeachment.
SCIUTTO: There are a number of Democrat who signed a letter about...
ROSEN: They are not campaigning on impeachment. The Republicans are doing this to generate enthusiasm.
SCIUTTO: Guys, one at a time.
URBAN: I was on with Hakeem Jeffries this weekend, right, very bright guy on the Judiciary Committee, who just like Hilary and other smart Democrats, are saying we're not going to -- we don't want to impeach the president.
Yet you have Tom Steyer running hundreds of millions of dollars of TV commercials from the left saying we need to impeach the president.
URBAN: You had Brad Sherman and other members of Congress.
There is a bill -- there are bills introduced already by Democratic members of the House to impeach the president. We don't have to wait to see how this movie is going to turn out. We have seen it.
ROSEN: If there are legitimate reasons to impeach the president, if he invokes the Fifth Amendment, if he -- if Mueller unveils evidence, if he tries to fire Bob Mueller, there may be legitimate reasons for impeachment, but for Democrats, this is not a campaign issue.
It will become one for Republicans trying to rally support for the president, but it is not a campaign issue for Democrats.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this.
There is a new Monmouth University poll that caught our attention this week. It shows a big drop really in support for Robert Mueller's investigation, as you can see there.
Is this evidence, do you think, that the president's strategy of attacking Mueller, attacking the special counsel, attacking the Justice Department is working?
PHILLIP: I think it is evidence that it is working. It has been pretty relentless over the last several months, but I think it has been inevitable that the special counsel probe was going to become aligned with people's party affiliation, their ideological views and less aligned with any of the facts that are out there.
On top of that, it is a factually confusing case. This has going on for so long. No one can remember any of the names of the Russians involved. It is hard for people to keep up. And so the default is inevitably going to be, how do you feel about President Trump and how do you feel about the Democrats?
URBAN: And to Abby's point, look, tens of millions of dollars have been spent here. They've been turning over every rock in America. They haven't found anything.
URBAN: Listen, America are used to seeing things wrapped up in a 22- minute show, right? They want it over. That is how they do it.
SCIUTTO: To be fair, Watergate took two-and-a-half years, granted, at a given time.
URBAN: But it's a different situation.
ROSEN: And we don't know what they have found.
SCIUTTO: The president, as you noticed, appeared to threaten the Justice Department again, just this morning tweeting the following: "At some point, I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved!"
In a moment, we're going to ask the panel, panelists what they think the president meant by that tweet.
SCIUTTO: We're back now with the political panel.
The president threatened the Justice Department again just this morning, tweeting the following -- quote -- At some point, I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the presidency and get involved."
David, you speak to the president. You're aware of his frustration with the investigation. Do you sense that a comment like that he feels emboldened to take the step of firing a Mueller or a Rosenstein?
I agree with Corey, who was on earlier. I think what the president is talking about is getting the documents turned over to the House. This is -- the Congress has a legitimate oversight role here. People tend to forget that, that the House and Senate both have oversight responsibility to the Department of Justice, which they are seeking to exercise. And they're just trying to get the information.
SCIUTTO: Of an ongoing investigation to which the president is a party to that?
URBAN: I don't think -- they can do it all. Investigations have no bounds. I don't think that is out of bounds at all.
URBAN: Listen, they do. I used to work for Arlen Specter. You guys remember he was the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He investigated far-flung things, Waco, Ruby Ridge. There were plenty of investigations going on.
ROSEN: If Arlen Specter were still chairman of the Judiciary Committee, they would have the documents, because he wouldn't have them only to send them over to the White House and leak them to the media.
PHILLIP: It does seem that the timing is clear. The president wants this to happen because the investigation is about him.
And he's made it clear that he wants the investigation to end. So that is why people are questioning the timing or the motivations behind this tweet and the document production.
URBAN: We've been told the investigation -- the president is not a subject of the ongoing investigation. That has been made clear. He's not the focus of this.
PHILLIP: Then -- but here is the thing. He knows that, but he continues -- every day I wake up in the morning and there is a tweet about how it is a witch-hunt against him. So, I think the president...
PHILLIP: ... believes that he is at risk here.
SCIUTTO: Official White House statement today from the press secretary used witch-hunt to describe the Russia investigation, as they announced Ty Cobb's departure.
ROSEN: Let's just say that nobody thinks that the president is doing this, pressuring the Justice Department, in the name of good government transparency. Let's just assume that. Nobody believes that.
ROSEN: People believe that what he is trying to do is create a political pressure for -- and threaten the Justice Department and threaten Rod Rosenstein, the deputy, with anything possible to end this thing differently...
SCIUTTO: To color people's impressions, yes.
ROSEN: ... than an interview with the president and Bob Mueller.
SCIUTTO: Well, so you saw the deputy A.G. yesterday say in public, using the words, we will not be extorted.
That's a remarkable thing. And just to remind folks, Rosenstein appointed by this president to that role.
URBAN: Look, I think the president is rightly frustrated that this started out about Russian collusion, Russian interference.
And I think we're far, far afield from that. I think he's rightfully -- rightfully concerned about that.
ROSEN: I don't remember you talk about the breadth of the Hillary Clinton interview. I don't remember you complaining about the breadth...
URBAN: I wasn't on CNN, Hilary.
ROSEN: ... of the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings.
That's just -- this sort of notion that, all of a sudden, oh, my God, we're not allowed to talk about these crimes because they were only about to investigate these crimes is really...
SCIUTTO: Here is the other thing about those -- when you look at those questions that appear to have been leaked by the president's own lawyers, based on the way they were drafted, it is clear that this special counsel is not -- has not closed the lines of inquiry on cooperation with the Russians.
One of those questions that stood out, Abby Phillip, was the question about Paul Manafort outreach to Russians for help with the campaign. It does not appear -- yes, other investigation topics have come up, but it does not appear that the central start of this investigation on Russia collusion is gone.
Not at all. I think it is not just -- the president's obsessed with the obstruction of justice part and the idea that he thinks that is invalid, but clearly Mueller needs or wants his cooperation on the central part of the investigation, which is the issue of Russian interference and also the issue of collusion.
There is even more trouble for the president here, because there are also questions about the business dealings aspect of it behind -- prior to all of this.
But it is a wide breadth of information, which means that Mueller is not closing avenues of investigation. He still needs the president or wants the president for the whole thing.
SCIUTTO: Yes. There are a good half-a-dozen avenues, it seems.
Abby, David, Hilary Rosen, thanks very much.
What does the president mean when he tweets that he may have to use the power of his presidency to -- quote -- "get involved"? I'm going to ask the former director of the CIA and the NSA. That's next.
[16:45:00] JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back. The White House Press Office taking a cue from President Trump's Twitter feed calling the Russia investigation a "witch hunt" in an official statement announcing major changes to the President's legal team. Joining me now is the former Director of the CIA and NSA. He's four-star -- retired Four General Michael Hayden. I should note he is out with a new book titled The Assault On Intelligence; American National Security in an Age of Lies. General Hayden, thanks very much for taking the time.
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: Thanks, Jim.
SCIUTTO: So this is an investigation as you know that's resulted in the indictments and guilty pleas of a number of Trump campaign officials. What do you make of the White House putting on official letterhead here in the statement calling this investigation, "a witch hunt?"
HAYDEN: Yes, it's kind of stunning and I actually read it a while ago and it just jumps off the page at you and I had to double check, this just an informal tweet, it's the official White House Press Office statement. And Jim, this ties into something I really talk about a lot in the book, which is the shifting norms in our government and how we should not be very willing to accept the abnormalities that have become too commonplace. We should not accept this is the new normal. That is the violation of norms that have controlled the office for a very long time and we're going to suffer for that and we're really going to suffer if that actually becomes the new standard.
SCIUTTO: We got a vision into that investigation this week with questions -- what would appear to be questions or topic areas that the Special Counsel wants to ask the President about. And a couple -- as these questions were reported in the New York Times jumped out to me, one, what knowledge did you have of any outreach by your campaign including Paul Manafort to Russia about potential assistance to the campaign? There was also this question, what did you know about communication between Roger Stone and his associates Julian Assange or WikiLeaks. Of course, as you know, WikiLeaks is considered in this Russian and investigation have been the cut out that the Russians used to get this information out there. Does that say to you that the question of collusion or cooperation with Russia and the Trump campaign is still an open question for the Special Counsel?
HAYDEN: It seems to be and I know the grand debate about what constitutions collusion and whether or not that is a crime or whatever. But you know, Jim, the bloodline of this thing, it began as a counterintelligence investigation. And those two questions areas right there show that that aspect of the investigation is still there. Was there any American cooperation with what the Russians did to influence the American political thought and the political process?
SCIUTTO: Would a Special Counsel of the pedigree of a Bob Mueller waste the President's time and waste his own time with questions like that to the President if he didn't have evidence to at least back up those questions?
HAYDEN: Well, I think at a minimum he would have reasons to ask. One of the things that I think, Bob feels as if he's got to do, when we get -- finally get to the end of this dark cloud hanging over us, no matter which way it goes, Jim, he needs to be able to say I have been exhaustive, I have looked at all potentialities, all possibilities. He cannot come out with a conclusion and then have a question asks one, three or five weeks, or six weeks later, but did you look here and he says, well, we really didn't dig into that one. I think Director Mueller really wants to make sure he pulls over all rocks before he goes final.
[16:50:00] SCIUTTO: You write in your book that President Trump has ushered in a "post-truth world." Explain that.
HAYDEN: Yes, he's kind of ridden the wave of a post-truth world. And so I look at this -- on three layers, you got the first lair and frankly given, the first layer is us. We are in a post-truth environment here in the United States define by the Oxford Dictionary is decision-making based on preference, emotion, appeal to tribe, appeal to grievance rather than based on facts. Now I think President -- Candidate Trump identified that quite cleverly. He rode it and exploited it and I think in office he's making it worse through some of the things we've already talked about here this afternoon. So the first layer is us, the second is the administration. And then, Jim, coming through the perimeter wire is the Russian Federation to take advantage of case one and case two. That I think is the totality of what is going on.
SCIUTTO: General Michael Hayden, thanks very much.
HAYDEN: Thank you.
SCIUTTO: Well, a military plane plummeted to the ground, exploded, the horrifying video of that deadly crash today, that's right after this.
SCIUTTO: Breaking news in our "NATIONAL LEAD." We now know that this afternoon's horrifying military plane crash was deadly. Just take a look at this dramatic new video, nine airmen were aboard in the crash just outside Savannah, Georgia. This was captured on a security camera. You see just moments after the plane spiral a giant cloud of smoke and fire off there in the distance. Witnesses on the ground saying that it looked like the pilot might have steered clear of cars on the ground as it happened. There is the scene there where the plane went down. You could see some of the tail section there as well. The President just a short time ago tweeted out the following, "Please join me in thoughts and prayers for the victims and families and the great men and women of the National Guard." I want to bring in CNN's Nick Valencia live at the scene in Savannah, Georgia. Nick, what are authorities telling you about the size of the crew on that plane?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know there are at least nine people, nine airmen on this C-130 that crashed at about 11:30 this morning here in Port Wentworth, just a few miles away from Savannah. We're working on getting the identities there and actually, we're expecting a press conference in Puerto Rico in about a half an hour or so where we hope to get more information. But we just got here to the scene, driving here just a short time ago and this is a large crash site, Jim. The debris is still smoldering. I'll step out of the way here to give our viewers a little perspective of what we're looking at. We're about 150 or 200 yards away from the crash site here on the Georgia Highway 21 where this plane went down just about five hours ago and you could smell the smoke in the air. When we arrived on the scene, parts of the debris were still smoldering. You could see a portion of the rear of the plane sticking straight up there in the middle of the highway.
I spoke to the National Guard spokesperson in Puerto Rico a short time ago and he tells me that this plane had undergone routine maintenance the last number of days here in Savannah at the airport thre where it took off from. He says that he doesn't know specifically the mission that this plane was on but he knows it was on its way to Arizona. Talking to that spokesman, Jim, you can tell just how difficult of a situation this is for the Puerto Rico National Guard. The tone of this individual's voice was just one where you could tell the emotion was really getting to him. He says that they're trying to keep the calm -- keep calm the family members of those airmen that were on this plane but a lot of details about where they were going, a little bit unknown here. We know they were going to west coast in Arizona. We don't know why. We know that this type of plane is usually a weather recognizance or used as a recognisance missions. We don't believe that it was on that kind of mission, that we're still
trying to get those specifics. We'll probably get more in that press conference in about 30 minutes.
SCIUTTO: Well, just watching it, horrifying to watch those final moments before that aircraft, imagine for its crew. I understand that a witness said the pilot may have tried to avoid people or cars on the ground?
VALENCIA: Yes, our assignment desk a short time ago talked to a truck driver in this area, about four miles south and he says his trucking company transports hazardous materials and he was terrified at the thought that this plane could crash anywhere near those hazardous materials. In fact, just off camera here, there's a gas station, so just imagine 200 yards or so if this plane would have crashed into this gas station just how much larger the crash site would be. But that truck driver our assignment has talked to calling this pilot a hero saying it appears he was actively trying to avoid people on the ground. We should mention that authorities say there were no cars damaged, no individuals on the ground that were injured. But this crash was deadly. Nine people on board, according to our Pentagon unit and you know, thoughts and prayers from the officials here as well as the White House being sent to the Puerto Rico National Guard. Jim?
SCIUTTO: Nick Valencia there in Savannah, Georgia, the site of really that horrific plane crash and the aftermath there on the ground. The plane's final moments captured on a security camera as it hurdled toward the ground, really nose first spiraling as it did. Our thoughts and prayers certainly go to the family members of that crew on board. Be sure to continue to follow us here. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN, I'm @JIMSCIUTTO. That is it for THE LEAD. I'm Jim Sciutto in for Jake Tapper, today and I turn you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."