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Soon: Trump's Visits State Department for the First Time; Pence Praises Ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio: "Champion" of the "Rule of Law"; White House and Source Deny Trump's Ex-Doctor was Subject of "Raid". Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired May 2, 2018 - 10:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Berman.


Top of the hour in a looming legal showdown with unprecedented implications. This morning, the president's legal team is preparing for the possibility that the special counsel could subpoena the president. It would be a truly stunning move and a move that we now know from our reporting, Bob Mueller discussed with the president's legal team in at least one meeting.

Just moments ago, the president began once again openly litigate this and argue his case on Twitter.

BERMAN: And in just a few minutes we will see the president for the first time since that news broke. He is headed to the State Department and unclear if he will comment on the way there.

Let's go to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz live in Washington. The issue of a subpoena -- the notion of a subpoena floated in a meeting between the special counsel's investigators and the president's lawyers. Shimon?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes. That's right, John. And this meeting was really about whether or not the special counsel would get an opportunity to question the president, his investigators, the FBI agents want to question the president. That is very apparent in all of our reporting. The idea of a subpoena certainly as you guys have been saying all morning would definitely escalate things here. It would lead to a big legal showdown, all the way perhaps up to the Supreme Court. The president's attorneys really do believe that they have a shot at preventing this. The president seemingly thinks that he does not have to sit down with the special counsel and it appears based on all of our reporting that he is less likely, at least at this point, to voluntarily submit to questions.

Now, the idea of a subpoena, you know, would certainly, certainly escalate. He would, perhaps, take this all the way up to the Supreme Court. And the other issue here, John and Poppy, is a lot of questions have been asked, is if he is forced to appear before a grand jury, would he by any chance take and plead the Fifth? That has still not been decided. His attorney -- the president's attorneys have said there's still a lot to figure out before that happens, but one of the arguments that his attorneys have been making and we see that in one of the president's tweets this morning is that they believe that the special counsel legally does not have the authority to force a president to appear before a grand jury. John and Poppy?

BERMAN: All right, Shimon Prokupecz in Washington. Thanks so much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

BERMAN: Let's go to the White House now. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there and on Shimon's notes, Kaitlan, the president is litigating this out in the open now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: He is lashing out, John and Poppy. Of course, he's doing that on his favorite medium which is Twitter saying that this is a setup and a trap, and then also, referring to those questions that were published yesterday. Those questions that the Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask the president if he does sit down with him. He quoted a lawyer saying on Twitter, "The questions are an intrusion into the president's Article 2 powers under the Constitution to fire any executive branch employee. What the president was thinking is an outrageous - as to the president's unfettered power to fire anyone."

Now that is a quote from Joe Digenova, who as you may recall for about a hot secondary joined the president's legal team and then later said that he would not be joining because of conflicts. The president, quoting him there, essentially saying - what the president was thinking is an outrageous thing for the special counsel to be looking at but that's precisely what a lot of those questions the special counsel wants to ask the president are about like what he was thinking when he decided to fire the FBI Director James Comey.

But we're seeing a pattern here. We are seeing a timeline essentially from the Michael Cohen raids to the special counsel telling the president's legal team what he wants to ask the president, to the special counsel threatening to subpoena the president to sit down with him. We are seeing the president directly respond to that by publicly attacking the special counsel more and more. Even though we know he's done so privately. He is being much more vocal about it, John and Poppy.

HARLOW: Kaitlan Collins at the White House. Thank you very much.

Let's make legal sense of all of this, Seth Waxman, criminal defense attorney, former federal prosecutor. I have so many questions. Let me just get off the bat your reaction to this potential presidential subpoena and if it is fought, the fact that it could go all of the way up to the Supreme Court.

SETH WAXMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes. I think those are the next steps that come if Mr. Trump refuses to sit down for this voluntary interview. You know the only power that Mr. Mueller has to compel that testimony is a grand jury subpoena. So, it would be issued and if Mr. Trump's team would move to quash that subpoena, we would have a battle up and to including the Supreme Court and that would, frankly, you know, delay things. I don't think it would take years which typical cases take to get up to the Supreme Court, but clearly at least months.

BERMAN: And there are several steps here, right? The subpoena would have to be issued. The president would have to fight it. The Supreme Court would have to weigh in and say yes, you are compelled to testify or answer questions if that is what they decide.

[10:05:00] And then, the president could say OK, I'm asserting my Fifth Amendment right. What happens then?

WAXMAN: Yes. He absolutely can do that. He can assert his Fifth Amendment rights. But I want to put it clear that this is not a typical criminal case. I mean the remedy of asserting your Fifth Amendment right is essentially a criminal jury trial would never hear that you asserted your Fifth. It could not be used against you in a court of law. But of course, this is the president of the United States, and frankly, the ultimate arbiters in this case or deciders could ultimately be Congress and the American people in impeachment proceedings. So, if he pleads the Fifth that has to have at least some political fallout and ramifications.

HARLOW: OK. But Seth, politics aside, just legally speaking here. Let's take that one step further. If the president were to assert his Fifth Amendment right and Bob Mueller in response were to grant him immunity - I mean, that could happen. Would that happen? You only grant immunity to someone because you want their help in getting a bigger fish, but he's the biggest fish, right?

WAXMAN: Correct. I mean, as a former federal prosecutor, I can tell you. You would not typically immunize the ultimate target or the person at the top of the pyramid in your criminal investigation. So I think immunization is something that is entirely unlikely. So if he pleads the Fifth, I think Bob Mueller would be stuck at least as it relates to interviewing him, but then it would be up to the American people and Congress to decide what is the impact of the president of the United States who is essentially saying, I've done something wrong. I've got criminal exposure and I don't want to talk about it. That's what you're saying when you plead the Fifth.

BERMAN: Remember, he -

HARLOW: He said that as much.

BERMAN: He has said exactly that. He's the subject, he's been told here. He's not the target of the investigation.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: I suppose - I suppose that could change. Seth, how far do you think Robert Mueller will press this? I mean, so much of this depends on how hard he's willing to fight on this issue.

WAXMAN: Well, I think he'll go all of the way on this one. I mean, any part of criminal investigation is to talk to the key witnesses and you know, typical in any normal, criminal case the defendant would play or target would plead the Fifth and that be the end of it. But in this particular case, Mr. Trump is a little bit between a rock and a hard place because of the political ramifications. So, if he, you know, wants to get -- I think Bob Mueller will push that all the way to the Supreme Court because getting in the room with your subject or target of your investigation is a critical aspect of any prosecutorial investigation.

And putting aside any kind of perjury trap, I mean you get to see your opponent live, you get to question him on all of these very important, intent questions. So, I don't think Mr. Mueller is going to pass on that. And in addition to the president would set. Mr. Mueller has been a person who is in the justice system for decades. I think he has view to the future. And if he were to walk away from this battle I think it would set a dangerous precedent for the future of this country that a president could essentially - or intimidate a special prosecutor into backing down from a grand jury subpoena.

BERMAN: Seth Waxman, great discussion. Thanks for being with us.

WAXMAN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Let's dig deeper now. Joining us, CNN political commentators, Robby Mook and Amanda Carpenter. Amanda's new book, "Gaslighting America, Why We Love It When Trump Lies To Us," hits the shelves yesterday.

HARLOW: -- started reading it, truly it is.

BERMAN: Look, -- we're talking about Robert Mueller and subpoena. There are such big legal implications but they are just big political implications here. So, if you both hear me, let's role play for a second, shall we?

Amanda Carpenter-

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As long as I don't have to do the Trump voice.

BERMAN: No. Better. You are current Republican congressional leadership. OK? That's your role here. The president of the United States has been issued a subpoena. He is fighting it. Madam speaker, what's your reaction?

CARPENTER: Well, the political question I would probably sit still and wait for Mueller to issue his report because ultimately this is going to be a political question which is why I think Donald Trump is essentially going to play permanent brinksmanship with this question. Even if Robert Mueller does find criminal wrongdoing, the chances of the law enforcement arm this country going to the White House and hauling him out in cuffs is pretty much non-existent. Robert Mueller, at the end of the day, is going to issue very tough report and throw out in the open and let it become a political game and not a criminal one.

And so, how does this help Donald Trump? Well, what are the odds that a Congress, Republican or Democrat is actually going to impeach him? In the Senate you need a two-thirds super majority. And so, I think that there's even a chance that Donald Trump -- I could see him at rallies holding up those 49 questions, saying sure I'll answer them, wrong. Stupid question because I don't know if it matters and I know it matters constitutionally if he perjures himself. But this becomes a political game. He's ready to play it.

HARLOW: So, Robby, let's continue the role play. Let's say the president asserts his Fifth Amendment rights. Let's remind you what he says and everyone what he said about those who plead the Fifth.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So there are five people taking the Fifth Amendment like you see on the mob, right? You see the mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?


[10:10:03] HARLOW: OK. White House adviser, how do you fight that one?

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, a lot of -- you know, a lot of the things that Trump has said have not aged well. I'm actually going to agree somewhat with the Amanda on this. If we're looking through this from a pure political lens and we're thinking about how the administration might approach this. I think they'll just try to delay and push and let the swirl continue.

The president succeeds when he's in the center of controversy. It is how he won the election. It is how he'll try to win reelection, I'm sure. He's not doing a good job as president. He's not really getting much of anything done. And so, just being in the swirl, being a victim of the system and of the establishment, he probably thinks is good for him.

BERMAN: So you think the different rules will apply here than have applied in the past. Amanda, you can jump in and answer because Bill Clinton was issued a subpoena and then ultimately agreed to testify, really because he feared the political implications of fighting that subpoena. But you think -- you're laughing because you think it's all different this time.

CARPENTER: Donald Trump has ripped up the rule book every step of the way. He likes to fight. He likes the gas letting. He likes to create a counter narrative and take this into the public domain. He's not going to play by the same rules that Bill Clinton did. That's just not going to happen.

HARLOW: Robby?

MOOK: I will agree in as much as I think Bill Clinton was president to try to govern and do things. And he wanted to move forward and try to govern the country. Donald Trump just cares about himself. This is all about him. He likes the attention. He likes being a fighter. And you know, I think that's why strangely for our party, for Democrats, I think we're going to have to approach this from a standpoint of how he is failing to do anything to help anybody. He's out - just trying to save himself every day.

CARPENTER: If I'll make a prediction, Donald Trump already has the ultimate out. It's the excuse that he always uses. He's been floating since he didn't win television awards for "The Apprentice" and even set himself up for in the 2016 election as I go through gosling America. And that's that the system is rigged. They hate me. Even if it goes to impeachment and he gets thrown out, let's say it was always rigged against me - then he'll go what, he'll go be the CEO of Fox News.

BERMAN: It really looks like this fight, the legal fight, the political fight, I mean, even in the beginning stages of it. We're playing out over the midterm elections, Robby.

HARLOW: Right.

BERMAN: So, what's the impact there?

MOOK: Yes -- this is a big quandary for our party, obviously and we should say the levels of this. It is sad and frightening that the president is flouting the legal process like this. It's really -- this is bad for our country, but for Democrats we can't make this election about Donald Trump's trial. We have to make this election about what we as Democrats are going to do to help people out there. What's in this for the voters and fixating on Russia and this investigation isn't a winning message. A winning message is talking about what we're going to do. So -- and that's hard. That's tricky.

We going to get - you know Democrats are going to get asked about it all of the time. We got to stay focused and drive our own message, but I do think at the point that the president is running for re-election, I do think there is going to be a legitimate choice about how much bandwidth and how much focus he has been able to provide to just governing the country and frankly, how corrupt this administration has become because it's not just what the president did in the campaign. I would argue even worse things have been done since he's in office where he's ripped off the American people and enriched himself. And there's going to have to be some accountability for that.

HARLOW: You can't run on that message, as you say.

Robby, thank you, we appreciate it.

MOOK: Yes. Not on Russia, but certainly on how he's ripped off the taxpayers.

BERMAN: We got a lot more to talk to you guys about. Stick around.

HARLOW: Stay with us, guys.

Still ahead, remember the doctor behind that letter -- that famous letter that praised the president's health as the best of any president ever. He's speaking out now exclusively to CNN and he claims those words didn't come from me. Guess who they came from. Also, the vice president praises Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the same man who was convicted of contempt of court for racially profiling. Why then is the vice president calling him honorable to be with him and a tireless champion of the rule of law? We'll discuss.

BERMAN: All right. And Kanye West right in the middle of controversy, exactly where he wants to be frankly, saying that 400 years of slavery was a choice.


[10:18:28] BERMAN: All right, this morning, a CNN exclusive, a story that is unsurprising, but maybe really shouldn't be. The doctor who wrote a rave review of Donald Trump's health during the campaign bragging about how healthy and fit the presidential candidate was now claims that this review, this assessment was dictated by guess who?

HARLOW: Our Alex Marquardt spoke exclusively with the doctor. He joins us now. As John said and said it best, you know, unsurprising, but it probably should be.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, guys. We all remember when this letter came out thinking this sounds an awful lot like the patient and not necessarily the doctor. In fact, that's what Dr. Harold Bornstein is now saying what happened.

We caught up with him right here, right outside his office and he told us in no uncertain terms that it was President Trump who dictated that letter. He told me verbatim. I did not write that letter. He said he got the phrasing for the letter from Donald Trump over the phone as he drove through Central Park with his wife on his way to the office.

Bornstein says he then wrote it up, signed it and then people from Trump's office came and picked up that letter, and that's what we've now -- that's what we eventually saw and he says that -- Bornstein says he did take some creative license with this. He infused some of what he called his dark humor and he then compared it to Fargo saying it takes the truth and moves it in a different direction. Poppy and John, we have reached out to the White House for comment. They have not responded.

[10:20:00] BERMAN: Alex, this is part of a whole bunch of things that Dr. Bornstein is saying, among them, he claims that his office was raided, and that's his word, by members of the Trump team.

MARQUARDT: Yes. And that's likely why we're hearing about the letter in the first place because Dr. Bornstein is - frankly, he said he was humiliated by what he is now calling a raid. This happened in February of last year, so a month after President Trump was sworn in and the White House is saying, that's when people on Trump's team took possession of Trump's medical files from Bornstein's office.

Now, Bornstein has a very different version of the facts. He says that two men who worked for President Trump, Keith Schiller who is his bodyguard and Alan Garten who is a lawyer for the Trump organization came here and raided his office. I asked him was there a crime committed? He said that they stole President Trump's medical files.

What he said how it went down was, "They barged through the back door, terrified the secretary, pushed aside the patient who was there."

Now, you guys know that if medical files are to be released that a release form has to be signed. That's called a HIPAA Form and Dr. Bornstein is saying that that form was never signed that they simply took the files. Now, he says he was humiliated. He told me, "How would you feel if you cared for someone for 35 years and they came and raided your office?"

Now, John and Poppy, we have to note that even though he's alleging a crime took place, we checked with the NYPD and no police report was filed at the time. John and Poppy?

HARLOW: OK. Alex Marquardt, thank you for all of that exclusive reporting. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: He's the same doctor actually also had released information about what drugs the president had been taking at that point.

HARLOW: He did, and it infuriated the president as a result. So, credibility is in question here.

OK. So, another potential scandal swirling around EPA Chief Scott Pruitt this morning, the "Washington Post" reports that Pruitt's longtime friend, who's also former lobbyist, helped arrange Pruitt's $100,000 trip to Morocco back in December.

BERMAN: Few months after that visit, the same friend registers a foreign agent for the Moroccan government, our Rene Marsh with more. Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Poppy. We are also learning that Pruitt's trip to Morocco was twice as expensive as originally thought, this all according to "The Washington Post," but back to that lobbyist involved in arranging the trip. His name is Richard Smotkin and not only did he help arrange the trip but he participated in meetings during the trip including with industry folks.

Now, just months after that Moroccan trip, the Moroccan government hired him to work as a foreign agent and it really raises questions about whether he got that job because he successfully organized this trip for Scott Pruitt. It is very unusual for a lobbyist to be so involved in planning a trip for the head of the federal agency. But I should say there is a lot more news as it relates to Scott Pruitt. In just the last 24 hours, we learned two key aides abruptly left the agency including the head of his security team. Democratic lawmaker say, Pruitt tried to set up a new EPA office in Tulsa, Oklahoma that happened to be his hometown. He wanted to do it for his convenience.

And "New York Times" reports that an e-mail from the lobbyist involved in Pruitt's $50 a night apartment, well it shows that the lobbyist actually recommended people for a science advisory board, so all of these storylines together fit into a larger pattern about what we know about Scott Pruitt dating back to his days as Oklahoma's attorney general. He was criticized in his confirmation hearing for being too close with lobbyists and it raises the question now in his role as EPA administrator, is Scott Pruitt protecting the public's health or big industry's bottom line. John? Poppy?

BERMAN: Rene Marsh thanks very much.

So an ex-law man convicted of criminal contempt but then pardoned by President Trump, now held up by the vice president as a tireless champion of the rule of law. Joe Arpaio, not the only lawbreaker now running for Congress.


[10:28:43] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I just found out when I was walking through the door that we were also going to be joined today by another favorite, a great friend of this president, a tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law who spent a lifetime in law enforcement, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I'm honored to have you here.


HARLOW: That's the vice president of the United States honored to welcome a former sheriff, a current U.S. Senate candidate who was convicted of defying a federal court order on racial profiling then pardoned by President Trump, sends me those comments in Arizona, the state where Arpaio targeted immigrants for traffic stops and detained them based solely on suspicion of their legal status.

BERMAN: We're going to bring back our commentators, Robby Mook and Amanda Carpenter. Yes, Amanda, the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, but yes this was a guy who was convicted of criminal contempt and by the way, he's also a guy who still says, he's 100 percent convinced that President Obama - former President Obama's birth certificate was a fake document. Mike Pence is honored to have him there. What do you make of that?

CARPENTER: I have a problem with the rule of law comment. And not so much as it applies to drive Arpaio although we could have that discussion. It's the fact that he was given a pardon for criminal contempt. The Trump administration said hey, you don't have to obey court orders. You don't have to go to trial. Pardoning somebody without going to a trial and seeing what they may be convicted of is nearly unprecedented and that hasn't gotten nearly enough focus because - I mean, let's see what he would be convicted of.